Saturday, September 12, 2015

Spill it, Crawl it, Urban Sprawl it!

Today Noah & I went to a Pippi Longstocking party at someone's house we know from the cafe. It's a perfect illustration of what we're calling "spill." Relationships begun in the cafe grow to the point that the cafe can no longer contain them. They literally spill into phone calls, work spaces, homes, and events. And the relationships are therefore no longer dependent on the cafe in order to carry on.

It's funny to think about how many different relationships spilled just today. Driving home from a story-crafting collaboration in the cafe, Noah and I saw one of the baristas walking down the sidewalk. We rolled our windows down and screamed, "Hey! Need a ride?!" Turns out he didn't, but that was crazy. We parked in the neighborhood of the party house and as we exited our car, the postal worker pulled up beside us in her truck, slowed, and said, "Hey, didn't you guys used to live over the hill?" Turns out she subbed for a while for our postal worker and remembered us. We asked how she's managing the heat wave and thanked her for delivering the mail despite it, and as she pulled away, Noah yelled, "I LOVE YOU!" Her brake lights came on as she leaned out the open door and said, "Well I love you too!" 

Before we even started on the epic steps to the party, my phone rang. It was my dear cafe pal. Why was she calling? Oh, no reason, just to tell me that I've become her closest friend, that she's so grateful for me, and that she loves me. And I got to ditto her. After the party, we drove to cafe pals' Doug & Linda's where Noah was set to have a sleepover. As we climbed yet another set of stairs, this time with a Buzz Lightyear pillowcase full of jammies and stuffed animals, I couldn't help feeling overwhelmed. By the lives that are entwining and integrating in beautiful ways, yes in the middle of superficial, 8-laned, smoggy Los Angeles. 

Saturday, August 15, 2015

Living in Public

Noah and I are barely ever in our sleeping cube (house). For lots of reasons, some serious and some stupid (like being repulsed by my 8 year-old carpet.)

This means we're almost always somewhere "visible." It's a vulnerable thing to live your private life largely in public. Sometimes it's inconvenient, like when you need to change clothes without looking homeless changing in the restaurant restroom. Sometimes it's hurtful, like when people get annoyed that a child is ordering for himself and "taking too long."

The incalculable benefits, however, of being "around" befriending the most extraordinary cross section of human life, far outweighs the drags. My hope is that through this external experiment in living, our development as social beings is accelerated. The idea is that by being "out and about" there's more good to rub up against and less opportunity to hide your crap:

If Noah disobeys me at our table, grabbing 8 grapes instead of the 4 I said he could have, I send him to the corner to sit in time out. Yes, in public. Yes, I don't care. Why should it be OK to misbehave in public but not be disciplined in the same space and time?

If he fails to answer someone who asks him a question, instead of making excuses for him, I look him straight in the eye and say, "Look at ____ and answer their question. If you don't, we leave." Yes, I "threaten" him with consequences. Rudeness is ugly, and he's better off feeling that soon and very soon.

But sometimes I go too far and my beastly disciplining is what's on display. Noah can't give me a timeout, but I've felt some raised eyebrows from onlookers beholding my harshness and impatience. I inwardly groan. And lay into myself mentally for the next hour.

And yet there are also the times, like yesterday, when even my own self-flagellation is put into check publicly. It is in these times that I am overall grateful to live my life outdoors in the light among all the eyes and ideas. We were on our normal scooter loop but on an unusual mission. It was 7pm, and we were delivering a wedding present to our cafe pals Gen & Clark. Yes, it was a watercolor portrait of a stained-glass pirate cat. Noah and I weren't getting along. I was being a mean Mommy. He was being a little punk. We were both hot and thrown off from a weird long nap. While I puffed smoke out my nostrils, he scooted ahead of me 30 feet rolling his eyes.

And in this gap was standing a UPS delivery man with a waxed handlebar mustache. He stopped me and said, "You know, I have to compliment you. I've seen you and your son around the neighborhood and at Costco, and you are just so great with him." I sighed and said, "Really? Oh man, you have no idea how much I needed to hear that right now. Thank you."

I felt myself soften toward Noah, not to live up to this guy's expectations, but because I was put in touch with our relationship again. And the pettiness faded.

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Just a bunch of organic, free-range, funky chickens

When you have this kind of coop...
You lay these kind of eggs ... 

That hatch into these kinds of chicks...
That grow into these kinds of chickens...

Free-range, organic chickens clucking through the unlikeliest coop at the unlikeliest time in American history... becoming and creating the unlikeliest of all things: real community.

Monday, May 18, 2015

Mug Shot: Leon

Who's this? Oh, it's just cafe pal, Leon. He used to breed leopards before inventing the first stand-up paddle boat. But that was all after he got run over by a military tank on the island of Jerba. Don't worry, he willed himself out of paralysis and joined the Israeli circus.

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Bean Scene: Plug In

On my way out to my car, I ran into a regular on his way in from his car.
He looked upset.
"You OK?" I asked.
"Well..." he shrugged.
"I'm just here on my lunch break. I drove from south of down town to come here because I just feel off. I feel disconnected and wanted to be somewhere familiar," he continued.
"Oh man, I'm sorry. Need a hug?" I offered.
I continued to my car.
He continued from his car.
And everything was OK.

Saturday, May 9, 2015

Bean Scene: Mothers Day Community Style

Fact: Two years ago I became a single Mom.
Fact: It has been a wide awake nightmare that would terrify even Vampire Zombies.
Fact: Nonetheless, Noah. I get Noah. I get to be his Mommy. I get to teach him poems, help him problem solve how to build barns out of straws, sing him to sleep, bake cupcakes with him, make up with him when I'm too harsh or he's disobedient, watch him pick his own outfits, let him run under my legs when I'm doing ballet, climb trees with him, build puzzles with him, find out what ideas he has, find out what he's feeling, find out who he is.

This Mothers Day all I wanted to do was hang out with him doing normal stuff. But when I got to the cafe, some dear friends had conspired to teach Noah how to make his Mommy feel extra loved. They had gone shopping for expensive and personalized sweets and a card. They had Noah secretly write on the card and deliver the whole package to me with a huge hug and kiss.

Today I feel not only lucky to be Noah's mom, but lucky to be raising him amongst a community of people who do things like this. My parents are in Western Pennsylvania. My brother is hours away. But here I am, In Los Angeles, a single mom with no nearby family, and yet so rich in relationships. When we stop focusing on what we don't have, on what we've lost or are afraid to lose and stare steadily at the gold in our hands, then truly we can say: "I have nothing to complain about."

Happy Mothers Day to all the Mothers in all the corners of the world. And Happy Mothers Day to all those who are loving mothers day by day.