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.


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


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


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


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.”
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.
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?
He looked at Harry who was still looking at his feet.
Is this your sister?
How old are you son?
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?
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.