Back from NY/DC, up and running

I can’t even remember what I did the last couple days. I got to NY on the train and then raced from the New York Times to New Yorker, to Library Journal, Barnes and Noble, Book Forum. I don’t even remember all the meetings in two days and then a spectacular reading at Bryant Park.

I am glad to be coming home and this weekend is going to be busy. Thursday night we are going to the Bowl to hear Mozart, then Friday we are going to the Bowl to hear Beatles music and then Saturday we are seeing We will Rock You with Queen at the Ahmanson.

I am going to Pilates and running and generally getting on top of my game. Back to work/fun/reading/writing.

Next week we’re going camping in the Sequoias. I like the green thick forest with trees rushing together and the waterfall in the back ground. We always go in the water. I wonder how much will be flowing this year. The girls are bringing their dog who I think will love the woods. She’s been in San Francisco, she needs to smell the forest floor.

I need to smell my own bedroom. I hope I’m hitting the ground with energy at 110 %. A lot to get done this fall.

This fall I have a lot of readings. Time to rock and roll.

This fall’s readings:

September 10 at 7:00 pm – New England College, Henniker NH
September 11 time TBD – River Run Bookstore, Portsmouth NH with Alice B. Fogel and Leia Penina Wilson
September 13 at 4:00 pm – Poets House, New York NY with Nicelle Davis and Gregory Orr
September 14 time TBD – McNally Jackson, New York NY with Brett Fletcher Lauer
September 15-16 – Workshops at Walter Reed Hospital, Washington D.C.

September 19 at 6:30 pm – Building Bridges Art Exchange, Santa Monica CA with Kim Dower and Brendan Constantine
September 24 at 7:00 pm – E-Verse Equinox Reading Series, Fergie’s Pub, Philadelphia PA with Ernest Hilbert, Quincy R. Lehr, and CA Conrad
September 26 at 7:00 pm – Magers & Quinn, Minneapolis MN with Ron Koertge

September 28 at 7:00 pm – The Last Bookstore, Los Angeles CA with Brendan Constantine and Nicelle Davis

October 18 at 7:00 pm – The King’s English Bookshop, Salt Lake City UT with Nicelle Davis and Katharine Coles

October 23 at 4:00 pm – UCSC Living Writers event, Santa Cruz CA with Andrew Lam

October 26 at 2:00 pm – op.cit. books, Santa Fe NM with Ron Koertge

October 30 time TBD – Changing Hands Bookstore, Tempe AZ with Peggy Shumaker and Cynthia Hogue

October 31 at 7:00 pm – Antigone Books, Tuscon AZ with Peggy Shumaker and Cynthia Hogue

November 13 time TBD – Colorado College, Colorado Springs CO
November 19 at 7:00 pm – Left Bank Books, St. Louis MO with William Trowbridge
November 20 time TBD – Wayne State College, Wayne NE

November 21 at 7:00 pm – Sidedoor Lounge, Omaha NE

November 22 at 7 pm – The Book Cellar, Chicago IL with Ron Koertge and Elise Paschen

November 23 at 4:00 pm – Book Passage, San Francisco CA with Maxine Hong Kingston and Shelley Savren

Published in: on August 21, 2014 at 3:59 pm  Leave a Comment  

Who are we if we forgive? Who are we if we don’t?

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I have a friend who was attacked as a child and her attacker went to jail but he’s due to get out. She has to walk back into the dark and remember that girl, that child, that man. Who was she? Who is she?

We all, who are asked to forgive, have to make that choice. The girl who was attacked. The men accused of attacking–those five men who spent years in prison for the Central Park rape. They were teenagers when they were imprisoned for a crime they did not commit. Nelson Mandela. Every kid who’s been beaten by his or her father, cursed by the grandfather, shunned by the mother.

I can say, I had a terrible childhood but that would not be true. I can say, some of my childhood was absolutely terrifying. I was that child, stripped down to torn shorts and a t-shirt, being told clearly what to do to stay out of trouble and ignoring that. Over and over. My parents chose not to raise me. And once you take parents out of the equation, it’s hard for anyone to feel surges of love for a child who simply tears back at the world. I remember canoeing around Lake Winnipesauke and even then in the calm twilight with enough mosquito repellant to drown my skin in oil I beat the water with my paddle and wished I could fight the powers of the adults who threatened us. I wanted to fight much more than I wanted to simply paddle around that lake hearing the loons.

To forgive your parents is one thing. They made decisions with the information they had. To forgive as Nelson Mandela, Gandhi or the Dalai Lama did is an act of grace that many of us will never experience.

To forgive a singular act of violence is bigger than most of us can imagine. We do not say, in some other world, that could have been me. If you don’t possess that degree of pathology, it could not have been you. Not in any world. So how do you not simply say, He was an animal, an inhuman monster. I forgive nothing?

If we do not forgive, we stain our own soul. We leave ourselves ripe for poison. Open to all the black toxin of creation. There is evil in the world and if we do not forgive, the evil is in us. It’s that simple, I want joy, I want love, I want grace; therefore, I forgive my father. I forgive my mother. I hope I too will be forgiven for all my wrongs in this and every life. Forgiveness is what gives us largeness of heart. I have known a few people whose hearts are big enough to birth a planet. Open your hands. Open your heart. Forgiveness doesn’t mean you’re saying what they did was okay. It was not okay. Ever. It’s you. It means you are no longer holding this dark sick poisonous thing in your hands. Turning it over and over, examining it like a treasure until you have nothing else. Forgiveness is dropping the dark thing and saying, I’m free of it. Drop the ring. You never needed to disappear. Just drop it and then the eagles pick you up and then you’re flying.

Published in: on August 18, 2014 at 5:12 am  Comments (1)  
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When Private lives become Public, what Facebook means to you

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Facebook, like any other aspect of our lives means different things to different people. Could you walk away from Facebook? Do you care what others post? Can you shut it off?

My Facebook life goes like this.

1. If FB went away, I wouldn’t miss it.
2. I am trying to check in more often because I am publicizing a book.
3. In 2015, I will lapse back to checking it once a month.
4. I like seeing pictures of my own kids travelling here and there and of other people’s kids.
5. There is nothing happening on FB that matters in the real world—to me at least. Living in the real world matters. FB is a churning conversation over to the side of life.
6. If you want an actual relationship with a live person, that would require talking on the phone, visits and maybe email. FB is not a serious relationship with anyone. It’s a medium for understanding the most superficial part of life.
7. Which brings me to the point that when people post about the death of their parents, grandparents and even dog I’m not sure whether I should take that seriously. If it were very serious to you would you be posting on the internet? My Grandma just died, 5000 friends of Kate, and 1.28 billion active monthly users of Facebook, I want you all to know, Granny just kicked it. Seriously? (For those of you with no sense of humor, my actual grandmother died years ago.)
8. Which also raises the question, if Facebook is really the ideal place for posting the trivial parts of your life, why post at all? Who cares what you had for breakfast, whether your dog met another dog at the park (unless it’s going to be a long time romantic interest,) or whether you played Scrabble over the weekend? Apparently some people do care what you had for breakfast…
9. If something is private and matters deeply to you, that’s probably not something you should share with over a billion people. Matters of the heart should stay there.
10. There is a line between private and public. For a good reason.
11. Human beings are different. How much do you exercise? Watch television? Read? Think? FB sucks people in the way books and magazines used to because we’re a generation of narcissists.
12. Time wasted: Most television, Facebook, video games, surfing the net.
Time well spent—walking, thinking, reading, hanging with friends, creating art, running, swimming, cooking, drinking wine, listening to music, making love.

I saw some black eyed susans yesterday in the park, their yellow tips curling.

Published in: on August 17, 2014 at 7:38 am  Comments (1)  
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DC

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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)  
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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

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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

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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  
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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  
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