thank the lord for chrome

Fire. I can see it reflected in the coffee maker.

I’m in the kitchen, cooking burgers for me and the young man of the house, when I venture to the other side to toast the rolls. It’s a long and taxing journey to the toaster, but I survive on rainwater and half a box of stale Ritz.

That’s when I see it, this flash of light against the gaudy chrome trim on the Mr. Coffee 12-cup automatic drip machine I just bought off Amazon.

I turn around. I see the fire in the pan; the flames are shooting up. And then I do something really strange. I don’t panic.

Instead, I stand there for a moment, quietly assessing. The flames haven’t yet reached anything flammable. So far, the fire is contained to the pan.

I ask myself what set it off. I answer: the fat. Some dollop must have spat out and up and down, hit the burner, shot back up and ignited the pan.

I see a dish rag sitting on the counter, and I ask myself whether the flames are in danger of reaching it. I answer: Nope. Not yet. Though they’re starting to get a little close. Isn’t that interesting.

I see a puddle of grease on the stove, and I ask myself whether the fire will hit it, burst toward the dish rag and cause a holy hellish conflagration. I answer: Hmmm. I think not.

This level-headed autonomic Q&A occurs over about two-thirds of a second, maybe a second and a half. I’m intrigued by my chilly detachment, but I’m always intrigued when I fail to panic. I’ve done it before, this not-panicking accompanied by a quick, rational breakdown of risks and options, and I find it more than a little curious. It’s as though, in moments of crisis, I am overcome by some heretofore uncharacteristic trait, like a sudden fluency in Urdu or an amazing new capacity for foreign car repair.

See, I am not a rational sort of person. I am instead a gut-first sort of person. An emotional sort of person. A Neapolitan sort of person. A loud and vibrating sort of person prone to slushy over-dramatizing. Hellooooo, arias! “This is why the Italians invented opera,” Mama always said, often citing as bona fides the fact that she married one and gave birth to two more.

But I am not singing Verdi at the moment. No. Instead I am thinking about the fire extinguisher.

I ask myself whether I should fetch it posthaste and promptly squirt the shit out of it. I answer: No, I not yet. Then I ask myself whether I should smother the flames with rags in the closet. I answer: Don’t be a bonehead, that would just make matters worse.

Finally, I ask myself just how I should begin to contain this unexpected combustive phenomenon before it gets any bigger and consumes the kitchen.

And then it hits me, and I answer: JUST TURN OFF THE DAMNED BURNER, GIRLFRIEND. And then I add, for emphasis: DUH.

I reach over and turn it off. Then I stand there about five feet away, doing nothing, waiting half a minute while the fire at my stove patiently burns itself out. When it does, I wipe the fat off the stove, drain the pan, then resume cooking supper.

My son and I eat. I don’t tell him about the gobs of flaming fat. But he swears up and down that it’s the best burger he’s ever eaten, bar none. “Better than Five Guys,” he declares.

A happy boy. No house on fire. Score two for mom.

hot diggity bang

There’s this video floating around the ether — maybe you’ve seen it, but if you haven’t, it’s down below — of a happy Stanford physicist named Andrei Linde being greeted at his front door with news that one of his theoretical babies, something called cosmic inflation, had been confirmed with freshly detected evidence.

From what I gather with my pinheaded layperson’s grasp of science, a team of researchers possessing either sensitive equipment or super-sized ears picked up gravitational ripples that pinged out billions of years ago from the Big Bang. These ripples suggest that the results of said large Bang evolved not in some laid-back, leisurely, bon-bon-eating fashion but in a lickety-splitty instant. And in this instant, all that became the cosmos exploded into being.

I have two responses to this news:

1. Holy freaking wowz!


2. Ain’t science awesome?

Apparently, not everyone is having these reactions. Some creationists are less than impressed, citing the Book of Genesis as proof that God didn’t use the Big Bang to whip the universe into being.

I don’t get this. I DON’T GET IT. How can anyone, especially people who call themselves “creationists,” insist on one narrow and literalist reading of the cosmically butt-kicking Creative Genius behind all of existence? How can anyone can regard a scientific revelation of this order with anything short of wonder? Research that tells us so much about the moment of creation — a moment both impossibly brief and infinitely large — ought to give believers, all of us in every sect and stripe, yet more reason to honor its Creator.

Think about this cosmic inflation business. There was nothing. Then suddenly there was something, a lot of something, more something than we can ever fully grasp. Sounds kind of biblical, no? KABLAMMO! INSTANT STUFF! No sitting around waiting for the heavens to expand overnight like a little blue sponge toy on the counter. It came to be. Thanks to Linde and his colleagues, how it came to be is a little less of a mystery than it once was. We know a little more about its genesis, be it capitalized or not.

I never understood this idea that science is somehow arm-wrestling with religion –- or engaged in an angry and vicious cage-fight, noses broken, chest tats bleeding. I think they ought to get along. Science, after all, is only trying to understand and describe the dimensions and dynamics of all that came to be, all those molecules smashing through time and space from some distant then into now. Comprehending how this universe was made doesn’t mean nobody made it. It doesn’t mean it’s any less amazing. Maybe it’s more.

I’m reminded of a class I once took in physical anthropology –- i.e., human evolution. The guy who taught it was in the thick of a disquisition on randomness and mutation and adaptation and happenstance when some kid in a back row raised his hand and said: “Sooo. . . what you’re saying is: It really is a miracle that we’re here.” And the teacher nodded and replied, “Yes. Exactly.”

I happen to believe that this and other miracles have an author behind them. But what I believe, what you believe, what anyone believes, doesn’t or shouldn’t matter in the conversation about our cosmos. Arguing about it is as futile and tiresome as arguing over the sunset. (It’s red! No, it’s light being refracted! No, you dumbass, it’s red! No, it’s refracted light! Yeah? Well, your mother’s an idiot! Yeah? Well, so’s yours!)

What this bigger-bangy revelation tells us is that truth and beauty are one and the same thing. We can ascribe to them divinity or chalk them up to the sublime creative forces of chance. It doesn’t make a difference.

They’re a miracle either way. And either way, we should stand in awe.

tooting and texting

honk honk.

honk honk.

Back when I was a kid on a lake in lovely, sylvan Connecticut, gamboling through the woods or gallivanting about with friends at their cottage down on the water, Mama used to call me home for supper. Sometimes she just cupped her hands to her mouth and bellowed, “AAAAAAYMEEEEEEEEEE,” and I’d lope up the hill. But sometimes, when she was feeling impish, she used a cow horn.

I have no idea where it came from — my mother’s side of the family, I guess. It was handed down, maybe from her grandmother, maybe her great-grandmother. Someone in Peoria long ago. Or someone in North Carolina, less long ago. Beats me. It’s one of those things I never thought to ask my mother about before she died. Or if she told me, I don’t remember.

But I do remember this about the horn: It sounded like a giant fart.  And when I say a “giant fart,” I mean A GIANT FART, as in, the type of flatulence that might actually be produced by a cyclops. This is why she loved to call me home with it, because she KNEW it sounded like a giant fart, she KNEW it had no musical virtues whatsoever, she KNEW it would embarrass me terribly, and she KNEW one of our next-door neighbors, the one with the dry wit, would venture onto his porch and give her grief about it. “WHY DON’T YOU LEARN TO PLAY THAT THING?” he’d yell.

Why she didn’t come out onto steps with her violin to play the Bach Chaconne with all of her crazy-amazing virtuosity to call me home for supper, I’ll never know. Oh, I know why: because it wouldn’t have sounded like a fart.

In my twenty years of motherhood, I have never used that horn to call my children home, although I have bellowed plenty; mine is a bellowing kind of street, the sort where even if you can’t see your kid you can usually hear him, and if you can’t hear him you can be pretty sure he’s lurking somewhere fetchable by shouting. I’m not sure why I’ve never used the Mitchell Family’s Giant Farting Heirloom for these fetching purposes.

It would certainly beat texting my kids home, which I am appalled to say I now do much more frequently than bellowing. I have made a sad, shameful habit of pulling up in my car to retrieve some child at mine at some friend’s house, or some school, or some other place where in previous times I might have moved my lazy ass out of the car and retrieved them. Do you recall those days? When we rang doorbells? You remember doorbells, don’t you? But my lazy ass is now stuck. What I do is this: After driving up to the location in question, I sit in the car, whip out my evil, lazy-ass-enabling iPhone and text my offspring. And I don’t even text them a sentence. Instead, I text them one word: “here.” I don’t even capitalize the damn thing. Just: “here.”

Maybe, next time, I should bring along The Horn of Flatulence. I should roll down the window, put it up to my lips, and toot like the wind. What do you think? Do you think they’d be embarrassed? Maybe I should learn to play it first.

blinded by the light

the moth program

Life is one huge story — really long, really weird and flecked with beauty. Its hugeness, weirdness and beauties hit me again last night, as I took the stage at the Egg to tell my tale of F.S.O. before a crowd of a thousand at “Lost and Found: The Moth in Albany.” Although, to be perfectly honest, I couldn’t see these thousand people, having been blinded by the light, wrapped up like a douche when I was rollin’ in the night, or whatever Manfred Mann was trying and failing miserably to enunciate back in 1976. (Whipped up like a mousse? Decked out in chartreuse? )

Not seeing the audience was a blessing, it turned out. I’d been told, by the lovely People of the Moth and my equally lovely fellow storytellers, that rehearsal can often prove more nerve-wracking than the actual performance. So when the full-on tectonic body wobbles overtook me during my run-through Friday night, shaking off my cool air of imperturbility along with sizable chunks of past dental work (Hey! I know that filling! That’s from 1997!), I was told not to worry about it. This meant the performance would go well. They said that. I tried to believe them. I did. Then I started shaking again, and I spat out a crown from 2002.

But just before speaking, as I stepped up to the microphone and faced those blinding, douche-wrapping lights, a brief, blessed thought streaked through my adrenaline-spazzed brain: It didn’t matter whether the performance went well! This was a story! This was my story, mine and my children’s, two of them seated among the unseen thousand, and it had already brought enormous gifts my way.

On Friday I had already met with a group of extraordinary storytellers — my old friend Steve and my new friends Mike, Lynn and Shannon — on this path to the mike. At rehearsal I had already heard their stories, glimpsed their broken inner parts and marveled at their pluck. I had already felt, once again, the warmth that comes from moving outward after a chilling loss — making new connections, gleaning new insights, finding new ways to feel alive.

And already, my world was bigger.

Stories do this. They give. Telling them, hearing them, grasping the commonalities between them — it’s all healing, and it can only happen when we strip away our layers of defense and bare our mushy human middles with other people. Whether we bare and share them over cups of tea around a kitchen table or in public, blinking before a crowd, matters less than the willingness to cough them up and spit them out at all.

I’m grateful for the chance to spit them out at the Egg. I’m grateful but fuddled, as always, by the bizarre and magical calculus that tosses up joy in the aftermath of loss. Had my husband not committed suicide, I would not have written about it. I would not have told a story about it. I would not have met the people I met this weekend. I would not have shared moments of reflection, resilience and laughter with friends old and new.

It doesn’t make sense. It never will. But then again, neither does Manfred Mann.

public speaking? scared? me? what? never!

So, in two days I’m going to stand up at the Egg in front of 1,000 people and tell an extremely personal story, and NO, MY FRIENDS, I AM NOT NERVOUS AT ALL. Nope. Not me. I tell personal stories all the time, right? And people read them, right? It’s all just bidness as usual for me. Ho-hum. La-de-dah. And, you know, it’s not like I’ll be unwinding some unfamiliar and overly convoluted and abstruse story that I’ll be trying desperately to remember, and why the hell am I using the word “abstruse”? Does anyone use it? Isn’t it an ugly thing? And you can just forget trying to say it aloud.

But, no. NO NO NO NO NO. I’m not nervous. I’m NOT! No cause for flop-sweats. I’m not in denial, either. And no, I’m not a liar liar pants on fire. Did I mention that I’m not nervous? I’m. Not. Nervous. Public speaking doesn’t scare me. I’ve public-spoken before. The first time I ever blabbed in front of a large-ish group was my first week in college, back when Hamilton required every poor quaking incoming freshperson to deliver a speech before a group of his or her freshpeers plus one terrifying-beyond-description public speaking professor, a ferociously bearded presence named Professor Wright who thundered his critique in stentorian tones and called everyone MR. THIS and MS. THAT.

Or did I hallucinate the beard? He wore one. I’m sure of it. If he didn’t, he should have.

I don’t remember what I said in my sad and feeble efforts at oration, but I do remember that I had bangs, which I almost always had, and that I spent much of my time studying the floor and declaiming to my feet, which I almost always did, and that Professor Wright scared the proverbial penne pasta out of me telling me not to. “Young woman! Young woman! You must LOOK UP and get that HAIR out of your EYES!”

Here’s what I’m going to do Saturday night at the Egg. I’m going to tell my extremely personal story in front of 1,000 people. I’m not going to crack up with fear, because I AM NOT NERVOUS AT ALL. And in memory of Professor Wright’s all-powerful voice and beard, which together spent 34 years terrifying undergraduates out of their worst rhetorical habits, I’m not going to stare at the floor.

And, hey. At least I don’t have bangs.

do i know you?

bumper sticker
I never was someone who knew everyone. For the longest time, I was an outsider: the child of Queens who settled in Connecticut, then the Connecticut kid who went to college in central New York, then the noisy American in Edinburgh, then the New York City J-school grad in St. Lawrence County, then the North Country reporter who moved to Boston, then the Beantown resident who married a fella in Albany.

But that was 1991. After all these years in the City of Insiders, I find that I’ve become one. I didn’t plan on it. It just happened. My late husband and I bought a house. We had kids. We put them through city schools. We stayed put. And, simply by virtue of not going anywhere, I find that I’m on a first-name basis with pretty much all 97,000 residents except for Andrew Cuomo, but he doesn’t count, because he doesn’t seem to spend any of his free time at any of my hang-outs. (Hey, Andy! You getting two scoops of Adirondack Bear Paw? Me, too!)

When I first arrived here, I used to laugh about it – this back-slapping, name-dropping, weirdly tribal interconnectedness that makes Albany feel less like a small city than a really big Elks Lodge. And the more I noticed it, the more the old Democratic political machine made sense to me; how else would politics play out in a place where everyone knows everyone and his brother, his mother, his mechanic and his cat, not to mention his mechanic’s brother, mother and cat, and did he tell you his mechanic’s uncle was married by a priest who grew up on your street? Also, he knows the mayor. But then, everyone knows the mayor.

I am now one of these people. I am an Elk. (No, not literally.) I know every last resident of this city, and if I don’t, it’s a safe bet that I know their mother’s cousin’s uncle’s dentist’s baby sitter. Or the priest that married her. Or the priest’s elementary school alto sax teacher, who, by the way, goes to church with the sister of my daughter’s high school buddy’s ex-boyfriend, whose pediatrician owns a bichon frise she bought from the mayor’s sister-in-law’s masseuse, and here I confess that I’ve completely lost track of possessives and pronouns.

In fact, I am now so much an Elk that, whenever some colleague of mine at the Times Union mentions an interview with people named Whoozits and Whingnutz, my response is: Oh, sure! I’ve known Whoozits and Whingnutz forever! Their priest’s cat baptized my goldfish!

I love Albany; I love its smallness, its Smalbany-ness, its tightness and sense of community. (Read Cailin Brown’s mighty fine piece on this very subject.) And yet living here means seeing the humor in it.

Many many moons ago, I made up bumper stickers for Chris’s birthday emblazoned with the legend “Albany. . . I Like It!” He’d always joked that no one would ever start an “I Love Albany” campaign, because no one would ever cop to it; that would go against the region’s woefully understated sense of its own worth. It’s too close to New York City to feel good about itself: imagine a 5’9″ guy living next door 7’6″ Yao Ming. No matter what you say to him (DUDE, YOU’RE SMART AND CUTE AND COOL, AND YOU DON’T HAVE TO DUNK TO BE A MAN!!), he’s always going to feel small.

I like small. I celebrate it. I’m part of it. Does this make me an Albanian? Probably not. Probably only if I’d been born here, and even then I’d have to trace some strand of my family back 14 generations to some pasty little circa-1614 Dutch fur trader with ruff around his neck. Or, short of that, I’d have to trace my lineage back to the Dutch fur trader’s rebel nephew Spike, who ran off with a hot French chick from Schenectady.

You know those two, right? I’m sure you do. They were married by a priest who grew up on your street.

no thinking allowed

Fed up with the cold and holed up inside, I was blathering on the horn with my dad. I blathered about This and That and The Other Thing, and whether This and That and The Other Thing would turn into More Complicated Things, which would then turn into Worse Things and then Worser and Worstest Things, and whether I should stop these Worstest Things from happening before they’d even started.

My dad listened quietly. He’s good at that. When he talks, he talks like nobody’s business — full-on streams of no-shit truthiness — but when he’s not talking, he just clams up and waits while I Blah Blah Blah. He’s done this the whole time I’ve known him, which is pushing 37 years now. (I met him not as a newborn, when I wasn’t yet monologuing, but as a banged and squinty 13-year-old.)

At one point, I paused mid-blather for an inhalation of oxygen and exhalation of carbon dioxide. My dad used this life-maintaining instinct to save me from myself.

“Stop thinking so much, Ames,” he said. “You’re over-thinking everything.”

He was right. I’d been over-analyzing everything, training my high-powered telescoping lens onto every little dust bunny in every little corner of my mind; if only I trained this same critical hyper-zoom on actual dust bunnies, my home might land on the cover of House Beautiful. But the problem: After he said this, I started over-thinking my tendency to over-think everything, leading me into a vast, churning sinkhole of useless solipsism. I became like some sad and deathly pallid Dostoevsky protagonist, except I hadn’t murdered a pawn broker and wasn’t exiled to Siberia, although this ass-freezing Albany winter just might count as such.

Sometimes I wish I could stop thinking altogether. Wouldn’t that be handy! If only I had the cognitive ability of, say, a gallon of milk, I could idle away my time in silent refrigeration without spending one single millisecond worrying about it. I wouldn’t be in a hurry to go anywhere, or do anything, or solve any problems, and when my dad called me on the phone, I’d be like, “Yeah, dude, so I’m in here chillin’ with the Chobanis,” and then he’d be like, “Sounds good, Ames,” and then I’d be like, “And the kosher dills just moved in, and they’re excellent company,” and he’d be like, “Can I come and visit?”

Except there wouldn’t be room for visitors in my fridge. And, lacking sentience, I wouldn’t be having conversations with anyone, my splendiferous non-blood dad included.

So this morning, I aired out my head and went for a walk. That helped, and here’s why: it forced me to a) deposit a shitload of checks that had been piling up; and b) chat with neighbors. One of the mundane, not-so-minor joys about living in the same house for 20 years is the accumulation of time and people — and the widening sense of connection that goes along with them. It always pulls me out of myself and into the world at large.

On my short walk I swapped hellos with the mailman, the young dad, the smiling guy who offered me leaf bags last fall. The bank tellers, the old friend from church, the sweet neighbors’ kid working a shift at Stewart’s. The mom of two who, driving buy, rolled down her window to talk. The woman looking in on her elderly parents. The neighbor scraping slush off the sidewalk.

Seeing him, I grabbed a shovel and began to scrape my own. Spring is coming. The Worstest of winter is over — and with it, my over-thinking. I think.

blows to the head

Parental love is a form of madness. If you have a kid, you know what I mean. If you don’t have a kid, imagine taking the most powerful love and joy you’ve ever felt, then adding the most powerful fear, than mixing in the most powerful sense of duty and responsibility, then chugging up the entire emotional mish-mash with the most powerful sense of drive and, when necessary, the most powerful, raging thrum of righteous indignation.

Most of the time, parents do a pretty good job of maintaining our day-to-day equilibrium without crumbling to pieces with worry over our children’s well-being. But when something happens to threaten that well-being, the madness kicks in: all the love, all the fear, all the duty, all the drive. And there is not a damn thing anyone can do about it.

Two Fridays ago, my son knocked his head on the ice while skiing. Thank God he was wearing a helmet. (Message to those of you who don’t: start the #$%!@ now.) The first aid peeps checked him over: a headache, but no other sign of concussion. That night: a headache, but no other sign of concussion. The next day: a headache, but no other sign of concussion. The next morning: a headache, but no other sign of concussion.

Then, during a pickup basketball game with his buddies, he took further knocks to the head. And the headache got worse. On Monday I took him to the doctor, and again: a headache, but no other sign of concussion. On Wednesday, when he complained of dizziness, I again took him to the doctor: this time, concussion. A mild one. And over the next few days, the headache abated — a little, but enough — until Saturday, when he slipped on the ice, landed on his arm and once again jarred his poor, bruised, aching, swollen noodle.

His headache flared up once more. On Monday it worsened. On Monday night, I noticed his eyes were red. On Tuesday I took him back to the doctor, who was concerned enough to order a CT scan. The radiation makes it a big deal for a kid; pediatricians don’t order them lightly. But before anything happened, the scan had to be “pre-authorized” by my insurance. This should happen quickly, I was told; the request went out with an “urgent” attached to it, I was told; the folks at imaging should contact me soon, probably within a few hours, I was told.

They didn’t. No one did. So I started phoning people directly, lots of people, people at the pediatrician’s office, the imaging department, the insurance company. Multiple people each place. No one anywhere had received any word of any such request. Thanks to protocol, it had to be routed through a specific person specifically designated in some specific pre-authorization office, but nobody I spoke to seemed to have any of these specifics. Kafka would have less trouble getting a CT scan.

To everyone I said essentially the same thing: My son has a head injury. He took successive blows. His symptoms have worsened. His doctor ordered a scan. It’s been deemed urgent. Urgent. It needs pre-authorization. This needs to happen now. Urgent. My son. We need to know if there’s bleeding on his brain. My son. Urgent. Now. Now. Did I say urgent? Did I say now? URGENT. NOW.

The words tumbled. The ire spiked. The tears flowed. None of it was acting. It all just overcame me, this ferocious maternal surge against the system. Hell hath no fury like a mother on hold.

Finally, I found someone in radiology, a kind and patient someone with a high tolerance for weeping mamas, who laid it all out for me: call the pediatrician’s office; get someone there to call insurance for pre-authorization; then have that same person call imaging with the required number.

Which I did. And they did. And to their credit, they were helpful and apologetic. And within an hour, my son’s head was being zapped by a CT scan, which I wasn’t happy about, because nothing involving a CT scan is ever really happy. But when they sent him home, I said a prayer of thanks and almost toppled from relief and spent adrenaline. Amen amen, my son’s throbbing little bean wasn’t leaking blood inside his skull.

On the drive home, I regarded this fine, brave boy of mine with wonder. He still hurt. Sunlight and sound still caused him pain. But I felt grateful: for him; for this good outcome; for a job that gave me flexibility to make all those phone calls, and for the bosses who understood; for my education and ability to speak my mind persuasively; and for my confidence, which gave me the gumption to advocate for my child.

But then I wondered about parents out there who don’t have those things — but still have a child who needs some treatment urgently. What if their son’s brain is bleeding? What if they can’t advocate for him? What if the red tape takes too long? What if they wait too long? What if he dies?


garbage night blues

Once again, it’s garbage night on my street. Garbage night! Hurray! By the sound of it, you’d assume it’s a holiday with a bonfire of some sort, like maybe a Wiccan fertility rite or, assuming we’re all in Latvia, Walpurgisnacht (after the 8th-century Saint Walpurga, though it’s hard to believe her mama named her that).

But tonight isn’t a holiday, alas. There are no pagans rubbing themselves with oil outside my window. And once again, I’m shocked by both the swiftness of garbage night’s arrival and the bafflement of my own response: As in: It’s Monday again?! Already? No way, mister! Why, surely it was just yesterday that I dragged my cracked blue recycling bin and stinky gray garbage can to the curb.

But alas, no one kids. The gods of urban garbage collection have whizzed through the week so quickly that I barely registered its passing. This has been happening to me more and more, this loss of whole weeks. Why, two days ago I failed to file a time sheet at work, because my memory of already filing one was fresh as a daisy. Yup. It only took two editors to observe and explain otherwise; apparently my memory was so stale it had begun to grow mold, although they didn’t put it that way, and no one mentioned the horrifying slab of antique pizza that I once found in my refrigerator.

Speaking of things in my kitchen, I’ve also noticed that time has been racing along at my sink with celerity, and doesn’t that sound like a vegetable? I am not going to post a photo of this phenomenon, but tonight, as is often the case, I stood there wondering what exactly happened to create this towering stack of dishes. Surely my kids and I didn’t actually eat on all of them. Something, maybe an evil overlord, must have reached into the past and transported yesterday’s grubby china into the present. That, or the clock itself is obviously up to some mischief, something beyond the mass hypnosis that led us all to set our clocks ahead one hour despite the fact that everyone agrees it’s a really dumbass idea. And the older I get, the dumbassier it seems.

I stood at the sink long enough to ask these and/or similar things of myself, but not too long, because I was holding my breath from fear of exhaling and causing my towering pillar of crockery to topple and crush me. Also, had I stood there any longer, I might actually have unloaded the clean dishes from the dishwasher and re-loaded it with dirty ones.

Instead, I walked away. I had take out the garbage, after all.

i love the smell of email in the evening

At 6:19 p.m. this evening, I hit “send” on the latest manuscript for my upcoming unhinged memoir, complete with a fresh round of edits/fixes/tweaks/trims/adds. I mention this for two reasons. First, because as Chris always said, “There are so few triumphs in this business, you have to celebrate each small victory along the way.”

And second, because I’m reminded that WRITING IS BLASTED HARD. I wonder sometimes why I do it. It’s not as though it’s gets any easier with practice, like whistling, kissing or algebra; au contraire, in some ways it’s gotten harder, as my standards have risen (and my tolerance for dreck has declined). I would compare the anguish involved to pulling out my own teeth one by one with rusty pliers, except that at some point in the last thirty-plus years I would have run out of teeth.

And writing a book: you have to be nuts to do that. Speaking of comparisons, having a baby is one analogy I’ve heard here and there — but as a woman who has endured both processes on three separate occasions, I can confirm that book-writing takes way longer and hurts way worse. Also, no book is anywhere near as cute as a newborn, although it must be said that a book doesn’t puke on you, either.

All the same, I breathed a big, sighing gulp of relief tonight. I wouldn’t say the manuscript is finished, because that’s up to my editor to say — and no manuscript is ever truly done. You don’t finish writing it. You just stop, satisfied that you’ll never be satisfied. Then you drop in a boneless heap next to your bloody keyboard, spent but triumphant.