Tuesday, January 27, 2015

THE NIGHT COUNTRY

NIGHT SCENES FROM GRAND PARK, DOWNTOWN L.A.
"THE PARK FOR EVERYONE"
I WAS OF COURSE THERE ALONE...

"Noise is the Outside--the bully in the next block by whose house you had to pas in order to go to school. Noise is all the things you did not wish to do. It is the games in which you were pummeled by other children's big brothers, it is the sharp, demanding voice of adults who snatch your books. Noise is day. And out of that intolerable sunlight your one purpose has been given--to escape. Few men have such motivation in childhood, few are so constantly seeking for the loophole in the fern wehre the leaves swing shut behind them. But I anticipate. It is in the mind that the flight commences. It is there that the arc lights lay their shadows. It is there, down those streets past unlit houses that the child runs on alone."

--Loren EiseleyThe Night Country















I KNEW I SHOULDN'T HAVE DROPPED THAT ACID.




Sunday, January 25, 2015

POET DANA GIOIA AND THE UPCOMING FUTURE OF THE CATHOLIC LITERARY IMAGINATION CONFERENCE AT USC




Dana Gioia and the Future of the Catholic Literary Imagination.

Here's the beginning of the piece:

Dana Gioia is a poet and critic who served as chair-man of the National Endowment for the Arts. He is the author, most recently, of “Pity the Beautiful,” his fourth volume of poems.

He also has a genius for connecting people. To that end, he’s spearheaded a conference called “The Future of the Catholic Literary Imagination” that will take place at the University of Southern California Feb. 19-21.

Sponsored by the Institute for Advanced Catholic Studies at USC, the conference will feature Julia Alvarez, Ron Hansen, Alice McDermott, Kevin Starr, Tobias Wolff and Gioia himself, as well as “many more leading writers, critics, scholars, editors and journalists — young and old, Catholic and non-Catholic — in a dynamic, serious (but never pious) conversation about the relationship between faith and literature in contemporary American culture.”

I had the chance to sit down with Dana recently, and we discussed Catholic literature and his place in it.

You were born and raised in a blue-collar family in Hawthorne, Calif. How did your own Catholic literary imagination first catch fire?

I was raised in a Catholic family in a mostly Mexican neighborhood and attended 12 years of Catholic school. Consequently, my whole early worldview was Catholic, and it seemed consonant with the great art I encountered — Dante, Michelangelo, Mozart, Shakespeare. The creative vision of these artists was reinforced by their spiritual vision. Those early experiences shaped my sensibility. Art without a metaphysical dimension still feels diminished to me.

READ THE REST OF THIS RIVETING INTERVIEW HERE!






palm trees ringed with white lights
grand park, downtown l.a.
i like to imagine the trees CARE.


Friday, January 23, 2015

LET ME BE A MYSTIC-COMIC!

I FOUND A LITTLE ROGUE STAND OF THIS PLANT FORCING ITSELF
THROUGH THE BACKYARD FENCE FROM NEXT DOOR
YESTERDAY AFTERNOON.
HERE'S A SPRIG OF IT IN THE MORNING LIGHT.

Hi there, folks. What a time. It's week seven or eight of the jackhammers, drills and saws but a new day is dawning. A new day is always dawning. I have made friends and learned the life stories of Tony and Mark, two of the workers, and filched some potting soil from the ten-foot long trailer of dirt and trash in the driveway.

My roommate Jacqui and I (my next book should be called The Roommate) have re-bonded and one of the things to come out of our little set-to (which we later laughed our rear ends off over, plus I showed her the post and she loved it) is that if and when I move back here in May, I will make the little free-standing studio (pix to follow) in the back yard into my office (aka 12-hour-a-day home).

To have my own little place to which I can shut the door, gaze out the window at the birds, and write is just what I need and would be heaven. Remind me to extrapolate soon about my life-long pattern of always having an incredibly great space in which that also always has at least one MAJOR drawback. The insistence upon being in at least 30% discomfort at any given time may be hard-wired into my system, I don't know.

Anyway, here's an interview, in which I use the world "just" approximately 200 times too many, that Anna Weaver worked up for Northwest Catholic. It's called "On Fire for the Light" and is a kind of entree into the Women's Retreat I'll be leading in Seattle March 20-22nd (waiting list only at this point).

For the next few days, I'll be packing and moving. Fun!

Have a great weekend yourselves.

WALKING FROM CAR TO DISNEY HALL LAST NIGHT
TO HEAR EMMANUEL AX AND THE LA PHIL.
WAIT'LL I POST MY "GRAND PARK" SERIES. 

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

HOUSTON FEBRUARY 3: MARK YOUR CALENDARS


Fyi, I'm coming to Texas! And will be speaking at the above-described event, which is open to the public.

Very excited. Have driven across Texas twice solo, done a 40-day retreat on the Gulf Coast, and listened ad infinitum to Iris Dement's "Bluebonnet Spring." I've always been warmly welcomed. Houston will be new to me. Hope to take in a bit of the museums and gardens.

And I'm very much looking forward to meeting the students, parents and folks-at-large at Episcopal High School the night of February 3rd.

See you there!

Monday, January 19, 2015

I WRITE FOR THE READER AND A DOMESTIC ARGUMENT







"I write above all for the reader, with the intention of giving pleasure, amusing, stunning or destroying. It is impossible to write without another person."

--Tadeusz Konwicki, Polish novelist and filmmaker, from a book-length interview called "Half a Century of Purgation"

This is week eight of the tree-cutters, drills, and jackhammers and I must say it is a sign of God's infinite mercy that I have not had a complete nervous breakdown.

My one true not-to-be-moved obligation is to turn in my arts and culture column each Friday. Then I have many many other self-imposed obligations. Amazingly, I have more or less kept up with them all.

I case I haven't spelled it out, this is what's going on. The foundation of the house where I've lived for four years (and which my room-mate owns) is being is re-built, after which the whole house and yard are going to be re-done. So I'm going to move out for three months is the plan. I've already found a place, not far from here. So that's good, but I still have to pack up all my stuff and store it and figure out what to bring with me and haul that over and move in by Feb. 1st and the morning of Feb. 1st I leave at 6:15 am for Houston for four days, then come back for a few days, then fly out on a red-eye the following Saturday eve for Honduras. Followed by two Lenten missions, a book release in early March, ET CETERA.

So while I've been pretty well maintaining, one day at a time, yesterday morning I had a huge blowout with my roommate. That's it, I'm moving out for good, I'd already decided. She is all about MONEY and I am all about LOVE.

Later in the afternoon I brought another friend home with me to pick up some of my plants. My roommate was out in the yard and mentioned that at the new place where I am moving for three months while the house is being re-done I will have peace and quiet from 7 am to 5.

"Yes,"  I snapped, and before I even understood what I was saying, added, "and it will be nice to be someplace where I am WELCOMED and TREASURED."

"You're welcome here!" she said. "You're always welcome here."

"I am not!" I responded stubbornly. "I am not treasured!"

And then this person who I've been accusing in my head of being emotionless and cold, Jacqui, my beloved roommate, came over and gave me a big hug and said she adored me and I am welcome to stay here always and it's been hard on both of us and she can't imagine how frustrating it must have been these past months--more like two years--with first a new sewer on the street, then her lawsuit and now a new foundation and house rehab.

I forgot to say that yesterday morning, before all this transpired, I had gone out to the yard and buried a little silver cross under the pink camellia bush and a Pope Francis medal under the red camellia bush, both of which I can hardly bear to think of leaving, to bestow a kind of blessing on the house.

And we just happened to be out by the camellia bushes when all this happened.

Anyway, apparently I am destined to move through life as a giant baby, wearing my heart on my sleeve, crying at the most inopportune and inappropriate moments, lurching from one position to another in the space of five minutes, from hot to cold, from resentment to love, from hardness of heart to humility of heart, from being convinced that I'm right to doubting that I've ever been right, from weariness to wonder, from fear to faith, from self-righteousness to an embrace, a truce, a guffaw.

I like to think I am so complicated, so deep, but at the end of the day I just want to be treasured. I think we all want that. And however awkwardly and ridiculously that comes out--maybe it's a good thing to say it out loud every so often. You have to be in a certain kind of poverty, one you would never have looked for or asked for, to admit that you want to be treasured. I mean we can't insist on being treasured or harp on being treasured. But it's okay to be vulnerable. It's okay to speak our little "truth."

When we do, the world seems instantly to reach out and grasp our hand.
And one more time we're astonished: by ourselves, and--even more, even better--by the other.
.
SCENES FROM MY DESK
THANKS FOR LISTENING!



Saturday, January 17, 2015

A FOLK ART TREASURE: GRANDMA PRISBREY'S BOTTLE VILLAGE

TRESSA LUELLA SHAFFER AKA GRANDMA PRISBREY
AT HER BOTTLE VILLAGE IN SIMI VALLEY,  CA,1973

This week's arts and culture colulmn is called A Folk Art Treasure: Grandma Prisbrey's Bottle Village.

Here's an excerpt:

"At the age of 60, Grandma Prisbrey, as she was known by this time, exploded.

During the next five years, in a borderline berserk burst of energy, she erected structure after structure.

Grandma began to visit the nearby dump daily. She built wishing wells, a Shell House, an Agitator Garden (using old washing machine parts), a Cabana/Card House (Grandma loved to gamble), and a Shrine to All Religious. She constructed a Doll Head Planter and a Parade of Dolls Doll House. She erected a Rumpus Room for her grandchildren, a Meditation Room, chapels, huts, flower stands and a Headlight Planter.

She connected them all with cement walkways in which she embedded bullets, combs, hood ornaments from cars, broken pieces of tile, keys, razors and baby pacifiers."

READ THE WHOLE PIECE HERE.
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Thursday, January 15, 2015

THE PEOPLE I ADMIRE MOST





The people I admire most are those who are sensitive and who want to create something or discover something, and do not see life in terms of power."
--E.M. Forster