(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 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.
(1) Neutral Milk Hotel. | (2) Which is to say: Jeff(erson) Mangum. | (3) But I mean, also: Scott “The Gnome” Spillane. | (4) Jeremy “Freddie Mercury” Barnes. | (5) Julian “Headgear” Koster. And the other dude who I don’t know his name. Handsome ginger-haired unibrow fellow. Plays the electric faux-pipes and also sundry horns. | (6) Mount Rushmore. | (7) Which is to say: Uncle Tupelo/Son Volt + Neutral Milk Hotel + the Arcade Fires + the Frames. | (8) Phew! That only took 42 years and 25 days. To “discover” my four-plus favorite bands of all times, I mean. | (9) Which is to say: “my four favorite bands of all times” is a ridiculous thing to even assert. There’s no The Band here or Tom Waits or Pearl Jam or Gillian Welch + Dave Rawlings. Wait. Do you get a Parallel Universe Mount Rushmore? Yes! Why the hell not?!… | (10) Parallel Universe Mount Rushmores. | (11) Muses. (O Jesus. That’s a whole ‘nother list. Lisa Hannigan. Patti Smith. Maria Taylor. Katell Keinig…) | (12) Etc. | (13) Etc. | (14) Well. I mean. Well, yes: lists. | (15) Ina Garten. A muse, of sorts. | (16) Hitting ‘repeat’. | (17) Did I say Jeff Mangum? Jesus. (Pun intended.) | (18) Jesus Christ. (Yes I do.) | (19) Pot roast. | (20) Mirepoix. | (21) Guy Fieri. Muse? I mean. Uh. Um. Wait. What was the question? | (22) Patchy fog. Driving through it. In the wee hours. Across north-central Georgia. | (23) My life. | (24) The prospect of Thanksgiving. Sprawling rich feast. | (25) “Two…one, two, three, four.” | (26) Anne Frank. | (27) Packing up every piece of the life I used to love just to keep myself at least enough to carry on. | (28) The star that’s right above from where I am. | (29) The Watson boys of Watkinsville, who play rock-and-roll and download illegal videos and dig into the red Georgia clay wearing their knee-high boots. With little or no regard for (holy) rattlesnakes. | (30) When Elf Power — a truly professional and kick-ass power pop band out of Athens Georgia the United States — finally stops playing. And the lamb is, finally, illuminated. And then what happens next.
(1) ‘Le Juke,’ beautifully, perfectly (perfectly beautiful) distressed home of… (2) The Trobar Ric Reading Series in… (3) Oxford, MS. | (4) Old friends. | (5) New friends. | (6) Cash for gold. | (7) Dogs named after characters in To Kill a Mockingbird. | (8) Poems. | (9) Dirt-floor, open-air sheds and the good residue you track out of them. | (10) Sounds: æolian, ambient, a cappella, intoned, inscribed. | (11) Reading my poems to very gracious people who listen. | (12) The very gracious Ann Fisher-Wirth, who’ll be reading right down the road from my house in a few days. (FYI: She’ll be kicking off this year’s Indian Springs Visiting Writers Series on Oct. 21 @ 7:30 pm.) | (13) Hwy 6, from Tupelo to Oxford. Golden-hour light. | (14) An evening nip in the air in the Indian summer South. | (15) Just winging the banter. | (16) Mostly just reading the poems. | (17) Particularly the one with Emily Dickinson in it. | (18) Very passionate people. | (19) Time to recede, reflect, open all the windows in the house, listen to the birds outside, listen to the sweet old dog asleep at my feet. Her belly an in-and-out bellows. | (20) The sweet old dog’s REM-sleep twitches and tics (sans k, of course). | (21) Jay Farrar. As a musical staple. For decades now. | (22) Now, in particular: Okemah and the Melody of Riot. | (23) Brining the thighs. (Uh. What?) | (24) “All men say ‘what’ to me.” –Emily Dickinson. | (25) Cold meat, on the bone. In the morning. Paleolithic. (Or, um, something. Please see the parenthetical in #23 above. Which is to say: Ibid.) | (26) Really I just wanted to “say” paleolithic. I think I know what it means but mostly I love (right now) the way it sounds. | (27) (Really I just wanted to “say” ibid.) | (28) Paleolithic + parenthetical, seven words apart. | (29) So, words, I guess. But you knew that already. | (30) Only nine days to NMH in Athens. But for now, we are young, let us lay in the sun and count every beautiful thing we can see. (30 things at a time, of course.)
I’m one of those people who think it is still impossible to understand America without understanding this war. It is impossible to understand this war without understanding Lincoln, warts and all (literally, figuratively). Foote understands all three — America, the war, the great and warty Lincoln — and he expresses that understanding fairly, in lapidary language that builds an energetic narrative. What’s more, he loves and loathes the ambiguities both sides brought to the fray — the South’s fire/ire, its obstinance, its romance; the North’s power, its arrogance, its (self-)righteousness. Yin-Yang. Lennon-McCartney. Foote writes with the clear and sacred sense that our United whole is far greater—and more complex—than the sum of its disparate Parts.
(1) Receiving a gift made from something I made a long time ago. | (2) Making things. For a long time. | (3) Moving forward, slow, inexorable. | (4) Forgiveness, in all its forms. | (5) Friends. | (6) How #4 and #5 go hand-in-hand. | (7) The “I let go of…” sequence of affirmations on the whiteboard on my bedroom wall. | (8) In particular: “I let go of having to achieve my goals.” | (9) That I have a list of affirmations on the whiteboard on my bedroom wall. | (10) That I have a whiteboard (two, in fact) on my bedroom wall. | (11) That I am not ashamed of #7 – #10, as evidenced by me telling the whole entire internet about it. | (12) Putting things into piles and stacks. | (13) A tough cut of meat cooked medium rare and sliced thin against the grain. | (14) Chick peas in my lemony radicchio slaw. Which I mean literally, though it sounds like a cool euphemism for something. | (15) I have a ticket to see Neutral Milk Hotel at the 40 Watt in Athens, GA, thanks to… (16) Doc Watson (the other Doc Watson) | (17) Flugelhorn. Etc. | (18) Turns out I’m barnstorming the South in October: Oxford, Athens, Greenville, SC. Giving a reading in Oxford (Oct 11) and one in Greenville (Oct 28). FYI. If you’re in the neighborhood. Etc. | (19) That part at the end of “#1 Hit Song” by the Minutemen where D. Boon goes “E!…T!…C!” | (20) That the lyrics for “#1 Hit Song” were written by the underrated George Hurley. | (21) That there’s almost always more coffee. | (22) Pushing through the panicky what-ifs. Or not so much pushing through. Just hanging onto something and watching them flood past. | (23) Gratitude, which is something to hang onto. | (24) Not so much dusting but having dusted. | (25) A statement of purpose. | (26) Noting the difference between what I’ve accomplished and what I think I’ve accomplished. That I’m usually not the best judge of the former. | (27) My house. | (28) My job. | (29) My dog. | (30) My friends. Wait. Did I say that already? Well. It bears repeating: My friends.
How weird what we Americans have done to the Nazarene, and, I think, how wonderful. Terrible. And wonderful. In this book, Prothero asks us to reconsider our American love affair with Jesus of Nazareth. Asks us to chart the things we’ve made him out to be: warlike redeemer, lithe and pretty androgyne, Flower-Power hippie, rebel with a cause.
Prothero cites Christian conservatives who bemoan the whole sordid process of dragging the “King of Kings” through the muck of our times and, thereby, making him out to be a cultural cipher. “The problem with this critique,” writes Prothero,
is that it assumes an unchanging Jesus, untainted by human history, who is somehow being violated by his many resurrections and reincarnations. From the perspective of theology, an unchanging Jesus may be a necessity (though the doctrine of the incarnation does place Jesus squarely in the scramble of society). From the perspective of cultural and religious history, however, Jesus is anything but unchanging. In the book of Genesis, God creates humans in His own image; in the United States, Americans have created Jesus, over and over again, in theirs.
Once, in my long quixotic chase for romance, a friend quoted a pithy bit of self-help: Be the person you want to find. This has worked out to be good advice, I think, though I have seldom taken it. Maybe it goes for saviors too. Be the redeemer you want to find. Or something.
(1) Open-window weather. | (2) Hemingway burgers. | (3) Slaw. | (4) Fried potatoes. | (5) Baked beans. | (5) Mac-and-cheese. | (6) Which is to say: semi-impromptu potluck. | (7) As envisioned and executed under the influence of the Y-chromosome. (Or something.) | (8) Joni Mitchell. | (8) Specifically: Court and Spark. | (9) The Arcade Fires. | (10) Long-sleeve evenings. | (11) Rejection notices laced with hope (We hope you’ll try us again…). | (12) Trying again. | (13) This particular gray-smudged sky I am watching out my window right now. It’s not a summer sky. | (14) October, the promise. | (15) The slender, almost translucent green grasshopper on the window screen. | (16) The prospect of reading a book through the late, gray afternoon. | (16) Big mixing bowls. | (17) Lentils. | (18) Rye bread. | (19) Not knowing what to do and reminding myself that I don’t have to know what to do right now. | (20) Capers. | (21) Lester, the spry old guy in my neighborhood, who takes multiple walks per day, twirling his cane like it’s a mace and he’s a drum major. As if he is mocking the whole entire concept of canes. | (22) The chatter of a few kids playing in the middle distance. | (23) Soon: soup-weather. | (24) How, for kids, having a favorite color is a non-negotiable. You can’t abstain. You’re not allowed. | (25) The Tillie section in Colum McCann’s Let the Great World Spin. | (26) All the recurring wire-walker sections in Colum McCann’s Let the Great World Spin. | (27) Leitmotifs. | (28) Early Sunday morning grocery shopping. | (29) Simple staples. | (30) The peculiar, particular nesting strategies of my spry old dog.