Monday, March 31, 2008

Do You Know Who I Am?

Buried under work at my desk. Listening to WSHU online. I was hoping to be listening to the Yanks game by now, but there is a rain delay. On opening day. Maybe it's just an auspicious beginning.

In the meantime, Kirk sent me this, and it's genius. Enjoy.




Pic of Yankee Stadium on its inaugural Opening Day, April 18, 1923. Yanks vs Red Sox.

Swing, battah battah!


Sunday, March 30, 2008

When the Stars Seem to Shine Like You've Had Too Much Wine (from a box)

Friday night, Ian, Renee, Jeff and I went to a dance fundraiser at the kids' school. It was adults only, BYOB, and intended to benefit the 8th Grade Class so they can afford the myriad of activities they have slated for graduation. Consequently, most of the parents--and grandparents--who showed up were unfamiliar to me, since their kids were in the older classes. My lil' posse of PreK and Kindergarten parents wouldn't have been caught dead there.

Except for the four of us. It's simple, really: A BYOB dance in a church hall in the Cove? Are you kidding me? We needed to see this.

We arrived and parked a few spots away from an SUV with a "TOO HOT FOR THIS CAR" bumpersticker. We all actually felt nervous and a little sick about the dance, especially Renee and I who have deep roots in the neighborhood and were insecure about who we might run into from our "past". Armed with a corkscrew, two good bottles of wine and two six packs of beer-snob-beer, we descended into the hall, where the Satins recorded "In the Still of the Night" some 50 years or so ago.

The lights were much too bright for a dance, but we accepted it. It allowed us to see what was before us: table after table stocked with amazing quantities of booze. Bad booze. Yes, some people had the expected standards for this part of town, like Grey Goose and Coors Light. But my eyes immediately jumped to not one but two boxes of wine. Across the way was a table sporting jugs of Carlo Rossi. Yet another table had Corvasier. And Jello shots. There was an apparent sober table, too, with coffee and water. But then someone in their party showed up with--guess what!?--a box of wine.

We pulled out our Wine and Beer Snob selection, while Renee and I snickered about the number of old Italian men leering at our tits. We didn't even consider sharing a bottle--we each grabbed our own, and seriously contemplated swigging straight from the necks rather than pouring a couple of ounces into plastic cups. Other tables had their own crystal for the occasion. And some people had even brought their own food--and this was a catered event.

We were obviously so ignorant.

Not only we were the palest (read: non-tanning) individuals in the hall of 125 or so, we were also the youngest. Or at least we looked the youngest. Tired, old Italian men with unhealthy tans and new leather jackets were everywhere, with their shellacked, heavily made-up wives and daughters that looked looked as equally tired and tan. Did these people have hard lives, or did they just suffer the consequences of hard alcohol and too many tanning beds? Either way, as the candle on our table flickered above its display--a little octagonal mirror--I leaned over and said to Renee that all I could think of was the line from Goodfellas when Lorraine Braco says that all the Mafia wives looked tired and old, and their skin was bad. As if reading my mind, Ian announced to the table, "We gotta go home and watch Goodfellas tonight."

As Renee and I took our cups o'wine with us on a walk around the raffle and silent auction tables, there was a run on the stuffed bread. Ian and Jeff pulled out of line to complain to us: "They're all out!"

"What the hell are you doing?" we yelled. "Get back in line!"

More bread was served, a precursor to the typical catered Italian fare we had later that evening. But the night wasn't about the food.

We drank. We danced. We considered inviting the token Asian couple, sitting alone, to join our naive party of four, but they were soon joined by the token black couple of the night. It was better they didn't join us, anyway. Our table was quickly degenerating into one too many inside jokes and cellphone pics of cleavage as Renee and I plowed headlong through our bottles of wine. We watched as women in their fifties staggered, two by two, into the ladies room. We were amused that some moms walked around with margarita glasses brimming with drinks blended fresh at their tables. And we even danced. Well, we slow-danced, anyway. Swaying to the oldies.

As the night wore on, we all drained our bottles and contemplated leaving--but we had to at least stick around for the raffle. I lost the 50/50. Those were the red tickets. And Renee had a sleeve of green tickets for the regular raffle. After a while, though, it became clear that everyone in charge of the raffle was too hammered for the job, especially when they started drawing red tickets for the regular raffle instead of green ones. It was a mess. We corked our remaining sips of wine and headed out the door and toward the car, where Renee handed me the mirror from our table.

"Let's get out of here before these people start backing into each other in the parking lot," said Ian.

Despite the fact that I killed off almost an entire bottle of Punto Final Malbec by myself that night, I woke up in decent shape on Saturday morning. And after a few errands and a quick trip downtown to Origins, I went out for a frigid run at lunchtime. It was tough going, though. The wind was brutal and near impossible to run against down by the water. I did my best, and later in the day my brother and sister came over for taco night with me, Ian and the boys. And we all watched the Kids' Choice Awards on Nick.

This morning I whipped us up some bitchin' french toast and grilled bananas before Church, somewhere I've found myself more frequently these days. My sister is about to make her confirmation, too, so I felt I should make the effort to hustle everyone into the 10AM at St. Bernadette's today. Sean and his friend Nick waved to each other for the duration of mass, and the priest that married me (the first time around--no priests will be involved when I marry Ian)--and whose brother is my accountant--was a guest officiant of today's service. We saw other friends from school and the community, and I was reminded that my neighborhood is not solely comprised of carcinogenic tough guys and their old ladies. It's mostly good, hardworking people...even if some of them are too tan and drink really bad alcohol.

Before the morning was even finished, Grandma came by with my cousin Maureen up on a visit from from DC, and my Uncle Danny, who has been home every weekend from NY since Grandma was diagnosed with cancer. "We were just on the Green for Mass," Grandma announced.

"Why were you on the Green?" I asked.

She looked incredulous. How could I not know, she seemed to wonder. "For the anniversary of the Uprising!" said Grandma, somewhat shocked. "Fr. Holt said the Mass. And it wasn't too cold if you could find a place in the sun."

Ah. The Easter Uprising of 1916. Good old fashioned Irish rebellion. Google it if you're not familiar with it.

I'm half Irish and 1/4 Italian. The remaining quarter is Hungarian, but I don't know much about it except that I like pierogies--and I think those are Polish, anyway. But the point I'm getting at is this: The Italians do things like hole up in church basements and drink bad booze and dance and slowly get lovey and sloppy with everyone around them. The Irish stand and freeze at an outdoor Mass in March, all in remembrance of what boils down to another fight amongst themselves. Then they hole up in pubs and drink bad booze and celebrate the backhanded affection they feel for everyone in their lives.

I'll take the basement.

My full house emptied out sometime in the afternoon, and Nolan and I immediately fell asleep on the couch while Sean engineered some new spaceship out of Legos. After some tea and an hour of baseball in the setting sun before dinner, the weekend officially wound down. Even the kids didn't put up a fight. They were asleep before 8:30.

I had a great weekend.

Hope you had a great one, too.


Friday, March 28, 2008

Ice Cream and Ball

I'm wrecked. I have a pile of work on my desk, and I'm recovering from a night of virutally no sleep. I was up almost every hour with Nolan, who fights with his brother in his sleep. "No, Seany! No! It's mine!" he screams from his bed, sound asleep. Occasionally, I ride it out. But usually, I have to intervene. I gently rouse him from his sleep. I get him up, I get him to the bathroom, where he typically pees for about two minutes, and then I get him back to bed. I've noticed that nighttime hysterics seem to be related to his need to pee. Once his little bladder is empty, he sleeps through the rest of the night without a peep. (Last night was an exception, however. Lucky me.) And as exhausting as it can be to deal with sometimes, I'd rather be up with a screaming, sleeping, peeing banshee than dealing with a pee-soaked bed in the morning.

I also went to bed later than usual last night. After a quick trip to Ikea (Candles! Construction paper for the kids! Horrible ergonomic pillows that lasted three seconds in my bed last night!), Ian and I grabbed a drink at Firehouse. Los likes to push the Spanish reds on me, and last night's was a single glass of pure nectar. My inferior follow-up glass of shiraz was so lame in comparison. It would have been fine on its own, but I'm such a horrible snob. I left the glass full and rejected on the bar, and Ian and I skipped on outta there to head home.

"I want ice cream," I announced.

Our options were to hit Krauzer's for a pint of Haagen-Daaz, Gourmet Heaven for a grossly overpriced pint of Ben & Jerrry's, or Ashley's for some real ice cream.

Ashley's won out. I opted for the Oreo, since my favorite--Coffee Oreo--was too much of a gamble at 10PM. After all, I was hoping to get a good night's sleep. Har har.

Once home, my belly fulla warm Spanish wine and cold Oreo ice cream, I settled into the couch to watch a biography of former Yankee player and manager Billy Martin on YES.

Sean's first season of tee-ball last year bestowed upon him a #1 jersey. My Uncle Danny, a big baseball fan and longtime New Yorker, immediately noted: "He's wearing Billy Martin's number!" But in all honesty, Sean's temperament is the polar opposite of Martin's. Sean is a very thoughtful, sensitive, intellectual little guy who is interested in brokering peace deals. More of a DiMaggio than a sand-kicking, angry Martin. In fact, as we watched a clip last night of Martin kicking sand at an umpire, Ian said,

"Look! It's Nolan when he grows up!"

Good God I hope not.

Billy Martin. He ran around with his famed teammates Mickey Mantle and Whitey Ford (two players I met together in February 1988) as baseball's answer to the Rat Pack. But Martin's drinking got in the way of his full potential, that's for sure. It also got in the way of his life, which ended at 61 when he drunkenly smashed his pickup truck on Christmas night 1989, just as he was poised to accept another turn as manager of the Yanks, a position he held five times. Each time, he was fired.

But how you look at Martin's career depends upon how you look at things in general, I think. It seemed a lot of former players and managers quoted for the biography focused on Billy's inability to keep the job as manager. But the way I see it is that he was asked back five times. He had something going for him, even if it wasn't exactly people skills.

This is the last year that the House That Ruth Built will be used for games. Next year the new stadium opens across the street from the current one. I've got tickets to see the Yanks play Detroit this May in the Bronx. I've got a few more games picked out, too. And since this is also the last year for Shea Stadium, per Ian's prodding I've picked a game to check out with the kiddins: The Mets vs The Dodgers, now managed by former longtime Yankee manager Joe Torre. I'm looking forward to that.

Time to get back to work, if I can stop yawning. Ian and I have big things on this weekend's agenda with respect to upcoming nuptials and househunting in the Cove. And I'll have a full house, too, since my brother and sister are spending the night with me tomorrow.

But before anyone arrives, I'm going for a run. My fourth run of the week. Every day I've gone a little longer, a little faster. And each time I've done a loop through Lighthouse Park, which is turning into my year-round outdoor home away from home.

It's good to feel like I'm back in my own skin.

Here's a clip about Martin's funeral:

And this, from Ian, who knows how to make my day:

Happy Friday.


Thursday, March 27, 2008

Tonight's Selection

My favorite Weezer song.



Q: What do grown-ups do?

While Sean dangled his feet in front of my laptop last night, playing the latest Star Wars Legos video game, Nolan climbed into the tub for a serious scrubbing. The kid is three years old, a total energetic jumping/leaping/howling spaz in a way his brother never was or will be--cuz they're different people--and he had the dirt all over him to prove it.

As I lathered up his hair with shampoo, I said, "You look like an old man with all those white bubbles in your hair."

"I'm not an old man!"

"Some day you will be! What do you want to be when you grow up, anyway?"

"A regular old man," he said.

"But what do you want to do when you grow up?" I asked, hoping to clarify his preschool goals.

"Ummmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm......" he thought for a while. Then he looked up at me with the biggest smile and said,

"Freak out."

I guess he's studying his role models pretty well.


Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Gumball Machine Rings, Old Letters, and Lip-Synching Midgets

Brought Sean to ninja training (aka Tae Kwon Do) tonight, where I ran into a blast from the past: An old boyfriend of Renee's showed up with his six year old son, who is also in the class. We hadn't seen each other in years, so we had a lot of catching up to do. He and his wife are expecting their second child this year. I am so happy for all of them--especially considering the whole story. He recently adopted his wife's son, with whom his wife was five months pregnant when her first husband died in a car accident.

What a crazy, thrilling, sometimes awful and usually beautiful adventure of choice and chance that leads us to one another in life. I'm glad they found each other. (And the fact that Renee is in a really great relationship now makes it even easier to be happy for him.)

After class, off we went. I was tired. Sean and I came home and ate dinner, a veritable second shift at the kitchen table, since Nolan and his dad, Keith, had already eaten. (Keith usually comes by twice a week to hang with the boys while I do "whatever" -- which is usually laundry, making the next day's lunches, and doing some yoga before bed. How rockin'. Thursday I'll go out...) Sean and I quietly munched away, two starving bunnies, cracking the occasional joke and staring together at the twilight through the French doors that lead to the deck, our reflections faint in the panes of glass.

After dinner, the kids did the usual horsing around with Dad while I decided to hunt for something I hadn't seen in a while. I have box of autographs, and I'm not sure what I did with it. I was pretty certain it wasn't in my hat boxes, but I checked anyway.

I pulled two hat boxes down from the highest shelf in my enormous closet (ah, the joys of renting a newly renovated house...). The first box was full of more recent memories: I found letters from relatives and close family friends, dead and alive. I found old drawings penned by my sister for me when she in grade school. I rifled through ticket stubs and playbills and photos and newspaper clippings. And between every layer of paper I found small notes from Keith throughout the years. Notes that read, "Back after practice!" Or, "See you after my soccer game!" or, "Hope you had a great day! See you later tonight!" Evidence of what I already knew: Keith had a free pass to do whatever he wanted with his life, before and after marriage and children. Unfortunately, it wasn't enough.

The second box was a portal to an earlier era, back in the first few years after moving out of my home. It too was packed with notes from Keith promising a quick return. It also contained temporary tattoos and gumball machine rings, funny notes from people I haven't seen since the Daily Caffe was around, an employee review from my job at Inland Book Co., senior class photos from high school, photos of Cats I Have Known, and a letter from City University of New York.

Life is like a choose your own adventure book from childhood. Remember those? When you would choose what would happen next in the book and flip to the chapter that corresponded with your chosen plot line? I would try to read those books straight through, but it never worked. They adhered to a strict formula that required you to stick with your choice once you made it, otherwise the story simply didn't work.

This letter from CUNY was dated April 11, 1995 (the year I should have finished undergrad...I took a while to get the job done). And it was a great big flashing yellow light at the first major fork in my life's road. Man, did I ever choose the one most traveled. Accepted to CUNY as a transfer from Southern, my only accomplishment as of that moment being laid off from a failing and now defunct book distributor, I opted NOT to go to the city for school. Why? Well, it would have been reallllllllllly expensive to live there, and I was daunted by the prospect of coked-up roommates on 14th Street. And, of course, there was my Boyfriend. How could I leave him? And my little sister, who was only three...and, and...

The excuses were endless. Suffice to say, I chose a different adventure. For a long time I regretted it. Three years later, while I worked for a midtown PR firm after graduating Southern, I still didn't want to move to NY. I LOVE NY. I mean, I LOOOOOOOOOOOOOVE IT. But it's so freaking expensive. And, well, my Boyfriend was in CT.

See the pattern?

So I married the college boyfriend. And it was only after my divorce from him, as I leaned against the chain-link fence at Sean's first little league game last year here in New Haven, just seconds from my single mom seaside rental in the Cove, did I realize--out of the blue: If I had ever moved to NY, I wouldn't have had these amazing little boys. Of that I was certain.

I'll take these kids over any missed opportunity. Ever. I can imagine how it might have felt to live in NY, at least for a while. But I cannot imagine life without these kids. Not for a second. Not for half a second.

I put away the boxes. I never did find the autographs.

Keith finished reading the boys their bedtime stories, said goodbye, and took off until next time.

"Mommy, will you snuggle with me?" said Nolan in his little mouse voice.

"Of course, monkey," I replied. Before long, the three of us were all piled into Sean's bed, one big mass of bedtime hugs and kisses.

Tomorrow I'll head out for my third run of the week. As I pulled my hair back for yesterday's neighborhood trot, I noticed my hair is the longest it's been in three years. I should get it trimmed, at least. But I like it long. For a change. Until I get sick of it and cut it all off again.

I'm babbling. Time to end this and go to bed.

Here's tonight's lullaby:

Sweet dreams!

Unclaimed Baggage

From today's NYT.

March 25, 2008

From Forgotten Luggage, Stories of Mental Illness

A trunk in a dusty attic holds a sleeveless peach-colored silk dress belted in creamy lace, a cane topped with a carved duck’s head, kid gloves, a riding habit, a few red leather date books and an eight-page typed essay analyzing Napoleon Bonaparte’s love life.

Trunks like it usually inspire dress-up games, memory exercises and writing class assignments, not works of medical history — although that discipline could often sorely use some human interest. This particular trunk is an exception: it belonged to a delicately featured Frenchwoman who walked into Bellevue Hospital in Manhattan one day in 1932 to engage the doctors in a dialogue on paranormal communication, and was committed to psychiatric wards for much of the rest of her life.

She wound up a long-term resident of Willard State Hospital, a gigantic institution in upstate New York that opened its doors to the incurable mentally ill in 1869 and closed in 1995, sending its last thousand or so patients out to smaller facilities. Left behind in an upstairs storeroom were hundreds of pieces of patients’ luggage.

Curators poking through were transfixed by the power and pathos of the contents, their ordinariness a sad contrast to the tangled aberrancy of the owners’ lives. After a decade of cataloging and research, a small subset of the material became the subject of an exhibition, and now a book.

One set of 18 pieces of luggage held the complete wardrobe and household goods of a successful midcareer nurse who became convinced her co-workers were conspiring against her. She reluctantly assented to temporary hospitalization at Willard and never left; increasingly incapacitated by paranoia and old age, she died there in her 80s.

One suitcase of small items (including a bronze model of the Washington Monument) belonged to an upstate carpenter whose obsession with Margaret Truman and repeated efforts to contact her for marriage earned him attention from the Secret Service, even within the walls of Willard. The government lost interest when he developed delusions of being Jesus Christ, although his family in Ukraine continued to write to his doctors for decades.

One dilapidated satchel of religious materials belonged to a German-born Dominican nun whose life slowly crumbled into a confusion her order wanted no part of. In the hospital, she was lewd and flirtatious, proposed marriage to a variety of men, spoke of giving birth to a dachshund and of her breakfast eggs hatching to chickens in her stomach. In her old age she announced she was 11 and happily waited to be sent home.

These patients stayed at Willard through the treatment vogues of the last century. Shock therapy was practiced, and the first psychotropic medications were given with enthusiasm. The hospital itself was a giant version of a therapeutic community, incorporating a working farm and workshops.

None of it appeared to make much difference to these inmates. As they aged, some of the worst psychoses burned out of their own accord, but few patients were in any condition to be repatriated to the real world. The book’s photographs are transfixing: vibrant young adults newly admitted to the hospital in the grips of wild confusion turn into slack-jawed, dull-eyed (but sometimes quite rational) old men and women.

The photographs, in fact, speak far louder and more clearly than the authors’ strident prose, for what could have been a uniquely affecting work proves to be almost unreadable.

Stories about the experience of illness are in vogue these days. Some seek to humanize medical science, while others (like those in the movie “Sicko” from Michael Moore) aim to change health policy with the brute force of anecdote.

The authors, Darby Penney and Dr. Peter Stastny, are in the second camp. Both are prominent patients’-rights advocates: Dr. Stastny is described on one advocacy Web site as a “dissident psychiatrist” and Ms. Penney as a “long-time activist.” Their platform is clearly stated in the book’s first pages: much mental illness is “understandable reaction to stress,” orthodox psychiatry often “stands in the way of healing” and even the most “distressed” patients will fare better outside institutions.

All may be legitimate subjects for debate, but basing a complex argument on fragmented and archaic case histories is problematic both for science and for style. A coherent scientific argument demands complete, current data, not reinterpreted glimpses of the past. Meanwhile, all the eerie, evocative power of the contents of the trunks is sucked right back up by these haranguing narrators, whose awkward prose thumps and screeches like a politician declaiming through a faulty microphone.

Readers with the stamina to tune them out will be rewarded with an unusual view onto the locked back wards of psychiatry, where that always controversial border between health and illness remains far more mobile and porous than most of us like to think.

The Frenchwoman in whose trunk Edwardian elegance mingled with modern scholarship was transferred among several psychiatric hospitals for her first few years in the system. Still deep in the grips of her obsession with the supernatural, she arrived at Willard State in 1939 at age 43. For decades, she would speak only to demand her release. She developed permanent Parkinsonian symptoms from the drugs she was given. She was discharged to a rooming house in a nearby community in her 80s (“There is no evidence of gross psychiatric symptomatology,” her last physician wrote) and died at 90. She never reclaimed her trunk.


Sunday, March 23, 2008

Tom Waits

I love Tom Waits. And once upon a time, when I was just 19 and living in a third floor apartment on Norton Street, I thought pretty much everything in life could be summed up in one of his songs, depending on your mood.

So the song below is for all y'all this Easter Sunday. This amazing Easter Sunday that Grandma managed to stick around to see, that my sister was by my side, hanging over the breakfast bar of my mom's sunny kitchen while the family, including Ian and his mom, waxed sarcastic about every topic under the sun. We joked. We ate. We read the paper and snickered over the story about the lawyer who was beat up by the estranged husband of the lawyer's client, with whom he appeared to be out on a date. I bought my old house from that lawyer. I was married and pregnant and separated and divorced in that house that once meant so much to me. And the lawyer? He moved around the corner, to an old pink Victorian on Central Ave. Curiously enough, that Victorian was owned by Ian's stepmother for many years before the lawyer bought it. Tiny, tiny town this is. Painfully so.

It was a good Easter. The kids had a blast. We even went to church this morning, where we saw everyone from school and the neighborhood, including Sean's close friend Nick, and his mom, Cindy. Then it was off to mom's. The food was great. The kids hunted for eggs in the yard. And just to be able to hang out next to my sister for the day, seeing Grandma right there with us, was more than I could have wanted.

Now? Bed. Let's hope tonight's sleep is more restive. This morning I awoke, distressed and upset from a dream that Ian had left me for some American girl he met in Ireland when he did a semester there years ago. When Ian woke up, I said, "I had the worst dream last night." Before I could elaborate, he said,

"Me, too. I dreamt you left me for some Polish guy. And Keith and I were scheming to get you to come back to me."

Okay, all you amateur psychotherapists! Have fun with that one!

"Was he cute?" I asked.

But anyway, all I really wanted to say was that 16 years ago I used to lie on my back on my bedroom floor, smoking cigarettes, looking at the cracks in my apartment's ceiling, and listening to this, which will always be my favorite Tom Waits song..."Innocent When You Dream".

And yesterday's run was just what the doctor ordered.

Happy Easter.


Friday, March 21, 2008

909 Howard Ave

It isn't there anymore. It's been replaced by Yale buildings. But it's where my great-grandfather Dr. McGuire grew up, the son of Jimmy McGuire, Postmaster of the NH Post Office.

As I dropped off some groceries for Grandma tonight, we sat and chatted for a bit. The bulbs are pushing up higher in the garden now, she remarked. And isn't it nice that it's lighter so late at night now that we've sprung the clocks ahead? I asked her if any photos existed of Jimmy McGuire. In classic Irish fashion, her nose went up a bit as she said,

"No. Not that I know of. They were never really happy Dr. McGuire married Eleanor."

"Why? Because she was divorced and had a son?" That son was my grandfather, Paul.

"Yes, I would presume so. I think as far as looks and charm went, he couldn't have done better. But they were never really happy about the rest."

The rest.

Eleanor, my great-grandmother, was the only daughter of the wealthy attorney JD Lynch, a roughneck for Teddy Roosevelt. She was from Springfield, MA, and when she was 19 she married Jeremiah O'Sullivan, a wealthy attorney from Lowell, MA, whose family made a vast fortune in its patented rubber heel and subsequent O'Sullivan Rubber Heel Company. Less than two years later, when my grandfather was just six months old, Eleanor left Jeremiah for reasons still unknown. Within a year or so she married Dr. McGuire. And so...

Anyone close to me knows my family's lifelong wrestling match with mental illness and addiction. (Not that it makes us special. It just makes us a little more like everyone else.) In between suicide attempts in his golden years, Pa (that's what I called my grandfather) recalled a memory, according to Grandma:

"Well, he was older than Nolan. Maybe Sean's age, about six. And he was playing at the house they had at that point on Park Street. Dr. McGuire had his pediatrician's office downstairs, and his parents lived upstairs. Pa was playing around in the backyard on a tree, and he fell and broke his arm. And no one came for him. The grandparents were upstairs and must have heard his cries for help, but he laid there a long time before Dr. McGuire realized he was out there with a broken arm. He always saw that as a real rejection of him and his mother, even though he didn't know until he was 18 that Dr. McGuire wasn't his real father."

Kapow! How's that for a kick in the head? My poor Grandfather. I mean, really. In the condensed version, it goes like this: He never remembered a time with his real father, who by all accounts was kept from him by Eleanor, who abused her father's connections to powerful lawyers. In turn, Jeremiah O'Sullivan blocked Eleanor's attempts to annul their marriage, since he was the nephew of a Boston Bishop.

Dr. McGuire was by all accounts a wonderful father, popular in the community, beloved by his patients, and all in all a great man. Eleanor was deeply in love with him, and he cared well for her and for my grandfather, whom he treated as his own son (he and Eleanor never had any children). Still, he was in on the big secret that Eleanor kept alive. Not until JD Lynch managed to pull strings and keep Pa out of the draft during WWII did Pa stumble across records and discover the truth. According to Grandma, when Pa went to speak to JD Lynch, distraught over the news, that great old man broke down into tears. It might have been the first anyone had seen JD Lynch cry. "I always wanted her to tell you," he wept. "I don't know why she didn't. I'll never understand."

Years later, in 1952, Dr. McGuire died and left Eleanor pretty broke, all things considered. "She had never wanted for anything," Grandma remarked. "Every day he left money for her on the dining room table. They had the beach houses until they were destroyed in the Hurricane of '38. And, of course, they were members of the Pine Orchard Club, where Pa learned to play tennis and had lots of friends."

But when Dr. McGuire died, Eleanor--who had never worked a day in her life--was at a loss. "She was heartbroken," Grandma said. But she was also Eleanor. As one of her good friends remarked to Grandma a few years after Dr. McGuire's death, "God only said 'No' once to Eleanor, and that was when Will died."

She wasn't penniless, but there wasn't much left in the kitty, considering most of Dr. McGuire's patients were the children of the Great Depression and WWII. After his death, Eleanor was clueless as to how to run a household and pay bills. St. Raphael's Hospital, where Dr. McGuire was a professor of pediatric nursing in its now-defunct nursing school, gave her jobs out of sheer kindness but for which she was totally unqualified and would frequently call in sick.

"He served in WWI, came home, and could have made quite a living as doctor," Grandma said. "But he was such a generous man, and he rarely charged many of his patients, especially the ones in the immigrant and black communities. He wanted to help those patients, those families. And in those days, you paid your doctor when you saw them. If they didn't pay him, he wouldn't send a bill. It's just not who he was."

Eleanor died on March 29, 1958 in their pretty Forest Rd house, which they had built in the 20s. She died 50 years ago next week. Before her death, she had planned several times to sell the home, but when it came time to list it, she couldn't bear the idea. Instead, she who had never drank much in her life, drank herself to death in that house when she was only 54.

"That's young by any standards," said Grandma. "To think, they had only been married 23 years when he died--that's really not very long. And most of that was during the Depression and the War. And then he was gone. And she couldn't function. She was never an alcoholic. But she sure knew how to medicate herself in the end. Her friends--she had LOTS of friends--tried to help. But she didn't want it. She was heartbroken."

On March 1, 1999, my grandfather died of pneumonia in Donegal, Ireland, where he moved after two unsuccessful suicide attempts and then divorcing Grandma in 1990. The headstone of his grave, where he's buried on top of another corpse from a century ago, reads "O'Sullivan".


Later, I came home, put away the groceries, picked up around the house (Legos! Star Wars toys! Star Wars Lego toys!) and poured myself a big glass of wine. The most amazing moon rose up right where the sun rises each day, and I grabbed the video camera to capture it. Billie Holiday crooned from kitchen, which backlit the nightshot on my camera.

After a while, I called in the dog and put away the dishes.

I cleaned my engagement ring from Ian. I missed my children, who are with their father tonight.

I arranged the potted flowers I purchased for all the mothers this Easter, including Ian's mother, who loves my children dearly and who is babysitting them tomorrow night.

Oh, Eleanor. I wonder how heavy your heart might have been as a young bride or a middle-aged widow. Or maybe it wasn't. Maybe it was always about you. Either way, I am happy to have learned more about my messy family from Grandma tonight. In all honesty, it makes me love them all even more.

Tomorrow I'm going for a run. I had planned on one today, but I didn't feel like running in a seaside headwind on a March day. So tomorrow's the day. The first run of Spring. The kids come home at noon. Not a moment too soon.

And this, to lighten the mood. I heard this the other day in the car, and for some inexplicable reason, I liked it.

Just forgive me and enjoy it for a minute. C'mon. You KNOW you like this song. I bet you even know all the words to it...

...all hail the 90s.

Man, am I glad St. Paddy's day is over.



Saturday, March 15, 2008

The News

The boys and I shared an unusual moment last night: We watched the evening news on ABC. Normally, we're still cleaning up from dinner at that hour, or playing with Legos, or at Tae Kwon Do, or yoga, or...anyway. So last night we found ourselves with some extra time to unwind together on the couch, and it was mom's terribly exciting choice of news that won. And while I would have rather watched Avatar, I chose the news because I wanted to see its take on the latest in Tibet.

The report was grim. As of last night, there were two known fatalities--protesters killed by police. At the next commercial break, Nolan turned to me and said, in his quietest mouse voice,

"Mommy, what did the police do to the people?"

My heart broke. "What did they say on the news, baby?" I asked him in an equally quiet mouse voice.

"The shot the people."

"That's correct. They did."

"But why?"

"Yeah," Sean echoed. "Why did they do that?"

Oh, Lordy.

"Okay...well, let me get the globe."

I marched over the play area and grabbed their globe. I really love globes, especially old ones that show all the various configurations of our world's political power struggles. The kids are fortunate to have a recent one, but I still love the one in their room that has West Germany and the USSR.

I plunked the globe down in front of them, muted the TV, and told the kids to gather 'round.

"So the police in Tibet killed people, right?"

"Right," they chimed together.

"And you want to know why?"


"Well, I'll show you. But first let me say that all policemen don't kill people. Please remember that."

"Okay!" said Noly. Sean seemed more skeptical, and I honestly can't blame him.

"Sooooo..." I spun the globe and found China. "This big country here is China."

"China?" said Nolan.

"China. And this here--" I pointed "--is Tibet."

"Where the people were shot?"

"Yes. Tibet is like the Rebel Alliance. China is like the Empire. The police are like storm troopers, and the people they shot were like Luke and Leia."


"So it's like Star Wars," observed Sean. "Except it's real."


They didn't say much after that. But they were glued to the rest of the news program, so curious about all the things going on in the world and their country--at least as far as a 30-minute news program is concerned. Of special interest was the story about a Starbucks barista who gave a kidney to a customer.

After answering questions about the story and explaining how we're usually born with two kidneys, can survive with just one but will die with none, Sean said,

"So that's like the lady cut out her heart and gave it to the other lady?"

"Sort of, honey. It's like she cut out half her heart, so that they would both have enough to live."

"Wow. Cool."

I'll say.


Thursday, March 13, 2008


I am spoiled. Absolutely spoiled.

This morning, as if the birthday kisses and hugs from the kids weren't sweet enough, Ian gave me presents: I am signed up for the Boston Yoga Journal Conference this May (!!!)--and for it I'm booked at a Very Nice Hotel in Beantown. He also gave me a framed, old postcard of the Pardee-Morris House, back when it was yellow and had a wrap-around porch. In addition, I enjoyed a nice big cup of coffee from the coffee-a-month subscription he ordered me from The Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf Co.

While at work, a gorgeous bouquet of flowers arrived. And later, when I stopped home on my lunchbreak, more flowers arrived. TWO orders of flowers for my birthday? Swoooooon...

And then there are all the phone calls and texts from some of the closest people to me...including Grandma. And a big hug from Heide this morning at work. And a surprise potted tulip left by my front door from my Great Uncle.

Tonight, it's cake with everyone from the kids and Ian to Renee and my ex-husband and Ian's family. Then I'm being treated to a surprise dinner I don't know where...and I can't wait. Cake before dinner. What's better than that?

Spoiled, I tell ya.

And since it's my birthday, I'm giving myself a little present today (in addition to the nice walk with the dog at lunch):

Happy Birthday to me! Halfway to 70 and still only a few grey hairs! Wheeeeeeeeeee!

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

A New Job for Penis

Just before bedtime, Sean (who is six) ran to the bathroom. He emerged several minutes later, with the following observation:

"It felt like I peed outta my butt."

"Well," I reassured him, "that happens to all of us sometimes." I mean, hey: We've all been there.

A while later, after the lights were out and I was busy sharing hugs and kisses with the small fry, Sean said:

"I think my penis got fired and the butt got its job."

Before I could even react with laughter he continued,

"And now the penis is working in the poop factory."

I absolutely LOVE my children.

The end.


I am pretty swamped here today at work, but I have to pause for this one:

I stopped by Grandma's on an abbreviated lunchbreak today (read: roughly 18 minutes), since her house is less than two blocks from my office. As I left the house, I noticed something fresh and green poking out of the ground in the barren flowerbed in her backyard.

"I wonder if any of the bulbs we planted last fall survived the squirrels..." I said to her.

"I've been wondering the same thing."

"Lemme take a look."

With Grandma standing at the back door, shielding her cancer-ridden body from the chilly, sunny air, I padded across the grass for a peek.


Daffodil and tulip bulbs were pushing their way through the earth every four or five inches throughought the garden. I had planted more than 90 bulbs with her last fall. It looked as if most of them made it through the winter--and the squirrels.

I turned with a great big smile on my face and skipped toward the back door, like a little kid. Grandma opened it.

"Do you see them?" she asked.

"I see tons!"

"Oh, that's great. That's so great."

We planted those bulbs just weeks after being told Grandma only had six months left. Now, six months later, here we were. Watching them do the only thing they know how--reach for Spring. What a gift! What a gift to stand there with her and see that!

Tomorrow is my 35th birthday.

I don't need any presents.


Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Yippee Kai-Ay, Motherf*cker!

Three things that make me really happy (okay, there are way more than three, but play along with me):

1. Sitting in Grandma's living room after work tonight and hearing this:

"You know, Father Gee [note: a priest and close family friend BECAUSE WE'RE IRISH] called today to see how I was doing and said he'll be going to Yankee Stadium in April. You know, tickets are going to be at a premium this season."


"So he's going in with some friends who are big Yankee fans, and he'll have a good time anyway [note: Fr. Gee lives in New Hampshire and is a staunch Sox fan like my Grandmother]. You know, your grandfather first went to Yankee Stadium with Fr. Gee back in 1946."

"Wait a sec--Pa [note: Grandpa McGuire was always known as Pa] went to Yankee Stadium? To see them play the Sox?"

"Oh I don't remember who they played. Fr. Gee would remember that."

"Then why did he go to Yankee Stadium? Pa was a Sox fan."

"Actually he was a Yankee fan for his entire life. Everyone in New Haven was, it seemed. But then he married me, and I came from Massachusetts, so..."


I was actually speechless, something that really amused Grandma.

I turned around and grabbed a picture of Pa off the baby grand piano that is crammed into Grandma's tiny living room.


Grandma laughed.

2. (Remember I was putting together a list of things that make me happy?) Watching a preseason game on YES tonight and being reminded of the above conversation.

3. And the New York Dolls:

Oh, so many more things make me happy. But today, those are the top three--with my kids in a category all their own, of course.

Pa, I hardly knew ye under the weight of those frickin' Gaynors. With all due respect to Grandma and her family, those Gaynors could suffocate a rag doll.


Maybe I should just watch "Grease"

This summer, what's it gonna be?

Is it gonna be like 2005, when I was a stay at home mom who drove an arrow into the heart of my failing marriage, undoing everything in my children's world?

Or will it be like 2006, when I alternated between depression over my imminent divorce and euphoria over dating someone new (which also became a steep depression when I realized it wouldn't last), while trying to maintain some sort of normalcy and balance for my kids?

Or will it be like last year, when I swung on the pendulum in my relationship with Ian (together, broken up, together, broken up again--still hung up on old feelings and terrified my children would bond with yet another person who might not stick around)? During our break ups, I convinced myself to accept a few ultimately horrid dates with a couple of other guys, including a NH cop who is a 23 year veteran of the force and who, I later discovered, had a restraining order on him from his ex-wife--and who kept showing up at my old office unannounced and on duty. Fun times. (The fact that the cop now works overtime duty every week exactly 1 mile from my house is a little unnerving, but that's the nature of the vortex...)

At least Ian and I came back together.

I love summer. But in all honesty, I'm beginning to distrust it. Or maybe I'm beginning to distrust myself during the hotter months.

Today I woke up to great big snowflakes. The kids were so excited. "It's snowing but it's almost Spring!" shouted Nolan. Sean ran to the back door and flung it open, just to feel the snow and cold.

There is something to be said for March--and even for those of us who were born during this month, including me. The metaphors are transparent. It is a month rife with inconsistenices: snow and wind, warm sunshine and blooming crocuses. It is the bumpy, blustery segue to spring, which of course bleeds into summer...which inevitably, the past three years anyway, has led me to fall.


Monday, March 10, 2008

Love for Sale

Eliot Spitzer's not having a good day. This one's for him:

And this one's for you, from my new favorite site (


Sunday, March 9, 2008

Kiss Me, I'm an Irish Idiot!

1. The parade was a blast. It went exactly as planned. Until...

2. My car was towed.

Short story long: I apparently suffered a Heinous Brain Fart sometime after noon today when I decided it was a good idea to park my car on Church Street. Between Wall and Grove. Smack in the heart of parade central.

Of course, I didn't know my car had been towed until long after the fact. First I had to sit/stand/jump around for nearly three hours on Elm and Church, watching firemen and cops and storm troopers, oh my! When the kids and I were completely and totally shot, Jane had left and Jeff and Renee were exhausted and freezing, I decided it was time to go. The kids and I hit the corner and began walking back toward the car, running into Patrick (who has made several guest appearances in this blog as of late), who earlier had indeed fallen out of line with the other firemen today to give me a hug. Patrick walked with me for a block, where we ran into some mutual friends. He also played hero for a moment when some drunk girl decided to hit the sidewalk with the back of her head--

[Note: The last parade I was at with Patrick in October 06, some guy collapsed right in front of us.]

--but she was okay, so we moseyed on toward my car, with Patrick still in tow because I was planning on driving him to his next destination.

"Where did you say your car was?" he asked.

"Right over here on Church Str--oh, crap."

Patrick laughed. "You're a smart girl, Moira. I'm surprised."


And the race was on. We walked several blocks with the boys up to Rudy's, where Ian was busy working and where I had sworn I wouldn't go today. Oh well. Worse things can happen. I borrowed his car, which conveniently has two booster seats in it for the kids, and I drove home. Ninety minutes later, Keith came over to stay with the kids while I drove back downtown, deposited Ian's car back on Howe Street, stuck around for one round, saw a few friends I have missed, politely declined countless shots, grabbed some dinner down the street for Ian who was starving, and finally got a ride from him to Tony's to get my car at 7:30, after his 10-1/2 hour shift finally ended.

When I said goodbye to Ian in the middle of the tow lot tonight, I said, "I am such an idiot." Honestly, why did I park on CHURCH STREET during the parade?

He didn't argue with me. He just said he loved me.

When I walked through my back door at 8pm, I immediately took a shower. Not only did I need to wash the day off of me, but my ass had never actually warmed up from the standing outside in the cold all afternoon.

Now? Tea. Small bowl of Ben & Jerry's organic sweet cream and cookies. The kids are fast asleep, dreaming of storm troopers and army men from today's parade. I'm right behind them. I will not be dreaming of tow lots or Rudy's, I hope. Instead, I'd much rather dream of my rosy-cheeked children blowing noisemakers on a sunny, cold March day, with some of our best friends beside us.

(Photo of the boys by Jeff G.)

I haven't been towed since 1998. Ten years? I guess I was due.

Happy Parade Day!

A Truly Irish Weekend

It's not always this bad. Sometimes it's worse.

Let's see, yesterday I spent a rainy afternoon visiting someone in Yale's Psychiatric Institute (aka, the psych ward). Then I bought myself a new raincoat, had some tea and took a nap. Later, Ian and I went out for a great big fish dinner. Ian had the baked potato with his scallops. I had the chianti.

This morning I'll wear my new mack as I walk the dog through the wind and by the water. Then it's off to visit Grandma McGuire at a different hospital in the city, where she is recuperating from acute appendicitis, because liver cancer isn't the challenge it used to be. Then I'll pick up the kids from their father's house and drive them downtown, where we'll meet up with Jane and her kids for the St. Paddy's Day Parade. Providing the wee ones don't get blown away in today's wind gusts, we'll have a good time wearing glittery green stuff and pulling a few beers out of the diaper bag... I won't see Ian, because he'll be busy being the strong arm of order and brew as he slings beer at Rudy's from 9AM to 6PM today. I won't be going there, but it doesn't matter. I'll see some of the regulars marching. What's a parade without your ex-boyfriend falling out of line with the other firemen in the march to hug you? We Irish are almost as bad at letting go of people as we are at keeping them close.

Thought you might enjoy these:

Irish Language Lesson


What if the Beatles Were Irish?

Time for me to do some yoga and hit the shower.

Friday, March 7, 2008

Up in Smoke

Oh, it's a vortex alright.

This town is too small for the one of us.

In high school I dated a guy named Josh Crane. He was a Very Serious Boyfriend of mine for a long time. He went to HSC, had a twin brother named Matt, and me, Renee and several other friends spent A LOT of time hanging out at his home on St. Ronan Street. I mean...a lot of time. For most of my senior year I probably spent more time there than at home, when I wasn't in school.

Eventually, Josh's family moved out of New Haven. Josh and Matt moved to NYC, where they remain. Their father gave up practicing law to take over the family business, Crane Paper Co., in Dalton, Massachusetts.

This week there was a huge fire on St. Ronan Street. Josh and Matt's home was all a'flamin'. And, because this town is so painfully small, another one of my ex-boyfriends, a New Haven firefighter, was busy putting out the flames.

Now, the house looks like this:

It was one of my favorite houses ever.

Oh well.


A Good Show

I need to go to a good show. A hardcore show. A show the likes of all the Jesus Lizard shows I went to at CBs many, many moons ago. I need to bleed at a show, shove and be shoved. Sometimes, despite running and yoga and every other bit of catharsis energetic and medidative that is available to me, only a good show with loud music and lots of sweaty people elbowing each other will take care of what ails me.

It's Friday. Sunday is Parade Day. The kids and I will don silly hats and wave flags and flaunt our McGuinea-ness. Tomorrow, after I sign up Sean for little league and the kids go off with their dad for the day, I'll be taking a trip to Liberty Street to visit one of the closest people in the world to me and try to make sense of her extreme, hospitalized depression.

For now, here is "Hope" by the Descendents.


Thursday, March 6, 2008

Va Va Va Voom

I had a lot of fun with Summer, Sara and Allison the other day. And here is proof of their talent, 'cuz I do NOT look like this:


Hee hee hee hee. Excuse my while I stop blushing and get back to work.


Water Carries Us from Here

Eat, Pray, Love is bringing me right back to my own solo trip to Rome three years ago. I remember the day I returned from that trip. Barely off the plane, I checked my cellphone and retrieved messages from my married boyfriend, who was welcoming me home. Minutes later, I was at the gate at JFK, where my own husband and kids picked me up. I was so thrilled to see my children again. It was a steamy, early August day, one week before our entire world burst open (because of the aforementioned letter in the previous blog) and be forever changed. We drove home, a tan, sweaty bunch, my head full of stories from my trip, my body too tired to talk. Pinback played from the car stereo. I remember clearly sitting on the highway in traffic, bare feet on the dash, listening to one of my favorite songs from them, "Syracuse".

This morning, as I thought about last night's blog and shook cinnamon onto everyone's buttered and sugared toast for breakfast, "Syracuse" suddenly streamed into my sunlit kitchen from the docked iPod on the counter. I turned it up.

I'm so glad that part of my life is behind me. I can finally listen to songs again and remember things about those months the way I remember vague details of my childhood: I no longer have any real attachment to the memories, but those events shaped who I am. Well, that's partially true. Some days I'm quite attached to the memories. But those days are becoming fewer and far between, which makes the moments I am attached all the more acute.

Still, it's not like it used to be. And that is a really great thing.

I found this video for the song and thought I'd share it. Someone did a nice job putting this together for their little girl.



Wednesday, March 5, 2008


About 14 years ago, when Renee, Keith and I shared a sweltering third floor apt. on Norton Street, we had a maggot infestation. This was the result of letting garbage bags pile up in the back hallway of our apartment. Were we too lazy? Too high? Too drunk? Too all of the above? Why ON EARTH didn't we take out the garbage?

One day, Keith finally broke out of the rut and announced he would take care of it--and that we should steer clear. Renee and I, smoking on the couch in the living room and watching reruns of 90210, gladly obliged. As cans and bags rattled and clattered in the back hall, I suddenly heard Keith's distressed cries. "Ugh! Oh God!"

I ran into the kitchen and peered into the back hallway.

"DON'T COME BACK HERE!" he shrieked at me.

"What's wrong?" I shouted, panicked and bewildered.

"Maggots! There are maggots everywhere!"

And there were. Wiggling and wriggling all over the floor of the third floor back stairwell were hundreds of maggots, mocking us for being surprised. And stupid.

Renee and I never understood why Keith then proceeded to bring all the garbage bags through the entire length of the apartment and to the clean and maggot-free front stairwell, three flights down and out to the street. Two by two, the bags marched out of the house, while me, Renee and the cats cowered on the couch in our smoke-filled living room, watching Tori Spelling and Jason Priestly, who have probably never seen a maggot in their lives.

Fourteen years later--tonight--I rifled through a canvas bag, searching for the certificate of completion from my yoga training, which ended in 2006. What a special day that was for me. Too bad the day ended with my then-boyfriend drunk on a boat with his friend and two other women, lost at sea and calling me adrift in Long Island Sound asking for navigational support. No flowers. No congratulations. Just verbal and emotional torture.

But back to the bag. I was searching for the certificate, so I can provide it to a studio at which I am applying to teach. I'm headed down there tomorrow night, and I cannot wait. As I flipped through notebooks and binders and lesson plans, I came across an envelope. I opened it. Inside was a letter. A draft of a letter I had written to the guy who helped me begin unraveling my marriage three years ago. Beneath the letter was a stack of frayed notebook paper. More drafts. Page after page, the letter began and ended, unfinished. Each one mocking my surprise. And my stupidity.


That's what it might as well have been. And so many things, beyond finding the letters, seemed unfamiliar to me. The words, once so close to my heart, felt as if they had been written by someone else. Some smitten stranger blinded by love. Or lust. Or pure boredom. Then, as I compared drafts, I realized that I had two ways of beginning the letters. If only I could remember which version I finally chose:

"I want to blame you for all of this, but it's not your fault", and;

"I am a very lucky girl."

What didn't change was the ending, where there was one. Still, I wondered if it was what I had eventually committed to in my final draft, since I blocked it out:

"I guess we'll just have to let time do its thing."

I felt sick. I felt numb. I felt indifferent. I felt amused.

In a different binder, I came across my certificate, and an altogether different letter. This one was from the instructor who guided me through a year's worth of yoga teacher training, which began two months after I wrote that letter and ended when my marriage was over and my drunk ex was adrift at sea, hopped up and sloppy with two other girls. It goes:

"A year of big challenges and changes of ups and downs off the mat and through it all you demonstrated balance and consistency over the year. I'm sure the personal growth you have experienced will go to very good use as you shine yoga's gifts of balance and self-acceptance to not only your children, but to all who seek your help. Thank you for your radiant light and one of the sweetest smiles I know. Your students will be blessed to have you as their teacher."

I needed to read that tonight.

I had been lamenting earlier to Ian--well, I had been lamenting a lot of things. Let's just say I needed to read that tonight.

I've also been reading "Eat, Pray, Love". My good friend Jane highly recommended it ("I thought of you constantly when I was reading it," she confessed) and I have been eating it up every since. My favorite passage (there are many) that I will share with you tonight: "...the worst ugliness of divorce, a life experience my friend Brian has compared to 'having a really bad car accident every single day for about two years'..."

I packed up my yoga texts, carefully putting my certificate and glowing letter aside for tomorrow's meeting at the studio. As for the other letter (about which "his" wife eventually commented, "You write nice letters...") and all of its drafts, I put it away, waiting for the perfect summer night to strike up a blaze in the fire pit, pour myself a big glass of wine, and watch the papers flare up and die a quick death, floating up to the sky like tiny lost souls damned forever to some unknown void between heaven and earth.



Chances and Coolness

There is that old saying, "What would you do if you knew you could not fail?" I love that. But today I'm offering this:

"What would you do if now was your only chance?"


I was talking to my new coworker, Dan. He's a riot--a guy with four grown boys and a preteen daughter, and a movie collection that rivals all. He was stepping outside for a smoke, and I commented that I felt out of the loop around here because I don't take smoke breaks "like all the cool kids". He laughed and said he wished he could quit (again). Eventually, after going back and forth on whether or not smoking is cool, we agreed on this:

Smoking is cool, actually. It's really freaking cool.

But it's also disgusting. And really, really bad for you.

Time to go prep for a meeting.

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Monday, March 3, 2008


On days like today, when I really can't stand this town and it's pathetic smallness, at least I have to fall back on for escapism. And a good air hockey game with Sean. And an amusing Iraqi landlord with stories to rival any of this town's sorry-ass drama queen BS.

I'm not normally so negative. Check that. I am frequently given to fits of negativity, I just don't usually surrender to it like I have today. The fact is this: I now work and live within about a mile radius near the water. I blew up my MySpace account, and I rarely go out and drink with the best--and worst--of them anymore. I am no longer viscerally or virtually connected to a large group of people who, for the most part, weren't my friends. There are many genuine people out there, I know that. But right now, the deletion of that account has separated the friends from the phonies. This was an unintended consequence of deleting that silly account. It's been interesting to see how being less obviously accessible online has affected relationships that came to be entirely dependent upon the Internet. I miss the people, but not that medium.

I guess it comes down to the quality vs. quantity factor.

I spent some time with Summer on Saturday. She said that MySpace was less "exciting" without me there. I was flattered and touched, because I knew what she was getting at. But frankly, the two hours I spent at her house getting dolled up and posing for a retro pin-up photo session were more exciting than any lame-ass survey or silly comment pic MySpace has to offer. Those couple of hours were a freakin' blast. If I hadn't had to leave (the kids were coming home from a night at dad's), I would have stayed and helped out with the shoot that afternoon. I enjoyed just being at Summer's place with lots of women and vintage clothes and makeup all around. I NEEDED that. The great gifts in life really are all in the little moments.

And while we're on the positive:

Tonight the kids laughed so hard while taking their bath that I thought they would hurt themselves. We read long stories at bedtime, after the kids were played dress-up and Sean beat me at air hockey. (His win was a major consolation to his loss at bowling yesterday.) Everyone hugged the dog tightly tonight, and lots of Eskimo kisses were given when the lights went out.

In other news, Grandma's ADVANCED liver cancer is receding, if that is a way to phrase it. She still has cancer, but the minidose of chemo she's receiving has shrunk the tumor on her liver by almost 70%. THAT IS INSANE! It's such good news. Six months ago they gave her six months to live. And no one was surprised. She was in bad shape. Now? She'll be 79 next month. She tries to get out for a mile or two walk when she can with her girlfriends. After worrying we wouldn't see Christmas with her, we're now planning Easter together. And she will hopefully be there to see all the bulbs she and I planted together last fall bloom in her backyard. She tries to savor ever minute, every conversation, every flavor on her plate while she's still here.

And today was so beautiful. I sped home for 20 minutes at lunch to walk the dog. The air was so amazing. I could smell spring. I could smell all those new beginnings. I could smell summer right behind it. I could smell the ocean. I wanted to run, and run, and run and not stop until something stopped me. I wanted to feel every step hit the pavement, hear every footfall kiss the ground, see the neighborhood's every yard and fence and pink flamingo and Mary in the bathtub through watery eyes, tearing up from the wind against my face. I wanted to feel my heart pounding so hard it might burst through my chest. I wanted to sweat until there wasn't a single cranky droplet left in my body. I wanted to be moving, away from the computer, away from the idea of "belonging" to anything other than my own amazing life, whatever it is, whoever chooses to be in it today, and whatever it brings.

Winter is almost over.


Sunday, March 2, 2008

Every picture tells a thousand stories. Or something like that.

I've raided my grandmother's photo stash. I need to start scanning and saving this stuff for posterity, and it's currently just sitting in a drawer in her dining room, unfiled, unorganized, unnoticed.

Here are a few gems. Some of my favorites. I love photos of people in their youth with their whole lives ahead of them. Especially when they're family. Especially when I know so much of their stories.

But no one could ever know everything.

Great Grandpa McGuire, from his Yale 1909 yearbook:

His eventual wife, Eleanor Lynch, c. 1910 (she was much younger than he):

I left out the police report of her being found dead, having drunk herself to death in her Forest Rd. home in the early 50s.

Their son, my grandfather Paul McGuire (c. 1950). He was Grandma's husband:

Gaynor homestead, Co. Meath, Ireland (the house was eventually lost in a lousy bet at a local pub. Typical.):

Great Grandpa Gaynor (R), who immigrated here alone when he was 10, and his cousins the McGauley's at the house they built in Webster, MA (with Gypsy the dog, c. 1915):

Great Grandma Gaynor (second from L, top row), when she was still Mary Ellen Doyle, and her sisters and cousins in the roaring 20s:

**The Doyles were obviously a much more fun bunch.**

Grandma as a little Nancy Gaynor (c. 1932):

Grandma as a young hottie (c. 1947):

My mom (second from L) and her siblings, and Donnor the dog (1959):

My mom (third from L, middle row), her siblings and first cousins, 1965 (aka, the Wonder Years):

And just forgive me for this:

That's all for today.

Saturday, March 1, 2008

I Dream in Farsi

I slept hard last night. It was maybe one of the best sleeps of my life. I had just returned from a night at my mom's, hanging out with her, my brother and sister, eating pizza and catching up on each other's lives. I've increasingly been spending more time with them, and it is a real blessing. Last night was particularly poignant; I had a conversation with my mother that was about 34 years overdue. And, without getting into details, it went extremely well. We were both ready for it. It brought us closer. It was an enormous weight off my shoulders. And so when I returned home last night, there was no cracking open of wine bottles. I had some seltzer, emailed my sister, and collapsed into my deepest sleep since childhood. And that is no exaggeration.

I dreamed of houses with empty family rooms and vacant three-season porches. I dreamed of sidewalks in neighborhoods, where I crouched down and took street-level photos of the view from each corner of the intersection. I dreamed my mother, sister and I chose to scale the track of a roller coaster rather than ride it. At the bottom was a girl I used to go to school with. Her children now attend school with mine. In my dream she had seven children. One of them wanted to play with me. She was a little moppish blonde who was eating a ring pop. Then she laid down to take a nap in her mother's large purse. I double-checked to see that the purse was unzipped so she could breathe. And then I said, "What's that?"

I turned around and saw all the things of which I had dreamed--the roller coaster was on the sidewalk, the three-season porch was covered in snow--and I could hear someone speaking in Farsi. Many people were speaking in Farsi. It sounded as if a whole family was having a lively conversation--in Farsi. I woke up.

My landlord, who is Iraqi and lives above me, was laughing. I could hear him through the ceiling. Then I heard a cackling of laughter and indiscernible voices. He was on a conference call--on speaker phone--with what was likely his family, most of whom now live in Jordan. Like any family, they were all talking at once, interrupting each other and trying to get the last word. Funny how although I do not understand Farsi, I was able to understand the rhythm of a family conversation. The female voices were persistent and vying to dominate. The male voices were occasional and striking. There was some laughter. And the goodbye seemed to last forever.

I laid there listening to words I didn't understand, while the rain dripped outside my window and cars splashed through puddles down the street. It was time to get up and start the day.

Ian called while I poured my coffee and asked me how it had gone last night. I told him that for the first time in my life, I woke up feeling like I had absolutely no pretense to keep up on even the most unconscious level. I almost felt like I didn't know what to do with myself. It's an amazing feeling to have had this conversation with my mom. A lot of healing took place because of it.

"When are you going to watch the movie?" he asked.

Ah, the movie. Last night I returned home to find that Ian had left a copy of the Darjeeling Limited on my kitchen counter for me to watch as an antidote to the stress of this conversation I had with my mother. I didn't watch it last night. I came home too late and was much too tired.

"Tonight. After the kids go to bed."

"You're going to sit down for a good Wes Anderson cry?"


"Good. You deserve it. That was probably the hardest thing you ever had to do."

"It was."

"Enjoy the first day of the rest of your life."

I will.

In the course of benign dinner conversation last night, as we discussed war, politics, and awkward social situations, I said to my sister, "The way I look at things is, 'What would Joe Strummer do--and how would Audrey Hepburn do it?'"

She is 15 and is beginning to appreciate that viewpoint.

In that vein, today I'm going to throw on some deeper Clash cuts as I drive over to Summer's house. I'm getting all dolled up for some fun, retro pinup photos today. Summer wants me to channel some inner Audrey Hepburn for the occasion.

I'll do my best. I certainly don't look like her, nor do I carry myself as gracefully (although I aspire to!). But I'm little and dark, and I can smile broadly. And today there will be nothing by light behind that smile.