Monday, March 28, 2011

Now for Something Sweet

My friend and fellow writer and excellent blogger has a new business. So if you are planning a big fat Indian wedding (or any other event requiring a cake) in the Los Angeles area, I highly recommend her. She has been a professional pastry chef for a long time.

If my divorce negotiations are ever successfully completed, I plan to have a party. Maybe I want the cake to look something like THIS.

Or maybe like this because I'll finally feel some peace.

Or maybe like this because my head will feel full of story ideas again.

Whatever I choose it will be fabulous and delicious. And this is the recipe I want.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Planning Your Big Indian Wedding--and ending up here.

I've had a lot of readers from India lately. Allow me to explain dear brides and/or grooms:
This blog has been in existence since shortly after Mr. Ex's Wedding in September of 2008. My husband  left me for a younger woman. They had an Indian wedding, and one night a couple of weeks later, I woke up in the middle of the night and started this blog. It's not about wedding planning--although I suppose if you were a clever detective, you could spend hours reading through old posts, looking for clues to Mr. Ex's identity, then find his wedding album on the internet. 

I did. 

Those photos devastated me--but for you they would be pure research. As I recall, the wedding was immensely elaborate. There was a horse, costume changes, colorful saris, and exquisite make-up. I wish you a wedding even more beautiful. 

One of my favorite movies has an Indian wedding in it--Mira Nair's "Monsoon Wedding." There's a bit of dialogue in "Monsoon Wedding" that says a lot about marriage. "Whether our parents introduce us or whether we meet in a club, what difference does it make?" As I recall it, the groom, who is quite conservative, speaks this line to his fiancée. She's not so hot on the idea of an arranged marriage, and he's trying to point out to her that how a couple meets is not what makes a marriage succeed.

A few months after my marriage ended, I ended up in a taxi cab with an Indian driver.  “My soon-to-be -ex-husband is marrying an Indian woman,” I told him. Although I thought I had endowed my voice with a reasonable tone, there was alarm in his eyes as he glanced at me in the rear view mirror. 
            “My people usually stay married to one person,” he said. "I’ve had one wife for thirty years.” His marriage was an arranged one, he went on to tell me. His parents chose his bride for him, and he and his betrothed met once as children and then didn’t see each other again until the day of their marriage.  “Most of  marriages I see breaking apart are marriage from love match,” he told me. His English was heavily accented and not very nuanced, but I had a question I wanted him to answer.
            “Do you believe in Fate?” I asked. 
            “What is this?” he asked, trying to repeat the word. I attempted to explain about the hand of God, the workings of the universe.  
            “Do you believe that God has a plan for every person,” I asked while I gestured at the holy card of a swami on his visor. “Do you believe that no matter what that person chooses, God’s plan--or Fate--will take control over the person’s life?” But the driver didn’t really grasp what I was saying so we gave up and talked about our mothers instead.  

So dear readers from India-- as long as you are here, can you take a moment and tell me what you believe about Fate and marriage? 

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Christian Louboutin Shoes: 700.00 to 5500.00/My Family: Priceless

Watch and read.
Or read and then watch.
The Science Behind the Perfect Home-Wrecker  

And here's the beginning of an essay that's looking for a home.

Red Soles

            “Christian Louboutin shoes have red soles,” my husband told me in the middle of a conversation I should have paid more attention to. I never suspected that a few months later he’d fall for someone who has a closet full of these $800 fashion statements.
            It was a sweltering Sunday afternoon in July when my husband pulled out a dining room chair and informed me that he wanted to marry his new love. Our marriage of three decades undoubtedly had a few worn spots in it, but with our youngest child about to leave for college, I was thinking of a trip for just the two of us. Slowing down. Spending time not wearing shoes. 
 The red-soled shoes had been hovering between us for months.

photo credit:

Postscript on "Lurking"

In my search for community from the ranks of divorce sufferers and our supporters, I did not mean to imply that lurking or regularly reading a blog without visibly following it is somehow bad. It's not.

But as I continue to stunned by the vast and deep ocean of amazing blogs, I crave connection. Check out two of my recent favorites--blogs that I am now following--Camel Saloon and Myself the Only Kangaroo Among the Beauty (you can find the links in my sidebar--scroll waaaayyy down.) The more we have in common, the less we are divided is what I'm hoping. The image in my head is boats. Pretty little boats. In a safe harbor, each one next to the other. We can all sail away on our own, but right now--here we are--neighbors--so how about a beer?

Happy reading.

And apologies to those readers from India I see coming in on my live traffic feed. Um. This probably isn't the Indian wedding site you were hoping for. I wish you true love and a long and happy marriage.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

De-Lurking, The Community of Ex-Wives, Fellow Bloggers, and Loyal Readers

Hi there.

The planet Divorce is a nasty place. It sometimes feels  like it has a population of one. The gravity is so forceful here that the soaring of hearts is problematic. There are frequent toxic clouds of noxious emotions, and it rains a lot. It's expensive to live here. And lonely.

So come out. Let me see your face--or a generic silhouette. Click that little follow button, please. Leave a comment, and by all means, let me know if you blog about divorce so I can link to it.

Unless of course you are the Queen of Lurk-y-ness, that vile minion of the Little Missus who reads what I write and then reports back to her so the Little Missus herself can remain isolated in that fantasy world, Domestic Bliss.

Monday, March 21, 2011

I Could Drink a Case of You

Saturday night after the super moon refused to show its face, there was more darkness. I pulled the mail out of my mailbox to find a "letter" from my attorney which wasn't a letter at all. What is was was a photocopy of the judge's ruling on my motion to recover attorney fees. Denied, it said.

 I'd been waiting since our day in court on March 2nd for the news. I'd emailed my attorneys asking for an update a week after the court appearance. The judge was out of town, they said. So I waited some more thinking I would email the attorneys again after the weekend. Maybe the beginning of Spring would bring good news.

Or not. But it wasn't the bad news about the money that was the worst thing. Instead of days of waiting, I could have used a prompt email last Tuesday when the ruling came down. Or a phone call. I could have used a tiny slice of personal communication--something like, "Dear Denise, We're sorry to be the bearers of bad news, but don't be discouraged, and here's what we'll do next..." I could have used a scrawled post-it note stuck to the corner of the blurry photocopy with some kind missive like "hang in there"--or even a crude little drawing of a frowny face. Nope.

I admit to dark thoughts. I have them. I'd been having them less. But Saturday night the dark thoughts had a party. They wore black and carried knives. They looped ropes over beams. They made tea and reminded me that the deranged husband in Tim O'Brien's excellent novel  In the Lake of the Woods killed his wife with boiling water while she slept. I didn't sleep Saturday night. I sat in my bed frozen with dread. I emailed Mr. Ex. I texted him. Then the sun sort of rose--or did what the moon did the night before--lurked somewhere behind the clouds while doing its job in a less than satisfactory way. And that's what I did Sunday. I skipped a good friend's fabulous First Day of Spring party and drank mimosas in my pajamas with M. while we watched basketball. Then I crawled to bed and slept the day away.

When I woke I felt stupid and lazy and realized I had a house full of people whom I love. I cobbled together dinner, took a shower while the chicken was in the oven, then lit the candles and sat at the dining room table like a human being. And somewhere in there I'd talked on the phone with the man who loves me. He was wrestling with his own First Day of Spring demons. "You'll know what to do," he said. "You always do." Or somethin' like that.  Maybe not, I thought. And maybe this thing between us could be going a little better.

I was putting the last of the dishes into the dishwasher when the brass door knocker that nobody ever  uses announced that someone was at the door. Yup. "Someone's at the door," the daughters said without moving as if they knew it was for me. There he was, the man who loves me standing in the rain with a little cluster of daffodils in one hand and a case of wine hoisted onto one shoulder. You read that right. Not a bottle. A case.

I'm still on my feet.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Waiting for Super Moon

Last night I went looking for the moon. I wanted to see it rising over the red tile roofs of my condo complex--benign brightness and beauty, a silver river of light pouring out of the darkness. Instead there was a dirty blanket of sky, one corner torn and scrap of light showing through. 1983, the news reports said, was the last time the moon came so close in its orbit. In 1983 I'd already been in Los Angeles nearly a decade. Mr. Ex and I were in love then. Maybe I was in a play. Maybe I saw the moon that night before going into a rehearsal, or maybe I was captivated by it standing in an alley between scenes of a performance and came to my senses in a panic wondering if I might be late for an entrance. I don't remember that moon. Maybe Mr. Ex was already changing then, two years out of law school and  besotted with our relative wealth after years of scraping by. Maybe he looked at the moon and saw his future, unbelievably large and bright.

I had no children in 1983. Although my son was thirteen years old and somewhere under that moon,  I didn't know where. I didn't know his name. Maybe he was in a park playing basketball, or going into a movie theater to see Star Wars for the the twentieth time. Motherhood was my secret then. A part of me covered over and not allowed into the light. Mr. Ex and I had agreed we wouldn't be having children, but maybe by 1983 with our checking account growing fat, that resolve had begun to wane.

In the year of this moon, the light resides in my children. All three of them. It seems something of a miracle that both of my daughters, now grown women, are asleep in my house tonight. And just four nights ago I stood in my son's backyard with him and his wife and children as we took turns peering through a telescope at the moon.

One night years ago as Mr. Ex and I lay in our bed in our apartment, I heard yelling. Across the street the homeless man who sometimes stayed in the crumbling house owned by an ancient silent film actress was  patrolling our block with his shopping cart. We called him "Ratso" after Ratso Rizzo from the movie Midnight Cowboy.  "Diane," Ratso bayed. "Diiannne." A jolt of paranoia ran through me. Did he mean to say my name--Denise? Was he calling me?  I stood at the window. In the moonlight he pushed the cart down the middle of the street, limping behind it with his shoes in the basket. "Oh moon. Oohhh moooon," he cried, "Thou art woman. And man has walked all over you." Ratso and his cart and his shoes were illuminated, shining in the dark street as I watched from my window. Maybe that was the night of the Super Moon of 1983.

The photo above was taken in Vermont in February of 2009. 

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

More about Houses...and Plastic

As I sleep I pack boxes, load them onto trucks, and stand at the doorways of houses. When I wake the dreams slip beyond my reach. Since the quake in Japan, I think of houses during my waking hours too. All the houses lost. The people homeless and weeping. The piles of rubble. Man made materials melding with  earth and ocean. The toxicity of so much that man has created and Mother Nature crushing it all to bits. How so much of our stuff is unnecessary.

The son of a friend of mine has a tiny house:  My friend and I traveled for months when we were twenty years old, our belongings on our backs. What I owned then wouldn't even fill the wall unit I have in my living room now. I have only a fraction of the stuff I had when I was married. I walked away with only what I wanted, and it still filled a small moving van.  

35% of fish in certain parts of the Pacific have plastic in their bellies. The earthquake and tsunami is a human and ecological tragedy of immense proportions. I try not to buy plastic. I haven't drunk bottled water in two or three years. Orange juice sometimes, but mostly I just eat the orange. Thank god, wine and gin come in glass bottles, but the Greek yogurt I like comes in plastic. 

I'll be heading back to the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts for a month-long writer's residency in a couple of weeks. The last time I was there I met a writer/photographer who was working on a book documenting the ingestion of plastic by giant albatrosses. This is not an excerpt from her book--it's an article I found on the internet.  Just one albatross.

I knew a collie once whose nose skin was peeling off. It was an allergy to a plastic dog dish.

Why don't we just stop making plastic? Maybe we just can't "man up."

I'm going to step up my personal anti-plastic campaign. 

And maybe I'll start dreaming of Tiny Houses made of wood like the one that Will built. 

Friday, March 11, 2011

Review of William Trowbridge's "Ship of Fool" published by Red Hen Press


William Trowbridge’s new volume of poetry, Ship of Fool, is a litany of the things that can go wrong in life—and beyond.  Fool, the protagonist of each and every poem in sections I and III, is an accidentally-fallen angel who, after a truce between God and Satan, finds himself on Earth suffering through “ innumerable earthly lives.”

Ship of Fool reads like one of Anne Carson’s  verse novels as we follow Fool through incarnation after incarnation of misadventures both comic and tragic. A flat tire in a bad neighborhood, love derailed, cross-cultural miscommunications in a foreign land, a dog-bite that results in lycanthropy, and a nanostint in the Army account for only a few of Fool’s days/lives run amok. When fool sets out to save the world as Hitler’s guardian angel, he’s no Clarence, and there’s not much hope for a wonderful life. But the poem, “Fool and His Money” which chronicles this “wide-shot at guardian-angelship” twists us toward the silver lining that we sometimes find in our own missteps.

            “Fool’s put in charge
             of the Small Consolations detail that plants
            dimes and quarters under sofa cushions.
            Each one you find contains his blessing.”

The middle section of Ship of Fool—the meat in a Fool sandwich, if you will, takes us from the mythic to the personal in a series of poems that are most likely autobiographical. In the specifics of this particular life’s stumblings lie universal truths and the unveiling of the family skeleton: Fool is our brother. But there’s power in knowledge of the truth. In the poem, “The Art of Motorcycle Maintenance” the narrator is our navigator, and his hand is on the throttle:

            “…stare at that box that just fell off the truck in front of you
            and you’ll hit it square as if you’d aimed;
            stiffen up in danger, struggle to regain
            control, and you’ll invite an overthrow
            that could be final. The things is,
            as the analysts say in chorus,
            to relax and focus on the bright side,
            on the place you want to go,
            not on the dark spot near
            the pavement’s edge…
            of your old fox terrier, snoot thrust gladly
            out the window of the Galaxy. Think
            of when, stretching out your arms and running
            down a hill, you were flying, flying.”
In Part III, the final section of the book, Fool is wiser and sadder, but he’s still all fool. In the “Fool Tree” it seems that there might be relief in store when Fool returns to earth no longer tripping and bumbling, but literally rooted to one place as a tree.  

            His twiggy pate
            will leaf out

            every year. Tall
            Anchored. Majestic.

            his thick bark deaf
            to the chain saw’s
            choke and rattle.

Fool can’t escape his nature. Nature can’t escape man’s foolishness. In Ship of Fool, God drives a Hummer, and the whole world is “hobbling the thousand miles that begins that doozie of a first step.” Thank God Trowbridge holds up a mirror to the works and coaxes us to belly laugh through our tears.

This is the first in a series of reviews that I will post from time to time. 

Ship of Fool is available at or from Red Hen Press.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Home Improvement #1: The Powder Room

I have no idea where my financial situation is headed. Maybe there's a light at the end of the tunnel--or maybe the light is the oncoming train. One of my contingency plans is to sell my townhouse. C. offered her services to make a few improvements in lieu of rent when she came back to stay with me and go to school. However, City College is overwhelmed and she can't get the classes she needs, so she's going back to work on a boat in a month. Meanwhile, there's work to be done.
The powder room took a beating after the stupendous failure of my ingenious but misguided dog control device. I had the plaster and paint professionally redone right away, but ignored the wooden cabinet with its deep scratches....until now. C. is a meticulous painter, and the cabinet is renewed in glossy black (to match the black granite floors) with new hardware. Piper the reclusive cat still lives inside the cabinet.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Dream Houses and Vistas

You'd think I was homeless the way I dream of houses. A couple of nights ago in a dream, I emerged from my bedroom to find my neighbor in my entryway with her cocker spaniel. She was smoking. She can't smoke in my house, I thought. She can't have her dog in my house. What will my dog think? My dog, Layla, was asleep on the patio, so I guess I'm more territorial than Layla--in my dreams, anyway.

In last night's dream, I was at the house of a writer I know. He was living in a house that Mr. Ex and I used to live in (in some dream life, I guess, because it wasn't a house that Mr. Ex and I really lived in.) It was a fabulous hillside place with views and a big terraced back yard. As we climbed up the hill through the trees  and got ourselves situated in the large kitchen with its windows that opened to a view of the city lights, I said, "It's not so bad losing my posh house, as long as someone I know lives in it." There were lots of geek chic artist types at the table and everyone laughed. The writer's wife was frying mini-burgers and arranging them on plates with an array of garnishes.  We passed them from person to person around the huge wooden table while one of the other guests gathered up the plates from the first course. "I was hoping, though, that a visual artist might buy this place," I said. I nodded toward the side window. Out there beyond a row of bamboo was a stash of architectural salvage--old cornices, one of those fabulous Egyptian heads from the Vista Theater, elaborate wrought iron pieces.
"That would be me," the wife said.

Mr. Ex and I really were homeless once. After our drive from the midwest to California in June of 1975, we figured we'd find an apartment in San Diego easily. I was performing with a summer commedia dell'arte troupe, and we had a few days before rehearsals started. We'd saved up money for a deposit by camping all the way, but San Diego was expensive and there was nothing in our price range, so we lived in our tent in a campground in Chula Vista. After a couple of weeks, we answered a "roommate wanted" ad and moved into a brand new condo with a guy named Barry. The place had smurf blue plush carpeting, and Barry didn't like it if we left a section of the Sunday paper on the floor. The newsprint would rub off on the new carpet, he said. Mr Ex and I had pretty much nothing then. We slept in our sleeping bags on the floor. I had an antique trunk we used as a night stand for our alarm clock and our books. We stashed our  beat up styrofoam cooler in a corner of the patio. It was a long road from living in a tent in Chula Vista to a posh house in L.A.

Friday, March 4, 2011

How the Hearing to Recover Attorney Fees Went

I had my day in court on Wednesday.
But not really.
I was there, as were two of my attorneys and Mr. Ex's attorney, too.
Mr. Ex himself had better things to do. Which is what
the judge said. Surely, it was time to wrap this case up, he said,
because Mr. Ex, the big name L.A. attorney from one of the biggest and fattest law firms surely had better things to do. 
The judge scolded my attorney for a technicality. She did a decent job of defending herself...and me.
I was not allowed to speak. I did not say
that I, too, have better things to do than sit mutely in a courtroom
on a
Wednesday morning in March.

On Thursday I flung doors and drawers wide and
threw paper away.
Not motions, nor declarations of income and expenses, nor schedules of assets
and debts, nor stipulations for the divsion of joint assets. Not
the final decree--but notes for stories already written and early memoir drafts, handouts from classes, rosters with names of
people I can't quite remember. I didn't throw away the things I don't want to remember, I threw
away what I am finished with. I am not finished
with you, millstone of a  husband. I will print out every email, bind them into a book
and then
I will burn it at your feet.

The judge has taken the matter under submission.  I don't know anything yet. Meanwhile another godzilla of a bill from my attorney is weighing down my desk.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Writing and Healing

I imagined two different ways of killing myself after my husband left me for a woman more than twenty years younger. I would hang myself or jump.

I had the sense to know that I needed help. All three of my children were stunned and grieving. I wanted to stay alive for them. And for my mother. Love kept me alive.

I had already written a memoir by the time my husband left me. I'd penned 85,000 words about giving my son up for adoption after a secret pregnancy--and twenty-one years later reuniting with him with the help of a clandestine adoption underground railroad. I started writing this story by accident. I had another story I was burning to tell then. A story involving teen-age girls, lies, Los Angeles gangsters, and a party gone wrong. I put pen to paper on the spur of the moment one morning after I'd pulled my min-van back into the garage--home from the morning school run. A mug of coffee and the L.A. Times were on my kitchen table, and after reading some article about teen-agers, pagers, and drugs, I grabbed one of my husband's yellow legal pads and a pen. I wrote pages and pages over the next week. Then I spotted a flyer in a local coffee house about a writing group. I folded the flyer in half and stuck it to my bulletin board. When I showed up for the first meeting, I was stunned to learn that the workshop was for writing memoir--true stories.

My story about teenagers and the lies they tell was mostly true anyway, but what came out of my pen that first Saturday morning was about my son. An essay, I thought. I had 35 pages of essays about giving up my son by the time I took my first real writing class at UCLA extension a couple of years later. The essays turned into a book. I got an agent, did a lot of revising, and I like to think  that if I hadn't been turned into a blogaholic by my divorce, I might have a book out in the world by now.

I think that memoir will be published eventually, but meanwhile I've had a lot of time to think about the stories that life delivers to us. I know about what it feels like to open a garden shed where two colorful jump ropes hang on a hook; what it feels like to run my hands over them while my eyes survey the children's climbing structure in my back yard. I know what it's like to find the view of the Mississippi River  from the window of a hotel room unbearable and the relief when a friend not only returns my phone call but shows up at the hotel.

I've altered my brain chemistry with two courses of anti-depressants since my marriage fell apart. I'm on my second therapist. I've had light therapy, dropped Bach Flower remedies onto my tongue, taken a  fine selection of herbal concoctions, and anesthetized myself with gin. I've exercised faithfully to up my endorphin production and devoured a boatload of chocolate. And I've  written so many essays about my divorce that I have another book.  

Writing heals. I'm not the only one claiming this.  Check THIS out. And THIS. Google "writing and healing." Read some more.  Then grab a pen or fire up your laptop.