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Archive for July, 2006

In The Midst of the Unpredictable

July 29, 2006 By: admin Category: Uncategorized

Although it’s still relatively early in the night, I’m awfully tired. I woke up too early after going to bed too late. I try to promise myself that I won’t do that but sometimes circumstance gets the better of you. In this case, as in the last few of this past week, M has been rabidly busy – no time to sit or stop moving, she has been running from one thing to the next – and, because I want to accompany her, I end up staying up. This is new in a way… When we were first together I stayed up because the “in love” part was always on “go,” but then things slowed down. When I moved in with her, we got used to each other, we had our own lives. Mine involves sleeping. As much as I can. There are plenty of times when I don’t sleep, or don’t sleep well, and they are alway when I’m on the road, working. So, as I say, today it’s something different…

Two nights ago M and I were driving home from a function and suddenly, looking out the window at the passing rugged landscape I realized that I was no longer tied to Carlisle, the home I shared iwth my brother and his wife. I have loved it from the moment I set eyes on the place and will cherish forever the gift of having lived with my one and only brother, but things have changed. The last time M and I visited him at the Carlisle house, there was unnecessary tension for me. It was Michael’s 40th birthday and months ago I’d wanted to make a big deal out of it: contact his best pals way in advance, have everyone go in on an elaborate gift that he’d be sure to love, have a big BBQ in Carlisle, the whole nine. I thought that his first birthday after The Death, and the fact that it was his 40th merited a TO DO. But no. The disorganization that permeates his current existence made it impossible for anything predictable to happen, so when M and I arrived, what we were served was the unpredictable. Knowing him and his wife as well as I do I should have predicted that: the unpredictable, so, yes, in a way it’s my own goddamned fault, but the crashing disappointment I felt as a result wasn’t.

This brings us to the night two nights ago when I was staring out the window on the drive home in CA… I felt the last “string” tying me emotionally to my old life there suddenly snap. One second it was there, the next gone, and I realized that it meant that M really was all that I have now. Not that my brother is gone, it’s just… It feels like the time I let go of Mom and moved out to San Francisco to try out my wings. I never had before then. I’d lived with or near Mom my whole life and liked it just fine. I’m a “late bloomer.” For real. I mature late. I say that in the present tense because it’s still going on… Anyway, at that time in my life I had left NYC due to a nervous breakdown, basically. The move out West that first time PISSED MOM OFF and we had a big fight. I screamed at her: “YOU did this! YOU made me stay! YOU made me your best friend when I need you to be MY MOTHER! Now you HAVE TO LET ME GO!” And yes, it was as dramatic as I’m making it sound here. To her credit Mom left the room, took a breath, and somehow miraculously came back in and, with an ashen, surprised face, said: “You’re absolutely right. I did do that to you. I’m so sorry.”

After that we talked for hours. About everything. About me. About her, her life and how she grew up – basically raising herself. At the end she understood why I was feeling the things I was feeling, and, to my eternal amazement, did something I will try to emultae for the rest pf my life: she put aside her own feelings in favor of supporting mine. She stood up and said, excitedly (my mother, at 68, could be excited like a 4-year-old): “I’ll help you pack!”

I felt a detachment then, but it was quasi-good/quasi-intended. Parent let’s go of child, child grows up, blah, blah, blah… This thing with my brother feels different. I never wanted to feel detached from him. I guess the center of it, though, is that he doesn’t need to feel attached to me. I definitely feel a NEED to be attached to him. We’re each other’s only sibling, and OUR mother died. We should have a bond, and make efforts for one another. But I can’t do it alone. Like when I have troubles with M – we need to resolve them together. I can’t be both sides of something.

So, I looked out the window and felt the snapping of the string. A string I know was only in me, which is why it hurts so much.

And so now there’s M. I turned to her and told her I loved her. She smiled. And today I cried in her arms because I was tired and had been wrestling with a Mom dream, and it was soon time for M to go to work and I didn’t want her to go.

There’s this powerfully painful memory I have: Mom had been visiting me in NYC. One of the few times she did that. We had a great time, were inseparable, and when it came time to leave I took her to the train station myself. In the middle of Grand Central we said goodbye. I don’t know why we’d decided that I wouldn’t go all the way to her track with her and see her actually get on the train, but that’s what happened. Anyway, so we hugged and looked as supportive for each other as we could, and then she turned and walked away. I turned for a second and felt my heart drop into my stomach with a terrifying, nauseating thud. Immediately I turned back around and ran toward Mom. She heard my steps because hse turned and we fell into an embrace and both cried like we were never going to see each other again.

It is my truest feeling that EVERY moment is precious. Every one. Iv always felt this way, although it’s gotten more acute in the last several years of my “adulthood.” Every moment should be cried over like it was going to be your last. It just very simply could be. What a gift: to know that any moment could be your last with a person. That give us such easy rules to follow: always be a good person. Don’t ever slack off. It’s not as hard as it sounds. And yes, I count myself as a very good person.

I can’t remember what Mom and I did that day in Grand Central. I can’t remember if I decided to say “fuck it” and went with her or what. What I do know is that I wanted to. The way I know that I wish she was still alive today and that I miss her so much it makes living – every day – difficult.

Settling Down The Whirlwind

July 26, 2006 By: admin Category: Uncategorized

The past week and a half have seemed like a whirlwind. Last Wednesday I went to job #1 and had a great time even though it was late-night and stressful; then went to job #2 early on Thursday and the ceiling fell in. No, not literally. One of our number fell down badly on the job forcing the rest of us to pick up after him. We were at a very large event and as a result of being overworked I came home sick, exhausted and annoyed. I’ve recovered now, but boy was that a pain in the ass. Now that person has been let go or has taken a leave and so I have to be the only videographer for a while. Do I love it? Yes. Is it a shitload of physical work? Yes. Does it mean more time away from M? Yup. Does that grate on my soul and wear-down my defenses in every way? Betcher-ass…

M has been having nightmares. Project fears, personal worries. It’s not easy pursuing your dreams. You have to own up to them, rise to the occasion, and actually accept that you’re good at something. It’s this last one that is the real slippery-slope. The comforting, previously ever-present self-doubt: “am I good enough?” is replaced with an answer we never planned for. “Yes.” What the fuck do you do with “YES”?????? Yes means I have to KEEP DOING WHAT I’M DOING, have to STAY ON MY TOES and KEEP WORKING THIS HARD ALL THE TIME!!!!!!! Yes. It does.

I’ve always worked this hard. It comes so naturally to me. The only things I have to “gear up” for in my life are times when I’m going to be away from M. Those times are impossible to me. I see red, get anxiuous weeks before I leave, and start crying at unpredictable times. But for all the rest of the things one has to do in one’s life to get from point A to point B I seem to do okay. I’ve trained myself to distill something down to it’s most basic version and then look to see how that, in the end, and from any angle, could affect me. Once I realize that it’s not going to kill me (as very few things will), I move forward to address it so I can move on.

This, of course, brings up the question: what does “move on” mean to me? Only one thing: M and I owning our own house.

I’d like to take a moment here to talk about how much “in a relationship” I feel I am. With the only other true one that I’ve been in there was always a distance, always a certain “this isn’t the last stop on the train.” But, of course, I was fairly young then, but still not as young as M is now, and so sometimes, in the dark, I worry. But not a lot, I have to tell you. That’s why this one feels so real and so like how these things are supposed to feel. She feels like blood. Irremoveable. Biologically a part of me. Maybe that’s the time in relationships when couples start looking alike. It’s because they’re so in love and have gotten to that place where they understand that their role in a relationship is just to respect the other person. Once you reach that place maybe the part of your ego that made you insane for so many years (being insecure about how you looked, trying to be impressive in a job, stressing about your dreams) falls away or just relaxes and you suddenly become what I feel is a human’s natural state: relaxed, logical and kind as a result of being in love. But I think this can only happen when the love is mutual. And it doesn’t come without a ton of testing. M and I are here after two hard, hard years of screaming at each other, walking away, and… always coming back. We have worked and worked and worked and worked at this relationship. We’ve worked so hard we’ve changed. She has actually changed herself for me and I have actually changed myself for her.

I don’t want to speak for her on this issue, but for me the changes have all been ones that were so, so necessary. The most prevailing is one that’s old and linked to my family. I’ve always suffered from a feeling of being a little bit invisible. I joke that for the first 14 years of my life my name was “Michael’s Little Sister,” and believe me it was a name I bore with pride, but after several years I realized it was an occurance that had affected me deeply by causing me to suppress my own personality. If I was proud of being “Michael’s Little Sister” then it wasn’t bad to be that, and, consequently, I didn’t have to work too hard at finding out who I actually was. Anyway, so years and years of not trying to figure it out ensued: I coasted, and drank, and pretended to get by. I went through a series of 12-step programs, annoying friends, bad jobs, bad realtionships, being bad in relationships, blah, blah, blah…– finally, I hit the wall. I was emotionally completely drained. What was really happening was that I wasn’t facing anything. Nothing. I was living my life from moment to moment, making it up as I went along and holding my breath in between. Ironically, when I finally crashed for real, in early 2002, it was to Michael that I went and found myself. I went and lived with him and he and I talked and I read for 2 1/2 months. Living with him and hearing the clarity he had for his own life, made me realize what I was missing: my own opinion. When I was little I always knew what I wanted and how I felt about things. By age 34 I had suppressed it ALL. It took Michael, his discourse and his library to bring me back. I began to develop opinions about world affairs, psychology, food, travel. I was coming back, and it was incredible.

The rest of the story most of you know well: I moved with him to Boston and worked at a great job and then met M, who has, effectively, completed this phase of my “retraining.” With her I let go of every defense mechanism I had left. I realized, in the 2 years of fighting-and-figuring-out with her that what I needed to do was take a leap of faith. I had to trust her. I had to trust that she loved me. With that comes a period of emotional whitewater-rafting. It’s relatively short, but also powerful and dangerous. Still, it’s just rapids. You’re in a boat, you’ve got your buddy, and you’ve trained for this. And the only real way down the river is on the river. Walking while carrying the kayak yourself will take a long time and you’ll probably die before you reach the end of the rapids. Along the way you’ll be starving and will have to fend off bears who see you as a good meal waiting to happen. If you choose not to go down at all, then you’ll die there, in the woods, at the top of the river, and become bear food. So, trust me, play the odds. It’s the best decision.

Isn’t it funny? Braving the river is the scariest choice, but also the one with the best odds. Who would have thought…???

Another Night of Talking to the Dead

July 18, 2006 By: admin Category: Uncategorized

Two nights ago I had a dream that the four of us were on some kind of vacation. An outing. We were all the ages we are now. We were walking around an outside museum of some kind, then I decided for everyone that we should sit down at these round, outdoor tables. We weren’t, any of us, happy. There was a gloom over the whole afternoon. But still, I pressed on. It was me that wanted us to be here, to be pretending to be happy. I needed this and was working very hard at it. Anyway, so I decided to get us all some drinks. Mom was cold so I thought I’d make people some nice, hot drinks. Instead of asking the employees of the museum to help me I jumped behind the “kitchen area” – the kind that magically appear in dreams when you need them to – and started whipping something up. As my father was complaining about having to be there at all, about having to do this, I deliberately made him something I knew he would hate. I made a super-sweet hot chocolate with CHUNKS of raw chocolate and other devastatingly sweet things floating around in it. For Michael I made something less sweet because I knew he liked it. And for Mom I made tea the way she likes it. While I was cooking one of the employees came up to me and showed me a picture of my dad in uniform. An Army uniform. Aged somewhat as he is today, but standing in the picture in an Army uniform. I remarked that I’d never seen that picture and asked if I could have it, as it was of my father. The woman said no. She then started saying things that didn’t make sense and that I didn’t want to hear. She asked me why I was torturing my mother. I didn’t know what she meant. She told me that it was clear to all that my mother was dead and that I shouldn’t hang on so hard, but instead should let her go. I was angry and so, so, so sad. I turned and looked at my family. THAT’S why Michael was looking away pretending none of this was going on, I realized. THAT’S why dad has his smug look of non-caring as if to convey that he was thinking of great and profound things and not, in fact, being inconvenienced by this most un-seemly event. THAT’S why Mom looked so tired and in pain. She was a ghost. And I had dragged her off of the path she was meant to lead and kept her here.

I woke up sad and confused, and knowing I should have known better.

In other news, I’m going with M’s little sister this morning to buy bras. Something I’ve only done once without Mom. It’s somehow fitting that her replacement should be a caring, loving, beautiful, and incredible 19-year-old who adores me. Hallelujah. Thanks, Sarah.

Much love,

Went and got the bras and ohmygod… Now we know why specialty stores are specialty stores (can you say: “Victoria’s Secret”?), THEY SPECIALIZE IN THINGS! I threw out my old ones and have four new ones that feel like they were specificaly tailored to my body. Technology is amazing.

July 15, 2006

July 18, 2006 By: admin Category: Uncategorized

One year to the day. And where was I…??? Lying in bed with M. It was just after dawn. In my half-sleep I heard Michael come down the stairs, felt him sit on the edge of the bed. That’s when I opened my eyes and turned to him. “Is she gone?” I asked. “Yup,” he said. I don’t remember anything after that. Maybe he does and can fill in the blanks. It’s amazing what we forget and how quickly. And what we remember and for how long. Katie always says that I have the most incredible memory, but I can’t remember what the rest of what my brother and I talked about was just hours after our mother had died. What’s wrong with me? Maybe I’m blocking it, but how stupid is that? Dad wrote about filing his and Mom’s last joint tax return and how gross it was to do that. I can imagine. Next, he wrote about how hurtful it was to see Mom’s garden blooming without her to attend to it, and that reminded me of a dream I had recently. I woke up – in my dream – knowing that I had to learn how to garden. I started teaching myself about organic gardening because I figured why repeat something someone else did so well? Why not, instead, take what you learned from that person and build on it? What I learned from Mom about gardening was love, detail, patience and science; which flowers/plants work in beds together? Which will nourish each other? Which will make the best mulch, once dead, for new plants for the next season? Anyway, so I began researching vegetables, herbs, food. I wanted what I grew to do something more than just be pretty. Maybe it’s my multi-tasking nature, but it made perfect sense in the dream and when I woke up – for real this time – I knew it could all happen. I will learn to grow food. That has a nice ring to it. And as I dig in the earth, till it, weed around my little lettuce and tomato and squash plants, I’ll think of her and how she would marvel at what I’m doing. “Organic food…” she’d say, shaking her head in exaggerated awe for emphasis because she wants nothing better than to make me feel special and strong and like I’m doing something great, “organic food. Only you, A’lex. Only you would think of such a thing…”

No, not only me, of course, but in our small circle – the overly-intellectualized one I grew up in and the one my father and his friends still inhabit – no one grows their own food. Can’t be bothered. “Why, when there are others to do it for you?” Folks like those don’t care to try to understand the beauty of the feeling of making something so simple. They need “a bigger challenge.” Maybe what they need is notoriety. Whatever. Either way I always knew that Mom was never like that. She played that. For survival. But it’s not what she was. She loved simple things. Simplicity. Like the dreaming up, planning out, and creating of a garden of flowers. What could be simpler than working so hard to create something that does nothing but stay still and look beautiful? That’s the way Mom was. She had her complex moments, as do I, but I will remember her for the simple in her. Even at the end, in the hospital, when I wasn’t there and don’t remember what Michael afterward old me happened, she was simple. What I do remember is that he told me that she died in her sleep. A sleep of sorts. A deliberately-induced drug sleep that allowed her breathing to slow slowly, and eventually stop.

There’s this pamphlet you can get from the hospice representative when your loved one is dying. It tells you how to deal with it, how to cope, and, at the beginning of the pamphlet, what signs to look out for that tell you, yes, this person is indeed dying. I read the signs and recognized them. THAT I remember. Two days before she died I remember reading about signs I’d already seen. Signs that came to me too late to actually have time to think of something to say other than the ONE and only thing I did say, which was… “Who’s going to be my best friend?” I think it’s one of the most sincere things I’ve ever said. That and the night I screamed at the interns to stop hurting her. I was sitting on the left side of the bed. Her left. It was just the two of us. We were quiet and sort of twiddling our thumbs as if teenagers on a first date. We kept eye-ing each other as if to say, nervously: “how ya doin’?,” except Mom’s nervousness was nervousness about dying. Anyway, I was sitting there, my hands wringing themselves, when all of a sudden I felt a tear. Then two. Then felt my nose running. I wiped it – a giveaway – and looked up. She looked at me. I was caught. I thought she was thinking: “why are you crying nina? (pronounced in the Spanish ‘neen-ya,’ for ‘Little One’),” but she wasn’t. More on that in a second… I looked up at her and thought that that was what she was thinking and so I said: “Who’s going to be my best friend?” She looked at me, a little annoyed at why I would be thinking such a selfish thing WHEN SHE WAS THERE DYING, and said: “It’ll be alright.” It came out as a scold, as if she’d said: “You should know better,” and instantly I felt ashamed. Maybe that’s why I gave Michael that last night. I didn’t and still don’t know if he knew it was her last night, but I knew it, and knew I had the strength to “give” it to him, to step aside for the last moment I could ever have with my beloved, perfect, incredible, unmatchable mother.

“It’ll be alright.”

It isn’t. Not yet, but I imagine it will be, if for no other reason than it will change. I will change and will perhaps learn to feel less ashamed, although, ashamed or not, I will always miss her and no one will ever be such a best friend.

So, today, one year after, exactly – what do I choose to remember? Her exploding smile. The kind of smile that let’s you know you ARE, and will never be alone or unloved or unremembered.

I love you, Mommy. And I miss you.

Your best friend,

PS. The “signs” that you read about at the beginning of the hospice pamphlet tell you of certain behaviors that a dying person will exhibit that will let you know, beyond a doubt, that they were dying. They will worry their clothes, tug at them like a nervous tick, but won’t be aware of it. Mom did that and I didn’t know what it meant. They will hallucinate. Mom did that a lot and I thought it was the effects of the drugs, until I knew it wasn’t and by then it was too late. I found all these things out after they would have made a difference to me. But by the time I read them I already knew she was dying. We’d alreday had the Family Meeting. So, word to the wise, if your loved one is dying, as for the hospice pamphlet as early as you can…

This Is What 39 Feels Like

July 07, 2006 By: admin Category: Uncategorized

Gloria Steinem, upon her annual visit to the Phil Donahue show, would always say her age. One year Phil said: “Wow, you don’t look 50,” and Gloria, without missing a beat, would open her arms wide and say: “This is what 50 looks like!”

You know you’ve found love when your loved one, for your 39th birthday, buys you an antique, swinging loveseat/porch-chair/wooden hammock from India so you can spend the mornings writing in your blog and drinking your coffee while staring out at the lake. Love is… someone who knows you. M always outdoes herself for my birthday. In price and inspiration. Like I did with my mother, M always knows exactly what to get for me. She also got me a ukelele, something I’ve wanted for years. Four years, actually. I was going, then, through a terrible time in my life – although, admittedly, not as terrible as the one I’m going through now regarding dealing with the death of my mother, but pretty bad – and the only thing that got me through it all, or got through to me during it, was playing my friend’s ukelele. She’d gotten it for her birthday and never, ever played it. I went online and learned the basic chords and rules in about a minute, and soon was playing “Amazing Grace” like I’d been born to it.

A gift is something nice. You hold it, look at it, play with it, love it. But when a gift is this – a moment in time… it’s something very special. M has a way of taking emotional snapshots, or making emotional snapshots, I should say. She creates moments inwhich her loved ones can exist in exactly the way that makes them feel the most comfortable. And in this case, she has done it for me. She has given me back what I lost when my mother died: a home.

You see, there’s this thing I like to do, need to do, am compulsive about: morning. I need to get up before everyone else, have my smoothie and my coffee, write in my blog, read a bit, and look out the window. Mostly, that’s a long and flowery way of saying I need special time to commune with my coffee, okay?????? And, no, I’m not addicted in the traditional sense. Er, well, actually, forget I said that – yes, I am AM addicted in the traditional sense. If traditional means can I go a day without coffee, then the answer is: no. I can’t. Do I have more than one cup. No, I don’t. I’m telling you all this to give you a bit of backstory, ‘kay? You need to understand my religious feelings for coffee and the ritual of drinking it in a quiet environment in the morning. That’s what M just gave me. A quiet place to enjoy my most precious time of day. Thank you so much, love…:)

The middle part of the rest of today will be spent working and putting back together all the things I took apart yesterday to cope with the possible evac. I have to act quickly, actually, as I have some editing to do of pieces that need to be up before the end of the day. but you don’t need to know this. Okay. Thanks for reading this far. There’s a lollipop in it for you when I see you next…;)

All my love,

PS. Although we can still hear helicopters swooping around, grabbing water from the lake, our fire is said to be “100% contained.” It must just still be on the other side of the hill, blazing away. Think of what that means: the firefighters have been fighting it ’round the clock. Let’s tip our hats to them, shall we? They just saved my life.

Brush Fire

July 06, 2006 By: admin Category: Uncategorized

The light has gone but we can still hear the WHOOP WHOOPing of helicopters swinging down to snatch water from our lake. They’re using the lake water to fight the fire. Yes, there’s a fire here. In front of my house. I moved from the East coast – 20 years in New York City and nothing happened – and the minute I get out to L.A. THERE’S A FUCKING MORTALLY THREATENING BRUSH FIRE 500 YARDS AWAY FROM MY HOUSE!!!!!

I was being all innocent-and-shit this morning, minding my own business, doing my work. Then M called and frantically asked: “Are you anywhere near that fire?????” I was confused: ” fire?” “Oh my god. Go outside!” So I did, and juuuuuuust over the ridge in front of me, about 500 yards away from my house I see huge, dirty-brown smoke. Billows and billows and billows. It was incredible. I was like: “HOLY. SHIT.” I said into the phone: “Uh, yeah, THERE’S A FUCKING HUGE FIRE OVER HERE!” M was on her way back from the city where she was picking up my birthday present. “Should I start packing?” I asked her. “Yup,” she replied calmly. “I would do computers and your cameras.” “Ooooooooh-kay.”

When she got home we launched into military mode. She told me what to do, how to do it, what to leave, what to keep, etc. I ran around placing important items into secure boxes (I KNEW there was a reason I kept all the packaging for my computers!), and gathering a pile of goods that we’d be packing into two cars. When I’d gathered my stuff I took the boxes and bags one-by-one to car #1 while M packed up car #2. As we did this we kept KCAL-9 on at full volume so that if we heard an order to evacuate we’d be able to act immediately. “Sometimes they don’t give you more than 30-minute’s warning,” said M, all large and in charge. It was incredibly comforting to have a native Southern Californian to go through this with. If I’d been alone I would probably still be standing in the doorway waiting for the next tremor. For this Easterner the unfamiliar threat of fire is exactly the same as the unfamiliar threat of earthquake. Although, as the firefighters out here are so good the biggest difference between the two events is that you have a chance in a fire. If The Big One hits Los Angeles, there’ll be nowhere to go but down. So glad I moved here…

Earlier, when M was still on her way and before I knew what I should have been doing, I couldn’t resist being one of those dumbasses you see on TV: I grabbed my camera and went outside and shot footage of the smoke billowing so close to my life. As I was rolling and thinking to myself “This is so fucked up, BUT IT’S SO COOL TOO!!!!,” a huge plume of flame shot up from the ridgeline, bisecting my frame. “OH SHIT!” was all I could say (my mother would hate this post with all these curse words). I kept rolling until I heard M drive up, then I went in to see what we should do.

I must say, we packed quickly. It’s an interesting excerise, a fire, to see what you’ll actually take. What – in a split second – you decide isn’t worth saving. Here was my list: computers, cameras, photos. We managed to get all of M’s sexiest musical equipment as well as her own huge computer, and still had/have (we’re still waiting to hear about possible evac.) room for the 2 cats and one large dog. “Tzeitl! Don’t forget the baby!” I definitely felt a little like Tevye in one of my favorite scenes from “Fiddler On The Roof.” At the end his family is all packing up and he’s agitated about something and yells the above line to his eldest daughter, Tzeitl. She and her husband are preparing to go with the rest of family as they all leave their beloved town, Anatevka. By the end of the play/movie/story, the Jewish families are leaving their beautiful, little town because they have been overrun one too many times by Catholic Russian soldiers carrying out pogroms. Fuckin’ assholes. I still don’t understand that kind of violence. It’s the most disrespectful thing in the world. To hit, maim, kill someone just because they’re not like you? Makes me want to puke. Fuckers…. Give me a minute, I’ve been battling a fire all day and have a little anger to work out…

Here’s something cute: M and I are both writing in our blogs. What’s a little fire when you need to update your public???

July 4th

July 05, 2006 By: admin Category: Uncategorized

I can’t remember the last July 4th I spent with my mother. I remember Christmasses. We weren’t at all religious, my family, but we never missed a midnight mass because of the singing. I grew up on singing in the house. Opera records, my parents singing opera, Mom playing flamenco things on her little classical guitar. I never knew how she learned to play. I’m sure she taught herself. Her cousin, Eduardo – who Michael and I call our “uncle” because he’s older, it’s easier, and he really was more like a brother to mom – played in a “Tuna” back in Peru. A Tuna is a group of singers, like a mariachi band except not at all like that. Think more “Student Prince” than “Desperado.”

Anyway, last night M and I didn’t go anywhere for “The Fourth” except to the movies and then down the road a bit to walk our dog before bed. There were some light fireworks done by the kids in the neighborhood and we watched some of those from the curb, but it wasn’t the typical “get everybody ready we’re going to go out and watch the fireworks” type of evening. It was an afterthought. And so relaxing because of that. It was amazing to not feel the pressure of having to go anywhere or be prepared in any way to be happy. I was happy, it was just organic and a little sleepy rather than the usual holiday-manic.

Last night I also had a horrific dream. In the re-telling it won’t seem horrific, but trust me, it was awful. I was in the New Haven house with Michael and Dad. But the house was in Boston because M was out visiting with her friend Jack. It was morning and Dad, Michael and I were chatting in the kitchen. And by “chatting” I mean that they were ignoring me while they talked and I was sitting there pathetically taking it like I always do (something I really need to change…). Anyway, so there we were, and then suddenly I noticed the time. It was 10:00am and I realized that M’s and my flight was at Noon, not that evening. I wasn’t packed and M was out. And so I FREAKED. I started running around the house looking for all of my things, but they were everywhere. I had to find everything super-quickly OR ELSE. Yes, the “or else” didn’t make any sense, but something still felt just awful. I called M and told her about our flight and she said that that was actually perfect because she was at the airport just then dropping off Jack and the kids. They were going on vacation. She said she would just stay there and wait for me. She had her bag with her – all packed and mellow and ready to go. I kept thinking desperately that I had to get to her. That if I didn’t she would somehow leave. Where she would go, or why she would get on a plane to go home without me also made no sense, but, again, this was a dream and clearly something in me that needed to be worked out. BADLY. So, anyway, I was running desperately around the house crying harder and harder and more desperately, like if I didn’t get to the airport I’d never see M again, something like that. And through it all Michael and Dad kept —–


Oh holy shit… I just figured it out. Wouldn’t take a rocket scientist… Michael and Dad kept talking while I was crying my eyes out, desperate to get to M “or else.” It’s a mirror to that awful night when I was alone in the hospital with Mom. Oh hell… Michael and Dad were away at Tanglewood. In the middle of Mom dying they went far away. I know that for my Dad it was really important to do that because he needed a break so badly. So badly… But for Michael to go… I was so angry that he still went. To sing. If the way that that evening had gone had been that Michael insisted on staying but that Dad begged him to go because he (Dad) needed the break, then it would have been better. I’m angry because I never saw any struggle in Michael. Never saw any desperation that he was about to lose his mother. And on the one night when it was the absolute worst I was alone. The ultimate abandonment. I am alone in the hospital when the most important, most connecting person in my life almost died in front of me. Yes, Michael deserved to be the one there on her last nght – which was a couple of days later – but it was also important that it not be me because I now realize that I wouldn’t have been able to handle it. Not one bit. I would have screamed and cried and begged her not to go. Just like I did in my dream…

I think I just said good bye to my mother, y’all. I think I just said good bye to her in that dream last night. Or she to me. Something like that. One or both of us is letting each other go. How awful. How sad it makes me.

I was rushing and rushing and crying and crying looking for all of my clothes… M was waiting for me at the airport. She wouldn’t have left without me… but Mom did. She had to. Something like that. I’m still working it all out, but I think something huge just happened.

I’m going to take some time today to work and think about all this. I thank you all for reading this. My love for you is huge – those of you who I know are reading this. Thank you all so much.

All my love,

It’s cancer

July 03, 2006 By: admin Category: Uncategorized

Even before I finish this passage in the new book I know it’s cancer that the woman is dying of. She’s spitting up green fluid. Throwing it up into a plastic, kidney-shaped receptacle “provided by the hospital.” I’m only two pages into this book and it’s already reminding me of the death of my mother. Now, is that me, or will everything from here on out remind me of the death of my mother? I held similar receptacles under mom’s chin as she turned her head and threw up green fluid. For someone who wasn’t consuming anything but ice chips and water, she sure threw up a lot. With every hurl she’d fill the little bowl and I’d have to run to the sink in her room, toss it out, leave the thing with soap to soak, grab another one, and be ready under her chin to catch the next wave. I called one of her medicines “the anti-puking stuff,” but I’ll be damned if this shit worked even one little bit. The nurses said that if she didn’t take it she’d be throwing up even more. Holy mother of Christ…

What is it about cancer that makes you sit and watch mindless, soul-sucking TV that you would normally never watch? Mom and I watched the dumbest things in the early days in the hospital. And by “early days,” by the way, I mean the first two or three. She was only alive, and with me then, for nine days. Nine small days. The whole world was nine days. Built, populated, and destroyed in nine days. We couldn’t even make it to ten. I was working before that. In Orlando. Dad had said on the phone: “Well, come if you want to” because at that point no one knew she was actually dying. Dying. I was looking at her and kissing her and holding her and crying next to her and lying on half of her bed while she slept and all that time she’d been dying. Her body was caving in. Giving up. Calling it quits. Making that last Hail Mary toss. Fuck. What if I had known she was dying? What would I have done differently? Joan, in her fabulous book “The Year of Magical Thinking” talks a lot about that. “What would I have done differently if I’d known he was dying?” And she didn’t even have as much time as I did. She didn’t have nine days. She didn’t have nine minutes. When her husband keeled over with a massive heart-attack, he was dead before he hit the floor. “Pupils fixed and dilated,” she writes. What Joan, I bet, wouldn’t have given for nine days or nine minutes.

I’m surprised at how difficult this book is to read. Reading about someone watching his mother die from cancer. Probably not what I should have picked up right after the book about Joan Didion learning how to deal with the death of her husband of forty years. Mm-hm. I can really feel his pain. It’s my pain. And I wonder if that was why I wasn’t a good actor – because I couldn’t feel anything. Not really, anyway. And I’m taking into account the Method method, okay? But acting is much more than any one school’s technique – you either feel it or you don’t. It’s something you can’t teach. The thing is is that I was a good actor. A great one, actually. But feel THIS…??? I don’t know… I would have made a convincing show of it before, but not like I would now. Now I’d fuckin’ blow the roof off the place. “Goodness, you really FEEL that she lived through her mother’s ghastly death from cancer. It’s eerie.” Note to self: never do a play or movie in which I have to play someone watching her mother die of cancer.

The music is aggressive and too loud here. It’s afternoon, so I suppose they’re doing that good business practice thing where you make the environment comfortable, but not too comfortable or you’ll have people sitting here all day, which is exactly what I’m doing. I’m here because it’s better to suffer the noise and be close to M than be at home alone in the desperate, sinking quiet without a car. There’s something about having a car, even when you don’t need it, that’s comforting. You can always get away. Always go. Always leave the hospital. And I did. I left. And I shouldn’t have, but I was so tired. If I could explain, like a good actor, just exactly how tired I was you’d understand. You’d forgive me. But I can’t. Just know that it was the awfulest tired there is. Except, I suppose, when you’re a parent and your child is dying. That’s a bigger, worser tired I betcha.

You have to wonder about medicine in cases like these. She’s dying. She’s definitely not doing anything else. I think that’s what I realized on that horrible, horrible night. That horrible, horrible, horrible night when I was all alone in the hospital with her in the middle of the night and thought I was seeing my mother slipping away forever. I realized then, watching the residents jump through hoops going through procedures to bring her back, that she wasn’t ever going to leave here. Wasn’t ever going to leave this hospital. Wasn’t ever going to see her home again. Her garden. Sit in the kitchen with me in the early morning – the first ones up. Always. I would never sit with her anywhere else but here. Right here. This hospital, this room, this view, and no garden or kitchen table anywhere in sight. Shit.

The book is getting more intense – do you like this play-by-play? – much more intense. I think of myself and hope I don’t get cancer. I wouldn’t want M to go through that. I’d have to think of something. Of course I know so much more about it now that I’d probably navigate it fairly well. “Hey, doc, seriously – am I getting any better?” “What do you mean by ‘better’?” “‘Kay, that was honest – I mean, am I going to get up and walk around and fuck my girlfriend and, you know, LIVE ever again?” (pause) “Define… ‘live.’(annoyed head shaking…) “Alright, you know what? Go fuck yourself, doc. And take me off these fucking drugs. Now. I want to go home.” Yah. That would probably be the best way to navigate it all…

For all of my seeming sexy strength I am, truly, a puddle of mud. A puddle. Not solid but with loads of potential. Watery. Hopeful. Trying. I’d be much, much better if my mother was alive. I promise. Except – not, because, of course, I’ve learned so much as a result of all this. So much. Fuckin’-A. But you would, you’d see. I’d be… I could be… I’d certainly try to be… (pause, thinking… pause, thinking… pursing lips, head-shaking confusedly-) There’s a word for it. It’s something like “happy” and “present” and something with “joy” in it. Something like living. Alive-ing. Something like that. But for the life of me I can’t think of it and so for now I’m a puddble of mud, trying to get to a cool, dry place where I can suck up all this water and… solidify.

The most burned woman I have ever seen just walked out of the Starbucks I’m sitting in. SHE’S alive. Survived being burned. Alive. Holy shit…

Bo. We ignored him. The eldest son of my first mentor. My English teacher. The man who’d gotten me into theatre and taught me everything. Bo. We sat at our table in the restaurant on a rare night out and Mom and Dad recognized him carrying a pitcher of water, going from table to table filling glasses. Mom did a sharp intake of breath as he approached us and looked down at her plate, pretending she hadn’t seen him. The thing was he had seen her see him and even though we’d never known Bo very well, we all knew who each other was and the four of us knew that his mother was, at that very moment, while he poured our water, at home dying of lung cancer.

Quick! A quiz! What is this post about?????? If mocha and flowers was your guess, YOU’RE RIGHT!!!!!! What do you win? The chance to never read this post again. How ’bout that? This is a little self-congratulatory at this point so I’ll leave off, but it’s pretty odd, don’t you think? That I come to just finish a beautiful, if heart-wrenching, book about a woman’s husband’s sudden death only to pick up a book about a son’s mother’s death from cancer? Fate, in my life, is nothing if not demanding. “Get a move on, Lex! Get off your butt! Let’s go, get over this, there’s A LOT of shit to do!!!!” My Fate is a drill sargent. Wonderful…

She was swelling with tumor. I know that now. I think I’m reading this book so I can learn to give myself license to say things like “she was swelling with tumor.” As she lay dying her stomach, empty of everything but what was growing inside it and out of sight, was getting bigger. Huge. Becoming a burden. I remember thinking, upon seeing the swelling midsection, that my mother would have so much trouble getting up and out of the bed. I remember thinking that I knew she’d have so much trouble she’d never get up out of it again. I knew, in my bones – all the way in there, that deep – that she was dying, that she’d never be getting up or getting out. That she would die there where her stomach was swelling. In a cold, cream-colored hospital room with thin blankets and a stunning view.

There’s nothing like feeling M naked lying on top of me. She’s so beautiful and perfect and small. The most precious little thing. Not precious like “isn’t she cute?” Precious as in valuable. Having a unique and high value. Irreplaceable.

It’s time to finish this post. Don’t you think? I’ll read more of my book and think of more things to say, but I think I’ll let them go now. Let them slip away. I’ve said quite enough for one day and I thank you so much for sitting here through it all. To share it does me a world of good.

Memories of The Colonial Inn

July 02, 2006 By: admin Category: Uncategorized

I was just there, eating dinner with M and Su, hearing the live music in the background. Dave First, who’s interview I am transcribing today, reminds me that I was once a regular. I started at the bar (of course…), listening from afar, not really eager to hear anything bad. I didn’t know jazz, traditional or otherwise, from a hole in the ground, but when I heard Jimmy, I knew I was hearing something special – something that would only be here for a moment. Lloyd heard him for the first time yesterday while watching my trailer (which SUCKS and has to be recut…). He said: “He sounds like…” “Louis Armstrong,” I said, finishing when he couldn’t think of the name. Lloyd is 23 and has heard of Louis Armstrong. There’s hope in the world.

I love the way all these guys say the word music. It always seems like they’re talking about God, or praying. Well, why not? Most musicians I know have a sort religious fervor and devotion to music. You can see them in their fog, walking around with inward-looking stares at the sofa, the floor, the mountain. They’re not looking at the mountain, they’re composing and seeing their own hands moving as they play. M plays in her sleep. Her fingers twitch. It’s the cutest thing and one of the few things that’s consistent about her.

This film is a journey for me. I’m stepping into a new role: filmmaker. I call myself a filmmaker like I call myself “gay.” It’s something for me to say that’s socially acceptable. I’m annoyed by the need to be socially acceptable, but when you need food on the table you’re forced to make certain concessions. I’m incredibly lucky that I’m able to put food on the table for both of us by doing something I love, while being able to do something else that I love (making documentaries) on the side. Life is good… Pity my mother never got a chance to really feel that.

Listening more to Dave I get the sensation of beer. I can smell it and taste it, feel the cold pint glass sweating, thick and heavy in my hand, and I miss it. But I’ve made a promise. Can I keep it? I have no idea. Luckily, the promise is to myself. We all know that we can’t keep promises to others. We have to make promises to ourselves in addition or we’ll fall flat on our asses. This is all very deep, isn’t it? I don’t mean to be deep. I mean to be spewing. Ah-HA! That, then, is what this is: spew. Like puke. Blogging your own life is like puking only this kind feels good. Having been a drunk for so long I can tell you that the bad kind of puking really does suck.

Percolating. That’s what I’ve been letting this film do. Percolate. I’ve been deliberately spacing out the transcribing so an interview has time to percolate in my mind. Genius. Not really like procrastination at all…

Dave is telling a tale… “It’s time for the blues, Jimmy.” He’s making my film for me. Thanks so much, Dave. Cough and all, it’s going to be a good film.

Smack in the middle of transcribing I think of my childhood summer theatre group. The Something Players. What a great name. We mounted plays in an old barn that got as hot and uncomfortable with humidity as you’ve ever felt in your life. But I loved it. It was my place. So much so that when I learned to ride a bike I rode there in the off-season, and when I learned to drive I drove there at night when I needed some peace. There’s no barn now, only M. And I’ve known her only a short time. She isn’t long enough in my life to evoke a poignant, disarming memory in the way an old place from my childhood does, but she has potential. 😉 I am a slave to memory, to the past, and I think it’s time for me to let that go if I’m ever to make a go at progress. I’m currently too stuck in my thinking. That’s why M is good for me. I see something new and say, suspiciously: “I don’t know…” She sees something new and her eyes go wide just before she dives in. My mentor is a 26-year-old rockstar. :) Perfect.

It’s time to start a book about life and leave this one I’ve been reading about death.