Wiser

I come from a place in California that has been criticized for having no history.

It’s as if the story began there with the houses, the suburbs, the sprawl. I grew up in the last district of the San Fernando Valley to suburbanize. Porter Ranch sits on the very edge of what, for many Los Angelinos, passes for the wild. New settlements are still being built, gauche gated communities of potted palms and Spanish tile roofs, rows and rows of the same house lining up like so many school children.

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Song of summer

There’s a wordlessness that exists just beyond softspoken, down some gentle inexorable incline.

It threatens tenderly, terribly, like a cooler season. Today the lakewaters churn and foam and savage the buoys. A wind quivers the leaves. So ends the world of yesterday, the world I’d most like to inhabit, the season of skin and sweat and burn and the cool fire. And here we come down the easy slope, pulled on by free fall, this controlled stumbling-forward, the cruel logic of forward, into the wordless valley.

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Shuck

As I write this I’m eating cold corn on the cob, roasted yesterday in its husk, and it’s as good as anything I’ve ever eaten.

It’s been a trying month. I feel myself getting a little weird. My belly is pregnant with apricots and corn and spelt bread. I don’t think I’ve spoken a single word since digging for beets in Cabrini Green yesterday and don’t mind it. I bought goggles for swimming in the lake. At first it terrified me, being way out there in the water, to see the smallness of my belongings on the shore. But then it got all weightless and quiet and profound.

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Slow.

This is what I know.

Today I laid out in the sun on a patch of grass outside my apartment. I have been ill, but not so ill that sunlight doesn’t seem a remedy. My elbows, knees, wrists and ankles were bandaged with drug store patches that delivered a burning, chemical heat (or cold?) that alleviates pain, or distracts from it.

According to an essay in a book I’m reading, Carly Simon did something similar to alleviate the psychic pain of stage fright: before confronting her audience, she asked band mates to slap and spank her hard. She went onstage pink-cheeked and red-assed.

Pain beats fright.

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On Being Satisfied


**Parts of this post appear in “Hunger” in the Winter 2011 issue of The North American Review.

I’m beginning to notice a problem with eating richly, with eating well.

It’s that it makes you hungry. After a great meal you may find that you are full. Maybe you flirt with satisfaction. But then comes this baseline buzz, this mewling hunger that begs, always, to be fed. And more, better: with finer attention and intelligence, greater tenderness and cheek. There is nothing sadder than the end of a great meal, knowing what comes next.  

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Heart

What you’re seeing here are stills from video I shot while driving cross-country with my mother.

There were things that didn’t make it onto the camera roll. There were 21st century teepees with signs that read Jeronimo! and signs that read Authentic!!! Indian Crafts. We passed many signs promising many differently punctuated authenticities. We passed signs for “Palin for America” and other signs for things “for America.” We were driving through Arizona the day the congresswoman, the judge, and the little girl were shot in Tuscon, and knowing this colored everything. We listened to talk radio. We felt appalled.

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A Kind of Nourishment

Do you know what time is?

In Thailand this question was put to me often. Now, before you go accusing the Thai of philosophical heavy-handedness, know that the askers of this question always, always meant to ask for the time–what time is it?–but their muddled English sometimes achieved a kind of unintended profundity, if you were looking for it.

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