mommies, stories worth repeating, thoughts, Uncategorized

of perfume and forgiveness

Once upon a time…

I was visiting my grandparents in New York City.  I spent quite a bit of time there, and it was with my grandparents that I was introduced to the joys of theater, music and art. When I was six, I saw Yule Brenner in The King and I.  With them, I saw a Chorus Line for the first time, went to the opera, and would circle up the ramp at the Guggenheim and eat lunch at the original MOMA.

One day, when I was visiting, I accidentally broke a large, brand new bottle of my grandmother’s perfume.  I remember that distinctive and horrible sinking and miserable sensation of awfulness.  It seemed, to a child, that impending and irreversible doom must follow a transgression so great and careless, and of such an expensive and precious item.  And then, I remember how my grandmother shrugged it off as absolutely no big deal.

She was glad I hadn’t hurt myself.  That was the last it was ever mentioned.

That memory is one of the more resonant of my childhood and I recently recalled it again when my daughter accidentally pulled the belt  and buttons off my raincoat.

At every accident, there is an occasion to practice my grandmother’s gift of nonchalant forgiveness.  It is powerful, and I am grateful be able to pass it on.

thoughts, Uncategorized

life mirroring art mirroring life

Ever read the personals?

People love to say about themselves, “no drama.”  They also love to say they are looking for “no drama.”

Yeah, that makes for a really exciting story.

Movies, for example, are a series of obstacles that deepen and complicate until the protagonist hits a low point (end of act 2).

Of course, if there’s anything you can count on in life, it’s complications although some people do generate more drama then other, they seek out.  It seems, in fact, like they can’t bear the calm.

When we go to movies (or read) we like to see other people dealing with drama and then with mirror that in our own lives.  That’s what we’re there for!  Or we’re writers and we use our own lives at inspiration and tells stories about drama, often we dramatize what we’re writing because otherwise the true story would be too boring.  Of course in some cases, if you told the true story, no one would believe it.  Either way, a story without drama is dull, and perhaps, so is a life.
When people write “no drama” they mean, no bad drama, no tiresome, ongoing complications that never cease, no sub plots or minor character injecting themselves into the main storyline.  They mean, I’m a calm, cool collected person with nothing to impede my forward motion.
Good luck with that…

thoughts, Uncategorized

back in the big, big

This isn’t exactly the view from my new flat, but you get the idea.

From the first time I saw this view, I hadn’t been able to get it out of my mind, and now, I’m happy to say, I look at it every day.

A friend looked at me a bit askance (but with a smile anyway) when I mentioned the mist wafting over the city and  the pink light, and the dreamy, romantic nature of this particular view.  Well, yes, I have moved into the city of San Francisco, not just nearby, or just outside, or any of that bay area nonsense. In.

Moving, downsizing, changing, beginning.  It was a great, if exhausting process–down the birth canal if you will, and into the new world which has an oft discussed, and decidedly misty look (it’s coming… look on the left…).

thoughts, Uncategorized

3 steps forward and 5 steps back (happily)

Painfully slow broadband speeds, dogged determination by AT&T and a bargain price convinced me to finally upgrade my broadband speed/home system. It did require that I get cable television for six weeks and thus, the my phone/broadband/cable were untited in one fat cord running into a box at the side of my house.

I then spent a weekend watching countless random movies on a combination of 8 temporarily free HBO channels–violating one of the 10 tips of achieving happiness as catalogued by a British study–watch half the amount of TV you’re currently watching. (can’t find the link at the moment. But here’s a different link about happiness tips.)

And so it was that last night, when my united cable failed, so did my phone and internet connection.  As I started to look through the papers they gave me about how to program my new voice mail, I saw the myriad  warnings about the inability to call 911 if the cable were to fail…  which… it did last night.

I have to say, I’ve been very happy  with AT&T’s customer service, they’ve been smart and apologetic (if a bit talkative) and they got the service up and running in just under 24 911-unavailable hours.

So, last night, for the first time in a long time,  I was broadband-free and not entirely sure what to do with myself. I had 20 minutes of clicking and zooming, watching and surfing withdrawal symptoms after which I ended up playing guitar and house cleaning, and guess what? I felt pretty happy.

I’m not really into co-dependence (more into independence) and I sure felt it when I had home-wide system failure. It took only one old-fashioned evening to seriously think about making my home a cable free zone, a place with a land line, where 911 can always be reached, if necessary.

And of course, in cases of broadband emergency,  I’ll always have the iphone.

thoughts, Uncategorized

Neither signs

I don’t believe in signs. Neither an ordered universe (as my daughter might say, since neither is her efficient substitute for either/nor/or).

I also don’t believe that “everything happens for a reason.”  I believe that we bring reason to our unruly narratives and fashion a story that seems reasonable.

But these days, I find I’m spending my sleepless night reassuring myself with those very platitudes.  They bring some comfort at three a.m.

They actually bring some comfort at 9 a.m. as well.

I knew a woman 15 years ago in the middle of one of the biggest traumatic and hideous and public messes imaginable.  Kim Goldman, sister to Ron Goldman, made famous by OJ Simpson’s crime was thrown, what could only be called,  in understatement, a curve ball– a bad one, sliding off the greasy finger tips of fate, slimy from the saliva of lady luck…

By the time I met Kim, she was still in the middle of everything: trials, media hype, emotional processing and yet she already had achieved a state of grace that–even before I had personally experienced even a fraction of the ugliness and evil that she had faced–was astonishing and recognizable.  I don’t mean to put some kind of holy glow over the whole thing.  She was very clear that there had been some extremely difficult times, but  it seemed that she was okay. Which is maybe all we can really hope to end up being.

I still remember exactly where I was (gym locker room) when I heard that OJ was found not guilty and how sickened I was by the news, absolutely.   I have thought of Kim often, as inspiration, and with admiration and respect.

And so, it was in the middle of my own, much lessor trauma, that I discovered that Kim had made contact with me through linked in.  She is now the Executive Director of the Santa Clarita Valley Youth Project.  She writes, “My career has mostly been focused on being of service to others.”  But she was never helpless or self-pitying, or martyrish and she never lost her sense of humor, well, maybe she did (and deserved to) but I never saw it.  That’s not even to say there’s any right way to act in these kinds of situations.  Falling apart seems appropriate and natural at certain (many?) times in life.  I don’t want to glorify certain one kind of a response over another, and yet, the way she acted has made a lasting impact on me.

And so, it was very nice, especially right now, to get a little ping from the past.  A reminder of okayness.  Of  grace during the darkest of days.

thoughts, trends, Uncategorized

at the edge; the rise of extreme stakes

Thanks to a free month-long trial subscription to Netflix, I have now watched the entire 5 seasons of Weeds, and season 1 of Californication.

I found this dramatic interlude highly enjoyable. And it got me thinking about the extreme stakes narrative trend that both shows utilize. While both shows are naturalistic, in emotion and character, they flirt with the surreal in their constant crazy heightening of unrealistic stakes and plot.  While I personally have never hurled myself out of an airplane, or “gotten air” on skis, sure, I can see the appeal. Likewise, there is a distinct thrill of watching Nancy Botwin (Mary-Lousie Parker) of Weeds decide, upon finding herself confronted with a threatening drug dealer, that a quickie with him by her car is too irresistible to pass up.  After a few seasons of Weeds, I found myself thinking, just how far can this possibly go?  And go they have, while maintaining just a thread of believability, or at least they are maintaing the suspension of disbelief.

Similarly, Californication has the same surrealistic realism that makes the show both unbelievably enjoyable as in, enjoyable and only barely realistic (LA is like that, but also not like that), but the writers and actors have taken it one step further. David Duchovny’s Hank Moody has an extreme stakes personality.  Talk about a thrill.

He is constantly being humiliated and yet never humiliated, never defensive.  He owns up to everything, embraces every personal flaw, owns everything, and is indestructible as a result, at least as of season one.  It’s breathtaking to watch the imperviousness of a character who never denies who they are and how badly they act.  He is in a constant state of hurling himself into the void.  He is also hugely successful as a likable character.  Deeply flawed, he is fundamentally a good person.  (Hooker with a heart of gold, anyone?) He is simultaneously an excessive lover of women, and an excessive lover of womenkind.

I don’t know if the appearance in the  mainstream of these kama kazi stories and characters represent a bit of our collective yearning to go loco in the face of our very difficult political, economic and environmental circumstances and the difficult future which seems to loom ahead. Stories have always been useful as a means of throwing ourselves, experientially, into the void, and getting to see how it feels without having to actually climb Mt. Everest with an oxygen tank.  And while some actually choose to stand on the mountain top and push off, I am going to stick with the storytelling from those daring writers who imagine themselves there and then dream up what comes next.

dancing, thoughts, trends, Uncategorized

hooping, a short story

First you buy a pink hula hoop,


then you start calling it “hooping.” You make a hooping playlist, and finally, you begin putting together the crazy outfit, starting with socks–>


(that yes, you realize should never be worn out in public and will not make the debut outfit…)


I eagerly await my official SF bay area citizenship card.  I believe it’s in the mail.

thoughts, Uncategorized

Of Course I’m Writing A Book

I started in 2002.  Now, I haven’t been writing that whole time.  No.  And in fact, you don’t even want to know all the crap that’s gone down in the last 7/8 years.  Trust me.

The problem is, I keep re-prioritizing what I think are the most important things to do in life.  Sometimes I think the book just needs to get written and sometimes I think, why would I waste time writing a book when I could-be-out-having-fun-since-I’m-going-to-die-anyway-and-it-could-be-soon-and-in-that-case-what-will-I-regret-not-doing-the-most…

I could be baking.  That gives me a lot of pleasure.  I need to find a job and fast (well, I am trying to do that).  In that other “lifetime” I think I would have liked to have been a dancer. So, in this one, I do it at least sporadically.  (The click of “outside” shoes on a wooden floor as I walk out with my bag banging against my thigh…)

I could be giving back to my community or building one or doing various social things or planning more activities… helping people…  Practicing my guitar.

I just read a post by Marc Andreessen (and yes, he has invested in about maximizing personal productivity.  I keep going to back to it, because it’s interesting but also, there’s this incredible whiff of freedom surrounding it.   It’s tantalizing.  Freedom–I just want to inhale–as if it’s a virus I could catch.  I love the days of totally open schedule and that feeling of time, stretching out like one of those slow moving airport walkways ahead, of course, always faster moving then they look.

Now I am trying to be productive in the exact opposite situation, where I know I have a short and very finite period to write something.

All of which brings me around to the point that the book isn’t finished although people keep saying, are you sure because “perfect can get in the way of good.”  Or finishing.  Very true. But still, I laugh uncomfortably and say, “Uh… yes, I am sure.”

Regarding finishing the book though, there’s a missing piece and I just had this idea about love and the lubricating nature of love (and I haven’t yet thought of an analogy), and something about the Heisenberg principle too, and how the structure of the book has a similar effect in that it affects the characters or the the central character as it progresses.   Cannot be seen and unaffected, right, structure connecting to meaning, form influencing function.  It’s on my mind.

So, yes, I am writing a book, but first, I’m going to yoga.

Stories worth considering, thoughts, Uncategorized

Words Matter (In Memory)


September 16, 2009 is the 10 year anniversary of my father’s death.  He did not live to see the 21st century; he did not know that the twin towers would be attacked and that they would fall.  He would not have necessarily welcomed the digital age.  I guess there are many things that each of us will never know.

If you asked my father what he did, he liked to say that he taught college. He was not a professor, he was, Don, a teacher.  Not always perfect, but always learning, always embracing his path and encouraging me to skip along mine.  I think no more so than, with fearlessness and pure heart, he faced his own death. “Are you afraid,” I asked.  “No,” he said, “just curious.”

I was with him 2 hours before he actually died.  They tell you to say goodbye, to say that it’s okay to die and that you’ll be okay when they pass.  All these things to make it easier for the person to “let go.”  Cancer, being the aggressive bastard that it is, wasn’t likely going to be influenced by what I said or didn’t say, but I said everything anyway.

Fourteen months earlier, I had arrived at his hospital bed.  “Have I given you enough?” he asked.

Many words have been written and spoken about my father.  At the funeral, students I didn’t know approached me: “You were the apple of his eye,” they said.  And six months later, students running the ticket booth at the local movie theater looked at me strangely, “We know who you are, and we loved your father.”

There was one piece (Craig Carlson Eulogy) written about him that I have always especially loved. Penned by Craig Carlson, poet, teacher and long-time colleague of my father’s, the essay had story, memory, surprise, reveal.  It was an excavation of history, with them sitting in the backyard of the old house with the bees.  As with any good story, if perfectly captures who my father was and it revealed extra words and thoughts he had, which, like the fragments of ancient pottery, are precious beyond explanation.

A few years later Craig drowned, and there was a story told about it.  He and his teenage son had been swimming, maybe out a little too far and then the current had taken them out further.  They knew they were in trouble.  Craig was tired, and told his son to swim back without him.  His son didn’t want to leave him.  “Get help,” said Craig.  And so the son swam back and was saved.

Not, save yourself.  Not, just go on without me.  Get help.  A task.  A reason to survive. A charge to save the life of someone else. It’s Muhammad Ali winning Rumble in the Jungle–fighting not just for himself but for his community.  Something greater than oneself.

Get help.

For 10 years I have missed my father, but I have cherished the legacy he left behind and I am deeply grateful to Craig, a poet to the end, for his words.


Check out my father’s book: Teaching with your Mouth Shut.

Also, his as of yet unpublished, Out of the cave; steps to essay writing.