My entrance into this world was sandwiched between the Ides of March and St. Paddy's Day. I've always been quite certain that this explains many of the tragi-comic veins that have run through much of my existence on the planet to date. The worse things get the more I laugh. It helps, believe me. It's the Irish in me that gets me through plenty, not unlike another friend who recently communicated the same sentiment to me about himself. The journey from my last birthday to this one was full of hills and valleys. I was happier than I'd ever been before and more desperate and sad than I've ever been before. I discovered so much about myself...what I am, what I would have liked to have been, and what I never will be. In the end, I found that I may be many things, but mother is at the center of them all. There's a peace in that, even as there is sacrifice. Thanks to all of you for so many wonderful birthday wishes. I am so very fortunate to have such incredible people to help me mark the passing of my life's time. Each of you provide a unique timbre and hue for which I am always grateful. I appreciate your insights, your humor, your support, and even your scolding. ; ) I thank you mostly for accepting me without judgment and for caring for me without expectation. That is why I think this funny list of mine that's grown so much larger than I could have ever imagined is aptly named. Friends. Yes. That's exactly right. Friends.
catelin: (Default)
( Feb. 11th, 2002 12:34 pm)
Every few months I have a crash and burn spell. I hit a wall and all the most important parts of me spill out, while I scramble to hold my keep walking, limping, or even crawling to the next good thing. The call of the next good thing is the only force that pushes my one foot in front of the other some days. It's what keeps me from melting onto myself and disappearing for weeks at a time. Today, the next good thing is dinner with a friend and a poetry reading by Jean Valentine this evening. I rarely indulge in fits of gloom, but I'm so tired and inexplicably sad lately. Last week, someone at work made a very flip comment about how I'm always so happy and together. It was meant as a compliment, but it just pissed me off. Every bit of my contentment has had a price...just because I don't go all fucking Minnie Pearl and let the tags show doesn't mean I didn't pay for it.
catelin: (Default)
( Feb. 10th, 2002 09:25 am)

Photograph by Jack Delano

I feel like a snake about to shed my skin.
That always means something's coming.
Something really good.
Or something really bad.
When I was fifteen, I had a crush on a boy. His name was Antonio. We used to walk together in the Alameda on Sundays, making endless circles around the fountains and through the trees. He would take me to the library that stood at the center of all this on Thursdays and let me check out books with his library card. I would read the poems of Neruda, Octavio Paz, and Salvador Novo. I would read the stories of Carlos Fuentes and imagine Aztecs on motorcycles around every corner as I walked to school. This boy told me that he loved me and I told him that I loved him too, mostly because I was fifteen and he looked like he needed to hear it; and it didn't sound half be in love. Twenty-two years later, yesterday to be exact, we spoke on the phone. He'd been looking for me, he said. I asked if he was getting divorced, because I told him that I'd imagined when people started snuffling around for faces from the past it's because they're afraid of their futures. He said no. He's married, very happy, and has three of them grown...two almost. He was not shocked that I had never married. He told me that I was always a "free spirit" and that was what drew him to me from the start. I told him that I was even more eccentric now, well on my way to becoming like the crazy American ladies that pack up everything and move to San Miguel de Allende. We exchanged pictures. He looked very much the same. Same eyes. Same hair (minus the super 70s style!). A nineteen-year-old boy behind a 42-year-old man's mask. My grandmother always said it was like that. She said you never forget your young face or the young faces of your friends. He wrote me back and said that I had not changed much. Still with the braids, I see. He reminded me of a day in the mountains and that he'd made a wreath for my hair of tiny yellow flowers. You still remember that? I was amazed at the details he still held in his head. My images of us together are blurred with only a few pieces still clear...drinking cokes from bottles with straws inside them, the smell of elote, looking out over the city one night, the shopkeepers sweeping the streets with brooms and water every morning. We shall have lunch soon, and we will sit together and remember our young smiles.

The Bridge

Between now and now,
between I am and you are,
the word bridge.

Entering it
you enter yourself:
the world connects
and closes like a ring.

From one bank to another,
there is always
a body stretched:
a rainbow.

I'll sleep beneath its arches.

Octavio Paz

We met online a couple of years ago. We were both lurking in a poetry chatroom and he struck up a conversation. I was never that good at the chatroom thing. I didn't have the patience for the tiresome questions about my age, marital status, sexual preference...I'm sure you know the drill. He was different, though. He didn't ask me the stupid questions. He called himself "Custard Brain" and that made me chuckle. It was so....anti-suave, you know? He was smart. More than that; he was clever. He had a wit, a razor sharp wit and a way with words that still leaves me dazzled each time I have mail from him. We spent hours talking to one another about everything and nothing. It was one of those rare connections that people make, even when they are face-to-face. It wasn't about flirting; it wasn't about sex; it wasn't about anything but being friends. We were so stupid sometimes that I'd have tears in my eyes from laughing so hard. But it was that good kind of stupid...that kind that you can only share with the people you trust.

I never thought about it until later; but from the moment I met him, I knew, without any doubt at all, that we were going to mean something very important to each other. That our connection was going to have a significance that would outlast any infatuation with certain sites or virtual meeting places. I was right, you know. He is the reason for so many of the things that I've done. He liked my writing. He was the first person, other than my best girlfriend, to tell me that I had some talent...and that I should keep writing. Even when other's reactions to my stories were lukewarm, he would gently nudge me into continuing. Most of what I wrote wouldn't have been written if it weren't for him. The literary site that I created would not have ever existed if it weren't for him. I would not be writing this here if it weren't for him. I love him in a profoundly, intensely personal way...if there are soul mates, then I have no doubt he is one of mine. It goes so far beyond anything physical, and yet I can almost feel myself tethered to him by the heartstrings from across an ocean. I almost never comment on his journal entries because it's awkward having to share him with others; as I'm sure it is for him to share me. We are both so busy that we hardly have time for more than the occasional "Hey, just checking to make sure you're still alive" email. I have never seen him in person; I'm not sure if I ever will....but it makes no difference to me. I see him. I see him every day, in everything that I do. His name is Val...and he calls me "Cate of the Deserts" and "Cate-o" and all sorts of other wonderful silly names. I am breaking the silence and sharing some of our secrets because I just wanted him to know that things are very much as they were in that joyful beginning we had...and as they shall always be.
catelin: (Default)
( Mar. 22nd, 2001 10:02 pm)

This is one of my favorite pictures taken by a friend. It's not that it's such a great picture, but it's full of the feeling of this house that I've loved and will be leaving soon. I painted a lot of pictures warmed by the old wood burning stove. I tickled my kids silly on the rugs, spent hours on the phone talking with my best girlfriend about our lives. I looked out the picture window, days and nights when I was particularly lonely, thinking that if only my vision were better I might see a companion somewhere on the horizon. This was the first place that ever felt like home...after so many nomadic years. I hope that the best parts of it are something that I will take with me when I go.
catelin: (Default)
( Mar. 18th, 2001 02:35 pm)
I write this for Reive, not because our situations are so much alike, but because I want her to know that there is almost always a reward in moving forward even when you feel the urge to go back for something you left behind.

Walking Backwards In a Snowstorm

Surprisingly, I was the one who left. Fooled around on him even. Just a quick fuck with someone he didn't know--out of anger, out of sorrow, out of wanting to feel like I wasn't invisible. Betrayal was an ugliness in me that I didn't know I was capable of until then. But of course it was more complicated than that--autopsies always are. We'd been together so long that our edges had become blurred. We had become an our. Our house, our friends, our furniture, our life. I wondered for a moment how much of our life would still be mine once I left him.

I came home and changed into a pair of jeans and sneakers, fed the cats, watered the plants. He was there--hair pulled back in a ponytail, sitting in front of the computer, high. He got high a lot more these days. It was the only sign from him of possible unhappiness that I could detect. I told him I was going. He looked at me for a moment and I thought he might say something, anything to keep me from leaving. I probably wouldn't have stayed, but that he didn't even try left an old wound that still bothers me once in a while on rainy days.

We'd tried the conversation on for size about a week before. I told him that I was moving out. He was still so beautiful to look at that I almost forgot what I was trying to say. I had been so in love with him once. That I wasn't now didn't make the memory of how I felt any less acute. We made an odd couple, yet everyone who knew us said we seemed perfect for each other. He had dark hair, as long as mine, and towered more than a foot over me. I was fair and slight, the light to his dark. He was a sturdy person--a very still person. I was constantly in motion and I floated busily about him. A friend of mine jokingly referred to us as the redwood and the nymph. I told her later that I'd picked the wrong tree.

When I told him I was leaving, he had no reaction but to quietly and evenly ask why. I replied that I was surprised he even had to ask. It's just not working. That's what I'd said. I was so angry with him. I'd tried to make my home in him for so long. I'd nested earnestly in his arms, but could never get warm enough. I wanted to tell him everything, every detail of his failure. The way he never saw me, not even a glimpse of me. That he was so goddamn lazy in bed--like his erect prick was prize enough just by its mere existence. I hated that he couldn't change a tire. I hated that he thought he was smarter than me. I hated that he'd left me to cry alone all night when my grandmother died. I hated that I'd spent the last five years of my life with a man who didn't like to dance, who never once told me I was pretty, who couldn't pick his fucking underwear up off the bathroom floor to save his life. I wanted to beat the apathy out of him, to shove his face into the carpet and shriek like a madwoman until his ears began to bleed. I didn't. It's just not working. It was the sort of vague non-emotional answer he could appreciate.

We'd never said a harsh word to one another until a couple of weeks after I'd finally moved out. He called me up and asked how I was doing. It made me hopeful. Maybe things could change. Maybe...then he told me the reason he'd called was to let me know he didn't appreciate the mess I'd left for him to clean up in the apartment. "Now you know how I've felt for the last five fucking years," I told him before I clicked off the receiver. It was the first and last time I'd ever raised my voice to him.

Winter in Los Angeles can be bitter. Perhaps it's the juxtaposition of Christmas lights and palm trees, but the cold of it cuts to the quick. My dark days began with our friends' uncomfortable excuses for not seeing me, with the embarrassed silences when I happened to run into the old crowd. After a while, I gave up trying to hang on to any part of my old existence, apart from a couple of wonderful people who'd decided to cross the lines over into enemy territory. Within three months' time, my life changed so much that it was unrecognizable to me.

The initial bravado of making the decision to leave him behind had quickly dissolved into uncertainty, fear, and aching loneliness. I lived alone up in the hills, near the Hollywood sign. I drove home almost everyday thinking of Peg Entwistle. She'd jumped off that sign in 1932. It was the only time in my life that I'd ever been beaten enough to understand how death could appeal to someone who'd lost her hold on the tether to any meaningful connections with others. It wasn't a contemplation of suicide--I'm a survivor by nature, but it was a feeling of kinship with all of the other desperately lonely people I'd always known lived in this city. I was one of them now and it frightened me. There was a man I'd coupled with during this time. He was one of them too. We groped and clung to each other in his dark apartment. We tried without success to pretend that it meant something. I couldn't even make myself stay with him until the morning. He sat there in bed watching me dress. His eyes were dead. I knew mine were too. We nodded a dismal three a.m. goodbye, promising to call, knowing we never would.

I floated, as I always had before, but now without purpose or direction. There was no comfort in the rhythm of my days. My nights were full of ghosts summoned by regret and despair. So when he called after his return from Montreaux, I told him I wanted to see him. It was horrible. He was smug. I was ashamed. I was drunk by the time he came over…the couple of glasses of wine to steady my nerves had somehow turned into the bottle. I was maudlin. I asked him if he thought we'd made a mistake. I told him that I missed being a part of something. I cried. When I tried to find my place in his arms, he gently pushed me away and told me he'd found someone else. Another Europe...beautiful...she was beautiful...and she made him alive...she was unbelievable. I smiled sickly and told him I was happy for him. I was humiliated and angry with myself for letting him see me like this, for allowing him the comfort of my misery. He had to go. I barely managed to close the door behind him before I ran to the bathroom to vomit up the cheap wine along with the last few bits of my self-respect. I slept on the couch that night because my bed, the one we'd slept in together for so long, was too much to bear after seeing him so changed by someone else.

We saw each other a few times after that. He said he'd always remained friends with his ex-girlfriends. I never had done that. To me, over always meant over; but I tried, feeling like perhaps I'd made a mistake in leaving him...not wanting to lose any more of him than I already had. There was too much pain in it for me, though, and I soon realized that his pleasure in seeing me was only derived from letting me know how happy he was without me. The wheel turned slowly and Spring came in spite of all this. The newness of it made me brave again. I let go once more, this time with nothing to lose. This time there was the freedom in my floating that I'd had before I knew him, before I'd let his stolid nature ice my wings. I was reborn. The next time he called to see if I was interested in catching a show, I politely declined. He eventually moved to the East Coast and married the fabulous woman who'd given him so much more than I ever had. I eventually moved to a different set of hills, where oaks grow in place of redwoods, and gave myself so much more than I ever had.

I will be thirty-seven years old in a few weeks and for the first time in a long time, I am acutely aware of my age. It's not so much that I would like to be younger, but simply a sense of transition. A friend who is fond of taking photographs of me lately told me that I have an "interesting" face. "You will be like Georgia O'Keefe," he tells me. I look in the mirror sometimes and see shadows of my younger self playing off the aged face that is barely beginning to emerge.

I have become more accepting of my circumstances, less apt to rage against the beds of my own making. There's no weakness it that, much to my surprise. It has actually made me stronger and less likely to wallow in the emotional angst and bullshit I was once quite fond of. I have cleared the path for myself over the last couple of years and I now have an unshakeable feeling that wonderful things are ahead of me.
I can't remember whose journal I saw this in, but I thought it was an interesting idea:

On My Desk: 5 candles, Magic 8 Ball, candy dish with three Hershey's Kisses, 35 criminal cases, Dilbert mints, Zortz (a funny looking orange rubber cow head on a stand with a green nose and blue horns--you can stick phone messages in his mouth that opens with a wooden clothespin in the back of his neck.), flowers, Moroccan vase, vintage ashtray, phone, notepads, pens, paperclips, stapler, keys, one rubber band, a dozen photos of my kids

On My Credenza: Sumo wrestling lunchbox, Statue of Liberty replica, rolodex, boxing lizard puppet, Texas Narcotics Officers Association coffee cup, dinosaur megaphone with flashing lights and sound effects, wicker in/out basket, CD player, computer speakers, monitor, calculator, jail phone call tapes, Elmer's glue, junk mail, another dozen photos of my kids

On My Walls: Rage Against The Machine poster, Harold & Maude movie poster, Gaugin's "La Orana Maria," hand-embroidered fishing scene tapestry from Patzcuaro, Frida collage, Frida painting, Frida print, old print from 1928 that my grandmother gave me, another Gaugin print (Tahitian women), Lotería poster, 3 of my own paintings, M.A. in Spanish Literature & Linguistics, law degree from CA, law license from CA, law license from TX, certificate from FBI school, large photo of my kids

On My Shelves: Law books, book on Día de los Muertos, Physician's Desk Reference, about 15 little boxes of all different shapes and sizes that I've collected over the years, Chac Mool, Spanish/English Dictionary, French/English Dictionary, Greek/English Dictionary, Russian/English Dictionary, old copy of "Interview," Texas Police Journal, 100 or so CDs, more photos of my kids, plants, candles, trial notebooks.
catelin: (Default)
( Dec. 5th, 2000 10:19 pm)
For RGF.

We got a gig to go to tonight. Be ready at seven. She'd never even heard anyone use the word "gig" to refer to anything other than catching frogs before she met him. It still cracked her up. But tonight it just pissed her off. They went out all the time. He was in "the industry" as they called it. Another word that made her grin. Such an incongruous word to describe the profession of men with smooth hands that reminded her of veal. Most of them didn't even know how to check their own oil. It all made her chuckle. The business, the hangers-on, the need to see and be seen. But tonight she'd just had enough of it. She wanted to stay in, watch a movie, eat ice cream until she felt sick. Anything else. Anything but having to spend another night of forced intimacy with the total strangers he called "friends." He'd grown up in this city, and was masterfully trained in the endless linguistic shadings of the word. A "friend" could be anyone--the lover you wanted to be rid of, the lover who wanted to be rid of you, the pizza guy, your best friend's wife that you fucked on the side, your dealer. It was a complicated secret language she still struggled to decipher.

Everyone thought they were so cool, so fucking hip. A striking couple. He'd told her he liked watching her talk to people. It interested him, he said, to see how others were slowly drawn to her after initially passing her by. How men and women came back to her because she wasn't perfectly beautiful, but imperfectly so. It was the imperfection that demanded a second look, he said. There is graciousness about you that people aren't accustomed to. He said it was that whole southern thing. People don't expect southern women to be smart. It amused him. She was never quite sure how to take that sort of commentary. It made her feel a little like a lab rat.

She didn't tell him she wanted to stay in. She never told him anything, never asked where they were going. It didn't matter. She just went along. Always went along. They had dinner at Dan Tana's and arrived at The Whiskey around midnight. After the usual round of polite chatter with the usual A&R crowd, he led her to a small table up front. They sat down and the lights dimmed. "Ladies and gentlemen, please welcome a very special guest." She looked up and saw her. The one she'd told him would make her want to cry if she ever met, whose every lyric she knew by heart. The one who made her feel stupid and sad and ecstatically happy. The idol of her adolescence, the one she'd loved fiercely for as long as she could remember. She wanted to giggle when she looked at him because he knew. She could tell from his eyes that he'd had a plan. And most importantly, she knew that he'd done it for her. Not for business, not to make the scene. He'd done it because he knew that it would mean something, everything, to her.

She wanted to sing along but knew that would be going too far in this crowd. So she sat there holding his hand under the table, looking through the smoke at the stubble of her diva's armpits, thinking how happy she was. Thinking how she loved him, how they would marry and have babies, and how anything else wouldn't matter anymore. They went home late. They laughed and screwed until they fell asleep. She woke up in love with him still. She got up, fed the cat, and started the coffee. He was in the bathroom, rubbing the steam off the mirror with one hand and shaving with the other. He didn't bother to look at her. "I've been thinking," he said. "It might be better if we were just friends."


catelin: (Default)


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