Thursday, July 10, 2008


Remember my mother's obsession with Snowball? Well, I've developed an obsession of my own. Maybe you've seen this video - it's got 5.5 million hits on Youtube and a million since yesterday (at least a dozen from me) - but I'm posting it here because its the perfect antidote to a depressing anniversary.

How cute is Madagascar??

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

One Year Down

The first anniversary of Kyle's death was sometime last weekend. Depending on your definition of "death," he passed on the 5th or the 7th, but when I think about it I start on the 4th, Independence Day, red and white and smelling like grill smoke. Kyle and his friends took a train to the beach for what I think was a concert and stayed overnight. It was the next day, the 5th, around 7 pm, when he fell. I'm not clear on the details. They've been explained to me many times, but in my mind the moving train, the ascending ladder, the platform, the pool of blood, and my brother are a sickly blur. He hit his head, his brain died, and if you believe that life has to do with personality and consciousness, then that's when he died.

They brought his body to the hospital and put it on life support. By the time I arrived midday on the 6th, I was told that he still looked alive, like he was in a coma. Like there might be some hope, when of course there wasn't.

At first, I didn't want to see him. He had hit his head. What if I didn't recognize him? Or couldn't look at him? Or got sick? Or fainted? But by the time I got to him he'd been cleaned up. One side of his face was bandaged, and the other looked just like it always had. His eye was open a bit and it was like if I stared in hard enough, I could get a message through. His hands were warm and a little swollen. His skin was so soft - like mine and my mom's - and he had beautiful wrists. He was all beautiful, even banged up. Dead.

They harvested his organs shortly after midnight on the morning of the 7th. If you believe life has to do with the body - blood and breathing and a beating heart - then that's when he died.

A few nights ago, I watched a new reality show called Hopkins. It follows the staff of John Hopkins Hospital around while they perform miracles and fight with their spouses. It's a good show, but on this particular episode a donor body was being harvested and teams of surgeons and nurses with flashing tools and disturbingly mundane coolers were swarming the hospital bed. I closed my eyes, but in the breathless second before I realized that that's what they did to Kyle. They swarmed him - shouting, messy, efficient - sliced his parts, and sewed him up lighter than before.

So those are the dates. Melancholy fireworks on through the 7th. There's also the 13th - the day we buried him and the day he was born. Plenty to pick from if you're looking for an anniversary. His last trip, his last train ride, his last thought, his last breath, his last moments above ground.

I miss you. Rest in peace.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Bad Blogger


I owe you an apology. I just disappeared, with no warning or goodbye. I haven't responded to your emails. I left important milestones - Ky's birthday (April 13), my graduation (I have a Masters now, albeit in fiction) and the selection of the first black man as the Democratic nominee (!) - unaddressed. How rude.

And I don't even have a good excuse. I got busy with school and teaching, I began using my free time to write fiction again, I had family in and out of town, but most of all I was avoiding. I think avoidance might've been a new step for me in this whole grief thing. As time has went on, Kyle's death actually became harder, not easier, to think about. I didn't want to talk about it. I didn't want to blog about it. I didn't want to read my mother's blog about it. My mom sent me two beautifully framed pictures of Ky, and they sat wrapped in plastic on my couch for weeks before I even looked at them. The whole thing was just too much to deal with on a daily basis if I also wanted to get my papers graded or my manuscript ready for class. So I didn't.

But recently, I forced myself to hang up one of Ky's pictures. I almost took it right down - I could barely look at it for the first week without tearing up - but it seemed right to leave it there. And today, I forced myself to login to Blogger for the first time in months. So maybe I'm past avoidance. Maybe I'm on to something new.

Friday, February 22, 2008

I Heart Derrick

J's dad sent this. It's called Interviewer Picks the Wrong Obama Supporter to Try to Railroad, and it's absolutely amazing.

Viva Obama! Viva!

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Making Our Thirty-Year-Old Dreams Come True

I've been ridiculously busy. Between writing, teaching, school, and watching campaign coverage, I haven't had time to blog in weeks. But I just couldn't let this Hillary video go. It's about as inspiring (and timely) as she is.

"Start immediately on challenges!"

Saturday, February 9, 2008

It Is a Better Thing

Thursday, January 24, 2008

I Heart New York 4

Look at this:I took this picture yesterday from my apartment. I was working on my computer, sitting on my bed (which also serves as my office), when J's eyes got really big and he told me to turn around. Slowly. A hawk had landed on our fire escape, not two feet from where I sat. A hawk.

I've seen hawks in the city before, usually in the park from a distance, but this time the thing landed just a pane of glass away. And in its talons was a freshly-killed pigeon. As we watched, the hawk eyed us up and down, repositioned himself on top of his dinner, and began to tear its feathers out.

J, Justin, the two cats and I sat by the window for a full hour, both gleeful and horrified, as the hawk ate first the pigeon's head, then its heart, guts, and even choked down one whole leg - foot and all. I've never seen anything like it.

The thing was gorgeous, and huge, though its hard to tell from the photo. But if you look closely you'll see it's standing on a pigeon - not a small bird - and you can get a sense of how massive the thing was.

Once it was done, the hawk flew away, leaving our fire escape covered in feathers, bird shit, and the carcass:

It was the most intimate National Geographic moment I've ever had, and in New York City, of all places.

To top it all off, we may have solved the mystery of the demon bird...

GTD from 760***0487:
mir Come to the bathrooms

Wednesday, January 23, 2008


Yesterday was my mom's birthday. Historically, my mom kind of gets shafted on her birthday. Before the divorce, there were brunches and flowers and expensive bottles of Coco Chanel, but after the divorce, it was homemade cards and hastily wrapped books. And even though my dad spent years reminding us not to forget our mother, once we left for college, gifts were sent back late, or sometimes not at all. There was even a year when I forgot her birthday entirely, and didn't remember to call until weeks later. Luckily, my mom is a rare and awesome women lacking both resentment and materialism, and never once has she guilted Kyle or I for our lackluster celebration of her birth. So head on over to her page and wish her a happy belated.

Yesterday was also the first day of school. I don't start my graduate workshop until next week, but I did start teaching my undergraduate intermediate fiction class at NYU. And, as someone who's Googled teachers for years, I'm now wondering at the wisdom of have a public but very personal blog out there. Is it okay for your students to know the date when you last cried? Or that you have a virulent disrespect for Charles Baxter? Or what you look like sitting six feet above your buried brother? Oh well. I'm sure the veneer of authority would've slipped soon enough. Writing gets me excited, and in the last class I taught I blew my cover the first day by breaking into a clapping, beaming, barely-seated book cheer. Goooooo fiction!

In other news, I'm reading for the first time this Friday at NYU's Emerging Writers' Reading Series. Darin Strauss is headlining, which is exciting, so email me if you're in town and want details.

And last, but hardly least, the scaffolding that's been up in front of my building for six months finally came down. It's like God lifted the roof off of the sky.

GTD from 760***0487:
mir goddd. i wish you werent in texas travis is having a huge party tonight i think. uughhh. but i needa talk to ya girliee.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Oh. My. God.

I had a bad day today. I cried over Kyle for the first time in a while. And then, just now, I got this on my phone:

From 217.549.6743@VTEXT.COM:
Hey its ok nvm
Jan 16th, 9:35 pm

Literally, a ghost text.

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

"Savage Thoughts" or "How Everything, Even the Oscars, Has Something To Do With Me"

I saw The Savages. Have you? Stop reading if you plan to, because this post has SPOILERS.

It's a movie about a dying family. Mom is gone, dad has dementia, and their two grown kids are midlife and mateless. Wendy Savage (Laura Linney) is a late-thirties MFA grad and "autobiographical playwright" with a sex life limited to an occassional visit from her married neighbor. She lives alone in New York City with a cat, works a sad and unrelated day job, and applies endlessly for grants she won't receive. She is, essentially, the future version of me I'm most terrified of becoming, with one significant difference:

Wendy has a brother.

Jon Savage (Phillip Seymour Hoffman) is a more successful but more depressed upstate philosophy professor, and he meets his sister in Arizona to try and figure out what to do with their non-functioning father, their meager resources, the realization that soon they'll be all that's left of their family.

Let's stop here for a moment. At this point in the movie, about twenty minutes in, I'm a little overwhelmed. I didn't know anything about The Savages - it was just one of those Oscar-list movies I feel obligated to see - and from the title I assumed it was going to be a documentary about the Bush Administration or some snarky comedy about brilliant and narcissistic English academics locked in a death match for tenure.

But it doesn't take me long to realize, no. I was wrong. The Savages isn't nearly so easy. Instead, it's about the person I am most afraid of becoming facing the thing I most fear armed only with the income I fear will be mine.

I felt like I was watching a well-produced nightmare, a futuristic horror show where between the ticket booth and my seat they somehow uploaded my most well-repressed fears, strung them together into a coherant narrative, and got incredibly talented actors to play out every nuance.

All in all, even if you're not me, it's still a pretty despressing film. Wendy and Jon have to warehouse their dad in an east coast nursing home just in time for the holidays, and they fight and bicker and bend under the guilt of not being able to provide for their father. Luckily (unluckily?), the nursing home stay proves to be fleeting. After just a few weeks there, dad dies.

The Savages return to their respective homes. Jon has allowed the deportation of his Polish girlfriend, Wendy has broken it off with her neighbor, and both are banished to the Desert of the Sexless.

Here, thankfully, the movie takes pity on its abused viewer and allows for one of those "light-hearted" tragic-comic endings:

The last scene is a rehersal of Wendy's autobiographical play. In it, an actor playing her father slaps a boy playing her brother again and again, until the boy rises up, angel-like, over stage. Cut to Jon crying in the audience. Cut to Wendy walking him to a cab. He's on his way to Poland, her play was really, really good, and he will be back opening night. They have one of those tender film moments, one of those shared small smiles, in which the audience realizes that they will be ok, that will not kill themlseves, that while life is hard and their parents are dead, at the very least they have each other.

And this is where I started to cry. The happy ending. Because even worse than seeing my failed dreams and dying parents in Technicolor was being reminded that when I get the call, when I go to Arizona, when I research "assisted living facilities" out of my price range, I will be alone. I will be A McLeod. I will have lost my "s," my plurality, the one thing that kept The Savages from being the most depressing movie made since Schindler's List.

GTD from 724***6601:
FWD:FWD:FWD:FWD:FWD: u send fwds u better send this one if u dont u will never get a fwd again and 2008 will suck send to 15 people in the next 10 min HURRY UP!

Friday, January 4, 2008

Obama Looks Like God

I woke up late this morning. It was freezing outside and warm in bed, I didn't have to work, so I just lay there and thought about Barack Obama.

I was so excited. There was a fuzziness in my belly like there used to be Christmas morning, and I pulled the covers up and fantasized about a sparkling, environmentally-sensitive utopia of postgraduate health care, student loan forgiveness, and generous, renewable, minority-friendly artists' grants.

I know I'm being naive, but I can't help it. I really do think he might be a biracial superhero come to save the world. I mean, just look at him.

Doesn't he look a little like God? Or at least like Morgan Freeman playing God?

So Happy New Year, America! Considering that I'm guaranteed not to lose another sibling, 2008 is already going to kick 2007's ass in my book. But with Obama barreling his black self towards the White House, we all may be about to watch the making of history, and 2008 could be one of those years we talk about for the rest of our lives.