Friday, March 26, 2004
UM . . .

I wonder what would happen if, rather than dutifully wending my way over to the conference early tomorrow morning to help my colleagues staff the
South Dakota Review table, I just happened to fuck off and, unable to help myself, meandered over to the Art Institute of Chicago, instead . . . where I might blissfully wander through the Contemporary/Modern galleries, not to mention the Arthur Rubloff Paperweight Collection, which contains over 1,400 priceless paperweights -- primarily from the famous French factories of Baccarat, Clichy, St. Louis, and Pantin, and handcrafted during the "golden age" (c. 19th century) of paperweights(!)

Admittedly, I'm the Editor for the winter and spring issues of the South Dakota Review, so I really ought to go and sit at the table. But I'm thinking . . . what would happen if, say, I just happened to flow over there sometime more in the vicinity of the afternoonish hours?

I suppose I have to go and sit at the stinking table.

Because if I didn't, it would be wrong, wouldn't it? (Wouldn't it???)
Posted by Artichoke Heart | 1:38 AM |
Thursday, March 25, 2004

I'm flying out to Chicago tomorrow (well, technically today) to attend the
AWP Conference, where my new book, Year of the Snake, is being launched, and to give a poetry reading on Saturday afternoon in a panel with other poets from the Crab Orchard Award Series in Poetry. SIU Press has made me all of these wonderful postcards which will be passed around at the conference -- featuring the book cover on the front and back-cover blurbage on the back. (Gentle Readers, if you would like to receive a Year of the Snake postcard, simply e-mail me your snail-mail addy, and I'll be happy to send you one!)

Typically, the day before an out-of-town reading/conference, I'm a total mess . . . a veritable pyramid of escalating neuroses usually culminating in a point where I decide that I just really, really do not want to go. Anywhere. Ever.

Plus I ate too much Fiddle Faddle and now I have a stomach ache.

However, the bags are packed with clothes that I will undoubtedly regret having brought and will not want to wear upon arrival, I'm equipped with a ludicrous amount of books which I won't have time to read, a rather formidable To-Do List has been whittled down, a kind friend has been solicited to come and provide cosseting to the cats, I've dug out the Yahoo map to the Omaha Airport to forestall any potential directionally dyslexic driving debacles in transit, and after all this fussing I suppose that I'm just going to have to suck it up and go.

I know that once I hit the road tomorrow morning I'll start to enjoy myself and look forward to the conference, the book-launching, the reading, etc.

Send "good reading" vibes my way if you happen to think of it on Saturday afternoon, and I hope you all have marvelous weekends!
Posted by Artichoke Heart | 12:32 AM |
Monday, March 22, 2004

For some reason, all of the gas stations and convenience stores in this region have names that sound like adult bookstores and/or porn shops. Consider, for example, the Kum N Go. Or the Pump N Stuff. Or the Pump N Pak, for that matter. As well as the Shop EZ (which most locals refer to as the Shop Sleazy, where I occasionally, and always against better judgment, can actually purchase a Big Gulp Cappuccino so that I can spend the next twelve hours twitching, sweating, and reading literary submissions really, really, really fast). Taken in this context, even the more innocuously-named businesses such as Cork N Bottle, Triple Time Rudy's, or Kadoo Express begin to take on the potential for a vaguely lurid and seamy undertone.

Interestingly enough, it seems that I actually have a doppelganger in town. Not only that, but apparently my doppelganger hangs out at the Pump N Stuff on Main and Forest. She doesn't appear to work there, from what I've gathered . . . she just goes there to, well . . . hang out. Sometimes complete strangers will come up to me, do a double take, and say something along the lines of, "Hey, weren't you hanging out at the Pump N Stuff yesterday afternoon?"

I believe that my doppelganger must be a Native American (or a mixed-race Native American) woman, because occasionally, a truck full of American Indians I don't know will enthusiastically start waving at me when I'm walking down the street. And one day a complete stranger, a middle-aged American Indian man, wandered past my office, looked in and did a double take . . . then wandered into my office, stared at me some more in bewilderment, and cryptically said, "Must be moving up in the world." (I always wave back with equal enthusiasm, and told the stranger in my office that yes, I supposed I was.)

Race relations in this part of the country can be quite tense at times, and there is unfortunately a lot of bigotry toward the Native Americans. There is a certain look that some people reserve for the Native Americans, when they pass them on the street, or in the Pamida, or serve them at the convenience store. It's a contemptuous, squinch-eyed look, and it's chock full of hatred and spite. I know because I've seen it happen. I know because with my dark hair and mixed-race Asian features I've been occasionally mistaken for mixed-race Native, and I've received that look once or twice myself.

I hope that my doppelganger doesn't have to put up with that look all the time and that if she does, she doesn't find her reflection, her sense of self, in those mean-spirited, narrow-minded, ugly faces. I hope she tells them to fuck off. Sometimes I fantasize that she has a nice life -- a kind of life I won't have -- with fat, brown-eyed babies. Sometimes I fantasize that she's a real badass . . . cool and fun and wild.

Whoever she is, I wish her well.
Posted by Artichoke Heart | 12:46 AM |
Sunday, March 21, 2004

The man in the apartment adjacent to mine has a new girlfriend. Not that I'm listening, but I can hear them having sex. Well, to be accurate, I can hear her when they're having sex, and it's somewhat interesting to note that her orgasms sound like a (highly amplified) pitch-perfect blend of Meg Ryan's diner scene in When Harry Met Sally with those yappy-ass, shampoo-fetishizing women in the Clairol Herbal Essences commercials.

Don't get me wrong, I'm not necessarily attempting to cast any aspersions on the, er . . . authenticity of the next-door orgasms. Far be it from me to even care, and believe me, I'd just as soon not have been placed in the position of even having to speculate on this to start with. Is it just me, though, or does anyone else find it somewhat off-putting that an entire generation of women are possibly emulating and/or simulating their orgasms according to the industry standards of Meg Ryan movies and shampoo commercials?

Here's the thing, though. My cat
Yuki is a bit of a prima donna and has a lot of complicated rules by which residents of the other apartments, people congregating outside the house and in the neighborhood at large, and well . . . the whole world, really, are pretty much expected to comply. These rules might include No D-O-G-s Allowed (in fact, the word "d-o-g" must always be spelled out at all times and never articulated out loud in her presence); That's My Chair; Don't Fuck With My Feet; I'll Poke You If I Want; and No Talking, Laughing, Shouting or Other Noises From the Neighboring Apartments. To name just a few.

So, needless to say, the loud sex thing from next door really chaps Yuki's ass. As soon as it starts up, she expresses her displeasure by going, "Grr!" When this doesn't put an end to the infraction, she gets louder, and goes, "Grrrrrr!!!" When this doesn't put a stop to things, and, in fact, it only begins to get louder next door, she becomes agitated, and starts noisily jumping and thumping around the house, and going, "GRRRRRRRRR!!!!"

This is the point where whatever resources of Emotional Maturity I might normally be able to at least pretend to possess completely abandon me. The girl next door's yippee-kayay-ing away, Yuki's thumping and jumping noisily and growling at a decibel I'm convinced is, in fact, audible to the next-door neighbors, and I just can't help myself . . . it starts out as a suppressed snicker, and then modulates into a stifled tee hee, working itself into a not-so-discreet giggle, then finally explodes into a full-blown guffaw.

So the neighbors may, in fact, think I sit in my apartment and laugh at them when they have sex. Hell, maybe they think I'm the one that's thumping around and growling too. Either way, it's chagrin-inducing, and I must somehow maneuver to never, ever, ever run into them. Ever.

I suppose it could be worse. I dated a Screamer, once. We're talking full-out, no-holds-barred screaming. Quite frankly, I found it quite . . . disconcerting. A little bit upsetting, actually. The first time it happened, it shocked the hell out of me. It was definitely a step-back, fall-off-the-bed, Jesus-H.-Christ-on-a-Raft-what-the-fuck-was-that kind of a moment. (Quick sidebar . . . does anyone ever wonder why the middle initial "H" and why on a raft?)

And from there, it just became more extreme and demented. It was so loud that it woke people up in neighboring houses. It was so loud that my friend M., who lived in the next block, thought someone was being murdered . . . and this was without his hearing aids in. It was so loud that all the dogs in town sustained damaged eardrums and the sonar of local bats was permanently fucked up. It was so loud that bands of coyotes began to assemble on the top of the bluffs overlooking the river valley, and they all began howling at the moon . . .
Posted by Artichoke Heart | 2:19 AM |
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Books by Artichoke Heart
Beyond Heart Mountain
Year of the Snake

Poems by Artichoke Heart
Songs for a Rainy Season
Toothpick Warriors
Snake Wife
Happy Hour
Girl With A Bowl On Her Head

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