Monday, June 30, 2008


Every time I leave the city during the warm weather months, I start wondering why I don't live in the middle of a field. or the woods. or maybe somewhere with better access to such things.

a few lines i stumbled upon by Charles Wright that best explain those moments of summer that are ridiculously perfect. please note that there are no buildings nearby:

The heart of the world lies open, leached and ticking with sunlight
For just a minute or so.

sigh. i'm currently missing Ohio, specifically driving on 73.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

how to breathe deeply in brooklyn.

watch the summer storm from your window--
and gape at how diagonal the rain can be
especially since the sun is still out.
while you are remembering how hail forms
decide to not go into the city
and instead go to the park
when the rain is gone but the sinking sun remains.
walk and walk and walk
and listen
to your brooding music
and watch
the children walking on the stone wall
just the way you would've wanted to
if you were eight.
it's a good idea to stop at the litchfield villa
and linger for a little while with the flowers in front
maybe pretending you're in England--
if you're anything like me.
and maybe just stop
and stare into the woods,
leaning on the same stone wall you might want to walk on
and wait to see if it's firefly season yet.
remember a little bit
and imagine that the woods were deep.
smile as you're walking home and see
a little lightning bug
who decided to share the sidewalk with you.
yes. that's about all.

Memory yet again in Contemporary Fiction: Some Ramblings in response

I recently finished Man Walks into a Room by Nicole Krauss. It was a highly anticipated read, as not only was it very critically acclaimed, but she also wrote one of my favorite books I've ever read, The History of Love. Last year I read a lot of books about memory: The Inheritance of Loss, The Mysterious Flame of Queen Loana, and The Memory Keeper's Daughter. This topic is one that never fails to interest me: perhaps because I fear losing the moments of my past that have shaped and influenced me, perhaps because I fear that the places which in a sense define me are slipping further away into the past tense: rather than my drives through fields and the smell of evening air in Ohio, it is becoming the energy of the city and the smell of Brooklyn sidewalks in the summer.

But last weekend I was out on Long Island, visiting the beach on an unbeachy day, and all that is in me that longs for space and tea and quiet swelled up again. So my memories of those places aren't gone, but just dormant. I think? I'm not sure I could survive in the city without remembering country roads and open skies and the hope that I will get to visit them. (Ironically, I'm not sure if I would survive in the suburbs anymore, either...rural, though, perhaps? A character in the book said that she couldn't go back to the suburbs of Cleveland anymore, not in the same way (page 55). That is how life feels...though I guess that happens with time alone, and not just space.) It's not just outdoor space, either. This has been a year of friends moving and things changing and me realizing the impact of having those people and friendships gone from my immediate life. I can deal with the loss ok (sort of!), because I can remember.

Before I turn into a ridiculously cheesy song lyric, let me explain the literary connection. Samson, the main character in Krauss' book loses all of his memory except up until the age of 12. The book examines not only this theme, but of scientific intervention with memory. But what stuck with me the most was the quote: "I know, I know. A little to the left or right and I might not have remembered how to go to the bathroom. I might have existed in some eternal moment, with no memory of the minute that just passed. I might have lost my ability to feel. I'm lucky, sure. What I lost is, in the grand scope of things, almost...negligible ." (page 44)

I'm just not sure that his loss is negligible. His organs and senses are intact, but his entire framework for seeing and dealing with the world is gone. Interestingly enough, he has his memories from childhood--but they end at age 12--about the age of my students. And though they have had life experience, they don't necessarily process through it meaningfully until much later, through the lens of even more life experience. The scientist who works with Samson brings up the idea that memories are a burden to keep (page 89). This is partially true: I am haunted quite often by memories and they can affect an afternoon or more of my life...but they are also a grounding, I think.

There is so much more thinking that needs to be done about this book, but the simplified bottom line is that this book made me very sad. Near the end, Samson describes his state: "He'd surrendered his past for a plot of emptiness." (page 213)

Maybe my reaction is part of the reason why I am such an incessant reflector in life; I just really believe that there is meaning to be made.

Slightly Dr. Seuss-esque, but true.

This morning I had cake
with my breakfast
and tea,
looking at pictures from Capri.
My gut just ached
but not from the cake,
but this longing for quiet and space
and the sea.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

A Refinishing Attempt.

I've been talking for a while about how I really want to start re-doing furniture...finding treasures for low cost that need a little bit of work and allow me to use some creative power. About a month ago, I literally walked into my reason for starting: two worn but loveable chairs on the sidewalk for free! (This is fairly normal in my neighborhood in Brooklyn. Please don't be skeeved.) So here's what I did:

1. I cleaned, primed and painted the chairs black. (2 hours, $5)
2. I ordered fabric from Repot Depot (15 minutes, $7)
3. I purchased a staple gun! (5 minutes, $16 but reuseable, so I'm not including cost)
4. I purchased staples for the gun (1 minute, 15 cents)
5. I recovered the seats with an under layer of fabric and then the fabric you see. (30 minutes)

TOTAL TIME: 2 hours, 51 minutes
TOTAL COST: $12.15

Monday, June 16, 2008

Vampires, yet again. And Werewolves, too.

If you have read my blog at all in the past six months or so, you already know that I have been sucked into the "ancient grudge" romance between Edward Cullen, one of Forks, Washington's resident vampires and Bella Swan, average teenage girl. In the second book we met Jacob Black, who became Bella's best friend...and also a werewolf. Yes. Needless to say, there was plenty of drama and plenty of action in the third book of this series of four. Will Bella become a vampire herself? What are her feelings toward Jacob? Who will be fighting for their lives? This series is a definite page turner.

And though I loved this book and couldn't put it down, I found that I had some reservations: it was impossible to not read this book through a feminist lens. On one hand, I love the relationship between Edward and Bella. Edward is protective and chivalrous, which I admit I enjoy. He loves Bella for who she is, which is an average looking, average achieving teenager. Points for Edward and author Stephenie Meyer because the current generation of teenagers is under the impression that you have to look like Blake Lively or Mischa Barton to get the guy. But at the same time, Bella doesn't really do much beside go to school and be with Edward...and when she's not with Edward, she's thinking about him. I found that I was really bothered by the fact that she's not involved in anything else.

The other thing that bothers me is that everytime Edward does something that makes Bella angry, Bella forgives him the minute she sees him. Believe me, I'm all about forgiveness, but I'm also about conversation and real relationships where each person can honestly share about how he or she is feeling. It just seemed so horrid when Bella thinks along the lines of : oh, he is beautiful, oh he loves me, I'll just let my issues melt away without sharing them. Yuck. I just wonder what that is teaching the adolescent readers who are obsessed with this series, and of course with Edward (just google his name).

Of course, both Edward and Jacob's love and protection of Bella is admirable and noble, I just with she had a bit more of a life and a voice.

Sunday, June 8, 2008

The Morning Paper (Online).

My favorite part of the week might be waking up on weekend mornings and reading with some tea. I don't often blog about newspaper articles, but seeing as I am without someone here to discuss them with, I felt compelled to write. (This is similar to me watching Lost alone, and sending out links to articles about each episode. Sorry. Can't help it.) These aren't coherent, per se. It's the beginning of a conversation. With myself. Ha.

The article "The New New City" by Nicolai Ourousoff is about cities like Dubai and Shenzhen that have literally just popped up recently compared with cities that were developed by a combination of historical and cultural events and phases. It is interesting because there seems to be an architectural freedom and creativity, but a lack of cultural inspiration. The cities want everything to be new, but does that harm the city to be without the (beautiful) mess of human cultures? I'm also confused about where on earth the funding for all of this comes from. A really interesting read, especially while living in New York, a city where development can mean something different to everyone. The most interesting quote to me, found at the end of the article: “The amount of building becomes obscene without a blueprint,” Koolhaas said. “Each time you ask yourself, Do you have the right to do this much work on this scale if you don’t have an opinion about what the world should be like? We really feel that. But is there time for a manifesto? I don’t know.”

The article "The Snare of Privilege" by Elizabeth Bumiller was pretty thought provoking, and I mean that it the widest sense: it spurred me to think about a lot of things, so this rant isn't necessarily closely related. It's main tenet is that the majority of high powered politicians come from privileged backgrounds and elite universities, and that they have to connect with the everyman--appear to be trustworthy, likeable, relateable--to be elected president. Bumiller mentions that candidates often play down the privileges that money had afforded them when talking with the those not of similar heritage. What struck me in this article is what wasn't discussed at all. One of the top qualifications that I am looking for in a president is that he/she is brilliant when it comes to history. Obviously, it would be nice if this historical genius was also well-rounded, believed in social justice and protecting the environment and was not corrupted by politics. But seriously. Why aren't the degrees obtained ever discussed--and only the university.

The other part of this discussion that is uncomfortable for me is the whole concept of playing down privilege. Because let's be honest, privilege can be a nice thing, and even though I'm planted firmly in the middle class, I am still ridiculously more privileged than the majority of people on the planet. It's interesting to me because I get so disgusted by wealthy people who spend thousands, millions of dollars on x, y and z when those dollars could be put to such better use. But am I the same as I make my purchases, just on a smaller scale? Do I want to give up the ability to buy or do things that I have grown accustomed to? No. But I want to consider this. I hate social ladders and yet I inhabit a rung. Ugh. The never ending dialogue of my mind.

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Summer in the City: A Reading List

Most of my time this summer will be spent here in the city. Since I have the best job ever, I will have lots of TIME to read lots of books! Overly ambitious? Perhaps. But composing this list makes me giddy.

1. Eclipse by Stephenie Meyer: This is the third book in the young adult Twilight series that I have been raving about in many previous posts. The fourth and final book comes out in August.

2. Franny and Zooey by J.D. Salinger: How I haven't read this already is beyond me. Period.

3. Chronicle of a Death Foretold by Gabriel Garcia Marquez: not only do I love hispanic fiction and have been meaning to read GGM for a long time, I am intriged by the genre of magical realism.

4. Before we were Free by Julia Alvarez: A coming of age story set in the Dominican Repubic in 1960.

5. The Book Thief by Markus Zusak: This book I'm reading with my 8th grade ELA team! Death is the narrator in this book set in World War Two era Germany.

6. Sula by Toni Morrison: I'm excited to try to wrap my head around the difficult issues in this book about friendship, rebellion and morals

7. Rape, A Love Story by Joyce Carol Oates. Recommended by colleagues as gritty, provocative and thought provoking.

8. A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini: haven't read Hosseini's follow up to The Kite Runner yet

9. My Sister's Keeper by Jodi Picoult: My students love this book and she seems like a good jump from Young Adult Fiction into Adult fiction

Others that are waiting on my bookshelf:

Same Kind of Different As Me by Ron Hall and Denver Moore
The Corrections by Jonathan Franzen
Trail of Crumbs by Kim Sunee
The Things They Carried by Tim O'Brien

Books I want to reread for the sheer joy of it:

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows by JK Rowling
The God of Small Things by Arundhati Roy
A History of Love by Nicole Krauss
To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee