Wednesday, October 30, 2013

thought of you as everything I've had and couldn’t keep

“Death comes sweeping through the hallway like a ladies dress. Death comes  driving down the hallway in its Sunday best” -Fire of Unknown Origin
Alas it is that time of year again and I cannot help but write about it. My father would have been 83 yesterday. He passed away as I held his hand over a decade ago, on Father’s Day. This Saturday I will remember him at the Dia de Los Muertos (Day of the Dead) party at the graveyard. I am way fond of graveyards and parties, as well, so to do the party in the graveyard is one of my all time favorite things, next to the mermaid parade.
Yes, officially friday is the day that the veil is lifted between the 2 worlds, that of the living and that of the dead. It is the day to celebrate the lives of our family and friends who have passed away. 
This week NYC lost two greats, Lou Reed and Codie Leone. I was touched by them both. They will be missed. I will let their close loved ones write about them because they can do it better than me. Today I will stick to writing about my close loved ones.
My experience growing up with my father was complicated. It was both loaded, burdensome and troubling- filled with hurt and rage and walking on eggshells and depression AND it was also vivid and loving, full of swagger and mischief and fun, joyous with the simple things like swimming and delicious food, movies and music.  Making sense of our relationship has been a complicated task. That makes mourning so very complicated but alas, since becoming a parent I have been given the lovely gift of compassion and empathy for both of my parents. Today, I get the lack of patience, the need to yell in an attempt to control, the frustration at failing to make a little creature do what you want or need them to do. I don’t understand everything, but I try to have compassion for my father, for me, for both of us. Being a parent is hard and I have truly come to see that my working class parents did the best they could with what they had.
With that said,  I want to thank you dad, Raul Ramos, for carving great pumpkins, because that is an art, for hand making our fine finished mid-century modern furniture that was perfect and beautiful, for cooking great pancakes and bacon, for loving King Kong, Frankenstein and all those great horror films of your youth, for loving the ocean and taking us to pools and lakes and teaching us to swim. Thank you for your love and respect of your parents, for teaching me not to call the elderly “old ladies” even though I did not listen, for reminding me to be a good friend, thank you for loving animals and being kind to all living creatures, thank you for getting us a cat. Thank you for spending your adult life dedicated to your family, providing for us the very best you could, for always providing for us, never failing. Thank you for being calm somewhere inside, for having great simple wisdom, and thank you for enjoying your life, seeking fun and laughter and friendship. Thank you for being a good father.
Death always brings gifts with it. It reminds us of our priorities, it reminds us to value life, to love our friends, to stop and smell the roses, it shows us just how very fragile and temporary and grand it all is. I am sharing this beautiful poem again today. Forgive my bragging but it was written by my friend, my daughter's nanny. Forgive my repetativeness but it is worth two readings. It refers to the very same gifts I am speaking of….
When you fall out of the tree by Meredyth Hunt

When you fall out of the tree,
and you will.
Whether it is from the welcoming oak in a friend’s backyard
with the treehouse for her kids.
Or the corporate job you were profoundly excited to get.
When you fall,
there are a few things you should know.

As you hit the ground,
it’s going to hurt,
a lot.

The impact will be such that at first
you will not see the loving faces whispering for you to
lie still, that a different help is coming.

You will look up at the space
that seconds before you had owned with grand assurance
and it will be very far away.

And you will feel sad.

And then trapped.

And then sad sad sad.

But here is the reason you fell out of the tree,
the job,
the relationship.

You fell out of the tree because it was time
for you to feel how profoundly loved you are.

It was time for you to know
that even though you cannot
brush your hair,
take a bite,
pay the bills,
sleep through the night,
there is a line of people waiting to do these things for you.

Some of them you do not even know.

They will lift the folds of your flesh,
and scrub away your pride,
and you will be grateful for it -
though you would have never wished for that gift.

This is what happens when you hit the ground and crack.

You are cradled, and glued, wiped, and kissed.

You are shown all the times and places
where you could have given more,
and you will weep for what you held back.

You are broken open a thousand times bigger
than the impact of the fall.

Though I do not wish for you to fall out of the tree,
I will not stop it if you do.

But I will be there when you hit the ground.

I will be there.

And you will feel ferocious love.
you can read her blog here
and sorry, yes I am posting this agin too. i love this version. “thought of you as everything I've had and couldn’t keep”

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Sleeping in

Sleep has always been a rare and valued commodity to me. I was a summer kid, loved summer with a deep joy from the bottom of my heart for many reasons, but primarily because I did not have to get up for school. Fall was so depressing, not so much because of the cool air and the change of light, but for the wretched getting up. 
School was ok but the 12 years of getting up for it took a toll that affected my choices for many years. In college, I planned my classes around not having to get up. I took only one morning class in the whole 4 years, a cinema studies class that only happened at 9am. Each week I fell asleep as soon as they turned off the lights to start the projector. I woke groggy and hot as the end credits rolled to Apocalypse Now, Goddard’s 2 or 3 Things I Know About Her, and every other film deemed important to the history of film. That was back in the day before I had a VCR, and before many of those films were even available, so I really had to make up a lot of bs on my tests.
After college I refused to join the ranks and get a day job. Instead. I joyously slept in for decades, making up for lost time. Oh how I loved to stay up late and watch a bad movie on tv. Getting to the bank before 3 was almost impossible, and yes, going to the bank was the only way to cash a precious $20 birthday check. I was so in my element when I was DJing till 4am, throwing parties that went well in to the dawn. I adored going to Wo Hops at 6am, or breakfast at Kiev as the sun rose, with some handsome skinny arm candy, and then staying in bed with the shades drawn for as long as I wanted. Ah La Dolce Vita.
maybe it was because I was born in the afternoon. I don't know why I am how I am, I just know I can't change my basic essence, I don't try. I accept myself as someone who loves to sleep late.
As you may know, my lifestyle has changed over time. Just living in Los Angeles, a different time zone from my New York hometown makes getting up easier. More notably, things had really changed since I became a mom. I happily traded the old ways for the new. I embrace all of the sacrifices of parenthood, with much gratitude for the luxury of getting to have a family. It’s all good, joyous in fact. I accept who I am and work with it to the best of my ability. I get to yoga at 10am, not 7 or 8. My daughter generally sleeps on the late-ish side for a three year old, 7:30 or 8:30, not 5 or 6 like some of my friend's kids. I got it made, I know, but the lack of just being able to sleep to my hearts content is my least favorite part of the deal. Every once in a while we pay a sitter to come over first thing in the morning so we can sleep in. It is fun, but just a band aid. Every blue moon I remind myself that at some point, in a decade or so, I will get enough sleep again, I will get to sleep in again on a regular basis. Till then, I got lunches to make, witch costumes to find, and runny noses to clean. Way to bust to dwell on things once I post this blog.
As usual, I remind myself and anyone who cares to find gratitude where you are at now, appreciate it, because it is all so very temporary. Thank you universe, I love being a mom. Enjoy your sleep, my pals.

oooh! look out you rock and rollers, pretty soon now you're  gonna get older...

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Kiss Me Deadly...

I was luckily turning adolescent when an amazing crop of cool female pop stars was emerging. Chrissy Hynde was beautiful and tough as hell. Eye liner and boots and a guitar. AND she wrote her own songs. Joan Jett was so cool, tough, played guitar and wrote songs as well. Debbie Harry, goddess, no need to say much else. Could you get any cooler, beautiful-er or make any better songs. Wendy Williams was the only one taking off her clothes and she did it with such rage and glamour. She was revolutionary. The Go-Gos were awesome AND an all-female band. Poly Styrene, another goddess, was breathtaking in her presence, her song writing, and her voice. Her band was too. But arty Patti Smith was the one I identified with the most.
In grammar school I was an awkward skinny Irish-looking kid with freckles and oversized red plastic glasses with transitional lenses and a lame Farrah flip from the boroughs but I wanted to, maybe even thought I did, look like my arty hero, Patti Smith. Good luck, child. I wore a white shirt with the cuffs cut off and a black tie just like she did on the cover of Horses. Other days I wore a hand-dyed magenta tee shirt that I wrote “patti smith group” (no capitals) on with a black magic marker.
Anyway, I have told this silly story before but not quite like this. Patti was the soundtrack to my first kiss. I was a freshman in high school with great anxiety about never having kissed a guy yet. Read on if you dare:
I was out with my older sister and some friends looking for something to do. It was around one a.m. when we wound up over at the Left Bank, a club in New Rochelle.
“Jesus died for  somebody’s sins but not mine,” Patti Smith was singing as we walked in. The song introduced our entrance, like in a film. The loud record crackled over the PA and sounded larger than life, yet so personal and intimate. Just like the first time I heard this record, I find it hard to describe the perfection, joy and beauty. My heart was like a butterfly in my chest and my breath stopped for a beat. Breath wasn’t even necessary, I was so filled and sufficed with sound. I can remember the smell in air, the color of the light. It was surreeal
“I’m moving in this here atmosphere where anything’s allowed,” Patti sang.
Other than the great song, the club was dead, nothing was going on, just a bunch of people milling around waiting for something to happen.
“And I go to this here party and I just get bored”…the song continued. We were there for a few moments when a stocky drunk blonde guy cornered me and started talking to me.  I was with my older friend Tina who had been drinking, and her slurred voice in my ear asked if I needed any help losing the guy. I said no. The guy kept talking to me, moving closer and close.
“Hear this knocking on my door. And I look up into the big tower clock and say 'oh my god, it’s midnght’ and my baby is walking through the door, leaning on my couch she whispers to me and I took the big plunge”… Patti kept singing as the guy pressed me against the carpeted wall and kissed me.
“I I I I I I I"
"G-L-O-R-I-A.” Patti kept spelling it out for me. Yes, the guy tasted like sour kraut and  hotdogs, which they sold in the club. I hated hotdogs. He tasted gross and I didn’t like him at all. He stuck his tongue in my mouth and made out with me. I did nothing but receive his kiss and listen to my soundtrack while a million things went through me mind...
“And I heard those bells/chiming in my heart/going ding dong ding dong/ding dong ding dong.” So this is what a kiss is. Halle-fucking-luia! The song was almost over. The slow heavy part near the end was grinding in…
 “Tower Bells Chime. Chime yeah they chime. They’re singing Jesus Died for somebody’s sins….”  Patti pauses and whispers quickly “but not mine”. The drums kick in. One of my sister’s friends grabbed my arm and pulled me away from whoever that guy was and that was that. My first kiss was over with. What a relief. I had been so worried about never having been kissed, so worried about possibly doing it wrong when it finally happened and being found out for the old un-kissed maid that I was. Finally I didn’t have to worry about it anymore. The relief was G L O R I O U S!  I couldn’t wait to brush my teeth. Thank you stranger.
And, thank you- all you women in music superstars who influenced my life in such grand ways and still do. I love you all. 

I have already posted that song on my blog so go find it yourself if you need to hear it. I'm posting this one instead.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

bad luck charm

The necklace
Grace gave me a necklace. It was from mexico, a metal heart, vein-y and crude, pierced by a dagger, a kind of milagros. Oh how I loved it. Some famous guy’s wife had given it to her and she passed it on to me. I wore it like I meant it, like my heart on my sleeve, like the sacred bleeding heart of jesus, like a dagger in my heart.
I wore it the day my boyfriend broke up with me. It used to be so important, all those stories of who broke up with me and who broke my heart but as I write this I cannot remember which guy it was. I cannot recall the person at all, I only remember the necklace. I remember that one of them left me while I sat there sucker punched and heartbroken, necklace hanging from my neck. I thought maybe the necklace was bad luck and I put it away.
A year or so later I pulled out the necklace again and that very day as I wore the charmed piece of jewelry another boyfriend broke up with me. This time I remember the story and the name, whatever. I again felt sucker punched, caught off guard. I did not see it coming. His decision seemed so random. I had on a yellow terrycloth dress from Patricia Fields, I looked pretty good in my necklace and my dress, but he still left. I put the necklace away again.
Milagros are religious folk charms traditionally used for healing. The word means surprise or miracle. Eventually I realized that the necklace was a good luck charm, not a bad luck charm. I started wearing it again. Thankfully I was not in those bad relationships anymore. Go ahead break my heart, who needs you anyway, sucka. The necklace helped keep those motherfuckers away, maybe?
Finally, I outgrew the imagery. I did not want to “own” a dagger in my heart. I did not need to have that story anymore. I stopped wearing it. Learned how to be with people that I did not need magical powers to protect me from. Long hard journey you can read about here,
The other day, I saw the necklace there in my jewelry box. I thought about giving it to someone, but decided against it. Just in case it had any of the powers I imagined it to have, which it doesn’t.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

breaking and enetring

In college I embarked on a fantastic cross-country trip with a friend. The adventures were staggering as I described here. One specifically wild, youthfully foolish adventure took place in San Francisco.
My friend and I had been living out of a car for weeks when we arrived in San Fran. It was early evening as we drove in and immediately we felt the loneliness of being in a big city with nowhere to go. In most of the beautiful wild America of our travels we were able to sleep in our car in fields and on mountains. We got away with bathing in rivers, making the world our home and living the simple life. In the big cities car sleeping was harder. I missed being able to wash my face and did not feel safe and at home under the srtars anymore. In a metropolis where we were surrounded by people and homes, we longed for a “home”. Hotels were out of the question as they would eat up our entire budget so I wound up calling a stranger, the brother of a friend of my sister, someone I had never met. My sister had given me his number before I left but I had had no intention of calling him, till now. He gave me his address and said to come on over.
This brother, Jack, lived in a nice small house with another guy on the outskirts of the city. When he opened the door, we could see the hope of grand possibilities fade from his smiling face. We were not his type. Thankfully. Jack was a real party guy but very pleasant. Our fear of staying with a friend’s relative was that they might be uptight or want to entertain us or bog us down, but this guy was a dream come true. He was loose and didn’t care what we did. He didn’t really want any part of us but was kind enough to say that we were welcome to stay in his room that night and he would stay with his roommate or on the couch. This was great news.
After washing up, we were free to go out on our own to see the city. My travel friend offered to treat us to a hot meal, a real splurge after weeks of cold beans and broccoli out of the car cooler. We ate at a nice Chinese restaurant on the Haight Ashbury strip and she paid. I had only eaten in a Chinese restaurant once before, when I was six. I remembered the specific taste of the rice, the perfume-like smell of the spare ribs, the plush red carpeted interior, the Chinese music and hushed tones, and my greasy fingers. It felt like church. 
This place was different, pastel colored and buzzing with youngish hip people. I had broccoli and cashews over brown rice. It felt good to sit in a restaurant and be served and eat warm cooked and seasoned foods, yum. We went on to walk all around the city. The night got cold and our jackets weren’t enough. We had been spoiled on our summery trip. I wore bare feet and a leather miniskirt with a tee shirt most of the time but now I had to pull out my boots and a hat to keep warm. We decided to go back to Jack’s place and just rest on the couch and watch TV for the first time in almost two weeks. The idea struck us weary travelers as a dream come true.
When we got to Jack’s house all of the lights were out and there was no key under the mat. We hadn’t talked about where we might find the key and just assumed he’s be there when we returned. My friend and I were cold and tired and we didn’t know what to do so we decided to see if there was an open window that we could slip through. As we cased the house we found a locked back door and several locked windows and one window about five feet above the ground that was slightly open. The window was in the alley between Jack’s house and the house next door.
We decided to try to break in. My friend grabbed me by the calves and lifted me straight up and I grabbed the window ledge and tried to open the window a little further but it was locked in place and wouldn’t budge.  Right at that moment a cop car passed by the house but failed to see the two women in the alley breaking and entering into the home of a guy named Jack whose last name they didn’t even know. Close call. We thought it hysterical.
At this point, my friend and I were very desperate to get inside to our Dream. We decided that I would just have to squeeze myself through the tiny opening and so after hoisting me up to the ledge again, my friend proceeded to push my feet up and in as I pulled my thin body through the narrow opening. I had to put my head sideways to fit, holding my ear close to my head while the friend supported my weight. Then I used my arms to grab the inside ledge and pull my shoulder through, flattening my breasts as I slittered in. I was in the kitchen, hanging over the kitchen sink as a wriggled my butt and legs in. I slid in a handstand type position down the front of the sink until I found the floor with my hands. Mission accomplished.
We had broken into a stranger’s home and man did we make ourselves at home. It was awesome to be inside and have a place to stay and relax and sleep, extra awesome that there was no one else around. My friend and I cooked some food and relaxed on the couch and watched a Marilyn Monroe film from the guys video collection. In the film, Marilyn is on a ship and has to sneak through a porthole. She measures the size of her hips and then measures the size of the porthole, trying to see if she’ll fit. We laughed hysterically at the similarity of our experience. By the time the film ended it was 4am and Jack still wasn’t home yet so we went to sleep in his bed. Ah, to shower and sleep in the heaven of a warm comfortable bed (of a stranger). I hit the pillow like a ton of bricks.
It wasn’t until sometime the next morning that Jack opened his bedroom door and saw two strange women sleeping in his bed. He backed out of the room and closed the door and we could hear him and his roommate howling with laughter as we quietly did the same, before falling back to sleep. A couple of hours later we got up and got back on the road, heading east. Jack, great sport that he was, was still sleeping when we left. We’ve never talked to him since to explain how we got into the house without a key or to thank him for his hospitality. Youth is brilliant.