Wednesday, December 31, 2008

My year in cities, 2008

I'm blatantly imitating Jason Kottke here, because I think it's a cool idea.

Like Jason, I'm listing cities in which one night or more was spent, and placing an asterisk next to those in which I spent non-consecutive nights.

Berkeley, CA *
San Diego, CA *
Austin, TX
Prague, Czech Republic
Pardubice, Czech Republic
Vienna, Austria
Budapest, Hungary
Sherman Oaks, CA
Portland, OR
Tumwater, WA
Minneapolis, MN
Santa Cruz, CA
Santa Barbara, CA (thanks for the reminder, baby!)

Napkin art from 2006

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

2008

The highlights:

January: Performed at the FronteraFest in Austin, Tex. Spent late nights laughing with Tracy and Mahmoud. Marveled at ice on the windshield.

February/March: Europe for a pre-honeymoon. Prague, Pardubice, Vienna, and Budapest. Spent two days in Vienna croaking because I'd lost my voice. Ate a lot of goulash. Stayed in successively sweeter hotels. Heard piano music streaming from a concert hall in Budapest.

April: Justly and thrillingly married.

May: Sang to a lot of YouTube videos.

June: Cooked good meals and welcomed nine o'clock sunsets. Also began the revise of my memoir. I'm now at 64,000 words.

July: Spent two days at Green Gulch Zen Center. Marin never looked so sweet.

August: 100-degree days in Portland, then drove up to Washington on a whim. It was raining. Who knew?

September: Minneapolis. If it wasn't the tundra, I'd want to live there.

October: Walked the lake. Thought a lot. Watched the days grow shorter.

November: Played with my brother's dog and watched him fix his hoopty. Drove too fast. Laughed some and cried some. Ate some chicken parmesan. It was good.

December: Got to spend more time with Adam than in the past three months. Wonderful. Watched a woman with not one, but two parrots on her shoulder walking outside of MoJoe Cafe. Celebrated a year of working out. Got all excited about Santa Barbara for New Year's. Happy to be alive.

"Death by telemedicine"

In August 2005, John McKay, a 19-year-old Stanford student and former high school debate champion, committed suicide by rolling up the windows in a car at his mother's Menlo Park home and piping in exhaust fumes.

In the next few weeks, a Colorado doctor who had prescribed a generic form of Prozac for McKay after receiving his request over the Internet, without ever seeing or examining him, will go on trial in Redwood City on possibly precedent-setting charges of practicing medicine in California without a license.

I started taking Lexapro in mid-August. By November, my depression worsened and I'd suffered several suicidal episodes.

I stopped the Lexapro and switched both doctors and drugs, to far better effect. I continue to monitor myself and my reactions, and should anything arise, my doctor is four miles away in Oakland.

I can't imagine prescribing an SSRI -- or any drug -- long-distance. I have no doubt McKay had troubles before Prozac, but I can absolutely see how the drug backfired and seemed to magnify things.

Monday, December 29, 2008

Days of play

Davis.
First Street Cafe, Benicia.
First Street Cafe.
First Street Cafe. I call this masterpiece "Why, it's Greased Lightnin'!"
Nice taters.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Sat on their park bench like bookends

So great to see Amy tonight. I've known her almost a decade and even though she's lived in Maryland for a year and a half, when she walked in tonight we just picked right back up where we'd left off.

We made Vietnamese curry soup, or rather, Adam did the majority of the work while Amy and I sat and yacked. The three of us always have fun together. Tonight was no exception.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

End of an era

After 15 years, Cafe de la Paz is closing.

Adam and I were married in the courtyard downstairs and had our reception in the Fiesta Room. Years earlier, we had a momentous conversation upstairs.

We just got the email. We're in Davis, enjoying a day away. Adam said: "The wedding is not the marriage."

He's right. While I'm sad to see many places I love folding, I know others will rise in their place. The most important thing is who's sitting next to me right now.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Saw "Synecdoche, New York" this weekend. Some smart moments, but not Kaufman's best. If you're going to go long with the absurdity, you've got to ground it in characters who we can feel. He did it well in "Eternal Sunshine" and "Adaptation", but he went a little too far here with not enough solid ground.

Still, I'm glad I saw it. Kaufman's always a favorite and an inspiration.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Everyone tells me I married a nice guy

I know better. Adam looking at a picture and being an asshole:

"She looks like the BART balladeer ... Are they mother and daughter, because their necklaces look so similar?"

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Wrote this poem in '05

I've got my quibbles with it, but there's also aspects I like ...


This Is Between Us

I.

I will keep this secret:

Coming home
from wine country
you detoured,
exited at Gilman,
climbed your tires
up the slope,
holding my hand,
stroking my fingers.

We had dissonance.
You wanted resolution.
I wasn't speaking.

You found my nape
where hair and scalp join.
I wanted to keep the anger
but it was lost
to your open roof.

II.

I will not discuss:

How we came
to the playground
on Euclid,
in the hills,
and I swung,
leaning backward
to confront the sky,
my feet pointed
in the direction
we all want
to go in the end.

I took the slide
too fast
and tore
sensitive skin
on my hand.

A tunnel took us
to the street's other sight:
The Berkeley Rose Garden.
It was unlocked.
They know, I told you.
Berkeley knows.

III.

This is between us:

How you held my hand
walking past petals,
how you kissed
my bleeding finger
and how the wound
came together
within hours.

I won't use the word magic.

Your face
bent to mine
once, then again,
and no one
needs to know.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Bon voyage, Dave Morey!

The KFOG voice is retiring. At least we'll still have him for 10@10, my favorite radio show ever!

They're playing Joni Mitchell's "Urge for Going":

I awoke today and found the frost perched on the town
It hovered in a frozen sky, then it gobbled summer down
When the sun turns traitor cold
and all the trees are shivering in a naked row
I get the urge for going but I never seem to go

I get the urge for going
When the meadow grass is turning brown
Summertime is falling down and winter is closing in

I had me a man in summertime
He had summer-colored skin
And not another girl in town
My darling's heart could win
But when the leaves fell on the ground, and
Bully winds came around, pushed them face down in the snow
He got the urge for going
And I had to let him go

He got the urge for going
When the meadow grass was turning brown
Summertime was falling down and winter was closing in

Now the warriors of winter they gave a cold triumphant shout
And all that stays is dying, all that lives is getting out
See the geese in chevron flight flapping and a-racing on before the snow
They've got the urge for going, and they've got the wings so they can go

They get the urge for going
When the meadow grass is turning brown
Summertime is falling down and winter is closing in

I'll ply the fire with kindling now, I'll pull the blankets up to my chin
I'll lock the vagrant winter out and bolt my wandering in
I'd like to call back summertime and have her stay for just another month or so
But she's got the urge for going and I guess she'll have to go

She gets the urge for going when the meadow grass is turning brown
And all her empire's falling down

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Cafe Bajer

My favorite cafe in Pardubice has a website! Don't miss the video -- you'll see the place where I spent the majority of my six months in the Czech Republic. Ah ... memories. (And videnska kava!)

Today's writing

Years after I walk through the front doors of The Clinic, a woman will undergo an historic operation: She’ll receive a new face. The procedure is controversial, risky, and the last straw. Her face is damaged beyond any conventional means of repair. She has no nose, no palate. There is an opening in her windpipe that allows her to breathe, to eat.

A car crash? An extreme beating? We’ll never know. We only know that her face was so crucified that she was taunted on the street, that small children fled in fear.

What is life when you can’t leave the house? When you can’t walk down the street or do any number of errands, when you must fear appearing in public? When you are singed by cameras, eyes, mirrors? What do you do then?

She risks her life. The surgery will take nearly an entire day and require a hefty medical team. The buildup to the procedure will take years of planning, constant consultations, reality checks, warnings.

After surgery, she will take antirejection drugs as long as she lives. Rejection, the reason we dive from so many cliffs.

The legend of Skippy

I love dogs.

Okay, scratch that. I love most dogs. The kind that don't yip, or yap, or menace, or bite.

Smash cut to Rancho Penasquitos, the mega-suburban portion of deep suburban San Diego, where I spent my early childhood. I lived on Black Hills Road, a sloping street with lots of unfaithful daddies, quasi-alcoholic mommies, and kids on our Penasquitos Girls and Boys Soccer teams. We played out in that street: kickball, tetherball, trading baseball cards. We stayed out past dusk, until our mothers started screaming for us in that tone that meant business.

I liked to ride my bike down Black Hills. I loved my bike. It was a powder-blue thing with streamers flowing from the handles. Yes, streamers. That's how much I loved my bike. I decorated it like a Tijuana whore on clearance.

I was in Mrs. Owens' class -- again -- so I must've been in second grade. The year earlier, I'd been bumped up to her class from first grade for some reason that still eludes me. It pissed off my parents and they bitched to the principal, but to no end. "Fucking Poway school district," my father liked to grouse. "We moved here for what?"

It was an afternoon in April, somewhere close to my birthday. I rode down Black Hills, past the house my parents called the car wash because the postman who lived there was always out washing and waxing, past Glyn's house. Glyn had a dog. That dog was Skippy.

Skippy was the six-pound fount of my every fear.

Oh, I was no pussy. I could stand up to every other dog in the neighborhood, including the aptly named Mr. Big, who used to pad around and scare the shit out of my brother. But Skippy was a hateful little mutt, and he had it out for me.

I cruised down the street, hair and streamers both flying back behind me. I was wearing a red jacket, pigtails, and a big old grin.

Then I saw Skippy.

I screeched.

Slammed on the brakes.

Soared over the handlebars.

Hit the ground and skinned everything there was to skin.

Then the worst happened: Skippy came to get me. He was running, barking. His tongue was out. I lay there, too freaked out to move.

He reached me and began to lick my knee.

I went out of my fucking mind.

Three doors up, my father had just pulled his always-worse-for-wear Plymouth Fury into the driveway. He cruised in and said to my mother (who, as always, was cursing the fact that he'd come home): "I just saw this kid in a red jacket go flying over the handlebars." He popped a beer and propped up his feet. "Where's Allison?"

I burst in the door, bleeding, Skippy hot on my heels. My mother took one look at me and went -- as my father called it -- straight to panic. I was right there with her. "Skippy's coming to get me!" I told my family.

My brother Adam walked over. At that point, Adam was the delicate one in the family. The sensitive soul, the sweet boy, he hadn't yet grown his thick skin.

He stamped his foot.

The dog fled.

From then on, I pedaled uphill.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Really, we're all a bit wasted

Erotica versus pornography

From a set of submission guidelines I received yesterday:

We consider Erotica as a literary or artistic portrayal that arouses or sexually stimulates using sensual imagery. Erotica includes foreplay, intimacy, and a mutually satisfying experience for all involved. In its literary form, it serves to gradually arouse the reader, giving one the sensation of “being there”.

Pornography, on the other hand, is blunt and tends to focus on one thing and one thing only. Think of the old phrase “wham, bam, thank you ma’am”. Pornography seldom if ever uses sensual imagery. Pornography does not bother with the descriptions, perceptions, and sensibilities seen in good erotica.

Erotica is a process where pornography is a goal, or to put it another way, erotica is about the journey, while pornography is all about the destination.


Interesting -- I've never before seen it broken down quite that way. I would also add that pornography is chronological: he did this, she did that. It's a reporting of sorts, a recounting. Erotica can make leaps of time and go nonlinear, which often makes for far more interesting storytelling.

That said, there's plenty of erotica I find dull as dishwater. Combine erotica and porn, throw in a dash of laughs and surprises, and maybe you'll get something really worth reading.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Get it right, get it tight!

It was decided yesterday that Bubba Sparxx has the best rap line ever in "Ms. New Booty":

"Ass be deliverin."

Don't hate.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

From something I received over email today

Don't worry about people from your past.
There's a reason why they didn't make it to your future.

Found this in my copy of Prozac Highway

I wrote this while I was at the colony.


The writers I like:

- Tell it like it is -- no bullshit, no pretense
- Are funny
- Are usually men
- Are profound without being overly philosophical (Houellebecq straddles the fence here)
- Are tender without being sappy
- Are smart
- Are unique
- Integrate story with theme.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Today


Over the last year, I've worked my ass off and dropped a bunch of weight. There's more to come, but I'm off to more than just a great start. The changes I've made over the last year mean that I can look at myself and like what I see.

We took this (admittedly blurry) picture at the Conservatory of Flowers in Golden Gate Park today. I just showed it to Adam and said: "I can look at this picture and see what you see in me."

He said: "I've always seen it."

The Greenhouse, San Francisco

ME (to Adam, asking about his former AZA advisor): Was he the one you were telling me about, the one who liked to play footsie?
HIM: We weren't Catholic.

Random journeys

Last night we wound up in Santa Rosa, drinking coffee. As we drove back home over the Richmond-San Rafael bridge, looking out over the city, an iPod playlist on the radio, I thought about those small moments that I'll always remember:

Sitting with Scott in his car, not quite sober, at the edge of Sausalito overlooking San Francisco, singing Willie Nelson.

Back-to-back on a power box in my neighborhood with one of my high-school best friends, Tom, caterwauling TV theme songs.

Passing out on David's floor (no Jews allowed on the furniture), half-watching Maury Povich, the last words I hear before my eyes close: "You'd better not be falling asleep!"

Friday, December 12, 2008

Cake - A True Story

Spread all around
tables and tables, as far as I can see
Chocolate, carrot, and cheese, it's all for me
Then I awake.
"I dreamt of cake," I say.
My girlfriend, she is so jealous.

- Adam, San Francisco, July 25, 2006

Yelles, over email

I was expecting your memoir to be something involving your hardscrabble childhood working the land in North Poway.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Cooking Meditation No. 623

For a moment just now, you are totally in the moment while chopping celery.

Did you ever notice the sound celery makes as the knife parts it? Gutteral, bearish grunts when the blade is slow; high, almost gleeful clicks as you pick up speed. The scent too is released while you work, perfuming the cutting board, the knife, and your hands. It is something close to fresh and new, an innocent being born of a hopeful earth.

Finally you pick up the wet half-moons and gather them in a bowl. This moment of introspection has come to a close.

Cholera rampant in Zimbabwe

Read this story and feel the disgust for a cruelly incompetent government. In short:

A ferocious cholera epidemic, spread by water contaminated with human excrement, has stricken more than 16,000 people across Zimbabwe since August and killed more than 780. Health experts are warning that the number of cases could surpass 60,000, and that half the country’s population of 12 million is at risk.

The outbreak is yet more evidence that Zimbabwe’s most fundamental public services — from water and sanitation to public schools and hospitals — are shutting down, much like the organs of a severely dehydrated cholera victim.

Zimbabwe’s once promising economy, disastrously mismanaged by President Robert G. Mugabe’s government, has been spiraling downward for almost a decade, but residents here say the free fall has gained frightening velocity in recent weeks. Most of the nation’s schools, which were once the pride of Africa, producing a highly literate population, have virtually ceased to function as teachers, whose salaries no longer even cover the cost of the bus fare to work, quit showing up.


Horrifying.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

From the sky, literally

I was at the gym when the news broke: An F-18 crashed into a house in San Diego. That was it. That was the news they had. I peered around the woman on the treadmill in front of me and tried to figure out if I recognized that particular set of red roofs. Then they reported that the crash was two miles from Miramar and I relaxed -- none of my family members live that close to the air station.

Such a sad, terrible story. Hug your kids. Hold your loved ones close. Do it now.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Looking up

I've been taking it day by day, but I'm definitely feeling better.

Yesterday I was sitting on the couch, writing. I was able to just be in that moment, in that slow and rich process of putting one word down after the other.

I'm grateful to be alive.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Random thoughts walking back from the gym

Spicy cauliflower soup.

I wish the plum trees were here. Then again, no, I don't. They'll be here soon enough, in February, and gone soon enough, in March. Enjoy the anticipation.

Stan, the retired fireman turned Pedal Express bike deliveryman, always has new poems, news articles, and meditations posted on his dark-brown wood fence. One of today's:

The Purpose of Time Is to Prevent Everything from Happening at Once

Suppose your life a folded telescope
Durationless, collapsed in just a flash
As from your mother's womb you, bawling, drop
Into a nursing home. Suppose you crash
Your car, your marriage—toddler laying waste
A field of daisies, schoolkid, zit-faced teen
With lover zipping up your pants in haste
Hearing your parents' tread downstairs—all one.

Einstein was right. That would be too intense.
You need a chance to preen, to give a dull
Recital before an indifferent audience
Equally slow in jeering you and clapping.
Time takes its time unraveling. But, still,
You'll wonder when your life ends: Huh? What happened?

- X. J. Kennedy

Overheard in Santa Cruz yesterday

"It's bomb."

"Is it hella bomb or just bomb?"

"Just bomb."

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Today's writing

I hadn’t counted on my mind gluing my ass to the couch. I hadn’t planned on all this time-consuming – what the hell is this?

Depression.

A golden retriever or a terrorist.

I can’t figure out whether to strap a leash on the damn thing or run for the door. In his mutt moments he rolls on his back, regards me with eyes whose black would be impossible were they not so merry. “I’m the end of the road,” Depression says in his bouncy dog-voice. “Come with me and you’ll never have to fight again.”

Then he’s a terrorist, hiding in all the safe places, retaining the sweet canine countenance, presenting cruelty that is kind, lulling, seductive. “I’m the truth,” Depression tells you, and you believe him, managing even to ignore the rifle tucked under his right arm. “I’m comforting,” he says, and you need comfort. He will choke you with soft hands. He will insert his needle into your lifeblood, drawing it into a black vial.

Friday, December 5, 2008

On this date

Two years ago, I was in Costa Rica.

A year ago, I was in Tokyo.

Today, I am home in Berkeley. Not so bad.

He was so clean-cut!

Adam's dad posted this picture yesterday ... it was right around his graduation, I think, which would be two years before I met him. This is totally how I remember him looking when we first met. What did I do to him?

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Thought for the morning

My erstwhile neighbor, KFOG, would probably not have a perpetual cough if he stopped smoking like a goddamned chimney.

Thank you, and to all, a good morning.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Martha Stewart moment

I like to cook -- not just for other people, but also for myself. Tonight the place is all mine and this is what I'm making:

Curried Red-Lentil Stew with Vegetables

* 6 tablespoons vegetable oil
* 1 medium onion, finely chopped
* 1 1/4 teaspoons salt
* 1 (2- by 1-inch) piece peeled fresh ginger, quartered
* 5 large garlic cloves, coarsely chopped
* 5 1/3 cups water (less if needed - you be the judge)
* 3 teaspoons curry powder
* 1.5 teaspoon ground turmeric
* 1 teaspoon ground cumin
* 1 cup red lentils, picked over and rinsed
* 3 medium carrots, quartered lengthwise, then cut crosswise into 1/2-inch pieces
* 2 medium zucchini, quartered and chopped like the carrots
* 1 head roasted cauliflower
* 1/4 teaspoon cumin seeds
* 1/4 teaspoon dried hot red-pepper flakes


Accompaniments: basmati rice

Heat 1/4 cup oil in a 4- to 5-quart heavy pot over moderate heat until hot but not smoking, then cook onion with 1/4 teaspoon salt, stirring occasionally, until golden, 8 to 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, purée ginger, garlic, and 1/3 cup water in a blender. Add purée to golden onion and cook, stirring, until water is evaporated and oil visibly separates from onion mixture, about 5 minutes. Add curry powder, turmeric, and cumin and cook over low heat, stirring, 1 minute. Stir in lentils and remaining 5 cups water and simmer, covered, stirring occasionally, 30 minutes. Add carrots, zucchini and roasted cauliflower and remaining teaspoon salt and simmer, covered, stirring occasionally, until vegetables are tender and lentils have broken down into a coarse purée, 15 to 20 minutes.

Season stew with salt and pepper. If necessary, add enough water to thin stew so that it can easily be ladled over rice.

Just before serving, heat remaining 2 tablespoons oil in a small skillet over moderately high heat until hot but not smoking, then cook cumin seeds and red-pepper flakes, stirring, until fragrant and a shade darker, 30 to 45 seconds (be careful not to burn spices). Pour hot spice oil in a swirl over stew.

Today's writing

Shelly takes one more deep breath. “I cheated on him,” she says. This pleases the audience enormously. They pump their fists and holler. Shelly’s thick lips twitch. She looks down at her shoes until the shouting stops.

She’s been with two guys. They’re romantic. Joe’s not romantic.

“Can I tell you something, Shelly?” Maury asks. He’s looking at her with such eager empathy that you know it’s all bullshit. What if I really had been on his show, had to face his false music? I’m lucky to just sit and watch.

“Shelly,” he says, “I don’t care what Joe says or what he does. It’s not your fault.”

“Yeah,” I say to Oliver. “It’s not my fault.” This would be his cue to do something cute like put a paw on my knee, but he just curls his tail tighter around his body and continues to sleep.

Would life be better if I were a Shelly and I had a Joe? There would at least be someone. Granted, that someone would be a shlump who was apparently boffing half the population of the Eastern Seaboard, but we all make sacrifices.

It's for The Project, I swear

So I'm doing research by watching Maury Povich clips on YouTube. Specifically, paternity-test clips.

I've found a classic: One cracked-out whore is yelling at the other one. At one point she says: "Look at that face. That's Mr. Ed's sister!"

Monday, December 1, 2008

Adam's great out-of-context line

"It hit my gag reflex and came right out."

Greed is not good. Greed does not work.

I'm angry and you should be too.

Irrational exuberance -- also known as greed and wanting more, more, more -- got this country to where it is today. In turn, greed has kicked off a global recession that is only getting worse. People are losing their jobs, students are finding it harder to get the loans they need to stay in school, and responsible would-be homeowners who did the right thing and held off on buying a house until they could afford it are now hard-pressed to get a loan.

It was all built on greed. Greed, that sandcastle with a smile and no solid base. Greed, the sugar high that made strawberry pickers think they could afford a three-quarters-of-a-million-dollar house, and the toxin that led lenders to slip them the money to buy it.

Greed and stupidity. Interest-only loans. Stated-income loans. Forty-year loans.

What the fuck were we thinking?

What are we to do now?

Writers' rooms

Lorraine sent me this slideshow from the BBC. Some of these places are cluttered as hell! Damn writers.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Thanksgiving and other miscellany

With Marilyn's dogs, Peaches and Sugar, a few weeks ago.
J's garage.
Bandit.
Jake, watching my brother toy with his latest hoopty.
Adam torturing Oliver.
Why the hell do I look so drunk? Because I'm between my brother and Zaur, the crazy Russian.
J and I.
Jake.
Sim.
Seriously, don't ask.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

When Tom Metzger poaches wifi

The thing you have to understand is that my dad is an engineer. That means he's very opinionated and that his opinions are always right.

We were at Jonathan's tonight. They were playing around with this hoopty FourRunner that J bought as a project. I was sitting in the garage, messing with the dogs, kinda bored. I pulled out my computer and asked J for the password to his wireless. He gave it to me.

"I would never use that password," my father said. "It's too obvious."

My brother grunted and slid back under the truck.

"I mean," my father continued, "what if the white supremacists drive by and ..."

Say what?

After a moment he trailed off. Probably for the best.

From the New Camaldoli Hermitage, Big Sur

St. Romuald's Brief Rule For Camaldolese Monks

Sit in your cell as in paradise.
Put the whole world behind you and forget it.
Watch your thoughts like a good fisherman watching for fish,
The path you must follow is in the Psalms — never leave it.

If you have just come to the monastery,
and in spite of your good will you cannot accomplish what you want,
take every opportunity you can to sing the Psalms in your heart
and to understand them with your mind.

And if your mind wanders as you read, do not give up;
hurry back and apply your mind to the words once more.

Realize above all that you are in God's presence,
and stand there with the attitude of one who stands
before the emperor.

Empty yourself completely and sit waiting,
content with the grace of God,
like the chick who tastes nothing and eats nothing
but what his mother brings him.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Guess hot, splashing soup burns

MY MOTHER: A stream of curses, many of which rhyme.
ME: Snicker.
MY MOTHER: What?
ME: I have Valium. One of us should be taking it right now.

Thanksgiving

I'm loving being in San Diego amidst the fam. They're crazy, but this kind of crazy I can (usually) handle.

We (my mom, Adam/Gina, and Jonathan) were at dinner tonight and I started talking about the memoir. I told my mother: "Dad is going to freak when he reads it. You probably won't like some of the stuff in there either."

She said: "You're writing your reality. I don't have to buy into it." She said it in such a calm, confident way. It was awesome.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Today I got my blood drawn by Beyonce.

I walked into the lab and both she and her hair freaked out: "Walk dat way! Over dere! Naw! Dat chair!"

I sat down and she asked my name. "Allison," she said, "gimme dose good veins."

She asked which way my veins go. "I don't know," I said. "Our communication isn't all that great." But Beyonce is cooking punkin' pie for Thanksgivin', so she was distracted. She kept telling her cohort about it, and the more excited she got, the more she slapped my arm. At one point I thought the blood was going to bounce straight out of the vial and all over her updo.

Finally she said: "Yo' done." You can say that again.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Mark Doty, "Heaven's Coast"

I looked up, into the face of a coyote ...

Then from nowhere I thought, He's been with Wally, he's come from Wally. I knew it as surely as I knew the lines of the poem. This apparition, my -- ghost, was it? spirit animal? real creature carrying the presence of my love? Perhaps it doesn't matter. I've never seen one in the middle of the day before or since, and never been so frankly studied from the other side of wildness, from a world I cannot enter. Like my seals, the coyote stared back at us, and I could imagine in that gaze Wally's look forward home -- his old home -- from the other world; not sad, exactly, but neutral, loving, curious, accepting. The dead regard us, I think, as animals do, and perhaps that is part of their relationship; they want nothing from us; they are pure presence, they look back to us from a world we can't begin to comprehend. I am going on, the gaze said, in a life apart from yours, a good life, a wild life, unbounded.
I woke at 4 am and cried in Adam's arms.

I'd wanted a relationship with his mother that resembled the one I have with Marilyn, my Santa Barbara mom, or the relationship I now have with my own mother after years of hard work -- warm, filled with personal exchange, care and concern. I love him so much and I wanted that love to be reflected in the relationship I share with his family.

I'm not good at accepting things as they are. I'm always of the opinion that I can change something. In this case, though, I think I'm just going to have to learn to live with it.

It's not as though my mother-in-law is cruel or unaccepting of me. Not by a long shot. We have good conversations and smart debates. I can even drink with her and have fun doing it.

I wanted a mother figure. Maybe I need to stop crying about it and simply appreciate the mother(s) I do have.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Adam's improv performance tonight

Saturn Cafe, Santa Cruz

I didn't know Joe Biden designed his own house!

ADAM: That means he sat with an architect and said: "I want this blue!" Your parents designed their own house.
ME: I never thought of it like that.
ADAM: Your dad sat with the architect and said: "I want this cheap!"

Because you need to know

Adam is unbelievably pussy when looking at pictures of pets. Dogs in particular. But he gets a big woody over cats too and when that happens, I just have to leave the room.

He was great in his improv show tonight. One of the most retarded cool moments was during "Genre Switch", when he impersonated a silent porn film. Mind you, I was sitting next to his mother at the time. She seemed to take it in stride.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

On Stegner paperwork

ME: This is going to be one of those envelopes I'm going to kiss when I send it off. (For good luck.)
ADAM: Want me to (blank) on it?

A matter of trust

I gave Adam my Stegner manuscript to edit. I was scared. It's an excerpt from The Project and had things in there I'd never discussed with him.

He was awesome. So awesome. Every time I let him read something, I'm glad of it.

Also, "A Matter of Trust" of course makes me think of Billy Joel. This video makes me want to go to Brooklyn ... NOW! I think I will live there some day for sure. Billy, I love you!

Friday, November 21, 2008

Snippet

Rooster and Nails refuse to acknowledge flyover country, that great pause between their birthplace and the city of their resettlement. Before I left, Rooster cautioned me to make sure my housing had indoor plumbing. Nails worried about the lack of kosher restaurants.

“Like I give a shit about eating kosher?” I said. I’d put in an obligatory phone call to her two days before I was scheduled to hop in my U-Haul and drive the puzzle parts of my life halfway across the country. My walls were up. She was still with Bill. What was the truth behind their relationship? Only her hairdresser knew for sure.

“You’re Jewish,” she said, “always.”

There was my mother: making an emotional deal out of something totally irrelevant. Jewish? We rarely if ever went to temple. Kosher? I was never bat mitzvahed. Always? Like she wasn’t eating trayfe right now, catering to him, not asking that he pay rent or get a job?

The walls were up. They always were when I heard her voice, when I saw her name in my Hotmail in-box. There was always the risk of trusting her. There was always the chance that I might come to her with another request for help. No.

Rooster laughed when I called to give him the news: “You have to go through this phase?” he said. “You couldn’t just become a Buddhist like other kids your age?”

“Meditation bores me.”

“Yeah,” he said. “Me too.”

Thankful

This morning I took the bus up to Rockridge. I'm meeting Betsy here later this afternoon for a writing session, and then I'll walk home. I do this fairly often. It's a nice opportunity to appreciate the more beautiful neighborhoods in Oakland and Berkeley.

On the bus ride up, we passed UC Berkeley. I watched the cracks in the sidewalk, the high heels, the big sunglasses, the ungainly backpacks. I looked at the buildings and the "Change We Need" signs still supporting Obama two weeks after Election Day.

It's all temporal. One day it'll be gone. I find myself grateful for having the chance to be part of it all.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

I'm just going off today, posting to my blog like a motherfucker.

I was just looking at the "60 Minutes" interview with Barack Obama -- bookmarking it to save it for later -- and that iconic tick-tick-tick started. Talk about a sound to bring you back.

It brings me to the kitchens of my childhood. The television was on during dinner. It was the black-and-white one they got at the time share. The television was always on. We were allowed to talk only during commercials. On Sundays, once that tick-tick-tick started, our father basically told us to shut the fuck up.

You think I'm mis-portraying him? Maybe I am. I don't know how the world sees him. Even I don't see him in black and white. But I would take a goddamned lie-detector test to prove this story's true.

Humble question

Who the hell do I know in Rochester, N.Y., and why are they (you) looking me up six times a day? Don't be offended. My small little brain is flattered. Out yourself, you.

And with this, I'm going to get dinner

You know, for all the fucking stressful shit that's been going on -- or maybe because of it -- Adam and I have really been able to support each other. I'm just now realizing how stressed he's been too. He's got so much on his plate. Fortunately, the quarter's coming to a close and next should be easier.

Over the last few days, we've really been able to be there for each other. That doesn't just count for something, it counts for everything.

Hm. Davis Noodle City sounds good.

Bitchy observation of the day

Ironic that the book we just read contained a nympho of the landswoman quality, given who just departed the group.

I can see this blog taking on a little more edge than previously. I'm letting the nasty bits shine too. Let it be. That's part of life.

Billy Joel, "Summer Highland Fall"

They say that these are not the best of times
But they're the only time I've ever known
And I believe there is a time for meditation
In cathedrals of your own
Now I've seen that sad surrender in my lover's eyes
And I can only stand apart and sympathize
For we are always what our situations hand us
It's either sadness or euphoria

So we'll argue and we'll compromise
And realize that nothing's ever changed
For all our mutual experience
Our separate conclusions are the same
Now we are forced to recognize our inhumanity
And reason coexist with our insanity
And our reason coexist with our insanity
It's either sadness or euphoria

How thoughtlessly we dissipate our energies
Perhaps we don't fulfill each other's fantasies
And as we stand upon the ledges of our lives
With our respective similarities
It's either sadness or euphoria

Okay

I've thought about it. I've gotten mad about it. I've talked to Adam about it. I've started to write passive-aggressive posts about it.

As always, though, better to just come out with it: I know that there are family members who have read this blog and know exactly what I (and Adam as well, because I've never seen him more stressed given the combination of work and school) are going through. Those people have not reached out. Not once. Not a call or an email to say: Hey, I see what you're going through, are you all right?

I can never be phony. I can't pretend to be a part of a family when I don't feel treated as one. And it hurts. Really, it does. I have the best of intentions and would love to see some give-and-take. But this is not my definition of family, and I will no longer stay silent about it.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Incredible to be Facebook friends with a National Book Award winner. Congratulations, Mark Doty!

On mental health and hope

I've been pretty open about what I've been going through the last few months. They've been some of the tougher -- but in a way, most rewarding -- of my life.

In mid-August, I started taking Lexapro. I've always battled anxiety and anger and I was hoping to deal with it medically. I was also extremely arrogant and did not choose to incorporate therapy in the process. I figured: I'm smart, I'm self-aware and resourceful. I have support from the people around me. Why bother to pay some shrink $90/hour?

The Lexapro took away the anxiety and spun me into depression. I couldn't get off the couch. I started thinking final, fatal thoughts that I knew logically were bunk, but that emotionally felt so real.

Two weeks ago, on Election Night, I suffered the worst depressive episode to date. It was so strong that Adam had to come home from work the next day to take care of me. I got off the Lexapro.

Then the withdrawals hit. They're not as bad as what I suffered while on the drug, but they're bad. Crying fits, fatigue, deep pockets of depression.

"Something's got to change," I told Adam last night.

So that's where the joke about Facebook groups comes. I'm looking into a psychiatric outpatient program, one for high-functioning people with mood disorders.

I always knew this time would come. And it's not simply because things have been tough. It's also because many things in my life are better than they've ever been. I always suspected that's when things would really start to shake out: when my mind sensed that I could handle it.

I know I will look back on this time as one of enormous growth. I already do. It is not easy and it is far from enjoyable. All I can do is be as open as possible, because it's no source of shame. All I can do is work toward healing. All I can do is press toward the future.

Amusing thought of the morning

I wonder if there are Facebook groups for outpatient psychiatric programs. You know, like "High-functioning Kaiser mood disorders UNITE!" Something like that.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

I'm re-reading what there is of my memoir up until this point. All 155 single-spaced pages, all 55,000 words. I am fighting tears. I will give this to Adam over Thanksgiving. He will read it all for the first time. This is the first time I am trusting him, trusting anyone, with it.

No wonder I sometimes feel I'm falling apart.

Here's some funny shit from the manuscript, though. It will be funny, as funny as it is sad.



Waking from the dream is like swimming to the surface of a deep pool whose bottom you’ve touched. I’m out of breath and bleary, but grateful.

I’m in Jonathan’s room. It’s the most organized place in the house. The kid is only four and already knows how to wrest order from chaos. His stuffed animals sit atop the bookshelf. They’re arranged from smallest to largest.

I’m still a little disoriented and I could swear Barney tips me a wink. He’s sitting next to Jibber-Jabber, that unfortunate monkey with shit for brains and a few double-As up his butt. True to his name, he’d yammer when someone walked by. One night Nails ran across him and he started yacking away. She screamed and stuffed him in the microwave to shut him up. After that Jibber got the juice yanked out his ass and found himself relegated to the doll shelf.

More writing

Bill spends his first night in our house on the living-room couch. “He’s temporary,” Nails tells me when I bang on the bathroom door wanting to know what variant of mold spore grew there and why it’s battling Jonathan for the PlayStation.

Bill’s an entrepreneur. Later I’ll grow to know the type: The kind for whom dreams exceed brainpower. “He’s got ideas,” Nails says. “He’s going to make a fortune. And we’ll benefit.”

“What ideas? He can’t hold the video-game controller without drooling.”

“Don’t be difficult.” She finishes her grooming with a squirt of Jean Nate. “It’s unattractive.”

My father takes up residence at The Boulders, where everybody’s father lives during the divorce. It’s a new apartment complex on the wrong side of Interstate 15. “You hear that?” he asks Adam, Jonathan and I when we visit for the first time. “That’s people walking. Upstairs. I bet your mother doesn’t have to hear that.”

His tears quickly gave way to vengeance. Rooster’s hired the meanest, cheapest lawyer in San Diego County. He’s gunning for blood. “That scumbag,” he says, stirring the Kraft out-of-a-box dinner for us all to share. “She banging him yet?”

“He sleeps on the couch,” Adam says.

“My ass. You don’t need to tell me. I guess you won’t. You’re all teamed up against me. The Breakfast Club. Nothing’s changed.”

Crooked walkways lead through the apartment’s necessary paths: bedroom to bathroom, kitchen to garage. Boxes line them all: the booty with which my father escaped Lomas Verdes. “I’m house-hunting on the coast,” he tells us while we practically sip dinner through a straw. How can you fuck up macaroni? “Enough of this provincial inland shit. We moved here for the schools and look how those turned out.”

My father loathes the Poway school district. He hates our neighborhood, full of arrogant snobs, Audi drivers. “Krautmobiles,” he says when he sees one. “Those leather seats are made from our ancestors.”

Writing from a few months back

It starts with the boxes in the garage. “He just needs some storage space,” my mother says. “It’s not like we’re piling them in your room.”

“Not yet."

“What do you want from my life?”

I picture Petey banging himself around his cage, trying to commit birdicide. In the end his companion did him in. Is that why she keeps edging Bill and his boxes of INXS tapes and his turmoil closer to our lives? At least my grandfather had the courtesy to give the bird away so Petey’s family wasn’t watching his demise. “I’m going out,” I say. Finally I’ve earned my driver’s license, my ticket out.

I key the engine and slip my car into reverse, then back out. My life feels greasy, slicked with everything I don’t want and can’t control.

I shift my foot from gas to brake, then switch the transmission into drive. Our house appears in my rear-view mirror: a faux French country cottage with styrofoam cornerstones. They’re called quoins. But they’re still styrofoam. You can still grab a hunk and rip.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Recipe hour: Quick and dirty, hot and spicy

When you want spice but not sweat, here ya go. This is what was cooking in the kitchen tonight.

Spicy Thai Tofu with Red Bell Peppers and Peanuts
  • 1/3 cup olive oil
  • 2 large red bell peppers, seeded, thinly sliced
  • 3 tablespoons minced peeled fresh ginger
  • 3 large garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 1 14-to 16-ounce package extra-firm tofu, drained well, cut into 1-inch cubes
  • 3 green onions, thinly sliced on diagonal
  • 3 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
  • 1/2 to 3/4 teaspoon dried crushed red pepper
  • 1 6-ounce bag baby spinach leaves
  • 1/3 cup chopped fresh basil
  • 1/3 cup lightly salted roasted peanuts
Heat oil in wok over high heat. Add bell peppers, ginger, and garlic; sauté until peppers just begin to soften, about 2 minutes. Add tofu and green onions; toss 2 minutes. Add next 3 ingredients. Toss to blend, about 1 minute. Add spinach in 3 additions, tossing until beginning to wilt, about 1 minute for each addition. Mix in basil. Season with salt and pepper. Sprinkle peanuts over. Consider playing some really obnoxious, misogynistic rap to piss off the annoying neighbors, but instead grab chopsticks and dig in.

Feel the love?

Adam to me, tonight: "I love you. Even if you're not a lesbian."

Saturday, November 15, 2008

We're in Santa Cruz today!





On friendship

"In prosperity our friends know us; in adversity we know our friends." - John Churton Collins

I know a lot of interesting, insightful, fun and unique people. I consider very few of them good, loyal, valuable friends capable of seeing past their own self-absorption. Maybe part of life is learning to tell that difference.

Who By Fire

I just finished reading "Who By Fire", by Diana Spechler, for book group.

Spechler writes with an authoritative tone that I appreciate. Her approach is down to earth and accessible, and I like the combination of low diction and smart insights.

However, this book did not convince me. It was full of neat twists and easy wrap-ups, and frankly, the three main characters sounded the same.

More than anything, the characters had far too much self-awareness. Bits, the nympho daughter, for example. She's big on talking about she wants to fuck this one, that one, the other one (and she wants to fuck them all), and how it's a cure-all for the fact that her sister disappeared years ago and she's still hurting about it.

Self-awareness is a great thing for people. For literary characters, sometimes delusion can be easier to swallow.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

The other day Adam said: "You're back to being you. You go out into the world, take it by the balls, and give it a hard twist."

Can't argue with that.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Jenn and Jeff had us over for dinner last night. At one point Adam's phone rang: Berkeley, trying to suck some alumni money out of him. They call every fucking day and he just ignores them. They called during our fucking wedding. Fortunately, the damn thing was on silent.

Last night it rang and I grabbed it.

POOR UNDERGRADUATE FUNDRAISING GIRL: Uh, can I speak to Adam Sandler ...
ME: Actually, he's in jail.

I cracked up halfway through, but I'd like to think she didn't get it.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Confidential to the guy working at Peets near Trader Joe's in SOMA

You are a coffee jockey. You say shit like: "Even though this coffee is lukewarm, it can't dampen the brilliant flavors from Costa Rica. This is our holiday blend."

Clearly you are not a music expert, or you'd be jamming with Steven Tyler and doing coke with Travis Barker. Or vice versa. In any event, do us all a favor and shut the fuck up.

My experience with medication

I've talked on and off here about taking Lexapro -- my first attempt at using any sort of SSRI -- and found myself deleting a lot of the more personal posts.

But I keep going back to Carrie Fisher, who has been brave enough to tell the world about her experience with medication. If Carrie can do it, so can I.

Here's an email I just wrote to my doctor. I think it pretty succinctly sums things up.

Thanks for the opportunity to provide input about my experience with Lexapro. This experience, of course, is reflective solely of myself and of my brain chemistry.

Ironically, I believe the medication worked. The problem was this: It worked too much, too quickly, and with too much intensity. By stripping away my usual defense mechanisms of anger and anxiety, I was left with what lay underneath -- helpful in theory, but in reality far more than I was equipped to handle at once.

The result: The anger and anxiety lessened, but the depression quickly became evident. I suffered several episodes of suicidal ideation that were so strong my husband had to talk me through them. The most recent began last Tuesday night and stretched into the next day. I alternated between sobbing and simply not giving a damn about the world around me. On a logical level I understood what was happening and that much of my feelings were a medication-induced fallacy, but logic doesn't do much when you're ready to plunge off a bridge. Literally.

As I indicated on the phone, I want to get the Lexapro out of my system and determine my baseline before considering a return to medication. I'll be in touch at that time.

Best,

Allison Landa

It's not about you, it's about me

I'm very attuned to selfishness, self-centeredness, and lack of self-awareness. I've also been thinking a lot about the concept of giving -- of time, of interest, of oneself.

I married one of the most wholly unselfish people I've ever met. Adam is always the one you'll find hustling to find a chair for someone who needs a seat, or to offer a visitor a drink. He's a good listener and a kind, giving person.

He's also rare. I'm shocked by the selfishness and lack of caring I often see in the world.

People, please wake up and realize it's more than yourself out there. Please do one goddamned thing today that's not about yourself. Just one.
I just donated to PETA to help build shelters for outside pets. This is a very meaningful thing to me for reasons I may one day elaborate upon, but not now.

PETA has done some questionable things in the past, but I wanted to give something. I could only give a small amount, but it's something.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Weird dreams are made of me

Downloading my old emails onto Ole Spanky, I found this beaut that I apparently wrote to Adam sometime in July 2007:

I dreamt that I nearly avoided the hoosegow for stealing hiking boots and then showing them to the judge and telling him they were mine. Later you said: "You never show the judge anything, don't you know that?" Then we hosted a Fourth of July party that included Billy Bob Thornton but not, to my knowledge, Angelina Jolie.

And I wrote this to him earlier that month:

There's this couple having a really boring fight. They stare into each other's eyes for a while, then someone says something reasonable-sounding, then they stop speaking for a while. She's just brought out a notebook. Oh, why do I have to sit next to the intellectual miserable couple?

And finally, this one from Adam in August 2007:

I first wondered if reporters ever came over to hound the copy desk on how to set up their stories, then I realized that would be awful hard to do without getting off the bar stool.

Welcome, Ole Spanky

Holy shit. Adam bought me a new computer. In his typical fashion, he was very quiet about it and I suspected nothing until the UPS guy arrived this afternoon with a huge, heavy box wrapped in a bag. I signed for the thing, put it down, and eyed it suspiciously. Then I said to myself: "Did he?"

He did. I am now in the process of regretting the no-doubt-many times I have been a total bitch since he ordered this thing on Thursday or Friday. I named it Ole Spanky. Ole Spanky is a Dell Inspiron 1525. I love him!
I believe it is that point in the day where I give a shout out to my cat. He's cooler than your mamma and dresses snazzier than the Rat Pack put together. Rock on, Oliver!

Lessons from Dr. Wicked

Vincent sent me "Dr. Wicked's Write or Die" today. Neat little tool. Got me thinking about productivity, moving forward, and how to measure it all.

Writing is only half words. I also feel triumphant when I've hashed out a structure, a theme, or an idea. This morning I've written a paragraph. That's it. I've also nailed a major high point of my story and spun it in the right direction. I'd say I'm doing all right.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Let's just get this out of the way

First off: I am a murderer.

I killed one of my characters today. I wasn't aware I was going to do this until about 15 seconds prior to the event. There is a moment in Stephen King's "Misery" when crazy Annie berates novelist Paul for bumping off Misery Chastain, her favorite character. Paul says quietly: "She just died." That's the truth.

Since it's a memoir, I didn't expect to knock anyone off. But this is the girl who is not me, who is more a facet of my own brain than a real person on her own. Still, shit. I didn't expect to kill her. I liked her. But I think the bitch deserved it.

Also, both Adam and I took the weekend to recover after a rough-ass fucking week. We were able to stand by each other and that's the most important thing. I worked out today, worked myself into an exhausted sweat. I worked to get the toxins out. I think to some degree I succeeded.

Tonight's writing

“That’s me,” I say to the girl who is not me.

“Duh.”

She’s pulled her hoodie so far over her face that she is simply a red nose and a moving mouth. I drop my reporter’s notebook on the ground, the dirt that is rapidly becoming mud, and grab her. I shake until her invisible eyes roll in her head.

Duh? That’s all you’ve got for me? Fucking duh?”

Why just her? Why not reach out, back through time, to grab Rooster’s furry biceps, Nails’ padded jacket? Why not grasp Michelle Olander’s fleshy upper arms or Dr. Anderson’s muscular shoulders? The shoulder has three bones and a host of tissues. It requires flexibility for wide motion and must also be strong enough to handle heavy lifting. That calls for compromise. That causes problems.

She coughs once, twice. She sputters. The rain is coming harder now, faster. She is saying something, her voice spinning out into the wet bullets from the sky. I keep hurting her. It is a trashy, dirty joy. I am hooked. I cannot stop.

Her gasps come to me through the rain: “It’s not my fault,” she says, over and over.

“Who gives a fuck?”

When you lack a central place of blame, you just throw that acid all over the place. Wherever it lands, whoever it burns, it’ll do.

It’ll do.
I think Adam is currently watching Verne Troyer having sex on streaming video. Truly terrifying. Now he's all excited because there's some fight going on: "Oh, you kick that midget's ass!" Are there government benefits for someone who has to put up with this?

Saturday night dinner recipe

1 trip over the bridge
1 visit to Socha Cafe
3 hours of supposed studying and writing
1 generous splash of discussions (that's what couples do)
1 generous splash of forgiveness (that's what couples do, too)
1 entry from itinerant friend
45 minutes of wait time for dinner
2 Guinnesses at the Knockout
1.5 hours at Mi Lindo Peru
eighteen tons of way too much information
2 pinches of irritation from each cook.

Top with a late-night visit to Happy Donuts in Noe Valley, followed by taking the scenic route home. Bon appetit.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Getting off the Lexapro feels like that moment when the plane regains smooth air after turbulence. Fucking drugs. If I wanted to pour poison into my veins, I would've bought some bleach and saved myself a fortune.

Adam's been kick-ass this whole time, of course. I'm working overtime to make that dude the cabana boy of both our dreams.
From the cafes to the parking lots to the grocery stores, they're talking about it: The world has changed. It has. What an amazing, historic time to be alive.

I'm still frustrated over Prop. 8, though. Very frustrated. Future generations will shake their heads at our foolishness. I already am.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

History in the happening

Tonight I drove home from Sophie's through throngs of honking cars and people shrieking with joy.

Oh, what a night!!!!!!
Ooh baby do you know what that's worth?
Ooh heaven is a place on earth

- Belinda Carlisle

Election Day

It's a pleasure to sit in a lively cafe and listen to people all around me discuss politics on the day I hope will herald such change. Go Barack, down with Prop 8, and if you haven't voted, what the hell are you waiting for?

Monday, November 3, 2008

Oh, the Max! Oh, the Pepper!

We just finished eight days of pet-sitting Max and Pepper, two standard poodles in Kensington. These guys were amazing. They embodied life itself -- the joys, the charms, the occasional frustrations. We loved them. The picture above is exactly what it's like to get rushed by those two at the same time -- just hilarious.
Pepper shakes hands with Adam while Max tries to court me.
Pepper, shake again!

Us with Pepper. Max is busy chilling under the coffee table, gnawing a bone.

Adam, tonight

"Who's her publisher? My Left Foot Press?"

Jewish version of the Iron Chef

I love to cook. I love to pick up a bunch of fresh produce and take eight hours chopping and preparing it. So why not post my random recipes?

Last night I made veggie soup and garlic bread. You don't necessarily need a recipe for either, but in my infinite generosity I will provide directions for both. Enjoy.

Veggie Soup for Those Without Cooking GPS

1 onion
2 zucchini
2 carrots
2 stalks celery
1 bell pepper (color of your choice - I prefer red, yellow or orange)
6 or so mushrooms (white or brown), sliced or chopped
1 red potato (optional, particularly if you choose to use pasta)
1 cup orzo
1 tbsp Better Than Bouillion or equivalent
garlic (to taste)
1/2 serrano pepper
1 bay leaf
spices to taste (I like black pepper/red chili flakes, basil, oregano, thyme, turmeric or rosemary occasionally)
dash of sesame oil

Saute onion in olive oil with aromatics (bay leaf, Italian seasoning) until translucent. Chop all veggies into equally sized pieces. Add to Dutch oven and cook for 10 minutes, adding a sprinkle of salt at the beginning to bring out flavors. Add 8-12 cups water, bouillon, spices, and sesame oil. Simmer for as long as desired. Ten minutes from end of simmering, add orzo, serrano, and garlic.


Allison's Ghetto Garlic Bread

1 baguette
6-8 cloves garlic
olive oil
parsley (optional)
cheese (optional)

Heat oven to 350 Farenheit. Mince garlic. Cut baguette into fourths. Brush with olive oil, then sprinkle garlic. Add parsley and cheese if desired. Cook for 10 minutes. Drink heavily and enjoy.

Madelyn Dunham, RIP

You raised a great man. Rest in peace.

Sunday night

We were sitting around, just talking trash and drinking beer with a friend of Adam's.

There were no realizations. There was just happiness.

Friday, October 31, 2008

Got an amusing email from an old friend today. Whenever I hear from him, he always cracks me up. From today's:

Anyway, congrats on getting married!!! That's awesome news. So is this the guy that you're living with on the farm in Berkeley? You effin hippies. You probably got married suspended in a redwood tree, didn't you? Namaste, newlyweds.

Awesome.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Quotes from Adam tonight

You've dug down, you've torn apart, you built up. You built me up with no blueprints.

(On pretentious African art) People aren't going to have pictures of starving children and Idi Amin eating someone.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Ran into Rob today. We were chatting about Berkeley and I said: "Of course, sometimes it drives me crazy." He said: "Everything drives you crazy." Good to know an old friend remembers me well.

Plans

Stegner.

The NEA.

Residencies all over the country.

Life will be fulfilling if I have to bash it over the head with a club.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Tonight's writing

You can call it neurosis, a self-guided training program designed to have me expect the worst. It traces back to the muddy memories of my early childhood, those swollen streams.

Before I learned to walk, I crawled. This was before California, in the house at 11 Merrywood Lane, a split-level in the woods three thousand miles east. I learned the blue shag rug by heart and by touch, with palm and knee. Rooster and Nails were legs and feet, too tall to grasp. I had only one brother then, Adam who called me by my babyhood nickname, Igles, until Rooster snapped at him to stop, that’s not her name.

One night there was a fire. My mother came downstairs to take me out of my bed, to pick me up and rescue me, to take me outside into the cold Connecticut air and let the smoke dissipate from my nostrils. As she wrapped her arms around my little-girl body, I heard her say: “I wish you’d died.”

You can call it deception, a brand of self-burning of the brain. Call it habit. Consider it a running conversation I’ve created between myself and the world. Except only one of us knows it exists.
I skipped the last meditation class tonight.

I just couldn't face the thought of what they call community -- basically, making strangers talk to one another. To me, meditation is a private thing, and I don't want to be forced to share my thoughts and feelings around it with people whose names I don't even know.

I like the East Bay Meditation Center and I want to support them. But I want the choice to create, or not create, community, without having to grit my teeth and smile.

Mark Doty, "Heaven's Coast"

Bill is beautiful to me in the way that Wally was, not in any ornamental sense of the word, but in the way that all things which are absolutely authentic are beautiful. Is there a luminous threshold where the self becomes irreducible, stripped to the point where all that's left to see is pure soul, the essence of character? Here, in unfailing self-ness, is no room or energy for anything inessential, for anything less than what counts.

Paulo Coelho, "Veronika Decides to Die"

During her life Veronika had noticed that a lot of people she knew would talk about the horrors in other people's lives as if they were genuinely trying to help them but the truth was that they took pleasure in the suffering of others, because that made them believe they were happy and that life had been generous with them. She hated that kind of person, and she wasn't going to give the young man an opportunity to take advantage of her state in order to mask his own frustrations.
There's plenty of people I agree with politically, but want to kick in the teeth on general principle. Tough conundrum, that.

Monday, October 27, 2008

NY Times: Marriage lies are on the rise

Thanks to today's technology, infidelity may be on the rise in the U.S. In particular, some researchers say women are using cell phones and the internet to cheat on their partners:

[T]oday, married women are more likely to spend late hours at the office and travel on business. And even for women who stay home, cellphones, e-mail and instant messaging appear to be allowing them to form more intimate relationships, marriage therapists say. Dr. Frank Pittman, an Atlanta psychiatrist who specializes in family crisis and couples therapy, says he has noticed more women talking about affairs centered on “electronic” contact.

“I see a changing landscape in which the emphasis is less on the sex than it is on the openness and intimacy and the revelation of secrets,” said Dr. Pittman, the author of “Private Lies: Infidelity and the Betrayal of Intimacy” (Norton, 1990). “Everybody talks by cellphone and the relationship evolves because you become increasingly distant from whomever you lie to, and you become increasingly close to whomever you tell the truth to.”

Don't underestimate the destructive potential of emotional affairs. Touching someone's heart and mind often matters much more than touching their nether regions.

That's why I have much stronger boundaries in a relationship than I ever had when I was single. I still have plenty of friends. I still share a lot of myself. But there's plenty I also keep within my marriage, and that's probably for the best.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

A visit

I was slicing green onions when a breeze blew in from the back door. My aunt stepped inside. "Don't be afraid," she told me.

"I'm not," I said.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Cameras were invented for dorky photos

Drinks "with sac" at Koreana Plaza in downtown Oakland. Bottoms up!
Now that's style.

Adam too.

Sac makes me happy, apparently.
Sliced Ball Tip, anyone?

Oliver studies statistics with Adam.

But it puts him to sleep.

The prolactin conversation

ME: Do you think there's wifi in the afterlife?
ADAM: If there is, it's run by Google.

Friday, October 24, 2008

I just wrote an email to my mother in which I implore: "Don't question MY veracity, bee-yatch!" It's time for a shower and maybe a stiff drink.
Was just emailing Marcus some Santa Cruz suggestions and found myself writing this:

"(Check out) the UC Santa Cruz campus, where you will see deer smoking weed, high-fiving each other, and calling each other Bra. Truly a cultural experience."

The question is not was I dropped on my head as a child, but how many times.

Last night

Sophie and I were at Gaylords. Suddenly a gamine face poked through the door and around the corner: "You two are cute," he said. "Got 40 cents?"

We laughed, but didn't kick down.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Footloose

The way to know Berkeley is to walk it.

On the days I don't go to the gym, I typically walk anywhere from two to four miles. Today I walked home from Rockridge, cutting through all the little tree-lined neighborhoods in between. I saw tons of Obama posters, plenty of peace signs, and a handwritten plea: "Stop taking my WALL STREET JOURNAL! You are a THIEF!!!"

Walk Berkeley. You'll find funny stuff too.

Heaven's Coast

I started reading Mark Doty's book last night. Amazing, stellar, everything I've come to expect from Doty. Very informed by meditation, too, though from what I can see he doesn't say this explicitly. I can't wait to read more.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Today's writing

I pull over at MacArthur BART and he gives me the look. It tells me what a bitch I am, what a tease. I have become the woman I never wanted to be. I have hurt someone.

What is the use of unreciprocated affection? What purpose could this possibly serve in the grand scheme of life?

It’s not me. It’s you.

“I’m sorry,” I say. I am sorry. I’m sorry that I couldn’t feel more for this person in my passenger seat, this poet who’s put himself on a first-name basis with the greats. I’m sorry that a relationship came knocking and all I could do was run as if the door were on fire. I’m sorry in that selfish way, the kind that considers one’s own feelings first, foremost, and with finality.

The Papa Principle

Lately I've had a lot of mental tossing and turning about my father, as evidenced by the fact that I'm writing about him a lot here.

My mother wrote this to me yesterday:

I think your "love" for your father is nothing more than "potential" love unresolved and unmet, the never-ending pursuit of and hunger for what should have been given freely by him, but never was. As dark as this may sound, I believe the only relief you will feel from this will be his death, which, by definition will end the pursuit of what is not, and never has been, available to you or to anyone else in his world. Hope I didn't make it all worse for you.

She didn't make it worse. Don't get me wrong -- my mother and I have had real problems in the past, significant ones. I barely spoke to her throughout much of my 20s. We got into it during her recent visit and she sat crying on my couch. Ultimately, though, the fight was productive. My mother is flawed like the rest of us, but she is totally human and willing to try to see other sides of an argument.

Then there's my father. My father brooks no argument. My father is right, whether you think so or not. And if you disagree with him, well, you're wrong.

If it were only that, we'd be all good. As it is, my father is a father when it suits him. He came to my wedding and crowed. He watched me make my New York stage debut and wrote a glowing email to the rest of the family ... Subject line: "A Star Is Born."

When he's nice like that, it hurts so much. That's because the rest of the time it's so painful to be around him.

I want a father. I want a daddy.

From Augusten Burroughs' A Wolf at the Table:

"Maybe you can just work around what’s missing, build the house of your life over the hole that is there and always will be."

Maybe.
I've really gotten to liking having Tuesdays and Thursdays to myself. Between taking meditation classes, going to readings, and hanging with friends, I've had no problem at all filling (and enjoying) the time!
Lunch with Lexine got postponed, so I'm going to have lunch with Adam. He works in Berkeley, but we never have lunch together because he only gets a half hour.

When we worked together, we took ridiculously long lunches. One memorable time, we drove to the city and went to Klein's Deli (RIP) in Potrero Hill. That was a 2-hour lunch right there. I'm a bad influence.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Yesterday's writing

Benjamin Braddock didn’t get his ass dropped off at BART. He got his ass propositioned and jumped by a hot MILF. That was back when no one knew what a MILF was. But everyone knew what Mrs. Robinson was. Not only was she a mother who Ben wanted to fuck, she was a hot mother. She wasn’t a cocktease. She didn’t ask Benjamin to spend his last few dollars for nothing.

Kelly wants to be a nice guy. He does. But the cock also rises. The heart beats. The attraction is extended and if it’s not reciprocated, what then? Just pierce that vein, cut the nail to the quick, and let it bleed? Or sew up the skin and move on?

More on Prop 8

I've been debating this one with a friend who has very different views than me. He believes that the defeat of Prop 8 will hurt children, who will be brainwashed by schools imposing a new definition of marriage.

As a child, I had one definition of marriage imposed on me. If I were a lesbian, I would've grown up thinking I wouldn't be able to marry the person I love. How is that not brainwashing?

Oh yeah, and for the record: As a child, I can't imagine I would be hurt by the idea of same-sex unions. What did hurt me was the continued turmoil between my heterosexual parents, up to and including domestic violence that got so bad the police had to be called and my father escorted off the property. Trust me, that kind of shit damages kids a hell of a lot more than knowing that gays and lesbians can be wed.
Seasons don't fear the reaper
nor do the wind, the sun, and the rain


- Blue Oyster Cult

Monday, October 20, 2008

The Longing

It will always exist.
There is no moment when your lips
do not brush upon my mind,
your touch along the small of my back,
press of your chest against my cheek.

This is the velvet rope set afire.
This is the bond
impervious to all intervention.

An open letter

Dear Dad:

I don't know why you've basically stopped speaking to me since I got married, but I really wish you'd clue me in. You're my only father and I'm your only daughter, so let's get with it and start acting the part.

Love,

Allison

I'm voting No on 8

Who decided marriage is between a man and a woman?

Why will it hurt children to be taught that there is same-sex love in the world?

Who died and made right-wingers God?

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Adam, talking about his conversation with his mom

ADAM: She told me she had to fight to get me to pass kindergarten.
ME (snort): Why?
ADAM: Because of Mrs. Beleaux. (Switches into Tony Soprano mobster tone.) That bitch.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Yogurt Park and hairbands on Oliver's ears

Yes, this is what we do on a late Saturday night. That's the remains of a waffle cone in my mouth, and those are indeed hairbands on my poor beleaguered cat's ears. He doesn't seem to mind.

Friday, October 17, 2008

I want to go back in time and slap the shit out of my 26-year-old self.

She was dumb.

She was so dumb.

In addition to all the many dumb-ass things she did (and we won't go into them here, or more likely ever), she failed to pay a $185 traffic ticket to the Alameda County Court. She didn't believe in things like that, you see, paying off debt.

So now, eight years later, when I'm financially responsible, after I've worked my ass off to get my shit together, I have this ancient ticket come back to haunt me.

But what do I also have?

My sweet cat vying for my attention.

A husband who can help if needed, if only to give me a hug and say: "Those bastards! Nice of them to send you a notice."

Far more common sense and good judgment than I had back then. Sometimes you need a kick in the ass to remind you how far you've come.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Luke found more wedding photos

Do I know you? Does it matter?
Rejoining the festivities after Yichud.

You know how much we paid for those cheesecake taquitos?
A great overview of the gathering. You can see Moonrise giving Adam a huge hug in the top right corner. I'm laughing with my brothers. My shoes have long been ditched.
On the dance floor.
The first dance.
WTF? Luke gets the craziest looks from me. This one's hilarious.
Our first dance. This picture just looks so natural and so joyous.
Now Adam's desktop at work.
I'm astounded by this one. I can't believe the look he captured on my face. Amazing.
Carl, our iPod man, and Adam.
Adam and Gina. Adorable.