Saturday, April 11, 2009
Wendy from A Passion for Letter Writing and a handful of her readers have begun a correspondence with me based on Wendy's writing prompt called Let's Freak Someone Out!
I received 5 letters: Bonnie from Pittsburgh PA, Lisa from Flower Mound TX, Danielle from Rochester NY, Ilona from Newport RI, and Monica from Chicago IL. Each letter was more exciting than the last. Thank you for the amazing letters. I'll be getting back to you all soon.
In this throwaway world, do you even remember the last time you actually got something in the mail that was worth keeping? Something that wasn’t a bill? Something that wasn’t a pre-scripted card? When was the last time you actually scripted or received a letter? Not a business letter such as a cover letter for a job, but a hand-written cursive letter just discussing or contemplating the day’s events without fear of judgment?
For most of us, we might recall that we had a pen pal in elementary or middle school. I personally remember for over a year, I wrote to another girl my age that was living in England. While, I’d lost contact with her in my teens, especially after learning to drive, I still kept all of her letters in a box under my bed. Last fall during a cleaning spree, I pried open the box of memories and rediscovered them. As I read through each of the letters, I was flooded in memory. While her letters took almost a month to arrive, as soon as I mailed mine, I would check the mailbox excitedly for her response in the red white and blue international envelope with the words “Par Avion Air Mail” strewn across the front near my scribbled name. I recall once, after the lengthy correspondence, I received a phone call from her. We talked for approximately 2- 5 minutes and then her phone card ran out. It was one of the most exciting moments of my life. It was more wonderful than any of the other random memorabilia (blank concert wristbands, photographs of strangers, the dateless dried flower) that remained forgotten inside the box.
Over the last month, I have been reading “Love in the Time of Cholera.” The majority of the important correspondence appears in letter form between the two main characters. Suddenly, I had the striking realization that letter writing had become a lost art form. Since the only excitement in the post office box is a paycheck (as long as you don’t have direct deposit) and the hopes of a random postcard leave you feeling quite depressed since you aren’t the one on vacation, in an effort to regain enjoyment of opening the post box, I have begun corresponding. Now my words are inspired by the gentleman I write who lives in Kingston, a mere 15-minute drive from my home.
I began sending and receiving letters almost three months ago. This might be seen as ridiculous considering the more simple forms of communication: phone call, email, Facebook, MySpace, text messaging, and meeting in person. However, pre-generated text and email is easily disposed of, phone conversations are faceless communications, and I am convinced that the importance of words is lost to the ease of innovation and business side of communication. So while the “snail mail” pace of communication is a laughable amount of time considering the day or two it takes the postman to hand over my thoughts from days prior, there is just something about the magic of the letter that I keep close to my heart. It may be the swirls and swooshes that slow the mind when I make pen strokes that force me to consider spelling, word choice, and most importantly, a deep thought or two, because those things that are easily brushed over with spell checks, networking business letter structures, and the stiffly blocked fonts of computer programs. It may also just be the ever-so-rare excitement of receiving a letter.
No matter what the reason, this letter writing must continue. Receiving a handwritten letter is reliant upon a meager.43 cent stamp. And so, I am giving all writers a call to action. Hunter S. Thompson’s books did not take off until after the Fear and Loathing film. Many were published posthumously after carbon copies of every letter Thompson ever wrote were found, thus publishers discovered that the author had major talent beyond journalism. So this week, write one letter to someone and mail it from your local post office. Write a friend, pick a name out of the white pages (that’s the phonebook for you who use 555-1212 or 411 too often), or even write yourself a letter under a different name. Write the letter in your own handwriting and pour out your day, your heart, your soul, your hopes, your beliefs, and your dreams. Try writing more than one page and staying on topic.
*Published in The Weekender
Other interesting links:
Give your best wishes to Ilona's sister Esmerelda and future brother-in-law for their wedding:
Give this guy your address and he'll write you a letter: http://www.iblogbetterthanyourmom.com/2009/04/letter-writing-project-day-1.html
Wednesday, July 09, 2008
The reading started at 6:30 and the ex-NY state poet laureate Richard Howard, opened the reading. He had great round mint glasses, that made him appear very animated as he read a few very funny poems about 5th graders. It takes a poet laureate to convince me and James that little Arthur Inglade needs a good beaten.
Next up was our main event. Jennifer L. Knox, reading from her book, Drunk By Noon. To give you a better idea of her work...I found this review by John Findura in Jacket 35 and said this about her, "In essayist Annie Dillard’s book Teaching a Stone to Talk, she asks ‘What surprises you: that there is suffering here, or that I know it?’ For all intents, Knox may as well have said ‘What surprises you: that this place is fucked, or that I write about it?’"
So Jen definitely talked about having a dick. Her poem about her ideal reader raised my eyebrows as I looked at James, mostly when she mentioned "is a man, dressed like a woman" and "parakeet aficionado" and "half-cowboy hat." She definitely screwed with the full crowd at Bryant Park (and I think they liked it), but the best part was that she made James excited like a 1970s giddy school girl at a Rolling Stones concert.
Dara Wier was the third reader. Her work has been included in recent volumes of Best American Poetry and The Pushcart Prize Anthology. The American Poetry Review awarded her the Jerome Shestack Prize in 2001, she received a Pushcart prize in 2002, and has received grants from the Guggenheim Foundation and the NEA.
Her voice was beautiful and soothing as she read. Unfortunately, I was starting to lose steam since I had been up since quarter to six. Mix that with the high energy clever quips from Jennifer, the sundown's release from the mind-piercing heat, and my choice of heeled foot attire to trek around the city and I decided after hearing her that I would love to read her work. And so I did. Check out Peach Farm on Jibilat's website at http://www.jubilat.org/n4/wier.html. Her work is amazing. I can't wait to get my hands on more.
The second reason to be in NY (other than any excuse is a good one) was to see Gonzo: The Life and Work of Dr. Hunter S. Thompson, which opened at the Angelika Theater in NYC on 7-7. Johnny Depp narrated the film, which I couldn't resist, and the life and work of Thompson is just too damn mind-blowing to miss. While we passed up the 5:30 showing with the director and Q and A, we did get to see the film at 2:05 in the West Village.
I wasn't suprised that Thompson did as many drugs as the documentary showed, but I was amazed at his ability and drive to mind-fuck everyone around him with his words, even politicians. On a personal note, this documentary was a punch in the face reminder as to why I write what I write, and why I can't stop...and why I need to get a copy of The Great Gatsby (don't know how I missed reading that one when I was in school).
Watch the trailer to the film: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0479468/trailers-imdb-vi2984706329 and check out the myspace page at: http://www.myspace.com/huntersthompsonmovie
Also, as part of the trip, James and I decided to write Haiku.
Here's what I created:
on the bus to New York City
elbow in my face
She's seat 25
salvation army sweater
reading todays news
i learn to tie knots
the clove hitch, square knot, taut line
on James black hoodie
i see graffiti
as we pass the water gap
city, nature -- one.
Falafel, Macdougal Street
two dollars for a sandwich
watching the meat spin
He carries flowers
bright orange with a quick step
on his way to her
The dark theater
subway rumbles below
Gonzo begins soon
They leaned in too close
his hand arched around her neck
his tongue in her mouth
I haiku all day
maybe i'm feeling spongy
my brain soft, eyes wide
Jennifer L. Knox
James Crane claps really loudly
he likes your poems
Hunter S. Thompson
of Gonzo Journalism
gun goes off, book drops
I can't stop counting
to create haiku phrases
somebody help me.
Karen Berger’s Hiking Light Handbook, published by Backpacker Magazine, gets down to the nitty-gritty in hiking gear. From techniques on getting the right tents to sleeping bags, clothes, and food, Berger helps you to take a load off, Fanny. And with Berger’s 20,000 miles + of hiking experience, her contributions with Backpacker and GORP.com, and her authoring of over three books of hiking including Hiking the Triple Crown: How to Hike America’s Longest Trails, where she describes her hike on the Appalachian, Pacific Crest, and Continental Divide Trails, I think she knows what she’s talking about.
The first thing that Berger stresses is a “Lightweight State of Mind.” She categorizes three types of hikers based on their lightweight comforts: the traditionalist, who can substitute lightweight options for their heavy gear; the open-minded experimenter, who want to make changes in their hiking styles; and the risk-taking innovator. Berger writes, “Lightweight hikers are willing to experiment with their pre-conceived notions about what they actually need to take on the trail—even if such experiments occasionally compromise their comfort. […] (The risk-taking innovators) dream up homemade alcohol stoves made of cat-food tins, or packs that use camping mattresses as part of the frame system.” I read her words, I recalling a hiking proverb I heard repetitiously on the Appalachian Trail: hike your own hike. I decide that I may not be an innovator yet, but I was definitely ready to experiment. Then, the inevitable second question pops my thinking blister: is getting rid of gear safe?
The curiosity of lightweight hiking ultimately will raise questions about safety and to qualm your fears, Berger explains that to begin the process of lightweight or ultra-light hiking, you should have a “clear knowledge about the need each piece of gear must address, and an awareness of how a little piece of gear can and should weigh.” So whether you are someone who would like to begin replacing your four-person tent that weighs over 10-pounds, or you are already buying ultralight gear, Berger insists on the importance of hands on experience and knowledge above all.
Your gear awareness begins with choices, lists, and (of course) using the scale to determine the relative and true weight of your equipment. Berger even includes worksheets at the end of the book to aid you in seeing everything in your pack, item by item. After some pretty in-depth mathematic calculations, to which I have personally completed (and as many of you know I prefer the most accurate counting method-fingers and toes), I can say that her instructions are extremely effective in helping achieve lightweight success. However, you should be prepared for some seriously focused work and be ready to part with some of your current gear.
Once you can accept change, then you can move on to the food, fashion, sleeping bags, and shelters. Berger gives great details about the necessities, what your options are, and the basic outdoor needs for each. In chapter 5, The Function of Fashion: Clothing, Berger explains “All those attractive ads and glossy magazine covers notwithstanding, no one expects you to look either stylish or clean in the outdoors. […] The hikers I see have trail-worn clothes, wind-whipped hair—and nothing matches. […] Face it: Clothing will get dirty when you wear it hiking, and you may as well get used to it. […] address the real issues: What are your actual clothing needs? What do you need to stay warm and dry in cold weather, and comfortable in hot weather?”
After the basics, Berger’s chapter titled, Sweating the Small Stuff, covers the essentials, ten things that she believes that every hiker should carry and ways to shave ounces off your gear. Then she explains the importance of the pack itself and footwear.
If you’re serious about getting the right gear for your next backpacking trip, I can write with confidence that after reading the Hiking Light Handbook and attempting to lighten my gear, once I realized the potential of wearing a pack that weighs 7 pounds as opposed to 40 pounds, I’d never go back, Fanny.
Tuesday, June 10, 2008
heat beneath treetops,
water dries into snakelike
indentations in dirt.
No water for 16 miles.
The last source, a mirage
the small stream
drinks its fill of
a fat dead mouse-
its trickling water
then swallows the smelly corpse.