Flowing

Here’s what’s on the brain —

This week I heard that an old friend’s brain cancer is now at stage 4.  He’s young.  Two little kids.  
Someone lit a man on fire and left his burning body in a neighborhood in Altadena.  
I watched footage of Syrian families living in a refuge camp.  
I read about the Secret Service and their 21 prostitutes.  
The L.A. times put out new pictures snapped by American soldiers showing them posing with the legs of a suicide bomber.  
Someone told me tonight that her 31 year old friend with a baby was just diagnosed, also, with stage 4 brain cancer.  

I’ve never been the kind of person that can just FLOW.  I don’t flow. I’m not in the boat.  I’m not enjoying the view.  I’m walking down the street and I’m screaming and pointing at every flaw in the scenery.  Just loud wordless screams. i saw a comic of a cat doing yoga and the instructor informed the feline that a hairball was getting in the way of its chakra.  I’m that cat and the hairball is everything that’s wrong in the world. My chakra is all clogged up. 

I kind of just want to stop there because I don’t really have anything profound to say — no conclusions have been reached.  There’s a bunch of sadness, I see it, I can’t flow, and now what?  

They say you write to figure out what you really think.  You write to tell yourself the truth.  

I want to tell myself the GOOD.  That there’s music, and there’s friends, and there’s new babies.  NEW babies.  Three friends have had babies.  These beautiful, fat, sleepy, good smelling babies.  And there’s food.  And there’s poetry and books and the ocean and fireworks and long hugs.  There’s good.  

And see I come from a faith that says all of this doesn’t matter because there’s a bigger picture, there’s a larger narrative at hand, so be encouraged, it’s all gonna work out.  But then there’s that weird cause and effect or exchange or I don’t know.  Like one person gets to finally be ok, and then that sickness or that loss or whatever is transfered somewhere else and there’s just this endless amount of Damnits going on. I don’t know how to just flow with that.

You know I read one of Buechner’s book awhile back and it’s one of the few things I hold onto when it comes to faith.  He just said Everyone is OK in the End.  Everyone.  And that everybody comes home. And that’s kind of my statement of faith right now.  What do you believe?  Everyone’s OK in the End.  Everybody comes home.  It’s ok. Try and be kind to each other in the meantime.  Flow. 

So that’s my ending. I’ll just keep saying that mantra – we’re all going to be ok. we’re all going to be ok. And I hope that’s the truth.  

 

 

To Whitney

I have to write about Whitney. I have to.

I am five years old and I have the clearest memory of being upstairs in our old log cabin. My mom has VH1 on and she yells up the stairs that MY song is on. My song. I run haphazardly down the stairs and Whitney is there, on the screen, with a gigantic floppy bow in her huge hair. She’s singing, “How will I know” and i have this wide leg stanced dance I do that involves turning my torso and snapping both my fingers and head.

Jr. High, The Bodyguard hit, and I don’t think I was allowed to see it(isn’t there a steamy scene between her and Kev?), but I got the soundtrack and listened to it repeatedly on my tape deck. Rewinding, “I will always love you” and requesting it on K101 “For Lovers Only” on a regular basis.

Then all the drugs, and yes, I blame Bobby Brown, all true fans do. Her light dimmed out and she fell victim to cliches and t.v. talk show host jokes, but still, I’d play old Youtube videos of her, flexing her athletic arms, her top lip sweating as she flawlessly belted out that final “AND I,….I, I will always love you,” after that drum pelt and the key change. Killed me. Shivers up and down the arms.

Mid 2000’s she went on a religious quest to Africa to find her lost spirituality. Bobby was there and the videos they showed were of her stumbling and dancing alone, crying, draping herself onto others, clearly under the influence of anything she could find. I felt horribly embarrassed for her, and for me, as I sat alone in my kitchen crying. Her former saxaphone player, one she fired, gave a candid interview remembering Whitney pre-drugs. “What would you say to her now?” they asked and he responded, “I’d play her the song she always requested.” And with that he started Amazing Grace and the show ended. I called my mother feeling I had to process my feelings about Whitney’s decline. Like she was a real friend.

And she was, wasn’t she? Aren’t they all, those artists, those people that sing and dance and perform for us? How do I say this without sounding fanatic or cute? Since I write, and since I grew up being fed music as sustenance, I believe whole heartedly in the power of words and notes to bond you to perfect strangers. Not every musician speaks to me, but the ones that do, the ones that give me chills, or warm me up, or provide me an outlet to mourn my biggest let downs or celebrate my the best parts of life – I know them. Like a friend, they were there, they gave meaning, to the most intimate, unnerving, vulnerable, ecstatic moments of my life.

In 2009, Whitney made her comeback, divorced Bobby Brown and it seemed she was taking Clive Davis’ guidance again. I watched her on the circuit, stopping by Oprah, and felt a ting of hopefulness. Whitney was back. My favorite moment being her stop in Central Park where she sang before thousands, specifically to her mom, “I look to you,” her voice shaky and breaking.

My opinion, as small as it is, is this — God has a special place in his heart for the addict. Those tortured artists with insatiable appetites their body can’t contain. I think he must admire their pursuits to find peace and beauty, even to their death. So with that, I know that Whitney is back in the heart of God, up with the rest of those who ravaged through life and now have rest.

To Whitney.

To make you feel my love

I was asked why I haven’t kept writing here.   I think the best answer is because I’m lazy.  I am.  I am a lazy writer.  Lazy at most things.  Lazy at eating right, exercising, cleaning house, just lazy at the thing I aught to do, or want to do.  That sounded so cruel.  I am though.  I wish it wasn’t so.  Especially with my writing.  I wish I craved reading like I crave tuning out to Netflix.  And truthfully, it’s been a long time since I wrote something I really liked.  But then all writers say they hate their writing, but I find that hard to believe.  There’s a woman in my writing group who writes like gold and even she says she gets sick of her own voice and shuts her writing away in a drawer.  Her voice is nearly flawless.  I never tire of her writing.  

But mine.  It seems drull, and dumb, and pointless.  

I start the same stories over and over again.  Truthfully I keep trying to tell the story of how the man and I met and came to be in love.  I write it down because it’s so fun to remember, and I want to remember, because remembering conjures up the old feelings, and those feelings are so precious to me.  I remember what I was wearing the first time he kissed me: black leggings and an oversized USC sweatshirt.  I hate USC.  He had a mustache and it tickled.  I couldn’t stop thinking about how I was kissing my friend.  I felt the urge to laugh and cry.  He was so certain and I was so scared.  There were these two weeks where no one knew what we were doing and I got no work done and even snuck off on lunch breaks to be with him.  I would do just about anything to have those two weeks again.  They were unreal.  So much fun.  One night in particular where we stayed up nearly the entire night taking turns playing our favorite songs and telling stories and fighting over who’s turn it was(as usual I cheated and played more than one song on my turn).  He played Steve Earl, and Richard Buckley, and Leonard Cohen.  And I played Patty Griffin, and Ray Lamontagne, and Martin Sexton.  And I was crazy about this one song, by The Black Keys guy, Dan Auerbach – When the Night Comes.  And i thought it was so romantic, and he thought it was so sad, for reasons beyond the song, because it captured all the unknowns about us, all the doubt I had, and so even now we can’t really listen to it together.  I remember, I let him hear a few recordings of me singing, and he kept them and played them when I wasn’t around, and i found them on his ipod.  I had a gigantic pile of stuff that stayed on one chair in his living room for two weeks, and when I took it all away, and finally packed the stuff back in my car, he said he felt so sad to see the chair empty again.  I was convinced that he was too good for me, and wrong for me, and that I should run.  And I did, in fact.  I flew.  I flew to Seattle and it was there, on a very lonely day, seated outside a used bookstore, that I figured out I had to be with him.  It took me another 5 hours to tell him, and one very forced date with a stranger who I thought should be “the one” for me to realize I was too scared to choose what was so obviously right there in front of me.  Him.  And I remember driving in the dark, mostly lost, trying to find my grandmother’s house in the middle of nowhere, and we’re on the phone, and I’m telling him that I’m stupid, and an idiot, and that I’d love for him to keep me if he was still willing, and luckily, reluctantly, he was.  I barely survived the next two days until I flew back to LA and he met me at the airport and we stood a long time hugging, nervous like we had just met, though it’d been years and we said Hi, like strangers in love do, like in the movies, and we held hands.  And I forgetting the best part, that a week earlier, when we were a secret, we snuck out to dinner and this old, old man was our waiter, Andre, and he spoiled us and brought us extra food, and told my Him that I was so beautiful, and then, unexpectedly, Andre said something so poignant and I can’t remember the exact wording, but it was so tremendously heart wrenching that both Him and I had teary eyes.  What was it Andre said?  I just remember the end — She loves you.  And my Him, he hesitated, and looked a little crushed, and I turned red in the face and Andre reiterated, No, I’ve seen the way she looks at you, she really does.    

I did. And i do. 

He said that night that he’d never tire of holding my hand and even on our worst days, he still does.  

Beginnings are so fantastic, arn’t they?  We’re so lucky to have beginnings.  

I have a belly ache tonight, and the flu, and a headache.  But I got to sit with a few friends and laugh so hard that I felt like I might die.  Laughing makes me grateful and sickeningly nostalgic.  

Ok, there’s my attempt at re-entering the blogging world.  I hope I didn’t make you barfy with my romance memories.  I’m a a total sucker for romance.  I pretend to be very brave, and aloof, and too sophisticated.  But I love it.  I gooey, gushingly love it.

I should put a song on here to finish this self-indulgent madness.  i need a really sappy love song.  I can’t decide between a Randy Newman, Bob Dylan, or Patty Griffin song.  Bob Dylan.  Though there’s no great version of this song.  Someone still needs to cover it good.  But for now, I’ll put Adele, though neither of us like her voice too much, but she seems sweet, and I used to sing this to him, and so, 

Pretty, Kimono Robe.

I got obsessed with Kimono robes. Why? Well, I don’t exactly remember, but I think it was Melanie Laurent in Beginners that made me so insanely jealous. They’re so feminine and lovely and I want a pretty one.

I found one, but I’m not rich, so I don’t get it. Boooooo.

 

From Plum Pretty Sugar

Ya’ll, Friday Night Lights is over.

Do you know your favorite all time drama series?

I had a margarita and watched the final two episodes of Friday Night Lights tonight and damnit, I’m not ready to say goodbye.  It may be the little bit of liquor I drank, but really, it might just be FNL.  I’m struggling to find a comparison.  I like Mad Men, but not more than FNL.  Pushing Daisies was a comedy, right?  Right.  So, doesn’t count.   Dexter was great, but I will not choose a show about a psychopath to be my favorite.  I don’t like what that says about me.  Plus, it wasn’t. Then there was Battlestar Galactica and the ended nearly ruined that show for me.  There were parts in the beginning and middle that were pretty great.  But I SO could have given that show a better ending – don’t get me started.  I have very deep unhappy feelings about all that.

What else is there in the drama category?  I never got into Lost.  Alias was ok.  I’d still like to see The West Wing.  I liked 90210.  And there was a time where I was really obsessed with The X-files.  I had a big fatty crush on David Duchovny and his big nose.  My So Called Life was great.  Oh and Sex in the City — that’s up there on the favorites list.  Pretty far up there.  Oh, and I really liked Quantum Leap.  What?  Is that not a drama?  Seriously, nothing funny about these guys..

Ok, I think I’m going to commit to these four shows as my longstanding favorite dramas.

1.  Wonder Years

2. Felicity

3. Friday Night Lights

4. Sex in the City

Did Wonder Years throw you off?  But seriously, how freaking awesome was that show?  I want to start from the beginning and watch it all again.  I never saw the ending.  I just couldn’t.  Which is actually the purpose of this post.  Endings. Show endings.

Tonight I watched the ending of FNL.  Oh my, I don’t know what to do with myself.  I love them.  (translation – them means characters). I absolutely love them.  Like I know them.  Like they are my real friends and my real life.  Meh.  But, spoiler alert, here are my opions regarding the last episode:

1.  Matt and Julie back together and in Chicago:  PERFECTION.  I love me some Matt Saracen and missed him a lot on that last season.

2.  What the hell is Gracie-Bell gonna do in Phillidelphia, right?

3. Tyra and Riggs — eh.  Just, eh.  I gotta be honest.  I love me some Landry.  And, uh, remember when Landry KILLED someone for Tyra.  Commmmmmon!  I would have liked to have seen her come back for Landry, not Riggs.

4.  Which brings up the point — way to forget about Landry in the end there.  He was by far one of my favorite characters.  He should have got Tyra.  I’m standing by that. Uh, KILLED A MAN FOR HER.  And so damn funny.  Landry was the crap.

5.  Riggs on his land.  Good stuff.  And though I hated Lyla – that may have made a better ending since SO much was built on them getting together.  So, I’m on the fence about Riggs and who he should have been with.  Maybe no one.  Maybe he should have been left dangling out there for all women to long for, for all time.

6.  Coach in Philadelphia.  I liked that he was with High Schoolers.  That’s the right answer.  He should never be a college football coach.  And the woman empowerment part was really great – good for Tammy getting her dreams.  But there was something real sad about them being away from their community and starting over and losing all that Texas goodness.  I get it, but I always feel a little weird when shows end that way.  Like how everyone leaves their New York apartments in Friends.  Or Cheers closes down.  Why can’t stuff keep going just the way it is? But I get it – they had to move on – everyone was OK now — Julie had stopped being a whore, Vince and his mom were on track, the panthers had been restored, Riggins was back and doing good, and Buddy had his boy, and Jess got her family and her dream job.  Good stuff.  But it just seemed like the Taylors should have been those teachers — the ones that stay with high schoolers forever.  But none-the-less, good plot twist and way to go, Eric.

7.  I like the whole Riggins family blending with what’s her face and Luke.  That was all very sweet and good and perfect.  But Luke in the military?  Booooo.

8.  Glad they ended on the Taylor’s.  Would have loved the montage to include EVERYONE — Smash, Street, Lyla, Tyra — the whole shabang.  And where the hell was Gracie Bell?

9.  Way to little of Riggins in Season 5.  Way too little.  Common.  And then he’s all greasy haired angry Riggins for the final two episodes.  Boooo.  Stupid prison ruins everything.

10.  I think I like the Lions better.

Bye Friday Nights.

Texas Forever.

 

 

 

 

Riots

The London riots give me chills.

Back in 92, the LA riots exploded up the coast, over the farmlands and into Richmond, where I lived in a pale blue house on Yuba Street with my mother, father and two older brothers.  I remember some things.  I have forgotten others.  I don’t remember driving through the worst part of Richmond in our old red Toyota, but my mother says we stopped at a light, my father was driving and we kids were in the back, and a group of black men carrying bats came at us and my father ignored the lights and speed to our small house where we baraccaded ourselves inside, pensive and quiet, watching through a small t.v. what man was capable of.

I do remember going back to school.  I had a 6th grade science teacher that I didn’t like.  He made fun of religious people on a daily basis and said anyone who believed in heaven was stupid because what was so great about sitting on a cloud for the rest of eternity.  Then he rambled on about naked cherubs and harps.  I sat in the front row and thought he was talking directly to me, making fun of my family that went to church each Sunday and prayed for meals and did all the other “stupid” things he mentioned.  I fumed while he spoke.  He usually gave the “religion is worthless” speech as an intro to whatever Carl Sagen show we were going to watch.  He loved Carl Sagen. He loved talking about Carl Sagen.  Carl Sagen was his god.  During the riots a group of black teenagers jumped him and beat his skull in.  He didn’t come back and I felt guilty.  As though my inner fear and hatred were particles that escaped through my pours and mingled in the atmosphere with the fear and hatred of those black youth that kicked his skull into the sidewalk.

I don’t remember if we had days off of school, though I’m sure we did.  And I don’t remember if my parents went back to work, though I’m sure they had to.  I have the memory of waiting for them in the house.  Did we stay away from the windows?  Did my mother say that?  She would say something like that.  She probably had to work, because we had no money, but she probably worried herself sick if she did.  That’s what she does.  Still.  She worries and protects.  And my dad.  I remember feeling safe because my dad was there.  And I think of him now, how he was then — so skinny — what could he have done?  He must have weigh, I’ll guess,  130 pounds.  But my dad,  I can’t explain him, I like him more and more the older I get.  I don’t know how to explain the calm in him.  He flows.  Sometimes he fights the flow.  But mostly.  He gets in and he flows.  And all of us around him wrap our arms around his neck —  terrified.

I’m sure there are other stories from those few days.  I’m sure my brothers remember more.

London, you poor girl, with all your beauty.  All those ancient stories.  May God help us all.

God.

Today I had a hard day and decided God had abandoned me because I wasn’t living my life right.  What a small, old thought.  But I feel that a lot lately.  Big, cosmic aloneness.  For no reason at all.  And a jealously or a disbelief when I hear someone else talk God talk.

But I don’t remember what God feels like.

I don’t remember what quiet feels like.  Or confidence.  Or reassuring joy.

I have a memory of lying alone on a big, green field and I am staring at the sky and I am quiet.  Two birds keep joining and separating and joining again and something about their search feels like a message from God to me.  I used to do that a lot – go out to fields and lie down and listen for God.

Maybe I’m afraid of what I’d hear.  Maybe I’m afraid of what I wouldn’t hear.

The world is big.  Green and blue and red inside, like us.  And bodies unite and life forms inside a woman’s core.  And there is music, and lyrics, and words, and the sound of a loved one’s voice.   There is the softness of skin, silk, satin.  There is uncontrolled laughter.  And the taste of sugar and the taste of salt.  And sleep.  There is water, and dirt, and black skies.  And the possibility of more universe, more to be known.  And there is forgiveness and communion and surrender.  And there is hope.

God is there.

I am small.  And when I reflect on my selfish actions, my hateful desires, my refusal to embrace joy — I know I am sinful.  Or whatever word works.  Broken.  In need of help.  And God is there in the sleep, in the skin, in the laughter, in the voices, and music, and water, and deep, red dirt.  And I am redeemed and healed again and again without even knowing.

Amen?  Amen.