Random musings on a writer's life & times, with occasional input from acquaintances


Saturday, March 29, 2003

Hello. Long time no communicate. I haven’t posted anything for the last two days because I didn’t have anything to say. It’s unnerving for a writer to realize he has nothing to say. The skill by which you define yourself is being able to express in words what you think, but if you aren’t THINKING anything .... well, hell.

I have excuses, of course. I spent large chunks of three days this week working on my family’s income taxes, and if there are two things that deaden my mind it’s money and math. Taxes are all about money and math. Not enough money and too much math, to be exact. When I finished with the taxes, I had to do the final number-crunching to get my stat-league baseball team up and running by opening day (which is Sunday). That killed off more brain cells. Maybe now that I’ve put all this number stuff behind me, at least temporarily, I’ll make a comeback as a wise and witty blogger. I’m sure you’re all holding your breath.

That’s an odd thing about operating a weblog. When I started Writeright last fall, I set an informal goal of posting something on it -- even if it was just one of my favorite quotations from Groucho Marx -- every day. I wanted to see if I could do it, and I came close for five or so months. Writeright got shut down only for Christmas hubbub and a couple of out-of-town trips, pretty much, until this week. Then I ran out of inspiration. One day I published a Baudelaire quote. Two days I published zilch. This was not exactly greeted with an upswelling of complaint from fans deprived of my work. In fact, I suspect I’m the only one who noticed I’d quit posting. Which makes me wonder, then, why bother to do it at all?

Well, I tell myself writing is like exercise -- any is better than none. If I crank out something for this weblog every day, perhaps I’m keeping my writing muscles tuned up for the major novel or prize-winning epic poem waiting just around the corner to be written. I wish. I haven’t produced anything serious for months. And now I’ve run low on inspiration for the minimalist activity that is Writeright.

Oh, well. It’s spring break. Maybe that’s what I’m doing -- experiencing a spring break. Except I haven’t gone anywhere sunny and gotten drunk, or exposed my boobs. All I’ve done is taxes and baseball statistics. What was it the man said? Ah, yes -- There are only three sure things in this world: death, taxes and slugging percentages.

Wednesday, March 26, 2003

There exist only three beings worthy of respect: the priest, the soldier, the poet. To know, to kill, to create.
-- Charles Baudelaire

Tuesday, March 25, 2003

So I’m at Powell’s Book Store in downtown Portland searching for a copy of Gerald Locklin’s most recent volume of poetry when nature, as they say, calls. I hike half a mile through the sprawling store to the men’s restroom, enter and am confronted by a giant vending machine that dispenses condoms.

Now, this is an industrial-strength vending machine -- gray metal, bolted to the wall just inside the door, about the size of a kitchen cupboard. Fifty cents, says the lettering on the side. Ultra-shaped. Made in North Carolina.

What, I am compelled to wonder, is the message of a machine like this in a book store bathroom? That troops of sexy guys go to Powell’s to buy books, so the store has to keep a massive supply of condoms on hand in case their sex appeal roars into action in the Virginia Woolf aisle? That a lot of loose women hang out over by the Faulkner section, so the store needs to provide birth control to head off a population explosion? That reading is primarily a gay male activity, so precaution against HIV must be front and center among the store’s concerns? (I checked, but I didn’t see any large contingent of tan, clean-cut, well-dressed men hanging around the David Sedaris books.) That reading is such an aphrodisiac to people of all genders and orientations that condoms must be at the ready so the inevitable copulating in book-store aisles will be tidy as possible?

In the Good Old Days, condom dispensers only hung on the walls of gas station restrooms. And the machines were small, unobtrusive, tucked away near the toilet paper. That’s the way it should be. Condoms are of a piece with carburetors and solenoids, and they should be handled with discretion. They shouldn’t be hawked brazenly at a bastion of literary culture, even if the literature includes Philip Roth, Anais Nin or Gore Vidal. It's tacky.

Monday, March 24, 2003

March Madness is in full swing, with national collegiate basketball tournaments for both men and women unreeling on television, and I am reading novelist Pat Conroy’s memoir of his lifelong love affair with basketball, “My Losing Season,” so I thought I’d jump on the bandwagon and share a hoops poem.

Although sportscasters like to refer to basketball as “the city game,” I often have been struck by signs of its popularity in places far from street noise and blacktop courts. I’ve seen basketball hoops hanging in lonely grandeur from farmyard barns (like the one below), campground trees, telephone poles in the middle of nowhere. That’s part of basketball’s appeal. Although it is a team game, basketball’s basic skills lend themselves to solitary practice. A boy with a ball and a hoop can dribble and shoot all by himself, hour after hour, even if he lives miles from city lights. Many do. I did. My poem, “The Country Game,” reflects that.

The poem describes a specific hoop I saw on a ranch north of Burns in Eastern Oregon, but it was one of many I observed one August week when I pedaled a bicycle 400 miles along back roads from Frenchglen to Cascade Locks. The sheer number of hoops I spotted during that trip provoked the poem, as much as anything.

The Country Game

On the bank of Murderers Creek, in the shadow
of Aldrich Mountain,
sits the Z-Bar-Z. Cattle, mostly. Hay, horses,
three pigs, a goat.
Small field of sugar beets. From winding blacktop
a traveler
barely sees a white frame house tucked back
under trees,
almost invisible in poplar green. What grabs the eye
is a basketball hoop
hanging from a barn by the road. Rusted, netless,
front edge angled down,
it dangles from gray, weathered wood. No backboard,
no free-throw line,
not even a concrete driveway for dribbling.
The barnyard
is deserted, but it's easy to see a thirteen-year-old boy
in cut-off jeans
and white T-shirt bouncing a basketball
in August's red dust,
feinting left, spinning right, tossing up a
one-handed jumper
through quiet twilight as the crowd roars
and his mother
rinses a frying pan and his father totals feed bills
and his sister
reads Pippi Longstocking. Fifty miles away,
town boys
saunter through shops at the High Desert Mall.

--by David Jordan

Sunday, March 23, 2003

Ah, yes. The Sunday Seven. Once more. With feeling.

1) What are you wearing?

Blue, black and white Nike sweatsuit (I just finished running -- or, I had just finished when I wrote this at 6 p.m., before Blogger refused to let me sign on and post for almost five hours), green Nike shorts, white Wilson sox, brand new Brooks running shoes (my reward for starting to run again after a six-month hiatus triggered by first a back injury and then a severe case of laziness) and a “Red Dirt Kauai” t-shirt (souvenir of a boondoggle to Hawaii with my wife).

2) What are you reading?

“My Losing Season,” a memoir about basketball, military school, writing and life by Pat Conroy.

3) What’s for dinner?

Bacon, egg, cheese and bread casserole, plus spinach.

4) What’s the best thing that happened this week?

I had two poems accepted for publication by small literary magazines, The Eloquent Umbrella and The Comstock Review.

5) What’s bugging you?

The University of Oregon basketball team has choked its way out of the NCAA basketball tournament. When I read before the game that the Ducks’ opponent, Utah, would be without its best player because he’d contracted mononucleosis, I knew my alma mater was doomed. Oregon teams ALWAYS lose games they are expected to win. Remember the football game against Stanford during the otherwise glorious 2001 season? Ducks, playing at home, lead by two touchdowns with six or so minutes to go when Stanford’s star quarterback goes to the bench with an injury. Sophomore sub proceeds to run up three quick TD’s and Ducks lose, costing themselves a shot at the national championship. Different sport, same tradition.

6) Where in the world is Carmen San Diego?

Tie Siding, Wyoming.

7) What’s it all about, Dave?


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