T is for Transition

T

tran·si·tion
tranˈziSHən,-ˈsiSHən/
noun
 1. the process or a period of changing from one state or condition to another
~ a passage in a piece of writing that smoothly connects two topics or sections to each other.
~ a momentary modulation from one key to another
~ a change of an atom, nucleus, electron, etc., from one quantum state to another, with emission or absorption of radiation.
verb
1. undergo or cause to undergo a process or period of transition.

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I realize that until now I have not really spoke of The Boy and there are reasons for that. I have always been liked by children, which is weird because I don’t really like children. I like individual children, much as I like individual dogs or cats, both can spur deep and loving relationships for me, but either way I don’t like them just for the mere fact of their existence. I have never cared if a child liked me, which is why they might like me in the first place… much like a cat. I cared if The Boy liked me, and therefore have had no way to be comfortable around him. I am not comfortable with caring; I don’t know how to talk about him.

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I have worked with foster kids, and I get them, they are a mess in many different kinds of way but, I understand their “crazy”, I recognize it.

400814_2694603999053_1171432951_nThe Boy is not crazy, he is a perfectly well-adjusted child, with nothing but full confidence in his abilities and intelligence. He is smart, and funny. He is sarcastic, sensitive, interesting and is worth having a conversation with. He has played piano, sax, trumpet and drums with OntheFerry_zpsf576ecc5varying degrees of interest and passion. He is gifted in math, science and engineering. He has been on the local radio station learning the ropes of engineering and production since Middle School and recently produced his first solo show. He skis, sails, hikes and has done various other sports over the years. He builds robots and battles them. He is a very tall black kid in a white family that seems totally well-adjusted and can mock the absurdity of himself and life in general, with adult aplomb.  His moms have never been able to get him to do chores, and he is spoiled in his own way. He is smart enough to consciously recognize that an intelligent argument paired with unending persistence will overcome any resistance from his very reasonable pacifist parents. I may be one of the few people who joyfully says, no, to him. He can be quite charming when he chooses. He can also be quite annoying.

5660_148663085751_6685996_nAll of this are just pieces of achievements and small hints at the kid that has been growing up within a world filled with grace. He doesn’t have questions about his story, because he’s always known it. He has never known true loss, or complete failure, and though I hope he never does, I figure he’ll be alright when and if that happens. He had had the chance to try his hand at whatever has crossed his path and many things have and will continue to do so. His world is vast and not narrowed by restraints.

He knows it, he knows how blessed he is. How many of us were aware and appreciative of our family and our blessings as a pre-teen? I haven’t known many. He is no longer a child, but we haven’t quite gotten there in this tale. There are many reasons for my growth as a person but one of the biggest catalysts is wanting to be someone worth knowing, to this boy who is almost a man.  I know from my own tale that the accident of birth isn’t enough.

This whole story is about transitions but the most amazing one I have seen is of this child growing up. He amazes me; as does the family, that has made the life he has been given, possible. I am not really a part of that, but I am lucky enough to play a supporting role.

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I mean, I still don’t always like kids,  but I guess he’s okay.

 

 

S is for Sacrosanct

S

sac·ro·sanct
ˈsakrōˌsaNG(k)t/
adjective
1. (esp. of a principle, place, or routine) regarded as too important or valuable to be interfered with.

Let me tell you why I  loved fighting, then  acid and later, meditation. They make the world shiny. After a  throw-down fight, a good trip or a long deep meditation I have gotten the same feeling, like the world is new and shiny, like I am seeing it anew again. I adore that feeling.

My friends and I went directly from the meditation seminar to The Boys’ home in Portland. It was the first time I was bringing friends with me. The Boy and his moms never came to my home in NJ, which made minimum exposure to my friends rather simple. This time I was making a choice to do so.  It was all about choices.

If they didn’t see where I lived or meet the people I associated with, they only had what I chose to show as fodder for the picture of me in their heads and I liked it that way. I only spent a few days of any given year in their company, that time was sacrosanct and I could play pretend for that long, mostly. Yes, of course I was perfectly healthy, yes my girlfriend is great and not an abusive jerkface, yes my job is fulfilling and interesting, yes my social life is full of kind, intelligent, generous souls, everything is GREAT.

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I am sure I didn’t fool them, they are smart cookies and Gwynnie had long ago,  given up on writing down any of my contact information in pen, it just wasn’t worth the mess of crossing things out so often. I was never stable, not really.

turret2I brought Robyn and Rosencrantz because they were my closest friends, I was proud to be their friend and additionally, I needed SOMEONE to play witness to the insanity that is the Maine Hive Household. EVERYONE is awesome… it’s tiring. I have met scientists, professors, dancers, master fire dancercarpenters, inventors, tattoo artists, fire dancers, nationally syndicated comic artists, yoga instructors, castle builders, performers of all sorts, artists, singers, musicians, activists, sustainable farmers..so many people and most of that list can be found on their block and many of those people do two or more of those things. They are all intimately connected, in some way. Everything is made from scratch, there are handmade cookbooks and a constant string of baked goods being kneaded and pulled, there are compost piles and supplies bought from local purveyors and farms. There are gardens tended and preserves jarred. I once called the house about something and was told “ Oh! We just went strawberry picking at our friends place, you know the one that built that turret? We picked about 65lbs of strawberries, and we’re making jam now”. It’s hard not to feel like a failure at existence before you finish your filtered coffee with foamed milk and crystalized ginger scones in the morning at the kitchen table where there are people up and running hours before I’ve left my bed.

None of this is braggartly. they are just living their lives and this is how they live it. There is a constant stream of friends and relatives in and out of the house, coming up and down from the basement that connects some of the houses inhabitants. So many people are visiting during the warm months of the year, they have to juggle the bookings. People are taking ferries, meeting ferries, skateboarding, snowboarding, sailing, hiking, twisting into yoga knots and dancing hither and yon.

ashtray_ (1)There is a chair on their porch, to the side of the house, that is made from bent metal, with finely woven rattan covering it, it is almost like a modified rocker, and beside it is an old smokeless ashtray, most likely, salvaged humanely. It is slightly hidden, and this is where I hide. On this trip, I had comrades in arms and I was happy to have them, I just wanted to make sure I wasn’t crazy.

So much genuine friendliness, passionate interest and graciousness, was just really hard for me to process. I always felt like the Grinch, looking down at Whoville with such cynicism and really, who wants to be the Grinch?  Like the Grinch, I secretly wanted to be a part of that joie de vie, but it was always just out of reach. My envy was debilitating.

I wasn’t stupid enough to believe my new shiny eyes would never get clouded again by my own insecure stupidity; but for this trip, they weren’t and it was the first time it wasn’t so overwhelming, I could just faintly see the hope of finding my own path towards this kind of life. It was the first time I saw a roadmap instead of a warning sign that blared “ Danger! Do Not Enter! Authorized Personnel Only!”.

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R is for Relief

R

re·lief
riˈlēf/
noun
1. a feeling of reassurance and relaxation following release from anxiety or distress.
2. assistance, esp. in the form of food, clothing, or money, given to those in special need or difficulty.

I went on a trip to Maine that wasn’t to Portland, which was a first. I went to a meditation seminar, given by a woman who builds and organizes such things for a living, and she needed guinea pigs for a new project she was working on, Robyn, Rosencrantz and I went.

polar bearI have no idea how to write about deep meditation without sounding like I was taking hallucinogens. I can say a few things, it was two days and 8 hours a clip, I felt like the days could be counted in seconds;  my totem animal or spirit animal is a polar bear which is pretty fucking cool; when I imagine a forest setting it is always dark with dappled light, which probably has some significance I’m not capable of parsing out right now. We were asked to bring something we wanted to get rid of or get past, psychologically and spiritually speaking, not the bag of donation I have in the trunk. I brought my perceptions of my place in The Boys life, which has been a problem, my problem, for all of his life.

This is what I dig about both the practice of meditation and yoga, they help change my perspective of my world. I don’t know if it’s the same for everyone else, but at least for me, I see the world differently. If you have ever been through an eyeglass exam, you understand the process of having your face squished up on the little chin rest and the doctor changing out lenses saying, “which one is clearer? 1? or 2? 1? or 2? “ , then you can understand what I’m trying (badly) to explain.

We were asked to picture the things that we perceived as problems, the concepts we wanted to let go of. For me that meant leeches, I don’t leechesknow why, that’s just what my head came up with. Fat, full leeches, all over me.

I am not sure how much is being ready, how much is process and how much is intent, but I am guessing all can be the answer. I needed to let go of this concept of motherhood I was holding on to so dearly. I was comparing myself to a family I wasn’t in a competition with. I was failing at something I took myself out of the running for. None of it made sense. I’m sure that just recognizing that these were issues helped. The end result was such a sense of relief.  I just wasn’t the person I kept trying to convince myself I needed to be.

 

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P is for Pop

P

pop
päp/
verb
make a light explosive sound.
go somewhere, typically for a short time and often without notice.
noun
a light explosive sound.
a patch of bright color
adverb
with a light explosive sound.

In 2006 The boy was turning 8 years old. I have always liked the road trip to Maine, it seems to get more deeply green as you go further North. When you enter Maine the welcome sign declares that you have gotten to the place where life is as it should be.

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The boy has always been into science and all of his gifts tended to reflect that passion. Over the years, he had received dinosaur skeletons to assemble and clear engines to build and run, owl pellets to break apart and examine. I have always tried to get him neat gifts along that line. It’s a weird thing to be someones’ birth mother, there just isn’t any road-map for your place. It was still awkward, I think mostly because I am awkward. The Maine crew is nothing but friendly and welcoming and it was a slow stilted path towards integrating me into that fold. I am much more prickly, but I gave neat gifts as a bizarre apology for my weirdness.

This year I got him a science kit that included a water bottle rocket. This was a quick attention grabber and caused an immediate plan to set-up at the parking lot by their house, a small neighborhood gang appeared out of ether to accompany us.

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We set-up, and he started pumping, and just as maximum pressure was reached, he turned the spout and got me, full force, soaked! After two more attempts and two more soakings I threatened to drown him if he tried it one more time.

Guess what? 8 year olds don’t take threats to seriously, but I always do. POP! He got me one more time and I grabbed him in a headlock. I doused him with all available water while laughter and screeching commenced. There was threats and running and more laughter.

It was the first time I touched him without thinking. I don’t know if people think about touch as much as I have, about its importance and connection to love and intimacy, but it was an ever-present thought for me most of the time. In trying desperately to respect boundaries, to make them for myself, to protect myself and him and this wonderful family, it was all tangled up into unbreakable knots for me.

Yet, this time, I didn’t think. I laughed and it was joyful. To this day our relationship can be marked by this friendly fighting, of instigation and attack.  I don’t know what that means and I don’t feel much need to poke it, somehow it has worked to build a fragile bridge that has slowly gotten stronger, and that is also, joyful.

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A Moth Year in Review

Note: This post is long for me and a bit newletter-y for my tastes, but I really wanted to make note of an amazing time and give credit to those I wish could give more.
You have been warned. 

Let me just say 2013 started out kinda rough

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There was the accident, in which I broke both knees, chipped my knee caps, fractured ribs and lost the use of my left arm (temporarily due to nerve damage).  I spent a month in the hospital, and another two re-learning how to walk and function at home. The worst part of this for me, was the mental aspect. I was really a mess. I was dependent, in pain and horribly depressed. The bulk of responsiblity fell on my wifes’ shoulders and for this I will be forgiving any number of sins for many years to come.

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We had a lot of help, my daughters school mobilized and brought over food. My neighbor built a ramp into my house, so I could not only get in my house but also get out. My mother and sister-in-law took turns staying with us to help with the day-to-day process of dealing with my crankiness and keep my wife sane. My childhood best friend organized a GoFundMe drive and raised money to cover replacing our car and cover living expenses while I was out of commission. It was a rough start but I can not think of anything that has caused me to realize with such cutting clarity, how blessed I am, how blessed my family is.

I got better. My arm worked and I started walking again. I retired my wheelchair.  My wife managed to not kill me..surprisingly, I am a wretched patient. By the time my daughters birthday rolled around (April) things were looking up. The Maine crew came down for the birthday party which is always a good time.

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413522_10151496364875752_123495098_oJen contacted me about a second performance of the adoption story, for June in Portland. ME at the State Theatre.  This was kinda a big deal, I would be performing in Portland, where Henry and his moms resided.  I haven’t mentioned this in the blog but they are well-known people in that city. I have rarely gone out with them without someone, a student or acquaintance or performer, recognizing one or both of Henry’s moms. It feels as if Gretchen has taught at every single school at some point in her history. Although Gretch doesn’t currently teach at the college, she did for many years and Gwynnie still does. They support and have been a part of Portland’s art scene for a long time.  On top of this, the headliner at the show was an ATRONAUT! Rick Hauk has done many things but what I knew off the bat was that he commanded the Discovery shuttle, the first manned shuttle after the Challenger explosion, which is pretty bad ass. Also, did I mention he is a fucking astronaut??

The other storytellers included Jenny Allen, an amazing performer, writer and essayist, who I met at my first show in NYC when she was the MC; Mellissa Coleman (author of This Life is in Your Hands) and Paul Knoll (shamanic healer).  Meg Bowels and Kirsty Bennett produced the show.

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This show was pretty awesome. As soon as I mentioned Gwynnie and Gretch, there was a huge cheer, they are much-loved, as is their somewhat amazing kid. I had a great time, it went well and I got hang out with an astronaut, ’nuff said.

Summer began, we planted our second garden, went to Ren Faire, the beach, and Asha started Summer day camp. Henry turned FIFTEEN!

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473282_10151616325865803_1076699751_o Then I got a call. The Moth was publishing a book, of their favorite 50 stories and my story was going to be included. Out of over 10,000 stories and over 15 years of performances, my story was being picked. What do you say to that? I still haven’t figured it out.

Stage Stage @ Tour De Fat Ft. Collins, CO

While editing on the book was being done, I went with Jen Hixson to do two more shows, with a new story on a very different stage. The show was with Tour De Fat (Beer, Bikes and Bemusement) and they were in Fort Collins, CO and San Francisco, CA. This story was shorter and had to involve bikes, you can read that story here. Tour De Fat is an amazing festival put on by New Belgium Brewery. It raises money for urban bike projects in whatever city they are putting it on and celebrates bikes, beer, art, conservation and fun. The festival is an experience I’m glad I had, filled with costumes, laughter and great performers, from the music of Reggie Watts and Beats Antique to sideshow performers; yo-yo master John Higby, strong woman Mama Lou and the disturbingly brilliant Vanessa Valliere, plus many many more.  All of it was brilliant.

The empresario of the whole event is a guy named Matt Kowal.He gave us a tour of New Belgium Brewery and even though I don’t really dig beer, it was a highlight of the trip. He came out with the The Moth crew most nights and provided great company and really he is one of the people I feel most blessed to have met and spent time with. So in summation..he’s pretty okay.

Matt Kowal; empresario

Matt Kowal; empresario

Beats Antique @ SF Tour De Fat

Beats Antique @ SF Tour De Fat

There is a long list of other accomplished, funny, brilliant people I met during this project, not least of which were the storytellers. Shannon Cason and Jim Bennett were there for both shows, with Shannon as the MC.  These guys are fabulous and uber supportive. I met Adam Sussman in SF and if I could have brought him back with me to be my new bestest friend, I would have. He was also a great performer, but really that is just the icing on his utter loveliness.

The Moth @ SF Tour De Fat 2013

The Moth @ SF Tour De Fat 2013

 

September came, Asha started Kindergarten (!) , we learned what the fox says and the book was released!1269338_10201348703792189_207614285_o

Did I mention that I am in a book?? If you have forgotten that tidbit of surrealism, I took a picture. I will resist the urge to make it super big.

I AM IN A BOOK...

I AM IN A BOOK…

I was asked to do one more show, with another new story at the New York Public Library (NYPL) ..you know, the one with the giant iconic lions on the stairs?  I have lived most of my adult life between NYC and North Jersey (suburbs of NYC or what some might say the armpit of NYC) and can not tell you how many hours, days, weeks I have spent in the city but somehow to my chagrin, I never made it into this library. It is one of the most gorgeous buildings and in me,  imparted the sacred awe some people find in churches and cathedrals.  I love libraries.

The NYPL show was in support of the books’ release. There were to be two primary storytellers and one surprise guest. Peter Aguero hosted. Let me say this about Peter and the whole Moth thing in  general. I have often gotten to meet amazing people through this program, so often in fact it is unbelievable and surreal how it has effected my life and my perception of self.

Peter Aguero

Peter Aguero

Peter is one of them, he had a story on the radio that I had not only listened to but shared a few times, I love his voice (both figuratively and literally).  I met him and didn’t know who he was until we started talking and I realized I had been listening to this guy, I knew a tiny snippet of his life and he knew me from my story; isn’t that neat? I was mocking myself for wandering around with my mouth open and camera at the ready like some kind of tourist and he told me never apologize for wonder and joy.  As more and more of my cynicism gets peeled away through the years I have started to feel like I am going in reverse, where most people grow more cynical with age, I started out that way and it is only through conscious effort and consistent support that I remember that it’s okay to be an idiot, to be silly and to take joy in the proceedings.  If I have a New Years wish it is to keep growing less cynical, to be more joyful and to not apologize for it.

Where we performed: Celeste Bartos Forum at the New York Public Library

Where we performed: Celeste Bartos Forum at the New York Public Library

The NYPL show included George Dawes Green who is both the author of The Juror and the creator of The Moth; Andrew Solomon author of The Noonday Demon and Far From the Tree; Catherine Burns creative director of the Moth, editor of the book and all around beautiful lady. Calvin Trillin was the surprise guest with a very funny story about a tic-tac-toe playing chicken.  The musician tasked with playing us off if we went to long was Mazz Swift, who is such a lovely violinist it wasn’t such a terrifying thought to have her accompany me, even if was to kick me off stage.The whole thing was hosted by the “Live from the NYPL” founder Paul Holdengraber . Paul is another character I am glad to of met and hope to meet again, if time and the universe allow.

The NYPL overwhelmed me like none of the other shows had, I couldn’t hear the audience and didn’t know how different that made the experience. I felt like Jenny from the block on the stage after and before much more illustrious company. I was overwhelmed by the setting. The story before and after me were tales that incited laughter, while mine was much more on the other end of the spectrum. I felt, it was the shakiest I had ever been while telling a story.  I allowed doubt and insecurity to have the day instead of claiming it as my own.

This, of course, means that it was swiftly put online for all to enjoy and me to squirm in front of. This performance is the only one you can easily watch online.  I still haven’t watched myself, I’m working up to it..maybe next year.  Feel free to check it out:

Asha as Misery from Ruby Gloom

Asha as Misery from Ruby Gloom

That was October which means Halloween, Thanksgiving and Christmas of course. We got some snow, more than we’ve had a for a few years. I went to NYC with Asha to stay with a friend and we started a holiday tradition of seeing the windows, the tree and having lunch at Le Train Bleu at the top of Bloomingdales.

Le Train Bleu @ Bloomingdales

Le Train Bleu @ Bloomingdales

Two of my best friends got engaged and will be getting married in June and October of 2014 respectively. I get to be  a part of those events, which is pretty neat, I love them dearly.

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Robyn and Henry Christmas ’13

To end the year we made a trip to Portland, ME the day after Christmas. We have never gone up for the holidays. Hopefully, in another post I will get around to writing about how much our relationship has shifted and taken great leaps since another sibling has been added to the mix and how we have adapted to these changes, but for now I will say that I love my family in all of its various forms.

This year has been pretty amazing, irrelevant of its start. I’m not sure how I’m gonna follow it up but I’m looking forward to the effort.