Wednesday, June 29, 2005

Celebrating Marjorie

Maggie says:
What better way to celebrate a great friend's birthday than to gather folks together over food and drinks at our favorite neighborhood bar? That's right: last night we rang up an outrageously huge bar bill at Pearl's over our six hour celebration of all things Marjorie. And really, who deserves a massage in a bar more than a birthday girl? I'd say no one. Happy birthday, Marjorie!

Saturday, June 25, 2005

Return of the Drug Dog

A warning: what follows is bound to be -- out of necessity -- a bit of a shaggy dog story. Pardon the pun.

A week ago Wednesday, on 6/15/05, my dog Cleo and her visiting escape-artist doggy friend Hobbes, who is staying with us for a month until his owner can gather his belongings from New York and get back to New Mexico (perhaps by wagon train, we're not sure), discovered freedom in the form of a not-secure backyard fence. My dog has been happy to trust that she can't get out of the backyard. Hobbes entered her life to show her a whole new world that starts first with the assumption that she must question her own perception of what the boundaries really are. He's a good postmodernist, that dog.

So the two of them went off into the big, bad world. Free and fiesty.

Hobbes returned the next night, waltzing in rather breezily through the back door, as though nothing untoward had happened. We were ecstatic for his return, because really, imagine the guilt of saying you'll keep a dog safe for a month only to lose him on the second day. Not good karma, but then, this story is full of not-good-karma. More on that in a second.

But Cleo was still nowhere to be found, so the search efforts focused on her. Hobbes' uncle -- a friend of mine from way back -- made multiple copies of color flyers, and he and his wife and daughter came over Thursday night to post them all over the neighborhood, as well as to fortify the backyard against further Hobbes break-outs.

I checked the pound website multiple times throughout the day (a fabulous community service, by the way: that gets updated every hour on the hour from both Animal Service locations as well as the Animal Humane Society) and posted flyers before and after work on my bicycle.

Days went by, and no word.

On Saturday, at about 3:30, a new dog was listed on the website: "Female tan pit bull. Age unspecified." Didn't sound to encouraging, but it's worth a call. This dog had been found by Paul, so they patched me through to his cell phone. He said he found the dog on Stanford near Lead with a purple leash tied around her neck. Strange. That's far. I don't have a purple leash, and I don't usually TIE a leash around her neck. He'd gotten the dog's chip scanned, and it was linked to a couple in the NE heights. Also not a good sign, since I'm just one person, and I live downtown. He asked me to describe my dog, and he said, yes, that sounds like her, but does my dog have brindle markings on her belly? No. But hell, I should just come by and take a look, or we would always wonder.

Good point. So I hopped on my bike and huffed up the hill from downtown to Stanford and Lead, near the university, a good 5 miles and railroads and freeway-crossings from home.

And it was her. Thank god. She looked happy as a clam, certainly not any more excited to see me than anyone else who will pet her for a good while. But she came home with me, and that was all I asked. Paul was pretty sad to see her go. Lots of his friends had told him he should just let sleeping dogs lie and keep a good dog when she wanders into your life. Everyone loved her, and she'd pulled him along on his skateboard for the ride of his life. But it's bad karma to keep a dog without checking for a loving owner, and Paul did the right thing. He hadn't known about the reward, but he was pretty happy when I brought it up. "I've never gotten a reward before," he said, thanking me. It was my pleasure. I had my dog back! I had told the universe I'd do anything. This was the least I could do.

Happy ending, right?

That was Saturday.

Sunday morning, the dogs were playing happily in the front yard, while I changed into shorts to take them for a long walk to the dog park, a little celebratory walk, as it were. I glanced outside my window down on the front lawn, and what do I see, but Cleo on the other side of the fence, walking free down the sidewalk, Hobbes leading the way. I run downstairs yelling and quickly corral them back into the yard. I notice Cleo's not walking on one of her legs. It hangs a little crazily from the hip, and she can't seem to fold it under her when she sits. Instead, she sits on her knees with her feet awkwardly splayed out behind her, holding herself up with her arms looking for all the world like a yoga upward-dog.

I look her over, and she's scraped up pretty bad. I think she's probably just sprained something, and it will get better over the next couple days. It doesn't. She looks miserable.

By the time I take her to the vet -- and to the surgery clinic after that -- it's been too long. They can't repair the hip. They have to cut the top of the femur off to stop the bones from rubbing, and she'll just have limited mobility for the rest of her life. Oh my god, right?

The surgery goes well, and Cleo comes home in good spirits but pretty clumsy with that big, silly cone on her head. Her hip is all Frankenstein gruesome, but she's already trying to put weight on it, so that's a good sign.

Alls well that ends well, right? A little worse for wear, but home. The adventure ends.

But there's one more twist. Oliver-style.

Today, I get a voicemail from a neighbor who sounds frantic. She just today saw the signs for Cleo -- and one for Cleo and Hobbes. She lives on Mountain and 7th, where the dogs wandered by on Wednesday evening. She put them in the dog run in her yard, but before she could figure out what to do with them, a neighbor came by when she was gone and stole the dogs. Apparently, they let Hobbes go (after which he hightailed it home, apparently) and sold Cleo for heroin. Not kidding. Whoever got the good end of the trade then must have taken Cleo to the university area, tied a purple leash around her neck, and tried to tie her up somewhere.

But never underestimate the power of pit bulls' strongest canine jaws. She can chew through most things in minutes. This includes leather. A bit of purple leash must have been like chewing through a fruit roll-up.

That's when Paul found her.

I knew she had an adventure, but good god! Drugs. Kidnapping. Escape. My dog's sordid underbelly life!

I hope she can be satisfied with our nerdy life here on Forrester Street. Here's hoping that she's had enough adventure to last her for a long, long while.

Ojos de Brujo

Saw this show last night at the beautiful new performance space at the National Hispanic Cultural Center.


I don't know how in the world they would be able to transfer that energy and passion and precision and freedom within tightness into digital form, but if any remnant remains, it will be worth buying.

This band from Spain follows Flamenco culture -- picking up bits and pieces of the traditions it comes across. This band adds rap and hip-hop scratching and beat boxing to beautiful gypsy melodies and out-of-this-world percussion. The lead singer is strong woman personified and raised to legendary status while still somehow remaining quintessentially herself. Don't we all want a bit of that for ourselves? If so, click here and buy.

Friday, June 24, 2005

Ode to genius girls

Maggie says:
Everyone who knows me knows that I adore my three girl cousins. Introducing Zoe, 9, Sophie, who turned 12 today, and Sally, 9, three residents of Kitty Hawk, NC, right here on the beach. These three are just the most brilliant, fun, and beautiful girls I've ever known. And I'm related to them!

Here's an example of why they're such geniuses: whereas it usually takes me about a year to successfully explain what "planning" is to a professional type, these girls just get it. We were all swimming in the ocean the other day and after confirming that yes, I'm still getting a master's in community and regional planning and no, I still haven't finished my thesis, these three came up with not one but three job possibilities for me if I moved back to NC. And get this: they're not the typical, boring building code/zoning possibilities most people suggest (I know, I know, both of those things can be cutting edge, they're just not cool to talk about) - these are three kick ass job ideas. Here's my best attempt at quoting their mutual brainstorm about my future:
1. "You could help out the farmers in Washington County who are losing their land and having a really hard time farming."
2. "You could make sure the OLF (Outlying Landing Field, basically a practice field the Navy has been trying to locate in northeastern NC on exisiting farmland) doesn't get built on someone's home."
3. "You can work for the beach and help stop all this development and the tourists from ruining everything."

Maybe one day I'll be as smart as these three. :-)

Thursday, June 23, 2005

Water, water everywhere!

Maggie says:
The best thing about visiting home from Albuquerque is getting reacquainted with water. I never really feel at home until I'm next to some. On the Outer Banks, we have the ocean on one side and the sound on the other. Fresh or salt, rough or calm, deep or shallow, take your pick. Water, water everywhere!

The ocean in Duck, NC two mornings ago.

This morning, kayaking on the sound. That's the Currituck lighthouse ahead of me.

Oh yeah, and reading? Too much going on! I did finish "Ya-Yas in Bloom" and am starting "Anna Karenina," but I'm doing too much swimming and sunning and catching up and sightseeing to have my backpack full of novels completed. And I think that's a good thing...

Friday, June 17, 2005

On location and loving it

Maggie says:
After workingworkingworking to meet a big deadline, here I am on the other side of that deadline... done. For now, anyway. I'm at home in North Carolina with my family smelling gardenias in the yard and seeing green everywhere, eating food that's never as good as it is here, feeling my bones sink into the right spots, seeing my hair frizz up again like it always used to, feeling my skin re-moisturize, and noticing that my smile just stays. Thank god for home. No matter where we go or what we do, it's always there for us, ready to give us what we need.

Tomorrow morning, we're off to the beach for a week and I have a backpack full of juicy novels ready to go. If this vacation goes as planned, it should be a much more m-pyrical time than an m-pyre one. I'll let Marjorie and Mikaela be serious for the next ten days (although I did get fired up reading some politics on the plane, so we'll see). Here's hoping that my biggest dilemma for a while is SPF 30 versus SPF 15...

Haunted by "The Hours"

Maggie says:
I just finished "The Hours," a book I meant to read in 1998, when it was published and first recommended to me, and then definitely meant to read in 2002, when the movie came out. But for whatever reason I just now got around to it, and I didn't even really read it, not the way I just read "Bel Canto" or "The Legend of Max Tivoli." Nope, I devoured "The Hours." I can't say enough about this novel.

Sometimes I feel that books are waiting for us to find them when the time is right. This was my time to read "The Hours," my time to be absolutely haunted by Mrs. Brown. The funny thing is, I didn't love the movie. I felt it was more a movie to respect and appreciate than love. I saw it once and never really thought about it again. But now I can't wait to give it another try. And the other thing that strikes me after reading this: I enjoy reading Michael Cunningham write about Virginia Woolf writing her novels more than I do actually reading Virginia Woolf's novels. Is that lame of me? I didn't even like Woolf's "Mrs. Dalloway." And now in this novel I adore, Virginia Woolf's novel that didn't touch me in the least is a central character in this book, what ties the story lines together, and I see it in a new light.

Two passages from "The Hours" that I can't stop thinking about, ones that just sear through my head:
- "Maybe there is nothing, ever, that can equal the recollection of having been young together."
- "There's just this for consolation: an hour here or there when our lives seem, against all odds and expectations, to burst open and give us everything we've ever imagined."

What an achievement to write this: a book about hopelessness, about trying to be who you're "supposed to be," about the gap between that person and who you really are. I think each of us is every woman in this book: a little bit Mrs. Dalloway, a little bit Mrs. Brown, and a little bit Virginia Woolf herself. I know that I sure am.

Thursday, June 16, 2005

Nob Hill Novelty

from Guadalajara to Kelley's
he's traveled
to tell me the story of Corbu

how the architect appropriated
his grad student’s chair
turned her face
for the photo
so she became just another object
in master-planned space

feminist mexican architect sips a beer
cars speed by on Route 66
our conversation window-shops

when he smiles
the ketchup on my fingers
tastes of cilantro

Serious news with not-serious personal consequences

Hey, gals,

I read this very serious news report and couldn't help but laugh. I think Pol Pot may be hitting the big time for cultural consciousness. He's in the news:

Durban Defends Guantanamo ‘Nazi’ Comments
Dick Durbin, the number 2 Democrat in the Senate, is under fire for comments he made earlier this week on the Senate floor blasting the conduct of US forces at Guantanamo. Durbin quoted from an FBI agent's report describing prisoners being chained to the floor without food or water in extreme temperatures. He said "If I read this to you and did not tell you that it was an FBI agent describing what Americans had done to prisoners in their control, you would most certainly believe this must have been done by Nazis, Soviets in their gulags, or some mad regime — POL POT or others — that had no concern for human beings." Republicans have called on Durbin to apologize for the comments but last night Durbin released a statement saying "This administration should apologize to the American people for abandoning the Geneva Conventions and authorizing torture techniques that put our troops at risk and make Americans less secure."

I don't know if this means we'll be MORE likely to be called Pol Pot for being planners, since he'll be on everyone's mind, or LESS likely, since maybe now more people will actually understand the seriousness of the charge.

Drunken debate may never be the same!

Friday, June 10, 2005

C'mon guys, you can do better than this

From Flying Star downtown, Mikaela and I just realized that our conversation about recent events was turning into a list of all the ways men can kill their chances. We decided it was too good not to document. We sought out Marjorie for this one, too - she had some gems to add:
  • Bad grammar in the first e-mail
  • You "happen" to see his car drive by when you're hanging out with friends... on multiple occasions
  • He calls your roommate Pol Pot to make a point about planning (Trust us, it happened and it wasn't pretty)
  • Falsely and arrogantly assuming that the poem you just shared is about him
  • Grammatical errors in poems he writes for you (noticing a grammar pattern here?)
  • Breaking things in your apartment
  • Confessing love too early
  • No sympathy for food poisoning... that he caused
  • Being overly competitive at games you don't give a shit about - and then being overly exuberant at beating you in said games (think foosball)
  • On the first date suggesting that you pick up this bill and he'll get it next time, hoping that'll entice you for a second date just to recoup your costs
  • Wearing a tee shirt to Flying Star that says "Fuck Artists" and then casually thumbing through magazines as if the good reading is what brings him here and not the single ladies (this guy is sitting across from us right now!)
  • Responding to every comment of yours with "But that's not what my mom says"
  • He takes you to dinner at his parents' house and upon finishing his meal promptly leaves the table with his plate on it to go watch television (ladies - the way a man treats his mother is exactly how he’ll treat you)
  • His otherwise calm and pleasant manner flies out the window as soon as he gets behind the steering wheel -- every journey is a screaming, swearing onslaught against other drivers
  • You realize the book he’s carrying around in his back pocket is a bible
We have more, but let's leave it at that before we have to hit up the dessert selection downstairs in desperation. (And we don't mean the guy in the tee shirt.)

A little creative writing from the NHCC

Wondering where Mikaela is?

She's having the time of her life teaching at the National Hispanic Cultural Center with 9 teenagers and thinking about culture and place and how the two are the same. And different.

Here's a little taste of what I mean:

Peddling in Barelas

What they sell
we buy
resisting in stolen moments
of intimacy between the races.

I ride through Barelas –
bridge between
South Valley Pride
we-can-never-admit-we-have-history-unless-it-brings-tourists downtown –
toward home.

I pass hermanos y hermanas
shy wave
to say:
hello – thank you – good day –
I’m fighting, too.

Pedaling in the sunshine
I labor to push forward
a world with
no work force
only work with.

My resistance:
to see people
to see structure
to understand

to use my body and my hands and my days
to hold back the collapsing walls
of global culture that say:
you can only buy freedom
consume and be consumed;
there is no creation
no faith
no connection beyond transaction;
and the hand that feeds you
will teach you the limit of love.

My love holds out the possibility
of dignity
culture not out of a box.

The neighborhoods I pass
hold themselves together
with woven cords.

I work with
those who would fight
for their right to stay.

Thursday, June 09, 2005

on sheep

marjorie says...

I’ve recently begun reading a novel called Independent People, which was written in 1946 by Halldor Laxness of Iceland. This book has pulled me right in, from the very beginning -- I know y’all can relate to what a great feeling that is. It’s set in the early part of the twentieth century in Iceland -- it’s largely about peasantry, their culture as well as their daily realities -- sheep for instance. So, for my initial post on M-Pyrical I thought I would share a passage from the book about sheep…

“Well,” said Thorir of Gilteig, “if you were to ask me my opinion I should say that there’s nothing to fear as long as you manage to keep them clear of diarrhea in the wintertime. Even if the maggots are coming out of their nostrils I don’t see why you should worry as long as their bellies are clean. And as long as their bellies are clean, surely anyone would expect them to stand the early spring grass. However, I may be wrong in this as in so many other things.”

“No,” said the bridegroom, “you’re quite right. Ragnar of Urtharsel, who they say is lying on his death-bed, was of the same opinion, and he was a genius with diarrhea, I can tell you. But where it was lambs that were affected he was a great believer in chewing-tobacco. I remember he told me when I stayed with him a year or two ago that there were some winters when he gave his lambs as much as four ounces of the best; and he said he would sooner stint his family of their coffee, not to mention sugar, than see his lambs go short of their chaw.”

“Well, no one ever praised me for my husbandry,” observed Elinar of Undirhlith, the psalmist and commemorative poet of the district, “and I can’t say I mind at all, because I’ve noticed that those who worry most about making both ends meet prosper least in this world; fortune somehow seems to make them her special sport. But if I was to give you my opinion, according to my own understanding, I should say that if the fodder does little to keep the lambs free of maggots, chaw will do even less. Chaw might well be of some help when things are desperate, but when all is said and done, chaw is chaw and fodder fodder.”

“True enough, every word of it,” cried Olafur of Yztadale, swift of speech and rather shrill of voice. “Fodder is always fodder. But there’s fodder and fodder, as I thought anybody could see for himself, considering the number of times the zoologists have said so in the papers. And one thing is quite certain: it’s in some of the fodder that the damned bacteria that produce the maggots are hidden. Bacteria are always bacteria surely, and no maggot was ever produced without bacteria. I thought everybody could see that for himself. And where are the bacteria originally, may I ask, if they aren’t in the fodder?”

“I don’t know, I don’t argue about anything these days,” replied Thorir of Gilteig. “We try to see that the animals have decent fodder; and we try to see that the children have a good Christian upbringing. It’s impossible to say where the worm begins - either in the animal kingdom or in human society.”

Saturday, June 04, 2005

Anxiously awaiting "Six Feet Under"

Maggie says:
As far as I'm concerned, recent television history has given us three brilliant TV shows: Sex and the City, Six Feet Under, and Arrested Development.

To review: Sex and the City wrapped up last fall, Six Feet Under is about to begin its last season, and Arrested Development is under constant threat of being yanked by Fox (although supposedly it's safe for next season). So basically, what I think of as great television either isn't in line with what TV executives think is great television or just inherently has a very short creative lifespan. Another interesting tidbit here is that two of these three shows are on HBO, not network TV. And to throw a real wrench in this: I don't even have basic cable anymore, much less HBO, so how in the world am I going to tune into this last and crucial season of Six Feet Under?

Somehow, I'll find in a way. In the meantime, for those of you lucky readers who do have HBO and for some reason are not already as infatuated with this show as I am, let me do my best to peak your interest:

Six Feet Under revolves around the Fisher family of southern California, who run a family funeral home and are an average American family full of deceit, unhappiness, cut-throat sarcasm, and regular conversations with the late Mr. Fisher (yep, he's dead and is a regular character). The general doomsday feel of this show is marked by the fact that every episode begins by showing someone dying, who then ends up as a customer of the Fishers. So growing up in a home defined by death probably makes for some very interesting people in this family, wouldn't you say? Oh yes. Every character on this show is perfect: perfectly cast, perfectly written, so interesting. And Alan Ball (he wrote American Beauty, too) is just a genius for creating this show that so aptly gets these characters and their individual struggles (like why none of them can ever really be happy, ever really feel that they're in control of their lives). And in classic Ball fashion, there's a twist to everything: the most stable relationship is a gay couple, the homemaker mother was having affairs long before her husband was killed, etc. This show makes we wish I wrote it, makes me wonder how I can be such a combination of intellectual cynic and obnoxious optimist, makes me think we probably all are on some level.

I can't say it enough: Six Feet Under is brilliant. Give it a try. (And once you're hooked, all the old seasons are on DVD at Blockbuster!)

Fixing her Hair

Maggie offers:

"Fixing Her Hair," a great Ani DiFranco song

she's looking in the mirror
she's fixing her hair
and I touch my head to feel
what isn't there
she's humming a melody
we learned in grade school
she's so happy
and I think
this is not cool
'cause I know the guy
she's been talking about
I have met him before
and I think
what is this beautiful beautiful woman
settling for?

she bends her breath
when she talks to him
I can see her features begin to blur
as she pours herself
into the mold he made for her
and for everything he does
she has a way to rationalize
she tells me he don't mean what he do
she tells me he called
to apologize

he says he loves her
he says he's changing
and he can keep her warm
and so she sits there like america
suffering through slow reform
but she'll never get back the time
and the years sneak by
one by one
she is still playing the martyr
I am still praying for revolution

and she still doesn't have what she deserves
but she wakes up smiling every day
she never really expected more
that's just not the way we are raised
and I say to her, you know, there's plenty of really great men out there
but she doesn't hear me
she's looking in the mirror
she's fixing her hair

You didn't hear about the 'Sideways' sequel?

Maggie says:
I already loved Sideways. I saw it twice in the theater and thought that as usual Alexander Payne did an amazing job of telling a story that was biting and aching and tender and bittersweet and hilarious and sad all at once. Plus, the wine humor combined with failed writer humor are right up my alley.

But watching the DVD commentary of Sideways is so funny that it left me crying I was laughing so hard. It's so good it's like a movie unto itself. Paul Giamatti and Thomas Haden Church grace us with their witty selves as they hang out and watch their movie together. What they mostly do is sit back and make fun of themselves and each other, profess adoration of their female co-stars, and also offer some great insight into their characters.

When the movie came out I wrote this piece on m-pyre about how refreshing it was to see real-looking people in a movie. But Giamatti and Church take their "real" appearances to task in two hours of jokes that basically make fun of how they look. In the sex scene, Church describes his ass as "two pillows filled with milk" and describes himself throughout the movie as being "in my fertile crescent of middle-aged doughiness." The funniest Giamatti line is "I'm working on a pair of perky man breasts, aren't I?" When Church agress, Giamatti fires back with "It's my gift to America, frankly."

These two cracked me up during this commentary and come across as real people who genuinely like each other and loved working on this movie. This was the first time I ever watched an entire movie's worth of commentary. As good as this was, I think I'll start poring through my DVD collection to see what other commentary gems I might have.

Wednesday, June 01, 2005

Ana Istaru (Costa Rica)

Mikaela offers:
Solitude, solitude so sought after ... I love you
so much, that I'm sometimes afraid that God
will punish me some day by filling my life up with you ...

from These are not sweet girls