Like most kids who grow up in the suburbs, when I was a kid, I fetishized the mall, like just so deeply and badly needed to get a ride there so I could get my cartilage pierced at Claires or eat a cookie the size of my face or just walk through racks of low-rise pants that didn’t fit me. It’s not my favorite thing about myself, but I am somehow calmed by rows and shelves of Things, organized neatly by color and size. Since I fixated on Malls so much when I was young, I am really disturbed by the fact that they are now dying, so much so that there is now a term for the abandoned or nearly abandoned spaces, ‘dead mall.’ There’s even a term for the abandoned large hub of the mall, the JCPenney’s or Dillards or Sears: that gaping pit emptiness is called a ‘ghostbox.’ There needs to be a word for what I’m feeling — this sense that I am inside of slowly changing world — a world that is moving so fast I barely notice the changes — but every now and then, when I pause, I glimpse the change and it makes my skin buzz and my stomach sink. What is this feeling? Futuresense? Changefeel? DEADMALL?
Oh, did you think I was done with niece pictures? NOPE. Meeting wee Olivia Grace, or OG as her parents call her, was so incredible and moving that it perhaps could merit its own blOG. The absolute best part of was having proud Dad / big brother Pete hand her off to me with such tenderness and help me understand how to hold her as my instincts are to handle a child like a discount bag of rice that is really important for some reason, like if you drop it, your life will change forever, in a bad way. After I fumbled, he adjusted her –
Then medium bro Dan joined. He expresses feelings with the fervor and regularity of a wise old tree, which is to say, only occasionally. But OG melted him instantly, at LEAST 13%. SEE THE TINIEST OF SMILE THAT IS THERE?
I then got to just stare at her forever. I think I have a new favorite show.
EMMY FOR BEST SHOW THAT’S JUST WATCHING A BABY BE A BABY GOES TO:
I’m in the middle of re-working a movie I wrote a few years ago. Rewriting pulls out the lose threads of my brain and makes everything, my Face, my Self, the World, feel unstable and wrong. WERE I TO SELECT AN IMAGE, IT IN FACT LOOKS EXACTLY LIKE THIS:
Imagine each piece of yarn is either a character or moment or my own self-loathing and doubt or a TIGHT FRENCH BRAID OF ALL OF IT. The goal, of course, after a certain amount of wading through and tripping over and choking on the mess, is this:
And then naturally, this.
I would just like to formally apologize to every actor who came to callbacks for The Cake last night for how much I was frantically writing during every read. If I were you, I would of course assume that I was making a long list of everything that was annoying about my body and voice and just me as a human, in general. But actually, when a playwright sits in on auditions for their play, suddenly all of the emotional holes in the scenes become clear, and the playwright must frantically write these holes downs along with any ideas re: how to fix them before they escape. Unfortunately sometimes this must happen while an actor is beautifully emoting. Basically La La Land is a documentary, and sometimes, I AM THE VILLAIN IN THE ROOM I’M SORRY.
One of my favorite things about going to another country for the first time is seeing what the houses are like. I like to watch people coming in and out of them, sitting outside of them, listening to the radio, shucking corn, living their lives, and I especially like to look away really fast when I make eye contact with one of these people, like I wasn’t just turning the poor person into a poem. Obviously in every country there are big cities with fancy parts, and basically all of those people live in condos with lobbies and farmers sinks and walk in closets and flat screen TVs. But when you step outside of the big cities, you can really get a sense of what’s unique about the country and its homes. Here’s a piece of the outskirts of Cusco, from the window of a bus:
What was most striking to me about Peruvian houses was the fact that a lot of them are constantly in progress, being built upon. You see them and think, oh, no one is living in that house, it’s a construction site, there are bricks and tarps. A lot of the roofs have these metal rods sticking out of them which I finally realized (by which I mean, Julien explained) that it’s prep for a second story of the house. I think in America we’re obsessed with presentation, with things being Done and looking a certain way. But in Peru, and certainly other parts of the world that I have yet to see, a house is a thing that is built over the years while you live inside of it.
My sweet mother thought to save some flowers from the wedding and preserve them in a frame! How dear. I share this with you A.) because it really is the sweetest and looking at it makes my heart swell and it most likely will for yeurs B.) FOR THE REMARKABLE WORDPLAY NO BUT REALLY WHEN IS THE GREAT BRITISH BAKE OFF GOING TO HIRE ME TO WRITE THEIR PUNS
I dreamt that my friend showed me her new phone. It was an old school flip phone, small and white like an angel’s marshmallow snack. She showed me how it worked and I watched like I was learning about an artifact. How do you get your emails? I asked. She looked back at me, and smiled wickedly. I don’t.
I woke up REALLY needing to find a picture of the book I learned words from as a kid, and HERE IT BE:
I think this was all of elementary school, opening this owl and shoving its contents into my head. I was always good at memorizing, not so much internalizing. And so when my vocabulary sort of froze at the age, of, what, 24? Is that when the brain stops growing? I ended up with a moderate but far from impressive collection of words. I know no fancy synonyms for moderate or impressive. For a writer, my arsenal is limited. When I read I do so with Dictionary. But every now and then, I meet a word that I like, and it sticks in my head like gum I can’t see. And so I try and trot it out, and it’s usually awkward like trying to make a friend as a grown up, HOW IS YOUR LIFE TODAY, PERSON? But if I persevere (a word that I know ONLY because I have a cousin named Perseverance) I can normalize it and stop saying it surrounded by question marks, like I’m on stage at a spelling bee. And so today, I declare to you, I will use my new words with alacrity, which is just a sharp and beautiful little word that I always say in my normal life, by which I mean, with willingness and cheerfulness.
My American Gods bosses sent me this screenshot of my lil piece of the pie in the show’s opening credits. Maybe some day years from now my name on a screen will make me feel nothing but currently, it still gives me a hot zing of yay which is what I call all good feelings, just in general. COMING TO STARZ 4.30!
While I’m off work, I’ve been teaching writing to some girls in Juvie up in Santa Clarita of all places (where we wrote and filmed Switched at Birth) through Writegirl (nonprofit that pairs professional writers with, you know. Girls.) I am using the word ‘teaching’ lightly because 1.) teaching might actually be to antonym of my actual nature and 2.) first we must get them to even care, like, at all. I wouldn’t even call them apathetic. It’s just that there are so many grander things for them to care about than a poem that might or might not be in the shape of a hat. Just a few miles from malls and 900 starbucks and big box stores, and for some of them their old neighborhoods, the girls are kept in a weird time loop that sort of looks like school meets a summer camp meets the ROTC. They are kept on a tight schedule of classes and seem to care only about when they will get out and bobby pins and what shoes I’m wearing and what they could do with my bangs, given the chance. They’re all working towards high school class credits, but there’s also this paralysis because when they do get out, they’re re-entering the exact same world that got them into the place to begin with. Most seem to not have a moral support from parents, many of whom are also in jail, and so they’re left to their own devices. They could change, be better versions of themselves, resist temptation, but also they are seventeen year old CHILDREN and how strong was our resolve then, really? How strong is it even NOW? I want to help them connect words to their helplessness so that they can sort through their thoughts. I want to not say stupid things to them like YOUR WORDS WILL SET YOU FREE! But also I want them to know their words will set them free in their minds, which counts. But first I have to get them to even care, which, I now realize, is the first part of teaching, or even THE part. It is the whole part.