Monday, September 28, 2009

A smattering of things that go on in my vaccuum cleaner head

That was the title of a poem written by a very enigmatic individual named Hyatt from back in my poetry workshop days at Rhodes. I remember it contained lines about his little brother dying after being "shark fed crystal meth," before any other normal person had ever even heard of that stuff. (He didn't really have a brother who died by meth, just so you know. Never trust a writer.)

That title, and its attached poetic body, popped into my head when I was thinking about how I should post, and how I really just had kind of a random smattering of thoughts and happenings to report. That set me wondering what happened to Hyatt and how old he really was and what his deal was. He seemed older than he should have been, and like maybe he came from a lot of money but chose to live in relative squalor in his strange, low-ceilinged, book-piled apartment in someone's attic and just go to school forever. Or maybe that's just my over-active writerly imagination. See what I mean about the trust thing?

Anyway, my thoughts wander like that. Want to go on a little ride down my stream of consciousness? Here we go! Row, row, row your boat...

Random current #1: I've mentioned to a few people that I'm re-reading The Catcher in the Rye, as I'm considering teaching it second semester. Since I now have two sections of eleventh-grade American lit after three solid years of nothing but the Brits, I'm kind of excited to teach a more contemporary novel later in the year. (It's hard to get that far in British Lit because, you know, it starts a few hundred years before America was even a glint in her daddy's eye.) And I've been surprised to have several people tell me they either hated the book or haven't wanted to read it because they think they will hate it. Um...what?? Okay, first of all, it's a great book. GREAT. And second of all, I was under the impression that this is one of the most beloved American novels of all time. We love Holden Caulfield. Don't we?? Chalk this one under reasons to lose faith in humanity.

Random current #2: It is the major paradox of my being that I am very optimistic and positive, but at the same time cynical and harshly critical. Maybe that doesn't make sense, but if you know me, you know what I'm talking about. The harshly critical part usually gets triggered by things that a lot of other people think are really cool. Yes, I know that's annoying and makes me basically an emo 16 year old boy. Whatever. The point is, I'm not real free with the praise of public figures or various pop culture what-have-yous, (except for writers, and I'll get to that in a minute.) The only thing that will make me come to the defense of a really popular figure is if they are currently the victim of a backlash. I'm a sucker for the underdog. But, but, and this is my actual point I'm finally coming to: when I grow up I want to be this woman. Because really, she just could not be any more badassed. So if you ever hear me doing what Stacey delicately called "laying the verbal smackdown like no other" on someone I deem to be stupid, and you wonder what it takes for me to just unabashedly geek out over a person's awesomeness, there's your example. She's not only smart, but driven and courageous. I think Diana Adams is so cool that I cannot even mock her coolness. That hardly ever happens. Chalk this one up under affirming faith in humanity.

Random current #3: I've been thinking a lot lately about writing. You know, like, a book. I have a couple of ideas for young adult novels. One is more fully-formed than the other. The characters are staring to knock on doors in my head. Partly they're telling me I have the wrong idea about what happenes to them, but we'll see. But then, at the same time, I just finished reading Wonder Boys. That Michael Chabon--holy crap! So I'd be reading, and I'd get smacked with one of those Chabon moments (when SAM and I had this conversation, she called it "a revelation of language," which seems apt), and I'd think "Oh right, THAT. That's writing. Damn!" Because you can't really get to that level in a YA novel. I think there is literary merit in a lot of YA lit, and I think it's a perfectly respectable thing to write, but when I read something like Kavalier and Clay or Wonder Boys, I feel like that's what I should aspire to. Like if I'm going to go to all the trouble to write a whole entire book, I should really write it, you know? So there's that. But I read a couple of Chabon's books before I figured out what all the fuss was about, so maybe that takes time. Even the freakishly talented don't hit that mark every time they put something out there.

There's a lot of other stuff running through my mind at any given moment, but this post is already long and attention spans are short these days, so I'll stop there for now.

Monday, September 14, 2009

S is for Seven

Somerset, you are seven years old today. You have requested breakfast for your birthday dinner, chocolate-chip pancakes and bacon and sausage. Specifically, you would like a pancake in the shape of an "S."

I have no doubt that when you get it, you will break into one of your funky little dances. You know the dance I mean, where you do kind of a robot meets King Tut meets Elaine from Seinfeld type thing.

Right now, you remind me a lot of myself at your age, except I was sweeter. I wouldn't say that you are mean, exactly, but you are tough. You have the self-preservation instincts of a girl with two big bothers and a little sister who sometimes channels schizophrenic demons.

I'm cool with that. I want you to be kind and compassionate, but I also want you to know how to look out for yourself. You don't take any crap, and I wouldn't have it any other way. We'll keep working on recognizing when butts need kicking and when someone just needs you to cut them some slack.

The thing I admire most about you is your perseverence. More than either of your brothers, you will make up your mind to do something and then keep trying until you do it. It's a quality that will serve you well. I need to help you find something productive to channel that into.

Sometimes when I watch you play now, I catch glimpses of the teenager you'll be in a few years, and the woman you'll be in a few more. I can't wait to meet those versions of you, because I know you'll be even smarter and funnier and stranger than you are now. Happy birthday my beautiful Somerset. I feel lucky to be your mom.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Heart Felt

A few years ago, BD came home from work with a book called Heart of Croatia tucked under his arm. He told me all about his customer, Dr. Novick, who traveled the world performing life-saving heart surgery on babies and children who were otherwise sure to die. As he spoke, I saw how much this story resonated with him, how much he wanted to tell it to me and anyone else who would listen.

More recently, he and Dr. Novick have been talking about how to get that story to a larger audience. Today's Commercial Appeal bears the first fruit of that labor. It really is an amazing, inspiring story, and I'm both impressed by and proud of the way it turned out. I hope you'll take the time to read it and pass it on. The more people who know about the ICHF, the better their chances of gaining the support they need to continue and expand their important work.

Tuesday, September 08, 2009


So, the first confirmed H1N1 death in Shelby County occurred yesterday, and the victim was an eighth grader from my child's middle school. Calvin is only in sixth grade and they didn't know each other, but I'm sure the sadness of a death this close to home is disturbing to him. We've talked to him a little about it, and he seems to be handling it well. He's focusing on the precautions he's been told to take, like frequent hand washing. For an anxiety-prone kid, he's doing great.

I, on the other hand, am pretty pissed off. I feel so heartbroken for this family and can't imagine what they must be experiencing right now. But also? I want and expect the issue to be addressed when a student from my child's school dies of an infectious and easily spread disease. Not a letter, not an email, not a pre-recorded phone call. Zilch. We've gotten the district's two preemptive form letters about the plan for staying healthy and preventing an epidemic, but nothing today about this specific case. I'm probably the least paranoid person I know, but come on! I don't think official acknowledgment of a child's death and parental concerns is too much to ask. Should I send irate emails, sit tight, what? What would you do?

I guess they were too busy warning parents that the President of the United States was working up the audacity to address the nation's school children about the value of education and hard work. Clearly, priorities are all in order here.

Thursday, September 03, 2009

A Question For You

If you were going to get the last sentence of your favorite book tattooed on you, where would you put it, and what would it look like?

Wednesday, September 02, 2009

So Now I Feel Like Showing you

The ones I think you might not know.

Frying Pan
. I like the recorded version better. Probably owing to a less trashed Evan Dando in the studio.


Baker Street
, Old School. I confess to liking the Foo Fighters' version maybe a tiny bit better because it's louder, but the only videos I could find for it were just stills.

My friend, the lovely Raina Rose, singing her song I Like You Better.

And last but not know it, you love it. Holding Back the Years.

Tuesday, September 01, 2009

Sing, Sing a Song, Make It happy to Last Your Whole Life Long

SAM recently put up a post about her top five songs of the past five decades and demanded (so demanding, that one!) that her subjects follow suit. Honestly, though, I just don't think that much about music. Or I don't think about music in that way. My knowledge of these things tends to be centered around personal interest and associations, whereas hers tends to be encyclopedic. It's kind of like the difference between a survey lit class and one centered around thematic units. (You know you like my nerdy English teacher metaphors. Stop rolling your eyes.) So, in much the same way that I follow the utterance of most actors'/directors'/ screenwriters'/athletes'/musicians' names with the question "Who's that?" I find myself unable to remember when any particluar song came out, if in fact I ever knew at all. Also unlike SAM, I'm far to lazy to link you to every song. You know how Youtube works, right?

So, my lists:

Top Five Favorite Songs of All Time, Plus One I Forgot:

1. With or Without You, U2
2. Baker Street, both the original Gerry Rafferty version and the Foo Fighters remake. Man I love that song for no apparent reason.
3. Holding Back the Years, Simply Red. That's right. Simply Red.
4. I've Been Loving You Too Long, Otis Redding. During the actual hearing of this song, I will often decide it is in fact the best, most perfect song ever, and marvel at the fact that anyone ever had the balls to make another song after it.
5. American Pie, Don McLean. I don't care if you think that's cheesey.
6. Frying Pan, Evan Dando version from Sweet Relief, originally by Victoria Williams

Sentimental Favorites:
(Some answers may be used in more than one list. Because I make the rules here.)

1. These Are Days, Ten Thousand Maniacs (*My wedding song.)
2. With or Without You, U2
3. I Like You Better, Raina Rose
4. Hearts and Bones, Paul Simon
5. All I Want, Joni Mitchell

Top Five Favorite Songs to Sing When They Aren't Actually Playing, Such as In the Shower:
(It should be noted that I cannot, in fact, sing.)

1. Mercedes Benz, Janis Joplin
2. Me and Bobby McGee, Janis Joplin version
3. Amazing Grace, whoever
4. Verdi Cries, Ten Thousand Maniacs
5. Dead Flowers, Rolling Stones

Best Songs Ever Put on a Mix Tape/CD Made For Me:

1. Catch, The Cure
2. Deathly, Aimee Mann (my ego really loved that one)
3. Love Me, Elvis Presley (sad but important)
4. Million Faces, Paolo Nutini
5. Two Hearts, U2
6. A Case of You, K.D. Lang version (So I had a number 6. Shoot me.)

Not Technically Individual Songs but Favorite CDs to Sing Along to, Such as In the Car:

1. James Taylor's Greatest Hits
2. Strange Fire, Indigo Girls (Suck it.)
3. Changes One Bowie, David Bowie
4. Various Paul Simon albums; hard to pin down. Something with Me You and Julio and Cecilia but also stuff like Hearts and Bones and Still Crazy After All These Years. I need a CD called Every Song Paul Simon Ever Had Anything to Do With. Someone get on that, please. My birthday is in October.
5. The Girl That Killed September, Garrison Starr (Yes, I love a CD with a bothersome grammatical error in the title.)

I could go into various subcategories, like "Annie Lenox songs I happen to hear and then complain about how we don't have any of her albums except Medusa, which is not the one I want," or "Songs I secretly like and know all the words to," but I think you get the gist. Although I'm guessing there will end up being a list in comments called "Songs I forgot to put on various lists."

Right Now

A group of girls is looking at my word wall and discussing which literary terms would make good baby names. Such as "Quatrain." To which a boy in the class replied "Y'all don't need to put 'train' nowhere in y'all daughters' names."

True enough.