Monday, April 28, 2014

a big cup of the good kind of envy

This weekend I felt like I got a small toe back in the literary loop. Saturday I met Sandra Hunter at Buttercelli, a lovely little bakery that anyone not from L.A. would make relentless fun of. There are subsections of baked goods for vegans, paleo people and the gluten-free. I ate something from a menu represented by a lioness mascot. I'm not totally sure what that meant. Vegan and low-sugar, maybe?

Like buttah. Not like gluten.
(After getting good cancer-test results last week [!], but flying a little too fast and loose around the cheese empanadas at Leslie's short film wrap party on Saturday night, I think I should follow the lead of vegan/low-sugar lionesses. I should probably also talk to my therapist about the patina of control and reward/punishment issues that overlays my generally good-but-imperfect eating habits.)

Anyway, Sandra's first novel, Losing Touch, just came out, and I'm liking it a lot so far. It's about a an Indian-English man whose family suffers from motor neuron disorders. Scary hereditary diseases make for great page turners in my world. Sandra said she was interested in how an immigrant's loss of cultural identity could inform his loss of physical identity. I said I liked how there seems to be a little more room, finally, in the contemporary canon for novels that don't look at immigration (or disease, for that matter) as a stand-alone issue.

I love that tea cup.
It was nice to have a philosophical and freewheeling conversation with someone so kind and brainy and worldly. Sandra almost got killed in a riot in Uganda in the eighties, but she is generous enough to talk about my own little brushes with trauma as if we're part of the same tribe. I mean, not that it's a contest. But I guess that's what I like about her--that she gets that it's not a contest, that she dives into the world in all its messiness with a blend of joy and unblinking-ness to which I aspire.

Inspiration jolt #2 was Wendy Oleson's reading at Rhapsodomancy last night. I'd been reading her speculative novella, which is weird and funny and postmodern, and the bits of flash fiction she read last night revealed her enviable versatility. She can also do that pared-down, whole-world-contained-in-an-image thing.

Douglas Kearney doing his thing.
I was feeling inspired, and a little drunk on one of Good Luck Bar's very strong cocktails, so I gave myself permission to let the subsequent readers serve as background music while I jotted notes for a future story. But Douglas Kearney would not let it be so. His set was almost literally gripping (which I guess means figuratively gripping), pulling me out of my wordy daydream and making me think and cry. He brought dramatic/spoken-word styling to experimental work about fertility and miscarriage from an African-American male point of view. Yep, just another experimental black male fertility non-narrative.

I'm about to begin a writing date with Nicole, who's taking a couple of months to work on her memoir. I'm envious, even though she's writing about sad things and it's kind of a dark time, like when everyone at MacDowell was sitting in their respective cabins in the woods writing about suicide. But this is the good kind of envy, which hopefully at least inspires me to spend an hour at Starbucks writing about high school students.

Friday, April 18, 2014

in which we do not go to catalina or adopt a kid

1. sea glass and glendora

I’m just now getting around to posting the entry I wrote about last weekend, which tells you what my week was like. Let’s just say I spent most of it working on a federal grant, and by the end of the day yesterday, I was having Republican-ish thoughts about government bureaucracies. (If you work for the Department of Labor and are reading this, that was just a little joke! I totally voted for Obama!)

But it’s Good Friday, and I’m determined to have a good Friday. I worked a half day, went to Shoshana’s yoga class—my favorite—this morning, bought some berries at the Eagle Rock farmers market and did a little bit of writing, even though I neglected my YA novel yet again. I’m feeling refreshed-adjacent, and I have the berries to prove it.

So, anyway, last weekend:

AK and I had planned to go to Catalina with Pedro and Stephen on Sunday, but when we found out it was $35 each way, not round trip, we all cheaped out and ended up in San Pedro instead. We walked the graffitied remnants of some WWII-era fortress at Cabrillo Beach. We found sea glass and sea anemones in the tide pools, a dead squid and slick silvery grunions. It felt so much healthier for my brain and eyeballs than Pinterest—the beautifully hued black hole I fell into at my sister’s urging last week—although I also kind of wanted to go home and pin pictures of sea glass crafts.

Over lunch, the subject of Donut Man in Glendora came up. It was home to Jonathan Gold-approved donuty clamshells bursting with giant glazed strawberries. Soon we were on our way, even though it was at the opposite end of L.A. County. It was the kind of impractical thing I missed doing, constrained as I usually was by traffic and adulthood.
 
Strawberries on the half-shell.
2. what birthmoms know

That night, we watched What Maisie Knew, an update of a Henry James novel about a little girl neglected by her chaotic parents and raised by her nanny and her mom’s sudden new husband. I’m going to give away the ending here and say that it closes with a beautiful birthmom moment: Julianne Moore says—angrily at first—“I was just like you” to Maisie. Then her face contorts and she realizes her own crazy childhood has led her to put Maisie in the same position. She has the power to stop the cycle, even though it means breaking her own heart by letting Maisie go with the people who can care for her.

Maisie has great clothes and distracted parents.
If you want to know what a birthmom goes through, watch that movie. But at the end AK and I were both sad—as I imagine we may eventually be for the birthmom who chooses us. Maybe AK was thinking of her youngest patients. I was thinking of me, as I do, and how much I wanted a little Maisie for my very own.

A couple of weeks ago we got the nicest email ever from a would-be birthmom. I sent what I thought was a nice reply, full of genuine empathy and openness. Then nothing. There could be a million different reasons for the nothing, and we will never know even one of them.

AK and I had one of those nights where at first we are sad together, and then there’s a fork in the road of our sadness, and we argue and eventually come together again. It’s good, it’s what being in a mature relationship is all about, but I dunno, I kind of want to spend this weekend eating Peeps and proving to myself I’m still a writer. Less emotional work, less work-work, more creative work, more marshmallows.