location, Poland

see what I see

Inside, the light switches are large, the size of Post-It notes. One room is red and one is green. The kitchen is narrow. The windows stretch from floor to ceiling. Something about every object, every dimension is different. I can’t forget that I am here.

Outside, there is graffiti on the walls of tall buildings, and a tram stop round the corner, covered in trees. Behind the tram stop is a towering wide building with the crowned eagle on the front. The sky is dark, very dark. As you ride the tram towards Market Square, you start passing one extraordinary building after another. And once you get out and walk, you forget that cars ever existed. It’s a square made for people. Some of the alleys behind the main square, it feels like you have to turn sideways to walk through them. There are cars, but they navigate with great difficulty. Hundreds and hundreds of people are everywhere you look.

Every day, it is warm and sunny, and every night, rain comes torrentially and suddenly. You can see the clouds moving.

Judaism, location

to remind us of days long ago

Sitting in a Wroclaw cafe with Rachel, writing on laptops, it’s easy to forget where I am. The room is dark, full of couples, lit only by a few lamps and a taper on each table. I fall into the rhythm of thinking about theater and ignore history for a moment. I let my gaze narrow to my screen.

But then a woman comes to our table and lights her tea light off of our taper. She holds the wick in the flame until there are two flames. And I can’t speak. I think of the myth of Hanukkah and the Maccabees. I try to tell Rachel the story. “The oil,” I say, “the oil lasted, they lit all the lights from just the one light. The light in the Temple didn’t go out.”

I can’t tell the story. She knows what I mean, though. About survival.

Judaism, location

this is what it looks like:

Poland. I feel like I’ve seen it before. The buildings are weary but the business signs are shiny and new. The reds and yellows and blues of commercial signs sparkle over an exhausted history of one occupation after another. Alleys that seem like they must have known death, which lead to cafes full of candlelit windows. Graffiti is delicately scrawled on the stones. There is rain in the air. People are laughing. The trees are so bright. I feel like I can see all of the different histories around me, centuries of war reflected in the glass tram windows. Kings and constitutions and bishops. I stare hopelessly at everyone who walks past me, wondering.

The train runs alongside the river, greened over with trees, and I can’t stop looking at all of these faces. The Lithuanians, Belorussians, Poles, Czechs, Jews, Catholics, Protestants. The Russians and the Ukrainians. I just want to watch them and be silent. I want them not to know who I am.

It is enough to be here and look.

Judaism, location

The past present

Since I left O’Hare last evening at 5 pm, people have been speaking to me in Polish all day, as if they expect me to understand.

I spent the entire plane flight reading the Cambridge Concise History of Poland, and learning more about the contested boundaries and ethnic divisions of this region of the world. I knew the country had been divided many times, but not this many. My head is multiplying with ten-year-old queens and Hapsburg alliances and tripartite divisions, the liberum veto and the Warsaw Pact.

I have spent most of my life thinking of Poland primarily as the site of the second World War. Poland was like a dreidel of history. A Great Disaster Happened Here. Three brothers came to the United States in the thirties, escaping the war and continuing my family. One spin, and everyone they left behind was lost.

But now that war, that trauma, is contextualized in a history of wars before and wars after, scramblings between dukes and kings and countries. The country was divided so many times it looks like a pie chart.

chicago, location, ovhd, poetry, writing

Speaking of roses

After a long dry heartless and unfathomable spell of silence I thought of another line of a poem last night – I thought that the stars were scars on the sky’s face. Although this is a personification, it does not bother me, because it is a comparison both in rhyme and in content.

It’s probably not good for anything. When you take time off and have to start up again you always think of such bland stuff. Stars, roses, the moon – too much poetry about all of them. Blah.

Speaking of roses, I was in Letizia’s on Division last week, which may as well be last year for how different it is from this week, and a man was handing out pink roses from his garden to all the girls in the muffin line. Chicago springtime – exuberant. Excessive. My friend from the yoga studio calls it “overcompensating,” and she makes it sound like she’s talking about a short man with a big car.

I took a rose, and the man behind me struck up a conversation about roses, and he couldn’t remember the Shakespeare line he wanted to remember, which I was able to supply to him, having assisted on ROMEO AND JULIET.

“A rose by any other name would smell as sweet,” I said.

He looked at me like I had memorized the OED. I have never impressed anyone so much with so little.

Sometimes I think that if I could only remember everything everyone has said to me, all the conversations with strangers – like the guitar player in the Seattle train station, like the Coors employee in Colorado, the woman in the bathroom in the basement of the downtown Chicago library – I would have enough material to write for the rest of my life.


do not pass go

Spring: fever: after fearing it and wanting to be nowhere nearing it, I am dying to be on the move again. There, I said it. Outside, there is thunder, and every dog in the city is restless. I am, too.

Tonight, I worked a desk shift at a friend’s newly opened yoga studio, Urban Lotus, in an enormous loft at Chicago and Sacramento. (All classes free there for the whole month of May, BTW.) The light up on the second floor was so beautiful, it reminded me of Ashland, Oregon – doing yoga down on A Street with the mountains watching on either side.

It’s amazing how a simple thing like walking up a flight of stairs can change your vision. Sometimes we all need to just change the location of the scene we are playing.

location, los angeles

and the hills of los angeles are burning…

From GoogleMaps: A massive brush fire, dubbed the “Sayre Fire,” has flared up in the hills above Sylmar. The entire area north of the 210 Freeway and north of the 5 Freeway near the State Route 14 interchange is under evacuation orders, extending east to Hubbard Street and Pacoima Canyon. The 210 Freeway has been closed in both directions between the 118 and the 5 freeways.

Created much-needed “Los Angeles” category with this post.

chicago, location


I unrolled myself from my second bus, and came in for a very well deserved drink after a day of simultaneous babywriting and grantsitting – no, wait – and I overheard two musicians at my cafe talking about a local independent record label, and I know the owner – I’ve met him twice. It’s a small community here. I knew who they were talking about. I was connected to someone who’s someone in the Chicago indie music community. That feels pretty good.

I’m coming to the end of my time as a nanny. I’ve been working part-time as a babysitter for an eight-month-old girl to help pay the bills. Between that and all this theatrical grantwriting, my income has finally caught up with my bills, and I’m able to stop that at the end of this week. It’s nice that just as that starts to happen, I start to feel like I know some of the artists here.

Babies are usurpers of metaphors. Today, the sky wants to rain but can’t, like a child that wants to go to sleep, but can’t. The windows on the bus are foggy, like they were in Denver. And I miss Los Angeles with all the teeth in my skull, but Chicago is pleasantly distracting. Again, like a child. It’s here, right now, so I suppose I have to pay attention to it.

I’m going to set up the back room of our apartment like a rehearsal room this weekend.

location, travel, writing

the enterprise is docked in the lobby

Writing in a hotel lobby makes me feel like a character in a noir novel. There’s a canned version of “Summertime” on piano coming in through the speakers, fake and inappropriate and poignant in the rapidly cooling fall weather, and an unused massage chair behind me. Upstairs is my employer and her baby, and her assistant, all now asleep. Behind me, Minneapolis executives (the only people chilling at this hotel mid-week) drink and talk.

A: No, that’s not the story!
B: The story is, the story –
A: The story is –

I sat outside talking to my friend on the phone awhile, and someone pulled up in an SUV to ask if I needed a ride somewhere.

“No,” I said, “I’m staying at the hotel. Just talking on the phone.”

“Okay,” he said, and drove off.

It’s only in the Midwest that anyone has ever offered me a ride from the side of the road, or expected me to take it, without feeling like someone was going to get brutally murdered. I still don’t hitch, but it’s amazing that here, people even offer. It’s surprising that there’s a place in this country, a city, even, where that exchange is more about friendship – “guest-friendship” – than fear.

So I’m inside, and I write, things I’m supposed to be, things I’m not supposed to be, things I’ve never heard of before, the only way I ever get writing done – between 11 pm and the morning.