Object Lessons: Rantings of a Lone Pamphleteer
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Teddy's Twelve!

Happy birthday dear doggie... Happy birthday dear Ted.

Teddy could barely contain himself before receiving his turkey patty treat. Typical teen.

Seriously, though, Ted's pretty spry for an 84-year-old. He's old for a dog. Jon and I are both very grateful for Ted's energy and elán, especially since he takes his elán to bed by 9. Typical old fart.

I'm awfully glad to have him around, particularly during the day when I'm home alone, and most of my neighbors are gone. His big bark scares all but the heartiest dog lovers. He's a sweetie, truly, he'd just lick you to death and play dead for a treat. (God, I love that dog.) However, he does tend to jump up on any stranger who stands too close to me for more than a handshake. It seemed innocent the first few times Ted did it, but he does it with such regularity I finally caught on.

He protects me.

So, in honor of Ted's birthday, I'm posting a recently completed poem loosely based on Ted's experience. FYI, he's only gotten away from me twice, and was brought home within 30 seconds each time. And he has the microchip, so we're good. I suppose you can file that first line under "poetic license."

Promise to our Terrier

I swear to God dog if you run out
on me again I won’t come looking for you.

Your first home taught you
the discipline to Sit, if not Stay. I see it,
proud in your gait. But military men leave often.

I’ve played fill-in-the-blanks with the paper
trail, the vet’s report:

a second owner, an address rich enough
to need a pure-breed (unwilling to pay?).
One broken foreleg, car damage—you’re
almost too much trouble.

Back into the sorting bin, you emerged
in the home I’m mending for you, for him.
After dinner, we’ll sit together; I’ll pull
your head away from licking that old wound.

You are no longer your own only constant.
Our commands are more like invitations.

Sit. Stay.

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The Last Day

Finally time to sit and breathe for a minute. Between classes and readings and lectures and meetings, I haven't had time to sit down and organize my thoughts.

The last two weeks have been the best, busiest, stimulating weeks I've had in years (planning a wedding notwithstanding). We arrived August 10, and by 5 pm we were well ensconced in our new digs at the Frost Guesthouse.

Yes, that Frost. He popularized the Bread Loaf Writer's Conference in the 50's. It is the oldest such conference in the country, and possibly the longest, too! 10 days on the mountain will wear you down. Frost's cabin is nestled in the national park, about 2 miles from the Bread Loaf inn and conference center proper, where Frost in fact used to live. When we checked in, we were told how lucky we were to be out there. On driving up the half-mile over the pitted gravel road, we were met with the cutest clapboard house. It is cozy, but also in need of some TLC. The wiring is scary in spots, and a couple of cords hanging from the lights were grossly illegal. Also, over the course of the week, we had several critters, mostly spiders, in the house.

It's like camp.

We settled in well, though, and I was less concerned than my roomie about the accomodations until I felt something crawl over my feet while I slept.

Funny thing is, lots of students were awed that we were up there. I had to explain repeatedly that Frost never lived there. Nonetheless, over the course of the first week, I came to feel more at home and comfy there.

Sarah and I shared a room, which was great. I heard more than a few horror stories about roomies. Having never lived in a dorm, I was much happier having an old friend to stay with. Using her truck to the fullest extent, we brought every modern convenience, including a window fan with intake or exhaust, which was very handy. We also bought a mini fridge special, but then ended up in a home with a fridge, so there you go--you never know what you'll need.

The conference has had me running for weeks. I can't sleep: between missing my honey and worrying over things in my head, I've rarely gone to sleep before 2, and yet still have my internal clock set to 7:30. So I've been a little sluggish and over-caffenated.

A little bit about what it's like:

Bread Loaf is a two-sided conference. First, there is the art side, supported by workshops, morning lectures, and evening readings by everone from Jay Parini and Ron Carlson to students and the waitstaff (work-study students). Second, there is the marketing side of writing, from trying to figure out how to maneuver through the publishing world (mags, books, and agents) to actually getting a book deal (yes, several hardworking folks got a book accepted by an editor. To support the publishing side of writing, they will set up optional meetings with editors and agents; they also have a special talks series by people in the industry. Craft classes run the gamut from Timing in your Fiction to How to Get out of the Slush pile. I went to a lot.

I've had many long days starting with breakfast at 8-ish, followed by a lecture at 9 daily, and classes on alternating days at 10. Lunch, which has often been the best meal of the day, is from 12 to 1, followed by craft classes at 2:30 and special talks or readings at 4:15. Open Blue Parlor (student) readings at 5:30 gave students an opportunity to get in front of a supportive audience right before dinner at 6:30. The formal readings with the big names took place at 8:15 pm, occassionally followed by a 9:30 Themed Blue Parlor, Scholar, or special reading at 9:30. Anyone with energy left can then make their way to the Barn for drinks and dancing, although special programs such as music night often followed.

So, you can see how difficult it's been for me to get to the computer.

I've had a blast, and have paced myself by taking most of the afternoons after craft class off. I did squeeze in a one-on-one with an editor at large from WW Norton, as well as a group meeting with the same nice lady who knows everyone and has about 50 years in the industry. I also got to meet with an agent who is a one-woman agency, with whom I was very impressed and to whom I hope, someday, to send my manuscript, if I ever finish it.

Which brings me to workshop. Fabulous. We had a friendly, open workshop with intelligent, well-read teachers, lawyers, writers, publicists, and students. I'll be writing in more detail later, but for now, suffice it to say I've been very impressed, and feel really blessed to be in a workshop with Jay Parinin and Michael Lowenthal.

The big news for me, and my favorite part, was the themed Blue Parlor reading last night, Fronteras. Dimitor, who ran the series, suggested a Latino themed reading, if someone wanted to organize it. I kept pestering him, talking to other hispanos on campus, and pestering him until he let me do it. Then he asked me to give an intro, too, which stressed me but which I think went smoothly. We got some laughs, and I had a great time introducing the people whom I have gotten to know.

More soon, but it's noon.
Time for lunch. I'll leave you with the first poem I read last night, titled To my One Gringa Aunt, who Insists I Join her in Joining the Daughters of the Confederacy.

Querida Tia, I don't think so.


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Happy Birthday to Me...

Hey, it's my birthday! And I'm heading to work. Where's the emoticon for that happy/ugh feeling?

Since I'm working the swing shift (2 to 10 pm), Jon and I thought we'd celebrate Sunday. Actually, we partied all weekend by sitting on the couch watching TiVo. It was just what I wanted.

Saturday we shopped, and I tackled the London Broil again, an event to which Jon refers as the "Great Fire of London Broil." One of the first meals I ever cooked for Jon was a disaster of a different sort. Baked within an inch of shoe leather, that experience put me off good cuts of red meat for a while. But now, after two years of prepping meals for our little family, and reading through The Ultimate Southern Living Cookbook (it really is the last cookbook you'll ever need) gifted by a friend (thanks, Chel), I felt ready to tackle the beast again.

And, despite the flambe portion of the evening (which I maintain seared the steak's crust to perfection), I did a nice job. I heartily recommend this cookbook, which is great for novices and experienced chef's alike. Loaded with pictures and many informative pages on the general principles of cooking, this book is far easier to follow than my other standby, the (overly) detailed, archaic copy of The Joy of Cooking. (Admittedly, Joy is more detailed, and includes a lot of classic methods.)

Saturday, Jon and I enjoyed our London Flambé with smashed potatoes and a fabulous Smoking Loon Syrah. It was the best Syrah I've had since Rosemount, though it had a high alcohol content. We giggled long into the night.

Sunday, to get my mind off a. my car, and b. my little stack of presents in the dining room, Jon and I played 20 questions about one gift, which, he'd warned, I might accidentally come across in the house. Here's an abbreviated dialogue.

C: It's hiding in plain site?

J: Yes. Bye.

A couple of hours later, I convinced Jon to play the game with me about the one gift he'd mentioned, which I had been unable to locate despite my constant searching.

C: So, I can see it from where I'm sitting?

J: Yes.

C: Is it bigger than a breadbox?

J: I can't answer that question.

C: It's a simple 'yes' or 'no' game. Is it bigger than a breadbox?

J: Hmm. Can't answer that.

C: (thinking) Is it tangible?

J: Now that's the right question. No.

C: Is it software?

J: No.

C: It's not software?

J: No. That's seven.

C: What's seven?

J: Seven questions, but now it's eight.

C: No! Seven. Ok. Seven.

J: (sigh) Fine.

C: Is it something that I sugested as a potential b-day present for me?

J: Not exactly.

It was the intangible that was the main clue. I thought I had it for sure on software, thinking he'd purchased and downloaded some for my tricorder, perhaps. But if it wasn't that... then it had to be... SHOWTIME!

Yes! I got it right. And Jon reveled in showing all the new movies we'd be getting. A perceptive gift, as much for him as for me... something we could share... and a complete surprise.

The perfect gift. Now I can watch Dead Like Me.

Later last night, we went to Galileo in DC for a nice dinner, and walked around the new WWII Memorial. It is a lovely reclamation of the Rainbow Pool. However, being born in the heat of summer has its disadvantages. Sunday was a hot and sticky night, and we headed back to the cool confines of the car after our once-around.

I'm grateful to all the friends and family who sent wishes, cards, and great presents. I'm looking forward to reading the Atlantic Monthly, and I've already worn a groove in my Don McLean CD. And I'm enjoying my new watch daily.

It is a totally nerdy watch. Don't get me wrong, it is a lovely design. That is, it's a nerdy watch, but it doesn't look like a Casio digital I had when I was 12. It's a very adult watch, I suppose.

The nerdy part? It's got a titanium band, and a solar cell in the classic analog face to power the battery.

Too cool.

A little stack of presents can be just the right size.

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