Saturday, January 31, 2009

Doing the SSRI shuffle

I just about kicked a woman in a wheelchair, on oxygen, and her little dog too.

This is the effect of kicking Zoloft.

Oh, don't get me wrong. Zoloft is good. It's good shit. It's the side effects I can't handle. Like gaining weight even though I work out 4-5 times a week, an hour at a stretch, and have been steadily losing weight for a year.

Oh, hell no. I'm not going to take antidepressants if it means Adam's going to have to push me around in one of those fat-people wheelchairs. You know the kind I'm talking about. I don't think so.

So today I'm a bitch to be around. Especially when I'm at a cafe and aforementioned WIAW (Woman In A Wheelchair) is blocking my way. Kicking this stuff is gonna suck. But I gotta do it.

Friday, January 30, 2009

25 Things

It's making its way around Facebook, so it's on my mind:

1) My pediatrician originally thought I was going to be 5 foot 9 inches. We know how well that worked out.
2) I type crazy fast. I had to replace the keyboard on my last laptop because I just destroyed it.
3) Having a pet is one of the best things in my life.
4) I think it's better to be remembered than to be liked.
5) I paint my nails maybe once or twice a year. It chips within days because I buy the cheap stuff.
6) I am allergic to small talk.
7) As a kid, I read with a flashlight after lights-out and never got caught.
8) I was a Girl Scout. Seriously.
9) I am Jewish, but not particularly religious. That said, I will always be Jewish and heaven help you if you're anti-Semitic around me.
10) My husband is programmed into my cell phone as Fuckface.
11) Speaking of cell phones: I still hate them. Always will. I rarely hear mine (it's always on Vibrate) and almost never answer it.
12) There's been times I've had intensely bad dreams. They haven't ended, but I've figured out how to learn from them.
13) I'm a huge fan of self-awareness and personal growth, and I wish more people shared these pursuits.
14) I can be pretentious, but I try to keep a lid on it.
15) I can be entirely crass, but I try to use it for good, not evil.
16) I can be a huge crybaby, but very few people see this side of me.
17) I'm pondering a series of next steps in my life. It's exciting.
18) I bust my butt every day as a freelancer. I love what I do and I'm terribly afraid of ever having to work in an office again.
19) I swear like a sailor on shore leave who's just been ripped off by an ugly prostitute. I love cursing and I have no plans to give it up.
20) I have two brothers: one who's 15 months younger than me and one who is 11 years younger. My younger-younger brother's first words were "Al-Al", and he took his first steps in my direction. Sure, I was holding a bowl of mint chocolate chip ice cream at the time, but I like to think that's just a coincidence.
21) I'm more vulnerable than I may appear, but I hardly think that's a secret to those who really know me.
22) I love email. It connects me to people around the corner and across the world -- and it's free.
23) The Twilight Zone episode "Time Enough At Last" -- in which bookworm Burgess Meredith gets all excited after the end of the world, because he now has time enough to read, only to break his glasses -- spooks the hell out of me.
24) Every so often I think about having kids. The thought doesn't last too long, but it's interesting while it does.
25) I'm a good liar, which is why I like telling the truth.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Life lessons

When Adam walked in the door today, I was feeling frustrated and bored. Not his fault at all -- more to do with me than anything.

I want to feel alive, you know? And that alive feeling isn't something you plan. It's not something you find. In fact, it finds you.

As I was weepily explaining this to him, I had some blackberry tea from Trader Joe's. I followed that with some vanilla strawberry flax granola from Monterey Market.

It changed my life.

FM radio

Elton John, "I Guess That's Why They Call It The Blues." I am nine and waiting. Here, the opening bars, now. I fly across my room, knock over one of the poles on my canopy bed. The whole structure sags. I will be punished. No matter. I press Play and Record. It is captured, mine.

Adam, to me, this morning.

"Listening to NPR with you is like going to the (urban) cinemas."

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

I get chatty emails and forwards from Adam's dad's girlfriend, Susan. I love it. It makes me feel like part of the family. She's the kind of personality I understand, and so I'm very comfortable with her.

Still working out the other stuff. I'm not good at downgrading my expectations. There's no need, really.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Wow, John Updike died. He's one of those names who, like Vonnegut, rumble around every writer's life whether they want them to or not. RIP, John.

From The Project

Black and white is a misnomer. I don’t want to believe that’s true, but it is. There is no such thing as dark and light, right and wrong, There are only hazy, murky, sometimes-ugly shades of gray.

One night we found ourselves on a bench outside a gift shop. He got up and began to pace.

“I can’t help it,” he said. “The energy.”

When he kissed me it was different. It was harder than I’d ever experienced. It hurt.

“We shouldn’t do this,” he said. “It’s wrong.” Then he walked me home and kissed me again. He was a wet mouth in a charcoal world, muddy and blinding. Then he pulled away and left.

They're here!

My favorite time of year is upon us: The plum blossoms have begun to emerge along Grant Street. Give it a week and our street will be a pink paradise. In another month they'll be gone.

We moved in during the pink time: February 2006. It's been three years. Best place I've ever lived.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Past, meet the present

In a few weeks, some of us DR alumni are going to hook up, drink, and blurt out crazy stuff. Maybe that's just me.

It's been nearly 10 years since I worked there. On Feb. 8, I'll reunite with some of my former coworkers:

The sweet girl I turned cold on because she irritated me for reasons I remember but no longer connect with;

The bully editor who used to scare me and possibly still could if I didn't know how vulnerable she is;

The cheerleader type who would've made me over six times if I'd just let her;

Others who I like and have missed.

Bring it on. Along with a margarita or six.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

"No Time for Poetry"

Frank Rich blazes up the New York Times with this straight-shot analysis of Obama's inaugural speech.

He writes:

President Obama did not offer his patented poetry in his Inaugural Address. He did not add to his cache of quotations in Bartlett’s. He did not recreate J.F.K.’s inaugural, or Lincoln’s second, or F.D.R.’s first. The great orator was mainly at his best when taking shots at Bush and Cheney, who, in black hat and wheelchair, looked like the misbegotten spawn of the evil Mr. Potter in “It’s a Wonderful Life” and the Wicked Witch of the West.

Such was the judgment of many Washington drama critics. But there’s a reason that this speech was austere, not pretty. Form followed content. Obama wasn’t just rebuking the outgoing administration. He was delicately but unmistakably calling out the rest of us who went along for the ride as America swerved into the dangerous place we find ourselves now.

I've found this an opportune time to read his memoir, Dreams from My Father. Went in cynical and am proceeding with newfound respect for this man.

Tonight I found myself underlining this passage:

My mother was that girl with the movie of beautiful black people in her head, flattered by my father's attention, confused and alone, trying to break out of the grip of her own parents' lives. The innocence she carried that day, waiting for my father, had been tinged with misconceptions, her own needs. But it was a guileless need, one without self-consciousness, and perhaps that's how any love begins, impulses and cloudy images that allow us to break across our solitude, and then, if we're lucky, are finally transformed into something firmer.

Saturday, January 24, 2009


Walking home from the gym, I cut through the overpriced and overrated Berkeley Farmer's Market. Among the milling crowd I saw a couple whose exotic good looks seemed lifted from the aisles of a particularly expensive boutique.

I started thinking my typical thoughts: How expensive can third-world style get? Were dreads on special at the Ashby Flea Market this morning?

Then I thought: Why so nasty? These people look happy, why turn your cynicism in their direction?

And then came the inner smirk.

Fact is, I like my judgment. I neither need nor want to roll out the welcome mat in my mind for everyone who crosses my path.

Lesson to be learned in the Twilight Zone.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Group gestalt

So I may wind up back in a writing group with Rob and Sean -- two of the better writers and critics I know. We all work really well together, understand what each other is going for, and don't bullshit each other. I hope this works out because I think it would be cool.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

From The Project

My husband will later call it my fury–- this anger that comes and twists and strikes hard, direct, stinging. It's serpentine like the arteries that Venice calls streets.

It’s a near-involuntary focus of complete hatred. I say near-involuntary because I do enjoy it. No, I don’t enjoy it. I love it.
"Art can't just be a rear-view mirror. It has to have a headlight out there."

- Barack Obama

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

"Radical in the White House"

Nice one by Thomas Friedman. In part:

Indeed, dare I say, I hope Obama really has been palling around all these years with that old Chicago radical Bill Ayers. I hope Obama really is a closet radical.

Not radical left or right, just a radical, because this is a radical moment. It is a moment for radical departures from business as usual in so many areas. We can’t thrive as a country any longer by coasting on our reputation, by postponing solutions to every big problem that might involve some pain and by telling ourselves that dramatic new initiatives — like a gasoline tax, national health care or banking reform — are too hard or “off the table.” So my most fervent hope about President Obama is that he will be as radical as this moment — that he will put everything on the table.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

"What you can build, not what you destroy"

A message from Oliver.
Chiquita, Mike's dog. We all just call her Puppy.
Mike, our landlord, on his front porch.
Mike and Puppy.
Our mailbox.
God bless 2214 Grant Street, land that I love.
Grant Street.
Grant and Allston, a half block from our place.
Not everybody loves a roundabout, but they're nice to look at.
Stan's fence.
Graffiti found walking back down from Telegraph.
Sonoma Coffee Cafe.
Funky vintage mirror inside Sonoma Coffee Cafe.
Speaks for itself.
Oh yeah!
Beethoven would be proud.

Sproul Plaza, UC Berkeley

This girl was wearing an "Obama" t-shirt and blowing bubbles.
President Obama gives his speech.
I think this was during Rick Warren's entirely overwrought little performance.
Obligatory self-portrait.
Oh say does that Star-Spangled Banner yet wave.
The Campanile bears witness.
Free OJ, coffee, and hot cocoa!
The crowd gathers.
As if we needed to be told.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Tracy Chapman, "The Promise"

I'd never heard this one until Adam and I saw her in Santa Cruz a few years back. Amazing, wonderful song. So heartfelt. Ignore the rather dopey video and concentrate on the music.

I'm looking forward to the DR reunion. This should be amusing as hell! The email Andrea sent out reads "1 pm until Allison gets us thrown out." Hrmph.

Martin Luther King, "I Have A Dream"

Our president is a writer

"Two weeks later he was gone. In that time, we stand together in front of the Christmas tree and pose for pictures, the only ones I have of us together, me holding an orange basketball, his gift to me, him showing off the tie I've bought him ("Ah, people will know that I am very important wearing such a tie.") At a Dave Brubeck concert, I struggle to sit quietly in the dark auditorium beside him, unable to follow the spare equations of sound that the performers make, careful to clap when he claps. For brief spells in the day I will lie beside him, the two of us alone in the apartment sublet from a retired old woman whose name I forgot, the place full of quilts and doilies and knitted seat covers, and I read my book while he reads his. He remains opaque to me, a present mass; when I mimic his gestures or turns of phrase, I know neither their origins nor their consequences, can't see how they play out over time. But I grow accustomed to his company."

- Barack Obama, Dreams From My Father

Our president -- or the man who will be our president just twenty-four hours from now -- is a philosopher. He integrates lessons from the past -- from the history books as well as from his own history -- with the issues of the present. This is a thinker, a reader. This is a bright and capable man. This is a true human being, and I can't wait to have him as our leader.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Good vs. Great: The case of "The Wrestler"

Saw The Wrestler tonight.

It was a good film, not a great one. Adam and I discussed this after the movie at BurgerMeister in Cole Valley.

For me to consider any art form -- movies, books, plays, songs, visual art or otherwise -- good, it has to give its audience credit for intelligence. The Wrestler did this. It it is a grave and at times quite moving film, and as noted by many reviewers, Mickey Rourke gives a strong and unselfconscious performance. As a character study as well as a window into a world few of us see -- professional wrestling -- the movie more than hit the mark.

But it is not a great film.

It's hard to be good. It's a hundred times more challenging to be great.

Good means quality. Great means something more. Great says you've told me something new, opened up a provocative line of debate, or made me feel emotions of which I never believed myself capable.

Good is two hours of smart entertainment. Great keeps you up at night, wondering.

A few examples of great art, in all forms:

Annie Hall
Gone With the Wind (book and movie)
Chris Rock
Joni Mitchell
Harry Chapin
Mike Daisey
Paul Theroux
Sherman Alexie
Best In Show
Pulp Fiction
Falling Down
Raising Arizona
Blazing Saddles
The Beatles
E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial
Jackie Collins (yes, seriously)
The Stand, Stephen King
Baby Love, Joyce Maynard
Prozac Highway, Persimmon Blackbridge
Platform, Michel Houellebecq
Boogie Nights
Shaun of the Dead
Run Lola Run
Astonishing Splashes of Colour, Clare Morrall
Twilight Zone
Six Feet Under
The Sopranos
Stroszek (Werner Herzog rules!)
The Squid and the Whale
The War of the Roses
Punch-Drunk Love
Tori Amos
Tracy Chapman
Barenaked Ladies

Great doesn't necessarily mean grave and profound. Great can be funny or raunchy as hell. I put Jackie Collins on the list because I love her dialogue, and because she was an early influence. I included E.T. because that movie has such a sweet heart -- pun only sort of intended -- and it appealed to people of all ages. I listed Gone With the Wind because Scarlett O'Hara is one of the best main characters I've ever seen.

I want my work to be great. I want to surprise you, tell you something you don't know, get you talking and keep you up at night thinking. I want you to remember what I write. It's what I've always wanted, and I work every day to achieve it.

Today's writing

Staci’s allergic to small talk. On planes she jacks into headphones, stares out the window. Open, friendly faces make her cringe, pull back into a human raisin, crumpled and wrinkled.

Today she turned to someone and said hello. Why?

She’d noticed this girl at the airport, standing in the check-in line, sitting on the floor reading a book before boarding. She looked different. She looked like she had something to say. That’s rare, you know, someone actually worth listening to.

Not that Staci’s a cynic. You can’t call her that, no. She believes in things like flowers and the Bible. She pets strange dogs on the street. At night she closes her eyes and for a second makes a wish for a better world, like a single falling star.

But there’s that people thing. Staci doesn’t do people, communication, social gatherings. If she could spend her life in a room adjacent to the rest of the world, curled on some cushions with a Michael Crichton book, she would.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Friday night, 11 pm.

A good part of the way into a bottle of wine, homemade aloo gobi on the table. We're watching Lost in Translation, the karaoke scene. Bill Murray takes a shot of something and we reminisce about wild, lost drunken nights. I spin out a few stories, many involving my college days.

"I'm starting to feel like the guy from Clerks," Adam says. " 'I was drunk with this guy, that guy ...' "

I laugh. But it's not like that, not exactly. These weren't nights of illicit sex. The good majority started in innocence and ended exactly the same way.

They were open nights, nights of possibility. I'm married now and those nights have come to a close. I don't regret the loss. I just remember the moments with a grin.

The Brick is Reluctant

By morning
the decision made itself:
Neat hospital corners.
This sheet
won’t forsake the bed.

But what-if?

What if
it fell
upon us,
that unreasoning brick
that breaks you
without chipping,
and you howl
with gratitude?

After we’d succumbed
to the fact
that there was an us
but before
we told the world,
there was a hike.

I took the downhills
relishing the worry.
Come on, you said,
but your irritation
had soft corners.

I wanted
to tell you then,
is a sign.

It means you really wanted it.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Douglas Coupland, "All Families Are Psychotic"

'Family's a good thing, Wade.'

'You should see my family. Every single one of us is psychotic.'

'All families are psychotic, Wade. Everybody has basically the same family -- it's just reconfigured slightly different from one to the next. Meet my in-laws one of these nights.'

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

"What Do Women Want?"

I want a red dress.
I want it flimsy and cheap,
I want it too tight, I want to wear it
until someone tears it off me.
I want it sleeveless and backless,
this dress, so no one has to guess
what's underneath. I want to walk down
the street past Thrifty's and the hardware store
with all those keys glittering in the window,
past Mr. and Mrs. Wong selling day-old
donuts in their café, past the Guerra brothers
slinging pigs from the truck and onto the dolly,
hoisting the slick snouts over their shoulders.
I want to walk like I'm the only
woman on earth and I can have my pick.
I want that red dress bad.
I want it to confirm
your worst fears about me,
to show you how little I care about you
or anything except what
I want. When I find it, I'll pull that garment
from its hanger like I'm choosing a body
to carry me into this world, through
the birth-cries and the love-cries too,
and I'll wear it like bones, like skin,
it'll be the goddamned
dress they bury me in.

- Kim Addonizio

"Transformation of the Heart": Class Two

Some good observations from Larry last night:

"The people who do know satisfaction are rich, even if they are poor."

"Ask yourself: Even in this moment, what is it that you don't need? Where are you satisfied and content? That is a foundation of your practice."

"Generosity is just stepping aside and letting your life be lived. ... Sometimes we have to walk protected, but is there a space where you can practice the unconditional?"

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

And I just can't hide it

I'm excited about this little project of mine.

I'm excited that I've gotten up the guts to do it. I'm excited that I'm a good deal of the way into the revise, and that it's apparently as clean as I'd hoped.

Most of all, I'm excited about what I hope to do for others with this. Writing is about communicating, and it's a hell of a powerful tool when you hold it right.

Sing it, Pointer Sisters.
Last night we talked about places: Boston, Sydney, Montreal. We ran figures and dates. Theoretical for the moment, but that's how it starts.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Why don't you guess what Adam's talking about?

"I was getting ready for it to do the Spaceballs thing where (the camera) keeps going and going and just sort of bumps into it."

"How bad do you think her English is?"

"You see him fix the sink? You gotta love when they're like, oh, it's broken, now it's fixed."

Today's writing

Not sure about the "Jewish hymen" line, but let's see how it works:

“No,” I say, “I don’t plan to go to Germany.”

I’m on the phone with Rooster, trying to convince him that my Jewish hymen will remain intact.

“They killed us there, you know.”

There it is again: the Judaism of convenience. Rooster and Nails practically mainline bacon. They wouldn’t know a Hebrew phrase if it came up and bit them in the ass. The closest they come to worship is a Mel Brooks movie on the DVD player, but I get a plane ticket and all of a sudden they’re the paragons of Semitic virtue.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

I was thinking about fear of loss. It made me sad rather than angry. That's a step forward.


About 45 seconds before our first kiss, Adam and I sat on a bench outside a gift shop on Piedmont Avenue. My head rested on his chest. My heart slammed against my ribs. It hurt.

"Why me?" he asked.

"You're safe," I said.

It was an easy, convenient answer. It also couldn't be more wrong. He wasn't safe, not in any conventional sense of the word. He's the biggest challenge of my life.

Thank God.


The whole family. I seem to be wearing this sweater a lot in pictures lately.
Camera-shy kitty.
Adam and Oliver. Deborah Madison's "Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone" -- we made her Cauliflower, Spinach, and Potato Curry for dinner tonight with Angela, Chris, Lorraine and Andrea. (Though Andrea indulged only in the cookies.)
Oliver likes him best.
Glaring happily.

Friday, January 9, 2009

Santa Barbara

State Street, where I spent more than my share of time back in the day.
State Street.
Butt peeping out from a store window.
Adam's version of meditation at the Natural Cafe: "Fuck yooou ... fuck yooou ..."
Isla Vista, where I spent my undergrad years. This is true IV style, cuz.
IV. It was dead on New Year's Day.
Adam, burqa-style.
Mixed messages, I think.
Santa Barbara Mission. The queen of the missions and one of my favorite places to hang out when I was in school.
Shot from upstairs at Java Jones, State Street, Santa Barbara. Check out this guy's hat!
The Mission, brought to you by the Auto Club of Southern California.
Adam and my dad at the mission. My dad went to the Rose Parade and then drove up to hang out with us. The next day, we had dinner with Yelles.
Sambo's. Seriously.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

It just occurred to me: Everyone has pain. Everyone. Knowing this logically and knowing it emotionally are two different things.

Moaning at the Bone

Yes, I know how that sounds. And you're the one with the dirty mind.

I randomly put on 107.7, "The Bone", this morning. Following is a paraphrase of what I heard:

HAPLESS DUDE: Guys, you gotta help me.
STUPID DJS: Guffaw, snort.
DUDE: I've been, like, flirting with my girlfriend's girlfriend, and we were at a party, and we were pretty drunk, and we stepped out for a cigarette ...
DJS: B-o-o-z.
DUDE: When my girlfriend came out looking for us, her friend was on her knees.
DJS: Whoa! Yeah! Kick-ass!
DUDE: Guys, you don't understand. I love Angela. I gotta get her back.

Yep. Good luck with that.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009


ME: I wonder which one of us is more the true romantic.
ADAM (slightly put-on sappy voice): The two of us together.
ME: That's why you're the truer romantic.

"Transformation of the Heart"

Yesterday I started this eight-week course at the East Bay Meditation Center. It's facilitated by Larry Yang, who I've taken other courses with, and he really brings out the troops. Everyone loves Larry, and with good reason: He's smart, incisive, and down to earth.

I found this statement of his particularly useful:

"When we notice we're not the people we aspire to be, that is actually the beginning of the practice. That is where you have a choice. We can't change anything we're not aware of."

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Twilight Zone, "Eye of the Beholder"

Closing narration:

"Now the questions that come to mind. Where is this place and when is it? What kind of world where ugliness is the norm and beauty the deviation from that norm? You want an answer? The answer is, it doesn't make any difference. Because the old saying happens to be true: Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, in this year or a hundred years hence, on this planet or wherever there is human life, perhaps out amongst the stars."
My favorite professor at St. Mary's, Wesley Gibson, once said: "I write to communicate."

I'm trying to keep that in mind right now.

It just hit me -- how personal this project I'm writing is, how much I've already put out there for anyone to see. I don't usually look at it like that. I'm often pretty confident and defiant. But right now it just hit me and my head is swimming.

Thursday, January 1, 2009