Who Do You Think You Are?


It’s my last day in New York and I have pink eye, which is a complete mystery because Tariku doesn’t have it and it’s not like I’ve been walking around Sephora shoving dirty mascara brushes in my eyeball. Now I have to throw out all my makeup, which is about enough to make me have a nervous collapse. Farewell, dear MAC eyeliner. We had a good run, you and I.

It’s been a whirlwind few days. I was mostly here to meet with my team over at Penguin. Because you know that memoir I’ve been working on for the last couple of years? Well, it’s coming out May 5. I kind of can’t believe it.


Here I am with my agent and good friend Alexandra Machinist and my wonderful editor Becky Cole.

The limbo between finishing and publishing can be a scary thing for a writer. Actually, it’s all scary- the first blank page; the mid-point, when you’re sure you’re creating a steaming pile of doodoo; and the end, when the doodoo has magically transformed into a precious beautiful baby in your arms. Most of the time, I feel like I’d rather go take this baby and lock myself in a closet with it for the rest of my life than release it to be judged by the cold cruel world.

But that’s what we do if we want to connect- we allow ourselves to be judged. Sometimes it’s awesome and you find yourself in front of a studio audience chatting with Whoopie Goldberg. Sometimes it sucks and the slut-shaming trolls go bananas on you online, or the mean girl from high school says something shitty about you to your mom at the grocery store.

But the advantage of having done this a couple of times before, is that I now know that even at its worst moments, to put these words on a page and have people actually read them is one of the great privileges of my life.

This is my third book, and I still look over my shoulder every time I walk through the big glass doors of Penguin offices because I’m sure that I’m about to be revealed as the big faker I truly am. I’m convinced I’m going to be arrested by what Amanda Palmer in her inspiring The Art of Asking calls The Fraud Police.

Stop right there, Ma’am. We have it on good authority that you have been masquerading as someone with something to say in this world. Who do you think you are?

I share this with you because I know that the fear of being exposed as a fraud is a very common experience. I might even venture to say universal, if my writing students are any indication.

As Scott likes to say, “Just what exactly needs to happen before you’ll finally feel successful?”

The real question is, “Just what exactly needs to happen to make you feel worthy?”

Worthy not of my success, even, but of the few square feet of sidewalk I’m standing on. Worthy of this ordinary human experience, with all of its joys and suffering.

The answer definitely doesn’t hinge on this book. It’s a far deeper issue. But the fact that I have finished something, in spite of being hotly pursued by my imaginary fraud police, is a start.

Who do I think I am?

It changes all the time. A snapshot of this evening’s answer, as I look out over this dazzling city, looks something like this:

I think I’m a child of God. I think I am both animal and spirit. I think I am you and you are me and we’re all part of the same buzzing electrical generative crazy planetary thing. I think I’m a mother and a wife and a daughter and a friend. I think I’m a writer.

Who do you think you are?

I Get Along Without You

The city seen from the Queensboro Bridge is always the city seen for the first time, in its first wild promise of all the mystery and the beauty in the world.
-F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby

That line leapt out at me when I had the privilege of seeing Elevator Repair Service’s Gatz at The Public last week. In it, ERS performs the entire text of The Great Gatsby. It’s an eight hour evening altogether and I’d sit through it again right now if I could. While I was watching, I shifted between getting swept up in the performances and marveling at the text itself, the gorgeous glittering sentences.

That particular line sums up the way I always feel when I’m taking a cab into the city from JFK. On the one hand, I’ve seen it a million times before. On the other, it’s always new. I’m always a little girl, looking at the New York skyline and wondering what magical possibility is there waiting for me.

In an hour, I head home to my boys. I miss them something awful and at the same time, I have enjoyed the big lonely bed and the experience of waking up and facing no immediate responsibility other than getting some caffeine in my system. I admit that part of me longs for the freedom I used to have, even as I’m living a pretty free kind of moment. It seems a waste of a beautiful morning, this longing. But nevertheless, there it is.

We’re doomed to be like sailors. We survive months at sea, driven only by thoughts of home. Not long after we finally reach shore, we find ourselves gazing at the ocean again. But none of this gazing negates the fact that my family gives me all I’ve ever known of any real kind of happiness. So now I gladly go pack my suitcase to return to the chaos that almost certainly awaits me.

It’s been a wonderful trip, overall. There were stories told and words read and meetings had and dinners eaten and babies cuddled. There were late nights crying with old friends and late lunches at Barney’s (best people watching in all of New York). All the stuff I’d never do at home. Plus, a friend of mine must have bribed the president, because he somehow scored tickets for us to The Book of Mormon and I’m certain it’s the funniest show ever written.

I’m always sad to leave. I always can’t wait to get home.

Here’s my perfect soundtrack for a midnight ride over the Brooklyn Bridge. I get along without New York just fine- except perhaps in spring…

If We Can Make it Here….

Allow me to start off with a little New Year’s plea- I’ve been nominated for Babble’s Top 100 Blogs of 2011. Please vote for me! If elected I promise to, um, blog. More.

I feel sheepish for asking when I’ve been sadly neglectful of this blog of late. So neglectful that I’m WEEKS late in posting this Christmas jammie picture, and for this I apologize. I hope I’m not being as annoying as those people who leave their Christmas decorations up until Memorial Day.

I do have a good excuse- we were busy moving the whole operation to New York City for a couple of months so that I can do some theater and T can freeze his tushie off and be introduced to illegal narcotics by the other kids in pre-school. Just kidding. We could never get him into pre-school in NY- it’s impossible.

We’re all settled into a sublet in Park Slope (in Brooklyn), which is oddly a neighborhood I lived in for five minutes twenty years ago when I first moved to NY as a teenager. It’s changed a lot since then and now it seems to be the corner of NY where everything adorable is stored. Adorable families, brownstones, stores, restaurants, park. T is definitely anxious and stressed by the big change, but overall, we’re having a blast getting to know the neighborhood together.

Also- underground choo choos? Getting there is ALL the fun. He never wants to get off.

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.