Monday, July 26, 2010


I don't know how high we flew last night, but two hours after landing, I have yet to come all the way down. En-route from Anchorage to Seattle, I woke from fitful airplane sleep to peer out through the small, oval window. The moon, its face bold and woeful, shone full above the wing. Below, low clouds, like crusty frosting, were broken by splotches of black, and through these breaks in the sugary strata, a great river flowed. Upon its water, up and down its length, the moonlight played, dancing in white sparkles, like tiny bursts of fireworks. The horizon curved along the edge of the earth.

The word amazing is used with cavalier indifference these days, but this scene, this moment in time, was. Amazing.

If a city's airport is at all accurate in its reflection of the place it represents, then Seattle is a fine and funky place indeed, worn around the edges, hip in its strangeness, strange in its hipness. There are dozens of Starbucks, sure, but there is also the Seattle Taproom, in which I did not indulge at 5:30 a.m. for reasons other than the fact that it was closed. There's also Ivar's, where, no matter the time of day, breakfast, lunch or dinner, I always stop for a friendly, rich, piping hot bowl of chowder. I could learn to like a place like Seattle.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Home in Alaska

After banging out some words on pages this morning, I took a lovely walk with my classmate/writer-pal Charlotte around a nearby lake here on the University of Alaska Anchorage campus. We talked about our projects, inhaled the fresh, clean Alaska air, exchanged exaltation's regarding the mentors we'd drawn, and enjoyed the many friendly dogs with their humans who shared our path. The walk was followed by a nap. I'm still recovering from the residency. This evening, I ventured to town for dinner. Hanging out in coffee shops alone is one thing, but eating solo in a fancy seafood joint can feel weird. So I took a book to read, though not just any book; I chose one to perpetuate an eccentric, adventurer-to-the-great-north-country image, to help me look the part. And since I don't have a Craig Childs adventurer-style beard, a book about fly fishing with pastel watercolor salmon swimming across the cover seemed like the next best thing. Opening Days, written by another writer-pal, Richard Chiappone, isn't about fly fishing at all. Oh sure, there is lots of casting and hooking and reeling and fly tying and so forth, but the fly fishing is incidental. Opening Days is a collection of essays, short fiction and poetry about conflict, desire and futility. It's hilarious, touching and so beautifully written I became engrossed in it to the point where my halibut turned cold and the waiter grew concerned about whether I would ever slip any money into that black vinyl folder on the table. I did pay the man, eventually, then walked out into the still bright night, passed a dollar to a pathetic fellow on the street, then rumbled back home on the bus.

Home. Tonight is my last here in the dorm. This place feels like home, as much as any place. I can't wait to come home to Alaska again next summer.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Rockin' writers

It's our last night at the residency, and the final shindig was as fun as ever. Last year, I noted that these same writers were terrible dancers. After tonight, however, I've changed my mind. This reversal is based on fervent observation, and the fact that my friend, writer-extraordinaire Samantha Davis, has threatened to pound me to within an inch of my life if I don't retract it. She's no wimp, this Sam. She lives in the woods of Southeast Alaska, teaches eighth grade, kills her own food and fells trees with her teeth. Or something like that. Anyway, at Sam's urging, and upon my own visual inspection and participation in this maniacal frenzy, I shall officially confirm, here in the annals of this venerable blog, that these writers are not terrible dancers. They are enthusiastic, creative, goofy, whimsical and entertaining dancers. They are Barishnikov's with ball-points, journaling Jackson's, Pavlovas with pens, authorial Astaires.

Furthermore, these writers are talented, driven wordsmiths. They are all brilliant, and I am smug for the opportunity to count myself among them.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Writers' on the storm

Anchorage was beautiful today, the kind of day that if you flew in for a layover and this is what you experienced, you'd sell all your stuff, pack up your critters and move here. Until this morning it had been cloudy, and misty off and on, which ain't bad either, but today was spectacular.

An hour-long session with the editor for Red Hen publishing this afternoon had me vacillating between hara-kiri and an overdose of barbiturates as the preferred method of suicide. How do you like these odds: They publish 20 manuscripts for every 5000 sent to them each year, and you've got to know someone connected to the editor, or one of their authors, or be referred by someone just to get them to read your work. It helps to drop names like parachutes over Normandy in your cover letter, lest interns dump your sweat and anguish onto the flaming slush pile. It made me re-think the merits of self-publishing; for a moment. Then I remembered universities and colleges won't hire you if you're not published the old fashioned way. What a racket.

Time for dinner.

Thursday, July 01, 2010

Cali days

I'm in Encinitas, Leucadia to be exact, with my best Gail-friend, uh, Gail. We jogged today, four long, grueling miles, and I'll have you know that I kept up. Never mind that she practically had to walk on her hands to match my pace. Just prior to our workout, I'd gone upstairs at her tiny townhouse -- which is like, 900 square feet bigger than my "real house" (and much cleaner) -- to change into my sporting attire. I bounded down the stairs to meet her on the patio, where I found her watering her tomatoes.
"Ready?" She asked.
"Yep. Two bras. Set to jet," I hopped up and down, trying to act like a jock.
"Why two bras?" She asked.
"I don't like to bounce when I run." She burst out laughing. I mean really, she was rolling.
"Hey, I bounce," I said. She shook her head and walked into the house.
"I've put on 20 pounds over the years," I said. "Seriously, I bounce!" She just snickered. I swear, there's just no reasoning with some people.
So we jogged, then we went to In-and-Out Burger. I ran much farther and faster than I might have alone. It's nice to have somebody to do stuff with. Not that Ron and I don't do stuff. We sit on the couch and make ooh and aah sounds watching Paula Deen drop mounds of butter from an ice cream scoop onto a rib eye steak. We play Scrabble sometimes and he kicks my butt, but in a way we are kicking my butt together, since I am, by virtue of my Scrabble ineptitude, complicit in my own butt kicking. We marvel at the cuteness of our pets. It's all good, to be sure, but there's really no substitute for a good friend who will jog or hike or even just walk with you and then take you to In-and-Out Burger.

This evening, we nibbled on calamari and falafels at a funky place called Roxy, drank fine beer, listened to an amazing Jazz guitarist, returned to Gail's pad, drank fine port and watched a movie. I'm feeling pretty citified right now. Sophisticated. Chic even. Tomorrow, I'm told, we're going to watching pigs race at the county fair. It's just what I came to the big city to do. Like I never see any pigs. Seriously, Gail-friend.

A hui hou. Aloha!