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.