Monday, December 5, 2016


The expression, cut off at the knees, fell to my knees, on my knees, I had heard these words before but had never really thought about what they meant, but now I felt it: this weakness in my chest and solar plexus, this inability to stand because my thighs and knees were jello; I wanted to sink to the floor and stay there. i felt hopeless and afraid; there couldn’t be any worse news than what was going around on Saturday morning. I can’t believe it and I won’t believe it and I have to remain down here on my knees because I can’t stand up to face that which might be the the expression cut off at the knees I suddenly understood.

Nick Gomez-Hall, a beautiful vibrant love of a young man, 25, a fierce independent soul, a lover of this planet and his family, a devoted friend, in fact, the “glue” that held those friends together. They lived together in a big clapboard house
on Wickenden Street in Providence near the coffee shop and across from the ice cream store and they played music, Nick on guitar, and when they weren't in classes they sat around laughing and talking and eating, playing with the little dwarf rats that Maya kept, each roommate in his/her own pursuits but helping the other. Kindness and laughter you found here. Sure there were bad moods and disagreements and closed doors but mainly there was light inside.

This guy this cool dude Nick was for a time tangentially in my life through my daughter’s college years. They loved, they struggled they eventually broke up but they remained friends. He stayed in Providence, a little too long, a little too stuck, and then moved out to San Fran, where he would start anew. He had friends there, he had a life, he bowled every Tuesday with Katie; he was starting again and enjoying his life. And then Saturday morning the news: Nick had gone to a concert at the Ghost Ship in Oakland where there had been a devastating fire, and was one of the missing. On Sunday, after an agonizing wait, his death was confirmed. 

This loss of Nick, this tragedy, has affected his friends in ways unaccounted for, in words that can’t be articulated or even imagined, they too are on their knees, with disbelief, denial, anger, numbness, love for him like they’ve never felt before, denial again that this can’t be true. He was the one who kept them together, he was the one that could make friends with anyone, who knew more about music than anyone, who could do anything, a brilliant writer, poet composer musician friend. The disbelief is beyond words for these friends.

The only imaginable explanation for why Nick didn’t make it out, his closest friends believe, was that he stopped to help a friend or a stranger. That would be Nick, that would be why he didn’t follow down the steps when others did.

There were so many dreams his friends had for him he can't be gone. Who will fulfill those dreams? It feels as though he’s still around, with that smiling grin and that kindness in his eyes... there were so many things he was capable of doing and now denied at 25. There isn’t anything more cruel, this death to someone young. There’s only pain, only sadness and sobs as this sinks in, it still can’t be, but his name is there, black and white in the papers.

I can still see the bunch of them walking to their graduation, it was a warm day to start out (but got cold), they walked so breezily the bunch of them mingling together in pairs separately all together. The girls in dresses, the guys in suits and ties. Flowers along the way and in some of the girls arms. They had big smiles on their faces, their beautiful young faces and Nick in the center.

That day went by in a whirl (although the ceremony went on forever). There was a party afterwards as I remember it, but when i see the order of photos, it was the day before, and there he was, Nick in the middle of everyone, Nick beloved by all.

Please pray for his family and for his friends, for Nick, keep them in your hearts today tomorrow, help them get through this painful challenging cruel time that they are in together.

Nick Gomez-Hall
 rest in peace

Monday, November 28, 2016

Dreams of the Ruling Class

It's been a long while since I've posted, but I've been motivated by recent events, which have left a good many of us either speechless, jaws wobbling, babbling like a mad man, bereft, or wondering, what the hell do we do now? For me, comics came to mind, so here goes; firing up the ol' comic wing of the brain again.


Despite the lowest approval rating in the Senate, Mitch McConnell is the longest serving U.S. Senator in Kentucky's history. Way to go, Kentucky, my home state!

After his father's death, Paul Ryan received SSI benefits from the age of 16 until his 18th birthday, which helped pay for college. He wishes to thank you, the American people, by privatizing Medicare.
Steve Bannon, Trump's Chief Strategist, fancies himself the "Thomas Cromwell in the Court of Trump." Cromwell served as King Henry VIII's Chief Minister and helped formulate radical changes to the English constitution, expanding the power of Henry VIII, with the theory of the divine right of kings. Hail, King Trump!

Purged by Trump... (or was it Jared Kushner?). Some believe Kushner, Trump's son-in-law, sought revenge for Christy, who as U.S. Attorney for the district of New Jersey, sent Jared's real estate investment father to jail. The older Kushner was accused of everything that Trump holds dear: lying, tax evasion, fraud, etc. Also had to pay a big fine. Trump no like big fines (but will pay them if he absolutely has to).

And last but not least....your royal majesty, Donald J. Trump, dreams unparalleled and of the highest quality, I mean HIGH, FINEST QUALITY. Here's a look inside:

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

My scarf inhabits me

I lost my scarf somewhere between NY and Albuquerque. When I realized it was gone, it hit me hard; I've had that scarf since India 2007, wore it almost every day through CA winters, NY visits, kids’ graduations, in all my travels. I always had it by my side. It inhabited me. It was my security blanket; it kept my head in place.

my scarf holding my head on

My daughter says forget it! It's over! Maybe it's a lesson in acceptance, that it’s gone, that I can’t get it back, that I was distracted, and in that moment of looking away, it disappeared. But I can’t accept that I can’t change that outcome. I can’t move beyond wanting back what I’ve lost. But it’s gone. It’s gone. And no going back.

In NY, people walk around the city talking to themselves. I suppose in LA they’d do the same if they walked....but when you’re on the street in NY you find people staring straight ahead, gesticulating, talking to some unknown; or bobbing their head up and down to some distant music. 

This is something new, this talking and listening into thin air.  Along these lines, I noticed too that no one reads the newspaper on the subway anymore, no crossword puzzle to solve, no annoying person leaning in to read over your shoulder. Now people are looking at their phones, sitting in their bubble, bobbing and smiling to themselves.

Although the New York I once knew is not totally gone, it’s hard to find among the shiny new stores that have pushed out the mom and pops, the climbing new buildings that totter uneasily against the skyline, the fixed up parks, the swept up sidewalks, even the dirty, last-century buildings in Alphabet City have been pressure washed. Where are all the crazy drug dealers, the agile jugglers, the young, hopeful folk singers in Thompkins Square Park? Now you see families, spreading blankets, having picnics on the ground!  

I had breakfast at B&H on 2nd Ave, and am happy to report that at least there, the old is still true to itself. The challah bread is piled high on the counter, the home fries on the grill. The cook sips the soup, endlessly dipping her ladle to make sure there’s still enough salt, her hair in a net so we don’t get any strays, the big metal pot boiling up behind her. 

Young men come in on their breaks and order pancakes and chew the fat with the guys behind the counter in a language of the east shore, a tough guy vibrato, calibrated for ears that have gone soft from all the noise and the traffic.

They josh, they eat piles of potatoes and pancakes, they ask about the wife, they come to collect the rent (excuses are made), they’re there for the first time and are accepted...while I sit wondering how I can join this club. Admit it, I say to myself, you can’t join. You live in LA now, not the LES. You can't go back. 

But when I walk down 2nd Ave, my old stomping ground, oh, how happy I am to be here for awhile in the land of the everyman and everywoman, the land of the rapidly changing facade, the land where the young still go to reinvent themselves, where newcomers come lugging hope; the land that doesn’t ask much, but takes everything.

Friday, April 1, 2016

On the Rocks

I’ve got bills to pay, I shouldn’t be writing, I shouldn’t go down to my studio to paint either, because once i get into my studio I’m gone. Gone from paying, gone from time. I keep shuffling the pile of bills from one room to the other, as though a different atmosphere might induce me to open the mail. It doesn’t. 

I keep shuffling myself from room to room, too, hoping this downcast mood might change. It doesn’t.

In yoga yesterday the teacher said to open your heart and image something beyond yourself, something you wanted, although I admit I wasn’t listening closely and don’t remember exactly, but suddenly the Tree of Life appeared, in a Rousseau kind of jungle, but nothing like Rousseau. It was the monkey puzzle tree, twisted branches and all my loved ones were there: my mother and father, my old dogs Reina and Ghostie, my old rat, my cats looking up, Mekko and Maya, Tom, all tumbling around in that tree that is life. I could imagine it so clearly, and this morning, I purposely walked passed the monkey puzzle tree—the only one on the hill—to make sure nobody was in it. 

The dream was this: Tom in a checkered shirt. (His shirts are always so important to the dream; last time I had a series of Tom dreams, his shirts were red.) But this was checkered, a good looking shirt. We were stuck in a motel, waiting for Maya, but before that we were stuck in a murky pool of water sealed off by rocks and in front of us was the river to the City. Fast currents. But we couldn’t get over those rocks, literally stuck on the rocks, to where we had to go. And then some young swimmers came by and told us it wasn’t so treacherous, we should try, but instead we went back to the motel waiting until Maya came.

Thursday, January 14, 2016


(This is the last story of a 3-part series that came randomly and never quite got finished during the time period allotted. But since I'm the time keeper, who's counting? These tales appear in a place where Jews and Muslims were once neighbors, sharing many of the same customs, the same stories, the same land.) 
During a long period of unsettled, buckling ground under my feet, I found myself dreaming of traveling far from home, a pilgrimage to distant lands.  All my imaginings were leading me to the Maghreb— Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia. Although I'd only been to Morocco once, it felt like i had traveled across North Africa, the whole of it, before. Maybe the influence of the writings of William Langeweiesche in Sahara Unveiled, or the romanticism of Rimbaud when I was young. Or maybe it was the story my uncle told about his service during WWII—a Jewish guy from segregated Louisville, leading an all black troop from Marseille to the port of Algers, marching across North Africa for the Allies.

But maybe it was none of these things, maybe it was my own terra inferma taking me away.

On my pilgrimage, I would go to the capital of Algeria first, to ride the new subway line in Algiers. From the moment i heard about the subway I needed to see it, to be there underground, speeding through the city from hai el badr to el harrach centre, 4 stations, I would stop at each one. 

And, of course, I would look for a guide. Who could possibly understand the complicated routes of a foreign subway system without a trusty guide? 

Next I would travel to Tunisia and camp out until the ancient Jewish festival of Lag BaOmer began on the Island of Djherba, where one of the last Jewish communities in the Arab world remains. Rumor had it the festival had been canceled, too dangerous for Jews, the Muslim population no longer hospitable; ships full of Israeli tourists sent back home. But in planning, I found the festival goes on. I wanted to be there.

The conservative Orthodox community of Djerba and their approach to girl's education is almost identical to conservative Muslims in that part of the world: girls not offered an education past primary, trained to be wives, kept confined to the home. My god, how similar these two religions are; don't they see it? They are the same story!

After Tunisia to Morocco. 

First, I'd walk in the old section of Fes-el-Bali, down Nougat Alley, eating soft pink nougat candies,

down Tanner's Row where i would finally buy a purse. Afterwards, I'd visit the Dar-el Ghalia to see if Omar Lebbar were still alive.

Most importantly, I'd look for our guide Mohammad who had been our bulwark in Fez. 

Without Mohammed we would never have found our way. He told us he'd discovered 2 British girls once, lost and crying in the middle of the medina, there for days, walking around in circles, not being able to find their way out. (If you've ever been to Fez, you know Mohammed wasn't lying!)

Traveling to North Africa would be my personal Hajj, my spiritual renewal, my moral passage, my life's... 

But then I woke up. 

I looked around and realized I didn't want to leave my home, or spend all my money on such a frivolous trip, or fly 36 hours across the world.... alone.

So that was that.

Or was it?