Tender is the Night…

..and my poor feet after a day of heels. I just reread last night’s post and realized that if one is unfamiliar with my writing style that one might have missed my underlying sarcasm and the self-deprecation that haunts my every sentence. So all that talk about “there weren’t no Chinese in these parts” was an expression of awe, not of racism, so get over it, dude.

We — my daughters and I — have moved back (only I am moving back; they’re all just along for the ride) to whitest rural Penngrove after three years in Alameda, midtown to West End, and before that almost ten years in suburban but integrated San Leandro, and before that, crack heaven in Oakland (literally — we lived next to a liquor store at East 20th and 23rd Avenue. We were burglarized over and over again, had criminals fleeing the police through our yard and once found a loaded gun on the garage roof. Also picked up hundreds of crack baggies off the sidewalk in front and a dealer used to stash his stuff in our front yard. Nice.) A few jumps back put me deep in the Mission and the Excelsior districts of San Francisco, where I polished my street Spanish, and before all that, why, I was in lovely Penngrove, sucking my thumb and wondering how the hell I was gonna get out of the sticks and make it to the Big City.

Ergo, Penngrove looks mighty white to our eyes.

These are taboo subjects for us, you know. We aren’t supposed to notice race, or write about it, especially when we’re white, because that makes us racist. We can’t even discuss it because there is this assumption that behind the cupped hand, there is an inner core of prejudice. Race is only allowed as fodder for discussion for people of color. And that’s OK, but you know what? There are issues of racial identity for Caucasian people, too. Issues of the white bread syndrome — we are bland, we have no culture, we have no heritage to fall back on, we who are Heinz 57. (Notice how I say “we” when this time I actually don’t mean “we/I,” I actually mean everyone but not particularly myself because I do have a culture and heritage…proud to be Scottish and English! Luckily, I speak the language already.)

Well, clearly, I digress, and I have already run out of enthusiasm for that topic because it isn’t one I’m passionate about…is there a lesson here? Well, yes, several, the primary one being:

Write about what you love or hate — whatever brings out the passion in you.


Don’t be afraid of the difficult topics, the ones we’re not supposed to talk about or mention. Again, press what hurts, dig for the gold. It’s in there.

I have written about all kinds of things and am revving towards longer works which are yet more shocking. Like what? Like my affair with a Catholic priest (see Tongues of Angels), albeit fictionalized. Like various erotica about various erotic subjects (available on request). Like my most recent short fic about a little girl longing for her (female) teacher. Like the first chapter in my memoir about the priestly affair — not shot in soft focus this time, oh, no. Like a series of reality-based essays about parenting — again, no Vaseline and pink light. All real. And so many more stories cooking on the back burner…

This is the real thing, friends, what we should be aiming for. Do it right, the big story, the hard stuff — consider it a challenge. As my friend Gerry the Scottish poet once said to me, “We stand or fall on our own honesty.” Indeed.

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