Zephyr 98 Archive

Archive for August 2009

and if that’s poor grammar, well, I’m on a short leash today.  But the posts referenced below are worth reading by anyone who writes (fiction, at least):

Earlier this summer a science/speculative fiction writing workshop was held in India that sounds exciting and a wonderful model for something similar in the US (though as an even more multi-cultural melange than the sessions held in Kanpur).

Two of the sessions founding feathers (Vandana Singh and Anil Menon) describe their experiences starting here and here. Read Vandana’s first–there’s more background; then jump on Mr Menon’s wild ride.

Read em and pluck your eyes out with envy, or, better, your heartstrings with desire to participate in something as rich here in the states (that doesn’t cost a fortune, that is as much about writing as a state of awareness as craft, etc.).

Maybe there are workshops like this in the US–I haven’t seen or heard of them, though. Maybe that’s the problem–they are here but there’s not enough publicity.

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As I thought, “translating” the original story of the blue bear to text was hard, but not completely in the way I anticipated. I found myself adding details in text that I could overlook when telling out loud–when theatrics are at least as important as details, and logic isn’t always necessary (or even desired, depending on the age of the audience). But text is something else. I finished a solid draft and am reviewing it to see what makes sense as illustration notes or what can be implied with nudges for the illustrator, and what works fine alongside an illustration, even if it’s redundant. Good progress, though–I’m happy with the results so far, especially since (intentionally) I wrote it on notebook paper during a car drive to and from a day hike at Silver Falls.

My job this weekend, stated in this journal,* is to put to paper the story I’ve been telling to my successive kids for years on why bears are earth toned, shy, and easily annoyed. While I fantasize otherwise, I don’t expect it to be easy to translate a never told twice the same tale to paper, capturing what always made it work (and writing text that encourages children to interact the way mine have naturally). Then find an illustrator–perhaps one of my older boys…. It would be fantastic to find a publisher and if that fails, I’ll self-publish for extended family and friends and still be happy.

So by Monday there’ll be a new page on this site (not a blog entry), populated by a river run of salmon, a idiosynchratic blue bear, a large enough boulder, the bear’s patient friends mountain lion and moose, and a crafty racoon. There, signed my name to that promissary note. Now to keep everything under the sun from frightening me into home maintenance tasks and not writing (that new fence needs staining, but there’s summer enough left).

*Does anyone but me detest the word “blog,” which sounds too much like blop, flop, blip, splat, and other words that resonate with the smack of slung mud or cowpies, or the slap of hot taters on plastic plates in school cafeterias (not that I don’t have fond memories of all those things). Or, maybe,”blog” gives the writer permission to throw or serve up anything and run away laughing and the reader to dodge or dig in, indiscriminately. Or, in comments, return service.

Blog also sounds like a volume of pages stuck together with jam or, in the case of some I’ve found, with bodily fluids. It also sounds like snog, which, following the trail of crackling synapses, reminds me of how I would tease my (not yet then) wife when we were in (gasp) high school, chasing her round the room declaring, “I kiss you now!”

…or was it a shark hunt? Or a micro cache hunt?

Scenes from last week’s camping trip to the north side of Tillamook Bay:

Teens find 3′ blue shark on the beach, drag it back to camp, ponder pulling its teeth for a necklace until Mother steps in for the kill.

Youngest son finds his sense of balance and becomes one with his bicycle, joining his cousins on roundabouts round the campground. (Dad gets an appropriate amount of exercise running alongside till son achieves equilibrium.)

Children of all ages go geo-caching (with GPS and printouts in hand):

  • Front wheeling (in a minivan) up scary logging roads with National Geographic views
  • Clambering to the top of the bent and hoary forested rock known as the largest of the Three Graces, accessible (on foot) only at low tide
  • Probing the intimate undersides of parked steam trains at the local “train and chain” park
  • Poking between windswept, storm giant-sized boulders in the mini Hadrians wall known as the North Jetty
  • Discovering the cleverly disguised puzzle box at another roadside attraction

Dad (me) kicks back at the top of the big dune that overlooks Tillamook bay and its raucous and sometimes deadly bar, a view that on sun-baked days makes me want to radiate ad nauseum about brush stroked blue-gold sparkling waters and foaming wave crests against the improbably rugged emerald studded crenelations of the Oregon Coast Range. (I warned you, and I was showing restraint.) Then there are days when competing pressure zones lock the bay in sun and the ocean in fog, where boats crossing the bar enter or exit from alternate dimensions (Stephen Kingish, Lovecraftian, or Dunsanyan). Those days are indescribably cool for people (like me) who grew up on fantasy literature.

Everyone eats like sunburned and sandy royalty when different parties return at days end with fresh bought oysters in the shell, fresh dug clams, fresh caught salmon and sea bass, so mouth watering that we replace our differences in politics and religion with Dionysian exclamations of wonder and, yes, tears of joy. In between mouthfuls. (If you don’t like seafood, fresh or otherwise, then there’s no help for you. None at all.)

Onomatopoeic Food Justice
The local Whole Foods makes a sandwich I’ve grown partial to. They call it a Hawthorne–after the trendy old SE Portland street or neighborhood, not the prickly tree with healing properties. It’s a folded pita slathered with hummus, tahini, and horseradish and stuffed with falafel, tomato, lettuce, and red onion. It’s cheap, tasty, and fills me to the gills.
For the last week they’ve been out of falafel, so no Hawthornes. They don’t make it themselves, even though they have a full kitchen behind the prepared foods counter. Apparently, it’s made by a serendipitous little falafel maker in parts unknown, who ships it frozen in little roughhewn green brown briquettes, the kind you might use to build a cozy desert doll house (where you could pretend they ate their way out of house and home).  Every day I showed up at the sandwich counter. The sandwich makers came to know me by my woe and no longer asked, just shook their heads.
I’m not a vegetarian. I have other choices. I just really like those sandwiches. I don’t care if they put something in them that makes me suffer in silence when I can’t have one.
Today, I showed up just to follow the ritual–I to nod, they to shake their heads, I to shrug and shuffle off. But today, the two sandwich makers were too busy to look at me. Customers 10 deep pressed against the sandwich counter. All around the sandwich maker’s workspace, shiny rectangular steel bins were stacked with falafel as high as gravity allowed and perched wherever space allowed. The makers were so pressed by falafel they rubbed hard against each other every time they reached for ingredients, behavior that under normal conditions would surely be an HR violation. From their muttering (and cursing) I learned that they had received an elephantine delivery of falafel: a semi-full; a falafelapooza; a robust fellowship of falafel; falafel for the politely fidgeting masses. There had been a falafel backup between the source and store that a capable shipping agent had finally unclogged.
I managed to slip between bodies in the crowd till I reached the counter. We were like the faithful present at the resurrection, but civilized about it, focused on our goal, meditative, patient, doing nothing that would cause the makers to delay delivery of the body to our lips and tongue. They should server communion falafel at church–attendance would increase 100-fold.
The makers, for their part, were more than generous in distributing falafel. Every sandwich was stuffed with a double helping and for every steel bin emptied and kicked under the counter, the makers whooped. My favorite maker, she of the dark-rimmed lenses, cherubic nose, and twist of dark hair that she constantly puffed out of her face, delivered me first, pressing a brown paper bundle twice as fat as usual into my hands like precious cargo, her eyes wishing me away. The crowd murmured and pressed the counter harder while I squeezed out to the registers.
The cashier proclaimed, Man dude, that is one sandwich!, and punched my sandwich card twice (buy 10 get one free).
I cradled the bundle all 5 blocks back to my office, slid my door shut, unscrewed my bottle of green tea, and, with sharp office scissors–the kind people sometimes run with–I sliced open the wrapper. It fell in half like the unclasping of two hands revealing treasures of the Orient. It rested sensuously on my desk not like a baby (I’m no cannibal!) but a fat beautiful brown breast–with food stuck to it–waiting my hungry mouth.
And I wrapped my hands around it, squeezing gently on the ends to keep the ingredients in place. And creating an opening in the middle of the sandwich, like a wide smile or a birth opening. Falafel burst out like fireworks, hit the floor, and exploded, scattering tiny golden brown fried chickpea kernels over my shoes, under my desk, everywhere but in my mouth. Later I counted eight pieces (one for each letter in falafel, I realized later). I sat on the floor in the middle of the golden carpet, finished the sandwich with 4 pieces of falafel, tomato, onion, lettuce, hummus, tahini, and horseradish, then spent the rest of my lunch hour collecting the pieces by hand for the trash.
Falafel. A word meant to explode across the floor. A food that cannot be packaged in a single metaphor. A place in the universe where a little brown person (or people) sits rolling and frying balls of spiced chickpeas and have no time for the folly of Western gluttony, and are not beyond teaching a lesson.

The Whole Foods market near my office makes a sandwich to which I’ve grown partial. They call it the Hawthorne–after the trendy old SE Portland street or neighborhood, not the prickly tree with healing properties. It’s a folded pita slathered with hummus, tahini, and horseradish and stuffed with falafel, tomato, lettuce, and red onion. It’s cheap, it’s tasty, it’s almost heavenly, and fills me to the gills.

For the last week they’ve been out of falafel, so no Hawthornes. They don’t make the falafel themselves, even though they have a full kitchen behind the prepared foods counter. Apparently, it’s produced by a serendipitous little falafel maker in parts unknown, who ships it frozen in little roughhewn green brown briquettes, the kind you might use to build a cozy desert doll house (where you could pretend they ate their way out of house and home). Every day I showed up at the sandwich counter. The sandwich makers came to know me by my woe and no longer asked, just shook their heads.

I’m not a vegetarian. I have other choices. I just really like those sandwiches. I don’t care if they put something in them that makes me suffer in silence when I can’t have one.

Today, I showed up just to follow the ritual–I to nod, they to shake their heads, I to shrug and shuffle off. But today, the two sandwich makers were too busy to look at me. Customers 10 deep pressed in near silence against the sandwich counter. All around the sandwich-making space, shiny rectangular steel bins were stacked with falafel as high as gravity allowed and perched wherever space allowed. The makers were so pressed by falafel they rubbed hard against each other every time they reached for ingredients, behavior that under normal conditions would surely be an HR violation. From their muttering (and cursing) I learned that they had received an elephantine delivery of falafel: a semi-full; a falafelapooza; a robust fellowship of falafel; falafel for the politely fidgeting masses. There had been a falafel backup between the source and store that a capable shipping agent had finally unclogged.

I managed to slip between bodies in the crowd till I reached the counter. We were like the faithful present at the resurrection, but civilized about it, focused on our goal, meditative, patient, doing nothing that would cause the makers to delay delivery of the body to our lips and tongue. They should server communion falafel at church–attendance would increase 100-fold.

The makers, for their part, were more than generous in distributing falafel. Every sandwich was stuffed with a double helping and for every steel bin emptied and kicked under the counter, the makers whooped. My favorite maker, she of the dark-rimmed lenses, cherubic nose, and twist of dark hair that she constantly puffed out of her face, delivered me first, pressing a brown paper bundle twice as fat as usual into my hands like precious cargo, her eyes wishing me away. The crowd murmured and pressed the counter harder while I squeezed out to the registers.

The cashier proclaimed, “Man dude, that is one sandwich!” and punched my sandwich card twice (buy 10 get one free).

I cradled the bundle all 5 blocks back to my office, slid my door shut, unscrewed my bottle of green tea, and, with sharp office scissors–the kind people sometimes run with–I sliced open the wrapper. It fell in half like the unclasping of two hands revealing treasures of the Orient. The sandwich rested sensuously on my desk not like a baby (I’m no cannibal!) but a fat beautiful brown breast–with food stuck to it–waiting my hungry mouth.

And I wrapped my hands around it, squeezing gently on the ends to keep the ingredients in place. And so spread the middle like a open-mouthed smile or a crowning birth canal. Falafel, previously held in by friction, burst free like fireworks, hit the floor, and exploded, scattering tiny fragrant golden brown fried chickpea kernels over my shoes, under my desk, everywhere but in my mouth. Later I estimated seven large pieces (one for each letter in falafel). I sat on the floor in the middle of the golden carpet, finished the sandwich with four pieces of falafel, and tomato, onion, lettuce, hummus, tahini, and horseradish, then spent the rest of my lunch hour collecting the grains by hand for the trash.

Falafel. A word meant to explode across the floor. A food that cannot be packaged in a single metaphor. A place in the universe where a little brown person (or people) sits rolling and frying balls of spiced chickpeas, has no time for the folly of Western gluttony, and perhaps is not beyond teaching a lesson.