over yonder

March 31, 2011

the world war ii memorial
and the washington monument

the monument's reflection in the potomac
through the cherry blossoms

and the cherry trees in bloom

this was a matlock project. learn about that here.

love is like communism

March 15, 2011

i think i've mentioned this before, but for the purpose of this post, you get to read it again ... i attended three different third grade classes at three different schools in a six month period. the first was taught by a woman who ended up becoming my favorite teacher. the third was taught by someone so unmemorable that i couldn't tell you if that teacher was a man or a woman.

the second ...

that one was taught at a catholic school by a sour-faced, plain and unremarkable woman. the only concrete memory i have of her is that she wore the black and white headpiece of a nun's habit atop her straight, chin-length, dry, dirty blonde hair.

my mother says this teacher placed me in a cardboard box.

i've no memory of this. i can, however, recall feeling segregated.

i can also recall the day we'd made valentines for our classmates. first we decorated those plain brown paper lunch bags and placed them on our desks. these were for the valentines we received.

and then we made valentines (or filled in the to/from on our storebought ones) for our classmates.

i remember that my peers' bags were stuffed with cards.

i remember that mine was not. in fact, mine was practically (if not) empty.

thirty years have passed since this.

and i feel as unlovable now as i did then.

i suppose that's my fault.

i love me. i do. so it's not that. it's that i can't believe a man i find attractive could love me. why should i?

twice in my life i've found the courage to say, in no uncertain terms, how i felt for a man. the first time was january second, nineteen ninety-nine. i'd driven from houston to austin to have lunch with a friend whom i'd known since i was ten. i was twenty-five at the time. i thought enough of our friendship, felt comfortable enough with him that i thought i could talk with him about what i felt and thought and not damage things. i suppose i should've known better. i was scared shitless of the consequences, good or bad, but i'd never really had the courage to be so direct about my feelings before.

he was not thrilled. in fact, he was quite upset with me. he'd been strumming his guitar when i'd said, after finally finding the gumption to spit it out, that i thought i might be in love with him.

there's a whole lot of possibility in that statement. a whole lot.

thought and might are a helluva lot different from know and am. but of course, he didn't take it that way.

his fingers fell over the strings in a way that created this jarring cacophony.

i said, i probably shouldn't have said that.

he just sat there, saying nothing.

i said something about how i definitely shouldn't have said that and muttered something about needing a cigarette and bolted for the door. he hated that i smoked, so when i was at his place, i left my smokes and lighter in my car. i sat there in the driver's seat, with the door ajar, one foot on the floorboard and the other on the concrete of his driveway, chain-smoking.

after a minute or so he'd come out to stand by my car, one arm resting on the top of the door. he looked down on me and berated me for what seemed to be a half hour at least. he couldn't understand why i would say that. he'd thought i'd learned by now it was better not to say that. we were friends. nothing more. i was never to mention it again.

i cried the whole way back. when i got to the intersection of highway two-ninety and f.m. twenty-nine-twenty, i realized i didn't want to go home to an empty apartment and couldn't go to my parents, so i drove north to huntsville and spent the night with my younger brother and his friends. i cried some more.

and in doing so, i wrecked two friendships -- the one he and i'd had and the one he'd had with my brother. so quite a bit of damage, that.

i went back to my apartment the next day. in my mail was a card from his mother, wishing me a happy new year and hoping it had gotten off to a good start. i cried some more.

the second was almost three years later, which is actually a surprise to me because the years between the first incident and the second? it felt as though twice that many years had passed.

i can't remember the date, which is odd, really, because i can tell you, even now, pretty much every date that this boy and i had seen each other. but this particular date escapes me.

we were sitting at his breakfast table in his apartment, having dinner -- pork and asparagus. i don't like pork. he'd volunteered to cook dinner for me, which was nice, but he hadn't asked what i wanted. which i guess was fair in the end, because when i cooked dinner for him the following week, i didn't ask what he would like. i made what i could cook well enough -- penne a la vodka. i did, however, know that he had a fondness for capers, so i found an appetizer that had those in the recipe and made that.

anyway. we were dining, and i'd gotten quiet. i was happy, though. really happy. it was a good quiet. i was just sitting there, thinking happy thoughts. a rarity for me.

he asked what i was thinking about.

i remembered that afternoon from the first incident, how it had gone so badly. you probably wouldn't want to hear it, i said.

he smiled at me and said that he did.

and i, being the ever hopeful girl that i am, the one who's been too much the coward for much of her life, the one who's always saying the wrong thing, said something similar to what i'd said three years before.

i can't remember it verbatim. kind of strange, really. i can't remember the date or the phrasing.

i can remember that his expression changed from one of amusement to wariness. of course, it did. i'd just ruined a perfectly good evening.

i said something about how i knew he wouldn't want to hear it. he replied that it was too soon. and i'd said something schmaltzy about it not being an obligation. the rest of the evening went well enough.

the relationship did not.

that was nine years ago.

i haven't met a man who's compelled me to feel that way since.

but i keep hoping.

silly me.

that woman i mentioned in a previous post, the one who educates me about current events and politics? the last time we met, we were talking about communism and how it's founded on this grand idea that eventually, if people were to adhere to its principles, a communistic society would evolve into this abundant, idyllic realm.

the thing is, that ideal is never realized.

love, for me, is like communism. it's a beautiful, grand, marvelous thing ... in theory. and yes, i'm aware it's a flawed thing. it's beauty and grandeur and marvelousness exist despite this. but the reality, for me, is horribly sad and depressing, and i am impoverished.

and yet, i keep hoping, keep believing that something good will come of all this. i keep thinking someday, somewhere, there's a guy with whom i'll wanna be who's not gonna balk at the prospect of being with me.

alex and rosie

the tenth book is cecelia ahern's love, rosie.

i'd said in the previous post that there would be moments you'd want to hurl that book. you'll want to hurl this one, too. with a lot more force and frequency.

because alex and rosie ... their story spans more than four decades. they are two of the most infuriating, exasperating, idiotic characters ever conceived.

but they're so cute!

the other thing i like about this book is that the whole thing is written in dialogue, beginning as the notes they write to each other in miss big nose bad breath casey's class and progressing to instant messages and emails, if not to each other then to their friends about one another. makes for a very quick read.

from: alex
to: rosie
subject: my theory

yes, i must, and you will read it. okay, if i had invited you to my tenth birthday party then brian the whine wouldn't have been invited. if brian hadn't gone then he wouldn't have thrown pizza all over jamie's sleeping bag, and if he hadn't done that and completely ruined my party then you and i wouldn't have hated him so much. if you and i hadn't hated him so much then you wouldn't have had to drink so much in order to be able to accompany him to the debs. if you hadn't done that ... well ... perhaps you wouldn't have been quite so drunk, and your darling little katie wouldn't have been born. therefore i did you a favor!
and that, rosie dunne, is my theory.

from: rosie
to: alex
subject: my theory

very clever, alex, very, very clever. but you needn't have gone that far back to accept responsibility for katie. here's my theory.
had i not been stood up by you at the debs, i wouldn't have had to go with brian the whine at all. had you showed up at the airport that day our lives could have turned out very differently.

from: alex
to: rosie
subject: life

yeah, that's something i'm beginning to wonder about.

henry and clare

March 13, 2011

next up is the time traveler's wife by audrey niffenegger. where the other books took me a matter of a few hours to read, this one took me about a month. it's long. it's hard. there will be times you will want to hurl the thing across the room. there are passages that you will wish weren't in there. it's another example of cinema fucking up a great idea. so don't judge it on the crap you might have seen in a theater, because that was the worst adaption i've ever seen. ever. but i LOVE this book. SO MUCH. it is perhaps the coolest story i've read.

it's hard being left behind. i wait for henry, not knowing where he is, wondering if he's okay. it's hard for me to be the one who stays.

i keep myself busy. i take walks. i work until i'm tired. i watch the wind play with trash that's been under the snow all winter. everything seems simple until you think about it. why is love intensified by absence?

. . .

it's ironic, really. all my pleasures are homey ones: armchair splendor, the sedate excitements of domesticity. all i ask for are humble delights. a mystery novel in bed, the smell of clare's long red-gold hair damp from washing, a postcard from a friend on vacation, cream dispersing into coffee, the softness of the skin under clare's breasts, the symmetry of grocery bags sitting on the kitchen counter waiting to be unpacked ... and clare, always clare. clare in the morning, sleepy and crumple-faced. clare with her arms plunging into the papermaking vat, pulling up the mold and shaking it so, and so, to meld the fibers. clare reading, with her hair hanging over the back of the chair, massaging balm into her cracked red hands before bed. clare's low voice in my ear often.

i hate to be where she is not, when she is not. and yet, i am always going, and she cannot follow.

. . .

henry and i have very different ways of looking at houses. i walk through slowly, consider the woodwork, the appliances, ask questions about the furnace, check for water damage in the basement. henry just walks directly to the back of the house, peers out the back window, and shakes his head at me ... i finally find it a month and twenty or so houses later. it's on ainslie, in lincoln square, a red brick bungalow built in nineteen twenty-six. carol pops open the key box and wrestles with the lock, and as the door opens i have an overwhelming sensation of something fitting ... i walk right through to the back window, peer out at the backyard, and there's my future studio, and there's the grape arbor, and as i turn carol looks at me inquisitively, and i say, 'we'll buy it.'

she is more than a bit surprised. 'don't you want to see the rest of the house? what about your husband?'

'oh, he's already seen it. but yeah, sure, let's see the house.'

. . .

henry walks out of the building looking unhappy, and suddenly he cries out, and he's gone. i jump out of the car and run over the spot where henry was, just an instant ago, but of course there's just a pile of clothing there, now. i gather everything up and stand for a few heartbeats in the middle of the street, and as i stand there i see a man's face looking down at me from a window on the third floor. then he disappears. i walk back to the car and get in, and sit staring at henry's light blue shirt and black pants, wondering if there's any point in staying here. i've got brideshead revisited in my purse, so i decide to hang around for a while in case henry reappears soon. as i turn to find the book i see a red-haired man running toward the car. he stops at the passenger door and peers in at me. this must be kendrick. i flip the lock, and he climbs into the car, and then he doesn't know what to say.

'hello,' i say. 'you must be david kendrick. i'm clare detamble.'

'yes--' he's completely flustered. 'yes, yes. your husband--'

'just vanished in broad daylight.'


'you seem surprised.'


'didn't he tell you? he does that.'

adam and tasha

March 11, 2011

okay. so now we're back in the fiction section of the store. yay! this next book is called straight talking by jane green.

but could i ever look at adam and see a greek god? shit, i don't think i'll think about that one just at the moment. i think i'll just pour myself another glass of wine and wait for the doorbell.

when it eventually rings i walk very slowly to the front door, and after i open it i see it isn't this terrible thing on the doorstep. it's adam, my old, reliable adam ...

he gives me a hug, and suddenly he feels different. it's not just adam anymore. it's a man, a man i could be having a relationship with, and i move my hand slightly on his back, just checking, just feeling what there is underneath, what his body might feel like.

'can i get you a drink?' i feel ridiculous, like a hostess inviting a stranger into her home, and yet the easy intimacy we've always shared seems to have disappeared, and adam feels much like a stranger ...

he looks down at his glass and then back at me. 'i've missed you.'

'i know. i've missed you, too.' i have. desperately. all the times those stupid little things, or funny little things have happened at work, i've picked up the phone to call adam, to make him laugh, and just as i've picked up the receiver, i've remembered, and it's been awful ...

'why am i here, tash?' he's not looking at me as he says this, and my heart goes out to him. he looks like a little boy, scared, unsure, and i just want to put my arms around him and cuddle his fears away. but do i want to make love with him? let's not think about that just yet.

'this has been the most impossible three weeks of my life, ad. jesus, this was harder than the run up to my bloody degree, so firstly i want to say thank you for causing all this misery.'

he smiles, and i think he senses it's all going to be okay.

'i love you, ad. you know that. i'm not in love with you, but maybe it could work. i don't know, but i suppose there's only one way to find out, so i guess,' i pause, not quite knowing how to say it, 'i guess the answer to your question is yes.'

'what was the question?' he's smiling broadly now, all the nervousness disappeared.

'i don't know, but yes, i'd like to give it a go.'

'give what a go?' he's teasing me now because he can see i'm still a bit awkward.

'give us a go.' there. i said it. the dreaded us, and you know what? it doesn't sound nearly as bad once it's out there. in fact it sounds quite nice ...

i know the kiss is coming. the kiss is coming. shit, the kiss is nearly upon us. what am i going to do? but when adam bends his head down he's still smiling, and he very slowly kisses me on the lips then sits back, smiling some more, and just looks at me.

'how was that?'

'okay,' i'm nodding my head. 'it was really okay.'

and he bends his head again, and we kiss again, for longer this time, but no tongues, all right? then he sits back and looks at me some more.

'are you sure about this?' he asks.

'nope. i'm not sure at all, but we can do it again just to find out?'

this time he kisses me for a lot longer ... and i think, jesus where in the hell did adam learn to be so good at this? ... and you know what? it's bloody nice, this is.

clayton and whitney

March 10, 2011

oh, i do so like it when an author pairs up two incredibly headstrong folks, as judith mcnaught does in pretty much all of her novels. the best example of this is whitney, my love.

i know. it's a lame title. and it's typical smut. but i think you're gonna like these two.

'he doesn't care about the money, but he hates to admit he lost. he's never learned how to accept defeat.'

clayton laid down his knife and fork, preparing to give stephen the brutal setdown he'd earned hours before, but whitney, taking stephen's cue, immediately drew off clayton's fire. 'how strange you should say that,' she said to stephen, looking genuinely amazed. 'i have found that your brother accepts defeat without even putting up the slightest struggle. why, faced with the tiniest discouragement, he simply gives up and--'

clayton's open hand slammed down on the table with a crash that made the dishes dance. he surged to his feet, a muscle leaping furiously along the taut line of his jaw. 'miss stone and i have something to say to each other which is best said in private.' he gritted out the words, flinging his napkin down on the table and jerked whitney's chair back. 'get up!' he snapped in a low, terrible voice when whitney remained frozen in her seat. his hand clamped down painfully on her forearm, and whitney rose unsteadily ... 

clayton hauled her halfway across the room, which was lined with books, recessed behind richly carved arches of polished oak, then flung her arm away and stalked to the fireplace. turning, he regarded her with a look of undiluted loathing, while he visibly strove to bring his rampaging temper under control. suddenly his voice slashed through the silence. 'you have exactly two minutes to explain the purpose of this unexpected and unwelcome visit of yours. at the end of that time, i will escort you to your carriage and make your excuses to my mother and brother.'

whitney drew a tortured breath, knowing that if he saw her fear now he would use it against her. 'the purpose of my visit?' she said in a small, distracted voice, her mind frantically counting off the passing seconds. 'i -- i would have thought by now it was obvious.'

'it is not obvious!'

'i've come to -- to explain why i said what i did to you at the banquet. you see,' she said, stammering in her haste to finish in the minutes he'd allotted her, 'earlier at the church, i thought we -- you and i -- still had an agreement, and--'

clayton's eyes raked contemptuously over her. 'we have no agreement,' he said scathingly. 'it's over. done with. it should never have begun! the betrothal was an insane idea, and i curse the day i thought of it.'

sick with failure and defeat, whitney dug her nails into the flesh of her palms and shook her head in denial. 'it never had a chance to begin because i wouldn't let it.'

'your two minutes are almost up.'

'clayton, please listen to me!' she cried desperately. 'you -- you told me a long time ago that you wanted me to come to you willingly, that you didn't want a cold, unwilling wife.'

'and?' he demanded furiously.

whitney's voice shook. 'and i am here. willingly.'

james and georgina

March 8, 2011

i think the first smut book i read was johanna lindsey's gentle rogue. and no, i didn't choose it because it's smut. i chose it because i like the malory family. they're some pretty cool folks.

georgina: 'i had to leave england.'

james: 'were you in trouble?'

'no, i just couldn't stand it there another day.'

'then why didn't you leave in the customary fashion, by purchasing your passage?'

'because the only ships crossing the atlantic were english.'

'i imagine that's supposed to make sense. give me a moment, and i might figure it out ... then again, i might not. what the deuce is wrong with english ships?'

she frowned at him. 'you wouldn't find anything wrong with them, but i happen to despise all things english' ...

he grinned, then chuckled. 'i'm beginning to see the light, george. you wouldn't happen to be one of those hotheaded americans, would you? that would certainly account for the accent i haven't been able to place.'

'and what if i am?' she demanded defensively.

'why, i'd consider locking you up, of course. safest place for people who like to start wars so much.'

byron and kate

March 6, 2011

i've been dreading this post. mostly because i had to run through my list to see just how many stories i could include by this one author and it turns out i can only do one or two depending on whether i include a work by another author.

and because the next two (or three) authors' works are classified as romance novels rather than chick lit, i'm a little wary of including them.

but only a little.

because i love them.

i've loved them longer than almost every book i've read, save for the love i have for thomas harris' silence of the lambs and red dragon. i know. odd, right? that i would mention his works and follow that up with nora roberts' stuff.

that i would love anything so grotesque and grim, really, is bizarre considering i can't even stomach the thought of listening to michael jackson's thriller or watching the monster squad (a film in which a young boy and his friends take on dracula, frankenstein, wolfman and a bunch of other heebie jeebies). a kiddie flick scares me, okay? that's how much of a sissy i am.

anyway ...

so yeah. nora.

it's been a while since she's written anything i've loved. but back in the day, when i should've been reading faulkner, fitzgerald, hemingway, shakespeare and steinbeck, i was reading smut. voraciously. and usually it was written by her.

back in the day, she was a pretty good storyteller.

so picking one (and it will be one ... i've decided) of her stories which i like better than all the others is kind of a feat.

but because it's my blog, and therefore the rules can be bent a little, i'm going to cheat and do a trilogy. hah! because technically, it can be purchased in one volume. (so really, the cheating's not so bad.)

it's called lovers and dreamers.

it's about margo, kate and laura and their boys, joshua, byron and michael.

since three snippets would make this a hella long post and since of those three couples' tales, kate and byron's story is my favorite, you get a bit from the second story, holding the dream.

'something wrong with your lunch?'

she glanced over, and the hand she had pressed protectively against her stomach fisted as byron slide into the chair that tydings had vacated. 'are you on dining room detail? i thought the brass stayed up in the lofty regions of the penthouse.'

'oh, we mingle with the lower floors occasionally.' he signaled to a waitress. he'd been watching kate for ten minutes. she had sat completely still, staring out of the window, her meal untouched, her eyes dark and miserable. 'the chicken bisque,' he ordered. 'two.'

'i don't want anything.'

'i hate to eat alone,' he said smoothly, as the waitress cleared the dishes. 'you can always play with it like you did your salad. if you're not feeling well, the bisque should perk you up.'

'i'm fine. i had a business lunch.' under the table she pleated her napkin in her lap. she wasn't ready to get up, wasn't sure her legs were strong enough. 'who eats at business lunches?'

'everyone.' leaning forward, he poured two glasses of mineral water. 'you look unhappy.'

'i've a client with an imbalance of passive income. that always makes me unhappy. what do you want, de witt?'

'a bowl of soup, a little conversation. you know, i developed this hobby of conversation as a child. i've never been able to break it ... i've noticed you often have a bit of trouble in that area. i'd be happy to help you, as i'm sort of a buff.'

'i don't like small talk.'

'there you are. i do ... i also have a habit of eating,' he continued. 'if you need help along those lines, i can tell you that you start by dipping your spoon into the soup.'

'i'm not hungry.'

'think of it as medicine. it might put some color back into your cheeks. you not only look unhappy, kate, you look tired, beaten down and closing in on ill.'

hoping it would shut him up, she spooned up some soup. 'boy, now i'm all perked up. it's a miracle.'

when he only smiled at her, she sighed. why did he have to sit there, acting so damn nice and making her feel like sludge?

'i'm sorry. i'm lousy company.'

'was your business meeting difficult?'

'yes, as a matter of fact.' because it was soothing, she sampled the bisque again. 'i'll deal with it.'

'why don't you tell me what you do when you're not dealing with difficult business problems.'

the headache at the edges of her consciousness wasn't backing off, but it wasn't creeping closer. 'i deal with simple business problems.'

'and when you're not dealing with business?'

she studied him narrowly, the mild, polite eyes, the easy smile. 'you are coming on to me.'

'no, i'm considering coming on to you, which is entirely different. that's why we're having a basic conversation over a bowl of soup.' his smile widened, flirted. 'it also gives you equal opportunity to consider whether or not you'd like to come on to me.'

her lips twitched before she could stop them. 'i do appreciate a man who believes in gender equality.' she also had to appreciate that for a few minutes he'd taken her mind off her troubles. that he knew it, yet didn't push the point.

'i think i'm beginning to like you, kate. you are, i believe, an acquired taste, and i've always enjoyed odd flavors.'

'wow. that's quite a statement. my heart's going pitty-pat.'

dexter and rachel

March 2, 2011

something borrowed is one of those stories i didn't like on the first read.

in fact, i was kind of put off by dexter in the end. i like my leading men to be men, not pansies, after all, and he has moments of utter pansiness (that's probably not a word, but i'm leaving it anyway) that are such a turn-off.

it's not a great story, either.

in fact, i balked at reading it originally. why? because when rachel and dex hook up, he's engaged to her best friend.

that's pretty shitty.

but for some reason, i bought it. i read it. i liked it, but not so much that i felt compelled to keep it or recommend it to anyone else.

so i wasn't going to put it in the ten-list.

and then i watched the trailer for it today, which of course made me go and buy the damned book again and read all the parts of their story i liked. turns out there were a lot of parts worth reading.

'you don't see yourself the way you are.'

i avert my eyes, focus on a spot of ink on my comforter.

he continues. 'you see yourself as very average, ordinary. and there is nothing ordinary about you, rachel.'

i can't look back at him. my face burns.

'and i know that you blush when you're embarrassed.' he smiles.

'no i don't!' i cover my face with one hand and roll my eyes.

'yes you do. you're adorable. and yet you have no idea, which is the most adorable part.'

nobody, not even my mother, has ever called me adorable.

'and you are beautiful. absolutely, stunningly beautiful in the freshest, most natural way. you look like one of those ivory girls' ...

i tell him to please stop. even though i love what he has just told me.

'it's true.'

i want to believe him ... 'whoever said i didn't want to date in law school?'

'well, you didn't, did you?  you were there to learn, not date. that was clear ... i almost asked you out, you know that?'

i laugh at this.

'it's true,' he says, sounding a little bit hurt.

i give him a dubious look.

'do you remember that time when we were studying for our torts final?'

i picture his thumb on my face, wiping away my tear. so it had meant something.

'you know exactly what i'm talking about, don't you?'

my face feels hot as i nod. 'i think so. yeah.'

'and when i asked to walk you home, you said no. shot me down.'

'i didn't shoot you down!'

'you were all business.'

'i wasn't. i just didn't think at the time ...' my voice trails off.

'yeah, and then you introduced me to darcy. i knew then that you had zero interest.'

'i just didn't think ... i didn't think you saw me that way.'

so, here's hoping that the screenwriter took all those parts that make this story good and capitalized on them while chucking all the parts that sucked.

because the trailer really does look good. but then, maybe that's just because i like the guys who are going to be in it.