Saturday, October 31, 2009

October 31st came around again.

Halloween is a one heck of a big deal here. And on a Saturday night, with good weather and an almost-full moon, it's an even bigger deal than usual.  600 + pieces of candy (one per trickster) handed out from our house in an hour and a half; you gotta love it.

Well, actually, we no longer love it; we have become the Scrooges, the Grinches of Halloween. We went to the movies, deputizing my sister and niece to do the Halloween Duty, leaving them to sit on the bottom steps in front of our house, dropping candy one by one into the bags and hats and hands of vampires, ballerinas, princesses, skeletons, pirates, a family of jelly-fish, a Haz Mat container bubbling over and one kid decked out as a kitty-litter box.  Or so they gleefully reported to us.

Our neighbor told me they had about 1400 ghouls & goblins come by. But then they have a tunnel created out of pvc pipe, covered in black plastic sheeting with spooky music, flashing lights and low-hanging cobwebs  inside.  It's a big draw. Up the street, a fella has life-sized mannequins of practically every Disney  movie character that he sets out on his lawn. He's got music too, and dry-ice fog. The crowd gets so thick in front of his house, he sets out traffic cones to keep people out of the street traffic.  Two blocks over, D Street has even more elaborate sets and houses.

Our one piece of Halloween decoration? A string of pumpkin lights I found in the basement.

Walking back from the movies, it was kinda neat to see the families and groups of kids and teens roaming the streets, the houses decked to the nines, lights still flashing in haunted houses and the spooky tunnel next door. Even at 9 p.m., some houses still had lines of trick-or-treaters, though they were short lines.

Neat enough that we'll invite my niece and sister up again next year. And we'll leave them with more candy.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Another Three-Book Review

I have not kept up with much, have I? The 13 Libraries in 13 Weeks is so obviously becoming 13 Libraries Sometime by the End of the Year.  There are reasons for this. But yes, I have visited another library and will post that review next. First, though, I thought I'd catch up on some of my reading. These three books were checked out of two different libraries and remain books I'm excited about.

The Married Man by Edmund White. In three words: gorgeous, gorgeous prose. The sort of writing you slurp up, way past bedtime, with sentences you want to study to find out how the heck he does it and descriptions you want to roll around in like a cat in catnip.  The story is no slouch either. It pulses along on several continents, delineating intricate relationships among several men - some lovers, some not - and rolling to a complex, revelatory ending. I'll be reading more Edmund White, double-dog guarantee.

Counting Sheep by Paul Martin. Okay, this book just plain scared the bejesus out of me. The dangers of sleep deprivation are real and Martin reveals them all: the brain that falls apart, the body that breaks down, the accidents, the social consequences of drowzy ineptitude. It all seemed so familiar. So instead of trying to squeeze another hour of work on the computer (usually completely unproductive, anyway), I've been snoozing, cat-napping, dreaming, lolling around, catching zzz's, trying to offset the sleep debt that I've been living with (if you could call it that) for decades. Many decades -- more decades than I'd like to admit publicly. Begin with bad genes, add nervous habits and early-onset caffeine consumption, become a teen-ager, go to grad school, have kids, fit in a couple of jobs, well, I was pretty doomed.   What is the drug of choice for moms with kids (especially infants)? Sleep. Hours of sleep. Weeks of sleep. Months of sleep. I would have mainlined sleep if I could when the kids were tiny. And the craving only got stronger with time. Now I've been scared straight: I've got a sleep journal going; I've invested in actual jammies, not just those t-shirts and sweats no longer fit for daytime use; I'm taking NAPS!   I'm developing an eye for the good nap spots, too, much to the dismay of my employer.

The Niagara River by Kay Ryan. I've been a fan of Ryan's terse, lyrical, wry, playful, mind-twisting verse for a very long time. Not quite as long as I've been sleep-deprived, but close enough.  One reviewer noted, and I completely agree, that she is "immaculately off-kilter." She's unique; I can't think of another poet that I'd say she resembled.  But others of you out there, other poets in particular, might be able to point to someone.  So, let me know. And just because, here's one of the poems from this book.
Thanks, Kay.

A pitcher molds
the air in it, dividing
from the air beyond
the air it holds. And
should the pitcher
vanish, something
would take a minute
to escape, a gradually
diminishing integrity,
a thinning pitcherful
of pitcher shape.

Objects of Significance

From Mark Doty, I discovered this site that is a complete treasure-trove for anyone fascinated by the objects we collect and shed on a routine basis.  It's also a trove of writing prompts, for those of us looking for a nudge or two. Or a reminder of the ways in which objects can enhance, develop or even be the story.

Significant Objects

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Blackberry Love

No, not the PDA, the real deal, the prickery, stickery, luscious berries... a link to a piece published in Newsbytes at SSU:


Wednesday, October 14, 2009

When Damp Begs to Drop Out

We were kept on hold all day yesterday,
(swear it's going to rain any darn second now),
the air thick and lugubrious, dense with potential.

By mid-afternoon, the world had gone silent,
no chittering, twittering, or chipping,
no trills or calls of songbirds.

The tribe of Canada geese, fifty strong,
had plumped down on the lawn,
all facing southwest, bills tucked under wings.

Around four pm, a herd of ravens, had to have been thirty or more,
came galloping across the sky, wheeling and calling, landing on the roof opposite us, slipping over the far edge to hunker under the wide eaves.

The damp in the air begged to drop out.

Then, well after dark, the first hesitant patters of rain, a tickling along the roof. Plinkety plonk plinkety on the tin spark-cover of the
chimney pipe, the tympany of rain.

In the wee-est hours of the night, the storm strolled into the county, commanding all airspace, pummeling trees, filling up creek beds and ditches. Attention!

This morning, the rain rustles and rushes, swatted by wind-gusts against the window. Wind wrestles the taller trees, messes about with the smaller ones, nothing is still.

The birds and animals will sleep the day away in nooks and hollows, under eaves and logs, tucked amongst the fat leaves of the canna lilies.

Only humans will walk about, with clutched umbrellas, impervious foot-gear, tightly sealed coats, blown half-sideways and soaking wet.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009


The Insurance Industry says the Health-Care Bills in Congress will increase the costs of health care for everyone.

Guess we'll really need the public option* now.

*Or as I like to think of it, an extension of Medicare to help those who can't pay the current (outrageous, imho) health insurance premiums.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

We expect rain

okay, so I didn't get to a library this weekend. I shoulda, woulda, coulda, all that. But the air was heavy and thick, the sky a paltry grey. I opted for being close to the house and battening down the hatches: putting the hammock and umbrellas up into the rafters of the garage, deadheading the sunflowers, refilling the bird feeders, swapping out the curtains (an easier task than putting up storm windows, but the same idea). The first significant storm of the winter is predicted to hit Monday evening/Tuesday morning, the tail end, the left-overs you could say, of a typhoon out in the Pacific and I felt a scurrying need to be ready for it.

So in lieu of a review, I'll post this poem from Kay Ryan's book "The Niagara River."


We expect rain
to animate this
creek: these rocks
to harbor gurgles,
these pebbles to
creep downstream
a little, those leaves
to circle in the
eddy, the stain
and gloss of wet.
The bed is ready
but no rain yet.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Choices, Change & Opting for Options

Okay, I just have to get this off my chest. Then I'll get back to books and libraries.

All these folks having raging fits about the public option provision in the health-care reform bills, like it was some sort off bogeyman hiding under the bed gonna jump out and EAT them...jeepers creepers criminey crow! I don't see them having fits about being forced to take Social Security Retirement Benefits, or Medicare. Aren't these public options? Aren't they stabilizing forces, ensuring coverage and care for all of us in our senior years?

The sheer irrationality of their un-discourse lets us know these critics speak and act from fear. As a therapist-buddy once said, if it doesn't make sense, it's gotta be emotionally-based.

As far as I'm concerned, the "public option" can really be considered an extension of Medicare benefits to those people who either can't afford the current (outrageous) rates or who've been denied coverage due to pre-existing conditions (like pregnancy, allergies, asthma, or just plain being alive) or who've been kicked off plans because they were just too sick for the companies to cover (though I thought that was the point of health-insurance: you pay a little bit every month so you don't have to pay the whopping fees when you were sick or injured-silly me) or any of the other myriad of excuses to take your money and run.

A public option is just that: an option. You don't have to take it. If you're happy with your insurance, like I am with Kaiser, guess what? You don't have to take it!!!! Yipppeee! In a truly functioning capitalist society, there are plenty of choices. In fact, freedom is all about choices, but don't get me started on that or we'll be here until the cows come home and bogeymen are passed out, drooling, behind the curtains.

Of course, the insurance companies are terrified of the pubic option crouching there in the corners, behind the curtains, under the bed just aching to snatch them; it could be the monster that makes them fly right. For a change.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

5. Guerneville Library

Early in the afternoon, on one of the hottest days of the summer, Cheryl, my intrepid library-review companion, and I start the 45-minute drive to Guerneville. Soon we are out of Petaluma and in rolling country, with hayfields, cow pastures, flocks of sheep on either side of the road. A quick dog-leg jog through the quaint town of Sebastopol and we’re out in West County proper. Here the stunning heat is moderated somewhat as we pass through stands of redwoods, bay, oak. Still the AC stays on; a hand on the window confirms that it’s mighty f’ing hot outside, pretty close to a hundred, I'm guessing. (It was.)

We’re heading for the Vacation Wonderland side of Sonoma County, where the Russian River meanders the last few miles to the ocean, and cabins, vacation rentals, and party bars sprout up like mushrooms in a manure patch.  Following 116, we cross the river on a green-painted steel-girder bridge, make a fast left and suddenly we’re smack-dab in downtown Guerneville, probably the largest town out here, certainly the one with the most chi-chi stores.  A quick right turn at the main intersection and in a trice, we’re  upon the library just up the road and across from the fire station. 

Guerneville Library
14107 Armstrong Woods Rd,
Guerneville, CA 95446

Visit time: 2-3 pm, Saturday afternoon.

Books checked out:
The Naked Brain, Richard Restak, M.D. (continuing a theme)
like you'd understand, anyway, Jim Shepard  (all lower case!) (accck!) 

Architecture/atmosphere: 4
Seating: 3
Books: 3 (taking into account its size)
Librarians: 4
Overall:  14

This may be the smallest full-time library in the Sonoma County Library system, but it is no slouch. An appealing structure, clad in a dark green and brown replicating the hues of the surrounding redwoods, it looks to be composed of triangles and circles, with a sharply peaked  roofline and several very large, round, clerestory windows. Below are two views from the parking lot, and below that, the view of the front entrance from the road.

Entering the lobby, the Maggie Boynton Forum room is directly in front of us, with an introduction to Auyervedic Medicine by Dr. Erika Crotta already well underway. Behind the announcement boards, the vaulted ceilings in the library can just be seen. We turn right into the library entrance; I note a counter-stand sign by the drop-off counter that  reminds patrons to wipe items off before returning them, apt testament to the heavy-duty rainy season here. This is flood-central for Sonoma County; Guerneville and its neighbor down-river, Cazadero, record the highest rainfall totals per storm and per year in the county.

Constructed in 1980 and opened in 1981, the library was designed for 18,000 volumes, though dollars to donuts, I’ll bet there are more than that now. With central vaulted ceilings, open beams and plenty of high clerestory light, it feels more spacious than 6,237 sq. ft. would seem to be. For all its compactness, though, this library covers all the bases - fiction, non-fiction (in almost equal numbers, seems to me, which makes my little fictioneer heart go pit-a-pat), periodical shelves, computers for internet and catalog use, three sturdy work tables with sturdy chairs, a row of reading chairs, a distinct children’s area. It’s very quiet, for anything anyone says at one end can be easily heard at the other. With about 10 patrons (men, moms, pre-teens, kids) looking for books, reading at the tables, surfing the interwebs, it feels full and lively.

The librarian is very helpful and kind, but reluctant to approve interior shots. I can see why; virtually no shot except straight up would exclude people. I dearly want to grab a photo of the stained-glass circular window placed high in the apex of one wall, a balanced design of colored rectangles by Robert Moore that reminds me of Frank Lloyd Wright, but I refrain.

All in all, a most pleasant experience. For its size, I found the collection quite adequate, with something of interest in every century of Dewey’s decimals and plenty of heavy hitters in the fiction. Here, though, the benefits of the SC Library system stand revealed. If a book isn’t on the shelf here, it is bound to be in some other library in the system. Put in a request and the item will arrive in a matter of days, as long as there aren’t previous requests for it. And if it isn’t in our system, there is a reciprocal agreement with Mendocino Library system. Pretty difficult to stump the system. Though some do try.

I check out my three books, a book on the brain (again!), one on sleep (there are times when it feels like I’m allergic to sleep) and the third, a collection of short stories by Jim Shepard (haven't read much of his work). My companion, pleased with her selection on textiles and color, and I, happy with my three volumes, walk back into the heat of the afternoon, slide into my car blessed with AC, and proceed down-river to a mutual friend’s open-house-warming party. (Though some might wish for a house-cooling party). This is the sort of the afternoon to linger by the river, mulling on the reason for ripples and the direction of currents, as the rest of the county bakes on.