Sunday, December 30, 2007


What I know about lucid dreams -- they are usually pleasurable. And if they're not, then you can will them to be that way, pleasurable to some degree.

I began analyzing my dreams in my early 20s, when I was staying up very late at night and waking up very later in the day, with nothing to do except write until 1:30, when I had to get ready to drive cross town to "workshop." On Tuesdays. I had some other classes, too, Philosophy of Modern Thought type of classes, "thinking and reading" classes. As if your life depended on it more than a little bit. And maybe it did.

I had some seriously fantastic dreams back in those days, dreams where I realized I was dreaming within them and so could "control" or will the action within them to accord to my desires. Lucid dreams are powerful dreams, potentially life-changing dreams. One has to take the time to honor them, these professors, our dreams.

Tools to become a lucid dreamer:
1) A notebook, in which you can write, upon waking up, without opening your eyes.
2) Some deep-seated/seeded conflict developing in your soul.
3) A trusty pen.
4) The discipline to record your dreams no matter how tired, how hung over, how depressed you are.
5) A Dictionary of Symbols.
6) A Dictionary of Philosophy and Religion.
7) The time to make the connections between the symbols in your dreams and the archetypes you learn about while doing research on your dreams. Figuring yourself out a little more.

That'll be $500,000,000. for that lesson in lucid dreaming. Contact me for my agent information.

Thursday, December 06, 2007


I am sitting in a cafe called Agora in Houston.  It's across the street from the new Brasil, which is a more spacious version of the old Brasil.  There are characters sitting all around me -- writers, artists, math geeks, high school flirts and scammers, architects and contractors haranguing home builders (young couple) for wanting a water tank while having cut down a tree on their lot. The contractors are Middle Eastern.  The home builders are White: Some combination of generations of Americans.  

I pull out my computer and log onto Blogger, feeling conspicuous in this cafe in the glow of my pod area, but then I realize that the couple sitting at the table behind me is logged into Blogger as well, and the music on the jukebox is Lucinda Williams, and the French bartendress is probably a blogger, too, or at least a lover of Lucinda Williams.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007


We all deal with it differently. My brother, one of them, has been breaking down hysterically everyday since my father died this past June (May he rest in peace). He calls me every other day to update his insomnia log.

"Are you having trouble sleeping?" he asks me.

"No," I say. I have two toddlers, a stressful job, a loving husband (thank god), household responsibilities and existential angst. I have no trouble sleeping. I do however have a problem dreaming these days. I get up too early, startled out of sleep by a toddler crying out MOMMY! from the bedroom next door.

I'm not sad; I'm angry. And anger is one of the stages of grief, maybe 2 or 3 out of 7 or 5. I don't remember, but a woman wrote about them, the stages of grief -- On Death and Dying, by Elizabeth Kuhbler-Ross. My grief looks like a lack of focus, and in that way, perhaps it's lacked focus.

"What are you thinking about?" I ask my insomniac brother, "when you can't sleep?"

"That I can't sleep."

How boring, I think. "What a bummer," I say.

Monday, December 03, 2007

The Superior Green

We eat a lot of greens around here, specifically kale and lettuce (preferably Baby Romaine). There's a campaign on right now to regulate the pasteurization of all greens. Visit Miah and Raj's site, Green Parenting, to find out more about why it's important to take action regarding these things.

The right to eat raw food is an ironic right. Isn't it? Amazing.

Sunday, December 02, 2007


As a result of having newly acquired a Facebook page, I feel like there are all sorts of people inside my brain now, people I do not know personally (I don't mean my friends; they're the reason I'm there at all), and I can't stand the crowd; it makes me uncomfortable. I've never been a fan of them, crowds.

However, I'm not saying it's a bad thing to have other people in my brain with me at the same time, I'm saying it conflicts me with myself.

We are always in each other's brains anyway; our brains are not our own, really, they're just splinters off of the One. Or roads. Or rivers. Depends on the metaphor one chooses to indicate the One. (For me, it's a huge net, like a spider's web. That is my projection, or understanding, of the Divine. Some people disavow any type of divinity; that is their choice, their projection. Whichever way you spin it, we choose our beliefs in order to help manage our thoughts and emotions. Atheism, Pantheism, World Wide Webism.)

The first few days I tried to log in to my brand new Facebook account, I kept typing in Had I been even more mistaken and more correct, I would have typed in

Tuesday, November 20, 2007


I feel I have been too dismissive towards Joan Didion these past few years. My disdain grew slowly, although punctuated with sadness. From my early 20s on, I read everything I could stand by her, including her novel Play It As It Lays. I gifted The White Album to several friends whom I hold truly dear. I count Slouching Toward Bethlehem a book of the Bible, my bible, the one I have created for myself. When I read After Henry, I practically had to spit the experience out of me. In this book, she accounts her loss as a writer after the death of her beloved and devoted editor Henry _________. Her loss is utterly convincing, especially when she describes her debt to him as an editor, and one can see that, in fact, he seemed to have co-written all her books. The writing Didion does in this book, without her now-dead editor, is so terrible, clunky and pitiful, I felt like, "Shit, woman. You can barely write." I felt like this because as I said, the writing style was awful; i.e. not Joan Didion in the way I had come to know her as a writer.

However, just now I read a quote by her -- she's quoted everywhere! -- where she says, "I wrote stories from the time I was a little girl, but I didn't want to be a writer. I wanted to be an actress. I didn't realize then that it's the same impulse. It's make-believe. It's performance." *

That's right, I think. She's absolutely right. And I feel connected to her again, deeply, like I did when I was younger. And I remember that she is human (always was), and a great one at that, one who has left a legacy of storytelling and life experience so textured and vibrant, so dark and dramatic, so mundane and pedestrian, few can come close to her brilliance. I want to apologize to the universe for having held her up to ridiculous standards. I'm sorry.

* Quoted from The Forest for the Trees: An Editor's Advice to Writers, by Betsy Lerner.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Social Networking

The Gypsy and I go out to wherever to pay the UHAUL bill today. She has been illin since an anuerysm burst in her middle finger on her left hand. Her finger is black and blue, but not as swollen as before, when it happened. The doctor told her she was lucky that it hadn't happened in her head or heart.

"I know," I say.

"I thought about calling you, but I didn't want to bother you," she says.

"You wouldn't be bothering me," I say.

"You never answer your phone!" she says. It's true that I'm not a slave to my phone, so sometimes I don't check messages until the next day. But she doesn't even call that often; and I always call her back.

"If I couldn't get a hold of you, who could I call?" I ask. I'm trying to make sure her greatest fear doesn't happen -- she will die and no one will know. I want to know when she dies.

"There's no one," she says, and I know that's not true, even though at the moment it might feel true for her. She wants me to write her story so that she will leave her mark on the world. It's hard for her, because she wasn't educated in school. Her education happened elsewhere, and it's very powerful and interesting, and makes for a great story, but I can't even hardly get the writing I do for work done -- the grant writing that supports my family's bread and butter: spacetaker.

I invited the Gypsy over for dinner on Friday night. She wants to teach me how to make Gypsy Co-zine, specifically cabbage rolls. I am thinking of inviting my new neighbor, an elderly Argentinian woman named Aida to join us. For wine, cabbage rolls and conversation.

Friday, November 09, 2007


I recently met with a friend who was once a student of mine at an elite high school. This friend is writing a novel. I'm so proud of him. He's trying to balance his feeling of guilt about not wanting a J-O-B in finance with his intrinsic need to write stories. Don't get the job in finance, I say. But then, hell, what do I know? Maybe he should get the job in finance; what's to say he won't end up writing an even better novel?

Is there a cross between a memoir and a novel? I think there is. I'm thinking of Michael Ondaatje's Running with the Family or The Collected Works of Billy the Kid. Neither of them is a novel-meets-memoir, per se, but they're multi-genred, both of them. Interesting...but I'm not sure how satisfying they are. I mean there is nothing like a good story, one with a beginning, middle and end; where a group of people go out into a timeframe together and cause each other to change, deeply and irrevocably. These changes are painful, but they are interesting. This, we writers call conflict.

I have seen really good multi-genre works of artful non-fiction: my old students' for sure. Some of them were gifted with understandings of juxtaposition, with turns of phrases, with "seeing" eyes. Real deals: I have taught some of these people. For some, writing out of the formal authority of genre -- that tyranny! -- liberates their ability to see. Let me be specific.

I taught this boy named Peter who was probably one of the most normal guys I ever met, but who could see into his normal world, and with one to five sentences, show the dirty, pimpled butt of that normalcy: horrifying.

I am in love with the colon tonight.

I'm am trying to decide if my story can be real and imagined. I know the resolution for my querulousness sounds obvious, and of course it is obvious: the story can be real and imagined. All stories are. But, I don't know how to say this: my story will be unlike anyone else's. I understand I'm being ridiculous. I should shut up. But I can't.

But back to the question of the multiple genres telling one story -- doesn't work so well. What's happening here is that multiple stories are getting told at once. Different effect than a novel. Not to say that there aren't novels who tell stories in the kinkiest of ways. There are, and they are novels loved by the same people who wanted Kinky Freedman for Texas Governor. "He's not Kinky, he's my governor," the bumper stickers said. Hmmmm....sounds like a bunch of sex fiends. Those are the types of people that like those experimental novels: sex fiends.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Nick Hornby, Hobby Center, Houston, October 2007

After interviewing Nick Hornby on Sunday, I have come to the following six conclusions:

1). We had good chemistry in fact and feeling. It was easy to talk to him, like falling off a bed.

2). He gave me two sets of temporary tatoos that will come out with the next issue of The Believer. "Isn't it a lovely magazine?" he asked me. He explained to the audience at the Hobby Center that the motto of The Believer is to never say anything bad about any one or any thing. Sounds like my kind of people. Is that why Dave Eggers repulses me? because he reminds me of myself? I remember in Graduate School, a fellow poetess postulated that the only reason we hate a person is because that person reminds us too much of ourselves. I must have reminded my fellow poet of the most hated parts of herself because she hated me. She is not the only one who has hated me. There are many (sadly) others. But, no worries. That is what I've learned. A good lesson, that.

3). Nick Hornby is sexier in person than in his photographs.

4). He is a "gabbler" -- his word.

5). For some reason, I was born to perform.

6). When I work with awareness, the universe opens up its arms to me and folds me in like a lover, a funny, yummy, surprising lover. Lucky life.

Friday, October 26, 2007

Save the Date

Our old neighbor, the Gypsy, has a bad heart. It's been stopping and starting with every beat. She called and told me in a message, so I called her back and we made plans to visit. I saw her Tuesday and Thursday. Tuesday was a social visit, but when I asked her to call me if she needed anything -- if there was anything I could do for her -- she said that I could come Thursday and help her find the freeway where the storage place full of her mother's things is. I arrived on Thursday, and she was sitting in the asphalt lot, in the driver's seat of her friend's car, waiting for me.

"Get in," she says. "We'll take the baby and go in my car, because I don't want you to have to pay for the gas."

"We can't," I say. "Diego needs the car seat in my car."

"Okay, we'll go in your car." She got out of the Accord and got into my Chevy. Her keys clanged against the floorboard where she threw them.

"Where are we going?" I asked her.

"I don't know. I'm not sure how to get there."

"Get where?"I asked. "The Storage Unit?"

"Yeah. U Haul," she said. Her phone rang. "Go to 59," she said. She answered her phone.

"North or South?" I asked.

"I'll tell you when we get there." I headed South, because that was the general direction she pointed in. She blabbered some language into the phone: Gypsy, she later told me. She was talking to her adopted daughter, making plans to visit her in New York, where she lives. I approached the entrance to 59 South, and the Gypsy started crossing herself, making the sign of the cross, very quickly and semi-consciously, at least twenty times. "Yeah, get on here," she says, immediately resuming her unintelligible conversation over the phone. We merged onto the freeway, and within moments, the Gypsy yells, "Oh no! We're going the wrong way."

"We need to go South?" I say, merging back into the far right lane so that I can exit on Sheperd and turn around.

"No, I think it's another freeway," she says, "Mama, I'll have to call you back," she says into the phone then hangs up.

"It's another freeway?" I need a little clarification.

"I think it's --." She's confused, too.

"Is it 45?" I say.

"Yes. No. I think it's the 10 freeway, sort of."

Sort of? What could that mean? "Is it 290?"

"No. I don't know. You know, I've got the paper at my house. If I can find it, we can look for the address."

I imagine she means newspaper. I'm starting to think we're not going to make it to the storage unit, the one that she doesn't know where it is. "You have the paper at home?" I say, trying to lead her to some sort of detail.

"Yes. I have a receipt from them. I can find it for you and you can find the address on it." The Gypsy doesn't read, can't read. I remember seeing her once at the Kroger, handing her bills to the bag person in the checkout line to read for her.

We pull back into her driveway. She gets out and I tell her I'm going to get gas and that I'll be back. "Okay," she says. She looks back at Diego and squeals, "Oooooooo you're so cute, yrsocuteyrsocuteyrsocute."

When I pull back into her driveway after getting gas, she's sitting on her neighbor's stoop with a long cardboard box. She gets into the car with the box, opens it up and shoves it in between us. The box is full of envelopes of receipts and bills and correspondences. She digs through, every few moments pulling something out and holding it up for me to read. "What's this?" she asks.

"The car registration," I say.

"What's this?" she says.

"A traffic ticket receipt," I say.

"Oh yeah, I paid that," she says.

"What's this?" she says.

"Uhaul!" I say. I dial the number at the top of the page to get directions. The person who answers gives me directions, 34th street between 290 and Magnum.

"Let me talk to him," the Gypsy says. "I want to ask them if I can come Monday to pay the bill."

"We can go out there, now, and pay it," I say. "Unless you don't have the money right now."

"I don't have the money," she says. Which shocks me a little because she was just saying to her daughter that she was going to call the airlines and make a reservation for New York for next weekend. That ticket's gonna cost at least $500. Maybe that's why she doesn't have the money right now. Probably.

It turns out that the Gypsy can pay the bill up until November 20 without incurring any late charges or property loss. She's elated. "We don't have to go now. But thank you so much for helping me."

I tell her she's welcome. I tell her that we have a new car payment due on that day, so I will help her remember the date.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Cool Brains, Inaugural Reading

I'm interviewing Nick Hornby this Sunday, October 28 at the Hobby Center at 2 p.m. He will be reading for 20 minutes from his new novel SLAM, written for a Young Adult audience. Probably because of my background in teaching high school, Inprint, Inc. asked me to have a conversation with him -- on stage -- after his reading. They think we'll have good chemistry; that's what they said. We're both writers, and we're both have the music. That's what they said, "you both have the music." I'm assuming they meant like the music interests: I was in a band; he's obsessed wth bands. Actually, he's obsessed with songs, not bands. He's written a book called SONGBOOK where he writes around 17 essays or so about favorite songs. "Thunder Road" by Bruce Springsteen is his favorite of all time. If he's heard that one 23,000 times over the past 30 years, he's heard all the other songs 500 times max. Something like that. In any case, I don't think Inprint meant that he and I have the music in the same way Leonard Cohen sings in "Chelsea Hotel" that he and Janis Joplin are "ugly but [they] have the music."

I'm sure Inprint isn't implying we're ugly, Nick and I. Although, I don't mind the comparison; it's the kind of unbeknownst-to-them compliment I cherish.

I've had to do a lot of reading to catch up with Hornby. Besides SLAM and HIGH FIDELITY, he's written a bunch of other books, and he keeps a column as well in the monthly literary magazine, The Believer: "Books I've Bought. Books I've Read."

In terms of music, I don't think Nick and I share the same passions. I prefer the poetry of Dylan and Cohen to the prose of Springsteen, but I think he's a good storyteller, and I'm looking forward to talking to him.

If you're in town, come hear us.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Here's What I Think I Know

The beginning and the ending.
The three disasters.
The three women at the center of the story (I threw in another one, in honor of my father).
The time period.
The setting.

The reason my throat has been closing for years.
The reason that it has to open back up.
The reason I fly out of my skin at the first chance I can find.
The reason I know how to fly.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

I'm Good

Thanks for asking, AnaVerse.

I started working with a novel writing group again, and I have been thinking all day about the three disasters. What are they? I ask myself while I drive cross town to the mechanic's to pick up the Malibu. I ask myself while I sweep the food Diego has thrown all over the floor, and I ask myself as I pass the behavioral chart we've once again created for my daughter -- a reward system that merits her privilege, access to things she wants: cookies, to play, to sit next to us. It's horrible, the chart, but it's what helps us all get along. Imagine if I didn't reward her for the way I want her to be: then she would be left to her own divisives while being forced -- by one's job, say, or one's "community" -- to make decisions about how best not to harm one another. We call this enforcement of behavior Morality.

"You're such a good mommy," she says everday, stroking my face, looking me straight in the eyes. Is it real? I ask myself. Is this dream I'm living Reality. Then I remember that I don't have to ask that anymore. I know that it is -- this life -- my reality, real. And my life matters. To me, at least.

In the novel writing group, we're a small cadre of local writers, veterans of the Creative Writing Program, for one reason or another. Not heroes, no. The heroes are being vetted by the powers that be. I will not mention them here because they do not so much interest me. In short, they never have interested me enough.

My comrades in writing now met last night for the first time. We related our histories, blurbed them really, some of us more, some of us less. We gave each other our time to listen to the idea of the story each one of us desires to tell. Steve talked about Macbeth. I lit up. "A tragedy can be hopeful," he said.

"Macbeth saved my life! I love Macbeth." I didn't go into my rhapsody just then, but later we got to go to the bar and talk about it some more. Gemini had to go home because her five year old was waiting for her. But she was a light for sure, a beacon out over the dark waves: of sorrow, of new beginnings, of existential confusion, or even dismay. Though never really dismay. Let nothing you dismay.

Miah typed up the notes: five paragraph structure. "How many of us teach or taught writing?" We all had.

What are the three disasters?

Tonight I begin to think of the book as seasons, and as such I begin to imagine the sections of the book divided into four colors: red (the passion), orange (the past, the memory), blue. Green. The three disasters correspond to a color. They are tonal, as in colors in music. They are specific, adroit and horrible. They are monstrous. But what are they? What are these crimes of passion? What are ...

I'd rather talk about plot points, for that is what they're called in industry-speak. But disasters are so much more interesting.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

I'll Take You There, 1980

In 1980, I was 13 years old. I wore sweaters with flowers printed around the color, pencil skirts, k-mart topsiders. When I stood in line to get my freshman ID the summer before high school, I watched the other kids talking and flirting with one another, and it was like they were speaking another language. I could not comprehend. I was truly, deeply virginal.

In high school, the worst things I did included ditching school to go joyriding on the 5 Freeway with Scott Something in his father's BMW, and hiding in my friend's closet getting drunk on cheap, pink champagne while she and another friend (who did not know I was there) waited for their dates to show up. The friend in the dark was going on her first date with my exboyfriend. I was sort of heartbroken about it at the time, but I had another boyfriend, too, at a different high school, the Catholic one up the freeway. This other boyfriend did not expect me to be his one and only, like the one at my own high school did, because of proximity I guess.

At the school dances, after I broke up with my local boyfriend, I stood on the sides and watched others dance to the music some DJ played. There was this one boy, and I only knew him as James, who always asked me to dance once during the night. He was two years older than I, and he only ever asked me to slow dance. We never spoke during school days, nor did we even really acknowledge each other if we passed one another in the hallways, but in the dark of the school dance, we held each other close and we did sway.

Saturday, September 22, 2007

to the dream [s]he dreams over

1) Notes:
a.) “What the writer sees must be his own time and place, or else, as in the very best historical fiction, the past as we, with our special sensibility, (not better but new), would see it if we went back ...the noblest originality is not stylistic but visionary and intellectual; the writer’s accurate presentation of what he, himself, has seen, heard, thought and felt."

b.) "What counts in [the case of a novelist like Beckett or Nabokov] is not that we believe the private vision to be right but that we are so convinced by and interested in the person who does the seeing that we are willing to follow him around."

c.) "For another kind of novelist the accuracy required is, I think, of a higher order, infinitely more difficult to achieve. This is the novelist who moves like a daemon from one body -- one character -- to another. Rather than master the tics and oddities of his own being and learn how to present them in an appealing way -- and rather than capture other people in the manner of a cunning epigrammist or malicious gossip -- he must learn to step outside himself, see and feel things from every human -- and inhuman -- poing of view. He must be able to report, with convincing precision, how the world looks to a child, a young woman, an elderly murderer, or the governor of Utah. He must learn, by staring intently into the dream he dreams over his typewriter to distinguish the subtlest differences between the speech and feeling of his various characters, himself as impartial and detached as God, giving all human beings their due and acknowledging their frailties. In so far as he pretends not to private vision but to omniscience, he cannot as a rule, love some of his characters and despise others. [He must be as God, all loving, yet the ultimate judge.] .... The beginning novelist who has the gift for inhabiting other lives has perhaps the best chance for success. "

These spoonfuls of seriousness from John Gardner sound ponderous and ominous and they are. Make no mistake about it. To undertake a novel is an idiotic thing to do, an idiotic presumption where the idiot, the novelist, must inhabit successfully other lives in order to become sociable and socialized. Ironically, the idiot cum novelist -- or playwrite? Or poet? (I’m not sure these are the same) -- becomes socialized through solitude. How fucked up is that?

There are some writers who make it sound like utopia, or “doing it all”, is possible, writers like Michael Chabon, for one. I was seriously highly suspicious of this guy. The last time I heard the same sort of praise was when A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius came out. Yeah. I was heartbroken that I spent money on that book. I did not get past the “Copywright” section. SHUT UP! I thought within minutes of having to listen to that guy. However: haven’t you heard?! Michael Chabon is also a model citizen, officially "hot", and a father who does 50% of the child-raising. He might as well be the messiah.

Couldn't the second coming be a woman for once?

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

In The Toilet

Obviously, my blog project has sagged under the weight of my world these past few months. Ever since my father died. Not consciously because of his death, although I like to use that as an excuse. According to my therapist brother, we are all depressed. He called me today from the doctor's office where he went to get a prescription for sleeping pills.

If only I could afford to take sleeping pills. But somebody has to get up with the children. My therapist brother has a child, but said child has graduated to the sleeping through the night level. My youngest child has not. Diego was UP at 3:30 a.m. today. Probably because he's sick and can't breathe well enough to sleep. At 4:15, I finally got up with him, so over his bouncing up and down on my body, yacking "la da da da La dadadada, translated as "Ride a Cock Horse to Bambury Cross."

I was nauseous with fatigue for most of the morning.

I look at this blog and I get frustrated. Where am I? I cannot for the life of me get to point B from point A without having to navigate the whole alphabet in between. If this blog is B, I'm still at M. And speaking of B&M, my days are so totally solid with shit.

So that's where I am. In the shit. And I would love some shit-lifting pills.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Back, In the Night

I'm writing a novel about a family, directly based on my family, but it's not my family, of course. Because it's fiction, the story about the family is made up. I'm making it up. But there's no denying the fiction is based in reality. If it weren't for the details of the story, which are imagined, it would be the same story as the one I was told endlessly as a child, the story that was true. Or so I was told it was true by my parents.

As I got older, as I kept hearing the story, I realized that it wasn't exactly true, but that there was a spirit in the story that was true, the story's spirit was always recognizable, a solid fellow, a friend. A friend who wanted nothing more than for me to die, maybe, but a friend nonetheless.

So I'm writing this novel, I was writing it and I am still writing it now, about this family.

"Who's this story about?" my dad asks.

"It's about two women," I say.

"That's the stupidest thing I've ever heard," he says, his spit flying onto the Sunset magazines on his coffee table, a table which sags under the weight of a year's worth of magazines. Don't touch anything! "Who the hell would want to read a story about that?!" he caws.

Is that a real question? I don't even know. Who would want to read a story about two women? Depends on what the women are doing, in most circumstances, I think. If the women are having sex, then more people than not might want to read a story about it. If the women were having sex with each other than maybe even more people would want to read a story about it. Depends on one's demographics, I suppose.

How many people want to read a story about two women struggling to survive in the world, as friends, as lovers of men and of each other, as mothers and sisters and daughters? To survive in so many ways requires magic. Might as well. How many people want to read a story about magic?

Well, maybe quite a lot. There are some folk who would argue that they don't want stories about magic, they don't want stories with symbols, they don't want ALLEGORIES (god forbid!) because, they ask, what's the use? There is no use for such things as stories with symbols in them. We're dying now. NOW. See us now? We're dying.

We're all dying. Grow up and deal with it. So much effort goes into worrying about not dying. Give up. Die already.

Then, you can come back as two women having sex with one another. Who doesn't like that? It's like puppies? Maybe not. It's like godesses? Nymphs at least. There at last to titillate us back into blooming.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Lucky Life

My friend Robin, The Other Mother, inspires me. She's a poet, a mom, an executive director, a blogger, a fellow adventurer. I have known her for 17 years! Yesterday, she asked a question on her blog: what surprises you most about your life so far?

My answer: my luck.

The poet Gerald Stern was one of Robin's teachers at the Iowa Writer's Workshop. I was lucky to get rejected by that writing program. While I don't love Stern like I love Shakespeare, or Sam Shepard, or Larry Levis, I do love a poem by him called Lucky Life. And here is the end of this poem, and then a link to the whole thing.

Dear waves, what will you do for me this year?
Will you drown out my scream?
Will you let me rise through the fog?
Will you fill me with that old salt feeling?
Will you let me take my long steps in the cold sand?
Will you let me lie on the white bedspread and study
the black clouds with the blue holes in them?
Will you let me see the rusty trees and the old monoplanes one more year?
Will you still let me draw my sacred figures
and move the kites and the birds around with my dark mind?

Lucky life is like this. Lucky there is an ocean to come to.
Lucky you can judge yourself in this water.
Lucky you can be purified over and over again.
Lucky there is the same cleanliness for everyone.
Lucky life is like that. Lucky life. Oh lucky life.
Oh lucky lucky life. Lucky life.

-- from Lucky Life

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Hair Cut

It may look like I cut it myself, but I assure you, dear reader, I paid money to have it done.

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Time After Time

I get these email "Daily Oms" in my inbox Monday through Friday. As the
title suggests, these readings are meditative in nature, mystical
almost Zen-like food for thought. Recently, I received one about a
spider and one about a pendulum. These readings interest me, precisely
because they are meditations about spiders and pendulums.

Recently, I've been being handled toward metaphor, a few times shoved through metaphor after metaphor.

Metaphors are everywhere. They're so common, they turn habitual, and therefore numbing. "Habit is a great deadner" said Beckett. Metaphors are a dime a dozen, bunnies.

Who are the the ones who keep them fresh, who dust off the metaphors,
chisel them, wrangle them, rope and seduce them out of the darkness of
habit and into the light of...?

I hope to know what to make light of. I hope to go beyond the arid desert, into the cold and beautiful sea,dragging and standing and stepping and swimming and drowning and changing and floating. A long, long along.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Toaster Love II

I just had the most amazing sensory experience with my toaster.

I am into toasters. I love them. I love toast. I'm not alone in my love for toast, my husband loves it, and Sam Shepard loves it too.

Alas, living gluten-free has made for a general lack of toast in my life. But then, gloriosi! I found out about GLUTEN FREE WAFFLES. Oh my god. I had to stop and get a grip on myself when I put four boxes of them in my grocery cart at whole foods today. I lied and told myself I was stocking up because of the kids, because of how much they love these waffles, such love coupled with the weather. I was stocking up on waffles as if they were water and a hurricane was on the way.

It is hurricane season.

Just now I spent 5 minutes standing over my toaster, savoring the warmth on my face, the firey glow of the toasty coils, the smell of Wildberry waffles toasting, the sizzle of the frozen waffle transforming into a fluffy, tasty, wholesome treat. Knowing that I was waiting to EAT this waffle, to taste its yummyness...that made the experience complete. Touch, Sight, Smell, Sound, Taste. The spectrum of the five senses presented sublimely by my toaster.

Monday, August 13, 2007

No Depression...


While I blog, David is watching Jon Stewart, on his iphone! Technology is amazing. My MacBook has a splinter on the edge of the wrist board, a big plastic splinter of plastic grazing against my left wrist, against the tangle of veins and vessels there. Sometimes writing is physically dangerous.

I'm depressed. More depressed than I know. Than I can know. I don't have a lot of time to sit and analyze my depression. But, there it is, my depression. No depression like mine.


My brother Carlos is the executor of my father's trust for his children. This is a big responsibility. It basically means (or at least can be interpreted) that my father trusted Carlos the most. Trusted him to execute his big ideas, for that is what a Trust is -- a legal document outlining a person's wishes and big ideas. And wishes are like fishes: so slippery. My wish is not your wish is not his wish is not her wish. Which is why world peace in general is impossible.


I remember my father criticizing me when I was 17 or 18 for my use of the word wonderful. I had written a cover letter to go along with my resume in which I said, "I think it would be wonderful to talk with you about the opportunities your organization has to offer." I may have said, "offer me." Anyway, my dad stopped reading when he got to that sentence, slapped the letter down on his lap, where he sat on the couch, and said, "WONDERFUL?! Goddammit, Christa! You can't use the word 'wonderful' in a cover letter!"

"I can't?" I said.

"NO!" he yelled, sorta laughing but also seriously yelling. "People will think you're a pussy!"

"Oh," I said.

So I never used the word in a cover letter again.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Torch Song

Tomorrow, August 13, begins the festival of Hecate, goddess of the dark moon, the crossroads, childbirth, ghosts, etc. In Italy, it's called the Festival of the Torches, because Hecate is a torch-carrier.

I first encountered Hecate while teaching Sophomore English at St. John's School (aka Rushmore). We were reading Macbeth by William Shakespeare, painstakingly, mostly trying to make out what the hell people were saying to one another. (Even in contemporary English we still have this problem, don't we? And understanding what we are saying to one another is just as hard as figuring out what the Shakespearians are saying to one another.) Everyone knows that understanding Shakespeare as a sophomore in high school is super hard. For most people out of high school, it's hard, too.

I was having a hard time teaching it, the first time, because I hadn't read it before, had not had the experience yet of making sense of it. I had to learn it along with my classes that first time, and they were good students, good teachers. I learned a lot. But the one who taught me the most about Macbeth -- what it's about, what it means -- and therefore the one who taught me a lot about life -- what it's about, what it means -- is Hecate, the crone who makes an appearance smack dab in the middle of Macbeth. And it's possible that Shakespeare didn't even write the part where she shows up; it's probable, in fact, that Thomas Middleton wrote her speech.

Her speech provides the key to the play, to understanding the motivation of the characters -- all of them -- and therefore it's her speech that teaches us about what it means to be human, which is what the play is about, generally. It's what all literature is about, generally.

Specifically in Macbeth, being human means dealing with issues of security. Hecate shows up in Act III, Sc.vii to scold the witches, who have been toying with Macbeth since the beginning of the play. She basically says to them: what the hell have you been doing? You didn't have my permission! You acted without consulting with me, and I'm the BOSS. Furthermore, the person you're messing with isn't even worth it! He's an idiot, a self-involved, spiteful, vain, insecure idiot. But! Since you've already started the process of messing with him, we're going to go ahead and finish him.... I’m going to go and get this awesome "vaporous drop" that hangs from the edge of the moon and bring it back. With it, we'll create a potion that will induce visions in him that are so intense and so fantastical, that

... distill'd by magic sleights
Shall raise such artificial sprites
As by the strength of their illusion
Shall draw him on to his confusion:
He shall spurn fate, scorn death, and bear
His hopes 'bove wisdom, grace and fear:
And you all know, security
Is mortals' chiefest enemy.

That last couplet says it all. "You all know security/is Mortal's chiefest enemy." Everything Macbeth does, he does because he's insecure. And to make it even worse -- everything he does, he does in order to become "secure."

Security, however, is antithetical to life. In life, in fact, there is no security. Those who seek it, are misguided, wasting their sweet time.

Thank you Hecate for bringing this human error to light in the middle of this amazing play.

Thank you William Shakespeare and Thomas Middleton, too.

Wednesday, August 08, 2007


The dried mango at Central Market tastes and feels so much better than the dried mango from Whole Foods. It matters because I am a dried mango fan. I am also a fresh, organic, local food fan, and so I have to shop at either Central Market, Whole Foods, or the local famers' markets.

We are regulars at t'afia's Midtown Farmers Market, making it our first stop on the Saturday Brown family tour. But Monica Pope and Andrea Lazar, et. al, are on vacation for two weeks, so no Saturday market for two weeks. At the Midtown Farmers' Market, we buy the best local produce, albeit not a wide range to choose from, the best bbq from Jon at Beavers, and we used to be able to buy delicious treats from Joanne and Deborah and also from Monica Pope's Plum Kitchen collection (I'm partial to the red chili paste), but then we turned wheat-, gluten- and dairy-free. So pretty much everything EXCEPT vegetables, fruits and lean proteins are "out" over here at our house. And lately, there's not a lot of fresh, local, organic products for sale at any of these places.

Doesn't this seem like a problem?

Sure, there is a lot of fresh produce, a good smattering of local produce, and an embarrassment of organic produce -- at astronomical prices: $10.00 for five apples?!? But there isn't a cornucopia of all three -- fresh, local and organic -- anywhere. Whole Foods has more organic produce -- or at least they make it appear as if they do -- but they are much more expensive than Central Market. Ever since I moved here in 1990, people have been calling it Whole Paycheck. And in $1990, you could buy five organic apples at Whole Foods for $4.50. Not so anymore.

The weather in South Texas hasn't helped matters. It's poured almost every day since late May, some days all day for a slew of days. And now there's a heat wave, day after day of incinerating heat and glare. Aweful, to be sure.

Not good for the crops, either.

I hope my expanding penchant for dried produce isn't a harbinger for the demise of fresh, local, organic protest altogether; I hope it isn't a premonition of the coming age: The Apocalypse.

Saturday, August 04, 2007

Design Flaw

Why is it that we humans have to COMMUNICATE to one another? Why is it key?

Why can't we just read one another's minds?

Because our thoughts are way too loud.

I just realized this when I was on my way to move the laundry from the washer to the dryer. Oh, the effort. I was aware that it had to be moved -- it could not wait -- because the laundry consisted of our bedding, upon which Clara had just peed. Right in the middle of it: Our bed.

"You just read my mind," David said. I trudged toward the closet in the living room, where the stacked washer/dryer unit, the one that ruined the previous tenants' floors, and therefore ours (though we took the condo "as is"). I had been thinking, I don't want to do it, I don't want to move the laundry from the washer to the dryer, because there are so many other things I want to do, things that take time, things that exhaust me even more, but that I want to do even more anyway. Everything takes time. And it's the only thing that there's just too little of.

"I was just gonna do that," he said.

"I love you," I thought. And I knew he knew that I did love him, because he had moved to the laundry for the same reason I had, because love takes time, and because it's also the only thing that there's just too little of.

"She's an animal," I say to David. "Peeing on our bed is so territorial. It makes total sense though. Right in the middle of it."

"Yeah," he says. "We're all animals."

Yes. We are.

I understand the idea of communicating "with" someone; communicating "with" someone has to do with living side by side, melodiously ideally, but if not that, then at least tolerably. But I wish there were more ways of communicating "to" someone than "using Language." Verbal and Body, inclusively. Regardless, using language is hard. Why can't we just pee on the bed to describe what we're feeling? Why isn't that an option anymore?

Why can't we just read each other's minds?

Because we would die from the loud of it. We might die from the amplitude of thoughts. Many people have; many artists specifically. Nevertheless, it isn't only artists who struggle with surpressing their sensitivity to thought in order to survive alive for a while. It's everyone, ever human animal. It's the consciousness that kills us. It's the human in us that's flawed.

Friday, July 20, 2007


Life sucks, but a person can suck it back.

I've been out of writing commission for a few weeks for a variety of reasons, but mostly because we were dealing with 1) the death of David's beloved 87 year-oldgrandfather , 2) a broken air conditioner -- for the fourth
time -- and 3) a sudden swell of fleas in the apartment. Which caused
us to have to 1) move out to a friend's house (thank you, Diana) for a
week, after having just moved in one month before 2) purchase a new
vacuum cleaner, one with a bag so that we could remove it, full of
fleas, after every vacuuming session and take it directly to the trash
and 3) deal with how unpredictable life is overall.

We have been living in the wreck of reality -- without our routines to smooth
over the jagged edges of the way the world falls down around us, every
day. Living this way, there is no other option but to choose to see the
wreck differently, because it's not going to stop changing
catastrophically all the time. Catastrophe is the nature of life.

We have dealt with fleas before
, and upon seeing the first baby one hop[e] onto my leg, I spiraled into PTSD so hard, I got the wind knocked out of me when I hit the carpet. My dejection nearly got the best of me. Nevertheless, at 7:45 a.m., I got
online and googled "pest control in Houston."

Which is how I found The Pest King, Mr. Miles Self.

Mr. Self listened to my qualms about using chemicals to combat the fleas,
and he agreed with me. "Chemicals won't work for your problem. I hate
chemicals, and I use them everyday," he said. "What you need to do is
get yourself a good vacuum with a bag, and vacuum every inch of your
house. Move the furniture, lift the bookcases away from the wall, get a
crack 'n crevice tool. The fleas love to hide in the floor boards and
the cracks in the baseboards. Vacuum every inch; and then two days from
now, do it again. Then two days after that, do it again. If you do
that, I think you'll be miles ahead of the game."

"What vacuum cleaners would you recommend?" I asked. I have a Dirt Devil the size of a camper van; it has no bag. I don't mention this to the Pest King. I'm talking to a professional! here.

"Oh, Kirby. Or Electrolux. They're gonna run you a lot of money. It's not going to be cheap. But if I come over there, I'm gonna have to use chemicals and I'm telling
you that's not even gonna work.Chemicals'll only kill the fleas where the substance hits the surface. That's it. There're no residuals in these things anymore. Which is a good thing, but this is why I hate treating for fleas. I'd rather not do it. But I'll come over there for twenty bucks, and if you decide you need me to use
chemicals, we can apply the $20 to the cost, which isn't cheap either."

"Hmmmm," I say. "So the vacuuming -- "

"I have an Oreck, he says. "It's professional, what I use. It's a good machine. It'll cost you a lot, but it's worth it."

So I went to the Oreck store right around the corner from my new apartment. I tried to talk the salesmen into giving me a bunch of free stuff with my purchase. I
told him "my friend told me to come here because you guys would give me
a bunch of free stuff."

"No, you have to pay for the stuff," they said.

I acted perplexed. Diego crawled through the forest of Oreck uprights, set up on the clean, ultra-Hunter green carpet. I looked skeptical.

"We do have one that we're selling for half-price --"

"What's that one?" I said.

"The Teal Edition. It's being discontinued."

"What's the difference? Besides $200?"

"It's teal."

"That's the one I want."

Turns out when I bought the vacuum, they DID throw in some free stuff. Not enough, but whatever.

And as expensive as it was, it was a much better investment, certainly,
than my "free" car, which bled money from me for over 5 years.

And what was my alternative, in any case, to the Oreck? It was either Oreck, or wreck.

Sunday, July 08, 2007

Do It Yourself

So much of writing is about writing, until the writer finds her subject.

For most of my life, my father has been my subject, a premise to which this blog attests. He takes up an enormous amount of space in my consciousness, always has. Now that he's dead, I'll bet he takes up even more.

His number one desire, at least the one he projected to me, was to live a meaningful life. Meaningful to himself, yes, but more importantly meaningful to others. More importantly to him. Or, I don't know....I used to think the latter was more important to him; i.e., the image he portrayed to others. And can we talk about his image for just one second? -- he reveled in it. This portrait of him, done by his Russian painter friend Alexi, occupied the space right beneath the ancestral portrait of Don Juan Forster, hanging above the fireplace.

As you can see by my brother's expressions, we all have our interpretations of my dad's image.

I propose that I hardly knew my father. I only knew him as a dad. Towards the latter part of his life, I was able to see him more as a human being, with parents and children, a man with 100,000 desires, living his best to sate every last one of them before his death.

He was not modest.

But he was honest. That is something I know we all can be proud of about my father. It's a gift to know that no matter the faults of the parent, that same parent is a human being, perfectly flawed because that is the number one condition of "being human." Yet even with the flaw, the parent earns his children's honor.

My father-in-law and I today talked about Coleridge, about Fancy, and threw lines from poems of ours back and forth with one another while sitting on his kitchen floor, with Diego and Clara circling the kitchen table. How perfect that the one thing I could NEVER talk to my father about -- my poetry; for reasons I can only begin to iron out -- is one of the deepest connections I have with my father-in-law: we are both writers, poets primarily. My father-in-law liked my line about "the small wings of speech" from my poem "Chaos Theories". I liked his line from the poem he's working on currently, "So I begin in memory, twisting scraps of [...] into facts" or something near to that.

We talked about how neither of us has read the entire Biographia Literaria, how both of us were obsessed with Coleridge at one point, still are in ways differently than we were before. I explained how I choose a genre in which to write: blog entries are about turning the daily into the daily bread. Fiction is about crafting art from an experience that seems ripe with symbolism. Poetry is about turning to the ether, pulling something from it, and through the imagination, creating something "Fanciful" from the sheer air: A rarity of the imagination, so rare that it makes the indecipherable plain. Poetry clears the mind's eye with all its glorious confusion. And there are no resolutions in poetry, only pauses.

There is a poem of mine that sits in my father's guest bedroom on the floor. It was never hung up on his wall, never fully committed to by either of us. Nevertheless, he'd surprised me with it Christmas 1994, secretly commissioning it through my boyfriend Charlie. Christmas day when I opened up the present in my father's living room, saw this 2'x3' frame of my poem "Mexican Hibiscus" calligraphied on parchment, I gagged. "I thought you'd like to hang that on your wall," he said.

"As if," I thought, choking on my own words as I re-read them silently in front of everyone else around the Christmas tree; the poem was broadcast, you might say.

My father's gesture horrified me at the time: Now I understand the gesture a little more. It was his way of saying "I care," although he honestly didn't care enough to hang it next to his portrait. Of course, I would not have expected him to hang it there. I couldn't hang it in my house, how could I expect him to hang it in his?

His message, as I see it now was "do it yourself." That is, if you want to write poetry that is admired, you have to admire it yourself first. I can trust that message. I've learned it's true over time.

Saturday, June 30, 2007

Hollywood Ending

I was in the mortuary conference room with my siblings, my stepmother, her sister, and my stepsister. The O'Neill family has owned the mortuary since 1898. Mr. O'Neill running the meeting currently heads the family mortuary and is my age, probably. Our families went to church together, so I recognize the boy in him.

He goes on about his services, very thorough and thoughtful. I zone out for a few minutes, answering my phone when my own mother, who's babysitting Clara and Diego, calls to ask when I will be home because she wants to "go do something." Marco shoots me with his stare, "Turn that thing off!" he hisses. His own phone chimes constantly with text message notices, so I hiss back "it was MOM; I have CHILDREN." Death does not bring out the best in all of us.

Suddenly, I hear Mr. O'Neill say something about a "witness cremation."

"Wait. What are you talking about?" I ask.

"The witness cremation," he says. He explains the scenario. "The family can request to be there at the cremation. They are able to view the body and then watch as the body enters the furnace. They can remain in the cremation room as long as they like."

I imagine flames; I imagine a burst of flames enveloping my father's corpse: a pyre.

"Maybe I want to do that," I say. Everyone except Mr. O'Neill looks at me funny.

"I don't want to do that," says my sister.

"Me neither," says my brother.

"No way," says my stepmother. "You're on your own with that one."

"That's okay," I assure them, looking at Mr. O'Neill.

"It isn't like Hollywood," he says, not looking at me.

I'm embarrassed that he's read my mind. "Can I think about it?" I ask him.

"Of course!" he says. "Just let me know as soon as possible, so that I can make the arrangements. We won't do much, just try to make him look a little better. He will have been in the freezer for a few days. It takes a while for the State to create the death certificate, longer now that they have everything computerized."

The feeling in the room was one of generosity, so nothing sounded cold. Death sounded warm and inviting, in fact.

I decided to do the witness cremation. My uncle Pat met me at the mortuary on Wednesday morning. I'd dressed up a little, and I covered my hair -- because it was filthy -- with a scarf. As I left the house that morning, my mother laughed and told me I looked like aMuslim woman. When I arrived at the mortuary, my Uncle Pat laughed and said that when he saw me walk in, he thought I was a Muslim woman.

A different mortician led us into the back room. They brought my father out, his body covered with a white sheet, a terry cloth towel wrapped like turban around the hole in his head where thecraniectomy happened.

My uncle and I stood over him, quietly. Then my uncle said, "He looks like Santa Claus."

"He does," I said, and he did. His face was a little blue, like he'd been driving his sleigh through the north pole all night. A little red and frostbitten. I touched his stomach.

"I kissed my dad when I saw him dead," Uncle Pat said, "and he was so, so cold."

"I don't want to kiss him," I said. But I wanted to touch him one more time. I touched his forehead, whispered, "I love you, dad. Thank you for everything. I have no complaints whatsoever." Tears gushed from my eyes, gathered on the tip of my nose and fell on his body.

The attendants wearing dark suits looked at us with anticipation. We nodded to them. They took hold of the gurney and rolled it toward the furnace. One of them pushed a button and the door of the oven opened. The inside was a large metal
box, and I could see flames reflected in the metal's sheen. They pushed my father in, and the door closed. The attendant pushed another button, and the incinerator geared up and then ignited full force. We stood there for a few more moments, then we left the room. On the way out, I thought to myself, "His mustache looked perfect."

Friday, June 29, 2007


Tonight putting Diego to bed is a chore with mixed blessings, or, rather, a blessing and a curse. It takes especially forever, tonight when one is tired and waiting patiently -- oh. so. patiently. -- for the end of the day to come, for a time when it's possible to be alone, or pseudo-alone. One has been waiting; that is, I have been waiting to sit down and listen to my mind for a few extended minutes, to be able to think my own thoughts for a while instead ofanother's, specifically a two year old and ten month old's thoughts.

At these kinds of moments, I imagine that life is a boat, put out to sea, and I am sitting in that boat. And I have a choice to jump boat or to sail on. And so I sail on.

Finally, I get Diego to settle down, to stop saying "Hi!" to everything: the cat, the trees outside, the ceiling. Finally, I am able to nurse him into quietude, to help him drop down into alpha state, to coax him toward sleep. I sing him his favorite song, over and over:

Row, Row, Row your boat,
Gently down the stream,
Merrily, merrily, merrily, merrily,
Life is but a dream.

I sing it to him over and over, as he stares at the shutters, blinking in the last light of the day. He stares, mewls, chuckles and swoons, smiling, toward dreaming.

I sing the song so many times, it takes on that sonorousness of a lesson. I see my father's life, so short. I realize that for the rest of my life, his life and my life with him will be a dream. Whether it be a shared dream, I know not. But I like to believe it will be.

I sing it so many times I start to cry. Life is but a dream. Is it possible to live merrily, merrily, merrily, merrily, rowing our boats down the stream, toward the sea?

Sunday, June 24, 2007

the misery and the happiness

We're back in Houston.

Conflicted, because of the weather, inside and outside, we rail against one another, trying to balance the weight of loss with the dream of loss.

It's hard all over.

All over, it's hard.

It's all overhard,

I could leave my feelings like that, all short, terse, oblique and resonant.

Or, I could expound (v.), expose (v.), exposition (v.).

Or, I could keep the energy wound up, coiled in my brain like a snake, swooning into a pounce.

My father died of an aneurysm. And a stroke. He died at 71 years old. 1000 people attended his funeral. The service consisted of a high mass, in the Mexican/Anglo spirit of the place. Mariachis provided the music liturgy, readings were chosen with care (I read the first reading from the Book of Job). Father Art's homily and Tony Moiso (current head of the family that bought the rancho from my family) eulogizing my father captured the girth of Tony's spirit, shared that spirit with all who were there. Truly the attendees formed a pageant of meaningful people from my father's life. It was a celebration of him and the of way he lived.

He was truly, without a doubt, the life of the party.

The California Highway Patrol closed the Ortega Hywy Exit on Interstate 5 for the funeral procession from the Mission Basilica in San Juan Capistrano to the old cemetery, where my father's ashes were buried between his mother and father's graves. The sun was bright. The sky was blue. It was the perfect California day: warm in the sun (almost hot), cool in the shade. With a breeze in the shade, one would be almost cold. After the graveside service, we walked down the hill with our children and extended family and with friends, walking back through town to the mission, or finding our pre-parked cars in one of the “shopping centers” at the bottom of the hill. My mother parked her Toyota Camry in the handicapped spot next to the old Forster Mansion. David and I sat and waited with Clara and Diego for 30 minutes, hoping to finally see my mom walking down the cemetery hill to open the car for us so that we could get going to the fiesta.

Following the funeral was the fiesta out Ortega Highway at Las Amantes Ranch, one of my father's favorite spots on the old Rancho Mission Viejo. Mariachis greeted the guests; picnic tables were dressed with table clothes and covered with shady tents. The beer truck, liquor wagon and Margarita stands served libations constantly and tirelessly. I had half a Margarita. I took two sips of it, set it down and came back to an empty cup. I couldn't eat any of the food because of my dietary restrictions; I drank a lot of water, and it felt like I was swimming in condolences. By the end of the day, I had a headache the size of Iowa.

Nevertheless, I appreciated everyone who came out to say goodbye to Tony and to share this loss with our family.

My father is proud of and grateful to his community. His family is, too.

Thank you.

Friday, June 15, 2007

The King is Dead. Long Live the King.

Tomas Antonio Forster, September 3, 1935 -- June 12, 2007.

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

And There Was Dancing and Music

And movin to the groovin.

I've been purging my books, my life really: going through books and CDs and papers. Jesus I have so many papers. I come from a line of packrats, most notably my father; the man has kept every single item that had any history for him personally, including the first bill he paid after graduating from college. WEST POINT. And don't you forget it.

Papers...what are all these papers? Poems, my own and other peoples, files of things that have personal history for me -- IBP postcards, teaching lessons, shit I don't know what it is nor what it's good for. I got to get rid of my shit.

By the way, we're having a garage sale, an estate sale, really because it's going to be inside our estate, the estate we're leaving for another, smaller, more economical estate. Smaller. Did I say smaller? Small-er-er-er-er. Last week, in preparation for the move, I proclaimed to David that I was only going to take 100 books to the new house, excluding my poetry collection; the entirety of which I refuse to part from. Well, I did give away my 1974 Anthology of Modern Hungarian Poetry. By give away I mean set aside. It'll be for sale on a Friday and Saturday very soon. Probably that's the only one I should keep. Who knows, I'll bet the Hungarians are going to break out as the next Superpoets of the world.

But the dancing and the music, that's what I wanted to talk about. I used to listen to a lot of music, used to purchase these things called CDs. They were more expensive than tapes, but better for some reason...maybe because they never wear out. Right? Or do they? Mine are all worn out, tired and lonely and dusty and slapped all up together with other lonely, dusty CDs. I have music on my ipod now or in my computer or in my distant memory. Do I really need these CDs? No. I do not. So why can't I just wipe them off the shelves into the boxes for the garage sale, I mean estate sale? Because each CD holds at least one memory which is tied to either a song or a mood that dominated during the time I was listening to the CD; and memory is seductive, it requires your time. And I don't have the time to listen to all the music in the world, especially because now I live with three other people who not only compete for my time, but also compete with me for music listening space. Mostly, my children win. I listen to decent children's music (it's catchy!), but I used to listen to good adult music. "Adult music" sounds like it nasty but it's not nasty. I still listen to Bob Dylan; I let Clara listen to a Bob Dylan mix every night for 15 months as her bedtime music. I had to make sure she had his patterns measured into her brain. But after Bob Dylan, the fidelities start to muddy up, the waters get murky. Do I want this Moby? NO. But then I have to listen to it to try and figure out why the fuck I bought it in the first place. There was a song tied to a memory, I'm sure. What about these Joni Mitchells? YES, but she's one of those people that I have to wait for, it's harder to make time for her admist the Reggae Playground or Carol King's Really Rosie. And, really, how many more times am I going to have to listen to Joni Mitchell in my lifetime? I may have listened to her enough. And anyway, I already transferred her to my computer, so she's on my ipod. The ipod takes up a ridiculously less amount of space; therefore, I can get rid of the Joni CDs. But then there are those CDs that I haven't burned yet, like "Tom and Elis" by Antonio Carlos Joabim. Like Coltrane's "A Love Supreme". Like Wilco's double album. Like a bunch of other ones.

But I want to get rid of stuff; I'm interested in travelling light.

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

I Want To

I want to say goodbye to Zorca, our gypsy neighbor who's put down roots in the townhouse on the corner of Travis and Stuart: Our psychic friend, our comrade. I will miss her. She has this amazing voice, amazing. It sounds exactly what a crazy old lady's voice should sound like, shrieking and urgent, near-hysterical, yet wise beyond its whelps.

This house we're leaving, it is haunted; we said goodbye to the ghosts. We'd heard about one ghost from a previous tenant who stopped by one evening with his lover because they'd been walking on the sidewalk in front of the house and run into David who was taking out the trash. The previous tenant came upstairs to look around the old place, and he told us the story of the ghost who hurled one of his floor lamps across the room, or something equally catastrophic, when he'd lived here.

We had no episodes like that one. But in fact, we had not-so-subtle catastrophes that could not be attributed per se to ghosts. Like the time the fleas infested, or the time it poured buckets of rain down through the attic door into our bedroom on Memorial Day two years ago. Like the lead paint, the nails sticking out of the warping hardwoods, the general decay everpresent -- from the shedding shingles of white paint adorning the outside, to the squirrel corpses that, while they rot, infuse the air we've had to breathe with the pungent, unmistakable odor of death. Hard to escape that smell; it creeps into everything. Both times our children were just home from being born, an animal rotted beneath the floorboards under the bed I nursed them in.

My father still lies in a drug-induced coma in Mission Hospital in California. They, the doctors, are afraid to allow his brain any stimulation. His brain needs rest, they say. Yes, we say to one another; he needs rest. And he does. My father needs a lot of rest. He has lived hard the past 71 years, a charmed life, as my brother Marco dubs it. He deserves to die a hero in his own mind, my father, which is what he worked his whole life to be: a hero in his own mind.

Is he big enough to be a hero in my mind? If you know more than a little about my father, more than a little about me, you know that the decision for me to consider my father a hero is one that must be made with the purest love, because my father and I? We fought. Always and consistently: to the death. We fought so hard, we actually hated one another truly and purely at times. But always within that hatred lived the ghost of love, bright love, true love. Real love, no matter what shape it chose to show up in. And I don't even feel bad about romanticizing my father because, in fact, he is a hero in my mind. He lived up to me, to the largeness I required of him. That is no small feat. I'm proud of him.

What I miss most right now is his voice -- the boom and bust of it, his whimsy, his self-satisfied delight in his own observations. In the last five years, most every time I called him (and it was only maybe three times a month), I'd catch him potting his plants, his flowers specifically, around his patio overlooking San Clemente and the Pacific Ocean. He'd tell me what he was doing, and what a perfect day it was. "It's another perfect day here in Southern California," he'd say accusingly.

"It's hot here," I'd say. Or "it's raining," or "it's sorta cold here."

"I don't know why anyone would choose to live in fucking Houston," he'd say. "I live in Paradise."

"It's complicated," I would say sometimes, although rarely. Mostly, I'd just say, "Yeah...."

I wish I had a recording of my father's voice. I have a recording of my brother Marco imitating him, and it's scary, the verisimilitude Marco can capture. He knows how to dramatize my father's gross humanity with expertly observed examples. He's genius, my brother, and I'm grateful for him.

Today, while talking to Marco on the phone, I could hear the ghost of my father in him, and I realized that the ghost of my father has been there, here, with us forever; and therefore, he will be with us forever. And that is enough.

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

The Seventh Thing

The last thing in this meme streak that you may not know about me is that I am currently in California because my dear, dear dad had an aneurysm yesterday, May 29, and is currently in a coma. I'm here with my siblings and extended family.

I trust that things will be what they will be.

Sunday, May 27, 2007

Saturday, May 26, 2007

The Fifth Thing

I have never read Moby Dick.

Friday, May 25, 2007

The Fourth Thing

I have a 1948 Martin guitar that I never play anymore, and it plays beautifully. I am terrified to sell it, although I fantasize about how much money I could get for it.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

The Third Thing

I learned grammar from teaching grammar. Before that, I wrote by ear. I still write by ear, more than by eye. But now my grammar is better. Not perfect, but good enough.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

The Second Thing

The Second Thing people may not know about me is that my favorite contemporary book of poems is Jelly Roll by Kevin Young. And my favorite poem in Jelly Roll is called "Boogie Woogie".

Boogie Woogie
(c) 2003
by Kevin Young

I'll be your lunch
date, your party

up & watch me run

nine eight

I'm your New
Year's Eve hat

with the propeller
on it--confetti

& kiss me
I'm kazoo for you

fool, counting
down the days

like those numbers
before films, a glimpse

that once, before Abbot
& Costello

a screen test
lady winked & was

gone--spliced in,
us laughing.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

The First Thing

Robin, of The Other Mother, tagged me with a meme: 7 things people may not know about me.

The first thing is that I was in a band, a rock band, for seven years. Lead singer, lead songwriter, shitty guitarist. We played at several Houston clubs regularly: Rudyards, Mary Janes, the Edge, the Ale House. Our band was called Shag, and it was born before the movie Austin Powers was born, so it wasn't a geeky cliche at the time, or at least we didn't think so. We chose it for the entendres: it is a haircut (I had a shag in third grade), a baseball play, a dance, a carpet, a fuck. Before I was with Shag, I was in a band called Shiksa -- comprised of two Jewish brothers and me. For Shiksa, I sang and played the bass SO INCREDIBLY BADLY. Shiksa had many, many rehearsals, but only one show, which took place in the living room of the band leader's house. There were at least 27 people there. We had some good songs.

Monday, May 21, 2007


After church on Sundays when I was a little girl, our family ritual was to drive around the San Juan Capistrano valley gomezing, as my dad called it.

To my dad, "to gomez" means to be a busy body. A guy in my dad's high school class named Gomez was always getting into other people's business; hence, the term was born.

For example, when I was little, my dad would often take detours on the way home from Thrifty's or the horse stables, driving through the Kinoshita's snow pea fields, or into some new housing development, around the back roads and side streets of our town, always in an idle sort of way, just to see what was going on, even though nothing was going on usually. When, exasperated, I'd ask him what he was doing, he'd say, "I'm being a gomez; shut up." Likewise, if one of his children seemed too nosy or intrusive regarding his property or doings, he would tell us to stop being such a gomez.

Sunday, May 20, 2007

Saturday, May 19, 2007

Nostalgia, noun

When I lived in Spain, in Salamanca, on Calle de Espiritu, I fell ill in the fall and was ill all through the wretchedly cold winter. The illness, so mysterious, never named, sprang upon me with a vengeance, and then settled in, hosted itself in my body, a comfortable guest there I suppose because my body was brittle from starvation, self-imposed. My mind, fuzzed by fever, could not grip the reality of what was happening, and I lived so much a spectator of myself, that I might as well have been watching the movie of my life: a depressing one, at that.

Every day at the comida, the family I lived with, talked around me to one another about the minutia of their lives, catching up, even though they lived on top of one another in a palatial five bedroom apartment that could not have been larger than 1000 square feet. Sometimes, I sat silent throughout the meal. They talked about me to one another, weighing in their opinions about what was wrong with me, as if I were not there. One afternoon, the lady of the house, La Senora, told the family that I was muriendo de nostalgia, dying of nostalgia.

I was only 21, and I translated her diagnosis, this nostalgia, as loneliness. I was dying of loneliness.

Years later, a man who was pursuing me although I had a boyfriend, lived with him even, diagnosed me with the same illness. "You know what your problem is?" he said, a little laughingly. "Your just lonely."

"How can I be lonely," I answered, "when I'm surrounded by people?"

"You don't understand," he said, "do you?"

Years after that, another man, a friend named Christian, told me that he described me to his friends as a beautiful cynic. I took it as a compliment because of the beautiful part. But tonight, I thought of that description as I sat alone on our balcony, not lonely, just alone, and I thought about how this description, which was probably right at the time he said it, was no longer right. Or that I no longer wanted it to be right. To be a cynical person is a way to distance oneself from the fray of life as it happens, to sit outside of one's life, to judge it and dismiss it with a carefully crafted sentence, tossed out lightly, but weighted with sarcasm and defeat tucked inside the sentence's syntax like stones sewn inside the hem of a coat. What is meant to be a terse quip is actually an admission of the incredible longing for connection, for a feeling of fullness and grace. Cynicism can become a mental stone, a heaviness that results in a coldness of being.

Nostalgia is like that, too. Defined as "the condition of homesickness", or "a yearning for situations, people and places in the past" (, nostalgia eats away at one's consciousness so that the grace that exists every moment in the present sits like a specter at the banquet table, the same table where one sits, also, surrounded by people, still lonely as a stone.

Friday, May 18, 2007

Favorite Teen Movies

The Breakfast Club (My mom's best friend in college was Anthony Michael Hall's kindergarten teacher. That guy looked like he was still in kindergarten when he did that movie.)

Pretty in Pink (Psychedelic Furs!)

Valley Girl (Nicholas Cage at his best -- except for Adaptation was awesome, too, and that Vampire movie where he eats the roach, and Moonstruck.... Also, the Plimsouls singing "A Million Miles Away")

Grease (every single part of it)

St. Elmo's Fire (Rob Lowe.)

Thursday, May 17, 2007


My friends Christopher and Rachel and I drove back over the Golden Gate
Bridge after spending a day hiking to a beach at the foot of MountTamalpais. We were cranky from the tension of it being the end of a summer, a
long one, in which I'd been leaving for months, on my way to Houston,
TX via Orange County, California. The era hadn't ended yet, but it was
ending, and we didn't want to talk about it. The tension ensued because
our age, then early 20s, was a time when we had no idea what we were
doing nor where we were going next. And because we wanted to speak our
minds to one another, we talked a lot about the meaning of life and
stuff like that. And our earnestness helped us tolerate each other's recklessness.

I was obsessing about a man, a sculptor named Chico, who made robots and installed them in the Exploratorium Museum, where I worked designing an ever elusive group vistor
program, answering phones, and sorting mail. Rachel worked in Group
Benefits there. She and I were there together on days when the public
wasn't, when people like SteveBuscemi were visiting because his wife, the artist Jo Andres, was in residence at the museum.

Christopher and I are close friends from college in Los Angeles,
and when we were in our early 20s, we lived in San Francisco as
struggling young writers, the two of us. And although we weren't living
together (I was a nanny in the Richmond district), we hung out every
day together as friends, struggling young writer friends. And although
Rachel and I worked right next to each other, we never really talked
until the day Chris and I happened upon her wandering alone through the
crowd at the free BonnieRaitt and Jackson Brown Day of the Dead concert at City Hall. From that day, we three were one unit.

And while I was in love with the two of them, and while they were (and still are) two of my best friends, they were SO not supportive of my obsession with Chico, the robot sculptor. And in retrospect, this is how best friends should act -- concerned about you! -- when you are acting all stark and nearly raving mad. And we're crossing the bridge, and I'm chattering on about how I hope torun into the robot sculptor in Seattle, because I'm going there soon to see my friends Ed and Lee and maybe we'll go to his art opening.

"Does he even know you're gonna be in Seattle?" Rachel asks.

"No" I say.

"What are you? Like Fatal Attraction?" Chris says.

"What. Maybe metaphorically." I say.

"Christa! The world is NOT A METAPHOR," Rachel says.

"But it is to me," I practically whimper.

And it was. And I knew then, as we rode together over the Golden Gate Bridge, that living according to the ways and means of the metaphorical world would not be an easy thing.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

The Way it Was

I grew up in the OC, which in the current parlance stands for a decadent ennui, a suburban nonchalance, a foyer in a side palace of Hell.

Tonight, Vernon and Adam are younger than we are, in their 20s, and they live in a fantastic old Spanish apartment complex on Main, very Tennesse Williams, very Camino Real. They are visiting us and are outside right now telling stories with David. When Adam asked me if I grew up in Houston, I tell him, sadly, no. I answer Orange County, California, when he asks where I did grow up. "The OC," he says as if he knows something about the place without having ever been there, a common result of the show on ABC or whatever channel it's on. I've never seen the show. But having lived in the real thing, I don't need to see it. I know what it was like to grow up there: awful and awesome. Totally. Simultaneously.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Braindrain #1

My friend Lucy created a film about her obsession (now past) with Ed Norton, Jr. I think it's called My Obsession with Ed. Norton, Jr. She asked me to participate, because apparently when she first confided in me about her crush on Ed Norton, asking what she should do about it, I told her to ask the universe for help. She wanted me to relate that part of her story to her audience.

I'd actually forgotten about saying that to her, although it did sound like something I probably said. Like when I was drunk or something.

But no, actually, the more I thought about it, the more I knew that not only did I say that to her, but also I said it to her in earnest. At the time of her film-making, It was not clear to me whether or not she had taken my advice literally, except for the fact that she did make a film about her obsession, and she did show that film to her now-husband Jeff on one of their first dates, which I happened to be there for; I happened to be there for their initial crush evening, too, and I remember Lucy's thrill at the end of the evening. "I have a crush on Jeff," she said, "and we're going out next weekend."

Now they're married. So maybe she did petition the universe, and instead of meeting Ed Norton, she met her husband; and maybe just ONE of the reasons he fell in love with her was because of her film about her obsession with Ed Norton, her husband an artist and therefore prone to falling in love with talent. And besides, Ed Norton was dating Salma Hayek, so he was already taken.

What is love? Tamarie Cooper explores this in her most recent show -- 20 Love Songs at Infernal Bridegroom Productions. Daniel Adame does this hilarious and heartwrenching dance to "What is Love? (Baby Don't Hurt Me)." And I've heard that Amy Bruce and George Parker's thing called "A Woman's Complex Relationship with her Vibrator" is flat out hysterical. I created a piece called MAW about mother love. It's gonna go up the first two weekends in June. If you've seen any of Tamarie's work, for example her Tamalalia series, you know that she creates shows that are poingnant and hilarious, the kind of comedy that draws us all in, that reminds us of our humanity and, also, of our godliness. She, herself, reads from her teenage journals about, for example, how she decided in 9th grade to become a "cutter" and how she used a pebble to draw first blood from her arm, giving the audience an insider's view into how Tamarie, and the phenomenon that is Tamarie Cooper, came into existence. 20 Love Songs is a show is not to be missed, dear readers. Not to be missed.


How many lightbulbs would it take to change the world?

One per household. David heard Michael Bloomberg speak the other day at a Greater Houston Partnership luncheon. Mayor Bloomberg sighted a statistic about how if everyone in New York City replaced one incandescent lightbulb with one fluorescent lightbulb, they could reduce this country's energy costs dramatically [or was it significantly?]. Bloomberg then said that the energy saved this way could power the empire state building for an entire year.

I've been dreaming about green. I want a green house, as in a house that impacts the earth minimally, and that does not emit toxic gasses, fumes and particles into our living space. I want the artist Mara Adamitz Scrupe to design a solar energy system for our house that is also an art installation. I want her to do this on the ranch that I want to own on the Central Coast of California. I plan to own this ranch one day. A medium-size ranch. A place for people I love to come and live and rest. And play. And work, if they want to. I dream sometimes of living in an extended family compound on the ranch that I plan on owning. I probably dream this because I'm away from them so much and I can't remember how miserable I let them make me. Sometimes.

The randomness of tonight's post reminds me of how I write in my notebook. It's what I used to call a "braindrain" with my high school students, a term I stole from my husband David's father, David, before I ever knew my husband David.

The universe works in mysterious and methodical ways.

Monday, May 14, 2007

Favorite Notebook

I found the Campus Notebook by Kokuyo 18 years ago, and I've been using it ever since. It's the best. I have to special order them from Japanese Stationary stores, specifically Kinokuniya stores. So very satisfying!

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Today is Mother's Day

photo by Christa

photo by David

Saturday, May 12, 2007

Slow Turning

Went to Dan Electro's Guitar Bar tonight to see this singer/songwriter Dan Bern play there. He had another musician with him, a Mr. Coon, who played -- get this -- a cellocaster. CELLOCASTER! This is the instrument I want played in my vicinity more often. It was great.

Anyway, Dan Bern was totally entertaining. Good lyrics. Lots of Bob Dylan echoes, but as my friend Jason says, "that's totally appropriate because Bob Dylan ripped off all his shit, too." Which is true, of course.

It's been so long since I've seen live music and, well, JESUS I used to play live music in Dan Electro's Bar. SHit. I've come so far....

Anyway, seeing Dan Bern reminded me a little bit of when I lived in Los Angeles and would go to McCabe's Guitar store on Pico Blvd. to see John Hiatt. John Hiatt was something I was loving back then when I lived in Los Angeles. A long time ago.

by John Hiatt

When I was a boy,

I thought it just came to ya'

But I never could tell what's mine

So it didn't matter anyway

My only pride and joy

Was this racket down here

Bangin' on an old guitar

And singin' what I had to say

I always thought our house was haunted

But nobody said boo to me

I never did get what I wanted

Now I get what I need


It's been a slow turnin'

From the inside out

A slow turnin'

But you come about

Slow learnin'

But you learn to sway

A slow turnin' baby

Not fade away

Now I'm in my car

I got the radio on

I'm yellin' at the kids in the back seat

'Cause they're bangin' like Charlie Watts

You think you've come so far

In this one horse town

Then she's laughin' that crazy laugh

'Cause you haven't left the parkin' lot

Time is short and here's the damn thing about it

You're gonna die, gonna die for sure

And you can learn to live with love or without it

But there ain't no cure

There's just a...


Friday, May 11, 2007


The storm last night, which on the Mega Doppler looked like hell hovering over Houston, TX, refreshed me. Oh boy, did I need some refreshment. David and I were caught during the worst part of it up at the Spacetaker office. We were doing some work. Around 9 set out to meet our friends for drinks at Poison Girl, but the rain, thunder and lightning were pounding the area, so we had to stay where we were. Nearing 10 p.m., I started imagining the kids home, awakened by the ferocious thunder and lightning, worried and scared because mommy and daddy weren't home. Their beloved Marcia was with them; nevertheless, in my mind I pictured them staring out the windows at the maelstrom feeling completely crushed by fear of the storm.

David said, "Stop worrying. Clara loves storms."

I said, "Marcia is not answering her phone, so there must be trouble. We need to go home."

When we got home, Marcia was sitting on the couch, and the kids were fast asleep.

"They went to bed around 8," Marcia said. Like they always do. "They've been asleep since then."

I looked at David and said, "You were 100% right." It's so rare that I say this, and I wanted him to revel in the glow of his rightness.

After Marcia left, I realized that I was the one who was scared and frightened by the storm because my parents weren't home. Unlike Clara and Diego, I did not dwell in an area frequented by fierce storms every few weeks/months. Storms rarely happened in my hometown -- once a year at the most -- so when they did, I was consumed by the strangeness, the interrupting power of the storm. I used to fear that we might not come out on the other side of the chaos -- that we would all just be swallowed by the sky's maw.

It's hard, even though I try all the time, to remember that Clara and Diego are totally different people, with different orientations to the world.

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

All Shook Up

Right now there's a rat scratching somewhere in the fireplace's flue. My son is wheezing in his bed. My daughter sleeps, exhausted by her crippling social shyness/paranoia. My joints ache. Nevertheless, I keep trying to find the bright side of everything. Today, I realized that this trying to find the bright side of everything is so Pollyanna of me. I was talking to a new friend, and she mentioned ordering books on, which reminded me of a book I want to order about living gluten-free, which I want to read in my quest to become more healthy, due to my poor health over the past year, including my brain hemorrhage after Diego was born. Off the cuff and enveloped in my response to her comment about Amazon, I mentioned the hemorrhage to her. As in, "did I tell you I had a brain hemorrhage a few months ago?" Like I was asking, "did I tell you I tried this new yellow squash yesterday?"

She seemed aghast by the information, appropriately.

I keep believing that it's no big deal that I had a brain hemorrhage. And because I'm alive and (relatively) well, I suppose it isn't a big deal. Nevertheless, I don't know what the fuck my problem is that I keep trying to see the bright side of a brain hemorrhage.

I even had this idea that I could write a book called THE BRIGHT SIDE OF A BRAIN HEMORRHAGE. It could be my book that makes me a million dollars, and furthermore I will get paid bookoo to travel all over the world giving lectures about my enlightening experiences. The cover art of THE BRIGHT SIDE OF A BRAIN HEMORRHAGE could be one of those classic smiley faces, the yellow button face with two black dots for eyes and the smile, only this smiley face would have a droop on one side of its mouth.

Oh HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA. It's all so funny and interesting.

But the fact remains that I could have died, and ultimately this is not only a laughing matter (gallows humor and all), it is also a serious matter. However, it's hard for me to stare into that darkness for too long, because what's the point? There's nothing to see. It's dark. What else can I be but positive and grateful and wildly optimistic about everything? Even though the rat keeps scratching, Diego is still wheezing, Clara continues collapsing in public places when someone says hello to her.