Thursday, December 30, 2010


I want to do something I haven't done in seven years: ski.

I've skied less than a handful of times, usually without incident. Well, besides the time I skied into a rope and earned a tremendous burn on my neck that lasted for months. And the time I was knocked down by the lift. Those occurred in my first two excursions. Beginning bumps, if you will. Now I'm wise and capable and more than ready to snow plow my way to safety. Besides, I've learned the best way to maintain control: When in doubt, fall over.

We drive through small towns that I've never heard of. That I'm willing to wager most people have never heard of. A post office, a Chinese restaurant, the Family Dollar, one pub, a church, Christmas lights. Snowy farms racing up and over hills. Look fast or you'll miss the sign. We pull a quick right.

The mountain is small, manageable, and navigating up the practice slope a difficult task. My wedges are sharp. I am ready.

They don't like to mark trails here, apparently. Green turns to blue without warning, if there's any sign at all. Ski trail turns to snowboard railings.

"Where are the green trails?" we ask two employees after our first run.

They shrug. "There's a map somewhere."

The top is all right. It's the middle to the bottom that becomes complicated. Wide trails narrow between tree-lined path. Plateaus drop drown, steeper, icier.

I learn to carve. My knee whines but it keeps moving. Darkness comes and snow softly rains down. A light in the hills across from us, the hills where someone lives and turns on the lamp against the fog. Trail lights snap on, casting illuminations and shadows over the snow, and between the small children shrieking by without ski poles, the snowboarders spinning and slicing and never losing balance, the light makes this place almost sacred.

Gate 23, or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Mini Commuter Plane

1) Set your alarm for 7:05 (not 7:00; that's too early). Fall asleep late the night before so you wake up dazed, haphazardly throwing items into your bag. Three pairs of socks make the cut. This ends up a wise move.

2) While on the highway at 8:45, look around at the cars that have drifted into the snow-covered median. Be glad you're not them.

3) Arrive at the train station to learn that the 9:10 train is canceled, and that there's been an accident down the line. Read magazine mastheads at the newsstand until a worker gestures to the sign that says, "Please buy before you read." I want to explain why I'm reading mastheads, but decide to loiter elsewhere. Plan to arrive on the platform at 10:10. When everyone makes a run for it at 9:45, join them. Nobody wants to be left standing on the train, after all.

4) Enjoy the cold, the slush, the crazy women next to you, and the smell of cigarette smoke until the train rolls in at 10:25. By this time you're concerned for your toes. They could have lost all feeling if you stood out there long enough. You bounce back and forth, do curls, a few toe raises. This is NY so nobody looks at you strangely. Nobody looks at you at all. You score the final seat in the car next to the girl who texts in German. You read over her shoulder until she starts to catch on. You chug water just before your stop. Surely, airport security isn't far away.

5) You make moves for the air train, but learn that the air train is not running due to snow. "There are buses downstairs," a worker says. You join the line that extends down the block, people in winter coats clutching luggage and generally looking displeased. But you're okay. You can wait the fifteen minutes until your end of the line meets the bus doors. It's only 11:45, and your flight's been bumped to 2:30. This is just a way to pass the time.

6) As you bump along on said bus, holding the rails and viewing the scenic area on the way to the airport, like the strip club, you overhear someone say, "You'll have to get off of this bus and take another bus to your terminal." Good to know. That should take but a moment. At 12:00, you walk off the bus. All these modes of transportation. Humorous, really.

7) You join the ring of people waiting for the bus to the terminals. And waiting. When that bus arrives, you're reduced to elbowing and shoving.

During every disaster, there's always an adage about how the human spirit triumphs, how kind people can be when pushed to extremes. Those people are somewhere else today, shoveling driveways for little old ladies, and the crowd here is yelling, standing in the road, blocking the way, pushing onto the buses into a wave before those who are on can step off.

If you want any chance of making it onto the bus, you have to stand in the slushy rim beyond the sidewalk that creeps into the drive. You have to be standing in just the right spot. And unless you have a small child, you better be ready to book it.

I think to myself, "What would Katniss do?" Katniss would trample them all if she had to. I am not so bold. I make the best moves I can.

Twice I reach the bus stairs to be told, or rather shouted at, "NO MORE!" It's past 1:00 pm. Deep within my snow boots, my toes are soggy and the smaller ones lose feeling. There's nothing to break the wind. I call my mom and my jaw moves oddly, slowly, when I talk. The girl behind me, who looks to be my age, is crying. The guy next to me holds a guitar case and wears thin sneakers. "When are the trains back?" I say. "I can't get on the bus. It's mayhem."

She looks online. "There are no schedules posted."

So I can stand here in the slush for a bus that won't come, or go back to the train station and wait for a train that might not come.

Around 1:25, my luck changes. I'm right near the steps when the bus pulls up. The driver looks out and says, "I need to go on a break. I've been working since --" People surge onto the bus anyway. I join them, since even if we're not going anywhere, I'd like to be dry.

8) As soon as the bus moves, I realize, "We're probably ten feet from the terminal and I could have walked there." I don't know how far away we are, but I do feel every stop-and-go tug of the brakes and gas. We're within airport roads and taxis and cars dart in and out. Traffic barely moves. I watch the clock on the wall and try to wiggle my toes. They feel no warmer. 1:45. 1:50.

9) Trot into the terminal, run around the corner, smack into the standstill security line. There is one man checking boarding passes. There are two lines, mine being the longer one. 2:00. 2:05. We haven't moved.

A worker walks by, calling, "2:45 departure? 3:00 departure?"

"2:30," I say.

Her eyes widen. "2:30? Come over here."

I duck under the rope and walk to where she points. A new line. The boarding pass man shakes his head. "I can't do three lines. I'm only one person."

They argue. I watch the folks from the other two lines pass through. 2:10. I'm not going to make it out of here.

So I tear up. Just a little. He waves me up next.

Run through the metal detector. Grab shoes, bags, jackets, run to the monitor in socks and T-shirt. 2:13, I'm saved, I'll get to the gate!

10) You have time to exchange your wet socks for dry socks. In fact, you have time for many things. The monitor says the flight's been delayed to 3:00. Then 3:45. 4:10. 4:30. 5:00. 5:30. The other two flights to the same city have already been called off.

At first, 19/23 flights on the board are canceled. Then it updates to show that 14/15 are canceled. The terminal's packed: people trying to figure out where to go next, people who have been here all day, people who have been here for days. The sun sets over the runway.

A woman on her phone nearby says, "All of the rental cars are booked. There's a flight to Albany tomorrow and maybe from there we can get to..." People have driven here from other cities for the same strategy: Maybe this time, we'll get out of here. We'll take the three-city, extended layover, roundabout way if you'll get us into the air. But 1/15 aren't the odds you want.

11) Something miraculous happens: Our flight boards. We walk outside, check our carry-on luggage (by "check," I mean we toss it into a large pile next to the plane and receive pink tickets for pick-up). We sit on the plane. The lights shut off. From outside, someone official yells, "WE HAVE NO POWER!" I'm pretty sure this information was not meant for the passengers to hear.

12) As we slowly rumble to the runway, I read while the usual doomsday scenarios play out in my mind: mid-air explosions, terrorist threats, water evacuations. I do this every time I fly. I have flown many times.

This is when my heart rate usually accelerates, when I have to extend my breaths and try to tell myself, If it's going to happen, well, there's nothing I can do.

Except now there's another scenario. Say the flight was called off. Then I'd stand outside, catch the bus, stand in the slush, fight people for the next bus, wait another hour, finally climb on, arrive at the train station, wait on the platform for a train whose schedule nobody seems to know.

At 6:00, when the plane accelerates down the runway, I decide that powerless plane or not, I'll take my chances.

Monday, December 27, 2010

Late but halfway there--

Snow day and nowhere to go. Sit down with the tremendous blue pen (thanks, Dom!), a piece of yellow construction paper, lean on the old laptop, start.

I teach the personal essay, and I don't miss the irony of how my mind kicks and screams when I go to write it now. It's empathy, I decide. The usual platitudes: just write something, anything, start somewhere and change it later, change it all.

I go.

No particular program in mind, a few gaps to be filled in, but after ten minutes, it's all there. The stories, the logical progression, the final lines. Deadlines come fast as blowing snow. Will I make them? Maybe, I'm not sure, but I've started, and that's a step forward for any year.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Scottish restaurants


Right up there with "scrubbing the bathtub" on my major accomplishments of the day.

I feel like a rock star.


Back to work on new scenes, just after I click "send" last night. So it goes. I'm getting closer.

10 of 2010

Due to yon blizzard, expect many a post today!

These are not in rank order. Besides that The Road may have well been my favorite, and I would rank The Hunger Games over Mockingjay.

Top Ten Reads of 2010
1. The Road, Cormac McCarthy
2. The Things They Carried, Tim O'Brien
3. One Hundred Years of Solitude, Gabriel Garcia Marquez
4. The Hunger Games, Suzanne Collins
5. Will Grayson, Will Grayson, John Green & David Levithan
6. The Heights, Peter Hedges
7. All the Pretty Horses, Cormac McCarthy
8. Mockingjay, Suzanne Collins
9. Making Toast, Roger Rosenblatt
10. Dracula, the play, by Hamilton Deane & John Balderston

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Bracing for the pitter-patter (or stomping)

of little feet:

Merry Christmas!!!

Also hoping that purported snowfall doesn't alter my travel plans. But should it, I'm prepared. Two feet of snow, one surfboard. That kind of prepared.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

In keeping with

appearances of the impossible, I've signed up for a ten-mile race in April.

I've never run ten miles. I may have run seven once, or perhaps it was six-and-a-half. But I think I can handle it. Two years ago, my first year of grad school, I was on. Running all the time up and down the highway. Moving smoothly, hardly thinking, settling into just the right pace. Last year, not so much. Scraped in time to run and it was never really enough, felt forced. Now, I feel like I've returned. The right amount of discipline.

We'll be out there. In Tejas shirts.

fiery baskets

I bounce back and forth more than usual this December. Screenplay, poems, short story, tweaking a nov. The Hunger Games trilogy (big thanks to the FLO for exposing me) makes me want to unearth/return to a fantasy nov I began back in high school.

When I was younger, I wrote novels all the time. I mean it. So did Lena. We each had our series and swapped books to do cover art. By sixth grade I'd banged out a 200-page "special edition." It was no big deal. Sit down every Saturday morning and write on the family laptop. Crank out stories. Plot out more in a thick blue mini notebook.

But somewhere in late middle school and high school, when any free writing time was usurped by my emotion-fueled, cryptic nonfiction pieces, I thought I'd unlearned how to write extended pieces.

As a senior in college I went to my professor and told her I was worried. I was applying to a fiction grad program and they wanted a 30-page writing sample, and I didn't think I could do it. At that time I wrote flash fiction and the occasional four-to-five page story.

"Write me a fifteen-page story," she said promptly.

Uh. Okay.

I cheated a little--started with a prose poem I'd written previously. And I wrote from there. Came back from Thanksgiving Break with a twenty-page story. Got into that fiction program, too, though I ended up not attending.

I think that's what I'm all about. Making myself do the things I don't think I can do. With a helpful nudge/shove along the way.

The girl who was on fire

I'm still hard-pressed to find "serious adult literature" that keeps me up until 4 a.m., blazing through two novels in one night, reading the third in gaps of time between cell phone calls and coaching and putting water on the stove.

Life is too short to count down dreary pages, hoping the chapter concludes soon.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

"I feel like no one ever dies in YA novels...

...besides Alaska."

Simultaneous sad noises from Flo and me.

Sunday, December 19, 2010


Smooth. Unfolding. I had an idea for a poem earlier but it seems to have skitted off. No matter. I like 12-19's. I feel light.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Remember, remember, the 18th of December

So I'm...25?

Plans: a gym fiesta, a friends fiesta, manana a family fiesta. And a run. That will be amazing, the run.

I'm having my expected crisis (similar to the one I underwent at age twenty), but I tell myself, Well, each year I add means that less people believe my age.

And in honor of that, a light show. The mini trees are my fave:

Thursday, December 16, 2010

It's official:

My newest life goal is to participate in a flash mob.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Beating back the impending 18th

Are we singing at different pitches, or are the echoes just the same?

"And does she/he angst about it during the story?"

I just had a pretty excellent time taking The Original Fiction Mary-Sue Litmus Test. Nick Galveston passed the test. Who's up next?

Monday, December 13, 2010


Last night, a longtime dream of mine came true. Thank you, Wikipedia.

I always thought it would be awesome to have an Hispanic touch in my ethnic pool. I am half-Irish, half-Italian. Split down the middle.

Until last night, when I finally Googled "black Irish" and found a Wikipedia article which lacked sufficient citations and clean-up standards. You know the drill. But I learned that by some definitions, the "black Irish" hail from the Iberian peninsula folks who traded in Mediterranean shores for the great north. Dark hair. Dark eyes. "Unusually white skin." I've got it all.

So the prehistoric Iberians may not have spoken anything that sounds like Spanish. Pero no me importa. Show me some of that Spanish dancing.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

nearly 12:00 on 12-12

In two years and nine days from now, the world's supposed to end.

How do you feel about that?

I'm feeling pretty good.


I'm in the mood to wear my Spanish Inquisition T-shirt.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Someone Attempted Something

Apocalyptic war scenes, a couple walking hand-in-hand toward a backdrop of a decapitated head, ants dancing with Froot Loops -- all this and more from the young American writers.

Friday, December 10, 2010

"Draw card on bottom of cup."

This is precisely what I need: a sea of computers, all of them untouched but this one; the knit black hat and black nails; a poker-themed paper cup of hot chocolate. I click through the daily gymnastics news. I think of what to write next. Nobody using me as a stone upon which they cast their monologues. So much talking about one's self. Hush. So much talking. Not enough writing.

Thursday, December 09, 2010

How do you like them apples?

"Every day I come by your house and I pick you up. And we go out. We have a few drinks, and a few laughs, and it's great. But you know what the best part of my day is? For about ten seconds, from when I pull up to the curb and when I get to your door, 'cause I think, maybe I'll get up there and I'll knock on the door and you won't be there. No goodbye. No see you later. No nothing. You just left. I don't know much, but I know that."

Finally watched Good Will Hunting. If I thought it earlier, now I know: it's time to return to the screenplay!

Wednesday, December 08, 2010

Gym Bits

-"We have a class younger than Parent and Me now."
-"What is it called? 'I'm Pregnant'?"

Every thirty seconds, Valentina asks me to watch another part of her routine. As soon as one girl finishes, she steps in front of me before they can. "Can I do this?" She strikes a pose. "Or this?" Another. "Can you watch this?"

Finally, I ask, "Why am I watching?"

"Because," she says matter-of-factly, "I need to win first place again."

Get it, girl!

Tuesday, December 07, 2010

snow caps

With the gray plaid cap in place, I feel better equipped for life.


After several hours of articles about violent deaths and cartel-controlled towns in Mexico, I think it's time for something uplifting.

Except it's one of those self-editing days of just what do you think you're doing, missy? The same sentence structures in the same tired ways. Stay or go? Where is everyone, and what are they listening to that I can't seem to hear?

Sunday, December 05, 2010

Historia oficial

Mexico is now in the first person, and I love it!

Let's see what the valiant public (Tony, I'm looking at you) think.

Saturday, December 04, 2010

sunken meadows

These are my wishes:
  • For Rachel to blog about her Southern life
  • For Emeline to blog about anything

DiFloPoMo (Diana/Flo's Poetry Month) is well underway. Four poems in!

Flo, after day one: "I wrote a good haiku. I don't think I can write anything else."

You can do it, Flosef!


The coincidences don't cease. I wonder if they mean more, but I'm afraid to find out.

At the altar

I've always taken notes on writing rituals but never created any myself. Too many variables in my life, too many fluctuations in where and what and who.

But lately I begin the same way. Fill up a glass with water, preferably a glass that I've taken from a pub. I like their shapes. I like how they remind me of us laughing.

I place the glass safely from the keyboard. Do a bit of stalking around. Enter the story.

Friday, December 03, 2010

Not to get all

Bella-and-Edward-in-a-meadow on you, but I had such vivid and strange dreams last night that I just may need to set them down into a story.

Thursday, December 02, 2010

Love in the Land of Rhetoric

Me to student: "You look prepared."
Student: "It's the peacoat."


I sign into my e-mail account tonight and notice an impressive number of Facebook notifications. There are people writing on the wall of some event. Apparently I'm an admin for said event. Last e-mail...ahh! Apparently this is my birthday party I've been invited to administer, thanks to the Flosef.

Here's to another festivus of nondenominational holiday hats!


It's this sort of day:

Wednesday, December 01, 2010

Back to December

In the morning after open gym, I move each body part carefully before I sit up in bed. Shoulders tender. Neck tight. Not bad.

Last night as we chatted, I kneeled and sat back on my heels. I almost never sit like that. It's uncomfortable. But as I ease all the way to my heels, something pops in my right knee. The snap of scar tissue. Thought I'd cracked that all away by now.

I stand a bit nervously. Test my limbs. Remind myself that maybe they're not as stable as they feel when I'm walking or running. Maybe it's a good thing that I'm finding other ways to fly.

But you'll find me here again, regardless.


To fill the void left by NaNo, I've started my own challenge: a December of poetry. Thirty-one poems in thirty-one days.

Back in March I wrote that I didn't consider myself a poet, and listed the reasons why. Well, now I take it back.

If I can write without agony, that's the same as going for a smooth run or learning a new skill successfully. Sure, there are more hard times than easy. But times of ease don't take away the title.

Declare it so: I am a poet.

NaNo? YES.

It's official, folks. Made it to the 50,000 word mark in one month (50,510, to be precise).

I threw my fist in the air at 50,000, then kept writing until I had some semblance of an ending. There are holes and trail-offs and inconsistencies. But I've told a story.

I'm sad the month is done.