Friday, December 31, 2010


Worst Beatles lyric ever:

When I'm getting home tonight, I'm gonna hold her tight,
I'm gonna love her till the cows come home.

*shake it up baby now doesn't count because it was written by Bert Berns and Phil Medley, who was the brother of our pool guy. Or something.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010


Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to Alaska flight 521 with service to Portland.

The sunshine here in Orange County should give you plenty of chances for nice views as we take off.

Current temperature is sixty degrees.

Unfortunately, in Portland the weather is Portland.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010


Sitting the other night at my desk [which is to say the tiny living room table where I have my laptop and piles of papers], and Stephen steps past on his way to the kitchen. Just as he does: thkk - a funny, little sound. The quick crisp of a piece of paper hitting the floor. Both Stephen and I look around for what it could be. He finds it first, lying there under the table by the wall, like a spot of light on the floor. A yellow post-it note. It has a cartoon of a dog's face, pointy ears stuck out, big, round eyes and the tongue hanging out the side of the mouth. It says, "Don't forget my pills."

When did I make that little note? We were going out of town, and Frank was coming to walk José, feed him, give him his pills. It's not that I thought Frank would forget anything, but I guess I figured a cartoon the size of a postage stamp would make things certain.

The cartoon was kind of haphazard. Not my best work.

Now, José's gone and Frank's living back in California. The tiny note stayed taped to the door jamb to the kitchen for - what? three years? Sometimes I'd look at it hanging there to my right as I worked on my writing, and wonder how long we'd let things go before we finally removed it. It looked pretty ridiculous, all curled at the edges, stuck there for no reason anymore, but I didn't want to take down that bit of happy history. Figures I'd let time do it for me.

Stephen ducks and reaches first for the post-it note. He leaves the room with it.

Comes back. With a fresh piece of tape.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

last night's dream

Whenever I have plans to go home to California, my nights are filled with dreams about having to come back. And food I want but never get to eat. Actually, all my dreams contain some element of food I want but never get to eat. Last night it was some sort of pie. Cream on top, and the filling was banana. There's no way I'd want to eat that in real life.

Saturday, November 27, 2010


This is the order of what I found on my facebook first thing this morning:

[a link] OregonLive : FBI thwarts terrorist bombing attempt at Portland holiday tree lighting, authorities say...

[a friend's comment...] What a wonderful world. So blessed, give thanks!

To go with a link to Israel "IZ" Kamakawiwoʻole singing Somewhere over the Rainbow*

[another friend's status update] "So shines a good deed in a weary world."

That last is Willy Wonka, after Shakespeare, The Merchant of Venice, Act 5, Scene I, and the complete Shakespeare quote is:

"That light we see is burning in my hall.
How far that little candle throws his beams!
So shines a good deed in a naughty world."

Naughty being apparently a biblical reference--Philippians 2:15: "That ye may be blameless, and pure, & the sonnes of God without rebuke in the middes of a naughtie and crooked nation, among whome ye shine as lights in the worlde." (the Bible in the article is stated as 1570 Genevan.)

In the context of the three random things my three different friends chose to post, I like "weary."

*[i don't watch tv so the kamakawiwoʻole song hasn't been ruined for me by being used on shows and commercials.]

Friday, November 26, 2010

work songs

Music for Thanksgiving good preparation...

Saint-Saëns for chopping the oyster mushrooms and portobellos, sautéing the leeks and mushrooms, simmering the potato slices in cream. Good because of beauty but without words [or, at times, at least English words] to distract me from my recipes. [Yes, I need recipes.] Mon cœur s'ouvre à ta voix is especially good for the sautéing.

Then for the shaving of Pecorino Romano and the grating of Gruyère: Fats Waller. And specifically, Handful of Keys for the grating. Really, try it sometime. It's fun.

Thursday, November 11, 2010


I've just started listening to Suite française on my walks to and from work. Started it on Tuesday, and my brain did what it always does when I read about those times in history that seem so... full. It felt a little jealous of that fullness, that importance, and a little... what would you say?... disappointed, I guess, to be living in a time that seems so normal. Certainly a time that seems comfortable.

But then days themselves can be full. Tuesday. Full of stress and lovely moments and good things and bad things. Work day was nonstop as Powell's changed out its New Favorites displays for its Holiday Catalog titles and this year whole cases were moved and tables taken down and hundreds of books put in and taken out and mostly by me. Stress and exhaustion, and then I'm thinking about the air raid I didn't live through, that I listened to being read to me in the opening of Suite française, and then I'm walking to the cupcake store on my lunch break and presenting my morning helpers with cupcakes and I feel great, and then I'm back schlepping books.

A full day, too, because every time I popped on the computer--before work, at lunch, in the evening--it was lovely news for Stephen.

An image of the magazine cover with his art on it.

An image of a big sign outside of Seattle's Winston Wächter Fine Art gallery that includes Stephen's name.

[see it sort of in the middle, there?]

The news that they've already sold his beautiful series Les Humeurs.

In the evening it was a trip to meet up with the man who's been building my website so we could consult and he could hand me the keys and teach me to drive it around a bit. Lots of stuff packed into a thing like that--all sorts of stuff about future and ambition and hope and what a dangerous thing hope can be. Drove home in fog so thick it seemed to be carrying the car.

Then late, an e-mail, the kind with bad news, scary loved-one bad news--not the really dire kind, not at all, but it's a note equal parts reassuring and terrifying--and funny in that particular way he's always funny. Stephen standing in the doorway to make sure I'm OK.

Finally: past my bedtime, another full day tomorrow, and I go to get ready to sleep, and Stephen says, oh, we forgot the anniversary.

Five years from our engagement. It's right there on the calendar, and we've been watching it approach. We are big homage-payers and celebrators. But the day was just too full to fit it.

But, look.

Stephen and me in the kitchen, and I take my two fingers and touch the little boxes of the calendar where they have the days printed. The Tuesday box says 10. The Wednesday box says 10. I put my fingers on two November 10ths and Stephen laughs out loud. It's not our anniversary at all. The day was just so full the number on the calendar grew. We still have tomorrow.

Saturday, November 6, 2010


A really creative member of my merchandising team at Powell's has decided to craft some really cool hanging decorations for the holidays out of old, damaged books. I don't have photos right now, but I do have an image to share. One of the books she used was an old picture dictionary for kids. Some of the illustrations were so funny that she had to cut a few out and save them. One so cracked me up that she cut it out and presented it to me. Check out how this dictionary chose to illustrate the word conspicuous.


Tuesday, November 2, 2010

the body show benefit: spotlight on b. frayn masters

Yikes, well, I never expected that one day I would be posting on here about creative - ahem - shaving. But with a theme like food, sex and identity, I had to know that my spotlights for The Body Show Benefit were going to get a little blue. I've seen a public "reading" of the below piece, and it was wildly funny. I think it needs no more introduction than that. As always on these spotlights, the next voice you hear will be Nora Robertson. Giving us a little teaser for the always-hilarious B. Frayn Masters.

Need some advice on how to groom “down there”? Check out some fresh ideas in this illustration from “The Pubic Zone.” Back Fence producer and one half of all-girl comedy duo Eastland Academy, B. Frayn writes for Girls Gone Wild magazine under the name of Cherry Daniels, a 22-year-old co-ed. See if she gets up to similar shenanigans at Wednesday’s:

The Body Show Benefit.

Someday Lounge

door at 7PM, 7:30-9:30PM,

$5-15 donation

Friday, October 29, 2010


So excited to learn that my brother, Frank Little, is up for artist of the month at Renderosity. He does amazing things with computer art, and one of the things that I especially like about his work is that it's so much more than just a lovely and intriguing visual. It's all a part of a world he's created. You can even see a map of the place on his gallery.

Check him out and vote for him, eh? Renderosity is quick to create a user name for and free. You can click here to go directly to the voting page. It has link to all the artists up for the November artist of the month, and Frank is FCLittle.

Took me a while to find the place to vote, but somewhere under the part with the little bars showing the percentages of the current voting, there's a little line that says log in and vote... or something. Anyway, vote, vote, vote! His work is graceful and unique and subtle in ways that most of the other stuff I see just isn't. Here are a couple more examples of his work...

Also, you can click here for an earlier blog post on his work, plus my tattoo, which is written in one of the languages from his world.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

the body show benefit: spotlight on brad fortier

It's number four in my series on stealing things off of Nora Robertson's website to shamelessly promote The Body Show Benefit, an event I'll be reading in, along with some amazing writers and performers, on Wednesday, November 3rd. Come on, people! Donut-eating contest! OK, the next voice you'll hear will be Nora...

Brody Theater’s Brad Fortier recently was invited to Amsterdam to give a talk on the Anthropology of Improvisation for the 2010 Applied Improvisation Network conference. Besides being somewhat jealous of his being in Europe, where they serve fries with mayonnaise, I also was super intrigued by his interview on the anthropological roots of improvisation.

Check it out here.

Brad is something of an anthropologist, in fact. Brad holds an MA in Interdisciplinary Studies from Portland State University focused on the anthropology of improvised theater. His book, Long-Form Improvisation: Collaboration, Comedy and Communion, is a social science analysis of, well, long-form.

As an anthropologist, Brad bounces between doing archaeological contract work for Willamette CRA and continuing his ethnographic studies of improvised theater. His performance career has included shows in the US, Canada, the Netherlands, Belgium, Germany, Austria, and Slovenia. He is also known for his duo work with Fort Hal and Uncle Trouble with comedy partner Nate Halloran. Brad can also be found onstage with Icarus and, occasionally, Funnybusiness PDX. He is the Education Director for the Brody Theater in Portland, where he has been teaching since 1998. Brad has also directed several shows for the Brody Theater: The Bards - an improvised musical, Generic Hospital – an improvised soap opera, and Starhole 3060. He also directed “SexyNurd” in Portland’s 2010 ‘Fertile Ground’ Festival of new works.

For more of Brad’s work, check out his collaboration here with director Alden Morgan, or, on a more frivolous note, come see him eat doughnuts stylishly for the Body Show Benefit’s Voodoo doughnut eating contest, Wednesday, Nov. 3rd, Someday Lounge, door at 7PM, 7:30-9:30PM, $5-15 donation

Monday, October 25, 2010


Blue + White = Light Blue... Blue + Black = Dark Blue.

Green + White = Light Green... Green + White = Dark Green.

Purple + White = Lavender = Light Purple... Purple + Black = Dark Purple.

Red + White = Pink, only Pink, never Light Red, only Pink, which I find hilarious and confounding.

Yellow + Black = some color that you might mistake as Green and you might mistake as Brown but no one would ever call Dark Yellow. I love that color.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

sniff #2

When I linked my post on favorite tear-jerkers onto Facebook, I asked the group at large what their favorite tear-jerkers were, and I enjoyed those comments so much I thought I should incorporate them into a tear-jerkers post number two.

You know you're going to get great responses when you have so many friends who are smart writers and smart readers.

To start things off, I said:

"First that came to mind for me was when we were in the car on an hour drive and I was weeping uncontrollably, reading the end of Of Mice And Men. I don't think that story was what taught me how luxurious sadness can be, but it sure reinforced it."


Right away, writer Evelyn Sharenov weighed in with: Kristin Lavransdatter by Sigrid Undset. In fact, if you click into her webpage, you'll see that she has it listed there first under her favorite books. Evelyn is also nonfiction editor of Thumbnail Magazine.


My Mom said:

"I remember that day, Gi.. we were on our way to Northridge, just the two of us, to go with Kat and Heather to a fancy dinner.. Some women's charity event, I think.. and you were just dissolving in the seat next to me... for me, hmm.. there have been many over the years.. I remember a pretty good cry reading Sophie's Choice.. all you kids were little and I recall being obsessed with the horrible concept.. that was during a period when I read many many books about WW II... probably cried a lot..."


Monica Drake (who's best known for Clown Girl) said:

"Of Mice and Men never quits being absolutely heart breaking. Another is The Dollmaker by Harriette Arnow."


Evelyn Sharenov jumped in again:

"Gigi - I read your blog entry - I reacted the same way to Garth Stein's Racing In The Rain (I have a shelf of books about dogs that I refuse to read because I know I'll be reduced to tears at the end - Merle's Door is one of those as well); Sophie's Choice comes in my top five tear-jerkers."


Fellow Dangerous Writer Brad Rosen said:

"I also cast my vote for Of Mice and Men. A haunting sadness. Also The Prettiest Girl in Town by Burkowski comes to mind. You can feel his personal pain through his prose."

of mice and men movie poster

My aunt Kathy wrote:

"Oh.. Yes.. I had forgotten the impact Of Mice & Men had on me.... and about the same age.. when I was about 12-13... I read The Diary of Anne Frank and that was HUGE for me. as well.... I am such a wimp that just about anything that portrays true human cruelty towards any weaker creature or person just dissolves me... then I also cry at happy triumphant stories of overcoming adversity etc.. so I'll pretty much cry at anything!!"


One last side note: I hadn't remembered where we were going that night that I finished Of Mice and Men - I was too deep in the book to remember much about my surroundings - but sounds from my mom's post like it was the night we went to a dinner for the National Organization for Women. Same night I accidentally on purpose bumped into speaker Barbra Streisand so that we could brush shoulders in the bathroom...

Saturday, October 23, 2010


So, I realized this morning one of the coolest things about the movie Killer Bait. Which I saw under the title of Too Late For Tears, but how can someone call a film noir Too Late For Tears...

I love this film--well, half of it. The half that consists of Lizabeth Scott and Dan Duryea and Arthur Kennedy I love love love. The half that consists of Don DeFore and Kristine Miller is limp limp limp. But the man crush I have on Lizabeth Scott

and the girl crush I have on Dan Duryea

so make up for it that when I think about that movie, all I think is I love it. Then I think, oh yeah, there's the stuff about the sister. And then I forget about that stuff and want to put the DVD on.

Anyway, suddenly it occurred to me this morning that one of the coolest things about that film is that Jane Palmer (Lizabeth Scott), who wants so much to have money so that she can wear lovely dresses and furs and not feel poor and worthless around other people, has to hide the lovely dresses and furs she buys with her ill-gotten gains under the sink in the kitchen so her husband won't find out... so even with all the money, she doesn't even have what she really wants.


Friday, October 22, 2010

spotlight on the body show benefit: girl in cake

Less than two weeks from the Body Show Benefit, and over on Nora Robertson's website, she's included an excerpt from the story I'll be reading, along with a graphic I put together in a frenzy of frosting and photoshopping, to commemorate the upcoming event. [The next voice you hear will be Nora's...]

A woman decides to jump naked out of a cake to surprise her husband for their anniversary, and quickly ends up baking hundreds of sheet cakes. Gigi Little’s writing has appeared in the anthologies Portland Noir and The Pacific Northwest Reader, and she has written and illustrated two children’s picture books, Wright Vs. Wrong and The Magical Trunk. She works as In-Store Merchandising and Promotions Coordinator for Powell’s, and before moving to Portland, she spent fifteen years in the circus. To hear more of this story, check out Gigi at the Body Show Benefit, Nov. 3rd, door at 7PM, 7:30-9:30PM, $5-15 donation.


I never thought I’d be the kind of person who’d like frosting a cake in the nude. But, oh, I do. First is the smell of the sugar all around. Then there’s the way it feels. Trust me, if you think running a knife along frosting is kind of sensual, try doing it with nothing but air against your skin.

I say cake, but actually this is one of those giant novelty cakes a girl hides in and then jumps out of in a pink teddy. Or in my case, naked. Naked because today is our fifth wedding anniversary, and I don’t just want to celebrate, I don’t just want to give Andy a little surprise. I want to make an exceptional gesture.

That’s what he called it when he bought me that dress, the red one that cost like five hundred dollars. He could have bought me the sweater I asked for, but he wanted to make an exceptional gesture. So, this year, I’m doing something special for him. Something classy. I’ve got a bottle of thirty dollar champagne and the table in the corner is set with silver and candles. I constructed this cake all by myself—could have rented it from a costume shop, but then it might not have even had real frosting and definitely would not have been an exceptional gesture—at least not nearly exceptional enough.

Almost seems like I should open the champagne and have a tiny toast before Andy gets here. Because, if I do say so, this cake looks great. Well, mostly it looks like I frosted the washing machine. I tried to make it round, but somehow it came out with corners. Oh, it’s way wider than a washing machine and goes all the way up to my chin, so even if it’s not completely cakelike, at least it’s enormous. Guess it’s also kind of lopsided. But as soon as I decorate it with rosettes, it’ll be perfect.

I take the knife across the living room to the table. Balance it butt-end on the edge so the icing won’t get all over the tablecloth. The bottle is hard and a little wet—I twist the cork, let it pop, and wow—I never noticed before, but opening champagne is sort of suggestive of something. I don’t want to smudge the crystal glasses, so I swig right from the bottle. Shimmery crisp. A different sort of sensual from the soft of the frosting knife, different from the chill air on my skin. It’s an icy prickle of sexy in my mouth, so I’ve got to take another swig.

Frosting a cake naked does take some restraint. If you’re not careful, you might end up wanting to roll your body all over that smooth, lovely frosting. So I step back. Just in case. Andy’s not due for another fifteen minutes at least, but who can say when he’s driving all the way from Seattle. That’s the real reason I’ve got my clothes off. The minute I hear his key in the lock, I’m taking a nose dive into that cake. The thought that he could show up any second makes a tingle like champagne in my stomach. Makes me want more. So I go and pour myself exactly half a glass and take it back the couple steps to the cake. Then I drink it down in one go. Which feels a little excessive, but I have to keep my hands free for my work.

Usually these big novelty cakes are made out of wire and cardboard or something, but mine is an exceptional gesture. Andy always says I go overboard when I get excited, but this time he’s going to have to admit it’s worth it. How can a woman hope to be sexy jumping out of a cake made out of wire and cardboard? If you want to be sexy, you want to go real all the way. And what could be sexier than cake?

Wednesday, October 20, 2010


I thought it would be fun to do a display on favorite tear-jerkers. I asked some of my friends around Powell's what their favorites were--just to get a list of books--and all of the sudden I had all these great, tiny reviews, these personal accounts of relationships with books.

Here are a couple of my favorites:

Shawn D. on The Art of Racing in the Rain by Garth Stein - "I sent it to my mother last year for her birthday. When I called her a week later to see if she liked it, she broke down crying hysterically. At first I was worried that a friend of hers may have died, but through her sobs I could just barely make out, 'I loved that book sooooo much.'"

Kevin Sampsell on Happy by Alex Lemon - "Alex's struggles made me cry. Alex's mom's love made me cry. And when it was over, I thought about how grateful I am for everything and I made myself cry."

Had fun, too, with the graphic I made for the window...

I interspursed some of the little blurbs people wrote with some pulp novel images that I changed up a bit to go with the theme...

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

selling books

Lately, I dream all night about family and wake up sad.

On Sunday, we hauled eight heavy [heavy!] shopping bags full of books down to the car and out to Powell's Industrial to sell. I've sold books to Powell's once before, but not my own. Wait, that sounds like I'm a burglar. I did it for a friend. Anyway, this time, three bags were mine and five were Stephen's. Pulled during all that work we did cleaning out the apartment to get rid of a bookcase and fit the new easel in the studio. Both of us had books we were long finished with and wanted to lighten the load. Lots of mine were children's picture books, which are much thinner, and Stephen had big, thick history volumes, so I figured I must have close to the same book count.

After the selling, we got back in the car and headed off for errands. My experience had left me depressed. Pretty heavy [heavy!] weight hanging just under my ribcage as we drove away. Stephen's experience left him feeling good. Almost giddy. Said he felt free. I already couldn't remember most of the books I'd just jettisoned from my life, but I missed them anyway.

Granted, Stephen's books were mostly going to end up right back on his own shelves, at least the shelves he manages at Powell's. Maybe some will go to other locations, but in the coming weeks [days?] he's going to be going through a cart and see old friends come through. He'll be able to open a book and know that that page is where he used to have a yellow sticky note to mark a favorite image. And my books? Most were piled on the counter to be left in the recycling bin, to go off somewhere, through some donation process. Rejected.

Recently I was talking to a writer friend about the fact that once something's published, it's out there to haunt the writer forever. Any part you don't like, wish you'd said differently... is out there in the world. And I said, "I suppose for the most part, though, what's out there fades into some bit of ghost in, really, not all that long of time. Something that exists - but who really looks at it except someone who owns and loves it."

I thought about this as I drove away from my rejected books. And part of that weight under my ribcage - I was sad for those books. Those ghost books, now faded into the world, no longer honored by my shelves.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

the body show benefit: spotlight on margaret malone

Part two in my series of stealing stuff from Nora Robertson's website! She's giving little previews prior to the big Body Show Benefit, which is coming up on November 3rd at Someday Lounge. I'm excited to post this particular preview as Margaret Malone is one of the best writers I know. Spare, smart, funny. Check her out. [Nora's voice to follow...

A couple is running late for a medical appointment which turns out to involve an exam and a doctor in knee-high boots about to go on African safari. Oregon Literary Fellow Margaret Malone and filmmaker Brian Padian recently released a short film Brian adapted from her short story by the same title, “I’m Your Man.” Cinematography by Scott Ballard, song by Joe Haege, performers include Christine Calfas and Karen Hepner. Real-life couple Margaret and Brian are also collaborating on a memoir about Brian’s survival of a brain tumor, The Year of Travel & Good Fortune.

Take a gander at a clip of the film here.

Also catch Margaret reading more of her hot fiction at the Body Show Benefit on Nov. 3rd at Someday Lounge. Performers include Arthur Bradford, Gigi Little, B. Frayn Masters, Nathaniel Boggess and Danielle Fish, and there will be a Voodoo doughnut contest judged by style points. Door at 7PM, 7:30-9:30PM, $5-15 donation.

EXCERPT: I’m Your Man

We sit in the small room. It is already crowded. Bert is on the papered exam table and I’m on a loveseat smooshed into the corner. The loveseat is pink pleather cushions and wood arms and legs, like something out of a medical office furniture catalogue under the heading – Make Your Patients Feel Right At Home – only of course it doesn’t, because our home does not look like the exam room of a urologist.

I am still holding everything, coats, purse, coffee in a jar. I heave the pile over onto the cushion next to me, unscrew the jar lid and, praise god, I hit the coffee, three big sips.

On the wall is a poster of inside a penis, capillaries and vessels in sharp reds and blues. Next to that in the corner is the mandatory metal sink with a tall-necked faucet like the top of an f, stinky-clean medical handsoap, automatic paper towel dispenser, and above all that on the cabinet door is a sign that says, We’re all in this together.

Bert says, “I’m nervous.”

I say, “There is nothing to be nervous about.”

He says, “What if the doctor wants to cut my penis open?”

“That’s crazy,” I say. “You sound crazy. It’s just an office visit.”

I am not as understanding as I could be.

This is when the door opens and a woman with a long face like a summer squash walks in. Straight dark blond hair, low cut black sweater, short black skirt, black stockings, and black knee high boots. Obligatory white coat.

She says, “I am Dr. Foote.”

Her voice like the edge of a serrated knife.

She will not look us in the eyes for more than a small part of a second, so when she speaks to us she speaks to her clipboard.

She says, “We don’t have much time.”

“I’m sorry,” I say. “We didn’t have any idea how far away it was.”

Her lips spread a bit. A smile, maybe. Her dark eyes meet mine for a moment.

“This will be a short appointment,” she says. “I have other patients.”

She lowers herself onto a round black stool. The wheels squeak as she settles in.

Without moving our bodies, Bert and I look at each other. Look back at Dr. Foote.

The three of us sit in the shape of a triangle. Dr. Foote, on her stool. Me, on the loveseat. Bert, legs dangling from the papered exam table.

I take another hit of coffee from the jar. I drink too fast and it gets caught in my throat. When I am done coughing, Dr. Foote speaks.

To her clipboard she says, “How long have you been trying?”

Bert and I look at each other. Our voices hopscotch.

Me, “One year.” Bert, “About a year.”

Dr. Foote writes on the clipboard.

She says, “Your hormone tests came back and everything looks normal, slight elevation of Prolactin. Doesn’t mean anything though.”

Sound of a page turned in the file. Paper creased by a hand. Scratching of pen onto paper to test the ink. She is in love with that clipboard. If it disappeared, she would have to actually look at us.

To Bert up high on the exam table, she begins her barrage of questions. She says, “Do you smoke?”


“Drinking, how much per week?”

Bert says, “Per week? Maybe seven drinks?” His eyes meet mine. “Ten?” he says. Sure, ten sounds good. No need to tell the doctor that Bert drinks like a dock-worker.

Dr. Foote crosses her legs revealing her black stockinged knee above her boot. She says, “Any street drugs?”

Bert says, “No.”

Dr. Foote’s dark animal eyes swing my way. My stomach does a flip flop.

“Not even marijuana?” She says this to me even though she’s talking to Bert, like I am his pusher, like I’ve got a nickel bag in my purse and I’m just waiting until she leaves the room so we can get high.

Bert swallows. He says, “No.” Bert says, “Not anymore.”

“And you don’t wear tight pants do you? On a regular basis? Bike shorts? Or what have you?”

The squeak and click of the stool’s metal wheels against the hospital floor. She pushes a little bit forward, a little bit back to find the right spot before she continues. Jar of coffee in my hand which I see now is ridiculous. I’m not relaxing at a café on the Seine. I chug the rest, put the lid back on and set it down on the floor.

Dr. Foote says, “We got the results of your semen analysis. Your count is slightly lower than normal.”

Bert says, “Right.” We’ve heard this all before.

She says, “That’s not a huge deal.”

She says, “Your motility is a bit low and your percentage of normal sperm is quite low.”

Bert says, “Right.”

We have not heard this before.

We don’t know what this means. What does a normal sperm act like? I picture Bert’s wayward sperm, painting its fingernails black, getting a tattoo.

She swivels to the loveseat, her eyes land on me. She says, “And everything with you is functioning normally? Ovulating? Healthy?”

Dr. Foote’s squash face is already back in her clipboard. She is not a very good listener.

I clear my throat. “Yes, we thought it was me,” I say. “My eggs, you know, because usually it’s the woman, but now we think it’s not. I took that test where they inject this…”

She swivels back to Bert. She says, “Well, let’s do a quick exam.”

Dr. Foote rises from her stool, sets her precious clipboard on the counter by the sink. She says, “Stand up and drop your pants and underwear to the floor.”

Bert’s expression says, Yikes!

I point at me and then point at the door, like, you want me to leave? Bert shakes his head no.
From a cardboard box, Dr. Foote pulls a pair of heavy blue latex gloves, stretches them over her hands.

Bert stands, unfastens his belt; his pants and boxers fall to the floor. Bert’s naked half torso in profile. Dr. Foote facing him, blue hands reaching out.

I turn my head toward the pile on the loveseat, cross my legs, pick up my purse. I look really hard for something to look for. My hand trolls the bottom of the bag. Keys; pen; chapstick! Perfect. Put on that chapstick, take your time. Really smooth that waxy chapstick all over your lips.

Dr. Foote’s blue hands feel Bert’s testicles.

Do not stare. Do not seem uncomfortable. This is all perfectly normal.

There is no comforting small talk.

The sounds of give and stretch of blue latex over skin.

I check the inside of my purse again. Probably I should put on some more chapstick. Yup, that’s better. Maybe I’ll just check my phone. No messages. All-righty. No problem. There’s probably an old mint in here somewhere.

Dr. Foote says, “Okay.”

Oh thank god.

Bert leans down to pull his pants up.

Dr. Foote says, “Now just turn around and lean against the exam table. I’ll check your prostate.”

Friday, October 15, 2010


Things I found cleaning out the bookshelf by my desk in the studio:

A book of 37 cent Christmas stamps.

An ipod adapter cord in its box, never opened.

A bag of pennies and the unused paper sleeves to put them in, which I got from the bank years ago.

Doctor appointment reminder cards from 2007.

2 type-2016 batteries--for what, I don't know--in the package, with notation, "Best if installed by 2006."

Note from the vet during the time of José's old age, reading: "1. Benedryl liquid 5 mg orally twice a day (bedtime). 2. Hot water bottle, in bed."

1 set of ear buds with the bud parts pulled off.

1 set of headphones which I knew on sight did not work at all.

Tiny sketches for a set of paintings I thought about painting 5 years ago.

1 folded-up note from Stephen on the occasion of our 2nd anniversary... Which anniversary, I'm not sure. Not wedding. Maybe first meeting. More likely from the content of the note, our first e-mailing. Which is coming up again next Thursday. Which, in a way, started everything off in the studio because the big clean-out was necessitated by a big move-around which was necessitated by the fact that I bought Stephen a big, new easel for painting, and that thing was not going to fit in the studio if we didn't get rid of and move some things. And the reason I'd decided to buy him the easel was two reasons--to celebrate the recent developments in his art career and to celebrate the up-coming anniversary of our first e-mail.

What Stephen in his note calls, "that awkward, little e-mail that started everything."

The note was written not long after I'd left for work on that earlier anniversary, Stephen sitting in bed with coffee and Kitty burrowed under the covers with him.

"You left about a half hour ago, looking fresh and pretty, almost unbearably lovable. You almost forgot your earrings--again. Your hood was wedged under your coat--again..."

When I look around, this studio, and the moving around that happened last night, is all about our lives together. Stephen all order and smartness, getting everything fitted into its new spot right. And our gifts to each other: From me to him, the easel. From him to me, the desk space I was going to give up to accommodate the easel, for me to keep even though I do my writing out in the family room, for me to keep even just to use to pile my stuff and forget about it.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

the body show benefit: spotlight on matt bors

Over on Nora Robertson's page, she's going to be putting out a few pre-show teasers for her upcoming event The Body Show Benefit, in the days leading up to November 3rd. As one of a bunch of really cool participants in that event (I'm not meaning to call myself really cool, but it would take too much early morning effort to restructure the sentence to take the me out of that part), I thought it would be fun to re-post them here.

I think we should call these posts...

Here, in Nora's voice, is #1: Matt Bors.

Portland cartoonist Matt Bors recently traveled to Afghanistan with Ted Rall to cover the state of the country. I happened to catch his and Ted’s panel presentation at Wordstock and was super intrigued by their experiences as the sole team of unimbedded journalists covering this conflict in a place where no one, literally no one, goes on the streets at night. There was one leg of the trip where they had to fly over despite the excellent condition of the roads because even at I believe it was $2,500 the two were offering to take them, it was not worth it to the driver. If he was caught with Matt and Ted, the driver would be killed, and if he was caught on the way back, he’d be robbed of the cash and his car. One lady from the audience: how do you get there? Do you have to have special permission? Ted and Matt: You just go! It’s an ally to the US. Though the State Department will tell you not to.

To see more of Matt Bors, albeit in a less serious context, catch him as a contestant in the Voodoo doughnut contest in the upcoming Body Show Benefit on Nov. 3rd at Someday Lounge, eating doughnuts creatively. Judged by Tres Shannon, Tiffany Lee Brown and Shannon Wheeler. Door at 7PM, 7:30-9:30PM, $5-15 sliding scale.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010


So, at Powell's today I'm doing some work on the new round of featured titles. Each team... subject... basic section - say, Literature or Fine Arts or History books - sends me their list, and I order the books for featured spots around the store.

Among the titles requested by the Humanities Team (poetry and reference and classics) are:

The Poetry of Rilke


Walter Canis Inflatus

[walter the farting dog - latin language edition]


Friday, October 8, 2010

two happy screen shots

The top of the fall newsletter for the Winston-Wächter Fine Art Gallery in Seattle...

and then after you scroll down a bit...


Check WW and S O'D out here.

Monday, October 4, 2010

an illiad

I read The Iliad in high school. Or was it The Odyssey? Or was it both? I just remember that it didn't really connect with me--too much going on... too much story spooling out forever. Also, I was in high school.

On Friday, I saw An Iliad at Portland Center Stage. A smartly-written play and a great production that brought out all the elements I don't think I was mature enough to notice back in high school. Surprising themes of war-as-tragedy wrapped up in that particular hero's journey. Surprising moments of heart in what I always figured was one big swashbuckling adventure story. The writers Denis O'Hare and Lisa Peterson take the themes further by their shaping of the play--what stories they highlight, what stories they leave out, what stories they touch on in tiny, particular ways and then let lie--and also in the ways they lift up and away from the stories: some very surprising moments that I won't spoil, but which I'll say... do the trick.

There's some definite audacity in the writing of this play, and you need some good acting and directing to pull it off. Both go into the creation on stage of the storyteller who takes you through this Iliad, and since I don't for a minute understand the art that goes into directing, I'll just say that what Penny Metropulos did worked... and move on to the actor, Joseph Graves, who was so excellent in playing the drunken storyteller morphing in and out of all the sub-parts in the stories he tells. One-man shows can be a forum for actors to get up there and parade their ability to play different parts right down your throat, but Graves doesn't do that. He plays the different parts but in a way that keeps the storyteller on stage. There's some lovely, ancient storyteller magic that gets up inside him--you witness the transformation--and then moves him from narrator to Hector to narrator to Achilles to narrator to Hecuba fluidly and gracefully. In a way that keeps narrator folded into story and present folded into past--which could feel gimmicky if not done well.

Present-folded-into-past was set up really well by the stage set. Particularly the wall that surrounds the whole space of the theater--graffiti all over the stone in different languages. We all remember references in history books to old graffiti, whether in Pompeii or Egypt or carved by American frontiersmen. The mind bounces around these things, touches on the cave paintings at Lascaux, sees the thread through time and through place, which is just what the play itself does.

The show, the production, the set - it all has a way of letting you feel smart even if you were the kid who was bored by The Iliad in high school and didn't retain any of it except for the thing about the face that launched a thousand ships.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

hildegard's music

I've been meaning to post a link to a bit of the music Stephen and I sang as part of the big chorus for performances of Ordo Virtutum this past weekend.

Take a listen here.

The first two lines of this sequence were sung by a soloist, and we came in on postea viriditas descendit. Later, greenness sank away. If you push it ahead to 312, you come to another part where the chorus sings. Including the veeeeeery long porigat at the end--well, the po... being long and the rigat being slow and final and immensely satisfying.

There were a lot of parts of this that were very satisfying coming up from your body and out of your mouth. Including the non-singing parts, which were the chorus playing the role of the Devil. The Euge part, which I talked about in an earlier post, was lovely satisfying because we kicked it out in a big, loud, low bellow. The pleasure was also in the rhythm and sound of the words.

Quis est tantus timor?
et quis est tantus amor?
Ubi est pugnator,
et ubi est remunerator?

Lovely repeats and serendipitous rhymings, the rhythm and the periodic breaks in rhythm - and we performed it in its own repeat, with one member shouting each line and the rest of the chorus shouting it back... I hate to keep using the same word over and over, but this was so satisfying to recite.

It was interesting feeling that great enjoyment of words for mostly their sound, without the usual instant recognition of meaning. When we were delivered the cue sheets on Friday, they were nothing but words on a page. A heap of sound. By Saturday, as we were bellowing them out in performance, they were a kind of music.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

how i prePARE for SHARE

I can't believe SHARE is coming up on a year already. If you don't know, SHARE is a bi-monthly event in Portland that brings together a group of artists - different every time but often with returning guests - to create in a shared space. Create in every possible realm. They have writers, painters, musicians, sculptors, dancers, actors... any creative discipline that can be contained in one studio loft (or sometimes spilling out into the hall).

This Saturday, SHARE will be having its First Anniversary Show - a night of exhibits and readings and even a bit of SHARE's usual program--in which artists are given a prompt and then set to doing their art for a specified period of time, and finally they share their work. Pieces created there on the spot during the event will even be put up for silent auction. It promises to be a night of rampant artistry!

I've been to two SHARE events, and if I had more time, I'd be going to them all. The first one I attended was SHARE number two, and the prompt that night was temporary. As a writer, I allowed myself to run all rampant artist with that word and that concept, and then when I finally got down to business, I wrote a short prose poem about a spot of sun on a bed. I'll be reading the piece as part of the festivities at the anniversary event, but I also did a little homemade book-making in order to include it in the art exhibit.

Since the piece is about bedclothes, I decided to make the pages of the book out of sheet. A pillowcase, actually, which I cut up...

and then I arranged the story around the printed flowers.

I made a cover using board and more pillowcase. And stitched the pages together and into a paper encasement that I could glue up against the inner lining of the cover, like in a real book...

Then cursed a bit because it wasn't working right, and I couldn't get it to open and close correctly. Then I was cutting new paper and getting the needle and thread going again. When I finally had the science figured out satisfactorily, it turned out nice. It will be on exhibit Saturday night along with a lot of amazing, creative pieces of art spawned during this last year of SHARE.

When I work on the less thinky parts of art, like cutting and measuring, I like to throw on some music or a movie I know really well for some background noise. Here is who presided over my work that night:

SHARE is the brainchild of Portland writers Kathleen Lane and Margaret Malone. The SHARE First Anniversary Show goes from 6 to 10 this Saturday night at the Goldsmith Building in Old Town. NW 5th and Couch.

Friday, September 24, 2010


Been trying to get familiar with the Latin text Stephen and I got in rehearsal last night, which we'll be reciting tonight and Sunday in performances of Ordo Virtutum. When we sing, we'll be "souls imprisoned in our bodies," and when we recite (intone, whisper, shout) we will be the Devil.

One of the cue sheets for the Devil's lines:

First thing I thought when I saw the first two words was how Coco used to call Noni "Euge." Of course, he pronounced it differently — like Yooj. And in a way it sounded like he was calling her Huge all the time. But it was a special nickname because it was only used by my grandfather to my grandmother. That word belonged to them. Always felt strange to hear it, in a way, since Eugenia was my name too. Although, I wasn’t sure I'd want anyone to call me something that sounded like Huge. Now looking back, seeing that word on the page, it’s an instant lovely memory. Of the way Coco would say it — that bit of vaudeville in his voice — and always with the sound of matter-of-fact love for her. And here, I come to find out it’s also a word in Latin. Although it’s pronounced with three syllables. E-oo-je. And look. It means bravo!

spotlight on sheila ashdown

To coincide with the release of issue #3 of the Ne'er-Do-Well Literary Magazine, I thought it would be fun to do an Employee Spotlight display on publisher Sheila Ashdown, who is also not only a writer herself but a member of the marketing department for Powell's Books. [i also thought it would be fun since i happen to have an essay in #3...] I loved the answers she gave me to my interview questions, especially the one about whether she'd had any particular experiences or made any discoveries as she sifted through submissions for this latest issue, which is subtitled Working-Class Stories and, according to the press, "casts a fresh light on the absurdity, banality, and redemption of contemporary wage-slavery."

In a a blog post about the issue, she wrote: "Your job might seem as boring as a rock, but lift up that rock and the soil beneath is probably teeming with the stuff of stories."

[ooh! wiggly!]

Here's the interview. You can find the display [plus copies of all three issues, plus copies of the Ne'er-Do-Well's two-color, limited-edition poster] on the Mezzanine at Powell's City of Books.

What is your position for Powell’s and how long have you worked here?
I've worked for Powell's for three years, first at the customer service desk at the City of Books, and now as a marketing coordinator for

What inspired you to publish a literary magazine?
My first inspiration was altruistic: I love helping writers shepherd their work into the world. There are a lot of lit mags out there, but there are far more good writers who are struggling to get published in a tight market. I figured one more publishing outlet would be a good thing.

My second inspiration was selfish: I was sick of sitting on the publishing sidelines, where my role was almost completely passive: submitting my work to other people's magazines and waiting for them to pass judgment—or, "ordering some rejection letters," as my friend Kelly says.

What inspired the Ne’er-Do-Well theme behind it?
I was a middle-school misfit. Seriously, that's pretty much the basis of my literary aesthetic. I love stories that explore the experience of being an outsider, but are also able to showcase our shared humanity.

I love the idea of gathering working-class stories into one volume. Did you have any particular experiences / make any particular discoveries choosing these pieces?
It was an eye-opening experience. While most of the stories in this issue are written by members of our Powell's union (we have a wealth of talented writers who work here), I also took submissions from the general public—and I was floored by the stark difference between the two. The submissions I got from non-unionists generally portrayed the working class as lazy, shifty, drug-using, and trashy. It was extremely disheartening! Luckily, there were enough proud working-class writers out there to supply me with the smart, fun, heartening stories that ultimately made it into the magazine.

What is your favorite aspect of publishing a literary magazine?
I love connecting with people, and frequently find myself overwhelmed with gratitude for those who volunteer their stories, time, brainpower, and enthusiasm to the magazine. When I was putting together this latest issue, I seriously had a few sleepless nights where I was just too keyed up with gratitude to calm down and fall asleep. It's such a positive and empowering experience.

Which book has made a profound impression on your life?
Virginia Woolf's A Room of One's Own. I read it at a very formative time in my life, when I was just starting to take myself seriously as both a writer and a feminist. Obviously, some of its lessons aren't applicable to a 21st-century gal, but I often invoke its spirit when I need a reminder to focus my energy on my own writing.

And then there's Denis Johnson's Jesus' Son, which totally lit my eyeballs on fire.

What are you reading right now?
Right now, I'm reading The Whore's Child: And Other Stories by Richard Russo. That man is a god. He can create the most captivating story out of the most subtle situation.

Are you willing to identify a cheesy book that you like?
I'm fascinated by self-help books, though I'm slightly embarrassed to admit it. The one self-help book that I actually own is Feel the Fear and Do It Anyway by Susan Jeffers. It's all about taking risks and making "no-lose" decisions. It blew my mind.

As a writer yourself, what is your ultimate goal in your writing life?
My ultimate goal is two-fold: to write as much authentic, well-crafted fiction as I possibly can—and hopefully get some of it published.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

banned books week 2010

Banned Books Week is coming up at the end of the month. Powell's always recognizes this with displays around the store, and this year a creative member of my merchandising team, Christopher Johnson, suggested the theme for the window display. He made me three sock monkeys, positioned in see-no-evil, hear-no-evil, speak-no-evil stance. Look at these guys!

Obviously, I created a backdrop to look like a zoo or jail cell, and we used the monkeys graphically in the shelf talkers in the rooms (that's what's pictured above) and physically in the window. Here's a window shot...

I love having cool, creative minds on the team!

*Christopher Johnson has worked over twelve years in independent bookstores, including a colorful month-long stint at New York’s famed Strand. You can currently find him at Powell’s Books on Burnside in the Blue Room, sweating over the letter S.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

dw army - huzzah

Frozen Moment submission is off and away. This has been a very particular experience - a very nice experience. Having the whole writing group submitting for the same project, you'd think there could have been some tension. The difficulty of getting published out there in the modern publishing world, the very strong want... need... that I think every writer has inside. But I sensed no tension these last few months. In fact, it's been just the opposite, and even though, in a way, I would expect that out of this group, I'm also very impressed.

Stories have leapfrogged across the e-mail universe for comments and critiques between us. And then there was Kevin opening his home up for special Frozen Moment workshops. All of us around the table helping each other work toward the same goal, knowing that in essence we are competing against each other. Not caring about that at all. An experience like this is quite a gift.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

preparedness month

Found out that September is National Preparedness Month and thought I'd have some fun with that at Powell's. With the recent rash of books on how to be prepared for the zombie apocalypse, the alien invasion, the robot uprising, along with a whole section of books for surviving in the wild, I figured it was a good time to take being prepared to the next level.

Here's the top panel I put together...

I was able to reuse an image I'd created for my First Contact display a while back...

There on the left side is my version of the letter-to-the-editor that Billy Pilgrim wrote in Slaughterhouse Five--one of the number of alien-related books I was displaying along with First Contact. Here's a blog post on that display which shows the original use of the letter. And here's an earlier blog post about the display in which I explain how to create an alien out of a cat and George W. Bush.

Then I found some blueprints and played around a bit with them to simulate some sort of plans for hiding and evacuation during the zombie / robot / vampire / alien apocalypse. Made quick work of it because part of that area of the display was going to be blocked by books. Here's a picture of the final display--including the annoying shine from the window glass and excluding the book that someone removed at the request of a customer that day. The customer bought the book, which is good, but I always have mixed feelings when I see those empty book holders. Yay - the display is effective... boo - now I have to go get another copy to put in the window. I've had a lot of that with this display, actually, and I've heard there are a lot of people asking questions about the books. I wonder what it is that people are getting more prepared for... survival in the wilderness or the undead.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

call to [ancient] arms

Alright, what singers out there in Portland want to indulge in the chance to be souls trapped in your bodies?

Be a part of a megachorus and gain a very particular intimacy with an amazing piece of medieval music. Ordo Virtutum, written circa 1151 by Hildegard of Bingen, is the oldest known morality play in history. It's full of excellent archetypal tropes* (the soul, the virtues, and the big guy himself, the Devil) and a music so different and quite fascinating--more fascinating the more you get to know it. Stephen and I were part of the chorus when this was produced in February, and it was a really great experience. Local arts impresario Stephen Marc Beaudoin is mounting the show again this month, and here is his call for singers. Check it out...


*is that redundant? are all tropes archetypal?

Sunday, September 5, 2010

norma night

Listening to Norma as I worked on a project this evening and Stephen painted across the way in the studio. I told Stephen after: supering for Norma was one of the closest things I have to Christmas as an adult. A magic like the magic that attached itself to colored lights when I was a kid. Always takes me a bit to "come down" after the last amazing piece of music in that opera. Bellini was a master of tension. Gadzooks am I glad I got to get burned at the stake to that music.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

ne'er-do-well working class stories

The #3 issue of the Ne'er-Do-Well Literary Magazine is out. Just. It hasn't quite reached Powell's but is on its way. I'm looking forward to getting my contributor's copy and reading all the "working class stories" in this special edition whose proceeds benefit the strike fund of the International Longshoreman and Warehouse Union. The magazine is edited by Sheila Ashdown and includes writing by, among others, Willy Vlautin (Motel Life, Lean on Pete) and Kevin Sampsell (A Common Pornography). Check out this cool wrap-around graphic created for the cover by artist Christina Mackin.

Here's a quick excerpt from my story "Sylvester." I cut out a bit of a middle part to keep it short...


I never knew who I’d get from week to week. Town to town. In Wichita, it might be four guys who never said a thing and the only way I knew they were listening was by watching the spotlights sweep, on my cue, from juggler to high wire. In Omaha, it might be four guys who talked nonstop through the performance, their voices loud through the earphones of my headset, making bets on whether the trapezist would make the triple somersault and cracking lewd jokes about the thirteen-year-old girl riding the elephant. Our circus didn’t have a regular team of spotlight operators. We only had a lighting director—me—and we picked up a new crew of spot ops from the stagehand’s union in each city.

There were generally four spotlights in each arena we played, so there were generally four spotlight operators to man them. They were way up there, stationed along the catwalk at just about the ceiling. Meanwhile, I sat at my light board, down on the arena floor, sidled up to center ring where I was in constant danger of being trampled by elephants or peed on by tigers. But to me, it was those guys up there on the catwalk who were brave. I couldn’t even see them. Glance up in the middle of the show, through the arena darkness, and at each corner of the building all I saw were the white glows of their spotlights, like nickels flashing in a glint of moon.

I controlled the spotlights by speaking commands into the headset.

“Stand by to hit Bulgarian acrobats in Ring Three — flood and cover… and… go.”

Even with all the hoopla — jugglers tossing fire torches right in front of me, the ringmaster calling theatrical strings of alliteration into his microphone, the thud of elephant feet resonating through the floor and vibrating up through my shoes — it was easy to detach and feel like nothing but a voice, floating through that wide space, bouncing from one corner of the arena to another.

And spot op voices bouncing back. Telling secrets in our parallel universe...

Tuesday, August 31, 2010


He would have been nineteen this month.

Happy birthmonth.

I miss you, little boy.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

frank's going away party in pictures

sidewalk art says: bon voyage, frank. orange county, ca 1,001.4 miles. that way.

lovely glass bead gift from sue...


lots of great conversation...

and after dinner, what's a party without fire dancing in the backyard?


a bit o' fire eating...

this picture that includes the twinkle lights running along kat's fence makes it kind of look like frank's eating fire too...

and (since this is for frank) there must be ice cream. and magic shell.

and whipped cream...

lots of whipped cream...

and there must be a beatles sing-along...

if you don't know the song, you can always stand in the background with your phone...

thanks to kathy for hosting and to peach for performing and creating our chalk welcome mat and to everyone for making it a lovely time. best going-away party ever. now, let's not let him go...