The Beginning of the Middle

When does middle age start? For other generations, it started at maybe 30 or 35. For our generation, maybe closer to 40. 

But I think it starts when you have kids. 

I went to a cancer prevention fundraiser put on by a high school friend of mine last night. He had survived a rare form of lung cancer, at 32. His buddies came out to buy tacos and cake, and give a few bucks to the Lung Cancer Foundation. 

There, I caught up with my old track and field friends. At 33, some were on their second marriage. Their third kid. One armed services veteran started talking about opening his mind to meditation, and quite possibly life beyond monogamy. 

The old trope is that divorce starts at 40. But, like perimenopause, the inklings of it start now. Like salt and pepper beards, the questions of the path not taken start to take a distinctive shape. "There's this book you have to read," he excitedly exclaims.

"It's called Sex at Dawn."


Wam! Pow! The Power of Hard Power

Why doesn’t the Mob run LA in the same way it does New York?  My New York-born grandfather Jack Goulding, Pulitzer-winning editor at the LA Times, thought he sniffed out the story.

He told his children, and his children told me, that long, long ago, when New Yorkers first came to LA – cramming along Brooklyn Avenue in what is now Boyle Heights – many wanted to bring the crime structure of New York with them.

People politics - badda bing, badda boom.

But when the Mob sent some of “their guys” out west, they were greeted at the train station by plain-clothes men. Wearing brass knuckles.

My grandfather said the mobsters were beaten within an inch of their life, and then put right back on the next train east, bleeding and unconscious. They were sent as physical postcards for their bosses that read: this is what will happen if the Mob comes to Los Angeles.

And the American Mob, as it is known, never came to Los Angeles.

I thought of this story this week when reading about the nauseating rape stories dominating my Facebook feed. One is the rape of a Stanford student, and the other is the gang rape of a Brazilian teenager. Both women were unconscious during the assault(s). The Stanford rapist was given a light sentence of six months, which his father called, “A steep price to pay for 20 minutes of action.”

That sentence fills me with a rage that knows no bounds, but also one that, perhaps most tellingly, does know bounds. And that is the problem. Women have historically lack and still lack a power mechanism that keeps our physical (and financial and emotional) safety intact. My subconscious thinks, “What can we really do, anyway?” We don’t have any brass knuckles. We have soft power – we have the law, and education, and religion, and righteousness. Which all prove worthless in terms of protection.

In what world is it acceptable that Brock Turner’s father walks down the street unencumbered and unafraid while publicly stating that the forced penetration of an unconscious student was merely “action”? Stipulating that his son has the right to do that, that his son does not deserve punishment for that, and – perhaps most alarmingly – that it was fun? (That was the same tone of the Brazilian rapist’s post, “They left her kneaded like dough, get it? Haha.”)

Why is he not afraid someone will find him in a dark alley, and give him 20 minutes of “action”? And let his ass (literally) know what that feels like?

I’ve always been a flower child. I never thought I’d write like this. But something happened after I had a kid - mainly, my level of human empathy went way up,  while the number of fucks I give plummeted to about zero.  

I am outraged that I live in a world in which men mock female sexuality and female power. And I am heartbroken that no one seems to suffer from this like women do. Is that what 1970's revolutionaries meant by, “Any means necessary?” Is “action” the only language that men like that understand? Do men have to be left amassado to get what this is?

If so, maybe we should hire Mickey and Jimmy. Or Pauly and Mikey. Or whoever those LA tough men were, in the Eisenhower years. Wam! Pow! seemed to have worked. In LA, the Samoans run the docks. 


Motherhood Is Like A Music Box?

I’ve never felt as calm as I do at this point in my life, in young motherhood. Maybe now it’s because my life is filled with meaningful routines, these small circular efforts done with love, every single day.

Motherhood makes you realize that life is like a music box. We’re spinning on our axis, in our little worlds, every day that we’re here.  It’s impossible to spin everywhere. But we can spin beautifully. And do - round and round, and round again.

1-2-1-2-1-2: A New York Subway Poem

The New York Subway
is a walkway for the uninterrupted

for the focused  

people are proselytizing


pay less rent!
cook less food!
call here now!
trim your eyebrows!

De Blasio’s New York is an anxious place full of sunshine, daisies, and rent checks
cool breezes, and expensive lunches
shoe shines
people stepping up, and stepping out

going to work, going to work, going to work, going to work
this endless rotation of trains, planes, and people
crammed on the 6, fixing their hair
going here, there, everywhere

but there is a measure in routine, a marker in that comfort
of coming, and going
walking, and knowing

everyone in New York is going Somewhere at the same time

left, right, on the Up train

Babies, Or Our Magnifying Glasses

Before I had a baby, I could always see the past clearly, but as a free-livin’ young gal I could never quite see the future. Siblings and friends could seem to have it all planned out, mapped out, and I couldn’t see just beyond the bend. I could never quite make it out. When it came to the next phase of my life, I’d always say, “I’ll feel it.” But if I really admitted it to myself, what I really was doing was fumbling in the dark.

Now, my baby has given me a looking glass, a magnifying glass, into what the future holds. It’s the superpower of clarity into the life process. With his arrival, life flashed before my eyes and the entire dance of the cosmos, the entirety of the human experience – the din of parties, and the thick whispers of sex, the chirpy laughter of friends, the clomping of high heels, the squeals of infants, the quiet whine of loneliness, and the silence of aging – all reverberated into one continuous tone.

And I got the song. I saw our lives as musicals, in singing, living color.

I can see that skin is just skin, whether it is baby skin or midlife skin or aging skin. I can see that the shoes we wear will wear out someday, and that our hair will lose color one day. I can see that we will discard our pants, our computers, our cell phones, and sometimes, our memories. We are walking daily through an invisible sieve, loving and losing, every single moment. Gaining, and being. Drifting, and losing. We walk into who are, and away from what we were. We are always the same, and never the same. Keeping the remnants of it dormant in our nervous system like a raincoat for a rainy day. Cell memory, our only backpack.

This is the lonely business of being alive.

It’s translating for each other what it means to be us, in this brief time of overlap, of intersection of who we are. This blessed moment of my life where my son’s crossed my own. That I hope I remember even far into the cosmos, at the slick gates of heaven – which might just be another dimension. Heaven might be a backyard entry right through the rain itself: heaven might be a masterpiece. Heaven might be the place where we can address who we are as humans, by hugging our homies from the haunting places. Heaven might be the thick air of history that makes us all feel at home.

When we disintegrate, we re-integrate into the earth. And the cellular network that is the Planet, and the Afterlife. I think that the dead talk to each other, and come tell us they love us.


Painfully Funny (in Postpartum Land)

Over the summer, I had pretty bad sciatrica. My spine and joints "snapping back into place," as the postpartum industry says, sort of smashed back into a (more compacted) place. 

One day on an afternoon stroll around Williamsburg, two early 20's men in a minivan drove by me leaned out the car window to ask me a question. 

"Excuse me miss, are you in pain?"

I think "Oh, God. It's that apparent? Is my sciatica like...visible? Do I walk with a limp? Do I have a slight hunchback?

Am I scowling?" 

And then one said, laughing..."Because you look like you just fell from heaven."

I laughed to myself - and appreciated his comment. 

It's Time to Sleep

How much do infants teach adults about right living? 

A lot. 

This weekend, my son had a raging bacterial infection. 104 degree fevers, a lot of screaming. And he was very expressive about how miserable he was.  Babies and toddlers get their emotions out quickly - be it joy or sadness, they scream, bounce, roll, shake their head, and fling themselves on the ground.

Babies are: 

Are over this cracker. 
Cannot stand more water. 
Will not entertain the idea of crawling over there.  Like, are you kidding. me

One thing in particular is very clear for them: when it's time to sleep. 

That's the (queue Yonce) 'ring the alarm' state. 

How many times, as adults, do we ignore when we're tired? Or ignore what we're feeling? When office colleagues ask, "How are you?" we respond, "Great!" instead of really saying, "I'm still a bit tired, I'm sick of my own cooking, I kind of hate my car," or whatever mundane little annoyances are getting at us that day. When our day is done, we watch TV and fight sleep instead of letting our bodies and brains recuperate and mend. 

Loving a child is teaching me a lot about self-love. I try to reciprocate my actions with him, with myself. So when 10 o'clock rolls around, I do what the cool people in this world do (um, including 5th graders and seniors): go to bed. Because it's time to sleep!