Panorama of San Bernardino

Saturday, December 30, 2017

Portrait of an artist

I saw two movies the other day, both about coming of age, Ladybird and England is Mine. The genre is called bildungsroman in literature (by far, the best example is Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man by James Joyce) and is when a protagonist comes to age and significant change occurs. Out of the two, the one that stuck with me was England is Mine. Ladybird was a good movie, but the protagonist didn’t really change. She stayed the entitled brat she was, but just moved to a different location.

England is Mine is the opposite. And very different. It is the story of Morrissey before he was the epic Morrissey and before he was part of The Smiths (which anyone who reads this blog knows is my favorite band of all time). In the film, he is no star yet, just Steven, a young man in early adulthood who hates his job and yearns for something more. He is not entitled because he has little, but instead is scared of not fulfilling his destiny. And above all, he, like James Joyce (and Ladybird for that matter) wants to leave the bleakness of his home town.

Manchester is dark, dank and small. At least in the film. As someone who grew up in her own sad town, and couldn’t wait to leave, I related to this plight. Yet I also know, we always end up right back from where we came either literally (me) or figuratively (Joyce through his works centering on Dublin life).

Morrissey, even back then, is going to gig after gig and writing reviews. Everyone knows Morrissey as a singer but above all he is a writer. The film emphasizes this. Young Morrissey is always furiously writing. Everywhere. At home, at shows, at work, and even on the roof. He is a bit shy and awkward, but he loves music, especially the NY Dolls. He loses himself in it.  Singing alone in his room at first, and then on stage with Billy Duffy (later of Cult fame).

Now some stuff in the film is disputed. Morrissey says he never played on stage with Duffy. But does it matter? The point is that Morrissey is a star up there. You see the brilliance in one short song. The awkwardness falls away and in place of the sad lonely boy is a superstar.

I think, in the end, that is what made me love the film. For it showed how strong that light was, shining inside, just awaiting to be set free for the world to see.

Monday, December 25, 2017

Christmas past

When I think back about my father, who has been gone more than a decade, Christmas memories are often involved. Writing about the past can be tricky. There are tense issues, idealization and memory issues. But writing about my dad and Christmas is easy. I remember it all in bright technicolor.

Dad loved Christmas. I’ve written about his love of it before. He would decorate the house with huge bulbs. Our tree was a labor of love, made complete with tinsel and a chirping bird.

And the food! Christmas dinner was always a glazed ham, a ham so shiny and pink as if fake. Dessert would be his homemade donuts and fruit pies made in the sandwich maker.

Back then, no one ate out for dinner regularly. Dad cooked every night no matter how tired he was. And on Christmas, he put out a huge spread all by himself: that shiny ham, turkey, homemade mash (that I hated and called lumpy so used to instant from the box which Mom favored), potato salad, rolls, cranberries, stuffing (my dad always made an epic stuffing), the list goes on.

And Dad would wake up early to make us all Christmas breakfast. Dad loved a surprise and would chortle with glee as he made pancakes with peanut butter and jelly inside or carefully crafted a pancake in the shape of a heart.

My father was all heart. Dad would always hug me so tight that I would squirm away. He would always say “I love you”. Even in front of my friends. I would get embarrassed and mumble back “love you too”. Then wave him away.

Thinking about it makes me weep while writing this. Dad was so open. He taught me that the capacity to love is in one’s intent. Give love and you shall receive, albeit the truest affection will come later in memories. And written words.

The hardest part of my infertility is the thought that no one will remember me like I remember my dad. In a way, he is still vividly alive in my head. The only way to translate those images in my mind’s eye is through prose.

I so wish I had a child I could show my father’s pictures to. I would start with how he loved Christmas and that his giving unselfish nature was the personification of the holiday.

Then I would end with a huge hug, and say “I love you” just like Dad would.

Friday, December 22, 2017

These are the days

There is something going on with me. I feel as if the world is so chaotic that I cannot breathe some days. All of the things that make now now, cell phones, computers, the internet, text, email, Snapchat, Facebook, FaceTime, the list  goes on and on, are starting to stress me out.

I come upstairs after work and instead of reading, I scroll. Scrolling is the mental equivalent of eating candy. It has no intellectual nutrition. Now, not all scrolling is meaningless. Sometimes, you find doggie photos that make you smile, a worthy find, and sometimes you find gold. Yesterday, I clicked on a beautiful essay by Phillip Seymour Hoffman’s widow about his death and path of addiction. And I read it and wept.

I guess my point is that most of the time, people are missing out on these kind of moments because they don’t even read anymore. They scan headlines. They think they got the gist. But essays take more than one sentence. Essays are fully structured thoughts and conclusions put into prose. People think an essay just gets written but no, it is tweaked then re tweaked and edited and re-edited until it meets final form.

I suppose what I fear is that one day, no one will read full essays much less books. And I am scared that this new generation of would be readers would rather have it in a video or a snap. Writing is an art, and when done right and read fully, writing inspires. Yes, it is taking what’s in our brains and translating it into code. But writing is more than that technical process. Ultimately, great writing (no matter the genre) is about tapping into a subconscious to create that which transcends.

So my friends, next time you come home, scroll if you must. But then, click on the content and read and savor it. And when you see a book that captures your oh so flighty attention for a moment, dare I say, buy it?

Saturday, December 16, 2017

Here comes your band

On Wednesday night, my husband and I saw the Pixies. We’ve seen them many times, but despite seeing them so many times, their music never gets stale. For one, I’ve loved them since high school and their album Doolittle was the soundtrack to my catastrophic senior year. And they always play the old favorites like Where Is My Mind, Debaser and Wave of Mutilation. Also, they’ve put out two new albums in the last couple years and their newer music is sublime, songs that capture you with their off kilter melodies. And finally, Frank Black’s voice is perfection. It’s grainy but pure at the same time. If that makes any sense.

We left Riverside at five in the evening. It took us an anxiety inducing almost two hours to get to Hollywood. We parked for a ridiculous price and went to the Bowery, a bar across the street. The bar was tiny with small high tops against the wall and I felt like I was hanging off the edge of the narrow seat. This place was made for small skinny hipsters, not voluptuous forty somethings. But I let my anxiety go and we relaxed and ordered some food. Adrian ordered whiskey and I had one beer then remembered that I’m driving home so quickly switched to Diet Coke. After we ate (this isn’t a food blog, but just for texture, I ate the chicken sliders with spinach sans fries and husband had a burger with fries), we paid and walked back across the street to the Hollywood Palladium.

As we crossed the street, I felt the adrenaline and it was like I was sixteen again.

Inside, it was time for our mandatory "merch" (hello short for merchandise). In line, a girl with a Smurfette bag and a huge skirt with dolls on it cut in front of me in line. Her Smurfette bag kept hitting me while I waited. I said aloud (I couldn’t help myself), "Everyone, beware the Smurfette bag". The girl made a face at me after she finished her slower than snail order.

My hubby opted for the hoodie and I chose the Pixies cat girl tee but visibly shuddered when they said large only. It’s a girl tee and I knew my boobs would be squished so I asked, “no extra large?” The merch dude answered my reasonable question with a monosyllabic annoyed "no" and I winced and bought the shirt anyway and said, “Guess I will stretch it out then." A girl with cool rockabilly hair replied, “Cut the sides and add in some leopard fabric.” “Great idea,” I responded (knowing I can’t sew a stitch).

The opening band, Eagles of Death Metal, were on stage playing so after I changed my shirt from one Pixies tee to another (cat shirt did fit, yeah!), we walked inside the auditorium. We were on the floor, and being five foot three, I couldn't see anything standing next to six foot plus tall Adrian on the floor. I shook my head and walked around to the middle and got shooed to the side by a guy with a flashlight. But the side I get shooed to was perfect.

There was a white line you were not supposed to cross, but other than that, there was only one person in front of me on the banister. I had an unobstructed view and I knew, I couldn’t leave so I got comfortable and placed my tote with Adrian's hoodie on the floor. Adrian walked over and we hunkered down.

Eagles of Death Metal, despite their name, were an old fashioned garage style rock band and I was in heaven. There was a little blues in there too and they reminded me a bit of one of my favorite 1970s bands The New York Dolls. When they did a Bowie song (Moonage Daydream) I was hooked.

After EODM, the stage hands came out and checked the mikes and instruments and next on were the Pixies. The Pixies started their set with three ferocious classics, Gouge Away, U Mass and Wave of Mutilation, and I sang and danced along. Then they played two newer tunes which I loved. Head Carrier, the title track of the new album and another track off the latest album, Um Chagga Lagga. It went on and on for 34 songs. The Pixies played all of my favorites, including Where Is My Mind, Here Comes Your Man, Hey, Nimrod's Son and others. And they added in newer stuff too. Songs like Classic Masher, Tenement Song and Bel Esprit. The songs got in my head and I knew that the next day, I would listen to them on repeat with the new bad ass bassist Paz’s rythmic bass lines dancing in my head.

By the end of the night, it was almost midnight and Adrian was exhausted. We had both worked all day and yet, somehow, I was still pumped. I literally pogo danced to the last couple of songs, fist in the air, singing and dancing along with the twenty somethings that made up most of the crowd. It was my band dammit. And I was there. In the moment.

We left right before the last encore song (sigh, of course, it was my favorite song Debaser), but it was OK because I had to work early in the morning and we needed to get on the road. Adrian nodded off and I drove the whole way home singing along to the Pixies on Pandora.

My point of this essay is not that these moments mean anything in particular. My point is that these moments are everything. Life is about going to a concert and singing along. Life is about crying when you hear a Bowie song. And even, having a girl in a doll skirt hit you with their Smurfette bag.

The details of life matter and so do the moments. So savor them my friends. And write them down to remember. And please sing along and dance.

Saturday, December 9, 2017


Yesterday, I tripped and fell in the street. My bag and glasses went flying. I fell on my right knee and tore my tights. My two work colleagues picked me up and I limped into the diner we typically eat lunch at.

When I think about it, my trip and fall is the perfect metaphor for my life right now. I keep stumbling with my health, both mental health and physical health, as well as with managing and motivating myself to get the things done that are important to me. The crucial things that will show why I was put here on this planet.

Perhaps my scraped and bloody knee is also a symbol for my broken, bruised heart. For some reason, I keep falling on this same knee, but I also keep getting up. The trips and falls have not sidelined me. And maybe, a heart, like a knee, can heal eventually.

What I do know is that in order to survive and thrive, I must grow. I must, I must, I must, work on myself. It’s hard. It’s so damn hard to be honest and true with myself and my therapist. It’s easier to rationalize and justify why I run myself into the ground. The truth is, if I keep running in circles, then I’ll never get anywhere.

But ultimately, if I don’t succeed at my life and growing and transforming into the person I know I am meant to be (a happy, peaceful artist), then I have no one to blame but me.

Saturday, December 2, 2017

Good grief

I was thinking about grief. I’ve grieved much in my four decades on this planet. My sister’s death in high school, my father, my father in law, my beloved cat Leopold Bloom, and my child that never was (at least not in this life).

When I really focus on it, I realize that grief is good. But for the overwhelming grief at my father’s death, I would never have decided to change my trajectory and leave the big firm life for a career as a deputy public defender.

Grief can motivate. I began writing to relieve the grief and pain of my childhood and my sadness motivated me to write my feelings out. That was the greatest gift of all. Because while I can’t sing a note or play piano, I can express myself in literary prose and always have been able to. So, thank you God for that one.

Grief makes one re-examine one’s choices. It makes you think about why we were put on this planet. I love hedonism as much as anyone, perhaps more than most, but grief made me realize that a hedonistic lifestyle is just escaping life, not living it.

Ultimately, I think what I am trying to express is that grief is part of life. We are here, along with our loved ones, for what relatively speaking is a very short time. And the pain of loss, combined with the reflection that comes along with that enduring ache, is a gift because it makes you see how important it is to live life to the fullest.

By living life to the fullest I mean enjoying the day to day moments. It is the journey that counts. Sometimes the destination is beside the point. Be in the here and now. Feel the sun on your face. Enjoy the taste of your coffee. Relish eating. Put down the phone. Don’t be a mindless drone. Take a day off and walk on the beach by yourself and savor what it means to truly be alive.

And, if you’re so inclined, play your music at full blast in the car and sing along. World be damned.