Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Hi all,

The City Council is on hiatus, and so am I. Will return in September. Meanwhile, this from Artists Against SB 1070: a  Week of Solidarity against the anti-immigrant attacks in Arizona.  Please get involved! Click here for a list of events

Friday, July 9, 2010

Reading #3

Virginia leaves the armchair and enters the fiction stacks, trying to pretend she feels better. But the book titles are wavering on their spines, just a little bit. When she was a kid there was a Food Giant in this space. Her mother used to send her here for milk and eggs. Virginia would stand before the open refrigerator case, letting the air wash over her hot skin.

She gazes wearily at the books. She turns the corner into the next nook and becomes caught in a symbiotic browsing pattern with another customer. Together they make their way through the early alphabet, then the middle. The stranger moves to the next nook, and Virginia follows. The woman’s hair is pulled into a rubber band, a fringe of wisps curling at the back of her neck. She pulls a Kingsolver novel from the shelf and examines the back cover. Virginia wants to tell her it’s a good one, she should read it, but then she doesn’t. The woman carries one of the mesh shoulder bags provided by the store. Inside are cardboard infant books. Runaway Bunny, Goodnight Moon. Stories Virginia read to her daughter, Gretchen, years and years ago.

The woman returns the novel to the shelf—too bad, Virginia thinks—and with her high reach exposes a tiny belly-button ring and silvery remains of stretch marks on her abdomen. Virginia glances sideways at her face. Strong-featured, with a wide forehead and high cheekbones and full lips and a pointed chin, she’s beautiful in the way of those women who don't wear makeup. When they reach the end of the alphabet the woman gives her a little smile of farewell and wanders away. She looked like the sort of person Virginia might befriend. A person more interesting than a place like Tucson.

The movie starts in ten minutes. Going to the theater in the middle of the day is part of an effort toward marital rejuvenation. Virginia isn’t entirely on board with the philosophy that more time together is just the thing for a floundering marriage, but they’re in couples counseling and it’s bad form to resist. Their therapist has the creative spirit of a stripmall architect. She characterizes their marital crisis as a case of the doldrums, and cheerily prescribes matinees as a means to kick up a little breeze, to set the sails fluttering again. They’ve been in therapy for six months, every Wednesday, yet their situation feels less like a temporary stillness than it does a permanent dead calm.

As Virginia moves toward the exit she spots Theo, standing in the magazine section. He’s smiling into the eyes of the belly-ringed woman with the baby books. They stand a few inches too close, as if they’ve just hugged. On his face is an expression of delight and discomfort. He knows this person. And she, it is clear, knows him.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

A Roomful of Teamsters.

Agitated Teamsters, acutally. Last night's council meeting is packed with them. Spilling out into the foyer, the crowd out there so noisy their conversation breaks in distracting waves over the council chambers each time the door opens. Which it keeps doing.

And me in my summer dress and white sandals and pale skin (alabaster, let's call it, ok?) in the front row, flanked by serious-looking men. Big ones. I'm the girly pastel center of a Teamster sandwich. The place is mobbed. Three news cameras on tripods are set up inches from my feet, their operators standing over me, aiming their lenses as the podium in anticipation of newsworthy Teamster action.

I'm hoping for a little peace, some calm, and to get a bit of beauty into my head before it's my turn to speak. So I've opened a collection of stories by Paul Yoon. The title story, "Once the Shore," is doing the job nicely.

I always get nervous beforehand. All over again, I doubt myself and this project. The Teamsters--the union representing our local bus drivers--are here over their contract negotiation and a possible strike, a reason is far less frivolous than mine, this weird flight of hubris I'm calling performance art.

The mayor adjusts the agenda to allow the Teamsters to speak earlier in the meeting. A nice courtesy, considering these people need to get home to their families. Still, I'll be speaking before they do. I'll be reading the scene in which Charlie, the object of my married couple's love triangle, appears for the first time. It's a scene in which the two of them perform a metaphorical introductory dance together in the fiction stacks at Bookman's. It's meant to foreshadow the emotional intertwining to come. It's sort of subtle.

Out of context, my project is puzzling. Up at the podium, it's hard to ignore the bubble of confusion at my back. I read the scene over the waves of conversation from the lobby, which have now spilled into the room itself. The Teamsters are talking amongst themselves. I finish, thank the council, turn away from the podium and get booed.

There's applause, a little bit, I think...but I don't hear it. All I hear is that boo. Just one guy, somewhere in the back of the room. For the record, I don't think boo came from a Teamster. I think it came from one of the council meeting audience regulars. It was an anemic boo. Tentative, a little tired. When a Teamster is booing you, you know it.