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:
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


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, 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:
Here's the radio website:
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


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


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.