Monday, May 25, 2020
I'm just going to repeat that:
It's not too much to ask you to wear a fucking mask and stay home.
The pandemic isn't "over," and life is not "going back to normal." What is "normal" is the craven irresponsibility of the privileged and even the not-so privileged. This is the high school that I graduated from back in the Stone Age. It was basically a one-room school-house then (hyperbole intentional since privilege was rarely recognized in the Stone Age) but is pretty much unrecognizable now. You can read the story here.
My take on this shit-show?
(Anonymous commenter -- you'll have to forgive me my anger as I know it offends you, makes you "exhausted") This pandemic is demonstrating with crystal clarity that the lives at risk are expendable. That if you are a person of color, a disabled person, an old person, a person who takes care of another, an "essential worker," you are EXPENDABLE.
WE are expendable.
The rest of you are "free" to do -- in what seems to be the most grotesque interpretation of freedom I've ever understood -- whatever the hell you want.
All is transactional.
So, go on with your best self, as they say.
Have a party.
Get your hair cut.
Go to the beach.
Go to church.
God will take care of you.
You've got to start somewhere.
Don't muzzle yourself. You're free.
Social distancing is a hoax.
Bill Gates is out to track all of us.
Get back to normal.
Make America great.
I'll say it again. America is terrible and exhausting.
Sometimes, it's not. Read this:
It Just Burns Me Up
Tuesday, May 19, 2020
|Giulietta Masina, La Strada|
Do you think about things while you're showering or focus on your shower? he asked. She was combing out her wet hair, already anxious about going to bed too early. With wet hair. What? she asked, as was her wont. Or what. She had a hard time picking up the lower register of his voice, of any voice really. It was one of those things that she'd noticed in the last year or so along with the tiny age spots at the base of her right thumb. She wouldn't do anything about it. Do you think about things while you're showering or focus on your shower? She leaned over, picked up her clothes from the floor and dropped them into the hamper. I don't focus on the shower, she said. She felt vaguely irritated at the question. She wondered if she wanted to be unknowable. But I don't really focus on much these days anyway. He asked, What do you think about? What did she think about? The peeling paint at the top of the tiles, the gray spots on the ceiling that she couldn't reach to clean, her perpetual disappointment, the way the tile felt on her forehead where she rested it, the water streaming down her back. I cry in the shower sometimes she said. But not tonight. He put his phone down and turned to his side. She didn't tell him that she'd been thinking of Giulietta Masina's face in the Fellini movie, her devotion to the strongman, however cruel, how she climbed into the back of the carnival truck with the mermaid on the side to serve him, how she ultimately went mad, her love and devotion abandoned, all the magic and superstition and miracles.
Friday, May 15, 2020
I should probably change that sign to "I bake and I know no things," because lately I'm just feeling mostly that I know very little if nothing at all. For instance, why is the rest of the country (other than New York City and greater Los Angeles county) getting back to what they deem normal? Who were those people in those bars in Wisconsin, for example, that bunch of burly white bearded men getting beer on tap, piled up in booths with blondes? And who are the people driving across the country to their beach houses? Who is my son, actually, getting ready to fly to the east coast to spend the summer in South Carolina where life is back to whatever normal is in South Carolina? We are still wiping down our groceries before bringing them into the house, rotating through the masks that lie, now, everywhere, making sure that we wash them before putting them on again to step into the dystopian world outside. We're looking at a fall with school still virtual, with even colleges and universities heading toward 2021 that way, even as other states are opening up their gyms and planning for football. Black men, women and children are gunned down doing normal things while being black even as men with submachine guns strapped to their bodies (and their adoring women because let's not leave out the women) protest for their freedoms in public places. Their idle white faces.
I'm confused, so confused.
Children are beginning to die in New York and New Jersey from a rare neurological/immunological disease related to Covid-19, but there are legions more protesting against their tyrannical government, peddling conspiracy theories and refusing to wear masks in the name of freedom. We've got Dear Leader spinning spinning spinning his lies and venom, health insurance companies diving back into states that they'd pulled out of one year ago, piling up record profits to reward their shareholders and executives, while the disability community faces the spectre of cuts in services, the usual sacrificial lambs at the altar of mammon.
We are divided, disunited.
We were encouraged to go outside and look up into the skies today as military jets flew through in a show of aerial support for healthcare nurses. Thunderbirds. Blue Angels. Who are the people that thrill to this kind of thing? I do not understand them, but I know nothing. I am confused. I put on my mask and go for a walk, my lips tight underneath, my glasses steaming up. Don't touch your face.
America is exhausting and terrible.
Sunday, May 10, 2020
I know it's Mother's Day and all, but frankly, who cares? I spent much of the day weeping on and off, and don't ask why because it's all blurry, the why. These are strange times, and I'm going with the flow of strange. Today was also Oliver 's -- the Big O's -- Ollie's -- the wunderkid's-- nineteenth birthday. We celebrated yesterday. I made a traditional cheesecake with strawberries on top, and Oliver invited some friends over to social distance celebrate. Masks were worn. Oliver was born a few months before 9/11 and now this. Life is weird.
A few of Oliver's friends went to PRESCHOOL WITH HIM. I'd put their pictures up here, but they'd probably kill me. It makes me so happy that they've known one another all their lives.
Happy Birthday, Oliver. I love you so much, baby.
(Oliver is NOT this tall -- I am standing on a stair below him. BUT -- I am morphing into my Italian grandmother.)
Here are some posts about Oliver over the years:
Friday, May 8, 2020
I've been ordering fresh produce from a local cooperative, and yesterday's delivery was a bonanza of greens and lettuces, radish and baby broccoli, a scattering of herbs and lemons, a grapefruit, some blueberries and onions and a couple of tiny worms. The rendering -- the washing the drying the organizing the storing -- of all this fresh produce gets my tiny little mother mind™ thinking about convenience and waste and the myriad depressing ways a lot of us live, saying we're too busy or can't be bothered or whatever. Whatever. I'm no farmer girl, no rural girl, no grower of my own vegetables nor do I have any desire to do any of that. What I do love is fresh food, recipes and cookbooks and puttering around in my kitchen doing domestic things. I also like fancy things -- half and half in a glass bottle, tiny little jars of pot de creme from France, a weird Italian green that tasted salty like the ocean or what I imagine a cactus (it looked like one). I don't have much to say other than I've been depressed in a way that I can't remember being depressed and I'm very much aware of the luxury in that statement and the unoriginality in the condition. I'm angry, too, but I'm made of anger in no small part and as the gray takes over my hair I will try to be as exuberant as unapologetic because it's all about letting go letting god letting.
as much as i try to be an easygoing, stretch your wings and fly type... i just can't stop trying to burst people into flames
a card that a beloved sent me
People I'm Currently Trying to Burst Into Flames In No Particular Order, Except for the First Three:
Men with submachine guns
Men who assault women
Men who kill black people
Men who shoot children
Men who beat up women
Men who make stupid jokes
Men who harass women
Men who are religious zealots
Men who date girls
Men who refuse to apologize
Men who can't get their shit together
Feel free to add to the list.
Saturday, May 2, 2020
I can't do it anymore.
I can't do it anymore.
Where are you?
I don't know. Anywhere.
You should pull over.
I can't do it anymore.
It's too much.
It's too much for all of us.
Yeah, it's always been too much.
The yeah yeah yeahs.
How's Sophie, he texts.
A nasty toxic red tide we see during the day on the beach in southern California turns into a glowing blue -- what? Phosphorescence. Some people call it magical. I'm transfixed less by the blue emanating from dolphins and water in moonlight than the transformation itself. The smell of decay masked by light. It doesn't seem possible so I guess, magic.
How's Sophie, he texts.
She's running a fever. No other symptoms. I will talk to the doctor tomorrow.
People on cell phones bore me. The people I can't see and the people I can see. The head low like a horse without the velvet nose. I'd like to see some teeth, the huge yellow ones biting an apple.
Red tide. Decay. Stink.
Phosphorescence is light emitted after exposure to radiation.
It's produced by something that doesn't flame or heat.
(BTW, Sophie had a fever last week for three days with no other symptoms. She also stopped having seizures which is always the case for her. I wondered if she had The Virus. I wondered whether she'd die, but I wonder (this) (whether she'll die) every single day. The parenthetical. My powers of dissociation are strong. I had my first tele-health meeting with The New Physician. She took up 1/2 of the rectangle that is my phone screen. She wore a white lab coat and stood in front of an examining table with a blood pressure machine on the wall behind her. I wondered if it were a backdrop, one of those screens you can put up behind you while you Zoom. My students do that. One of them has the Tiger King guy behind him, the stripes playing light across his face. Wavy. We're reading The Crucible. The student can't believe I refuse to watch Tiger King. Why not? he asks. Why? I say. What's a crucible? he asks. A container that holds high temperatures, metals melting. The doctor says, I wouldn't test her because it's so uncomfortable. I imagine driving in a line of cars into Dodger Stadium with Sophie in the back of the car in her wheelchair. Would someone open the door and have to swab her? I read somewhere the nasal swab felt like it touched my brain.
How's Sophie, he texts.
Fine. (I am, too.)
I'm outside today picking mint from the garden. I rip it up take a huge bunch inside and wash it in the sink. The apple tree has blossoms and every succulent has a bloom. The sky is blue and a velvet hummingbird sideswipes my nose, I hear it coming. Hear it here.
Sunday, April 26, 2020
Here's a poem:
Most of us hungry at daybreak, sleepy by dark.
Some slept, one eye open, in water.
Some could trot.
Some of us lived till morning. Some did not.
Jane Hirshfield, Ledger
Support independent bookstores: buy here.
Friday, April 24, 2020
|The Map of Hell from Dante's Divine Comedy,|
illustrated by Sandro Botticelli, 1485
Non avere paura; il nostro destino non può essere tolto da noi; è un regalo.
I nove gironi dell'inferno sei
Because your question searches for deep meaning, I shall explain in simple words. (Dante)
And then I see the disinfectant where it knocks it out in a minute. One minute. And is there a way we can do something like that, by injection inside or almost a cleansing? (Trump)
The Levels of American Stupidity are
the marketers and admen who must jump in to clarify for the followers (Don't drink bleach - Burger King tweet)
the lawyers who must be consulted
the people in Power who support dear Leader
I was asking a question sarcastically to reporters like you, just to see what would happen. (Trump)
Do not be afraid; our fate cannot be taken from us; it is a gift.
50,000 people have died in the United States, most alone without loved ones.
Wednesday, April 22, 2020
|Huntington Beach, CA|
In fact, it comes to this: nobody is capable of really thinking about anyone, even in the worst calamity. For really to think about someone means thinking about that person every minute of the day, without letting one’s thoughts be diverted by anything- by meals, by a fly that settles on one’s cheek, by household duties, or by a sudden itch somewhere. But there are always flies and itches. That’s why life is difficult to live.”
Albert Camus, The Plague
It's a privilege to be able to stay inside, quarantined, with enough food and supplies for weeks, a virtual job, a pretty backyard and neighborhood in which to walk and a pile of masks that an industrious friend has given me. Not once have I thought my rights and freedom have been infringed upon, and this, too, is a privilege. My heart goes out toward those who are truly suffering from the virus, from economic hardship, from uncertainty and fear about the future. Most of all, though, it's a privilege to do something for others, to have the capacity to quell panic and anxiety in myself and in others, to know that what I am doing is actually something. It's a privilege to meditate, to laugh at silly cartoons, to bake a chocolate cake for a beloved friend's birthday and to bring it to her doorstep, to stand outside her house with other beloveds, at a "safe" distance from one another and to sing her birth. It's a privilege to coach my son through a new dinner recipe that he's trying by himself, thousands of miles away, to see his beautiful face. It's a privilege to follow the counsel of those wiser and more knowledgeable and experienced than myself, and it's a privilege to be openly derisive and contemptuous toward the leader of this country and the idiots that support him.
I had to write all those things to quell my anger and make sense of my contempt. I would like to be positive or not too angry or even optimistic, but I am not. I am angry and feel contempt toward the zeitgeist of this country and the insatiable greed of the powerful. The inadequacies and injustices that have always been present laid bare and yet, and yet. Still. Always the transactional. I am not optimistic and don't believe optimism is a virtue which means I am not a good American. I don't know what I am, actually, but it's not about me, and that, too, is a privilege. I wish for a sea change, or as the great Seamus Heaney said... On the far side of revenge. Believe that further shore. Is reachable from here. Believe in miracles. And cures and healing wells.
The evil in the world comes almost always from ignorance, and goodwill can cause as much damage as ill-will if it is not enlightened. People are more often good than bad, though in fact that is not the question. But they are more or less ignorant and this is what one calls vice or virtue, the most appalling vice being the ignorance that thinks it knows everything and which consequently authorizes itself to kill. The murderer's soul is blind, and there is no true goodness or fine love without the greatest possible degree of clear-sightedness.
Albert Camus, The Plague
I appreciate the sentiments expressed here, written by a New Yorker and posted on Facebook:
Y’all realize that people in NYC have been holed up in tiny ass apartments the size of your car garage for twice as long as you guys have? They don’t have any beaches and most of them don’t know what a “porch” is. Restaurants being shut down means most of them have to cook in kitchens that are built for instant ramen at best. Almost nobody has a car so they can’t hoard toilet paper like you fuckers or escape to a nearby town to take a walk in a park by a lake.
Yet they’re all making silly videos on FB, shouting thanks to healthcare workers at 7pm every day while you motherfuckers block the paths to hospitals, and they’re coming together like a community to defeat this thing despite going through hell. You know why?
Cuz you guys are a bunch of fucking pussies. You snowflake ass Motherfucking pieces of shit need to whine about your rights getting trampled on cuz the government is telling you what to do with your bodies?! Seriously. Fucking puke in my mouth. And all those guns and ammo vests n shit? Who the fuck are you gonna shoot? The virus?! Doctors?! Put the fucking guns away, you psychopathic, insecure, ass hats. Go the fuck inside and stay there and stop fucking protesting.
It's really, really not funny.
Sunday, April 19, 2020
I read this today from Louise Erdrich's new novel The Night Watchman:
And Patrice thought another thing her mother said was definitely true -- you never really knew a man until you told him you didn't love him. That's when his true ugliness, submerged to charm you, might surface.
On Friday night I joined a virtual silent reading that I heard about from my beloved friend, poet Heather McHugh. The thing originated at a hotel somewhere in Seattle and was a yearly affair where you basically showed up, I think, at the hotel bar, alone with a book. And then that was it. You sat at the bar or in the bar at the little tables and just read your book. Alone. For two hours. While a man played the piano. You could drink and eat little plates of food, but mostly you read and looked up and around at the other solo people reading and what they were reading. And then back down at your own book. So, this year given The Pandemic, the Silent Reading was virtual. I signed up, paid a small donation and joined the Zoom thing at 6:00 on Friday night with nearly 300 people. Reader, this is the kind of thing that makes me truly and perfectly happy. It's the ultimate reading dream. I made myself a plate of sheep's milk cheese, crackers, soppressata, french fries, olives and a glass of wine. I read The Night Watchman and I read from Sharon Olds' new collection titled Arias. I peered at the tiny thumbnail portraits of all the people sitting in their homes reading. I lay my head back on my chair and closed my eyes and listened to the piano music that poured out of this guy for the entire two hours. I saw Heather's smiling face in early evening light and the book she was reading, something by Borges and once again felt overwhelmed by her beauty and what she's brought to my life since I've met her. Understanding. Humor. Caregiving. Poetry. She's got a fabulous new website/podcast thing going in anticipation of her new book of poems, Muddy Matterhorn. Check out her sound files here.
What else? I guess the usual -- vacillating between a strange ennui and ridiculous industriousness. Noticing everything that is ugly and stupid and false about our country in particular and so not anything like or ever has been shining on a hill even as the oak hydrangea flowers chartreuse, the acacia tree leafs out, the succulents thrust their onanistic blooms three feet in the air overnight and the hummingbirds clash with one another in irritation or ecstasy who knows but the bees are profuse and there's a Coopers hawk nesting in my neighbor's tree, the Orthodox family next door has five laughing screaming children and the Los Angeles sky is empty of planes. A loved one misunderstands who I am or confirms again that I am not known, digs around in an old place only just barely buried under dark dark earth. I worry for my sons, vacillating like me between ennui what's the point, confusion, and the delight of new recipes (a lemon-parmesan emulsion for pasta!) Their dark brown eyes. I imagine how the world might use two incredibly beautiful men with hearts as big as the sky. I dream of firemen not doctors.
Friday, April 17, 2020
Wednesday, April 15, 2020
Do you know the art of erasure? I don't mean the art of disappearing or being invisible or making something or someone invisible, although that'd be awesome. I'm talking about taking a piece of writing -- a newspaper, the back of a cereal box, a page in a magazine, an advertisement -- and whiting out random words to create a poem. You should try it, especially if you're tired of or hate doing jigsaw puzzles. I hate doing jigsaw puzzles, and I'm busy enough teaching and taking care of my family, but I do love the art of erasure. Let's all do it and report back tomorrow with your creations.
I told Mary Moon that I feel anger and depression in equal measure but what rules me is dissociation and its close cousin, anesthetized cheerfulness, because what better coping mechanism do we have than the ability to let go and smile? I've perfected the art of dissociation after watching tens of thousands of grand mal seizures over the last quarter of a century. I'm not talking mindfulness here, although it has a place right alongside the dissociation. I believe both are distant cousins of the stick your fingers in your ears and hum method. Now that I'm thinking about it, though, I'm never cheerful. Optimistic, yes, but I can't stand cheerfulness. I really can't stand a Pollyanna. I prefer the darkly humorous and bitter people of the world who still manage to be incredibly kind. For instance, I'd rather be dying alongside someone who is sweet with a gallows sense of humor and dark view of mankind than someone who is sweet but claims to be a Pollyanna.
Who the hell is Pollyanna? I really, really, really can't stand the Pollyannas of the Pandemic. So much better to say, What the fuck? at the absurdity of waiting in line at the Costco for your giant jars of mayo than I actually LOVE the solitude and am enjoying making elaborate food for myself and then watching a corny chick flick! The queen of WTFs is my friend Sandra who has been posting her WTF lists on her Facebook page, recounting life in the Pandemic with a severely disabled kid. The thing is after the hilarity and dark humor of that, she tells us something for which she feels gratitude, and that gratitude is all the more beautiful for its WTF frame. She wrote come amazing commentary today about what it's like caring for a child with complex medical needs during the Pandemic. Turns out it's not that different than caring for him during typical times, something that we've been sort of Cassandraing about for decades. Read it here.
I don't know what I'm talking about anymore. I thought I might have caught the Covid on Sunday. I just felt OFF. Evidently, I don't have it, though, at least not yet, because I felt better on Monday and Tuesday after dosing myself up with elderberry syrup, Yin Chao and prayer. Just kidding on the prayer. I lay in bed for hours in the darkest hours before dawn making elaborate plans for when I got sick. I won't regale you with these as it'd be about as interesting as me recounting a dream. I did a lot of mindful panicking in my tiny little mother mind™ before I conceded to the powers of the earlier-mentioned dissociation and concluded the whole session with a dark nod toward imminent death and the cessation of present troubles. Last night I woke in the middle of the night with the most intense headache I think I've ever had. I stumbled to the bathroom and shook out two Advil (even though my mind balked because I've heard that Tylenol is better than Advil for the Covid) in the dark and then stumbled back to my bed where I lay for hours, wondering whether this was a precursor to Covid or a stroke, but I eventually fell asleep and woke embarrassed in the light at my earlier histrionics.
Reader, what's up with you? If you're wondering, that photo is Oliver multi-tasking. He went to CVS to get Sophie's medications while attending "class."
Saturday, April 11, 2020
It rained for days here in southern California. Tomorrow it's Easter, the day that our POSPOTUS predicted would be a fine day for all of us to pack the churches. My aim is to not come right out and condemn/blame/call out but to note things, observe things, state the facts, ma'am. The facts include nights of very weird dreams, including one the other night with James Dickey characters, the threat of death in the back-seat of a truck, joints passed around and me smoking for the first time in thirty-five years to avoid whatever torture was coming my way and then the cab of a school-bus moving in slow-motion right into the truck with me. What the hell?
Reader, have you been cooking a lot? If so, what? Last night I made roasted chicken thighs and carrots. They were seasoned with Za'atar, lemon, salt, pepper and olive oil and when still hot dumped on a bed of greens. So, so good. I think the recipe was from the New York Times food section, something that I'm a tad obsessed with --
Reader, have you been reading? I just finished Lily King's new novel Lovers and Writers and am now reading Louise Erdrich's The Night Watchman. I also read Glennon Doyle's Untamed and will read Gabriel Garcia Marquez' Of Love and Other Demons that I think I read back in the last century, but I can't be sure. In other book news, I've started a project of cataloguing my books. My sons are horrified, but it feels to me as if it's the closest I'll ever come to being a librarian, and that's one of my main regrets (along with not learning to surf and vaccinating Sophie with five vaccines when she was two months old). The Bird Photographer made me an Excel sheet with categories: Classics, Fiction, Non-Fiction General, Poetry, Memoir, Biography, Art and Cooking. Also Location: Bedroom, Dining Room, Living Room, Hallway, Bathroom, Kitchen. I read an interview with Fran Leibovitz last night who was described as living in a NYC apartment with 11,000 books. This thrilled me. I've also been slowly catching up on articles in "The New Yorker" and highly recommend the issue about the pandemic, especially a strangely comforting one written by a guy who was quarantined with his family in China during theirs. I'm finished with spring break this weekend and begin teaching online again next week. I am so grateful to have a job right now. So, so grateful.
It's a weird, weird time, and I find myself only able to watch two episodes of any given series on the TV in any given day. I did watch all of "Unorthodox" which, of course, reminded me of my days teaching at the religious school. I feel rising bile in my throat at all organized religion, though, and I have to calm myself down even when I see it/god invoked for people dying. Prayer works, they say, or I will pray for you, him, her, and here comes the acid. I am old enough to know I must observe this impulse toward hatred/disgust/contempt as being more about me. Why does any mention of religion right now bother me so much, make me feel so angry? I think I have enough Catholic in me -- however shredded -- to feel guilt and even shame that I just don't believe and then there's just plain, old-fashioned longing.
It's weird how when you're wearing a mask and smile at someone walking toward you, you don't know if they know you're smiling, but Oliver and I experimented and realized that our eyes smiled and that we could just tell.
Speaking of The Bird Photographer (earlier), I want to tell you a little story that he told me the other day. He was walking down in Santa Ana at a beautiful point that overlooks the Pacific, a place where falcons nest and fox kits frolic (I'm not kidding), and everyone at this point is wearing masks and social distancing and so on, but as he was walking, a woman walked by him yakking on her phone, and she said, Well, it's because The Blacks don't ever go to the doctor, and he said that he couldn't believe he'd just heard that but he knew he wouldn't/couldn't say anything because it wouldn't have been good. A black man can't berate a white woman. I said, If I'd been there, I would have picked up the closest rock and sharpened my tongue and then just lit into her.
Also, read this.
Here's a poem:
I used to pretend to believe in God. Mainly, I liked so much to talk to someone in the dark. Think of how far a voice must have to travel to go beyond the universe. How powerful that voice must be to get there. Once in a small chapel in Chimayo, New Mexico, I knelt in the dirt because I thought that’s what you were supposed to do. That was before I learned to harness that upward motion inside me, before I nested my head in the blood of my body. There was a sign and it said, This earth is blessed. Do not play in it. But I swear I will play on this blessed earth until I die. I relied on a Miracle Fish, once, in New York City, to tell me my fortune. That was before I knew it was my body’s water that moved it, that the massive ocean inside me was what made the fish swim.
Ada Limón (2015)
Wednesday, April 8, 2020
We are all bereft, gutted, filled with sorrow. Charlotte Figi, the daughter of Paige Figi, died yesterday of probable complications related to Covid-19. Charlotte was patient zero in the cannabis revolution, and Paige a mother, a friend, a mentor, a revolutionary, a life-saver and inspiration. All of our lives -- all of your lives -- has been changed by this young girl and her mother. That Charlotte should die of this cruel virus that seems to be just picking people off is bewildering and even surreal. In the epilepsy community, Charlotte's death is particularly tragic as so many of our hopes and dreams and certainly our gratitude and love is wrapped up in this child's soulful eyes and sweet smile. She is our child, too, and I think I speak for many when I say thank you to Paige and Greg and Matt and Max and Chase for sharing Charlotte with us.
Molta forza e coraggio to Charlotte's brave family. We will never forget your girl, the garden you planted, and the flowers that bloomed from it. We love you and hold you with our community -- Charlotte's web that you so beautifully spun and whose strands are stronger than loss and grief because they are made of love.