Sunday, February 24, 2008

Sorrows of the King

One of my favorite moments at the Pompidou Art Center in Paris is catching sight of Matisse's collage of paper cutouts.

Jenny and I learned a good museum trick from our Aunt Judy. Go at the moment of the museum's opening and race up the stairs to the top gallery, working your way backward chronologically. This way, you get some time alone with the sorrowful king.

I must reveal that Jenny was terrible in museums. She was compelled to rush from one room to the next, always wondering what was to come. And continually consulting the guidebook for relevant quips about what we were viewing. I'd implore her to just look at the art, and she said she'd be able to relax after racing through the whole collection. Then, she could return to her favorites. She was this way with books, too, often reading the ending first, so that the suspense wouldn't override her enjoyment of the earlier part of the story.

When we saw a beautiful Miro at the MOMA in New York, she lamented to me that, as soon as she left the museum, she'd begin to forget the painting. Was she doomed to return to her favorite paintings for a lifetime, to fight the forgetting? I told her to focus on one detail, sketch it in her mind, and that could hold the impact of the painting for her. It worked. And me? I've completely forgotten the painting. Perhaps some red? A fish shape? Come to think of it, we might have been at the Met.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

The Persuasive Art of Rainstorms

is that they convince you that they cleanse you
of your past, the pains inflicted or received.
If I were to invite a rainstorm to a hand of cards
I'd find it difficult to bluff.
They know too much, and they take too much.

I prefer streetlights.


Saturday, February 16, 2008

To Jenny, My Sister

Jenny Makofsky

Tommorrow it's four years, and I've been taking lots of long walks so that I can have the opportunity to talk to you. I tell you how I miss you, I thank you for visiting me in my dreams (just this week there was one, and I can't remember it a bit, just that we were laughing and talking and it was easy. There were no questions about what had happened or how you had managed to find your way back into my life, everything was so free.)

February is my weakest month, where I really get to self-pitying, and I know you'd not want me going down that road. But maybe you'd let me do it a little anyway? Like what really burns me up is that it was only a month before you died that I was walking in the East Oakland hills and thinking about you and Steve and Max and I caught my breath because I realized how lucky I was. And I quickly crossed all my fingers to protect us from the Evil Eye or whatever it might be that is vengeful when you are joyful and everything's too perfect.

But there are things to be glad for. You went to Barcelona, Jenny, and stood on the roof of some Gaudi architecture. You drew a Beatniks comic strip. You wrote a one-woman show and knocked out the audience at the Climate Theater in San Francisco (not to mention 21 Grand in Oakland and The Works in San Jose). You helped raise little Max and make him a lover of stories. You sang "Ain't Gonna Let Nobody Turn Me Around" at Grandpa Abe's funeral, when I couldn't even speak. You drank tea with Steve on the afternoon you died, and laughed with delight over the gay marriages in San Francisco. You wore gorgeous glittery hair clips and big black boots. So many people loved you and were lucky to know you.

When Grandpa died, you told me that the responsibility was on us to carry on his political work and recreate his energy for social justice. And then you left, too. What happens to all your stories and everything you helped to make so poetic and glowing?

I just wrote in your guestbook about tomorrow. Tomorrow we're going to Hierve el Agua, the petrified waterfalls outside of Oaxaca, where you ate too many tamales 10 years ago. I still have the picture of you and Steve and I that Abby took. We're laid flat along a crevice in the rocks where, deep underneath, water was flowing. That's how I try to think of you, somewhere beyond the surface of this shallow world, moving, changing, maybe singing, and if my mind could just make that leap in understanding the potential of the physical universe, I'd be there, too.

Monday, February 11, 2008

Bringing Down the Evil Louis Vuitton Empire

My story, "My Life is a Charade", about Jenny and I getting accidentally caught up in a Louis Vuitton handbag reselling ring in Paris, won story of the month at Expat Women! You can see the site and my story here.

Thursday, February 07, 2008

The Great Wide Open

I think "The Great Wide Open" is actually a song by Tom Petty but, these days, it's the soundtrack of my life. With Genevieve at school (sort of) in the mornings and no teaching hours, I decided to make a go of finding and applying for some freelance writing gigs.

Well, in the past week, I've secured two new ongoing jobs as well as a great assignment from an old faithful source. So it happens that, all of a sudden, I enter a new phase of my life. I should say "I back into a new phase of my life" because, since Jenny died, everything feels kind of accidental, like I'm responding to things rather than initiating things.

It's coming up on the four-year anniversary of the accident. My dad's visiting from Beijing, which is nice because he has a way of bringing Jenny back to me, the way he's a fuzzy-visioned, argumentative genius. His multiple backpacks are just jammed full of stuff and there are papers everywhere--it's so like living with Jenny.

Last week, we went to see "Across the Universe" and Dad and I sat in the theater singing Beatles songs. I thought, this is the kind of thing I'd only have done with Jenny but here I am, sitting in the dark singing even though she's been away from me for four years. Who knows? Maybe she was sitting behind us, throwing popcorn at us to get us to quiet down, though more likely she would have been singing along.

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

First Day

Today, we dropped off Genevieve at school for the first time. She's 2 years, 5 months, and she just seemed very sick of her parents, so we thought we'd give this a try. Though the staff of our neighborhood park's playroom wanted her to attend their daycare, Max was incensed and insisted she attend the daycare at his school, Colegio Teizcali.

This morning as we straggled around retrieving backpacks and diapers, Max was micro-managing: "Did you pack Jenny's little yogurt cup?" "Did you put in enough diapers?" "She needs water, you know." It was actually pleasant having a third parent around, nagging me.

We walked the kids to school and then--I couldn't believe it--they said to just leave Genevieve, not to stay. It seemed crazy. All the daycares I've known in the U.S. have you stay the first day and even half of the second day. Sometimes there seems to be more parents than children in the classroom! But they said that Jenny seemed okay and that she would adjust better without us. I thought I misunderstood the Spanish, so I checked again. And again. And again. Until they just laughed at us.

So we left, and then the tears came. Mine.