Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Life in the Flow Chart

Yeah. November goes on. Some days, you have to remind yourself to take one step at a time.

I wrote a poem about this a long time ago when I had one daughter (four years old) & one ex (instead of two) & two legs (more or less)  & had only begun to leave my lifelong religion (Christian Science) & ask....why?....what has it all been for??

(My favorite film then--read: my obsessive, see-it-five-or-so-times-in-the-theatre, buy-the-soundtrack-and-learn-the-main-theme-by-ear-on-the-piano-in-the-back-room-at-the-library-on-Wednesday-nights-because-you-just-left-your-own-piano-behind movie--was Jane Campion's The Piano with Harvey Keitel, Holly Hunter & Anna Paquin. If you haven't seen it, rent it tonight. I mean do it. No better November movie exists.)

It was January 1994. I wrote a lot of poems that winter. I got mentally  and artistically loose in a way I'd never allowed myself before. Challenged myself to write about all the things that were forbidden: sensuality, emotion, sexuality, and a wide-open dream log which, I began to understand, made amazing poems. (Try this: just write them down.)

That  winter was a Manly Winter, the likes of which I can't even remember since. We had a major storm once a week for two or three months and totaled over 125" of snow for central upstate NY.  That was the winter a lot of barn roofs caved in, including the indoor arena at the racetrack where I'd exercised so many horses from 1985 to 1992.

I remember shoveling the snow from the spot just ahead of me, repeated ad nauseum. It was how I spent that winter of survival. I was Single, a position I'd been too terrified to face sooner. Which was why, at twenty-two, I'd married the man I was now divorcing at thirty-two.


Here's a poem for November (as Garrison Keillor would say) entitled "Flow Chart" by Liz Heywood. (Garrison & I are sorry about the stripes: chalk it up to cut & paste of a *sigh* newbie inter-web blogger.)

Flow Chart

 In the morning
try to leave at the usual time.

If the truck starts
                      take your daughter to the babysitter.

If the truck won’t start
find a jump:
                       ask your neighbor.
                       ask your best friend.
                       ask your mother.

                                  Jump the truck.
                                  Take your daughter to the babysitter.

                                            Go to work.

               If the truck won’t start after work find a jump:
sk your co-worker.
                                                                       Stop by the garage on the way home
                                                                                (for heavens sake
                                                                                leave the damn truck running.)

                                                   If the car is done, leave the truck.
                                                                                 If the car isn’t done
                                                                                 drive the truck to pick up your daughter
                                                                           (do I have to add leave it running??)

                                         go home.
                                                                                                   …and yeah,
                                                                                                   back into the driveway
                                                                                                   in case etc.
                                                                return to first line

                                                                                  unless it snows.

If it snows:                       

stay home.    


January 17 1994

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Cooking with Liz: Thanksgiving!

Start late. The later the better. Put a movie on the DVD player, one you've seen many times so you can listen to it without having to walk over & watch. Say, Sunshine by Danny Boyle. When it's over, if you're still cooking, start it again with the director's commentary.

Pour yourself a spiced-rum-on-the-rocks.

OK, kids. Tonight we're making the Day Before Stuff for dinner tomorrow night:
Raspberry jello with pineapple
Pumpkin pie
Grasshopper pie
& clam dip.

First: boil the water for the jello. Pick out a casserole dish for it that looks a little too shallow. Use it anyway. Stir up that unnatural red stuff & pop that puppy in the fridge.

Preheat the over (REALLY hot) for the pumpkin pies. (Recipe makes two.) Cover the smoke alarm  (just temporarily!!!. The oven gets turned back down after 15 min.)

Misplace the cinnamon. Realize you have no ginger. Shrug in a cavalier manner and substitute Allspice and Nutmeg. Hope for the best. Whip up those pies.

Meanwhile, thaw the (bought) pastry  pie crusts. Also chill the (bought) chocolate graham cracker crust for the Grasshopper pie. Pop those pumpkin pies in the oven. Refresh your drink.  Pour the leftover pumpkin  pie in a small baking dish & bake...to eat tonight!

Stir the drained crushed pineapple into the jello in the too-shallow baking dish in the fridge. (It was hard enough getting the damn dish in there--don't take it out.)

Slop raspberry jello liberally through the fridge when it overflows the too-shallow dish including into the chocolate graham cracker crust which you rather unwisely have taken the plastic lid off.

Grab the pie crust and attempt to pour the excess red jello into the sink.
Instead, dump the chocolate crust into the dishwater. (See the bonus companion piece to tonight's show: "Cursing with Liz: Thanksgiving!")

Decide that Grasshopper Pie is equally tasty as a  crust-less concoction. Forge ahead, only temporarily slowed as you find the lost cinnamon, hidden in plain sight. Shrug again. Refresh that drink, dammit! It 's a holiday!

Whip up the Grasshopper Pie, melting marshmallows, stirring in creme de menthe and whipping cream from scratch in a bowl not quite deep enough so that you spray the coffee maker with dots of white. Dump it in a plain pie dish, what the hell. Garnish with chopped dark chocolate & freeze that sucker.

Lick off the whipped cream beaters and reminisce how your dad always held the beaters for your family's dog (a terrier named Frances) to lick, when you were a kid. Ah, nostalgia.

Pull the pumpkin pies out of the oven. Taste the extra filling! Yes--it's delicious, despite the improvised spices! You've done it again.

Stir up the clam dip. Yes, you forgot to get garlic. But hey, good thing your daughter grabbed some cloves to plant at the Bulb Giveaway last weekend! Ask her to fetch you one from the bag on the porch waiting to be planted.

Finish the damn dishes, listening to Danny Boyle discuss his sci-fi movie about flying into the sun. A happy thought, here when the year scrapes bottom in the November darkness.

Until we cook again. May you survive the holiday and your relatives. Bon appetit!     :-)

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

November Confessions

Damn, that sounds juicy, doesn't it? I could relate a few stories, that's for sure. I guess it's a good thing to be cresting The Hill (or well down the far side, Over It) and have some wild tales. I definitely have my share. You'll have to wait for my novel.

For me November is a crazy, risky month prone to disaster and fortune, inspiration and despair. The wind and dark evenings shake loose memories, emotions, aches and desires.

Last night I watched the DVD of The Traveling Wilburys which came with the CD set I bought myself for my birthday four years ago. George Harrison was always my favorite Beatle, and I fell in love with "Crackerbox Palace" at fifteen. But Jeff Lynne is my favorite Wilbury (Otis) & my daughter laughed last night when I howled "Jeff!!" every time there was a close up.

So tonight I've played YouTube recordings of early ELO, mainly "Ma-ma-ma Belle" http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TCcAn-_KKtU  and some long, string-filled pieces from ELO 2. (I have it on vinyl but need to clear off the record-player. Plus, my computer speakers are far superior when it come to blasting my tunes.) 

This is how I fight the darkness.

ELO reminded me of an especially obscure offshoot band called Violinski. The inter-webs are a funny phenomena in that they both insult my penchant for The Search (for discontinued out of print records, books etc , for which I combed Cambridge's Harvard Square's used book & record shops back in the late  1970's when I was supposed to be at high school; the Mass Transit bus ran from Hansom Field Air force Base past my house to school and on to Harvard Square...I meant to get off at the school, those days, I really did...) Now it's both satisfying and offensively simple to Google, oh, for instance, the Bonzo Dog Doo-Dah Band and come up with  416,000 results (as I did just now to check) when I spent several years in Cambridge building up a limited collection of their records, each a gold mine. But I digress.

Violinski: Summer 1980. I was eighteen, working at a movie theatre in Lexington Massachusetts, riding my two steeds (Brewster and Sleuth) and working on a novel when I was ambushed by a terrible crush and a song. The crush was a 21 year old projectionist at the movie theatre: Steve. He was shy and/or oblivious, and the only candidate in my orbit. I have always been nothing if not practical.

The song was "Save Me" by Violinski, the offshoot of ELO that cut an album or two in the late seventies. I was smitten by both the song and the fellow at the theatre. It was a long hot summer of unrequited love. I moved heaven and earth to work extra nights; I recorded every glance and scrap of conversation in my journal, sometimes by the bare bulb in the hayloft of the barn where I worked on my novel on an ancient typewriter I lugged up the ladder to pound on those summer midnights as bats flew through the barn's tall doorway.

Look and see, before you try to condemn me
I have been left alone too long...

Daydreams...daydreams...daydreams...save me

Daydreams were all I had, then, but they did save me. It's terrible to be eighteen and never have been asked out, not to mention never kissed--even if you have a sneaking suspicion you've set up a force field around yourself to repel all intruders. (This is wildly obvious in my school picture that year.) I hugged my horses' necks, rode them far and wide, completed my manuscript and, after work, buried myself in the bulky headphones of our living room stereo with Violinski cranked up.

At the end of the summer, still undated, unkissed, I went off to England to train for the British Horse Society's exam. At least I knew could ride a horse and write a book. Dammit. I figured the kissing would catch up.

It did, too.

So for old time's sake, and to escape November, here's "Save Me" by Violinski. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cvH2kCXFJRE  Hey, at least I didn't paste the link to my other Violinski favorite, Cow Caped Crusader.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

November dusk

This time of year can be rough: early sunset, darkness closing like a lid way before I'm ready, and long nights. I would say, long cold nights, but the cold hasn't really arrived.

My four hens were only laying one egg a day, and now have given up. It's the lack of light; last year they quit, but started up exactly one day after the solstice.

I think of this chunk of time--the six or so weeks from when we surrender Daylight Savings and duck into  five o'clock dusk, until Winter Solstice--as its own dark season. November stores some of my worst memories and anniversaries. Car wrecks. People I know & love getting hurt in accidents. A local barn burning down. And when I was a kid, one Saturday in late November was the last, perfect day I ever ran; a bone disease hijacked my leg and life just hours later.

Years vary. I've had good Novembers, and I think my average has improved over the years. I'm still wondering what happened to my summer that was sucked away by the knee replacement surgery. But my knee feels really good and stronger all the time. I'm still adjusting to the increased height in my prosthetic leg (a quarter inch!) and going to the chiropractor a lot. When my steps are awkward and weak I remind myself: it's only hard the first thousand times.

And I'm chugging along writing my YA free-verse novel. At the Highlights workshop (I always want to write/say "clinic" instead of workshop--too many horse training clinics in my previous life)  I heard these novels made of poems called "impressionistic" and "film noir." I really like that: edgy,  uneasy, moody poetry.

Something suitable to  be writing this November.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Nano Rhino & other exotic literary creatures

So today's the day all serious, obsessed, curious and/or desperate writers take to their keyboards. Their goal is to write a 50,000-word novel by the last day of the month. It's called National Novel Writing Month,though when I first heard writers tossing around the abbreviation na-no-wri-mo I pictured a microscopic rhinoceros.

I haven't leaped into the fray, though it's appealing to think of joining all those writers around the world flailing away for a solid month, a literary flash-mob swimming the English Channel. I first climbed Mount Write-A-Book as a kid, and thrashed out the agonies of writer's block, schedules and work ethics on other epic works during my twenties. For better or worse, I have a stack of manuscripts (good, bad & ugly) to show for it. Now my goal is to slow down; I desperately need to learn the technical and structural elements I missed by not going to college.

But there's a headiness in blazing a trail through a complex story towards a deadline, sifting words from brain to screen or page. Crafting a whole novel--even if it never sees print--is a glorious achievement. This is the essence of Na-no-wri-mo. The thought of the myriad individuals crouched over computers makes me nostalgic the way women with tiny babies do...sometimes.

Ah, but I have an idea to join in, in a casual way: "my green-broke" YA novel-in-verse is partially done. I need it readable and reasonable by New Year's. So here's my personal challenge: a complete draft by the last day of this month.

This means writing  several poems per day. There's probably a month for that, but I haven't looked it up. It might even be this month. There are a lot of these events and they all have tongue-twister acronyms. A friend in my critique group participates in Picture Book Idea Month, or Pi-Bo-Ide-Mo, making up a new, solid concept for a picture book every day. She also does Pi-Bo-Wri-Mo. I bet you can figure out that one yourself. See? Isn't this fun? 

Another pragmatic critique group friend plans to stop procrastinating during November. She's christened this G'It-Fu-Do-Mo. Get It the Fuck Done Month. 

I guess that's what I've signed up for. All we need now is a website.