Friday, March 20, 2009

In case of TERROR

Tonight I saw, up close, the deep and fearsome solitude of a closed person.

One of my friends, a girl who married young, is unhappy in her marriage.  This does not mean her marriage will die.  It simply means that her marriage is sick.  She and her husband have not yet gone to have this illness professionally diagnosed.  But she suspects that it may be quite serious.  Only time will tell.

But, anyway, this has thoroughly shaken me.  Remember the wedding I went to a while back? The beautiful, romantic, heroic wedding?  That changed my views about marriage and weddings in general?

This is her.

And tonight she described her frustrations and resentment and pain to me with a shocking cynicism.

My heart twists away from me, whining.

I have given up on Truth in relationships.  There is no way to find out why we do the things we do.  Or what it all “means.”  Who can begin to know, who can begin to say, what has happened between people?  Even if we could write down everything we say out loud, who could write down the things we don’t? 

Who can score and tally glances?  Who can quantify a touch, a kiss?

We say things that we WANT to be true.  I say things that I want to be true.  That’s just how it is.

And even if you think you Know in the moment, time will warp your certainty and strip it from you.  You will be uncertain the second It is over.  You will doubt almost immediately.  You will fear, you will wonder, and guess.  Five years later you will look back and say It was because of This.  Ten years later you will marvel that you were ever so ignorant as to believe That.

You will close.

People open and close. 

And even they don’t know when or how or why.

There is no Truth that can be known.  Not between human beings.  Not between anyone who is flawed, imperfect, insecure, afraid. 

Perhaps there is – there will be – Truth.  Perhaps the Truth is that whatever MUST happen will happen.  But we’ll only know what that is when the movie fades to black and the credits roll.  And, in this life, there’s no script to read or way to fast forward.

I cannot tell you how this realization pains me.  As Billy Collins says, I cannot tell you how vastly my loneliness is deepened.  How poignant and amplified the world before me seems.

In a week I will get on a plane and go to Australia.  I’m going to see a man there.  I think this is a brave thing to do, but it seizes me with terror – with the oldest, most familiar fear I know – the Terror of Being.

The consuming, breathless Terror of Being.

I have pinned my hope to a star.

But since there is no discoverable Truth here, since I am an astronaut, exploring things I can't even begin to understand, and since I know that...I go with hope.

Because my friend DID get married.  Because she WAS heroic.

Because, even if there is a death in the future, there once was a life.  LIFE in all capitals!  

And the alternative is tin and stone and sawdust.


Yesterday, on my way in to work, I noticed a man looking curiously at a bench.

He seemed stumped, perplexed. He looked around several times. Then, when he noticed me staring, he hurried off, dismissing the bench as uninteresting. Uh, I wasn’t looking at that bench. I don’t know what you mean.

When I grew closer, I saw why he was so captivated.

The bench was strewn with books.

Books, perhaps ten, all tattered and well-loved, sitting quietly there. Completely unattended. They might have been patiently waiting for the bus. But it wasn’t a bus stop. It wasn’t anything. It was just a bench. A bench and some books.

And, standing there, I was felt a surge of affection for Monrovia. I love this town. Although I haven’t lived here long, I’m constantly discovering new and beautiful things about it.

The restaurants, cozy, locally owned and incredibly diverse. The cute streets and colorful residents. The street fair every Friday and Family Festivals in the summer. I love getting out of work, inhaling the smell of funnel cakes and barbeque, and lazily beginning my walk home. I love that by the time I get into my room, the ceiling fan is spinning, Beth is home, and the sun is setting out our window.

I run into my neighbors at the bank, at the grocery store, at the little frozen yogurt places. I run into my friends, and my brothers and sisters from church. Sometimes, in the evenings, Justin plays music at Monrovia Coffee Company. And I walk there to see him. Normally, when I get there, the room is already full of people, sipping warm coffees and looking at whatever new artwork is on display. It’s always like they’re waiting for me, somehow.

I mean, I’m sorry to gush like this, but to me Monrovia is the place we all kind of wished we lived. It’s a simple place, full of young people, and interesting people, and history. It’s quiet and lovely, away from the frenzy and paranoia of Los Angeles. It's the kind of town that would have a statue of Mark Twain in front of the public library. It’s the town Upton Sinclair called home, anyway.

So I stood there for another minute, wondering what Monrovia meant by leaving these books here for me to find. I looked around, to see if someone had intentions to come and retrieve these books, but all I saw were a few couples eating breakfast on the curbside café tables in front of The Monrovian. No one paid me any attention at all.

And, well, what would you have done?

I took a book. And no one stopped me. I consider it to be a gift – one of many, many gifts – from Monrovia. My Monrovia.

And it’s called, appropriately enough, “Oh The Glory Of It All.”

Wednesday, March 18, 2009


The older I get the more I wonder if life might really be all about sex.

I’m not sure who said that to me first.  That life is actually all about sex.  I read it somewhere, I think, or heard it in a movie.  Anyway, it’s a catchy idea, you’ve gotta admit.  Life = sex.  It’s got a nice ring to it.

And people certainly do live like that’s true, sometimes.  Let’s take one of my co-workers, for example.  Which one of these, do you think, is his favorite thing to do?

a)      work at the studio

b)      crack

c)      his girlfriend

Well.  Okay, I admit it.

Between B and C, it’s a toss up.

And Oggy?  Well, after trying a long distance relationship for a while, he decided it would be better to date someone locally.  So that’s who he’s sleeping with now.

Not that he bothered to break up with the long distance girlfriend, mind you.

And meanwhile, all I’m doing day after day is researching photographers as potential clients.  And what do you think this research has led me to?

You guessed it.  Lots and lots of pictures of mostly naked people.

Which brings me full circle back to:  life = sex. 

It does, right?  It must!


I have lots of ideas about sex.  What it is, what it isn’t.  What it means, what it doesn’t mean.  I’ve built these ideas from books I’ve read and people I’ve talked to and the handful of things I’ve actually witnessed and experienced.

But what I keep coming back to is that sex, boil it down, probably just satisfies that human desire to be in contact with other humans.  Even if it’s only physical contact. 

And when humans are most open, most intimate, most together…ladies and gentlemen…we call that love.

I’m not naïve enough to believe that sex and love are equitable.  But from where I’m standing, they’re born from the same two things.  Thing one:  the desire not to be alone.

Thing two:  the fear that we might be.

And if you have something to believe in, some reason to believe you’re not alone…then life, for you, is not all about sex.  At least, it doesn’t have to be.

But if you have nothing to believe in, if you’re a man at the mercy of chaos, a figure alone on a distant star in a cold universe…then you will reach out with every part of you to be touched.

And even those of us that do believe in God need that, too, sometimes. 

Monday, March 9, 2009


I see things.

And in case you’re about to be all comforting and reassure me that, it’s okay, everyone sees things, let me say right here exactly what I mean. I see things that aren’t there.

This is, I think, what it must mean to be a writer. We’re the kids that played pretend games all the way through elementary school, all the way through fifth or sixth grade, all the way until some Backstreet-Boy-Wanna-Be decided to start pushing us around. And even that wouldn’t have gotten us to stop if it hadn’t awaked our survival instincts. I mean, really. I blame Darwin. Survival was the reason we stopped.

We stopped and we traded our pretend games for, well, secret pretend games.

It sounds funny, but I’m not kidding. It wasn’t that I ever stopped SEEING The Big Dragon. I just stopped POINTING at The Big Dragon.

Thanks a lot, Chuck.

But now I’m starting to wonder if it really is all in my head.

Like, I look around. And there’s all this drama and meaning. There’s all this story everywhere. I can point to anybody and be like “you did this because of that time in your childhood when you ran through the lawn sprinkler. And, what’s more, you’re bound to run through the lawn sprinkler again!” Or whatever. And I can write it that way and it will make perfect sense.

But some days I wonder if I’m just grasping at the air. I wonder if The Big Dragon really exists at all. Or if he ever existed. I used to see him and I ran. But to everybody else…I was just running. I wanted to believe that my running meant something. But maybe it didn’t. Maybe it really didn’t.

And sometimes, when people hurt us, we feel like there’s a reason. Because in our minds, there was a relationship there. There was a promise there. There was trust and love there.

Trust. Love. Intangible things. But they’re the realest things we know.

So when we hurt, we want to believe that it means something!

But maybe it doesn’t. Maybe it really doesn’t.

I’ve spent my life throwing words at this, throwing flour at the Invisible Man. I feel like if I can just powder him from head to foot, give shape and space to him, then I can prove that he is there!

But sometimes the flour just floats, gently, in a horrible yawning silence, to the floor. There’s nothing for it to cling to.

And sometimes there’s no reason to run, anymore.

Friday, March 6, 2009

In case of THE KGB

My boss is Bulgarian. And 90% of my job is handling him.

When I first met Oggy, he was very off-putting. He shook my hand, very obviously checked me out, and then monosyllabically answered what I thought were incisive, conversation-starting questions.

The second time I met Oggy, he asked me about my boyfriend. I told him my boyfriend lives in Australia. He looked wryly at me and said, “So you don’t have a boyfriend.”

Of course, now I know: that’s just Oggy. He’s incredibly racist, sexist, and wildly inappropriate. He likes to insinuate to clients – clients! – that he and I are sleeping together. He openly hits on every woman we meet. The hotels in Vegas? He says they have too many black people, so he doesn’t like to go there.

He drinks. He throws fits. He can’t keep track of any part of the business and insults his employees. He cusses out telemarketers.

But the really crazy part? I love him.

He’s hilarious and brilliant and colorful. His past – from what I know of it – has been full of great pain. And yet he keeps a sense of humor. As quick-tempered as he is, he’s also quick to forgive. And he’s full of love for his son, his daughter, his new grandson, his on-again-off-again girlfriend, and even his ex-wife. And he would never fire me. Never ever fire me. Only if he couldn’t pay me anymore.

There was one night in Vegas when Oggy and I maybe each had one cocktail too many. So we were striding, laughing uproariously, through the casino in the Golden Nugget. Oggy asked me if I’d seen the tigers in Vegas. Tigers? I said. No.
He held my arm. “They have tigers everywhere here. You should see them, the lions and tigers.”
“And bears?” I said, being witty. “Oh my.”
He didn’t get it. But he did stop the nearest casino attendant. Just a random guy there by the slots. “Where are the bears?” He demanded. “We need to see the Las Vegas bears!”
“We know you have bears!” Oggy said. “Tell us where they are!”
“Maybe in the zoo?” The guy said doubtfully.
“It is her first time in Vegas.” Oggy explained. “She wants to see the bears.”

But then, before waiting for an answer, Oggy steered me on and off we went.

At the elevators, I said I was going to go up and go to bed. “I’m leaving you,” I said.
“Why?” He whimpered.
“Because I don’t love you anymore.” I said.
He nodded sadly. “Already you don’t love me anymore. Okay. But, please, do not take the children!”

I laughed.

When people don’t remember him, Oggy helps them out by saying, “You remember me. I am tall, blue eyes, blond hair, no accent.” Then they laugh.

Then he says, “No, I am only kidding. This is Ognen Borissov. KGB.”

Sunday, March 1, 2009

In case of DOMINO

I am a wild girl.  I claim that.  I own it.

I like to drive about 90 miles an hour, the windows down, racing the James Bond music I’m blaring over the roar of the freeway.  I wink at people as I blow past them. 

I like to wear bright red lipstick, knee high boots, and dark eye makeup.  Like James Dean in Rebel Without A Cause, I have a red leather jacket.  I’d get a tattoo if I could afford it.

When I argue, I can yell.  Really yell.

I love big, cheesy action movies.  LOVE THEM.  I love watching Keanu Reeves try to deliver a serious line – Point Break, Speed, whenever.  I love to see shit blow up.  I even love totally unmotivated sex and violence.  Why not?  What’s not to like?  I’m not noble!

I like to run for the sake of running.  Not running like, I’m gonna go put on my running shoes and exercise.  Not like that.  Running like, I’m gonna run like Lola, in my jeans and sneakers, run until I can’t breathe anymore.  Run like there's something at stake.  I like to climb trees, too.  The higher the better.

And if there’s a dangerous river?  Give me a raft, a little instruction, and I’m in it.  And if there’s a small cavern, full of mud?  Give me a headlamp; I’m gonna crawl through.  And if there’s an expedition to the end of the world?  Sign me up.

And I speak my mind.  I tell the truth.  I’m not polite.  If I have a question, I’ll ask it.  If I see the answer to the problem, I’ll tell the person in charge.  And if he tells me that it’s not the answer?  I’ll tell him he’s wrong.

Show me a locked door to kick down, show me a window to smash open, show me a fight that needs fighting.

I am a wild girl.

Men tell me they’ve never met anyone like me. 

But I think the world is full of wild girls.  I think the world is full of girls like me that didn’t want – NEVER wanted – to quietly play dolls.  And I think that nobody should ask you to, just because you’re female.

I also think nobody should MAKE men like big, cheesy action movies.

I don’t think that the world full of wild girls or weak boys.  I think the world is full of people.  I think that if you want to drive slow, you should drive slow.  If you want to play with dolls, PLEASE, play on.

But if you’re a wild girl?  Be a wild girl.  And don’t apologize.

Holla back!