the chuck essay is easily the scariest part of my book-to-be. telling stories about how i try to do right by other creatures is fine, i do that all the time, but in talking about him i'm just pan without his shadow. or am i his shadow? as a little scrap of night in a shelter in san francisco he had a himness i couldn't stop watching. i spent the thirteenish years of our lives together trying to learn what he'd always known, what he extended to me so gracefully and guilelessly.

every day, my heart, and more than ever.


we drove out to the south rim of the grand canyon in my in-laws' beleaguered old grey bmw. i had lobbied for us to take two cars—i like escape hatches—but i was overruled. the radio didn't work, and the seatbelt on the left in the back was busted. my mother-in-law took that seat on the way out to the canyon and tried to take it on the way back: "i can't let you sit in that seat, girl." joe's father has called him boy for as long as i can remember, but this was new. at a pub crawl in flagstaff with his aunts a few days earlier, you're part of the family NOW!

we steered my redheaded nephew away from the canyon rim as we made our way to a stately old hotel perched just where the transplanted california condors meet the sunset and the oldest of the ancient rocks (vishnu, brahma, and rama, thank you for having us). he is not a death-hamster—he is an aerial hunter like my cats, and we understood each other once i learned to throw things in his direction and present him with small treasures—but he is a young member of my pack and i want him to get taller in the absence of cliffs.


we are on the move again, this time to arizona, where my in-laws have gone unvisited for nearly two years. we keep trying to trick them into visiting us here in new york, but they run a bar by themselves and also i think get a bit itchy when they spend too much time in the city. so we will meet them in flagstaff, in a little airbnb where we will wear pajamas and watch television and no one will have cancer (take that, mother-in-law's cancer!). joe seems deeply invested in driving us to the grand canyon, which gives me pause; i have always suspected it would activate some dormant thanatotic desire in me and i'd become a helpless death-hamster. i have informed him of this.

i decided to wear red and a feisty pin and attend my weekly shift at ye old charity bookstore yesterday, since refraining from work that benefits some of the most vulnerable women in my city seemed like a questionable interpretation of what assorted activists were promoting. i was catcalled in my redness by someone to whom it was insignificant, and while i considered informing the caller of the position i represented i decided it was more expedient to hurry to the store, where about half of the female staff was missing and our manager, a man, wore an elizabeth warren shirt. i had to sneak out after an hour or so to interview a (female) doctor for a story i filed this morning. i made no purchases and ignored joe's request for me to pick up his laundry on the way home, and here we are and the world is like new, by which i mean scuffed in ways most of us tend to ignore.


is it clear that i would have pigeons if i could have pigeons? i would have pigeons if i could have pigeons. (our little cat's interest in the handful of pigeons he's seen on our balcony has made it clear that we cannot have pigeons.) they're dreadfully smart; they have an elegance that i have come to appreciate. they have a smell that i have come to appreciate; that dander is my dander, my people. when one has spent awhile at the bird fund one refers to the patients as people; i didn't notice my transition. i have started feeling important when i break for a sandwich after a couple of hours; i slip across the street in dirty scrubs and feel that i am in the shit. (i am not in the shit.)


Another obsession that alienates some new boyfriends is making jigsaw puzzles. I will sometimes stay up all night doing them, usually when I need to clear my head and get some inspiration about something I am working on. In a brand-new relationship where the man is looking for the screaming idol to hit the heights, this is often not tolerated. I love the big 1,000-to 3,000-piece puzzles that Ravensburger makes, and by the end of a project I will have a finished one. I always pick up a couple at Galeries Lafayette when I am in Paris, and in Piazza San Marco in Venice, or at Times Square in New York.


I would say to those women plumping up their lips and cheeks, Eat more pumpkins. Healthy skin begins from the inside out. The beauty products made from aloe vera—eat them, don't slap them on yourself. We've been eating that in Jamaica since we were kids. Red wine, honey. That keeps you going. Eating the pumpkin. The melon. Don't put all this shit on your face, eat it.


GRACE's dressing rooms shall be equipped with:

Dressing Room 1:

6 Bottles of Louis Roederer Cristal Champagne
3 Bottles of French Vintage red wine (e.g. St Emilion, Medoc, Bordeaux)
3 Bottles of French Vintage white wine (e.g. Sancerre, Pouilly Fuisse)
2 Dozen Findeclare or Colchester Oysters on ice (unopened)—(Grace does her own shucking.)
2 Sashimi and Sushi platters for 8 people
6 Fresh lemons
1 Bottle of Tabasco sauce
1 Fresh fruit platter for 8 people
6 Bottles of Coca Cola
12 Bottles of still and sparkling water
12 Bottles of fresh fruit juices
Wine glasses, champagne flutes, tumblers (all glass, no plastic)
Cutlery and sharp knife
1 Oyster knife
1 Make up mirror (no neon strip lighting, only opaque white bulbs)
Fresh towels, clothes hangers, clothes rail
3-4 Bunches of flowers—prefer lilys and orchids
Sofa and arm chairs

(grace jones as told to paul morley, i'll never write my memoirs)


sean spicer and i seem to be active around the same time; i've angry-jogged at at least three of his farcical speeches this winter. or nine of them, maybe, if you account for the fact that my building's exercise room tends to blare fox news, cnn, and msnbc at the same time. such a barrage of captions! we will not watch the president address congress tonight. sometimes i feel like my attention is the only thing i can deny him that he actually values.

the dirty dozen {twelve passages from francine raymond's keeping a few ducks in your garden (2002)}

01 We seem to be imprinted in the local wild duck population's consciousness as an easy lay.
02 Next, consult your neighbours to see if they'll help with your flock while you're on holiday and are prepared to put up with the odd quack.
03 If you live in a really foxy area it's not worth the heartbreak—or the expense.
04 They seem happy, even in the most appalling conditions, but please give them as much water as possible, they love to wallow—and don't overcrowd.
05 The Domestic Fowl Trust supplies a mail order duck pond and will send out an excellent catalogue (see Directory). You could use a child's paddling pool with rigid sides as an extra temporary pond for big ducklings with a ramp to get in and out, but not an inflatable—they have quite sharp claws.*
06 Only ducks quack, drakes have a basso rasping croak.
07 Don't give them mash, because ducks turn everything into mash.
08 My army also love barley (available in mixed corn), boiled rice, brown bread** soaked in water, pasta, sweetcorn kernels, peanuts, and old cheese.
09 Ducklings grow at a spectacular rate, much faster than chicks and a hen foster mum will be horrified at the early independence and aquatic proclivities of her charges.
10 I have raised abandoned ducklings with success. I'm not sure I should recommend it, but pairs do well. Keep them in a box, warm in an old sweater under an anglepoise lamp.
11 Nowadays sadly, I harden my heart even though there is probably nothing more appealing than a tiny duckling—I'm afraid it's just too time consuming. I always had something down my jumper and found myself turning down social engagements because of my charges.
12 You can catch them in their house at night, but if you need them immediately use an angler's fish-landing net. I've had occasional success with a large bamboo cloche, but have been considered a murderer by the entire flock for at least a fortnight afterwards. Move slowly among your ducks, preferably wearing the same clothes. I've been greeted with complete horror, just because I was wearing a hat—and I thought it suited me.


**my college roommates inform me that i once sat straight up in bed, unseeing, and yelled LET ME TELL YOU, HERKING A BROWN BREAD SANDWICH IS HIGHLY OVERRATED!


winter felt long gone by the time we got home from visiting our friends in the dominican republic saturday night, even though we were both still atremble with norovirus-related chills (valentine's day, you never cease to amaze). no sign of the dirty snow we passed on the way to the airport a week ago, and i walked across the williamsburg bridge yesterday afternoon in a tee shirt. (my rodhäm tee shirt, to be precise.) today i'll be filing a piece, invoicing for january at long last, trying to coax a march schedule out of one of my assigning editors. booking flights to visit joe's parents in arizona, maybe. handing off a half-marathon joe handed off to me. probably everyone feels they aren't doing enough, that the year hasn't actually begun, that maybe sadness all the time is just a thing now.

we watched the oscar-nominated live action shorts last night. if you'd like to feel better about the world, sing (hungary) and timecode (spain) are both helpful. if you need a reminder to stay angry, there's ennemis intérieurs (france).


1: your hair is so dark!
2: i know, i decided to let it go.
1: it looks great!
2: i was going kind of lori petty, you know?
1: orange is the new black lori petty would be no good. tank girl lori petty would be pretty great, though.
2: a league of their own lori petty did it all.


it turned out that michael w. fox's latest "animal doctor" column in the washington post's home and garden section was the perfect thing to read as i drank my coffee before the women's march in DC. readers wrote in about their dogs.
Dear Dr. Fox:
I was very surprised to see your mention in a recent column of fragrant scent spots on dogs.
I have a 5-year-old miniature black-and-tan dachshund, and several years ago, my kids and I discovered a spot on her that we later came to describe as her "sweet spot." It is on her breastbone, and I can only describe it as a very subtle flowery smell, but I can't put a flower name to it.

Dear Dr. Fox:
We rescued a blue brindle greyhound. She smelled like baby powder until the day she passed. There didn't seem to be any particular area on her body from which the smell emanated, but we loved to stick our noses in her soft, silky fur and breathe in her scent. Of course, the noseful of hair was a drawback. Subsequent greyhounds have been scentless.


Dear Dr. Fox:
I currently have a shelter-adopted mutt mother dog, Sunnie, and her son, Danny, who smells like brown sugar. He is now 7, and the smell is a bit fainter, but it is still there, mainly along his neck and also a bit on his chest.
No matter how long we go between baths, he never smells doggy. His mama smells feral. Not doggy—feral. She has a faint musky odor; your nose has to be in her fur to notice it, but it's there. Too long between baths, and she will feel a bit oily. And, yes, they do have popcorn-smelling feet, too. My 12th birthday gift (oh so many decades ago) was Sandy, a basenji, and her stomach smelled like rosewater and her feet like popcorn.


per our cross-country instructions to one another, joe packed my thrifted balenciaga for my grandmother's funeral and i bought him two pairs of extra-soft power rangers boxer shorts.


my sisters pulled me aside when i got to our mom's house in sacramento last night. we'd all received an email from our grandmother's nurse while joe and i were flying out from new york.
Katherine's Family,

Please join me in holding your Mother and Grandmother now in your best prayers, meditations and contemplations - she has stopped eating, drinking and talking since last night., the result of high fevers and decreasing appetite since before Christmas. She received the Last Rites an hour ago and is resting comfortably. Your spiritual support at this time is priceless to her, thank you.

If you wish to call in order to say something to her, please call the room phone, XXX-XXX-XXXX anytime.

May you be at peace knowing she is at peace,
i believe lea; grandma kathy is a devout catholic, and if she is lucid she knows she'll soon see her husband (who died when my dad was seven) and her savior.

i wrote her a letter on christmas eve and described our trip to germany: she would have loved the way a lone vocalist poured evensong into the berliner dom. a handful of germans complimented me on my pronunciation, i said; perhaps the family tree's roots are buckling my sidewalk at last. the letter before that touched on my health journalism and her years of nursing. she knows, i tell myself, that i am made, in part, of her. she knows that i know.


the local bakery's last batch of black-and-white cookies is tucked in my luggage with two boxes of fireworks, the christmas tree is watered a final time, and my last assignment of the year is with its editor. i'm headed for the west like one of tolkien's elves, though i would never wear leaf jewelry. this is how the end of the year begins.