Discomfort Food

I toodled at twenty m.p.h. to the grocery store today, on a new tiny pill that’s supposed to diminish some of the anxiety I’ve been experiencing lately—an anxiety which, now that I think of it, may have pervaded my existence for, oh—let me get my calculator out, hang on: tap, tap, plus tap, uh-huh—forever? Does “forever” sound right, all ye who love me? I just started this new regime, and immediately plugged my coffee grinder into my computer. Still, when I got to the grocery store, I managed to remember what I needed: milk, yogurt, apples. “Don’t think negative or sad thoughts,” I told myself (something the lovely pill-giving doctor I saw yesterday advised me to do) as I perused the aisles of the IGA, passing what seemed like row upon row of dead animals and food for poor, fat people. I rolled by the dog food aisle and averted my eyes, but too late: Oh, my God, there is a massive, dog-sized hole in my life. Then suddenly I realized I was in a grocery store with food: Fuck! All Julie and I did for seven years together was eat, and talk while we ate, and laugh.

Look! (those are some kind of bread-and-butter spectacles, I believe):

Do meds have nutrients? I don’t think I can go shopping for a while. Anyway, clearly they’re not working.

Going Down

Elevator from "The Shining"

I travelled to see the chiropractor today, though he didn’t show up. The office is downstairs in the sub-basement of a post-war building on Lexington Avenue, and I pressed the “down” button. As I was getting in, a tall, skinny young black guy in a nice black suit and a shiny red motorcycle helmet resting on top of his head like a second head, got in. The doors closed and he said, “Oooo. You’re going down“—like he knew what had been happening lately: that I couldn’t stop crying, and probably needed some medical help or else I might not be able to get out of bed in the morning. I said, “Yes,” and laughed a little, and then said, “Sorry,” about taking him down with me. He looked at me and he said, “Don’t worry—you’ll be O.K.,” and smiled. Which was just weird, and also comforting. When the doors opened, I told him I liked his hat and he kind of tipped it at me (as much as one can tip a motorcycle helmet), and I got off.


When I was in France this summer, I met with my teacher, Dzongsar Khyentse Rinpoche, for five minutes. He’s busy—he has commitments, a foundation to run, a lot of students who want to see him: thousands. In fact, we are all clambering to see him. Who knows what we want from him—a lot of weird things. This summer, for instance, he cautioned us, at the program in France, not to talk to him about so-called “tantric sex.” He said something like, “I don’t know what tantric sex is, and I don’t want to know. So if you think you’re having it, don’t tell me about it.” We can be pretty crazy.

Anyway, I met with him for five minutes. We were outside, on a porch in the back of the house in the exquisite Dordogne Valley where he was staying. He was in robes. I feel like he was barefoot, but probably not—he was probably wearing sandals. He walked in front of me, slowly, his back towards me, when I first got outside, and I followed. It’s when he walks, that I often see him as a prince, or these days, as a king. He has that quality.

Finally, he motioned for me to sit down in a chair by a table. Then he leaned up against that same table, about a foot from me, crossed his ankles one over the other, and smiled at me, or maybe even chuckled. We talked, and he laughed a lot, like he was happy, and having fun. It was like we were on a date—he was very near, and he was having a nice time. (We weren’t on a date, FYI, don’t worry.) But that’s what he made me feel—that he was having a nice time, just being there for that five minutes one early evening in the Dordogne Valley. It felt personal.

Like I said, he is very busy, there were other people waiting in the foyer to see him. Many people had come before me on that day, and the days before that. But he just leaned against the table, and smiled. He wasn’t anywhere but there. It sounds like nothing, but it startled me. Though it was completely simple and subtle, it was a gift. The gift was, I’m here. The gift was, You’re O.K., Deitch—you’re completely O.K.

But I don’t feel O.K. like that. I don’t feel, inside myself, that I know that kind of acceptance. No one’s ever treated me like that before, like there was nothing at all wrong. (This is nothing “spiritual,” by the way. This is not a woo-woo thing, with incense and bells and prayer.) This is what I left my summer with. This is how it is: You’re O.K., Deitch—you’re completely O.K.

Anyway, it’s time for me to tell you this. I probably haven’t conveyed it, the message. I haven’t been treated like that, and I haven’t treated people like that. So now I’d like to convey it. I’m going to start here. I’m going to start now.

(Photo: Rinpoche by Pawo Choyning Dorji; taken with a Hipstamatic iPhone camera)

The Virgin and the Gypsy

I think it’s time to post this. I wrote it one morning in Berlin this past summer, for Dzongsar Khyentse Rinpoche, on the occasion of his birthday.

This morning, bedroom

We were getting high, my friend Janet and I, behind the church by the grocery store. Back then, if you got caught, you’d be taken into the station, put before a judge—who knows what else: Raped? Ruined? We were fourteen, fifteen tops. We were the smart girls in our class, and still some of the junkies in town knew us and called us the Virgin and the Gypsy. Back then, when I got high, the earth would sometimes tip and I would start falling. It was not a pleasant feeling, but it was better than the other one, the one that I still feel sometimes–the overwhelming knowing that I am actually, like a new bird fallen from its nest, too alone.

Anyway, we were behind the church, sitting on the summer grass, and we were high, when suddenly we heard the sound of footsteps. Now, the church and the grocery store were separated only by a chain-link fence and an embankment (on the grocery-store side) crowded with trees and garbage. We were about six feet from the fence, almost close enough to reach over and touch it with our outstretched fingers. We could see the trees on the other side, but we could not see the person approaching us. We could only hear their heavy footsteps in the dry leaves. I said we were stoned—did I say we were falling?
Let me take a quick break to say that for my tenth birthday, my mother gave me twenty dollars, and sent me with our housekeeper to Chinatown. She couldn’t come with me on this birthday journey, because my father was very sick. I didn’t know that my father was dying, right then, at the time—I just knew that I was spending my tenth birthday alone. O.K. What I wanted for my twenty dollars was to find something that would make my father feel better. I scoured Chinatown looking for that remedy. I paced the winding streets, endured the dancing chicken and the fish smothering in their tanks. I bought him a pair of pajamas from some men with comb-overs, but that wasn’t it. It, it turns out, was perfect: Though my father was a Jew, what I found for him was a plaster Buddha, about a foot and a half high, spray-painted gold.
You mentioned the dog eating its own shit and not looking back. I’m happy (and afraid) to report that I eat my own shit less and less, but when I do eat it, I always look back. I always look back. I trust nothing and no one. I am trying my best to trust you.
My father died three days later.
The footsteps were heavy and slow, and were definitely heading up the embankment in our direction, as we fell towards them, stoned out of our minds. I stabbed out my joint in the grass. (Grass to grass, ashes to dirt.) I could hear that Janet had stopped breathing. I stopped breathing, too. Continue reading “The Virgin and the Gypsy”

Scooby’s Song: No One

I found it. Scooby, FYI, sang the chorus: “No one, no one, no wa-uh-uh-uhn, can get in the way of what I feel for yoooooo.” He didn’t have a good voice at all, but it made us all happy—even Dolly, and maybe Scout—so no one cared.

It’s the middle of the night. I couldn’t sleep. And then the song popped up in my mind, like a welcome fortune in a Magic 8 Ball. I’ve been worrying about Julia. I’ve been worrying about me. I feel suddenly afraid: We’ve lost our three dogs and each other, all in two-and-a-half months. I don’t know what’s happening.

This song is dedicated to us all:


All night I’ve been trying to remember the name of the love song that Julia and I used to sing in Scooby’s singing voice—or what we imagined was Scooby’s singing voice. I can’t remember—can’t even conjure the tune in my mind, or the words, because my memory has vanished. I used to be able to make Julia laugh, singing Scooby’s lonely song, in his sincere, out of tune croon, too loud and high—and Scooby would come into the living room from the bedroom where he’d have been sleeping under the bed, his glorious tail wagging, hearing the song and the laughter. He knew the singing was about him, how his earnest innocence made us happy.

I am stuck here, in this past happiness, so recent that I still can’t believe it wouldn’t come back to me, if I were just lucky enough to stand in that room once more time, and sing that silly song. How is that I’m suffering over the loss of what made me happy? This must be like the grief of death.


A louder, more aggressive dog like Scooby seemed harder to love than the others, because he scared people with his size and his barking, and he picked on the smaller, less powerful anies, like Bodhi and Scout. One time Scooby scared Bodhi so bad that she flew out of the pile of boxes she was hiding in in Julia’s and my bedroom, tried to jump up on the windowsill, misjudged, and went flying through the window of the loft, landing in the middle of our downstairs neighbors’ barbeque. Julia and I were standing there when this happened (we’d just moved in together—it was Independence Day), and we watched as Bodhi’s body hit the screen, popped it out of the window, hung there in space for a moment, and then dropped, like a parachutist without a parachute, out of sight. She survived.

Scoob and Deitch

The years went by, though, and Scooby got older and mellowed, and he became a guy particularly easy to love—that is, loving him was deep. The thing was, his initial aggression so clearly came out of fear and anxiety—he was such a sensitive dog, a rescue, so vulnerable of heart—and so when he calmed down, his true self, underneath all the bluster, was more heartbreaking and beautiful than if he’d been just an ordinary guy, with a thick skin and a mind of arrogant ignorance. He was a lesson in patience that way, a lesson in the rewards of sticking with. His love, strangely, felt real; it wasn’t about cookies and walks—it was about you and him.
Good journey, Scoob. Thank you for every single bit of it.

P.S. Here’s a song for Scooby (it’s one of his):

Chris, 15

We had no reason to be friends, this boy Chris and I. He was a jock, a class clown, a guy who drank beer and got Bs, maybe Cs. His friends sat somewhere else in the cafeteria, who knows where. He lived in a modest house with his big family. He could balance a spinning basketball on his finger for forever; the toe of one of his Cons was worn from dragging it every time he made a jumpshot. I was a freak, a smart girl. My family was coming apart. I had been suspended from school twice: once for wearing overalls, once for refusing to salute the flag. For some reason, we started talking on the playground at lunch.

It was springtime, 1971, maybe. I had just turned fifteen, and day after day, this unlikely boy and I would drift towards each other from across the field. He was tall and skinny and wore button-down shirts and jeans. He had wavy hair with bangs that swooped. We were in the ninth grade, and he was the star player on all teams. It was ridiculous: I had no pom-poms; I didn’t even want to wear a skirt. We would talk, I don’t remember about what. All I remember is the sudden, daily slow drift towards him. He was a nice person; he had a rare charm.

Anyway, on this one day, we were standing at the edge of the playground, right by the small school parking lot. I know this because I remember stepping up and down on the curb a few times. It was a Friday, and there were two or three other kids around. They were talking about a party that was happening that night, at someone’s house near the beach. Somehow Chris was standing behind me, his arms around my shoulders. How did that happen? I was not easy with boys. He was funny, though, always kidding everyone about one thing or another, and that kind of boy can touch you and it’s O.K. So he had his arms around my shoulders, and maybe he was swinging me a little, back and forth. He asked me if I wanted to come to the party. I had my own friends, my own things to do on a Friday night. Yes, I said, sure.

Continue reading “Chris, 15”

The Beach

A picture of my beach. (Photo by Bob McInnis)

We were walking towards the water. The Sound is just down the road from my place, at the bottom of a very steep set of wooden stairs, and she hadn’t seen it yet. She literally stopped in her tracks in her big green rubber boots, and took a step back when the water came into view, as if she had been hit by wind. The beach was gorgeous. I think she said “Oh my God,” or something like it— “Oh,” maybe—or maybe it was just an intake of breath, and I said, “What?” And she started to say whatever it was, and then she stopped. She glared at me.

“Tell me,” I said, about her obvious delight at the water, or I said something like “Tell me”—maybe I said, “What?” and then, “What were you thinking?” But she was already angry at me, and had been for I have no idea how long—weeks? months? Something had happened somewhere in the weeks or months before, though it was nothing she had named. “You know how I feel about the beach,” she said, or something like it, meaning, “Why can’t you just leave me alone?”

I didn’t understand at the time what she meant. I thought we had been having fun. But when I wrote this little story, I finally saw: My wanting to know how she felt had, in her mind, become an aberration, a perversion even, definitely an offense. I hadn’t meant to invade the country of her being. I loved that country.

It’s just that it had been a while since I’d had something so beautiful to offer her, and now I did: a beach, glittering like a diamond across the expanse of the world. It wasn’t just any beach; it was mine, and I was giving it to her. It was fitting offering: magic to magic.  I had no way of knowing that her feelings had changed; she used to love to come to my home.


I took LB’s iphone home last night by accident. She had heated me up some cauliflower au gratin, late, because I am ailing and she is LB (that is, unusually wonderful), and we had talked, while Jotto, her young terrier, who spent much time with Scout in Scout’s waning days (we had come to refer to him as Scout’s physician, Dr. Jottstein) slept on the couch between us. LB and Lynn have been very kind to me lately, listening for hours to my insane, sad ramblings. And then I went and took LB’s iPhone.

Anyway, on the way back from dropping it off this morning, I was thinking how beautiful it is in East Marion today: it’s raining, and the trees, yellow, red, orange, are wildly trance-dancing, their leaves, free, running away quickly down the road. But then it occurred to me, and I’m sorry: This beauty is death. To us it’s gorgeous, but to the trees, it’s the end of their cycle, the shutting down of their glory.

So what about that? I think that that may be an example of emptiness (though I don’t really know): Awaken to the reality that nothing is what it seems, or maybe even what it is, ever. It is not this and it is not that. In any case, we are always, in everything, somewhere between the beauty of the autumn and the death of the trees.

Frankly, though, at the moment, I envy the happy people with all their cozy stuff and their calm thoughts. When I think of myself in my nice old life, I am made completely uncomfortable by my smugness and my oblivion about the fact that all of that was careening toward the edge of the big cliff. Fuck! Love your family! Be incredibly kind!

Oh, and I have a question. Is there a scatologist in the house? Because this is the stairway that leads down from my place in the middle of the night. (The photo was taken on one of the many middle-of-the-night forays that Scout and I took when he couldn’t sleep, and couldn’t stop spinning.) It’s very steep, with narrow stairs. Just to illustrate, Julia was taking Scooby up them on one of the two trips she took out here, and he actually fell through a space in the banister, and would have been hung by his leash and collar had I not magically been under the stairs, coming out of the laundry room, to catch him, and push him back up through the crack. (Rhonestly, he was on Xanax at the time, so that both created the problem, and made it bearable while it was happening.)

Anyway, today, when I left my house to return LB’s phone, I discovered a pile of animal shit at the top of the stairs, by my door. It was not that of a dog, and probably not of a deer (there’s a lot of that around here, but downstairs). What could it have been though? I’m going to post it, in case someone has a guess. And I’m sorry for that, because it’s gross. But while I’m getting down to all the facts of life, I think maybe some shit could enter the story.

The truth is that I woke up in the middle of the night last night, very, very frightened, and, for the second night in a row, slept with my giant mag-lite curled in my arms like a rifle. I wonder whether I didn’t hear some creature outside, scuffling and snurfling and shitting in a dream-crashing way. I would love to know who I’m dealing with. Thanks in advance!

Love, Deitch

No More Second Chances

I am standing out on the edge of a cliff. There’s no way to stay balanced here, because the wind is coming from all directions—a big push from the east, a wave from the north: I know the too-violent shove from the south is coming. This is life. I am fifty-four years old, and the youthful dance with the winds has turned to a fight to keep from falling. I no longer have an interest in this battle. I’m tired, and I’m sad.

From this dark place, tonight, there’s something for you: love the people you love well. Be as kind and unselfish as you can be. They are only on this planet for a nanosecond, and you, their person, will have a huge effect on their tiny, fleeting, windy moment of a life. Don’t think you’re insignificant; you’re not. You are very powerful. You hold their life in your hand. This is it, right now. There is nothing but this. Someday, without any warning, there will be no more fun todays, no more sweet tonights, no more let’s, and let’s, no more chances. Your time for one more chance will be gone forever. Be careful.

Anyway, here’s one of my favorite poems. It’s by Louise Glück. She’s talking to God.


In your extended absence, you permit me
use of earth, anticipating
some return on investment. I must report
failure in my assignment, principally
regarding the tomato plants.
I think I should not be encouraged to grow
tomatoes. Or, if I am, you should withhold
the heavy rains, the cold nights that come
so often here, while other regions get
twelve weeks of summer. All this
belongs to you: on the other hand,
I planted the seeds, I watched the first shoots
like wings tearing the soil, and it was my heart
broken by the blight, the black spot so quickly
multiplying in the rows. I doubt
you have a heart, in our understanding of
that term. You who do not discriminate
between the dead and the living, who are, in consequence,
immune to foreshadowing, you may not know
how much terror we bear, the spotted leaf,
the red leaves of the maple falling
even in August, in early darkness: I am responsible
for these vines.