Archive for February, 2009

A poem for Ellen.

It was that even if we 
never took that canoe ride
and when you did I shouted
to you across the lake about dinner or

And I could hear your oar in the water, breaking
it and your face looking up as I called
to you and you didn’t need to tell me about
the oar
or the sky above you and how the
clouds moved fast or the lillie pad
in bloom because I saw it all

And now, with my tea too
hot and the lint in my pocket soft and
I ball it up, it’s pink and I don’t know
why.  I’d give it to you.

But can’t.

And soon,
there will be far less
explaining to do.

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There is a blog I enjoy reading that is a good reminder of why it is good to be young, crafty, organic, and in love, that recently did a post directed at people who, well, I’ll just say for people who describe old bookshops as dangerous.

So here in Paris, there are some essential ex-pat stops.  The first, of Hemingway fame, Sylvia Beach’s Shakespeare and Company, which to this day has been called a socialist utopia masquerading as a bookshop. 

There are couches upstairs and a reference library filled with tattered pages and “To my beloved” inscribings on first pages. 

A working 20s era typewriter can also be found in a small nook and can often be heard in use, though not very effectively as the A key does nothing (makes for very modern writing).  I still do enjoy a peaceful Tuesday afternoon in the shop, reading upstairs, but avoid it on weekends when you will struggle for space, air to breathe, and the cat to pet.

Trumping that though, and I’m dreadfully sorry America, is The Abbey Bookshop, a Canadian haven that often goes unnoticed. 

To my eyes, far more romantic than Shakespeare and Co, often half the price, and literally only a five-minute walk from its British competitor.  The man who owns the shop, Brian, is a polite and zen-like Canadian from whom I get the impression he could both wrestle a Canadian grizzly, and could make you a mean cup of sencha.  That being said, coffee is his drink of choice and he’ll almost always offer you some complete with, of course, maple syrup. 

Though it is the downstairs of the shop that appeals to me.  It has ancient stonewalls and ancient dusty books. 

There are piles and piles of them and you can test your strength and search for one at the bottom, actually quite a fun game that I played last time there while trying to find a book of haiku.


So please, love on your local used bookstore but please don’t invite me as all bookshops take from me hours I don’t have and money I surely don’t either. 


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Triple Shot.


All you need is love.

… and olives.

… and whisky.


As a kid, I used to hate calling my uncle when I was at my Grandma’s house.  She had a rotary phone and he had three zeros in his number.  


This is my room for yoga for the week…

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10 Cent Eras.

I won’t say he belabored the point but he belabored the point.  “It’s a tragedy,” he kept saying.”

“I really don’t think it is,” I said.

“No seriously, it’s one of those things that marks the end of an era.  We are now in the over-three-dollars-for-a-loaf-of-bread era.  Just like remember the time of thirty-two cent postage stamps?”

“Those are eras?”

“Well.  Not each postage stamp increase thing.  It’s just that bread isn’t supposed cost three dollars.  That’s a thing.  That’s more than it is supposed to cost.  That makes bread somewhat unaffordable and that just can’t be.  It’s un-American.”

He had put three quarters into three different expired parking meters.  One of them didn’t even have a car in it and he said, “It’ll be nice for whoever gets here next.”  He carried the loaf of bread in a doubled plastic bag that they gave him and I said it is just as American as what they say the French do.

“What do the French do?” he asked.

“Carry the baguettes down the street under their armpit.  It’s what gives the bread the flavor, they say.”

“The French? Who’s they?” he asks.

“No.  The Germans.”

We took the bus home I spent most of the ride staring at a woman who stared at her reflection in the window the entire time not blinking.  She just stared, tired, into her own eyes with no judgment but with no kindness either.  The bus stopped at a light outside the church and all the kids were wearing their Sunday best and an older brother, I’d age him about eight, was holding his younger sister’s hand and they were both wearing long tweed coats and Sunday hats.

When we got home, he asked if he could borrow some quarters to do some laundry.   

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I worked myself to dark circles for half a year before seeing Pennsylvania road after Pennsylvania road up and over the Poconos slight moonlight reflecting off Sunday’s snow and onward, onward icy road and neon signs saying how many miles to wherever and wherever after.  We stopped for toilets and coffee and asked the waitress questions about her life and how she lives it.  Josh won three stuffed animals out of the claw machine and left them all at the booth with our empty cups.  “A present,” he said, “for whomever comes after.”  I was falling asleep passenger side after almost falling asleep driver side and Josh went on and over again about his new theory on why things are the way they are.  “It’s like, who listens to the radio anymore?” he said to me and I was almost out then and I heard something like, “…so many lost art forms” and I was in and out for the rest. 

New York to Chicago and I saw more winter cornfields that day than an entire country could eat.  And every waitress had her one line she liked to use with customers, “We just starting serving these Chinese stir-fry dishes and I dunno why.  Grilled Cheese, simple and right, does you good.”  And another, “You get folks coming down from New York and I tell them to take 78 on out the city instead of 80 because you can see the National Forest down there and now with the snow and all… I’m just saying, it’s not always point A to point B.”  And that was her line.  She spent her entire life barely leaving the same small town and her line was on how to best get to and from places.  I think we’re all like that. 

Later on I was falling asleep again to some band out of LA playing about house parties and backyards always waiting for a touch of freedom.  Josh went on and on about Jenn Matthews that day talking about her big blue eyes and bikini tops on Coney Island.  “I mean, she speaks Russian for chrissake,” he said.  I was still in and out but he was fine talking and I was fine listening and more road signs 120 miles to Columbus, 70 miles to Columbus and Josh said he was in the mood for Thai food. 

And I was still falling asleep through even more corn, and Josh was bouncy as ever, wondering what’s next and how and how many Jenn Matthews to come and I was left sleeping off the past four months. 

Josh stopped, worrying about what he called, “caffeine angels,” and I don’t know what he meant by that, but I took over and the drone of a dark road the same bump every two seconds for 50 or so miles put Josh down and I was left humming James Taylor songs to myself.  I’d pass cars every so often and the nice ones would slow some and turn their brights off and then there are those they didn’t and each time I had the thought through my head that they were a little too anxious for that point B.

And for the first time, I was in between.  Did me good.

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fresh water.

I spent my childhood with 80% of my being consisting of the lakes of Michigan. They bathed me, satiated my thirst, steamed my vegetables, and it was on their banks that I found my first horizon.

I am their quiet lapsing…

… their lively surfaces…

… their shifting shapes and colors…

Chicago flows out of me and into me with a nighttime’s stillness…

… and winter’s freeze must give pause…

I am not the constant motion of the ocean.  I find stillness next to a cricket’s song.

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