(1) Hymn for the Black Terrific by Kiki Petrosino. | (2) Poems Descriptive of Rural Life and Scenery by Tim Earley. | (3) Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life by Anne Lamott. | (4) Everything is Illuminated by Jonathan Safran Foer. | (5) Martin Scorsese’s The Blues: A Musical Journey. | (6) Ken Burns’s Jazz. | (7) Which is to say: time to read and re-read, watch and re-watch, consider and re-consider. | (8) People-watching. | (9) Specifically: all the bleary-eyed but — no, and, therefore — beautiful people in the coffee shop on a Saturday morning. (Where are you going, where have you been, etc.) | (10) JB Lenoir. | (11) Skip James. | (12) El Barrio. | (13) Murals. With sun. | (14) Misplacing my phone. For a time. Not losing my phone. Losing my phone sucks. But having a vague idea of where it might be (and where it might be if it isn’t there) — and being out of earshot of these might-be places. | (15) Writing bars at Andrew’s behest. | (16) Horns. | (17) Horn-rims. | (18) The theme song to Rocky. | (19) Occasion to remember, fondly, Memorial Stadium in Baltimore (see above). Which is to say… (20) Cal Ripken, Sr. smacking fungoes to his sons. | (21) Mike Boddicker’s curveball. | (22) Watching George Brett when the Royals came to town. | (23) Thank God I’m a Country Boy. | (24) Fred Lynn running into the centerfield wall every single opening day. | (25) Jim Trabor. The prototypical John Kruk. | (26) Joe Orsulak. The prototypical Joe Orsulak. | (27) 1989. (Why not?!) | (28) Floyd Rayford. | (29) Rene Gonzalez. | (30) The bumper-to-bumper drive all the way through the Charm City (in what then seemed to be its vast and interminable entirety), listening to Chuck Thompson’s pre-game on the radio, then, finally, the slow tectonic shift into the (also bumper-to-bumper) gravel parking lot outside the stadium, this whole procession perfectly paced to build the unbearable tension in anticipation of that first magical glimpse, from the concourse, through a portal, of the impossibly bright green grass in the outfield.
I should have to pay Michael Ondaatje royalties for every time I have invoked the acknowledgments to this book, a half-true, fittingly lyrical novelization of the life of real-life jazz legend Buddy Bolden:
While I have used real names and characters and historical situations I have also used more personal pieces of friends and fathers. There have been some date changes, some characters brought together, and some facts have been expanded or polished to suit the truth of fiction. [Emphasis added.]
The truth about the past (present and future too) rests on a covered bridge between what we know and what we don’t know. Sometimes it spits into the swift current below, imagines that small but irretrievable part of itself rushing away to become part of a great big sea. This is what we know (and love) as storytelling.
Diamond considers just how much this leads to that. One or two simple advantages — horses, gunpowder, the right kind of immune system — helps cadres of three or four dozen Spaniards slaughter thousands of lesser-equipped native warriors in the New World. Entire ways of life, peoples, stores of knowledge vanish forever from the earth as a result. The path is set. If quilted armor could stop a forged blade swung in malice, if stones were more deadly than bullets, the world might be a very different place. Reminiscent of that scene in It’s a Wonderful Life where Clarence the angel explains to George Bailey how, when he’s removed from the tiny puzzle that is Bedford Falls, the entire world changes. Mr. Gower, Martini, Mary, a transport full of soldiers waiting for a hero in his little brother, Harry — all of them rely on the very subtle interconnectedness of, you know, Things. Butterflies, yes, do stir up tsunamis. What is built is already ruined. Etc.
(1) Philip Seymour Hoffman. | (2) Travelers. | (3) Hosts. | (4) Traveling. | (5) Hosting. | (6) Surrender. As a survival instinct. | (7) Ice in my beard. | (8) Salsa verde. | (9) Songs. | (10) Sounds. | (11) Playing with #9 and #10. Making them, I mean. Playing at making them. | (12) Karen Armstrong’s A History of God. | (13) El. | (14) Yahweh. | (15) Marduk. | (16) Etc. | (17) Which is to say: the ancient near-eastern jostling of Gods. | (18) K–’s people. | (19) Which is to say: kindred spirits. Kind ones. | (20) Bluff Park Elementary School. Gracious port in the storm. | (21) Four-wheel drive and an intrepid captain at the wheel. | (22) R & R. | (22) “Never Let Go” by Tom Waits, the sentiment of which generally flies in the face of the sentiment behind #6 above. But. Which. I mean… | (23) Paradox. | (24) News from the Delta. | (25) Invited talks. (Thanks, B–) | (26) Invited talks. (Thanks, A–) | (27) The osmosis effect of spending time with someone who has energy to burn. (Again: thanks, A–) | (28) Bikini Kill. | (29) Peyton Manning. | (30) Russell Wilson.
(1) Warm sun in winter. | (2) My new dining room table from the Upcycle folks. | (3) Blood on the Tracks. | (4) Particularly: “Idiot Wind.” | (5) Lyrics. Generally. (Jolie Holland says she gets all the poetry she needs from song lyrics. I think that’s like saying you get all the beef you need from chicken. Now: I do believe you can get your protein from chicken, thus making beef nutritionally redundant. That I can get on board with. (And maybe even you can make an argument that chicken is a better source of protein than beef is, and I might just grant your point there too…) Also: I can get on board with… | (6) Ending sentences with prepositions. | (7) “If That’s Alright” by Jeff Tweedy in his Uncle Tupelo days. | (8) Crystallized ginger. | (9) Manchego cheese. | (10) Particularly when it is stuffed into dates, wrapped in bacon, baked and then swabbed with Grade A maple syrup. Holy. Moses. | (11) Asparagus. Roasted. | (12) OK Computer. Still. | (13) Johnny Cash. | (14) A new trend/tool in my life: writing letters to people with the express intent to never send said letter. Abraham Lincoln did that a lot. | (15) This realization: it’s been almost twelve years since I had the Sunday Blues. | (16) Kissing my dog on the snout. Which sometimes makes her sneeze. In protest, I’ve always assumed. | (17) Wearing a silly hat around the house. | (18) Fuzzy guitar noise. Walls and/or waves of it. | (19) St. Augustine’s Confessions. Still. That’s a fella whose mind was a-buzz. Just a-buzz. No wonder he turned to Jesus. | (20) Notes-to-self. (See above.) | (21) Postcards. | (22) Trading work with excellent writers who also happen to be excellent friends. | (23) K– and M– and K–, who bought me pizza. | (24) S– and D–, who ate with me at my new table. And watched a Terrence Malick movie with me. And talked about God &tc. | (25) Poems. | (26) Songs. | (27) “Monogamy.” Gestating. | (28) Nature. (Still.) | (29) Grace. (Still.) | (30) The semi-impenetrable, in theory and practice.
(1 – 30) Nature and Grace.
Which is to say, this, which I wrote — as notes-to-self — in TJ: The Owner’s Manual* this morning:
[*Hat-tip: Havi Brooks's The Book of You.]
The Two Ways
Via Terrence Malick’s The Tree of Life:
“The nuns taught us there are two ways through life: the way of nature and the way of grace. You have to choose which one you’ll follow. Grace doesn’t try to please itself. Accepts being slighted, forgotten, disliked. Accepts insults and injuries. Nature only wants to please itself. Get others to please it too. Likes to lord it over them. To have its own way. It finds reasons to be unhappy when all the world is shining around it, when love is smiling through all things. They taught us that no one who loves the way of grace ever comes to a bad end. I will be true to you. Whatever comes.”
As I Understand [It]:
I believe God dwells in the exponential relationship between the two ways. How 8 × 8 >8 + 8. How 64 is not 8 or even two eights. God isn’t limited to the realm of Nature or the realm of Grace. God serves, fittingly enough, as the operator (or power: 8 to the second power) between the two, to create something larger than they can make on their own or even in tandem.
(1) Black Friday. Sleeping through it. | (2) The ending of Colum McCann’s Let the Great World Spin. Which I finally, finally got to. It’s like the prize at the bottom of a box of Cracker Jacks. Also: reading said ending on the plane. On the tarmac. At night. In the throes of thwarted post-Thanksgiving weekend travel. Transported, indeed. | (3) Listening to my brother Mike and his cousin Al talk about Mt. Morris, New York. | (4) My bright-eyed niece and nephew. | (5) Their mother and father (my sister and brother-in-law). | (6) Their little lap-dog puppy. Who is the spitting image of Carol Channing. | (7) My own 16-year-old lap-dog. Who seemed sick but isn’t. | (8) Roasted garlic. | (9) Fire in the Carolinas. | (10) Which is to say: Michael Thornton, who I see once a year at Thanksgiving and who is a good, kindhearted man who has suffered and been redeemed. By any means necessary. | (11) Notes. Handwritten. Sent and received. | (12) Family. Oblong and catawampus. | (13) My little house. | (14) The bleached-out partly cloudy early winter sky of the grandest Middle Atlantic state. | (15) The nighttime air that smells like snow. | (16) Blackened scallops at the Idylwood Grill & Wine Bar in Falls Church, Virginia. | (17) Tuning my guitar. Which means I miss… | (18) Playing my guitar. | (19) Wanting to write. Not just wanting to write but feeling the, well, gestation process starting. Which means… | (20) Knowing I will be writing soon, come hell or high water. | (21) The paraplegic guy on this week’s Guy’s Grocery Games. | (22) Birmingham, Alabama, actually. | (23) Victory laps. | (24) That I have a job that involves victory laps, twice per year. | (25) Which is to say: taking stock and looking ahead, simultaneously, as things wind down. | (26) Which is to say: things winding down. | (27) Tomatoes and corn. | (28) Peas and mint. | (29) Things that grow together. | (30) Having the guts to be weird.
(1) Sirens. (Please see above.) | (2) Avatars. (Ibid.) | (3) Which is to say: this. | (4) Cooking and teaching. | (5) Cooking and teaching as ways to learn. | (6) Rest! | (7) This. (Which is to say: Ezra. Which is to say: inspirational strangers.) | (8) And this. | (9) Hoaxes. | (10) Goofing on Elvis (hey, baby…) | (11) Having fun. | (12) Yellow pants. | (13) The Thousand Yard Stare. | (14) The Five o’ clock Shadow. | (15) Which is to say: Andy Kaufman. | (16) The Letterman morning show. Back in the day. | (17) Letterman, whenever. | (18) Zatir. | (19) Slow-cooked pork and apples. | (20) Mist in the valley behind my house. | (21) Every piece of clothing I own, washed and folded and put away. | (22) Dirges. | (23) Singalongs. | (24) Green olives. | (25) Getting ready to teach Life of Pi. | (26) Knife skills. | (27) The Improvisational Cook by… (28) Sally Schneider. | (29) “Improvisational cooking demands that you shift your thinking, or at least temporarily put rigid notions and fears aside. This is true learning: gaining information and, more often than not, success from being willing to make mistakes and a mess or two.” –S. Schneider | (30) Making a mess. Or two. (Or ten or twenty. Etc…)
(1) A deep breath. | (2) Lord. So many things to love. | (3) Right now. | (4) My sister. | (5) Her husband. My brother-in-law. | ( 6) The grape leaves he rolls and roasts. For hours. | (7) Their bright-green chirping birds. | (8) My niece, who is reaching for what she wants. | (9) The monk in the airport terminal, with the iPhone and the earbuds and the hipster specs. | (10) Sitting next to the monk with the iPhone and the earbuds and the hipster specs, on the plane, because it is Southwest, and finding out his story: he is a brown-robed monk on the television, out of Alabama’s EWTN, and he is from L.A., the city of Angels, and when we part he parts from me by telling me, “Later!” in the pitch-perfect 21st C. language he is steeped in. | (11) So Facebook. For some reason I finally got over it and “friended” my Molly Ringwald/Pheobe Cates from high school. Which. I mean. Most people are not as weird as me. I understand that. But. She “friended” me back. And. This happened and it helped me breathe. So. Let’s move on. | (12) Parsnips. Nobody told me they were carrots plus ginger. | (13) Figuring out how to turn my ice maker back on. | (14) Guajillo. In Arlington. Virginia. | (15) Pot roast in the oven. With the aforementioned parsnips, and also potatoes and carrots. | (16) How tough meat makes it easy on you. Slow, slow, ignore. Etc. | (17) How things need time, longer than you thought. Slow, slow, ignore. Etc. | (18) My sleeping dog. | (19) One-pot wonders. | (20) My new roasting pan. | (21) My new blender. | (22) St. Francis of Assisi. | (23) Robert E. Lee High School in Springfield, Virginia, USA. | (24) Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University in Blacksburg, Virginia, USA. | (25) Being up in the air. | (26) Take-off. | (27) Landing. | (28) Molly Ringwald. | (29) Pheobe Cates. | (30) Dreams. Memories. The gift of where and what we have been, whatever the future wants us to be.
(1) Blossoms on the back fence. Cornflower blue. | (2) Oil-poached fish. | (3) Making a mess in my kitchen. | (4) Lazy motes swimming drunken in sunlight. | (5) Aliens in the Prime of Their Lives. | (6) The Elizabeth Bob story Brad Watson was uneasy about reading on Friday night, and that Brad Watson is uneasy about reading something excellent but new to strangers. | (7) That Brad Watson is a kind and gracious man. | (8) That Brad Watson got him a pre-reading haircut at the Tutwiler hotel. | (9) Having coffee with Marcus. | (10) Being hopeful. | (11) A savory soup with wilted greens in it. | (12) Having vacuumed. | (13) When the pine tree sheds its needles out back. The subsequent crunch underfoot. | (14) The MoMA moment. How its purpose and meaning evolves. It happened so I could tell someone else about it. So we both could take one step closer to peace hope and love. Hopefully. | (15) E– of Oxford, who has integrity and grace. Which is inspiring. | (16) Gifting. Being gifted. Getting gifted. All of it. | (17) Gathering my spry old dog up into my arms and kissing her face. | (18) Reading new work to people. Who don’t know me. | (19) The Pok Pok episode on Diners, Drive-ins, and Dives. Because now I know how to make the wings. | (20) The view out my back window. | (21) D– and R– and E– and A–: students and kindred spirits extraordinaire who took on the spotlight when I asked them to. | (22) Brine. | (23) Braise. | (24) Roast. | (25) This metaphor: In the Aeroplane Over the Sea ≈ Mirepoix. For the air. Savory particles of sound that make everything better. | (26) Making no apologies for listening to one record over and over and over (and over) again. | (27) Singing. In front of no one but my spry old soulmate dog. Who is not long for this world and who barks loud and vigorous when I hit the notes (near-abouts) pure. | (28) This body I am in. Slow and creaking machine. | (29) Strumming. | (30) Clean toilets. In particular the ones in my beloved little house.