1. never never land
Yesterday was not an awesome day. Work fell from the sky in fat droplets and splatted at my feet, and I felt caught without an umbrella. I started coming down with a cold. And…another friend got pregnant—one who’s been trying hard, who gets it, whom I want this for—and I felt alone on my little island of nevernevernever.
|Why do I feel like this island in Dubai might be the world's loneliest?|
I know it’s not everyone. I know I should join a support group or something. But I feel like everyone in it would just have a kid and leave.
Yesterday, Fr. Greg talked about how a lot of people seek out Homeboy because they want to “give back.” “I think it’s better to receive than to give,” he said. He went on to talk about how generosity is a good impulse, but kinship is a more effective one. When our only goal is to sit with someone in their brokenness—to receive them as they are—we experience our own brokenness and connect. That connection is the gift both parties receive.
|Morning Meeting at Homeboy: a place to receive, and also learn what the soup of the day is.|
I’ve always felt most whole around people who are a little bit broken. I’ve always liked poor neighborhoods better than posh ones, sad and anxious people better than confident over-achievers. And even as I type this, I feel a little self-conscious about it, like, Well, of course some hipster writer would say that. What, do you think you’re Kerouac or something? I worry about grief porn, poverty porn, about a possible need to feel superior. At other times, I feel like I work at Homeboy so its collective spirit can save me, and that makes me feel like some kind of drain on the system, some kind of reverse welfare queen who steals from the poor to give to myself.
|Kerouac in kinship with a gato!|
2. killing it, crawling lit
Last night was the second annual Lit Crawl L.A. in North Hollywood. This year it was bigger and better. Two Homeboy alum knocked it out of the park sharing their life stories at a store selling overpriced sorta-skater clothes, and I got to meet one of the writers who coached them, Jeanne Darst, whose memoir I loved. She was totally friendly and real, and she had great yoga arms, and I want to be her.
Then I ran down the street in my fantastic but unwieldy heels for my reading with Wendy Oleson, Bronwyn Mauldin, Pat Alderete and Olga Garcia at the Laemmle. I pride myself on being scrappy and punk rock when it comes to the literary life, but it would have been nice if they’d given us a whole hallway to read in rather than a roped-off sliver of hallway. On the upside, the good-sized crowd just went with it, sitting cross-legged on the casino carpeting, and the place smelled like fresh popcorn.
|At least there was art in the hallway.|
|In addition to Jeanne Darst's arms, I want Olga's dimples.|
We were greater than the sum of our parts. Wendy read an eerie, Aimee Bender-esque story about a girl made of glass and her brother the gun. Bronwyn read a stunning and funny poem comprised entirely of the names of gun models. Pat read “authentic fiction” about the aftermath of a gang shooting in 1970s East L.A. I read a Homeboy-inspired piece about how a scared little kid turns into a scared teenage shooter. And Olga closed out the night with a big, beautiful, Howl-esque elegy for Brisenia Flores, a seven-year-old bordertown girl shot by Minutemen.
After the reading, I chatted with my dad and my coworker Lauren, and my dad encouraged me to read my story at Homeboy. I squirmed at the idea of telling people’s stories back to them, even though god bless my dad, because he was the one person who turned out just to see me, drove all the way from Manhattan Beach, sat on a patch of carpet in a way that must have killed his back and didn’t take it personally when I turned down his offer of frozen yogurt afterward.
“You’ve always been this way,” he said. I cringed, imagining how he might explain “this way”—“fighting for the underdog?” “caring about minorities”? Part of me worried my dad was going to call me an N-word-lover in some thinly veiled, not unkind but still ignorant way, in public. And I wanted to explain that 1) “They” are fine without me and 2) “They” are not a “they.” I’m the N in this story, trying to love myself, unabashedly serving myself.
Still squirming, I said, “I guess I’ve always had some kind of empathy.” (Although there are times when my empathy has been incredibly clouded by my own shit.) Fiction writing is the practice of putting empathy on paper.
Lauren, luckily, did not seem put off by my dad’s praise and not-quite-PC phraseology. My dad is one of the most stubborn people I know, but also one of the most open-minded, meaning he will make his case relentlessly and is slow to change, but he will never stop listening. He’s also kind of on-the-spectrum in terms of reading other people’s emotions, and yet more sensitive to human and animal suffering than a lot of people. I think that part stems from his attunement, as a kid, to his mom, who was a loving and somewhat emotionally volatile widow struggling to raise two boys on her own.
|The world of my dad's youth, or the idealized version of it.|
|All I need is a national talk show, and the Duesenberg is mine.|