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.
But everyone loves that song.
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


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.

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-
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.


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 Check it out. We need more teachers like her!

Wednesday, November 9, 2011


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.