Wednesday, June 29, 2005

Mother Ocean

I live in a world of water.

After shopping for food today, a kindly bagger pushed my cart to my car (hey, I'm a senior-like citizen, I can accept help) and loaded my groceries to the cargo area of my Vibe. He had to work around the case of bottled water that I habitually carry so that I have plenty of water for trail rides, or a greatly-needed bottle of water for when I'm done riding in the arena.

The bottle of chilled water that I had added to my checkout was in my purse.

Six gallon bottles of water sloshed in the well of the front seat of my car, bottles I was too lazy to bring in the day before.

Bottled water.

The stuff from the tap in the sink is potable. You can drink it and not die. This is good. But it reeks of chlorine, and tastes like the bottom of a brick. It's fine for cooking, as the boiling process makes the chlorine smell dissipate, and maybe bricks are good for stews.

But I wouldn't drink it if I could help it. If I were parched, and tap-water my only hope, I'd drink it. Reluctantly.

I rely on filtrated water from a vending source (25 cents a gallon, relatively cheap) for my daily liquid needs. We try to keep a few days' worth of drinkable water on hand at all times.

Yet I remember, when I was a child, living in Mifflintown, Pennsylvania, drinking straight from the tap (I was supposed to get a cup, but didn't) and having the water taste clean and sweet. Not sweet as in sugar-sweet, but sweet as in "wholesome" and "earthy" and "uncontaminated."

Sometimes, when I was a child, we would go to a certain mountain spring, and fill bottles there because the water tasted so good. I remember that it did have a "wild" taste to it, a taste that bespoke of earth, and limestone, and oak leaves that layered the mountainside.

No one said, "Don't eat fish from the river more than twice a week because the chemical content is dangerous." In fact some people caught most of their food from the Juniata River and its tributary streams: sunfish, rock bass, small- and large-mouth bass, catfish, muskellunge, pickerel, trout -- carp, if you could get yourself past the foolish cultural negativity about the fish. Out here you just can't do that. Where the fish are safe to eat, the water is over-fished.

Water rules the world.


Wednesday, June 22, 2005

Weed Control

Three medical pot clubs in San Francisco were raided by federal agents today.

Good for the feds! How clever and brave of them to take away a source of comfort to chemotherapy patients and people who suffer from chronic depression or pain. How laudable their actions, eradicating traces and tiny bits of a weed.

This marijuana weed produces euphoria and makes people sleepy. How incredibly dangerous feeling good and sleepy is, compared to say, Jimson weed, which, when ingested, produces hallucinations and death. Are federal agents out scouring the countryside for Jimson weed, to protect the populace from its misuse? No. It grows everywhere in warm climates, and sometimes, it's even cultivated as a garden plant because of its huge white blossoms. Datura is another name for this plant, which has been used as a hallucinogen for hundreds, perhaps thousands of years. The government has no interest in it, as datura is merely deadly, where as people enjoy smoking marijuana.

Enjoyment is to be prohibited, but the pain of lacerations to the mouths and legs of animals is just fine from the spiny yellow star thistle (centaurea solstitialis) as it invades and destroys grazing lands. Who cares if pastures are being destroyed? Let the horrible spiny plants grow where they will, it's far more important to the government to keep chemo patients from smoking marijuana and feeling less ill.

How about water hyacinth, a non-native invasive plant clogging waterways from Florida to California? It grows unchecked by federal agents, who have far better things to do with their time than preserve creeks and rivers. Even the fish don't like it, but it is allowed to grow with little or no intervention from the federal agents.

Oh, and while we're on this subject -- marijuana is not permitted to grow wild in any of the United States of America. A stand of marijuana discovered growing will bring in helicopters and machetes and herbicides. What about poison ivy and poison oak? Simply walking through it causes the skin to blister; brushing up against its roots or bare vines in the winter will cause a rash and allergic reactions to ALMOST EVERYONE. Some people are so allergic to this noxious, poisonous weed that their skin will literally peel off, leaving suppurating raw flesh and agonizing itching and pain. That's okay, though, in the eyes of the government. As long as no one is enjoying a relief from misery, the damned poison ivy/oak plant can grow where it will, and it does.

I'm not advocating a marijuana plant in every yard, by any means. But it sure seems to me that the government could put the same vigor into eradicating some of these destructive invasive species and do a lot more to ensure the safety and comfort of people and the environment.

Orangey = fairly irritated

Sunday, June 19, 2005

Batman at Last!

I always thought Batman was a kind of dumb effort at a comic book superhero.

I grew up with Superman as my main DC Comics hero, perhaps with Aquaman second because of the lovely Mera he encountered, with her gorgeous long red hair. Batman rather bored me, largely due to Robin and his shaven bare legs -- an adolescent boy sidekick? Puh-leeze, I shared the same town with adolescent boys and I knew that they were not into crime-fighting, not a one of them. Too unrealistic. So to speak.

So I really didn't want to go see yet another Batman movie. I had no idea why anyone would want to make another Batman movie. Michael Keaton reinvented Batman after Adam West's horrible assassination of the role (regardless of what you West fans think), but then ick, Val Kilmer et al as Batman ... They shoot horses, don't they? Have they been put down yet?

Well, I went to see Batman Begins only as a favor to my beloved spouse, who chose the movie as his Fathers' Day treat.

And loved it. Finally there was a point to the bat costume, finally a reason Batman was supposed to be so formidable, finally an understanding why buzillionaire Bruce Wayne decided to assume an alter ego called Batman. And the butler, Alfred. Well, hell, if we had known 50 years ago that Alfred was like Michael Caine, what heights of glory might Batman have attained?

Super movie. I want to go see it again tomorrow.

Saturday, June 18, 2005

Revisiting Lack of Justice and Sense

Maybe there will be some justice, after all.

The mother of the boy Nicholas who was killed by the family pit bulls has admitted that one of the dogs had bitten him earlier in the day. Knowing the child was in danger from the animals, she put him in the basement and then left -- to go shopping.

Why didn't she take him with her? Had he been so badly bitten she didn't want anyone else to see him?

The San Francisco district attorney has been in contact with police about possibly charging the mother with child endangerment and keeping dangerous dogs.

This is one of the most depressing news stories I've ever heard.

Wednesday, June 15, 2005

Buried Treasure

Perhaps I should be ashamed to admit this, but I like my own writing.

Well, the fiction, anyway. I loathe writing non-fiction and dismiss it from my mind as soon as it's done, whether the Teachers' Handbook I wrote when I was administering an educational program or a travelogue for the Piker Press about taking a walk in San Francisco. Yuck. Poo. I like making up long, elaborate lies much, much more.

Maybe I like my fiction because the characters have been running around in my head for a long time and it's nice to meet them "in person" on the printed page. The easiest book I've written was Character Assassin, in which I (as Sand Pilarski) meet the characters about whom I write, including ... uh ... myself as "Aser." The book was written in less than a month as my 2003 National Novel Writing Month challenge ( When I started, I knew the beginning (I would be taken hostage by my fictional characters) and I knew the ending (I win, of course) and I knew there would be 25 chapters, so I just assigned characters to each chapter number and off I went, thinking it was the cheapest word-count I'd ever see in my life. (NaNoWriMo's goal is 50,000 words in November.)

What I found was that imagining meeting those characters brought out a depth in them I didn't know existed. As a result of visiting in Character Assassin with Sully Ambris and her sister Jesse, I was able to pick up the dud novel Dreamer, and rewrite and finish the thing. For that alone I would be grateful, but I also learned a bit more about story-telling by talking to "Aser," who is a consummate tale-teller. (She's not very tactful, by the way.) And so, the book that started out as a cheap-and-easy NaNoWriMo novel ended up being a month-long writing retreat, delving into characterization and pacing.

*Aser has just poked me with her staff and told me to cut the jabber and get to the point.*

Last NaNoWriMo, I wrote a book called Out With The Trash. Midway through November, I was so sick of writing it that I intended to quit the 30-day challenge and trash the work. In a last-ditch effort at inspiration, I returned to the "gimmick" of Character Assassin and allowed the main character to "visit" me. What I wrote about meeting the main character unlocked the verbal dam in my brain and I was able to finish the challenge with words to spare, and thus Out With The Trash should be available sometime late this summer. But after writing about meeting that main character, I never went back and reviewed the conversation with her.

Okay, okay. The point is, I found that file again today, and it was COOL! I didn't remember it at all! I only found it because I was deleting junk files! There it was, a whole conversation not only with "Aser", but also with "Emily Storm." Poor Emily, she got the short end of the stick, so to speak. However, finding that forgotten file with that forgotten conversation makes me eager to finish editing Out With The Trash and get it to Lulu for print.

And I've got to figure out a way to work that file into a story for the Press.

Monday, June 13, 2005

German Shepherd Hair

Today I took the crotchety old man to task and made him lie down on the floor in front of me.

At first he lay smack on his chest, so that I could not lift his huge yellow feet or check his belly. But as I plied the rake on the back of his neck, and gobs and clouds of undercoat began to come loose, he relaxed and rolled to his side.

Since we switched dog foods, from Pedigree to Canidae, Babe's coat has been undergoing a transformation. His grubby, smelly old undercoat is coming loose, leaving lustrous soft fur behind. The pile of loose hair that piled up beside me was the size of an ottoman, and after a half an hour of raking, we both wore out. His neck, left shoulder, and a bit of his left side are done. He'd had enough, I'd had enough. He was ready for the slicker brush and a cookie.

Babe weighs about 100 pounds. He's a formidable beast. I don't worry about him with a three-year-old in the house because he's bred to protect. On the other hand, I don't let the kid play in the same room he's in unsupervised. That would be just stupid. He could decide that the salesman at the door needs to be deterred and knock the kid down getting to his objective. He's so old that if she accidentally fell on him, she could cripple him fatally. Safeguards have to be taken.

Babe's tail is as thick as my calf, and as I lifted his tail today to brush his ivory pantaloons, I drew back in shock. His whole ass was as green as grass. After an initial nanosecond of panic, I realized that Babe had been keeping the kid company while she drew green chalk illustrations on the porch.

How many times have I said this? "Good dog, Babe."

Sunday, June 12, 2005

Lack of Justice and Sense

Maureen Faibish locked her son in the basement because she feared he might be in danger from her pet pit bulls.

Nicholas, aged 12, managed to circumvent her barricade, emerged from the basement, and was subsequently killed by one or both dogs.

A child was locked in a basement while dangerous dogs had the run of the house. A mother locked her child in a basement because she knew her dogs were dangerous. Why didn't Mom lock the dogs in the basement and keep the key with her? Why didn't Mom send Nicholas somewhere else or keep him with her if she was afraid to leave him alone with the dogs?

Fast-reverse on the old VCR here, even though VCR's hadn't even been thought of when I was twelve. Our dog, Raggs, was never a danger to us. She was my companion, my insurance policy, my pal. We played, and she roamed with me. My parents never had to worry about leaving my sister or me alone with her. And in addition, my parents never locked us in the basement. For any reason.

"And I told him, [Faibish said] `Stay down there until I come back.' Typical Nicky, he wouldn't listen to me.”

A twelve-year-old with any kind of average sense knows that kids should not be locked in a basement. I knew that when I was twelve. Hell, I knew that when I was six. "lock children in a basement=nutcase" Yes, I knew that.

If M. Faibish suspected that the dogs were dangerous, and so felt compelled to lock the child in the basement... IF SHE SUSPECTED THE DOGS WOULD HARM THE CHILD SHE LEFT ALONE WITH THEM ... how is she innocent of negligence? Of manslaughter?

“It's Nicky's time to go,” she said. “When you're born you're destined to go and this was his time.”

Too fucking bad for Nicky that the dogs' time to go wasn't before his. He might have grown up to be an adult who didn't like the idea of locking his kids in the basement.

And just a gruesome aside, for all those people who think Nicholas' death was a fluke: have you ever seen a little terrier kill a rat? No? They shake it until it's in pieces. Consider that Staffordshire Bull Terriers aka Pit Bulls, weigh about 40 pounds, or in the trade of disreputable breeders, can weigh up to 60 pounds. All terriers are bred to kill things. Rats, mice, rabbits, foxes, groundhogs. It's what they do, from the genes out. What is a 40 pound terrier bred to kill? No, really, what? Chickens? Wolves? Bicycles? How about anything that gets in their way?

Friday, June 10, 2005

Tomatoes ...

My Roma tomatoes are loaded.

By next week, I'm going to have tasty fat red tomatoes sitting smugly on my counter on sheets of paper towels. In spite of the cool temperatures of the last few weeks, the blossoms on the Romas set, although the Better Boy variety vines put their energy into leaf rather than fruit. Lazy weeds. All of them got yummy cow manure and epsom salts for their spring snack, but the Romas are far more industrious. That's why the Romas will get extra water, and the Better Boys will get the ol' hedge-trimmers in two weeks to explain to them why it's important to get serious.

Well, of course they understand these things. These are tomatoes, not carrots. Tomatoes are not mindless vegetables, they are pets, and they must be trained. If you cage them, or tie them to a stake, they grow resentful or occasionally, psychotic, and either grow to be eight feet tall (with the idea of getting the drop on you) or refuse to bear more than a scant handful or so of mealy fruit. Sure, you can medicate them with Miracle-Gro or somesuch fertilizer to make them produce, zombie-like, but you run the risk of wearing them out before the end of the season. Halloween is the end of the season out here, I don't want to cut short my tomatoes lifetime just so they can snort nitrogen.

Last year I was precipitous, and tried two new tomato varieties: 4th of July (reputed to be a very early tomato) and Bush Big Boy (acclaimed for the classic Big Boy taste but on a determinate vine.) 4th of July produced early, but the fruits were small -- hardly larger than a cherry tomato, the taste and texture of which I find unpalatable. The vines knew it, and in spite, produced only a few fruits the size of small marbles. Morons.

Bush Big Boy set handsome fruits in a gorgeous tasty cluster -- and then withered, died, and disappeared, figuring work was done by August. Jerks. Slackers. We only got one round of BLT's the whole summer.

Tomorrow I need to trim the lantana off the tomatoes by the driveway. I'll wade in and stroke the vines, releasing their intoxicating tomato scent, tickling the blossoms to help them set some more. I'll tell them they're doing a good job, and that I love them.

Thursday, June 09, 2005

Six Lanes

People drive too damn fast.

The speed limit on Highway 99 is 65 mph. I want technology to come up with a way to project a hologram above my car with a custom message that says, "DON'T YOU UNDERSTAND WHAT THE WORD LIMIT MEANS???" Doing 65 behind a "slow" truck, I had people screaming past me in both the left and right lanes, leaving no more than a car-length between them and the vehicles they pulled in front of and behind.

God help us, have they never seen what an impact on a highway does to some stupid coyote or cat? Do they really think a Ford Focus is going to protect them from that? Do they think that their Yukon won't do that to the kids in the back of that Beetle?

We made it there -- Modesto -- and back again, alive. Driving on the highway always improves my prayer life. I commend my soul to God as I turn onto the On Ramp, and I thank God for the preservation of my earthly life on the Off Ramp. While I'm on the highway, I beg God to help me not impede my transition from this world to the next by worrying about the pain of crushing vehicular death for me or my passengers.

On every street or road, if the speed limit is 30 mph, the convention is that if you're doing less than 40, you're holding up traffic; if the limit is 70 mph, then you had better be doing 80, or someone will tailgate to force you to speed up. I hate that, so if you happen to be following a white Vibe with CA plates, be prepared to annoyingly adhere to the speed limit, or less if there's a downpour of rain or a wall of fog.

If that's too slow for you, change lanes, speed up, and don't forget to commend your soul to God with special requisition for forgiveness for being an impatient asshole.

Wednesday, June 08, 2005

Oh, yeah, hair

I knew there was something I wanted to say. "Hair."

Being the first week of the month, I was prompted by the grey and bleh-dishwater-blonde roots to dye my hair. Mmmmm. It looks like a fake hair dye -- and it will until I'm out in the sun. Then the right bits will bleach out and make me look like an old beach bum. Yeah, me, at 51, a California Blonde. It suits me, I think. Especially the part with "hair."

Five months after the last shaving, I have to use conditioners because my hair tangles. Next month when I dye my roots, I'll have to buy TWO boxes of dye because my hair is so thick, one isn't enough. I laugh maniacally when I contemplate how fast my hair grows -- soon it will take over the world!

Seriously, having hair again is quite wonderful. Yes, I'll need to keep it combed, dyed, trimmed, etc. but I don't have to wear a hat to keep my scalp from sunburn, or to keep passers-by from being horrified.

My friend's hair has grown back in curly and thick and a beautiful silver color. It's lovely! She gripes at me just a little because my hair is so long, but I think she likes her silver, and her curls.

Just because her hair isn't as long isn't an issue. She's alive, and chemo is done, and she's alive, and every time I comb my unruly hair, I think of her, and thank God for the extension of her life.

And hair. Hair is good. Both of us think so.

Monday, June 06, 2005

Paradise Looks Like a Deserted Drive-in

Back in 1997, when we had just moved in

and negotiated for a swimming pool to grace our bald and graceless back yard, we asked for the retaining wall to be built of "landscape timbers." The installation of the pool was delayed because the foreman of the team went to jail because he forgot to show up in court because his ex-wife was disputing the amount of child support he was paying. The pool was supposed to be "done" on August 9, 1997, but by the end of September it was still a mess in the back yard.

What they built for a retaining wall wasn't with landscape timbers, it was just treated wood, but it looked okay. Only they didn't bother to check the city requirements, which precluded wood retaining walls. It was the company's mistake ("Pools by Design" was the company, but I think they went under right after that) and they sent some nimnod to rectify the mistake -- by screwing rough-cut metal sheets to the dirt side of the treated wood. I told the owner of the business that it was unacceptable; he countered by covering the raw metal edges with some black plasting edging. I should have gone ballistic and invited a lawyer over, but I hate conflict, and I was so damn sick of those idiots I just wanted the pool inspected and to get them the hell out of there. The bastards managed to steal a number of my tools as they left, too. Those I listed and the cost of replacement I deducted from the final payment.

Anyway, eight years later, the black plastic has begun to warp and pull away from the wall, the treated lumber is bleached and splintering (credit on both accounts to the power of the California sun) and it looks like a hillbilly attempt to keep the mountain at bay.

On the other side of the great water, the brick patio I hurriedly put in last year to accommodate the visiting Filthy Pikers fell victim to ants who undermined the bricks, and to weed seeds and the prolific rains of the spring; it's uneven and looks like it's been deserted and uncared for -- for a couple hundred years! It's so damn ugly I hate to go out there.

Oh, but I have to go out there, because the plumbing the Pool Mavens installed to the main water line for the automatic fill began to leak. They used a PVC junction that was flawed, and sprung a lovely leak. I'll bet it was seeping when it was installed, but they were in a hurry to finish and get their money, and they just said, "Eh, a drip or two won't hurt." Eight years later, water erosion made it a tiny gusher. At least it wasn't any of the piping that I later installed to run my irrigation system. However, that is exactly why I have to go out there to see the weedy, crumbling mess: their mistake in the plumbing made my irrigation system useless. So I had to stand out in the back and spend what? 15 minutes, watering pots and grass? Ugh, so inconvenient, I could have spent those 15 minutes staring at a game of Spider Solitaire.

The patio just outside the kitchen door is beautiful. Peaceful, comfortable, shady, interesting -- the kind of place you just want to hang out all day. The patio by the pool should feel that way, too.

The entire poolside area needs to be re-thought. Form and function, pleasure and visual impact. My brain is ticking over the possibilites. I just wish I had an extra lifetime to do the work.

Saturday, June 04, 2005

Sweaty Palms

The daughter asked me a surprising question today.

"What does it feel like to be able to draw that well?" she said to me after examining the latest Fever Dreams cartoon for The Piker Press. I was rather taken aback. Returning to the studio to take out the pencil reference lines, I tried to think of what it was like, but was distracted by the "that well" phrase.

My drawing isn't that good, not in my mind. Now and then I come up with an expression or a line that makes me grin in triumph, but good in my mind immediately calls up Watterson's Calvin and Hobbes -- now THAT'S GOOD. Me, I'm just a scribbler with hands that shake with nervousness when I pick up the indelible pen to ink the sketch. Hell, I've only been drawing cartoony stuff for less than a year, after a long, non-sketching period of nearly 2o years.

So I can't say that I know what it feels like to be able to draw well. That condition taken care of, I was inclined to ponder what it feels like to draw. After a while of frowning in concentration, I came to the conclusion that it's like being in air and breathing. You're not really aware of the oxygen and nitrogen and carbon dioxide, and unless you have a cold or have been exercising hard, you don't think about the art of breathing. When you're healthy, and the air is clean, the feeling of breathing is good, but not necessarily something you notice from moment to moment. If you have bronchitis, breathing is a pain in the -- neck -- lungs -- etc., and you know that there was a time when it felt better.

Drawing is like that. I watch the pencil lines intersect on the paper, and wait until they do what they ought to. Sometimes they're closely directed, but not always. When they get to a certain undefinable point, it's like smelling suddenly what's cooking in the kitchen at the other end of the house. *Click. Identify.* Then it's time for ink, and permanence, and while I can get lost seeing the ink soak into the paper, there's a lot of concentration on making sure the hand does what it's supposed to do to enhance the pencil strokes. Make the hand work. That's really not a time for creativity, just focus.

So the answer I gave right away to the original question was the best one: "It's nervewracking. My hands are dripping with sweat."

Friday, June 03, 2005

Wrong Numbers

Two text messages appeared on my phone today.

Both of them were in semi-Spanish, badly spelled, sounding desperate. One read, "Van que ago luz me enpaco toda mi ropa i medijo alachingada no me ables."

My guess is that "ago" should have been hago, (which would mean "I make" or "I do"); the "i" should probably been y (and), "medijo" me dijo (he told me), and "ables" hablas (you speak).

The other said, "5 meses separarnos quantos veses le pruente que se venga patras que mas puedo acer quantos tiempola devo de sperran 5 meses u anyo no sabe no se fini"

Okay, "pruente" has me stumped. So does "patras," and why "patras" are avenged, more than the sender is able to do. "acer" would be hacer. And the significance of "how much time I must they lose five months and year he doesn't know I don't know" is lost on me.

What also stumps me is how the second message was sent to my phone, with my phone number as origin. Tomorrow I make a trip to Verizon, hand someone the phone, and say, "Fix this."

La cosa mas importante (the most important thing) that I see here is speakers of Spanish who can't spell or use grammar correctly -- kind of like speakers of English who can't manage a more profound conversation than "Whuuuut? No fuckin' shit, man, I jus' told him, hey fuck this, man, y'know, and he fuckin' was like, 'Whuuut?'" No, I'm not kidding, real overheard conversation. It went on and on, with no more real information than that.

I'm going to call two cosas on the carpet. The first is the public education system. While each public school has Mascots and sports programs, colored markers and pens and whiteboards and lesson plans for group work, and lots of assemblies and awards and groovy playground equipment, they don't seem to have a sense of what the students are supposed to learn before they leave the hallowed halls of the school. In English, or in Spanish.

I had the opportunity to attend a "Conversational Spanish" class for 6 weeks a year and some ago, and I was disgusted by the squalor of the classroom we used at the elementary school up the street. Not only was the room filthy, but it was so cluttered with shit -- inconsequential shit -- that you could hardly see the walls. There were no desks, just dirty tables with student supplies stacked on them, beside tattered name cards indicating whose cruddy space was whose.

Yet Weston Elementary is one of the best public schools in the state, and is certainly better than some private schools I've seen.

I can't imagine teaching in such a room, which might better be called a "cloaca". I can't imagine learning in such a room, in such filth and constriction.

Toss in there those little students who speak English or Spanish at home, who hear shouts and screams of acrimony as 50% of their parents divorce, who regularly see on television adultery, violent death, and the ever-popular rude and contentious role of children towards adults, and what do you get? Unmotivated, despairing blobs who know that the system will pass them through, no matter what. If they show up every day and play on a sports team, they'll be awarded, no matter what they learn. If they show up every day and beat up smaller kids and hand out cigarettes to their classmates, they'll still receive an award for showing up every day.

My text-messagers are damn near illiterate. Maybe it's 133t Spanish, I don't know. But they are not going to hold jobs of responsibility with that kind of spelling, unless we're heading into some kind of Dark Age, where dialects separate and become distinct languages, (which is not at all unlikely, given the state of the government).

Public education is wasting its time when not focusing on Math, Grammar, Reading, and History. But I'll come back to that in many another blog entry.

Number Two in the lineup is my mother. She refused to teach me Spanish, or speak Spanish to me. Over and over again she told me that her mother insisted that her children speak only English, because they came to America and they had to be Americans. I even bought that when I was little.

However, when we went to visit Grammy Palos (who the hell thought up that name? She must have longed to be called Abuela or Abuelita) it was to be seen that I could not communicate with her at all because she spoke no English. So how the hell did she tell stories and talk with her five kids if they were not allowed to use anything but English? My mother didn't speak to her in English, she spoke in Spanish. I was out in the cold, and never developed an "ear" for my mother tongue. I can read it, if it's textbook grammatically correct, and not too complicated, but what my mother can hear in the chitchat of Hispanics who have moved into her neighborhood from New York is unintelligible to me. I wasn't allowed to hear it, just to read it.

And still unintelligible now, to read scrawls by those who were allowed to speak it, but not write it.

We're all screwed.

Wednesday, June 01, 2005

Stained Glass

Bernie's book is now available at Lulu.

You can see it by clicking on that "Books by Sand Pilarski" link on the right. We decided to share my "storefront." That saved him a lot of time and aggravation; time is something he doesn't have a lot of in the first place, and he certainly deserves a break from aggravation.

When he started the book, I hoped his writing would be good. How on earth would I be affirming and encouraging to him if he stunk? By the greatest good fortune, both Bernie and our daughter are wonderful writers. I was off the hook. The first few chapters were wonderfully readable, the main character Paul was so realistic I loathed him instantly. (I still do.) However, when Bernie announced that Part Two was going to be written from the standpoint of a woman, I had trepidations. And when further disclosure indicated that the woman was going to be a lesbian, I once again began to worry. How on earth could a man write about a woman realistically?

I've seen male authors try to model female characters with often idiotic or pathetic results -- even famous male authors, I might add. Indeed, becoming fed up with lousy portrayals of women in literature was the primary reason I stopped reading anything but female authors for a long time.

Once again, Bernie came through with flying colors. Not only was the main character Margaret feminine enough to suit me, but the appearance of Mei-ling Weaver was like a comet of characterization and she pretty much stole the show. And well she should, and Part Two was wonderful.

Bernie and I both got rather panicky when Part Three shot into a third-person point of view, however. The idea was that of balancing things out, of explaining, of looking at the broader picture. It could have been shittola, but instead, it seemed to cut loose some restraint in Bern's writing and he simply soared. There's a point in Part Three at which I break down in tears and blubber every time I think about it, let alone read it.

Ah, he's good.

Now that Stained Glass is done, maybe he'll turn once again to the Fr. LeCoeur stories for the Press, or pick back up on Mr. Cutter's Problem, which looks to be another phenomenal story.