Archive for February, 2008

Poesie Quotidienne – Life in Phantasia

Driving towards the mountains the other day, Sam pointed out an interesting phenomenon – the mountains had disappeared. Blue sky arced from the top of the world’s dome down to the hazy horizon; it didn’t look like the mountains had been rendered invisible – it looked like they’d been erased.

Morbid curiosity mixed with trepidation as Sam observed, “I think the writers erased the mountains because they’re tired of being on strike.”

An interesting possibility.

Television, film and radio writers have been on strike against producers since November over issues around fair payment in an evolving industry. If the writers refuse to create new stories, then actors have nothing to act, directors nothing to direct, producers nothing to produce and consumers nothing to consume. Hopefully, this will lead to a resolution of the writers’ grievances. But in the meantime, it only makes sense that with the imagination industry grinding to a halt, with no new stories – arguably Los Angeles’ principle export – this city will slowly start to disappear. What’s next? If the producers don’t pay up, will the writers erase the Hollywood sign? The Hollywood Hills? The Pacific Ocean itself? The Nothing has been unleashed, and it’s being allowed to nibble away at the outskirts gmork.jpgof our land.

I’ve been looking over my shoulder for the G’mork ever since…

Add comment February 28th, 2008

Tales From the Gym – Hot Blooded, You’re Making Me Sing

There are songs that pour themselves into your ears like liquid energy and set your soul on fire. And then there are songs that fall from the speakers directly to the floor with a limp sounding thud, where they lie, fuming. Some songs make you want to work yourself into frenzy, while some songs actually make you want to grow fat and lose muscle tone. My gym has chosen a radio station that always delivers the latter. Tonight I was gritting my teeth while changing clothes in hyper-speed; trying to escape from Foreigner’s “Hot Blooded” as quickly as possible.

Now, in Foreigner’s defense, I’m sure this song was sexy and fresh at some point, possibly back in 1978 when Wikipedia tells me it was number three on the Billboard chart. However, by the time I became aware of “Hot Blooded” it had long since grown cold and stale. And that was a really long time ago. Why people continue to play it on the radio escapes me.

But then Alis, gatekeeper of the locker room, started singing along with the speakers…

“I’m hot blooded, check it and see!
I’ve got a fever of a hundred and three!”

There was no trace of irony in her voice, no disdain. She belted out the lyrics with gusto and enthusiasm, even occasionally getting a word wrong like she’d only heard the song once or twice before in her life.

Interrogating a hapless woman who was changing next to me, Alis inquired, in time with the music:

“Come on baby can you do more than dance?
I’m hot blooded! I’m hot blooded!”

“Are you old enough?” Alis demanded of the whole locker room, mopping vigorously. Then, as though the thought had just occurred to her, she stopped to interrogate a woman directly, and in verse: “Will you be ready when I call you bluff?”

“Is my timing right? Did you save your love for me tonight?”

Before the baffled woman could respond, Alis had danced away, still singing.

“Well, I’m hot blooded, check it and see
I got a fever of a hundred and three…”

Foreigner may have gotten a new lease on freshness.

Add comment February 25th, 2008

Tales From the Gym – Things You Never Knew You Wanted to Know…

There was quite a session of information-sharing in the sauna tonight. When I entered, conversation was already heated, and tips on the proper application of sea salt were flying. It took me several minutes to discover what, exactly, we were supposed to do with the sea salt… eat it? Sprinkle it on the rocks that heat up the sauna? Stir it up in our water and drink it? Finally it all became clear – apparently if you take a shower then stick sea salt all over your wet skin, then go sit in the sauna, the sea salt will make you detoxify faster. Who knew?

Then we moved on to the magical powers of potassium. Everyone takes potassium supplements apparently, and it does amazing things for the body. It’s good for the liver, bears some relationship with the sweating and drinking of water that go on in the sauna… and the lady who was clearly the leader in sauna-sophistication and savvy gets her potassium by prescription from a doctor in Paris!

Juniper berries are nature’s third miracle; you can drink them in tea, or you can buy them in powder form and put them on cellulite, where apparently they make good things happen.

Last but not least, I learned that when losing copious amounts of weight, as we all plan to do from coming to the gym and hanging out in the sauna for hours at a time, stretch marks become a concern. No problem – oil yourself inside and out, and always work out in extra-tight clothing so nothing moves and the skin has no reason to stretch. Brilliant!

Beauty Bulletin: menopause apparently makes your eyebrows stop growing… ?

Add comment February 21st, 2008

Nomad Studio – Borders, Saturday Morning

Borders is one of my favorite places to write. Not because it’s Borders, particularly, but because you can’t beat the ambience of a coffee shop inside a bookstore. On the one hand, you have all the olfactory and gustatory delights afforded by a full-service café – individual pots of French Press coffee, tea in a rainbow of flavors, the choice between paper cups and ceramic, the smell of freshly ground coffee beans, pastries, cookies, breakfast sandwiches, toffees, caramels… and of course coffee shop décor, which juxtaposes warm earth tones with large indirect patches of sunlight – all of which invites you to sink in, be cozy, and muse. On the other hand, you have a three-storey bookstore with everything you could want to tickle your imagination – there are books on finance and investing, science-fiction and fantasy, magazines on everything from new age spirituality to celebrity gossip to Goth subculture to how the affluent travel. The second floor is lofted – there’s a giant square missing, where you can look out and down into the first floor and the grand staircase, or look up at the beamed ceiling and skylights. The bookstore encourages the life of the mind, the café indulges your body, and the loft ensures that your thoughts can expand as much as they want and float around, unperturbed, up in the rafters. The skylights make it easy to relocate the good thoughts that grew too big and floated away.

I am not, of course, the only person who thinks this is a great place to work. It can be a real battle to find even a single chair. And you need more than a chair – if you plan to work you need a table, and an electric outlet for the laptop. Now here’s the tricky part: if the store is crowded, if the customers are too presumptuous, and if the baristas are cranky, they will announce via loud speaker that café seating is only for people who are actively consuming café food and beverages. We all buy something from the café, of course, but after an hour or so we’re just loitering. It’s a real gamble. If you stake your claim inside the café, it is possible that you can stay all day. But if the baristas kick you out, chances are good it will be during the busy part of the day, and you will not find another seat in the store – or quite possibly within a ten block radius.

Just outside the café there is additional seating – some would say better seating – in the form of leather-ish stuffed easy chairs. There are a dozen and a half of them spread around the clear glass half-wall that keeps patrons from falling off the edge of the loft. But there are only three little tables scattered amongst the easy chairs, and between the glass wall and giant windows, there are practically no outlets. Furthermore, if you’re outside the café, you aren’t bathing in the aroma of freshly ground coffee, nor are you benefiting from the almost subliminal sounds of baristas hard at work – the kind of ambient noise that occupies part of your mind, so the rest of it can maintain focus, uninterrupted, for hours. You can see the dilemma.

This morning I executed one of my fail-safe nomad studio strategies. I woke up early on a weekend, and arrived at Borders at 10:02 – just after the doors opened. I ran up to the second floor, took a few seconds to revel in having my choice of prime seats, then established myself in the very best one in the house. A stuffed easy chair WITH its own table, NEXT to an electric outlet for my laptop, pushed to within ONE INCH of the line on the floor that technically separates the café from the non-café seating.

I’m never leaving.

Add comment February 18th, 2008

Odyssey - Dublin

We had a midnight picnic on the shore of the Irish Sea. A storm was on the way, and the sky filled to overflowing with heavy, silent, immobile clouds. Pervasive blackness erased the stars and moon, seeking out and filling up the cracks and corners that might have harbored reflected light. Even terrestrial illumination from the train station and seaside houses had been silently gobbled up by the night.

The sea was strangely silent; it rustled a bit from side to side, its movements irregular, muted and uncertain. There was no trace of wind.

We drank cava out of plastic cups and passed cheese around our circle, feeling for each other’s hands for secure placement, since we couldn’t see a thing. Our voices were loud and penetrating in the silence; we eventually started whispering, since anything more was in excess.

Midway through the picnic we noticed two brilliant points of light in the sky. They merged into one, then separated, then merged again, all while maintaining a graceful decent towards the earth. We finished the cava and leaned back on the rocky beach, waiting for the aliens to land.

Add comment February 14th, 2008

Home – Stair Sounds

Sixteen stairs connect the ground floor to the second floor, and each stair has a different sound. Some creak in the middle, some creak at the edges. Some emit a deep, sonorous groan that goes on and on, even after you’ve jumped up to the next one. Others let out a sharp, high-pitched squeak that can be heard miles away. Every once in a while a stair will be silent, giving no clues as to one’s passage. Those are the best stairs, but you can’t count on them to stay silent twice in a row. And some stairs change their tactics; if it groaned in the middle last time, chances are good that it won’t groan in the middle the next time – instead it’ll squeal in the upper-left corner or on the middle-right side. There’s just no predictability.

The loudest, most resounding noise, however, lies silently, waiting underneath the eleventh stair. Step number eleven is extra-large and shaped like a triangle, which allows the stairs to take a sharp right turn. There’s a long, skinny, horizontal piece of wood there, a kind of molding that was meant to round-out the right angle formed by the run of the step sticking out a bit over the rise. The board has come loose without completely falling off; it’s attached by a nail or two, but moves when touched. And it lies precisely along the trajectory taken by a pair of toes, lifting to the next step. It’s almost impossible, even with considerable strategy, not to brush against the loose board with your foot. And when you do… The board doesn’t groan, or squeal. It lets loose an amplified vibration that is louder than any law of physics could explain. It rolls on and on like distant thunder, and manages to combine a sharp penetrating pitch with the sonorous persistence of resonance.

If one is lucky, the other noises produced by the stairs might dissolve into the ambient sounds of the rest of the house. Even in the middle of the night, boards creak, floors settle, walls adjust. What’s a single squeak here or there? But there is no mistaking the rattle of that board underneath the eleventh step. And that is the point of greatest peril when climbing up to the second storey.

Add comment February 11th, 2008

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