Random Poetry

In Aesthetics

Men with caulk guns scrape at window frames
and the sweater drones on.
Fred sips his can of Dr. Pepper
and rewrites by hand the term paper
on his lap.
Nikki sucks a root beer bottle that looks exactly
like a beer.
The sweater drones on, bouncing
a few phrases through my head:
Everyone is looking at the sweater
but I am watching
(um, ah, um, ah)
the men on ladders who are laughing together.

December 1998


Film Fest Friday: Cinema, Aspirins, and Vultures


This is maybe the only Brazilian movie I’ve ever seen, and it’s one of the coolest movies I’ve seen in a long time. I watch so many movies, and I get so fed up with the lack of interest in film as art. That sounds pretty snobby, and I’m not saying I want to see all art films, all the time. It’s just that as a medium, there’s so much that can be done with film that most filmmakers don’t do. This movie has little dialogue — it’s more about the quietness, the light (and the dark), the landscape, the angles, the people in the background. I just loved it. (I’m not the only one — it’s won 28 awards in the last three years since it came out.)

Loved how the country has a starring role, alongside the main characters. I know it’s special to me having spent time in Brazil, but it’s just a really beautiful movie. This was the most Brazilian Portuguese (different from European Portuguese like British vs. American English) that I’d heard spoken in one sitting in years, and it reminded me how much I like the sound of it. What a unique, pleasing language. I’m inspired to get out the Rosetta Stone again.

Here is a synopsis from IMDB, although you just have to watch it to really appreciate it:

“In 1942, the lonely German Johann travels through the arid roads in the country of the Northeast of Brazil in his truck selling aspirins in small villages, using advertisement movies to promote the medicine. He meets the drifter Ranulpho, who intends to go to Rio de Janeiro seeking a better life, and gives a ride to the man. While traveling together, they develop a close friendship, but on 31 August 1942, Brazil declares war to Germany and Johann has to decide if he should return to his home country and fight in the war, or stay in Brazil in a concentration camp; but the option of moving to Amazonas with the migrants of the drought seems to be feasible.”

And here is a really good NY Times article on the film.

Thoughtful Thursday: Clan of the Cave Bear


My friend Cheryl says this is her favorite series of books and has been telling me I should read them for years. I started this one a few years ago and couldn’t get into it at the time. But recently we talked about it again, and I picked it back up. This time, I am really digging it! The series is called Earth’s Children, and it “investigates the possibilities and some likely interactions of Neanderthal and modern Cro-Magnon humans living near each other at the same time.” It’s a fictional story about a little human girl who loses her family in an earthquake and is found by a Neanderthal medicine woman and nursed back to health. She is eventually adopted by the Clan.

I can’t even imagine the amount of research that must have gone into these books, but it is really interesting to me to learn more about how people at that time lived and interacted and survived using the land. Auel is skilled at interspersing the story with scientific details that help explain her characters without detracting your attention from the story. And it’s fascinating to learn about the differences between humans and Neanderthals through a story that imagines their interaction.

Upon having a drink with Jenny and Taper Nerd the other night, we discovered that Taper Nerd is also reading this right now! Strange that we’d both be reading the same book at the same time, especially because it was published almost 30 years ago. He’s farther along than I am so far, and he said he felt it was beginning to get a little predictable. These are thick books with small print, so I am going to need to be pretty blown away at the end of this first one if I’m going to read all six of them!

Wage Slave Anecdotes: The Oxygen Tank


When: Early 2000’s.
Where: Video rental chain store.

Early one Sunday morning (okay, like 9:00 am, but I was in college then), I was scheduled to open the store. Came in, turned off the alarm. Took the deposit to the bank. Came back and was counting all the money in the safe and the drawers of cash so I could start up each “till” as we called it. The store didn’t open until 10:00 but it was not unusual to get about a billion phone calls before I had even turned on one computer. At that time, I didn’t understand it at all. Now that I get up early even on weekends, I can sort of understand feeling a little annoyed that the video store doesn’t open until later. Anyway, not surprisingly, the phone rang.

Me: “Blank Store on Merrimon. This is Maegan. How can I help you?”

Customer, obviously elderly: “Yes, I was calling to let someone know that my liquid oxygen tank is empty.”

Me: “Your what?”

Customer, annoyed: “My liquid. Oxygen. Tank.”

Me: “Are you sure you have the right number? This is the video store.”

Customer: “Shit.”


Random Poetry

by Adrienne Rich

I have in my head some images of you:
your face turned awkwardly from the kiss of greeting
the sparkle of your eyes in the dark car, driving
your beautiful fingers reaching for
a glass of water.
                                    Also your lip curling
at what displeases you, the sign of closure,
the fending-off, the clouding-over.
you’d say, is an unworthy name
for what we’re after.
                                    What we’re after
is not that clear to me, if politics
is an unworthy name.

When language fails us, when we fail each other
there is no exorcism. The hurt continues. Yes, your scorn
turns up the jet of my anger. Yes, I find you
overweening, obsessed, and even in your genius
narrow-minded – I could list much more –
and absolute loyalty was never in my line
once having left it in my father’s house –
but as I go on sorting images of you
my hand trembles, and I try
to train it not to tremble.

Tasty Tuesday: Bleu Restaurant & Bar


If you know me, you probably know I really abhor chain stores and restaurants. The reasons are many, including their effects on local, independent businesses, but probably number one is just the character factor. I like character. In people, in food, in shopping experiences. In everything, really. I guess some people like the familiarity of chains, but I find them utterly boring in their predictability. I think it is horrible that you can go to any number of cities in the United States and have the exact same experience in every single one of them, if you so choose. This is also why I hate urban sprawl, because it makes this type of thing possible and probable. I’d have to say the only chain I like is Goodwill, and that’s only because they all have a different selection.

So I’m happy to say that Bleu is a unique dining experience in Winston-Salem. There is nothing chain-ish or predictable about it. The architecture of the building, the decor, and the menu are all a little different. Down to the table bread and dipping sauce. My company uses Bleu sometimes for a variety of functions, so I have eaten there a handful of times. Right now they have a 3-course prix fixe menu for $28 — not too shabby for the quality you’ll receive there. That would be a great reason to try it out. The Greensboro News & Record called it the Triad’s only 5-star restaurant, and while I disagree with that pretty seriously, it is worth putting on your short list.

Things I’ve had there that I would recommend are below.


Vegetable pad Thai spring rolls with citrus-chili sauce, Sriracha peanuts, and herb salad.

Shrimp tempura with Chinese hot mustard, sweet Thai basil sauce, and kimchi.

Seared sea scallops with mushroom-lemon risotto and Norwegian goat cheese sauce. (This was awesome!!!)


Mixed green salad with poached apples, walnuts, bleu cheese, and red wine vinaigrette. (Unfortunately I couldn’t eat the walnuts — allergic. The rest was great.)


Grilled salmon with lemon wine butter sauce and mashed potatoes and sauteed vegetables. (This was excellent. I normally won’t eat salmon unless I cook it myself, but the temperature was perfect, and it was still just barely crisped on the edges and mouth-wateringly moist inside.)

What I would not recommend: the BLT, the Club sandwich, or the Prime Rib. This is not the best place in town to get a steak, and the lunch sandwiches are not as good as they sound on the menu.

On a happier note, they have some of the best service in town, hands down. I have only had better at one other place in this city. They are really good at being almost invisible and doing their work magically, quickly, quietly. You won’t have to ask for anything before they anticipate it. Five stars in that category. If any of you decide to check it out, let me know what you think!

Crafty Update: Paso Pacifico


Today Dote Handmade Goods was asked to participate in a charity event held by Paso Pacifico, a non-profit organization based in Ventura, CA dedicated to protecting endangered forests and wildlife along the pacific slope of Central America. Their programs include reforestation, community-based eco-tourism, wildlife research and protection, and environmental education. I’ll be providing them with eco-friendly map stationery for a silent auction at an event that will benefit their conservation programs in Nicaragua. Score one for the environment!

Monday Musings: 60 Minutes


When I was growing up in the 1980’s, my parents and I ate Sunday dinner every week at my grandparents’ house. When supper commenced, my grandfather put down his newspaper, turned on the ceiling fan, adjusted the number of bulbs burning in the overhead light, and switched the channel to ABC News. That was the ritual. Although I found the sound of Sam Donaldson’s voice strangely comforting, I was more interested in what came after the news, when I would plop down in front of the immovable cabinet television to watch 60 Minutes, my toes flicking the brass handles of its fake drawers.

60 Minutes was like the “Unexplained Mysteries” of politics. Behind-the-scenes, investigative journalism that revealed exactly what people in Washington were up to. I was very fascinated by all the intrigue. “Why would the Department of Defense spend $52.00 each on screws when you can buy them down at the ACE Hardware for ten cents?” I would ask my grandfather. “What’s a Sandinista?” He would adjust the toothpick in his mouth and settle into his recliner, grinning at me. “Who is Zapruder?”

Looking back, I don’t know how much of the “full story” 60 Minutes ever told. I’m not sure any news show that tops the ratings consistently is primarily focused on getting the truth out. But the show did teach me that things are never really as they seem, especially in the U.S. government — something I still keep in the back of my mind at all times. Especially after living through three Bush administrations. 60 Minutes taught me one of the most important aspects of being a citizen of a democracy: it is our duty to question what our government is doing. Pay attention. Get outraged.

The creator of 60 Minutes, Don Hewitt, died a couple weeks ago. I think as his influence on the show waned over the years, the quality of the reporting has already declined. His death makes me wonder if it will continue to ask difficult questions or if it will join the rest of the mainstream media in being yet another paid mouthpiece, relaying the stories that advance certain agendas and not the ones that might injure them.  (Please watch the documentary Orwell Rolls in His Grave about mass media in the modern age.)

My freshman year of college, my roommate Melissa and I were taking a great journalism class. Our professor told us about a media event happening at a neighboring university in town one evening, so we decided to see if we could crash it. Food Lion, a supermarket chain here in North Carolina, had recently won punitive damages in a lawsuit after ABC employees got jobs in their meat and seafood departments and captured unsanitary practices on camera. ABC News’s Nightline was in town to film a special live episode featuring a panel discussion between Food Lion executives and journalists, debating the ethics of undercover reporting. Don Hewitt was on the panel, along with former U.S. Senator Alan Simpson, and ABC News Chief Roone Arledge.

So Melissa and I marched into the auditorium, down to the very front row. Melissa snatched some “reserved” signs from two chairs, and we sat down. Only one person tried to question our presence, and Melissa, who had an air of complete belonging wherever she went, said, “Oh, Uncle Don said we could sit here.” Uncle Don totally kicked ass. He tore down the Food Lion execs. He talked about freedom of the press and all kinds of important things involving media in a democracy. He reminded us that in a democracy, a network news organization — for its often superficial and less-than-cerebral approach to complex issues — is about the last line of defense against corporations that do scummy things to their customers and try to get away with it. That a  business that pumps as much money into a local economy as Food Lion will not be opposed by any local media organization, print or electronic, for fear of losing piles of ad revenue. That government cannot be everywhere at all times, and has frequently relied on “60 Minutes” and their ilk to help identify corporate evildoers. And that some of us would rather not have to wait until another fast-food-joint e.coli panic sweeps the nation to hear about unsafe food handling practices from our major news organizations.

That night Melissa and I met a former senator, Diane Sawyer, and Ted Koppel, but Don Hewitt was the one who most impressed us. I think America has lost one of the good guys, who was willing to actually stand up and speak out. He was not born into a wealthy or influential family, was never handed anything, and worked his way into success. Uncle Don was once awarded a Peabody for his accomplishments that “touched the lives of just about every American.” I know he touched mine.

Don Hewitt

Film Fest Friday: The Boy in the Striped Pajamas


My mom has reached the point in her life where she can no longer read or watch anything related to Vietnam or the Holocaust. It’s just too emotionally overwhelming, and she chooses to avoid it. While I can understand that completely, I hope that I never reach that point myself. I want to be overwhelmed by things. I think emotion is a powerful teaching tool. Once we avoid, eventually we forget. We can’t let that happen. So I think it’s necessary to keep watching and reading and remembering so we can teach others who are more distant due to age.

I heard someone say that the generation coming up in school now is the first one that is “once removed” from the horrors of the Holocaust. My generation has at least had the opportunity to meet and speak directly to people who were involved in that time period. Our grandparents fought in the war. I think it’s our responsibility to not let future generations avoid these things.

My grandfather died several years ago, but he used to tell me stories about Japan. He was a member of the first battalion of Military Police in Hiroshima after the bomb,  required to go door-to-door to the homes of survivors, collecting any weapons they may have owned. They had mostly knives; hardly any guns. People handed over ancient, family-heirloom Samurai swords without hesitation. That was one of the only stories he was willing to tell about being in the war that involved any specific memories. He tried to keep those conversations pretty vague and general, and that usually minimized the number of questions one could ask. He also liked to talk about the more “fun” aspects of being in the Army. He tasted sake for the first time in Japan and learned to drink steaming hot coffee in New Guinea to cool off — a trick we used in Brazil using hot black tea instead of coffee. It totally works.

Today’s movie selection was adapted from a novel of the same name. I can’t really go into too much detail about the plot because it will be too easy to give it all away. It’s best to watch this without really knowing anything about it first. All I can say is, I watch a lot of Holocaust films and read a lot of Holocaust books, and this is one of the most powerful things I’ve ever experienced. Please watch it, and then make sure you tell others to watch it, so that they tell others to watch it. It is unforgettable.

Thoughtful Thursday: Gertrude


Book number 3 on Swamp’s “Top 5” list. The other day I said I felt like I’d read it before, thinking it must have been in college for one of my many literature classes. I said, “I don’t remember much about it, so apparently it made a huge impression the first time around.” Swamp reminded me that he had made me read it when we were in Brazil. Well, no wonder I didn’t remember it, with so many wonderful distractions happening all around! I need light reading when on vacation so I can concentrate on appreciating my experience and adventures. The only book from that trip I do remember reading is Men Are From Mars, Women Are From Venus. It made some good points. 🙂 Oh, and Judy Blume’s Summer Sisters. That one I was reading on a boat, and two ladies who befriended me wanted nothing more than to hold it and finger the pages and look at all the foreign words.

Gertrude was written in 1910, and you have to get used to the antiquated writing style to appreciate what’s happening in the story. This is a philosophical novel, and in fact, the story is much less interesting than the snippets of wisdom sprinkled throughout — observations on the human condition. Plot-wise it can be summed up in just a couple sentences. A crippled composer falls in love with a woman. But she falls in love with his best friend and marries him. But they’re totally wrong for each other, and it doesn’t work out. The husband dies, and the composer writes his magnum opus as a result of the failed relationship. Really, I think Hesse just needed a vehicle for his narrator to explain how his mind worked. The themes of isolation, desperation, and love in its many forms are what make this book worth reading.

I could go on in detail, but I just finished writing a 20-page report for Swamp, and I’m officially tired of talking about this book now.

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