Monthly Archives: September 2008

perpendicular to geese

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While the geese are flying south for the winter…I’ll be flying east! Not for the winter. Just for a few days. I’ll be in London/Paris/Edinburgh.

Hello, Indian curries! And L’as du Falafel! And macarons! And gorgeous cathedrals! And cool accents!

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Shana Tova minus 777

Hello and Shanah Tovah/ Happy Rosh Hashanah / Happy New Year!

May your year bring you great blessings, joy, knowledge, happy memories and deep fulfillment.

I was hoping the new year would start off with a successful bailout.  But it did not.  We ended up with a dow that fell 777 points instead.  The bailout was not going to put money in the pockets of CEOs (the negotiations took care of that), but to bail out the entire mortgage mess, the banking mess…I was hoping it would happen. But it did not.

So we’ll wait for what tomorrow might bring.

And what the near year may bring as well.  Wish for me a completed, well written, soulful novel (and no more family deaths or illnesses and continued stability and happiness).  I wish for you the same.  (well, if you’re not a writer, I’ll leave the novel part out).

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landmarks

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10pm.  Husband fell asleep at 8pm.  I’m wide awake.

I’m not only wide awake, but I feel alert.  Feeling alert at nighttime has become a very foreign feeling for me since the stroke, something that has forced me to become a strict morning writer.  Even if I am physically energized at night, my brain is utterly exhausted by dinnertime.  I can only do complex thinking and idea generation in the mornings.  But I feel different tonight!

Was it my friend’s visit last week?  I made good on my vow to giggle for two days straight.  We had a hilarious time, two days of elation–an elation that sort of reminds me of cocaine binges (I know, it’s kind of a bad comparison)…like when you totally deplete a month’s worth of endorphins in a fifteen minute high.  It was like THAT.  Nonstop laughter and giddiness and joy.

(I mean, not that I would KNOW what a cocaine high feels like…!)

I wondered at one point, why my husband was not joining us at the table for conversation–but then I realized how SCARY we must have been to a lone, introverted man: two cackling, giggling, nonstop talking, inside-joking, hyper women.  Kind of an exclusive club.

And I was baaad.  I left stuff out on the kitchen counters to spoil, I left other things in disarray, I got a speeding ticket!  (Because we were laughing our asses off in the car and I didn’t notice I was going 85 mph through a KNOWN speedtrap in Marin). I call myself “baaad” with a smile on my face. Sorry! (with a smile on my face).

I was exhausted for days after she left, thinking, “Oh. She’s gone.” I had residual giggles and when you giggle by yourself, it makes the room feel a LOT emptier. No one thought I was hilarious anymore!

And then when the exhaustion seemed endless, “Shouldn’t I have my energy back by now? Oh crap, this is when it becomes obvious to me that I had a stroke somewhere in my past.”  I slept until noon for a couple days, fell asleep at 8pm a couple of nights, dragged myself to work, had to chug caffeinated coffee to survive. For about a week.

But now?  I feel this renewed energy, I feel buoyed!  I feel ideas chugging in my head.  I guess I took 2 steps backward with my energy…then 3 steps forward.  I hope I hope I hope…?

We did joke about that–what if after we hang out, we each get a burst of writing?  It’s happened before to us–we hang out, we’re TOTALLY unproductive while together…then afterwards: jetfueled creative writing power.

I’m trying my hand at night-time writing.  If I can get some writing done tonight, what a landmark!  I haven’t been able to write at night in nearly TWO years.

I love my friend!

p.s. Happy Autumn!!!!!

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workout! spa! friend!

what a brutal week, what with the stock market and all.  even if you don’t have money in the stock market, it affects you.  the insurance companies and all the other companies that affect our livelihood, invested their dollars in the stock market.  now those dollars are gone.  and so are AIG, Lehman Brothers, Merrill Lynch, and it looks like, WAMU.

i’m taking a day off tomorrow.  going to work out.  then i’m going to the spa.  then i’m going to pick up my friend from the airport tomorrow.  we’re driving to sonoma (and back).  we’re going to eat good food. and i’m going to giggle my ass off for 48 hours.

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Reminder: Randa Jarrar’s book tour

My friend, Randa Jarrar, whose debut novel A Map of Home released earlier this month, is on book tour!

She won’t be in Berkeley/Oakland, but will be in Sonoma and San Francisco this week. Her book rocks. She rocks. Go see/hear her read. I’ll see you there!

SONOMA
September 18
Readers’ Books
130 E. Napa Street
7:30 PM

SAN FRANCISCO

September 19
Books Inc. in Opera Plaza
601 Van Ness, SF
7PM

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in another life: rituals

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My husband is not a coffee drinker. It is, thanks to him, that I no longer drink caffeine–I fell so quickly and madly in love with him when we first met that my entire life’s routines were disrupted. Including my morning coffee routine. I forgot to drink coffee. Because we spent every.minute.together. We would wake up and even decide to miss work so that we could spend more time together! (It all worked out in the end, we both eventually started going to work more regularly).

I had headaches everyday, but nevermind! I was in love! But man, love came with a headache! It wasn’t until the headaches lifted a couple months later that I realized I had gone through some severe caffeine withdrawal.

I’ve searched far and wide for a perfect cup of decaf coffee–I may not drink caffeinated coffee anymore, but I’m still a coffee snob! When I discovered Blue Bottle Coffee from a friend, I was elated. “What IS this?!” I exclaimed. She told me it was Blue Bottle Decaf. I immediately ordered some online.

It is part of my writing ritual to brew myself a cup of this coffee. I write in the mornings (when I can), and so it has become a part of my morning ritual as well.

This morning…it is foggy, in the way that it becomes foggy in the late summertime here in SF/Berkeley. The sun has just broken through, casting a flourescent light, but as I began the cup of coffee, the world was enveloped in a cold and tingling fog. Have I told you how much I love fog? I’ve loved the notion of fog ever since I read “Long Day’s Journey Into Night” and when I moved up to San Francisco/Berkeley, I really fell in love with it.

I don’t see it as gloomy at all, but romantic and quiet and comforting. Kind of like my husband.

My fondest coffee drinking moments are associated with fog–getting up in the City to a mug of coffee made for me, sipping it with stale toasted bread in the Haight, or in my Berkeley apartments my toes combing the 1970s era shag carpet. I didn’t go to college in the 1970s, that’s just how old the carpet in these apartments happened to be. It is a very meditative time, this drinking of coffee.

And today–for a moment, I wished my husband were a coffee drinker too, so that I could share this sensation with him. For this whole coffee thing–it’s a solitary thing for me, precious and holy as solitary things can be…but once in awhile, I’d like to share it with someone.

And. I’m pondering going back to caffeinated coffee.

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do not eat dim sum if you want to write

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I thought I might get some writing done today, in between a dim sum lunch (we debated between chaat at Vik’s and dim sum–dim sum won) and a Margaret Cho show (tonight! finally!).

Nope. The dim sum, while delicious, has put me in a stupor, akin to a dose of benadryl. The deepest thought I’ve had all day today is pondering the word “shampoo.”

Shampoo. Shampoo. Shampoooo. Sham.poo.poo.sham. Shampoo. SHAMpoo. ShamPOO. Shampoo. Cute word, isn’t it? It sounds nonsensical after awhile. What a neat word for hair soap. Cute. Neat Cute. Neat. Neat. Neat. Neat.Neat.Neat. Cute. Shampoooo. Shampoo. SHAHM-poo. Shaaaampoo.

Well. At least it’s a beautiful day outside. I can stare out the window and make the most of this dim sum haze.

p.s. got two rejections in the mail today. One of them apologized (in handwriting) for the delay.

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Ike and Kim Jong-Il

I’m hitting the news feeds a lot these days, even though I generally AVOID the news, because it is rarely uplifting and filled with all the crap and heartbreak in our world. Especially the news on TV–they just recycle the heartbreak over and over again.

Hurricane Ike and Kim Jong-Il are the object of my obsession. Hurricane Ike blends my general obsession with weather and personal concern in one, as I have a friend in Houston and as I was so obsessed with Hurricane Katrina my husband had to rip me away from the television one day during its coverage so he could inject some sanity into me. I didn’t write, I didn’t ever move off the couch, I was so obsessed with Katrina–even though later I did write a short story inspired by what I saw. Right now, Hurricane Ike is over the Gulf of Mexico and headed straight towards Galveston, where residents are told they will face “certain death” if they stay on the island. Ugh.

North Korea has been an ongoing interest of mine for many reasons, not the least of which being that I have family roots there. The latest news is that Kim Jong-Il had brain surgery after a recent stroke. That’s serious!

A friend of mine commented–wouldn’t it be weird if he woke up after his brain surgery and became a different person? A pop singer perhaps?

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9/11

G*d bless everyone.  I will never forget 9/11, the day two planes, manned by terrorists, slammed into the WTC in New York.

I will never forget being awakened by my friend C, who called me to tell me about the attack.  I will never forget watching the towers fall.  I will never forget the image of a firefighter, utterly exhausted and overwhelmed with grief, covered with ash and soot, sitting on a bench in disbelief.  I will never forget the image of all the people jumping from the WTC buildings, preferring a straight fall to earth–how hellish it must have been inside those buildings engulfed with flames.

I will never forget the raw and shocking feeling, like that of a warm blanket torn off my body in sleep, that we were not safe.  I will never forget the stories of what happened inside those planes.  I will never forget the courage and generosity of New Yorkers as they banded together after the attacks.

I will never forget how my job had me flying every week in the wake of the attacks–how empty the planes were, and then how chaotic and nonsensical the security processes were, until they became the processes you see and experience today.

I will never forget that just a few months earlier, my husband would have been on those flights that crashed into the World Trade Centers.  He used to fly back and forth from New York every week on those flights, until he couldn’t take all that travel anymore.

I will never forget how people were able to call their loved ones on those planes.  I will never forget how some people had to leave voicemail.

I still sleep with the phone when my husband is off on red eye flight, and I keep a phone on me at all times when he is up in the air.  I don’t want to, just in case, miss his last call.

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Where is Kim Jong Il?

News reports say that Kim Jong Il is very ill, recently absent from North Korea’s 60th anniversary celebrations.

My grandmother, who wanted to see North Korea again and be reunited with any remaining family members, prayed each day that she would first outlive Kim Il-Sung, and then Kim Jong-Il. She lived until the age of 95, unable to, in the end, outlive Kim Jong-Il.  She was born near Pyongyang and escaped during the war, never to return home.  She and the others in my family, are the inspiration for the novel I am writing.

The day that North Korea and South Korea reunify will be a day that I know I will spend in happy tears. I was not alive when the two were one country, and I was not alive when the DMZ first went up. But I have lived with all the family stories of life in North Korea, of relatives in North Korea, and the ramifications of the Korean War.

North Korea is the one place in the world I dream of visiting. I feel like then, a part of my heart will be whole.

It is an eerie feeling to think of a world without Kim Jong-Il…without the dictator.  And wondering how that will change Korea.

It also makes me really feel like I need to hurry up and finish writing this novel.

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counting blessings

Well.  Mommies say the best things, don’t they?  I called my mom to just vent about my biological frustrations. I felt like I’d totally gone insane, and I didn’t want to be crazy with grief and self-loathing anymore.

It’s okay she said. She counted my blessings with me. She reassured me that perhaps my destiny was elsewhere. That I should write. That it was okay to take my time with it. That I still need to give my brain time to heal from the stroke, I’ve been pushing myself way too hard. That I should fulfill my dreams. That I was lucky in other ways. That I had one misfortune, but could still be fulfilled in other ways.

Her words were the kind of words spoken by a person who cared about nothing else but me.

My grief was not completely assuaged, but I felt like I was on an even keel afterward, like the ground had stopped pitching back and forth beneath my feet. Okay, I think I’m going to make it now.

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A Map of Home by Randa Jarrar

My “Hedgebrook BFF,” Randa Jarrar, is now officially a published novelist. Her debut novel, A Map of Home is out on bookshelves (virtual and real) for sale. Woohoo! I would love to give her a standing ovation–for this wonderful book, for the great reviews from Kirkus and Publishers Weekly and more great reviews to come.

My copy hasn’t arrived yet, but I’m looking forward to seeing it on my doorstep (any day now, right, Amazon?). And, of course, to reading it–which I shall, turning the pages in bed each night before falling asleep.

Randa has a book tour, one that has her stopping in the Bay Area: Reader’s Books in Sonoma at 7:30pm on September 18…and Books Inc. on Van Ness in San Francisco at 7:00pm on September 19. I’ll be at both readings, cheering her on, and I hope you’ll be there, too. Go meet her. Go hear her read. She is a fantastic writer with a scintillating personality and a big heart. No one can make me philosophize, laugh and crack up like she can.

And as I imagine, her book will do the same.

Oh. And ahem–buy the book. 🙂

Update 9/3: The book arrived today!

Update 9/7: I finished reading it–my thoughts are up on my book list 08 page. It made me laugh, even though its humor stemmed from sadness and struggle (the very meaning of the narrator Nidali’s name)…and in the end, I cried. I am so proud of Randa, and so very touched by Nidali’s story.

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