Les Semaines

March 1, 2009

what I'm thinking and doing § what I'm listening to § what I'm reading
what I'm writing § retrospective: old journal


Old Story & A Question Set (Again)

This week my life has consisted of my slow recovery from the cold from hell, my busy day job, and processing, processing, processing Clarion West applications, so rather than bore you will all that, I will bore you with my responses to one of those inane internet question sets. Consider yourself warned.

Before I start, for your entertainment, here's something I missed telling anyone online about during a journal hiatus (from February 25, 2008):

This morning when Jim got up for his flight to go visit the Andersonville Civil War Prison site in Georgia (a research trip for the book he's working on)--it was only about a half hour earlier than he normally would--he had to chase Sophia down to pill her. He pilled her, let her go, and fell when he was getting up. For me there was just a bunch of noise like he'd dropped something and gotten pissed off and dropped more, but when I shouted to ask him about it and he didn't answer I came in to see what was going on.

He got up, staggered, and fell again. He wanted to get up again almost right away, but I wouldn't let him for a bit. He insisted, so I tried to help him but he was too heavy for me, and he fell again.

I freaked out (so did the cats!), and was about to call 911 but he insisted he was fine (I checked for stroke symptoms!) and he seemed to be okay and insisted on going, so nervously I drove him to the airport as planned. He's already called to tell me he's fine, but...

Thank god he'll be with Mark from Atlanta on. He's going to call me from the Atlanta airport and I've already alerted Mark.

I'm trying not to worry. I know people get low blood pressure stuff and fall (a coworker's husband does that a lot actually) and Jim's been having these cold symptoms and has been totally STRESSING about this trip, but LORDY. Deep breaths. I'm trusting him that he's okay--I think he'd tell me if he were still feeling weird--but he scared the crap out of me.

That was an entertaining episode. We still don't know why it happened, but it hasn't recurred. Trust me, I'm watching for it.

On to the questions!

1. Spell my name as it sounds:

Neel Grayum.
2. Am I a worrier?

Oh, yes. My fifth-grade teacher warned me that I would get an ulcer before I was an adult. I haven't, though.
3. What's my favorite CD?

Today? Veda Hille's This Riot Life.
4. Favorite colour(s)?

Teal. I know it's out of fashion now. I liked it before it was the hot colour and like it still. I like blue and green, so together I like them even more.
5. Does my home have an attic?

Yes. The access is through my study closet. I have only ever stuck my head up there and looked around. Jim has actually been up there!
6. Have I ever been to Canada?

Born there. Lived there until I went to grad school in Montana in September 1981 and again when Jim went to get his MLIS at the University of Western Ontario in spring 1988-1989. Would be there still (though back on the west coast) had we been able to wait until Jim could have gotten work there. We may still wind up back there.
7. Have I ever gone fishing?

Yes. Caught some trout in a creek in the BC Interior once. Went fly fishing in Montana a couple of times though I never got good at it.
8. Have I ever seen a celebrity?

Yes, for varying levels of celebrity. Met classic movie actor Patrick O'Brien on a ferry from Seattle to Victoria shortly before he died. Was on a Glasgow to London plane with Walter Koenig (from Star Trek and Babylon Five around the Babylon Five time) once. Met Tori Amos at a radio station. Had Jewel name-check me during a show she gave early in her career. Gave Octavia Butler rides to various places (she didn't drive). Have met various well-known living speculative fiction writers like Kate Wilhelm, Ursula K. LeGuin, Neil Gaiman...
9. Have I ever been on a motorcycle?

Yes. The first person I ever fell crazy (emphasis on the crazy) in love with had one.
10. How much money do I have on me right now?

None. I'm not near my wallet right now. I probably have about $20 + change in there.
11. How many cars have I owned?

Of my very only: 2. First a 1955 VW Beetle, then a 1978 VW Rabbit. Since then have jointly owned another 1978 VW Rabbit, a 1990 Honda Civic wagon (still co-own), a 1988 Chevy Sprint, and a 2003 Mazda Protˇgˇ (still co-own).
12. How many jobs have I had?

Many. My first job was as a Saturday switchboard operator for a lumber company when I was fourteen. I've worked at an alcoholic treatment centre, an astrophysical observatory, and several universities, as well as for Clarion West.
13. How tall am I?

Five foot four. Almost.
14. Last person to call me:

15. Last thing I yelled out loud:

Some four-letter profanity beginning with an f or an s. Don't remember which one. I dropped something. it wasn't a tragedy but I'm not feeling great so am easily annoyed.
16. Last person I was in a car with:

17. Last time I ate at McDonald's:

So long ago I don't remember. Probably in the 1980s.
18. Last thing I bought:

Groceries at Trader Joe's two days ago.
19. Last person I saw:

Jim. About a half hour ago, though he's still just down the hall.
20. Last time I cried:

Not sure. I don't cry often. A year ago?
21. Last time I laughed:

Sometime today. At a book.
22. What is the temperature outside?

In the 50s. Warm after the snow a couple of days ago.
23. What time of the day did I get married?

Early afternoon, I think. I don't actually remember.
24. What did I do two nights ago?

Ate dinner. Had a shower. Watched a Being Human episode with Jim.
25. Who's birthday is coming up next?

Jim's sister's. Then John Barton's. Happy birthday, Pat! Happy birthday, John! Though tomorrow night we're going to celebrate Karen's (her birthday was earlier this week).
26. What time did I go to bed last night?

Sometime around two. I kept coughing and couldn't get to sleep.
27. What was the first thing I thought this morning?

My head hurts.
28. What are my plans for this weekend?

Partial writing retreat. Lots of Clarion West application wrangling.
29. Lemonade or iced tea?

30. What do I dislike at this moment?

This cold I can't shake.
31. What did I dream about last night?

It has been months since I remembered a dream. Sadly. I miss saving the world.
32. What's the last TV show I watched?

Wednesday night. Being Human. A UK show about a vampire, a werewolf, and a ghost who share a house.
33. What is my favorite piece of jewelry?

I would have to say my wedding ring, as though I love all my rings and love lots of my other jewelry, I will put on my wedding ring when I'm not wearing any other jewelry.
34. Am I a dancer?

I love to dance but am not particularly great at it and it has been a long time since I did it anywhere other than in my own house.
35. Have I ever cut my own hair?

Not beyond trimming split ends.
36. What is my favorite treat?

37. How many piercings/tattoos do I have?

Two. One in each earlobe.
38. Where's my favorite place to be?

Home, no contest.
39. Is there someone I haven't seen in a while and miss?

My parents.
40. Who was the last text I sent to?

Either Tamar or Devin. It has been a while so I can't remember which. They're the only two people I text.
41. Do I care what strangers think about me?

Strangers? No.
42. Last person I talked to on Instant Messenger:

Have never used IM.
43. Last person to make me cry:

Probably Jim. (Again: long time, don't remember.)
44. Who can I tell anything to?

Jim. My mother. A small group of friends. Depending on context I'm willing to reveal quite a lot, actually.
45. What am I doing tomorrow?

See #28. I'm writing this on Friday.
46. Do I have alcohol in my home?

Yes. Pear cider in the frig. Some beer Devin left in there, too. Scotch in the cupboard and various other bits and pieces. I only ever drink pear cider, scotch, and Bailey's, and occasionally wine with a meal.
47. Do I like ketchup?

With chips (French fries), though then I prefer malt vinegar or tartar sauce.
48. Do I think I will be on a vacation this summer?

Not a vacation vacation. Visiting family, though.
49. What colour is my master bathroom?

Off-white because I can't decide what colour to paint it. I'm tired of off-white.
50. Do I wear a bikini at the beach?

Not since I was fifteen.
51. Have I ever been to the Grand Canyon?

Yes, once in 1983 of 1984. It was impressive, but I liked Mesa Verde better.
52. What is my favorite fruit?

Raspberries? Apples? The Italian plums I dehydrated last autumn?
53. What did I really want to do today?

Sleep this cold off.
54. Am I always cold?

Not usually.
55. Does it annoy me when someone says they'll call or text, but don't?

If it's a casual "oh I'll call" kind of thing I don't mind at all--but if it's set up as something I am waiting for--information, business, etc.--and the promised call doesn't come I get very annoyed.
Anyone who sees this, consider yourself tagged. Or not. This is an old set of questions I've had sitting around a while.

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


Have I said before now great Psapp's new one The Camel's Back is? I love their inventive, playful sound and their singer's incredible voice.

last week's listening § next week's listening


Christine Fletcher's young adult novel Ten Cents a Dance is set in Chicago in the 1930s, where a young girl is forced to leave school and work in the slaughterhouses in order to support her mother, ill with rheumatoid arthritis, and her younger sister. Ruby loves music and dance, and when the local bad boy suggests she take a much-better paying job as a taxi dancer, she leaps at the chance. Well done.

In Kim WIlkin's fantasy novel, Rosa and the Veil of Gold is about a young Russian woman with second sight and her ex-lover and a coworker of his who get caught up in the veil between worlds when workers find a golden bear in the wall of an old bathhouse owned by Rosa's uncle. I enjoyed the setting, and liked the characters.

Kate Atkinson's mystery novel When Will There Be Good News? is a story that is a tangle of coincidences, accidents, deception, and fascinating characters. I loved it. The plot is difficult to describe, so I won't--I will just highly recommend this.

Jacqueline Winspear's Among the Mad is her latest Maisie Dobbs myself. These are set in the early 1930s and deal mostly with repercussions from the First World War in the crimes being investigated and also in the lives of the characters. In this, someone is threatening to stage a mass murder to protest how the government is not supporting its war veterans (many are permanently physically and/or mentally disabled and in the post-1929 economy, few could get work). Another fascinating tale.

last week's reading § next week's reading


A very slow start to getting back to writing. Finally though, on Saturday, a mini-retreat and words altered. Progress is being made again.

Got another batch of poems out in the ether-mail.

Also, I'm really getting pissed off. Someone I have never had any previous contact with emailed me for permission to include my essay Form and Free Verse (with no compensation offered) on her website. I don't really see the point of that since the piece is freely accessible on my website, but I thought I'd take a look at her website to see if there was a compelling reason to allow her to put it there. Lo and behold, she has already put up my essay, before I've even replied to her email. There's a copyright notice on it, which she is in violation of. So I respond to her email and ask her to take the essay down. Her email address bounces. So I go to the contact page on her site and send a message through that, asking her to take it down. I keep checking, and it's still there. Today I posted a message on the guestbook for her site, again asking her to take it down, but this time adding "Please don't make me contact your provider and my lawyer" because that's what's next. I'm getting really, really annoyed.

I've had similar requests for poems (which I'm usually willing to accommodate) and with my "how to sell poetry" page (which I'm not, not without compensation--and damn, I need to update that thing), but I've never had someone ask when they'd already put it up on their site.

last week's writing § next week's writing

Retrospective: old journal

April 27, 1997

"time...is a capillary system, mapped outwards from whichever pulse point the observer occupies." Janette Turner Hospital

May 20, 2997

Because there is nothing more sacred
    than the space between two words:
    translucent leaves
or the space between two phrases:
    translucent leaves     and
    leaden sky.
They lie against each other
It's early spring. We're in the room
    you're hearing the flow of my voice
    like the rain trailing down the
    window, but behind me the
    maple offers you these new leaves
    and even the gray sky is
    enough to light them.
Because we are creating a new language
    a word that bridges the distance
    between lover     and
    the curve of the back in the sweat-
    scented sheets
Because we can describe talk all we
    want but until we make you see it
    the words are mere distractions
Because the flaw, the spaces, the relation
    of the words in my head is better
    than any word I can place on
    paper abutted again his neighbour
    which may fall in the gap between them
Because those new leaves are his shoulders
Because the leaden sky
    is the leavened bread of our
    bed full of years of complaint
    and the leaves are your
    shoulder blades in the first early
light of morning.

[This is the first draft of what became "Lucidity", published in Arc magazine, where it was an Editor's Choice in their annual poetry contest, and later in Blood Memory. It is dedicated to my friend Jan and her husband, Ray. I read the final version at their wedding later in the summer.

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