17 June 2016

On the eve of my college roommate's wedding

Happyhungover, doughnut-fed
Woke in a strange new bed
Sunscreen skin and sweat-damp hair
Clear lake water, crisp cool air
Yellow kayak, Michigan sun
Rehearsal and dinner yet to come

12 January 2016

Disorganized Remembering

Everybody's taking about remembering the dead lately, it seems. My boyfriend woke me up around 7 the other morning with dire tones.

"I'm afraid I have bad news, babe. David Bowie's dead."

In the pause between those sentences, my heart skipped a beat. His grandmother was in the hospital again. One of the cats had torn another cat's ear off. My dog was sick. Surely it was a personal tragedy he was about to impart to me, my torn-from-sleep mind insisted.

David Bowie? Oh, just a famous person. That was okay, I could deal with that later. (I did.)

Everybody has feelings about David Bowie, it seems. Good feelings, and bad feelings. I have feelings, too, but they're not important to share tonight.

The last week, I listened to "The Fault In Our Stars" on audiobook. It's a book about two teenagers with cancer, and it's a book about being in love and first love, and it's set in Indianapolis, which makes it particularly eerie to drive to work near the Castleton mall while listening to a narration of Hazel Grace walking through that same mall with her oxygen tank, letting a curious little kid try on the nubbins that deliver the oxygen that forces her lungs to be lungs.

But the local setting just keeps the story fresh in my mind longer, it's not why I'm bringing it up now. The thing is, these teenagers have this conversation about dead people, because of course they think about dead people, and about how many of them there are compared to how many living people. And Augustus Waters (the boy) says there are about 14 dead people for every single living person (I haven't validated this statistic), and we don't remember them all because we're disorganized mourners: everybody remembers Shakespeare and nobody remembers who he wrote Sonnet 54 about.

So everybody's busy remembering David Bowie, and I'm thinking about all the thousands of people we're not remembering because we're disorganized mourners. There's been a lot of genocides where everything about so many people gets completely lost. There's a lot of ancient history with presumably a lot of people in them whose names and deeds and general things about them never got written down.

I had to read Homer's "Iliad" in high school, and I remember thinking it was such a downer to read all the lists of people who were killed, but I guess they've been remembered.

But not everybody has a grave or even a name written down.

And this is not to discount David Bowie or your personal, or our cultural, grief about his death. It is simply to say: who is it we are forgetting?

13 October 2015


How is a broth bowl different from soup?

I should stock up on fashion leggings in my size before they go out of style again.

I must have a much more sedentary lifestyle than I'd thought.

Maybe I should offer to wash the neighbors' fence.

How does the dog manage to stink so much within less than a day after a bath?

I wonder how many people have a tattoo that's just the word "tattoo." I wonder how many are misspelled.

I love that cat but if she tries to trip me on my way to the bathroom in the morning one more time, I'm going to lose it. And probably twist my ankle.

I wonder if anybody has made a list of most addictive audiobooks.

If I'm 27, how much would I need to save to retire at 50?

I should have taken more minority studies courses in college.

Where would be a good place to go in February that is warm and outside of the U.S. but not so far that it's not worth travelling to for only 4 days?

I'm pretty sure I'm more-than-typically educated about the gender identity spectrum, but I have no idea what this article about nonbinary femmes is talking about.

Sunsets are actually a fairly easy natural phenomenon to explain.

This internet bill is insane. How many MBPs do we really need?

Apparently there ARE some carbs the dog won't snarf up: those that are sullied with lemon flavor.

What is this white powder everywhere?

I wish science would make up its mind about whether coffee is good or bad so I can decide if it's a good idea to have another.

Most days are good days if you get to quote "Mulan."

Did the whole world only recently discover the Bitch Planet comics? I thought everybody knew about them. I might have unknowingly liked a thing before it was popular.

It's interesting what we call traditional even though it's only been around for maybe a generation.

Yes, I do still know every word to every Backstreet Boys song. Apparently.

It's really not that hard to cast more women and minorities in films. Hollywood should hire me to do this.

That's the third time in a row someone agreed with me instead of telling me what I've done wrong. I must be getting more competent.

How are we seriously still observing Columbus Day?

Of course emoji qualify as a language.

Anybody who thinks feathered dinosaurs aren't scary has clearly never googled artist renditions of plumed raptors.

04 August 2015

Garret Tour Tuesday: Nicole Chung

Nicole Chung is a writer and also works as a managing editor for The Toast. The Toast does not have a central office, so Nicole works from her home, which is where she also does most of her writing, whether it is Toast-based or whether it ultimately gets published elsewhere.

"I just recognize that I need to seize the opportunity when inspiration strikes," Nicole says, "because the perfect conditions don’t exist in my life."

Generally, Nicole works at her standing desk.

"It has wheels so I just push it around the living room," she says. "I can push it over to the window and watch squirrels."

But her favorite spot to park her desk is a few feet from her bookshelf.

Via Nicole: "The print on the wall is a Whistler etching from Venice, 
which I saw and then bought way back in college at 
one of my favorite art galleries, the Freer in DC."
Nicole says that she was getting stiff after a few days spent sitting. 

"I thought I would buy it and hate it and feel stupid," she says, "but it’s actually worked out really well."

When she does get tired of standing, Nicole migrates from her standing desk to the couch.

And if she tires of holding her computer on her lap, she moves to the dining room table.

One of the things Nicole really likes about her job is the flexibility. 

"If I get a great idea for an essay in the middle of the afternoon, I can take a break and work on it," she says. "Part of my job is writing, although mainly I’m an editor. Almost everything I do write and publish, even for The Toast, is stuff I’ve written in the evening...in my free time. I find it almost destructively difficult to switch back and forth between writing and editing."

In terms of requiring a specific environment in which to write, Nicole says "I think a lot of us have these little things we’d like to do every time we write." 

But for herself, she never established them as requirements.

"By the time I started writing, I was already a parent," she says. "I’ve never really had any standards. I can work in silence, but I can also work with Frozen playing in the background for the thousandth time."

Besides the writing Nicole publishes on The Toast, she has also written essays that have been published in the New York Times, Slate, and the Atlantic. She says she's not great at planning projects ahead of time, although she is thinking about a book.

"I guess I’m in a constant state of being open to ideas and acting on them."

Thanks again, Nicole, for sharing about your writing space!

Some things Nicole wrote:

28 July 2015

Garret Tour Tuesday: Oliver Gray

I would call Oliver Gray a science writer with a niche focus on beer.

But what does Oliver Gray call himself?

"I'm a blogger," he says. "For a long time I just told people I work in IT."

Oliver is a prolific writer, constantly producing content for his main blog, the beautifully-titled-and-executed Literature and Libation, along with his special project Homegrew, which documents his year-long process of making homebrewed beer only from ingredients grown and prepared by him.

"You go from being a guy who likes to drink beer," he says, "to being a guy who wants to work in the beer industry. If you want to have a career in something I think you should try to become an expert."

Oliver is certainly committed to becoming an expert. But let's find out more about the writing space that allows this dedicated beer blogger to produce such pretty prose.

Oliver's magic usually happens in his home office, in front of two 24-inch monitors. 

"I'm very picky about my keyboard," he says. "I also do some writing from my laptop, which usually finds a home on any hard surface it can find when I'm at work or traveling. I always need space for a mouse though. No touchpad nonsense for this guy."

He describes his home office as spacious but cluttered, with notebooks, magazines, books, LEGOs, and cameras and photo accessories. In addition to being a talented writer, Oliver is also a skilled photographer, taking artful pictures of beer (and other things. His family, for instance.)

Oliver doesn't have any particular time of day for writing.

"I'm anti-schedule," he says, "because the rest of my commitments have a tendency to just sort of happen whenever, and scheduling ends up being futile anyway."

He prefers to be alone when writing, if given the choice.

"When with other people, I'm too busy talking or people-watching to get any writing done," he explains.

Drinks of choice?

"If it's pre-4:00, I'll have coffee or tea," he says. "If it's post-4:00, I'll have a beer, or much more rarely, a scotch."

I am not drinking anything while writing this post, and I would probably not confess the current beer contents of my fridge to Oliver Gray, although I suspect any judgement would be mostly in jest.

In addition to his personal writing platforms, Gray also freelances for Brewers Publications, writes for All About Beer Magazine, and occasionally writes standalone essays for other publications.

"I'm nearly always writing."

Some samples of writing by Oliver Gray:

  • Hey Chief: Published by Tin House, this is a beautiful heartbreaking essay about Gray's father
  • December, 1919: a serialized historic fiction novel about a seventeen-year-old Philadelphia native who inherits his father’s brewery right on the cusp of Prohibition in the United States.
  • How to Brew a Boddingtons Cone: I don't even care what a cone is. I've accidentally learned more than I ever wanted to know about brewing beer because I enjoy reading Gray's writing.

Thanks for the peek into your writing space, Oliver!

Garret Tour Tuesday is a series on the space that writers write in. Each post showcases the writing space of a different writer.