the greatest thing, ever: in the newport grocery parking lot, a license plate holder that read PRINCESS QUINNY.

the worst thing ever: a cologne sample that made my elbow smell like cheap bourbon.

not but almost up there with quinny: original pirate material, the streets.

in one of my retirement fantasies, i buy a graying old farmhouse against the hills in the grapevine, a truckers' route between los angeles and central california. in the winter i drive to the interstate when it snows, hoping the pass isn't closed and gaping at the monstrous fog belts that hang ten feet above the asphalt. in the summer i drive north to casa de fruta and take in the garlicky air between gilroy and the winchester mystery house; then i go south through the mountains and read a book in denny's as the high school church groups pour in from the local thrill ride park. i know the gas station attendants by name and drink their watery coffee; i tape newspaper snowflakes in the windows of my farmhouse and listen to johnny cash.


at the peak of my tree climbing career, i'd have been up and down the neighborhood maples with enough mistletoe for dozens of late christmas packages before you could say scopes monkey trial. as it stands, i have no muscles and am utterly unwilling to dirty the clothes i laundered so carefully for my trip to arizona. be still, friends. i'll post your holiday treats as soon as the leaves get bored and start falling to the ground.

trip to arizona, yes yes. jake (still no website - work on that, eh?) and i are making for paul's place in tucson, where we will join leroy, jen, nik, julia, and assorted offline revelers in time for marlowe's year-end shindig. i'll strive mightily to recruit guest diarists for the site and paint all toenails that happen my way. i'll try to avoid singing in the car, as i know some people don't appreciate that.

That face swept quickly past -
My features, in a glass;
What caught my gaze? The eyes
Softened with content
I didn't know I felt -
O moving stranger

(diane wood middlebrook, "glimpse in a mirror")

being alone on christmas eve is not unlike being alone on any other night. in my case, it entails listening (and dancing) to enrique iglesias without shame, contemplating the giant plastic holiday candle (k-mart, you serve me well) in my bathroom, and thinking about the baby jesus. i've been unable to connect him to the tradition of christmas trees, but i've found lots of websites to think for me.
It is believed that on the night of the birth of Christ, all kinds of living creatures came to Bethlehem with gifts. The olive tree came along with its fruit and the palm with its date but the fir had nothing to gift the newborn king. So an angel, taking pity on the fir, commanded a cluster of stars to shine on its beautiful boughs.
this is good stuff, but it's a bit aesoppy. cloying. i prefer the party line on candy canes.
The white color of the Christmas candy symbolizes the Virgin Birth and the sinless nature of Jesus. The hardness of the candy symbolizes the solid rock, the foundation of churches and the firmness of the promises made by God. The candies are made in a "J" shape to represent the name of Jesus and the shape of the staff of the "Good Shepherd". And the three red stripes on the candy represents the Trinity and the blood shed by Christ to let us have the promise of the eternal life.
i'm addicted to candy canes - i'm probably made of them at this point. so basically i have a first class ticket to heaven. i was on tenterhooks for a while after stealing the book of mormon from a courtyard marriott in seattle, but now my heart is full.

we played round robin free association on the car ride to big bear this week. my father, a logical man, favored homophones; emily used words related to political history and bartending (how sad that she missed deukmejian!); joanna was scatological, and i kept returning to death and cheese. this is characteristic, as they are two of the most reliably compelling concepts in my world. it follows rather nicely that i'm an ovolactovegetarian aspiring poet.

new year's eve isn't a big time of reckoning for me; in recent years, i've focused on appreciating val and grant's fancy bartending and singing with paul as he plays the guitar. the years end more naturally at christmas, and it's appropriate to be at the fireplace with my beasts this time. i forecast lots of chuck and jude and notebooking for the next while, and that's more than fine. happy holidays, kids - here's hoping that we all get to heaven.


what will you see when you visit the build-a-bear workshop at fashion island? silicone breasts on moms? why yes - that mall has the highest concentration of implants on this side of the rockies. a nice girl losing her will to live because she's been firing cotton into stuffed animals all day? yes again, but that's the nature of custom toy stores. our point is that you might see george deukmejian, former governor of california. you will have nothing to say, though, and then he'll run away. he's sly, that deukmejian.


ahead of the pack for the first time in a long time - 72 hours until baby jesus's big day, and i've had two christmases already. the freedoms of being finished with gifts and having no midnight-mass-related obligations are keeping the holidays mellow, and i have no complaints.

on seattle, part 3: i've been too ashamed to admit that i concluded it wasn't for me on the second night of our trip. joe and i found ourselves at shorty's, a coney island-themed bar downtown, and its clown murals, surf rock jukebox, and disaffected bartender led me to believe that i need to go back to southern california. it's much more complicated than that - i couldn't find a building that felt just right, i didn't want to serve coffee for a living, i balked at getting so far away from my folks. i'm certainly at my best after big changes, and i felt like the belle of the ball after moves to palo alto, boston, oxford. i had studies to anchor me, though, and being alone and relatively aimless didn't seem so magical when i actually scouted the supposed site of my latest reinvention. i couldn't wear flip flops, couldn't find a room big enough for my crap, didn't realize that i'd been counting on an instant connection with the city. it's humbling to realize for the four hundred and seventy first time that i'm not very good at anticipating my needs, but i have a death grip on the notion that each fizzle gets me a bit closer to the right move. chicken soup for the generic loser's soul.

stupid reasons for los angeles: naked-toe-friendly weather. vaguely familiar yet intriguing vibe - high comfort, low boredom. the concept of a city of people who know they're rich and/or famous for stupid reasons - san franciscan faux-righteousness annoys me. i look forward to being scorned for my thrift store clothes and not-insubstantial butt rather than for my failure to free mumia. nothing but love for genuine activists, mind you, but i'm tired of californians pretending to be serious. i would also like to live in a bungalow and park my car.

fair-to-middling reasons for los angeles: wisp of a chance of working connections and finding a decent job, attractive cost-of-living figures, minimal relocation expenses.

real reasons: i want to see my sister at college, and to have coffee with my dad again. i need to be provoked and safe enough to really work at getting into grad school. i can't leave joe; we're utterly dysfunctional, but i'm not finished. so there.

found art: at the nomadic waste area in big bear this morning, a garbage man sat on a green plastic lawn chair. after watching us chuck our bags, he stood and threw the chair in a dumpster.

No! Time, thou shalt not boast that I do change:
Thy pyramids built up with newer might
To me are nothing novel, nothing strange;
They are but dressings of a former sight.
Our dates are brief, and therefore we admire
What thou dost foist upon us that is old,
And rather make them born to our desire
Than think that we before have heard them told.
Thy registers and thee I both defy,
Not wond'ring at the present, nor the past,
For thy records and what we see doth lie,
Made more or less by thy continual haste.
This I do vow and this shall ever be,
I will be true despite thy scythe and thee.

(bill shakespeare, sonnet 123)

dear santa,
From The Vatican Collection (tm)

For the first time, the Sword of the Archangel Michael is created from the artwork of the Vatican. In splendid bas relief, his legendary deeds are portrayed. The casting out of Adam and Eve from the Garden of Eden. His fight of the Angels against the legions of Satan. The compassionate rescue of tormented souls. And the dramatic victory over "The Serpent". Each scene is meticulously detailed. Set with brilliant crystals and tastefully plated in 24-karat gold. Plaque is 11 1/2 inches wide by 44 1/2 inches tall.

NN8100J $395
($9 Additional Shipping)
for your convenience, i'm enclosing a picture from the skymall catalog.

seattle is very beautiful, very cold (alas, i read geegaw's weather alert at a kinko's on queen anne hill!), and very difficult to navigate in a car. without the other cars, maybe - i'm convinced that everyone else was driving like tourists. happy to report that coffee vendors : seattle :: slot machines : las vegas, and they function the same way - i pass a cafe and realize there's change in my pocket and one more americano, just a single shot, wouldn't hurt anyone...

hunting for a place to live is probably a good way to meet a new city. you crawl through neighborhoods evaluating buildings, pop in and see a few in close focus - so, this is what windows and bathrooms and staircases look like here - and settle down in a coffeehouse with a newspaper to look for more. you catch snippets of conversation and see how the local kids do their hair as you muck through your crossword puzzle. we broke for pure tourism a few times (the space needle, a mexican modernism exhibit, a pilgrimage to toys in babeland), but mostly we wandered and peered and chatted. i met bartenders and dogs.


notes from a seattle apartment search:

- denny / summit 6 mo lease onsite laundry iffy? view, "coffee messiah"
- "unique space" brick wall 14' ceiling was commercial space poss no disposal ladder to loft: no climbing for jude?
- $795 "old world charm", little nat'l light, good luck parking.

i made the mistake of falling in love with the first building i saw (before i knew it was beyond my means); by the time the apartment manager started dropping scary rent figures on me, i had gauzy visions of leaded windows and mahogany detailing. i couldn't forgive later candidates for smelling funny, or having nasty carpet, or sitting across the street from 7-11. the lesson: it's not so good to drive around until you see a pretty place with a VACANCY placard. better to get the tough numbers from a local newspaper and harden your heart first.

oh, and come up with a plausible life story. in the beginning i told people i could maybe afford their rooms if joe decided to come with me, and then we had awkward-cheery exchanges essentially about my love life. landlords don't want that kind of detail. eventually i started saying that i was establishing residency to attend UW's creative writing program, but we were seeing the yucky places by then.


my father taught me to ritualize coffee, but kevin taught me to really worship it; he owned a cafe called the amsterdam, and he hired me for the summer after my first year of college. i learned that diedrich should be pronounced Died Rich, that a real mocha started with homemade chocolate milk, that the weird mercedes people who materialized at five fifteen would tip big if you let them in early and seemed empathetic. i'd be on the phone to france from three thirty to four thirty each morning and at work by around five, and for the first few hours each day i had only to greet the early people, chat with the old woman who delivered steaming pastries, and sit over the crossword puzzle with a scone and a custom drink. i was back home, stinking of espresso and wonderful almond paste, by noon; by the time i napped and reentered the waking world, the sun had nearly gone down. i completely avoided the tacky diurnal business that forces most people to scuttle around at unholy hours.

naps and gloom make everything more reasonable. san francisco was doing its holiday thing when i woke up at dusk today: a cab had a christmas tree jammed in its bonnet, a cable car actually caroled as it thundered by. normally i hate that shit, but i was warm and swirly and half awake. not sure they appreciated me at the grocery store, but i think they were just jealous.

i've never been to seattle. in my head it's eternally dreary, and i could live there without fleeing sunlight. i'm taking my flip flops with me to washington tomorrow. they may be useless, but in my perfect city, i wear sandals in the rain. i have to find out if this could be the place.

best custom drink: the vincent vega. coca cola, vanilla syrup, a shot of espresso. don't knock it 'til you've tried it.


when i'm not careful, ted hughes is my favorite poet. i haven't seen that much of his work - a few of the crow poems, famous bits like "pike" and "the thought-fox", a production of tales from ovid - but i found a copy of birthday letters at heathrow airport during a four-hour layover a few years ago, and it hooked me. for most people in the states, hughes is famous for 1) supposedly driving sylvia plath to suicide and 2) refusing to discuss their relationship. in a way, birthday letters is an extended striptease - hughes drops seemingly intimate details from his marriage and then sweeps them under tidy archetypes (one could argue that he's expanding on a joseph campbell-type contention that a primal cycle underpins most art and nearly all relationships). the problem - and herein is my fascination with hughes - is that his adaptations in the poems are largely unsuccessful. if birthday letters is supposed to seem like a failed attempt at healing through analogy, it's brilliant - the tragedy of his dramatic voice and its feeble universalizations is an awesome thing. if hughes didn't want to emphasize the conflicts in his imagery, if in fact he was simply inconsolable, then the poems are some of the most heartbreaking pieces i've ever read. i purchased the collection to be a rah-rah plath fan and hate her spouse, and i ended up sobbing into a big plate of breaded mushrooms in a nasty airport diner. it was a harrowing afternoon.

as i mentioned when a poodle chomped on my hand several months back, i'm in the business of learning that drama is serious stuff. you can't court it for fun - it will make you either ridiculous or miserable.

joe and i haven't had a particularly epic relationship. we started to fall in love in stratford, on the river avon, and we've had our share of bellicose episodes - nights in the rain, broken plates, reunions where it felt like an orchestra should be swelling behind us - but in truth we're a couple of fucked up post-children who know neither who we are nor what we want. i always told him that we'd conclude reasonably, that if we broke up i would be deeply and quietly sad. it's not true. i want fire in the sky, for everyone to walk on their hands to acknowledge that i'm upside down. what to do?, he said. i want an operatic demonstration that i'm a goddess for someone, but then that was always our biggest problem.

what will actually happen is that i'll burn some synthetic logs, have tea, and pet the cats. no earthquakes or sea serpents. i want to learn that this is how things happen, but it should be important that i love him this much.

Somebody had made one. You admired it.
So you began to make your rag rug.
You needed to do it. Played on by our lightnings
You needed an earth. Maybe. Or needed
To pull something out of yourself -
Some tapeworm of the psyche. I was simply
Happy to watch your scissors being fearless
As you sliced your old wool dresses,
Your cast-offs, once so costly,
Into bandages. Dark venous blood,
Daffodil yellow. You plaited them
Into a rope. You massaged them
Into the new life of a motley viper
That writhed out of the grave
Of your wardrobe. Like the buried wrapping
Of old mummy non-selves. You bowed
Like a potter
Over the turning hub of your rich rag rug
That widened its wheel.
Searching out the perimeter of a music -
The tongues of the loose ends flickering in air,
Issuing like a fugue out of the whorls
Of your fingertips. It calmed you,
Creating the serpent that coiled
Into a carpet. And the carpet
Lifted us, as it turned and returned,
Out of that crimson room of our cardiac days.
It freed me. It freed you
To do something that seemed almost nothing.
Whenever you worked at your carpet I felt happy.
Then I could read Conrad's novels to you.
I could cradle your freed mind in my voice,
Chapter by chapter, sentence by sentence,
Word by word: The Heart of Darkness,
The Secret Sharer. The same, I could feel
Your fingers caressing my reading, hour after hour,
Fitting together the serpent's jumbled rainbow.
I was like the snake-charmer - my voice
Swaying you over your heaped coils. While you
Unearthed something deeper than our verses.
A knowledge like the halves of a broken magnet.

I remember
Those long crimson-shadowed evenings of ours
More like the breath-held camera moments
Of reaching to touch a falcon that does not fly off.
As if I held your hand to stroke a falcon
With your hand.

(ted hughes, from the rag rug)

the ride home from thanksgiving dinner was always a high point of the holiday season: at one point, we considered giving a prize to the family member who recounted the strangest extended-family-member conversation. competition was stiff. this year we debuted a sisters-only talk in the car from davis to oakland, from mom to dad: the point is not that our unit has fractured into smaller parts, but that we kids are interacting in a novel and welcome way. we've told each other for some time that we'd stick together as adults, and lookit! it's actually working.

littlest sis made a good call with her BRITNEY SWALLOWS tee - stroke 9's lead singer wore a SPEAR BRITNEY top to last wednesday's punk-pop extravaganza, and it seemed reasonable that she might convince him to trade (woo, rocker man sweat!) after the show. sadly, i tattled to the bouncer about a large fan who menaced her during the set, and it seemed that he was close with the band. our chances of following said fan (who, i would add, not only trampled and nearly groped my sis but proceeded to break wind on her for two straight hours - is there no justice?) backstage were slim.

i fled outside and met a group of fellow disgruntled oldsters. one argued that philosophy and pink floyd were the pinnacles of human effort, and i countered with something about crooners and a defence of poetry; percy shelley was a big fat fuck, said the guy, and that was the end of that. hey, a concertgoer recognizes shelley!

in other news, i'm attempting a novel. i have less than a thousand words as yet, but they're nice words. and i have a plan! if i can double or triple my output in the next few days while getting my character across her kitchen and refraining from more jumbly flashbacks, we may have the beginning of something.