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Thursday, February 26, 2015

Mom

My brother called me this morning. He said mom wasn't able to swallow anything yesterday and we have to make some decisions. He wanted to know what was my sense of what she would want. We both agreed that she would not want extreme interventions. And that she is ready. So they'll just keep offering her food and liquids and let her decide. Apparently she ate porridge quite well this morning. She even seemed hungry after yesterday. Now she is sleeping again.


Life is heartbreakingly short, and we don't realize it till the end. Perhaps that is a grace.




Monday, February 23, 2015

The shade blue


I love the blue of the wall in that photo. It reminds me of the sea.

I took myself to the movies yesterday afternoon, saw American Sniper and did not enjoy it. Came home and had a good discussion with my son about why that was. He suggested that because the main character was not transformed in a way I could understand, I was left unmoved. He knows me well. I reflected that I wanted some acknowledgement of the futility of war—in particular that war—and some comprehension that 160 kills cannot help but tear the human soul. My son was not unmoved. "That's real life," he said. "People are usually not transformed to some higher mental place by war. In fact they're usually fucked up more. I like that they didn't put a gloss on that."

He told me a story about a marine who had waited outside of movie theaters to question patrons who had just seen American Sniper. This marine would ask the patrons what did being a hero mean to them. Invariably, he got this answer: "It means fighting for your country and being willing to die for your country." To which this marine responded, "By that definition, the people we are fighting against over there are also heroes. Did you ever think of that?"

My boy was in a lovely mood with his mama yesterday. Sometimes we get on so well.

I also had fun watching the Oscars with my friend TheBrittany_Be, with whom I traded tweets all night. She kind of made my night, just by being her smart, fem, wry self. (Favorite tweet: "Lets make popcorn and subvert the patriarchy.") As for the Oscars themselves, I think Neil Patrick Harris was tone-deaf as a host. Bring back Ellen, please, or maybe Tina Fey. The low point for me was when NPH appeared on stage in his tighty whities. Um, really? And that running gag about Octavia Spencer watching his lockbox was just deeply uncomfortable. ("You sit right there, no bathroom breaks for you, no snacks," he actually told her. Who did he think he was talking to? The Help? Why didn't he ask Clint Eastwood to watch his damn lockbox?) The high points for me were Common and John Legend singing the anthem "Glory," which they wrote for the movie Selma, and which won Best Song, and Lady Gaga showing off her extraordinary pipes in a Sound of Music retrospective. (Sound of Music was my mother's favorite movie of all time. We watched it again and again when I was a child.)

And now it is Monday morning. It's gray outside and gray inside, hence the photo of that Caribbean blue.



Sunday, February 22, 2015

Ghosts inside you


I haven't really been writing that much here. The truth is I've been feeling a little down and who wants to read that? I remember reading something once in which the writer described depression as a dull gray sweater she'd been slipping into and out of for years. I have been wearing that dull gray sweater for weeks now. Alone, I watch sad movies for the release of tears, The Theory of Everything yesterday, St. Vincent this morning, and I weep inconsolably over them. They give me a reason.

My Aunt Grace told me that the year before her mother died she cried all the time and she couldn't understand why.

I miss what it felt like when I was 26 and my love and I could simply go for a walk in the park and it would be a grand adventure.

I miss when my babies were small and snow all day meant being outside with friends, watching the kids whizz down the hill, so many of them because we were the ones with the good sledding hill in our back yard.

It snowed all day yesterday but today the sun is out. I feel as if I can barely stay inside my skin. There are people I could call but it feels like a great effort to be social.

I plan to watch the Oscars tonight, but first I have to get through the hours.



Photo: Art installation by Robert Montgomery


Saturday, February 21, 2015

Star Power


I had to post this photo of my wonderful and talented nephew. It was taken from his university brochure. Of course they used his image! Not only does he represent several demographics at once, his name is pretty awesome, not to mention he is the kindest soul, gentle and funny, and he's beautiful to boot. Look out for this one. He's destined.

Thursday, February 19, 2015

February slog


This photo was an accident. I had found that snapshot of my daughter and my wheelchair-bound father among my mother's things, and I held it up to snap a picture with my phone. I had not realized that my mother was in the background having lunch. The result was this photo of both my parents at the end of their lives. My father died of cancer nineteen years ago today, which was less than a month after this photo was taken. I miss him. My mother is still with us, but unbearably frail. I miss her, too. And then there is my daughter at one year old. As my father slipped away, she and her then four-year-old brother were the promise of everything yet to come, the realization of their grandparents' legacy and their undying love.

It's 18 degrees outside. My son doesn't go in to work until the afternoon on Thursdays, and he's sleeping in. He needs the rest. Sometimes I feel bad that he's working so long and hard, but then I remember myself at 23, and I didn't get home from work till ten or eleven at night. I'd eat a bowl of cream of wheat for dinner and then crash. I was working as a reporter at Life magazine then, and I traveled every other week. Those days of reporting and working with photographers in the field could stretch till past midnight. I never felt sorry for myself, so perhaps there is no reason to feel sorry for my boy. He's doing his life. If he doesn't like the way his life is set up, he'll make a change. Maybe fly off to Australia for a year or two. Maybe move into an apartment with two of his buddies (the alternate plan). One of his friends is in finance on Wall Street and my boy is now an investor. So many young people are unemployed in this economy and he has two jobs and investments, even as he waits to hear about the EMT gig for the FDNY. As much as he likes to have fun, he's a planner and a doer. He's never been lazy. He'll be okay.

I'll be okay, too, even if T.S. Eliot got it wrong when he called April the cruelest month. It's definitely February. I'm struggling a bit with the blahs. Work is helpful, because I'm at the editing stage on a manuscript. The whole thing is written now and it's just a matter of smoothing and polishing and layering in. This is the fun part. And then I will begin a new project. Lots of anxiety around the beginning stages. I always wonder how I will ever get to the finish line. So I try to imagine that in some parallel reality, the project is already complete and I just have to live into that eventuality. I'll manage to get it done because in a parallel universe I already have! The tricks we play.


Tuesday, February 17, 2015

One Charmed Day

Our daughter came home for winter break for essentially one day. She arrived Sunday evening and left first thing this morning. Yesterday she and I punched through a joint to do list (items to order, summer abroad bills to pay, resume to update), chatting and laughing as we did. Our son was at work till late, but the rest of the family went to dinner at Red Lobster (don't judge; those cheddar biscuits are to die for) and enjoyed being together. Our girl is back at school now, having caught the bus in the midst of another New York City snowstorm. Glad she's back safe and sound. Of course, I miss her.




Sunday, February 15, 2015

Bookshelves


Two years ago we did a massive decluttering effort in our house, and among everything else over the course of a week, out went boxes and boxes of books. We put them on the giveaway shelf in the basement of our apartment building, and as we came and went we would check to see how many and what titles had been adopted. Happily, most of our books found new homes.

The clutter is starting once again to proliferate, with books shoved carelessly on shelves or left in piles on surfaces. I go from enjoying the sight of books all around to wanting to restore visual neatness to our shelves. When we first moved in and again when we decluttered, I arranged our books not alphabetically, not by type or genre. Instead I set them out on our shelves in height order, pulling each book forward as needed so that the spines also lined up evenly at the front. My family thought this weird, but no one felt invested enough to challenge my system, which I decided was as valid as any other.

Here was my daughter's bookshelf after decluttering. OCD much? Granted she was away at college and I had free reign. She had given me permission to "go for it." Her shelves sure don't look like this now.

So how do you arrange your books? What is your preferred order and are you passionate about it or laissez faire?


Friday, February 13, 2015

Stillness


Here's a thought from the late journalist and author David Foster Wallace: 

"The bee has to move very fast to stay still." 

I think sometimes my mind is the bee, but maybe I'm not spinning fast enough. 



Thursday, February 12, 2015

Hello Thursday


That brain chatter is back, torturing me with all sorts of imaginings. The crazy thing is I have only to have the thought to generate feelings as if the thing itself is happening. Like when you wake from a devastating dream and for a moment you feel broken, sure it was real, and it takes a while for the vapors to dissipate. Except in this waking dream the vapors cling. Why do I always choose the most catastrophic interpretation of benign events? I feel bereft this morning, shattered by figments. I swear it actually feels like a fist around my heart, squeezing it to smithereens. I want to run away, not deal. I probably need to just sit quietly today, not talk, maybe immerse myself in work.


Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Balmy Out


After two days of cancelled flights, we flew home yesterday without incident. It was great to see our son—who playfully greeted us, "Hey roomies!"—and to hear the updates on his week. It was an incredible week for him. He said not only did one of his athletes post the top high school long jump distance in the country at the meet last weekend, but another of his kids improved his long jump distance by over a foot and a half, which was just as thrilling. And his team won the whole meet, in part because of the jump events. My son's old coaches from Fordham Prep were there to see my boy help coach their chief rival to the win. Fordham used to win these meets when my son was on the track team there and now Xavier is winning them. I asked him what his former coaches said. "It's all love," my son said. "They're happy for me."

My son did josh with his athletes a bit. "I pointed out that when I was at Fordham we won it all and now I'm at Xavier, we're winning here, and guess who's the common denominator! They were like, yeah, yeah. Right."

He will now get to be on the field at Penn Relays, coaching the kid who's now the best high school long jumper in the country. My son has always wanted to go to Penn Relays, which is a huge annual Spring track and field meet at U Penn, with the best in the world competing. My son's hurdles relay team qualified twice in college, but then didn't go because the first year he was injured and the second time another runner on the team was injured. So now he gets to go and be down on the field as a coach!

It's back to the grind today. I have to get on top of our taxes, as all our W2s and 1099s came in. I did a lot of work for a lot of people last year! So did my son. We are stereotypical Jamaicans with our multiple jobs. This week I have to finish the intro for one book that is otherwise complete and get cracking on the project that I was in the Bay Area researching last week. So now I edit and ghostwrite for a living. May it continue. And may the little twinge of resentment I still feel whenever I see my old magazine on newsstands not poison the well. The magazine looks good. I should just confess that I hate that they're doing so well without me. I know, I need to release it already. I'm working on being more Zen about it all, because without a doubt being laid off from that company eighteen months ago was an incredibly wonderful thing.

I promised to share pics of the Balmy Alley outdoor murals in the Mission. Here are a few. There are so many more.






Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Number one!


So guess who coaches the top-ranked high school long jumper in the country?

My boy, that's who!

Only his second year of coaching and look at that.

That's our son on the left, with the star athlete in the middle and on the right my son's former jumps coach from high school, who recommended him for the coaching job when he graduated college, and who was on hand to see the record-breaking jump.

This is what my son wrote on social media after the meet this past weekend:

"Yesterday was incredible. I watched one of my athletes have an amazing day with a long jump of 24ft 6in which made him #1 in the nation. Then my team finished out the meet strong and rallied from behind to win and become the #1 catholic school is the state. I think I qualify as the happiest coach in the nation. #Blessed #BeastMode #NationalsHereWeCome"

He is feeling pretty amped right now, which doesn't begin to express how his proud parents are feeling. You'd think I jumped those twenty-four-and-a-half feet myself!


It doesn't surprise me one bit that my boy is a great coach. I know from how he trains me in the gym.

Monday, February 9, 2015

We Wanderers


Here we are, still in Oakland as our flight back to New York City was cancelled for the second day in a row. Winter weather advisories on the East Coast. Apparently our town is being walloped by a big storm. We woke this morning to a text from our son: "Ice everywhere. Your flight will probably be canceled again." Right then the phone rang and it was the airline, confirming his prediction.

Yesterday, I was super conscientious and used the extra day for more interview time with the subject of my new book project, but today I think I will do no work at all. The man and I will probably head down to Jack London Square and wander around the shops and galleries and sit for a spell on the docks watching the boats. The photo above is from earlier in the week, when we did just that. We are water babies, both of us. We are soothed by the sound of waves lapping the shore.

I'm getting to know Oakland a bit; San Francisco not so much, although we did explore murals in the Mission District and drive past the stately Victorian Painted Ladies on Alamo Square and do an adults-only nighttime social scene with wine glasses in hand at the Academy of Sciences. Music pumped from speakers and it was clearly a major date night, but we old folks ambled along, my cousin and my husband enthralled by the exhibits while I was completely entertained by the people watching.

I am in love with the architecture of San Francisco, those Painted Ladies in particular. They look like jeweled boxes, or intricately decorated cakes, just exquisite in their details. And I also fell in love with the hipster grunge of the Mission District—all those murals painted on fences and houses and garage doors, an intense explosion of color giving a real time narrative of the neighborhood. It continues even now. My cousin who lives there says almost every day she notices a new art piece. My very favorite place was Balmy Street, one narrow alley that is a breathtaking outdoor art gallery. We went there when the man wasn't feeling so well, so I didn't really get to spend the time I wanted with the paintings. I can't wait to go back. I'll probably do a post with some of my favorites Mission art later, but in the meantime here's a detail of one of the murals, an angel to guide us home. Fingers crossed flights won't be cancelled again tomorrow.






Still in Cali


We're still in Oakland, our flight back to New York this afternoon having been cancelled due to weather conditions. There's much to report, but I have no energy right now to get into any of it. It's been a good week with the man, with so many different tones of adventure I can't hold them all in a single thought. Easiest to call up is yesterday's wine country tour with my cousin. When I was here in December with my daughter, we did Napa. This time, we did Sonoma, which is much more laid back and free form. My husband enjoyed the tastings tremendously, as he does know his wines. Those chairs are where we sat with my lovely cousin at the end of the day looking out over the lake at the last winery, talking about everything, winding down.

We're just hitting our stride here in Oaktown. There's the hole in the wall Cajun breakfast place we found, the tapas bar with the great deviled eggs and ox tail, the seafood place on the marina, and tonight I took a wonderful 96-year-old to see Selma at Grand Lake theater, which my cousin tells us is a landmark of faded baroque radicalism near Lake Merritt.

Looking back on the week, we did a lot, even though my husband was sick on Wednesday, maybe with a touch of food poisoning, which caused a bit of distress between us, with me texting my son the EMT to talk to his father; his father not listening to either of us; and our son finally saying,"Look, you two are going to be a mess when you get old but you're not there yet, so cut it out. By that I mean, Mom, stop being so anxious, Daddy isn't dying although you make it sound like he is. And Daddy you need to stop being so stubborn and listen to what I'm telling you. I know what I'm taking about." Yes, our son can be bossy; don't have a clue where he learned that (well, that's my story and I'm sticking to it). The good news is my man was back to himself the next morning and the week was all uphill from there. The first couple of days I thought we had forgotten how to travel together but now we're just trundling along happily, exploring, not putting too much pressure on ourselves, having experiences.


Thursday, February 5, 2015

HONY


If you aren't following Humans of New York on Instagram or Facebook or Tumblr start now. Go back two weeks and read the story that Brandon, the photographer and storyteller who created the site, and a boy named Vidal from a rough neighborhood in New York, set in motion. I am in tears at today's post. Just weeping I am so moved. No matter what the news says, there is goodness in our midst. Never doubt it.

Monday, February 2, 2015

We are here








The first six photos are sights from around the Bay Area: 1) A mural under a highway overpass in Oakland; 2) Lake Merritt; 3) A streetlamp; 4) Pier 39; 5) Jellyfish at the Bay Area Aquarium; 6) Fisherman's Wharf.

That last photo of my darling girl was sent to me this afternoon by her friend who stayed with us over the break. She captioned it: "We have a prodigy!" I just love the picture so I'm saving it here.
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