Sunday, May 31, 2009

More Birthdays, No Seeds

My goodness, could this really be the last day of the May Blogathon? Why, it's gone by just like that.

Well... no it hasn't. But it's been interesting. Between this and my regular blogging gig for Readerville, the month has felt at times like boot camp for Writing Without the Muse. Which is a book that I in fact own, but have I found time to reference it once in the past 31 days? I have not. Flying, as ever, without the net. There were times when I sat down in front of the computer and the well felt absolutely dry, but it mattered to me that I do this, and it made for an interesting trip. I'm a big believer in pushing things and going on the proverbial journey. It's been a fun one. I'm glad it's over, though.

Today is my birthday. I've now officially missed the window of time for getting that "45" shoulder tattoo, which is probably a good thing.
I'll always regret it a tiny bit, though.

My day was extremely chilled out. We drove out to a little diner I like in Tarrytown, 20 minutes away, so I could get eggs benedict -- not a diner staple in my part of Kingsbridge, sadly. Did the week's grocery shopping, puttered in the yard. I never got around to planting the new seeds, but I weeded, cleaned up the raised beds -- thank you, neighborhood cats of Summit Place! -- and did some needed thinning. That included the lettuce and spinach, which was getting crowded and leggy, and that meant we had the most unbelievably fresh salad with dinner. There's nothing quite like eating something that was alive very recently, and the greens were crisp and melting at the same time.
For my birthday dinner I made spaghetti and meatballs, one of my favorite meals ever, along with the aforementioned world's freshest salad and a nice bottle of red wine. All eaten off the gorgeous placemats my friend Margarita crocheted me, and in good company to boot.
Dorrie got a new collar and a new chewie, and all was well in her world too.
On the way to the grocery store and back I was blasting one of my favorite old cds in the car, Squeeze's Argybargy. There are a lot of albums that rocket me back to my teens, but that one never fails to put me in a state of extreme good cheer. So I drove and sang and drummed on the side of the car out of the open window and exposed the good people of the north Bronx to their dose of early 80s music for the afternoon, and it was all in all a very good birthday.
All in all, it's been a very good month. Thanks for bearing with me.

Labels: , , , ,

Saturday, May 30, 2009

More Seeds, and a Birthday

Columbia University Press had seeds too!

They're sunflowers, which is entirely appropriate because then I'll be able to watch the birds when they come to pick all the seeds out of the soil, which is inevitably what happens when I try to plant sunflowers. It could only more apropos if it were an anthology of bird and squirrel poetry.

At any rate, I'm done with BEA for this year, and I have to say I came away with a good feeling about things. Not the publishing industry, obviously -- I am not smoking anything that good (or anything at all, with this pain in the ass cough). But as far as my little place in the universe... understand, I haven't been at this long enough to really feel like I have a place. Rather than travel the whole traditional route of getting an internship at some publishing house or magazine straight out of college and working my way up, this was a midlife crisis career change, one of those if-you-don't-seize-this-moment-to-try-doing-something-you-love-you-will-always-regret-it decisions. A very good decision, and I think I've done fine. But the fact is that haven't been around that long, and I've come at the business from a weird, oblique angle.

In the past couple of days, though, I've had a few good encounters that made me feel like I do, in fact, have something of my own to bring to the table. I don't necessarily have one slottable skill -- and when there were so many jobs and divisions of labor in the publishing world, I think that was definitely out of my favor. But things are shifting so dramatically, nobody knows much more than anyone else as to what the scenery will look like when the dust settles. And I walked out of there today thinking that for all the times my mother said, "But you're so smart! You can do so many things!" and I said, "Mom, you don't understand this business, that's not enough" -- hey, maybe mom was on to something.

And don't tell me that mothers are always right. Tell my son.

Also, I got to hang out with Levi Stahl, of Ivebeenreadinglately, who is very charming and is almost my birthday twin. This is obviously a fine week to have been born in -- two of my best friends in the world, Leslie and Meridith, had a birthday yesterday, I have a dog run friend born on June 2nd and an ex-roommate on the 4th and wait... whose birthday could it be today?
Who might have gotten a new stuffed toy and a treat with dinner? And who also went for run with me this morning? Somebody's had a big day.

Well... we all have. Happy birthday, Dorrie.

Labels: , ,

Friday, May 29, 2009


Absolutely my favorite BEA loot, bar none, was this wildflower seed packet from NYRB Classics.
Well OK, that and the signed ARC of Dan Chaon's newest.

Margarita gave me some cosmos seeds, and I have some poppies too... I'm thinking if Sunday's nice I'm going to make a little wildflower garden. That odd weedy platform to the right of my front steps might be just the spot, although it's a pain -- and kind of scary -- to constantly shuffle along that narrow ledge with soil and tools and what have you. Still, it's a spot in need of some aesthetic enhancement, and that's a good excuse.
BEA was both fun and tiring. I was tweeting it from my new Blackberry (@lisapeet1), with a definite learning curve involved. But I do like the medium, and tomorrow is another day. Today, I think, is over.

But, one day early for Caturday, I leave you with Francis and Alvy together again:
That Alvy is a tough little fat fur seal.

Labels: , ,

Thursday, May 28, 2009


Today has been an astonishing oscillation of the shitty and the sublime, in such rapid succession as to give me whiplash.
But my first sight of the morning, when I was out for (another!) good run with Dorrie, was a line of flowers and teddy bears in boxes being unloaded across the street from Lehman College for their graduation ceremony. I actually stopped and screwed around with the camera on this new phone for a minute to capture it, and the image stayed in my head all day through good and bad. A little on the rainbowy side, but I needed that, and to think about all those city kids feeling like they accomplished something and psyching themselves up for whatever comes next. I was talking to a friend tonight about inertia, how it just takes the smallest nudge to set a body in motion and how kindly it wants to stay in motion once that happens.

It's been many years since I graduated from anything, but there is motion. And that'll do.


Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Showing Up

Usually on weekdays I get up early and walk around the Jerome Park Reservoir with my friend Stephanie and our dogs. It's just under two miles around, and while we don't power-walk it or anything that's still two miles I wouldn't be clocking if we didn't make a daily event of it. It's a good time of the day -- for half an hour or so every morning I can be pretty sure that nothing terrible is going to happen. We'll walk and talk, our dogs will sniff and pee, other walkers and joggers will say hi to us and we'll say hi back. I keep saying I'm going to bring my camera some morning, because there's always something of vague interest: a stretch of grass littered with notes passed in class and then dumped when school was over, a homemade cargo carrier made out of the basket of a shopping cart, lashed with rope to the roof of a dinged-up station wagon. But generally it's not a remarkable time, just a comforting one. Whatever else the day has in store for me can wait.

This morning Stephanie didn't come out, though, so Dorrie and I went alone, and I ran a good half of it. I used to run -- not long distances, but a few miles faithfully three times a week. I always really liked it. I don't enjoy many forms of enforced exercise, but running appealed to me from the start. Most of all, I think because there are so many ways to hurt yourself. You have to be extremely mindful and present in your body the whole time, thinking about the axis you're moving on and your breath and how your legs are extending and how your feet hit the ground, which bones and muscles and in what order. Something like a treadmill or exercise bike, where you could conceivably read at the same time, doesn't cut it in the same way. There's not the same occupation of my body and involvement with what it's doing -- to me it's like eating with a cold or going to a church service without believing.

I never pretended to be any kind of serious runner, and lord knows Haruki Murakami said it all a whole lot better than I ever will. But I liked it. Predictably, I did hurt myself, ending up with something strained on the bottom of my foot. Took it easy, fell out of the good habits, did something to another part of my foot, and so it goes. As soon as it became optional, I lost my discipline.

So it was nice to run a little today. I was just jogging, really, a languid trot that Dorrie could keep up with easily. But I was pleased to see that I had some leftover muscle memory and my body still did the right things, and I still had decent wind even with whatever's been sponging up my lungs for the past couple of weeks. It was a misty cool morning, and I came home sweaty and stretched out. And I got a hint of that old buzz -- because come on, anyone who knows me knows I'm always in it for the buzz.
It was good to remember that the distance between doing a thing and not doing it is actually small and reasonable, and that falling back into good practices isn't that much harder than falling out of them. That mostly it's about showing up.

Right now I'm swilling Nyquil straight from the bottle and trying to make sense of the extraordinary pile of BEA email in my inbox, but I figure I feel better than I would have if I'd slept that extra half hour this morning. I'll be out there again tomorrow, barring rain, walking if not running, but enjoying a half hour of grace before the day has its way with me.


Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Listen to Me, Dammit!

It's always tempting to anthropomorphize the animals, some times more than others.
It's hard to imagine there isn't a very intense conversation going on here. And who knows? Maybe there is.


Monday, May 25, 2009


I spent some time tonight poking around in the attic, and surprised myself by finding my dad's old Yashica-Mat. I'd been half-heartedly wondering where it was ever since I moved here. Presumably it still works -- at least it did ten years ago, when Gideon went through a stage of taking photos with it. I wonder if you can even get that 2x2 format film anymore, or if it's some kind of ridiculous specialty item.

But I wasn't looking for the camera. I was pawing through my insane number of boxes (there's nothing like a lifelong apartment-dweller who suddenly comes into possession of a house with full attic for an example of some seriously random packratism) in search of some slide boxes that had been my father's. I found them, finally -- three steel boxes, about 8 x 11 x 2, surprisingly heavy. Especially the one I was looking for, which was filled with glass slides, presumably taken with the very same Yashika-Mat in Okinawa in the early 50s. My dad, an anthropologist, did field service there during the Korean War studying the effects of the conflict and the influx of servicemen on Okinawan hookers and their families. I realize this is ripe for all sorts of off-color comments, but hey -- we're talking about my father, so as far as I'm concerned I'm not going to go there.

I'd looked at them briefly a few years ago, when I came into possession of a bunch of his stuff, and I'd been meaning to pull them out again. They were as haunting and beautiful as I remembered -- neatly labeled on a piece of oak tag by subject: Material culture, Okinawan wedding, Okinawan bullfight, brothels and whores (nice, dad), children, adults and children, adults, houses and villages, and markets. Each one painstakingly edged in black cloth tape, which made getting them out of their slots a bit of a pain, but the effect was elegant.

I wish they scanned more clearly, but I probably need a better scanner with a setting specifically for slides and transparencies, plus I didn't sit down with the needed damp cloth and clean them. But here are a few, just to give an idea of what's in this box of slides from 55-odd years ago.



Back late from a wonderful day in the country laden with licorice and Jack Daniels and glossy magazines and a big root bundle of lily of the valley and SUCH a tired little dog (who is the Best Guest Ever and should be invited everywhere). I got nothin'.

Well, I got this, a Wordle word picture of my blog (and, by extension, I guess my universe):


Sunday, May 24, 2009

Pat Pat Pat

Usually patting oneself on the back for something that's supposed to be a selfless action -- charity, a gift -- is considered to be a bad thing. I'm not sure why... you can argue yourself blue in the face over whether the altruism gene is really the selfishness gene in disguise, but it's all the same thing: You're making someone else feel better and in return you're making yourself feel good as well. Otherwise it's something else, self-sacrifice or work or another form of exchange.

Today I went down to New York Presbyterian to visit a friend who unexpectedly wound up in the hospital. So aside from the very serious and multilayered concerns, which take a while to sink in and work their way around my mind anyway, my first -- and easiest to handle -- thought was, What do I bring? Given that flowers aren't allowed and she's not the teddy bear/mylar balloon sort?

I love giving presents. Not on cue -- I'm not a fan of Christmas for that reason -- but I love that click when I see just the thing for someone, and tend to stockpile gifts all through the year and hope I can find them when birthdays roll around. So when inspiration struck when I needed it this time around, I was so pleased. On my way down to the east side I stopped by Book Culture, one of the two fine indie bookstores near my office. It used to be Labyrinth Books, for those of you who know the 'hood, and I think the new name is a bit unfortunate -- it makes me think of petri dishes. But regardless, it has the best selection of glossy high-end magazines and literary journals of any place I know uptown. And there I purchased:
All of them fat, fun, and trashy/smart, with interesting articles to read and great pictures to look at if she wasn't up to reading (the links all work, if you're interested). The whole bunch tied up in a green ribbon and delivered in one of the excellent Book Culture tote bags, because eventually all that loot needs to be hauled home...
What can I say? I was just tickled with the gifts I bore, and I had a fine old time picking them out. I love shiny lowbrow/highbrow magazines, but I don't tend to splurge on myself like that. And I know she wouldn't either, which made them extra fun to buy. I hope when she gets to them they cheer her up a little.

If I ever end up in the hospital, faithful readers, I hope you all will take the hint.


Friday, May 22, 2009

Here Comes a Regular

For someone who's not much of a joiner, I do like the concept of being a regular somewhere. Back in my late teens and 20s, it was at a fine old East Village dive called the Holiday Cocktail Lounge (that's it in the photo above), sadly no longer among the establishments left standing now that Stefan is gone. In my mid-20s to 30s, I was a park mom in the Tompkins Square Park playground -- also apparently no longer extant. It wasn't a glamorous society, but it saved my sanity pretty much every day and I still have good friends from that time.

These days, it's the dog run. I get home from work and feed the cats and change into a t-shirt and sweats, and then I get Dorrie all worked up: "You want to go to the park? You want to go to the PARK?" She is very clear in turn that yes, she does, and off we go through the convivial afterwork urban-suburban streets, saying hi to the neighbors as we pass, to our local: The Fort Independence Park dog run.

It's a nice spot, rolling and leafy, and a good group of people and dogs. We're the hardcores, the ones who were there every night all winter, when it was dark before I even left the house and the wind blew in bitingly off the reservoir. These days it's lush and cool after the heat of the afternoon ends, and we all lounge around on the benches and fall into the rhythms of talking about nothing in particular as the evenings stretch out. Like a bar with no alcohol, like a playground with no children -- there are children in and out all the time, but not ours, which makes all the difference -- and our dogs all know each other and can, for the most part, be trusted.
It's a pleasant part of the day, with work over and dinner not quite a worry yet; a pleasure but also, because of the dogs' needs, a necessity. We stay longer than we need to most of the time, but the concept of exactly how long that might be is up for debate. The dogs play, we talk, and it's all very agreeable and good for the soul. And at the end of the evening the dogs are tired, which was kind of our point all along.

Labels: ,

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Life in the Digital Age

Nearly 3/4 through the month, and someone had the good idea to call this a Guest Post day -- give us all the chance to step out of our lives blogs and into someone else's for a few minutes.

My guest blogger is Debi, from The World Without:
In this age of the internet, I sometimes struggle with the definitions of very simple words. What constitutes a 'conversation'? When did I 'meet' a particular person? What makes someone your 'friend'? Because some of those words mean a lot more than they used to. I talk to my mom every day - face to face - over lunch. I talk to my favorite sister-in-law a few times a week by Google Messenger while I'm getting ready for work and she's corralling my youngest niece and nephew into the beginning of their day. I also talk to Lisa every day - through emails, an online group we both belong to, and our respective blogs.

Today I tried to decide when I first 'met' Lisa. In the traditional sense, I suppose I met Lisa in February of 2005, when she traveled to Savannah specifically to see me. But in the truest sense, I'd met her months before, at an on-line book site called Readerville. By the time she hit the road and headed South, she was one of the dearest people in my life. She made that trip to personally deliver a true work-of-art constructed with her own hands and that was spectacularly important to me. Someone she'd never 'met'...but definitely not someone she didn't know. And in the years since since that trip, thanks in large part to the magic that is the Internet, Lisa has become one of my very best friends.

We have visited in person, in good times and bad, and those visits were wonderful. And I know that, lord willin' and the creek don't rise, we will visit each other in person again. But in the in-between times, one of the best parts of my life is that Lisa, like many people I call 'friend' is always as close as the ends of my fingers. I can talk to her whenever I need her...without waking her up in the middle of the night. I always know where to find her. She encourages all the best things in me: mindfulness and awareness and honesty, because the words I say to her will live forever in the bits and bytes that carry them from here to there. She has helped to redefine not only words, but the life I live each day. Lisa is my friend and I talk to her everyday and I met her on the internet.

What's your Internet Friend story?

(This is where I'd usually post a picture or three...but, sadly, I don't have any pictures of us. How is that possible? I know they exist!)
[This is the work of art Debi spoke of -- the marzipan wedding cake topper I made her.]

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Green Day

Labels: ,

Tuesday, May 19, 2009


(yellow submarine journal, animal journal, garden journal)

Labels: ,