I Just Read

A Truly. Gorgeous. Poem.

I opened the Writer's Almanac webpage, as I do every morning. Today I expected a poem by John Updike, who died yesterday. I'm sad about that; his fiction is a national treasure. I recently described it to a friend as "clear, brave and blue collar - hard working to the very end." I can think of few other authors who have so succinctly captured the American experience.

But, and I say this wishing his peacefully resting soul the very best, his poetry is cumbersome and overwritten, pretentious and cliche. It's just plain awful.

So imagine my delight, when upon opening the Writer's Almanac, I saw not an Updike travesty, but the delightful gem I've pasted below. I think it is absolutely beautiful. Cautious at first, but with incredible momentum, just like a first love.

This is the kind of poetry I dream of writing.

Everything We Do
by Peter Meinke

Everything we do is for our first loves
whom we have lost irrevocably
who have married insurance salesmen
and moved to Topeka
and never think of us at all.

We fly planes & design buildings
and write poems
that all say Sally I love you
I'll never love anyone else
Why didn't you know I was going to be a poet?

The walks to school, the kisses in the snow
gather as we dream backwards, sweetness with age:
our legs are young again, our voices
strong and happy, we're not afraid.
We don't know enough to be afraid.

And now
we hold (hidden, hopeless) the hope
that some day
she may fly in our plane
enter our building read our poem

And that night, deep in her dream,
Sally, far in darkness, in Topeka,
with the salesman lying beside her,
will cry out
our unfamiliar name.


Still here

Good lord. So much for that goal of "writing more."

But there's been lots of activity here in the past couple weeks. We journeyed to Bozeman to visit a friend and ski. We took the boys and skied with them, which was a rare treat, because we can't really ski with them here (Big and Little Cottonwood are watersheds for the City, so even though the snowcats leak hydraulic fluid into the ground and the old mines leach nasty chemicals into the streams, dogs can't play there because they might pee).

They had a wonderful time; they love skiing.

It's been nice.

So much has changed since my last post - the inaguration (Yay Obama!), the reversal of the Mexico City rule (Yay Obama!), the establishment of citron as the color of the season (Yay Michelle!) and new snow in the Wasatch.

It was a wonderful weekend of skiing, climbing, eating good food, spending time with friends, making big plans....

More to come.


Modern Day Quilting Bee

The New York Times is running a very cool feature right now called One in 8 Million. It struck me because I think it's beautifully designed, but also because it reminded me of This I Believe and Storycorps, two undertakings that are all about showcasing the opinions and stories of regular, exceptional people.

It made me wonder: What's behind this national search for connection, this desire to hear other peoples' stories?

I see it in myself. More than ever, I want to know what books my friends are reading, what my family thinks about the economy, what my colleagues think about the situation in Isreal and Palastine. I want to build connections.

I find myself looking for them in song lyrics, in novels. I am looking up to the mountains more, feeling more calmed than usual by the pink light, by the sights of the Crow's Foot to the South (not steep enough to ski) and the Medusa Face of Mount Olympus to the North (too steep for me).

Maybe this is coming from Facebook, from the carefully constructed presentations I'm seeing from people I knew once or maybe never. Maybe it's that I'm learning things about my friends - via Facebook - that I've never heard from their mouths, and it makes me wonder if I've been kind enough to them, if I've been the friend they need.

I think we're hard wired to be attracted to some people and opposed to others. If we like someone, I think we feel it before we know it, that something inside - our souls, our hearts, our mind's eye - tells us, "go ahead, it's ok...you'll be able to trust this person forever."

And in the same way, no matter how much we want to share ourselves with some people, sometimes we just can't. We see similarities, we like the way they look, we want to be their friend, but something holds us back; something says no.

I thought about all this today, at work, while listening to Rob Zombie. I know, it seems incongruous, especially after my ode to Ryan Adams in the previous post (of course, Ryan's musical roots are in heavy metal, so I guess it's really not that much of a departure).

I hate violence, horror movies, loud noises, agression (I'm starting to sound a bit like Buster)...but I love Rob Zombie. Something about him intrugues me. I'm drawn to him. I think he's probably a nice guy; I think we'd be friends.

I don't know where I'm going with any of this. I'm just feeling lucky tonight, I guess, for meeting new friends, for reconnecting with old ones. I feel lucky, too, that it's never over, this evolution of self. We aren't static; today is finite - this too shall pass - but it launches us into what comes next. There are so many people to meet, so many experiences to anticipate, fear, learn from, enjoy.


An Apparent Obsession

It feels like spring tonight, the breeze warm and the snow melty. I came home from work, walked Arnie to the park and played with him and his friend, the stick, for an hour, then unpacked groceries, stacked my new library books neatly on my nightstand and made dinner.

And now I’m here, snoozy Arnie resting his head on my feet and dinner, a BSE, beside me.

A BSE: salami, fresh mozzarella, baby spinach, garlic aioli, crusty bread. BSE. Best Sandwich Ever.

Today on Facebook I mentioned how much I was digging the Ryan Adams cd I was listening to (Easy Tiger – brilliant, as always), and my old friend Max commented that he’d just seen him in concert, and that the show was “flawless.” And I thought, “What a perfect description for this music. It is flawless.”

I’m still listening to Ryan Adams now, and it’s motivating me to write and play my guitar. It always does, which is why it’s all or nothing with him and me. There’s no halfway, I’m either listening to him and only him (well, and Whiskeytown, but that’s still him), or his playlists are collecting dust. His music is just too intense and brings back too many memories for me unless I’m feeling really grounded and present.

I know I’ve told you about the night he played at Zeno’s, the best bar in State College, but I’ll tell you again.

It was right after he left Whiskeytown, and he was passing through on his way from the South back to New York, and for some reason, he played an impromptu gig at our small, dark, basement bar. $5 at the door. Just him and his guitar. Only about half the people there that night knew who he was – those who did were as starstruck as I – so the crowd was talking and laughing and just having fun on a Friday night in a bar.

A bit of a primadonna, he got pissed at all the “$5 dollar assholes” who wouldn’t shut up and stormed off “stage” (really just an area clear of tables). I was working at Zeno’s at the time, and was sitting by the back door, checking IDs. He made his way right to me, and I remember that tunnel vision thing happening, where all I could see was him walking toward me, and everything else going all fuzzy. I cannot remember exactly what I said to him, or what he said to me, but I know he was upset and needed calming down, and I know I told him that he should keep playing, that the $5 dollar assholes didn’t get it and that plenty of the rest of us did, and I remember him taking his sunglasses off and looking hard at me, trying to figure out if I was fucking with him or not. And then he walked back out and finished his set, and I biked home that night dying to laugh with my dear friend, Jon – also a big fan and also in the crowd that night – about the antics, the drama, the fact that he wore his sunglasses indoors. We still laugh about “$5 assholes” when we see each other. It was such a good night.

Don't know his stuff? Here he is without the shades.

Here he is with the shades.


Today and beyond.

Today was:
Brad and dog time
Skate Skiing
Dog hiking
Good food
West Wing on dvd (love that show)

With any luck, tomorrow will bring more of the same. Maybe a Nordic race, too, just for fun.

And some climbing, because it's about time to get in shape for Kalymnos, where we're heading in March or April. I think we'll have fun there; with varied climbing grades and lots of swimming, eating and scooter-riding opportunities, it'll be a relaxing vacation for both of us. Also, with any luck, we'll go after Brad has achieved another round of Yosemite goals (they just keep coming - like white trash babies), so he'll be on the sport climbing program and not worried about El Cap or Half Dome fitness (he's always fit, though, so it's not a valid concern...kind of like me worrying about not petting Arnie enough).

But there's something else on my mind, something that's occupying as much space as Nepal did in my early twenties, wwhen I didn't know why, but I knew I needed to be there - I knew there was something in Nepal waiting for me. So I went. And I was right.

And now it's Scotland. I have no idea why, I don't know where this is coming from, but I want to go there, to Scotland, to Tomich and Lewis and Edinburgh and Glasgow. There's no climbing in Scotland (no offense to any Scottish climbers who may be reading); there's no skiing. At first glance it seems out of character, but the truth is, I don't need to take any more climbing vacations (after Kalymnos, because that one will be really fun). I'd rather go somehwere to learn something, to be shocked out of narrative (thank you, Mark Doty, for that line) by difference and culture and meeting people who've lived on the same land their whole lives, land that's been in their families for 10 generations. (Yeah, you're right, and yes, I could just go to the hills of West Virginia for that kind of inbred kitsch, but they don't have lochs in the Appalachains. Just hollers and cricks, and I've seen those.)

But that's it - that's the other thing on my list of goals for 2009: go to Scotland.

With that, I'm off to read Fodor's Scotland, Lonely Planet Scotland, Frommer's Scotland and - just for good measure - "Notes from a Small Island."