Saturday, December 31, 2011

Visit to San Diego

Happy New Year everyone! I wish you a year of happiness, in which everything you hope for comes to pass. Well, at least some of the things!
Yesterday afternoon we went down to San Diego where we met with Richard's co-worker, a graduate student in the PhD program at UCI named Tracy and her new husband, Chris, for some haute cuisine and great conversation. We stayed overnight in a motel and the next day, went to my favorite haunt, the San Diego Zoo.
But before we went to dinner, we went to Balboa Park and visited the Museum of Photography there. It's a small museum, but full of wonderful things. One of the exhibits showing consisted of photographs that had won an award the past few years for representing environmental and social issues worldwide. There were a number of striking photographs, but my favorite was the Chinese photographer, Yao Lu, who did brilliant photos that were parodies of ancient Chinese nature watercolors. I'll post one here from the following URL: http://www.798photogallery.cn/EN/photo/photo_1277.html, the 798 Photo Gallery, and you'll see what I mean. More about this visit later.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Advertising the Book

I have been nervously awaiting the release of my chapbook in mid-February. Though I haven't yet done my page or book trailer, both things I know I need to do, I have sent links and letters to a number of bookstores in Orange County and LA. No dice yet, not even at UCI, my alma mater. Of course, I guess they can't have every graduate of their MFA program read; they'd never have any other readings if they did, but this is an unusual book. There are bound to be lots of people who wouldn't usually attend poetry readings there.
Most places say they don't do readings for chapbooks. I have to wait till the full collection is published. Although it is out there, no word yet on that. I wonder whether anyone will let me read, and if not, what else can I do? Set up a stand on the street? I'd probably get busted.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Yesterday, Friday Dec. 23

Every few years I do a holiday dinner for friends where I go all out cooking latkes and soup and all the fixings. Yesterday was such a day. It didn't go as well as I am used to. Generally, I start fixing things a few days before, so the latkes are pre-made and frozen (not commercially, but by me), the dessert is done, appetizers, etc. But for various reasons, not the least being a full freezer and fridge, I had to cook everything in one day. And as often happens when one is in a hurry, things didn't go so well.
It all started with the dessert. I decided to do that first. It was a galette of apples, currants, and pine nuts in Calvados brandy. I decided to use a frozen pie crust to speed things up, and defrosted it the night before. The problem was that it leaked juices and butter onto the oven, which caught on fire. The house was filled with smoke, and Jeremy ran out and pulled out the plug! That meant I had to clean the oven, a laborious task, and figure out how to start the thing back up again. The touchy smoke alarm went off, even after the oven was clean.Then Richard rigged up a device to keep the tart from leaking onto the oven, and things went well. It was ugly (looked like a heap of junk) but tasted good.
Then the curried sweet potato latke recipe a friend from synagogue gave me didn't work. The latkes didn't cook, or they shriveled up and fell to pieces. I ended up with tasty bits and pieces, not latkes. For the other variety of latkes, I just used my usual recipe, which is no recipe at all, and threw in zucchini and parsley. They were perfect, as usual! Thank goodness!
The two soups turned out fine. And R ran out at the last minute and bought some crusty bread. I didn't have time to make any, as I usually do.
So we had a lovely dinner with Denise and Ray. Denise is my yoga teacher, and she is a very special person. She is funny and smart, though not formally educated. She kept us all in stitches. Ray is a very nice quiet guy, and he and Richard got along well. I hope that they will visit again.
Denise gave me a lovely Indian box and dreydl and a beautiful basket full of fruit she grew in her garden. We had a great time.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Festivities of the Season

Last night the choir had its annual Chanukah party. I think it's becoming more fun every year. Even though I had a terrible cold and was feeling pretty miserable, and Richard groused about the admittedly hellacious ride up to the far reaches of North Orange County on packed freeways (can't blame him), once we got there everyone was smiling!
There was the usual tons of wonderful food, brisket, latkes, salads of various kinds, roasted vegetables (love those roasted blue potatoes!), and my homemade cranberry upside down cake with homemade chantilly cream (whipped cream with sour cream and orange zest).
Then we sang (though I couldn't really do much of that) and played parlor games and chatted and generally had a wonderful time.
I love my community!

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Back to Wood Canyon

Although the wind is blowing again in most of the area, at Wood Canyon, under the sheltering boughs of the live oaks, it was quiet and still. There were about 12 people on today's hike down into the dells and up Rockit, a steep hill crowded with boulders and reckless mountain bikers that climbs for quite a while, evens out, then climbs again. This was the place where those beautiful pictures I posted earlier were taken.
I was slow as usual, but not last. Someone brought a husband who hadn't been hiking before, and he supplanted me as resident slowpoke! No one seems to mind. Everyone is cheerful and willing to wait up.
Today I must cook for this evening's choir Chanukah party and tomorrow evening's Chanukah dinner for my yoga teacher Denise. I don't remember whether I said what I would be preparing. It's the usual latke and soup extravaganza: two kinds of latke-- zucchini/potato and curried sweet potato with home made apple cranberry sauce, roasted mixed Asian mushrooms with tamari glaze, and an apple current galette for dessert.
Lotta work to do, so I'll go get started.

Friday, December 16, 2011

The Big Rain

Yesterday I drove on surface streets for about two hours in each direction to a city on the northern outskirts of the county. I don't drive on freeways, which is the way most people in this spread-out area of the country get around, because they are rather insane, increasingly gridlocked, filled with people in multiple lanes who do not signal, enormous behemoth trucks, and generally a pace that I cannot tolerate. So for my own and others' safety, I stay off the freeways. This rather limits where I can go
in the area.
On the way home, in the dark, I got lost and ended up around Disneyland, far from where I was supposed to be, looking for a familiar street, which I finally found. It began to rain, one of those Southern California downpours in which all the stored up moisture comes at once, flooding the streets and making them as slippery as an ice rink. Lightning lit up the sky down to its very roots, and enormous booms of thunder startled me, close by in the hills. In all this, my windshield wipers were not working well, so that it was difficult to see, more difficult than even the pouring rain would normally make it.
I maintained my cool, and got home in one piece. This morning, the world (and maybe even my dirty car) looks freshly washed and lovely, though I think the rain is not done with us yet.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Today, Sat. Dec. 10

Yesterday I went with my hiking group on a non-hike. We traveled up to L.A. to view and experience a series of spiritual sites. These included a Hindu temple in Corona, a Buddhist Temple in Hacienda Heights, and after an Indian vegetarian lunch in Santa Monica, a final walk around the lake at the Self Realization center in Pacific Palisades.
The first site was in Chino Hills, which is a suburban area located on an enormous feedlot. Or that's what it smells like! There are lots of cows there, in fact, though I don't know if they are kept mostly in dairy farms or raised for slaughter. Probably a bit of each. The smell never lets up, which makes it sort of hard to feel spiritual, but all the same, this amazing site would inspire awe, if nothing else would.
From a distance, the Shri Swaminarajan Mandir and Cultural Center, a Hindu temple, one of several of this sect's sites scattered throughout the world, looked like a huge corporate office park grafted to an ancient Indian temple, and that indeed was what it was.
Incongruous though the combination was, the beautiful hand-carved hardwood, intricately carved with peacocks (India's national symbol), gods and goddesses, lotuses, and other religious symbols was a wonder to behold.
Inside the welcoming center, a service was going on, which made hard to absorb the guide's interesting and informative talk about the temple and the sect. But we all looked around at the carvings that filled the inside of this cavernous place, with its shining marble floors (we had to take off our shoes, of course!), and at the shrines, enormous and imposing figures in gold and bright colors.
We went into the store, and people bought various Indian snacks at the gift store, though the welcoming center gave us all some Indian snacks for free also and invited us to come back for a service and banquet another time.
I got into an interesting discussion with the guide about the notion of a "saint" in this culture. For this group, one can decide to become a saint, giving up material things and family connections. I tried to explain that this was totally unlike the western notion of a saint, but the guide (and our Indian hiking group leader, Harish, also) did not really grasp the difference I was trying to explain. Interesting. These points of difference are very revealing about cultures.
Then we got back into the car and went to Hacienda Heights, a Chinese section near LA, where we went to the enormous Hsi Lai, a Buddhist Temple set high on a hill. At the Temple, workers were busily setting up decorations for the New Year celebration, coming at the end of January. We entered the temple and listened to the chanting for a few minutes, watching the solemn monks and nuns file by in their robes, and stopped to study curious statuary of buddhas, goddesses, and other assorted divinities. There was a wonderful tea house I want to come back and visit another time, but I was trying not to eat everything I saw.
Most people (not me) were very hungry by that time. We headed way way across town to Santa Monica for an Indian vegetarian lunch. And then a little bit further north up the coast to Pacific Palisades, to the Lake Shrine, dedicated to Paramahansa Yogananda, my favorite of the day.
I have been to the Lake Shrine before, but this time I spent more time and more attention on it than ever before. It is a peaceful beautiful place, with its windmill house and lotus archway, swans, and beautiful gardens.
The rest was all the ride home. Most of the group went to Venice Beach where they gawked at tourists and others and watched the sunset, but we just wanted to go home and collapse! What a day!

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Links to Genesta Stores on Facebook

I mentioned in a previous post that John Genesta did the cover photo for my book, and that Lisa Genesta is a silversmith, who makes wonderful jewelry. Here are some links for their stores, so you can do some last minute shopping!
John on FB: http://www.facebook.com/#!/profile.php?id=620774334 (click on photos to see his photography album (his page is in the process of construction on FB right now)

Lisa on FB: (antique and vintage textiles, fabrics and trimmings) http://www.facebook.com/#!/pages/Ruins-ca-Antique-Vintage-Textiles-Fabrics-Trims/149949833494
Lisa on Ruby Lane (antique and vintage textiles, fabrics and trimmings) http://www.rubylane.com/shop/ruins-ca
Lisa on Etsy (antique and vintage textiles, fabric and trimmings) http://www.etsy.com/shop/RuinsCa
Here's one to Lisa's beautiful jewelry site!
http://lisagenestadesigns.com/LisaGenestaDesigns.html

Got it Covered!

I heard from Karen Kelsay at White Violet Press, publisher of the chapbook. She came up with a lovely cover, using the photo John Genesta took yesterday. I attach it here. Now I have to get someone to take a pic of me. I'd also like there to be a picture of Nina, the artist who did the drawings, but there is apparently no place on the cover for that. There will be an extra drawing on the back of the book though!
Here is a link that will take you to White Violet Press, where you can pre-order the book, or else you can order it from me at rknester@yahoo.com.
http://www.facebook.com/pages/White-Violet-Press/282590661761244

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

The cover!

Today I went to Laguna after yoga class and had tea with my friend Lisa Genesta. She showed me around her colorful place in Laguna Canyon, which has a lot of history, being the haunt of the counter culture in the late 60s and early 70s. She was reading a book about the period that featured people her husband John had known and been friends with during those times.
Then John took the picture and worked with it on the computer for a couple of hours. You may recall that I had the idea of having an origami lotus made out of the pages of a book. I don't know how to make things like this, even though I found instructions online, so I ordered one from an origami store on Etsy. Would you believe that there were a number of different such lotuses for sale at that store? It seems that whatever someone can imagine, she can find it online someplace.
I brought some black silk for the backdrop, and John took a wonderful picture. When he sends it to me and the cover is ready, I will post it here.
Anyone who needs a photographer or wants to buy a photograph as a gift should consider looking into his Facebook store or, if you are local, going to the winter Sawdust festival and checking out his work!

Monday, December 5, 2011

Two in a Row

I skipped yoga this morning to attend a docent led walk (too short to call it a hike) in Blackstar Canyon, also in Trabuco Canyon. It was about the Red Rocks of Blackstar Canyon. You may recall that this is the place I went several times with the Wilderness Workshop, years ago, to watch the moon rise. I wrote two poems about it, and there is a very good photo of me in the process of writing one of these taken there.
The Irvine Ranch Conservancy led this hike. They are a very different sort of organization from OC Hiking, which is part of Meetup, and thus rather informal. This is a Nonprofit, with a capital N, with a very organized hierarchy and website, etc.
The docents are very knowledgeable people, who are carefully trained and supervised, not just folks who like to go for hikes. They learn all about (or already know about) geology, biology, botany, astronomy, and lots of other relevant topics.
During the daytime, Blackstar is lovely in a different way from at dusk. The red rocks recede a bit into the deep blue sky, and one gets to see the details of the animals and plants that live on them. Today I took up the docent's challenge, and spotted the abandoned nest of a golden eagle, winning the prize of a bottle of water.
I also looked with interest at several oak galls, one in a tree and one on the ground, and some dudleya, which looks like a type of echeveria, a round, pinkish green succulent that likes to grow on cliffs and rocks.
I learned about mule fat, which is a plant that, according to the docent, is a euphemism for mule fart, since supposedly this is the effect it had on mules, back in the days when lots of mules came through this canyon.
I even heard ghost stories about a massacre of native Americans that took place there, and people say the souls of those people now haunt the canyon at night, but certainly, mountain lions and other beasts, including bears, haunt the canyon, and make me want to keep close to the parking lot if I go there at night again rather than wandering the trails as we did today.
It was cold and windy, and I wasn't dressed warmly enough, but I enjoyed it very much. A good day's bit of learning.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Hike at the Monastery

This morning, despite reservations about whether I would be able to keep up, I went on a hike with the notable character and OC Hiking leader Harish up on the hills near Cook's Corner, which is not far from my place, but in a spot I am reluctant to drive to. Cook's Corner is a hangout for motorcycle gangs and hangers on. It is difficult to park or to pull in or out of lots because there are always cars and motorcycles coming from all directions at high speed and people and bikes darting out into the road.
But today I got a ride to the trailhead, and found this to be perhaps my favorite hike of all I have taken. There were some quite steep hills, several of them, that made me huff and puff a bit, but it was a beautiful hiking day, about 60 degrees, with a clear, deep blue sky.
There were large old live oaks all over the trails and wonderful overlooks that gave us an opportunity to see many different trails in the area, all the way to the beach. In fact, we could see Catalina Island from up there!
I love live oaks. They do not at all resemble the oak trees I know from back east. They are more slender, their leaves smaller, and they have elongated acorns that are quite a bit larger than regular oaks'. When they get large, their branches and boughs grow along the ground, forming a sort of canopy one can sit under and be completely sheltered from the surrounding world.Birds and other animals love this, and the trees are usually loud with the sound of these creatures doing what they do.
In addition to a hike, we also got an extemporaneous lecture of sorts from the hike leader, particularly when we visited the monastery and walked their trail of shrines for all the major religions. He has quite a group of fans, who come on all of his hikes. I enjoyed their company, and though I'd like to discuss some of these things Harish said rather than just listening, I would certainly do the hike and others with this leader again!
The monastery had an amazing, peaceful atmosphere. I felt comfortable and safe there. I would like to go back again, perhaps even to do a reading there. I wonder if they'd be interested?

Saturday, December 3, 2011

A Hard Time

This is a difficult time to be a Californian. The great universities of the state are imploding. Yesterday I spoke with a former professor who told me that the French department had closed, lecture series and chairs had been eliminated, and the whole place was generally folding.
Since we came here in 1980, I remember when the University was much smaller, and it would not seem so bad to me should it return to those earlier days, since there is always the chance it could wait for better days and unfold again, like a lungfish cocooned in mud to await the rains. But I am not sure it is that benign, this diminishing, that impermanent.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Good News!

Karen Kelsay, at White Violet Press, says that my book will be out by February! My cousin Nina just finished the last of the drawings today. I will be meeting with John Genesta, the photographer who is doing the cover, sometime next week. We were supposed to meet today, but it didn't work out. Maybe by this time next week, the book will be well and truly finished. It is being set up right now to print! Isn't that amazing?

Monday, November 28, 2011

About the Book

I am moving forward on the chapbook. My cousin is too! She is fixing up some glitches in a few of the drawings and doing the last three drawings for the book. One is a bit of a problem, the one that I would have thought would be the easiest, savasana! I guess that it's hard to relax, perhaps harder than doing elaborate poses, and so it's hard to draw relaxation too. At least that is how it is turning out.
This Weds. I will go see John Genesta in Laguna Beach and get the photograph for the cover of the book done. Then I should perhaps get a microphone and get started on the trailer and the page for the book, on Red Room. It's a bit scary, but I need to move forward.
Meanwhile, I'm waiting for the stove top part to come in, fixing everything in the toaster oven, big oven, or microwave. It's warm, so I can make a salad, or I can put stuff in the crockpot I guess. I didn't realize how much I realized on the stove top! I wish I had an electric skillet! My mother in law offered me hers, and I guess I should have taken it.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Another Qarrtsiluni Publication!

Dave Bonta and his team at Qarrtsiluni have accepted another poem, "The Hive: A Parody, After Emily Dickinson," for their upcoming Imitation issue. I am happy about that! It's been a couple of months since I had a poem taken at a journal. Let's hope this will be the beginning of a run! I've got lots out right now.
Looking forward to seeing the issue!

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Happy Thanksgiving Everyone!

It's Thanksgiving. There are lots of things to prepare for supper this afternoon, like the slow-rising pumpkin thyme rolls that have been rising all night in the fridge. They sort of looked like they might explode the container! Then there's the wild mushroom stuffing with chestnuts and chive biscuits. I made the chive biscuits for the stuffing (tasty!), but the stove top went out and will take up to a week to replace a part! $500., nearly... scary. We are told that this is a good stove though, a Kenmore commercial oven of uncertain date, in otherwise good repair. I made a French apple tart on flaky pastry (frozen) glazed with apricot jam (pretty), and with those three items, there's my contribution to the meal, which will take place here, using our good china and silver, if I can get Jeremy to clean it.
Enjoy your day!

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Last Night's Thanksgiving Service

Our choir sang with the Irvine Unified Church of Christ's choir in the annual Thanksgiving Service last night. Two difficult but beautiful pieces, which I didn't have as firm a grasp on as I wish I had. I can't read music, or at least in the past I didn't have luck learning to do it. It is probably time to try again.
Our choir, while feisty and capable of surprising effort, has been flagging this past year. People are going away much more frequently on vacation and not showing up for practice, leaving early, coming late. If I were the choir director, I would be angry. I don't think Shannon is angry, but perhaps resigned to the impossibility of making us as good as we could be if we are not there, either physically or psychologically or both. It doesn't help that she has lost her job, like several of us in the choir and in the community at large.
All the same, the service was lovely, though a bit earnest. I love IUCC. They are such good people, whose hearts are all in the right place, but I find them just a bit politically correct, forced. Still, I'd much rather have affirmations of good values than iterations of bad or indifferent ones clothed in subtle language.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Too Bad, But Life Goes On

The photographer was not interested in pursuing a collaboration, which is a shame. I could have written a nice little series that probably would have brought his photos out into the public eye. Maybe that is just what he does not want.
As I have learned working on the yoga poems, collaborations can be ticklish things because one has to consider not only herself but the other person's schedule, priorities, desires, etc. And we have still to work on the app. Haven't heard anything about that in a while. I am not certain it is going to work out because I am much fussier about the way the thing is presented than that guy was ready for.
It's on to the next thing, I guess!

Monday, November 21, 2011

New Idea

I had a new idea today--another day, another idea, I guess. I want to speak to Neil Fricke about doing another chapbook of poems about his photos. I already wrote one, in response to a Switchback prompt of the month, "Nobody Ever Knows Anything For a Fact." I didn't post that photo though. I'll leave it as a surprise, for when and if it gets accepted. I think they'll turn these around pretty quickly because it is a monthly sort of thing.
I am feeling more full of things to be thankful for than for a long time. If I had been working, I wouldn't be writing these poems, right? Here's something to remember at Thanksgiving time.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

A Hike That Didn't Happen

Rain was forecast for today. In fact, it was supposed to be 100% chance, with thunder and lightning. Therefore, I was very skeptical about my chances of going on the hike this morning at the Buddhist Monastery near Cooke's Corner in Trabuco Canyon. I don't have rain gear suitable for such a hike, and truthfully, I cannot think of anything more miserable than trudging up steep hills in the rain and cold. I am just not that fixated on hiking. I go on hikes to enjoy the beautiful trees and other flora and fauna, conversation with new acquaintances, and the warm sun on my back.
So when I got up at 5:45 AM this morning and read an online forecast, I decided to cancel my reservation for this morning's hike, especially when I saw the street outside was slick with rain that had fallen sometime during the night. It wasn't raining then, but since the sun had not yet risen, I didn't know whether it would.
An hour and a half later, the sun was out, the sky blue, and though it was cool and breezy, it looked like delightful hiking weather. That didn't last, but the hike went on, and it didn't rain till it was over. It's raining right now in fact. No thunder and lightning yet.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Problems with New Blogger Format

I am trying out the new blogger format, and the truth is that I don't know how to get back to the former one. I cannot find my dashboard and see no way to send the comments and questions I am trying to post. Anyone with some suggestions and answers about this, please email me at rknester@gmail.com. Thanks.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Hike This Morning!

This morning very early I got up in the foggy still dark to go on a hike. I met Liz at the yoga studio parking lot, and we headed off to Wood Canyon for my first Intermediate hike!
It was a beautiful day for hiking, nice and cool, and I was ready for it to heat up, with a shirt under my sweater and lots of water, snacks too. But although I took off the sweater and drank plenty water through the tube of my hydration pack, I never touched the snacks. Most of the time I was trudging uphill, and in no mood to eat.
It was a lovely place, very fragrant, and with wonderful overlooks where I could admire the layers of soft grey green hills. With the fog, it reminded me of my walks in Floyd, with the small, rounded and toothless hills visible from he side of the trail.
Mostly in this part of CA, the hills are quite bald and brown for most of the year, like old men, their faces furrowed with lines. But generally, when it rains down here, one can see that the mountains furthest away wear a cap of snow. I like it best when it's warm and sunny down here in the foothills, but cold and snowy up in the mountains. It is an amazing sight.
I can see why this was an intermediate hike, as the hill was quite steep in places and went on and on for quite a while, but truthfully, it wasn't as bad as the first hike I went on, which had been rated an Advanced Beginner. This one was specially designed to move people along from beginner to intermediate, and though I am a bit slow in comparison to Liz and other true intermediate hikers, I was generally okay. I want to do this again, a few times, before trying other intermediate hikes.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Newsflash!

The neighborhood Thanksgiving is now on again! Our neighbor Eric will cook the turkey, if we all chip in and pay for it. I will make a lot of other things, like mashed potatoes (though they aren't my personal favorite), cranberry orange relish, rolls (from scratch), and apple tart for dessert. Someone else will have to make the gravy, the side dishes, and another pie. But our neighbor George can cook very well, so I'm sure that's in good hands.
I want to make a low fat potato recipe because the idea of pouring in all that heavy cream and butter horrifies me, given R's cholesterol tendencies, and my own. Jeremy's probably as well.
So everyone wins. I won't have to cook the bird. Not all the cooking is my responsibility, and there will be lots of guys watching football and playing pool. Most of the leftovers won't end up in our fridge (Richard's worst nightmare) either.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Holiday Angst

I am a very sociable person. I like being with people, getting to know them, chatting, and eating with them. However, my family isn't like me in that way.
My son and my husband would rather stay home watching games on television, talking about sports. My husband would rather be at the range, hitting balls, or in the garage, poking balls into holes on the pool table. (But isn't this what groups of men generally end up doing together, even when large families gather?)
Though on most days I go to yoga class or on hikes, holidays are meant to be spent with family, eating and talking. But my family just views them as a chore, while I, without siblings or close-by relations, long to cook with a group of chatting and laughing friends or family, and to eat what we cooked together, talking about old times and times to come.
So I end up forcing my family to eat what I have grudgingly cooked. No one has a good time. All holidays at my house seem to end up like this, especially Thanksgiving.
I guess I could insist we go out to eat. That might be a compromise. We've done it before. Too bad, because leftovers on Thanksgiving are a GOOD thing, even my family acknowledges that. Cold stuffing for breakfast is a delight not to be missed, as I'm sure some of you would agree.
Relationships are tough. Holidays are tougher. And this is just the start of the holiday season.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Rain Rain

It doesn't rain much for most of the year in these parts. However, winter can be a rainy time, and this winter is turning out to be particularly so.
One thing about the rain here is that it can cause a lot of havoc because the streets don't drain well, and cars tend to slip around on them when it rains. Sometimes there are also flash floods.
I was once stuck in such a flood when making my way across the street to the market across the street from our apartment (several places ago). Then I heard it: the sound of a rushing flood of water, carrying cars, trees, dead animals, and a couple of people, swimming for their lives. I can't swim, and I was stuck in the middle of the street yelling for help. Finally, a big SUV going by me opened the door and let me in. Lucky for me, it was a decent person, who took me home. But there were people on the other side of the street who wanted me to jump in, even though I probably would have been swept away and drowned. Encouraging, isn't it?

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Think First, Act Later

In real life, as opposed to virtual life, I am generally pretty cautious, to the point where many people have ranked me out for it, saying, "You think too much!" I guess this is an expected sort of failing for a person like me, who lives so much in her head.
But when I sit at the computer, I become a totally different kind of person, recklessly punching buttons left and right. That is how my computers have become so messed up over the past years. In fact, I recently had to have the whole operating system replaced and all the files straightened out and cleaned of junk.
It's kind of like my closets, come to think of it, or the fact that I can't seem to dump random pieces of mail that I might need for something someday.
Now I'm trying to figure out how to change the size of the illustrations in my yoga manuscript. Nina has done most of them now, but Karen, the publisher, doesn't have a number of them. However, when I pasted them into the manuscript, several of them became enormous, and I can't seem to figure out how to resize them, and can't find relevant instructions online for Word 2007. 2007 is new to me; I guess I'll get used to it. And yes, I know, that's already antiquated. I'm a few years behind the curve.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

New Possibility

For perhaps a year, Richard has been encouraging me to apply for a fellowship at the Provincetown Fine Arts Work Center. Richard went twice (as many times as it is possible to apply), in 1976, when we first got married, and in 1990, when Jeremy was not quite one year old.
Artists and writers in this program must live in a converted chicken coop in Provincetown, MA, on the beautiful tip of Cape Cod for 7 months (fall, winter, and spring). They get a small stipend and free rent, and the freedom to work on whatever artistic endeavors they wish.
The major criterion of the program is the quality of the work, and the idea that this should be an "emerging" artist/writer. Richard argues that despite my age, I really fit that criterion since I am only now really beginning to publish and do serious work on my writing career, having spent the rest of my life teaching and taking care of other people (the fate of most women).
I can certainly write very happily right where I am, in my wonderful new house on the cusp of the Southern California hills,as well as going to yoga class and synagogue, but, once unemployment dries up, I would not be able to collect a stipend for doing this. So he imagines that we would leave the house to Jeremy and a couple of trustworthy friends of his we would lease it to, with Jeremy here to keep an eye on things, and go live in the wintry dunes for nearly a year.
I don't know about this. I know Richard would heartily enjoy this. And it might be a big boost for my writing since I could do readings in Boston and probably New York and would enjoy going to many readings and art openings, etc. But on the other hand,
would it necessarily do anything for me that staying right here and continuing to write and possibly applying for an NEA grant of another type wouldn't? And doesn't Jeremy still need our help, particularly since he is going to transfer to a 4 year school next year? I have my doubts about that.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Jet Lagged, and I didn't even go anywhere!

I'm still getting used to the time, as I'm sure you are too. I woke up this morning at about 1, and had a terrible time getting back to sleep. After about 3:30, I gave up, though I laid there until 5 before I got up.
I am supposed to go to choir practice, but I'm way too tired now!
I guess that besides the time change, I was thinking about my interview. I had been told the entire staff would be there to fire questions at me, which seemed a bit much for an adjunct position, but it didn't turn out that way.
The dean was a warm person, easy to talk to, and she enjoyed my presentation. The thumb drive I downloaded the poems I was going to talk about didn't work (it was empty, though at home it had said it wasn't), but luckily, I brought hard copies, since I didn't know whether I'd have access to a computer.I think it worked out well.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Facebook Wonders

By the time one reaches my age, she has met lots of people and forgotten or half forgotten most. On Facebook, I have been running into some of these people.
A friend of mine from Philly sent a pic of high school reunion. I was so miserable in high school I never ever wanted to go back, and haven't. But the picture she sent was pretty cool. One of the people was a good friend from early elementary school I had lost track of. One was a neighbor from across the street who, along with her sister, was a sort of enemy for much of my youth, but all that is behind us. One was a poet I met in P-town, but couldn't remember whether it was the first time we were there or the second.
I'm in touch with all of them now!

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Interview on Verses In Motion

This afternoon I had my 15 minutes of quasi-fame being interviewed on Blog Radio's Verses In Motion show, where the gracious Laura Mercutio gave me the opportunity to monopolize a few minutes of precious airtime talking about yoga, reading poems, and inviting listeners to this blog.
Once I start to talk, it is hard to stop. Having so many years of free airtime in the classroom, I can wax quite prolix, but I hope that my segment was interesting and most of all, that people appreciated the two poems from Balance that I read.
I have been doing a lot of writing lately, and now have two new poems to shop around. As soon as one gets published, I will put the link here. I guess I better get cracking! I miss putting up fresh, unpublished work, but many journals will not republish them, once they have lost their print virginity on a blog. So many little rules one has to learn in this poetry biz!

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Anticipation

I am looking forward to my two interviews, coming up this week. On Saturday, I will be interviewed on Verses in Motion, on blog radio, at 2:40 PST (5:40 EST). I will read a couple of poems from the yoga book and talk about when and where they will eventually be available, and as for the rest of the twenty minutes, I'm not sure what the host will ask me. Here's the link again:Here's a link: http://www.blogtalkradio.com/getyourzradio
Here's the radio website: http://www.getyourzworld.com/
If you aren't able to tune in at the time to hear the interview live, it will be archived on the site.
On Monday I have a job interview for a teaching position the nature of which I know very little at the moment. I guess I'll find out soon though. I'm not even sure at this moment what I will wear.
This weekend I have scheduled TWO hikes in a row--Saturday morning and Sunday morning. Let's hope I don't fall in a hole so I am home in plenty of time to call in for the radio show.

Monday, October 31, 2011

Noodles and more

Although my birthday was last Wednesday, I had a dinner last night to celebrate it. I happened to stop at the Asian market to do some shopping a month or so ago, and noticed that one of the fixtures in the center, a restaurant called "Nice Time Deli," a bland enough name for a place that, as far as I could see, had average sort of food, had closed, to be succeeded by 101 Noodle Express.
I am one of those people who love Asian food. Perhaps it is because I despise cheese, and Asians generally eschew it, so that I can eat almost any dish and be relatively sure that no cheese is in it. For the same reason, I avoid Italian food, for the most part. But of all Asian foods, my favorite is noodles and dumplings. There is just something about the act of slurping up noodles that is extremely satisfying, and one can mix them with almost any sort of protein, vegetable, and sauce or soup. Dumplings, whether Asian or otherwise, also charm me. The little packet enclosed in some sort of dough has thrilled me since I was a child consuming chicken soup with kreplach. It was only a short jump to wontons, then gyoza, and all manner of steamed and pan fried dumplings with various fillings.
So when I saw this new place, I instantly snatched up a take out menu, and perused it carefully. Though no one had yet written a review of the place, for good or ill, to my knowledge, I decided this would be the place where I would celebrate my birthday.
But, I decided, to avoid disasters, perhaps a pre-party visit would be in order. So R and I went over last Friday and had dinner. It was hard to make up our minds with so many wonderful dishes on the menu (the promised 101, at least). There were steamed dumplings, fried dumplings, buns, rolls, noodles wet and dry, as well as assorted stir fried dishes and rice dishes.
After picking at an odd plate called "peanuts and small roasted fish," which consisted of a bowl of fried peanuts from which a school of tiny, anchovy-size fish peered, hiding behind and between the peanuts, we began with a soup. I am enamored of soups, particularly Asian ones. This was a light broth with feathery fish dumplings, garnished with very thin slices of cucumber and cilantro, which accented the fish balls exceedingly well.
We followed that with a juicy assortment of steamed dumplings and a plate piled high with steaming green onion pancakes, light and entirely lacking grease.
That was enough to convince us that this was a good choice for the party, and the party itself allowed the place to shine.
In addition to the aforementioned fishball soup and green onion pancake, we ordered steamed lamb dumplings for our crew, several of whom would not eat pork. They were juicy and mild, a welcome addition to the dinner. We followed that up with ox tail noodles, a bowl of soup noodles spiced with star anise, a beautiful, fragrant spice often used in beef pho, the ubiquitous Vietnamese soup noodle dish. But this dish had tiny hunks of ox tail, slabs of shredded meat, and bones in a broth laden with what appeared to be handmade, thick noodles. A very good choice, though it wasn't the dry noodle dish we expected.
Perhaps the greatest find of the night was something known only as beef roll and chicken roll. These were stir-fried vegetables and shreds of the named meat wrapped in a covering that was not a noodle and not a bread, but something in between. These were cut into pieces and were eaten rather as one would eat a steak sandwich, with both hands. Luckily, we hadn't heard what the people at the other end of the table were ordering, so we brought home enough of these to make another dinner, which we will consume tonight. Only I am not sure how to warm them up. To put them in a pan or oven would be to dry them out. To put them in a microwave might make them soggy. Perhaps I should try to look up this dish online and see how they were cooked to begin with and follow suit with more of the same.
In any case, for those of you who are close enough to try this place, a heartily recommend it, though I would go early, as it is very very popular!
And oh, by the way, the company was convivial and we all had a great deal of fun, even J, the lone person of his age at the table.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Happy Upcoming Halloween!

Though I gave up dressing in costume long ago (I think college was the last time I did it), there is still some residual excitement about the whole affair remaining from childhood, when the number of bags one filled and the quality of the loot reigned supreme.
My mother's goal at Halloween, especially after I reached the age of 9 or so, was to get me to wear the most alluring costume possible. I, on the other hand, had other aims in mind--thinking up the weirdest, cleverest, and yes, geekiest costume I could devise and manage to construct with my extremely limited ability. My mother was an excellent seamstress, but I had to get her to cooperate, and the idea of her daughter masquerading as a number two pencil (complete with eraser) or lightbulb did not particularly motivate her to put these skills to use. So I generally ended up compromising. I remember a lovely moth costume, complete with dramatic eye makeup. That made both of us happy.
Update on the interview... typically, I got the time wrong. It will be Sat. Nov. 5, 5:40 EST, which is 2:40 PST, not 3:40! You can find it on the Verses in Motion show, on Blog Radio, at:
http://versesinmotion.com/
I'll get you the website too, just in case!

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Another Year Older, Not Wiser

Tomorrow is my birthday. Oddly enough though, I am younger than I realized. I have been going around telling people for the past year that I was going on 59, but the truth is that I was not... I found another year without really looking for it because I was actually going on 58! That shows you how poor my computational skills are, I guess. But it's a gift I get a kick out of anyhow, getting back that year I had stashed in my pocket without knowing it.
I was thinking how different this birthday is than last year's, with its gush of poetry and the feelings I had, which turned out to be illusory, of being so much part of the community at the college.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Old Time Experience

Last night I was lucky enough to attend a concert at the Orange County Performing Arts Center's beautiful new concert hall in Costa Mesa. The building seems spun out of air with its imposing height and sculptural outline, an extension of the older building's modern look. The concert hall itself reminded me of Antonio Gaudi's organic looking sculptures with the rounded line of its seating and levels, but the planes of bright color (turquoise and pink) added to the striking effect. Most impressive was the enormous organ, which took up an entire wall, higher than two houses set on end. And the sound that came out of that organ was as big and awe-inspiring as its appearance.
This was a Halloween performance, one night only, of an organ concert with a showing of the silent film, Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, the original, with Lionel Barrymore.
Though I taught the novel last year (that awful summer semester my parents died), I had never seen that particular filmic version of the tale.
It was most impressive how the organist, a lively fellow in a tux and top hat, followed the action of the film so exactly with just his Ipad for a guide, since his back was to the film, and he sat high up in the organ's bowels, above the screen. Experiencing this, I could see why those who doubted the newfangled technology of film sound might have done so. The combination of film and music was so seamless!
I thank Shirley Horowitz, an old friend from synagogue, who so generously contributed these tickets so that I and others from the synagogue could attend this performance.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Almost November

This morning it is foggy and slightly rainy. I am scheduled to go on another hike, but to tell the truth, I'm not sure that it will proceed in this sort of weather. Most likely, by the time we meet, however, the fog will have blown away, and a cheerful sun will have swept the sky blue. So I will proceed as though the day will go on as planned, and if not, will find something else to do, like go to my usual morning yoga class.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Amazing!

I seldom think about the large number of people I know via the Internet, synagogue, yoga, hiking, and the rest of my life. But now that I have begun getting pre-orders for my book, it becomes clear just how many people whose lives I have touched, even just tangentially. People I don't know have begun to send me friend requests. They have read my poems in journals. This is a new thing for me, and one I gladly embrace, thinking of the circle widening, gratefully and gladly.
I have not even begun to do readings, like the one on the radio I will do in a couple of weeks. More will no doubt follow.
I must express this gratitude in new poems soon! Lately I have entered a sort of odd period in which I cannot seem to turn out whole poems, but many fragments, stashed away for when I can finish them. This is unusual for me. It must be because this is a time of transition, an opening of a new door.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Can I Put Away My Summer Stuff YET?

The seasons are odd in these parts. In fact, people who have been here only a short time sometimes insist that there are no seasons at all. But it's not true... they may be subtle, compared to the explosions of color and dramatic drops in temperature one gets in temperate zones, but they are nonetheless present, to those who pay attention.
The air takes on a slightly different feel and smell. The leaves drop or change color (again, this is nowhere near as dramatic in most parts of Southern California as elsewhere, but it does occur). The hills gray, like the five o clock shadow on a man's face. When I walk in the woods, the flowers and berries have fallen, for the most part, and one sees many bare twigs, gray and dry, waiting for the winter rain that has already sporadically begun to fall.
Because of frequent bursts of heat late in the season, I usually delay putting my winter stuff out and stashing my summer stuff until November. This past week there were some quite hot days, perhaps 100 degrees, that made me glad I had waited just a little longer to put things away, but I think that this next week will be a good time to make the change, to commit to the coming season and put summer behind me, folded into a box, trunk, or plastic bag, till next May.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

More Talk!

I am not bad at this marketing stuff, even though it will be a while before the book is out (spring). On Nov. 5, I will be interviewed on the Verses in Motion radio program. The show is on blogtalkradio.com, but I am not sure right now how to tell you to tune in because I don't know whether the interview will be live or pre-recorded, but I've got 20 minutes devoted to me, so I'll talk about the book, put in a word for the collection I'm still trying to find a publisher for, and generally be charming and prolix. I'm good at the latter.
Here's a link: http://www.blogtalkradio.com/getyourzradio
Here's the radio website: http://www.getyourzworld.com/
More later...

Monday, October 17, 2011

Around the Bend

It is beginning to seem as though next semester will be busier than I had anticipated. I may be teaching in two places, or may even receive offers from more than that.
In addition, I have promised to deliver an essay to Hollins Critic on Lev Grossman, for which I have ordered all of the books except the one I already own. I will reread them and begin whipping something up. That will be more money, and perhaps the start of writing articles/reviews for various publications.
So one cannot tell what will come up, especially since I have been out there selling myself in one way or another.
Now I have to think about how to market my book online. I have looked at some people's book marketing sites and have joined a group on Linked In. That may help.
If I am working, I can hire my neighbor to work up a site with me!

Saturday, October 15, 2011

On the Street

Yesterday I was coming back from the farmer's market at the LH Mall, and I saw a young man about my son's age with a sign bearing only one word: "Hungry." I wanted to pull over the car and ask him where his parents were, why he wasn't in school, on unemployment, protected and cared for, as my own son is. Yet at the same time I knew the answer. Probably he had never had work eligible for unemployment, or perhaps he quit or was fired, or worse, had used up all his unemployment and couldn't afford to go to school. Maybe he had no parents or his parents were abusive and had thrown him out.
I couldn't stop, not even to hand a dollar bill out the window, since a line of cars pressed me forward, but I still think about this young man and all those like him I have seen at that spot in the past year.
We are all so vulnerable. It wouldn't take much for many of us to fall off the edge of the known world into despair and oblivion. It's a wonder more people aren't in the street protesting, really.

Friday, October 14, 2011

The Magician King, Lev Grossman

I finished reading the book yesterday. It is odd that even though I had the feeling a few times that it was not quite a "real" book (too adolescent in tone, sometimes, too much like something I would read in a graduate school workshop in tone), I lapped it up. It was very much like those childhood books I used to fall into, and really, which make up the subject matter and the background of this book.
Grossman has really hit a nerve on this one. I think that there are lots of people like me who wish they could read as they did when they were children, engrossed in fantasy series like the Narnia books, which I loved and still love, or the Fellowship of the Ring.
There is no doubt that he is very good at plotting and also that the ending of this book is stronger than the ending of The Codex. I can definitely see movies coming out of these two books, big Harry Potterish blockbusters, but perhaps it is too tongue in cheek for Hollywood to take up.
It makes me want to scrounge about for more fantasy. I would love any suggestions!

Selling Myself

I am hardly a shy person, but for some reason, I have trouble selling myself as aggressively as I might. It's not that I am under any sort illusion about myself. I know my writing is worthy of the selling, but I guess I have just considered it kind of ill-mannered or crude in some way to get down to the nitty gritty, I suppose. Some sort of snobbery about sales? Perhaps! Though when I was a child, I used to get paid by adult strangers to go away! That's how outgoing and chatty a creature I was.
However, I am shifting into sell-gear to promote my upcoming chapbook, Balance. As part of that activity, I will be going on a radio show to discuss my work. The show is called Verses in Motion. It makes me wish I had learned more from Dave about how to record my poems as files. Lots of little journals want those files when one submits poems these days.
And I've got a teaching interview coming up too, a big, long formal one, with a 15 minute presentation and other formidable sounding elements. I've got to find something nice to wear, and have my hair done! At least that's a positive outcome!

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Dilemma

It is wonderful that Violet Press wants to publish my yoga poems! I am thrilled, and believe wholeheartedly that once it enters the world as a book, it will find a place for itself among yoga enthusiasts as well as poetry buffs. However, this is turning out to be an expensive proposition. I thought that if I didn't self-publish, a publisher would actually fund the printing of a certain number of the books, and that I would get get paid something, even a very tiny nominal sum, but as it turns out, I must fund the printing of the books I take with me to readings, at a lower author's price, and must pay for the cover art work.
Since I am not working right now, this is a great worry to me, particularly since I was already stressing over how I would pay for renewing my yoga studio membership for the year when that comes up in the spring. I have to make that a priority,as I cannot function very well without it.
Not to mention the necessity to contribute to the cost of paying for the house!
Things might very well work out much better than I imagine, but the uncertainty and the necessity of gambling with money I really don't have is extremely scary. And on top of it, I have already committed to paying for turning the book into an app. That is bound to be very expensive. I don't know what to do.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Sick

It's been a few years since I've been really sick. Part of that is because I had the flu shot every year because of my parents. This year, I was going to have one anyhow, but the doctor didn't have them yet. I think I caught an early flu; so much for that.
This is an odd bug. It started with R, whose illness came on overnight. Perhaps his throat felt a little scratchy before that, but he wasn't complaining. With me, it started with stuffiness in the nose, and then escalated, gradually. I thought I had it licked with zinc tablets, but I couldn't sleep last night, and it got much worse.
I should just get up and do something when I can't sleep. There's nothing worse than just lying there being anxious about not sleeping. Let's just hope I can catch up on sleep today.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Yom Kippur Reflections

It's Yom Kippur again, and I have a lot to think about this year, with so many changes and some regrets looking backward. It just shows me that one never knows what is coming around blind corners, and this can be to one's advantage as well as to her detriment.
Yom Kippur is the most solemn and significant holiday of the Jewish calendar. It is, as most people know, the Day of Repentance, but what does that mean for people who do not, as Christians do, believe humans to be born sinful and in need of salvation?
Rather than believing that human beings are sinful, inherently flawed creatures, Jews think of sin as "missing the mark," as an arrow misses its target. Our actions go astray, we make the wrong choices, or something not intended in a negative way has negative consequences we have not foreseen. At any given moment, we have these choices before us; sometimes we make the correct ones, sometimes not, but it is fully in our power and our responsibility to make them. This is very different from saying we are powerless without a deus ex machina to sweep down and correct our inevitably corrupt and broken lives.
This holiday gives us the opportunity to mend our relationships ourselves, to repair any broken links in our lives or to start over again. In the middle ages, when many Jews were forced to foreswear their faith and become Christians or die, Yom Kippur allowed them to tell God, sotto voce, as it were, that they didn't really mean the oaths the had sworn, that they were still Jews, under the surface.
In the modern world, Yom Kippur is a very psychologically-oriented day, when one mulls over what in her character she would like to change. I'd like to become less brittle, less stubborn, less prideful, less fearful, more apt to let my light shine. When I think about the years I have wasted because I have been afraid of one thing or another, it makes me angry at myself. I have to keep in mind my father, how he lived those last 5 unabashed and happy years to their fullest. With any luck, I have much more than that, time to do good things for others, to write, to love, to give.
Thanks for checking in here and being part of my life, all year round!

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Snug As a Bug

Yesterday it rained very hard. People here don't know how to drive in the rain, so it is best, if one can manage it, to stay off the road. It may also be because the drainage is next to nil that the streets get more slippery than one would expect. The first big rain of the season is also the slipperiest, so that makes it even more dicey.
So after yoga yesterday, I decided to go home and catch up on some work. I promised myself I was going to work on my workshop syllabus for the synagogue, though I don't know for certain whether it is going to happen or not. It is one of few classes that is not free, and people are not signing up in large numbers. For some reason, perhaps how tentative it feels, I have been having a very hard time doing my syllabus.
So I revised my manuscript for the book, had it copied, and sent it out to a publisher. I had to pay a small reading fee, but it was smaller than most, so I didn't mind too much.
I also did some reading, prepared the menu and shopping list for Friday afternoon and the dish I am doing for break-fast on Saturday (Yom Kippur), when I am invited to a pot-luck after services.
I am part way through Grossman's new book, which I am enjoying, but I think his first book, Codex, was better. Perhaps the next one, The Magicians, was also slightly better than this one. It is still worth reading though.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Torah Comments for a Wet Wednesday

Today, supposedly, the storms we have been expecting will finally hit, and I should plan a long day, following yoga class, of reading, writing, and reflection on the writing workshop I may or may not be teaching at the synagogue.
Last night I went to Torah class, which was full of the usual suspects. We discussed an interesting portion, Mishpatim, in which God presents yet more rules and regulations to the people of Israel prior to their moving forward on their long journey out of slavery.
Intriguingly enough, these extra laws, aside and apart and on top of those in the decalogue, include many that make it clear that slavery was a regular part of life for these people who had been slaves so recently themselves. For a people whose central tenet, enshrined in the heart of the culture and the faith, was the necessity of being a free people, they accepted slavery very blithely, as did God.
The rules here outline specific legal formulae for punishing various kinds of infractions or running everyday life. There were apparently many Israelite debt slaves. If they were men, they had to be freed in the 7th year after their enslavement. If they were women though, sold by their parents, they would not be freed unless the master was displeased by them. Then they must be given back to their parents or freed, even though to free them meant they would utterly lack protection and might starve or be open to attack.
This rule, seemingly so harsh to us, actually apparently was an effort at kindness, but it certainly makes it clear what the status (or lack thereof) of women in that culture was.
And should that woman be a foreign captive, she was never entitled to be freed, unless she were by chance married to an Israelite former slave, who chose to buy her freedom and that of his children with her, should the master be amenable to this arrangement.
There were many other odd formulae, which seemed arbitrary to us, but would probably have made sense in the culture of the time. Among these was the odd precept that if a master beat his slave and killed him outright, the master would be executed for murder. But if the slave was just badly injured and didn't die till later, the master would not be punished. However, if the slave lost an eye or a tooth the frey, he would go free. Strange!
The lex talionis shone front and center in this portion. It was clear that this was never meant literally. No one who cut off a hand would have his own hand cut off, for example. It was all about proportionality in punishment, a principle we hew to today.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Tuesday Adventures

On Tuesdays, I often take adventures with Liz. This morning early, we started out on a short hike, then drove to a beading class in Orange. Unfortunately, that had been cancelled, though the teacher didn't tell Liz this. We hung around Barnes and Noble for a while, picking up some books (I had a gift card R's student had given him, which he directed me to spend on myself; I gladly obliged). Then we took Liz's dad out to lunch near his assisted living facility.
I had long heard about her dad, about how intelligent, good natured, and sweet he was, so I was interested to meet him. Though he looked nothing like I imagined (more like a silver-haired model of men's clothing), he was all she said--a good listener, though he evidently was having some hearing problems, a problem I share, so I sympathize-- and very kind and generous.
After lunch we went over to the Irvine Museum, a very small art museum housing Joan Irvine's collection of California landscape paintings (or a small selection of them). These were lovely, well worth a visit if you find yourself in this area.
Tonight I will go to Torah group! Never a still moment, though in the interval, I have managed to send out my poetry collection online to one of the few publishers who will read unsolicited collections of poetry without a charge. Wish me luck!

Monday, October 3, 2011

Gauging my State

Yesterday I took my first hike with OC hiking, accompanied by Judy from choir and Liz. It was rated an "advanced beginner" hike. Now I have absolutely no equipment to speak of as far as hiking goes, but am an avid walker, though I have not recently (before yesterday that is) undertaken that walking in any particularly organized way. Mostly I am a tireless shopper and walker of streets, used to walking the city for days at a time from an early age. Regular hiking? Not so much... though R and I have gone on some walks, and used to run together in years gone by.
I don't have proper hiking shoes, but figured a pair of suede Vans with traction would do the trick. I also bought a new water bottle for the occasion, one that was supposed to be absolutely leak proof. Ha. It ended up leaking all over me, which was a nice cool bath on a hot day, but didn't do much to hydrate me internally. I managed to conserve about a quarter of the water because Liz had a plastic bag I put the thing in, but if it hadn't been for another hiker with frozen water bottles to spare, I would have been in big trouble.
Apparently, I wasn't very realistic about my abilities. This hike truly was much more challenging than I expected, and I ended up in the rear for the whole way, just about. There were so many hills, and they were so challenging to me that I was dizzy and nauseated for much of the time. I also felt embarrassed that I had undertaken a hike that was so difficult for me. It just showed me how out of shape I was.
Luckily for me, the leader of the hike was very supportive and kind. She gave me her bandana, with ice cold water I could drip on my face, head, and body, and put an electrolyte tablet in my water bottle, so I could make it the rest of the way.
I left resolved to become inured to hills, if it kills me. I also decided to pay a trip to REI today to get more prepared for these hikes in the future, especially with a better way to assure I have water!
Despite the fact that I was rather shaky for much of the day, and spent it reading the paper and watching cooking shows, I went to Denise's Costa Mesa class in the afternoon, and toughed that out, feeling humbled and a bit ashamed that menopause has been able to make me this fat and weak.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Evening at Tebot Bach

At their worst, literary readings can be lifeless and boring, a plodding chore for both audience and authors. Even when the work itself is fine and worth reading, not all authors do justice to the performative act, though it is true that to some degree a poem is best realized in the accent and tone of its author; it's just that one might not want to sit through 40 minutes or so of it.
But when the work and author are totally in synch, and the audience is receptive and eager to hear what the author has to say, readings can be a totally different matter. Last night, the little room at Golden West College that has so often seemed dingy and unwelcoming lit up with the 1000 watt talents of readers, featured and open-mic alike, each very different from the others, most eminently worth hearing.
Tamara Madison was the first featured reader. She read from her new book Wild Domestic, published by Pearl Press, with its wonderful cover featuring an old vacuum cleaner stranded in a field. The poems ranged from lyrical and emotional to heavily cerebral, focused on linguistic nuances, like one pun-heavy poem examining the difference between "lay" and "lie."
Clearly, she is very comfortable with live reading and with her material.
She was followed by Daniel McGinn, a long time local poet, whom I have managed not to meet before, probably because he haunts north county readings, while I, still hampered by an inability to fly the freeways as easily as I might, generally go no farther north than Golden West College. Apparently I am missing a lot.
McGinn is a masterful, practiced reader, who just returned from a reading tour to promote his new collection 1000 Black Umbrellas, which has been nominated for a National Book Award.
His work and his presence was very different from the delicate Madison's. A great hulking man who writes poems that would be easy to identify as coming from a man, his poems were open and moving, wildly imaginative and imagistic.
The open readers, which included me, I confess, were enjoyable too. They created an experience that showcased what is best about poetry, the notion that a room can be filled with 50 different voices, each distinctive, each representing a unique experience in the world.
I am very glad I drove those many miles of night-time road to be there. It was a wonderful experience being part of this evening. I recommend these writers and these books to you. Both will be at the Long Beach Poetry Festival on October 15. Sadly,
I will probably not be able to be there, since I am signed up for a pranayama workshop that day, but the festival is an all day affair, and I may manage to get there for a while. All the same, I recommend it to you. Check it out.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Happy Birthday, World!

Today and yesterday evening and tomorrow too, we celebrate Rosh Ha Shanah, the "head" of the year, or New Year. Despite a long long day of singing and sitting, after which I returned home and made a nice dinner, even though Jeremy had to go to class and Richard will be at work for quite a while longer, I cannot help feeling optimistic.
Even if I'm out of work and EDD wants to "retrain" me (for what, I ask?), despite unpleasant developments in this country and out in the world, when I was up there on the bimah singing and looking at all the familiar faces out there, I felt fine, as if this were the antidote to all that poison.
So I didn't get upset at having to pay for the window Jeremy broke because he was angry with his math professor, who I'd love to tell off for her bad pedagogy and the pain she put Jeremy through. He is an adult now, and will have to manage his own affairs in this department.
So I send all of you love, and again, apologize for all the many screw ups this year and the times I made you feel slighted or hurt your feelings or took advantage of your good nature. I'll try to do better.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

As it turns out...

I heard from my cousin, who read the essay I published last week about my grandmother, my great-grandfather, my father, and me. He is denying that there is anything to what I am saying at all about my grandmother, father, and the family in general, calling it "fiction."
I suppose I should not be surprised. My family is so closed mouthed about nearly everything! I guess my grandmother instilled it in them. They are in denial about most problems, whether they are political or personal, but the problems don't go away. They tend to get worse and fester.
This is a difficulty that every autobiographical writer probably has to face: dealing with the feelings and views of the people one writes about. They have their right to their own perspectives, but not to deny mine.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Appalled

I have been following the protests in NYC and other cities across the U.S. against the banking system and other more amorphous forces that have been leading our country down a dangerous path for the past several years. However, until a few days ago, I was only following them out of the corner of my eye, so to speak, mostly because I didn't seriously believe they were happening as reported.
Like most Americans, I have trusted the mainstream media (at least certain sectors of it--PBS, for example, and the NYTimes) to present most of the truth of what is happening in this country. But even when a group of unarmed protesters, all female, were herded behind a barrier and maced full in the face, apropos of nothing at all, seemingly, except speech that is guaranteed under the Constitution, I became alarmed. Even in the 60s, when something similar happened, the papers and news programs aired it all as their top story. People were shocked, inquiries were made.
What has happened to our country that this is happening and no one seems to care about it enough to publicize it? What can I make of this? Is this becoming Yemen or Libya, or Egypt? Do the banks own our government, our news media, our lives? And what can we do about this?
Taking to the streets is evidently not the answer. All it will get us is a boot to the face (or a spraycan) and no one will care, or too few to matter.
What can we believe? And what can we do to take us off this path of destruction, economic and political, that we seem to be running on full tilt?

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Friends

The recent problems with my email have let me know again, in case I have forgotten, that I have a lot of friends who care about me. In case you didn't know, someone hacked into my email and sent out a noxious request for funds, purporting to be me, and saying I was stuck in Wales of all places without money or passport.
Surprisingly, people thought of sending money, though I had not said anything about traveling abroad, and without a job, have no money for such a trip anyhow. I was unable to send emails to anyone because my list of contacts had been erased. But some people emailed, some called me and R, and all in all, I have been very moved by people's loving attention. Thanks.

BKS Iyengar Videos

This morning I watched some videos of BKS Iyengar, guru and founder of the school of yoga I practice, from the mid-seventies. He was practicing yoga and in one of the videos, explaining it at the same time, and it was almost like breathing for him. Apparently, breath indeed had a lot to do with his ability to get into these poses too.
His was louder than I might have expected since I have been told not to breathe loudly by my own teachers. If I knew how to post them, I would put them here, but they are on YouTube.
If I were able to make myself practice as many hours a day as he does, perhaps I would be able to do some of the poses he does, but my stiff, bulky body cannot open anywhere near as fully as his. He looks like a time-lapse film of a plant unfolding. Amazing.
Here is a link for the one where he explains his poses:
http://youtu.be/JrveBAnKNyE

Friday, September 23, 2011

Essay online

Here is the link to the essay published on the Easy to Love, Hard to Raise website.
Enjoy.
http://www.easytolovebut.com/?p=1297

Thursday, September 22, 2011

On The Road

Today I drove on the freeway--the 405 to be exact--on the way to Little Saigon to eat lunch. After Liz and I hiked for an hour or two, I overcame my anxiety enough to drive right up onto the road, and with her help, made it there without incident. I had no idea where I was as I drove the road, seeing only the car in front of me and the cars and trucks to either side, like a blinkered horse. But truthfully, once I got going, I really didn't have time to panic or feel afraid. I just kept going.
It is hard to imagine that I will be able to do it alone anytime soon, but I guess with some practice, I will get used to it, just as I did the surface roads I drive on every day. It is a matter of habit, and I know I can do it.
Thanks Liz for braving it!

Where to?

Now that I have opened the portal to a different world by stopping my frenetic movement from one year, one semester to another, doing more of the same, I can see there are lots more things out there I might be doing with my time than what I have been doing.
It took a while, but I have come to like very much the routine of writing and sending out and going to yoga and chatting with friends. Of course, I have to go back to work sometime, but is there a way I can leave more of myself to be plowed back into the writing/work and still work for money? There must be. I wish I knew what it was.
Perhaps tutoring, if I could only get it started, would be just the ticket, but for some reason I have not gotten around to making decent signs and hanging them or finding a place to advertise that works. Any suggestions will be gratefully accepted.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Stoked

I didn't sleep too well last night, but it wasn't for a bad reason. Yesterday I found out for sure that my yoga chapbook, Balance, will be published whenever my cousin finishes with the drawings, which I think will be some time in November.
I will get a bunch of free copies to sell as I can. I know I can do that. I belong to so many communities now, the yoga one especially, where people will buy the book.
And I will do lots of readings wherever I can. I am really looking forward to it!
I had already planned to do readings in November for the release of Easy to Love but Hard to Raise, so I'll just do more for the chapbook too. I'll be very busy, so it is probably a good thing I am not working right now.
The people at synagogue will buy books too. I can even place some at the gift store there. Even though these people may never have picked up a book of poetry before, they may buy this one.
I'll keep you posted on when and where I am reading and when the book is coming out!

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

The Hedgehog

Lately, meaning most of this summer, there haven't been any movies that looked worth seeing. But now that summer is past, the good movies are beginning to emerge from wherever they were hiding (mostly abroad, I suspect), and today, I went to an afternoon movie with Liz, a French flick adapted from a book. The film was called The Hedgehog. I forget what the book's title was.
It was one of those delicate little foreign flicks told from the pov of a precocious child, 11 years old, and way too smart for her own good. She was part of a rich and completely ridiculous family, which seemed like a caricature of a family in fact, and she planned to kill herself on her 12th birthday. No one noticed or cared about anything she did; they were all locked into their own separate "goldfish bowls," as the girl, Paloma, had it. She wanted to die because the idea of growing up to be like them was too awful to bear.
Luckily, she was not the only one out of place here... a secretive concierge with a cabinet full of books and a new resident in the building, a Japanese director keeping the secret of his own fame in another country were there to rescue her by making her realize that she could be what she chose to be and would not be limited by her birth.
I could have stayed to watch another film, a Japanese parody of martial arts movies, but I had other things to do. Still, it's very encouraging that there are good movies out there again, and it seems more are on the way! Hooray!

Monday, September 19, 2011

ANOTHER New Publication!

After I got the advance copy of Easy to Love but Hard to Raise, in which my essay is published, I had a few email chats with one of the editors, and she suggested I write an article for the website or possibly for the second volume of the book, which will focus on educating kids with disabilities. I started off trying to write about why I didn't home school my son, but ended up instead talking about genetics and disability in my family. I described how my life replayed that of my grandmother's in several ways because of this history of disability and abuse, but the outcome was, thankfully, different, partly because of the differing circumstances pertaining to the times in which we lived our lives.
This essay will appear on Friday on Facebook at the book's blog/Facebook Page, Easy to Love but Hard to Raise. I'll publish a link when it comes out.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

New Territory

Today I went to a do sponsored by the Women's Connection at synagogue that normally would not have been something I'd go to. It was "a day of beauty," in which there were people talking about make up and clothes from Nordstrom's. The clothes were of course beautiful, but so hot on a day that was about 90 degrees and for which I was not properly dressed, wearing long sleeves and pants, though thank goodness, I had the sense to put on sandals.
There was a lovely luncheon, though the main dish was not something I wanted to eat. The salad and fruit were wonderful, especially for this weather, however! Best of all, I met and spoke with so many people from the synagogue I didn't know, who were able to give me leads of various kinds that might lead to jobs and tutoring.
I even found a group of women who go on walks and hikes together on a regular basis, and I am going to get involved in that because I was just saying to R yesterday that I wanted to walk more! Perhaps that will help me to get rid of some of the excess weight that has been accumulating around my middle for no discernible reason.
So it turned out to be a very good day, one that made me happy for my friends at synagogue and also happy that I chose to leave my safety zone for once and try something new.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Pune Daze

This morning I went to Denise's workshop in her studio. Pune Daze is a sort of master class that is meant to be very challenging. These workshops are seldom the same twice. In fact today Denise said that she had not taught this class since 2006 or so. She named several dates, each about 4-5 years apart, when she taught it. Apparently, she keeps careful records.
The people there ranged from very young and inexperienced naturals, who could do these asanas as if they had been doing them all their lives, while I have been studying Iyengar yoga for 25 years and still can't do a handstand and other things, to post-middleagers from the retirement set, like myself.
It should be known that I have a couple of bete noir poses that I simply cannot do, handstand and another related pose called pinche mayurasana (sp?) being two of these. Then there's urdva dhanurasana (sp?), a backbend you've probably seen where the person's hands and feet are on the floor while her middle and back are hoisted up to form a sort of table. Whenever these poses are taught, I usually end up frustrated and upset, as well as terribly sore from trying to hoist my body up on insufficiently strong arms and shoulders. These poses played a part in the class today, but unlike the usual scenario, I actually managed to get up into urdva danerasana with a chair, and to straighten my arms completely. But when I tried to do it on the ground again after that, it still wouldn't happen. All the same, it gives me hope to keep practicing it till I can eventually do it from the floor.
I went into class feeling as though I was coming down with something, achy and vaguely feverish (though I doubt I was actually sick), but after the class, I feel great. My mind is clear and calm and my aches and malaise gone. It left me feeling I want to come every month to Pune Daze, or whenever possible, if she doesn't mind.
Thanks Denise!

Reading Matter

These days I have begun to get back heavily into reading, and I see that I will have to pay another visit to the library to replenish my store. I just finished luxuriating in a good old novel, The Codex, by Lev Grossman. I loved his fantasy novel of last year, The Magicians, a play on the Narnia books, which I read over and over again as a child and young adult. That was his first foray into fantasy, according to the reviews I read, but when I heard he had a new novel, a continuation of the Magicians, and couldn't find it at the library yet, I settled for an old novel of his, perhaps his first, called The Codex, having no idea what I would find.
I was immediately plunged back into a fantastic, partly-fantasy world of Grossman's making, a thriller-mystery about a young investment banker wonderkind who gets mixed up in the world of bibliophiles and scholarship, along with an unlikely cloak and dagger element. The plot is full of twists and turns, the writing sparkling, and despite a very few missteps in detail, it had me totally hooked from the start. I recommend it, and am looking forward to getting hold of the man's most recent book.
I also finally read Nicholson Baker's book The Anthologist, about a cracked poet, Paul Chowder, who is trying mightily not to write an anthology, but finally does it. The character was so close to the bone that it was almost painful to read, so it took me an age of bedside reading to finish it, despite the fact that it is indeed an excellent and heart-breaking portrayal of character. So now I'll be looking for something else to read. Unfortunately, that is not so simple. I discard more books after the first few pages than I read. Any suggestions?

Friday, September 16, 2011

New Publication!

The poems accepted by Victorian Violet Press are coming out a few weeks early! Here's a link so you can see for yourself.
http://www.victorianvioletpress.com/issue_8/robi_nester

Aftermath

The dinner went well. Everyone was in good form, and the food turned out well. The chicken tasted fine, though overnight in the sauce would no doubt have made the 10 cloves of garlic easier to taste! I particularly liked the tomatoes in pomegranite sauce. What a great combination! The zucchini with tahini, lemon, and yogurt was also delicious. I'm glad I threw in some mint at the last minute; next time I'll add garlic too, but I'll definitely make it again.
The tablecloth, which I forgot I had, is definitely the worse for wear because of a spilled glass of wine, but what the heck? I didn't even know I had it till yesterday anyhow. My parents' good china looked great on it, and it brought back memories to eat off of it.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Lead in to the Dinner Party

This morning I hopped out of bed as usual at 5:30 AM, as Richard was slipping out to go to the golf course. He took a day off because the semester starts Monday at the U, and for him, that will mean more than more of the same: his department was eliminated, and there is only him and one other writing instructor left of what reportedly will become a new writing center. Why they needed one is beyond me, but that's okay. It's their dime.
The phone rang about 6:30, as expected. It was Liz, telling me where to meet her for our morning walk. We went down to a lovely little park tucked neatly into a corner across the street from a mini-mall. It was meticulously maintained, with a little creek, sculptures and other art work, a peace monument, and paths. These were not too well maintained, sad to say: lots of dog poo from the many dogs walking there with their owners. Since there were no bins to dispose of the waste, it was left where it was, I guess. We saw a white heron and an egret fishing in the creek, but no other wildlife.
After our walk, it was already getting a little warm. We went home to cook. It's amazing how much fun cooking is when you don't have to do it alone. Things go much faster when you can chat, and the work seems much less onerous. Unfortunately, I noted that I SHOULD have left the chicken in the sauce overnight, but I'm sure it will be edible, just not perfect.
Though I don't want to have another party soon (too expensive!), I will definitely do it this way again, if I can talk one of my guests into being a sous chef (sp?).

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Poetry Reading

I managed to get myself up off my bottom to drive all the way to Orange to a poetry reading. I was hoping that Denise wasn't having a yoga workshop at the same time so I could park at a particular spot near her house that is the only place I know of anywhere near downtown Orange that does not require either a permit or payment at a lot, but if I had known where an easily accessible lot was, I would have parked there.
When I came in, somewhat early, despite driving around and around till I found a spot in the general area I was planning to park, the room was next to empty. The students were mostly congregated by the buffet table, which contained an assorted and not very healthy bunch of junk, mostly sweets--nary a crudite to be seen. One could tell it was chosen by a man who opens a lot of cans and microwave boxes. But the students seemed to like it.
At first, when I came in and sat down, I took the poet, Amy Newlove Schroeder, for a student. She looked so young, and I guess was young, though a bit older than most of the students in the room, having finished her PhD. She struck me as an honest and intelligent young woman, but one who is not used to reading her work at events like this one.
There were many exceptionally lovely lines in her poems, though she threw them away, mumbled them under her breath. Good thing I wore hearing aids, or I might not have heard her at all.
Half of the reading was from her first book, Sleep Hotel, which won the Field Poetry Prize, though I'm not sure when. The rest came from her new collection, which she said she was going to call Low Magic, though it did not yet come across as a tightly bound collection, as her first book was. Some poems were, it seems to me, still under construction. Not being used to reading, she had brought them out into public a bit too soon, perhaps.
But it was a pleasure to hear her work, and when I am in a book buying mode again, her work is something I might want to own.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Dinner Party

Before we moved into our new house, I swore I would entertain more if I only had a larger kitchen to cook in and a nicer space to host my guests in. However, as of yet, I have not done it, really, though I did have a memorial lunch for my parents a couple of months ago.
I enjoy cooking, and like feeding guests. Sometimes I know I go way too far with the process, in fact, preparing fancy menus for weeks ahead of time. That turns the process into something stressful rather than enjoyable.
I decided to cook a dinner for a few friends from yoga. I had gotten a lovely new cookbook from the library--Purple Citrus and Perfume--mostly Turkish and other middle eastern dishes, mezzes, dips, and a few entrees. The book is so appetizing and interesting, even though there are lots of ingredients I would have a hard time gathering up.
After some thought, I settled on a menu including both a light lamb dish (pastries containing ground lamb, red pepper sauce, and pine nuts) and a vegetarian one (red lentil balls with pomegranite). However, I found these to be unpopular choices among my guests, so had to reshape the menu entirely. I am a little unsure about how the new choices will turn out, but I'm anxious to try them. I decided to do satsivi (Georgian chicken in walnut sauce), a Turkish rice pilaf with pistashios, and tomatoes with pomegranite and sumac, a middle eastern spice that tastes lemony when used in small amounts. I'll serve this with fresh lavash from the Persian market, a fresh baked flatbread that is so popular that the line stretches through the whole store sometimes. I plan to go early in the morning though, before the line grows so long.
I probably will just pick up some baklava or make a fruit crisp for dessert.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

9-11, 10 year Anniversary

Last night in synagogue, someone read this testimony by a survivor of 9-11. It moved me so much, I want to make a poem from it, but meanwhile, I thought I'd let you read it. It's part of a longer peace, but this is the gist of it.
It starts here:
My name is Usman Farman. I graduated from Bentley with a Finance degree last May. I am 21 years old, turning 22 in October. I am Pakistani, and I am Muslim. Until September 10th 2001, I used to work at the World Trade Center in building #7. I had friends and acquaintances who [also worked in there].. Some made it out, and some are still buried under the rubble.
We were evacuated to the North side of building 7. Still only 1 block from the towers. The security people told us to go north and not to look back. 5 city blocks later I stopped and turned around to watch. With a thousand people staring, we saw in shock as the first tower collapsed….. The next thing I remember is that a dark cloud of glass and debris about 50 stories high came tumbling towards us. I turned around and ran as fast as possible and I fell down trying to get away.

I was on my back, facing this massive cloud that was approaching… everything was already dark. I normally wear a pendant around my neck, inscribed with an Arabic prayer for safety. . A Hasidic Jewish man came up to me and held the pendant in his hand, and looked at it. He read the Arabic out loud for a second. What he said next, I will never forget. With a deep Brooklyn accent he said "Brother, if you don't mind, there is a cloud of glass coming at us, grab my hand, let’s get the hell out of here." He helped me stand up, and we ran for what seemed like forever without looking back. He was the last person I would ever have thought, who would help me. If it weren't for him, I probably would have been engulfed in shattered glass and debris.
(end)
I have heard many such testimonies of survivors and also those of family members of those who did not survive. The sense of unreality of the whole event, precisely the feeling I felt, and that I'd wager all of us felt, hearing about it or watching it the very first time, as it was happening that Tuesday morning, envelopes me afresh when I hear these stories.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Bright Spot

Something to look forward to! Yesterday I got the advance copy of the anthology on and for parents of disabled kids in which I published an essay, Easy to Love but Hard to Raise. I've had that title backwards all this time, and perhaps because of my glass half-empty psyche, still hear it better that way. But never mind that! I've been reading the whole book, essays and in-between commentary, and think it is fantastic! If I had a book like this one when I was bringing up my kid, it would have made all the difference in the world. What a blessing that it will be out there, spawning all sorts of support groups, conferences, perhaps a whole movement that will help all those who don't know what to do to help their kids. The only thing I don't see there so far, and I'm scarcely 25% through the book, having just gotten it late yesterday afternoon, after going to the post office and paying postage due, is stuff about what the law says schools and public institutions owe our kids, what we can fairly ask for. I'm going to tell my friend in Philadelphia, Linda, to write to the blog for the book on Facebook, and perhaps she can add that dimension to the discussion.
I shouldn't put so much hope into this, but I'm thinking that if this book hits it big, perhaps I can draw some attention to my writing and pick up some sort of online writing job or teaching or something or get my books picked up by a publisher somewhere. This is the kind of thing people will buy; I know, because I have bought many books on similar subjects, and at one point, I would have bought anything I thought could help us deal with the difficulties of raising a kid with neurological differences.
I told the editors I wanted to help market the book by contacting NPR and doing interviews, doing readings, chatting up Facebook, or whatever. The book comes out in November. I can't wait!

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Tuesday

Today I woke up with red eyes, sweaty and hot. I had a terrible dream, and apparently didn't sleep all too well. But I jumped out of bed because I knew I had to be ready early to go on an outing with Liz and her friend Ron.
Ron used to work with Liz in the County Appraiser's office, and in fact still works there, though she has long ago retired from that job. He lives in Huntington Beach, north of us, and she often goes up there on little day trips with him. Today they let me tag along as they walked the trails of the estuary at Bolsa Chica. I used to take the bus up there years and years ago, before the trails were built, to look at the egrets and herons, among other creatures that inhabit that place.
Today we began to see interesting wildlife as soon as we started our walk, when a posse of stingrays appeared in the shallow water, congregating not far from shore. In the background, small silvery fish of an indeterminable kind flashed as they jumped from the surface occasionally, perhaps to distinguish themselves among the hundreds and thousands in the schools filling the channel. This made them attractive to the many shorebirds: plovers, curlews, terns, egrets, sandpipers, and herons, calling out and wading into the water looking for a meal. Every once in a while, a tern or egret would dive into the water and come out with a slippery sliver of fish flapping from its beak.
We walked and walked, as the day got continuously hotter, then decided to head to lunch at a Mediterranean grill called the Olive Pit. The place was clearly popular, as a line stretched toward the door. The menu offered attractive alternatives of mezzes like roasted vegetables, hummous, baba ganoush, and lesser known ones as well. Or one could craft a lunch out of a mixture of a protein, salad, or 2 mezzes, which was my choice.
FFrom the list of choices including things like fried calimari, seared ahi, chicken, beef, and lamb gyro (and more), I had the homemade lamb sausage, roasted mushrooms, and roasted artichokes. Aside from a tad too much salt (I don't generally salt my food much at home, preferring to use garlic, spices, and lemon instead), the meat was full of flavor, and the artichokes were amazingly large and tasty. I confess to being unsure what to do with artichokes at home, being daunted by the sheer labor of getting to the hearts in order to cook them. Of course, I eat canned and marinated artichoke hearts, but seldom buy a whole artichoke, though they are plentiful and often quite cheap here in either the large or baby sizes.
Afterwards, it seemed a shame to go straight home, so we headed for the freeway and Joe's Italian Ice, where one can get an authentic Italian water ice like those I grew up with in Philadelphia. Though the concrete magnified the heat so that the air felt as if we were in the desert rather than so close to the shoreline, the water ice froze our brains and made it hard to speak. Still, it was amazing and delicious, with chunks of cherries and the flavor of fresh watermelon in my mixture of those two flavors. I don't understand why water ice has not caught on more in this area, which seems to me perfect for it. Philadelphia steak sandwiches are readily available and authentic, but water ice is rare and even when one finds it, not usually made this well. The quality of ingredients shines through, and perhaps that is why this dessert is not more available throughout this area. People just don't want to put the time or money into making it right, as Joe's does. Too bad it is so far from home, and would take an age to get to on surface streets!

Monday, September 5, 2011

Storm

Today the wide sky is filled with grey clouds, stretched like insulation along its drafty edges. An occasional flash of lightning in the distance surprises me. It seldom rains here, at least this time of year. When it does, the feeling is unmistakable.
Of course, there is a fair amount of disappointment on the part of kids celebrating their last day or so of summer, families hoping to barbeque with friends, folks heading for the beach. But for me, who was staying home anyhow, it is a cozy fall sort of day, with breezes making fans unnecessary for the first time in months.
Don't get me wrong; it hasn't actually started here, the rain, except for a few early drops. And maybe it won't actually happen, at least till after sundown. Remember that line about Camelot, in the musical? It never rains till after sunset... ? Well that's true here.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Early morning

It is early Sunday morning, and everything is silent, except the crows, out there calling to each other by the pool. If I were more ambitious and a little less apprehensive about mountain lions, this would be a good time to go out walking in the hills. However, given that people have actually been eaten by the beasts not far from here, I think I'll wait till others are about before walking, even though then it will likely be too hot to think about it. Maybe later in the year!

Friday, September 2, 2011

Big Waves

Today, since I missed yoga class in the morning because of my interview with unemployment, I went to Laguna for a long walk with Robin. We really walked far, and spent some time marveling over the extraordinary surf. Lots of enormous waves, full of surfers and assorted junk, like huge hunks of kelp. It would probably not be a pleasant thing to be whacked by a chunk of that stuff while one was struggling to get up out of a skyscraper-size wave! On the way home, we saw a helicopter flying down low, close to the beach. Perhaps he had just rescued someone from one of those waves.
Following that walk, I went to yoga class, where my feet were tormented by asanas meant to test their mettle. I am sure mine are tin. I need to work them out more often. They cramped up all the way home. I hate when that happens while I am driving!