Friday, December 30, 2011

Ghost

Today is warm (60F) and I go out for my daily walk from mom's place, picking a new route that avoids the main streets to her north and south. As I walk I realize I am very near the school I attended in second grade, then the street where our family's lawyer lives, which is also where I met my first real boyfriend. A little further on I pass the street with the name I can never get out of my head, but not sure why. Sometimes I forget who lived there. It's not till I see the dark clouds building on my left, the west, that I remember Michael Ruppert.
He was close friends with the lawyer's family, whose son had introduced me to that first boyfriend.
And what I remember is the two of us at a teen retreat my church gave, and we are sitting in front of a fire place in the main hall, everyone else is gone and we're just two lonely geeky kids happy to have someone to talk with. We really had so little in common, but we did, we were Catholic kids and it was the Midwest in the early 70s, after all. We talked for hours.

A few months later he's dead. Not just him, his whole family, shot on Easter day. We found out when we got home from a drive to my grandparents' farm in Indiana. My dad turned on the 11 oclock news, and there it was. I dont' think I quite believed it at first. But over the next months every newspaper had the Ruppert story on the front page, nearly every day. Go out to get the paper, see Mike's family sprawled dead on the floor of their grandmother's tiny house. Or the photos of his uncle, the killer.

But this is not what I was thinking as I got to Vinnedge. If I was thinking at all of anything except the weirdness of this Ohio town. I wasn't thinking about Michael at all at first. By the time I turned home I was talking to his ghost. He was surprised to see me. The rest is between me and Mike. But I was crying by the time I got to my mom's. The wind had kicked up. It was just about to rain.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011


A friend once endowed me with his earthly possessions. I meant to keep them for him, but after a few years I realized he had a place to live again, and didn't seem to want any of it any more. It wasn't completely up to me, I was still with my ex and the only thing he was sentimental about was stuff he'd made himself. Now, my ex, he's been dead for 8 years and I still have way more of the stuff he'd made himself than I can count. When I moved back in, after his death, I threw a lot away, not a lot, just some of the bigger, less successful paintings. They took up way too much space. A whole room. I rescued the ones I liked; had to drag some back from the street when Jesse came back from school and started carving out his apartment from the body of the loft. But it was all his father had, you know. For the kids. Kid. I should have had more of them so I'd never have to stop using the plural.

 It's mostly paintings, he made thousands of them. And pottery.  Not much of it is useful exactly. The ceramics--he was learning the form while teaching it to seniors or was it kids? At a summer camp when he was young. There are some esthetically pleasant pieces. I don't know what my son will want with any of it, but that's not up to me. I suspect he may throw it all away when I leave town. That would be sad, and not because I have any real attachment to the works. Sad because it's what his dad would have hated most, and he still loves his dad. And I never hated the man enough to hate what he made. Or lie that it wasn't any good. 

I'm up late tonight, or rather woke up really early-- midnight. I have no sleep schedule lately. I'm lucky I'm working from home. I'm here trying not to have a long, heartfelt conversation with my son because I think it would probably come out badly. What's the right way to tell your only remaining child that you will die if anything happens to him? I want to say that I want him to feel fulfilled in life, to pursue things he cares about; but it's all just a way of saying I'm terrified of losing him. I want his life to seduce him into staying alive so I can stay alive.  Isn't that what it means, to be happy? Content? I prefer fulfilled. It sounds more valuable, and rare, and rewarding.  I want him to be glad he's alive.  Because that means he won't take stupid risks, or be depressed, or sit on his ass doing nothing. But you can't tell people this kind of thing.
 
So I try to shut up and be positive. He's too old to have his mom even hinting around at how to live his life. He's too much like me to listen, anyway. 

I ran into that friend, many years later, out in the East Village. He recognized me, but I didn't recognize him at first. It was the Jamaican accent when he called my name that made me see his face as him and not some random Village guy. He'd aged so heavily since the day he left his boxes at the loft. He was wearing layers of lighter clothes to keep warm, none of them particularly clean. His hair was shot with gray and straggly. The edges of his eyes had started to yellow.  When he talked I could see how long his teeth had grown and I fretted for him, but it wasn't really my place to ask. He told me he'd gotten a subsidized apartment, "just saving it for my daughter Aiana. That's all I care about. That she has a good place to live when she comes back." I hugged him then for the last time. I never saw him again. 

Now here I am, saving it for my son.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Ready to cross that fine line...

Only the young believe that you have to experience the lows to appreciate the highs in life. It's not my experience. Maybe the personal lows that exist mostly in your own mind, maybe the naturally paced lows of losing a parent or leaving school, or even divorce. But the real lows in life that are wrenched from your soul and leave scars? What on earth subverts that? I used to hope people didn't know what I meant about things like this. Now, I'd rather more people understood exactly how miserable life is, really, under all the Disney bunting. Because if you understand that, you will not be so quick to visit your sick, miserable need to prettify life with easy lies that destroy the lives of other people who made the mistake of being victims even once. Those lies that make you feel good about your (stupid by definition) world view -- because if you have a world view, it's stupid, trust me. Or don't take my word for it. Wait until your ridiculous suppositions and assumptions leave you open to a good side-winding punch in the gut. Then dress that mess up and dance in it. Fucker. Oh, I'm sorry, did I hurt your feelings? Sorry. Sorry sorry sorry. It's better if I let life hurt them for you, I suppose. You've been warned. Be offended at me, but remember, life is still out there.

And notice I didn't say death, exactly. Life and death are the same thing. Do you see that yet? There is no life without death. You will either lose everything and everyone before you die, or lose it all afterward. You think life is all good and death is bad; but you're wrong. Do you think abusive husbands have two sides, because they don't. The "good" side is the mask that leaves you vulnerable to the bad. I shouldn't even use those childhood terms, good and bad. Life is what causes you to die. Love is what causes you to suffer. The Buddhists won't tell you this directly. But they don't deny it. They just narrow the definition of love until all it means is a form of desire. I want my son. I want my mother. I want to live. It is desire that causes suffering. You must desire to live in order to stay alive. Suffering is life. But that's not what they tell you. No one enjoys life more than the sadist or the serial killer. Like children their world is about pleasure in life, in the suffering (that is, the life)  of other people. Why do you doubt me? You know people who enjoy watching you suffer, and who feel better about themselves when your life turns to shit. You may not admit that you know this about them, but that doesn't make their victory over you any less pleasant to them. And yes, the sadists and serial killers and children in grown bodies are lying to themselves. They are subject to every misery you encounter, with even fewer tools than you to survive them. They get theirs, you see. You may not enjoy that, though. You may wish that on no one, not even your worst enemy. Not even on yourself.

If you don't know what I mean, just wait. It's waiting for you, just like it waited for her.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Suspicions

So now that there are hate pages online, blaming my nephew for her disappearance. The people who post there are at liberty to create innumerable scenarios, all of which end with him killing her. What is it in these people's hearts that makes their inner lives so ugly?  A small sample for you: they argued over something, he killed her, then sent texts to himself to make it look like she was still alive. He lured her out of her townhouse, killed her and drove her 4 hours away, dropped her body and came back without anyone knowing he'd left. He took her out of her home in a sack and burned her in his friends' fire pit. There was a wiccan full moon ceremony and she was accidentally killed. He and six of his friends conspired to kill her and now the six friends are his alibi. He has the police completely fooled. He lies all the time. He cries too much. He never cries. His body language shows he's lying. He speaks about her in past tense. He didn't thank the searchers. He did thank the searchers. It all proves he's guilty.

One woman searched his name and found everyone in the area with the same name and all their criminal records. My nephew had 3 small speeding fines, all a couple of years old. She felt perfectly free to post this online. Another one found a poetry site he'd posted on when he was in high school. Which she mined for "dark" poems. She actually got upset and railed at the other haters when they weren't grateful for all her hard work snooping into his life. Another has no problem describing all the cars in my sister's driveway, who she believes they belong to, and where they go. Yet another who says she works with my sister, or knows someone who does, and claims my sister told them that my nephew has a learning disability. Some of these people say they live near my family, know this or that person, or know no one in the story, but know exactly what must have happened.

They say my nephew is a wiccan, a Juggalo (!), a slacker who K outgrew and he killed her because she was leaving him. They know where he works and tell each other to call his company and ask for him to find out where he is. They write scenarios where my nephew and his fiancee were playing poker with a third person, who flirted with her, and my nephew killed her out of jealousy. The spent literally days analyzing a photo from her missing poster, mistakenly thinking it's the same photo K sent my nephew the night she went missing. It's not. Yet they see his face, his glasses, a checkered shirt, in the shadows on her collar. But it's not the same photo, it was taken long before she disappeared. When someone who knows them tells them this, they quiet down for a few days, and then go back to the same photo, this time turning it black and white,  and sideways, and analyzing what they think is his shadow taking a picture of her picture with her phone, to make it look like she sent him the picture.

They hate me. They call me the crazy aunt. I had gone to one page to correct what I thought were some mistaken ideas about what had happened. They told me I was lying, J was lying-- they sent me threatening messages. Then I saw a familiar pattern, I could tell that some of the profiles were actually fakes, what we used to call sockpuppets. One of the sockpuppets claimed he was a private investigator and that he was snooping around my sister's house. He gave a description of the house and yard. So I responded that I was cutting and pasting that post and sending it to the cops. Within an hour my phone was ringing-- a girl I knew who'd gone to high school with K. She talked a mile a minute. She said that the person with the fake profile had called her and begged her to convince me not to call the police. the girl would not let me speak, she hardly took a breath, telling me how it was really a woman, that the woman had two kids, single mom, afraid she'd lose her job, she was just trying to help bring out the message to find K....on and on. I finally got her to shut up long enough to tell her that if the woman wanted me to do anything, she'd have to admit what she'd done, and stop posting as all these fake names.

She never did. The same girl called my sister and told her that the cops had already visited this woman. She started showing up at searches and going up to the reporters and telling them she was the "press liaison." We asked K's dad, he hadn't talked to her. We checked with everyone connected to K--none of her friends knew her either. When the press ignored her and started talking to a TES search leader, she and her friends threw a fit, trashed their table and walked out--leaving us to clean up after them so the church would be clean for Sunday services.

 Later, I realized that the person she was telling us about in those phone calls was actually her. That's why she was so freaked out. That's why she knew so much about this person. And that's, at least in part, why she disappeared from the searches, and all the pages good and bad, after the press started ignoring her.

Saturday, September 3, 2011

how it works

so we couldn't see really what the smell was. We hung over the guard rail and parted the screen of branches and there was nothing down there. The smell at that vantage was more like old garbage than death, and we cut ourselves some slack, no need to go verify that this was either runoff from Mount Rumpke, the local landfill operation, or someone's idea of a compost heap.

We spent the next few days coming up with new places to search, meeting up with other unofficial search teams, roaming around contracting poison ivy and chiggers, mostly. There was literally nothing to find. We saw parts of this town that I hadn't found in16 years of living there and looking for places to hide from everyone else who lived there, including my parents. At one point, my sister and I were poking around the woodsy banks of yet another dry creek bed, another party spot hidden under the arched brush, I told her I wished I'd known about all these places when I was a kid. And then I thought-- maybe it's better that I never did.

We stayed for over a week, till my mom was sick of looking at us, till we had run out of places to look, till we couldn't stand another minute of walking eyes to the ground, wondering what exactly we could possibly be looking for. There was nothing. We would run into other searchers, one the family of some kids I'd gone to school with-- their mother had been at my mother's birthday the year before. "I grew up walking up and down this creek," one said, of the run that intersected Groh lane.  He had been friends with my brother, but I hadn't seen him since he was 11 or 12. It was hard to accept that that burnt brown, skinny little boy with the mop of dark hair was the same person as this 45 year old dad with the greying goatee.  I guess because it meant I was old. I couldn't afford to be old. Not yet.


Monday, August 29, 2011

clues

My sister and I had continued up the river road a bit from the cars. We checked every gap in the underbrush. I saw hidden places in the woods off the road that I wish I'd known when I was 16, ready to escape this tiny town. They're all empty though. No one's even had a beer back here in at least a month. We pass the woods, moving up the road to a small clearing. In the middle of it is  a sign. On the other side it says "Welcome to Fairfield."  On our side, it's just brown paint and wheel marks in the grass around a little planting of flowers that someone's been watering. We feel the same shot of dread and look at each other, then go for the perimeter. No new breaks in the weeds. Reach the next road, cross the river road, check that side as we head back to the cars. There's an abandoned van in a yard, with a cage door behind the front seats. But you can tell from the weeds, and the dirt on the door handles that it's been sitting there untouched for years. The woods behind it seems dense and overgrown, even in this humid drought. A few steps down the road from the van, along a small wooded ravine, we smell the sharp sweet scent of decay.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

This undiscovered corner of life.

Until a loved one is missing, no one considers how strange it is to talk about their loved one in the present tense. They text all the time, she wants to do x, he is excited about y... I mean, how would you know? But if you say they "were" then everyone jumps on that as a sign you have no hope or some complicity.

There is no tense for the abducted.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Search

It's difficult to imagine the sang froid with which you can walk a dry creek bed looking for the body of someone you love, until you actually do it. The three of us who'd grown up here knew we'd have to go to this spot. It's wild, untravelled, overgrown, and close enough to her house that someone could have made it here with her unseen after midnight in the first hours of Sunday. We hike down the embankment from the river road into the ravine. I'm drawn to look under the bridge. The others begin walking the other way, toward the preserve.

It's hot and humid in this river valley town. Our clothes are drenched with sweat. The walk is slippery and the rocks wobble where the last of the water has collected. Here and there the stream pops into being, babbles over broken rock, fills a pool deep enough to swim. The ghost shadows of minnows race up and back along the last of the flow.

As we walk, we all look down at the gravel, sand and flat rock that line the nameless creek. Our conversation, before we split up, consists of deciding which direction looks like the more obvious way you'd drag a body or force someone to walk who is possibly barefoot. We look for bent grass and weeds, broken branches, anything that could indicate human passage along the creek bed, and into the woods on either side. I find a bootprint, and can recognize from the pattern that it's got a Vibram sole.  My sister and my husband continue in the other direction, my brother, my niece, my son and I walk past the bridge, toward the river we already know has been searched by helicopter and on foot.

Suddenly there's a man standing near us. Are you guys looking for something? And then he says, is this about that girl who's missing? I'm from out of state, but I read about it. Yes, I tell him, we're family members. He says he's sorry, can't imagine what we're going through, the usual things people say when your life looks like hell from the outside. I check his boots to make sure they're not Vibram soles. He says he's writing a book about this little lick of water, that it used to be the mill race for a nearby town. He says he is rewriting the history of this area. It sounds so silly when he says it. But I'm sure to him it's a big deal. He's following this part of it back to the river, and walks on downstream, disappearing around a bend.

None of us cry,  but we don't shout her name either. If she's here she probably can't hear us. We are looking for things we think she was wearing when she disappeared. A grey t shirt. A gold engagement ring. A red cellphone. And there's a grey t shirt tangled in the hanging roots of a tree. I take a photo of it, but it looks as if it washed into the roots during a storm. And I hope it's been there for longer than five days. Then my brother says, "What color was her cellphone?" And we all turn. There in the wet sand, he's probing at a red cellphone. We call my sister. She thinks it had some kind of lanyard or fob hanging off it, like a kid would have. That's how Kate was, nothing left unpersonalized. But it's not the right kind of cellphone. We photograph its location, then my brother picks it up to bring to the police station after we're done.

My son finds an abandoned camp site, with clothes and burn marks, but there's moss growing on the clothes. She's only been missing for a few days. He heads back down to the creek bed, but I step a little deeper into the woods, and find a trail. Ahead, there are branches hanging down and dying weeds that prove no one's walked this way in months, so I turn and hike back a ways toward the road and bridge, just in case. There's nothing. My family has moved down toward the river.

It feels odd to be alone in this abandoned place. I try calling out to the others and only my son responds-- by texting me to ask if I had said something.  He and my brother and niece are at the river already. The historian has found some more bootprints, pointed them out, and then headed back. I never even heard him pass, from a few feet up the bank. When we meet at the cars, we plot out the next place to look, walking along the overgrown stretches, making sure there are no new breaks in the brush that would indicate someone might have been tossed back there recently. Then we drive back to clean up, because there's a vigil at a local church for her later tonight. And after that, we turn on the local news, and we're on every channel.



Monday, July 25, 2011

Photographer

Alex takes me home with him afterward sometimes and we sit around talking about the other models, about other clients of his, art directors we hate, shop talk really. He's got a good eye, the problem is that for him the camera sees things the way he does, so when he doesn't have a good AD or doesn't like the subject, you can tell by looking at the shot. He finally started bringing his own stylist, taught her photography, really took her under his wing, the daughter of his friends, and it was a couple of years before he admitted to me he'd fucked her, too. But that was later, when we drove up to see her at her new school, Bennington, at the beginning of the fall semester when the students were roaming the campus looking for apples high in the trees, carrying long poles with wide-mouthed cans nailed to the top. You would see them clustered here or there at a trunk,  like one many-legged insect, its long proboscis probing the branches. And she, her fingers were black with pigment. She'd been painting a lot which was good, but what of, and the sheer amount of black alarmed me. Counting backwards as I watch them talk I realize that she had to have been 13 when she started with him and this is sort of when I stop wanting to be friends.

But that hasn't happened yet, right now we're at one end of his nearly empty loft, and he's trying to tell me something about a trip and photos in the woods and...

I can't find the fucking fawn
he snaps as he's tearing through his drawer of slides and he sounds more upset than if there were an actual fawn trapped in the cabinet somewhere. 

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

What my camera saw.

http://s633.photobucket.com/albums/uu60/Isonomist/Rocky%20Mountains/

There are more, but that's enough for now. Like so much in life.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Rocky Mountain High

I finally figured out that "Rocky Mountain high" is altitude sickness. Everyone staggers around like drunks once you get to about 12000 ft. It's hilarious. You can tell who the most devout Muslims and Mormons are because they don't have a clue how to look sober up here.

Coin-cidence
About 12500 ft up and a few miles into the park is the Alpine Visitors' Center. While I was there enjoying the view, an Irish family beelined to me to ask me to take their photo. They've been from NYC to Montana to Utah and now the top o' the Rockies with us, and about 30 elk and 3 marmots. Just so happens I was in Dublin this very time last year. More, I had just given the cafeteria cashier an Irish 20c piece I happened to have in my pocket.

This trip has given me some reason not to go to Kilimanjaro. I had several days of painful migraines, and spent the hours after the 4th of July fireworks in so much pain I nearly begged hubby to take me to the hospital. The thing about a migraine like that is, there really isn't much they can do except shoot you up with painkillers and steroids. if the triptans aren't working, you just have to hang on and try not to beg for sweet sweet death, until the searing pain and nausea decide to let you live. And that was at 7500 feet. Our 3rd night, I was over 8500 ft, and felt like I had asthma. We were following the "hike up, sleep down" technique but it took a lot longer for me to adjust to each level than I had hoped.

I was fine by day 4, up to 14000 ft. If this were Kili, I'd still have a mile to go. Straight up. I'm not sure I can take it. Maybe if we moved to Colorado...

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

So that's what's happening.

I just realized yesterday that I took my last zoloft some time last week. Now I finally understand why I've been hearing the "zaps" so typical of going off antidepressants, why I'm so weepy and forgetful, why every little ache hurts so much more. I have to laugh at myself for not putting it all together, or at least considering it might happen, but I tapered off so slowly this time that I was using a 7 day medication tray, and had gotten down to 25 mg every 3rd day when I quit, so basically I didn't even realize I'd quit. Now I'm not on any daily prescriptions at all. It's awesome. Even if I can't leave the house without a keeper.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

A moment of grace is a dangerous thing.

So I was walking home last night, singing Home of the Heroes and crying about Jesse, and this group of girls strolls around me and one goes, "I ain't gonna steal your purse, white lady!" And I said, "what do you need, five dollars? How bout we go for a drink?" And her friends were grabbing her saying come on come on, and I was like, really, let's go to the bar and get a drink." Looking her in the eyes so she could see that I wasn't joking, or angry at her. Letting her see into me if she dared.

I was crying because Jesse is gone forever, trying to hold my tears back so I could talk, and she's younger than he would be now, and she was just kidding around using me, a total stranger white lady on the street to make her friends laugh and didn't realize I ...was bleeding my heart out on a public street at 11 at night. Jesse. She and I would have probably had a nice chat, but her friends (understandably) did not want to cross that bridge from wherever they were to the bleeding hell behind my eyes.

She was looking then, you could see the micro expression (what you look like when you realize you just stepped in way over your head but this is a New York street and you get your poker face back fast as you can) and I could feel the tears streaming down my face again, and I know she saw them and realized that I wasn't afraid, I was just dying inside. Poor thing. I wonder if she'd ever seen that before in her life. Living death. I wonder.

And then she was my own daughter. I couldn't tell her that. I would have done anything for her.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Another slow-motion disaster for my people

From Zachary Richard's excellent Zack's Bon Ton, a song I can't get out of my head as the Mississippi swells higher, and the government can only drown one Cajun homeland to save another.

Water’s on the river rising
More water come more land float away
People from Catahoula down to Berwick Bay
They got no place left to stay

When the water come out the basin
There ain’t nothing waterproof
Standing on the levee with the river raging
I’ve got nothing left to lose

Big river / Big river’s on the rise
Big river / Is gonna overflow
Big river / Is gonna wash us to the sea

Back in 1927
Six feet of water in Evangeline
Now the government trying to tell us
They say that the levee’s gonna hold next time

Big river / Big river’s on the rise
Big river / Is gonna overflow
Big river / Is gonna wash us to the sea

I’ve seen the water come under the levee
Boiling out from a crawfish hole
And before the sun was setting
Four feet of water in my front door

Big river / Big river’s on the rise
Big river / Is gonna overflow
Big river / Oh Mighty Mississippi’s on the rise
Mighty Mississippi is gonna overflow
Big river is gonna wash to the sea

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Oh my baby come back, come back

I miss you so much, I can't walk up 5th Avenue without seeing you at 2 running to the corner of a building and stopping, waiting for me, to grab my hand and cross the street. I can't stand walking by the little garden in front of your best friend's house, and all the things that happened in that little apartment, and how his mother stopped letting you be his friend.

It breaks my heart. All of it, everything you were robbed of in life, but most especially life. You were so full of life, the last person anyone would have pictured sick. I have a picture of you and that same best friend at 3, him with his braces and crutches, and you dressed like Robin Hood, oh my god. How am I supposed to keep living?

Neurologists are overpaid assholes.

That is all.


Fortunately, tonight Peach is throwing a 70s theme party downtown, so I've got my black pleather jacket and striped shirt. And neon pink leopard print shoes.

Friday, April 29, 2011

So that sucked.

I've been having headaches every morning that go away when I stand up (allergic to my bed?). I had a temperature swing about every day (hot flash?). I couldn't think straight and my typing was worse than ever (senility?). At night, when I closed my eyes, it felt like they would pop out of my eyelids, and bright white halos the size of pennies glowed against my eyelids. (glaucoma? thyroid? migraine?). Irritable at work and home (going insane?). Hubby made me go to the doctor, I forget what made him push, except I was still feeling crappy and it had been 2-3 weeks of this by now. The doctor nearly sent me to the ER. The only meningitis symptom I didn't have was nausea and vomiting. On the plus side, I lost 8 pounds.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Truth and Fiction.

"The difference between truth and fiction is that fiction has to make sense."-- from The International, more or less borrowed from Mark Twain.

Stories are starting to form in my head again. I try to write down the bones, in case I ever have the energy to flesh them out. They're almost memoirs, things that really happened, that I intend to change enough to make sense of them. There's one in particular about my college boyfriend: he's fresh in my mind lately, because I saw his Facebook page a while back, and I wouldn't have recognized him, in looks or in manner. Back then, he was tall, slim, with curly hair and big brown eyes, Botticelli's Mercury come to life. He drew his own comic book series, read Rolling Stone, worked in a record store and created silkscreened rock n roll tee shirts from whatever I wanted. I still have a couple: Lou Reed's Coney Island Baby cover, a quote from life in the fast lane (Everything All The Time). Now he's a fat drunk Rush Limbaugh fan. I couldn't bear it. I feel sorry for his wife and kids. But the story would be about the time he used to work at a porn movie theatre. Which was porn during the week and on Sundays was jammed with Indian families for Bollywood marathon Family Day. But I ADD.

I'm always afraid I'll forget things. I know I have, things that were important, that friends and family have had to remind me of. Each of those is its own story, as well. I should list those, too I think. I realized that one of my worst flaws as a writer is that I like all my characters too much, and forget that they need flaws. It would be easier to write actual fiction if I felt a little more detached. Superior even. The best writers seem to be able to jump from utter identification with their characters to utter contempt. Or both at the same time. Or some formula like that.

And I've already forgotten what I was thinking of while trying to write that bit about college boyfriend. There's so much more. None of it yet makes sense.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Whatever.

So I'm trying to talk to my mom about her possible visit this summer, and my aunt finds out I'm on the phone and literally snatches the cell out of my mom's hand. This is the aunt whose name means "narcissistic flake" in our family slang. As in "Don't be a (insert name of aunt)."

She has an annoying habit of presenting you with a gift and then telling you she bought it for herself in some exotic country and when she got home she decided she didn't like it and that's why you're getting it. It's like she can't help poisoning everything she does.

I feel bad for her that she is incapable of understanding why she alienates her family, and it's true that my mom and her other sister by their endless childhood taunts and torments contributed to her inability to embrace her full self, but it's impossible to fully love a narcissist. There's just not enough room for you.

So anyway, she's telling me how she's getting better and how much she weighs and I'm trying to be kind because I know she's been having a hard time with her health and I truly am glad that she's gone from 90 something pounds to 115, she needs the weight, and she has a whole litany of health complaints that she usually ticks off for anyone she can collar long enough.

Then she goes into more stuff about herself and wants me to send her all this information about health (because she knows I have that kind of stuff) and of course I will.

She tells me she's recently spoken to a cousin of mine who is within a year of my age (which my aunt knows because she was there when we were born, we were even born in the same hospital, you know what I mean?), she called him for his birthday and asked him how old he was and he says, "53" and she's telling me this and as if she suddenly remembered some rule about letting the other person talk, she asks me how old I am. And when I tell her, her response is, "I guess I can't keep telling people I'm in my fifties!" and she's not kidding.

She asks me about myself finally and after about three sentences (which is a lot of patience on her part, so I know she's trying), she tells me that she wants to get well enough to go back to Cambodia and help the poor children. Then she tells me that the last time she took a long flight she rewrote her will so that "half of it goes to poor children in Cambodia and the other half is split between poor children in India and Africa, and the rest will go to you kids." because it's so soothing to her when she's going on a long flight in case anything happens to her she'll die happy knowing that through her will she'll have accomplished the good she'd set out to do in life. Now I know she's probably spent almost every penny she's ever made, mostly on travel to places like Cambodia and India. But that's not the point. The point is that Aunt C. feels good about herself. Better than me, in fact, because she has sacrificed her fortune and her life to save the poor brown babies simply by flying to Turkey to see the Hagia Sophia again, or taking a bus with her (much) younger Indian lover to Kashmir and nearly getting kidnapped by terrorists.

"What a great idea," I tell her, and I can't think of any reason why it should be my business what she does with her will; I wasn't expecting anything anyway. Why would I? Whatever she willed me would probably come with a note saying she didn't like it and that's why I'm getting it.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Nostalgia food

Creole Wednesday quick red gravy

1/4 cup olive oil (the more fruity the better)
3 cloves garlic, smashed and diced
1 med onion diced
1/2 c green pepper
1/3 c green onion tops
1 rib of celery or sm. handful of celery tops
2-3 tbs tomato paste
1 20 oz can tomato puree
3 bay leaves whole
1/3 cup fresh parsley
1 tsp ground thyme
1/2 tsp each dried oregano, and basil
1/2 tsp each black and white ground pepper
touch of cayenne or chipotle pepper, ground

Put a cast iron skillet on low heat, add oil, tomato paste, bay leaves and garlic, let warm until garlic is translucent. Do not brown. Add onions and celery and stir until coated with tomato paste, turn up the heat to medium, and cook until translucent to toasted. Add the rest of the ingredients, bring to a boil, stirring occasionally. Then turn down to simmer for 1/2 hour to 45 minutes. Taste, to correct seasoning. If it's not tangy enough, add a little lemon juice. If it's not sweet enough, add a touch of sugar or molasses. Serve over any pasta, top with parmesan or romano cheese. You can add browned ground beef or meatballs. Serves 4. Best if shared with Mom and Dad, and husband and your sons but take what you can get.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Doc

I'm going after work to see my grad school advisor speak at B&N. I'm probably going to buy his book so he can sign it, even though he's already signed one for me before, when he was my professor. Keep Writing, he wrote back then. I wonder what he'd say if he asks me whether I'm still writing. Yes, a blog. Five blogs. I finished the novel, and sent it around, got an agent, but no publisher. I think about writing fiction now, but mostly don't feel like it.

I hardly read it anymore. I can't say exactly why. Maybe life has most of my attention now. Divorce, remarriage, losing a son can really snap you awake. Yeah, life got my attention alright.

I think about how fiction, a sports event, war, and political events work on the mind. The outcome is what you anticipate most, the outcome of each interaction, toward an end point; but with fiction one person is in control of the story. You may want to reread a book or rewatch a movie, but in sports and politics, few want to replay the whole process again. I've known people who will read the last page of a book before they start, but no one wants to know how a football game ends until they see it. No one wants to be telegraphed the end of a good movie. In war, the moves are replayed as lessons in what to do or not to do next time. In politics, there is no real end. That's the fascinating part. There's no season, no third act. It's always in medias res. If you believe in good vs evil, it can be maddening.

Doc used to tell us to keep a journal, that his idea for Ragtime came from simply describing the room where he was writing, then researching who the architect was, and reading historical accounts of his life and times. Stanford White and the Gibson girl. It happened that I read the Alienist around the same time I read Waterworks. If you want to learn the difference between a writer and an author, I suggest you do the same. In fact, I just might do so again.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

To the 6 ft man in the blue columbia jacket

and dark blond hair just long enough to prove it curls: I hope you weren't too nonplussed by the middle aged lady staring at you on Park Avenue yesterday. You reminded me of someone, so much that I had to force myself not to walk over to you. For a few minutes it was hard to convince myself you weren't him. Somewhere in my head, you were. So real that I could feel him walking across the street and coming up behind me, a little put off that I hadn't come to his side of the street. But I turned and it was a whole different person. I know it wasn't real. But still. I thought of all the times after he left to go live with his father, that we would run into each other on the street, or rather, I would only see him because he was standing in front of me saying, "Mom? Mom!" as if I were the one who had left him. He wrote it off to my nearsightedness; but I think it was a defense mechanism. Don't see the angry boy. Don't see the angry boy. And he would chide me a little for not noticing him, then chat with me as if he had never hated me. As if he loved me with all his heart and had no idea how he'd ripped me apart by choosing his father's flattery, bribes, and lies over me. Me not perfect, but better than being bought at 13. I understood. I did. Fathers hold most of the cards for 13 year old boys.
---
They sent his driver's license renewal in the mail. I opened it, half curious. What, I wonder, is the use of an eye test for someone who no longer has eyes? Organ donor selection for someone whose organs were so full of poison even the hospital didn't want them, and at any rate, gone to dust now. To anyone else this piece of mail is just another boring form to fill out, but for me it's the latest reminder that the loss that shattered my life down to the roots didn't register with the rest of the world.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Katrina=looting; Japan=stocking up on supplies

‎I've been holding my tongue at comments from RT friends and Internet blogs alike about how wonderful and self disciplined the Japanese are and how terrible the Katrina victims were. There's just no way to compare the two events, not just because of the difference in proportion, but because the two countries' cultures are so different. Another false perspective employed by those who wish to demonize my hometown is the unmentioned fact that you can't single out New Orleans as an entity distinct from the USA in general (although sometimes I'd like to, especially since Plessy v. Ferguson).

For one thing, US media has a completely different philosophy and business model than Japan does; and than its own international desks. Part of this difference is based in culture: in Japan, you don't sensationalize tragedies, or crime. In the US, that's all we'll read when we pick up a paper. Both New Orleans and Japan have organized crime, New Orleans' revolving mostly around drug gangs. Japan has a huge crime syndicate called the Yakusa, that has its hand in pretty much the same things Drugs, prostitutes, theft, murder. Never heard of em? American news sensationalizes crime, Japanese news plays it down. Crime gangs are so accepted in Japan that they put up signs to advertise the location of their headquarters.

You cannot compare the news reports on the two disasters, because they are based on two different ideas of what constitutes news/journalism. As is now commonly known, the reports of crime during the post-Katrina flooding were greatly exaggerated. Even the mayor and police chief were reporting rapes, murders, looting and shootings that never took place. But if you watch Fox or read most accounts today (from people who weren't there), you would never know this. You probably believe that babies were being raped and helicopters shot down while TV sets were marched out on the shoulders of thousands of black teens in brand new sneakers, for months on end. You've seen the same handful of photos I have. So many times that in your mind it was an endless crime event loop. Stuff was taken, but mostly food, clothes, diapers and supplies.

People in Japan are taking stuff out of damaged stores, too. We're just not calling it crime because they're Japanese. They're calling it "scavenging for supplies." There are no doubt as many instances per capita of misbehavior and desperation in damaged areas of Japan as New Orleans. But in Japan they don't broadcast it, or exaggerate it through rumor and bad journalism.

This disaster is so much worse than Katrina. 10K people have died, entire towns wiped away. But it also involves an entire country, with its army and relief efforts on hand from day one. It also has been getting international aid and rescue from the first day. Do you even remember how long it took FEMA and the national guard to get into New Orleans. Hint: by this point, (five days later) NOBODY but the Coast guard helicopters were on site.

We don't know for certain what's going on in every damaged town in Japan. We have no idea what's going to be happening in the months after this ongoing tragedy, or what people have been, or will be driven to. It's only been 5 days. Katrina involved a total breakdown of government protection and disaster relief, including water, crim prevention, shelter and food, for a small trapped population of the poorest citizens of New Orleans who had fewer resources to survive on over a long period of time, than the average Japanese person caught in the earthquake and tsunami. Their standard of living, and level of government-based care was and is higher by far than that of New Orleans.

There's nothing wrong with identifying behavior you think admirable and contrasting it with behavior you think regrettable or destructive. What's insane is labeling the poorest and most desperate of your fellow Americans as somehow evil, lazy and selfish because they didn't act, in different circumstances, the same way you are being told a different group of people are acting in another country, another culture and other circumstances.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

self discipline

I realized how much time I spent farting around online with little gain. True, I was getting my thoughts in order, and learning the basic skills of presenting and defending a coherent argument. I was learning to interact in a competitive, negative environment and keep my wits. All important, but I've hit a wall. It's fairly typical of the autodidact, I suppose. Time to move to a more --academic? Focused? pursuit of the goal. I don't need the extraneous hysteria from outside sources. I don't need the socialization. What I need is more work on my part. More writing, more attention to the topics and material that lead to, well, something. I was spinning my wheels, and I knew it. Now, at least I'm spinning them in a direction.

I have five blogs. This one is the most personal. 3 are related to my home business. One is for a place I'd love to live again. They all need more attention than I've been giving them. It was easier to go somewhere else and argue with strangers. Done. Done, done done. You'll see me here, and on your blog, more often.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

For you.

One of the hardest things i ever had to do was to put Jesse's things away. He was always very private, played certain things close to his chest. There were things about him no one knew, even though he could be completely candid, and was always honest about how he felt. Everything I touched felt like a violation. He'd been living in the front apartment of our loft, so everything he owned was right there. I had to get into his computer, close out his bank accounts, go through his address books to make sure I'd notified all his friends. It took me months to get to the point of packing up his clothes. But I also had to go through his cell phone, his computer and his papers to make sure everyone was covered, that I had done what Jesse would have wanted for them. (Even though I could hear his voice saying, Mom! What are you doing with my THINGS!? -- where Jesse would have been the first to say how little they mean to anyone but him.)

It wasn't hard to figure out his passwords, but that's not the same as having to email kids who he'd coached in debate, to tell them that the mentor they'd just checked in on was gone. Friends from high school trying to get back in touch. His whole adult world was there, for the most part, not connected to each other yet, but there. What stuck out most of all in the personal correspondence, is the level of closeness, the depth of caring that he shared with his friends. He loved each and every one of you in just the way you think he did.

He may have been exasperated, sarcastic, mocking, or sweet, challenging, concerned, confiding, protective, doting. But above all that, or underneath it, he loved you. And he didn't want to leave.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

I hate February

I tried to make myself busy from mid January (when he was diagnosed with the relapse and back in the hospital) to February 8 (you know). But it just makes me more stressed, instead of preoccupying me. Irreverent class I'm teaching on um, relationship skills, not helping. Irreverent class "visual aids" arrived in the mail today, which made me laugh out loud (a box of small pink dildos). I know it'll be fun. I know I'll be fine, but goddamn it I'm not fine. Even when I'm fine.

Fuck this. I already knew how to cry without letting the tears fall.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

confession

In my ideal life, right now, I would have time in the morning to scribble down what comes to my mind on waking. It's the time when my mind is least inhibited by reality, is beyond it; when what I think is most likely to be creative and weird and free. I always think I'll remember to write it down, but I never do. By the time I get to work it's gone, the colors all have run together, the shine is off the shiny parts, and I am once again the automaton that earns my keep. I have to make myself be less alert, I guess.

Was chatting with a friend about risk taking when the risk is small. Another chimed in comparing drinking tap water to the higher chance of getting hit by lightning.

Lightning is nothing compared to regret.

The second summer of my first marriage, my husband and I started an interior renovation company. One of our clients had a lovely brownstone in Brooklyn that we were restoring. The kitchen had maple cabinets, which I spent the spring stripping and refinishing. I knew the label on the Zipstrip had warnings about benzene, carcinogens, open ventilation, and masks (I wore one but not a gas barrier). I mostly stripped outside, but I saw those warnings as overblown as the warnings on Sweet n Low packages. I figured, I'm never having kids, I'm not pregnant, I'm only doing this for a few days, I'm not a rat being injected in lab with 10000 x the possible lifetime dose...

Two months later, I got unexpectedly pregnant.

Twenty-three years later, I paid the price for my assumptions.

People tell me it's impossible, or at least highly unlikely, that this is the cause of Jesse's APL. I do searches on this topic every few months. I tend to look for blame ("something I did" + "APL" + "young adult" = not objective research).

The debate changes direction a lot. It's gone from an assumption that this only happens to children or the elderly, to the present evidence that it occurs most often in young adults; from arsenic as an old wives' tale to arsenic being the answer -- the doctor who treated Jesse in Chicago has his name on much of the US research on this particular form of leukemia, and the research is confined to populations as small as ten. They have to group it with other classes of leukemia to raise a population into three digits. Too much they don't know.


No one knows how long it takes for one misfolded gene to go crazy. Six cases for every ten million people.

I know the jury's going to be out re: causes of leukemia, especially one as rare (and curable) as APL. That's how science is. But my larger point is that ignoring a risk because it's relatively small can be painful, not just because of what could happen to you; but because when something does happen, at least you'll know it wasn't because you were drinking poisoned water.

Someone at work once said he had a mother-shaped hole in his life; for me, it's a Jesse-shaped Something. Not a hole, the opposite. Love is an easy term for it, I guess, but it really doesn't express this. This consuming wave of longing, guilt, regret, joy, love, relief, respect, pride, nostalgia, this unfinished song hanging in the air. This never ending grief.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

he loved

He loved the smell of my cooking, even when it wasn't something he intended to eat. The smell of frying onions and garlic, specifically. He acted like he didn't listen, but he did. He seemed so critical, so ironic, but he wasn't. He was so angry with me, but he didn't stop trying to move past it. He wanted to fix things. Lives. The world. Injustice. He loved.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

I find myself unmoored in time.

The first time this happened, it was intentional. I was 13, thinking about who I would be when I was 17. Would I recognize myself? Would I like who I had been at 13? If I met myself would I love me? At 17 I remembered that day, and thought back to it, willed myself back to that day, back to myself, spoke to myself at 13 so I'd know, in that past self, that the answer was yes. I do love you, I told that shy, lonely, younger me. I understand. There is nothing wrong with you and everything turned out fine so far.

Now I look back at earlier selves and realize that I have been doing this more than I knew. When I was pregnant with Jesse and his father tried to get me to have an abortion, I gave myself faith. When Jesse was little, I cherished every minute, because it was all beautiful, even the colic and the 3 am feedings. And because something told me it would be gone too soon.

Then there were the dreams. In one I was in my old bedroom from childhood, but instead of my sister on the other bed, there was a man I knew was going to kill me. He was telling me about how he had killed someone by driving a pen into her ear with a hammer until it punctured her brain. I could see it in my mind's eye as he talked (I can still see it vividly, almost feel it happening to me, too). I tried to casually say I had to go to the bathroom, but I'd be right back, and he said, "I know you will," and I turned to see my baby in a blanket on the bed next to him.

I had nightmares like this all the time. Each scenario got worse until one night I dreamed I couldn't save Jesse. I knew.

Now I take time to go back and let myself know what I need to know. I don't think I can change anything but my own attitude, my way of being. I can only give my past self encouragements, warnings, hints. But then, if anything else changed, how would I know? It would already be the past before I ever went back to change it. It comforts me to feel some responsibility to my earlier selves.

Maybe it's just an eccentricity, a self-indulgence. I don't care. It's not any crazier than a hundred things you believe and never question. It keeps me from being too hasty now, too sad. Maybe it's my future self, come calling, letting me know that better things will come.