| |First, a disclaimer: It's not about pastry. (Sorry.)
I spent a good chunk of the weekend caught up in March Madness, college basketball's championship tournament. I'm not a big fan of basketball, although I will admit a fondness for Eugene's home team, the University of Oregon Ducks. The Ducks didn't earn a spot in the tourney this year, but still, all the hype left me hungry for a little bit more. And so a weekend planned around the tube. And a friend inquiring—oh so inevitably—about which team I'd be rooting for.Uh, good question, that. Because this wasn't about sports. If it were, I could sit back and enjoy the geometric artistry of the game. Or fill a notebook with statistics. Or appreciate the easy excuse to snarf pizza all weekend long. No, I needed an investment, some personal connection to a team. And so I set about deciding who would have my loyalty for the weekend. And if that team lost, which runner-up and perhaps runner-up after that would get my cheers.Well, Kansas was out. I may be an average fan, but I can hold a grudge with the best of them, and I still haven't forgiven the Jayhawks for battering the Ducks back in 2002. South Carolina? C'mon, a team named the Gamecocks? No way. Likewise, Duke and its Blue Devil; I might have been swayed by a Johnny Depp interpretation, but this scrawny Smurf version leaves me uninspired. I have my biases. Kentucky's a beautiful state, despite all the bad press it receives. Although I do feel compelled to deduct a few points for its lack of recycling laws. A team from Waco, Texas, carries a load of community baggage; could it benefit from a few extra rah-rahs from me? And what to make of a school that's hogging the brackets with both men's and women's teams in the hunt? Should deductions be made if the women are diminished, bearing Lady in front of their name? I thought "arbitrary" would be easy. Just pick a team and go from there. But as it turns out, every choice is embedded with shrapnel from the past or some rough diamonds of the present. It leads me to consider that there aren't many choices we make that don't have layers of thought behind them. That's something I'm going to have to think about.And what team did I pick? One of the ones that lost. So now it's Rock chalk, Jayhawk! all the way to the Final Four. Apparently, I have a little forgiveness in me after all.Now I'm off to find a kiwi-strawberry custard tart, who knows why.
| |On Saturday evening I attended a reading at Tsunami Books. One of the two featured poets* was my friend, Catherine McGuire, whose new chapbook, Palimpsests, has just been released by Uttered Chaos Press. Cathy was radiant with enthusiasm and didn’t appear to be anxious, although I knew she was less than comfortable with performing her work in public.Of course Cathy did just fine. As I knew she would. Her reading was vibrant and clear, and the potentially awkward gaps between poems were neatly filled in with explanatory bits and well-timed dashes of humor.And then she arrived at the final piece: a poem, she explained, that she had only recently written. A poem she had submitted (and which has already been accepted) to an anthology despite the fact that Cathy had had her doubts about its merit. A poem that tackled a serious political topic via the most unlikely of vehicles: a takeoff on Elvis Presley’s Heartbreak Hotel.But what came next was the real surprise: Cathy released the microphone from its stand, stepped out from behind the lectern and began to sing her version of the Elvis classic! The audience was thrilled, and soon hands were clapping in time with the music. Cathy concluded her set to a room filled with robust applause.We all know that moments like this can go either way. What might have resulted in embarrassment was instead a raging success. Cathy took a huge risk and emerged triumphant.Here I sit, two days later, and still I’m thinking about this reading. It’s one I’ll remember for a long time to come. Not merely due to the bookstore’s warm atmosphere, or the comfort of being in the midst of so many familiar faces, or the very quality of the poetry itself, though all of these things are true. No, I’ll remember this reading as the night my friend took a chance. Took a gamble on herself. Tried something she’d never done before and was rewarded with applause from every corner of the room.Of all of Cathy's successes that evening, I wonder which one will remain with her the longest.
How will I choose to enter this week? Will I reach for the unimaginable? Will I be willing to place a good, solid bet on myself?
* Also reading was Michele M. Graf, whose new poetry collaboration, Lifelines
, (InkSpotter Publishing) was released in October, 2011.
| |I keep a to-do list. Every Thursday I fold an 8 1/2 X 11 sheet of recycled paper in half and begin the two columns that make up my task list for the week ahead. The first elements to make it on the list are the to-dos that were left undone from the previous week. Some of those to-dos were left over from the prior week and the week before that. It's hard to imagine that I won't remember these items on my own; they're like a splinter in a knuckle that's an ever-present irritant, but not a large enough problem to require an immediate response. Still, I note my chronically undone to-dos faithfully on my sheet as if the very fact of their appearance on the list will somehow boost me into action. Action that will result in the ultimate mark of success: a thick Sharpie line that renders the item completely unreadable, the twin burdens of past inaction and future procrastination obliterated with a simple stroke of a black felt pen.
The to-dos on my list are written in my own particular shorthand: codes and glyphs understood, mercifully, only by me. There are arrows and ampersands, capital letters that stand in for first names or locations, ordinary words represented by their desiccated text-message counterparts. Often one word will be the icon for an entire event. Just as one brush against the splinter in the knuckle can conjure the complete narrative, it takes very few scratches on the page to trigger my recollection of what needs to be done. For instance, Lane4Bark might mean that I need to find a day when it's not raining and head over to Lane Forest Products to pick up some mulch to put around the bushes. I live in Oregon. It rains here. A lot. So Lane4Bark might appear on my list for several weeks until the synchronicity of dry-day and sloth-relegated-to-the-kennel puts me in the pickup truck with sufficient enthusiasm to get a dreaded yard chore done. And then, well, the Sharpie gets to work its magic.
One item that has been appearing on the list for many more weeks than I care to admit is a four letter word spelled b-l-o-g. As in, Pick something out of the air and talk about it. As in, They've been asking, so give it to them. As in, Monday morning's as good a time as any to make a fresh start. So welcome to Monday Morning! Now where's that Sharpie?