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Wednesday, November 30, 2005


Peace Activist Held Hostage

I sat down to eat my breakfast and a story on the front page of the Post caught my eye:

Kidnapped in Iraq
Tom Fox, above, a longtime Virginia resident, was
among four peace activists taken hostage on Saturday
and shown in a video broadcast yesterday.

My stomach turned. I felt sick.

I wonder if they are being tortured. What goes around comes around, right? Why should Iraqi insurgents show any more respect for human life than we do? Let us pray that Tom Fox is not subjected to any of our country's techniques, such as:
burning people

leading people around on leashes

stripping people naked

inducing hypothermia

smashing people's feet with axes

breaking bones

and more
I am praying for Tom Fox and the people being held with him. I am praying for all prisoners of war. I am praying that more people will show the courage to seek peace. I am praying that I will find the courage to do my part.

Frontline: The Torture Question
"Torture, American-Style," Washington Post

Saturday, November 26, 2005



the first time i saw "rent" was at wolf trap. some of my friends had seen it in new york and loved it - i knew the experience wouldn't be the same at an outdoor amphitheater in northern virginia, but it was the only chance i had to see the show, so i went. i was so ready to be inspired, to fall in love with it - i was in love with dreams then, with quotable life philosophies - but instead of empathizing with the characters, i found myself judging them. at the time i wrote it off to the setting - the feeling of soft grass between my toes and the sound of chirping crickets made it hard for me to immerse myself in a vision of downtown bohemia. but watching the movie yesterday, almost 10 years later, i had a similar response -- for different reasons.

10 years ago, i judged the characters because i thought it was irresponsible to be an artist, to live so indulgently. i had trouble feeling sorry for them. plus, i was even more sheltered then than i am now, and embarassingly more conservative, and i thought, these people chose this lifestyle -- chose to do drugs, to have unprotected sex -- and now i'm supposed to feel sorry for them? why couldn't they get jobs if they wanted to? why didn't any of them seem concerned with anything beyond their immediate circle? (ironic that i so harshly judged self-absorption, since i reeked of it, and in less angst-ridden ways, probably still do.)

back then, i bought into the myth that being an artist meant indulgence, meant chaos, meant trouble. meant bohemia. ironically, a musical ostensibly intended as a love letter to art instead reinforced negative stereotypes of the artist as over-indulger, tragic, doomed -- narcissistic. watching the movie yesterday, 10 years older and wiser, i was outraged -- i thought of all the repressed artists who were watching, and how this would reinforce the popular myth that art is an either/or proposition - either you are an accountant or a dancer, a computer programmer or a songwriter, a teacher or an actor.

well i'm here to say you can be an artist in whatever damn way you please. sure, pop culture tells us that all artists must be freaks, lonely geniuses, obsessive abusers, reckless dreamers - and yes, there are artists who fit those descriptions, and some who wear it as a badge of honor. but since when did we trust pop culture as the fountain of all truth? art, and artists, come in all shapes and sizes. the impulse to create is part of the impulse of life, and some of us just feel that impulse more strongly than others - and we all express it in different ways. art isn't elite, and artists don't need to be tortured.

"the opposite of war isn't peace," says one of the characters in the show. "the opposite of war is creation." yes - so let's get more of us creating.

Wednesday, November 23, 2005


Simple pleasures

It's that time of day: Cosmo keeps placing his head insistently on my lap -- ready for my walk, mom! But I'm sleepy and it's cold outside, and all I want to do is climb into bed and take a nap...but the painters are here, so that feels awkward. I might do it anyway.

For years I never napped, but recently, I'm finding naps are one of life's greatest pleasures. On Sunday I sat down on our couch to take a break from cleaning, and the next thing I knew I was lying down, and then there I was wrapped up in our big comfy red blanket... and before I knew it I had drifted off into warm, delicious sleep. I could doze off right now just thinking about it....

Baths have made a big entrance into my life recently, too. The pleasure of just soaking your entire body in hot water, feeling your muscles and skin soften, being transported to a meditative dreamy state ... I am living in Paris in the 20s, I am soaking in a big old-fashioned tub, there is jazz music playing somewhere... I am in a cabin in the woods, the only sound is the dripping from the faucet into the tub, echoing, outside the world is still, the moon shines brightly over the forest....

And cocoa. One mustn't forget cocoa in a cataloguing of simple pleasures. Curling your hands around a hot mug full of creamy chocolate deliciousness, perhaps a splash of raspberry liquor, a dollop of whipped cream...a fire in the fireplace... such luxury.

Indulging in these pleasures - naps, baths, hot chocolate... they help transport me, and yet at the same time they anchor me in my body, in the present, in the here and now. And I think maybe that balance, of being anchored and being transported, is for me the ultimate state of being. Yoga takes me there, and, in a different way, improv. And being with my husband. And discovering a new place. At the risk of being cheesy, on the eve of Thanksgiving, this is what I'm thankful for: the ability to be present, and to be transported, all at once.

Friday, November 18, 2005


My Day Off

Alarm goes off at 7 but I don't hear it til 7:15. My husband gets up and goes to take a shower. Cosmo jumps on bed. Back to sleep. About 3 months ago I became physically unable to get out of bed at 7 after getting up at 7 for as long as I can remember.

7:45, out of bed, throw on clothes, put Cosmo in the car, drive to Petco. Drop off Cosmo for grooming. Growing up my dogs got baths about once a year, and they were in the driveway with a hose and some soap. My husband grew up with a poodle and insists on taking Cosmo for "the works" (shampoo, conditioner, etc) every few months. I usually make him do it because Cosmo hates it so much, I feel like I'm leaving him in a torture chamber, even though the staff is incredibly friendly and professional; but my husband wants Cosmo looking his best for our housewarming party tomorrow night, so I do it to make him happy.

8:15, I'm writing in coffee shop, and my husband calls: we forgot to leave one of the doors unlocked for the painters. Back in the car, drive home, unlock door, drive back to coffee shop, resume writing.

9:45, run misc. errands within walking distance of Petco.

10:00 Cosmo is done. He is so freaked from his grooming experience that he rejects a treat; this is like Homer Simpson rejecting a beer. We take a walk and the sun is shining, the sky is blue, and I am thrilled not to be at work. By the end of our walk Cosmo's tail is wagging.

10:30 Cosmo and I are homeward bound. Putter around at home.

Noon - yoga. I can't remember the last time I went; it was definitely before the move, so it's been at least 2 months. It felt heavenly. Bought a sparkly black skirt on my way out from the yoga studio's "boutique." I always feel guilty when I buy clothes, like it's an incredible extravagence.

1:30 - Buy 2 potted plants and some flowers. Poke into random stores. Feels gross to be spending money. I'm not cheap but spending my time shopping makes me feel like a shallow consumer.

2:30 - Buy myself a tempeh sandwich and a cup of coffee at Busboys and Poets. At first I'm bummed I don't have my laptop b/c I see they have free wireless, and I've been wanting to blog, plus there are a few things I want to look up online. I decide this is an opportunity to detach from media and just be present in my surroundings. I force myself not to buy a newspaper or magazine to read while I eat, and instead I people watch and daydream. It's hard to let myself do nothing but there's something so luxurious about it, too. I soak up details.

3:15 -As I'm walking from Busboys and Poets towards U St., a man says, "How are you?" and I say, "Fine, thank you" as I pass, and he yells after me, "Fuck that!" Then as I approach U St. I see I'm about to miss the light so I start to run, and another man yells "That's right, run away, you're afraid of what might happen if you're back here with me." I remember when my friend Emily and I were in Georgetown once in high school and as we passed a homeless woman she snarled, "Democratic sluts!"

3:30 Duck into a few vintage shops looking for a sweater. Vintage clothing used to creep me out - the thought of being in clothes that were on someone else's body - but now it's so refreshing to see different shapes, colors, & fabrics than what you see everywhere else.

4:15 Home to a very happy dog. Petting ensues.

4:16 I'm in the basement, and the door to the main level is closed, and the painters are upstairs, so when I go to the bathroom to pee, I leave the door open, and then I look up and see one of the painters rounding the bend from the stairs, and I quickly shut the door. I feel like Bridget Jones.

4:18 Cosmo and I go for a walk. He eats a discarded chicken bone before I can stop him.

4:40 We come in through the front door and I say hi to the painter like nothing happened.

4:45 Back to the basement to write. Might take a nap.

Whenever I take the day off, I'm struck by how much richer the day feels - how much more expansive - even when nothing remarkable happens.

Sunday, November 13, 2005



i haven't written in a while. i haven't been taking care of myself. it's like a downward spiral: skip one yoga class and then i'm off yoga, sleeping through my writing time in the morning...of course being who i am, the spiral pretty much ends there, no binge drinking (although i do like me some beer), nothing dark. the security guard in my office lobby still says i look cheerful every morning. but the older i get the more aware i am of how much i avoid the things that make me feel better. and how instead of practicing yoga, or writing, or taking a bath, or walking my dog, i'll stew in my head over to-do lists and resolutions.

(i am sitting on my porch right now and i keep hearing a cat meow and it is very unsettling b/c i can't see said cat.)(also, i prefer dogs.)

this week i was in palm springs for work (i know - poor me) and as i drove in from the san diego airport i passed mountains (now the meowing's more insistent, like the cat is injured, or very sad, but i think that's just the sound cats make), and some of them looked like camels, with bumpy barren backs, the occasional spiky hair. i don't know if i'd ever get used to seeing palm trees every day. the starbucks there creeped me out - no matter how obvious it is i can't help getting freaked out by the experience of being in a chain store all the way across the country and having the sensation that i could literally be anywhere in the world and it would look exactly the same. and the fact that according to starbucks it's time for christmas - the one down the block, the one in the airport, the one in palm springs, all have the same red and white garland up, the same christmas-themed cups. someone told me that mcdonalds aspires to have their french fries taste the same whether you're in tokyo or topeka - it's an obvious observation but so depressing to think of how disconnected we are from the land, from nature, from ourselves.

(ok, i found the cat, at our neighbor's front door, & knocked on the door and asked, disingenuously, "is this your cat?", and it was, and now the meowing has stopped. ahhh.)

and tonight i had improv rehearsal and the moon is almost full and yesterday i made kahlua brownies. this is what happens when i don't write, it spills out in pools of incoherent passion. it's how i am as an improv player sometimes, all energy and commitment but it's all non-specific. and therefore not very good. but better than nothing.

but i'm too hard on myself. i do that when i'm starved for play, for art, for something beyond this everyday physical world, and schedules, and the part of my brain that knows how to study for a test, to solve a problem, to calculate how much wine to buy for a party. i just want to drink the wine. skip the test. oversleep. but this is hackneyed. i marvel thinking about the expansive unruly incoherent passion inside all of us contained in our corporeal form - life as an absurd parade of characters saying all the wrong lines, or not saying anything at all, all wrong, so far from everything it could be, people coasting past beauty, finding excuses not to be who they are, not to do what they want to do. why are we trained to hide inside ourselves like this.

chinese food is coming. szechuan eggplant with its sweet greasy soft - and brown rice - and hot dumplings dipped in sour sauce - so many flavors, sometimes it's overwhelming, appealing to seal yourself off. like when i get scared by all the books on my bookshelves, too many ideas to absorb, too intimidating to think of all the lives and all the fears and all the longings....and how is it important, anyway, when all that really matters is the air on my face right now and the beatles on the stereo and my contact lens, slightly dry, against my eyeball. i am so self-absorbed.

earlier today i left old books and clothes on the sidewalk in front of our house. as i came out tonight a woman said, holding up a big green silk shirt, "oh, it's a large - my guy's small." and i said, "mine is too, now." we laughed. a strange exchange.

there are a million reasons not to write. too tired. my dog needs me. need to clean. need to get to work early. but then there are a million reasons TO write: for my sanity. to honor this day. to honor this world. my dog's soft fur. emmylou harris on the stereo. faint headache, smooth beer. the moment of losing yourself in an improv scene. a feeling of everything all here, right in this moment.

you my friend
i will defend
and if you change, well,
i'll love you anyway
--"no excuses," alice in chains

i apply this to my friendships. it's time i apply it to myself.

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