sean v. santa

season's greetings from hell's kitchen!


101 in 1001: 086 tour arizona mining towns with joe [completed december '07]

the missus in the cemetery

the missus and i really agonized over this one. he offered several times to detour through another town (prescott, which rhymes with triscuit, not ascot) in order to satisfy the plural part of the list item, but we were more interested in getting back to phoenix in time to have a leisurely dinner at the tee pee* than i was in completing the task as literally as possible. i have visited more than one arizona mining town - we buzzed past globe a few years ago - but that was before my 101 in 1001 adventures began. i can but hope that posterity will exonerate me.

we stayed in a haunted hotel and were in fact disturbed in the night: the utter absence of sound and the hot breath of the radiator kept both of us up until about six in the morning. i hate to be one of those city slickers who can't sleep without the white noise of traffic and police sirens, a la john cusack's character in midnight in the garden of good and evil, but so i am.

jerome is now an artists' colony rather than a mining town (for the most part - there was one active site down the mountain), and the locals have realized the value of the town's picturesque decrepitude; while a few buildings (like our hotel) have been restored and maintained, just as many have been allowed to tumble apart in extremely attractive ways. i wish our friend jodie had been along for the trip: i got some fair-to-middling photos as we strolled around (the full set is here), but pros like her must get amazing stuff. visit jerome, internets! i enjoyed myself there much more than i did in sedona the next day, crystal vortices and possibility-of-running-into-axl-rose or no. how about you - visited anything sexy lately?

*gratuitous side note: my sister-in-law and i ordered the presidential special, which is what george w. bush ate when he visited the place on a campaign stop in '04. unusually, he made an excellent choice.


when i logged in to check my alumni e-mail a few days ago, i learned that diane wood middlebrook, a former professor of mine, passed away last weekend. she's come up in conversation several times since then, and though many, many people can speak more eloquently and personally of her than i can, it can't hurt to say a little more.

DWM, as she called herself, lived two blocks above us on green street in san francisco, in a gorgeous art deco building that looked like a cross between a cruise ship and a wedding cake. when i composed notes to her - to ask her if she'd be a professional reference (of course, she remembered me well, and she wished me luck), to ask her if she'd be an academic reference (yes, and i really was a good writer), and when i was bold enough, to ask her to coffee (she was partial to peet's, and she hoped i wouldn't mind waiting until the publication crunch for her husband was over) - i was sure she could feel my nerves jangling halfway down the hill. she was extremely kind, but she was also extremely intimidating: she was the first woman i got to know who truly kicked ass in the field i hoped to enter. she wasted no time: she told us (in english 187, plath and hughes, my senior year) that she started working at 4 am every morning, and kept a neon green background on her computer screen to shock her brain awake. she ran our little class like a boardroom, and by the end of the quarter she had all of us speaking quickly and confidently, like she did. when she learned that most of us hadn't yet read the waste land, she had a new copy for each of us (purchased herself) ready at our next meeting. she shocked me back into loving my work as it was about to end, and my papers for her just before i graduated were easily the best i wrote at college. no big surprise there: i love confessional poetry, and i wanted badly to impress her. for the last one, on ted hughes and birthday letters, i even spent an hour dorking out on cover art (in retrospect, it was pretty obviously my temporarily-rehabilitated-slacker's equivalent of a thesis).

she was funny, and frank, and quite salty. when i got my own fangirl copy of gin considered as a demon, her book of poetry, her gentle tone shocked me - between hughes and plath, i'd been sure she would sound like plath. i fantasized for three years about befriending her, about getting the conspirator's wink she wrote about in her poem about the white horse tavern here in new york. we moved east before she came back from london after finishing her husband, though, and my crush got lost as joe and i reshuffled our lives.

she was a remarkable woman, and i highly recommend getting to know her work. those of you who knew her, even as little as i did, know how lucky you were. as i do.

12.15.07 [arizona]

over the river, through the woods, &c

greetings from flavor country! after a six-hour flight sandwiched between two screaming babies and a night in a generic phoenix hotel room that was nicer than our apartment in almost every way, we've settled in for some long form loafing at joe's parents' place. this image is one of the reasons i will not be driving while we're out here; i have no interest in being the second asshole in an SUV to be swept downstream this season (it's only a few feet deep right now, but my fording experience begins and ends with the oregon trail for the apple IIe). there's little reason for anyone to drive, really - we've already taken our traditional tour of payson's Thrift Stores of the Damned and wal-mart (where i got the hairy eyeball for honking the hoochie mama elk call and learned that "wal-mart deleted [?] darts").* instead there will be reading (i'm halfway through philip roth's american pastoral), tipsy scrabbling, and NO smoking (three weeks, bitches!). quality time in the middle of nowhere, she has a certain charm - though it would be nice to find some darts. how's the seasonal nonsense in your neck of the woods?

*i wasn't particularly excited about giving wal-mart money anyway, so that was fine.


101 in 1001: 010 attend a taping of (jon stewart's) the daily show
Dear Daily Show Audience Members,

Due to a writers strike, “The Daily Show” taping on Wednesday December 12th, 2007 has been cancelled. Unfortunately, we have no additional information as to when this strike will end. Your cancelled show tickets will NOT be automatically rescheduled, you will have to start the process again. If you would like to attend a future taping of the show, please reserve tickets on our website at www.thedailyshow.com. Since we have no direct control over the strike, we cannot guarantee that the show will actually tape on the new date that you select. Of course, we are all hoping for a speedy resolution to the labor dispute.
i reserved those tickets back in june, man! i don't mean to whinge - being a thwarted daily show audience member is a lot better than being a daily show staffer right now, to be sure, and we're flying out west tomorrow anyway* - but that sucks.

out west, yes yes: joe's parents were going to be here in manhattan for the week surrounding christmas, but plans mutated, and we're heading out to arizona instead. speaking of 101 in 1001 items, i have high hopes for 086 (tour arizona mining towns with joe). expect sexy photos of frontier decrepitude! and please don't be put out if your annual "season's greetings from new york!" card has a phoenix postmark - until, oh, fifteen minutes ago, i've been up to my eyebrows in the february issue of the ladymag. it's been extremely unpleasant.

at the extremely pleasant end of the spectrum, louis menaud's "woke up this morning" (from last week's new yorker) yielded several of the most satisfying phrases i've read since...well, since the last time i read fitzgerald or wilde. a few of my favorites:
The impulse to keep a diary is to actual diaries as the impulse to go on a diet is to actual slimness. Most of us do wish that we were slim diarists.


At least one person has read the entire “Journals: 1952-2000,” by Arthur Schlesinger, Jr. (Penguin; $40), from start to finish, and this person can report that the work yields the exact degree of pleasure that can be derived from standing on a moving sidewalk: it’s painless, you don’t want it to stop, and there is not a single surprise in it.
the whole feature is great, both in little bites like those and because of menaud's larger points about what makes someone a great diarist (warhol was, reagan wasn't). it made me want to be a diarist, or to have a diligent and affectionate editor who could unpack my writing (i should be able to do that for myself, of course). read, internets, read! if you yourself have a diary, and/or a blog, consider what menaud calls the id/ego/superego theories** of diary-keeping: do you agree with any of them?

*we planned the trip after the strikers settled in for the long haul.

**as follows:

Writing is onerous (especially with an ultra-thin pencil)—writing feels like work because it is work—and, day by day, life is pretty routine, repetitive, and, we should face it, boring. So why do a few keep diaries, when diary-keeping is, for many, too much?

Three theories immediately suggest themselves. They are theories of the ego, the id, and the superego (and what is left, really?). The ego theory holds that maintaining a diary demands a level of vanity and self-importance that is simply too great for most people to sustain for long periods of time. It obliges you to believe that the stuff that happened to you is worth writing down because it happened to you. This is why so many diaries are abandoned by circa January 10th: keeping this up, you quickly realize, means something worse than being insufferable to others; it means being insufferable to yourself. People find that they just can’t take themselves seriously enough to continue. They may regret this—people capable of taking themselves seriously tend to go farther in life—but they accept it and move on to other things, such as collecting stamps.

The id theory, on the other hand, states that people use diaries to record wishes and desires that they need to keep secret, and to list failures and disappointments that they cannot admit publicly have given them pain. Diary-keeping, on this account, is just neurotic, since the last thing most people want to do with their unconsummated longings and petty humiliations is to inscribe them permanently in a book. They want to forget them, and so they soon quit writing them down. Most people don’t confess; they repress.

And the superego theory, of course, is the theory that diaries are really written for the eyes of others. They are exercises in self-justification. When we describe the day’s events and our management of them, we have in mind a wise and benevolent reader who will someday see that we played, on the whole, and despite the best efforts of selfish and unworthy colleagues and relations, a creditable game with the hand we were dealt. If we speak frankly about our own missteps and shortcomings, it is only to gain this reader’s trust. We write to appease the father. People abandon their diaries when they realize that the task is hopeless.

i'm going to have to start a collection of favorite reactions to the golden compass (hitting theaters this very minute - why am i at work again?). what was that delicious phrase of hannah's? causin more family feuds than richard dawkins - how i love philip pullman. from today's houston chronicle, "does film compass steer kids in wrong direction?" -
"If parents see (the movie) they might think, 'What a great Christmas gift idea? [sic] Why don't I get little Johnny or Sally the trilogy?' But if that happens, then little Johnny or Sally will wake up Christmas morning to a candy-coated message of atheism," [a spokeswoman for the Catholic League] said.*
is "candy-coated message of atheism" a memoir or a garage band? can it be both?

in other news, i found a stimulating survey about which presidential candidates would put the most thought into buying holiday gifts, according to american women. the top five for each party:

31% hillary clinton
14% john edwards
11% barack obama
3% bill richardson
3% joe biden

18% rudy giuliani
13% john mccain
8% fred thompson
6% mitt romney
5% mike huckabee

having spent time with people who have received gifts from some of the above, i can say that one frontrunner sounds right and the other is intensely amusing. personally, i'd want a christmas present from dennis kucinich (2%, the poor guy).

*my favorite comment on that story: If your beliefs are so flimsy that they are swayed by a movie with a talking polar bear, you should probably stay home and shut off the electricity.


happy holidays and absolutely no trespassing* to you and you and you, from our management company.

happy holidays! now bugger off.

i kind of enjoy the combination of goodwill and bossiness that erupts around the city in december. when joe and i were leaving our apartment last night, a cab screeched to a stop in front of our steps: "hey man," the driver yelled, "where is your coat?" we said that we were just crossing the street to get to the gym, and he nodded and zoomed away.

on the gym: to my great surprise, i've continued to go (nine times now since the quit - at this rate i might actually hit 100 visits in time to knock off 017 on my 101 in 1001 list). to my horror, i'm starting to enjoy myself a tiny bit. this breathing-hard-without-pain thing is fascinating! the new rub is that i'm not really interested in anything other than cardio: though i'm developing a moderate interest in running** and dig elliptical machines, weight machines (and free weights) are deadly boring. can one get ridiculously fit without them?

*and no hot showering, apparently. they've been real creeps about consistent heating thus far this season - trying to freeze the sweet old ladies out of the building, i'd imagine.

**on a treadmill, mind you. i'm wa-ay too self-conscious to run in public.