Archive for October 2011

Steppin’ Out in My New Boots

The Texas Book Festival is a heartening event for a writer. There were splashy authors and passionate readers crawling all up and down Congress St. I got to meet a handful of my influences, which is a crazy thrill. Even more thrilling, they weren’t assholes.

I bought cowboy boots, stayed out until all hours, flirted with the guy at the Greek food truck (so sue me). I missed my family like crazy, but honestly I also enjoyed living this pretend late-night life for a few days.

I was honored to do the American Reinventions panel with Jennifer Niven and Kerri Reichs and the Porchlight Storytelling Series with Amy Waldman, Meg Wolitzer and Sharifa Rhodes-Pitts.


Here I am partying with Todd Zuniga, Chad Harbach, Mat Johnson and Sara Ortiz.

And on my night off, I got to hang with two of my oldest friends in the world. Cha and Miles and I got into some big trouble together back in Jersey. I could see the echoes of the kids they once were flash across their faces as their own kids raised hell together in the next room.

I miss them. And I miss who we were together sometimes- how passionate and how hopeful. And even when I recall the parts I don’t miss (the epic screwed-up-ness), I’m touched to think of how we went through it all together and now here we are- on a porch in Austin eating homemade pizzas by candlelight.

Occupy LA

I woke up on Saturday and decidedly did not feel like going to a protest. But then I imagined my kid asking me in ten years where I was when the revolution began. I think I’d feel like kind of a douche if I was like- well, I was making homemade granola and catching up on my emails. I remember how I felt about my own mother when she told me she was rushing a sorority during Woodstock. Plus, I already had the babysitter (I decided the march would be too much for T), so off I went to the Global Day of Action.

I do realize the irony of hiring a babysitter to go to this particular protest. Don’t think that slipped by me. And yet…

I’m so glad I did. I don’t know where the Occupy Movement is going, but Scott and I have had the opportunity to be in a handful of different Occupied cities in the past month and we both keep running into protests and encampments. It’s giving us chills. We’re texting pictures to each other. We’re talking about it at night. And if T asks me about it one day, I will tell him that I was there to say I want a better, saner world for him.

Here are Hope and Coco, our friends and neighbors. I met up with them in the crowd. Cutest protester ever.

Where’s My Brain?

I look out over Austin as I’m writing about San Francisco but that’s how tour is- time just spirals away from you until the best you can do is hold onto your seat and hope that it’s a seat on the correct plane at least. Come to think of it, that’s kind of how parenthood is, too. Or at least it feels like that to me much of the time. And Scott and I have been doing both the tour thing and the parenthood thing with gusto this month. It’s been crazy, crazy pants ’round here, let me tell you. It’s been a wet-towels-on-the-bed, just-order-take-out-again, oh-shit-where-are-my-keys, oh-no-I’m-late-for-my-plane, no-I-didn’t-feed-the-dogs-I-thought-you-did kind of month.

Last week Scott and I had colliding tour schedules, so I wound up taking T with me to San Francisco. I was trepidatious about it, but it turned into a week full of those magical Bay Area moments. Moments when the fog dissipates and the light is buttery and people are considerate and just when you think you’re lost a bus comes out of nowhere with your destination printed right above the windshield.

For example, when we arrived we discovered that it was Fleet Week in SF. We were greeted by a welcoming committee of Blue Angel fighter jets. Which, in Tariku’s universe, would only be bested by DJ Lance showing up at our door with a gallon of chocolate ice cream and fourteen new toy airplanes. Maybe.

We were able to go down to the waterfront the next day and watch the Air Show with T’s Uncle Paul and Uncle Vincey. The weather, the timing- it was mystical. And my tour/toddler trepidation was replaced by gratitude that we get to share these adventures together.

As for the SF events, they were awesome. I read at Writers With Drinks at The Makeout Room (above), told a story at the Litquake edition of the Porchlight Storytelling Series, and threw a little shindig with Rare Bird Lit at The Hotel Rex, which was emceed by my buddy Tony DuShane (photo below- looking very Beat poet, I think). Here’s the podcast of me on his radio show before we headed over to the party. The delightful Paul Myers played us some songs and I was humbled and inspired by Elissa Schappell’s reading (which is the best way to feel when watching another writer read.) I saw old friends, made new ones and heard some incredible stories.

I wouldn’t say I left my heart there exactly, but I did return with it feeling full. My brain, on the other hand, was toast.

Now where the heck are those keys?

Where Do I Come From?

The question is sticky for any parent, but for an adoptive parent there are about twelve extra steps to the answer. And when you’re dealing with a history that’s painful and traumatic, it can be particularly worrisome ground on which to tread.

I had no idea how hard it would be to break down complicated concepts in developmentally appropriate ways. And I’m not just talking about baby-making kind of questions. The other day T asked me with the “X” on the church was. Whoa. How do you even begin? Not to mention the “how do airplanes work” kind of questions, which would be easier to explain if I knew the answer in the first place.

In terms of the adoption-related subjects, I don’t have a master plan. I just feel it out as we go and try to stay a step ahead of the questions. So far, T knows that he was adopted from Africa, but he doesn’t quite understand that he grew in someone else’s belly. He recently kind of got that babies grow in bellies (and enjoys going up to all big ladies at the park and asking if there’s a “baby in there”), so I think it’s time to talk about it.

This is particularly delicate because of the challenges I’ve faced with T in the past year and the fact that I feel like he and I have recently turned a corner. I don’t know why the change happened, but he’s rejecting me much less than he was. He still prefers Daddy, but at least he’s not punching me in the face every time we get close and snuggly. In fact, we’re really connecting. You can’t imagine the relief, the joy.

And now I get to re-introduce the source of the trauma by expanding on T’s narrative with him. So I’m worried about regression and about losing the progress we’ve made. But Scott and I have spent some time talking about it with our trusted “board of directors” (ie our closest adoptive parent buddies) and have decided that as soon as the traveling of this month is over, we’re going to start reading T’s lifebook with him and showing him the video we have of him from the care center in Ethiopia.

As both an adoptee and an adoptive mom, I have many feelings that come up around this stuff. I feel honored to be entrusted with his story. I feel a tremendous responsibility to share it with him in a way that’s both deeply honest and developmentally appropriate. And I feel the tentacles of my own trauma history try to wrap themselves around this process and shut me down emotionally. But I’m fighting to be present and to look at it all for what it truly is- both T’s grief and mine, both his loss and mine. And to be grateful for the amazing opportunity to be here for the healing. For all of us.

PRETTY Book Tour: Portland and San Francisco

I’m in PDX right now at the lovely Heathman hotel, having a “drinkable chocolate” (as decadent as it sounds) for lunch and cruising the stacks of their amazing library of books signed by authors that have stayed here. If you’re nearby, come see me tonight at Kevin Sampsell’s Booty Call at the Blue Monk at 9. It should be down and dirty and I’m reading with the likes of Steve Almond, Dena Rash Guzman and Chloe Caldwell.

Scott is leaving for tour, so I’ll be meeting Tariku and Jen, our intrepid treasure of a babysitter, in SF tomorrow. Tariku’s “aunties” (who are really men with an occasional fondness for women’s footwear) already have a carousel/beach outing planned for Sunday, so I imagine that this leg of the tour is going to be much work and much fun, topped with a heaping measure of balancing-baby-and-book-tour stress. I’m looking forward to showing T the Golden Gate Bridge. No one loves bridges like that kid. I’ll let you know how it goes…

I’ve got three Bay Area events scheduled.

Saturday October 8, I’m doing Writers With Drinks at the Makeout Room at 8pm- with Rebecca Solnit, Tomas Moniz, Diana Turkin and Geekporngirl. Because it ain’t San Francisco unless you do at least one reading alongside someone who has the word “porn” in their name.

Monday, October 10, I’m doing the Litquake edition of the Porchlight Storytelling Series at the Verdi Club at 8pm, with Donnell Alexander, Rob Baedeker, Susan Freinkel, Jillian Lauren, Marc Maron, Vanessa Veselka. Get tickets for this one in advance, as it’s going to sell out any minute.

Wednesday, October 12, I’m thrilled to be throwing a party at the Hotel Rex at 8:30, with the fabulous Elissa Schappell, Tony DuShane and musical guest Paul Myers. The flyer is pictured above.

Tariku might actually make an appearance at the Rex. Special guest- Tariku Moon Shriner and his one man band! He’ll be performing selections from his “pre-school adaptations of pop songs” album, including his hit single “Jump Up Whales” (based on “Pumped Up Kicks”). Sing along: All the little whales, all the humpback whales and the mommy whales, JUMP UP my whales!

Hope to see some of you there!

Fantasy Island

New York thoughts…We stayed at a little apartment in my old hood. I took T to play in Thompson Square Park, where back in the day we sometimes slept after punk shows, when it had gotten to late to grab a bus home to NJ. Every little restaurant we stopped in was fantastic. I stayed up late after my gigs talking to old friends in dingy bars. I took my kid to see the Statue of Liberty and it was so corny, it was awesome. A stone’s throw inland they were macing protesters on Wall Street.

T and Scott went home a couple of days before I did, so my last night there I walked home alone from meeting friends at The Bowery Hotel. Earlier in the day the street outside the apartment had reeked like garbage, but that night it smelled like fresh rain. It started misting so lightly you could see it hanging in the headlights of cars, almost like snow. It curled my hair and landed on my eyelashes, making the bar lights starry. Up ahead a group of people, maybe eight of them, came toward me and as they walked they swayed and sang together. At first I thought it was a religious procession but it was just some kids singing a disco song I didn’t know. And when I passed, one of them stopped and said hi.

I try and try to leave NY behind, but every time I do NY lays the romance on thick and I fall in love again. But I don’t mind how things are. I’m glad to be back at home in LA and in our little routine. NY is a better lover from afar, I think.

Next stop: Portland.

Better than Our Plan to Marry Joey Ramone

Just catching up on posting now because life-ing has been getting in the way.

Last installment of our New York diaries, we were on our way to Hudson for my reading at The Spotty Dog and to see my bestest oldest girlfriend and her ridiculously adorable family (that’s me and Jules and her latest bun in the oven).

Julie and I spent many an adolescent afternoon rolling our eyes at the antics of her younger sister Hollie, who was sulking in the next room over. Here we all are, a mere 20-odd years later.

And here are our sons. There’s something so poignant and cyclical about it. Don’t make me get all Lion King on you and start singing…

I was privileged to finally set eyes on a galley copy of Julie’s upcoming children’s book, And Then It’s Spring- out in February from Roaring Brook Press. It’s perfectly illustrated by Erin Stead, whom you may know from A Sick Day for Amos McGee.

This book- it’s special. It brought tears to my eyes the first time I ever saw the text of it (which was in an email from Julie a couple of years ago) and I got all blubbery again when I saw it paired with Erin’s delicate, pitch-perfect illustrations.

Julie has been writing me stories since the seventh grade. Those tended to involve things like us both running off together with Joey Ramone, so her subject matter is slightly different now. But her wild inventiveness and sensitivity are the same as they’ve always been.

I can’t wait for the world to meet Julie and her work. You’re going to love her.