Leslie Avenue Capers

Yesterday was the pig roast at Dan’s, and I can’t tell whether I ate too much, or it was just my first time in public in ages where a lot of people were gathered, but I woke up this morning feeling like death warmed over…. 20170429_181708but I’m guessing still a sight better than the pig. I should have taken a picture of it before we started hacking away, but I didn’t think of it until I’d already cut off both cheeks.

Later on in the day, I heard some woman say, “somebody even ate the cheeks!” I turned around and said, that was me. They thought it was weird. Pork belly and cheeks are pretty much the most expensive thing on the menu if you order at a restaurant. Who’s weird now? You don’t become a cook without knowing these things, especially if you’ve worked for John-Michael Kinkaid- something about which I’ll always be proud. Although if Kinkaid had been there, we probably would have hacked out the offal as well. I believe in nose to tail, just wasn’t brave enough in my technical ability with no true Chef’s knife/santoku. It was literally the best pork I’d ever tasted, but of course the cheeks and skin were extraordinarily fatty and I’ve been eating a vegetarian/vegan diet at home for as long as I can remember (I don’t have anything against meat, it’s just that I don’t buy it for the house because I’m afraid I won’t use it before it spoils- I’m not much of a cook these days). During the night, the pig decided it was payback time…. though, thankfully, I did not have any dreams in which someone hacked off my cheeks and ate them just for spite.

I just ate enough fat for three lifetimes, and my stomach will not let me forget it anytime soon. I had some steel-cut oatmeal and yogurt (Vanana from Trader Joe’s, my favorite) to try and start the cleaning out process- trying to get rid of whatever it was I was reacting to, but it didn’t really help. I finally went to 7-Eleven and got a Coke and some Pepto Bismol, hoping that activated charcoal would do better than oatmeal. It’s been about an hour, and I do feel marginally better, but not better enough to actually get out and do things. The reason I am not totally convinced it was the food was that when I isolate and get out of the public eye, when I emerge from my cocoon I am exposed to all kinds of things that I’m not normally…. especially when there are little kids around. I once dated a teacher and it was the sickest I’d ever been in my life. Every week there was something new she was immune to and those little snot factories passed on to me.

Yes, my stomach hurts, but I also had a fever before I knocked it out with arthritis-strength Tylenol. If I’m still feeling poorly tomorrow, I’ll go and see Dr. Akoto, my Nigerian-American GP that is sometimes hard to understand, but absolutely on top of it medically. I wish that I was fluent in French, because my friend Courtney uses him as well, and she says that while it’s hard to understand him in English, his French is perfect and she has no issues. #funfact

Sufficed to say, nothing hit me in the way of illness until I got home, so the party was really, really fun. My cousin Nathan (who also lives in their hood) and his wife Emily stopped by for a little bit, and lots of the people I’d met through Dan were there, so it’s not like I just had one person to talk to, but many.

It was a good end to a sad week, because I asked the friend I wrote about in an earlier entry if we had a dialogue worth continuing to reach common ground, and she said no. It was not unexpected in the slightest. I knew that unless I wanted a friendship where nothing grew, and I was just top-level hilarious, she was outta there. What I should have said is that if she just wanted top-level hilarious, read my Facebook feed like everyone else. That’s where I’m funny and there’s rarely anything of substance.

It is here that I write about everything from the funny to the disastrous, and even though it hurt to hear that I’m not her cup of tea, it felt good that she’s not mine, either. It has been my experience that friendships grow or die, and rarely remain stagnant over years. There’s only so many Trump jokes I can tell before I say how are you? and really mean it. She managed to doorknob me with some choice words that I will not repeat, but solidified my decision that this was not a friendship I’d ever be happy with.

Dan took me aside late in the evening and said those very words, how are you?, and I told her everything that was going on with my stepdad, and said that I wasn’t looking for advice because I really just needed to say words out loud. She laughed and said, good, ’cause I ain’t got nothin’ for ya. What she did offer was a night in Dupont at a Greek restaurant and this bar we love where you can play board games. I told her that I remembered laughing about how heteronormative and whitewashed she noticed Guess Who? was. We agreed to take pictures of it for future reference.

The last thing she said to me as I was walking to my car was, don’t forget to reach out to me.

Consider it done.

In a lot of ways, the Leslie Avenue Capers are just beginning… but we have such a solid foundation on which to build… and by that, I do not mean stealing street signs, as much as the devil on my shoulder says I should. 😉



Spring Can Really Hang You Up the Most

Oh, dear little baby Jesus am I suffering from allergies. It’s bad enough today that I took Zyrtec, Humibid, Sudafed PE, and a Benedryl kicker… all the while slamming coffee and chai so that I don’t get tired from it. I have found that even Zyrtec and Benedryl are no match for caffeine and Sudafed, whether it’s regular or PE. I have to go to the pharmacy today, anyway, because it’s time for a refill on my psych meds. While I am there, I will get the real stuff (Sudafed, I mean). Sudafed PE is the COLA brand of decongestants, when what you really need is Coca-Cola Classic.™ There’s nothing wrong with off-brand COLA, or Hydrox, or any number of generics. But you know the real stuff is better (except for possibly Hydrox. Those things are addictive).

The coffee is Cafe Bustelo, and the chai was homemade by my Indian roommate, Edu. I have Stash bags that will do in a pinch, but if someone offers to make you homemade chai, take it.

The reason I am doing all of this is to prevent my allergies from settling in my mask and chest, because it makes me very sick, very fast. I just had a round of antibiotics, and I’m not looking to have a second one. I might not be able to avoid it because shit happens, but I won’t be able to say that I didn’t try. I get sick a lot in the spring, and not because I’m not doing everything I can to prevent it. It’s that there’s only so much I can do with damn near everything is in bloom all at once. I’ve been taking my Zyrtec religiously, because it really needs about six weeks to build up in your system before it reaches maximum efficacy, and I’ve been taking it for a year now. At first, it made me really sleepy, and then I got over it. Part of it was caffeine, and the other part is that the longer I took it, the more my body adjusted to it and it didn’t bother me anymore.

I haven’t always been a Zyrtec advocate. When Allegra first came out, I thought it was a miracle drug. However, when Dana and I didn’t have insurance, we found the generic of Zyrtec at Dollar Tree, and a dollar was two weeks’ worth. Then, when I moved here, my dad sent me a bottle of brand from Costco, a year’s supply. Here is the good news- though brand name was a gift and I am grateful, there is really no noticeable difference from the generic for which I paid a dollar. You’re welcome, poor people. I’ve been there.

I still buy my Sudafed PE and Humibid there. There’s just no reason to spend $8-12 when I don’t have to. Even if I was rich beyond my wildest dreams, I’d still shop at Dollar Tree, because how do you think people keep their money? 😛 The only time I’ve ever changed my mind about that was when I didn’t have a car and CVS was within walking distance and Dollar Tree was, to put it mildly, not.

I need to stay healthy because my sister arrives today, and will be in DC for a series of trips over the next few months. I can’t tell you how much fun it was to have her in Annapolis for five weeks (a few days a week at a time), because not only did I love hanging out with her, I fell in love with Annapolis as well. It’s such a cute little town, and except for the water and all the boats, reminds me a lot of Frederick…. the adorable little town with the great restaurants and the running into David Sedaris. DC is a lot closer for me, which makes it even easier to meet up. I live 11 mi. as the crow flies from The White House, so it takes 40 minutes on the train to get to Dupont Circle, and less than that for Federal Triangle, etc. But Dupont is somewhat responsible for kick-starting my adult life, so I go back often. Larry’s Ice Cream is still there, but the HRC store is toast… as is the lesbian book store, Lambda Rising. There used to be so much for the queer community in Dupont, but as the rent has gone higher and higher, it’s not the “fruit loop” it once was… taken over by yuppies just as much as The Montrose in Houston…. and by that I also mean really rich gay men, because obviously gay men have more disposable income because you have two men in a house that make more than women.

Generally, the gays that have kids do not settle there, because it’s too expensive to pay the rent and raise children at the same time. They are DINKs (double income no kids) that tend to live on shoes and compliments, much like tenors. It’s probably a stereotype, but the thing about stereotypes is that they start with a grain of truth……..

I think I’m done rambling for now. I’m not sure. If I have something really great I forgot to put here, I’ll check in with you later.

TTFN love you miss you mean it.


The Elevator

I have this friend.

She’s quick with a joke or a light of your smoke, but there’s someplace that she’d rather be.

Where the Billy Joel quote comes in is that she’ll joke and laugh with me, but if I poke into the real, she ghosts…. then, after a while, she’ll try me again and see if anything has changed… do I want a relationship that’s only as deep as an orange juice glass?

It troubles me because I am all about the real. It’s not that I don’t have time for pleasantries, it’s that after a few minutes of small talk, I get bored. I’m not interested in the weather unless there’s three feet of snow on the ground or taking pictures of a thunderstorm’s destruction. I’m interested in what she thinks about love, politics, the chessboard that is the world stage, how the NSA can get my good side while popping popcorn, how my head is in the clouds because I see things the way they could be instead of the way they are. Talking about idealism and how I wish I could do more to change the world in which we live.

Telling her when it’s time for me to take a chance on romance.

Telling her when grief overwhelms me.

And, because relationships are a two-way street, being supportive of everything she says and does, because even when I don’t agree, they’re her feelings and all feelings are valid. Even when the logic regarding them is upside down and backwards, they’re still right and good, because logic is often inversely proportionate to emotion. With logic, there’s always a black and white answer. With emotion, there are shades of grey all over the place. To put emotion in logic’s box is not bothering to listen. It’s treating every issue as if there’s an immediate solution instead of a process.

For me, the process is how to deal with lopsided affection, because I want to delve into conversations she can’t or won’t have. I suppose we all have friends like that, the ones that are only supposed to be good for a glass of wine now and then, where everything emotional is put away for a few laughs and that’s both the beginning and the end of it.

This may sound weird, but I’ve never had any friends like that. They all know me as the one to come to when they need to vent, or that I’m excited about big picture ideas and leave small things on the side of the road we’re walking.

It’s a conundrum, because I don’t want to put emotion where it’s not wanted… in some ways, it’s too late for that. She’s just yet another friend that I screwed over when I was too emotionally ill to see what I was doing, thus wanting to have a relationship with me, but not one that really explores either of our thought processes.

I called her on it, and she said I just think it would be cool to talk about regular things, like regular people do. Herein lies the rub. When has anyone in the history of my life known me as a regular person?

To be a regular person, or not to be a regular person. That is the question.

I’m not the hard-ass that says it has to be all or nothing, because it doesn’t. I just don’t know how to navigate it, and I don’t see it as a fault or a flaw. I am not opposed to just being regular people, but what is it that you people do? Of course, if you’re one of my readers, I’m betting you’re not a regular person, either, so maybe I’m asking the wrong audience. 😛

What is too much? When is too much? When have I stuck my foot in my mouth because I have delved too deep? How do I know when I’m bringing something up that would have been fine years ago but is not fine now? How do I erase history for the greater good? Moving on is essential, right, and good… but when I think of how to proceed, Gotye’s Somebody That I Used to Know goes through my head… not because any of the lyrics in the song ring true for this friendship, but because I want both of us to let go of anything that has happened before to let those people be somebodies that we used to know and our present relationship to just be.

Therefore, I feel foolish that I don’t know how to just be. My mind is always going to be cycling at a thousand miles a minute, I’m never going to be one of those people that can talk about surface platitudes very long, and most of all, I don’t think I’ll ever change… and it’s not for lack of want. It’s that my personality is already set. I’ll be 40 in September, and especially as I age, I learn more and more that people can modify behavior, but their core, malleable in youth, has solidified from cartilage to bone.

But seeing someone flip out due to a host of external factors is not the same thing as seeing into their core. The thinker/overthinker was set when I was a baby, because even though I have no memory of actually being a baby, I can’t imagine that being nearly immobile until I was almost two didn’t lead me into living in my head…. a natural part of digging into the personality type (INFJ) already there.

It means the world to me that she thinks it’s cool to have any relationship with me. I think she’s cool right back. But is that relationship really accepting me for who I am? Who I’ve always been? Can I turn back the running faucet that is always my mind into the drip she wants? I’m not tryin’ to drown her when she only wants a sip.

I’m also not trying to make her into anything she’s not, either. People were born to be different and to connect on their similarities, although there are some relationships that are just too different to work. It has been shown over and over that opposites attract in the short term, similar attracts over the long haul…. mostly because you’re not trying to hammer a round peg in a square hole EVERY. DAMN. DAY. hoping that eventually it will fit effortlessly.

I’m sure there has to be a compromise somewhere, the medium that will make us both happy. Friendship is not marriage, where you have to compromise all day, every day. You just don’t see each other that often, therefore, no need to work that hard.

So why is this hard for me?

In the end, I have no idea. Well, I do, but it has so much more to do with me than it will ever have to do with her. I suppose the answer lies in just being me, and if she ghosts because of it, than it means I need to lean on the friends that see me for exactly who I am, and have no need or want to change it.

Maybe that’s what I don’t have time for. It’s not small talk. It’s the lack of real talk. I will talk about world issues with people I just met in order to avoid surface-y questions that don’t go anywhere.

I want to know the times in your life when you’ve thought of yourself as a badass, or when you feel like you’ve failed miserably. I want to know the travel on your bucket list. I want to know the interesting conversations that you’ve had with the people around you… from the big picture to the smallest detail.

I could give a shit where you bought your shoes… unless it’s a precursor, the first floor on the elevator down.

Then, I’ll want to know if they were on sale.

Jane-ism and Grave Digging

I’m reading a novel series by Thomas Perry revolving around a woman named Jane Whitefield. She’s not a member of any established intelligence agency, but it’s a good romp through the world of private contract security. She is so incredibly real to me that sometimes I have trouble remembering she’s a fictional character.

I am particularly interested in the relationship she has with her next door neighbor, who sees people (mostly men) coming to her house at all hours of the night, and jumps to the conclusion that she must be a whore. I laughed out loud at that one.

She thinks of herself as a guide, someone who gets people off the grid when they need it the most…. a guide, in the author’s words, not mine. But her methods are sometimes nefarious… but that may be too strong a word because “he needed killin'” is a valid defense.

She’ll do anything to keep Precious Cargo safe.

In addition to her professional life, delving into the personal is fascinating. Like, how much should she tell, and to whom? How do you deal with coming home after having to kill three people and not be able to talk about it? How do you deal with manipulating people with lies for their own protection?

If there’s anything I don’t like about the series, it’s that it’s incredibly serious. She’s not a “merc with a mouth,” so there’s very precious comedic relief/dark humor in order to deal with overwhelming emotions, mostly fear.

I’m also reading a series by John Gilstrap about a guy named Jonathan Grave (nicknamed “Digger”), a voyage through the world of ex-fil ops. I can tell that Gilstrap is local because when one of the characters gets hurt, they’re taken to the same hospital I went to when I got sick at work and the initial Dx was appendicitis (it wasn’t). Gilstrap says it’s one of the best in the world. It must be, because when I got there, there weren’t any beds available, so they put me in the hallway and shoved enough morphine in me that I didn’t care. Everyone who walked past saw me at 24 curled up with my SpongeBob doll, a gift from my then-brother in law, Ryan, and his husband, Tom.

[Incidentally, eventually I thought I was too old for it and gave it to Goodwill. It was, in fact, a horrible decision, because it was “life-size” and made a wonderful pillow, albeit one with feet.]

Reading about intel in DC feels so much more real than in other cities… not that it doesn’t happen, but when you picture The Agency, you picture Langley…. or in my case, driving from Silver Spring to Alexandria on the GW Parkway and seeing the entrance sign for George H.W. Bush. I devoured the TV show Covert Affairs, and one of the most consistent shots in the entire series is Annie Walker driving her little red Volkswagen down the same road and taking that exit.

It’s all research for my own novel, learning how and when “things” happen and the dialogue that surrounds it. Even though Jane Whitefield isn’t CIA, she’s definitely an archetype in the same vein. Actually, Jonathan Grave isn’t, either, but again, an archetype that fits. It wouldn’t surprise me if Gilstrap had, at one time or another, been at the Head Shed himself. There are too many details that scream “former life experiences” rather than “I looked it up on the Interwebs.”

He’s very thorough, in my best Maude Lebowski impression.

For the first time in months, I’ve been so wrapped up in something that my grief fades into the background, and I am overwhelmed with gratitude. It helps to be “somewhere else.”

I got an e-mail from a friend that made my day, offering concrete suggestions for how she’d support me through all of this, and a line made me laugh, that she’d bring me anything I was craving (well, not ANYTHING). I wrote her back and said, “so I guess crack is out?” Crack is definitely out. I’m not sharing, she replied. The line would be A LOT funnier if I could tell you what she does for a living (and no, she’s not intel, just Maryland important enough to maintain confidentiality).

I’m smart enough to know that I’m not at the writing stage, yet…. I am at the “staring off into space and hoping an idea sticks” stage. The only thing that bothers me is that when I read fiction, I tend to pick up the style of the last writer I just read, and the reason it’s a concern is that I don’t want to be John Gilstrap or Thomas Perry. I want to be Leslie Lanagan. I don’t need to fill their shoes. I brought my own.

Though this novel is about escapism into a different world, it’s also about legacy. I could give a shit about money. When a parent dies, your own mortality starts to weigh on you like a ton of bricks. In my case, that legacy is taking shape one entry at a time for now and hopefully a published book later on.

My grandchildren’s grandchildren, should I be so lucky, won’t just have the basic birth and death certificates. They’ll know me. Really know me. That’s why this blog and this novel and all the other writing ideas aren’t about money or fame, or anything even close to it. It’s that I don’t want my life to be lost to history when I’m gone.

In my own way, I am also making myself into a guide, leading people into wholeness by laying out all my cautionary tales.

If that’s all my writing ever does, it’s enough. My goals are humble, because I cannot imagine past them, and don’t really want to. Fame has its drawbacks. For instance, I don’t picture what it would be like to be Anthony Bourdain or Elizabeth Gilbert in a grocery store. It’s too scary for an introvert to contemplate. I know myself, that I would lapse back into the show mode of my childhood, not wanting to show my authentic self to complete strangers, because often, it’s not at your own hand. It’s people assuming that because they’ve read your work, they know you better than they really do and ask obnoxious and intrusive questions that you’d have trouble answering in a laid back coffee shop, much less while put on the spot.

As this blog has become modestly popular, it has started already. But luckily, it comes through e-mails and Facebook messages where I have a chance to think about my reply before I send it…. and at this point, I don’t have so many people writing to me that I can’t answer them all.

Authors walk a fine line between wanting to talk about intimate details of their lives in order to exorcise pain, and at the same time, hoping that the writing stands on its own. Cheryl Strayed has said that she doesn’t answer questions directly most of the time, because she feels that there’s nothing she has to add that hasn’t already been put in print.

I understand that feeling implicitly, and in my case, it manifests as my writing is okay and sometimes good, therefore, meeting me would just be anticlimactic because there’s no backspace in conversation.

As the old saying goes, there are some things that just shouldn’t be said, which I usually realize right after I’ve said them. The flip side is that because I enjoy so much alone time and people know it, I have few conversations at all. People tend to read me instead of reaching out, because they truly believe that they know how I’m doing based on snapshots of how I’m feeling at any given moment.

It feels kind of like being stalked in the mildest form of the word, like looking up old girlfriends on Facebook just to see what they’re doing now with no intention of actually asking them. Say I’ve written something about someone that they didn’t like. They’ll stop speaking to me, but that doesn’t mean they’re not spending ridiculous amounts of time reading hoping their names will show up again….

It’s a direct line of one-way communication, which for most people is enough; they don’t actually have time to reach out, anyway. I respect this. People lead busy lives with their own families, often sacrificing time with friends not because they don’t want it, but because being a member of a family is all-consuming- a cocoon of their own making.

Most of the time, this makes me ridiculously happy, because I am also cocooning, just not with anyone else. At the same time, there’s a lot between and behind the lines………………….. and the spaces.


Shaken and Stirred

Yesterday, I missed Easter services for the first time in years. I grew up as a preacher’s kid, so therefore even when I became an adult living away from my parents, church was still important to me. I can count on one hand the number of times I’ve missed Easter… and the last time was when Dana and I both had respiratory infections (perhaps the flu, I forget) and it made our whole house sound like a TB ward.

This year, I was just as sick, emotion-wise. Nothing could have stirred me from my bed. Nothing. I was so shaken that I just spent the morning staring at the ceiling. I knew for sure that there wasn’t going to be any music I could make it through, and Matt streams live on FB, so I have the chance to go back and listen to him if I feel like it later on.

If that wasn’t enough, the year I had to miss Easter because of being sick, a friend left a Facebook comment I found in the “memories” section that said, “Diane sang ‘Holy City’ this morning and mentioned your old church and your mom accompanying her.”

Je-ruuuuuuusalem, Je-RUUUUUsalem…. lift up your gates and sing! Hoooooosaaaannnaaaaah iiin the HIIIIIIIIIIGHEST, Hosannah to your King……….

I have so many thoughts about that, ranging from being thankful for the memory to wanting to set something on fire (I didn’t). My mom & Diane always enjoyed working together, but my memories of both of them are so different. It was a blessing to hear them together, voice and grand piano ringing in the Austin stone cathedral. On the other hand, Diane said lots of gorgeous things about me publicly while treating me like crap privately… just a needy nuisance because I couldn’t tell fiction from reality. I couldn’t tell show mode from what she really wanted from me and how she was never going to give me what I needed in return.

Our last conversation went something like I don’t want to spend any time with you, and after 20 years I’m willing to stop avoiding that truth… a truth that would have been nice to know a long, long, LONG time ago. I was 36 at the time, embarrassed about almost 23 years’ worth of lies. I beat myself up for not realizing that show mode wasn’t reality, and never would be. Had I been an adult when we met, I think I would have taken it in stride. But I wasn’t. I was a child absolutely enthralled by her voice at first, and that faded into the background as we became actual friends, because there was so much more to her than that. Hearing her sing was always nice, but I was never a fan in the true sense of the word. I wanted to talk about our lives, which had nothing to do with music…. and that worked fairly well until she moved to Portland and Susan came into the picture.

It’s not Susan’s fault, by any means. It’s that Diane was a very unhappy person at the time and I was her go-to gal when she needed someone to listen. I know now that adults should never use children to work out their issues, but that meant both jack and shit to me then. I became this repository for all these things I didn’t know how to handle, but I tried…. and then when Susan came along and Diane was happy, I was no longer needed and therefore discarded.

It didn’t matter that I’d known Diane twice as long. It didn’t matter that I was the only person in her life (nearby, not ever) that could remember her in every iteration from “just graduated from college” to “phenomenal arts success that could turn anything to gold.” It didn’t matter that when she first moved to Portland, I got letters before she met Susan when I didn’t write that said, hello? Is your hand broken? It didn’t matter that the day I graduated from high school, she was pulling for me to move to Portland to get out of the Bible belt and start my life in a post-gay world. It didn’t matter that when I didn’t move and she met Susan, she was telling her that she thought when I was 18, I’d just go away. It didn’t matter that she issued invitation after invitation to come visit, and after I got there, the reality never matched up to the pictures she presented to me…. that she missed me, she loved me, etc. etc. etc. It didn’t matter that at the same time she was struggling with how to tell me that she didn’t want to spend any time with me, we went to a concert together and she introduced me as “her best friend.”

Show mode.

In short, I wasn’t a real friend, just handy as a prop. She could tell people that I was this young woman she’d mentored from the time I was 12, and people thought it was so sweet and loving of her to do it.

So, yesterday morning I felt both used and abandoned, after crying my eyes out that this was my first Easter without my mother.

Because if there’s anything I can truly say I hate about my former relationship with Diane, it’s the rift it caused between me and my own mother. I spent so many years defending Diane that my mother and I drifted apart, because my mother could see that I was troubled and wouldn’t talk under any circumstances…. not even to a therapist. The one time I opened up to a therapist, he invited my parents in and told them that there was no equal relationship, that I was just obsessed, as if it were all my fault…. that I was never taken advantage of, I was just crazy…. but therapists would never use the word crazy. He saw it as Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, instead of rightly thinking that 14-year-olds should not have to deal with adult problems on a regular basis… That there was no bait-and-switch aspect, but of course one would think that if you never saw her letters (and probably couldn’t read them anyway if you know her handwriting 😛 ). I didn’t open up to a therapist again until I was 37.

To be a little more fair to my therapist, I didn’t tell him that I was constantly on high alert that Diane was living in an untenable situation… with an alcoholic weed dealer who once brought a pound of weed into the house, and she was constantly afraid of losing her job, both for being arrested in connection with her wife and the possibility of being “outed.”

I got to hear from Diane’s friends that she felt loss over the relationship, and I thought, show mode. If there was any loss on her part, I can only believe that it was because she couldn’t use me to prop up her own ego anymore. She did tell me that she was sorry because she knew that some of those conversations must’ve confused and upset me. I could have been nicer about it, because my only reply was if your idea of making amends is writing one e-mail, reading it is thanks, I’m all better now. I think I’d just hit my limit on being nice.

Clearly, there were genuine moments, but just enough to keep me hooked in so that I couldn’t walk away…. because she loved me.

Just enough to let my pure, white mother love transfer away because I thought my mom was being homophobic and defensive; she wasn’t trying to protect me, a thought that makes my stomach turn because it is so much a part of why I didn’t walk in the light while I had it.

But the thing about mothers is that they’ll forgive anything, and when I started writing about all the gaslighting and crazymaking, the first thing my mother said to me was, is there anything I can do? I started to cry because I felt like I’d completely fucked her over for years and years and she wants to know what she can do for me?

It led to a series of conversations in which I actually did open up, so that by the time she died, she’d had at least three years of hearing all the time that she was right, that the relationship should never have happened, that Diane should have listened to my mother and left me alone rather than taking our relationship underground so that we could hide our letters and phone calls.

I’d do my homework in front of the mailbox so that if a letter came, I’d be the first to see it, knowing that if my parents found it first, it would be trashed. I used to keep them in a backpack in my closet until an air conditioner started leaking right where I kept it (of course) and every damn letter was ruined…. including my favorite, the one where she said she’d left her wife and gotten away from the life that could have ruined her, as well.

I remember opening it at school, no one knowing why I was sobbing onto my marching band uniform…. but they weren’t tears of sadness. If anything, they were joy and relief that I was off the hook from worrying about her all the damn time.

Why that wasn’t a selling point in terms of being close to my mother again, I’ll never know. She tried so hard to connect with me. I remember that one year, my birthday fell on a Friday, and we invited the entire band to come to the house afterward for cake and ice cream. Only one person showed up, but believe me when I say that one person was enough. Had the entire band actually showed, I would have enjoyed the party for about fifteen minutes, my limit in huge crowds. But again, dear God she tried.

Our closest moments were always her accompanying me, whether I was playing my horn or singing. We could work together far easier than being comfortable talking deeply into the night…. and, of course, not only did she accompany me, she accompanied all my band and orchestra friends, as well.

Because I was her daughter, she liked accompanying me the best, but I wasn’t as technically proficient as others. She always said that of her professional accomplishments, it was accompanying Sylvia Danburg, who went on to become the concertmaster at the Met from HSPVA/Julliard that she considered a highlight. Diane was also Met material, which is why my mom always talked lovingly about working with her, too. Diane got the audition in Dallas, and advanced to New York, but the weekend in which it was scheduled, a freak snowstorm hit Dallas and she couldn’t get out in time.

My mother and I just had fun, but she was so much more than just the “having fun” type. All grand piano accompaniments for concertos are orchestra reductions, and she would practice for hours upon hours. I am positive that whenever I got a I at Solo & Ensemble, it was never due to me. I just “hired” the right accompanist.

I am desperately sad that she’ll never accompany me again, because I spent an enormous amount of time and work on becoming a real singer instead of a trumpet player who just fakes it. We never got to do any of the great rep of which I’m now capable. The best I’ve gotten to do so far is that when I sang the Pie Jesu movement of Requiem by John Rutter, my friend Karen held up my cell phone during dress and my mom listened from Houston. Later, Dana showed her the tape, which made her cry, but it wasn’t the same as being there (of course). When I did The Lord is My Shepherd movement from same work, my mom had a church job of her own and the best I could do was send her a link to my Soundcloud account. She had just retired from teaching the May before she died, and we’d planned to work together at CCC when she could come up for a weekend.

Yesterday, I was just so angry that I did not get a dream deferred. I got a dream that died.

No preparation, no saying goodbye, no anything but alive and then dead in the time it takes a clock to tick.

I am sure that, as Susan said once in her Easter sermon, that resurrection happens in the middle of the mess.

Just not this one, literally. It will be my own. Just not this Easter. This Easter was so painful that shaken and stirred doesn’t even begin to cover it. I went to bed as early as possible just so that it would be over more quickly.

Technically, Monday is still Easter…………………….

The Son Also Rises.


I Just Can’t Do It

I can’t.

I am sitting here sobbing at my computer listening to the Easter anthem that was my mom’s favorite, but with SATB choir and grand piano, a faster tempo and the left hand bass running eighth notes ringing throughout the church.

I can’t do it. I can’t talk about resurrection today. I can’t listen to a sermon about things coming back to life, within you or without you.

I can’t.

There is always metaphorical resurrection in all things, bridges that can be burnt to a crisp and then someone comes along and offers you a brand new two by four and says, “let’s get to work.”

When Jesus died, the disciples were not only horrified, they had no idea what to do. It’s not like they had a succession plan in place. He died, and they were scrambling. They kept thinking back to all his parables and how they were too dumb to really hear what Jesus was saying…. that you have to walk in the light while you have it. Darkness descended over Israel and you could practically see the light bulb turn on. Ohhhhhhh……

And now I sit here, the dumbest disciple of all, not having walked in the light while I had it, and now it’s gone. This morning my dad made sure I had Peeps and a hollow bunny to fill with Dr Pepper, but there was no trail of Cadbury eggs to my presents. No fluffy and obnoxious Easter grass with candy stuck to it and a few toys. No plastic soccer ball for me, no princess dolls for my sister.

I think it was third grade that it was a goldfish…. the start of a lifelong obsession because now I’ll buy one for eight cents and put it into a tank big enough that it has room to grow and two years later, one of two things happens. The first is that the feeder fish was too small for the people who caught it to realize it would become a Koi. The second is that it was too small for them to realize it would become a Black Moor, or something equally beautiful and exotic. The “ugly duckling” becomes a swan under my eyes.

I am feeling about eight cents tall, and hoping that time will release the beautiful Koi inside me.

Because for better or worse, I am the succession plan. Just, please God. Not today.

I can’t.


One Night in Bangkok Makes a Hard Author Crumble

Things are looking up after a really long slog lately. I got some excellent feedback on the fiction I wrote- not just “hey, this is interesting,” but ideas for moving the story forward when I really wasn’t sure what I wanted out of it. I also want to work on character development, making them amalgams of people I’ve known in my past, but no one character enveloping one person. For instance, Pri-Diddy is Indian and Auna is African-American and James’ family is originally from England, so how to take one person and embody all of that rather than having single characters based on each one. Now, James, Pri-Diddy, and Auna are not characters in my novel as of yet, but like I said, a good example of my thought process. And, of course, I have to fit in there somewhere.

No matter what any novelist tells you, fiction is real life disguised, no matter how outrageous the plot. Perhaps the author is trying to reconcile his/her childhood. Perhaps the author is trying to make peace with haunted dreams. Perhaps fiction is the dream, a way to subsconsciously enter a sacred space so that the absurd works out the tangible. There are things about my own past in which I am just not willing to let go in first person… writing around them so that hopefully only I can read between the lines… or perhaps to put “myself” in situations that I’d like to experience, but haven’t.

I am generally envious of authors who get book advances, but not because I need the money for basic sustenance. For now, I’m writing about the intelligence community, and all the letters are right down the road. But say I was writing about India. A book advance is a plane ticket, rather than having to Google everything instead of live it.

But even writing about the intelligence community is a world of looking at declassified ops and other novels in the same genre, because it is unlikely that someone is going to walk up to me and say, “hey, I work for the NSA and I hear you’re working on a book. Why don’t I help you out?” It’s also unlikely that I’d run into Valerie Plame at a party, but it would be awesome if I did, because she’s helped out a lot of fiction writers, including acting as a television consultant.

I do have friends at State, and people who work at State are often put on task forces with The Agency, but I only know that because of, again, declassified ops and novels in that genre. If my friends were on those task forces, they obviously couldn’t tell me about it.

I feel like I’m writing blind, and that’s ok. Writing a novel, for the most part, is less about facts and more about releasing the demons you don’t want to ascribe to yourself, anyway. Your own flaws and failures come out in character backstory. The trick is to write it in such a way that no one knows which characters have the aspects of you or your alter ego.

It’s such a process, learning to write fiction. With blogging, I don’t have to know plot points and character development, because I’m living them. Fiction is a chessboard, and I’ve never been even a good chess player, much less a great one. But chess, like fiction, is something I enjoy, even if I have to keep the computer setting on stupid.