Long Days

…and way too much rain. It’s beyond cliche to talk of webbed feet and wrinkled fingers, but I am getting sick of wearing (the same) pants and boots all the time. And I know that, heading off to Europe in about 10 days, it’ll probably rain there all the time. That’s easier to take if it’s a change in the weather. But endless days of dreary rain…Bah! Oh for some sunshine. O, for summer. At least the clocks have changed.

I did a blonde thing over the Daylight Saving Time clock-change. We changed the clocks at Patrick’s house, then came back here the next night (Sunday). I saw Ana fiddling with one of the clocks and saw that it was wrong time. So I changed it back, and changed all the clocks back, because I thought we’d changed them ahead twice. What we ended up with was all of us two hours late. And do you think that “Mom’s Blonde Moment” is an excusable tardy at school? Well, it isn’t. I asked.

Huzzah, huzzah, I finished the Oakland’s literary history feature for Oakland Magazine — what a fun article it was to write. Well, fun? — hmm, let’s define that. Actually, to be honest (what the hell. Let’s just be honest here), the article entailed going to the library and wandering through the aisles, digging through the catalog, finding books by Oakland authors and books set in Oakland, fic and nonfic alike. That was fun — honestly. Then I brought the books home and started reading them. I read one while on the Exercycle at the gym. (It sucked.) I read another at odd bathroom moments (it resided in there for the occasional pick-up read). (It kinda sucked, too.) But another one was a dream, and another of the books was delightful, and so it was rather a mixed bag.

And as the deadline got closer and closer, it began to feel more and more like back when I was studying Early 20th-Century British Lit for my Master’s degree exit exam back in 2000, and I had to read Joyce’s Dubliners three times becasue I was reading so much stuff that I couldn’t retain it. I’d pick up the exit exam sample questionnaire and it would ask, Who are the principal characters in Dubliners, and I’d think, How the hell do I know? I read it yesterday. Am I supposed to remember things that long? So I’d have to read it again. I am probably the only person who has read James’ Joyce’s Dubliners, Ulysses and what’s the other one? Portrait of the Artist? and barely remembers a word. Etch-a-Sketch memory bank here.

But you see how it was. I read like the wind (whoosh!) these last two weeks, even when I loved the book. I didn’t have time to slow down and savor it.

And then as I was smack up against deadline, I took a day-trip around Oakland to see the literary sites for myself. And that was COOL. As Jess Mowry says, way past cool. And found out that it’s true — Jack London is everywhere in Oakland, and there is most definitely a there there, and that the hills are brutally steep, especially if you’re climbing on foot, and that the city of Piedmont is like the Vatican in that it is stinking-rich and also surounded by the city of Oakland. (How do they do it in the SAT? Piedmont:Oakland as Vatican:Rome) (Mountain View Cemetery, looking at gravestones, and ended up down on the waterfront, and it is truly true. Jack London is everywhere. They should change the name of Oakland to London. That would suit me just fine.

This is the list of books I read from (books set in Oakland, CA):

Mistress of Spices, by Chitra Divakaruni
Japanese by Spring, Blues City and A Walk in Oakland, by Ishmael Reed
Way Past Cool and Six Out Seven, by Jess Mowry
The Making of Americans, by Gertrude Stein
John Barleycorn and Martin Eden, by Jack London
A Man in Full, by Thomas Wolfe
Co-Op, by Upton Sinclair
Prince Otto, by Robert Louis Stevenson
Fortress of Solitude and Gun, With Occasional Music, by Jonathan Letham
East Bay Grease, by Eric Miles Williamson
Moneyball, by Michael Lewis
More Like Wrestling, by Danyel Smith
The Wishing Box, by Dashka Slater
Fade to Clear, by Leonard Chang
The Fifth Book of Peace, by Maxine Hong Kingston

These are all available at your local library or bokstore or on Amazon, if you can’t get out of the house. And if you’re looking for my favorites, I’d have to say the Dashka Slater and Eric Miles Williamson novels won me over, Danyel Smith was awesome, London was a hard read (e.g. not my cup of tea, too much alcohol and such), as was Reed (hellowrite yourself into your own novel? and not ironically? um, how about NO.) The Fifth Book of Peace is breathtaking nonfic about the Firestorm, and The Wishing Box goes right back to the terror of Loma Prieta (earthquake), for you locals. And Fortress of Solitude treads into familiar territory for my Mr. Patrick, who used to be a DJ at KALX, and there is an entire section about being a DJ at KALX. So lots of enjoyable reading. Even little old Alameda gets a name drop or two, in John Barleycorn and East Bay Grease, among others. Nice to see your hometown get some print. Besides in the Alameda Sun, I mean.

So that’s where I’ve been. And also finishing up assignments before leaving the country. I have a couple of travel writing assignments lined up and I plan to blog as much as possible from the road, as it were. I’ll post again before I go — but April 18 to 29, watch this space for scintillating details from Paris, London, and beyond.

Advice for Aspiring Writers: Get your journal ready. Take notes. Pay attention.

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