Les Semaines


what I'm thinking and doing § what I'm listening to § what I'm reading
what I'm writing § retrospective: The Phonosnout



So I'm 44 now. It seems like a good age to be, so far. I like repetitions, so I'm predisposed to like 44. But damn, not all that long ago 44 seemed old. Funny how it doesn't seem so old now.

sunsetJim bought me a digital camera for my birthday! This is a sunset looking down our street. Yes, I stood in the middle of the road to take it, silly me.


Neile readingI'm just beginning to learn how to use the camera, because I spent a lot of time this week doing this. This is me on my birthday starting to read one of my birthday presents. Kind of Sophia to warm my side while I did that.


So I'm having fun with the camera so far. It's going to take me a while to learn all it can do. In the meantime, Dixielynn asked, and I promised her:

I will take very good care of any souls I steal. I will probably put them in a novel, where they will suffer, but triumph in the end. Unless of course they are an evil soul, in which case they will seem to triumph until the last moment, when they will suddenly be dramatically and utterly defeated.

While I didn't do much novel writing this weekend, I spent time on bb, and these are a few of the things I wrote. Here's my tale of our visit to New York City when visits there became the subject of discussion:

I was there in 1983. Jim and I were just married. We had no money, so we stayed at the Y (I forget which one) and there were cockroaches crawling all over our beds all night. Someone threw piss out the window when we were outside the building. It missed us, pretty much.

We spent lots of time in museums: MOMA and the Whitney in particular.

It was September, and very hot and humid.

We visited a friend of ours who was starting an MFA in creative writing at Columbia (he dropped out after the first semester because he couldn't afford to continue). We took the wrong subway and would up in Harlem, where a kind woman warned us we were in a bad area and gave us directions out. Foolish us didn't even have enough cash to get back on the subway. Luckily it was 10:00 in the morning and nobody cared about us.

I gather Harlem has changed a lot. At the time it seemed like hollow buildings. We walked through a couple of empty blocks, past a small grocery store that had a crowd outside it, and then through what was then known as Needle Park (Morningside) and just saw a couple of guys talking and people walking dogs, and of course the security guard who could not believe young white clearly middleclass kids were coming out of Harlem to his Columbia U. He stared at us.

Our friend was really jealous of our non-adventure as he had been warned to stay well away of that area.

Oh, and we had gone back east for me to meet Jim's family for the first time. They were shocked that we even wanted to go to New York because anyone who went there was sure to get mugged. We didn't tell them about our walk through Harlem--I think they all would have had heart attacks.

Computer use, as it often does, became a topic of conversation, too:

  1. I first used a dedicated word processor in 1979. It was an AES, known, I believe, in the U.S. as Lanier. They used Lanier here in the UW Dept. of Microbiology until just before I started working there in Jan. 1987.
  2. In 1981 I used a Micom (and then in 1986 used an earlier version at the City of Seattle)
  3. We bought our first computer, an Apple //c, in 1986
  4. When I started at Microbiology in 1987 I used my first regular PC, with Word.
  5. First touched a Mac in 1988 and haven't looked back since.
Other topics of interest included belly buttons:
When I was a kid, my belly button looked like an upside-down angel (right side up to me!) Now I just have a big dent in my stomach. The angel may still be in there for all I know.
And then jobs. First I said:

As of today I have had this job for thirteen years. LET ME OUT!
Then I catalogued my work history:

  • babysitter--never did learn how to get diapers back on the kids
  • switchboard operator part-time at lumber store (started this at age 14, so I've been working 30 years now. Shouldn't I be able to retire?)
  • sales clerk at lumberstore (summer)
  • sales clerk at hardware dept. of Woolco (part-time while undergrad)
  • switchboard operator/receptionist at Alcohol Treatment Center (part-time, then full after I graduated until the damn center ran out of $)
  • secretary/travel clerk (temp) at astrophysical observatory (got to type papers called "The Age and Size of the Universe" and send people to cool places, like USSR and Chile)
  • Teaching Assistant (meaning sole instructor) for freshman comp classes
  • Teaching Assistant (meaning sole instructor) for developmental comp classes
  • Visiting Instructor (comp class)
  • Secretary for the School of Farts (fine arts) U of MT (worked for rabid nun)
  • Word Processor Operator (part-time) (in recovery from above job)
  • Word Processor Operator/Receptionist, City of Seattle (temp)
  • Word Processor Operator, Dept. of Microbiology, UW
  • Secretary/Receptionist, Dean's Office & Counselling Office, U of Western Ontario (temp)
  • Publicity Secretary, Faculty of Music, U of Western Ontario
Here's where I still am:

  • Program Coordinator, College of Architecture & Urban Planning, UW (part-time)
  • Writer (hey, I got grants to support myself, so it counts)
  • Co-Administrator, Clarion West
Thus ends this week's tour into the thinkings and doings of Neile, aged 44. 44!

last week's thinking and doing § next week's thinking and doing


Got a batch of discs from Norway, one from Canada, one from CDBaby (well, a couple more than that but they're presents), and one slid into our mailbox by the band itself, the final version of Two Loons for Tea's Looking for Landmarks, which I'm listening to right now, and glancing at the included lyrics in the brand-new booklet. What a fine album this is.

last week's listening § next week's listening


Kelley Eskridge's novel Solitaire is a near-future novel about a young woman, Jackel, who has been raised to be the Hope of her already-privileged group, and she works hard to earn the respect that comes automatically with the position. But then there's a horrible accident and she is accounted responsible and finds herself subject of an experiment in virtual solitary confinement. There she confronts herself in unexpected ways and comes out early to face a very different world as a convict and pariah than the one she left as the Hope. A fascinating and powerful story. At one point I actually found myself tearing up, which is rare and amazing to me, who is not easily affected that strongly by fiction. Highly recommended.

Lee Smith's The Last Girls is the story of a group of young college women who took a raft trip down the Mississippi in 1966. After the death of one of them, a group of them take a steamboat cruise down the river again, 45 years later, and confront themselves and the choices they have made in life. Wonderfully evoked look at the twists and turns life takes, half-haphazard, half-constructed, an full of choices, good and bad.

Nancy Springer's Fair Peril is the tale of a storyteller, who has lost her husband to a trophy wife, her other children have moved on to their own lives and like most teenagers, her youngest daughter doesn't appreciate her mother's habits and choices. She's walking through the woods and finds a frog who asks her to kiss it, but she doesn't want to, she wants to use him as a prop for her storytelling. Her daughter is disgusted by this and breaks in to kiss the frog herself...and from there the story turns into a romp through the land of Fair Peril and city malls and the dark side of the self.

last week's reading § next week's reading


My story went over well in today's workshop, so now I need to revise and get it out in the mail.

I didn't manage to get anything accomplished this week but as long as this doesn't continue I'm fine with that. After all, I've already got a lot done since going back to work September first. This is good; usually September 1st happens and everything in the writing category grinds to a halt.

last week's writing § next week's writing

Retrospective: The Phonosnout

About the Phonosnout

February 1986

"Crow girl on prairie in elk's tooth dress"
February 2, 1986

A few nights ago dreamt of a cabin by the ocean and a group of us swimming up a deep, narrow river nearby. I just wanted to remember.

"Crow girl on prairie in elk's tooth dress"

Young and straight, this girl
a child with a clear face clear and wise
though she frowns a little into the sun.
Her shadow thrusts out behind her
like an arrow into the plains, as though
she herself might turn and run that direction,
off into the rest of her life, where the tracks run
behind her into the horizon.
Still, she stands because something
has made her stand. Perhaps it's
She wears her dress, which so prou certainly steadily it's an action in itself,
proud and simple, its elk's teeth gleaming, pointing white,
down into the ground her feet
know so well, the ground which
holds/lifts her in any direction she'll run

mention--rock at tip of shadow? hunters gathering teeth? elks? [1]

1440. "Crow Girl"
February 2, 1986

Someone must remember her name,
this girl filling the frame land that surrounds her.
It is certain she does. Looking at her
it's easy to tell she has sure hands,
though they're hidden under the blanket [they've]
wrapped around her. She knows this plain,
know it knows her, and she has made
it into herself, made it shape her
like the grass she steps in that covers
her feet under the calico dress, the
grass drying out, readying itself for
winter snow. She's there like the dark shape
by the bare tree off behind her. Rising
like the white man's house, steady
and lasting, like the grass.
tangled, young, a little dry
but hardy. [2]

1441. "Aloysius Holds The Enemy (1895-1941)"
February 2, 1986

A thin line of horses and tents
string the ground behind him. two
horses hearer, and closer still
a stake and tether. These
are all he has at hand.
It's enough for him, his arms
pulled defiantly back, his legs
a little splayed an strong.
He has his gear. That pain stripe
across his nose and cheeks
will do anything he wants it to
Aloysius Holds The Enemy.
And he does. You know. [3]

1142. Crossing dreams with winter
February 3, 1986

All day we swim upstream like contrary fish.
The cabin with rooms leading from rooms,
always another door and another, no way
to explore the whole because there is no end
to it. Everyone asleep except the dripping
tap and me, and almost only the tap.

Christina, who can sing the rhymes
of late winter, grayness so thick
it creeps into our lives. Sometimes
it keeps us up late into the night
despairing of ever reaching/finding that perfect
question that will give us hope. Or
it keeps us sleeping, drifting
in and out of dream in a constant
wash. even waking, moving, we find
ourselves thinking away into it.
It's like acid, this time, or the thickest
of blankets, manifesting itself
as fog, turning streetlamps into
halos of light we stand under
to warm ourselves.
Who is the perfect audience
that one that will not listen
or the one that can't. Once I
start writing like this I
can't stop. [4]

1443. Anecdote for the soul
February 3, 1986

Which is a title I just thought of.
Perhaps I mean antidote
Perhaps I could market it.
Poems are the antidote/anecdote
A line means to change it
and begin again
To begin again: dig your toes out of the soil
Out of the soil, endlessly rocking
I think this would be a good time to stop and get some sleep. [5]


1. This, rather altered, because part 1 of "Five Crow Photographs" in Spells for Clear Vision.

2. Well, the original version certainly fell apart at the end, didn't it. I fixed that, and it became part 3 of the poem referenced above.

3. And this became part 2.

4. And this never became anything.

5. Nor this, though I used the words in the title in the title poem in Spells.

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