I was in Los Angeles, the city that is a woman.
It was one hell of a trip. So much happened. First we had an hour, a little more, all we would have for the trip because timing is everything and this time, timing was our enemy. We had an hour and the world fell away, our hands clasped together, words falling out of our mouths and then an unexpected but lovely moment hurtling us forward. We had an hour and we tried so hard to make that hour last forever and it was enough and it was not nearly enough.
That night I had a reading at The Last Bookstore in downtown Los Angeles. I wasn’t expecting many people to be there because it was Friday night and the bookstore is downtown and that’s just how I roll, always thinking the least of myself. I was lucky to read with seven amazing women—Kima Jones, Antonia Crane, Pamela Ribon, Nina Bargiel, Mallory Ellis, Kate Spencer, and Karolina Waclawiak. Our host for the evening was the always soulful and generous Zoe Ruiz. Something special happened that night. Every reader was fierce and electric. There were hundreds of people crammed on two levels, standing, sitting, crouching, several deep in all the balconies.
It was a hell of a thing, being in that store that night.
The room was unbearably hot but miraculously, people stayed. I read last and when I was done, I got a standing ovation, the crowd rising to their feet in this gorgeous wave of energy. It was, by far, a Moment, one of the biggest moments of my life. I stood there and I felt this rush of everything. I felt how far I have come. The signing line lasted ninety minutes and it was still hot and people stood and waited just to talk to me. Words cannot express anything about how overwhelming, unexpected, and gratifying that night was so I can only offer up these meager paragraphs. I will never forget that night. My god. I cannot believe what is happening with my writing.
I had a bunch of media interviews on Saturday morning, one after the other and by the end, I was absolutely over myself. I am grateful for the press but so interviewed out.
L.A. and I talked on the phone for a while and then I had lunch with Mallory in my hotel room and we talked and talked. Mallory has perfect skin and perfect teeth and gorgeous eyes and she can wear the hell out of a dress. Just know that. We have a delightful time when we hang out. Our Twitter followers ship us and it’s adorable. I get it. We’re pretty interesting ladies. Twitter keeps saying we are OTP. While we were hanging out, I said, “Mallory, what is OTP?” She laughed but she also explained the lingo and then I laughed. I am SO OLD.
Which reminds me. At the reading, Mallory’s grandmother was in the front row and she simply beamed with pride as her granddaughter read about how to deal with criticism and also male novelist literary jokes. It was so cool to see that. You couldn’t tell grandmother a damn thing that night. She knew, and rightly so, that her grandaughter is the shit.
There was also, during the Q & A, a woman who wondered why all the readers talked about sexuality (not so accurate), because she was deeply concerned with global economic inequality. I answered her question and I’m still pleased with my answer.
Saturday evening, I saw my friend Amber in Neil LaBute’s Reasons to Be Pretty which is showing at The Geffen Playhouse. Amber is an actress but I actually know her as a writer. I published a poem of hers at PANK and we’ve done literary events together and so on. Anyway, it was really cool to see her doing her thing on stage. The show is interesting. I am not a fan of LaBute but there’s a lot to chew on about gender and beauty and relationships—a very dense script. GO SEE IT. The cast is stellar, the set is basically a Transformer, and the theatre seating is comfortable. I went with my friends Zoe, Casey and Josh. Casey and Josh were also in LA for my reading and having them there throughout the weekend was the loveliest.
After the play, we went for a drink with Amber and her friends, one of whom is a TV show creator and we then proceeded to have a peak Los Angeles experience that I am still giggling about. That city is ridiculous in the best possible way.
I was riding on the high of being in my favorite city but the weekend was also laced with melancholy. I felt every emotion ever. I was hurting. We both were. I was a little angry at circumstance. I was frustrated at things I don’t understand and things that are out of my control.
I had a meeting Sunday afternoon with an amazing woman writer/director/producer where we talked about Things and Possibilities.
It was a weekend of events where I kept thinking, “I wish you were here.”
Sunday evening, I went to dinner with Casey and Josh and we had amazing Chinese food and drinks and conversation and they were really good to me. We also beheld an amazing view of the city at night, all glitter and glam.
The next morning, there was so much traffic but I did something impulsive, found us one last moment.
Later, on the drive home, I offered a way out, as I have done probably too many times. I was crisply told to make that the last time.
I do not particularly enjoy feeling things. I shut myself off for many years so this allowing myself my emotions thing is kind of new and kind of a pain in the ass. For the past several days, I have been drilling into myself, “See the world as it is. See the world as it is. See the world as it is.” I want to write these words one hundred eleven times. Or is it a hundred and thirty three times? I want to burn these words into my skin and tattoo them on the insides of my lips and eyelids.
Or I remind myself I need to be patient, I need to be patient, I need to accept that I do not get to shape the world as I want. That sort of thing only happens in fiction and this is not fiction. This is a huge, messy, exhilarating life.
I would not choose anything but this. I’m probably not supposed to say that but while we may not get to shape the world as we want, we do get to feel what we feel.
Sometimes, emotion is too much. I wish myself to be a robot. I wish to break myself of hope, the allure of possibility, needing reassurance, the foolishness of fairy tales, of hearing words and hoping the truth behind those words will be enough to overcome. I want to break myself of everything that makes me human but then, what would I be?
No. I don’t want to break myself of these things. I want to allow myself these things while also seeing the world as it is.
In truth, my ability to hope is such an indelible part of who I am. No matter what has happened, I have always held on to hope, even when it was the frailest glimmer of a thing. I wrote a whole novel about it, in fact.
That hour and some was everything. And enough. I will always want more. We, I think, will always want more. May we be so lucky as to get that more someday. This is not fiction.
1. Roxane is amazing. I had read her work before seeing her in person. I was expecting her to be great. I was not prepared for just how great she is.
2. My wife Nina Bargiel was one of the readers who preceded Roxane on Friday night. She read a great story that I hope she shares with the rest of the world someday.
Sunday, 3:17am: my alarm goes off
That alarm was three years in the making.
Will ran the LA Marathon for the first time in 2012. He was injured, and my friend Corrie and I walked up the course to bring him in the last four miles. She had run the marathon before. I hadn’t. and I told her that under no circumstances did I ever plan to.
The next year, Will was feeling better. I still wasn’t going to run the marathon.
A few months ago, Will and I moved to the West Side. Now I could do a long run without checking Twitter to see if had to change my route because someone was being mugged. Now would be a good time to train for the marathon, I thought.
I still didn’t do anything about it.
My friend Chris ran his first marathon last year after training with the LA Leggers, a running group that met early Saturday mornings about seven months before the marathon. I’m not a joiner. I don’t like being told when and where I have to be, and I certainly don’t like not being in charge. It seemed like a perfect storm of things that should not work.
Four weeks into the Legger’s training season, I joined.
I quickly took to the training: the 4 minute run/1 minute walk, the route, the idea that I just needed to follow the person ahead of me. I didn’t have to think about anything but showing up and putting one foot in front of the other.
We did 14, 16 mile training runs. We did multiple 18 milers, two 20-milers, and a 22-miler that had me running the last full mile partially uphill (I needed to find a bathroom.)
I was ready for the marathon.
Will and I were up and out of the house by 4:45am. Traffic on the 10 was already backing up, but we managed to park and walk down to the shuttle by 5:25am. We were at Dodger Stadium by 6:15am. We met up with my Leggers pace group and waited.
The sun came up but downtown was still overcast and a little breezy. If the weather held, we’d be great.
SPOILER: The weather did not hold.
My wife ran her first marathon yesterday and she did an amazing job. Yesterday’s race was challenging for the most experienced of runners and Nina overcame every challenge on her way to the finish line. If you’ve ever said “I would/could never run a marathon” you should read this. You could be as amazing as Nina.