Baltimore, F&F

hello august

I have been moving, and was without Internet for a bit. I am now installed in my new place in Charles Village, and am unpacking boxes.

The memorial service for my friend who died last month will be on Saturday. I and an old friend have been collaborating on compiling an email list of friends, to share the news and also to ask for memories of him. We met him at a summer program when we were sixteen, so there has been a group of 32 to reach out to. We found 29 of them. Not bad, after 10 years.

I find that every time I have to tell someone the news of his death, I relive the emotions of it again. So she has been helping me a lot. If it wasn’t for her, I doubt I would have tried to contact anyone. None of us can get through much alone.

Speaking of not being alone, my new roommates – all scientists – are a lovely group of people, and very passionate about their work. It’s great to put my head into the biology planet for a few hours.

F&F, poetry

you must count yourself lucky

When grief comes to you as a purple gorilla
you must count yourself lucky.
You must offer her what’s left
of your dinner, the book you were trying to finish
you must put aside,
and make her a place to sit at the foot of your bed,
her eyes moving from the clock
to the television and back again.

– Matthew Dickman, from his poem GRIEF. It is worth it to read the whole thing.

I have been thinking about his other famous poem, TROUBLE, too, of course – for obvious reasons – but I can’t bring myself to read it right now. You should read it too – it is an extraordinary poem, I may have even posted it here before – but you’ll have to find it yourself.



Grief is not something you can look in the face for more than forty-eight hours. Or I can’t. I got out of the house today – I studied, I got my new ID card, I started exploring the luminous resources of the Hopkins library. I filled out the paperwork for my new apartment on St. Paul.

But now here I am, at home again. I took out the trash in the rain, and I came upstairs to the computer, and he is still dead. It really happened.


how many roads?

I got the news of an old friend’s death on Saturday morning, at his own hands, as they say.

I spent this weekend not at Artscape, like all other Baltimoreans, but talking to our mutual friends, stunned and uncomprehending. I haven’t left the house since I found out.
Some of the writers went floating down the river in inner tubes today. I did not go.

I spent today in a frenzy of composition, writing a fifty-page-long story of every incident I remembered from the ten years of our friendship – incorporating emails and all the data I had, to try to make sense of his death. It’s done now.

I thought, initially, that it would be a tribute to him that I would put up here. But it’s far too personal. I may say something about him here, someday. But not now. Forgive me for quoting Orlando Legolas, but, “For me, the grief is still too near.”

No one who reads this blog knows him. But he was twenty-eight, and he was the greatest writer of my generation I have ever known. I know many very good writers. He was the best. And he was also my friend.

I will miss him every day of my life and all the days after that, too.

My father suggested that I go into one of Maryland’s many Catholic churches and light a candle for him – I think I will do that tomorrow. I had to write the story first, but now that it’s done, I could do that.

If you are the praying type, please keep my friend in your prayers. I don’t know why I can’t say his name here, but I can’t. I can’t. But if you pray for the young writer who is dead, I think that will be good enough.

Thank you, whoever you are, you who are reading, for continuing to ride alongside me in this wagon caravan / Big Thunder Mountain / Cadillac Escalade / velocipede / called life.

That’s enough. I’m exhausted – I’ve been writing for ten hours. I hope that now I will be able to sleep. A few minutes ago, Amelia the cat led another, larger, more hostile black cat into my room. I have no idea how they got in, but it was really creepy to see two black cats walk around the door when you only expect one. I shut the door, and I’m going to bed.

Tomorrow I will go to the church and the library. And something else will happen, the day after that.


This one goes out

It’s going to rain soon. An old friend stayed with me over the weekend, and now she has returned to the city to which I always intend to return, but never seem to – San Francisco.

I know she is gone, but I keep seeing her everywhere – once in the revolving rotisserie door of the station staircase, once framed in candlelight negative in the glass window of a train, once talking trackside on a cell phone, once wearing ballet shoes like toy boats. The city is scattered with her stand-ins.

My mother and I discussed the things we forget the other day. We didn’t talk about the things that, in compensation, you remember more than once.


doors open on the night

Dear blog, I write you from the laptop of my friend, slowly poisoning my sinuses with cat hair, preparing to assist her in a move from one Ravenswood dwelling to another Ravenswood dwelling. I have arrived early to steal time on her computer.

I have spent so much time on trains today that I expect the door of this apartment to suddenly sway open and chant, “Doors open on the right.” This entire apartment could start moving parallel to the Red and Brown lines. I’ve been sleeping here to help her in the evenings and mornings, which makes the move-prep easier, but the commute longer.

We have, as one always does when one moves, been using the opportunity of putting her whole life in boxes to take stock of it. She has also been giving me all of her (too small) clothing. There is something so natural about it, though – the impulse to just give stuff away as you go. You can’t take it with you, or if you do, you’ll be sorry. Every tiny T-shirt that she assures me really does fit me is one less she has to carry with her. I cannot say no to them.

Outside, the trains continue to move. The trees are starting to flower.

a propos of nothing, F&F, writing

and if I say to you tomorrow

Take my hand, child, come with me.
It’s to a castle I will take you,
Where what’s to be, they say will be.


My parents recently saw THE SEAFARER @ the Geffen, a play-variation of playing a game with the Devil for your life and soul. I have been thinking of how we know when it is we are going to die, for this and other reasons.

I went out for dinner with a friend two weeks ago, in a Michigan Avenue eighth-floor eyrie hastened from the halls of Harry Potter – a private club overlooking the lake, the lights, and the park. We spent most of the dinner discussing the nature of happiness, which he feels is there for the taking.

I wanted to say, “Friend, some days, my head is a garden for the cultivation of the flower, Despair,” but I didn’t. I think that being a writer, or thinking of yourself as Being a Writer, gives some license to mope around like a Fraggle, license which I have overused. I needed to hear this.

He further told me, Zenlite, that we only know two things:

– you will die
– the hour of your death is uncertain.

I am so in love with the way that last statement is written. This is a formulation similar to but wildly distinct from the Greeks’ “The best thing for mortal man is to never have been born. The next best is to die, and quickly.” It doesn’t hope for death, it only forecasts it. Forecast: Life, with a chance of Death. What does that chance make you chance? What chances would you take if you knew – or what will you not take, knowing you can’t?

If I don’t blog again for awhile, or if I only blog intermitttently from the catch-as-can computers of friends’ couches, I want to at least have left the site standing with some philosophy.

I find, too, that difficult as it may be to remember at moments when, I don’t know, your laptop has perished, that repeating “Happiness is there for the taking” has the inane effect of making you happier. For whatever it’s worth.

The NYT says our friends make us live longer. I don’t know that, but I know mine make me live better.

chicago, F&F, writing

april snowers

Yes, it’s snowing again. This time, the white dots are rushing downwards, like arpeggios.

I’ve spent the day cleaning up from last night’s party, which is one of my favorite things to do – to very slowly remove stains from your apartment that you can’t identify or remember. How did the food get all the way over here?

R&C took over the kitchen at 4 pm and created a TopChefworthy multi-course meal, including clams, grapefruit, salmon, focaccia, and scallops. E surprised me with a cake that was mousse layered on top of a brownie. I haven’t had a proper birthday cake in ages. And they really put 27 candles on it. I have the best friends in my universe or in Douglas Adams’s. No one went home hungry, or sober.

The best part was E singing along with Air Supply, and the other best part was when we found ourselves straining the last bottle of red wine through coffee filters to remove glass from a broken neck. So far, no one seems to have died. C lost one of the solar-system earrings R made her outside somewhere, and now that it’s started snowing, I’m not sure I will be able to find it.

Yesterday was also the first meeting of the new playwriting class I’m taking. I got to workshop the scene which I thought was going to serve as the play-within-the-play. It reads fine, but the instructor pointed out that it both had no dramatic action and also, as plays-within-plays go, was one of the least eventful PWPs ever. He was right.

I’m very excited about working on both the frame-play and the PWP itself, but I get the feeling that this class, rather than leaving me with a finished draft, is going to leave me with unfinished questions.

I am going to brave the snow and go buy an eggplant. If you had asked, I would advise you to do the same. Snow in April demands eggplants.