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All content copyright 2010 by Chelsea Biondolillo. Seriously.

Saturday, December 31, 2011

Day 11: Tenerife - Anaga Rural Park

Imagine a National Park that includes a pioneer town, where everyone who lives there (and no, they are not there for you to gawk at, they live there) grows their food and ranches and farms using a blend of traditional and modern methods--for example, no new buildings but a portable milking machine for the goats is okay. This is Anaga.

This "rural" park includes some vestiges of laurisilva forests, a forest system that dates back to the Pleistocene. There are dragon trees, cardone cactus, and laurels and pines. There are euphorbiums and aeoniums. There are also goat herders and fisher people. We hiked from the top of Anaga, nearly down to the sea today. And in a few hours, we will ring in the new year with 12 grapes.

I ache all over and I am cheek-flushed with wine made here at Mayco. It's good to be here.

geek girl climbs down a mountain

Friday, December 30, 2011

Day 10: Tenerife - bananas, sheep, and the water problem

Today I ate a banana fresh off a tree. That's some good stuff! I also walked on a black sand beach, chased some of the sorriest sheep I've ever seen (owing to their being woolless), and gained about 5 pounds from all of the food that the school keeps feeding us.

The Canary Islands provide all of Spain with bananas and before being outbid by Morocco, sent tomatoes to the UK, Spain, and Germany. Those are their only two exports. While they also grow some papayas and make a (supposedly) delicious goat cheese, those stay on the island. Tenerife imports around 90% of its food.

Fresh water is a problem. There are many convolutions to the process of mining, distributing, and paying for water rights, and some "black business" in the background. The wells (caves/mines) are privately owned, though the water itself is a public resource.

All this and more I learned today, and both my brain and belly are overfull. Tomorrow, we hike through a cloud forest and go to a goat farm (cheese right off the tree, I hope). The weather, the scenery, the views--all have been remarkable. Even the few moments it rained, it was such a gentle and cool rain, it was beautiful.

Some of the Mayco school cabins

Looking down at a small waterfront village

Canarians and the British prefer a larger tomato than the mainland Spaniards

At the banana farm

Short-haired lambs running frantically from our approach

Birds of Paradise are all over the place

Toes in the Atlantic, on the east side of the island, facing Africa

Windy, cool, perfect

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Day 9: La Laguna, Tenerife - the Mayco school

This a.m., after a train ride that I can only describe right now in French (quelle horrible!) because it is still too raw, like the moments after you jam your toe into a bed leg that you misjudged because the blankets were hanging too far down on one side--you know that shuddering moment where you just need to stand still and take really deep breaths and maybe shake your hands out, like they're wet?--I met up with the rest of my classmates to fly to the island of Tenerife.

It maybe wasn't THAT bad of a train ride, but it was pretty awful. The flight was a surreal extension somehow, with my simultaneous desire to and inability to sleep and the whiny child from the train (all night, ALL NIGHT, he whiiiiiiined in Spanish about obscure parts of his body hurting and the seat being uncomfortable and other, less clear though still unbearable things) being traded out for two squealing just-past toddler sisters that ran up and down and up and down and up and down the full length of the plane for the duration of the captain has turned off the fasten seat belts sign and you are now free to move about the cabin time. And someone, always someone behind me who must be the approximate dimensions of a circus bear with the constant need to spin in their seat, like a shark who must undulate or drown, always pressing and rustling up against the flimsy fabric of the seat back, straining the joints of both of our connections to the plane (or train) floor.

This is not my favorite part of travel.

But holy shit, once we got here? It's a freaking paradise. The hosts at our school, the Mayco School of English, have been beyond kind and attentive--we are all stuffed to the gills with an abundant lunch of tapas and then a three course dinner. We have been cautioned against drinking the tap water but assured we should all take hot showers for as long as we'd like. Because no one wanted coffee or tea after dinner, our chef will be shopping for "night tea" tomorrow, such is the breadth of their generosity.

Here are some of their own pictures from the grounds: Gallery. It's like summer sleep-away camp in the tropics (but with only 2 or 3 people in each bunk house--I'm currently unpacked lavishly across three bunk beds). Tomorrow we visit a sheep farm and a banana plantation in the morning, and after lunch we will get a lecture on some Canarian and Tenerife history. I know for now, this bunk bed is about the most awesome place I can't wait to be. Hasta mañana.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Day 8: Barcelona to Madrid

Okay. I didn't plan today well at all. Hotel check out time is 12 (no ecceptiones) and the train leaves at 10 tonight. I have two large backpacks. I had the hotel hold my bags for a couple of extra hours, while I walked Las Ramblas (not nearly as impressive as the tourism guide would have you believe) and then had my last meal in Barcelona at the famous Cal Pep. For just a few tapas, the price was steep, but they were damn good. Then I got my luggage and fancied I'd walk to the station through an interesting looking part of town. I made it a third of the way before I caved and grabbed a subway. This shit is heavy to walk across town.

So, that leaves me with several hours until the train gets here. The only internet is at McDonalds. I can't use the club lounge until 8 pm. Four hours away. More lessons learned for next time. Good news is that I should be able to sleep on the train.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Day 7: Barcelona la ciudad de ciencias y los artes

Do you remember that black and white Twilight Zone where they put this crazy mark on your forehead if you break the law that means no one can acknowledge you? The mark burns through hats and can't otherwise be hidden. The "prisoner" can go anywhere and do anything--but no one can talk to him or even act like they can see him. He's stoked at first--he goes into the women's spa and sits in the sauna with them--no one can stop him. But the novelty wears off when he realizes they all look scared out of the corners of their eyes.

That's extreme. But not being able to speak Spanish very well has its distinct disadvantages. Today involved several difficult conversations, first at the botanical garden and then at the ornithological institute. I recorded the interviews, since I had to work so hard just to listen. I'm not sure if I got more dead ends or if there is a good story in there or not. There are lizards, pine trees, and dragons. Who knows. There's the idea of island adaptation and successive migrations. There's the interesting story of Colonial Spain's influence and the trouble with goats and the benefits of fire. Are any of these interesting enough for an essay? I have no idea. But everyone today seemed to know someone else who could help me much more than they, someone who was, so sorry, nowhere nearby or available.

I did have a fantastic lunch at a wonderful non-touristy restaurant. I asked the office manager at the ornithology institute--who spoke no English--for a recommendation, and she did not disappoint. No one at the restaurant spoke English either, but the bartender was very theatrical in his explanations of my options. I had a fantastic black rice and mussel paella and fried white fish of some kind. Also amazing olives and lots of vino tinto y agua con gas. Ultimately though, the day beat me. I am exhausted and frustrated with my research. I usually have too high of standards for my work product, so I am hoping that's the case here. I'll only know for sure after I get back.

I'm not sure whether or not I'll have internet from here on out, but my fingers are crossed. In the meantime, some highlights from today...

View from the MNAC (museum of Catalunya art) on the way to the Jardi Botaníc

The Strawberry Tree (endangered on Los Canarios)

Several small Dragon Trees with a couple of large Phoenix Palms. The Dragon Tree is actually a monocot, rather than a tree--a grass with a fat stem. Since it has no rings, the age of individual specimens was often grossly overestimated.

The best goddamn paella ever. Seriously. I will dream of it.

Casa Batlló in the super fancy part of town, with Louis Vitton and Prada shops. The line was long and the cost to enter, high. In other words, this is the only view I got of Gaudí. Next trip will be an art trip.

Monday, December 26, 2011

Day 6: Barcelona by Gaudí and by foot

My dogs are barking, man. Like woah. I feel like I walked all over the city--I have blisters on my pinkie toes. I was a turísta today, and still only saw a tiny fraction of what this city has to offer. And yes, still in love with Barcelona.

Today I saw a bit of Gaudi's Barcelona. I decided not to fight the crowds to get into the Familia Sagrada, and instead took pics all around it.

Under construction: 100 years later
 Then I took the metro to the bottom of the big hill at the top of which is Gaudi's Parc Güell. It looks like a big park on the map, but one can't appreciate it's... rigors without a topo map. The damn thing IS the top of the hill, and there are winding steps and cobbled ramps and climbing colonnades the whole way up.
I don't know what this lil guy at the Parc Güell entrance is supposed to be, but I dug him.
The crowds were just as throng-y at the park, but at least it was free to fight them there (the Sagrada was something like 12€ -- which I am willing to pay for paella, but not to shuffle through a building with a mob.
The most famous dragon in all of Barcelona. I wanted a pic of my hand in his mouth so bad, but he was swarmed with a large Japanese tour group.
(Yes, all of the photos in today's post are goofy self portraits. I took other pics, but decided to go with a theme for this one.)
From the top of the Parc. It was a long steep climb, but the view was amazing.
At the very top of the park, at trés cruces, one gets nearly a completely unobstructed 360º view. Here's looking out toward the coastline.
After sangria and paella, I wandered down to the shore and stuck my toes in. It was cold as hell, and while I was too polite to take her picture, there was a woman completely buck ass naked laying in the sand.
And at the end of my day, I soaked my aching feet in the cold, stinging, beautiful sea. Tomorrow, I meet with a botanist and (hopefully) can track down an ornithologist. If not, there's always Parc de Joan Miró.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Day 5: Madrid to Barcelona

This morning, I got up crazy early and took a taxi to the Atoche train station to take the AVE train to Barcelona.

The AVE train is the high speed train--and for much of the journey we were nearing or at 299km/hr (that's just under 186 mph for those of you about to google that). It was surprisingly smooth and unsurprisingly high tech. The chairs were very ergonomic and they played an Audrey Tautou romantic comedy--which awesomely didn't require headphones to follow. We made one stop, in Zaragoza (Saragossa), and the whole trip, nearly 400 miles, took less than 3 hours station to station.

Then I wandered around the amazing, beautiful, surreal streets of Ciutat Vella, the Old City. Everything was closed (including the Museu de Geologia and the Museu de Picasso). I saw the most remarkable balconies on narrow winding streets and mosaics and stained glass and old butted up deliciously to new--THIS city knows how to do that with some goddamn panache.

The new building on the left has painted trompe l'oeil friezes and the one of the right has a tree carved into its brick face... It is next door to...
...this building, the Palau de la Música, home of the Orfeo Català. I couldn't get a good pic, but GOOGLE IT to be amazed.
MAN I LOVE BARCELONA. Also, the proprietor of an Alahambran import store might have proposed to me after I accidentally used the informal form. Lesson learned: usted usted usted!

Tomorrow I hope to see Parc Guell y Familia Sagrada, La Perada, y Casa Batlló. With Tuesday being spent at the Botanical Garden, and Wednesday (hopefully) at the Ornithological Institute, this means I will likely miss Parc de Miró, and the Picasso museum. Luckily the Dali museum is outside of Barcelona, so I can only mourn missing it theoretically. I will definitely becoming back here.

And here's one more of a very serious "cucurucho con dos" by the waterfront. One scoop was tirimísu, and the other "torró." Second lesson learned: torró no es muy bueno. 

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Day 4: Madrid zoo / Noche Buena

I had a tough time waking up today. Yesterday, exhaustion or jet lag or whatever overtook me and completely jacked with my sleep cycle. I think part of my hesitation this morning was because I knew I had to pick between the Prado and the zoo--and that was a hard call to make. I should have been able to see both in my time here, but last night I was just too tired. Today, because of the holiday, hours at both attractions were limited. And I knew each one would take the whole day.

Ultimately, I picked the zoo, because this is a research trip. But my heart broke a little to miss the Prado. Just means I have to come back, right?

By the time I took the subway all the way out to Casa de Campos, it was already 11:30. The Madrid zoo is remarkable for the number of endangered (and in at least one case that I saw, extinct in the wild) animals it contains. I saw black rhinos, a very rare European mink, red pandas, giant pandas, a lion that no longer exists outside of zoos (the Barbary lion), a Griffon vulture, and a crazy little South American bear. One animal I did not see is the Iberian lynx, which was a drag--they are supposed to have an exhibit, but I couldn't find it. I also got to hang out in the lemur enclosure and listen to a completely incomprehensible talk about the conservation efforts and unique characteristics of the three species that they have at the zoo. I did catch something about their thumbs being adroit and that they have only male ring-tailed lemurs at the zoo.
After the zoo, I wandered around a less-awesome part of town, lost, for a bit and then finally made it back to the commercial district where everything except ice cream shops was closed for Christmas Eve. I ended up having to eat fast food for dinner--lesson learned, by the way? Ice cream would make a better meal than Euro-knock offs of junk food.

I ended the day frustrated that I am leaving Madrid in the morning. There are a million other things I want to see and eat, but Barcelona (and Gaudi! and paella!) awaits.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Day 3: Madrid via turísta

Notes from today.

During the day I walked with an ex-pat and visited some lovely tourist attractions. She also helped me navigate the largest department store, Cortes Ingles, where I upgraded my shoulder bag for a small backpack. My shoulders were beginning to suffer. After we parted ways, I wandered through the Plaza Major, which was resplendent with strange Christmas decorations: wolf hats, psychedelic children's wigs, and caganers (“poopers”--little squatting figurines that are an essential component of any Catalan nativity scene). I got one for my mother's own bizarro Christmas village in Phoenix. By the time I get to Barcelona, the giant caganer in one of the malls will probably be gone. 'Tis a pity. It is said that a small child could climb his coiled refuse like a stack of tires. Or if it isn't, it should be.

Madrid downtown at night. The Christmas lights, like the strange wigs, were bright and ubiquitous. I will confess upfront that I was too chicken to go into any of the bars alone. Always a group of young men could be found huddled around their cigarettes and each other just outside the tavern doors, and I could not muster the presence to part them. But it is sometimes good to follow the crowd—in this case they led me down a side street off the Puerta del Sol to the Chocolateria San Gines. But not before I got to watch a trio of buskers perform a rendition of the theme song to “Friends” with the whole crowd singing along to the chorus. 

Based on the line to get in, it is to Madrid's chocolate and churros what Cafe du Monde is to New Orleans' coffee and beignets. The crowd was formidable and the chocolate thick. I suddenly understood why the waitress at a cafe the day before had dissuaded me from the Ibarra hot chocolate, because she said in her almost accomplished English, “It is just liquid.” Spanish chocolate is not just liquid—it misses qualifying as a sauce by a very small margin. 

At San Gines, for less than four euros you get a teacup's worth of chocolate and 6 greasy though not-too-sweet churros. It is a place for groups, and I felt conspicuous and inconsiderate for sitting at a table alone amid such a throng. There was only one chair, but couples and other solo desserters had perched their cups on the counters and even the wide molding around the room to be able to dunk and chatter. I made motions to move for two older couples, “se tranquilo” one of the men said, Relax. I guess anyone that would stress out over dessert has bigger problems to worry about.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Day 2: Madrid (botanical garden)

Notes from today (I almost fell asleep on a park bench while typing the below, so please forgive blurriness).
It's just me and the little old ladies in here.

Botanical gardens are a place to hide out. No one expects you to talk much in a botanical garden, and few other people are even around. Here in Jardin Real, the birds are frustratingly familiar. There seem to be Spanish magpies and chickadees and some sort of orange-beaked blackbird that waddles with a busybody air about it—if it had hands, they'd be on its hips. Pigeons look the same the world over.

I expected it to be disappointing, the garden in winter. It's true, the rows of empty rose and rhododendron stems were a bit disheartening, but suddenly the trees with their strange branch shapes and leaves, standing out in relief, are so much more interesting. It's true, I am crashing. After I meet with Dr. Vargas, I am going to go back to the tiniest hotel room ever and sleep the night away.

Occasionally a young couple will walk by, on date 5 or 6 (by date 4 they've done something too casual, like watch 30Rock reruns all day in their matching footie pajamas, and need to add some culture back into their budding relationship). They sit on the benches draped in each other's arms, like Cupid and Psyche. The old ladies look on disapprovingly, but I try to give a look that says “BE IN LOVE.”

There's a cat in here, black and white like a sulky Holstein. It's the first cat I've seen in Madrid. I don't think I've ever seen a cat in New York. I'm that kind of tired where you have to keep rubbing your eyes. Where the yawns split your whole head open to suck in the air. Like I could fall asleep for a moment even just walking.

The staff in Spain is wonderful, the pedestrians? Not so much. Everyone I ask for help is patient and good humored. And most people speak some English. This is good and bad, because I don't get to practice too much. As soon as I make a mistake, they want to be more efficient and speak English. But pedestrians shove past with haughty airs. 

I had a great meandering conversation with the botanist today. He understood what I was looking for, and gave me a lot of stories, about frogs, bustards, olive and dragon trees. Not too many on the Canary Islands, instead Mallorca, Balearic, and Iberia. I had aged salmon on black bread for dinner. Now to sleep til real morning.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Day 1: Laramie to Denver to Philly to Madrid

No good piece of travel writing begins in the airport. That's a rule. It's a bit of a relief, really. Now I can relax and not worry about trying to be any good.

It's pretty early in the morning, but it has already been a long day. I swore to myself that I wasn't going to  buy any over-priced airport food, but as soon as I walked into terminal B, I sat right down at "Pour La France Cafe & Bistro" and ordered their version of an "omelette parmientier" [sic]. I just looked it up online, and what I had bears little resemblance--there were artichoke hearts and mushrooms on mine.

I was up at 3:05 this morning. It turned out to be not quite enough time to eat breakfast. The shuttle was waiting for me when I went downstairs, though he said he'd just gotten there. Here are my notes from the shuttle:
There are three women (myself included) in this cargo van hurtling away from Laramie toward Ft. Collins. One of us keeps coughing and sniffling in this wet, ominous way that makes me want to hold my breath. One of us also talks to a family member on the phone, assuring him or her, in Farsi or Hindi. Her voice sounds like zen bells, the vowels rounded and melodic. That's a terrible mixing of cultures, but it's all I've got at 4 am.
Then we got to Ft. Collins and our little van emptied into the slightly larger bus headed to Denver airport.  I said I wasn't going to sleep--I need to wait until the flight out of Philly to do that--but it was hard not to in the back row. The bus was dark, I could only see the heads of all the women in front of me. (Out of nearly 20 of us, only two were men--Do men think they need to drive themselves to the airport?) The air smelled like skin still-warm from sleep, some mix of popcorn, dryer sheets and deodorants. Every now and then, a woman in the front would shift, and her violet lotion would drift through the still air. No one made a sound, some of us dozed--but you couldn't say sleep because there was no sound of deep breathing, even.

There was a woman asleep on the shoulder of another woman. The silhouette against the window of the first's crutches leaning against the giant teddy bear of the second, made it look as though the bear had a ladder and was trying to climb out the window. The driver had the heat on, and I hadn't been so warm in over a week. I'll admit that I kept dozing off.  

My rugged, over-stuffed backpack draws looks. It looks like what it is: people smile gently at me like they think I'll be backpacking through Germany or Banff later today.  Close, I want to say

España. I'm worried about making the most of my trip. I don't know how I'll judge my productivity. Once I meet the rest of the group in Madrid Aeropuerto, it will be easy--but that's a full week away. Much of this last semester, I have worried that I was squandering my time, not making the most of my "time to write."

But now, I am excited to see the Sagrada Familia and walk through the Madrid Zoo. I know a lot of folks hate zoos, and I understand why, but I love them--and I can't wait to see one in another country. I will be meeting with a botanist in Madrid tomorrow afternoon, and one in Barcelona on the 27th. Still trying to track down an ornithologist, can I say I haven't heard a peep? I'm about to send one more hopeful email to the Institut Català d'Ornitologia. Fingers crossed.

This time tomorrow, though it won't really be 24 hours from now, I'll be landing in Madrid. How amazing is that?

Saturday, August 20, 2011

365 days of being a writer: day 364 & 365

Here it is: Day 365.

I never had a chance to write yesterday, as several members of the cohort went out after we were released from our final orientation, and well. It was a long night.

Yesterday was a much more momentous day than today (in part because I have spent all of today recovering from a brutal "altitude induced" hangover--the altitude, she befuddles). After we finished the last of the teaching demos, we had some pizza with the second-years and our subject librarian, and then we were done with the colloquium. We're teachers now.

In the afternoon, all of the writing program met in our devoted building, The Carriage House. We heard three really amazing, inspiring speeches from the faculty and students and then our Director, Beth Loffreda stood up and said that our number one job for the next year is to write. We can be good teachers and good readers, but we need to write and write and write. She urged us to appreciate fully this time when so many people are invested in our words and our progress (because who knows when that will happen again). And most importantly (for me) she said this was our time to figure out the ways we fuck ourselves over as writers: our distractions and the stories we tell ourselves about our writing and our processes that keep our pens still.

We all walked out of there in high spirits (which was SO important after the mostly exhausting and occasionally frustrating colloquium all week).

How fitting is it that my "year of being a writer" ends the day before my year of writing begins?

Today, as I lay around nursing my bruised liver, I tried to think about the last year. One year ago today, I was pretty certain that I might never be where I am. While I poured my heart into my applications, there was the threat of a second shut-out hanging over my head. All fall and into the new year I tried to cultivate a habit of writing and submitting. And a bunch of stuff got published! I placed essays, book reviews, even a poem. I met hundreds of writers like me on Twitter and Facebook, trying to get into programs, into print, and into their own process.

This year taught me, above all else, that determination and hard work really can make anything possible. That's not some cheesy bullshit platitude: it's the stone cold truth. AND, Nothing easy or truly valuable happens overnight. Shit takes time and patience. The patience part is something I am hoping to cultivate here, now that the scrabbling part is over for a little while. I can exhale for a bit.

Thank you, everyone, for reading along and cheering me on and keeping me going. I may not post daily going forward, but I will still keep track of my progress here.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

365 days of being a writer: day 363

I managed to stand in front of a classroom (full of colleagues, but still) for twenty-five whole minutes without bombing or losing my place and managed to make pretty good sense.

Right now I am sitting in a room that slowly became dark while I was staring at a screen. Coltrane has been on repeat so I could get some reading done. Today felt weird. Good, mostly. I have a better handle on my ability to teach these students, I think I will do okay at that. But all day, this creeping worry that I still haven't written, not really, since I've been here. This week has been as brain-frying as the day job used to be, more so even, because I've been listening and doing with every ounce of focus I possess.

My neighbors seem to smoke a lot of really good weed.

A week from tomorrow, I will review my manuscript with our eminent writer. Between now and then, I will listen to him read, attend a Q & A, and then perhaps join a gang going out drinking after. I suddenly doubt everything in that manuscript. I don't know what I was thinking. And now, I can't think of anything to write at all. Write? That's also what I am supposed to do here, to earn my keep, right? About... things, I suppose?

Now I can smell the strange mix of BO and Asofetida that wafts into my livingroom after dark each night. Somewhere below me must be an Indian laborer of some kind, just home from the what, coal mines? We have those here, but I don't imagine they employ exchange students from the city.

I still keep my windows open all night, though it is getting chillier each morning when I get out of bed.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

365 days of being a writer: day 362

I feel a little bit better about teaching on Monday for the following reasons:
  • We got to hear a bit more practical advice in today's session. There still wasn't quite enough "doing" for my hands-on self, but there was more discussion about in-class specifics rather than teaching generalities.
  • I got to see my classroom. At first I was bummed out that it's in the Agricultural building (4th floor--my ass will be fucking STONE by summer break with all these goddamned stairs), but it turns out that the fourth floor is where all the plant sciences and entomology labs are. There is a locked door marked "Insect Gallery" just down the hall! I could have swooned from the awesome.
  • I have fortified my organizational defenses. I went out and got a whiteboard for the house, an appointment book, notebook, file folder, and supplies for class. I still need to get a VGA adapter for my Mac, as the classrooms are not yet fully Apple friendly.
This evening I drafted out my demonstration, which I am NERVOUS about, but prepared for. As a good friend of mine says, "Everyone starts out a white belt."

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

365 days of being a writer: day 361

At one point this afternoon, I was fairly convinced that I could not be a First-year Composition teacher.

From 8:45 am until 4:15, with painfully few breaks, I sat in a room and got more and more confused and more and more anxious. I don't feel QUITE as bleak as I did earlier, but wow. The trepidation, she begins.

Now, I am going to finish grading a couple of "test" papers before bed.

I am finally online at home. More later.

Monday, August 15, 2011

365 days of being a writer: day 360

I cannot WAIT to have the Internet back, y'all. Seriously. While this phone is a miracle of computing power right in the red-hot palm of my hand, it is still just a fancy phone.

I can't write on it. And while I COULD write on my "unplugged" computer, it's just not the same. What if I really quick need to see a waterbear or what frog teeth look like? Or how the hell you spell Lysergic acid Diethylamide?

Anyway, today began my week of graduate student orientation. The highlight was actually the presentation on sexual harassment, if you can believe it. The presenter said her mantra on Monday will be "Let the sex begin."

After I left the general meeting, I went to the beautiful Environmental and Natural Resources dept. building and introduced myself. I chatted with one of the department advisors about what I was looking forward to and how I could prepare. I am hoping to get in on a December trip to the Canary Islands, fingers crossed.

Then I came home and finished my homework, finished the Chronology of Water (which killed me dead, completely), finished some laundry, and cooked up an abundance of farmer's market vegetables.

The Buddhist center in Laramie still hasn't posted which night meditation classes will be held, though I've been checking often. It's a satellite location of a Fort Collins center, and I am hoping to practice there, funds permitting. My ragged brain could only be helped by some practice in stillness and focus.

Tomorrow, I start actual English 1010 teacher training. I feel like a nerd for being excited and a dork for being scared.

Here's one from the walk to the grocery store today. Maybe I'll get tired of these great clouds, maybe I won't.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

Sunday, August 14, 2011

365 days of being a writer: day 359

Today I met several members of the creative writing faculty and some more of my classmates.

Tomorrow our week-long teaching intensive begins. One professor responded to my concerns about being able to teach after only a week of training, "No matter how little you know, you'll know more than they do."

I'm still nervous: about getting along with my cohort, connecting with my professors, getting through to my students. I want to make the most of my time here. I want to work hard and still have some fun. I can be too critical and alienating and the community aspect of this process is important to me. But I don't want to only agree and go along, either--this process is about my future, and I need to own it.

Another professor this evening told me how glad they were that things had worked out so that they were going to get to work with me. THEY would get to work with ME. I almost started crying big goofy grateful tears right there.

I'm beat and tomorrow begins a big ass week and my last week of this experiment! Until then, goodnight.

Yesterday, part two

I woke up this morning (late, obviously) thinking, I can't believe I didn't post last night. HA HA. Drunky the Clown is in the house!

I edited some of last night's post because I have no idea what I was talking about. None. The terrible mountain whiskey from the dancehall must've gotten me higher than a giraffe's pussy (as a good friend of mine would say).

It was fun. There was dancing--first at the dancehall and then at a crazy danceclub downtown. That place will be so full of undergrads that we will probably have to avoid it in the future. I also got to meet three more members of the cohort and the group is still an awesome one.

But yes, the liver will be resting for awhile now. Summer is almost over and it is time to get to work.

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365 days of being a writer: day 358

Okay. Okay. I wasn't going to post again, hey, I'm drunk but I am. I have had a lot to drink. I have hopefully maze a good impression on my cohort,because I'm not sure my liver or wallet could keep up.

I finished almost all of my homework (before dribking). That's all the redeeming that I can say about today. There was a dance hall. There were shots later. We ended up at my place (which makes me happy).

Saturday, August 13, 2011

365 days of being a writer: day 357

Look, I'll admit right now that I have had a few drinks. I walked home from the bar (3 blocks) against flashing red, then yellow, then red lights. This is a small town: the lights flash after whatever hour o'clock.

I spent the day waking all over campus. First to HR for paperwork, then getting my student ID, then the library, then IT services, then I met with a professor who will be on sabbatical next semester. He walked me around campus some more and the surrounding neighborhood. I came home, beat, to find a farmers market practically on my doorstep. I bought greens, beets, squash, zucchini, pasta, and salmon. I spent too much but I was enamored with the personalities and all the storied fruits and veggies.

After all of the movement and activity of the day, coming home to my quiet apartment was a bit of a letdown. I had food to make, homework to do, unpacking-sorting-organizing to do. None was appealing, but I cooked anyway--made dinner plus leftovers and built the foundation of a bean, rice & veggie soup.

I was stoked when I heard from a classmate that several folks were meeting up downtown for drinks. We talked about teaching, long distant relationships, students, professors. It's funny: we seek out bars where we won't have to deal with undergrads, do the graduate profs do the sane thing with us, I wonder?

anyway. I am buzzed and warn and fuzzy. More tomorrow.

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Thursday, August 11, 2011

365 days of being a writer: day 356

I got my office keys today! I also walked all over town and bought Carharts and veggie chili fixins. I will FIT RIGHT IN.

And I changed my address and car insurance. I did laundry. Strolled campus. Bought groceries. Scouted out a bookstore AND co-op. Unpacked almost all of my clothes and filled a big plastic tub of things to let go of: dishes, tchotchkes, funny t-shirts. I have too many of these things. Next it's books and DVDs and "doodads". I bet I can lose one whole box of JUST miscellaneous junk. It's scary, paring down--and yes, this is not about writing strictly, but neither is it NOT about writing, entirely. It is hard for me to let go of the remnants of where I've been. But these extra things are not just literal weight. They weigh on the mind: collecting dust, requiring navigating and accommodating. Cluttering.

I can't ever see myself as a minimalist. I love books and buddhas and clothes too much. But the rest? It drags me down.

The other morning I dreamed that I was burning all my old notebooks, my journals from those worst years of self-doubt and sadness. I woke up wondering, Why do I drag them around like lead weights? Are they cautionary tales? My friends and I used to joke about the importance of these artifacts to our eventual collections of papers loaned to some collegiate library. If it ever came to it, I would rather be remembered through my drawings and paintings from back then; at least in those I was trying to improve. Those journals are circular, self-critical, and dishonest.

And yet, for all that, they are also true. They are a record of what I thought I should be thinking. Who I loved. All that I did to keep love far from my unworthy grasp.

Would you keep them or toss them or burn them? Do you keep your old diaries, and if not do you regret losing them?

Flowers from my 'hood. There are a lot of these towering lovelies all over downtown. Are they hollyhocks?

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Wednesday, August 10, 2011

365 days of being a writer: day 355

I drove all the way home from Denver today, alone. It's the longest I have ever been behind the wheel at a stretch. That has nothing to do with writing, but it is what I did today.

My consultation with Colson Whitehead will be in two weeks, at the tail end of my first full week of school. Even though the daily posts will be over by then, I'll still post regularly about school and writing.

Last night, I celebrated my successful move and the start of my adventures with gin and a cigar on the sidewalk.

(It's hard not to crack up at the start of amazing adventures.)

I keep waking up early. I'm hoping to make better use of my early-birdness tomorrow with a long walk to campus and back.

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Tuesday, August 9, 2011

365 days of being a writer: day 354

I have been here two days (or three?) and still no writing! But there were banking freakouts today (the closest Bank of America is in Denver) and I had to call a bunch of places to find Internet I could afford--but I'll have it on the 16th! And I bought some groceries... Funny how it SEEMED like such a full day...

Warren goes home tomorrow, and I am a little worried about that, I mean he has fixed every broken thing that I didn't even know was broken! Like my car windows, hazed over by off-gassing and the deadbolt that needed WD-40 and my turntable with the dislodged belt... What'll I do when he goes? I have definitely been more stressed yesterday and today--the nuts and bolts of settling in are not fun and require many phone calls and automated voice activated systems. This puts me on edge.

But the breeze through my open windows, the church bells I can hear on the quarter hour, my new industrial coat rack, the walk to campus... These things make my heart sing. It's going to be a great year.

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Monday, August 8, 2011

365 days of being a writer: day 353

Still no Internet at the new place, though I did scout out a coffee shop with wifi this morning.

I also replied to a call for book reviewers on the [PANK] blog, so we'll see how that ends up.

Today was all about unpacking and having an existential crisis about my large quantity of stuff. Why do I need so much? For preparedness? And yet, there WAS a time when I could do with less...

Already I'm jonesing for Internet in my apartment. There are people I want to talk to, work I want to do.

This evening I hung out with 4 of the incoming MFA class. I'm glad to report that every seems cool so far. Also, what they say about the altitude seems to be true--two beers an I'm out.

Life in a (small) northern town

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Sunday, August 7, 2011

365 days of being a writer: day 352

It is late. I'm so exhausted, but I'm moved in--to my apartment in Laramie.

I've also met a third of my cohort, and they helped me move so goddamned much stuff. They are my new favorite people in the world.

Tomorrow begins the real work.

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Location:N 9th St,Laramie,United States

Saturday, August 6, 2011

365 days of being a writer: day 351

Day two on the road. Same as yesterday... no writing, unless you count a steady stream of tweets from the truck.

Here are some pictures from today:

If you look real close, you might see Wiley E. Coyote!

A beautiful presentation of fried ice cream at Adelita's in Santa Fe.

Speaking of Santa Fe, here's a shot of Palace Ave. When I moved to New Mexico with my husband in 1999 we lived just up this road. I would move out less than an year later.

After living under Phoenix's relatively cloudless skies for so long, I can't stop taking pictures of clouds. I want to lie under them and let their shadows move across me, chill me.

And the entire set is here (more coming tomorrow!) We are in Colorado Springs right now. The plan is to leave late after a good sleeping-in, and get to Laramie by six tomorrow evening. I can't stop smiling and laughing and being ridiculous. I could get used to this.

Friday, August 5, 2011

365 days of being a writer: day 350

Alright. I will admit, straight up, that no writing occurred today.

Instead, packing, truck loading, and hitting the muthafucking ROAD happened today. In lieu of scribbles, I took a bunch of pictures with my new Instagram app. So, here are the sights from today's drive.

Transitioning to pine forest

Ponderosa pine forest signifies the climb out of the Sonoran desert. I can't get enough of the random dead and stripped trunks along the road, but it took forever to capture one at 64 mph.

Cloud cover

After climbing up and over Flagstaff, the landscape flattened and stretched into the distance. The clouds were a wonder (after so many cloudless skies in Phoenix) and while they threatened rain and lightning, we saw only virga.


I am quite smitten with the filters. This could be frothy surf at the Oregon Coast or golden scrub fields on the road to Gallup, New Mexico. I want to put those cloud shapes in my mouth and suck on them until they've melted down.


I waited for fifteen minutes for this plant to finally step from the windshield to my side window, and then it was gone.

Low Hanging Fruit

We don't know what the atmospheric condition is that caused these low-hanging fruit clouds, but they kept their shape from dusk to dark.

Tonight we sleep in Gallup where, I have it on good authority, there are more wandering drunks than anywhere else in America. Tomorrow, we shoot for Colorado Springs.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

365 days of being a writer: day 349

As they used to say in the '70s, "All my bags are packed, I'm ready to go..."

Today was my last day at the day job and I feel pretty good that I spent most of it working. My coworkers were all fantastic and supportive. Even the girl at the little sandwich/coffeeshop was sad to see me go. She wanted me to keep in touch with them on Facebook. Who is this person that laughs all the time and makes jokes and friends?

It has been over two years of working hard to get to here. And nearly a year of floundering trying to find this road after the one I'd been on washed out. How many years before that was I out of alignment? I must have needed to step away from making art, so I could get more clear about the form my particular voice wanted to take. I really like drawing, but I write even on the days I don't like it--and there's the difference. There's something there, something about need vs want. I needed the time to figure that out. But shit, twelve years? Am I so dense, or is the universe so emphatic? It's late and I'm tired. This is no time to go all woo-woo about fate and destiny. And yet, how many times have your dreams come true? Who would stop me from singing and dancing in the middle of traffic or the sidewalk?

Warren and I will have no help loading the truck tomorrow, I'm a little worried about that in the heat. He's hoping it will only take us 5 hours. I was sort of hoping unrealistically for two. My mother insists she'll help. My arthritic, carpal-tunneled mom. Don't worry, I won't let her.
The dog days, or diēs caniculārēs, are traditionally the hottest summer days between July and August. They are marked by stagnation, lack of progress, and general malaise. Like the oceanic doldrums that forced Spanish galleons to jettison their horses, the dog days are an imposed time to reflect, an opportunity to purge the ballast, and the perfect time to realign one's direction.

And they are, for me, for this season at least, OVER.

"Leave all your love and your longing behind, you can't carry it with you if you want to survive."

365 days of being a writer: day 348

I feel like I should have a summary post about Phoenix ready to go, but I do not. Tomorrow will be my last full day living here for (hopefully) a very long time. I will still come visit my family, but that will be different.

This evening, I packed all of my clothes and shoes and coats. I think I have about twelve coats right now. Ninety-five percent of the books are packed. How it is that seven can be "essential" I'm sure I don't know. There is a profusion of papers that I need to deal with tomorrow, as well as packing up my computers and travelin' backpack.

I got a bit stressed out today, thinking about how to spend my last evening. What a waste of energy! The only way I could have spent it was packing. It isn't a bad thing to want time to do what I need to do. It's okay to say no, to say to myself, you need to take care of yourself this evening. I feel a deep tiredness, down in my marrow. Is this what exhaling feels like? Or is it finally letting all the tension go, as I will when this desert city is in the rearview? I feel like I could sleep for a week, even though it is the one of the last things I actually want to do.

This is what leaving Texas looked like, just over two years ago.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

365 days of being a writer: day 347

I'm glad I got a fair bit of writing done in Austin, because I am not sure how much will happen over the next few days.  I've got two projects left at work to finish, and two days left to do it. That and my teaching seminar homework may be all I can handle. Today I rounded out my winter wardrobe with a couple of long coats, one quilted and one wool.

Remember that construction paper chain I made back in April--before I gave PJ away, before I moved back into my folks' house? It used to drape all over my mom's bike: one link for every day left here.

 It's now down to this:

Monday, August 1, 2011

365 days of being a writer: day 346

I am back in my bedroom. It's hard to say "home" since I'm leaving it in four days.

This morning I got around 600 more words and then knocked out another couple of hundred in between delay announcements at the airport. All in all, I pulled off over 3200 words over the course of a three day vacation. I know that isn't much, but it's a lot compared to the nothing I had been producing. It bodes well for the future (knowing I can sit down and write every day when I don't have the day job to deal with).

I'm leaving in four days. Did I mention that? So freaking amazing.

Sunday, July 31, 2011

365 days of being a writer: day 345

Still on vacation, and still very much enjoying it.

This AM I managed to get 600 words down. It would have been more, but there was a band playing at the coffee shop. I can't write through live music. It was crowded, dogs were barking, children squealing, and a saxophone was wailing. Hard to focus.

But I still got some time in on the keys, so I was happy with that.

365 days of being a writer: day 344

I managed 1800 words today at an Austin coffee shop. I was writing a story about the last two times I did LSD. For the most part though, it was an all vacation day. There was a pool party, a couple good friends and delicious food & drink. Life is the goodest.

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Friday, July 29, 2011

365 days of being a writer: day 343

It was my last Friday at the day job. And it was a travel day.

Most of what I got done was technical, so I don't have much to say about it.

But today was still a remarkable amazing day. I paid off all of my debt! And now I'm on vacation.

More later.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

365 days of being a writer: day 342

I told a friend today that the thing I liked most about the world and my life right now, is how many more adventures are on the horizon. Now, I don't have to point out to most of you (of my six die-hard followers, though the one newbie might have to catch up) how wild that is to hear my own self say.

There have been many many MANY times this last year (and the year before and the year before) when there wasn't really anything that I liked most about the world. There were always important people to me; there was always some dim hope on the horizon--I mean, it was dark but never that dark. But actual optimism had escaped my reach. "Everything works out" has always been my motto, yet I'd lost faith in the outcome. It's easy to say now that good, shining, changeful things are on the horizon, but I still feel like it's true: things are better because I worked to make them better, not because they just became better.

And I will be the first to admit that I did not go to that work whistling like one of Snow White's dwarves. I was dragged to it, bawling and exhausted most days, by some force of will that I can't seem to harness when the alarm clock goes off, but that's always there for me when it really counts. I am stubborn as a mule. This is usually not one of my more charming characteristics, I know this. I try so hard to temper it with generosity. This dogged mulishness that once upon a time got me into and through art school seems to have come through again. And again, I am just as amazed as anyone else.

BUT, no one is an island. Or a rock. (Even Paul Simon had Art and Edie.) I had so much support to get here, these past few years. I would like to appreciate out loud and without reserve the following people (in no particular order):
  • My parents, who took me in without hesitation (twice) and gave me the space to get out of debt and apply to schools and store my shit. I am lucky to have them and lucky they'll still have me.
  • My sister, who brought me and all my earthly belongings out here and who for months was my only friend. 
  • Jeff C, who gave me a ton of love and support when I needed it most. Thank you, not least, for the adventures, for holding me while I cried, and for listening to a lot of shitty first drafts.
  • Warren, Ramona, Scott, and Chandler who have each let me talk their fool heads off while talking myself off of ledges COUNTLESS TIMES in the last couple of years. I wish I could adequately thank y'all for being such compassionate and indulgent friends.
  • Jeff Q, who didn't want to be published at first, but is maybe coming around to the idea. And who, in the meantime, has been a tireless cheerleader, editor, designer, Spanish tutor, and friend.
  • Gail and Dennis: two professors who believed in me, which is a powerful and amazing thing.
  • Maya, who gave me a writing gig just when all seemed lost. It was the nudge I needed to get back up on my wobbly feet.
  • My WFM coworkers, especially my "bosses" Jeff and Jane, who knew that this was all I wanted and who helped me every way they could. Everyone else on the team: thank you for happy hours, bowling, running, helping me move, listening to my stories and all the rest.
  • The writers I have met through the various online spaces I frequent, who have encouraged, cheered, and mentored me, and who have even traded mix tapes with me. It means the world to me to be a part of a vigorous and interesting community; thank you for including me. I can't possibly list all you cnftweeters, draftees, and colonists--but I hope you know who you are.
  • The editors who have printed my work, giving me a sustaining swagger.
  • All you lurkers/FB friends and etc who tell me when you see me that you've been following along: it's really the coolest thing ever to know you're out there cheering me on.
It's late and I need to pack for a mini vacation before the move. If I forgot you, it is only because I am tired and overstimulated and ready to GO GO GO.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

365 days of being a writer: day 341

Antsiness has kicked in.

As of the end of the day tomorrow, I will have exactly one week left. ONE. WEEK.

Tomorrow I will be sending off my manuscript to the school to pass along to our eminent fictioneer, Mr. Whitehead.

Today, I edited more of that crazy document at work and a short story of mine that I am seriously considering sending off to a contest. Editing < Writing. But, it's progress. It's moving forward. It's doing the work to get to where I want to be. How lucky am I for this opportunity?

My legs and feet and hips and whole body still feel like I've been sitting in this one position too long. I need to unfurl, stretch long, fill out the shape I am. I need to take a long, brisk fucking walk!

I'll be spending the weekend in Austin, and I might do the spiral notebook thing again and take pictures of my entries like I did back in November. I have this new fancy macbook, but I'm sort of afraid to take it. We'll see.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

365 days of being a writer: day 340

I broke down and grabbed some Demand assignments today. I'm not sure if I can get them done before they expire, but I will try to knock out at least a couple.

I also spent a few hours editing a technical report on battery tests. This is the glamor of technical writing: replacing 75 occurrences of ultra battery/ultrabattery/Ultra battery with 75 UltraBatteries. I can format the hell out of your word document. Need sections? I can give you sections and styles and some kick ass tables of contents. I will be ruthless in changing all of your body paragraphs to Normal. There will be no extra carriage returns. (Remember when there was an actual carriage that required returning?) I will not tolerate any fudged headings. Or spaces when you should have used a tab. Or tabs when you should have used a style. Like, if I see one more crazy "outline" that has been created manually, I'll scream.

Also, we've gone over this before, but it bears repeating: there should never, ever be one bullet. One thing is not a list. It is just a thing.

I edit in stages: First I check all the borders, pagination, headers & footers. Then headers and captions; and tables of contents, figures, and tables. Then I check all of the trademarked words for correct branding. Finally, I scan the body of the text, looking for unnecessary engineer speak, such as "in order to" instead of just to.

Glamor without end.

Except, in this case there IS an end, in seven workdays. SEVEN. But the real beauty of it, is that if I need work, documentation is usually being written poorly SOMEWHERE in the world, and I could help remedy that. For very small durations and at slightly better than modest compensation. My new motto is that there is a bright side, damnit. Who could be hurt with a little optimism? No one, that's who.

Monday, July 25, 2011

365 days of being a writer: day 339

Can you hear the train? It's faint, more a feeling than a sound but it is coming.

After work, I went to Giant Coffee and wrote a bit in an old fashioned spiral notebook. I am gaining a little bit of momentum maybe on this bus piece, and that felt good.

Today, Sterling McKennedy, posted this gem about beginners.

Ira Glass on Storytelling from David Shiyang Liu on Vimeo.

It bears repeating. Especially when things seem not to be hitting their mark. I get easily frustrated by the gap between what I want to write and what ends up on the page. Art school was exactly the same way, though, so I know this is a temporary condition.

When we showed up to our first life drawing class we were all awkward, blushing. No one wanted to stare too long at the model (okay, except for that one creepy kid); no one wanted to catch themselves fixated by the way her thumb was curling over her knee in that strange way you'd never noticed thumbs could do before. Our lines were heavy and misdirected at first. Even the excellent draftsmen and women among us were afraid of something ("Why are your models always floating? Where are her eyes?") But, with practice, the lines we saw through our eyes became the lines that our hands made on the page. Neither a perfect reflection of reality, but instead a version of it in soft charcoals or heavy contés. I won't belabor the point and get all maudlin, missing my blackened fingernails and jeans with dark smears on the thighs from brushing off pencil shavings much. Point is, I got better at drawing by practicing it. It makes amazing perfect sense that I am going toward another studio degree. Right as goddamn rain (why didn't I think of this sooner).

Clutch and twist your suitcase handle til the leather makes a small popping sound. Check the clock again. If you cock your head just right, you might be able to hear the owlish screech of the whistle.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

365 days of being a writer: day 338

Right now in Phoenix, a fantastic thunder and lightning show is carrying on around us. The last rumble shook the whole house for several seconds. The rain is light, but steady. People's giddy voices can be heard floating across the neighborhood.

I actually wrote for most of an hour today. It felt great to be in a bit of a groove, even if it was at an awful Barnes and Noble cafe. I have been wanting to write something about riding the bus, but couldn't get into it. After reading the Colossus of New York, I decided to try his omniscient / first person narrator style. I could be wrong about what it's called, but it seems to be a great way for a bunch of "characters" to talk at once about an experience. He uses it for the crowds in NYC: on the subway, at rush hour, at the beach. It seemed like a good technique to try out for the experience of riding on the bus.

Anyway, as an exercise, it got my pen moving. I don't know if it will end up "being" anything, and I especially don't know if it does, if I will submit it TO Whitehead with my manuscript. ("Hello, I'm your biggest fan! Please let me know how well I've copped your style.") But PEN! Moving! I also packed up the entire EXTRA box of books I have somehow managed to acquire in the two months I've lived here. The fuck. And a tub of knitting and sewing stuff that I had left out with high hopes for productivity. Tomorrow begins my last full week at work and my second to the last week in the straight world.

365 days of being a writer: day 337

My car got all weather tires this morning. I did a few more errands, and packed one suitcase from my borrowed closet--long sleeves that I will need later, cords, a bouquet of dresses.

It isn't easy living in someone else's house. No matter how effusive their kindness and generosity, you still aren't a resident. You are a visitor. It'll feel good to unpack my buddhas and not-buddhas and set my bookshelves back up. Blast my music (within reason, haha!, in case my landlord knows how to Google). Maybe do some surya namaskars in my own living room. Walk around my new town until a few houses and store fronts begin to look familiar. Get settled into a new routine.

I am enamored with the current horizon, y'all. That's the truth. I can't wait to run into the future's arms and bury my face in its chest. 'Cause my future? VERY ATTRACTIVE.

I still can't seem to sit my ass down on the ground and write some words. I could list excuses like, "I don't have a desk or even a chair that isn't in the middle of someone else's life" or "who can perform the requisite pacing when it is so motherfucking hot?" But really, I'm just too giddy. Instead, I've been reading and studying un pequito español. That's all I've got for now.

Friday, July 22, 2011

365 days of being a writer: day 336

This is when I am supposed to sit down and type overandover "I can't think of anything to write." Because I am so giddy in my thinning pupa right now, I decided to give one last look-see at my manuscript. I managed to get 28 pages compiled. I read through the first piece out loud and changed a couple of things that appeared in the last two since the last read.

That is not the sum total of all that I have written this calendar year, but it's close. There were a few book reviews, some flash work, and a ton of cnftweets. I am not going to get all down on my level of productivity--I had a job to deal with, and if this whole crazy adventure is going to work, I've got to learn to be more compassionate with myself. But, when I see it all bundled up in less than thirty pages, it's tough not to feel a pang.

I'm revisiting a playlist, to keep my traveling spirits up: spitballarmy, 17 April 2011. Fred let me listen to this playlist before it went live, and I wrote the poem to go with it. This was only a week after accepting my spot at UWyo and it seemed fitting then (and now). Crazy how long ago and just-yesterday that feels.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

365 days of being a writer: day 335

You guys! It's almost here, for real.

I am trying to write something and I am having a tough time. (Well, I'm technically probably trying to write about 3 things and having a tough time, but I'm just thinking about this one thing right now.)

It's difficult because I feel like my headspace is sort of at odds with this piece, but I'm trying to work through it anyway. I am starting to feel like all of my muscles are atrophying, no running, no yoga, no consistent writing. I'm soft in the middle.

I need to do some writing situps and some real situps. But all I can think about is GOGOGOGO

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

365 days of being a writer: day 334

Here is a recording of me reading Monologue, which originally appeared on 52|250: a Year of Flash.

I can't (right now) imagine reading to a group of people. In just over a month I will be lecturing to freshmen and trying SO HARD not to roll my eyes too much. But lecturing is different: those aren't my words. I can read my stuff only after reading it out loud so many times that it disengages somewhere in my mind and isn't mine anymore. Like saying a word over and over until it loses meaning. I hope to participate in some of the UWyo readings. But my chest gets tight just imagining it. Only way beyond is through!

I am so giddy and ridiculous that I am having a tough time getting to a writing head space. I may not get my last piece in the Colson manuscript in time. Which is OK. Not ideal, but OK. There are a lot of changes afoot and I can only process so many pieces of information at a time. If the last three years have taught me nothing else (which is stupidly untrue, but let's pretend) I have at least learned some of the things that trigger giant nervous breakdowns, for example convergent deadlines with amorphous scope. I need schedules, specifics. Focus. Structure. And while I always thought that stuff was stifling to the creative process, I now recognize that it frees me from so much self-criticism that it results in getting way more done.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

365 days of being a writer: day 333

Preparations continue: I gave my notice today. My boss took it very well, even congratulated me.

When I got home, I played around with the new computer a bit. A friend made me a Scrivener deal I couldn't resist, so I downloaded that and started moving some of my strange unfinished snippets into a binder. I'm still getting the hang of the OS, but already things are moving more smoothly.

Notice! That means there are just over two weeks left... and so many things to accomplish:
  • Get new tires
  • Finish manuscript for Colson
  • Finish English Comp homework
  • Pack my bedroom up
  • Buy a set of warm clothes/electric blanket/bike lock etc
  • Write book review for NF
  • Use the last few Groupons I have in town (saving the mani-pedi for the weekend before)
I will be leaving town on day 350, I believe. Seventeen days to go. (EEEEEE)

Monday, July 18, 2011

365 days of being a writer: day 332

Today's post is being penned on a cute lil MacBook Pro. I love her already, though her platform often confounds me. Her keyboard, she is so small! Like my hands! The touchpad is sort of killing me. I have to use two hands to do anything. Is that normal?

Still working hard at the day job trying to finish up an installation manual for a major piece of electrical equipment... So the creative writing languishes. On a break, I made up a chart of 5 semesters worth of classes at UWyo including a guess at the Enviro & Lit courses I'd like to take.

Tomorrow, I am going to start the process of giving notice. I am not sure how official they'll want me to be, so I'll declare my intentions and proceed accordingly. There are less than three weeks left. FINALLY.

I am also about 5 pages from the end of The Snow Leopard. The Colson book is more than half done, so what next? I have a book review due to Necessary Fiction, so I'll probably finish that one first. And then my English crash-course homework. And then, I'll probably pack up the few unpacked possessions. TO GO! TO SCHOOL! I could just dance around all day.

Pretty soon I need to start setting some reasonable expectations, so that the craziness of New doesn't initially break my heart. I've been very good in the past at resenting what I want once I get it and that's no way to live.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

365 days of being a writer: day 331

I am on a borrowed laptop. My old HP and my new Macbook Pro are at a Genius bar being mind-melded into one.

While I was transferring files from my external drive to my soon-to-be backup laptop, I got to revisit many of my submissions folders and what I consider my "old writing." There is a lot of poetry in the old writing. I never did (or have) taken my poetry seriously. I take other people's poetry very seriously. I can recite more from poetry I've loved than I can from essays I've loved.

I am in awe of the poets I know. I marvel at their commitment. Maybe I don't consider myself brave enough to be a poet, or true enough. But the poems go back to junior high. Even earlier, if I consider song-poems I wrote and illustrated when I was in grade school. Part of what I love about creative nonfiction is the leeway for lyricism. I am a romantic; I like lovely turns of phrases--that lends itself to terrible poetry (it seems) and evocative essays (I hope).

What this means, is that I will be taking one of my workshop semesters in poetry. Maybe I can get over the belief that my poems are silly.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

365 days of being a writer: day 330

I relaxed today with great vigor. I also got a new laptop, which isn't yet up and running, but should be a great new school supply.

A friend suggested today that as a writer, I should strive first to produce a great commercial success and then spend the riches producing art. Such a simple business plan, how could it fail?

It's strange to acknowledge that I will likely never know great wealth, or even a comfortable retirement. It's even stranger to feel OK with that--if I can just spend time writing and reading every day.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

Friday, July 15, 2011

365 days of being a writer: day 329

It has been difficult to get creative writing done lately. It seems like I am not alone, several other MFA-students-to-be are frustrated with writer's block. I've been focusing at work on finishing a major project at my day job--and it drains my writing juices a bit.

And then there's The Doubt that several of us have reported. It was a whispery voice back in February, when I felt bereft of direction. But it has gotten louder and more sure of itself the closer it gets to Departure Day. It reminds me pretty regularly that I don't know what I want to write a whole book about! The science stuff feels impossible to do well, to do interestingly. I've started striking out into strange directions that might be interesting, or they might just be distracting. I can't tell if the Doubt is pushing me into a more important direction, or trying to detract me from the one that needs my attention.

I know that the only way past The Doubt, is through it. And I can't freaking WAIT to get on the road. But it is by no means a blissful escape: just an exciting one.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

365 days of being a writer: day 328

It was a let-down, settling back into a cube today. I had a great time in Austin, just laughing with friends and drinking beers. The workday was long on Tuesday, and it bled right into the evening. I could see how easy it would be to fall back into that routine. When I got home I just wanted to watch TV. Insidious!

This evening I poked around at my manuscript. I decided to include a fictionalized piece that I submitted to a journal with a specific theme. I haven't heard back yet, but I am curious to talk about the style of this one with our eminent writer. I go back and forth between being enamored with and feeling like a literary hipster for trying to pull off an abstract-y second person narrative.

I drafted an outline for a bus piece. It will be even more abstract-y and in second person imperative. It could be a big mistake, but now's the time to make them, right?

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

365 days of being a writer: day 327

I had hoped at least to finish two of my reading list books on this last trip, but I did not. Today was spent taking notes and pictures and traveling.

Today my 0° sleeping bag showed up. Only 23 days left.

365 days of being a writer: day 326

I didn't get a chance to write yesterday, as I left work and went directly out with some old friends. Yesterday was spent being a tech writer: taking notes, pictures. Today is more of the same. I'll be home late tonight and back on a schedule tomorrow.

Monday, July 11, 2011

365 days of being a writer: day 325

Today has been a travel day. All day. Just reading, no writing.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

Sunday, July 10, 2011

365 days of being a writer: day 325

I experimented today and finished a draft of a scientific memoir of sorts. It might not work at all, I'm not sure how to tell. But, I had notes and an idea and I just put it down on paper to see, even though my instinct was screaming at me to mull it over for another month.

Because my instinct would often rather stall than risk failing. But it's just words, right? I can always re-arrange them again tomorrow.

I also made more progress on The Snow Leopard and read a bit of Colson Whitehead's Colossus of New York. It feels like I still have so much to do before I leave--and yet I leave in 26 days.

One thing I did not do this weekend was write up any Demand articles. I really need to make a couple hundred more bucks there, but it is SUCH A DRAG. Maybe this week I can try for another couple after I make some progress on my bus essay.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

365 days of being a writer: day 324

The house is no longer empty, so I've had to get dressed and drag my computer back up to my room. It wasn't as fun as being alone in my own house, but it was quieter.

Today I finished two of the three essays I have as "pre-work" for my teaching intensive the week before classes start. I was (am?) worried about the level of my own reading comprehension--it's been so long since I had to be a critical reader (beyond book reviews). I am glad we get an intensive. I hope I make a good teacher.

I also started writing about science the old fashioned way: longhand. It seemed to come easier, if slower. My handwriting is atrocious. Raise your hand if your handwriting could pass for a doctor's. This is what typing does to us.

There remain some books on my reading list, so I took the last of my sacrificial lambs to trade in for shiny new-to-me editions. I didn't find any off the list, but one work, The Life of the Grasshopper by Jean-Henri Fabre got bumped in favor of a collection of his essays with some lovely watercolor illustrations. I'll admit to being a sucker for watercolored flowers. I also grabbed a comics-about-music collection and a Spanish beginning-to-intermediate reader. I am making slow but steady progress there. I can construct a few sentences--but I'm really low on verbs and am still only present tense.

I'm headed to try to get a few more words out about science and then bed. Hasta mañana, amigos.

Friday, July 8, 2011

365 days of being a writer: day 323

I'm woolly you guys.

Couldn't you just kick Molly's ass? What I wouldn't give for a finely coiffed New Waver singing me some sexy soul tunes! What's hotter, those shoes or the bolo tie? I DON'T KNOW. But then, probably we'd end up divorced with him living at his whoring, coked up brother's place.

But seriously. Young girls they do get woolly wearing that same old shaggy dress.

The heat is demoralizing. The time slipping away without any work to show for it is demoralizing. I got another rejection and THAT is demoralizing.

It's not all misery, here is an amazing and lovely piece of flash from E. Victoria Flynn at her memoir blog, Penny Jars, that was inspired by a tweet of mine: Sisyphus come rolling down the mountainside. We both had a tough patch there in our early twenties it seems. How long ago was that? And yet, I was here. It was monsoon. I was counting the days to escape.

Wasn't I just lamenting my awkward relationship with any of my own memoir-like writing? Penny Jars is a great example of doing it much more right, she tells a story worth reading. I have been told over and over again that mine are not interesting enough--or my telling of them is not interesting--or, what? Perhaps I just need more and better models.

I only have two submissions out. That doesn't seem like enough. I have been putting all of my hummingbird eggs into one (apparently) crummy basket. OK. That's the heat talking, but still. There is eau de defeat in the air, and it smells like Haboob B.O.

For two days in a row I have gotten mad enough to scream at other drivers. Luckily, I was the only one in the car. A mumbled curse is one thing, but screaming is what you don't ever want to do with someone in the passenger seat, because they give you this side-eyed look like your ears might begin to bleed at any moment from the brain tumor you must have. I'm the very definition of edgy.

Woolly. I just need a little goddamned tenderness. And more Otis.

I am going to try to get a little bit of Freshman Comp homework done before calling it a night.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

365 days of being a writer: day 322

I finished (?) the birding essay. It isn't done but it has some kind of ending. And I started writing about the bus.

I seem to have some kind of knee-jerk hangup to writing memoir. Like, I can't just write about ME and the bus, that isn't enough (for me). I don't know if that's because I devalue my own experiences or because I feel that I should be reaching for a larger theme. Whatever it is, as soon as I start writing about "what happened to me" I start going into writerly rigor/malaise. I get hung up on Why does this matter? Who cares about the people on the bus? (No one, clearly. Have you SEEN the people on the bus? Talk about an invisible class.)

So then, an ode to the people on the bus. But then I think, who the hell am I to be an authority on bus people? What kind of privileged poser who CHOOSES to ride a bus could possibly say anything real about the people who are stuck there? Like Arbus and her freaks: the One Who Looks vs the Seen. But if I could write something as lovely as an Arbus folio, I'd fall over from gratitude. It seems like there is a way to do it so it isn't lame, and it's JUST on the tip of my fingers. A litany? Of passengers, maybe? I don't know.

Here are some things that have happened on the bus:
  • When I was in the 5th grade, a man flashed me via a convenient hole in his jeans while I waited on the bus mall for the number #17 (formerly the #24, later the #10) to deep Southeast Portland. I didn't actually realize what I had seen until a few years later. In college a friend told me he watched a couple having sex at a bus stop in front of his house late one night. I was inexperienced at the time, and couldn't really picture how that would have worked: the bench too narrow to lie down on, the seat too shallow for two. I never thought of buses as sexy, but since then, I've made out at plenty of bus stops.
  • My best friend and I would get scolded regularly in the sixth grade for being too loud on the #14 headed up Hawthorne. We would race to catch it, after cutting our last class of the day and getting $0.25 soft serve ice cream cones from a nearby McDonalds. We would cling to the poles in the articulated center, twirling around them, dancing, singing, getting shushed. The #14 was not quite a "fun" bus until a few years later, when Hawthorne blew up into a counter-culture haven.
  • I rode a bus in New Orleans that cut through the Garden District before traveling down Broad Street (which stretched further northeast, on into the heart of the less famous Seventh Ward) toward Mid-City. Sometimes, I was the only white girl on the bus and the seat next to mine would be the last one filled. We passed three churches along the way, and at least one passenger would make the sign of the cross as we did. On Ash Wednesday the seats would be full of subdued smudged foreheads.
  • In Rome my parents and I would take a bus from the guest room we were renting in the suburbs to the closest Metro station, and then take the subway into the city. We did this every day for over a week--out and back--but I don't remember a single bus ride. Only waiting at the stops at the beginning and end of each day. I remember the Metro, and the train ride to Florence, but I can't remember anything about sitting on the bus there at all.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

365 days of being a writer: day 321

Last night, a haboub engulfed the city. A wall of dust over 5,000 feet high crashed over us like a wave. Here on the ground, all I could see was dark. I never watch the news, so I had no idea what was happening, only that it was very windy.

When it got dark so fast, I was hoping for rain and opened the door to see how wet the air felt. It felt damp and cool but the air wasn't actually wet: the dust was cold and so fine it was more of a smell than a sensation. I was worried about my new eyes, so I ducked back in and didn't think anymore about it until I saw the aftermath salted all over everything in the morning.

All this to say that most of my writing time tonight was spent trying to clean all the dust out of the pool. There was a lot of it.

I also got my pedagogy textbook in the mail today.

It is much more diminutive than every one of my undergrad textbooks (except for one about poetry that was equally tee-tiny). I'm glad.