I’m in Whittier.

One week without a laptop. Without email.

Even unplugged, I can still think. Breathe. Function.

Two tatted gang memebers in the Starbucks waiting for their girlfriends to get coffee.

Reading grad school stories a lot of yesterday. One story about a girl who doesn’t like men with long hair. They seem scary. Really?

We are going to a place called Phlight for dinner, a couple professors and me and maybe Red Hen author Jessica Piazza, maybe Douglas Kearney, not sure. I like clever names for restaurants. There’s a bar I like in Long Beach called District Wine. That’s quite clever. If I owned a restaurant, it would have a tequila tasting room, and the place would be called Zorros. I would have the movie Zorro playing above the bar, like the Bubba Gump Shrimp place has Forrest Gump. I wonder if the actors make money every time you buy a shrimp.

If I spend too much time with people, I keep giving myself away and then I’m not sure if I’m still there or if I’m all over the street with tread tires on my back.

I count the days until my next day alone. Then I gather. I write in those slices of creative dreaming space/time like the breakfast air you breathe when you wake and you smell coffee and there’s bacon.

Our yard is buckets of jasmine. The oregano is coming up well. Blood orange blossoms cover the tree. We have a poet’s bench in our yard. The succulent gardens are doing well, but best of all, our roses are blooming.

I’m reading The Last Night at the Blue Angel by Rebecca Rotert who I met last summer in Nebraska. There’s how good looking we all need to be to get through our life and then there’s Rebecca, who is kicking it out of the park in the looks department. Like my friend Susie, Rebecca could make a bishop kick in a stained glass window. She’s married too. At the time, I mostly thought that her husband must look at her every day and think, how the hell did I get so lucky? But this book is in fact, quite amazing. My favorite book to date about the jazz era was Coming Through Slaughter by Michael Ondaatje. I like Rebecca’s book, because you get to walk around and see the mother and the jazz era and Chicago through a child’s eyes and she walks around in the crawlspaces of life, the under porch places, and from there you can always look up and see under people’s skirts, and who doesn’t want that. I like the women leaning into each other and kissing while the music goes on, and then they start making music too.

My legs and ankles hurt, and I can’t wear heels.

I have this dinner to go to.

The trees here in Whittier are blooming pink.

Published in: on February 19, 2015 at 5:38 pm  Leave a Comment  

What kind of love are you looking for? What kind of love are you walking around inside?

What kind of love are you looking for? What kind of love are you walking around inside of?

There’s squirrel love and there’s nut love; there’s small love and there’s big love. There’s ugly love and there’s sweet love.

I love you, she said to me. I do. I love you.

This, I said, indicating strike marks to my neck and shoulders, to my legs and buttocks, this, I say, is not love. I say, this is not love.

I love you, she says, you just don’t see it the way I do. I see love from a different angle. You don’t s see the love I’m seeing.

I don’t see the love you’re seeing.

Love is what you make of it.

Love is a big thing you walk around in.

Listen to me, you think you now all about love, but you don’t. I loved your father for a short while, but long enough to have your sister, then you.

I want a big love to walk around, to play a flute in, to sing a song in, to play the gong in, to dance a jig in, to roll about in, to climb a tree in, I want the kind of love that made the fish come out of the sea, that made us all come down out of the trees and start making love on the beaches.

Who the Lord loves, he punishes.

I’m reinventing love. Look up. Don’t you see? We have no roof. It’s just sky and stars.

Published in: on February 18, 2015 at 10:40 pm  Leave a Comment  

What do you do without your devices?

My laptop is in the shop. It’s been out of service for a week, and I miss it. We’re watching Surrogates and it’s reminding me how dependent we are on machines. It’s good to be able to live without email, and without machines. We used to be able live without machines, and we lived very well. Facebook is easy to live without, who needs it? Facebook doesn’t enhance my life or communication, but I count on being able to send and receive email.

It would be great for us as humans to be able to lie without our devices. Real communication is when you actually see someone and have a conversation, maybe a drink, maybe a meal.

On Thursday, I am going a reading at Whittier College. Tomorrow, I have a meeting at USC.

I’m taking a little break from running; but I’ll be back at it by Thursday or Friday. I wnt to Pilates today and the gym and thought about when it became so important for us to all work out all the time. Bette Davis didn’t have to do Pilates. She didn’t work out with weights, and you can bet that Marilyn Monroe didn’t either. I met these two girls today; they told me that they plan to look good in bikinis this summer and they’re planning to do Pilates every day for three months so they can bear to be seen in public. The fact is that all three of them look pretty good now. They were lovely girls, with short skirts and nice legs. One was a bit on the chunky side, but they were fine. Not one of them looked like she have the least bit of trouble having a partner, going dancing, or getting a job. But they all felt they needed something else. I do too. Why can’t we be okay with ourselves?

We live in a world where we’re all not quite good enough. Get your move one, girl. Don’t you want to look wonderful?

Published in: on February 17, 2015 at 8:25 pm  Leave a Comment  

Ran a marathon yesterday, still recovering

Yesterday’s marathon was a bit strenous, but I think I’ll do one again next year. Actually during the whole marathon I kept thinking that maybe this one would be my last marathon.

The jasmine is in a rocket of bloom now.

It really was quite stressful, that marathon. Around mile six, my right knee kind of gave up, I kept going to see what it would feel like at mile eight.

Paso Robles is a nice town; there are a lot of nice restaurants and I like the town square.

By mile fourteen, it felt much worse, but Mark met me at the end with ice for it and the ice helped the swelling.

We stayed at the Paso Robles Inn which has large trees with arms reaching for the sky.

The champagne after the marathon helped deaden the pain and then our hotel had a sulfur bath which was great, and Mark got us tacos. I really think tacos are the perfect post marathon dinner.

My legs are sore; they feel like they’ve been run over.

Tomorrow I’m having breakfast with Percival Everett and today I’m finishng a piece for The Guardian, and I’m looking forward meeting the woman who assigned me this piece when we go to London for the Book Fair.

This weekend is the Kingsley Tufts judging. Always good to have a day for a poetry swarm.

Published in: on February 16, 2015 at 8:43 pm  Leave a Comment  

Happy Valentine’s Day

Our jasmine is in nearly full bloom, all white snow against the shelf of the garden,

pouring down into the garden too, but there are also many buds getting ready to open, they are like slender pink fingers.  The jasmine is aggressively taking over many parts of our garden, it’s climbing the trees and fences.  It darts everywhere there is light.  We have a wisteria climbing our schefflera into the sky.  I got some gardening done today after I went for a run.  I’m starting on the tea garden, the greens garden, the herb garden and finally, and it may be a little early for this, the salsa garden.  I started off with some peppers from Cuba.  We’ll see how the Cuban peppers do here in California.  Similar climate but it may not be wet enough.  Thai peppers I’ll put in later.  We do very well with Bolivian peppers.

The tea garden has several kinds of mint and lemon grass.  I have to work on some chamomile.  We have cat grass going too.  There is a lot of concern at our house over our kittens.  A lot of controversy.  The kittens want to scratch the furniture which is fairly new.  There is a debate over whether we care about the furniture, and apparently some of us, especially the one of us who bought said furniture does care.  It’s a shame because we had lots of kittens and no furniture for so many years and now our kittens are locked up and we can only remember the good old days when we all sat around the floor and the kittens played in the heat. There are also blinds which the kittens climb.  That causes controversy. It’s all very silly.  What if we lived in another country where furniture was irrelevant or where we just built it all out of wood we found on the beach and we didn’t care what the kittens did to it.  That would be a good country. Or what if we lived on the moon and we sat on moon rocks.  That would be amazing.  I want to move to the moon, with my kittens and cat grass.

Our blood orange tree has orange blossoms everywhere, it is blooming. The whole yard smells sweet, and the blossoms blow into the corner fountain.  Our succulents are having baby succulents.   Spring is coming, it’s already on top of us.  We’re swimming in it.  Mark and I are in Paso Robles; we went out for Italian food for Valentine’s Day.  We only eat Italian food once a year usually, so now it’s twice.  We never eat Italian at home, so the ravioli was good.  For dessert, we went to the candy shop.  I bought Mark some chili chocolate and I got myself a bit of licorice.  it’s very warm here.

Published in: on February 14, 2015 at 8:25 pm  Comments (1)  

Tomorrow is Valentine’s Day

Go through the pear gates.

When you get to the inside of the pear, eat the seeds too.

Pears are thick like eating grainy pieces of the moon.

You can’t get strangled on a pear.

Movies worth seeing on Valentine’s Day. I would recommend Stranger than Fiction, but most people have a romantic movie they like.

If you haven’t gotten anything yet, there is always time for leaves, petals, candles, calligraphy paper and pen, chocolate.

My daugbter and her girlfriend are going to celebrate in China Town.

I rememmber one of the first things I owned was a jar of penny nails. I got them after I left the Farm.

Then I bought a hammer. With my hammer and penny nails I figured I could fix anything that broke around me.

I used them to hang posters. Tacks would have been easier. But I liked my penny nails. In my jar.

When I moved from place to place which I did very often, I took the jar with me.

I also wanted to be able to defend myself when I slept in my car or lived alone.

For that, I bought a pen knife.

Naturally, I wanted to prepare for the inevitable. For what might happen.

I bought a red pup tent, a rope in case I was under water and needed to climb out, a roll of duct tape, a grappling hook, in case I needed to grapple, scotch tape in case someone was talking to much and I needed to stop the words especially if I didn’t understand the words.

I had a flashlight that could go underwater.

Also a can of broccoli.

All of these things are worth thinking about getting for yourloved one for Valentine’s Day.

In my car I had built in a bookshelf. Anna Karenina. I had a pair of scissors for cutting my own hair and other one for cutting other things like duct tape. I had a typewriter and a blanket. The kind with rippon around the edges. It was a soft green blanket. No pillow. I used clothes.

What do you like to have that makes you feel at home?
For Valentine’s Day go for something that makes the person feel special. Flowers are not a bad idea.

People usually don’t complain about flowers.

Published in: on February 13, 2015 at 8:39 pm  Leave a Comment  

They are watching you

We all know that our computersare watching us and keeping track of everything we do. Some televisions are watchingy you as well. Samsung televisions are watching you and keeping track of what you say. They say that this is for marketing purposes to help us find the things we want.


Emails I receive often confuse me.

Okay, they know I like to buy books, panties, shoes, boots, secret Ninja stuff for my husband, lotions.
That all seems understandable. It was a little creepy when we planned a visit to Murrietta to see my mother-in-law and then I started getting offers to go to wineries in Temecula. Odd. We aren’t staying the night, we have no reservations, so there is nothing except the email which didn’t mention the area.
Weird. Coincidence? I think not.

We have been to Murrietta once a long time ago, but we are going to visit my mother-in-law to celebrate her birthday. She’s not overly fond of my kids so we’re not bringing them along. Her favorite member of the family is my brother-in-law, her firstborn. She talks a great deal of Alan. When we go to visit , I am sure we will hear more about how amazing he is. Alan works in an office in San Francisco. He’s a nice guy. I’m keeping in mind that playing favorites with your children and grandchildren creates a memorable experience for the whole family.

But back to the watching. Much of the barrage of emails we receive seem to be directed at us personally. Which begs the question of the other emails. Do they know something I don’t? Pretty much everyone gets offers for Viagra and stuff that will give you a larger male organ.

Okay, but I also get offers to join various dating services. Do they know something I don’t know? Am I about to be single? I get offers to go back to school. Please no. Offers to go on cruises. Not my style. and offers for designer clothes and handbags. Which is really a long shot for me.

Go away, leave me alone, I tell the email. At any rate, my laptop is in the shop for the several days, do keeping up with email won’t be easy.

Published in: on February 12, 2015 at 7:15 pm  Leave a Comment  

Winter Institute

Okay, you want the skinny on Winter Institute?  Here we go. This is my first time attending so this year is all I have to go on.  But I’ll give you my impressions so far.

How many people are here?

It’s small compared to other book/literary conventions: AWP–15,000, London–20,000, BEA—40,000, Frankfurt—286,000.  This is about 500 people and those people are mostly booksellers and big New York publishers.  There are very few smaller indie publishers.  Melville, Tin House, Coffee House, Graywolf and The Other Press are here, otherwise it’s mostly the big boys.

What are we doing here?

Building connections with bookstores and believe me, it’s been very helpful.  I have figured out what we can do to work more effectively with indie bookstores.  At least some things we can do better.  We need indie bookstores to love us, and there is a magic to creating that love, I’m learning the magic.

How are the accommodations?

The main conference is in the Omni which is a huge hotel with 510 guest rooms where many presidents have stayed.  It’s very fancy.  Unfortunately, only a portion of those rooms was available to this conference so a lot of people are drifting through the downtown hotels which means that I go to the Omni in the morning, attend meetings, come back to my downtown hotel and then go back there in the afternoon, coming back here by 6 pm.  I am fairly sure I’ll make it through the whole conference without having a drink in the bar, although, I had a salad yesterday with our author Ellen Meeropol.  Because the conference is at a hotel where a lot of people aren’t staying, you don’t really get the benefit of interacting as much as you could.  Next year, they promise that it will be in a city that is easier to get to and that we will all be at the same hotel.

Zeitgeist of the Winter Institute

Booksellers are king.  Everything here is about connecting with booksellers, booksellers networking with each other, learning how the book selling world works and that is great.  The big presses wine and dine the book sellers in the evening.  I like that, maybe next year I’ll take some booksellers that I love out to some fun places.

Fun at the Winter Institute?

This year,  I’m just chilling and getting work done.  I’m buckling down;  I’m learning a lot. Next year, I’ll see about fun. I know I’ll have fun in NY next month and in Minneapolis for AWP.

Published in: on February 10, 2015 at 9:33 am  Leave a Comment  

I miss snow amid all the sunshine

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I haven’t been in snow for so many years I’m starting to forget snow.  Our family used to go skiing every winter and I would remember snow then, but now I have forgotten it.  I’ve forgotten what snow feels like.  In Nebraska we saw some snow, but I didn’t really go out in it.  In Alaska, I bet they never forget snow.  We need to visit snow. I wish I could go skiing.  It’s such an expensive sport, but I love it so much. For many years growing up, we always skied and ice skated.   It’s February; I’m sure there is snow somewhere that we can go talk to.

When I was a child, every winter I waited for snow to come and I walked out and tasted the snow. It melted on my tongue.  Sunshine is a different thing to walk into.  It rolls off you, sunlight does, it rolls off you into the street and there is sunlight everywhere bubbling up and that’s not the end of it.  In California every day there is more of it.

Here in Asheville, it apparently does snow, but not now.  People in Asheville really love this town and no wonder, it’s a romantic city with cool old buildings.  It’s the kind of city where you feel like a big story is being written.  The hotel where the conference is, the Omni is quite large.  I’m not staying there; I’m in a place downtown.  But where I am staying, I can walk to Trader Joes, and that’s always an advantage.

Published in: on February 9, 2015 at 8:43 pm  Leave a Comment  

Upcoming Valentines Day

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What to do:  Take your loved one something fun and give him/her something fun.  Valentines Day is supposed to be about fun.  Have a good time.

Things that are a big mistake—getting overly crazy in the jewelry department.  You get a diamond when you get married?  Sure, if you like that kind of thing.  When I hear women saying that their husband regularly buys them jewelry, I think, that’s weird.  Let me explain something guys, if you need to buy your wife or girlfriend some extravagant jewelry it looks like one of the following might be true of you, diamond buying man:

  1. You are cheating or have cheated on her. That is the first thing I think when I hear someone say their husband just bought them more jewelry. Especially husbands who travel a lot.
  2. You are insecure.
  3. Of course, connected with that is the idea that you have a reason to be insecure.
  4. You have way too much money and you aren’t that good at picking gifts so you default to diamonds.
  5. Some of you women are thinking, I want a man who defaults to diamonds. Really, do you? What does that even mean when you just want more expensive  jewelry?  It means that the rest of your life is not what you wish it were.

What means real love? Is hanging out with someone and doing something fun and maybe when they just give you something fun and ridiculous.   A relationship is supposed to be fun.  If nothing else, you should be enjoying yourselves.  So kiss each other and do your happy dance.

Well, here I am in North Carolina.

Asheville, North Carolina, Winter Institute to be precise.

Met a very elegant French bookseller named Eric.  He doesn’t speak much English, but we got by in French.  Unbelievably, he understood my French and he understood mine.

I went shopping at Trader Joes for food for this trip.  I bought:  Wine, water, pears, apples, a mango, bananas, cherry tomatoes, blackberries, cheese, yoghurt, and what I had for dinner which was red spinach and  smoked salmon.  Trader Joes has everything you need for healthy living.

This town is kind of nice and friendly.  The cab driver on the way here told me that I may not be aware of this being from California and all, but in Asheville, there are Latinos, both Mexicans and El Salvadorans.  I tried to appear surprised.  She said that her next door neighbor is El Salvadoran.  I wanted to mention that nearly 40 % of California’s population is Hispanic and that we have amazing Mexican food and that I miss it already, but it’s super rude to brag about where you are from when you visiting another place.

The hotel is right by Thomas Wolfe’s house.  The bar at this hotel is called The Writer’s Bar.

Published in: on February 8, 2015 at 7:00 pm  Comments (1)  

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