TRANSCRIPTION FROM STILL ALICE
WRITING A SCENE AS MEMIOR
Only months ago, my mom held a glass of white wine.
“Night flight to San Francisco. Chase the moon across America…”
She had a lecture in L.A., so we met for lunch.
“God. It's been years since I ‘ve been on a plane.”
She told I should go to college. She wrapped two fingers around the stem and swirled her glass, a whirlpool of wine twisting in her palm. Acting might make me happy, but it’s no real career. “I can make my own choices,” I told her, and she responded, “And on whose dime?” Then looked at me like she did when I was ten or nine or thirteen or eleven. Whenever I was defiant. The look that comes with Excuse me missy? Or, through clinched teeth, Would you like to rephrase that?
Now she looks into a cup, clasped in both of her hands. I know she is listening to my monologue, always listening, but she might interrupt me to mumble in a language nobody will ever understand. She lifts the cup the same way a baby would a warm bottle. It lingers. She listens.
“When we hit 35,000 feet we'll have reached the tropopause... / The great belt of calm air.”
“As close as I'll ever get to the ozone. I dreamed we were there.”
La Voyage Dans La Lune (in color)
Watching the first fully fleshed film in history is 16-minutes of mind-bending madness. Stars have human heads and they float, disappear. Random figures reappear in their place. Our earthlings clash with a green Tarzan-Mime hybrid species that can summersault into puffs of dust (let’s call them moon-men). Science fiction filmmaking is born. George Méliès captures mystical elements of space 30 years before Neil Armstrong even took his first baby step.
It all begins with the encouragement of some barelegged women (pretty risqué for 1902, eh?) and the “Scientific Congress of the Astronomic Club” waving their fingers. They all shuffle around like a scattered 6-year-olds’ dance routine.
The camera never pans or tilts in Le Voyage dans la Lune (A Trip to the Moon), but this is the first use of superimposition on moving images. The execution is brilliantly simple – lines of the composition mapped out in a glass theatre
Le PIQUE ASSIETTE
Pique Assiette is the art form of collaging broken objects to create a rustic mosaic. The name is taken from a culinary term, pique-assiette, “one who eats from others’ plates.” It’s also the name of a restaurant in Lyon, where the wooden walls and dark ceiling beams are as rich and burly as Chef Maxime’s meat braises and saffron dishes.
The Crème Brulee au foie gras de canard, a savory whipped duck liver, smells delicious — like burnt sugar. Who would think to spread duck liver on champagne toast? Apparently many of the French. It came from their "traditional menu", entrées that are always available. This is served with a pinch of sea salt, and only the beginning of my gastronomic mosaic.
The weekend’s special menu offers Oeufs Pouches sauce Heurette, a smooth mix of the dainty and dense. The egg yellows ooze into warm pearl onions and a light, rosy broth. I let it soak through the pores of a thick baguette...
Montevallo, Alabama — In the woods behind a student apartment complex, in the middle of the night, a group of police officers and three fraternity brothers are searching with flashlights. No one knows exactly where the fourth killed cat lies, but after an hour or so, someone discovers it. The cat is not a carefully wrapped or skinned carcass, not elaborate like the others, just mangled on top of an anthill, like Christian Slaton’s version of a white flag, like he’s given up.
About two weeks earlier, a mid-October morning in Montevallo, Alabama near Birmingham. Two brick columns support tiny crest-shaped rods, a half ring over the entrance to the University of Montevallo, home of the purple and gold falcons. Neat gray bricks make up the road on campus; it lines the olive colored quads and reaches a cul-de-sac. It encircles two 16-foot tall, bronze hands on a pedestal reaching to the sky: The Becoming Statue reminds students to strive for excellence. A dead cat deliberately skinned and tightly wrapped in purple and gold ribbons lay under the statue’s looming hands...
On the Raids
creative nonfiction journalism
A woman in a suicide vest detonated herself and part of her spine landed on top of a police car.
I wonder if she took showers or did she have time for baths.
I wonder what she thought about when she washed herself that day.
I wonder if she thought about not showing up, if she thought about getting lost in Paris.
I wonder if her mother ever picked her up early from school on her birthday. Maybe they went to the library.
I wonder what books she chose.
I wonder if she had a good sense of direction, or did she use the blue line on her phone?
on the WEB
story of an hour and a half
published by the ivy hall review
I see his car appear and drop the swan book or Barbie, maybe both, maybe neither. Mom is in the kitchen setting the table when I run down the stairs. Henry barks. I open the door before Dad can tap on it or open it himself.
“Daddy! Dad! Do you know?!” Henry barks and barks and licks Dad. Mom shakes a bag of tortilla chips into a basket and makes it a centerpiece. Dad squeals at the dog with his hands hovering playfully above him – that gets Henry all jumpy and wanting a cookie. “Remember Dad? The merge is tonight! Strategy. Right, Dad?
Usually the slow, weak and old people are voted off Survivor first. But that changes when the two tribes merge. There are no teammates. No partners. Everyone competes alone...
FINDING THE ZENITH
published by real pants
A harmless volume of drinks, my boyfriend says, makes me enthusiastic and philosophical. But too much red wine sends me into an outburst about my family living in a fish bowl… how no one does anything about anything in there. All they have to worry about is the next millisecond, you know? Ignore it until that girl starts tapping on the glass wall. Please – tap, tap, tap. And even then, the fish are like sorry but you don’t fit in here.
Over a glass of liquor, I dance and then stop to sob about the death of my yellow lab with emotional, philosophic enthusiasm. “This death of all deaths,” I gasp for air, “is eerily symbolic of the death of childhood.”
If “how much” – a glass, a shot, a bottle – is too much, can any writer really write? Alcohol, as Olivia Laing understands it, “alerted [Tennessee Williams] to the importance of empathy, that cardinal virtue of the playwright” (The Trip to Echo Spring). W
When Raymond Carver and John Cheever drank together at Iowa, they were almost always drunk. Rarely touched a typewriter...
an excerpt from first post of experiment series titled Booze and Prose
1O OF DIAMONDS
My Mom’s gold band disappeared from her finger and I found it a year later. It lay alone under old bed sheets in a big, bright red box. She’d shoved the box behind board games in a closet next to my bedroom. I put the ring on, fantasizing that she’d let me wear it to school. She would never, the symbol probably makes her sad. I pulled at the ring, in a halo of red on my swollen finger. It didn’t budge. I locked myself in the bathroom, plugged the drain and ran my hand under steaming water. I scrubbed around the ring with conditioner. The red halo became camouflaged by my pink hand. My throat pulsed. My chest felt light and hollow. My eyes shut, watered. Pop. The ring appeared in the sink. I breathed in, crying in a sink bowl of hot water, slick oily swirls and a relieved ring. Underwater, it looked bigger, and sparkled like cartoon jewelry.
EAT | READ
Everything has a point of entry and exit. It has to travel. The trip can be pleasant, nostalgic, productive, or terrible. It depends on what goes in.
It all breaks down. Not in a cafeteria or a crowded restaurant, no. It might happen in a room with a long and modestly set table in the center, like Da Vinci’s The Last Supper. The room plays music and the song smells good. It’s a tiss and some clanging and a hand sliding across the cutting board. A rhythmic tap, a drummer’s Mersey beat. Early in the week, there were endless baskets of chips and guacamole and salsa. An unfortunate Sangria imposter – the magenta, watery mix of booze and Ocean Spray juice.
My favorite meal is toast with apple butter from North Georgia. The Mersey beat is boiling water. The apples go soft – the sweeter the apple, the better the butter. The kettle releases sound in rings. Apples simmer over hot coals with cinnamon and nutmeg and ginger and cloves. Spread over toast. I told my grandmother I liked apple butter six years ago. She still steals serving size packets from diners, and brings them to me in grocery bags. Occasionally, I get a jar from a Ma and Pop store.
My grandmother also gave me the book, “I Heard the Owl Call my Name” by Margaret Craven. It was No. 1 on the 1973 New York Times bestseller list.
A dying Anglican vicor lives with the Kwakiutl tribe in an isolated village. The book is an account of the last year of his life. He’s immersed in a foreign culture and sees the trauma the tribe endures at the hands of white men. I’ve already read the book but I pick it up and read a chapter every one and awhile. The words are calming.
Life in Salt
writing from research
It’s true. A 25-cent goldfish is more intricate than the Mona Lisa.
Our house has windows downstairs, wall to wall. Ceiling to floor. Upstairs there is a single dark hallway to four bedrooms.
One microgram of table salt is a speck just barely large enough for someone with keen eyesight to make out with a microscope.
Said Carl Sagan.
My mind feels like a very narrow hallway with very few doors.
The Cafeteria cook makes his usual batch: 5 pounds of dry oatmeal
4 gallons of water
A handful of salt
Antony van Leeuwenhoek stared at water under a magnifying glass. He found green streaks and oval bodies. Some were white and transparent, others were green, grey and scaly. They varied in size but had such lively insides. It might have felt like finding magic.
Eleven elderly men eat oatmeal from the cafeteria and turn blue.
1944, New York Department of Health.