Baltimore, musicals

last night,

I saw THE OTHER SHORE at Single Carrot for the second time. I’ve been away from the show for a month. Wonderful to see how it’s developed and changed–the pace has really increased.

Yesterday was also the third day of Musicals Class, and my all-Sondheim spectacular. We covered more songs from more of his oeuvre than we managed to last year, with some significant changes. Although I had planned to present Ballad of Czolgosz from ASSASSINS (my favorite Sondheim song ever, actually) I decided, instead, to tell the students about the song and the musical, and share a link with them so they could listen on their own time. Given the events of the past week, it didn’t seem appropriate to force them to listen to it en masse.

Creepy, how that assassination scenario (McKinley) was so similar to the one that’s just played out in Arizona. Walking up at a public event.

Editing physics labs this morning.

It’s really really winter here in Baltimore–I’ve fallen down iced/wet staircases twice in the last two days. (To no ill effect except some bruises.) The first time, I managed to parlay the momentum into a magical jump, and land on my feet, like Sonic the Hedgehog. The second time, I was not so lucky. I am reasonably equanimity-ous about this. As J says, “We’re writers: we’re klutzes.” Quite right. Also, it’s not winter unless you fall down some.

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Baltimore, gradschool

Today

was my last class for the undergraduate course I’ve been teaching. I have a backpack full of portfolios. Always a happy and sad moment at the same time, realizing your working time with those particular students is over. They were a great class. I’ve been very lucky in the people I’ve had to teach here.

Sitting in Gilman, afterwards, with a table of people I’ve known for a year and a half now, and realizing that this is the longest stretch of time I’ve been able to have the same friends for since 2007. Debating the usual topic: virtues and vices of creative writing as a university discipline. Resolving, as usual, to write an article on the subject. Not having done it yet.

Tomorrow, I’m getting my hair done, having brunch with the poets, and attending the department party / after-party. It will be epic.

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Baltimore, F&F

Thanksgiving

was a grand success, if I do say so myself (which I do.) No casualties, except a slightly burnt plastic spoon, and no ill effects. A turkey which was one of the better ones I’ve eaten, despite being roasted whole and not in parts. And an excellent group of people.

We cooked all day at my house, then ate, in the company of friends and their dishes, then played three rounds of Uno, of which (again, if I do say so myself) I won the last two. In a row. I would not boast of this except that, for those of you who know my history with games, it is a pretty rare ocurrence.

Cleanup is done. The great reams of leftovers are out of sight. There is time, I hope, to make it to a screening of HP 7.

Outside, it is a moderate gray, with intentions of but no definite signs of rain. Inside, it is extremely pleased with itself.

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Baltimore

This isn’t like Brooklyn!

Last night, attended the reading of WORMS at the Bell Foundry, with J, A, A, J, L, and I, to hear M and others read.

One gentleman distributed cards to the audience with lines of a poem on them, so that we could read along in unison. (Greek chorus!) Another, who was very quiet, had people friendlily calling out “Louder!” and then “Higher!” and “Lower!” about halfway through. Everyone was laughing and in a good mood.

The guy stopped reading and looked up and was like, “This isn’t like Brooklyn.” You got that right…

I love the Foundry and the spirit of Baltimore events like this. I also attended the Free School dance with the Bellvederes last weekend, and that was equally fun and non-intimidating in spirit. People turn up. A good time is had. No one is a jerk. These are things that make me want to stay in this place.

I am halfway through the second and last year of my MFA, after which I will probably be cast to the four winds again like a rolled die, unless I find a job here.

I started feeling nostalgic for Baltimore from the moment S. picked me up at the train station and drove me north on Charles. I remember looking out the window of his second-floor bedroom over a canopy of trees (I was house-sitting for him, the first month I lived here) and thinking to myself, “Two years. Two years.” Two years to figure some things out, without the constant freelance pressure of what I was going to do next knocking at the door.

This city has persuaded me of its excellence. It’s not just that the Sems is a wonderful MFA. It’s not just that the people in this program are great people. It’s not just that Single Carrot has become an artistic home. It’s not just Baltimore Yoga Village, and the Free School, and the Bell Foundry, and Wham City, and the Annex. It’s all these things together. It’s that Baltimore is a great place to be. The city’s spirit and the people in it.

As my inbox is full of thankfulness-related messages from arts organizations and the politicians (“Dear Dara, California Democrats have a lot to be thankful for this year…”) asking for money, I want to be thankful for this place.

BLIEVE, HON.

Happy Thanksgiving, Baltimore. You will always be the first place where I found out I was going to have a poem published, the first place where I carried a turkey on the light-rail in a suitcase, the first place where I chugged a pint faster than a very large man at Trivia Night. I’ve made good and bad decisions here. I’ve written good and bad poems. And now you’re going to be the first place where I cook my own Thanksgiving turkey. Bottoms up.

I am only just managing to write poems about LA and Portland and Denver now that I’ve left them behind. I look forward to, some day, being able to write a Baltimore poem.

There is a magnificent Jeffrey Eugenides story that begins something like “For X years, Chicago had given (name of character) the benefit of the doubt.” Baltimore has given me more than that. It has given me the benefit of its singular BLIEF.

I like to think of my life as a series of identifications with cities. I spend so much time with the Greeks, who were so taken with their own cities and regional differences–and then, after that, my next major literary camp is with Austen’s folks, who are equally enamored of their own little regions. (Wessex! Shropshire! Bath!) LA and SF are always going to be my principal cities, but Baltimore is the place I’ve spent the greatest amount of time after the cities of California.

It feels right that as I am thinking these things, today, I have received a summons for jury duty. I’m looking forward to it–that is, if I can get the date moved to when I’m back in town.

Happy Thanksgiving, Baltimore. Happy Thanksgiving, friends near and far, in many cities. Here’s believing in you.

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Baltimore, F&F

the turkey,

having brined in cider for a day, is now draining on a rack in the refrigerator. I have discovered, through extensive testing, that it fits in my oven *and* that it is possible to have other dishes on the top rack at the same time. This is my first semi-solo Thanksgiving–friends are bringing sides but I’m doing the turkey–and it is very exciting, to say the least. There is nothing like holding the flexible severed neck of a recently living animal in your hands. Cervical spine, anyone?

Here’s the menu, themed, as I see it, around fennel, cider, and apples:
the Sems heirloom cider-brined turkey recipe, with sage, sage, and lots of sage (and more sage) passed down from Charlotte (with an apple/parsnip stuffing that I’m baking outside the cavity and without the sausages);
fennel/rosemary stuffing;
kale with shallots;
green beans with fennel and more shallots;
regular old potatoes;
inordinately complicated apple/endive salad (M.R. Shulman, use fewer ingredients!);
and cranberry sauce with both fresh & dried berries.
I’m also going to make some pretty straightforward giblets-based gravy in advance. I have a vegetarian mushroom gravy from Whole Foods as well, because one of the guests is vegetarian.

Friends are bringing green beans in puff pastry, another stuffing, a sweet potato dish, and two pies: apple and squash.

I keep wanting to go out and buy more cider. I can’t imagine that we have enough. Also, Eddie’s has brussels sprouts on the stalk! They look fantastic, and as weird as the dinosaur kale. I sort of want to use them as table decorations. But I probably have enough food already. Probably. Never! SPROUTS!

Disasters so far:
– Spilling cider brine all over floor and all the food in the door of the refrigerator. (Luckily, there was plenty left over, and most of the food in the fridge door was plastic-wrapped and could be cleaned.) After mopping floor several times, floor was no longer sticky.
– Leaving ATM card and driver’s license at bank. (Luckily, I was able to retrieve it.)
– Losing phone. (Luckily, it was still inside house.)

Triumphs:
– Borrowing roasting pan from incredibly gourmet friends A & J and getting leftover dinosaur kale and a surprise lunch of absolutely amazing cauliflower soup to go with it.
– As mentioned, discovering the turkey’s willingness to go in the oven in my house.
– Managing to transfer turkey from cider brine onto rack without getting cider brine all over anything again.

So far, the score is Demons of Thanksgiving 3, Dara 3.

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