Category Archives: Nonfiction

Pesto and nazis and nuclear war

I can feel my chapstick drying on my lips as I lay in bed trying not to worry about how my son will return to school with a broken arm and how will I be there for us enough working the night shift I can’t even go to Meet the Teacher evening but someone has to pay for the cast and his dad’s emergency appendectomy these are not sexy thoughts these are 42 yr old thoughts.

I breathe in and out and suddenly it’s tomorrow.

Nazis wave Confederate flags and some lunatic says his nuclear missiles can reach us making my face break out.

Those two white butterflies chase each other outside the kitchen window where the smell of pesto beckons us all to dinner.

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The Hole Inside My Heart (a love letter to Chris Cornell)

When your voice leapt out of my car radio wailing Black Hole Sun and Outshined, I heard my heart outside my body, felt my young soul pushed tightly against a wall.

You were angry. I was angry.

Then I went on. And so did you.

Years later I went to a James Bond movie. I heard this warm cathedral of vocals that sounded thrilling, familiar. I turned to my boyfriend in the theater, “Who IS this?” 

“It’s Chris Cornell,” he said. And I was like, “The guy from Soundgarden??”

I never expected to see you again. To bump into you in this vast world of art and inspiration. But there you were, your insane voice leaping and caressing and exploding on the big screen along with those James Bond intro cartoon visuals. 

I could hear the age in your voice. I could hear the years I spent in Colorado and you with Audioslave. Your voice, while always gymnastic, had become expansive. I bathed in it like it was the one thing I’d been missing.

Then I went on. And so did you.

Years later at my son’s piano lesson, I picked up a guitar magazine in the waiting room. There you were on the cover in a jacket and boots with your curly hair. But softer, chiller. And in the article you spoke of your experience with loving music outside of the type that you became famous within. You spoke of admiring musicians like Cat Stevens and how sometimes your friends didn’t think that was cool. You made solo music anyway, you said. You toured with it. And, much to your surprise, people liked it.

How brave, I thought. How fucking courageous. I admired you more in that moment than any time you swirled your dark locks around like a rock n roll sex god.

So I bought some of your music. Finally. After 27 years. And I couldn’t stop listening to it. The soulful, delicate, approachable fairy tale of it.

I remember when River Phoenix died and people lit candles on the sidewalk. I remember the vigils for Kurt Cobain, Jerry Garcia, Prince. I’ve never wanted to attend one until now.

I fell in love with you once, a long time ago. And then I fell in love with you again, just last year. You spoke to me in two different voices but one and the same. At 15 you said it’s okay to be angry. At 41 you said it’s okay to get older. Actually, you said, it’s good and can be done gracefully. Watch.

You don’t owe me anything, but I wish you had not left.

I miss you like family. 

There will always be a hole shaped like you inside my heart.

All my love and respect,

PT

Soften

Can one day pass without vilifying each other?

I can’t breathe through the blame.

I don’t give a shit if you agree with each other. Just get on with your work and leave the other guy alone.

I can’t let my child watch regular channels. If not the guns it’s the hatred, snark and obnoxiousness.

I feel like him. Soft skin, wide eyes.

Why would anyone want to behave this way?

Those Not Going Home Again

 

There’s one way into the hospital and

two ways out.

The morgue door is in a yellowish, old hallway.

Not the public shiny hallway with the gift shop selling watches and Get Well balloons.

A darker, dirtier hallway where housekeepers and the people who deliver trays of food to

the living scurry along with their heads down, pushing heavy carts, trying to stay to the right.

It’s loud.

 

There is a small window in the morgue door,

but you would need to stop and look inside on purpose.

It’s not large enough to catch a casual glimpse of those

who won’t use the front door when they’re done here,

waiting triumphantly by one of those large white pillars while a family member pulls the

car around,

but the back door, open to the alley and the hot sun,

where trucks drop off supplies and

load up

those not going home again.

The Lost Art of Photographing Ourselves

My first selfie was on the beach in Krabi, Thailand. I settled into a shady chair under the palms, popped open my book, and looked up over the pages to see my bare feet in the forefront of such a gorgeous scene I had to capture it just like that—toes and all. I’d taken pictures of myself and my friends before, of course, holding the camera out in front of us, cramming cheeks together to get all our silly, laughing faces in the shot. But the Krabi pic was of me alone. A shot that showed me in the world. It was not a picture of that tropical beach, but me on that beach. It was not a picture of the world’s natural beauty snapped in order to remember years later. It was a statement. Here I am. Look where I am!

I don’t take many selfies now unless they’re with my five year-old son, who sticks his tongue out or squeezes his eyes shut for most photographs. But to a lot of people I know, selfies are a way of life. They cover Facebook pages, Instagram accounts, Flickr sites. But the selfies I see on a daily basis look different to me than my bare feet in Thailand. Where my photo showed a person in the world, the selfies I see just show people. If they are in fact standing in front of something interesting, that is certainly not the point. The photos seem solely intended to capture the person—their perfection and physical beauty.

I’m not a better person than someone who takes a boatload of selfies. I just miss seeing more interesting images. Photos of people with mountains, on pick-up trucks, with each other. It’s our relationships that make us remarkable, not our hair or make-up or clothes. Our relationships to our friends and family, to our homes and creeks and trees and skies and pets and buildings and oceans. I miss photography that captures human interaction with the world instead of curated details of it. The world is more than just our stage. The world that we live in and all its weirdness and wonder is what makes us beautiful.

 

Mortal

Maybe it was David Bowie or Alan Rickman or my friend’s beloved dad. Or maybe my forty-year-old brain is just beginning to grasp those words I’ve been hearing for years. Words I thought I understood—but now that I do understand them, realize I never before have.

Today is my life. Not yesterday. Not tomorrow. And it doesn’t matter if I get all the things done I want to accomplish, or “become” the person I want to be. It doesn’t matter if I say sorry to the people I should apologize to, or forgive those who need forgiving.

My death will come sometime, unplanned. In a moment, my life will be over and I will be gone. I can’t plan it, can’t foresee it. It doesn’t live by my calendar. Death does not abide by my rules. The names I keep seeing in the news begin to cut deeper and deeper, as celebrities I’ve grown up with and lived as an adult on this planet with, begin to get off the bus. Whitney Houston, Michael Jackson, Corey Haim. I want to say to them—“Wait, the ride’s not over, why are you getting off here? We’re not done yet.” But they are done. That was their story.

People I partied with when I was younger are getting cancer. One had his cigarette-ruined front teeth pulled out and replaced with white, plastic ones. Double mastectomies. Friends on their second husbands. My mother is having cataracts removed on Monday, and my father now eats foods with a low glycemic index. My sister’s three kids spend  weekends at their dad’s. I think of myself as the twenty-year-old girl who packed up her Corolla and drove to Colorado one summer day at 90 miles per hour with her left foot sticking out the window. Who rented a hotel room by herself for the first time somewhere in Nebraska and sat out back on the train tracks smoking a cigarette and anticipating the rest of her life.

It goes so fast. I’ll miss you folks I’ve been sharing the planet with. It’s scary to keep driving on ahead without you. I was so used to you being here.

“A Serious Question” or “What Happens When a Writer Loves Poetry and Journalism” or “Ouch, these Questions Hurt My Brain”

Can there be a story without me in it? Is it possible to write anything outside of–minus me? Of course not. Right?

But what if I write about the shed? My view of the shed. What if I write about the neighbors? My take on the neighbors. Even if I snap a photo or record a video, I can’t remove myself from the tale-telling entirely.

And then there’s you—the reader, viewer, listener. And you can’t remove yourself either from the way you receive the story. How does anything ever get communicated?

Man #1 states, “Red, red, red, red, red.” Man #2 responds, “Yes, you’re right! Yellow, yellow, yellow, yellow, yellow.” In walks Man #3. “Finally,” he states, looking relieved. “Green, green, green, green, green.”

Maybe this is not a problem, after all. Maybe all there is to communicate is Each Other. We try to capture a moment outside of us, but all we capture is us. We try to tell a story that happened to others, but what we end up relaying is what is inside of us–our hearts, histories, hopes, dreams, pasts.

But somewhere deep in the center of storytelling, running down the middle like that vein you have to pull out of a shrimp before you cook it, is fact. Pure fact. Somewhere, a woman just got shot. Somewhere, a child’s parent hit him. Somewhere, a storm killed a family while they sat in their house eating dinner.

Who can bear these facts? Perhaps I’ll start to receive the news as poetry, concentrate on what that reporter has contributed to this article, what part of his soul is showing as he shouts into a microphone in front of a burning building.

Maybe all we have to communicate is Each Other.