Saturday, April 30, 2005


From the diary: “February 23, 1982

“Mr Reade [Analy High School’s biology teacher] has gone to Nevada to manage a brothel. It was on the front page of the [SF] Chronicle and Press Democrat. Mallary [Magill] called Nevada and got an interview with him. They visited for awhile.”

I thought I might become a journalist. I tried it out on the high school paper and there really wasn’t much about it that I liked. I wanted to be a writer. But I had to figure out what that meant. There are different kinds of writers. Journalists, technical writers, novelists, poets, scriptwriters, playwrights, diarists. Because you can put words on paper doesn’t mean you can (or can stand to) be any or all kinds of writer.

A news article has a particular structure – you’re supposed to cram into the first paragraph as many of the vitals of the story as you can. The who/what/when/where stuff. The reader can stop reading after a couple paragraphs and have everything important. News editors will trim an article for space starting at the bottom.

Feature articles are a bit different. An interview is a feature article. A profile of a community leader. Columns on the opinion page. A movie review. These are essays, not news. Opinions and arguments, not facts.

In a news article you don’t tell the story in chronological order. You say, a person was shot to death, not a person got up this morning thinking he was going to have a tomorrow and walked down to the corner store and got into an argument with a man who shot him to death. You start with the bullet, then fill in the details.

I liked Mr Reade. I’ve always been fairly libertarian. Whatever one wants to do one ought to be able to do, so long as nobody gets hurt. Of course, when it comes to sex, that’s not the way society likes it. The general cast seems to be, we don’t care what you do so long as we get to make you feel shameful for doing it.

Let’s skip ahead about a month. Reade’s decision was blowing up. He’d taken a sabbatical, I learned, and he hadn’t told anyone where he was off to. He certainly hadn’t told the school administration he was going to Nevada to manage the Chicken Ranch. My diary entry for March 30, 1982 records my brush with punditry: “[Yesterday] I stayed after [school] a little while to work on the Analyan [the school newspaper]. [On my way home] I spotted a station wagon at the entrance to Analy [campus] in front of which stood a man holding a camera[. He was] pointing it at a student who was gesticulating ... I continued to approach and saw the ‘TV-50’ written on the station wagon door. The girl being interviewed was talking about Mr Reade … I stood there for a minute and when that interview was over I asked if they had talked to Mallary Magill who had interviewed [Reade for the school paper]. The lady holding the microphone ignored my query and instead asked me if I’d had Mr Reade in class. I said yes, last year. The man with the camera turned it on me and the lady started asking me questions. I had the subject clear in my mind so I launched forth on why I thought they shouldn’t dismiss Mr Reade.”

I had somewhere to go that night but my brother watched the news and told me I had the longest quote. I remember the woman interviewing me had more make-up on her face than I’d ever seen. Sparkles in a layer of white. She got me to say “whore” on TV. A piece of advice for interviews: Never repeat anything the interviewer asks unless it’s something you plan to say. She asked me something like, was your teacher training young girls to be whores? And I insisted, It’s not like Mr Reade was teaching anybody to be a whore. “Whore” is not a word that trips off my tongue. But only my voice was included in the broadcast.

Mallary is one of those people I haven’t seen or heard about since high school but I’d love to know what she’s been up to.

Reade update: Seems Russ Reade stayed on at the Chicken Ranch. According to the Pahrump Valley Times he and his co-owner decided to sell last year. “One of the world's most recognized brothels, the Chicken Ranch, goes on the market for $6.95 million. The primary owners, Ken Green and Russ Reade, said they were ready to venture into other aspects of business.”

Friday, April 29, 2005

Why I’m Not an English Major

From the diary: “February 23, 1982

“I feel like talking to someone, but everyone’s gone to bed so I think I’ll talk to myself. I slaved over an essay for American Lit. I worked hours on that damn thing for Mrs Lennox. I handed it in proudly. I was positive I would get at least a “B” if not a “B+” and who knows – if I was lucky I could’ve gotten an “A-“. It was that good. When I handed that paper in I handed Mrs Lennox a carefully guarded piece of myself. I had poured at least three hours of my soul into that essay. I didn’t happen to like it too much. I couldn’t care less about John and Elizabeth Proctor [of The Crucible]. I hate analyzing and dissecting stories. It ruins my enjoyment of the story. Sometimes I enjoy a good discussion of a story. What am I leading up to? Well, when I … handed in [the first version of] that essay I hadn’t spent many hours thinking about what I was writing. I wasn’t the least bit excited about what I was writing. When I got my paper back I wasn’t too surprised to see a “C+” on my paper. But I was determined to raise that grade. I took all of Mrs Lennox’s comments and incorporated them and I improved on the characters’ sketches and spent hours trying to think of how they related to each other. Maybe it didn’t show how much time I put in it – but I had.

“When she attacked my paper with her infamous red pen she gouged me and wrote in my blood. I have been feeling depressed ever since 2nd period. I wanted to cry as I sat there and looked at my second “C+”. She had written “B-“, but had crossed it out and put in the “C+”.

“What’s so tragic about a crummy “C+”? What’s so damn tragic about that? Why should I feel so down? Why do I feel sick and useless? The whole world is whirling about me and I’m just bumping around with nothing to hold onto.

“I’m going to Berkeley and the Model U.N. conference in two days. With Mrs Lennox.

“I feel so nothing … I know limbo just opened up and swallowed me and now I’m wallowing in it and it is nothing. My throat’s dry.”

C+, huh?

I resisted taking literature classes in college because in my experience you’d be asked to read a decent book then forced to batter out of it any pleasure in it you’d thought you’d gotten. There’s a Billy Collins poem that captures this pedagogy.

During my years at university nearly everyone I talked to assumed I was an English major. I suppose that was natural enough considering how focused I was on poetry or how much I would read. But if there’s anybody to blame for my fear and loathing of the essay it’d have to be my high school English teachers. I gradually came to recognize Mrs Lennox was a nice person, especially once I was no longer her student. And, curiously perhaps, I did just fine in all the literature classes I took at SRJC or Cal, including the Brazilian lit class that was taught in Portuguese. I will even allow that I enjoyed these classes and found at times that my appreciation of literature was deepened rather than destroyed.

Thursday, April 28, 2005

Creative Writing Night Class

From the diary: “February 10, 1982

“The 2nd Creative Writing Class day. Today (or should I say tonight) wasn’t very stimulating. [The teacher] got me relaxed and tranquil with her soft voice. Calm and tranquil does very little toward making me write. I have to get excited.”

Like the sign class I’d taken the previous spring this creative writing class was a Santa Rosa Junior College extension class. The writing class was taught by Gerrye Payne. Gerrye was the mother of one of my classmates and as I recall daughter Andree also took the class. As did my mother.

It was my first experience with a workshop class. Most writing was done outside class then brought in, photocopied and assembled in a pack, a copy of which was given to each class member, the pieces were then read aloud and much of the class was taken up with discussion and criticism. This is a common structure for creative writing workshops. I went on to take courses like this at Cal with Robert Hass and Lyn Hejinian. I was bored in Gerrye’s class. I was bored in Hass’s class. Why did I take them? Because I get lonely! Creative writing classes give me some community. And, since I’m doing the poetry anyway, it’s nice to get school credit.

Wednesday, April 27, 2005

The Crucible

From the diary: “February 1, 1982

“In American Lit I forgot my copy of The Crucible. Anyone who didn’t have one today was supposed to sit quietly and listen. I didn’t. I sat quietly and wrote [a story] for Tales of the Blue & Yellow Sun."

This would be Arthur Miller’s play, The Crucible. We were reading it aloud. I’ve always enjoyed reading plays aloud. The Crucible is one of those stories where people do cruel things to other people thinking they are doing good. A few days ago Kent was telling me about a new book on the German Death Camps of World War II. It seems the German officials had decided the best thing for the German nation was to move the Jews somewhere else. But then those nasty Allies hemmed ‘em and there was nothing for it but to put the Jews in camps. But then the confined Jews got all diseased and unhappy and it was just more humane to kill ‘em. The Final Solution was chosen because the previously tried solutions hadn’t soluted.

The Crucible isn’t about the Holocaust. It’s about that crazy period in American history when people started accusing others of being witches. Nobody got burned at the stake in America. All convicted witches were hung. The play gave me the creeps, naturally. I was pretty clear on being a despised minority and I know that’s what the whole “marriage debate” is about. Isolating and rejecting a minority so the majority can feel better for not being isolated & rejected. Fortunately we seem to be in a lull between genocides and lynchings. In this country, at least.

Tuesday, April 26, 2005

Tales of the blue and yellow sun

From the diary: “January 27, 1982

“I bought an anything book. Beautifully bound. I’m writing Tales of the blue and yellow sun within it.”

I’ve been digging up old poetry notebooks and going through them for poems to challenge myself with. I post poems on my LoveSettlement blog that I see something in (I don’t post the ones I hate), but I push myself to choose a poem I really don’t see a way to fix. Then I try things to make it acceptable. The Tales of the blue and yellow sun notebook is one I’ve been mining lately. The Tales were supposed to be linked poems & stories about a fantasy land. I would write them, and if I thought they were good I would carefully recopy them into the notebook. I filled 33 pages before I crapped out on tales. When I returned to the notebook two years later I gave the book a second title, Work Journal, Part Two.

Rather than honor the notebook by only allowing into it the bestest writing I could writ I was going to honor my writing by having it happen in a nice book. Easily lost loose notebook paper or scratch paper wasn't quite the honoring it needed. And revising and crossing things out was going to happen there in the book, too. Flipping through the notebook now I don’t see much revision. Well. I guess that's my current assignment, eh?

In other possibly interesting old news: this was the month Sebastopol got cut off by a big storm. “[On] Main Street water sometimes four feet deep was flowing. Water was flowing into Zerbino’s [a restaurant] and the Dutch Boy paint store.” My brother had to move back upstairs as two or three inches of water filled the basement and the sump pump died. School was canceled for a day. “We are now living in a national disaster area,” I said.

Monday, April 25, 2005

“What’s a nice single girl doing with a double bed?”

From the diary: “December 31, 1981

“Christmas is over. … [In books] I got: The Book of Terns, Garfield Bigger Than Life, Cathy: “What’s a nice single girl doing with a double bed?” and Cosmos by Carl Sagan.”

We’d enjoyed Carl Sagan’s Cosmos TV series – except I remember thinking Sagan looked out of place on that molded-plastic super future set. I liked the idea of getting the book and reading a bit more in depth.

But once I got the book I couldn’t help thinking, haven’t I already covered this? I flipped through it several times looking at the pictures. I still have the book. I still haven’t read it.

I recall being disappointed in The Book of Terns. (Hey, sometimes we mean you-shouldn’t-have.) It was cute, a collection of cartoon terns representing various puns.

The two comic strip collections, the Cathy and the Garfield, were a hankering for the age of the graphic novel, I think. The term hadn’t been invented yet, had it? Wasn’t “graphic novel” coined to market Will Eisner’s Contract with God? Or not … Anyway, the book-length comic story, with the exception of Tintin, just wasn’t something you’d see. I remember wishing for a little development in the life of Cathy. Does she always have to pine after Irving? The only development in Garfield was the gradual adjustment of the way Jim Davis drew him. These days I find Garfield dull. If the writing ever was clever (and surely it was! I had some taste back in ’81!) it’s long since worked out its vein. Comic strip collections were the closest thing to a comic in book form.

Used to be the only way you’d be able to catch up on old adventures of comic book characters was to hunt up the backissues in comic stores. I’m happy to see many comics are now collected into books. Probably cuts into the market for backissues. But hunting up backissues was often expensive and there were times you just couldn’t find the one you wanted most.

Sunday, April 24, 2005

Doonesbury’s Greatest Hits

From the diary: “December 8, 1981

“Sunday I bought Doonesbury’s Greatest Hits for David from Copperfield’s. I wrapped it and now it’s sitting under the tree all by its lonesome.”

Of course I read it, too. Eventually. I wasn’t the politics junkie I’ve become. I remember the Doonesbury collections as rather dry and not visually interesting, especially considering the comics medium. The rhythms of a strip aren’t suited to long stints of reading. Because they have to allow for a reader jumping in at any time (or missing a day) they’re repetitive and wordy, the pacing slow. Gary Trudeau’s humor is often dry, too. I’ll have to admit even sophisticated teen Glenn hadn’t a preference for dry humor. Though his history teacher, who actually put more than one student to sleep with droning lectures, did have a dry sense of humor that rewarded attention. I remember there were like two or three of us who would laugh at his little jokes.

Saturday, April 23, 2005

The Oogaboo Review

From the diary: “December 1, 1981

“Last Wednesday was the last day of poetry. Sigh. No more poetry class. Boo hoo. Diana H. made a pretty card which we all signed and presented to Maureen and Zara. They were very happy with it. Diana and I got the idea to make the card during Journalism, but we should have made two, one for each of them. Oh, well. I circulated a paper … for everyone to write how much they loved the poetry class … I gave it to [Principal] Barrett[‘s secretary].” I was hoping this would help make the case for a Creative Writing Class during the regular class day.

“I got a letter from Eric Gjovaag containing all four of last year’s Oogaboo Reviews. ‘The historic first year.’ Yeah, sure. The Oogaboo Reviews are in trade for The Lost Queen of Oz.”

There was a flurry of tiny press Oz publishing with Eric Gjovaag doing the quarterly Oogaboo Review out of Seattle, David Maxine doing a Munchkin-themed quarterly (I don’t recall the name) out of Minneapolis, there was one out of Texas, I believe, The Quadling Quarterly? The newsletters covered the doings of subregions of the club and included book reviews and stories and quizzes and other puzzles. Oz people seem to love quizzes. I was up to episode 6 of The Lost Queen of Oz serial.

Friday, April 22, 2005

There is no roof in a pineapple

From the diary: “November 23, 1981

“Rats! This is the last week of poetry [class] … Yesterday, Sunday, at Copperfield’s Books we had a poetry reading. Several of us from Analy and kids from other schools and grades got up and read our poetry. It was fun but I was nervous.

“[Poet-teacher] Zara [Altair] handed out copies of There is no roof in a pineapple. She had put together last Wednesday’s poetry into a book because she thought that day was such a success.”

I’d missed a class meeting or two because I’d had teeth extracted – the two lower wisdom teeth, two upper bicuspids – at the command of my new orthodontist. Soon, I was in for the real pain. Metal bands tightening in my mouth, drawing the teeth to where they didn’t wish to go. After slagging SEE sign I have to say it did here come in handy (so to speak) as when I was coming out of the anaesthesia at the oral surgeon’s my mother kept asking me questions, like How-do-you-feel and Can-you-walk and so forth. My mouth wasn’t going to be doing anything. So I signed to her. And sign classes were fresh enough in her mind she understood my fingerspelling. Yay! Later she forgot everything.

So, anyway, I was thrilled to be back and really sorry (for once!) to have missed school. The class exercise that resulted in There is no roof in a pineapple consisted of one pineapple rested on a stool in front of the teacher’s desk. Zara & Maureen read us example poems – Wallace Stevens’ “13 Ways of Looking at a Blackbird” … My poem had a giant pineapple on a tropical island to whom a boy had been assigned as servant. The giant pineapple gives the boy a message to another giant fruit on another island. “Tell him,” says the pineapple, “I have a headache.”

The class busted up. Yeah, I knew it was a sex joke. But when I put the words down I was thinking about my migraines. If a creature that is all head, all giant head, has a headache – what a headache! Incidentally, OK, I was allowing for the sex joke.

I thought that little chapbook anthology (saddle sewn with a yellow thread!) was the bee’s knees. The book flopped open right to my poem, which was in the middle. A place of honor, I was told.

Meanwhile in my regular classes I was getting all As – except Advanced Composition, where I was getting a C-.

Thursday, April 21, 2005


While I like Comic Book Galaxy I’ve decided to remove it from the Viewing and Reviewing links and replace it with a booklog, I Eat Books. I’m looking to have a batch of links to sites that talk about books (or music or movies or whatever) in the context of the reader’s life. OK, rhubarb is susan doesn’t really do that but where else does somebody write about individual poems? I just think that’s cool. I Eat Books is written by a woman who signs herself “L”; her other blog is snappy and fun and more frequently updated. But IEB is built around the books. Only one book at a time is featured on the home page and there’s no easy way to tell how deep the archives are, but L has sorted the books into genres: humor, mystery, horror, awful, etc. How much personal context is there? Not a lot. But, as in her review of Vanity Fair, enough to give you a hint of where she is: “Seeing so many trailers for the upcoming movie adaptation (starring Reese Witherspoon) reminded me of this classic, which is one of my favorites. My current copy is a tattered paperback that I've begun holding together with a very large rubber band.” L usually ends her reviews with a recommended dining accompaniment. For Vanity Fair she suggests, “A box of marzipan would be the ideal dessert on which to nibble while reading about the characters of Vanity Fair; it is very sweet with very little substance -- and can often leave a slightly unpleasant aftertaste on the tongue.”

A blog I’m watching is the bookslut blog. I discovered it when it appeared among my “referring web pages”. As the bookslutters seem to have mentioned Dare I Read? nowhere on their site I don’t know how they came to be a referring link, but I like bookslut anyway. (Odd sites seem to show up in the "referring web pages" list, sites that seem never to have thought of anything remotely like Dare I Read? Dunno.)

If you know of a blog you think is sorta what I’m looking for, do let me know.

Wednesday, April 20, 2005

The People’s Almanac #3

From the diary: “November 9, 1981

“Sunday I went downtown and got The People’s Almanac #3 with the $10 in Birthday money Mom gave me.”

I remember an adult Oz club friend came to visit earlier that fall. He pressed me about going to college. I so loathed school that choosing to go to college looked like voluntarily signing up to extend a prison sentence. My mother, trying to make peace, noted my reading, a self-education course as good, perhaps, as what I was getting in public school. I had both The People’s Almanac and The People’s Almanac #2 and would dip into them and read tidbits about historical figures and such. One of the authors of the Almanacs, David Wallechinsky, was also responsible for a bit of an 80s craze, The Book of Lists, which hit the best seller list and spawned many sequels and imitations and probably helped usher in the triumph of trivia, exemplified by the board game Trivial Pursuit.

I don’t know how to describe The People’s Almanac except to say it was almost a reference work. But it was more a collection of fun and quirky stuff than an education in a book. Each of the books was fat and I couldn’t quite sit reading them page by page. Rather, they seemed to reward best as boxes of snacks.

Tuesday, April 19, 2005

Rose, Where Did You Get That Red?

From the diary: “November 3, 1981

“I got applauded for a poem in poetry class yesterday. That was the first time anyone was ever applauded in poetry class. I don’t know why, but I guess I don’t see all that fantastic stuff in my poetry. But I love writing it.”

I hadn’t yet read a book of contemporary poetry. I was writing in response to the poems presented to us in class and what I already knew from textbooks and poems I’d happened upon here and there. Maureen and Zara used Kenneth Koch’s books in their teaching.

A few years ago Koch gave a reading in San Francisco. Afterward there was opportunity for questions from the audience and I asked the poet if he had any current thoughts about teaching poetry, to kids in particular. He looked wearied by the question. “No,” he said. “I think I’ve talked about that enough.”

I should have just said, “Thanks for Rose, Where Did You Get that Red? and Wishes, Lies, and Dreams. I’m glad they were there for me.”

Monday, April 18, 2005

My Own Voice

When I was keeping my diary in high school I titled each day’s entry. “My Own Voice” was the title of the entry for October 21, 1981. I remember one of the poet-teachers in the after school poetry class said to me something like, “You’ve found your own voice.” I don’t remember having heard the phrase before. Although I don’t include the precise context in the entry I do describe a class exercise. Maureen Hurley offered up two of her own poems and we created variations of them. At the end of the class Maureen said to me, “You deserve applause.” Worth noting in the diary!

I recall I’d written a one-act play, “The Wish is the Way”. I’d given it to my drama teacher, Mrs Connolly. She did not read it. Naturally since she didn’t read it she did not give me her thoughts on it, no criticism, no praise. I wonder, if I’d received the sort of encouragement and dynamic example in playwriting that I did in poetry if I’d be a playwright rather than (or as well as) a poet.

Sunday, April 17, 2005

Who Stole the Wizard of Oz

From the diary: “October 18, 1981

“Saturday [a group of us went to] the Junior State [conference at Stanford].

“The Stanford Bookstore is a nice place. There’s a new Bill Peet book out about an Elephant in the Circus. There is also a book called Who Stole the Wizard of Oz, a children’s mystery … about someone stealing a copy of The Wizard of Oz from the library. Interesting curio.”

I didn’t buy anything.

As a kid my favorite Bill Peet book was Wump World, Peet’s version of The Lorax. I dug that the invading despoilers came in spaceships that were quite obviously caricatures of Richard Nixon. Well, maybe I didn’t get that when I first read the book. But I bet my mom did.

This was the Junior State conference that sticks out in my mind for two reasons: (1) I was called on to come up on stage in a try-out debate and froze up there, my mind a blank, my body shaking, until I asked to be allowed to return to my seat – worst stagefright I’ve ever had; and (2) Mrs Ranch-Apple left the headlights on and the car battery died. Here’s the rest of the story as I described it in the diary: “We found someone with jumper cables and after a few tries they got our motor running. They had two cars (one which had a living battery and one dead). They asked us to try to revive their dead one. [Yes, with the car they’d just jumped to life! What were they thinking!] As soon as he hooked on the jumper cables our car died again. It wouldn’t be restarted. Mrs R-A had to call a tow truck.”

Saturday, April 16, 2005

Poetry Workshop

From the diary: “October 7, 1981

“Today after school, 2:15-3:15, the Poetry Workshop was in Rm 106. I attended and enjoyed it immensely. … The instructors handed out two photos to each person and we were supposed to write … I wrote 3 poems.”

Maureen Hurley and Zara Altair were the poet-teachers. They were part of the California Poets-in-the-Schools Program. I remember being dubious. Poetry? How dull. Dull! There’s a certain kind of topic that oppresses like cathedral tunes. I hadn’t read poetry since oh the verse utterances of the Patchwork Girl? Not that I hadn’t written a few poems. I already knew that every line didn’t have to rhyme. A teacher had introduced me to the mystifying poetry of Richard Brautigan (years later to become a favorite!). Yet … I’m supposed to stay after school? Mrs Ford, the advanced comp teacher who was giving me hell that semester, offered extra credit, and I was pushing for a Creative Writing Class so I had to demonstrate to the administration that I wouldn’t scorn what was offered.

This class changed my life.

It changed my life.


Friday, April 15, 2005

What I’m Reading Now

Let’s take a break from high school twenty years ago. It’s been awhile since I posted a list of what I’m reading now and the last time I did that I posted it over on my LoveSettlement blog. This is what I’ve got going:

Poems for the Millennium, vol 1: From Fin-de-Siecle to Negritude an anthology edited by Jerome Rothenberg and Pierre Joris

Red Mars a science fiction novel by Kim Stanley Robinson

Pulling Taffy a collection of short (autobiographical?) fiction by Matt Bernstein Sycamore

The Diaries of Franz Kafka, 1910-1913

Finder: Sin-Eater, vol 2 a graphic novel by Carla Speed McNeil

Akiko, vol 4: The Story Tree a graphic novel by Mark Crilley

The Random House Book of Twentieth-Century French Poetry edited by Paul Auster

There are probably a couple other books that I’m in the middle of. But I haven’t picked them up in awhile so they are not in the pile. Oh yeah. There’s the one I’m reading during my lunch breaks at work: A History of the Devil by Gerald Messadie

Reading several books at once means (unless you’re a much faster reader than I) it takes rather a long time to finish one. Unless it’s a shorty like the Akiko book which I probably could have gotten through in one sitting – except I started reading it late last night and needed shut eye more than I needed to finish.

I’m enjoying the Kafka diary. I have to say I’m enjoying it more than any of his completed fiction. Some of the diary is fiction, drafts of stories. I like both the poetry anthologies but they are fat so I expect to be at them for some time.

Thursday, April 14, 2005

Creative Writing Class

From the diary: “September 30, 1981

“At the end of FOODS [class] I got a call slip to go to the principal’s office at the beginning of 2nd period. So I sauntered over there to find out what was going on. At Mr Barret’s office I met several other people: Dylan Bennet, Heidi Langeburg, Shelen Oliver (she’s in my FOODS class), Patricia Michaels (in my Journalism class), Andy Posner, Joe Chavez, and those are all the names I remember. There were four Seniors, two Juniors, two Sophomores, and two Freshman. Why? That’s what I was asking myself.

“’You have been chosen by Pat Talamantes ([Analy Student Body] Prez) to be the Student Advisory Council to the principal,’ said [Principal] Barret. Shockeroo.

“I don’t know why I was picked, but I’m glad I was. Mr Barret went around the semi-circle and asked everyone if he/she had any complaints, suggestions, comments. Dylan wanted better facilities for the soccer players. Heidi wanted smaller classes. I can’t remember what anybody else wanted.

“At first I decided not to say anything. After all, what did I have to say. I want a Creative Writing Class. So did I say it? I sure did. Dylan warmed up to the subject faster than ice cream on black top [I should’ve stopped there] in Kansas at 103 degrees in the shade. Mr Barret mentioned the ‘Poets in Residence’ after school program that will start soon. The discussions lasted all period. We will meet every two weeks.”

No, there’s no book mentioned in this post.

Wednesday, April 13, 2005

The Joy of Signing

From the diary: “September 20, 1981

“I rewrote the crummy essay from Mrs Ford. My first essay got a D-. She entered all the first essays as pre-test scores. I hope I get better than a ‘D’ on this disgusting rewrite.”

A few days later I write, “I finally got a ‘C+’ on an essay. Best yet.”

So we start 11th grade. This was the year I came close to failing English? I’d remembered it as Freshman year.

“September 26, 1981

“I found The Joy of Signing at the ‘brary and Mom checked it out.”

I had my own library card, certainly. Maybe Mom was trying to brush up her sign after the summer. It is very difficult to teach oneself Sign from a book.

Tuesday, April 12, 2005

Childhood’s End

from the diary: “September 2, 1981

“I didn’t do much [yesterday and the day before] except collect, sit around and do nothing, watch TV, do the paper route, or read Childhood’s End.”

Collect? Oh yeah. Collect subscription money from the people on my paper route.

Curiously I remember seeing my brother reading Childhood’s End more than I remember reading it myself. The title is both ominous and ordinary. I wanted always to be “a child at heart”, yet I was anxious to be done with being a child so I could have some autonomy. Childhood’s end? That’s not puberty?

Childhood’s End, the novel by Arthur C. Clarke, has a bunch of aliens show up in big ships. Time for humankind to evolve. The next generation of children (or the current one – I forget) is going to move up to the next level. All you poor adults are just going to have to watch as your kids take off for the stars. Were the aliens there to help out the process or to watch?

Monday, April 11, 2005

The Wizard of Oz

From the diary: “August 28, 1981

“Today we have the Singers’ Circle here. Bill and Adrian brought along Travis (age 3) and he played with toys in the bucket that David and I used to play with. I got out the younger children’s adaptaton of The Wizard of Oz that I have. [Travis] was interested, so I read it to him (sorta paraphrased actually). He wanted me to read another story so I got out the adaptation of Ozma of Oz.”

These were versions of the Baum books simplified and given elaborate illustrations by Dick Martin. These particular copies had been sitting, probably for years, in a local bookstore. Not until I joined the club did I learn that Dick Martin was the illustrator of Merry-go-round in Oz, had been a club member himself (until he died), and those kiddie versions of the Oz books that I’d seen sitting unwanted in the bookstore were going for bucks at the Oz auction.

I remember trying to talk the bookstore owner into giving me a price break for shopwear.

The Singers’ Circle was an informal folksinging get-together Mom was a big part of for years.

Sunday, April 10, 2005

Training You to Train Your Cat

From the diary: “August 16, 1981

“[Saturday] I rode to town on my bike and bought two cat books from the Sebastopol Book Shop [a used bookstore]. My original intention had been to go down and buy a sign language book from Copperfield’s Books [a new bookstore]. Unfortunately the books cost twice as much as I thought they did. So I bought Training You to Train Your Cat and The Cat Catalog.”

My fascination with Sign Language endures. Spring of ’81 my mother and I had taken a night course. It was a junior college class taught in a classroom of my high school. It disappointed me. I’d expected more than a manual code for English. I didn’t really get clear on the distinction between what that class taught – SEE sign (Signing Exact English) – and ASL (American Sign Language). My mother was taking the class because she was an elementary school teacher and did a lot of subbing in special ed classes. I wanted to sign because I wanted to learn lots of languages. The multiplicity of human languages holds me in thrall. And what could be more different and special than a language enacted on the hands? Sadly SEE sign isn’t special. It was a manual language invented to make teaching English to the deaf less difficult. You perform English in the air. Most ridiculous to me were adding “ed” and “ing” to signs. “I am going now” is I (hold the “I” letter form to chest) + AM (hold the “A” letter form at chin) + GO (hold two “G” letter forms together and tip them forward) + ING (the letter form for “J” backwards) + NOW (corresponds to the ASL). This sort of slow slow talk is just dull. The only useful thing I took from the class was training in the manual alphabet. Not until I started taking ASL classes at Santa Rosa Junior College did I learn how different and how beautiful and amazing American Sign Language is. It’s not just a language coded on the hands but a language built in space.

As to cats. I loved my cat. I liked the idea of getting him to do stuff. But, yeah, I knew he was no youngster so I never really tried the book’s techniques on him. I thought maybe we’d have a new cat soonish. Yes, another book I bought in hopes the book itself would help conjure the conditions for the thing I wanted. I’ve proved bad at teaching myself solely from books.

Saturday, April 09, 2005


It’s a lovely Saturday here in Berkeley. Nice in SF, too. K & I took BART over to SF this morning for the Alternative Press Expo. I wanted to get there by noon when the exhibition center opened because the first panel was queer cartoonists which included Leanne Franson (whose semi-autobiographical Liliane I discovered in mini-comics form), Robert Triptow (who took over editing Gay Comix in the early 80s), David Kelly (whose Steven’s Comics is a cute slice of 70s childhood) and Paige Braddock (whose Jane’s World began life as a syndicated comic strip). Justin Hall, whose work I didn’t know until today, moderated the panel and, once she got warmed up, Leanne Franson hogged the microphone with sweet if repetitive babble about trying to make ends meet as a cartoonist and children’s book illustrator. Hall is balding and hunky, a bit of Willem Defoe around the eyes. I ended up buying something or other by most of the panelists when I happened upon their booths.

Tim Fish had a booth for his Cavalcade of Boys, which I praised last year on my LoveSettlement blog. He’s as cute as his drawings, slim and sharp-featured. I’m not sure I caught up on all the issues I’ve missed since Comic Relief hasn’t been getting them but I’m glad to see Fish is collecting the comics in trade paperback form. Even if it means I end up buying them twice.

After hours of poking around table after table after table of small press comics and dolls and posters and videos, but mostly comics, K & I settled down on the floor next to the Hungry Tiger booth and chatted with David Maxine and Eric Shanower. Sounds like they don’t have time for sticking around after the expo (I asked ‘em to dinner), will be driving back to San Diego right after everything closes up tomorrow evening. Too bad. And just so you don’t think I’ve given up Oz entirely (but for all you know I’m dressed as Dorothy right now, eh?) I bought the Shanower-illustrated Wicked Witch of Oz, which has been available for ten years but which I just never got around to buying. Or felt too poor to buy. Or, let’s face, just couldn’t stand the thought of reading. Oz? Haven’t I read enough Oz books!

Friday, April 08, 2005

The Making of the Wizard of Oz

From the diary: “August 13, 1981

“On the [flight] home [from Milwaukee] I read one of the books Rose gave me and worked some crosswords with Mom.”

Rose Smith was one of my mother’s friends. Rose and her husband Galen lived in Wisconsin and Mom stayed with them while Dad and I did the Oshkosh airshow. I don’t remember what books Rose gave me.

“When I got home I found what I hoped I would find! Three letters were waiting for me from Oz people I had sent episode ones to. YAY!!” [This was Episode One of the serial Oz novel I was writing.]

“August 14, 1981

“Mom went to a place to have her (actually the car’s) muffler fixed, etc. … David and I stayed at the library. I checked out The Making of the Wizard of Oz.”

Whenever anyone would learn I was an Oz fan they’d assume I was gaga over the MGM movie. At my most Oz focused I barely thought of the MGM Wizard except as that annoying Hollywoodization of my favorite book. Oz was a real place. It was not a dream. The Oz books were chronicles of what had happened there, not illustrations of pat morals like, “There’s no place like home!”

But there were many in the Oz club who had joined the club because of the movie and there would be programs at the conventions that addressed aspects of the movie so gradually I came around to a reconsideration. The making of the MGM movie really is a good story. Did you know Buddy Ebsen was the first Tin Man and only lost the part because the powdered make-up that made him look tin caused an allergic reaction and he had to be hospitalized?

Thursday, April 07, 2005

The Nightwalker

From the diary: “August 5, 1981

“[My father’s friend] Ray commented today, ‘I could easily OD on planes here.’”

I certainly did. I remember tramping around the broad airfields in the sun and crowds, circling plane after plane after plane. The Oshkosh air show is still going strong.

“I’ve run out of things to do,” I lament in the diary. “I bought a cap, contributed to a B-29 called Fifi, bought and read Firestarter by Stephen King, bought a Jiffyseat (fold-up chair), Dad gave me $100, I watched airplanes, named airplanes (‘That’s Button Bright, Hungry Tiger, Patchwork Girl.’), bought The Nightwalker (book), watched Dad play handball twice (and lose twice) … looked at airplanes, ate bad (and good) food, saw the movie Stripes with Bill Murray tonight, suffered through Dad’s snores, enjoyed myself, got bored, read, walked, went to the Fly Market (but didn’t buy anything), argued with Dave [Ray’s son], rode in a car, got mildly sick twice, heard country singers at the convention, got cold, shied away from Dave’s smoking cigarettes, heard from Dad that Ray had decided to lose weight when he discovered that he could barely get through the tour of the B-17s, found out that Ray had been stationed in Santa Rosa [the next town over from Sebastopol where my mother, brother and I lived], wrote on my serial, watched hucksters, wondered about what Oshkosh was like the rest of the year, went to the YMCA, spent almost all of the $100, washed clothes, walked, saw ultralights take off, watched the air shows, discovered that a $15 Jiffyseat is worth every penny, discovered that Jumbo Dogs start tasting pretty bad after awhile …”

Stephen King. I’d read several of his books. I bought The Nightwalker because there was a King blurb on the cover. As I recall there was a sex scene in which the werewolf, though in human form at the time, smears his lady’s menstrual blood across his face and body. At 15 I wasn’t all that clear on what menstrual blood was.

After The Nightwalker I noticed how frequently Stephen King was blurbing. He couldn’t say no?

Wednesday, April 06, 2005

The Milwaukee library

from the diary: “August 1, 1981

“[Yesterday] I walked into the library and looked up ‘Amusement Parks’ and ‘Baum, L. Frank’, but didn’t find anything new.”

I’ve been remembering the Oshkosh trip as just me and Dad. I’d forgotten Mom came with me. We flew to Milwaukee and spent a day together, visited the museum, ate lunch outside on the lawn. After lunch I stepped into the library to do a little research.

I remember the thick yeast smell that weighted the air. Brewery town.

Dad met us that afternoon at the motel. Took us to dinner. “We ate at the Pfister. Very swanky-danky. I was a little uncomfortable walking in there in old cords and Mom’s home-made jacket and such. After we met the courteous waitresses and waiters and by the time the band started playing I felt much more at ease. Mom and Dad danced … I wrote an episode of The Lost Queen of Oz.”

The next day Dad took me to Marriott’s Great American in Gurnee, Illinois. “It’s a bit different than the park in Santa Clara. It’s bigger and has more rides. I rode my first wooden roller coaster … twice.”

“At 8:00 we left the park. On the freeway the radiator blew and we walked to … the Fantasy Inn [where] Dad called a cab … Dad is going to try to make Rent-a-Heap pay for cab fare since their heap stranded us.”

Tuesday, April 05, 2005

The Lost Queen of Oz

From the diary: “July 22, 1981

On the way home from the Winkie convention I started reading American Fairy Tales, one of Baum’s non-Oz fantasies. I’d bought it at the auction. It was a curious object. As the book was out of print someone had taken a first edition and photocopied it then fastened the sheets into a notebook-like binding. All the writing was there so it did give me the opportunity to read the book but it was not an attractive thing.

“I’ve been trying to finish reading Ojo in Oz since Monday (today is Wednesday), but I just can’t seem to find the time.

“Monday I thought of writing a serial with The Lost Queen of Oz. … On Tuesday I finished and typed episode one: Dorothy’s Birthday.

“The way I’m working it is: I photocopied the typed copy today and am sending the first episode to several people I met at the Oz convention and saying in a letter that if they want to continue receiving the serial to write and tell me.”

It was a clever way to force myself to write a complete Oz novel. If I hadn’t had people expecting another episode I probably would have quit partway through. I even sold subscriptions. There were periods when I just couldn’t push myself to write. One hiatus lasted nine months. But The Lost Queen of Oz did get finished. I don’t know if anyone else kept their copy. But mine is in a box or a drawer. I haven’t burnt it.

Monday, April 04, 2005

Button Bright of Oz

From the diary: “July 18, 1981

“After the auction [Oz club secretary] Fred Meyer handed out the prizes.” Besides prizes for best costume and best art “he gave out the prizes for the story contest. Both Eric [Shanower] and I got prizes. I guess Fred didn’t want to choose between us.” The prize was a choice of Harry E. Mongold’s self-published Oz books, Button Bright of Oz or The Saw Horse of Oz. I grabbed Button Bright. But I don’t think I ever read it. I remember attempting. But I don’t remember being able to get all the way to the last page.

Sunday, April 03, 2005

Eric Shanower

From the diary: “July 17, 1981

“The opening reception started a little earlier than the 6:00pm for which it was scheduled. People meandered around and talked.” A woman dressed as “Cayke the Cookie Cook” handed out cookies.

This was my second Winkie Convention. The convention was held at the Wawona Hotel in Yosemite. My mother came along, as she did for the next several years.

“Erik Shanower came late … [Don’t know why I spelled the name with a “k”.] Mom treated him to some vegetables because it was too late for him to find a place in the dining room. He wrote a story too. [The story I brought was called, “The Cowardly Lion and the Courage Pills” and had illustrations by my brother.] His is called ‘King Hank’. I started reading it tonight, but didn’t finish. It was pretty good. It was about Hank the Mule and Bettsy Bobbin taking a shortcut to the Emerald City from Glinda’s Palace. Hank encounters strange little creatures who hail him as king. Bettsy gets captured by two fat would-be Oz conquerers.” Both being hailed as king by the inhabitants of a strange little country and thwarting bumbling bad guys who are trying to conquer Oz are familiar plots from the Oz series. The story I’d brought also included nefarious invaders bent on conquest. “He plans to win the story contest with it. We’ll see. He also plans to win the Oz quiz. We’ll see about that, too.”

A piddly little five years later Eric was publishing his Oz stories professionally.

Saturday, April 02, 2005


I found the Taze Files via one of the blog directories. After reading a few entries I told its author that I was adding his blog to my “viewing and reviewing” links. I posted this as a comment, “I'm not so much looking for book reviews as I'm looking for people talking about their reading (or movie watching or music listening) on a personal basis, not just whether the book is good but more where it fits in the context of the reader's life. I decided to add Taze Files to my links when I read the earlier entry about Sweet Valley High. Sure, some evaluation of the book's quality but I liked the personal musing.”

If any of my readers here knows of a blog that does that do let me know. I want to check it out.

Musing on methods himself Merwyn says, “Dare I Read? is an original concept where the author focuses more on the story surrounding his book than the book itself. Summaries and critical reviews can be found just about anywhere for any published book. I'll just use Glenn's technique when the occasion calls for it.”

I have found another blog via a link at comic book galaxy that’s what I’m looking for: Daily Burn

Daily Burn focuses on superheroes, primarily comic books, with a special affection for The Hulk. I’ve been through my obsessive phases and I totally grok Mick’s musing on being a completist. “When I first started reading comics, The Incredible Hulk was all I bothered buying, UNLESS he showed up in another title. I stopped reading comics in my late teens, and when I started up again in my early twenties, I became obsessed with getting my hands on every Hulk appearance possible, no matter how unimportant it seemed to the wider story of the Green-sometimes-Gray Golitah.” Says Mick, “in a lot of cases he showed up for one or two panels.” Now that’s being a completist!

Then there’s the post where Mick reviews the evidence for a sexual relationship between two of the teen Avengers, seems it's been quite the controversy on the internet comics boards. “Hulkling and Lightning Lad compliment each other on their fighting ability. … Wow. Now that’s gay.” If “heroes” aren’t using each other as punching bags what could they be but gay?

Another blog I’ve skimmed a bit and am thinking of adding to my links: Derek Martinez

Friday, April 01, 2005

The Oz Scrapbook

from the diary: “July 3, 1981

“Becky and I listened to some music, looked at The Oz Scrapbook (much more because I wanted to than she did), and finally found our way into my bedroom where we played Black Box and Obstruction. She couldn't get the hang of Black Box, but she almost beat me at Obstruction.”

The Oz Scrapbook gave me my first look at the covers of many of the out of print Oz books. That by itself was pretty exciting for someone who for years had only had reference to a mysterious list of titles printed in one of the paperback Baum books. I used to fantasize about those titles, even woke from dreams in which I found a cache of never-before-seen Oz books (actually, this still happens). I remember making my own lists of Oz titles, though I only had the vaguest ideas of what might happen in these imaginary books. I ran onto the list just before I moved out of my mother’s house and it included ungainly titles like The Shaggy Man of Oz in Ix. (Ix is another of Baum’s fairlylands.)

I found The Oz Scrapbook at the library. Finding it was almost as exciting as finding one of the Oz books, for it was my first window into L. Frank Baum’s life. He was a showman! He’d traveled the country performing in plays he’d written. He pitched The Wizard of Oz to Broadway producers and the musical extravaganza that resulted was the biggest thing on Broadway up to that time. (And the MGM movie was slavishly faithful to the original in comparison.) When movie cameras were invented Baum used his Oz fortune to found a studio and direct his own movies (and lost everything, but then he lost everything two or three times). Scrapbook also offered up information about the Oz illustrators W.W. Denslow and John R. Neill and later authors Ruth Plumly Thompson and Jack Snow and Rachel Cosgrove. That book seemed HUGE.

Besides, Scrapbook is a handsome book. It was designed by Dick Martin who illustrated the last book of the 40 and included much from the collection of longtime Oz club member David L. Greene.

Black Box was a puzzle game, sort of a cross between Battleship and Mastermind. Each player would hide his balls on the board’s grid and the other player would try to find the balls by firing imaginary rays across the board. It took too much work to figure out how to play, really. Obstruction (it seems to have other names, as well) is much simpler. You’ve got to get your pieces from home to the goal and there are all these little obstructions that you can move into our opponent’s way. You can come back from what looks like a hopeless situation. That’s what makes the game fun to play.