Tuesday, May 5, 2020




Well into my sixth week of hunkering down, my appreciation for everything and everyone in the outside world has only expanded. I want to write a love letter to staircase handrails, public water fountains, and the the deli department number dispenser. I could throw a parade for popsicle vendors and the counting of coins on an open palm.

The longer I stay in, the more my nostalgic bubble widens, encompassing not only chance encounters with friends at the market, but the ability to stand contemplatively in the cereal aisle. I am wistful for the way our bodies once moved through space with ease and unconscious comfort.

I am so aware now of the physical action of being in the world.

For instance, inside my house, I rarely wear shoes and so my feet have become sensitive to the texture of wood floors, tile, driveway cement, grass. I can feel the need to grab the broom before my eyes even see the evidence of this need.

I am feeling everything.

Some years back, I saw a play called “The Method Gun,” created and performed by RUDE MECHS, the Austin based theater company. It has stayed with me in the way a dream does: images, emotion. On Saturday afternoon, I settled at my desk for a live performance of “The Method Gun,” by the Wesleyan University Theater Department. I’d seen mention of the play on Facebook and, in this time of no-schedule, I made extra effort to mark my calendar. I felt an outsized desperation to be there in the moment, while it was happening.

At first, it was hard to settle. A little sweaty from a late afternoon neighborhood walk, I guzzled water and rolled my neck. My desk was a jumble of papers that called for shifting and inspection. On screen, other watchers were exchanging greetings on the message board. Though I often eavesdrop on these pre-show conversations from my seat in an actual theater, I wasn’t sure how to respond to the open nature of this exchange. Without the boundaries of convention and physical space, the invitation was equally weighted between listening and participation. In the online chat box, there are no side conversations.

“The Method Gun,” centers around a theater company dedicated to indefinite rehearsal despite the disappearance of their leader and the absence of a performance date.

In the Wesleyan production, a group of college students under the compassionate and dedicated direction of Katie Pearl, found a way to create something meaningful despite a pandemic.

The play is about the value of an ensemble without a leader; it’s about the merit of a piece of work (in this case, “A Streetcar Named Desire,”) without its main characters.

What (or who) is missing? How can we fill the void?
These are the questions of my (our) days.

On the home front with my husband and our two teens, we have become our own theater company. We are taking on all the roles. We are stretching in some ways and shrinking in others. My son has been folding laundry. My daughter has learned to cook. We all clean the house, care for the dogs, and take turns playing curator for an ongoing family film festival. Though we find our own corners in the house, our awareness of each other is heightened.

At my neighborhood Trader Joe’s, spray painted lines separate us in the parking lot as we wait for our disinfected cart. Inside the store, brightly colored directional arrows mark routes throughout the store. Small, squares of blue gaffer’s tape indicate where I should stand at the checkout counter. Signs everywhere ask us to be aware, to keep our distance. It’s still confusing. No one has had enough rehearsal. This new choreography has not yet settled into our muscles.

The actors in The Method Gun started their rehearsals in a theatre. They stood next to each other. In the same room. 

In the nine small squares of Zoom, the actors led their audience through “Paperboy into Flower seller.” The paperboy was center square. We were paperboy POV, responding to Blanche, though we didn’t hear her lines. We saw her actions. Her hands. Her mouth. Her gestures, unfurled around the paperboy like flowers as eight pairs of hands reached for a cigarette, (inhalation, exhalation,) reached to touch. Lips moved in for a kiss. The paperboy, his eyes closed. Me, at home, eyes open. The screen went black. This moment of physical intimacy was (is) impossible to witness.

At Zoom meetings, I sit at my quiet desk, while other mothers lean over kitchen counters, their faces bobbing in and out of frame as they tend to their children, chop vegetables or shout direction to unseen others. Dogs and cats often make guest appearances. Once there was a guinea pig. My own daughter sometimes hands me a bowl of noodles or fruit or cereal through the door of my small office and I reach off screen to accept her offering.

Toward the end of the play, everyone started to break down. Someone shouted.
The approach is bullshit. Everything we’ve done is nothing.

Once every few days we feel the same way. This lock down. These guidelines. The careful structure of our days. The way, no matter how much we sweep, the dust and dog hair continues to gather on the floor.

In “The Method Gun,” the company performs Streetcar as a stunning series of near misses. The staged version involved bodies moving around the stage amidst swinging lanterns. I remember sitting in the theater next to my friend. I remember how the rhythm of the scene (the sound of a metronome) began to inhabit my body.

Is my heart beating? Are my lungs taking in air? Did my fingers brush the fingers of the cashier at the market? A door knob. An envelope. A light switch. A stair rail.

My office is just off the kitchen. My husband was beginning dinner preparations. He was talking to me from the stove. His back was to me. He didn’t realize I was crying. I was sitting at my desk watching these young actors on the screen of my computer. The sky outside was glowing with the last of the day’s sun.

The next part of the play is as much for us as it is for you.

Arm around Steve. Arm around Pablo. Run down the rake. High-five Steve. Near miss. Give Steve a hug. Break away. Near miss.

Maybe it was the young faces of the actors, so close to the age of my own children who, over these two months have grown in ways I can see (over an inch in height) and in other ways I can only intuit. Maybe it was the audience member who typed, as Blanche was taken away, about the experience of the first responders. Maybe it was the gesture of hands reaching across the darkness. Maybe I needed a good cry.

We are being asked to contemplate the space taken up by our bodies in the world. We are being asked to think about the relationship of our bodies to other bodies. In these times, what constitutes the kindness of strangers?

I was in my seat for this performance. I was surrounded by theater goers. And I was so grateful to be there.


You can watch The Wesleyan Theatre Department Production of "The Method Gun," here.

Thursday, April 9, 2020



It’s a rainy Thursday and I’ve been trying hard to get back to serious work on my Big Project, but I’ve been procrastinating by doing a little bit of work on a dozen tiny projects. I transcribed about five minutes of an interview. I wrote a couple of emails and answered a couple more. I made a list of things I might want to write about when (and if) my brain ever stops floating and flitting like a gnat and starts, instead, to trot again like a good and sturdy horse.  

Shit. I have been so sad this week. And so angry. And so frustrated. I haven’t wanted to sit down or to stand up. I have a tummy ache and a back ache and a head ache and I feel like I’ve been piped full of cement. Except when I feel like I’m paper thin and drifting away.

Two days ago, as I drove down Los Feliz Boulevard, I saw a woman selling masks from a plastic bag. A little while later, over in Pasadena, a man paced between the cars stopped at the light just off Lake. He held up masks in one gloved hand. This morning, I read a newspaper article about a tenth grader who was helping his mother sell masks so that they could make ends meet. Five dollars at a time. And the ends so far apart.

I’m so fucking fortunate to be in my house, at my desk, trying to come up with something cheerful to say.

Earlier, I wrote a few lines about some things that made me happy this week.

The hot water bottle. The filling of the thing gives me reason to stand alert over the kettle. Constant vigilance is necessary. The water should be hot, but not boiling. When the water is just right, the surface looks a little bit marbled and the kettle breathes deeply, but is nowhere near ready to whistle.

Acrylic Paint. Even the old, slightly sticky tubes I found in the craft cabinet. My husband and I took an online painting class taught by an artist in Albuquerque. Together we contemplated some tangerines piled against a gray background. We were given twenty minutes to see the shape of the tangerines. We dipped our brushes in brown paint and drew rough outlines of the fruit. They weren’t round. Some of them turned out to be square. The one at the bottom was dented as if by a heavy thumb.

Bagels. They arrived warm from the bakery, delivered to our doorstep by a dear neighbor. She and I shouted our greetings and gratitude from a distance and then I called my family and we all stood in the kitchen and my husband cut the bagels with a big, serrated knife and we toasted them and slathered them with cream cheese or vegan butter and ate them standing there together without worrying too much about the spill of sesame seeds.

I am trying to make some sense of things and it feels impossible. 

I remember asking my Dad what it meant to have a hole in your arm where all the money goes and he sat down and carefully told me about Vietnam and heroin and addiction. He explained that I was a "little pitcher" and that my big ears were good listening ears. 

Among all those lost this week, one soul was John Prine. I saw him play last year at the Ford Amphitheater. I arrived early and sat in the empty space, watching while it slowly filled with people. The sky was dark and the air was cool. I got to talking to the people beside me and we got to talking to the guy in front of us and the people behind us and we laughed together like old friends. That's the kind of warmhearted gathering it was. 

I'm really longing to be in the world; to be surrounded by people. 

I didn't buy a mask from any of those people selling them on the street, but I did reach out to give some cash to a very elderly man with a cardboard sign, and, when our fingers -- his gloved and mine bare - grazed, I tried hard not to flinch.



Sunday, April 5, 2020

Green Chile Cheeseburgers

This morning, my mom sent me a photo of some pot holders she was going to turn into masks. I told her I’d sew her a mask and drop it in the mail. She taught me to sew and while I don’t do it enough to be very good at it and it always takes me about fifteen tries before I remember how to thread the thing or how to fill the bobbin or how to adjust stitch length, I can usually make something simple and reasonably tidy. It’s busy work and brain work and I am in sore need of both.

My dad would’ve been 80 years old today. He’s been gone nearly 18 years and we still talk about him and think about him and it’s like he’s here and not here. As is our habit, we are having green chile cheeseburgers for dinner. I thawed some meat and some Beyond meat for the vegan in the family and I defrosted some green chile that I keep in little cubes in the bottom of the freezer.


Green chile was one of the few items I bought at the grocery store a few weeks ago when I didn’t realize what was really happening. Everyone was filling their carts in slow, polite motion. Everyone looked a little worried, but their eyes held not a strategic gleam nor outright panic. We were all toddlers that day. Curious, clueless, trying to base our actions on the models around us.

I didn’t want to be too alarmist so I bought some kale and some spinach and some milk, a small bag of flour and, at the last minute, and just because I happened to see them, three cans of Hatch chile. Now I long for that day. When I could have casually added baking soda and wheat flour and strawberry jam. I might have looked for tinfoil or rubber gloves and things to make Easter baskets for the kids.

We’re living in a paved paradise now. Every day thinking about what we had and what is gone. Trying to make do and get through.

I sewed four masks today – three for a friend of mine and her dear daughter, and one extra for my own dear daughter who is keeping sane by walking up and down our block or sitting on a beach towel in the drive way. Today she made some tomato soup from a recipe she found on TikTok. She made a date shake. She took some selfies and tied her long, thick hair in a knot.

My son is waging a D&D campaign with his friends on the computer. Later, he plans to watch a movie with a bunch of other people on the computer. He lives in his pajamas. He eats toast and gives me bear hugs and leaves his cereal bowls in stacks on his desk.

Eighteen years ago, my dad was alive and my son was floating in my womb and I felt as out of control and as in control as I’ll ever be. Change was rattling the windows and shaking the walls.

My husband mentioned how present my Dad still feels. “The kids know him,” he said. “He’s like… around.”

I think he’s around because we ask him to be around. We conjure him with stories and with devotion to the objects he’s made. We delight in the things that he found delightful. In Albuquerque, my brother threw some burgers on the grill for lunch. Up in the mountains, my stepmother and her neighbors have gathered as close as they can to do the same. In Morocco, our friend Autumn is eating a green chile burger. Dad is nowhere and everywhere.

Dad was the king of keeping himself amused. There was not a restaurant placemat that didn’t turn into a sketchpad, not a stick of wood that couldn’t become a face or an animal or a mermaid with outstretched arms. He turned the newspaper into magical, growing eucalyptus trees and refrigerator leftovers into both dinner (Smosnane Moosenose – a favorite with Klondike Prospectors) and fodder for bedtime stories.

Tonight, green chile cheeseburgers, Bob Dylan on the stereo, beer in a glass. A toast to my Dad and a toast to all of us, keeping on, holding the talismans, creating the rituals, telling the stories.

Friday, April 3, 2020

Postcard Roadtrip

I’ve been looking at the news approximately every four seconds, but sometimes I just look at it. I feel my eyes grow big as beach balls and let them kind of bounce softly against the words, but not really stay in one place.

Isn’t it incredible to think about a beach ball traveling through a stadium or concert venue? Doesn’t it feel a little bit like a poem when you imagine those fingers reaching up to give that bright orb a gentle nudge? I could honestly cry for the beauty of a cheap, plastic inflatable and the willingness of strangers to work together, finger print by finger print to move the thing through the air.

I am missing so many things.

I was walking through the neighborhood past all the shuttered businesses. I was reading all the handwritten notes tacked to darkened doors and shuttered windows. Everywhere was a reminder of something I’d forgotten to miss: the shared bowl of wrapped candy on the counter at the Vietnamese restaurant, the public telephone, the slightly sunken wing back chairs in the bar at the Tam O’Shanter restaurant. I miss using my hand to summon a walk signal.


Stuck inside my house and wondering about the world, I came across a stack of old postcards. They’d been part of a bulk box I’d ordered on eBay. I’d sent all the innocuous kittens and flowers and landscapes, along with notes of encouragement, to voters in my own state and in many other states across the country. But it felt odd to send vintage hotel and motel photos. It didn’t feel right to send aerial shots of beaches and golf courses or muddy photos of unfamiliar landmarks. I’d kept the postcards anyway. In case.


Today, these postcards provided an activity and a destination. I picked a few, turned them over and wrote the first thing that came to mind. And then I mailed them.


If I am to believe the blurb on the reverse of this one, The Marott (aka Queen of Indiana Hotels) boasts 500 luxurious guest rooms and two suites. Three Dining Rooms. Two Cocktail Lounges. There is banquet seating enough for 500 guests.

I want to bounce on the beds in each room. I want to check my lipstick in a wide mirrored vanity and twist the cap off a tiny bottle of shampoo. I want to hold the soft rectangle of wrapped miniature soap in the palm of my hand and inhale the chalky floral scent.  In the cocktail lounge at The Marott (Queen of Indiana Hotels,) I will slide into a leather banquette, rest my elbows on the table and look up at the waiter as he deals out cardboard coasters like cards. Order a Roy Rogers, a Shirley Temple, a Jack and Ginger in a bucket. Get whatever you want. It’s on me.

Oh, won’t you join me, when this is all over, for a banquet at The Marott? Or for brunch at Lehr’s Greenhouse? Or perhaps we could pick up a hammer and join in the barn raising.

Sunday, March 29, 2020

I know what I know.


Last night, while I was making dinner, I used a salad spinner that I bought at the 99Cent Store in Silver Lake back in 1992.




While I was making the salad, we were listen to Paul Simon’s Graceland. The album had been mentioned in an LA Times article featuring albums to listen to during this time of hunkering down. My husband is trying to find some structure. Reading the newspaper and taking part in all the offerings of communal engagement is one way to do that.

Graceland makes me think of my freshman year of college when a dear friend sent me the cassette and I listened to it approximately one million times. When I listened to Paul Simon’s sweet voice last night, I marveled at his magnificent metaphors and wept a little as I stirred the risotto. My own son will be a college freshman in the fall. How is this possible?

It is possible because time passes and that is one thing we know.

I’ve been keeping track of the things I know and using them as anchors or stepping stones. Or maybe a better metaphor is the planks in a swaying, decrepit suspension bridge. I’m not looking down at the chasm. I’m keeping my eyes up and I’m putting my feet down on the the known when I can.

Here’s what I know right now: last night, my son did the supper dishes while Prince sang “Let’s go Crazy.”

Yes. Let’s. (But just a little.) Because here’s what I also know: there is milk and cereal for breakfast. There is bread and butter for toast. My dog is out of his skin with joy when I pull the leash from the closet even if a few moments later, he’s dragging his feet on the trail. He’s willing and reluctant and so am I in so many ways.

I know my boy will go to college. One of these as yet unvisited, untested places will be a vessel to hold my kid, a petri dish of experimentation and growth and magical transformation.

And if it’s not. Perhaps, later, when he leaves the dorm and strikes out on his own and he moves into a place that seems a little run down, but the landlord says it’s okay to paint the wood floor and it’s okay to have a cat and it’s okay to leave the windows open all night, then this is where he’ll start to grow.

Or, maybe, (and this is where I get all hopeful,) he’s growing now.

My daughter has used this time to transform her bedroom from the space of a kid to the space of a young woman. (She will be so grossed out by that sentence when/if she reads it and that’s okay with me.) She’s painted white over the pale blue of six years ago, and, yesterday, I helped cram a menagerie of stuffed animals into an oversized, black plastic bag. Though I have a strange aversion to plush, and have been trying (with little success) for years to limit the collection of stuffed animals, it was hard to press the flat of my hand over these cheery familiar faces. I looked away from their bright plastic eyes and let this collection of childhood friends become one cumbersome body that we lugged down the stairs and crammed into a bin in the garage. I sat on the bin to get the lid to close.

I saved two old friends. A squirrel named Squirrel and a bedraggled tarsier named Little Freak. Liberated from the anonymity of the pre-school toy box, Squirrel lived a flamboyant life in my daughter’s company. His companion, Little Freak was given numerous hairstyles and was loved into a grubby, matted nub. Did I save them because they were the most eccentric of the animals? Because their diminutive stature reminds me that my towering daughter once had the smallest of hands? Was it the curious light in Squirrel’s button eyes or the windblown ear-hair of Little Freak?

I can’t know.




Tuesday, March 24, 2020

Washing hands

"I've never in my life read so many articles about hand washing," my husband says.

He's already reminded me to watch my pace. And I've reminded him to get the spots under his wedding band.

"Ah," he says, "Another peril of marriage."

He bumps my hip with his.

Our soap smalls like basil or maybe parsley or cranberry or jasmine or lavender. In every room, in a dish, or pumped from a bottle, the manufactured smells of out of doors.






In the actual out of doors, nature cranks up Spring.

Mock orange, eucalyptus, mown grass and, last night, like a breath blown all the way from my 1970s childhood: fluid and hamburgers and cigarette smoke.
These communal smells conjured forbidden gestures.
Licked fingers.
The sharing of lit tobacco from lip to lip.
Unwashed hands brushing.

Monday, March 23, 2020

All we can do.


A few days ago, I thought, hey, I’m going to start blogging again. And I did. One time.

But there are so many hours in the day, you say. And to that I say yes. I’ve been filling these hours with walking and writing and cooking and reading and sitting on the sofa and watching television. I’ve given up asking the dogs not to sit on the sofa and they are so happy. I’ve done a bunch of laundry and wiped down all high-touch surfaces. I am doing these things and, I imagine, you are doing these things, too. And for all of us, the days have stretched and merged.



Yesterday morning, I was sitting on my sofa with the morning papers (2 on Sunday) and I was also checking my phone every five seconds and I posted a picture of my first walk of the day and also a beautiful poem by the amazing and necessary Jane Hirshfield, whose new book, “Ledger,” has just come out. You can read a review of the book here.  You can read the gorgeous poem itself, here.


When I posed the question “What going on for you?” people answered with descriptions of meal preparation and toddler meditation. I read about virtual baby showers and the pulling of weeds. Friends spent their day working on getting out the vote and thinking of things to do with an excess of Swiss chard. Songs were being sung, television was being watched, books were being read.



My husband has nearly finished the second of two 1000-piece jigsaw puzzles. My daughter learned the moves to a new tik-tok dance. My son has built a cathedral in MineCraft. I have baked a vegan bread pudding that delighted even my most carnivorous family member.

We are all doing so much.

We are doing all we can do to get through this.




Tuesday, March 17, 2020

Thoughts of HOME


The last time I went to a theater, COVID-19 was in the news, but at this point, (just under two weeks ago,) it was still possible to step out of a cool evening into the warmth of a crowded and well lit lobby and not feel overwhelmed by thoughts of the virus.

We saw Geoff Sobelle’s “Home,” a performance that nearly defies description. Prior to attending an event, my husband will sometimes ask, “Is it a play? Or a piece?” He needs to know what he’s getting into. He needs time to prepare. “Home” was a little of both.

We sat together in the dark and watched the magic unfold. A door opened. A wall was built. A bed appeared. It’s hard to describe this show without ruining it. I don’t want to ruin it because it feels like an expression of faith to imagine that you might, one day, buy a ticket and take your seat amidst friends and strangers in a quiet space. It is an optimistic assumption that you will have a chance to see this show and experience it for yourself.

As a high school student, I considered the theater my home. That space was so critical to my identity that, even with the burden of three decades on my shoulders, I could still sit at a table with my eyes closed and draw for you a map of the Performing Arts Center at Manzano High School in Albuquerque, New Mexico. I imagine my pen travelling from the last row in the house to the tiny dressing rooms just off stage right. The front of the stage was high enough to encourage sitting with dangled legs. The curtains were heavy and velvet. The scuffed sound tiles around the house phone, just off stage left, where I leaned my shoulder and pressed the receiver into my ear, is where I heard my stepmother read aloud the words of my college acceptance letter.

Geoff Sobelle asked us to consider the definition of home. He asks us to imagine the life of a house. What happened before you lived in your house? What will happen after? He showed us the daily rituals that, year after year, create a union of continuity among the residents.

The virus asks me to stay in my house. At home, we practice rituals of social distancing, while continuing to perform the rituals of ordinary life. The rest of the world is distant, but sometimes it feels that we are on top of each other. Every day my husband and our two teens create our own performance. We make schedules, prepare food. We try to work and study. We walk the empty streets of the neighborhood or we run on the treadmill in our garage. At meals, we laugh a lot. We sit at the table together for longer than we have in some time. We let ourselves be held by the order of placemats and forks and knives.

My son is waiting to hear from colleges. The end of his senior year of high school is being held on line. A few days ago, he showed me the Minecraft model he was building of the sanctuary where his graduation would be held. “The CDC is limiting gatherings,” he said. “Just in case we need to go virtual…” He showed me the rows of empty seats, and the arches and doorways. He walked me through the space and I marveled at the way the light streamed through the stained glass. “I wanted to put the sun where the light would stream right through the big windows,” he told me.    

There was a graduation in Geoff Sobelle’s “Home.” A member of the audience played the role in cap and gown. Other audience members were given a bridal veil, a baby, a funeral. The rituals of our lives take place when and where they can. They bloom out from our homes like scarves pulled from a magician’s sleeve and then, in times like this (have we ever had times like this?), fold back into the most familiar of places.

Today I took a pencil and wrote on a piece of paper: Breakfast. Walk. Be creative. Lunch. More work. Read. Prepare dinner. Rest.