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08 October 2008 @ 06:05 am
Stories for 50  
This is what I turned today, and for the first birthday ever I have a touch of the blues. I'm cheering myself up by telling stories about myself.

Here's one: when I was two we moved to West Vancouver and rented a house at the edge of the woods. The instant my mother wasn't watching me, I'd take off into the woods, following the dog from next door. My mother quickly learned that calling me to come home didn't work--she had to call the dog, and I'd follow it home.

A neighbour reported seeing me and the dog once along the Upper Levels Highway (poor mom).

I still love walking in the woods, and rarely come when called.

True story.

Sometimes I wish someone reliable would tuck me into bed and tell me the story of my life." (William S. Wilson, Birthplace, as quoted in my second book of poems, Spells for Clear Vision)

Feel free to tell me a story about myself. It doesn't have to be true.
Vylar Kaftanvylar_kaftan on October 8th, 2008 01:41 pm (UTC)
This one time, at Clarion West camp, you had a student who was overwhelmed with exhaustion, stress, homesickness, and financial worry. You treated her to delicious Thai food for lunch and listened to her problems. This simple action helped the student feel loved and appreciated, and got her through the rest of the workshop. She has never forgotten this kindness.
Neile Grahamneile on October 9th, 2008 11:17 pm (UTC)
And she has repaid any kindness I offered many, many times.

Thank you, Vy!
morgan_x on October 8th, 2008 02:06 pm (UTC)
Happy birthday, Neile!

"A year or two ago, a Clarion alum's wife had the distinct pleasure of breakfast with Neile and Leslie at Las Manitas, and she has been looking forward to seeing them again ever since."
Neile Grahamneile on October 9th, 2008 11:18 pm (UTC)
Yes, please hurry, finish that dissertation, and move here!
meredithsmoemeth on October 8th, 2008 02:13 pm (UTC)
Happy birthday, Neile!! May you have 50 more. :)

You = music in my mind. And that's not a bad thing at all.
Neile Grahamneile on October 9th, 2008 11:28 pm (UTC)
Sounds good to me! Thanks, Meth!
Maura McHugh: cake with candlesplinister on October 8th, 2008 02:15 pm (UTC)
Happy Birthday Neile!

I walk in the woods almost every day with our dog. For me it has become an important creative touchstone.
Neile Grahamneile on October 9th, 2008 11:29 pm (UTC)

I wish my cats were up for that and that the woods were closer to where I live right now. Still, a short drive and I can have ocean and beach. I don't make that drive nearly often enough.
Box of zombieskrisname on October 8th, 2008 02:46 pm (UTC)
This one time, at Clarion West camp, there was this mentally unstable woman who was going to take a hatchet and kill all her classmates in their sleep -- except for Eugene, who didn't ever sleep, so he was going to have to get while he was awake which would have not been good -- anyway this one time, you talked to her, and listened to her, and took away the hatchet, and that was really good because the blood would not have come out of that cream carpet, and the sorority girls would have been PISSED.

The end.

Edited at 2008-10-08 02:47 pm (UTC)
Cat Rambocatrambo on October 9th, 2008 08:22 pm (UTC)
Not ALL her classmates.
(no subject) - krisname on October 9th, 2008 09:46 pm (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - neile on October 9th, 2008 11:30 pm (UTC) (Expand)
E.C. Myers: Gir with piggyecmyers on October 8th, 2008 03:06 pm (UTC)
Aw, happy birthday! Remember that time you singlehandedly fought off the zombie hordes at the sorority house so we could keep writing? That was awesome.
Neile Grahamneile on October 9th, 2008 11:31 pm (UTC)
Who knew that the hordes were really there to make me their queen.

Alas for missed opportunities!
Kate Schaeferkate_schaefer on October 8th, 2008 03:45 pm (UTC)
Remember the time you had to drive a car filled with kitty-litter to try to get rid of the smell of the dead hedgehog in the engine compartment fifty miles out of your way in the pouring rain just to pick me up for a board meeting, and when we got there the door was locked and no one else showed up?


This is all true, except for the hedgehog (I don't remember what the true source of the smell was), the fifty miles (it was still out of your way), and the no one else showing up part (that was a different meeting, and I don't think you showed up for that one, either).

Happy birthday. I'm really enjoying my fifties, and I hope you enjoy yours.
Neile Grahamneile on October 9th, 2008 11:33 pm (UTC)

I think it was spilled chai but hedgehodge is definitely what it smelled like.

I think I'll start enjoying my fifties as soon as I complete some of the projects in hand. It feels like they've all been talking way too long.

Thanks for the good wishes!
Stephanie Burgis: cupcake!stephanieburgis on October 8th, 2008 03:52 pm (UTC)
Happy birthday!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! And I love your story - I am imagining all the adventures you and that dog must have gone on, and they make me happy. :)
Neile Grahamneile on October 9th, 2008 11:42 pm (UTC)
I wish I remembered any of them, but obviously it has contributed to my sense that the woods and rain define home, even though I was born on the prairies.

It has also made me incredibly sympathetic to my mother. It got to the point where when she needed to go to the bathroom she'd put me in the bathtub, so the time it took me to climb out would give her a fighting chance of catching me before I got out the front door.

And then there's the time there was a knock on the door with a policeman with me under one arm and my trike under the other...
Marguerite Croftalbionidaho on October 8th, 2008 05:06 pm (UTC)
I have to pick just one?

How about how you loved me and took care of me for an entire six weeks at Clarion West camp? How you took me home and let me play with your cats? How you drove me home from Greg Bear's house so I could listen to Joel and Chris play some great music? How you laughed with me and understood me. How your poetry inspired me when I was trying to write my own fiction.
Neile Grahamneile on October 9th, 2008 11:42 pm (UTC)

Oooh, thanks Maggie!
(Deleted comment)
Neile Grahamneile on October 9th, 2008 11:44 pm (UTC)
Oh, yes, the freaky car fire! It looked like someone was staging a scene from a movie.

It was a delight to see the evolution over the six weeks. I really miss you, too.

Thank you!
(Deleted comment)
Neile Grahamneile on October 9th, 2008 11:45 pm (UTC)
Yesterday's story included many wonderful messages from friends, which made my day, even if I was a little embarrassed that I had solicited them.
Rajanrajankhanna on October 8th, 2008 05:31 pm (UTC)
My favorite story is the one of you in your superhero costume, keeping the citizens of Clarion West safe. While you might not always have been visible, we'd catch a glimpse of your fluttering cape and know that you were nearby and waiting to step in should the need arise, and that was a comfort.

(And no way are you 50. That seems like science fiction to me.)
Neile Grahamneile on October 10th, 2008 02:06 pm (UTC)
If I'd remembered to leave my superhero costume out I wouldn't have been so astonished by turning 50--I would just have conquered it!

Thanks, Rajan.
(Anonymous) on October 8th, 2008 05:55 pm (UTC)
Beware of those Canadians...
Did you know that Neile is on a government watch list? It's true. It's claimed that she has been employing subversive tactics for years to bring Canadian social ideals to the US -- a place where she refuses to become a citizen. Clarion is just a cover. Those several weeks in the summer are nothing more than clandestine meetings with other Canadians who buy in to Neile's "agenda." Be careful as everything you say at 906 is monitored by the CIA and goes straight to W's ears. In fact, Neile was nearly scared back to Canada just a few years ago when a conservative watchdog group surreptitiously planted American flags all around her house. Fortunately, though, Neile paid no attention to this ridiculous act and she continues to carry on her fight to spread Canadianism south.
Neile Grahamneile on October 10th, 2008 02:07 pm (UTC)
Re: Beware of those Canadians...
Onward Canadian soldiers!
Caren Gussoffspitkitten on October 8th, 2008 06:25 pm (UTC)
Not a story, but some reasons Neile is way loved
Well, there are all the hugs. And that infectious laughter of yours. And how you somehow make everyone feel at ease, especially those of us that never quite feel at ease--especially at parties where we are really lacking in finesse. And how you move tables and chairs on your anniversary. And how you singlehandedly saved our cats' sanity with that kitty air-freshener you gave us. And how you've always been more than generous with a shoulder. And there's that strange reason you hide behind Leslie when people try and compliment you. And that hair I covet. And all those lunches we are going to have, dammit.
Happy birthday, Neile!
Neile Grahamneile on October 10th, 2008 02:09 pm (UTC)
Re: Not a story, but some reasons Neile is way loved

Many, many lunches!

I think it's very funny if I do manage to make people feel at ease at parties--maybe they see that if I'm so freaked out by parties there's someone more so than they are?

Thanks, Caren.
Ada Milenkovic Brown: Doc Brown of Back to the Futureaccordingto_ada on October 8th, 2008 07:27 pm (UTC)
Once upon a time when I was 50 YEARS OLD, I got a phone message after coming back home from my mom's funeral. The message was from a woman and she was calling from Seattle and she was saying something that sounded like her name was Neil and something about Clarion West, maybe that I got in. But I couldn't hear her very clearly and surely I wasn't hearing her name right because it sounded like the name Neil which I thought was a boy's name and so maybe I wasn't hearing right about getting in to the workshop either.

So I called her back and her name was Neile and I did get in and I was very happy even though it had been sad time for me. And then two months later, when I was over 50 YEARS OLD, I took the workshop and everyone except theclownhunt was younger than I was, including Neile, and some were way younger than I was, so now I am not at all impressed about someone being depressed at turning 50 YEARS OLD. Because it is not so bad being 50 YEARS OLD because if you are and you go to Clarion West then you might win the Older Writers Grant like theclownhunt or get Honorable Mention, which I owe to Neile and Leslie and Clarion West and my instructors and classmates.
Ada Milenkovic Brown: Piglet's present to Eeyoreaccordingto_ada on October 8th, 2008 07:38 pm (UTC)
Oh, and Happy Birthday!

Another favorite moment I remember at CW'05 was you and Michael Swanwick stalking each other with marshmallow blowguns. I treasure that image.
Neile Grahamneile on October 10th, 2008 02:16 pm (UTC)

Ha! The marshmallow blowguns!
(Anonymous) on October 8th, 2008 08:17 pm (UTC)
Happy Brithday, Neile.
Did you ever think we would get this old, when we met around 1992 or some year? Being in one's fifties is great! Welcome to the party (even though you don't like big parties -- this will be a small one).-- Pat Devine
Neile Grahamneile on October 10th, 2008 02:17 pm (UTC)
Re: Happy Brithday, Neile.

Thanks, Pat. No, when we met fifty seemed unimaginable! Remember, being over 30 meant you were a geezer then!
carolrylescarolryles on October 8th, 2008 11:50 pm (UTC)
50 is cool. It's the new 40!! And yours was the first American accent on my answering machine, which was the best voice I heard all year. Happy Birthday.
Neile Grahamneile on October 10th, 2008 03:05 pm (UTC)
Thanks, Carol!
Katherine Sparrowktsparrow on October 9th, 2008 12:42 am (UTC)
Happy Birthday! Virtual confetti and sparklers for you!

One Christmas I was down and out with the Christmas blues of divorced families and everyone trying so hard to have fun holidays and was anyone having fun? No they were not. Was everyone getting headaches and grinding their teeth? Well, I was.

Then the postman brought something in the mail. It wasn't big, it wasn't heavy. In fact, it was a poem. A lovely poem with beautiful words and phrases. It went up on the fridge and way outlasted any damn Christmas tree. And I loved it.

Who wrote it? You did, of course.
Neile Grahamneile on October 10th, 2008 04:56 pm (UTC)
Thank you, thank you, Katie!
Chris Furst: detective clowntheclownhunt on October 9th, 2008 01:21 am (UTC)
Happy Birthday, Neile!

I remember that time on the ferry to Seattle when you brandished the vorpal swords and chanted Cthulu back to the depths of R'lyeh and didn't break a sweat. And I remember the beauty of the weapons.

But mostly I remember your incantations.

Neile Grahamneile on October 10th, 2008 04:56 pm (UTC)
Ha! The beauty of the weapons. I remember that conversation well.
(no subject) - neile on October 10th, 2008 04:57 pm (UTC) (Expand)
shanusmagnus on October 9th, 2008 03:43 am (UTC)
Birthday story
I got to Seattle a day before the sorority house was ready. It was Neile's anniversary - well, the next day was, technically, but nevermind - and Neile and her husband had anniversary plans, which probably had not included sitting in her living room chatting with some dodgy stranger, but they re-routed them to include that. So my first face in Seattle was Neile's, and my first conversation was about was about books and presses and all things literary, and my first bed was in her study, where I also swiped the episodes of Dr. Who that I had not yet seen. But this isn't the story.

The story is the next day, when N. and her husband were gone; perhaps picking up Eden, though maybe that was later. In any case I was alone in the apartment with the cats. One of the cats would run like mad whenever I was in its line of view, which is not how I'm accustomed to being treated, but whatever.

At one point I had to go out to my car and get something, but the run-away cat was sort of in front of the door. I just ignored it and went to open the door, but of course the cat went ape-shit and ran the other way, which I had expected, but what I hadn't expected is that the other cat was in the living room, so when the fraidy cat suddenly sprinted toward the other cat, the other cat fled in the other direction, which was the direction of the door, which I had just opened because, like I said, I had to go outside to my car.

So this cat found itself outside, at the base of the steps. The cat stared at me. I stared at the cat. I panicked because I didn't know if it would run away and I didn't want to repay Neile's kindness by losing her cat on her anniversary, so I lunged at the cat, figuring I could grab it before it decided to do anything inconvenient; but of course in lunging at the damn cat I spooked it and it ran away. So I spent the next ten fucking minutes trying to corral the thing, using a combination of slow approaches, quick approaches, lunges, motionlessness, etc. I kept driving the thing further and further away, so faced with the risk of herding it into fucking Oregon I just went back into the house and propped the door open. Fifteen minutes or so later it came back in of its own accord.

So. That's not really about Neile. But it's about Neile's cat, so maybe that counts for something. In any case, thanks for all the toil you undertook on our behalf (behalfs? behalves?) In case you ever doubt it, know that all those unacknowledged graces are like seeds. You won't always know that they're sprouting, but don't ever doubt that they will, somewhere, sometime.
Neile Grahamneile on October 10th, 2008 05:02 pm (UTC)
Re: Birthday story

Ha! I'll bet it was the little light grey calico, right? She would think that was a terrific game. It cheers me to think that she actually came back, because she got out recently and I wasn't sure. I finally grabbed her atop the fence as she tried to jump it. She has way too much play energy (I think she takes it from sleepy Titus).

Thanks for leaving the door open so she came back, and for the story, and for the thoughts about grace. Having you visit was fun.
marzipan pigmarzipan_pig on October 9th, 2008 05:10 am (UTC)
I remember you driving me home and expressing enough concern about me in clear enough words that I ended up talking to my doctor about it. Oh, and I like your poetry too ;)
Neile Grahamneile on October 10th, 2008 05:03 pm (UTC)
I distinctly recall that conversation and where we were as we talked and I drove.

(Thanks for liking the poetry!)
Erin Cashiertherinth on October 9th, 2008 08:24 am (UTC)
This one time, this girl was at home with her folks on a rare weekend, trying to convince them that they should take her cat, against their rental agreement, for six weeks, if she magically got into Clarion West. And then ten minutes later you called, and when they saw her bounce all around their living room, they couldn't not take her cat in.
Neile Grahamneile on October 11th, 2008 06:07 pm (UTC)

Wow, that's amazing timing! I didn't know that.
Steve Faggnightwol on October 9th, 2008 12:32 pm (UTC)
My Neile Stories...
...include the time, must be around ten years ago now, when you visited us at our house in Harlow. Lisa was struggling to put together a poster for a Neuroscience meeting and I was being even less help than usual; you gave up a whole evening to get involved: kept Lisa calm, listened to her and talked her through all that she needed to do to be ready for the poster session.

That same visit you made friends with Spot our "practice cat" who came into our house from across the road. I have a great photo of you perched on our broken down old couch with Spot on your knee. Now we, like you, have three felines of our own and I, like you, turned 50 this year.

Here's to Neile, one of the coolest people I've known and, as has already been said here, here's to fifty more Neile birthdays!
Neile Grahamneile on October 11th, 2008 06:24 pm (UTC)
Re: My Neile Stories...

That was a wonderful visit! I recall some terrific meals, many delightful conversations and wonderful music, a fun trip to the Barbican to see Wilde, and that I snuffled around with an annoying cold.

We really do need to manage to get over there again sometime soon.
Cat Rambocatrambo on October 9th, 2008 08:20 pm (UTC)
I have a number of fond memories, but hanging out with you at the sorority house waiting for the new CW students to arrive is one of my favorites.

Plus the sugar glider peeing on one of our esteemed teachers.
Neile Grahamneile on October 11th, 2008 06:25 pm (UTC)

Hee! Those sugar gliders!

Yes, I do love those times. We always have fun.