Friday, April 30, 2010

The Perfect Print

I have been coveting this William Eggleston photo since I saw it two years ago. What a kick-ass, bejewled bouffant!

I love Eggleston's work - he just gets it, and makes me ache for something that no longer exists.

Eudora Welty, on Eggleston: "The extraordinary, compelling, honest, beautiful and unsparing photographs all have to do with the quality of our lives in the ongoing world: they succeed in showing us the grain of the present, like the cross-section of a tree.... They focus on the mundane world. But no subject is fuller of implications than the mundane world."

Good, Clean Fun

My sister is coming to Vermont this weekend, which equals 110% pure happiness for me, and means I will be fatigued for days after hours of chronic laughter.

I'm posting Sia's Clap Your Hands, because A) I adore her voice and B) I think if Em and I were to take a bite of an Alice B. Toklas original brownie, we would end up making these music videos.

I love that Sia doesn't use her music videos as a vehicle for projecting herself as a sex object - puppeteering is awesomely un-sexy. And thus, sexy. I love a bold woman unafraid to rock a mustache.

Other fave moments in this video: the George Clinton-inspired koala, the (almost zen?) leapfrogging at 3:11, and the airplane hat at 1:50, which will probably be on my short list for Halloween costumes.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Spanish Moss

Nothing like a late snow to push me into homesickness. Thinking of warm days and spanish moss, and appreciating John Folsom's "Lure of the Low Country" photographs tonight.

Here's to a little warmth on my skin this weekend.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Ode to Krispy Kreme

For five years, I lived behind a Krispy Kreme. (Or catty-wampus, to be precisely imprecise.) Oh, those men in paper hats - they loved to power wash at two AM, and drive their doughnut trucks in reverse for what sounded like hours at a time (cue incessant beeping.) And when our parties turned rowdy, there it was...glowing in the night...smelling like sugar and fat globules - and open.

One night a friend even tried to steal a truck, but I'm not spilling names. (Just initials. JP.)

Anyway, it seems that said vintage Krispy Kreme is getting a makeover. I can't imagine how quiet the block is at night. I CAN imagine how nice it must be to walk your three dogs and NOT have one of them pull you across the road for a half-eaten, ant-inhabited doughnut.

Dear Krispy Kreme - grandfather of intentional corporate misspellings - I miss those walks, and I miss that house, and the drunks sleeping behind our fence with a box of glazed originals.

The Last Cold Day(s)?

How can it snow on the cusp of May? What strange, green place do I live in?

I fixed (spicy, always spicy!) Eggplant Parmesan for the boys. The Dogtor got the woodstove going for me. I'm alternating glasses of red wine with "tropical" green tea. The dogs tracked muddy prints onto the newly scrubbed floor; the cats are jostling for optimum stove position.

Fraybaby has croup - which sounds like something people got in the 1800s or on the Oregon Trail - and I worry that shortly we're all going to find wild fruit and die of dysentery. Soon I will send the Dogtor out to hunt sluggish bison and five-pixel squirrels.

Looking forward to the warmer days and a visit from my sister this weekend.

Photo Credit

Monday, April 26, 2010

Etymology of a Nickname

My sister christened me with a nickname over a decade ago - SNAGS. Snags is a permutation of NAGS, which is an abbreviation of my name spelled backward.

Recently, I've learned a snag can be something other than a fabric tear or English sausages. It can also be:
  • a dead tree
  • a spiteful, self-righteous hippy (according to a Wells Tower interview at Bookslut - which I can't link to because they let their domain name expire.)
I can't decide which one I'd rather be - a sausage, a rotten tree, or a no-good hippy. Flattering, right? I'll go on monogramming my canvas bags SNAGS anyway.

(Photo Credit: Cutting "old snags" in Oregon.)

Thursday, April 22, 2010

My First Galley Proof

Jazz hands! I received my first galley proof in the mail today! I checked the mail after class this afternoon and found the envelope from Algonquin. I held the galley proof (it looks just like the "real book" will as a trade paperback) for about ten minutes, completely awe-struck.

I'm so grateful and proud to be included in the 2010 New Stories from the South anthology, especially the volume edited by Amy Hempel. Her introduction to the collection is phenomenal - but would you expect anything less? Every line she produces is perfection.

I more than admire the writers in this year's anthology: Rick Bass, Brad Watson, George Singleton, Bret Anthony Johnston, Padgett Powell, Tim Gautreaux, and Wells Tower - to name a few. When I see my name in the table of contents alongside these guys - I pinch myself. Hard.

A big first. I may be sleeping with this galley underneath my pillow and hauling it around town in my bag for months to come.

(Photo - '09 NSFTS. Not sure if I'm allowed to unveil the '10 cover. Kind of like a next generation Apple Product, you know? No?)

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Nettles - FAIL

Recently, a good friend has been telling me about the beauty of cooking with stinging nettles, and generously dropped off a bag of the little zingers.

Ever cautious, I read up on ways to neutralize the sting prior to consumption, and settled on a stinging nettle pesto recipe...only to find I was out of garlic. (Once you grow garlic in your garden, it's tough to spring for store-bought.) So I decided to go for a blanch, then a simple saute. (Though apparently a saute is enough to squelch the sting.)

I blanched, drained, rinsed...and tasted. Instantly I felt a slight sting on my fingertips (disclaimer - could have been my very active imagination). What I'm saying is, I dorked out - and the nettles went to the compost pile.

So far - 0 for 1 in foraging experiments. Next up - fiddleheads?

Monday, April 19, 2010

Rogue Daffodils

I'm a total sucker for nostalgia, and one thing that gets me - rogue daffodils. I see them coming up in strange places - places that seem ill fitting with current landscape - or in the middle of a overgrown field - and I think about the people that planted them years, maybe decades, before.

A preservationist I used to work with in NC had a lovely habit of snatching the bulbs from abandoned houses and forgotten fields. She once wrote to me in an email:

"All one has to do is dig 'em up and stick 'em in the ground. They are tough and lovely, and they always remind me of some woman, probably, who lived long ago and however modest her homeplace, wanted a bit of beauty, which in its ephemeral way lives after her and will live after us."

Here's to the vestiges of long forgotten gardeners!

(Swannanoa's Daffodils from our house in NC; Old Reedy Creek Daffodils near Umstead Park in NC; and a lovely rogue patch I found just past our property line in VT.)

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Everywhere, Goats

More goat-awesomeness from Fray's birthday at Polymeadows Farm. We have giant Nubians at home, but I'm quite charmed by these little mixed up, crossbred dairy goats. But you might say I have an affinity for le petite things. Or empathy?

Fray Turns 1

Fray-monster celebrated her first birthday (a few days early) today by noshing at home with friends, and then visiting Polymeadows Goat Farm.

We had amazing banana cupcakes with chocolate buttercream frosting, mango mousses (wow), and homemade chai tea - which was warm and awesome on this cold and wet Vermont day. (Thanks to the lovely people who recommended recipes.)

In other news, I forgot cutting mangoes is hard. I should have self-educated beforehand.

Fray was a rock star in the hail and rain and didn't flinch when a goat nibbled her ear. Melvin and Jennifer showed us their goats and milking process, and we bought feta, yogurt, and chocolate goat milk on the way out of the farm.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Ode to Bojangles

When I'm homesick, I often pull up the Raleigh News and Observer online. I'm glad I did today, because it revealed a fashion masterpiece from NC State's Art to Wear Fashion Show.

All hail Kirk Smith, the man behind the Bojangles biscuit foil pants and Natty Light dress. Um, genius? Yes.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

City Things, Country Things

I visited the big, big city last week and attended a great event at the James Beard Foundation in celebration of the Oxford American issue I recently contributed to.

I am not an urban person, but I do love watching urban people, pretending to be urban, and having amazing meals with good friends. I'm learning to be friendly with NYC.

When I think of city-ness, I think of George Michael's Father Figure video. (Am I ever more than two steps away from a George Michael reference?) In this music video city (Pop-Up Video says it's LA), women wear fashion-forward coats, have anger management issues, and wear painful shoes. Men like George Michael have small bedrooms, stalk models, and invest heavily in fans. Surely, these things are universal for all city dwellers? No?

Country mouse things I did today: groom our old mare, run dirt roads, feed five dogs.

Monday, April 12, 2010


Many thanks to Taina for sharing this awesome recipe for macaroons. These are simple and delicious.

If I lived on an island and had to eat coconut for the rest of my life, well, I'd get sick of coconut. But the first 48 hours would be blissful.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Still Life with Nubians

Tasks I Should NOT Attempt

I try to keep a running list of daunting frontier-woman tasks I need to learn while living in Vermont. However, as of today, I am now also keeping a list of tasks I should not learn. Number one on that list is climb dead trees while using a chainsaw.

Thank you, Dogtor and Alan, for your expertise, so that I will never have to be pinned into a harness and hoisted up a tree with a power tool.
(Yes - There is a very skinny man at the top of that tree.)

Vermont Running Hazards

1. Loose cattle

2. Loose dogs (I'm looking at you, Mr. Jack Russell and friends - I have cats bigger than you.)

3. Hair like Justin Bieber during a tailwind

4. Spring grading of dirt roads

5. Pit stop in a field mid 10 mile run (= burdocks down entire left thigh and lots of swearing)

6. Old people driving Buicks on dirt roads

Running pit stops are, you know, a real judgment call. But I tend to embrace my inner redneck - the one who grew up drinking beer in fields on weekends (sorry, Mom). But ask me to stop at a gas station on the Turnpike on a road trip - hell no.

Friday, April 9, 2010

Car Crush

I want to buy this truck and paint it a shiny, hunter green...or a tame turquoise...or the palest lavender. (That is definitely a truck with a face, no? It's grimacing because someone painted it the color of a penny.)

This is my dream car - a 1969 Morris Minor Wagon.

The Dogtor says I can only have an old car after I take a shop class.

He's clever, isn't he? Without saying no, he said no.

Still Life with Dogs

This picture is just about right. Fray and I are accidentally dressed alike, like two self-conscious teenage girls at the mall. There is a plaintive dog in the window (sorry, Monsieur Scooty Beags) and one underfoot.

Moreover, I look like a gondola driver. (Anyone else always associate Madonna with gondolas? No? Well - tangent - I forgot about the predators in this video. If you attended my graduate lecture on predation in literature, you KNOW I am all jazz hands about this.)

A still life, not so still.

On Forsythia

Maybe we used to go to my grandmother's place for Easter - I don't remember. But I do remember rolling up, usually about half carsick, to her house in spring and loving the bright yellow forsythia in her yard - the yellow buds electric against the tiny white house.

I know we made the drive to Gretna, Virginia for Thanksgiving every year - and it always seemed so bleak to me in Fall - the brown, wet leaves and winding roads - the smell of my parents' gas station coffee (pre-boutique coffee days -quelle horreur!). I spent a lot of time throwing up in the cattails on the side of the road because I was always trying to read books in the back seat, even though I knew I couldn't without getting sick. Stubborn, always.

Spring was a different scene - I'd sit for what seemed like hours - and was probably five minutes - looking for arrowheads in Grandma's gravel driveway. (Yeah. I'm going to use that one on Frasier, too. Here honey - find some "artifacts" while Mommy has another glass of wine.)

Although I've been coming to our Vermont house for many years, now that I'm living here, I pay more attention to the landscape - where the bulbs are coming up, what blooms early. I was delighted to see the huge forsythia bush in our side yard. It's a big burst of happiness on a wet gray day.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Pre-Dinner Swamp Visit

I had butternut squash roasting in the oven, a salad made, wine open, and the leftovers from today's breakfast casserole re-heating when the boys came in from outside and told me how impressed they were with Fray-monster.

She's not squeamish, they said proudly.

Is she bleeding?! I asked.

No, they said. (They use monotones, always. Bless them.)

And they washed their hands and exchanged knowing glances.

Did she pick up poop in the yard? I asked. Christ on a bike! Tell me!

Turns out, Fray man-handled the salamanders that hide out in the swimming pool hose. The Dogtor decided we should go to the swamp, listen to the Peepers (an energetic chorus of swamp frogs), and release the salamanders. So the Dogtor, Dogtor's father, Fray, and I piled into the wagon with a sloshing bucket of salamanders in the back.

Dogtor's father, aka OPA, handled the release, with Fray's oversight.
Red-winged blackbirds flitted from cattail to cattail.

Sublime pre-dinner activity - highly recommended.

Nuns on Scooters

Years ago, through the grace of a Google art widget, I came across the work of Alan Macdonald. I love the richness and classic sensibility of his canvasses; some of his darker works remind me of Romaine Brooks (if only Romaine had a sense of humor.) I particularly like his pious figures on scooters. The plastic bags, potato chips, and Coke cans add a dose of modernity and snark, and the elements of the natural world (boars, lambs, swans, landscape) in his work are incredibly appealing to me...altogether a curious juxtaposition of images that sends my mind into narrative: how do these things belong together? What is the story here?

Macdonald writes of his successful artistic endeavors:

"On the luckier voyages, though, you arrive somewhere that is strangely familiar, but which you have never seen before. It's a distant coast of you."

This morning finds me wondering if the same is true with a successful piece of short fiction. I'm not sure I'd know, but I like the idea.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Cyndi Lauper and Fast Pitch Softball

There is so much to love in Cyndi's mid-eighties live version of All Through the Night.

I almost cry every time she hits the line about stray cats, but that sentiment is quickly overshadowed by the fast pitch softball move at the 2 minute mark....and then the praying-mantis-inspired dance sequence at 2:16.

...And - it must be mentioned - the appearance of the Little Richard/Carmen Miranda hybrid at 3:49.

Even with the crazy eyes, I think her performance is ridiculously wonderful, and Cyndi clearly rocks with her support of the LGBT community. My love for her endures, even if it means I have to overlook her involvement in reality television.

Photo Credit