Monday, October 31, 2005

there must be some kind of equation. it has variables which i am not privy to. it includes things like dew point and wind speed and day of the week. written on a blackboard, sine waves would be involved, and brackets. almost certainly, brackets. it is the equation for determining the amount of candy to purchase, when X equals the number of children who will be visiting one's apartment on halloween night.

also, i just need to say vector here. i'm not even sure if it's appropriate. yes...vector.

one year, i purchased candy and i ran out before the end of the night. i managed to cut the front light and escape out the backdoor during that lull. you know, the one between shifts.

little kids retreating to moms and dads who wait at the curb. tiny faces yawning. tiny fists handing over pillowcases, too heavy for chubby arms to carry.

down the block, at that same moment, second shift begins. teenagers and young twenty-somethings sit on the hoods of parked cars. masks pushed back on their foreheads. they inhale one last time. they flick their cigarette butts at a passing car, then approach a row of quiet houses to begin the night's labor.

there was a short first shift this evening and no second shift.

i dropped four pieces of candy into the bag of a shy three-year-old tiger. her mother standing close by whispered, what do you say?

the tiger blew me a kiss. i blew her one back.

i am left with an enormous bowl of candy, still no closer to solving for X.

last seen: elizabethtown, love me if you dare, tumbleweeds, finding neverland
last heard: elliott smith 'a passing feeling'
last read: Say you're at a cocktail party wondering how many words end in -gry.

Thursday, October 27, 2005

the box was wedged between the screen door and the front door. so, this evening, when i pulled the heavy wooden interior door toward me, the springs on the screen shot the box back into the V formed by my two feet.

the address label said that it was from my niece.

lilly is quite advanced for a three-month-old, but her penmanship looked eerily like my sister's, so i had my doubts. that same feeling i would get when gifts appeared under the tree from SANTA. his handwriting was a spot-on match for my mom's.

besides, i know that lilly has limited motor skills at this point. i can almost buy neatly taping up a box, but driving herself to the post office? no dice. you have to get up pretty early in the morning, my friend.

still, i was happy to receive a box full of halloween candy and some recent photos.

last seen: good night, and good luck
last heard: death cab for cutie 'i will follow you into the dark'
last read: octavia butler kindred
reading: julia glass three junes
bonus: I will put you in my next film. Note: This film shall consist of 24 Polaroids of you and me in various states of canoodling, flipped in rapid succession.

Sunday, October 23, 2005

the past few days

-saw a history of violence and, for the most part, liked it
-stayed up until 3:30 damaging my liver
-rolled down a grassy hill with friends (and a belly full of gin)
-worked on saturday
-sketched out a rough plot and some characters for next month
-met amber for indian food
-went to a lecture by andrea mitchell; ran into juicy fruit and stef
-met a bunch of library folks at a bar
-stayed up until 3:00 damaging my liver again
-slept in
-went hiking (see below)
-went to yoga with friends
-ate pumpkin soup and cornbread and baked apples at a friend's house
-swung on swings
-[the why-james-is-going-to-hell daily comment] had a conversation during which i uttered: i'll see your thalidomide opera singer and i'll raise you a woodcutter with a thoe.*

*thoe= when you have your thumb ripped off in a horrible accident and doctors attach your big toe to your hand.

while hiking with mark this afternoon, the following conversations took place atop the mountain

[a young girl stands in front of a park safety sign]
daughter: dad, i'm scared.
father: why's that?
daughter: that sign says death possible.

[steep stairs line the last one-hundred yards of the ascent. a little boy stands on the precipice, talking to no one in particular]
little boy: that's over 300 stairs...unless you count the one big drop.

[on the way back down the trail, another little boy and his father are heading toward us; they are only about a quarter of the way to the top. mark and i are heading down.]
little boy [to mark]: is it much farther?
mark: it's not much longer. you can do it.
james [a few seconds later to mark]: way to lie to that little kid, dude. [speaking to an imaginary kid] ...and there's a santa claus AND a jesus.
mark: ...and your daddy loves you.

last seen: a history of violence
last heard: kanye west 'gold digger'
last read: Even if what I am saying is factually true, the motives that make me say it are false. Of course, we never openly admit these motives. But from time to time, they nonetheless pop up in our public space in a censored form...

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

sometimes you think you're so cool, then you're eating an apple in the breakroom at work when a sneeze catches you off guard and little flecks of apple shoot out of your mouth and into your hand.

that's right, ladies. all of this can be yours.

when bits of fruit weren't flying out of my mouth as if by jet propulsion, i spent some time today trawling the internet for creative writing prompts.

i'm planning a NaNoWriMo crash course on thursday night with meet-ups to follow throughout november. the aim of the crash course is to introduce folks to the site and walk interested parties through the registration process--both very painless, as some of you well know. we will spend the rest of our time sharing writing tips and talking about fiction in general.

one little exercise i've devised is supposed to get us writing creatively under pressure of deadline and employs the aforementioned prompts thusly.

i will hand out a prompt, something like describe getting ready for a first date as someone of the opposite gender, then we will all have three minutes to write feverishly. i may do 5-to-7 of those and then, if folks want to, we can share them. i know, i get paid for that kind of fun.

anyone have ideas for similar prompts?
by the way, if you're free thursday night...

last seen: proof, fight club
last heard: mos def & talib kweli 'thieves in the night'
last read: Yesterday I had a late lunch with John C. Reilly.
bonus: lisa's trip to visit tiny cars. i would like this one, please.

Saturday, October 15, 2005

the neighborhood i serve is economically depressed. there is some new development and revitalization, but four businesses decided to pull out this year, taking jobs with them. nearby there's an employment center, a non-profit that attempts to match people up with prospective employers.

they've been flooded lately, so i decided to partner with them by organizing a week of job prep workshops at my library.

some of the people i met had never used a mouse before; others were writing a resume for the first time in ten years. i led an interview basics workshop on friday. we talked about preparing for interviews and then practiced commonly asked questions. one of the last things we covered was how to handle the big phone call. i said, whether a manager was calling to offer a job or deliver bad news, it was important to react professionally, with a bit of grace.

the irony was not lost on me when i received a similar call this morning, not twenty-four hours after teaching that class. i interviewed for a job two weeks ago and they called to inform me that another candidate was selected.

spending yesterday with the folks at the workshop really gives me some perspective. one older man didn't speak english very well. he told me that over the past five years he held ten jobs. he often quit because working conditions were poor. another man, employed by his company for a dozen years, was laid off in july when they downsized. he's been without work for three months.

all of the people who attended the training were so thankful for the week of free workshops. they kept telling me this over and over.

after receiving my own big phone call, i am naturally disappointed, but the circumstances of the folks we tried to help this week remind me that i am quite lucky.

last seen: the ox-bow incident, everything is illuminated
last heard: the clientele 'step into the light' [editor's note: anyone else listening to the new album? i like the liberal use of strings on this one.]
last read: I didn't realise you could spend a million dollars in Woolworth's.

Monday, October 10, 2005

i spent saturday morning snapping close-up polaroids of our mayor as he posed with a young woman who was dressed up as a queen.

i'm confident that i'm the only person in town who can say that. what's unfortunate is that the backstory is not as saucy as it sounds. no dirty hotel room. no mayor in a leather hood. no vicar in a tutu.

for the grand opening of our newest library, festival organizers hired a young lady to dress like our fair city's namesake. i volunteered at the big kickoff and arrived not knowing how i might be put to work. turns out the queen and i were assigned to the same yellow and white tent and my job was to take photos of her as little kids (and high-ranking public officials) stopped to smile and pose.

the queen wore a big puffy dress. sometimes, between pictures, i'd catch her hiking it up a few inches with her right hand to keep the fabric off of the wet pavement, then, with her left hand, she would sneak sips of coffee from a large styrofoam cup. women are most endearing when they do beautiful things without realizing it.

the polaroid camera was shiny, purchased new just for that day, but it still felt old in my hand. for the first thirty or so pictures, i felt like i should be holding up one of those pans with flash powder* in it.

*word of the day= blitzlichtpulver

last seen: thumbsucker, fever pitch, entourage: season one, discs one and two, enduring love
last heard: antonio carlos jobim 'modinha'
last read: nick hornby the polysyllabic spree
reading: octavia butler kindred

Thursday, October 06, 2005

i have these friends, a couple of librarians from another branch. they told me about some guy who regularly visits their library. they refer to him as the latin james kelly. the resemblence is, apparently, striking. i never received any further details but i can't help thinking in horrible/funny racial stereotypes, like imagining a short bald guy who looks exactly like me only he wears a sombrero and rides a burro to the biblioteca. (PS- if i just offended you, do us both a favor and go away.)

having a latin doppelganger isn't odd. what's odd is that i have an asian double as well.

last weekend, i was out with some friends, a different group, who weren't aware of the latin james kelly story. one of them started telling me about a man who comes into her office who looks like an asian version of me. she actually used the phrase asian james kelly.

since i'm already going to hell for the sombrero comment, i guess i can safely confess that my mental image of the asian james kelly is a short bald guy who looks exactly like me but drives a civic with sparkly metallic flakes in the paint and dark-tinted windows with a giant honda symbol and random unrecognizable kanji on the back window. he has the requisite small chrome fire extinguisher in case his engine catches fire. also, all of his vietnamese gang friends have the exact same car, but in a different color.

last seen: nashville, mikey and nicky, valentin
last heard: modest mouse 'interlude (milo)'
last read: I Don't Even Know Why I Try With You, Arkansas

Monday, October 03, 2005

back in august, juicy fruit and i purchased tickets to see lynyrd skynyrd and the allman brothers band. i don't know about her, but i was practicing my woos and my yee-haws in the mirror every morning (three sets of twenty reps) in preparation for a true southern rock experience.

then the bad news came. skynyrd pulled out of the show citing medical reasons and were replaced by a band i'd never heard of named moe. we decided to attend last night's concert anyway, in spite of the fact that we were both distraught over the idea of no skynyrd.

a lot of hippies showed up and i quickly got the feeling that it was moe who had done this to us. they were a little too jam-bandy for juicy fruit and i.

about 45 minutes into their set, i asked juicy how she liked this, their third song. she laughed and i told her that when the band first started out, they used to be called moe: none of our songs are shorter than ten minutes but it wouldn't fit on a t-shirt, so they just changed it to moe.

she told me i was mistaken. actually, moe was an acronym for music over eternity because that's how long each of their songs felt.

we did however get many laughs at other people's expense which always makes it worth the price of admission. there was much crazy spin dancing and patchwork pants. there were many white men with dreadlocks whose fathers, i'm sure, go into the kitchen and cry when their little trustafarians* come home for the holidays.

also, i think there were a lot of sick kids at the show because everyone around us had medical marijuana.

*trustafarian = trust fund + rastafarian

last seen: flightplan, deadwood: season one, discs four and five, the longest yard
last heard: june carter cash 'the L&N don't stop here anymore'
last read: Herein lies the connection among the other five essays, the intersection at which people can cry in front of pictures, can find consolation in the face of war, can see the whole in a fragment, can, as Glenn D. Lowry emphasizes in his essay, have a "religious or quasi-religious experience...in our secularized and fractured world."
bonus: millie's portland/seattle photo diary