Friday, June 30, 2017

What Arundhati Roy Gave Me Last Night

I took an UberX last night down to the Aratani theater in Japantown to hear Arundhati Roy, the great Indian novelist. The driver was of indeterminate ethnicity and drove an immaculate Lexus sedan. I tend toward chatty, and he obliged by telling me that driving was his second job, his first being something to do with transferring people from health insurance to Medicaid or whatever whatever whatever.  He began mansplaining about the whole shebang so I jumped in with my own tiny little mother mind™ and explained the tiniest bit about Sophie and then he shut up and then I said a single payer plan was the only way to go and he shook his head and said it'd hurt a whole lot of people and then I asked why and he told me the story of his sister-in-law who came to this country from a very poor country and overstayed her visa and had a baby with a man and used Medi-Cal to pay for diapers and formula even though she's illegal and he and his wife both work hard and this is the problem because there are thousands if not millions of people doing what his sister is doing while he and his wife are doing the right thing. He said people like her should not have babies. So I asked, Why don't you offer to pay for your sister-in-law's diapers and formulas, then? And he said nothing. To be fair, he agreed that the pharmaceutical companies and insurance companies are a big racket, and I agreed that people shouldn't work the system and should take responsibility for their actions. We compromised on the need for everyone to do the right thing, but when I climbed out of the Lexus at my destination, I walked through the plaza straight to a little bar set up and ordered myself a cold dark beer and drank it, fast, along with a $2 taco from a kosher taco truck. Then I waited in line with my copy of Arundhati Roy's new novel and filed into the theater and sat in my second row center seat and had my tiny little mother mind™ blown.

It seemed fitting that Roy was framed on stage by a photo of Patti Smith, her arms reaching up toward the heavens. I imagined that Roy had descended from them to grace us, such was her luminosity for the next hour and a half. She talked with Hector Tobar about art and literature and the history of India, of Pakistan and Kashmir. She told us of the atrocities happening there, that the Kashmir has the highest military occupation of any country in the world, that you can't really write about the atrocities as reportage but that fiction is the only, the best way to write about them because you will write about everything, all angles, all human experience through fiction. Fiction is a prayer and an offering, she said at one point, and we all might have swooned. Her voice, her laugh, her gentleness and steel. She told us that she is returning to India this weekend to appear in court. Every few years or so, she is sued by five male lawyers over something or other, for daring to speak, to write, to protest. She has spent time in jail. At the end, a woman in the hijab told her what she meant to her, and her voice broke. I felt tiny, the ride in the Lexus, the driver and his sister-in-law, Medi-Cal, Trumpcare and all the rest peeled away, a transparent skin to shed. Naked.

I'm thinking what sorts of bullshit we are preoccupied with here in these Disunited States of Amerikkka. Bloody, plastic surgery faces, the National Enquirer, talking heads yammering, yammering, yammering with our acquiescence and participation. Our umbrage. I told a friend today that the latest diversion is worse than a soap opera. Stop the madness. It's a vomitorium. Bloody face lift had me howling at the moon, she replied, and I thought yes. Yes because it's so over the top horrible that a person in power would say it and also yes because it's all so tragically stupid. There's a $3.2 million dollar Mega-Mansion behind my bungalow that a family bought so that their 23 year old graduate student kid can live in it while attending USC. They are Korean. I walked by with Sophie yesterday and noticed a black Ferrari in the driveway with dealer plates on it. Just a block away, there's a small tent city growing of homeless people who look familiar to me now because they've been in the neighborhood so long. The giant Lenin statue that sat at the corner was removed the other day as the art gallery that put it there has gone bankrupt. For a couple of days only half of Lenin sat there, and I wondered whether he could house a homeless person. Here's a picture:

But I digress.

I took an Uber home. My driver was African American and drove a Toyota Corolla. As is my wont, I was chatty but he was surly so I let up and we drove through the lit up shitty in silence. When he pulled in front of my house, I said Have a nice night and stay safe and he looked up and said Yeah. Thanks. No one has ever said that to me before.

Normality in our part of the world is a bit like a boiled egg: its humdrum surface conceals at its heart a yolk of egregious violence. It is our constant anxiety about that violence, our memory its past labors and our dread of its future manifestations, that lays down the rules for how a people as complex and as diverse as we are continue to coexist --continue to live together, tolerate each other and, from time to time, murder one another. As long as the center holds, as long as the yolk doesn't run, we'll be fine. In moments of crisis it helps to take the long view.
Arundhati Roy, The Ministry of Utmost Happiness 

** The irony of me buying a ticket to hear a writer and taking Ubers down there and back, drinking a beer and eating a taco and otherwise living this luxurious life in the beginning years of the twenty-first century is not lost on me. Privilege. Just in case you wondered.

Thursday, June 29, 2017

Smashing the Patriarchy, Ongoing

I spent most of the day yesterday in my head, not so much navel-gazing (as is my wont) as pondering the universe or as Oliver said when he was little more than a toddler and had recently watched his sister have a particularly grotesque seizure, WHAT IS THIS ALL ABOUT? WHAT DOES IT ALL MEAN? I wasn't mulling over Sophie, though. I was mulling over the State of the Disunited States. I was trying not to panic about "healthcare reform" and how screwed we are as women, how screwed Sophie is as a disabled person, how screwed we are as a country with the POS Pussy Grabber in Chief.

I was thinking more about the nature of capitalism, of how utterly rotten it is. I was thinking of socialism and how it's not just for Europeans anymore.

I was thinking about the planet, how it's being raped.

This morning's clusterfuck of presidential tweets and the conservatives' "response" to it struck me as near hilarious. It would seem that they are, of a sudden, aghast at how unpresidential  their man is. We don't need to belabor the fact that he was already the designated Pussy Grabber in Chief who had bragged about his own daughter's tits on a radio show not long ago and talked about blood pouring out of the orifices of a woman journalist who had seemingly slighted him during the presidential debates.

The word women apparently doesn't appear even once in the proposed healthcare bill. The word woman appears only in reference to abortion and pregnancy.

The Republicans/conservatives/capitalists are systematically destroying women, children, the disabled and the planet. Oh, and people of color and immigrants.

We are being told to stop whining. When I called the Pussy Grabber in Chief a POS today on a friend's Facebook thread (mea culpa), I was told that I wasn't being helpful. The response in my tiny little mother mind™ was to smash him in the face. That's the language of the patriarchy,  though.

When are we going to have had enough?

We will, I think, fight back with a ferocious love. Or Love.

I'm thinking Mother Nature.








Remember what it was like to give birth to a human being? If you don't, remember what it was like to be born of a mother?

Yes. Like that.

Monday, June 26, 2017


Sophie at school
photographer: Page Jackson

Good Lord, I'm feeling blue. And anxious and agitated and lazy and enervated, all at once. It might be because Sophie is truly done with school, and I haven't properly "mourned" that or reckoned with it or processed it* or whatever other 21st century method there might be to deal or not deal with it.


It might be reading about Trump's "victory" at the Supreme Court this morning. The Muslim Ban thing. It might be all the begging we're doing around the Ass Hole Care Act that's wending its way through the Senate. It might be the gross feeling I have, pretty much all the time, when I think of those people who support the Pussy Grabber in Chief, most of them people in my distant past who were as stupid then as immoral now. Some of them are people that I love, and there's the rub.*

It might be the literal caregiving of Sophie who has a bit of a cold and cough, is drooling excessively, not sleeping so well and helping to generate the kind of ambivalence that I hate admitting to -- that I'm not cut out to keep doing this, day in and day out.

It might be that I just finished a novel that I felt compelled to keep reading even as it made me feel like taking a shower every few paragraphs. It's called Fates and Furies by Lauren Groff. I read so much about it, including the tidbit that Obama loved it. I'll say that it's a very good read, but it's leaving an awful taste in my mouth -- much as Gone Girl did and A Little Life. I actually hated both of those, however "well-written."

I need a novel that will cut me to the quick* and not make me feel all slippery, not make me collude with decadence. I'm tired of the overwrought.

I'm only one week out from an amazing vacation, too, and perhaps that's at the root of my blues -- Canadian blue at the end of my fingertips, soon out of reach entirely.

The view from the seaplane we took from Victoria to Seattle

Sundown in Victoria

Wind-blown in Port Angeles

The Bird Photographer doing his thing in a meadow of daisies

What's up in your neck of the woods?*


Thursday, June 22, 2017

How You Can Save Medicaid (#Itsbeggingtime)

So last night, I stood on the steps of Los Angeles' City Hall with hundreds of people for a rally to support Planned Parenthood and women's health.

This morning, as you know, the Senate Republicans unleashed their vile version of TrumpCare, or the Ass Hole Care Act.

You know how I feel about repealing the Affordable Care Act, and I'm not going to rant about the horrific effects its repeal would have on me, on Sophie, on her father and on her brothers. Suffice it to say that it will be catastrophic.

"The defining feature of the Senate Republican health care bill is that, over the long term, it would absolutely decimate Medicaid—more so even than the House legislation passed last month. And it accomplishes this wrecking job with surprising efficiency, a mere six lines of text in a 142-page document."
from, Here are the six lines of text that could decimate America's biggest healthcare program 

As my friend Jeneva Burroughs Stone wrote so eloquently, "The cost shift here (to us) would be antithetical to the notion of American self-sufficiency and individual independence because the end result would be to bankrupt citizens, such as Roger and myself when our only "crime" against the State is giving birth to a child with disabilities."

That statement holds true to the majority of people whom I know who have children with disabilities. It also holds true for those who are caring for aging relatives or for those with chronic disease. 

You can help, particularly if you live in a state with Republican senators. Please help us.

Here's a script for when you make your calls. 

All information, plus numbers and action items is taken from Indivisible's guide to Stop Trumpcare.


You're doing it for her and millions like her:

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Sweeten my body

San Juan Island, Washington

This is how memory works.

I'm driving to the airport with my teenaged son who is traveling alone across the country. I'm listening to Dire Straits, but it's random because I don't own any Dire Straits, and the hills are brown on either side of me and the sky is stretching out, seeped in haze. I am driving then to a drugstore on the other end of a country road where I live on the top floor of a farmhouse with a boy I love. Loved. Still love. Still loved. Which is it, was it? I climb up stairs to reach my apartment, up the stairs and past the couple studying Derrida, the man and woman who make love so loudly that I and the boy I love wonder what it is because, let's face it, deconstruction. He lies down sometimes, to make me laugh, his ear pressed to the floor, his mouth wide, eyes green.

Years before, a single bed, a scrap of paper left on a pillow, spidery writing: In the Carolinas, the white iris beautifies me. 

Now it's a memory of a memory, but that is how memory works. Dire Straits. A country road. A drugstore. Cough syrup. Coupling. The howling of love.

And this:

In the Carolinas

The lilacs wither in the Carolinas.
Already the butterflies flutter above the cabins.
Already the new-born children interpret love
In the voices of mothers.

Timeless mothers,
How is it that your aspic nipples
For once vent honey?

The pine-tree sweetens my body
The white iris beautifies me.

Wallace Stevens

Monday, June 19, 2017

Dark Rainbow Bliss

I told you in my last post that I had the incredible experience last week of seeing a pod of orcas. I stood up in our small boat and took bunches of photos, but most don't do any justice to these incredible mammals.

I think whales are near-erotic, to tell you the truth. The words strong, glistening, muscular, sinuous, fluke. 

Here's a poem by D.H. Lawrence that a friend sent me:

Whales Weep Not!

They say the sea is cold, but the sea contains
the hottest blood of all, and the wildest, the most urgent.

All the whales in the wider deeps, hot are they, as they urge
on and on, and dive beneath the icebergs.
The right whales, the sperm-whales, the hammer-heads, the killers
there they blow, there they blow, hot wild white breath out of the sea!

And they rock, and they rock, through the sensual ageless ages
on the depths of the seven seas,
and through the salt they reel with drunk delight
and in the tropics tremble they with love
and roll with massive, strong desire, like gods.
Then the great bull lies up against his bride
in the blue deep bed of the sea,
as mountain pressing on mountain, in the zest of life:
and out of the inward roaring of the inner red ocean of whale-blood
the long tip reaches strong, intense, like the maelstrom-tip, and comes to rest
in the clasp and the soft, wild clutch of a she-whale's fathomless body.

And over the bridge of the whale's strong phallus, linking the wonder of whales
the burning archangels under the sea keep passing, back and forth,
keep passing, archangels of bliss
from him to her, from her to him, great Cherubim
that wait on whales in mid-ocean, suspended in the waves of the sea
great heaven of whales in the waters, old hierarchies.

And enormous mother whales lie dreaming suckling their whale-tender young
and dreaming with strange whale eyes wide open in the waters of the beginning and the end.
And bull-whales gather their women and whale-calves in a ring
when danger threatens, on the surface of the ceaseless flood
and range themselves like great fierce Seraphim facing the threat
encircling their huddled monsters of love.
And all this happens in the sea, in the salt
where God is also love, but without words:
and Aphrodite is the wife of whales
most happy, happy she!

and Venus among the fishes skips and is a she-dolphin
she is the gay, delighted porpoise sporting with love and the sea
she is the female tunny-fish, round and happy among the males
and dense with happy blood, dark rainbow bliss in the sea.

Perhaps a tad overwrought, but whew!

Friday, June 16, 2017

A Reverie For Where I've Been

The Mermaid Pool where I swam laps
Victoria, British Columbia

The Poet and Me
photographer: Carl Jackson

My dear friend, the poet Heather McHugh, arranged for Carl and me to stay in Port Angeles, Washington and for a week in Victoria, British Columbia. I don't even know where to begin to describe the fun we had, the sights we saw, and the relaxation I felt over the past eight days. I was here four years ago for a respite week through Heather's Caregifted foundation, and I will say that it was, indeed, that week that literally propelled me toward Hedgebrook the following year, and then the enormous changes in my personal life over the last two and now, this.


There is just NO WAY I could have imagined re-visiting Victoria four years later in such happiness. There is NO WAY any of us know where our lives will lead us. I am convinced, again, that it's as important not to despair when things are shitty as it is to feel grateful when they're good. Nothing is permanent, ever.

I took a lot of photos on my iPhone as well as on the regular camera, and I can't wait to share the fancy ones with you because we went out whale watching one afternoon for more than 3 hours and saw/encountered a big pod of killer whales. That's a religious experience, to tell you the truth. Then again, riding ferries could also count for a religious experience, especially in the Pacific Northwest. We rode merry on the ferry from Bremerton to Victoria, from Sydney to San Juan Island and then back. It was windy and rainy sometimes and about a thousand shades of gray and blue otherwise sun-split skies and the air is filled with melancholy and peace and salt tang and sweetness. Being with The Bird Photographer for so many days was divine.

Jigsaw puzzles on the ferry to San Juan Island!

English Camp, the dreamiest of the dreamy places we visited
San Juan Island, Washington

No words necessary

Lying on my bed and gazing out to the ocean
English Camp
San Juan Island, Washington
The most astonishing color peonies I've ever seen
Butchart Gardens
Victoria, British Columbia

Butchart Gardens

English Camp
San Juan Island

A very windy whale watching trip/Religious Experience
My future home
Victoria, British Columbia

The Bird Photographer, doing his thing

I have oodles of pictures on my fancy camera, especially of killer whales, so as soon as I upload them to the computer, I will share them. Right now, I'm sitting in a tiny airport getting ready to board a seaplane which will take us back to the Seattle airport. I've never flown on a seaplane, but I'm about as relaxed as I've been in many years, so I think it'll be good, and if I crash into the Canadian ocean -- well -- there'd be worse ways to go.

About Canada: I'm sorry to leave. Every person we met was so kind and thoughtful. If politics came up, every person we spoke to was deeply sorry for the bullshit we face in these Disunited States. Every person expressed sympathy and agreed that 45 is horrible, that the changes wrought by him and the Republican congress are abysmal and not a little depressing. It was comforting to have these conversations, sort of the reverse of the gaslighting we've been subject to over the last few months.


How are ya'll? I've missed reading your blogs and getting your comments and will be back soon more regularly.

I miss you.

Monday, June 12, 2017

Your Very Flesh is a Great Poem

Victoria, British Columbia

This is what you shall do: Love the earth and sun and the animals, despise riches, give alms to everyone that asks, stand up for the stupid and crazy, devote your income and labor to others, hate tyrants, argue not concerning God, have patience and indulgence toward the people, take off your hat to nothing known or unknown, or to any man or number of men -- go freely with powerful uneducated persons, and with the young and with the mothers of families -- reexamine all you have been  told in school or church or in any book, and dismiss whatever insults your own soul; and your very flesh shall be a great poem, and have the richest fluency, not only in its words, but in the silent lines of its lips and face, and between the lashes of our eyes, and in every motion and joint of your body.

Walt Whitman, preface to Leaves of Grass

Saturday, June 10, 2017

All Italics Are Da Vinci's Except For That Moon

I say that the blue which is seen in the atmosphere is not its own colour but is caused by warm humidity evaporated in minute and imperceptible atoms on which the solar rays fall rendering them luminous against the immense darkness of the region of fire that forms a covering above them.

Leonardo da Vinci, from Notebooks of Leonardo da Vinci

What happens when everything you see and touch and hear and smell and feel comes to you as in the fulfillment of a dream?

Writing about the kite seems to be my destiny since among the first recollections of my infancy it seemed to me that as I was in my cradle a kite came to me and opened my mouth with its tail and struck me several times with its tail inside my lips. (a dream of Da Vinci's infancy)

The room at the top of the stairs where I learned to rest four years ago, the woman who cared for me like a mother, the courage to send in my writing, the awarding of three weeks in a cottage in the woods in the same part of the world the next year, a great upheaval that led to a bird photographer, an owl, a whale's fluke (like a whirling wind scouring through a sandy and hollow valley which with speeding course drives into its vortex everything that opposes its furious course....), a white bed in the same part of the world four years later and then this: waking at four, always four and a beam of moonlight shining in the only strip of window not covered by curtain. Shining on the blue sea, blue moonlight. I'll get the moon for you, he had said, and he pulled the curtains to there right before love (touch), and then sleep, and waking at four, always four and there it was, and you (I) stood there in a black nightgown bathed in blue.

To me it seems that all sciences are vain and full of errors that are not born of Experience, mother of all certainty, and that are not tested by Experience; that is to say, that do not at their origin, middle or end, pass through any of the five senses. For if we are doubtful about the certainty of things that pass through the senses how much more should we question the many things against which these senses rebel, such as the nature of god and the soul and the like, about which there are endless disputes and controversies.

There's a little blue book by the side of the bed of the woman who cared for me like a mother, a little book of selections from the notebooks of Leonardo da Vinci, and I open it to Flight, to Structure of Birds' Wings, to You will study the anatomy of the wings of a bird together with the muscles of the breast which are the movers of these wings. And you do the same for man in order to show the possibility that there is in man to sustain himself amid the air by the flapping of wings. And what are the chances of this, of reading of birds and whales and blue and flight written in the 16th century?

Impetus is the impression of local movement transmitted from the mover to the movable thing and maintained by the air or by the water as they move in order to prevent the vacuum. (Movement Through Wind and Water)

The body of anything whatsoever that takes nourishment continually dies and is continually renewed; because nourishment can only enter in those places where the preceding nourishment is exhausted, and if it is exhausted it no longer has life. (Life of the Body)

Monday, June 5, 2017

Hitting Jesus

Street Art
Los Angeles

I almost hit Jesus today. Of course at first he came as a Man. I mean -- I didn't know he was Jesus or think he was Jesus. He was a man riding a beat-up bike on La Cienega, and I was driving my car toward a sick friend's house near the airport. I was bringing her a pastrami sandwich and some french fries, planned to stop and get a grape soda. He had long black curly hair and brown skin. He didn't have a shirt on and his pants were dirty and rolled up, but I think that was so they didn't get caught in the spokes. He darted out in front of my car and it seemed purposeful, not like a death wish but more to get my attention. There are days on the streets in Los Angeles where it seems like you narrowly miss death more times than twice (because haven't we all narrowly missed death at least once?), and today was one of those days. You've got to really concentrate when you drive in Los Angeles, but you can also daydream, and it's easy to get complacent when the cars are backed up and you're moving forward by inches. It's a little like going to mass, when you're kneeling and sitting and standing and saying the prayers but you're also thinking about what you're going to eat when you get home or whether you'd rather be the saint that defied everyone and was burned as a witch or the one who carried Jesus' cross on her back up the hill. Escaping death would include nearly killing someone else accidentally as well, because let's face it. Life as you knew it would be over if you accidentally hit someone with your car. I jammed my brakes and looked straight at him, a curse on my lips, but then he looked at me with his dark brown eyes and I knew it was him. Jesus. I'm not religious, you know. I don't even believe in God the Creator. I say I believe in Love, but that sometimes seems forced. As a Catholic child, I was certain that Jesus would come back dressed like a beggar and fool everyone, but I also fantasized about living in an orphanage on cold English moors, so I'm not reliable that way. This all happened in an instant -- the man on the bike, me slamming the brakes, a curse on my lips that was really Jesus! and it was him. A psychic hit, is what I call it. Because why the hell would I have thought the man was Jesus if he wasn't? Isn't that the way he's coming again? Or is he just out there, biking around with no shirt, his pants rolled up to avoid accidents, making eye contact with the needy.

Saturday, June 3, 2017


Somewhere in Durham, NC, 1982

I recently found a bunch of letters from friends and lovers in a box at the back of my closet. I also found a trove of negatives from a documentary photography class I took as a sophomore at UNC in 1982. I'd forgotten about the family that I visited over a period of three months and chronicled and with whom I became friends. I moved away. Still I remember developing them in the darkroom, my hands immersed in the bath, the slippery feel of the paper blooming shadows and light, the hands of the boy I loved mixed up with mine, his mouth.

Saturday morning. Complacencies of the peignoir.

Still. What makes me "happy" is fifteen minutes in bed meditating, then reading about authors I love and their new books, then hearing Sophie in the room down the hall humming again after more than a month of silence. Also, Costa Rican coffee from the man I love who is out there somewhere taking photos of burrowing owls.

Field Guide

Once, in the cool blue middle of a lake,
up to my neck in that most precious dement of all,

I found a pale-gray, curled-upwards pigeon feather
floating on the tension of the water

at the very instant when a dragonfly,
like a blue-green iridescent bobby pin,

hovered over it, then lit, and rested.
That's all.

I mention this in the same way
that I fold the corner of a page

in certain library books,
so that the next reader will know

where to look for the good parts.

Tony Hoagland

Thursday, June 1, 2017

The Old Gray Mare, Part 435,679

It used to be that I pretty much did it all, and then I came on here and told it. It's all I can do these days to get a weekly post out, and even that one is hard going. I'm not sure why to keep on doing it, to tell you the truth. Not it as in all of it, because I'm still sort of doing it all, but the blog itself. I don't have anything funny to say anymore, and I feel as blowsy as those peonies dying on my dining room table. Everything of beauty seems somehow tainted these days, doesn't it? I hate saying that the political climate affects everything, but it kind of does. While I'm as committed as ever to resisting, it takes an inordinate amount of energy to maintain composure, to not feel profoundly depressed, to not want to give up and give in. When you have close relatives whose politics are directly contrary to yours -- well -- it's enervating, to say the least.

The only rant I have energy to make is something like what I posted on Facebook, and I'm perfectly aware of how ridiculous and destructive it is to curse and rant and otherwise refuse to reach across the aisle or extend a compassionate hand or seek to come together with those of differing views. There are times for that, and I just don't think this is one of them. So here's what I have to say:

Another round of FUs to those who voted for 45, didn't vote or voted for a third party.

That's my response to the most recent news that our POSPOTUS pulled out of the Paris Climate accord. I might also have posted, "Way to sever global alliances, 45." I'm thinking our return to Dickensian times of chimney sweeps and ten children families is nigh. 45 really is a POS, but the bigger PsOS are those legislators and citizens that are watching and abetting him.

The old gray mare ain't what she used to be. She curses at least 5,456 times a day now, out loud and in her tiny little mother mind.™

So, here's my rant again:

Another round of FUs to those who voted for 45, didn't vote or voted for a third party.

I doubt there are any 45-supporters out there lurking around and reading this blog, but if there are, FU, too.

Charming, right?

The old gray mare just ain't what she used to be, ain't what she used to be, ain't what she used to be.

On a brighter note, the old gray mare is finally getting some pages together of Ye Olde Booke or what I used to call MGDB.* Sorry for cursing again. The process has been to write the thing for nearly ten years, be awarded a prestigious three-week writing residency on Whidbey Island where it is finished and then spend the next two years dismantling it into a series of fragments.

It's in the fragments that I lie.

*My Goddamn Book


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