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Showing posts from 2016

tops of 2016

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I just started reading Far from the Tree by Andrew Solomon, a collection of essays about parents and children trying to love each other across different “horizontal identities,” i.e. non-inherited identities. (Being gay or, in most cases, disabled is a horizontal identity. Whereas being, say, Japanese or male or female would be a vertical identity.) Already this book is making my brain explode in the best ways, and I suspect it’s going to be on my Best Of list for 2017. That is, if I finish it by 2017—it’s 700 pages long not counting the 200 pages of end notes. I’m still working on two other books that I hoped I could count toward my 2016 tally, but I’m writing this on December 30 and that doesn’t look likely. Seven hundred pages of ways you can fail as a parent. Yet surprisingly enjoyable. Every year I nerd out compiling my best-of list, because didn’t you know this was a culture blog? (I bet you thought it was a Cheryl’s-life blog. I can’t imagine where you got that i

to dashaboo, before your second christmas

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This is one of my occasional letters to Dash. This time I used the #MomLists feature in Mutha Magazine as my prompt. 1. Every time you see a wreath, you shout “Nana!” She made the one with gingerbread men and red ribbons that hangs between our living and dining rooms. Nana is the Queen of Comedy in your book. Last time she babysat you, you stayed up till nine. She told Mama “He wasn’t interested in going to bed.” As if bedtime were a hobby you’d considered and abandoned, like golf. 2. When you see worms in books, you say “Mommy!” For a minute, I was scared you’d had some premonition about me getting cancer and becoming skinny and bald again. Then I remembered I have a tattoo of a snake on my back. You must watch me as I walk away. 3. We still don’t know why you say “Mama!” when you see one particular Andy Warhol drawing of a panda, or Eric Carle’s Red Bird Red Bird. 4. You say “Santa!” though you prefer the ones in books and store windows to actual men in red suits.

a peculiar crisis

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1. battle hymn of the rust belt over-achiever “Our men suffer from a peculiar crisis of masculinity,” writes J.D. Vance in Hillbilly Elegy, his memoir of growing up in a Rust Belt town inhabited by economic migrants from Appalachia, “in which some of the very traits that our culture inculates make it difficult to succeed in a changing world.” I wanted the book to feel more like its cover. I imagine New York agents and editors sending his manuscript around in emails sprinkled with “zeitgeist” and “the white working class” and “fresh, underrepresented voices.” I imagine them filling an unspoken quota that demands more work by conservative writers (Vance claims a conservative identity, although the book is only lightly political). If that sounds like an ungenerous impression, it’s because the book doesn’t quite accomplish what it explicitly sets out to do: represent for an economic and cultural underclass, and offer some loose suggestions about what this group needs, and

my own private trumpocalypse

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1. requiem for a dream In college I read a short story in which a boy gets kicked out of school. He’s the child of migrant farm workers, and he has trouble keeping up. He knows his parents will be mad. On the walk home, he keeps thinking, Maybe it didn’t really happen. Texas, 1942. I’ve long forgotten the name of the book or author, unfortunately, but that scene stayed with me because it perfectly captured those moments in your life when you try to rewind time with your brain. When I got out of work on Tuesday, I looked an animated New York Times graphic that depicted a needle wobbling between Hillary and Trump, showing the likelihood of who would get elected based on the count coming in. It showed an 82% chance of a Hillary win. Like so many people, I’d showed up to my local polling place that morning feeling proud and optimistic. People chatted in English and Spanish, greeted their neighbors and sympathized with a toddler who wondered where the “boating” was.

still unpacking

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1. baby, it’s cold outside The first neighbor we met after moving to our new house was an old Chinese woman; at least, she looked old, but maybe she just spent a lot of time outdoors. She had leathery brown skin, hair that looked as if it had been chopped by hand and only a couple of teeth left. She always wore the same brown tracksuit jacket with yellow stripes down the sleeves. When she first showed interest in our broken-down moving boxes, I thought she was collecting recyclables. I kept them out of the blue bin and put them directly in front of the house for her. But then she put them in the blue bin herself. And moved them from one bin to another. And disappeared with the bins themselves for days at a time. This is how moving feels. She liked to knock on our door and let us know when we had mail. Once she showed me where her shirt was missing a button and tried to hand me a needle. Another time she showed up in our front yard as a pizza was being delivered and beg

rain, confidence and other things i’m not amazing at

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1. not so much a litquake but a lit-tremor We left the West Oakland BART station at a reasonable time. It was raining lightly. I reviewed what I was going to read that night as the train rumbled beneath the bay. AK made sure the brakes were set on Dash’s stroller and kept him entertained until we arrived in the Mission. In the Mission, it was pouring. I’d forgotten that San Francisco has a completely different microclimate from the East Bay. We were up north for a long weekend, staying with Pedro and Stephen, who were brave enough to put up two adults and a toddler for four whole nights. Their pit bull, Sugar, spent a lot of the weekend shut in Stephen and Pedro’s bedroom, so she made the biggest sacrifice. (Thank you, Sugar, if you’re reading.) The catalyst for the trip was my reading, which was a small part of Mutha Magazine ’s event, which was a small part of LitCrawl, which is a big part of LitQuake. Author photo. #NailedIt We followed my map app for six blocks befor

the golden hour

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Every few months, I try to write a letter to Dash. They’re descriptive and mundane. This one came out as a kind of prose poem, and it captures my current mood. Father G says heaven is the present. I repeat this to myself, which is an act of memory, which is to say: the past. This is the time of year when the future shakes its fist. Late afternoons in Los Angeles are a Maxfield Parrish painting. As if your 20-month-old skin needed any help. It is the color of toast, smooth as flan. You look west and I spy on you from inches away, your legs against my hip, your face even with mine. In low light your irises and pupils blend to black, but here I see the clear brown ring. You want to ride in your green plastic car, the one with the handle in back, for a grownup to push. I am shoeless, but you’ll cry if we go inside again, so I lap the block barefoot, feeling trashy and wrecked, which I am. Pods dropped from trees bite my soles. You have discovered the joy of dragging your feet a

podcasts for my middle years

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Lately I’ve been binge-listening to The Jackie and Laurie Show , a Nerdist-network podcast by comics Jackie Kashian and Laurie Kilmartin about women in comedy. I’ve seen Kashian perform locally a bunch of times, including once in someone’s backyard. A thing I love about both of them is that they love comedy so much, and are so eager to hone their material, that any shred of diva behavior goes out the window. At the same time, they’re both refreshingly honest about their envy, ambition and exhaustion, three major motifs in my life that are often swept under the rug by artists when they talk about their work. "Standup is making fun of podium culture." The general mood of the podcast is “I want to do gigs and learn things and think and make people think, and also goddamn it I’m tired and want to just sit in my favorite chair.” That’s how I feel pretty much all the time. Kashian and Kilmartin are both about ten years older than me. As a pigeon mom /writer seeking viable

house, work

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1. tgif A couple of Fridays ago, I came home from work, relieved AK of Dash duty, fed him, put him to bed and set to work cleaning the house while she caught her breath after a day of childcare. I picked up the remnants of the day’s Dash-nado: blocks, balls, plastic eggs, a floppy-limbed Angels monkey, a squeaky Lamb Chop that is actually a dog toy, multiple Wubbanub pacifiers, keys, clothes and so many books. He likes sitting in our laps while we read to him (and if I teach him to love reading my life’s purpose will more or less be fulfilled), but he also likes flinging the ones he’s not interested in from the shelves till he finds his favorites. He also likes stacking them on top his toy drum and occasionally drawing in them. I changed the sheets on our bed and ran a Swiffer Wet cloth over the floors. I wiped down the sinks and toilets (it’s still weird to me to live in a house with toilets, plural) and did a couple of little extra things: dusted some floorboards and hung a