Maybe old buildings are in my blood. For forty years, my dad worked as a draftsman and designer for structural engineering firms, drawing up plans by hand. On trips into Cleveland for the art museum or bagels, Dad would point out the buildings he’d had a hand in. His job: ensuring they would stay standing.
So, it feels like a personal affront to watch buildings–especially beautiful historic places–go to ruin, abandoned.
I’ve talked on the blog before about “Ruin Porn,” a type of photography that glorifies falling-down structures, often in post-industrial places, like my native Cleveland. I’ve said before, that to me Ruin Porn looks like the American Dream on its knees with no dreamer in the scene. (I wrote a three-part essay you can read here, here, and here.) So, what do we do? How to salvage falling-down places?
I’m re-posting this review-lite of David Giffels’s first memoir, _All the Way Home: Building a Family in a Falling-Down House_ in response to a writing prompt–Dream House–over at Lorna’s site, Gin & Lemonade. As my house is still recovering (slowly) from the excitement of a burst pipe, I thought a bit of house reno humor was in order. To respond to Lorna’s prompt, yourself, go here: https://ginlemonade.com/2019/02/13/house-hunting-as-a-wheelchair-user-other-stories/ Happy Friday! ~ Rebecca
I was sixteen before I knew a dad who didn’t drive a pickup truck.
Of course, this speaks as much to my limited teenage powers of observation as it does to my rural Ohio upbringing. Still…
My dad’s life was–and is–in his truck. A dad without a truck? How else would one: haul his 84 Lumber finds to turn the attic into proper living quarters; bring home fresh-split logs–and the log-splitter–to stoke the wood stove in winter; tow a rotted shell of a boat to be restored from the ribs up–in the workshop designed and built yourself.
In my eyes, my dad was the original DIY-er, before that catchy name was put to skillful industriousness, craftsmanship, and thrift.
As such…reading award-winning Akron, Ohio, author David Giffels’ memoir All the Way Home: Building a Family in a Falling-Down House felt like going home. Cursory jacket copy summary:
Thanks to a couple of my favorite bloggers*, I’ve been thinking about the “side hustle” lately. Seems the popular term for side job has shifted from “gig” to “hustle,” and with it, comes a more pejorative connotation.
Let’s start here: once upon a time, when graduating with my MFA in Creative Writing, I learned of an opportunity to do part-time contract work in internal communications—for the credit card company headquartered nearby. Not for a hip advertising firm. Not even for a nonprofit with a compelling cause. Nope, this job would require clocking in and out for the Fortune 500 company sometimes referred to around town as “the devil.”
Internal communications for the devil meant digesting leadership meeting notes on risk management and summarizing and synthesizing said notes into digestible PowerPoint presentations. (Oh, the myriad PowerPoint presentations!) And then came the fun of organizing the presentation highlights into multi-colored graphs on oversized Excel spreadsheets that required a special printer. This job was the opposite of every vision I’d had of my post-school self, teaching creative this and creative that.
I’m feeling deep blog love on this Valentine’s Day. Really, I am. I only wish I had the time to devote to crafting a post about the many positive connections–and even a free book or two (now that’s love!)–I’ve made through this site. Work calls–and so I’m relying on the ol’ reblog. Happy Day, whatever kind of love you’re celebrating. More soon. ~Rebecca
Is it weird to mourn your mom on Valentine’s Day—with the holiday’s declarations of love, its overtures and SWAKs? This is love stuff, yes, but this is also word stuff.
In the dozen years since my mom left this life, I’ve become more fluent in the language of loss—and of life. Do not pity this post. I happily speak for me and her now, tell her stories to my kids who never knew her, keep her voice alive in mine.
This is mother-love, reborn, but it’s also language-love. Foreign at first and then familiar—even taken for granted—and all the more cherished when it’s gone.
Who among us writers doesn’t ascribe to “show don’t tell?” We illustrate and demonstrate; we craft a tactile scene. But let’s not forget to tell, while we have a voice to do it.
I submitted “Scooter Kid,” a story about conception (of a couple different kinds)–of creation, chaos, and control. (Spot the nod to Stockard Channing’s character in the 1993 movie, Six Degrees of Separation? Yeah, I’m still a little obsessed.)
Many thanks to Elizabeth Varel, Editor in Chief and Fiction Editor, and all the editors of Parhelion Literary Review for publishing my story in your lovely journal. Alongside my fiction, you’ll find a trove of thought-provoking prose, poetry, and art: right here.
Happy weekend. Happy reading. What’s on tap for you?
Thanks for stopping by!
*Seriously though, submitting to literary journals? Check those submissions guidelines.
I was weeping before 8:30 am. Not because of the cold and old pipes and our living room soaked, stripped, and drying now–like a child pulled from a furtive dip in the lake. No, I was weeping over a book about fathers and sons and the seasons of life–and wouldn’t you think my avid reader-cynicism could have borne me up better than that? Nope, there I was weeping, listening to the end of the story, as I trained my eyes on the winding roads that take me from my sons’ school to home and back, again and again.
Not a chance I could have held it together in the face of Marilynne Robinson’s Pulitzer Prize-winning novel Gilead, narrated by Tim Jerome of Broadway fame. From the cursory Goodreads summary: Gilead presents an “intimate tale of three generations from the Civil War to the twentieth century: a story about fathers and sons and the spiritual battles that still rage at America’s heart.”
I will admit right here that it took me this long to read anything by the matriarch of the Midwestern religious novel, and I’ll tell you why. I thought it would be not just “churchy”–an attribute Robinson has said did not define her background–but preachy. After reading (and weeping), I’d define the novel as “teachy” maybe, but only in the best way–as the narrative is presented as a sort of last will and testament from an elderly father, the Reverend John Ames, to the seven-year-old son he won’t get to see grow up. In short, it’s a quiet wonder of a book.