Archive for January, 2008

Big Apple Sauce

Thursday, January 31st, 2008

23rdstreet
Mood: Industrious
Drinking: Lukewarm Diet Coke

I love New York.

Yeah, yeah, that’s what the t-shirt is for. But really. Who doesn’t love New York, even in January…

I’m in Manhattan for a writing conference, and let’s be honest — at least half of the reason, maybe even three-fourths of the reason I wanted to come to this conference was just to be in New York again.

It’s been a few years since I was last here. Somehow, I always seem to show up in the city during the winter, necessitating a suitcase of sweaters. I even have a big fuzzy winter coat that usually hangs mothballed in the garage because it was purchased specifically for trips to colder climes like New York and Chicago. It’s rarely cold enough in California to warrant so much fuzz.

Boy is joining me for the weekend, but for the moment I’m on my own in the big city, and enjoying the heady freedom of riding the subway to Soho and back for no apparent reason.

Of course, I’m here for the writing, too, and I’m taking pages of studious notes and ferreting away nuggets of inspiration for later, (although the blogging for writers seminar I was just in was capital B Boring).

Anyway, I’m all juiced up in the Big Apple and my MetroCard is burning a hole in my pocket. Being here just makes me feel like anything could happen, even though “anything” usually turns out to be fairly unremarkable.

So let me say it again: I really love New York!

-Lo, who feels right at home on the boisterous sidewalks.

Puddle Jumping

Sunday, January 27th, 2008

puddlesmile
Mood: Bluesy
Drinking: Weak Tea

It’s rainy out west.

Rainy and cold. (Although according to the family in Illinois, it’s -17 degrees Fahrenheit, so I guess “cold” here is a relative term.) We have no shortage of mud puddles. No shortage of just plain old mud, either. I got plenty on my shoes this morning when the LeeLoo and I went for a run at Land’s End. (Yes, I’m still running. The bug doesn’t really let go after 13.1 miles, it seems. It just bites harder.)

There were a few brief minutes of sunshine this morning before the rain came down again, and we made sure to take advantage so we could spend the rest of the day lolling on the couch (Loo) and munching greasy popcorn at a Juno matinee (me).

Now it’s dark outside and the rain’s beating a wild rhythm on the windows. I’ve got a fire on and an itch in my fingers and I feel all out of practice writing anything interesting.

But there’s hope! I’m off to a big fancy writing conference this week, so I should be back in tip top word shape in no time at all.

I’m looking forward to it. For the past few months it’s been all running, all the time, and I’m ready to mix up the body action with some brain action and get the whole thing chugging along like some proverbial well-oiled machine.

I’ve noticed that’s what happens when you start to get some part of yourself in shape. Now that I’m well on my way to bulging — or at least slightly shapely — calf muscles, I’ve noticed that the noodley-lookin’ arms could use some attention. So I’m putting those cute little blue free weights that Boy bought me to work, finally. Bulging (or at least slightly shapely) biceps, here I come.

All this toning is addictive. First the legs, now the arms. Who knows what’s next! But the brain wants some attention, too. Hence the conference with all the books and the learning…

The rain drops are fading away now. Or at least blowing in a different, less audible direction. I like falling asleep to the splishing, splashing sound of it. Always have.

Tonight is rather melancholy, though. Boy’s at work. Loo’s crashed out on the couch, still. And I’m here at the table, tapping away, nothing much to say.

It’s nice to be slightly at a loss, though. All last year, if I had a moment like this, I pulled out my endless to-do list and got right to work.

There was no time to dawdle with directionless puddle-musing. I had a book to publish, a party to plan, a trip to take, and then books to sell and funds to raise and miles to run and a nephew to meet. 2007 was a lovely, astonishing, rewarding, incredible year, and it passed all too quickly.

But it was busy, too. So very busy. I’m ready to drag my feet a little.

Yes, 2008 has started with a race and a bang, but I’m determined to take it down a notch this year. To keep the list to just one page. To throw just one ball in the air at a time. To write about absolutely nothing important. To listen to the rain…

-Lo, who really should invest in some (cute) rubber wellies.

Inaugural

Wednesday, January 23rd, 2008

Mood: Ebullient
Drinking: Waiting

I shot my mouth off a lot on Tuesday.

Giddy with the dawning of a new era, I got all sassy on facebook and talked smack about inaugural poet Elizabeth Alexander.

I really have nothing against the woman herself. I just felt her poem to be middling-to-average, and her delivery of said poem was awful.

Perhaps I took it a bit too personally because I was so excited to have a contemporary poet standing up there on that bright stage, in full view of the entire world. I cheered when she appeared and was all full of goodwill and go get ’em, girl.

And then she spoke, and I was a bit deflated.

Granted, whoever planned the order of the ceremony did her no favors by placing her after all the big hoopla, and so the crowds, whose toes were probably a bit frozen by then, couldn’t be bothered to sit through a poem when the big moment had already transpired.

If she had been placed right after the invocation, she probably would have fared a bit better.

Someone also brought up the point about nerves given the huge crowd, the national stage, etcetera, but let me say this: I have performed in front of tiny rooms and huge auditoriums and outdoor concerts full of raucous teenagers and I would take the hundreds of thousands of faces any day over a small, intimate gathering. Big crowds are cake.

No, I’ve never performed in front of all the living Presidents of the United States, with Oprah in the front row and CNN cameras staring me down, but I’m quite confident I could have pulled out a better reading than Ms. Alexander.

So that’s what I said, more or less, on facebook on Tuesday. And then somebody called me out, challenged me to put my pen where my mouth was and write something myself, since I was so dissatisfied with the poem in question.

And that’s what I’ve spent the last 2 days doing. I’m sure inaugural poets get more than 2 days to craft their work, but I’m not really trying to one-up anyone. Not really. It just became important, sunddenly, to put my finger on what exactly it was I wanted to say about January 20, 2009.

As I started writing, I found that my focus was very simple. It was all about hope. So I wrote about the steadily burning hope I felt on that day, and the hope I’m sure so many others felt as we watched it all unfold.

I borrowed a few words from Nietzsche, from Dr. King, and from President Obama himself. And although I’m sure my chances of being invited to read at such a historical event are quite slim, if I were, this is a poem I would not be embarrassed to read there…

Harbinger

Hope does not automatically spring eternal.
It must first be ignited and after that, fueled.

Constantly it must be sheltered,
lest it be crushed
by the brutal jackboot of prejudice

or wither into obscurity beneath the negligent gaze
of the well-intentioned ignorant.

If hope is indeed the “worst of evils,”
prolonging the torments of the living,
it is also, by necessity, the best of pleasures,
making the work of living worthwhile.

While we breathe, we hope,
for without,
breath blows in vain
heart beats only out of habit
and all of it ceases to mean anything lovely.

It has to begin somewhere, so why not here
this winter morning, under limitless frigid sky,
why not here where we have gathered together
so when the books are written, we can say
we were there.

Why not here where we wait, guardians of the day,
assuring one another by our presence
that this hour has really come.
This moment is really ours.

Take the hope from its hiding place
deep in your chest
and pass this warm light
from hand to hand
quickly
carefully.

Watch as faces
begin to share a telltale glow
and a path appears
where once there loomed an impenetrable wall.

Once, a man had a dream.
Today another man stands
and raises his hand
as evidence of things hoped for,
the embodiment of things not seen.

While there is hope, all is not lost.
While there is hope, courage can be found.
While there is hope, there is momentum,
the sudden possibility of change,
the eternal probability of joy.

Give us a reason to believe and
we will hew from the mountain of despair
a stone of hope.

And with that stone
we will bring down giants.

-Lo, who finds that it always comes back to the knife edge of hope.

Rock and/or Roll

Friday, January 18th, 2008

cactus_medal1Mood: Sunny
Drinking: Tea

13.1 miles?

Pffft. Piece of cake!

I ran my 13.1 on Sunday the 13th in Phoenix, AZ and had a fabulous time doing so, thanks to my running buddies Roy & Michael.

Since it was my first half marathon ever, as well as my first visit to the sprawling, sunbaked metropolis of Phoenix, I wasn’t sure what to expect.

All the unsolicited advice I received before the event went something like this: “Your goal should just be to finish. Don’t worry about how long it takes you.”

Which is all very reasonable. But I am an overachiever, so I set a time goal for myself.

I wanted to finish in under 3 hours. Quite realistic, I thought.

As it turns out, I was right. My official finish line time was 2:55:22.

And that’s even with the unscheduled run into McDonald’s for a bathroom break at mile 1.5. Hey — standing around for 2 hours waiting to start whilst drinking a bottle of water will put a girl in an emergency situation.

So in spite of the unexpected wait in said McDonald’s bathroom (I wasn’t the only girl on the course with the brilliant idea of peeing in a fast-food joint instead of standing in line at a porta-potty), in spite of the southwest sun and the warmer climate, I still met my time goal. So I’m rather pleased with myself.

Plus, a few last-minute donors cranked my fundraising total up to nearly $4,500 for The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society, which kicks ass.

All in all, it’s been lovely. I highly recommend both Team in Training and running a half marathon with good friends.

As a bonus, I got to take a little side trip into the Superstition Wilderness and wander around the beautiful desert. As you can see, Boy took the opportunity to photograph me, my shiny new Marathon Medal, and a friendly Saguaro Cactus while we were there.

And since I was lucky enough to have my cinepoem partner, Michelle, with me, we shot a new cinepoem out in the desert while we were at it. So that’s two new cinepoems in the can: Yellow, which was shot over Thanksgiving in the central valley of California, and our very first poem with cacti cameos, Strange. I’m not sure which one of those will hit the Internet first. You’ll have to stay tuned…

Meanwhile, I’m happy to be back in foggier climes, and so is LeeLoo, who is NOT a fan of the desert. Too many prickly things that get stuck in tender paws.

I’m going to sign off with a few shout outs to deserving parties:
* Roy & Michael, who are both more experienced runners than I, but stayed with me every step of the 13.1, just because they’re that awesome
* Chris & Shel, who drove there and back and toted camera equipment way out into the wilderness, and also made such lovely cheering signs to hold up for us along the race course. (Including a special “Run Lola Run” sign from my pal Eric.)
* Boy, who took a thousand photos and was staunchly supportive and makes everything better just by being there.
* Kathy, Lani, and Allegra, who sent me voice and text messages on race day that made me run that much faster.
* All my Team in Training coaches and pals who helped me learn how to run mile after mile after mile.
* All of you who donated to the cause and sent words of encouragement along the way.

You rock my socks right off. Thank you for everything!

-Lo, who starts running again on Monday.

Get Set

Tuesday, January 8th, 2008

ready2runMood: Ready
Drinking: Water

Five days left ’til I’m off and running.

The P.F. Chang’s Rock ‘n’ Roll Arizona Half Marathon is Sunday the 13th.

I’ve got my Aasics all broken in and my shot blocks stocked up and I even bought purple hairbands to match my grape-colored Team in Training singlet! I’m all riled up and ready to run 13.1.

Of course, I have to get to Phoenix first.

Boy and LeeLoo are coming with, and so are my friends Chris, Shel, Roy, and Mike. And Roy and Mike are not only coming with, they’re running the half marathon with me. Because they’re just that cool.

I’ve got a few more days before I go, but they’ll be filled with planning and packing and squeezing in one more Team track workout at Kezar Stadium, so I probably won’t have time to write again until those 13.1 miles are behind me.

So I’d like to thank all of you who have sponsored me by donating to The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society. Thanks to you, we’ve raised nearly $4,000 ($3,940 at last count) to help find cures for leukemia, lymphoma, Hodgkin lymphoma and myeloma. You definitely went above and beyond, and I’ll be thinking of you all when I strap on my running shoes on Sunday.

I’m very much looking forward to all of it, from the starting line jitters to the finish line triumph (and probably tears), to all the miles of running in between.

And as a bonus? Shel and I are going to do our very best to squeeze in a desert cinepoem shoot while we’re there. Because it would just be silly to pass up a cactus cameo, you know?

-Lo, who won’t forget to stretch.

Another Day Another Dollar

Wednesday, January 2nd, 2008

powells
Mood: Clickety-Clackety
Drinking: Water

With all the recent excitement involving the wee new nephew, I’ve neglected to mention the trip to Portland.

In the calm before the holiday/baby storm, Boy and I packed the LeeLoo and a few choice bags into a rental car and hit the road northward to rainier climes.

Boy’s parents lived in Oregon before returning to California a few years ago, so I’ve been to the Pacific Northwest before, just not for long. Boy’s sister now lives there with her husband, a Greek Orthodox priest, and their two children. She’s been there for two years, at least, and our visit was long overdue.

Not to mention our adorable friend C who, as many northern Californians seem to do, recently made the Portland move. I also have another Portland friend who I hadn’t seen in 8 years.

And then there was LeeLoo’s Internets Boyfriend and his fine ladies. (They are so fine, they deserve a post of their own, so I’ll save the dog tale for later, if that’s ok with you…)

So. Obviously. Lots of reasons to visit Portland.

I’m not sure what I expected. Rain, yes, you always expect the rain up there. Big green trees, yes, that too. But so many San Franciscans seem to migrate northward with stories of more affordable housing and a city that is just as wonderful as our foggy town.

So I was expecting, I don’t know, some sort of San Francisco-like mecca. Rain-weathered Victorians and fog-shrouded hills. A bit of mist and magic, perhaps.

And while I found Portland and its people to be perfectly pleasant, if a bit too cold (the weather, not the people), I don’t think I’ll be giving up my San Francisco residency in exchange for a cheaper mortgage anytime soon.

The magic just wasn’t there for me, not like it is here. That’s the biggest reason why not. It was a bit too crunchy for me, as well. (Somehow there seem to actually be more hippies in Portland than San Francisco.) Also, San Francisco summers are about as cold as I like it. Chill the air below 40 and add a few bucketloads of rain and I’m staying far away.

Speaking of the rain, I totally showed my tourist stripes whilst knocking about downtown Portland with Boy and Sister-in-Law. We stepped onto the street and I popped open my plaid umbrella to keep the rain off my head and, oh look! I’m the only one standing in the rain with an umbrella.

In San Francisco, you can tell the tourists by their summertime shorts. In Portland, you pick them out by their umbrellas.

The one thing that makes me blink and think twice, though? Powell’s Books. It’s every bit as magical as you’ve heard. Which is saying something. Because you know those certain places that get you all worked into a lather — you hear so much and you’ve waited so long and you’re so excited to finally see it for yourself and then you get there and it’s oh, so disappointing.

Not Powell’s.

There is nothing there to disappoint. A city block full of lovely books. All easily shelved and cleverly organized. The book jockeys are sweet and helpful. And the lady in the science fiction room needed no explanation as to who Sergei Lukyanenko was.

And even better than the two heaping bags of books Boy and I walked out of there with? Powell’s bought a few of my books!

Oh yes, you can now find The Secrets of Falling at Powell’s Books. At Burnside. In the Blue Room. Small Press section. Poetry shelf. Go down to the W’s and look, there I am.

Lo, who’s still reading her way through those two bags full.

New Year, Same Girl

Tuesday, January 1st, 2008

windmillMood: Ready
Drinking: Done

The last one went by so fast.

I’m not ready for a new one.
But years don’t wait for you to catch up
or slow down.
Old fades out. New takes over.
Time rushes on
and on and on.
With or without you.

(And this doesn’t count as a poem.)

-Lo, who just keeps running.