The "Brit a Day" series

What does a months-long parade of attractive British men have to do with fiction, you might well ask? These gentlemen have inspired some lovely scenes, part of the life I live in my head. Over time, some of these scenes reach out to one another and begin to form a story. For the present, each one of these pictures provides a writing prompt for me, a way to keep me writing with a sense of passion and narrative, even when the stories are not yet fully formed.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

He wanted her only to answer his question

--Alexander McCall Smith

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

I actually got this coffee cup... chance when I took a cup of free coffee from the library of my child's school. I was there to participate in Read Across America, and I read a selection from Richard Brautigan's 'Trout Fishing in America' to a class of sixth graders. I was feeling pretty good about all of it, but this cup sealed the deal.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Lucy, Darwin, and Michele

There is a scene in the final episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation in which the character known as Q, who can be alternately omniscient, omnipotent, omnipresent and annoying, has dragged the hero, Captain Jean Luc Picard, back to the primordial ooze of Picard’s home planet, Earth. Q explains that they have arrived just at the instant that a chemical reaction will take place that signifies the beginning of all life on Earth. Q pontificates for a few minutes on the unlikeliness of this seemingly insignificant event and how random is the process that will result in the chain of life. At last the moment has come, and Q and Picard look down into the brackish puddle at their feet. “Look…” Q says, “…oh, that’s a shame,” implying that somehow their presence has inflicted itself on the very phenomenon on which Picard’s own existence depends.

In her new installation at Art Produce Gallery, Lucy, Darwin and Me, Michele Guieu uses a quote from Thomas Henry Huxley that could be describing the scene beside that ancient pond:

“Sit down before a fact as a little child, be prepared to give up every preconceived notion, follow humbly wherever and to whatever abysses nature leads, or you shall learn nothing.”

In other words, we need to be as open to chance as the things we observe.

When Michele first began to think of how she would fill the spaces at Art Produce, communities were gearing up to celebrate the bicentennial of Charles Darwin’s birth and the 150th anniversary of the publication of Origin of Species. “I took it as a sign!” Michele says. The anniversaries have rich connections for her. In the 1970’s, Michele moved from her native France with her geologist father and biologist mother to Senegal where she would live from the age of 11 to 15. They were living there when the ancient set of bones that would be named Lucy (for Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds) was discovered, the oldest known hominid skeleton at the time. For Michele’s family, the discovery was like welcoming a new but highly anticipated friend. “The memory of Lucy’s discovery,” Michele says, “for me is not scientific, it’s uplifting.”

Michele’s connections with the physical world are informed by the scientific knowledge of her parents, but that knowledge mingles freely with the warmth of loving memories of her family and of the peaceful time Michele and her sister spent with their mother and father during those years in Africa. “When we went hiking as a family, my dad was always looking up, explaining the mountains to us, why this stream was over there, and my mom was always looking down explaining the plants.” As much as anything, Michele remembers being surrounded by her mother’s biology books and getting lost in their illustrations. For Lucy, Darwin and Me, Michele has returned to those illustrations as her inspiration, and has chosen a technique that celebrates the randomness of life’s existence. Using sumi ink on paper, Michele allows the ink to set up for a time and then puts the image under running water. The result is gradations of black to gray. “You get what you get almost by chance,” Michele says, “depending on the paper, moisture in the air while it dries, and the timing of the washing.”

The resulting collection of images makes an impressive statement about biodiversity through the cataloging of shapes and textures found in nature. These images are brought together in the main room of Art Produce, along with small photos of the California desert as seen through Michele’s eye, within a large mural. This part of the installation is almost an open letter to Michele’s mother, who at 73, “still wakes up every morning in love with the natural beauty of the world around her.”

The second, smaller room is more intimate. Here is a museum case of artifacts: a rock hammer, a fossil, a sketchbook from her father’s field work—the trappings of a field geologist at work in the Sahara desert. There are loops of digital photography and videos to watch in pieces or in whole. To Michele, the small room works to explain the main body of the installation. One work in there is a video divided into minute-long segments explaining each object in the museum case.

About Darwin himself and his theories, Michele is not ambivalent. “In America,” she says, “we are not done with the discussion about evolution.” In France, where she grew up, society is done with that argument, evolution is accepted as a fact, and people move on. “I was born like that, believing evolution, and didn’t question it. In France, there is no polemic.”

In the video section of Lucy, Darwin and Me, Michele speaks for a moment about each of her father’s artifacts. “Simple, straightforward, not emotional,” she says. “It’s my way of labeling them.” (And her mother is off-screen by the camera, in case you were wondering, holding up Michele’s cue cards.)

Lucy, Darwin and Me opens December 12, 2009 at Art Produce Gallery in San Diego, CA.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

She doesn't look a day over forty...

...but she is. She's one of my oldest friends. She lost the pearls from her earrings somewhere along the way, otherwise she's going quite well.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Toward a Sharper Fluid Image

I've reserved my panicking for bigger things, but the outcome is the same.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

these two pictures

I love looking at these two photographs side by side. Both images, from the Wall Street Journal.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Make-your-own Model Throne

Print this on 8 1/2 by 11 paper, cut it out, fold it up, and tape it. Then you will have a model throne for you desk, bedside table, dinette, etc.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

10 April, 1744

--patrick dillon

Monday, November 16, 2009

--Lemony Snicket

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Michele Guieu: C’est la Vie

An installation at the San Diego Art Institute, June 2009

I’ve always loved the expression “You can’t dip your toe in the same river twice.” Everything changes, everything moves on, even when you come back to it in the same place, offering the same bit of yourself to it as you did before. Artists often seem to be taking on two contradictory tasks at once—the preservation of a moment in time, along with a celebration of the fully writhing, changing nature of life itself.

Michele’s second solo show at the San Diego Art Institute has that dynamic. It is both a presentation of her most recent individual works as a painter as well as an installation of beautiful snapshots within a single context. The pieces, all square but of varying sizes and thicknesses, are loosely grouped in thematic ribbons over a large suite of silhouettes that are painted on the walls. The images are not fixed to one another like chapters in a story. If there seems to be only a hint of a narrative here, that is for good reason. They are moments, Michele says, but they are not frozen.

As Michele showed me a preliminary version of the installation you see at SDAI today, we placed the paintings on the hardwood floor of her home. Her children are completely at home with artworks within arm’s reach, and as they made their way in, out, and through the room, they navigated the squares on display as though the paintings were anti-stepping stones. I had to remind myself to stop holding my breath—this is their life, after all, they know what these are. The paths of their bare feet between Michele’s paintings were the incarnation of C’est la vie. Life goes on around you even as you are stopping to contemplate a still life.

With the paintings on the floor, Michele and I talked about an installation we saw in LA last year of handmade stuffed dolls. Each doll had been the result of an experience the artist, Vanessa Matthews, wished to externalize. One doll, for example, was catharsis after anger over a parking ticket. The dolls were individually for sale, but the presentation of all the dolls together, hanging from the ceiling, was most effective. They were funny, cute, sad, and confusing. They were enough of a curiosity that they defied you to leave the room without learning more about them.

Michele feels that the images in this show fulfill a similar need to externalize moments in her life. Most of them have people—sometimes strangers she has photographed at the beach—as the central form. Typically, her landscapes are almost deserted, the ocean is empty. But in this installation, at the same time that her landscapes are like sanctuaries, they make a human connection. Abstract shapes that mimic sea life and tide pools illustrate a bridge between Michele’s mother, a marine biologist, and Michele’s embrace of the natural world.

The clean silhouettes have a way of making Michele’s art look effortless. Does this bother her? When I ask her about it, she says, “The digestion process from photo to painting….is….,” then she looks at the ceiling with outstretched hands. But in the end, that is something only she will know about. “I don’t want it to look like I spend a thousand hours on everything.”

Looking back on Michele’s first solo show at SDAI last year, I am so impressed with how much this river has changed. The change in the scale of her work is most notable, but it is not the only thing that has grown in the year that has passed. Her paintings work together like pieces of a language that is still evolving. As soon as she began to think about this show, Michele says, she knew that she wanted to do something completely different from her previous solo show. She loved the idea of very large scale works, but over time, largeness started to define itself as many small things happening at once. That is life, and to be as large as life is to experience a multitude of tiny moments at the speed they are thrust at us. The great surprise for us is that Michele’s new piece is both the single sweep of the wall in front of you and these many small things that compel you to stop and wonder. The resulting ensemble is appropriately temporary—it will disappear when this wall is handed over to another artist—and the individual pieces will never be presented in this way again.

This is a river. This is life. Michele doesn’t want or need to demonstrate anything. “C’est la vie is about accepting things which are happening without necessarily being resigned,” she says. “I may be less interested in fighting than in finding a way to live in the present.”

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Thursday, April 23, 2009

full disclosure

Author’s Note: go ahead and click on the images of my handwritten notes about my family’s old farm and our dubious lineage. They are with parts 1 and 3 of the story I just posted. Then you can see them large enough to read them. It’s actually quite funny and all true. It’s a miracle that any of us Hinsons are here.

The Miracle is You--part 3, conclusion

After my accident, having children was put on hold indefinitely. When we got to California, I really wanted to have a child. I wanted it for him. I was willing to take the cardiologist’s advice—that we wait a few years, then taper off the medication, then wait a while after that to see what happens—as an advisory only, but I was preparing to go ahead with my own plans.
He wouldn’t hear of it. He wouldn’t take a chance with my life—it would not be worth it. I told him I felt like I had plenty of time, but he was ten years older. “I have plenty of time,” he said. “Blokes have all the time in the world, god made us that way.”

The first period I got after I got to Asheville in the spring of 1983—I was eleven days late. We’d stopped using birth control pills that winter because I thought my body needed a rest. He was great about my decision to make the switch. A lot of men would have objected or refused to take responsibility, refused to step up to the plate, as they say. But we did everything the way we were supposed to with our alternate form of birth control which we immediately nicknamed the Things.
Eleven days. I wasn’t pregnant. Just late.

At first they thought my heart attack had been caused by an undetected pulmonary embolism, a blood clot in my lungs. They told me I’d have to stop using birth control pills. I was still in the hospital with weird complications after the accident in New York. I remembered the messes with the Things. We hadn’t stuck with them for very long—I went back on the pill before the wedding—and we had hated them, but we didn’t admit that to ourselves until we quit using them. Now we were going to have to go back to something like the Things.
He said, half serious, “I’ll just get a vasectomy.”
I said, half joking, “Or I’ll just get pregnant.”
A multitude of possibilities and impossibilities seemed to be hanging in the air that afternoon awaiting a verdict, waiting for permission to proceed.
Then the doctor came back to say that there actually had been no blood clot, the heart attack was caused by the Prinzmetal’s Angina they’d discovered during the angiogram.

Spring of ’86, Pasadena, Cal State LA: We’ve been here since the fall, reunited with friends we met here in the summer of ’82. We were especially happy to take up with Mike and Charlie again. They are musicians and they had a great band back in the 70’s. I’ve heard the recordings of some of their old stuff, and they are amazing. They remind me of Stephen Stills and Manassas: these are men who understand the judicious use of a cowbell and a wah-wah pedal. I paint scenery in the Valley, moving more towards management than actively painting sets these days. I still come home covered in paint sometimes. I came home covered in paint today, expecting him to have been here when we invited Mike and Charlie over. I knew I was going to be late, but he was later. I didn’t get a shower until he got home, apologetic for being so late. So now I get a fully passionate kiss of apology. I’m sure he can taste the beer I’ve been sipping while I was hanging out with the guys in our kitchen; on him I taste the faint flavor of cigarettes.
I have everything that I need at this moment. I leave the kitchen reluctantly, my steps toward the bathroom are the only proof that time has not stood still. I am 26, and he is 35.

2009: By now you are wondering, “Did Mr. And Mrs. Reid ever have children? Is that the miracle?” The whole moral of the story seems to hinge on my answer. Well, I’m not going to tell you. I will tell you that there is a beautiful, smart 20-year-old girl who is very much in our lives. She has a boyfriend who is English, and when she brings him to our house, our men are lost to us in a haze of Yorkshire English that we can barely understand. Is she our daughter? Perhaps she is Mike’s or Charlie’s daughter—we’ve stayed close with their families over these years. Is she the miracle? What I know now is that it doesn’t matter. It does not matter. I’m going to begin today to break us all of the habit of believing that it matters.

…Until your mother loves a man she has every reason to hate, and of that union, of the thousand million children competing for fertilization, it was you, only you, that emerged.
--Alan Moore, Watchmen, 1986

I had an argument in 2nd period English with Mr. Reid once in front of the whole class. He tried to assign a certain book for me to read and report on, but I told him that he must have forgotten that he had already assigned me a different book and I was half way through writing the report on that. He said that couldn’t be the case, and I would have to start over with the new book. It escalated to the point where he threw me out of class, not literally, but he told me to collect my things and get out. I went out the west end of the hall and sat on a low wall that surrounded the athletic field. He came out five minutes later and said, “What are you doing? You can’t stay here, you either need to get back in the classroom or go to the office.”
“And what would I tell them I was there to do?” I said. I started to cry.
He let me cry for a minute and then said, not unkindly, “Do you want to go to the bathroom and take a few minutes to pull yourself together?”
It’s hard for me to remember what happened next. I do know that I didn’t feel well, and I told him so. He put his hand on my forehead to check for a fever. His hand was cool, and the signet ring he wore felt smooth on my skin. He sent me to the office to call my mother to come pick me up. It was the only time in the whole of the ninth grade that he ever touched me.

I am grading 7th graders’ tests one afternoon after school. He tells me I can sit at his desk while he goes to the office. I’d like a fresh red pencil, so I open the drawer of his desk. There is an opened envelope in there with a postmark from Wales and a woman’s handwriting. Before I know what I’m doing, I’m looking inside the envelope. There’s no letter, just two pictures. One is black and white, of a girl about my age standing next to a boy, a little older, holding a baby between them. Very serious, the young man. The date on the border of the picture says 1951, so the boy can’t be Mr. Reid although he looks a little like him. The baby looks just like the girl, and the serious boy, I will learn much later, grows up to be the man I recognize as my father-in-law.
The other picture is in color. There is a different boy at the center of it, this one much more obviously Mr. Reid. This one says 1960, the year I was born. He is small in the width of the picture, framed by a railroad trestle just as the train is going by overhead. There seems to be a waiting family in the background, but they are hazy. I think I see the outline of a picnic basket in someone’s hands. The look on the boy’s face is the embodiment of wonder. He is looking up at the train as though a dinosaur has just landed in south Yorkshire. He looks as though some one has just whispered in his ear, “Think of the most amazing thing in the world; if it makes you happy, it’s enough for us.”
I can hear the western door opening, so I close the drawer quickly and quietly. I smell the slight reek of tobacco on his jacket hanging on the chair behind me. As he comes into the room I am thinking, yes, Mr. Reid, the miracle is you.

The End

The Miracle is You--part 2

I’ll tell you when I knew. In ninth grade. One afternoon when I’d stayed a while past the end of school we were still talking when he walked me to the door of his classroom. The classroom door was right by the double doors with glass panels in them at the west end of the 300 Building. I stopped in the hall, and the sun coming in those doors was golden. He leaned back against the door jamb, and for a second I had the horror that he had missed it and was going to fall right past it to the floor. But he settled into place against it, his eyes never leaving mine. I told him about my memory of that day after we got together. He said that it had the same meaning for him that it did for me, that the sun had shone right on my face as if to say, “she’s the one you’ve been looking for.” He said he didn’t really know what to do with all the emotions he felt, but he knew that whatever he did, he’d have to be careful.
“Was I ever not safe?” I asked him. In loco parentis, I thought, and I had to smile.
“You’ve always been safe with me,” he said softly.
I never let things go very far in my head when I thought about him after that day in the hall. I was 14 and he was my teacher. Mr. Reid and I were friends, as far as a student and her teacher could be friends. But that one moment of connection, his back against the door jamb, my face in the sun, meant that it wasn’t just a crush.

The summer after his first year in Connecticut, we went to California together for his summer teaching job. We loved it. He was invited to stay on, but we both had stuff to get back to in Connecticut. I found a studio that needed a scenic painting intern, and it was so refreshing to have a nine-to-five job after my whole life of school and homework. It gave us more time together, to explore each other, and we were deeply in love by the end of the summer.

May 1985: Married almost two years. Hit my head at a theatre conference in NYC. I was 25, he was 34. Hospitalized in NY. His contract at Wesleyan was up for renewal, and this was the beginning of the final exam period for his students. Many gut-wrenching good-byes each time I made him go back home to deal with school. Interest in starting a family put on hold. Contract wasn’t renewed; we left CT for CA at the end of the summer. He’d been at Wesleyan almost four years.

California, summer of 1982:
Him: “Do you think you want to have children?”
Long ambiguous answer from me.
Him: “Do you want to have children with me?”
Me (rambling): Well, I’d prefer to be married first, yada, yada, blah, blah, blah.
Him: “Do you want to be married, then?”
Me: Well, yeah, someday, yeah…yeah…
Him: “Do you want to be married to me?”
“Are you asking??”
“Of course I’m asking.”
Shocked, stammering answer about finishing school, parents freaking out, etc.
He puts his hand up to his face and looks like he’s going to sneeze. Says “excuse me” and gets up and goes into the bedroom. In a few minutes he comes out with something cradled in the palm of his hand. He sits down; it’s his mom’s engagement ring on a gold chain. I’ve seen him wear it before, a long time ago, but frankly, didn’t realize he had it in California.
Him: “I’d like you to have this. God, the diamond is so small. It’s pathetic….”
It’s not pathetic, and I let him slip it on my finger and it sort of fits. I hug him, kiss him, cuddle his face.
Me: “I’m a little worried about my parents, since I haven’t finished school…”
Him: “I just want you to have it now. Wear it while we’re here if you want, and then put it back on the chain when we go back East.”
Me: “Or I can switch it to over here (right hand), it seems to fit okay there…..

The day he found out his contract was not going to be renewed I felt horrible. I thought is was because of all the time he’d spent away from school while I was recovering from the accident in New York City. He said that wasn’t it, but he was preoccupied with the news he’d just gotten. At one point, he put his head in his hands, I thought he was going to cry—I’d never once seen him cry—and when he swept his hair up away from his forehead, I guess it was the angle—he was seated, I was standing—I saw a small scar there that I had never seen before. How could I not have seen that, I thought. I’d lived with this man for almost four years and hadn’t noticed it. So I asked him about it. He said it was a soccer accident when he was young, someone’s cleat. Ouch, I said. I knew he’d played soccer as a teenager. That was reassuring; I was back from the unknown territory of the scar. He rubbed it with his fingers.
“Christ,” he said, “It used to be above my hairline.”
“You’re not going to have a mid-life crisis, are you? If you are, I can tell you, I’m not ready for it!”
We both laughed. It helped us both to laugh.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

The Miracle is You--part 1

He would have had to go into the British Army to pay for school. His step-mother’s parents offered to pay in-state tuition to UNC-Asheville, but he’d have to move there to get the cost break. When he graduated he got a job in Durham teaching ninth grade English as Miss Watson’s year-long substitute. Miss Watson was taking a year off to travel around the world with her elderly mother. I had planned to be Miss Watson’s aide, and I loved Miss Watson, so I was disappointed. The beginning of ninth grade was September 1974. I was 14, he was almost 24.
So I was his aide instead during 7th period when he didn’t have a class. He said I could just leave early anytime I wanted, but I usually just stayed, sometimes even stayed late, and helped him grade the younger kids’ papers. We talked a lot. It was hard not to be the teacher’s pet when I had him for English in 2nd period.
He was trying to work on his PhD in English at Duke while he taught. It wasn’t working so well. He stayed on at my junior high and tried to finish it the whole time I was in high school. I ran into him sometimes when I was using the Duke library for AP English. By the time I was at State, he had quit teaching junior high and was working on his thesis full time in Chapel Hill.
He finished it while I was in my first semester at Yale. I had transferred there for my junior year, but I had to start late, in January. The beginning of spring semester 1981. I didn’t know it at the time, but he applied for and got a position at Wesleyan just down the road. He went back to Asheville for the summer before starting at Wesleyan, and I was at home in Durham. He got in touch; I was 21 and he was almost 30. We started seeing each other when we got back to Connecticut. By the time I graduated in December of ’82 we’d been together for over a year. I stayed with him at Wesleyan in the beginning of 1983, and we knew we wanted to be married. I went to Asheville to stay with his step-family while I planned our wedding. We were married that summer; I was 23, he was 32. His step-grandparents, Herschel and Eleanor, were Episcopalians, and the wedding was at their church. His father and step-mother came from England, and my family came from Durham and all over.

“In human coupling, a thousand million sperm vie for a single egg. Multiply those odds by countless generations, against the odds of your ancestors being alive; meeting; siring this precise son; that exact daughter…”
--Alan Moore, Watchmen, 1986

I smoked my first cigarette in his car. He and three other teachers, all women, took their student aides out to lunch on a teacher work day near the end of the year. Ms. Flack, she let us call her Jody, and her student rode in the same car with me and Mr. Reid. After lunch we all got a little silly. I think two of the other girls—all the aides were girls—had smoked something in the bathroom at the restaurant. In the backseat of Mr. Reid’s car, Jody passed a cigarette to her aide and they lit up; Mr. Reid took one when she offered it. I’d never seen him smoke before. When she offered one to me, I took it. I lit it from the car lighter, and I looked so awkward that he knew.
“Have you ever smoked before?” he asked.
When I said ‘no’ I was smiling, and he tried to grab it out of my hand. I said “NO!” again and he stopped. We were all laughing, but he took a long kind of angry drag on his cigarette before he started the car. I never smoked in front of him again—I never smoked, really—and I never saw him smoke again. We laughed about it once after making love.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

family album photographer

The Monkees
For my birthday last weekend, my husband gave me a 2-CD compilation of songs by the Monkees. He hid it in the compartment under the armrest of his car before we set off on a big road trip, and at some point he asked me to dig in there and find something to listen to. At that moment I really had no idea of the flood of memories that were about to overtake me. All I was aware of was the irony of the timing of the gift--take away the first digit of my current age, and I was right at home. I might have been a little self-conscious if I had been in love with them 20 years ago or 30. But it was more; I was 9. Nothing to be embarrassed about, the gift was as venerable and sentimental as a bronzed pair of baby shoes.
Davy Jones
The first disc was all of their hits. While we listened to it I read aloud the individual bios fo Davy, Mike, Peter, and Micky. Sean had always been skeptical of any talent among them, so it was fun to point out that Davy Jones had been in the Broadway cast of "Oliver!" and Peter Tork had been talked into auditioning for the Monkees by his fellow musician Stephen Stills.
Graham Nash, David Crosby, and Stephen Stills
The second disc was not so much stuff left on the cutting room floor as stuff left in the vault when the band broke up. Some of the tracks are kind of spontaneious and raw, and at one point you hear Micky Dolenz introducing "Mr. Henry Diltz on the clarinet." Why was that name so familiar to me? The same name, Henry Diltz appeared in tiny type as some of the photo credits on the liner notes. But it was more familiar than that. I was now in this zone of memory which could make anything possible, and I started to think that I knew exactly who he was. That he was the photographer who had given me a window as a teenager into the lives of people I ached to know as my closest friends. I started to remember so many images, precious because they existed for me before pictures could be copied at home on your own copier, or saved on your hard drive, or accessed on the internet. I had wanted to work for the Bettman Archive when I grew up, just to be near pictures like his, the only vessels for history that had any pull on me.
Joni Mitchell, Graham Nash
I began to think that he had taken the photograph of Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young that I had thumbtacked to my wall at age 12 so that I could lovingly gaze at Graham Nash every moment I was in my room. I thought of the most famous photograph of Bob Dylan from that era, Dylan's profile in the halo of a spotlight. I knew that that picture had been taken at the Concert for Bangladesh c. 1970, and Dylan had been sharing the stage with George Harrison and Eric Clapton. When that photo graced the cover of Dylan's next album, it was all the more meaningful that not everyone knew
the moment it had been taken as well as I believed I did.
Neil Young
Today, I found out I was right. Henry Diltz is the artist behind those amazing pictures, and it turns out--this is unreal to me--he's a partner in a gallery right here in La Jolla called Morrison's Hotel. I was able to find an archive of his photos today through the gallery's website.
Linda Ronstadt
So many of these photos, the first time I saw them I was still forming my dreams of what to become and where to become it. Some of Henry Diltz's pictures made me want to live in Southern California, a desire that began when I was still in single digits and that I never let go of. The pictures he took of the musicians I loved made me love them more. They were gods photographed like humans, not the other way around. I imagined standing at the photographer's shoulder when he took those pictures. I imagined taking them myself.
These pictures above and below are of people who were my first California family. At the time, when I was in junior high and high school, they were as palpable as anything in my real life, often more. I hope Henry Diltz won't mind--I haven't asked him--if I show you my just-discovered long-lost family album, c. 1968-1975.
Top: Buffalo Springfield; Middle: Joni Mitchell, David Crosby, and Eric Clapton; Bottom: Crosby, Stills, and Nash
All photos by Henry Diltz

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

cinema salvation

I went to see the movie 'Watchmen' the other day and I enjoyed it very much. (I'm going to be your Mother here for a minute and tell you that you really should read the book first because the book is an epic and a classic. I say epic, but it is a comic book you know, so how long can it take you to read it, just a day or two, and well worth the time, before you see the movie.)

As I was waiting for the movie to start, I was thinking how ironic it is that I have to get out of the house to see a movie I don't want to watch with my kids and how glad I was that this movie was rated R so there was no ambiguity about who should and who should not see it with me. I went alone. But what I really wanted to watch (with my husband) was 'Batman Begins'--yes, I know it's ancient, but I've never seen it. I bought the DVD used after I saw 'The Dark Knight' (which I bought new at Circuit City's liquidation sale, an event that surprised me with the flood of emotion--nostalgia for our early days, spending loads of money on electronics and appliances--it brought forth in me.) And the DVD of 'B-man Begins' sits on my desk even now, unwatched, because that intersection of kids-are-asleep, and Sean-is-home, and two-hours-to-watch-a-movie-in-which-I-won't-fall-asleep just doesn't exist in my house very often.

So the trailers before 'Watchmen' helped me plan (fantasize) other escapes from home to see more epic sex & violence, hopefully rated R.

The first trailer was for 'Public Enemy' with Johnny Depp as John Dilinger, and we all know what THAT means. Christian Bale is also in the movie, and I felt like I was being taunted for being most likely the only person in the theatre who has not seen 'Batman Begins'. I bet i'm right, you know, people who'd come to see 'Watchmen' (DC comics) will have seen it.

The next trailer was for 'Star Trek.' I'm pretty excited about that now too. thank God it's not called 'Star Trek Begins' or 'Star Trek: Origins'. The fact that someone has the nerve to simply call it 'Star Trek' is ominous, in a good way, I think.

The last trailer was for 'Terminator: Salvation' which had me right from the start when I didn't know it was a Terminator movie and I was thinking "wow, this story is based on a common theme in science fiction (and comic books) of man-made stuff dominating man, like I Robot and The Terminator." And then there he was in THIS trailer, I'm not making this up.....Christian Bale.

Monday, March 30, 2009

wants in life: love, happiness

Friends of mine know that one of the defining moments of my life was when I sustained a traumatic head injury. They won't be surprised to hear that the death of Natasha Richardson was particularly sad to me. She was 45, just like I was, the age at which I fell and hit my head (with the force of a baseball bat in mid-swing my doctor said) and then popped up and reassured everyone that I was fine. Story has it, she turned away the paramedics at the hotel because she felt fine. I would have done the same thing. I would have never made it to the ER if someone hadn't asked me if my extremities were numb. Slightly, I said, but yes, yes, they definitely are.

My favorite Natasha Richardson movie is the sweet British film "Blow Dry." She makes your heart ache in that movie. It's not a great movie, but it's lovely, and it's fun that you have to turn on the closed captions to understand their Yorkshire accents. says, "Despite a gifted Anglo-American cast, Blow Dry strikes an uneasy balance between sentiment and camp. It aims for the same sort of high-wire act that Strictly Ballroom and Priscilla, Queen of the Desert pulled off so effortlessly, but melodrama wins the day. The comic moments are suitably over-the-top (as expected in a film about dueling hairdressers), but rarely as amusing as intended. The relationships between barbershop owner Phil (Alan Rickman), ex-wife Shelley (Natasha Richardson), and Sandra (Rachel Griffiths), "the other woman," could be more fully developed but are affecting nonetheless.
The setting is West Yorkshire. The event that brings them together is the British National Hairdressing Championships. Phil initially resists the urge to compete as it reminds him of the success he and Shelley once enjoyed, but his son Brian (Pearl Harbor's Josh Hartnett) convinces him to give it a go.
Hartnett and Rachael Leigh Cook (She's All That), as the daughter of Phil's old nemesis, seem like peculiar casting choices for a British film, but Hartnett's accent is passable (Cook plays an American) and they don't embarrass themselves as much as supermodel Heidi Klum, who plays a tacky, two-timing hair model. The screenplay is by Simon Beaufoy of Full Monty fame. Although not up to that standard--and certainly no match for Shampoo (the greatest hairdressing movie of all time)--Blow Dry is still a good showcase for the talents of its three leads....
.....The Academy Award(R)- nominated writer of THE FULL MONTY has crafted a hilarious story about the things everyone wants in life: love, happiness, and great hair! As the National Hair Championships descend upon a small town in England, the country's top stylists aren't expecting much from the local talent. But they didn't count on Phil Allen (Rickman), the retired golden boy of the competition circuit, entering the fray! Also starring Natasha Richardson (THE PARENT TRAP), Rachel Griffiths (MY BEST FRIEND'S WEDDING), and supermodel Heidi Klum -- laugh along as the locals dazzle the out-of-towners with some hair dos ... and don'ts."

Saturday, February 21, 2009

The Mathematician Cannot Create Things at Will, part 6

(the conclusion)

She was in the habit of walking straight to his door when she came back from class in the afternoon. When he was there, she would usually go in and ask him if he wanted to take a nap with her. Today she found him sitting in a chair playing his electric guitar without the amplifier, so softly that no one in her room across the hall could have heard him. His hair swayed back and forth in time with the tapping of his foot until she put her hands on his shoulders and bent down to kiss the top of his head.
"I thought you might be home," he said. "In fact, I thought you might be asleep. I was trying to be so quiet."
"I am asleep, I’m so tired," she said, nestling her face into the back of his collar. "I just wanted to say ‘hi’ and then lie down before dinner."
"Wait," he said. "Look on my desk before you go."
She walked to his bedroom door and saw six pieces of paper fanned out slightly in the middle of his desk. Printed at the top of the first page was "Fulbright Scholarship, Institute of International Education, U.S. Student Program Application." She gripped both sides of the door frame and looked down at her feet as she began softly kicking at the floorboards in time with the music.
"Gee, Graham, when did you decide to do this?"
"It came in the mail today," he said without losing his place in the song. "I couldn’t resist sending away for it. My lit professors think I have an excellent chance of getting one."
"But what about the band… I mean when did you start thinking…" She turned back to the living room. "On second thought, wait and tell me at dinner. I’m going to go lie down."
From her room, the tapping of his foot was just barely audible, and hearing it was like trying to touch him from the opposite side of an abyss. When she closed her eyes, she wanted to be lying in the same old four-poster bed she had dreamed of. She wanted Graham to be there, but he would be staring up at the ceiling as he had started to do during their naps when he thought she was asleep. And just this one last time, she wanted the baby to be sleeping in the center between them. She lay down beside them, curling her body around the baby, her hand on Graham’s shoulder. "If you have to leave us, Graham, I’ll understand. I’d let you go right now. As a matter of fact, I wish you’d leave and take this baby with you. Because I have to get on with things. I have to be able to figure out what I’m going to do when I’m alone again after graduation, when you’re off on your Fulbright forgetting me and I have a worthless goddamn BA in philosophy. I have to start thinking about these things some time very soon or I’m screwed." She had never imagined that he looked at her with anything but love in his eyes, but this time she let him roll toward her and look coldly into her face. "You said it yourself, Graham, I’m too smart for this."
This was her fantasy, and she controlled every move that he made. She choreographed every twitch of his facial muscles as he took the pillow from behind his head and gently laid it over the baby. Then she had him take the pillow from behind her own head, never letting go of her eyes, and push it down over her face so that she could finally sleep a dreamless sleep.
The last thing she was aware of, partially deaf and comfortably paralyzed as she always was before she fell asleep, was Graham standing at the end of the couch. She couldn’t so much as lift her head, so she just stared at him. I’m going to dinner, she thought he said, but his mouth was making only the shapes of the words, not the sounds.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

The Mathematician Cannot Create Things at Will, part 5

Selina woke up alone one Sunday in December. Graham had left early to prepare for a voice lesson that had been rescheduled from the previous week aand wouldn’t be back until after lunch. She got out of bed and put on the sweatpants that were lying on the floor in front of her. Hearing her roommate Sarah typing in her bedroom, they seemed to be the only two people in the suite, so Selina slid into Sarah’s room and sat on the bed.
“What’s up?” Sarah said as she continued typing.
Selina flopped over on her back. “I think I might be pregnant, Sarah.”
Sarah slid around in her chair and drew one knee up to her chin. “I thought you guys were using something?”
“We are, but… I don’t know.” She grabbed a handful of her sweatshirt and tugged at it, making a tent over her belly.
Sarah shook her head. “Selina, use your brain. You’re not pregnant, you’re just looking for a distraction from the momentous void that’s lying out there waiting for us in six months.” She paused to think and seemed to be sucking on her knee as a child might do absentmindedly for comfort. “Do you and Graham ever talk about what you two are going to do after graduation?”
“No, and it doesn’t matter,” Selina said. She pulled herself upright with a great effort, as though she were already seven or eight months pregnant. “I don’t care what I do. If Graham wants me along, I’ll do whatever he does. I know that sounds horrible, but that’s all I can say. I think he wants to take a year off, maybe get a band together, and then if that doesn’t work out, apply to graduate schools.” Somethng came up from her stomach that soured her mouth. “I don’t know, maybe I made up the part about the band. He doesn’t take it all that seriously. I still want to get a pregnancy test, though. Can I borrow your car to go get one?”
“I think they have them at the drugstore on the corner, don’t they?”
“They’re all out, I already checked,” Selina lied. “Please. I’ll buy you half a tank of gas.”
Sarah shrugged and dug into the pockets of a pair of pants at the foot of her bed. “Don’t park it in a handicapped spot like Joan did, okay?” she said and tossed Selina the keys.
In her room, Selina put on a bra under her sweatshirt and started to change into her jeans. She was looking forward to the chance to drive away from the campus and wondered if she could pick Graham up as he was walking home from the music department. He is so good, she thought. He will deal with this just fine. When they were married, she decided, she would stop wearing old T-shirts to bed and wear nightgowns. She imagined herself in a thin white cotton gown, sheer where it draped over her pregnant belly. Then she remembered what he had said to her at Thanksgiving and muttered to herself, “I can’t believe I’m doing this.”
She didn’t know why she had told Sarah she was pregnant because she knew it wasn’t true. She didn’t know why she was ready to lie to Graham about it, either, because she didn’t believe she needed to be pregnant for him to marry her. It was just that in her dreams she willed herself to be married to him and pregnant with his baby, while in her real life she couldn’t seem to will herself to stop dreaming. The fantasy had become more familiar, and certainly more welcome, than the prospects of her own life, and the details of it were too comforting to give up. She knew, for instance, exactly what their bedroom would be like if they were married. Late at night when she lay with him in her darkened dorm room, she could actually feel her hand skimming the carved bedpost of an antique four-poster bed.
She tried to force herself out of the fantasy by thinking about how absolutely unpregnant she was. She remembered a time when her tenth grade biology class gathered around a lab table to observe a 21-week-old fetus preserved in an enormous jar of formaldehyde. Most of it features were well formed, and she had wondered if it looked like its parents. Her teacher had refused to tell her where it had come from. If she ever thought she was having a miscarriage, she knew she would be sickened to death by the memory of what she’d seen in the jar. She would be lying on their cool bathroom tile with her head on Graham’s knees, listening to his breathing heavy and irregular because he would be crying, thinking of the jar and knowing that there was nothing she could do to keep the fetus inside her. He would squeeze her hand and say, “What can I do? What do you want me to do?”
Why don’t you just shoot me, she thought. You said it: I’m too intelligent to be doing this. She dropped the car keys on the floor and fell back on her bed.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

The Mathematician Cannot Create Things at Will, part 4

They stayed on campus together over the week school was out for the Thanksgiving holiday. Their roommates were all gone, and they lived together in his dorm suite, making love every morning, afternoon, and night in his bed. They ate out breakfast and lunch, but in the evenings they let themselves into the student kitchen in the basement of the dorm to make dinner. Because the basement was so eerily quiet, they felt like they were going to a bomb shelter, and Graham started bringing a radio to keep them company. He caught up on reading from his Milton and Frost classes as Selina fixed their meals, turning down the radio sometimes to ask if she needed his help. They ate just one meal on Thanksgiving Day, some sliced turkey they bought at a deli the day before and a loaf pan of instant boxed stuffing that Selina garnished with canned cashews. While they were in the kitchen that day they made love twice, one time with her sitting on the counter and the other as she straddled him on a chair, her bare legs warmed by the oven as it was browning the pan of stuffing. With Graham’s approval, she kept on a stained terrycloth apron she had found in the basement as she imagined some young housewife would wear it, using it to coyly cover their sex.
On Sunday night before classes resumed, he sensed something was wrong as she took some biscuits out of the oven, and he stood and held her while their dinner got cold on the plates someone had pilfered from the dining hall. She crushed the fabric of his shirt in her fist and pressed it to her nose. "I loved this week. I could do this Suzy Homemaker thing with you for a long time, Graham, and I honestly believe that’s all it would take for me to be happy."
"Don’t say that," he said quietly. She felt is unshaven cheek moving against her hair as he spoke. "You’re too intelligent to believe something like that."

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

and the greatest of these is love

Bruce Springsteen is one of my heroes. I have loved him—NOT too strong a word—since I first heard “The Meeting Across the River” in 1975. He recently said in an interview with Rolling Stone, about being a 16-year-old kid in a band, “I was very isolated. That’s a common story with rock musicians. We all feel like that. And it makes you mad…..I mean, REALLY mad! But if you learn to organize your desires and demands and shoot them into something that is more than just being about you, you start to communicate. I wanted to be a part of the world around me.”

He went on to say about his writing, “I will steal directly from life…things everyone goes through. I’m not interested in the solipsistic approach to songwriting. I don’t want to tell you all about me. I want to tell you about you.”

Back in April, five nights after Danny Federici (his bandmate of more than 40 years) died of melanoma, the interview says, “Springsteen opened his show in Tampa, Florida, with a film tribute to his old friend and a version of ‘Backstreets’ without organ—and a spotlight shining where Federici should have been. ‘That was Bruce’s way of saying, “OK, everyone is wondering about our loss,”’says (bandmate Nils) Lofgren. ‘“Well,let me show you how bad it is.”’

Upon the death of a friend, looking into the face of one’s own mortality, mortality sometimes seems to smile back. “It’s a funny thing to say. But I’ve got a deadline! And that fire I feel in myself and the band….It carries an element of desperateness. It also carries an element of thankfulness….We are perched at a place where we want to continue on—with excellence,” Springsteen then said. “That’s our goal. All the rest of the stuff—we’re gonna figure it out.”

Thursday, January 29, 2009

The Mathematician Cannot Create Things at Will, part 3

She had tried to explain it to her mother in the phone call they’d had the night she’d met Graham. But her mother had misinterpreted what Selina was describing to be some hormonal thing.
“Could it be from what they call ‘pheromones’ these days?” her mother said. “You have so many roommates. Or maybe it’s something you inherited from me. I’ve always been consumed with dread, but my doctor says I need more exercise.”
Selina had then groaned and said, “Hey, Mom, are you trying to tell me that I can’t concentrate on choosing a career path right now because my body is making me so crazy that I can’t think straight?”
“It’s something to consider,” her mother said. “When I was your age, all I could think about was getting married and having babies. That was my only career path.”
“Funny,” Graham said in response to what Selina had just been saying. “Teaching’s the one thing I think I would really like to do. A full professorship in literature with tenure would be nice someday. But if it never happened, I’d always have rock and roll to fall back on, wouldn’t you think?”
“Yeah,” she sighed. “Sounds like graduate school for you.” She tossed the rest of the uneaten crust onto the empty pizza pan. “Unless you just like to perform in front of crowds. In that case, you really ought to just stick with the guitar.”
After dinner, as they walked past the building that housed the inelegant biology department, they ran out of things to say again, and Graham leaned over to give her the entry for the heading First Kiss.
The First ‘I Love You’ came not so much as a murmur but as more of a projectile after she pleaded with him, kissing him on her bed, “Graham, just say it. I know you want to, and if you say it, I can say it, too.” He said it, possibly with more conviction than he had meant to, and she raised up over him as he was washed down onto his back with the torrent of emotion that poured out around him. “God, look at what you’ve done to me, Selina,” he said looking up at her. It was one o’clock in the morning, and everything he said came out in a hoarse, almost falsetto, whisper. “I’m in love with you. I don’t ever want to leave you, I want to be with you for as long as I can.”
Of course, Selina had one other heading on her blackboard that had been discreetly left out of the bride’s book. It was called First Time We Made Love. “Let me touch you down here,” Graham said one night as his hand moved lightly over her hip. They were both naked from the waist up, lying with her back to his front like two spoons in a silverware drawer, and as he whispered to her his fingers traced along the top band of her panties. “Just with my hand. I want to make you come.” She arched her back and dropped her shoulder onto his chest. Then she reached down to guide his hand until he had the rhythm she wanted. In a few minutes, she finished pushing his underwear off with her foot and sat on top of him, feeling his fingers lace together in the small of her back as she tucked him inside of herself. For some reason, she began thinking words in her mother’s voice. Before she knew it, she was close to whispering in his ear, Oh God, Graham, I want your baby. At that moment, getting pregnant was an impossibility since she was on the pill, but still she begged God, please get me pregnant, please let him be the father of my baby. She could have gone on like that for hours, but she knew that he was probably wishing that she would come.
After they had sex, her anxiety about graduation disappeared for a while, and for the first time, she welcomed her own thoughts about the future, even coaxed along little visions in her imagination of what their life together would be like. She saw them traveling a great deal, touring with Graham’s rock band once he became famous, their baby or small child constantly beside them. Everytime she thought of the baby boy they would have, she liked to imagine what it would feel like to nurse him. Graham would be there, helping her keep her long hair out of the baby’s face as he drew up close to her breast, just as she would keep Graham’s hair out of his hands and mouth afterward when Graham cuddled their son.
When ever they both had reading to do, they saved it for the last thing before going to sleep so they could crawl into bed together and read in each other’s arms. On this particular night, Light in August was resting just below the hollow of her neck, propped open in his hand.
“Graham, I’m going to sleep,” she said, studying the ceiling. She had been re-reading Frege’s Foundations of Arithmetic, and she was dead tired.
“Mmm… okay, I’m almost done,” he said. He moved his eyes from the page just long enough to give her a light peck on the cheek.
She closed her eyes and let her thoughts go wherever they wanted to. Even the mathematician cannot create things at will, Frege said. He can only discover what is there and give it a name. When she imagined these scenes from her future with Graham, she felt like she was discovering all the possible pathways from which she would choose one to be her life. This is why I came to this school, she decided. My fate, to meet Graham. So much for “How We Met and Married,” she thought. Most of the blackboard was already full.
Tonight, she imagined that someday they would be on an airplane, the lights lowered for night and the air conditioning turned up to make the hypnotic white noise that would induce everyone on the plane to sleep. They would sit with their son, four years old in this episode of her fantasy, in the seat between them. Graham’s hair would spread like a silk shawl over his shoulder, and she would let her eye drift down his arm to his wedding ring, his hand resting on the hip of their small son, asleep and nestled at his father’s side. The image made her ache. She rolled toward him and started to bring her knees up to her chest, but there was no room left between them in the twin bed. It’s just so simple, Graham, she thought. It’s so beautiful and elegant and simple that it hurts.
“Okay, I know, I know,” he said laughing. ‘I take the hint and I’m putting down the book.” Her knees were digging into his hip. He tossed the paperback onto her desk and turned out the light.

to be continued.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

The Mathematician Cannot Create Things at Will, part 2

Every step along the course of romance boiled down to a line in a book Selina had once seen years ago. The book was a bridal shower gift to her cousin, an album to be filled in as a keepsake by the bride, and the page that had caught Selina’s eye was headed “Our Courtship: How We Met and Married.” The subheadings, First Date, First Kiss, First Murmured ‘I Love You’, were all etched in her head on what she envisioned as a large blackboard, with fist-sized smudges of chalk beneath each phrase from her earlier erasures. Her First Date with the guy from across the hall (his name was Graham) was the dinner he bought her the following weekend at an ivy-covered pizza parlor where she felt so at home she could have camped out in one of its booths.
When Selina had gone back into the hall that first evening after calling her mother, his door was still open. She saw him through the doorway sitting with his back to her on an old couch that sagged under his weight. Some of his hair, which she could see now was more of a chestnut color, was tossed over the ragged back of the couch, and he was reading from a book propped open on one knee.
“Could I come in?” she asked from the hall.
“Please do,” he said turning slightly to her. “My name is Graham, by the way.” He leaned forward a little, like he was going to stand up, and she shifter her weight onto the balls of her feet.
“Oh, yes. Hi. I’m Selina.” His face was still white and smooth, even in the better light. He was wearing jeans and a button-down shirt made of faded blue ticking that reminded her of an old feather pillow. He was holding a worn paperback copy of The Wasteland and Other Poems upside-down in the hand that was dangling over his knee while he looked at her, patiently waiting for her to step into his room.
Three days later, they had finished eating and pushed their plates to the side when, during the first inevitable awkward pause in their conversation, she found him looking at her like that again. Then Graham slid his hand across the table to barely touch the tip of her left middle finger, and he asked her about the two thin silver rings she wore on that hand. One had been given to her by her grandmother, she said, and the other she had bought for herself. She studied the calloused ends of his fingers.
“Do you ever sing, too, or do you just play the guitar?” she asked. His hand was still half an inch from hers.
He seemed mildly embarrassed. “You know, since I waited that day for all of my roommates to leave, I stupidly pictured myself playing in complete privacy. But I guess the whole dorm must have heard me.” He smiled down at the table and said, “I do sing, but never in the room. Not even if I think I’m there alone.” He looked over to see how amusing she found the whole thing. Selina smiled back. Her fingers, which she hadn’t moved in several minutes, had gone numb. “I take voice lessons from time to time in the music department, so I have access to the practice rooms. They’ve started to frown on anyone accompanying himself on the electric guitar in there, though.”
“I guess using the shower for that would be out of the question, then,” she said. He laughed and she leaned forward to examine her own hand, still laid flat on the table.
“But seriously, do you think you’ll do anything with it? Professionally, I mean. I thought you sounded pretty good.”
“Oh, I don’t know. Hopefully, I’m not dumb enough to try. Hopefully.” He leaned back against the seat. “What about you? What are you planning to do with your philosophy degree?”
“Mathematical philosophy degree,” she corrected him. “My senior essay has to be approved by both departments.” She pulled her plate back in front of her and began breaking off pieces of leftover pizza crust. “Well… I’ve considered law school, but I’m not really that kind of person. You know… Driven and ambitious.”
He drew his head toward the back of the booth. “Writing a math paper must be very strange,” he said.
“It’s more about logic than math, really,” she said. “My papers are always very short, just a couple of pages. A good, tight proof in logic is described as ‘elegant.’ Isn’t that a lovely expression? You could never say tat anything about history or biology was elegant.”
“I suppose not,” he laughed. He pulled back his hand slowly to the edge of the table and let it drop into his lap.
She popped a piece of crust in her mouth and spoke around it. “I know one thing though. I don’t think I’d make a very good college professor, which would be the other way to go. Speaking in front of crowds makes me extremely nervous.” Usually, Selina avoided conversations about anything post-graduation. When she thought about leaving college, she felt a physical pressure from the inside pushing out, as though there were a quantity of blood in her greater than the capacity of her veins and arteries, and she was afraid that before long she would explode.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

The Mathematician Cannot Create Things at Will, part 1

Selina recognized the onset of sleep as the intermittent deafness she was experiencing. For example, she could no longer hear the guy playing his excessively loud electric guitar in the dorm suite across the hall, but she could still feel the vibration of it. She could see her room turn to fuzzy pixels of gray light and then to nothing.
Sometime later she woke up, and the sound of the guitar penetrated her foggy head again. The only light in the room was that of a street lamp that had come on outside her window while she was asleep. She picked up the telephone and untangled its extra-long cord until she could reach the hallway with it because she intended to use it as a prop.
She rapped hard on his door with her knuckles which stung them badly, but she didn’t want to announce herself with the usual pounding of fists. She wanted to be kinder than the time she’d complained about the stereo because since she’d complained the guys were playing it louder than ever. The guitar stopped abruptly, and she heard three quick steps before the door opened into the other room with such force that a little of her hair was sucked forward onto her face.
"Yes?" he said. He was not the one she had expected. She knew three of the guys who lived there by sight, although she had only met the one who consistently played the stereo at top volume at 2:15 every afternoon, one of her favorite nap times. But she had never seen this one before. His face was soft and pale, framed by dark straight hair trimmed bluntly below the shoulders. Looking into the poorly lit hallway made his eyes large. That is a wonderful face, she thought, and I’m standing here in the fluorescent light with creases on my cheek from the couch cushions.
Selina had the base of the phone in one hand and the receiver in the other. "I’m really sorry to bother you," she said, sounding politely rehearsed, "But I’ve got to call my mother, and with you playing so loud, I can’t even hear the dial tone."
That was how they met. That was how Selina, in the middle of what should have been her pre-professional senior year panic, was able to carry herself serenely for a few months above the ocean of dread that would have otherwise drowned her. For that brief, sweet time, she kept herself in purposeful denial of the corporate recruiters who were already raiding the campus, of what her roommates wore to their job interviews, of flyers and table tents announcing career seminars. During that time, she never once considered typing her resume. All because she met a guy. That and the fact that she could sleep through almost anything, even the most oppressive anxiety.

Monday, January 5, 2009

Of Oatmeal and Che

I dreamed the other night that Che Guevara was coming to my house for dinner. It was a very large house, and it was a very large dinner party. I knew that Che was not going to be there for very long because he was very, very old. So I had my eye out for him because I wanted to ask him how he liked Benecio del Toro in the movie.

Just as he was about to arrive, one of my guests—never seen him before--said he was dying for some oatmeal…literally, dying. There have been some comments in the past, internally among my household, that I am not the most accomplished of hostesses, so I couldn’t just blow the guy off. I knew I had some instant oatmeal in my kitchen, but you know what? When I got there it was my parents’ kitchen, and it was enormous. It was rooms long, filled with dark, disorganized cupboards, and the cupboards were filled with old, mislabeled food. I kept finding stuff that looked like it could be instant oatmeal—no, that one was drain cleaner. I could try cooking this other one, but it might not be food. One way or another, it looked like that guy was out of luck.

Now Che was arriving, but I was stuck in the kitchen trying to make oatmeal for the guy who was dying—by now, he was lying nearly unconscious across the laps of several other dinner guests. All I had been able to find was old fashioned oatmeal. It had to be fully cooked. Che Guevara left, and I never got to meet him. I have no memory of the fate of my dying guest.

I hope Benecio del Toro is good in the movie.