Saturday, March 31, 2012


A shrine to my dad in my sister's hotel room

Al fresco gathering spot at the National Memorial Cemetery

Weird to re-emerge from the bubble of huddling with my family planning my dad's funeral in the land of Lara.   The air smelled like citrus blossoms.  I am in love with saguaro cacti.  I would leave my husband if a saguaro proposed.  

I hope no one minds if I post about this a little each day.  

My dad, a Korean War vet, is buried in Arizona's National Memorial Cemetery.  Under the awning (pictured in the bottom photos), an honor guard, who was dressed like a park ranger, presented my mother with a neatly triangled American flag in a formal and surreal little ceremony.   He even saluted her and looked unblinkingly into her eyes.

My dad's casket is covered with unpretentious daisies.  

To the left, the government had provided a cooler full of water and a dispenser with paper cone cups.  The toddler among us used about 34 of them.  The family lingered for awhile after the flag ceremony.  Then we caravaned back to Mesa to eat together near  a restaurant's back wall at a long, long table.  The salsa was hot; the chips blue and salty.  My dad would have loved it and the day we planned for him.  More about this tomorow.  

march mood: angsty baby chicks

today's baby chick craft project

only my outsized sense of duty is making me write a post tonight. 

i don't have too much to say after yesterday's mammoth blog post.

& i miss the inspiration of my blogging partner who's on leave for a while as she deals with the loss of her father. 

here's a list of my day:

1) rehearsed lalage with c.  six new (hard) songs.  good ones.  one song made me cry, no, sob, actually. (8.45 a.m.)
2) got pictures taken of my boobs ((no, not the those kind of pictures, the kind in the office with the pink ribbons everywhere that make you sad.)) (10.40 a.m.)
3) museum of art gift shop--birthday present shopping for my 5 siblings and one mother-in-law who all had birthdays recently--if by recently you mean starting in january.  i'm going to arizona to visit them next week, so i thought i'd do it in an efficient sweep.  the gift shop has rad free gift wrapping.  (11.08)
4) birthday lunch with bam at noon.  molly's.  a cafeteria-style restaurant with a mormon sunday dinner menu.  i had pot roast and bread pudding and they make a tasty cheese biscuit.  the kind of place at which ladies of a certain age love to lunch.  (12 noon)
5) macey's for strawberries and cadbury eggs. (1.10 p.m.)
6) home to make the above pictured felt chicks with activity day girls. (2 p.m.)
7) laid on the couch and made a list of stuff i gotta do, talked to kids, tried to help cecily find a friend who is "mature" and "doesn't like to play stupid things." (3.30 p.m.)
8) yoga. (4.30 p.m.)
9) bought pizza for kids (6 p.m.)
10) el salvador for pupusas, plantains with beans and cream, chicken/yucca tamales with mom, dad, aunt b., sister & her new hubby. (6. 45 p.m.)
11) sub-zero for ice cream (8.30 p.m.)
12) ran through sixth new song with c. (10 p.m.)
13) sat on couch thinking of stuff to blog about, feeling sadhappy.  a very march mood. yesnoyesnoyesno.

legwear:  boots & bare legs

inspiration:  duty--sheer grit

looking forward:  not much at the moment, but it'll get better, right?

Thursday, March 29, 2012

What's a Writer to Wear, Ms. Smartytights?

GITP also recommends hair accessorizing

GITP recently received this impassioned call for help from a mother/writer.  Both G's ITP's have been in this writer's exact position on more than one occasion, and we really wanted to help her.  We could think of no better place to turn than to Ms. Smartytights.

Be-monocled polymath, loving hard-ass aunty, curmudgeonly elderwoman, Ms. Smartytights ALWAYS has the right answer to EVERYTHING.


There's nothing this woman doesn't know.

So we threw the question out to her and got this very helpful reply to a struggling writer's question:

Dear GITP,


I'm so frustrated.

I love my adorable (and crazy) 18 month old baby Ollie, but I also love writing.  Ever since she was born I just haven't been able to get back into a groove.  Ollie now goes to pre-school every morning for three hours, supposedly to give me time to write, but lots of times, after my partner drops her off at daycare, i just sit around in my (now baggy from wearing throughout my pregnancy) yoga pants drinking tea and checking facebook.  I just can't get motivated.

I have a very limited budget (and it's all being spent on pre-school now), none of my pre-baby clothes are cute any more, and I live in a tiny apartment.  All of these things combine to make me NOT feel like a writer, or an artist of any kind.  I just feel caught, depressed and frustrated.  Do you think wearing a cute outfit to "work" every day would help?  (Not that I'm going anywhere or being seen by anyone. . .)

Help me get my groove back!


STILL Post-Partum

Dear SIPP,

First of all Ms. Smartytights must warn you.  She is of the opinion that there is a correct and an incorrect way to do things.

She vehemently despises the attitude that many of today's youth have adopted, captured in the nauseatingly inane phrase one might occasionally overhear:  it's all good.  Only Ms. Smartytights' conviction that unsolicited correctives are less than useful prevents her from taking a switch to the bottoms of these. . . these. . . namby-pambies on whose shoulders responsibility for the continuation of the human race resides.

Ms. Smartytights must register her protest.  It is most certainly not all good.  There is good, and there is bad, and she feels a call to announce to the world what is good and what is bad, and she gets so very much pleasure from these pronouncements, and thanks you for your kind indulgence in entertaining her opinion.

Secondly, Ms. Smartytights is quite strict, and so her advice can be interpreted as harsh and unfeeling by the more sensitive poet-types who frequent the Girls' blog.  Ms. Smartytights is happy that the Girls have asked for her opinion, because she believes that poets sometimes need a dose of the more bracing medicines she has to offer (as poets are wont to, how shall we say this kindly?  not always see things. . . as they are.)

So,  there is a right and and a wrong way to approach everything.  Don't believe otherwise, lest you fall prey to moral turpitude.  Ms. Smartytights must inform you, SIPP, that you are clearly approaching this in the wrong way.  But, do not fear.  The fact that you asked for help, and publicly no less, gives Ms. Smartytights a rosy view of your future:  you are prone to make changes when they are called for, and you are not afraid to take a switch to your own bottom when necessary.  These are all hopeful signs to Ms. Smartytights.

Your first question:  does Ms. Smartytights think that wearing a cute outfit to work would help with your motivation?

Yes.  Ms. Smartytights believes that clothing is important to a working person, and particularly clothing that is slightly stiff and restrictive, garments that remind you that you are not lounging, you are working.  She encourages full outfits, in fact, ensembles with some depth and complexity, outfits that betray a fair amount of thought and effort in their assemblage,  that send a message to the world about who you are and what you hope to accomplish.  She believes that the world will then telegraph you back, and that this reciprocity is one kind of motivation for someone, like a writer, who is often doing unpaid, unnoticed, and unrewarded work for long periods of time.  Motivation is of particular import for poet-types, as they are particularly prone to, shall we say, needing much approbation from an inordinately large number people.  Ms. Smartytights approves of one of the Girls' techniques of applying lipstick, donning an outfit with coordinating earrings, and, of course, taking the proper daily steps in personal hygeine each day (though, truth be told, Ms. Smartytights is appalled by the state of affairs in the world today making it necessary that such a thing must be said out loud, and in public!)

Now, about your small (and Ms. Smartytights inferred from your tone of discouragement, squalid) apartment, Ms. Smartytights also approves of another of the Girls' techniques of writing in a cafe.  Get out of that space that makes you feel trapped for a while.  Although Ms. Smartypants believes in Hard Looks at Oneself and Looking Onself Square in the Face, she also knows that there is a time  and a place to pretend that one is not trapped, and she does believe in "acting as if" you are already who you want to be.  There is, after all, a vast difference between fooling oneself and putting on airs.  (Ms. Smartytights disapproves of fooling oneself, but is quite in favor of putting on airs.)

Ms. Smartytights has very little personal  knowledge of what do do with a tight budget, so she consulted a young friend (currently under her tutelege) who is thrifty (and German) and also quite stylish and able to put on airs.  Here's what Fraulein Strumpfhose thought you should do about your wardrobe challenges, outlined in a darling numbered Germanic style:

Step 1: Look at your closet with new augen-- try to make combinations with your kleidung that you've never done before. Pledge to do this once a week. It can be hilfreich to have a friend/familie member/your toddler look in your closet for you and put together outfits with what you already own, as it is neu to them. 
Step 2: Host a kleidung swap with deine friends, especially ones who are auch impoverished and funky. Try bringing one article of clothing to jemand and asking if they'd like to trade it for something they are tired of. 
Step 3: Bring a certain amount of geld, but no idea what you would like to purchase, to your nearest thrift store. Be patient, thorough, and open-minded. Viel spass!

Finally, Ms. Smartytights would like to say that your problem, dear SIPP, is not your clothing, not your small apartment, not your toddler, not your awful yoga pants, but your attitude.  Ms. Smartytights means this with the kindest of intentions, but you must doff your worn yoga pants and don articles of clothing that make you feel you have the support of a whalebone corset beneath your heart.  What you are suffering currently is a loss of heart, dear SIPP, and Ms. Smartytights believes that changing your outer environs and appearance can do absolute miracles with your heart.  As such, Ms. Smartytights has been accused of existentialist leanings, and she will not deny this.

It's a crude turn of phrase with the ring of truth:  Ms. Smartytights absolutely believes you can fake it 'til you make it.

(Did she say that looking like a writer and acting like a writer will make you a writer?  Yes.  She did.  If looking like a writer makes you want to put more words on a page, then your endeavor to find the right outfit for your profession has been a success.  If you write, you are a writer.  Don't complicate things, dearies.

But did Ms. Smartytights say that wearing the correct outfit or toiling away in a fashionable cafe will make you a good writer?  A writer who gets geld and adoration for her words on pages?  No.  She did not say this.  These outcomes are not subject to Ms. Smartytights' control, sadly.  But Ms. Smartytights believes in worrying only about the things you can control, like which lipstick shade you choose, or how many words a day you write, and cheerfully forgetting about all the rest of it.)

If you do what Ms. Smartytights says, you will be a reasonably, if not a deliriously, happy person, and your small Ollie will follow suit.

p.s. Ms. Smartytights believes that holey tights are highly indecorous.  But, she has only a small objection to bright blue tights, and thinks that a shot of color might perk up what sounds to her like a rather drab moment in your life, and that entering a contest is one of those little things you can do to get out of a bad rut.  So, though she normally thinks that contests are silly and holey tights unseemly, she will permit you to enter this particular tights giveaway sponsored by the Girls' in this partcular instance.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

frippery, foppery, finery & such

spring bunny at clifford farms

did i mention that it's spring?
yesterday, teaching spring poems to students, one rad poet said:
"what's the big deal about spring?  it's so shallow."
another rad poet followed up the first rad poet's comment with:
"yeah, you just have to keep reminding yourself not to get too optimistic because it's gonna end in death."
clearly, these teen writers are true poets, no?
they both passed my "are you a true poet test" yesterday.

today was emotionally draining.
like i do every day, i asked
"why am i doing ______?"
are my motives pure or impure?
(impure ((always))).
(what is pure, anyhow?)
& sometimes that makes me tired.


a dandy lives at clifford farms

ingrid posted this rad onion
article from,
get this,
1996.  (the 90's
were fine
& gay & i miss them.)
do yourself a favor
and read
foppish dandy disregards local constabulary
in the onion 
& while you're at it,
also read
women voters can't help fawning over sexist g.o.p.
also in the onion, also posted by ingrid
who is my curator of online life.  how totally rad
is the onion?  i would totally pay them
to let me write for them,  wouldn't you?

speaking of foppery, frippery & finery,
did you want some new tights?
cuz you currently have an excellent chance
of getting some.

did i not give you enough reading material today?
oops.  sorry about that.
here's a poem by allison adelle hedge coke, from the
poetry foundation:

Redwing Blackbird

Feet firmly perch
thinnest stalks, reeds, bulrush.
Until all at once, they attend my
female form, streaked throat, brownness.

Three fly equidistant
around me, flashing.
Each, in turn, calls territorial
trills, beckons ok-a-li, ok-a-li!

Spreads his wings, extends
inner muscle quivering red
epaulet bands uniquely bolden.

Turn away each suitor,
mind myself my audience.
Select another to consider,
He in turn quiver thrills.

Leave for insects.
Perhaps one male follows.
Maybe a few brood of young,
line summertime.

Silver Maple samaras
wing wind, spread clusters
along with mine, renewing Prairie.

As summer closes, I leave
dragonflies, damselflies, butterflies,
mosquitoes, moths, spiders, crickets for

grain, see, Sunflower;
join thousands to flock Sky—
grackles, blackbirds, cowbirds,     starlings—
Swarming like distant smoke clouds, rising.

legwear: nada, under maxi skirt

inspiration: knowing that i won't always feel this way

looking forward: to a change in energy 

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

girl in tight place needs sleeves made of tights

first of all:

it's spring so


like edna st. vincent millay says:

comes in like an idiot, babbling and strewing flowers.


like gerard manley hopkins says:

what is all this juice 
and all this joy?

& tonight

i'm reading a poem about spring

with the byu chamber orchestra

& i say:

bury me 

in the stream

of your e, spring.


i needed a sleeve for my dress

tonight & i remembered

my friend andi's

sleeves made of tights.

(andi's a genius

& never wears anything

straight off the rack--it's always

tweaked or belted

or de-sleeved or re-sleeved

or lengthened or shortened.

girl has vision.)

so i found this

totally precious

youtube of a canadian

goth mom

making sleeves for

"under your corset, or dress

or whatever."

it's pure

genius, pure juice and joy,

and idiotic blooming

and bursting &

busting out of winter.

(i mean, she's

completely deadpan,

but i know  the bubbling

spring is in there somewhere.)

*i'm thinking of julie today as she says farewell to her father. what a hard day.  i hope it's also beautiful for her.  love to you and your family, julie.

Monday, March 26, 2012

poet, scholar & gentleman nathan hauke: our first boy guest blogger

first boy blogger nathan hauke

 editor's note:  i met nathan in poetry workshop.  we were surrounded by uber-talented poets, but even in that crowd, his work stood out to me as having a particular soulfulness.  and believe me, this was a crowd in which it was tough to stand out.  we also took an uber-painful french for grad students class together one dark, cold salt lake winter with another poet friend.  on our break we had a little poets'  huddle that was strangely comforting to me.  kinda like nathan's poetry, the presence of poet-friends assured me, as his work will assure you, that everything's gonna be okay.  enjoy his beautiful post!

& if you want to read more, here's a link so you can order his chapbook, in the living room.

nathan's chapbook


I am.  There
You are.

—R Creeley

Just trying to be at home, that’s the whole plot.

    —R Blaser

During the school year, I am often, of necessity, a creature of habit.  I have to move deliberately with a real sense of precision in order to “get ‘er done” and I often have to buckle myself down to work against my nature to do it.  Whenever I start to feel trapped—anchored to my routine, bills, teaching responsibilities, I return to R Creeley’s Pieces to remember the refreshing fact that locations are dynamic and expansive. In my experience, feeling trapped often manifests itself as a desire to be elsewhere.  I feel a momentum building that I will have step out of to grade papers (again) or respond to emails (again)…  There’s another book I’d rather be reading, but I have to prep a talk on Coleridge’s Biographia Literaria, etc.   (Which I love, but I’d rather be reading that other book…)  I’d rather be playing ball with Franklin, walking with Kirsten, talking to my brother on the phone, watching TV—Something else.  I have to work against my nature to turn away.

Creeley rewrites the whole of J Milton’s Paradise Lost and Paradise Regained in three lines in Pieces: “Here/ I am.  There/ You are.”  He knows that we read at the edge of ecstasy as our attachment to the patterns we identify with, however brief, severs us from the process of becoming.  We stop to read ourselves, to point to where we’ve been, and we realize that we’re gone: “I am.  There.”

Existence locked in self-sight is an existence apart.  This is the most devastating fact that Adam and Eve face as they are escorted out of Eden, minds “darkened by experience”:

They, looking back, all th’ eastern side beheld
Of Paradise, so late their happy seat,
Waved over by that flaming brand; the gate
With dreadful faces thronged and fiery arms.
Some natural tears they dropped, but wiped them soon;
The world was all before them, where to choose
Their place of rest, and Providence their guide.
They, hand in hand, with wandering steps and slow,
Through Eden took their solitary way.

(Paradise Lost)

As a recovering Baptist kid, reading Thoreau, I started to approach the fall as a parable about presence.  The fall is a failure of attention—it’s a break with process.  Like J Cage says, “Music is permanent; only listening is intermittent” (Themes & Variations).

Watching bursts of icy wind rack the shattered plastic wading pool leaning up against our neighbor’s trailer, I inevitably find I’m elsewhere.  I’m anxious.  I’m hungry.   I’m thinking about a class I have to prep or I look away to write this down.  One way or anther, the current is broken.  It’s impossible to stay with the moment because our attention is imperfect.  Angels step in front of the gate with flaming swords.  Eden is over.  (Elsewhere in Creeley’s Pieces, “Man thinks./  Ugh.”)  There’s no going back.  Never is.  At the edge of one circumstance, our faces twist in pain like wrenched branches.

JESU is in my heart, his sacred name
Is deeply carved there: but th’ other week
A great affliction broke the little frame,
Ev’n all to pieces: which I went to seek:
And first I found the corner, where was J,
After, where ES, and next where U was graved.

(G Herbert, “JESU”).

I think we often suffer pains of attachment to patterns because they allow us to imagine that we are static, but cleaving to old forms is devastating because perspectives have limits.  G Stein acknowledges the disintegration of perspectives singled apart from the activity underway in The Making of Americans when she claims, “Every living one becomes a dead one.” Thoreau sets Walden apart in Walden and that place is over, changed irrevocably by visiting tourists and cold water swimmers who make pilgrimages there.  Our perspectives are limits.  Romance and nostalgia are crippling; they make my head feel foggy.  Like A Marvell says in “The Garden,” an oak is an oak; it’s never going to say “Laura,” etc.  Identifying with process is a realization that our nature is much more dynamic.  Thoreau: “A savage name is perchance recorded somewhere as ours” (“Walking”).  As Milton asserts in Paradise Lost, true freedom is always, finally, a matter of submission to higher laws. 

Creeley’s meditation on counting throughout Pieces is also instructive as it calls to both the isolation of experience and the ecstasy of merger.  On the one hand, “One by/ itself divided or multiplied/ produces one” because “No one lives in/ the life of another—/ no one knows.”  On the other, Creeley asserts that a wider realization of presence draws us into a grand harmony beyond thinking: “This time, this/ place, this/ one.”

One plus one = one.  Our paradise is solitary and it will remain so.  We are saved and fallen: one and one.  Here a few beats and gone the next.  We are all, finally, a species of one.  The way we come down on this in the moments we are given is a matter of perspective.  Creeley advises: “Love one./ Kiss two” (Pieces).

Wide-awake, we find the shattered edge of our small perspective (limit) melts into the stream; we always kiss two because we are alone with God.   Solitude blossoms when we are most essentially ourselves.  Stripped to the bone, we find the polis is lonely and expansive.  Thank God for A Marvell who reminds me to step back whenever I waver under the despair that accompanies a crushing workload and lures me into feeling cut off from that which is most primary: “To wander solitary there:/ Two paradises ‘twere in one/ To live in paradise alone” (“The Garden”).
Watching her brother William carve the t of her name in the trunk of a living tree with their dear friend Coleridge’s penknife, Dorothy Wordsworth sees that writing, friendship, organic growth, and transcendence are inextricably bound together: “We parted from Coleridge at Sara’s Crag after having looked at the Letters which C. carved in the morning.  I kissed them all.  Wm deepened the T with C.’s penknife” (Journals).  Writing is always elegiac; it leaves one behind even as it inaugurates a new one.  Our names will leave us behind because salvation speeds towards the wreckage of salvation.  

Next to Walden and HD Thoreau’s Journals, Pieces is the book that I spend the most time with and I am increasingly certain that these lines tell our most essential story.

Nathan blogs at Blue Rags Stitched Together By Crows:

Here’s a link to his poem “Color is Worse Than Eternity” at Real Poetik.

Here’s a link to Ark Press (where you can now access the Ark Press Audio Archive).

What do you want to get done this year?

Not so much get done as enjoy… 
My partner, Kirsten and I, are getting organized to have a wedding reception...  We rented an old apple barn in Valle Crucis, NC, and we’re planning to string up some Christmas lights and dance to soul music with friends and family all night there in June.  We’re also getting ready to print our first Ark Press chapbook.  My first book, IN THE MARBLE OF YOUR ANIMAL EYES, is forthcoming from Publication Studio and I’m really grateful and excited about that. 

I’m looking forward to sitting down with friends’ books over spring break this week: Hank Lazer’s new book N18 (Singing Horse 2012), Brenda Sieczkowski’s Wonder Girl in Monster Land (Dancing Girl 2012), and a chapbook manuscript that Pepper Luboff just mailed us.

Apart from this, I think I would actually like to try to get less done this year…  We’ve been busy and it takes time to break into blossom.

What inspires you?

Company!  Friends and family, books, and conversations with my students.  River-life, dog walks, music, buds on branches.

What is your favorite legwear?

I’ve been shuffling around the house in some grey thermal socks that my dad gave me for Christmas a couple of years ago all winter.  Thanks Pop!

p.s. let's not pretend that tights are as cool as those tube socks, but they're at least on the spectrum of radness.  up your rad factor but entering our 3rd tights giveaway.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

looking forward: first week of spring

forsythia inside
 crazy how one day i looked outside and there a was a forsythia bush causing all kinds of bright yellow drama.  a flaming bush, the head of a troll doll--flourescence surrounded by brown. 
forsythia outside
here's what i'm looking foward to for my first week of spring:

1)  a renewed commitment to my daily poetic practice.  i'm gonna devise something cool, enjoyable, and new.  i always want to know what kinds of daily practices other people have in their lives--artistic, spiritual, or simply hedonistic.  so if anyone wants to share, you'll make my day.

2)  cooking dutch.  the sunday ny times was irritating the crap out of me today with its full page feature on evita and its devotion to mid-cult literature by annoying white dudes the book review (could anything be less aesthetically or culturally relevant than a revival of evita?), but there are two white dudes at the times who never fail to NOT disappoint.  bill cunningham and mark bittman.  i think it's because they are interested in the people, not merely the elite.  of course, being situated in ny means you have to take into account the elite, but those two dudes don't forget that ny is made up of mostly non-elite, and most trends are formed by people on the street.  bittman's article today on dutch comfort food, a people's food if ever there was such a cuisine, is an example of this.  i want to make the caramelized endive soup and the buttermilk pudding.  okay.  you might say that caramelized endive is a little elitist, but the preparation and ingredients remain basic and pretty inexpensive, and a buttermilk pudding with raisins is pure dutch milkmaid.

3) tights giveaway!  i can't be clever, you might say.  or i can't wear holey tights, you might say.  but let me ask:  are you sure?  or, let me ask this:  who in your life would think you were the raddest uncle, mother, friend, sister, piano teacher, etc, etc. if you gave them a pair of holey tights? who?  i'm sure there's someone.  so leave GITP a comment!  we heart you and your comments.

4) going to the shoulder doctor to figure out how to fix it.  i hope.

5)  catching up on all my work so i can take spring break with my kids by a pool in arizona, surrounded by cousins, tamales, spring desert flowers, cacti, and mostly just a lot of sun.

6) our first guest boy blogger tomorrow.  he's uber-rad.  can't wait.

7)  the premiere of c's piece, how to be spring for tenor and chamber orch.  i wrote the text and will read sections of the poem during each movement.  okay, i'm not a soprano soloist in front of an orchestra, but  this is probably the closest i'll ever get.  pretend diva for a day. & plus it's a piece about spring.

8)  reading my poetry students' first poems of the term.

9)  hanging out with my boise nephews and my parents.

10) watching rude boy with c.  it came in the mail from netflix and we haven't had a chance to watch it yet.  hoping to get some rad inspiration from the clash.

 i heart lucille clifton a lot.  don't you?

spring song

the green of Jesus
is breaking the ground
and the sweet
smell of delicious Jesus
is opening the house and
the dance of Jesus music
has hold of the air and
the world is turning
in the body of Jesus and
the future is possible

looking forward: sunday night simpson's watching with the fam

legwear:  not sure yet

inspiration: bright yellow blossoms

Saturday, March 24, 2012

DOUBLE tights give away, girls and boys

holey tights for a warm day, or layered over another pair for a chilly day
sheer blue micro-netted tights with a wild rose pattern

1)  enter by 31 march at midnight by leaving a comment.

2)  we're changing up the rules a bit for march.  this is not a random drawing--this contest is MERIT BASED.  the cleverest comment wins,  and "cleverness" will be determined by an esteemed guest judge selected from our pool of rad guest bloggers.

3)  you can enter once for each pair of tights.  we will select two winners.

i went to the sock store looking for daffodil yellow tights (in honor of julie) for spring, but alas there were no yellow tights to be found.  i did find the beautiful pair of royal blue tights on the right (sheer with a micro-netting and a wild rose pattern) and, as i was exiting the store, saw those rad holey tights on the mannequin.  on a whim, i went back in and bought them.

i thought they looked like they could give you some room to breathe.

like you wouldn't have to sit down on the sidewalk (like julie did last week) in front of the guggenheim and peel them off when the day warmed up.

or, as we are prone to freak spring snowstorms in utah, you could layer them over some other rad patterned tight if you encountered a winter spring day.

plus, as we've discussed, march seems to be a difficult month for a lot of us generally.  like hairdresser on fire--check her out.  to get through march this year, she's accessorizing her hair every day.  to get through march i'm cooking like a crazy woman.    to get through march. . .  i'll let julie tell you herself how she's getting through her particularly hellish march.

march is an exciting and dreary, sunny and gray, helluva bi-polar month.  it has holes in it.  one day, a magritte blue sky.  one day a freezing windy rain.  one day optimism, one day dread that you'll never make it to summer.

but you will.  and you'll be extra rad in a pair of GITP tights.

and we'll feel extra rad reading your comments.

so write something for our comments section, babies!  write!

i have always been both

something to read tomorrow morning:
Late March
by Edward Hirsch
Saturday morning in late March.
I was alone and took a long walk,   
though I also carried a book
of the Alone, which companioned me.

The day was clear, unnaturally clear,
like a freshly wiped pane of glass,
a window over the water,
and blue, preternaturally blue,
like the sky in a Magritte painting,
and cold, vividly cold, so that
you could clap your hands and remember
winter, which had left a few moments ago—
if you strained you could almost see it
disappearing over the hills in a black parka.
Spring was coming but hadn't arrived yet.
I walked on the edge of the park.
The wind whispered a secret to the trees,
which held their breath
and scarcely moved.
On the other side of the street,
the skyscrapers stood on tiptoe.

I walked down to the pier to watch
the launching of a passenger ship.
Ice had broken up on the river
and the water rippled smoothly in blue light.
The moon was a faint smudge   
in the clouds, a brushstroke, an afterthought
in the vacant mind of the sky.
Seagulls materialized out of vapor
amidst the masts and flags.
Don't let our voices die on land,
they cawed, swooping down for fish
and then soaring back upwards.

The kiosks were opening
and couples moved slowly past them,
arm in arm, festive.
Children darted in and out of walkways,
which sprouted with vendors.
Voices greeted the air.
Kites and balloons. Handmade signs.
Voyages to unknown places.
The whole day had the drama of an expectation.

Down at the water, the queenly ship
started moving away from the pier.
Banners fluttered.   
The passengers clustered at the rails on deck.
I stood with the people on shore and waved
goodbye to the travelers.
Some were jubilant;
others were broken-hearted.
I have always been both.

Suddenly, a great cry went up.
The ship set sail for the horizon
and rumbled into the future
but the cry persisted
and cut the air
like an iron bell ringing
in an empty church.
I looked around the pier
but everyone else was gone
and I was left alone   
to peer into the ghostly distance.   
I had no idea where that ship was going
but I felt lucky to see it off
and bereft when it disappeared.
legwear:  black lace leggings
inspiration: blue march days
looking forward: a dinner party

Friday, March 23, 2012

The Dad of Tight Places

My dad behind the wheel.  Coney Island, 1949.
I've been missing the blog.

Thinking a lot about my dad.

There has been much to do and think about since Dad died this past Wednesday.  It's weird being the grown-up, all of the sudden:  to help decide what day a funeral should be and what should happen at it, to compose an obituary with a committee of siblings, to think about how to pay tribute to a parent in a public way.

Some random thoughts:  my dad was born just before the depression, April 13, 1929.  His father worked on roads and wasn't particularly nice (from my dad's accounts), and was frequently punitve.  His mother was emotionally frail and sensitive, wrote poetry, gave birth to eight children, and managed to feed them all in the resourceful way parents of that time did, a lot of beans and rice.  I think that was always my dad's favorite meal.

Still, my dad reports his childhood was mostly happy.  He says he wore nothing put a pair of overalls, never had shoes, but didn't need them.  Life was lived mostly outside in rural Phoenix.  His two sisters married in their mid-teens.

My grandmother died in a mental hospital in the 1950s when my dad was in the Air Force.  My dad had joined the Air Force out of a desperation that I can only imagine.  His dad had kicked him out after high school and my dad went into the world penniless.  He slept in fields, he told us, and one day wandered into the recruiting office.

He basically hated being in the military.  His anecdotes of it are mostly about boredom:  playing pool on Guam, doing some construction work, engaging in ersatz boxing matches.  He went to Germany and he was stationed in New Jersey.  The photo above is from a trip to Coney Island.  My dad is the fellow in the foreground on the right.  It's nice to see him having such a good time.

After four years, he did a variety of things in varying chronology:  climbed telephone poles for Western Union, did construction work, drove a hearse for a mortuary.   And, like many of his generation, used money from the GI bill to attend college.  At Arizona State he majored in architecture.  Many people don't  know that my dad was creative and artistically talented.  He loved to draw and was good at it.  Took classes here and there, but never pursued it with consistently.  He interrupted his college education to serve a mission from the Mormon Church in Western Ontario, Canada, decided he loved teaching and finished his degree in education when he returned to Arizona State.

His first teaching job (as far as I know) was in a small high desert town in eastern Arizona called Bowie.  I think he liked it there and was well liked, but he was a bachelor, knocking about alone, and lonely.  In 1963, he decided to take some graduate level education courses over the summer at BYU in Provo.  While there, he attended a singles dance and spotted my mother, a school teacher whose parents were waiting for her in a car in the parking lot.

After the dance, my mother took my father out to meet her parents.  Four weeks later, my mother and father were married in the LDS Temple in Salt Lake City.   Their honeymoon consisted of driving back to Bowie in time for my father to start the new school year.  I was born the following July; my sister came 20 months later.  After that began a pretty peripatetic life: My dad couldn't seem to settle on a place, kept trying to pursue a better combination of things:  job, environment.  It was all unclear and ultimately, not so great.  We lived in Chandler, both Rubidoux and Riverside in smoggy inland California (where my brother and youngest sister were born), then back to Arizona:  Phoenix and then Yuma, where my dad was not given tenure after three years at one of the local high schools.  He says it was political, that he never got along with the administration.  (After meeting the assistant principal in question the following year as a high school freshman, this story made sense.)

It was too bad that that was my dad's last teaching job, because he seemed to love the teaching.  He loved teaching the most troubled kids especially:  kids who had fallen through the cracks, teens who had never learned to read, the students who turned up pregnant.  In Phoenix, he had taught in an adolescent detention center, and I remember the students in their bright orange jumpsuits.  He was sensitive and accepting, completely nonjudgemental.

Those years following the loss of that job were not good and my family struggled financially.  We were been on food stamps,  scrounged among the couch cushions for change to buy some basic groceries.  We lived off our food supply:  powdered eggs and milk.  Our family was often the recipients of charity, as humiliating as that was for me.  The stress of this was hard on my dad as he searched haphazardly for ways to earn money in an isolated low desert town where unemployment was high and opportunities were few, even if you had a college education.  My mother was fragile like his own mother had been, and my dad seemed helpless in the face of that, but continued to love and accept her.  Sometimes he was the only one on the planet who seemed capable of showing her love.

My dad enjoyed being in the company of people who seemed broken, beaten down, all of those who walk the earth in tightness, who live perpetually in tight places.  He loved talking to transients, the tramps, people on the margins, those who struggled to respond to him in English.

He had a big open heart and loved to help, although he usually had not much to give.  He was devoted to the Mormon church, the church he'd born into, this heritage extending all the way back to the church's beginnings.  Dad was always proud of that heritage, loved sharing it, spoke of it often.  It informed his life and the way he saw his fellow human beings:   that everyone, no matter who they were, had great potential within them, that everyone had divine worth.

In spite of everything that seemed to go so wrong, my dad was an optimist.  He thought often of heaven, spoke matter-of-factly about the apocalypse and never thought he would have to die.  But he also loved the broken world of his present, his family and almost anyone he came into contact with.

In the spring of 2008, he paid his only visit to New York.  While my brother and I entertained the our respective kids in a Central Park playground, Dad struck up a conversation with a late middle-aged Egyptian man--the nearest stranger on his bench.  When I came back to check in on Dad, both men were beaming, happy to be with each other.  The stranger said to me, "Your father is a good man."

The stranger was absolutely right.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

bravery, skirts, & you may contribute a verse

french connection skirt, thrifted in seattle last summer

i decided to try a little harder today and wear my french connection skirt, fuschia with a nearly 12 inch border of red mohair, thrifted from the lake city way value village in seattle, which is where all our best family thrifting is done.

the skirt is tight-ish and hard to style, and requires some effort to wear.  today was a day that required effort, so i decided to match it with a little more of a sartorial stretch.

1)  i taught my first locavore cooking class of the new term.  it's big and intense and we made asparagus with hollandaise, meyer lemon tarts, fettucine alfredo (what the kids ALWAYS want to make), and a sharp cheddar fondue with cubes of marble rye.

2)  one student is going through a difficult and dangerous transition.  he's very brave.  i won't reveal what he did today in order to protect his privacy, but it was big & bold,  and i admired his moxie.

3)  i was fasting, day three.  done now, but it required a little more effort to get through the day.

4)  taught my first poetry class of the new term.  i asked the students to bring in a poem that really spoke to them and one of my favorite student poets brought in this, from whitman:

Oh me!  Oh life!

by Walt Whitman
Oh me! Oh life! of the questions of these recurring,
Of the endless trains of the faithless, of cities fill’d with the foolish,
Of myself forever reproaching myself, (for who more foolish than I, and who more faithless?)
Of eyes that vainly crave the light, of the objects mean, of the struggle ever renew’d,
Of the poor results of all, of the plodding and sordid crowds I see around me,
Of the empty and useless years of the rest, with the rest me intertwined,
The question, O me! so sad, recurring—What good amid these, O me, O life?

That you are here—that life exists and identity,
That the powerful play goes on, and you may contribute a verse.

these verses rocked me today.  thank you, o student, for bringing it before me again.
o walt!
i can think of nothing right now more affirmative than that last line, the idea that we have the privilege of contributing a verse in our endless city fill'd with the foolish, in our sordid crowd, our empty years and recurring questions.  
how hard, but how lucky!  to have a life & to have the opportunity of contributing a verse! 

legwear:  bare
inspiration: the bravery of one who goes against the dominant culture
looking forward: to seeing my sister tomorrow!

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

condolences, dear julie

our dear julie lost her father today.

she has been caring for him and worrying about him from afar for the last year.

our deepest condolances, julie, to you and your family.

we will see you back on the blog whenever you're ready.

ego work assessment

a student's awesome outfit/every day dressing/i LUV red shoes

following julie's example, i went back to january's initial posts to get a handle on where i am in working on the stuff i set out to do at the year's start.  the first thing that struck me was this:  julie's street fashion photos rock!  if you haven't read the whole blog, scroll through the photos and you'll be really inspired to get your game on in your daily dressing.  (i happen to think every day dressing is important and can make your life a lot more beautiful, no matter what your circumstance.)

the second thing was this:  i've written a lot about ego, and that seems to be the emerging theme of this year.  how much do i do things in order to fufill certain egoistic expectations and how much do i do things because they're good and true?  i set out to make this year about the latter thing.  not so sure which is dominating in the battle between a life that is lived for the wrong reasons and an authentically lived life.  i'm on day two of my fast, and it feels great.  i started it for twin reasons, one of them egoistic and one of them in an attempt to be a better, kinder, more humble person, more in tune with the beauty and goodness in the world.  both reasons are still there, coexisting fairly well, i must say.

i wonder how often other people think about the situation in which we humans find ourselves, trying to sort through seeming contradictions between motivation and action--how one can be bad and one can be good, both at the same time.

but here's what i set down in january:

1) something meaningful to write about everyday:  this has actually come to pass.  writing something every day has made the day more meaningful.  julie and i have both managed to post something every single day of 2012 so far.

2) every day beauty: the blog has been a sort of gratitude journal, and it's helped me realize, like ayun halliday said in her guest post on monday, that i have nothing at all to complain about.  it's made me more observant of, say,
the awesome outfits my students wear every day,
the daffodils under my window surrounded by snow,
the AMAZING mountains my home snuggles up against,
the fleetingly beautiful holes in my seven-year old's smile,
& the more than bountiful circumstances i was born to.

those are the important items from my list.  i feel good about that, and inspired to keep consciously working, at least until the summer equinox!

legwear:  sweats.  but i'm about to change into argyle knee socks.

looking forward: to folded laundry, graded midterms

inspiration:  gratitude enhanced by hunger

p.s. i'm reading rebecca lindenberg's column this week on mormon-belt food.  loved her post on funeral potatoes and community.  that tension again between belonging and outsiderness that may or may not be adequately smoothed over by the balm of creamy condensed soups.  i happen to live in the heart of the heart of zion, and this tension exists every day, many times a day.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Equinox Assessment

First day of spring.  Ray's on Ave A. on Twitpic
First cone of the season at Ray's Candy Store on Avenue A 
It's the Spring Equinox! Yeah!--although I wonder if we've heard it given our wimpy little winter. Now it's been 2012 for almost three months, and I thought I'd take a minute to see what I've done that I wanted to do when I was thinking about this year--the night Lara and I started this blog--on Dec 31st. 

Have I checked anything off my list? 

 Where are my New Year's Resolutions anyway? I just checked two different places!--help! 

 Ok, here's what I remember: 

1. More yoga! Really? I've only been to one, maybe two formal yoga classes this year. I practice at home, but it's not the same. 

2. Write and submit fiction. I've written. I really have, but have I submitted anything anywhere? No. And I just heard some disappointing news in this regard about an hour ago. (March, you are a killing me! Really!!) 

3. Try and get out of my tight place and thinking less tightly. Well, more yoga would help with this. But I am trying to breathe more consciously and more deeply. And I am keeping up with a journal, and trying to be more conscious of how I move through the day. 

4. More love.  Just like the sign above says!  Need to work on this.

5. More light!  Needs work!

6. More tights! I actually did well with this one! On Sunday, I wore my yellow tights. I saw daffodils everywhere. Today, however, it was so warm that I peeled off my leggings on a public sidewalk. 

 On January 1, 2012 I went to hear this singer/songwriter Joseph Arthur play. He read his New Year's resolutions--numbering about 40--from the stage. One of his was: "Let dreams learn how to be true." This I'm definitely going to work on for the next three months. 

 What about you?

fasting and eating

cookbooks like this abound, but don't tell the whole story

i'll be micro-blogging today because i start a fresh term today and i'm madly putting together a new course on the literature of place.  i'm up early working on this, but, quickly, here are three things about today:

1) i'm starting a three-day fast.  fasting is a tradition i grew up with, and it's done for several explicit purposes, once a month on the first sunday.  in my neighborhood, the deacons, twelve-year old boys, come to your house and collect fast-offerings after church.  then they say a prayer for your family while standing at the door.  then you donate the cost of the meals your family missed while fasting and the donations go here to help feed and clothe and house the needy.  (this is an important institution that speaks to our utopian and communal beginnings.) people also fast to achieve inspiration, answers to prayers, and to gain spiritual clarity.  today i'm fasting for those reasons, but also, honestly, i'm going to arizona in a couple weeks and need to wear a bathing suit.  and, for reals, aunt carol told me last week that after 48 hours of fasting ketosis sets in and you get a little bit of a hunger soar.  "life gets so, so simple," she said, making her week-long fast sound like the best high in the world.  so, body hate, ketosis, remembering the poor, and spiritual clarity will ricochet around in my head, heart, and flesh for a few days, and i guess that's the point.  to address complexity with the simplicity of the fast.

2) i woke up and read the second post in a brilliantly written mini-series about mormon-belt food and culture from rebecca lindenberg over at the best american poetry.  this is some of the most detailed and nuanced writing on the subject i've encountered, and i now know where i'm going for tapas next time i'm in boise.  luckily i'm not hungry from fasting yet.  also, rebecca has a new book of poems out that has received much praise and notice.  i'll be reading, not eating, her work for the next few days.

3)   rehearsing with the byu chamber orchestra this afternoon.  they're performing a piece set to my poem how to be spring for tenor and orchestra.  i'll be reading sections of the poem before each movement of the piece, but what i'm most concerned about here are sartorial questions.  i'll be up there the whole time, for the duration of a long-ish piece, so do i go sequined soprano diva although i'm not singing, or do i wear a low-key black dress and try to pretend that, shucks, i'm just the poet?  i mean, the audience should have something pretty to look at shouldn't they?  my laws, you all know what answer i want from you.

legwear:  nada.  i'm in my nightgown still.

inspiration: mormon-belt food writing.

looking forward: to my ketosis high.  aunt carol better not be lying, dammit..

Monday, March 19, 2012

GITP Guest Blogger #8: Introducing Zinester, Writer, and NYC Treasure, Ayun Halliday!

Editor's Note: In April of 1999, my six-month-old baby Z and I met Ayun Halliday in the East Village's Tompkins Square Park. As this was an auspicious playground in a storied park,  Z and I always dressed carefully for the occasion (in matching tights, of course). For days, Z kept tipping over from a sitting position in the toddler area, but I couldn't help but notice Ayun, who was there nearly everyday sprawled on the blacktop nearby, smiling, usually laughing, surrounded by the all the other mothers, the few fathers. Ayun and her toddler, Inky, were the playground's epicenter of sorts or at least seemed to be from my peripheral perspective. They were the cool kids in this new milieu of mine. I was shy and reticent, but Ayun was instantly warm.  One day she pressed the inaugural copy of her (now influential and decidedly world famous) zine, East Village Inky into my palm one day, and after I read it, crouched in my shoebox of an apartment, I nearly collapsed onto my dirty floor from joy--Ayun's zine was great:  witty, poignant and uncannily illustrated.  Not long after, Ayun vacated the East Village for Brooklyn, and we have been in intermittent touch over the years, but given the fact that she is as prolific as Elvis Costello, I've had many opportunities to share the same air space with Ayun at  her many  readings and public appearances. She is a force of nature, and more than a decade later, I'm still in awe. 

Having her guest blog this month is especially cool, as it's Ayun's birthday next week and the East Village Inky is closing in on issue #50!
Ayun at the Chicago Zine Fair this month.
1. Tell us about yourself. I'm a 46-year-old writer, mother, summer camp enthusiast, and the Chief Primatologist of The East Village Inky zine, a native Hoos-Yorker who frequently cites the expression, "If you label me, you negate me." I just agreed to illustrate a friend's book, so I guess I'm an illustrator too. I march in the Mermaid Parade every year regardless of the state of my midriff. I'm a public school loyalist who's beginning (again) to look into homeschooling. I love to travel, especially by myself or with a platonic lady friend, doubly especially if someone else is footing the bill. I used to do low budget theater and dream that that day will come again, though it would take someone grasping me firmly by the iron and putting me in the fire. I fancy myself a cyclist but despise the uphill part of any bridge connecting Manhattan and Brooklyn.

  2. Are you in a tight place? If so, what are you trying to do about it? Physically, yes. It seemed so big when we moved here from a 340 square foot apartment in the East Village. That was literally at the start of the millennium, and now every board creaks, the furniture is warped from the increasingly slanted floors, there's a crack separating the ceiling and the wall, and something that looks like blood drips down a living room wall every time it rains. Oh wait, I was supposed to be talking about the size. Because what I was describing sounds like a haunted house and you know how big those are. We have four people, a cat, and a ton of books and paper crammed into an approximately 725 square foot apartment with one closet and no outdoor space, unless you count the stoop 3 flights down, which I do since I have claimed it as my own. The two biggest problems with this tight place are that my children share a room the size of a smallish walk-in freezer, with no room for anything resembling privacy or just contemplative alone time. This was okay when they were younger - not a lot of flouncing off to the bedroom or telling someone that they couldn't come in - but I can feel how much my teenage daughter would like a room apart from her younger brother. The other problem is that their dad gets in these moods where our semi-squalid quarters can envelop him in a very dark and crabby cloud that permeates all 725 square feet. But neither of us has the stomach to look for real estate in a methodical, hopeful way, and we have different criteria as to what makes a livable neighborhood! (So I take a breath and remember that we have a very fair landlady, and a lot of great neighbors, and no roaches, and a roof over our heads and all that…)

 Mentally, I feel fairly un-tight. This can be a liability at times, but it allows me to check out or at least hear about all sorts of interesting events and projects here in NYC and beyond, often helmed by people half my age. It's rare that I feel hemmed in by the world. Financially, I do feel some tightness. I seem to be genetically predisposed to live frugally but not meanly, but my talent for finding cashmere at the Salvation Army is not of much use when it comes time to pay for braces, health insurance, college…

3. What do you want to get done this year? Meet a magic fairy who will trade me a brownstone in move in condition for a lifetime subscription of the East Village Inky. Preferably in Fort Greene or Clinton Hill. Also finish a novel I've been working on for years, see it sell, publish three more issues of the East Village Inky, fatten up my subscriber list, have a wonderful summer at the camp where I work, keep the love handles off, get a grant, score some freelance work, be patient with and loving toward my husband, children, and friends, hit a few more zine tests and keep my wig on straight whenever it's threatening to come off. 

 4. What inspires you? Homemade parades, punk marching bands, people who modify their bikes, older women dressing in eye-catching, festive ways, well written books, people who know how to use the Internet for good, the staff and sometimes campers of Beam Camp, the knowledge that other people in other countries live with much more difficult challenges than the ones that cause self-pity in your average bohemian-inclined American, music… I'm just coming home from the Chicago Zine Fest where I met a ton of cool people who are a) nice and b) pumping out a metric heinie load of beautiful, clever, well written, well drawn, funny zines and comics.

5. What is your favorite legwear? Striped knee socks. I felt really proud when I saw that Trixie, the main hooker on Deadwood, shares my affinity.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Olek on Orchard

Share photos on twitter with Twitpic 
I had no plans to run into Olek, was not expecting any Olek in my day, but winding my way back home, and not wanting to go home, I ducked into a gallery that happened to be housing a new Olek constructed of long tight balloons loosely crocheted. It will be up through April 10 at the Krause Gallery

The gallery guy told me that broken or deflated balloons would not be replaced and because that each day the installation is bound to be slightly different--just like our bodies.  Because we're the same right? Robust and flexible--but mutable and fragile.

 Running into good art always makes me feel like my day was was lived.

 I have to hold onto this experience as I duck into this tight week.
Share photos on twitter with Twitpic

Share photos on twitter with Twitpic 
  Olek at Krause Gallery on Twitpic 

spring break with eva & anna, day out with my girls

lula ordered the yogurt parfait with grapefruit and housemade granola + home fries

eva, home for her last spring break ever, until grad school

anna went with baked eggs and housemade chorizo

cecily went with biscuits and gravy.  communal biscuits are insane.
i probably don't need to say it again, but i love communal.  simple, clean food, well prepared, and a lovely spot to eat.  i'm grateful to have a restaurant like this in provo, grateful that people with integrity are working to improve our food culture.  

i found out last week that they butcher something like 1900 pounds of heritage pork a month.  that's a lot of hours of labor.  this really is handmade food.

i adore these biscuits, and sometimes make them at home.  though i'd rather eat them at the restaurant. ((i make the rolled and cut version--so cute!  and i have teeny-tiny, medium sized, and huge biscuit cutters for added cuteness.)

lara and eva ate potato spinach latkes, clifford farms eggs over easy, and housemade bacon
 lula thought these potato pancakes were the best she'd ever eaten.  i'm in love with over easy eggs.  then we spotted julie clifford, the farmer who provides eggs for communal, eating at the bar in grimy gardening clothes.  she rocks.  the chefs at communal smoke their own bacon.  it's fantastic.

eva, taylor and anna at the phenomenal utah museum of natural history

 three of the smartest, most interesting girls you'll ever meet.  i love getting to associate with them on occasion.  they'll be graduating this spring, so look out world.

(and this museum is very special.)

anna, cecily, and lula.  lula enforced the st. patrick's day wardrobe

eva, grandma beth and lara at chuck-a-rama.  giving anna a classic utah dining experience.
anna could have been in cancun for her spring break, but she good-naturedly spent it with our crazy family getting 44 oz. diet cokes, hanging at utah hot-spots like gilgal gardens and chuck-a-rama, while we try to convince her to move to the west after graduation. 

legwear:  diagonally striped fishnets

inspiration: chefs, farmers, and college girls

looking forward: sunday dinner and family music night