Thursday, March 22, 2007

The Charm of 5:30

When it gets warm like it is today in DC, I have some problems with making it to class, reading what I should be reading, and doing anything indoors in general. If I'm able to go outside and eat my lunch, I am going to sit out there. And there is a poem that pretty much sums up what I feel in this weather, so I thought I'd reprint it here:

"The Charm of 5:30" by David Berman

It's too nice a day to read a novel set in England.

We're within inches of the perfect distance from the sun,
the sky is blueberries and cream,
and the wind is as warm as air from a tire.
Even the headstones in the graveyard
Seem to stand up and say "Hello! My name is..."

It's enough to be sitting here on my porch,
thinking about Kermit Roosevelt,
following the course of an ant,
or walking out into the yard with a cordless phone
to find out she is going to be there tonight

On a day like today, what looks like bad news in the distance
turns out to be something on my contact, carports and white
courtesy phones are spontaneously reappreciated
and random "okay"s ring through the backyards.

This morning I discovered the red tints in cola
when I held a glass of it up to the light
and found an expensive flashlight in the pocket of a winter coat
I was packing away for summer.

It all reminds me of that moment when you take off your sunglasses
after a long drive and realize it's earlier
and lighter out than you had accounted for.

You know what I'm talking about,

and that's the kind of fellowship that's taking place in town, out in
the public spaces. You won't overhear anyone using the words
"dramaturgy" or "state inspection today. We're too busy getting along.

It occurs to me that the laws are in the regions and the regions are
in the laws, and it feels good to say this, something that I'm almost
sure is true, outside under the sun.

Then to say it again, around friends, in the resonant voice of a
nineteenth-century senator, just for a lark.

There's a shy looking fellow on the courthouse steps, holding up a
placard that says "But, I kinda liked Reagan." His head turns slowly
as a beautiful girl walks by, holding a refrigerated bottle up against
her flushed cheek.

She smiles at me and I allow myself to imagine her walking into
town to buy lotion at a brick pharmacy.
When she gets home she'll apply it with great lingering care before
moving into her parlor to play 78 records and drink gin-and-tonics
beside her homemade altar to James Madison.

In a town of this size, it's certainly possible that I'll be invited over
one night.

In fact I'll bet you something.

Somewhere in the future I am remembering today. I'll bet you
I'm remembering how I walked into the park at five thirty,
my favorite time of day, and how I found two cold pitchers
of just poured beer, sitting there on the bench.

I am remembering how my friend Chip showed up
with a catcher's mask hanging from his belt and how I said

great to see you, sit down, have a beer, how are you,
and how he turned to me with the sunset reflecting off his contacts
and said, wonderful, how are you.
Also, I'm reading St. Lucy's Home for Girls Raised by Wolves, which is a great book of short stories in the magical realism...genre? style? Anyway, the writer is only in her twenties and extremely talented.

Good news: I finished my rough drafts for my thesis, and I'll put them on here as I edit them. I'm also working on a new story called "Phenology," which I'm very excited about.

Monday, March 19, 2007

The Spring Break of Much Nerdiness

I got back yesterday from spring break, spent mostly in East Stroudsburg, Pennsylvania. It snowed about eighteen inches and I spent most of Friday shoveling.

Early in the week, I read Fun Home, which I recommend to everyone (I'd lend out my copy, but it's already being borrowed). There was one segment of it that really stood out to me where the artist's father writes her a letter about Faulkner and the area of Pennsylvania where they live (which happens to be just down Route 80 from beautiful, sunny East Stroudsburg). He says that Faulkner's constant setting, Yoknapatawpha County, isn't all that different from that area of Pennsylvania, and he's right. On Wednesday morning, I sat and ate breakfast in Snydersville Diner and realized that the Pleasant Valley girls sitting two tables away could have been Caddy Compson (or maybe the trailer-trash girl at the Volkswagon dealership who could have been really pretty if she wasn't wearing so much makeup is more of a Caddy) and that the fry cook was Benjy. It was a "Sound and the Fury" kind of breakfast and I started to wonder if that makes me closest to Quentin. I give you the mausoleum of all hope and desire.

I spent a lot of time last week reading Watchmen, and wondering why I hadn't gotten to it sooner. If you have any interest in the ability of graphic novels to be valid literary works, I would highly recommend it. It's pretty dense, and there's a lot of interesting existential questioning done by a character who is practically a god, and it seemed like most of the characters had daddy issues, at least to some extent. But then, that's kind of a staple of comic books, isn't it? Batman had to avenge his father's death, Superman's father sent him away from Krypton, Peter Parker betrayed his father figure, Uncle Ben. I bet the Wonder Twins' dad left their mom.

Also, I said I didn't want to get into another serialized drama on television. "I get too involved," I said. "Remember 'Lost,' John? Remember when you used up two whole weekends catching up on the episodes of the first two seasons? Remember when they're toying with your heart and mind?" But I didn't listen, and now I'm totally hooked on "Heroes." There's a character who can bend space and time! And an indestructible cheerleader! I've watched all but the last three episodes. Considering the show's creators have a five-year plan, it looks like I'll keep watching.

So yes, I spent spring break reading comic books and watching a television show about superheroes. And...I also got a tattoo of an ampersand on my left bicep. I'll post some pictures of it when I get a chance. Yeah, I'm a geek. I don't mind it.

Wednesday, March 7, 2007

Post Two, In Which We Have Drinks with William T. Vollmann

Last night, as we walked to Politics and Prose, we talked about what would happen if we were to go out drinking with William T. Vollmann: "I'd wake up in Peru, underneath a prostitute, missing my kidney," I joked. We later found out that drinking with Vollmann was not quite as dangerous as we'd led ourselves to believe, when he invited Finn, Annie, Sean and me (among other attendees at his reading) out to drinks at Comet, a bar just down the street. Finn asked Vollmann about a story David Foster Wallace had told once, about how how he (Vollmann) had pulled out a gun in the middle of a reading and fired several blanks. "Yeah, I did that," Vollmann said. "It's a good way to punctuate things. The first time, it was a surprise. The second time it wasn't, and the third time, there was kind of an anticlimax, I just took out the gun and cocked it." He mimed the motion of cocking a gun.
Vollmann also mentioned Bob Guccione, who he said published his work even if he completely disagreed with his opinion. "Bob Guccione has become kind of a family myth for me," I told him. "He was my grandmother's cousin, and he would show up for funerals and just give the widow an undisclosed amount of money, kiss her on each cheek, and then leave." Vollmann listened to all of our stories, and when Sean told a story about a man on PCP, he asked, "Have you guys ever tried PCP?" "No," we said. "Me neither," he replied, "I don't like the loss of control. It's why I don't do hallucinogens anymore."
We left after a little while, but Vollmann signed the title page of Finn's thesis, and gave him his P.O. Box so Finn could send it to him when he was done. I'm happy (but maybe also a little bit disappointed) to say, we all still have our internal organs.