New York, New York, Big City of Dreams

Posted by – November 17, 2010

So, you know what I suck at? Updating this blog.

My life is busy these days. Good busy. I’m in love and I’m happy. Not that I’m going to expand upon that, because covering my love life in detail on this blog has done nothing but bring me stress. Not from any of its regular readers, but from my boyfriends’ ex-girlfriends who find this blog and bring wrath upon all. So we’ll leave it at that.

I’m finding my way, work-wise. A lot of what I’m doing is fairly hush-hush, but I just got back from New York, where I got to meet with some very inspiring and talented role models (who also happen to be clients!) and, for the first time in awhile, I enjoyed my stay in NYC. The city felt vibrant and bursting and full of opportunity, like it felt when I first saw it, in a way that it hasn’t for me in years. I met women who reminded me of what is possible for me to achieve, and women who graciously reminded me that, no matter how famous or beautiful or loving or successful you are, you are still allowed to be vulnerable, to have imperfections and insecurities.

I find, again and again, that if I stay humble and bust my butt to do a kickass job at whatever I’m doing, opportunities find me. I am always taken care of.

On Sunday night, my friend texted me an address. “Meet me here,” she said. “It’s something with pianos.” I didn’t know what the hell that meant, but I wanted to see her, so I hopped in a cab. It was a group of mostly musical theater students, in the basement of a bar in NoHo, belting out showtunes with live accompaniment. It was magical. If such a thing happens regularly in Seattle, I haven’t heard about it and would like to be invited. New York City is magical like this. Your plane lands, and no one can predict what will happen next. Below, find my rendition of “Castle on a Cloud.”

For perspective, here is Glee’s Lea Michele singing the same song on Sally as a child. I got way more laughs.

Dirty Little Freaks

Posted by – November 5, 2010

I’m currently obsessed with that P!nk song, “Raise Your Glass.” I don’t know why. It’s brilliant. When I’m in my car, I blast it, and I downloaded it from iTunes so I can listen to it all the time. There’s something very, very honest about it. I think that’s what’s always been so appealing about P!nk. She’s so fucked up. But she owns it. And isn’t that what we all want to do with our fucked-upedness? Just to own it? Just to accept the nightmare and then to tell others about it as if it were a thing of beauty?

I’m in a strange space.

A friend took me to a screening of 127 Hours tonight. Great film. I guess. I so desperately wanted a break, a pan-away to Aron Ralston’s family, wringing their hands and wondering where their son is. It’s so hard to watch James Franco the whole time. No one wants to sit in that. But when it happened — when he finally freed himself — I just kept thinking that we only stumble upon the knowledge of how to make the hard decisions when they are upon us. When the pain becomes too great. When it’s do or die. When you are between a rock and a hard place and your lips are chapped and your heart is racing and your limbs are decaying and you have spent so much fucking time obsessing on what you should have, what you would have, done differently that your extremities are reduced to cellulose and gas and it’s racing toward your heart, toward your lungs and to your gut, and there is nothing left to do, nothing left in your carefully constructed artillery but the fuel to breathe it out, slowly and methodically, and to know, know in the deepest veins, what comes next. To jump and to cut and to free fall and to trust. To trust.

There is joy only in calling it.

I haven’t started on #nanowrimo yet. This is in large part because I suck, and also because I know what I want to write about but I don’t know enough to write about it. I’m looking for the right PhD program. For all the years I spent swearing that I would never go back to school, when I circle back around to my future, I keep visualizing myself in a pit of academia. Jesus God. But what I am good at — second to language — is learning. My parents spent years and countless dollars teaching me to love to learn, and at 28 I realize that I don’t know how to do anything else half as well. The problem with loving to learn, with being syntactically driven to bat about ideas like pinatas in a classroom, is that nothing ever settles. The world becomes an ever-swaying ninja, this thing that will never really exist but will always be somehow in front of you, taunting just beyond the blindfold. Everything becomes somehow improbable, improvable. Literal. The world becomes a chord progression that never settles. Never resolves itself. Never pays off.

Academia never quite orgasms.

I’m obsessed, also, with Big History, historian David Christian’s days-long lecture series about the macro-history of humanity. I listen to the language segments over and over again. I am obsessed with language, with its rhythm and with its potential and with its history. With this uniquely human capacity to share ideas, to wedge concepts into clicks, to build a God in these grunts. With everything we pull from syllables. With the way we learned this, together and facing one another; with the music of all of it. I am fascinated with the way it strikes us, this upper-cut that bleeds. This water that comes in waves, that sustains and bonds us, that divides a pool of dirty little freaks.

I never worry about this planet. Environmentalism bores me — an ego homestead that can pitch a tent without my help. This planet will evolve, will march at its own pace, will never be outsmarted by us. We will never be anything but loud.

Here

Posted by – November 4, 2010

You know, you write a blog. You figure nobody reads it. You back away for awhile, because life is picking up speed, life is stabilizing, life is hovering just above the ground and balanced perfectly and you don’t want anything to disturb it, you don’t want even a sparrow’s flap of the wings in Taos to result in even the slightest wind to the side of your life, because everything is hovering just so nicely. And no one reads it anyway. And you haven’t had much of an Internet presence in the past few months — and you’ve done that on purpose, really, because you have a life now that you’re invested in, that you want to build with sturdy roots, but that life is fragile and precious and you’re worried that perhaps it cannot survive the Internet. Because nothing else has before it, not in your experience. You want this so badly. You want it to survive. You assume you are growing up. You assume no one notices, that you can and will fade away quietly into a life you always wanted but never imagined, a life far away from the public gawking you aspired to inspire years ago.

And then a reader reaches out — a reader you’d never heard of before, never met — to let you know that she’s reading. That she loves your blog. That she admires you.

And you remember that none of this existed in a bubble. It felt like a bubble, it became steamy and claustrophobic and putrid like life would, you assume, eventually, in a bubble, but it was not a bubble. People were reading. People cared. Even when you didn’t care, people cared.

And you love to write. And “love” seems like a misnomer for what you do with writing. You need to write. You are lost without it. It is the process through which you communicate with something that fills you with joy and with hope and with pride. It is your voice. The voice, perhaps, is the medium, the medium through which you can communicate with something so much broader than yourself.

You love to write more than anything else in the world and at this point, at this crossroads, as this bubble is bursting, is soaping up the floor around it and you’re wet and, you assume, about to get very itchy, the only thing you can think about is that you want to write. That you need to write. That the only way out of any of this is going to be to write. To write as you, to write the truth, to shut out the world and the rules and to write. That is the thing you do best in this world and it is the only thing, really, that gives you joy and pride. The world can take everything away from you, can take anything away from you, and you can still write like this. And you’ve missed it so dearly.

I am back. And I thank you.

I will start writing my #nanowrimo work right here, on this blog, beginning tomorrow. I will need to write approximately 2000 words a day to finish my 50,000 word novel by the end of the month. I don’t have a plot or characters. Or a location or a time or anything at all. But they’re going to play out here, in front of you, every fucking day. Because, damn it all, I am here on this planet to write. And so I will.

Suggestions are welcome in the comments.

And thank you, thank you immensely, to the reader whose tweet, today, reminded me of what I love to do.

L’Chaim!

Posted by – October 10, 2010

Recently, I’ve had more than one person in Seattle comment “Oh, I didn’t know you were back,” when they see me. “Your blog says you’re still in Arizona.”

I’ve been horrible about updating here, I know. I’ve been swamped. Days and nights. It’s a good thing, but I do miss checking in on here.

I’m in Chicago now. I met my mom, sister and grandfather here for a family wedding. The bride was — um — I think she’s my second cousin. She’s my grandfather’s sister’s daughter’s daughter. So she’s my Mom’s cousin’s daughter. Is that a second cousin? I don’t know.

I have a LOT of cousins in Chicago. I have about 60 first cousins on my father’s side, and most of them live in Chicago. I also have about 30 second cousins on my mother’s side — half on my maternal grandmother’s side and half on my maternal grandfather’s side. When we visited Chicago when I was young — which was often — we spent time with my first cousins and with the second cousins on my maternal grandmother’s side. I hardly ever saw these cousins, the ones I saw tonight. My grandfather asked specifically that we come to Chicago for this wedding. It meant a lot to him for my sister and I to have the opportunity to bond with the family on his side. And I’m so, so glad I came.

I wish I’d had the opportunity to get to know these cousins better growing up. They’re gorgeous and talented and kind and a lot of fun to hang out with. Most of them were raised in the Orthodox or Hassidic Jewish faith, and they speak Hebrew better than my rabbi back home (many of them have an Israeli parent and/or have lived in Israel). The girls have to cover their elbows and knees, but I swear the dresses they had on were sexier than anything my sister and I were wearing. They were such beautifully constructed gowns, very modern and appealing, leaving everything to the imagination. I need to dress like that more often. Because they have awesome hottie husbands who are completely devoted to them, and somehow my tank tops and mini-skirts just aren’t pulling in that kind of man. I’ve been going about this all wrong. My cousin says she has an girlfriend in Seattle who might know some quality Jewish men. She’s going to put in some phone calls. I’m psyched. Because when I met her husband, he introduced himself as “the man who was lucky enough to marry” her. Um. I need a man like that.

My great-uncle — the bride’s grandfather — is a Holocaust survivor. He spent three years at Auschwitz before escaping to the forest during a death march. He convinced a Polish couple he was a Christian and they let him stay in his barn. When he arrived at Auschwitz on the train, his 12-year-old sister was with him. She was immediately killed.

It took him many, many years to speak about any of it, but in the past few years he’s started visiting Jewish schools and temples to tell his stories, and he’s begun writing them down. I spoke with him last night about some of it, and I was completely glued. I didn’t want to leave and he didn’t want to stop talking. I won’t get into details here — I don’t think he’d appreciate that — but I hope one day his stories are published and I can post a link to them. It’s so rare to talk to someone who’s actually lived through that horror, to hear about the very darkest side of humanity from someone who’s witnessed and survived it. He still has the tattoo. It reminds me why I’m so proud to be Jewish, to belong to a tribe of survivors.

I leave Chicago tomorrow, and it’s off to Arizona for a week. Then I’m back in Seattle — for at least a couple weeks. :)

Spark

Posted by – September 19, 2010

There is a mystic element in this day. We sense it somehow within the consciousness that dwells in the Jewish soul. In the beginning, God created light. This was the light of the first day of creation. And its intensity, as it emanated from God, was so great, and its volume so vast, that there was no room for any level of creation. So God created vessels to contain the light, and filled each vessel until the light was fully hidden. Then the work of creation continued.

But just before the creation of human beings, the vessels which held the light could no longer do so, for the light was beyond strength. And the vessels shattered together with the light, which broke into an infinite number of sparks, showering the earth.

It is humanity’s task to gather the sparks together. So we strive to rebuild the factured light, spark by spark, until it is whole again. That will be the day of perfection. That is the day for which we live, struggle, pray and work for each and every Jewish moment.

To do one mitzva is to collect one spark. To do another is to join the first to the second, yet another will bring together three. If two do mitzvot, the quantity of sparks gathered together will double, and soon they will begin to see, very dimly, the light.

And so it goes, day by day, with the hope that, some day, the fragmented light will be repaired and, whole again, it will fill the world with the radiance of God.

This was one of the readings at the afternoon Yom Kippur service today. I hardly ever go to afternoon services on Yom Kippur — we went today so that we could do “yizkor,” the evening memorial service, for Ellie — so I don’t think I’d ever heard this reading before. It struck me as something so intensely beautiful.

A “mitzva” is a good deed. The plural is “mitzvot.” Yom Kippur means “day of atonement,” and I’d always regarded it as the day I have to show up and say a bunch of prayers so that my sins are cleared for the year. I never miss Yom Kippur. I always show up for the morning service, where we do the “vidui,” which is basically where you recite a list of a million different sins and ask forgiveness for all of them, one at a time, in English and then in Hebrew.

This year, since I’m in Arizona and an adult, I went to kol nidre, the evening service held the night Yom Kippur begins, and the afternoon service. (And then the memorial service, and then the closing service after that. I put in like a good nine hours of Jewiness, you guys.)

In listening to all the parts of the service I’d never heard before, I started to get a different sense of the holiday, a quality beyond just atonement. It is about atonement, certainly, but in between the atonement is a WHOLE lot of Hebrew about how we should behave in the world. How we should practice tolerance with all, and treat everyone with fairness and as equals. A whole lot of remembering how the Jews were persecuted through the ages, how they were the minority, often a hated minority — the Torah service references persecution in the days of ancient Egypt, but of course it’s not hard to think of more current examples — and how we’ve got no business today turning our noses at those who are persecuted today. There’s a lot of stuff in there — stuff that was written thousands of years ago — about how God loves all his people, even those who disobey, defy or denounce Him, and so we’ve got no right not to love them too, not to treat them exactly as we ourselves would like to be treated.

There’s a lot of stuff about the distribution of wealth in the world, about how some people are so rich while others are so poor, how there can be no true peace until the earth’s resources are shared equally.

It was good for me. It really got me thinking about the choices I make in my life. I’m generally a kind and honest person, I rarely lose my temper, and I’m quick to take responsibility for my mistakes. I donate to charity, sure. But do I really give as much of my time and my money to helping those less fortunate as I could? Definitely not. And the Torah says there won’t be peace until everyone can make this their primary goal in life. And I think the Torah’s probably right on that.

My best friend, who’s also Jewish, and who grew up with all the same privilege and resources as I did, was let go a few months ago from her fancy schmancy job in real estate. After taking a couple weeks to figure out what to do next, pondering graduate school, another real estate job, etc, she packed up all her things and drove to New Orleans to work with Americorps on the rebuilding effort out there. She spends her days in a Tyvek suit scraping lead off buildings in 100 degree heat. She now makes $11,000 a year and qualifies for food stamps.

I called her yesterday to wish her a happy Yom Kippur. She’d just signed on for another few months with Americorps. “I like what I do every day,” she said. “I’m just another worker. I’m not in charge of anything. I just get up every day and do something that helps people. I’m happier than I’ve been in a long time.”

Maybe there’s something to be said for the wisdom of a 3,000-year-old document, written even before the Internet.

(The Hebrew, because I think it’s beautiful, too, is below. Click on it a couple of times to see the full-size version.)

hebrew

Whirlwind

Posted by – September 16, 2010

I’m in Arizona again. I was going to keep this fact a secret, to hole up at my mother’s house and sunbathe and get caught up on work without feeling obligated to make time for my AZ friends, but I’m bad at secrets. So I just emailed them all and was like “Hey. I’m here. I’m not going to see you. Or anyone. Still love you. That’s all.” I’m happy that I’ll be here for Yom Kippur, and that I’m getting the opportunity to plow through my devastating workload without distractions.

It’s phenomenal how much I can get done with the following things:

1) Ready availability of food, shopped for and prepared by my mother

2) A living space that is always magically clean and smells lovely without any effort on my part

3) Another person to walk and play with Leo

4) Someone small who I can always pick on to feel better about myself when I feel bad (my mother)

5) Someone who knows me better than anyone on the planet to offer loving advice and encouragement when I feel bad, despite how relentlessly I may have picked on her an hour ago (also my mother)

6) Regular visits to Crossfit, where I spend way too much time trying not to puke to worry about my workload.

7) The desert. The jagged, rising mountains, shadows against the sunset and and the gravel. The cacti. These landscapes I found so abhorrent and dull as a child now bring me peace.

8) The Arizona sun, the kind of sun that emits beams of light that hit you with such clarity that you remember that you are one of them, that you are a beam of light, that you are a part of something much greater than the confines of your body and your distorted mind, that you are safe. That you are loved. That you are loved and protected by this greater thing, this thing with this warmth, this warmth that lands on your skin like an old friend, this thing that is here to remind you that you are not alone.

And without the following things:

1) Regular access to television.

2) Work events at which I feel I must appear

3) Social events at which I feel I must appear

4) 8,000 live-in animals who expect always to be fed and attended to

5) The stillness of the air in my apartment of Seattle, the lingering of failures past, the thickness of it all, the suffocating stench of career, relationship, personal corpses, the whirlwind that traps and immobilizes me. I used to feel this way about my mother’s house. I couldn’t be here. There were too many ghosts here. There were years and years that I couldn’t spend the night here. Those days are gone. Today this house is comforting. Today those ghosts live with me in Seattle. The ghosts, you  see, moved with me. More specifically: The ghosts are created by me. I create the ghosts, the spectres that haunt and stifle me. I don’t know how I create them and I don’t know how to stop and I don’t know how to make them go away once they’re here.

It’s good here right now. I’m getting a lot done. I’m processing a lot. I get all my sins forgiven on Saturday. I would move back to Arizona but I don’t want to let the ghosts get their hands on this place. It’s so nice.

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