Thursday, October 29, 2009

Poetry Break - "A Ritual to Read to Each Other"

As I struggle through this last new story of the semester, I thought some inspiration might be in order. So here is a poem that I love. Every week before poetry workshop, Dr. Fisher would have us read this aloud, like a sort of prayer. It inspired me then as it does now. Plus looking it up to add to my blog, I got to read/re-read the poems around it. It's a good afternoon for some William Stafford.

A Ritual to Read to Each Other

If you don't know the kind of person I am
and I don't know the kind of person you are
a pattern that others made may prevail in the world
and following the wrong god home we may miss our star.

For there is many a small betrayal in the mind,
a shrug that lets the fragile sequence break
sending with shouts the horrible errors of childhood
storming out to play through the broken dyke.

And as elephants parade holding each elephant's tail,
but if one wanders the circus won't find the park,
I call it cruel and maybe the root of all cruelty
to know what occurs but not recognize the fact.

And so I appeal to a voice, to something shadowy,
a remote important region in all who talk:
though we could fool each other, we should consider--
lest the parade of our mutual life get lost in the dark.

For it is important that awake people be awake,
or a breaking line may discourage them back to sleep;
the signals we give - yes or no, or maybe -
should be clear: the darkness around us is deep.

William Stafford. The Way It Is: New and Selected Poems. Graywolf Press, 1998.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Under Construction

I've been absent from blogland for a little while. Between the chest cold that wouldn't die, my inability to keep a clear thought in my head, and my newly shortened attention span (is there such a thing as pregnancy ADD?), I haven't been doing much writing lately. Perhaps you would assume that I've been immersed in all things baby, and I guess that's partly true. Mostly, however, I've just been in this haze of stupidity that has left me useless for much beyond staring at a TV screen, surfing the internet, and the inescapable housework. I feel like I'm turning into one of my cats, just sitting around, blinking and taking up oxygen. (No offense, Hobson and Abby.)

Alas, I must end my personal inertia and get busy if I'm going to meet my final deadline for the semester. So I think I've got a start on a story (knock on wood.) And I'm trying desperately to plow through Charles Baxter's Burning Down the House, a book which I can tell that normally I would really enjoy, but now with my brain working at half-capacity, I'm struggling with just a bit. If any of you out there have ever been the victim of my vicious trivia game playing, now would be the time for revenge. I'm liable to forget just about anything these days, and I'm certain that you could mop the floor with me (metaphorically speaking.)

On the exciting news side of things (okay, exciting for me, anyway), the workers are diligently toiling away upstairs on the bonus room. Soon all of the office stuff will be stowed away upstairs, and I can get to work on the baby's room. I'm not sure whether I'm more excited about "doing the baby's room" or just excited about having it done and off the list. Right now, everything is in turmoil and chaos with boxes and furniture stashed haphazardly in the office and guest room. I don't function well in chaos (it probably isn't helping my writing any knowing that mess is in there behind closed doors.) So, yes, I'm looking forward to a cute little girl's room all ready to go, but mostly I think I'm just looking forward to an orderly least until February.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Rule #4 The Double Tap - A Review of Zombieland

I can't quite seem to catch up these days, what with being sick and having deadlines and assorted other commitments. On my birthday weekend, Steve took me to see Zombieland. Well, that was a week ago, and I still haven't posted a review, so I'd better get cracking....

Zombieland, directed by Ruben Fleischer (no, I hadn't heard of him either), follows four survivors of a worldwide zombie-virus holocaust as they master their zombie-fighting skills and search for a zombie-free safe haven. Woody Harrelson stars as Tallahassee, a tough-talking, zombie-slaying pro who joins forces (if a bit unwillingly) with innocent, lost soul Columbus (Jesse Eisenberg, Adventureland.) As they search for food, namely Tallahassee's Twinkies, they encounter two, young sisters (Emma Stone, Superbad, and Abigail Breslin, Little Miss Sunshine), and eventually they become a foursome.

This film is hardly the first to poke fun of the zombie movie genre, but it does manage to walk the fine line between parody and zombie cliche with an ease that even Shaun of the Dead didn't quite manage. While Shaun slipped back into the very overly-dramatic zombie flick elements that it sought to mock, Zombieland maintains its tongue-in-cheek tone throughout without becoming directionless. One of my favorite elements in this film that helped with the overall tone was the list of zombie survival rules. Eisenberg's character begins the film with a list of his top survial tips in order of importance. What's survival rule #1? Cardio. Makes sense if you're going to be doing a lot of running from the undead. As the movie continues, these rules pop up on screen as appropriate situations present themselves. Tired of seeing people die senselessly in movies because they didn't bother to make sure the gutshot zombie was dead? That needed final bullet to the brain is the Double Tap, and every time someone implements it in the film, the rule materializes onscreen, a comic reminder that is funny. Every time.

Of the four main characters, Woody Harrelson's wild man Tallahassee stood out as the most original. His humor, while classic Harrelson, is a departure from the doomed zombie fighters of the past. There is something freeing in not having to "worry" about the main character's safety because he never worries about himself. Eisenberg's portrayal of the bumbling Columbus smacked slightly of a Michael Cera homage, but he was still funny, and at times, charming.

For me, the best part of the film was the cameo. It's not often that inserting a big star into a bit part can steal the entire movie, but Bill Murray's appearance as himself does just that. From the moment the four travelers drive through his gates with the giant "BM" across the iron bars to his final post-credits bit, the cameo is quirky, random, and perfectly wacky.

It is, of course, important to remember that this is still a zombie film. It is not for the weak of stomach. There is blood, guts, and zombie vomit (whatever that is). Overall, however, the film is more about humor than high drama, and unlike the Shaun of the Dead group, this rag-tag team mostly sticks to their zombie-survival rules so the audience can spend less time saying "Look behind you!" and more time laughing hysterically.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Righteous Risotto, or How I Consumed My Weekly Calories In An Evening

Because I have a wonderful husband who knows what I like (and also because I specifically asked for it), I got to eat at Ristorante Bergamo for my birthday dinner. We didn't get to go on my actual birthday since it was a Sunday this year, but we did get to have a lovely date night at my favorite place with my favorite person (and my favorite waitress.)

Ristorante Bergamo (or just Bergamo's as we call it) is a small Northern Italian restaurant in downtown Greenville. It has been open since 1986, and we're hoping it stays around for many years to come. Chef Nello owns the place and even grows his own herbs. The food is amazing, and you won't find any spaghetti or garlic bread anywhere!

We first visited Bergamo's quite a few years ago (five or six, at least), and it quickly became our favorite place. In fact, we used to eat there so much that we started being considered regulars. (A status we still hold despite our less than regular attendence since expensive milestones like buying a house or me quitting my job to finish my degree.) When we go there, they know us by name. Our favorite waitress, Tanya, knows how I love the risotto and always brings me honey for my Earl Grey without my asking. She even knows what kind of wine I like (not that that matters these days.)

My favorite part about Bergamo's (aside from the food, obviously) is the atmosphere. I don't feel like I'm in Greenville anymore when I'm there. I'm in some big city eating at some trendy, little hole-in-the-wall, like one of those uber-hip travel show hosts. (Okay, I secretly have a thing for Anthony Bourdain.) But seriously, it's a place that transcends location.

So Saturday brought Steve and I there for dinner. We requested to be seated in Tanya's section (which they kindly obliged), and then we proceeded to eat ourselves into a delicious stupor. We learned a long time ago not to eat much for breakfast or lunch on Bergamo days, and we had followed that pattern on Saturday. I was postively ravenous when they brought out the bread and olives. I must have 3 or 4 pieces of bread soaked in olive oil and balsamic vinegar and at least 6 olives. I did finally slow down on the bread, though. I've learned over the years of visits to pace myself.

When Tanya came to take our order (there is small set menu and everything else changes daily), I was disappointed to learn that the risotto of the day (or Risotto del Giorno) had quail in it. Since I have to avoid wild game during my pregnancy, the risotto (my usual go-to dish) was out. My disappointment soon abated, however, when Tanya told me that they would fix the white truffle risotto for me if I wanted it. If I wanted it? Where else will they fix you something on the menu "just because"? Happy Birthday to me!

I ordered the risotto (of course), while Steve got the Stilton cheese salad with arugula and tomatoes and the fettucini con gamberi and arugula. The white truffle risotto was divine. I'll never understand what it is that Chef Nello does to make his risotto so perfectly creamy and delicious. My risotto at home, while far from inedible, comes nowhere near the culinary ecstasy that is his risotto. Steve's food was delicious, too. Part of the fun of Bergamo's is sampling each other's food. But I never regret the decision to order the white truffle risotto. Who knew something so closely akin to mushrooms could taste so good? I told Steve that it made me want to run home and reread A Year in Provence. (Different country, I know, but same truffle worship.)

Dinner was capped off by pistachio gelato (homemade) for me and strawberry and raspberry sorbets for Steve. I also had my standard Earl Grey and honey. It was the perfect end to a perfect ending. I told Steve that we can't wait so long to go back this time...even if we have to rob a gas station in Wellford to do it.