Threatening the life it belongs to

I’m watching the Fran Liebowitz series on Netflix and my brain is on fire. I agree with 99% of what she says (but disagree when it comes to the majesty of athletes).

She talks about talent. You have it or you don’t. People who aspire to be talented are misguided. I’ve always known I had talent. That might sound arrogant but it doesn’t stop it from being true. And I know when something I write is great. It doesn’t come from outlining and note taking. It comes from living, reflecting and then pours out. I can tell when it’s going to be great because I get a little scared and tingly. And feel the overwhelming sense of urgency. The thoughts come and I have to write fast enough to capture them, sometimes taking a break from this train of thought to capture another that must be addressed because the association pops into my mind and might evaporate or escape or lose its passion. It is the work of years and decades of experiencing everything so acutely and then sketching it in prose.

It doesn’t feel fun in the moment. It’s a purging of sorts. It is uncomfortable. But what comes of it is truth raised to a new level. And when it’s good, I just know. I can’t wait for someone to discover it and tell me that they felt it…not the urgency or the craft…they felt what I felt in the moment of living that I filtered through my voice into words on a screen. And these readers have impeccable tastes. Impeccable: free from sin. To them, I am worthy of time in a world where everything nags for our limited seconds, metered out over a life of unknowable quantity. We only get so many of those seconds and, at the outset, we never know how many we’re going to get. So it is the highest honor that they would reserve some of those precious quantities for my thoughts that I manage to type out in manic bursts.

“This?” I think. “This thing no one but me should care about…has meaning and value to you? When you could be looking at a Basquiat or studying Gothic architecture or listening to Mingus or anything that rises to the level of art?”

Gratitude floods me and, in a moment of keen self-awareness, I am equally flattered, appalled, humbled and embarrassed. “Get better,” I tell myself. “Be worthy of the honors bestowed upon you. You are not there yet.”

Snowflake: Odyssey storytelling

Phil Gordon reached out to me to invite me to tell a story for The Odyssey in Tucson for December’s Snowflake show. I didn’t know he would say such nice things about me.

Telling stories over zoom will never take the place of standing on a stage in front of a live audience. But we do not choose these times. They chose us. Hope you enjoy it.

Here to face the fortune and the bile

City life told in the contents of a purse:

The purse I stole from my sister Andrea in 1996. It has mother of pearl buttons and seed beads in white, orange and maroon. The black fabric has faded and begun to tear but I still love wearing it because it is the perfect size for carrying everything I need and light enough that I can wear it across my body and never be bothered.

The coin purse my aunt Michelle gave me in 1994 for Christmas. It’s from Dooney and Burke. Yellow signature tea-colored leather. Inside are a bunch of quarters left over from laundry. I never used to carry cash on me in Arizona because I had no need really.

Pulparindo candy wrappers, from a care package sent by my father. I keep candy on me in case I run out of energy mid-errand day.

A yellow, blue and green keychain with a soccer jersey I got on a trip to Brazil for my 30th birthday. On it are the two keys I need to come home; one to get in the building and one to get into the apartment. In Tucson, I carried around car keys and a car alarm fob but I never locked my front door.

Several shades of red liquid lipstick I wear on days out because it sticks to my face and doesn’t rub off on my mask.

Two hand sanitizer sprays. One in lavender and one in grapefruit. When I’m stressed, I use the lavender. When I’m tired, I use the grapefruit. Sometimes I even spray them on the outside of fabric mask for additional aromatherapy.

Lighters I always have on me because I smoke. But I’ve transitioned to blue American Spirits from Marlboro menthol 100’s. I used to smoke those in my backyard. Now I smoke the hipster cigarettes on solo walks and nights out with Maddie or Mikey. I’ve lived here long enough that I know to ask for the cigarettes that don’t have NY state stamps. The ones with no stamp or out of state stamps are trafficked over state borders and at least $4 cheaper. It takes me a week to smoke a pack, which averages out to 2.8 cigarettes a day, though there are days when I don’t smoke at all and nights where I pass them out to friends. In the city, the good strangers will offer you a dollar for a cigarette, though I never accept. Once I was sitting with Tyler outside of Peaches and a girl tried to bum one off of him without offering to pay so he told her he didn’t have any more. I waited til she was out of earshot and then laughed because it’s so indicative of his personality and we were 60 feet from a bodega so she had no right asking. In Tucson, strangers just bummed.

A Metro Card with maybe $28 on it? I always put cash on my card now. When I moved here I made the mistake of buying a week long ticket and then quickly losing it and the $55 I’d doled out on it. Uber’s were cheaper then because you could share them with strangers. I miss overhearing the conversations of fellow travelers. Now I take the train almost everywhere. I don’t lose my card anymore because I’ve become more disciplined. I had to in order to survive this place, something Terry told me in the tarot cards before I moved here.

Now John at the bar is a friend of mine

There was this kid I grew up from middle school with who was whip crack smart. He was popular and a jock and nothing but trouble. The mouth on this kid both annoyed me and fascinated me. I didn’t know how he could pull quotes and references outta nowhere on the fly.

Meanwhile, I could be icy and bitchy in self-defense, but rarely funny. And when he joked, I refused to laugh…on principle.

He made fun of me a lot. I secretly relished it as I tried not to fume. I’d try my hand at snappy comebacks. They always fell flat.

And then later, much later, we would become friends. The kind you enjoy road trips with. The kind you get high with and talk music with. The kind you go see movies with on opening night and concerts whenever they came near. The kind you watch Game of Thrones with. The kind you talk about relationships with. The kind you fall into bed with and get confused about later, when you’re alone.

Some-a-youse know who it is. I can’t say it was my finest hour. But it wasn’t 38-year old me. It was 14-year old me who watched from the wings as he shone and coveted what he had so very much.

Somewhere between 14 and 38 I’d grown up. But he hadn’t. He’d peaked young. Somewhere between 14 and 38, I’d become funny and quick and full of references. Quicker, at least. And able to give as good as get. His luster had worn off and his seams had loosened, revealing the fluff he was stuffed with.

Now I love these boys. Boys in general, but the boys I know in particular. And they are indeed children. The ones who know all the bits. The ones with the movie quotes. The ones with the impressions. They make me laugh. I fall in love with them. I don’t want to sleep with any of them. No, that’s not the vibe. I’ve already inoculated myself against that strain of cute.

But I sure do find their company pleasing. Witty boys have a certain twinkle in their eye. The funny is just an indicator of the brilliance inside. God love ‘em.

Viva la vida

Can you sense your destiny? I think for most people this isn’t a question they ponder. I think for some people, delusion plays a role in thinking they could be great. Just walk into any comedy club and you’ll sense the desperation. Comedy clubs being things of the non-present, just substitute Twitter and all the people who dream of going viral for a single tweet.

But for some people, I think destiny is very palpable. Being born for some purpose. Maybe greatness, though greatness is a matter of relativity, isn’t it? You can be an inert king or a bombastic commoner.

I was raised to feel a sense of destiny. Sure, my parents expected great things. But doesn’t everyone’s? It was more an internal sense that one day I would be called upon to do important things. At first, I though maybe an astronaut. Or a scientist. Later it was a politician and a lawyer.

I never really spoke about it. I think I burned with ambition. And I had a big mouth and a way with words and delivery. At heart, I’ve always been an orator. I’ve been giving speeches since I was old enough to hold a microphone.

But failure dampens the gunpowder of ambition and I too became inert for a very long time.

I still feel this sense of purpose. This thing that calls to me and says, “Get ready for big things.” I don’t know how to prepare myself and I’m somewhat apprehensive about the responsibility of it all. I don’t even know what these big things are. What I know is that you don’t just fall into success. You don’t just learn a skill as a child and, on your first professional try at the age of 41, have instant success. My whole life has been building up to something. And I don’t think this is the end.

Where it goes next, I couldn’t say. I don’t have clarity when it comes to my own future. I have weird woo woo hunches as to the future in general and deep intuition that guides me like a deft dancing partner. I follow its lead.

At any given moment, I ask, “Is this it?” Is this the person or thing that puts me into the path of my destiny? You cannot know these things ahead of time. I knock on every door never knowing which will lead to the perfect room. Sometimes, the light is dim and sometimes the path undulating. I can’t see around the corner, but I can feel whether it is right or wrong. I can sustain until I’ve rounded the corner and then adjust as necessary.

And I can feel the potential greatness in others. I can see their paths more clearly than my own. And more clearly than they can see for themselves. I hold my tongue because, just as I had to learn lesson for myself, they too have to walk the path before they can see their future. I can give them nudges, but it is not my place to force them into who they will become.

I thought everyone lived a life like mine, in which they were all told they were meant for greatness, only to find out that this isn’t a common thing. It isn’t smoke blown up everyone’s ass. It isn’t written inside of every Hallmark card. I always grew up with this sentiment, so I don’t know from greatness being heaped on me.

But they keep saying it. Even now. The soothsayers, the abstract intuitives, the admirers. Why would they all think that of me when I have very little to show right now?

I can’t worry about it. Yes, it nags, but I reassure it, pat it on the head like a neurotic poodle, give it a treat and keep going. I will care for it and nurture it. And only in looking back will I ever understand what it was. The greatness, I mean. My bones weary, my shoulders hunched, my face distorted by time. An old woman who didn’t know she was leading the charge to this very thing or leaving a body of work in her wake. Unassuming and tiny in her movements that cascaded into something profound.

These things I know. And I have to be ok with that. I’m not deluded. I am just a little tired of midwifing my own existence. I would love clues. I would love a planned out itinerary. But that is not how these things work. “Just meet me halfway,” is all I ask. And give me enough time to bask in it just enough.

P.S.: only after listening to more Coldplay did I realize I was supposed to listen to this song instead:

How long before I get in,
Before it starts, before I begin?
How long before you decide,
But before I know what it feels like?

Where to? Where do I go?
If you never try, then you’ll never know.
How long do I have to climb,
Up on the side of this mountain of mine?

Look up, I look up at night.
Planets are moving at the speed of light.
Climb up, up in the trees.
Every chance that you get is a chance you seize.

How long am I gonna stand
With my head stuck under the sand?
I’ll start before I can stop,
But before I see things the right way up.

All that noise and all that sound.
All those places I got found.
And birds go flying at the speed of sound
To show you how it all began.
Birds came flying from the underground.
If you could see it then you’d understand.

Ideas that you’ll never find,
All the inventors could never design.
The buildings that you put up.
Japan and China all lit up.

The sign that I couldn’t read
Or a light that I couldn’t see.
Some things you have to believe,
But others are puzzles, puzzling me.

All that noise and all that sound.
All those places I got found.
And birds go flying at the speed of sound
To show you how it all began.

Birds came flying from the underground.
If you could see it then you’d understand.
Ah, when you see it then you’ll understand.

All those signs—
I knew what they meant.
Some things you can invent.
Some get made, and some get sent.
Ooh.

And birds go flying at the speed of sound
To show you how it all began.
Birds came flying from the underground.
If you could see it then you’d understand.
Ah, when you see it then you’ll understand.

Nothing’s gonna stop us now

Being alone is a gift. Having free time is a gift. Having access to books and great minds, likewise.

This winter, my goals are:

• to party less, read more,

• study Chinese history,

•be inspired by Neruda and Mary Oliver,

• get better at writing,

• take a class on a writing style I’m not familiar with,

• start working on video projects, including banking shots in films I love

These are not indulgences. They feel like them. When I make time for them, I am torn. Shouldn’t I be doing something of value? And then I have to remind myself that I don’t know what will be of value. I thought reading about autism and neurology were indulgent, until I got paid this year to talk on the subjects. I thought making videos was indulgent, until I made a video that companies paid for.

I moved to NYC to see what potential lied beyond the boundaries of the Sonoran Desert. They won’t reveal themselves until I possess the perspective to see them with clarity. And then incorporate them into my vernacular.

The sky’s the limit. It would help to have Ivy League connections, beauty, thinness, neurotypicality. But I haven’t any of those. What I do have is raw talent and instincts. Tenacity in spades. A fire under my ass. And friends who can help me achieve my goals or at least connect me with those who do.

Time to carpe the diem. Rainy windy days lie ahead. No one knows how many. I shall rage against the dying of the light. Every party night I spend is one day less of productivity. But, then again, the spontaneous conversations that erupt from social endeavors causally lead to opportunities. So, as with all things, moderation is key.

But the cardinal law is kindness and compassion, first and foremost with myself. Hard thing to incorporate when your ambition constantly nags at you to get better.

The only thing that could possibly stop me now is money, so vulgar. Everything else is within my purview to accomplish. Talk about a burden. To know that you have everything and the only thing in your way from attaining all your dreams is your limitations.

I will not go gently into that good night. Let the world around us just fall apart. We can make it if we’re heart to heart.

All I need…is a partner to synergies our talents.