Archive for writing

I heart Cary Tennis.

Posted in paris with tags , , , on January 9, 2013 by ana

Cleaning my computer I came across one of his columns saved many, many years ago. Given the decisions (going to New York) and the changes (a fresh new set of uncertainties) ahead it seemed apropos to post it below.

Dear Pond Jumper, 

Isn’t it strange how you can fly somewhere and suddenly that’s where you live? We just end up places. It’s the modern condition. I don’t think we’ve adjusted yet, as a species — the way we’re wired, that is. Yes, there are bureaus and agencies to administer the shifting accounts of nationality and wealth, of telephone number and e-mail address; yes, the you@your.e-mail.abode is a borderless fiction of zero gravity that moves with you nearly at the speed of light. But what we used to call a person — not so much the body itself, which can move in and out of its cultural crosshairs, but the location of the being defined by intersecting lines of family, history, soil, trade, the sets, unions and subsets of attributes and proclivities, the smells you smelled as a child and the smells your grandfather smelled as a child, all that: It was thus for so long a given that maybe we didn’t even think to place a high enough price on the geographic and temporal circumstances that define who we are, and then our easy, automatic sense of rootedness, of connection, of belonging, slipped away so quietly and so fast we couldn’t quite remember what it was supposed to feel like. And now we move to Paris and what we say about the view is, it’s the view that you saw in that movie. 

I’m always getting the question wrong. I wish that were part of my charm. Maybe if I were French, it might be part of my charm. But I’m American and I’m afraid my obliqueness comes across like a failure of manhood, something maybe they have a pill for in the drugstore. Besides, you’re not looking for some faux-Gallic take on things, are you? You’re looking for good-old fashioned American advice. 

Well, OK. How do you organize your identity now that you’re in exile? The best way, it seems to me, is by defining a purpose and a duration for the accomplishment of that purpose. Why are you in Paris? What do you mean to accomplish there? Is it only to have lived there? Is it only to smell the bread every day, to eat the food, hear the music of the language, feel the exquisite lightness of an ancient civilization and emulate it, absorb it, take it in like a culture vitamin? So how long, would you say, would that take? A year? Two years? Five? Put a time on it and then say, “This is what I am doing in Paris.” 

You need to construct a narrative. You need to be able to say something like, “I am living in Paris with my boyfriend but I only plan to stay here three years, and I will visit my family every year for two weeks.” Or you could say, “I am living in Paris because I prefer the pain of France to the pain of America, especially the delicate little pastries.” 

There are various reasons to be someplace. They don’t all have to be well-thought-out. You could say, “I like the air in Paris and for that reason I intend to remain, at least until the air in America improves.” Or you could say, “I am only here for an adventure; my home is in America, where my family and friends are, and where I grew up, and I intend to return there before the decade is out.” 

Do you see what I mean? You need a mission statement, as it were, so you can explain yourself to yourself and to others. Here are some other possibilities: “I am enjoying Paris, but since I cannot work here, I do not plan to stay indefinitely.” Or, “I am going to return to America for an education in international relations, after which I hope to return to Paris as a special attaché to the diplomatic corps.” Or, “I plan to stay here and study, raise a family, marry my boyfriend, and become a French citizen.” 

I came to San Francisco on a whim and stayed for the air and the beer. 

Perhaps Paris is for you like one of those things one must do before dying. If so, when you have done it, you will have to figure out what to do next. That can be a tough one if doing the next thing involves leaving the boyfriend. But that’s the way life goes. (That sounds at least a little French, doesn’t it?)


a perfect morning

Posted in Burgundy with tags , , on July 3, 2012 by ana

For whatever we lose (like a you or a me) it’s always ourselves we find in the sea ~ ee cumings

Posted in paris with tags , , , on May 22, 2012 by ana

Lost in boy thoughts I yell to my roommate from the kitchen, “tell me not to write!”

“Tell you not to write?”

“Yes,” I say, “because I was doing fine but now I just want to write him.”

The moment passes. The desire to say I miss you, to say this is harder than I thought it would be is shut down by fear. This is a good thing. Staying away is a good thing. Doubt comes in the form of – what’s the point, to what end, and if I did write would he hate me a little for not letting it go? The next thought that follows is he has forgotten me and then maybe it meant more to me than him. But then I think I am too much in my head. I’m being such a girl.

All of this because as I walked up the stairs an image, an imagined image, popped in my head. Out of nowhere in my mind I saw him walking up the stairs to my apartment the first time we had sex. I sprinted up the stairs. I tried to leave the thought behind but it caught up to me as I read an ee cumings poem on someone’s blog. And then I remembered  walking home from the metro that day. The play between being excited and staying present, telling myself that there was plenty of time for the list of things I wanted to do- shower, brush my teeth, tidy the apartment, find music and have a few minutes to kick back and relax. Now that I’ve written it down, all those thoughts have lost their power and become a lovely moment and nothing else. Writing is amazing that way.

In the past couple of days the work, language, money panic has slightly subsided and I’m feeling more like myself again.  It still feels like I’m in the middle of a mid-October leaf storm or on the white water rafting part of the program or the free fall part of the jump but I’m starting to think, I can handle this. I’ve remembered a crucial bit. Sanity is always found in returning to myself. Somehow that got lost in the last month and a half of late nights, out-of-town guests and farewells. That has always been the answer or at the very least a big part of it.

It is also true that I would be lost with out my friends- the ones I can reach out to in the middle of the night if necessary. Still, the answer, my answer, is always the same- read, write, cut images and glue them on paper, cook (and now bake).  There has always been behavior, in my part that is less than healthy when things feel shaky. And it is also true that when I’m almost at the edge I find my way back to a healthier day to day. Yes, there is often now a sadness in the morning when I first open my eyes. That has been there since almost two years ago next July. But I’ve always been good at shaking it off with my first cup of coffee.

It’s raining in Paris. All month long brief stints of sunshine seem to promise summer but not yet, not yet, not yet. Things are slowly changing. French is opening up to me a bit. My ear hears words and my brain understands them without translating them to Spanish or English. More and more I feel trepidation when I write because it feels more exposing than it ever has. I suspect that is a good thing. I must be getting closer to what I need to be doing if it feels scary. And as Lili pointed out the other day lots of small changes add up to some big ones.

“At this time last year,’ she said, “you didn’t know what you wanted to do. You hadn’t decided to move to Paris. You hadn’t taken your trip to Italy. You weren’t even baking. Think of all the incredible things that happened in one year.”

And except for that momentary staircase flash and the minutes after, I’m having a pretty good day. Thanks in part to a Sam Shepard interview in the guardian, a commencement speech by Neil Gaiman, an essay by Anne Lamont, a paragraph about cake batter in Michael Rhulman’s Ratio, a bit of a conversation with Angelo Badalamenti about the sound of Twin Peaks that I listened to on Nicolas Jaar’s essential mix for BBC radio, two Mark Strand poems, a kitchenaid mixer, a batch (finally!) of really good dark chocolate cayenne cookies that leave behind a mellow heat reminiscent of a first kiss, and the realization that if all I want is just beyond my hand’s reach maybe I just need to put down my arms and walk towards it.


Someone’s knocking at the door

Posted in 37, friends, joie de vie with tags , , , on October 14, 2011 by ana

My friend Alicia is, among many other things, a yoga teacher. Sunday, after a very boring french lesson, I went to her apartment for lunch. We sat at her little table and ate sausages, salad, heirloom tomatoes, and olives flanked to one side by a statue of Durga. Alicia was tired from a week filled with teaching and driving, and I was feeling kind of blue, the way I often do when I don’t sleep well or I’ve partied too much. I think we were both feeling a little guilt for different reasons.

Being in her company, in her space, eating yummy food was recalibrating. Sometimes you just need your friends to reassure you that everything is okay, even if deep down you know it. At overwhelming times a little validation can go a long way.

Over the years Alicia’s home has become part treasure chest and part library. Everywhere I looked my eyes would land on something interesting- mythology books, an old Judy Blume paperback, a shelf filled with all the markers, pencils and pens imaginable, a huge vision board, an old suitcase filled with papers, collections of her favorite authors, little notes left for herself as reminders of dreams, vintage toys…

For dessert there were blueberries, strawberry biscuits and tea. Alicia said, “I think I want to give you your birthday present.”  She handed me a shopping bag. “This is for when you feel lonely in Paris. Or in LA,” she added.  Inside was a collection of all my favorite eighties movies- Can’t Buy Me Love, Some Kind of Wonderful, Flash Gordon. Hands down one of the best, sweetest gifts anyone has given me. I felt so loved and known.

Saturday night I went to a dinner party at my friend Rami’s house, on the way there I kept thinking- this has been the best year of my life- hard but really great. When Stevie showed up a little later she said, “this has been the best year of your life SO FAR”

My birthday is around the corner.  Birthdays are my preferred New Year’s celebration, a time to lovingly recall all that has transpired and to think about what you hope to accomplish in the coming year. There are three or four big reasons why this has been the best year of my life. One was the break-up. It is almost a year since Leo and I split. I have always thought that to get yourself over a break up you need a year. You need to live all the seasons and major holidays you lived with that person without them. While it pains me to write that this amazing year came in part from loving and leaving someone who I will always love and who will always live in my heart that was the turning point, the empty handed leap, as they say. Sometimes it’s still hard to wrap my head around that one but there is strength in both knowing that I could have such a satisfying relationship, that I could love and be loved and feel the magic of being in love, and there is beyond strength in knowing that I chose me. That through life’s twists and turns, and the logistics of navigating a life shared with someone else there came a time where the only choice that was true to everything I believed was to walk away, and I did it no matter how much it hurt.

What followed was in many ways the main reason I have had such a successful and rotund year.  I have been fed and nurtured by an amazing, eclectic group of friends who have been my shelter, my cheerleaders, my sounding board, and my laughter. More than at any other moment in my life I have thanked my lucky stars for them.

Then there was therapy and my seven-month workshop, which was a journey in and of its self.  Much like with the break up, I grasp that something life changing has occurred. I feel internally that I am now completely different, yet the same. I am stronger, closer to who I have always thought I could be. I also sense I am too close to the events to truly grasp their magnitude in my narrative. I get that this year has been a game changer but to what extent remains to be seen.

And then there was Italy and all the mayhem that ensued from traveling with my mom, my brother and his brood, going to cooking school in Puglia for a week, having a lovely fling, and ending up in the emergency room with my mom after she broke her wrist. I came back from my trip to Italy inspired in a way I hadn’t been in a long time or perhaps had ever been. Certainly the accumulation of all that had happened in the year led me there. The commitment to write regularly either in this blog or for myself led me there.  But something was sparked that led me to fall in love with things I’ve always loved- food, photographs, words.

The last two months have been fraught with ups and downs mostly of my own doing. When I started my therapy workshop I knew that when the time came, after the workshop ended, I would know what to do next. I trusted that completely and in time the decision and opportunity to go to Paris appeared. Soon after I decided on Paris all these voices and doubts started to pop up. Part of me worried about what I would do in Paris, part of me worried about what I would do after Paris, and part of me wished I was there already. Then the other day it just hit me- you will know, when the time is right, you will know the next step. Just do your work and don’t worry about what will happen four steps ahead.

This has been a year of great lessons that I work hard at remembering. I can only live the moment that I have right now. I have no control over outcome. I must let life live me.  The only control I have is the choice to surrender and trust, and to be picky with what, who and how I fill my day. I think Anne Lamott said it best:

There is nothing you can buy, achieve, own, or rent that can fill up that hunger inside for a sense of fulfillment and wonder. But the good news is that creative expression, whether that means writing, dancing, bird-watching, or cooking, can give a person almost everything that he or she has been searching for: enlivenment, peace, meaning, and the incalculable wealth of time spent quietly in beauty.



Drinking and facebook

Posted in 37, reading with tags , on June 13, 2011 by ana


I love to read. I don’t do it as much as I used to when I lived in Brooklyn, and had a 45 minute commute to the museum I worked at in Queens, but I try to read at least a little everyday. Someone once said to me- those who love to read are never alone. And I think it’s true. A whole other world exists out there that you can get to only through books. More often than not when I read something I love I feel inspired but every once in a while it can be incredibly intimidating and paralyzing.  And then I know I must start to write, no matter what it is I write about, or I will loose my nerve. That is what I’m working with today. The fear that I will judge everything I write, deem it not good enough, and then spiral into a frozen abyss.

Last week I went for drinks after work with a few of the cooks and my friend who was managing that night. We went to Bigfoot, which is not that far from work, and also where Leo and I met. I had not been there since that day. The bar was nearly empty and we stayed until the lights came up. Then once the bar closed we stood outside talking for awhile. I didn’t really think of Leo, even though all we did was talk about relationships and sex and heartache, but of course he was still there in spirit*

I don’t know if it was the G&Ts or if being in that bar made me nostalgic but when I got home I logged back in to my facebook account. I don’t do facebook anymore. I find it doesn’t contribute anything of value to my life. Sure, it was fun seeing what people I went to elementary school with looked like as adults. Sure, it was fun reconnecting with old summer camp buddies or long lost friends but after that it just became a time-suck and the whole thing is just weird. But there I was at 2:30 am looking at what 150 of my closets friends had been up to in the last five months. And, of course, eventually I wondered over to Leo’s page. Now if you read this blog regularly you know that that is not my style. I have tried very hard to not bring any extra Leo stimulation into my life. But there I was. And there he was looking thinner, smiling, cavorting at his friend’s wedding wearing a shirt I bought him (or at the very least insisted he buy) at Paul Smith. And it shook me up. I couldn’t help thinking this should have been my wedding (or at the very least I should have been cavorting with him at that wedding.) Now, don’t think just because I’m writing this that I wish that things would have turned out different. I don’t. But a part of me, a smallish part of me, couldn’t help thinking how strange that his friend got married but we didn’t.

Ever since that night I have felt liberated. Not all at once but little by little as the days went by. And more and more my personal truth about the disintegration of my relationship emerges. That, as has always been the case in all my long term relationships, I outgrew it. The safety, the warmth, the companionship, the support, the fun, and even the periods after the break-up have always shown light in the missing pieces of myself and helped me grow more confident.


* “The experience of a city is made up of a constant negotiation with the ghost and residues of previous experience, most notably in Paris, with the ghost of insurrection and revolution, but also in Berlin which for Benjamin was above all a city of ghosts.” Howard Caygill (Walter Benjamin: The colour of experience)


Posted in friends with tags , on May 25, 2011 by ana

Monday afternoon I met my friend Vee for coffee near my apartment. After a long conversation filled with mini moments of excitement and insecurity about the future I felt invigorated and like myself again. Sometimes I just get too in my head! I drove to Hollywood where I met up with Stevie and her man to check out wedding invites at my friend’s press.  And then we went to Hungry Cat for drinks and snacks. On the drive to the restaurant I felt something I hadn’t in awhile- the energy of Los Angeles as a city, which often feels to escape me. I felt happy and excited in general and for Stevie. I simply can not wait for her wedding. Not only because it’s going to be the party of the year (even if it is still over a year away) but because she’s marrying someone I adore almost, almost as much as her. As she was discussing the invites for a brief moment I thought- will this moment come for me? Not so much because I doubt that I will meet someone suited for me but because a wedding at this moment seems like such an abstract concept. A wedding, marriage has often seemed somewhat conceptual and intangible to me. But as I was there with Steves I realized that I just feel that way because I’ve probably in my heart of hearts have never met someone I could truly embark in that adventure with.

I was telling my mom the other day that my good friend is having a baby. I was telling her that Steves was getting married. And she said, “I guess you will always be a late bloomer in everything.”
I know she’s right but lately I’ve come to realize that this has its advantages. Which doesn’t mean that it isn’t a struggle and that it doesn’t suck at times. I am elated that my friends are having babies and getting married and getting dream jobs. Slowly I am starting to see that everything that I have done and the pace at which it has happened has led me to this moment. And though my heart still aches a little (or a lot every once in awhile), I feel grounded and I can’t say that is something that I have always been familiar.

Here, now, writing this post with the birds chirping outside and the cool air holding the promise of a warm afternoon this late blooming thing makes perfect sense. Yes, sometimes it seems like nothing is happening. Often I want to scream with my head buried in my pillow out of frustration. But when Alicia asked me last night how my workshop went over the weekend I realized just how different things are. For so long I had let the things I deemed failures (because in hindsight I could have done more or done them different) hold me back.  Now something had shifted, and I feel a sense of pride and kindness towards my life.  I realized that my struggles to be clearly seen and heard, the battles with my body and with food, and the dance that I had always done to be true to myself and still feel accepted by my family had led me to a deeper understanding of myself and my place in the world. It sounds so dramatic to type it out but so often I have felt left out or like I didn’t fit in. It is earth shattering to finally see that none of it is a measure of worth. And the current, that runs through everything now, the kernel of truth that I’ve slowly come to know in my bones is how often writing save us.

Fear, emails and some Charlie Rose

Posted in friends with tags , on May 9, 2011 by ana

Recently Charlie Rose had Richard Serra as guest on his TV show. “Is space the best thing you understand?” Charlie asked him.
“I think so,” Richard Serra answered. “Yes for sure. I always have. It’s always been what I am most curious about.”
“Curious about and understand most,” Charlie pointed out.
To which Richard Serra said, “I think if you are curious it leads you to understanding.”

Today is the first time since I started writing here that I’m making myself do it as opposed to wanting to or needing to and this brings up some scary feelings for me. My biggest obstacle in life is follow through. I have a tendency to give up on things. I don’t want to be that way anymore.  I really,  really don’t. Funny thing is now that I’m writing it feels great to be sitting here, at the dining table, doing it. This is my priority right now, to write and continue to grow the voice that I have found.

I  emailed Nai this morning: I’m thick in the heart of my therapy workshop and it is stirring up a lot of stuff for me. Not even stuff about Leo but more about me, and having follow through, and my dreams and wishes. I don’t want to be in trying to become mode anymore. I haven’t had an audition in months and it makes me sad. It makes me sad that I may not even want one. Well that’s not true. I’m just so much more at home being myself in my art. The blog is so effortless. It’s work, hard work but effortless.

And she wrote back: You said, “I am so much more at home being myself in my art”. That’s huge. Write, write, write and see what else you uncover. Maybe the acting classes were to help find your voice and just that… That’s also huge! Don’t focus on what you aren’t and instead keep trying to discover who you are.

I told her that I thought the acting classes had helped me become more confident and a better writer. I’m fascinated by acting. It’s very me to give up on things. I don’t want to be that way anymore. I never think of all the different things I’ve done as the things I had to do to get to where I want to be. Most of the time it has been easier to see them as failures but I want to find what it is that I’m really good at. What I can establish myself in so that all those things I have been curious about will be clearly part of the road I had to walk. One of the biggest longings in my heart is just that- clarity. Always in the back of my head is the nagging question. What am I going to do? Where am I going to go? What will I be? Summer is almost here. Will I know by fall? Will it take a little longer. What if I never know. There has to be a resolution but I’m scared that we are almost half way through the year, and I don’t know.

A bucket full of patience

Posted in reading with tags on May 3, 2011 by ana

Years ago, in Puerto Rico,  I ran into my dad’s neighbor at the airport in San Juan.  She and her husband were traveling with their kids. I don’t know if our plane was delayed or it was just that her kids were running around and driving her nuts but she just turned to me and said- sometimes you just have to bathe yourself in patience, you just have to take a bucket full of patience and pour it over yourself.  It was one of those random things that just stuck and it pops in my head when things are taking too long.

I’m meeting Nai and Alabama in Las Vegas this weekend. I’m driving there so it seemed as good a time as any to drop my car off for an oil change and a check up.  I always put it off because it always ends up costing me more than just an oil check and check up. I know what you are going to say, that I shouldn’t get all that stuff done at the dealer but I used to take it somewhere else and they messed up my car and it cost me even more.

As I waited for the paperwork for my car to be done I pulled out my notebook and started writing. Every night before I go to sleep I try to write a list of every thing I did in my day. If I’m too tired I write it in the morning. The skinny, older, slightly scruffy man helping me asked if it was a journal and I said sort of.  He said, “there was a time I used to keep a journal. I don’t know what happened to them. Boy, I would love to read them now. I went traveling when I was young. I drove to Arizona, Washington, Oregon.” He told me a story about his truck breaking down during a rainstorm. He’d run into a church to keep warm and the pastor had asked him if he needed a place to stay. The pastor gave him a bed and food and in the morning they both drove to a reservation to hand out medicine and insulin. “That was one of the best days of my life,” he said. As he told me the story I could see what he looked like forty years ago driving around. When I was  doing my meditation workshop something similar happened with the man running the class. He told us that when he was seventeen he had only read one book for two years- Leaves of Grass. He had carried in his back pocket as he traveled.  Reading over and over had been a meditation to him. The meditation teacher was much older than the man at the car place but he also transformed before my eyes as he told the story.

My car wasn’t ready by the end of the day, and I ended up with a rental. It felt like a million things kept making me think about the bucket of patience. Things beyond my control kept making me late for everything.  I thought about the man at the car dealership and how he had wished he still had his journals. I told him that I had huge, flat boxes underneath my bed full of journals- fifteen years worth. I didn’t tell him that I had been thinking of getting rid of a large chunk of them.

When I drove home in my rental Fleetwood Mac’s Sara was playing on the radio. I can’t remember when the last time I heard that song was but it took me right back to being in eighth grade and staying in my mom’s car listening to music, reading Tama Janowitz, while my little brother finished soccer practice. It made me feel both old and young. Old because I feel that I have stories about times when I was a lot younger. Old because I see my sister and hear her stories and think- Oh, I’ve felt that way, I’ve done that. Part of me misses being that young but part of me doesn’t. I feel old because at 37, even if your early thirties were an extension of your twenties, your twenties are long gone. I feel young because I am but it also feels so present that thirty-seven is the precipice of something new.

Posted in friends with tags , on February 15, 2011 by ana

A while back my friend Coco suggested I watch the movie Eat, Pray, Love.

“I think it will speak to you,” she said.


“I know, I know,”she said. “Trust me.”

I rented it and although I don’t care for Julia Roberts I love Javier Bardem. I watched it. It spoke to me.

I can’t say that I would have taken it in so well if I were not in the state I’m in but what can I say, I could relate. And now when ever it feels painful to think of Leo I do what Julia said at one point in the movie. I send him love and light and drop it. Hey, it’s good advice.

I never had any interest in the book but now that I’ve been writing this blog, and after seeing the movie, I am a little curious. I found a short excerpt online and read it. It seemed okay and it sent me into a panic. I have been getting so much joy writing this blog. So much direction and inspiration. But as soon as I read one page of Elizabeth Gilbert’s writing I went into serious doubting Dora mode- someone already wrote about heart break and finding themselves, someone who already had a writing career, someone who had already found her voice. How is there ever going to be room for me.

God, I hate that. How many times have I kept myself from finishing work because I judged it or compared it. It is a constant struggle to remind myself that all I have to do is show up, do the work, and not worry. Everything in my experience points to great things happening when you just let it go and show up. Any work I have ever finished, any work I have ever been proud of is because I just did it and shut up.

Over and over I remind myself- just surrender to the moment. Over and over I think- this moment is exactly the one I’m meant to be living. And as I become more available to my own life and I value me more I find that spectacular things happen all the time. I feel joyful. I book work. I show up over and over to my writing. And little by little I am able to catch myself going into fantasies and projections about how the future will somehow be better than now and bring myself back to right here.

And that is where I want to be always. Or at least more times than not. This is a big shift for me. Huge.

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , on November 19, 2010 by ana

Julie & Julia is on again so I’m watching it. It seems these days it’s either comedies, eighties movies or PBS. Just today I was thinking again about people who find their paths what seems like magically. Fate somehow finds them and they finally fall into place. Julie Powell came to mind as did a young, weepy Sophie Dahl, and an older Julia Child. How does one find one’s destiny? Maybe I’m a fool believing that I will find mine or that it will find me. How do people become who they are meant to be?

There are so many things troubling my mind and heart. Yet, I feel, I hope that there is a reason for all this. That I will find my way and feel true stability, true love, true devotion to a passionate, creative cause. I see women all the time that write blogs, who live creative lives, who are creative moms- nothing huge, just plain simple day to day inspired living but nothing has fully ever clicked for me, there is a thirst in me. So, I just write because right now this blog seems like my only true connection to my cause.