Monthly Archives: February 2009

bright spot

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Well right after I wrote the post about sinking into depression and needing a few bright spots…

A turkey came walking along the sidewalk. As casual as could be, as if he belonged there, as if a turkey walking along the sidewalk past my window were No Biggie.

My writing desk is on the 2nd floor right in front a window that faces the sidewalk, so I get to see the neighborhood cat and a squirrel and a few other happenings. (The cat made it into my novel today). I didn’t expect see Mr Turkey.

We have a family of wild turkeys in our neighborhood–I love them dearly and I blogged about them here before. Every winter I worry about whether they’ll make it through to the next year. And so their first appearance is always a hallmark event for me. This is Mr. Turkey’s first appearance this year.

I ran outside with the camera, and took a picture of him, strutting down the sidewalk and emitting his loud and alto soprano “gobble gobble gobble” sounds. I also took a video but that’s not here.

Okay that’s one bright spot. Please send more.

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sinking

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I am motivated by a desire to always “do the right thing.” And so my writing is suffering–because it is not the most pragmatic, “right” thing to do in these times. And I tear myself up about that, because writing is what makes me happy and fulfilled. And then because I am torn up with guilt and self-hatred and resentment and depression, I can’t focus on the writing.

If I could just get some good writing done, I know there is a bright spot here, a bright spot. I just want a few bright spots.

I’m cycling and sinking.

I feel horrible. I feel worthless because I don’t make as much money (not because I love money but because money helps take care of the household and makes me feel like I am carrying my part of the load) because I got cut down to 2 days of work/week…and helpless because in this economy there’s not much I can do to remedy that fact. I am the kind of person who will clean toilets for a living if I have to do so, but not without swallowing my immense pride. I am not having to clean toilets but I am having to swallow my pride in the face of the crumbling world, and I feel humiliation.

I know I am not the only one. But really, there’s no solace in that, no matter how much I feel like there ought to be solace in being one of many.

It’s a deep and internal humiliation, one that I won’t show, and I feel a growing depression (another thing I can’t and won’t show). Things are okay on the surface, but there’s a cloud growing inside me. It takes immense effort for me to get up and cook a meal. When an event/happening occurs, I look at the dark side. I am craving kindness but when I get thoughtlessness, it feels unusually cruel these days. I can’t shake things off like I usually do. Dark thoughts swim through my head. I have fading interest in my health. I have fading interest in food.

I think about “What is the question I ask myself” and I think, what can get me through the day?

I look at things I could do–but nothing looks really attractive. I feel like there is nothing out there.

I just want to run away and hide for awhile. Cry for a few days, maybe. Or not, maybe just sleep. Maybe ignore the world. Ignore my feelings. Oh wait, ignoring my feelings is what got me here in the first place.

Well. Maybe now is a good time to write a page of my character’s depression. What is the question my character asks himself?

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quick blog

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Dudes, I’m all out of inspiration. I aim to entertain, almost at all times, but my life ain’t so entertaining. I think the height of this blog was when I had a stroke and I blogged my recovery–not that I wish myself a stroke again, of course. But it was also at that time that I felt vulnerable and open and the blog was my main writing venue and so the full force of my emotions and experience hit this site.

Now, I bore myself.

You’re welcome to ask me questions/give me blog prompts.

For now, here’s a quickie blog:

Read/Reading:
Just finished reading The Welsh Girl by Peter Ho Davies. Started slow but gained speed towards the end, much like an Ian McEwan novel. I looove the characters Karsten and Rotheram.

STILL reading 2666 by Roberto Bolano. Because that book is looooong. I’ll still be reading it next month. And the next month. Yes. But it is bringing me so much insight into the craft of writing–that dude wrote a 4-page-long sentence! That is hardcore. The novel is epic and the plot meanders..I’m trying to figure it all out.

Gotta start reading Yiyun Li’s The Vagrants.

Wrote/Writing:
This blog. And griping how boring it is, and getting down on myself about how boring it is, and how boring I must be, etc., etc. Which is in itself a totally boring act.

Writing the novel, bit by bit.

Viewed:
I am going to go see Coraline in 3D tomorrow with friends! Looking forward to it.

Otherwise, the usual: Grey’s Anatomy (ho hum except for the Cristina/Owen romance), Battlestar Galactica (RIVETING), House, LOST (RIVETING).

The DVD of “The Wire” Season 1 is still sitting in front of the telly. I’m afraid that once I start watching, I won’t be able to stop.

Memorable eats:
A bunch of homemade food these days: Chicken enchiladas!!! Best lasagna ever. And rose-cardamom cupcakes with whipped cream saffron-rosewater frosting.

Ate Out:
BBQ chicken salad at CPK. It was an incredible craving that needed to be quenched.

Cooked:
See above, under memorable eats. I love cooking. I think it’s my one domestic skill, I love the rhythm of cooking and the process of shopping for ingredients and transforming them into a final product that nurtures. We’re cooking nearly every meal these days, avoiding restaurants. Tonight I made Korean fish stew.

Happenings:
Work.

I interviewed for a teaching job (in addition to my 2 days/week work commitment above). I was confused because I got asked ZERO questions during my interview and even when I asked if he (the department chair) had questions for me, he said no, with a nonchalance that betrayed nothing. Huh. Maybe the person who referred me said good things about me, and thus he had no questions? I don’t get it. Regardless, I’m moving forward to the next step there: more interviews this time with the Dean. I will still prep in case SHE ask me questions.

Went to the cardiologist for my annual post-PFO-closure checkup and got another all clear–blood pressure back to normal now that I’m on meds, and then they hooked me up to a machine and monitored my heart and all was okay there.

It’s been raining, and I like it.

I sent out story submissions: 8 postal submissions (about $20 total), plus some contest fees (about $70 total for 4 contest submissions) and 4 online submissions later…I’ve filled another bucket of hope minus about $100.

Asked 2 Famous Writers to do an interview for the litmag at which I work as fiction editor. Yay! They said yes. So excited. Brainstorming questions this weekend.

Still plugging away at the novel. This week was discouraging. Next week will be better.

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Fragrant

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Sometimes, as I’m writing, I’m reminded of a scene in “Adaptation.,” (the good movie adapted from the really good The Orchid Thief written by Susan Orlean)–where the meta-character, Charlie Kaufman struggling to write his screenplay negotiates when he can have his next snack (a brownie? first i’ll write this THEN i get to have the brownie…).

It’s been that way for me the last few days, only with “fragrant pears,” something that looks like a cross between a quince and a green pear and tastes like a cross between an asian pear and a western pear. And somehow, like a supermodel with a Ph.D. and a darling personality, this particular pear inherited the best traits of all of the above: the crisp texture of the asian pear, the flavor and fragrance of the western pear, the fresh green of an anjou pear, the intriguing bumpy texture of quince (which is not a pear).

I write a little, I get a fragrant pear. Write some more, and a fragrant pear. I had to go back to Ranch 99 to get more fragrant pears. Fragrant pears are SO NOT “eating local” (they come from China), but that’s what makes them my guilty pleasure. They’re my fruit obsession of the late winter season, replacing my prior late Autumn persimmon obsession.

While at Ranch 99, I noticed a “free fish frying” sign and bought a mackerel that immediately went into the fryer (yummm). I had the fried mackerel yesterday for lunch and today. Yesterday it was heaven. Today–well, it’s been giving me “mackerel burps” (not as bad as my one and only one-time “durian burps”). And eventually the mackerel made me sick.

I’ve been tuning in to Twitter as usual–but this week, I’m getting real-time updates on the AWP Conference! Last year, when I was at AWP in NYC, twitter wasn’t so prevalent–wouldn’t it have been cool to tweet from the conference? I’d have, at moments, been a lot less lonely but a lot more distracted. I’m sad about not being able to go to AWP this year but I feel a bit more connected because of twitter. Or maybe I feel more left out because I can’t ignore the news!

The rain is streaming down. Sometimes the clouds part and the rain falls down and it looks like diamonds falling from heaven. Sometimes the sky darkens and the rain falls. I’m watching it all from my window in front of my writing desk. The window has a big bird poop on it. So I’m watching the world through shit-stained windows. Will the rain wash it off? I know I won’t, because I’m too much of a lazy ass to lean out the window and clean it.

Making headway on the novel. I’m forging a part of the storyline that I haven’t faced before–it’s tough going at times, but then when the breakthroughs come I feel like well, “the King of the world.” And I go eat a fragrant pear to celebrate.

Headache. Nausea. Thank you mackerel.

p.s. Oh! I also got ANOTHER “almost” rejection from Hayden’s Ferry Review (the second one with a personal note scribbled on the slip in 3 months):

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noteworthy, methinks

a few helpful/interesting/noteworthy links…

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the power, oh the power!

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There are times when I often wonder, “What if I had been born anywhere other than New York City? What if so and so’s hair was blonde instead of brunette? What if she were short instead of tall? What if he (Tom Cruise) were ugly?”

And it ends right there. Because you can’t change those facts. She’s tall. They’re brunette. Tom Cruise is good looking. I was born in New York City. Done.

In fiction, these kinds of “what if” questions are the foundation of potential stories. This is how stories are born.

In my novel, I am finding myself wanting to CHANGE these kinds of facts, midway through. My characters are who they are…but I am now asking “what if” OF something I’ve already imagined OUT of an original “What if.” And I CAN, if I really really want to. ARGH. My main character is born in North Korea before the Korean War. And nowwww…now I want to change his birthplace to the southern Korean countryside. WTF. Why do I do this to myself.

I had to walk into the kitchen this morning and tell my husband, “I’m about to ask you a question–but your answer is, ‘Finish the novel first and then reconsider.'”

So I proceeded to ask, “I want to change my main character’s birthplace from North Korea to South Korea…”

He answered, on cue, “Finish the novel first and then reconsider!”

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some of the best days of life

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I had one of the best days of my life in New York this past weekend. It contained no sex, no winning of the lottery, and no awards. It did involve three terrific meals (not all of them expensive and the best one was the cheapest meal of all), friends, the kind of hard-rocking, perpetual laughter that makes me surprised that it did not result in washboard abs (*sigh*), New York City (pretty much the ENTIRE island), and lots and lots of synchronicity/serendipity/magic/whatever you want to call it.

I met a friend for the first time “irl” with Randa that day, a Saturday, for brunch in Greenwich Village. We probably astounded C with our boisterous laughter but hey, when we talk hysterically about urinal cakes (“Is that like…a CARROT CAKE?!”) on our first meet, it can’t be all bad, right? I hope the magic from our day transferred onto her person and that she is forever blessed, as much as I feel I was blessed from that day.

After we looked at costume jewelry for like an hour (I gave in and bought a little rhinestone hairclip and now I wonder if it’s a magical clip and so I shall wear it), Randa and I then took a train uptown, in search of Topshop but instead we found her wedding dress (or maybe it found us) from a baffled sweetheart of a Persian Jewish shopkeeper who asked, “If she is Palestinian, how does she know Hebrew?” and then asked me, “You are Jewish?” and after asking about my husband’s family (they’re Israeli but ethnically Polish and Iraqi) he asked Randa who she’s marrying (someone of Irish descent). Wobbedy wobbedy wobbedy–you could see the look on his face! It was supersweet.

We never found Topshop. It didn’t exist.

We ambled on uptown and she murmured, “Yaddo.” Wuh? Dude, Yaddo is in UPSTATE New York. “Yaddo,” she said, now pointing at the sign saying “YADDO” on the side of a building portico with multiple columns that reminded me of the scene in “Sex and the City” where Carrie runs down the stairs in her wedding dress. Um. Because it was the New York Public Library.

And now come to think of it, there’s now a wedding theme going on in this story, too.

Oh. Daaaamn. “That’s the Yaddo exhibit!” I squealed. Yes, the exhibit with all the artifacts from Yaddo (including letters (Flannery O’Connor, Henry Roth, Clyfford Still, etc.) and original applications from James Baldwin (poor dude didn’t pay his phone bill and also partied so hard they never let him come back) and Truman Capote, etc., etc.)…I wanted to take so many pictures! But I didn’t. Because it wasn’t allowed. And because the guards kept a close eye on us. (Why is it wherever we went, security guards would smile and say, “Uh OH!”).

We’d just seen Clyfford Still’s work in the MoMA the day previous. And talked about Henry Roth at breakfast. Magic. Oh come on, there were more coincidences too, not just those two, in the entire day. It was MAGIC, I tell you.

Having obsessed over Junot Diaz’s Gourmet magazine article from two years past (I emailed him from my crackberry to let him know–like he would even CARE!), we continued uptown, towards Dominican food at Margot Restaurant. Or rather, we continued towards where we THOUGHT it was, and ended up at 125th and Lex wondering, “Where the fuck is the Dominican food?!”

And took a cab. Crosstown.

The wrong cab.

But not so wrong that we weren’t entertained by the self-pitying newbie taxi driver whose first day on the job was…that very day. We were the last customers on his 12 hour shift. He had NO IDEA where 159th and Broadway was. He had NO IDEA where Washington Heights was (dude! get a MAP!).

We got lost, we got a great tour of Upper Manhattan and of Dyckman, and finally navigated him (the slightly less blind leading the blind) to our destination. Where we had AMAZING Dominican food at Margot’s. And laughed our asses off for a couple more hours, hogging a table at a crowded restaurant, and eating up all the res guisado and beans and fried plantains and morir sonando. I would call it ‘da shit…but I feel awkward commending food by calling it shit. But it was amazing, and we were on a high.

The wind was coming in freezing cold, and even I, the person who LOVES the cold found it “kind of chilly,” and so we made our way quickly to the subway which we took to 80th and Broadway to Zabar’s (where we got mugs) and then we walked to a liquor store (where I greeted the old Korean shopkeeper with a smile and a Korean greeting and he looked at me like, “Why don’t you speak ENGLISH”–so funny because earlier that week, I asked for a map of the MoMA and the docent asked, “What language?” And I said ENGLISH!) and then we walked along the park, and we never stopped talking or laughing until we got back to the apartment in which I was staying (the pipes that play morse code!)–and then we went out again and had sushi in SoHo and I drank water (yes water, because I am so afraid of hangovers) in a bar at last call and then oh so reluctantly, I fell asleep, afraid to end the blessed and magical day.

The rest of the trip was so sweet too–I hung out with my fairy g*dmother, loudw who has blessed me with such goodness and opportunity and met her little doggie and of course chowed down on Korean food (tofu dolsot bibimbap!) with Nova who also makes me feel like goodness exists everywhere. I saw an old high school buddy for lunch, and met Alex for drinks with Randa (the day of 7 meals!), and went to Queens and soaked up everything I could for my novel. The only thing I forgot to do was go visit a synagogue.

Oh well–I guess like after a good date with a hot person, sometimes you leave something behind so that they’ll call you back…I told New York to gimme a call.

It was one of the best trips of my life. Those days were pitch perfect and I will cherish them and all the people and events in them forever.

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