Monthly Archives: August 2005

I am not so nice to myself these days

Tonight I made dinner for two friends before we ran down to the Ritz Five for a free Philly Film Society screening (“The Thing About My Folks,” Peter Falk and Paul Reiser playing father and son, it’s sweet and funny and sad and endearing and you don’t have to be Jewish or from the east coast to see your own family in it). As payment for the meal, I forced my friends to listen to me, yet again, bemoan the fact that I feel directionless and without purpose. Coming from me, this is not a new story for them.

We walked down to the movies and once in our seats, I started to whine to Ingrid how pointless I’ve been feeling. That I want to be extraordinary and mostly I feel unimportant and like excess in the world. As I was ranting on, I glanced over to her and noticed her that her eyes had started to tear up. Seeing her close to tears, I shut my mouth. She took my speechlessness as an opportunity to tell me that I was not pointless, and that in her life and in the lives of our other friends, I was extraordinary. That I mattered to her. Hearing this stopped me in my tracks, because I realized that the current tear I’ve been on, trashing myself to anyone who will listen is not only damaging to myself, but it’s damaging to my friends, who don’t see me as pointless, but instead see me as valuable and important in their lives. I was stunned. It isn’t often that someone is willing to show you how they see you. Ingrid gave me a brief opportunity tonight to see myself from her perspective, as opposed to my own, slightly warped one (sometimes I feel like I see my personality and the space I take up in the world with the same level of distortion that anorexics see their bodies). I have to admit, I kind of liked what I saw. I’ve been spending so much time punishing myself for the things that I’m not recently, I haven’t spent any time enjoying all the things I am. This doesn’t mean that I won’t slip back down into a little self-judgement and dissatisfaction in the future, but when I start down that path, I’ll try to remember how I looked through Ingrid’s eyes.

bad nap

I got home this afternoon, after church and brunch with friends. I wandered around the apartment for a bit, leaned back into my bed and was sucked down into sleep. In my experience, there are two kinds of afternoon naps. The first are delightful, you sleep gently in the airy light, and wake refreshed and happy to be alive. In the other kind of nap, the sleep sneaks up on you and pulls you in. It has no respect for your plans and intentions, and when you wake, you feel groggy, grumpy and a little blue. It was that second kind of nap I had to today. When I finally managed to rouse myself 45 minutes after I had initially succumbed to my bed’s siren song, I had to fight the sticky fingers of sleep that wanted to pull me back down into unconsciousness. I got up and walked into my living room, and my whole apartment looked slightly altered, as if elves had come in while I drooled and breathed heavily and moved everything a fraction of an inch. Even now, after an evening at an outdoor concert with friends and turkey hoagies, I feel slightly off. I think the only thing to do is go to bed and see if I can’t realign whatever was displaced while I napped.

Everything has a lifespan

When I was 17 (March 1997), my mom and I drove out to visit Whitman College. I had been accepted the previous November and had accepted my acceptance sight unseen. Thankfully, I fell in love with Whitman and Walla Walla (the mini-city in which Whitman exists). I remember driving around in my mom’s minivan, feeling thrilled that I would get to spend four years of my life in such a classic American small town. We drove down one street, lined with beautiful old houses which were becoming decrepit. I was filled with anguish that these houses (which in my mind were works of art) could be left to crumble. When I expressed this pain to my mom, she told me something that has stayed with me for years, that I often repeat to myself. She said, “everything has a lifespan.”

That little bit of wisdom came back to me last night, as I was driving through the neighborhood that, up until three weeks ago, I worked in. At least once a week after work for two years, I would drive along Queen Lane, from Wissahickon to Germantown Ave., to go to my favorite thriftstore. Queen Lane only runs one way, so to head back into East Falls, I would take Coulter St., past Germantown Friends, to get back to Henry Ave. and then Kelly Drive. I happened to be in the area last evening, and took this path to and from Bargain Thrift. Nothing appeared to have changed along Queen Lane, but as I drove up Coulter, there was a glaring void.

There had been a ramshackle old garage on Coulter, near Greene St. It was brick exterior building. The ceiling had crashed in, and it looked like it had been that way for years. There was an old, rusty Buick, half crushed under a roof support beam. It had been there for as long as I had known the neighborhood, and I assumed that it would continue to stand in that location. Every time I drove by, I would glance into the gaping mouth of that garage. I would watch the way the weather influenced the way the light passed through the ruined roof and into the disarray. The snow looked particularly amazing covering the old car, bricks and beams. I always meant to stop and take a picture, and I never did. I expected it to last forever, a modern ruin in a undeveloped neighborhood.

But now, it’s gone, it’s lifespan completed. I recognize it, I understand it and yet I still mourn it.

They played…

“Summer in the City” by the Lovin’ Spoonful on Morning Edition today. Thanks to my dad, I’ve been a Spoonful fan since age 6. He would play a rockin’ version of “Jug Band Music” on his guitar and I would dance around and sing. I’m pretty sure I was the only first grader who was familiar with the collected works of Jon Sebastian.

Hearing that song on the radio caused me to relive a memory that really isn’t mine. It’s my dad’s experience, of the moment in when he first heard that song, on the radio, at the kitchen table of a house he and some friends were living in, someplace outside of Boston, the summer after he graduated from high school, in 1966. He was standing at the sink, doing dishes when the deejay announced that after the commercial break, they would be playing the newest, hottest song from the Lovin’ Spoonful. He turned off the faucet, dried his hands and sat down at the table, to be ready to give his full attention to the song. As it started to play, the teasing preamble of organ and drums pulled him in, then the guitars and vocals blew him away.

I’ve always imagined that room he was sitting in was white, with an old white enameled gas stove and lots of windows. I can see my 17 year old father, his thick blonde hair starting to get long, one tanned arm resting on the table, the other flung over the back of the wooden chair. He is listening to this song for the first time, lost to the rest of the world for a few minutes. It’s an experience that will never be repeated.

Candlelight vigil

I left work this afternoon around 5:30, and walked home through coolish air and into a completely uncommitted evening. I dropped into Salvation Army on the way and by 6:05, was home to fall into the open arms of my favorite brown couch. I puttered for a bit, pulled on my new favorite jeans and ate guacamole and baby carrots for dinner in front of the second half of a rerun of “Stargate SG-1.”
I knew that it would be a crime to spend the rest of this beautiful evening in my apartment, but calls to a friend went unanswered, and as I was staring at my phone, trying to determine who to call next, it rang. It was my mother, who mentioned that she was planning on attending a candlelight vigil tonight to support Cindy Sheehan, the mother of a soldier killed in Iraq, who is camping outside of President Bush’s Crawford ranch in protest to the war and to lament her son’s lost life, a life wasted by hubris. I had played with the idea of going to a vigil tonight, but hadn’t signed up or done a research as to where they were taking place. A quick googling found an abundance of vigils in the Center City area. I picked one, grabbed a candle and headed out.
I went to the vigil in Fairmount, because it felt appropriate to protest the war and stand in solidarity with a woman in righteous pain in the shadow of the country’s first Penitentiary.
I arrived at the vigil and found a eclectic collection of people, standing silently in a circle with candles and signs. There weren’t more than 80 people there, although a few more trickled in over the next ten minutes. There was a cluster of deeply tanned, much-tattooed men and women who showed up on motorcycles. Hippies, young and old. Several families, four or five young couples and individuals who arrived alone. The signs were handmade and a little crude, but they conveyed the message with more eloquence than a professional printing job would have. Two plates of liberty bell shaped ginger snaps traveled in opposite directions around the circle. I was reminded of the power of people standing silently with intention and emotion.
I had my camera with me, and considered taking pictures, but it felt inappropriate for me to take on the role of documenter or observer, when I was there to participate. When I arrived, I spotted Karin, a woman I know from the Unitarian church, who is the mother of one of my buddies, but also a friend of mine in her own right. I stood next to her and lit my candle from her’s. We stood in silence for many minutes, until she leaned towards me and said, “We need a gong or something, to indicate the end!” I muffled a giggle and said, “I’ll give it a couple more minutes, and then we go.” Then one person said goodnight and another took that as a sign to start singing, “God Bless America.” One verse of that and we all blew out our candles and headed out into the night.

More tomorrow on what I did when I headed out into the night.

Go buy it. Now.

The cd has really landed and is available for purchase at CD Baby. So, go, buy it. It makes the perfect Labor Day gift (okay, so what if we don’t normally exchange gifts on Labor Day). If Raina can sell 30 in the month of August, CD Baby will put a track from this cd onto a compilation disc that they send free to all customers. So shop early and shop often.


I used to have dreams about running long distances before I ever became a runner. In my running dreams my body would move swiftly and with abundant strength over fields of grass. I would never feel out of breath, only immense joy in the ability to move my body with such ease and power. Of course, then I would wake up, in my chubby short-legged body and remember that it was only a dream. For years of my life, running was painful and embarrassing. I could never reclaim that exaltative sense of oneness I experienced with my body in those dreams during my waking hours.
Two years ago this summer, with much prodding from my boyfriend at the time, I started interspersing five minutes of running into my walking time on the treadmill. I would venture out onto the parkway to run with him, but in those beginning days, I was still embarrassed of how my body moved, how it jiggled, and how rapidly I would run out of breath. But I began to improve, bit by bit. I kept running after that boy and I broke up, and I turned something that had been ours into something that was mine.
Tonight I went running in the waning summer light, joyous in the cool air. I ran past the Franklin Institute, up the Parkway and down past the Art Museum. Midstride something felt familiar. It was a fleeting memory that drifted past my consciousness and disappeared, like the microscopic sandcrabs you find at the beach that leave only a small pore on the surface of the sand, to prove that they once were there. The terrain was different, pale stretches of sidewalk replaced the field of grass my dreams had conjured, but it didn’t matter. My body ran in life, in waking, like it had in my dreams.

My parents were models

In the early 70’s, when their marriage was still fresh and young, long before my sister or I came on the scene, my parents had brief (extremely brief) stint as models. They had a friend who was a photographer, and needed subjects for a series of pictures he was taking. He didn’t have any money, so they did it as a favor. They spent the day in the hills above San Francisco, dressed in their hippie best, my mom’s long brown hair drifting in the breeze.
These pictures became really popular. I have one hanging in my living room, my parents younger than I am now, laying together in a grassy field with their eyes closed. It was once the cover of “San Francisco Life.” Others were printed on greeting cards and wall plaques, available back in the day at your local Hallmark.
My grandma Bunny (dad’s mom) went to a party once at the house of a co-worker. When she went to use the bathroom, she glanced at the photo hanging over the toilet and was stunned to recognized her youngest son and his wife. Everyone at the party was called into the bathroom to check out my parents.
It’s definitely a unique footnote in the story of my family.