the beauty of pain

The world remembers many names,
but does it know their faces?
Does it know their stories?
Can it see their traces?

monet_boulevard_des_capucines

Boulevard des Capucines, by Claude Monet (1874)

Claude Monet

Claude Monet, impressionist painter ( 1840-1926) was in dire financial straits and dealt with depression for much of his life. In 1868 he tried to commit suicide by throwing himself into the Seine. He also frequently got frustrated with his work. It is said he destroyed as many as 500 of his paintings by burning, cutting, or kicking them. He once wrote that, “Age and chagrin have worn me out. My life has been nothing but a failure, and all that’s left for me to do is to destroy my paintings before I disappear.” Continue reading

finding a balance

poboxI fell in love for the first time in the sixth grade. He was an “older man.” A whopping fourteen. Two years later, he noticed me. The awkward middle schooler was growing up. We wrote letters over a summer while he was in Arkansas—real, hand-written letters. We didn’t have facebook. We didn’t talk on the phone.

I used to go on walks. I’d put my cocker spaniel on a leash, and we’d go. And I’d think. I’d think about him. I was scared. No boy had ever noticed me before.

I also thought about emotions. Why did we have to have them? I had air to breathe and food to eat. Why, then, did I have to feel this way?

It’s a question I still haven’t answered.

B.B. King has had it all. He’s had success and fame, and, at 87, he’s still doing what he loves. But there’s a quote I didn’t mention in my first post. Continue reading

learning from a legend

Some people were made for this.

IMG_0003Last Thursday, I had the privilege of listening to a legend. B.B. King was performing at the Fox Theater in Oakland, and, knowing it was my birthday, a friend invited me to go. I hadn’t been to a concert in years. How could I say no?

I made the right choice.

“Thank you. Thank you. You’re too kiiind,” said King as he entered to a standing ovation, waving, from stage left. His voice was rich and deep. It went well with his glittering jacket.

“It’s good to be here . . . Oakland. Oakland, California. I’ve got stories about Oakland.” King sounded mischievous as he sat down on a chair at center stage. “But . . . Well. I’ll save those for a-nother time.”

The audience laughed. I was amazed by his stage presence. It was as though he’d been in the spotlight all his life.

. . .

“I’m eighty-seven.” The audience erupted into applause. “Eighty-seven! Can you believe that? . . . Now, you young folks: Don’t be goin’ ’round sayin’, ‘He’s eighty-seven younggg! B.B., you’re younggg!’ . . . No. Eighty-seven is olddd! I’m olddd!” Continue reading

backwards and forwards

nikeWhen I turned 25, I was sooooo old. That was before I went to Taiwan. I knew everything by then.

When I turned 26, I went hiking and ate “authentic” Italian food at Pizza Olmo in Sanjhih.

When I turned 27, I was the director of an English camp in Taiwan.

When I turned 28, I was a teacher in Hong Kong. I learned that love can be like a pile of laundry—and that that’s a good thing.

When I turned 29, the pope abdicated his “throne.” I visited friends in San Francisco. I realized I have 365 days to accomplish all of the goals I set out to accomplish before 30. And I remembered: Continue reading

just like you

01_hells_angels_harley_51314

October 1999

My sophomore year of high school, about six months before I got my driver’s license. My then boyfriend (a wise-beyond-his-years 17-year-old) was driving my little brother and I home from school. School let out early on Fridays. It was a beautiful day—a perfect day for ice cream.

“Mmm, that looks good. What kind is that?”

“Gold medal ribbonduhhh!” grinned 13-year-old Derek. Chocolate ice cream was dripping from his cone all over his hand.

“I should have guessed,” I laughed.

“What kind did you get?” my boyfriend asked, grabbing a chair in the sun. He had a strawberry cone.

“Peach.” I winked.

“Mmmm.”

hells angels

Image: Jason Hunt (Pinterest)

Suddenly, we were distracted. A large group of motorcyclists had just roared into the parking lot. They were dismounting their bikes and walking heavily—clunk, clunk, clunk—towards our pleasant spot in the sun. Apparently they thought it was a good day for ice cream, too.

As they approached, I saw black leather and shiny boots. Their bronzed skin boasted jagged skulls and barbed wire and other fading tattoos. Their vests said “Hell’s Angels.” They smelled funny.

I wrinkled my nose.

“Don’t be rude, Jess!” hissed my boyfriend after the men had tromped into the store.

“I’m not!” I protested, but he cut me off. Continue reading

no man is an island

island3

“Heyyyy! I thought that was you!”

I didn’t recognize the man who had appeared out of nowhere beside our table.

“How’s that arm?” He touched my shoulder. “Your dad was so worried about you—and not just about your arm, about your life! How long ago was that, anyway? . . . And how ’bout Hong Kong? Your dad told me you were over there. What were you doing there? Bet ol’ Placerville feels small now! I’ve never been to Asia. Born and raised in SoCal; moved up here and never left. Did a rotation in Dublin once, though. One of the best times of my life. What ya doin’ in ol’ Placerville?”

I wondered, briefly, how the man breathed. His lips hardly seemed to keep up with his mouth. Continue reading

writer’s block

writers-block

I’m reaching and falling.
I’m hemming and hawing.
I’m trying and failing.
I’m rowing, now bailing.
Stop.

Another day.

(Go outside.)
(Never give up.)

My ideas usually come not at my desk writing but in the midst of living. — Anais Nin

Related articles