Sunday, August 27, 2006

@ The Pure Grain Bakery In Vacaville

I'm in a cafe in downtown Vacaville. Last night we had dinner at Tip Top Produce, where my sister G lives and works. There are three women who live there: the Farmer (and owner of Tip Top) and the two interns--a former Baker and my sister, a former chef.

G cooked organic sausages, pork chops, hamburgers and made squash and tomatoe salad.

K made tarts with organic peaches and fresh cream.

Saturday, August 26, 2006

Going (Kind of) Off-Grid in California

I'm in San Francisco, sitting in M's apartment, sipping espresso mixed with chocolate soy milk. My sister's en route to SF from Vacaville. I'm looking out at the city--the undulating hills of low white buildings peppered with the occasional purple or pink building. There's a gentle fog and the air is crisp and cool.

I may have a chance to post once or twice from a cafe in Vacaville and then again Tuesday night before we head out to the desert but won't be able to browse (or comment on) anyone's blogs.

Below is a picture my Mom took from a trial in the Berkeley hills a few years ago when she was out visiting my sister. (G. used to live right near UC Berkeley when she was working at Olivetos.) The view I'm looking at right now is similar, albeit currently overcast.

Friday, August 25, 2006

Friday Feast

If you could have a free subscription to any magazine, which one would you like to have?
Yoga Journal

Soup - Describe your living room (furnishings, colors, etc.).
Two bloodred walls, two white. A red papasan chair. A beige leather sofa my mother-in-law gave us. A breakfront with our wine glasses and funky drunken glasses. About half a dozen jars with plant cuttings I got from my grandmother years ago--their roots tangled and visible through the glass. Our office station: a table with printer; fax; postage machine; various pens and pencils and paper clips. A folding table where I work on my laptop. (Weekends we take the table down and voila: a real living room.) About a dozen novena-style candles featuring only female saints. A coffee table my grandfather made for my Aunt back in the '60s and which she gave to us for our wedding. Various Rothko prints and one Diego Rivera print. Various rocks and shells I've collected from Virginia, Colorado, California, Pennsylvania, New York, and Puerto Rico. One large cow bone (a femur) I found on my parents' farm. (Bleached and painted bright white.)

Salad - What does the shape of a circle make you think of?
An egg.

Main Course - Name 3 things in your life that you consider to be absolute necessities.
Exercise. Reading. Writing.

Dessert - What was the last really funny movie you watched?
Little Miss Sunshine.

tags technorati :

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Margaret Atwood's Poem In This Week's New Yorker

I haven't gotten this week's copy yet, but apparently there's a new Atwood poem in there. Someone posted it to this womens poetry listserv I belong to... There's a bit of a controversy over her and it, which I'm hoping to get a chance to write about before we leave tomorrow.

by Margaret Atwood

Secrecy flows through you,
a different kind of blood.
It's as if you've eaten it
like a bad candy,
taken it into your mouth,
let it melt sweetly on your tongue,
then allowed it to slide down your throat
like the reverse of uttering,
a word dissolved
into its glottals and sibilants,
a slow intake of breath --

And now it's in you, secrecy.
Ancient and vicious, luscious
as dark velvet.
It blooms in you,
a poppy made of ink.

You can think of nothing else.
Once you have it, you want more.
What power it gives you!
Power of knowing without being known,
power of the stone door,
power of the iron veil,
power of the crushed fingers,
power of the drowned bones
crying out from the bottom of the well.
Things I'm Packing For Burning Man

I missed Thursday 13 today, so instead I'm listing things I'm bringing with me tomorrow on the California/Nevada odyssey.

Into the suitcases go:

1 tent
2 sleeping bags
1 pair of black leather boots
1 corset
1 pair of jeans
2 pairs of shorts
A plethora of tank tops
A jacket (apparently it's quite cold at night in the desert)
Socks & Undies
Camera + film (still haven't bought that digital camera)
Spiral notebook & pens
Suntan lotion
Contacts + contact solution + glasses just in case
2 books (Fast Food Nation & Lousise Erdrich's Four Souls)
Vitamins (I'm taking mega-doses of omega 3s to combat anxiety)
Why I Love Brooklyn Heights

Because I can go down to my favorite coffee shop (steps from my door) and see Gabriel Byrnes at one of the tables, casually sipping coffee and reading the daily paper.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Interview with Margaret Atwood In Canada's The Globe & Mail

Interesting interview with the Writer-Goddess herself.
Dilana's a bitch

Don't know how many of you follow Rockstar Supernova, but my god. Who the hell does she think she is? Give someone a little power, a little praise. And whoosh. Right to the head. Not that I think Ryan's all that. Kind of out of tune, no? But still. The attitude is annoying.
Wednesday Confession

My sister lives on an organic farm outside Sacramento, California. In the fall she's returning to school to study poetry at UC Davis. And even though I know she's happy and doing what she loves, I still miss her so much that I find myself wishing from time to time that she'd move back east. Other times I attempt to convince Rod to move to SF. (Still working on that one, actually... Part of me feels I'm destined to be a Berkeley girl.) Luckily, though, I'm going to get to see her for a few days before Burning Man.

The weirdest part about seeing her after a long absence is having driven home that my facial expressions and gestures and little tics aren't just my own. It's like looking in a fucking mirror sometimes.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006


I've also been told I'll need goggles. If I'd known earlier I'd have bought these.

Pretty snazzy, huh?

Costume Woes

I'm supposed to bring a costume to this Burning Man thing we're going to. My original idea was a sort of vamped out version of myself. Knee-high heeled black leather boots. Short skirt. Black bustier. Short red cape. I'd call myself MsMinervaJane. Except I tried it on last night and it fucking looked like crap. When did my thighs get so big? And my belly so pouchy? Argh. Now I'm stuck. If you got any ideas, post 'em. I'm desperate. Or else I'll be going as: 30-something woman from Brooklyn stranded in desert. On second thought maybe I'll drag my sister to some thrift stores on Saturday in San Fran.

Zen & The Art

I'm almost done reading Zen & The Art of Motorcycle Maintenance for a second time. The first time I read it I was in high school and, honestly, I think failed to really get much from the text. This time, I'm particularly struck by the odd combination of philosophy text and novel, of storyline and metaphysical musings.

And then there are the odd gems. Like this:

"When you travel apath and note that another path breaks away to one side at say, a 30-degree angle, and then later another path branches away to the same side at a broader angle, say 45 degrees, and another path later at 90 degrees, you begin to understand that there's some point over there that all the paths lead to and that a lotof people have found it worthwhile to go that way, and you begin to wonder out of curiosity if perhaps that isn't the way you should go too."

Monday, August 21, 2006

So that's why people move out to Long Island

I dated R. for about six years before we got married. Which means I've been going to visit his family on Long Island for almost eight now. Still. Until this weekend we'd never been to any of the beaches there. And. It's beautiful. I mean a little crowded. But shit! Who knew? I thought Long Island was all about the strip mall. And while it may not be an actual island--rather a peninsula--the beaches are still only about fifteen or twenty minutes from where R grew up.

So on Saturday we went to Robert Moses State Park after spending the night with R's Mom near Great Neck. I got burned because like the idiot I am I forgot sunblock. And my camera. And R. dropped his cell phone in the water. And it's dead. (He had to buy a new one.)

Still. A good day.

I'm glad I know about the beach now. Next summer will be spectacular! Only $8 per car and there's even a shower so you can clean up afterwards.

Here's the view from my mother-in-law's condo. You can't see anything cause it's overcast, but that's the City in the distance. Weird how it just disappears into a cloud bank sometimes. And then--bam. There it is.

Friday, August 18, 2006

EncyclopediaJane: Burning Man

So exactly a week from today we’re heading to San Francisco meet up with a group going to Burning Man, an annual arts festival that takes place in the Black Rock Desert of northern Nevada.

They call it an intentional temporary community and an experiment in radical self-reliance, which means that for about a week hordes of people (as in 25,000+) trek into the desert, set up camp and construct elaborate installation pieces, perform plays, put on costumes, and, as far as I can tell, party until their minds are mush. Each year the event has a theme. This year it’s "Hope and Fear: The Future.” Burning Man Corporation says that they hope artists will “explore how we create futurity, manifested as an expression of the promise of our hopes, and the contractions of our fears.” Money is of no use here as there’s nothing to buy except coffee and ice (two essentials for desert living). All you can do is trade: a song; a drawing; a poem. (Perhaps sexual favors…I imagine.) You have to bring your own water, food, and shelter. I’ve never been but I’ve heard that it’s the ultimate form of self-expression and prime hunting ground for some of the best people watching on the planet. I was planning to blog using audioblogger but have just found out that that may not be possible. Why? No cell phone coverage. But not to worry: I'll take photos and keep notes.

So where is this Black Rock Desert and what is it like?

Well, it’s a desert. In the middle of nowhere. As in 120 miles north of Reno, Nevada. The closest towns are Empire and Gerlach.

Technically, Black Rock Desert is a completely flat prehistoric lakebed or a hardpan alkaline playa. It’s surrounded by the Pahute Peak Wilderness and the North Black Rock Range Wilderness to the west and North and South Jackson Mountains Wilderness areas to the east. Only drought-tolerant plants like sage and the ilk grow here and animals like deer, coyotes, snakes, scorpions, spiders and birds.

One area resident notes that "It's so flat that it causes optical illusions. Soon after sunrise on any warm day, the mirage begins. Objects more than 1/2 mile away slip below the horizon as the mirage bends your field of view away from the ground. Yet mountains 20-40 miles away may seem crystal clear. A car driving near the mirage terminator from you may at first appear as a low flying aircraft because you can see some refracted sky below it."

You can see some pictures of the desert here and read about the Art of Burning Man here.
Battle of the Office Supplies

I got this fun little game from Callalillie.

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Beauty In The City

Last week R, our musician friend T and I just wandered around the city for hours talking about life, music, and people we know or knew.

At dusk we ended up on a park at the western most edge of the island and as we watched the sun set over New Jersey I thought how little pockets of beauty dot every part of this earth... You just have to keep your eyes open.

Pictures Of The Stinky Flower That Didn't Smell At All

Over the weekend we went to the Brooklyn Botanical Gardens to see the rare titan arum in full bloom. Here are two pictures of the Sumatran native. (Apparently we arrived too late for the unusual rotting-meat smell the flower produces....)

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Thursday Thirteen: Quotes I've Loved

From the time I was 17 until I started my MFA program at age 23, I kept an occassional journal of quotations from my readings. I found the journal last week as I was preparing for the August 10th TT and decided to mine it for this week's list.

Unfortunately, I didn't list the books in which I found the quotes--only the authors.

1. "Art is the only thing that can go on mattering once it has stopped hurting." Elizabeth Bowen

2. "People in novels have to need something, she thinks, that it takes about two hundred pages to get." Marie Ponso

3. "It seems to me you spend a great deal of time in the element you dissaprove of." Edith Wharton

4. "To be free from convention is not to spurn it, but not to be deceived by it." Alan Watts

5. "The wisdom that a wise man ties to communicate always sounds foolish." Herman Hesse

6. "A person either creates or he destroys. There is no neutrality." Saul Bellow

7. "You carry the symbol of your frustration into eternity." William Faulkner

8. "... the air ran into the mouth like wine." EM Forester

9. "I acted toward my brother the way I had acted toward him all my life, heard what I wanted to hear, rejected the rest." John Wideman

10. "In every work of genius we recognize our own rejected thoughts: they come back to us with a certain alienated majesty." Ralph Waldo Emerson

11. "I'll never stop believing in justice. It's just that I've learned it's pointless to look for it in certain situations." Andre Brink

12. "What is evil but good tortured by its own hunger and thirst?" Kahlil Gibran

13. "Some things you miss because they're so tiny you overlook them. But some things you don't see because they're so huge." Robert Pirsig

I'm actually throwing in an extra Pirsig quote because I'm smack in the middle of rereading Zen and The Art of Motorcycle Maintenance.

14. "The truth knocks on the door and you say, "Go away, I'm looking for the truth," and so it goes away. Puzzling."

Get the Thursday Thirteen code here!

The purpose of the meme is to get to know everyone who participates a little bit better every Thursday. Visiting fellow Thirteeners is encouraged! If you participate, leave the link to your Thirteen in others comments. It’s easy, and fun! Be sure to update your Thirteen with links that are left for you, as well! I will link to everyone who participates and leaves a link to their 13 things. Trackbacks, pings, comment links accepted!

The Entire Pride

They're lovely cats, really, but complete whores when to comes to catnip and Meow Mix.

First there's Queen Zelda gazing from her perch.

And her three babies:

Jubilee, who spends her days napping and evenings tending her luxurious coat;

and Jasmine, who has learned to jump onto the kitchen counter, claw a hole in the cat food bag above the stove and shovel (yes; I said shovel) pawfuls of food onto the floor for the others to eat. (Jasmine is R.'s favorite, btw.)

I love them all. But I ask: how can you resist this face?

Doris Lessing In Germany

The Golden Notebook had a profound impact on me when I was structuring my first novel--it turned out to be three novels intertwined into one--and I'm a huge fan of The Fifth Child.

So naturally I was interested to learn that she'll be speaking in September in Germany. If anyone out there cares or lives near or in Berlin, check it out.

Doris Lessing will be reading at the 6th International Literature Festival Berlin on September 12th 2006 at 9:00 p.m. in Haus der Berliner Festspiele / Große Bühne.

She's got a website that she updates reguarly.

You can listen to her read an excerpt from The Golden Notebook here.

Wednesday Confession

Last night when I woke at 1:03 am and peered down to the edge of the bed where one of the cats was blissfully snoring away? I was jealous. And yeah. I nudged him a little until he woke up. (Why do I keep posting images of Janus and none of the other three? Because I love him the mostest. I'll be a fickle Mama, just you wait and see.)

EncyclopediaJane: The Shamefully Late Edition

I meant to post this last Friday but somehow forgot. (Bad Minerva Jane!) So here it is. Another edition will be posted this Friday. So if you've got something you've always wondered about but didn't care enough to find out for yourself, post a comment or e-mail me at ms minerva jane @ earthlink net and I'll see what I can unearth. Maybe!

Raknak asks, “Why do people have pubic hair?”

After an exhausting internet search (read: google is my friend) I’ve discovered the answer to Raknak’s burning question: We don’t know.

Some people think that genital hair traps pheromones, sexually stimulating scents we all produce. Others (i.e. an anonymous wikipedia contributor) seem to think the hair may protect from friction during sexual intercourse. Yet others claim the hair keeps us warm. But really: we don’t know.

Personally, I think the last two theories are bogus. I don’t care how hairy you are, if it’s 30 degrees out and you’re nude, you’re going to get cold. And my vast (oh how vast) experience tells me that added hair adds to friction. So I’m going with option #1: the scent theory.

On a side note, wikipedia has two really weird genital shots under the entry, just in case you have no idea what pubic hair actually looks like.

Atlantic Avenue Going Going...

So we live on Atlantic Avenue, a four-lane border between ritzy Brooklyn Heights and uber-cool Carrol Gardens.

As most NYers already know, the area is set to be overhauled in a massive gentrification project in the coming years. Locals are deadset against it; even celebrity neighbors like Heath Ledger are joinging in the 'hood's develop don't destroy message. And now, organizers of the neighborhood's annual street festival, the Atlantic Antic, are getting blasted for accepting the gentrification overlord's sponsorship for the Sept. 17 event.

As a newcomer to the city and the Avenue all this is a little disconcerting because the same exact debate is going on in the place I just left: Charlottesville, Virginia. Development of Route 29 is pushing out the quirky rural pockets that made the place unique.

Personally I'm nervous because as buildings are renovated (like this one pictured) and gentrified rents are skyrocketing. As in twice the rent of the surrounding buildings. Which means we'll probably be moving out to Bed-Sty in a few years.

I know all those Manhattanites are being pushed out of the Village and Soho and for god's sake even the Lower East Side. But can't they just go to LA and leave Brooklyn alone?

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

It's in the blood

When I was a girl every few months I'd rearrange the furniture in my room whenever I felt bored or sad or just restless. Some how moving the bed from the far corner over toward the window and back again made things feel different. A new outlook, if you will. I guess some part of me felt that things would resolve themselves if I just realigned the objects around me in just the right way.

Which is a really long way of saying that you're not crazy and yes, I've changed blogger templates.

I'm contemplating making the jump to either wordpress or typepad, but I'm staying here at blogger until at least the end of summer because I'm going to be taking advantage of the free audioblogging feature while I'm at Burning Man.

We're not just a fatter nation, we're a fatter world.

According to the BBC more people are obese than starving.

Hour Of The Wolf

For the last three weeks every morning between 2 and 4 am I've suddenly and inexplicably woken from a dead sleep. It takes hours for me to calm my racing mind enough to lull it back to slumber and even then I find myself surfacing briefly and repeatedly before I finally drag myself out of bed.

Last night, though, I had a breakthrough: I didn't even manage to get to sleep at all until 2:30, so there was no rude awful wakefulness. (My usual routine is to turn over, blink blink blinking at the darkness ad groan, Oh no! Not again.)

Reminds me of a joke someone told me a really long time ago.

A little girl comes home from school one day and says, "Mommy Mommy a boy gave me a $1 for climbing up the flagpole."

Her mother says, "Dear you shouldn't do that. He just wanted to see your panties."

The next afternoon she comes home and again says, "Mommy Mommy a boy gave me a $1 for climbing up the flagpole."

"But honey I told you not to do that. He just wants to see your panties."

On the third day the same thing happens. And again, the mother warns her little girl about the boy's nefarious intentions.

The girl smiles smugly and replies, "Oh, no. I tricked him this time. I didn't wear any today."

Monday, August 14, 2006

20 comments redux

Apparently Alun, one of the blogs I and CandyMinx and I linked to last week, had a drop in visitors on 20 comments Wednesday instead of a jump. He has a very nice graph demonstrating so.

I have to admit I never really thought of 20 comments as a way to boost traffic, just a way to explore new blogs. (I mean, the week before last I discovered a blog about comments on other blogs...)

On second thought, I wonder if Alun objected to being listed between Bearskinrug and Gay Mormon and Married? (You gotta visit that last blog, btw. I found it through an article Dooce posted last week.)

A Really Stinky Flower?

So we went on a run in Prosect Park yesterday then headed on over to the Brooklyn Botanical Gardens to see the Titun arum or Corpse Flower bloom. This Sumatran native blooms rarely in captivity--the last one bloomed in NY in 1939--and only lasts for about two days. It's supposed to have this horrible odor--like that of rotting flesh--but I guess we got there too late. Because I didn't smell anything, let alone an odor that noxious. And the bloom was already closing. Still, the flower itself was pretty cool. (I'll have pictures by tomorrow). So big it almost looked fake. Reminded me of that plant in Little Shop Of Horrors.

Friday, August 11, 2006

My First Postcrossing Postcard!

It's from Franzi, a librarian from Germany.

Spiderman Teaches Barbie Yoga

Over at yogabeans. The pictures alone are worth it.

People In Brooklyn Shave Their Cats

Well, at least one man does.

Blogpost By Lebanese Poet Joumana Haddad

Check out a post on a British Arts Council-supported weblog by Lebanese poet (and editor of the Cultural page of Lebanese daily An-Nahar) Joumana Hadad.

As far as I know she's still in Beirut. Poet Marilyn Hacker is still in touch with her and posts from time to time about her to one of the womens' poetry listservs I belong to.

The post's title is" IS 'FATE' JUST ANOTHER PRETEXT? and here's an excerpt.

... I'm not sure of anything anymore. I doubt everything and everybody. In one of my recent editorials in the cultural page, I wrote: "Is 'fate' a pretext used by God when he messes up?". I got so many angry emails because of that phrase, protesting letters from readers, and even friends, who only saw in my question a kind of blasphemy, and did not feel the human rage and frustration which made it erupt, like lava from a volcano. I'm sure my God is indulgent and tolerant enough to understand my question, even if he won't bother to answer it . . .

Thursday, August 10, 2006

Digital Camera Recommendations?

So I'm getting ready to buy one and wondered if anyone had any recommendations...

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Thursday 13: Books On My Shelves

I’m a lifelong obsessive reader and a writer married to another writer. So, as I’m sure surprises no one, our apartment is stacked to the gills with books. As I was shuffling a stack from my bedside to the tower above the living room bookcase today, I thought—hey! Why don’t I just pick thirteen random books from my collection for this week’s TT?

So that's what I've done.

We’ve got six basic areas where books live here: the bedroom bookcase, above the bedroom bookcase (honestly, don’t ask it’s the biggest nightmare), the two living room bookcases, on top of the broken living room radiator, and the office case. I selected two from each area, with a wild card thrown in to round things out to 13.

I’m also including a quote from page 7 of each text. Why? Uh. Because I want to?

1. The Iceman Cometh by Eugene O’Neil.
This is a first edition my Dad bought me one year for Christmas when I was still in high school. The selected page 7 quote comes from O’Neil’s lengthy stage directions. “Hope is one of those men whom everyone likes on sight, a softhearted slob, without malice, feeling superior to no one, a sinner among sinners, a born easy mark for every appeal.”

2. Temple of My Familiar by Alice Walker.
I don’t know where I got this, actually. I dimly remember reading it in college, though. Page 7 quote: “Much later in life she heard the story of the man who worked in a factory that made farm equiptment and each day passed the guards at the gate pushing a wheelbarrow. Each day the suspicious guards checked to make sure the wheelbarrow was empty. It always was. Twenty years later, when the man was rich, he told them what he had been stealing: wheelbarrows.”

3. NYC Free & Dirt Cheap.
I bought this a few months ago at the bargain bin at the local Barnes & Noble. Page 7 quote: Best Summer Music Festical: Every year SummerStage (212-360-2777) seems to get even better organized, efficiently channeling music fans into a stage area just off the Rumsey Playfield in the middle of Central Park.”

4. The Penelopiad by Margaret Atwood
Despite being a huge (and I mean huge) Atwood fan and a lifelong lover of mythology, this book failed to impress me. It was efficiently and elegantly told, but kind of like watching a world-class pianist perform a series of scales. Page 7 quote: Where shall I begin? There are only two choices: at the beginning or not at the beginning.” Which is kind of a rip-off of her earlier book, The Robber Bride. Now that book was inspired.

5. The World According To Garp by John Irving
I love Irving. I liked Owen Meany better than Garp, but still worth the read. Page 7 quote: “It’s worse than bent,” the man moaned. “I think Molly bit it off!” (Yeah. He's talking about his penis.)

6. Where I’m Calling From by Raymond Carver
In my first few years of writing workshops I got way into Carver. Eventually I had to turn away from him because my prose was starting to sound too derivative and he was depressing me. Page 7 quote, from the story Nobody Said Anything: “I was halfway down Sixteenth Street when a woman in a red car pulled onto the shoulder ahead of me. She rolled down the window on the passenger’s side and asked if I wanted a lift.”

7. Brooklyn! By Ellen Freudenheim.
Another recent purchase. Excellent guide to the County of Kings. Page 7 quote is from a chapter entitled Eleven Quick Itineraries and Best Bets: “The Going Native in Brooklyn Tourist: Stay at a B&B. Get a haircut at the Sinatra-era Park Slope Barbershop. Ice skate at Wolllman Rink or job in Prospect Park. Argue loudly about who makes better pizza: Grimaldi’s or Totonnos.” [FYI: the answer is neither. The best pizza in Brooklyn is a hole-in-the wall on Court St called My Little Pizzeria.]

8. This Is Not A Novel by David Markson.
Ah, but it is a novel! See how clever he is! I love Markson. R.’s friend DS turned us on to him. His other book, Wittengenstein’s Mistress, is pretty good too. And equally odd. Page 7 quote: “Georgia O’Keefe died blind.”

9. The Red Notebook by Paul Auster.
Of course I had to include Brooklyn’s most beloved literary superstar. I actually just finished writing a short story about a woman writer who moves to Brooklyn and starts stalking Paul. Oddly enough the book begins on page 11. So I take the quote from page 18, seven pages after the real beginning. “It was a genuine miracle, and I was there to witness it with my own eyes. Until that moment, I had thought those things only happened in books.”

10. Asian Tapas and Wild Sushi
I think this is one of my sister’s books. Or my Dad’s. The subtitle is: A Nibbler’s Delight of Fusion Cooking. Page 7 quote: “Hoisin sauce is sometimes called Chinese barbecue sauce.”

11. The Lost Honor of Katharina Blum by Heinrich Boll
One of the most fascinating books I’ve ever read and a truly insightful look at the modern phenomena of Media Frenzy. Page 7 quote: “For the following account there are a few minor sources and three major ones; these will be named here at the beginning and not referred to again.”

12. The Humanure Handbook by JC Jenkins
The subtitle says it all: A Guide To Composting Human Manure. I have no real excuse for this one. It’s actually hilarious, although I’m not sure if the humor is intentional or not. Page 7 quote: “The simple blunt truth is that we shit everyday and we should be returning that organic material back to the soil.” Jeez. I mean he’s got a point. But jeez.

13. Collected Poems by Primo Levi
Last, but by no means least, we come to Levi. Since it’s short I am going to include the entire poem on page 7.

25 February 1944

I would like to believe in something,
Something beyond the death that undid you.
I would like to describe the intensity
With which, already overwhelmed,
We longed in those days to be able
To walk together once again
Free beneath the sun.

Get the Thursday Thirteen code here!

The purpose of the meme is to get to know everyone who participates a little bit better every Thursday. Visiting fellow Thirteeners is encouraged! If you participate, leave the link to your Thirteen in others comments. It’s easy, and fun! Be sure to update your Thirteen with links that are left for you, as well! I will link to everyone who participates and leaves a link to their 13 things. Trackbacks, pings, comment links accepted!


So it turns out R. has his office notifications set to warn him when I'm due to start PMSing.

Haven't figured out if I think this is cute or if it pisses me off, but it may explain my poor-me post of earlier today.

Check Out The Coolest Lighthouse In The World

Over at Annie Rhiannon's flickr thingy.

Pretty Good (But Not The Best) Steak In NYC & Some Thoughs On Extended Family

So R.'s Dad took us out to Keens Steakhouse near Madison Square Gardens last night. I'm usually not a huge meat-eater, but jeez was that porterhouse good. I mean, not as good as Peter Lugers, but still. Pretty good. And the apple cobbler wasn't too bad either.

It's weird how different our families are. I mean, R.'s family are all generations-long city-dwellers and firmly believe NYC is the best city in the entire world. Which is. Well. NY is great, but certainly not the best city. (San Francisco; Paris; Barcelona; Amsterdam. Sorry, Londoners--never been there).

My family members, on the other hand, eschews cities and are more comfortable on their farm or treking through mountains. Even my grandparents, who live on top of a mountain in northeastern Pennsylvania, had the most magnificent flower, vegetable and fruit garden back in the day.

Here's the sign at the entrance to my parents' home:

So merging the two families is a bit of a struggle. It's not that they don't like eachother or respect eachother, but their values and points of reference are so disparate. I always thought the blending of Jewish (R's family) and Protestant (mine) would be the most troublesome part, but really. It's the lifestyle thing that's the weirdest pill to swallow.

Maybe it's because we recently moved from Charlottesville (where my family lives) to NYC (where R.'s family lives) that all of the sudden, after two years of marriage and five years of cohabitation, this is really being driven home for me. But last night at that steakhouse? I've never felt further from where I'd started. Never felt more like the odd man out.

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

The Life I've Always Dreamed About

So one of my friends from college, Abeer Hoque, is living the life I've always dreamed about. So proud to see what an interesting life she's living!

Make sure you check out her photos--a pastiche of her trips across the globe.

Monday, August 07, 2006

Tagged By CandyMinx

Truth is, I love memes. I love equally the being tagged part, the structure of the exercises (yes, I'm a fan of writing exercises) and reading the other tagged bloggers' responses.



10 years ago, August 7, 1996:
Ten years ago today I was living with my boyfriend Carlos in a two-bedroom apartment in Columbia, MD. We’d moved down the year before after graduating from Penn and our three-year-old relationship was nearing the end. I was getting ready to start my first year at American University’s MFA program in writing and was excitedly going over all my stories and drafts so I’d have something to workshop the next month. I was 60 pounds heavier than I am now, a pack-a-day smoker, a heavy drinker (Carlos was fond of tequila and jaeger shots and I of course joined in), and riddled with the sort of angst and self-loathing most people lose after adolescence. I was desperately unhappy and had no clue how to go about changing that. Lucky for me, Carlos broke my heart in November of that year and by January I was living on my own. I say lucky because even though it didn’t seem like it at the time—he was sleeping with a coworker named Jen and flaunted his indiscretions in front of all of our friends—he did me the biggest favor anyone has ever done. I didn’t really love him and would never have been happy with him, but for deep-seated psychological anomalies would never have had the guts to leave at that point in my life.

5 years ago, August 7th 2001:
Five years ago Rod and were living in Charlottesville, Virginia, working on our novels. We’d rented a three-bedroom house with a full fenced-in backyard where I was growing eggplants, tomatoes, banana peppers, collard greens, basil, dill, melons, and green peppers. We had His n’ Her writing studios and only had to work three days a week at our editorial jobs. The other two days were dedicated to writing. Ah the joys of the (then) cheap rural south. We had four cats: Zelda and her babies Janus, Jasmine, and Jubilee. (Zachary ran away six months before that.) We had two dogs, a psycho 9-year old we adopted from the pound who tried to bite every single person who came into our home, and my childhood beagle, 15-year-old Zoe. We were still drinking a lot and not exercising but we had both quit smoking five months before. This was by far the most artistically productive time of my life.

1 year ago: August 7th 2005
Married a little over a year, we were in the process of settling into our Brooklyn apartament. We’d moved in a month and seven days earlier, but the cats were still freaked out and cowering under the sofa and in between the unpacked boxes. I wasn’t sure I’d made the right choice moving here even though I told Rod I was. I knew no one while my husband, who grew up on Long Island, had scores of friends and family here. Some of which I liked. Some of which. Well. We all know how that goes. I’d finished my novel a few months before and was editing away before beginning the search for an agent. My office was a fold-up table in the living room (still is) and everybody I saw on the streets seemed so thin, so fashionable, so inexplicably rushed, and constantly irritated. Those first few months we spent a lot of time in Manhattan—ambling to the West Village to visit R’s sister and college friends; to Union Square to visit R.’s painter friend T., and to Midtown to visit R.’s Dad, B. B. lives on 59th and 9th, steps from the new Time-Warner building and Central Park. I remember one moment in particular when we were waiting for B. and his then-girlfriend L. at the northeastern rim of Columbus circle. It was nice—not as hot as it had been all week, and for a few seconds I felt this powerful energy coming from the city’s crowds as they pulsed around me. I’d never been around that many people for that many days in a row. I was stunned by the hundreds of different ethnicities and nationalities and languages and clothing styles and masks and economic subclasses. New Yorkers and tourists together swarming through the opening to the park, sometime only couples or loners, but mostly in packs of threes and fours or more. It was amazing and intense and overwhelming. One of the biggest natural rushes I have ever had.

5 songs I know all the words to:
Landslide by Stevie Nicks; White Trash Wedding by the Dixie Chicks (inexplicably and shamefully); America by Neil Diamond (we can thank my Mama Rosie for that one); Blister In The Sun by Violent Femmes; and Casino Queen by Wilco.

5 snacks:
Yogurt-covered almonds; chocolate-covered almonds; honey-coated sunflower seeds; trail mix heavy on the chocolate and raisins; frozen yogurt.

5 things I’d do with $100 million:
1) Buy a penthouse in Manhattan, a cabin in Big Sur; a villa in Costa Rica and a cabin in the mountains south of Breckenridge. I’d split my time equally between all homes; 2) Go to India to study yoga for a summer then immediately afterward to the Bay Area to study running with ChiRunning guru Danny Dreyer; 3) Buy my parents’ house outright for them; 4) Buy my sister a house in Berkeley; 5) Hire a personal shopper so I never have to go shopping for anything ever again.

5 places I’d run away to:
Costa Rica; Point Reyes, CA; Big Sur, CA; Rocky Mountains; Russian River area of Sonoma County.

5 things I’d never wear:
false eyelashes; a nose-ring (I know too many people who got infections while wearing theirs); orange-colored anything; fur; snakeskin.

5 favorite TV shows:
This is hard since I don’t really watch TV. But the shows Rod watches that I enjoy listening to while I blog, do the dishes or play with the cats, are: The Colbert Report; The Daily Show; Buffy; Alias—all on DVDs we get from Netflix; and RockStar SuperNova.

5 greatest joys:
1) That moment when I’m so deep into the story or chapter I’m writing that everything else fades away in quiet whoosh; 2) euphoria after an intense yoga session; 3) One of Rod’s five course organic meals made especially for me; 4) drinking a great cup of coffee in bed at a fancy hotel (ah the luxury) while reading a good novel and 5) that sore-euphoric wave that you get right after a ten-mile trail run…

5 favorite toys:
Rubik’s Cube; Slinky; stress ball (a nerf palm-sized ball); my camera; and best of all: my laptop.

5 people I’m tagging:
Red (I think she's supposed to be back from Italy around now); Red Queen Affair; Carmen; Perfect Blue Buildings; and Stuplicated.

Turning Blogs Into Theater At The Edinburgh Fringe Festival

That's right. They started off with some guy's blog which morphed into study of all British bloggers, and voila: a play. Which was performed at Edunburgh's 6-day arts festival.

BBC's Clark Boyd writes:

"I'd never heard of blogs until a year ago," says the play's director, Oliver Mann, who worked until recently as a television producer in London.

Last year, he and a friend heard from an old classmate, who told them to check out his blog.

"He just wrote the most intensely personal stuff about his private life," Mr Mann says. "We became so addicted to it that we were checking it out at work."

"We started sort of performing it for each other, and that is when I realised that blog like this would work well as a kind of dramatic monologue, in an intimate stage venue."

Sunday, August 06, 2006

Sappy Cat Sites That Make Me Happy

I got these from over at a cool new blog I found, A Brooklyn Life.

Cats In Sinks and Stuff On My Cat. Fucking hilarious.


So I just discovered this online thingy called Postcrossing.

Says the site's About section: "The goal of this project is to allow people to receive postcards from all over the world, for free. Well, almost. The main line is: if you send a postcard, you'll receive at least one back, from a random postcrosser somewhere in the world."

So I signed up, sent my five postcards (you're only given 5 addresses at once) to: three poeple in Finland, one in The Netherlands, and one in Switzerland. Today the Dutch woman got my card and it was creepy how excited I got. (It got there! Yay! So the postal service does work. What with the internet and all I'd forgotten about letters and crap like that.) I turned around and sent another out to some chick in Estonia. Ah, the rush.

Now all I have to do is wait for mine to pour in. Yeah. That's right. I have an ulterior entirely selfish motivation: receive cool postcards (mail! it's true I love mail!) from strangers living in places I've never even imagined living. I mean Estonia. I don't even know what it looks like. Well. After tonight's wikipedia exploration I'll know more. But you know what I mean. Not on my radar at the moment.

Don't worry. I'll scan and post the ones I receive. The pictures, not the messages. That might be a little unfair to the senders if I posted the messages. (That's unfair, right?)

Saturday, August 05, 2006

A Virginia Farm

My parents are visiting from Virginia this weekend. (I know: we were down at their place last weekend. But my dad's speaking at some cancer event today in Manhattan, so...)

In their honor I'm posting a picture of their gorgeous garden. This is a photo of the corn. There was also a little patch with some kind of exotic japanese beans and a whole slew of drying swiss chard. When I pointed out that the plants were wilting and should probably be harvested, my dad said, "Yeah. Turns out we don't like swiss chard so much..." When I was down there last weekend we harvested a shitload of onions--red and white--and potatoes and we brought a whole bag back to Brooklyn. Mmmm. R. made homefries yesterday and they were delish.

Friday, August 04, 2006

I think he's pissed because it's so hot...

You Can Make The Whole Trip That Way

I'm reading Anne Lamott's newest book, Bird By Bird: Some Instructions On Writing And Life and there's a passage I just had to share. It's a quote nested within a quote but still...

She writes, "El Doctorow once said that 'writing a novel is like driving a car at night. You can only see as far as your headlights, but you can make the whole trip that way.' You don't have to see where you're going, you don't have to see your destination or everything you pass along the way. You just have to see two or three ahead of you. This is right up there with the best advice about writing, or life, I have ever seen."

Encyclopedia Jane: Shea Butter... What is it?

This week's installment of Encyclopedia Jane is inspired by the five or six shea butter salesmen who set up shop each afternoon along Court Street in downtown Brooklyn. I've been wondering for a while what it actually is, so this week I set out on an internet search to find out. Keep in mind that since the research is entirely 'net-based I make no claims as to its validity.

And, if you've got a question you're dying to know the answer to but don't have time to find out for yourself, write it in the comments section of this post and I'll see what I can find out.

So. Shea butter...

Shea butter actually comes from the shea nut. The shea tree grows in central and western Africa. In late March small white delicately-scented flowers bloom along its branches, eventually giving way to the shea fruit. The fruit has a sweet-sour taste and is relished by local birds and insects. People collect the fallen fruit to use in their own cooking and as a feed for lifestock. Shea fruit has a pit, much like that of the avocado. The outer shell from the nut is removed and used as fertilizer. The inner kernel is crushed and boiled to produce a fat called shea butter. Shea butter is edible and used in traditional cuisine and, in the chocolate industry, as a substitute for cocoa butter. It’s also used as a potent moisturizer. Below is a recipe for making your own shea butter moisturizer, is taken directly from Agbangakarite. Just make sure you buy raw shea butter since hexane, a neurotoxin, is used in the refining process.

Shea Butter Moisturizer

70-80% shea butter
20-30% virgin coconut oil
1% essential oil / fragrance

If you are using liquid oil, try 80:20. If you are using a semi solid oil, try less shea butter. To make a whipped butter, melt the semi solid oil, and warm the shea butter (do not melt, just soften). Mix the two oils together and whip with a mixer or by hand vigorously. The more you whip, the lighter and creamier the butter will be. Add the fragrance and spoon and/or squeeze with a pastry bag into your jars.

Thursday, August 03, 2006

Margaret Atwood and Martin Amis Discuss Faith & Reason With Bill Moyers

Apparently the panel first aired on friday, but you can read the transcript here.

Thursday 13: More Things About Minerva Jane

1. I have a younger sister named Gabrielle who looks so much like me that sometimes people think we’re twins. Except she’s taller and her hair isn’t as curly. Still, we had our round with sibling rivalry. I was just over 2 years old when she was born. Whenever my mom nursed her I'd climb up onto the sofa next to them and somehow elbow Gabi in the chest. Now, though, she’s my best friend and lives on an organic farm in Napa Valley.

2. My mother’s name is Rose. She’s of Sicilian descent and named after her grandmother. When this grandmother died The Family found out that her name wasn’t Rosa after all, but Rocca. She’d hated the name and hid it from everyone—even her children--for years. Now my mother says she’s grateful no one knew about the true name. Why? If she’d had been named Rocca she’s convinced everyone would have called her Rocky.

3. My father’s name is Charles but everyone calls him Snuffy. Snuffy was his father’s nickname in World War II--after the Snuffy Smith comic strip. Dad was born five months after his father was shipped out to Italy to work as a translator for the Army bases stationed there. Grandma sent a wire that said: Snuffy, Jr. arrived! The other guys in his troop thought it was hilarious. And I guess I should consider myself lucky about the whole Roccca thing--I could have been Rocky and Snuffy's daughter.

4. My grandfather spoke three languages: English, French and Italian. He also made his own wine; painted elaborate watercolors; wrote a book about our family's history in the upper northwest; wrote short stories; played the piano; grew an elaborate Monet-worthy garden; and worked full time as a small town doctor. Together, my grandparents went on a series of trips in their 70s--biking across France, Italy, Egypt and Australia.

5. Now he’s got advanced Parkinsons’, bladder and prostate cancer and lives in a nursing home in Northeastern PA. My grandmother visits him everyday. She wears the same perfume every time she visits on the off-chance that the odor will trigger a memory and he’ll remember her. Still, 99 out of 100 days he’s catatonic. Except one day when I visited and I said, "Grandpa, do you remember when I was in high school and we used to speak French together when you visited?" He opened his eyes slowy and said, "Mais oui." And then went back to sleep.

6. I drink at least three cups of coffee every day. One of the things I adore about my friend M. is that he has espresso machine in his apartment. We have lattes all morning.

7. I’ve written a novel. In between bouts of trying to find an agent, I continue to tinker with short stories. I’ve got another novel on the chopping block but am too nervous to begin it—the first one was such a gut-wrenching emotional experience.

8. I wrote my first piece—a poem about a dream—when I was 6.

9. I still think it’s a pretty good poem even for a 6-year old. If you ask me directly about it, though, I’ll laugh and tell you it was just a silly little poem.

10. I have this memory book I kept from when I was in kindergarten to high school. There’s a space for each grade where you were supposed to fill in your height and weight; your hobbies; your favorite subject in school; your best friends and what you wanted to be when you grew up.

11. In third grade I decided I wanted to be an “Arthur.” Which was a big change from a “balla girl.”

12. I’m still a really bad speller.

13. I’m also really clumsy. Which is why the whole “balla” thing wouldn’t have worked out anyway.

Get the Thursday Thirteen code here!

The purpose of the meme is to get to know everyone who participates a little bit better every Thursday. Visiting fellow Thirteeners is encouraged! If you participate, leave the link to your Thirteen in others comments. It’s easy, and fun! Be sure to update your Thirteen with links that are left for you, as well! I will link to everyone who participates and leaves a link to their 13 things. Trackbacks, pings, comment links accepted!

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Wednesday Confession

I was on a series of antidepressants for both anxiety and depression from the time I was eighteen until mid-May of this year. (I'm 33). All I can say is that prozac, zoloft, effexor, wellbutrin or lexapro didn't even come close to what 60 minutes of cardio five days a week has done.

How do I have time for this much exercise? Easy: I don't have kids; I don't watch TV; I'm not a drinker; I work from my home office, which means 0 commute; and I live in an apartment so there's no garden or lawn that needs tending. Besides, the extra effort is worth not feeling drugged out, asexual or as emotionally flat as a pancake.

See? Manhattan's Just A Small Town After All.

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Conquering Fear's Grip One Adventure At A Time

My whole life I've been afraid of trying new things. My inate shyness coupled with anxiety about the unknown have kept me from countless experiences. But I decided, when I moved to NYC, that I was going to have to find a way to nip that tendancy lest I be completely swallowed up by my husband's friends and family or end up a shut-in confined to a dank Brooklyn walk-up.

Which is a long way of saying the past few weeks I've been going out with an all-female dragon boating team to paddle on the LaGuardia Bay. How did this happen? Well, one of Rod's college friends is Chinese-American woman named M. who's been doing dragon boating since she was in high school. The group she was involved in, Women In Canoe, started a breast cancer crew a few years ago and W. thought that I , because of my involvement with the Foundation For Cancer Research & Education, might be interested. Which sort of led me to the Junior or "regular" crew.

So, about three times so far I've joined the 20-odd team of women in a long boat to race back and forth across the bay. I'm really not that good as my upper body strength is nil and I think the other women get a little frustrated with my slowness, but still. I hold my own. Sort of.

The beauty of the sport, in my mind, is the syncronicity--one of the coaches says that you have to "dance with the paddler in front of you" and it does feel that way. The surge forward, the fall back, the call of the coxman. The whoosh whoosh of the paddles slicing through water.

The best part, though, is watching the other NY teams practicing on the bay. Most of them are filled with muscular men and a few super-toned women. The speed with which they paddle combined with the fluidity of their movements is mezmerizing. Truly, truly mezmerizing.

Sure, I feel a little like an outsider. (On the regular crew I was the only non-Asian American and the only one who hadn't been practicing since early Spring.) But I did it anyway. I got my ass out there to the bay, and I tried something brand new. Something little old Minerva Jane never in a million years thought she'd be doing. And for that I'm more proud of myself than I've been a hell of a long time.