Archive for April, 2007

I was listening to NPR early Saturday morning on the way to a meeting. The journalist was interviewing a soldier from Wisconsin who had been shipped to Iraq for another tour of duty. In his cache, the soldier had illegally stashed a stack of books, including a copy of Jack Kerouac’s On the Road. He said he had read it as a young man and it inspired him.

Thinking he would get in trouble if anyone discovered his bivouac library, the soldier seemed pleasantly surprised when his superior was happy he had packed the literature. They now regularly swap books.

At the end of the interview, the journalist asked the Wisconsin soldier how he reconciled reading On the Road in the middle of a raging war with the Beat Generation’s anti-war sentiments. The soldier responded, “War is hell. But I’m a soldier and this is my job. It’s what I signed up for. I wouldn’t want it any other way.”

When I got home last night, there was a program on PBS about the Blue Star Mothers of Minnesota. The Blue Star Mothers of America, an organization that originated in 1942 in Flint, Michigan, is a support group of mostly women whose sons and daughters have gone to war. If their children don’t come home, they become Gold Star Mothers. No mother ever wants to become a Gold Star Mother.

I watched with sad tenderness as these strong women told their stories. It reminded me of when I was about 12 or 13 and the 22-year-old boy, James, who had just married my young Aunt Emmalyne, was killed in Vietnam only months after he’d left South Carolina for the front lines. She was pregnant with a child that would never see his father. The impact on our family was immediate and devastating.

I later lost contact with my Aunt after we moved to the North. But in my 30’s, I happened to be in Washington, D.C. when the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, designed by Maya Ying Lin, was dedicated. There were veterans milling around everywhere – some decorated and in wheel chairs, some in civilian clothes, most in fatigues strolling the grounds solemn and teary eyed. It was a rainy afternoon. When you walk in the mist, you get wet.

I walked the 246 feet of black granite until I found my Uncle’s name. Then I reached up on tiptoes, placed the rectangular paper over the 9 letters, and rubbed a graphite pencil across the granite. After I was done, I placed a red rose at the base. It was very powerful. The paper is tucked away with my keepsakes.

War is a horrible thing. And families are stuck in the middle. How do they keep supporting their sons, daughters, husbands, and wives in the face of the adversity, deceit, and media spin that flies at them every day?

In Taos last year, a woman in the writing retreat wrote about her two sons preparing to go off to Iraq. I think that’s when I started to see how none of this is black and white. From an emotional perspective, there are no winners. There are losses. And more losses.

I don’t support this war. I don’t support any kind of war. I believe in working toward peaceful solutions. But I do have a new empathy for families and friends who go off to fight for what they believe are the right reasons – individual freedoms. And I support every person on this planet being able to celebrate the richness and freedoms I wake up with every morning. I take them for granted. I don’t want to do that anymore.

I want to remember my Uncle James and every sentient being who has ever perished in war. My way of doing that is to write. And I know of at least two soldiers who are reading another writer, Jack Kerouac, in their downtime in Iraq as a way to lift their spirits. So this is for them.


Jack Kerouac

1. Scribbled secret notebooks, and wild typewritten pages, for yr own joy
2. Submissive to everything, open, listening
3. Try never get drunk outside yr own house
4. Be in love with yr life
5. Something that you feel will find its own form
6. Be crazy dumbsaint of the mind
7. Blow as deep as you want to blow
8. Write what you want bottomless from bottom of the mind
9. The unspeakable visions of the individual
10. No time for poetry but exactly what is
11. Visionary tics shivering in the chest
12. In tranced fixation dreaming upon object before you
13. Remove literary, grammatical and syntactical inhibition
14. Like Proust be an old teahead of time
15. Telling the true story of the world in interior monolog
16. The jewel center of interest is the eye within the eye
17. Write in recollection and amazement for yourself
18. Work from pithy middle eye out, swimming in language sea
19. Accept loss forever
20. Believe in the holy contour of life
21. Struggle to sketch the flow that already exists intact in mind
22. Dont think of words when you stop but to see picture better
23. Keep track of every day the date emblazoned in yr morning
24. No fear or shame in the dignity of yr experience, language & knowledge
25. Write for the world to read and see yr exact pictures of it
26. Bookmovie is the movie in words, the visual American form
27. In praise of Character in the Bleak inhuman Loneliness
28. Composing wild, undisciplined, pure, coming in from under, crazier the better
29. You’re a Genius all the time
30. Writer-Director of Earthly movies Sponsored & Angeled in Heaven

Sunday, April 29th, 2007

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When I was little I had a horse
It was a stuffed horse
I pretended I could ride it but I never learned
In my dreams I am riding the horse bareback
I feel like a boy again but I am still a man

Man on Horse

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Poor Dee. I go into her room, shake her just so, just so I can wake her up. She has a horse show today, and it’s early. Early for a Sunday morning. I don’t want to wake up Em, or Jim. We all went to bed late last night. I wiggle Dee about, she’s probably dreaming about being on a ride at the carnival, all this shaking, or maybe even being on her horse. I take my hands and cup her chin with one, her cheek with the other. She finally opens her eyes. Dee, I whisper, time to get up for the horse show. Noooo, she says back. Shhhh, I say and leave her to pull herself out of her cocoon.

I like the quiet of a Sunday morning. I have turkey sausage links cooking in a covered frying pan, on low. I have a cup of heated milk and coffee, my morning drink. The only sounds I hear are the quiet sizzle of the sausage on the stove and one of the dogs barking. Dee just now asks me if they called. “They” are our neighbors up the street. They’re the ones who board Dooley, Dee’s horse. She’ll head up there in about fifteen minutes to wash Dooley and get him ready for the show.

I always wished I had a horse as a kid. I wanted rabbits, too. I spent a few summers at Grandma and Grandpa’s. They had everything. Hutches with rabbits, two pigs in a pen. Sheep, cows, chickens. Uncle Pat had race horses he kept in Trinidad, Colorado. Now known as the sex change capital of the world. But then it was just a place over the Raton pass to drive to and watch Uncle Pat’s gorgeous race horses with their spindly legs and long necks.

I couldn’t ride a horse back then. The one time I tried, I slid off its backside. I’d been sitting on the back of my friend Sylvia’s horse. We were in her driveway, talking to her sister who was sitting on the hood of a car. We were just sitting there on Lady. And somehow I slid off, in slow motion. I fell on the hard concrete, looked up at Lady’s mass above me, her hooves like weapons she might use on me, and I bawled. I must have been six or seven, and I went through the rest of my childhood in awe of horses, desirous of a horse, Please just let me have a horse. If I could have one I’d learn to ride it, master it like Sylvia did and never be afraid of them again.

And now the timer on the oven goes off. Dee is leaning against the couch, still sleepy. Dressed in jeans and a pink Western shirt with pearl snaps. Just like they’ve always worn at horse shows.

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Drip, detail, Mabel Dodge Luhan House, Taos, New Mexico, February 2007, photo by QuoinMonkey, all rights reserved

Drip, writing retreat at the Mabel Dodge Luhan House, Taos, New Mexico, February 2007, photo by QuoinMonkey, all rights reserved

-Detail photo from the Wake Up series

-posted on red Ravine, April 28th, 2007

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The artwork is less like a noun and more like a verb…
-Martin Facey, speaking of Richard Diebenkorn’s work

Richard Diebenkorn, Untitled (Albuquerque), 1952 Richard Diebenkorn, Untitled (Albuquerque), 1950 Richard Diebenkorn, Untitled 13, ca. 1950
-All images photos of works by Richard Diebenkorn, 1950-1952
(from the San Jose Museum of Art website)

On June 2 the University of New Mexico Harwood Museum of Art in Taos will open “Diebenkorn in New Mexico,” an exhibit of 50+ paintings and drawings Richard Diebenkorn made during the two years he lived in the state. This particular grouping hasn’t been viewed together since 1951. A book by the same name will be released with the exhibit.

Diebenkorn came to UNM’s graduate art program on the GI Bill in 1950. He came, it’s said, for the landscape and the notion he could be in a place where his work would be “unencumbered.” Diebenkorn gained national recognition in the late 1960s, while living and teaching in California, and today is one of the most prominent American artists of the 20th century.

Martin Facey, a UNM art professor who studied with Diebenkorn and then later became his studio assistant, said this of Diebenkorn: “The artwork is less like a noun and more like a verb, so you can see the artwork in time…It’s more like a performance than making work that’s static in time. In much work, I’d say even to this day, I try to mimic the approach–not the style per se, but the idea that the act of painting is a search and a transformative process.”

I loved this quote, tying art to words. It made me wonder if in my own writing and drawing whether I’m more concerned with the end result than the transformative process.

In case you can’t make it to Taos, the exhibit will be shown at the San Jose Museum of Art October 15-January 6, and the Grey Art Gallery at New York University January 23-April 15.

NOTE: UNM’s Mirage Magazine has a story about Diebenkorn and the exhibit in its Spring issue, but as of today the link on that story leads you to something unrelated.

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Wake Up, Mabel Dodge Luhan House, Taos, New Mexico, February 2007, photo by QuoinMonkey, all rights reserved

Wake Up, Mabel Dodge Luhan House, Taos, New Mexico, February 2007, photo by QuoinMonkey, from the Wake Up series, all rights reserved

When I went to Taos last year to write, I rediscovered photography as a practice. I attended 4 silent writing retreats with the same group of writers over a year period. When you make a commitment to sit with people for that length of time, something changes inside.

There are connecting threads; a deep place of silence lingers in the heart. I can call it up if I pay attention. And listen. And stop all the busyness.

I am grateful to everyone who kept showing up. Even though it was hard. It taught me how to show up for myself.

I am grateful to the teachers that walk the path before me. I am grateful that there are places to go that still honor the past and preserve the land and architecture.

It is these silent places that remind me who I am.

Saturday, April 28th, 2007

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Caffe Tazza, Taos, New Mexico, February 2007, photo by QuoinMonkey, all rights reserved

-The Good Stuff’s In Here, Caffe, Tazza, Taos, New Mexico, February 2007, photo by QuoinMonkey, all rights reserved

From my Great Places to Write series. The light is right, the cast of characters stimulating, the air is full of French roast, artists, poets, and musicians. You can sit inside or out. And they don’t care if you walk in to just sit in silence. If you’re ever in Taos, this is one of the places to write.

Saturday, April 28th, 2007

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from the site of Gary Duschl’s Guinness World Record Gum Wrapper Chain        from The Victory Old Time Candy Store site

With all this talk about candy, I started waxing nostalgic for gum wrapper chains. That’s when I stumbled on Gary Duschl’s Guinness World Record Gum Wrapper Chain.  You’ve got to check it out.

As of April 11, 2007, the chain has 1,201,601 gum wrappers and is 51,276  feet long. Whoa! That makes the 30 foot chain around my twin bed in 1965 seem like a shoe string.

And get this, he began the chain on March 11, 1965 and it’s 170 football fields long which means it would take about 4 hours to walk the whole length of it. Mindboggling.

You can send your gum wrappers to Gary in Virginia Beach, Virginia and he will wrap them into the chain. He also gives step by step instructions on How To Make Your Own Gum Wrapper Chain.

There’s another good site for learning how to make a gum wrapper chain at The Victory Old-Time Candy Store. Not only do they include detailed instructions for building a chain, they also sell (and include a brief history of ) Beeman’s, Blackjack, Adam’s Sour, Teaberry, Tendermint, and Clark’s Cinnamon.

Everybody, Chew On!

Friday, April 27th, 2007

-from Topic post, Candy Freak

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invention of Life Savers Candy by Clarence Crane in 1912.

by Categories (that only make sense to me)

1. Atomic Fire Balls
2. Jaw Breakers
3. Life Savers (I got a book of these one Christmas that I savored til June)
4. Red Hots
5. Smarties
6. Sweetarts
7. Candy Corn

8. Bazooka Bubble Gum
9. Beemans gum
10. Black Jack gum
11. Teaberry Gum (my fave, gum wrapper chains, hours of time well spent?)

12. Blow Pop
13. Bubble Gum Cigars
14. Rainblo Gum
15. Chiclets (the tiny size Chiclets are more fun)
16. Bubble Yum

17. Candy Cigarettes
18. Candy Watch
19. Nik-L-Nips (wax syrup bottles – Yum, chewing on the wax)
20. Wax Lips  & Fangs (loved these! think Halloween)

21. Junior Mints (remember that Seinfeld episode)
22. Milk Duds (movies, movies, movies)
23. Whoppers (more movies)
24. Sixlets (bad chocolate but that tiny BB size morsel!)
25. Sugar Baby (even more movies)
26. Planter’s Peanut Bar (what’s with the spectacles)

27. Sugar Daddy (pulled my fillings out)
28. Slo Pokes
29. Tootsie Pops
30. Tootsie Roll
31. Rolo

32. Snickers
33. Kit Kats
34. Twix
35. Pay Day (sigh, perchance to barter)

 Why do wintergreen Life Savers spark when crunched?

Friday, April 27th, 2007

-from Topic post, Candy Freak

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Life Savers, image released to public domain by SCEhardt

-image by SCEhardt, released to public domain

When I was a kid, I collected things. This is no surprise to anyone who knows me. Stashing is cumbersome in adulthood. But as a kid, it was a goldmine.

I tended to be the slow, silent type who savored and squirreled things away. I cached items like carefully folded and dog-eared Life Savers books (12 candy rolls in every volume), a Mount Everest of Halloween goodies, bags of Tootsie Pops and Rolls, the half-bitten ears of milk chocolate Easter bunnies, and Peeps.

Okay, the Peeps didn’t last long in my sock drawer; they turned hard, chewy, and plastic tasting. And they made my socks smell like, well, that Peep smell. But the point is I could trade out bits and pieces of buried treasure to my brothers and sister for more valuable commodities. Important things like dusting the furniture, ironing, or doing the dishes (my chores).

Instead of cattle, cowrie shells, whale’s teeth, ornamental jewelry, tobacco, rice, indigo, wheat, or maize, I bartered candy.

“Hey, how about 3 Atomic Fire Balls, 1 pack of Black Jack gum, 3 Blow Pops, and a Wax Lips for dusting the living room?” 

Pledge anyone?

I didn’t end up using the secret barter system all that much. The truth is I liked the savoring a lot more than I liked the bartering. I’ve never been all that interested in money. Maybe I should have paid more attention to the economics of candy. It might have afforded a much sweeter ride through later life. For now I’m left with visions of a 401-Kandy-K dancing in my head.

Friday, April 27th, 2007

-related to Topic post, WRITING TOPIC – CANDY FREAK

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A post over at Fluent made me realize there are at least two sides to every thing. The post mentioned a persistent bout of acne (among other ailments), which got me thinking about my own constant struggle with oily skin. Which then got me thinking about my parents who at the age of 80 and 83 both still get pimples.

Yet, my parents have almost no wrinkles. I mean, yes, Dad has a couple of lines in his forehead, and Mom’s eyelids nearly cover her eyes, they’re so droopy. But Mom and Dad both have the sort of plump skin where you can push it with your finger and it bounces back. The same oil that gives them acne also preserves their elasticity.

Anyway, this got me thinking about what Natalie often said in her workshops about positives and negatives. I remember, I don’t remember. What’s in front of me, what’s not in front of me. Senile acne, no wrinkles. (Natalie never said that last one; it’s my own contribution.)

Except I think I’m remembering it wrong. It wasn’t positives and negatives. I just looked in Wild Mind, the only Goldberg book I have that’s not presently packed for the move, and I couldn’t find what I was looking for. What does she call these dual sides to things? It’s going to bug me all day if I can’t put my finger on it.

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Fallingwater at Bear Run (1935), Frank Lloyd Wright, Mill Run, Pennsylvania, July 2005, photo by Skywire, all rights reserved

-Mist at Bear Run, Fallingwater (1935), Frank Lloyd Wright, Mill Run, Pennsylvania, July 2005, photo by Skywire, all rights reserved

-from Topic post, WRITING TOPIC – GREENING

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A friend of mine sent an email today letting me know our PBS station is airing a documentary tonight on writer Rudolfo Anaya. It’s called From Curandera to Chupacabra: The Stories of Rudolfo Anaya. You can watch the documentary via the link; it’s only 26 minutes long.

My favorite Anaya book is Bless Me, Ultima. His latest book, Curse of the Chupacabra, is for young adults. I’ve been wanting to get it to read out loud to the girls.

Chupacabra, by the way, means “goat sucker.” I’ve heard it described as a chicken-like creature with a long beak that sucks the blood from goats and other large animals. I think of it as El Cucuy meets cattle mutilations.

Anyhow, I’m going to watch the documentary. I took a creative writing class from Anaya when I was in college. He was an influence in my writing life. Plus, my friend’s husband worked on the film and their son has a supporting role.

You should watch it, too. Then read some Anaya books. But keep an eye out for the chupacabra. Really.

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Chicano Por Vida    Chicano Por Vida

I saw a home-made sticker on the back windshield of a car today. It said, Chicano Por Vida. Chicano For Life.

Well, yah, I thought, unless you use skin bleach or dye your hair blond and use blue contact lenses, you pretty much stay the way you were born for your entire life, qué no?

Pues, no. Not always. There are ways to lose your chicanismo. You could end up somewhere in Colorado where people pronounce the names of the towns like Buena Vista as Booney Vista, or Salida as Sa-LYE-da (Spanish pronunciation has the i sounding like a long e).

My sister who lives in Denver once told me she met a guy who introduced himself as So-and-so Mon-DRAgon — first syllable Rasta-style and the last part pronounced ala the fire-breathing variety. (In Spanish, emphasis is on the GON.)

I bet the Chicano Por Vida guy would never mispronounce his name. He probably doesn’t try to erase his accent so he sounds more like a news anchor than a vato from the barrio. I like that he’s made this proclamation. Chicano Por Vida, hombre. Embrace it. Love it.

I used to be ashamed of it. My parents moved us to a mostly white middle-class suburb/enclave inside a mostly working-class Chicano part of town. The kids in my neighborhood called our school Vato High — its real name was Valley High — and they called the Chicanos spics. I told my friends I was Italian. It took me until college before I reclaimed my brown self.

I can already tell my girls are trying to figure out what to think about their ethnicity. When Dee was five she came home from school wondering why her skin wasn’t pink. And this year when Em made a doll representing her heritage, she picked Jim’s Swedish roots instead of mine.

I just keep andando. We don’t speak Spanish at home, although I do make sure we roll the r’s in our burritos. And Em is in an afterschool Spanish class and picking up the language pretty well. I feed them the food I grew up on, and mostly I remind them that brown is beautiful.

Ya veremos. I figure if I live as Chicana Por Vida, they might choose to do the same.

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Giant Oak, Theo Wirth Park, Minneapolis, Minnesota, July 2005, photo by Skywire, all rights reserved

Giant Oak, Theo Wirth Park, Minneapolis, Minnesota, July 2005, photo by Skywire, all rights reserved


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This week’s topic is in honor of Steve Almond’s most wonderful book, Candyfreak: A Journey Through the Chocolate Underbelly of America

What sweets did you eat as a child? Watermelon sticks? Bubble Yum?

Were you a hot tamale in your twenties? Or perhaps a big hunk. 

Do you sometimes feel like a nut?

Write about sugar, sugar. It can be a 10- or 15-minute practice, confectionary haiku, a list of things you like about sweetmeat, a short essay, an ode to jawbreakers–anything you like. It’s all dandy. Just don’t sugarcoat.


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Everything I Know About Green

  1. Green frijoles don’t cause gas
  2. Toads and frogs are cousins to insects
  3. Everything I know about green I learned from a diaper
  4. The NM state question–do you know what it is?
  5. If you like it both ways, it’s called Christmas
  6. If U.S. paper money were pink or orange like in other countries, we might not be so greedy
  7. Green’s not a good camouflage in the desert (ask a horned toad)
  8. My mother taught me that when your nose slime goes from yellow to green, it’s because your virus has turned bacterial (and it’s time to go on antibiotics)
  9. Dad is the green thumb of the family; Mom has toe thumbs
  10. I’m not as green as I’d like; it’s hard being green

-from Topic post, Greening

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