Saturday, November 21, 2009


Yesterday I received the advance reading copies of my new book, THE HARD KIND OF PROMISE. I am so happy with the book’s cover and, as always, am looking forward to the reviews.

The book is about best friends and what can happen to them in middle school. But as we adults know, lots of things can happen to best friends no matter what their ages.

I lost a lot of friends within the five years following my divorce. I’m thinking of four women in particular, all people I thought I’d have as friends for the rest of my life. I still miss all of them a lot.

When this kind of thing happens, you spend a lot of time trying to figure out what went wrong. (Well, you do if you’re me.) One woman was, I think, mentally ill. Two of the women were Professional Moms who let mom-ing get in the way of friendship. The fourth, a dear friend since high school, well, I just don’t know. She’s the one I miss the most.

Was it my fault? If it had only happened once, I’d have said probably not, but four times? I’ve got to think I had something to do with it. Do I not know how to be a friend? (That’s what the nut job would say.) Was I in a weird place post-divorce, shedding people in a misguided effort to be rid of memories, my old self? Maybe. Did I just get lazy? Well, that sounds like me.

Whatever it was, it continues to eat at me. I wish I could just say, “I’m sorry,” and fix things. But I know that isn’t how friendships work, not always, anyway. Even the strong ones can be brittle, fragile, jagged-edged. Sometimes things are unfixable.

I am grateful beyond words for Tracy and Jim and Ursula and Kathi and Sue and Josine and Karra and Paula (who is proof that sometimes you can just call out of the blue and say, What happened? and everything is miraculously okay again) and The Women Of The List (who deserve and will get a post all to themselves in the near future). I hope we will be friends for the rest of my life. I hope I will be a good friend to all of them and to anyone else who comes along, should I be so lucky.

And I am once again amazed by the ways in which writing for children isn’t really writing for children at all.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009


I saw Las Vegas for the first time last week, when Robert and I braved the nine-hour drive to celebrate his birthday.

I am not a Las Vegas person. I’ve always known this, but it was reassuring to have it confirmed.

We stayed at the Bellagio, which bills itself as refined, elegant, sophisticated, and lushly European. Well, I guess, except for the hordes of middle-Americans in baggy jeans and sports-team t-shirts, college boys in sideways baseball caps holding fruity mixed drinks at nine in the morning, college girls teetering on slave-girl-sandals-with-five-inch-stiletto-heels, fat people on electric scooters, old ladies alone at the slots machines, hookers, and large groups of people speaking unrecognized foreign languages. I would have loved to study all of them in more detail--like most writers, I relish any chance to look at people--but the casino was cloudy with cigarette smoke and I simply could not endure it.

We had a remarkable birthday dinner at Picasso.  I am not a foodie; I consider gourmet food to be anything that I didn’t cook. But our dinner was breathtaking. A cream of butternut squash soup with floating islands of marshmallows and a puree of morel mushrooms. Kobe beef “spheres” (which is apparently what the refined call meatballs) on a bed of lentils. Delectable snapper, the preparation of which I don’t remember, thanks to the efforts of our sommelier, who brought a different wine to accompany each course. Dessert was something with chocolate and butter pecan ice cream. I think I ate a quail egg somewhere along the way.

The next day, we walked down the Strip, dodging smokers and drunken college kids and the guys silently flicking ads for escort services at us. We walked through the Paris casino (poking our heads into the oh-so-elegant soap shop just to see the big sign for the new toilet-bowl cleaner, Poo-pourri) and Bally’s (which looked seedy, but not as seedy as Bill’s Gamblin’ Hall and Saloon, which seems to be the lone holdout from a bygone era). Sushi for dinner. I was ready to leave.

It’s a big playground, just like Branson (which we visited last year), except that Las Vegas is for the grownups who want debauchery and sin and the opportunity to browse in a Hermes store as if they were really going to buy something. (I don’t know any adults personally who would like Branson, but there seem to be loads of them, all aching to get a ringside seat for Andy Williams, most of them from Kansas.)

I guess it’s nice that there are two different kinds of playgrounds. It made me think that there should be different kinds of playgrounds for children. One kind with swings and slides and parallel bars, for the kids who want to be where the action is, the girls who make everything a competition, the boys with a constitutional need to run and yell. And another kind, with sandboxes and water tables and pails and shovels, for the kids like my son, who always wanted to think seriously about what he was digging, who watched the other children with happy interest but was content to play alone, who sighed in resignation when his castles were trampled and announced quietly that he was ready to go home.

We're all entitled to the right kind of playground.  I'm still looking for mine, which should include a window seat, a stack of books, and plenty of scones.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Seen This Week

Seen this week:

--At the Santa Cruz Department of Public Health, where I waited to get my H1N1 shot: a little boy, maybe four, wearing a cowboy hat, one cowboy boot and one blue Croc, a dirty t-shirt and too-short sweat pants, one elasticized leg hole at his calf, the other almost at his knee. His face was smeared with peanut butter and jelly. Our eyes locked and we completely got each other. Without saying a word, we shared our misery;

--At my front door on Halloween: a teenage boy dressed as a giant rabbit. He and his friends (dressed non-memorably) said “Thank you” and “Have a nice night”;

--On the drive over the Santa Cruz mountains, on the back roads: a tiny tree with yellow leaves, glowing in a shaft of sunlight despite the surrounding redwoods;

--On TV: John Abbott in 1948’s “The Woman in White” as a hypochondriacal English gentleman who says things like, "Dear boy, please!  My nerves!" Also, Sydney Greenstreet and Gig Young, who, according to Robert, was definitely wearing a wig;

--On my nightstand: Elizabeth Berg’s “We Are All Welcome Here,” “The Short Stories of Mary Gordon,” Mameve Medwed’s “Of Men and Their Mothers,” three back issues of The New Yorker, an albuterol inhaler, a candle, my cell phone charger, and a Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup wrapper;

--From my front steps, where I sit after my morning jog: a thriving rosemary plant (given to us as a housewarming present by Dix and Kathi), several hydrangea bushes—pink-leaved and nearly flowerless—the giant statue of an anchor (courtesy of the previous owner), our Brown Jordan wrought iron table and chairs, ca 1957 (courtesy of my mother), the white wooden bench beneath the yellowing wisteria vine, and a squirrel who had just descended from one of the Monterey pines and was eyeing me with what I chose to believe was derision but was probably just squirrel-ish-ness; and

--From the kitchen island, where I currently sit: a variety of maple cupboards, black granite countertops, stainless steel appliances, a glass bowl of Fuji apples, a tall, beveled vase sprouting twigs and sprays of dried silver-dollar stalks, and a half-empty can of diet Canada Dry ginger ale.