• Wayfinder's Quest Post #103: Cover ID, secret mission, and a hanging

    Are these somehow the folks I'm writing for? 

    Coincidences (aka signs of Forming)

    I may need to rethink my assignment of chandelier to the role of hot-track signifier. Either that, or I'm really on the right track a lot. Last week at two airports I saw chandeliers made of wine glasses, though rendered in an unfortunately corporate manner. I might try something similar, perhaps with mismatched Goodwill coupes.

    What is this Wayfinding?

    It's a search for something more compelling than chocolate, more satisfying than sausage, and at least as delicious as pizza.

    Clearly, we are talking about magic.

    (Oh, DIY wineglass chandeliers? Turns out this is a thing.)

    And there was a weird and funny convergence of George Benson. The second instance turned up shortly after the first, in a pile of SuperG's memorabilia. Now I am hankering to hear George Benson #didntseethatcoming

    And yet more Bill Withers, who must be having a confirmed Moment, since he is appearing in Trader Joe's, fine dining establishments, and current detective novels.

    Finally, freaky story.

    (You keep saying you like stories. I only have freaky ones, so here it is.)

    I was in San Diego last week for a Martha Beck coaches' conference, where I did a writers' workshop with kickass writer Pam "Body of Work" Slim and fancy New York editor Betsy "I Work Blue" Rapoport. The workshop was called "How to Sit Your Ass Down (in a Loving Way) and Write, or Why God Made Vodka." See the work theme? These ladies are legit, and very practical. Usually.

    But in this workshop Pam and Bets had us do a visualization, for the purpose of "seeing" our readers.

    We relaxed and closed our eyes. Betsy directed us to see ourselves in a meadow, and guided us to a wooden stage, which we were to mount, while our audience, our readers, our peeps, were to approach, so we could get a good look at them.

    Only what I mounted was not so much a stage as a gallows. Gah! I was surprised but chose not to force anything different. I just let the images unfold, and then some Puritans approached. Grimly, as I guess may have been their usual way. They weren't coming to gloat at my hanging. I got the sense they were there out of duty.

    So, dear Lord, these are my people? The reason I write?! Puritans, you may know, are the folk Alan Cumming describes as having left England because it wasn't puritanical enough for them. Augh.

    When I told the group what I'd seen, Betsy said, I'm happy to be wrong, but I don't think it's your own hanging. I have a sense you're there to stand between the hangman and your people. That's your work, why you write.

    Hmmm. Maybe. You can let me know if that's what you think. I was still unnerved.

    The very next workshop I went to was led by Miss Susan Hyatt. Also on the topic of writing. The purpose here was to find out what stops us writing honestly. And if you know Susan Hyatt, you know that you cannot answer any of her questions with "I don't know." She is not buying it.

    I already knew that about her, so I skipped the pretending and quickly found what stops me. And that is my investment in trying to look normal.

    This may not be obvious to you, since, well, since I'm clearly not "normal." But the truth is that a lot of that not-normal, while it isn't affected, is on show in order to throw you off the scent of what it hides, the far less normal, much more crazy baroque fucked-up life circumstances and backstory. (More about that another time.)

    Which I was in the process of admitting, out loud, at the front of the room, to Susan and the whole group, when Susan got herself even closer to me, and gently began disrobing me unwinding the scarf from around my neck. She said something like - Lord knows my thinking brain had gone dark so I don't remember much of what happened next - something like, in her gentlest Southern way, I just felt I wanted to free you up more.

    Get the noose from around my neck, maybe? I have witnessed Miss Susan Hyatt perform straight up miracles of healing, so I just let her do what she felt.

    So I was telling my Martha Beck friend Áine about this, and she said, Max! It's obvious. You were hanged in a previous life, probably for writing and speaking unpopular things.

    And I immediately got the feeling I get whenever I'm in the presence of what feels like truth, no matter how unpalatable: Relief. My shoulders dropped, and I just relaxed. Deeply.

    And who knows? The old timers say we've lived millions and millions of times. Every sentient being has been our mother. There is no human experience we've avoided. We truly have done it all. So maybe each one of us reading this has been hanged for saying something unpopular. And maybe this is my dangerous writing for the day: Admitting that I heard the ring of truth about another lifetime, even though I "don't believe in reincarnation."

    I do know I was 50 years old before I could bear having a scarf around my neck.


    I have a friend - I'll call her Chesca because I'm not sure she's legal - who runs a little popup restaurant in her house. I went once and it was great fun. (Haven't been able to get back because she can only seat a dozen, and those seats are always gone in five minutes.)

    Anyway, I'm thinking of taking a leaf out of Chesca's book. I can only do eight or 10, really. But I've got all this china, I do all this cooking, I love putting together menus - and people! - and I want to do more.

    Of course, I'll need a working dishwasher for that. And possibly more kitchen ventilation.

    Help me think of a name? Pop your suggestions into the comments. And let me know if you want to come for dinner!

    Updates on past experiments

    Some of you may know that I've been going to Portland (Oregon) a few times a year for Havi Brooks's Rallies. A Rally is like a magical vortex of superpowered Getting Shit Done (ie, writing) in the most delicious possible way, and when Havi offered unlimited Rallies for the price of one or two this year, I jumped on them.

    Except, you do have to get all the way to Portland (Oregon). And this month, I was in need of a writing retreat, STAT. So I decided to book myself a couple days in Portland, Maine to woodshed on a project, and take as much Rally with me as possible.

    I gave myself a cover ID and a mission: Annhenry Jones, restaurant consultant, in Portland scouting china patterns for a client putting together a place in Edmonton. See what I did there? Gave myself a great excuse to eat out.

    (Fun fact: While on my Rally, I had dinner at Hugo's, where the china was collected from antiques shops. Only, you know, service for 120. Glorious. My third (of seven) course came on one of those plates whose pattern rewards you for eating everything: A central medallion of a Chinese pheasant pair. I love that kind of surprise - something to delight over even after the food is gone.)

    And I loved going solo. It just makes me feel so adult - getting on a train and going on a solo mission. I spend a fair bit of time alone, and I travel alone many times a year, but when you're married, it still feels ballsy and sovereign and grownup every time I set out alone.

    So how bout that Frog Tornado? I believe its ferocity has died down. Mr Jones fixed the oven door, in a self-described "Hour of Phallic Triumph." I hail him, and I regret missing the event. I am sure we will tell this and other heroic tales around the campfire for weeks to come.

    In other Frog Tornado aftermath, my dental insurance first approved, then denied my claim for an implant. People, I have me a big smile. It is not a dainty little cupidlike PeeWee Herman smile. It's a bigass Cameron Diaz / Julia Roberts size smile, and I cannot go around with a hole in the front of my mouth.

    This morning my dentist called to say that insurance will cover the implant after all, because she called them and said Lookit! This is just obviousAnd they agreed.

    "Obvious." I love that. Thank you, Dr Mardis! I knew you were the dentist for me.

    Destination: Date night

    What has happened? Had a lovely dinner at Sarma with L and G and SuperG. Lots of small plates, Middle Eastern and beyond. I had a dish of Brussels sprouts and migas and some kind of crema that I can see going to great lengths to recreate. If I succeed, I will post the recipe here. Or, hey! If by coincidence, since that is what we are all about, you already have the recipe, do please share.

    1. Area Four
    2. Asta
    3. Belly Wine Bar
    4. Bondir
    5. Brick & Mortar. I want to go here every week.
    6. Brine
    7. Clio
    8. Coppa
    9. L'Espalier
    10. Myers & Chang
    11. No. 9 Park
    12. O-Ya
    13. Ribelle
    14. Sarma
    15. Scampo
    16. Shojo
    17. Strip-T's
    18. Toro
    19. Trade
    20. West Bridge

    That should keep us busy for a while, but please feel free to suggest additions.

    I love comments

    Go ahead and add one, if you are conducting your own Wayfinding experiments and want to report in, or want to suggest a name for my popup, or just want to say Hi.

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    Here, this bowl will make you feel like a princess

Stop bingeing and overeating. Immediately.

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