Only Half There

I had wanted to do a review each week of the Oscar films up until this day of the Oscars, but it hasn’t worked out that way. First, I haven’t been inspired by all of the films I’ve seen. Second, I have loved films that I haven’t yet reviewed, but I haven’t felt ready to post… or life got in the way.

I’ve had…

1 husband who was

3 days away on a trip

About 15 loads of laundry… a fun bout of lice visited us this month and all bedding has been packed into white garbage bags and loaded into the back of our Volvo wagon for about 3 weeks now.

We have planned on doing laundry approximately 5 times. But something always got in the way… like the stomach bug that hit the night after our pizza dinner last Thursday. My daughter woke up at 4 in the morning complaining of stomach pain. She kept saying “ouch” and I told her not to be so dramatic… until the hurling began. I lost two days of work to that one. Oh, and then I got said bug. And spend the night emptying the contents of my body. I never knew a human could hold so much STUFF. I know those intestines are incredibly long, but damn, do we really walk around with pounds of refuse in us all the time? That was an eye opener. In the end, I won’t complain about my smaller tummy.

In one of my favorite short-lived shows, “Accidentally On Purpose” the main character is a 30-something city girl now 8 months pregnant. In need of closet space, her boyfriend pulls out a slinky dress and says “what about getting rid of this one? You’ll never fit into this one again.” And she says “that’s my virus dress. Every woman has one.”

I thought that one of the sagest, funniest things I’ve heard on TV.

I tried to write another review, and got fairly far but my daughter got tired of her puzzle and started rolling around beneath my legs. There’s only so much rolling around beneath one’s legs a mom has patience for.

There were the 5 days of giant snow storm and 3 days kids were off of school where we were stuck in the house or anywhere we could make our way through snow. We had to carry a shovel wherever we walked.

When my husband got home from his trip I ran out to the local movie. We have no theater near us in Roslindale Boston so you have to travel at least 20 minutes whichever direction you go. Someone please get us a theater! I left at 6:35 for a 6:55 film knowing it was doubtful I would make it. First of all, it was a Saturday night. Second, the theater is in a huge mall where there would be a zillion cars and I knew I’d have to troll around for parking. Third, the theater is like an enormous whale. You have to rush down passage after passage, then escalators then long giant-made hallways to even reach the ticket windows. I would have to run a marathon to make it there on time. But still I went and I tried. I made it by 7:10 but then… it was sold out. I knew I could get to another film wayyy across town if I booked it. They had the same show at 7:50.

I made it. Was it worth the gas and trouble? Probably not.

The call came in the morning that my nephew is in the hospital for gall bladder infection. Family debates, talks, lots of web research and phone calls.

Finished a review of a film I loved… But haven’t been able to edit it. We had to eat dinner and it wasn’t going to cook itself. Thank goodness for leftovers… and microwaves.

Alas, this entry won’t get finished. My husband is giving me the eye. Has given it to me about a half dozen times so I’m about out of free time… Got to get to my errands list before kicking back to watch the show. That seems very far away from now. By then I’ll hopefully have done said loads of laundry (Bubbles Laundromat here we come), gone food shopping, picked up a new broom, groomed and cut family’s hair, put clothes away, swept, convinced my husband to vacuum, and that’s what I can think of for now.

Well, 1 computer put away and onward.


Film Review: Django Unchained

There is no excuse for the degradation, drawn-out violence and torture depicted here.

Django Unchained follows the trail of an unlikely pair: a European wanderer cum Western bounty hunter Dr. Schultz, and freed slave Django, whom he takes under his wing. The film travels a long series of Three Acts and for the First Act we primarily follow the pair as they mete out vengeance, kill, pick up bounty, and generally court the edges of what is deemed acceptable and right.

This course highlights two major themes: slavery just before the Civil War, and killing for bounty, creating a gripping tension between right and wrong, ethical and criminal. We watch Schultz free Django—then kill a man in front of his son. These conflicts could serve as very fascinating subject matter.

However, Quentin Tarantino decides to take us in another direction for Acts Two and Three, where slavery takes center stage with smutty, shocking violence. This is a film that not only depicts violence but worships it with loving, doting shots of whippings, lashings, torture, hangings, and constant degradation.  The major actors each show their range and ability to embody characters with reality and depth. Yet, the wrapping of great acting and cinematography cannot and should not deter viewers from seeing this film for what it is: violence pornography.

With Django Unchained, the lure of the shallow, infantile and tacky proved too much for Tarantino and sadly, no one stopped him. He had fertile subject matter; incredible talent; complex characters. He missed a magnificent chance to create a meaningful exploration of his subject matter. Instead, he has merely added to his stockpile of guts and gore that is important more for its sensationalism than brilliance.

The actors gave stellar performances that are worthy of a far superior film.

Jamie Foxx plays Django, whose ignorance belies a fierce genius. He’s a man whose woeful life fuels a burning desire to brandish his talents. We find him as he is freed, then follow his path as he is slowly, turbulently unchained.

Christoph Waltz plays Dr. King Schultz, a most enigmatic foreigner. His passions and reasons are elusive. He is helpful, cold, and above all, inexplicable. His final act in the film is a case in point.

With unerring skill, Leonardo DiCaprio plays Calvin Candie, a decaying Southerner, beautifully made but beneath the skin a vile and vicious bog. He shares this charming distinction with Big Daddy, played with nuanced wit by Don Johnson in a smaller part. During the Big Daddy passage of scenes, the KKK is skewered with skill. These scenes are small treats that point to Tarantino’s talent with dark comedy. Yet they are tiny, easily suffocated beneath a brutal blanket.

Samuel L. Jackson is his nastiest as Stephen, the Slave who ‘takes care of’ Candie, just like men before him took care of Candie men for generations. A superb study of the application of power, Stephen is a fawning, malicious and formidable force.

Then there is Broomhilda, played by Kerry Washington, the slave of a Southern family whose roots are German. Broomhilda, maid to the family daughter, was brought up with refinement and kindness. …And here we come to the “Monsters Ball” paradox again. The black woman as an object. Washington plays the ladies maid as well as the enslaved, degraded woman with dignity and grace. But there she is for us to peruse, in the hot box, having her dress torn from her, living in perpetual terror of being sold, used, pimped, found-out. She could be an empathetic character, but the physical manifestation of her plight is depicted with sickening glee.

Enthusiasts of Tarantino indulgently point to the silliness, the crazy over the top manner of his oeuvre that they find hilarious. Yet this is no “Monty Python’s Holy Grail,” nor even “Pulp Fiction.” Indeed, the lash, the screams, the blood and the pain are vivid. What exactly is there to admire? To laugh at? While there are plenty of ridiculous scenes of bloodshed, most scenes are obscenely realistic. What is so artistic about being great at depicting the most brutal violence? Great technique does not forgive the subject matter’s hyperbolic, admiring view of pain being delivered.

Django can be used, at best, as a portrait in startling colors of a deranged society that cries over gunned-down 6 year olds and then pays to view scenes of morbid, constant cruelty, where the epithet nigger is flung like rounds of verbal machine gunning, as if that were a stab at being realistic on a set where realism is obliterated from Scene One. There is no reality here. This is pure fantasy, a dark and sad fantasy of blatant and open cruelty.

Yes, the history of the slave trade is full of cruelty. This is my point: this film takes that appalling violence and manipulates it to cater to a sickness that sits and pervades many of us, a need and desire for savagery that cannot wait for that next horror or thriller or sci-fi flick—as long as it has guns, knives and blood. That promise that we seem to be begging for: There Will Be Blood.

Can we say of ourselves that as long as an offering into our public consciousness is made with craft, with skill, with talent, that we call it art? Can we say of ourselves that we will continue to push the boundary of what is viewable as long as it has been draped in artistic folds? That is what Django Unchained means to me: another dismal, chilling lowering of inhibitions about what is viewable and what should be watched.

My Sisters – A Valentine

All counted, I have nine sisters in my family. My two closest and dearest sisters are Marissa, my blood sister and Tara, my life sister. Both sisters augment my existence in very different ways and both sisters are essential to my daily happiness. I don’t want to imagine life without them. I love each of them dearly.

When my little sister was born three years after me I was given the job of looking after her. My mother tells that when Missa was a toddler my mother’s words to me, “Help her” echoed jubilantly in her little ears so that she went around parroting “help her, help her.” I never had a problem with that standard tax on elder sisterhood. We grew up close, sharing most things—a room, clothes, friends—most hours of our sprouting lives. We are undeniably different and I’ve always wondered what she would have been like without me. Without me to define herself against, what would she have defined herself as?

My sister does a lot that I could never do. She’s a nurse’s aide and—I find this harder to imagine—she loves this job. If I tried to be a nurse of any sort, I would leave pools of tears in my wake. She has three kids while I can barely see straight to raise one. That’s bravery and kiss-it-to-the-wind that my logic oriented brain can’t compute. Marissa possesses the thick-skin and steely stubborn genes that evaded me. These same traits can drive me batty even as I admire them.

Differences aside, I would do a lot to keep us close. My family makes the 4 hour drive up to Vermont once a month. I try to assess the patterns of her phone availability, as well as share mine with her. I try (try try) to recognize—before it’s out of my mouth—that my helpful advice in her ears is probably criticism. I take my auntie role to my niece and nephews seriously. If you’re ever up in Vermont and meet a nice, diminutive, black-haired lady named Marissa, you’ll see—my sis is awesome.

When I met Tara twenty years ago we were in many ways babes just hatched into the nest of Emerson College with all the other artsy, Broadway-bound, geeky fuzzy chicks. We thought that because we’d left one parents’ home we were all growed up. When we caught our sage teachers sharing winks behind our backs, we were offended. What we didn’t know was that we were on a course that includes many homes: childhood, college, singleton, decent salary, partnered, with kids to name the doorways most walked through. Yet we were the most dewy-eyed and wet-behind-the-ears as they come. It took my mother many hours, weeks and months of list-making, buying supplies and phone calls for her to handle my leaving home. I thought she was being very Sicilian. Ahhh youth. Now I know different. Now I can see what she saw.

At Emerson we thought ourselves the artiest of the arty; Tara with her shaved head and me in black-rimmed glasses and combat boots. We birthed a women’s art group that gave us opportunities to learn some good lessons. We wavered and circled, and leaned on other friends more. But as the years rolled out, over hills and down valleys and round long bends, we’ve always found a way to meet up in a parking lot or land with bags in hand for a brief, sweet interlude before she falls asleep, because she is the morning person. I’ll be talking and she’ll get that drawn out effect to her words and then she fades.

We’ve worked like blacksmiths hammering out the red gooey blob we began with. We’ve sweat and honed and somewhere during our baby-mama years we realized that we are as sister as sister can be. There is no other word for what we share. When you’ve been through the worst catastrophes and storms and you are on the other side still talking, that’s when you realize nothing can come at you that will break your link. That’s sisterhood. That’s trust.

I’ve also acquired three sisters, who came to me as presents through marriage. There are my husband’s two sisters, who I almost never see. The Foley family is from Dublin and once they got their degrees they scattered to the wind. I have always wished it was different. I’ve always wanted to share more of their lives, but that Atlantic Ocean is wide.

A happier sisterhood is what I share with Lora. Last year my brother married this Oklahoma girl after a couple of years of dating. When I met Lora I had high hopes that she would become another close sister. We met for tea. We share a zillion likes in common. I semi-secretly believe that my brother likes her because, although there are some major differences, she’s a lot like me. However, achieving this idyllic alliance has been more problematic than I bet on. There was the infamous couch incident.

There’s also contrasting lifestyle, which can be easily broken down into: they have a life (aka they have no kids) and we have no life (aka we have a 5 year old). Apparently, rarely the twain shall meet.  Yet, I admire Lora and am thankful that she sees my brother’s awesomeness, even if he never learned to clean. I have hope for Lora as a possible real sister one day; only time and distance from the couch incident will tell.

My last set of sisters hail from very different tribes came to me by that mark of modern life: divorce. When my parents divorced o so long ago they each married again and we gained two new step-families. My mom married an older WASPy dude and my dad married a younger Puerto Rican chica so you might visualize some of the differences. It’s the stuff of a sitcom for sure. Between these blended marriages came my distant sisters Nidia and Jessica, two young girls, and Meg and Erin, of our age group.

I could not imagine more varied sister experiences than with these duos. Yet they are all great women who I’ve been happy to spend a small amount of time with over the years at the odd family gathering big enough to merit their travel from Florida and San Francisco to New England. Basically we see each other at weddings, sashaying in our satin dresses, holding up skirts as we Macarena, clinking champagne glasses and escaping for late nights in diners to play catch up. It’s been wild watching them grow alongside us over the years and comparing notes of progress from teenagers to adults, kids to mothers ourselves. Our connections read like a pack of tarot cards in my head, one for each bi-yearly meeting over the past 20 years.

My sisters—parts of my tribe, submerged and known, cool and affectionate, distant yet sharing the most intimate of connections.

Yet… my sister list is still incomplete. I need to include friends who were sisters to me over the years.  We shared our New Jersey childhood as our area sprang up around us from old farms, fields and dump sites.  Most of our parents were immigrants, one skip away from their New York landings. We shared bathing suited summers at the pool and beach, skeet ball, cotton candy, Sicilian pizza and rollers coasters that Sandy hurled and left in the sea.

We shared bowling and roller skating to Led Zeppelin’s All of My Love and Dire Straits’ Roller-Girl. We pretended we were afraid on Monday dates nights so we could experiment with closeness to the other sex. We played a lot of Pac Man and passed through the sieve of dozens of teachers like awful Mrs. Ledbetter. We tried out for cheerleading although we weren’t friends with anyone on the squad and so of course were not chosen. We admired and feared the learned Dr. Godbold.

We strolled down cobbled Amsterdam streets and splashed our bikes through rivers of puddles. We practiced guttural Gs, and danced and split jars of peanut butter. We shared lofts and dresses and art school and writing groups and umpteen rehearsals. We sold theater tickets and were volunteer ushers. We were adventurous and flirty, young and mischievous, and our dating life generally sucked.

We’ve stayed tried and true. Or our glue dried and our pages pulled apart. But the parts that touched still show signs of where we pressed. There were sisters I met like flash floods; we were together intimate and hourly, until the torrent of our sharing burnt away; the DNA of those cinders is coded with some of the best times of my life.

My sisters, close sisters and blood sisters. Far and distant and lost sisters. The sisters who I ended badly with. The sisters I want to know better and the sisters I’ll never understand. And the sisters yet to come, still waiting farther up along the way. Happy Valentine’s Day. Love to you from my dot on the map, traveling all of the routes to the separate strands of your lives.

–I don’t own any of the photos I’ve taken of sisters from the web. Thanks to the people who took the pictures and posted them on the web.

Praying to the Winter Gods

This week always seems to be the absolute perfect depth of winter. Not a good time for a birthday—trust me. I was born in a snowstorm and I think that about covers it. Bloody hell, I’m turning 44; by the time anyone reads this I will have turned 44. Happy birthday to Lincoln and me.

Isn’t it weird when important newsworthy things fly around you and yet you have little to say? There was that 28 inches of snow the heavens plunked down on us New Englanders this weekend. We’ve had no school for four days and counting, which could be the basis for a very long soliloquy on what it’s like to be a parent and a child left alone for days on end. Or I could write about how the fates throw us surprises and laugh their butts off (with the Winter Gods, beside a carefully stacked pyramid of empty Jägermeister bottles). I could also just be simple and talk about the snow all of a sudden here, piled up to our heads, everywhere we look.  But no, not interested.

The Grammy’s just aired. Popular people were there. I no longer have a TV and so live shows tend to be off limits for me. I could write about how insane that is in this modern age. How I’ve missed the Olympics, the Tour de France (even if defrocked the past few years) and the Golden Globes, not to mention Downton Abbey Season 3. And now the Grammy’s, which I don’t adore but I always find at least one new act to admire. Last year it was The Civil Wars. This year, with no TV, no new talent for me to view and become a fan of. I could vent about how backwards and un-money-making for all involved this appears.

I watched a couple of films I thought I’d share. I read a few books I started to write about and the reviews petered out, one by one. I don’t want to waste people’s time with reviews of so-so films and books. You know the times when you rip through a book and you make it to the end although it’s way past bedtime and you know you’ll regret it in the morning. Then you realize that judgment can no longer be suspended and it’s come flooding in with Let Down. You realize that you’ve just read something that will not satisfy, that cannot give what you hoped for. You can’t help but think about those ten extra hours of sleep you could have used the past couple of nights.

I’ve got a pile beside my bed hoping to be cracked open. I’m set to see Lincoln finally this Thursday. We’ll see how that goes. But drat I hate feeling uninspired. I hate opening a book and feeling that dread trickle down my spine that I won’t make it past the tenth page. I hate to do that to a writer.  I also don’t enjoy watching my anticipation evaporate.

Isn’t it great when you open the front cover and from page 1 you feel the pull and you’re drawn in and it’s GO! Ah, to look forward to a satisfying read with banquets of sentences and thoughts like delicacies. That film where you forget everything for those 2 hours.

   My Idea of a Delicious Banquet

Tonight I’m praying to the Winter Gods. You are stern by nature, I know. But I beseech you to send a bundle my way; Send me something wonderful, something substantial, something immeasurable or tranquil, dancing, merry, or vibrant. If anyone has been inspired recently, please send me a link. I have no doubt that very soon there’ll be a gift at my door. And Winter Gods—I do not mean snow.

My Favorite January Book: The Salt God’s Daughter

The Salt God’s Daughter by Ilie Ruby offers a dream-scape that thrusts us out of logical thinking into emotional thinking. Upon entering the first landscape, we find ourselves at an edge. To walk through the first paragraph the reader must make a choice to step in and have brain waves re-patterned, or kindly leave.

The Salt God's Daughter  The Salt God’s Daughter

The waves here are volatile, dense with invisible traces. Narrative is rent from its usual unity and suspended around us, particlized into fragments of knowledge. Strangely, these impart more information than such unified knowledge as chronology, exposition and sentence structure. Phrases trace and jab and provoke. People are glimpsed. Memories are also the future. The main characters are self-destructive mother Diana, her two little girls Dahlia and Ruth, and Ruth’s beloved daughter Naida. Their stories intertwine half-known, half-formed, laced like a ribbon in the Santa Ana wind.

The moon, the sea, the desert, vines and flowers are all colors that Ruby swirls onto a room of canvases, stacked up to the ceiling, against each other, backwards. The scenes hum with colors that wander in and out, in and out, ululating through the years beginning in the early seventies. The images of little girls imprint in the waves, in the dust, along highways and strawberry fields, lungs filled with California brush fire and skin soaked with flood. Sea animals appear and disappear as omens, as friends, as sisters. The back seats of the station wagon stick to our legs. We taste homelessness and wandering, and we are left alone. We are abandoned and our fear settles in our lap as our mother soaks herself into unknowing… lies… follows the moon. Diana of the Moon.

   Home for the Gold girls

This is a sad tribe of women, women who’ve lost more than was treatable, containable. We might never know why. We only know more than that; we know how these losses score right into the skin, into the soul. Beauty is a buoy, a picnic blanket among wreckage. But beauty can also herald violent betrayal to the unprotected: Ruthie, Naida. No voice, just quiet and the sea to salt the abrasions.

There are safe havens. Dr Dagmar B. is the haven and the keeper of the haven, Twin Palms, then Wild Acres.  The elders keep watch. Ruby offers: those who need saving the most often began as rescuers. Daughter, mother, daughter, sister—what is the texture of these connections? Here, in the Salt God’s Daughter, they are layered dream upon dream upon dream, a stack of pages written with tears, enigmas, thumbprints, and notes in the margin.

  Diana’s Guide to the World

The Wanderer, the Wanderer, written repeatedly. Who is this Wanderer? And who is the Salt God’s Daughter? Clever us, we think we know. Always wanting to make things reasonable, we think we have it mapped out even amidst the floating particles, the waves, and the maze of lacing. What I knew by the end of this book was that I’m still capable of knowing a story without it being told; I’m capable of holding a picture in myself that was created by the traces between words.

Finally, there is solace. Stability can take root and love can flourish amidst abandonment. You, just like Mr. Takahashi, can cut all the blooms away but they will grow again. What do we need to know about a person? For all that we don’t know or can never know, they are a part of us. Our never met fathers. Our secret-holding mothers. Our guarded children. When we can accept their touch on our lives, we can move forward instead of all the other ways sad people move. We can bury their books, we can let them go, we can fulfill the dreams they had for us that we never knew they dreamt.

  The bougainvillea – Naida’s Escape Route

We know we are the most beloved thing in our mother’s life, we are her lodestar. Even as we are lost into the sea she guides us home. We are guided to the wing that covers us after every escape, every flight.

As with all good poetry, the lives shared in these pages gave more than reality, more than what can be predicted or assumed. We drank it and breathed it and were given a lovely dream.

Called Home to Write

I used to be a writer, someone paid to write. I fell into this great bit of luck by compete twist of fate. I had moved overseas to live with a good friend who had a house that needed sitting and taking care of. He traveled a lot and he wanted the house to feel more alive. He also loved me and liked my writing and so he thought it would be a perfect opportunity for me to write. I had studied creative and script writing when we’d lived in Boston together. Then he moved back overseas and I went on my merry way totally unsure of where I was going. Only that I was going to write.

With this goal, a year after graduation I was happily penning away at every opportunity. I’d had a pretty good creative run in college. It was only normal to keep writing at every chance, down every turn. Then a bad break-up came and I needed a change. I needed to get out of Boston and so, after a few more bumps, I moved to Amsterdam, completely unaware of its reputation as a wild drugged out prostitute metropolis.

        G’dag schrijvers!

How I’d missed that bit of information is a mystery. I can only say that my friend was my guide and he didn’t talk about that stuff. He talked about the rich history, the farmer language, the planned layout and the canals, the Dutch way of life. He talked about what it was like to be gay in such a city. He talked about the flower markets and the bridges, the art and the Jordaan, his neighborhood. He talked about how we needed each other. So I went and met his band of friends. I met a man I instantly loved.

I was fairly despondent when I landed at Schiphol that late summer. The last thing I needed was a romantic relationship, but I did need friendship and my new Dutch acquaintance offered it. We became what you would call friends if you closed one eye, slanted your head and turned around three times. I wrote him often across the few miles of cobblestones that separated us, him in his office and me at my new dining room table, laptop balanced on my knees. For one reason or another (pretty good reasons too), most people who knew us didn’t think our friendship a good idea. Electronically, we enjoyed a semi-secret ever-going conversation that no one could touch or judge.

    The Jordaan

Then he had a friend who worked in a creative office shared with a guy who was running a magazine. That guy needed a writer immediately. This guy told that guy and that guy told my complicated friend. He showed them some of the creative writing I had sent him and voila, I was asked to come down for an interview. I met the magazine guy and he passed a stuffed binder into my hands. It was a messy press release with someone’s notes. He said, go ahead, write the story. If we like it, we’ll talk more.

So I wrote the story and there began my time with a business travel magazine, called Executive Class. I Googled it today and there’s little information. I wonder if Siebe is still running the place but somehow I doubt it. He had much broader ambitions. And me?  My experience there and why I left are subject for another time.

What’s important to me here is remembering that first break, how it was to get assignments, how it felt to pull together a story, and the satisfaction of typing the last word. I always felt a sense of accomplishment seeing my byline, even with the articles I had to write, the ones that didn’t go so well. I wrote for other magazines as well but never a big one. I thought that would come. But then life came, and sidetracked me. It’s been an amazing ride the past ten years, this life. But it has not included being published.

What it has included are many long nights when I could not stop typing although my eyes burned. It has included readings and writing groups. It has included polish, polish, revise, revise, and when in god’s name is this book going to be finished? This past ten years have included a lot of short stories and poetry, and sweeping rushes of hours diving into a work of fiction, that labor of love most of us writers long to offer.

I haven’t minded the loneliness too often. A writing life is at least half solitude. But I have grappled with the choices that took me away from the published path. I often left with much regret, wishing I had room for more than family and making ends meet. But I chose to be a wife and a mother and I can’t say I’d choose differently if given the chance again.


I can say that the need sometimes grows so great that it spills over and then I have to return, the prodigal daughter. I come back hat in hand, humbled, needing to make this part of me. Although I’ve been away, it is home. This voice inside, these stories inside root me. They also need me. I wonder how many other writers dream of their characters, hear them calling, sometimes begging to be known. I know some do. I’ve shushed the pleas and said I’m sorry many a time. Yet I’ve had unshakable faith that I would come back to them, come back to the printed page that the mill of my mind churns, turns and forms.

Is this place worth the pain? I know it’s one of the most difficult—unmapped and arduous and tricky. Even if I’m capable of exquisite bouquets of words, my inventions are only as good as their capacity to touch others. Touching others is my greatest desire.

I look out at the sea of writing and wonder how this fire in my gut can find its way into the world. How can something as beautiful and as ferocious as a fire go unheeded? Twists of fate happen to me every day, but no one has knocked on my door in a while asking me to write.

Yet it’s my duty to pull the words from the concealment of my skin and convey them. That’s the true charge given to writers. I must orchestrate the voices and the stories chiming in my head. But then I have to find a way to share them. How many writers can make this 180 degree turn from solitude to extroversion? Shake hands and say hello, be present when mind wants to be dreamy.

The writer in me needs to emerge again and so I write this blog. To strengthen my voice. To let myself know that I am serious. To acknowledge my need. And finally to say, I can do this. Little by little, hopefully my voice will unify into words that carry far. And someone will ask me again to write.

Thank you to all of the other bloggers out there like,,, ,,,,,, whose journeying that I’ve read. You inspire me. You, who planned a night of revisions but were called to tend a sick family member, you, who got pulled back by that trickster depression; you, who didn’t even realize that you forgot where you were going. Then there’s you, who finds a way to write those hours you should be washing dishes or making an extra couple hundred bucks. I send a prayer to the muses that our feet keep guiding us home, and that our sweat and tears and uncountable hours are rewarded.

I Love This: Silver Linings Playbook

2hr 0min - Rated R - Comedy

Silver Linings Playbook

Director: David O. Russell – Cast: Jennifer Lawrence, Bradley Cooper, Robert De Niro, Jackie Weaver, Julia Stiles, Chris Tucker, John Ortiz, Anupam Kher, Shea Whigham

(You’ll love this film if you liked I Heart Huckabees, Up in the Air, Sunshine of the Spotless Mind)


Love, rage, patience, unfulfilled potential. Waiting, conflicting voices.

Old-fashioned Mother. Steadfast, supportive, the quiet soul, non-judging, lives for her boys. Only with her tacit consent could these men have evolved as they have. The dominant yet benign father, the do-good successful son, the dark horse held back by others’ spotlight.

Mentally ill. Strange. Unsound. Unbalanced and wrong in the head. Haunted. How often do the gods fill a human mold faultlesslty? How often do our thoughts run and run downward, off kilter, sometimes so distraught there seems no remedy?

Conflicted, un-fittable no matter how they try. White-knuckling for years, children with little souls learning to cope as life turns them into stunned adults.

Two sisters. The one who pushes and gets. The other gets taken.

Female/Male stereotypes wielded like steel batons: Woman harassed by stalking male; the slut everyone taunts but wants to have sex with; the emotionally shut, unintelligible father.  The scenes play out like mini tragicomedies, so familiar, pathetic and wrong and pedestrian. We see them played every day; we play them. Silver Linings Playbook reflects back to us. Why do we hurt others like this?

Tiffany’s too young to be a widow; she cries onto a stranger, wrapping herself futilely around his unyielding form. Patrick Solitano’s reaction is stony, incredulous. Rebuffed, she falls away and walks off, lonesome and tall, shoulders hunched, in her high heels.

Startling, Tiffany darts up to Pat on neighborhood jogs. She yells and pulls. She defies his attempts to cut her from his side; she braves his rejection. Perplexed by this unearned allegiance, he holds his wedding ring high and proud, symbol of safety, of happiness. The gold circle is a life-saver, keeping his precarious mind afloat and tying him to everything he wants and lost: his wife Nikki, job, home.

Once in the steam of an adulterous shower, Pat lost his mind to almost kill a man in jealous rage. He was sent to prison for eight months and when his parole sentence was over, his mother came and released him. He now lives in his childhood home, wrestling demons in the tiny attic. Boxed-up flotsam drifts around his bed as he tries to re-fasten his life. The task: he has to prove himself worthy of the wife he must return to.

Things are complicated. Nikki has a restraining order against Pat. But Tiffany is sister to Veronica, Nikki’s best friend. They cross paths, pass in orbit. Missives are smuggled in by an equally begrudging and willing Tiffany. Patrick writes Nikki a letter, to which she replies. Nikki’s letter promises, show me a sign. Show me that you are fixed. I need you to be no longer fat, no longer muddled and muffled and violent and unrealized. If you can be those things, I can love you, her letter says. Just like he hoped.

Tiffany can help Pat, yet is strained by the magnitude of her own heartache. She is a lost vessel, adrift in a sea of grief, of mis-fit, of rawness that she cannot disguise. We don’t know what she sees in Pat but it’s a doorway in a neighborhood of walls. With reckless yet determined trust, Tiffany offers him a chance to prove his goodness to Nikki by being a friend to her. She convinces him that he can show kindness by partnering her in a dance contest because that is what she asks and what she needs however inconvenient. However unreasonable.

They practice and walk through their private grieving, with parents who don’t know how to help them, in neighborhoods that cannot absorb them. They walk among their friends and families trying to re-fit the pieces that no longer fit or never fit. Patterns of pain and coping are played out, are blown open, sometimes even healed.

Does pain divvy itself up to the ugly and underpaid? Where are brains ribboned with fire born? You might say in the strangest of us, those few who we wish to remain behind white locked walls. Our consciousness recoils from pain, from poverty, from frailty. We’ll do much to cover it, we’ll pay millions of dollars to gloss it, to romance and polish it. Don’t get too sharp; don’t get too close. I’m normal I tell you!

We don’t want to believe that the ability to crack broods somewhere in all of us. There’s too much to lose. Yet we all lose, every day, minute by minute we live with loss and failure, with uncertainty. How many plans are unfulfilled? How many breaths are taken while we struggle, struggle, cope. We think we are losers. We climb towards being winners. Pretend. Cover, do up hair, cinch the belt, speak the rehearsed.

And the universe is laughing at this flimsy ploy. When we witness Tiffany’s aggression and anger, when we watch Patrick unravel, we know that this is us like we know the curve of our fingers, like we know the sound of our voice. We know that this is me, this is who I am when I think no one is watching. Ronnie, Pat’s best friend, reflects our knowing, hiding in his garage despondently shaking his head to Megadeath while he mentally chokes beneath the pressures of his success.

What a gift to look at a creation, a giant screen of pixels such as in this film “Silver Linings Playbook”, a film only loosely adapted from Matthew Quick’s acclaimed 2008 novel. To look and see down, down past skin.

Much of our lives are dominated by ploys to keep us from seeing. Most visual information is gilded surface; promising joy if we just believe in these silky, glossy fabrications.

That woman with the deep vee of pale cleavage, she’s available and yet untouchable. She is successful and yet needs you to complete her. That man with heroic shoulders and shocking blue eyes, his garage houses a sports car, he wants to take you places and he will get you. If you opened a popular magazine featuring Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence decked out in their ball-gowns and tux, or rough with grime and scowls, their striking beauty would call out, would ask your eyes to light with admiration.

And that is all. We are discouraged from thought beyond that snapped moment. Advertisers, photographers, sellers want us to live in that moment and live for that moment of beauty, of admiration. Funny though how it is just a moment, simply a short space in time. Then the lights dim, the posing stops and the person walks across the room to get a drink of water, to call a friend, to add an errand to their list. They take a shower and paint sweeps down the drain, jeans are drawn on, socks searched for and pulled up. An eye is scratched. Worries crowd in and the day moves on in its thousands of other minutes that are the overwhelming bulk of life. Yes, Angelina Jolie cries. She butters toast, she changes diapers. Jennifer Lawrence looks fantastic in a bikini. But those hips and that chest house rushing blood and particles of air, that mind holds memories and dreams and fears like every little girl, like every young girl, like every woman, like every person. Beautiful and strange, celebrated and plain, cracked and healed and cracked again. Like all of us.

David O. Russel rocks for finding the means to portray such pathos in a way that we can accept. Tiffany challenges Patrick: Can you forgive yourself? I like that this film allowed me to glimpse my own frailty, my own strangeness, and yes, forgive.

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