creative ramblings & reverie

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Writing Spaces

The writing's on the glass . . .

Happy holidays!

image:  Christie B. Cochrell, Rockefeller Center

Christmas Poem

This from my eighty-six-year-old Mother, quite a delight:

A little old lady out Santa Fe way
Would hope you will have a fine Christmas day,
And in Twenty-eleven
A New Year like heaven
To travel and party and play.  Olé!

She adds "My brain is going soft but I still have the spirit."  And indeed she does!


Friday, December 10, 2010

Writing Spaces

Another island hideaway—this in Hawi, Hawai'i.  A sunny kitchen with an orange chair for writing (when not up in the Banyan treehouse).

image:  Christie B. Cochrell, Fleur's Kitchen

Breathing Space


Another Idaho summer night:  dog-tired weather.
A mass of smoke and cloud broods on the house,
every door and window outspread to the sultry air.

Her husband is away again, fire-fighting
somewhere up along the Snake; the twins finally
tucked in upstairs; her eldest son in town.

Over the throbbing of the fan, plates and cups
conspicuously clangor in the white enamel basin,
filmed with chicken grease and suds, sweat-like
where she brushes her forehead with her hand.

She lifts the screen door latch up with her hip,
moving to the heavy darkness of the porch; even
crickets hushed in the close, curled hand of heat.

She settles on the step, her knees drawn child-like
up to brace her chin.  Watching from the porch
she sights the eager lightning snaking up the sky,
the headmost pellets of the unloosed storm.

She lifts the heavy knot of hair up off her neck,
to catch the sudden stinging coolness of the air.


Hours later, when the storm is spent,
late droplets padding into buckets
from the roof, she lies wide-eyed
in the immense four-poster bed,
her bare arms circling on the sheet,
smoothing furrows, rubbing out the ache.

Faces, places, premonitions chase
across the roof with the last of the rain.
The war was still unborn that summer,
death not unknown but yet some stranger
limping by the gate, just passing through.

A schoolgirl—hazel eyes, burred chestnut hair—
lies watching through her eyes,
journeying the night-washed walls mapped
out in plaster cracks and the slow leak
of rain down through the bedroom roof.

The tallboy is on guard for trespassers
on her unstayed thoughts—she runs
the forest, runs in petticoats that shimmer
white beneath the dusky evergreen, she runs

and joyously she stops and throws her bare
white arms around a slender, supple fir.

—Christie (for my grandmother Nora)

Friday, December 3, 2010

Writing Spaces

A table of blue glass, an isolated hilltop in Mallorca—winds and mills and island tales to whet the driest pen.

image:  The Writing Mills


      The agora was shaped like a cross.  The fish- and meat-vendors clustered along one of the sideways arms, sporting chunks of meat hung on strings for handling, heavily salted fillets of cod in flat boxes.  Elsewhere were the ubiquitous cans of olive oil in a bevy of sizes.  Scant winter fruits and vegetables.  Very thin-skinned Cretan mandarins.  A few wild—or tame, this time of year, sometimes completely cowed—greens to sauté.  African tomatoes for pasta sauce, dry-cured Thassos olives, a slice of graviera cheese made from ewe’s milk. 
      But pleasures enough even in January— Kayyam’s pleasure dome, god wot.  Various teas:  sage tea, lemon tea, chamomile tea.  And the herbs that seduced Anna with their olfactory palette— thyme, oregano (whose name meant “it rejoices in the mountains”), marjoram (dedicated to the goddess Aphrodite), all the different colored peppercorns, Greek saffron (like in the Minoan crocus paintings with the blue monkeys gathering it, she pointed out to Mar, who looked surprised at that too), paprikas, chili peppers, rosemary, cinnamon, cloves.  Crete was close, after all, to Africa.  Mixed spices variously for fish, chicken, kebobs, tzatziki, salads, rabbit, though she’d want to play with her own mixtures.  And then of course dittany, that uniquely Cretan herb, which (named for Mount Dikti) grows in mountain crevices and in its high treacherous places is dangerous to pick.  But well worth it—said to be good for stomach and headache and any number of ills, not to mention more important things like immortality and sexual prowess.  Aristotle himself famously immortalized Cretan dictamus.
      “You remember?” she asked Mar.
      “No, I don’t think so . . . .”
      “He wrote that wild goats on Crete, wounded by hunters, healed themselves by grazing on the herb.  It made arrows eject themselves from the body.  And so when Aeneas was gravely wounded by an arrow in the Trojan War, Aphrodite plucked dittany from Mount Ida to cure him.  A stalk ‘clothed with downy leaves and purple flower.’”

—Christie, from Reading the Stones

Friday, November 26, 2010

Writing Spaces

A seductive chair, no longer there; a warm day in a time of rain.  Contrarieties that writers love.

image:  Christie B. Cochrell, San Anselmo

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Writing Spaces

Imagine sitting hidden here (though not this time of year), weaving fanciful words into a work fragrant like Grüner Veltliner with sun-drenched meadow grasses and the honeyed hum of bees.

Writing Exercises

There have been all of these fascinating snippets of news stories, recently, which I would love to weave into something—a poem, a quest, a novel of a quiet, thoughtful, language-ridden sort.  What might emerge?

* A fleeting reference in computer code to the Book of Esther may or may not be a sign of an Israeli origin to the Stuxnet worm that is bedeviling Iranian computer systems.

* A "hidden" language spoken by only about 1,000 people has been discovered in the remote northeast corner of India . . .

* LONDON – The language of the Epic of Gilgamesh and King Hammurabi has found a new life online after being dead for some 2,000 years.

Academics from across the world have recorded audio of Babylonian epics, poems, and even a magic spell to the Internet in an effort to help scholars and laymen understand what the language of the ancient Near East sounded like.

The website hosts some 30 audio files, generally a few minutes long. Among them are extracts from "The Epic of Gilgamesh," and the "Codex Hammurabi," one of the world's oldest set of laws.

There are also several versions of the "Poem of the Righteous Sufferer," a Babylonian tale that closely parallels the Biblical story of Job, and other texts, including an erotic hymn to the goddess Ishtar and an incantation to prevent dog bites.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Writing Spaces

I always love scrawls in the margins of things, illegible or no.  Notes to oneself, reminders, immortal thoughts jotted in passing.

Notes from California

A shopkeeper drawing leaves on the sidewalk with chalk.

"That which has no thickness cannot be piled up."

A boy pulling a length of kelp like a dog on a leash.

A mailbox full of rainwater.

Making soup with bacon, onions, rosemary.

The little girls walking backwards in the morning to school.

The man carrying a sleek bald mannequin's head behind the seat of his bicycle.


Saturday, November 6, 2010

Writing Spaces

Favorite old bookstore in Monterey.

image:  Christie B. Cochrell, Bookstore Window

Deer Dance

     At dawn when light releases her a pueblo child crosses the waiting circle of the dance plaza, trailing a little bough of pine.
     The slight print of her beaded deerskin boots erases behind her as she goes.  The pine brushes away all trace of her passage across the frozen winter ground.  Pure Zen.  I laugh, touching Joe’s flannel sleeve to show him.

     With her, the world is back.  Nearly done with its precipitation out of night.  Edges solidify.  Shapes form.  Distinctions can be made again.  Earth.  Sky.  Pueblo.  The calm solidity of wall that holds the wind off us.  Straw in its surface.  Good substantial adobe.  The watchers on the roofs, in doorways, all around, wrapped in their striped woolen blankets.  Watching for the dancers.  As still as the surrounding land.  Between dwellings around the edges of the plaza, patches of last week’s snow.  The early morning sky perfectly clear, beginning to be blue again.  Then the unlooked-for movement, gift of chance or grace.  Just where the dancers are to come, the solemn child in deerskin boots and neon pink ski parka, making unerringly for her mother. 
     It is familiar.  When you meditate each day at dawn, and after sit letting the day return, you get accustomed to the progression.  Color is the last to come back out of the darkness, after night.  First a gradual distinction between masses.  Then shapes, accompanied by dark and light relative to one another.  Size.  Movement.  And only finally the greens and reds and blues and old adobe browns and subtle gradiations.  The details that make personal.  The world precipitated out of nothingness.

     And with sunrise the dancers come.  Down from the hills, their animal nature on them.  Enter the plaza through a quiet opening between two of the flat-roofed dwellings on the far side and come across the circle toward us.  Heads uplifted gravely under the horns and feathers and fittings of evergreen.  A crowd of musicians following beside them once they’re in the clearing.  The profound stillness startled awake with low-voiced drums and gourd rattles, the whisperings of feet to earth.

     Out of night, the world.
     Out of nothingness, the dancers.

     (excerpt from Reading the Stones)

Friday, October 29, 2010

Writing Spaces

Detail of the portrait of a young woman (so-called Sappho) with writing pen and wax tablets.  The net in her hair is made of golden threads and typical for the fashion of the Neronian period. Roman fresco from Regio VI (insula occidentalis) in Pompeii.
Museo Archeologico Nazionale (Naples)

image:  WolfgangRieger

I Am a Lady Novelist

(with apologies to Gilbert and Sullivan!)

I am a lady novelist,
so your story for my mill is grist
(and especially any seamy tryst—
all the details of your being kissed!).

When making notes I love a list
though it causes me a tired wrist.
I’d rather not reboot my disk
but Google the mythic basilisk.

Like an Egyptian archaeologist
I really really must insist
that the hieroglyphics of an obelisk
be rendered so I get the gist.

And like a gerontologist
I consider old folks in something of a mist
(or those entirely gone ‘round the twist).
I’m sometimes poised like a metallurgist
quite eagerly above a schist.

I am an awful fabulist!
My words are sometimes falsely lisped,
my spokes as silvery as a trick cyclist’s,
and when I’m in the mood be sure I’ll play you
    a mean game of Whist.

I am I am a lady novelist—
Oh isn’t it just mahvelous!


Friday, October 22, 2010

Writing Spaces

What better place to write than at one of Bonnard's appealing tables, indoors or out?

image:  Pierre Bonnard

Quiet, Three

I'm still thinking about what quiet is and does, and came up with the following snippets of quiet things, maybe to develop into longer poems or pieces (like two I've written for submission).
* Under the small octagonal
window, my fossil fish—

* The song I never played
those thirty years ago,
for Baccalaureate one May
evening, a hush of lilacs
through the open doorway
of the white adobe church—

* The mute piano, travelling up
a flight of stairs and down again,

as in Venice somehow
a grand piano rose, majestically,
as the specter of some great
flapping prehistoric bird, above
the dark waters of an unlit canal—

* The graceful bowl
of the small Roman spoon
found in the muddy ground
among cow bones—

* Petroglyphs at Tsankawi,
talking among themselves
of the old ones, high up above
on their wind-sheltered
rock faces—

* Tennis on a red clay court
in northern Italy, with autumn 

coming on, while

in the village, just outside
the convent walls,
some nuns are washing greens—

* Camping in Holy Ghost Canyon

nearly a half a century ago—


Friday, October 15, 2010

Writing Spaces

John Keats House, Hampstead Heath, London.  The poet's spirit seems to be there still.  It helped to have seen Bright Star, to know how he was, there, what the house held of him.

image:  John Feneron, Keats House

The Household Spirit

That tranquil spirit does not live here
anymore.  The one I’d come to call
friend, self, has moved on, disenchanted.

I stand scowling over wet lettuces,
chop pithy forest mushrooms,
knead bread of honey and whole wheat,
but she’s not here at my shoulder
exclaiming over the texture and smell,
the fat squat handful of the loaves.

She’s not dancing about the room
in fuzzy gigantic slippers,
sticking a finger when I'm not looking
into the bowl.  Inquisitive, exquisite,
finding a poem in every recipe,

sketching cats or low lazy hills
in the dust on every other bookshelf—
happy, well-rounded shapes,
leaving her silver rings
her gypsy bangles in each glass.

She was absent-minded, dear—
now only absent.  She has gone
to live in someone else’s house.
Perhaps they have a parakeet,
a window open on a rose garden, or on
a full-blown sea with a small fishing boat.

Perhaps she lives with those who can
lavish color on her, strew lavender
among the fine silk stockings, touch
the hollow of her throat with patchouli.

Why did I always hush her?
She would stand then with a finger
to her lips, as if to flatten out that smile
into sufficiently serious lines—
eternal two-year-old, daring
to ask “why not?”

She took things as she found them
and left them brighter, only a bit
askew, her jelly-sticky fingerprints
in the margins, grape blue.

The absence of her footsteps
echoes on the stairs like blankest verse,
unrhymed couplets shuffling down the hall.

I’m left with just the empty arms
of an outsized sweater hugging my neck,
to listen to those precious grown-up
silences I begged her for.


Friday, October 8, 2010

Writing Spaces

image:  Taverna Chair in Greece

Writing Exercises

I've been happily inspired by the Archetype Plot Scenario Generator.

The first scenario I was given:
The story starts when your protagonist breaks a mirror.
Another character is detective who has a gift for poetry.

So I've begun a short mystery set on Mallorca (while Goat Song languishes, awaiting long stretches of unfilled time that will mysteriously appear any day now).  My detective, named Vilalta, writes ghazals and takes the same approach to solving crimes—playing with opposites, jumping from one consideration to the next with no apparent connection or narrative pattern—something his logic-driven colleagues can't appreciate.  He tries out words and suspects in his head while making pa amb oli for a simple supper, or tumbet when he has more time to spend in his open-air kitchen.

Unsuspecting Abigail Demaere brings at least seven years' bad luck upon herself, beginning with an accusation of murder, when she breaks the favorite mirror she'd retrieved from the shambles of her life in Brussels and brought with her to the hilltop of windmills her sister Anne-Marie is renovating for a retreat center on Mallorca's west coast, looking forward to a fresh start.

     Abigail flung the bottle of Havana Club Añejo at the beautiful, taunting baritone voice.  But she heard it hit glass, instead, a shivering blow—and break, and break.  In the pure Mallorcan darkness, in her intoxicated state, she’d shattered the mirror she hadn’t remembered would be there, hung on the fieldstone wall of the penultimate windmill.  The light from the open door of the mill where she slept, on the far end, hadn’t reached much beyond the threshold.
     After a moment of silence, absolute except for the insect-like whine of a motorbike far away, below them, down on the road to the port, Jaime’s disembodied chuckle mocked her but admired her action, fading as he went away.  The whisper of his rope-soled footsteps across the upper terrace vanished too as he reached the steps down to the unpaved driveway and his Jeep, which he had started for just before she threw the rum.  Away from the monastery, he always wore espadrilles.  Dusty black cotton, or, like tonight, jaunty blue and white striped, setting off his sunburnt ankles—a darker bronze than you’d expect for one who worked indoors in cool old thick-walled halls directing choirboys. 
     She heard the engine again startle the somnolent past-midnight air, and the Jeep retreat down the long hill of almond orchards, down the rutted dirt driveway that came out eventually on the main road between Andratx and S’Arraco, the big village and the small, and continued on to Palma, back across the island to Lluc.


Thursday, September 30, 2010

Writing Spaces

Inspiring, or offputting?  Such a giant writing desk would have to produce monumental works.

image: "The Writer", Hampstead Heath, August 2005.


In a market in Brazil,
an abundant crop of stripes:

gathered and woven into cloth,
pressed into fat, round melons,
etched with silver down
the fishes' spines,

worked with elaborate care,
as a joke, into the face
of the old woman selling guavas.

—Christie (still melon season!)

Friday, September 24, 2010

Writing Spaces

Roman inscription, talking of timeless things.

image: Christie B. Cochrell, Roman Inscription


Coming towards us on the sand
a man on a bicycle
carefully balances, with one hand,
a watermelon on his shoulder.

We all smile, turning to look,
because it is green striped and full,
because the track of the tipsy wheel
wobbles and weaves down the sand,

because the mans bent back, over
the handlebars, shakes with laughter.

—Christie (because it's melon season)

Friday, September 17, 2010

Writing Spaces

Thousands of notes and messages left on the walls of Juliet's house in Verona by star-crossed lovers (as in the film, Letters to Juliet).

image: Daily Mail

Reading the Stones


Daphne was the daughter of a river god. Daphne was girl turned tree. I liked to think I was the daughter of a river god too, once I found out there were such things, but my father was just a water rights attorney, really, with an office in an old 7-11 along the main truck route through Española, New Mexico. That did give him an almost godlike power, in a land where water was so scarce. And rivers were in his hands—though only a couple of very little ones, dry half the year, way up by Ojo Caliente.

The question is, would he have turned me into a laurel the way Daphne’s father did? For love of me, to keep me safe? I’ve often wondered. If he hadn’t been trying so desperately to save himself, maybe.

But anyway, Daphne—turning to tree. I could see that. I could imagine bark across my cheekbones (water birch, maybe, or freckled sycamore), the dapple and rustle of leaves always around my head. I sat up in the cottonwood for hours, sometimes, hiding from my little sister Cassie with her armful of glassy-eyed dolls, and from my mother’s constant disappointment in me. I camouflaged myself in leaf shadow on the edges of the playing field, hoping my seventh-grade tormenters might not see me— even if I was a head taller than the rest. Daphne made perfect sense. The Greek myths, which we read that year for the first time, seemed more familiar to me already than my own story.

It was those others in my class I didn’t understand in the least. Daughters of women photographers, of famous western writers, of archaeologists who spent summers on old volcanic islands and spoke in Italian and had a donkey at the bottom of their garden, who were undergoing transformations more incomprehensible than what they did to atoms up the hill in Los Alamos. I was awkward, gawky, among people; made fun of for my eager enthusiasms and my naiveté. The other girls that year were all becoming lithe, sinuous, knowing; their skirts becoming shorter; their lips becoming fuller, redder; their thoughts turning to things I had no inkling of. I was stuck with just me. Dorky old Marcella. I wasn’t going anywhere. I wasn’t becoming anything.

My father wasn’t, after all, a river god. My father was a mortal with his very real mortality starting to show.

But I was hopeful, anyway. Daphne had opened up the lovely possibility of change.

—Christie, Reading the Stones

Friday, September 10, 2010

Writing Spaces

The perfect chair for writing about local color . . .

image: Christie B. Cochrell, Chair in Crete


Two stumps, couchant
and grandly gnarled
like oriental lions
in a den of autumn oaks

shade imminent
and closing in,
like year and years

the far west campus
readying again
for its more serious purpose

the pause of summer
done, ephemeral as summers past

these great truncated beasts,
creatures of time itself, laying
a heavy paw over
the paper-lightness of its bones.


Friday, September 3, 2010

Writing Spaces

image: Christie B. Cochrell, Cushions, The Writing Mills, Mallorca

Notes from Hawai'i

Smoke along the road to Kealakekua—chickens roasting by the hundreds, barbecued, on spits.

On Thursday the dive boat has anchored offshore, strung with Christmas lights.

On Saturday morning they practice dancing, with the bamboo sticks.

The old Chinese man on the lawn between the Kona Inn and the ocean paints ideographs with a fat brush. I remember the sign for thinking within motion, the self and the journey which is within.

At the Saturday farmers' market we buy a bagful of papayas and flowers—pink ginger, orchids, mixed anthurium, $5.00.

They are fishing off the rocks. The volcano that I feel when I "feel the earth," practicing my Tai Chi, has been taken by cloud.

The second boat whose mast is constant in my view of steeple, mast, and white plumaria went out this morning with a gay striped sail.

I drink a dry white wine from the volcano. Not as fine as Etna or the other volcanic whites, but surprisingly good.

The bonsai banyan trees fit on a shelf.

Dried leis have been left on the statue of the fish god.

From the gardener who gives my mother bags of papayas and little pecan tarts we hear about the sea cave filling up with golf balls.

—Christie, December 1996

Friday, August 27, 2010

Stories I Might Want to Write Someday

My father gargling with a mouthful of Taboo pefume from the round-shouldered bottle that sat on the wooden dresser in the cabin-maids' room at Fishing Bridge, Yellowstone—belonging to one of the sisters from Wisconsin, the jet-haired one who would in a few years be my mother.

A white stretch limo sitting underneath a cottonwood tree beside a dry arroyo, off the lonely road between Pojoaque and Los Alamos.

The old man who came out each morning at ten or ten thirty, bundled up, and hollered at the street for maybe fifteen minutes, hollered and hollered, then disappeared inside again.

Jim, downstairs on Forest Avenue, telling me how he and his brother would swim the river where it came out into the ocean, cold knife between his teeth—playing at being pirates, and then opening oysters. How I never wanted to listen to his stories.


Writing Spaces

Hidden patio in York—a little corner of the Mediterranean in the cooler north.

image: Christie B. Cochrell

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Writing Spaces

On the green seductive River Wear in Durham, England. There one could write about journeys by water, journeys back and journeys forth, not giddy but measured. Journeys of grace and joy.

image: Christie B. Cochrell, Blue Door

Saturday, July 10, 2010

ch 15 novel excerpt from "The Last Roundup" by Jeff Masuda

Chapter 15 Sunol in late spring has as much to offer as anywhere else in the Bay Area. If it is compared to the Santa Cruz mountains, for example, and deemed less beautiful, it is simply a preference. The Sunol wilderness offers its satisfactions in the angles of the hills, the gold of the grasses, the pockets of coast live oak, sycamores, big leaf maples, the rock formations, the Golden eagles in the sky. The creek has water. The deer people call it home. Cattle roam just as they did 100 years ago. It runs from Fremont all the way into Livermore. And if you hike or ride the trail a different world exists just a few miles east of civilization, without car sounds from the freeways, or people yelling, in a peaceful valley once populated by Ohlone Indians.

Novel excerpt from "The Last Roundup" by Jeff Masuda

When we look back to our old lives it is not just nostalgia, or some wish fulfillment; we do not just want to revisit. What we look for are those invisible threads and fabrics that comprised a communal blanket. We look for the blanket that covered us, but it was so sheer and light that we did not realize its existence; we didn’t feel its comfort or warmth until gone. Now, we try to reconstruct it by seeing old friends, and talking of past times, but what we really desire is to once more share a common culture, some shared origin, because the blankets of our youth are long since shredded and threadbare. It is a futile task perhaps to be these tailors of memory, but we cannot stop.

Friday, July 9, 2010

Writing Spaces

Sitting on the lava just behind the sky-trapping pools, watching a last kayak return to the harbor—across which is the birthplace of the stillborn king.

Writing comes easy there, always.

image: Christie B. Cochrell, Keauhou Bay

Kona Notebooks


All the palm trees were trimmed yesterday by a worker who skinnied up the stems with a machete and whacked off all the coconut clusters, blooms, and lower fronds, leaving just spray at the tops. Carts hauled away the great piles of debris and tidied the lawns and newcomers won't know what happened. Other gardeners are constantly busy trimming bougainvillea, watering with set hoses or by hand, picking up leaves, fallen fruit and blossoms, and generally keeping everything groomed.

They drained the salt-water pool a couple of days ago, and yesterday hosed and swept the sand and gravel—and some baseball-sized rocks—down to the deep end, shoveled it away and scrubbed the whole pool. A tremendous job, really. Some time in the evening they started filling it with water from the fountain-falls intake. By 9 pm it was filled up to about the 5-ft mark, and this morning it is still not completely full, although the lounges are out and I do see a towel on one of them. A fisherman has been casting from the rocks at the north end of the pool yesterday and this morning early. Maybe we can swim there today and get more laps in with less effort because of the buoyancy. The freshpool is shallow and oddly shaped and less sunny, as well as less buoyant.

Yesterday we saw a wedding at the new chapel in the north gardens beside a mini-lagoon. The couple walked alone in leis and a blue mumu & Hawaiian shirt matching down the path to the tiny square raft-like float with a rail, and stood in the prow while a single gondolier poled them from the little belvedere to the church itself, where they debarked and walked in alone. We had seen a priest in surplice at the door earlier, and two guests or tourists in shorts followed them in. It was very simple and touching.

Last night we had dinner at La Bourgogne, a 12-table French place with Ris de veau and Opakipaki and spinach salad and chef's paté and chocolate mousse. They have been there since 1981 and make a nice contrast to the other restaurants. We had been to the Kona Inn the night before and still find its view the greatest. They were out of ono but the ahi was good and June had a nice slab of calamari. Sig was our waiter, and at La Bourgogne the chef himself did much of the serving, a small trim fairly young Frenchman. Good ono and chips at La Vista for lunch.

For the first time in three days, there was hardly a cloud in the sky at sunrise. We tried to drive to Hilo one cloudy day, and turned back at Honokaa when the fog and rain got so heavy that driving was nearly impossible, with 40 miles yet to go. Good thing; the paper said later that it rained hard for 12 hours in Hilo. Getting back to Waimea-Kamuela was bad enough. The road was flooding badly from the runoff, and crews in yellow oilskins were working with bulldozers and shovels to divert the water or clear ditches. We could have drowned out the motor, but got back to the Edelweiss for lunch of Wienerschnizel and hot potato salad.

The unpleasantness there was a young guy who objected to our smoking, one of those paranoid fanatics who are incensed by the mere sight of a cigaret, whether they smell it or not. The waitress brought us an ashtray and said the law was so worded that there really was no non-smoking. The guy came in later, glared at June and said, "It's your privilege to be inconsiderate." He did not ask us to quit, or say he was asthmatic, or in any nice way suggest it bothered him.

The second rainy night we had a bottle of Chandon in our room before dinner. The little refrigerator in the bathroom holds the bottle upright on its door. We had big wine glasses we had picked up in the hall, and it was very good. For breakfast in our room we have bananas or papaya and sweet rolls with our drip coffee. The grocery store takes checks and has a deli that makes take-out sandwiches on a roll, all wrapped.

It took a day to drain the salt-water pool after the high surf, a day to clean it, and another day to fill it. It is almost too cold for swimming, but I have kept at it, even in the rain. Today looks promising. I prefer the buoyancy of the salt water; you don't work as hard staying afloat.

We have noisy neighbors now. The bratty little boy starts screaming and hollering anytime after 6:30 a.m., and his bigger sister is almost as loud—both totally out of hand, maybe army brats. One rainy afternoon we suffered them for hours while we were trying to read. For some reason, certain sounds come through the walls as if there were no walls. Of course the lanais adjoin, but they are seldom out there.

Yesterday we had lunch at the Hilton, and it is still nice. The wind was rather strong, so we ate in the dining room rather than on the lanai. Egg fu young— which is more an omelette with shrimps, but very good. The Love Boat was anchored just out from us, and is still there. We shopped all afternoon at Hilo Hatties and King Kamehameha and Liberty House, and later at the Keauhou Beach Hotel clearance outlet for Liberty House. We each bought a shirt. The waitress at the Hilton was a little Thai or Vietnamese woman from whom I may have bought my fish shirt in '81. She had strange eyes that looked frowning or pouty, but she was very chatty & friendly. A lot of local airline people seemed to be eating there, and one group of 6 apparently from Love Boat, pale and bored to tears, 3 fat men and 3 women, typical loud tourists, unaware of fine points. June went to her coral jewelry shop and couldn't get Christie's fixed, so bought another.

The women's record marlin, 580 lbs., hangs in the Kamehameha near the birthing carved whale.

At Drysdale's 2 last night we had a waitress from Wales who kept calling us Luv.

The blue sightseeing boat from the bay just pulled out loaded, with sails rigged, bright blue, green & yellow. No swimmers off the bay, as there were all during the high surf. Hardly any wind now, and we're off to the salt-water pool.

Have been watching "Lonesome Dove" with great interest, and not getting much reading done. It's rawther grim, rawther good.

Made it to Hilo today. Lunch at the Hilo Hawaiian, with 3 dancing girls, a singer, and a musician at the entrance, and a table singer with ukelele inside. They try harder. The dining room is very pleasant; food so-so. But the 3 fat dancers were lively, slapping gourds, and it was friendly Hawaiian. They had lunch later, next to our table.

Waiakea Village looked dismal. $800 a month rooms, but I doubt its quality. Couldn't find the anthurium gardens. Skies cloudy. Lots of snow on peak of Mauna Kea in a glimpse of it.

In our gardens tonight they are having a luau. Round tables beautifully set for 10 each, brown cloths, blue napkins, pineapple decorations. Tiki lights lit with conch horn drums & torch ceremony. Love Boat sailed at sunset. Outrigger (red) on the bay. Lovely view of all from our lanai. Luau pig covered with ti and banana leaves and burlap, over hot lava rocks. Polynesian show in about 45 Hawaiian minutes—interfering with "Lonesome Dove"? Aroma of roast pig now wafting into our room. 6 hours of roasting. Mynah birds chattering in their night tree.

Rain. So heavy last night that it did not come in drops but steady streams like a shower head.

In addition to a Gideon Bible, our night stand contains "The Teaching of Buddha," donated by Buddhist Promoting Foundation, Japan, and supplied by The Sudatta Society, P.O. Box 17006, Honolulu, HI 96817. The text is in English with Japanese on the facing page.

The ISSA is having a convention here now. International Slurry Seal Association. It isn't as catchy as AAASS, but even more esoteric.
We were not in Pele's Court last night, but had a first-hand account of the accident from a lady who was. Some elderly female newcomer drove up the ramp to the main entrance, somehow revved her strange rental car instead of braking, and drove straight through the railing, ending up with the two front wheels hanging over the falls and pool at the back of Pele's. Looks like a bummer, and no doubt was.

We saw a double wedding at the chapel, where we were chatting with a local couple who have a daughter in Anchorage. The daughter grew up here, but has been in Alaska for 6 years. This winter caught them flat-footed without a heater for their carpart car, and they couldn't get it started. The couple who witnessed the Pele accident were from Ohio, and he works for NASA. The chapel was open and lovely—polished marble floors, 8 pews on each side seating 3 apiece, and a clear glass cross in the wall behind the altar. The 2 very young Asian couples had no attendants or guests, but were served champagne in the gazebo afterwards.

Not much sun at the pool this morning, but clear and beautiful this afternoon. A milkshake and sandwich on the lobby patio for lunch, from the ice cream shop. Some heavy breakers and lovely white breakers at the edge of the light & dark blues.

A man swimming alone across the bay for his morning constitutional. 500 yds? 1,000 yds? Water temp 75 degrees? 80 degrees? Small boats coming & going all the while. Some evenings a 12-man outrigger will row up the bay and back. Snorklers in black wet-suits sometimes in the evening.

At 8:30 am the blue & white boat with yellow, green, blue & red (lavender?) horizontally-striped sails takes off. On windy days, no sails. June comes in with a fresh red hibiscus for our black mink & pincushion protea bouquet. Solitary swimmer still going back & forth across the bay.

Betty Wistrand reported to have been kicked out of Gretchen's guest house on the bay at the end of the Surf gardens, because she wanted to stay on permanently. Small world. Small people.

Disco at the Eclipse. We were at a table next to the booth and dance floor, the only couple in shorts. Glenn Miller, Tex Beneke, Xaviar Cugat, played at a reasonable sound level, carefully mixed, with flashing lights but not extreme. Tiny twinkling lights on the dance floor, which (floor; wooden) crackled like popping corn when the oldsters danced very capably. The music man selected carefully and kept it flowing with Sinatra and maybe Andrews Sisters, Nat King Cole. He was from Santa Monica (21 yrs there; owned home), moved here 10 yrs ago; has been at Eclipse 1 1/2 yr. Soft-spoken guy who did not look like long-haired disc jockey, but sort of reminded me of Frank Thornton with ear phones, computer-like mixers & selectors. Good food, excellent walnut tort. When we left about 8:30, he was beginning to select post-war II stuff, and probably by 10 moved into rock & roll.

Lovely red sunset at the Vista, where we had a Scotch and ate popcorn before going on to dinner. Two very fat native guys played a sing-along video there, and golfers were flocking in from the course.

Beautifully clear sunrise over Hualalai, 3rd largest volcano on island. Golf carts out. Yesterday morning a kayaker valiantly tried to go back and forth in bay but capsized time and again, always getting back aboard and still trying. Another more expert one got out of the bay into the fairly high surf, capsizing only once. Big white Love Boat in at Kailua Bay again this morning.

Yesterday evening a Jap crew was photographing a bikini-clad (pink) model in the lava tide-pool at the end of the garden, using big silver reflectors to light her in the palm shade. She held a big spray of red ginger (or something) for color effect.

Leaf blowers sound like chain saws as the gardeners clear paths.

1 January 1990
The television cable for the entire island went out during the Rose Bowl game, so we went up to Drysdale Two to watch on their special satelite. Two California builders sat at our table and rooted for June's unfavorite team. One of them had caught the champion ahi of Kona in 1982, which became the property of the boat crew and was sold for premium catch-of-the-day prices.

At Waiakaloa last week we had lunch in the Orchid Cafe, then found the restrooms literally under the waterfalls of the swimming pool. Then we rode the monorail and cabin cruisers around the place. We even walked around the dolphin pool and were surprised at how small they were. The lobby is still fabulous, and the pool bluer than any I have ever seen. They flag the lounge chairs with red numbers to show they are occupied.

"If you aren't the lead dog, the view never changes." Honolulu Evening Newscast

Keahou Beach Hotel breakfast guest: Heavy-set North Dakota farmer, 50 or so, with a dead white forehead eternally protected by a hat, apparently; white T-shirt with wide black suspenders holding up long levi trousers, and Ramso slippers on his feet, having a hearty breakfast with a large glass of milk; then he shouldered his video camera and took long shots of the dining area, the pool, and finally the ocean. Had he won a local Albertson's or car dealer promotion prize of a week in Hawaii? Or had a good crop?

Sign at the Convention Center: "Backpackers please check your backpacks with security personnel." What concert? What backpackers? Anti-Thermal project that would destroy a rain forest here on the Big Island.

Three days of rain on this dry coast. This morning an Australian mother and her two kids were happily swimming—what else?—the Australian crawl in the salt-water pool in the rain. But we went downtown to the Sibu Cafe and had Indonesian food—a good curry and Balinese chicken with peanut sauce.

Runway lights are out at the airport—a generator problem. No traffic in or out after 5 pm or before 7 am. Really a freight and mail problem, as well as tourists.

Two outriggers, with 6-man crews, racing in the bay.

Lunch at Poo Ping, a Thai place. Good red curry and ginger chicken and tempura.

Mumm's Cuvée Napa champagne on the lanai, with a bouquet of red hibiscus and 6 farolitos. The lights on the coast and hillside from here to Kailua look like the Riviera. The Cuvée Napa is dry and excellent. Sunset was pastel with interesting scattered clouds, but the sun only a faint red ball as it sank in the ocean. Warm and muggy; no breeze.

Last night there was a 4-piece combo and dancing in the garden till 11 pm. Anthony Pools Convention; their hospitality room in the ocean-view suite adjoining our room. A lovely new cusp of moon.

Lemon grass & mint tea with Thai style chicken curry stew at Sibu Cafe for lunch. Fried rice with raisins and cucumber-onion-peanut-sprout salad. Peanuts in stew, too, and hot red (dried) & green (fresh) chili topping.

Good papaya seed salad dressing as house dressing at Kona Inn last night.

Tiki lights amongst the foliage, all over the coast. Conch shell calls occasionally, especially for weddings.

—Boyd Cochrell

[The smell of cigarettes still lingers on the yellow lined pad, all these years later. Blood has soaked through eight pages.]

Friday, July 2, 2010

Writing Spaces

A cool museum on a summer's day, with stone or marble floors and all the blues and greens of paintings all around to collect in a notebook.

image: Christie B. Cochrell, Cantor Hallway 3

Friday, June 25, 2010

Writing Spaces

This would be the perfect place to write (or paint), during the summer months.

image: Le Bateau-atelier, 1876, Claude Monet

His Sister's Wedding

We drive all night from Stanford

to his sister’s wedding, with

Old Black Joe the labrador between us,

a tuxedo and a pine tree in the back.

We stop at daybreak on the beach

at Mendocino, where the two of them

(and Joe) rented the house one year—

convalescing and chain-smoking, fighting

the wind and screaming at each other

from the rocks; reading aloud from Poe

long nights and drinking so much gin

from Grandmama’s bone china teacups—

after her lover’s suicide that summer

in an L.A. canyon (selfish to the end,

he took the yellow Fiat with him).

We buy thick coffee, fried potatoes, clams.

In a public beachhouse, wet from swimmers

of the day before, we change clothes for

the wedding; and, still yawning, we emerge

as fresh as laundry into the young day.

As we drive on he tells me of when they and

puppy Joe played football in the street

and cards under the sheets by flashlight;

how he watched, not breathing,

from the curtain shadows, her first kiss.

Juliet in the highschool play—he fell

in love again; Lady Macbeth—he hated her

(“why did you have to do that, anyway?”).

He bought her a purple Italian ice; lost her to

a real Italian with thirty-three hectares of

stony vineyard in Apulia.

He slayed her dragons, fought off indians

from the pine-tree fort, flourishing

his long tin-foil sword; he filled her lap

with streams of colored marble jewels

and stolen roses from next door.

For wedding presents we bring Joe,

Napa champagne, a pine tree in a bucket—

when it grows fine and fat he says

she can lie hidden in its dappled arms,

held there as safe as childhood from

the dragons, indians, phantom lovers.

—Christie (1982)