Saturday, December 25, 2010

Happy New Year

Got up at 4:15 this morning after tossing about for a while. I decided I'd see where my wakefulness was leading me now and gave myself permission to be tired and cranky later on even though it's Christmas. Also, I get to take a nap later if need be after I make fudge.

Around 5:30, I got the urge to go walking, to see what the streets are like so early on Christmas. So quiet. No cars, no lights in people's windows. All the students have gone home for the holidays.

Got some pics of lights all blurry, my favorite. It's the way I remember seeing them, like they're in motion.

Also this shot of the moon. It looks like an old-timey photo. Most people have already forgotten her so soon after her big eclipse show.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Piano Horn

“I can’t believe you bought a piano horn.”

She has a friend coming to town. They used to play air hockey at the arcade. The phone call is punctuated with laughter, sharp and big that rings through the bus.

“I’m trying to potty train Kamora and it’s a mission. I get her on the pot and she just wants to run around without any pants on! And I finally got her back and she stood in the bowl. Her feet in the bowl! I nearly died laughing!”

She is working two jobs, one as an intake coordinator at St. Vincent de Paul’s.

She leans past me and raps sharply on the window to catch the attention of someone standing on the street. She smiles and waves, pushing herself into the spaces of others. Another call, she is arranging a delivery of goods to be picked up for the WIC program.

I look up at one point and she is looking me dead in the eye, daring me to shush her.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Cool Socks and Writer's Block

For the last couple of weeks, my novel writing has hit a snag. I cannot think of anything for my characters to do. They are trapped where I left them: approaching the city where the evil sorcerer is taking over the world, waiting for the woman trapped in the aerie to speak, and stumbling through the outskirts of Hell trying to find their way back to the fashion show. I am dutifully doing all the things I’m told to do at times like this, but now I am realizing that the snag is not in my book’s plot, but in my life.

When I sit down to write, I am overcome with a feeling of my own life’s paucity of details. Part of this is the result of a lifelong depression. Being depressed changes how we remember things. When you are depressed, you remember trends, moods and gists but details slide off into the abyss. So while I can remember having gone to Europe after college and to Indonesia before the break-up of my marriage, I haven’t been able to commit to memory the specifics that would locate a story I might tell.

Now, I am convinced that the human will gives us the wiggle room to change our brains and thus our lives. So, I’ve been working on focusing on the details. I figure that if the depressed mind doesn’t focus on details, then choosing to do so will help my brain to develop into a non-depressed one. And what I’ve realized is I’ve created a life that is, in fact, deprived of interesting details. Makes sense! I have a tendency to not remember details, so I don’t notice my life is bland and devoid of detail. (It’s not devoid of detail; I’m seeing loads of details now that I’m looking for them. I’m just incredibly bored with them. Do you really want to know the details of how I had to change my bus commute when the local bus system changed their lines? This was a serious issue! I’ve had to change my writing schedule! And add 20 minutes of walking to my day! Trader Joe’s is still accessible after work, but the produce market requires an additional walk of three blocks! So many details!)

And the most boring part of my detail filled day is my job. After six years of non-employment, I took the first decent job I was offered. And it’s really decent! Good benefits, easy commute (despite aforementioned bus change catastrophe opportunity) and the work is easy. Too easy. Bang-head-on-desk easy. And I have to hide myself because I’m a Berkeley person working for Republicans who “don’t’ believe in gay rights” and talk about Christianity all the fracking time. Which actually wouldn’t be so bad because they are still nice people in their own way (if you don’t tell them you’re gay), but I am really, really bored all day long because I am not doing what I’m supposed to be doing, which is writing the novel that won’t go anywhere.

Back when I was getting ready to look for my first job in six years (the word “girding” comes to mind) a dear friend of mine helped me to gain the right mindset. He reminded me that David Sedaris’ best work is about the weird ass jobs he’s held. I loved that! Of course! I could just take jobs that are weird and interesting and give me material to write about! This revisioning of the job search radicalized me and I sent out queries to all sorts of places I wouldn’t have otherwise. I still wish I’d been able to take the job of crowd photographer for the Oakland A’s, but by the time they called I already had a 40 hour, full bennies, corporate-wear administration job where I sit on my ass all day surfing the internet and looking busy.

Now with the Great Recession and the fact that I’m old enough I require health care, I don’t know if I can afford to take a bunch of weird part time gigs until I can figure out if health care reform really does allow me to be eligible for health care on my own. But I can try for a job where I can wear cool socks and not dye my hair while I occasionaly mention my ex-wife without having to call her a "friend".

And this is all a part of living the life of someone devoted to creating. Artists, writers, musicians, all people who create, must be sensitive to the world. We must create ourselves as beings who can receive the world as much as we can bear. Depression is so much a defense against too much world too soon with no safety in which to experience. It's a buffer against overwhelm. But to create, we must allow the world in.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Galoshes and Daisies

Even more rainy today. And windy. I was panicked through the early morning with images of wet feet and my favorite black shoes ruined. Yes, this is the kind of fear my brain will wake me up for at 3 in the frickin’ morning! And I had to go through the whole song and dance to talk the terrified brain down to a point where it could get back to dreaming:

"Our shoes! They're gonna get ruined! We'll be standing at the bus and all the water will wash over our shoes and soak into the leather and it'll dry out and crack and they won't be pretty anymore! We gotta do something!"

“Now that’s a good point brain, but we can’t do anything about it now.”

“But I love those shoes.”

“The best thing we can do now is get the most sleep we can so we can make good decisions tomorrow.”

“But I should have gotten galoshes… I wanted to get galoshes… to wear to work, ones with daisies or stripes, not the polka dots, and I didn’t get them and now my favorite work shoes are going to be ruined, I should have gotten galoshes!...”

“Okay, take a breath, brain. It’s okay. We aren’t going to let that happen. We’ll wear the brown shoes.”

“They’re a little tight. And I don’t want them ruined either.”

“Then we’ll wear our casual shoes.”

“NOOO! I really like them.”

“How about the waterproof duck shoes.”

“Oh, that’s a great idea! We’ll wear the duck shoes and they will look funny with the penstripe slacks and we won’t jump in puddles but we could.”

“Okay, then. Ready to go back to sleep?”

“Yeah, I guess… But what about our lunch bag?! That’s going to get drenched and we have to carry the work shoes in it and then they'll be inside and get ruined!"

And so it goes for about an hour until negotiations conclude with an outfit of duck shoes and the new plastic grocery bag I got in Japantown (daisies!)along with a round of praise for the brain that is always looking out for me (and my shoes, apparently) especially at 3 in the morning.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

In Your Face, Portland

These last few days have been pretty heady for me. You see, I was born in Houston, Texas. Most folks who know me are quite flummoxed to learn that my natal city is in that great state. To them I say that this is the state of Molly Ivins and Ann Richards so you don’t have to act all surprised. I do not usually call myself a Texan having moved to the Great Left Coast when I was a mere kindergartener, but many Texans have assured me that I have well maintained my citizenship due to the fact that not only did I spend one month a year throughout my childhood in Texas, that one month was August. Also, my daddy taught me to make chili.

While being Texan used to carry a certain heady power over Europeans until George Bush screwed everything up - when I went to Europe in the 80’s, Americans were just as hated as they are now, but if you said you were from Texas, all doors opened for the small price of having to tell a few cowboy and injun stories… now, they will shoot you – being from Houston was always anti-climatic. Houston didn’t have the pop icon stature of Dallas or San Antonio, nor the hipster vibe of Austin. And although it has its megachurches, it lacks any FLDS ranches or Waco-cult style crazy. Say you’re from Texas and people ask if you own an oil rig. Say you’re from Houston and people just look at you funny.

But now, thanks to the election of Annise Parker, the first (openly) gay mayor of a top-ten city, I can finally get something other than vaguely pitying looks when I say where I’m from. I don’t have to describe the allure of 2.4 million square feet of blessedly air-conditioned shopping mall. Nor do I have to explain how Houston’s lack of zoning laws has enabled the city to have more than one skyline. And I don’t have to explain what an empanada is (although I still have to settle for just yearning for one.)

All I have to say is: In your face Portland. We are totally more major than you are.

Wednesday, December 02, 2009

Total Transformation

I instigated a total transformation over my Thanksgiving weekend. It started out simply with an idea to move some furniture in my apartment. I had one room that had lost all function and another that had taken on too many functions – so I ended up never do anything in it. I thought that if I switched a sofa and a big overstuffed chair – moving each to the room it currently wasn’t in - I could make the non-room into a living room and create more space in the other room for meditation, exercise and art. Seemed simple enough.

And my stepfather was kind enough to help out. The fact that I’d asked him for help was a miracle and a huge step for me. My stepfather is a generous, kind man who was more than happy to oblige, but I am nervous about putting my needs out there, always sure they will look ridiculous and unimportant once I give voice to them and this seemed so frivolous. Starving children, war, greed, and I want to redecorate.

But I am learning how to deal with those silly thoughts and carry on. Bits of me jump up and down saying, “Don’t ask, they’ll laugh! They won’t like you for bothering them.” And I say, “Shhhh, if they laugh, we’ll laugh too, then ask someone else.”

My silly bits say, “This won’t do any good. It’s such a little change.” And I say, “Shhh, if it’s a small change, it’ll be easy and if it doesn’t change anything, nothing is lost.”

They whisper, “It’ll hurt.”

And I take all my silly bits in my arms and say, “Shhhh, little silly bits, life hurts and life is wonderful. We will get through it all together.”


I used to think of goals as something to achieve. You decided what you wanted and then broke down the necessary steps, did them in order and voila! you achieved your goal. But that’s not how the cool goals work. The cool goals are goals you can’t imagine. I want to love living. But I don’t know what that’s like. I’ve never particularly wanted to live. But when things get bad, I pull myself up out of the muck with the determination to figure this puzzle out. How does one love to live? I can’t break down the steps to this goal. I can just keep remembering this is what I want and keep choosing to do things that have a chance in hell of moving me towards this thing I cannot yet comprehend. The cool goals like this are dreams.

So we moved the furniture. The big chair, which I thought would be the problem, moved so easily we got cocky. Now all we had was the sofa and that had gotten into the room, so we could get it back out, right? We pushed and turned, tried it this way, turned it over and tried again. Maybe this way, push it up and then to the left. Take the casters off, now the closet door. And don’t worry about the wall. I have to patch the hole made when we moved the sofa into the room… Oh yeah, it was rather difficult to do that, wasn’t it? Funny how you don’t remember those things years later.

I spent Sunday moving about the furniture I had left, the stuff I could move on my own. I tried this arrangement and that. I finally admitted I just had to get rid of the old, huge, color t.v. and the too low coffee table that was really a leftover from an old, cheaply made futon set. I discovered that the drop-leaf table worked better on the other side of the room than where I’d planned because now I can sit at my easel or turn a few degrees and have a large flat space. I discovered that the side tables from my grandmother’s bedroom set make perfect little altars with drawers for holding replacement candles, incense, matches. And I learned that my teak standing screen looks amazing with my dracaena and big chair in front of it. I mean like really amazing, like I’m going to take a picture and submit it to a design blog ‘cause this can’t be my house can it?

If you had told me last week, “Just switch the sofa and the big chair and you will create a space of beauty that can serve your quest for a life well loved,” I would have said, “Well, it’s something to do anyway,” but I would not have believed you.

On Monday, I sat in my new beautiful room, candles lit, checking in with myself, whispering to my old gods and holding my desire in my hand like a precious gem. I could not imagine when I started this little project that I would end up with this room. I realized that this is the small favor I asked of my stepdad. This was the plan that seemed so unformed, frivolous, and potentially disastrous. I could not have imagined this room, could not have set this room as a goal. In a million years or randomly setting and achieving goals I would sooner write a King Lear than aim for this room. And yet, here I am in a place of my own making, one step closer to my dream.

Winter Wishes

[The story behind the wish can be found here. Be warned. It'll take you *ages* to read because I write too much awesome.]

In the latest installment of Wishcasting Wednesday, Jaime Ridler asks, "What is your winter wish?"

I wish to keep dreaming.

Sunday, November 08, 2009

The Worst Moment

The worst moment for the caterpillar is when it's still munching leaves and is beginning to think, "Is this all there is? Do I really just want to crawl around all my life munching leaves? This sucks! This is a horrible life. I could be doing something else. I feel like I was meant for so much more than just this. But damnit! I can't imagine what I'd be. You know what? Frack this! I'm going to cocoon myself up and not have anything to do with this stinkin' world..."