Archive for July, 2008
When my baby is fussy and we’ve exhausted the exer-saucer, aqua-gym, gummed the frozen bagel, viewed the Baby Einstein DVD, bent the board books, tried the tickling and the pat-a-cake and the boob and the other boob and it’s only 8:30a.m., I take my baby hiking.
High atop Mulholland Drive is a scraggly, massive hillsy area known as Runyon Canyon. If you live in LA and you have a dog and you aren’t already bringing your beloved canine(s) to the canyon every day, twice a day, you will. I guarantee it. What some people don’t realize, however, is that Runyon Canyon is also for babies. And if your baby is like my baby and hates his stroller (like many of the Runyon Canyon dogs seem to hate their leashes…) then you will love Runyon Canyon because you can Bjorn-it easily–depending on your post-partum ER C-section physical condition, that is. Easy is a deceptively relative word after giving birth. And Easy as Easy relates to hiking with a 25 pound baby (with extremely active legs) on your front? Well.
Runyon Canyon is views-obsessed and views-greedy. From the Hollywood sign to the tiered “backyard” of Madonna’s ex palazzo-digs; from a peek of Lake Hollywood to the Pacific Ocean; from the fire-rubbed hills of Griffith Park to the glowy pate of the Cinerama Dome in Hollywood to assorted shapes and sizes of residential swimming pools in the adjacent canyon (you can see right into some living rooms)–Runyon Canyon’s views are extravagant (and cheeky). At one sweat-to-get-to-it spot, a 360 degree view encompasses Grifith Park, Hollywood, dubious Southern, smog-tinged netherlands (City of Commerce, Downey, I think), glorious ocean, Northern climes (Santa Monica and its gentle mountain range) and the cluttered San Gabriel Valley. I turn slowly when on that spot, narrating for my baby:
There’s where daddy lived in Hollywood and dated all the wrong women. Ha, ha! Lucky for him mommy came along. There’s where mommy lived in Marina Del Rey on three different leaky sailboats. She peed in buckets and washed her dishes under a faucet stuck to the dock. There’s where mommy lived in Malibu. There’s where mommy crashed on Uncle Phil’s floor for three months in Santa Monica as she escaped Malibu. There’s where mommy lived in Los Feliz, as far from Malibu as she could get. There’s Alta Dena, where mommy might as well have lived with the cranky musicians–long story. There’s where mommy lived in Echo Park, that odd building fronted by faux Grecian urns and backed by Elysian Park and Dodger Stadium. Ah, Echo Park, where mommy had her first date with daddy at Chango and spilled her coffee all over herself and the dumb little table. Where mommy had daddy over for dinner on the second date so she could show him her impressive view of trees and sky and stuff him with broiled tilapia–that night, daddy kissed mommy for the first time and boy did mommy laugh in the middle of that kiss! Why? Well, back then mommy was–um, jaded–it stemmed from her dysfunctional childhood and dating all the wrong men in her twenties–and thirties–hm. Mommy’s lucky daddy came along. And stayed.
Here’s a fantastic picture of the canyon:
Yes, I lied. I had the wrong camera setting and the viewy canyon shots are overexposed and Doomsday-ish in appearance. I’ll try again next time…
As I hike my baby around Runyon Canyon, I ponder things that make me utter indignant whimpers. Like: why wasn’t it Obama vs.Clinton, or even Obama vs. Hillary Clinton, instead of Obama vs. Hillary? I think OBama vs. Hillary sounds better, too, but it’s wrong, wrong and party-people should know better, right? Set an example? Like Bush does with Nucular instead of Nuclear? What’s going to happen when Bush is out of the White House? Will grammar and spelling magically correct themselves and those who said Nucular because Bush said Nucular return en masse and with no apologies to Nuclear? (whimper, whimper)
Or: If there’s an earthquake right now, what will I do? (strangled, staccato whimpers)
Followed quickly by: Is that Jake Gyllenhal cycling towards– GOING RIGHT BY–oh my blessed rhubarb orange peel pie. Hold on, baby. Mommy has to take a breather. Oh great! I have dried banana in my hair. Do you think he noticed the spit-up on my maternity t-shirt, baby? Was that Jake Gyllen–oh. Never mind.
Or: Hey, baby–what rhymes with observatory, besides the obvious? Hallucinatory. Scroobalubanavory. Huh.
One day I’m hiking with my baby, going at a good clip along the fairly well paved road winding from the entrance gates of Runyon Canyon clear down to Franklin Avenue in Hollywood–although I’ve never been that far because I’m terrified of the hike back up–I’m going down the road, heading for the lookout point which will make my hike a total of 20 minutes from minivan to point and back, my baby plastered in baby sunblock, a parasol flared efficiently over his hatted head, his sippy cup full of tap water I’ve boiled and cooled myself, tucked in the amazing diaperbag/backpack I’m wearing, my baby singing his funny one note, me egging him on, glancing at the swimming pools and the living rooms below, hearing birdsong, and some older lady powerwalking the other way quips as she passes me and my son: He’s gonna get burned.
Something else I think about as I hike my baby around Runyon Canyon is letting go of rage. I have accumulated rage from my earlier life/lives, Malibu…From the years of sitting in commuter traffic and fully believing that no one, except myself, knows how to drive properly. But things are so good now, my husband, my boy, our beautiful co-existence-I so appreciate my life now that I don’t like to believe I have rage inside of me, that a simple comment from a passerby, someone oblivious to anything I’ve done in my life or for my baby, that a total stranger who, likewise, I know absolutely nothing about (serial killer, Hitler-worshipper, terminally ill) could tap a well of rage so intense that the rage, if the quipping lady only knew, would have her pleading for her life or thanking her gods for narrowly escaping the lethal hands of a sleepless new mother. I don’t want to care. You know? Let her say what she wants. Let the fellow mother in Costco who compared my baby to Jabba-The-Hut be an ass. I can’t control what people say when they see me out with my baby. I can only make sure they don’t touch my baby or get in my face. Right? And I do this by gracefully disengaging. Right? Like when a driver cuts me off in his SUV then brakes sharply, so that I have to slam on my own brakes. I do not react, i.e., raise my finger. I do not curse at strangers and not because I’m afraid they’ll whip out a gun and shoot me. I gracefully disengage because unlike referring to our candidates as Obama and Hillary and unlike mispronouncing Nuclear just because the President of the United States can’t get it right, disengaging is the right thing to do. Disengaging means I am growing, allowing others to be themselves without wanting to always kill them.
So when the lady quips her quip, I disengage, I moooooove along the beautiful path, stopping to smell the blossoming weeds and to describe the view to my baby. And it’s easy(!) to disengage in Runyon Canyon because it’s pretty and the dogs are cute bounding about and wagging all shapes and sizes of tails and my baby loves it so much. I feel good about myself when I gracefully disengage and don’t foam at the mouth at strangers. I feel good because the next generation is right here in front of me in his Bjorn, or singing in the backseat of the marvelous minivan. And–whether I’m ready or not–that next generation depends on me.
Bright Spot Through Wires
I pointed out Griffith Observatory.
He said: through those wires?
I said: Yes. He nodded
as if he had no qualms
with my particular mangy view
of heterogeneous city. I think,
in fact, he was preoccupied,
having left prescription glasses
inside, high on my kitchen counter
with the rest of his emptied pockets
metal-ish mannish items: clipped
bills, a pocket knife. Could he see
the bright dome of the observatory?
He saw the wires. On a clear day, I
pressed, you can see the Hollywood sign.
I wasnt looking at him, not directly,
but caught his nodthe type of slow
solo nod one might give mortality.
I liked it. But I was worried: I invited
him here to my balcony of sky and scape
to watch the sun drop, this dusk confined
by haze like a sad sea creature netted,
hauled to a surface, forced
on display. One thought dug
into me like nails: You cant see it.
You cant see it. You cant
Later, after pan-fried tilapia and red
potatoes, he confessed he was a dolphin
in another life. And in yet another, a sea
turtle. I was astonished. He struck me
as a man of logic like narrow ladders,
simple-cousin equations applied to both office
and home (should he ever visit there), compass
brain clicking, green, chartable eyes. Perhaps
he was, in fact, a lunatic. I liked it. And I
had to know: How did you die?
1. ripped to tatters by sharks drunk on the blood of seals
too close, reckless, too close.
2. a simple drift to the bottom of a fathom,
an acute sense of 100 years
following like a pleasant
I liked it. Slasher death. Gentle death.
I sipped my yellow wine, I laughed out loud
and at that moment the green eyes slipped
and I was lost.
Midnight, city light wriggly as live bait,
the kiss a mild struggle reeking of déjà vu
and off he went. This is what happened next:
On the balconynursing a burn, dis-
secting the kissI watched his headlights
coast and bob down the one-way street
I live on, a dusky rise named for canyon
echoes and echoing mayhem down there
(invite someone new into that). The distant
howl of a famished coyote became brakes
whining, then screaming. Reverberation
whumped the far canyon wall, then my
wall, a city slit of instant war. I closed
my eyes, tuned in: What Happened.
Get The Hell Off Me. Then, nothing.
No sirens. No helicopter wielding
a surefire beam. I thought:
This is all new. You dont know
how could you when I ask questions
in the middle of a surefire kiss, but I
had a title I died for. Too close. So
reckless! Get off me…What
happened. Nothing. Except that I
died. I did. I
He left in time
(green eyes slipping).
he also died a soldiers death in WWII. Shot in the head.
Hes not saying its real. Not one of his lives,
lives. But hes open: what cant be proven might
I like it. How can I
–winner Abroad Writers Conferences 2006 Poetry Fellowship–