Thursday, January 31, 2008

Happy Birthday R & J and My Solution to the Strike

I salute here, Julia and Richard who are such good old friends and Jan. 30 birthday mates and have kept me from being dead meat, time and again. I love you both and even though I said breakfast was all I was gonna do this year, I’m doing this too, but don’t expect any cards or gifts.

The fact that WGA members now face losing their benefits may hasten an end to the strike. I suggest that a greater tool to force writer capitulation than the threat of lost coverage for psychotherapy might be the threat of ineligibility for Academy Screeners.

For my far flung readers, every year film producers send out DVD screeners of films, sometimes not even yet in theatres, to members of the different guilds eligible to vote for Oscar nominations. Screeners start arriving around Thanksgiving and for many of us inspire a lot more good holiday juju than Frankincense and Myrrh or Latkes. Since the advent of home video in the 1970s, just about everything that was hot in theatres during December existed in a home entertainment media. Being a recipient of Academy Screeners conveyed gravitas and power and in Hollywood is an even better acid test than car model in separating the “haves” from the “have-nots”.

Then, Carmine Caridi wrecked it for everyone. In 2004 Caridi was the first person ever to be booted out of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. This humiliation came because he had loaned copies of his screeners to Russell William Sprague, who purported to be a cineaste, which he may well have been. Nevertheless, the purported cineaste also was caught pirating the titles he had borrowed from this purported friend, the elderly Caridi. To even further take the fun out of screenertime, Russell William Sprague, age 51, died in prison while serving a sentence for motion picture piracy.

It’s different now. Everyone is uptight about their screeners and they are discussed in the same cadence as a heroin deal. I have a few friends with whom I have practically exchanged bodily fluids from who I may still borrow. A friend of Spuds arrived at a sleepover with a DVD of Sweeney Todd smuggled in his sleeping bag. It was that super rainy Sunday morning and driving was tough. I sprang for breakfast for Spuds and his crew (only because our kitchen is still in tarpation) on our return trip to Silverlake and the kid remembered what had been left in the DVD player back at Casamurphy. I sit here on this beautifully sunny day and try to think of another single forgotten belonging that would have made me decide to return to Casamurphy during the storm watch to retrieve it. A refill of prescription medication would be available at a 24 hour pharmacy. Perhaps a prosthetic limb. But definitely an Academy Screener. That kid would have been dead meat.

BTW, to certain really big, important, Godlike friends , it would be worth a big feed in my new kitchen to see Savages, Atonement, Michael Clayton, No Country for Old Men, Diving Bell and the Butterfly, In the Valley of Elah, Eastern Promises and the Assassination of Jessie James.

Monday, January 28, 2008

Sun on the Deck

During the remodeling, Himself and I were marooned in our bedroom for many more hours than usual. I was reminded of this long period barricaded there when the painters arrived Sunday morning at eight to complete the final phase. There was no Sunday Hebrew school and my usual farmer’s market run was impossible due to lack of kitchen access. We were wide awake as the painter’s radio blared below and we spent a cold morning in a warm bed. The remodeling was a nightmare. It ripped my family apart but exiled, as the rain fell Sunday morning, I examined the point on Himself’s shoulder blades where the freckles stop and discovered the surprising plumpness of his earlobes. I was reminded of Aliki tenderly caressing my father’s dead limbs, her final physical act in their 38 year marriage.

Being stranded in the bed with Himself while our kitchen was being made, increased our intimacy and when we return to our family space and shared meals I think our enhanced connection as husband and wife will make the time the four of us spend there more sweet. It was the two of us originally and then there were three and then four. Most likely at some point it will revert to the original two, who first lay together nearly twenty years ago in a tiny bed in an Echo Park cottage. My husband’s body and soul were once new to me. How familiar he has become over two decades.

There have been torrential rains. They subsided a bit on Saturday afternoon and I was able to sit on the deck and feel the sun on my face. The rain frightens me when it falls hard and I comfort myself knowing the spring will be a green one and that in between showers there are moments of sun on the deck. The rain will always frighten me and make me cling to Himself even more tightly. I comfort myself with the hope of knowing more and more the man with the fat earlobes who holds me in the dark. A stranger was sent to love me and I marvel at how love has grown as our familiarity with each other has increased and my dark moments are lightened. I know that whatever the day metes out, we will curl up together each night and know each other a bit more than we did the night before.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Alice Hates Your Hair and Older Wounds.

When I was about ten I called my mother at work to be told by her co-worker that she hadn’t returned from court yet. When my mom arrived at home I asked immediately why she’d been in court and she collapsed in a heap and sobbed that it had been a child support issue with my father and that she had lost and we were in dire straits and that my father and his new wife were greedy and out to destroy us. The duration of my childhood was actually spent above the poverty line but the image of my mother so raw and ruined caused a pain worse than hunger.

Kaz’s mom Alice is on life support now and her final communication was an indication of her distaste for Kaz’s current hairdo. My mother’s suffering courses through my veins but the genesis of it is a great mystery. Maybe Alice told you Kaz how she came to hurt so much but Adele, if she had a clue herself, kept me in darkness. I know how much of my own hurt, which I guess always riffed on Adele’s hurt, was knocked into me during childhood and girlhood and young womanhood. I am just starting to understand the pain I carry but I will never understand my mother’s, the seed of it planted long before my birth. I know that Adele (Alice) never meant her own suffering to cause me (Kaz) to suffer. And I never intended for my own suffering to increase my mother’s sorrow but it did. Adele’s suffering was ended for the most part as she drifted into dementia. Alice’s suffering will end soon. And Kaz, because we are daughters, we must suffer but also my dear friend, because we are mothers, we are obliged to heal.

I am having a raw and ruined week myself as again, my grieving for my dad is interrupted by the consequences of his thoughtlessness. I am scared but I am bent on renouncing my family’s history of confusing money with love. I have just finished a magnificent collection of stories by Colm Toibin, “Mothers and Sons,” the emotional acuteness of which made me wince. Tobin possesses a miraculous and courageous understanding of the unique language mothers and sons speak to love and to wound. I am learning this language. And, I am still trying to decipher even further the unique mother-daughter lexicon, although I have no one left to converse in it with. This is a time of suffering but I will get through because I am a mother and that makes me strong and I am determined to make my own suffering cause as little suffering as possible. I open myself to the love in my home and my world and pray for the strength to honor it. I know sometimes my boys will see me cry but I pray too that they will see me heal.

Friday, January 18, 2008

A Day By the Bay

I awoke yesterday morning nestled naked back to naked back in a warm bed with my husband whose warmth for me is the great gift of my life. I made the kids the eternally underappreciated breakfast, picked up the carpool with whom the usual radio station arguments ensued and then headed for Burbank and a 40 minute flight to Oakland for the day.

The Bay area is so fraught for both Himself and me, burnished rich with much of what matters to both our hearts. We are drawn there and perhaps will settle there one day. We both suspect that the advantages might outweigh the drawbacks. I rode BART under the bay and the woman seated in front of me was two pages behind me on the Doctorow story in the New Yorker. There was no Equal for my coffee.

My lunch companion, a Berkeleyite , at same vegetarian restaurant which lacked Equal and only served bread upon request in a campaign to reduce bread wastage, confessed, sotto voce, that he was considering voting Republican. Appalled that both of the leading Democrats have promised a full withdrawal from Iraq in less than a year, he feels we have a moral obligation to finish off there instead ripping up a nation in stupid blunder and then walking away.

I don’t know if we have the resources to finish off anything with an improved result or if something more fundamental than resources, human and monetary, is necessary to accomplish peace and stability there and other places in the world (including here) where religious fanaticism and the intolerance inherent to zealotry has blossomed. The larger question seems to be, when will the faithful and the faithless and the confused all come together and take on organized religion? I evoke the Jews who chanted the Sh’ma on the way to the gas chamber and my own belief in the force in the universe I call God, and my belief in belief, when I pray that we learn to pray together and feel God, without requiring our chosen paths to be the “one and only way”. God is not power. God is not might. God is love, healing pure love. I struggle in a world blinded by lies to imbue my words and actions with light but the farther I stray from my own bed, the darker the world becomes.

Between "things to do" I was plonked briefly on Fourth Street in Berkeley and a row of mostly chain shops I wouldn’t frequent at home to watch the passing parade and I realize how little opportunity I have to kill time but sans reading material or laptop or pencil. I was condemned to march, lonely and petulant with the prosperous coffee drinking browsers, passing an hour or two until dinner. People in the ghettos of Berkeley or Mount Washington or Baghdad return to empty houses and full ones, watch t.v and read the New Yorker, and fuck and jack off and cry alone and pray.

I returned to my home, one of the full ones, and gifted himself with a little encyclopedia of fonts that I’d found remaindered at Cody's and he was so delighted with it and then I got into bed and I heard him singing to the dogs through the vent and then he came upstairs and belched a few times with enormous satisfaction and I burst out laughing so hard there were tears of joy which suddenly became sobs. My beloved held me and I talked to him about love and about living in a world where the infinite love I feel seems to have such a finite jurisdiction. I woke up in bed this morning and he was holding me still and I felt his breath in my hair. May I be brave enough and honest enough to carry the spark of light emanating from my beloved’s touch and reach out into the fearsome darkness with love.

Shabbat Shalom

Wednesday, January 16, 2008


Today would have been my dad’s 90th birthday and I would have had a big party for him. His office is next door to mine and is exactly as he left it and I still send telemarketers directly to his voice mail extension. My own Jubilee year, a year I leapt into nakedly and during which there was enormous light as well as loss, is coming to an end.

Having a teenager, a pre-teen Republican and a husband often gives me opportunity to appreciate the correlation between physical and emotional strength. I am now in my 6th month of Bootcamp and have practiced Yoga for about a year. In the 1980s I participated in aerobics with a vengeance but I was young then and unfettered and I don’t remember feeling particularly strong during that time, but I didn’t really need to be.

My dad exercised religiously just about every day of his life. He did not have the luxury of psychotherapy or the embrace of communal religion. He endured two marriages going down the tubes, legal difficulties, enormous financial reversals and the death of a child. When the life support was turned off, his heart continued to beat much longer than the doctors expected.

My dad was looking forward to his 90th birthday. There is so much I look forward to. Times are scary and sad and challenging and sometimes when there is white frost on the grass and I struggle up a hill hoisting an 8 lb. medicine ball above my head it feels like primitive worship. Like my father before me.

Thursday, January 3, 2008

Confronting a Final Taboo

I have written here quite candidly about sex and drugs. I have even broached the subject of cancer, which for me is a metaphor for all things dark and scary and out of my control. I have been chided for speaking freely about sensitive family issues. This place in blogdom was created by me to challenge my own bullshit. I have discussed here many things that have caused me distress and fear and particularly great shame. The process of writing for this blog has defused a number of landmines and provided pure, filled with white light, comfort.

I am content to be in my house and with my family but the last few weeks have been very sad in many ways and the source of my sadness is perhaps my very last taboo—money. Would I feel better if I scanned my bank statements and my bills and posted them here? Why have I been able to write about sex and drugs and stuff that other people would prefer I kept my trap shut about but any frank discussion about money is complete anathema?

My home will never be on the cover of Elle Decor but it is becoming a place where we can be. My family is a source of delight and warmth and comfort and all sorts of stuff I never dreamed possible in the lonely years before God sent my beloved to me. I have written more consistently in the last year than any in my life. I am eating better and participating in intensive exercise and yoga. Himself and I have grown far closer in a year that was challenging and filled with loss and could easily have pulled us apart. And yet, because of a strike and other factors, some perhaps my fault, I am less financially secure at the moment than I have been in many years and despite all of the other accomplishments that I am righteously proud of, the current financial reversal fills me with shame and a profound sense of personal failure.

No, I will not post here the red and the black ink for all to see. I have worked hard to become the person I am. I know that we will be on an austerity budget for a long time to come but we are not really suffering or wanting for what we truly need. I just can’t separate having a comfortable income with being comfortable in my skin and I’m not sure on what level or at what place I should reject this. Maybe I should be thankful for the reversal because it is forcing me to confront the one thing I may be fucked up in my thinking about more than anything else. My estimation of my own worth is inextricably tied into how much money I have. I make value judgments about others based on how much money I determine they may or may not have. After my parents’ divorce their relationship became one long protracted angry financial transaction and a constant reminder that I was merely a line item but most people I know have some sort of family and personal weirdness about money which I think often remains largely unconfronted.

Friends have sent me lists of their New Year’s resolutions to which I responded in self pity, that I have no resolutions and long only not to feel scared and sad but that was not the stuff of resolutions. But as I realize that so much of my fear and sorrow tie into being conflicted about money and how that is not the way I want to live and certainly not what I want to impart to my children, I have come to a resolution. For 2008 I resolve to further my understanding of money and strive to fully embrace, instead of give lip service to, that the quality of a person, particularly this person, has no relationship to how much or little there is. Nevertheless, my personal growth would not be hindered by a large order.