There are some nostalgic places—memories from childhood turned into idealized scenes—that upon revisiting as an adult are nothing like how they were remembered. Take a trip to Disneyland last December: fighting through hoards of tourists, waiting in lines over an hour long, getting drunk at Downtown Disney to cope with it all only to get on a measly five rides all day was not the joyful place I remember.
Then there are other places that not only live up to the memory but become brighter than they once were. I am at the beach today and it my third time coming here in a month since moving back to Southern California, the place I grew up in but haven’t lived since I left for college at 18.
As I breath in the salty air, the sharp sun and the rolling, cool waves I remember who I am and why I am here. Southern California beaches are where the endless natural world comes crashing against a sprawling polluted metropolis. Natural chaos meets man-made chaos, and in the middle a calm sense of order comes through.
Burning feet squishing through course, hot sand to wet, spongy sand where crabs dig holes and blow bubbles. Salt water crashing frigid against skin then moments later like bath water as the body wants nothing more than to submerge itself whole. Relinquishing oneself to the earth’s magnetic poles as the tide pushes the body in and out, in and out. Lying on sun-warmed towels, relaxed but still panting from the swim. A hat covering the face as the great ball pours down, browning skin, watching surfers, mediating the wind.
Summer beach days were some of my favorite as a kid. Since college, I have been to beaches in Oregon, Northern California, Mexico and Hawaii seeking that familiar beach experience. And as beautiful in their own ways those other water and sandscapes were, they weren’t the same.
When I return to a beach in Southern California, my body instantly knows it. It doesn’t matter which one, from Laguna to Malibu, as it’s not the specific geography, landmarks or people that place me there. It is something about how the sun, sand water and air come together in this part of the world. I feel like I am part of them. That I always have been and always will be.
October 1, 2013 Leave a comment
I don’t normally write poems, but this one came to me the other day when I was at the park.
The moon shows herself
as only a sliver tonight.
But I can’t help but see
the whole of her spherical shape.
the way out eyes want to
fill in what the mind holds onto.
Countless full moon gazes
summoned and consolidated
into the present moment.
But I like to think it’s more than that.
Maybe the heart wants to
see what is white and what is black,
so it creates a fuller picture
of this celestial body,
complete with craters, shadows and landscapes
hiding behind reflections,
far off in the distance but not out of reach.
March 24, 2013 Leave a comment
Are you one day into a vacation to visit your parents and your mom is already driving you crazy? Or maybe she is visiting you, and nothing you do seems to be right?
Does she talk over your shoulder and offer unsolicited advice while you are cooking? “I would add the onions before the garlic, dear. You’re using two cups of water? Well, do what you like but nobody likes soggy rice.”
Does she talk about your potential and how you’re not living up to it, or compare you to your siblings? “You could be making as much money as your brother if you didn’t spend all your time writing stories.”
Does she tell embarrassing stories from your childhood to your significant other? “Can you believe she didn’t learn how to swim until she was 10 years old? All those swim classes spent pouting in the shallow end.”
Does she bring up past disappointments? “Ever since you left that great job three years ago, I don’t know what to talk to you about.”
Does she talk about your faults as if they are “just so cute” and “what makes you, you”? “You never were good at folding napkins, were you?”
Does she make passive-aggressive insults? “I wish your sister was here. Now she could play cards.”
If any of this is sounding all too familiar, I have just one piece of advice for you…
Give Mom a glass of wine.
The irritable mom turns relaxed. The passive-aggressive mom turns cheerful. And the resentful mom turns grateful. One to two glasses of wine will turn those insults into compliments faster than you can finish reading this piece.
Why wine? There’s something about wine that makes Mom feel classy and sophisticated. People that drink wine aren’t lushes, boozers or alkies. They’re just ordinary people—that is, ordinary people with taste.
The quick, sugar buzz of wine gives Mom an instantaneous upper while the alcohol works its way slowly through her muscles and relaxes them until Mom has reclined deep into a comfy couch, and is asking you, “Say, how about another?”
By all means, give her another. She’ll laugh and tell funny stories about your dad. She’ll tell you she’s proud of you and the decisions you’ve made. She’ll tell you she never had the nerve to break out on her own, as you have. She’ll tell your partner all the things you are good at and this time tell the story about how you won the fifth grade spelling bee.
She’ll suggest everyone go for a walk or to a museum or a movie. She will be full of ideas and open to anything—“really, anything!” she will say.
She may get a bit emotional. She may apologize for being too hard on you and tell you stories of how her mom was hard on her, and say “God knows, nobody wants to end up like their mother, but I guess its inevitable.”
When this happens, it time to cut Mom off, because things might start turning sour. One more drink and you may find her weeping and swinging to the opposite pole, lamenting about how none of her children appreciate her.
Keep Mom at two glasses of wine and you are in for a pleasant evening. The cooking will be drama free, the dinner conversation will be light, and all in all you will be pleasantly surprised at what a charming, sweet person this woman that gave birth to you truly is.
It’s not her fault you irritate her so much and bring out her worst, but it’s not your fault either. So save yourself and her the drama, tears and grief. Give her a glass of wine, and have one yourself. Because, hey, you’re not perfect either.
March 16, 2013 Leave a comment