Author Archive

Travels with the moon.

This was published on Uproxx last week. I’m posting it here in time for the super blue blood moon lunar eclipse tonight / Wednesday morning. Seriously. Don’t miss it.

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Mega Moon Hike

The moon is mysterious — always changing shapes, always rising and setting at different times. It’s a wild banshee compared to the sun, ever constant in its brightness.

The moon is alluring, too — so seductive that the tides move at her will (don’t talk to me about gravity, I’m being lyrical here). And yes, the feminine pronoun shall be used to reference her, because women have a special connection to that round lantern in the sky. The lunar cycle is 29.5 days long, the same length as a menstrual cycle.

I love the moon in a way I don’t love — or even notice — other celestial bodies. And so, after intending to do it forever, I finally went on a dedicated full moon hike. Meaning, I wasn’t out at night and “just happened” to glance skyward. Instead, I went out to purposefully hike by her light. It was an adventure available to us all, wherever we are, for free.

My moon hike happened New Year’s Day, the first full moon of the year. I was back home in Northern Nevada and had the wild hair (what a funny expression, is it just one singular hair that’s wild? where does this hair grow?) to get in touch with my inner pagan. It was time to check “moon walk” off my list of life experiences.

Following my wild hair, I went to the internet, which told me that the local parks and recreation department was leading a full moon hike around Wahoe Lake, the small body of water between Carson City and Reno. God love parks and rec departments. I’d never actually been to this lake, Lake Tahoe kinda steals the thunder of all lakes around here, so it seemed all was in “alignment,” as they say.

Here’s what happened when I arrived:

5:05 PM

Arrival at Washoe Lake State Park. I’m surprised by how many people are here. At least 60, mostly young families. I get misty-eyed, the way I do when I’m touched by something wholesome and innocent. No agenda to be cool, just families out to experience the simple “good stuff” of life. Prairie Home Companion-pre-realizing-Garrison-Keillor-sucks-type good stuff.

As everyone chats and makes last minute preparations for the hike (which I’m realizing is more like a gentle walk), I wander to the edge of the water. I’ve been surrounded by people for days, what with the holidays, and I don’t feel like talking to anyone. The lake is very still. The mountains reflect in the water. Snow-capped. Framed pink by the sunset.

A flock of Canadian geese honk as they pass overhead. I love that sound. It reminds me of growing up in Carson Valley, just 30 minutes to the south. Every morning I’d wake up to the sound of Canadian geese taking flight from my neighbor’s pond — a sound at once melancholy and soothing. Attending college in Reno, I lived next to a park where Canadian geese congregated, pooping on the grass, honking their itineraries. This iteration of the sound was no longer soothing, because I was usually hungover as f*ck. It made college-me recall the geese of my sweet childhood but, tangled in a boozy haze, I always just felt the melancholy part.

I shouldn’t have washed my hair right before a night hike in 30-degree weather. But I’m excited to wear mittens because mittens are cute and I never have occasion to wear them in LA.

5:17 PM

A ranger tells us to keep our flashlights on and stay together, and the hike/walk begins. But where is the moon? I’m confused. When I looked online it said the moon would rise at 4:49 PM. But I guess the moonrise is relative to where you’re located, right? Who determines the moonrise point? What a cool job

5:28 PM

The ranger stops to tell us we’ll soon be walking through sand dunes, which only form in dry years. We might also hear coyotes and owls.

5:34 PM

I remember that I’ve actually been on a night hike before, but it wasn’t a full moon thing. In middle school leadership class we went on a field trip to Marin, CA to a nature immersion self-growth retreat place. And one of the “challenges” was a solo walk down a mountain. It seemed like a mountain, but it might have been a large hill. The whole idea was to be completely by yourself in nature, find your way to the bottom, and possibly “find yourself.”

At that age, the Nickelodeon show GUTS was everything, and this felt like a version of that, so we were excited. But looking back, it was pretty radical to let a bunch of 13-year-olds roam alone in the dark in the hills of San Francisco. I should mention it was a crunchy granola very liberal sort of place.

Tonight will not be like that. I am in Carson City, Nevada.

5:40 PM

There she is! The moon is up! So white and plump, like an albino grapefruit, or a fancy lady in a Renaissance painting. Everyone stops to gaze at her. Most of us try to take a photo, even though we know it won’t turn out. This is the main event, what brought us all out into the cold, yet within a few minutes of moon gazing, everyone is restless and wants to keep moving.

I hang back, wanting to be alone. Just me and the moon. I stare at her speckled surface. Perhaps this is the crux of the moon connection, that you can gaze directly upon her. Did I mention it’s also a supermoon? First full moon of the year and it’s on New Year’s Day, and a supermoon. Perhaps I’m reaching, because last year was such a black eye, and I’d like to believe this means something positive for a new beginning.

I love all the moon events we’ve been having lately. Eclipses, supermoons, and the blood moon a few years back. Auspicious omens… if you’re into that sort of thing.

I putz around in the sand, wanting to let the group get a good distance away. I always feel awkward in sand, like a cat in a litter box. The dunes remind me of a hiking trip I took to Israel with my cousins in 2006. We did multiple hikes per day, and I remember being enthralled, exhausted, engaged. We stayed up late talking and got up early to hike. We went night clubbing in Tel Aviv and floating in the Dead Sea. But it was the hiking where we connected most. Walking at the speed of life.

I can barely see the group now, so I do a little stretch, a little dance. The sort of dorky dance you do when no one is looking. The stars are out, even with the moon shining so bright. I’m reminded of another night walk a few years ago in Sedona.

I was with a new love, and everything about the experience was impromptu. The trip to Arizona, the romance, the hike – in fact, we so underestimated the length of the loop trail through Boynton Canyon (consistently named one of the most beautiful places in America), that night fell and we started shivering, both of us in sandals and shorts, with no water or map. Dumb. But! The stars came out, dazzling, electric, and we got to experience a well-worn hike in a way most people never do.

5:57 PM

I’m lost.

I can’t see the group at all. Or the trail. I think of Moana, which I just watched it with my five-year-old niece over the holiday. Moana found her way across the sea by looking at the stars, could I do the same? No. But I like the word “sextant,” which is some sort of astronomical instrument.

Have all the adults out there seen Moana? You should. I’m so proud Disney for these new narratives in which the girl isn’t on a quest for a prince, but for self-discovery. If Moana can make it across the ocean, I can make it across some dinky sand dunes. I’m nervous, but I still have cell service. I’ll be fine.

6:08 PM

I found my way back. That was not scary at all. 

6:10 PM

Wish I was still lost. The group is bugging me. People keep stopping to get take pictures of the moon, then are frustrated when they don’t turn out.

6:15 PM

The moon is climbing rapidly in the sky, and I’m reminded of another lunar experience. Last spring in Tulum I did a traditional temazcal sweat lodge with a female shaman. That night the moon was going to be full and pink, a “rose moon,” and so I snuck out of the sweat halfway through to see her rise over the ocean. The shaman gave me a disapproving look, leaving the sacred space was definitely a no. But I really wanted to see this pink moon!

I ran down to the beach at the appointed time, but the moon hadn’t risen yet. I must’ve misunderstood or read the times wrong, or who knows? I sulked back into the temazcal, fully cooled down and thus missing the whole point of the sweat.

When the sweat was over, the shaman gestured for us to follow her to the water. It was just me and two beautiful girls, Sarita and Alexandra. We arrived at the shore just as the moon was rising. A ginormous moon, taking up the whole horizon, pink as a lamb’s ear. We stood ankle deep in the water as the shaman spoke prayers to the moon, to us. The air was warm. Salty. Sea salty, sweat salty. The whole moment was so dreamlike it felt like at any moment God would call “Cut!” and the scene in the movie of life would be over.

And I thought I knew better than the shaman about the moonrise because I read it on some dumb website. I need to work on allowing guides to guide me.

The temperature is dropping rapidly. I see the parking lot in the distance. No one is paying attention to the moon anymore, but I am. I wonder what it’s like to walk in the craters, to look at the Earth in the distance like we look at the moon. To gravity bounce with every step. To swim in the stars.

Another memory of stars and swimming; of my extremities going numb with cold. I lived in New Zealand for a while after college, and one of the most memorable things I did there was the Waitomo glowworm caves. You float in an underground river, and it’s deep down, miles underground in a cave. You’re in an inner tube, wearing a full wetsuit because it’s freezing. It feels like Gollum is going to pop out and say hello.

You get to this large cavern, look up and marvel at a galaxy of stars, the most beautiful, bright stars and they glow green. But what you’re really looking at is worm larvae. Glowworm larvae, whose poop is luminescent so it shines like a midnight eve. It was the best night sky I’ve ever seen. Even though it wasn’t. You know what I mean.

Sometimes I see the Waitomo glowworm caves when I close my eyes. The feeling of floating in an eternal galaxy. The secret heart of the earth.

7:10 PM

The hike is over. I’m back at my car. Before getting in, I breathe in the moon and the sharp tang of sagebrush one more time. Everyone is dispersing, and I wonder if they even noticed me, the weirdo typing notes into her phone the whole time. I give the moon a silent promise to hang out with her more often.

* * *

Looking back through my notes, I realize how many memories the hike brought up, other experiences in other places and times. Connections woven through strands of linked experience like locks of fine hair. I think this is what hiking and being in nature is all about – letting your thoughts wander. Letting in memories of other times I’ve experienced the moon, the stars. This moon walk in my hometown led me back to childhood geese, middle school Marin, Israel, Sedona, Tulum, New Zealand. If our lives are made up of our memories, then taking time to reflect is the greatest gift.

There’s another full moon this January, on the 31st. We’re ending the month as we started it. But this one is going to be huge. Ready for this? January 31st, 2018 will be a total lunar eclipse, AND a blue moon (which means the second full moon in a month, which only happens once every 2-3 years), AND a supermoon, AND a blood moon. WHAT?!

I know I’ll be out gazing at the heavens for this epic lunar event. Hope to see you there.


Fear and Loving At the Key West Literary Seminar

I’m currently at the Key West Literary Seminar in Key West, Florida. My friend Ian Rowan is Technical Director of the Seminar and invited me down to soak up the presence and presentations of some of the most important writers working today. Jamaica Kincaid, Teju Cole, Joy Williams, Marlon James … to name a few.

I’m feeling intimidated, to put it lightly.

So I took a break to tour the manor Ernest Hemingway called home for 10 years here in Key West. There are 54 six toed cats that live on the property.

The house was lovely, situated right next to the Key West lighthouse. The tour guide told us ol’ Hem would use the lighthouse to find his way home from the bars.

The tour was a lot of anecdotes about Hemingway’s drunkenness and wife hopping. Funny that’s what people are intrigued by. I wanted to hear about his writing rituals, his routines.

Maybe it’s karmic retribution for what a slog writing can be as an art form. Writers can behave badly, and it’s considered eccentric, charming even, and tourists will pay $14 half a century later to peep their bathrooms and closets. 

In the bookstore I bought Martha Gellhorn’s memoir, she was a novelist and one of the most important war correspondents of the 20th century, and Hemingway’s third wife. I feel like I shouldn’t even mention their marriage, and she famously wouldn’t talk about it in interviews, because she didn’t want to “be a footnote in someone else’s life.”

“Everyone behaves badly–given the chance.” Ernest Hemingway, The Sun Also Rises. 

 

 

What you can’t see in this photo is butterflies are fluttering all around me like a goddamn Disney dreamland. Which is how it felt to be a surprise scholarship recipient for a @keywestliteraryseminar workshop. After visiting the butterfly sanctuary I read a few short stories over coffee, then went to hear luminaries such as Manuel Gonzales and Billy Collins discuss craft, poetry, and the writing life. Every now and then, life gives us a perfect day. This was one of them. 

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What you do/don’t want your Dad to read

It’s 2:21am on New Year’s Eve, and I’m starting 2018 how I intend to live it. Writing. Processing thoughts into words. Taking action to share those words.

This is something I wrote on Christmas Eve, but didn’t share on my blog because my dad subscribes and I was nervous for him to read it. It’s nothing I wouldn’t say to him in person, but I get shy being so vulnerable. Well, anyway. Here it is.

Dad, when you read this, thank you for the wild ride this year. We did it. I love you.

***********

My dad’s doctors don’t want him traveling during the holidays, so we’re going to stay in our sweats this Christmas and watch movies and unpack his new apartment for his new life, for his new liver.

Tonight we revisited the photo book I made him several Christmases ago, the early 70s photos from when he was the guitar-sitar-dulcimer player in the band/collective called ONE. They were discovered by Jefferson Airplane, were a staple in the magnetic Bolinas, CA music scene, and even played John Lennon’s birthday party.

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I’m over the moon my dad is talking about music again. I hold my breath for the day he picks up the guitar again. And I can’t believe how much we resemble each other in these photos. I’d really love to remake the photo book for him, as a coffee table book along with the story of his band. Anyone know anything about the world of publishing art books?

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A lot of the photos from the time are double-exposed, creating these surreal images I’m obsessed with. These photographs only resurfaced recently, the photographer from the record label found them in his garage and somehow tracked down my dad.

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ONE’s music was ethereal, folksy, experimental. The lead singer had his name legally changed to Reality D. Blipcrotch. The “D” stands for “Dopey.” This is mild compared to the other characters and stories my dad tells. When I look at the photos, I’m also struck how they feel like a generation finding itself. After the big shifts of the Summer of Love, where would the dust settle?

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I made the photo book to cheer my dad up for the first Christmas after my mom passed away. We started talking about the project again when he had cancer. Now it comes back out post transplant. But with so many “career building” projects to work on, making this book with him feels like something “we’ll get to eventually.”

It’s funny how life and death situations spur you to action, you think you’ll always live thereafter with the beautiful perspective trauma can bring. But alas, you don’t. You seep back into the minutiae. You procrastinate. I try to remind myself it’s a gift to be caught up in the petty stuff. It means your life is calm. Free enough from major hurdles that you even have the emotional bandwidth to sweat the small stuff.

I hope everyone has a lovely holiday. May your worries in the new year be petty and small. May you have the gift of health, the only gift that really counts.


What am I “About”?

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I just re-wrote the “About” section of this website, and it was the trickiest damn thing to do. I procrastinated doing it for so long, because what am I “about?” I’m constantly asking that very question, and it’s only very recently (like this year) that I finally feel like I have a point of view.

The personal bio section of everything I’ve ever applied for has always stumped me. You’re supposed to list your achievements in this part, right? But is that a real reflection of what you’re about, what keeps you up at night, what keeps you going? In part, yes. Our achievements are a reflection of our life priorities. But if I really want to share what I’m “about,” it’s human connection, finding comedy in the darkness, Nature, being self-expressed, taming the voice in my head, experiencing new cultures, challenges, kisses, and cats. Not the jobs I’ve had or the awards I’ve won.

So rather than a typical bio, I interviewed myself instead. This seemed like an authentic way to lightly brag about my accomplishments, plus it’s so dumb when people write in the third person in a bio.

Me: You’re from Reno? That’s weird.  

Erin: I grew up in a town called Gardnerville nearby Tahoe, and went to college in Reno. I fucking love Reno so don’t say anything about it. 

Me: What’s LA been like for you?

Erin: Wonderful and terrible. For a while I had that job where I sat in a glass box in white underwear at the Standard Hotel. It’s like an LA rite of passage. I made my first vlog while I was in the box. Which got me fired, but they didn’t make me take down the episodes.  

Me: You just sat there? Sounds like a scam. 

Erin: I think it was “art.” The observer being the observed. 

Me: Sounds deep. 

Erin: I’m trying to frame it that way. 

Read the whole interview over in the “About” section. Obviously. And I’m curious your thoughts on this subject. How do you write your own bio? What are you “about?”

Still from “Omen 31” by The Loves

Catfishing life success.

When I got notice my script Forever Flowers had advanced at the Austin FF Screenplay Competition, I felt like I’d won the lottery. But being there in person a few weeks ago, meeting the writers who’d actually won, I felt dumb for how excited I’d been. But if you don’t celebrate the “no” that’s somewhat a “yes,” then aren’t you perpetually swimming in “blah”?

This picture is not of me. I don’t write topless, nor with a typewriter. I write in ugly sweats with a laptop that’s had a Pilates DVD stuck in it since 2013. But this is social media which is all about presenting the fantasy version of our life so yeah, doesn’t my ass look great in these jeans?

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Releasing lanterns, hoping it’s not dumb

I wrote this last month for Uproxx.com, still ruminating on it. I’d always wanted to attend a lantern fest, but there’s something that feels inherently wrong about a pretty event that’s meant to pay tribute to those who’ve suffered. Like when celebrities have $10,000 galas for charity. I know the heart is in the right place, but I feel weird about it. I like the article, though. Been a big triumph this year to publish regularly. Think I’ll keep at it.

Releasing Lanterns With Messages Of Healing And Hoping It’s Not Dumb

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Still thinking about that eclipse …

There isn’t a day that goes by I don’t think about the total eclipse. The thrilling / terrible feeling of whoever’s in charge turning down the sun dial like “Watch what I can do, silly humans.” I’ve never felt so insignificant, yet interconnected. The only event that’s affected me in the same way was being in the room as my niece was born. Both experiences are tattooed on my soul. 

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