Posted by: patriciamar | February 25, 2018

Library books as a competitive sport

Approximately every two years, everything changes and instead of measuring life in hours and days and classes– or even the commonly utilized checklist– everything becomes very simple and clear.




There are but three levels, and if you don’t place, no one remember you.


If I need to grade papers, I grade them in competition with myself.  Ten in a row will get me a bronze; 15, a silver, and 18–the whole bloody stack–I get the gold.

When I cook dinner, I plan my diet like a competitive athlete.  Am I getting the nutrients that I need?  I weigh out the carbohydrates, thinking of the individual event (work), the team event (meetings) and the weekend finals (beer and biking biathlon).  Hydrate.  Hydrate.

I take my reading to the next level.  As is the norm, I read library books like it’s a competitive sport.  For the last 15 days, I have been an Olympic readathonlete, working hard to earn my place on the podium.  I have only fifteen days to read all of the library books that are due on Monday the 26th day of February.  

It’s going to be a challenge.

This is all really based on terrible habits.  I check out too many books and then renew them the maximum number of times, all while reading The Economist and Harry Potter on my Kindle.  Then, at the critical moment, when all due dates are gliding down an icy path at a critical speed (sounds familiar, right?) toward the same end, I finally crack them open and start to read.

During this particular winter Olympics, I have seven library books due: 4 physical books, 2 audiobooks, and 1 ebook.  It’s a disaster.  All my training, four years of checking out Yolo County Library Books, and I’m in the tightest competition that I have ever taken part in.

I had some foul-ups early on–eating too much hotpot for Chinese New Year stole precious hours.  Why did I get the spicy?

I finish one book and take a short bike ride to return it.  Yes, I could return them all at once, but where’s the procrastination in that?

Back to the books.  

I cannot let up.

I read during commercials, (Minnesota U.S. women’s hockey wins the gold!  Now the gold medal curling match!), I read in the morning before work and during my lunch break.  At night, I stay up late putting in the extra hours, Mike Tirico chatting happily from the lodge in the background.  I pause to spend brief moments missing Bob Costas.  It was the end of an era. The audiobooks and ebooks really hold me accountable.  There is no such thing as keeping them past the due date; they simply disappear.

I return another, and the worst happens–an audiobook disappears before I can finish the last chapter.  I finish another, so as not to let the same mistake happen again.  I’m no Tessa Virtue.  There is no Scott Moir there to catch me midair.  I finish an audiobook, glad to feel the weight lifted from my shoulders.  My annual Goodreads goal is looking good.  

I admit, a few of the characters and plot twists are mixing.  Why did Bronwyn not reveal her secret?  Did Miss Peregrine prohibit it?  Wait, no, that’s Branwen, not Bronwyn.  

And why does Terry keep wishing Tara happy anniversary?  That doesn’t even make sense.

Today is the day.  The closing ceremony is upon us, and I have my last ebook expiring tomorrow evening.  It’s beautiful writing, and you know what that means for a #writer.  I flit back and forth from “You Don’t Have to Say You Love Me” to the computer, typing ideas and notes and quotes.  I don’t know if I’m going to make it.  I also have one paperback to finish.  

This puts me in medal position if I finish ONE of the two.  I cannot win the gold.  That first audiobook expired.  I will never find out Which One of them is Lying.

(until I make it back up to the top of the waitlist, that is)   The gold is impossible, but I will work for Bronze, and maybe Silver.  Sleep is for the readless.  

Posted by: patriciamar | November 26, 2017

Tennis the Band at The Fillmore and soon, at Harlow’s

This weekend I got to see Tennis the band play at The Fillmore in San Francisco.  The venue is great, and I will definitely be looking for more shows there in the future.  The upstairs Poster Room is cool, and of course they sent me home with a Tennis poster.

The show was opened by The Wild Ones (Portland, OR), who were great! The lead singer had a cute haircut that was made for her style of dancing, and she was truly stoked to be playing at The Fillmore (The Fillmore being a legendary San Francisco venue–more on this later). I also loved how she wore a hood for the last few songs. It made me smile.  

Tennis (the band) (I feel like I have to say this every time: Tennis, the band) is led by a couple (Alaina Moore and Patrick Riley), vocals and guitar. The chemistry on stage was possibly the most interesting part of the show, though Alaina’s hair was a close second.  People loved when she danced and her hair moved.  It seriously had its own cheering section!  It is a pretty impressive head of curls.   

I am not sure why so many people were thrilled to see the bobbing curls, and likewise, I’m not sure why it was so intriguing to watch a real couple on the stage together. It’s not like a band has never before produced a leading couple.  It could have been the fact that they had been together for more than a decade, or that the girl behind me knew them growing up and talked about how close they were as a couple. Her example was that they shared a cellphone (We did this when we had no money as well). Perhaps all the terrible things that you hear on the news about men and sexual harassment have made me think about relationships in a deeper way. Perhaps her hair was curly and his was straight and I was watching opposites attract in person.  I don’t know.

The chemistry that they had on the stage wasn’t hot.  It was… supportive.  It was endearing.  I liked the music more for it.

At the beginning of the show, Alaina seemed a little standoffish to me.  She said nothing the first three songs, I think.  It was really surprising, since usually there’s something from the lead singer after the first song or at least the second.  

When she finally spoke, she gushed.  She was so thrilled that they were playing for a sold-out show (!) at The Fillmore in San Francisco that she didn’t have the words to speak.  My initial thoughts about her attitude were swept away.

Later in the show they played, “My Emotions are Blinding,” and explained that it was a song that she wrote to her emotions, after suffering from anxiety and panic attacks for a long time. Everything was making sense now. I can’t imagine being on stage singing in front of any number of people, and the anxiety that I’ve suffered in the past was little more than a reaction to an ACL tear and a slightly above average amount of claustrophobia.  I can’t imagine what it is like for her.  

I love music in a very real way.  The idea that a song can make me break into a smile or dance or even sing randomly and unexpectedly in public is a very real thing.  Tears too, of course.  When a show is really good, I eventually cry, often for the entire second half.  It just happens.  As soon as I met the real Alaina, this  moment happened for me there at The Fillmore.  

After the band left the stage, they came back for a couple more.  

And to end the night, the adorable two played the last song on the stage alone, just the two of them singing bad girls.

Bad girls.*

It was very beautiful.   

*See my earlier comment on reading the news.

And then the concert ended and I was left standing there, alone, with the plastic cups all over the floor around me. How can people recover that quickly from the experience of music?  Perhaps it takes me longer to right myself after an emotional shift.  I suppose the tears need to dry as well.

I hope I’m not wrong about the lovely love that Alaina & Patrick have.  I have been wrong before.  Music has a bit of trickery up its sleeve when it comes to love.  When I saw Fleetwood Mac in 2013, I thought Stevie and Lindsey were still in love, after all.

Tennis is playing in Sacramento tomorrow, Monday, November 27 at 8 p.m. at Harlow’s.  Tickets are $15.  Check it out.

Posted by: patriciamar | November 20, 2017

A short, short story about the minds of #Readers and #Artists

Two strangers sit silently on a park bench. One is engrossed in a book, the other is sketching–drawing the scene in front of them. There is a couple on a blanket and a man walking his great dane. Two friends play chess on a picnic table and some bros barbeque.  There is also a man feeding a group of quacking ducks.  In real life,  it’s a lovely fall scene,  except on the sketchpad, everyone is naked.  The artist is smiling.
After a few minutes the reader slams the book shut and exclaims delightedly, “Oh! I can’t believe it!” then shoves the book roughly into a bag and walks away in a state.
The artist continues to sketch, undisturbed.
#nanowrimo inspired
Posted by: patriciamar | October 14, 2017

Taiwan: Time in Taipei & Taichung

In Taiwan I learned about generosity.  I have taught a pretty good number of students, even in my relatively brief (so far) teaching career of seven years.  In Taiwan, I got to see five of my previous students.  In Korea I got to see nearly a dozen, and in China I saw almost twenty.  When you teach English, you act as a linguistic and cultural guide, whether you do it consciously or not.  Students see your city, you recommend the sights, you teach them the words to say your favorite foods (double double animal style!) and you use examples that demonstrate how you grew up in this culture and country.  

Flipping that classroom and travelling to spend a few days in their territory is an absolute treat.  

In the three days that I spent in Taiwan, I was taken care of in such a way that this time will always be remembered like a family vacation.  I was never alone, I saw unbelievable sights, and I was constantly sharing laughter, memories, dreams and goals, and of course so- much- street- food!  

It took me days to recover from the amount of fried chicken, octopus balls, glazed strawberries, tea, boba, goosefat with rice (Yeah, huh?), grilled stinky tofu, pomelo, mooncakes, suncakes, pineapple cake, white pepper snails, cold and hot mochi, sweet potato doughnuts, freshly wrapped and cooked spring rolls, Asian sausage, wild boar sausage, wax apples, fish balls, egg and oyster pancakes and red bean paste smoosh that I ate.  

I feel like I forgot something.  Ha!

I had a lot of favorites, but the glazed strawberries were amazing, as were the octopus balls and the grilled stinky tofu with crushed peanut.  Asian sausage was very strange but also delicious.  It is a sausage in a “bun” of rice sausage.  It’s hard to describe, but the flavor and texture was great!  I love snails, too.

From Taichung, I went to Sun Moon lake, which I’ve been dreaming of doing.  My friend and I drove around the lake at dusk, and then continued around the south side back toward Taichung through a thunderstorm that made the trip all the more exciting.

In Taipei, I travelled to the coast with another friend, where I drank a can of Taiwan’s finest while dripping sweat onto the beautiful sculptures of wind and water eroded sandstone that decorate the coast.  I think it was 11 a.m.  I was too sweaty to understand time.

We also visited a little town on the tracks near Pingxi, best known for its sky lantern festival.  I got to do the whole shebang, choosing a lantern by the colors, hoping for happiness or love or health or wealth.  I took the lantern into the little store, and it was hung in a spot where I could paint or write all my wishes and dreams.

In words.

(or pictures)

At just a moment’s notice.

I’m not sure I’ve ever been asked to write all my wishes and dreams down, on command.  I began, and wrote a few words and thoughts.  However, I hadn’t put enough, so I was sent back to my lantern immediately.  More!  More!  Fill it up!  Everything that you could ever want!  It made me laugh and think more deeply.  Is it possible to write all that you could ever want onto a tissue paper lantern?

I gave it my best shot.  Now, three weeks later, I guarantee that a few of my line items are still floating around in my head.  What do I want most out of my life?

Then I took my lantern outside to the train tracks running through the green valley.  My friend helped me hold my lantern up, the flame was lit, and it floated up into the sky, soon to ignite in flames with my dreams.

What I will remember most from Taiwan is a feeling (and not just feeling full).  I will remember how kind and friendly the people were and how generous and welcoming my students were.  I had a wonderful time and I can’t wait to get back to circle the island on my bike!

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Taiwan  –  September 18-21, 2017  –   Taipei and Taichung


Posted by: patriciamar | October 13, 2017

Korea Part 2 → Busan

Busan freaked me out and then sucked me in.  It’s the type of beachside spot that someone apparently called Thailand in the front, Afghanistan in the back.  I’m not sure why this is… I think I’m missing an integral part of the joke.

I took the KTX train from Seoul, which cost about $50 for economy class.  The train was full, almost every seat in the car was filled the whole 2 ½ hours. It was a Sunday afternoon, so I’m not sure if that mattered or increased the number of travellers. The train ride to Busan was a run through beautiful deep green-blue hills, then slipping through constant tunnels.  There are so many train tunnels in Korea.  They clearly did the math and found that going through the hill was faster and more economical than building tracks over or around them.  The ride was fast, something like 300 km/h and comfortable, with constant wifi.

There were many trains going from Seoul to Busan each hour, some fast and some Mugunghwa, which must be the Korean way of saying stoptrein.  I went to get a ticket for the next train about 15 minutes ahead of time, and was informed that economy class was fully booked.  I got a ticket for the train after that, which was only another half hour wait.  It was interesting to find how busy the KTX Busan trains were.

I’m not sure that there was a cafe car. What I found was a hot/cold vending machine that looked antique. I think it worked. Dunno.  

In Busan, I was greeted by a rainbow and a view of a bridge that I cannot for the life of me find an English name for.  Still, the rainbow was a welcome smile to the area after splitting off from Matt in Seoul to continue my journey solo.  I got a coffee, went out to admire the view and spilled a lot of hot coffee down my legs almost immediately.  At least I had a sip left.  Plus, I was outside, so it wasn’t too big of a deal.  Some children laughed at me.

After circling the train station about 4 times, I found signs for the metro. I could take a bus to my hotel in Songjeong, but I was sure I could also take the metro. I just couldn’t find it.

And then I did!  It isn’t in the train station.  You have to leave the station, heading away from the tracks, and you’ll soon find a stream of people heading in one direction–that’s it!  

The metro was gloriously simple.  The signs, the tickets, the machines, the trains, everything was exactly the same as it was in Seoul.  I relaxed.  

Finding the Haeundae Line was tricky, particularly because of the current state of construction at the Haeundae station.  It’s a pretty modern and classy spot, actually.  But again, I found it!  I followed a very old man and a college girl.  Together we made our way through the mud from the freshly finished afternoon rain.  

Thanks to numerous screenshots and the constant free wifi of Korea, I easily found my sex hotel.  

Yup.  I had booked myself some type of love hotel for couples, right in the heart of the motel district.  This means something.  You can figure out for yourself what that is.  

The lights were red.

There were mirrors everywhere.

The jacuzzi tub was awesome and big enough for two.

There were condoms and tissues by the bedside.

In my welcome pouch (fairly typical for a Korean hotel), there was a toothbrush, razor, toothpaste, lube, douche… hahaha and something liquidy for a man that I’m going to bring back and gift to someone.  I’m sure they will be unsuspecting.

The hotel was great in the end, but for the first few minutes, I was so embarrassed that I could hardly make myself leave and find Songjeong Beach.

Ahhh, the beach.  This particular Korean beach is mild, with surfers, children playing, and windsurfers in the afternoon.  There’s a beautiful breeze that cools the beach and the coast well, so at 27℃, it was an idyllic day.  The water was warm and at least where I was at, there was hardly any undertow or strong current.  I could sit on the smooth sand in about two feet of water and let the incoming waves rock me back and forth.  

The waves looked nice for baby surfing.  There were many surfers–dozens- maybe 40 or 50, but for most of the time, they were gliding around without paying much attention to the idea of getting up on a wave.

When I finally made my way out of my seductionist hotel, I went on a big search for food and a beer.  To my great surprise, on this evening just after dark, I found a little streetside trailer that sold coffee and toast.  

And another that sold coffee and toast.  And another that sold…. coffee and toast.  There were no fewer than 12 of these little trailers. They sold coffee drinks, hot and cold, and breakfast sammies in a cup, basically.  

The one I got was cheese, ham and egg, cut in half, then each half folded in half and shoved in a small paper cup with a 4” wooden skewer shoved through them. Clearly this was a thing.

For a few minutes there on the beach eating my toast, I thought I might be in Ocean Beach, California and not Korea.  For a one-night stop, it was a relaxing beach moment on a long trip.  And like Ocean Beach, Busan is the type of place you might visit and never leave.  Maybe next year I’ll try again.

Busan, Korea  –  September 10-11, 2017



Posted by: patriciamar | May 10, 2017

Tea Time Poetry #3

Bicycles racing

hot sun shining

down the purple

street fair with

baubles and taco trucks

peddling hot sauce

to children sliding

down a sliding slide

of silver stars

burning through the

atmosphere of hot

sauce after a long

day of bicycle riding.


Posted by: patriciamar | May 1, 2017

Tea Time Poetry #2

tea time poetry 2

Art on Storybird by Cat-alogue.

Posted by: patriciamar | April 15, 2017

Tea Time Poetry #1

tea time poetry 1

Posted by: patriciamar | April 8, 2017

Regina’s songs & a good soaking

Tonight my list of top concerts may have been reshuffled. Until this moment, the best concerts of my lifetime included Fleetwood Mac (with Stevie, Lindsay and Mick, but no Christine), Tony Bennett at the Mondavi Center, and Sheryl Crow at a county fair in South Dakota. This evening I spent two hours with Regina Spektor at the Greek Theater, on the UC Berkeley campus, and I can tell you that she is just as lovely and wonderful and heartwarming as I thought she would be.

I cried for almost half the concert.


She came on stage–it wasn’t really raining at that point, and she waved, and then I started to cry. She was exactly how I had pictured her, and I had been looking forward to this concert for sooooo loooooong. She is nice and so darling and sweet, and her hair is a little wild, and she said thank you every time someone yelled something from the audience, which was a frequent.

She played “On the Radio,” “Après Moi” and “Older and Taller” and “Blue Lips.” She played old songs and new songs and she even played Leonard Cohen’s “Chelsea Hotel,” which was a wonderful comparison to her own, “Grand Hotel.” I do love swanky old hotel stories.

The seats at the Greek were pretty full, despite the dire prospects of rain, which proved true even after Regina thanked nature for holding off. Ha.

I cried again when she talked about immigrating to the U.S. as a child. I forgot that she came as a refugee. Of course, she hopes the next generation will welcome a few more children like her. I hope so too.

It started to rain at some point, and I added almost all of my layers, fairly happy that I had gone with the biking rain jacket rather than a light rain jacket.

The rain got worse, but no worries! It fueled the crowd. Regina kept apologizing and we kept cheering. At one point she dumped a bottle of water on her head, out of solidarity.

On the Greek Theater site, they suggest waterproof shoes. I didn’t understand at the time how it could get that bad, but now I understand.

When she played “Bleeding Heart” the rain was dumping down so furiously that I wondered if they were actually collaborating. (She and the rain, that is.) The woman next to me on the lawn stood up and I saw that her entire backside was soaked, ribcage to kneepits. The plastic blanket she was sitting on had been creating a fantastic effect that ensured that all the rainwater streaming down the hill pooled right around her buttocks. Poor thing.

At “Small Bill$,” it was pouring so heavily that I could feel the rain running through the side zippers on my ski pants. Yes, I was wearing ski pants* and the water was streaming off of my rain jacket and back onto my legs as I hugged my knees in a tiny please don’t destroy me Berkeley weather ball on the ground on the lawn in general admission seating. I’m telling you, this concert was amazing.

*as well as jeans, tall socks, a tank top, t-shirt, sweater, sweatshirt, biking rain jacket, three scarves, glittens and a stocking cap.

And the rain kept coming down, and Regina kept mopping off her Steinway and warming her hands on one of those ridiculously weak fans with the heater glowing in the middle.

I think it was also at this point that I realized that my hands were cold too. I took off my glittens and wrung them out.

About a quarter cup of water came out. Really. I decided not to put them back on.

Regina kept apologizing and asking us if we were ok, and we kept cheering, a little maniacally, if you ask me–part cheerful enthusiasm, part laughter, part tears.

Suddenly, at the end of a song, she was basically rushed off the stage. She returned for a second to tell us that for safety reasons, they needed to stop playing for ten minutes.

We were doomed.

People starting flooding out, but I didn’t disagree. It was the obvious choice. She’d played for aaaalmost two hours. I stood still and waited, hoping for one more.

Sure enough! Even though they had covered everything with the plastic sheets, after just a few minutes, she came back out to the mic for one more.

“Samson,” of course. Then she said we were best rain friends.

It will make my top 3 for sure, and I think #2. I might keep Stevie at #1 until I get the chance to see Joni Mitchell or Billy Joel. What an insane concert experience. If I could do it all again tomorrow, I would.
Without question.





(Other songs played included “Sailor Song,” “Silly Eye Color Generalizations,” “Eet,” “The Trapper and the Furrier,” among others) Ones that I was hoping for but didn’t hear (it’s ok) included “Fidelity,” “Us” and “Laughing with.”


Thanks, Regina. I had a lovely evening.

Posted by: patriciamar | March 1, 2017

A new Storybird Challenge!

This month the Storybird Challenge was to write a tale of star-crossed lovers.  I finished up just in time for March to begin, and here it is, a piece entitled, “So Very Cross.”

Unfortunately, the challenge ended February 23.  Oh, well.  Apparently I can only work on a month by month writing schedule.

The challenge was extra special this month because my Writing Laboratory class did it along with me!  I read some amazing stories from some amazing international students.

I can’t wait to see where these students will go in the future!



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