This Old Dag

Digging up the past, for your viewing pleasure

13 notes

A list of things that have made me happy in the last 24 hours. 

1. The Dali museum today - specifically the painting ‘Sandia’ because in some circles I am known as the girl who can eat an entire watermelon. 

2. My sons in the Dali museum exclaiming things like “this painting makes me feel kinda sad (poignant) and “I see a penis!” (unnecessary)

3. My husband’s 94 year old grandmother talking to me about how she cold-turkey quit smoking after a 5 decade 2 pack a day habit. She kept the last pack of Century cigarettes with a note taped to it ‘October 6 1986 stopped smoking” Still has it in a drawer somewhere. 

4. My sons crazed on the giant blow up bed, elbowing each other and then settling down as I began reading chapter 3 of Pippi Longstocking and then hours later I peeked in and saw them curled up next to one another like two little cubs

5. My sprained foot is mostly healed. Which makes me think my body is stronger and healthier than I morbidly imagine. Like I can regenerate or something. Which is dumb but still, I can bear weight without pain. I really like saying “I can bear weight now.”

6. The fact that I can wirelessly transfer pics from my Canon to my iPhone. I hate wires. 

7. Being in Florida, because I get to witness in my husband’s eyes what I experience when we are back in Poland: the joy and awe of watching our children playing in the same place that was once ours. Madonna’s This Used To Be My Playground comes to mind. 

8. Googling quotes about ‘hope’ at 2 in the morning and Anne Frank won. Thought about her words, those lovely sentiments she wrote down, those things she really and truly believed in. “In spite of everything, I still believe people are really good at heart.” 

9. My bra didn’t hurt. 

10. On my in-laws patio, discussing flesh-eating bacteria with my dad at midnight, over cigarettes and lemonade, our skin crawling, both of us utterly skeeved. It’s killed 10 people along Florida’s Gulf coast this summer and we were all ‘your first time in Florida dad but we’ll just take pictures of u on the shore, cuz fuck that vibro vulnificus.’ Any time I get to laugh with my dad is a great time. 

11. My mother in law’s blackberry cobbler. 

12. The idea that people can be passionate and dignified at the same time. 

13. Looking at pictures of Greece. Remembering the calm, blue waters. Turning my head to look at my husband sleeping, breathing peacefully. Pretending there’s still loads of time for good things to happen in the world, that collectively we can make up for the upheaval and loss this summer brought upon us. 

14. My cute pajamas bought for 14 dollars at Target. When people compliment pajamas, that’s like a total bonus.

A list of things that have made me happy in the last 24 hours.

1. The Dali museum today - specifically the painting ‘Sandia’ because in some circles I am known as the girl who can eat an entire watermelon.

2. My sons in the Dali museum exclaiming things like “this painting makes me feel kinda sad (poignant) and “I see a penis!” (unnecessary)

3. My husband’s 94 year old grandmother talking to me about how she cold-turkey quit smoking after a 5 decade 2 pack a day habit. She kept the last pack of Century cigarettes with a note taped to it ‘October 6 1986 stopped smoking” Still has it in a drawer somewhere.

4. My sons crazed on the giant blow up bed, elbowing each other and then settling down as I began reading chapter 3 of Pippi Longstocking and then hours later I peeked in and saw them curled up next to one another like two little cubs

5. My sprained foot is mostly healed. Which makes me think my body is stronger and healthier than I morbidly imagine. Like I can regenerate or something. Which is dumb but still, I can bear weight without pain. I really like saying “I can bear weight now.”

6. The fact that I can wirelessly transfer pics from my Canon to my iPhone. I hate wires.

7. Being in Florida, because I get to witness in my husband’s eyes what I experience when we are back in Poland: the joy and awe of watching our children playing in the same place that was once ours. Madonna’s This Used To Be My Playground comes to mind.

8. Googling quotes about ‘hope’ at 2 in the morning and Anne Frank won. Thought about her words, those lovely sentiments she wrote down, those things she really and truly believed in. “In spite of everything, I still believe people are really good at heart.”

9. My bra didn’t hurt.

10. On my in-laws patio, discussing flesh-eating bacteria with my dad at midnight, over cigarettes and lemonade, our skin crawling, both of us utterly skeeved. It’s killed 10 people along Florida’s Gulf coast this summer and we were all ‘your first time in Florida dad but we’ll just take pictures of u on the shore, cuz fuck that vibro vulnificus.’ Any time I get to laugh with my dad is a great time.

11. My mother in law’s blackberry cobbler.

12. The idea that people can be passionate and dignified at the same time.

13. Looking at pictures of Greece. Remembering the calm, blue waters. Turning my head to look at my husband sleeping, breathing peacefully. Pretending there’s still loads of time for good things to happen in the world, that collectively we can make up for the upheaval and loss this summer brought upon us.

14. My cute pajamas bought for 14 dollars at Target. When people compliment pajamas, that’s like a total bonus.

Filed under happiness hope

19 notes

In the quiet

The only sound now is my dog barking at someone or something passing by the house
At this late hour it could be a lone car or a college kid on his way back to campus or a jogger because as insane as it sounds we’ve got midnight joggers in these parts of New Jersey
And when my dog stops her barking there is nothing again and it feels like a Sunday in December -
There are sounds but I can only pinpoint them if I focus and cock my ear like people do in the movies -
There’s the thrum of cicadas - is thrum a word? - and the TV on almost silent in the living room - my husband no doubt watching something with fishing boats or martial artists -
My father is upstairs asleep as are the boys.
Otherwise the house is muffled as if I am listening from under the water, as if I am submerged under something warm, heavy and slow moving -
Just this morning the house was hopping, pulsing, echoes bouncing off the walls
A house full of family and children and laundry machines and laughter and suitcase wheels and countless doors opening and closing.
It’s been a good week inside this house and a hellish one out in the world, which is par for the course for this summer.
I’ve gotten sad over deaths reported on the news - deaths of soldiers and innocent teenagers and Israelis and Palestinians and Ukrainians and airline passengers and the disease stricken and celebrities - yes, sad and weighed down and at a loss and my eyes have watered yes -
But I have never really shed tears until Robin Williams
And for some fucking reason my heart feels absolutely broken
Maybe it was the straw that broke the camel’s back the last straw the very last piece of senseless news I could take
But coming back from the beach on Monday I stared out the car window and saw his lovable beautiful face and I cried and cried, not bothering to wipe my face.
How do I explain the world to my sons
How do I explain the word suicide
How do I explain loss and heartache
I can’t
I can hint at it
I can say it exists
In a far away land in some book on TV
It exists
And I’ll tell them why later
When I have figured it out for myself

Filed under death current events quiet sadness robin williams

16 notes

I’m not finished with An Untamed State yet, but I’m nearly there. I haven’t had too much time for reading, because even vacations are a bit of work when two of your traveling companions are ages 4.10 and 8.

I read in the early morning when the boys are still asleep, out by the pool deck, town shimmering alive, rooftops and windows like scales of fish, glistening in the sun. I read at 3am when I wake up from another dream about an earthquake, and I wobble to the bathroom for a pee, cool marble tiles underfoot, and I slip back into bed and reach for the book under my pillow, because I am powerless. There’s a nifty nightlight in the wall by the bed, and a gauzy curtain hanging like a canopy. I read till it’s too late, or too early. I know we are six hours ahead but that is a meaningless thing. 

I read in the evening after putting the kids to sleep, and after having my cigarette, and when my husband raises his eyebrows in my direction, I shake my head and remind him how bloated I’ve been feeling. Which is the truth. The other other truth is I just want to read, because in this beautiful luxury resort, I’ve found the biggest luxury of all is having an hour or two just to flip pages in a book and stare out to sea when I am done. 

I’ve finished two novels now, both zesty and witty and smart, the kind of books that are like a delectable soufflé. Not treacle, not even ‘breezy’ - because of my entertaining middle-class family tragicomedies I demand a certain style too - mainly, the authors must know how to write, how to turn a cliche on its head, how to make me see beauty in the simplest of sentences. The books have been lovely to read and take in, a balm. 

I don’t know why I saved An Untamed State till two days before we leave Crete. There was no lottery I drew to pick the order. I started reading it in the evening, cool breeze, boys asleep on their spongy white cots, my husband having a cold local beer by the pool. My heart raced after the first paragraph, and it’s been steadily racing since, just like the blurb on the cover warned me it would. 

When not reading it, between last jaunts to town, between reapplying sunscreen on the boys and packing bags and deleting pictures from my iPhone that are too blurry or redundant or haven’t done this trip justice, I think about what I have read. I think about the story. I think about how the story fits into my life. I think about Mireille and what happened to her. I’m past the part where she’s trapped in the Commander’s cage, but the terror of her returning to her former life is as impossible and brutal as her torture was. 

I can’t stop thinking about it. About the cage and what happened to her. About her passionate fairytale marriage. About the fathers in the book, and the mothers. About the cigarette burns. I feel wrecked and fortified. I feel cracked in two and stronger than before. I don’t know how to tweet Roxane Gay about my feelings for her novel. I fear I would come off giddy. But it’s been a long time since a book has clearly made such an impact on who I am, and who I have become.  

It’s not the violence that lingers, though reading those scenes, I forget to breathe. I don’t come from Haiti and I’ve never been to Haiti, but I imagine its beauty and I think I understand it’s violence. I know from violence. I know men who look at women as the cause and the effect of all their impotent dreams and fears. Poland has many corners and pockets where women are smacked slapped raped pinched warned threatened belittled and ignored. It’s a fiber of our culture too: the lurking of drunk, desperate, angry, forgotten Eastern European men and boys, oppressed by dictatorship afer dictatorship, by demons real and imagined, men and boys who cannot control anything except for their wives and girlfriends, whom they push against the wall and wallop in the stomach. I’ve seen women punched and broken. I’ve seen their denial, a deep and vast sea of its own, prone to drownings.  

Roxane Gay writes about violence with scathing, simple words, like a fire that burns elegantly, flames like rope. I don’t get squeamish. I don’t mind bad language of graphic sex or detailed violence. There is nothing proper about the woman in me. At my core, I am unbridled, and struggle with my own kind of fury. If there’s anything I can’t stand it’s pretense, especially in my writers. There is not an ounce of pretense in Gay’s writing, and yet there, in the midst of sweltering heat and dirt and anger, there is a quiet, unstoppable  dignity. 

I have never seen or known the violence Roxane’s Miri goes through. Her writing has made me see it, imagine and feel it - late at night, staring past Spinalonga Island, in my fancy fucking hotel suite with a private pool - I read and know in my bones what privilege means to someone who grew up with none. How it gnaws on you, this newfound wealth and those raggedy beginnings. That is what lingers. What it means to be rich when u were once poor, and what it means to go back to a place that you are forever indebted to and conflicted about, and try to walk with your held high, and hope that the joy on your face at being home again, is not mistaken for arrogance. 

Children of immigrants see life - the one in their adopted country and their first one - as if through those lenses optometrists place against your forehead during an eye exam. The lens flips and clicks quickly. Is this better? Or this? Number one? Or number two? Things sharpen and fade, contours shift, the smallest of differences, and you must make a decision every few seconds - is this one better or is that one. That I have in common with Mireille Duval. I too have a husband who loves me deeply, purely and sometimes is at a loss at how to tame me. “I hoped he would understand he could not love me without loving where I am from.” I read that sentence over and over again, relief flooding me. It’s been nine years now and he’s been to my country seven times and he loves it because he understand I need him to love it. 

Now we are in another hotel, in Athens. We have two rooms, and our balconies overlook the sea - everywhere u go in Greece, inescapable, the water - and two bright swimming pools on the ground floor glimmer like giant puddles of aquamarine. I feel blessed. I feel lost. I remember just days ago being in my grandmothers apartment in Poland, staring at the painting she’s had in her tiny room, of a bearded, watchful Jesus. I try to help my family back there. I try to help them without calling attention to it. I have nothing in common with people born into wealth but here I am staying in the same hotels they stay. I feel badly. I feel fine. The most I desire as a mother is to ground my sons and to remind them - respect people and remember where your mother came from.

I have one and half days left to the end of our vacation and 67 pages left to the end of this magnificent, seering book. I don’t want either to end, but in a way I am ready. Both will stay with me for a long time. Sometimes you read something, and go somewhere, and you are forced to take inventory of your own life, and it is those moments where you are reborn, where you remember what you are.

I’m not finished with An Untamed State yet, but I’m nearly there. I haven’t had too much time for reading, because even vacations are a bit of work when two of your traveling companions are ages 4.10 and 8.

I read in the early morning when the boys are still asleep, out by the pool deck, town shimmering alive, rooftops and windows like scales of fish, glistening in the sun. I read at 3am when I wake up from another dream about an earthquake, and I wobble to the bathroom for a pee, cool marble tiles underfoot, and I slip back into bed and reach for the book under my pillow, because I am powerless. There’s a nifty nightlight in the wall by the bed, and a gauzy curtain hanging like a canopy. I read till it’s too late, or too early. I know we are six hours ahead but that is a meaningless thing.

I read in the evening after putting the kids to sleep, and after having my cigarette, and when my husband raises his eyebrows in my direction, I shake my head and remind him how bloated I’ve been feeling. Which is the truth. The other other truth is I just want to read, because in this beautiful luxury resort, I’ve found the biggest luxury of all is having an hour or two just to flip pages in a book and stare out to sea when I am done.

I’ve finished two novels now, both zesty and witty and smart, the kind of books that are like a delectable soufflé. Not treacle, not even ‘breezy’ - because of my entertaining middle-class family tragicomedies I demand a certain style too - mainly, the authors must know how to write, how to turn a cliche on its head, how to make me see beauty in the simplest of sentences. The books have been lovely to read and take in, a balm.

I don’t know why I saved An Untamed State till two days before we leave Crete. There was no lottery I drew to pick the order. I started reading it in the evening, cool breeze, boys asleep on their spongy white cots, my husband having a cold local beer by the pool. My heart raced after the first paragraph, and it’s been steadily racing since, just like the blurb on the cover warned me it would.

When not reading it, between last jaunts to town, between reapplying sunscreen on the boys and packing bags and deleting pictures from my iPhone that are too blurry or redundant or haven’t done this trip justice, I think about what I have read. I think about the story. I think about how the story fits into my life. I think about Mireille and what happened to her. I’m past the part where she’s trapped in the Commander’s cage, but the terror of her returning to her former life is as impossible and brutal as her torture was.

I can’t stop thinking about it. About the cage and what happened to her. About her passionate fairytale marriage. About the fathers in the book, and the mothers. About the cigarette burns. I feel wrecked and fortified. I feel cracked in two and stronger than before. I don’t know how to tweet Roxane Gay about my feelings for her novel. I fear I would come off giddy. But it’s been a long time since a book has clearly made such an impact on who I am, and who I have become.

It’s not the violence that lingers, though reading those scenes, I forget to breathe. I don’t come from Haiti and I’ve never been to Haiti, but I imagine its beauty and I think I understand it’s violence. I know from violence. I know men who look at women as the cause and the effect of all their impotent dreams and fears. Poland has many corners and pockets where women are smacked slapped raped pinched warned threatened belittled and ignored. It’s a fiber of our culture too: the lurking of drunk, desperate, angry, forgotten Eastern European men and boys, oppressed by dictatorship afer dictatorship, by demons real and imagined, men and boys who cannot control anything except for their wives and girlfriends, whom they push against the wall and wallop in the stomach. I’ve seen women punched and broken. I’ve seen their denial, a deep and vast sea of its own, prone to drownings.

Roxane Gay writes about violence with scathing, simple words, like a fire that burns elegantly, flames like rope. I don’t get squeamish. I don’t mind bad language of graphic sex or detailed violence. There is nothing proper about the woman in me. At my core, I am unbridled, and struggle with my own kind of fury. If there’s anything I can’t stand it’s pretense, especially in my writers. There is not an ounce of pretense in Gay’s writing, and yet there, in the midst of sweltering heat and dirt and anger, there is a quiet, unstoppable dignity.

I have never seen or known the violence Roxane’s Miri goes through. Her writing has made me see it, imagine and feel it - late at night, staring past Spinalonga Island, in my fancy fucking hotel suite with a private pool - I read and know in my bones what privilege means to someone who grew up with none. How it gnaws on you, this newfound wealth and those raggedy beginnings. That is what lingers. What it means to be rich when u were once poor, and what it means to go back to a place that you are forever indebted to and conflicted about, and try to walk with your held high, and hope that the joy on your face at being home again, is not mistaken for arrogance.

Children of immigrants see life - the one in their adopted country and their first one - as if through those lenses optometrists place against your forehead during an eye exam. The lens flips and clicks quickly. Is this better? Or this? Number one? Or number two? Things sharpen and fade, contours shift, the smallest of differences, and you must make a decision every few seconds - is this one better or is that one. That I have in common with Mireille Duval. I too have a husband who loves me deeply, purely and sometimes is at a loss at how to tame me. “I hoped he would understand he could not love me without loving where I am from.” I read that sentence over and over again, relief flooding me. It’s been nine years now and he’s been to my country seven times and he loves it because he understand I need him to love it.

Now we are in another hotel, in Athens. We have two rooms, and our balconies overlook the sea - everywhere u go in Greece, inescapable, the water - and two bright swimming pools on the ground floor glimmer like giant puddles of aquamarine. I feel blessed. I feel lost. I remember just days ago being in my grandmothers apartment in Poland, staring at the painting she’s had in her tiny room, of a bearded, watchful Jesus. I try to help my family back there. I try to help them without calling attention to it. I have nothing in common with people born into wealth but here I am staying in the same hotels they stay. I feel badly. I feel fine. The most I desire as a mother is to ground my sons and to remind them - respect people and remember where your mother came from.

I have one and half days left to the end of our vacation and 67 pages left to the end of this magnificent, seering book. I don’t want either to end, but in a way I am ready. Both will stay with me for a long time. Sometimes you read something, and go somewhere, and you are forced to take inventory of your own life, and it is those moments where you are reborn, where you remember what you are.

Filed under An Untamed State novels immigrant violence

2 notes

katherinemassier asked: I'm only twenty-three but your post about makeup is so incredibly relatable. However, I'm in a HUGE battle with learning to accept what I look like without makeup. I swear the first day I picked up makeup in my late teens changed my life and now I'm forever addicted to how I look with makeup that without it I feel inadequate.

I know. If only it always stemmed from confidence - let me look even better than I do already - instead of this quiet nagging little sense of inadequacy.

14 notes

Something is happening to me except it’s not a new thing at all. I want to go back. It is a thing I’ve done my whole life. A yen to return, mostly to the place that bore me. Or to versions and ideas about what home means. For example, I walk down the labyrinthine walkway from our hotel room in Crete down to the sea, and I am nostalgic. But for what? This is a new place. I ask - is that the original facade? I see Russian tourists wearing chunky heels from 1990 and I smile. Little Scandinavian boys frolic on the beach in tiny speedos and I smile and think ah, bathing trunks just like in Poland in the late eighties and in some small rural towns, right now. 

Everything is a loophole and keyhole and rabbit hole all rolled into one. For no apparent reason I turned to my husband at one point today and said “I wish it was 1987.” He didn’t ask me why. He knows what I am. A creature forever pining for the way things were. 
I can never find a proper outlet for this time traveling mind fuckage in New York because New York is new and even it’s tarnished surfaces gleam with modernity and newness and steel and iron. Everything is always refurbished or redone or remodeled or made over or glammed up. Not much is allowed to stay exactly the way it was. 

Summer sucks me a up into a vortex of non stop memories. 
My first novel was about that very thing - the pull of adolescent summers. My second novel was also about a backwards leap - toward a lost self. My third book will be more of the same. 1960s Poland. The tug and push and tides of love and history. Now and then, then, all over again. 

The hallway leading to my grandmothers apartment in Poland smells like it has for decades - smoky, ashy, metallic, the residue of fried onions and wet shoes. Or something. 
Who does this? Who is pining like this? I am like King Midas. I touch something and it becomes an instant memory. It ceases to be alive but instead becomes a mental postcard, which I will return to over and over again in my heart.

Something is happening to me except it’s not a new thing at all. I want to go back. It is a thing I’ve done my whole life. A yen to return, mostly to the place that bore me. Or to versions and ideas about what home means. For example, I walk down the labyrinthine walkway from our hotel room in Crete down to the sea, and I am nostalgic. But for what? This is a new place. I ask - is that the original facade? I see Russian tourists wearing chunky heels from 1990 and I smile. Little Scandinavian boys frolic on the beach in tiny speedos and I smile and think ah, bathing trunks just like in Poland in the late eighties and in some small rural towns, right now.

Everything is a loophole and keyhole and rabbit hole all rolled into one. For no apparent reason I turned to my husband at one point today and said “I wish it was 1987.” He didn’t ask me why. He knows what I am. A creature forever pining for the way things were.
I can never find a proper outlet for this time traveling mind fuckage in New York because New York is new and even it’s tarnished surfaces gleam with modernity and newness and steel and iron. Everything is always refurbished or redone or remodeled or made over or glammed up. Not much is allowed to stay exactly the way it was.

Summer sucks me a up into a vortex of non stop memories.
My first novel was about that very thing - the pull of adolescent summers. My second novel was also about a backwards leap - toward a lost self. My third book will be more of the same. 1960s Poland. The tug and push and tides of love and history. Now and then, then, all over again.

The hallway leading to my grandmothers apartment in Poland smells like it has for decades - smoky, ashy, metallic, the residue of fried onions and wet shoes. Or something.
Who does this? Who is pining like this? I am like King Midas. I touch something and it becomes an instant memory. It ceases to be alive but instead becomes a mental postcard, which I will return to over and over again in my heart.

Filed under memories summer nostalgia writing

10 notes

It’s dark now. The lights up in the hills come from houses or cars swerving down the mountainside but these lights seem so distant I keep mistaking them for airplanes. There is accordion music playing down by the sea & I hear children shouting and laughing, children who should be asleep but night means nothing here, except the prolonging of a beautiful day. 

My husband keeps closing the terrace doors and I keep opening them, who cares about letting the air conditioning out. I want to let the night in. I want to be aware of island sounds, because they calm me, the tide splashing against the white pebbles & rocks, like some kind of lullaby. 

The boys are asleep, earlier than last night. Swimming in salty waves did them in, and swimming in the pool, no suits or rash guards, just their strong little bodies, like sea animals, slick and quick and happy and alive. 

I am sun kissed. More than that. More like the sun and I made out, and there is one tiny line of white around my neck where my thin necklace lay. I must remember to take it off tomorrow before setting out for the beach again. 

We ate so well, and so much. Fresh fish, and cheese, and wild goat and baklava dripping with honey, sticky with dates and raisins. Normally I loathe raisins, and I am ambivalent about feta, but I love everything here, turns out.

It’s dark now. The lights up in the hills come from houses or cars swerving down the mountainside but these lights seem so distant I keep mistaking them for airplanes. There is accordion music playing down by the sea & I hear children shouting and laughing, children who should be asleep but night means nothing here, except the prolonging of a beautiful day.

My husband keeps closing the terrace doors and I keep opening them, who cares about letting the air conditioning out. I want to let the night in. I want to be aware of island sounds, because they calm me, the tide splashing against the white pebbles & rocks, like some kind of lullaby.

The boys are asleep, earlier than last night. Swimming in salty waves did them in, and swimming in the pool, no suits or rash guards, just their strong little bodies, like sea animals, slick and quick and happy and alive.

I am sun kissed. More than that. More like the sun and I made out, and there is one tiny line of white around my neck where my thin necklace lay. I must remember to take it off tomorrow before setting out for the beach again.

We ate so well, and so much. Fresh fish, and cheese, and wild goat and baklava dripping with honey, sticky with dates and raisins. Normally I loathe raisins, and I am ambivalent about feta, but I love everything here, turns out.

Filed under Crete Greece vacations

16 notes

38

First of all, it’s not a number that scares me. It feels appropriate, comfortable, like I found it leaning against the wall at some quiet intersection, taking a drag of a cigarette, resigned at who it has become and why - stalwart, evocative, wry, waiting for me, this 38

I am typing this with the sides of my thumbs, careful, on this little screen because even my fingertips are decidedly Polish, thick and round and fighting for steadiness

I look out into the gentle hills which we call mountains & at the small planes flying across a goldenwhite sky, planes heading toward the tiny airport in Maslow and I hear the sunset croak of distant frogs and I am happy, and just as quiet

The cigarettes here have pretty names like Iris and Vogue Lilas and people smoke them with little regard to surrounding company. I spy slim singed stems in the grass and on the pavement, wretched little badforyou things, tossed into the air like nothing and it’s not great, no, but even then the sight is a memory, and also brings me comfort

What can I tell u about this place, right now, one day into 38, the brown skin on my shoulders peeling from Florida a few weeks ago, and my feet tired after traipsing through cow dung this morning, at a sleepy green farm where I watched my sons chase dirty mud-dripping sheep & I laughed as they spun river reeds in the air, as my father called out to them, naming my oldest boy his sweet caballero, and me, paces behind, heart filling with peace and a beautiful realization that we shall always come back here

What can I tell you that haven’t told anyone before, not the things I’ve written about in a novel I wish had sold better, a novel I wish I hadn’t trimmed down, or the things I always mention to my husband, as we round the corner of Sienkiewicz avenue, and I point to the apartments there, “I always wondered what if I’d grown up here, spent my summers in fancy downtown, and sat on a crumbling balcony watching the pulsating crowds, not back on babcia’s quiet -” I know, he cuts me off, smiling, you’ve told me this before

I repeat myself here
I am on constant rewind
The butter makes me cry, one smear of bright yellow butter on a soft roll over milky coffee at breakfast and I swoon - not so obviously, so that I don’t scare the children just
isn’t this yummy? Do you like it?
Yes mamo, yes mommy
Masło, masełko is what we call it here
We know, mamo

It rained on my birthday and then it stopped.
Family arrived in toddling droves, up up the path to the meadow, because I am the Great Uniter, and the bad blood - there’s always bad blood in Polish families - ran thin and dry, and my two grandmothers stood side by side posing for pictures, complimenting one another on their pallor and eyes and telling one another that soon, soon they would die but wasn’t it such a lovely, wonderful evening

I can tell you that I love it here

I can tell you 38 has filled me with gravitas, turned me into a wise observer, a jotter down of notes and loves and lives.
My camera lens is drawn to the eviscerated things, still standing from when I was a small girl and before, because my next novel will be stories about broken hearts & this very city in the 1960s and I’ll try not to use ‘fuck’ as much. It was a time of turmoil then, the tides turning, politically, epically, and what better way to stay here than to go back to America and keep writing about it…

I am full of ideas
I am full of longing but it is a specific kind, one that doesn’t turn me dour
Yes it’s still strange/awful/surreal to walk by the guy who was my buddy once, now wasted on drugs and cheap vodka, I can smell his sour stench from miles, hovering above him like a fucked-up halo, and I wonder if he thinks I’m lucky or spoiled or just a mirage

but then my Babcia strokes my cheeks and calls me the same pet names she called me thirty years ago but then my sons bound up the hallway to knock on her door but then the cobblestones haven’t changed their shape but then familiarity wraps around me like gauze and I am home, if but for seven days

38 is trzydzieści osiem in my native tongue. It looks hard, menacing even, but looks can be deceiving because when I say it, the words sail off my tongue with such ease, like a trickle of cool water

Trzydzieści osiem
Say it, try

Filed under Poland memories youth birthday home homeland

11 notes

Time is cordial and it kindly stops for me every time I return, the minute hand doing a little backwards dance and I walk down the main drag and by the end of the avenue, near the train station, I am seventeen again and craning my neck to spot a cute boy, my satchel loaded with Roxette & Eurythmics cassette tapes and spray cans of Fa deodorant, weaving my way through a crowd of men who smoke brown cigarettes and woman in sheer knee-highs and flowery skirts that trail the cobblestonesand then I remember I turn 38 tomorrow and I think, wait Time, are you cordial or are you just fucking with me…

Time is cordial and it kindly stops for me every time I return, the minute hand doing a little backwards dance and I walk down the main drag and by the end of the avenue, near the train station, I am seventeen again and craning my neck to spot a cute boy, my satchel loaded with Roxette & Eurythmics cassette tapes and spray cans of Fa deodorant, weaving my way through a crowd of men who smoke brown cigarettes and woman in sheer knee-highs and flowery skirts that trail the cobblestones

and then I remember I turn 38 tomorrow and I think, wait Time, are you cordial or are you just fucking with me…

Filed under poland

9 notes

4 Hours

of sleep isn’t much
It’s slightly shaky fingers as I pour milk into my coffee, almond milk which my husband is obsessed with
It tastes like soap, watered down detergent

Four hours is like I drank last but I didn’t except for a latte at midnight

I got home at 3:30am and read for a half hour despite myself, then my hands fell to my sides, Seating Arrangements to the floor
My dream involved Steve Buscemi telling me nice things with regards to my acting

The dog jumped on the bed at 8am as did the kids and there was no going back, not with a myriad of small cold feet flung gently but insistently in my face

I slept all night, said my 4 year old, proudly, because he’s like me - waking up for nightly jaunts to the toilet and for sips of tepid water

That’s so good, buddy
My eyelids closed, I swept his soles away but it was useless

So I am up, preparing for the day, which will bring many things, things we have planned for weeks now, things involving airplanes and arrivals

12 notes

Set Notes

The things I still like

A cigarette on the trailer steps, hair in curlers people staring
What they shooting?
A TV show - a movie - nothing
You famous?
If u have to ask then I guess I’m not

I like the costumes even though they never fit right, make me to aware of my growing waistline, colors I shun in real life but then I slip a dress on and it’s 1931 and here I am just like that - somebody else. Took me a long time to figure our we are not somebody else but just fragments of our hidden selves that come to light

I like crafty - oh those bowls and plastic cups filled with m&m’s mixed with pretzels and nougat and every kind of soda known to man. I like crafty but I tend to stay away unless the kids are visiting me and then we all go to town munching stuffing twizzlers in our pockets

I like the pocket of space just in front of the camera lens, scene meticulously painted recreated nailed down. A world in an alley up in Yonkers, lights in things that float around us like hot air balloons

I like hitting my mark without looking down

I like glancing at my sides - the scenes we will shoot - memorizing lines as the day goes on

I like remembering other things like Ireland and LA other steps other trailers big ones with queen size beds and tiny little airplane bathroom sized honey wagons

I like naps during lunchtime when lunchtime is at 2 in the morning

I like the actors who have been at it so long but who still love it and sure they are esteemed and revered but they never started on this road for the fame or nameless glory but because they just loved acting. That’s it. Those actors engage and smile and seem polite, like they are happy to be here. I learn from them, I absorb their effortless grateful demeanor. The other actors, usually the younger ones, come to set late carrying a chip on the shoulder and I want to hand them a slice of fucking humble pie. They are the amateurs and deep down they know it, celebrity status or not

I like the make-up girls with photos of their kids taped to the corners of the mirrors in the truck - I like their tips & little secrets - black liner inside upper eyelid they call it the tight line
The make-up girls are like priests and we confess everything going on in our lives
How are your boys?
Fine, Kal has a cold, fine, Kass did a backwards flip on the trampoline, fine, they still lift eyebrows when mama goes to work, usually it’s daddy in the White House on wheels making movie magic, fine

Because I used to do this a lot
I used to go on auditions with a pep in my step, another chance another shot to sell my wares to show them I was gonna be somebody someday and they’d be wise to take notice, oh how i wanted to show them what fun this was for me and how important

I used to wake up at 4am and pack my bag, reading material and make-up that went on before make-up and a pack of smokes and a wallet and nothing else besides a few dreams

And I looked at the crew like an army a hive, us inside the honeycomb busy bees everyone busy with their part and I loved the cog and wheels, the giant machine - so many names, so many PAs talking into headsets grips and gaffers and prop boys and we were all, all of us, making a story come to life

I still like those things

I like being done, I like wrapping we call it, pulling bobby pins out of my period hairstyle as I slip on my flip flops and head back downtown hurrying to make the last train back to jersey, happy, tired, because I was here and I did something

Filed under acting movies