Happy birthday 61st birthday to the most selfless, giving, loving lady I know. As a writer, you sometimes end up feeling this weird sense of shame of the love that you were raised with, if you were lucky to be raised with that love, as you’re always searching for trauma truffles for inspiration. The worse the childhood, the better the writing. Or at least, this is what the Lucky and Loved tell themselves to create torment that they can then turn to poetry that no one should ever see. But today, and all of the days, I’m grateful that she’s around, that she is one year older, that she cares, that she does not give up on trying to understand me though I do not understand myself, that she loves me more than I love myself, but mostly for the fact that I will clearly look I’m 38 TOPS well into my 90s. LOVE YOU MOM!
Check out dear niece Livy, workin that first International Women’s Day / A Day without Women. This little woman is not going to work, not spending money anywhere, just chillin inside with her folks, smiling into her bright future.
I have made similarly grand statements about babies before, but this time I REALLY ACTUALLY MEAN IT. My niece Livy is REALLY ACTUALLY the cutest, most beautiful baby in all of the world.
She will hold the seat for all of time, or perhaps until I have a kid of my own, at which point she will be denoted to second place, unless of course, Livy remains cuter than my actual kid, which, given the picture above, IS ENTIRELY POSSIBLE.
Please meet the newest Brunstetter, and the first Grandkid: this beautiful and perfect little cabbage patch friend:
Her parents are tired and over the moon and filled with feeling and joy and purpose and gratitude and love and light. OH WAIT. That’s her grandparents, as they plot her kidnapping. Her actual parents, Pete and Mary, they are, you know, tired and hungry and overwhelmed, but also happy. CONGRATS TO ALL! OLIVIA I CAN’T WAIT TO START YOU AN INSTAGRAM ACCOUNT AND GET YOU AN INTERNSHIP AND ACCIDENTALLY SAY BAD WORDS AROUND YOU THEN HAVE TO EXPLAIN THEM AND JUST EXPAND YOUR WORLD, IN GENERAL!
There are plays you read in undergrad and grad school and watch scenes from and do scenes from, to the point where watching the play actually staged feels like a very long, hazy moment of deja vu. O’Neill’s Long Day’s Journey into Night is definitely one of those plays, and I even though I spent a summer at the O’Neill conference, did a three-night long, all playwright reading of it, visited the very house in which the play was set — I did not actually see the play until last night, at the Geffen (staring Alfred Molina and Jane Kaczmarek, who were both magnificent.) Even though I’ve read it so many times, last night it revealed itself to me as something new — not a play about brothers, about fathers, about grudges you can’t let go of — but a play about a very poetic addiction. It’s really Mary Tyrone’s play, the mother’s play. It’s actually about her withdrawing from and indulging in morphine, hiding it from her family. When she’s on morphine, she just talks and talks and talks, and says the saddest and most beautiful things:
None of us can help the things life has done to us. They’re done before you realize it, and once they’re done they make you do other things until at last everything comes between you and what you’d like to be, and you’ve lost your true self forever.
The past is the present. It’s the future, too.
Her addiction allows the playwright to speak through her. We have things we want our characters to say. They are the things that we want to say, but can’t. But you can’t just insert the things into the mouth of a character. You have to give them some profound reason to say them, a reason that ideally creates a story. This is something I already knew, but must be reminded of, every time I write a scene. A character is not a robot for your poetry. A character is a human being who must be cared for, who must be motivated, who is usually based on your mom (not really.) (but sometimes.) (HI MOM!)
When you are born to your parents, you are helpless and small and cute. Then, tragically, you grow up into just another jerk with a blog, and suddenly, THEY are the cute ones. Namely mine. They’re becoming grandparents for the first time next month, so they went on one last hurrah (though surely there will be plenty more hurrahs) up to Vermont to snow-shoe and snow-mobile and other snow verbs that are NOT SKIING AS THEY ARE SOON TO BE GRANDPARENTS. And basically the pictures reveal that it has been the cutest thing. As they are not huge picture posters, it is up to me, the jerk with the blog, to share with the world. PRESENTING, CUTE!
Sister Anne got us a gift certificate to Framebridge as a wedding present, and I must say, never driving to a frame store ever again. While in the past I’ve spent hundreds of dollars framing things because it seems to be what grown up humans do, with Framebridge, for a mere 100 bucks, I got this beauty framed AND shipped to me. What’s more, for no extra charge, an ACTUAL HUMAN DESIGNER PERSON looks at your picture and recommends a frame for you in the forest of choices. NEVER GET IN YOUR CAR OR TALK TO ANYONE AGAIN! HERE’S TO ROBOT PEOPLE WITH FRAMED PORTRAITS IN THEIR STEEL AND LED LIGHT HOUSES! (Sidetone, re: robots, were they ever to revolt, The Foster-Keddies and Brunstetters combined could clearly take them.)
I’ve been abandoning all extra-curricular creative responsibilities the last few days, and spending every waking non-work moment reading this dear lady’s book:
It’s part memoir, part cookbook, which is my new favorite kind of book. Vivian grew up in Deep Run, a one stoplight town in Eastern NC. Rejecting her country upbringing, she high-tailed it to NYC, started working in restaurants, and eventually moved back down south to open a restaurant (the now award-winning Chef and the Farmer in Kinston, NC / JULIEN AND I HAVE RESERVATIONS FOR JANUARY / OMG / oh PS also she has her own TV show A Chef’s Life, Peabody award winning, so maybe check that out too end of sentence no really, she’s great.) Once back home, she went through this beautiful transformation, embracing her and homeland and its foods. It’s a beautiful story that I hope it emulate with my own life and writing. You often don’t appreciate what formed you until you’re older. I just want to write NC plays and pair them with her regional bread puddings forever. Chapter by chapter, local food by local food (sweet corn, summer squash, butter beans, etc.) She takes us through her family’s rich history of farming, and shares family recipes. Here’s my favorite, Hoarded corn:
Hard to read, but the first ingredient is an afternoon. She recalls her family harvesting sweet corn together in their tiny kitchen, working together and quickly to get it off the stalk and into bags in the freezer before it spoiled, saving both the kernels and the sweet corn milk. This corn would them feed them throughout the year in a zillion different forms. She really hits this point home: families used to have to prepare their food together. They were forced to gather, to be together, out of necessity, but then, as Vivian also points out — this is the time when families used to talk to each other. Hands busy with activity, then talking, sharing to fill the air. I’m not saying anything that hasn’t been said 100 times before, but isn’t it sad that because our food became simpler, easier to access, we talk to each other less? That makes me sad. And Hungry. And sad. But flip side: because we spend less time preparing food, our hands and brains are free for innovations that save lives and expand the universe and invent customer care robots that will eventually dominate us A LA SPOILER ALERT SEASON FINALE OF WESTWORLD BUT NO EVERYTHING’S FINE OKAY BYE OFF TO PRETEND IT’S STILL 1943 / SHUCK SOME SWEET CORNS.
Let it be known that Cracker, having been raised by a human who is allergic to forced moments, heard the words ‘family picture!!!’ and hid above the refrigator for hours until finally he had to come down for food and then I FORCED THE MOMENT UPON HIM. Him being both of them.
Morrison’s aunt, uncle and cousins, the Klanns, live in San Diego and are basically the perfect people to escape to, which we did for Thanksgiving yesterday (and the previous Thanks, too.) It is so cool to accumulate kin. In just this one family alone: A historian! A yoga teacher! A biologist! A visual artist! A DJ! A jovial retired Oil tank manager! A child! A dog! An aunt mom after my own heart who sent me home with rosemary bread and cooking magazines! I HAS CALIFORNIA FAMILY!