Sunday, December 27, 2009
Good news: In mid-October I secured an emergency post at the Oregon Public Health Department (an emergency for me, not for the health department). I took it because it's thematically relevant to this glob (and because I wasn't sure my parents were really all that excited about the idea of me moving back in). I've been writing about the Illness Formerly Known as Swine Flu, or hini, which is very serious and not to be mocked. Here you'll find what little evidence there is against the popular and not outlandish view that I fritter my days away watching soaps and eating bonbons.
Anyhow. Here's some of what I've been up to besides that:
As hinted in a nearby post, the mighty sfrc voted me in as its newest member. The hazing and branding were painful, but I think it will be worth it in the long run. (Of course, on hearing this news, my motorcycle instantly died, so I've been riding a Vespa kindly loaned by Bradford ever since.)
What else? I interviewed Joe Sacco about his new book, Footnotes in Gaza. He had a cold but was very nice. I tried not to make my hero worship obvious, but I think he might've picked up on it a little at the end of the conversation, when I said something like "I've read ALL your books and everything you do is AWESOME and I think you're just the BEST and do you think maybe we could be friends?" (Sigh.)
I've also reviewed a couple of other things for BookPage, including two graphic novels, Nylon Road and Stitches (see below), and the new short story collection by Amy Bloom (good book, lame review). More of those lined up for the next couple of months -- I get to interview Sam Lipsyte, which should be cool, and do another graphic-novels roundup for spring.
Had another show on KBOO, in which somehow I lost control and admitted that as a youth I enjoyed reading the sort of books in which many of the characters were dragons. I still don't know how this happened. (It's true, though. Might as well get used to it.) I think the next show will be our end-of-year/decade favorite movie lists, but I'll put mine up here, too, because the funny thing about me being on the radio is that my tiny little munchkin voice cannot actually be perceived by the human ear, so it's all kinda futile. Better to write it down, I think, for people who really want to know.
Oh! Also, I tried out for the Mt Hood Ski Patrol a few weeks ago. It was a lot of fun, although I didn't make the cut this time. I think I bombed the interview. But I did get to fulfill a lifelong dream of bumming around with Ski Patrol guys all day, and as a bonus, at the end of the day, I saw Glen Plake. (I think I forgot to tell you that, Karl.) He was shaking hands and signing autographs in the parking lot, part of a tour of small ski areas on the West Coast. Awesome! Anyway, I think I'll try out again, maybe in February.
I spent Xmas Day on a Wong Kar-Wai marathon. Hard to beat.
That's it for now. Apologies again for the wimpy updating! Guess what one of my New Year's Resolutions is going to be?
Tuesday, October 27, 2009
Tuesday, October 06, 2009
Saturday, September 26, 2009
Wednesday, September 23, 2009
Monday, September 21, 2009
These were taken by Kenny Shinn, who let me borrow his friend Mona's bike for the day. Thanks, Kenny!
At the Sandy Hut, the launching point for all good rides.
On the Canby Ferry, with Dora, Tom Burnett, and Berkeley. (I don't trust my kickstand.)
Made it! All the way to Oregon City! Victorious.
Saturday, September 12, 2009
From Michiko Kakutani's NYT review of The Bolter, by Frances Osborne - I can't wait to read this book. (It's about the English "scandal queen" Idina Sackwell, the author's great-grandmother and my new hero, a rotten-girl role model famous for "lovers without number," dirty sleepovers and public bathing in champagne, among other things....)
Ms. Osborne notes that in Edwardian London adulterous affairs tended to be conducted between the hours of five and seven (known as a "cinq a sept") because it took women lots of time in those days to unbutton and unlace their layers of corsets, chemises and underskirts, let alone relace and rebutton them up afterward, so lovers scheduled their visits for just after tea when "ladies were undressing in order to exchange their afternoon clothes for their evening ones."
Starting to understand why the Brits can get so strict about their tea-time....
Friday, September 11, 2009
Not writing is the easiest thing in the world to do. And that's what an author means when she says she is “working” on a book. Working means “not writing.” Working means reading, working means “research.” Working means watching TV. Working means taking long diversionary walks. Working means perusing newspapers with an unnaturally intense interest. It means everything and anything except the actual act of writing.Thanks RVB for the link!
Sunday, August 30, 2009
Wednesday, August 19, 2009
If the story involves talking to people, talk to them as long as they will stand to have you around and then talk to them some more. Keep reading. Outline a structure to the piece. Set that aside for now. Realize you don't know enough. Go over all your interviews and research notes again, only this time, make a laundry list of all the great details, large and small, along with the best quotes. Look at that list a lot. Begin the process of re-reading all of your research. Bail out of re-reading all of your research by convincing yourself that what you really need is a long walk to think about "structure." Walk toward your shoes and look at them. Blow off the walk altogether. Descend into a shame spiral. Now, catch up on your HBO tivo'd backlog. After several hours, take another ride on the shame spiral. Lumber over to the desk and go over the interviews again. Make notes of your notes in tiny scrawl so that they can fit on a single sheet of paper. Look at the details. Write down the big ideas that form the superstructure of the piece. Realize you are a pompous git for thinking that ideas have anything to do with it and go back to that list of details. Set it aside. Read some blogs.
The next day, re-read the single sheet of paper with the notes of your notes and wonder, what does this shit even mean? Then outline a structure. Indulge in a nice long afternoon of intense self-loathing. Start to write according to that outline. Throw that draft away. Write a new outline. Go over your notes. Re-interview a few people. Realize, as if you hadn't realized this a thousand times before (most recently, a few minutes before) that your own big ideas about this story are pathetic, but this list of details and the more decent quotations from the interviews -- there's some pretty good stuff in there. Fiddle with writing a few more paragraphs. Microwave your cold cup of coffee for the third time. Go over your notes again. Yell irrationally at your spouse/child/dog/a bare wall. Now, kick the wall. Limp. Review all the transcribed interviews one more time from beginning to end. Paste a large sheet of paper to a wall and, standing up with a fresh cup of coffee in your hand, outline the piece in really big letters. Realize that you've misunderstood the point of the entire story all this time. Scream the word "fuck" really loud in an empty room. Do this about 40 times. Wipe off the flopsweat. Look at the notes on the single sheet of paper and realize just how brilliant they are, or moronic. Espy the grime on your bike chain -- it could use a good cleaning with some WD-40. Start writing the lead paragraph again. Set that aside. Find that single cartoon frame from "Peanuts" that you keep in a box somewhere, the one in which Snoopy is reading a publisher's rejection letter for his novel that goes, "Has it ever occurred to you that you may be the worst writer in the history of the world?" Read it and laugh. Later that day, read it again and not laugh. Feel really, really sad. Go over your notes one more time. Look at earlier drafts and passages and realize that maybe this stuff here is the lead, actually, and then if you follow that outline from seven outlines ago, it just might work. Re-read the last couplet of the first strophe of Philip Sidney's Astrophel and Stella. Look at those riffs in the earlier draft again and realize some are not that bad. Convince yourself that your bike chain really does need another good cleaning and what's that gunk on the inside of the rear fender? Read the latest draft-like substance and think that, with a little work, maybe this won't be too embarrassing. Feel mildly excited that there could actually be something here worth reading eventually. Look at the list of details again. Re-read the edited draft and start to feel better. Or, if not, set it aside and then repeat all of the above instructions, only this time, after each step, masturbate.
Wednesday, August 12, 2009
I have an essay about crashing motorcycles in Ploughshares this month. (On the back cover, from guest editor Kathryn Harrison's introduction, it says, "In order to write our lives, we have to be willing to see them.") I also interviewed David Small, a children's-book illustrator, about his brutal and awesome graphic memoir, Stitches, for BookPage. And I wrote a short review of a decent little beach read set in Ukraine, Moonlight in Odessa, also for BookPage. The Lonely Planet Encounter guide to Stockholm is off somewhere in the gangly stages of production; I'll be answering author queries in a week or so, and then that'll be done. Meanwhile, I'm pitching a 555 motorcycle story to various places, fingers crossed.
I've also been getting back into movie reviews. I've done a couple of episodes now of "Movie Talk" on KBOO radio, hosted by Ed Goldberg and DK Holm. The first one was terrifying (it's online, in case anyone out there needs some schadenfreude). The second one was a lot easier, partly because I phoned it in from home. (Flat tire.) After both shows, I had this lingering anxiety I couldn't place. I think it's as simple as lack of control. I'm a slow girl in a fast medium: there's no time to tidy up the words as they come out of your mouth and make sure they're saying what you meant for them to say. If things come out wrong and you sound like a jackass, that's just too bad - you are now on record (in the minds of billions of KBOO listeners!) as a jackass.
If I were just talking to the fellas about the films we'd seen, maybe I wouldn't worry - although even then I get anxious if the conversation is rushed and I don't have time to fully explain myself. But the fact that the conversation is being recorded, and that it's going on record as my Final Statement about the films in question, freaks me out. Because it's definitive, I want it to be perfect. I want it, at least, to be an accurate reflection of what I think. And because I'm a slow-thinking person, that generally requires editing. Writing, rethinking, adjusting, deliberating, editing, rewriting. I don't want anyone to see what I think until it's ready. The fluid-but-permanent nature of radio makes me a little nervous. But that's good, right? And at least in the KBOO studio there is slim chance I'll come to any physical harm.
Today I'm reading Fred Exley, A Fan's Notes. Bottom of the first page: "That the fear of death still owns me is, in its way, a beginning."
Monday, August 10, 2009
And very, very small.
I rode the Hawk up to Anacortes, Wash., for a week or so, to go to my cousin Michael's wedding and hang out with the fam. I'd never actually done a whale-watching boat tour before, but this one was great - maybe we lucked out. We saw two different pods, the jPod and the iPod if I remember correctly, totaling about 70 whales. All of them were sex-crazed and flirting, which if you're a killer whale involves flopping around on your back, waving your 'arms' and spitting up. Basically the same as humans, I guess.
(If anyone else is headed up there, we booked through the Mystic Sea Charter company, and it's not cheap, but the boats are small enough not to be obnoxious, the crew guys are cool, and the company has a helicoptor that goes around spotting whales so it can tell the boat where to go each morning. We were well into Canada when we saw our little gang here.)
I also spent a day in Friday Harbor oyster-shopping and drinking beer and talking about boys with my cousin Carrie, Michael's sister. It was a lot of fun at the time. We won't discuss the following day, except to say that riding motorcycles is a pretty good hangover cure as long as you're safely past the danger of needing to barf in your helmet. Also: Do not imagine that you can sustain yourself on beer and oysters for a whole day. It won't work; beer and oysters alone are not enough.
Looking back, I guess I'm not completely surprised I got sick....
Those are photos of lunch/dinner, consumed on board the ferry back to Anacortes. Other people ate more food later, but not me - oh no.
Anyway. More photos of the wedding and surrounding adventures posted here.
Wednesday, July 22, 2009
Every last sentence in 'The Autumn of the Patriarch' offers a heroic demonstration of man's triumph over language -- unless it is language's triumph over man. The sentences begin in one person's voice and conclude in someone else's, or change their subject halfway through, or wander across the centuries, and, even so, conform sufficiently to the rules of rhetoric to carry you along. To read is to gasp. You want to break into applause at the shape and grandeur of those sentences, not to mention their length. And yet to do so you would need to set down the book, which cannot be done, owing to the fact that, just when the impulse to clap your hands has become irresistible, the sentence you are reading has begun to round a corner, and you have no alternative but to clutch onto the book as if steering a car that has veered out of control.
Friday, July 17, 2009
Monday, July 13, 2009
So, I just got home from this motorcycle trip. Some of you may have heard. Two weeks, Portland, Oregon, to Knoxville, Tennessee, on bikes that all had to be smaller than 500cc's, less than $500 and 1975 or older. The trip was (among other things) an amazing demonstration of the possibilities of organized chaos. There were twelve of us who went. All mechanics (except me). It wasn't a motorcycle ride so much as a problem-solving exercise. It was also a total blast. I can't wait to do it again! One night I started the campfire with a roman candle. Those things don't aim too well, so I also accidentally lit a guy's bike on fire. He was going to burn it anyway on arrival but we were still two days out of Knoxville.... I drank moonshine in two flavors, got tattooed all over, took one shower in two weeks, and earned a police escort into my campsite one night.
All together we rode about 3400 miles. Some of the scenery we encountered was pretty spectacular.
For anyone confused by the whole idea, here's a taste. There are two other segments posted, all recorded by Nathan, who shortly afterward took Patrick's DT out into the field and used it in anger, much to Patrick's delight.
I'll put up more photos soon, and will write further about this whole adventure, hopefully for money. Meanwhile, go back up there and watch that video again. That's good stuff right there.
Saturday, July 04, 2009
Friday, June 26, 2009
Friday, May 29, 2009
Wednesday, May 20, 2009
All of which is just to preface a recommendation: Metcalf hosts the now-weekly Culture Gabfest podcast on Slate, and I stacked up a bunch of episodes on my beloved iPod before coming to Sweden. They're great - almost like being back in class, only with a tighter focus and without the enormous tuition bill or the expectation of intelligent response. And you can rewind. Check them out if you like hearing very smart people talk about the issues of the day and/or Tom Cruise.
Wednesday, May 13, 2009
Meanwhile, back at the ranch, I made a cameo appearance in Sunday's New York Times travel piece about Portland, which experts have called "a far cry from frugal" but which I actually thought was pretty good, given the territory and the audience:
(That's right, I sent Matt Gross to a strip club. It's Portland; they're everywhere. Besides, obviously, I favor the oppression of women. In my defense, I also accompanied Matt to an art gallery on First Thursday, and to that Lizard Lounge free-good-beer party, and to Ground Kontrol and Backspace. And I'll have you know I pushed for the Magic Gardens over A-crop; they've got a huge burger there that's even cheaper than the steak. I think Mary's Club is still my favorite, though.)
OK. Back to work! Hoho.
Wednesday, May 06, 2009
Tuesday, May 05, 2009
Monday, May 04, 2009
| Today, during a emotion-filled ceremony at Clinica Mobile in the Jerez paddock, I launched my new book Grand Prix College.|
Many riders came to hold it, stroke it, make it feel welcome, appreciated and loved.
Valentino Rossi, who had helped me write the book preface, looked at the cover and commented, �My brother looks better than me�.
Andrea Dovizioso promised me that he�d read the chapter about him and horses during the night.
Jorge Lorenzo wanted to read his own words about fear, remembering all about that interview, one night when fear was knocking hard on the door of courage.
Loris Capirossi and Ingrid were moved by the mention of their young son Riccardo.
Dani Pedrosa saw his photo in the book and started to read the chapter about him while the Clinica Mobile physiotherapists treated his injured knee.
Roberto Locatelli read the pages about his terrible accident here at Jerez two years ago, telling how he was born to this world a second time.
Nicky Hayden, after celebrating the launch of the book with the other riders, continued treatment at the Clinica after his recent race crashes.
Andrea Iannone, Raffaele de Rosa, Chris Vermeulen, Bradley Smith, Danny Webb, Marc Marquez, Pol Espargaro and all the Rookie Cup �baby� riders smiled to the photographers from the Clinica truck steps to celebrate their book, their hospital and their home.
The book is available in Italian, English and Spanish: I�d like not just the children, but also their parents to read it and understand all that passionate young hearts can do to put the coldness of reason into perspective.
My feelings that came from hidden places inside me and guided me in writing this book can now mix with the feelings and emotions of those who read it.
Tuesday, April 28, 2009
It's always easier not to be writing than to be writing, and at least by not writing one is keeping alive the option of at some point writing again. But, as soon as one is doing absolutely nothing, the intolerability strikes one as being not so much a freedom as a prison, walled on every side by limitless possibility....It's been weird here.
The little motorcycle, symbol of freedom etc., ran away, or was rolled down the hill, or took itself to church and never came back, or something, while I was out of town, and I felt so strange without it that I've been more or less paralyzed these past two weeks. That's one theory. I might also have Mexican pig flu, or something even worse that we haven't yet read about in the news. Probably it's just allergies. (I live in a park now, beneath a volcano, in case you didn't know, and every living thing in this park is bent on spewing horrible sneeze pods all day long.)
In any case, our worries are over: the missing bike has been found. A friendly neighborhood policeman called me this morning and reported having found it tucked in behind a giant bus in a church parking lot about ten blocks from my house (and right next door to Jack's...hmm!). It hadn't even been too badly thrashed - looked like someone tried to hotwire it through the headlight, failed, gave up and walked away. Or, possibly our troubles go deeper, and the motorcycle was seeking the kind of comfort and redemption one can only find in the Parking Lot of the Lord. All I know is that when I went to collect the bike it was surrounded by kindly church ladies making sweet cooing noises. They waved and waved as I rolled it away.
I doubt I'll ever know just what the poor Hawk went through during its time with Jesus. I only hope it found some answers.
Anyway, that's my excuse for not having written here lately. It's not that I don't love you all, especially you, Karl. I've just been sad. But now it's all better! Stay alert; news is on the way.
Sunday, April 19, 2009
So I went to Mexico. Did we talk about this? I forget. Anyway, full update with soundtrack to come - this is just a note to my few remaining adherents (hi Karl!) that I am, in fact, still alive and will now be in the same place for three whole weeks, typing devotedly for your enjoyment. Meanwhile here are a couple of teaser pics:
Monday, March 30, 2009
Here's a quick link to some more photos from Panama. Meanwhile, I've been moving into a new apartment in Portland, and then had a wedding to attend out east, and two upcoming trips to plan, but never fear: narrative highlights from the panamania will appear here soon. Watch this space!
Sunday, March 29, 2009
Wednesday, March 04, 2009
And the first thing I saw every morning was pretty much:
Now I'm back in the land of green vegetables and undamp air and keyboards that work, the land where you just go ahead and flush your toilet paper right down the toilet along with everything else and never wonder where it ends up, the land of airports rich with magazines and food, the USA. I miss my island paradise, even though it gave me dreadlocks and scurvy. I will report all details of the trip "very soon," but first I must eat salad and vitamins and wash all my clothes and dry off.
I am very tan.
Thursday, February 26, 2009
Thursday, February 19, 2009
Sunday, February 08, 2009
Am currently living at a Spanish language school (on-campus dorm! kind of) in Boquete, a little mountain village full of coffee and flowers and rain. The night we got here (I am traveling with a dude called the International Crocodile, a name he got from a one-eyed drunken stranger), a massive and chaotic storm attacked the town - everyone lost power, and it didn´t come back on until last night (three days later). But folks were generally cheerful about the situation, and candlelight makes even a soggy bed in a damp cinderblock room seem fairly cozy. The current plan is to brush up on the español and then arrange a trip to the San Blas, which, if you look them up online, you´ll discover are ludicrously perfect-looking desert islands surrounded in unrealistically blue sea. I´ll upload some photos later on but basically, from what I´ve seen, just imagine the prototype of the palm tree/white sand/turquoise water/cute hut/walk across it in three minutes type of island, and you´re pretty much there.
Saturday, January 24, 2009
My first night in town, we visited the Creepy Doll & Potato Hospital:
After which we needed to cheer ourselves up, so we scoped out the xmas window displays at NK. NK is a huge department store and a Stockholm landmark, and its holiday window displays are usually over-the-top animatronic craziness, but apparently they too have felt the impact of the recent economic downturn:
For xmas eve itself, Mom and Mormor and I drove up to Härnösand, north of Sundsvall, to hang out with Aunt Kristina and Captain Joe the Singing Sailor. I took some video of the singing at the dinner table which I'll upload when I figure out how to do it without breaking the internet.
After Sweden I spent a couple of days in Colorado at my parents' house. Their front yard has been infested with dog-sized horses. These things are vicious and terrifying -- check it out:
Mom and Natalie could barely restrain this one from attacking an innocent child:
Here's the boring, boring view from my bedroom window in Colorado:
Next I flew to Portland for New Year's Eve. The boys met me at the airport, and we hired an executive car to take us to dinner at the Magic Garden (not a Chinese restaurant). The burger was delicious, but I felt overdressed: not only was I the only girl in there with clothing - I had suitcases. Later there was a party at Patrick and Clockey's house, then a brief outing to a bar to hear Thor play DJ, and then a final stop at PK's loft for some kind of weird orangey liqueur that made me feel all refreshed. I woke up early in my own little apartment feeling great, and especially pleased that my suitcases had somehow followed me.
I miss Portland! Home of motorcycles and motorcycle boys.
Now I'm back in Colorado for two weeks or so. Went skiing with the family, conquered the mountain, destroyed my knees, had a blast. In four days I'm flying to Panama for a month. I'll be posting as much as possible from there, but I don't really know what that will mean, so hang tight, legions of fans (hi Molly!), and wish me luck.