Thursday, February 25, 2010

holding on to things

I have spent a considerable amount of time, extremely intermittently, 'moving' over the past several months.
Due to a convergence of events which include traveling for work (I have spent 2+ months in five different cities on both coasts in the past 24 months!), my mother moving out of her house, and me moving out of my LA house-- I have been much encouraged to 'get rid of stuff.' And here begins the quandary.
I used to give my friend Adam a hard time because he was so good at getting rid of stuff, I sometimes wondered why the objects themselves didn't mean more to him. Letters, cards, photos, etc. It turns out I was reading him wrong. He is constantly streamlining his belongings and yet he holds onto and invests more in the friendships he maintains from growing up, etc. than anyone else I have ever met. Which seems like the important thing. And he gets photograph printed. Which is just way too rare and awesome.
Personally, I have a very hard time throwing things away. The sunflower Susanna left me in our shared locker at Boston Ballet in 1991? It's on top of the bookshelf in my bedroom in my mom's house. ...The set of pajamas I tried to sew in 1993. Every letter Nick Farrell wrote me between 1992 and 1998. Photos and drawings and collages and all those triangle-folded notes from high school. My typewriter. My old pointe shoes. The tulle I wanted to save for a costume. The other tulle. Every Vogue and Sassy magazine from 1992-1997. The endless christamas lights I must save for parties and shows... It just gets to be too much! And yet, how do you know what of get rid of and what to hold onto?
My sister and I used to mine the room my mother grew up in for clues and artifacts from when she was our age. We would delight in cryptic letters and take pictures in her old clothes. I am so grateful there was something left there for us to uncover.
I really enjoyed the 7 1/2 month period I spent living out of a suitcase last year, and I know that was largely a function of not carrying around so much baggage, both figuratively and literally. Now I live in a 5th floor walk-up and every time I'm about to acquire something I ask myself if I really want to carry it up all those stairs, and then carry it down again at some point in the not-too-far future. But I also feel so tied to the stuff that is sitting in boxes in my mom's house. It's not just that I want to have certain books around me, I want to have THOSE books, with the notes in the margins and the dog-eared pages. I want to be able to unravel tightly-wrapped notes and travel as if through a wormhole to my mind circa-1995. I want my daughter or grand-daughter to be able to slip on my old pointe shoes and feel where I stood.
I actually threw out Susanna's sunflower just recently; it had almost turned to dust, but I'm glad I saved it all these years. She got it for me when I was having a bad day and sometimes when that happens now I remember what she did, and I can see it there in the locker bursting with color and life, and it makes me feel better. If I had thrown it out as soon as it faded, I might not have remembered.

Full disclosure: It is a snowy day here in NYC and a sort of day-off before a very busy spell. I just listened to This American Life #199. It's called The House on Loon Lake and it's a really good one.

Thursday, February 4, 2010


I had a small medical procedure today and went under, as they say, and when I was waking up I heard a man talking and I had the sensation of being very close to him. Not physically close, but emotionally-close. I couldn't see him, we were separated by a curtain hanging down between our beds, but I heard him breathing, coming to, drinking his juice, and eating his peanut-butter and crackers. I heard his banter with the nurse and the anesthesiologist and the doctor who had performed his procedures. Since he had been 'scoped' -- the doctor was showing him pictures, of his own insides, and the man joked that he should put them on facebook. His doppelganger! When the nurse asked who was coming to get him, he answered, "my wonderful, creative and kind father-in-law." Then I started to imagine the band on his finger. Before I heard that I had assumed he was not married. His voice sounded young but also grounded, self-assured. He had a good sense of humor even when he was in some pain, which is a great test. He sounded like "a catch." Something about the whole experience, wearing those uninspired gowns, putting your belongings into a locker, shuffling around in little grippy socks or, even better, being pushed on a bed or a wheelchair, being 'taken care of' by all of the nurses and doctors, and giving over to the sedatives (?) -- it simultaneously made me feel very vulnerable and very safe. It also reminds me of 1984-- is that the one where the characters take 'soma'? There is something futuristic about the anonymity of it.
Perhaps it is not surprising that the first voice I heard when I am came to I believed to be a close friend. Apparently, as the medicine was taking effect I had started complimenting everyone in the room. I remember my doctor's fuchsia cardigan sweater over her scrubs, it really was cute. When I woke up my blood pressure was very low for awhile but maybe it was just because I wanted to stay a little longer in that state, listening to this man 'coming to,' a very private moment. He left first and as he ambled past me he turned his head and gave me a big smile and a thumbs up. We had shared something-- I think he felt it too.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Alice Walker says goodbye to her friend Howard Zinn - The Boston Globe

I met Howard only once, in Wellfleet, after an amazing performance of Pillowman directed by Howard's wonderful son, Jeff Zinn. He was incredibly warm and friendly-- to the point that I wondered if he mistook me for someone else-- but since I love him so, and felt I already knew him through his work, I didn't mention it and talked with him like we were old friends.
Alice Walker says goodbye to her friend Howard Zinn - The Boston Globe

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I especially love Alice's dream.