Friday, December 29, 2006

Manuscript Pages


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So this is what Africa translates into....pages.....pages of what I hope will be a children's book. In the next week, I have to spiff up my proposal and send it out. I've already drafted my proposal and sales pitch....and now I'm working on these pages...translating them from drawings to something someone else could read....in some ways it reminds me of drafting a screen play complete with stage directions because I'm telling the reader what type of pictures and illustrations go here and there and in what format. I'm not exactly sure this is the way most houses (publishers) like the information but this book is not only about information but about format, pictures and illustrations. Sometimes info that is started in one spot may be concluded somewhere else. For example, I talk about eating camel for dinner on one page....and answer how it tastes on another. (If you haven't dined on camel lately let me say that it doesn't taste like chicken...lol....it actually taste like beef but chewy and a bit sweet.).....
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My stomach is in knots every time I work....I feel like Cinderella ....oh please.....although I am sitting here with my hair in a scraggly ponytail, in mismatched sweats, and a pair of my son's socks....really truly..... just put that glass slipper on me....(tell me to ...send you more PAGES ) and I will truly turn into a princess.....really.....I promise......
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It's funny though.....I don't think the universe would have put me through the toughness of Africa and that whole travel experience not to have something in mind......there are somethings I've learned already...personal things...that I think Africa opened my eyes to.....but it seems there's a plan somewhere.....I just can't keep all this cool information to myself......so that might be the next challenge to find what the plan is.....I'm kinda hoping the children's book is the plan......but if not there will be something else.

Monday, December 25, 2006

A Toy Boy for Xmas


Yes...finally a most useful gift....a toy boy for xmas....thanks to some funny guys at my bookstore who felt I deserved to take none other than Josh Groban home for the holidays....and though there is a slight problem (his personality is a bit flat).... I think he's cute enough to overlook that particular flaw....I placed him by our tree so he could enjoy a care-free night of festivities before becoming my personal slave in my computer room the day after Xmas.
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Early this morning, I came downstairs and was horrified to discover that either Santa or the bearded man I live with had obviously messed with my baby.....(and hey.... that's my new Victoria Secret's bra!) .....the changes appear to be temporary but Josh was visible shaken....(his cardboard knees were askew from his stand)....poor thing....I'll have to run my hands all over him and rearrange his parts....and then I'll take him to our little nest....yes...Josh and me together at last.....

I Don't Think Someone Liked My Baby


My shocking discovery Xmas Morning

Saturday, December 23, 2006

Tip-Toeing into Graphic Novels


Jason made me do it......

Okay so I like to read....but I was never into comic books even though I'm a very visual person....but I work with a guy at the bookstore....Jason....who is the supreme master...of Sci-Fi and Graphic novels.....the guy never gives up on me....lol......
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Last year, after much urging, I read my first Graphic novel....."The Rabbi's Cat"....which was very cool and funny. Here's the official synopsis.....
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The scraggly-looking alley cat who narrates the story belongs to an Algerian rabbi in the '30s. When the cat eats a parrot, he gains the power of speech and tries to convince his master to teach him the Torah and have a Bar Mitzvah. That's a delicious setup on its own, but when the cat loses his speech, the story becomes a broader, more bittersweet comedy about the rabbi's family and the intersection of Jewish, Arab and French culture in North Africa.
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And now one year later....I've just finished my second graphic novel......"Pride of Baghdad"....based on the true story of a pride of Lions set free from the Baghdad zoo courtesy of American bombs hitting the city when we first arrived in Iraq. Even I could appreciate the skill of the artists in creating dialogue, character, and conflict and combining it with stunning visual art....I feel like I'm cheating when I read a graphic novel.....because I'm getting free visuals instead of making my own......but I admit....their visuals were probably better than mine in this case.
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What's next in the reading line-up--- a saucy little book called.....They Call Me Naughty Lola... personal ads from the London Review of Books......catering to British intellectuals and eclectic.......I just started this book and I love it......here's a sample:
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Mid-forties man. Recently discovered guilt. Can't wait to try it out. Box 7297.
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Poet, M, 32. My career demands you break my heart. It also demands you buy all the drinks and have lots of strange sex with me. I'll give you an acknowledgement in my next volume, so it's not an entirely unrewarding relationship. Box no. 1873.
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!!!Someone has placed an industrial strength spiked egg nog on my desk....(so strong the cream is screaming in agony)...I feel this may be a suggestion to stop typing.......happy holidays.

Thursday, December 21, 2006

My Personal New Year's Day

Solstice!!
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Well.....here it is solstice .....my own personal New Year's day....and I'm really excited. I'm going to spring outside in just a bit.....light a candle.....offer myself up to the universe.....and organize my Break Out Year.
Ohhh....I have interesting plans......everything from a new convertible......(I already had my mid-life crisis convertible so this is my ....I-really-want-a-convertible-convertible....) and ceilings I have to break in writing, my relationships, and my personal self. Maybe it was the rice pudding from the funky grocery store on Long Island....or something else....because there was a moment I just knew this is what I was supposed to do. And hell ......why not?.....lol.....
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I'm also excited because I finished Day 9 in my children's book (out of 14 days)....it was my goal...and I really did a neat day/section on the salt mines of Fachi.....I am now a font of knowledge on salt creation in brine pools....(that almost made your toes curl with excitement when you read that huh?).....and shall we discuss bezas...or kantos?......I have one week to get my proposal ready.....to send in to the publisher.....ain't gonna have the book ready....but by this stage....they'll either say....send more or hell no.
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Talk about a fucking risk....lol.....but....I am pleased with what I have done....I really like it....and I hope that passion translates....passion is good....beautiful.....a wonderful energy....and I hope this publisher feels it.....if not.....I'm fully prepared to assume a fetal position for a week or so while I sob hysterically.....then finish the book and get ready to take up my second invitation and then hunt other folks down if I have to.....
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Do you know what I did on Solstice last year?......I drove to the mailbox with my deposit money to go on my Sahara trip......I planned it that way........amazing.....and here I am tonight....shaped by Africa....and the people I met and the many things I internalized.....I am grateful ....for this....and even for all the dominoes that had to fall for me to get to that point....good and bad......
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My hope for all of you....is for a good personal year too.....filled with your own passion.....with kindness......and joy.....in whatever projects you take on....and whomever you choose to connect with.......
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Happy New Year!!

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Forest Meditations

Love
(a.gina.picture)

Jealousy
(a.gina.picture)

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Monday, December 18, 2006

Recording Memories

I took a long walk today.....in the forest.....there are woods not far from my house and I'm sentimental about them. Growing up in Chicago, I didn't have access to a forest and although I've always loved to hike and walk.....forests were something I drove to and from...to experience. So having a forest I could walk to and meander in was something very novel.
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When I first walked through my forest....I was wary and uneasy. I certainly didn't expect wild animals to attack me but city girls are taught from a young age that bad men take you into the forest to hack you up..... so although I should have known better....my heart pounded and my ears were vigilant to pick up any little sound in those early days.
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Gradually, my fear subsided and my wonder increased. I found I had a knack for identifying wild plants...the "eye for the leaf" as my grandmother called it. I liked discovering that about myself. On my paternal side of the family, I supposedly come from a long line of women who were midwives or healers in their villages and so to find that the ability to easily recognize and categorize plants was in me....touched me....made me reconnect to my feisty little grandmother who came here from Lithuania....and always hoped that I had the eye.
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I knew 10 years ago when we moved here that the forest was destined to be ploughed down but many projects fell through, the economy swung up and down for development here, and the woods were saved. Until now.....now there are bulldozers....big bulldozers....whining and beeping in the woods as they push down the trees to make way for another mall. I had hoped a year ago when I heard about the plans for the shopping mall that it might fall through......but when the bulldozers arrived....and the smoke appeared...(they burn the roots on site) ....well.... you can't stick the trees back in the ground again.
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The picture I posted here today is from a cave in the Djado Plateau of Niger. I thought of it today when I walked through the woods and pulled it off my memory card. The thing that struck me about this particular picture...was the man's legs. He is painted in mid-step....and if you closely look at his gait.... you can see how much familiarity is in that step... as he approaches or walks among his horses......
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The cave now sits in a desolate canyon in the desert. Volcanic grey rocky cliffs without vegetation....hot white sand piled at the bases...and a particular almost cruel type of emptiness is all that is left of where he and his horse stood. 5000 years ago the Sahara was a lush Savannah that supported grass and small lakes......wildlife was recorded first.....elephants and rhinos...and then men painted horses and cattle which they must have brought into these canyons to sustain them.
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As I walked through the woods with an easy familiarity ....I thought of this man.....and how at this point both he and I were alike-- comfortably strolling in a landscape familiar and known. I have only a limited time left in this place....and I wonder if he knew that too about his landscape.....perhaps that's why we needed to record our memories--his in paint, mine in photos--because we sense it will soon be the only vestige of a particular place and time...that meant something to us.

Friday, December 15, 2006

Learning About Africa Restrospectively


Well....here I am on a Friday night, enclosed in my little computer room, working working working on my book. My writing group meets tomorrow and although I'm half way finished with the children's book, my drafts are handwritten and messy. I found I couldn't work on the computer. I needed graft paper and an eraser so I could play with the layout....a picture here....an illustration here ....moving a line here or there....when I could visualize the layout I could more easily see where the text should go and how much space there was for it.

In doing all this research on where I have been and what I have seen in Africa....I've stumbled into some fascinating stuff and well as some down right scary stuff that I didn't know at the time of my travels.

The fascinating stuff?.....well okay.....I remember sitting in the desert on a mat.....I pulled out my thermometer....this was a challenging thing to do since it was small and I kept losing it in my backpack all the time.....I remember the temperature registered between 110 and 115 degrees in the shade. One of my travel companions said why don't you measure how hot it is in the sun....and I answered, "Hell no, (weirdly appropriate at 110 degrees) I'm not going to stand in the sun to take a temperature" and that was that....

I felt a sudden small bite on my leg.....OUCH.....I looked down and there were ants on the mat....but not ordinary ones........ silver ones. It was as if someone had taken the ants and dipped them in chrome. I couldn't believe my eyes. Alberto said something about "Silver ants" and I tucked it away in my memory.

So I'm doing my research work and I stumble upon a wildlife article that mentions Silver ants of the Sahara. Okay not only do they exist but they exist weirdly......they emerge from their nests during the day only when the temperature is between 110-115 degrees....(the exact mat temperature if you remember) for about 10 minutes to swoop up dead things and the crumbs of puny white women and then go back underground..... AND to add to the strangeness......these silver ants are the tasty treats of a particular type of lizard that is inactive ......guess when...? ....when the temperature reaches 110 degrees!!!!!!.....Golly Gee ain't harmonious environments wonderful????

The scary stuff I've bumped into? Well, One of my favorite places in the Sahara was the Djado plateau.....and I discovered an article talking about the landmines that exist in the Djado....many still capable of killing you. Couple of tourists rolled over a few of them with their car last year. Timit....a beautiful oasis we visited....bandits swooped down a couple years ago and stole the cars, possessions, and cash of a whole tourist group......and of course .....just a week before we arrived in Niger......21 Italian tourists were kidnapped and held hostage for a week near Dogondoutchie......okay....like I said....sometimes it's good not to know things......
Ciao.

Monday, December 11, 2006

Gina's Got Legs! Nice Legs!

I've gotten a couple emails over the last couple months....asking me if I have legs since I always seem to be posting mug shots....so I thought I would post a pic of my legs.....in jeans doing some kind of twirly dance on the beach at Cape Cod.....yes the girl does have legs.

Sunday, December 10, 2006

Got Cheche?


Brrrrrrrrrr........Don't think cheching is just for the Sahara.....here Diana and I ...decide to test out winter cheching on Cape Cod.......the strong cold winds off the ocean on Cape Cod spurred us on to do something..........but I think Diana looks better with all that curly hair billowing around her face.........I don't think I should cheche to the bank..........do you?

Even Big-Haired Women Need Cheching


Diana winter-cheched......

Our First Cheching in the Desert


Saturday, December 09, 2006

Leaving Long Island and It's Wicked Addictive Rice Pudding

Well Gina's little adventure is finished for now......I'm home from Long Island....where I stuffed my bags full of last minute treats from Fairway Grocery. If I didn't get home soon, my butt would have mushroomed from late night visits to that store to indulge in the most wonderful rice pudding. It's not that I'm such a rice pudding fan...in fact....I can't remember when I last ate the stuff....but I bought it on a whim....and it tasted just like the rice pudding my folks used to buy at a store in my old neighborhood....yes...the proverbial relic of childhood....all in a little plastic tub. I even bought a small container of regular milk to pour on top of it....(not 2%, not Skim, but oh my god regular milk!!)

Which brings me to another sin I indulged in at Fairway. Butter. Yes, since I went to Paris.....and tasted the most excellent butter....I've actually had a craving for the stuff. Not a lot but a little bit on good quality bread...which of course Fairway was all too willing to supply....Do you see a pattern here ? Thank God I got out of Long Island before I couldn't zip my jeans up!

Pictures in the next couple of days of winter cheching....and a motivational tombstone!

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Spooky Serendipity on Long Island

Well I'm putting in my last few days researching and working on the Island. I'm sure if I don't get out of libraries soon I'm going to get moldy....but I'm in this classic struggle.......I want to jump in the rental car and drive out to the tip of the Island....and see Montauk beach (the site for one of my favorite favorite movies....Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind) but I also realize more and more each day I'm here what fantastic resources there are here and I should work not play.......what a dilemna!

I've had some more spooky serendipity which also makes me think I should keep my nose to the grind......in the mountains of Benin we went on a guided tour by a naturalist type guy who hunts butterflies and also showed us marvelous paints that are obtained from plants...vivid oranges and reds that were just stunning and used in decorative painting around the villages and probably as face paint too.......one of the librarians here hooked me up with a reference librarian at the New York Botanical Gardens....a place gardening folks might call Mecca......and she was so intrigued by my descriptions and questions she's asked me to send her all my pictures and info and she's going to try and help me.....find out what the names for some of these plants and dyes. That's amazing.....

My other stroke of luck came yesterday. The Serious boy story I wrote....took place among the Taneka villages.....there are apparently several tribes that belong to this grouping......even using the big gun libraries here in New York....I have stunned librarians who can't find much written about the trip....oh there are all kinds of anectodal notes from travel companies on google....but you know someone can create myths and legends and they can just get perpetuated on and on ...on the internet.....so I was trying to find some real data.....the thesis I was hunting for might not be available....so I tried to hunt down the author....thanks be to Google.....I found he's a professor right here in New Jersey....and so far about the only guy I can find that's written things (in English) about the Taneka....so today I'm going to email him with fingers crossed that he will share a little info on the tribe.

The one startling thing I keep finding in trying to get background about the places I visited in Africa is......there doesn't seem to be much info on them......I can't tell you how many librarians I have stumped....it seems so unreal to visit tribes like the Taneka....or beautiful geographical areas like the Djado plateau....but when you want to know more details about them.....pow...you hit this wall of nothingness....perhaps there's more available in French which hasn't been translated.....but in the modern world it seems so odd to hit an info vacuum.....one of the librarians joked with me and said.....well why don't you go back and research the area and the people........and write about it......man....I'm hoping that's a seed that won't sprout.......LOL>>>>>>

Sunday, December 03, 2006

Pass the Lobster and Clams on Cape Cod

I'm sitting here in a big white wooden rocking chair....enjoying the fading daylight and appreciating the white and grey feathered clouds....hard to believe I'm in Logan/Boston airport . Whom ever thought up the idea of putting these rocking chairs along this glass-wall was a genius. How many rattled nerves and rushed itineraries this must help......
I'm heading back to NYC....feeling like some big shot jetsetter... flying to THE CAPE and heading back to the CITY.....I will huddle down on Long Island again.....finishing my research...and hopefully going home with the data I need to complete my writing. I was real lucky and found that someone at Columbia University in New York did a whole dissertation on the tribe I need some information on.....and I guess I'll tackle the trains and head into the city to find the work. Sometimes when I get discouraged about writing....I think how many fortuitous things have helped me continue to do my research and I hope that is a SIGN.
Cape Cod was wonderful..it was great although strange at first to see Diana from my Africa trip..seeing someone outside of the place you know them is a bit strange..but she has the same energy and dynamism..and so although the setting was different.....the person seemed the same. Buddy seemed different and the same in his environment too....and is obviously an enthusiastic tour guide..we took some great hikes with invigorating winds along the cape which was wonderful. Buddy and his wife surprised us with a feast of fresh lobster and clams.....the lobsters were huge....and they showed us how to open the clam, drench it in broth....then dip in butter.......wow.
We took a ride into Provincetown which is at the very tip of the cape...quaint and interesting town ....small cottages...old white frame homes....narrow narrow streets....complete with seaside funkiness. I sometimes try and imagine what it must be like to live quaint instead of normal...but all the houses I've lived in have been normal..in normal neighborhoods....with normal views.
The sun is setting and the pink/lavender color is rising in the sky..I can't help but think how wonderful connections are.....how people and knowing people present us with so many opportunities.....to enjoy and expand.
Now if I can just get my rental car and maneuver myself out of LaGuardia airport .I'll consider it a good day ....a very good day.

Saturday, December 02, 2006

On the Road and In Another Scary Hotel Again!


Well...this ain't Dogondoutchie....but maybe I'd be more comfortable there than here. I'm on the road again and found myself in one of those weird situations were you accidentally get yourself into a scary hotel....near a big city....even though the rates would suggest that you should have a NICE place.
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I'm somewhere near Lagaurdia airport in a Ramada Inn that was supposed to be next to the airport (but it was a 10 minute shuttle ride away !) and at the stroke of midnight will become a Holiday Inn. There's a light bulb hanging from the lamp.....and there's a couple next door...who have been.....huh.....how shall I say this delicately.....having intimacies like rutting pigs for the last hour....plus somewhere down the hall there is a dog.....a yipper barking....needless to say I have bolted my door calculated how many hours I have before I have to leave the place and fly out tomorrow to Boston.

Friday, December 01, 2006

Honey You Ain't From Long Island.....




On the road again….this time to Long Island. I needed to do some research for my children’s book and the universities around here don’t have many African databases so the choices were to travel to Chicago or somewhere on the East Coast. Buddy, a member of our tour group, invited Diana and I to visit him on Cape Cod any time. So it seemed a rather perfect set-up...work hard for a few days in New York...meet up with Diana in Boston to visit Cape Cod and then go back to Long Island to do a little more work.

Long Island even in the short time I 've been here has been a hoot......starving....I found a diner....just a few blocks from my hotel.....the Plainview Diner (and it was a diner and it did have a plain view)…. My first reaction when I saw the place was….Am I in a time warp? My waitress was like a character out of a sitcom……late 50's.... layers of dark foundation make-up …..support hose with white scrunch stockings …. brilliant white tennis shoes....short short skirt....and an open blouse showing a wrinkly cleavage. And talk about hair extensions!.......As if several ferrets had nested in her hair! ..plus gummy black false eyelashes ...massive eyeliner....and the best part....a huge rhinestone necklace on her neck. She called me....what else?..."Honey"

Perhaps on Long Island....people are all a bit deaf....or the volume you talk at is naturally set high because I could follow one of several stories..There were the Hispanic women who complained about not having their Xmas decorations up....the two Jewish guys who discussed how much salt was in each of the specialties ...but the best story was coming from behind me from people short enough not to be seen over the booth but certainly long on volume....Claire who had been married forever to a good for nothing drunk....finally was getting a divorce.....he was not only a good for nothing drunk....but a mean one..and now he started gambling and Claire had it....just had it ...because the bills were piling up and he didn't care...and so after 28 years of marriage she was telling him to hit the road....and she was starting over......Thank god she still had a good job with some retirement benefits.cause you know some women aren't that lucky. By the time my coffee arrived, I was ready to cheer for Claire and hoped she got a damn good divorce lawyer.
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I also managed to hit a grocery store.....the Fairway.....an old store in an old shopping center a 5 minutes drive from my hotel..I walked in and was stunned....... even for a person who doesn't cook I realized I had hit the promised land....everything you can imagine was there and piled high on extra tall shopping shelves.so everything could be squeezed in.....Himalayan cherries? No problem..Cheese Blintzs?....No problem.....stacks of cheese from around the world?....how high do you want them stacked?.....and not bowls or trays but buckets of olives.....I mean like 20 gallon buckets…..they should have security cameras there…because it took real will power not to snatch one….Italian food….Jewish food….healthy food….very unhealthy food….and mounds of produce….Pineapples stacked a couple feet high…..

They had a cafĂ© and good thing it wasn't busy because it took me a long time to decipher the menu….there were so many additions and substitutions…cole slaw ..potato salad green been salad…green salad…..poppy seed buns…soft buns….Kaiser rolls…rolls with rosemary….rolls with kosher salt…..I was getting woozy…and hadn't even decided on the filling…….the lady next to me ordered a scrumptious looking roast beef sandwich….I pointed at it and asked her what it was…..

"A sandwich," she said seriously….and didn't say another word….

I had to bite my lip so I wouldn't laugh…..

I guess I don't look like I'm from Long Island…..