Friday, June 20, 2008

Chapter Two

I'm about a month away from a plunge into a new experience. That's not the cause for the scarcity of posts from me of late. That dearth's due to projects under one of those "Can't Talk About Yet" designations, an umbrella that sounds more mysterious than it is. Rest assured there will be links and ordering instructions when the time comes.

The plunge is about higher education. I'm about to begin the pursuit of a master of fine arts degree. I guess I've actually begun, because I started some of the reading last night in fact, and the application approval process actually began in February. Charles and Wayne contributed letters of recommendation as part of it all. Thanks again from the blog, guys!

As with most new enterprises, there's uncertainty and apprehension, so I haven't put finger to keyboard about it until now, but it's exciting and growing more so, though it's tinged with the melacholy brought by the ebb of Daisy's days.

It's a low-residency MFA in creative writing, and thus I will work most of the time here at home at the same desk, developing a creative work while also reading and analyzing works of fiction, travelling twice a year to Washington state for on-site workshops and meetings. Kind of what I do anyway only with more intensity and deadlines. And a mentor.

It's something I'd looked into once upon a time, though I hadn't found a program close to home. I actually stumbled on this one from Goddard College while I was wandering the booths at Wordstock in Portland last fall. I picked up a brochure, contemplated it a while and ultimately sent in a creative sample and an application.

While I was at the booth last fall, I heard one of the program representatives discussing the worth of an MFA with another browser. He was curious about good it would do.

I don't have a tangible answer as far as expectations except that I hope it will edify and expand me. I'm open to what it will do.

The vibe I've received from the early readings and the schedule feel promising. They seem to hint I may be jabbed and prodded in new directions.

All for the good.

Christine was contemplating names for a blog of her own this week. I'll share that when it debuts, but I found the passages she sent along as she searched for a name to be profound for me as well.

One was Frost's "Road Not Taken." I guess I set off long ago on a less traveled path, eschewing business school and civil service and now MBA. Yet of in spite of those creative projects not named I've not been avoiding totally a Sisyphean corporate universe.

It would be easy to keep rolling my rock uphill only but frustrating as well. While I'm not leaving the day job, I'll be adding on this journey.

Thus the point of Christine's other profundity, the words from Anaïs Nin in the form of a poem called Risk that seem like my marching orders:

And then the day came,

when the risk

to remain tight

in a bud

was more painful

than the risk

it took

to Blossom.

As this experience unfolds I'll write you here of what I see.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

This Will Not Be The Day

This will not be the day.
She sits purring on my knee
Or crouches in the corner
Near British mysteries and unread Micheners
Destined to be there a little longer.

She jumps today and scratches
And deposits her beloved toy at my toes.
Her eyes as bright this morning as the first time.
As innocent and devilish.

She fights the mouse for my attention.
Demands my fingers stroke her head.
And not the keyboard.

She curls finally upon my lap.
And purrs at me.
And it is as if
All our yesterdays are moments and not years.

This will not be the day
Tho' soon.
Too soon.
Too soon.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

On the Train

Erik notes that Congress passed a veto-proof package to bolster rail travel. I'm all for it! We should have done it years ago.

Ironically that came right on the heels of an e-mail discussion with Wayne about the real City of New Orleans and the song as well. I think he'd mentioned passing Kankakee or something and that made me think of Arlo Guthrie.

All this reminds me of the time I got the ride an Amtrak train. Pretend the screen's getting wavy as we travel back to the '80s. I guess it was the '80s.

Billy Tauzin --who's now most famous probably for his 60 Minutes appearance about Congressmen who become lobbyists--was running for governor of Louisiana and he'd put together a Victory Train. Only it wasn't.

Anyway it was an Amtrak and he was traveling the state, and my buddy Steve The Photographer and I drew the the assignment to shadow the campaign for a day.

To do that, our editor arranged a light plane flight for us from Alexandria to Ruston so we could meet the train at one of its whistle stops instead of making an early morning drive to Shreveport. We finagled a car trip from the local airport downtown, giving us the opportunity to say we'd had a day of Trains, Planes and Automobiles.

And we rode all day, getting a good sense of what the train had to offer, one car with scenic windows, an Art Deco-looking club car and comfortable seating. We rode South toward home all afternoon, sat in on a press briefing in which Tauzin laid out one position paper or another and spent the rest of the time chatting with people and absorbing color as we rolled through the countryside.

Then we got to Alexandria in the late afternoon, and we stopped in the railroad yards. I'm not sure if there was some complication or what, but there must have been some decision made somewhere along the way that they had to get the candidate to his rally.

After we sat a while, the lead cars were detached and we were left sitting, I guess until the rest of the train came back for us.

Steve started getting ancy.

"I've got COLOR FILM," he said.


"It has to be processed."

"Isn't there, like, an automatic system?"

"Yeah, but it takes a while and things will have to be layed out, and the deadline is 9 p.m. The back shop will refuse the pages if they come in at 9:01."

I got up and told a gray-haired man in an engineer's cap that we were going to get off.

"Do you know where you are?"


The train tracks ran through the warehouse district, not far from where my father had had an office when I was a kid. He was a sales representative for a grocery company. Rail access was important to them. I'd also done a business report on the opening of a new cotton warehouse there a couple of years earlier.

I'd only been there by car, and I wasn't sure how far we were from the newspaper, but it was time to go.

"Do you take responsibility for your own actions?"

"Yeah, his too," I said, gesturing to Steve.

They let us off.

And the whole press core saw us.

"That guy's from the Alexandria paper," they said. "He must know where he is. Let's follow him. Do you know how to get to Hotel Bentley?"

Warehouse districts, as you probably know, some of you being from cities, are the, uh, best areas.

So there's me and there's Steve and there's a bunch of guys in white shirts and ties walking along through a fairly deserted warehouse district.

"We look like a gang of accountants," noted one reporter.

Turns out the cotton warehouse was a loooonnng way from the newspaper office. Did I mention I was wearing new, hard leather shoes instead of the cool and practical canvass dress shoes I had in those days.

I was long an adult, but old man still carped at me about my hair, which I wore as long as my hair would grow in those days, and things like shoes. He who joined the Navy so he wouldn't be in the infantry.

We walked the many blocks through areas where in some corners rumor had it illegal substances changed hands in sales transactions.

Nobody bothered us, and eventually we reached the train station where the Alexandria whistle stop was taking place. Steve hoofed it on to get his film processed.

I and the rest of the press corps stopped to listen to the final speech of the day.

And the editors had a guy there to meet us with a car.

All in all, a great day. Maybe we'll see train travel pick up again as a means of cross country transportation.

In spite of that little misadventure, I'd ride.


Sunday, June 08, 2008

Summer Fear Itself

Wayne reminded me that I'd missed the first episode of Fear Itself by mentioning in an e-mail that he'd taped it from NBC Thursday night.

Fortunately we're in the era of Hulu and other online resources. I logged on this afternoon and got caught up on episode one, "The Sacrifice," penned by series producer Mick Garris, the man behind Masters of Horror and Masters of Science Fiction.

A tale of crime and terror
I found myself really liking the tale of criminals on the run who wind up in a remote, primitive compound with Rachel Miner--who has quite a bit of horror cred with Penny Dreadful and the non-supernatural but chilling Bully. She and similarly lovely sisters clad in polygamist sect fashions, take in the broken down criminals and then the chills build. The nutshell synopsis may seem familiar, but there are twists, makeup effects and performances along with a dark and gritty feel.

Support your local horror show
Need I remind in this era of brainless reality TV, any worthy genre programming is worthy of sampling? If more episodes maintain the quality of this first installment, which is nigh as sharp as Masters of Horror without it's most gruesome details, a summer of chills may await.

Monday, June 02, 2008

What's On The iPod? - Runrig

Wow, how did I not know of Runrig? They are not well known in the U.S. I suppose, but I am a bit of a follower of the British Isles. Somehow I've just never encountered them, but I happily discovered them recently.

Christine had the British/PBS series Cranford on the DVR, and we started watching it this weekend. It's a great, funny and poignant adaptation of the novels of Elizabeth Gaskell. I didn't think I'd like it, but it's engaging in a quiet sort-of-sneaks-up-on-you way.

In the course of the story a couple of characters sing Loch Lomand, a tune of which I'm a fan on a historical level since I like folk songs of all stripes.

The different renditions always intrigue me. A number of years ago they had a choir boy singing it in Cracker in an entirely different way.

So anyway, they sang it in Cranford prompting me to check You Tube for renditions, and behold I found Runrig performing their rendition for the Scotland Children in Need telethon last November.

It features the band's fairly new lead singer Bruce Guthro, and I was ready to plop down my 99 cents for the pod when it was finished.

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