Follow my sister, Nina, and me as we make a book together: my writing and her gorgeous inks on paper.

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Ambulance.

Posted on July 16, 2012

Once you start telling the truth it’s hard to quit. You look around and reasons are everywhere. It’s like a new appliance, truth-telling, a can opener that’s so good you barely have to turn it. On the phone my sister asks me why I don’t come out and see her in San Francisco. She thinks I need a break. Instead of saying I’m busy with work and family I tell her I hate the people in San Francisco, don’t see what’s so great about steep hills, what’s so great about wearing a sweater, and the fog is cold. I make her cry. On the phone with my mother I ask her why she had an affair thirty-three years ago when she was pregnant with…

Car

Posted on July 9, 2012

My father brought home a turquoise Porsche with red leather upholstery. My sister and I were small, eight and six, and fit tightly in the jumpseats behind my parents. We went for a ride, tooled around Rome, circled the Colosseum, showing off for the people looking. My father made us listen to him double-clutch because he said that this was good for the car. The sound of this felt like a struggle for the engine, a hesitation, and then the car sped on. We’d parked along the Via Veneto, the car within eyeshot so my father and mother could admire it at the curb. My sister and I ordered gelati and my parents had coffees spiked with grappa. Everything alcoholic in Italy tasted like…

Following the Notes

Posted on July 9, 2012

In high school I had a job as the hostess at The Trawler, a seafood restaurant at Esplanade Mall. My battery went dead and my father had to come to the mall parking lot to give me a jump. He dug for the cables in his trunk, pissed that he’d been called away from the new piece of music he was writing at home. It was Father’s Day and what he’d asked for was for a quiet house and lemon pie for dessert. “You left the headlights on?” he said. “The passenger light,” I said, pointing at the back seat. “Door wasn’t shut all the way.” “Who was in the back?” he said. “I thought you were driving to work and home, only.” My…

When I Lived There

Posted on July 9, 2012

When I was six, my family and I sailed to Italy on a mammoth ocean liner. Our Italian relatives in New Jersey threw us a going-away party with confetti and gifts, and my grandmother’s eleven brothers and sisters came dressed in their good clothes. A dozen cousins I barely knew ran around the lawn, playing tag. Aunt Vita came with her bachelor son, Tommaso, and I avoided her because she asked me questions like “Aren’t you excited?” I was not. I didn’t want to leave my grandmother. Aunt Vita kept saying we were going to Europe, and I corrected her, said, “We’re moving to Italy,” but she insisted they were the same. I knew she was wrong. I didn’t understand what a continent was…

Classical is a Period not an Adjective

Posted on July 9, 2012

The summer after I finished grade ten, my family moved suddenly from Calgary, Alberta to Hattiesburg, Mississippi. They didn’t say why and it didn’t make sense: We’d just bought a fine old house on a tree-lined street near the Elbow River. In the sale, the owners had included Persian light fixtures that my mother loved. “I can’t believe they’re leaving them behind,” she’d said, like she’d discovered hidden treasure right there in the open. Changing houses has always made my mother happy, and we’d already moved six times in my fifteen years. Both of my parents are musicians; my mother’s a violinist, and my father’s a composer and a pianist. At the time, he was teaching Theory and Composition at the University of Calgary,…

Ode to Swimming Naked

Posted on July 9, 2012

On a cool and breezy day in April, my friend, Anne, and I worried about where to take a visiting writer for dinner. He was in from Boston for two nights to read at the New Orleans Center for Creative Arts, where Anne teaches and I sub, and to run a master class at Lusher Charter School. Since Katrina, there’s this heightened pressure to present our city in the most authentic way, to patronize neighborhoods that don’t depend on tourists. We ruled out the French Quarter and the Warehouse District. It’d been a long, productive day and we wanted a good, stiff drink, delicious food, and a place where we could talk and linger, if our guest felt up to it. We decided on…

Ode to a Bird in Play

Posted on July 9, 2012

Badminton used to be my sport. We moved to Hattiesburg, Mississippi, from Calgary, Canada, when I was sixteen, and when I asked my new American boyfriend, Raymond, if there was a place in town where we could play, he brought me to his back- yard. The equipment came in a narrow box from his basement and required assembly. I helped him stake the net. The racquets were heavy and wood with thick strings. The birds had pigeon-looking feathers and hard rubber ends. Our boundaries: lawn chairs. When I lived in Canada in the ’70s, I hung out at the Glencoe Club, which was a five-block walk from our house in Elbow Park. It had a giant indoor skating rink, curling lanes (for the old…