How To Wake A Child

Children are human, which means they have at least five senses and don’t like to be bossed about. Wake them with the gentleness and respect you wish them to exhibit as adults. You are about to disillusion them from cuddled dreamscapes into a waking life of oatmeal and active shooter drills; give them a moment to grieve the loss of night and anticipate the possibilities of day.

Wake the senses

  1. Enter the room quietly.
  2. Crack the blinds to let in the morning light—enough to bring a curiosity of shape and color to the world but not so much their eyes squeeze tight against it.
  3. If weather and location coöperate, open the window to let in the sounds of morning.
  4. If you use oils or aromatics, diffuse a citrus scent.
  5. Make the air comfortable. If they fell asleep with a fan but now it’s a chilly morning, turn it off. Children aren’t ascetics, they don’t grow to know God through discomfort. Create an environment they want to rise into instead of burrow away from.
  6. Leave the room and go about your day. Grind your coffee, sizzle your bacon, walk sure-footed down the hall. Don’t be an obnoxious roommate, but add your patina to the waking world. Their room is still a sanctuary, but the world is turning without them. Waking is an opportunity—not an edict—to join it.

Sometimes, this is all you need to do. Within minutes, they come trundling out of the room, book and blanket in hand. These are the best days, but they aren’t the most days.

Wake the mind

  1. After no less than 15 minutes, quietly re-enter the room.
  2. Sit by them on the bed. If they’re not yet too old to hate it, stroke their forehead or curl up next to them. A minute or two of your silent physical presence will engage their mind in ways you don’t see.
  3. Finally, quietly greet them with the first words anyone should hear: “Good morning, love.”

Lastly, remember

You, too, are a human in process and should wake gently. Work with the grain: make your room dark at night; sleep with a window cracked so the sounds of morning precede you; leave your phone outside your room; use a dedicated alarm clock with dim illumination.

The oncoming day is hard but boundless. Prepare accordingly.

The Tourism Board Invites You To Never Leave Sunny Carmel-by-the-Sea


Two other things about Carmel: no overhead power lines, and my gas pump stopped automatically at $27.00 even. The place has a magical spell.

So you’re saying there is a power and oil shortage.

“Naturally sourced!” you croon as the hungry mob descends upon the farmer’s house.

“No matter your politics you can truly #deleteuber here!” you tap as the National Guard shoves you into a reinforced bus.

“The sun and the wind compete for your love like bickering parents, one showering you with warmth and the other with its caresses.” You put the phone down and mop your brow with an arm clothed in rough cotton. Your hand is trembling slightly. You rewrap the cloth around your blisters and reach again for the pickaxe.

“just watch out you married men! Vows have a way of getting lost on the 101 ;)”

The guard taps you on the shoulder and you quickly slide the phone back into your pocket. He continues down the aisle and you return your attention back to the dais. Three young women, hooded and seated. Their ropes swing idly in front of them, each like an ambivalent concierge. “IMMORALITY,” the head nun begins her screeching, preemptive eulogy.

“Family trouble? Everyone finds their happy at the beach!”

You finish wrapping the satchel in tar paper and shove it hurriedly into Ethan’s arms. He stares at you, catches of moonlight betraying the occasional shimmer of a tear. “Stay close to the rocks until you’re around the point.” You force your whispers through a throat quickly closing with emotion. “Let Ash paddle once you’re past the breakers, tell him stories, keep him occupied. He cannot make a noise. He. Cannot. Make. A. Noise.” Ethan nods. Ash is on the makeshift craft, still asleep, still wrapped in his issued blanket. Searchlights cut through the sky.

And Then November

How young and dumb I was in June.

I snapped this photo from my hotel room at the New Orleans Marriott at around 6 A.M. You can’t tell if the clouds are coming or going, but I can tell you: they were going. This foreboding apocalyptic hell-scape was rolling on past and I happened to snap it at the perfect time, with the sun just peeking on out from underneath the oppressive (and strangely, deeply blue) cloud-bank. I hunted for a good quote to accompany it, and was gutted by the absolutely perfect line from Dave Eggers’ novel about Hurricane Katrina, Zeitoun:

Yes, a dark time passed over this land, but now there is something like light.

Great, right? Not only did it fit the image perfectly, and not only was it literally about the city captured in the photograph, but this was June of 2016. Trump had, inexplicably, survived the primary and was the presumptive Republican nominee for President of the United States of America, but nobody – nobody – expected him to win. We had seen an incredibly ugly past year of politicking. The dark clouds of racism, sexism, transphobia, and xenophobia – battles long fought and often lost but ever so slowly marching toward light – had rolled back over our sunshine, but we thought this was merely a hiccup on the way forward.

And then November happened.

Well, of course, and then so many other things happened first, culminating in Comey’s absurd and probably election-defining letter to Congress. And Donald J. Trump, con-artist playboy misogynist imbecile, was elected to the highest office in the land and the most powerful position in the world.

And now my picture looks pretty damn naive. Or worse, like it’s celebrating exactly the opposite of what it is. As if I might be suggesting that the previous eight years of a dignified, intelligent, diplomatic executive were actually an oppression, and the orange glow of populism was finally cracking through the bleak to save us.

That is certainly not the case.

So anyway. Here’s to the next four years, or however long this craven unqualified pop-tart dismantles the country with his pendulum-swing between incompetence and unbelievable malevolence.

This is a dark time, but soon there will be something like light, again.

Something Like Light

Sunrise peeks out from under a foreboding cloudbank above the Mississippi River in New Orleans, seen from the 19th floor of the Marriott Hotel on Canal St.

Yes, a dark time passed over this land, but now there is something like light.

– Dave Eggers, “Zeitoun”

The Only Child

It was five in the morning when they heard him coughing again. They were so used to it that at first the father sunk his face deeper into the pillow and prayed it would stop, not a prayer of healing but a prayer of self-preservation. But the coughs became ragged and accompanied by little shrieks and sobs, and they knew something was different this time. The mother pushed his arm and they rolled off opposite sides of the bed and ran into his room where he was curled, wracked and sobbing, a pig tail of limbs and snot and wet hair.

The father carried him into the bathroom and turned the red knob. While the room filled with steam he shifted the boy to one arm and unscrewed all but one of the light bulbs over the mirror, but when he turned it on the boy whimpered in even that dim sudden light so the father turned it off and sat on the toilet and held the boy in the steam and the dark. The mother tried to make the boy drink from a bottle of iced orange juice but he just rasped and buried his sweat-soaked head into his father’s arm, and by noon he was comatose, and by midnight he was dead.

The mother did not hear the words. The doctor said them again. The father stood between the mother and doctor and took the words and stared them back at the doctor, and stared them at the ground, and stared them around the room, looking for the seams that would reveal the illusion and collapse the dream. But the doctor was still making new words, his mask pulled down and bobbing like an idiotic wattle beneath his chin. His eyes were watery and sincere but the things he said were compressed and mathematically designed to move the family through the stages without appearing to move the family through the stages, and he seemed a little inconvenienced when the mother didn’t beg him frantically to change his words and also did not fall to her knees like an empty bellows, choking on the fire in the air, the way parents do when their five year old child is a dumb lifeless shell in the next room. She stared away at a painting on the wall and the father clutched her arm and her eyes were glassy beads and her mouth was a rigid horrible flat line.

The funeral was very short. The father said a few words but the mother only sat by the casket and watched the people. Before they lowered the lid she kissed the boy on the forehead and she did not cry.

  1. I made an appointment.
  2. You what?
  3. I called. They were very understanding and I made an appointment.
  4. You should have consulted me.
  5. I did consult you, and you said I shouldn’t, and I disagreed.
  6. This is madness.
  7. Listen to me. Charles.
  8. This is a goddamn madness.
  9. Charles! Let’s just hear what they have to say. There might be a cha—
  10. Don’t say a chance.
  11. There might be. One. A chance to have him—
  12. Goddammit! (He threw his laptop and it skidded across the floor.)
  13. That was a really destructive thing you just did.

They would have to move. The thing wouldn’t make sense to anyone outside of them, and besides, they would only need themselves. The edges of their wholeness, the definition of their boundaries, the space that made up who they were and just as importantly the negative space that made up who they weren’t and was itself another type of definition, were all so clear to her now. Elated, she planned, and loving, he helped, though a concern burned deep inside him.

He arranged things with his job and she told a story to their family and friends. Even the people who advised against change during such a delicate time knew to let grief express itself in its own voice. If they needed to move away for a while, even if that was a really bad idea, then they wanted to support them.

They used his hair. He had been buried whole but they had a lock from his first haircut, and the quiet scientist dressed as a doctor said that would be enough. They took half and dropped it into a vial and whisked it away to be liquified and centrifuged and studied under microscopes and generally made magic.

She took hormone pills, and there was a terrifying period where they had to talk about candidates and survival rates, but in the end it was a textbook case, had there been a textbook. They injected her one morning while she stared up exposed at the buzzing fluorescence and within two months they heard the immaculate heart beat from within her.

They made the due date the same. Not that the boy had been born on his, but so the development would be the same when they induced her. She did all things again, as best she could remember. She played the same music and went for the same runs and ate the same foods. The new house had a different geography than the old and this worried her, but they arranged it closely using memories and manifest recordings.

One night they stood in the doorway of the nursery and he held her pulsing stomach, and her eyes shone at the reliving.

On the appointed day, the boy was born again. They gave him the name bequeathed to him, and stared at him and at each other and the bellows filled with clean air. The boy grasped her finger and her eyes thawed and ran and she looked at him deeply and said “My son, my son. My son, my son.” The father wept and clutched them both and kissed him and kissed her, and the burning was for this moment suppressed by reuniting.