Thursday, December 29, 2011

Problems That Are Not Problems


The first headline I noticed this morning was “Indian Billionaire faces Unusual Dilemma: Tycoon sits on mountain of cash and says he has no place to put it”. A mountain of cash! And this guy is just sitting up there. I couldn’t read anymore. My mind first went to the streets of India, where thousands of people swarm the streets, legless, armless, sick, bloated, mal-nourished, young, old, crawling over each other like ants, holding their hands out, moaning and crying, pleading for relief. And then back to this guy over on his mountain: the tycoon, stymied. Solutions to other people's problems always seem so easy.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

What I Need to Hear

Last night, in the wee sleepless hours of my room, I started to do what I do every year around this time: to berate myself about bad decisions and all the things I failed to accomplish and probably never will. Almost without fail, whenever I stop "steering" (yes I just used airquotes)(because I'm old), whenever I stop "steering", this is the familiar road I go down. Then I checked my email and saw a sweet note from my sister which snapped me out of the doldrums. Miraculously, simply, and with perfect timing, yes, that's what it did. So, in honor of that, here's an old post about celebrating the small and important and good things that happen every day.

                                                                    Learning

Over the weekend Harry and I went to watch some of his classmates test for their black belts in tae kwon do. I think I’ve learned more about learning and discipline and self-confidence in watching Harry’s tae kwon do class than in 12 plus four years of school. Who knew there could be such amazing benefits from doing the same thing over and over and over? Who knew that what feels like a treadmill is actually an entire landscape of progression? Part of the test involved writing (and reading in front of an audience) an essay about what you like about martial arts, what got you interested, what you don’t like about it and how you incorporate it into your every day life. At the end of each essay, the student thanked all those who supported them in their training: parents, friends, siblings and teachers.

It made me think that it would be a good idea to have a special ceremony for every big decision, commitment or project in your life. First you would skillfully demonstrate all that you have learned in making the decision, walking the audience through each stage of the process, and culminating in a miraculous trick, one you would never be asked to use every day, but something you could be confident was up your sleeve, like breaking two inch thick boards with your elbow, and two more with your foot. Finally you would stand up in front of your family and friends and tell them why you did what you did, what you’ve learned and whom you’d like to thank. And after everyone had finished applauding and wiping away tears, you would be presented with a medal or a trophy and photographed for your hometown newspaper.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Christmas Time: Part 2


I didn’t give up. But I didn’t go back to the stores. Yet. I’m sure I will. Even with the crowds and the white BMWs and the overheard arguments, there are always moments of real sweetness. I think that’s what I love about this song, it’s sad and heavy and hopeful and light. It’s the end and it’s the beginning.


Here's something John Shanley wrote:


Run the old stuff down, run it out, toss the weight of trash in your heart into the fire. December is the ruthless month. Pick up all your heartbreak and fling it out the window. Call everybody. Make peace and move on. Let those who wish to linger, let them linger and grieve. They will run and catch up to you if you move on. You are the leader when it comes to joy. Move forward towards joy

Monday, December 19, 2011

Clockwork


How is it possible to love something and hate it so much at the same time? I don’t know. Maybe that question is better left unexamined. Maybe it’s better to figure out how to deal with the quandary. The way I deal with it is to shut down my brain and shuffle around like a zombie. I realized this when I was Christmas shopping yesterday. I love getting gifts for people but somehow every single year I go through the exact same pattern
November 26: See one gift for someone but don’t buy it because there’s plenty of time.
December 5: Laugh at friends who are wrapping gifts and pity them for being insane, uptight, micro-managing nutcases: It’s supposed to be fun you guys!
December 10: Start noticing Christmas decorations around the neighborhood. God these people are on top of things! Send photo of palm tree with lights to Mom back east. Look at these California crazies!
December 12: Pull out 500 foot long strands of lights and untangle them. (after an hour throw in trash and go to Home Depot). Hang lights on porch in the dark at 6pm. Feel manly and proud. Feel sad and wish I had a husband.
December 17: Realize there are only 7 days left to buy gifts, decide to go tomorrow.
December 18: Go shopping for the first time since back to school. Narrowly avoid rage confrontation with driver of white BMW who pulls into space I am waiting for. Decide oh well I have beautiful children and a loving family. Imagine shooting him in the face. Think about coffee I am going to reward myself with after getting some gifts out of the way. Stop into store I like on the way into kids store. See three things I have to have for myself right away. Justify in angel/devil interior dialogue by saying I haven’t bought anything for myself since last year. Feel sick and hate myself. Get coffee. Stand in line order line for 10 minutes, pick-up line for 20. Go to store where I saw original gift. Realize they are sold out. Make decision to give up for today, go home and write a list. On the way out, see some pretty gift wrap. Stand in 50 foot line. Start sweating. Wonder why I’m wearing a heavy coat inside. Smile at sweet little baby staring at me. Feel happy. Realize I am by myself and am having fun! Wish I had a husband. Get a lump in my throat. Have a little chit chat with the girl at the register; make a connection because we both are tired. Love everyone and make decision to make personal gifts for everyone in addition to the fantastic ones I’m going to buy.
TO BE CONTINUED… (yes, it’s still happening)

Friday, December 16, 2011

The Greatest Dancer: Christopher Hitchins

I had been thinking of Hitchins the past few days because I read recently something he wrote about the expression: Whatever doesn't kill you, will only make you stronger. It's not true, he said, usually it makes you weaker. His style of argument was to say something inflammatory (i.e. Women aren't as funny as men; God doesn't exist) and then convince you he was right. Not many people can do this and keep your attention, but he could. Like a great dancer, he just made you want to watch (or in his case, listen). He was graceful, brilliant and always one step ahead. Do yourself a favor and read something he wrote today:
start here.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Interior Adolescence


Part of my problem as a human and a parent is that I have (at least) two interior monologues battling for supremacy. One says something like:

I have realized (kind of recently) that if you can master the simplest things, you can master the most difficult. It’s just a matter of planning and follow-through. If you can get out of bed at a certain time and do everything that needs to be done before you walk out the door, then everything you do after that can follow the same pattern. The trick is being aware while it’s all happening.

And the other one says:
Ok. I get it. If I get out of bed I'll be successful. Now shut the fuck up and leave me alone.

One watches this video and says, Amazing! The other one furrows brow, shakes head and says, Seriously?



Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Vince

I love Vince Guaraldi's christmas music so much that I don't like to listen to it because I'm afraid it will get starbucked* like all the other music that gets overplayed (although every time I hear it, I'm surprised at how great it always is). Watch this video and see Vince's amazing mustache.



*starbucked: when something great gets ruined from over production, i.e. Person sipping coffee: "Is this ass secretion?" "No, sorry it's a grande pumpkin macchacinniate".

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

On Working With Your Best Friend

To those who say you shouldn't work with friends or family: Why wouldn't you want to work with someone you trust, who you don't have to talk to and who makes it more bearable to stand outside in freezing temperatures.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Belief


Here's an old post about a visit to Santa.

Last night Harry wanted to go see Santa. He is nine and has been mulling over this for some time. He still believes, but Darla told him he’s too old to sit on Santa’s lap, and there are kids at school who have told him Santa isn’t real, so he feels a little self-conscious. Mo believed until she was 13, I think, when she wrote him a letter saying she had been told he didn’t exist but she still loved him and believed in him and could he please just leave some proof. Dar loves the idea of Santa but can’t help reasoning: Who can fly around the world in a sleigh with reindeer in one night??
So we went to see Santa. The only other kids in line were two infants and a three year old on a leash. "See Harry?", Dar shrugged and held her hands up. I shot her a glare, while Harry walked away with his hands in his pockets and his head down.
I found him leaning on a column around the corner. “Come on Bub, you don’t have to sit on his lap or anything, you can just go over there and say hey how’s it going.”
Naaa
We’re here. Might as well just say hi.
I don’t want to.
Really? You might feel sad if we leave and you didn’t even wave at him.
I’ll just email him.
Email?
Yeah.
Ok. Well let’s go say goodbye then.
I started to walk back to Santa’s throne, but he didn’t follow. I looked over at Darla who was trying on sunglasses at the Kiosk and looking in the mirror, turning her head this way and that. I walked over closer. Dar! I whispered. She turned her head slowly towards me like I was an annoying paparazzi. Go tell Harry you’ll come say hi to Santa with him.
She looked at me with her big Elizabeth Taylor goggle sunglasses.
"If you’re rolling your eyes, I can’t see", I said.
She took one last look in the mirror, took off the glasses, placed them slowly back on the table and brushed by me in Harry’s direction.
Be nice, I said. I walked over to Santa. As far as Santas go, this guy was the top of the line: real white beard, little chubby, twinkle in the eye. He was sitting by himself.
Santa? I whispered and he looked over at me. I actually got a little nervous myself. The guy’s a superstar. “My boy’s feeling a little shy. He really wants to see you but he’s worried he might be too old.”
Where is he? He got up out of his chair. Dar was walking him over; she had her arm flung around him like they were buddies back in Nam. I pointed with my thumb.
What’s his name, he said quietly to me. I told him.
Harry? He said and waved him over. Hi Harry. Come here, lad. He leaned on the white fence that divided his little area. I thought maybe in real life he might be a farmer, or a plumber. His voice was high, a little strained. He definitely did some sort of physical labor.
Dar kept her arm around Harry and walked over, Hi "Santa", she said.
Hello, what's your name?
Darla.
He looked at Harry who was still looking at his feet.
Is this your sister?
Yes.
How old are you son?
9.
Nine! That’s fantastic. And what do you want for Christmas.
A Playstation 3.
Anything else?
Harry shook his head.
And you’re a good boy?
He nodded.
“I can see that. Your mother told me you are. Come here a second, son.” He let Harry in through the gate and put his arm around him and walked over to the throne. They were talking but I couldn’t hear because the photographer came over and began trying to talk me into a series of photos for 46.99. I shook my head and he said, Just a meet and greet?
Yeah, just a meet and greet, I said. I was trying to see around him to catch what Santa was saying, but by the time he moved, Harry was walking back towards me with a coloring book in his hands. His head was up and he was practically laughing. He could barely speak.
Did he tell you it was all a charade? This from Darla.
Dar, stop. I looked back at Harry, What’d he say, sweets?
He said you’re never too old for Santa.

Friday, December 9, 2011

Day 1 of Short Film Shoot

Most of the time, the guys who work on movie sets are like magical pit crews. Everything is quick and efficient. No one complains. Even in the bitter freezing cold. Complaining stops the process from moving forward. Cold hands? Ssshhweeeep (that's the sound of someone leaving and coming back in the speed of light) Hand warmers. Battery low? Ssssshhweeep. New battery pack. Sometimes if they don't have exactly what is needed, they have to improvise, and usually they come up with solutions that are even better than what you thought you needed in the first place. Here they are standing completely still and silent while the camera is rolling. I love these guys!
My friend Amy, who is directing, is also in the middle of nursing two great big baby girl twins. And she forget her pump! By the end of the day she had a swelling problem. (Girls, come on, you know what I'm talking about.) So we got on the walkie-talkie:" Sam! Swelling problem! No pump! ASAP" and ssshhhhhweep, two volunteers. Instantly. These guys are amazing.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Agua Dulce

Today is Day 1 of shooting a short film I wrote. I feel like an bystander at this point; I'm just an observer. I think I will have more to report after the weekend. So, here's a song I love.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

I Have No Control Over Myself


Reason # 627 to have children: So they can point out your flaws! Here's an old post I wrote:

I don’t know if I’ve been doing this all my life but I just had an 11 year old point out to me that if I’m speaking to a person with an accent, I start speaking with an accent. Like Madonna. I am horrified and partly fascinated by this. Horrified, well, for obvious reasons. But fascinated too because I have absolutely no awareness that I’m doing it. It’s almost like there is a new side of me I never knew about, like finding out I can speak Portuguese, or that I have a long lost twin who was raised in South Africa with my long lost real father.
“Do I bat my eyes when I do it?
What?
Like this.
Ew no.
That’s what Madonna does when she talks in a bloody English accent.
What? Mom! Why are you doing that?
Why am I doing what love?
Mom stop.
Ok guvna.”
See?? I’m ashamed of myself. She said I even do it when I talk to my black friends. I start saying Oh girl you know that shit ain't right! And with gay friends I’ll say Oh no she didn’t, and do a snap and a head swivel.
Mom you are seriously out of control, Mo says to me.
I am? But I can’t stop something I don’t even have any control over. What’ll I do? Do I need to get someone to record me so then I can watch the tapes? Analyze myself like a play by play? Am I just a desperate pleaser trying to fit in? Or am I old and this is the beginning of senility?
There’s really no comforting answer to this question.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

I Like To Touch Dirty Things


What the hell did people used to do before there was antibacterial gel at the supermarket? I was wondering this while I watched some woman slather it up to her elbows and then onto her child’s tiny dimpled hands. As if that wasn’t enough, then she squirted a load onto the handle of the shopping cart, and rubbed it in like she was a crack-whore giving it a five-dollar hand job. She knew what she was doing, this gal. And she was smiling!  Smiling as if to say, I am taking control of my life, I will never allow germs, bacteria or possible bits of fecal matter to enter my world and cause me, or my precious family members, to get flulike symptoms. I have to say, it was mesmerizing. The whole procedure was so strange and wrong and oddly titillating, I wanted to drop to the ground and roll around like an old, happy dog on top of a dead squirrel.

Instead I gave her a self-righteous glare: Seriously woman? You think you’ve got it all under control? Everything all clean and perfect? Well it’s not! You’re going to get sick, you’re going to get germs, you’re going to get golden, oozing infections just like the rest of us, only yours will be worse because they will be rare anti-bacterial-gel mutations. “Now go buy your organic produce, YOU FREAK!” And I let my glare follow her all the way into the store.

Going to the grocery store is exhausting.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Filing it Away

This guy is trying to remember which article of clothing he forgot to put on.

Sometimes I’ll walk into a room to get something and then completely forget what I was looking for. I read an article that said walking through a doorway creates an “event boundary” in your brain where whatever you were thinking/doing in one room gets closed up and filed away before you enter another. So it’s actually your brain’s tidiness and not any impending altzheimer’s or absent-mindedness that’s causing you to space out. I suppose this is why retracing your steps can help you remember. My brain must be extremely tidy because it creates “event boundaries” at other times like when I call someone on the phone and then forget who it is I’m calling, or when I go through a list of my entire family’s names before hitting on the right one.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Going Postal



I have heard that the Post Office is becoming obsolete. I wish this were true, but the one I go to always has a line at least 18 people long. And one open window. Sometimes I think people go stand in there just to give me a chafe. Here is an old post about a not-uncommon experience.


I race-walked two people in the post office parking lot to get to the door first. I don’t know what happened, I heard them clickclackclicking behind me and I automatically accelerated. They wanted to get in line in front of me!
Oh hell no.
Ok, I only had that thought for a second. As soon as I saw the woman clutch her purse up close like a football so she could actually jog by me I thought, that’s it, you win, I give up. Cupping my hands around my mouth I yell, "Go get in line ahead of me. Save yourself one minute of time so you can get back to your job for the President of the United States or whatever urgent business you have to tend to!" I did have the momentary thought of giving her a roller derby hip-check into the bike rack by the stairs, but then the guy she was with bumped past me with his aggressive skip-walking.
Come on!
What is it with me and the post office? First off, I still use it. I’m not sure I have any friends who still go to the P.O. as much as I do. I mean I only go a few times a month but still, it’s definitely one of the stops on my itinerary. I can’t imagine anyone I know standing in line for a packet of stamps or sending off a package, I mean, they must, but I never hear about it.
I am thinking all these things when I take my place behind the panting horses in front of me. I take a look around: assess my approximate wait-time, consider the strengths of the other people around me in case there is an earthquake and we are all stuck in a pile of rubble together. It does not look good. Just me and 18 crazy people. A few more walk in behind me, including an old guy in a plaid wool blazer. I don’t know why he was reassuring but he was, there’s something about an old guy in a wool blazer, with his wristwatch and his black socks. But then I looked more carefully. One eye was slightly bigger than the other. And it was protruding. The other eye was crossed.
As soon as I turned back around, he started talking. “You know there were some communists in my driveway once.”
Ok, here we go.
“That was a frivolous tale. I mean the red ones too. Generally they are red, you know.” He chuckled to himself, the old gent, having a good time. In an instant, he turned on a dime, “That sacrimonious infidel.” He yelled, spraying spittle. “I told them not to listen to him. They knew what he was. But he was never part of it. Never. Part. Of. It.”
How does this guy get himself dressed? How is he standing in line buying a packet of stamps? Is his body just on automatic while his brain is spinning out like a car in the Indy 500? Does he have the thought: I need to buy a stamp to put on the letter to pay a bill? Or do his feet simply carry him from one place to the next, just maneuvering through his itinerary?
Oh my god he’s just like me!
I looked at the people ahead of me, some talking on the phone, some texting, some daydreaming, and I calmed myself. We all got up out of bed, got ourselves dressed, made a plan, followed through. Some of us just have more distractions than others.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Notes to Myself: Say Yes




Always say yes. Always say yes to things that might be different from what you are used to: a process, a new thought, even something simple like a new food. At worst, if it leads to something that doesn’t work, then you have a justification your resistance (how amazing to have that be the worst that could happen). And at best, you have expanded yourself.

This video by Corrider Digital has nothing to do with what I just wrote. I just liked it.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Losing Touch



I told Harry I was going to sing this song at lunch on my volunteer day at his school, and he told me that if I did he would slit his throat.
Geez, that's kind of extreme.
Mom.
But everyone loves that song.
Exactly.
I would just lip synch. And dance.
(gives me the death stare)
You're no fun.
Imagine your mother singing that at your school.
All right, all right.
Now do you get it?
But I'm a good dancer.
(shakes his head and walks away)


Monday, November 28, 2011

The Chance


Every once in a while I think about this guy I knew in high school. His older brother had died in a car crash and he carried around with him a cloud of melancholy. It sounds trite to say it, but it really was just like that: a cloud. Whenever you talked to him, you were not talking to him about something huge and obvious. He was skinny and quiet and shy. I have a picture of him in my head, smoking with his head down and one hand is his pocket. He had the longest eyelashes. He used to drive me home because we lived in the same area. I had a boyfriend then, and maybe because of that I didn’t feel self conscious, but I remember being surprised that he was so easy to talk to, and that he was really funny. Once he dropped me off the night before I was leaving to visit my grandparents in Rhode Island. He gave me a story he had written that I liked, and after a long silence, told me he wished I were his girlfriend. I don’t know if the memory is connected to the awkwardness that happened after, or the way I covered my face with my hands, or even that I stupidly said I wanted to but I couldn’t.  But the scene drops into my head at the strangest times, always seemingly unprovoked. It’s not that I have any regrets or false notions about something that could/should have happened, it’s more about that feeling of being so close to something that sweet without ever having it.


I Did It!


Thursday, November 24, 2011

A Few Odd Things I am Thankful For

1. This path where I walk every day.
2. Hot water and Electricity.
3. Coffee
4. Empty Roads
5. Sleep
6. My neighbors
7. Coincidences
8. My Good Luck
9. Everyone who reads this that I've never met before
10. My new son, Ryan.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Same Time Different Place

The pepper spray cops are kind of like a modern day version of the keystone cops,
equally as bumbling and self-righteous, but without the funny.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

BF



I forget if I told you this before, but when I lived in Philadelphia, I used to see Ben Franklin at the ATM. We didn't live too far from the Liberty Bell and there were tours and people in costumes and horses pulling carriages (don't get me started on that) and then there was old Ben. This particular BF was aggressively cheerful and pompous and not a quarter as smart as the real guy. He loved walking around,  full of himself, just waiting to be swarmed by fans. If you stood behind him in line and muttered "It's freezing.", he would look at you, put each hand on either of his lapels and, projecting to the back row of Carnegie Hall, bellow, Indeed!

I was thinking of this because I saw this picture this morning:
And I thought it looked like a nice warm hat. This appealed to me because my kitchen was like an ice box (Indeed!) I looked him up online and discovered the guy was a fountain of memorable quotes:

Never ruin an apology with an excuse.

By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail.

It is the first responsibility of every citizen to question authority.

If everyone is thinking alike, then no one is thinking.

Whatever is begun in anger, ends in shame.

To find out a girl's faults, praise her to her friends. (how dare you, Ben)

Happiness depends more on the inward disposition of mind, than on outward circumstances.

The list goes on and on. Try using one of these quotes today; I swear you'll be the life of the party.
Indeed.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Hole in The Sole (reposting an oldie)



He offered me coffee and I took it only because he had been going on and on about the fine Nicaraguan beans he uses, the ones he special orders on line. I really just wanted to pick up the jumper cables he had borrowed last week. When he spoke he kept sliding his hand up his shirt and rubbing his belly. I noticed his stomach, how could I not? It was round and protruding (even though he was skinny) like someone with distressed bowels.
As soon as I said yes, please, he spun on his be-socked foot and headed to the kitchen.
I was still standing in the hallway with my coat on.
Take a seat in the living room, he yelled happily.
The living room had a leather couch next to a half-dead palm, a white furry rug and a flat screen TV the size of a ping-pong table. It was hooked up to video game paraphernalia, including a headset and some peculiar sort of helmet. Open cases littered the floor: Tour of Duty, Grand Theft Auto, Halo. I eased myself into a chair thinking if I was a twelve-year-old boy I probably would have ejaculated by now.
Cream and sugar?, he sang from the other room.
No thanks.
I didn’t have the heart to take off my coat. In fact, I had the heart once but it was shot down with the realization that this guy was making a move and I hadn’t already hightailed it out of there. What’s wrong with me? Why do I always attract creepy guys with bad breath. Immature, creepy guys with bad breath. Am I just the female mirror image?
I actually have to go, I called out over my shoulder. Soon.
Hey no prob, I’ll just give you your cup of joe and we’ll get you out of here.
I imagined a conveyor belt out the back window, like a slide from a plane after it’s miraculously survived a crash by landing in the Atlantic. And is there a more annoying phrase than cup of joe? Home skillet? Back at ya? Why do people talk like that? It’s clever and desperate and just plain un-natural. What happened to simplicity? Grace? Everyone’s got to be laid back and cool, hey baby don’t sweat it, no prob, it’s all good.
Here’s the fine blend.
He stood behind me holding two mugs. I hadn’t heard him because of the socks.
I took a sip and literally, I swear this has never before happened with coffee, had to spit it back into my cup. It was swamp water. With cinnamon.
Too hot?
Mmm, I nodded.
Sorry about that.
We were completely quiet for 30 seconds.If I had openly farted it could not have been more awkward. And then I said: I didn’t realize it was already 4.
Oh yeah.
I have to pick up my daughter at 4:30.
Oh right ok, hey no probs, let me get you the cables . I’ll be right back.
I turned and poured half the cup into the plant next to the couch, and walked into the hallway.
I noticed a single shoe laying on its side with a hole in the sole the size of a quarter. I put my coffee mug on the entry way table.
He walked towards me holding his arm out in front of him. Here ya go. All good.
Thanks and thanks for the coffee, I said, looking back into the living room where steam was still rising from the plant.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Come On

This song makes me want to get into a bar fight and then dance with this guy.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Paths and Connections

I didn't get to write about Joe Frazier because he died while I was away in New Orleans, but I loved him and have been thinking of him on and off. He wasn't from Philly but he trained there, and people knew him from there and he was considered the hometown guy partly because he had the spirit that people from Philadelphia tend to have: underdog with a chip on his shoulder. He was actually born in South Carolina in the same town as a woman named Ada Capers who babysat my brother and me when we were kids, a town not far from the one where Mo later went to college. So, though we never met, our paths crossed more than once in roundabout sort of ways which is a weird thing to think about because (although I love boxing and even trained in a gym in North Philly 20 years ago) we don't have anything in common.

I read an article about Joe's Dad who was once shot in the left hand and had to have it amputated which is weird because his son had one of the most powerful left hands in the history of fighting. Ask Ali; or better yet, look at him now.

RIP Joe, the hardworking hero.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Desert People


We had a run-in with some desert people. Well not a run-in exactly; I was in the desert with Amy scouting locations for the short film and it was more like she went to talk to a group of white supremacists while I sat in the car with the doors locked.

Come on, let's get out and get the scoop.
We don't need to get the scoop.
Are you scared?
Yes, I'm scared, I saw the swastika on the rocks back there.
That was like 3 miles back.
That's  where they go to do their sacrifices.
Look, it's fine, they're just camping, see: there's little kids and dogs.
What do you think they use to sacrifice?... Look, their campers are in a circle formation.
(huge sigh) I'm going.
No don't, they'll think we're lesbians and ass-rape us with a tire iron.
Could you-
-What?
Ix-nay on the ass-ape-ray! (points to the three year old in the back seat who is fully absorbed, dipping apple slices into a bowl of peanutbutter)
She's fine. We had a conversation.
I'm going.

I watched Amy walk across the dune to where the trailers were parked. Two big guys in lawn chairs stood up and walked to meet her. They seemed to be scowling. Amy talked animatedly and gestured with her hands. In a few seconds, they were all laughing. Old Buddies. Thank goodness one of us was brave.


Conundrum


I went to the desert on Sunday. I think since I was a kid, I have had mixed ideas about the place. For one, it is just a vast spread of nothing where you crawl on hands and knees desperate for water, hallucinating a chilly watering hole beneath a Palm tree while vultures fly in circles above your head. For another, it was a place where my grandparents lived for half the year, in a house my grandfather built, that had no electricity or running water and was an 8-mile hike to the closest phone. They, like others who grew up or have lived out west, thought of the desert as a place to relax, reflect and recharge. I, like others who grew up in a small suburban town, thought of it as a place to go crazy and die. There was something scary about it, not peaceful, just imbalanced. Still, the idea of GP and Nana out there in Lucerne Valley with the sky and the sun and the moon and the stars always seemed romantic.

Who lives in the desert? Lizards, crazy hobos and Nan and Gramps.

My grandfather built a bench for my grandmother, a place to sit during the day where she could listen to music and talk shows from her transistor radio. It couldn’t have been an easy sell; my grandmother was a very social person and loved being around people (my grandfather was not, and did not), but she always talked about her bench as though it was a special kind of luxury. “I’d sit out there sometimes 4 hours a day! I got the best reception!” It would get cold in the winter months but Nana always talked about how great it felt to sit in the sun. I have seen photos of her on her bench wearing two overcoats, gloves, a big hat, and a blanket across her lap, her radio and ashtray beside her, smiling like a movie star. To someone else she might look like a crazy homeless person.

The silence: ahhhhhhhh. 
The silence: AAAAAAA!#%&!!!

We were in the desert scouting locations. We needed 360 degrees of nothing but sand and sky, a tumbleweed or two so we drove out to my grandparents, “12 miles through town, past 8 telephone poles and a red roof until you get to a sandy road, take a right and go 5 miles”. Their house was long gone, and there were others now, more telephone poles and cable discs, clusters of motor homes and boys riding around on motorbikes like loud angry bees. Gone was the big open panorama of sky and sand. Gone was the quiet.  

After my grandmother died, my grandfather moved out to the desert  and lived there for a month or so until he died too. My cousin found him in a chair, his hands still folded in his lap, listening to the radio. 

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Still In New Orleans

She doesn't know it yet, but today I would like to present a guest writer named Sunny Dawn Summers, aka the Ben Franklin of NOLA. Ha, I just made that up, but like Franklin she wears many hats: writer, teacher, seamstress, karaoke star and observer of life. This year she quit her job and began teaching middle school to high-school-age kids and this is her blog http://newtotheorleans.wordpress.com/. Check it out. We need more teachers like her!

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

NOLA




We walked a mile in high heels, even Grandma Joan did. I was at the tail end of the line, behind the 5 piece marching band, behind the two guys pushing shopping carts full of cold beer, and the guests with parasols and lace kerchiefs and strings of white beads. We all marched and laughed and cheered and then marveled and commented on how amazing it was, having the experience and then reflecting on it in 10- second intervals. People stood in their doorways, or on their porch, waving to us and cheering us on. Police cars led the way and stopped traffic at intersections so we could all get through together. Parades happen every single day in New Orleans and everyone supports them. Who can carry on with their own self-absorbed business when a line of celebrating people walks by right in front of you? You have to stop, so you might as well give it a nod and a wave.
I couldn’t see Morgan and Ryan from where I walked, but we were all their representatives. In the line were friends from childhood and then college, kids they had taken baths with, fought with, sat in math class with. There were family and friends of family, all who had packed clothes for three days and gotten on a plane or train or bus just to be there for them. We were a crazy crew, tiny and tall, young and old, civilized and lawless, doctors, actors, teachers, soldiers, architects, writers, salesmen. And we all felt lucky.
“Is it a wedding or a funeral”, someone hollered out. I loved that they couldn’t tell the difference, both ceremonies celebrated with the same enthusiasm. This is how they do it in New Orleans.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

The Real Walking Carnival

Is there any better thing to do when you're happy than parade a full mile through the streets with your friends and family, screaming, dancing and drinking beer from a can in a brown bag.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Lillian and Mary


 I have been thinking about my grandmothers a lot because both of them stayed married from the age of 21 until death (both were a few years past 80). Neither of them had a proper wedding: Mary eloped, and Lillian signed some papers at city hall. Both of them were teachers. Both of them were married to men named Don. Both of them went to church regularly even though neither husband could be bothered. Both of them loved parties and had lots of friends, and would have loved going to a great-grand-daughter's wedding in New Orleans. Here's an old one I wrote about Mary.

Monday, October 31, 2011

The Eight Ways a 13 year old who is Not Allowed Out on a Saturday Night is Similar to an Addict who is Detoxing


Reasoning: Really, it’s ok, I’m allowed to do something wrong and not have consequences. Pshhheesh, it’s fine. There’s no problem.

 Disbelief/Denial: Wait, what?

 Crying: Why? Why? Why? This is so unfair.

 Hating You/Blaming: YOU ARE RUINING MY LIFE. How does it feel being so mean and horrible, you fat ugly IDIOT? (door-slam)

  Hating Self : Oh my god, I’m so stupid. What was I thinking? I shouldn’t be allowed to live. I hate myself.

Negotiating: Do you need me to walk the dogs? Do The Dishes? I love you.

Begging: Please. Please. Pleeeeeeease. I will never ask you again. I will stay in for the rest of my life. I’m the only person who isn’t going, I need to go.

 Crying Self to sleep: I HATE MY LIFE WAAAAAAAAAA zzzzzzzzzzz.
   
  

Friday, October 28, 2011

Fucked Up

I just found a book of old Halloween photos called Haunted Air by Ossian Brown. It turns out that back in the day, kids knew about horror! How else could you explain these freaky costumes. Nowadays it's princesses and spiderman. Once in a while you see a zombie or an ax in the side of the head, but there's not too much that makes you uncomfortable. I grew up in an apartment building with an elevator and I remember running into it with our paper bags and rustling clothes, standing there breathless and pumped  on crack going up and down; 20 floors with 10 apartments on each: we'd have candy for months. When we moved to the suburbs, we still travelled as a group, but there was something more every-man-for-himself about it. Someone was always falling or getting their cape stuck in the thorns. I remember the way I could hear my own breath behind the mask, how my face would sweat if it was a rubber one, the way my voice sounded when I yelled, Wait Up! There was one year where someone's Dad hid under the hedge and grabbed kid's ankles as they walked up with their bags open. It was completely random and sometimes he wouldn't grab at all, he'd just shake the hedge. Someone else, it sounded like a parent but was probably one of the older kids said, "That's fucked up", and for some reason, the way he said it, without any humor, was the scariest part of all.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Talent Show




I’m still crying all the time. Last night we went to the talent show at Darla’s school and of course that didn’t help. Both she and Harry moved away from me and then kept glancing back and shaking their heads in disgust. But come on, this was at a performing arts school, not the regular kind where you keep checking your watch and have to bite your tongue from yelling, Next! These kids were amazing, and not in a slick show-off way but simple and sweet. There was the Michael Jackson song and dance and the song Beautiful (both pretty easy to mess up) and then there was the autistic kid who played Mozart on the cello and then yelled laughing for his mother to come take a bow with him. I don’t know how I made it.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Instincts


A few weeks ago we hired an unstable crazy person at work. Long story short, we fired him for being unstable and crazy. You can only overlook that kind of thing for so long. It’s weird how humans have had to civilize things like gut instincts; we say things like let’s give the guy a chance or well, he does have that intense eye contact thing going on and he never smiles but we need someone right NOW. Gut instincts don’t hold up in court either; you can’t say he just had this weird energy and he called me ma’am at the beginning and ending of every sentence even though he’s almost the SAME AGE AS I AM. It doesn’t go over well. In fact it makes “the authorities” give each other side- glances and call for the man in the white coat.
Just the facts ma’am.
Once, I interviewed a police officer who worked in the Canine Unit. His partner was a German Shepherd named Hunter and they worked together for five years. He said that in his assessment of suspects, Hunter was correct 100% of the time. Come on, I said, wasn’t there a time when he was depressed or a little pissed off with you, agitated from too much caffeine? He didn't answer me, just gave Hunter a side-glance and let out a sigh.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Good Morning!



Unlike both of my daughters, I don't need an alarm to wake up because I am part rooster, part fisherman, part insane but this song makes me so happy that I can't understand how it is genetically possible for both of them to hate it as much as they do. This song could divide the entire world into two groups. If we were able to understand the strong emotions this song inspires in each, we would get along so much better.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Things That Make You Feel Like You're in a David Lynch Movie



Noticing that your waitress has a black eye and a chipped tooth while she pours your coffee and talks in a super cheerful voice.

Hearing the sound of your feet on the pavement as a car drives slowly by and you and the driver turn your heads to see each other at the same time.

Hearing the tinkling bell of the door to the little market as you walk in to find it completely empty. Standing in silence while you notice the outdated products and then hear someone yell from the back, “No it was HAVARTI”.

Being woken up by a little person who has sleepwalked into your bed-room. As you sit up and turn on the light, he lifts his head and says “Mennepshen vre shaylu” and then walks back out. A car beeps twice outside.

Seeing a person you knew in college crying, wearing a black suit, and walking through the grocery store with an empty cart.

(Send me one of yours! Post below or tweet)

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

On Seeing Things Differently


When I was in college, I lived in a gay neighborhood across the street from the hustlers. A few blocks up was Rittenhouse Square, which was a fancy area with huge brownstones and expensive boutiques, and a few blocks down was Broad Street, the busiest connector street in the city. The boys that stood out there were different from the loud, colorful trannies that worked around the corner. They seemed a little sad and hungry, basically just standing around waiting with their hands in their pockets. It was the only place I ever lived where my home was broken into. There had been nothing to steal really except for my roommate’s back-pain medication and a jar of change. They came in through the fire escape and washed their hands in my bathroom sink, the soap was blackened and there were still grey drips everywhere when I returned. I remember calling the police and telling them I had been robbed and they said Ma’am you weren’t robbed, you were burglarized. Anyway, the boys, they were always there, quietly getting into cars, or standing with one hand on the pay phone.
I watched them. A lot. I watched the guys who picked them up too, most of them were men in suits, with nice cars, men who probably had wives and kids and german shepherds. It was all very peaceful and gloomy. One night I remember coming back from dinner with friends and I saw the father of a kid I went to school with walking towards the boy-corner. He was actually the minister at a church I went to for a confirmation class when I was 14. I went to the class mainly because of the barely supervised retreats we took where we smoked pot and made out for two-day stretches. There may have been a few discussions about religious studies but I don’t remember any of them. I do remember giving a string of hickeys to the minister’s son with another friend of mine. It sounds like an orgy but nothing sexual went on; we were like eighteen puppies in sleeping bags. The minister scolded us and made us feel ashamed but then we’d do it all over again at the next retreat.
I had always liked him, both the minister and his whole family really. My own parents were divorced and my family complicated, and he seemed kind and happy and easygoing. “Sure we’ll take the kids on a hiking trip, it’ll be fun”. His wife never went with us, just he and “Tom”, another guy who worked at the church. Then, there he was out of the blue. Without a thought, I yelled out and waved “Mr H. HEY!” I was so happy to see him. I started to cross towards him but he immediately turned and walked away from me, not knowing that in one swift motion, he told me so much more than if he had just said hello.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Feeding The Miniature Wolf


A friend of mine sent me a Cherokee story about a grandfather talking to his grandson about how there are two wolves battling inside of everyone. One of the wolves represents anger, sorrow, lies, jealousy, superiority, all things bad basically, and the other represents love, peace, joy, kindness etc. The boy says, Which one wins? And the old guy says, Whichever one you feed.

I love this story so much but just to give you an idea of the routes I travel inside my head, I want you to know that it made me think of (in no particular order) the following:
Duran Duran
Why is it easier to feed the bad wolf?
The Indian Chief in the old pollution commercial who looks at our trashed up earth with a tear in his eye.
I really need to stay positive and not criticize myself.
Drum Circles.
The sound of a tom-tom and a guy singing/chanting.
Two strong wolves battling while a miniature wolf runs around them in circles, giggling and hiccuping and farting.
Sherman Alexie, I love him.
Ok I only have one steak left, who gets it?