Friday, November 23, 2007

Back Here

After a brief detour to drop Spuds his forgotten lunch, we headed up 5, Himself fussing mightily most of the way with audio related external battery headphone calamity stuff. We stopped at the new Tita’s (right off the highway) in Buttonwillow, which is much the same as the other Tita’s but a bit more expensive for saving you the mile or so drive into downtown Buttonwillow, for a fabulous breakfast. We did have great tunes the whole way and it has been a long time since we’ve listened to music actively together. An overcast day on a flat road and we were listening music for the most primal reason people listen to music and we were hearing it.

We arrived happy at the Hotel Vitale, where you can sit on the toilet and breathe oxygen for 15 bucks a crack but is nevertheless one of the finest hotels I have ever stayed at and a sweet time was made sweeter. We strolled the Embarcadero and saw fireworks at a stupid angle from the lobby of the creepily enormous Hyatt Regency Hotel and then supped at a restaurant (Sens) that we realized had reincarnated from another (Splendido) we’d dined at on another trip to the City more than a decade ago and we held hands.

In the morning I availed myself of the free lobby coffee and the free morning yoga class provided by the hotel. With instructor Treasure, I stretched and breathed and saluted the barely visible sun from the 8th floor yoga studio, overlooking the Ferry Building, the Saturday produce market in full pre-Thanksgiving bustle. Himself escorted me to wait for my car and prepared to the lobby to wait for his first meeting with Anna, his birth mother. I had meant to, had wanted to, be long gone but my car took longer than it might have and I saw a couple, of appropriate age, arrive on foot and he kissed her goodbye and I saw her face. I knew it was her and the nanosecond in which we made eye contact took my breath away. I am comforted now, when I look at the photos from the end of the day, after Himself and Anna had conversed for several hours, followed by a several hour chillout period, and then dinner with Anna and her husband Jerry that the pictures I took reveal such soft sweet happy faces. Anna, a very direct woman, told me that she’d been very angry at me but she thanked me now and I thanked her too. We both knew it was unnecessary for me to say that I had been angry with her as well. Now, I believe we all feel blessed and grateful. So much of what we assumed was wrong and I ask forgiveness for my harshness.

I brought Ferry Market provisions to the Harper Berry/ Berry Harper residence in Mount Hermon made even more sacred to us now with a room addition, a grand and humble cathedral in the forest where we spent the evening eating and drinking and actively listening to music. Bob and John and I have listened to music together for so long that we are tattooed with each other’s instincts. Chris humors the old folks and tolerates what must be to him, our moribund lexicon.

We returned home, buoyant and showed the boys pictures of Anna and Jerry and described the meeting. I said that it was particularly poignant to me because adoption was such a large major theme in my own family history. Spuds looked puzzled and asked, "Adoption, your family?" And then it clicked. My sister had given her daughter Cari up for adoption but now she and her daughter Marlene are so naturally and easily and seamlessly members of the family, blood relations, that Spuds had forgotten for a moment that lives had been separate for many years. I gave thanks yesterday for my family and for music and food and for lives that have been separate and will now come together.

My husband writes beautifully always, but particularly beautifully about the last few days at

Shabbat Shalom.

Thursday, November 15, 2007


Mimi Pond has a terrific animation called “The Training Wheels of Love” at I noticed too a painting by husband Wayne White above William Saffire’s column in the NY Times magazine two weeks ago.

The brattiest girl at Bootcamp, Mary Beth Sorensen asks that we all take a moment to help our local h.s.:
Please help our high school, John Marshall, win $25,000 for aclassroom makeover. It's easy! Just visit the website, www.expomarkers.comand vote for Ms. Lee (classroom #2). Forward this to everyone you know andwe can win a new class for our kids with enough votes!

We have again foisted our progeny on Uncle Richard and the Smith family and tomorrow morning Himself and I will head north to meet his birth mother. She has evolved from feeling furious and violated and ruined several months ago, when contact was first established, to enthusiastically albeit nervously, arranging a meeting, which will take place this Saturday morning.

My feelings about this are strong. I am aware how momentous this is for my beloved and I will wear the dress he likes when we meet her and try not to be shrill in that way he hates or show off or embarrass him. My heart is filled with love for him no matter what, and this will only grow as the events of the pending weekend unfold. I asked himself why he loved me recently and there was a pause. “Because I’m there?” I asked. “No,” he responded, “because you’re here.”

Yet, I am really fucking tired of strong feelings. I pray the trip to San Francisco will be a beautiful experience for Himself but today, I am feeling a bit beaten down. In the last year I sold my mother’s house, my father’s beautiful creation only to see it destroyed and covered with cement and stucco by the family who promised to restore and cherish it. They are trying now (unsuccessfully, apparently) to flip it.

It was a year ago this week that I took the last quarter of a Norco pill, after having taken 30-40 of these opiates daily for about 5 years, subsequent to a number of surgeries. I am in the middle of remodel that has not gone well. Even though new thoughts have been thought, the initial brutal rejection of Himself by his birth mother broke my heart, and because I had initially made the contact with a cousin, I felt culpable too. And my father died.

My regular weekly therapy with Leslie has been discontinued. I am not cured but apparently have achieved a satisfactory level of self awareness, for at least the time being. What I am aware of now is fatigue and the appropriateness of it. I look forward to driving up 5 tomorrow, the two of us, listening to Mogwai, our favorite traveling music and stopping for a burrito at Tita’s in Buttonwillow. After that, I do not know, but I am here.

Thursday, November 8, 2007

I am Having Fun Yet

It’s been five months since I’ve been able to do any cooking and I’m jonesing hard. It is so essential an expression for me and ties in so with everything that matters. The other thing that keeps me on kilter, and is integral for me being in the world on many levels, is music. I listen to music during most of my waking hours and have spent an inordinate amount of time tweaking my Launchcast Radio station so that it plays plenty of old favorites and occasionally exposes me to a worthy newcomer. My kids expose me to the best (and sometimes the worst) of urban music but from the idiosyncratic domain of alternative rock I reside in, there is very little new stuff that I like and I purchase very few cds and practically none recorded by bands who haven’t been on my radar for at least a decade. Yet I remain open to hearing young voices that rock my soul.

In the last few days I have attended four concerts. I saw Yo La Tengo once by myself and then caught two additional shows with Himself, who wrote a much more in depth and insightful review on his blog than I wrote on mine. I have discussed frequently here my connections with people through music, frequently and mercilessly excoriating poor Broderick Miller and often dismissing my husband’s preferences for being strictly “above the waist.” Drugs (especially psychedelics) influence much of what he listens to but his predilections are, for the most part, not fraught with sex and soul and booze the way mine are. My husband is a rock ‘n roll intellectual and I am a cheap whore. While he was a good sport about the Yo La Tengo overdose I knew not even to ask him about The Hold Steady and instead conned Barry J. into accompanying me.

Before the show, we made musical confessions. His: Uriah Heep, Humble Pie. Mine more along the lines of Judy Collins and other off key pretentious folkie crap. We mourned the heartbreak we’d been meted by Phil Collins and Rod Stewart and compared Springsteen periods. I am more E Street and Barry more Nebraska. I confessed to never really getting Patty Smith and I surmise that Barry has not given the Replacements/Westerberg a fair shake and he admitted to being unfamiliar with Husker Du.

I worry about the music I love the best though. Yo La Tengo are critical darlings and have been playing and recording for years. We have seen them twice at the El Rey, a number of years ago and the room was jammed. This weekend, although there were three shows, they failed to sell out the ultra tiny (200 seats?) Ivar Theatre. The Hold Steady was Blender’s band of the year and their three cds have received unanimous high praise. They were originally scheduled to play at the Wiltern but the show was changed at the last minute to the much smaller Music Box at the Fonda Theatre. Even with the change to a venue about 75% smaller, the show did not sell out and was so sparsely attended that the balcony wasn’t even opened. The audience was tepid and except for a few hard core fans at the stage, pretty disengaged. This pisses me off because it was a great show. Maybe even a show that will be compared one day to Springsteen at the Roxy at the beginning of his career. Unless Barry was being polite or in an altered state due to the beer we swilled on empty stomachs and tried to blot up with licorice Altoids, I think he really saw and heard what I saw and heard, that rare spark of new and good.

Frontman, Craig Finn is an extraordinary force of nature. Even my asshole husband admitted that his lyrics weave astonishing wry dark stories. It was the Springteenishness on the record that was the big turn off to him, but live, Finn sort of channels Pee Wee Herman and Jerry Lewis, juggled with the earnest elegance of Elvis Costello. I’m sure there are 10,0000 locals who would swear they were in one of the hundred seats at the legendary Springsteen Roxy in 1975. The Hold Steady put on a show I’m sure that I’ll remember energetically if I’m alive in 30 years. I wonder if others will wistfully lie about having been there, or if the music I love is becoming, and destined to become more, irrelevant. Sigh. At least I’ll be able to get back to some serious cooking early next year.

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

The One I Used to Carry Like a Sack of Potatoes on My Hip

Polish the "Mom of the Year" medal for me. Last night I took my kids to a chain restaurant, The Yardhouse, in Pasadena, for Monday night football, fried foods and sodas (diet). The beer selection was astonishing but, as per most of Pasadena, the food was designed primarily to create a thirst for liquor. The place was so filled with things that repulse me, like mediocre food, blaring 70's rock, football, large groups of men watching football, large groups of men drinking, and Big Gulp sized servings of beer, that I was stunned into a weird fascination and suddenly I was Margaret Mead in Samoa and amid people of similar bulk. After our healthful repast, we attended a school night showing of American Gangster. Spuds dutifully reported to Daddy that the girls had to be naked when they packed the heroin so they wouldn’t steal it.

I returned home and Himself said that he was writing me an e-mail as I entered the room. Spuds asked why we couldn’t just talk to each other. I explained that there were certain practical matters that Mom and Dad could more efficiently address via e-mail rather than waste our precious time together. "Yeah," he responded, " so Dad can read a book and you can eat and watch Weeds."

Monday, November 5, 2007

Yo La Tengo and the Force of Feeling

I attended three Yo La Tengo concerts this weekend and my husband condescended to join me for two of them. I haven’t read his review of the shows on his blog because it may harsh my mellow. I’d never seen a rock show at the Ivar Theatre but it is small and genial and by the second night they got around to selling some beers. This was called the Free Wheelin’ tour and it was largely acoustic and showcased the large and eclectic body of songs they’ve written and covered. All three shows were unique and only about three songs were performed more than once. Ira Kaplan urged the audience to ask questions, most of which unfortunately were quite inane. The audience participation, such as it was, sparked the band to chat a little and find inspiration for the next musical number. It was sort of like having a jam session in your living room although if it were in my living room, the guests would have asked smarter questions than the paying crowd at the Ivar. I will confess to having been staggeringly and droolingly blissed out through the whole experience. I see now how people can actually surrender to that force of feeling and speak in tongues and stuff.

During the summer, my husband, after decades of genealogical research and longing to connect with his blood roots, was dealt one of the cruelest blows I can imagine. After years of searching he was able to establish contact, through another relative, with his birth mother. Her response was angry fury and she sent him a letter so excoriating and full of rage that neither of us has been able to read the whole thing. A single fuck with a married man, nearly half a century ago is still so excruciatingly shameful that when my husband lay at her feet the beauty of the life she’d made, she could not be comforted. I like to think that my beloved took comfort in my arms and embracing the grandchildren of the woman who seemed to have dedicated her life to ruing his very conception. But I am not him and suspect that the pain of her hatefulness may have been even greater than the comfort of my tender love and what we’ve made together could truly soothe.

On Saturday Himself received a letter from the Bay area. It began, “I hope you can forgive me.” It was from Anna, his birth mother and it expressed remorse for her reaction four months ago to his initial attempt to contact her. She is married to a retired journalist and they live in San Francisco. She is sorry. She wants to meet John. We will go to her, confident that her burning shame will dissipate and she will look into his eyes and surrender to the force of feeling.

Friday, November 2, 2007


I spend a lot of time in bed. Since June, there has really been no other place at home for me to be. My husband has his little office and the kids have their dungeon but we have no kitchen or living room and I have made my bed a sanctuary replete with snacks both sweet and salty, laptop and reading materials. Himself has been tolerant of incessant crumbs and tapping but as I tap this from the boudoir, one floor below me, an extremely gruff foreman is leading a crew and cabinets are being installed.

My friend Jan, said, many years ago, upon entering our house that she knew it was a happy house. While it hasn’t exactly been Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf around here, the last few months have been hard on my family and it fills me with pure joy to think of cooking a meal and having a place in the house where we can sit together. Maybe it is hippie b.s. but houses give me a feel. Some houses, replete with splendid furnishings, feel empty. Some feel full of fear and others blast love. A friend sent a photo of a beautiful modern home. It was clean and perfect and beautiful and I was told that the plans were unbelievably elegant but it gave me no feel and I wanted to strew used kotex over the lawn.

We blew last night as workmen were rushing to install moldings in order to be ready for the intimidating cabinet installers and certain family members said and did some things that were very bad and definitely not befitting a happy home As for myself, I plead temporary insanity and suggest in the interest of long term mental health my words and actions be erased from memory, as the costs of gaining further insight through therapy would be prohibitive.
The foreman is barking orders and the drills and saws reverberate. I am thankful for the happiness I have known and shared here at Casamurphy. I pray my new kitchen brings more happiness to my family and friends. All of our funky homes have room for more love. Shabbat wishes for full hearts and houses we can live in.