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I like walking around Washington DC. There are places you can’t walk, guards keep you off the grass and there are t-shirts you can buy that say, “Keep off the grass.”

You can’t get anywhere near the White House. I remember when could get pretty good pictures but no more. The Reflecting Pool is pretty thick with green water and the geese and ducks around keep it murky. DC is built on a swamp so the whole city is rife with mosquitoes. I like walking to the White House and then to the World War II Memorial which is all fountain and concrete, past the Reflecting pool where I watch the benches for George Clooney but never see him. I always think of Burn After Reading when I go by there and then up to the Lincoln Memorial. If you don’t know where the Martin Luther King Memorial is you are never going to find it. It’s a small room in the basement with no signage. This has always bothered me and I always go and find it and walk around and wish that his voice could resound through the monument and that it were bigger and easier to find.

Then I go to the Vietnam Memorial and run my hands along it. If I have time in Washington, I go to the National Art Gallery but I don’t think I will try to this trip. I like the Tabard Inn where I’m staying and while here I’m reading Tender is the Night which reminds me of the terrible music I listened to the whole summer when I read through Fitzgerald. It was mostly Jackson Browne and I planned what was going to be a long romantic life complete with lilies. Everywhere I have lived there have been lilies. Calla lilies and canna lilies and that is simply ridiculous because lilies don’t make anyone’s life romantic, you do. You make love and romance with your hands and your heart. You can also un-make them and that’s the sad part of Tender is the Night. You can always see couples leaning in close at the bar of the Tabard Inn which is like something out of some old world. My room has a little quilt at the end of the bed. Quilts are unknown in the So Cal. We have powdery comforters and Mexican rugs on our tile and hardwood floors and the sun pours through our windows and you can see everything. In So Cal, there are no basements, no attics; there is nowhere to hide. I’m not sure if life is actually more complicated as we get older or if we make it more complicated. I asked Amy Stolls’ son Eli what grade he was going into. “It doesn’t matter,” he said making a sort of “over” sign with his five year old hands. “I’m not going to school any more. I’m done.” Simple.

When I was in college, one thing was important, keeping my party on. In Mexico, at the Grand Canyon and clubbing night after night, I worked out poetry in my head to the tune of “We build this city.” My boyfriend was a very good dancer. That was enough.

It is more complicated now. We built this city on stories and dreams. Now what?

Tonight I’m going to dinner with Christian Teresi and his girlfriend at Boqueria. That’s the best part of the literary life—getting to know smart interesting people who, like me, are rocking the free world.

Published in: on August 16, 2014 at 3:00 pm  Leave a Comment  

Robin Williams and depression

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Your partner is depressed or you are depressed, what do you do? I grew up with a very simple mantra for depression, “Knock it off.” You feel bummed out? Sad? Depressed? Knock it off. If one of the kids started moping around, they’d tell us to just stop it.

How do we deal with depression? Some communities believe in talking things out. And I don’t mean therapy. I mean talking to other people. Women sitting around talking with other women. Kids sitting around talking with other kids. Men going to a baseball game to talk over their problems. Going to the hairdresser for hours.

My son has had two close friends who lost their fathers in tragic circumstances. He and his teenage friends did what they thought best to deal with trauma. They went on a very long hike and then they camped out under the moon and barbecued, they ate bloody raw steak barely charred and drank beer; they played music and reminded each other that they are alive and that they have friends. Not a bad way of dealing with depression but this isn’t chronic depression, which is a whole other thing.

I had a partner once who had chronic depression. I believed, wrongly, I might add, that my own thick wild happiness would overcome his depression. I believed I could cheer him up. Just being around me was going to erase his depression. That is not how it worked. Dark is stronger than light. He did not cheer up. Depression doesn’t just go away when you’re around happy people and I’m not so much a happy person as an energetic one.

My partner needed drugs and therapy. Just therapy by itself would not have been enough.

We all experience sadness once in a while, sometimes deep sadness and what makes us sad is very different. I know people that get depressed if they gain a couple pounds. Seriously? Or if they wake up with bad hair. Get out of here. Money issues bum me out for a few minutes at a time but I can quickly cheer myself up by just not thinking about those issues.

Depression is a big deal. Millions of people take antidepressants and there are probably more who need them. I do not understand depression and just saying that means that the wiring in my brain does not tend toward depression. Constant depression is a wiring issue.

We all have messages that we hear; there’s a voice in our brain talking with us and informing us of who we are and that information infuses how we move in the world. George Saunders has a story about a man who’s under the influence of Darkenfloxx and under that influence, he is paranoid, suicidal and homicidal. Change the brain chemistry, change the person. We are all at the mercy of our brain chemistry.

Robin Williams seemed to be pretty lucky. He was a comic genius, had a loving family. One would assume that there was nothing out of his reach. Some of my dreams may never come true. I don’t have money and access, power or fame. But Robin Williams could have had any experience he wanted. So why wasn’t he happy? The human brain is complicated and it tells us what to do.

If I had a friend who was depressed, I would encourage them to seek professional help immediately. We do know what causes depression although the solutions are complicated. I no longer try to help people solve depression. I have a few skills and therapy isn’t one of them.

Like many of us, I will miss Robin Williams. I remind myself every day to breathe deeply, to find time to read and to do creative work. Captain, my captain. What we say to ourselves matters. And what I say to myself is this, I am my shepherd. I shall not want. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me every day of my life.

And I am grateful for every grace given me. Captain, my captain.

Published in: on August 15, 2014 at 5:40 pm  Comments (1)  

Off to the Bowl tonight

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At Gladstones with hair in my face.

The Tuesday we got back from Hawaii, then the Annenberg Beach House.

Yesterday I worked, we went to sushi and to see Dawn of the Planet of the Apes which wasn’t as good as the last ape movie.

But the popcorn was good.

Today we are off to the Bowl with our friends Janice and Brian.

Tomorrow DC.

Then NY.

On cloudless days you can clearly see the sun.

Published in: on August 14, 2014 at 3:41 pm  Leave a Comment  

Green Sands Beach


I miss Hawaii and the storm beach but I am so glad to be home.

off to sushi

Published in: on August 13, 2014 at 5:06 pm  Leave a Comment  

Home Sweet Home


It’s good to be back in Los Angeles. The Beach House event was great, a full packed house. Tomorrow we are going to sushi and a movie to celebrate being home. Hollywood Bowl on Thursday. It’s fun to remember what I like about Los Angeles.

Coming up the 405, seeing the roar of trafic. Coming home to the washer, dryer, and plumbing not functioning. It’s really fun. Life is like playing in the sandbox. A lot like playing in the sandbox.

Published in: on August 12, 2014 at 9:29 pm  Leave a Comment  

Hawaii is magic

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Hawaii is already starting to mix itself up in my head. That hike out to the Green sands Beach where the sand glittered green in the thick incoming sunset.

The waves coming in from the huge ocean coiled and uncoiled onto the rocks; they heaved onto the green sands. The waves were massive. I have never gone swimming in waves like that. Nothing like this. But Stephen and Tobi were going in. Definitely. You have to understand that I must do certain things. And I had already jumped off the cliff three times so then we had hiked to the beach. The sun was heat that almost sat on you. We ran out of water very early. The water looked good so we went in. Hardly anyone was swimming. It was far too dangerous. People got their feet wet. We swam past the huge waves that tower over your head like a church steeple, and finally got far enough out that the waves crashed over our heads but sometimes we got to the top of them.

It was all thick waves and light and crashing. I actually have bruised legs, and I think it’s from all the thrashing of the waves and the cliff diving. I don’t even know. I swam 100 laps a day in the pool, it couldn’t have been that.

There are green tiny lizards in the roof. The flowers and leaves are all green and red moving together in the gardens. The whole place is a sea of plants and water.

We went to so many beaches. The green swimming turtles coming close to us while we swam. I like turtles. The eels too. I like all the different kinds of fish in the Hawaiian seas. Especially the yellow ones and the clear ones. The long thin clear ones.

The thing about a real vacation is that you stop thinking you’re on vacation and you relax, you breathe. You stop thinking about your work every second and you know that what is on the other side of that door is living in the imagination.

That’s why we all became writers. Why did it become all about the business of writing? The good stuff is reading and writing. Vacations help you remember the good stuff. The real stuff. Magic sweet and green and red leaves.

Published in: on August 11, 2014 at 8:40 pm  Leave a Comment  

home tomorrow on the red eye

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We fly home tomorrow. It’s been a great vacation. One hundred laps a day, bocce ball, adventures, and thickets of ocean and dark clouds, sunshine pouring in, rainbows, magic, cloud sweep. We have a great family. Hot tub, pool, rice and tuna, we found the place where the sky meets dreams of family.

Tuesday night Annenberg Beach House, 6:30 pm see you there

Published in: on August 11, 2014 at 12:06 am  Leave a Comment  

Cliff diving at South Point, then hiking out to Green Sands Beach.

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Tobi, Stephen and I dived into the biggest waves I’ve ever seen and from there we swam way out. We were swimming and then hiking and by the time we got home, with the cliff diving, hiking and swimming, we were exhausted. Tomorrow is our last day of swim and play and then we go back to Los Angeles. Back to work. Back to freeways and exhaust, events and our amazing office staff. I have three days of work and meetings before I fly to Washington DC and then go to NY. We are going to the Hollywood Bowl Thursday night with friends. I’m excited that Friday night I will see my friend Amy Stolls and her sons and on Saturday I am going to see Christian and his girlfriend.

Tuesday I will be at the Annenberg for the Red Hen reading at 6:30 pm
Red Hen Press: Cynthia Hogue, Jodi Ann Johnson, Dana Levin, William Trowbridge
Tuesday, August 12, 6:30pm


On Sunday, I am reading with Douglas Kearney and Michelle Brown at Busboys and Poets in Washington DC
at a Sunday Kind of Love
Description Sunday Kind of Love
featuring Michelle Chan Brown, Kate Gale, & Douglas Kearney Busboys and Poets
2021 14th Street, NW Washington, DC 3rd Sunday, 5-7 pm Co-hosted by Sarah Browning & Katy Richey

No Hurricane is happening anywhere near us

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We are waiting for a hurricane that hasn’t happened yet. The kids are playing cards and we are watching Star Trek Into the Darkness. The stars are shining and the moon is bright. The air is quiet. It’s just lovely out. We have brought in all the furniture, every single thing that isn’t already attached we brought into the house. But the whole island seems quiet.

People talk about getting ready for a “home invasion.” Let’s face it, if you are stocking up on weapons in your house in case you are attacked by zombies or children of the plague, you really have some problems that maybe you should deal with in therapy.

There are various levels of protecting oneself that make sense. Wherever you live, there is a possibility of some kind of danger from earthquake, fire, flood, tornado so you should have supplies for three days. Here in Hawaii, people have been stocking up on toilet paper and water. I understand the water, but really, is it a life and death matter to have toilet paper? Don’t answer because if the answer is yes, I don’t want to know.

At home we have earthquake kits in the car and in the house but the fact is that if an emergency were to go on longer than that, you would only be able to survive if you were smart and in good shape and able to figure things out. Our family is good at camping and travelling and cooking over a fire and making things out of nothing so we would be good people to hang out with in case of such an emergency, but it’s very hard to convince me that the world is going to end or that zombies are going to attack.

I’ve been warned all my life about a coming apocalypse and so far one has not happened.

If you are buying guns or stockpiling food or water for weeks and you do not live in Alaska or northern Canada or some other dangerous place, you really should see if you are a loony. However, if you have decided to be a crazy person and prepare your home for an invasion, here are some tips that were practiced at the cult where I grew up.

1. Have regular drills where the plan for what you will do in an invasion is practiced by the whole family. Blow a whistle and have your family all ready to go through the drill. Keep doing this until they can do it in two minutes or less. This will be particularly fun if anyone in your family is an older person. (If you decide to do this, let me know so I can stay away from you.)
2. Have an alarm system in place at your home so that if you are being invaded, the police will be notified. (This is a good one if you have stuff that someone could steal. I’m so afraid someone will steal our books.)
3. Collect resources of food and water and have them properly stored. The cult where I grew up had plenty of food and water stored, however, we did not stockpile weapons. A hunting rifle is a good thing if you legally hunt, and it’s in a locked case, but if you are the sort of person who has a handgun for home protection, and you don’t live in Alaska so it isn’t to shoot bears, well, again, you might want to think about whether you are a whack job. (We could last about a week on the food and water we have at the house.)
4. Get some training in how to do CPR and maybe even how to use a first aid kit. (I like this idea in theory but I don’t really have the time to do this.)
5. Have a dog or dogs to warn you about intruders. (We like this one. We have three dogs.)

Grady Powell of Asymmetric Solutions makes the following suggestion:
Remove shrubs and plants close to the house that make good hiding points. Better yet, replace them with thorny bushes that will discourage anyone from trying to move through them. Consider glass bricks as a relatively cheap and bombproof replacement for exterior windows in first floor bedrooms. Use quality locks and, even more important, install door jambs that will resist kicking and crowbars.
As a super economical alternative, drill 1-inch holes in the floor at the foot of both sides of the door and place pieces of steel pipe in them to secure the door at night. While not exactly aesthetic, the pipes can be easily removed and the holes covered by an entry mat. Make sure that entry and exits points are well lit and windows are covered to prevent people from getting a look at the valuables in your house. And get a dog- even the small ones bark when they sense an unwanted presence near or in the house.

If you really think most of this is a good idea, you should have yourself checked into a mental institution. A steel pipe across your door? Where do you live? Texas?
Asymmetric Solutions offers Combat Training, in Simulated Stressful Combat Conditions, taught by Experienced Combat Veterans.
Our programs are scientifically developed to give you the responsive systems andcombat mindset that equates to survival and a winning edge in a real-world crisis. Train for a real-world scenario at Asymmetric Solutions or find a similarly situated training facility.

If you want to have this kind of training from combat veterans, seriously stay away from me. Far away. I don’t want anyone with a combat mindset in my life. Peace is the answer.

Published in: on August 8, 2014 at 12:31 am  Leave a Comment  

Hawaii is super exciting. Small earthquake this morning, hurricane due to hit tonight

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No earthquakes have hit the Big Island since 1950 which is when they started to keep track. But right now, there are two headed this way. And that’s after the earthquake this morning. Yesterday we went to a beach with a lot of sea turtles swimming around and they swam right up to us and were kind of showing off their flippers. We saw clouds of yellow Tang swimming in schools but no Sunny D.
There were huge eels and baby eels as well.

Mark went to the store this morning for emergency supplies but no water was left. They bought chicken, beer and tortillas. If you have beer and tortillas, you can make it for a long time. You can live for weeks on that stuff. But it’s nice to have cilantro, green onions and tequila as well.

We are flying back to Los Angeles on Monday and on Tuesday we have an event at the Annenberg Beach House. We’re going to Gladstones in Malibu for a drink and then going to this event and then sushi! I leave Friday for Washington DC and then NY the following week.

Red Hen Press: Cynthia Hogue, Jodi Ann Johnson, Dana Levin, William Trowbridge
Tuesday, August 12, 6:30pm

Published in: on August 7, 2014 at 12:48 pm  Leave a Comment  

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