Big Little Sighs

Photo illustration by Cristiana Couceiro. Source photograph: Igor Ustynskyy

Hello, Lovelies… How the hell are you?

Behold, Spring. Mother nature’s way of saying, “Let’s get down!”

Amid the four nor’easters we’ve had here, I’ve found it necessary to shelter inside an emotional support meatloaf… Vegetarians, look away. This one’s a mashup of Ina Garten’s recipe tempered with the dark arts of Lipton onion soup mix. (Thereby sparing everyone the weepy misery of chopping three yellow onions in favor of a little packet of MSG nirvana.)

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It’s a blend of high and low culture that satisfies every time—much like champagne and potato chips. Oh, but gone are those days. A cheat day now and then is the best I can muster. And I’ve been cooking at the end of a long, snowy road, on hiatus from the city while I freight train through two TV scripts.

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One, dealing with neurodiversity, I’ve started and stopped at least twenty times with my writing partner… I’ll say cranky things like, “No, no, no… That’ll never work, that’s been done…”  just as he manages to pry the barnacles off and we come up with something nifty and almost weird enough to work. The other script is a single-camera half-hour rom-com series built around epilepsy, anxiety, and depression. My heart/brain still skips a beat/synapse that anyone’s actually interested, but there it is.

For reading during this latest storm/news cycle… I’d originally planned something intellectually rigorous like Diane Ackerman’s gorgeous A Natural History of the Senses. (Imma comin’ Diane!)

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Instead, I found myself retreating to the comforts of David Rakoff’s hilarious essay collection Fraud (since imposter syndrome is the central theme of my life).

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I’ve also been fangirling the eff out of some of my favorite writers on women’s pain and addiction like Abby Norman (review of Ask Me About My Uterus to come!) and Leslie Jamison.  Damn… Jamison’s words in her anti-memoir The Recovering: Intoxication and Its Aftermath “More. Again. Forever…” recalled the watery longing of mothers I knew from many a wine-soaked book club, the palpable ache for a deeper connection, more than for access to any Jack London’esque “white light” of creativity.

I’ve never been one who can write on the sauce (despite loving it). And I don’t get writer’s block as much as a kind of writer’s malaise that manifests in the form of big little sighs, working alone every morning in my pajamas, until some Mary Karr-ish language tumbles out: Fuck. Shit. Fuck. Don’t. You daft girl… Who on earth ever told you that you could do this? 

But then I go on. Here’s a great huzzah to the thrumming of buds and bugs and to a few more words.

Until tomorrow, hold fast – XOXO – GG

Call of the Wild (From Siri With Love)

Hello, Lovelies! Don’t you LOVE waking up to a mean old white guy reckoning???

I also love that it’s finally cold enough in the city for me to wear my va-jay-jay coat! This is actually a super soft mom-coat that I got from Uniqlo last year—on sale. I call it that because it’s literally as soft and warm and great as the inside of a vagina. It’s like wearing one around your whole person. In fact, Uniqlo, you should really just re-brand the coat as that. (Just my two yen)

I don’t know about you but every now and then, I have these Liz Lemon-style montage moments where I decide to take charge of my life! Usually, they involve deciding to eat fewer cheese curls or to stop dating guys who look like pirates or to stop putting off some irksome chore around the house.

Yesterday’s montage manifested as finally deciding to clean the bugs out of the big overhead light in the kitchen. Ordinarily, this is a two-person job since a) I am a chick with limited upper body strength and b) I really don’t like bugs at all. Anything that skitters freaks me the fuck out. I once had to stop working on a horror film because just writing the death-by-bug scenes bothered me too much. But I’m feeling pretty boss these days after finishing the book, so there I am in the kitchen, on the step ladder, whispering to myself: “I’m not afraid, I’m not afraid, I’m in charge here. It’s just a bunch of little bug corpses. I was a Girl Scout blah-dee-blah…”

And I’m easing the unwieldy light panel down from the ceiling when my sock catches on a nail on one of the ladder’s steps and I start to fall backward. As I’m falling, I peer up over the edge of the light panel and the dead bugs (one of which includes a mid-sized Manhattan cockroach) are all sliding toward my wide open mouth which is, of course, now shouting, “Fuck, fuck, fuuuuuuuuuck…!!!”

At the same time, my phone, which is plugged in on the kitchen counter, blinks to life and Siri says, “Alisa, I would NEVER speak to you that way!”

And I’m so shocked by her out-of-the-blue, on-command humanity that I do this twisting cat-like sproing off the ladder, right out of my socks and land fine while also missing the whole mouthful of bugs. (Phew!)

Thank you, Siri, for the unexpected tone check? I’ll so take scolding over critters.

The last time I got that up close and personal with wildlife was when I was dealing with a band of very brazen raccoons in Glen Ellen, California. The artsy, walkable village some fifty miles North of San Francisco in the heart of the Sonoma wine country was once home to Jack London. At the behest of some dear friends, I’d gone there to hide out after two grim reconstructive surgeries. I wanted to write about what it felt like to be monstrous. I certainly looked the part back then. Because of the nature of my accident, I’d broken a number of teeth, but I had one tooth–a pointy canine–that stuck out sideways, almost perpendicular to the others. So deeply rooted down into the bone are human canines, there was no fixing it or even extracting it until the rest of my shattered face and jaw healed. For the time being, I was White Fang, living in Jack’s town near what was once known as Wolf House.

I wanted to make some wholesale changes in my life starting with finally getting a handle on my seizures. Alone in Glen Ellen, with only my despair, a bunch of heat-seeking raccoons, and my kindled brain for company, I started to re-read To Build a Fire, London’s seminal short story. There’s a scene where the character is beating his fist against the side of his leg to get feeling back and survive. I so related to that bit—the regaining of feeling or at least feeling more human than wild. I was worried I might not. Still, I wrote and wrote right to the very edge of my fear that winter. I am profoundly grateful to the family who allowed me to be a writer-in-residence there. With the recent spate of devastating wildfires in Glen Ellen, Napa, St. Helena, and Santa Rosa I just hope everyone is refinding their footing amid flashes of unexpected humanity–though not necessarily from Siri.

Stay rad, Lovelies and have a human day – xoxo – GG

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Little Fires Everywhere

 

Hello, Lovelies… How the hell are you?

Yet another rollicking couple of weeks for self-described narcissism expert, grief counselor-in-training, and aspiring diminutive hand model… DJT. But I can’t think about that ridiculous yahoo right now. Are you done with those college essays?

It’s been a wild few days here. Halloween was unspeakable tragedy followed quite literally by plucky resiliency. Witness this guy below dressed as a chicken telling a reporter he’s not scared.

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You have to love a town where “none of your business” means, of course, it’s everyone’s business, which somehow makes you less afraid. Everyone’s right there, so what could possibly go wrong? But then it does, which is why we have to look out for each other. If you roll an ankle in a pothole, a New Yorker will surely catch you.

I woke up and it was blustery as all get out with serious Mary Poppins antics downstairs. I had an email from my editor asking about changing the title of my book on motherhood, comedy, and neurology to appeal to a broader audience of women positioning it as Gilmore Girls-meets-neurology…which I admit, I’m kind of grooving on but need to see the cover before I fully commit. I’m still such a visual nerd.

Then, my neurologist (who lives downstairs because, of course, it’s New York and everyone’s right here) phoned up to say, “Holy cats, lady! From this latest scan, even on all the drugs, your brain is still wicked electric.”

“Aw man, does this mean all my sobriety and juicing is for nothing?”

“No, your skin looks fabulous. But yeah, it’s like there are little fires everywhere.”

“You know, you really shouldn’t say those sorts of things to epilepsy patients. They might take you seriously. I just finished that book by the way.”

“What book?”

“Little Fires Everywhere.”

“Ooh, how was it?”

“SO riveting. Celeste Ng is such a badass. The conversations about race were like finely woven cloth and the sense of maternal longing at the end was completely palpable. It gave me chills.”

“Wow, no wonder you’re sparking. Look, I’m voting we have you go back into the hospital to the epilepsy unit so we can figure out what’s going on, film your sleep, etc.”

So back I go. It will be my gazillionth time in a skullcap… It’s a tough look to pull off. I really don’t have the head for it. At my age, what you want is volume without frizz. Wow, do I really miss having stupid problems 🙂 Still, I believe in science and I believe in figuring this out. If it means playing the part of a lab rat Chez Lenox Hill for a few days, I plan to savor every tedious, annoying second of it and make it totally funny anthropology.

November is epilepsy awareness month. The types of seizures I have are the scary kind you often see portrayed in the media. Think of Will at the end of season 2 of Stranger Things and you’ll have an idea.

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Life just gets shaken to pieces. In the eight years that I’ve dealt with this condition, my biggest learning is that you think the human brain is weird but it turns out… the human brain is weirder than you can think. With little fires everywhere, it’s our last undiscovered country, our biggest, most complicated upside down.

But here I go… Stay rad and have a meaningful day – xoxo – GG

 

Sick-Lit is Giving Me the Vapors

Greetings Lovelies,

How the hell are you?

Can you believe the world today? I feel like we’re all living in an episode of Dr. Who. (No wonder my apartment feels bigger!) Every day is like having a new case of the damn vapors…

Nervous, sweaty well wishes from The Overlook where I just finished the book. The big, long, messy book.

You’d think I’d be jubilant. Instead, I’m pretty much an exhausted husk of a human. A strange, feral being who looks like Sasquatch fathered a lovechild with the-Unabomber. My hair is Origami. And when did I decide to stop wearing a bra?

In my head, where there used to be a book festering, now there’s only an empty windowless room. It’s like I finally moved all my stuff out of that grad school storage locker on the Westside highway. You can still make out the corrosive staining of my melted MacBook on the dusty cement floor that is my brain. For years now, people have been coyly asking, “How’s the book coming along? Done yet?” which is like asking a chronically ill person, “So, how’s the death coming? Dead yet?” Lordy… words are hard.

I know a decent number of writers at this point in my mid-life, and only two warned me about how completely terrible I would feel after I hit send to my editor. Amy Poehler, who said you just get “gray” as it comes down to the wire, and another writer who just turned in his debut novel, and who is now attempting to morph into the marketing machine his publisher needs him to be, except he suddenly found himself entirely without words. Nothing left to say. He’s a husk. This rarely ever happens to me, but my brain parts are wicked tired; I’m late with book reviews, guest posts and multiple other projects I’ve been stalling on for months. But of course, instead of doing any of those things, I hit send in my Outlook and immediately raced out to lunch with the girls.

Where did I go for lunch, you ask? To the 1990’s rom-com queen of all New York restaurants, the quintessential Meg Ryan of eateries: The Loeb Boathouse in Central Park, which used to have totally “meh” food and way too many people from Texas, all wearing shorts and comfortable shoes, and sporting golden rape whistles. It still has a few of those, except the mac and cheese there is now fantastically awesome! It’s like a huge flaming Baked Alaska of carbs and salt and butter fat. So restorative! And the company was fine indeed. I power-walked all the way there listening to Michael Buble to get in the mood, sweaty hair stuck to my neck, but it was SO what the doctor ordered. Lordy…

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It probably doesn’t help that my book, SPAZ: Adventures in Life, Love, and Electricity, tends to fall into the “sick-lit” category. It touches on epilepsy, the fun of breaking my face last year during a seizure and being a mute girl in here the city which is a curious business if you’ve never tried it. When you can’t talk, suddenly 8 million people tell you EVERYTHING. No wonder I’m fried!

Sick-lit is not new. In the Victorian Era, it focused primarily on heroines with tuberculosis. As a popular genre in the 1980’s, it predominantly featured young, sickly white girls who found waify redemption through handsome love interests and who wore makeup so that they could maintain the illusion of wellness until they were either healed or passed away tragically. Narratives of the 1980s also focused on a protagonist’s transformation from nerdy misfit to socially adept girl.

What makes sick-lit so complicated to write is the idea that if one depicts an illness in the wrong way, it might romanticize the condition and this can make things harder for the people actually dealing with the real thing. For my part, by normalizing something like epilepsy, I just didn’t want to diminish it or the surrounding struggles, which can be enormous. I also wanted a better narrative outcome. The electric girl should find agency, love and some degree of funny sanity amid all the thrashing about and ER visits.

In recent years, the voice given to chronic illness is borne out of personal experience and there are a lot of survivor narratives out there. Now, I love Gloria Gaynor as much as the next guy, but I didn’t want to write a survivor narrative because I just longed for some agency for the reader (and for me). I didn’t want a Lifetime Movie of the Week. (No offense to Lifetime, it’s just not my jam.) For me, the story was as much about what went comedically right as what went neurologically wrong. Add to that, my totally inadequate reckoning with both pieces of the pie, and that was what I was going for. I won’t know if it worked for a few years.

In any case, now that I’ve had my Baked Alaska of mac and cheese, it’s time to get to back to fiction, which is always easier for me since, having worked in Advertising for so long, telling big lies feels pretty on-brand.

Also, some big changes coming to GG: a new neurodiversity in NYC series, a store with snarky merch, a book club, a GG events calendar, embarrassing video from the SPAZ tour and some podcast-ish things. It’s all crazy exciting and suddenly making me a tad woozy… My stars, perhaps it’s… the vapors.

Stay rad lovelies, drink rosé and have a meaningful day – xoxo – gg

Why yes, I am a lefty ho…

Hello My Lovelies,

A quick post before the Cheeto-elect places his small, sweaty, orange, pussy-grabbing palm on a bible (leaving a stain, no doubt) and I morph back into a pre-existing condition—epilepsy. (My brain likes to spontaneously combust now and then. A genetic electrical issue, but what can you do?)

It goes without saying that there’s a definite buzz in the city this week. A reckoning humming… as though someone has strung high tension wires from skyscraper to tenement and back again. It’s a mood both distinctly electric and furtive. Like a burgeoning totalitarian regime, people pass each other on the street with expressions of crumpled worry… that say, “Are you one of us? Are you a… ahem… a friend? Oh, you’re not? Okay, no big!”

Just yesterday, I was trudging up Madison to the dentist in the freezing rain for my nine millionth root canal (that I cannot afford) when this homeless man came up to me and said, “Can I just tell you, I really like your boots?”

The snarky, jerky ne’er-do-well in my head replied, “Well then, clearly, I need to do some shopping!” (Only because these boots are from Costco. That’s right, the brand is “waterproof”)

But because New York is so bizarro-feeling these days, instead I said, “Thank you?”

And then, he launched into his whole elevator pitch, which when you’re a writer you do a lot of… but in my desire to be empathetic, I forgot that I still can’t make the right faces (post-accident) so I can mostly only look either terrified or uber cynical.

I must have looked really scared because a cabbie stopped traffic and called out to me, “Hey, are you okay??? Is he bothering you?”

And lo, in a voice that came out just like Greta Gerwig’s, I called back, “No, he just likes my footwear!” I’m a lefty ho, who’s as scared as the next person, right now.

But oy… it made me think that with all the protests and marches going on this week and going forward… we need to proceed thoughtfully, with compassion for those who think differently (or maybe not at all ) and keep a steady eye trained on intersectional politics… reversing stigma of all kinds, refraining from getting our collective dander up, being more inquisitive of each other and diffusing with humor wherever possible.

You just never know who is going to turn out to be a pal…

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If you plan to protest or march in NYC at any of the many efforts, just some handy tips!

Yours in solidarity, xoxo – gg

First Prince, Now Hodor… What Next?

Hello Lovelies,

Is it just hot as balls out, or what? A perfect day to binge watch by the AC while doing Blogilates on the side (anything to avoid the dreaded writer’s bum)

A bunch of you have written in to ask what I thought of Prince and then Game of Thrones last week… what with Hodor saving the day in an epic, grand mal time seizure in which he is trapped in a last-moment loop before his own horrible death.

I spend a lot of time these days thinking about how to transcend the niche of epilepsy. Either through humor, the personal essay or any kind of narrative…  and I can honestly say… I don’t know what I think. I cried with the rest of Gotham last Sunday night.

On the one hand, Hodor has been portrayed to us over the years as a giant broken simpleton–without high cognitive function. A person with no there, there. (And Bran has been a little turd to him all too often)

On the other, the joy of serialized TV is that with each episode, we, the viewers, are given the opportunity to constantly correct what we thought we knew and that’s super fun. Our curious human brains love it.

Last Sunday, we corrected our knowledge of Hodor’s inner life in a big way. For me, the real tragedy was that there was a there… there all along.

I want to believe the boundary between being able and disabled is becoming increasingly porous, but my concern is that without a horribly tragic demise… the respect, the tiny openings just aren’t there. I too chuckled at all the memes that followed GoT, but as an out spaz… I don’t want to be a doorstop… just because I’m still getting all my words back and am stuck in a bit of a time seizure, myself.

Hodor talk pretty some day?

Still noodling over it… Stay rad and cool. XOXO – GG

For more on the troubling ethics of Hodor… see this completely compelling piece in The Atlantic Monthly.

 

Welcome to Face Club…

Cartoon by the amazing Allie Brosh!

The first rule of Face Club is: you do not talk about Face Club.

To hell with that.

For those of you just joining us, it’s a little over a year since I shattered my face and jaw in a grand mal seizure. Worse still, I severed all the facial nerves that fan out like a daisy across the right side of my forehead, cheeks, lips and chin. This has meant no feeling or movement for things like speaking, eating, drinking, smiling and blinking. It took 11 months to be able to blink again on my own . Lately, I am relearning how to whistle… so that I might be able to kiss again. Right now, I can only smooch people like Auntie Mame… MWAAAAHHH! Beware, I practice all the time. I had no any idea how many muscles it takes to close one’s lips together, even just for a second! It’s like doing a prison push-up with my mouth!

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Much of the time, getting better seems to stretch out to infinity. Progress has been so fucking imperceptible… like clouds on a windless day. Grrrr… But the city has been a marvelous place to recover in that it affords so much anonymity. Hooray for strangers’ willful ignorance. Such a blessing in disguise!

Today, however, I woke up to a freakin’ miracle… I can finally raise my right eyebrow!

WOOHOO! YES, I can give people the side eye. I can fully AL GORE just about anyone I want… on command! It’s the best. To celebrate, I’m going to AL GORE people everywhere, all day! I might even sigh audibly when I do it just so they notice!

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XOXO –  GG

PS – my skull a year ago!

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My Beautiful Broken Brain… Wait, is that too high fallutin’?

Cartoon by the amazing Allie Brosh (hyperboleandahalf.com)

Yes, I came home from the wild and went in for the final reconstructive surgery…

Dr. Ira Sturman and Dr. KareemofWheat…  you are indeed the crafty Oliver Sacks-van Gogh-Jan Svankmajer team of maxillofacial artistry…

And to that poor/sweet anesthesiologist who yanked  me back into life by disemboweling me through my nose… Guantanamo-style… I’m so sorry if I scared you… don’t be afraid chica, it gets fucking better, I swear 🙂

And to Sherill and Nada… feel my love ladies! You are the greatest nurses in the world… you deserve some crazy-meaningful prize… or something… a big-ass raise.

Have been shuffling around my apartment having David Lynch-style real estate dreams and looking like a drunk lady, wearing a jockstrap on my chin…which is so not fair because I have been very, very good in that regard… but I am almost one year without a full grand mal seizure and I almost feel/look like me… Even if I can’t fully talk yet… I still love what’s crackling in my beautiful broken brain and I cannot wait to see this… Feel like I have lived it 100 times over…

And now to fight eviction… by the sweetest, most patient landlords who ever were… not that I wouldn’t just give them the keys because they are the best (and I will), but when you are like I am these days… all you crave is the constancy and sameness of your books and your friends 🙂

XOXO – GG

2016: On the Orgasmic Lure of ‘The Reset’

Day 29 (or so) from Jack London-Land and it’s safe to say things are getting a tad Grey Gardens up here. Hoo boy…

I’ll be frank … 2015 really blew. (yes, hello 2016… I love you already. Mwaahhh!!)

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I know everyone’s hatin’ on Gwynie these days, but the image was just so apt.

In giving this past year the sidelong glance it deserves… almost every bad thing that could happen… did happen… just like that scene in The Revenant. After reaching the high point of my professional life… I slid down the corporate ladder faster than a stripper down a greased pole. I’ll spare you the litany of bad breaks and missteps, but life was quickly turning into an Aimee Mann song … you know that one from Magnolia… I LOVE Aimee… she is my serious girl crush, but I do not want her as my life’s theme music anymore… Sorry Aimee. (You’re still hot)

3 days before Christmas I had a mini seizure… not a full rolling-on-the-ground grand mal… more like a petit. I was writing when it happened… finishing a true crime freelance gig that was just sooooooooo mind-like-a-dial-tone. Here’s exact moment when it happened… see how my typing goes all crazy?

seized.pngit was like swallowing a bolt of lightning and then… staring out across a great black chasm of solid darkness… at what I have always imagined a parsec to be… (a parsec is equal to about 3.26 light-years or 19 trillion miles). Casting around for a mooring in the BIG deep dark, it seemed I was the big deep dark. Pure absence.

I don’t know how I managed it, but I texted a panicked “help”… because I am out in the wilderness here. Quick-thinking friends sent some lovely locals to check on me… They reminded me of hipster versions of Mr and Mrs. Santa Claus… jolly and sweet… Good Samaritans unafraid of a spaz in distress. “We’ve seen the dog have seizures!” they told me.

And then, I slept and slept… like the deadest of the dead… with flashes of hip Mrs. Claus checking on me.

When I finally awoke, this time was different… But how to describe it without sounding like a damn sissy… My friend Camille says that after I have a seizure… I always look like I’ve just had sex. That’s kind of how this was… it was a true form of being awake… not in any airy-fairy-Zen-way (sorry Buddhists)… but a concrete… flint-cracking awake with this singular spark of joy, like that amazing feeling you have right after a big, ginormous sneeze, or on that first, luxurious morning inhale of coffee…  I have not had this feeling in so long… since the big, bad accident–last year. I’ve heard it called “the beginners mind.” And it was as if suddenly… I might actually get my life back… like George Bailey in a It’s a Wonderful Life realizing he’s not a goner… he may be a total loon, but he’s really, super-duper alive.

And it came with a kind of creative euphoria… a constant, vivd flow of ideas, words, images, undertones and moods all rushing at me like a gorgeous river of stars in my mind’s eye. It was like a completely amazing software upgrade. Something I never want to let go of… like my children or my city.

While we’ve all been bemoaning the oh-so-tiresome Resolution these past weeks… I have been reminded of something a very dear friend once taught me (and keeps teaching me again and again). She is a doctor, but not just any doctor… she is one who specializes in the absolute, from-the-ground-up-things-are-decimated-rebuild of a person… she is meticulous, an artist, at times she is pure, crazy-making OCD, but she has schooled me in the ways and means of the reset… the profound, methodical comfort of putting things back, the satisfaction of knowing exactly where things go, of knowing precisely what instruments and materials are needed next, and having them perfectly at hand… that the very act and aftermath of the reset can be just the thing… just the rush… one needs… especially for 2016. For this lesson and my little seizure, I’m grateful.

I wish this feeling for all of us this year. Especially Gotham.

XOXO – gg

 

GG Goes Down…

Isn’t it amazing how sometimes life can feel so… BIG?  So badass?

New York City is particularly good at giving this feeling—especially if you happen to be a writer/maker/schemer of any sort. Every moment is so full… so ripe and ready to speak itself. Life… is always on the brink. Up until last week, mine felt like this… (That’s right… you apologize to me Lenny Kravitz because this is my show…)


Then, I had an accident.  A very badass accident.

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“You had a seizure in Gristedes and broke your face. We’ve had to wire your jaw shut.”

What? But I’m claustrophobic…

“We used plates and pins… ”

For what?… My face?

“You won’t be able to speak for some time.”

But that’s kind of my job lately…

And suddenly…  life could become very small, but tonight… as I consider my crappy, lovely apartment, crowded with books… the thrum of central park amid open windows, the vague smell of piss and neighbors, life does not feel wired shut.

Instead, it looms large…  fuller than ever.

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for now…

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xx – gg