Saturday, December 27, 2008

"Mamu has left us."

Mamu has left us? F's choice of euphemism on her daughter's answering machine is magical.

Mamu, the man who gambled away all of his and F's money, leaving her destitute at the age of 73.

Mamu, the man with a long history of balance issues who fell backwards down the stairs at the age of 80 because he was carrying a heavy suitcase and wearing a heavy backpack on an occasion when he shouldn't have been carrying anything, wearing anything, or walking anywhere, least of all on uncarpeted stairs. "Stay here while I park the car," F had vainly instructed.

Mamu, the man who suffered massive brain damage yet was cognizant enough to refuse to use his high-tech walker.

Mamu, the man who, in the end, likely tripped over the walker as he pretended to use it while doing the dishes, slammed his head once more for good measure, and essentially killed himself. (Although we'll never know for sure what happened because he never came out of his coma. All we know is that he was covered in blood and coffee grounds when F came back into the kitchen.) That Mamu has mysteriously stopped breathing seven days after his final KO.

Mamu, the man who, in his younger days, drunkenly threw F's son on top of a coffee table during an argument when the son was 12 years old.

Mamu, the man who, in his blackout days, may have molested (or at least propositioned) F's daughter (more than once), but could not remember doing such a thing when he was sober.

Really? He left us?

From my bystander's vantage point, he remains very much with us.

Thursday, July 31, 2008

Always Look on the Bright Side of Life

Woke up humming the song Always Look on the Bright Side of Life.

How is that possible? I've seen Life of Brian once.

Life's a piece of shit
When you look a' it.

Sunday, July 6, 2008

Tony Schwartz

The Listening Life.

Take a moment to listen.

Harry Belafonte, Paul Robeson, Dalton Trumbo, the Daisy ad.

How did I come to these ideas? 
Just from being human.


Couldn't sleep.
And wouldn't sleep.

Friday, July 4, 2008

White Pinwheels

(for jt)

I wake before dawn
and you are there
with me.
I say
You say
The drowsy air is soft.
Our breath covers our bodies,
and each leg
rests along the length of the other's.
The air blooms with white pinwheels
each one connected to another
and they turn,
twirl in all directions,
they look sharp
like sails
but they're not.
Do you see them?
Do you feel the air
rush across our bodies
caressing our skin
our arms our toes?
You cover me
like powder
like water
like a whisper of silk.
Your glory
my glory
—but the pinwheels—
we're floating in the petals
of the pinwheels.

Saturday, June 28, 2008

No Side to Fall In

Still makes me happy. Still makes me laugh.

The song, I mean. Not the video.

Friday, June 27, 2008


Tonight at dinner Timmy said, "Everything looks crooked."

I asked him to explain what he meant by crooked, and he held his hand out horizontally to show me. "Instead of being like this," he said, his hand level in midair, "they're like this." He tilted his hand at an angle. He looked around the room at all the horizontal lines: table edges, picture frames, windowsills.

I wonder if he can see a straight line. I can't see a line and tell if it's straight, so I have no way of knowing what he's seeing.

Sunday, June 22, 2008


If I write what's happening now, it might make me feel better, right? The 5-year-old is refusing to go to sleep, and it's making me incredibly anxious.

There's something about nighttime that he hates, that revs him up, into high gear. He gets into his sister's bed and does I don't know what until she starts screaming and mommy comes to break it up. He needs a drink of water, which he is permitted. He gets spoken to in a calm, insistent voice. He protests. Mommy leaves, closes the door. Click.

He screams, he shouts, actually, over and over: "A-ni-mal!" Pause. "A-ni-mal!" He listens for a response. "A-ni-mal!" He wants a specific stuffed animal. He's not going to get it tonight. I don't know why.

He gets up, runs downstairs in a flash. He negotiates, refuses, demands, tries to cry (but there's nothing to cry about, so he can't get himself worked up enough to produce tears). "No!" shouted as loud as a grownup. Mommy keeps telling, explaining, admonishing. Back to bed, but now he's laughing all the way up the stairs. Wide awake. Revved up.

The door clicks shut. Mommy stands just outside the door, head bent, listening. Surely he can hear her listening. After a while the floorboards creak as she shifts her weight to leave.

He's back downstairs. Protesting, not frantic, not desperate exactly. But insistent. More talking. Pleading. Insisting. "I'm scared." Of what I don't know. I can't hear most of the words, really, just the puncturing volume of them. 

All I know is, this is not a procedure that works for him. Or me. But once it has ended, his mother seems able to forget that it ever happened. So it happens over and over and over again. At least three or four times a week. I've just started keeping track.

Downstairs, upstairs. Downstairs, upstairs. It lasts for about 45 minutes this time. Then, inexplicably, silence. The music is on now (why wasn't it before?). Beethoven. Satie.

When I was five my parents would fight so loud at 2 a.m. they'd wake me. I'd listen, barely breathing, to shouting and a sound that I recognized as the sound of hitting. A hand hitting a body. Sometimes terrifying silence. Struggling. One or both of them falling down. Thuds. I couldn't tell who was winning. I hoped it was Mom. Dad's drunken, cracked-voice curses and name-calling: Whore. Mom yelling, I can't remember what: You're hurting me, George.

Remembering me back then makes my eyes sting and blur over with tears. I can see the infinite blackness of my room: black contours in a palpable black space. I can feel the panic of certainty that I would wake up in the morning and find my mother dead. The feeling wrapped around me like a cocoon.

This 5-year-old will wake up tomorrow morning and his father really will be dead. It makes me wonder if all childhoods are the same.