Monday, December 31, 2012

A List

Why can't I compile a list too? I was sitting here thinking about my writing topic options today which include "A list of things I've done that I can repress 99% of the time that I know will get me into Hell" and I thought I do not want to end the year with that thought. I want to think hopefully and positively because really, I know that 2013 will be the best year ever. So Cheers Big Ears, have a happy New Year tonight. I'll be home watching a new show I've discovered that is amazing and fantastic. It's called 30 Rock. Have you heard of it? Best wishes for Love, Joy, Prosperity, New Discovery, Good Health and Peace.

Some of my favorite things that I wrote

The Futility of Rage
Repetoire of Funny
Walter's Camera

And I couldn't find another place for this video but I had to include it because I think it's the best live performance I saw all year.

Happy New Year!!

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Ways To Trick Yourself From A Plunge Into Debilitating Sadness

                                                                    Grandpa Harry

The week in between Christmas and New Years always seems about 3 months long. You never really know what day it is and if you're not mainlining sugar, you're fighting off the need to completely re-evaluate your life and make some serious changes. I spent part of yesterday looking online at photos of Celebrity Couples Kissing; and it wasn't something you just scroll through mindlessly, it was one of those things where you have to click the arrow and wait a few seconds for the photo to load in. This was a full commitment to insanity. There's a pretty good chance I did this for a few hours. I didn't even know who half these people were. Ugh. I didn't even mean to just write that, now I feel like I'm forcing you to waste time too. I'm sorry. I wanted to write about things that made me feel better during this weird twilight zone week and I got distracted. These are secret tricks I bust out to make myself feel better in times of need.

1. Heat up the oven for about ten minutes, then stand close enough while opening the door so your glasses get completely fogged up. Turn to your teenager and say: Mary? Is that you? You look so young.

All right, you know what, I'm just trying here. That's all. I can't say this is the remedy you need, but it works for me. Sometimes. And it's just one secret trick. Not an entire list.

What day is it again?

Tuesday, December 25, 2012


Merry Christmas Everyone! Have a great day filled with joy and comfort and sweetness, and try not to get too annoyed with your relatives.

Don't eat 18 cookies, run up and down the stairs until you feel like vomiting, and then cry watching this commercial.

Merry Christmas. xooxoxo

Friday, December 21, 2012

Happy Weekend

It always feels a little odd to have Christmas without snow or cold weather, like we're just pretending, but I have to say I liked sitting here at my desk yesterday.

Something to listen to. It was supposed to be the end of the world today. Hopefully it'll just be the end of certain parts. Fingers crossed for 2013!

Something to read. I liked what this guy had to say.

Something to make. I don't think I've ever posted a goddam recipe before, but this looked good.

Something to go see. I love Kathryn Bigelow. I love Jessica Chastian. I love Jason Clark. I love having the realization that women can be great leaders because they are not afraid to trust their intuition.

Here are some photos of my neighborhood.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

The box! the bow! the plop!

One of my Grandfather's Christmas traditions involved wrapping an old brown shellacked dog poop in a box with paper and ribbon, and handing it out to someone on Christmas morning. Every year. The box. The bow. The plop. My little chubby Italian Grandfather in his bathrobe with his jams buttoned to the neck, with his brown leather slippers, his hair uncombed and sticking up on the side, would bring out this box after everyone had finished opening their gifts, hand it to someone and then turn and shuffle back to his place on the sofa. He'd sit with his shoulders up and his lips pursed tight, practically IMPLODING WITH UTTER JOY.

Go on, open it, he'd say, his voice quivering.

No really, I can't.

You're gonna love it. (eeeeeeeee)

No, you've done so much already.

You deserve it! (ooooooooo)

Let's drop it at the orphanage.

But I had it engraved. (nnnnnnn)

Each time he'd respond he'd pan to all our faces sitting and watching as if to say, Wait'll you see this!!!!

Well all right, if you insist... Wait a....just a....WHAT?????

And then he'd dissolve into a full minute of giggling and coughing and crying while we all filed into the kitchen for the next portion of the day.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Looking for the Helpers

I've been a little stuck in my writing since the shootings because I didn't know exactly what I wanted to say about it, and it was too hard to write about anything else; one thing I kept thinking is that it's a sad time for so many people right now, more than the usual it seems: cancer, divorce, floods, hurricanes, financial struggles, unexpected deaths in the family, husbands having affairs, addiction, mental illness, earthquakes, tsunamis, 20 six-year-olds getting shot in their school classroom.

Is it always this bad?

I mean of course we 're going on, and there are holiday parties, and people laughing, and the tiny turd in the hallway that your dog left that you just step over because you can't be bothered just yet, and traveling to be with family, and last minute school projects, and ordering stuff from Amazon, and looking out the window at your neighbor starting her car, and talking to friends from far away on the phone... but then... there's the sadness too.

I keep coming back to that. And it seems more than just the usual amount.

And I'm not sure what to do. On Friday I read this quote from Mr. Rogers (who, in an odd way, I think of as my father) He said:

"When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, "Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping." To this day, especially in times of "disaster," I remember my mother's words and I am always comforted by realizing that there are still so many helpers – so many caring people in this world."

I included his signature there because it makes it feel like a personal letter which is a nice thing to send and an even nicer thing to receive. Write one today

Sandy Hook Elementary School
12 Dickenson Drive
Newtown, CT 06482

or to someone else who needs to hear from you.


Thursday, December 13, 2012

Do you Believe?

         Yesterday our gas was shut off, so we had to wash dishes, bathe and make coffee the old fashioned way, by heating water in the microwave! Here's an oldie to get in the holiday spirit.

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.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

The Caveman

There's a guy in my neighborhood who walks around in swaddling clothes. We call him the Caveman. When I say swaddling clothes, I mean essentially a small piece of fabric tied around his business like an old school cloth diaper. He has a beard and long hair filled with twigs and dreadlocks. His body is smeared with dirt and he doesn't have shoes. I don't know how he gets food but he must because he is muscular and lean, though not very tall. His face is clear, not puffy or curling-in like a heavy drinker.

My neighborhood is made up of mostly Victorian and Colonial Spanish types of houses, but on one side we can see high rise apartment buildings and city skyscrapers. On the other side there's a couple blocks with hipster coffee shops, book stores, bars and beauty salons. Across the street that way is Dodger's Stadium, and then to the other side of that is Elysian Park with hiking trails, super steep hilly climbs and a man-made waterfall and reservoir. I imagine the Caveman lives there, but honestly for all I know, he could have his own apartment on Douglas Street with a flat screen TV.

I see him a lot, most often at the big intersection near Sunset. In six years, I've never seen him beg. He's always just patrolling the area, sometimes foraging and scouring. Other times  he's having a more thoughtful stroll, looking up with his hands clasped behind his back, taking long slow strides. When he walks in front of my car at the light, time usually stands still and I follow him with my eyes. Who is this guy? What happened to him? How is he content to live like this? I mean he's a neighborhood guy, I should be able to roll down the window and wave: Hey Cave! What's goin on? Good, how bout yourself. Gettin chilly huh? Yeah...Yup. Hey have a good one.

A few blocks down Sunset there's a mega church. It's basically like an event stadium, big enough for basketball teams but not baseball or football. On Friday and Saturday nights, hundreds of people, mostly Filipino and Mexican, pour in and then out of it, smiling and excited like they've just been to the goddam ice-capades. I'm curious about that too and have often thought of, what the hell, just popping in one Friday night to see what goes on, but I'm wary of a righteous man with a headset and microphone, and I (ignorantly) assume I'll be done after ten minutes and will be stuck in there.

I might go.

I bring this up because yesterday in traffic on Sunset, I looked over and saw Cave walking down the street, hands clasped behind his back, deep in conversation with a well-dressed older Filippino lady carrying a purse. Time stood still and I followed them with my eyes. Cave? What the hell is going on? I was fascinated and wished I could follow them with a video camera or tape recorder. I wondered if they each thought the other was Jesus Christ.

I watched them stroll down Sunset and turn into the Taco Stand on Echo Park Ave.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012


I played lacrosse in high school. This wasn’t really a special achievement since at my school everyone had to play a team sport. Still, just as a quick aside, I have recently realized the importance of team sports. Now, finally, light-years later, I get it: the team, a group of people working together, depending on each other, communication without words, all that. Why didn’t our gym teacher just say that to begin with? Miss Guilfillan, Miss Yarnell, in your kilts and your kneesocks, your whistles and windbreakers, why didn’t you just tell us: Okay okay ladies, hustle up! Everybody in. You know all this? The teamwork, the practice, the skills, the goals, the winning and losing and how you deal with it? It’s a metaphor people. It’s a goddam, motherfucking metaphor. All right? LET’S GO!! (I don’t know why I just made Miss Guilfillan sound like Samuel L. Jackson).

Yeah. I played lacrosse. The first year I played goalie. I didn’t really want to, but I did. Even in my formative years I was the person to volunteer when no one else would.

“”We’re doing shooting drills today ladies and we’re gonna need a goalie. Who wants to put the pads on?
Manning?....Featherman? Come on, we can’t practice until we get someone in the goal.
(sigh) I’ll do it.
Atta girl, Lowry.

I wasn’t very good. I was too small and I did not like having balls thrown at my head (insert crude joke here) but I didn’t mind being alone and I was the only volunteer. In a few weeks I was on the varsity team. I remember my mantra was Let’s get this over with. Everyone did their best to keep the ball at the other end of the field which was fine with me because it gave me time to daydream and watch the sideline activity. 

At this time, there was a new teacher at school, Mr. Driscoll. We didn't have many male teachers then, I went to an all girls school, so he was a superstar celebrity. Handsome in that preppy/ half-ugly/ long teeth/short upper lip way, he loved all the attention, and made sure to make regular appearances at lunch, sporting events and school dances. 

And now introducing for your learning pleasure, the fabulous, the fantastic, the one and only Mr....Jim....Driscoll!
(swirling lights, loud applause, trumpet theme song)

I didn't buy it. There was something creepy about him, not in a dangerous pedophile way, just in an ex-jock teaching at a small private school way. He sniffed and crossed his arms before speaking. He was sarcastic. He used big vocabulary words. He taught philosophy.

Once at one of our last games he put his hands around his mouth and yelled Get Lewis out of there. She's a sieve! At first I heard my name and thought he was cheering me on but then I realized the word he used was Sieve. Sieve! The guy was trash talking a 14 year old. Me! With a fancy word! And I had volunteered!

I don't know what ever happened to Mr. Driscoll, maybe he's still teaching philosophy to high school girls, trash talking easy targets in his spare time, walking through the hallways with a jaunty little spring in his step or maybe he's working in an office, following orders, philosophizing over why things are not always what you think they are.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Coffee Porn ?

This is the sound my grandmother's coffee pot used to make. I was thinking about this while I made my own coffee this morning, while I was waiting for the water to boil. A watched pot never boils, I know, I've heard that, but I was watching it. I was wondering who invented the coffee maker I use, how it's a pretty simple design that works, but beautiful too, like the corkscrew. And then I was remembering my grandmother's coffee pot which involved so much labor. I mean just the sound! It was so stressed. I can remember sitting on a stool in her kitchen back near the nook where she kept the pot plugged in. I'm sure at the time it was a very fancy contraption, much fancier than the coffee maker her own parents used, which probably involved a campfire and a thin sock filled with coffee grains. I used to watch that thing, the way that, after much wheezing and hissing, the brown coffee would splash up into the glass knob at the top. It would go on that way for a good 10 minutes it seemed, chugging, hissing, chugging, hissing, until finally it worked it's way back to being still: a little coffee orgasm.

Coffee's ready!

Every once in a while I was allowed to have some. It's just Sanka. And I can remember putting cream and so much sugar that I had to push the spoon through it. It was disgusting and delicious. Always worth the wait.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Hump Day

Today I have to finish some work, then go to work and somewhere in the middle clean the salamander tank which involves gallons of water, rocks, water plants and sally poops and I've put it off for three months. So here's something else to read:


Tom Sachs, A Selby Film from the selby on Vimeo.


Tuesday, December 4, 2012

What's It All About, Selfie?

                                                       Is it just for the moment we live?

I can't hear this song without thinking of something sad and desperate and lonely, like the sedated moms in the apartment building where I grew up, who started cocktails at 4, chain-smoked long thin cigs and stared into space a lot. They were so humorless and tired and pretty; they sent us on errands to the Pharmacy and gave us five dollars to take the bus to Wanamaker's (a huge department store) where we hung out all day when we were 9.

It's also the song I think of when I think of the word Selfie. I wonder if the kids of the generation who take photos of themselves all day long, when they wake up, when they are eating cereal, when they are watching TV, at the dentist office, in line at the cafeteria, while driving; the ones who send pics of their fingernails, feet, cocks and titties to friends for fun will think the same thing.

Monday, December 3, 2012

Who Is This Person?

At Trader Joe's I stood in line to sample something, I think it was meatloaf and mashed potatoes, it doesn't matter really it's more that I was IN LINE WAITING for it. Like I was at a soup kitchen, or an insane asylum just gettin' my meds. In my jacket, with my purse in the baby seat part of the cart, checking my Instagram, I was waiting. I think my 13 year old self just committed suicide when she had a glimpse of that, just walked into the kitchen, pulled open a drawer, took out the dull serrated bread knife, and cut her/my head off. It's a good thing too; she missed the part where I got the thimble of meatloaf, said Thank you! and then after walking away, said "Mmmmm" out loud, to no one in particular.

Friday, November 30, 2012

Fine Thanks

I ran into this lady I used to know from a while back. Every time I see her I recognize her instantly, but I can never remember if it's for a good reason or a bad reason. She's like a siren that way, and I float towards her with glazed eyes, my mind hastily scanning all my files. (Pretty..... has an accent): Oh hi.

(Zza Zza?...Slavic?...parent?)...Nice to see you too.

(strands of loose hair on jacket....standing too close...crazy eyes) Okay. Yeah. Well--

At once, the memory drops in and Sherlock Holmes describes it while we continue talking.

(We met at a parent night at school 4 years ago. Both single mothers, we sat together near the back of the room and she talked the entire time I was trying to listen to the teacher: She used to walk everywhere but had injured her foot somehow and was now stuck at home. She had no income but was collecting disability...) I'm rushing, so sorry

(She started in on how she was still on medication but liked to have a glass of wine at 5 o'clock) Well you gotta do what you gotta do

(She followed me down through the frozen foods, past dairy, past meats...didn't even stop to take a breath) I think my meter might be...

I emptied out all my non-verbal clues, distress signals and then rude behavior; sometimes you just have to cut and release. I said "goodbye, so sorry, gotta..." and then of course by the time I got to the check out line I felt simultaneously exhausted and ashamed of myself. Every single one of my granny/old Italian Aunt/nosy landlady interior voices came out full force: What? You can't have a simple conversation for 3 minutes out of your life? That could be you! That is you! Miss High and Mighty in a  rush blablabladdiddybla...
Then my protective guard came out and yelled back: That woman is batshit crazy. She's probably still talking back there to the coffee grinder; she doesn't care. You are in a rush...
And then there's a full-on London Football stadium mob fight going on in my head: screaming, shoves, kicks, head butts.

The sweet store clerk starts taking the things out of my basket and ringing them through, "How are you doing tonight"

I take a deep breath, feeling suddenly too warm with my jacket. "Fine Thanks", and I reach in my pocket, fishing for my card.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

One Old Thought About the Gym and One New

1. Last night at the gym a guy came in and started getting serious with the weight machines. Very serious. I was on the treadmill and he set himself up across from me. Each rep he did was punctuated with the sound you make when someone fires a cannon ball into your stomach. It wasn't really something you could get used to. I tried not to look at Dar who was on the stationary bike across the room, but every once in a while we'd catch each other's eye and I couldn't hold it in. Pretty soon I was laughing so hard, I had to hold onto the side rails while my legs continued moving like wet noodles in long slow strides. I'm pretty sure he didn't notice me.

2. I don't know why but I can't bring myself to read while I'm on the treadmill. There's something obscene and grotesque about it. I know. That's extreme. But when I see someone reading while they're on the treadmill all I can do is judge and get annoyed. "Really? You're reading? Doing one thing at a time isn't enough? (Big teenager sigh and eye roll and attempt to focus inward)...(then can't help it) How's Kim Kardashian?... Idiot."
What the hell is wrong with me? She's just working out. Calm down. 
Part of it is my own shame at running indoors. I should be outside, breathing fumes and dodging traffic. Like someone serious about endurance and misery. But here I am on the treadmill (actually it's an elliptical). Like a poodle. Like a poodle, in a sports bra.
Hand me that People would ya?

Here's what I should be doing.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Family Humor

There used to be a super 8 movie of my Grandfather suffocating a baby in a basinette with a teddy bear. We would watch it at family gatherings like Thanksgiving and Christmas, and all fight over who the baby was. That's me! No it's me! No, me!

"Who was it, Don?" Nana would say, getting in on the action.
"It was little Billy Macready", GP would say without looking up from his book. Always it was a different name. "He wouldn't stop crying".

We all gasped and sat up and looked at each other. Little heads turning from one cousin to another, hiding smiles, feigning shock. We'd look to Nana who was sadly shaking her head as if to say, "It had to be done". Occasionally she would say, Oh I hate this one, this is horrible, Don! Turn it off! and she was such a good actress I couldn't tell if she was playing along or if she really meant it. Either way, we'd all yell, No, No, Leave it on. Leave it on. Tiny little voices, pleading and adamant.

There was another movie of GP pretending to drown in the pond down the road from their house. Wearing blue jeans and no shirt, he hurled himself into the water with a running start. Then something grabbed his leg and he got pulled under. He battled it. Punching and splashing. Splashing and flailing. Finally, weakened, he drifted under the water; his open hand like a final scream was the last thing to disappear.

Yaaaaaaaaaaay, we all clapped at the beauty of it, and also because GP was a grump sometimes, and he deserved it.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Black Clouds Hangin

                                                  Sometimes black clouds are beautiful.

I read something over the weekend about a guy who had Thanksgiving by himself. He was saying that even though he tried to prepare himself for it being just another Thursday, even though he wasn't a big fan of the holiday to begin with, he still had a hard time not feeling depleted by it. He went to a movie and all he could think about was how sad it was that he was the lone guy in the theater. "The distance between gratitude and self-pity", he wrote, "is miniscule". That stuck with me, and I think it's true, but it also led me to the idea how self-pity can make an appearance when you're in a group of people too, especially a group you are related to. You don't need a day locked up in solitairy to figure that one out. Holidays are weird, you have more than the usual conflicts going on: joy and love are next to rage and guilt. Annoyance? Pull up a chair! Empathy and grace? Right here between shame and regret. And pass the stuffing!

The negatives are there, as usual right on time, but they don't need to be indulged; I mean, they can't really be ignored, but pay close attention instead to the moments. Think about seeing your step-mom dance to Benny Goodman with her mother; or secretly giving the cat a piece of turkey and watching her trot off with it like she just won a prize; or reading a text from a friend who writes about hiking in the mountains: "Walks in the snow where the flakes come down so huge and lightly whole lifetimes pass until they fall". Think about that.

Saturday, November 24, 2012


My computer went dark the past few days so I didn't get to write about what I am grateful for. Is grateful the same as thankful? Grateful seems a little more emphatic, more desperate (what I am) so I'll use that.
-I'm grateful for my computer: almost always the last thing I look at before I go to bed and the first thing I look at when I wake up (is that weird?)
-My neighbors: I love them all, but special shoutout to Senora who walks down our block at the crack of dawn, and then after dark, rolling her suitcase behind her. I don't know where she goes or what she does but she walks everywhere, up and down hills, really every single day, even weekends. She knows every cat in a ten block radius and I love hearing her stop to talk to them sweetly in Spanish at 7pm after a long day.
These two are always waiting when I come home at the end of the day. I don't think I need to explain why I love them.

-My brother-in law: My brother's husband Duncan not only knows everything (Ask Duncan! is what we say when we can't think of the name of a song, or a period in history, or what a particular dialect of an Australian accent sounds like) he is always as ready for a conversation about religion or politics as he is for a dance party. He is kind, and an amazing listener and the best Uncle ever.

Working Outside: What is better than digging in dirt, having rude conversations, peeing on a tree and seeing immediate results of your labor. I don't know!

These Three: Most of the time, I don't know where they all came from. How did I get so lucky to know them, who each in their own way have taught me everything I know about being a human.
The Big One

The Teen

The Boy

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

A Secret Spot

A few blocks down past the stadium, through the park, across the train tracks and past the bridge, there's a street with a few warehouses. They are brick buildings, the kind you see in New England towns, you know: mills, old factories. The street is silent and pretty much barren. It wouldn't be surprising to see a tumbleweed coming down the middle of the road.
This building has probably been through a few earthquakes, maybe a gun fight or two, maybe it even caught some seaweed back in the tropical storm in 1939. At one time people probably poured through it like ants; in the morning and then again at night. And now it's just here, baking in the sun.

 Downstairs there's a vintage clothing storage place/store called Shareen's. It's like a sort of club house where you can go hang out and try clothes on and sit on huge ratty sofas and eat licorice and drink tea. There are no dressing rooms so you have to just change out in the open, fling your shirt across a water pipe, kick your shoe on the stairs and pretend you live in the wild west or you're going to church in the 1930s or working as a secretary in the 1950s.

Some of the clothing is crusty, stained and almost falling apart from age and use, but it's a real bank for ideas, characters and stories. You can't help thinking about your Gram and Mrs. Featherman and Aunt Nellie and Jackie O.

You should go.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Where The Lonely Games Take Me

I go through phases of playing Words With Friends and Solitaire on my phone. I like it because when I play, I do not have a single conscious thought in my head (although now that I've said that, it can no longer be true). I'm like a monkey with a pinecone. This is more true of solitaire because I'm just matching cards. I can go into a dream state during solitaire. Red, black, red, jack, four, seven. It's good practice for when my kids put me in a home. I can forget my past, my unfulfilled dreams, my lost loves, and just pass the day away in a quiet, tidy manner. Just put me in a diaper, in a chair by the window and I'm good.

Words with Friends, the scrabble game, is a little different though because you have to think of words, which probably have associations, and that whole process can take you down a different, though often equally solitaire-y, path. I once tried to spell the word QUEEF, which would have been a good one because of the 10 point Q on a triple letter and the 4 point F on a triple word, but it was not an "acceptable word" and  then I giggled and choked so much that Harry yelled at me from the other room.

There's also a "friend", so you're not completely alone; sometimes you can play with random strangers which can feel kind of sexy, especially with words like THROTTLE and DRENCH; sometimes with your sister-in-law, who beats you so badly (by 300 points!) that your spirit gets completely crushed, and you become filled with hatred and despair; and sometimes you play with a distant cousin you barely know. This last opponent is the one I am playing now; he is actually my Dad's cousin, though he's closer in age to me. His mother, my Grandmother's youngest sister, was one of my favorites. I like to imagine he is just like her, when I think of him out there in cyberspace. She was a real rascal, an amazing and effortless musician: a pianist ("Don't forget the T!") who chainsmoked and danced the shim-sham shimmy. Her name was Ahvagene, and she is the reason I know about this guy.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Happy Weekend!

Jury Day: Part two

Choosing a jury is an art not a science. This is what the judge said and I liked his thoughtfulness. I also liked all of us who were sitting there waiting to be chosen. I think we were about 40 in all, a pretty even demographic of LA, a few who spoke english as a second language. It felt like we were in camp together, an outward bound type of thing and I liked listening to everyone answer questions. It's not always what they say, but how they say it.

Do you think it's important to always be honest and truthful?

I liked the woman who answered like that; it was sort of a "This is a stupid question but maybe you're asking it to get to something deeper about my personality so I'm going to answer in a vague way that really says I'm trying to figure you out" kind of response. I also liked the ones who answered simply and earnestly, like sweet kids talking to a grown up.

You state that you work at Home Depot.
Uh huh. I mean yes.
When you started working at Home Depot, did they give you a manual of guidelines that you were supposed to follow?
Yes, but I never read it.

It was an odd feeling being in the "selection" process, there is the part of you that naturally wants to be included and "chosen" and then the part of you that wants nothing to do with it. There is a part of you that wants to be helpful and do as you are told and the other part of you that is judgmental and reactionary. You're put in a group and given breaks at regular intervals, but told not to talk to each other about anything you see or hear in the courtroom.

This is very difficult for me. If someone tells me not to do something that is all I want to do, even if it's something I couldn't have cared less about to begin with. I wanted to pay my civic duty, but not for more than a day. I wanted to be picked for the team but I didn't want to have to play in the outfield.

Juror number 7, we understand you write a blog.
And will you be writing about your experience here today?
I don't know...Maybe something, you know, about the loud fart that no one acknowledged, but nothing about the case.
Good. (fake smile) And of all the questions we have been asking today are there any that you feel you need to address?
I think that most of the time a person who sues is ignorant, stubborn and has an inferiority complex.
Ok, thank you for your time.
And the whole notion of punitive damages has been abused.
Thank you.
And this state in particular is so litigious, that a teacher can't even pat a kid on the back without some desperate pervert accusing--
OK, Juror 7 thank you. You are released.


Wednesday, November 14, 2012

11 Angry Men and Me: Part One

Yesterday I had to go to jury duty and though I raised my hand and promised not to talk about any of the details of the case I can tell you that during the selection process someone left what was probably the loudest fart I have ever heard. And no one said a thing. Not even an "Impressive!" whistle. I wanted the judge to pound the gavel, "Order, order!" but there was just silence. No one even turned his head to have a look around and connect with a suppressed grin, "Did he just...? Yes he did!" For half a second everyone in the room collectively and silently acknowledged what had just happened and then proceeded. I had two thoughts:

1. Thank God that wasn't me.
2. I am in a room filled with mature adults. (for possibly the first time in my life!)

Monday, November 12, 2012

The Beginning of The Carny: Grandpa Harry

When my great grandfather was in his 90s we used to go visit him on Sundays. He lived in a little brick house with rose bushes out front that he grew himself. Inside the house smelled like mothballs and cigars so strongly that I still can't smell either of those things without instantly thinking of that living room. Yes there were doilies and knitted things on the tops of the arm chairs; yes there was a huge TV that probably weighed as much as the delivery truck that hauled it to his house; yes there was a bowl of peppermints, unwrapped and stuck to each other. But there was also an odd framed landscape with a stream that lit up and "moved", there was a super glide chair lift that we'd pile on and ride up and down the stairs until someone yelled that we would break it (kind of a miracle that we didn't) and then, in Gramps smelly bedroom, there was a dresser covered with toys and dolls and puzzles that we were allowed to look at, but not touch, until he came upstairs and gave us a proper demonstration. He loved those toys so much and used to be so proud of himself after he wound them up and they actually began to move, as though winding up a toy was a new invention that no one else knew about or could possibly master as he had. "You wind it up... see? And then look at that", he'd chuckle, "Oh boy!" Then he'd get to the newer ones and he'd have to "hunt" for a "battry" to get it to work. He had a whole  monkey series of toys that did creepy things like blow bubbles or flip burgers. I hated/loved/was obsessed with those weird monkeys and their crusty fur. They had knees! Elbows! We used to sit on the unmade bed in our Sunday clothes and watch the whole show.

Here are some other facts about Grandpa Harry:
He lived until he was 104
He drank 4 Roses whiskey and smoked cigars
He wrote a book about the importance of having a positive attitude
When he entered a room he'd say Cheer Him Up! or Hip hip hooray! and clasp his hands over his head like a champ.
He was tall and skinny and wore round James Joyce glasses and a fedora
He couldn't walk past a clover patch without "hunting" for a 4 leaf clover (he always found one!)
He played the harmonica and could do the old soft shoe

This was his jam:

Friday, November 9, 2012


I wonder if it was difficult to explain how playing a sad song at the end of a movie with all the sad main characters singing along by themselves could be an uplifting thing.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Reposting An Oldie: The Desert

I'm catching a cold and last night slept with my mouth open. I woke up late and with a mouth as dry as the... 

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 GP.

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. 

Monday, November 5, 2012

Self Vs. Self-Help

A friend of mine gave me a book recently; I guess you would call it a self-help book. I wish there was a better name for that category. Maybe it should be called "books that you keep by your bed that you read the first few pages of and think are amazing and then you tell your friends and in telling your friends you sort of feel/act as though you've read the whole thing and so they (the books) sit on your bedside table forever, except once in a while you pick them up to read a random sentence and they're amazing again and you sigh and think, I really should read that".


Okay, Self help. Fine. I'm pretty sure I have at least three friends/family members who have read every self help book ever written. It's not like I'm alone here. It's just that words like journey, transform, radiant, devotion... they all make me feel uneasy. And a little annoyed. I don't know why that is.


Yes I do. I'm immature, I can't help it. Anyway, I'm glad you're here. You have now stepped into the battle I have with myself and these self-help books. Welcome. Yeah, have a laugh. It's fine. The truth is I love these books, I just wish they were called something else. That's all. This one is called The Untethered Soul, The Journey Beyond Yourself.

Come on.
No, I mean it. It's great.
Get the fuck out.
Read it yourself.
Maybe I will.
Okay! ...What's it about?
It's about all the voices you have in your head.
And trying to figure out which one is really you.
Yeah, it's interesting.
So which one is you?
I'm the one who hears everyone else.
You asked.
Good luck with that one.
I think it's true.
Of course you do.
Maybe you're just jealous because it's not you.
Well it's not me either.


As I was saying, I have this book, and I haven't been able to get through the whole thing, but I like to pick it up from time to time and just open it anywhere and put my finger onto the page and read. Here's what it said this morning:

To obtain true inner freedom you must be able to objectively watch your problems instead of being lost in them.

I'll have to work on that one.

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

How it Was Done

Back in the day, I used to go trick or treating in the complex of apartments in Philadelphia where we lived between 2nd and 6th grade: four buildings, 20 floors each, 10 apartments on each floor. We did not mess around. We came to collect. We did not even take the elevator. That's just how serious we were. We wore what we always wore: hippie, house-painter, bum, witch, or a combo of two. Nothing fancy, nothing that could impede our collections. One year I wore my regular Sunday dress with a big rubber skeleton mask and I was sweating so much I started seeing stars. My brother Pete was so hopped up and jittery, he left me in the stairwell to cool off on my own. I don't remember if we ever said Trick or Treat or Thank you, but all interaction was kept to a minimum. No eye contact. No conversation. If Mrs. Gottlieb started asking you about school or how your mother was and you didn't just duck your head or turn on your heel, you got left. Ties were cut, we no longer knew you, you got left. Period.

We used pillowcases. Bags could rip and did not hold as much. By the time we came home they were full. Pete dumped his on the floor to have a look at his treasure. His eyes would get wide and he could never quite believe his good fortune. I would just walk back to my room and tuck it in the way back of my closet. A full pillow case.  No one ever inspected back then. If there were razor blades, battery-acid soaked chocolate, no one cared. It was all part of it. The main thing was: we did it. Probably not the full 800 apartments, but close enough. Candy every day until Easter. No one had to know. This never happened.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Don't Mind Me

It's hard enough not thinking about a possible end of the world scenario when you're around an 11 year old boy who knows everything about it, but lately we've also been talking about a possible zombie apocalypse. I mean serious, considerate discussions: how to barricade your home properly; what you should do if you get bitten, slow moving zombies vs. fast moving ones. I can only take the conversation so far. I'm just waiting for the earthquake that has to happen first.

Monday, October 29, 2012

What The Owl Said

Lately everything chafes. I gave a guy the finger after he cut in front of me on the freeway, after I had to jam the brakes, after a bag of groceries fell off the back seat and unloaded on the floor. But really it was without any steam. My heart wasn't in it, I didn't get filled with rage and self righteousness, slam my hand on the steering wheel and contort my face; it was more like a flag being lifted up a pole on a windless day. Ehn. This is what you do. This is what I do evidently.

Like I said, everything chafes. Lately everything feels mildly annoying. I try to look up but I can't. I write these words and then I think of leaving a comment: you're a moron and a jackass and no one cares; you're old and ugly and stupid, one half monkey, the other half mule. (This is how you're supposed to talk in the comment section).  There are always at least two people in my head, often many more, but usually it's one guy who functions and then the other guy who hits him in the head with a mallet. But then there's the guy who watches this on the conveyor belt along with a few buddies, drinking beer and making rude comments, throwing things. (When I say guy I don't mean guy, I mean a weird sort of Gollum creature). If there is a problem (and just about every day there's something that could fall into that category), the whole janky system gets jammed. All the guys sit back and wait. If they wait long enough, sometimes something unusual happens. Something unexpected.

Anyway. Yesterday I went to a party with some babies. The room was set up with all the sofas and chairs pushed back in a circle  with the babies sitting in the middle. All the parents of the babies were busy eating and talking to each other. They're around these damn babies all day long. They are relieved to stick them on the floor and have a moment's peace. I was on the edge of a couch with Harry, and we were  having a staring contest with one of them.

One thing for sure, babies know how to stare. They are masters at it. There are two schools of thought on this: one that they are soulful and all knowing, the other that they are dumb as a bag of rocks. Just a tiny, little empty head. Whichever side of the fence you are on though, you can't deny it's a little freaky. It makes you a little self-conscious. Har and I leaned one way and the little guy's eyes followed us. We leaned the other way and his eyes followed that way. Up, the same; down, again. None of us cracked a smile and I'm pretty sure we all could have kept going for an hour.

A friend texted me yesterday that I should write about love. What the hell do I know about it? It's the the best thing in the world and the worst thing in the world. That's all I can say. I've only been in love once and that was a long time ago. And even then I don't think I could have explained it. I was thinking about this after the baby party, while jogging  . Best thing. Worst thing. Best thing. Worst thing. Hush. Breathe. Stupid. Sweet. Baby. Protect. Pain. Joy. Love. Hope. Pretty soon all the words just blended together into my breathing. It was silent in my head and in the woods. Such a relief.

As I turned the bend to where the woods started to open, I heard the owl. Just one word. You know what it is. But it sounded clear. It sounded fantastic. It was LOUD as hell. Up ahead a few people had stopped  and were looking up trying to find him. Our voices were quiet, shy, not unfriendly. "Did you hear? He was here yesterday. He's huge." The sky was light where it met the top of the hill but the rest of it was getting dark. I stopped too and we all scanned the trees, trying to find him, trying to have a glimpse, looking up.

Friday, October 26, 2012

The Invisible Child

I used to eat lunch by myself at school. I'd sit at the end of the table wearing my big parka (I don't usually use that word parka, I think it's more mid-west style, but I really had a parka, one of those army green down coats with the hood that had grey fur trim; the hood came out from my face a bit to protect me from the subzero Himalayan winds), sitting in front of my tray, little carton of milk, dried out lasagna (which I loved) or a sandwich on dry bread with some sort of pink meat inside. I was fine with this. I preferred it. I was always hungry and I'm pretty sure I ate everything I was served with no complaints. My kids find this incomprehensible, well Mo just thinks it's a little sad, the others are flummoxed. You should hear the screams. Weren't you embarrassed? Oh My God! How could you do this? Mom! Why did you wear your coat? Didn't you have one single friend?

As far as they are concerned I am the poster child for a victim of bullying, the creepy loser that people talked about behind her back, or worst of all, the invisible child. The greasy unwashed hair, the big smelly coat. The LUNCH BY MYSELF.

I have no common ground to have this make any sense to them. I went to the same school from Kindergarden to 12th grade, all girls; I wore a uniform. I didn't worry about anyone looking at me or judging my outfit. I ate lunch alone because I was hungry and just wanted to eat, not because no one liked me; I had friends and was comfortable on my own. We all wore the same exact thing, my parka was my defining feature, the thing that made me unique and jazzy.

When I look over in the middle of my monologue, I see their faces go from incomprehension to pity. They pat my back, shake their heads slowly. Suddenly they see me in a new light and I look worse than they imagined.

They just don't get it.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Thoughts I Had Waiting in Front of the Toaster

-Is it better to stand here waiting or try to get something else done and risk burning my toast again.
-I wonder how much time in my life I've spent waiting.
-Probably a lot.
-I hate when people say you draw a person into your life because you need to work something out and that person happens to press the particular button that causes the thing inside of you that needs to be examined.
-But I kind of like it too, because I think it's true.
-Do you even know what you are saying?
-This toast takes a long time.
-That's because it's an english muffin.
-I wonder if I had been forced to play an instrument or take martial arts as a kid if I would understand that nothing happens right away, that everything is a process, and that you have to be patien--

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Conversations In The Dark

                                             My neighbor's Halloween decoration

At night after about 10 or so, my street becomes a dark, quiet movie set. The houses all look like collapsible fronts or shells. I know there are people in them, maybe a light or two, but it doesn't feel that way. I was walking last night at this time, mulling over my day, when I saw Carlos standing on his lawn with Mr. Jing. We nodded to each other and then I kept walking, thinking about things.

Carlos, I have a problem.
What is it baby.
Well, it's not about me really--
Yeah, okay (he chuckles)
What do you do when someone lets you down?
Let's you down, what do you mean? Let's you down, how.
I mean does something you weren't expecting; does something you never would have imagined, something bad.
Something bad?
(I nod)
Something that was not in your agreement.
I mean...yeah--
I'd take him out--
No, that's not what--
I'd take him the fuck out.
I just, no, really? I'm not...
Don't you think that just opens another can of worms?
(He chuckles) There's always a can of worms, baby.
You asked me what I'd do.
(I shrug)
That's what I'd do. But you know there's many ways to take someone out. It can be literal or figurative.
(We look at each other, surprised and not surprised to be having a conversation like this in the street, late at night) Yeah. I suppose.

I hear someone clapping slowly and turn around. Mr Jing has gotten under the car in the driveway. "C'mon, " Carlos is saying. He is not impatient. "Chomper, get outa there".

"Is he stuck?" I yell from across the street. Just then Lester pulls off his leash and runs over to Carlos. As he does this, Chomper/Mr. Jing darts out from under the car and back into their house. "Oh hey, Lester got him for you!"

Carlos laughs a little, and waves a hand to me "Yeah. Thanks. He needed a little inspiration".

Monday, October 22, 2012

French Etiquette

I called my friend to apologize because I left the party without saying goodbye to anyone. She said, You went for the "French Leave". I thought she was finding a generously polite way to tell me I was rude, self absorbed and (vaguely) mysterious. And I loved it! Yes, that's it exactly; I was going for the French leave: head down, hand at my collar, clickety clicking in my high heels on the cobblestone streets and puffing a cigarette. C'est moi.

Au revoir. A Bientot. C'est ca. Un peu que tu me coqauvin jeanpaulbelmondo!

When I saw my friend again yesterday, I told her how much I love the French Leave and how I was going to use it from now on, and she said that the French think it's rude to interrupt the flow of the party to announce your departure and say goodbye to everyone, and that it's much more courteous to just slip out (and say goodbye the next day).

But of course this makes sense. How many times have you been at a party and someone is in the middle of a story and some guy gets up to put on his coat and say good bye and thank-you, and everyone stops to turn their head and look, get up, shake hands etc.

Fuck you Jerome! Molly here is in the middle of a story, can't you just tiptoe out the back door like a respectable Frenchman, fuckin jackass. Get the hell out already.

(sigh) I'm really not cool enough to be French.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

On Being Dead

I was brushing my teeth yesterday and accidentally stretched my lip up under my nose and caught a sudden glimpse of what my skeleton-skull looks like. I was able, for the first time, to visualize the stumpy bone-holes of my nose. This was a first. I mean, I've stretched out my mouth before to try and have a look at my chopper area, that's always fun, but I've never gotten more of a view than that; this time somehow, I was able to picture that weird creepy cavern above my teeth. Hmmmm?



What are you doing?

I'm looking at my skeleton-skull.

It's not called a skeleton-sk--, ughh, nevermi--,WHY?

I want to see what my body is going to look like when I die.

Oh (rolls eyes) (then gets scowl/worried look).

You wanna see? (I turn towards her)

(She pulls her head back but she doesn't turn away) Ew. (and then, I discover the real reason she's been humoring me) Can I have five bucks?

No, you have to look at my skeleton skull.



There was a time when it was easier to indulge. When any one of my kids could spend the better part of an hour pulling open each side of her/his mouth and looking into the mirror with me, imagining skulls, or skeletons in a science classroom, or even being in a box six feet under. Nevermore.

There are places to go. People to see. Things to do. Things that are fun, exciting, complicated and scary. Tragic even...Come back in here, I want to yell, let's look at our goddam cadavers!!

But all I hear is the door closing. Click.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Reposting An Oldie: 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 probably 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.