Wednesday, October 30, 2013

We've got that P.M.A.--A Night at the Wonder Bar With Jesse Malin




P.M.A.--Positive Mental Attitude--is Jesse Malin's credo--or one of them, anyway.  If you look closely, you'll see the outline of the letters on his electric guitar.  This weekend, when we were sorely in need of a little P.M.A., we drove over to Asbury Park to see Jesse play the Wonder Bar.

Jesse's been working on a new album, and he hasn't been playing live much lately.  Always an energetic performer, he was on fire Saturday night.  His songs--new and old--were delivered with the enthusiasm of someone completely pumped to be back onstage after a long hiatus.  By the night's end, Jesse was hurling himself around the stage with a ferocity I'd never seen before, channeling his former self--frontman for punk band D Generation.  I was up against the stage--because where else would I be?--and a couple of times I thought I might need to catch him...or at least break his fall.

Jesse in motion

One of the night's highlights was an electrifying performance of The Ramones' "Rock and Roll Radio," in honor of Jesse's cousin, Jersey Shore radio legend Jeff Raspe, who was on hand as master of ceremonies.  

Another highlight was the presence of Derek Cruz.  I've seen Jesse play with Derek many times in quieter settings, and I love how well their voices blend. Also, Derek's calm, workmanlike presence provides the perfect foil to Jesse's more garrulous, edgier performance style.  So I was particularly glad to see Derek on hand in a full-band setting.

The dapper and multi talented Derek Cruz


The show was one of my favorites ever, the new songs sound really promising, and the bottom line is this: we floated out of the Wonder Bar, riding the wave of some serious P.M.A.  If we needed proof of the healing powers of live music, Saturday night provided it.  

Jesse poses with a fan :)













Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Rocktober Update



It's that crazy time of the academic year, so I'm behind in my blogging.  I'll be writing soon about the truly soul-healing Jesse Malin show I saw last weekend in Asbury Park.  And then I'll be blogging about an upcoming Butch Walker show.  So stay tuned.

I also wanted to include a  quick update on  Reuben, our surviving dog, who has been pretty glum since losing his best friend Feefee.  We've been taking him on walks and on extra trips to the grocery store.  As you can see, he's looking a bit perkier.



Monday, October 28, 2013

Happy Birthday, Sylvia Plath!



Yesterday, the Poetry House at West Chester University threw a party for the late, great Sylvia Plath.  Poets, artists scholars, and visual artists were on hand to talk about what Sylvia's work has meant in their lives.  



Poet Anna M. Evans

Plath was one of the giants who made me want to write poetry in the first place, so I was glad to be on hand to celebrate her genius, and to hear from the many talented women who had gathered to pay tribute.


Angela Alaimo O'Donnell

One of the wonderful presenters was Angela Alaimo O'Donnell, who read this poem:


Sonnet Saint Sylvia
                                  February 11th, 4:30AM

Now’s the very time that she did it.
Time both of day and of year.
The violet hour, between wake and sleep.
Her milk-fed boy in the sealed room.
The poems stacked neat.  The kitchen clean.
Her wifely duties quite done.

Only then did she kneel at the oven.
Her heart untrained for distance.
Tired of the hurdling, tired of the run.
Dying to rest before morning
cracked the door on another gray day.
She sought the darkest places she knew—
the basement, the oven, the grave.
There she could be brave.

Another was visual artist Holly Trostle Brigham, whose watercolor "Mourning Sylvia" mingles autobiographical imagery and Plathian themes in a work inspired by Victorian eye portraits, which were given as tokens of love.



And poet Jane Satterfield also was on hand to read this Plath-inspired poem:

Shade

Not one on nodding terms with the dead,
I was surprised to meet Sylvia.  
A regular out for a cigarette, I'd simply
stepped back a second from crowds, bottled ale, jazz.
The backroom's rafters ruptured with light.
She was fresh from the flowers--
they made exquisite poems in her hands.
Understand, I was the one without flesh tone.
Fallen, towed under Atlantic spill,
fumbling to catch the blessed line.



Jane Satterfield

Thanks to Kim Bridgford, director of West Chester University's Poetry Center, for hosting this lovely afternoon of poetry, fellowship, and birthday cake! 


Kim Bridgford

Of course there's only one way to end this post: by letting the birthday girl speak for herself.  Here is one of my many favorite poems by Plath, itself a birth day poem:

Morning Song

Love set you going like a fat gold watch.
The midwife slapped your footsoles, and your bald cry
Took its place among the elements.

Our voices echo, magnifying your arrival.  New statue.
In a drafty museum, your nakedness
Shadows our safety.  We stand round blankly as walls.

I'm no more your mother
Than the cloud that distills a mirror to reflect its own slow
Effacement at the wind's hand.

All night your moth-breath
Flickers among the flat pink roses.  I wake to listen:
A far sea moves in my ear.

One cry and I stumble from bed, cow-heavy and floral
In my Victorian nightgown.
Your mouth opens clean as a cat's.  The window square

Whitens and swallows its dull stars.  And now you try
Your handful of notes;
The clear vowels rise like balloons.

Friday, October 25, 2013

Emotional Eating


Over the last few days, I've been obsessing over kourabiedes, the Greek shortbread cookies I had for the first time a few summers ago on the island of Andros.  Made mostly of ground almonds and dipped in powdered sugar, they really were heavenly--what cumulus clouds would taste like in cookie form.

These days I hardly ever eat cookies.  But the house has been much quieter and sadder without Feefee in it, and when I think of what might make me feel a little bit better, all I can think of is those faraway cookies that tasted like lightness and almonds and summer and Greece.  I know that's pretty much the definition of emotional eating, but I have to say I don't care.  Sometimes a person's gotta have what a person's gotta have.

Tonight after a not very satisfying dinner, I proposed a trip to the Euro Market, a Bulgarian grocery store that carries Greek food.  Though the store was about to close in ten minutes and we live about ten minutes away, Andre and I hopped in the car.  We brought Reuben, our other dog, with us, because he's seemed sad and restless the last few days too, and what kourabiedes would be to my soul, a ride in the car might be to his.

Andre floored it and somehow we got to the store just before closing time.  The bemused shopkeeper smiled over us as we explored the cooler full of Greek cookies. Sure enough they had something that looked kind of like kourabiedes.  (See that blindingly white crumbly blob in the picture above.)

We brought our mystery cookies home and tried them.  And though they were pretty good, they were not cumulus clouds eaten on a balcony while delicate waves lap a nearby shore.  For now, these Euro Market cookies will have to do. But I think soon I will need to try making my own kourabiedes.  I've got a recipe lined up. With a pound of almonds and a pound of butter, I'm pretty sure this recipe, from The Shiksa in the Kitchen, will beat storebought cookies by a mile.

I'm also pretty sure that it's not the cookies themselves I'm hungry for.  But the quest for the cookies--the car rides with Reuben, the conversation with the bemused shopkeeper, the search for just the right recipe--those things are helping us all be slightly less sad.




Thursday, October 24, 2013

"Heaven for Arden"--A poem by Mark Doty

Feefee's first day home

Last night, Andre and I brought our good Feefee girl to the vets and had her put down.  For when there are no words there is always--thank heaven--poetry.  And nobody writes as well about dogs as Mark Doty:


Heaven for Arden

Back when Arden could still go for a walk--a real walk,

not the twenty yards or so
he stumbles and lurches now--

he used to be anxious and uncertain, looking to me,

stopping awhile, tentatively, to see if I'd agree
to go no further, sometimes whining a bit

in case I'd respond.  Sooner or later,

the turn would come; we'd gone far enough
for one day.  Joy!  As if he'd been afraid all along

this would be the one walk that would turn out to be   
     infinite.

Then he could take comfort
in the certainty of an ending,

and treat the rest of the way as a series of possibilities;
then he could run,

and find pleasure in the woods beside the path.





Wednesday, October 23, 2013

"Some Infinities Are Bigger Than Other Infinities"

Feef at the vet's

In John Green's heartbreakingly beautiful book The Fault in Our Stars, his heroine, Hazel, a teen who has been fighting cancer, tells us: "I am not a mathematician, but I know this.  There are infinite numbers between 0 and 1,  There's .2 and .12 and .112 and an infinite collection of others.  Of course there is a bigger infinite set of numbers between 0 and 2, or between 0 and a million.  Some infinities are bigger than other infinities."

Without giving any spoilers, I'll mention that this mind- blowing thought comes to stand for the length of time Hazel has with Gus, the boy she loves, who also has cancer.  Though their time together could turn out to be brief, Hazel comes to feel that it's nonetheless an infinity.  

This notion of smaller and bigger infinities comes to mind tonight as I sit on the couch, my dogs nearby.  One of the sorrows of loving our pets is how painfully brief their lifespans are compared to ours.  We can love them from puppyhood to their old age and beyond, love them infinitely, but our time with them will be a relatively small infinity.  

When I woke up this morning, I could tell my dog Ophelia (Feefee for short) wasn't doing well.  She seemed uncomfortable and lethargic, and she wasn't exactly thrilled about the food I gave her as a test of her will to live.  And when Feef's not thrilled about peanut butter and cheese dogs...well, I can't finish that sentence because today was the first time that's ever happened.

Thanks to a friend who offered to teach my afternoon class, I was able to take Feef to the vet.  We pulled into the parking lot, and Feef suddenly perked up, ready to wag and bark and run in and see the vet and technician who are always so sweet to her.  I felt a bit foolish for getting so alarmed.  But then a blood test confirmed that Feef has started to bleed internally, as we knew she eventually would.  

Still, she seemed so happy, so present, in the doctor's office. It didn't feel like her time had come--almost, but not quite. So I brought her home, knowing we have an even smaller infinity than we had just twenty-four hours ago.  We took a walk, albeit a short one, in the crisp October air.  And tonight, in honor of Feef, we'll be having her favorite food again--pizza once more.  



Tuesday, October 22, 2013

To "drink the moment through long straws": a poem by A. E. Stallings

Tulips, NYC

Today as I prep for tomorrow's poetry class by reading A. E. Stallings's Olives, I thought I would share one of that book's many ravishing poems:


Tulips

These tulips make me want to paint:
Something about the way they drop
Their petals on the tabletop
And do not wilt so much as faint,

Something about their burnt-out hearts,
Something about their pallid stems
Wearing decay like diadems,
parading finishes like starts,

Something about the way they twist,
As if to catch the last applause,
And drink the moment through long straws,
And how, tomorrow, they'll be missed.

The way they're somehow getting clearer,
The tulips make me want to see--
The tulips make the other me
(The backwards one who's in the mirror,

The one who can't tell left from right),
Glance now over the wrong shoulder
To watch them get a little older
And give themselves up to the light.

Cut flowers always break my heart.  The minute I put them in a vase, I start watching for signs of their inevitable decay, grieving for the moment, soon to come, when I will have to throw them out.  I love how this poem doesn't deny that tension but in fact finds the tulips more beautiful--more worthy of being painted--because of it.


Sunday, October 20, 2013

Need a Flash of Inspiration?




The Eratosphere Flash Fiction workshop is going splendidly so far...but it's not too late to join in the fun.

 I'll be sending out a prompt each day, and, in response, you are invited to submit a work of flash fiction--1,000 words or less.  You'll get useful feedback from other writers, and possibly also from me.  And after day five I'll be picking an overall winner from all the submitted stories.

Here is today's prompt.  I hope to see you at the 'Sphere!

Saturday, October 19, 2013

A reminder/invitation

Willaimsburg Graffiti

Tonight's the night; I'll be giving a poetry reading with Amy Small-McKinney.  The fun begins at 7 p.m. in Towne Book Center and Cafe, Collegeville, Pennsylvania, at the intersection of Routes 422 and 29.

So hop a car, a bus, a train, or a rat-driven spaceship and swing on by!


Friday, October 18, 2013

Book Blog Roundup



Just when it seemed fall might never come, the neighborhoods around campus are bursting into flame.  (Not literally, though.)

So on this lovely Fall evening, I want to alert you to some interesting recent book blog action. If you love Young Adult fiction, I suspect will probably love this post on the subject by novelist Chuck Wendig.

And if you love literary retellings, you might want to see my guest post today at one of my all-time favorite book blogs, Bookshelves of Doom.  In it, I list my ten all-time favorite retellings of classic novels. 


A poem from Mekeel McBride



Here is a poem for this gorgeous fall day, from one of my favorite poets: Mekeel McBride.  I took my first college poetry class with Mekeel, and her teaching was as delightful as her poems--as filled with a playful appreciation for language's surprises and delights. 

The poem I'm sharing today isn't exactly playful, but to me it feels fittingly autumnal--about things that are stripped away, and the desolate beauty that remains.  And that image of the suddenly weightless fish feels powerful and true, the perfect simile for the strange and terrible freedom that comes with loss.


Lake Meadow Sky

It was only after I lost what I loved most,
saw it disappear as surely

as a fish feels the weight of water being pulled away
from its body, too terrified to give credence to the cold
hook buried deep in its throat

that I, weightless in the skyward arc, knew
I would have to love everything.


Thursday, October 17, 2013

Thursday Writing Roundup


Stray cat and orange tree at Knossos, in Crete

Last night, I stayed up late to finish my midterm grading so I could spend today delving back into the Greek novel.  The dogs--Rooby Doo and the Feefinator--are providing moral support.






In other news, a Romanian blogger living in Italy is doing a book giveaway today and one of the books is Catherine.  So if you speak Romanian--or even if, like me, you just speak Google Translate--drop by and enter.

A reminder to fiction writers:  The Eratosphere Flash Fiction Workshop starts tomorrow, and I'll be playing Distinguished Guest, providing daily writing prompts, giving feedback on some of the stories, and, five days in, choosing a top entry.  If you want to take part, you'll need to register, but it's quick and painless.  

And if you happen to live in my neck of the woods, consider coming out to hear me read Saturday night with Amy Small McKinney. It's at 7 p.m. in Towne Book Center and Cafe, Plaza Drive, Collegeville, PA, at the intersection of Rt. 422 and Rt. 29.










Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Small Forgotten Miracles: A Poem and a Writing Prompt

Last night's dinner

Here's one of my all-time favorite poems from one of my all-time favorite contemporary poets, Naomi Shihab Nye.  I love it for the deeply human significance it finds in something so "small and forgotten":

The Traveling Onion

It is believed that the onion originally came from India.  In Egypt it was an object of worship--why I haven't been able to find out.  From Egypt the onion entered Greece, and on to Italy, thence into all of Europe.

--Better Living Cookbook

When I think how far the onion has traveled
just to enter my stew today, I could kneel and praise
all small forgotten miracles,
crackly paper peeling on the drainboard,
pearly layers in sooth agreement,
the way knife enters onion, straight
and onion falls apart on the chopping block,
a history revealed.

And I would never scold the onion
for causing tears.
It is right that tears fall
for something small and forgotten.
How at meal, we sit to eat,
commenting on texture of meat or herbal aroma
but never on the translucence of onion,
now limp, now divided,
or its traditionally honorable career:
For the sake of others,
disappear.

Now here's your poetry prompt: Write a tribute to a small, forgotten miracle.  

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Calling All Fiction Writers

Ophelia  at work on her memoir


Guess who's going to be serving as Distinguished Guest for the 2013 Eratosphere Flash Fiction Workshop?

Hint: It's not Ophelia.

How it works:  The event begins this coming Friday, October 18 and runs for five days.  I'll be dishing up a writing prompt each day, and writers will post their flash fiction (1,000 words or less).  Writers get feedback from other participants, and I'll be chiming in here and there with feedback too.  After that you can revise your submissions.  

On the last day, I'll be choosing an overall winner of the Flash Fiction Workshop.



Erato herself, as painted by Enrico Spelta

If you're a writer and you don't know Eratosphere, you might want to pay them a visit.  Named for Erato, the Greek Muse of lyric poetry, Eratosphere is a charmed place where poets and fiction writers post their work and provide each other with really smart feedback.  Eratosphere is associated with the wonderful journal Able Muse, and also with Able Muse Press, which brought out my second book of poetry, This Bed Our Bodies Shaped.

By the way, in order to submit, you'll need to register at Eratosphere.  

The Flash Fiction Bakeoff thread may be found here.

I hope to see you soon at the 'Sphere!






Monday, October 14, 2013

Blessed are the Faithful: A Night With the Del-Lords at Brighton Bar



Scott Kempner and Eric Ambel

Why am I obsessed with the Del-Lords?  If you've seen them play live, you already know.  The band embodies the spirit of rock and roll--four extremely talented guys who clearly love what they are doing, and who give the music their all. One guitarist of the calibre of either Scott Kempner or Eric Ambel would be enough for any band, but the Del Lords have them both.  Kempner, Ambel, and powerhouse drummer Frank Funaro trade off on lead vocals--again, more than enough talent for one band.  And the newest Del Lord, bassist Steve Almaas has really clicked, bringing energy and enthusiasm to their live show.



Scott Kempner and Steve Almaas

Of course, none of that would quite matter if the songs themselves--rootsy garage-band-style rock and roll--weren't flat-out great. Scott Kempner's songs are studded with lyrical gems.  Lines like "The rich come first/the poor come last/the whole world sticks it to the middle class," ("Get Tough") and "I've never been any farther west than the shores of Jersey/but I guess dreams are created by a God in his infinite mercy" ("Cheyenne") are underscored by music full of heart and NYC-style gutsiness.

The Del-Lords are embarking on a brief tour of the midwest before heading to Europe.  See them if you can.  Friday night, we were the lucky ones: they played in Long Branch, New Jersey at the Brighton Bar and we drove two and a half hours in rush hour traffic to be there too.  In fact, we would have driven a lot farther for the chance.

This was our second Del-Lords show, and if anything, it was even better than the first.  I thought about shooting some video to share here, but that would have meant standing still for a whole song, and that was just NOT happening. Life's too short to not dance at a Del-Lords show.

Eric Ambel


Instead, here's audio of my favorite song on their new release, Elvis Club, an album full of great material.  Eric Ambel's voice is haunting.  And Scott Kempner's lyrics?  The first time I heard the line, "I'm flying/silhouette against the sky/I'm flying/gonna disappear into the night," I had that socks-knocked-off feeling poetry sometimes gives me, when a line or image feels both surprising and inevitable at once.

Also, when the guitar really kicks in--you'll know what I mean when you hear it--I get chills. Every single time.




So the show was great.  And afterwards, I hoped I'd get to take a picture with at least one of the guys in the band.  But Friday was my lucky night: I got my photo taken with four out of four Del-Lords!

The pictures are blurry and in each one my eyes have that freaked-out-cat-in-the-headlights glow,  but I don't care: I'm going to print them out for my rock and roll memorabilia wall, or as I've come to think of it, Hard Rock Cafe: Havertown.  And of course I can't resist sharing them with you here.  (If you haven't already, click on the audio link above and listen while you look at the following pictures.  Indulge me here.)

With songwriter, singer, and guitarist Scott Kempner
With Frank Funaro: He plays the drums!

With guitarist and vocalist  Eric Ambel, aka Roscoe.  

With bassist Steve Almaas
Thanks to our friend Bill Poandl for taking these!

You can tell from the photos how nice the guys in the band all are.  You can also tell by the way we're all beaming what a great night of music it was.  During and after, the whole room was lit up with joy, enough to buoy us up for the two hour drive back to Philly.

I also have to add that the Brighton Bar is now one of my favorite places to see music.  It's a tiny little place--mostly bar and stage--and exactly what a rock and roll club should be--gritty and intimate, practically echoing with music history.  Before the Del-Lords took the stage, a band called Trash Mavericks played, and they were fantastic too--the quintessential Jersey Shore bar band.






Sunday, October 13, 2013

Anything is an Occasion: An Interview with Photographer Howard Dinin, part two











Yesterday, I published part one of an interview with photographer Howard Dinin, on the occasion of the publication of his new book of photography, Sitting.  Today, I lead with the photo above, for how it captures the cafe experience--a community of solitary people, each wrapped up in his own thoughts.  Of all the many kinds of sitting, that one in is my personal favorite, so of course I love this photo and envy the people in it.  I also love the dappled sunlight, the cafe's weathered wood and cobblestones, and the way the picture manages to be both warm and cool at once.

Now here is part two, for your reading enjoyment:

***


AL: When we left off, yesterday, you were telling me about the organizing principle to Sitting.

HD: I’m an adherent of the school of thought that clings to the theory that there’s no such thing as logic.  Logic is backfill.  We know what to do, we know where we’re going to get, and we get there.  Then later on somebody asks, how did you figure out how to do this?   And the logic you offer up, which may be perfectly rational, and strategic and well-knit and compact, is actually bullshit.

This is how I got through several different careers.  I edited a magazine and I took on the job when the magazine was in crisis. It was 28 days away from the next issue date and we had no content.  And then there was going to be another magazine thirty days after that.  From who knows where, I said, we’re going to do two issues and the theme is going to be home and it all became very easy.

This book went together the same way.  I had a picture, and it said the theme of this book was going to be sitting--it imposed itself on my thinking and the way in which I looked through literally thousands of photographs in my portfolio.  And then it became easy.  I just looked through pictures and I use software that makes it very straightforward to do a quick selection.  I picked an image and hit a key on the keyboard and it immediately went into a separate little data base, and then I could go through the thumbnails of the pictures and work on each image to get into the slight technicalities of it.  I’d get into each image to correct the color and to alter the exposure and so forth in the same way that I would with the serious intent of producing a print of each one.

AL: It’s a beautiful book.  I think it’s a wonderful finished product.  Do you have a favorite among the shots here?  Or is that too hard a question?

HD:  Oh, people ask me all the time—what’s your favorite photograph?--and I just don’t think that way.   Of all the things you cook, what’s your favorite dish?   My favorite dish is the one I feel like having that night.






AL: Or is there a particular one that has a good story behind it?

HD: They all have a good story behind them.   What’s amazed me about myself—not that I think that I’m amazing—is that I remember the circumstances of almost every picture that I’ve got. 

AL: Many of these photographs were taken in the south of France where you spend part of every year.  Are there pitfalls to photographing a place that is so beautiful, so often photographed for coffee table books and postcards?

HD: I haven’t thought about that for an instant, and I’ve been going there for twenty five years.  That’s hand in glove with always wanting to keep myself primed to see pictures.  I don’t care if somebody else saw it.  And of course in a place like that which is such a magnet for people who are there specifically to see it—there’s not just motif number one, two, and three; there’s motif one through twenty thousand. 

The trick is—and this is an ongoing debate, specifically in photography because photography is supposed to be the dumbest of the arts in that you don’t need any talent to shoot pictures—is should the picture be “original” in the sense that nobody else has taken it before?  Well, since I was nine or ten, I’ve known about Ecclesiastes and the idea that there is nothing new under the sun.  And I really believe that.  How many themes and subjects are there?   Poetry has been written for thousands of years on the same ones.  

So if I assume anything, I assume my particular point of view--the place where I stand, the instant in time and the particular determinants of how the light is falling on the subject given where I’m standing--is going to make my picture original.  And that’s how I deal with it. 


AL:  I’d like to hear about your background as an artist and a businessman.

HD: I was trained to be a scholar of literature and everything else I’ve ever done to earn a living has had nothing to do with that, except for when I taught English for a semester a very long time ago.   All the things I’ve done to make a living I’ve learned to do somehow or other myself. 

I’ve edited a couple of magazines.  One, for parents of children with disabilities, is still extant.  That was clearly a “you just got out of graduate school, pal, you’d better find a job” kind of job.  And the other one was called The Boston Monthly, a general interest magazine. That was the best job I ever had.  I loved that job because it required that I give what otherwise seems like a monolithic product—creative direction—but I couldn’t produce it myself, I needed collaborators and though I didn’t think of it in these terms at the time, I had to inspire and cajole them and I had a great staff.  So that was an enormous amount of fun because it was a general interest magazine and I could go through the portfolio in my head and say, let’s do an issue on Thanksgiving. We did two issues where the theme was home and one of the features I assigned was the Boston Red Light District at the turn of the 20th century, because a house is a home. 

AL: Do you have particular artistic heroes?

HD: On another occasion, we talked about the painterly qualities of some of my photographs, which I’m quite proud of.  I can’t say that I shoot intentionally to produce a painterly-looking picture, but they turn out that way.   It’s concomitant with the way I shoot, the way I see things and compose, and the way I use light. 

But my heroes are not photographers per se, though I have a short list of about fifteen or twenty photographers who I think are the greatest who ever lived.  And some of them are the usual suspects: Alfred Stieglitz, Edward Steichen, Paul Strand, Walker Evans, and so forth.   But as much as that, there’s an even shorter list of painters who are my heroes: Eduard Manet, Paul Cezanne, Edward Hopper, Thomas Eakins, who I think is the greatest painter in America ever, John Singer Sargeant and also some more current color field painters—Morris Lewis, and people of that ilk.




AL: Could you tell me a little bit about your blog?

HD: It’s an acquired taste of course because of my penchant for running off at the keyboard.  Less so now, though I’m not even brief at the keyboard these days, because I’m in what James Thurber calls a long fallow period.  But when I was writing for the blog I would do three, four or five thousand words a day.  I would just bang it out; it was like I was in a frenzy and I would edit it as best I could and put it up on the blog.  I gained a following, and they hang in there.

AL: I wanted to tell you that I saw your rules for Americans in Rural France on the blog, and I thought they were really fun and useful.   I think that’s maybe atypical when it comes to the kinds of writing you do on your blog

HD: From time to time I will do that kind of thing as an intentional switcheroo, because people think I’m going to foam at the mouth and be a curmudgeon and use a lot of big words and get sarcastic about things nobody can do anything about.  And then I like to give them a change of pace.  If you look in the archive, there’s also a piece on what the French don’t have that we do. 

AL: Such as?

HD: Wild Maine Blueberries, for one thing.