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Monday, October 31, 2005



This week I want to make a coffee date with a friend of a friend who lives down the street. She's apparently lived in the same house her entire life (I believe she's in her 40s), and has offered to fill me in on the history of the neighborhood, as well as some community organizations with which she's involved.

I can't imagine living in the same house you grew up in. How could you make it your own, here and now, and not just the place you lived as a child? To cook in the kitchen where your parents cooked for you, to sleep (let alone have sex) in the bedroom that was your parents' bedroom, to sit in the study that used to be your bedroom and really believe it's a study, not your bedroom dressed up as something else?

We're only the third occupants of our house, which is remarkable since it was built in 1920 - the same family lived here from 1920-2000. I think about all the years of life that have taken place here, the dreams secretly held, the frustrations, the fights, the love expressed or unexpressed. The mundane rituals. This may sound kooky, but sometimes I can feel the presence of former residents' lives, like an invisible but weighty impression, a thumbprint, a footprint. Sometimes I wish I could claim the space for us and us alone, without the clutter of history - but other times living in this big old house with 85 years of history makes me feel connected, like I am part of something with a long past and a future stretching out ahead.

Monday, October 24, 2005



Yesterday I had the luck to score some tickets to the Mark Twain Prize ceremony at the Kennedy Center. The honoree this year was Steve Martin - I love that man. I love his droll and absurd comic sensibility, and how good he is at physical comedy - I was inspired to bring more of both into my work as an improviser (that sounded really pretentious, but I take improv classes and am in a group that's rehearsing for a performance in January or February - so I can call myself an improviser and not just an improv student, right? - this reminds me of how people feel like they can't say they're a writer unless they've been published...but if you write, then you're a writer...right? - but I digress...)

I'm late for work so I can't write much, but let me just say that I am not above being awed by star power, and it was thrilling and bizarre to be all of 10 feet from Paul Simon, Martin Short, Larry David, Diane Keaton - who, by the way, was wearing a skirt that I will never forget, red plaid with tons of crinolin underneath, giving it the coolest shape... I love that woman's style. Instead of following suit with other performers there to pay Martin tribute, who tended either towards a roast or humorous toast, she surprised the crowd by delivering a spare rendition of "The Way You Look Tonight" that was sweet and simple and sincere.

Others who were there to pay tribute: Queen Latifah (who looked beautiful, and joked about her sex scene with Martin in "Bringing Down the House"); Claire Danes (who confessed she used to have a crush on Martin); Eric Idle (who gave a hilarious reading of Martin's New Yorker essay, "Side Effects"); Lorne Michaels (who joked that he was more comfortable as the honoree - he won the award last year); Carl Reiner (who directed Martin's first 4 films, I believe); and Lily Tomlin (who showed a hilarious clip from the movie All of Me, in which her character inhabits Martin's body).

Larry David and Martin Short were my favorites by far - David's schtick was that he was surprised to be invited since he has a tendency to ruin things, and he proceeded to tell a series of hilarious stories painting Martin as a bum-hating, cat-hating, anti-semitic, egomaniacal oaf (with David, of course, as the earnest and offended friend)...after each tale he'd say, "I'm sorry, I shouldn't be telling you this." Hysterical. And Short just gave a classic roast, compliments ending with insults - I can't remember any specific lines but honestly he was in a league of his own in terms of comic timing and delivery.

I am now officially late for work. In closing: Tom Hanks was there, and he had long hair. I kid you not.

Saturday, October 22, 2005


Forgive my stream-of-consciousness on a cold and rainy Saturday morning

Some days I have something to say, but the something is non-specific, just a general awareness of the fullness of life - I want to raise my hand and say, "I feel it too! I'm here." On these days I think of Allen Ginsberg, "the best minds of a generation, starving, hysterical, naked." I think of William Carlos Williams, with his plums in the icebox, images holding everything, "no ideas but in things." I think of Jack Kerouac - "the only ones for me are the mad ones, the ones desirous of everything all at once, burning like fabulous roman candles across the sky."I think of all the nights as a teenager that I stayed up writing in my journal, drinking diet coke from a wine glass. (Okay, that was just once, that I remember.) I think of my friend who is adjusting to being a mom and needing permission to be imperfect, to be messy and confused - permission that life is still life even when you bring a child into this world, even when the pressure for perfection is strong. I think of how much solace she found in Anne Lamott, "Mothers Who Think" on Salon.com. I think of the power of writing to remind us we're not alone and the paradoxical aloneness so many writers feel. I sit sometimes and stare at the books on my bookshelves and marvel at all the lives represented there - all the people who journeyed to discover they were writers, who birthed the ideas represented in the books, who labored to put those worlds on the page, the joy and satisfaction and dissatisfaction that must have brought them. I think of writers going through that journey for centuries and here we are, still going through it - a reminder that no amount of struggle answers questions in a definitive way. That answers are illusory. That questions comprise life. That there are no ideas but in things.

Worth reading if you're in the right mood:

Anne Lamott, Letter to a Pregnant Friend, Salon.com

Reactions to a statement made by Kurt Vonnegut on PBS.

This poem, by Susan Scott Thompson:
We pulled each other closer in the turn.
Around a center that we could not see.
This holding on was what I had to learn.
The sun can hold the planets, earth, the moon.
But we had to create our gravity.
By always pulling closer in the turn.
Each revolution caused my head to whirl.
So dizzy I wanted to break free.
But holding on was what I had to learn.
I fixed my eyes on something out there firm.
And then our orbit steadied so that we could pull each other closer in the turn.
And if our feet should briefly leave the earth, no matter, earth was made for us to leave.
And arms for pulling closer in the turn.
This holding on is what we have to learn.

Monday, October 17, 2005



Things I've seen since we moved into our new house:
  1. A man carrying a Safeway bag full of limes on a Sunday morning. Bloody Mary garnishes? Key lime pie? Just likes lime?
  2. On a weekday after work: an overweight man carrying a large pizza box and a six-pack of beer. Mmm. Beer.
  3. A line of school children - kindergardeners, I'd guess - holding hands and following their teacher down the sidewalk on a sunny weekday morning. "Hiii," they waved. "Hiiii."
  4. An alley in the light rain on a grey Sunday afternoon, lush old trees hanging down, old brick walls holding years of history.
  5. A hospice worker wearing traditional African garb, pushing an old man in a wheelchair. I smiled, he smiled back, we exchanged pleasantries. "What is your name," he asked. "Amanda," I replied. He told me his name; I can't remember what it was. But I remember his eyes were clear and he was beaming.
  6. George the dog walker with corn rows, stopping in front of our front steps to introduce himself. He told my husband, "You should come play basketball sometime." "I don't really play sports," my husband said, but in a friendly way.
  7. Lots of cars with bumper stickers that say things like, "Worst President Ever" and "Bushit."
  8. A man walking down the street singing.
  9. A big woman wearing flipflops adorned with plastic fruit, and her little Yorkshire terrier.
  10. An old man picking a dark pink flower from our garden.
Every day we're here, it feels a little more real. We've hit some key milestones on the path to making a house a home: we've watched The Simpsons; I've napped, and taken baths; he's fiddled with the computer. These things color in our lives; they make the house feel occupied, less like a toy and more like us. Like the difference between a theater before and after a performance: anticipation replaced by a thickness in the air, holding what came before.

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