Friday, February 29, 2008

Another nice mention...

...but some sad news. This is from the New Yorker (online only) and mentions the demise of Dutton's, a wonderful Los Angeles Bookstore. We threw a book party in their courtyard back in September with more than 150 people and tons of good vibes. Including those brought by Sam --

-- who's mentioned in the New Yorker Piece. Young Sam has been inspired by reading to write and illustrate his own short picture books. Good kid, good place, strange times. Bush's fault.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Hello, New York Times!

Hi everyone. I spoke with Jane Brody of the Times earlier this month about cochlear implants. Her sensitive and generous article is here. Enjoy!

Monday, February 25, 2008


Spent last week in DC with my father for a conference on group therapy. During the day, I sat in rooms that vacillated wildly between too cold and too hot and tried, with a dozen or so others, to make sense of the trajectories of life. Why did it go here? Why not there? Why now? And that thing, that thing we know we need, and know it’s missing – love, say, or hope, or just a mind that can step off now and then and say all is good -- why can’t we just reach down and grab it? A mystery to us all, to everyone to some degree, and in the hotel conference rooms we passed around the mystery like a sleeping infant. We held it in our arms. We wiped its tears. We swore to do right by it forever, to never let it go sick or hungry, and then were, of course, met by our insufficiency. The gap between what could be and what is. A man with no legs sitting in a wheelchair outside the coffeeshop. The realization that your love has caused other people pain. You want to do better, of course, but she’s 3,000 miles away.

One night there was a party at a Moroccan restaurant. The happy crowd gathered; they dimmed the lights in the restaurant to pitch black and a bellydancer materialized on a temporary platform set up in the middle of the dining room, spinning and gyrating, flicking a sheer cloth around her shoulders and breasts. A beautiful woman, to be sure, but after a minute, you got the extent of her moves and an appreciation for her dedication to yoga exercises. Alas, there was another nineteen minutes to get through. And do you know that I was sitting next to a woman with no legs? She couldn’t dance like that but she knew this world is just the lunar eclipse’s smile.

The party was for a friend who is leaving at the end of the month for two years in the Peace Corps in Morocco. She’s been dreaming of it for so long and is stunned now to find herself face-to-face with the dream. Is she up for it, she wonders. Will it be what she imagined?

Back in the hotel conference rooms, therapists and therapists-in-training open up their hearts, brave the depths, sip water, shed tears. Dad and I take a class together on healing family trauma through drama. Several times he’s asked by other class members to step forward and play the part of their father. On the TV, the candidate of the hour is giving another talk, this time in Ohio. “Thank you, Ohio,” he says, over and over. Fatigue shows in his face and his speech sounds disjointed but the cheering, happy crowds aren’t really listening to the words. In San Francisco, a beautiful young woman walks a black dog.

Darling, it will be good. Travel well.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008


Do not be daunted by the enormity of the world's grief. Do justly, now. Love mercy, now. Walk humbly, now. You are not obligated to complete the work, but neither are you free to abandon it.

The Talmud

Monday, February 11, 2008


An old man lies on a hospital bed that has been wheeled into his bedroom. Years ago he made a fortune in the furniture business, starting up a company, making the goods himself. He raised a family, buried a wife, looked after people. His hands are huge, workingman hands, and back in the day, they kept order. You did not want those hands on you. If they were closed in a fist you knew: your fight was over.

Under the sheets in his hospital bed, he wears a diaper. He’s blind from strokes and his hearing and his attention come and go in random pattern. They come and go and when they are returned, they seem, each time a bit more childlike, a bit more scrubbed of edges and fire.

I mean that, with each reawakening, it becomes clearer that all he’s ever said, all there is to say is, “I love you. I’ve always loved you. Do you love me? I’ve always loved you.”

Really, what else?

“Did you,” you say to him, “eat lunch?” (By which you mean, I love you.)
He says, “Yes.” (I love you.)
“Are you in any pain?” (I love you.)
“No.” (I love you.)

He takes your fingers in his big workingman hands. His grip is like iron cushioned in a ski glove. The smell in the room is of babies, disinfectant, sheets washed with too much bleach.

The years pass quickly. We cast about in nets of our own devising, in oceans we’ve called on ourselves like so many backwards prophets. Some nights, it seems like the woods are endless, and that the sun is too ashamed by our doings to ever rise again. In the tunnels below ground, the workers continue their ceaseless busying regardless. Everyone runs in circles until they fall down. Then they run some more. You want to say, “Oh let us stop. Right here. Right here,” but no one does. How can they? Have you seen how much a one-bedroom costs these days?

Yes, you hurt people. Can they forgive you? Can you forgive yourself? Can you stand up again?

After twenty minutes, the old man in bed releases your hand. He motions you in close and kisses your cheek, his lips ringed in stubble. Outside, day has turned to night and the rain to snow. There are messages on your phone and appointments to keep. A moment glimmers at your mind’s horizon and is gone, so beautiful it leaves a sharp ache.