Monthly Archives: October 2008

Nachos. Tips. Abagail Thomas. Venison. World Series of Flannel Nightie.

New restaurants always spleen me. They hand you this laminated plastic, they give you the perma-grin, and they ask, “Do you need a minute?”

Sometimes they kneel at your table. Or is that showing my age? Do they still kneel at your table, touch you on the shoulder? Do they give you candies?

I remember when I worked at Chili’s maybe 15 years ago, whatever. Anyway, I was waiting on my board exams to return from some nursing organization (will I be an RN, or not?), and so I needed to pay rent and so bussed, a lowly job of cleaning up after human grazing, all that purchased attention, and I observed everything and eavesdropped and watched because I am hard-wired that way and find all human behavior to be very, very odd (mine too).

But I loved the swinging door. What a metaphor. What literature: appearance VERSUS reality. OUTSIDE the swinging door, in the warm glow of tacky upside down-kettle-as-chandelier, the waitresses, all young, hot, etc (college kids, Knoxville, TN), would SMILE and NOD and “Ha, ha, oh good joke, sir, and I like when you call me honey” to the tables, as is their occupation. Then they would glide back, the door would swing open, slam shut (now behind the door, in the hot breath of the dishwasher, the sizzle of the fryer, the rank odor of sweat and packaged black bean soup boiling and touch of cannabis [truism: ALL COOKS SMOKE GRASS] and industrial soap), and the most polite, petite 18 year old blond girl in the world would cackle out, “Table 14 is a bunch of fucking cheap-ass blue-haired cunts!”

Wow….

Salty, salty world behind that swinging door.

I remember one time a guy leaned over and his cigarettes dropped from his shirt pocket into the deep fat fryer. Impulsively, he reached….

but that’s a different story.

I think I might have stolen it from Mark Neely, the poet.

From a researcher at Cornell U.

1. Two studies show little relationship between quality of waiter service and size of tip.

2. Hotel bellboys can double the size of their tips, on average, by showing guests how the TV and air conditioning work.

3. Tipping is less prevalent in countries where unease about inequality is especially
strong.

4. The more a culture values status and prestige, the more likely that culture will use tipping to reward service.

5. Tips are higher in sunny weather.

6. Servers can increase their tips by giving their names to customers, squatting next to tables, touching their customers, and giving their customers after-dinner mints.

7. Drawing a smiley face on the check increases a waitress’s tips by 18 percent but decreases a waiter’s tips by 9 percent.

8. In one study, waitresses increased their tips by 17 percent by wearing flowers in their hair. In general it pays to look distinctive albeit not freaky.

But what to choose for my dinner?


Whew…ok, now I feel better.

*

I am teaching a graduate class these days. Called “Reading and Writing Across the Genres.” I am loving it. One of the best things is professors get to visit, and we read the book from their specialty, and yesterday Jill Christman visited, a CNF writer of note, and she suggested Abigail Thomas, Safekeeping.

WOW.

This book rocked my single perfect offering to the calve and biceps.

Add to your book list, peoples.

Structure: 3 husbands, 3 sections, all of this a collection of micro-nonfiction. Time is centrifuged around the death of the 2nd husband. Also, a meta-move, where discussions between the sister and the narrator are used as “threads,” connective tissue to the text. Like most quality books, the structure is so artifice, and well considered and wrought, as to appear perfectly natural.

Easy writing = Hard reading.

Hard writing = Easy reading.

Language: The reason you populate any text (fiction, CNF, poem, etc.) with THINGS is because THINGS have metaphorical value. A jar is a container. To seal something away? To keep something pure? To store something? To hide it behind glass? To shatter against a wall? To bury, to sell, to can, to collect, to eat from?

Every micro-CNF text (flash nonfiction) is populated with specific THINGS.

chaos: raccoons in the walls of the house.

the world: the woods are waiting outside the house. Build a lean-to. Anyone can do that.

a knife is good for cutting bread. or stabbing your lover. or opening an envelope. or slicing the threads from a white suit turning the corner.

I’m not sure what that means.

Theme: The epigraph: “Take a sad song and make it better.” Hey Jude

We look back on hard times, but maybe they were necessary. Maybe hard decisions are necessary. Maybe we abdicate our own free will, act in bad faith, when we decide to avoid very hard honest decisions, when we make excuses to avoid conflict, etc.

OR?

Some day finally wake up and realize you don’t have the answers. So quit judging others for not having the answers. No one has the answers. Let’s try, try this world without the guide (the guide we were never, and will never be given when born), just try this thing together. Together.

*

Hemingway couldn’t make his Nobel Prize speech–he was out hunting. He did send in a written speech.

“Members of the Swedish Academy, Ladies and Gentlemen: Having no facility for speech making nor any domination of rhetoric, I wish to thank the administrators of the generosity of Alfred Nobel for this prize. No writer who knows the great writers who did not receive the prize can accept it other than with humility. There is no need to list these writers. Everyone here may make his own list according to his knowledge and his conscience. It would be impossible for me to ask the Ambassador of my country to read a speech in which a writer said all the things which are in his heart. Things may not be immediately discernible in what a man writes, and in this sometimes he is fortunate; but eventually they are quiet clear and by these and the degree of alchemy that he possesses he will endure or be forgotten. Writing, at its best, is a lonely life. Organizations for writers palliate the writer’s loneliness but I doubt if they improve his writing. He grows in public stature as he sheds his loneliness and often his work deteriorates. For he does his work alone and if he is a good enough writer he must face eternity, or the lack of it, each day. For a true writer each book should be a new beginning where he tries again for something that is beyond attainment. He should always try for something that has never been done or that others have tried and failed. Then sometimes, with great luck, he will succeed. How simple the writing of literature would be if it were only necessary to write in another way what has been well written. It is because we have had such great writers in the past that a writer is driven far out past where he can go, out to where no one can help him. I have spoken too long for a writer. A writer should write what he has to say and not speak it. Again I thank you.”

Here’s the ear of the dinner I shot with a bow yesterday. Pretty David Lynch, eh? I only eat meat I PERSONALLY hunt, kill, drag (what a drag–I am getting old!) and prepare. Period. If I do not harvest an animal one year, I am a vegetarian for that year.

Tonight is tenderloin with carrots and potatoes…

To blog your food preparation is the ultimate in banal. I embrace banality.

*

Nachos. Blake Butler. Quest. Salvia, Morphine. Skywalker.

I hate when I don’t know what to eat for dinner. I feel confused, like the time I bought oregano from a small man in a big town. Brought it home. Used it. Yep, oregano.

I went with this thing, some recipe apparently invented by a Mexican man in 1943:

Nacho Rating: Home made, a 6 of 10 (always an excellent score). I went with El Yucateco as the tertiary, so, obviously, this was smoking, about a 100, 000 on God’s Rating of Hotness.

I am addicted to hot sauce. Not so surprising since it releases endorphins, like other of my addictions. Disc golf releases opiates. So does shooting a bow, or almonds crushed with Adderall. Sometimes there is a downside to my years as a psychiatric nurse–I know the core of my own undoing.

I play roulette, like Dostoevsky.

I write like him too. Never.

As you can most likely visualize, the nacho alignment is an arcading prism structure, pretty much standard anywhere in regions with the Pacific ocean on the west. Peru, etc. I don’t mean to bore you here. BUT, the refried black beans (top, right quadrant) I thought were a bit mischievous, and a homage, from me, to Nacho Duran.

Dude loves black beans, fried once, then fried. And tequila. Trust me.

I adore Scoville, and, honestly, wish I had married the man.

*

Teaching the Quest lately, in my fiction 2 class. To write the quest you must have:

1.) A down and out protagonist.

Why? Most folks are lazy. Most folks won’t even go on a quest. They’d rather smoke Salvia and lay garments on a counter and slip their arms through pineapples (not made of pine, not apples) and eat the exact place the sea and the sky meet.

Etc.

So your narrator needs to be FUCKED UP.

Like maybe their foster parents were evaporated by stormtroopers? (Luke Skywalker, in one of the more graphic “Star Wars” scenes, before Lucas got soft and weirdly juvenile)

Like maybe a storm destroys your farm. (Dorothy, Oz)

Or maybe you’re drunk and dancing all Zen with a Colt .45 and burning cigarette holes through the forehead of your ex-wife’s photo (Captain Willard, Apoc Now)

Blah, blah.

Trust me, have a destroyed protagonist at the beginning of your quest narrative, please. Like mortgage loans, or sky diving, please pay attention to the beginning.

2.) Sidekicks.

But why? Have them, and have them for a reason: bouncing conversation off, killing them off (drama–see Star Trek myth [if you wear a red shirt you will die in the episode]), fucking them, throwing them, setting them afire, whatever. Have your sidekicks follow the rules of dialogue: Do they a.) provide plot information? b.) develop character? c.) make my spleen throb like silver-tuffted clouds?

3.) Obstacles…

Holy shit have bad things happen. Please. Please. I am going to put your story down unless bad things happen. I want dance posture to collapse. I want the quilt to unravel. I want a boy’s voice to become manly, right then, and he can’t handle it. I want green smoke. Bad drugs done in the library stacks. Broken Aztec speech. Resinous New York muggings. Loud deaths, quiet deaths, deaths. Fucking, in a chemist’s office. Also puckered red and ugly Ebaying. Also maggots, with tongues of un-luck. A bunch of people awakening, for the first time, unto themselves, and FREAKING OUT ABOUT IT. Photos of prime ministers and flagrant red canoes–in bed. Also Christmas dinners involving heroin. And sorghum, spelt, wheat lubricants.

Etc

I have 14 other things I want to say about the Quest but I am getting bored now.

*

Blake Butler wrote some thing about rejection then tried to un-write it. I thought this was funny, then kind, then I don’t know.

I don’t know Blake (like had a beer know). But I know this:

Blake doesn’t give a shit about rejection.

Please…Rejection is the petroleum donut to his dime store. Yawn.

*

I feel like this today:

Books 2 Read. Madonna is Not Happy.

etc

14 Things To Do While Not Writing.

1.) That coffee thing.

2.) Meet on a muddy field with 21 men. Inflate a pig. Toss into the air.

3.) Dark Horizon.

Warning: this beer will double click the icon of your soul.

4.) Murmur throaty words. Like thrush, dagger, gargle, Sam Pink, titanium regrets.

5.) Master real life hunting strategies.

6.) Teach Blake Butler. Today I taught this from Blake Butler in my class. Sorry, Blake, you have just entered academia. Oh, how your heart is laughing as your mother tells Jim about the radio. You quiver, and vomit.

What did I bring up about Blake’s work?

Structure as list. Research as seed for fiction. Meta fiction. How all the coolish kids refer to writing while they write. That Blake waited four years to send me No Colony. Etc.

Blake saying, “That piece wasn’t fiction.”

BUT, once that novella comes out, you’ll have do readings, Blake. A percentage of readings always involve the university teat. You will be in rooms, in libraries or old history museums, and someone will introduce you with metaphors and long-winded glee and you will take the podium and make some joke about the introduction (“I hardly recognize that person,” etc.) and then there will be one drunk undergrad in the audience laughing and others will laugh, too, out loud guffaws during your “serious” moments, then during the funny moments of your text…nothing. You will eat cookies and punch afterward. You will drink two beers before to quell your nerves. You will sign your novella “To Timmy, hope to see you in Alabama some day–and walking!”

Most of the audience will be on low dose Ativan.

Or thinking, “I thought this Butler guy wrote about husbands returning as parrots. What gives?”

Someone will hand you a poem, sans images.

Etc.

The fact is we, as artists, once had promiscuous benefactors.

Now we have universities with grants and poor accounting.

I also taught this poem (?). I feel it kicks donkey and ass.

7.) Be a Poor Loser:

8.) Write a best-seller, uh, ON YOUR MOBILE PHONE.

9.) Read Carrie Oeding’s poem: I HAVE BEEN IN MORE UNCOMFORTABLE SITUATIONS THAN THIS

To the next person who dislikes me,
let me say it’s true a person needs enemies,
and I’m sure you could be a great one,
one who thinks of insults while ironing silk,
one who is never wrinkled.
I’m sure I could stick it to you,
since I’m funny and you’re not,
since I can scowl better than a barbecue grill.
Listen, Katherine tells me about her enemies.
She says they’re like sweat in a Carolina summer,
spilling down your skin when you pick up a Coke.
She says sometimes they’re more fun than eating chips.
She grins and says, Soon one will come around
for you, like my teeth rounding this apple.
The best apple I ever had was like having perfect teeth, it was like
comparing an apple to something instead of fucking eating it.
I’m guilty—I compare things to you too.
You could be a person or you could be an apple.
You could scorn me quicker than cavities.
I don’t want to place insults next to you,
I want to think of a celery stalk and say you are like it,
but not in an insulting way,
and just think about it for awhile—
You are a sliver,
you are a chessboard,
you are a trampoline, you are—
I don’t know, but I say this all to stall awhile,
I say this all with my barbecue scowl that’s now a grin.
You are outside my house about to ring.
I am standing in my bathroom brushing my teeth.
Before you touch my doorbell and before we meet,
I should feel something for you
because I still can,
and I think I can’t go anywhere and neither can you.

She is in this issue of Diagram.

I wasn’t a huge overall fan of this issue for several reasons, as in these authors:

Summer Block.

Lightsey Darst

Cecilia Pinto

I consider myself to have a very cool name. These are WAY cooler. This, I can not tolerate.

10.) Try to inject yourself, without invite, into a reading.

I emailed up Quickies and tried to beg my way onto their AWP February reading with artists I admire, like Blake and Peter Markus (mud, mud, mud, fish–wonderfully weird) and Kim Chinquee (flash fiction goddess) and Jac Jemc (I threw that in, I don’t know this person’s work).

Actually that’s a lie. I have met Jac J once. I saw her at a party, in Chicago, and I was with this girl that never eats. The girl said, “I’m hungry.” Now this is huge. She NEVER eats. So, mistaking Jac for the party hostess, I turn to her and say, “Hey. Not to intrude. But could you make this girl a sandwich?”

Jac leaves. Returns 8 minutes later with with ham, potato salad, chiffon cakes, eggnog, and cranberry punch.

Very cool.

My reading request was halfway successful.

They said, “We’ll we can’t wedge you in there. BUT, show up, and you might probably have a few moments to read.”

That sounds like a yes.

I am going to wear my life preserver, or my nacho chip costume. The life preserver is ALWAYS a hit, but we’ll see.

I would just be honored to read with these folks. And then beer. And, uh, nachos.

11.) Read Joseph Young at JMWW.

12.) Write about your own book in a folksy way to disarm people you are writing about your own book.

13.) Become a “sex writer.”

(Oh god, I just put the word sex in my blog. This should be an interesting week for “search items” on my blog stats.)

This reminds me of a story of my graduate school days. This one fiction writer was broke, so formed a persona and a new name, and started writing gay porn. It was amazing.

* One, he could even do it. Most of us wrote so horribly, no matter what subject, we couldn’t have sold anything to anyone.

* He made a lucrative business of it.

I, for one, was way impressed.

The ol’ Kilgore Trout model.

14.) Watch Caddyshack again.

Nachos. Dean Koontz sucks. Staplers. Seagulls Stole my Action Figure.

I just beat my brother BAD in online Scrabble, the Facebook deal. No big achievement since he is a drug addict. It was like taking ovular wailing from a katydid. Cake. Playing my brother is like leaping off a cliff and praying for gravity to assist you downward.

etc.

Now he is getting “treatment” in a California hospital. I find this annoying. Why do people with money (he has money–gods know why; the world is unfair, etc.) always go to CA for rehab? Well, we’ll see. This is his 11th rehab. Funny thing is how the court systems in Louisiana are paying for the flight.

Wonder why this country is bankrupt?

*

I rarely get into this type of things, but what the hell?

Grandmother who kills FIVE husbands is released on bail.

If I was at Golden Corral, like say, 4 pm, I would NOT hit on this woman. Just my advice.

*

Also in the news..

Author asks, “Am I the only person left who doesn’t use pussy soap?”

Mob is seriously going to kill this author.

Dean Kootz is going to write a fucking book about his dog.

Great.

*

What to eat for dinner? I have tomatoes, tortillas, some VERY hot sauce…

Now these are minimalist nachos, but also simple is the atomic bomb: One little fusion goes overcritical, and the world explodes.

etc.

These nachos tasted like quiet streams preparing for an ambush.

*

Spent a night in Chicago in a “luxury” hotel. You know you’re “luxury” if your sink looks like this:

Very zen.

Some bastard dropped a champagne bottle in there…

*

Deadly Sins. Regis Philbin. Midas. Bich Minh Nguyen. Black Tar Heroin.

I used to make my own books. God knows why. Here’s one.

quite the thriller…

*

Jim Harrison divides his memoir into deadly sins. FYI: The sin is to omit these from your life. Harrison calls them his “seven obsessions.”

1.) Alcohol

(I agree, er, in moderation naturally)

2.) Strippers

(never been in a strip club, remarkably, though I have hung out with strippers in kitchens; and, back in my nursing days, I use to have many as patients on a detox unit in Tennessee)

3.) Hunting and fishing

(agree. fishing is the secondhand overcoat of life. i respect a person who can read a river.)

4.) Private religion

(running, for me)

5.) Gourmet food

Denver, Co, circa 1998. Tasted like glitter blown about in the dark.

6.) The road

(wish i traveled more)

7.) Nature and Native Americans

(I like how Sherman Alexie hates white people. Seems fair)

**

From John Anderson’s The Business: Surveys in Television, I learn the following about Regis Philbin.

Guest Television Appearances:

“Spin City” playing “Himself” in episode: “How To Bury A Millionaire” 11/16/1999

“Lateline” playing “Himself” in episode: “Pearce on Conan” 1/6/1999

“Simpsons, The” playing “Himself” in episode: “Treehouse of Horror IX” 10/25/1998

“Caroline in the City” playing “Himself” in episode: “Caroline and the Sandwich” 2/26/1998

“Style and Substance” playing “Himself” in episode: “Recipe for Disaster, A” 1/26/1998 “Spin City” playing “Himself” in episode: “Radio Daze” 10/29/1997

“Second Noah” playing “Himself” in episode: “Diving In” (episode # 2.9)

“Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, The” playing “Himself” in episode: “I, Stank Hole in One” 5/6/1996

“Hope and Gloria” playing “Himself” in episode: “Listen, Sister” 11/19/1995

“Women of the House” playing “Himself” in episode: “Dear Diary” 9/8/1994

“Larry Sanders Show, The” playing “Himself” in episode: “Like No Business I Know” 8/24/1994

“Seinfeld” playing “Himself” in episode: “Opposite, The” 5/19/1994

“Mad About You” playing “Himself” in episode: “Man Who Said Hello, The” 2/27/1993 “Today” playing “Himself” 3/5/1982

*

Like many mediocre writers, I own gold exploration companies. Currently 87% gain. I feel like Han Solo with a quality lug wrench. As the economy tumbles like gut-shot Doritos, I rake in the metallic goodness. Every other stock I own is dog food. That wet kind. The type that smells and makes suction noise as it leaves the Botulismic can.

*

Bich Minh Nguyen visited Ball State University today. She had a spark about her, something alluring, like Memphis at midnight, or a nacho chip dipped in elbow grease. Ozone of the serotonin.

Etc.

She said many things, some run-of-the-mill (read to be a better writer, write about what obsesses you, etc.), others rather interesting.

One person asked of writing nonfiction about people who are living. What do you do if they get pissed. etc?

Her first response was, “Who cares? This is not the writer’s concern. Writers are often mean. Our job is not to not be mean.” She then went on to expand on this, saying if guilt-restraint keeps you from putting word-on-page, you need to let it go. Get the work done, especially in drafts.

Also being honest often does NOT alienate or shock the person mentioned in the memoir. It opens them. They revisit and honestly talk about that moment. Or how that moment made the author feel about them, the situation.

She later softened a bit on this, saying she did change names in her memoir. But she changed them because all these big publishers are being sued by a very few wackos.

Probably a veiled reference to this.

Or this

Or this.

But really she meant the first one. Yes?

Then she said, “I would not want my kids to be writers.”

*

Let’s say you’re drunk. I mean death chanting the names of druids drunk. What can you do, to occupy your mind? Read this poem. Then argue: who is in the right, the narrator, or the woodchucks?

Woodchucks, by Maxine Kumin.

Gassing the woodchucks didn't turn out right.
The knockout bomb from the Feed and Grain Exchange
was featured as merciful, quick at the bone
and the case we had against them was airtight,
both exits shoehorned shut with puddingstone,
but they had a sub-sub-basement out of range.

Next morning they turned up again, no worse
for the cyanide than we for our cigarettes
and state-store Scotch, all of us up to scratch.
They brought down the marigolds as a matter of course
and then took over the vegetable patch
nipping the broccoli shoots, beheading the carrots.

The food from our mouths, I said, righteously thrilling
to the feel of the .22, the bullets' neat noses.
I, a lapsed pacifist fallen from grace
puffed with Darwinian pieties for killing,
now drew a bead on the little woodchuck's face.
He died down in the everbearing roses.

Ten minutes later I dropped the mother.  She
flipflopped in the air and fell, her needle teeth
still hooked in a leaf of early Swiss chard.
Another baby next.  O one-two-three
the murderer inside me rose up hard,
the hawkeye killer came on stage forthwith.

There's one chuck left. Old wily fellow, he keeps
me cocked and ready day after day after day.
All night I hunt his humped-up form.  I dream
I sight along the barrel in my sleep.
If only they'd all consented to die unseen
gassed underground the quiet Nazi way.

*
I feel like a tea tray in India today.


*

I am Worried About my Brother so Completed a Lorcet Email Interview.


Q: When did you first get to know Lorcet?

My first memory of taking an opiate was on a road 

trip with this girl I was friend with.  We stopped by 

her mom's

house who was ill. 

When we got back in the car 

to continue the drive, she handed me a pill.  I

remember my neck felt soft and weird the whole drive.

Q: How does it feel when you take Lorcet?  

At its best It feels like a thin warm glow surrounding 

your entire body, with a slightly thicker, warmer glow 

surrounding your brain.

Q: Do you hate yourself? Is that why you take Lorcet?  

Not really...maybe?  No
hate.  Just a general apathy 

towards everything

Q: Do you ever have sex with strangers for your Lorcet?  

Only once.  and this is a funny
story, so at our 
library they have these holes in the bathroom stalls.

Q: How skinny is your waist and/or bruised arm?  

31 inches around I think?

Q: Do you faint often? When's the last time you fainted?  

Yes, extreme frequent fainting. 
Exactly three weeks ago

Q: Do you "get a buzz" by showing up in public
locations while on Lorcet?  

Must avoid public at all costs while on Lorcet.

Q: What do you mix your Lorcet with?  

Beer, wine, liquor, mexican food, Vivaldi, 

Beethoven,  saki.

Q: Will you stop taking Lorcet when your throat falls off?  

Ha.  I will stop taking
Lorcet never.
 
Q: Lastly, when was the last time you assaulted a tourist, for
Lorcet?  

Tourists come to Baton rouge for many reason

...mainly football. Last year Florida was in town, 

I wondered aimlessly among the wanderers.

Mainly looking for free beer and hot wings.  

As likely to happen during any football game, I felt 

an uncontrollable craving for Lorcet.

Finding the weakest Gator fan I could find, 

I pushed a broken KFC spork to his throat 

and demanded Lorcet.  As you
can probably

imagine, the poor
frightened man new 

nothing of what I was talking about.

Coming from Gainesville FL, this tourist 

knew of two things: jesus and tim tebow.

Unfortunately neither were there to help him.
*