Thursday, September 29, 2011

Still at The Edge

The cop cars were on my street yesterday. I am partly used to this because of Carlos and his family, and also because they film TV shows and movies around the corner, but it's still weird to hear the Weep Woop of the siren and some guy talking through a megaphone type speaker ten feet in front of my house. I was coming up the hill from walking the dogs and Harry was on the sidewalk with his skate board. He was standing still, watching with one foot on the board.
What's going on?
Someone was screaming.
Before the cops got here or after?
Who was it?
A girl.
Let's go inside.
We saw Michelle, our neighbor, on the way in. I think they're here for Eddie, I said.
That's what I thought, she said.
He'd pretty much been drinking for a month straight, starting at 7 in the morning where he'd sit on the curb all day until it was just him and the streetlights.We all scrambled up the stairs and walked into the living room to the window, like people hurrying to get to their seats before a show.
Two cops escorted Eddie into the street. He was shirtless and handcuffed. No one came out with him, not his mom or his father or any of his brothers. The cops told him to step out of his shoes, they were corduroy slip-ons, and as he tried to kick them off, he leaned to the side almost toppling over.
Why are they making him take his shoes off?
I don't know.
One of the cops unhandcuffed him and told him to put his hands on his head. Eddie did as he was told staring straight ahead with his lips pursed. His face was frozen, expressionless. It was weird how quiet everything was. I could hear a woman's nasal voice from inside the cop car announcing other crimes and then the tweet of the radio.
One cop started to examine the shoes, like there might be something hidden in there, while another cop started frisking Eddie.
We watched from the window with the curtain pulled back. Eddie was like a statue. He didn't seem angry or sad or humiliated. He didn't even seem stunned. It seemed like he was no longer in his body.
Is he going to jail?
I don't think so.
Why is the cop frisking him?
Maybe it's the procedure.
Is he doing something bad?
I don't think so.
I had never watched anyone getting frisked before and was surprised by the intimacy. The cop even put his hand under Eddie's big belly while Eddie just stared ahead at nothing. We all whispered questions to each other, huddling behind the curtain. What did he do? Who called the cops? Where is the girl? Was that his mother screaming? None of us knew anything except that, judging from Eddie's stillness, he still hadn't snapped yet.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

New Orleans

Check out this video directed by my brother Beau. This is what happens on the street on an ordinary day.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Thankful for Small Favors

Unless I am trying to make them feel bad, I do not cry in front of my kids. And even then, it doesn't really work, it doesn't make them feel ashamed and sorry, it makes them feel frightened and distressed, the way you might feel if the pilot of the airplane you were on just walked out of the cockpit weeping with his head in his hands. So when I need to cry, I usually go sit in my car. If I had a driveway, this would be fine, but my car is parked on the street where it's hard to have a proper, full out, unselfconscious breakdown. I can usually get a few minutes in before someone walks by, usually someone walking a dog who needs to stop and sniff and investigate the muffled whimpering sounds before peeing on my tire.

Yesterday I had a full five minutes to myself before the Irish guy I've had a crush on since last year came around the corner with his two dogs and a girl. They were holding hands. And she was wearing high heels and a dress from the night befooooooooooooooore. I shrunk down in my seat and pretended to be asleep but then worried that they might think I was dead or worse, insane, so I pretended instead to look for something under the glove compartment. Once they were past I started all over again, this time with actual moaning sound effects. It didn't make me feel any better, but it seemed to get out of my system more quickly. You can only listen to yourself making alien sounds for so long.

I sat forward to start the car and the key just clicked. The battery was dead. Dead. If I was writing a scene where the sad sack main character had just cried in the car, I wouldn't even write such a thing. It's too much. Too stupid. Overkill. But there it was. I tried it a few times to make sure that, in my grief, I wasn't hallucinating, but...nothing. I thought about crying some more but called AAA instead. I was relieved for the distraction; this was a problem with a quick solution.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Dork For Evah

I almost got into a genuine Jerry Springer hair-pulling throat punching fist fight at parent's night. In my mind I did anyway. In reality, I sat at my desk in the front row, trying to listen to the English teacher talk about what books the class will be reading this year. Just as she was getting started, some lady with leopard skin pants, 5 inch heels, and a full coating of orange makeup walked in and sat behind me (I know that sounds snooty and like I'm judging and while it is and I am, I'm mainly pointing it out because she seemed out of place). She wasn't the one I wanted to smack anyway. Even though she was cracking her gum and her phone did go off two minutes after she sat down --Apple Bottom Jeans, full volume. She apologized. It wasn't entirely her fault that some guy from the back row then started a conversation with her about how big his balls were.
Like a catcher's mitt, baby.
Oh for real?
That's what I heard anyway. I looked to the teacher who was the all time master of not being distracted by people who can't pay attention. She looked tired, exhausted really, but still able to muster whatever it takes to teach 36 students in one classroom how to write a poem. I don't think she heard the two dingdongs having a conversation. But I did. I turned to shush the guy. (And now before you judge me, I mean go ahead you're probably right, I know that's a dork move, but that's how I get in a classroom.) He looked at me with his chin pulled in, like Psssshh, who the hell are you. The lady just stifled a giggle. All the other parents looked away. I looked to the teacher again who was still talking but was now turning her body away from the side of the room where the commotion was happening, so I just glared at the big monkey.
On the way out he said Don't shush me babe. I have every right to be here.
I was trying to listen! I said.
Yeah, he said, waved his hand at me and walked away.
In my mind, I did a slow motion flying kick to the back of his head while time stopped, everyone cheered and I became the most popular girl in school, but in reality I just looked down at my schedule and pretended to look for my next class.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Happy Birthday Steve

This is from last year...

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 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, and that he has been hit by a car. 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.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011


I am going to visit my Dad today and though I'm not sure what the agenda is, I'm pretty sure it will involve short films, growing old and the hiring of hookers. Lately that's what it comes down to. Here's an old one I wrote about a visit.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Genius At The Bar

Yesterday I was at the apple store again waiting for all the information on my computer to be deleted. The genius helping me was an 18 year old beanie wearing Asian skateboarder named Yo. He had saved everything from my computer onto this rectangular piece of plastic not much bigger than a credit card, which I was trying to fit back into the packaging while he told me he wanted to grow his facial hair long enough that the hair from his chin would connect to his sideburns. I stared at him and at the places on his face where he wanted hair to grow.
It's not going to happen, I said.
Come on, I've been working on it for 2 weeks.
I squinted at his face, No way. But you do have some crazy teeth. He did. He had a serious set of fangs, not on the front area where they usually are, but back in the middle of the upper row. How the hell did that happen?
He laughed and then smiled wide so I could get a full view.
Damn, I said. That proves you're a genius. He turned his head this way and that, proud of himself.
All geniuses have some sort of malformation, I told him.
He thought about this for a few minutes, he wanted to accept the praise but he also wanted to dispute it.
I just made that up, I said, finally.
Aww, dude, that sucks, I was so ready to buy into that one.
You're already a genius, what do you care.
Yeah, he sighed, unconvinced.
We turned our attention to the computer screen and stared at it. I felt like I was watching someone get a blood transfusion. It felt oddly scary and mysterious and sad.
Why do you want your side burns to grow enough to connect to your chin hair?
Because it'll look awesome. But, you're right, I know it'll never happen.
Don't say that, I said.
Why not?
Because geniuses aren't pessimistic, only normal people are.

Friday, September 16, 2011

I Aint a Killer But Don't Push Me

Here's the song playing in my head when I pull into the carpool lane at school.

Until I moved to L.A., I had never experienced outwardly and aggressively rude behavior from other parents. Before that it was always repressed and unspoken. Or if it was spoken, it was done quietly with a friend outside of a five hundred foot(at least) radius of the school. Inside the school though there was always a solidarity, we were all rushing from the chaos of morning at home: unmade beds, milk filled ceral bowls on the table, dog plops in the living room, to stressful days at work. School was just one stop along the way. Often the best part.

Bye Honey.
Bye Mom, I love you.
Love you too, sweets. See you later. Oh hey Mr Simpson, see you at the game on Saturday!
Hi Sal, love the haircut.

Ok, well, not quite, but you know what I'm saying. Here it's every man for himself. God help you if you don't pull ahead 6 inches when the car in front of you moves. You get a full 5 second horn.
Wait, what?

Or, if you tap your horn to wave and warn another parent that your short child is walking in front of their SUV.
You beepin at me? Really? You beepin at me? Cause I'm the only one here.

I don't like confrontations, especially with angry moms trying to get to yoga class. And I don't mean to judge, I'm an angry mom too. I really just want to fight with my own family members; everyone else just calm the heck down!

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Fall in Philly

This reminds me of fall in Philadelphia
Once I saw Questlove (?estlove) at the Grove. He stuck out like a sore thumb. I stalked him until he just got into a line at the Cheesecake Factory and I had to reveal myself. I wish I could say we had a long talk about good old Philly and mutual friends and feeling uncomfortable at fancy outdoor shopping areas, but basically I just said hi and he nodded. It was all in the subtext.

The One Laughing

A few weeks ago my neighbor sat outside all day laughing like a maniac. Well not all day. And there were people around, so he didn't appear totally insane. But I recognized that sound. When my kids start laughing like that I know that they are only a short step away from crying. The laugh is a little too loud and goes on a little too long. It's only a matter of time before someone's head gets slammed.

The guy who was laughing is one of three brothers that live across the street. Not Carlos and his family who are actual gang members. Just guys who hang out all day drinking beer, chit chatting. Their parents live across the street, the little mom always busy hanging laundry or sweeping and the dad who sits in his banged up truck smoking cigs, occasionally patrolling the neighborhood for metal scraps or cardboard boxes. This entire family has lived here for 30 years: three brothers, the mom, the dad.

Eddie, the one who was laughing, is the youngest, at least he looks it, and I imagine things have not changed much for him since he was three, trying to keep up with his brothers, desperate to be included. Last week he knocked on my door while we were having dinner and asked me if I knew that someone had installed cameras on the side of my house.

Uh, no. I said, chewing, my fork still in my hand. It was weird that he knew my name, that he'd come knock on my door at 6 pm. Not scary weird, you know, just strange. Honestly, I thought he might be apologizing, because the week before he had been yelling outside about some cocksucker who broke his fucking TV. Harry had been outside riding his bike and I told him to come in. Eddie's brother yelled to me Sorry bout that, and then in a quieter voice Eddie! Mind your fuckin manners.

Then there he was a few days later, standing at my door. He was chubby and sad,a 30 year old man with a face like a baby who smelled like cologne and beer. He explained to me that he had heard someone was putting up cameras on the side of some of the buildings in the neighborhood. I said Oh and told him I was in the middle of dinner. He said oh yeah, ok. Sorry. I did have the thought that maybe I shouldn't be so short with a person who seemed like he was getting ready to snap, but I've seen him with his mother, how he carries her groceries for her, takes the broom out of her hand and makes her sit and I figured I was in the same category as her.

I did have the thought too, as I walked back to the table, that he wasn't entirely disconnected. Some part of him knew he was being watched.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Nine One One

I didn't want to write anything yesterday because I heard some 911 survivors on the radio saying they wish there didn't have to be so much attention on the day. There's a way we friendly and aggressive Americans like to sentimentalize, and therefore sometimes trivialize, tragedy. I know I do; I want to see Spike Lee's video of children singing and the firemen crying, or watch Robert DeNiro walk through Tribeca, or scroll through the "10 Most Powerful Images of September 11" but I made an effort not to.
Still, I am thinking about all those things this morning and it struck me that if we put attention on any day, it should be on the day after. Isn't that the day everything kind of hits you, when you connect with what happened, when you reflect. Whether it be a night of drinking, or the night you fell in love, or when your friends and family threw you a surprise party (yes!) it's the following day, isn't it, when it starts to feel real and when you begin to process your reaction and the consequences.
I remember my best friend, who lived in NY at the time, saying she just wanted to be outside the next day to be with everyone else. She took her camera and walked through the streets for the entire day and as she walked by people, she told me, they would look at each other with an instant connection, acknowledging all the pain, grief, shock, strength and love that seemed to say: We are here.

Friday, September 9, 2011


There is a point during parenthood when your child surpasses you in intellect and maturity (fortunately you have waves of this as said child is growing, so that it doesn't, necessarily, hit you like a ton of bricks) and you are no longer the person who is asked for help (how you wished for this when they were younger and that's all they ever did!) but rather the one who is humored and tolerated. And I don't mean tolerated the way an annoying drone is tolerated (sometimes), but tolerated in the way something old fashioned is. Yeah, that's old school, we don't do it that way anymore. I am not wistful about this, mainly because I am too busy in wonder: how did this girl get to be so,well, amazing?
From this child I have learned about:
helping others
shoes, jewelry and all things girly
stating my opinion without fear
loving cats

and I have been reminded of:
John Steinbeck
sailor style burps
love at first sight
Happy Birthday Mo! Have fun in Vegas.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

What's His Name Again?

People in my Life whose names I should remember:

The girl I used to ride the train to school with in 3rd and 4th grade who got on at either 52nd street or Overbrook. One time she cried all the way from school to the city, open mouth, head thrown back crying and she never did tell me what happened.

My english professor from my junior year who wore a black cape and smoked a cigarette in a holder. He was southern and taught a comparative literature class about Faulkner and Shakespeare.

A babysitter from 5th grade who watched a scary movie of the week with Pete and me and then when we got scared re-enacted the more horrifying scenes with funny voices.

Mo's first preschool teacher who was amazing and then left in the middle of the year because she got a better job somewhere else.

The midwife who delivered Darla and Harry.

My philosophy professor who, at a meeting after class to go over a paper, offered me a glass of wine at 3 in the afternoon and when I said No thanks, said Oh come on, why not?

Wednesday, September 7, 2011


Who knew that a photo of the back of someone's head could tell you so much about a person. From Darla I have learned how to talk to old people (exactly the way you speak to someone your own age! of course)
How to not feel embarassed about having a crush.
How to make daring fashion choices.
How to use my computer.
How to pose in photographs.
How to wear an eye mask to bed.
How to do the Dougie.
How to eat neatly and in a very precise order.
How to not be bothered by mean things someone says about you. (it tells you more about them than me!)
How to scream at tiny bugs.
How to giggle.
How to have fun.
Happy Birthday Teenager.