Wednesday, February 27, 2008

for sale

One useless cat! Caught in the act!

>>>>I'm not a cat lover. Never have been. There's something about cats that make my skin crawl. They are sly, sneaky, like snakes with hair, legs and paws. They seem so untrustworthy and the biggest hypocrites ever to survive. I don't like that they are quiet; I don't like their soul-piercing eyes and I can't stand they hump up their backs and make that wicked sound in attack mode--reminds of the word friction. Anyway, no offense to those who do love love love cats and your own cats. More power to you!

However, it's stories like Pooran's that cause me to see past all my cat hate'in and say "aww how cute!"

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

quirks in language

One of my ESL students--a dear--the same one who asked me when did I get my 'papers'--came to me on Valentine's Day and was quite confused. She said, "Renee, I have a question. What is soitenly? I've seen it all day today on balloons." Every day I have a different, new perspective on language and I kick myself for taking it for granted.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

she looks like---everyone

Another artist in my life is my step mom, Jill. I remember some of the first pieces she created and humbly hung in their house. I also remember trying to connect her persona to that of an artist (sort of like I do my Auntie's foul mouth to the daintiness of her home decor). But it was a marvelous surprise and to see that my step mom's art had form and shape and figures and I could actually see things and people and to make a little sense of it was a trip.

Just before moving back to Texas from California where I had a 12 year affair with the beach state, my Dad’s family had a huge Texas style family reunion--a tribute to honor my Dad's life and family. My sister, brother and I were so proud and fortunate to have adorned this beautiful piece of artwork across our chests on T-shirts Jill had made especially for the occasion. She titles it Monkey Wrench. I do know enough about the work to say it’s abstract. The history behind why she painted it and why the unusual name is only for her to tell. It's not my story.

The male is my father; the female is my paternal great grandmother who surprisingly to me had Jewish ancestry.

Like Audre Lorde’s little protagonist in “The Fourth of July,” my Dad too looked at his grandmother when he was a little boy and could not piece together the attitudes and differences between races---because his grandmother looked like everyone. A little story he shared with me some time ago.

My step mom’s artwork is always a surprise to me. I have not seen anything of late or new; it’s been a while, but I’m sure whatever she’s up to and in between her travels, the birth of a great piece of art will follow.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

nev'a too old

My Auntie's husband died a long time ago--1989, right after I moved to California. I loved him dearly. They were married for 39 years. They argued and threatened each other to split up all the time. When my Uncle would leave to go out at night, my Auntie would put on a tight, red dress and go meet Mr. Sunny. But she told me she was sure to return before "yo Uncle got home." If not, whew! But their relationship amazed me because they made it last til his end. And even today, at 80 years old, my Auntie swears by her abstinence. She says, "Girl, if I put my legs up in the air, cocked and up like dat, I might nev'a be able to get'em down! You got me now?"

But Valentine's Day is near and my Auntie called me yesterday while I was at work and told me that a man, Mr. Woods, pulled up in front of her house and knocked. She went to the door and saw him holding an armful of flowers and two, not one, but two heart-shaped boxes of chocolates. She said, "Wasn't that the sweetest thang? I be goddamn. Bless his heart!"

I guess in Valentine-ing there's an oasis of possibilities...

Friday, February 8, 2008

tricks of history

If you find there's a lot in Bottom Rail that I've written about in the blog, it's probably because the framework of the story is directly from my--own--life. I think I'm now labeling it a 'fictional memoir' piece---go figure!

These excerpts are pretty long, drawn out. But's Chapters 1 through 3. They have not been updated or thoughtover in 3+ years. I think they might still work though: as-is. Maybe. After two rejection letters followed with inspiring feedback, I may consider a serious overhaul. Maybe.

Chapters 1-3

Thursday, February 7, 2008


My writing brain used to feel a little something like this old photo I took in 1995. Or maybe it was 1996? I used to feel an incredible surge of magic when writing. Words would turn into phrases, fragments of thoughts, ideas that weren’t really ideas but an experience or an overheard conversation in my Big’s kitchen or backyard. Thoughts would somehow flush into sentences and I could make others see and imagine. The magic of writing happens when I am exhausted from looking into cracks and crevices, the spaces in front of me, the spaces I was born in. I remember learning how fortunate I really was as a child after reading several classics, one in particular that everyone knows: Crane’s Maggie. It was impossible for me to imagine that other cultures---other than mine---experienced gutters. And then writing for me was like being a crab. Especially when writing poetry. Sometimes, a feeling was so overwhelming, I could almost touch it---I had to either stop or continue. Usually, the former. Writers have razor sharp eyes, and ears. But it is the mind, the capability to turn the adventure of the imagination into the tangible, the seeable. What a heaven it is…