PROSE+POETRY

Hard To Be The Bard

Dedicated to writers everywhere. The novelists, essayists, poets, journalists, authors, diarists, historians, lyricists… and the most noble of all the scribes: bloggers! We do it, even when it’s hard, because there’s a bit of the Bard in each of us.

Something Rotten is one of the hottest tickets on Broadway this season, nominated for 10 Tony Awards including Best Musical. And Christian Borle, who plays The Bard, won the Tony for Best Featured Actor. Enjoy his performance of “It’s Hard to be The Bard”.

If you’re in a part of the world where that YouTube video isn’t available, head over to Broadway.com to find it there.

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The Days of Anna Madrigal

I made the following post at the end of January, as Armistead Maupin’s ninth and final Tales of the City book was published. The Days of Anna Madrigal sat on my nightstand for the past six months; I wasn’t ready to say goodbye to Michael, Mary Ann, Brian – and certainly not to Anna.

I finally opened it last week. And I can report that this is a very fond farewell to the ‘logical family’ of Tales. Wickedly funny. Poignant. Wistful. Triumphant. If you are reluctant, as I was, to dive in, do: the waters are as warm and inviting as ever. If you are unfamiliar with Armistead Maupin and his series of novels spanning the last 40 years, check your library or bookstore for the first book, Tales of the City. Most anyone who will see this post is likely to fall in love with these tales. And in that happy event, you’ve got eight more books ahead of you!

The End

They say you should never meet your heroes.

Armistead Maupin Armistead Maupin

Well, I don’t know who “they” are, or who they choose as their heroes… but I can tell you that they are wrong. I met one of mine tonight, and he did not disappoint.

I wonder how many people who will see this even recognize the name: Armistead Maupin. In 1976, The San Francisco Chronicle started running a daily serial by Maupin – and so began an extraordinary adventure called Tales of the City.

TalesoftheCity.coverThe City is San Francisco, and the Tales center on three main characters: Mary Ann Singleton is a naive young woman from Ohio who takes a vacation in San Francisco and decides to stay. She finds a room in a boarding house at 28 Barbary Lane (Macondray Lane steps, in our world) on Russian Hill, presided over by a mysterious woman called Mrs Madrigal. Michael…

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For Lovers of Books + Writing

Even if Leah and I had not been friends since the world was young, I would still want you to know about the amazing resource she has created with her writing partner, Caroline. The Mandala Writers Circle started a few years ago as a blog with book reviews and writing encouragements. They have just launched an ambitious and impressive – and gorgeous! – reimagining of the site. And everyone I’ve encountered here in WordPressVille would enjoy and profit from a visit to the new-and-improved Mandala Writers Circle. It can’t be described; you must experience it. So why are you still here? Go!

Here’s a screenshot of (and a clickable link to) the MWC Home page. Click around. Kick the tires. Click on the Blog link at the top to scroll through recent posts. I think you’re almost certain to find a review of a book you didn’t know you needed to read. Or an exploration of writing challenges and successes. Take a peak behind the curtain to see how these two do it, and others as well.

MWC.Home

 

mandalawriterscircle.com

 

It’s nice when someone else does all the work for your good and interesting blog post! 😉

The End (so far)

 

 

“Pick Up The Battle. Take it up. It’s Yours.”

In 2006, Maya Angelou sat down in her home in North Carolina with Dave Chappelle for a conversation that was recorded as part of the Sundance Iconoclasts series.

The entire hour is available on YouTube in four parts. From the 5:00 mark of this clip, Maya remembers her friends Malcolm and Martin… how this is both historical and personal for her, these iconic figures were also her friends… and how the anger in the aftermath of their assassinations was fuel for action. She has a message for those of us who are angry about the state of our country and our world.


 “You should be angry. You must not be bitter. Bitterness is like cancer. It eats upon the host. It doesn’t do anything to the object. So use that anger. You write it. You paint it. You dance it. You march it. You vote it. You do everything about it. You talk it. Never stop talking it.” 


 

 

And here is part of a series from OWN. “Just Do Right”


 “Pick up the battle. Take it up. It’s yours. This is your life. This is your world.”

“You know what’s right. Just do right.”


 

 

I’ve learned that people will forget what you said,
people will forget what you did,
but people will never forget
how you made them feel.

Maya Angelou
1928–2014

The Writer

If you’ve ever suffered from writer’s block… or just searched for the right word – Margaret Rose Stringer is the constabulary of the vocabulary. Give this Sydneysider’s smart ‘n snarky blog a follow, if you dare. M-R also has a memoir for our summer reading list. Cheers!

Falling in Love

Here’s a beautifully written post about a feeling we can all remember… or look forward to… maybe both.

[071] Traveler’s Bookcase

It was the last day of my friend Lisë’s visit to Los Angeles.

“I’m at Natalie’s store. Can you come meet us?” (They had met on a foodie/bookie press junket to Trinidad.)

Sure. She texted the navigational info:

Traveler’s Bookcase. 8375 West Third Street.
Betw Kings / Orlando. Parking in rear.

I was there in 15 minutes. And we spent the next hour chatting with the delightful Natalie Compagno, owner of this wonderful bookstore, and her colleague Victoria (who seems to be able to put her hands on any title in the store without a moment’s hesitation).

travelersbookcase.logoIf you love to travel… or love to read about adventures in far-flung locales… or learn about the cuisines of different cultures… or you need a nice gift for a reader… or party favors for your book club… or a globe (and if you don’t have a globe, you need a globe)… or all sorts of reading paraphernalia… or maybe you enjoy the occasional evening-with-the-author… or you want to send a card that isn’t sold in every other card-selling-venue… or you’re just in the neighborhood (close by Beverly Center) and you are craving 15 minutes of soothing book-bound peace and quiet… then Traveler’s Bookcase is a destination you need to discover!

I was recalling my love of Peter Mayle’s A Year in Provence, and suddenly Natalie was putting a volume in my hands. Provence, 1970 by Luke Barr. The author is the great-nephew of M.F.K. Fisher, and I quickly scanned the dust jacket notes:

Provence1970Provence, 1970 is about a singular historic moment. In the winter of that year, more or less coincidentally, six iconic culinary figures, including Julia Child, James Beard, and M.F.K. Fisher, found themselves together in the South of France. They cooked and ate and talked late into the night about the future of food in America, the meaning of taste, and the limits of snobbery…

Sold. And added to the queue on my nightstand, along with Armistead Maupin’s final novel in the Tales of the City series, The Days of Anna Madrigal – which I cannot bring myself to begin because I’m not ready for the whole Tales saga to end!… Two books by my greener-than-thou friend Fritzie von Jessen: I Killed A Penguin, An Ecological Memoir and Tough Plants In A Fragile Land: Saving Our Planet, One Garden At A Time… and News From Outer Space, a slim volume of poetry by another bizarrely talented friend, Christina Quinn. Pretty soon, I’m going to need a bigger nightstand.

Small, independent bookstores are gems in the urban landscape. Each one an improbable oasis, a place to slow down, maybe sit down, and hold something in your hand that will not blink, ring, vibrate or beep at you. Books, after all, are natural teleportation devices. They take us out of our landscapes, out of our heads, out of our ordinary everyday routines. They take us someplace… else. And travel bookstores take us everywhere else!

So here’s to the happy collision I had yesterday with Traveler’s Bookcase and Natalie. If you’re in LA, treat yourself to lunch or a snack at Joan’s On Third or Magnolia Bakery, and then meander over to this awesome bookstore. You’ll be hooked, too.

Day 071 #100happydays

[069] Old Dog, New Tricks

I celebrated my 52nd birthday today under a big, blue sky in Santa Monica with my very dear friend, Lisë… who reminded me that the last time we were together on my birthday, I was 19. And it’s like we’re stuck in a timewarp. Haven’t aged an hour. Weird.

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A day of firsts! including my very own henna tattoo, courtesy of Rozine at the Mindful Nest booth. I wanted to keep it simple on this initial foray into body art, so I chose a peace sign on my inner wrist. And why not? We’re both from the 60s. Photo on left is of the design with the henna paste still drying… Photo on right is next day, with all the henna flaked off and just the stained design on my wrist.

Henna tattoos are cool. You should get one.

And my first “personal” poetry slam… While Lisë was having her henna tattoo done (an intricate design of the Hebrew letters for her three kids’ names), I went back to the car to drop off some market finds (fruits & cheeses) and feed the meter. On my way back into the market, I bumped into Seamas (“Make sure you spell it with -as”) Navarro (“That’s with two Rs”), who introduced himself as a Beat poet. He asked me if I like poetry (yes) and did I want him to perform a 30-second poem (please) and he let me know that we was working his way from LA to Crestline, Colorado. It was a very soft sell. I told him I had $7 in my wallet and it was his – if I liked his poem, and could video him for my blog. Done deal. Et voilà:

Then Lisë steered me to my first raw food encounter at the extraordinary RAWVOLUTION

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RAWvolution – NO dairy in these yummy desserts!

I wish I had taken food porn pix of the dishes we ordered before we tore into them. The two of us shared the California Crunch rolls (think large maki rolls), pad thai and a ‘burger’. Remember, this is totally vegan and totally raw. No meat, no dairy, nothing with a face, and no cooking. I’m a total noob, and couldn’t even pretend to understand what I was eating or how it was made. Lisë was a good guide, as she is (a) a foodie / food writer, and (b) a fan of veggie/vegan/raw. And Rawvolution knocked her hemp socks off! (She didn’t really have on hemp socks. I don’t think…)

But can I just tell you? It was amazingly delicious! And so inventive. The raw version of bacon is coconut jerky. Yum. Coconut water and milk and meat are used in many dishes, many ways to provide sweetness and/or texture. Whatever was (or wasn’t) in the ‘burger’ patty was awesome. The pad thai dish was so creatively done. But I could eat a thousand of the California Crunch rolls and never tire of them. They’re big, and messy to eat and soooooo goood! As with many other cuisines, god lives in the sauces. And let me just wrap this up by saying the peach cake/pie which is made with (I think) frozen coconut-milk yogurt and a graham cracker (ish) crust and fresh peaches… Sell my soul, I’ve gone to heaven! On a 1-10 scale, it was a 437. I can’t wait to go back, with either a vegan friend or another uninitiated type like me. Rawvolution is such a nice surprise, all around. If you’re in a hurry, wait till you’re not. This is not fast food, and the whole vibe in the room says sit and savor.

These five or six blocks centered on Main Street and Ocean Park is Santa Monica’s version of Abbott Kinney (which is just next door in Venice). It’s funky and fab and edging toward upscale with bars and restaurants, an Urth Cafe and some great shops and galleries… but it’s fighting to ‘keep it real’ in all the right ways.

Here are some other snaps I shot along the way on this beautiful day.

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This ballerina-with-clown-head
adorns a CVS on Lincoln (or was it Main?)
and it somehow escapes being creepy.

I’m lying. It’s the king of creepy.

I have a hard time not photographing flowers and trees and skies.

Because it’s all just so ugly.

 

 

 

 

daisies.samo  parkinglot.bougainvillea.samo  greentree.bluesky

It was a good day to grow a tiny bit older. Thank you, Lisë!

Here are a few more recommendations I can happily make to you:

CoolHenna.com – Rozine does parties and weddings!

Garcia Organic Farm – You have got to find Leticia Garcia and her organic treasures at the Sunday farmers market in Ocean Park. They offer fruits you have never seen or tasted, all grown in North County (San Diego).

Mindful Nest – Contemporary Artisan Gallery on Main Street (mindfulnest.com)

Stansbury Collection – custom furniture store with extraordinary art on display… or is it an amazing art gallery with beautiful furniture?? Yes. They have a large framed grainy black-and-white photo of Malibu Pier from 1962 that I covet. And you can’t believe the images from Devil’s Churn on the Oregon coast, where the surf looks like heavy cream whipped to a frothy delight. I wish I could remember the name of the photographer… (stansburycollection.com)

 

Day 069 #100happydays

Setting

Beautiful…

Perspectives on Life, the Universe and Everything

Write about the universe
the earth
Illusions
Your dreams
Whatever doesn’t seem
Talk about love
Chance encounters
Such as ours
Life, passions
Relations,
Creations, compassions
Talk about the present, and the past
Who and where it lasts
Your admiration and loathe
What pains, who soothes
Whatever comes, let it flow
river in the sun’s glow

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[063] Fail Up

“Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try again.
Fail again. Fail better.”
~ Samuel Beckett

U2. Madonna. Warhol. Tim Burton. Kurt Vonnegut. What do they have in common? Aside from that cultural icon thing? Each had the experience of ripping open an envelope containing a rejection letter. They felt the sting of the words, “You are not good enough.” And, maybe they weren’t good enough. Yet. But they didn’t give up. They failed. Probably more than once. And they failed up.

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Warhol 1956

In some cases, of course, the failure belonged to the one wielding the REJECT stamp. In 1956, The Museum of Modern Art in New York politely refused the gift of a Warhol – by Warhol – due to “our severely limited gallery and storage space”. Really, MoMA? No room in the bin? (MoMA went on to find enough space to acquire 168 works by Andy Warhol.)

Warhol_DiamondDustShoes1980

Warhol 1980

But what if failure is a necessary step along the path that leads to success? If the museum had accepted Andy Warhol’s gift of his untitled drawing of a shoe, he would have had an earlier success. It would’ve puffed out his chest a bit. He might have felt, “I have arrived!” But would his creative process have continued on in the same way, with the same inspiration, the same desire to succeed, to create? Maybe not.

Here’s a great post on Mental Floss with images of the actual letters of rejection that were addressed to some folks who went on to become well acquainted with popular and critical success. The rejections range from nasty to nice, from the beginning to the end of the 20th century. (Side note: What is so satisfying about the blotchy, uneven impressions made by old typewriters on bumpy paper? Perfection is overrated. But that’s another post.)

Gertrude Stein received what may be the most creative and amusing Non merci in the history of rejection. Click through just for that.

10 Rejection Letters Sent to Famous People | Mental Floss.

Maybe failure really isn’t an option.

Day 063 #100happydays

[041] The Art of the Interview

Last month, I wrote about a terrific evening at the LA Central Library with Armistead Maupin, author of the Tales of the City novels. This morning, I started clicking around the internets and lucked upon an interview with A.M. whilst in Days of AM.coverLondon on the book tour for the last of the Tales series: The Days of Anna Madrigal.

I have to say, this is the most satisfying interview with A.M. that I’ve ever read, heard or seen. Christopher Bryant – editor of Polari Magazine – honored the author, and the audience, with a warm appreciation of and familiarity with Maupin’s creation: the characters, settings, stories and the 40-year sweep of history that is the backdrop to these Tales. All the while avoiding the temptation to make the conversation self-referential, in any way. If you’re ever tempted to interview an author, a quick review of Mr Bryant’s insightful methods and style will serve you well.

And I’m so glad to have discovered Polari Magazine, whose mission is “Exploring art & culture from a uniquely queer Polar-magazine-300x143perspective”. (I give it 500 bonus points, right off the bat, just for using the word queer instead of the clinical and ubiquitous lgbt. I know, I know. It’s inclusive and that’s important, but… God save the queens from being boiled in that alphabet soup!)

So, here’s the link to Christopher Bryant’s brilliant Polari interview with Armistead Maupin. Enjoy! 

And while you’re Chris.PansyDivision.Polarithere, look around. You never know what you’ll find. Ferinstance… Just as I was about to click on to the next bright, shiny object… something caught my eye over in the Polari sidebar. Oh look! – there’s Chris Freeman from Pansy Division. Chris is now a-rockin’ and a-rollin’ in LA with my friend Gizmo (née Brian Welch) in bands paying tribute to the GO-GOs (the Gay-Gays) and AC/DC (GayC/DC). When I saw Polari spotlighting Pansy Division as part of LGBT History Month, I almost broke a nail forwarding the link on to Gizmo for Chris. We queers can be mean. 🙂  To quote Martha Bach, the scary old matriarch in the film Arthur: Don’t fuck with us. We’re ruthless people! (And yes, I’m talking to you, GOP.)

love/hate

Some say the world will end in fire,
Some say in ice.
From what I’ve tasted of desire
I hold with those who favor fire.
But if it had to perish twice,
I think I know enough of hate
To say that for destruction ice
Is also great
And would suffice.

– Robert Frost