Tuesday, September 27, 2005


While Hurricane Rita was gearing up to become a category 4/5 storm, our slumlord warned us that we would probably need to evacuate because our house would blow away in such a storm. This was six days before Rita was slated to hit the Gulf Coast. I went to Target that Tuesday to prepare the evacuation kit. I didn't fare too well, because, well, I am Hurricane-retarded. I guess I'm a hurricane retard because I grew up with earthquakes, which, as far as natural disasters go, have the good manners NOT to announce their impending doom.

Retarded: for example, for twenty minutes, I stood in front of the shelf of unaffordable clock radios, looking for something affordable that would work on regular batteries. I was pissed that there were no regular "transistor"-type radios. What the hell happened to transistor radios? Are they obsolete or something? As I'm picking up one clock radio after another to check what type of battery each one uses, this woman walks up to the shelf and grabs this box that was sitting right there -- a portable transistor type radio. All along I thought that the picture on the box was a video camera, so I hadn't looked at it closely. PISSED! I watched the woman handle the box, turning it over and around to look at the features, and I know she could feel my foaming at the mouth for that radio. I wanted to say, "Um, excuse me but I was here before you were, and, like you, I am looking for a transistor-type radio. And, uh, I saw that box earlier, but I thought it was a video camera, so I didn't pick it up, but now that I see that it's a radio -- the exact kind I've been wanting the whole time, the only reason I even came to Target in the first place -- I think you should let me have it."


Sunday, September 18, 2005

Destiny's Child

When I was in third grade, Sr. Mary Roch allowed us to complete our schoolwork at our own pace. When we were through with the assignments, we could go to the classroom library -- a shelf of mostly religious books underneath the windows. Always, I'd rush through my work to get to the books. Handwriting was the main subject of my early education. And even more than I loved the endless handwriting assignments, I LOVED reading. Any my favorite books were religious stories, tales about gods and saints.

I will not forget the day I plopped down on the purple rug in front of the shelf and filed my finger along the spines of books to choose from. I hit upon an arresting title: Superstition. Knowing that the Catholic religion denounced superstitious beliefs (we'd been told religiously during Religion class that superstitious beliefs were "evil"), when I found the book, a thrill ricocheted through my brain. I opened the book, skimmed the pages. A phrase caught my attention: "Hair Color."

The author of the book classified hair color into three categories: Blonds, Brunettes, and Redheads. It said, and I quote: "Blonds are vivacious, friendly, pretty and talkative; Brunettes are deep thinkers, loyal, and they make good wives; Redheads are witches and should be burned at the stake."

I did not understand cliché, nor was I developmentally ready to understand stereotypes. In third grade, I was still pretty literal; I felt slapped, stabbed, diminished and discovered by this verdict. I hadn't CHOSEN to be a redhead. Why should I have to suffer so?

I wondered, "Does Sr. Mary Roch know this is here?" I shoved the book down the front of my jumper and stole back to my desk, intuiting that if Sr. Mary Roch caught me reading it, she would take it away. I really wanted to see what other truths about the world this book held. I would immerse myself in Superstition at home. I sat back down, picked up my pen and resumed practicing penmanship.

I can remember walking home from school or from Shorty's market, and some of the public school kids would pass me and mutter under their breath, "I'd rather be dead than be red." It happened so many times, I now realize the absurdity of the situation (1970s Orange County, post-communist anti-communist sentiment, weirdly enough) Sometimes an older guy -- a teenager -- would ask me as he passed me, "are you red all over?" which sounds totally evil to a 11 year old.

Believe me, I asked God for a lot of help and a lot of forgiveness for my inherent evil nature. Original Sin is a piece of cake compared to the fate of hair color.

Thursday, September 15, 2005

Learning to Take a Compliment

Many people have told me that my writing is upsetting, not specifically here in this blog, but in general. I take that as a compliment.

Some people have told me I'm a genius: most vociferously, my mom. I take it as a compliment.

Other people have told me that they hate my work, that they have no idea what to make of it, no idea what it's about. I take that as a compliment.

One time, in graduate school, the writer Rosellen Brown told me that an essay of mine about my dad -- called "Weapons" -- was, for her, harder to stomach than a Sam Shepherd play.

I took THAT as a total compliment.

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

Here's a poem I wrote in 2000

Pretty, Soon

Pretty soon if we don’t do the thing
we need to do, the windows (they might shatter)
will implode. And all the lights we would
have lit inside our homes will find the shadows
we’ve become. The falls and rises, things
which flipped our hearts, will fail to thrill
us anymore. The winds that spank wisteria
spores around the driveway -- all will end.
Rain corpuscles and cloud-pimpled skies
will cough up helicopter carnage.
Little boys will suffocate and die.
Women’s flesh might melt from bone;
cunts will crumble. There’s a girl named Thursday
downstairs. Her boyfriend lives with her (a whore
the neighbors say, siren, femme fatal).
Hell has a special ring for her, we’ve heard.
Lucky girl. I wonder if she knows
the thing we need to do. Pretty soon
if we don’t do it, they might turn us in
to law-abiding citizens. Why
do they abide? And who are they, besides?
Might they be those whose dumb philosophies
despise the chaos that’s erupting here?
What is there to fear? Every thing
is everything. There is nothing so dear
it can’t be rent and made more beautiful
than it was when it first began. All
my little pretty ones, and ugly ones,
too, take off your shoes and socks, your shirt,
your pants, your underwear. Take off your skin
and peel the sinew from your bones. Go back
to being less than everything you have
become. It must be done. You’ll see.

Damn Bitch

Grace Hemingway disapproved of her brother's foul language. Her brother liked to use foul language to suggest his toughness. But, really, he wasn't that tough. Anyone who's read enough of him, especially the short stories, knows that Hemingway was soft, actually. He ached for sincerity, for passion, for care, motherly care. I know men like this, and they're usually deeply talented. It's as if the art is an effigy for the loss of their boyhood, when they were the center of their mother’s world, the recipient of her sincerity, her passion, her particular kind of motherly care. Sometimes the making of art equals the desperate pursuit of unconditional love.

"Mr. Hemingway," asked the young writer, "what is the key to becoming a writer?"

"An unhappy childhood," replied Mr. Hemingway.

There are stories that Hemingway's mom dressed him up as a girl when he was a young boy.

As Dorothy Parker noted: "He was a woman, masquerading in men's clothes."

Some people hold the attitude that Hemingway was somehow an asshole. He wasn't really. But there's no doubt that he was a total bitch.

Tuesday, September 13, 2005


My mom and her husband are returning this very moment from their vacation in Germany. They're flying in the air above me, on their way to California. They were in Bavaria for two weeks, at a miliary resort near Garmish. My step-father, The Colonel (which is all my siblings and I have ever called him, and with much love), was stationed in Germany in an earlier life, and he loves the area around Garmish. I have never been to Garmish, but I sure do enjoy saying the name: Garmish. Gaaaaarmish.

I have only been to Germany once, a Frankfurt airport stopover on the way to Barcelona.

"So this resort," my mom says, "it has a spa, three restaurants, entertainment centers...."

"Sounds pretty nice. Could David and I stay there sometime?" We're not military, but I wonder if it's like USAA auto and property insurance, which is the BEST, meaning anyone connected to the military in any familial way can benefit from the perk of a military resort. The price is what makes it so desirable: $75.00 or less a night. David and I were in Europe last October (David photographed a wedding on Mallorca, and I was his assitant! Clara was there, too, in utero), and it was freaking expensive! We paid $75 a night for a run down, but uber cool and well-located -- corner of Ave Diagonal and Paseo de Gracia -- two star hotel in Barcelona. That was cheap, too. So a resort, well that sounds pretty swanky for the price. Although, it could turn out like the "five star" Texas Hill Country resort where David and I spent our Honeymoon, which shall remain nameless because it was a wedding gift. The one restaurant only served a bowl of demi glaze with some type of meat in it for dinner, and for breakfast they served cold, reconstituted eggs. We had to leave the resort by the third day to find something to eat. We were starving.

Plus, "military resort" isn't an oxymoron, but it's close. Sounds like a little slice of hell, doesn't it?

But then you don't know the Colonel, my mom's husband, who is probably one of kindest men I've ever known. He's also full of great stories (about the military), treats my mom like a queen, and tolerates her crazy children. More than tolerates -- cherishes.

My mother likes the military men. My dad was a military man, too, and like the Colonel, he went to West Point Academy, too. However, my dad defines himself as a West Point Grad, and this fact means everything to him, maybe even more than his children. Just Kidding.


My point here is that the military, besides using our tax dollars to subsidize the lives of the people who join it, besides serving the purpose to train people to kill other people, is full of wonderful folk. Like the Colonel. And, okay, like my dad, too.

"I don't know. Maybe you could stay there," says my mom. Her tone means exactly what she says, which is her normal tone of voice, in general: Sincere.

I love that about my mom.


I've just coined a new word: to clink. To clink is to "click the link," as in clink the title of this blog post to see photos of Clara on her summer vacation. The first photo features Clara just moments after Lou let fly the pee onto her ankle.

Sunday, September 11, 2005

Naked Time

I remember hearing somewhere that it's necessary for babies to have naked time every day. It allows their skin to breathe, which is important, it being their biggest organ. Ours, too, for that matter.

Baby skin is so sensitive, and its regenerative power amazes me. Whenever Clara lightly scratches herself (because no matter how hard I try, keeping her nails short is a Sisyphean task), her skin repairs itself, flawlessly, in less than 24 hours. For a deeper scratch, it might take the cut as long as 80 hours to heal. Still, her SKIN! O.M.G. Gorgeous.

Naked time is a concept my sister-in-law, Celine, reveres. It was she who reminded me of the importance of naked time while we were visiting at my mom's house in Southern California.

David and I were aimlessly wandering around my mom's house, normally bored, as all parents vacationing with a new child for the first time are bored -- occupational hazard. It was around 3:30 p.m., the devil hour, and, of course, we could not figure out WHAT to do. I looked through the sliding glass door, into the back yard and saw Celine and a naked three month old Lou playing on a blanket under a tree. The sky was blue; the grass was warm; the shade was cool.

At the sight of them, I perked up. "Let's go play with Celine and Lou!" I said.

David, Clara and I tromped across my mom's back yard lawn, the ocean breeze caressing (I swear) our arm hairs. "Can we join you?" David asked Celine.

"You have no choice," I said, plopping Clara down on the blanket beside Lou. I took off her clothes and set her on the quilt a couple feet from her cousin.

Celine and Lou might have been bonding, but they were gonna have to do it with me, David and Clara, too. This is exactly the attitude that David would call my clueless one. Like maybe Celine wanted to be alone with Lou? I assumed she didn't want to be alone, which is what David might call my teacher attitude.

Anyway, we had a great time, the five of us. Clara and Lou sunbathed in the So Cal sun/shade, in their birthday skins. They looked as adorable as two naked babies on a heirloom quilt can look. Believe me, the look is the epitome of adorable.

Lou peed, and it got on Clara's leg. Celine wiped it off with a blue baby washcloth and Evian. Adorable. A memory for family gatherings in the future. Love it or leave it: That's family. My family -- we're of the loving-it/hating-it genre. It's an awesome mix -- the love/hate duo. Simultaneously those two feelings. Feels better than drugs.

Lately, I've been giving Clara naked time in her crib. She loves it and always chooses that time to let fly the pee. I don't think it hurts anything, really. But today David said, "You mean you've been letting her pee all over her mattress?"

"Yeah," I said, "but it's okay. There's a mattress pad waterproof underneath and the mattress underneath it that is plastic." Even I hardly understood what I'd just said. "Plus it's baby pee," I continued. "Baby pee's so pure you can drink it."

I guess I convinced him because the conversation went no further.

I've never actually tried baby pee, but I've contemplated it. And, I only let her pee in the crib three times before I make sure to remove the sheet and wash it. Oh yeah, and she doesn't actually sleep in her crib; she only plays in it. She sleeps in the king size bed with us...or in her swing. She's gonna grow out of this swing, soon, and I need to break her of the habit anyway. I'm sure that the swing has a narcotic effect on her. CAN'T HAVE THAT, now can we? No narcotic effects! VERY, VERY BAAAAAAAD.

Anyhooo. Soon we're gonna have to use the crib for sleeping. At that point, I will make sure that Clara has taken care of business BEFORE naked time in the crib rolls around.

Friday, September 09, 2005

Queen of the Swallows

In eighth grade, I was voted Queen of the Swallows.

Queen of the Swallows meant that on Swallows' Day, the biggest annual event in my hometown, San Juan Capistrano, I got to dress up in a long white dress, don a red velvet cape with a faux ermine collar, and more importantly, wear a CROWN. I presided with Luis Aguilar -- the King -- over the festival celebrating the return of these small birds with the wedged tail to their North American home. Every year on March 19, the swallows came back to Capistrano from Argentina, where they wintered.

And Capistrano partied: had town barbeques, parades and communal drunk-ins.

March 19 is also St. Joseph's Day, a big feast day for Mexican American Catholics. On this day, the Mission courtyard was decked out with a platform stage in the center of the rose garden. The Old Mission School children performed a variety of folkloric dances for the locals and tourists, from rhythmic Juaneno Indian stomps to colorful twirls around a Mexican sombrero. Locals gathered around the stage, as an Irish community might around a boxing ring, gawking at the children earnestly dancing in celebration for these mudhut feathered twerps. And for St. Joseph. And for the public -- tourists from Nebraska Idaho Wisconsin Argentina Australia Germany, etc.

In my day, all the spectators had to stand; but the Queen and King of the Swallows got to sit at the top of the only bleachers in the courtyard. No heads blocked our view. Best seats in the house, as it were. And the spectacle lasted three hours. Fucking Royalty! It was awesome.

All my life, I'd dreamed of this moment. I'd spent the previous 8 years of my K-8 Catholic education longing to sit at the top of the bleachers wearing the crown and the red velvet cape. I didn't dream it was Mario Gonzalez next to me, though. Mario  lived in the section of Mission Flats that smelled like lard and beans. The streets in Mission Flats smelled that way; the houses in Mission Flats smelled that way, and all the Mexican kids from Mission Flats smelled that way. However, the way they smelled was better than the way WE smelled -- my brothers I. We smelled like shit, literally. Given my family's affinity for flatulence, this should be no surprise. It seemed like everyday I'd have to fluffdry my red plaid polyester uniform jumper in the dryer just to TRY and rid it of stale farts fumes, pre-pubescent sweat, and whatever lunch detritus had dribbled over it at the picnic tables that day.

To console myself, I'd spend evenings fantasizing that I was the most popular girl in the world, as popular as Dee Dee Mechmachen. Dee Dee was blond, tan, nice, and she wore black horn rimmed glasses, and blinding braces in her mouth. When I was in second grade and she was in eighth grade, she was the Queen of the Swallows. I tried to emulate her look -- first by crossing my eyes for 10 minutes every night so that I'd have to get glasses, and then by creating my very own homemade set of braces.

I fashioned my braces from the wires inside the "twisty" of an Alligator plastic sandwich baggie. Each morning in Sr. Grace's second grade classroom, I'd reach into my desk, pull out my lunch, undo the twisty on the sandwich baggie, and proceed to denude it, pulling all that gummy paper off until only a thin, flimsy wire was left. I'd wrap the wire around my two front teeth so that it stayed there. Then I'd turn around and show my best friend Mary Young my "braces."

"Those aren't braces, stupid," she'd say (honestly, I did this more than once, and IN EARNEST.)

"Yes," I said, "they are. They're a new kind of special braces. I have an overbite."

Dee Dee had an overbite, whatever that was.

As stupid as I might have been, Mary still loved me -- loved me so much, she'd grab my arm and interlock it with hers, pulling me all over the playground during recess and lunch. I felt guilty when, at about the time I felt I might throw up, I would have to yell: "Mary: Let. Go. Of. Me!" I wanted to go play kickball or butts up with the boys, and she just wanted to gallivant around and CHAT.

Kickball and Butts Up were where I'd find Robby Mitchell. Robby Mitchell Robby Mitchell Robby Mitchell. Robby Mitchell.

Robby Mitchell was the third son of Maureen Mitchell, my mom's dearest friend. Robby and I had grown up together -- we were in cribs together, so say our moms. The intimacy we shared as a result of spending so much time together was palpable to me even at the tender age of 5. There was an erotic energy between us, I swear. One time in his bedroom at La Casitas we handcuffed ourselves together while our moms were having coffee downstairs. We were four years old. We weren't thinking as we did it; we just did it because the handcuffs were there. I remember this feeling of darkness descending when I realized that we might be stuck together for a very long time. "WHERE IS THE KEY?" our moms yelled. Key? What's a key? We searched the condo for over an hour, and we could find no key. Finally, Mrs. Mitchell called Old Mission School and asked the secretary, Sr. Cleo, if she could talk to Tommy, her second son. The handcuffs were Tommy's. Tommy was lean, wiry and hyperactive. And tricky. The key was on his keychain, which was in his pocket. Apparently, Tommy not only knew what keys were, but he OWNED some. Mysterious, for sure.

After three hours of being handcuffed together, Robby and I were finally unhooked. Mrs. Mitchell had driven to the school to get the key from the hoodlum Tommy. I remember that when the darkness lifted, with it went a small part of my heart. It was my first inclination that darkness could be sweet.

Mario Gonzalez was the opposite of dark.Mario  -- King-to-my-Queen-of-the-Swallows -- was jovial, sweet, and little boy cute. His only problem was that he smelled like beans and lard.

Robby Mitchell left Old Mission School in the sixth grade and went to Marco Forster Junior High School, the public school named after my grandfather. I felt like we were still connected somehow, even though I never saw him again. Which is weird because my mom and Mrs. Mitchell stayed friends throughout all these years.

Robby was a "surfer boy," although in actuality he mostly boogie boarded. He had sandy blond hair, dark brown eyes, dark eyebrows, smooth tan skin and high cheekbones. Even as a boy, when he pulled his wetsuit off after getting out of the water, his sculpted hipbones gave way to defined groin muscles. The thin white line of untanned skin peeking over the neoprene suit was enough to drive me to distraction for years. Throughout elementary and middle school, I included him in my "I'm the queen looking for the right king" fantasy that I played out before bed each night.

In my dreams, it was he sitting next to me at the top of the bleachers. In truth, he disappeared, got swallowed up in the darkness of real life.

I wonder about him sometimes.

Thursday, September 08, 2005

Pinky Hurricane

My friend Raquelita, aka Pinky Hurricane, started a blog that I think is totally groovy. It's called My Pointy Ears Are Up. Check it out if you have the time.

Pinky and I met in San Francisco in 1989. We bothed worked at the Exploratorium there, the Museum of Science and Technology that Frank Oppenheimer (the lesser known brother of Robert) founded in the 1970s. What a great job it was, too. Not only did I meet one of my dearest and most favorite friends, but also going to work was like going to play on the playground everyday. There was one exhibit called "the tactile dome," a geodesic dome designed by August Coppola (another lesser known bro) that sat inside the Exploratorium and was open for "tours." A tour meant you showed up at a prescribed time -- reservations were required -- entered a pitch black atmosphere where you made your way through entirely by using your sense of touch. There were chutes and ladders inside this thing that you had to climb up and then fall down (without warning!). My favorite chute was the rope ladder one climbed up only to fall down at the top of it into a bin of pinto beans.

There were rumors of Exploratorium employees going through the dome after hours, in the nude and tripping on acid. I never did, but I wish I had!

Wednesday, September 07, 2005


By now most everyone knows about the danger of anti-biotics: that if one overuses them, one builds up resistance to the very thing one was trying to resist -- bacterial infections -- and the infections ensue with a BRING IT ON! attitude. This bring-it-on attitude is the phenomenon known around the hypochondriac universe as the "super virus."

It's also big news that anti-bacterial soap is bad for you.

Hahahahahahahahaha. Joke's on us, I guess.

Anyway, Clara has been on anti-biotics for an ear infection that cropped up over a week ago. When I told her that I'd rather not put Clara on antibiotics, the doctor said it was better to be safe than sorry. "You never know what it might develop into," the doc said. What am I supposed to say to that?

I'm not even sure Clara is "on" anti-biotics since whenever I try to give her the teaspoonful of Amoxicillin twice a day, 3/4 of it ends up on her onsie, because she spits it all out, which sucks because now all her clothes have pink Amoxicillin stain swaths all over them.

It's an exercise in futility -- this medicating against the unknown -- and I just hope my daughter isn't developing resistance to that which is supposed to help her.

Friday, September 02, 2005

There But for the Grace...

There is a serious fucked up psychic energy swirling around the region. A hurricane of stress -- category 5. We certainly don't have to be reading and constantly watching the network and cable news in order to feel viscerally the morass of tragedy that thousands and thousands of people are suffering through right now. Or not suffering through, because maybe they've just died.

My normally angelic daughter Clara feels this fucked up energy, too; she's projectile vomiting, screaming because of ear pain, and passing out from stress.

Calamity creeps into us through our skin cells, our nostrils, our eardrums. Our subconscious sponges it up. And we're just sitting here: SO FUCKING LUCKY.

What to do, what to do. Volunteer, donate, take in people who need shelter. Pray, if that's your inclination. My primary inclination is to keep these people in mind and keep asking the Universe to work in their favor -- let them have health, safety, peace, love, joy. Those last two requests -- love and joy -- may seem like luxuries right now, but when better to be praying that the refugees may have these things? In my mind it's the best thing I can do for them while they're sitting in a hot school bus, in a line of hot school busses, in a concrete field of diesel fumes, waiting to enter the Astrodome, where they'll be living for the next several months next to thousands and thousands of other traumatized people. LOVE and JOY are things that we can't hand them in cans, can't drop off in boxes or donate over paypal.

Even though I'm not "religious," I believe in the power of prayer. Prayer is another way of saying "mind over matter," which I firmly believe works. It has in my own life over and over. Not 100% of the time, but then nothing works 100% of the time, does it.

George Wwwwwhatthefuckiswrongwithhim Bush is, as usual, at a loss for how to act in the best interest for the people he's supposed to protect. So it's up to us.

Do what you can do, but consider asking the universe for help, too. Please.