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Tuesday, September 11

I was born on a Tuesday, like America’s dying.  It could have been a rebirth and maybe it will be one day, but for now the dying, the dying is taking a long time.

Human bodies hit the pavement, turning into fine red mist.  Human bodies burn up inside, turning into a fine white ash.  In the ash:  pulverized metal, concrete, glass, file cabinets, computers, pictures of the family propped up on your desk.  The clicking of keyboards, conversations by the water cooler, our illusion of safety—a fine white ash.  In the street, human bodies covered in human bodies.  Human bodies breathing in human bodies.  The fine white ash burrows into the inside flesh to wait out the years until it blooms into a cancer.

Below you the floor has turned into fire.  The sick black smoke sears your lungs.  You stumble towards the window.  The movement of air there is strange, that window was not made to ever be opened.  Shattered now, its jagged edges cut your hands.  No matter how far you lean out you cannot get enough air.  You look down and your heart stops.  Below you the gaping wound of the broken tower belches flame, smoke, fluttering papers, people.  Below you they are already falling.  Below you the street receives their bodies, obliterates their bodies before the eyes of the gasping crowd.  There are others up here with you but all of you are alone.  Beneath the roar of the building consuming itself you hear a helicopter.  It is not here for you.  It is only here to watch.  The miracle of your birth comes down to this final choice: burn or fly.

Ten seconds from the window to the pavement.  In those ten seconds a news photographer will snap uncounted pictures of you twisting and tumbling through the air.  One day your family might flip through his images looking for you.  One day your family might not bear to.  In the images you are so small against the enormity of what is behind you.  It is Tuesday and as long as I am alive you will fall forever.


worm s eye view photography of buildings

Photo by Nicolás Jaramillo on


that weird time in between books

I am gestating what may turn out to be my next novel.  Or I may just have indigestion.  It’s very awkward.

Anyway, I just sent what I hope will be the final version of In the Red to my editor.  Or at least close to the final version…  My book contract is sitting on my desk waiting for me to decipher its legalese.  Then I will sign it and wait for my sweet, tasty advance.  I have been signing a shit-ton of papers lately because the husband and I just bought a condo.  This barely a few months after paying off the last of our student loans–I guess we felt bereft not being owned by some bank or other.  Now for the minor nightmare of American adulthood: the mortgage.

The condo comes with a bunch of pretty nice furniture because it was previously owned by a lone old lady who died in it.  So, we get her stuff.  I am essentially inheriting another iteration of Madame Brunet’s box in a much bigger version.  I am one favored by dead old ladies I never knew, apparently.  One of my new acquisitions is a player piano with scrolls!  Stay tuned for a ragtime housewarming party…


RIP, little Corolla.  1997-2012.

RIP, little Corolla. 1997-2012.

Written to my husband, May 1, 2006:

You and I are driving home, reminiscing about those days when we first flirted together.

I remember the first time I looked at you with desire was in the Fall of 1998. You were driving me somewhere then too, and you said something funny. I laughed. Not to be courteous: what you’d said was truly funny, and it was a real laugh, a laugh with surprise in it. In mid-laugh I felt a pang of sadness because I was going overseas and I thought that this was your last year of graduate study, so that when I came back to Stanford, you would be gone. I thought that I would never see you again. I was mistaken.

“Do you remember?” I say. “We were in the same car we’re in now, in the same seats. The car was new then.”

Do you remember? I was leaning against the hood of this car when you first kissed me, on the evening of July 8th 1999, just a couple of weeks after I got home from Europe. It was at Ocean Beach and it was so cold and windy. We had just walked together by the water and you’d held my hand. I’d showed you the scar on my knee from the surgery on my broken leg, and you’d laid your palm on the place where my tibia is still bumpy–where it mended into an unwell shape. You were so close and I was waiting for you to kiss me. There was a bus idling at its terminus near us in the parking lot–it waited with the lights on and the doors open for its turn-around time. You were waiting for the bus to leave because you didn’t want the driver to see us. Perhaps, the driver was waiting for us too.

The three of us there, late on a thursday night.

You body touched mine and we were tired of waiting then. It was then that you put your arms around me and gave me the first kiss of many–leaning right against this car–with the bus driver watching.

In this car, you drove me to the emergency room so many times that they cannot be possibly be counted–you so quiet and worried, me curled up in the passenger seat in blinding pain as always. Some nights, not in this car. Some nights, in an ambulance.

In this car, you drove me to the hospital to get cut open.
In this car, you drove alone to San Francisco to marry me on the morning of June 6th, 2004.
In this car, you drove us home the next day from the honeymoon suite of The Seal Rock Inn–the first place we’d made love all legal-like.

This car is old now. The latch on the glove compartment just had to be replaced–its random small parts are starting to fail. One day we will have to get a new car, maybe drive some kids around.

This car: a 1998 Toyota Corolla, white.
In this car, I first looked at you with desire.
In this car eight years later, you drive me home.

We bought a new car today, a Prius in a lovely ocean color. “Sea glass pearl,” the manufacturer calls this color. In some lights it looks blue, in some lights green, in some lights gray. The ride is smooth and very, very quiet. Accelerating in this car makes a whispering wind-up sound reminiscent of stately space vessels in cheesy sci fi movies. It sounds like the future.

barfy stomach virus + delirious fever + vicodin = dreams starring Kate Beckinsale in a leather corset over a torn poet shirt

The way the world works is, every once in a while, a Good Angel and a Bad Angel fall to Earth from on high.  They are sent down to rule the planet.  One of them is male and one of them is female (it doesn’t matter which is which), so what usually happens is that they fuck and make Medium Angel, and that Angel rules the world as a compromise.  Except this time there’s a glitch at the angel factory so that Good Angel and Bad Angel are both female.  I am Good Angel, and Bad Angel is much stronger and more attractive than I am.  She says, “Since we can’t make Medium Angel, we should just go ahead and fight to the death and whoever wins gets to rule the world.”  I’m like, I got a bad feeling about this.

So, we fight for a while, Japanese-animé style, hurling balls of lightning at each other and leveling cities and such.  Bad Angel is clearly kicking my ass.  I am lying there in a pool of my own blood trying to gather the last shreds of my energy for a desperate suicidal onslaught when Bad Angel pities me and says, “Don’t bother, it’s useless.  You think that even if somehow you win, human beings will stop hating and killing each other just because they have a Good Angel to watch over them?  Just give up.  They’re all mine.  The world was made for me.”

I look up at the Bad Angel, absorb what she said, realize that she is right, and pass out.

When I wake up, I am covered in brambles and crap.  It’s fifty years later and the whole planet is a post-apocalyptic wasteland.  Nobody remembers the battle I lost; nobody even remembers there was ever a Good Angel.  I am weak and miserable and I don’t know why I bother being alive, alive forever to wander the Earth and watch the human race degrade itself while the Bad Angel laughs, laughs, laughs.

Other suggestions welcome for the lead actress…  Who else does badass pathos?

little pieces of me going home

13 rue Thérèse is finally out in France!  Hooray!


 Is that cover sexy, or what?  I think I like the purple even better than the red they had on the spec cover.  I have yet to see it in person, and I am totally dying to do so.  Hurry up and send me my copies, Michel Lafon!

In other news, I am officially a crazy orchid lady.  What can I say?  They are awesome, for a whole list of reasons:

(1) They are cheaper than a bouquet of cut flowers, plus I don’t have to kill anything to brighten my home.

(2) They are pretty and colorful and, let’s face it, pretty lewd-looking–especially when the bud is first splitting open.  Any flower that freaked out Victorians is a friend of mine.

(3) They are low-maintenance lifeforms that somehow manage not to succumb to my black thumb.

(4) The cats thankfully do not seem to be interested in eating them, probably because the orchid is one of the few houseplants that will not poison them!  (Huh.  I wonder how much of an overlap there is between crazy cat ladies and crazy orchid ladies…)

Here is a little gallery of the new friends I have acquired since I last posted on this blog:


You know that scene in Shawshank Redemption when the dude breaks out of jail and explodes out of the mire into his freedom on a stormy night?  Or was that Raising Arizona!?  Anyway, I dug a tunnel for years and now I’m outside.  I have a full draft of In the Red.  270 pages, about 70,000 words.  Now I get to give it a redraft and send it to my agent.  Eek!  It’ll be weird to have another human being read it.  But–that’s part of the point of writing the bloody things, no?

It’s sitting on my desk all printed out.  It’s quite a manly pile of paper.  See?


The last thing that’s typed on my computer screen in this photo is, “It’s sitting on my desk all printed out.  It’s quite a manly pile of paper.  See?”  Do you feel like you’re with me in the moment, or what?  The photo is all moody and dark because it is currently midnight.  The shadowy pot on the left side of the photo contains my desk orchid.  Unfortunately, the African violet that was once there is no more.  It turns out even elderly cats have a taste for certain types of plant flesh.

A moment of silence for our departed friend, Saintpaulia ionantha.

Since my furry little murderers haven’t touched the living room orchids, I decided to play it safe and get another orchid for my desk.  Wanna see?


Pretty sexy, no?  It’s a yellowed parchment color with closely packed, bright red dots all over it.  It was looming over me as I finished the book.  It will surely continue to loom over me as I finish the book again and again, until one day it is printed and I can stop finishing it.

new house friends

I am so, so close to finishing In The Red I can taste it.  It’s quite thrilling, and of course the usual amount of angsty.  You know: What if it turns out that it sucks?  What if it gets rejected all over the place?  What am I supposed to do with myself after it’s done?  Actually, for that last one, I already sort of have an idea for my next novel.  It involves supernatural beings and what may or may not be a crass commercial venture.  We’ll see what comes out.  One of the things about writing novels that’s like having kids is that you can plan all you want but you have no idea what it will really turn out like until you go ahead and do it.  Decorating the nursery is different from having a live baby explosively defecate all over it, is what I’m saying.

Now, who wants to see some pretty flowers?

I was at Costco the other day and they had a great big display of orchids.  I thought it would be nice to get one or two for the living room now that the cats are old enough to not automatically murder every plant that comes within chewing radius.  I looked through them but they were all broken or half-dead in some way, as if they had been brought to the store in some ghastly orchid slave ship.  Then I remembered where I had seen some super gorgeous orchids for sale.  Guess.

They were at the local branch of Fry’s.  Yep.  I went to an electronics store to buy flowers.  And it turns out that Fry’s is really good at flowers!  Check it out:

Given that I did not have little dishes to put the plants in, I repurposed a couple of old Frisbees as flower pot plates.  I had three old Frisbees, and two plants.  You know what that means.  It pretty much guaranteed the purchase of a third plant.  For the sake of completeness, you see.  Meet my new little writing desk friend, an African violet from Orchard Supply:

It looks exactly like an African violet that was butchered by a kitten that shall remain nameless in 2003.  Said kitten is older and more sedate now, so hopefully this plant will not meet the unfortunate fate of its former brethren.  Wish it good luck and godspeed.


It’s been over a month since I’ve posted!  Guess what I’ve been doing lately?  Studying evil!  See, it’s kind of hard to write goofy blog posts when I’m subjecting myself to mass doses of human fuckedupedness.  It’s more than a bit challenging to put my findings into cogent sentences, but fortunately some have done a pretty good job before me.  Some polish guy with a name I can’t type because it has a special character in it wrote about broken societies being taken over by psychopaths who institute totalitarian governments in his book Political Ponerology.  It’s pretty much Orwell minus the plot and it will traumatize you for life.  Speaking of psychopaths, Robert Hare has done some amazing work on them.  If reading the work of these two dudes does not traumatize you enough, here are some of the youtube videos I’ve been horrifying myself with lately:

Canadian serial killer rapes and butchers prostitutes on his pig farm in Canada for YEARS while Vancouver police kind of suck at policing.

• 11-year old girl strangles toddler boys to death in shitty English slums in 1968 and the authorities sit on their asses for an alarmingly long time.

Japanese dude murders and eats pretty exchange student in Paris with no ill consequences and goes home to become a celebrity in his native land (best-selling author, porn star, lecturer, TV personality etc).

Are you advocating for the destruction of the human species yet?  What’s so fucked up is not only these freaky outliers but the responses they get from the authorities and society at large.  It looks like evil is not so much a discrete feature in the human personality as what emerges when other features are missing.  The most obvious missing feature is empathy.  But, as anyone who is acquainted with a bunch of engineers knows, being socially retarded is not an immediate gateway to murder.  A researcher named Cleckley called what I’m about to talk about “semantic aphasia.”

Once upon a time, because of the vagaries of bodily chemistry, I was crazy in love with an asshole.  Yep, it happens to many of us.  One thing he used to do that destroyed my universe of a regular basis is totally contradict himself without apparent awareness.  He’s state some philosophical belief of his, and a week later say something that was in complete opposition.  At first, I questioned him about these inconsistencies to try to figure out what was happening in his (deficient) brain, but the resulting conversations always made me want to eat a gun.  So I learned to shut up and stomach a whole bunch of bullshit.  I made constant excuses for that weird emptiness inside him.  And thus a cock-addicted co-dependent was born.

What was especially weird about his frequent lies is that it seemed, most of the time, he was not actually aware he was bullshitting.  It seriously flummoxed the shit out of me and made me want to stab myself in the soul.  This is apparently a common feature of psychopaths.  It’s called semantic aphasia and it’s how come they can say without blinking, “oh I ripped a dude’s eyeball out of his face last week and then fucked his brain through his empty eyeball hole until he died but I have never committed a violent crime.”  Psychopaths can say shit like that because they literally don’t know what words mean.  They can give you the dictionary definition of a word but they are unable to feel its emotional content.  So, if you say to a psychopath, “nazis raping baby pandas,” his brain will respond the same as if you said, “tapioca pudding.”  (Unless he thinks tapioca pudding is icky, in which case his brain will have a stronger response to the pudding, I’m guessing.)    Because of this deficiency, this means that even the smartest psychopath will be unable to catch falsehoods when they come out of his mouth.  Ain’t that some shit?  Doesn’t that shed a whole lot of light on your ex-boyfriend?

I’m not necessarily saying that your shitty ex-boyfriend it out there butchering whores, but I’m saying he suffers from the same lack as the whore butcherer, on a smaller scale.  He is, in essence, a mini-psychopath.  The world is absolutely CRAMMED with these people.  People who cannot feel meaning.  Couple that with lack of empathy and it’s Jeffrey Dahmer time.

Soapbox moment: Empathy and meaning are at the root of morality, which is why stories are good for us because they build both.  So tell your little ones a shitload of stories, and maybe in a generation or two we can dispense with Wall Street.

Okay, now I need to go find some chocolate and a purring cat.

Seriously, kitty cuddles STAT, please.

Excitement x3! (redux)

(1) Here’s me being a great big bucket of sexy at the Zyzzyva reading on April 24th.  Many thanks to Oscar Villalon, Laura Cogan and Tosca Café for a wonderful event!

(2) Come to the Art Center in Davis (1919 F Street) this Friday, May 11 at 7 PM for a cool lit-art thingee featuring the paintings of Sondra Olson, and readings by Sue Staats (prose), Dorine Jeannette (poetry), and meeeeee.  Copies of Farallon Review, Issue 4, featuring my story, “Domestic Animals,” will be on sale.

(3) Last book event for 13 rue Thérèse in the foreseeable future!  This Saturday, May 12 at 11 AM at Corte Madera’s Book Passage.  I hope to go out in a blaze of glory!

Excitement x3!

• Three cool things:

(1) 13 rue Thérèse featured in NY Times Paperback row!

(2) Interview with me up at Litquake’s website!

(3) Speaking of Litquake, come to the Zyzzyva release party tomorrow night at Tosca in San Francisco!  I will be reading along with Peter Orner and Rob Ehle.

• Three things that we realize, post-move, we should never buy again as we have entirely too many of them:

(1) whisks

(2) umbrellas

(3) motherf*****g books

I am guessing I will be able to tamp down on my whisk and umbrella purchasing habits…  Books, however, are another story…