I hope it was a happy Mardi Gras for you, wherever you are and however (if ever) you celebrated fat Tuesday, the last day of Carnival. Growing up in New Orleans one becomes aware at an early age of the idea of ’a time and place’ for different parts of life. That Carnival is a six week festival of very public partying and revelry that culminates on Mardi Gras, is somehow balanced by the six weeks of Lent which immediately follow. I don’t know if really serious Christians still fast for Lent, but Lent is a season of sacrificing and giving up pleasures. In our modern world of 24 hour mega stores where pretty much everything can be bought pretty much any time, it is easy to forget how Lent fit into the leanest days of the year in more agrarian times as the bounty of the harvest runs out and people wait hungrily for the first green shoots of spring.
I’m feeling a lot of gratitude to two big G’s in my life– Remco Geelen and Michelle Gilstrap. Both of these wonderful friends put up missions to get folks to invest in me. While I have not yet made the two scoops of centurian thingy, my share price is up to 196.97. I remember when I went over 100 way back when, it will take days to get within striking distance and then it will happen quite quickly. But whatever my share price, the real value is having great friends who take it upon themselves and go out of their way to help you. I am more grateful to thse folks than I can ever express.
My own resolution for Lent is to give up the Just Three Word thingy. I did have a lot of fun with it, but it has begun to grow a bit stale for me. And even when I manage to do a good job with the three reader-selected words du jour, those posts are not usually very engaging and don’t often draw a lot of comments and discussion. What about you? Are you giving anything up for Lent? If you are, do you allow yourself to indulge in what you have given up on Sundays? (When I was growing up in New Orleans, most people it seemed to me did not keep to their Lenten deprivations on Sundays.) Please leave a comment and let us know what you’re giving up for Lent.
Today is a writing day. Just finished working on a review of my friend Susan’s new book (which will be posted tomorrow) and I have recently been getting back to working on a long-stalled pseudonym that I am kind of thinking may be the best thing I ever write. I’ve been toying with the idea in my mind for years and I did finally set up a blog and made an all to brief start. And then I cycled down or the moon changed or whatever it is compels me. And then the other day I got notice that it was time to renew the domain. And I went back and took a long critical look at the writing I had done on that project.
It seems to me that I have achieved some success on social media and with my blogs. On Facebook and on my blogs and such I use my wallet name and am happy to chat about almost anything, occasionally excepting religion and politics and never ever talking about my sex life. I have been so much happier since I changed my primary focus from my book review blog to this personal essay site. Unlike Susan, I don’t believe I will ever be great novelist. But I do believe I can aspire to becoming a great essayist. I hope those long time friends and fans who’ve been following along, however erratically, since my first blog post have come to see real improvement in my writing and presentation. This blog is almost ideal for me. Except of course that sometimes what I most want to write about is my sex life. And now that I have finally realized that what I really need to do on my “sex” site is to write with the same kind of directness and intimacy I’ve tried so hard to achieve on this site, on that site. Whether the topic is Poking Straight Guys On Facebook or….oh….no….I don’t even want to hint at one of my sex post titles here.
The point is the blog really is a great medium for me as a writer. And all of those book reviews and all of these essays really have been a kind of warming up for the writing that I most want to do. And so my pen name has been busy gadding about the countryside, living it up so that I can come home and write it down. All of this activity under a pen name I don’t ever plan to share with anyone who reads me under this name, really has taken a lot away from the time I used to spend on Facebook and Empire Avenue. I continue to hang out with the folks I think of as my social media guru friends, in their top secret hideaway I’d have to kill you if I told you about it. Oops. I will try hard to keep up with my Monday and Thursday schedule over here, especially after a very long weekend of play leaves me not wanting to get up off this couch today.
I believe with all of my heart that I am luckiest man alive. I have all my basic needs met. I have family and friends who love me and take care of me. And I get to spend my days doing what I what to do and then when I am feeling done I come home and write about it and try to create something that maybe some day may be considered art out of nothing more than my crazy ideas and a vocabulary that is actually bigger than my err wick. I’m now re-reading on my tablet Jack Fritscher’s iconic Some Dance To Remember. I sometimes wish I had the camera skills of protagonist Ryan Stephen O’Hara. Most times I think I’m going to be able to persuade my best friend to do the graphics to make the site ready for prime time. Here’s hoping it’s as good a Thursday in your world as it is in mine.
My face is not especially florid this Monday morning, though my pen name did have a busy weekend of living it up that I may write it down. (A nod here to Jack Fritscher– the cop with the body of an NFL linebacker could easily play Kick if they ever do a movie of Some Dance To Remember.) I find myself today feeling grateful that I am retired and have the week off to recover from the weekend, which was at times so pleasurable and euphoric that I was almost afraid I might lose all sense of gravity and float away into the welkin in a state of pure bliss.
I fear whatever I put down here today will be a yawp that fails to reach comprehensibility let alone eloquence. Sometimes it seems as though there is just so much noise in the world. And today I find myself thinking about sounds that are so totally human but do not involve words. From a newborn babe’s first cry to a dying old woman’s last gasp it occurs to me that there are a great many non-verbal noises we can make over the course of our lives. These non-verbal sounds can at times be much more eloquent than words and may in fact convey meanings that are somehow beyond that which can be conveyed with mere syllables of grammar. Perhaps those sounds of great passion or great pain have an eloquence of their own that is also beyond words.
In the album Pyramid, The Alan Parsons Project famously sang the old maxim that ‘what goes up, must come down’, and having spent the weekend way up there I begin the week feeling as though I have come way down from those heights I scaled on Friday and Saturday. I’m reading my friend Susan Wells Bennett’s new novel Just One Note (it’s fantastic by the way) and trying to get my tablet to download the copy of Some Dance To Remember I bought on a whim when I looked it up to put in the link above. I find myself looking forward to Fritscher’s magical version of San Francisco once I finish Susan’s wonderfully imaginative tale about the many ways one woman’s life can turn out. These three words were among the oldest in my drafts folder and I’m afraid I haven’t a clue who suggested them to me. But whomever you are, I do thank you.
Gomer Pyle got married. The Seattle Times reports that Jim Nabors, the actor and singer best known for his portrayal of Gomer Pyle USMC, recently visited Seattle where he and his long time male partner took advantage of Washington’s new gay marriage law to legally wed. I don’t believe that I had ever heard before that Nabors is gay. Having come of age in an era when the only gay men most folks encountered were drag queens (rather the antithesis of the big butch Marine) the news of Nabors’ gay wedding struck a chord with me. A bit of Googling revealed that Nabors is an honorary Marine. He is pictured at ceremony in Hawaii in 2007 when the U.S. Marines promoted him to the rank of honorary corporal. I can’t help but wonder if the Marines, who praised Nabors for his lifetime of service and embodiment of Marine Corps ideals, were aware of his sexuality.
Were Nabors canine rather than human, I feel certain he would be not a tiny chihuahua but a huge St. Bernard–clumsy and goofy and very friendly and lovable. I do remember watching Gomer Pyle on television as a child, and I was aware of Nabors’ prolific career as a recording artist, although I can’t honestly claim to have ever been a big fan of his singing. (He does have a beautiful deep voice, but I was much more into rock and pop styles that became popular well after his hey day.) It appears as though Nabors (who is 82 years old) has been retired from show business for some time. It sounds as though he and his husband have lived quietly in Hawaii for many years now, no longer monitored by the paparazzi and gossip mongers who so relentlessly track celebrities.
I started working on a new short story. I was reading the newspaper and getting very agitated. Ron remarked that my distress was painful to watch and gently reminded me of the advice I’ve previously given him– to write about what’s bothering you. It’s good advice, even given back. I strongly suspect the finished product will not be worthy of a gold star, though I suspect I will probably publish it in this space. And who knows but that someone may read it. And agree. Or disagree. Or be pleased. Or pissed. Finally today my thanks to A A Tech who suggested today’s words.
Fun has long been my primary motivation for publishing this blog and participating in all sorts of social media. And when it really stopped being fun I had to just take a break. I am genuinely more grateful than I can ever express to each and every visitor who has left a comment for me on this site. I really, really value the comments I receive and the real joy for me is all of the conversations I’ve had in the comments on different posts. I admit that sometimes I try very hard to make my posts comment-worthy, ending them with a provocative question to the reader, that often times does get a number of different people to share their reply. And I really have been amazed at the many wonderful discussions that have taken place.
I am re-visiting the use of Empire Avenue missions to draw comments to these posts. I had saved up my daily income for four days to be able to offer a 25K comment mission. Only to have eight people take the eaves and not leave a comment. And then one of them sent me a flame on Facebook. I really don’t like feeling ripped off and getting into flames and acrimony with people I don’t even know. That just is not how I want to spend my time and energy online. I would so much rather talk about cooking mirlitons. In many parts of the world this hard, delicate squash is known as a chayote, but in Louisiana they are called mirlitons. They are a bit of a chore to fix. You start by boiling them (whole and unpeeled) for an hour or two, until they can be easily sliced in half. Let them cool and then remove the seeds at the center of each. Make sure you get out all of the seed which may have a thick outer layer that tries to get left behind. Dice the mirlitons and set aside. Meanwhile, chop two onions, one bell pepper and one bunch scallions or green onions. Also chop up about a cup of diced ham.
Saute the onions in a bit of butter and oil, then add the mirlitons and the ham. Saute on medium heat for 1–2 hours, until the mirliton is very soft. Season with salt and peppper and add a cup or so of panko breadcrumbs. Turn into a casserole dish and bake covered for 90–120 minutes. Uncover and bake an additional fifteen minutes. Allow the casserole to cool a bit before serving. The mirlitons have such a light, delicate flavor it is always a treat to make this. I apologize that I have done nothing whatsoever to incorporate apples or dinosaurs or a woman named Mercedes into this post. I am trying real hard today to keep my focus on having fun with my blog and meeting people and making friends. I resolve not to worry even a tiny little bit about who does or does not comment on this post. And to seriously consider if perhaps my friend was right when she suggested I was maybe taking the whole Empire Avenue thing Way too seriously.
Vivid. A word that suggests bright bold colors and sharp, well-defined flavors. As my friend Wayne Hurlbert no doubt understands, a vivid painting can be truly re-vivifying. I am contemplating ‘v’ words today on a suggestion from my friend Ruth. I don’t own a Volkswagen and have never committed any acts of vivisection. Frankly, winter is the wrong time to see verdant green fields and forests. Although they are no doubt visible in the other hemisphere right now, and perhaps in more temperate parts of this hemisphere. Soon enough it will be spring and verdant patches will break out all over.
The word vivacious has me thinking of a woman named Vivienne. For a time she published a blog called The Eavesdrop Writer. She had a real talent for over-hearing conversations and using them in short stories. I remember a contest she ran, asking her readers to complete a story she started. I also remember sharing giggles with her over my review of a children’s science book about poop. And then one day, it seems she just stopped updating her blog and I never heard from her again. Sadly, that is what happens with most blogs. However much attention and however many acquaintances a blogger may have made, most times most blogs just stop getting updated. They hang on as not very vivacious ghosts, kept alive by the powers that be at Google and WordPress. To me there is something deeply depressing about an abandoned blog.
Amazingly, I made it through the level I had been stuck on in Angry Birds only a couple of days after getting my new tablet. I am so genuinely pleased with my little tabby, and have resolved never to take it to bed with me. When it is not in my hands being used, I keep it on the little tablet stand on the end table, where it is ever ready to provide me with another round of shooting birds to smash wood and ice and kill little green slugs, or to allow me to read from what seems an almost endless selection of wonderful new books. Here is hoping that this finds a fantastic new week off to a good start in your world. I for one am happy to be alive today.
I find myself this Friday luxuriating in the garden of tablet owners. Less than a day after receiving my new tablet (my Third tablet if anyone is counting) I am back at the level I had been stuck on in Angry Birds and have started re-reading Jenn Thorson’s There Goes The Galaxy. I am listening to an old Lene Lovich album and thinking to myself ’life is good’.
I honestly have no idea what this 1971 photograph of New Orleans, showing the intersection of Canal and Royal Streets, looking towards the lake has to do with the search terms ‘garden bay palm’, and yet this image showed up in my Wikimedia search for these terms. The picture certainly brings back memories for me. Although not until many years after the date shown, I worked for years at a Waldenbooks store that was one block down, along the right hand side of the street. Rather like David McAlary’s mother in Treme, I came to take the streetcars rather for granted. Although at some suitable elementary school age I had a birthday party on the streetcar. All of the parents brought the children to the streetcar barn where we boarded and were taken for a a round trip all over town. We had cake, ice cream and presents on board and all enjoyed a birthday party travelling the streets of New Orleans.
I find myself wondering if perhaps it is the palm tree (mostly hidden behind the stop light and no left turn sign) that caused this image to come up. There are lots of palm and banana trees in New Orleans, though I more associate giant oak trees like those that line St. Charles Avenue as the iconic trees of New Orleans, which lies between a big river and a big lake. It is a ways inland from the Gulf of Mexico, a sea much too large to be called a mere bay. Here’s hoping you’ve had a great week and that it’s a happy weekend in your world. And finally today my thanks to David Forbes who suggested today’s words.
The real problem, honestly, is that we don’t have and can’t afford to get a maid. I have mentioned before that I am a bit of a slob, and I hesitate to tell outsiders about Mount Laundry. Making it my New Year’s resolution to bring down Mount Laundry– which is almost certainly both more useful and more doable than last year’s resolution to blog every day in 2012. So I bought eighty dollars worth of quarters and am committed to continuing to do a few loads at a time until such time as all of the closets and dressers and cabinets are filled with clothes and there are only a few empty baskets where Mount Laundry now towers threateningly in the corner of the bedroom. Or until I run out of quarters. (My late huzband Joel worked at times for both Eddie Bauer and London Fog and bought rather an awful lot of very nice clothes both for himself and for me. It is a sad fact that too many nice clothes can be a real burden when it comes to keeping up at the coin laundry.)
I have started editing the manuscript of last year’s blog posts and am considering calling the book Poking Straight Guys On Facebook. It is such a provocative title, and I do think that the title essay is a good centerpiece to build the volume around. I have a great deal more copy to edit and plenty more time to think carefully about what I want to do with the material as a book. In looking back at the essays I published in the early part of 2012, it was somewhat startling to me to notice in the comments so many faces that have dropped by the wayside and off my own personal radar. It almost seems as though the audience that I am attracting now is mostly a completely different audience than the one I was attracting last January. I’m reminded again of the old saying about ‘three steps forward, two steps back’. It does seem to me sometimes that those are the basic steps to life’s dance. It’s good to remember that if you stick with them, you always end up one more step ahead.
I tend to suspect that my friend Sharon, who writes about her life as a mom to several kids in a laugh out loud funny manner reminiscent of the late, great Erma Bombeck, probably does a much better job of keeping her house clean– the amazing accidents and incidents with her family not withstanding. I honestly don’t know why Sharon assigned me these words. I’m sure if she were assigned to blog on these three words she would come up with a long and hilarious piece, perhaps about how the maid did come and the house looked staged and ready to slip the chocolate chip cookies in the oven before the open house and her kids managed to un-do 300 dollars of professional cleaning within 30 seconds after the maid left. If you’re not already familiar with Sharon’s writing, do take a few minutes to visit Sharon’s Mom’s Madhouse. It really is a hoot.
I find myself today thinking that what I really need is a patch that alleviates the painful symptoms of withdrawal from tablet computing devices. Mere months after getting my ematic Genesis tablet– which I had been so pleased with– I regret to say that I have somehow managed to destroy it. It appears that I somehow managed to shatter the screen, which shows a web of cracks all over the surface. When I turn it on, the screen does not respond to any touch. I am frankly baffled at how I managed to crack the screen while I was asleep. Though I’ve long been told that I am an athletic sleeper.
I suppose it is a measure of my addiction to tablets that mere hours after discovering my poor tablet is toast I am already shopping for a replacement. I recall when my first tablet died, I ordered another one almost immediately. I expect I will do so again. I wasn’t really addicted to Angry Birds. Though I admit I have been trying over and over again to do the one I was stuck on. You have a whole bunch of different birds to kill three slugs beneath all kinds of wood and ice. I can often get two of them, but the third one is elusive. Part of me worries that even if I do get a new tablet and it does have Angry Birds installed on it, who knows how long it may take me to reach the level I had been stuck at. Starting over is fairly easy, and is perhaps the one thing that everyone has gotten skilled at these days. But it is never the same.
It seems to me that measurements are one of the least useful things in social media. While it is trivially easy to count, say, how many Likes a status update receives, these numbers are inevitably quite disconnected from the real exchanges of ideas and emotions and the relationships with other users that are the real meat of social media involvement. It seems as though every week or so users are bombarded with yet another tool that will analyze their history on some site or another and provide a pretty graphical report about what they are doing right or wrong. I believe these reports to be usually less than useful and at times dangerous in that they may cause people to mis-direct their energies and efforts away from real interaction with their audience, in pursuit of numbers which don’t ultimately mean much of anything.
And finally today, my thanks to Kamal Bennani who suggested today’s words.