Can I blog about baseball? I doubt it. It is something too ingrained in me to write about I think. I inherited it from my grandmother, and like other inborn, inherited traits, it's too much a part of me to really understand. Baseball was passed down to me. Not like china. More like being short. Do I have insights into being short? It makes it hard to buy pants. That's about it.
Once when one of my students found out I follow baseball, he remarked, surprised, "Huh. I never figured you for a sports fan." And I said, "I'm not a sports fan. I only like baseball."
Here are some reasons I don't like other sports:
Football is too cold. And there are only, like, a dozen games a year. Baseball is summer (warm) and there's a game every day. Every. Day. Sometimes two.
Then there's basketball. Listen, if I were nineteen feet tall, I could dunk a basketball too. It's just not impressive to me that people with legs taller than my entire person can run real fast and reach real high. Now baseball, in contrast, is nearly impossible, and any given pitch or swing is likely as not to end in failure. That's awesome. Michael Jordan, the greatest basketball player in the history of the world, sucked at baseball. And more to the point, lots of body types excel at baseball. You never see really fat, out of shape basketball players. But there are lots of fat, out of shape baseball players. (There are lots of fat football players too, but that's different because baseball is not a sport where advantage is gained by sitting on someone.)
Then there's Ichiro. Ichiro is taller than I am and weighs more, but not by, like, that much given that he's a god of an athlete. He is funny and ridiculously gifted, seems to have a sense of humor about himself, does this great stretch on the field that I love when we do it in yoga, and generally managed to rally a whole city around a frankly subpar baseball team.
But my favorite thing about Ichiro is two pictures of him meeting Barack Obama at the All-Star Game. No question that Ichiro is a rock star. He goes by one name. He's wildly famous, wildly popular, wildly known and successful and swooned over and fit, best of the best at his profession which, p.s., is baseball (i.e. not an easy job). And his reactions to finding himself in the presence of Barack Obama are exactly what any mere mortal's would be: reverent respect and nervous awe followed by (when the object of his affection looked away) pure giddy glee. OHMYGODYOUGUYS!!!!!!!!!!!! BARACK OBAMA IS SIGNING A BASEBALL FOR ME!!!!!!!!!!!!! EEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE!!!!!!!
If this man enters the Hall of Fame as a Yankee, I am never speaking to anyone ever again.
Last week, we returned Ernie Sings to the library before it made my head explode. Instead, we listened to Free To Be You and Me, the one kid CD that seems always to be in our car, about two dozen times in a row. It was a long time before I could listen to Free To Be without crying hysterically, so nostalgia-sodden was it for me. Three-hunded-some hours of Free To Be later, I can observe it with the exhaustive knowledge and academic remove of the world's foremost expert on the piece, which surely I must be.
For those of you who are uninitiated, it's an album (and book) of songs, stories, and poems whose point is generally: it's okay to be different, and specifically: gender stereotypes are a load of shit.
1) Whoever and however you are, Free To Be's thesis is: that's just great. Athletic girls, boys who like dolls, children who cry, dads who can't throw balls, kids without friends, congenitally confused school principals, young adults with no desire to marry, rude grandchildren, moms who drive vans(?), elementary school field trips to the jungles of Southeast Asia, and infant males whose life ambition is to be a cocktail waitress are all a-okay as far as Marlo Thomas is concerned. But prissy girls to whom matching clothes and well-coifed hair are important? Well, those bitches deserve to get eaten.
2) Though musically Free To Be just screams 1973, the year of its (and my) release, thematically, it remains heartbreakingly relevant. Spot the Free To Be message below that's no longer relevant, that kids today no longer need to hear:
a) Despite the fact that jobs tend to be gender stereotyped, you can grow up to do nearly any job you like.
b) It's okay for boys to cry. It's okay for boys to like dolls and generally to be nurturing and sensitive.
c) Housework is unpleasant and as a result should be shared equally among adult partners.
d) Women don't all want to get married. Marriage is not the end goal of all relationships. Permanent heterosexual partnership is not the ultimate dream of everyone.
e) Even if many of the boys you know are a certain way and like a certain thing, and even if many of the girls you know are a certain way and like a certain thing, you may not fall into those flawed categories and that's just fine.
f) Sometimes the gender you feel like and the sex your body is don't line up.
g) Parents are people.
h) Athletically gifted females are nonetheless desirable.
Answer: H. Even by the time Free To Be was relevant to me (i.e. eight years or so after its release), this felt dated to me. I was, myself, not athletically gifted and felt that this made me undesirable as a friend or romantic partner. All the popular girls at school were good at sports. All hail Title IX. Otherwise, these are all messages my daughter still needs to internalize because these inequities and stereotypes remain heart-sinkingly static. Nearly forty years on, the music sounds dated, but gender stereotypes and gender realities for children (boys shouldn't cry or have dolls) and adults (job/pay/marriage/childcare/housekeeping roles and responsibilities) remain strikingly, distressingly unbalanced.
The notion of vacation is a strange one when you work everyday but don't go to work any day and when work and not-work look so much alike. My husband, son, border collie, and I spent last week on Blakely Island with the wonderful writer Katherine Malmo and her family. On the one hand, it was vacation definitionally -- we were away from home. On the other hand, it was pretty home-like: same general topography if a much better view of it, same weather, same activities. In part, activities were the same of necessity. Small children will be entertained; they will leave the house; they will run about; otherwise, you will be sorry. Then they will nap during which you will try to accomplish something. Then they will need to be entertained out of the house whilst running again. In between, they'll need to eat. Blakely is not an island like, say, Oahu, with restaurants and such. It's the other kind. So another home-like activity on this vacation was the preperation of meals three times a day.
Meantime, one of the very best things about writing as one's job is the fairly legitimate justification of reading books as work. Do I learn how to write novels by reading novels? For sure. Still? Even after all the novels I've read and the couple I've written? Hell yes. Can I continue to write novels without constantly reading them? No. No way. Do I take notes and add marginalia and look things up and write small essays reflecting on what I've read, what I've learned from it, and how I might implement those lessons myself? I do, always, but a) that is fun as far as I'm concerned, b) I've been doing it so long that it's part of reading for me, so c) that's not what makes it work. Reading is work insofar as it's part of my current job description. But it looks an awful lot like reading for pleasure.
So on this vacation, while my kid was asleep, my husband and I sat out on the deck overlooking the sound, listening to ballgames on the radio, watching the sun set until about 11 o'clock every night, and reading books (and taking notes and writing about them -- well, I did that; my husband just read). It is indeed hard to overstate how amazing the view was and how different from the one off my own tiny deck. But is that enough to account for the difference in attitude? I'm not sure it is. Vacation reads are the best ones. And vacations just feel different from real life, even when you spend your days doing nearly the exact same things, even when you're blessed with a day job whose to-do list includes, "Read a new book."
My vacation backyard.
My actual backyard.
I have learned many (often horrifying) things in my three-plus years of being a parent. One is this: lots of children's literature sucks. This shouldn't have been surprising, but it was. When it had been thirty years or so since I'd read any children's books, I assumed that all children's literature was awesome because all of the children's literature I remembered was awesome. Which is why I remembered it. OF COURSE, children's literature, like all other kinds of literature, has some gems and lots of turds.
I found this out by going to the library solo with my daughter. When we can, the three of us go together. That way, my husband reads to D while I pick out really good books to take home with us (or vice versa) (not books picking out really good versions of me to take home with them -- though that would be awesome -- but I read and my husband picks out books). But if you go just you and your three year old, she randomly picks things off the shelf that catch her eye and wants to read them then and there. Do you have a kid who will just sit quietly in the library and read to him- or (let's face it, probably) herself while you browse? Bless you.
As most writers are, I was a huge and wide reader as a child. So pre-parenthood, I could name lots and lots and lots of awesome books I remembered reading as a kid. That turns out not to be because kids' books are universally awesome but because I repressed the ones that weren't. I know this because D picks out books that MAKE NO SENSE where NOTHING HAPPENS and characters are POINTLESS and the whole thing feels phoned in and depressing. And I mean, these are children, you know? They're innocents. They deserve better. My ONLY goal when I read to D is to teach her to love books and reading. How can I do that if the books suck?
When we read aloud, my husband changes all the characters into accented foreigners: often British or Scottish, sometimes German, occasionally Irish or Minnesotan (not foreign but a good accent). I change firemen to fire fighters and policemen to police officers, and in books where EVERY animal or anthropomorphized character is "he," I change half the dinosaurs or sheep or pigs or cars or whatever to "she"s easily enough. We also don't read about Barbie, guns, or thinly veiled moralistic crap. Because D is adopted, I sometimes have to edit books that assume every single child on earth is parented by two married heterosexual people who had sex, became pregnant, and gave birth. This is what I was wary about going in. But it turns out there's shelf after shelf of terrible books out there just as necessary to avoid -- offensive not because they're sexist or racist or homophobic but because they are just SO bad.
Narrative, people. Even children need narrative. Here are some new-since-I-was-three books we've found to love. What other newish and fabulous children books do you know?
P.S. This is also, once again, why we need small bookstores and librarians: for help culling. And good writers and illustrators and artists and editors and book-makers: for making the world a better place.
It is, more or less, my one year anniversary of not teaching. Since last June, I've been out of the classroom, out of academia. Since last June, when someone asks me what I do for a living, the answer has been "novelist" rather than "English professor" as it had been for the ten previous years. This past September was the first September I didn't go back to school since I was three. Literally.
Die-hard -- I often call them "real" -- academics get time off to write. I left graduate school right before I'd have gotten a year of stipend in exchange just for writing without having to teach. I left my first teaching job before I had enough years accumulated to apply for a sabbatical. I wasn't tenure-line at my second so never even had the opportunity to apply. So while this year was my first opportunity to write without also being in the classroom, in fact it's not that unusual for people in my profession(s).
But for me, it's been life changing. One thing is child+book writing+full-time teaching position was too damn much. Getting rid of one of those makes doing the other two one-hundred-percent more sane. Another thing is what happens when you elevate your hobby to your career and put all of that time and energy and creativity and intellectual effort and resources and priority into something you used to just make time for and squeeze in as you could. The difference shouldn't have been nearly as surprising as it was. Teaching full-time, reading and lesson planning, grading all those papers, e-mailing with all those students, commuting, working with colleagues, dealing with all the crap that comes with any job...putting all that time and energy into writing instead makes for a lot of time and energy put into writing. Basically, I wrote the whole of Goodbye For Now between June and September. People think that's mind-blowingly fast, and it is (and was only possible because I'd worked on it the previous summer and had it all planned out and ready to go in my head), but also, put 40 or 50 hours a week and all your creative energies into something, and you're bound to see some pretty steady progress.
I miss teaching -- the classroom part, the good days. I do not miss grading at all. I thought it would be hard to write without talking about and teaching about writing, but it wasn't. I thought it would be hard to write without a deadline -- September and the start of classes -- on the other end, but it wasn't. I thought it would be hard to write at home by myself inside my head all day instead of interacting with students and colleagues and a whole out loud world out there, but it wasn't. I worked so long and so hard and so formatively at teaching I thought giving it up would be much harder and stranger than in fact it's been. It feels like it's been much, much longer than a year.
I was in tenth grade the first time I read The Great Gatsby. In many ways, it was my first love. I'd been a big reader since, well, I learned to read. I had favorite books and literary obsessions. I made my parents read me the same books over and over and over again as a child. I was not a new book lover. But Gatsby was different. I was in love with it. I carried it around with me all the time, read passages over and over again during algebra and physics and other classes which, frustratingly, persisted in not being English class. I thought about the characters all the time as if they were my friends. I journaled about them. I talked about them to everyone I knew. I was so obsessed that, at my ten year high school reunion, almost everyone said something to me about the book, convinced, apparently, that that kind of love could not possibly have waned in the intervening years. When I told them I was in graduate school studying not American Lit but Shakespeare, many of my high school compatriots refused to believe me. They couldn't imagine the fifteen-year-old I was ever getting over that book. That's how in love I was.
I have not seen the Robert Redford film. I couldn't imagine that it would live up to the thing in my mind, and I wanted to keep the thing in my mind, not supplant it with something else. I didn't see it when Seattle Rep did it live a few years ago. I have concerns about staging novels, but let's leave that for another post.
But I will see the Baz Luhrmann. In fact, I almost can't wait until Christmas to do so. 1) I will see anything Baz Luhrmann does. Anything. 2) Look at it! It's gorgeous and so different. I know a lot of people -- like, all of them -- prefer movies to stay very close to the book, but I don't really see the point of that. In the same way that novels are not plays, books are not movies and vice versa. They are different mediums, good at and for different things, with different strengths and weaknesses. We already have The Great Gatsby in book form. What Baz Luhrmann is giving us is something new and different, adding to what's already there, to what we've already learned from the book, giving us more. Who doesn't want more? The book cannot be reproduced on film, so why try? Its strength is being something else instead, a different Gatsby riff. Show me who thinks this book and these characters are too small to be yet more.
But 3) is best of all. Baz Luhrmann's films have a look about them. Baz Luhrmann's films sometimes star Leonardo DiCaprio. This one preserves that look and that star. And that means we cannot help but get a story wherein Romeo grows up to be Jay Gatsby. And he does! Of course he does! Impetuous, obsessed, lovelorn Romeo who moons about, whose whole world must revolve around love, who must, but must, give up everything for it OF COURSE grows up to be Jay Gatsby, still lovelorn and obsessed, still revolving his whole world around love but without seeming to do so, replacing the impetuousness with a more careful, more measured, more determined approach, more outwardly successful, still that heartsick, lovesick little boy inside.
Both are undone by love, both victim to circumstances they have a hand at perpetuating but did not kick off and cannot possibly control, both are more sinned against than sinning (esp. in the Baz version where Romeo does not in fact kill Paris), neither can choose anything but love. Gatsby has all this experience, learning, worldliness, power, ambition, perspective, connections, and money that Romeo does not, a much much wider world, and he falls into exactly the same trap. It is so awesome. I could not love it more. And what percentage of high schoolers will read both of these texts and see both of these films? Um, like 95%? How great is it to be fifteen in the Age of Baz? So great!
Esquire Magazine has announced this morning a foray into publishing Fiction for Men. For starters, it will be an ebook series of short stories with some run in the magazine itself as well. Already this is sending everyone into screaming fits and fair enough, but on the whole, this seems like good news to me.
This article reporting the move begins, "That creaky label 'women's fiction' tends to conjure up images of novels about family, career or relationships. But men's fiction?" Jess Walter is one of the three authors in the inaugural collection. His biggest, most lauded book, The Financial Lives of Poets, is so entirely about "family, career, [and] relationships," that it's not about anything else. If you read the book and were asked afterwards what it was about, you'd say, "family, career, and relationships." You would. No question.
So what is men's fiction about? According to the Editor-in-Chief of Esquire, in the same article, it's writing that is "plot-driven and exciting, where one thing happens after another. And also at the same time, dealing with passages in a man's life that seem common." Now a) Think of the chic-iest chic lit you can imagine -- whatever else you want to say about it, it's going to be plot-driven. But mostly b) pray tell, are families, careers, and relationships not common to men's lives?
Of course really the question is not what is men's fiction about. Really, the question is this: why are some books about family, career, and relationships "women's fiction" and some books about family, career, and relationships about the human condition, the American spirit, a metaphor for our life and times, and an example of great art? And to an alarming extent, the answer to that question is this: it depends who wrote it. If the person who wrote it is female, it is a book about family, career, and relationships for women which needn't be taken seriously by reviewers or readers and which needn't be read by men.
Last summer, for their 75th anniversary, Esquire ran a list of the 75 books every man should read. One of the books on it -- one -- was written by a woman. One. And that's the rub. Women readers seem to think that male authored books about family, career, and relationships are worth their time and attention. Male readers seem to think that female authored books about the same are not. I refuse to detail why that might be a problem.
That said, let me add this: Magazines running more fiction? Yes please! Again from that article: "David Granger, the editor in chief of Esquire, said he has lamented the loss of space that magazines devoted to publishing fiction....'It's a struggle, because especially during the recession, we lost so many pages,' he said. 'Fiction begins to feel a little bit of a luxury.'" It has always struck me how much more serious of a magazine Esquire is than comparable "women's magazines." Does Cosmo run lists of 75 important books women should read? And is that list mostly literary heavy-hitters and complex, difficult texts? Esquire is mostly about politics and culture. Women's mags are mostly about weight loss. And we all need more literature, more fiction, more pop culture that's also smart, beautiful, and challenging.
The other point there is that with magazines it seems easier. I'm pretty clear on (and not offended by) which magazines are women's magazines and which are men's magazines. I like the idea of men's fiction because it un-ghettoizes women's fiction. Right now the label "women's fiction" seems to mean "unimportant, frivolous book men and serious readers needn't bother reading or even considering." It also means "book written by a woman which THEREFORE makes it an unimportant, frivolous book men and serious readers needn't bother reading or even considering." The intro of men's fiction might make both terms more descriptive, more useful, and more apt. Show me someone who doesn't need accurate, informative labels to help guide their reading choices, and I'll show you someone who still has a good, small, independent bookstore in their community. Alas, that number is ever dwindling. More sometime soon on why that's even more of a problem than you think it is.
This appeared late last week in my Twitter feed from HuffPost Books:
QOTD: "If you only read the books that everyone else is reading, you can only think what everyone else is thinking." --Haruki Murakami
I a) love this and b) agree with it, and c) the next book, whenever I find time to write it, comes at least in part from a similar sentiment. The whole online echo chamber theory, well, it echoes for me. And it's scary. The argument is that as we get more and more of our news and ideas and philosophies and opinions and information and life approaches and narratives -- stories -- from Facebook and Twitter and other social media sites where we choose our friends and choose who to follow, the range of said ideas and stories gets narrower and narrower. We are friends with people who think like we do. They are friends with people who think like they/we do. We and they are all passing back and forth the same tidbits of information, liking and retweeting and sharing the same articles and notes and opinions and stories. Plus every time we say anything, everyone we know "likes" it and tells us how lovely and clever we are, not just because they're friends but because they actually agree. Not enough new ideas can muscle in through all that familiarity.
Maybe they should call it the Narcissus Chamber. Which one of these kids looks most pleased with their own opinions and ideas?
This versus, say, you used to read the newspaper that was your town or city's paper. I grew up between Baltimore and DC and so read the Baltimore Sun and the Washington Post. They got delivered to my door. In theory, the news they delivered was broad, unbiased, wide-reaching, multi-opinioned, and multi-perspectived. It was also, importantly, researched, vetted, double-checked, edited, proofread, and held to standards of truth. This is not, of course, true of my Facebook and Twitter feeds.
Social media and the internet generally are sold to us as great levelers of playing fields and democratizers of ideas and access. Once, you had to own a newspaper to get your voice and ideas heard. Now, all you need is access to a computer and an internet connection. As receivers of information though, in a lot of ways, we were doing better before. I hear more voices now, but they're all saying the same thing.
You see why that's dangerous and problematic. And disappointing given the freedom and possibilities presented by the web. And insidious given our impression that it's the opposite of what it in fact is.
And yet...last week, when President Obama came out and said he did indeed think same-sex marriage ought to be legal, my Twitter feed did a little dance, my Facebook had a party, the links my people passed on were all laudatory and celebratory and smart from a pro civil rights, pro gay marriage perspective. That's all I wanted to read, and that's all that came across my radar. Was Fox News as thrilled as my social media peeps? Was the Republican Party? I don't know. Because their opinions never crossed my computer screen. My Facebook friends are not anti-gay. My Twitter feed is liberal and loving. It was awesome.
So the question you have to ask yourself is this: is it important for me to seek out dissenting opinions? Important for my education or for being a whole person in the world? A responsible decision maker? Haven't I something to learn from the fifty percent of people in this country who seem to disagree with me about all sorts of political issues? Given that I believe that if only the gay-marriage haters would listen to something other than hate-spewing media, they'd realize the error of their ways, shouldn't I also try to break out of my online echo chamber? Or is it permissible for me and my lower blood pressure to bubble and cocoon and ignore the haters? There's enough broken, enough hate, enough that doesn't go my way in politics, enough that makes me crazy, don't my Twitter feed and I deserve to high five then go out for margaritas and celebrate the ones we win?
One of the first things I learned in graduate school for literature (this was in the late 90s) was this: the author is dead. One of the first things I learned about being a published novelist was this: the author is, frankly, more important than the text. The author is what's valuable, marketable, and for sale. What the author thinks -- about everything -- is everything. These are opposites.
So I ask you: is this one of those cases where the academic literary theory and the actual literary life do not match up, or is the author new born or resurrected or somehow undead?
Because of my the-author-is-dead indoctrination, and for quite a few other reasons, the commitment to social media is new for me, and its effect at the moment is this: First I have an idea. Next I have a decision to make. Is that idea very pithy (a tweet), slightly less pithy but still bite-sized (a Facebook post), full and wider reaching but kind of random (a blog post), full and wider reaching but connected and content driven (my website), or simply giant (you know, a book). That last one, of course, is kind of the point.
I've always thought interviews with actors is something of a strange thing to make up such a large percentage of talk shows and late night tv. These are people who get paid to say things other people think and write, to become people who they aren't. The better they are at doing so, the more successful they are at the profession for which they are so lauded. So asking them about themselves, who they are, and what they think seems like it's kind of missing the point.
Here too. Good novelists are good at the long form -- slowly developing characters and long narrative arcs and careful descriptions and fully explored themes and ideas. So pretty much the opposite of the tweet. It's not that twitter isn't fun; it just seems like I'm not the right person to do it.
Not so, of course, and for the same reason. Actors are interesting, pretty, dynamic people who perform well in all kinds of ways (i.e. they also make good talk show guests) and who learn much that's useful to us all from embodying so many different characters. And good writers are good writers with smart, interesting things to say...across a variety of mediums.
I've been thinking too that fifteen years ago when I was in grad school, the output of writers was pretty much limited to their writing. Dead was kind of the only available option. Enjoy a book? Want to read other things that author has written? From the dawn of recorded text up until about a decade ago, you could go buy another book by that author. You might have been able to hunt down an article by or about as well by watching your newspaper/magazines when the book released and/or by going to the library and doing a little research. This was true too if you just wanted to know more about the author or book -- if you missed the reviews that ran on release, you were pretty much SOL. Maybe the author was only ever dead because there wasn't another option. As soon as there was, authors made a stunning realization: not dead yet.
And, you know, it's nice to be in touch with readers. It's nice to have thoughts that go nowhere much. It's nice to write in a way that feels ephemeral (even though it's not), to write small things in small ways. It's nice that when I read about a book, I can find out more about it and its author basically instantly.
All that said, does reading everything else an author produces (his/her blog and FB page and twitter feed and random articles here and there) take time away from my reading other things I'd enjoy more? Almost certainly. And does knowing more about an author enhance my enjoyment of a book? I'm not sure it does actually.
So I ask you...Authors: dead or alive? Not which they are, but what's your preference?
Maybe I will repost this after the book is out so that the overlaps here will blow your mind as much as they blow mine (i.e. after you have -- I hope I hope -- read the book), but this just happened, so now seems a good time to write about it. As you maybe heard, last week at the Coachella music festival, rapper Tupac Shakur made a surprise onstage appearance and gave a stirring, provocative performance. This was especially stunning since he was shot to death fifteen years ago.
The ways in which this blows my mind are numerous. For starters, it wasn't, as you'd at first assume, archived footage -- that is, the audience was not just watching a cleverly projected film of a previous performance. Digital Domain, the company responsible for the image, promises, "This is not found footage. This is not archival footage. This is an illusion." Note the boast here: it's not real; it's an illusion. It seems more and more like what impresses us as a society is not what's real but what isn't real.
The projection technology, meanwhile, the technology that makes this look so real and so believable, is decidedly low tech, shockingly low tech in fact. The Tupac appearance was quickly dubbed a hologram which just as quickly caused a zillion people to post online about how in fact it was 2-D whereas a hologram is in fact 3-D. This turns out to be smoke and mirrors, well, mostly mirrors actually. It's projected on mylar so one can both see it and seethrough it so that Dr. Dre and Snoop Dogg can appear live and rap with Tupac, and you see all of them. I was thinking of Disney's Mary Poppins (1964) where Julie Andrews and Dick Van Dyke interact with animated animals. I was off. By a hundred years. In 1862, this same essential technology was used to dramatize a Dickens novella.Charles Dickens. 1862.
Now they're talking about a tour. My question is this: is that a technological miracle, a resurrection, the chance for a whole new generation of fans to see a performer there was seemingly no chance they ever would? Or is it going to the movies?
1) This technology: so unfathomably impressive and advanced, it seems the stuff of science fiction
2) This technology: so old, it was first used by the Victorians
3) This technology: so mundane, it's essentially a movie
Charles Dickens: Dead. But real.
About The Author
Laurie Frankel writes novels (reads novels, teaches other people to write novels, raises a small person who reads and would like someday to write novels) in Seattle, Washington where she lives on a nearly vertical hill from which she can watch three different bridges while she's staring out her windows between words. She's originally from Maryland and makes good soup.