Dispatch #1: Sunday
Here I am!
Welcome to the first edition of Italics Mine: The Newsletter.
I’d been thinking about doing one of these for a while now, but was hesitant because 1) I used to bad mouth Tiny Letters ( my motto was “write a blog or send me a personal email, I don’t want your stupid newsletter!”) and it felt hypocritical to change my stance, and, 2) Do I have time to write these missives to everyone/no one? Well, I can change my opinion on modes of communucation—and on anything, really. And, no, of course I don’t have time, I haven’t had time for nearly ten years. But that’s no excuse. I’ve been writing (and rewriting, and rewriting again) a novel for over five years, and my podcast imploded, and quarantine is so old it’s learning to walk, and I need an outlet. I have things to tell you! Observations to share! Rants to go on! Sentences by other writers to collectively appreciate and envy!
Also, in February I re-read The Corrections and started re-watching Sex and the City, and then found myself listening to Radiohead’s Kid A, and, wow, do I have stuff to say about art made at the turn of the century and how it feels to time travel to the era of skinny-Edan-reads-literary-theory!
Today, though, I’ll start simple. My Sunday.
This morning was Patrick’s day to get up with Mickey, so after I nursed him (Mickey, not Patrick, ahem) at 6:10 am, they went into the living room and I fell back asleep. I love my sleep-in mornings, but I often have disconcerting, troubling dreams and re-awake at 8:30 or 9 in a cottony fog that takes a while to disperse. Like it was Christmas morning in Little House in the Big Woods, Patrick made pancakes, bacon AND sausage for breakfast. Served with a bowl of blueberries. I ate until I was sick, as one should when faced with such a feast. Of the Sunday New York Times, all I’ve read so far is this profile of Seth Rogen, which tells you all you need to know about my willingness to let in the world today.
After a pretty hardcore year of quarantine (no pod, no seeing my parents indoors, no eating on restaurant patios, nothing), we have returned to the park. Today we took an even bigger risk and met a fellow kid from Ginger’s TK class. We did this because the family reached out, and told us how strict they’ve been about safety, and because they have an older son who’s the same age as Bean (he’s 9). Like all of us, my older kids seem to be suffering without their peers, but, unlike us, they don’t have group texts or Substack.
So. The park. We were all masked, of course, and stayed that way, but the risk was always present. Sometimes I imagine the spiky coronavirus flying around us all, saying weeeeeeeee! as it penetrates the fabric of our cute little cloth masks. I take a step back from the fray and tell myself to get a grip.
The playdate was a success, though. Bean and the older brother talked intensely on the swings as their younger siblings climbed and went down the slides. Mickey got to run across a shaky park bridge a thousand times. Later, Ginger said, “I want the day to start over so that I can do it again,” which made me smile but also made me want to go in the bathroom and cry for her. Instead I watched her watch TV, which is one of my favorite activities. How she raises her tiny cleft chin, how she moves her lips a little as if to copy the dialogue, how she throws her body back in laughter. She is a portrait.
A funny thing that happened at the park: a little kid was yelling, “Mama! Mama!” and Mickey looked at her, then at me, and said, pointing at me, “Mama.” Like, duh, she’s right there, doofus. His head nearly exploded when he realized the child had her own mama.
After that we were home. TV and chess and Minecraft and Barbie. Lunch. I was supposed to eat something unexciting but I caved and got a Flat White and what’s called a Loaded Jaffy from Little Ripper, a nearby coffee shop. A Loaded Jaffie is basically a grilled cheese with prosciutto and avocado, and they serve it with a side of cornichons and this great seeded mustard that I think about lustily at least once a week. Usually it takes about six minutes for them to prepare it, and I get in a burst of reading on a bench outside, but the food came so fast, I didn’t even crack my book. (I’m reading Song of Solomon by Toni Morrison….whom we call ToMo at my house. I’m reading all of ToMo’s novels this year—definitely a topic for Italics Mine! Coming soon!)
After lunch, I met a student on Zoom to discuss her story revision. (I’m teaching fiction writing at Caltech this quarter, and next week is the last class.) Once I send this, I’m going to try to make myself exercise. Tonight we’re having lamb merguez sausage patties over a big old pile of greens and herbs with a tangy yogurt on the side. It’s spicy and too delicious for my lame children, so they’ll have a frozen pizza. We’re only drinking on the weekends, so there will be a wine: probably this one, which is a Gamay and Pinot blend from France and so smoky and complex and good. Now that we drink less, we drink better.
A great Sunday for Covid Times. For any time, honestly.
Here’s what I want to tell you: I just turned 40 and I am feeling like I’m edging closer and closer to being irrelevant. Maybe this has less to do with age and more to do with the pandemic and being inside for days and days. Until I publish another novel, what am I doing? I have a newsletter? I am wondering what I want from my career and my art, and if it matters if only a relatively small group of people are interested.
That’s a topic for another newsletter. If you signed up for the free version, and would like to subscribe for $5/month (or $50/year), I think you can go to the sign up page, and put in your email and it’ll send you to the re-up page. Maybe that won’t work, I don’t know, I almost lost my mind last night trying to set this whole thing up. If you can’t afford to pay, or don’t want to, that’s okay, too. I get it!
Thanks for reading this one.