Sunday, August 30, 2009

This & That

God killed my patio garden. Though I'm sure, as usual, god can't take all the blame. I left the garden to go to Squaw and when I came back, it wasn't the same. The garden was well cared for by my neighbor Molly, but this didn't relieve the abandonment issues the garden was apparently harboring. All the leaves turned a celery-yellow, and all the snap peas came in while I was gone -- cheap shot, Garden. When I left, zucchini were budding, about three good-sized ones. I was excited to harvest them when I got back, but all evidence of them had been erased when I raced to the garden to check their progress.
I asked Molly how the zucchini were thinking she had plucked them off the vine and enjoyed them, and she said, "What zucchini?"
I said, "The zucchini disappeared?"
She said, "What zucchini?"
I shrugged and said, "See? I know absolutely nothing about gardening."

It might have been Mina's tutor who dog-kitty-house sat for a couple days, but she has since flown to Paris on an exchange program and it seems silly to ask her about three zucchini gone missing when she's all Eiffel Tower and Champs-Élysées and shit. I don't need to embarrass myself to that extent. It really is about making sure I'm not completely hallucinatory and/or a completely incompetent gardener. I may never know. Secretly, I think god killed the patio garden so I'd stop fucking around and write the novel already.

Just like god gave my bike a flat tire and gave me an intolerance to baked goods. Well played, god! I'm on it.

The tomatoes survived the trauma of my absence and they are fantastic. Thank you tomatoes. And the bell peppers were kind enough to stick around. It looks like I have some pole beans and cucumbers still coming, but the supporting plant, the leaves and stalk and such, look so sickly I'm not sure what the outcome will be. I stare at the garden like it's a mystery, like what will unfold has nothing to do with me.

* * *
I bought this Ecco Bella Lotion in Vanilla. I stole the idea from Lisa because she had it at Squaw and she was kind enough to let me get a squirt. She called it her pastry lotion because that's what it smells like, sweet, flaky pastry. Uh, it's intoxicating. I told Lisa that I was going to steal her scent. After I slathered it on at home, I asked Mina, "Don't I smell like a glazed donut?" And she said, "No, you smell like PlayDoh." Motherfu--- what does she know about smelling like pastry! I do think Mina meant it as a compliment and her comments have not kept me from smearing myself twice a day with the stuff.

* * *
LA's burning down. It's scary. Every year we know we're going to get fires in California and we only pray that the damage will be at a minimum and that they won't last long. But the heat is not helping. They are burning in every direction. Yesterday I told Husband it feels as if California is on the constant verge of catastrophe. Like when we rode our bikes on a stretch of bike path that goes under the pier yesterday; when we were directly under the gigantic wood pier, it creaked from cars and pedestrians above. I looked at the support columns and thought, if an earthquake hits now, forget it. My husband looked at me -- we were in the pier's shadows -- and I know he was thinking the exact same thing.

We rode down to the beach as monstrous smoke clouds billowed behind on the horizon near the mountains. We parked ourselves on the sand and I marveled at the waves which were as reflective as glass; I haven't seen that in a long time. It was such a contrast to the smokey skies and the ash rain, how the waves of the ocean were extra clear, shiny and perfect. It was perfectly LA, where everything feels at conflict; paradise on the brink of disaster. So, I was on the sand thinking of fires and earthquakes, when I see fifty yards from the shore three dolphins threading in and out of the water just beyond the small break. Mina was in the water, closer to them, and she yelled to us to look. Her body was silhouetted against the glass water and fins cut up, just above her head in my line of view. More dolphins looped passed, about ten in all, and then they turned around and came back. They lapped back and forth for a half hour. I didn't take my eyes off of them once. I watched them the entire time.

Wish us well, sibling states.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

On Our Sexuality

I'm not going to write about my mother in this post. Because she could easily take it over, and though I sat witness in the sidelines of her sexuality as a kid and suffered near-blackout discomfort about it, I interestingly developed an independent and relatively healthy sense of sexuality despite that. Almost. Actually, hearing the sounds of sex makes me light headed, nauseous from swirling embarrassment. It is instantly horrifying. Any porn I've ever watched has been on mute. Sexy breathing, even, in music or jest will give me hot flashes of rage. But god has been kind in that any noises I personally make, I am deaf to. Man, that's merciful.

So, I won't write about my mother here. Or not too much.

In my forties, I find it fascinating, and sometimes funny, remembering my history of sexuality with its accidental buoyancy and occasional pitfalls. I'm fascinated most about the whole concept of female sexuality; and I do mean concept because I'm not one of those women from say Real Sex who would go on a masturbation retreat or swing unabashedly with the neighbors. I don't even sleep naked. I don't write this post to put my sex life on display, past or present, either, but to express that my main interest in women's sexuality is purely in relation to our empowerment, our sense of freedom, our comfortableness, our confidence. Isn't this connected to our sexuality? Or more, isn't it related to not the overemphasising of it, but our lack of self consciousness about it?

This has been dangerous territory for us, hasn't it? Since the beginning of time? Because our sexuality and the appropriateness of our sexuality has always been open for judgement, which, in general, is fucked.

This grows in interest to me not just because I feel so comfortable with myself at 42,but monumentally as my daughters bud into their own. And oh lord, there's the rub; here's where the entire history of sexuality, personal and worldwide, becomes overwhelmingly important because I'm determined to make them feel at ease. And confident. And beautiful. Mostly, I want to obliterate the shame. And all this without embarrassing the shit out of us.

Handling menstruation was a first step. I mean in the mechanics of it all because the first steps start from the second they observe you, as a baby even, and they do watch. I mean, we did, right? We watched our mothers and aunties and grandmothers fumble around about themselves, sometimes gracefully and more often not. But when crushes start and they attract attention and when their flow beings, a hands-on approach goes to a new level. So, when Maya started her period, no matter how much I emphasised the shamelessness of it, Maya still felt it. I can't block the outside world and waves of perceptions, you know, which is why even the most well-adjusted kid has to be armed constantly with our reassurance. Especially in terms of their bodies and sense of self. It never ends. I knew this going into motherhood. I'm in the thick of it. I can't say I always feel prepared, but I will say I never back down from it. I can't trip on my own issues. I'll hollow myself out and get pummeled with every personal fear, secretly, to help them build their own foundation stronger.

So, tackling menstruation was not so hard, but their looming and unstoppable sexuality is on the horizon, and I'm honestly not too worried about it because it is unstoppable, it will come whether I'm of help or not so my nervousness lies more in preparing them enough. Strengthening their base enough. Eliminating enough of the shame no matter how much everything on the outside wants to injected it back in. And it started with: No, menstruating is not nasty or evil and it is what it is and you tell me what boy in school is giggling, tell me if his mother doesn't get her period. Then we'll be interested in what he thinks.

My boobs went from budding cute to god-damn! in a matter of months, the summer I turned seventeen. It was like that Skipper doll where you pulled down her arm and her boobs grew ta-dow! and then she was Barbie? That entire summer I was selected to work for a mini Peace Corp-type project on a West Indian island. The first time our group went down to the beach, I rocked a white bikini and one of my group mates, Will from the Bronx said, "I'm gonna take a picture of you for the boys back home." Unashamed, I said, "Knock yourself out." I didn't pose or look coy. I stood there, impatiently, because I wanted to get into the water. That summer I also lost my virginity, on the island. It was the influence of the sun and island breezes and the remoteness and my body bursting into curves which were photo-worthy, apparently, though my want of touch was completely an internal decision. Nothing was put upon me. I had zoomed in on a man I liked, a 23 year old from the island, who helped tour around our group. He did a double take on my interest and we connected. I did not want to be his girlfriend. I wanted the connection and the experience with him. And it was the ultimate empowerment to go after what I wanted and have the exact experience I wanted. I look back on it -- not him exactly, but the experience -- with great fondness.

That was all by accident -- or more by absence of thought or conditioning -- because on that island I was not my mother's meek shadow of a girl. I was not shackled by her overt and desperate sexuality, nor hindered by the few violations I had experienced, experiences that were not completely life-depleting, like what many of my sister-friends have experienced. I don't mean to downplay the violations against me because had they happened to my daughters I would've ripped somebody's fucking throat out, but I do know worse things have happened to so many girls, my friends included. Anyway, on the island, all that stuff fell away like cracked egg shells and I stepped out a beautiful woman, lit with a self-piloted desire.

Maya's boobs are growing. Bigger than mine at fourteen. She is unaware of how beautiful she is and unaware, for the most part, of the womanliness of her shape. She wears old tank tops where her boobs spill out and I blurt, "Dude, they're not little anymore. Might want to cover them more." And then I wonder if that embarrassed her. Or am I teaching her self respect. I do say those things in the name of self respect. Then I wonder if the whole concept of self respect (for women) is sexist.

Maya is not self deprecating because that's never been allowed in our house, and she's not very self conscious for a fourteen year old. She just Is, which makes her all the more radiant. That's not to say that's the ultimate type of beauty -- this unconscious beauty -- because Mina, at only 10, knows exactly how beautiful she is, and it is a gorgeous quality as well. She is confident and a tad wicked. I feel they are both coming down the shoot, y'know, on a tight rope and I have to teach them to stay true to what they naturally are, and let them know they are beautiful no matter how that beauty manifests which is every which way in terms of women as far as I'm concerned, and that they are just as smart as beautiful, and strong, and they don't have to be one or the other because as women we not only can have it all, but we simply ARE all. Period. And I have to do all of that when most of our outside information, and sometimes our inside information, is conflicted and jumbled and telling us otherwise.

Growing up in the center of the first-wave feminist movement, I was hardly ever told I was beautiful. That was not important. Our strength and our mind was important. And I did believe that only those things were important until I wondered if I was desirous at all or appreciated in a full spectrum kind of way. I don't believe that's solely a woman thing either because I tell my husband constantly, sincerely, how fucking beautiful I think he is, his body, his hair, his smile, and he says Thank You shyly, but I see how it revs his engines even when he appears to be the most confident dude on the planet. Our partners want to know they are desired and wanted, and so do we. So, as a kid my mother didn't like people telling her how pretty I was, which I understand in theory. At fifteen, a grocery store clerk told my mother while looking at me, "You are in such trouble in the coming years." And my mother said, "Why?" though she knew exactly what the clerk was getting at, which made the situation awkward. I laugh about it now because I did like that about my mother sometimes, when she just cut people down awkwardly, against the grain of normal thinking. But mainly, I didn't know I was beautiful for a long time, which might have been a good thing. I'm not sure. See? Confusing.

Being among the feminists of the 1970's, I did learn that whatever women wanted to wear was fine no matter what, army pants, ties, cowboy boots, but the conflicting part was their judgement against women who wanted to wear anything revealing or wanted to express their sexiness in more conventional ways. It was perceived as sexist and degrading. I told you the high heel story; how I was told high heels were invented so women couldn't run from rapists. I've never been too much of a high-heel person, but when I have worn them, I generally feel bad-ass in them, not victim-like. But when they hurt my feet, then fuck that, why wear them. Comments about how good our legs look in high heels have never had an effect on me. I feel no pressure from shit like that. Men sound like fools to me when they say things like that.

That's not to say I can't strut when I want. It's a conscious switch to my hips that makes me feel theatrically sexy. It's not to say that I can't lower my head when I walk into a room and split the air, leading with a sonic-like vibe. I don't always turn it on like that. The 70's feminist voices nag at me, about using anything physical to get attention. "What if it feels good to me?" I fight the voices. I don't think it's different from when a man knows how to stand in a room or sit in a chair with his sleeves rolled up and lower his head and split the air and fully look at someone he's attracted to in big swallows. So, I've made peace with strutting and splitting. But not while showing too much cleavage because I can't get the feminist voices out of my head about that.

I witnessed the ultimate convergence of strong feminine sexuality at an art fair once as a kid. She was a hippy type who straight-lined passed any perceptions to honest earthiness and she oozed free-spirited love. She was all hair and brown shoulders and boobs and hips in flowing skirts, but mostly she was true smiles and sparkling eyes free from judgement of herself or others. She was all acceptance. That was ultimate beauty for me as a kid.

Her, and Brigitte Bardot.

I rented And God Created Woman during high school and couldn't believe this film and this woman was not on the lips of everyone. Granted, the film was from the 1950's so most likely it was talked about then. I thought I had discovered my personal guide to sexuality, which included free dancing to live drums! and rebellion against men AND women, in all forms I knew. I wanted to be Brigitte Bardot. Inside at least I did because I was not even close to being that rebellious. I didn't share this with anyone because I wasn't sure it was ok to admit that I wanted to be sexy. My friends were athletes. My mother, a conflicted feminist. Would the feminist counsel say that the Bardot-level of sexiness was degrading? I kept it to myself, deeply buried, until I landed on a West Indian island a few summers later.

As a mother, I know that expressing ones sexuality is not the safest of endeavors, emotionally or sometimes physically. It is an exploration of dicey waters, fine lines and murky definition even though the other side, when it all connects, can be phenomenal and soul deepening. Not that I'm encouraging them to express it anytime soon obviously. I know they'll have to figure out most for themselves no matter how much I hope for nurturing and healthy experiences for them. Most of all, I do hope for that. I want them to feel good for themselves and love all aspects of being loved. I want them to cherish their role in that love. I can only think that building the base is the thing. A balanced and strong base of their womanhood and every aspect of that, inside and out, around and through. To know that the sexiest women are the ones with their shoulders back, with self-lit smiles and the eyes that spark all acceptance. Or however else they want to be.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Near Convergence

I've always loved the number 42. I balled with it, as you can see to the left. I was 42 because James Worthy from the Showtime Lakers was 42, and I really loved him. That was before he was caught with hookers in every city. Sigh, but that time in my life was untouchable and basketball held salvation. 42 became a magic number for me.

I'll be 42 on Monday. I'm far from a freak out. I think it will be a magic year or at the very least, a good one. In the past, I've had themes for the year starting on my birthday. A couple years ago it was Finish What I Start. Last year was Love What I Got, a variation on love the fuck out it. I've done well with these themes and they really stayed relevant throughout. This year it's Be Brave and Work. This is all in relation to writing, of course, because I know how to work as in pay-the-rent work or suffer-through-it work. I've always been good at that.

When I was in my mid twenties, I went to two different psychics within months of each other. They spoke of my children coming and a relatively good life and when I asked if I'd ever be a successful writer, they told me yes, but not until I was in my forties. One psychic said 42, the other said 45. Man, I was pissed. I was determined to prove them wrong, that hell no was I gonna wait 20 years for that to happen. That didn't work out.

But look everybody, 42 is almost here. I waffle between believing in psychics and not. Honestly, I hadn't really thought about those predictions until recently because I thought writing was a washed-up notion for me about six months ago. We have yet to see if the psychics were on to something, but unless I'm brave and put in the work, I'll just prove them wrong for sure, and not in a good way.

I just want to give a shout out to the forties. Aging has been such a relief to my emotional mind and the clarity of my thoughts in general. The mental self editing has been a miraculous thing in my forties. For that, I'm grateful. I'm just trying to cheat the physical aging now with that food and exercise thing. I can't promise I'll be graceful in all forms of getting older.

Come on! Converge, All Things!

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Connecting & Crashing Back

I waited too long to post about the camaraderie of Squaw because now I'm too sentimental about it. I miss them. I miss everything.

The high points of Squaw come from the professionals and from the natural surroundings, but the sustained good times come from the other participants. We all come bug-eyed and eager. We're scared. We huddle together, and we talk. Lord, do we talk. We encourage, we critique, sometimes we're awed, and we connect. Mainly we tell each other stories. After the workshops and the lectures, after we've read the manuscripts for the day and made our notes, we merge back together. We call it party time, but my non-writer friends wouldn't call what we do partying. They don't believe a party entails earnest interest in everyone's exact progress of their novel, or reciting parts of books, or talking about which characters in literature we wished we were, or which books inspired us to become writers. We play word games for god sake, and parties usually don't include readings; funny, serious, good spontaneous student readings. (Of course we all brought something!) We do drink, ok, we drink quite a bit, we stay up late and sometimes we dance. We burst out spontaneously, unprovoked. Like the night I danced alone on the deck of a house that overlooked the valley. The mountains were black and the valley was blue and sparked with moonshine. I danced directly to the white moon (and Los Orishas on the iPod) while other participants sat on the deck too, talking and not phased at all by what the moon and I needed to work out. There was another time when a Russian woman, a poet, who is enamored by salsa music asked me to dance because she wanted to show off her moves. I was like, sure, knock yourself out. She led and I let her, though, to be fair, I don't know how to lead. She's was all elbows and smiles and tight curls in her hair. She was endearing, and we cut a rug something fierce.

Mainly we told stories.

Friends who I've known for years told me how they answered one of those spam emails from the Nigerian dude telling them they'd won $10,000. My friends emailed the guy back, knowing it was scam, and they went back and forth with the guy asking him how they could collect their winnings. The Nigerian dude, as predicted, instructed them to wire $3,500.00 so the money could be released from a secure bank account, then the full $10K would be sent. My friends wrote that they would do that as soon as he wired THEM $5,000 as an act of good faith. It went on like that for twenty emails and man, I laughed so hard at this story.

I told the story of how I spent two years baking feverishly -- like a mad person -- thinking I was going to become a great vegan baker, and they said, To avoid writing? like it was so obvious to them when I haven't even fully admitted that to myself, but I did answer, Yes, to avoid the inevitable. They laughed at that and I guess I had to too. They patted me on the back and then told me their stories of procrastination and bullshittin'.

I have to say that reconnecting back to the real world after being at Squaw for seven days was not smooth, and in fairness to every real relationship out there, I want to report that I had a complete meltdown on Husband our first night back together. I liken it to crashing back through the Earth's atmosphere. Husband and I hardly ever argue so when I pulled a complete outta-left-field emotional attack, the likes of which I haven't done in about a decade, he was blindsided. He doesn't respond well to blind siding. I didn't even know exactly what was welling or brewing and I just let it rip. Fuck it. I let it run its course when usually I'd be rational and thoughtful and logical. In the moment, I did not know how to articulate my own monumental self doubt. I didn't know how to tell him that I was worried that I won't ever have time to write anything of value and that's embarrassing mainly because I think that's just an excuse, and I hate when excuses fade away the things we say we love the most. I couldn't tell him in a rational way that I know I'm a good writer, and I have a lot of people rooting me on, but maybe I can't do it. I wanted to hear that he didn't think being a writer was a useless endeavor, that it is pointless and frivolous. Did he even think I was interesting (because, I was thinking, I was just so goddamn interesting to many people just days before). This was the question that pissed him off the most. It was a tornado of feelings that I don't feel now. They were feelings I wanted him to know I felt, but as I was feeling them and expressing them in incongruent and tangled ways, I was slipping into an abyss of isolation. I panicked at the thought of feeling alone in these thoughts. It's not that I mind being alone, but I don't want to be alone from him. It was like I was unanchoring myself from him and floating away and god! That's the last thing I wanted. After two hours of melting and crying and confusion, I asked him to just tell me it was going to be ok. That’s all I really wanted. He turned towards me, finally, and I could feel his energy soften. I nearly cried harder at the relief of that. He put his arm around me and said,

"It's going to be ok, baby. I love you. You're the most interesting person I know."

Almost instantly, the steam released from my meltdown. I had missed him so much. The crashing back together, in hindsight, was worth the severe closeness I felt for him right then. I love this man more than any adult I have ever known. Trying to put myself on a misunderstood island was a terrible idea, but the vomiting of the rawness felt good then, afterwards, in his arms.

Anyway, I have heart, again.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Home From Squaw

When I baptized myself in the Truckee River on day two of the Squaw Conference, it wasn't a full immersion. I needed a simple promise, not a full epiphany. I needed something more relative and not so manic. A solid and sustainable promise is what I needed.

I put my feet in the water and forgave myself. I washed away the notion that I've wasted my time in regards to writing, that I've squandered my talent. I haven't. I haven't stayed focused and I haven't put in the work, but any regrets for time passed, I sent afloat down the river. Dorothy Allison told me personally that it took her twenty years to build up the courage to write Bastard Out of Carolina, and ten more years to actually write it.

Honestly, I don't know if I could have written anything complete and of real value before. I haven't been brave enough. I'm talking about the kind of bravery that allows one to edit out all the crutches and bullshit. The type of bravery that lets "the bones rise to the top" as Dorothy told it to me. Also, I hadn't copped to the work it takes to hone talent, and it takes a lot of work. Writers -- underdeveloped ones -- seem to think that natural talent will magically form into books and stories. Trained musicians and dancers don't think that way. Their lives seem rooted in practice. Why would it be different for a good writer?

Courage didn't suddenly fall upon me. It has taken years to coax myself to this point. No time has been wasted at all. Now a new promise begins.The Truckee River stayed alive for me in photos, but the valley did not. It hid its full shimmer from the camera. The valley holds out for personal visits only, apparently. The magic of the Aspen trees especially didn't come across in still pictures. In person, the leaves shake and reflect light like round, strung-together mirrors. They sounds like the shelled anklets of far away African dancers. But when photographed, they are still and flat. I will question what I saw the Aspen leaves do when I go through all the photos, but that sound -- that rainstick rustling -- stays with me.

So, the river: I think of bodies of water as protective women in my life; the Pacific Ocean, a mother. The river, an aunt. That second day, I rode my bike along the river path. The Truckee was gentle and pretty and lined in long grass. She's an intimate river. The water rolled with a soft, thick ripple when it was not speeding over scattered rocks, creating small white water.We talked this week about rivers as symbols in literature, a line dividing things: Cities, classes, past and present. I might have made up the past and present thing because maybe that's what the Truckee is for me.

There were many places to turn off the bike path and join the river, and I went to a small opening with good rocks for sitting. I flung off my flip flops and considered jumping in, but I wanted to keep it a calm visit and I decided to have the feet baptism.The first thing Dorothy Allison said to me after reading my story was, "Are you willing to put in the work?"

I had learned early in the week that my one-on-one conference would be with Dorothy Allison, of all people, and I alternated between nausea and ecstasy after hearing the news.

"Yes ma'am," I said, and not confidently.

We spoke with our faces twelve inches apart, and we bore holes with our eyes, hers into mine and me syphoning from hers. She speaks in a fading drawl which revives when she reads stories aloud. She emphasises words with a raspy, loud inflection, an almost whisper-yell.

She said, "You have STO-RY and VOICE and PAS-SION, but your mechanics are breakin' your knees, crippling you as a writer." We stared. She waited for a hint of resistance from me, but I waited, opening my eyes as wide as possible to let her in.

"First thing you gotta do," she said, "is when a character speaks, make a new paragraph. For a whole YE-AR anytime someone talks, a new paragraph! Make what they say count."

"Yes ma'am," I said.

She did not appreciate all the sentences I began with "and" and "but". She objected in general to my frivolous use of "and".

She said, "So often women are afraid of the declarative sentence. STATE. IT."

I thought, Hell Yes.

My mechanics problem stems from not putting in the work. I don't read enough. I don't read out loud enough. I sure as hell don't write enough. The basic question loomed: Was I willing to work.

She placed my story on the table. She asked me if my mother was still alive. Was I still angry? I didn't have to pretend that the story was all fiction. The conversation we had from there is a private one. She got me tearing and choking over truths. She shared a couple intimate details about her step father, but mainly she told me it was time to write the story.

"Be RUTH-LESS," she said.

Dorothy hugged me hard with her big, soft body. She told me to keep in touch with her because she wanted to hear how it comes along. I believe she meant it. Then I went outside and cried my eyes out for a half hour.

The staff at Squaw -- well-known writers, agents, editors from publishing houses --spent a lot of time erasing the line between them and us. They were generous and discerning. They were honest. After workshop, we went to panels and talks and, our favorite, readings by the staff writers. The most comforting lectures were when published writers described their intimate relationship with Self Doubt. It never goes away, they told us. It can be paralyzing, they said. Amy Tan's closing talk was all about this. She detailed how she thinks her brain is shrinking, and she fears that she has peaked, that not one more word will ever come to her. Karen Joy Fowler, who wrote the The Jane Austen Book Club, hilariously described how she procrastinates. She was on a panel called Sustaining Momentum. She leaned into the microphone and said,

"Having me on this panel is like having King Henry VIII lead a panel on the Keys to a Happy Marriage."

She described how she used to spend hours spinning her wedding ring atop her desk, going for personal bests. Her husband then bought her a ring that wouldn't spin. Karen said she had a friend remove Solitaire from her computer, but only when she wasn't present to prevent Karen from tackling the friend as she did so.

Besides Dorothy, the other staff writer I connected with was Dagoberto Gilb. I'm reading his latest book The Flowers, which is written from the perspective of a Mexican-American middle school boy from LA. The language of the book is exactly how a kid like this speaks. When I got to know Dagoberto, I realized this was his voice, he speaks just like that. He and I confessed our fears of embarrassing ourselves in front of all the MFA'ers and the college-educated people, but we both know that this doesn't keep us from telling a damn good story.

During one of my workshops, the staff facilitator of the day schooled us on greek terms. He said shit like,

"The syntax demonstrates parataxis," and immediately I thought, Whatever! But really I didn't know what that meant until he schooled us.

I came out out of the work shop and to Dagoberto I said,

"Today I learned that I don't know shit about shit."

He said, "I just LED the workshop and I realized I don't know shit about shit either."

Dagoberto had a stroke three months ago. He's in his fifties only, I think. Three weeks before Squaw, he started walking again.

He told me, "The left side of my body died."

When we were at a party though, he had me dying, laughing, about how when he was reading from The Flowers at the conference, he thought he was going to fall a couple times.

"I was reading, thinking at the same time, OH FUCK! I'm gonna fall! WHOA! DON'T FALL! And sometimes my face does shit I don't even know about. I DON'T EVEN KNOW ME, MAN!"

We laughed, near tears, and he took a drink from a big, red party cup.

"Like now," he said, "I'm fucking crushing this cup and don't even realize it. FUCK!"

We doubled over. Then for one moment, and not longer, he got serious.

"But I won't let myself fall. I'm not falling, man." He was staring passed the cup that was at his lips. I knew he could clown easily about what had happened to him, but I knew more that he was not a man about to fall because of it.

Buy his books. He ain't traditional -- I love that -- but his work is important. Though his syntax displays plenty of hypotaxis and shit.

I want to write another post about the camaraderie of Squaw, but I'll save it. I've written enough for now. I did tell Dorothy that my friends love her, you too, Trasherati. Mainly, I wanted to tell you guys that I did love the ever-living fuck out of every minute of all seven days.

Miss you.

Here's Dorothy Allison.
Dagoberto Gilb. My good friend and mentor, Lisa Alvarez (Rebel Girl). Amy Tan is behind us.
I'll post more photos on flickr soon.