Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Suffer The Words

You capture the germ of something. It's good. You work fast. Everything is lucid and frank. Nothing extra, nothing wasted.

You wait a bit and add more. It's bad. There's only one thing to do. Throw out the new, bad stuff. Leave it, and you'll ruin everything.

The first few sentences are still perfect. There lies the beauty. There lies the problem.

You labor a bit. It's fruitless. You have somewhere to be, so you go.

You forget about it for a while. You work on other things. The other things write themselves.

This beginning, this jewel of a thing hangs in the air. Until you find the proper middle and end that is where it will stay, suspended and waiting.

You're eager, but that won't get it done. Patience is what you need. You also must be ready to act quickly. Words sometimes arrive unbidden and unexpected.

Completion of this cultivated prose lies with the self that goes off script while doing the dishes. The shower is a think tank. So is the track.

You rein in this runaway train when it comes to paperwork, bills, forms and mathematics. You accommodate. You wish it were different. But you also treasure. For you, the wordsmith, that reckless vehicle is pure gold.

Thursday, October 20, 2016

The High Cost Of Being Me

There's some good stuff inside this head. Creativity. Thinking thoughts other people don't. I also like to help people.

That said, I've exhausted myself.

I'd love to be easygoing. I'd love to stop thinking about the same things again and again. I'd love my brain to just shut up. It would also be good idea to shut up in general.

My feelings get hurt easily. I worry. I crave foods from my childhood at inopportune moments. I'm a lousy traveler.

I make a lot of lists. If I do not have access to the lists for any reason, then I remember nothing.

I have trouble with transitions. I'm sensitive to all substances. When my doctor prescribes something to me he gives me a smaller dose than other people.

I laugh really loud and people turn around and stare. Okay, that's actually a good thing. I have an infectious sense of humor. If I didn't have that, I'd probably be dead.

From the archives:
No Trophies

Saturday, October 15, 2016


I don't care what your plans are for the election. I wrote this for you.

If you are sitting out the election, this is for you. Not voting may look like doing nothing. By making this choice you are doing something.

If you are voting for Clinton or Trump, this is for you. The more enthusiasm you bring to the table for either of these candidates, the more I want you to listen.

If you're dragging your feet to the polls to vote  for the lesser of the evils because your preferred candidate did not win the nomination in the primary, this is for you.

If you are settling for the lesser of the evils because of the past or present behaviors of either major candidate, then this is for you. 

If you are the undecided voter, keep this in mind as you live your way into a answer. Listening to me might make it easier. 

If you are voting for a third party candidate to make a statement, then this is for you. If you are voting for a third party candidate because you think this person will gather a groundswell of support and win this election, this is for you.

If you've put a decal on your car, a sign on your lawn or shared something on social media about your preferred candidate, then this is for you.

If you've kept your plans steadfastly to yourself, you're not off the hook. You have an inner life. This is for you.

Vote. Or not.

Just don't drink the Kool-Aid. 

Any action you take on Election Day can be done without opening that packet, mixing it with water, adding in ice, pouring a big glass and drinking it. 

The Kool-Aid Man will come to your house, bust through your wall and create a whole lot of havoc with a big smile on his face if you let him. 

Things will be a lot easier for you now if you think about this stuff. Not drinking the Kool-Aid will make those days and weeks after the election better whether your preferred candidate wins or not. 

And lest you think I am talking about somebody else, Kool-Aid comes in all flavors. Hillary Clinton. Donald Trump. Jill Stein. Nobody's Good Enough For Me Flavor is still Kool-Aid if you make it and drink it.

The good news about analogies is that you can do things metaphorically that are difficult to do literally.

If you already drank the Kool-Aid take a few minutes now to un-drink it. 

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Monday, September 26, 2016


I recognize somebody walking down the street. It's bustling. I say a quick hello and smile. Nothing.

I see him again in the subway. I give a little wave. Again, nothing.

This is a friend of a friend. He doesn't know me well enough to be angry with me.

This happens with this guy semi-frequently. We travel in some of the same circles at the same time. I am accustomed to giving a fast, non-invasive greeting when I know somebody. Nothing overwhelming. If he's worried that I want to have a conversation with him, he needn't be.

I go over the social strata that I travel in. It is indeed customary to say hello when you see someone you know even a little bit in a public place. I ran into another guy earlier, someone I know even less. That was an entirely different reception. What a difference! This guy seemed delighted - enchanted, even.

I speculate that the unfriendly man doesn't have peripheral vision. I speculate that he has a rare disorder where you cannot recognize faces in public.

Before considering early onset dementia and autism spectrum disorders, I quit it. I must face facts. There is a commonplace explanation for what is going on. And since I've had an extremely good and relaxing day I take my epiphany rather well.

The friend of a friend doesn't like me. He does not want to exchange even the smallest of pleasantries.

Not everybody is going to like me.

This feels liberating so I take it a bit further.

Not everybody is going to like my photography. Not everybody is going to like my writing. Not everybody is going to like the collages I make.

If I go out to a restaurant with Jeremy and dress up, many people will like my outfit. But not everyone. Some people will think it looks like crap.

I am not Beyoncé. I am not to everyone's taste. I'm like a sister to a lot of guys. But a few men find me sexually attractive. I'm either an acquired taste, or a highly specialized one. I'm good with it.

For some I'm funny. For others, I'm annoying.

So after having an unusually satisfactory day and thinking about it much longer and in greater detail and with more analogies than necessary I was a calm, non-attached observer to the friend of a friend liking my friends very much and me not at all.

It didn't even bother me that I previously thought he liked me well enough and that I misjudged the situation.

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Thursday, September 22, 2016

To mend

Hands are to clasp.
Paper to crease, in two, then four.
Thread is to sew.
The fabric to warm, to reign.
What once was asunder.
What once lay splayed and wrecked.

Get me the lamp.
Fetch the bandages, the salve.
I can't do this on my own.
I can't fix it in the dark.

May I weld hot and straight.
May I cobble.
Rough hewn and jaunty.
It doesn't matter how it's done.
As long as it snaps shut.
Sure in itself, sure of you.

Affix, iron smooth.
Pull apart, undo.
Only if you can knit together.
Purl one, purl two.
More beauteous and bountiful than before.

Words to cajole.
That dollop of honey.
Lap it up, scrape the jar.
The repast is yours.
Take your time, for sweet after bitter.
Is better than sugar alone.

Procure me the finer things.
Cashmere wool, marbled paper.
Trained eyes, a wide wood table.
A window to let in the sun.
And a pretty curtain to keep it out.

Barter the merchants, best you can.
But I'll work with whatever you have.
For me, this provider, this job doer.
Even the cheap tools will do.

Check out some previous posts here:
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Wednesday, September 14, 2016

No Trophies

Somebody will seem perfect. They achieve something you've tried in vain to pull off. You feel the smack of comparison. You're lacking. And worse, now you have an audience.

The competent individual is not a better person. They've done this dazzling thing because they can. They can, so they do. You would if you could.

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Monday, August 29, 2016


I won't talk about faces
I've had quite enough of them.
This is my providence.
So here, I do what I want.

I'll write of a landscape.
The color of dried mud.
It goes on forever, this vista.
That's what makes it barren.
That's what makes it heavy to carry.

Or maybe it's an abstract.
Crafted by clumsy hands.
Wielding churlish colors straight from the tube.
Too lazy and sullen to mix them.
Or maybe they like that ugly purple.
Bruised and stiff, if sore were a shade.
They would, wouldn't they?

Believe me, I remember that coverlet.
Laid upon me, such as it is.
A cheap, thin blanket, lousy with thistle
Smelling of mildew and blood.

It's brutal silence
Tight lipped and cool
It's fixed in stone.
Anything else got buried long ago,
With the dead birds and the goldfish.

The backstage of the carnival is always worse to bear.
Than even the part we see, dizzy and swirling.
Why do they come day after hot day?
Year after year?

I said that I wouldn't.
But it seeps around the edges of things.
Wounds festered through the bandage.
Faces aren't welcome here.
But look, I talked about them anyway.

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Wednesday, August 10, 2016

The very second you lost me

A wisp of a time
An inkling
Fragile, yet.

For those 15 minutes
I sat in the palm of your hand
Nested there.
Among the flotsam and clutter.

You took that other turn.
I watched you, I watched it happen.
Prism-crisp, I see it still.

Misstep, misspoke, carried off by wind and hurl.
Breeze being too light a word for what you lost.

Turns out I have a shelf life.
Breathe in I'm there, breathe out I'm gone.

Here are the liberties I took
With the liberties you didn't.

I got up from my chair
I raised your window wider
Fresh air! I said.
My lie, white and oft bleached.
Blinded I am, by my own fiction.

What really happened.
Is I let you blow away.
Along with the hope, bunting soft as it was.

And when that took too long
I fanned what was left.

Is it hard? Does it smart?
But I'll be damned
If you get to make all the plans.

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Sunday, July 17, 2016

I'm not going anywhere

I made sure to look decent whenever I went over to see him. It was a dire situation. He didn't need me showing up there looking like hell warmed over. Besides, I didn't want him to know how worried I was.

I'd gone over for several days in a row. It was decided that I should take a day off. A friend of mine suggested it. I ran with it.

So the next day I woke up with the knowledge that I was not going to leave the house. I wasn't going over to his house or anyone else's. I had no appointments. I wasn't expected at either of my kids' schools. The farthest I'd be walking would be to the laundry room.

The thing I remember most  about that day was getting dressed. The clothes selected themselves.

I put on my Camp Sunshine sweatpants. The elastic was shot, but they still stayed up. The Camp Sunshine logo was almost worn away. It looked like peeling paint.

I topped it off with a long sleeved, ultramarine blue tee shirt. The design looks slightly Buddhist. It's fancy font invites you to Imagine A World Without Cancer.

It turns out the shirt, acquired on account of being a Cancer mom, and unfortunately, also a bereaved mom, was  somewhat applicable to my current predicament. Because of fucking cancer.

The pants too, but less directly.

Finally, I rounded off my statement with thick green socks with treads at the bottoms. These are hospital socks. They gave them to me at the UrgentCare center when I broke my ankle. They stretched one over my splinted foot to prepare for my trip home. I put the other one in my bag.

The best thing about the clothes and socks were their comfort. I was clearly engaging in what lifestyle blogs call extreme self care. Not facial masks, cleanses or a spa. My version of it.

The second best thing about the three elements were that they are all on a list of items that I am only allowed to wear around the house. I used to wear these things out in public. Since that time, I have raised my standards considerably.

It was appealing to wear a tee shirt at home that I could never wear to visit him. He could no longer imagine a world without cancer. It would be pointless to try. It would be a terrible idea to wear it in front of him. Besides, as I've indicated earlier, it isn't even flattering.

But I was free to imagine a world without cancer in my own home.

I luxuriated in looking bad but feeling good. Sometimes I caught sight of myself in a mirror. The worse I looked the better I liked it.

I don't remember much else about that day. It was not a watershed day in terms of accomplishment. I have some positive memories about it, even as the details blur.

Right after that, things took a terrible turn. There were emergency trips to see him. There were emergency phone calls to help him.

Laundry was the last thing on my mind. One of the last times I went, but not the very last time, I broke down and wore the Camp Sunshine pants. Most of my other clothes were dirty.

Another friend was there visiting with me. Sweatpants, he said. It was without judgement. It was a statement of fact. For him, this was an unexpected development. Yes, I said.

When I bought the Camp Sunshine pants, I believed that I would never throw them out. But not long after he died, I brought them to fabric recycling. They developed holes. They no longer stayed up. I was okay with it. Especially under the circumstances.

I'm not ready to write much about him yet. I'm not even prepared to write about his clothes. Writing about my own clothes is about the best I can do.

Read more:
The Best Thing Someone Never Said To Me

What I know, what I don't know
Lying In Wait 

Monday, July 11, 2016


Hair to plait, to tuck away.
Skin scrubbed, tawny by noon.
Leave the pale to the gilded cage.
We don't need them here.

Maid to bride to matron be.
Done in an instant.
This kingdom made for the buxom, brown.
Youth be wasted now.
Prize be service, prize be steady.
Day by day, noon to evening, winter to spring.

You will bear child after child.
Some brighter, some stronger or kinder than the rest.
No use being stingy.
You were  made for this life.

You stretch the crop, you stretch the slaughter.
You salt, you sweeten, you brine.
Then lay it upon a table, to seem aplenty.
Grace could be said to you alone,
For planting the seed, for manning the pot.

Feet to wear.
Grooves across fields, across floorboards.
You cut a serviceable figure.
In frocks sewn, made thin and soft
Dyed pale by the clothesline, sunburned wind whipped.
Beauty be what beauty does.

Hands made to till, hands that will forage.
Arms to hold, to wash the dust and grit.
Eyes clear and bright to squint away the morn, to see in the dark.
Ears to listen for the cry, the locusts.
The rare sound of company calling, the butter ready in a pan.

Pink lips part, velvet borne.
From bitten rose, from scalloped lily.
This is handiwork, the one finer thing.
Drawn by a different god, sweet cast of artifice.
Set aloft by Jesus or Darwin.
Almost too fair, sinful even.
A bit of sugar.
To lay upon the bent husband who chose you.
And the side by side you made with him.

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Thursday, July 7, 2016

You are not okay.

It was going along.
You were keeping apace.
It was in English.
It was in your province.

In one sharp second.
Words become odd numbers.
A jumble, betwixt, afoul.
You're so far afield
You can't understand what you can't understand.

Drowning doesn't look like drowning.
The lapping calm, whimpering waters.
There's no gasp, no flail, no fanfare.
That is what they say, and you believe them now.
After today, you'd believe anything.

So what that something isn't right?
It's not just a tangle or amiss.
Every last morsel is  wrong.
To fashion a query.
Would take another brain.
One that was still tethered.
One born brighter ablaze.

Look normal.
You say this to you.
That which is light as air, that which is familiar old clothes.
And it works - for a while.

Is it the shame of the words?
Or that of not understanding?
Is it something else?
That makes your skin itch and crawl.
That flits around you, buzzy old fly.
Lazy and large, persistent and dumb.
Useless but living.

You should have stopped the bus!
Old with rust the clanging mess of ricket and metal.
Barreling down, reckless  and sure.
But it's so late that there's no use checking the time.

You are with just you.
Addled and splintered such as you are
There's nobody left to ask, nobody to decode.

You summon your pieces.
Buttressed, still tall.
You remember a thread of competence so bold.
That technicolor isn't nearly enough of a word.
You want to fix this.
But even this version of you can't make it so.

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Sunday, July 3, 2016

The other than

There is calm in knowing.
A hothouse flower is only good if it's rare.
The pluming Audubon bird.
Rendered ordinary if in numbers.
Thank god there aren't more.
Or enough to go around.

There is no twain for the twain to meet.
Because of how you're cut.
Because of how they made me, those two people and their two people.
I shouldn't have tried anyway.

There is no spice of life either.
For that would be saccharine, vintage.
Fibs so pretty they could be embroidered.
By hands that know no better.
Colonial fingers defter and sweeter than mine.

The truth isn't nice to say.
But me, the twig, the sparrow, the three-pronged clover.
Ubiquitous cotton is the cloth I am sewn.
We are most of us and better for it.
We knit, purl one and two, we pack of dogs.
There is good enough in our commonplace.
We stick together, all of us

You exist you few.
As if in a greenhouse, a heaven even.
You fly among us, above us.
Look! We say some of the time.
The crest of red, leaves tuberous and luxe

Other times, and better still.
We are thrown together, such as we are fat, sweaty mess.
Don't be sorry, we like it that way.
Too wrapped up in bargain blankets and velour.
To note the pure red dewy petals.
Or the monarch, flitting this way and that.
Looking for eyes - such a rapt audience we can be!

The wings too silent to hear
Above our fuss, our laughter, our jumble.
Our sameness, our crowd.
Surely there's some beauty here.

I choose this.
Or finer yet, it's chosen for me.
By lineage too elder, too tidy.
To deserve signage or signature.

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Thursday, June 30, 2016

Hot Mess

Lurid canvas.
Twist of magenta, stink of cyan.
Pedestrian, common words.
Made stupid and plodding.
By tools plied by myself, the amateur.

Who gave me this command?
The brushes and tubes worse than wasted.
Even the keyboard implicated.
In this pillar to cloy and clutter.

Before the crumpled paper.
Before the purge, the recrimination,
Bigger I am, than the putrid slap of shame.
Bigger I am, than the nausea of recognition.

To look straight on, steady.
Not avert, seem brave.
To stand erect then gaze.
To be breathless, even
By the audacity of it all.

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Friday, June 24, 2016

A Phone Call Like This

It could be the landline. It could be your iPhone. Sometimes it's an email, either through whatever grading portal the school uses, or directly from the teacher. It's never been a text.

It might be the guidance counselor, the school social worker, hell, even the gym teacher has had communication with you.

You are deft. You are a team player. You're there to work with them and that is what you do.

You share strategies. You follow up. You validate them. You call in outside supports. You keep yourself available because there is nothing more important than your kid.

You're good at this now. You keep your sense of humor. Soon, after the situation is under control, you laugh about it with whoever it is you're working with.

Ocassionally, there's a tiny bit of barely perceptible impatience lapping around the edges of things. You hide it from people. It's an irritant.

You have a rhetorical question. You wonder why it is that nobody else can simply manage your child. You have no problems at all handling  this kid. It's not always easy being the most competent person in his world.

But mostly you're all equanimity and confidence. You got this. It's how you roll.

But there's this one time. The situation goes on longer than it should have. By the time you know  about it, it is entrenched.

It has some new features. The first email has you off kilter. You ask for more details. They flood in. By the second email you're alarmed. You're out of your element.

Without pity or anger you make an observation. It is free of investment. Now you are a social scientist.

No one in your extended family has ever received an email like this. Not your niece's parent, your nephew's parent, or your own mother. You have  family members who are too young for school but you can already tell their parents will never receive a communication like this one. Same with the majority of your friends.

You wonder what it is like to never receive the phone call. It's hard to imagine such an uneventful trajectory through school.

You go overboard with your child out of fear, and then apologize a couple of hours later  when you've gained better perspective. You and your kid weather this.  He doesn't need a perfect parent every moment of every day. You are impressed with his resilience and your own.

But you're not fooling around. The next day you show up at school with your binder of materials and soon you are sitting with the guidance counselor, who at that very moment is the wisest person you have ever met and the kindest.

He's already done all of the things you were going to ask him to do. He tosses off insight so crisp and shiny that you'll remember it for the rest of your life.

Raising this kid is a group effort. You meet with one other member of what you call the advisory board because she knows more than you do.

She tells you that you overreacted. There was no reason to feel this shaken up. Concerned, yes. Fearful no.

There are two ways you hear this. She works every day with moms like you and kids like yours. She knows her stuff. So yeah, it's reassuring.

But you highly doubt that a phone call like this has ever come close to her home. Statistically it's not likely. Things aren't perfect for her. They never are. But a scenario like this? Probably not.

You kick yourself for not asking. Because if this expert thinks there is something wrong with your response, then you are going to need more information from the expert.

If the expert is not accustomed to phone calls from school which cause distress, then the expert is not the expert. You are the expert. Your report from the trenches should Interest the expert very much. She should listen like you are the only two people in the world.

There is a chance that the expert has gone through something similar. It's hard to imagine because this is an expert and also a parent. This is an expert-parent.

But maybe you are wrong and she has walked the walk. In that case, here is what you will tell her.
She should pull her chair closer. She has earned her audience of one. You will be all ears and you will hang on her every word.

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Wednesday, June 8, 2016

The New Environs

These sidewalks soon to be old friends.
The worn groove made comfortable - cozy even!
By the repeat tread, week by week, seasons running into each other.
Or colliding as the case may be.
The northeast being itself.

And so it is as it has been before and will be again.
Drunk on the hard work of navigation, the full throttle .
After a time, so quick, really.
This becomes my coffee place, my drugstore, my doorman, my Tuesday.
I take my small residence, my share of the space.

You see, the waiting room, the couch in the lobby, even the train.
That's my writers colony, my MFA, my studio.
So this is all crucial, as secondary as it is.

And as singular as I am to see it at all.

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

What Now?

You've done this thing. Lots of things, truthfully. The things you've done have morphed and changed over time. But there's been an overarching theme to all of it.

Everything you've done, more or less, has been in collaboration with a small committee. You like these other committee members. They turned from committee members into something else. Something more important than committee members.

Now you're wondering what's going to happen next. That is a natural question.

You study the practice of non-attachment. You live in the moment. You try on having no agenda. It feels pretty good. It's better than trying to control everything.

You're already used to going along to get along. You adapt well to others.

Everything seems to fit in place until you have another thought. Once you have the one thought, other thinking follows.

What if there is self-agency about what happens next?

You won't wait around for someone else to lead. But if they do, you will probably follow. That's what happened before and if it happens again it would be an excellent scenario.

Waiting and waiting for someone else to lead seems risky. It's too much to place that on other people. The weight of that expectation feels massive and heavy even for you.

So you'll try leading. You have some good ideas about that.

You'll suggest, invite, write, reach out, pull back, try one thing then try another.

Every time you do something it will be without prior investment in the results. That is where the non-attachment practice you've been finding resonance with will really be useful.

Other people will let you know what they think. They will have words and they will have actions. Their actions will be like words.

Whatever happens won't be the end of the world. Whatever happens might actually be kind of great.

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Monday, May 16, 2016

This Shit Got Real

You're sitting on the floor packing personal effects. You arrived early and let the place really hit you. It's nobody's home anymore. Every time you come it's a little less welcoming.

You're using paper and bubble wrap to pack every delicate and fragile thing this man had.  You make cushions at the bottom of the boxes with the materials  that you carried here last time. You're careful because you need to get this done today. You don't want to run out of resources.

You want to cry. But you're afraid once you get started you won't be able to modulate that activity. Like you said before, you need to get the job done. You said you were going to and you keep your word.

If you get all emotional then there are consequences for that. The other friend, the one plowing through different personal effects in the other room, would be uncomfortable. Then again, he seems pretty settled in there. You might be able to get away with a few tears without him even knowing.

If you just soldier on and procrastinate your feelings you'll be purposeful and sharp. But you worry about what will happen later, after you leave. You haven't been sleeping much. You've amassed a debt and it has to go somewhere. Three o'clock in the morning is where it's been going.

You admire the other friend, but you are not him. You'd like to stay you, only that person is a bit fuzzy right now. 

You're good with the packing and wrapping and sealing and labeling. You feel your competence with that. 

But you still get all self-critical and snippy. You don't know what you're doing. You can't fall apart here but you don't want to pay the piper later either.

You remember this. You're not supposed to know what you're doing. You've been winging it all along, even at the beginning when you thought you knew what to do but then found out later you'd be flying by the seat of your pants.

No one has taken you in hand. No one has mentored or schooled you in how to do this. You're doing the best you can. Same with the guy in the other room.

You're softer now. You're going to have to accommodate you. You stay in this nether world. You're not a robot but you're not letting the crying be the boss either.

After three boxes you take a break. This man's people are emailing you. You're aware that you are not a bottomless well of empathy and good will. You've dug deep with these people and just for today, they're getting a little less of you. You've got no patience for any one sided crap this morning.

You send out serviceable communication. You try it on for size. You like it.

You spend more time and more adjectives on the cousin. She's feeding you a little bit with her turn of phrase, her sparkling way with words. You smile and write something short yet pretty. She responds in kind.

You parcel you out in smaller pieces leaving little bits left over. The little bits amass. You get your job done. You did what you said you would and then some. 

The other friend chooses something made of glass and you pack it  for him. Your hands are  confident from a day of this. You've wanted to help him somehow and you just found your niche.

The shit's real but you're okay. For the first time since this all began, including the days at the beginning when you thought it would all work out, you shake a little of it off when you leave. 

You exit the train. There's a young orthodox Jewish couple who have moved to your neighborhood. They're walking together pushing a baby in a carriage. 

You feel like they are renegades because they settled in Inwood, and not Riverdale, Crown Heights or Monsey. They are devout but willing to mix. People who are complicated and seemingly contradictory fascinate you. Same with people who make their own rules.

You love the couple immediately then realize you're being silly and reign yourself in. One of your long-time neighbors has noticed the baby and is exclaiming and cooing at her. In spite of her relative immodesty, the couple is friendly and engaging with the the not-Jewish neighbor.

You get closer and now it's your turn  to have a look. Your dress hits below the knee, but your arms are exposed. No matter. You and the other neighbor are collaborating now. Look at those eyes! That smile! The baby looks from one of you to the other. 

Light, lilting and merry, you remember the fun part of your repertoire, and it doesn't need to be orchestrated by you. You are not responsible for everything. You allow yourself to get swept up and to fall in love with the baby and maybe even the rest of the day.

Congratulations, you say out loud to the couple and then silently to yourself. You walk down your block toward your building and your apartment. The evening stretches out, wide and possible. Even better, it belongs to you.

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July 1999
A Stressor Is A Stressor Is A Stressor

Friday, May 13, 2016

Check Back With Me Later.

You ask - I ask myself.
I can't answer.
Jesus Christ! I wish I knew.
It's not steady ground, so don't ask again. 
The plans I make are small.
I'll look back on this.
That I know from what's happened before.
It's a story that gets told backwards.
There's nothing to share now.
It's too damned soon.

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Thursday, April 21, 2016

So Long

It seemed like maybe this wasn't goodbye. Then of course, it was.

I had all kinds of words to say to myself. The experience will live on. There's a part of this that doesn't die. Things will go on in a different form. You're always with me.

The fact remains. I can't talk with you anymore. That's a tough pill to swallow.

So I told myself that this is the beginning. I know it's ended now. There's no more of this to come back to.

Every day is going to get easier. Now I've hit bottom. Once bottom is achieved there is nowhere to go but up. 

I sat with that for a few minutes. It sounded good. Unfortunately none of it is true.

Things will look up. Then they will plummet down again. There might be a gradual upward course, but it won't be a straight line. There will be ebbs and flows and unexpected turns. It will move from side to side.

Good - crappy - better - okay - crappy - good - great- good - okay. And so on.

I had to sit down for a few minutes. Then I proceeded to adjust to this trajectory.

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Lying In Wait

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Without You

You are here and simultaneously nowhere. This is where you are not.

Not in this vista, on this rooftop, in this foreign country, or your very own city, with these people. This one is with that one, the people you introduced, the people you forgot about, the ones you still long for.

Today, you feel the smart of not having a table number, not being at karaoke, not buzzed on cocktails splayed across a couch, not arms around each other, not laughing hysterically while the person taking the picture tries in vain to get a good picture of all of you.

You are not an infant. You tell yourself how expensive weddings are, how this is an exception, how people are busy, how not everyone can be included, how sometimes almost no one is included.

You allow yourself no self pity because that is a waste of time and make an inventory of your better friends.

You don't linger there. You like them anyway. Or not.

But there's this one time. You wade further in for some reason. You let the sting sting you longer. You sit with it. 

You learn that the blue cast isn't the end of the world. Nobody will throw you in jail for feeling sad. 

You remember the work of Margaret Mead. Like it or not, you're a primate. You're part of something bigger than you. Of course you feel bad. It's how you've been made.

You're with a friend in her sunny loft. She takes a quick break from the conversation to return a text. Her other friend does the same. You take a fast look at social media. Just for a moment.

You see what you see there. And you're not there.

You are not with those people because you are with these people. You are not in those places because you are in this place.

Not to mention the people who you will see later today, not talk with but text, the strangers on the train, the loved ones, the future friends, the friends reconnected.

You're with who you're supposed to be with, where you should be. The other people you were thinking about before are just the people who live inside your phone. 

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Thursday, April 14, 2016

Emotional Support From The Security Guard

I like to go to this running track in my neighborhood. Right before you go in the gate you see this man who sits in a booth. He isn't just any man. He's the security guard.

He waves me in. I always say hello, goodbye and thank you. I am trying to be on friendly terms with this security guard. One reason for this is that I am a very nice person.

I do have some other motivations which are self serving but generally harmless.

If possible I would like to become allies with this security guard. I'm hoping that if he sees me enough he'll wave me in anyway, even when the track is closed for stupid reasons. 

Some of these stupid reasons include a tiny bit of ice or snow on a small sections of the track, an unscheduled Columbia sporting practice where there is still plenty of room for me, or unknown random events that are not visible to the naked eye.

I feel like it's going pretty well.

I like to imagine the security guard, sitting in the booth and maybe glancing up from his phone to notice the recovery process unfolding from my broken ankle. When I first started using this track, I walked very slowly until my ankle hurt, then walked even more slowly. Then I started to slow jog a bit. Now I'm jogging more and more. 

I haven't been expecting anything but once or twice he gave me a thumbs up.

Today he waved me in.

I did my usual routine. My physical therapist has taught me all about alignment. She's also trained me to be aware of my entire foot surface. Going to the track and exercising is almost like a walking mediation. That's how good it is.

I did some cardio for 30 minutes. I was almost to the gate when I stopped and took some photographs. The sky was very opaque, which made for some interesting relationships with the bleachers, the trees, and the light. 

As I'm exiting the gate the guard stops me. 

Why aren't you smiling today? He asks. His friend is there with him, hanging outside the booth. What's up? the friend asks.

I've had a hard weekend I said to them. But going to the track helped a little bit, I added.

What were you taking pictures of? The security guard asks. Yeah, said the friend. We were wondering.

When they said pictures it came out sounding more like pitchers.

Oh, I'm an artist, I said. I take some pretty weird pictures. The friend nodded, yeah, I like doing that too, he said. I like taking weird pictures.

So as I'm getting ready to go the security guard gets pretty direct with me. Next time I see you I want you to be smiling, he said.

So I said okay and walked off, when I was a few feet away I gave a little wave. This exchange put a spring in my step on the way home.

I have friends who know where I was yesterday and what I was doing. I'm not mad at them for not checking in. Until I went to the track, I hadn't really thought about it.

The security guard knew something was up. That was a breath of fresh air. You never know where your support is going to come from or who your friends may turn out to be.

A few minutes later, I came to a new conclusion about the security guard. If the track is closed, the track is closed. I'm not going to ask him for special treatment. That's not what friends do or what friends are for.

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Saturday, March 26, 2016

What I know, what I don't know

It’s a shift.

I know without a doubt. This corridor is narrow.  It’s unmistakable.

There's no argue, no negotiate. You don't work it out with what is. 

After a time, a minute, maybe an hour, there's a small bit of wiggle room. 

I realize I know what. What is what I've been talking about.

What I don't know is where and most importantly when. 

Knowing what I don't know makes it sort of okay.

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Friday, February 5, 2016

30 Minutes a Day: Before and After

In spring of 2015, I implemented a tradition of taking a 30-minute walk. I strolled. I meandered. I gave myself a break. I took photographs. You can read more about it here.

The walk morphed a bit in the summer of 2015 and again in the fall. Finally, I fired it.

In December of 2015 I was experiencing holiday stress. I took up my 30-minute walk again. First, I un-fired it. Then I changed it.

The other walks I took earlier that year were slow. I decided that even though I was alternating cardio with yoga and Pilates most days, I needed even more vigorous movement in my day. So I instituted a 15-minute power walk. At the end of the 15 minutes, I'd do a slower walk and take some photographs or just look around.

It turns out that this walk was working out beautifully and the extra pumped up movement paired with slower movement was putting a dent in my anxiety and bad holiday attitude.

I had no reason to stop doing my walks as December 2015 turned into January 2016. Except for one thing. I broke my ankle.

I wasn't exercising, power walking or doing anything adventurous when it happened.

I was walking down the street minding my own business. The sidewalk wasn't icy or unusual. It was a run of the mill sidewalk. But my foot got caught in a crack and stayed there when I fell. That's how I ended up with a mild fracture and a bad sprain.

I adjusted to the lack of my usual movement. I took up guided meditation.

After starting PT and healing a lot, I decided to go for a walk outside without my orthopedic boot. I was wearing regular sneakers.

I went around the block twice. I became accustomed to the uneven surfaces, the inclines, the dips and the hit of fresh air.

I stayed inside during a massive snowstorm. The next day I made my way in a careful fashion to Chinatown for my daughter's birthday party.

The next afternoon, I went around and around my block, at a healthy clip for 15 minutes. I confined myself to this area because the sidewalk was clear and dry and safe. I didn't have to negotiate black ice, snow or frozen slush. When I was finished walking fast, I walked slow. I took some photographs.

I did it again today only for 20 quick minutes and 15 slow, creative ones.

I like the predictability as I ease back into cardio. My body is remembering what to do. The novelty happens as I am walking slowly. The scenery changes ever so subtly. The light is different every day. So is the snow. What is covered up one day is revealed the next.

The snow is melting more quickly than I thought it would. Soon, the other sidewalks and the curb cuts will be clear enough for me to go farther afield. At some point in the future my ankle will be fit to sustain a careful run. I'll cut a wide swath through Inwood and beyond. My period of relative confinement will be a memory.

I like to travel sometimes. But I don't need to. Having this injury proved it. When the block is all I have, it's good enough. Better than that, actually.

My slower than usual pace allowed me a moment to notice this scraped wall awaiting plaster - and the nearly bare branches in front of it.

This neatly folded leaf stands in contrast to the crystalline snow.

I'm finding beauty in the withered and ruined.

It wouldn't be post-blizzard if I didn't photograph one car covered in snow.

Nature provided me with pristine perfection to explore.

This tiny piece of foil became the latest addition to my Beautiful Trash Series. The snow melted at a prodigious rate of speed leaving this sooty patch in its wake.

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