To Be Happy in New York

Joan Didion was famous for saying, Goodbye to All That.

Until she moved back there.

Happiness in New York is like the latest latte. The Cascara latte, just under the shell. Just under the surface, just around the corner. Happiness in New York is waiting for you at the dime store. At Coney Island, in Central Park. It’s waiting on the subway, and waiting at the ice cream truck. Happiness is a slice of pizza, it’s a bagel on a Saturday morning. It’s knowing you can pay your rent on the 1st, and can walk the streets one more day.

Unless you’re an Angeleno.

In which case you think, Well, aren’t there bagels in LA? And, aren’t the tacos much better? And isn’t everything cheaper – like by about, half?

The happiest people I met on the East Coast were from suburban Midwest, the rustbelt, or from the South. For them, New York is the chosen land! Opportunities, diversity. Beauty. Opulence!

But for an Angeleno, you always have that nagging feeling like true happiness is waiting not just around the corner, but on another coast. In another global city that is…your own. And doesn’t have blizzards. Or summer thunderstorms. You can enjoy beauty and opulence on your own time, in the sunshine.

Happiness, like time, is a relative thing. And to each his or her own. But for me, I’ll choose to have my cascara latte with a full-frontal view of the San Gabriel Mountains.


Mama Says Fuck It: Truthtelling in the Digital Age

The prolactin of childbirth, or the effects of a year and a half without sleep (I can’t quite tell) have forced me to embrace a new sense of honesty. I now find myself “sin pelos en la lengua” as the Spanish saying goes. The cat no longer has my tongue: nobody has it, and I’m going to tell it like it is.

Let me drop some truth bombs, just for fun:

1) Childrearing falls almost 100% on women. And it always has.

2) Fascism is coming to America covered in orange spray-paint. And some people are cheering.

3) We have zero structure in place for child safety or well-being: no paid maternity leave, no affordable child care, rising costs of living, rising number of hours spent working, and denser cities.

We have failing schools but most people choose to worry instead about the small things, like…which bathroom a transgender person uses. I hate waiting in line for the women’s room. Ain’t nobody got time for that! But I digress: what we really don’t have time for, as a society, is wondering about the size of the person’shair, shoulders, muscles, browbone, and/or eyelashes in the stall next to you. That is really not the problem here, folks – we have American citizens committing domestic terrorism, declining quality of life and zero political leadership pipeline to end this Machiavellian nightmare. But the BATHROOMS seem to be the problem.

4) Most men still expect women to do their laundry. Even if they’re a nice hipster with cool summer shorts.

5) All people cried as babies. In airplanes, in church, and in the supermarket. That includes “them”.

And that includes you.

And if one more person throws shade on one of my cherubic son’s little whimpers, I will cut them. With a biodegradable, corn-based plastic butter knife. 90-pound hipsters, I would stay away; I don’t play.

6) "It's five o'clock somewhere" doesn't apply to people who go to bed at 9pm. Read = mothers of young children.

7) Nobody knows what you’re capable of but you. And few people will help you get there. But treasure those that do. They’ll mean a lot, especially during the impending cargo-clad zombie apocalypse.



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.