The Dutch House

The Dutch House

When I was young, my family lived with my grandmother for a time in Washington, D.C. , in one of the old neighborhoods with houses of colonial brick and Italianate stucco. Grandmother’s house was a colonial, with perfect symmetry: a window on each side of the front door, three windows across the top, and a little pediment decorating the top of the entry. The house was in a neighborhood with a dizzying array of similarly designed houses, on blocks and blocks of numbered and alphabetically-named streets. I memorized the address – as every city child should do – and can recite it to this day.

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Joni Mitchell’s Blues

Joni Mitchell’s Blues

I was at an Arists’ Residency, far from home, and things weren’t going well. There was lots of chatter about people you knew in New York, and I didn’t know anybody in New York unless you count my college roommate who lives in Harlem and my cousin who lives in New Jersey. The people I knew were “people I loved,” but they weren’t “people you knew in New York.” I mean, I don’t think they went to the same parties. So, over dinner, I stayed mute. People didn’t want to know about my small town friends, my cousins, my community organizing extravaganzas for towns of 1,500 people. My towns were not New York.

So, I was blue. Also, the writing wasn’t going well. I’d look out my window, watch antelope zoom like shape-shifters over the dry hills, and think, “Well, this is going nowhere.” My novel was so long, I couldn’t even remember what was in it. I had so many characters, I didn’t remember who they were. And I couldn’t find things.  Read more

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