Tuesday, March 31, 2009

I'll be at MacDowell from Sept 1-29. I'm thrilled -- I'd really wanted the September residency not only because it gives me time to prepare, but because I bet New Hampshire is gorgeous in late summer/early fall.

I'm also investigating Fulbright opportunities. Why not?

Sunday, March 29, 2009

I knew I wasn't alone!

Catherine Price, writing in Salon about "Why I Hate Partner Yoga":

As I drove home from the class, I thought back on something my favorite teacher from Brooklyn told me. She explained that, according to some yogic philosophies, the physical poses are preparation for meditation (that is, a way to get the body ready to sit still); in others, the movement itself is the meditation. In either case, she thinks partner exercises interrupt students' concentration and thrust them back into what Buddhists call the "monkey mind" -- where your thoughts jump around like a monkey hopping from branch to branch.

That was it: I didn't like the forced intimacy with strangers, but mostly, the partner exercises took me out of whatever fragile moment of internal calm I might have cultivated and pushed me back into my normal, hyperactive mind. Maybe other people have better attention spans; my brain, however, is as frisky as a chimpanzee, and will take any excuse it can get to run away. When I go to yoga, it's because I crave solitude. I do not want to think about other people and their potential foot fungus. I do not want small talk. I want to be left alone.


This is why I've stopped going to meditation classes and just started practicing on my own. I got tired of the false intimacy with others, the "I'm-going-to-give-you-a-gift" sort of talks. For me, that gift is one of solace, not forced community. Thank you, Ms. Price, for outing we introverts at heart.

"Cheever: A Life"

Sure I've heard of John Cheever, but haven't read anything of his beyond "The Swimmer." Last night Marcus mentioned Cheever, and today sent me this article on the new bio about him.

Unlike his (relatively) happy buddy Updike, Cheever had issues. He was an alcoholic and a closet homosexual, and was haunted by the idea of being exposed.

Tormented writers -- cliche? Sure, but that's because it's largely true.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

My co-author

We were sitting at House of Curries on College last night, and Adam said: "I'm interested to see what you do with your latest scene ... how you bring it all together."

I started to describe my thoughts to him, but eventually wound up confessing that I wasn't yet sure how it was all going to wind up.

Then he offered the most brilliant idea -- and totally off-the-cuff. It works perfectly. Only someone who has been as intimately involved with this project as him could've thought of that.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Boycott Uhuru Furniture

Fuck these people. You read this and tell me if this is a cause you want to support.

In part:

The Uhuru Movement does not support the loss of life of any person. But the loss of life at the hands of the police in the African community of Oakland has been going on for half a century.

The “tensions” in Oakland are caused by the police, not by an impoverished community struggling to survive.


Is that right? Why don't we excuse pieces of filth like Mixon some more by ringing the poverty bell?

Lovelle Mixon’s life, like that of thousands of young African men in the impoverished neighborhoods of Oakland, was over long before he was killed by police. He faced a hopeless dead end of joblessness, poverty and criminalization by a society that would rather lock up young African men than make college or jobs available to them.

So you stick an AK-47 in the SWAT team's face? This is the answer to your dead-end life? This is how you solve your life's problems?

We have to demand a policy of genuine economic development for the African community's development that truly benefits and uplifts the deeply impoverished African working class of this city, and is not just another cover for gentrification and dispersal of the oppressed.

We appreciate your continued support of the Uhuru Movement and urge you to take an active stand in transforming Oakland into a model city of shared prosperity and true social justice.


And you do this by upholding a rapist and murderer as a hero and a symbol of the fallen "African" community. You dumb-ass motherfuckers. I hope your store not only closes, but that it burns.
Just polished off my performance piece and sent it to the guys. I have a fucking brilliant writing group. Can't wait to hear their thoughts.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Sometimes I wonder if I'm cut out for city life. I seem to be the only person who can ignore the schizophrenic yelling in the bathroom at Berkeley Espresso.

If this is real life, I don't want to see or hear it.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Atonement

In the yard
thinking
was it this hard last year
forgetting
I’d said that
the year before.

Reluctance
gives way to sweat
and I tug:

The dry
easy weeds
of sandy soil,
reluctant grasses,
and the morass
of the most
bountiful patch.

Along the house
I encounter
potato bugs:
Roly-polys
we called them,
crushing their black bodies
with our bare feet
walking home
from swim lessons.

Today I spare
the creatures,
bring down
the rake
with care,
make amends
for the accidental crimes.

It's 1992 ... today on 10 at 10!

The year I graduated high school! Man, I wouldn't be 18 again for anything.
Yesterday I turned to Adam in a Sunset District bubble-tea shop and said: "Thank you for taking care of me."

He has set the standard. Whether I'm sick, suffering the blues (or worse), or frustrated at the state of the economy, he's there.

I used to give to a lot more people. I used to spend hours on the phone playing amateur shrink. I used to listen ... and listen ... and listen. Then I'd hang up and wonder why no reciprocity?

People like him are rare. And they deserve the bulk of my attention.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Non-toothache moment

There really is something to sitting with the boy and the cat you love. Something simple and incredibly sweet.

Blog copyright

Since I've been posting parts of The Project (and other writings) here, I got to wondering about blog copyright. A little bit of Googling led me to this very helpful post, which in turn led me to procure a Creative Commons Attribution-No Derivative License, which you will see to the left of this post. This license allows for redistribution, commercial and non-commercial, as long as it is passed along unchanged and in whole, with credit to me.

I believe in the sanctity of creative work and have often worried about it in the Internet age. I thank Creative Commons for helping keep work under control of its creator.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Pesto peace

I have found a new shortcut to happiness.

It is the memory of a week and a half ago. Friday, March 13. It was Adam's first furlough Friday and we were just loafing around, enjoying each other's company.

Then I checked my email and found out I got into MacDowell.

This is no doubt the biggest professional achievement I've ever had as a writer. Getting into grad school was a triumph, an amazing cap-off of four years of sweat, but this? My God!

After I lost my head and hugged him and freaked out and went all proto-epileptic, it was time for some lunch. We were both starving. So we loaded ourselves into the car and went to Genova, and on top of the huge sandwiches, we ordered their excellent and amazing pesto pasta.

That first bite tasted like mental health.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Joan Rivers to Larry King

"Anyone who doesn't get up in the morning and say, 'How lucky I am,' is an idiot."
It breaks my heart to look at pictures of Natasha Richardson and Liam Neeson. So obviously in love, so obviously great friends. My heart goes out to the family.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

San Diego

Pacific Beach. A Slurpee on the sand. Does it get any better?
Self-explanatory.
Seriously, this guy is ridiculous. Meet Jake, my brother's dog. Part boxer, part pit, part lab, all personality.
He loves the trampoline in the backyard.
I love this damn dog.
My brother the space alien.
J's place in Pacific Beach. The tow truck and bike are both his, as are the Camry in the garage and the Four-Runner on the street.
Riding.
My rental Corolla. It's a 2009 and had 32 miles when I picked it up this afternoon.
Found at Fashion Valley. As if I had to be reminded that I was in San Diego.
I met the coolest woman today. She picked me up from the rental-car company and we were laughing by the time we hit the freeway.

She has three kids. The oldest is 10. She got pregnant at 12, gave birth at 13. "I was doing bad things then," she said. A decade later, she seems like she's really got her shit together. She loves her kids, their dad is still in their lives, and she was genuinely cool to talk with. I love meeting people like this.

Come on down here, baby, and pinch my butt

St. Patrick's Day, and I'm just shy of 500 miles away from home. Flying into San Diego is always eye-catching, especially when the weather is fine, and that's most of the time.

This is a Mediterranean city, warm and green in pockets, fiery and bereft of vegetation in others. Every October I hold my breath. A year and a half now, and lots still lie empty. Some gave up. Others rebelled and rebuilt. Live in a fire zone, wake with the consequences.

Oh yeah, and baby: I miss you too.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Yes, it happens here too.

I'm terribly saddened at what happened to Mark Doty and Paul Lisicky in North Beach last night. Thankfully, they're safe. But you need to read this. You need to know that this happens here too, that homophobia is alive and well in the corners of what likes to believe itself to be America's most enlightened city.

Friday, March 13, 2009

I got into MacDowell!

Holy cow ... I've been accepted to the MacDowell Colony for the summer session. I am so, so, so excited!

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Today's writing

The dream stays the same.

I have never met his father, never seen a picture. In the dream, though, I see a picture of what looks to be his father, but is really him. It’s him twenty years down the road, through fire and brimstone and whatever else the nightly news chooses to throw our way, and I know we have been together this entire time, have sat together at dinner tables and in waiting rooms, hands linked, eyes locked, fighting and laughing, not speaking to one another and breaking the ice, the stuff of relationships, the solid base of life.

I wake and Oliver has his nose to mine, rubbing. He purrs and rubs harder. Then he pulls away and shakes his head. Drool everywhere. I groan.

I have not spoken to Adam in three weeks.

*

There is in life a parachute moment, that fraction of time before someone drops into your world and changes it forever.

I knew it when I met Adam. I knew it all my reflexes, in every dimension of sense. I knew it because as I saw him walking in my direction, I wanted to pull up stakes and run as fast and far as possible.

What, you expected stars and bars, fireworks?

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Bill Cosby, "Pound Cake speech"

On Valentine's Day, Adam and I saw this man at the Paramount. He's a genius.

Right now I'm listening to the Pound Cake speech. Again. Some will say it's a racist speech. I say it's brilliant.

They found Adam's car

Stripped for parts. No engine, no transmission. Sitting somewhere in San Pablo. Taken by someone who didn't work for it, didn't earn it, just took it upon themselves to steal it.

Don't talk to me about marginalized urban youth. Just don't. Don't talk to me about kids whose parents have wronged them. Cry me a fucking river. I grew up in a dysfunctional, abusive home and I got out pretty much fine. I'm not out stealing cars in the rain, at any rate.

He's pretty chill, considering. The car was insured. We're getting the release from Berkeley PD today and getting our stuff out of the car tomorrow. I don't imagine they took my St. Mary's coffee mug from the trunk. Higher education? What's that?

There's a leap between car theft and physical violence, but I'm not sure exactly how far that leap is. When Adam emailed me today, the subject line was "No engine no transmission." For a moment, I felt the car was a person, and that that person had been violated.

I keep writing, erasing, and re-writing. I want to find someone to blame. But more than anything, I want to feel that I and my loved ones are safe. And you know what? I don't.

Monday, March 9, 2009

1989, "Waiting for a Star to Fall"

I am sitting in my mother's Honda Accord. Today a boy named Jerry Wilson gave me his senior picture. I am in love.

The car is cream of color, manual of transmission, four of door. We are parked alongside a smooth lot that will eventually be tilled, tossed, and developed. There is a sign atop that steep drive. LOT 79, it reads. FUTURE HOME.

Gratitude

In no specific order, but for a very specific reason:

1) YouTube. With a few key clicks, I can zap myself back to any era, including (to Adam's chagrin) every song I loved when I was six.

2) Cafes. I do most of my work in these places. For the cost of a cup of coffee, a cookie, a salad, I have comfortable and friendly office space.

3) Headphones. For when people in cafes don't respect that comfortable and friendly shared office space.

4) Coverage. Health care, car insurance. The foresight -- finally -- and means to obtain those.

5) Being born where I was born, at the time I was born, in the place I was born. 98 percent of my accomplishments stem from this luck.

6) Love. No list would be complete without it.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

What does training your brain feel like?

This and other questions to be pondered -- if not sufficiently answered -- during my upcoming performances at the Marsh Theater.

Some excerpts from my show notes:

The guided meditation sounds like porn:
I feel you above me
Fill me with your light
Your light uplifts me
Your power comes in me and through me
I am a channel for your light and love ...
Oh yeah, Boy-EE!

Then he hugs me. His arms are friendly and meaningless. Stand up and show me that I can trust you. Don’t hold my hand while driving in a rainstorm. Use your fucking ten o’clock and two o’clock so you don’t get us killed.

The supposedly simple stuff so often eludes me. Peace? I can’t even do the dishes without a miniature breakdown.

What does training your brain feel like? Is it like sprinting on the treadmill at the gym or spinning the hamster wheel?

Friday, March 6, 2009

A rockin' time is being had today over at Freelance Writing Jobs. Come check it out. We're discussing whether pay is important when it comes to -- you got it -- writing jobs. Gee, what do you think?
I feel guilty right now for having mouthed off about the Bay Area for one main reason: I have awesome friends here. Oh yeah, and the Indian food is kickass.

Thank you, Judith Warner!

The New York Times writer has a terrifically insightful article up today about the sour side of mindfulness practice:

I have no doubt that this meta-connectedness feels real, and indeed is real, in the abstract at least. But in real-life encounters, I’ve come lately to wonder whether meaningful bonds are well forged by the extreme solipsism that mindfulness practice often turns out to be.

I should add that I've found meditation extremely helpful over the last year or so, and that I do try to incorporate this thing called mindfulness practice into my life. I don't confuse it with false connection, though, or empathizing from everything from daisies to Charles Manson to the major fucking prick who took my bike and Adam's car and his CDs ... but I digress.

It just means being aware of what's up: How you're feeling, what you're thinking, what's going on. If that means cynicism and dark humor (of which I am both a huge fan), so much the better.

Let's face it: Bliss ain't gonna happen for me or for Judith Warner. For that reason alone, I'd like to meet her, shake her hand, and buy her a frosty beverage of her choice.

"Less eccentricity and self-expression"

Last night I Googled "Bay Area vs. Boston." Among other hits, I came up with this. One of the posts read in part:

While I find that people are, at heart, pretty similar in different areas, the culture here is a bit more reserved and, shall I say conservative? Not politically, of course, but in the sense that there is less eccentricity and self-expression than I found growing up in the Bay Area. There are pros and cons to this feature of the culture, just like anything else.

I like this post. Let's look at the pertinent words here:

Eccentricity: Really fucking annoying in order to get attention.

Self-expression: See above, except there's usually some sort of label like art or profound attached. In Webster's terminology, see Burning Man.

The people who have the least to say tend to say it the loudest. Many of them are eccentrics who believe in self-expression. The Bay Area opens its doors and arms wide to these types, and when I moved here at 22 I thought it was a great thing.

Twelve years later, I realize there's a lot of room for self-editing in this world. Maybe the East Coast does it better. At any rate, I may be finding out for myself in the years to come.

Published in Cherry Bleeds in 2007

Milk Carton Poster Child

My mother used to try to lose me in supermarkets.
It played out like this: I'd be dandling over
by the magazines or toys or frenzied lobsters,
Straits of Maine flashing wildly before their eyes
and I'd turn around. She'd be gone.
After a while I knew the drill.
I'd go off to customer service,
where they'd ooh and aah
all over me: little girl lost.

Eventually she'd answer their page
and take me by the hand.
Mom, I'd say on the car ride home,
when will you stop trying to lose me?
I don't know, she'd say, lighting a fresh smoke
shifting gears, sighing. You just keep turning up.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Beyond scuzzy

Wow. Read this and tell me that these are guys aren't total sleazebags.

Basically, they're looking to get people to write blowjob reviews for their "business" (restaurant, I'm assuming?) and in exchange get ... pay? Maybe, but only after a one-month unpaid probationary period. Of course, that's waived if you're a Yelp bigshot, and you can start collecting your 6 cents per hour straight away.

To those trying to milk today's terrible economy for dicey reviews at next-to-nothing (or nothing) pay, you're a sleazebag and may you go down in flames. To anyone considering applying for this job, do yourself and your fellow consumers a favor and move on to the next crappy job ad.

I'm not stoned enough to get this rejection

Received it today. Uh, WTF? Magazine's name is eliminated because sometimes the guilty like it that way.


Thank you for submitting to XXX. We appreciate your continued support and patronage. Unfortunately we were unable to find a place for your work in this issue. Sometimes this happens. Monkeys press switches and little babies freak out & cry, “pick me!” “pick me!” but it’s all monkeys here so don’t despair. More opportunities skitter towards you with XXX hypodermics, ice water, and The World’s record for rapid eye movement.

Much love,

The editorial staff

The charm of change

I felt a weird buzz when Adam's car was stolen yesterday. Eventually I figured it out: It meant change could be on the horizon.

A new car, if the old one isn't found, or found in bad condition. Talk of moving if other incidents occur, though it would be sad ... we love our place.

There's also the idea of leaving the Bay Area after Adam graduates. I'm not even sure it would be permanent, but I can see it happening. We have wonderful friends here and I would miss every single one of them. But I've been here since 1997 and though the Bay is still its same charming place, the charm wears thin after a while. I find many people here flaky and some of the politics abhorrent at best. Time to get away.

Change. I thrive on it. It's been a while since some good, exciting change came down the pike. I want it.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Study hall

Today's writing

Often I’ll make pancakes with David at sunrise, pass out on his filthy-comfortable carpet, wake to the sound of the garbage trucks come morning. I sleep more easily on his floor than in my own bed. His edgy hospitality puts me at ease.

Tonight I arrive home early: 3 am. I choose the scenic route, top down on my battered Toyota, Marvin Gaye buzzing on the aged speakers. Can I get a witness? Not at this hour. No one populates the roads I choose: not cops, not drunks, not even a stray raccoon. My car cuts through the late-night air, glides through the fog that lets us know we’re in springtime.

Ever since leaving his place I’ve been dogged by my advantages, starting with the freedom that’s landed me here to begin with. Born in one of the richest pockets of the world’s most charmed country, born in the here and now, the most privileged part of history. Born to parents with college degrees, with resources, with the skill and the motivation to provide a floor under our feet, a roof above our heads, and food in our gullets. Educated at top schools, told I could do anything. I’m part of that eighties generation, the kids of self-esteem courses, the recipients of spoon-fed platitudes. Good enough. Smart enough. Doggone it, people laugh at me.

The whining. Always the whining.

I want to pull it out of my brain, stomp it as I once saw Nails do to a mouse. She did the Mexican hat dance on that fucker, then realized that only a pair of Legg’s came between her and the corpse. The term losing her shit doesn’t even come close.

Have you seen a green Miata?

Sometime between 10:30 last night and 7:50 this morning, someone stole Adam's car.

He bought it on the same day that he asked me to move in with him. We've driven it to the beach, to Southern California, and to Portland. It is not his favorite car in the world -- that would be the black Miata that, until last night, had to be jump-started in order to be moved for street-sweeping -- but it was his, it was not cheap, and it holds many memories.

This morning we were bickering about something totally incidental (a Trader Joe's kitchen washcloth, okay? yes, of course I'm serious) and he left for work a little miffed. A minute later, I heard the gate open and I thought -- aha, he's coming to apologize.

Instead he walked in and said: "You're not going to believe this."

This is the latest in a building series of incidents ranging from annoying to infuriating. In the three years we've lived here, both of his cars have been repeatedly rifled through. A month or so ago, we set out for a day trip to Santa Cruz, only to find that all of his CDs had been stolen from the glovebox that he'd neglected to lock. On Valentine's Day, we came home to find my bike (the one he uses more frequently than I do) gone.

Now this.

Do we shrug and adapt? Do we brace for more? Do we move?

I know one thing, though: This isn't solely about economics. This isn't rich vs. poor, the convertible-driving yuppie scum sleeping soundly in his cottage while the downtrodden take his vehicle so that they can feed their starving brood.

No, this isn't about redistribution of wealth, the taking from Moishe to pay Floyd. This is about a thief who steals what he's not man enough to get on his own. And they'd better not run into me any time soon, or I'll give them what they do need: A swift kick in the ass.
"If I could not have a kid but still get drunk off breast milk ..."

- Adam, drunk instead on Scotch.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Nearly a year

From April 4-6, we will return to St. Orres, where we traveled as boyfriend and girlfriend in July 2006.

Nearly a year of marriage.

Nearly a year of argument and resolution, late-night dinners, sideways looks that reveal without having to say a word.

Hardest work ever, this marriage thing. And worth it times a thousand.

Adorable

Lessons

Somewhere in this great aching country of ours, a mother scolds her child. Then she soothes him, gives him a cookie, and the cycle begins again.

Today on Capitol Hill, the cookie children gather to beg for more. I hope Ben Bernanke enjoys playing out his paternal instincts and slapping these little brats on the wrists. We'll be the ones to remember the sting.

Today's writing

She doesn’t get it. Even if she did, she wouldn’t appreciate it.

He grew up in Homewood. That’s the ghetto to you. A long way from Mr. Rogers’ mansion on Squirrel Hill, where he would yell at the kids to get the heck off his lawn. A roof that caved in every other year, you could set your calendar by it. Baptist churches where they sang for one more cut down, lying in the street. Crack or smack, take your pick. The curse of the 90s. He got out while he could.

Choice don’t grow up in the ghetto. Poor folk don’t have the luxury of plotting their path. They don’t make plans. They react to what comes.

Loosen your grip

I've been thinking a lot about clinging. This article from the Insight Meditation Center in Redwood City says:

Central to Buddhist practice is training the capacity to let go of clinging. Sooner or later, the first aspect of Buddhist meditation, knowing the mind, will reveal how and where clinging is present. Some of the more painful forms of grasping are clinging to such things as pleasure, desire, self-image and judgments, opinions and ideals, people, and possessions. All clinging limits the mind's freedom and peace.

The good news of Buddhism is that we can release clinging. We can free the mind. Or, if you prefer, you can call it "freeing the heart." The ultimate aim of Buddhist practice is to liberate the heart so there are no barriers, shackles, or constrictions to our heart's freedom. Usually freeing the heart begins in small steps, each bringing a corresponding peace. Freed completely, the heart is completely at peace. Complete freedom is not easily attained. It requires knowledge and training.

Let go a little, attain a little freedom. Let go more, attain more freedom. Let go fully, attain complete freedom. Worthy goal, that.