Important things

Drove north and east to visit Erie, PA today, where my writing pals Alan DeNiro and Kristin Livdahl were visiting Alan’s parents.  Had a great several hours to talk and catch up with them before having to head back home (and them having to catch a flight back to Minnesota).  But on the way home, I strayed away from the interstate and into the rural back roads that make up the geography of my childhood and adolescence. Which I’ve been writing about lately in a course I’m taking in my MFA program at Chatham University, which focuses on writing about place, nature, and the environment.  Lately I’ve been writing these tiny little lyrical essayistic things–I’m not sure what to call them–that make use of poetic lyricism and imagery and tone to convey more than the controlled logical arguments of a traditional essay, which all center around both the rural environment I grew up in, as well as the post-industrial urban environment I moved into for college.  As I write them, I’m starting to see they may be small word objects that go together as a mosaic collage-like exploration of some of the stranger or anachronistic sites, objects, and experiences that are specific to rural and post-industrial Ohio.

Driving through the place where I spent my formative years, back into Youngstown afterward, provided me with reminders of things I’d forgotten, details and memories evoked from those details, that make me want to explore this type of writing beyond my fiction in the future, regardless of my degree being nearly completed.  I wasn’t sure, to be completely honest, what I would think about a course on Nature and Environmental Writing, but it turns out it provides a rich writing (and reading) experience that I hadn’t expected.  I also hadn’t expected to discover I’d been reading and enjoying a certain amount of that kind of writing for years without knowing that’s what it was.  This past week, for instance, we read a piece by Ursula K. Le Guin that I had read years ago, from her collection, Unlocking the Air, called “The Creatures on My Mind” as a meditative piece on human/non-human life form relationships.  Rereading that, I was also reminded of one of my formative experiences as a writer, reading Le Guin, and how–if I could have my way, and be good enough on top of having my way–I wanted from an early age to be a writer like Ursula Le Guin, who did not do one particular thing, but many different kinds of writing, for children, teens, adults, science fiction and fantasy, magical realism, realism, poetry, nature writing, essays, literary translation.  I admired how she went wherever her material took her, and explored a variety of forms.  So along with being reminded of details and memories from the first twenty years of my life this weekend, I was reminded of my early writerly desire to work in a variety of forms.

It’s been good, lately, to find myself returning to myself, as I must admit that the past two years of being a full time teacher and a half time student has scattered my energies in so many ways that I sometimes lost track of important things.

Wick Park Revitalization Project

Please join Defend Youngstown and Youngstown CityScape with the professional services of The Urban Design Center of Northeast Ohio in our initial meeting for Community-wide input in the WICK PARK REVITALIZATION PROJECT.

What: Share sense of history of Wick Park, information about the current conditions, restrictions on its use; discuss community goals and intended outcome of the park planning process. Chance to sign up for hands on projects in the park.
Who: All interested individuals, businesses, institutions, neighborhood organizations, non-profits.
When: Saturday, March 15, 2008, 11:00 am
Where: Wick Park Pavilion

Please RSVP to or 330-742-4040

Inconvenient things

If Al Gore would decide to run for president again, I think my vote would be decided easily.  According to this Times article, he says has no intention to run, despite a group of his former supporters campaigning to bring him out.  Gore lost his first campaign for president for lots of reasons (even before it was stolen from him), some of them being the way he wasn’t as jovial and charming to people on camera, the way he couldn’t talk animatedly, and how everytime he tried to make a joke it never really came off. 

This happens to lots of candidates.  The media has already started making fun of them.  Some of them deserve it because they say ridiculous things.  But I always get offended by the jabs directed at people not due to the content of their words but because of an awkward delivery.  So Al Gore couldn’t play the saxophone like Clinton.  So he’s no cowboy from down home on the ranch.  But he’s serious and sober and considers the world’s problems with his heart and his mind and with not just his own interests or his nation’s interests in mind, but the world’s.  If you watch his documentary “An Inconvenient Truth”, you’ll see how remarkably charismatic he can be.

One of the problems, I’ve always thought, with the first Gore campaign was that his speech writers and “gesture directors” (you realize they have these) all were trying to keep him in pitch with Clinton, the great seducer (and what a seducer he was, ahh, brings back memories).  If they’d been smart, they would have allowed Gore to be himself more, rather than trying to suit him up in the fun party guy’s self-presentation.  But probably even then he wouldn’t have got popular, because Americans weren’t ready to hear what needs to be done if we want this world to survive.  It would get in the way of every way we live right now.

The title of Gore’s documentary couldn’t be more apt.  It is an inconvenient truth we’re faced with in the world right now.  Pretty much all of the ways we live will have to be changed if we want a healthy world to live in.  And no one, really, admit it, likes to change.  Especially when it costs money.  But I can’t imagine not doing so, considering the other option: continuing ruining the earth’s atmosphere and resources until it’s an unlivable place for anything.  They say we have time, though; if we started soon, we could turn back the processes of pollution.  I think that would be something the whole world could get behind, though I assume there would be someone trying to make a shady buck off of that, too.  Even so, if it would lead to a livable world, it’d be worth it. 

Stupid dies as stupid does

No matter what rights there may be to do something like this, I can’t help but intuitively feel it’s criminal, what the AEI (American Enterprise Institute) has done:  offered money to scientists to undermine the U.N.’s assessment that global climate change is in a radical, dangerous state, mostly due to the human activity called industry, at which point we must have the common sense as a species to begin changing our behavior and actions in the world if we’re to save the habitat we live in–essentially, the world.  We need real superheroes right now, but unfortunately the evil-doers have woven themselves so far into the fabric of society as “normal” and “good” that many ordinary people who might be superheroes and don’t realize it can’t even recognize who the bad guys are. 

The AEI is a think tank with more than extremely close ties to the Bush Administration and powered by funds from Exxon-Mobil, which–oh my! look!–had a record-breaking year for profits this year.  Must be from all those tax breaks with which the Bush way of running government has provided them.

We need a government that will fund a campaign to save our environment, not war.