Thursday, November 25, 2010


Remember those you love, and give thanks for all you have. The smallest things mean so much, even a can of hash.

My small plate offered up at Michael Solender's Feast of Flash ==> THANKSGIVING

Peace, Linda

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Hola NOLA!

A typical day in New Orleans is anything but. Here for a gerontology conference, the Indian Summer weather and riverside location connived to make the city even more alluring. I'm leaving on a jet plane up to Boston for the break, but wanted to share a sampling of NOLA's charms:

The People! SO friendly and helpful. Everyone smiles down here. I miss the South...

The Culture! Faulkner House sponsored the WORDS and MUSIC literary fest this week, and I made it to the Friday evening gala held at the World War II museum. Imagine dining on oysters bathed in creme fraiche, truffle-mashed potatoes, and beef tenderloin while sitting under the belly of a C-47 bomber. Best of all, though, was meeting Simon Mawer, author of The Glass Room and winner of last year's Man Booker Prize (which I reviewed ==> HERE). He and his wife Connie are gracious, funny, lovely people.

The next day dawned clear and warm, so what better than to walk the Quarter? Off to Preservation Hall for a funeral parade to celebrate the life and brilliance of jazz musician William Patton, then on to shrimp and goat cheese crepes al fresco. Throw in a couple of cups of Community Coffee and the bluesy swells of Tuba Skinny, and you have a perfect afternoon.

The Food! You know you're in heaven when the worst meal you eat is at Emeril's! Think flash-fried calamari with an olive salsa, pan-seared grouper in a safron sauce, the signature banana cream pie. We ate light the next day for lunch, fried shrimp and soft-shell crab po boys at Johnny's, eaten in the madness of Jackson Square. Dinner at Le Foret... elegance bar none: amusements that included an artichoke bisque so smooth you could skip a crouton across it; a fois gras and shitake appetizer (shaped like forest mushrooms) paired with hazelnut-sprinkled shaved apple; quail perfectly braised and served with quail yolk-stuffed ravioli; and a sampling of excellent desserts. Exquisito.

Just when I thought the food could not get better, we traveled uptown to partake of the victuals at Dante's Kitchen. The kitchen preserves it's own pickles and veggies, all procured locally, and makes it's own flavored vodkas and brandies. I shared several small plates with my graduate student -- shrimp and stone ground grits with a red-eye andouille gravy (head-on prawns 4-6 inches long!); baby squash taglietelle with chocolate cherry tomatoes; duck two-ways, but I was loathe to share the Mexican hot chocolate pot topped with orange blossom marshmallows. All chased with a Violet Lemondrop, a scrumptious concoction of homemade sweet violet liquor and lemon-infused vodka.

Peace, Linda

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Lost in Suomi

The map rested in my lap, a useless blur of ‘k’s and ‘l’s and ‘i’s. The GPS bleated unintelligible directives. I’d wanted to take the train, then the bus, to the cabin perched on the brim of the Arctic Circle, but Chris insisted on driving.

“Better to see the land of your ancestors,” he said. “Besides, we’re in no hurry.”

But I was in a hurry.

“See? North.” He pointed to the compass, smiling. “So rest. And trust me to get us to our destination.”

I closed my eyes. He was right, trust and rest; the chemo had robbed me of all my energy. The sun strobed through the birch forest, flinging dappled warmth on my cheeks. The crumpled map slid to the floor.

When I woke, the clock said eight at night but the sky looked like mid-afternoon. Chris rolled down the windows. Wind pummeled me awake, smelling of pine and some quality of freshness, of newness, I could not identify. He hummed softly and kept patting my knee.

“Almost there,” he said.

The trees thinned. I wanted to sleep more, but Chris cut the engine.

“Where are we?”

He helped me from the car. My hips ached. I leaned against him. Pine needles blanketed the ground. Then, the woods ended and sky spread before us, a never-ending canvas of liquid silver that melted into water, blue as his eyes, as blue as our daughter’s, now grown.

He squeezed my hand. “We are exactly where we need to be.”


Inspired by the 52-250 Flash-a-Year Challenge theme -- Lost in Translation. As well as memories of my own distant trip to Finland.

And speaking of lost... I'm off to New Orleans for the Gerontological Society of America annual meeting. My graduate students will be strutting their stuff -- I am so proud of them. Of course, I will enjoy my downtime -- WORDS and MUSIC overlaps with my stay.


Thursday, November 11, 2010


The sign across the street winked neon: Walk-ins Welcome. Bells jingled when I pushed the glass door. A sleepy-looking woman looked up from a magazine.

“Is it too late for a haircut?”

“I can take you now,” she said.

I followed her to the back. Chairs reclined against industrial sinks. She lowered the heft of my hair into the tub. Warm water pulsed over my scalp and her gentle hands worked soap into lather. Head wrapped in terry, I trailed her to the front window and perched in a chair before the large mirror. She unwound the towel and my hair, au-lait brown from the shampooing, cascaded down my back.

“Just a trim?”

“Cut it off.”

“All of it?”

“To my shoulders.”

“But you have beautiful hair,” she said.

I shrugged; time for something new. She combed with care, starting from the bottom. Shears rasped through the strands. I closed my eyes. With each snip, I remembered: Ben slowly unbraiding my hair, kissing my bared neck, sending shivers down my spine.

But he was gone. The blow-dryer seared my cheeks, scattering small bristles down my neckline. On the radio Elton John wailed about yellow brick roads. She swiveled me around to face my reflection.

Long clumps of gold covered the scuffed linoleum floor, my lap, the tips of my shoes peeking beneath the nylon smock. Piles and piles of my hair. My chest filled with unexpected pressure.

For some reason, I thought I would feel lighter.

Inspired by the 52-250 Flash-A-Year Challenge theme -- 'bad haircut'.

I admit; I cheated a bit. This is an extension of a scene from BRIGHTER THAN BRIGHT, which is undergoing major surgery. So the words are only semi-fresh.

Peace y'all! Linda

Monday, November 08, 2010

Between the Black

We were blackening pages, all of us, covering them with charcoal, leaving no traces of white showing, turning them black as Con Edison smoke, as abandoned subway station platforms and third rail rats. As black as vacuum-packed blackness between stars. (LIFE GOES TO THe MOVIES, Peter Selgin)

I think of my friends doing NaNoWriMo this month, of the frenzy of blackening their pages with words, a rabble of courier and times roman and georgia fonts. The beauty of the first draft of anything, be it a novel or poem, a song or a script, is the building up. The thrill of mounting word count, of sentences bleeding into paragraphs, and paragraphs seeping into pages.

I miss the blackness.

My quest these grey November days is to create white space. To cut wide swathes through my story and leave scenes that make the reader fill in between words. When you cross a river, do you remember the water or the stones? I think of each scene as a river rock, the water raging below the page, full of unwritten tension.

I am committing surgery, rather drastic cutting that might qualify for an episode of Nip and Tuck, on BRIGHTER THAN BRIGHT. My first novel, one I thought 'finished' over a year ago. I have murdered many darlings, including the opening scene which won me a very nice monetary prize two years ago. But the opening was cliche, dwelled overmuch in backstory, and, as one esteemed small press who actually read the first 50 pages put it, "tried to create empathy for Ben before he had earned it."

Only in hindsight. And yes, the best rejection I have ever received, as it came 16 months after I'd submitted and the house noted emphatically in it's submission guidelines that it does not respond to manuscripts it is not interested in.

So my quest is to create more white space. I have parsed 2,800 words from the first 77 pages. I have miles to go.

Peace, Linda

Thursday, November 04, 2010


Three sabbatical applications. One slot.

The Department Chair taps the manila envelopes into a pile then splays them over her desk like a short deck of cards.

She sips her Tazo Lotus and Zen tea. Dinner. What she’d really like is a porterhouse rare and a Tanqueray martini with extra olives. But like most nights, she’s in her office catching up on administrative detritus. The Dean expects her decision tomorrow morning. Who to choose?

Dr. R-W: The rising star: three graduate students win prestigious dissertation awards, eleven first-author manuscripts, an impressive NIH grant portfolio. Up for promotion to Full Professor in two years but already can check ‘Distinguished’ in service, scholarship, teaching. All while popping out two kids.

Dr. S: Emeritus. Proverbial dead wood, but so agreeable with the Chair – on everything. Smiles a lot. Does as told. Tremendous talent greasing the Dean’s wheels. Aims to re-energize flagging research.

Dr. W: Highly productive, well-connected, funds half the programming staff. Asshole prima donna -- he threw a pencil at a post-doc, who’s now rumbling about suing the university on charges of bullying and harassment. Her greatest headache.

She leans back and stares at the empty cup, looking for an answer, but the tea’s bagged not loose. She weighs the data: expedience or merit? Seniority or promise? Hell, she never got a sabbatical -- she deserves a break.

She types the recommendation. Tonight she’ll treat herself to a congratulatory dinner after all – work will be more pleasant next year.


Inspired by this week's 52-250 Flash a Year Challenge theme: least favorite. And hey, this is kind of how it really is in the Ivory Tower. Peace, Linda