Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Tonight's writing

It doesn’t need to be love. It doesn’t have to be romance. I just want someone I can talk to.

“I want you just the way youuuu are …” the girl who is not me croons. She’s sitting in my passenger seat wearing huge Jackie O sunglasses.

“You’re off key,” I say. It’s late spring. Lavender blooms everywhere, its scent huckstering its way into nostrils, causing allergic reactions. Birds of Paradise emerge from their winter cocoons, poking colorful heads out into a world made suddenly warmer, more inviting.

“Spring fever,” she says. “Dance fever. Jungle boogie.”

I ignore her. She makes no goddamned sense.

We’re crossing the Richmond-San Rafael bridge. It connects a poverty-stricken, crime-ridden city with one of the richest jewels in the nation.

“You know Jerry Garcia?” the girl says.

“Yeah,” I say. “The name sounds familiar.”

“He first thought up ‘Terrapin Station’ while he was crossing this bridge.”

“How proud you must be,” I say, “to be such a fount of knowledge.”

When it comes to her, the sarcasm’s grown to be second nature. It just comes up, nearly independent of my free will. If it bothers her, she doesn’t show it. “Hold away despair,” she says. “More than this I will not ask.”

The bridge is a roller coaster and blue surrounds us on both sides. We are leaving darkness, an industrial area with tattered collars and more than its share of weaponry, and traveling into another dimension: Marin County.

“If you insist,” I say.

I don’t. It’s Jerry. It’s his song.”

“Since when were you such a Deadhead?”

She keeps changing her tune on me, this one. Sometimes I’d rather be saddled with Hitler than listen to this bitch prattle. But she’s part of me, so I don’t really get much choice in the matter.

Sometimes I look in the mirror and I don’t feel I’m at all part of what I see. My fair-weather eyes – sometimes brown, occasionally green – and my rounded wedge of a nose, my toothy smile and all that surrounds it, all this appears plastic, as though it’s been grafted from its rightful owner.

There is a girl who treads the pathways of her world, crossing from the grimy to the golden. She is all head and no body. She is dual. She is bifurcated. She has divided into a series of mirrored branches. One to sense the pain. Another to deflect it.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Facebook chat with my bro


check this out I think this is what i'm going to be for holloween, jason and I

oh damn


Travis Barker and DJ AM?


I can't send you the sight but look up mario costumes

i'm going to be mario and he luigi



You know Luigi's the pitcher, right?


just cause he is taller?


Because he's pimp!


mario is giving it to the ladies all the time


Makeup lessons? He sure is!



Happy New Year

Whether you're a Jew or just play one on TV: Happy Rosh Hashana!

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Top of the Mark: Sunday brunch

My mom.
Us at home before embarking on the culinary adventure.
Adam sucking on a crab claw.
Why does my mom look so pissed?
Our view. That's what you get from 19 stories up!

Rosh Hashana

The high holidays are here. In a nutshell:

It is a time for self-examination and spiritual renewal, an opportunity to put aside the shallow and fleeting distractions of daily life and seriously question whether one has become the person they could or hoped to be.

I'm not particularly religious, but I find plenty of value here.

I hope I've been successful in focusing more on life's meaning than its distractions. Through meditation and simply through living, I've worked on being in the moment, centering myself, moving day to day with honesty and awareness.

I've fought to be a candid and direct person. I've worked to live my life in a genuine way, to let the people who I love know that I love them, to try to show kindness and affection whenever possible. I've grappled with my anger and begun rolling it aside in favor of what lies beneath.

The next year means tackling all of that. It means continuing to evolve. It will mean laughter, love, and screwups. I'm ready for all that.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

RIP, Paul Newman

Newman lived away from the Hollywood environment. He made his home quietly in Westport, Connecticut, took a monogamous stance toward marriage, and was devoted to his wife and family. When asked about infidelity, he quipped, "Why go out for hamburger when you have steak at home?"

A great actor, a good man.

Friday, September 26, 2008

TGIF, seriously

This week's been marked by serious good things and hard times.

The good:

- I've gotten to spend time with a lot of my friends, having great one-on-one conversations. I love quality time with good people.
- I've had a lot of great workout and writing time.
- The weather's been fantastic, which definitely helps my mood.

The hard:

- It's a transition time. Fall is here. Adam started school. I'm so happy he's doing this. It does mean reconfiguring our lives to some degree and that's not without stress. But it's worth it.
- The Lexapro is working in surprising ways. Specifically, it's rolling back my coping mechanisms -- anger and anxiety -- to reveal sadness that dates far back. That doesn't mean I'm a sad or unhappy person. It means trauma that hasn't been processed is trauma that still exists. It means I've got a lot of work ahead.
I've never believed what many women seem to: that men can't understand emotions. I've known my share of guys who can sit and talk openly about how they feel. And yes, they were straight.
I just paid my Muni transit fine. Fuck you, and have a nice day.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

How many fates turn around in the overtime
Ballerinas that have fins that you'll never find?

- Tori Amos, "Spark"
Yesterday Adam called me during lunch. It struck me how happy I sounded talking to him, how natural. That's how I always feel around him, how I've felt ever since we became friends. Like I could take over the world. Like anything's possible. Like the sky is no limit whatsoever.

That's best friends. That's love. That's beshert.

"Everybody else may be an asshole, but I'm not."

Harlan Ellison: "Pay the Writer"

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Look at that hill!

Chinatown and North Beach


A day to play in San Francisco

Something old, something new.
Topless in Union Square.
Union Square.
The Allison Hotel and the Green Door massage parlor.
Light at the end of the Sutter-Stockton tunnel.

One more from Minneapolis

I adore this picture. We look impish and goofy and in love. And we are all those things.

What's wrong here?

The victim of a liquor-store robbery is killed in his own garage -- and the guy accused of robbing the store is on the verge of going free. Excuse me, but has anyone thought to ask him about his possible involvement in the killing?

Monday, September 22, 2008

Joni Mitchell, "Trouble Child"

I heard this song on KFOG's 10 at 10 this morning (today's year: 1974, the year I was born) -- recognized Joni Mitchell's voice but had to Google the lyrics to figure out the song.

It's very sad and very accurate. Anyone who's had trouble with depression -- and yes, over time that has included me -- will recognize these sentiments.

Up in a sterilized room
Where they let you be lazy
Knowing your attitude's all wrong
And you got to change
And that's not easy
Dragon shining with all values known
Dazzling you -- keeping you from your own
Where is the lion in you to defy him
When you're this weak
And this spacey ...

So what are you going to do about it
You can't live life and you can't leave it
Advice and religion -- you can't take it
You can't seem to believe it
The peacock is afraid to parade
You're under the thumb of the maid
You really can't give love in this condition
Still you know how you need it

They open and close you
Then they talk like they know you
They don't know you
They're friends and they're foes too
Trouble child
Breaking like the waves at Malibu

So why does it come as such a shock
To know you really have no one
Only a river of changing faces
Looking for an ocean
They trickle through your leaky plans
Another dream over the dam
And you're lying in some room
Feeling like your right to be human
Is going over too
Well some are going to knock you
And some'll try to clock you
You know it's really hard
To talk sense to you
Trouble child
Breaking like the waves at Malibu
Mental health is a delicate, tricky tightrope, particularly when you throw in pharmaceuticals.

My heart goes out to anyone who's dealt with this. Including myself.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

I'm writing about the El Nino of 1998 and listening to Janet Jackson. Wish me luck on both counts.

Here's what I've got so far:

El Nino means “little boy” in Spanish. The name refers to the infant Jesus, since El Nino usually crops up around Christmastime. It’s a disruption in the ocean-atmosphere system. It hails from the tropical Pacific, and it’s a hellraiser.

When the Little Boy comes around, he causes trouble: floods, droughts. He drags his destructive finger across the sea’s surface and commercial fisheries shrink back; so much for the water’s productivity. Tradewinds weaken and rainfall marches in step with the Little Boy’s path. He’s most threatening to the places still under scaffolding, the developing countries who need the sea’s gifts so they themselves can eat, can make money, can play that game called global exchange.

The Little Boy plays in erratic ways. You have to study him in order to predict where and when he might next deploy his havoc.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Today's writing

Sometimes I hesitated before walking through the sliding doors. I let all hope go, the efforts at joy drop to the ground and shatter. I allowed the weight to sink down my shoulders. I watched the people move in and out of the building, their feet stepping one in front of the other, taking them where they needed to go, and I marveled at how happy my sadness made me feel.

Coping mechanisms are scaffolding: A temporary framework for support. A cog in the wheel of repair. Sometimes you just want to sweep it aside, to see the structure underneath. I loosened my grip on all pretense as I watched these people, these patients.



Now I’m standing in my living room in North Platte, Nebraska, home of the world’s largest railroad classification yard and Buffalo Bill Cody. Glenn Miller spent part of his childhood in North Platte, and the mobster Henry Hill once slung hash here. Am I meant to be part of this oddball legacy?

“So you think I’m screwed,” I say to the girl who is and is not me.

“Did I say that?”

“Yeah,” I say. “I think you did.”

Maybe she said it, maybe I just wanted to hear it. It’s freeing to give up on hope, that palm-slapping drunkard. Better to tie yourself to the dark, the black, the impenetrable, the inevitable. More truthful to prop your fists against that wall, to press your cheek to its plaster and to feel that ice.

Best to drop a fight you can’t win.

Writers and depression

Why did David Foster Wallace kill himself?

Why did Michael Dorris? Louis Owens? Why did Hemingway shoot himself? What drove Sylvia Plath to shove her head in the oven as her children slept?

I just showed Adam a snippet of what I'm writing, and I connected to how all these writers must have felt. It hurts. It's like hitting some sort of truth, some element of bottom. And we love the writing. We either can't stop or don't want to.

In my next life, I'd like to be a plumber.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Old Wicked Songs

Saw this at the Guthrie on opening night. Stellar. The dialogue was touching and very funny, and Raye Birk is phenomenal as the crusty, funny teacher with more than a few secrets. Glad to see it's getting the reviews it deserves.
I just made my monthly student-loan payment. Ouch.

I'm tempted to say something flip here, but instead I find myself seriously thinking about grad school and whether my many thousands of dollars of debt are worth it.

They are.

They are because I'm a better writer.

They are because I'm a smarter, stronger person.

They are because I wanted it, and so of course they're worth it.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

A few last ones from the trip

The Wienery, Cedar-Riverside neighborhood. I've said it before and doubtless will say it again: Adam takes the best pictures of me. Hands down.
The University of Minnesota. Don't mess with the maroon and gold. I loved the Gopher campus. Gorgeous! If I'd taken two minutes to consider their three-year MFA program, I might've wound up in Minneapolis. No regrets.
The Washington Avenue pedestrian bridge connecting U of M's west bank to downtown. There's a big controversy over bicyclists wanting to pedal, rather than walk, over the bridge. The student paper termed it a "Beijing-esque" commute. Uh-huh.
Yes, a foot photo, and a shadow photo as well.
Adam at Dunn Brothers Cafe on the way to the Stone Arch Bridge. I love this picture.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008


We saw Jonathan Friesen speak at the University of Minnesota bookstore. He's written "Jerk, California," a book about a kid with Tourette's Syndrome. Though Friesen himself suffers from Tourette's, the book is reflective of his emotions though not his personal experiences.

Hearing him speak was great. I asked him how you can keep a disadvantaged character from seeming like a victim and he said: "Make them heroic. It doesn't have to be huge, just something to plant the seed -- early -- to tell you that this is someone worth sticking with."

Then Adam asked him why he wrote the book as fiction, not memoir, and he said: "Fiction has to be truer than a memoir." He went on to say that strange things happen as part of life, and that we'll buy it because life itself is strange, but in fiction, it's got to be believable.

I bought the book.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Random pictures

The Original Baseball Hall of Fame Museum of Minnesota. The weirdest, most awesome museum I've seen in a while. It was founded by Ray Crump, the Twins' first equipment manager. He has pictures of himself with everyone including George Carlin and Hank Williams, Jr.
Minnesota has a concealed carry law, which means you see signs like this around. A lot.
Pepito's, which has great Mexican food but charges $0.85 for sour cream and $1.85 for guacamole. Bastards! What made it worth it, though, is that Roseanne Barr once sat in the very same booth as us!
The Mary Tyler Moore statue in downtown Minneapolis.
Nye's Polonaise, dubbed by Esquire as "the best bar in America." We concur.

Loft Literary Center

The spiral staircase leading up to the Loft's second-story offices is lined with these -- planks of some sort (can't figure out anything more specific) with handwriting in pencil. The Loft is part of the Minnesota Center for Book Arts, so everything is itself a work of art.
These LED screens constantly changed words to form new phrases. I believe this one says: "Jane Austen sold out to rejection slips."
A preserved wall from the Loft's former incarnation.
The performance center, which was open. We snuck in and I decided I want to give a reading here one day.
Adam would like to rap here too.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Don't blame me -- Adam wanted White Castle for lunch

East Central Avenue, Minneapolis.
Adam loves his gray square cheeseburger.
I have an odd reaction to the crinkly fries.

Bon appetit!
The gourmet detritus.

David Foster Wallace

I'm sad to see the news about David Foster Wallace. Though I wasn't one of his fans, the fact that a human being (and fellow writer) took his life really gets to me.

Are writers more susceptible to these feelings than most? Or are they just more likely to follow through?

Sunday, September 14, 2008

More from today

Blowing bubbles into Diet Pepsi at Galactic Pizza.
At Kowalski's, hanging with Bones.
Minnesota: It's not just for Lutherans anymore.
Adam in a threesome with Linus and Lucy.
Downtown St. Paul. We saw more street people here than in all of Minneapolis. But they were entertaining.