Monday, October 31, 2005

Today, a mansion for you. I've decided I need to begin thinking bigger. No more cozy little bum shacks. Mansions! Big, big mansions! That's how rich people think, right? I have all this money--I will buy myself a house that will be hard to heat, easy to get lost in and so big that my crazy family from [insert state here] will feel all the more compelled to come beg to live with me and borrow money for methamphetamines! Ahem. Yeah, I heard Donald Trump quoted saying that, I swear.

Granted, this behemoth isn't quite the house I have in mind. Too drafty. Looks like it's in a floodplain too. Basement is probably full of killer mold, and the attic? Huh, no sir, imagine the spiderwebs. This is purely an illustration--concept, if you will. And seriously if you are either agorophobic, a serial killer or the elephant man/woman, this out of the way location offers unparalleled privacy.

@ @ @

Sins of Beauty.
I want to know if y'all can help me determine which jobs out there in the world are NOT likely to give one a repetitive stress injury. Cuz I sure as hell picked the wrong field for that. I love writing, but I am starting to loathe the computer screen and the keyboard, dance as my fingers do upon it.

But then, massage therapy was worse (yup, that was a former career), all the admin jobs I ever had were no better, plus I usually had some tyrant smashing my self-esteem into pancakes. Being an Esthetician was worse than massage because not only was I constantly bending forward in that neck-vertebrae pinching fashion to gaze into the magnifying light and attack the clogged pores of well-off women, I was being asked to improve upon women's beauty. Do you understand what that means? It means there is NO margin for mistake. If you're being asked to pluck eyebrows and wax bikini lines, to remove blackheads and tint eyelashes, trust me--you CANNOT screw up. Oh, you can, and you will, actually, but you will pay. You will pay by becoming the object of the unhappy woman's entire life of rage at those who made her feel less than beautiful. There will be screaming; there will be threats to the management; there will be finger waving and pocket-book snatching up and haughty cries of "I'm never coming back here." There will be baleful stares and no tips and great epiphanies in which your own physical beauty starts to look alright again.

My three biggest Esthetician mistakes?
-Giving an uptight twenty-something on her way to a party eyebrows that were more Charlie Chaplin than the Madonna she sought. Oh the walls shook!
-Failing to prep a woman's bikini area before waxing and being UNABLE to remove said wax (had to send her home with instructions to bathe and oil...oh my god, I felt bad. I didn't charge her).
-Mistakenly believing a histrionic woman who said she wanted a hydroxy-acid peel. Hahahahahha! Not thirty seconds in she was writhing and screaming; I had to all but pour the bowl of cold water on her face. She said she'd had them before too.

Being in the beauty business (and yes, I did go to Beauty School--most hellish six months of my life) was brutal, and so completely not for me. At the time I thought it was a means to an end to be a writer, as I had with massage therapy. And while the spa that I worked at was good to me, ultimately I realized that I just didn't care enough about people's outsides. They were inconsequential to me, but absolutely everything to my clients, and well, when that woman with the botched eyebrow job ran off muttering curses, and I slept well the night that poor woman probably slept with a wax paper bikini on so as not to stick to her sheets, I realized that I did care about eyebrows or coochie-trim, and I was in the wrong industry.


Friday, October 28, 2005

First let me say that I've been awake since one a.m. I woke first to the lovely sound of my neighbor's motorcycle, then soon after, the sound of rain kept me awake. And then my brain realized we were awake, and giddly began clapping its little neurotransmitters. "We're awake, people!" It cried. "Get Thinking!" So we did. And we didn't stop. At two a.m. we arose and made a list of story ideas. By 4 a.m. we got out of bed.

And here my brain and I are, bleary-eyed despite coffee, staring at the blog screen.

I actually came here to write what might seem somewhat, indirectly, contrary to yesterday's post. I came here to say how cool it is that I have siblings, for you see, I was an only child until nearly 15 years old. And at that, my sister (14) and my brother (16), are half-sibs, which means nothing to me. They feel like family, though they were mere babes when i was a late teenager, readying to leave for college. (photo failed to upload; i'll try again later).

Still, when I'm exchanging emails with my smart, pragmatic (and gorgeous!) sister about an essay she's writing for school, or cracking jokes with my sweet, insightful brother, I get this little glowing feeling inside me, like "these are my people!" They're the only family members I have who don't come pre-loaded with a bunch of bullshit I have to work on. I don't have issues with them. I love them as they are. They'll always be much younger than me, so I will always get to look on with a proud, loving eye. I feel about them as i imagine I might for a child. I'd do anything for them. If they were in trouble, I'd be there. If they needed to stay somewhere, they could come to me. I'm lucky.

Thursday, October 27, 2005

I've inspired a lot of ire, it turns out, by suggesting that I agree with SFgate columnist Mark Morford, as mentioned in this post. A couple of nasty emails, some mention on friends' blogs and the like (I can't imagine the email he must have gotten). Enough that I feel like okay, guess I better revisit this situation and explore my feelings publicly with y'all.

1. Do I think that a couple having sixteen children is a bad idea? Yeah.
2. Do I have issues with certain brands of Christianity? Yeah.
3. Am I the end-all, be-all of opinion-making? Of course not.
4. Is Mark Morford a self-righteous, entitled white male primadonna hyperbole-spinner? Probably. But he still manages to make me laugh and occasionally nod in complicity. I don't feel so bad; Bill O'Reilly has a huge audience and he's clearly an asshole.

1. Sorry, I'm married to a psychologist and I view the world through this lens anyway. Sixteen kids means a high percentage of kids who get very little, if no contact with their parents. And this can result in all manner of situations that do not promote happy people. It's a bitch that our childhood environments paint the essential design for our lives. You can tell me all you like about free will and essential personality and the like, but I have interacted with enough human beings in my life to know that while you can become responsible for yourself, but you don't outrun your roots. So yeah, I feel bad for those kids. I feel like they've got a bum rap. And then I think, wow, what time does a woman with 16 kids have for introspection? For awareness? Should I care? Probably not, but I like to live in a world where people seek awareness. It's just one of the ways I am.

2. The whole fundamentalist religion bit. You want to know the truth? It scares me. Yes, because I was raised by hippies, who foisted astrology and the I-ching on me. Yes, probably because my Jewish grandparents renounced religion and even God after they escaped Germany and lost their family to the Holocaust. Yes, because fundamentalists, be they Christian or Muslim or Atheist cult-members have a funny way of making decisions that attempt to take away rights, enact vengeance, cow people into submission, and often place a far greater value on life out of the body and off the planet. But I'm no atheist. I have a spiritual connection to that which made me and it gets deeper every day. I wouldn't preach my way to you or anyone.

3. Just like the people who have read this blog have felt they have a right to comment, I too have an opinion; isn't that one of the things that makes this country so great? That we can have dialogue about how we feel, we can vent our demons and show our true colors and not have to set up fences and arm ourselves with guns just to do so? Or, like some people, face jail time or worse for expressing our views?

Anyways, I thank all of you for engaging in this spirited dialogue, for your passionate views and for the changes and shifts they produced in me.

Monday, October 24, 2005

I like this house. I like houses as metaphors and so I will continue to post images of them here. I'll let you extrapolate your own from this one. Strangely, I see this image as a positive one. Like Autumn, which feels like a time of reflection and things returning to the earth, so is this house, so is my consciousness going a little deeper this time of year.

I never realized how all my life I have had a running commentary at the very bottom of my consciousness, just low enough that I didn't really know it was there. The line? It's dangerous to be yourself. I don't know what that means, exactly, only that it's clear to me that in so many ways I resisted/withheld/clamped down my real self in order to let others be big. I'm not playing victim here. It was a survival skill, I did it because I thought I had to do it, because the interior walls of my self-esteem were built out of leaves and twigs, not brick.

But now that I'm an adult, I don't do it as much anymore, and as a result I find there is more conflict in my life. And that's probably what I was avoiding all along while defending myself, because I didn't like that abrasive feeling of conflict, because I've always been just a tiny bit tender (overly-sensitive was the old label). I'm better at conflict now. I still don't like it. I still get easily wounded, but I'm learning to take things less personally.

The only problem with conflict is that I like being connected with people. I like to break through to the muck so that the relationship can deepen. And I'm more adult now so that I can even admit my own bullshit. I like vulnerability and openness, and when I receive it, you can bet your bippy I'll give it back. I don't like it when something I say causes someone to go away. In fact, that's the most painful feeling of all. Even if I HAD to say what I did for my own sanity; even if there was nothing left to say but the truth, which was ugly and raw and unpleasant. Still, I find that I've lived a lot on the seesaw of saying what I feel or not saying what I feel, because the outcome is so unpredictible. Certain people hear what you have to say and respond in a way that's amazing, like, "Wow, I had no idea that when I did X, you felt/believed Y. That's a bummer, thanks for pointing it out." Other times you get the: "You're a fucking asshole for speaking YOUR VERSION of the truth, you deceitful little tramp."

Fortunately, I've had more kindness than not in my life.


Sunday, October 23, 2005


When Jennifer Weiner's book Good in Bed came out, what, some four or five years ago, I had no plans to read it. But a couple of women whose opinion I respected highly recommended it, and so I did read it and to my surprise became quite engrossed in it, cried, laughed, and overall was really glad I'd read it. Weiner has a fabulous sense of humor even if the critics will never allow a book like that to be called 'literature.' The point is, who cares! It's well-written; she has a handle on the english language, which is a lot more than can be said for many best-sellers, and she writes engrossing, believable characters. Good on her.

Well I read the next book of hers, In Her Shoes, a few years later, and while it was good, it didn't move me in the same way as Good in Bed. I found it, to be honest, mediocre. Today, though I went to see the movie version of In Her Shoes, which is out now starring Cameron Diaz, Toni Collette and Shirley Maclaine. I have this compulsion to see the movies of books I read even if the book or the movie's preview looks awful, I'm not sure why. To my surprise, the movie was charming, and touching and well-cast, and well-acted and once I got over my irritation with Cameron Diaz playing a role that I'm afraid to say I think is not much of a stretch, I was really involved. I went with my friend Christine and both of us wept through a good deal of it, because we're emotional types, but also because it really is well-done.

This got me to thinking. Most of the best film adaptations of novels that I've liked (the movies, that is) have come from mediocre books. Because a really, really good book is too damn difficult to translate onto the screen, since a screenplay generally requires a lot of consolidating, cutting and fudging. Ones that come to mind in which the movie was better than the book: The Ice Storm (novel by Rick Moody), The Unbearable Lightness of Being (Kundera), today's movie...crap, of course I'm going blank. But I think it's the rarer case where a great book can be made into a great movie, because then the standards are too high. I'll be happy to be reminded of examples where the movie was AS GOOD AS the book.

And while we're on the topic of movies and writing, do yourself a favor and go rent Barton Fink. God is that a well-written screenplay, also well-acted and a winner in almost every possible way.


Friday, October 21, 2005

Who is Commando Pimpernel?

E. and I had dinner with the gps tonight (that's my teenage brother's term for our grandparents), something I am trying to do more often, as they are 90 and there's just so much that can happen.

This does not mean by any standards that dinner with them is a simple affair. I offered to make dinner this time because usually we end up eating something a la cold cuts and stale bread, or boiled meat with boiled vegetables on the side if we leave it to them. They actually tried to serve gefiltefish as an appetizer even one time in recent memory (it looks like wet catfood, dripping in gelatin, and tastes like fish pudding). Oma, whose memory is in decline, and who is shaky on her feet, still insists on helping in some way or another, which equals standing in the way, making you nervous she's going to fall or cut herself. But you can't get her to sit down; it just doesn't happen. So she's in the way making running commentary, Opa is bustling about also trying to help, when all I want is everyone out of the kitchen so I can cook some simple god damn raviolis.

I love my grandparents, I really do. But they are not easy. I have had a relationship with them all my life, spending summers there as a child and writing long letters with my Opa. But ever since we moved them out here two years ago and I have thus spent more time with them, getting together with them is an exercise in patience. Opa is busy conducting how we should behave.

When I give her my undivided attention and crack jokes with her, since that's about the only way she has left to communicate--he gets angry."Don't make her the center of attention," he commands, as she cracks jokes and gets silly, because she can't hear well or follow conversation and generally feels--and gets--left out. BUT, if you should pull your attention away from her for too long, she begins to get angry and command you to stop your "private" conversations and then starts making up ways to get your attention back. It's a viscious loop.

Tonight she introduced us to "Commando Pimpernel." Who or what is this? Well, I couldn't tell you, but I am amazed that she pulled this out of the reaches of her brain somewhere. The name seems so solid, like it/he must have been someone, perhaps some German character from her childhood. Yet these days she can't keep straight that we are related to her, so how is it possible she could pull this fellow out of the ether? It's confounding. At first I found it funny. I mean, you're just having a normal conversation and this cute little lady who barely speaks a word suddenly wants to talk about Commando Pimpernel? You'd laugh too. But I knew at root there was something not-funny about it. Because this Commando Pimpernel's sole job seemed to be to remind us that we should all be "happy happy happy," which is, I am quite sure, the farthest thing from what she feels.

I'm getting a real feeling for what kinds of trauma she experienced as a child, the only child to be cast out of her family into a children's home, which clearly was a place of suffering for her, then leaving Germany for some promise of happiness in Palestine, marrying, only to have her husband go serve in the Army when the Israeli state was formed and raising a son, then my father when it seemed that she could lose my uncle to the war.

What am I getting at? I don't know. Everytime I am around them I am amazed at how different their lives were from mine, how impossible it seems that I am descended from them, that my fate turned out as it did, and how many moments there were when, had they made one decision differently, I would never have come to be at all.

And the fact is, though they often drive me crazy, though I feel that we are worlds apart, though they can be maddeningly fearful and naive and critical, I love them and will miss them wildly when they're gone.

Thursday, October 20, 2005

I do not think that most writers out there will disagree with what I'm about to say. Writers, as a lot, are not often the most social, gregarious, graceful people around. You want to put on a party and entertain people, you don't invite a writer. And having interviewed writers on a regular basis for the past two and a half years, I've come to learn that also, many writers don't really even like to talk to people, but due to the caveats of publishing contracts, they do the radio shows/readings/signings they must do to fulfill their obligations.

So imagine how it was today to attend a luncheon sponsored by Copperfield's Books and paid for by Harper Collins for author Gregory Maguire, (whose fleshing out of the Wicked Witch of Oz in his first book Wicked catapulted him into sudden, shocking success and was turned into a broadway musical), only to discover he was...well, a fabulous party guest. Here are a few details about Mr. Maguire:

He is nice. Like really nice. Like pull out your chair for you twice, kind of nice. Like, "Oh I bet you have a lovely singing voice," kind of nice. Like, "Let me tell you about my son's piano playing," nice. (He is radiant when it comes to discussing his three adopted children, and his beloved partner).

He can sing, and did, offering a "new" line to the song, "Somewhere over the rainbow" that invoked the darker edge of the rainbow, since he feels the song is a bit misleading to what is really in store for Dorothy.

He owns (and is not afraid to wield) a wicked witch hand-puppet, and used a funny anecdote about how and why writer Alice Hoffman gave it to him (he was supposed to set it across from him in restaurants where he was eating alone to ward off fanatic people--didn't work, of course).

He is the real deal. He's thoughtful, charismatic, funny, sensitive, and caused the 15 people there in the room with him to go into a kind of platonic swoon. He carries with him an old school kindness, like you might find on the Andy Griffith Show, but with an edge of the real to him.

On Harper Collins' tab, I had: A rootbeer, pumpkin bisque, crab cakes and an ice cream dessert smothered in liquers. It was delicious. Good times.

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

I love that Mark Morford of SFgate (SF Chronicle's online magazine) can say all the things I want to print...and get paid for it. Here he weighs in on a recent natural disaster...the couple in Arkansas who had their 16th child and are clapping their hands giddily for the time they can do it again.

"Perhaps the point is this: Why does this sort of bizarre hyperbreeding only seem to afflict antiseptic megareligious families from the Midwest? In other words -- assuming Michelle and Jim Bob and their massive brood of cookie-cutter Christian kidbots will all be, as the charming photo suggests, never allowed near a decent pair of designer jeans or a tolerable haircut from a recent decade, and assuming that they will all be tragically encoded with the values of the homophobic asexual Christian right -- where are the forces that shall help neutralize their effect on the culture? Where is the counterbalance, to offset the damage?

"Where is, in other words, the funky tattooed intellectual poetess who, along with her genius anarchist husband, is popping out 16 funky progressive intellectually curious fashion-forward pagan offspring to answer the Duggar's squad of über-white future Wal-Mart shoppers? Where is the liberal, spiritualized, pro-sex flip side? Verily I say unto thee, it ain't lookin' good..."

"Ah, but this is America, yes? People should be allowed to do whatever the hell they want with their families if they can afford it and if it's within the law and so long as they aren't gay or deviant or happily flouting Good Christian Values, right? Shouldn't they? Hell, gay couples still can't openly adopt a baby in most states (they either lie, or one adopts and the other must apply as "co-parent"), but Michelle Duggar can pop out 16 kids and no one says, oh my freaking God, stop it, stop it now, you thoughtless, selfish, baby-drunk people.
No, no one says that. That would be mean."

Read the Entire Article HERE

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Never play your cat at chess....

They always win!

Monday, October 17, 2005

I adore this photograph for the possibilities it holds--that there really is nothing on either side of that little shack for miles. That it stands completely alone. But the cheery blue sky, the warm wheat-like grass are offering comfort, they're promising to take care of whomever lives inside there.

And it's in a state with which I have a near fetishistic fasicnation --Montana.

It makes me want to write a story about it, about some crazy, determined old-school couple who have been married for sixty years and raised eleven children in that little shack and survived the coldest winters on record, and ate off the grain and cattle they'd raised the years prior. They'd be tough and seem, on the surface, as though they didn't love each other, because they wouldn't be tender with each other in those touchy-feely ways, only they'd finish each other's sentences, and that time he had a heart attack she drove the thirty miles of rough roads there and back through a bad snow storm to get the doc out there. This is the kind of couple who dies within days of one another, for without each other, what else is there? Just the meadows and the strange open vista of sky, and there's more of that kind of stuff after death, so might as well go.

Last night I read at Zebulon's as part of a trio, involving Cydney Chadwick and Geri Digiorno (Sonoma County's new Poet Laureate). It was fun. The best things about it?
-Not Emceeing for once
-Not worrying about microphone testing and where the music stand was
-Not caring if it started on time
-The actual reading part. I like reading words aloud. When they happen to be my words, I know what I meant, so that makes it easier to read them.

It was nice just to be invited, not in charge. I had recently lamented to one of my friends that no one invites me to read, as if, by dint of starting the LiveWire series, I was somehow claiming I didn't need invites. I may get another chance, too. I've made it into the Dickens Literary Review, the publication produced by Copperfield's books each year. This means I am in the running for a $500 fiction prize. I find out on December 3rd.


Saturday, October 15, 2005

My dear friend Marlene Cullen wrote the following words in our last writing group. She gave me permission to print them here. They speak to how I've been feeling, they are totems for what I am going through.

“I had an epiphany today — or, at least, a light bulb. If we become honest in our talking and dealing with people, if we go deep and tell the genuine truth, will that carry over to our writing? And will we then go deep and become authentic in our writing?

"The temptation is to not go where it hurts. The temptation is to lie in order to resist the painful truth.”
--Marlene Cullen

As someone who grew up thinking you could not and should not tell the truth of your experiences because you would be punished and reviled (which has, sadly, proven more true than not), this is a good reminder.

I hate the cliche that the truth sets you free, but I believe it. I believe that you can liberate yourself by embracing your shadow parts, your unlovely darkness. Lord knows I've had some painful opportunities to do so and I'm sure there will be more. What we don't want to see, I think, is exactly what we have to see.


Thursday, October 13, 2005

Here is one problem of writing. You express something through your medium at a time when these feelings are powerful. And then, over time, the feelings change and the writing stands as little more than a marker, a milestone of where you once were, how you once felt. But the power of words is not to be underestimated. The reader has no idea where the current self and the written self overlap and so, the reader knows only the writing, and not the person. And this can be dangerous.


Wednesday, October 12, 2005

I'm in a delightful creative process writing group that nourishes me on all levels. And tonight I wrote something there and I just feel like posting it.

The prompt was "Waking Up."

Damn. I just keep thinking in spiritual metaphors. I am waking up to something bigger inside me or is it around me--by bigger I'm not even sure what I mean, I only notice its symptoms, like the way kindness moves me to my core--simple actions, like the suspicious-looking 7-11 clerk providing a free cup of water to the mentally handicapped fellow who stumbled in. Why does this stuff send a little painful charge across my heart? Perhaps it is the pain that precedes relief.

I'm seeking an understanding of what my heart is trying to say, what happens for me in that moment when kindness passes perhaps unexpectedly between two people. Why does it make me want to crumple to my knees? Is it shock or disbelief? Is it gratitude? People were nice enough to me, weren't they?

Oh wait, I just got it, the answer here in my solar isn't just any and all kindness that shakes me, it's kindness enacted on the vulnerable, the sensitive, the underdog. Every time my own deeply tender little self sees another deeply tender little self receive care, it trusts just a little bit more in the world.

Today I read an article about an organization that takes in abandoned rabbits and today they were nursing a bunny that had been cruelly set alight by teenagers over the weekend. At first I felt rage as the woman quoted said that the bunny, who's ears had almost melted and whose top layer of fur had crusted off, had lost faith in humans. I wanted to burn those kids at first! But just now I'm thinking that in some way they were attempting to burn their own rabbit-like vulnerability out of themselves, to not feel that part of us that is so very true and real, and without its own protection, a wide-eyed innocent we bring into the world with us.

All I know is that the more I wake up to the purpose of my soul, the more my own wounded creature learns to trust in humanity again, a little bit.

I think this is a good thing.

Four or five years ago I wrote an essay about my godfather who was at the height of his alcoholism. It was an essay borne out of pain and betrayal, out of frustration and anguish. It was the digestion and translation of years of experience with this man, and came out of a series of conversations my family and I had about his current state of drinking himself--it seemed to us--to death.

I am breaking no anonymity when I say that my mother is an alcoholic. She, however, is a sober one. One who has committed long, hard years of work through a variety of means to healing herself, and making amends for the damage she caused. So yes, I'm biased. I have seen alcoholics change and heal and therefore, I know it can be done.

The essay I wrote about my godfather has been published in two different forms. The most recent, here. You can read it for yourself. I changed names to protect identity, of course. And yes, this is the situation as seen through my eyes, naturally. I have only my own experience to go on. Well, today I received an email from a gentleman who read this essay and was outraged. I wrote back to him as patiently as possible, because I think it's a good thing when someone is upset by your writing. This is what writing should do. He wrote:

"What I've concluded is that your reliance on similes in describing Jack works as a distancing mechanism. "He carried the liter of if he were cast in a remake of 'The Lost Weekend'." Elsewhere, he is " and old man who has forgotten something..." and " a toddler at day care..." He is treated not as a person of flesh and blood, but as a tragic character in a story. I find troubling the appropriation of a heartbreaking circumstance as currency for literary ambition."

My first response, internally was, oh yeah, the appropriation of a heartbreaking circumstance has NEVER been currency for literary ambition. Right! Literature is all about people falling in love and saving puppies from trees. But then, I quickly realized that he was angry/grieved from a personal stance. Perhaps HE is an alcoholic or someone he knows. Perhaps he believes you CAN save someone from themselves. I replied:

"I think that what you might be saying is that nobody cares about the alcoholic, which actually, is probably the message the alcoholic received all along his/her whole life, which led him/her to drink. Having a parent who is also an alcoholic, I know this, and I have actually learned to have some sympathy for the "disease" as they call it in AA. But I won't pretend it didn't damage and shape me."

He also said:
"I hope you and your family care enough about this man to lead him to the care of a psychiatrist who may be able to provide him with any medication he might require. Isn't that better than the alternative of seeing him continue to rot away through the self-medication of alcohol, as if his pathetic death were some foregone conclusion?"

I replied:

"The essay was an expression of grief, of betrayal, of how this man who I loved, who fostered my writing, who was a part of my life, has continued to reject ALL the means that would get him help and treated me and others badly in the process. was clear to all of us when I wrote this essay that he wanted to die. Tell me. How do you stop a person from dying who wants to die? Have you tried?

"Yes, art is my way of dealing with the pain. Writing, art, is my way of making the horrible, horrible reality digestible and manageable. I'm not sure what experience you've had with alcoholics, but there is a common theme that arises in those who don't get help...people turn away from them. I am not Mother Theresa. When a man I have loved and known is verbally abusive, sexually suggestive and rude, after he's told us how AA and psychiatry are a sham, well, you might just get a feeling for where this essay came from."

Today I feel like a real writer. An object of another's projections.


Tuesday, October 11, 2005

I admit, I spend a lot of time in front of my computer. Now I'm starting to wonder what the long term effects of this are, besides the tendonitis and the frozen eyeballs, besides my butt shifting ever slowly into a seat-shaped dropping thing rather than my former perky shelf. Am I, perhaps, cutting off my connection with God? Oh don't worry, I haven't gone religious on you. I'm just getting comfortable calling that direct link to IT-ON-HIGH that created this universe, or IS this universe, or is the overlord of the matrix or whatever God, 'cuz it's aptly shorthand, . God. Three letters. Handy. Or maybe all this computer sitting is doing something to my peripheral vision. Or to my antioxidants or my white blood cells. I don't know, but even though I have a laptop and so my screen isn't one of those honking tv tube type radiation-makers, I still feel tired the longer I'm at it.

Actually, it's exacerbated by the fact that my WHOLE LIVING ROOM smells like cat pee. We indulged our love of the neighborhood felines by letting a couple of the especially cute ones (Pumpkin, and Cakemix) into our house. And somewhere, somehow, Figaro schooled us in the fine art of "oh no you didn't!" He surreptitiously marked, I think, every square inch of our living room. It smells as though he set off a cat-piss bomb, dusting all surfaces with a fine mist of piss, because you cant' find one single location that is the source, yet everything has begun to take on the piss-smell and it's driving me crazy. It's a smell so foul it goes deep to the sinuses, a smell beyond the nostrils. You can taste it. Do you grok me?

But I digress. Back to the computer activity. What the hell else would I be doing? Ballet? Rock climbing? Water sports? Don't worry, I read. I garden. I do fun things with my husband. But my life has gotten so damn simple. That sounds like a complaint, but it's not. I like it this way. I've finally gotten the chance to give in to my reclusive side, the introvert who was always tugging at the shirttails of my previously simulated extrovert, whining, "can we gooooo now?" Yes. Now we can go, and never come out again if we don't want to. Maybe my thirties is the decade of going inward, far deeper than ever before. Now I don't have to deal with other people casting judgments on my squareness, my lack of interest in staying out late and partying. I was born old, and I accept it.

Wow. I've gotten way off topic. The topic being what is my computer secretly doing to me? Perhaps the government really does spy on people, send people in black around to follow them and transmit messages about celebrities love-lives using gamma rays that come through our computers. Wouldn't that be a laugh!

Do you want to know a sad truth about me? I am waiting, like I used to wait for summer vacation that last month of school, for the fourth Harry Potter movie to open. I can hardly stand it.

I need help, don't I?


Monday, October 10, 2005

Other than previous sad post, today is just a day. Do you know what I mean? A kind of nothingness day. Because it's a holiday (I think it's "How-we-gave-Native-Americans-small-pox Day," if I'm not mistaken) there's a ghastly emptiness on my streets and even in my neighborhood--which makes no sense, because it's the kind of 'hood where people stay in on holidays and so it should be a bustle of lawnmowers and leafblowers taking advantage of this gorgeous Indian Summer day. The kind of day that ALMOST makes you know what it would feel like if you were down in your root cellar looking for the chocolate you stashed when the big one went off, thus sentencing you to being the Last Person On Earth.

E. and I had frozen yogurt downtown, then we hung out at Copperfield's Books where I learned the alleged details of Jessica's Simpson's split from hubster, the supposed "war" between Angelina and Jen, and decided, to my surprise, that Paris Hilton did look better in the backless black Armani dress than Gwen Stefani. Paris has got an album coming out soon, you know. Not a photo album, either I'm sorry to say. I can't decide which I'm more excited about, her album or Brittney & Kevin's bootleg sex tape. (You can't tell me that people who video themselves screwing DON'T want it to eventually get out to the public. How does this happen? They "accidentally" leave it out, marked "Our hot monkey love" in the tour bus, I'm sure).

I've discovered that on days where I just don't want to work that I get a lot of random bits of flotsam in my brain that feel like small epiphanies. Things that, by the time I sit down here to blog, are all but gone. It really sucks that because Columbus sailed a few ships, I don't get any mail today.

Oh, I remember what I wanted to blog about! You see, the new project I'm working on while SBF percolates and brews, is another novel of course (because I'm hopeless at the short story, I've decided), which is first and foremost a love story with a slightly, well, paranormal edge, but not really. I never knew how fucking hard it is to write about love without getting all smarmy, sentimental or slipping into out and out bad erotica. It's a fine line, and I'm having a hard time handling it. To me the best way to write a love story is to put a lot of obstacles between the lovebirds...not to go Romeo & Juliette on them, but enough that the reader wants them to get together. But then you have to give something or the reader is thinking, "these two are NEVER going to get it on, so what's the point." So I've got some juicy obstacles, but then they seem to run into the realm of being too outlandish, so I'm working to balance all these crazy threads, while ultimately delivering the possibility that these two people can have a future together. It's maddening. But also fun. And since I'm only drafting, not getting all hard core and serious yet, it's okay. I don't have to commit to getting it all right.



Today I learned of a blog that belongs to someone I used to be friends with. I hate that phrase, "used to be." It's not in my nature to unbecome friends with someone. But this someone and I were having the mother of all miscommunications more than two years ago and who knows what unconscious features were at work for us. I still believe it was our child selves that were fighting, that couldn't relinquish whatever needed to be relinquished in order for us to remain friends. All I know is that it is the only friendship that ever ended that caused me so much pain. I dreamt about her for over two years. In every dream we reconciled, if only tensely. Who knows if it's even possible to reconcile these things. But I have wanted to say so many things that my pride didn't let me say when it ended. I always felt like the weak one, and she the strong, a dynamic I've long been attracted to in friends.

And now she is a mother and when I saw a photo of her on her blog my little heart seized up with grief. I miss her, but I'm afraid. I've long wanted to send an email, but I suspected--she being the strong one, that she wouldn spurn it, tell me to get lost. And I see from her posts that she still thinks women are flaky--which I certainly didn't help her thwart at the time, though I didn't see myself as flaky, but I can imagine that's what she thought.

All I can say is that I have thought of her over and over again and wondered if we could ever talk again. I doubt we could become the kind of friends we were, but maybe we could know each other. Maybe we could cheer each other on in the world. I really don't know. I don't know if I am just dreaming because my heart never quite mended over the whole thing.



Sunday, October 09, 2005

Oh Chopra, my Chopra

Here is a list of surprising things I discovered at the Deepak Chopra lecture I attended tonight. I only stayed for the first half, though I did not leave out of boredom, but out of fatigue. I actually wish I had stayed for the second half; I'm pretty sure that's when the enlightenment takes place. I am ashamed to admit I retained almost nothing that I could express to you in a way that will not sound foolish, but it entered me at a cellular level and maybe later I can reiterate it.

1. He's funny! I mean stand-up comedian funny. This is all about timing. He knows how to work a crowd.

2. He's not a Dr. Phil style megalomaniac giving away free nirvana with every lecture and throwing in a George Foreman grill if you buy his book. Or, if he is one, he hides it very well.

3. He quotes poetry! We got quotes from Blake, Whitman, Rumi and even Shakespeare in that hour...I liked a guy who uses intelligent poetry.

4. He's a medical doctor. I was amused by him saying something wry like, "Yes, you are trained as a doctor to understand looking at dead bodies! Very practical."

5. He talks quantum physics, not pre-packaged eastern spirituality, which was the biggest surprise. I expected more spoon-fed buddhism, but it was more like layperson's quantum physics.

6. He delivers his lectures without notes. Not a single note. This lecture was three hours (I only caught 1.5 hours of it).

7. His accent is mesmerizing. I don't think I'm a vastly hypnotizable person, but if he was dangling the little pendulum, I think I'd go under in a second.

8. He reminded me of some of the principles I've been dabbling in all year, all of which got me reinvigorated in my spiritual practices, things like daily writing, meditation and keen awareness.

9. He talked about the soul in a way that did not make me cringe. He compared our soul to the "empty" space scientists have discovered exists between all other matter (matter, he says, is just energy and information, vibrating at different frequencies). The soul, he says is the space that, as physics is discovering, is just pure potentiality. It's a kind of no-matter/no-space that is unaffected by physical laws, and can neither die nor be born. It's just what came into being when everything came into being at the big bang. This just feels right.

10.So it goes to show you that if you eschew something because it's popular (ahem...guilty), sometimes you really are just missing out on something.

Today, Write Livelihood's very own Cheers and Jeers:

Cheers to thse books I've recently read: How to be Lost, Amanda Eyre Ward; Hope & Other Dangerous Pursuits; Laila Lalami; Willful Creatures; Aimee Bender. Cheers to the movie Junebug...A GREAT flick. Cheers to previews for Jarhead and Brokeback Mountain. Can't wait!!

Jeers to the movie A History of Violence. I know I will piss some of you off. It worked too hard. The actors over or under-acted. Its use of symbolism was too...or not enough...oh I don't even know which way. No, even angular-jawed Viggo couldn't save this one. Jeers also to the strange melange of commercials within commercials the Regal theater forced upon us.

It's brief, but it counts. Now, off to Depak.

Friday, October 07, 2005

A post-script to yesterday's post on flatulence...Someone emailed me to say there is a scene in Catcher in the Rye involving flatulence. A prize to the first person to find the page it appears on!

To read about my in-person interview with the divine Louise Erdrich, author of some of my favorite books, but most recently The Painted Drum, visit the Word by Word Blog.


Thursday, October 06, 2005

See, I knew once I allowed the randomness in, it would spill over. So here it is.

People do not fart enough in literature.

Do you notice this? Oh sure, they get dysentery and arsenic poisoning (which MUST lead to bad gas, don't you think?), but how often, to lighten a dark scene, does someone actually break wind? Talk about your comic relief! Not very often. In fact, except for some Beverly Cleary books or the like, I don't think I can recall a single moment of flatulence in any book I've ever read. Can you? If you can, please post a comment here.

I think this is very important. If literary figures do not fart, what does this mean about our ability to accept our humanness?

Okay. Well I've made myself laugh and that's all that counts.


Wednesday, October 05, 2005

I decided today that there aren't enough random, unrelated musings on my blog, those little things that flit through one's mind on any given day, and so I'm beginning a weekly tradition. Let's call it Random Wednesday. Though you know full well that it'll either skip around days or go the way of the Edsel, but hey...

Random Wednesday

  • Not all of Georgia O'Keefe's paintings look like a woman's genitals.

  • At the gym today it hit me, gazing about at the plenitude of young things...I am in my thirties! Holy Shit. Do you know what that means for a woman like me who is not hefty of breast or long of tresses? Men don't notice you. Not that I, a happily married woman, am casting about to be looked at...but it's interesting to notice. However, teenage boys do occasionally look at me, and that scares me. I'm too young to be an older woman.

  • PB and ...crackers? I am over the moon for Trader Joe's peanut butter pretzels. And if you think this is not a literary post, you're quite wrong, for how many words have been delivered out of the ether while my hand foists their crackery goodness into my mouth, my teeth penetrating cracker body, giving way first to salt, then to the sweet paste of peanut butter? Hundreds.

  • Show me the money! How is it possible that I am owed so much money? It's cool one one hand to look at all those little outstanding invoices and think: I'm worth X dollars, but the fact is, it never comes in all at once, often late and I'm always wringing my hands just a little waiting wondering. In fact, the best words I received today were from the editor at Writer's Digest who I worked with on my first-ever assignment for them. After telling me "nice job" she said, "now send me your invoice so I can get you paid." Oh bless you! I want more people walking around with clipboards and executive looking suits saying, "let's get you paid." Doesn't that sound great?

  • Late Bloomer. I used to hate it when in movies, or even just Bugs Bunny cartoons, a woman would jump onto a chair screaming when a mice scurried into the room. I mean, geezus, mice are cute. An armadillo, possum or gila monster might have that effect on me, but a mouse? Lady, loosen up! However, my nearly 10 year-old cat, who we have teased mercilessly for his inability to catch anything more animate than string (but he's a fierce string-catcher!) has suddenly become a mouser this summer. He's caught about five that we've seen (mice and rats) and who knows how many others. Well...he brought one in the other day--you know how they do it, they rush past you so fast you can't tell what's different about your cat's behavior until you notice its bloody entrails have just decorated your carpet--yeah, well he brought in his disemboweled rat and I started to scream! What I learned was that the screaming did not come from a place of fear. It was revulsion. It was not "ooh, ooh, I'm a wimpy little lady" but rather "do not get those dead rat germs anywhere near me!" It was primal disgust. However, he did it again just yesterday!! This time, he ran off when I opened the door, because I guess I had my Attila-the-owner expression on, having been disturbed no less than about six times that morning already, and when he saw my face he bolted. I came back out later to discover that he'd left for me two perfectly shaped rat paws, a tail and a little tiny stomach. They were in such good condition I felt as though I should glue them to a sock and make a rat puppet. I soldiered on this time and, using about sixteen plastic bags, threw away the items and hosed down the steps.

Now. Don't forget to listen to my show tonight! See post below for link to the Word by Word blog.


What's happening tonight on Word by Word? Why...visit the Word by Word blog to find out, silly.

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

Today you have a choice between blog post titles:

Life imitating art? OR Publish This Novel!

The novel I wrote that obtained me my first (and only) agent...I guess I can call him my "former" agent (sounds so sad, doesn't it?), starts off with my character Ziba going to hear a fellow speak referred to only as "The Guru." In it, skeptic though she is, Ziba goes because the ticket is free, scored by her twin sister who works for a self-help publisher. She goes basically because she's bored and lonely and has nothing better to do. I didn't write the scene while she's there, but I have her recall things he said later in his "clipped but cutely indistinguishable foreign accent."

Though she hates to admit it, though she won't really allow herself to think that his lecture has anything to do with how she feels, she leaves with an impulse that she can't otherwise identify in herself. The impulse is to start talking to a tape recorder, telling her story. Yes, I know, you're thinking "huge, throbbing literary device coming!" But the story doesn't unfold through her tape recorder. You get little snippets of her life. Instead, facing off with herself combined with the impetus of pressure from her overbearing Iranian father and good-girl twin sister urge her to go seek her long-disappeared mother, who was last known to have joined the Hare Krishnas.

There's lots more. Did I mention that Ziba is a female mechanic? Adopts a kitten? Is attacked by a racially-motivated scumbag? That she falls in love with a bi-polar guy named Lang who channels Spanish words on her road trip whose best friend is a black lawyer named Irene? That there is revelry and hare krishna fun in Los Angeles and a trip to Arizona? Oh yeah...

Now, obviously I have very little in common with Ziba in about every way possible. I am not a twin. I am not of Middle-Eastern descent, my mother is only across town and wouldn't be caught in anything more organized than a peace march. BUT...oddly enough, a good friend of mine who works for a local Symphony scored tickets to hear none other than THE guru himself, Deepak Chopra, speaking at one of my favorite places, the Luther Burbank Center for the ARrts. She was casting about for someone to take advantage of said free ticket and join her, and suddenly this little voice emerged inside me... me, who has derided Chopra's "spoon-fed enlightenment." Me, who based Ziba's guru on Chopra with the idea that Gurus are about as useful as extra twist-ties when it comes to facing off with the difficult corners of one's heart. Me who thinks they are just peddling the Bhagavad-gita to get rich.

The voice inside me said, however, "You should go to this. You will learn something."

I only wonder what. I'll let you all know after Sunday.

Oh, and if anyone wants to publish this novel--titled Self-Serve--for lots of money, let me know :)


Monday, October 03, 2005

Of what viscious stuff is Monday made?

I always thought that working for myself would dispel the ole' Sunday night blues and Monday morning dread song and dance. Alas, while it blurs it, and I have lots less anxiety staying up late on a Sunday night, the rest of the world still grinds to the routine of that schedule. And so there are no emails on Sunday and phone calls cannot be made until Monday.

Anyway, it is out of this foul Monday sludge that I have been thinking about life. Oh no, not in some sort of large treatise on life kind of way. I've been thinking about how, as a child, I was pretty sure that at some point in life you just arrived. Plop. You were there. There changed often for me. I always knew it included writing, but I foresaw all kinds of theres...I thought I'd have children earlier than my mother had me (she was just shy of 24 when I was born).--ha, what a laugh that was! I thought I'd have lots of Virginia Woolf-esque dreamy time to sit in my drawing room and gaze out into my imagination. I thought I'd run a cafe. I thought I'd be a college professor. A globe-trotting journalist. Eventually, around the time of my undergraduate degree, it became pretty clear to me that of all those somedays the only thing that remained consistent was the writing part and that all the rest of it was sundry, just trappings to make the writing part happen.

So I suppose if you didn't know me, you might say--aside from not yet having my novels published--that I have kind of arrived. I make a living freelance writing. I have my own radio show. I am asked to participate in local literary events. More than half of my friends are writers. I teach. (And of course there are about 600 more things that would make me feel I have arrived still...) But I am marveling at how this matrix of my life has been laid, stone by stone by stone. So many decisions and moments have gone into this mix. So many trials. It has been built very slowly, very steadily. Seeds planted a long time ago have come to fruition in surprising ways. It's a good and sturdy life, though it isn't perhaps as shiny and fabulous as the "there" I imagined in all its early incarnations.

And still, daily, I grapple with why I chose this path--one in which the soft guts of your self are regularly hung out to dry in front of an audience, in which people criticize and reject and regularly fail to get back to you. It's still not too late to become a CPA or a park ranger, right?

But I look at all the effort expended, the hundreds of blank books filled, the oodles of pages printed upon and I feel like to abandon all of that would be foolish, would be insulting to the force that provided me with it all.

So I keep on.

Saturday, October 01, 2005

Another first comes and kicks me between the eyes. Barely awake, the first morning I've slept past six a.m. in weeks, there I was innocently getting myself a cup of coffee when I realized it. October 1st!! Can it really be? Yesterday it was 94 degrees. Southern California is ablaze with fires that August usually boasts responsibility for. People are still blithely putting roofs on their houses all over town...can it really be October?

Well it is, and I've just got to come to grips that in another week, it will probably be 64 degrees. I'm never ready for the transition when you can no longer leave the house jacket-less. I haven't even looked at my jackets. In fact, I'm quite sure that my jackets and I are total strangers to one another and I will likely have to farm them all out for adoption at one of the local consignment stores. So much changes in a year, do you notice that?

Where was I last October? What was I doing? I could fetch one of my journals and find out exactly, or I could try to remember. Let's do it together. While you too are musing on where you were when the leaves started to fall in your town (if you're in one of those fancy halfway points that are permanent summer, go fix yourself a drink), go and read something very very good, my friend Myfanwy Collins' Essay in the respectable Agni Magazine. I'm quite partial to Agni because I spent time in the company of its founder--Askold Melnyczuck and its editor Sven Birkerts--while at Bennington, and have a couple anecdotes of endearment that somehow make me feel as if the magazine is an extension of them. Oh Sven with his little sailor's cap and brilliant mind! Oh Askold with his smoke-dreamy eyes of most icy blue, saying those smart things in lecture...sigh...

I also want to alert your attention to the new Word by Word blog. I must warn you, it's in its infancy, and will soon be much more exciting and will not bear that same coy photo of me, because it won't be all about me! But what you can expect are everything from questions of the day answered by authors to guest-blog spots by writers you love. It will be wild, it will dazzle and wow and stupefy. It might even be fatal if not cut properly. It might also be linked up to the fine, completely misunderstood folks over at Powell's Books, who have proved to me a couple of things: 1. Never assume your blog will go unread. 2. Don't be crass enough to compare a well-respected bastion of book-purveying goodness with a crusty evil right-wing retail organization like Wal-Mart, when what you really mean to say is that they have a swank and groovy Website of which you are jealous and overwhelmed in all your small-minded victim-conviction that your radio show is not powerful enough to rise above!

Got that?

Otherwise, I've been too frickin' over-worked to blog, but will resume normalcy soon.