Monday, January 31, 2011


I wonder about Stephen King. Who writes 10 pages every day. Who is both popular and intelligent. Who is looked up to and looked down upon. Who is both a dork and a confident guy. Who has written hundreds of books. Hundreds. Well I don’t know if that last part is true. I just made that up. I do know that the first book he wrote, Carrie, he threw in the trash, and that his wife picked it out and made him finish. I know that he was raised by a single mother. And that he wrote the stories that were turned into two of my favorite movies: Stand By Me, and The Shining. I know that he takes a walk every day and that he has struggled with alcoholism and drug addiction. I’ve read that he is afraid of the dark and spiders and other people. And I assume that to be true. I wonder if he gets stuck once a day or once a week or even more than that.

There are other writers I love who seem more magical and glamorous, more poetic: John Steinbeck, Zadie Smith, Flannery O’Conner, Charles Bukowski, but Steven is the one I think of most. If he was at a party with all those other writers, he’s the one I’d feel most comfortable walking up to. He’s the guy who sits down at his desk in Maine, and sometimes Florida, every day, even when he’s sick, even on Christmas, and doesn’t get up until he’s finished.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Kids in The Candy Store

We stopped in the candy store yesterday and stood in line behind a woman in a motorized wheel chair. Her mouth was stuck open and her hands curled over like tiny scrolls. The girl at the counter asked what she wanted and when the woman answered it was as though she was speaking underwater. It didn’t stop her from asking about the dark chocolate or the cinnamon sprinkles. And we all waited, rapt and focused. She got her wallet out of her purse using only her wrists and handed the whole thing to the girl who took out a 10 and then put the change back into it. The whole exchange took about 10 minutes but I would have waited 40; it made me so happy, not proud of how kind and patient and trusting everyone was with each other, or ashamed for feeling condescending or lazy, but happy because we all liked chocolate.

Saturday, January 29, 2011


Watching this makes me wonder why change, no matter what the level, has to be difficult and painful. It also made me think of the words evolution and revolution and how they seem similar, but the first refers to all living things, and the second only to people.

Friday, January 28, 2011

Minding My Manners

I almost got into a fight in the parking lot at Rite Aid. I wasn’t even in a bad mood. I was driving slowly looking for a parking spot when this guy in a red van backed out, right in front of me. I stopped and waited. I could have beeped, just a passive aggressive but friendly -Hey Mister who doesn’t look before he zips back out of a space when there could have been a little child, puppy or granny walking by- tap on the horn. But I didn’t. He still had about 4 feet. But he stopped. I think he was glaring at me but I couldn’t tell because I didn’t have my glasses on. He waited. I waited. He was yelling something so I unrolled the window. PUT IT IN FUCKING REVERSE, he screamed. His face was squished down and contorted. His tone was so out of proportion to the situation that I didn’t even really grasp what he was telling me to do. He might as well have been telling me to put a pair of pants on my head and do a cartwheel on the sidewalk. But then I responded without thinking.

NO, I shouted back. If I was in Philly I might have added Go Fuck Yourself!, and then the guy would have chuckled and shook his head (all right, we’re on the same team) but I wasn’t, so I didn’t. I just said, Sir, you still have four feet. He floored it to an inch in front of me and peeled out I front of two Moms carrying flats of Starbucks.

Why’d you call him Sir, Darla asked with that look that 12 year old girls around the world have perfected, the one that says why do you always have to embarrass me you insane moron.

I don’t know, I thought, I don’t think I’ve used the word sir since I was a waitress, I just didn’t know him well enough to call him an asshole.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011


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.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

The Spaaaaaahhhhhh

I recently soaked myself in a giant swirling bath of mugworts tea with three Korean women and a 70-year-old granny. Does that sound weird? It was supposed to be cleansing. It made me a little dizzy, though I’m not sure if it was my toxins being released, the realization that we were all soaking in the same"juices", or the shame I felt trying not to stare at everyone’s privates. I closed my eyes but that only raised the volume of my interior narrator: Oh grow up, everyone’s nude, what’s the big deal, it’s a beautiful thing. We’re all the same, basically. No one has pubic hair though, so strange, do they wax or are they just hairless, maybe because they are Asian? or Californian?  I popped my eyes open and focused immediately on a woman across the room squatting openly (yes I said openly) like a Chinese farmer in a paddy field. Ok, time to get out! I raised myself from the bath and tried to walk up the stairs, clenching and sucking in. I almost fell forward reaching for my robe that was on the hook 5 feet away.
“Giselle?” I don’t know why I turned my head, they obviously weren’t talking to me, but I looked and was glad to see it wasn’t, you know, the real Giselle, but instead a 45-year-old with a tattoo of an arrow pointing down right above her ass-crack. Say no more.
 Over by the steam room there was a row of tables where women lay face down getting massages and scrubs, their bodies shellacked and glistening with oils. I suddenly felt like I was in a Texas whorehouse. The masseuses (masseurs?) wore stylish black 2-piece bathing-suits and worked efficiently and silently. I watched Giselle shyly follow her girl to the tables with her head bowed and her hands clasped in front of her. Someone tapped me on the shoulder and when I turned, my girl, "Michelle", smiled and beckoned me with her finger. Since I was getting a facial, we had to go in another room that was through the café and upstairs. I held my robe closed tightly and followed. I have been to this spa a few times and it always struck me as a little odd that they serve Korean food only a few yards away from the steam rooms and well, vaginas, but I’m getting more used to it. Upstairs I got dizzy again from the calming smell of eucalyptus and lavender and jasmine and chamomile; I felt relaxed just from breathing. I loved Michelle, I loved myself, I loved everyone.
Take off your robe, Michelle said. For a facial? I thought, but she patted the table that had 3 quilts folded back and it looked so enticing I did as I was told. Then Hannah came in with a big jar of almond butter, which might have been alarming except that I knew she was going to be using it for the foot massage. Yes I got the foot massage/facial combo, how amazing, and though I hadn’t realized they were going to do it at the same time I was back in love. Ahhhhhhhh. At that moment I became a dog; I had no thoughts except the present: smells good, mmmm, rubbing, patting, drumming fingers. In my head someone did stick their head in through a door to whisper, “you should do this every day”, but then they closed it back quietly.
All was going great until Michelle started up with the extractions, which is the sterilized term for squeezing the blackheads on your nose and chin. Jesus, Michelle, come on! I tried to concentrate on my feet but it was really difficult with Michelle thoroughly going at the little area between my nostrils with what felt like a mini pair of pliers. I felt like I was getting a blumpkin. Tears were pouring down the side of my face and I almost sat up and hugged her when she stopped. She put a cool and aromatic mask on my face and then massaged my head to the point where I began to hallucinate pinwheel stars falling out of the sky.
Finally it was over. I sat up and adjusted my eyes to the light and looked at my skin in the mirror, it was glowing. My face was completely relaxed and rosy and hydrated. I instantly forgot about the discomfort of being nude around nude people. I instantly had the thought that everyone, every man, woman and child, should have this experience once a month. It should be obligatory, like seatbelts, because the second thought I had as I looked at myself was: I wish that was me.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Snowy on The Inside

Every once in a while, I miss the snow. I miss waking up and seeing everything covered in white, I miss having school cancelled and being stuck at home. I miss cracking the window open near my bed and having icy air mixed with tiny crystals blow in, the way that dogs run with their noses plowing, the way my face and skin feel warm under my clothes when I'm shoveling, the tiny strip of ice on the sidewalk that forces me off balance for a second. It would be impossible to completely rewire all that. I don't miss the dirty slush, the dressing of everyone in layers, salty puddles by the front doorway and endless grey days, but I have to say that here in California, when I have to roll the windows down in January and look at people wearing sleeveless shirts and sundresses, and when day after day after day is sunny and bright and cloudless, I feel like I don't belong.

Monday, January 17, 2011

The Interrelated Structure of Reality

I was listening to someone on the radio talking about Martin yesterday and was surprised to learn that he made up (on the spot!) the last part of his most famous speech; I also learned the following:
-More people in the world recognize and can identify the I Have A Dream speech than any other.
-Martin was born with the name Michael but his father changed it to Martin Luther when he was 5.
-He went to college when he was 15.
-He sang with his church choir at the premier of Gone With the Wind.
-He was the youngest recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize.
-He was stabbed in the chest at a book signing in Harlem and almost died 10 years before his assassination.
-At the time, the March on Washington was the biggest gathering of protesters in history.

All I'm saying is simply this, that all life is interrelated, that somehow we're caught in an inescapable network of mutuality tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly affects all indirectly. For some strange reason, I can never be what I ought to be until you are what you ought to be. You can never be what you ought to be until I am what I ought to be. This is the interrelated structure of reality.

— Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.[30]

Wednesday, January 12, 2011


This is the face you make when:

You listen to some mother going on about how ashamed she feels that she lets her 9 year old child watch a half hour of public television once a week.

You watch your child tell this same woman about a recent episode of Family Guy.

(I first saw this photo on this website).

Monday, January 10, 2011

Black Heart

I used to work at a restaurant called Yaffa’s in Tribeca in the 90s. The owner was Israeli and I forget her husband’s name but he was a math genius. The entire time I was there he was working on a math textbook that was going to completely revolutionize the power and meaning of numbers. His name might have been Danny or Eli. He and Yaffa looked a lot alike. They wore ponchos and cowboy hats and capes and boots, and had two dalmations that were always agitated. I don’t think Yaffa liked dogs, she just liked the way they looked when she walked down the street with them pulling two leashes out in front of her. She served in the Israeli army, of course, and had jumped out of planes.
Yaffa was never without a cigarette. She wore a ton of black eye makeup and face cream that made her skin shiny. She was a low talker so you had to move in close if you wanted to hear her, and when she talked to you she’d run her eyes up and down your body like snakes. She’d sort of smile at you while taking a drag from her cigarette. I think she thought I was odd but interesting. She recognized pain when she saw it.
There was a tearoom in the back. It had high ceilings and curtains of heavy velvet fabric. The bathroom was completely covered in broken plates and jewels ala Julien Schnabel.The bar was made from wood from elevators in the old Woolworth building. I worked mostly during lunch shifts so I’d have to get there by 10:30. I got there early, finished my set-up and still had time to sit and have coffee and a baguette. She sat next to me and smoked. Neither one of us said a word. She was a strange combination of intimidating and annoying. She called me Darda, which to me sounded a little too close to the word retarded.
Once when I was working in the tearoom a gypsy psychic came in and told me that the color she saw around me was black. Really, I said, but I’m an optimist, I have an 8 year old daughter, I like to laugh, please don’t tell me all you see is black. She held my hands across the table and said, Your heart has been broken.
I stared at her and stopped breathing and tears filled up in my eyes. Oh my God, it was broken, it really was, how did you know.
I’m looking at you.
I could barely speak. There was no point in denying it. She could see. I was naïve. I was only pretending that everything was ok, but really it wasn’t. Black was flowing out of me. Will it get better? I could barely whisper because of the lump in my throat.
She shook her head sadly, he was the love of your life.
Oh! I couldn’t even hold up my head.
Darda? I could hear Yaffa calling me from the kitchen. I wasn’t supposed to sit down with the customers and I thought she was going to yell at me, so I got up and slumped to the curtain where she was standing. I had so much black pouring out of me I was like a dogfighter pilot spiraling into the ocean. She put her hand on my back and we stood that way for a few minutes.
Did she tell you your heart was broken?
I nodded.
She says that to everyone.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Tales of Horror

When Mo was little, she went through a spell where she made me read her horror stories before bed and when she realized that those weren’t scary enough she asked me to make them up. I don’t like scary things, at least I thought I didn’t, and at first my stories were dull and frustrating. More scary, she’d say in her deep little alligator voice. I started to make up stories that took place in our very house, where a man in raggedy clothes crawled in through a window and killed the mother and buried her in the basement, only he didn’t really kill her and she’d start scratching on the floorboards. I’d get myself so freaked out that I couldn’t look out the window; when I heard a slight noise, I’d freeze myself to stillness, but Mo would just say Good night Mommy, and roll over.

When I was about 12, I put a stocking over my face (if you don’t already know how scary that looks, I recommend you find a pair of pantyhose right now and try it) and woke my brother up at 3 am. He shit his pants. I didn’t even enjoy it. His reaction, his scream, his profound horror almost gave me a heart attack. He got back at me though when we were in Rhode Island in the summer and hung a noose outside my window.

I’m not scared of that, I yelled from my room to Pete and my cousin Miles who were outside arguing in whispers.

Although I kind of was: a swinging rope outside in the dark was creepy. Pete remedied that the next day by climbing up and trying to make it look as though he hung himself although he slipped and almost really did hang himself.

That would have been really scary.

I’m thinking all these things because Mo and Ryan gave me a book for Christmas called Shake The Devil Off, which is a true story about an Iraq vet who killed his girlfriend, cut her body into pieces, stored them in the fridg and then threw himself off a building. And this is what I read at night before I fall asleep.

Friday, January 7, 2011

America's Funniest Home Videos

Last night I woke up in the middle of the night and went to the kitchen to get a glass of water for Dar. I hate the assault of the lights so I kept them off, got the glass and the water and poured a full cup onto the counter and floor. I attempted this two more times with the same result until, fully awake, I thought to open the refridg door to let some light in and get the job done properly.

This morning I walked into the kitchen and slipped on the puddle and grabbed the counter like a novice ice skater. Good Morning World. I love you.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

The New Year

In honor of my decision to complete everything I start, I unpacked our two suitcases the same day we got home. I have to say it felt good. My usual m.o. is to leave them standing by the stairs, then a few days later clunk, clunk drag them to the bedroom, a few days after that open the big one and route through for a specific shirt or pair of shoes leaving the pillaged mess in a heap, later stare at it and hate it, push it into the corner, never go into the room unless it’s to go to bed, have sweaty, disturbed and restless nights of sleep because nothing around me is peaceful and tidy, wake up irritable and cross, yell at my children when they don’t agree with everything I say, add it to the list that includes going to the post office, returning library books and getting another job so I can pay all my bills, set aside a later time when I promise myself I will do it, get distracted by one interesting and 107 not so interesting links and sites and articles on the computer, swear I’ll do it the next day, have a deadline to meet or appointment to drive to in 15 minutes and then… I’ll unpack, only instead of putting everything away I’ll dump it into a laundry bag, oh my god, there’s that book. It’s not good to have that kind of symbol lurking in my room.