Saturday, August 31, 2013

20-minute real estate fantasy

What kind of business would you have if you could have any business you wanted, in a beautiful old barn, right on a gorgeous lake?

Josh and I swam out into Damariscotta Lake, one of my favorite summer swims, and when we came back in we noticed the old barn on its shore is for sale, again. It just sold a couple years ago; I'm not sure what the people planned to do with it—if they always meant to flip it, or if they had big dreams that didn't pan out.

So we decided to buy it for 20 minutes. For 20 minutes, this was our place, and we could do anything we want with it. We'd sell ice cream; we'd rent out canoes; we'd have film and writing studios; we'd have a General Store; fish and tackle. For 20 minutes, we lived upstairs, had a theater company downstairs, rented out artist studio space. For 20 minutes, we woke up in the morning and took long swims out into the middle of the lake, sold alewives from the restoration project across the way. For 20 minutes, we put solar panels on the roof, ice skated in the winter, and figured out how to have a floating garden in the summer.

And after 20 minutes, the fantasy had worked its way out of our systems, and we were just happy to swim in one of my favorite lakes.

So people, it's coming up on a year of doing something daily for my own selfish joy, and writing this blog, and I am starting to give serious consideration to what I need next in my life. 3 years ago, when I started this blog, I needed to feel that my life was expansive, as I approached 50, and so I started doing something every day I had never done before. That year, my writing was very specifically tied to my mussar (Jewish ethics) practice. The year was extraordinary for me, as was the blog writing, but it was also draining to write so much every day. I took the next year off, and was noticeably less happy. This past year I have done something every day for my own selfish joy, and written much less about it—often just using this space as a documentation, and not so much a space for literary, ethical, or even much of a personal exploration. The daily joy was perfect for me—and I think I will likely continue the practice. But I'm also sifting through my mind for this year's practice, and I would like to ask you—especially those of you who know me well, or have known me for a long time, or who think you have a good sense of me—what do you think might be good for me in this coming year? I have a few ideas, of course, but I would also love to hear what others think. Please feel free to leave your ideas in the comments of this blog (which I would prefer to your leaving them on Facebook) or send me personal emails. Thank you!

Friday, August 30, 2013


For years my friends have been telling me I would like to have a Vitamix. I told them I probably would like to have a Vitamix, but that I have a Cuisinart and I love it and I make all sort of things with it. And then they tell me things like, but you eat so much almond butter! And you could make almond milk! And smoothies! And I have thought to myself, I don't need a special machine to make special food. And then my friends tell me things like, but think of all the glass and plastic you would save! And I have thought to myself, I don't eat that much almond butter. But the truth is, I do. And the truth is, I eat faux gras (lentil walnut paté) and I make smoothies, and I would love to make horchata and sweeten it with maple, and I basically am THE TARGET MARKET for a Vitamix. So I bought one a couple weeks ago, and the first thing I did was make oat flour out of Maine-grown oats!

Kids, this thing is going to pay for itself in about ten minutes.

So Josh and I got to Maine, where the Vitamix is, and in one day I made almond milk, a berry smoothie (I froze blueberries the last time I was here, for just this purpose), fresh garden vegetable juice, and lentil walnut paté. I am a cliché. A happy one.

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Too many people to see

First day of vacation. Nowhere to be. No time to get there. (I mean, no deadline to get there; plenty of time.) Josh and I slept over at my uncle and aunt's house, only they weren't there. (That is NOT the selfish joy part of the story! But we did get the chance to see them the night before.) When we hit the road, I decided this was the trip I was going to get in touch with my friend Holly who I had literally not seen since my high school graduation. She's an artist, she lives in Kennebunk, and thanks to Facebook I have some kind of a sense of what her life is like. Every time I mention I'm in Maine, she says to come by, so I finally decided to take her up on it. We hung out and talked for what must have been 2 hours, and could have gone on for a full day. She's just as wonderful as she was at 15.

At some point in the conversation I said to Josh, "If you met Holly somewhere and I wasn't there, and you didn't know our connection, but you were just talking, I bet at some point you would think to yourself, 'She's like the people from Harvard.'" He knew just what I meant. There's an energy, a kindness, a humor, a way to banter, a sense of place, and a way to connect with people that those of us who got lucky enough to be raised in Harvard got lucky enough to be infused with. Holly has it.

When we peeled ourselves off from seeing her, we almost went for a swim, but we realized we were really hungry, so as we headed to Biddeford to get some haddock, we came across this truck and stopped. I mean, look at it. Josh is practically a part of the decor! We had to stop!

Back on the road, heading North, Josh mentioned that he wanted a "nice" pair of jeans for shul and performing. I know I say I'm a terrible shopper, but the truth is I'm only a terrible shopper for myself. I asked him what he likes, and then I knew just where to go. Or at least what we should stop in Portland and which part of town. I had to use the Google to locate the kind of store for the kind of jeans he would want. And we did. And he did. And we came away with a perfect pair of jeans for the man. Plus, a stunning thick fog was rolling in to town, and we got to walk over cobblestone streets through the mist and pretend we were on set for a period piece about upscale denim shopping New Yorkers on a road trip.
Back on the road, heading North, we stopped in Brunswick, where our friend Louise had told us to pick her garden because she's away on a business trip in Croatia. So instead of buying vegetables, we loaded our cloth shopping bags with her overgrown zucchini, gorgeous tomatoes, and leaves of rainbow chard. As we headed North again, I got a little weepy, thinking about how grateful I am that I have friends I can stop by and visit, and friends who tell me to pick their garden, and friends (and uncles and aunts) who I can stay with, and that I am blessed with too many people to see, rather than too few.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Park Slope Family Circus

You guys. Do you remember Family Circus? That cartoon with Jeffy and PJ the little blonde girl with the pony tail and their mom and the dad and it's very white Christian family values? I used to LOVE to read the funny pages. I would read all of the funnies—even the ones I didn't like. I would read the ones I didn't like first (including Family Circus and Al Capp) so I could save the ones I really liked (Doonesbury) to the end. But I still read them. Well now I can read it with complete delight. Because .... tada .... the Park Slope Family Circus has arrived!

Erin Bradley has taken the cartoons and rewritten the text to reflect our modern Park Slope lives. Please read it. Here's one of my favorites. But please go read the rest. So good.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Creative spam!

I don't know for sure why I love this comment so much. I mean, I'm 99% sure it's robot spam, but is it really?

Im Lauren. I love bubble tea and I found some wide stainless steel straws on ebay for those tapioca balls.

The thing that brought me joy is actually not the spam itself, but just letting my imagination run free while trying to picture stainless steel straws vast enough to suck up the millions of globs in the ocean. And the monster/being big enough to sip up the ocean. And maybe the monster/being has an even bigger stainless steel straw through which it could sip up me and my friends, who were floating in the ocean. Like, first a foot would go in, and then they would sip harder, and then the whole leg, and before you know it, you are getting slurped up into some monster's mouth. Because, really, how long can you last on tapioca alone? Maybe this would be animated? And so on.

And also, do people actually use stainless steel straws for their bubble tea? I'm not from a bubble tea culture. If so, I love that too.

Monday, August 26, 2013

Swimming in bubble tea

Have you ever gone swimming in an ocean full of bubble tea? Well, maybe they were millions of jellyfish, or maybe there was a silicone spill somewhere, and all the silicone balled up into little globules. But I chose to focus on how much they felt like tapioca balls. Millions and millions of tapioca balls. In a perfectly temperate ocean of salty bubble tea. On a beautiful beach. Full of beautiful people. Some of whom were my friends. All day. With good snacks and drinks. And deer on the walkways.

Because that's how it is on Fire Island. My second time ever. My first time to Cherry Grove.

Saturday, August 24, 2013

I planted kale, chard, and spinach

The garlic is out of the bed a few weeks now, and I am finally getting around to turning the soil, improving the soil, coming up with a cat-shit prevention system, and planting the Fall greens. It's a gross cat. I like cats. I don't like this one. And it uses my garden as a litterbox. Cayenne, rocks, wire mesh. I've tried it all. This time my plan is to put row cover fabric over the bed, on big hoops. Like this.

Try finding either fabric or hoops in Brooklyn. I ordered some online, but finally just planted the garden, with an alternate interim solution.

I love working in the garden. I love pulling up grass, tilling in hay, mixing in compost, poking holes for seeds, and finally dropping seeds in and sweeping some dirt on top of them. When I garden, I get to see my neighbors who live next door to the neighbors who let me garden in their back yard. (We share the veggies.) I get dirty and covered in mosquito bites (I don't love that part, but at least I feel alive and at least I know I'm outdoors.) I know how much I'll love it when the plants grow and feed us in the Fall. I love using my seeds from Fedco, where several friends work, who put sweet little notes on my seed orders. I love it all, except for the defecating cat.

I was very proud of my interim system—shade fabric made from green mesh—and was convinced it would do the trick.

I should have left it there and let the day land on joy, but I went back a few hours later to check on things, and found this disgusting little present. My apologies to those of you who I have implicitly promised only pleasant and joyful images. I just had to share.

Friday, August 23, 2013

Lee Daniels' The Butler, but really Forest Whitaker

I had invited my guys to go with me to see Lee Daniels' The Butler, and I would have loved to have seen it with them, but neither came, and I had the other joy of seeing it all alone. I love seeing movies alone. That powerful, unmitigated experience of soaking in someone's work, but in the community of a theater full of people. But the true joy of seeing this film was spending 132 minutes watching Forest Whitaker work his magic. I mean his incredible acting skill. From Fast Times at Ridgemont High to Bird to Crying Game to Smoke to Last King of Scotland to 96 other films and TV shows, he is one of the most prolific and spectacular actors alive. In my opinion. In fact, I think I might start myself on a regimen of watching as many Forrest Whitaker movies as I can, earliest to most recent. Forest Whitaker living room film festival, anyone?

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Parents behaving badly, or Matilda

Matilda is a special girl. At five years old, she can read, she can do maths, she can get clever revenge. And she can inspire a musical. And she can inspire lots of little girls to go to the theater. Lots of little girls. A Shubert Theater full of little girls. Which was pretty wonderful. Their parents? Not so wonderful. Eating candy, talking, standing up to see better, using their cell phones. Are you kidding me? Were you inspired by the adults (not Miss Honey) in the show? Do you think this is how you are supposed to act? And to the man sitting next to me who did not have a little girl with him, but who literally pushed on my knee and foot and arm—no matter how little I engaged with him—throughout the entire show? I hope you have a daughter who superglues your wife's feather hat to your head one day.

The little girls in the audience? Completely well-behaved, rapt, appreciative. 

But those parents? Try as they might, they couldn't ruin ALL my enjoyment of the show. For example, the set design was delightful. Here. I snapped an illicit photo. Am I terrible snob? The thing I liked best about this entire show is the set design? Also, the architecture of the Shubert Theater, which I do love, and totally love being surrounded by? Yes, I'm a terrible snob. But I do love that, and I did love the set design, and I was very taken with the stamina and commitment of some of the actors—especially Oona Lawrence, who played Matilda—(although I really hated one of the performances. No, really, I had to look elsewhere. Also three others of the performances? Not so great. Also, many of the kids? Also not so interesting. Which really speaks to the direction and the general style, which I guess I am not endorsing.

Does this sound like a terrible critique and not a blogpost about selfish joy? Well, speaking of parents behaving badly .... All summer long, I told James I had 2 tickets to see Matilda. I bought the book so we could both read it. I reminded him at the beginning of this week that we were going. Then the morning of the show, I checked my tickets and realized that .... I only had one. Then I remembered. Of course I only had one. It was insanely hard to get. There were no 2 seats together for decades. Duh. So I told James that I really apologized, but that I had messed up and there was only one ticket. He asked what I wanted to do about it, and (here comes the selfish part) I said, "I'm going to go alone." James was super gracious about it, and barely even gave me my quota of shit for the mistake. (That's OK; I felt bad enough.) But it did set up the theater as a truly selfish experience, and as far as the joy? I think it might be thinking about Oona, and what her life is like right now, and how much she has already achieved, and hoping she is having fun, and hoping she loves the people she is working with, and hoping she feels great about herself, and hoping that every night when she walks out onto this stage, she also thinks to herself, "That is really good set design."

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Japanese Banana Art!

This. People spend their time doing this. I spent my time looking at it. Glorious.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Prince—Breakfast Can Wait

The best Prince show I ever went to was in Portland in 2002. It was more like three shows. I was there for the sound check. I was there for the main show at the Shnitz (Arlene Shnitzer Concert Hall.) And I was there for the after party, which lasted for hours, and for which I was standing at the stage—touching the stage—and for one brief (stupid) moment, reaching out and touching Prince's glittery silver booth, until WACK!—the hand of his security guard came down on my arm. But he let me stay there. It was a fleeting impulsive moment, and I think he got that. I've seen lots of other Prince shows too, but that was by far the best. Solo piano and voice, followed by a guitar jam at the after show. The stamina that man has is unbelievable. So when this Breakfast Can Wait single got released today with this Dave Chappelle comedy clip that sends up his stamina, you know I was all over it. Take a look.

Monday, August 19, 2013

James turns 21, and I finally get some sleep

I woke up at 4 AM in the home of people I've never met, but they are friends of friends, and they offered me a crash pad in Portland (ME) because I had a 6 AM flight out. By 4:30 I was at the airport, returning the rental car. By 4:50 I was through security, and Starbucks hadn't even opened up (but 10 minutes later, you better believe there were lines.) I got to JFK, and Josh was there to pick me up. I got home, and James was waiting on the porch to greet me. And it wasn't even 8 AM yet! We hung out and talked, we cleaned up, I put together some bookshelves that had arrived while I was away, I went to Fairway to pick up the birthday cake I had pre-ordered while I was up in Maine (literally, while I was sitting on the floor of a woods path, swatting mosquitoes) and some ingredients for party food, I swung back home by 1:30, and Josh and James had set up the drinks and made signs. I made salmon dip, cut up crudité, and made little appetizers of aged gouda, melon, and fresh garden mint on toothpicks. I hung up some decorative lights, the guys took showers, I never did get one, but I threw on a dress, put my hair up, and even put on lipstick. At 3 PM, party time, the three of us decided to play a game because it's always awkward to wait for a party to start. One short round later, friends started to show up, and wow what a party it was! I stupidly did not have my camera out. Not even sure what I was thinking. Yes, I know what I was thinking. I was meeting people, greeting people. People who have been incredibly important in James' life for far far longer than Josh and I have. Spectacular people. Generous people. Brilliant people. Fun people. Politically active people. BTW, I'm pretty much describing everyone at the party here—it's not that some were brilliant and some were fun and some were generous and some were politicized. No, this was an outstanding group of people all come together to celebrate with us as James steps into the American definition of adulthood. I had a GREAT time at this party. I was filled with a mixture of gratitude and excitement. And I forgot to take photos. The party did that thing that parties do. It wound down at the time it was supposed to get over, and then a small group of folks hung out in the living room and talked and talked and talked. Some of us already knew each other, some were neighbors with each other but didn't really know each other, some were close already for years. Before I knew it it was 9, and we cleaned up, and before I knew it it was 10, and I was barely staying awake. And so we get to my  selfish joyful moment of the long joyful day. I went to bed at 10 PM. I left dishes in the sink, and I went to bed. I even fell asleep, and as it turned out, I stayed asleep for 9 hours, while the world spun without me.

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Prince, Kiss, or The Last Dance

It was a beautiful wedding. I played badminton with Ken and Carol, and I played  Corn Toss with Ken and Carol, and I lay on the grass talking with Ken and Carol, and I ate dinner with Ken and Carol, and I saw and hugged and talked a little bit with all the Sanborns, and we ate insanely delicious locally grown food, and it was at Matt's mom's and stepdad's spectacular farm, and the weather was stunning, and then there was pie—lots and lots of pie—and then, finally, there was dancing. And it was getting time for me to go, because I needed to drive 2 hours south to Portland to get to sleep to get up at 4 AM to get back to Brooklyn for James' 21st birthday, but then, finally, there was dancing. So I danced one song—nothing I knew, but with all the Sanborns, so vos ken zayn shlekht? (What could be so bad?) And then I kissed them all goodbye, and then Kiss came on. You can't leave the dance floor when your favorite song comes on. It's a rule. So I took of my coat, and I went all out, dancing with Margaret and Serena to Kiss, blissful outdoor wedding dancing, a perfect (if too early) send-off from Matt and Phoebe's glorious wedding.

Inland Freshwater Seals, or the most beautiful swim of the year

I went up to Solon Maine to work with a filmmaker for an afternoon. When we got done working he asked me if I wanted something to eat, and I said, "You know what I really want? I want to go swimming somewhere beautiful." He said, "I'll go with you." Then his wife came home, and he said, "We're going swimming." And she said, "I was just on my way, I'll join you." And they took me to one of the most beautiful places I have ever gone swimming. A dammed up part of the Kennebec River, in Bingham Maine, and it looks like this:

When I was in the middle of the lake, I remembered that when I first lived in Central Maine, I lived here with someone from Oregon, and I convinced him that there are inland freshwater seals in the lakes here. He didn't believe me at first, but I worked it and I worked it all winter, and all Spring, and I told him that when we took the canoe out on the lake in summer, we would see them. After a while he skeptically believed me, and then he actually believed me. Until summer came, and of course it was all bullshit.

But if they WERE going to live somewhere, would you think they'd want to live here?????

Friday, August 16, 2013

Ocean Point

Sometimes when you are in one of the most beautiful spots on Earth ...

 you need a break and have to go to another one of the most beautiful spots on Earth.

Thursday, August 15, 2013


It doesn't even matter what else happened during the day, because I slept deeply until 8:45 AM. Translate that into city people's sleep, and that's like sleeping til 2 in the afternoon. As we say at peysakh, dayenu. It would have been enough. But you know me, even though I started my day bright and fresh, I had three goals for the day. Outline my script, start writing the first act, go swimming.

I did accomplish the first two goals. I did not go swimming. I brought my swimsuit with me when I went for a trail run. I brought it with me after my run to a cove I can usually swim in, but I had hit the height of high tide, and there was no way to get down into the water. But I got to look at the water, and I got to see a little crab in the water, and I got to see the grasses that grow in the salt marsh that flows into the water, and I got to eat a lobstertini right next to the water. And then I came back home and wrote some more.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Visiting old friends in Maine

The fog.

The trail run.

The water lilies.

The cranberries. (not yet ripe)

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

The Joy of Cooking

Over the winter I made up a recipe for a vegan greens gratin that I just loved. I am not vegan (I was for about a year, back at a point when I was actually at my least healthy, not to say that vegans are unhealthy, but I was pretty much living on the chips part of fish and chips, without a thoughtful understanding of the fact that that oil had lots of non-vegan stuff fried in it) but I sort of think of myself as a vegan who eats animals and animal products, which is to say mostly veggies and fruits and nuts and tofu, but no stranger to the animal kingdom slipping in there to nourish me too. What a diversion. All I was trying to say is I invented a greens gratin recipe using a cashew based "ricotta" product at the food coop, that bakes up into a really nice creaminess, and now that the collards, tomatoes, basil, and garlic from my garden are all in full swing, I made one, and it is delicious, and from the moment I snapped the collard stems from the plant to the moment I took it out of the oven, I felt the joy of cooking.

Monday, August 12, 2013

Italian guy does yoga with his dog

The part I love the most about this is imagining the hours they have spent together leading up to making this video.

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Itzhak Perlman is a mentsh

The meeting was on. And then it was off. And then it was on. And then it was .... on.

Josh is directing a PBS television program about Itzhak Perlman and Cantor Yitzchak Meir Helfgot, who have embarked on a gorgeous musical collaboration called Eternal Echoes. He needed to go out to the Hamptons to meet with Perlman at some point this summer. We had hoped it would be at a time I could go because he welcomed my brain at the meeting, and we both welcomed a day together out in Beachland.

We had a wonderful day. The drive out to Easthampton was lovely. We wore linen. We listened to radio. We put the windows down. We brainstormed about the program.

We pulled up to the Perlman's beautiful home, and were greeted warmly. I'm not going to go into detail, except to say that Toby Perlman (Itzhak's wife) was also there, and I adored her. She's super smart, creative, thoughtful, and serious—as is Itzhak–and as a foursome we had a wonderfully productive and fun meeting.

Then we got in the car and drove out to Montauk. We stopped for one of the worst fish sandwiches I've ever had in my life, sparking me to create an imaginary Food Network show called Where Not to Eat, and then we went on to the beach. I'd missed a night of sleep between Thursday and Friday, and so I was pretty beat. We parked easily,  walked over the dunes to a gorgeous sandy beach, put down the blanket, slathered in sunscreen, and I drifted off into a deep afternoon beach nap. Followed by a run on the beach and a tumble in the waves and another short nap. Followed by a walk through town and two stops for ice cream (rum raisin for Josh at John's Drive-In and honey lavender for me at Coffee Tawk. We felt like we were in pre-production/scouting for an actual vacation. Finding all the good spots we would actually go to if we were actually there. As if we weren't actually there. Which we sort of weren't, because the sun was getting low in the sky, and we had many a mile before we slept. But still, we wandered and we passed by those Hamptons parties I've heard about but not experienced, with gaggles of young people dancing to mediocre music on a beachside rooftop, and we came across the restaurant I would go to if I were there going to a restaurant. And I wasn't near my computer all day.

My therapist-before-last suggested to me that in addition to a short daily experience of joy, I also need a weekly day off, and maybe a monthly weekend, and maybe some longer vacations from time to time. I think she's probably right.

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Missed Connection Craigslist Ad

 Somebody wrote this Craigslist Ad. Glorious. Thank you. Way to write literature in an unlikely place!
I saw you on the Manhattan-bound Brooklyn Q train.
I was wearing a blue-striped t-shirt and a pair of maroon pants. You were wearing a vintage red skirt and a smart white blouse. We both wore glasses. I guess we still do.
You got on at DeKalb and sat across from me and we made eye contact, briefly. I fell in love with you a little bit, in that stupid way where you completely make up a fictional version of the person you’re looking at and fall in love with that person. But still I think there was something there.
Several times we looked at each other and then looked away. I tried to think of something to say to you — maybe pretend I didn’t know where I was going and ask you for directions or say something nice about your boot-shaped earrings, or just say, “Hot day.” It all seemed so stupid.
At one point, I caught you staring at me and you immediately averted your eyes. You pulled a book out of your bag and started reading it — a biography of Lyndon Johnson — but I noticed you never once turned a page.
My stop was Union Square, but at Union Square I decided to stay on, rationalizing that I could just as easily transfer to the 7 at 42nd Street, but then I didn’t get off at 42nd Street either. You must have missed your stop as well, because when we got all the way to the end of the line at Ditmars, we both just sat there in the car, waiting.
I cocked my head at you inquisitively. You shrugged and held up your book as if that was the reason.
Still I said nothing.
We took the train all the way back down — down through Astoria, across the East River, weaving through midtown, from Times Square to Herald Square to Union Square, under SoHo and Chinatown, up across the bridge back into Brooklyn, past Barclays and Prospect Park, past Flatbush and Midwood and Sheepshead Bay, all the way to Coney Island. And when we got to Coney Island, I knew I had to say something.
Still I said nothing.
And so we went back up.
Up and down the Q line, over and over. We caught the rush hour crowds and then saw them thin out again. We watched the sun set over Manhattan as we crossed the East River. I gave myself deadlines: I’ll talk to her before Newkirk; I’ll talk to her before Canal. Still I remained silent.
For months we sat on the train saying nothing to each other. We survived on bags of skittles sold to us by kids raising money for their basketball teams. We must have heard a million mariachi bands, had our faces nearly kicked in by a hundred thousand break dancers. I gave money to the beggars until I ran out of singles. When the train went above ground I’d get text messages and voicemails (“Where are you? What happened? Are you okay?”) until my phone ran out of battery.
I’ll talk to her before daybreak; I’ll talk to her before Tuesday. The longer I waited, the harder it got. What could I possibly say to you now, now that we’ve passed this same station for the hundredth time? Maybe if I could go back to the first time the Q switched over to the local R line for the weekend, I could have said, “Well, this is inconvenient,” but I couldn’t very well say it now, could I? I would kick myself for days after every time you sneezed — why hadn’t I said “Bless You”? That tiny gesture could have been enough to pivot us into a conversation, but here in stupid silence still we sat.
There were nights when we were the only two souls in the car, perhaps even on the whole train, and even then I felt self-conscious about bothering you. She’s reading her book, I thought, she doesn’t want to talk to me. Still, there were moments when I felt a connection. Someone would shout something crazy about Jesus and we’d immediately look at each other to register our reactions. A couple of teenagers would exit, holding hands, and we’d both think: Young Love.
For sixty years, we sat in that car, just barely pretending not to notice each other. I got to know you so well, if only peripherally. I memorized the folds of your body, the contours of your face, the patterns of your breath. I saw you cry once after you’d glanced at a neighbor’s newspaper. I wondered if you were crying about something specific, or just the general passage of time, so unnoticeable until suddenly noticeable. I wanted to comfort you, wrap my arms around you, assure you I knew everything would be fine, but it felt too familiar; I stayed glued to my seat.
One day, in the middle of the afternoon, you stood up as the train pulled into Queensboro Plaza. It was difficult for you, this simple task of standing up, you hadn’t done it in sixty years. Holding onto the rails, you managed to get yourself to the door. You hesitated briefly there, perhaps waiting for me to say something, giving me one last chance to stop you, but rather than spit out a lifetime of suppressed almost-conversations I said nothing, and I watched you slip out between the closing sliding doors.
It took me a few more stops before I realized you were really gone. I kept waiting for you to reenter the subway car, sit down next to me, rest your head on my shoulder. Nothing would be said. Nothing would need to be said.
When the train returned to Queensboro Plaza, I craned my neck as we entered the station. Perhaps you were there, on the platform, still waiting. Perhaps I would see you, smiling and bright, your long gray hair waving in the wind from the oncoming train.
But no, you were gone. And I realized most likely I would never see you again. And I thought about how amazing it is that you can know somebody for sixty years and yet still not really know that person at all.
I stayed on the train until it got to Union Square, at which point I got off and transferred to the L.

Friday, August 9, 2013

Don't ask

Don't even ask. For the fourth time this year, there was no time to seek joy in Janesville. Really, don't ask.

Thursday, August 8, 2013


One of the great joys about freelancing is having the freedom to manage my own time. I started the day with 7:30 and 9:30 phone meetings about potential future work, and then I drove to Philly to spend the day with one of the great humans of all time—Marcy Westerling. To say I've known Marcy since the early 90s is true, but also misleading. We sat in meetings together, we knew what each other did, we ended up at the same parties or rallies together, we laughed a few times together, but we didn't go to the movies together, feed each other, or call each other for advice unless it was advice about a campaign, which I probably called her for. I'd say we were good acquaintances and allied colleagues in the work lots of us were doing against white nationalism, homophobia, immigrant rights and racial justice. That went on for a long time, and then I moved away from Portland (sad face) but I thought about Marcy often, because there I was, originally a country person, living for the first time in a Big City, and feeling all the ways that city people and country people are weirdly cut off from each other, and not only each other but our issues, and not only our issues but other people's issues. Marcy founded an organization called Rural Organizing Project, in Oregon, that organizes rural people to around human rights and human dignity issues, and works on issues of interconnectivity among rural and other people and our issues. My apologies for what is probably not the best description ever, but the point is, I love and respect this work, and it is a primary reason that in Oregon we were able to fight off anti-gay and other oppressive ballot initiatives with strong coalitions outside the large urban areas, and it is a primary reason that I have thought about Marcy frequently in my decade plus in NYC.

Then she went and got herself some terminal cancer

Now cancer sucks, and it can also be an opportunity. I happen to be pretty good at hanging out with people who have cancer. I've had a lot of practice. You know what they say about how to become an expert in something, is to spend 10,000 hours doing it? I'm very lucky to have had the opportunity to have spent that much time hanging out with people with terminal cancer. And even though Marcy probably didn't think about me nearly as often as I had thought about her over the past 10 years, I felt an ongoing sense of connection with her. So I just started reaching out, and before long I got to be a little closer, and then a little closer, and then I got to visit her on one of her NYC trips, and then we got to stay a little bit more in touch, and then I got to make her something, and then I got to send her something, and then she started sending me some things, and then we got to write some more emails, and then she got into a clinical trial in Philly, so I almost got to see her but it didn't work out, and then I got to see her in Portland, and that was one of the highlights of my trip, and and now we aren't just people who see each other at parties or in meetings or at rallies, but we actually get to have dates together and feed each other and ask each other advice, and this is a real joy in my life. And then this time when Marcy came to Philly for treatment, it did work out for me to get to see her, so I hopped in my car and drove on down—public radio all to myself all the way. We hung out in the hospital until she was all done, and then we found the greenest part of Philly we could find and walked for a good long time, along the river, past the boathouses that I've always only seen from the road on the other side of the river. And we talked and we schemed and we found some points of similar experience and we walked some more and she asked me what's next in my work life and we walked some more and we found a goose without a foot and we walked some more and we saw a beautiful woman in bright red against a green lawn and green bank of trees and we walked some more and she told me about some of the people in her life and we walked some more and I had to take a phone call that made me mad and we walked some more and it was getting to be time to part, and we laughed hard a couple more times, and one of us probably said something sarcastic, and we said goodbye for now.

What can I say? I feel lucky. Lucky that I'm once again in a freelance mode and can choose a day like this. Lucky that Marcy and I have intersected, and intersected again.