three things: the American West, dancing in the living room, and Mexican literature

FEED: Since the new government seems intent on destroying the physical world, I need to remember this:

View of Valley from Mountain, “Canyon de Chelly” National Monument, Arizona (Ansel Adams)

I have camped in that canyon and gotten horribly, blistery sunburned riding mountain bikes over a Fourth of July holiday weekend, but the place was gorgeous. There was a new moon, so the vast, black night skies were filled with the Milky Way and I will never forget lying there watching it wheel through the enormous sky. The world can be so so beautiful, and it’s definitely worth fighting for.

SEED: Yesterday was a cold, brilliant day. Even though he has a terrible cold, Marc thought it was important enough to add another body to the crowd that he joined me at the LGBT Rally at the Stonewall Monument in the West Village. After the rally, I made a big pot of Moroccan chickpea soup, and while I was tending to it, this song came up on my playlist (“Only Love,” by k.d. lang — give it a play while you’re here, it’s such a beautiful song):

Although I’m not a very good dancer at all, I love to dance and do it at home when I’m alone. My first husband used to dance with me in the living room and I’ve missed that because Marc will not dance. Not ever, not anywhere. But there’s something so sweet about just dancing with your husband in the midst of your home. I understand Marc; like me, he is a very socially anxious person and in fact he’s much more socially anxious than I am. This is a place we can connect with each other. But the day had been so lovely, and the soup smelled so good, and so I grabbed him and dragged him up, put one earbud in his ear and one in mine and put my arms around him and told him we were going to dance. “All you have to do is just hang on to me and sway to the music a little.” He felt anxious, I could feel it in him, but I closed my eyes and held on tight and felt the music and cried.

Maybe, slowly, with patience, I can help him grow a little. That’s what it’s really about, spending a life with someone.

READ: In this time of nationalism and closing of borders (and not just in this now-insane country, of course) it’s time to read translations. I love reading translations, and some of my favorite books are translated, but how is it that I’ve never read a Mexican writer? Lithub posted a list of 15 books by Mexican writers and nope, haven’t read a one. Have you read any of them? Or another one that’s not on the list? I’d love to get a recommendation if you have one.

Foreign films, watch those too. My friend Jeff is on a Pedro Almodovar spree (I need to get on that spree too and rewatch them all….). So, while we’re at it, do you have a favorite Mexican director? Actor?

I’ll say one thing about this time of fear and insanity. I feel very much alive. I feel very connected to other people. I hate the cause, but love this specific effect. Happy Sunday, y’all. <3

three things: 12/23/16

1)  I’m just going to launch right in: I have more self-conversations (out loud and just in thought) about poop every day than you might ever dream. PLEASE tell me you’re this way, please. It’s a strangely big part of my life; women with my kind of history of sexual trauma are significantly more likely to have IBS and to get cancers of organs in the pelvis compared to women without this history, a fact that always punches me right in the intestines. Like having to go through all that in the first place wasn’t bad enough? And yet of course it also makes sense in a body-mind way. My siblings and I had severe problems pooping as children; I always said that mother scared the shit into us. So it’s always been a complicated thing for me, I just couldn’t do it. Two or three times a month only, that kind of thing (no exaggeration). It got a lot better for me when I changed to a vegetarian diet and started having a green smoothie every morning 2.5 years ago, but it still shocks me when I go nearly every day. Shocks me. I almost always comment on it out loud, a kind of cheering myself on, the kind of praise you give little ones when they’re toilet training. “Good job! Look at you!” And I always wonder why there is no weight loss after a particularly big one. 🙂 Come on. I don’t mess with a thing that works; my morning smoothie has been exactly the same for 2.5 years now: a banana, almond milk, two giant handfuls of fresh spinach, and a bunch of frozen unsweetened peaches. Oh my is that good. I never ever tire of it. And then I go poop.

2)  La La Land. Gosh, I loved it so much. I just loved it. Of course I am always hoping people around me break into song and dance, so that’s an important thing — if you don’t, and if you don’t love the old musicals, you might not like it. But I really did, and every single time they started dancing I started smile-crying. Every time Emma Stone’s wide, large eyes were gazing at Ryan Gosling, every time either of them were excitedly talking about their dreams and plans, my hand rested over my heart or on my throat and my eyes filled with tears. It’s about dreams, and love, and the intersection of those, and thank God there are young people in the world dreaming their dreams. Thank God for that. I hope the change in US politics won’t squash them in its meanness.

When I was driving home afterwards, feeling all cracked open and tender, I happened to listen to the podcast Song Exploder and the composer of the main song was talking about the process of creating and performing the song. It was the most beautiful coda to seeing the movie. Here you go:

3)  It’s so very hard to feel any holiday spirit, mainly because of the incoming “president” and all that unfolds in his hideous wake every single day already. It’s like getting hit by a nuclear hammer of fear and loathing and dread throughout the day. I didn’t set up my Christmas tree this year since I’m leaving on Christmas Day for NYC. But I have been having such beautiful one-on-one time with friends, brunch with Cindy yesterday, lunch with Nancy today, coffee with Deb the other day, time just to spend with people I love. And I’m making all kinds of good stuff to give those people: lemon cakes for Nancy, today, and a pecan cream cake and those yummy roasted butternut squash and caramelized onion galettes to take to Katie’s house tomorrow for our Christmas Eve dinner. I love making food for people, and while I’m cooking and baking I’m trying to leave space for my heart to open up to a holiday feeling, but it’s just so flat and squashed by the hideousness of our politics, it’s hard. I’m trying. I’m trying. I’m an inconsistent cook, even though my trying is always the same; sometimes I’m really very good, and other times it just doesn’t work the way it should, but I know that people love and appreciate the effort so I don’t worry too much. When anyone cooks for me, I am dazzled by it.

Happy eve of Christmas Eve everyone. <3 <3 <3

three things: 12/19/16

a gorgeous scene from the movie Moonlight, one that made me cry

1)  For someone who really loves movies, I don’t get to see too many. My taste in movies is extremely different from Marc’s (I like foreign/subtitled, subtle, slow doesn’t bother me, etc., and since he is profoundly dyslexic he can’t do subtitled, and he likes a movie that “holds his attention” which means not slow or subtle), so in NYC I never go see movies. When I’m in Austin, I’ll occasionally see a movie, but I’m so busy trying to fit in time with my people that my rare spare time is spent with friends and family. Still, I did see Moonlight and absolutely loved it, and I’ll see La La Land one way or another, ditto Hell or High Water and Manchester By the Sea.  Here are some lists — have you seen any of these?

  • NYTimes — and Moonlight is on all the reviewers’ lists, here.
  • Esquire — but hmm, they ranked The Lobster first, and boy did I hate that movie.
  • AV Club — good ones on this list
  • Washington Post — again, Moonlight makes it to #1. It’s SO GOOD, y’all.

2)  I love my bed — do you love yours? My bed in Austin is the best bed I’ve ever had. I chose every detail of it, concerned only with what I wanted, for the first time in my life (and I had enough money that I didn’t have to make-do with the cheapest thing I could possibly find, as I’d had to do my whole life). The mattress is exactly what I want. The bedding, soft white sheets, the pillows exactly the soft/firm I wanted. A beautiful piece of furniture with a big headboard and a low footboard. And since I sleep all alone in Austin, I can sleep exactly as I wish, too. In New York, Marc sleeps tucked right up against my back so I only really sleep on my right side and don’t have much option to move around. In Austin, though, I have pillows on both sides, so I can roll around and always have a pillow for between my knees, and cozy covers, and always always my kindle in bed with me. I read all night long, every single time I wake up.

my kindle is in an orange cover so I can spot it easily

Beds are so personal, so intimate, such a quiet space where so much happens even when we sleep alone, as I do. We cry there, feel lonely there, we think there, we dream there, we make plans, we rest, we are sick, we read and watch television and movies, we luxuriate there. I adore my bed, it’s my favorite place in my house and the place I can’t wait to get back to, every time I return to Austin. I make my bed every single morning after I finish my coffee, just because I want the pleasure of pulling back the covers at night, to rearranging my bed for the night.

In New York, our bed doesn’t have a sheet, just a comforter, and I don’t like that at all—it’s Marc’s preference. When he sleeps in Austin with me, he pulls the top sheet out from the bottom so it’s not tucked in, and moves it all over towards me — such an important detail to him, and to me, the presence of a top sheet. In Austin I always wear my nightgown (which is really just a long t-shirt) because I feel most comfortable that way, but in New York he sleeps naked and wants me to, too, so I do. It’s not my favorite. People have such definite opinions about how they sleep, which is fascinating if you think about it.

3)  Being a mother to my grown daughters, who are mothers themselves, is very important to me. Since I didn’t have a mother, and often longed to have one especially after I had my kids, I want to give that to my kids. If you’ve read this blog for long, you know this, I write about it a lot. But the girls don’t seem to have the same thoughts or feelings about it and I struggle with this. I’d hoped they would ask me for advice, ask me questions, be glad that I was there for them, and it doesn’t really go like that. They ask everyone but me. They trust everyone else’s thoughts, even strangers in Facebook groups. They acknowledge help from everyone else but me, in private and in public. It’s hard, it hurts, it makes me sad. Sometimes I think maybe I just need to pull back and not knock myself out, since it doesn’t matter to them — and in fact this is my deal, not theirs!

I’ve heard other grandmothers say the same thing, so I know it’s not just me. Maybe this is something about this generation of young mothers, maybe with all the resources they have available to them, online groups and all the information they could ever want at their fingertips, maybe they just don’t need the kind of help we used to need. Or maybe I did a good job and raised daughters who are self-sufficient and know how to take care of things, who know how to manage themselves and their lives. And anyway, what is it I’m wanting? Thanks? (well, yes….sometimes) Acknowledgement? (well, yes….sometimes) This is a painful thing for me and I’m trying to find my way through it. It’s bigger than this, it’s also about disentangling my identity and self as Lori from my identity as mother, and maybe few of us ever really get that done to our satisfaction.

a beautiful way to shift your experience

My friend Deb and I saw Moonlight the other day as an effort at distracting ourselves from our grief and pain, and just in case you haven’t heard about the movie, here’s the trailer. It’s AMAZING:

This is going to sound like one of those idiotic things white people say, but honestly I didn’t quite realize that there are no white people in the movie until I read that in a review, the day after I saw the movie. The world of the movie is so compelling, so rich, and the photography and direction is so encompassing, you’re just in the story before you even realize it, and then along for the ride.

a gorgeous scene from the movie, one that made me cry
a gorgeous scene from the movie, one that made me cry

The movie is in thirds — three stages of the main character’s life. Chiron as a young boy, as a high school kid, and as a man. All three actors who play him are just out of the blue wonderful. It’s inspired by a play called In Moonlight Black Boys Look Blue, and that note shows up at least three times in the movie, beginning middle and in the last breathtakingly beautiful scene. I can’t recommend it enough. Deb and I both agreed that we’ll see it a couple more times, at least. If you’re into reviews, here is the Atlantic‘s, and the NYTimes‘ and the New Yorker‘s. They all rave and praise the movie, and say that it should win all the awards. To which I agree.

I used to go out to see a movie once a week, at least, but I rarely see movies in the theater any more, and I miss that. But between people wearing perfume (which will drop me like that), and people yakking throughout the movie and infuriating me — unless I’m in Alamo Drafthouse, which has a great no-yakking and no-texting policy — and between the cycle that happens when you don’t see movies and hence you don’t see trailers for the new movies and you end up out of the loop, I just rarely get to theaters. There was a trailer for a movie I’m dying to see, 20th Century Women, with Annette Bening:

Dang. She just seems great in the movie, and I like the honesty of her relationship to her son. I definitely want to see that one.

As long as we’re at it with the distract-me-from-my-pain-a-little-bit thing, seen any good movies lately?

(Lest it seem like I’m just flippant and “back to normal” [that’s gone, y’all], here’s what I said on Facebook:

Like so many of us who were grossly offended by the campaign of hate and divisiveness shouted forth by Trump, I have been thrown back by what my country has done. This is not about “my candidate lost wah wah wah” or “but I like *my* party best wah wah wah.” This is about a shift to a climate that goes against every. single. value I have lived by.

But I am finished crying and grieving. I’m not going to be doing that here anymore. Instead, I’m WORKING. I’m dedicating my anger and grief to fighting back. So if you voted for him, just know that I am dedicated to resisting the values and consequences of your vote. If you are in any of the many, many groups that are already being harmed by the hate he gave a megaphone to, COUNT ON ME. I’m your ally.

I belong to a number of enormous groups of people mobilizing to fight back, and fight back HARD. I probably won’t talk about it on my wall anymore, but don’t mistake that silence for compliance, or acceptance. Don’t feel abandoned, if you are gay or trans, or a person of color, or of a non-Christian religion, or if you are brown, or a woman. I’ve got your back.

And now, back to poetry and photographs and book reviews and pictures of my beautiful grandchildren, to whom I also dedicate the work I’ll be doing. Love trumps hate, YO.

So in addition to the “seen any good movies lately” question, I’ll add “know any solid activist groups that are forming”?

it’s why they call it “feelings”

Yesterday I saw Richard Linklater’s stunning new movie, Boyhood. If you’ve ever believed me about anything, believe me about this: go see it. Here’s the NYTimes review of it, and it deserves every glowing word written about it, every superlative lavished on it. I think it helps that the actor in the main role of Mason is so compelling to watch, so quiet and charismatic in his watching way, and so beautiful as you watch him age over twelve years.

here he is at age 18 -- so beautiful and vulnerable and open to the world
here he is at age 18 — so beautiful and vulnerable and open to the world
upstairs at Antone's, for you Austin folk
upstairs at Antone’s, for you Austin folk

The movie caused me so much pain, it kind of tore down the scaffolding around my heart, because the actor reminded me so much of my son Will. That’s too painful to write about here and now, so I’ll just comment on a couple of things from the movie. Near the end, when Mason has just graduated from high school and is hanging out with his dad in the scene there in that picture, he asks his dad the “what’s the point of it” question. His dad kind of laughs and says he doesn’t know, no one knows, we’re all just winging it. And then he looked at Mason and said something like, “But you feel things, and that’s good. Feel them. When you get older, your skin gets thick.” I guess generally speaking that’s true? It certainly isn’t true for me. But even though the feeling I walked out of the theater with was like open heart surgery without anesthesia, even though I had to sit in the car and sob — ugly sobbing, too — even though I cried the whole drive home, and ran into my house and fell on the bed sobbing, even though I miss Will so very much, even though it feels like this ripped off all the plasters that had been holding my heart together, I am so glad I get to feel it. I’d rather not have the occasion to have this feeling obviously but feeling all the feelings is so huge and important for me, it’s an essential part of my happiness, that I can feel the feelings, and so I am glad I can be open in the face of this pain. Feelings are meant to be felt, it’s the experience of being alive.

Another scene that struck me was when Mason was getting ready to leave for college, and his mom put her face in her hands and was crying. She had been left with the two kids when they were very little, and remarried and went back to school and he was a brutal alcoholic and she left him and struggled and raised the kids and remarried and got a teaching job as a psychology professor and she loved her kids. So Mason is leaving for college and she said, “This is it? My life has been a series of milestones, kids and remarriage and school and divorce and school and kids in high school and a job and one kid gone to college and now the second kid gone to college. What milestone is left for me . . . my funeral. This is it? I thought there would be more.”

I thought there would be more.

Coincidentally, Saturday night I watched the movie about wonderful Elaine Stritch called Shoot Me (streaming on Netflix, NYTimes review here). Stritch is so vulnerable in the documentary, and shows the ravages of her aging, her ongoing battle not to drink, her memory losses, what it takes to entertain and what entertaining means to her. She talks about her husband, whom she loved dearly and who died at a relatively young age of brain cancer. She definitely rages against the dying of the light, rages at it. She seemed to feel all the feelings too. I’ll bet when she died the other day she wasn’t thinking that she thought there would be more.

I feel both of those things. I thought there would be more, and I am going to eat as much of life as I can, all the way to the very end. With spoons in both hands, my passport in my pocket, my children in my mind and heart, and with great joy in my heart, alongside all the feelings.

 

scattered

A scattered post, like my scattered mind:

  • What I wouldn’t give for too much free time to the point where I felt a little bored. What I wouldn’t give for that. Although I don’t know that I have ever felt bored. There’s always so much to do, so much fun stuff I want to do and there’s never enough time for it all even when I do have free time. Which is almost never. It seems. I am tired.
  • I hate moving the clocks ahead. It really sucks.
  • me and Meg
    me and Meg

    What’re you reading these days? Anything so good you’re grabbing people and telling them they just have to read it? I’m enjoying The Interestings (review here, on Amazon here) by Meg Wolitzer. I know her sister Nancy, and met her at the Texas Book Festival last year. It’s a great book, I’m enjoying it so much. The characters are so real, I find myself wondering what they’re up to during the day and then I remember they’re characters in a book. The book explores jealousy of friends, whether being the special one makes you happy (and how long you keep pursuing that), and becoming happy with what you have instead of trying to get what you think will make you happy. Mainly I’m enjoying it because the characters are so realistic and fleshed-out and not constantly ironic, which annoys me. There is an earnestness about them that is realistic and similar to so many of the people I know.

  • I’m thinking about growing my hair out long again.
  • The Yale Writer’s Conference has a Facebook page that we were asked to join. So I see the other attendees, who they present themselves to be on their personal Facebook pages, and read their posts on the Conference wall. I have not made a single post, and I’m sure there are others have not either, but some have. And those who have are posting links to this thing they wrote that was published here, that thing they wrote that was published there, oh and here’s my latest. I have not had a minute to do any writing in more than a week, and the longer I go without doing any writing, the more wobbly I feel about it all. The more I feel like a faker, like the one attendee who should not be there.  This week I need to do some writing. Note to myself.
  • Are you going to see Wes Anderson’s new movie The Grand Budapest I broke up with him after Moonrise Kingdom and swore we were done forever. His movies are so airless, so big on aesthetic and short on anything-new-at-all. Another fatherless boy, another collection of incredibly strange people, another movie that’s interesting to look at but always the same in some way.  But I don’t know, maybe I’ll give him one more chance:

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  • Today is Katie’s baby shower. Yesterday I got to hold my hand over Oliver’s little hiccuping body a couple of times. It’s so thrilling to feel him through her tummy — and boy is he getting big — and boy is Oliver’s mommy getting tired. I remember those weeks, impossible to sleep comfortably, tiring to carry that big tummy, various aches and pains. I feel such tenderness toward my daughter, it’s a whole new phase of life we’re all about to enter. Me as Pete, Katie as mommy with a baby in her arms, Trey as daddy, Marnie as aunt, Tom as uncle. A new person in this world.

Well y’all, enjoy your Sunday whatever you’re doing. It’s rainy here again today, a good day to curl up on the couch and spend the day reading if you have that chance. Pick up The Interestings if you’re looking for a new book!

an itinerant marriage

at Nobu after our wedding.
at Nobu after our wedding.

My life is complicated. Blah blah blah, so is yours, so is everyone’s. The way mine is complicated relates most pointedly to my marriage, which has been thrown up in the air. I moved to Texas in November 2012 because my husband and I were planning to divorce, and my heart was so thoroughly broken. I didn’t want to find someone else, I didn’t want to date for fun, I was just starting a new version of my life without a partner and that was that, and that was always going to be that. In the first few months we tried a couple of different things that didn’t work, we tried letting each other go, and the letting-go didn’t work, either. And so we arrive at my complicated life: I visit him 11 days/month, but I live in Texas the rest of the month.  My real life is in Texas, my residence is there, my bills are there, my tax burden is there, my heart is there. More or less. When Oliver is born in a few weeks I’ll stay Texas-side for a prolonged period, but after we get back from Greece I’ll stay in New York until the Yale gig starts.

I miss him terribly when we are apart, though I have such a rich and wonderful life in Texas and I love it with all my heart. I love my life in Austin. I love my friends, I love my poetry group, and my book club. I love all of that. I love being so close to family, especially since Katie will be having her baby soon. I’m glad to be near her and Trey, I’m glad to be here for Oliver’s birth, and I’m glad I’ll be close to him while he grows up. I wish that could be true for all my children, because my family matters the most to me. I wish I could also live right down the road from Marnie and Tom, and I wish Will would be part of our lives. But I am near Katie and Trey, and I feel so grateful for that.

When my husband and I are together, because we have missed each other so terribly, and because our time is precious, we really just focus on each other and want to spend the time we have together, while we have it. We make plans, we do things, we decide not to do them after all, we change plans, we do nothing, we sleep in, we relish the pleasure of touching feet at night, of sleeping spine-to-spine, or spine to tummy, the pleasure of knowing we’re there, the pleasure of talking in the night if we wake up, the pleasure of being there if the other has a nightmare. Those little pleasures are not ours to take for granted anymore, because we do not live together.**

And so my time with people gets compartmentalized, though it kind of suits my temperament anyway. I’ve always preferred to spend time with people one-on-one, or one-on-two (three is a max, for me). I’ve never been a big-gang person, a big party person (ok, like not at ALL), and for the most part when I’m with you, you have my undivided attention. I want to soak you up too. I want that vivid space between us to vibrate, I want to be real with you there and have you be real with me there, too.

For my real-life friends, here and there, I miss you when I am not seeing you and when I am seeing you I am SO so happy to be seeing you. I’m sorry for my away time wherever I am, and I hope you can accept this aspect of me and my life because it’s just kind of fundamental, even as it is exaggerated now because of my itinerant marriage.

**and to continue the complicatedness, and to be perfectly human about it, I also really relish getting back to my own little place where I live alone, and to being alone in it again so that when I go in the bathroom whaddya know, the seat is down because I left it that way. And it may be lonely at times but it is also all mine and the way I want it and I like it that way too. Why is life so hard.  🙂 When my life fell completely apart in November 2012, if you’d told me I would LOVE living alone so very much I’d have argued with you as hard as I could.

A quick rundown on some recs for you:

BOOKS

  • I read Wave, by Sonali Deraniyagala, which is a memoir of the devastating loss of her entire family — parents, husband, two young sons — in the tsunami that hit the southern coast of Sri Lanka on Dec 26, 2004. It’s a killing memoir, crushing, shattering, and if you have ever experienced the kind of grief that you aren’t sure you’ll survive, you’ll appreciate it very much (here it is on Amazon).
  • I’m thrilled to start reading Lorrie Moore’s new collection of short stories (!!!) titled Bark the moment it publishes on Tuesday.  (order/pre-order it here!) Between her and George Saunders (and Alice Munro) I could read short stories the rest of my life. If you’ve never read any Lorrie Moore, start anywhere but I completely loved Birds of America and read it over and over again, always with surprise.

MOVIES

  • Watch All is Lost as soon as you can. It’s the Robert Redford movie — by which I mean he is the only actor in the movie, and just about the only sound is the boat and the various storms he encounters. There is so little dialogue as to be inconsequential, although what there is is great. We watched it on Valentine’s Day and I am still kind of haunted by it. It’s about the existential experience of being entirely alone in the face of the universe and facing death, but it’s SO much better than Gravity. So much better. (Although the cinematography in Gravity was good, I absolutely give them that.) As the NYTimes review says, “An opera thunders in the silence.” My husband doesn’t like slow movies, doesn’t like character studies, and this movie completely captivated his attention from beginning to end.

Watch something big and good. Read something big and good. Think about something big and good. Talk to someone about something big and good. Involve yourself in a big and good meal, all the way. I always love it when that is possible.

xo