Missives from Israel, Part 3

Dear Leslie,

The waiting is terrible. I realize that I’m impatient. I just want to know what’s going to happen, whether they’re going to stop or make it worse, if the latter, how bad it’s going to get and if I should make plans to leave for a while, and when it will finish, so I know when to plan to come back. (And also at what point my job will accept that I should leave and keep paying me if I go. I can work from basically anywhere, but technically I have residence requirements in my contract.) It’s hard to focus, and I find myself checking Israeli and Gazan news updates compulsively. It’s all the same: Rocket shot from Gaza at X, Israeli attack at Y, Iron Dome intercepted Z rockets, A people killed, B wounded – the Palestinian news prints the names of the dead as well – possible ceasefire from talks in Cairo, but not very likely that it will be today or tomorrow or the next day, if it happens at all, ground troops ready, but still just waiting.

I do worry about it spreading if there’s a ground strike, but I can’t decide if I’m being paranoid or if there’s really something to worry about. I definitely worry more about this than most people around me, but there are already some disturbing signs. A short firefight across the Syrian border was confirmed yesterday, though it didn’t lead to anything. This morning, there was an arson attempt at a mosque in a village in the West Bank, but the villagers (so far) just put the fire out and went home. It’s presumed by police that this was a hate crime from Israeli settlers in a neighboring village. It would only take a few random attacks and counterattacks to start an unfortunate chain reaction there, too… Isrealis have an extraordinary capability to act blase about war (which I find disturbing), as if they accept it as an unpleasant but unavoidable part of life that you have to accept, like, I don’t know, dental work, except that you can die from it, or be maimed for life. I haven’t gotten there yet, and I hope I don’t. On the other hand, if a war happens and you have to live through it, I suppose that being too scared or nervous about it all the time probably doesn’t help, either.

In trying not to worry, I guess, I got sick – my first flu in many years. I’m off to find myself some soup…

Best wishes,


Missives from Israel, Continued

There was a line in a NYT op-ed from today that I’ve actually been thinking all week, which is that everyone’s been arguing over whether the latest round of attacks are justified, but no one seems to be asking if it’s wise. I think the main thing it’s going to accomplish is to strengthen the hard-liners on both sides, which I don’t think is going to be helpful. The situation in the south before the assassination was bad, but not so different from the way things have been for the last 10 or 12 years, and you can argue that they had even improved some because of the new missile defense system. The sirens were still disruptive, but fewer missiles hit the ground in the past year or so than before. Also, they’ve tried this already, and it didn’t work. There were rockets before the last Gaza war, and the war didn’t fix it. There have been frequent bombings of launch sites after previous rocket attacks, and the rockets still came.

What did work was an power-sharing agreement with the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank, which is largely peaceful now, and even safe, except for the Arab areas where Israel is responsible for police work, because they don’t do a very good job. Unfortunately, the PA is extremely corrupt, not well liked by a lot of Palestinians, and now that it isn’t causing any trouble, the Israelis aren’t doing much to improve the situation there or move them toward more autonomy. Hamas is not inclined to make such an agreement with Israel, but there were indications that they were open to a long-term truce, but that’s now dead in the water. I guess what I’m saying is that the rockets shot at Israel were a serious problem, but not an existential one, and that this is a terrible way to handle it. It’s already causing a big mess, and I would be shocked if it fixed anything in the long run.

The region has also become even more unpredictable since the Arab Spring started, and, while it’s very likely that a ground invasion will stay contained to Gaza, it’s not completely certain, and not be joined by over-enthusiastic Syrians who are shooting people anyway, or Hezbollah will decide to bomb the north, too, which is more vulnerable, or if it will prompt Egypt to re-evaluate it’s peace agreement. In fact, an IDF jeep apparently just received some shots from Syria in the Golan, according to a local news web site.

In the end, if Egypt and/or Turkey manage to broker a cease-fire, whether it happens now or in a few months, they’re the ones that ‘win’ the conflict, since they can then claim to be the real brokers of power to deal with in this new Middle East. It will be interesting to see if Israel agrees to that (or even if they realize that that’s how they set up the pieces), or if they will keep fighting until Hamas can’t fight anymore and Israel feels like it’s done for now. At the moment, it looks like the latter, but right now, at least, it could improve with the same speed that it could worsen.

I’ll write more soon, if you like. I really need to sleep now.

Best wishes,


Missives from Israel

I have a Facebook friend in Israel who does not want to be identified; I still want to share his story. If you know X, please do not say so.


I’m not seeing much of anything, thankfully. I don’t imagine I will, but as someone said to me today, you don’t plan to enter a war, it’s a force that sucks in everything around it. Haifa itself is calm, but people are worried about what might happen next in the south. Army reserves have been called up. Lots of them, more than in the past two wars combined. Most people in my circles are quite cynical about the fact that the timing of the escalation comes just before an election. Political tensions are running higher than usual. There was a moment of silence in protest of the escalation organized by Arab students on the University of Haifa campus, and it was quickly denounced as being in support of Hamas, even though that’s quite a different thing, and most Israeli Arabs aren’t Hamas supporters at all. If I understood a post from today on my Facebook page correctly, the University now requires permits for gatherings on campus grounds, although (if that’s actually true) I’m not sure how it’ll be enforced.

It’s been reported that the police will ‘make a sweep’ looking for illegal Arab residents of Israel tomorrow. I hope none of that will happen in my neighborhood, which is about 1/2 Arab. (It’s one of just a few neighborhoods in the entire country that has a genuine ethnic mixture…) Given that, though, I would expect guess if they do decide to invade Gaza on the ground, it would be sometime shortly after they finish their sweep, maybe tomorrow night or Monday morning…

What other kinds of things do you want to know?

Feel free to share this, but for now, anyway, I’d prefer if you didn’t attach my name to any of it.

Best wishes,


truth and Truth

It’s hard out here for a blogger. I have so much to say, and yet, when I sit down at the blank page, I get to about “there once was a lady from Dallas” and I’m ready for the cooldown… maybe a beer or a cup of tea. Endurance is only partially my strong point. When I’m “in the zone,” I can concentrate for hours. It’s literally like Zeus giving birth to Athena- the words come out of my forehead and onto the page as if just pushing myself harder will move the writer’s block out of the way. Let me tell you, on the days when I’m not feeling inspired, that is a BIG DAMN BLOCK.

Writing is even harder when you’ve just read someone else’s work, and it’s as finely crafted a sentence as anything you’ve read in the last ten years. I subscribe to Esquire, because they tend to have a stable of writers (including David Sedaris) that knock my socks off. [Incidentally, you might want to pick up the July and August issues- they contain part 1 and part 2 of a novella written by Stephen King.] The July issue has a lot of fiction in it, and there’s one story called Ice by Colum McCann that literally made me lose my breath for a few seconds. Here are the haunting lines: The bed of their wagons was black with blood. It had fallen on the wheels too, so that their lives seemed to circle and turn beneath them.

Dear Jesus, how can I follow that? So succinct that the impact hits you like a 12 gauge kickback [RACK!]. Perfect synecdoche (naming the part for the whole, e.g. blood for life). It’s a grasp of the English language to which I aspire, so deeply and sincerely that it is my life’s work, no matter my daily occupation.

Speaking of which, my dad was the one who told me that… but he is not alone. So many poets and prose writers have worked in restaurants, sold insurance, anything to make ends meet… and they prefer it that way. Sitting in a locked tower with a typewriter is not being a writer. What do you possibly have to offer the world if there’s nothing to write about? To me, that’s the best take-home message that one writer can offer another.

Some of the best stories come from work, play, relationships… living life to the fullest. Of course, there are limits- don’t get fired for telling company secrets (like your hatred for the Asian Database Administrator). One of the best blogs I’ve ever read was called True Porn Clerk Stories- now available in paperback and Kindle editions. It’s the type of writing that will make you love your job more than anything in the world, because even if it’s bad, it’s not as bad (or at the very least, as weird) as this. What made Ali (TPCS author) so successful is that every word she wrote was absolutely true. She couldn’t have made it up if she tried.

So that’s where I am. Living life, collecting stories, and when I write, putting down Truth. What’s the difference between truth and Truth? Truth with a little t is something that’s true for you and you alone. Truth with a capital T is something that, when people read it, their hearts say to them, “I remember feeling like that!” Sometimes the reaction is more like, “I am sure that the writer is telling the truth, because there is nothing about him/her that screams “that never happened.”

Truth with a capital T also comes from the Deep South, because many of the stories we tell there have been so embellished that what really happened is long gone. But if the moral of the story is sound, it’s still true. In that way, truth and Truth are reactions, and neither of them are up to the writer. The writer is responsible for taking on the project and writing in such a way that whatever feeling they’re trying to elicit comes to the surface.

A Quote for the Ages

Writing is living in the balance between “about to give birth” and “about to shit.”

-Leslie Lanagan

How can you say that? That’s disgusting. Writing t’aint that hard. Really? REALLY? If your blank piece of paper isn’t gnawing at your soul, you’re not doing it right… unless you’re only writing for yourself. Why is it different? BECAUSE NO ONE WANTS TO READ ABOUT WHAT YOU HAD FOR LUNCH.

No, writing is responsive. Life throws you all you can handle and then keeps piling. Life is glorious and fleeting and full of pain. It deserves further examination in able to take life on life’s terms, rather than bending it to your will.

I am certain that there are people who would disagree with me- CEOs, Directors, etc. Of course there is a certain amount of making your life fit you, but the happiest execs I know are the ones who say, “wow- this is more than I ever expected. I’m not sure how I got here, but I’m glad I did.”

That’s not bending life so much as saying yes to what’s presented… made easier by a firm grasp on how you really feel- you know, in that place in the middle of your chest that gets tight when things are getting harder and you don’t know what to do.

Try and get that out without a sweat.

But here’s the payoff- all that sweat and tears will bring you a reader. And maybe that reader is a friend of yours, or maybe they live in Belgium. Whatever. But they’re going through the same thing. They’ll tell you that they never thought about it that way… the way you’ve presented it… and a point of connection exists that wasn’t there before. Over time, people will gather. And then it will be three months and then three years of great writing that reaches people across continents who will pick you up when you are down and turn into stark-raving psychopaths if someone tries to put you down via the Internet.

And if you’re lucky, that shared connection will create a cultural thing, like Dooce’s firing, Wil Wheaton’s interaction with WILLIAM FUCKING SHATNER, and Jenny Lawson’s giant metal chicken named “Beyonce.”

So give birth. Learn why writing is hard. It’s worth it.

When We Were Young

If we could sell our experiences for what they cost us, we’d all be millionaires. —Abigail Van Buren

I have to take that mental trip all the way back to when I was 12 years old, and I saw you for the first time. I have to get this all out, exorcise the demon that is you and release you back into the ether from which you came. This is not the story that I wanted, but it is the story that is.

I heard you before I saw you. The week prior had been spent packing up and moving to a city of four million from a town of 2,000. I was emotional to the point of exhaustion, and there it was- this soprano voice more beautiful than the lighthouse at sunset we would visit years later. It called to me- who was this voice? Where could I find her?

appoggiaturas on simple melodies
sanctuary door
there you were

To hear you was to relieve the sting of leaving everything I’d known behind. A child’s intuition bonded me to you, and we hadn’t even met. When we did, I don’t remember what was said. I was too wrapped up in my own head to have had room to store such a thing. I remember first conversations, bits and pieces.

Our music backgrounds gave us our first real interaction, a lesson in concertos. Later on, we walked to McDonald’s from our church, and I told you that people had confronted me and told me that you were gay. I saw your face, like you had been slapped, and I wanted to crawl into the cement. You didn’t confirm or deny, just said “how would you feel if people said that about you one day?” In that moment, I knew they would, and I felt like I had been equally slapped. The realization was huge- and looking back, it wasn’t that people were going to say that about me one day. They were saying it behind my back as we were forging this path right then, the one in which I’d have to tell you that I just didn’t feel normal and you assured me that I was.

There were so many things I didn’t know about being a lesbian, and about being a woman in general. For God’s sakes, I had to ask you how to use a tampon because my mother had all but stopped speaking to me. The week prior, she’d heard me on the phone with you and cornered me as I got out of the shower. She told me that I would NOT put my father’s job in jeopardy, as if I had that kind of power.

And even then, your secret belonged to you. I had only intuition, and the words of your college self that appeared in the journal you gave me when I turned 14. I read about sex and love and desire and everything that a 14 year old wants in a book about who she might become. I remember that you also gave me a stuffed squirrel as a birthday present, and I slept with it for the next five years, because you didn’t live close anymore and it was my only talisman.

When I was 17, I asked you how to make love to a woman. I think I surprised you, because for the first time, I waited for you to leave the room you were in and for a time, we were alone- me in my room, you in yours.

For the first time, I can face this truth. Remembering that conversation, standing in the emotional place that I stood, I realize now that the moment was the first one in which I wanted to save you, protect you, do anything in my power to make your life easier. I was 17. You were 28. There was no way it could or should have happened, but I was deep in thought about your lover, how she mistreated you, how she abused you, and wanting for all the world to put myself in the middle. Be the one to tell her to go away and not come back, because she didn’t deserve you. I didn’t think it all the way through. I didn’t know what I would do if you said you wanted me to do such a thing. Would have freaked the fuck out if you’d ever wanted to see me naked. But what I knew for sure is that if I’d had the chance, I’d have torn her limb from limb and laughed my way through it.

I remember the first time we hugged, and the room spun. I was in love with you, but too young to feel romantic about it. I felt the way it felt to be picked up from school- not seeing my parents all day and the explosion of excitement at seeing their faces.

Wrapped up in you, because you could practically swaddle me with your arms.

Smelling your perfume, that perfume, the one that to this day makes me tear up when I smell it because the way things started are not the way things ended and oh, God…

What have I done? What could I have done?

In the beginning, things were so simple.

I noticed it right off. You were different than any other woman I’d ever met. I didn’t have a word for it, but I knew that you were like me- girly, but not overly so. Not afraid to roll in the dirt with boys and beat them up if needed. Equally comfortable in heels and combat boots. Gap sweaters and Dr Martens and penny loafers, which I also bought because you made preppy cool.

I could barely breathe on Wednesdays.

I awoke at 6:00 AM, and from that moment on, you were all I could think of. What I’d wear that day was really important, because I wanted you to think I was cool, even though I wasn’t. I took forever in the shower, and it was never a good hair day. It was never right enough.

I went to school and suffered through every class. Nothing mattered except making it to 6:00 PM, where I was supposedly doing homework and realistically writing you notes that I hoped you would enjoy. Over time, I noticed that when I was thinking about you, my handwriting started slanting to the left, my d’s looked like eighth notes and my D’s had to curve just so. I used endless amounts of paper, because if my D’s did not curve just so, I had to start over. It rarely occurred to me to just use pencil.

I am sure now that they were tween drivel, but to me, they were trying to communicate over our age difference in the hopes that one day, you’d think I was funny and brilliant. 11 years never seemed so insurmountable as the time I spent trying to figure out how to be interesting to someone I adored. And those were just the notes I handed you when you walked through the door. There were pages and pages that you never read, because in my head, you were my diary. I could never be as good a writer when I thought there would be no audience to read it.

And then it was almost 6:30 and the anticipation was palpable. You were going to walk through the door at any moment and I would be swept up in those hugs, the ones I lived for, because they were unique to anyone else I’d ever met. Intense because they lasted longer… just to touch you, in my mind, was a miracle. What could we possibly have in common that would make you love me back?

The other adults around me thought they knew. Some of the more vocal members of the church cornered my mother and told her that they thought we were sleeping together (though I didn’t find this out until I was 30). They said to my mother, “you have to get your daughter away from her, because gay people molest kids.” My mother confronted you, angrily. I didn’t know what the confrontation was about, but I had a very good feeling about how it would end. I was outside the door during the whole conversation, unable to hear and sweating blood. You were my heart. From then on, I knew that there would be no one that could separate us. My mother was wrong. I knew it like I knew the earth was round.

It was then that all the secrecy began. We would disappear from dinner, talk after choir practice when no one else was around, and notes began appearing in your choir folder so that no one would see me hand them to you. It felt awful and exhilarating to have this kind of secret. I was astounded that you were willing to put yourself at risk just for me.

It wasn’t too long after that I figured out the specifics of why. When my best friend and I used to talk late into the night, it sometimes got intense. We were seventh graders, didn’t have a clue what we were doing, but being with her felt so right. She was so emotionally vulnerable with me, allowed me to be me and just be the goofy mushball I am until I realized, “uh oh.” These are not feelings that girls are supposed to have with each other. When we slept next to each other, I somehow knew that I shouldn’t want to be in her arms, but I did. It wasn’t about sex. I was 13. I just wanted the distance between us in bed to not be so far. I wanted to put my head on her chest and listen to her heart beat as she slept… listen to her breathing become deep and even. Hold her hand and look into her eyes and tell her that I loved her.

But I didn’t. I did the only thing a lesbian seventh grader could do at that point. I became a total asshole to her and never told her why. I never even gave her the choice to accept or reject me, I just assumed that she would. Hung out with a different, rougher crowd. Had crushes on other girls, but stayed as far away from them as humanly possible. I was a total freak of nature, and I knew it.

Until the next Wednesday at 6:00 when I was wrapped up in you again. Held close in protection from the outside world. In those hugs, nothing could get to me. You were my safe place, and you knew why, and so did I… I just didn’t have the words for it.

I started dating boys because I thought I had to. The cognitive dissonance of the situation was not lost on me. I loved everything about my boyfriends that was male- their voices as they dropped deeper, their muscles, their charming smiles and cute little flirts. That being said, when I looked at the moving pictures of my future life, I didn’t see men… I saw you. I was 14 and starting to realize I did have feelings for you-mostly because in my teenage mind, we were the only ones who felt that way about other girls. It was you and me against the world.

I wish I had been more enlightened. I wish I could have saved myself from the deep chasm I dug between us. I was really too young to know what I was doing- playing with fire. I was putting in danger the only relationship that was literally sustaining me.

But loving you came so hard and fast that it was cemented before you told me I wasn’t alone. You knew. I know you knew, because even as a kid, I wasn’t shy about telling you. Understanding that you couldn’t love me because I had little girl hair was beyond me. You let me down easy every single time (which, in retrospect, seems like somewhere around a hundred). It was cute until I was far too old to be wrapped up in you, and instead of realizing it, I just kept shoving my foot in my mouth.

That’s my part of the end. I own that. I drove you to hold me at arm’s length because I wouldn’t give up the idea of being with you. Your part is that you were old enough to see that I was just a kid and it’s 15 years later and you still haven’t forgiven me. You filter everything through the lens that I’m just some sort of crazed fan with no real basis for adoring you the way I do.

I adore you because you saved me. I made it through my teenage years without killing myself. I’ve never had to turn to alcohol or drugs because I couldn’t deal with the fact that I’m gay. I have never left the church because I thought God didn’t love me. And that’s all because of you. Why you don’t get the way I love you is simply surprising, and I don’t know what to do with myself. I don’t know what to do with this river of emotion that I feel I’m being forced to let go for no good reason except your reticence to tell me your side of the story.

You love me. I know you do, but not in the truly madly deeply that a parent feels for a child. The raw deal is finding this out, after having spent over 20 years not knowing. It is heartbreaking, and it feels like the grief will never end. I don’t want to get married in a church without you. I don’t want to have a child without you. I can’t imagine a world in which you aren’t “grandmother.” I think about how it felt when you told me it was my job to take care of you when you got old, and how humiliating it feels to know now that you were joking. I would have been honored had it come to that- to take care of you in all the ways that you took care of me… to be your safe place.

I think about what you mean to me and my chest feels tight, my breath goes into fight or flight. This is so unfair that I want to scream it from the rooftops and graffiti it on the walls.

I wonder if I’ll ever get over this enough where seeing you in public doesn’t rattle me like I’ve seen a ghost from my past. I saw you through car windows and street congestion and flopped onto the backseat in pain. We share friends- it is impossible that this won’t happen again and again as we age, and that seems like the cruelest punishment of all- empty interactions where there was once such great love and affection.

The only alternative is to concentrate on the memories I love, like walking arm-in-arm around downtown and having you tell me that I’m the closest thing you have to a daughter. We were both a little tipsy, and your voice came out so sweet and clear and genuine… until later on when you didn’t remember that you said it. Here’s the thing, though, I have that memory, and I wouldn’t trade it for anything or anyone.

It wraps my heart in one of those hugs. In those hugs, nothing could get to me. You were my safe place, even if I was the only one who knew why.



There are good days, bad days, and very bad days. However, the very bad days are fewer and farther between, as if this is meant to have happened so I could breathe. Our conflict was causing me so much pain that I would become wrapped up in solving it, because I honestly believe there is no emotional conflict on earth that can’t eventually be defeated. But I was wrong. There’s one conflict that can never be resolved: when only one party wants resolution.

I’ve had to evaluate everything that’s happened between us, and the first thing I realized was that it wasn’t my fault. I was too young to be friends with an adult that couldn’t level with me, because I didn’t realize it was even happening. I took everything you said as God’s honest truth and didn’t realize that in a lot of ways, I was being jerked around.

It’s not your fault, either. You didn’t jerk me around on purpose. You were 23. I was 23 once. I didn’t know what I was doing at anything. You didn’t expect to birth a teenager, but I thought you were and I was wrong. There was nothing that could shake this belief that one day, it was all going to work out and you were going to understand me and I was going to understand you.

After all this time, you know me.

I have only observations that you will neither confirm or deny. I don’t know what you really think about anything. The problem was that I was willing to stick it out because I thought we were going to have a moment. The moment that we could understand each other and stop fighting about our roles like we’re one step away from Jerry Springer.

I believed in you, and instead of feeling like you believed in me, I felt that if I could just do enough, try enough, be enough, that things would change.

It embarrasses me to no end how long I marched forward with all of this when there was no clear evidence of this ever actually happening. It was a family tie that lived in the clouds and not on the ground.

I miss you so dearly, and I will not hear a bad word about you. At the same time, I am grateful that I can move on, knowing that in my mind, things are settled.


Whenever I start a new blog, this is always the first title. That is because an exordium is a beginning, a fancy word for an often frightening concept. It may take me a little minute to get into the regular schedule of posts to which you’ve all become accustomed. I’m coming back to writing slowly, after my previous blog, Clever Title Goes Here, was finally taken down as it limped under the weight of bad writing and filler articles because I didn’t have the courage to write the truth anymore.

People FLOCKED to CTGH because in the beginning, I would just spill my guts emotionally and everything was out there for everyone to see… including when I would make horrendous mistakes. We could laugh together, connect, and generally share the pain (and elation) that comes with being alive. 

By the time Clever Title tanked (at my initiative), it was a shadow of itself. People got butt hurt about some of the things that I wrote, without ever realizing that those were my stories, not theirs. And as that happened, I became so careful about what I would say that I didn’t say anything.

In this blog, I’d really like to shatter the fear that made me run a past popular blog into the ground, so angrily that I didn’t even save the posts that were already there. I lost stories about my first “wedding,” in quotes not because I was marrying a woman, but because the story itself is such a wild farce. I lost stories about life and love, riches and poverty. The messiness of life and my attempts to clean it up.

There is no way to say this delicately, so here it is:

These are my stories. They belong to me. If you see something that you don’t like, read it several times before contacting me, because you might find if you look closely enough that my stories are often (if not always) about the life lessons I learned from my interactions with you. You are not responsible for how I respond. And read closely~ more than likely, if our interaction was negative, I will talk about all the things I did wrong. I am taking back my power. I am not a victim, but I’m not coming after you, either.

I can’t say it enough: these are my stories, and life is messy. So is my writing. Enjoy.