Connie asked me if I could sit for
Her son Nicholas
He was 8
I knew about his Dad
I listened to Nicholas tell stories about his Dad
He said his Dad's favorite chair
Was the chair that I was sitting in
A white chair
Nicholas said his Dad was cleaning his gun
In the garage
The whole neighborhood knew
Connie went on a date
She had birth control in the kitchen cabinet
I watched SNL
The Sugarcubes Birthday was on
I liked Bjork’s hair
There was a sound coming from the garage
There was a sound coming from the garage
I stopped breathing
I stopped breathing
I went to look
I saw a cat
There was a cat door
On the door going into the garage
Connie came home
She asked me if I wanted her eye shadow
It was purple and turquoise
It was Chanel
I had it for years
When I went to the mall
A girl followed me and said
Under the Big Ben
She said I reminded her of Bjork
Connie walked me home
Up the street
Dolls taught me how to play.
By their listening, kindness and collaboration.
I felt very lucky.
In that sense.
To grow up with dolls.
It was important to my mom for me to grow up surrounded by dolls.
Now that I think back…
They were like protectors
To stand by me
When she did not know how…
I don't have to explain.
How cotton, wool, silk, glass eyes, rooted hair, stitches and stuffed limbs put together fashionably
Still brings me
This unspoken ease.
A couple years after Mervyn's opened a store
In Carrollton, Texas
My mom said she wanted to work there
My dad didn't want her to
He already had a 2nd job working in the evenings
Me and my older sister were already working after school
My dad said someone would have to be around at night
I said I would sit for my younger siblings
So mom could work
Which meant that I would
Leave my part-time job
At Burger King
Which was not a difficult decision
She went to the store
Filled out an application, interviewed
And got the job
She was hired to work in the children's department
For the last 35+ years now
My mom has worked retail
She worked at Mervyn's til the store shut down
For many years, she had a second job at Kohl's
And for the last many years, she has worked full-time at Bed Bath and Beyond
She is known to customers
She loves the schedule, people, and procedures
She talks about this
I have come to understand
My mom has a retail calling
Retail jobs often serve as an entrance into the job market, or as an interim job
For some, like my mom, it is a career
That took me time to understand
On a recent phone conversation
She shared her plan to retire
And immediately, without a pause, said
She would still work some hours
If they needed someone to fill in..
She waited for my approval
I support your decision
This is a personal decision
Retirement should look how you want
I just love my job
Saturday night Orinda.
Fire under moose.
Hair like wind.
Dog on lamp.
Hostess moves slow.
Honey covered biscuit.
His name was Shane.
Crispy fried chicken.
Atchley date night.
Pixies run Peet's.
Car wash. Ice cream and candy. Casa. Movie theater. Burger Garden. Sweet Dreams. 5pm.
We're going back to Orinda.
For Sunday creature.
what if you stayed in that Texas town.
where 7-eleven didn't always have coke slurpee.
where the best cigarettes were capri.
where you threw toilet paper soaked in water on the ceiling.
where bands came through ONCE.
where you played johnny mathis LOUD.
in the car...
I began making dolls shortly after designing a couple of lanterns. For one lantern, I created a shade from mulberry paper. I then tied knots in 5 to 8 strands of thick cotton cord and spun string around the knots. I hung the knotted and wrapped strands over the shade. For another, it already had a paper shade so I hung a single piece of knotted cotton rope and then wrapped string around the knots.
I got the inspiration for the string after untwisting many feet of thinner cotton cord with my fingers. Each time I untwisted the cord, it wanted to twist back up, so I kept untwisting it until it stopped twisting back. I pulled the cord apart to separate the strands into individual strings. Then I held the strings together and brushed them with a hairbrush and a metal comb. Doing this made them fluffy. By that point, I had a large stock of string and started wondering how the knotted cotton cord would look if I spun them with string.
That’s when I started remembering "silkworm season" which for a couple of years, while I was growing up, was an annual event for my family. The ”mulberry” paper may have been what originally sparked it though the memories started really coming after I began spinning the string around the knots, and it felt like something was pulsing from inside.
When growing up my younger sisters, Barbara and Marie, stored a small plastic vial filled with silkworm eggs in the refrigerator. My mom’s friend, Nina, instigated this “You know silkworms love mulberry leaves. You have a mulberry tree in your backyard. I have some silkworm eggs. All you need to do is store them in your refrigerator til Spring” The seed was planted for my sisters - SILKWORMS! Nina gave them a small plastic vial full of silkworm eggs to place in the refrigerator to store there - which grossed me and my siblings out! Barbara and Marie were now wild with anticipation about what would be their first “silkworm season” and Nina prepared them for just what to do.
Take out the small plastic vial from the refrigerator. Place the silkworm eggs in a shoe box filled with mulberry leaves. Be patient. It will happen.
Some did hatch into silkworms. Usually 3-5. When they hatched, all they did was lie around, eat mulberry leaves and poop. They were albino, looked like spaceship shuttles and I think they were blind. My sisters would go nuts when they’d start spinning up their cocoons to prepare for their transformation. The silkworms all seemed to spin their cocoons at the same time. Then we would all wait patiently and one day it happened. The silkworm, now a moth, rips open the cocoon, with its mouth and wings crawling out of it with one goal: find another silkworm to mate with. We’d hear the fluttering of moth wings when they partnered to mate with another one in the shoebox. The cycle would start up again: eating mulberry leaves and pooping. Except this time they would ooze gooey stuff, lay eggs and die. We waited all year FOR THIS. Sometimes afterwards my sisters would take one of the cocoons as a keepsake - I think there was one year that I may have kept one too. We would say to each other “you know those cocoons are made from real silk." After it was all over, Barbara and Marie carefully placed the new silkworm eggs inside the small plastic vial that Nina gave them, and off it went back into the refrigerator, much to my disgust, to be stored for another year, til the next "silkworm season."
Now in my life, when I'm spinning strings around the knots and the memories come back so vividly...I realize just how influential silkworm season really was for me and how it continues to...
Dolls with playing
The starting point
Ka ching a ching
I have been wanting to write about my childhood for a long time. But there is stuff I don't want to relive or talk about anymore because I’ve just hashed it out too many times. I started writing down visual details of rooms & things that I had not given much thought to at the time. This became a new lens to which to look at things and a different way for me to approach my memories.
What I found was like, with the white rock, I'd remember three things. And then I'd remember another three things. Like, the Nerf grape soda. I remember when my dad brought it home from the grocery store and the bottles fell out of the bag and they broke and the purple fizz was all of a sudden running down, rolling down the driveway. He wasn’t happy about it though I found it to be funny at the time.
I started to remember all of this stuff and started to enjoy getting lost in it. Soon though, I felt like there wasn't a story in it. It felt so different to me. Like, what is this about? Is this just an exercise? Then I started to notice that this was also my story, and this process was a story in itself.
This text was transcribed from an audio recording that I made by playing with the original paragraph, which I wrote to jog my memories (I twisted around phrases like Nerf soda grape, and there are others, to serve as visual markers). I was playing a slow-changing drone on my keyboard while speaking and remembering. Each time I spoke the original paragraph subtle details would emerge and I went with it. Each time I read the text out loud, I let my visual memories fill it out more, as if I have always been telling this story..
Original paragraph: One day there was a girl who played with dolls, bears, imagined drawings and art. After seeing puppets and people and playing house. There was a white rock and Nerf soda grape. Avon "Sweet Honesty" perfume and yellow dresses. I saw the people playing from my bedroom window which had a hi-fi record player and “Free To Be You and Me” playing on the speakers or in the basement reel to reel recordings of people and animals of all types and speaking so many ways I had not imagined.
First reading out loud of the original paragraph: One day there was a girl that was me. Who played with dolls, bears and who imagined drawings, and art, after seeing puppets and people and playing house in the gazebo in the backyard. There was a white rock in front of the house, my family house, and Nerf grape soda. Too many bottles of Avon “Sweet Honesty” perfume. Yellow dresses, particularly a yellow terry cloth dress.
I see kids playing outside from my bedroom window on the second story of a two story house. My bedroom had a hi-fi record player, and "Free To Be You and Me" playing through the speakers. I loved that album.
When my dad got home from work, we would all go down to the basement, where he would play reel to reel recordings of people or stuff that he recorded during the day. We would listen at night or on the weekends. These recordings were very expressive of people and animals of all types speaking in so many ways I would never even dream of. Getting lost in those sounds, listening, dancing...
Second reading out loud of the original paragraph: One day there was a girl, that’s me. Who played with dolls, bears and imagined drawings and art, after seeing puppets and people and playing house in the backyard in the gazebo or inside of the house. There was a white rock, a white painted rock in the front yard, and Nerf grape soda. Too many bottles of Avon "Sweet Honesty" perfume, and one of the bottles actually had a yellow dress, it was like this yellow figure, it had this puffy yellow skirt, that had pink flowers? Yellow dresses, like halter dresses.
I see kids playing outside from my bedroom window on the second story. We lived on a dead end and there would be people playing baseball out there. I remember the hi-fi record player and “Free To Be You and Me” playing through the speakers. I loved that album, I don't even remember it.
In the basement, when my dad got home from work, we would all go downstairs to listen to the reel to reel recordings that he recorded during the day. He was an audio engineer. He had a large collection of recordings of spoken word, people and animals, in very expressive and imaginative sound settings. Speaking in so many ways I had not imagined. It was so much fun listening, dancing, getting lost in it, spinning...
2001 Brian Eno
Back when I worked at SFMOMA
They commissioned Brian Eno
To create an installation
For an exhibition...
It was spring of 2001
Staff looked forward
To Brian Eno being around…
And wondered what his installation
Would turn out to be…
What none of us anticipated
Was that Brian Eno’s handler…
Would be telling the staff
Not to talk to Mr Eno
Under any circumstance…
When word got out about this…
People started grumbling
Especially since most of the staff
Were artists themselves…
Staff also were running errands
To the drugstore around the corner or wherever
Picking up stuff for his installation
With little direction, if at all…
Purchasing holiday lights, plastic blow-up palm trees, anything…
When they dropped stuff off
People saw what was going on
Then more gossipping…
It isn’t going well up there…
Brian Eno’s installation sucks…
He doesn't know what he's doing…
That was back when I organized
And would often stay late
To use the printer and copier
And that was back when the offices
Were located inside the museum
One evening after leaving the office
I forgot something
And had to run back
When I got in the elevator
I heard a man
Shouting hold the door hold the door
I pressed close door, multiple times
The doors started to close
I was relieved, I was in a hurry
Then the man put his hand in the door
And the doors reopened
It was Brian Eno
He asked if I heard him shouting
I said no, I heard nothing
He may have mentioned there were no other sounds
Except for him shouting...
I said I heard it isn’t going well up there
He placed his hands on his head
And asked if I was referring to his baldness
I said no
I meant your installation, upstairs
I know who you are...
I heard it isn't going well up there…
Then the elevator stopped at my floor
And I ran out...
21 Obscured By Clouds
When I turned 21
By going to UC Theater
With a bunch of friends
To watch the movie Obscured By Clouds
The one with the Pink Floyd soundtrack
About the woman who went to New Guinea
For the exotic feathers
And then gets inspired
By this tribe
And her world opened...
That was the night
The fear that I'd be sent
Back to Texas
Came to an end
I moved here from Texas
When I was 18
I had met a guy on the internet
Who said come live out here
You like the music here
I got a one way ticket
To San Francisco
I had friends
Who were older than me
Who were into music
Just as much as I was
The guy I lived with
Had a fear
That the authorities
Would ship me back to Texas
Because we were doing drugs
And I was under 21
Just the thought of that
Made me paranoid
Listening to music
Made it fade
When I turned 21
My friend Gretnoid bought a tit cake
From the X-Rated Cake Shop
I wore an evening gown
Then we went to the movies
And my world opened...
When I would sit for DeeDee
She would pick me up in a camaro
She had sun-in colored brown hair
She had two daughters
Her husband was a truck driver
He drove 16-wheelers
He was away a lot
She called for a sitter
When she needed to party with friends
Her daughters had dirty blonde hair
They showed me the switch
That DeeDee would use
They thought everyone had one
I just listened to their stories
They didn't have cable
Whenever DeeDee talked
She always had a toothpick
In her mouth
She would bite down on it
When she talked
Which sometimes made it hard
To understand her
My sister also sat for her daughters
And we would talk about how DeeDee
Always had the toothpick
In her mouth
And do impressions
Of how she talked
How she said things like yeah a lot
And imagined she would say things like
How much she loved the switch
And then we would start laughing
Because it was so weird
Never met the husband
He was always driving
Except one time when
When my sister was sitting there
The husband came home and asked
Where DeeDee was