Tuesday, January 31, 2012

For Bub

The Power of Music from Life File Videos on Vimeo.


I was helping Harry write a paper about Dr. J and we found this photo. These guys are not messing around. There's no elbow, there's no tripping or hip check. There's no off court bad mouthing or posting of tweets. These guys are going straight for the jugular. The jugular! Two of the greatest players in the history of basketball are trying to kill each other!!!!!!! (I wish I could record the voice of a 10 year old boy screaming out that last sentence, but you'll just have to imagine)

It got me thinking about rivalry. How it's sort of become old fashioned. There is a newer version, I guess, but at its core is disrespect. No one wants to kill each other anymore, they just want to sit in a chair and talk about how stupid the other guy is.

Monday, January 30, 2012

Listening to the Sloth

I mentioned recently that I had a dream where I was at a party and saw a sloth walking around in a diaper, smoking a cig. That image stuck with me for a few days. Sloths are weird creatures; they’re oddly out of proportion, and sssssslow and deliberate in their movements. They’re a combination of profoundly evil and sweet. At the same time. This kind of strange might not have the same effect on others but it freaked me out. In my dream, other people at the party were like Hey, there’s Sloth, what’s he doing here? That question was never answered because right after he turned his head ssssssslowly to look at me, I woke up.

Thank God.

But still, as the days passed, I couldn’t shake the image. Even though I know and believe that things can come to us in dreams that we may not be able to articulate in waking life, I’ve never really studied my own, except as sort of symbolic movies about things that have already happened. I’ve never thought of using them as a sort of map to figure things out and move forward.

I asked my Mom, who has been to a few workshops about dreaming and the meaning of dreams, what she thought it meant. She suggested that I sit in a quiet place, where I wouldn’t be distracted, and talk to this freak and ask him what the hell is going on (but in a loving and kind and non-judgmental way).

So I did.

And yeah, the freak was me, (I knew that, come on) but what he said made enough sense that it made me cry (in a good way), and though I’m not going to tell you what he said (have your own goddam Sloth tell you), I was surprised at the way the response just dropped out, really, without my being aware of what was coming. I felt the way the Evil Queen must have felt when she asked the mirror who was the fairest of all. I took myself by surprise. How often does that happen?

And I realized that this can work with other quandaries or roadblocks: sit quietly and ask the sloth in a diaper, or the old man in a dress, or the baby/acrobat, or yourself, the answer will come.

Friday, January 27, 2012

What You Say About You

Sometimes I think I would like to try a plunge into the icy ocean with the Polar Bear Club.

I had a friend whose father was blind, and he was able to give a description of a person's face and hair color based on hearing their voice and shaking their hand. I don't know if I could do that, but there are definitely things I could know about a person based on sounds they make. Here's a list of sounds a person makes that can give you a little window into his deepest inner self:

Reacting to a stubbed toe in the dark, in the middle of the night, on the way to the bathroom
Drinking water from a water bottle
Eating soup
Singing along with a group of people
Describing a person you love
Describing a person you hate
Looking at a puppy

Thursday, January 26, 2012


Oddly, I had a high school experience last night while visiting a high school. Dar and I had just walked in and were standing in the entry hall, turning this way and that, as crowds bumped by us. I had the thought, "Well this is strange, no one is here to greet us; where should we go? What are we supposed to do? Is there any sort of order to this?" and then standing there, holding my purse, I suddenly felt like my mother and then her mother and then her mother, ad infinitum, to thousands of years ago when the very first mother took her teen-daughter to visit a new high school: I was not only confused but I was annoying. Good thing for me, I am used to this position. We had a whole silent exchange and acknowledgement and then I gave Dar the "Relax, I know what to do" look. She rolled her eyes and then bowed her head and tensed up, bracing for the mortification to come: I was going to ask for help. I waved to the first adult I saw, a man in a suit, holding a folder.
Excuse me, we don't know what to do here. (and for the record, never use the word "we" to describe your own confusion if there is a teenager standing next to you). We don't know where to go. Are we just supposed to walk around? (and then don't keep saying you don't know what you're doing over and over in a variety of ways).
What program are you applying to?
Drama. (don't answer at the same time as the teen so that you sound like the spooky twins from The Shining)
Oh, well, how about that, my name is Roberto Blagitty Blah III and I am the head of the Drama department. (don't pretend to be impressed) I will be holding a gathering of lovely people (do start to look at the teen from the corner of your eye) in my chambre (do start to stare straight ahead so you don't start laughing). I am also the producer of a film called Shakesperean Balderdash and I'll be sharing about my experience (do look genuinely confused together), and yes I do Know Mr. Ephron personally.
Zac. (do keep looking confused)
Zac Ephron.
Oooooooh. (do look at teen and nod your heads together. And then Back. Away. Slowly)

Thank god for adults who are bigger idiots than you.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Reposting An Oldie: DILLY DALLY

Before I started working for the private investigator I had an interview on the phone. At the time I thought I was just calling to schedule. I didn’t even know what the job was for exactly, other than “Assistant: must have writing ability and office skills”. He asked me why I thought I’d be good for the job. I said, because I was desperate. He was quiet for long enough to make me feel I had said the wrong thing. 
"How so?" he asked.
“How am I desperate, or how does being desperate make me good for the job?”
“The second one.”
“Well,” I had to make something up, “ it would make me work hard to make sure you felt like you made the right decision hiring someone with no office experience.” I tried to laugh but he was quiet so I had to keep going, ” and also it would make me less afraid of making a wrong choice if I didn’t know what to do.”
I worried I sounded too much like an ass-kisser waiting for a head-pat, so I said, “But after a while I would probably get more comfortable and slack off.”
It was the end of September, 2001. Rescuers were still searching for bodies in the rubble, I had had a baby 2 months earlier, my children’s father had told me that he was “kind of” seeing someone else, I had no money, my oldest child would soon be driving, and I was living at my mother’s house. I’m not saying these are the reasons I didn’t do a better job of editing myself, but they gave me a different perspective in talking with a stranger.
We set an appointment to meet the next day at his home near the Devon train station. I worried a little about meeting at his “home”, but I didn’t obsess. It was much easier to focus on worrying about childcare and transportation if I actually got the job.
When I checked the computer later though, I found an email from him telling me to just come in to work tomorrow, "Why dilly dally?" he wrote. I would have been more excited except that the last word stopped me in my tracks. Who uses the word dilly dally?
An insane murderer that’s who. I imagined the full scenario of him abusing me, and then cutting off my limbs with a chainsaw and throwing them into a plastic bag.
Dilly dally, dilly dally, DILLY DALLY.
I called my friend Amy to discuss. We agreed that it was possible he was gay though hard to tell because he had been so vague about the job description.
Gay people are not usually vague.
Maybe he’s old fashioned.
We practiced saying the word in an old fashioned way. Tossing it off with a shake of the head.
Maybe he wears spats.
And does the Charleston.
We laughed, and then when it got quiet Amy said, you’re doomed.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Che fai? Niente!

It never occurred to me that it was odd that my grandparents slept in separate beds for the entire 26 years I knew them. I did think it was strange that my grandfather slept in a twin size bed smaller than my own: though he was not tall, he was round and heavy, and could not have possibly been able to turn to his right or left side with much ease. But that was the extent of my thought on the matter. To me their marriage was permanent and safe and tidy, unlike that of my parents, which was the exact opposite of each of those things. I also never thought it was strange that my grandfather who was born in Italy and was proud of being Italian, never spoke the language, except for a few phrases here and there, mostly when he was cooking. If I had any thoughts about either of my grandparents, it was just the obvious facts: they both were generous and kind, were meticulous about schedules and routines, wore glasses, had bad breath, and slept flat on their backs, each in their own twin bed, snoring with their mouths open.

My grandfather, who was a law professor as well as the head of his own firm, was also a giggler who could make himself laugh until he had tears talking about silly things like hineys, poops and babies with the hiccups. He loved to sing and even bought a microphone that he'd bust out at parties so people could hear him over the accordian player. He also had a quick temper and could be utterly exasperated at the smallest things, like messes and running. At these times my grandmother would swoop in and usher us into another room before "something horrible" really happened, telling us that Grandpa was tired.

Gampi did teach us one word in Italian, that we would say when he asked us, “Che fai?” (What are you doing?)

“Niente”, (Nothing!) we would yell, and he would laugh until he had to sit down.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Good Boy

I saw this poster yesterday and I love that they refer to him as a handsome dog. It makes him seem sophisticated and intelligent. Look too how he's gazing sadly into the distance, deep in thought about a lost love or fear of getting old. Maybe he's regretting running away from home: it was a bad decision, why am I so foolish? Why is it so hard to stay focused? I'm so easily distracted! Ugh, I hate myself. I really loved that girl and now I've lost her. I should have been more appreciative. Now I'm alone. Alone. Alone. What he's really thinking is: I hope this new guy serves sausage for dinner.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012


 I am curious about the differences between girls and boys. Things weigh differently on them. Recently I picked Harry up from his best friend's house where he had been for three days and two nights. His friend's mom said that after a day and a half they were fighting and arguing a lot so she made them play outside. On the way home, I asked Harry what he and Joseph fought about.
What were you and Joseph fighting about?
We didn't fight.
Oh, his Mom said you guys were picking on each other.
What? (he is seriously perplexed and a little tickled, as though I had said something like You have a tail growing out of your back.)

With Mo or Darla, I could have had the same conversation and they might have cried or said I hate her or, I'm never going there again. And we would have talked about it, or not, and when we got home, they might go to their room and talk to another friend about it and the whole digestion process would be  completely different.

It's weird how boys can be innocent because they don't examine things, and girls can be innocent because they do.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

The Greatest

Happy Birthday Cassius


I'm still hearing about "what's going to happen?" to the four marines who were videotaped peeing on enemy cadavers. "How does this reflect" on Americans? I'm wondering why these questions are not asked of civilians or politicians or AM radio talk-show hosts who disrespect people, colleagues, all day, every day. It's weird that there is less fuss over the actual killing part.

Please read this beautifully written essay by comedian Rob Delaney (from here) and then check out the rest of his site. http://www.robdelaney.com/ because, when he's not writing about serious things, he's hysterical.


People are understandably upset after video emerged of what appears to be U.S. Marines urinating on Afghan corpses. If they're surprised, however, they need to pick up a history book. Soldiers piss on corpses in every war. On both sides. Soldiers rape civilians, as a rule, in every war that has ever taken place since time immemorial. Rape is a weapon of war. Piss, some people are now learning, is a weapon of war. Some fucked-up, disgusting combination of the two, plus shit and dismemberment, is a weapon of war. Bad guys do it. "Good" guys do it. When a country’s government decides to wage war, they are deciding to sanction piss, rape, and the torture and murder of women and children who had the colossally bad fortune to be in the midst of the war. When the U.S. decided to enter into Afghanistan and then Iraq, they (i.e. Congress and the president, and the myriad companies that profit from war) knew this. I'm not singling out the U.S. here; while we're as good at implementing the more horrific, soul-erasing weapons as anyone, we're not alone. Does your country have a military? In times of war, they kill people, and sometimes they piss on them.
If it isn't clear why I'm detailing this, it is because I want to express an old thought: war is the very worst thing there is. And if you command an army, you better the fuck understand, in your probably cowardly, definitely privileged, likely draft-dodging bones, that when you send soldiers out to fight and die, they are going to do some unconscionable, irreversible things. And they are doing it in your name. Because you told them to.  And pissing on a corpse is a FUCKING POEM compared to issuing an order for beautiful young people to go and kill other beautiful young people in a land far away, because you, in essence, “felt like it.”

Monday, January 16, 2012


I think the reason Martin was such a great speech-giver was all in his delivery. His speeches were like songs, and so we remember not only the words, but the emotions, his and our own, that accompanied them. Here's a re-run of my post from last year

The Interrelated Structure of Reality

I was listening to someone on the radio talking about Martin yesterday and was surprised to learn that he made up (on the spot!) the last part of his most famous speech; I also learned the following:

-More people in the world recognize and can identify the I Have A Dream speech than any other.
-Martin was born with the name Michael but his father changed it to Martin Luther when he was 5.
-He went to college when he was 15.
-He sang with his church choir at the premier of Gone With the Wind.
-He was the youngest recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize.
-He was stabbed in the chest at a book signing in Harlem and almost died 10 years before his assassination.
-At the time, the March on Washington was the biggest gathering of protesters in history.

All I'm saying is simply this, that all life is interrelated, that somehow we're caught in an inescapable network of mutuality tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly affects all indirectly. For some strange reason, I can never be what I ought to be until you are what you ought to be. You can never be what you ought to be until I am what I ought to be. This is the interrelated structure of reality.
— Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.[30]

Friday, January 13, 2012

Middle School: First Exposure To The Real World

I never went to middle school, but from everything I've heard, it is a place of misery, shame, torment and sorrow. It is a holding room for prison. You know in werewolf movies when the guy is turning from human to beast, and everything bubbles beneath his skin and he contorts in screaming agony? Yeah, that's what is going on inside every kid who walks the halls of middle school. On the outside, those same kids are smiling (uncomfortably), talking (some, in frog-like croaks) and trying to get along, but there is no security in effort. You see the side-glances, the judgments, the annoyance and though it is all directed out (usually to the weaker ones: the pigeon toed, bad skinned, chubby, payless-wearing dorks) it is really self-hatred that fuels everything.

Is it really that bad? Yes, and if there is trouble at home, it is that bad X 100.

But aren't there friends and laughter and hopes and dreams? Pssshhh. Please.

OMG seriously? Good things only happen enough to keep you going, like a one second sniff of air in a spin cycle of waves pounding down on top of you.

It's boot camp for the real world? Yes, maggot, now drop and give me 50.

Parents aren't the enemy exactly. Sometimes we are. Mostly we are irritating journalists trying to embed with the troops, asking stupid questions: How was it today? Are you friends with him? Do you think she smokes pot?

There is nothing we can do. There is nothing we can do but watch as they, sometimes crying, usually frowning, get out of the car with their 100 pound backpacks, and trudge off to prison/war/the unknown. There is nothing we can do but watch and know that they will, eventually, be strong and amazing.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Odd Things That Happened During My Childhood

Once at the dinner table, someone was pouring milk into a glass and a piece of gum wrapped in soggy paper towel splashed out of the container.

Between third and fifth grade I waited for the bus in front of a XXX movie theater every day.

There was a peanut butter smear on the front of my bedroom door for five years (I know because I wiped it there). It never got moldy.

On the 4th of July there used to be a big party at the pool of the apartment building where we lived. Every year someone would grease up a watermelon with Vaseline and then throw it in the deep end and we would drown each other trying to “rescue” it.

There was a rumor that Andy Applebaum got his lip stuck in the elevator door which I believed until I was about 30 when I had the (sudden) realization (in a crowded elevator) that the kids only said that because Andy had really big lips.

On the way home from a party one night my mom made my stepdad sit in the way back seat of the stationwagon because he was drunk, and he opened an umbrella and tried to hold it over his head to hide his cigarette. When my mom said, Are you smoking? He (in a small space jammed with kids) said “Good Question, and my answer is No”.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Bub and Mr. T

My step-father loved The A Team. For a few years in the 90s, it was on in syndication and he could watch it every weekday at 3:00. I’m pretty sure he planned his day around that show. He loved the army badasses who escaped from prison for a crime they didn’t commit and then went on to serve justice day after day. Bub was an army badass himself (out of 800 soldiers in his battalion in WWII only 3 came back), but he never talked about it and that's not why he was a fan of the show; the main reason he loved it, was Mr. T. He loved his I pity the fool attitude, he loved his gold medallions, his mohawk, everything. 

In the Bub file of my memory, I have a picture of him watching this show, laughing out loud and explaining to Harry(age 1) something funny that Mr T just said.

Monday, January 9, 2012


Yesterday a guy who lives down the block had a mental breakdown in the middle of the street. There may have been drugs involved. Supposedly he was outside screaming but I hadn't heard him. One of my neighbors called but I was trying to get some work done so I didn't pick up. Then she texted, “I just called 911”. I called her back.

Why? What happened?
Haven’t you heard the guy in the street?
No, what guy?

She told me. She said he was screaming and throwing things, singing, doing a crazy jig and crying. He was talking about the apocolypse. He was breaking things.
As she talked, I walked downstairs and outside. “And now he’s just lying in the street,” she said.
“I see him,” I clicked off the phone.

My neighbor Mike was washing his car with his back to the guy 100 feet away.
What’s going on? I asked him.
He turned and looked, holding the hose away from himself, the water spouting out in an arc. “What? Oh yeah. Him”.
We both stared at the heap. Mike shrugged. ‘”He’s manic. That happens to my friend, Tommy.”
“It's worse when he drinks”, he turned and got back to work on his hubcaps. We could hear the sirens getting closer.
Is he violent?
"Jesus, Mike." He acted like going crazy was like getting a flat tire.

The sirens were a block over. The heap jumped up and started going with the jig again. His legs were like noodles, he was laughing and saying everyone was going to die. Mike’s wife Julie stuck her head out the door. What’s going on?
Some guy’s freaking out.
She came out onto the sidewalk at the same time two fire-engines, loud with swirling lights, came around the corner. The Jig-Dancer stood facing them with his arms outstretched and his head thrown back. He didn’t budge.
Oh look, it’s like Tommy, Julie said.
“That’s what I said”. This, from Mike.

The firemen got out of their trucks and, oddly, walked right by the crazy guy and over towards Carlos house. Carlos is (allegedly) a gang member and if 911 gets called on our street, it usually has something to do with him. He and his entire family: mom, gramps, wife, kids, stood behind the fence watching the spectacle. Carlos twirled his fore-finger at the cops, not unkindly, and then pointed to the crazy guy who was running in circles like he was trying to catch his tail.
Julie raised her chin to me and said, "I'm cleaning out the game closet, do you guys want any board games?"
"Ah," I was having a hard time turning my head away from the guy. He was dodging and turning in between two firemen. A cop car zipped past me silently like a shark and then bwoop-bwooped up by the guys. "What? Oh, No thanks."
"We 're getting rid of tons of crap. Look at all this", she pointed to a mountain of old toys on the front lawn.
Oh, I said. They were going to strap the guy to a stretcher. They rolled one behind him. It was upright, all he had to do was back onto it and they would pull the straps around him.
You probably have your own crap, she said.
I turned to face Julie and watched her mouth moving. I watched her mouth moving like I was stoned and she was endlessly fascinating. I wanted to know how she could keep going on.
Yeah, and then I went through a whole box of 8-track....

The guy screamed and bent in half and thrashed and swore. It made me think I have been worried lately, not to the flipping out point, but worried enough that I always wonder how far I am exactly. I know I'm an optimist, so I rely on being able to bounce back but still, I'm curious about it.

Mike has old xbox games from...
Just then, the firemen formed a circle around him. I could see from the corner of my eye. I could see that slowly, easily, the guy was stepping back onto the gurney. He wasn't resisting. I wondered what the firemen said to him. Those guys, always the heroes. He laid back and they pulled the white straps around him and then gently eased him from vertical to horizontal. He seemed so much calmer.

"I think we're just going to have to throw it all out...Mike can you help me carry this out?" Mike turned off the hose and and started yelling that he wanted to go through all that stuff first. "Just hold on."

The fireman was talking to the guy on the stretcher. The guy looked up at him like he was a kid listening to a story. I wished I could hear him. Maybe he was telling him he could rest now. Maybe he  told him things were going to get better.

Friday, January 6, 2012


Leroy got into a brawl a few weeks ago and had to have surgery. He's fine, in fact he didn't even act like anything was wrong except that the side of his face swelled up. So I'm posting an oldie in his honor.

Every time I open the front door that goddam cat runs out. Well, not every time. When I actually want him to go outside he sits there and stares at me like I must have lost my mind. (This is just an aside but am I seriously talking about cats right now? Yes, evidently I am. Now excuse me while I try to get this hanky tucked up my sleeve.) I have always hated cats; they smell bad, are unfriendly and will rip the skin off your hand if you pet them one second too long. The owners of cats are worse, they’re slightly off, like bad milk; they’re superior and judgmental but have cat hair all over their pants. You know it’s true. I have no time for them. But then Morgan got a cat. And I had to rethink everything. And after I rethought and fully accepted that he will jump onto the table while we are having dinner and will only drink water out of a faucet, she moved out and left him here.
He doesn’t smell though. I know you probably think I’m delusional (oh honey, he smells) but he doesn’t poop or pee in the house. He’s outside all day. He knows everyone in the neighborhood. People talk to him like he’s a human being. Even the homies across the street. (Once when I couldn’t find Leroy for 2 days, one homie said “If anyone ever hurt that cat…” and then he looked up and shook his head at the heavens, ashamed of all the medieval violence he would have to inflict). Another time I was out walking the dogs, and I looked over at someone’s huge front living-room window and there he was, in their house, all curled up like a cobra in the sun. When I called his name, he slowly turned his head to me and winked.
So, it was ten o’clock and I was turning off the porch lights and out he ran. I chased him down the block, under cars, over a fence and down a hill. Then I said screw it and went inside. At about 3 o’clock I woke up to the sound of a cat having his guts ripped out through his mouth. Coyotes! I went outside, in my pajamas and started calling for Leroy. I checked under cars and on the neighbor’s garage roof. I wondered if it would look odd to anyone who might drive down the street to see me crawling under the bushes. And what the hell was I doing, there were coyotes. I called his name once more and went back to my porch. And of course there he was. (This is his theme song).

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Oh Well

Lately when something embarrassing happens, I hear this in my head. Good to know I had that one filed away.

The Street That Follows Me

In every place I’ve lived there has been a street in a small town nearby that seems stuck in the fifties. Usually called something simple like Main St or Maple Ave, the architecture is grey and a little dingy, there’s usually a barber-shop or a shoe repair place, sometimes a newspaper box on the street corner. Even the glass and cement are old. What is it with these places? On the east coast, or maybe just in smaller cities, these streets are less desolate and ominous and non-descript than the ones here in LA. I think people fit in better, the pace is a little slower, there doesn’t seem to be a sort of glaring imbalance. But here, these streets always make me feel uneasy, and my interior battle between wanting to fit in and hoping to stand out goes into a tailspin. I’ll need to buy a button or find an old pharmacy that sells Borax and end up on Eldridge Ave or 2nd Street. I’ll park my car in between a Bonneville and white rusted van, I’ll put nickles and dimes in the meter, and walk into a shop that has a bell on the door. Of course no one’s in the place but some guy with thinning greasy hair that has comb-tooth marks; he wouldn’t look out of place at a gas station or a mortuary, and in fact it would surprise me less to see a dead body slumped in one of the aisles than to see him tweeting on an iphone.

I remember going to these same streets with my grandmother when I was little. She would get her hair done every Friday and while she baked her head under a dryer, I used to go to this store called Mapes that sold mops, hulahoops, head and shoulders shampoo and penny candy. I loved that place.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012


I think I've mentioned before that I wake up when it is still dark outside. I like the quiet and stillness of that time, but it's not completely silent. Below my window and across the street are a row of the neighbor's trash-cans, and every day someone comes around 4:30 or 5 and roots through for plastics, cans and glass which he/she then puts into a metal shopping cart. It could be a lot noisier than it is, the trash can is propped open, the plastics get squeezed and flattened, the cans bang the bottles which then clink the cart, but most of the people who do this at this particular hour, I know there are more than a few, are pretty efficient. At other times of the day there are different breeds, like the drunks looking to scrape together a few coins who bend sideways and reach in up to their shoulders, or the Asian grandparents who work as a team, with plastic gloves and surgical masks. But these early workers are different. My friend calls them dinosaurs: roaming the earth slowly and methodically, they are heavy, weighted in every possible way, doomed to extinction.

Monday, January 2, 2012

The Year of Deadlines

I am not good at making plans. Actually, that's not true, I'm great at making plans; I'm just not good with the follow-through. In fact, I'm a plan-making machine. I even know how to plan to make plans. I can do this with my eyes closed. I was going to write a list of all the things I'm going to do this year, but then I got to thinking, since this might be the year the world ends, I'm going to make this the year of the deadline. I'm going to make myself complete three things; three things that have a beginning, middle and end. Have I cursed myself by making this announcement? No. I will not be distracted. I have studied the top three things that I have never had to plan for:

-love my children
-drink coffee
-walk the dogs

And the main thing that all of these things have in common, is that I have never been so distracted that I have been unable to follow through. Almost, but never completely. These are things I do without an endless barrage of questions, doubts or worries. I am going to apply that same focus to my three deadlines this year. Wish me luck.