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CarrollBlog 10.31

At the restaurant in Helsinki, the arms of the waitress are covered with black and blue bruises. From a distance in the shadows, they looked at first like many small tattoos. But when she approached the table carrying plates in both hands, you could easily see that they were bruises. My eyes keep zooming back and forth between them and her pretty face to see if there was any sign there of where they might have come from.

At the same restaurant, a number of men at an adjoining table kept standing up throughout the meal and loudly singing the Finnish national anthem. It was sort of funny, sort of annoying at the same time. The name of the restaurant was "The Sea Horse" and was popular in the old days with sailors off ships anchored in the harbor. A lot of raucous singing must have gone in that place over the years.

At another restaurant, Russian this time, the specialty of the house was different varieties of bear meat. No matter how blase you think you are, now and then something compels you to spontaneously say WOW! out loud, thereby completely ruining your Cool Guy image. I had one of those moments when I read "hot spiced bear meat" on the ornate menu. 60 euros per serving, no less. Bears don't come cheap... especially those rare hot spiced ones.

CarrollBlog 10.25

I'll be in Finland from tomorrow, Wednesday 26th, until Sunday for the Helsinki Book Fair. Anyone who's in the neighborhood come by and say "Hei." I'll be at the "Loki-Kirjat" Publishing House stand on and off in those four days. for info.

CarrollBlog 10.24

from another letter about a friend who is in the hospital with a serious illness:

"One of her friends is the biggest man I have ever seen.
He must be six feet eight or nine inches tall and wide
enough so that when I hug him I can only get my hands to
each of the far sides of his shoulders. That is what makes what
he said seem so out of character. This big, strong, tough
guy said to all of us who were worried and scared for her
that we must all try to remember that she is just a ballet bar
that had seen its share.
No one said anything for a few minutes and then one of the other
guys finally said what the f___ are you talking about?

"He said that she has always been like the ballet bar in
a dance studio. Just like the bar is the place that the dancers
go to lean and stretch and practice balance and bear their weight,
she is the place where all of her friends and family go to lean and
balance and stretch. He said that the bar gets used over and over
again with people bringing their feet down on it, sometimes hard,
over and over again. The bar is the constant in the ballet studio.
Like she is the constant in all our lives. But he said that we have to
remember that that ballet bar is only held in place with a couple of
carefully placed screws. After time they are bound to come loose
and the bar will come falling down. He said that you never see a ballet
studio without a bar, so that must mean that there are people who go in
and tighten the screws from time to time. She is the same way. She is
strong and stable and can take a lot, but none of us should expect that
she can be that way through everything. She is going to have times where
the screws come a little loose. He told us it is all our jobs to be around to
tighten her screws so that she can hang straight and be level again."

CarrollBlog 10.22

Early morning people, five o'clock in the morning people-- the joggers, the fast walkers, the Alpine walkers with their pumping arms, serious faces and dopey looking ski poles. The creeps who stare at you, who stare at anyone out that early. Not many are sinister looking but there are a few. You walk a wide circle around some, others you cross the street as soon as you see them coming. They stand in the middle of the sidewalk, or they're smoking in the park, they stare into brightly lit store windows. Where have they come from? Where are they going now? A mad person shows up now and then. A bearded old man pushing a crammed full supermarket cart. A woman dressed in five layers of clothes, muttering. Men on bicycles delivering newspapers. Men jumping out of big delivery trucks, slamming the back doors open, sliding out loaded trays of bread, milk, meat. They're always in loud hurries. Seeing you pass, their eyes say *I'm* working; What are YOU doing? Most people haven't started out for work yet except those who work in the early morning stores-- the bakeries, the tabak, the cafe. As you pass those windows and look in, you see them setting up for the day. A few dog walkers appear, a few construction workers standing by a building site, smoking. The sidewalks are mostly empty. The rare car that passes seems out of place. A group of young people who've obviously stayed up all night are laughing, dancing around and playing grabass with each otherappear around a corner. Their noise is everywhere this early in the morning

CarrollBlog 10.21

An excerpt from a letter. Friends and family were discussing an extraordinary woman who, for some mysterious reason, has had only medium luck in love. Someone who knows her very well said this:

"She wants what very few people know how to give. She wants all the simple things. Not many people know how to do simple anymore. She wants grilled cheese sandwiches at home dipped in ketchup served on a paper plate, not dinner at an expensive restaurant. She wants to sit on the beach at sunset, not some far away exotic vacation. She wants a handwritten note that says I care about you, not some piece of jewelry that was financed over three years. She wants you to brush her hair, not send her to some spa for a day.

"And she wants things even simpler than that. Simple things that it seems like we have all forgotten. She wants you to ask her before you kiss her for the first time and the second. She wants you to hold her hand while you're watching re-runs together on the couch. She wants you to look at her when you talk to her. You guys, not just you, but so many guys have it all wrong. You think it is about where you take her and what you buy her for her birthday and for Christmas and you think it is about figuring out how her mind works. You think it is about being the best lover she ever had and you think it is about what she thinks of your career and your friends and your families and you think it is about all kinds of things that would never matter to her.

"As far as she's concerned, you can go out with the guys as often as you like. She *wants* you to have fun and enjoy yourself. You can have a job that keeps you and calls you away from home. She wants you to be happy with your work and she wants you to succeed. You can be so-so in bed. She wants to learn your body and have you learn hers. You can be greedy and selfish and demanding from time to time. She wants to work things through with you. You can see her once a week or once a month. She just wants to make the most of the time you get together.

"What does she want? That’s what someone asked. All she wants is to be loved, simply. Just like she loves everything in her life. There is no complex formula to the way she lives. Everything for her is simple and easy because everything comes from her heart. She wants to be loved from your heart. And no one in her life has done that yet because people spend way too much time over-thinking things and over-analyzing things and doing stupid things and finding reasons not to just love from the heart. "

And then he got up and left. And no one said another word.

CarrollBlog 10.20

Favorite names for the day:

"Buzbag" red wine from Turkey

"Assmann" plumber in Vienna

"Gideon J. Pillow, Capitola Kissy, Ronald Donald Amber, Vincent Buffalo" names found in various US phone books

"S.O.B." bandage store in Vienna

CarrollBlog 10.19

The sound of someone sighing in the next room.
She has lived the second half of her life wonderfully.
At the aquarium, a very young boy is waving enthusiastically and without stop
at brightly colored tropical fish floating by in front of him.
Her face was giving up. Without a word it said I've stopped listening;
Why do you keep talking?
"Everything I like at the moment is called Frank."

quote from an 8 year old girl

CarrollBlog 10.18

"In the poem I wanted to compare love to the kind of light you sometimes see clinging to trees after a sunset: the magical sort of light. That's the kind of light people have inside them when they're in love with someone."

Harry Mulisch

CarrollBlog 10.17

One of my favorite websites, which I've mentioned here before, is having a fund raising auction to keep the site going. I donated a really nice Waterman pen that I've used on and off over the years. For you pen freaks, something you might want to take a look at. Even if you're not pen- interested, moleskinerie is a great and worthy site. The link to the auction is below.

CarrollBlog 10.14

"We walk through ourselves, meeting robbers, ghosts, giants, old men, young men, wives, widows,
brothers-in-love, but always meeting ourselves."

James Joyce, ULYSSES

"Real artists paint things not as they are, in a dry analytical way, but as they feel them. I adore Michelangelo's figures, though the legs are too long and the hips and backsides too large. What I most want to do is to make of these incorrectnesses, deviations, remodelings, or adjustments of reality something that may be 'untrue' but is at the same time more true than literal truth."

Vincent Van Gogh

CarrollBlog 10.13

When they lay down together, she gently rested her head against his bare stomach. After some time had passed in silence she said, "There's a lot of sadness in here."
Frowning, taken completely offguard by the remark, he looked down the length of his chest at her, not really sure that he had heard her correctly. "What do you mean?"
Instead of answering, she slid her large hand slowly back and forth over the warm skin of his stomach. The gesture said "Yes, in here. You heard me."

CarrollBlog 10.12

The apartment is wonderfully white and bare. It is on the top floor of the building and there are two balconies that offer great majestic views out over the city. In the living room is a beautiful black piano, a small dining table with just two chairs, a small couch in a corner with a large pile of books nearby. That is all, but these few things are perfect for the space. There is something deeply satisfying and complete about those objects placed where they are-- like a meal of very good food but just enough of it and no more. The floors are all highly polished blond wood; you want to walk barefoot on them at all times. There are skylights in almost every room. It is a scene Edward Hopper might have painted, but unlike a Hopper room, there is no sadness or emptiness here. Only life pared down to a kind of Zen-like simplicity and tranquility. The other day I realized another reason why I so enjoy it there is because in certain ways it is like being in a treehouse when you were young. Way high above the street, a special view over everything, a whole world in the few objects you have chosen to bring with you up there.

CarrollBlog 10.11

There are few of us now, soon
There will be none. We were comrades
Together, we believed we
Would see with our own eyes the new
World where man was no longer
Wolf to man, but men and women
Were all brothers and lovers
Together. We will not see it.
We will not see it, none of us.
It is farther off than we thought.
In our young days we believed
That as we grew old and fell
Out of rank, new recruits, young
And with the wisdom of youth,
Would take our places and they
Surely would grow old in the
Golden Age. They have not come.
They will not come. There are not
Many of us left. Once we
Marched in closed ranks, today each
Of us fights off the enemy,
A lonely isolated guerrilla.
All this has happened before,
Many times. It does not matter.
We were comrades together,
Life was good for us. It is
Good to be brave—nothing is
Better. Food tastes better. Wine
Is more brilliant. Girls are more
Beautiful. The sky is bluer
For the brave—for the brave and
Lonely brave retreating warriors.
You had a good life. Even all
Its sorrows and defeats and
Disillusionments were good,
Met with courage and a gay heart.
You are gone and we are that
Much more alone. We are one fewer,
Soon we shall be none. We know now
We have failed for a long time.
And we do not care. We few will
Remember as long as we can,
Our children may remember,
Some day the world will remember.
They will say, “They lived in
The days of the good comrades.
It must have been wonderful
To have been alive then, though it
Is very beautiful now.”
We will be remembered, all
Of us, always, by all men,
In the good days now so far away.
If the good days never come,
We will not know. We will not care.
Our lives were the best. We were the
Happiest men alive in our day.

Kenneth Rexroth

CarrollBlog 10.7

The blind man walking down the street has TWO seeing eye dogs, one in each hand. Two big yellow labrador retrievers on those special white harnesses. I stop and look at him, stuck on the question-- Why two?

She asks me "What do you think of my boots?" Which is always a question that freezes a man in a woman's headlights because you never know what they really, down deep want you to answer-- the truth or reassurance?

When I was younger if I discovered that my fly was open it was mortifying and embarrassing as hell. Now when it happens I shrug and zip up. Is that a sign of maturity or indifference?

CarrollBlog 10.6

What always breaks my heart when I see homemade posters stuck on trees or lamp posts saying "THIS IS OUR DOG JACK. He's been missing since Thursday October 3. He's brown and white, longhaired, 12 years old..." is the dog or cat pictured is almost always plain or ugly. Indistinguishable from eight zillion other dogs in the world. You never see a beautiful whatever-- always just a dog-dog or cat-cat that is nonetheless loved and and worried about and very much needed at home.

"Writing is for me like walking down the landscape of the self. You find false trails, roads closed for repairs, impregnable fortresses, scouts, armies of memory, and impossible cartography."

August Wilson

CarrollBlog 10.5

interesting reply from Daron Larson:

from CarrollBlog 9.29-- "...Sometimes I get the feeling certain people think that if an event in a book comes from real life, then the author is cheating-- like stealing the answers to the test from someone else's examination. Only stuff that has been prepared 100% in the imagination belongs in a work of fiction."

I once heard the poet Sharon Olds speaking with Terry Gross on Fresh Air (NPR). The poet's work deals with themes of child abuse, eroticism, and violence. Terry asked if her poems were based on things that "really happened" to her. The poet refused to answer the question and instead asked the interviewer why it was important for her to know - which Terry was unable to answer. I think in this case - when the topic is past abuse - readers are interested in them being based on actual events for them to be valid.

But I think it gets down to the magic of effective storytelling. When writing is done well, it seems magical. It looks easy. Emotions are transmitted mysteriously. And the reader thinks he or she wants to know the secret of how the illusion is done. I know I've been guilty of this many times. Not to argue the validity of the work but to separate its components in search of the parts that mingle to create an illusion capable of moving me. It is born of awe and admiration.

I am wondering How did these words come together to describe a scene that seems so real? How did this person take the raw materials of an ordinary life and transform them in this way? It simply must have really happened exactly as it appears on the page. It is a red herring but I think the inquiry marks the stirring of inspiration. This work has moved me to try to create something that might have a similar effect on future readers. Is it within my grasp or not? Where do I begin?

I always cringe when people ask an author if something from a story really happened or where they get their ideas. These questions never feel fair (unless the writer has agreed to the role of teacher). And there is no satisfying answer. Just as it always comes as a disappointment to learn that one of the metal rings, of three that have linked and unlinked magically before us, has a gap slightly shorter than the width of a man's hand. Instead of feeling more magic, we easily feel tricked.

Yet a beginning writer must certainly begin their journey by considering how it is done? Perhaps those that ask directly are hoping for permission not to truly discover the answer which requires groping and hard work. These kinds of things never happen to me so I must be a different creature not destined to recount anything of interest. I wonder what is on television?

CarrollBlog 10.4

Word of the Day:

"Anamchara (ahn-im-KAR-uh) is a Gaelic word that means "soul friend." A soul friend is a person who provides others with coaching, support and guidance as they progress along the path toward fulfilling their spiritual and mystical potential.

"Originally, the ancient Druids functioned as soul friends to the pagan Celtic chieftains; later on, the Christian saints took over this spiritual role, providing direction and guidance to anyone who wished to grow spiritually. Today, anyone can have (or be) a soul friend. A person does not need to be of Celtic ancestry to benefit from having or being an anamchara.

"In its simplest form, a soul friend is anyone who provides spiritual support to another, no matter how humble or "ordinary." In a more formal way, an anamchara is a mentor or a coach -- a person who shares his or her knowledge or expertise with others, usually in a structured way. Such an anamchara may provide his or her services as part of a religious community (such as a Christian minister or a Wiccan priestess) or may work independently (such as a spiritual coach or professional psychic)."

CarrollBlog 10.3

We were talking about this couple we knew that suddenly broke up recently. I said it was hard to believe because they seemed so happy together. He said, "The great difference in their relationship was he told her what she was, while she kept telling him what he wasn't."

CarrollBlog 10.2

"A man takes his sadness down to the river and throws it in the river
but then he's still left
with the river. A man takes his sadness and throws it away
but then he's still left with his hands."

from "Boot Theory" by Richard Siken

CarrollBlog 10.01

An angel walked into the subway. A pretty young woman, mid 20's, dressed in a full length white satin dress, and large white wings made out of some kind of feathers were attached to her back. Golden glittery slippers peeked out from beneath her dress, and a gold crown rested on her blond head. I immediately grinned like a fool and seeing me, she grinned back. The people standing near reacted differently. An old woman looked offended-- just who does this girl think she is, dressing like that? A child holding her mother's hand gazed at the white vision, her eyes blazing with wonder. But my favorite reaction came from a drunk. He was so loaded that he could barely stand up. When the angel walked into the car he looked at her a moment, then away. Then frowning, he slowly looked up at her again. He closed one eye. He closed the other. He opened and closed both eyes. Am I really seeing this? He opened his mouth to speak but then didn't. What did he want to say to her?

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