Love, Part I

October 9, 2015 § Leave a comment

So we’re going to talk about love, but I apologize, because first I have to go on a little bit more about suffering. I wrote about this once, in the Shambhala Sun, about how, the first time I meditated, I was shocked to discover that the last place I wanted to be was here, now. You’re supposed to put about twenty-five percent of your attention on your breath when you do this kind of meditation, and then, when you notice you’re thinking, you’re supposed to say “Thinking” to yourself, and then come back to the breath. But I didn’t want to come back to my breath; I wanted to think. I wanted to think about the book I was reading (Was it Harlot’s Ghost?), or the show I was watching (I think it was “Thirty Something”), or the implications around the fact that a five-year-year-old boy was actually in love with my five-year-old daughter. I wanted to have fantasies about having an affair, or quitting my job, or killing my boss, or taking a trip. I found all this so enjoyable.

Being here, with my breath, I discovered was actually something that was so painful for me that I wanted to get away from it, by thinking and reading and watching TV and fighting and drinking wine and constantly fantasizing and making mental lists and/or having elaborate conversations in my head with people who were bugging me and/or I liked. The weird thing (apart from the revelation that right here was that painful) was that I had thought, up until that moment, that those things in my head—those thoughts—were actually my life. That is, I didn’t know that they were just thoughts and fantasies, and that, on some level, I was avoiding my actual life—that is, what was actually happening right then and there—at all costs.

So back to the here and now: it hurt. I mean, what the fuck? I said this to the man who was leading the weekend meditation retreat at the yoga center I went to every day, and he smiled at me and told me that he thought I might be interested in checking out Buddhism. Buddhism’s first noble truth, he said, is the truth of suffering.

Anyway, I’m not going to talk about Buddhism and love, don’t worry. But I still would like to talk about loss a little more. I’d like to just say that I learned something amazingly new two weeks ago, from Scout’s death. I had always thought that my feelings basically were in my head, or in my metaphorical heart. But what I realized from Scout was that my feelings are entirely—entirely—physical.

The way I realized this was that, when I left the vet’s office, I started to cry, and I didn’t stop for days. It wasn’t a boo-hooing kind of thing (I mean, it was sometimes)—it was just that tears poured out of my eyes and down my cheeks without end, while I cooked and did the laundry and vacuumed and made the bed and worked. I even had to go into Starbucks and Salamander’s with red eyes and a runny nose—you need coffee and soup and big salt, one way or the other.

Crying, I soon realized, was like the escape valve on my stovetop coffeemaker; without it, the thing would explode. So my endless crying was my body’s reaction to all the physical pain I was feeling: it was like someone was stabbing me in the heart. It was like my heart was being squeezed. It was like I had the flu: I wanted to vomit, I was sweaty, I was hot, cold, shaky, weak, my stomach hurt, my back hurt, I had butterflies, my muscles ached, my teeth hurt, a constant anxiety rushed like hot lava, like mice, like bugs, up and down my body. It still does. The thoughts—the thought of Scout suffering, playing, sleeping, dying—they were something else: they had an effect on the pain in my body, but they were not the pain itself. If I told you, “I miss my dog,” what I meant was, “The pain in my body is so unbearable that I might need to claw my eyes out.” No wonder people become alcoholics and drug addicts and sex addicts and exercise addicts. No wonder people eat so much they become obese. No wonder people kill themselves. Fuckin’ ouch.

That’s my start on love. I’ll be back. First I have to go do some work, though.

My Mom: An Introduction

October 9, 2015 § Leave a comment

My mom wasn’t like anyone else’s. She was so pretty, for one thing, that when my family walked into a restaurant for dinner, everyone would stop eating, mid-bite, and stare at her. At least that’s how I remember it (I was a painfully self-conscious kid, so this sometimes posed a problem for me—I must have been an incredible pain). She had been a runway model for the french designer Givenchy before she married my father, and, after he died, she did print ads, if I’m remembering correctly, for companies like Rolls Royce. Her closets were full of crazy, fashion-model props: feather boas and falsies, bright-green suits, and a tackle box heavy with makeup.

Being beautiful was not the important quality I’m trying to draw your attention to about my mother, though; what was striking to me about her when she was young, was how independent she was. She left home when she was seventeen, and she found a way to travel the world alone. It’s true that when I was old enough to notice such things, I watched her grow dependent on the men in her life, and defer to them. But I also observed how she didn’t conform to the culture at large—no one else’s mom took her kids fishing; no one else’s mom phoned the school to say she’d bought tickets to a rock concert, and she’d be by after school to pick them up. My mom called me into her bedroom when I was fourteen or so, and asked if I wanted to sign a petition to legalize abortion. My mom bought me a membership to NOW when I was fifteen.

I have this one memory of my mother that has stood out in mind, even while many of the others have all but faded away. One time I was playing kickball in Bethany Martin’s yard across the street with all the kids on the block, when I saw my mom’s car come around the corner. She never liked that car—a black special-edition 1956 Lincoln Continental with red leather seats that my father had picked up somewhere—but, especially on this day, she looked amazing in it. She was a tall, thin brunette, with big, amber eyes—usually. On this day, though, the woman who drove by in that stylish black car had short, white-blond hair like someone from a magazine in the mid-1960s. She told me later that she didn’t like that haircut. She said that Vidal Sassoon himself had cut it, and in the back he’d carved the first letter of his first name: V. Not my mother’s thing.

I have to dig out the box with my photos and get them scanned, so I can show you. Hang on…

Things Look Big in a Small World

November 26, 2011 § Leave a comment

I had this mouse in a trap. Not one of those spring traps—a tiny plastic grey box, with a lid that flips up and then flips down when the mouse steps in. I’d put a big blueberry in there, way down at the end (which was, like, an inch and a half in). I’d put it on the stove, where I knew he’d been.

He’d been up in the treehouse for about a week. At first I thought that my house guest had spilled black tea on the counters, and I kept cleaning it up (thinking a little ill of my house guest). But then the tea came back after the house guest left. Shit. That’s when I realized I had a mouse.

And then I went into the kitchen in the middle of the night when I couldn’t sleep, and as I flipped on the light, the mouse ran down the broom and in among the plates on the shelves below the counter. I’d imagined he was tiny, but he wasn’t. He was biggish, and brown/gray.

Another thanksgiving at LB's, this one in 2007. Pictured here: LB, Julia, and my mother's Thanksgiving sweet pototoes)

So the next morning I went out and bought a two-pack of these little traps. And I put a blueberry in each. And he fell for it, when I was over at LB’s for Thanksgiving, drinking a bottle of wine, and, as LB put it afterwards, “feasting and facing facts.” There’d been some crying.

Anyway, I put the trap into a pie pan at around 10:30 or 11:00 P.M., and walked down the steep, dark flight of wooden stairs to my car, and drove the mouse 1.2 miles, since I’d read that you had to take them at least a mile away, or they’d find their way home. What if he had a family? A wife and some babies? What if he had friends who loved him, a sweetheart, a really nice home? (Well, he did have a nice home—mine.) What if he got lonely?

I pulled off the side of a side road under a streetlamp, so I could see what I was doing, got out of the car with the pie plate, knelt down in the cold grass, and turned the little trap over.

He came tumbling out, his tiny feet splayed like he was skydiving. He was not big—not when you compared him to the starry universe overhead. He was just a tiny thing. He almost paused, as if he wasn’t scared, and then trundled off in the direction of my place—toward the graham crackers, and the protector’s Newtons—which, if you cut across Sep’s fields, was, I realized, probably only three-quarters of a mile. Chances were he’d beat me home.

But he hasn’t been here, and two days have gone by. I’m feeling myself getting very sad again. The world is a miracle, and at the same time a terrible place. We should all be only kind.

Transmission

November 26, 2011 § 1 Comment

A risky proposition, ten thousand lives to go.
A mind-to-mind transmission: there isn’t anybody home.
—Michal the Girl

Click on the arrow below (and then on “Transmission”):

Transmission

Monsters

November 16, 2011 § Leave a comment

I was fried tonight, so fried, and sitting in a tiny theatre in Tribeca, waiting for a play to start. It was raining, and it’s the new thing in New York City these days to start events late when it’s raining (this is for all the Cab People who are taking up space where the artists used to be). Anyway, the show was starting late, and men in suits were walking from the lobby into the theatre with bottles of beer in their hands, waving them around like they were about to watch the game on TV.

It was because I was tired that I was disgusted. (It is because I am tired that I’m sad again.) Anyway, I was sitting there, damp as a dog, beerless, sitting next to my usual empty seat (I mostly go to plays alone now), wanting to cry, wanting to vomit, and I noticed Sigourney Weaver moving around the theatre like she owned the place.

I checked my funky-Tribeca-theatre-Xeroxed-sheet-that-takes-the-place-of-a-Playbill, but she wasn’t in the cast, nor was she a producer, or on the board of directors. Still, she seemed to know many of the thin older ladies in very high heels who were sitting in the top rows. (In the old days, at the Fillmore East, we used to call that section “junkie heaven.”) The point is that what I saw amazed me in my fragile state. First, she came down from junkie heaven and surveyed the rows of suits with beers. She looked at me and my seat, but thought better of it: there was a “reserved” sign on the back of my empty seat, which meant that I was press, and you don’t mess with press. So then she looked at the row in front of me, which also had an empty seat.

“Excuse me,” she called down the row. “Excuse me.” She got the attention of the suits with beers and their wives (who all seemed to be wearing diamond nose rings). “Do you think you could all move down one?” And they did. Sigourney Weaver got an entire row of seats to move down one, ten minutes after a play was supposed to start. Then, instead of sitting down in the empty seat she had created, she walked away.

I was amused and still sad and disgusted. Then I looked up and saw a sign with the name of the play: “She Kills Monsters.” I don’t know: I was tired. I was annoyed. I was glad that the universe, at least, had a sense of humor I could dig.

Search

November 7, 2011 § 2 Comments

You can see what words people put into Google, to get to your blog. Today I found these words (apart from the usual “glockenspiel” and “treasure map”: “dog sex t shirt deitch.” That was a little alarming. Maybe they’re looking for a different Deitch? But, no: of course they’re looking for me. (Hi, Mom!)

Thermostat

November 2, 2011 § 5 Comments

I see a little red arrow, and I see numbers—I wonder what they have to do with one another?

Though I was miserable, I so loved the thing of being a young adult who believed that I would go far, if only I put my shoulder to it. Oh, my god: the guy I would marry! the work I would do! The success! The success!

Not. Turns out that, at my age, you’re doing well if you can, as Russell Crowe once said to me, “keep up with the apologies.” And the tricky/funny thing is that, as I do more and more damage to my relationships, and get more and more horrendously painful feedback, I just get worse! I think that honesty is a virtue that I will not compromise.

This could get deep, but my eggs are getting cold and I have to practice. Or think about practicing, at least.

So my mind doesn’t function the way it used to, and now, in order to remember anything, I have to be reminded. That is, I go along dumbly mostly, living by habit (set the alarm, sleep, wake up—coffee first, or shower?—get in car, drive, work, come home, eat, suffer for several hours, set alarm…), until someone says something that triggers a memory, and, bam!, the routine is suddenly broken, and I’m back at a time when there was another routine! How nice that they’re different!

Anyway. So the heat was off at the yoga studio this morning (I was home—suffering, but enjoying having a morning), and someone called me to tell me. So I called the landlord, and he said that he’d have someone come over. Then he said that he was going to have them install the “simplest” thermostat, so that we would be able to use it. “No complex switches, and programming times,” which would just confuse us.

Oh, my god, it came rushing back: men in the nineteen-seventies. It’s been a long time since someone talked to me like that—like I was incapable of working a thermostat. (OK, Jim, this is just me entertaining myself—I like you: you’re a good guy.) But it used to happen all the time back then, this assumption that I was…what was it? Stupid? It might not have been so bad if I weren’t actually smart. I told the landlord that I was able to work a thermostat, and he said, “No, no—not you: but the others,” or something like that. The others are fucking brilliant, __________.*

I loved it, back in the day, on some level: all that crazy condescension by so many men I met. On some level it really stoked my own sense of superiority, along with my rage. And you know what? Someday I’d show them.

But, it didn’t turn out that way. Turned out that I had, by necessity, to become a pacifist, and try to learn to tame my mind for the benefit of beings. Sigh. And really, the farthest I’ve gotten is being able to look at my rage sometimes, and not get too, too caught up in it—that is, only a little caught up.**

So. That’s the news from East Marion: where life has lead so far.

*PAL

**I’m not mad at men as a category anymore, just to be clear (Rod).

Trick or Treat (or Trick)

October 30, 2011 § Leave a comment

I don’t remember what Maud’s first Halloween costume was going to be; I only remember that, when it came time to put it on, she got really upset. It was getting on evening—the witching hour, as her father and I used to call it—and we were going to a party at Jobeth Williams’s house up in the hills. Let’s see, October: Maud would have recently turned two. She had wispy blond pin feathers and bright blue eyes, and she wore anything I dressed her in—wide-rimmed, polka-dotted hats, do rags with plastic fruit hanging from the corners, blue jeans, swirly skirts. But on this night, she didn’t want to wear a costume. She was like that: a little real.

She did, though, let me cut three giant circles out of felt, and safety pin them down the front of her faded blue-cotton pullover dress, so maybe she looked a little like a baby clown. I put a yellow sock on one foot, and a red one on the other. We went to the party, and I remember holding her as the bigger kids approached each large Hollywood house: when they’d yell “Trick or Treat,” Maud would sob, and push her little face into my sweater.

She never liked loud surprises.

Anyway, in Sag Harbor today, the cops blocked off the street and the little kids paraded around like midgets in drag. It was hard to get teachers to teach at the studio, because they all have babies—wonderful babies—and it is their day. It is the Sag Harbor dogs’ day too—they were out in coats and ears that were not their own.

I’m afraid I’m getting too old and jaded even to be the recorder of events, let alone a participant. I want to say things that will ruin everybody’s fun. I’m starting to think that this is why we don’t know how to grow old: not because our elders never had much to say, but because what they had to say would have been such a profound buzz-kill that they just decided to stay quiet and let it all pass. Which it all would, like tiny cowboys and ghouls and even clowns on Halloween.

Three Things I Saw

September 26, 2011 § 2 Comments

I kept wondering how deer managed to get watermelon rind out of the compost—which is a cement bunker-like thing on three sides, with a wire-mesh front and no top. I kept finding the rind outside the compost, with every bit of the pink scraped away. I thought, Wow, them deers really know how to use their hooves.

And then, tonight, I was carrying out a bowl of greens and fish scales in the dark, not wanting my house filled with fishy flies, and I spotted it in my flashlight beam: the raccoon. He jumped up from the bunker and onto one of the cement walls, and looked at me over his shoulder. He’d been scraping away at those watermelon rinds, and then tossing them over the fence.

I didn’t run, even though he looked at me with a lot of knowing. What did he know? He knew that I was the mother of all those bananas, radishes, carrots, and watermelon rinds. He knew that I had that bowl in my hand. He knew like a dog knows where his next meal was coming from, and it didn’t grow in that compost heap. OK, I thought of running, and didn’t only because running increases the odds of being chased. Nuff said.

So while I’m observing, I thought I’d tell you another one. I was in the city yesterday, in the West Fifties at 5:00, and there was a middle-aged woman who looked Greek, with a white shirt, a messy ponytail, and a quilted pocketbook over her shoulder directing traffic. She was not a cop—she was just a person. And the thing about it was that she was swinging both arms in both directions, like a little kid might, who’s seen a cop directing traffic, but not really grocked what it was all about. She wasn’t crazy.

And the funny thing was that every car who approached her, trying to get into the street that she was blocking, actually followed her direction. No one stopped and said, “Wait a minute—why can’t I go down that street? What’s down there? Your mother?” They just turned their cars in the direction of her swinging arms. I love that. We are a sweet, sad lot.

O.K., one more observation. Another thing I saw yesterday evening in that neighborhood, was a pretty young woman on a Vespa. She had perfect posture, and she was wearing watermelon-pink yoga pants, boot-cut, with matching lipstick, perfectly applied. Out of the back of her pants (I saw as I turned when she passed) rose a very conspicuous thong. I felt like a guy: was I being manipulated, or was I being entertained? Either way, I was amused. As Trungpa Rinpoche said, “Women are crazy and men are stupid.” I’m really glad that woman was not in my compost, looking at me over her shoulder, that’s for sure.

Lynnie

September 4, 2011 § 11 Comments

I was having a hard time last week, and Lynnie, in L.A., knew it. Back then, during the low point of the hard time, I’d cried for an hour on the phone to her, while I was parked on Amsterdam Avenue waiting for a play to start; but then, after a few days passed, we emailed back and forth, this time doing a little laughing, because, you know, sometimes you have to kind of shut up and cheer up (that is, I do).

Anyway, she sent me an email about all that was happening—including the death of Lowell and Eileen’s good boy, Goose, and damage done by Hurricane Irene, and an earthquake in Los Angeles—and between each terrible event, she’d say something like, Ack!, which just cheered me up so much.

Here’s part of her email:

Then I go back to the massage job tomorrow, which is good, I am glad to have it, but its annoying. Last week my insane manager called me to tell me that I needed to not sit in the lunchroom before work. So essentially I will now need to stand in the hall instead? It makes no sense, we are talking about like 5-10 minutes. Oh that and she also wanted to tell me that the bag I bring to the spa is too big (yes, that huge silver one). I need to bring a smaller bag to the spa, she says. Again, exhale, but with a different emphasis here. REALLY!!!!??!??!? My bag is too big? For what? Anyway, its best not to think about it.

I love that: her bag’s too big. And it’s best not to think about it. So true.

And then Maud told me that her friend’s eating-disordered mom told her early twenty-something daughter, while they were on the phone, that “she sounded like she was gaining weight.” Ack!

Lynnie ended her email with this:

I guess as you go along you just have to take big steps forward and then a bit of an explosion happens and you go ACK! but then you go back to okay. I guess that is the deal.

So yeah. That’s the deal. I love my friend Lynnie for modelling her light touch and sense of humor, even in the face of deadly acts of nature and insane bosses.

And I love you, my blogateer friends, which now include people googling for the words “glockenspiel” and “treasure map.” Welcome.