Tuesday, July 31, 2012

The Swerving Car

Today is my Pop's birthday and I was thinking that I've really only ever had two or three serious conversations with him in my life, and when I say serious I mean without laughter. I'm not saying this isn't a good thing. It just means that we follow a certain pattern/script when we're together. All the important stuff, or most of it, happens in what isn't being said, it happens in the silences. Which means whatever I assume about him in a certain situation could probably just be my own imagination.

Once when he was working in Maine for a few months, I went to visit him. I had recently been dumped by the guy I had been living with for 6 years, the person I had imagined being with my whole life, and I was not in the mood for funny. All I wanted to do was talk about this guy and how much I loved him and try to find a way to make him realize he had made the biggest mistake of his life. So I got in my car and drove 11 hours by myself to go see a person who I knew in my heart of hearts would listen to every sad thing I had to say.


As it turned out he was working most days which was great because then I had the whole day to lie in the fetal position on a lawn-chair by the lake and feel grief-stricken and devastated. In between crying spells, I planned out how I was going to kill the girl my boyfriend had left me for. Should I somehow manage to tie her to the back of a truck and drag her across a rocky road, or should I just push her on to the tracks in front of a subway train. Then I'd get overwhelmed with the thought that I wouldn't be able to go through with it. And that was the worst feeling of all.

When my Dad came back at night I was usually on the phone crying to whatever friend I still had left who would listen to me moaning in agony. He'd poke his head into the room and wave. I waved back.
That was the extent of it.

On a Saturday he offered to take me to an apple farm or antique store or a corn field or whatever goddam quaint kind of place they have in Maine. We decided to go for a drive. I made the decision to not bring it up and so we were silent for a while.

What happened? he said.

I shrugged.

Another girl?

I don't know.


There was probably more to it than that.

He was a nice guy.

(What the fuck?) Silence.

I liked him a lot.

(Jesus Christ!) Silence.

Then we were both silent for a bit until he made a loud sloppy fart noise.

Well that's done, he said.

I tried, I tried like a person hanging from a cliff tries to hold on, I tried not to laugh.

Pfffttttfffttt. (he did it again) Done.

Then I made a sound PPppfffttttt. Angry.

Pfffftttt Confused.

No thats "Pffft-tt??" That's confused.

We went through the defining fart sounds of about 50 words including hungry and childish, aggressive and maligned until we were both laughing so hard we were crying. Crying tears down our faces. I couldn't see and my stomach hurt from laughing so hard. My Dad was driving about 5 miles an hour.

This is the image I have of us, driving slowly in a car, swerving down the road like drunken sailors.

Happy Birthday GBL.

Friday, July 27, 2012


The first festival for the short film I wrote is in Rhode Island. That's where I was born you guys!!!! (I just ran around in a circle and then crashed into a wall) If you are going to be in or near Providence, Rhode Island on August 8-10, please come. (Here is the link)

For those of you in New York and LA, we will be there soon, so I hope you can make it.

PS Yes that is the actual moon. It happened to look like that on the night we shot.

Thursday, July 26, 2012


There's something both incredibly sweet and numbingly herd-like about standing in line waiting to go on a ride. If it's crowded and hot, it is a true test of spirit and a time when you might even make the mistake of trying to evaluate your life. You are part of a whole group of people trying to have fun. It feels strange. Sometimes if you go on a ride and it's amazing, you want to do it right away again. But it's never the same.

I remember going on a ride like this with two of my sisters and Mo except in my memory it was a zigzag vertical drop of about two hundred feet and we spun and descended like we were being flushed down an airport toilet. We all laughed so hard that no sound came out.

Sometimes I think that in our brains there are two buttons, one that says: this will not end well, and another that says: YAAAAAAYYYYYYY. In certain people, this is the same button.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Things that get stuck in my craw

Every once in a while something odd will happen during my day and I worry feel like it's a sign. There's no possible way for me to figure out what that sign is of course but it gets stuck in my craw. (I don't know what a craw is)(Hold On) (Here, I just looked it up):
craw  (krĂ´)
1. The crop of a bird or insect.
2. The stomach of an animal.
stick in (one's) craw
To cause one to feel abiding discontent and resentment.

Here are a few of the things I'm talking about:

A homeless guy was shuffling down my street holding up his pants in the front. I looked at him and he locked eyes with me so intensely that he had to turn first his head and then his entire body to continue staring as he passed by me.

I met a girl from France who looked like a young version of my mother and then I saw her a few days later in a crowd at Six Flags. We waved and kept walking.

I saw a ghost.

There are more, in fact as soon as you notice one, others keep cropping up:

I was thinking of an old boyfriend I haven't seen for 14 years and then I heard from him.

A few years ago I started writing something; I wrote a few pages and titled it but that was as far as it got. Recently I started working on it again and in a week have noticed the title on a bumper-sticker, graffiti and someone's tattoo.

Does this happen to you?

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

On Why I Don't Drink

I saw some comedy the other night with my brother and sister, and one of the comedians talked about pooping his pants. He said shat, which I think is a more manly word; a little more aggressive, like the whole thing wasn’t a horrible mistake. He explained how it happened in his car on the way home from a few meetings where he had some strong coffee and a fruit shake; he said he wasn’t sick, he just didn’t make it back fast enough. I liked him right away.

After the show we stayed to meet him, the comedian, and the first thing I said after introducing myself was that I too had once pooped my pants. My sister jumped in to quickly point out that, haha, everyone poops their pants when they’re a kid, but I continued, No no no, it was when I was older.

You know I have to stop here for a minute before I go on.

I don’t drink much. I just never got into it. I can count on my hands the number of times in my life that I’ve bought a bottle of something or other. It seems weird when I think about it, like I must be exaggerating, but I’m not. I was a bartender, so that could have something to do with it, but really I didn’t drink much before that. I just don’t like the taste. I don’t drink much but I have something in common with people who do: I occasionally blurt out things that are inappropriate/odd/inconsequential and then stand in the shame-silence where you hear a pin drop.

Yes, I’m like a drunk person.

I don’t drink much but, of course, I have been drunk and on one of these times I pooped my pants. I was still in college with my boyfriend at the time, who was actually incredibly sweet and kind (although I do remember a lot of laughing and Oh Jesus-ing) and it was a testament to his character that he didn’t leave me in the bar bathroom/street corner/subway where it happened all the way home.

Anyway, this is what I said to the comedian, except that I didn’t tell him the whole story. When he asked me why I pooped my pants, how it happened, I said: I was drunk. Boom. Silence. Crickets. Awkward slow motion head turns. I think my sis even said Oh well, like she was trying to help me out, but it was too late, what was done was done. Now I was on my own. Now the guy probably thought (sadly) that I was a professional, a sad, smelly, dried out old bag who hangs out in bars down on the east side of Wilshire.

Maybe he said to himself: She should have used the word shat.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

10 Things I Miss About New York

1. Walking
2. The way it feels like a small town                               
3. The beautiful buildings
4. The way people talk
5. Early mornings and late nights
6. Running by the pier
7. Going to see plays
8. The people
9. The people
10. The people

(I realized after writing this that these are the things a person would like about any place they love)

I just found this site Humans of New York with photos by Brandon Stanton via my friend Golriz. It's like having a short visit.
Here are a few photos I liked.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

A Three Legged Bed and Other Things You Get Used To

My Dad lost all his teeth when he was 15. He didn’t lose them really, he had them pulled out. The story is that he had a lot of cavities and rather than pay for the treatment, my grandfather, a legendary pennypincher, had the dentist extract. My Dad, at age 15, had to go to school for two weeks, maybe longer now that I think about it, without any teeth, while they made his dentures. At the height of puberty. In High School. Obviously there are worse things to endure, but I think it’s one of the defining experiences of my Father’s life and goes a long way to describe the funny/sad/rageful part of his personality.
The weird part is that my grandfather was a nice guy, well nice isn’t the right word, he was interesting, and he was smart and funny; he was calm, though maybe if I had been around him more, he would have tortured me too (calmly). It seems like something more than just frugality would cause a father to make such a decision for his child. Still when my Dad recalls this story, he doesn’t say it with bitterness, so much as a shoulder shrug. Yeah, I had all my teeth pulled out when I was 15. In the middle of the school year. No big.
It reminds me of the things we get used to, in our families mostly, like a three-legged bed or a person's absence (literal or figurative) : things that seem like they could be directly addressed but just get overlooked until they become part of what is normal to you. 
I was thinking about this idea recently when I remembered this cook at a diner where I worked. In the summer he used to sweat so much he looked as though he had been sprayed with a hose. If he shook his head, the sweat would splat and hiss on the grill. It's true the kitchen was like a sauna; there may have been one tiny window, but what difference did it make? It was 92 outside and 100% humidity. But still. There was no way he didn't sweat directly into every platter of food he served. I'm sure we had the thought that this was a little, you know, gross; we may have even given each other a side eyed glance as we picked up the plates but we never mentioned it. It was just part of the deal.

Monday, July 16, 2012

I Ain't Afraid of No

There’s a ghost in the house I’m staying in. I saw it a few nights ago at 3 am when I got up to pee. I’m not going to tell you what it looked like because I don’t want you to think I’m one of those ladies who stays at home all day wearing a robe and drinking shots of rum mixed with diet pepsi in a big gulp cup. (Okay, it was just a black transparent shape that sailed past the doorway.) See? I mean you can tell me I imagined it, whatever, but I have no doubt there was a presence. I mentioned it to the owner of the house when she called, expecting her to think I was a weirdo for saying such a thing, but instead she said I know. I Know!

She told me there was a sage brush in the kitchen that I could burn if I wanted to, but that she didn’t use it because she thinks he likes being there. Say no more, babe! Say no more. I don't want to upset anyone. I am fine with a ghost. I mean what’s the worst that could happen? He can’t kill me. He could drive me insane I suppose, or try to get me to jump off the roof and get impaled on a wrought iron gate, but that could happen anyway. I do get the creeps when I’m heading up the stairs at night and think maybe he’s standing by the bedroom around the corner, leaning on the door jamb, just staring, just hovering, waiting.

Whats up, I say nervously, like a dork at school trying to scooch past the cool kid who's standing in front of my locker. How's it going? It's intimidating when you talk to someone, even a presence or a, you know, figment, and they don't talk back. So I try to shut up and play it cool. I know he'll never actually be there if I expect him.


Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Should I Stay or Should I Go

I have gotten myself into a lot of strange situations because I couldn’t say no. Odd dates I’ve had, parties, even entire relationships, all happened because somehow I managed to close the door on the fog horn/bomb shelter alarm/fire truck siren that went off in my head. This is not something I am proud of. It’s not something I’m proud of, and yet I can justify this tendency by explaining that I am an optimist. If the little angel and devil inside my head are arguing, No don’t do it!/ Go ahead, it’ll be fine, I’ll always listen to that second voice .

Me: I sound like an alcoholic.
Me: Whatev

See what I mean? All day this goes on.
Once I accepted a dinner invitation from this Ethiopian guy who I had walked home with a couple of times from the subway. I think what happened is he told me where he was from and I said, oh I love Ethiopian food, and he said he would cook me some real Ethiopian food tomorrow night at 7, and I said uh, ok.
I wish I could watch a video of that whole little scenario. I’d watch it like a football coach watches highlights on a Sunday night. I’d break it down. Slow motion. Rewind. Jot down a few notes. Play it back again.
IIIIIII’llllll coooooook you some reeeeeeeeal Eeeeeethiiiiiiooooopian foooooood.
Uuuuuuuuuhhh Ooooooookaaaaaaay.
Did my face show the horror/shock/disbelief at what I was being told, or was it cool until after I spoke and realized what I had just said? And then once it realized what it had just agreed to, was it frozen like a deer in headlights or was it one big phony/confused smile like a politician at a debate.

I don’t know.

All I can tell you is that it wasn’t the first or last time my mouth said something I hadn’t realized it was going to say until after it was out. But I remember that I definitely did not vanish into thin air after saying it; I definitely stood there and got directions to his house; I definitely said see you tomorrow before turning down my street, and I definitely said No possible way, What the fuck were you thinking, You stupid idiot fucking moron as soon as I closed the door behind me.
I didn’t go.
I mean come on. This guy followed me from the subway a few times. We barely spoke more than 10 sentences. There was no spark. There was no unspoken undercurrent. None. Nothing. Jesus, Come on. I justified my behavior with the thought that this would not lead to anything good and quite possibly something very, very bad. I stopped taking the subway for a while, rode my bike, slunk around on my tiptoes and peeked around corners like the pink panther. 
But then my guilt caught up with me; I thought what if he had actually cooked the meal (of course he had), I thought I was being racist (of course I was), I thought, what was I worried about, he had glasses and he wore both straps of his back pack. What was wrong with me? And as soon as I started thinking these things, I ran into him. At first I tried to pretend like nothing happened, Oh hey! Good to see you! But then I couldn’t ignore the huge turd between us, he seemed angry and sad in that way that is very attractive. We agreed to have dinner the next night.
I wish I could tell you we had a great time, that we laughed and shared stories and became best friends who later went to see movies together and talked about our problems and dreams but never had any sexual tension, so remained buds without any problem. But that’s not what happened. And nothing scary or bad happened either. I got to his apartment, which was a single room without a kitchen (just a hot plate) or bathroom (it was in the hall). All it had was a bed, which was set like a table for one. My memory of the entire evening/charade/ordeal was that there was mostly silence. I talked about my dog and he talked about being attacked by one. He served me food but did not eat anything. He stared at my boobs the entire time. He stared at my boobs for so long I was worried they might start talking to him. The food was so hot, I thought my ears were bleeding and I said so. We looked out the windows, he to the right, me to the left. I said I needed to go and he said okay.

What did I learn from this experience? Did it teach me to just say no? No thanks. That’s so kind of you but no, it would be awkward, I know this in my heart. Did it teach me to prepare a little better next time, think of it like an interview, get the guy’s story, make a bigger effort. Nope. No it did not. It taught me none of those things. In fact I’m still trying to figure it out.

Monday, July 9, 2012

RIP Uncle Lionel

If you've ever been to/visited New Orleans, chances are you've heard of Lionel Batiste. Maybe you heard that he's the grand marshall of second lining, or that he floated to safety on his drum during Katrina, or that he was the patriarch of the Batiste family, a huge family with a long line of musicians. Jazz musicians from all over the world know who this guy is. I just read that Wendell Pierce, who plays a Batiste on the show Treme, was in France the night he died and was walking along the Siene at 3 am when he heard a band playing New Orleans jazz in his honor.

Notice how he wears his watch.

Mo says he lived in a nursing home across from Washington Square, but he went out a lot, always dressed to the nines, looking fresh. She was too shy to have a conversation with him but said he laughed when they took this picture.

I was thinking I do a lot of obituaries on my blog (?) about people I don't know; I think it's partly because I like the idea that a story never really ends, it just goes on to another chapter. RIP Uncle Lionel, I wish I could be part of your second line, I'm sure it'll be a hell of a party.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Monday, July 2, 2012

Sounds Like A Problem

A few days ago I met a sound editor who was paralyzed by the sound of people eating. It didn’t help that Amy and I were eating rice crackers dipped in hummus right behind him in a sound proof room; we were whispering and chuckling too which probably added to the crunch/slurp/breathing effect.

Ok, I gotta… I gotta stop for a second. He hunched his shoulders and bowed his head.
Oh no, it’s the eating thing, isn’t it? this from Amy mid crunch.
He nodded sadly.
What eating thing? I stopped with a cracker in front of my mouth.
“He doesn’t like the sound of people eating.” Amy did not look like she was going to stop crunching any time soon. She looked at me and waved her hand. She shook her head: no big deal.
That sounds like a problem.
It’s really not good for my marriage.
Have you tried to sort that out?
Well if we play music or have the TV going, that helps.
No I mean, you know, like examined it a little more deeply.
He took a deep breath, yeah, it all goes back to my father.
Boom. That’s what I’m talking about.
I know, I know, it’s an ongoing problem.
It’s good that you can talk about it though. I mean that’s half the battle right there.

I look over at Amy, she is shoveling tablespoon size glops of hummus onto the cracker and eating them. Crunching, slurping, breathing. Like many of our conversations, this next one is all unspoken, but happens in a brief series of glances:
Come on, WTF, the guy is having a hard time.
He needs to get over it.
I can’t enjoy eating now, I’m too self conscious.
Don’t baby him.

I look over to him. His shoulders are pulled up; he might even be trembling. I feel bad for a minute but then I remember: he’s a sound editor for godsake, he needs to deal, and I reach for the crackers.