Friday, February 26, 2010

Reading: John Banville

Nothing will keep me from readings:  not 4" of snow on the ground, not a boyfriend sick in bed with the stomach flu, not a $14 entrance fee (mitigated by half using the "I'm a student" feint), not sheer laziness (most of the time).  These things will, however, make me late.  By about 15 minutes.  

Banville has a very even, very steady voice.  You can imagine him doing his own book on tape, though you might have to adjust the volume up.  he reminds me of a professor whom you wish would use a microphone, but would lean forward to hear anyway.  There was a microphone here, however, so I could sit back at my leisure.  What is it about an Irish accent that makes a voice so compelling?  Banville's work is already lyrical in itself, so that slight inflection makes the words sing even stronger.  He kept running his right hand against the corner of the podium, as if scratching his palm against the wood. 

During the Q&A, he established his position on the literary arts:  there's verse, there's prose, and there's poetry; the last can be found in both of the former.  And, with the skill of a Olympic badminton player, he batted away repeated questions about the work of Hermann Broch gently, even as the questioner continued trying to inject.  "How many others have read Hermann Broch?" he asked.  One man raised his hand.  "Great," Banville said, with faux exasperation, "another one." 

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

new distractions!

So, while this blog has devolved into an unwieldly mish-mosh (horror movie reviews, infrequent travelogues, reading attendances, sporadic book and potential boyfriend reviews), I've decided to make a (somewhat) fresh start with a new project wherein I live my life, sequentially, through the Criterion Collection.  So all the classy movies go there.  All the trash goes here.

All hail trash.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Jentel, Final Day

My last day was almost as warm as the first, though it only reached 47° and the sky is overcast.  Plus:  snow?  A small flurry of it, with tiny flakes that seem impossible, given the temperature.

Yesterday, after our final run through Sheridan, our resident handyman, Scott, took us on a tour of the Wyoming environs -- into his friend's pheasant ranch and along the snow-covered polo fields. So, in the spirit of exploration, I finally ventured into the hilly 1000 acres behind Jentel.  Despite being completely out-of-shape and huffing like a madman before I had crested my first hill, I will say this in my defense:  pulling your leg out of a shin-deep pile of snow takes quite a bit of effort.

I heard there are these things?  And they're called snowshoes?  And they distribute your weight across the snow so you don't sink into it?  In my eternal laziness, I found deer tracks and promptly trekked through them, letting the pre-compacted snow carry my weight.

But at least the snow wasn't treacherous.  Most of the non-snow parts of the hill were slick with mud and patties of cow dung (plus little jellybean-sized pellets of unidentifiable excrement).  So if my ascent was marked by snow of indeterminate depth, my descent was marked by skidding along the mud, using innocent scrub and brush to slow my slide.

Also:  even though walking over what looks like a frozen-over creek may seem like a perfect shortcut to save you -- oh, let's say forty feet or so of walking -- that water's really, really cold.  And when the ice crackles under your feet, it only gets colder.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Jentel, Day 25

Holy frijoles!  It's a whopping -5° today.  One of the visual artists, a lady of hearty Swedish stock, keeps cross-country skis outside of her studio, and a group of residents went snowshoeing yesterday.  I... slept through it.  Of the 1000 acres here on the ranch, I have explored about .5 acres.  But I will say that I've successfully completed one section (14K words) of the novel, even though I realize it's misshapen and ungainly.  Nonetheless, it's one more done section than when I arrived. 

So, I give you the Big Horn mountains at dawn:

Monday, February 8, 2010

Jentel, Day 23

Coming uncomfortably close to the end of my stay here in Wyoming.  Current WCPD ratio:  I'm no longer counting.  It hurts too much.  Instead, I bring you:  The Ballad of Grey Kitty


Yes, I know you're only here for a month.
And I've seen you every day at the door.
I squawk when you're carrying a cup,
because it's milk for me, I'm sure.

Yes, I know I'm forbidden to come in.
But the snow outside will cover my prints.
And if I should fall asleep in your chair,
it'd be enough to melt a heart of flint.

Yes, I know you sometimes stare at me
instead of trying to write your stupid book.
But when I purr and stretch and curl up,
how can anyone resist my pathetic look?

I've been here longer than anyone can recall.
Waiting patiently outside the front door. 
I know you'll be leaving in just a few days,
But I'll make you come back soon for more.


And to think Mark Strand once gave me a C! Big smothering snowflakes falling tonight.

If there's anything worse than doggerel, it's "cat"terel.  Ugh.  Forgive me:  it's late, and I just watched a hideous Syfy horror movie with Antonio Sabato, Jr.  I know it's not an excuse, but it should at least be a mitigating circumstance.  

Friday, February 5, 2010

Jentel, Day 20

Another Thursday, another disruption.  Current WCPD ratio:  677. 

On the plus side, I'm becoming a local celebrity.  Very local, small "c" celebrity.  At the coffee shop, an interviewer from KOTA-TV asked for some on-camera opinions about personal finances.  Sure, ask the out-of-towner who just barely woke up and is downloading cheesy dance music videos on YouTube! 

First, speak and spell into the microphone.  Don't look at the camera or the red dot which indicates, right now, that your image and words are being preserved for all eternity. 

Do I keep my receipts?  Not if they're incriminating.
What's my worst financial habit?  Crazed orgies of spending.  
My greatest financial achievement?  That I haven't yet declared bankruptcy.

None of this, of course, counts as breaking news. 

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Jentel, Day 19

Since it's now seven in the morning, and the new day (for me) officially begins at six, this means we've moved onto Day 19.  A tad over a week left in the residency.  Current WCPD ratio:  683.  I've seen plenty of sunsets from my window, but this is probably the first sunrise I've seen.  I like how the blue of everything slowly gains contrast.  The mountains far in the back turn pink.

Normally, I've gone to bed at this time, but last night, the Jentel residents gave our presentation to the community.  Jentel Presents!  With a name like that, I feel we should have worn top hats and sported canes.  Alas, no:  we each just wore a fake red rose.  Some wrapped it around their wrists; others held their like a laser pointer.  I used mine as a boutonniere.  The presentation was sparsely attended -- this is, after all, still February in Wyoming -- but I preferred looking around the Sheridan Public Library before the reading.  Upstairs, on the second floor, are the study rooms.  I saw what looked like a tutoring session in one.  But, more importantly, there was a display all about space travel and exploration ringing the second floor.  And, most importantly of all, in the display cases were actions figures and sundry memorabilia devoted to Star Trek, Star Wars, and, strangely enough, Independence Day.  I never knew they made model figurines of the alien baddies of ID4.  Now I know.  The providers of the toys action figures had their names prominently featured in the cases.  Mark of pride or mark of shame?  You make the call.  Also:  a Lego model of the Space Shuttle.

After the reading, we re-convened at the Pony Bar & Grill, where they proudly serve microbrews and frou-frou drinks such as the Woo-Woo.  I, sadly, partook in none of them, but I did have a steak.  My first Wyoming steak!  Driving from Sheridan to Jentel and vice versa, the fields are dotted with tasty, tasty cattle with some horses thrown in for local color.  But this was my first chance to partake of a slice of cattle.  Good?  Yes.  Mindblowing?  Not quite.  The 12+ ounces of cow did, however, make me feel very sleepy after dinner, and I took a nap until 3 in the morning.  Hence, I have steak to thank for the pink streaks of clouds, the mountains that have now darkened to salmon, the purpling foothills, the mysterious half-covered footprints in the snow.

And a final note:  what's up with those bizarre comments on my previous post?  It's like they came from random word generators.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Jentel, Day 16

After two and a half nights of dithering, I've finally gotten back on track -- I think.  Current WCPD ratio:  660. 

Thursdays are always disruptive.  First off, the residents gather at nine in the morning for a meeting and to head into town for provisions.  Given that most mornings, I'm just crawling into bed around five (sometimes as early as three or as late as seven), waking at nine proves difficult.  And even when I plan ahead and go to sleep early (as I did on Wednesday), I was woken by strange, fragmented dreams which I can no longer remember and couldn't go back to sleep.  Instead, I lay in bed, listening to music and watching the light from behind my curtains grow brighter and brighter.  

And while I was able to tap out a few words in Java Moon (a "wellness meeting" took place at the next table:  a group of 5 women and 1 man talking about pounds they've lost, goals for the future, attempts to promote wellness at work), after our shopping excursion (during which I bought primarily tea and cookies), I took a nap.  Not so that I could work furiously later that night, but so that I could be plenty alert for a hootenanny later the evening.  

The Occidental Hotel, in the town of Buffalo about twenty miles away, hosts a "jam session" every Thursday night, where local musicians sit down together and strum and sing and pluck.  This night was somewhat different, however, because they were featuring a charity auction for a musical scholarship.  So while we managed to hear a few strains of some country classics -- all of which are foreign to me -- we were instead treated to hearing Wyoming's Auctioneer of the Year (a man of about seventy, I assume) calling out bids on all kinds of sundry goods.  He had a pleasant tone, joking with the locals in-between the tongue-twisting number calls.  "He rises at the crack of noon," he said of one hunter who offered his services and land for tracking down (on separate occasions) an antelope, a wild turkey, and a jackalope.  "It's more fun than hunting rats." 

Meanwhile, we Jentel folks sat near the door, ate burgers and drank beer.  (For me, I had a bison burger with the patty actually in the shape of a bison and a cherry cream soda.)  In the lobby of the Occidental are photographs of the famous folks who had stayed there, including a brawny-looking Ernest Hemingway.  The second floor of the Occidental is purported to be haunted, but the real specter is the rugged Victoriana that I attribute to hotels of the Wild West.  

After the auction, people re-gathered for a group rendition of "Faded Love."  The entire audience mouthed different words at different times -- the verse they particularly loved, the chorus, the cry break.  Meanwhile, I got a moment to appreciate how much they appreciated the arts, whether it was the paintings they had made and sold, the illustrated poetry broadsides auctioned off, or the music they sang and were now going to deliver to a student.  A $150 pan of cinnamon buns seemed a small price to pay.