Okay, so a very simple question, asked to the very few folks who may still look in on this space once in a while. What, exactly, do I need to do to start spitting out some fiction? I need techniques, challenges, inspiration, ideas, encouragement--even nasty, hard truth.
Recently in Florida Category
It's February, and you've started to crawl around the house on your belly like a little infantry-woman. Last week I put you on your blanket to play with your toys while I finished up a phone call, and 10 seconds after I put you down and turned to walk into the kitchen you scooted between my legs.
The kitchen got remodeled last month. Actually, scratch that. The remodeling started last month. It's still underway a bit, but at least we have a working kitchen now. For a week there, there was dust everywhere and there were strange people in and out of the house every day.
You and I spent a lot of time that week hanging out on the bed, me with a book to read and you with toys to toss around. Usually all of the animals ended up on the bed with us, and you would try to climb over me every thirty seconds so you could pull Jota's tail. Not that she cares. You freak her out a bit, but she seems to like you, too. That's pretty good for a cat.
Your auntie Sarah came to visit in January. It's a long trip for her, coming all the way from Portland, but you were both really glad to finaly meet each other. It was a full-time party for you from the moment she arrived. It's fun when there's always someone to play with!
She took you hiking (whatever that means in South Florida . . . it was pretty fun, but it certainly doesn't hold a candle to the part of the world your father is from) and she read you books, and you played with her nose the same way you play with mine. It was definitely a family thing. Now that she's been out, you've met all of the aunts and uncles, and all of the cousins. It's hard that they're all so far away from us, in Kentucky, Portland, and L.A., but don't ever forget that they all love you very much.
You're really getting to be an expert on "Mama" and "Dada," though I told your mother that I think you have decided that "Mama" means "give me food" or "let me sleep" and "Dada" means "thanks for waking me up" or "I want to play." Someday those will morph into names for the two of us, but for now, we'll take whatever you give us.
You also made your first trip to the beach last month. You loved it! It took a lot of work to get lotion all over you to protect you from the sun, and when we got settled, you fell asleep under a towel. It wasn't until later that you got to laugh at the sound of the ocean, and stare at the waves moving in and out, around your mom's feet.
It was my kind of day at the beach: windy with just a bit of chill in the air once the sun went down. Mi querida Zoe, you should know this about your parents: I can't stand the heat, and your mother can't live without it. We're like Jack Sprat and his wife. Except that we aren't fat and lean—we're hot and freezing.
Nowadays, you're working on "babababababa," and "puh," and "gggggggah." It wouldn't surprise me if you turned to me and said, "Papa, hand me that stuffed bear" tomorrow. I don't think you will, but it wouldn't surprise me at all.
I love feeding you solid food, because the first bite is always an adventure for you. You grab my arm and pull it hard so you can shove the spoon in your mouth, and then you always make this horrible face. I guess you're expecting something besides First Pears or Apples and Blueberries. But it doesn't take more than three beats of your heart and you're ready for more. It wasn't what you thought you were going to get, but it sure turns out to be good!
Life can be like that a lot. The truth is, before you were born, I never knew what to expect from you. I mean, what was I supposed to think? There were a thousand possibilities, and none of the ones that occured to me were anything like you. But once you arrived—as a matter of fact, from the first moment I saw you—the truth is, it didn't even take a single beat of my heart to know how right you are.
I spent my last semester in college knocking around the British Isles with a bunch of other students as part of a study tour. I can remember sitting on my bed the first night in Ireland, staring out the window at the streets of this little town called Ennis, convinced that it was all going to blow by too fast for me to absorb it. And in some ways it did. Those were three of the best months of my life, and though the time went by at the same pace it's ticking by now, it feels like I woke up the next morning with you napping on my belly.
So I'm trying to make sure that I remember what it means to hold you, to walk with you from room to room, talking through the mundane ordinariness of my day. I don't ever want to forget the way you grip my lower jaw with your hands and giggle when I pretend I'm going to bite off your fingers.
I've got no illusions about time, though. I know that even though the earth will continue to spin at its mindboggling pace, there will be days when tomorrow can't come soon enough, and after all of it is said and done, you'll be standing next to me in your house somewhere and we'll be laughing about all of the things I used to do to embarrass you when you were young.
Your mother made you a hat for Christmas. She's worried that you'll be cold in Kentucky. Me? I can't wait to see what you think of snow.
It's beautiful outside tonight--the kind of crisp coldness that I associated with Autumn in Portland when the leaves are changing Summer is gently slipping away. It doesn't get cool like this a whole lot in South Florida, so we're trying to enjoy it as much as we can. I wore a sweater yesterday!
We had dinner with some friends in a huge mansion that one of them is housesitting this week. It was a gigantic house, surrounded on three sides by canals. There is so much money down here, it's hard to describe. Sometimes we drive through the canals, passing by mansion after mansion and yacht after yacht, and I wonder where it all started. Where does all that money come from?
Aaron and Mercy live with their parents, Doug (my twin brother) and Erika, in South Central Los Angeles. They have good reason to be there for now, like we have good reason to be here in Florida.
Of course, that doesn't make it any easier that we're all living three thousand miles apart, especially when we've got kids who are close enough in age that they should probably be growing up together. Erika and I were chatting after they got back to L.A. and we were both commenting on how it used to be "painful but bearable" that our families live so far apart, but after spending time with each other (and especially with the kids, who are delightful) it's just "painful."
Not that any of us would have traded a few days together for "bearable."
I have a deep hope that someday we'll all be able to live closer together, but I'm also committed to living in-the-moment as best I can. And for this moment, everyone is in the right place.
Mercy, Aaron, Doug, and Erika, thanks for coming to see us. I still count it amazing that all seven of us could live comfortably in the same small house (along with our zoo) for five days, but we did it! Mee-nack for coming to see us.
I can't really explain the incredibly long dry spell--during which time I haven't just neglected this space, I haven't written anything at all.
I think part of it is certainly the move to Florida. I'm still getting used to this place, and I miss the inspiration that came with living every day in a very special city, in a very special state, in an incredibly special part of the world.
Not that there aren't good things about South Florida. But I wasn't really made for this place, and I can promise you, I was made for the Pacific Northwest. Or somewhere like it. Maybe New Zealand.
In the meantime, I got married, we of course made the move down here, we've filled our house with animals (cats, dogs, canaries, lovebirds) and finally, we had ourselves a little girl who I think is the most beautiful thing ever. Ever.
In the midst of all of that, I haven't forgotten how wonderful it is to write at least once a week, if not more often. I've just forgotten how to do it.
Cream of asparagus soup and a club sandwich today at Einstein's. The soup was especially good.
It's 49 degrees right now, with a low tonight that should be around 43. It's actually spectacularly beautiful out there, though I think most people living in South Florida aren't happy with the temperature. I love it.
We're waiting for the onset of hurricane Frances, though thank God she's been downgraded twice, from a nasty category 4 to a category 2. And she's aiming just now for somewhere north of Palm Beach County, so we won't get the brunt of the storm. No question it's going to get nasty tomorrow no matter what, but we'll weather it well. Especially since we're completely battened down.
In the middle of watching the Weather Channel for storm info, I saw a commercial for the new "ultra small" IBM ThinkCentre PC. Ultra small? Have they seen the new iMac? Where's the CPU, you ask? The monitor is the CPU.
I just finished watching a show on TLC called bodywork, which chronicles the lives of plastic surgery patients and the doctors who work magic on them. This particular show was close to home for me, since the clinic was in Miami.
I'm not sure exactly how to respond to the show: I was equally impressed by the production and sickened by the content. I felt sympathy for the folks choosing to have their ears pinned back, their breasts enlarged, and their noses fixed; and I was also disappointed that they felt it necessary to do any work on their bodies. Tonight, the women were beautiful and the young man was going into 6th grade (a time when every person hates something about their body, and everyone gets called their fair share of names).
The doctors--glowing perhaps a little too much with heroism--cut and twisted and pinned and collected loads of cash (and I mean loads of cash) for their work and then spent it on helicopter rides over the city and limousine rides to baseball games.
Wrapped very neatly around the stories (which were compelling, I promise you) was some of the slickest "documentary style" production I've seen in a long time. It was simple and clean and nearly perfect in every way. Which, I think, is exactly the problem with the whole experience.
The stories were clean and simple. The doctors shone with brilliance, the patients were outlandishly happy with their new ______ (insert body part) and everyone eventually went home feeling great about themselves. This, by the way, is not how the real world works.
Most people on the planet don't have six thousand dollars to spare for a nose job. (Actually, the girl who got hers done--she was beautiful before the surgery and beautiful after, so at least nothing was lost--didn't have six thousand dollars to spare. She borrowed it. And paid her bill in cash.) But most people on the planet don't make great TV. Instead, we're watching rich people pay other rich people to mutilate their bodies.
At one point, the "breast expert" even went so far as to chat about how it's easier to make perfect breasts more perfect. More perfect? If they were perfect in the first place, why muck with them at all?
Okay, I realize I'm spouting an unfair amount of vitriol about this stuff. I'm no model of perfection: I wear contacts and I'd get my eyes cut in a second if I had the cash laying around. If that doesn't qualify as mutilation, I don't know what does. So I'm not indicting the show (or anyone on it) without drawing up papers against myself, too. In our own minds, we're all a little flawed.
I guess I'm a little extra-sensitive about this stuff because of where I live. On my recent trip back to the homeland, someone asked me, "so what is South Florida's greatest cultural contribution?" I didn't even hesitate to answer.