Tuesday, March 31, 2015

A Thing a Day

Some changes happen quickly and some happen over time, little by little.

We are spring cleaning, and looking at the things in our possession with a new eye. It's hard to tackle projects while working full-time, so I'm trying to keep the tasks small enough to manage.

I've decided to do one thing every day.

Today, the thing I did was to take an old broken-down patio umbrella that's been sitting in the carport for over a year, and throw it in the garbage.

What will tomorrow's thing be?

Sunday, March 29, 2015

One stop candy shop

It's a warm June afternoon and I'm sitting on the bench at the Pico station, waiting for the west-bound Expo Line.

He pushes a huge suitcase, strapped to a dolly with bungee cords. He's wearing baggy shorts and high-top sneakers and a ball cap, but it's the sunglasses I can't stop looking at. They are curved, bug-eyed, and the metal frame shines like a spindly golden cross across his face, catching the sun.

"One stop candy shop!" he says. "Gummi bears, red vines, Slim Jims, chips. Coke-cola, water."  He tips back the dolly so the suitcase is on its back, and zips open the top flap.

Inside is a perfected sorted, organized display of snacks, candies, pens and pencils, cigarettes. Strapped to the top of the dolly is a hard-shelled cooler, inside are clear water bottles beaded with dew. "I got what you need."

The commuters peer in. One man buys a bag of chips. "Hey man, you out here everyday?

"I try to get out as much as I can," he says. "Keeping busy."

"I seen you down by Vermont the other day."

"I do what I can. The customers be looking for us here, they going back and forth, need a little sweet snack, a drink of water. I don't show up, they miss me."

The water looks cool and the day is hot. I speak up, "I'll take a water."

"Sure, miss. Want one with a lot of ice or just a little bit of ice?" He rummages in the cooler, plucks a nearly frozen bottle out, holds it up.

"I'll take one with just a little ice," I say, holding out my dollar bill.

He presents it with a flourish and a napkin. "Thank you!" It's cold and refreshing.

Then he zips up the bag, uprights the cart, and continues down the platform. "One stop candy shop! Red vines, beef jerky, cold water!"

Saturday, March 28, 2015

March photo album

Although I haven't been posting very much, I've been out and about and exploring with my camera. Here are some photos taken this March.

Miner's lettuce, found during a hike in Tuna Canyon.

Jack and me at the Tuna Canyon look-out. 

Homemade buttermilk white bread.

The Busy Bee hardware store on Santa Monica Boulevard.

Wild mushrooms at the Pacific Palisades Farmers Market

Lobster risotto, made by our friend Ernie, for our friend Patty's birthday.

The lobby of the Beverly Hilton Hotel. 

When I look through my photo album, I realize how every day has been full of wonderful things, each one holding its own story.  It's a reminder to me to write those stories.

Friday, March 20, 2015

First day of Spring

So much to do! But let's take some time and celebrate the first day of Spring. Here in my poor neglected garden, a volunteer arroyo lupine (Lupinus succulentus) blooms.

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Super Sunday

At the Barkus Parade, Mardi Gras 2011
On the Sunday before St. Joseph's Day (March 19), the Mardi Gras Indians of New Orleans, traditional African-American social organizations paying homage to Native Americans, parade in the streets of the City.  Each member creates and wears his own costume, elaborately beaded and feathered garb fantastically based on Plains Indian attire.

Each group dances and sings and have mock battles with one another, vying for the best, most elaborate celebration of joy and revelry.

Super Sunday is truly a day of celebration, especially for someone who JUST GOT ACCEPTED INTO THE UNIVERSITY OF NEW ORLEANS CREATIVE WRITING MFA PROGRAM!

Wild Tchopatoulas gonna stomp some rump!

Saturday, March 14, 2015

Buh bye, 'bama

Rejection email from University of Alabama came on Friday. With an attached pdf that was the same message on official stationery!

Two more left.

Thursday, March 12, 2015


The weather is very mercurial here in Southern California. The weekend was crystal clear and cool, but by Tuesday, the clouds blew in, speckling the sky with piebald shreds like a torn-apart blanket. Yesterday on my commute home, big fat drops of rain spattered on my windshield as I drove along the coast.

Today, the Santa Ana winds are up, hot fierce wind from the deserts pouring through our canyon to the ocean, a harbinger of record heat that's expected by Sunday. When I went out this morning to walk Jack, it tossed my hair into my eyes. Walking on the street, I could hear the wind rush through the trees, high overhead.

Pinus sabiniana, also called the gray pine or the digger pine, are tall open trees with long needles and large cones that, when they drop onto our flat rooftop, you can hear them fall. The seeds were once prized as food by the Native people who lived here. My neighbor has three tall pine trees, growing in the strip between his driveway and ours. When the wind is high, it rushes through the pine boughs and sounds like ocean waves.

Here in Topanga, though our hills are thickly forested with coast live oaks, and volatile, non-native eucalyptus, it's the pine trees that speak the wind to us.

Wednesday, March 11, 2015


Topanga mural
I'm very sad to get rejected by University of California at Riverside. I had a wonderful visit there, and had a good meeting with a professor. It was one of the schools on the top of my list, and the one I thought I had the best chance at. 

It's not to be. At least, not this year.

Saturday, March 7, 2015

Above it all

Yes, its the same place as the title photo
Yesterday was a beautiful spring day in Southern California, perfect for a hike up Tuna Canyon.

There was a stiff offshore breeze tossing the chaparral and oak leaves.  It was almost crystal clear, just a slight haze over the city. We could see the snow-covered peaks of Mt. Baldy.

Castilleja affinis, or Indian paint brush
This is a steep trail, but it's good to walk because it's partially shaded. The verges of the trail were touched with wildflowers in bloom.

Here, a hillside is covered with golden California poppies in bloom.

Just beautiful.

At the top of the trail, there's a broad flat overlook where you can see from the beaches of Santa Monica to the San Gabriel Mountains, with the skyscrapers of Westwood, Century City, and downtown Los Angeles between.

Click to "embiggen"
And also here is a stone mandala/maze. So Topanga!

Thursday, March 5, 2015


Louisiana State University at Baton Rouge - the kiss-off came by email.

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Is this all I'm going to write about?

Rejection number four came in today, by email from the University of Arizona.

When I look at the website tracking acceptances, it's interesting how each school's pattern varies.  I received my rejection from Iowa on February 23rd. The acceptance notices are showing up now, March 2, 3, 4. So they notified the rejects first.

Acceptance notices for UC Riverside, Fiction, started showing up February 28, and more March 2, 3 and 4. Yet no notices for Poetry or Non-Fiction - are they separate batches?

No rejections for UC Riverside have shown up either - on the board or in my mailbox. So they must notify accepted applicants first.

I have been accepted at one school - way back in December, Mount St. Mary's University contacted me to notify me they'd accepted me.  They were on the bottom of my list, and they don't provide funding. Still, it softens the blow to my ego, I guess.

Waiting for five more notices.

Then, I should probably get off my ass and start writing in this blog again.