Daydream Playlist (English Major Mix)

When I was at Mary Wash, my English department held a weekly poetry reading during the semester.  The series was simply called Thursday Poems & was an excuse for us lit & linguistic majors to get together & soak in some beautiful words.  Sometimes it was well-attended, sometimes the crowd was spare.  It might even seem to you, dear Reader, that it was a silly, over-serious kind of thing you do in college.  But to me, it was time to take a break & re-familiarize myself with the subtle play a piece of creative writing does to our ears.  Not unlike taking a few minutes to sit quietly & remember the rhythm of one’s breath.

I miss Thursday Poems & thankfully I have a few supplements & replacements.  I’ve been fortunate enough to go to readings & conferences where people share parts of their work.  I instruct my writing group to read a portion of their draft aloud before we move to critique it.  And there are some really great podcasts, like Selected Shorts and The New Yorker Fiction Podcast that focus on reading & enjoying a performance of the written word.  So I thought I’d simply collect a list of readings & post it here–a sort of personal playlist of actual & imagined performances that I return to in my daydreams:

Sweet Reads Are Made Of These

(ok, I’m seriously corny)

Side A – The Actual Words (I’ve actually heard)

Side B – Daydream Believer (Readings I wish existed)

  • John Hodgman reads Jorge Luis Borges’s “Death and the Compass.” (Hodgman is a fantastic reader as evidenced by the Coraline link above & he’s obsessed w. Borges.)
  • Julianne Moore reads from Hannah Kent’s Burial Rites. (I love what Moore does with her voice & her interior monologue in Vanya on 42nd Street proves she’s more than up to the task of performing Agnes Magnusdottir.)
  • Neko Case reads from Darcy Steinke’s Sister Golden Hair.  (Virginia girls have to stick together & Case’s reading, I imagine, would lend a knowing, looking-back maturity  to Jessie’s coming-of-age story.)
  • Steven Ogg reads from Jim Thompson’s Savage Night.  (Go watch any Let’s Play of GTAV & tell me that Trevor isn’t a character from one of Thompson’s books.)
  • Brad Dourif reads from Flannery O’Connor’s Wise Blood. (This is something I’ve wanted since finding out Dourif once played Hazel Motes.  I want this reading to become a real life thing so badly.)
  • Tom Amandes reads either David Foster Wallace’s “The Soul is Not a Smithy” or Hawthorne’s “Young Goodman Brown.”  (A bedtime story told by an actor whose typecast as straight-edge & suburban–when in reality both are more than meets the eye.)
  • Mary Kay Place reads from Claire Vaye Watkins’ Battleborn.  (Honestly, I just think Place’s accent is perfectly suited for the no-nonsense, tough stories about living in the desert.)
  • Lenny Von Dohlen reads either “The Fisherman and his Soul” or “The Snow Queen”.  (This last is really just an excuse to resurrect the character of Harold Smith from Twin Peaks.  I loved Harold’s boyishness, vulnerability & cryptic illnesses.  So I thought that since he grew up in books, not Boston, that I would try to find a story equal to explaining his perspective.)

Abandoned Sexy Clothes

I will only admit to this once & since I’m posting this on the Internet, I guess that makes it a permanent statement.  I finally got around to reading Marie Kondo’s book The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up in all it’s weird, quasi-New-Age-y, yet surprisingly practical glory.  (I hate admitting to reading popular stuff; it’s a bad snobby habit from working at Borders.)  And I’ve also been using some of the suggestions to a degree, organizing & disposing of whatever doesn’t “spark joy.”  (I cringe at typing that out loud.)  But methodically facing down each item in every single drawer can be an interesting exercise in not only housekeeping, but memory.  Which brings me to what I’d left in the very bottom drawer of my bureau, hidden under workout clothes & long heavy scarves:  the abandoned sexy clothes of my 20s.

Hello, early aughts, I thought I’d left you behind. . .

Continue reading “Abandoned Sexy Clothes”


Break That In For Ya?

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Broken Brim Hats

There is one obvious clue that admits daily my redneck background–the curve of the brims on my caps.  A tight arch that narrows one’s vision & draws direct attention to one’s eyes when they’re looking in your direction.  That narrow curve is the only way to wear caps, as far as I’m still concerned, & whenever I see someone wearing it differently, I have to bite my lip to keep from saying, “Hey hon, can I break that in for ya?”

Flashback to high school biology class, where boys seemed to outnumber the girls.  I sat in the very back with other slacker kids who didn’t want to be there.  (I was a fake, a girl who typically got good grades slumming with “the bad kids”.)  One knot of five guys near the front were all rednecks who were polite to the teacher but occasionally did chew in class & never ever took off their hats.  Big guys that sometimes were on sports teams but more often than not went off to the vocational wing after lunch & who did not seem to give a shit about a single thing–grades, their life past school, underage drinking, bringing a knife to school.

If I had been born a boy, I probably would have actually tried to fit in with these guys, my dreams of genderbending artistic androgyny aside.  (But then again, Perry Farrell once said that that part of what he was doing was trying to get guys like rednecks interested in looking past gender norms so maybe this is an easy internal conflict to understand?  It’s easy to say what could have been when you look back at an imagined life.)

But there was one guy in my class who was kind of in-between cliques just like me, except he sat a little higher on the popularity scale because he was actually good-looking.  He knew the redneck guys by name, somehow wore black cowboy boots in my woodsy Virginia town without looking tacky, &, later admitted, watched the same sci-fi/fantasy TV shows as me.  How did he do this?  I did not know but I became obsessed with the curve of his hat.  Because he could essentially put on a camouflaged cap with the mandatory fish hook tietack slid on the right side of the brim & just be that guy, the guy with the loud drawl & the cigarettes in his shirt pocket who was gonna be rowdy & say what he wanted & did not care–unless someone in charge was around.

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Caps (B&W)

And so, one day before class began, after a few weeks of preparatory small talk & flirting, I asked him the secret–how to get the perfect bend to a capbill.  I had tried unsuccessfully on hats of my own & they often just looked beat up or crooked.  “Are you serious?” he asked, “You’re really curious about my hat?”  I don’t even know what lame answer I came up with but, yes, yes, I admitted, tell me about your hat.

What followed was like some secret male recipe of cool: fold the bill up & down in half  symmetrically until it breaks, shove the folded bill into the band in the back as far as it will go, then stick it in the freezer for a day or two.  After you take it out & thaw it, you can either wear as is or sleep with it under your mattress until you’re satisfied with the curve.

I felt like I had gotten some glimpse into a world that I would never really traverse & perhaps this is why I still wear my hats this way.  The sensation is a familiar one, something I think I’ve written about often–a girl on the outside looking into the boys’ world & trying to decode its’ symbols.  I come across one & uncover some small meaning & take it away to wear as an accessory of triumph.  No wonder the trappings of femininity are still alien to me–I’ve rarely applied the same interest to other girls.

Inspired by The Daily Post topic “Curve”


Béla Fleck, y’all

Béla Fleck & his banjos

Guys, I’m really tired today–in a good way, but I’m still gonna keep it short.  My husband surprised me Wednesday by saying he’d like us to celebrate our wedding anniversary early & to go see Béla Fleck & the Flecktones play in Richmond.  So we snagged some tickets & headed into the city to Maymont, this large park & garden that was once an estate.  It was a fantastic day–the endless rain had finally broken but it wasn’t stiflingly hot.  We got seats 3 rows away from the stage & saw the guys jam out in an amazing & joyful way.

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The Flecktones at Maymont

They all smiled & kept playing hard, despite any technical difficulties.  The breeze that came with the dusk was cool & sweet & by the time they started playing “The Sinister Minister” I couldn’t help dancing in my chair, grinning like an idiot to my husband.  The stage backlights danced in patterns on the proscenium overhead & I would have loved nothing more than to just lay back & listen.

But of course it was super crowded & then a guy in a beard & a man-bun started a huge dance party up front.  That’s ok–I was there with the man I love, feeling happy that we were together not just at that moment but had been for the past 15 years.

To make up for my lack of words, I’m going to end my post with a link to “Communication,” one of my faves by them.  & then I’m going to go pass out on my bed.


Books, Thoughts

Off the Shelf: The Arrival

The ArrivalThe Arrival by Shaun Tan

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A contemplative, atmospheric juvenile graphic novel in the spirit of Peter Spier’s Rain or The Mysteries of Harris Burdick about the experience of leaving one’s country to find refuge in another. Tan’s book follows an unnamed father as he leaves his family behind in their native country in order to find work & a new place to live in another, more peaceful land. Equal parts realistic & fantastical, the art takes inspiration from Ellis Island documents, Ashcan School art, Surrealism & silent films to illustrate the past & present hardships of the immigrant characters, but ultimately delivers a quietly hopeful message about hope & the ties of community.

Recommended to me by a friend, I had no idea what to expect when I picked it up. But each page is an invitation to really focus on the detailed pictures & allow yourself to be absorbed in each character’s story. Tan’s art darts between being photorealistic when rendering people’s faces or hands & being intricately whimsical when depicting the odd creatures that become familiars to the newcomers or the alien languages or geometries that make up the city. Beautiful, expressive & ultimately kind, Arrival is a wonderful book to share with children curious about history & an indulgence for adults who enjoy lingering over the art in graphic novels.

View all my reviews