Archive for January, 2009

Is Marketplace Bakery in Louisville, CO or Mayberry RFD?

Dear Reader,

Surprise, surprise, surprise! Marketplace Bakery could just as easily be nestled next to Floyd’s Barber’s Shop in Mayberry RFD, as to the Empire Lounge & Restaurant in Historic Louisville, CO. The how-you-been? atmosphere, smothered in the scent of freshly baked bread, turnovers, the day’s sandwich special, and Silver Canyon coffee, is accented with laughter, political discussions, and weekly catch-up sessions between friends, just like you’d expect it to be in Mayberry’s Bluebird Diner.

I’ve spent many hours here, sitting at a window table, focusing on writing-type things, and I’ve always been welcomed by the staff and creatively nurtured by Susan Bright’s photographs on the walls, display cases of baked goods, and Marketplace Bakery’s assorted customers, many as interesting as Opie and Andy, Aunt Bee and Otis, or Gomer and Goober.

I haven’t yet heard Gomer’s “Gaaw-aawl-ly,” or “Shazam!” but I have heard tow-headed twin little girls’ giggles when doughnut sprinkles get stuck to their lips, and babies’ coos behind their mother’s morning conversation, and Marketplace Bakery owners Susan and Kathy’s chants of “Eat more toast! Eat more toast!” Well, maybe chanting isn’t correct; it’s more like hollering. But then… maybe they’re not making any noise at all. Maybe I’m imagining Barney Fife squawking over finally getting to use that bullet he’s forever carried in his pocket.

So, since there’s a chance I haven’t made myself clear about how I feel about Marketplace Bakery, I’d better just say it: I love it!

signature20

THE MEASURE OF A MAN: A SPIRITUAL AUTOBIOGRAPHY, by Sidney Poitier

SPIRITUAL “Of, Relating to, Consisting of, or Affecting the Spirit” – Webster’s Dictionary

Dear Reader,

As a movie fan, I’ve always been smitten with Poitier’s voice—his diction and control on film, and the flow of his words as they travel in and around his ideas during interviews―so I read The Measure of a Man (2000) with an ear for his voice. I wondered Is his power translatable to print? It is, but that required the reader to allow Poitier’s thoughts to meander until they find their point, and to understand his thoughts are less formulated (or formal) this way, and the text is more “in his own words,” than they might be if they were edited out. I read just enough “You know?”s “You hear me when I tell you?”s and “You follow?”s to feel like he talked directly to me, but not too many to annoy me. I imagined what it might be like to have a conversation with Poitier. My answer? Intimidating as heck, I think he’d encourage me to speak my mind.

As an editor, I read to learn know how Poitier defines a “spiritual” autobiography. Is it just I-Was-A-Sinner-But-I-Found-Jesus-And-Now-I’m-Saved? Is it a list of how Christianity or another faiths influenced his life? Neither.  Poitier examines the people, events, circumstances, beliefs, and so on, which related to, consisted of, or affected his spirit, and, in doing so, he writes about childhood experiences in the Bahamas, his changing perceptions about his parents, how he adapts to living in the United States, his approach to acting and film making, and his attitudes toward fatherhood. Plus, he shares a thought-provoking debate between a friend and he about the Basic Truth of Nature.

Is The Measure of a Man going to satisfy readers interested only in Poitier’s film career? No. But I urge them to read it anyway, if for no other reason than to find out how his spirit influenced his acting and film choices.

signature19

J. Diego Frey “Takes” On William Carlos Williams

Dear Reader,

Have you read J. Diego Frey’s new volume of poetry, Umbrellas Or Else? Not yet? Well then, I suggest you get right on it, because the experience is so fun it makes you want to dump your vocabulary on the playroom floor and start building poems with it. I mean it.

Now, I could go on and on about Frey’s poems, but today I want to on just one, “Re: The Cupcakes,” a loving take on William Carlos Williams’ poem “This Is Just To Say.” Here’s Williams’ poem.

This Is Just To Say

I have eaten

the plums

that were in

the icebox

and which

you were probably

saving

for breakfast

Forgive me

they were delicious

so sweet

and so cold

And here’s Frey’s poem. (Reprinted with the poet’s permission.)

Re: The Cupcakes

I found

perched furtively

in your top

left-hand desk drawer

I have eaten them

they were delicious

though frosting

stuck to plastic

Please forgive me

as they were in

the way of

the Paterson file

cc:wcw

Doesn’t it make you want to build your own version of Williams’ poem? Hmmm… I wonder how it would adapt to the last olive stuffed with blue cheese, or a sliver of French silk pie.

signature17

“John Updike Dies”

Dear Reader,

After I read the headline “Best-Selling Author John Updike Dies,” It seemed the only way to pay tribute to him is through sharing how his writing  altered my perception of literature.

It was summer of 1982, and sunshine heated the pages of the paperback Rabbit is Rich as I held it in my hand, as I sprawled on a red and green Indian blanket on my mother’s front yard. I read the novel’s first lines:

Running out of gas, Rabbit Angstrom thinks as he stands behind the summer-dusty windows of the Springer Motors display room [the car dealership he owns] watching the traffic go by on Route 111, traffic somehow thin and scared compared to what it used to be. The fucking world is running out of gas. But they won’t catch him, not yet, because there isn’t a piece of junk on the road gets better gas mileage than his Toyotas, with lower service costs.

I thought something was odd about Updike’s writing, but I couldn’t define what that was. I read further, and then it hit me. I thought Man, he’s writing about stuff I know about. (About the year 1979, Toyotas, Skylab, President Carter, The oil embargo, The energy crisis, Plaid polyester sport coats, Inflation, Blow-dried and hair sprayed men’s hair.) Everything he’s talking about is part of my life. Before this, I assumed literature had to be about the lives of people from the distant past, about distant past things―Chaucer, Poe, or Laura Ingalls Wilder things. Shakespeare, Whitman, or Byron things. Not my few-years-distant-past things. From then on, I searched for more novels like Updike’s.

I spent the next few days on that blanket, engrossed in Rabbit Angstrom’s   and my life.

signature15

I’m An Editor, Not An Anal Grammarian

Dear Reader,

This morning I had an introductory meeting with a writer interested in contracting me to edit her novel. I planned to make an authoritative impression, so I chose to wear my first-meeting-with-a-potential-client outfit: chestnut linen slacks, matching tailored jacket, slimming-but-not-too-low-cut-v-neck top, artsy-but-not-wacko jewelry, maroon Mary Jane’s, and tummy-control underwear. So as to appear unburdened and focused, I eschewed my everyday carryall full of books, pens, writing projects, note cards, and Day Runner for a sensible attaché, in which I loaded bare essentials like my wallet, two tissues, three pens, and a crisp notebook.

As I drove to Borders, where we were to meet, I slid rapper Eminem’s “The Eminem Show” into my CD player. I liked what I heard, so I turned up the volume. Then I turned it up some more, and some more, and still more until my windows rattled. Amused by myself, I thought You’d never know by looking at me that I’m not an anal grammarian. Smiling, I glanced to my left, and I saw a teenager in the next car block her face from me and put her cell phone to her ear. What’s her problem? I thought.

Within minutes I had my answer. A police cruiser started to pass me then dropped back and signaled for me to pull over. I cooperated. “Was I speeding?” I asked the officer when he stepped up to my window. “No, ma’am. Worse. Disturbing the peace.”

Crap! I knew this was going to happen. I can just imagine what they’ll print about me in the Westminster Window:

Jan. 24, 9:42 a.m. an officer responded to a noise complaint concerning a white Honda Accord sedan traveling westbound on Hwy 36, near Flatiron Mall. The officer reported that upon pulling alongside the Honda he heard loud cursing and bawdy bass notes. He then observed a middle-aged Caucasian female, wearing business attire, flashing gang gestures and suggestively pursing her lips. He called for backup then signaled for the driver to pull over her vehicle. When the officer questioned the driver about her loud music she became agitated. She then stated she was a book and poetry editor and that she was studying the rhyme schemes and sentence structure of rap music. The officer ticketed her for gesticular driving and failure to restrict herself to demographically appropriate music then instructed her to “keep it down.” The driver, Faye Quam Heimerl, exited the scene without incident.

Ticketing over, I quietly drove the last mile to my meeting. Confidence shaken, I wondered if I maybe wasn’t cut out to be an editor. I wondered if an editor would listen to Eminem. Would get choked up over John Philip Sousa’s “Nobles of the Mystic Shrine.” Would  naughtily embrace semi-colon jokes, mixed idioms, and fart humor. I also wondered if an authoritative editor would get smeared in Scrabble, read “common” literature, or host swearing tournaments.

I arrived at my destination internally ruffled but externally composed. I told myself to stay cool and just do what I always do when I meet a new client. She won’t have any reason to think I’m not a typical editor. So, I took my own advice. I strode up to my potential client, firmly shook her hand, and said, “It’s  good to meet you, dawg.”

signature14

Warren’s Invocation: Three Words from President Obama’s Inauguration

Dear Reader,

Today I was moved to tears by words. Three words in Pastor Rick Warren’s inaugural invocation. Three words. Cloud. Witnesses. Shouting. Three perfect words. Words united with nine others to create both Warren’s phrase  “Dr. King and a great cloud of witnesses are shouting in heaven” and my dream of this heaven:  Beaten down men shedding their overalls and shredding them to confetti. Mothers rocking their lynched sons back to life. Children flaunting penny candy they bought at the “white” five-and-dime. Images. Black Sunday worshipers and businessmen yelping, tossing their fedoras into remembering’s sunshine. Hands clapping backs, hands clapping hands, hands clasping. Shouting, even babies shouting, “Alleluia! Praise God! At last! At last!” and Martin Luther King weeping into his hands and muttering, “Thank you.”

signature13

Emissions, Sneers, and Robert Frost

Dear Reader,

When I stepped into the waiting room at the emissions testing center, the couple’s hatred blindsided me. “Look at him,” the man said, sneering through a window at the employee revving up the woman’s muscle car. “He should be on ‘America’s Biggest Loser’ He’s gotta weigh at least 350.” The woman whined, “He’ll rip my leather.”

I stomach ached for that employee. He was fat, and these awful people hated him for it.

“This is a fiasco,” the man started. “Why can’t he pull the car up to the next station then walk back to get the next car? I mean, why does someone have to drive it away from him? Can’t he move that far?”

I wanted to say, “Why don’t you shut up. You’re making me sick.” But I didn’t have the nerve. Instead, I pulled from my bag the only book I had with me, A Pocket Book of Robert Frost’s Poems, and began to read the first poem to which I opened: “Two Tramps in Mud Time.”

Out of the mud two strangers came

And caught me splitting wood in the yard.

And one of them put me off my aim

By hailing cheerily “Hit them hard!”

I knew pretty well why he dropped behind

And let the other go on a way.

I knew pretty well what he had in mind:

He wanted to take my job for pay….

The couple’s voices pressed for my attention. “An inefficient fiasco,” the man said. “This is typical, typical government waste.” And I again wanted to speak: “This place is privately owned, idiot.” But I continued to read.

Nothing on either side was said.

They knew they had but to stay their stay

And all their logic would fill my head:

As that I had no right to play

With what was another man’s work for gain

[they were probably out-of-work lumberjacks].

My right might be love but theirs was need.

And where the two exist in twain

Theirs was the better right―agreed.

Frost’s poem became my “human” shield, and the couple’s spurned hatred was sucked away with the exhaust fumes.

But yield who will to their separation,

My object in living is to unite

My avocation and vocation

As my two eyes make one sight.

Only where love and need are one,

And the work is play for mortal stakes,

Is the deed ever really done

For Heaven and the future’s sakes.

Out of the mud two strangers came.

signature12