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Archive for the ‘Michael’

“A Vision In A Dream. A Fragment.”

January 20, 2011 By: admin Category: Boston Beats, Family, Filmmaking, Going Home, Happiness, House, iPhone, Living, Love, Meditation, Michael, Unemployment, Video

This will be a very “meta” post, as I originally wrote part of the below in an email to my aunt, and then added to it a preface that I then, along with the email, published onto Facebook. It now here, in it’s entirety, with yet a new preface. A Pre-preface?

Anyway, I think the message contained herein should be shared far and wide, and so I’m publishing on the interwebs in the two places where I know it’ll do the most good. :) Enjoy.

“Hey everyone. This is my first FB note. It’s actually an email I wrote to my aunt who is a dream worker. I am adding it here because my situation is universal, and I thought maybe some of you are feeling the same way. I thought sharing might help some of you to not feel so alone and scared–as I do sometimes–and might help me let go of some of the hope I have that I will be able to keep my sweet, safe life exactly the way it is right now: sweet & safe. I’ve been studying Buddhist meditation and philosophy for over a year and have been resisting the concept of impermanence since the beginning. :) I guess sharing this note is my way of finally accepting it.

Anyway, I hope you can get something out of this. This is a terrible, terrible time for so many of us, but something I’ve learned recently is that the love in the artist community here in Boston is a-s-t-o-u-n-d-i-n-g. You all have helped me so much I almost don’t know what to say except that I am grateful. You are all so beautiful it actually brings tears to my eyes as I write this, and makes it sooooo clear to me why I’m a filmmaker: I have a classic excuse to stare at all of you FOR HOURS, and have the skills necessary to help share your beauty with the world. :)

Enjoy, and thank you so much for your grace and vulnerability. We are giants. :)

With love,


“I had an intense dream the other night that I haven’t been able to forget. Thats impressive for two reasons: 1-I haven’t been dreaming much in the last few weeks, and 2-I think I can count on one hand the dreams that have lingered in my mind days after having had them.

The dream is very simple in imagery: my iPhone broke. That’s it. Here are the details…. I was talking with someone about the iPhone being very rugged, and that I’d dropped it a lot and had only incurred minor scratches and cracks. As I was talking I accidentally (truly an accident) dropped my phone. It crashed to the floor and looked fine from my vantage point of just bending my head to look. But then I bent my whole body to pick it up, and when I grasped it I saw that it had been split in two, vertically. This is almost completely impossible for an iPhone. In order to achieve this kind of break, you’d have to put the phone between two vice grips and forcibly snap it. Even then, you’d never get the straight-up-and-down break that I got.

I picked up the phone and rose. The edges of the breaks were jagged, but I could still push the pieces together and have them fit. So I did just that, and what do you know, the phone still worked. I had to hold the pieces together very tightly, but my friend and I thought it was pretty amazing that it still worked even in that scenario. Still within the dream, as I looked down at the blinking, broken phone, I thought to myself, ‘Well, there it is, I have to get the new iPhone 4.’ πŸ˜‰

That was the end of the dream.

There was an ominousness to that last thought, however funny, about needing to get the new phone. This thought has it’s origins in my very scary economic situation… For two years I haven’t been buying anything. At all. Food and gas and the occasional beer. That’s it. I haven’t gone out to eat, haven’t gone to the movies, haven’t bought a book, haven’t gone to see any of my friends’ bands play if there was a cover charge. The only times I’ve left the house, actually, have been when I was able to arrange for several meetings and events to occur on the same day so I wouldn’t waste gas. You get the idea… My current iPhone-a used one given as a gift to me from Michael (my brother)-has been testy and slow for over a year. I have needed a replacement for a long, long time, but haven’t dared spend $300 to get it for fear of not being able to make the following month’s mortgage payment. This is a fear that’s been with me for a while. It’s no longer a paralytic fear, but still there none-the-less.

Anyway, the fateful day has finally come: it’s January 20th and I don’t have enough money to pay for February’s mortgage so I have to open up one of my retirement accounts. I only have two and the one I’ll be opening was started for me in 2003 when I was at Harvard-Smithsonian. They contributed to the fund, I never did, so, in a sense, all the money in there is “free.” Taking any of it out, though, before I’m 65, will incur a tax penalty. So for something like $4000 I have to remove $5000 and lose $1000. Again, as this is essentially “free money” I’m not stressing too much. I AM stressing about what will happen if I don’t get a job before April 1st. Because if that happens, then it will mean that I have to go into my second retirement account, the only one I have left, the one I’ve been adding to and growing since I was 23, and the one that I hoped would be my nest egg. If I have to go into that one, then the small life I have come to know, the tiny life here that I have worked and saved so long to build around me, will slowly evaporate.

In the dream, when I looked down at my phone I thought: ‘If you hold it together very tightly, it’s definitely still a phone, but you can’t ignore that if you let go… it just won’t work any more…’ “

Dear Mom: The Glorious Craft of Silence

March 05, 2010 By: admin Category: Abandonment Journal, Family, Food, Happiness, Health, Humane Food, Living, Love, Michael, Mom, Valet Battleship Parking

Dear Mom,

First of all let me say that I know you’re dead and that if you were in some way able to read this know also that you’d find it annoying and silly. Well, this is my process, something I’d like to try, and so I ask for your patience and kindness. You know how slowly I come to things, so just let me do it. It’ll likely work itself out in a reasonable amount of time so there’s no call to go batshit at this stage, okay? Thank you. πŸ˜‰

Anyway, I’m writing today because there’s someone I want you to meet. She’s amazing, and we’ve been seeing each other for a little while now, although scheduling has made any regular gettings-together a challenge. She’s younger than me-surprise, surprise-and also in the film business. If you saw her you’d be struck first by her beauty and then by her fitness, but you’d also want to feed her. Due to her open spirit, joie de vivre, ease around others, HUGE sweet eyes, and general soulful attractiveness you’d be compelled to hug her and that’s when you’d have a teeny-tiny meltdown. “You’re too skinny!” You’d yell, and then would look at me accusingly, as if I was somehow responsible. I’d give you The Hand and say we were off to the beach. You’d take a breath and respond in that mock-threatening way that’s always made scarier by your accent, “Okay, but when you get back I’ll have a BIG LUNCH ready.” Then you’d wink at her and turn back to baking bread.

Later, while she was in the shower after the beach you’d whisper questions to me. “How old is she? Where does she come from? Her eyes are so beautiful, but there’s a sadness in her. Is she alright?” Your instant concern would be genuine and so I’d know I’d chosen well. When you care that early I know someone is special. I’d answer all your questions and allay your fears, and then would tell you that Michael liked her a lot too, even though he’d only met her twice and then not for very long. We’d talk then about how perceptive the three of us are when it comes to people and then, a bit satisfied, you’d get up and finish making her lunch.

When she sat down, after a nice, long, hot soaking in the outdoor shower, you’d place before her The Largest Sandwich In All The World and would respond to her shocked look with one of your own stern ones that said, in no uncertain terms, “You’re going to eat ALL of that.” You have a way of wielding all your Latin energy, Mom, that I’m hoping I’m learning. It’s a powerful and fun skill to have… πŸ˜‰

During lunch you’d want to know about her past, because those big, soft, gentle eyes that show everything would be breaking your heart. For reasons she couldn’t completely express, she’d tell you everything and in the course of the conversation the two of you would fall head over heels for each other. The ease created would allow the conversation to shift from family and history to gardening and food and flowers. That’s when I’d lose you both and would just be hanging on for dear life, hoping to understand something, anything before the day was out. She’d tell you what she knew about growing things in the shade and you’d tell her how finicky some of your favorite plants were. You’d bond on tulips, and prepare herb gardens in your imaginations. You’d laugh like schoolgirls when something resonated, and each make promises to connect in the Fall to dig in the dirt.

And I’d watch it all, finally, for once in my life, at ease from not needing to say anything whatsoever…

ala Nilda

February 03, 2010 By: admin Category: Blogging Dinner, Coal, Cooking, Family, Food, Happiness, Health, House, Humane Food, India, Love, Michael, Molly, Mom, Recipes

Before I go another back-breaking minute of transcribing a long interview for my coal film, I’ll pause to tell you about a treasure I just found…

When Mom died I did three things: gathered all her clothes and jewelry and farmed them out to family, friends, and charities; brought home my third of her ashes (morbid, I know, but I really wanted “her” near me); and collected as many of her cookbooks as I could find. Specifically, I searched for books that had her writing in the notes and margins. Mom thought in recipes all the time and when she had an idea, she’d write it down. Everywhere. There are bits of loose paper, newspaper articles, notecards, and books written all over in Spanish and English. Names of spices and proteins, temperatures, and cook times.


Today, as a break from the transcribing and in the name of finding something yummy to make for dinner, I pulled out one of her stacks of random recipes clipped together with a metal binder and looked through them. What I found are recipes and memories:

“Chicken Curry, Juthica.” Juthica is an old family friend and a good one to begin this list with. Mom and Juthica met through their Yale connections in New Haven, CT in the 60s and became good friends. Mom always liked strong, independent, and smart people and Juthica was certainly that. One day while I was in my sophomore year in college in NYC, I got a call from Mom telling me to come home immediately, that she had someone she wanted me to meet. It was in the middle of the week and so I reminded my usually VERY academically-minded mother that I’d be missing a day of COLLEGE if I came home. “I know. It’s worth it. Come tonight,” is all she said. I got on the commuter train early the next day and met Juthica that afternoon. Like my mother before me, I was instantly entranced by charismatic Juthica–a native Bengali of Calcutta–and resolved to help her with the humanitarian aid project she’s started only a few years before. Little did I know that this would be the first spark in a film career that would have it’s first international accolade (“Soma Girls”) because of Juthica.

“Alfajores.” These are basically the cookies to end all cookies. Think of an oreo where the chocolate cookie-part is a butter cookie and the middle squishy part is half-hardened caramel spread. My brother would beg for these.

“Roast Pork ala Nilda.” Nilda was my mother’s name and almost nothing in her repertoire of savory dishes would exclude cumin. That’s where the “ala Nilda” bit comes in, I think. Not surprisingly, therefore, this dish has a bunch of fun spices as well as cumin and on the notecard includes the instruction: “Let sit for ten minutes, then serve with the pan juices.” Neither my mother nor I have ever met a pan of juices we didn’t like. The theory is that if it’s slurpable with bread, it’s “FOOD.”

When I was much older and had only a modest number of recipes that I could cook well, my mother bemoaned her former strictness in the kitchen. Even though she came from a traditional culture where women were suppose to learn the “domestic arts,” she hated having me underfoot when she cooked. True, I did have an annoying habit of grazing as things got prepared (something I also plagued Molly–another fabulous cook–with), but that wasn’t it. I think she just needed her space clear. The kitchen was her church, her fiefdom, her production studio and she needed it controlled in order to create her masterpieces. Thankfully, I have a very good sense of smell and memory for the flavors and dished she created and so even though she made me stand at arm’s length, I saw most of what she did and how she did it.

Today I still cook only a few of my mother’s dishes–I’m slowly building up the amount that I memorize–but the ones I know have their impact. Recently, I made Mom’s Bolognese sauce for Michael and Laura. Michael flipped when he tasted it. I saw the memories and joy fly across his face. It must have been almost ten years since he’d last had it with pasta. That sauce has a Molly memory too: her family loved it so much that they used to commission it. Or, sometimes, when I was making it for just Molly and me word would get around that “Alexia is making meatsauce,” and before we knew it we’d have many more at the table for dinner. :)

Mom’s meals used to feed armies of children in New Haven, mostly Michael’s friends who, if they became “regulars” soon saw themselves being cooked-for specifically. “I’m making the pie for David,” Mom would say of Michael’s best friend. I’d have to have children in order to have those kinds of numbers of people climbing through my house, but when there’s a group event that I’m either hosting or contributing too, I always make something of Mom’s. It’s an easy way to make people happy and introduce a whole new crop of devotees to “ala Nilda.”

Genuine Heart of Sadness

October 03, 2009 By: admin Category: Abandonment Journal, Meditation, Michael, Mom, Valet Battleship Parking


In the next book we’re reading in meditation class, the author defines the “genuine heart of sadness.” In a nutshell, it’s our human ability to have an “awakened heart,” a heart that no longer hides from the truth, even if it’s pain. The deal, though, is to be able to identify the feelings that come in through your awakened heart and not be crushed by them. That’s why we meditate, to build up the habit of not letting ourselves get crushed. As you can imagine, it’s not easy…

In last week’s class I had a bit of a breakthrough. I think we all did, actually. The instructors had us do an exercise in which we went back to a recent event when we felt something strongly. Happy, sad, frustrated, angry, whatever. She asked us to really FEEL the feeling again, to let it wash over us completely and not hold back. That was an incredibly painful thing to do if your memory happened to be sad, which mine did. While our eyes were closed I heard a lot of sniffling. People were crying, as was I. Then the instructor told us to “remove the storyline” that was associated with the feeling and just keep the feeling itself. For reasons I can’t explain, I was able to do this. I sat there and just FELT the feeling, held it in my consciousness. Then she asked us very intellectually to look at why we felt that feeling, and to see if we could identify it’s source. Instantly, I was thrown back to the night in the hospital when Michael and Dad were out at Tanglewood and Molly hadn’t yet arrived from California. I was alone with Mom. It was late. Midnight or something. I was headed out, but then something kept me there. The chief intern for Mom came anxiously into the room and started doing some odd tests–pressure point stuff. Then there were more interns. They surrounded Mom’s bed as she lay there, unconscious. I knew enough to know that something had gone wrong–possibly that she had been unintentionally put into a drug-induced coma–and knew that what the interns were trying to do was revive my mother.

The chief intern squeezed Mom’s thumb in a classic pressure point maneuver and in her drugged state Mom lurched up, arching her back and cried out “Ow!” That was all it took. At the top of my lungs I screamed “STOP!!!!!!” It was the most sincere moment of my entire life.

Back in the meditation class I saw clearly the connection between the two incidents. They were connected by the feeling I had experienced, and in that discovery there are answers…

We ALL know what sincerity feels like. We have an experience and then a true feeling will rise up in us, and then… we’ll squash it. That’s our culture. But look at a baby, they don’t squash anything. The theory of my meditation practice style is that it’s better to walk around feeling things than to bottle them up because then you’ll feel more and more sincerity and will just enjoy life a whole lot more because you won’t be taking things so seriously. The realization is that feelings won’t kill you. They CAN’T. They do have some power over your body at times, if you let them get to you, but overall they’re not solid and don’t have the power to kill you.

As a society we’re taught to ignore our feelings and then cover them up with an alternate reality because they’re scary, but the fear is in our head. Feelings aren’t SCARY, they’re just feelings. Scary events are scary, but not feelings, and so we have the power to not let them control and hurt us. The genuine heart of sadness asks that we go ahead and feel everything, but that we teach ourselves to be able to handle how those feelings affect us.

Deep, huh?

After class I was elated. Just freakin’ E-L-A-T-E-D. It’s very, very, very hard to maintain the genuine heart of sadness, but–as the instructor said–that’s why what we do is called “practice.” “It’s not called ‘Master this thing in four weeks.'” πŸ˜‰

I joined this class the way I’ve always “tried” stuff like this: I go in hoping to find something that works, hoping to find answers. This class and this practice are the first time that’s actually happening. Change IS possible, but you’ve got to want it enough to look at some harsh realities.

I just wrote an email to a friend who, while she’s having trouble at her job doesn’t want to leave it for fear of not being able to find something else afterward. She’s right to do that, even if the job is maddening and soul-crushing. I wrote that no matter where I go this national (maybe international) depression is present. I don’t know anyone who’s happy right now. We’re all just surviving and it’s awful. It makes me wonder if we should consider trying to live another way. We’ve lived with our current social rules and assumptions for a long, long time and they’re not doing so well for us at the moment. Maybe change will happen soon. Something’s got to give: health care reform; troops out of Afghanistan; the building of a coalition to face Iran (and all of us) with the request for nuclear non-proliferation; the passing of a serious climate change bill… I don’t know, but something’s got to give. As the planet evolves so must we.


July 15, 2009 By: admin Category: Faith, Family, Happiness, India, Living, Love, Michael, Mom, The Film, Video


Machu Picchu

There’s a somewhat silly, but un-missably beautiful movie out there, the memory of which just popped into my head this morning… I’ve been transcribing the last of an interview that Nandini and I are using in our film “Soma Girls,” and the interviewee is talking about her mother. “Whatever my life is today, whatever I am–my life goals, my orientation–everything has been a gift from my parents.”

When describing myself, I often talk about my mother. She was the one who taught me about painting and ballet and of the simple, still beauty of nature. That image got me thinking of this movie, “Spanglish,” that stars Adam Sandler (I know…), and a beautiful young Latina who plays his house-keeper. There’s a voiceover throughout the film, narrating the events from the future. It is the voice of the house-keeper’s daughter, a girl who grew up in the United States, like I did. In the movie her voiceover is from an essay she is writing to colleges. She is seventeen, and it’s obvious from her tone that the question asked for the essay is: “Tell us about your life, how it makes you unique, and how that uniqueness will contribute to the community of our university…”

At the end of the film, the girl’s voiceover says, basically, what the quote from my interviewee says above, and goes on to say to the college: “So, really, I don’t care what you think of me. I know who I am, and I will always know… I am my mother’s daughter.

Watching the film for the first time, I remember hearing myself say the last line before the voiceover said it. I don’t know if it’s all daughters who are close with their mothers who feel this way, or if it’s a Hispanic thing. For my own pride of heritage, though, I secretly hope it’s the latter, but I’ll be okay of it’s not. πŸ˜‰

Finishing this transcription makes me think about possibly spending a year in India. I’d get a big grant and live in a small flat in Kolkata, splitting my time between various NGOs during the day, and then taking in all the culture and wonder of Kolkata at night. In a recent email Urmi, the interviewee from above who runs Soma Home and New Light, said: “You have to come back to Kolkata for an extended visit. There’s so much you haven’t seen…”

Urmi, like my mother, can see in me a desire to see, know, and experience more. This is a tremendous compliment. I always thought Michael was the one to spend efforts on because he remembers so much of what he sees, but there’s something extra in me that Irene–my former journalist aunt–and I share, and were just talking about. It’s a need to see, a burning desire to go around the corner, and to keep going until we find the answer. It’s the seeking. We’re seekers. On a quest to find just a few answers that we’re sure will make at least one person’s life a little bit better.

When I am to be described I hope it will be as a loyal friend, and devoted sister, daughter, niece and cousin, a loving mate, and a great storyteller… because it is through these aspects and my passion to maintain them that I thank and honor my mother.

One Day In Carlisle

June 13, 2009 By: admin Category: Family, Going Home, Living, Lumix Pix, Michael

Saturdays are the new Sundays. Although tomorrow, Sunday, as it will be raining hard all day, will be the old Monday. Monday, after tomorrow, will be itself, Tuesday will be about half of a Wednesday, Wednesday will be a Friday this week, Thursday will be Thursday cuz Thursdays ROCK!, and then Friday will again be Friday.

It’s a mad, mad, mad world, y’all. Try to keep up… πŸ˜‰


Awesome brother fixes my broken driver’s door.




Brother’s fix. Used to be a plastic clip there. It broke. This is a zip tie. :)


Lifestyles of the rich and… rich.


Braided plants.


Rock of hostas.


The Lilypad.

Β carlisle-garden-tour-5.jpg

Lettuce in the round.


Horse fence.


Who you callin’ a pansy????


This is just pretty… :)


Rock of hostas, reverse view.

Β carlisle-garden-tour-10.jpg

Β End at the beginning.


Installing New Trampoline On Bruddah’s New Boat!

September 22, 2008 By: admin Category: Family, Happiness, House, Michael, Music, Video

Yesterday was a terrific day. After an awesome evening of new music at Mali’s show on Saturday night, I woke up, did some yoga and weights, and then drove over to Mike & Laura’s to pick up Mike so we could head out to rig HIS NEW BOAT (photo gallery below…)!!! He bought a catamaran a few days ago and the new trampoline arrived and needed to be installed.

On the way to his house I listened to the “Best Of…” CD of Box 5, my new favorite band and one of the bands I heard at the show the night before. Mary Bichner (pronounced “BEECHner) has a vocal styling similar to Thom Yorke of Radiohead, and, indeed, when I looked at a video gallery of Box 5 through the years on YouTube I saw a very young Mary wearing a Radiohead shirt… just sayin’… πŸ˜‰

Anyway, so the CD KICKS ASS and everyone reading this has to listen to the tracks online and then buy the thing. Not one bad song in the 7-song EP.

So, as I listened and drove I got more and more inspired to make a video of one of their songs. Images came at me with a vengeance and before the trip to Carlisle was over I had a full storyboard and format/style in my head. I’ve written to Mary and will be calling her later today to pitch the idea. Very exciting! :)

Also, for the last few days I’ve been storyboarding “In The Cemetery Wher Al Jolson Is Buried” and that’s been going very well. What I hope to do there is to finish the storyboards and then shoot the first “scene” as a test. If the test looks good after I’ve done some post-magic then I will pitch author Amy Hempel for permission/rights to shoot the whole thing. I’ve had a passion for this story since my freshman year at Tisch and for some reason the mojo to do it right, and as a film (I had originally tried adapting it for the stage) has arrived now, while I’m settling into the tiny town of Hudson, MA. :)

Lastly, following is a photo gallery of Michael and me installing the new trampoline on the catamaran her just bought. We had hoped to get the tramp installed and then go for a quick sail, but the former owner didn’t come by with the sails, daggerboards or other rigging necessary, so we just spent the time making sure everything we could do was done well. We’re looking to go sailing later in the week.

The day rounded-out with a nice dinner at Mike & Laura’s while watching “Harold & Kumar Go To White Castle.” I’ve always loved Kal Penn, but he was inspired in this movie, and the movie itself is fuckin’ hilarious. Not a good choice for those who don’t like smart-stupid humor–as opposed to the stupid-stupid humor of Ben Stiller–hate it–or the romantic-stupid humor of Adam Sadler–love it–but it had me on the floor.

Anyway, here’s the Michael With Catamaran photo gallery. Enjoy!



Installing tramp 1.