Wednesday, October 22, 2014

it's the moon, stupid

I've been reading the book 100 Essays I Don't Have Time to Write: On Umbrellas and Sword Fights, Parades and Dogs, Fire Alarms, Children and Theater, by the playwright Sarah Ruhl, which is tormenting and delighting me in equal doses. (Get it and read it.) They're teeny but powerful, these essaylets, and it's a brilliant conceit. Pop it out there. Whatever you have is enough, particularly when you're Sarah Ruhl. That's the heart of an essay, anyway, a raised question. The question doesn't have to get answered. You just try for a while.

So Ruhl's essays are primarily about theater but not at all only about theater. They're about life and art and children and yeah, mostly about theater. They're like all these surprising bites arranged on a tasting spoon by a master chef, and you pop one in and it's wonderful but then it's gone and you're left with the question running around in your system and it's only just started to get explored, and so your brain takes over chewing on it—which would be fine if it were one, or three, or five. But there are a hundred of them, so easy to gobble, and even though you can swallow them all very quickly you can't digest them quickly, so you get—I get, I got, I have—this hot kind of indigestion of the brain now.

The first time I ate a whole steak (I was raised as a vegetarian, and even after I began eating meat, I couldn't handle a whole whopping unadulterated hunk of it, so I didn't try for years) I sat on the floor afterwards watching a movie, and my body was very subtly bouncing up and down, bouncing, because my digestive system was going berserk trying to work out how to break it down.

I feel that way now. I feel bouncy, because her essays make me excited, and they make me want to do something, though I'm not sure what. And I feel agitated because a good essay, and maybe all art, drags you over to the ineffable and sticks your head in it for a while, like getting a reverse swirly* where your head is shoved up into the cosmos and it all spins around and you can't quite breathe or catch everything, and also, unlike a regular swirly, you're up somewhere wonderful where you'd like to stay.

*It's been brought to my attention that not everyone knows what a swirly is. It's when somebody sticks your head in a toilet and flushes it. Voila. 

The ineffable has something we need, an oxygen we don't get when we're treading where we can understand everything and talk about it in words.

Dizzy, nourished, excited, impotent: that's how I'm feeling. Sarah Ruhl has me thinking so hard I can't think straight.

Back when I was an actor, I took a clown class, and our teacher taught us about something called the bid (pronounced "bead"), which was an ineffable little motherfucker you'd be searching for on stage as you improvised. It was something like a thread, a rope, the thing you'd find that the rest of the improvisation could follow home. It was a premise, a direction, an action, something solid and good and worth improvising about. Something funny, also, too, because clown class. And if you found it, you were golden. You couldn't fail. You just had to do the great thing you were doing and let it lead you to a conclusion.

I'm looking for the bid here, what Sarah Ruhl's book is making me want to tell you.

I'm going to hit you with three excerpts in a row from the book now.

From “Wabi-sabi”:

Sometimes it seems to me that the whole world is becoming an airport, with more and more glass, with fewer smells to distinguish one place from another, and with nowhere quiet to sit in the dark, or sleep. And yet, of course, the theater is one of the few places left in the bright and noisy world where we sit in the quiet dark together, to be awake.

From “People in plays”:

The first choice any playwright must make is whether to people the play with people, as opposed to puppets, gods, voices, or inanimate objects—teacups, eggs, spoons. Mostly, this all-important choice goes unremarked on, as it is by and large assumed that plays will have people. I suppose the choice goes unwrestled with because actors will be in our plays and we assume that actors would prefer to play people rather than stones or snails. But this is not always the case.


And so it might be worth going back to the first principles once in a while and wondering, sitting before the blank page, if one wants to people one’s play with people…or with devils, fairies, furies and stones.

From “Dogs and children on stage”:

Recently, my daughter Hope was asking who works. “Do grandmas work? Do grandpas work?” “Sometimes,” I said. Then I asked her, “Do little kids work?” “No,” she said, “they play.”  Then she laughed and said, “Do dogs work, Mama?” “No,” I said, “dogs don’t work.”

And it got me thinking about that old adage: never put dogs or children on a stage. A dog can’t act like a dog; a dog is a dog. Children can’t act like children; they are children. And therefore unpredictable. A dog doesn’t work; a dog plays.

Is the mimetic function, then, always a form of work? Is that why I find it refreshing to see dogs and horses and small children on stage? Because they are what they are and they are automatically in a state of play rather than in a state of work?

I love these.

I love a dark place where we gather together, awake. Nighttime, dreamtime, but we get to be together and remember all of it. A communal, lucid dream. Dreaming doesn't have to be so lonely after all!

And while we're dreaming, yes, why does it always have to be people? This thrills me because we forget how much agency we have across the board. We fall asleep, run on autopilot. We have a billion more choices each day than we begin to remember. Eggs! Stones*! Furies!

*I got to be in a reading of Sarah Ruhl's play Eurydice at The Seattle Rep many years ago, and I played a character called Big Stone. And I got to meet her and have a beer with her, and now I'm retroactively more excited about that than ever.

And then the thing about children and animals, and work and play, that lit something in me. That quicksilver something on the loose—life force itself, maybe, before we've stiffened and clumsied it up, frozen it, ruined it—I can feel it when she describes it, hot and lively, and I feel sorry for myself that it doesn't drive my every move without interference. It would feel so good.

There's something at work play here that Sarah Ruhl is pointing to, something that wants to save us from ourselves, something revolutionary, I think. 

It made me think, for one thing, about corporate attire, and how funny it is that clothing that's shaped in these specific ways is meant to announce a certain type of human inside, powerful and serious. We all use clothing to signify something, but the rules of attire for business folk (and politicians) are so strict. There's something crazy about this. I wish I could say what made me laugh so much about it, but the arbitrariness of the sartorial rules and the self-importance of some of the people carrying them out and the planet-destroying lunacy of the decisions these crisply dressed motherfuckers make got to me. Here's a big man in a big suit! Big suit man. Where you going, big suit man? 

And it made me think about art, and artists, and the work of artists, which we don't think is serious. Look at these flibbertigibbets in their little berets, noodling around! But it's very serious. It keeps us awake, and if we don't stay awake, we'll almost certainly crash the planet into a ditch.  

That's the bid. That's the seed I was looking for, what aroused me in Ruhl's work. I was feeling wistful when I read her essays because I don't participate in the making of theater any more. I wanted to play! But then I thought about Zen teachers hitting their students with sticks at the right moment to bring them to satori, and I thought about what the Buddha said about how his teachings weren't the moon but just the finger pointing to the moon, and I felt better. Theater isn't the moon. Theater is a finger. 
Look! Look! We're alive! No, more alive! No, more than that! 

I don't have to make theater to ride this train. Thank goodness. The revolution that she's circling around—that unleashing of life force and awakeness—that's everybody's business. Thank god. Now I can stop trying to talk about it. Trying to talk about the ineffable is the goddamn worst. This was close enough. 

Wednesday, October 15, 2014


Every morning when I drive Finn and Fred to their school, there’s a turn we take down into the valley that houses it where we get a great view of the Cascade Mountains. (The mountains aren’t there every morning. Sometimes clouds hide them. Or maybe they just leave.) Seven mornings out of ten, I’m going to say, it’s a thrill to see the mountain/sun/cloud layout of that particular day. Sometimes there’s no haze and the mountains are dark and ultra crisp at the edges. Some mornings there’s a bright veil of clouds and the range goes pale blue on us. If they’re visible, they always give off some kind of epic vibe, like they’re a stop on the road to Mordor or Valhalla, and if you could zoom in close you’d find a dragon walking along a ridge, or a wizard/hermit and a knight emerging from a cave together deep in conversation. Whatever story I subconsciously attach to the view feels personal, like someday I’m going to make it over there and be part of it all myself. 

When Dave was studying Social Ecology back at his university in Australia, he was taught that a child starts developing a real sense of place at around nine years of age. I find this entertaining since we moved from Port Chester, New York to Seattle just before I turned nine (we drove across country with a couple of cars and a moving van) and we landed in Seattle smack on my ninth birthday. Way to be on the nose, place.

We arrived in Seattle on a cloudy day, which is not hard to do here. Even though there had been plenty of overcast days in Port Chester, they didn’t seem as heavy as this one. The blanket of clouds was denser and darker than I was familiar with. I can’t say I was on board immediately, especially on my birthday. This was depressing. We were also moving to a neighborhood in Seattle called Lake City, which is depressing for real. Coming from the manicured, shipshape land of Westchester County, this mess of a place with its straggly lawns and chain link fences seemed like a long step down. My mom sighed and pursed her lips in the front seat as we got closer to our house, confirming it. But the merits of the place starting giving themselves up soon enough. 

Right on top of the list is the topography. Seattle’s all hills and water and mountains everywhere  around. The city nestles into the landscape, the landscape allows for nestling. I am a fan of nestling, let me say right away. I love to nestle. Maybe this comes from some ingrained sense of danger/mistrust in the world, but I like me a cozy nook, a place from which to hide and peer out, and Seattle hooks a sister up. There’s something so loving about a landscape that rises up around you. It seems less impassive than a flat place. It’s like being on a gigantic mommy’s lap. 

I google-imaged the Great Plains when I was thinking about this, just to confirm my feelings. Hot fucking dog, no way. All that flat, all that wide open, all that exposure. It gives me agoraphobia to contemplate it. I understand that you get open skies in trade, and hey, sky, sure. But surely we can agree that you’re far more vulnerable to stampeding hordes of invaders when you’re hanging out in plain view on a prairie. You’re fucked. They can see you from 500 miles away. There’s nowhere to hide. Also, all that sameness of topography makes me go insane from boredom. LOOK, LOOK AGAIN, WHAT DO YOU SEE, CORRECT, NOTHING, NOTHING AGAIN, NOTHING OVER HERE, OR OVER HERE, OR OVER HERE, FOREVER EVERYWHERE NEVER ANYTHING UNTIL THE GRAVE THE END GOODNIGHT. 

Back to Seattle. I love the complex, in-between-y light here. You get the mild brightness of a barely overcast day in spring or summer, like the sun’s wearing a little negligee. An optimistic light. And then you can get hot slashes of orange sunset underneath storm clouds in autumn or winter, which, bear with me, reminds me of a scene with Patricia Arquette in the movie True Romance. I don’t remember the scene perfectly but there’s a part where Patricia Arquette’s character is being terrorized by a bad guy in maybe a hotel room or an apartment or something. He’s relentless, and she’s bloodied up, but she’s a lionheart, a baller, and she keeps getting up and fighting back with this crazy ferocity. Like I say, I only saw it once, but her fierceness made me sob with the triumph of it all. Anyway, we get sky like that. I might be projecting a little, but whatever.  

So this is my place, which I’ll finish making out with a little later on in the post. But there are other places I’ve collected, and I want to give them shout-outs.

I’m thinking about Jasper National Park, up in the Canadian Rockies. It’s mine. (It belongs to lots of other people, too, and also of course to nobody, obviously.) I discovered it was mine when I was on tour with my old sketch comedy group, traveling from fringe festival to fringe festival. We stopped for lunch one day in a field with a few picnic benches, and I went off by myself for a while. I’d been going through a weird, sensitive time, and I was jumpy and frazzled on a regular basis. But this field was the exact medicine for my exact ailment. The Rockies loomed on all sides like big, jagged, black-and-white Orca whales, and the field was edged by wild rose bushes with intensely fragrant, deep pink blossoms. I lay down on the ground and looked up at the sky, which was blue-lavender with huge clouds easing across it, and the place hummed its deep bass cleanness right into my bones. Canada was so clean, and this felt like the cleanest bit. No doctor could have done better, no psychiatrist, no medicine man, nobody. This was all I needed.

Dave gave up his place to come and be with me here in my place, a sacrifice I never forget. (We settled here because I wanted my people near me while I was having babies, which he respected. He’s all right, that guy.) He hadn’t ever planned to leave Australia, he loved it so much, but whoops. Before we settled here, I went to be with Dave over there. I lived there with him for nine months, all told. 

For a sensitive lighting princess, the shock of Australia was something else. It’s so bright down there it might as well be a whole planet closer to the sun. We lived in the Blue Mountains, west of Sydney, which were also nothing like mountains I knew. They were flat, like tabletops. Our first shared house was in a little town called Leura, and it sounded like Jurassic Park every afternoon at five when the cockatoos got off work and took off shrieking through the valley, and the holy-fuck-where-am-I feeling peaked. 

 The bird life was berserk. Tiny parrots called rosellas wheeled through the neighborhood like red and green and blue painted airplanes. There were magpies, too, which are like crows in tuxedoes, whose flutelike morning warble broke down into plain old crow-squawk over the course of the day. And then there were the galahs. A galah is a hot pink and gray cockatoo, absurd and flamboyant like a Maira Kalman drawing, and spotting one was like running into a movie star. 

Then the insects. Omnipresent flies. You walk down the street and they land on you relentlessly. Everybody in Australia walks and flicks their arms in the same rhythm, shooing the flies away. And the spiders. The spiders. Dave warned me before I came about the white-tailed spider. If it bites you, the bite doesn’t heal but just keeps melting your flesh away forever. We had one in our house one night and Dave sent me into the bedroom while he faced off with the intruder in the living room. It felt like a tiny action movie. 

I loved Australia and being with Dave in his beloved place, but it never became mine, except for one little corner. Balmoral Beach in Sydney is mine. Dave’s dad was a landscape artist, and he let me pick a painting of his for Christmas when I met him. I chose a painting of Balmoral Beach,  not knowing at the time that my own grandparents had met a block away. Later, Dave proposed to me there. But it wasn’t just the sentimental value of the place that made it mine; it was just mine, like that field in Jasper. The beach there is small and tranquil, set into Sydney Harbor, and it has a very Seattle-ish cozy nook feeling. You can look out from there and see the entrance to the harbor from the Pacific Ocean, too, between two perfect-looking matching gateways of land mass. Cozy but also strategic. You can see invading ships the minute they enter the harbor. 

What else? Where else?

I’ve always wanted New York to be mine—the city, I mean—but it just isn’t. As much as I love it, I’m not built to withstand it. The overwhelming manmade-ness of the place sucks the life out of me, even if I’m crazy about what got made. I pee myself with happiness when I get to visit, spend as much time as I can there in literature and film, but overall I have to leave it to the New Yorkers. 

Culturally speaking, as well, I’m glad we got to Seattle in time for nine, for my sense of place to start digging in. In Westchester, everything was very pretty and just-so, a very suburban Mad Men kind of setting. Country club feelings. There was a whiff of social climbing in the air, a kind of covetousness and competitiveness. The right schools, the right religions, the right grades, the right clothes: so many marks to hit, none of which hit the real mark. Being different there was palpable. We were vegetarians, we were Theosophists—what was up with us? At best we were curiosities. I felt it as a kid, and as a teenager it would have squeezed me even harder. I was misdirected enough as a teenager in that self-imposed way, selling myself down the river to fit in. I didn’t need any more external cues to pile on. 

Better to come of age in the cloudy land of introverts and tinkerers and angst-y musicians, where nobody gives a shit what you’re doing because they’re busy doing their own thing. Lucky to land in a place where the natural world dominates the conversation. The greenery, the mountains every which way, it’s all instructive. You get reminded that you can aspire to something more real than climbing social and economic ladders. You can go to a literal mountain and climb up it, or you can go inward and see what you feel like doing with your own mind, see what comes naturally, fuck what the neighbors are doing.

Wednesday, October 08, 2014

the mighty bouche

Bodies, damn it, are so loud and weird. Mine is popping off like fireworks all the time these days, and this raggedy self-portrait is trying to show you what's going on in and around my mouth and throat. You see the mouth sewn shut up there. This is a sensation I'm getting, say, half of every waking hour. Like my mouth is vacuumed, suctioned shut. (It's fucking annoying, in case you're wondering.)  (I went with stitches in this drawing because I couldn't figure out how to visually represent the glued-shut, suction feeling.) Apparently there are some things that a part of me would prefer I didn't say. That's my best guess about this phenomenon. Anyway, mouth, suction, THING, you have my attention. Now please find a way to explicitly get across what your problem is. 

Meanwhile, mouth. Mine, yours, ours, the. That's where we'll go today. 


Everyone has a plan 'till they get punched in the mouth.

So sayeth Mike Tyson.


It's the night of February 13th, 1984, and I've just let myself into the dark house. My parents are asleep. I leave the lights off and go straight to the dining room mirror. I have been kissing a boy, and now I must look at my mouth. Is it fuller? Does it look kissed? I'm forgetting that I've kissed at least four girls on the mouth at length as an experimental child, and that was only for starters. None of that counted, it would appear. The boy kiss is the first one, in my heart. There's nothing to see but I could stand here all night anyway. I say "bee-stung" in my mind repeatedly. I don't even take my coat off. 

Billy Drago as Frank Nitti in The Untouchables. His is the first and possibly the only on-screen mouth I was ever stirred by. Cruel, sensual mouth. He looks like he's always just bitten or is just about to bite someone. I think it would be satisfying to be bitten by Billy Drago, like having a knot massaged out that can't be got at any other way. Like he could bite right through some old unfinished business, chew it, swallow it, relieve me of it. 

Listen! Clam up your mouth and be silent like an oyster shell, for that tongue of yours is the enemy of the soul, my friend. 

-My main man, Jalaluddin Rumi

A friend of mine went on a ten-day silent meditation retreat. Nobody talked, everybody just smiled and nodded and worked around each other. Then, one morning towards the end of the retreat, my friend went to pick up a couple of pieces of toast that were sitting next to the toaster. A guy came up behind him and broke the silence. "That's my toast."

When I was twelve, I got braces. Five years I had the fucking things. They stretched a metal bridge across my palate to stretch my jaw; we had to stick a tiny key in there every few days and crank it three times all the way around, which felt about as good as you might think it would. For my first year with braces, I unconsciously covered my mouth every time I laughed. My friends pointed it out to me, and I was amazed every time. I had no idea I was doing it.

MOUTH n. trap, chops, kisser, bazoo, mush, yap, 
beak, box, gob, clam, clam shells, clam trap, fish trap, fly 
trap, potato trap, kissing trap, talk trap, satchel mouth, 
funnel, dipper, gab, gap, jap, gash, gills, hatch, head, 
mug, box of dominoes

From the Random House Thesaurus of Twentieth Century Slang, 1988

I'm looking at mouth after mouth on the web. Mouths made of clay and stone and porcelain, mouths in paintings, photographs of mouths. Bare mouths, elaborately painted ones. Lord, what the mouth does. Lord, the responsibilities. Speech, nourishment. Eyes and ears and noses and hands, they're almost precious compared to the hot, corporeal gash of the mouth. Biting, chewing, sucking, yelling: you're in a body now, motherfucker. No way around it. I haven't forgotten the soft work of the mouth, by the way, all that sweet stuff: murmuring, singing, kissing, etc. But I'm more interested in the mouth at maximum today. 

There's a medieval painting of the mouth of hell. I mean, there you go. It's not a door, or an ear. The guy on the left is showing us an alternate route, right where his shorts aren't. 

In tenth grade, my friend Jennifer (this is a solid, identity-hiding code name for the 1980s) told me about a date she'd gone on with a senior. He convinced her to give him head in his car at the end of the date, and this was her first time. I was impressed with her bravery. A senior, in my eyes, was a grown man, and to orally grapple with the beast in a grown man's pants was inviting all hell to break loose—not morally, mind you, but physically, practically. Who knew what the fuck mayhem was going to land in your lap if you pulled that lever? 

That's still, for me, the ultimate exchange. Nothing is more up close—and potentially fraught—than that. Miraculous at best, degrading at worst. I'd love to go back in time and swoop the younger Tina out of a few situations, rescind that gift. That's an honor I'd like to retroactively set aside for the most truly deserving. Some of those fuckers got too lucky. I didn't know yet that my mouth is a temple. 

Even as I type this, there's a ruckus in my mouth, the thing I described up top. Pulling, thrumming, suction, tension. It's the epicenter of something, but what? Can't I get a printout explaining it all? Right out of my mouth, that'd be the ticket. Ka-chunk, ka-chunk, ka-chunk. Paper unfurling down my chin. Dear Tina. This is what I'm trying to tell you. Whatever it is, I want to get it over with. Drop the knowledge on me, mouth. Or if you're trying to turn me inside out, which is how it feel sometimes, just fucking do it already. Enough with the suspense. Open sesame. 

P.S. I know I swore a lot in this post. Too bad. I have a mouth on me, and that's that. 

Wednesday, October 01, 2014

time capsule

Up there you see a twenty-one year old wallet. Why? Why do you see that up there?

What's happening is that we're in Week Two of the can't-talks. I mean, I can talk, I'm going about my business, I'm okay, but what I mean is that I can't write, at least not in my normal way. Like I posted last week, my body is doing some deep processing of some difficult material, and there's too much pressure in my head and around my heart and just all up and down everywhere in this old vessel for me to be able to write a real thing. So, once again, we're doing something a little different, and eventually I'll tell you what sparked this.

What we're doing is going through my old wallet. 

Know that I have spared you from many things. This is a highly curated selection. And also, there are no pictures of me because I gave them to Dave, who has them now in his wallet, and it would be cheating to go get them. Which is sad. I had a tiny little proof of a cute old headshot which I would have liked to show you. But rules are rules.

Let's begin.

Phillip J. Griffin, Violinist Extraordinaire. I have absolutely no idea, which is why I like it so much I'm leading off with it.

Ancient business cards of friends who are still friends, which pleases me.

Twenty years ago tomorrow I went on a date with my then-fiancé to go see the Bulgarian Women's Choir in concert, which is somehing everyone should do. (See the choir, that is. You don't all have to go with Thomas. I mean, you can. You can work that out for yourselves.)

There's Thomas now, my first husband, in his old driver's license. I thought that would pair well with the appointment card for the fitting of that wedding dress. 11:00 am sharp on 5. 

Diane Ladd's business card, as you can see. (IMDB, for those who might not know/remember the great Ms. Ladd.) Thomas and I took a weekend acting workshop from her. I did a scene from The Children's Hour and she said that there was nothing she could teach me emotionally that I didn't already know, which I've been savoring for 19 years now. Nailed it! 

"You are always welcome in any gathering." Maybe I looked at this old fortune before parties. 

I might also have been welcome because I could do CPR. 

Or because everyone knew I was always good for a grain or two of Equal. Yes, I've kept an empty packet of Equal for twenty years. 

Missed opportunity.  :(

500 Belgian francs, which tells me we're getting closer to the impetus for this wallet raid. In the winter of 1992/1993, I traveled to London for a month with a friend, and then to Luxembourg for a couple of weeks to visit cousins. 

This is my cousin-by-marriage, Anu, who showed me around Luxembourg.

We possibly went here, to the I.S.T. Bal, mat den Challengers. 

We most definitely ate at the Quick hamburger restaurant.

Okay, pause. 

A few nights ago, I googled an old boyfriend. I don't remember why he came to mind but he did, my unlikeliest old boyfriend, whom I met on this particular trip. After Luxembourg, I went to Italy for three months, and there, towards the end, I met Terence, who was a half-British, half-Sicilian mercenary in the British army. (There's the bit that made him so unlikely for soft, unworldly young me.) We had a brief and sweet little romance which I resisted at first because we were so different, but when I gave over we fell in something very love-like. 

The saint up there, as you might guess, is from him. She, like he, was from Syracuse. 

The back of the saint's flier. 

I met Terence at a hostel in Florence. He won me over when I watched him interact with a group of Japanese tourists, drawing maps for them and joking with them, making them giggle. He charmed us all simultaneously. Then a day or so later, on an afternoon bus trip outside the city, we kissed.

We only spent a week together, but we got somewhere in that week. He told me at one point, with...what will I call it, a sad happiness? A happy sadness? The beginnings of regret, maybe...that I had lit something in him. It's hard to describe. Whether he had wanted whatever it was lit seemed like an open question. 

Here are some poems he gave me. In my memory, he had written them for me. But I remember looking at his signature that he wrote them three years before he met me, so they weren't love poems for me, personally. They were still a genuine offering, a little something from his soft side. 

When I left Italy, he was waiting to be shipped off to Bosnia. He gave me his dog tags and a button-up shirt that I wore for a while, and we phoned each other for a few months. He planned to come to America, and we were going to live together, which seemed to me like a worse and worse idea over time, and I eventually stopped calling him, which made me feel guilty. I wondered whether he had lived or died.

He did both. 

He didn't die in Bosnia, like I'd feared. He lived and went on, Google told me, to become a very successful and well-loved special effects and makeup artist for the movies. He died, instead, a couple of years ago, in December of 2012, while I was very sick and scooting closer than I'd ever been to death myself. I don't know how he died. Google didn't say. 

I was going to make this whole entry about and for Terence, but I couldn't do it. I didn't have the emotional and physical werewithal. I had to go sideways into it. But he was real, and we were briefly real, and although he was already so long ago and far away that he might as well have been in the underworld, now he's genuinely gone, which paradoxically brings him closer. This is something I like about death. It's like a lit match next to the memory banks, blazing them up, giving us a translucent, Technicolor show. But it's more than that. Whoever was yours once becomes yours again with time and space out of the way. Cleaned off, refreshed, reclaimed. That's what it feels like. Not central, maybe, but lightly, surely connected. 

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

dream break (rain check)

I once had a therapist, an older Native American woman who worked out of the house she shared with her grandson, and what I loved about her is that she didn't always make me talk. If I felt like talking, that was great, but some days I just didn't have it. I just didn't want to. And on those days, she'd hand me some paper and some crayons or markers, and I'd draw whatever I felt like with my non-dominant hand, like having a dream on paper. Sometimes the picture would spark a discussion, and sometimes we'd just look at it and say, "Okay."

(It was a wonderful little house, by the way, with an inviting room for her clients. There were shelves and shelves of wooden animals and statues and rocks and figurines that I'd look at while she made us mugs of tea. And in the bathroom she had this great lavender hand soap and a purple hand towel and a painted wooden stepladder for her phantom grandson, and the bathtub was always filled with his toy boats. It was such a charming bathroom experience that I went out and bought—and to this day still use—the same hand soap.) 

As you can see up there with that drawing/partial collage I've made for you in lieu of a regular post, I just don't have it. I don't want to today. It's closer even to a can't. There are too many things working their way through my body, there's too heavy an energy pressing me down. Half the day I feel like I have some high-powered vacuum attached to the top of my head, reaching down and sucking out all the ancient muck in my insides. There's no fighting it. I don't even know exactly what it's doing, but it's a literal, non-metaphorical, physical sensation. I guess I'm processing some things. 

I didn't want to show up with nothing for you but I didn't have the energy to post something serious, and I wasn't in the right mood to post something light. Goldilocks here said no to both of those options. So here's my picture, presented without explanation. 


Okay. See you next week, when I hope to have some words with me. And thank you, as always, for being so damn great.  

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

the great chocolate robbery

Since I started doing weekly posts at the beginning of this year, I've always gone in with a specific focus, something I'm going to talk about. Well, that's not on today. I'm digging back into an older tradition for this post, where I'm not talking about a *thing* but instead talking to you in a loose way about what's actually going on. 

I'm doing that because otherwise I wouldn't be posting at all, seeing as how I'm reporting to you live from Children's Hospital here in Seattle, where my youngest boy was admitted early yesterday morning. No panic, he's on the up-and-up, but he had a bout of severe asthma, as bad as we'd ever seen it. He came close to getting sent up to the ICU, is how bad we're talking about. And Fred—who's kind of a veteran here at Children's (Fred : Children's = Norm : Cheers), and whose chill nature and joie-de-vivre are tough to knock off course—was brought lower than I'd ever seen him. Real distress. Horrible to watch. I had to turn my face and cry into the wall over and over. But he's turned a corner and is on the slow rise to getting discharged tomorrow, so the crisis part of the show is over. 

I've had no time to think, though, and I don't know where I'm taking you today. This is pure, old-school winging it happening here.


What I'm wanting to talk about, what I'd been planning on talking about in a the-thing-I'm-talking-about way, I guess, is the body. Well, not the body. My body. A little history thereof. What better place to talk about the fraught history of a body than inside a children's hospital, too? That's got something to it. 

If some cosmic police sketch artist were floating by and capturing some lifelong essence of my body to take back to his home planet/precinct, there would probably be a head, then maybe some rudimentary heart thing dangling from the head like a pocket watch, and then some feet. The body would be missing. My body's been missing, or I've been missing from inside of it. 

This is the part where I get a hitch in my typing finger/a contracted feeling in my gut, the internal shut-the-fuck-up-Tina mechanism kicking in. The words stop flowing. They back up into each other, take turns shoving each other to the front so they can hide and not have to walk on stage. Nobody wants to say it. This happens every time I talk publicly about my sexual abuse, which looks like it's on deck today.

Every time. That's funny. I've talked about it here all of twice, and then once I kind of talked about it on Facebook. And after the two times it came up here, I sort of thought, okay, well, good. I talked about it. All done! I shall never bother the world with this again! Because I thought that to talk about it was unbearably depressing and maudlin, and it was my job to be neither of those things. But it's not unbearably depressing and maudlin; it just is, as they say, what it is. It's a common thing, and a tough thing, but I'm not forever tainted by it, like I might have thought and not wanted to draw people's attention to. And furthermore, that is not my job, to be neither of those things that I'm not anyway. 

So, heads-up. This is probably not the last time I'm going to talk about this here. I may just be getting going. I don't know. It needs talking about, no? This taboo is oppressive. I want out from underneath it. 

But let's get back to the body, the birthplace of it all. 


I had a psychic reading at the beginning of the year. I like to get those every now and then, although I don't come at them with anywhere near the same frequency/urgency I used to when I was in my twenties or thirties. I have much more of an "I'll find out on my own eventually anyway" and "I got my own internal compass working fine" thing going on these days as an old lady in her mid-forties. In any case, it was pretty interesting, this reading, but one part particularly made me laugh. The reader told me that one of my superpowers was my body. 

Ha! Oh, ha, hahaha. That's adorable. My body! A superpower. Oh, go on with you. 

I might have laughed or snorted aloud, because she went on to say, smiling, that a person's superpower isn't usually an area that gives no trouble. The opposite, actually. And then I stopped laughing, because I suddenly felt like she was on to something. 

I thought about the concept of the daimon, which I first read about in this very quirky and wonderful book I was in love with in the mid-late '90s called We've Had a Hundred Years of Psychotherapy and the World's Getting Worse, which is a conversation in letters traveling back and forth between the famous Jungian psychologist James Hillman and a writer named Michael Ventura, who was (is?) a columnist for L.A. Weekly. (Read it, it's a joy.)

Let's see how garbled my explanation/comprehension of the daimon is. I'm going to see if I can wing it without the help of Google. So, my understanding of the daimon is that it's a combination of an individual person's destiny/innate genius/central bugaboo. It's your thing, you're born with it, it lies latent in you, and it will fuck with you until you solve it/conquer it/own it/live its expression. I don't have my copy handy, but I remember Hillman and Ventura giving a couple of examples. Winston Churchill was one, who apparently struggled in school, had problems with his speech and language. And the other example that sticks with me was a great Spanish matador (whose name escapes me), renowned for his bravery, who was a huge mama's boy as a child, perpetually hiding behind her apron. The theory of the daimon says that something in you knows your fate from the beginning, and so you unconsciously struggle with it/fight against it. Winston Churchill, Hillman and Ventura explained, will have understood somewhere in his being that his words were eventually going to shape world events, and he buckled in advance under that pressure. The matador, similarly, could feel that that the bull was out there waiting for him, so when he clung to his mom, he was dragging his feet against facing his future opponent. 

So when I think of my body as connected to my daimon, somehing stirs. 


Before Fred went into the hospital, before last week's Emmy post, I was sitting at a cafe brainstorming about and starting to make an outline for what was going to be my next post, which was going to be about the body. I was going back through time and chronicling the struggles my body had given me, back from the beginning, to search for threads. I was in the section about my childhood, jotting down some words. Heart murmur, I wrote. Eczema. Sick a lot. And then I wrote down allergic to chocolate and before I could get the word chocolate out, an existential nausea took hold of me. A shoe dropped. 

Fuck. I knew it in an instant, for the first time in my life. I was never physically allergic to chocolate, as the story had always gone. I got it, I knew it, I knew it before the thought could form itself into words. My chocolate allergy was psychological. 

I got sick a lot, as I said, as a kid. Missed lots of school. Apparently, every time I ate chocolate I got bronchitis. I was frail, I'd always been frail, it was just who I was. Oversensitive and frail. We all accepted it. We were all frail. We were frail together, as a group, our family. It was our thing. 

What I knew, bodily, in that moment in the cafe, was that chocolate figured into my sexual abuse. My dad had given me chocolate as a lure, or a reward. And so later I was "allergic" to it, and fell ill when I ate it. The knowledge dropped in a wordless, complete package. It popped open, all mine, irrevocable.

Son of a fucking bitch. I'd never questioned it. Yep, allergic to chocolate. I was given a whole lot of fucked-up carob brownies as a child because, aw, poor Tina, she just can't metabolize it. Son of a goddamn bitch. 

I sat there in the cafe and wept, a complex weep. Something was simultaneously being taken from and returned to me. Awful, gratifying. 

My mind doesn't remember everything, but my body does, and it's starting to slip me information. It's starting to tell me what it knows. 


I never liked using my body, when I was a kid. I hated P.E., hated sports, hated anything where you had to put your awareness in your body. I didn't like having my awareness there. It felt weird, dangerous, vertigo-inducing. I was not interested in dropping into my body long enough to figure out how to throw or kick a ball, or how to balance, or do a cartwheel. Fuck that noise. If you want me, I'll be indoors hiding behind my brother's bed with my face in a book, eating purloined loaves of bread. 

Early carb cravings. Comfort food. Repression mechanism practice. 

Bear with me while I wander around. I don't know where I'm going, exactly, or how far I'm taking this today. 

Here's what's new. I've been taking yoga. I've always resisted it, but it started calling me lately, and I started taking classes at a studio in town that teaches something called Viniyoga, which translates to something like "yoga of adaptation". It's a gentle form, meant to be adapted to the needs of each student. From my very first class, my body loved it. The class moved so carefully, so respectfully, and never asked of us anything our bodies didn't willingly want to give. I had a hard time not calling out THANK YOU FOR THIS CLASS during poses, it was such a revelation.

For whatever reason, something in me has stopped fighting my body and shutting down awareness of what it knows. I've stopped struggling. I'm open, I'm willing to go in, whatever I find in there. I'm to the part in the story where I stop fighting my daimon and let it drive. I do cobra and butterfly and lion and cat and cow, unlocking myself. 


I've mentioned here before that when I sit in session with my teacher, Jim, I've been getting these shooting pains up my spine, along with more pictures of my abuse. In the session before my chocolate revelation, the pains were so strong they made me cry, and they wrapped around my waist. I saw a picture which I will not describe, one that gave me horror, and no sooner did I see it/narrate it out loud than a pain shot through my head, like my brain was getting squeezed by an invisible hand, retribution for having seen what I saw. I cried out and held my head when the pain struck, and at the same moment, Jim said, "You have to let go of doubt."


I'll tell you what makes me mad. I scan back over my life, and I see myself struggling along the way, struggling in my body, struggling with self-doubt. All that sickness in my childhood. The painful, disfiguring masks of eczema that started visiting me in my early 20s, just as I started to suspect somehing was amiss back in my past. How I froze so easily, got paralyzed by doubt and shame, hid my problems and made them worse. How my hands used to shake. How easily and often I cried, and how I wondered what was wrong with me, why did I take everything so much harder than everyone else? Why couldn't I deal? Why couldn't I function? How I was afraid to give my opinion because it was probably wrong because I was made of doubt, I was practically a solid block of doubt. And then closer in the past, the illness I had just a couple of years ago which almost killed me, where my body went on strike. No more, it said. No more until you listen to me. No more until you respect me. No more until you pay attention. 

The whole thing, all of that, all stemming from this grave violation to my tiny body. This whole life operating unconsciously in response. This disembodied head floating over some feet, this needless frailty. 

No more, all right. 


Fred comes home tomorrow. It's for sure. 

I'll tell you one last thing I know, and then I have to sleep. I know that what mom and dad are carrying in their bodies unresolved gets passed down to their children. Here, a mysterious burden. Good luck. I didn't want to deal with it, so you try. 

I have lots of work to do, but it's okay. I can work faster now that I'm not erasing all my work with this endless, godforsaken doubt. 

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

bringing the emmys alive in 5-7-5

Welcome back, everybody! Boy, do I have the post for what you're still talking about three weeks later around the water cooler, and that's this post about the Emmy Awards. From 2014. 

Here's the thing. You know I love the red carpet. You know I do. Also, you know how you find a fresh song you love and you play it 12 times a day for weeks and you know you're sucking the magic out of it but you keep cueing it up anyway because tomorrow when the song will be dead is the future and the future is some stupid rumor that's probably not even true? The future is true, everybody. I'm there now standing on a mountain of dead songs, and maybe if we're not careful a pile of dead red carpet posts. 

I want to talk about the Emmys but this is the fifth red carpet post I've done this year, which might be more than all the red carpet posts from all the previous years of my blog. I have to protect this form from extinction. I have to be wily. So I'm doing somehing new. With every photograph, I'm giving myself three minutes max to write a haiku about it. I'm timing myself with a timer. Here, look:

A timer. And then I was going to say, "And listen:" but the Blogger app won't let me upload the video I took of me pressing the button and playing the 'Alarm' sound for you, which I've decided after extensive sound trials is the best way to clock out of writing a haiku. It sounds like this:

 {{{BLONK}}} {{{BLONK}}} {{{BLONK}}} {{{BLONK}}} {{{BLONK}}} {{{BLONK}}} 

But more horrible. 

Let's begin!

Poofy risk taker
In blood-dipped maxi-tutu,

(Three minutes is hard.)

Here, fresh from battle:
Samurai Debra Messing.
She lost but she lived.

Lucy Liu looks nice
In my Mommy's old nightgown.
I loved that nightgown. 

Orange creamsicle,
What are you hiding in there?
Floral lace bike shorts?

Christina Hendricks
In flaming persimmon:
That shit is not fair.

Cylons and Klingons!
Commence fighting over your
Cranky, pointy bride.

Modest lady in
the most popular color,
So sweet and so smug.

I'd love this cape more
If Christine Baranski would 
Fly around in it.

Cheerful PoMo elf!
Tell us about Thunderdome!
That sounds super fun! 

Kate Walsh looks like a 
Statuesque jonquil
In this flippy gown.

Your shiny gold can't
Distract me from my question:
Are you wearing braces?

Camilla Alves
Has mad sophisticated
Paper snowflake skillz.

Little pink bundle 
We call Zooey Deschanel:
You take teeny steps.

Once upon a time,
A dress that was a mullet
was Jon Hamm's girlfriend.

Vanessa Williams.
I don't know what to make of 
Your minty peplum.

Katherine Heigl
Is the benevolent queen
Of this parking lot.

This lady looks great.
I just really, really think
This lady looks great.

Allison Janney's
Rosy, wine-y velvet gown 
Looked brighter on stage.

Everybody loves
Julia Louis-Dreyfus.
That's all. Move along.

I love blondes in red,
And five syllable names like
January Jones.

Hey! Howard Johnson's.
That was a line of motels
With this color scheme.

Seth Meyers' lady.
Like a star high school athlete
All girled up for prom.

It's Freaky Friday!
But with Mayim Bialik
And Kate Middleton. 

Hey, look at my ass.
Oh, gross. You're looking at it. 
But look at it, though. 

Saturday Night Live.
Katie McKinnon from it.
She seems kind of mad.

Looking tough in a 
Fancy army parachute:
Sarah Silverman!

Hi, I'm Danielle Brooks.
Does Tina like me the best?
Fuck yes because RAD.

Look, Kelly Osbourne.
I'm always gonna be like,
"What'd you do THIS time?"

Lampshade-shaped lady,
You made time and space stand still.
Is what it looks like.

Listen, you fuckers.
Robin Wright can kick your ass
Even without feet.

Michelle Dockery
Is a flight attendant on
Heavenly Airlines. 

A little mesh bell
With a confusing waistline
For Kiernan Shipka

Kaley Cuoco!
Technicolor butterfly,
I rescind old snark. 

The end.