Wednesday, March 29, 2006


According to the author of this article, profanity in the U.S. is on the rise. I find this a curious fact. I mean, I don’t curse that much. I do it on occasion though, to fully express my frustrations. I believe that with rising social tensions, with rising economic costs, people are increasingly frustrated. So they use bad words in response. Especially the “F” word, or as one particularly mature mother I had a run-in with said, “F-bombs.” Personally, I don't have a problem with profanity. I love all bad words, especially the "F" word. I can’t help it, the word, fuck, just says it all, you know?

For instance:

“Honey, the bill came today from the fucking psychiatrist.”

“Oh fuck.”

“Yup. Fucking $650 we owe…again.”

“Well the kids have had pretty bad fucking weeks.”


“That’s why we have each other. I fucking love you.”

“I love you, my little fuck, my favorite fuckity fuck.”

You see? Now that’s real emotional expression.

Another example:

Fuck. I am not in the mood to go to work tonight. Don’t want to teach this fucking class – don’t feel like explaining this goddamned material I learned ages ago to people who’ll never actually do legal research at the level of this class nor will they ever write at the level the class strives to teach. I don’t want to do it, money or no, hell or high water. Shit, I’d like to just stay home and shoot the shit on e-mail, or watch a mindless program on television. Fucking bitch.

Still more:

As I write this, A is screaming. He’s having a bad day. Anyone who gets near him gets an earful. I say to myself instinctively in response to every outburst I hear, “Jesus fucking Christ.” I then can breathe and relax and deal with the situation in the most effective and calm manner possible.

My sincerest apologies to my dear Christian readers – please avert your delicate eyes.


The other day I was checking on J’s account. Yes, I allow him to have it because half the kids in his classes have one and it seemed a good way to keep him off the phone, a creative way to learn HTML, a fine social thing provided he keeps all private information OFF the profile pages and doesn’t answer e-mail from strangers. So on this the kids can post “bulletins” to one another. The bulletins of all the 12-14 year olds on ALWAYS have the word “fuck” in them – in the titles, in the body. Somewhere in the bulletin WILL be the “F-bomb,” whether appropriately used or not. Be advised, the spelling is atrocious.

Dearest Grammartist readers, avert your delicate eyes.

Take note of this darling posted early last week, “Anser thes questchuns orr u wil fucking dyee!” Please note the only word spelled correctly.

Or, “Aborshun is soooo fucking WRONG!” The “wrong” impressed me.

I quote directly. I take it as a learning experience for the young minds. They are testing out their management skills and delving into politics. Certainly, they are expressing themselves in a way that will horrify their parents, society, but isn’t it a known fact that the most effective expression of what’s in the common heart will horrify, essentially? Think burning flags, think banned art, think James Joyce as “obscenity.”

Fuck, those myspacers are bad spellers.

Oh god, the fucking time. I have to get to the shitty class to teach shitty material. I’m such a fucking bitch - they are depending on me and here I am pissing on their Wheaties.

In conclusion, I do think the cursing is superfluous as far as reading and written expression. As Joe Cormack of Fort Dodge, Iowa says in the article, "I mean, if I take [the bad words] out of your vocabulary, you've got nothin'!" On the other hand, it does make for a cheap laugh. I read the F-word and I laugh. Richard Pryor started that trend, may his soul rest in fucking peace. Today, any day, any time of the day, you can hear the funny profanity on the Comedy Channel to get a quick laugh. Oh, and I do think it releases tension (sort of like a good fuck does) which is why I think ultimately profanity is okay. Perhaps if more countries loosened up on the profanity laws, we’d have fewer wars. Maybe Iraq wouldn’t be in such uproar if they allowed their veiled women to roll out a few fucks and shits.

‘Cause you have to agree, war is a punk-ass bitch of thing.

Did I mention to you how goddamn sleepy I am?

Tuesday, March 28, 2006


The inability to recreate the sensation of cold when in the dead of summer or heat when in the dead of winter is a curious failing of memory. Same deficiency comes into play when trying to recall physical pain in any great detail, or severe emotional pain, when living in a state of painlessness. My mother used to tell me that women forget the agony of childbirth which is why they go on to have more children.

Well, here it is, in the middle of a Los Angeles rainstorm and I’m having a hard time coming up with the words to tell about the heat over the weekend in Palm Springs. My writing it out doesn’t sound real. I’m wearing a USC sweatshirt with cozy jeans and cozy boots with the furnace blasting while trying to talk about the sun filtering through high clouds, a sun that stung my skin when the four of us women reclined by the pool with cocktails at our side. Sadly, I only lasted twenty minutes before the inevitable redness started. I ran for cover, Bloody Mary in hand, House of leaves in another. Ran to sit under the balcony of our lower level suite where I kicked back, reading in the shade, the temperature a wonderful 80 to 85 degrees or so.

The weekend started with shopping at Cabazon – too much for my taste. After a couple of hours, JC (our good family whom we love like a sister) and I plopped down on a bench and waved Sister and T on. “Forget about us – we’ll just sit here, watching the setting sun, wishing for some wine and dinner. Please…continue.” I did manage to pick up some nice sunglasses, a couple of t-shirts, a soft stuffed bunny rabbit for M. The boys got food – goodies from Hadley’s, a local date and nut shop.

We finally got to the hotel near 7:00 p.m. We hurried and changed and headed for dinner at the Cheesecake factory – we sat at a table having split the huge dinners and discussed Oprah, Frey (yeah, yeah, really old news), G.W. Bush, the difference between addiction, discipline and willpower when it comes to checking e-mail or the Blackberry or calling in for messages. We drank our cocktails, my sister and I making sure not to overdo it because the worst thing the following morning is being sick from alcohol. We were completely successful in our efforts. We stayed up late in the room, playing Travel Scrabble, being silly as all get out.

We avoided all talk about children, having children, and husbands. Yet in the morning, what did we find out our door? A mama duck walking with her eight chicks, walking back and forth, ignoring the flight of other ducks above her, serious about her job of watching them as they swam in a small puddle.

We had a late breakfast, we went to the pool, my lovely relaxation in the shade where I was sure I’d come home with new goals in mind (better dinners, better focus, better housecleaning), the spa in the afternoon. We came to the conclusion that we did not like seeing naked women walking around – it brought out our inherent modesty. We didn’t like the steam room although the eucalyptus was lovely and breathable, but we liked the sauna. The dry heat felt good. The massages were nice – I was grateful not to have someone chatty. I liked, always like, to just listen to the new age music only, drifting in the dim lights to the feel of being nicely touched.

The rest of the night was spent in, drinking wine, snacking, playing cards, eating a light dinner, watching the late show of “Brokeback Mountain” which made all of us cry. The desperate love, we sniffled, so beautiful. Some of us seemed to know such love and some of us wished for it. Still others of us decided we didn’t like Heath Ledger’s mumbling as proven by half-way watching “Casanova” where he mumbled with an English accent.

Sunday was for sleeping in, packing up and heading home around 1:00. My sister thought two days wasn’t enough – strangely, I was ready to get home, to get back to the routine with my newfound energy. Get through the grouchy husband routine.

Now that my big weekend is over I find I have a hard time recreating in my mind the sense of no responsibility when I’m laden again. I find it hard to find that energy.

I can’t wait for the next leap away from home.

Friday, March 24, 2006

Running Away

My mother’s favorite song to blast on Saturday mornings from the cheap Sony stereo we had in a downstairs built-in cabinet was Engelbert Humperdinck’s song, “Please Release Me.” My father told me she’d meant it as a slam against him, a not-so-veiled effort at asking for a divorce. As her children, we understood the idea of release, the idea that she wanted to leave our Pasadena house. We assumed housecleaning was the root of her desires. I believed it was her need to go home to Mexico. On occasion, we considered the possibility that we caused her to want to flee.

The real reasons were probably more elusive that that because today, often these days, I want to leave everything and I can’t pinpoint a precise why. It’s all the above, it’s less, it’s something else entirely.

My weekend has finally arrived – I’ll get into an SUV with my sister, sister-in-law, and a family friend. We’ll have our little suitcases, packed with two days worth of stuff. Casseroles will be in the freezers, instructions written on notes and left on kitchen counters. Cell phones will be on and charged (so they can be shut off). We’ll hug our children and kiss our husbands on their noses. We’ll put the CD’s in the car stereo and feel the hot breeze coming in through the windows as we drive fast down the 210 freeway. We’ll pass into the 909 area code, San Bernardino, Riverside, and Redlands. We’ll drive through Yucaipa and Banning, and then head into Palm Springs.

The vista will change radically from the dense suburbs of the San Gabriel Valley (heavy on the urban) into the clutter-free, desert basin of the San Bernardino Mountains. We will see grand, brown fields of white, working windmills and rows and rows of electrical wires. We'll see the desert brush, the freeway without guardrails. There will be heat, a change from the recent cold of Los Angeles. We will see openness before the sharp rise of the purple-green-brown mountains. I take a deep breath as I write this, a cleansing one that runs from my lungs up into my shoulders and down through my limbs. I let go of the clutter in my mind, the junk that chokes me when I write and makes me irritable when I do the humdrum activities of running a household.

I imagine a different life – one that I chose on my own terms. I’d be living in a bungalow in Monrovia, a studio apartment in South Pasadena, or an apartment on the West Side. Would I have been bitter if unmarried? Would I have been desperate at 41 for a child of my own if I were childless? Would I have pursued my writing on a professional level? Would I be an English professor somewhere else, outside Los Angeles? Would I be sorry I hadn’t chosen law school?

Who would I be today without all the steps I’ve already taken?

I’d be funnier, I say. I have a feeling my self-esteem would be just as wrapped up in having a man love me as it is today. Sounds simplistic – there’s more to it than that. I need broad-based love and admiration. Students, friends, men. That seems to be hard-wired into me. Probably a hold-over from my mother wishing to run away from me. I’d probably be even more self-absorbed than I already am – I credit having children to a development of selflessness. I’d be angrier maybe about my parents’ early deaths.

I will breathe easier this weekend. I will write on my laptop and maybe in my notebook. Write with a pen, taking the time to spell out words instead of tapping madly to get them on the screen. I will read a little. I will laugh and drink and gossip. I will embrace the sensation of not being needed for long hours at a time. Two nights of nobody asking me to do anything other than, “Sit next to me,” “You want to eat here or there,” “Your massage is scheduled for three o’clock with big-muscled, non-gay Sven,” “Are you sleepy?”


What am I running from? Responsibility, maybe. The children. The dirty house. The noise. The choices I made with my quickly-passing life. The abandonment of what *I* wanted as opposed to what everyone else wanted, or what my logic told me was the right thing to do. Hard-in-coming satisfaction and contentment. Disappointing love. Love that disappoints? How is that possible? The built up inability to accept love. Proverbial walls built up around me to protect me against inevitable loss because believe me that will happen so I do the cutting of ties. I push away and then cry that love has been disappointing.

What am I running from? What am I always running from? I’m running from me. Gasp! Ancient epiphany. Cliché even. “Please Release Me,” my mother said. Release her from the life she’d chosen, from who she had become. Yes, I understand that. The big joke is … we can’t really run away from ourselves. We will follow US everywhere.

Salud! Cheers! Have a good weekend. I will return on Sunday, refreshed and miserable and happy to be blogging once again.

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Embracing Our Inner Lila

The medications are lined up on the window sill in our kitchen: anti-inflammatory pills for the bursitis in my shoulder, mood stabilizers, ADD medications and medication to reduce tics for the boys, antibiotics and Benedryl for the girl, three different blood pressure medications and Bayer for D, stomach and skin pills for the dog. That doesn’t include the stuff that lies all over the house: Aleve, Advil, Tylenol, Motrin, Children’s Tylenol and Children’s Motrin (chewable and liquid form), various cough syrups prescribed to me and the children over the past year, nighttime cold medicines, daytime cold medicines, children’s cold medicines (nighttime and daytime), a nose spray for D that doesn’t interfere with his prescribed medications, Prylosec, Pepcid, Mylanta, Tums, and the beloved bottle of leftover Vicodin that’s now down to the one pill. I’m saving that for a special night.

We are a medicated family – we believe in the power of modern medicine. Have an ache? Take a pill! Have a serious mental illness? Take a pill! Just enjoy the general idea of pill-popping? Take a pill!

We knew we had issues when M asked me in her little five-year-old voice, mispronouncing 'pills,' “Mama, when do I get to take the same pillows A and J take?”

“Oh honey, I’m sure when you hit third grade the bipolar will kick in and you’ll be just like everyone else in the house!”

“I can’t wait, Mama!”

“Me neither, honey!”

We grab hands and dance a jig, Sassy nipping at our ankles.

My mother was a medication fiend – for a while there she was a full-blown, live version of “Valley of the Dolls.” She had pills for everything, mostly imagined maladies. She went to several doctors, each of whom prescribed her a new medication or more medication for her latest problem. Big on the Valium. The worst experience (no, one of several drug-related incidents I recall) was when my sister and I found her laid out on her bed in just her underwear, relatively unconscious. She mumbled a few words, snored loudly, and had wet the bed. We called an ambulance. Lots of drama. My grandparents drove like mad folks to the emergency room. My father drove through horrible Los Angeles traffic from USC to Huntington Memorial. She was in a “coma.” The doctors…let me emphasize, the DOCTORS (twenty-thousand years of medical training under their belts) sat us down to inform us in the most solemn of tones that they did not know what was wrong with her, that they suspected a massive stroke.

My sister and broke out into muted laughter to the absolute horror of my grandparents (my father sort of tilted his head, nodded, in semi-agreement with us), “She hasn’t had a stroke…she’s overdosed on prescription pills and the finest tequila this side of the Rio Grande! What’s WRONG WITH YOU PEOPLE?!”

The doctors got very uncomfortable at that point and ordered a slew of toxicology tests. And of course we were correct in our medical diagnosis. She landed in a 72-hour psych-hold where she convinced the doctors her family poisoned her and they let her go. Oh no, no evidence of psychosis there! Poor thing – I’m sorry really that no doctor ever got past her beauty and seductive ways to properly diagnose her: bipolar disorder I, the heavy duty BPD, the one where a person can move from grandiosity and euphoria to suicidal ideation all within mere hours. At the time they called it, manic-depressive disorder.

Dearest mama.

Today, whenever any of the three of us get a little loopy on alcohol or whatever other substance might be lying around, or whenever we allow ourselves to sink into dramatic misery, we say we are embracing our “inner Lila.” Lila was our mother’s nickname. To embrace that part of us is to love her, is to appreciate the part of her we thought we hated.

What do they say about looking in a mirror?

On Monday, M came down with an ear infection, swimmer’s ear actually from playing mermaid one too many times in the bathtub. After the appointment (where A, M, and I played a great game of charades – another post for another time), prescription for ear medication in hand, I thought I should go ahead and fill the boys’ prescriptions too while I was at it. I picked up a couple of candy bars for my private stash in my room (where I keep other drugs: Girl Scout Cookies, real Bubble Gum, Reeses Peanut Butter Cups, a symbolic amount of pot). When the pharmacist rang up all the goodies, when he put in the amounts of the co-pays (we have the best insurance this side of … Pomona), he handed me a bill of $114.00.

“One hundred and WHAT?!” The DH screamed through the cell phone (a free call, mobile-to-mobile – thank you Verizon!).

“She has an ear infection, honey.”

“You know we already owe the psychiatrist $650.”

“He’s off the plan.”

“He needs to be OFF the plan.”

When I get home, the battle of the homework begins, A’s homework the biggest problem of all. M wants to play on the computer but J is playing the drums (practicing his latest in punk rock beats – the louder, the better!). She screams at the top of her lungs to shut up (and I mean, SCREAM). A lays down on the bench at the table, claiming to have sleeping sickness. The dog has gotten into the trash. The DH arrives shortly thereafter and launches into a rousing version of, “Why the hell didn’t anyone empty the dishwasher for the next load that’s stinking up the sink?!” It’s a familiar tune and I shrug…

“I don’t know, honey. Want a beer?”

“I don’t drink, you know that.”

“Yeah, well, I do.”

I cut up a lemon, stick a wedge into the Corona, and sprinkle salt on the bottle’s rim. I pop a Pepcid because the alcohol in conjunction with the stress of the afternoon will trigger acid reflux that I’ve had since I was a kid. I wonder if I have esophageal cancer. If I have it, I’m doomed.

D takes his dosage of blood pressure pills and flips through the mail, then heads off to do laundry.

The boys drink soda and eat some chips in front of the T.V., abandoning the homework.

M gathers her makeup and purses and hair decorations to play hair salon.

The dog runs out the back door and begins digging a hole to China.

I plop myself at the computer, sip my beer, and blog. Look at retreats.

We’re all medicated.

Sunday, March 19, 2006


Boys are jamming in the office – J on the drums, Friend 1 on the lead guitar, Friend 2 doing the vocals. The music is loud with a heavy-on-the-crash beat. They’re playing the Ramones. M is near me in my room and she’s trying on various boots and shoes from the closet, asking me every so often, “Am I beautiful?” I’m preparing for class – typing out an outline for Civil Procedure, a chapter on examination of physical evidence. A is playing a video game in his room, kicking back against a tiny futon couch. The DH is reading the paper as he eats a turkey sandwich, mustard only. Sassy, the dog, is sitting on the bench at the table, watching the DH’s food as it travels from the dish to his mouth.

Normal, normal as can be.

The sky is cloudy, gray-blue-yellow light breaking through the lace in the kitchen. The hours click away as I move from the outline to a short story to grading a couple of papers, back to the outline. The kids change activities – boys are outside skateboarding, A has moved to the computer, M has begun to watch a movie, and the DH is doing laundry.

My sister calls, upset at me about something insensitive I said the other day. This is a rarity – we never do this. I find myself tearful because what upset her had nothing to do with her, but was all about me – my own bitterness sneaking out. She caught the underlying hurt, but still took it as a personal attack which it hadn’t been. We resolve the problem but the disruption to our constantly smooth relationship sticks to the roof of my mouth.

The friends leave, J alone now and on a tear for permission to go to the movies with a girl. She’s in seventh grade and we don’t know her or her parents. Although we don’t suspect this is a “date,” we’re not open to the idea at all. He’s furious with us, throwing things, breaking something, saying he doesn’t like us and wishes we were normal because, you know, every other parent lets their seventh graders hang out with their friends of the opposite sex in public, darkened places in bad parts of the suburbs unsupervised.

We are abnormal.

The DH escalates the fight, beginning to rage himself, which always sends me in the opposite direction – I get hyper-calm.

J has come running into my room, hiding from his angry father, as I sit on my bed with my laptop, tapping away. I’ve been ignoring the battle in the living room. I glance up and he turns to me, his longish hair standing on end with tension, “When are you going to be normal parents?!”

“When you’re normal, dear.”

Sounds bad, sounds like I’ve said an evil thing – sounds like I’ve gone against every parenting manual out there. I throw in a soft, reassuring, “Honey, look, you’re just in a phase right now where you’re making poor decisions when outside our watch.”

“I don’t care about getting in trouble!”

“I know you don’t – which is why we’re stepping in and caring about you getting in trouble for you. We love you much too much to let anything happen to you.”

“Who cares?! It’s my life!”

“Not until you’re 18. In the meantime, any bad choice you make comes back to us. Fines, parenting classes, even jail time. Your want your parents in jail? I didn’t think so. Who’d buy you your decks, your $38 t-shirts, your Hot Cheetos? Your decisions affect us, affect our home. So we have to make sure you don’t make bad decisions. Until then, you’re home today due to your refusal to do your weekend homework and your rude talk to us.”

There is some more raging but soon the house quiets. He retreats to his room and flips on the television. The DH starts cleaning out the boys’ dresser. M and A battle over computer time. I peek in on e-mail messages, get something good, but can’t answer because “Alphabet Express” is on. I chase A off the computer – he’s had plenty of time on. M sits happily and starts to play, asking for snacks and a drink in the most princess-like manner. I serve her and go to the bedroom for continued typing of the outline on my laptop, interrupted required work with the writing of this blog post and more playing around with a short story.

Normal, normal as can be.

Tuesday, March 14, 2006


Rachel lived near U.S.C. off of Western in a modest beige bungalow that hadn’t been painted since the Watts Riots. A mass of miniature palm trees, yucca trees, and camellia bushes packed the front yard. Getting to the front door was an act of ducking the green and whipping away the gnats. Tall stacks of newspapers crowded the porch and a skinny grey cat mewed at me from an old stand-alone swing.

The assignment was to talk to her for a short while, spend “quality time” with her. She was lonely – her husband had died years and years before and she had no children. The director of the Joint Educational Project told me she was nearing 88 and her health wasn’t good.

I knocked on the screen door, able to see inside the cluttered house. A billowing woman wearing a print housecoat shuffled from behind a wall-papered wall, coming to the door. She couldn’t have been more than five foot two, smiling, wearing bright-red lipstick. Her white hair was just as puffy as she was, brushed carefully into a quasi-bouffant, a pink-bow barrette to the side. Her eyes were moist and blue and she seemed so, so happy to have company.

She ushered me in and took my bag from me, laying it down next to an empty planter in the entranceway. She chattered, thinking I was from the synagogue she could no longer attend, but when I corrected her she remembered that she was approached by someone from the college.

“Oh yes,” she said, “such nice people.”

The kitchen was as ancient as her house – appliances, a table and chairs dating back to the fifties, green tiles, and plain cupboards painted yellow. She had a toaster covered by chicken-fabric. She stood at the counter on a small stool to bring down cookies. She arranged them on a plate and poured milk into two purple glasses that looked eerily similar to glasses my mother once got as a promotion from a gas station.

I asked her how long she lived in the house.

“Johnny and I bought this house in 1942. We thought it was the most beautiful house on the block. A real nice lawn in front. We loved to work in the garden. This is Johnny.”

With a serene smile on her face, she reached across the table and showed me a picture of a man in his 60’s maybe – white hair brushed to the side, wearing black-rimmed glasses. The color picture had faded as if she kept the framed shot in the sun. I took the picture into my hands and nodded appreciatively.

“He looks like a very nice person.”

“He was so smart – he was an engineer. Worked for the city. He used to take me to all the buildings he worked at. He died of pneumonia.” Her face changed a little, but then she resumed the smile again. She ate a cookie, taking small bites at a time. I ate, too, drinking some milk to wash down the basic chocolate chip.

We talked some more and then she wanted to share something with me. She shuffled away and for the first time I noticed her slippers, pink and fluffy. When she returned, she had a cassette in her hand. She sat down at her seat and put the tape into a black tape recorder. She pressed the play button, her face serious, anticipating what she’d hear.

A man’s voice crackled out of the recorder – he was singing something I didn’t recognize. Sounded like a folk song. Rachel lit up, looking at me.

“Doesn’t he have a beautiful voice?”

“Yes, he does,” I said.

The song ended and he laughed, making a comment about the machine. “Rachel what do I push? My Rachel, you can do these things better than me.”

“Oh Johnny!”

She laughed along with herself on the tape. “Johnny always made me laugh.”

“You’re my life, honey. Come and sing with me. I’m not the only one who’s going to be a fool on this machine.”

“You couldn’t be a fool, Johnny.”

“I love you, honey.”

“I love you, too.”

The two laughed together on the tape and then Rachel shut the recorder off, smiling at me. “This is the only thing I have left of my Johnny. I listen to him every day, whenever I feel like I miss him.”

She pressed a red-painted fingernail on the machine. We listened to Johnny talking about work and about his parents. How they lived in New York City in the Bronx and had died in the fifties. The tape showed a sliver of a tender and lasting relationship between two people alone in this life – she still hadn’t let go of him. I couldn’t blame her. I took a furtive glance at the living room seeing a house full of collections. Old radios lined shelves, curio cabinets overflowed with porcelain trinkets, and throw rugs draped the furniture and floors.

We talked about Rachel’s schedule which wasn’t much. Get up in the morning, shower, dress for the day. Make breakfast for herself. Clean the house a little. Not so much anymore. Not with her arthritis and heart problems. Lunch. Listen to Johnny. A girl from the synagogue brought groceries twice a week. I’m lonely, she said. I miss conversation, she said.

I checked my watch and smoothed my skirt and blouse, smiling at Rachel, telling her in turn about my schedule. I said I know love, but not like yours.

“Nobody’s like Johnny.”

“No,” I agreed, taking her hand in mine.

I glanced up at the clock on her wall, a plain one with black hands and red second hand, and the hour told me it was time to go. Our time was up. She walked me to the door and I shook her hand. I’d be back next week. This was lovely, I told her.

“Thank you,” I said, “For telling me about Johnny.”

“I miss him so much.”

“Who wouldn’t?”

She smiled and I stepped out the door into the wild brush along the walkway, hearing the door slam gently against the frame. I turned and waved and she waved back, her form shadowed behind the screen.

We met only a few times more, each time, Johnny’s crooning accompanying our conversation. The last time I saw her was a rare rainy day in Los Angeles, water pouring onto her porch due to clogged drain pipes, the cat nowhere to be seen. Rachel was in tears when she opened the door for me. Someone had broken into her house when she was at a doctor’s appointment and had taken her tape recorder with the tape still inside.

There was nothing I could do or say to console her. I held her hand as she cried and cried. She’d lost Johnny.

My assignment had ended. The next person I was given was a brisk ninety-five year old woman who used the students from U.S.C. to shuttle her around like a taxi service – against the rules due to liability issues. The director warned me not to let her suck me into her schedule. I got sucked in, taking her to a doctor or two, to the store once or twice. The next job, the last one before I abandoned the idea of being a social worker, had been to volunteer at St. John of God’s convalescent hospital on West Adams Boulevard with Alzheimer patients who often had forgotten love, along with everything else that mattered in a daily life. I pushed the patients around in their wheel chairs in the garden or fed them their lunches.

I thought for a long while after that perhaps forgetting was better than remembering.

Monday, March 13, 2006


Snow laces the San Gabriel Mountains and is a pleasant shock as I drive up out of the sunken road that leads away from my neighborhood. My two younger kids, M and A, say, “Ooooo…can we go see snow?” as we push on through the traffic to school. One by one I drop them off, my coffee warming in the electric mug the husband bought for me. A cool little device – it hooks up to the cigarette lighter connecting mug to electric juice. Perfect for school days when I have to drop off kids and then head off to the college to teach my morning classes. Normally by the time I get there, coffee’s gone cold. Problem solved by cool gadget.

The college is on spring break this week – I was really looking forward to quiet days in the house with all the children gone. Today, my first day of freedom (relatively speaking of course), my eldest announces he’s far too sick to attend classes. I gave into his pleas because I wasn’t interested in fighting him, because he did have a runny nose according to the husband, and because I was going to be home anyway meaning I wouldn’t have to worry about him being unsupervised.

So he’s home. So I’m writing in the office with Discovery Kids playing in the background. I’d been hoping for my música but it clashes with the T.V. so the ghostly narration of a show about…ghosts…will have to do.

Admittedly, I do have a mild headache which perhaps is impinging on my writing today in addition to the haunted house narratives. The headache I think comes from the two Lemon Drops I had at last night’s small gathering at the Tam O’Shanter to celebrate Rodger Jacob’s birthday. I was pleased to meet for the first time writer John Shannon, Will Campbell (who is also a contributor for Blogging.LA), and Joseph Mailander, editor of the Martini Republic, as well as the honoree himself. I was a nervous wreck at first because…well…I’m completely introverted and unsociable when it comes to meeting people for the first time which is why I generally do not enjoy attending schoolchum-kid's birthday parties, PTA meetings, networking groups, or the anything such as. However, everyone was so entertaining and offering such wonderful insight into L.A. living and the lives of writers and bloggers that I had no choice but to shed my comfortable “suit of armor” and engage.

I did not dance on a table nor grab a lampshade. The Lemon Drops were just…strong.

Hyperbole and personal hang-ups aside, it really was fun to meet people I only know through e-mail and the blogosphere.

So…here I am willing my child to pretend he’s not here which is impossible. He cannot bear to be in a space and not announce his presence. I know in my heart that will be a wonderful quality as an adult – he’s been doing this since birth. He just gets louder and more assured with age. I’m writing away and he’s in here asking me to take him to lunch. “Can we go to the mall? Can I buy a Ramones t-shirt?”

“Pretend you’re not here.”

“Can I play a few beats on the drums? Just one before I shower? Huh?”

“Pretend you’re not here.”

“How can I not be here, I AM here!”

“God grant me the serenity I need.”

“Mom…I love you.”

“I love you, too, honey. Get showered and dressed.”

Sick, my ass.

Me, me, I’m the sick one. I have a headache. My story that I’ve been writing is floundering. My novels are sitting here undone. My blogging is getting desperate. I have to put the blanket on the bed that’s been washed to remove dog hair, have to take off the comforter first, tuck in that blanket. Cleaning the kitchen comes next followed up with paper-grading, preparing for classes, vacuum cleaning. Then I’ll get A and M, do homework, make dinner, get kids to bed, finally watching 24 at 9:00. Then…then…

I think I’ll just stay at the computer and pretend I’m not here.

Saturday, March 11, 2006


The rain is coming down despite a blue sky peeking through the gray-black clouds. From my place in the office, I can hear the constant watery noise, I can see the blue. D isn't home at all today as he's gone on a quick trip to State Line with his buddies for some gambling. Makes me laugh because he doesn't really gamble or drink. He loves to ride the wave of energy his friends give off and laugh at their antics. He'll play video poker and maybe, maybe, if he's brave, try a hand or two of Texas Hold'em.

In the meantime, I'm sneaking on the computer every so often to read blogs, to check messages, to write an entry here. I'm working on a story that I can't quite bring to the place I want it to be and it's so frustrating. The idea teeters on the tip of my tongue, I review it for the strain of a message, or a story, about me and my siblings, trying to understand that period of time. The story just stares at me, incomplete. Maybe it's incomplete because the story isn't finished, i.e. my life is still on the gallop, getting to wherever I'm going.

Today, I'll be taking my daughter to a birthday party but I'm pretty confident I won't be hearing any stories of crimes taking place in the suburbs. Once again, I find myself cringing with a desire NOT to go. Three hours with other parents and their darlings. Is this a horrible thing for me to think? Am I really that sort of distanced mother? I don't think I am...and yet...

Lately, I've been on a roll of self-criticism. I'm not prepping well enough for classes, I'm not explaining the material well-enough, I'm not attentive and adoring enough of a parent, I'm a lousy, lazy wife, I don't appreciate my husband enough. I'd rather the kids go play...someplace else, someplace I'm not. I'm having wishes again to pack up my car and drive far away for about two weeks.

Ahhh...although...I will be soon getting a little break, the break I mentioned to Palm Springs with the girls in my family. Should be fun, I'm really looking forward to it. The funny thing is that I'll miss blogging, I'll miss my computer time. I'm thinking though it will be the time I can read and do nothing. Plenty time for writing and chatting at home when I'm trying to escape...


M is at my side as I type, whining about going to the party which starts in about 45 minutes. I have to wrap the present, I have to get dressed. I have to breathe deeply to overcome those intense desires to call and cancel. Can you imagine the chaos then? It's almost tempting to see the house in an uproar, the crying, the screaming, the dramatic pronouncement that she hates me.

Of course, I'd never do that.

I would never do that to the sweet girl who takes a shower with me, who asks me to bend down so she can pour water over my hair, who always arranges the bottles on the shelf and stands with her feet pointed like such a lady even though nobody has ever taught her to stand that way. She's patient now at her age to have her hair washed, to tip her head back in the water and close her eyes tightly so the soap won't sting her eyes.

No, I'd never do such disappointing acts to indulge my own flaws and cracks in the self.

Thursday, March 09, 2006

Catching a Virus

My computer has a virus – there’s no other explanation for the slow loading of internet pages, the slow loading of Windows operations. I spent the day scanning the computer, running tests, reloading, reloading again, defragging in desperation, all to no avail. I found one virus known as “NavBar,” called a “security risk” by Symnatec…this is such a pisser. I’m all out of options, short of tossing the computer and starting over.

But that would be too tiring. The thought of it makes me want to curl up in bed and go to sleep.


The special education team met yesterday to review A’s progress in school with the classroom modifications in place. As I had been complaining about, they too came to the conclusion that the modifications were not helping him in the classroom. His performance in math and writing there is way below his capability. On top of that, the psychologist believes A is depressed based on the way he writes – almost scribbling, not paying any attention to the lines on the page, and writing really hard, making the no. 2 pencil chicken scratches almost black. He’s now in the full special education program for math and writing – really excellent goals over the next year. They won’t hold him back because he’s actually testing at grade level except in math and writing. And he only scores low on those under certain circumstances.

So…they now rule he has a learning disability. I’m relieved. This way, the homework will be adjusted, he’ll get special pull-out time with a special education teacher, I’m hoping we’ll see great improvement over the next year.

I have a headache and wish to sleep for three days.


The other night I had a dream about being sleepy – I was in an unknown parking lot somewhere during the day and I was being accosted by violent persons unknown. The problem was I couldn’t run because I was so, so sleepy. The kind of sleepiness where you struggle to keep your eyes open, where if you don’t lie down you’re going to drop like a ton of bricks right then and there, only I couldn’t do it because I was on the verge of being horrifically violated.

The next scene of sleepiness took place on the sidewalk where I was pushing a stroller that held J when he was only months old. I was talking to my sister when suddenly we noticed our aged grandmother in the street, babbling. We were so sad because she was clearly in a state of dementia.

I finally woke up. After taking the kids (all the kids, thank the gods of all that is holy in this universe) to school, I sat down at the computer to wade through the virus-laden menus and windows to get to e-mail and there was a note from a friend that said in the subject line, “WAKE UP!”

She was inviting me to participate in a group writing exercise. Loads of fun, I know.

The thought of writing detailed, funny, silliness made me tired. I grabbed my cup of coffee, trudged to my room, put the coffee cup on my dresser, and crawled into my bed, fully dressed. I lay under the fluffy, flowery comforter and thought…hell with waking up. Who wants to clean the floors, do laundry, work on class outlines, grade papers or locate the smell of urine that’s going on in the den by the T.V. when I can sleep instead? Ahhh…sleep…the perfect escape for the stay-at-home mother.

I didn’t sleep.

Instead I got up, flipped on the tube and watched the full two hours of 24. More escapism. Tonight I made tacos for the family. D cut up the tomatoes and cheese. I doled out the sour cream and hot sauce. I found the urine.

Tonight, I’ll continue my search for a virus. I’ll have a shot of vodka when I toss the children into their beds. I’ll pretend to be writing something significant.

Forget it, I’m sleepy and am going to bed.

Monday, March 06, 2006

Fiction-y Memoir: Turqoise Light (reworked from 2003)

We were eighteen…just turned.

Turquoise light from a digital clock shined 1:42 a.m. throughout the warmish bedroom, creating a sense of the unreal. I was going to be in trouble, but I’d stuffed the notion of a curfew into the pocket of my denim jeans which lay crumpled near the door. The dreamy hue splashed the walls, skimmed the musty carpet, and lit up my lover’s rapturous expression.

“I love you,” he murmured as he peered into my brown eyes, his fingers buried deep in my black hair.

A cassette on a cheap stereo played the same songs over and over again, tunes by one of those short-lived new age groups about urban confusion and human obsession. The bed coverings had been worked over, twisting snake-like around us. I remember our mouths being connected throughout the climactic moments of our tryst and thinking I’d die if I didn’t breathe. I didn’t care – I was in love.

“My god, what’s wrong with me? I don’t want to stop doing this to you—I can’t stop.”

“It’s love,” I said.



“Don’t talk…”

When the coupling ended, I lied about being finished. I wanted more, I needed more. He complied. After, we lay spread-eagled on the bed, spent, staring at each other with fingers intertwined.

“I’m so dead. They’ll be wrecked at what their virginal daughter has done to their pristine reputation at the country club.”

“If they kill you, I don’t know what I’d do.”

“You’ll find another girl.”

“I’d rather eat glass.”

“Will you marry me?”

“I would.”

“What’s stopping us?”

“Look around. I’m in my parents’ house.”

“We’ll live here. In the guest room.” I moved over onto his pillow. He put his arm around me and we sighed in a kind of relief to be nearer again.

“You’re nuts,” he said softly, his tone bordering on ecstatic.

“We could get married and keep it to ourselves – stay at our own houses. We could wait until we get jobs, then move into our own place. Announce to the world that we’re married and already have been married.”

“What would be the point?”

“We’d know.”

He adjusted himself on top of me. He kissed my neck, my throat as I tilted my head back. Already, I could feel intensifying heat. He chuckled in disbelief, whispering, “I want you now.”

“Fuck me ‘til I scream.”

* * *

I sat near the telephone in my father’s red-carpeted study, a revered map of Palestine on the wall behind me and a glass-encased model of the Apollo 13 to my right. My lover was out again, only I knew he was not with a “friend.” The truth stared me down with its painted eyebrows raised in contemptuous triumph. I wiggled my fingers, fleshy hair to the truth teller’s face. A pencil’s tip had made a gray imprint on my palm where the nose would be. I stabbed at the delicate skin, trying to kill certainty. I was twenty, just turned.

I’d dropped two of my classes already and the university was threatening to take my scholarship away. I didn’t care. I dialed the numbers again, pounding in the last four digits, “Four…bastard...six…jerk…eight…sonofabitch…two…my love.” I meant the last words just the same as the others.

His tired father answered, “I don’t know where he is.”

“Just have him call me.”

“I will, sweetheart. I’m so sorry he’s unreachable.”

I didn’t slam the phone – I cradled it in my hands, listening to the dogged dial tone, a sound of blatant rejection. Dropping my head on the desk, I cried pitifully. Twenty years old and I lost everything. I lost love.

“Don’t give me that bullshit.”

“What?” I lifted my eyes to my mother at the door. She had a Mexican accent and pronounced the last word, “boollchet.” As always, she looked gorgeous. Her face was made up, her dark hair brushed out and long. Perfume scented the air with a glamorous aroma. She wore a black negligee, just because. Diamond stud earrings glinted from her perfect lobes. I could only imagine what I must have looked like in comparison, with my thrift-shop army jacket, my white-washed jeans with holes and frayed cuffs, my black tee-shirt stained by bleach on the front. Not to mention my red nose, blotchy skin, and hair sticking up in all directions. Hopeless curls.

“Losing everything – it’s bullshit.”

“What am I supposed to do? He’s gone, Mommy.” I broke down again, collapsing into a puddle of bitter misery.

She sat down, gracefully, on the large, faux-leather sofa chair. Crossing her legs, she tapped to her own music a bare foot with polished toenails.

“Make a wish,” she said. “Write it down on a small piece of paper.”

I did. I almost always did as she said.

“Now what?”

“Come, mija.”

She got up and took my hand, leading me into the darkened living room. We sat on the baby-blue shag carpet in front of the fireplace framed in black marble. She grabbed a long match out of a colorful box and lit it. She reached forward and flipped a brass switch, then lit the invisible hissing gas. A brilliant blue flame burst into life, growing into a licking yellow and orange fire. The glow mesmerized us. I saw the fire reflected in my mother’s large almond-shaped brown eyes.

Taking my hand in hers, she said, “Give me the paper with your wish.”

I handed it to her, looking into her eyes, wishing.

She kissed the folded scrap and said dramatically to the blaze, “I give you the Wish, and I ask you to see the Wish. I praise you and your infinite wisdom and power.” With that, she tossed the paper into the fire and we watched it curl and blacken into nothing.

I was about to ask when the wish would come true – my mother stopped me.

“There is no time for these things. They happen. It could be tomorrow, it could be next week, or it could be twenty years from now.”

She smiled at me and held my face in her warm hands as only a mother can. She said, “You’re young. There’s more pain to go through. You’re crying the first tears of a lifetime’s worth. Keep them like treasure. These heart pains, these tears, will be innocent, precious gems because they are the first.”


E-mail transmission from him to me – August 20, 2002:

It was great seeing you last week. I can’t believe how…I shouldn’t say anything. No, never mind.

The message sat there staring me in the face, plain, simple, black words on a white screen. I had seen him on a side street, downtown, pushing a blond-haired toddler in a stroller who happened to be his youngest daughter of three. He had his gray-haired head down and when he looked up, his lips parted in obvious surprise. Lips kissable, still. We exchanged internet addresses following meaningless small talk. Forty years old, just turned.

E-mail transmission from me to him – August 20, 2002:

No, go on. Ha ha ha! It was good seeing you, too. Life has dealt us surprises, hasn’t it?

I had explained to him all that life had granted me: a rocky marriage that at least had given me children, a legal career I hated, and the early deaths of my parents. I didn’t tell him my first tears from losing him turned out to be costume jewelry around my neck in comparison to the diamond tiara on my head, ruby rings on my fingers and diamond-ruby bracelets circling my arms.

E-mail transmission from him to me – August 20, 2002:

I will go on. You’re stunning. To see you made me regret everything. Light years more than I already thought I did. I am sorry, so sorry for my stupidity. I loved you then, I love you now. You will always be in my heart. Blue…surrounds me. If you’ll let me, I will fuck you until you scream.

Turquoise light, brilliant and dreamy, unmatched is its lasting power. My wish had come true. He had found his way back to me.

E-mail transmission from me to him – August 21, 2002:

Dearest, I’d rather eat glass.

Saturday, March 04, 2006

Damn Spam-Protection

Don't get me wrong - I truly appreciate Blogspot's effort at keeping out the spam posts. When I first saw the extra information I had to type into a box, those little letters you have decipher and retype, I had no trouble. I believe the first code was "XYPIL". Xypil. Sounded easy enough.

Except over time I keep coming across unreadable letters. Is that a "G" or a "Q"? Is that an "L" or an "H"? Resulting in the inevitable failure to post, calling for a repost.


Am I alone in the struggle for clarity?


A couple of days ago I left my daughter, M, at my sister's house for the afternoon since she was having such a good time with her cousins. I didn't dare disrupt her bliss. So I drove home, picked up A, and spent the afternoon trying to get him to do homework. In the end, I slunk into my office to trudge through the internet while my 12-year old banged on his drums mere feet away from me, A's homework unfinished because after an hour or so of useless urging, I gave up. J, likewise, was playing drums rather than doing a report on Pancho Villa (chosen because my great-grandfather was a colonel in Villa's army) and thus I further had to endure my husband lecturing him. And agonizing.

Read blogs, read silly stuff, wrote some.

Dinner. Threw some frozen stuff into a pan, added some more frozen stuff to that, pan-fried cut-up, frozen chicken breasts from Trader Joe's. Mixed everything together for my own unique concoction that the family generally enjoys.

Time, freedom, quiet ... I really, really wanted that.

Near 7, I packed pajamas, a robe and slippers for the girl, figuring that she'd fall asleep on the way home. I planned on giving her a bath at my sister's, needing to work on a huge tangle she'd gotten in her hair from a braid my husband forgot to take out when putting her to bed (I'd been teaching the previous night). In fact, I'm reminded that in my darker moments, when I wonder what would happen to my family if I died from some horrible disease or accident...(not suicidal thoughts, just depressive ones), one of my main concerns is my daughter's long, curly hair. After a bath, you have to brush it out using a heavy-duty detangler otherwise she'll end up with the kind of dreadlocks homeless people get. My poor girl would end up with a buzzcut if left alone for long with just my husband.

Anyway, I grabbed a Fleetwood Mac CD and got into our VW Passat to take the half-hour drive to my sister's place. Time, freedom, quiet...the night was a welcome relief. I pressed on the gas, speeding some the dark road out of our neighborhood.

As I was turning left on one of several streets to get to the 210 Freeway, I noticed a brown-colored blur next to me as I accelerated. I turned to look out the window and there was a pug dog, running its little heart out next to me. I slowed the car, and watched as it crossed in front of me and leaped-ran across the street into the big dark of our suburban town. Had to be the funniest thing I'd seen in a long time - its belly round beneath, the run a matter of jumping with all four legs in the air, sort of a squeezing movement. Fast, fast, fast.

I laughed hard, thinking, I must look like that pug. Leap-running away from home.

For at least a half-hour. Or so. Hope my belly doesn't scrape asphalt.

Thursday, March 02, 2006

Four L.A. Things Meme

Rodger Jacobs tagged me for an L.A. meme, which I'm jumping on because of my parental-like relationship with the city. First off, every time I leave Los Angeles I bitch about living there. In these other places, I'll see green, green, green, and wonder why I live in a city where trees are anemic, where brown is the general color of everything (even in Santa Monica and all the beach cities, the sand and brush dominate the scene and are...brown). I complain about needing to drive everywhere, about the lousy public transport system (always comparing it to London, San Francisco, and Washington D.C.). I say, bah, we have such soupy culture here. Everything is blended - you don't just buy tacos, you buy tacos fried in peanut oil with a sashimi and hummus side.

In other words, I probably act like most residents of Los Angeles. Thing is, just as we treated our parents, I complain about the restrictions and yet when life gets tough I curl up in the big arms of my city, thankful for my home.

I've spent my entire life in and out of the various cities that make up L.A. I learned to walk on the campus of U.S.C., on Hollywood Boulevard, and at the Griffith Observatory. I first rode a horse on the pony ride in Griffith Park. I learned to love old books in the used book stores on Hollywood Boulevard with my mother. I learned to drive on the Pasadena freeway. I got...drunk...for the first time at age 16 in my aunt's track-home garage in Van Nuys, surrounded by tons of family and lots of Vodka. My mom and I waited until 2:00 in the morning to go home being that I was the less inebriated one. My 21st birthday was spent at the Playboy Club, followed up by a blur of a dinner at the Wherehouse in Marina Del Rey ... all with a cousin [key the innocent whistling]. I knew old Pasadena (with the thrift shops, the trash, and the homeless residents) before it became Old Pasadena. I went to U.S.C. and Loyola Law School. I got married on the campus of U.S.C. My kids were born in Pomona.

I have never lived anywhere outside the perimeter of L.A. She will always be in my heart and never do I feel it more than when I'm returning home, flying through our blue-brown skies, over our brown, speckled hills, with the ocean's ivory line caressing the coast.


Four Jobs I’ve Had in My Life in L.A.:

Adjunct Professor, San Gabriel Valley
Associate Attorney, West Covina
Computer Room Assistant, Women’s Hospital, East L.A.
Receptionist, Gerontology Dep’t, U.S.C.

Four Movies About L.A. I Could Watch Over and Over:

Blade Runner
Rebel Without a Cause
Pulp Fiction

Four Places I’ve Lived All Over L.A. (with food memories from each)

Pasadena, aromatic chicken from Bamboo Yuan (no longer in existence)
Arcadia, cheese bread from Rosemead’s North Woods Inn
Los Angeles, guacamole just like mom made at El Cholo
Los Angeles, the chili size from the Grinder on Fig

Four L.A. Themed TV Shows I Love to Watch:

Curb Your Enthusiasm
The Shield
Six Feet Under
Starsky and Hutch

Four Places I Would Vacation at in L.A.:

Disneyland (outside the technical margins of L.A. but still representative, symbolic)
Santa Monica
Beverly Hills Hotel
Huntington Ritz-Carlton, Pasadena

Four L.A. based Websites I Visit Daily:

ABC Local News (L.A.)
8763 Wonderland
Pasadena Star News
Danny Miller

Four of My Favorite Foods Found in L.A.:

Pastrami sandwich, The Hat, Pasadena
Ribs, Houston’s, Pasadena
Chili Burger, Tommy’s, Los Angeles
Swedish Pancakes, IHOP, Pasadena

Four Places in L.A. I Would Rather Be Right Now:

A used bookstore on Hollywood Boulevard
The Huntington Library with my camera, Pasadena
The Westin Bonaventure on Downtown L.A. with …
Sipping coffee at a café on Colorado Blvd. in Pasadena with a good friend, talking about things only we talk about


Lori (even though she despises Hell-A!)
Danny Miller
Jim over at Meat of the Matter
Anyone else who reads this blog who lives in the L.A. area, go ahead and put your meme in the comments!