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Archive for July, 2004

BELATED TRAVELOGUE

BELATED TRAVELOGUE

I have undoubtedly waited so long to write about my lengthy drive to Billings, Montana, and back that it’s on the verge of being completely irrelevant. (And not that I’m assuming any sort of salient and on-the-edge-of-your-seat relevance had I posted it in a more timely fashion, either). It was a pretty amazing drive, though, and I enjoyed my adventure thoroughly. So, without further ado, and hopefully better late than never, a brief synopsis of my travels to Big Sky Country:

July 7, 2004

After an unbelievably slow start due to incessant blithering and dithering around, I finally hit the road early on in the afternoon. My goal for the day–Deadwood, South Dakota. On I-90 West, however, I found that certain stops had to be made. My first stop? The Corn Palace, in Mitchell, South Dakota. I couldn’t pass it up. Why not? Because it’s, well . . . a palace. Made out of corn. Made entirely out of corn. Clearly. I had to stop.

Also on I-90, I discovered a nice rest stop just outside of Chamberlain, South Dakota, which featured a little museum with Lewis & Clark information and a keel ship exhibit. Climbing to the top level of the museum, you could step outside onto the deck of a reconstructed keel ship, and then take pictures of the Missouri River. Once you cross the Missouri, you’re now officially West River, which for SoDakians is not merely a geographical designation, but a signifier of cultural and emotional climes as well.

Pressing on further west, through Rapid City, Sturgis, and Spearfish, after which I took a detour of I-90 through winding, canyon roads round and round, and down and down into the gulch in which the historical city of Deadwood is located. In Deadwood, I stayed at the Historic Franklin Hotel, which featured an old-fashioned, man-operated elevator with one of those large cranks, incredible woodwork, an elegant, period-style sitting room, as well as a fainting room.

July 8, 2004

Everywhere in Deadwood, the endless cling and clang of slot machines and casinos. Every restaurant, shop, and establishment was fronted by a casino in the lobby. I couldn’t decide if it was depressingly tacky, or if it was an appropriate vestige of Deadwood’s wild west past. The old, Victorian buildings were intriguing and amazing, though, and in the morning I spent some time wandering up and down the main street, past the bar where Wild Bill Hicok was shot, over to the old train station, by the library, and finally on to the Adams Museum, which provided a fascinating overview of Deadwood’s history.

I hit the road again after lunch, stopping to take several pictures of the beautiful Big Horn Mountains in between Buffalo, Wyoming, and Sheridan, Wyoming. I-90 eventually crossed into Montana, and when I became hot and tired later on the afternoon, I stopped off in Garryowen, Montana, to cool off and take a leisurely walk through the Custer Battlefield Museum, which had a number of battle artifacts, amazing photographic portraits of significant Native warriors and chiefs, and a lot of very beautiful Native artwork as well. I finally arrived in Billings to rendezvous with my parents for dinner in the early evening.

(To Be Continued . . . )

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OVER THE MOON!

It’s been a wonderful cluster of recent days. This last week I decided, on a bit of a whim, really, to put in my very first flower garden ever. And yes, it is a modest (perhaps even slightly scruffy) flower garden . . . nothing too fancy . . . a lot of Vinca and Wishbone Flowers (Torenia, which the hummingbirds are supposed to like!), some miniature Dahlia, a few mums, and a miniature Teddy Bear rose bush . . . plus a few more miniature rose bushes in pots, and some Dahlia and Vinca together in a large pot on the porch. The flowers make me so happy, though . . . I added a few more wind chimes and a bird feeder to hang on the porch as well, and now it feels like a pleasant little bower. Once I install an airport card in my laptop and get the wi fi going, I can even take my iBook out onto the front porch and write there, if I want to. I’m also particularly excited because it’s been almost a whole week, and I haven’t killed my little garden yet. Stuff is even actually blooming!

On Saturday, I went out to Yankton Lake with Susan and Cathy, and we took their dogs on a long walk around some of the hiking trails that surround the lake. We also stopped by the fish hatchery, where I saw the most wonderful assortment of dragonflies: red, brilliant turquoise blue, dark blue with large green heads, and ones with bi-colored wings that created a dizzying optical illusion as they flew. There were also these very sweet, tiny leopard frogs, no bigger than the size of my thumbnail. After the hatchery, we checked out the Aquarium, where there were the ancient paddlefish I had been longing to see, as well as an albino channel catfish, and snapping turtles!

And then when I got home from the lake, I found an acceptance letter from River Styx magazine, taking not poems . . . but a short story! At which point I went over the moon!

I’ll be back soon to post pictures from the Black Hills and the Badlands, and please e-mail me with your snail-mail address if you’d like to receive a spiffy South Dakota postcard, as I still have about five left.

On a final note, I was working this morning and looked up to find the Bean Bean wearing my hat. What’s up with that?

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BACK FROM THE BADLANDS

I’m back from the Badlands, with many, many pictures. I returned very late Monday night, and in the meantime have been recuperating and getting things back on track on the home front. It was a great trip, and I’ll be back soon to post my travelogue, including some rare shots of the elusive and camera-shy Japanese Mother. In the meantime, though, I procured, especially for you, My Dear Readers, a postcard set entitled Scenes of Black Hills & Badlands – South Dakota – A Collection of 12 Beautiful Prints. If you would like one of these postcards, be one of the first twelve lucky people to send me an e-mail with your name and address, and I’ll gladly drop one in the mail for you!

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ON THE ROAD

I’m off to do an appearance at the High Plains Bookfest in Billings, Montana, where I’ll be giving a short panel reading and participating in a Poetry Roundtable panel with other regional authors–including my own paternal progenitor. (In other words, I’ll be hooking up with my parents during my sojourn in Big Sky Country as well.)

I’m making sort of a leisurely trip of it . . . splitting up the 11-hour drive over two days so that I might take some time in the Black Hills area of South Dakota. Tonight I’ll be stopping over in Deadwood, South Dakota, and on the way back I’ll spend a night in Rapid City.

I’m not sure whether or not I’ll have internet access or not, so I may not be back online until next Tuesday. Either way, I’ll try to return with copious pictures

In the meantime, here’s a nice review of Year of the Snake that appeared in The Billings Outpost as part of publicity for the Bookfest.

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FOURTH OF JULY FESTIVITIES

The day started off with a strange discovery that the house had been infested with a case of Bug-in-a-Rug Syndrome.

Come evening, I was invited to a feast of profound magnitude with some of my very favorite friends and their progeny–who, incidentally, are some of my very favorite small boys.

Afterwards, we all headed to Barstow Park, behind the local Hy-Vee store, to watch the annual fireworks . . . because, well, it’s just to thing to do. After idly amusing ourselves while impatiently waiting for the sun to set, the first of the fireworks finally arrived to an enraptured audience.

What is it about the ephemeral, night-blooming radiance of fireworks that always leaves me feeling achingly wistful?

Following the official municipal fireworks, there was an unofficial after-party, in which smaller combustibles were set off (most of them, we’re pleased to report, not ricocheting into the neighbors’ rooftops) and the evening was ultimately pronounced to be a great success.

I rarely post my poems on my blog, but here is a fourth of July poem, from a few years back:

TEMPORARY THINGS

The electric, pulsating see-saw wheeze

of cicadas

calling back and forth to each other, tree

to tree, the song

passed around from first one tree to the next

in circular

patterns–one cycle seeming to ignite

another, like

jazz musicians trading fours. Glinting

sprezzaturas

of fireflies are flashes of sequins sewn

in arabesques

on a black dress, first capturing the light

and holding it

in, like a sharp catch of breath at the throat,

then a sudden

exhalation of tiny stars. Damp musk

of grainy silt,

the river’s soft repetitive licking

against the banks,

moon a ripe tangelo, and finally

the fireworks come–

ruptured sky, sizzle of rent fabric, smoke

leaving after-

images like pearled, cloudy nebulas.

And afterwards,

you and I, we will ignite, pulse, and bloom

all through the night

like rare and glamorous orchids–drawn in

first one, and then

the other, to hunger among scalloped

purple petals,

warm honey, like hypnotized bees deceived

by vanilla

and spice and musk into confusing bee

love with flowers.

And maybe, like flowers, we must seduce

pleasure the way

butterflies are seduced into stopping

for one moment

to grip the round hips of buds and uncurl

their tongues to drink.

Maybe pleasure isn’t even really

pleasure unless

it’s evanescent–like ephemeral

chrysanthemums

opening over the water to hang

for one moment

before drizzling down the smooth ceramic

of the dark sky

like a bright dribbling of pottery glaze . . .

egg’s raw, gold yolk.

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RAINY DAY

RAINY DAY

Everything was wet and green and thundery and rainy today. Like monsoon season. I had it in my head that perhaps today might be a good day to snag a friend and go commune with the paddlefish and other equally commune-worthy types of aquatic fauna at the Gavins Point Dam Aquarium, but it didn’t really seem like a rainy day type of adventure. In my fantasy version of the day, it would have been sunny and very, very windy . . . and it would have been necessary to launch a marvelous and whimsical kite . . . a kite, say, in the shape of a gigantic jellyfish. It just so happens that I have just such a kite.

It was rainy, though, so I stayed home and worked.

Which didn’t make it a bad day, just a different sort of day. All day the rain dripped, or splattered, or poured while I tap-tap-tapped away on the laptop . . . the laptop sounds almost like on-and-off spurts of raindrops in counterpoint to the actual rain outside . . . and the cats snoozed in the chair, forming a yin yang symbol by mid-afternoon. Massive excitement ensued later on in the afternoon with the arrival of a Priority Mail box (nobody really understands me the way eBay does), the sovereignty of which underwent several coups and had to be scrupulously defended, not unlike the phenomenon of the warm laundry basket. (It occurs to me that I’ve already posted several Cats in Laundry Basket pictures in the past, and was besotted enough with my cats that it never crossed my mind that I was simultaneously posting pictures of my underwear on the internet, which just isn’t very, well . . . dignified, is it? So please look at the cats and ignore the underwear. And perhaps it’s best that this not be mentioned to my Japanese Mother, either, who, to quote Holden Caulfield, would have about “two hemorrhages apiece.”)

I’ve been re-reading Sylvia Brownrigg’s Pages for You. I’m very taken with the crisp and compelling pacing of the one-page chapters . . . a page a day, written for the beloved. The prologue opens:

What would happen if I wrote some pages for you? Each day a page, to show you that I am finding a story, the story of how we might have been together, once. Of how we could be.

Good stuff.

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GARDENING AND LETTING GO

I spent the afternoon with Cathy and Susan, helping them plant perennials in the gardens around their front walkway. It was such a pleasant way to spend the afternoon . . . digging holes in the dirt, tenderly snugging in Impatiens, Begonias, and Indian Paintbrush. I always think that perhaps I’ll weed out and plant in the strip along my front porch, but I’ve never actually followed through. This gardening by proxy scenario seems like a good solution to the (typical) ambivalence of my combined desire and inertia.

Susan and I are collaborating on a paper on The L-Word, which I’m very excited about . . . although there are some days when I feel like way too much of a moron to be an effective scholarly collaborateur. (I prefer the eur ending to plain old “collaborator” which seems rather clunky and dull . . . eur is more interesting, like saboteur, you know?) But Susan (who, by the way, co-edited the first ever Coming Out Stories) is an exceedingly gifted and generous scholar, and seems altogether oblivious to (what seems to me to be) my rather glaring Moronic Tendencies.

I’m listening obsessively to The Butchies on my (recently aquired and deliciously lime green) iPod mini, and finding complicated and ingenious ways to avoid writing. Strangely, I’m right behind the 8-ball on the novella I’ve been working on, but something seems to be holding me back. Part of it, of course, might be that I’m worried I’ll finish the novella and find that it’s utter crap, but that’s nothing unusual . . . I think it’s something a little bit different. It’s almost as if I don’t want to let go of the story and the characters just yet . . . it’s more like I’m savoring it . . . as if I want to stay inside that place, that world I made, for a little longer. Separation anxiety, I suppose. But sooner or later . . . I’ll have to let go.

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