all the kids

all the kids

Thursday, June 14, 2018

The Fireworks of Ham

I sent my little Florida blonde baby off to college. The little guy, born with the bump on his head. The quiet baby who never spoke for years, just observed.

It's just orientation. He'll be back tomorrow. But he has to spend the NIGHT. Away, like a grown up, out at the college near the beach, out there, like in the direction he's going. I'm hoping the road will curve around, the one he's building, and he'll follow it and it'll have branching off places like back to here, where I'm waiting. With a lot of ham. That worked with Becky the dog, she never wanders away when I'm on the trail with the horses. She stays right with us because when I first took her out, I threw down handfuls of ham sometimes. She knows the fireworks of ham could happen at any moment. Ham keeps her near.

I don't even bring the ham anymore when we go riding. I mean to, but I always forget. But she still stays, loyally. Half because she likes me I think, and half hoping with some vague ham memory.

It's also Lilly's 11th birthday, yes today, this same off to college day. That tiny baby born into the middle of our already life, the chaos of big brother and sister, handled and mishandled and dropped and shoved into the middle of all of us on the bed at naptime. This is a person who has never known quiet. She'll be at home on a crowded dance floor in a NY City nightclub. She'll own the Staples Center when she plays professional basketball in front of packed in millions (if she gets taller and is a lesbian). She'll never know fear of crowds. She made us a crowd. She crowned our crowd.

I slog through the days of graduation and moving on and birth and rebirth, with people doing it all the time around me, (does it have to happen all at ONCE, she sighs), celebrating with balloons and bank accounts and dressing up clothes and cheers. But I am in the center of that hurricane, and I'm still holding the ham.

I hope it works.

Wednesday, June 6, 2018

Grad Glad?

Being a mom. Huge love, and terrible, all at once.

Friday, June 1, 2018


So after 13 years at our little elementary, it’s the last volunteer thank you brunch.

I was always looking forward to this, because I knew one day it was going to be MY year, the year that wrapped everything up for me, where I’d served my kids all these years at this school, and not just my kids, but everybody’s kids – I had used myself well here.  Our family had run the Santa’s Workshop every year, and the Book Fair all by ourselves – I bake cookies, and bread in classrooms not even just my daughter’s class, but other rooms. We helped run talent shows with the famous Ms. Eick. At easter I bring the bunnies in to all the classes for kids to pet and see. I once even brought a newborn goat named Elvis.

So it’s finally MY YEAR, where I get to sit there and hear them say my name and maybe they’ll say something like thank god for Julie, she’s been here. She’s done her time. People are better because of her. The school is richer, the kids are happier.

I have this tiny thought in the back of my head, oh, but it’s a new principal. She doesn’t actually know me too well. But she did see me do the Book Fair at least. Then another little thought, oh, but now all the teachers have eaten and gone back to their classrooms, so actually all the people that know me and are grateful to me aren’t even in the room. I’m in the room with half of Venezuela and the PTA I abandoned, and one retired tiny voiced teacher I know. I shoulda maybe considered my Oscar audience here.

So they’re calling out names and people are getting little paper certificates that say “You’re an Idiot for Volunteering but Thanks” basically, and three people clap, and yes, this is how I end my 13 years at Stonehurst. Just like that. 3 people clap, most people are eating pineapple, and I go back to my seat and that’s the end.

There’s no gushing. There’s no crying. I pass the special ed grown up kid who comes to volunteer with other similar dudes from the adult special ed school up the street, they come and make copies for the teachers and stuff and he’s always so happy and he’s holding the same exact paper I have and he’s SO HAPPY, he’s saying “I have NEVER gotten a certificate for ANYTHING in my life before!!” And there’s me with the same paper, chagrined, and laughing at myself.

Right before this lunch, we had seen Lilly’s last dance festival of her life at this school, where the 5th graders do a dance in shirts they tie dyed themselves, it’s a tradition to do the Pata Pata dance and wear the tie dye, and I was videoing it and a tear sliding down my face and then slowly more tears because this and everything here at this little school has raised me and my kids into the people we are, 13 years later. I had some curly headed little 5 year old blondes that became taller blondes, and these were the halls we walked and the gentle people we knew and the teachers who nurtured us. Growing up up and away. I realized that it doesn’t matter what piece of paper you get, or who claps for you even though that’s the way it looks in the movies.

I did Santa’s Workshop because my kids liked it, and I could sell a lot of things out of my garage there. And because all kids really like fart putty and who else was going to get it for them to buy except me. And because little kids brought me fists of money to buy things for Christmas and they were so excited. I didn’t know that was my applause because it looked different and sounded different. It looked a little bit like work, and felt loud and busy. But the moments in the crowded library, immersed neck deep in kids, that was my applause.

I did everything because I wanted to do it. I wanted to be a part of it. It grew me this huge heart as a by product, which doesn’t sound anything like applause.  But weirdly, that’s what it is.

So going into that lunch I didn’t know that I was already a walking award, what did I need with another award. Another award would be WEIRD.

So in this case, I did what any mother would do. I hugged the people who mattered to me. I felt without really seeing, the familiar walls and trees and classrooms and kids, all around me. I perused the free buffet and packed a bunch of cookies in a plastic cup to bring to my kids later. Because they’re always hungry.

I mattered, I gave, I have happy kids, I got some cookies.

Tuesday, May 15, 2018

Up Kid Creek

We have a fifth grader leaving elementary and a 12th grader leaving life as we know it for college. It will be the first time the little school down the street is no longer our school, belonging to us. My kids grew up around me like trees. I only planned for the little sprouts. Now they're growing all over the place, taking over the garden.

I was in the river with the horses which has been my replacement for kids, disappearing into the trail and the jungle nearby. It's only a dirt path through the woods with a creek running through it, but it's quiet and there are birds and the sound of water there. One of my moms was texting me and we were talking about how the kids grow up and all that love you give and they grow up because love doesn't stop that from happening, it might even assist that. You do it anyway, because you have to, you are love's prisoner, and yet here I am at  the end of whatever this ending is, this new section, and there's all these handfuls of sadness, dripping out from between the fingers. No way to contain it, like their whole lives really, like grabbing handfuls of water and not being able to hold any of it. It's ridiculous, really.

But I'm still coming to the water, here and at home. Because I can hear it, and smell it and see it and feel it, and there's comfort in it. Because of all the beauty and overgrowth. I come here because I belong here and it calls to me.

Like my mom said to me, even though there's all this heartbreak and bittersweet feeling as it changes, and grows away, you're not sorry you did it. You'd do it again, you'd give everything again even though there's nothing you can show that you've gained from it. Except that hulking soul, raging around you, fully fed, and your heart eighteen times huger and well lived in like your favorite family living room couch.

You're solid, you know yourself, the love hurts because it's been given freely and continues to flow out with no way to stop it. It's funny, the way things that are out of control are funny, because of the danger of being so open. How many chances do you get to do that, in life, where you give because you can't see up ahead where you might be in a lifeboat surrounded by ocean and no one else in sight. Because you don't care where you end up. Because you have that little baby in your arms.

And your little 12th grader. He is six feet tall. He is still that little curly haired baby, nestled next to me.

Monday, May 7, 2018

Drawing Outside the Lines

My self is dripping all over my shoes.

There's the biggest boy going to college soon. The middle girl going to put people into space with her math abilities. The smallest one still lets me wash her hair.

There's me so loud inside and no one can hear me. There's classes of kids all around me and they're so loud I can't hear myself. There's a movie I made that is funny. There are a million chickens at my house.

I have built a huge, wobbly life, and part of me is flattened under it, like where is David Hasselhoff (ew) to come pull me out and set me right. And now suddenly I want to do everything, and be everything and hurry up put the coin in and go on the ride because what if a tsunami comes and we're all wiped out? I have to do it ALL, and right NOW.

I have enough zen master in my mind to tune all of that out and breathe and wait. Find out what all the fuss is. There is a wave of motion running through me. Sometimes the me in me gets bigger than the outline of me can contain. That's when I usually aim it all into a writing project, so you know, I don't mangle myself or others. Aim the feelings and something beautiful takes shape, over there, made of words.

If you don't hear from me, I will be writing. Summer is coming. I wonder what I'll be building.

Wednesday, April 25, 2018

The Blue Juice

I've been subbing in special ed for 4 days now. When I get home and my kids talk to me, I'm amazed to see them moving their mouths and hearing complex things coming out. They walk around like, unsupervised, and they can move all their limbs AND have a conversation like it's nothing, like they're sailing in San Francisco Bay with their hand on the rudder, trailing their other hand in the water.

This living without pretty much any complications except for the usual bills and home and life is like the neon blue juice they pour on your icey snowcone at a Farmer's Market. It is impossibly bright and it is so sweet.

I get to walk out of there in a few days, done with my job there and on to the next school and group of people. But that little group is there forever, working in their tiny circle of ABC's and writing their name and playing bingo. While my kids are expanding outward, flying forward to college in Camarillo, swimming deeply and happily in Advanced Calculus, editing videos about what's important to a ten year old here in Shadow Hills, in 2018.

I'm grateful I got the chance to sit with this group and I race like hell to get home after work and see    my life, regular and layered, people look me in the eyes and they know themselves, and they can walk alone and get where they're going, safely. I remember when Bess was little and wanted to be Peter Pan so much. I hoisted her in the air and held her up in the sky so she could fly. "Now let go," she said, fully expecting she would take off flying.

These kids, they're already all flying, I didn't know it.

Sunday, February 4, 2018

One Brave Finger

Ever wanna wake up feeling rolled over by a 50 thousand pound greasy Italian sausage? Try to direct a short film you wrote.

Not just a short film but a silly, incredibly personal true to life accounting of why you are a failure in relationships. And you know what, invite a bunch of people over to a cramped apartment bedroom where you will shoot it and they will spend 13 hours tromping all through your words and your heart. Some people will be spewing your words, which sound excruciating by the way, after the first five minutes. Some people will be just putting equipment or running equipment, or dragging heavy things all over your words. Some people will be putting up drapes and fixing the colorful lamp, and hammering shit into your words. Everyone except for two people will be incredibly nice and helpful and seeming to enjoy themselves somehow.

One of the 2 people not enjoying the scene will turn out to be mental and leave, and the other person is you.

I've been on sets my whole life because of my dad. He just slapped words on paper like peanut butter, smashed it all together, copied it, gave it out to everyone including studio heads who chomped fat cigars and shoved it back at him and said YES! LET'S SHOOT THIS! He spent his whole life just slapping on the words, shoving it all out there, and then tap dancing on the set because it was all so easy.

I spent my life around movies, but that quiet girl over there in the corner writing everything down and then just keeping it all to myself because I was happy just with my OWN reaction to my stuff. Audience of one. Why not? I was hilarious.

But yesterday there I was, with my helper co-director who was like a whole Olympic ice skating team, she had scrambled eggs for the crew, she ran the set, she talked technology, well oiled herself, she easily oiled everyone's creaks. And for everyone else, the set was like any set. There was lighting, and people running in and out fetching apple boxes and a warm fake family feeling that I love and a weird sound person and jokes that made you laugh because you were so fucking tired. The only tiny difference for me was that my chest was ripped open in the front, stretched out around the whole apartment floor, nailed into the corners, and then everyone was walking all over it until all the human fleshy squish was gone and it was just a shredded, helpless floor. This took several dozen hours. I thought I was okay and then at lunch eating a burrito on the stairs with Nathan I was wondering why I couldn't taste my burrito, and why I could barely swallow it because of some weird huge lump in the side of my throat that turned out to be OHH anxiety. Hello friend, I didn't know they made you in throat balls size. Just hiding over there because I was so busy. Didn't want to bother me, but happy to finally be noticed. Hey. This is the real you, paco. Letting you know. Something is wrong.

My friend texted me in the middle of the shoot when I said it was taking so long and he said "it's all about the process, baby. And a little about if people think it sucks."

So no matter how I felt, putting myself on that set and being there as a walking representation of all that I have been up to now, everything I had, I got in the car, brought and gave, hopefully, humbly and at some points numbly. 

Most importantly I put my little paper boat in the stream, pushed it with one brave finger, and watched it go.

Thursday, January 18, 2018

Nobel Prize

You know you've lost track of yourself when Disneyland is not fun, really. I was there yesterday and we go in January because it's not crowded and yet yesterday it was crowded, and it was noisy and there was waiting. And it seemed harder to do all that walking and running and feeding, maybe because there were more people and I suck in people's needs like I'm starving in the empathy department so here let me carry those bags for you. Even though wait, I'm tired.

The best ride aside from Space Mountain was not any ride, but the noodles on a bench ride I did with young 7 year old cousin who was too scared to go on Pirates. So I sat outside on a bench, I never sit at Disneyland and sitting is really good. We sat next to a 12 year old mom nursing a baby (okay, 22) and we saw her actual boob even though we didn't know her. And my little cousin is telling me when she was scared on Matterhorn because of the screaming snow monster she had to talk to herself because even after she passed it she could still hear it screaming at other people and it was still scaring her from far away. But what I liked was that 7 year olds have a lot of things figured out, and they're happy to sit on a bench and eat noodles. Because they don't feel the rushing of time, so much. They're just whooshing along IN the time. Meandering, really. The rest of us are arranging things just ahead of them so their meandering can be smooth.

It wasn't until I passed most of the day that I started to relax being there. Getting on space mountain at like 7 at night - being in that whirling world where there's just enough fun and excitement and speed and darkness and thrill - I started to have fun. Then we left. Oh but wait, the most fun was really not the rides, which is what I used to go for only -- it was chasing down Peter Pan and listening to Mary Poppins talk to Bess and the little cousins as she signed autographs for them. Even though they're just kids from Anaheim that dress up Disneyrific and get to act like animated movie stars for a job - their playfulness (Peter stealing Lilly's Peter Pan hat and running off and then her chasing him to get it back) - they made the kids feel like they were in a fairy tale - teased and part of the fun - this was best part of the trip, the people.

Then today at 7 am after Disney yesterday, body killing me, brain still fried, I get a sub call so I'm running to some school I don't know after making lunches for my kids and feeding horses, but in a way I don't want to be home, what could be harder than Disneyland, I can't feel my body or my mind, so zombie teaching is the way to go.

I get there and it's this demon class with only 8 kids. These kids show me what happens when you've been in school for five months and your teacher has been absent most of the time and you've had a string of terrible substitutes. The kids had no loyalty. No desire to please. No connection to success. They had no desire to respect the teacher. They had no manners. They were, in fact, the most terribly lost kids I'd ever seen.

But I'm only there six hours. There's only so much I can do. Sometimes the teaching isn't about the math or English, but about how to treat people. How to line up. How to listen. It's hard to be inspired when no one has taught you to behave, pay attention, and love where you are, first.

I did what I could do. Eventually I sent 3 kids out of the room for disrupting a million times. Then I was down to 5. I had to put one next to me. With 4 out in the room still, I had to stop and say HELLO. We're WORKING HERE. Every two minutes. It's like they were used to hanging from trees and throwing coconuts. They're in fifth grade!!

Finally almost at the end of the day, I decided that I would focus on the one girl who wanted to learn something instead of the 7 who didn't. Things got slightly easier. I got a hug from her at the end of the day. The poor kids, they just had no leader, so they were banshees.

Maybe the greatest moment was at one point I had them all on this tiny square of rug, and I was going to read them a little about Martin Luther King Jr. It took maybe a HALF an HOUR of me just sitting with the book OPEN, holding it UP, waiting for them to be quiet so I could read. I would start to read, interruption, I would stop. No lie. I got three words in, only. For half an HOUR. Finally they allowed me to read and it was like slogging through a mudslide of interruptions. At one point I was laughing because I had to read about when MLK Jr got awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, for maintaining peace during strong adversity. I was holding up this book in this war zone by the rug, and I was grinning madly while reading those words suddenly because, amazingly, I was getting the Nobel Peace Prize, right then, right there, alongside my dead yet supreme buddy, Marty L King Jr. And he was proud of me.

Sometimes you just need the perspective, some irony, and a civil rights leader to find the joy. At Disneyland, and in hell.

Friday, January 12, 2018

What Questions Would You Ask the Tooth Fairy?

Today a tooth fairy came into the class I was subbing in. She was a biggish black college kid with wings strapped on over her hospital scrubs.

All the kids in room 4, 1st grade, were having free time with Legos and it took some time to get them interested in the fairy carrying the giant toothbrush and the giant set of display teeth.

Finally they were gathered around her feet like urchins. She said she had come to tell them about brushing and taking care of their teeth. She said she would talk a little bit and then she would answer two questions at the end.

A kid raised his hand right away.  "Are you the real tooth fairy?"

"Yes I am. We are big during the day, and we get tiny at night."

They stared at her, mystified.

Mya raised her hand. "Can you bring me a unicorn? A real one."

The tooth fairy looked shocked. "I'm not Santa," she said, artfully.

She then showed them how to brush, how many teeth they had, how bad sugar is for your teeth, and how they should visit the dentist twice a year. Sadie raised her hand and said she had never been to the dentist ever.

The tooth fairy looked worried and then said "Well there is going to be a dentist at the school, so you can fill out this form and see the dentist right here on February 28th."

Sadie sighed gravely, "My mom will never do that."

Ryan raised his hand. "My birthday is February 3rd."

The tooth fairy talked a little more about how often to brush, how to floss, and that cavities are little holes in your teeth. She recommended water as the best thing to drink for your teeth.

"Or Gatorade," Enrique suggested.

"Do you have any questions," she said, wrapping it up. "I will answer two."

Mya raised her hand. "What's that say on the side of your glasses?"

The tooth fairy paused. "That's a really good question." She took off her glasses and read it. "Ray Bans."

Another hand went up.

"When is your birthday?"

"October 5th," the tooth fairy answered.

One more hand.

"Do you live in a castle?"

She was packing up her toothbrush wand. "I do live in a castle. With four other tooth fairies."

"What are their names?" Anthony asked.

"Toothfairy Jasmine, Toothfairy Audrey, Toothfairy Eliza and Toothfairy Nina."

I was imagining this castle, and all these fairies in scrubs, probably somewhere in North Hollywood.

After she left, the kids and I were getting ready to start math. I heard Ernest talking to Julianna.

"Do you think she's the real tooth fairy?" He said, earnestly.
Julianna looked dubious and chagrined, at six.  "No."
"I do," he said.
"She was wearing wings. They were fake."
"I think they were real," he said, resolutely.

Mya was laying on the floor crying because she wanted so badly for the tooth fairy to let her use the magic wand. Just once, she whined, lost in possibility.

"Let's go play on the apparatus," I suggested, and all the kids lit up like Christmas. Mya scrambled up, crisis, poof, instantly gone.

The power of the substitute wand.

As we lined up, I thought about how not one of the kids cared at all, or had any questions about teeth, or dental hygiene in general. How three kids actually writhed in fear the minute she mentioned the word dentist. Human nature. The tooth fairy is not about dentists. The tooth fairy is one of the few things a kid can count on, a tool for getting free stuff. A surprise under your pillow. A quarter. A dollar.

A unicorn, maybe.

Sunday, November 5, 2017

The Morning Madness Sale is Now Over

Everything we own is from the thrift store. When I look down, everything I’m wearing is from the thrift store. It’s good stuff, and on a half price Wednesday or Saturday, you can get everything for about $1.50.

What are we going to do now, because the shopping center was bought and is being remolded by greedy land hoggers. The thrift store that has kept my family clothed and entertained by wandering a lazy Saturday, or looking for Halloween costumes, or stocking up for Santa’s workshop, the thrift store, our living room up the street with the dirty carpet but the good merchandise – it’s over.

When I heard they were closing for renovation and maybe never opening again because the rent would be doubled I froze in shock and then felt burning sick. This was not just a regular gross thrift store. This is our main store. We know all the faces that work there, and they  know us. There’s this one lady that is always there on Wednesdays at half price Wednesday, she speaks like dutch or something,  she’s always smiling at me and we talk about how big the kids are getting, this has been maybe 10 years. I never knew her name, we didn’t want to know our names, just knew each other as this place, as bargain hunters across the racks. Where will she be now on Wednesday? Released to the wild with the rest of us?

I had a dream that they turned the thrift store into a dollar store, with clean floors and bad lighting and no random surprises like the time I wished for a unicycle and there it was the next Wednesday. No more of the kids riding bikes through the store while I shop, where am I going to find $1 pants, or the various bags I like to buy to attach to my saddle for trail riding. Luckily my kids are big now, and we made it through 14 years, clothed by the thrift store. The kids learned to look for a brand they like, a price they like, and they learned to like surprises. Not every time. But mostly.

I don’t even have a picture of us shopping there, or what it looked like, because that’s like taking a picture when you’re at the dentist, or the grocery store, it’s just part of your fabric and would be slightly confusing to celebrate, say, your daily trip to the bathroom with a photo, even though these are the places that know us, silently support us, shoot us out into our day as better people. Our blood stream, another place we haven’t photographed. Who thinks to take pictures of sturdy reliable? Contentment?

I hope the lady who shops on Wednesday, and Rene from the back, and all the shoppers who went there for fun and not necessity like us, I hope we’ll all find our way at a probably more expensive thrift store. I hope ours will be back. Where will I buy the giant underwear that Gramma Susie tried on at Soup Plantation. Or the little brown dog with the red ribbon that Lilly sleeps with and calls “Ribbon.”  Or what about my kids who went from 4 years old to 17 there. From below the racks to seeing over the top. I’m not that good at the background changing, I like the background, it’s important and familiar. It’s there so you know you’re somewhere, so you can keep going on being you.

You can’t get attached to property, a brusque military landlady told me when we had to move out of our tiny riverfront cabin in Maryland many years ago. Apparently she had never loved or been moved by anything. Never felt the trees guarding the house, or seen the water reflecting the light differently each day. She had never seen her baby ride a big wheel under a rack of clothing while clutching a sword and fighting off thrift store dragons. Or found the pillow shelf and covered herself in a thousand pillows because all forts should be made of pillows. Or found a Hollister sweatshirt brand new for $2.99. And take half off, because it was half price Wednesday. That is the trick of life, enjoying the floating downstream, because eventually at the end we all get dumped out, a drop in that big cosmic ocean.

Attention shoppers, the morning madness sale is now over. Please start making your way to the front to receive your discount and leave all your hangers on the rack. Thank you for shopping Sun Thrift.

Thursday, November 2, 2017

It's a Boat, Jack

Checking in at the school for my many day sub job this week at 7:30 am, I saw the other scary old clown sub version of me in the office. Me if I stay here longer, me if I travel mostly by Greyhound and think that a chalky red lipstick in the bottom of a bag is going to help the look of my face.

When you check in as a sub you’re like the vagrant of an already hostile office. They know the rules, you don’t. They have all the keys, you don’t, they have a mental map of the school, you’re an explorer. They frankly don’t want your problems, and you hope like hell you will never be on the other side of the desk, in their tired tennis shoes.

Rolling backpack old clown sub with the wrinkles you can pack a suitcase in is wondering where the bathroom is. I’ve been here 2 whole days, a virtual tenured sub, so I highly recommend the spookiest bathroom on campus (also the only one I can find) where the boiler room tubes line the walls directly by where you wedge your knees when sitting on the toilet. Something highly comforting about the lack of space in that bathroom, the habitat for a gerbil who killed someone and must never, never be released again.

I look at rolling backpack clown sub lady and think please, please can I get a job that doesn’t require death of soul quite this extreme. Can I please have my short funny film at Sundance, where I win an award and get to make a speech about how I once subbed at LAUSD in a boiler room bathroom and once flung horse poop under a tin roofed barn in the rolling hills of Maryland and once raised 3 tiny people into strapping lovely adults and once was a fairly decent daughter and good mom and terrible wife.

The best part of subbing is the kids. Their fresh faces and newness of each class and each kid, the chance to learn something funny or interesting in a weird environment and then leave at 2 and never see those people again. The one night stand of the teaching world. Sub em and leave em.

The worst part about subbing is the kids. They need stuff. They battle. They are loud. They are tricky. But there is that one chance I might excite a kid to like words and be a writer. Or that maybe a kid will feel seen or heard by a kind, encouraging, temporary person.

I look at the different versions of subs around me, and I think thank god, I bring me.  I also think, look at my tribe of vagrant, slightly off-center temporary people, who thrive on the newness of things, and the uncertainty of connection, and the all out energy you can generate when you know you only have to do it for a few days in a row. Except none of the other subs look all that energized. They’ve clocked in at  like giving 5%, and most of that is following the rules. I’m clocking in at 95%, and that’s because I only use the rules that make sense, plus I tone it down from 110% energy after learning it’s better mommy doesn’t have a breakdown at the end.

Today was the best day in our little class, though, because instead of math we wrote a story. We were brainstorming ideas about settings and characters for a scary story and suddenly a WAVE of fun hit and we were all shouting on a volcano erupting, the class was so excited with ideas about making their stories happen. When I went to lunch with all their shining shouting in my head, I called my friend the non-religious Rev and said I just had a story meeting with 30 writers working for free. Working for maybe a grape jolly rancher at the end. I told her from now on when I sub I’m not going to do any of the work the teacher leaves, I’m going to bring in one of my old scripts, and say “let’s write a story” and then give them the basics of my script and have them solve all my plot problems. Then I will repay them by mentioning them in my Oscar speech when I win Best Screenplay. This is exciting to me. Staffs of writers, all new, every time, excited to be there and totally free.

Aside from that, the school job that I finish tomorrow when the teacher gets back from jury duty – my first writers’ group - I will miss this class. The school is so huge, it looks like an abandoned factory. We’re on the far upstairs classroom, so we never see anyone. We had to do a proverb today “no man is an island,” except we are, we’re alone. It’s ideal, because I like to do work and then take a lot of breaks, and it turns out the kids like that too. And it’s been dark and stormy each day, like we’re in Alaska and it’s about to snow its balls off. So I’m no longer in LA, under these otherworldly, cloaking clouds.  I never can see myself, quite, especially lately since I seem to be morphing into someone else, all open cocooned and squeezing out. But the kids can see me, and they’re all versions of Earth, space travelers, all with funny names, all made to laugh, made to sit with me for a few hours this stormy week in a warm secluded classroom and talk about baseball and make up stories.

Tomorrow is my last day in the boiler room bathroom, where I get to go during recess, and pretend I’m on the Titanic, in its last moments. It’s a boat, Jack.