Does driving make you anxious?

She would never erase her brown spots

She is tall and willowy. To talk to her I look up towards the Colorado sun. She has a small dog and a small-ish kid with very blue eyes and I am asking her about my face. Generously she overlooks the enormous bloody scab that I have created trying to solve the problem of a clogged pore. Instead she looks as I trace my finger over the splotchy brown areas that caused Leo to ask if I were turning into a giraffe. “No” I told him “I would have to be a whole lot taller.” Today I am feeling part optimist and part hypocrite as she describes the way she, as a medical aesthetician, will use the “good stuff” on my melasma. She has just finished a seminar on melasma. I am in good hands. This is the optimistic bit. Erasing the marks of life on my face is where the hyprocritical part comes in. I have written articles and posts against botox, urging women to fill up on their laugh lines rather than fill them in. Now I am seeking a medical eraser, one to subtract the years of teenage birth control pills and decades of sunshine. It is not very different. I could have had it wrong. I don’t feel as though I am turning back time, but rather turning a fresh face to the next few decades. I stand taller. Then she tells me where her office is. And I sink down into myself. It is out of my two mile bubble. I am anxious to drive.

I will never get there.

Photo by Mike Wilson on Unsplash
This make me anxious. You?

Some of it I come by honestly, I have terrible night vision. So bad in fact that I suspect I am legally blind. I have not had this theory confirmed by an optometrist. There are probably no eye doctors in my approved area of travel anyways. I also have a rotten sense of direction. This is a bit of a chicken and the egg issue. I don’t know where to drive because I don’t drive. I rely so heavily on GPS that after three years in Denver I am still using it to navigate the two turns to the boys’ dentist. Which is in the same building as my doctor. And my pharmacy. The car navigation system is such a part of our life that the boys have named her Pam (map backwards). One evening we drove to the beer garden for dinner which has a pretty good landmark, a full sized jet parked in front,  and is one parking lot away from the dentist. Steve drove us (of course) and from the back seat I heard a small amazed voice. “You can get there without Pam dada?” It was a miracle. Even more surprising than the 8 nights of Hannukah, or that one time Oliver found his shoes on the first try.

Not anxious to drive or fly.

Last night we had a dinner party to say goodbye to my cousin and his new bride. There were ten of us and we sat on our small patio and made paper airplanes and toasted the couple who would be heading off the next morning at 6 am. Despite an actual tearful goodbye there were some nice parts of the evening. (Boy did I want to use the word literal in that last sentence.) We got to talk about our next big gathering, an engagement party for my other cousin. With my love of cheese and cloth napkins I have been tapped to help with the party planning. My aunt and uncle will be hosting in their house in Boulder. Boulder is 45 minutes away and I have been there dozens of times. My aunt asked me to drive up to figure out the flow and layout of the party. I froze at her reasonable request. I couldn’t get there. I mean, I could, but I wouldn’t. I wanted Steve to drive me. I spun it as a foothills hike for he and the boys and just incidentally I would plan a party. This was a strong idea, I wouldn’t have to drive AND I wouldn’t have to hike. But with his work and work travel there was no time to make the trip together before the party. I had no solution. Except the obvious one. I would have to take myself. OR. I looked over to my cousin. It was his party after all. Maybe he could drive me.

“Sure” he told me shrugging his linen clad shoulders. “No problem.” It was like someone told me I could skip my root canal. I would not have to drive to Boulder over overpasses, or past substations, through parts unknown.

I stand at the counter picking at the gluten free cheesecake thinking about my mental map. The places I love, the places I know, are lit with a glow as bright as the sun but easier to look at. There is Vermont and Truro, Anna Maria and Denver, a super small portion of Istanbul, Summit County and that one block in Florence.  I have always thought about my map in terms of these happy bubbles. But now I focus on the space between. Those spaces are darker than the circles were bright. The darkness is as thick and endless as the edge of the barrier reef that I snorkeled in Roatan. It was as if a piece of the world was ending and if I swam just one more stroke, took one more step, drove on more block, I would end too.

This, I realize, is unreasonable.

Photo by NASA on Unsplash
Like this but without the connecting threads. And with fewer bright spots.

I have written about gender bias in driving before, and my research showed that women are in fact not worse drivers than men. But perhaps they are more scared. My sample size of one confirmed this theory. I looked up from my cheescake and asked the woman who was about to drive from Denver to Monterey tomorrow morning “are you afraid of driving.” She paused, her dark curls falling forward. “Not really.” “But I don’t like to drive with anyone else in the car with me.” “Because you might kill them?”  I asked, as full of tact as possible. She crossed her slim brown arms in an unconscious gesture of protection. “No. Of course not. I’m just anxious they will notice my driving and judge me.” That was different. She didn’t imagine herself just driving off the road the way I did. She wasn’t afraid of rolling into some abyss. Then she continued slowly. “Maybe I am afraid. I think maybe I am. I would rather not drive.”

Photo by michael podger on Unsplash
On the web is better than on my shoulder

My aunt nodded. “Of course I don’t like to drive.” She is soft spoken, gentle, but about this she was firm. There was one other woman there. The one who had just reached across the counter to pull a large spider off of my shoulder without a break in her conversation. My cousin looked at me and said “she is more of a man than I ever will be.” I wanted to chastise him about his perpetuation of gender stereotypes but since I was working through one of my own I kept my mouth shut. She seemed fearless. Was she afraid? But the conversation she had not interrupted to protect me from a painful venomous death was serious. They were talking about their work, about life changes, about those late twenty years where you are getting married and moving and switching landscape architecture firms. About dentist board exams. About their own versions of the abyss, and how they will navigate them.

I noticed that none of them were staying in place. None of them were protecting the comfort of their bubbles. Instead they were driving forward, taking a bit of the light of this life into the darkness next place.

I have something to learn from them.

What about you? Are you afraid to drive? Is your life smaller than it might be?


There are lots of places like home.

Our time away from home was all about home.

Oliver and his friend used to eat Creemees every Wednesday.
Oliver and his friend used to eat Creemees every Wednesday.

We started in Vermont. I was sort of crushed by it. Unlike last summer where Vermont was wearing its sunshine finery it was grey and chilly for most of this visit. Last year we went tubing on the lake, to outdoor concerts, and BBQs at the yacht club (whatever you are picturing when you read the phrase yacht club you are incorrect- it is quite un yacht like.) This year we shivered. Even so as we branched onto Falls Rd at 11pm past the literal country store with its sign for Maple Creemees I began to cry. And it wasn’t 100% because I forgot to take my pills that day. It was for a time and place lost to us. It was for my little boys who had grown medium and a town which was a postcard come to life. It is a place where I knew individual trees and had helped veterans craft the message for their monuments. Now we were outsiders.

Don't those stairs look tiny?
Don’t those stairs look tiny?

Except of course we weren’t. In the light of day (slim and grey as it was) we were swallowed back. Breakfast on the farm, sitting by the pool, eating in restaurants owned by friends the farmers market. It was the same stuff, just a little colder. Steve sent me a video of the boys sliding down the stairs of city hall in Burlington after a lunch at Flatbread. The stairs had gotten smaller. Of course they hadn’t. It was the boys that had gotten bigger. Almost too big to slide. Walking with Oliver’s hand in mine he remembered things. So so many things. The video he filmed to educate crossing guards, the tree he fell from, the bridge he built, the favorite food spots, the trick or treating. He didn’t remember the days inside in the cold, or the time the smoke from a Montreal fire drove us inside from the playground. He didn’t remember all of the days that were the same as each other as we worried about what was for dinner and whined about bath time. We had frozen Vermont into its best bits. So I traveled the whole emotional spectrum as I drove the familiar roads past crumbling barns. My sense of place was lost, then found in memories. As usual I dragged my family to real estate showings. At the first house Oliver wept. Please, he pleaded, please can we move back. I didn’t bring him to see any other houses.

The boys found some of these eggs still warm under hens.
The boys found some of these eggs still warm under hens.

We decided to re-claim a little slice of Vermont. We would spend summers in Shelburne and all of the other seasons (which magically actually do reveal themselves as three) in Denver. So 15 minutes before we hit the road for the cape Steve and I whipped through a 2 acre property with a huge yard and woods to the river and decided to put in an offer. So much for putting our move in perspective. We drove for about 45 minutes in silence to make sure my excitement wasn’t going to unduly influence him.  We stopped at our friend’s farm to see her piglets and take 2 dozen gorgeous eggs to the cape. She calls her farm “Next Chapter Farm” which is perfect for her and, I felt, instructive to us. As we drove away Steve turned to me with a shining face. “I think we should do this. I think this would be really great for our family.”  So I sent the text and we made an offer. Two houses…and hopefully two homes.

Pretty much what we do at the beach.
Pretty much what we do at the beach.

As our rental car crunched on the gravel of the beach house driveway that evening I wondered if my mother would be there. For 14 years she would meet us at the end of the weathered grey walk making the same chirping excited sound as she reached both for a hug and a suitcase. Then last summer it was different when her partner was in the hospital and she on crossed the bridge from Boston to the cape one time all season. They both have houses here. It was where they met. This year he is as well as a 90 year old can be, walking the dunes down to the water, working, enjoying the ice cream. Even though there is no hospital she doesn’t live here anymore. She lives with him. When she leaves us to go to him she says she is headed home. Then she pauses in confusion. “I don’t know what to call it.” She tells me. But I know what she means. He is home to her.

Boy with fish spine
What freaking spine is that?

We stay for 2 weeks on the beach. The low tides are not quite low enough to find as many critters as usual, so Leo doesn’t kill any wildlife. This time he finds them washed up and dead. Decaying horseshoe crabs and smelly fish spines. It was a huge spine. Despite his scrubbing it had to leave the house as well. We host a few people. Cameron, who always sparks a debate in our family about whether he is a kid or an adult, brings a friend and they take the boys kayaking. Leo seems particularly dedicated to slotting people into age groups. At 9 almost 10 he has researched the phrase “tween” and decided that the majority of sources grant him that status. I am tempted to agree as he tries on teenagehood much more frequently than his unflappable brother. Finally he has a ranking system in place. Infant, toddler, child, tween, young teen, teen, young adult, adult, and old. It is a verbal version of Ombre, the divisions growing further apart and darker as he continues.

The not teen, not adult, my college friend, her daughter and lobstah.
The not teen, not adult, my college friend, her daughter and lobstah.

We have lunches on the deck with new friends and old standbys. Steve makes his office wherever he lands. We have a bonfire on the beach with five families.My father has been gone for 16 years and the best of his work and collection is out in the world. He has pieces at the Metropolitan Museum, the MFA, the Smithonian and many more. Including the cape basement. I hold my breath and head to down to the safe room to inventory my father’s art. This was once a collection that we curated together. (Not the new overused version of curated but the actual literal use of the word.) Now it is a chore. Or many chores. I photograph and label. I dust and sneeze. I think about legacy. What he left for us when he left us. Mostly I think about just getting this done and getting back to my book. I rarely read here, generally the house is full, vibrating with the breathe and plans of a dozen people. For all but a small handful of days it is just us here.

Who could get angry at that man? Not me. Not for long.
Who could get angry at that man? Not me.

My mother watches the boys one night while Steve and I head out to dinner. We start out with oysters in Wellfleet village. Or he has oysters. Despite my love of steamers and mussels oysters still feel like I am swallowing someone’s detached tongue. After wandering the shops and somehow managing to leave empty handed we drive back to Truro for dinner. We go to our favorite spot. The one where we decided to have the third kid that never came to be. The one where we held hands across the table because we couldn’t stay apart. This time we fight. It is so rare for us to fight that we barely know how to do it. I find myself aware of the family at the table next to us. I am worn thin and uncharitably begin judging them. I don’t know what they are doing here in the outer cape, which is scrubby both with pines and people. This family is polished. For all I know this is their big night out and the kids were in flip flops and three day old t shirts just hours ago. I want to send them to the Vineyard where “casual” is carefully constructed. Undoing its essence. Instead I pull my attention back to Steve, back to our discussion. We are not sure about the Vermont house. We are not sure about his work. We are not sure about our priorities. Not only do I recognize that these are problems of privilege, but I also remind myself how lucky we are that this is such rare confusion. We generally disagree about things so minute as to be funny. Here I am not sure we are disagreeing at all. By then end of dinner we have not resolved anything. Probably because there is nothing to resolve. Yet the energy has left the fight. There is no electric field pushing us apart the way it normally pulls us together. We drive home quietly. Usually we take a meandering route through marshland and oceans. This time we had straight back. Home.

Screen Shot 2016-07-06 at 9.33.11 AM
I can never photograph the magic. But you get the idea.

It isn’t though. All vacation my mother has been telling me it is “my house.” We are sleeping in the master bedroom, we are changing light bulbs and washing windows, we are ordering water filters for the fridge. We are acting like it is home…but it is not. It is a magical lovely family place. It is a place to share. Pushing open the door revealing the huge windows with views of the bay from Plymouth to Provincetown I see my My mother and Robert  rocking next to each other watching the sun begin its nightly bedtime routine. The room is cast in a rosy glow.  They tell us of an afternoon of totems on the beach and report on the unsatisfying amount of protein and vegetables the boys ate. We stand for a few more moments watching the sun slip away. Then it is time for them to go home. I thank them and they make their way slowly to the door. It reminds me a bit of walking down a long hallway towards a stranger. When do you wave or nod? Too soon and you need to duck your head for your final approach steps. It is hard to get the timing right on their departure. I thank and hug them over by the rocking chairs but it is several minutes of moving to the front door. I re-thank at the threshold and again there is a pause, my mother holding the door for Robert then heading down the walkway with his things. The reverse of our arrival.

mom swimming with boys
Unicorn. A picture of me in the water.

Fully packed we take less than the normal amount of sand and head to Boston. I grew up a few miles outside of the city but it never felt like home. I left as soon as I could and have never returned for more than a weekend. I know it is a city many people love. It has sport and architecture and education. It has a park system designed by Olmsted, of Central Park and Shelburne Farms fame. It is smaller than NYC but somehow not more humble. We meet friends for dinner in the South End. Drew is unerring in his pick of great eateries. In Denver he takes us from low to high East to West each meal more exciting than the last. His partner is in Boston for the summer. He is a Boston virgin and is clearly charmed. I know they will move here in a year. Drew grew up a town away from me and it still feels like home to him. In fact the restaurant he picked is “in the neighborhood he would live in.” It has a park with a fountain, and behind the 1800s brick facades I see the glass angle of the Hancock building. I do something I never do and swim in the hotel pool with the boys. I understand the idea of baptism. Moving from one place, one stage to the next.

boy jumping into river
Oliver jumps into the river at Steve’s favorite spot.

The next morning we fly to Indian River. Well, obviously we don’t fly to Indian River because that is impossible. We fly to Travese City and drive 2 hours to Indian River. This is where Steve grew up. He takes us to the green docks on the river where he cooled off in the summer. He showed us state parks and lakes. We slept in his childhood bedroom and Leo sorted through his baseball cards realizing with dismay that the Rockies were not represented (which might be the first time anyone really wanted a Rockies card.) The boys had a great time. It was hard for Steve. He lamented lost trees. His wooded neighborhood had been truly stripped bare. Behind his mother’s large lot there was mini-storage and one of those frighteningly large power poles. Along with these changes came upgrades. There was a rail trail that led 50 miles in either direction. The small park had a fresh playground. The main change though was that his father wasn’t there. He died over 3 years ago but this was only our third trip back. I know he could see him there. Echoes and memories. Also there were tangible signs of his absence. The siding was peeling and the septic needed repair. Steve’s happiest moments in Michigan were when he was sweating in the sun tearing apart the deck to reveal the septic system. It was ready to be repaired now.

Screen Shot 2016-07-06 at 9.25.03 AM
Father and son and sons.

On our last day in Michigan we went to the cemetery to visit Steve’s father’s grave. It is decorated with flowers but not by a headstone. I imagine that permanent marker would make things just that. Permanent. His grave is in a shady spot adjacent to a golf cart path. He was a golfer, and a coach, right up until the end of his life he was the volunteer greens keeper for the course that flanks the cemetery. They have brought him home.

Home. At least one of them.
Home. At least one of them.

Now we are back. I am back in Denver. I already weeded most of the front garden. I walked to the back patio to look at the lemon tree and hibiscus, the tomato and sweet vines, the snap dragons and tall grasses. They were all alive in their pots. My cousin and 4 other families had tended them while we were gone. Now we can take care of them. We are home.

Echoes- nothing really ends

Woodpecker sound echoes
This woodpecker doesn’t look as loud as mine.

For weeks I have been woken by a woodpecker. Sadly, not my husband’s. It sounds like construction inside my head, its knocking not quite rhythmic making it hard to sort out neatly into dreams. The sound echoes off of the strange slants of my bedroom ceiling entering my consciousness the way the bird enters the ailing tree.

Awake earlier than we want my husband holds my hand and gives it a light squeeze. I feel a rush of pain and remember the injury I sustained rolling around on the floor at a dinner party. It was a post season celebration of Destination Imagination, and the parents had got to act out our engineering challenge of building a paper tower. If it sounds confusing it was. After failing to build a tower we then needed to play the roles of paper and paper clips in real life. As a method actor in childhood I understood the mindset of my crumbled paper and threw myself into the part. Body folding in ways it shouldn’t I tossed myself aside flinging out my arms in utter desolation. Doing so I whacked the top of my hand on a coffee table and sustained some sort of odd acting injury. If you think I was the weirdest adult in the room I have video evidence that this is not true. I don’t quite know how a post it tower can be phallic, but acted out by 40 somethings in some way it could be. Who knew that the reverberations of two years of our children working and playing together would result in one of the worst videos ever. Or that a handful of months later I would still be nursing my hand.

Echoes of placeThis weekend I spent two days in Boston at my mother’s retirement dinner and symposium. Amongst academic talks deans and students and professors came together to express their appreciation for the way she shaped their careers and their lives. From my pre teen years I have teased my mother, picked at her quirks. At its best my ribbing  was affection, its worst destruction. She is still often a punch line and material for my writing, as well as my therapy. This was a wonderful weekend as a string of toasts that revealed to me the richness of her work, and patience and dedication she was able to show her field, her colleagues and herself. At the end of the day she told the story of arriving at Radcliffe at 17 and how she grew up at Harvard.


I grew up here – and as it turns out have grown (almost) old here. I can trace the stages of my life in paths and buildings. I knew from the moment I heard my first Stanley Hoffmann lecture in “War” in Emerson that I wanted to do this. I was an undergrad in Social Studies at a moment when every seminar turned into an anti-Vietnam teach-in. Each moment of my life has its physical spot. Studying for exams in a bathing suit on the roof of Barnard Hall; my dissertation defense in the basement of the faculty club, my first love affair in Winthrop House, the yard where I pushed Anna’s stroller, classrooms where I struggled to deliver my first lectures, and then after laptops, invented ways to keep students’ attention. In this list of memories tied to Harvard there is the exhibition of my husband’s collection of Chinese Scholar’s Rocks at the Sackler shortly before his death.

I can say these grounds and faces were for me what the associations of home town are for others. I’m not alone in this. It’s bizarre, I know, but I’ll quote Hegel on the Greeks: “Their grand object was their country in its living and real aspect; — this actual Athens… these Temples, these Altars, this form of social life…these manners and customs.” This geography, its concrete particulars, is identity.

Her life will go on and so will Harvard. Yet they will forever feel the echoes of each other.

the end of the echoes of musicKilling time at the airport for my flight home Prince’s “I would die 4 u” played at 9 am. The soundtrack of my coming of age was made up of Price and David Bowie. This has been a tough year for magical musical men. My birthday present from my first serious boyfriend was the Sound and Vision Box set, complete with a laserdisc a decade before I owned a DVD player. I would open the box to stroke the disc, looking at its unmarred circle imagining us married and playing it together when the technology finally caught up to Bowie’s vision. None of that came to be. But the narrative arc of Ziggy Stardust brought music closer to my main medium of storytelling.  I superimposed my own risks and adventures with the man who stole the moon. In the airport I am literally moved by Prince’s song. I am bouncing, in some ways more and other ways less than I did my freshman year in college. It was the song I blared to wake me from the stupor of inorganic chemistry. There was no way to zone out when I was getting pumped up. My mind is blown that there will be no new music from these men. But it is full of the echoes of the sound (and vision) of what they have created and I have lived.

There it is again. The woodpecker is only searching for breakfast, but it is changing my outlook. More than that it is eating away at the tree, making it less stable with each passing morning. The marks it makes will never leave.

Through insult and injury, sound and vision, working and retiring, acting and living, nothing is ever completely over. It all echoes.


The amazing Street Art of Italy

Bike street art in FlorenceThere is no question I loved seeing David. I even got a butt shot. David butt shotAfter gelato and wine, crusty columns and Sistine ceilings the butt shot was the theme of my Italy trip. Not quite in a literal way.  As we strolled the Roman forum and were herded IKEA like through the Vatican Museum I was noticing the little acts of expression that added their visual voice to history. If the Ufizzi is the full frontal art scene of Florence, the graffiti in the corner is the butt shot. And I like butts. The street art took me from the past to the present in a way that made each city and the whole trip come alive. We were not just tourists to the past, but participants in the every day art of a country full of masterpieces.

Some of the magic of Italy is how the past and present merge. A cobbled lane opens to a vast cathedral populated by revelers in jeans and flip flops. Backyards share Weber grills and 15th century columns. I imagine evening (who am I kidding no one in Italy eats in the evening) nighttime beers with butts planted on the column like a bench. So while my family marveled over chubby angels and the millionth crucifixion this was the kind of crucifixion that caught my eye.

Street art crucifixion In a country of ruins an act that feels ruinous to America is a celebration of self expression and a modern art form in Italy. So when you walk the cobbled streets looking down at the grooves worn by centuries of travelers before you and gaze up at incredible architecture that reaches closer to god don’t forget to look straight ahead at the small personal expression waiting at almost every corner.

Parents, Patience and roaming Rome

When this post goes live I will be in Rome with Steve, the boys, and my mom.

I don’t know much about my time and internet access so I have have scheduled a few posts to keep my blog from staying stuck on a Monday

We are all getting excited. Oliver has packed his carry on…I have made multiple lists reminding me to gather my meds…Leo is talking plane snacks…Steve has printed maps and created spreadsheets of train time tables…my mom? She alternately texts me saying that we should “take it easy, no more than one activity a day” and emails me with requests to set up tours, vatican visits, museum admission, and more. I understand both her excitement and her reticence. It is tough to travel with kids, and with parents. We have different needs, schedules and desires. Plus, easter in Rome. Still we will somehow balance “one activity a day” with seeing the highlights and hopefully the pope. Who I hear will not be offering Mass in English. Isn’t there an app for that?

That said…my mother is not always the easiest person to vacation with, although my boys bring out the best in her. Read on.

The post about parents and patience was originally published on under the title “No Short Cuts.”

My mom looking patient in Florida.
My mom looking patient in Florida.

My mother has joined us at the beach on Anna Maria Island. This is her first time in Florida. It’s also the first time it’s been too foggy to see the Gulf of Mexico, which normally glistens outside our window.

I’m acting as if the weather has a personal vendetta against me. My logical child is trying to remind me that weather systems are separate from any individual human. He’s talking about heat flow, and I’m thinking “how we will cram into this small space without driving each other mad.”

Past family gatherings have involved birthday cakes for Jesus, full readings of the declaration of independence, and climbing onto rooftops to feed crackers to cats. I don’t imagine we will make our odd version of magic this week.

Stuck inside for the second day, my mother watches my son’s science video.

She’s known for pulling away from the curb when I still have a foot on the ground. “I thought you were in already.” She steps over relaxing bodies in yoga class. “Shavasana is a waste of time.” She clears half full wine glasses from the hands of guests. “I thought you were done.”

She is not a patient woman.

In forty years, I have never seen her sit still without a manuscript on her lap. If she’s not working, she’s jabbing the counter furiously with a sponge, making endless lists for her daily grocery store run, or unloading a third full dishwasher.

“Who can wait for a full load of dishes?” She lives between 5 minutes and twelve months in the future. At Thanksgiving dinner, she is planning the plating for the following year. At lunch we talk about dinner. On Monday we discuss Friday – because who has any use for Tuesday to Thursday.

Those are superfluous days.

Back at the beach, she watches the video. It isn’t until after she’s started that we tell her it’s 30 minutes long. Thirty minutes of a ten-year-old explaining the hierarchy of matter. As she nears part four of eleven, I look over at her perched on her stool. I expect her body to be twitching.

Instead she is rapt.

When my boys were born we discovered the friction to her perpetual motion machine. She would lie for an hour in the hammock pretending to to be a lost boat at sea rescued by the dedicated coast guard workers. She read children’s books on repeat.

She slowed her walk to the pace of toddlers.

“I hope your teacher watches the whole thing,” she says, my mother, the Harvard professor. “Of course she will, pronounces my excited scientist.” Hmmm, deflects my mother.

At minute 24 she looks up from the laptop. 80% through – I figure she’s given it her best. But it’s not impatience that interrupted her. It’s the activities of her other grandson, who stands across from her, offering color commentary on the video as he snips bits from a soccer sock he’s wearing on his left arm.

The sock stretches all the way to his elbow and the puff of the heel does not please him. So he will customize.

“What is that?” she asks. “A sock arm.” He answers. She simply looks back at the screen.

“I really hope your teacher watches the whole thing.”

Of course she will,” answers the budding scieintist. “It’s her job,” adds the sock arm wearing long haired boy. “Yeah, right…” she mutters skeptically.

In the twilight of a long and lauded career I imagine she has taken some short cuts.

She’s not taking a short cut today. Even as the video continues to freeze she sits through the buffering without a buffer. Waiting for her grandson to continue to express his amazement over the universe.

Finally, the video is over. The sock arm walks into the big sliding door facing the blank beach. He bounces off with a reverberation and the boy laughs with glee. My mother is on the other side of the door on the phone with her partner.

She doesn’t see him so he bounces again turning his accident into a bit of physical comedy.

On the phone with her partner I hear her sign off. “Dittto.” I interpret this as a response to a lyrical declaration of love. So efficient. Then come her blond grandsons.

“I love these boys,” she tells me. “I love these boys so much” she says kissing their heads in sequence.

And she does. Present in this moment.

How to survive the real Colorado…carry a big stick

Red rock mountains Colorado

Cabin Dwellers

The faces of our Colorado tour guides are earnest. We had just finished the tour of their cabin, walls festooned with Ohms and happy platitudes. There were spaces for yoga. Now we were outside. Our boys were about 20 feet up the incredible rock formations so my attention was about equally split between the hippy settlers, the huge and numerous piles of dog crap and the possible sound of a son crashing into paralysis. I look back to their faces, one eager like the enormous dog and one open like a super moon. They are nodding vigorously sometimes in rhythm, sometimes just off beat until I wonder about destructive interference in the waves of their affirmations.

The Animals

Aspen grove ColordadoSteve is looking at me with an eyebrow raised, the man has his arms out like a shotgun and all of a sudden he is blasting away some invisible intruder. “If you take this place” he tells me “you will need to defend yourself.” “You will need to be armed.”

“For the bears?” I ask this beacon of love and light. “Well, you would never shoot a bear unless you had to…” “But you never know about the people out here.”

I let that sit for a bit.


The Minerals

He told us he would leave behind gold panning equipment and Leo was ready to tirelessly sift to fund our family right after he bought every minecraft add on ever made. Oliver was interested in the sky. They told him he could see the entire milky way, and even without science behind them he took their point. There was nothing nothing nothing here. And that was everything to him. For the first time Colorado felt like home.

We climbed one of the smaller hills and looked down at the pond. Leo grabbed a large chunk of quartz from the ground. “Isn’t it beautiful?” he asked me and before I could answer he continued “I wonder what I could get for it on the internet.”

The Vegetables

stream bedWe walked back along the stream bed and saw trout and fallow raspberries. The gravel voiced woman had told us of sage and lavender, wild onions and mushrooms.  They pointed out the “zoo window” in the kitchen where the animals had worn a natural staircase down the mountain right to the pantry door. While she told me of rabbits and squirrels I ran a disney soundtrack in my head. Then she moved up the food chain to black bears and I couldn’t hear her over “night on bald mountain.” The path to the pantry was a Colorado wildlife highway.


Inside again all of the cabin windows darkened behind tapestries. I pulled them back to reveal aspen groves and red rocks. I imagined a snug fire in the fireplace, maybe with rain falling outside the big picture window.  My kids are tired from climbing, dramamine, and the endless lyrical grate of our guide’s voice. She is telling them about lightening now. How it is not a joke out here and they need to get inside as quickly as possible if a storm hit. Leo didn’t think this was a problem, he can run faster than the wind and maybe he could here. One little dot in the 3 million acres of National Forest. Populated by bears, and birds, and the occasional human visitor who may or may not get their head blown off by the man of the house.

Homeward Bound

boy with stick It is time to head home and the wind has picked up. The field isn’t golden anymore, the clouds have thinned in anger and the sky has lost its blue. Leo shivers in his t shirt as he gathers arm loads of sticks for the ride home. Our host tells us there are plenty of coats in the cabin. “I’ll leave some for you” he chirps. ” Gold panning equipment, a row boat and coats. What else would we need? We can gather our own sticks.

At home the sticks come into our kitchen which for once really does seem snug.

“Why are these inside?” Asks Steve. “I don’t want anyone to TAKE them” Leo responds forcefully. Three hours removed from the cabin the magic has faded. Our imaginary life of bears and shot guns pushed aside by minecraft, laundry and risotto.

But we will always have the Colorado sticks.


I wouldn’t say we have really arrived, but we are here.

The house is both better and worse than I remembered. Worse in that the rooms are smaller, the window sills more rotten, the dead moths more copious. Better in that I can see my way through it. It is more than a putty/paint situation, but less than a tear down. This is my renovation wheel house.

The neighborhood is putting on a show. It has been unseasonably rainy here although we haven’t seen a drop and everything is leafy and green. I hear sprinklers have something to do with it, but so far the dusty desert has not shown its face. Walking the tree lined streets with my head swiveling side to side to take in the 1910,20,30,40 2014 architecture it feels like it could be home someday.

We eat dinner at our friends’ house,the boys running back and forth the the playground. Their neighbors enter through a back gate, mojitos in hand. Their chairs are red and modern for the accrual brick and mortar room and board store less than a mile away. They have invited our new next door neighbor to dinner and he reveals himself slowly. Most of the way through dinner we are all laughing and I feel a sort of settling.

The host asks about my blog.

I haven’t been writing here. As you undoubtably know. I haven’t figured out what I want to do with this. What it has meant and what it could mean. There is something about this fresh start that makes me hesitate about sharing shelburbia with the new denver people. Do they need to know about my depression and diet, my views on sex, hugs and answering machines? Could those be stories to tell in person over dinner tables, in real conversations instead of written ones?

I’m not sure yet. So I hesitate before answering my host. In that pause my new neighbor chimes in…the one who will live six feet from my bedroom…”can you believe these people who just say anything on these blogs? Just tell everything about themselves?”I laugh.

“I’m not sure we are going to bethel best neighbors.” I tell him.

And in that moment I realize that blog or no blog it will all come out eventually. “What do YOU write about?” He asks.

The table buzz has quieted. There are many eyes on me. Steve’s are amused. My old friends are supportive and a bit wary. The young la friends are open and interested. And the neighbors? I can’t quite read him.

“Money, sex, depression, parenting….and tomorrow you can read about you, and this dinner.”

I can read him now. He is not that uptight. “I guess I don’t mind if you put everything out there…I’ll just be careful what I tell you.”

So I have navigated this first meeting. He will be appropriately wary about intimate details, which probably is no changeat all from how he normally behaves. I will work out the purpose of this blog. Or not.

Somehow I imagined that a filter would arrive in this new time zone, but I can tell from this dinner it has not.

During a story about a neighbor thinning the trees in his years because the overgrowth is too thick to penetrate his property I interrupt the story with “a man doesn’t like it when he can’t penetrate his property.”

15 minutes later when I am rounding the kids to go the mojito neighbor introduces himself to me. I had skipped him for now, already realizing that my capacity to be appropriate was low. He works his way over with his oldest son. The boy is wearing a minecraft t shirt so I aim leo at him and try to avoid the “whydidyoumoveherewhatdoyoudo” conversation. I feel on safe ground with minecraft. The dad tells me the son watches YouTube videos. I ante up Leo and comment on the foul language. I am treading on unsafe ground again. I just learned from his wife about the church camp that their kids attend. I should probably stay away from parenting, and fucking bad language. But we are here.

He tells me he turns off the videos when the language gets bad. He has his arm on his seventh grader, I look down at gap toothed leo, entering second grade and say. “I let them watch, I just tell them not to use bad language”

It sounds ridiculous even as it comes out of my mouth. Sort of liaisez faire and impossible at the same time. It is the truth though, and this was the exact reason I didn’t want to meet another new face. When I am tired, when I have mentally moved on from the party, I really shouldn’t talk.

As I Shepard Leo away, thanking the hosts, I hear the seventh grader arguing his case. “I won’t use those words…you swear dad and I don’t repeat that.”

Maybe I will make the mojitos next time and all will be forgiven. Or at least forgotten.

From there to here.

I’m ending my quick trip to la this evening. When a friend texted to tell me it was -8 in Vermont I quickly called Steve to confirm. “Nooooo” he said. “Minus 10”. It was 90 degrees here yesterday. So 100 degree difference. That’s a big, round, significant number.

Sunshine and warmth weren’t the only differences. Obviously. I got to use uber for the first time. And second. And third. I had a celebrity sighting. I had incredible 2 dollar tacos. I sipped iced tea instead of hot tea in the morning. A lovely little break.

I never quite adjusted to
Pacific time so when I was up at 6:00 I was already out of bed for the shaking and the rumbling. It was a lovely little earth quake. So la.

The Veronica Mars screening was excellent. The cast all opted in for the Q and A afterwards. They clearly do love each other. There was a lot of spontaneous hugging and dancing. And thanking. Each other. The fans. The studio.

I was explaining to my nom fan friend that part of what made VM great was the variety of foils that they had for Veronica. She had her father, various boyfriends, friends, and rivals. These different relationships allowed the show and the character to have a depth that is missing in a lot of tv.

As Kristen stood in front of us explaining her relationship with the non profit who was benefiting from this screening, referring to her friends and cast members and current gig she seemed just as multi layered as the teen detective. Standing 5ft 1 (it’s the new 6’2″ y’all) she seemed giant in her enthusiasm.

Halfway through a man started heckling Kristen bell. When I craned around to see who would be doing such a thing it was Dax. With their baby. KB asked us not to take pictures of her baby. That was the only time in 45 minutes that she seemed like a celebrity. Or just a mom.

But then she referred to him as Crosby braverman and they seemed like celebrities again. This is la. Iced tea, great tacos, quakes, and all.

A long time ago…

We used to be friends. But I haven’t thought of you lately at all.

Or rather I have thought of you almost every day for the last 8 months.

Those opening lines are the Veronica Mars theme song. I have always been a bit of a tv junkie. During “sick” days as a kid I would mark up the TV guide (remember the TV guide?) with a full day of television, at times marking first through third choices. This was before TiVo, hell, this was before remote controls, and I would sit on my parents “big bed” with my bunny puppet waiting for the Brady bunch to come on.

Although I don’t think Veronica Mars is the best show ever made for television it is certainly in my too ten, if not my top five and I have watched every episode twice. Once when it originally aired and again in the last month.

I contributed to the kick starter campaigns and read each of the updates carefully, as if there might be some secret within. Three times in the 86 updates there have in fact been secrets. First they announced which theaters would be showing the movie on 3/14 and two friends and I began plotting a road trip to. Either Boston or Montreal. Then that became moot when I realized one of my kick starter rewards was a free download code to watch the movie the SAME DAY it appeared in theaters.

Which was yesterday. One friend came over and with the sounds of smoothie making in the background we traveled to Neptune California to watch Veronica and Logan reconnect and solve yet another crime. In all honesty if you didn’t watch the show I don’t think you would be particularly impressed by the movie. But as Fans with capital Fs Maura and I were in a constant state of near glee as they kept the inside jokes coming as regularly as the pacific surf.

The third surprise I found I the. Kick starter update was the opportunity to donate $500 to Kristen bells foundations and receive two tickets to a 200 person screening tomorrow at noon to see the movie with the cast.

Being the well off dork that I am I went ahead and donated the money. Now I am in the dealt lounge at JFK waiting to board a flight to la.

I’ll let you know how it goes.

And you can say you remember me when….

Why I have so many worms- A lifetime of early arrivals understood

After 40 years of being early to virtually everything in my life I finally figured out why I do it. Or maybe more like how than why.

I drove out to drop off stage one of my document treasure hunt to my accountants office. I allowed myself 2.5 hours for the trip. Is my accountant in Albany? No. Colchester, but it often feels as far, particularly because it is not a route I travel regularly so I have to navigate on the fly. With this I can not be trusted. So I found the long way there, over ice and snow and arrived in the parking lot 20 minutes after leaving my house. So I spent about five minutes finishing the call I was on and then about five minutes dropping off the folder. I didn’t have an appointment, but I had to run it up the stairs to the desk manager.

Getting back into my car I realized I had a full two hours before my lunch date with Steve (and Lara) and so I decided to squeeze in a good will run. The good will was about 30 minutes from the accountants office, but only 10 minutes from lunch so it would probably work out. I’d need to get going right now to be certain though.

Our good will (probably like most of these impossibly huge brand new buildings that are sprouting up in every suburban area) has a drive up port a cochere kind of thing. Generally I hop out, grab a blue rolly basket and unload the clothes, kitchen wares and books into it. The whole thing takes about 5 minutes. Today, however, the assistant on duty was quite adamant that customers were not allowed in the back to get the rolly thing so I stood bedside my open lift gate and waited while he helped the gentleman in front of me determine whether or not he needed a receipt. This can be a detailed and time consuming conversation and in fact it was. I was able to be patient though, I had plenty of time to get to lunch.

After 5 minutes of talking the loader inner came to me and took a look at my offerings. I had them packed pretty well (Steve did some of the packing I will admit) into those reusable clear plastic bins. With the move coming up I wanted to donate the bin contents but not the bins themselves. As I explained this I reminded him that this was where those blue rolly things work so well. “We don’t have any” he told me. This was totally possible as they are often used to sort things “in the back.” Good thing I had planned for this possibility when I calculated whether or not I could fit a good will run into two hours. So, he strategized, he would need to carry each bin into the back, sort them, and return them. It might take a few minutes/bin. I gave him an estimate of 5 minutes x 4 bins + the 2 bags…30 minutes or so. After 15 minutes of cheerleading him I decided to wait in the drivers seat. It felt a little funny not helping him haul the stuff, but customers are not allowed in the back and it was 5 degrees out. So I sat in the drivers seat and played with my phone Five minutes later I looked up to see the guy with the final empty plastic bin on his head, walking in circles in front of the car. This seemed odd. I didn’t quite know what question to ask so instead I walked to the back of the van where the two full bags sat next to the 3 empty bins and wondered aloud if he could carry them both at once. “Of course.” He answered.

When his job was done I thanked him, eager to hit the road.

Now I only had 55 minutes until lunch. And it was almost a full 10 minutes away. No more time for dilly dallying. Its as if all of life is at an enormous airport, with unexpected security lines and weird transport vehicles that you cant always board right away, we all know to allow plenty of time to get to our gates. At the real airport I rush ahead, no shopping for magazines, or peeing, or getting the better coffee in the main terminal. Once I am at the gate I can read, make a list, crush some candy. But until then I need to be moving forward, not just at the airport, but everywhere I am going. This is not news. This drive to travel first and live once I get there made some sense before cell phones. Now it is just a crazy making vestige of a time when a planned meeting was set in stone. So with 55 minutes, with 10 minutes of travel time left until lunch I want to get the travel time behind me…then if I get 4 flat tires or have to exit my car to make some sort of heroic rescue, or slip into some breach of the space time continuum no one will have to miss a bite of lunch.

This time the trip just took 10 minutes. When I pulled into a parking space directly in front of Flatbread without even having to circle the entire 45 minutes were preserved. So I checked my email, sent a few thumbtyped replies, posted about the house sale on front porch forum, tried to dig up a receipt for a rental expense to forward to the accountant, read through the facebook timeline, scanned the twitter btv hashtag. Then looked at the clock. 25 minutes left. I had to almost hold myself down from leaving the car. The flatbread door remains firmly locked until 11:30. Trust me, I have checked. It was still 5 degrees out, I only had 3 quarters for the meter, and I REALLY didn’t want to spend any money downtown. So I rechecked facebook, crushed some candy, approved some comments, replied to some comments. And checked the clock. 10 minutes left. I crawled into the back of the car to make space for the painting I would be picking up after lunch, peeling bits of stickers, and chewed up fruit leather and even a few red grapes off of the van floor. I tried to finger vacuum up the cheetos and cheese bits. I almost got caught between the kids seats. Just lodged in there, and I was pretty panicked because I MIGHT BE LATE. After all of that there was 5 minutes left.

I pretty much leapt out of the car. Dragging myself with my floppy coat and large bag between two salty cars I left strange streaks on the cars, and matching salt blemishes on the bag and me. I climbed the 3 foot snow drift like it was my called and put the 3 quarters in the meter in smooth succession. Remember, I could have dropped them and added time to the journey across the street. But I didnt drop them and there were no cars to hold me up and I crossed the street and looked at my watch. 11:26.

Thats when I realized what has been going on since I was old enough to estimate time and be in control of my schedule. I am incapable of rounding down below 5 minutes. It is simply my smallest unit. Walk across street…5 minutes. Hand the guy at Goodwill the bag…5 minutes. Hand the woman at the desk a folder….5 minutes. Wait at a cross light…5 minutes. Zip my coat….5 minutes. In a long enough string of events estimating 30 second transactions at 5 minutes is going to make you pretty damn early.

If you don’t believe me you should look at my worms.