A Breathtakingly Brutal “Beautiful Boy”

I’ll admit I wasn’t sure if I’d be able to sit through “Beautiful Boy” in its entirety without falling apart: I’ve known the Sheff family since Nic Sheff was nine years old. But actually, I did ok. Part of that is because Steve Carell & Timothée Chalamet didn’t try to impersonate David Sheff  & Nic, respectively. That helped me feel a little bit of distance from it. I was able to separate myself slightly from the people I know & the people being portrayed on screen. Or maybe it was just a coping mechanism I employed to make it through the movie without ending up in a puddle of tears in the movie theater. I don’t really know.

What I DO know is this:

Carell was outstanding. He captured the essence of David’s genuine warmth, unaffected charm & deep love for his family so aptly. Chalamet captured Nic’s sweet playfulness & soulful intellect. He did that thing that only the greatest actors can do: about 20 minutes in I completely forgot I was watching Hollywood’s latest IT Boy, the red carpet’s most unconventional stylist free style maker & Kid Cudi’s number one fan; I legitimately forgot I was watching an actor.

Instead, I was watching a young man, equal parts tender & tormented, living through addiction. Timothée does things with his face – I don’t know how exactly bc I’m not an actress so I don’t know how these things work – where he conveys a full range of emotions just by a slight dip & curl of a lip or furrow flick of a brow. It was both brutal and beautiful to witness…sort of like life itself.

It’s rare in movies to see drug addiction & the person addicted, portrayed as almost sympathetic players. Even in the moments when Nic is engaging in his worst behavior, your heart breaks for him. Chalamet finds a way to let Nic’s humanity shine through; it’s part of the brilliance of his acting gifts. There were moments during the movie, when the entire audience sort of let out a groan of heartbreak, disappointment, sadness because, collectively, we were rooting for him. But you never got the sense the audience had given up their empathy & hope for him. Despite it all, we remained on his side throughout. Just like his father.

Usually the drug use & actual HIGH portrayed in movies is slightly glorified. “Beautiful Boy” doesn’t do that. It’s unrelenting in its constant repetition of despair & then hope & then despair again & then hope again that happens in the cycle of addition & recovery. The movie makes you really feel, deep in your gut, that you are taking that emotional roller coaster ride with the Sheff family.

It’s also rare to see a movie where literally everyone in the cast is outstanding. The Timothy Hutton cameo was particularly satisfying; a nod to “Ordinary People” (god, we ALL had a crush on him back then & wanted to be the future ‘Lady Grantham’!). Maura Tierney and Amy Ryan were gut wrenching in their humanity. Even the young children were pitch perfect.

I’ve heard criticisms about director Felix Van Groeningen’s whiplash-like use of timeline & a heavy handed use of music. I disagree with those critiques. To the former, the repetitive back & forth to past/present helped create the sense of emotional chaos of the Sheff family’s reality; it served to highlight the constant yearning for what once was, the dire urgency of what currently is & the desperate searching for that ultimately elusive moment when it all started to go wrong. It was an exhausting ride. When I left the movie, I felt like I’d run a marathon (or what I imagine it feels like b’c Lulu doesn’t run!); I was emotionally & physically drained. And I think that was the point.

As for the music: it’s a huge part of the Sheffs’ life & it served as bookends between scenes which, given the aforementioned use of timeline, was useful. It also sort of helped my emotional state, tbh. The movie is so heavy; the music helped me to breathe through it. Music heals & I felt its restorative powers throughout.

Some have criticized that the movie doesn’t explain WHY Nic became an addict. But that’s the point: there IS no rational reason. Addiction is a disease & some people are wired in a way that makes them more susceptible to it than others. It can happen to anyone. That’s the utter horror of it all.

I’m always moved by any movie filmed in my hometown of San Francisco. Scenes on Haight Street, literally around the corner from my childhood home, were particularly poignant. Also, the scenes with the actor who played Nic at his youngest had me holding my breath, almost afraid to let my emotions out; he was close to the age Nic was when I first met him & looked just like him.

But I didn’t really cry until the scene with one of my favorite actresses, Lisa Gay Hamilton. After that, the tears just wouldn’t let up. And that last scene. I could barely breathe. It’s not giving anything away to say that Steve & Timothée managed to bring every human emotion of that moment to the surface for viewers. And they did it without saying a word. The entire audience shared a collective gasp & then a sigh. And then it was just sort of silent, save for all of the sniffles and nose blowing. It was as if we were tapped out of every emotion.

The fact that the audience knows that Nic is thriving & has been sober for 8 years doesn’t mean you leave the movie feeling good. You still feel the fall out of what the Sheff’s endured & the anxiety around how fragile sobriety is.

When I left the theater, I actually stood on the sidewalk for a moment; just stood there, not sure where to go or what to do. I couldn’t even really think straight. I felt numb. Just numb. I was depleted. I had nothing left…except for a tenuous thread of hope…which is really all you can have when it comes to addiction & recovery.

“Beautiful Boy” is not a movie you “enjoy”; you don’t go to see it to be entertained. It’s a movie that makes you think & feel & hurt & hope. It breaks your heart, while also reminding you of the power of conditional love of a truly beautiful family.

And one last thing & this is perhaps the most important (& a rule I follow in every movie tbh): Do not leave your seat until the very very very very very last credit rolls. I mean it. The very last credit. The. Very. Last. Credit. Thank me later…

…Later

Erika, with ease and grace

I often write when I am at my happiest – to savior the moment – or at my saddest – in order to heal.

My heart needs a lot of healing today.

My dear friend, Erika, passed away last night, quietly, softy, painlessly, gently, surrounded by love & music. I wish you could have known her. Her earthly body is gone forever, but her spirit lives on and I’d like to introduce you to Her.

There are people who come into your life & change it forever. They have the ability to make everyone around them better, simply be being the bright shining light they are. My sweet friend Erika is one of those people.

I’ve watched her navigate her cancer journey with a level of grace that is hard to comprehend…except that it’s not…because she is Erika, who does all things with ease & grace.

Even during her darkest times, she used her cancer diagnoses as a way to inspire, teach & heal others. Because that’s who & what she was at her core: a teacher, a spiritual mentor, a light to show us how to live…especially so, in the face of death.

I first met Erika when we worked together at a private elementary school in SF. It was my first job out of college. I was the Director of Admissions. Ericka was the music teacher. She was pure joy. A ball of sunshine & smiles who gave the best, most heartfelt hugs every time you saw her. She radiated warmth, joy & compassion. Her light nor her mood never dimmed.

As humans, even on our best days, we all have our moments where we lose a bit of grace because that’s sort of how we are built. But not Erika. She never lost her cool, her patience, her composure, her smile. She had a pure soul, devoid of even a momentary flickering of snark, gossip, pettiness, selfishness, hubris, materialism, conceit, or greed. I honestly have never ever in my life met another person like her in that way.

I always felt inspired to be the best version of myself when I was around her. But inevitably, just because…life & humans…I failed, always succumbing to those pesky perils of personal foibles. It’s not easy to be perfect. I’d say it was impossible. But I know it’s not, because…Erika.

How lucky her students were to have been taught, mentored & guided by her. How lucky were we ALL were to witness her example of what it means to truly be a person who, at all times, in all ways, big and small, was the very best of what we can only aspire to be, as humans.

I’m telling you, when your time comes to leave this earth, you’ll want & hope that people will be speaking about you the way Erika’s tribe is right now. I’m reading posts from people on FB, who only met her once – just one time – writing paragraph upon paragraph about her.

That’s how potent her magic was. That’s the sign that you have lived life the way it is supposed to have been lived; to have touched people the way angels do; to have left this planet so much better than you found it. Many of us talk about doing that. Erika actually DID it.

When the universe created Erika, when the ingredients were being mixed, they added an extra dollop of fairy dust to her creation. She had something special, something that made her better than the rest of us. That is not me being overly dramatic or extra emotional, practices I admittedly have a propensity for. It’s simply the truth. Erika was better than the rest of us. Or maybe I should just speak for myself. She was a much better person than I. Even on my very best day. Fact.

I don’t believe that one person’s life is worth more than any other. But I DO believe there are a select few among us who walk this earth with a bit more grace than others. Grace. I keep coming back to that word. The writer in me wants to find a few synonyms but I feel it just needs to be repeated. Over and Over. Amazing grace. That’s how she lived. And it’s also how she died.

My heart breaks for her wife, her life & musical partner, Lisa, and all of those who knew & loved her. We are all part of her tribe now. Many of us strangers until now. I feel our collective pain via posts on social media, but oh how deeply I feel our collective love. How lucky we were to have known her. How lucky this universe was to have had her.

Maybe she was too good for this world, this cold hard world. Maybe we just didn’t truly deserve her, didn’t do enough to earn the privilege of being graced with her presence into her old age.

But she wouldn’t want us to take that cynical view. She’d want us to celebrate life…hers & ours.

Dear sweet friend, thank you for the song of life you shared so generously with us all. We are all better humans for having known you. Rest well, my love. With ease and grace, rest well & sing on. xo Lulu

Art Matters. How an Afternoon at the Movies Healed my Heart

Art matters. This is why.

I went to the movies recently. By myself, which is how I prefer it. I sat in the very last row, which is also how I like it at this particular theater. I saw Spike Lee’s “BlacKkKlansman”. I knew it would be emotional. I knew I had to mentally steel myself for it. I knew it would be a lot. And it was. Especially those last few minutes. I’m not giving anything away by telling you that. The entire audience sat in stunned silence. Barely breathing.

Speaking of the audience, when I walked in the theater, I looked around & it appeared to me that the audience was entirely composed of retired age white folks. Going to midday matinees, it’s usually like that. The over 65 part, that is.

As the credits rolled, and Prince sang (don’t ever leave a movie before all the credits roll; that’s a pet peeve of mine & you sometimes miss really significant moments – hint hint), a young woman was trying to exit my row.

“Excuse me”, she whispered, as I was sitting there, holding my face in my hands, my heart in my stomach. I looked up. She was young. Barely 23, if I had to guess. If I had a younger sister, which I don’t, I imagine this young lady is what she might look like. The similarities in our appearance were notable. I guess I didn’t see her when I made my initial once over of the audience earlier. So, make that two people of color in the audience. Two black women.

I smiled weakly, shifted my legs so she could get by & then continued to sit there for another few moments.

I knew that I would need to go to the restroom to compose myself. I might even have to lock myself in a stall & have a good cry. I had errands to run & didn’t think my flood of emotions would wait until I got home.

When I entered the restroom, there she was. The young woman from my row. Looking in the mirror, dabbing tears from her eyes. She looked at me. I looked at her. And then I promptly I burst out into tears.

“I’m sorry”, I blubbered. “I’m so sorry. I just…can’t…”

“I know”, she said. “I know”.

And then this young woman, this total stranger, reached out her arms to me. And we hugged. And not one of those demure “respect my space” hugs. It was a real hug. The heart to heart kind. The holding on for dear life kind. The sharing an understanding, a feeling, an awareness of a human experience kind. The best kind.

There we were, two strangers in a public restroom. Bonding over a movie.

I apologized again. “I’m so sorry”. I’m not sure why that was all that I could say. Maybe I felt embarrassed by my own vulnerability.

“It’s ok”, she said, warmly. “It’s a lot. I’m going to sit outside (referring to the little lounging area in the theater) & try to process it. I’ll be there”. The implication, it seemed, was, she’d be there, if I wanted to join her.

I nodded my head as I dried my tears. She left the restroom & I splashed some water on my face, reapplied my lipstick, put my purse on my shoulder & started to walk out of the restroom.

Then I paused. I looked at my watch. I had errands to run. Places to be. Things to do. I was torn. Was I just going to leave & never see her again? Would our moment begin & end in a public restroom? Or would I walk outside, sit next to her & connect?

I made my decision.

I found her sitting on the couch, looking down at her phone. I sat across from her, not wanting to interrupt. Not wanting to seem needy. Maybe she was just being polite when she told me she’d be sitting there. Maybe I had misinterpreted her words.

So, I just sort of sat there. Staring off into space. And then I sighed a little bit too loudly.

She looked up.

And then we started talking. Like old friends.

We talked about the movie & how there were moments where we thought, “My god, this could be today. The words they are saying.” And then how we realized that this IS today. The words they were saying, WORD FOR WORD. The exact same words uttered by the KKK & David Duke in the 70’s are now being uttered by the current occupant of the Oval Office.

We talked about Trump.

We talked about race.

We talked about politics.

We talked about our lives.

She told me she just moved here, several weeks ago. From the same town where my father was born in Minnesota.

She told me that she now lives in the neighborhood where I grew up. Just six blocks away from my childhood home.

She told that she’d been her for just a few weeks and that I was the first native San Franciscan she’d met. She was very excited about that.

She told me she was a nurse & she was looking for a job.

She was young & excited about her life; the way energetic 20-somethings often are. But she was also weary & worried about the state & future of our country.

I told her that I understood. That I was worried too. And that in the end we would all be ok; a life lesson we older dolls, who’ve been through life’s ups & downs, have come to understand.

There was just something so familiar to me about this young woman. Maybe she reminded me of myself. I don’t know. But something made me want to keep her in my tribe.

“I know this might seem weird. We just met but…”

“Yes!” she exclaimed, “Let’s exchange numbers”.

My girl. Didn’t leave me hanging.

I told her that if she had any questions, any questions about San Francisco or needed any advice on her job search or just anything in general, to please call me. “Anything. Anytime. I’m serious”, I said.

We exchanged numbers. We hugged. We were healed.

This is the power of art. It brings people together. It changes people. For the better.

The movie had left me feeling so sad, almost broken, realizing how far we, as a nation, as Black Americans, still have to go to reach full equality. But the kindness of a stranger, with an invitation to connect, the power of a hug, soul to soul, sister to sister, brought me back to hope, happiness & humanity.

It was art that healed us. That matters.

When Harry Married Meghan

As a lifelong royal watcher, I am accustomed to the regal majesty of a royal wedding, but the May 19th nuptials of Prince Henry Charles Albert David Wales and Rachel Meghan Markle surpassed my exceptions. In every way. It’s not easy to make a royal wedding, viewed by millions across the globe, look & feel intimate, like a true family wedding, but somehow, they did.

On a day when the UK enjoyed California-like weather, a California born actress, divorced, biracial, a proud feminist and only child of a single mum, married into the British Royal family, forever after known as Her Royal Highness.

It was a ceremony that perfectly blended British regal precision with American exuberance & warmth.

A gospel choir sang a song connecting the world of civil rights activism, harmonic American classic songwriting & inspirational solidarity. And the whole world stood by them as they did.

A bishop from Chi town brought a little church up in here & the usually staid royals felt the spirit through their giggles.

Tiny flower girls & exuberant page boys waved & squealed, nearly exploding with trumpeting gap-toothed glee.

The red carpet of Hollywood unfurled on the ancient grounds of Windsor, with starlets & titled Aristocrats taking their spin for the title of Best Dressed.

The heir to the British throne took under his royal wing an African American single mum, guiding her, caring for her, like family does. Two people who couldn’t be more different in upbringing & life experiences, unified in their love for their children. He, softening the oft times chilled reactions that greet him. Her, proving you don’t have to be born royal to be a true Queen.

This mum. A social worker, yogi, dog lover with locs & a pierced nose, won the heart of the world with her grace & soft warm eyes, brimming with prideful tears.

And I know that sometime people don’t want to talk about race. It makes them uncomfortable. They ask, “Why does everything have to be about race?”. It doesn’t. Except when it does. This is one of those times.

It should be celebrated that a woman of color is now in the intimate fold of the British Royal family. It is not an insignificant thing. It means that a variety of voices & experiences will be at the forefront of how the monarchy moves forward.

The ONLY way the monarchy moves forward is if it stays relevant & changes with the times. Princess Diana was the catalyst for that awareness & we see that awareness carried through by her children. We live in a global world. In the UK 1 in 10 couples are in an interracial relationship. The royal family is now part of the fast-growing demographic. That matters.

I saw so many comments on social media on the day of the wedding from parents of kids of color who said that their children, especially girls, some as young as 5 years old, saw themselves reflected in Meghan. And while the goal for our children should not be to marry a prince, representation in all facets of life matters.

When a child grows up NOT seeing her/himself as CEO’s, Presidents of nations or key members of historically white institutions, be it a Fortune 500 boardroom or Buckingham Palace, it can limit their ability to dream bigger for themselves, to believe that they belong wherever their dreams & hard work takes them. That’s why it matters.

Another thing worth noting is that, whether by design or just coincidence, Meghan featured women in prominent roles in her wedding. Her dress was designed by one of the few head designers of a top fashion house. Her cake & flowers were created by women owned businesses & even the choir director was a woman. Again, I don’t know if that was a conscious decision, but I’d like to think that it was.

It’s been reported that during her reception speech, Meghan proudly claimed her feminist status. She has a proven track record of advocacy for the empowerment of women. That this commitment would carry over into the planning of her special day is a logical & welcomed possibility.

One of my favorite things was watching how giddy the American news anchors got when they saw the carriage pass by their mobile news stations.

Normally staid political reporters were jumping up & down squealing & in tears. It doesn’t matter who you are (or how many times you say you’re just not that into the royals), when you see them up close, you turn into a tween at a One Direction concert; trust me, I know from firsthand experience.

Marrying into any family is not easy. Marrying into the British royal family and all that comes with it requires a unique disposition of internal fortitude, strength, confidence, presence, humility, public speaking ability, telegenic appeal, relatability & warmth.

From everything we know about Meghan, it would seem she was born for the role. And I’ve never ever, ever seen Harry so happy. The looks on his face throughout the day, well, I mean, that is what it’s all about. I get chills & teary eyed just thinking about it. I have a feeling HE feels he married up.

And as my 99-year-old god grandpa, who was married for 75 years used to say: the key for a long & happy marriage is for the husband to know that HE’s really the lucky one.

The British Prince and his all-American girl.

It was a day for the world, no matter how jaded or cynical, to rejoice & believe in the power of love, as Bishop Curry proclaimed.

And to that, I say: “I do”.

Fairy-godfathers of the Haight-Ashbury

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When I was a little girl, we rented out a room in our large Haight-Ashbury flat to generate extra income. It was always rented to a young gay man, probably because my mum, a single parent, felt it was the safest & most sensible option. Their room was right next to mine in the front of the house & included a sitting room that we called the “library” because it had floor to ceiling bookcases, big puffy pillows on the floor & comfy nooks to settle in for reading or taking a nap. It was a common area in the house, but was mainly for our renter’s use, though I could often be found perched on the big overstuffed chair, peering out the window to observe the view of the always entertaining corner of Haight & Ashbury Streets.

If I wasn’t day dreaming, I had my nose buried in a book, such is the life of an only child in a household with no TV. Inevitably, our housemate would slide open the French doors that divided their room to the library & slowly, gently, tenderly, carefully, our friendship would unfold.

The men who lived with us all referred to themselves as my “fairy god-fathers” – their term; not mine. As a child, I didn’t understand the tongue in cheek we’re-taking-our-power-back meaning. Once I did, I both grimaced & grinned.

We had about five young men live with us over the years. This was before gay people could easily adopt kids or were even really allowed to think, dream about becoming parents in some cases. I was the only child in their circle of friends & was often invited to tag along to their ever so glamorous soirées, Oscar parties, holiday fetes & any other over the top event that might just really be a Tuesday night but always seemed like so much more to me. These outings gave my mum nights off from mum-ing & me, adventures to be fondly remembered years later.

I often found myself sitting crossed leg in the middle of one of their friend’s exquisitely decorated antique filled living rooms in the Castro district on a priceless oriental rug, beading necklaces or playing with antique paper dolls (theirs, not mine), Judy blasting in the background, watching a group of lively young men gossip & flirt & dance & share stories about their hopes, dreams & fears.

I heard them talk about how they had escaped to SF from places like Iowa, Kentucky, Texas, so that they could live & love freely. They had all been disowned by their families for being gay. They had to create their own families & I was privileged to play the role of the little sister, niece, cousin they had to leave behind or, on an even deeper level, the child they never believed they would ever be able to have. It was from them that I learned my lifelong mantra: friends are the family we choose for ourselves. And love is love. Sorry Lin, but they said it first.

Of course, I was much too young to really understand the implications of all of this, but what I did know was that I felt so grown up & cherished in their presence. I knew there was something special about these men; to me they were worldly & fancy & sparkly & they knew a little something about everything. And most importantly, they taught me what they knew.

From them, I learned about music & fashion & art & literature & Broadway & why black & white movies of the 40’s were the best movies & that you must always bake with butter, never margarine & that cookie dough is calorie free & the power of the LBD & that one must always dress up when going downtown & the difference between Barbra Streisand & Barbara Stanwick; Bette Davis & Bette Midler; Oscar the Grouch & THE Oscars & the importance of wearing sunglasses, even in the fog, to prevent wrinkles, darling.

They were men of great style, class, elegance, intellect, wit, charm, creativity, beauty & fun. They were incredibly cultured & had exquisite taste. My memories of my time with them run deep:

Going to the “Nutcracker” every Christmas Eve.

Having high tea at Liberty House.

Lip syncing & dancing to the Andrew Sisters “Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy”. I know all the words, still, to this day.

Taking in the Christmas decorations downtown at Macy’s & I.Magnin’s  & ending the day with a cable car ride to Ghirardelli Square for hot chocolate with extra cherries & whipped cream, a tradition I still practice every holiday season.

Lengthy sermons on the essential need for dust ruffles & monogrammed stationery & silk dressing gowns.

To a young child, these experiences leave a mark; a permanent mark of rainbow colored glitter sprinkled on her soul.

To my child’s eye, mind & heart, these men were magical. They were my playmates; the most delightful big brothers to a shy, often sad & lonely little girl. They were fun & silly & played dress up & Always let me be Cher to their Sonny. A major sacrifice on their part, to be sure!

They told me I was a glittering gem & that I was “fabulous” & they meant it in a REAL way, not a “hey girl hey” way, tho we had those moments too. They treated me with respect. They didn’t patronize or pander to me. They expected me to keep up my end of the conversation, regardless of the topic or my lack of knowledge about it. Local politics or Best Dressed at the Oscars; my opinion mattered to them. They didn’t baby me. They treated me like an equal. But that didn’t mean that they didn’t spoil & coddle me. They made me feel special & valued & respected. Perhaps because society didn’t offer them the same respect as gay men, they felt compelled to make sure I was always treated as a whole person. For a young girl of color, this went far in developing my sense of self & worth & pride in being who I was.

They also showered me with gifts, some that I still have to this day:

A beautiful hand-woven throw that made on an old-fashioned loom.

A hand beaded necklace with an antique tiny bell at its center. Too tiny now for my adult neck but still cherished.

A beautiful white cake stand from Tiffany’s; an odd gift for a 10-year-old girl, you might think, but as the gift giver said when he handed me the HUGE blue box, “Sweetie, if I’ve taught you nothing else, please remember this: the light blue box is always the BEST box!”

I still have those treasures, but I no longer have my fairy god-fathers.

They all eventually succumbed to HIV/AIDS. They were all in long-term relationships. Their partners died too. By the early 90’s they were all gone.

These men were the first & most prominent adult male figures in my young life; in truth, the only father figures I had growing up. I know for a fact that it is because of my time with them that I am the person, the woman, the friend, the activist, I am today.

They didn’t live to see the many strides & advances that the LGBTQ community has made. If they were still alive today, they would be at the front of the line continuing to fight the good fight for the strides still to be made.

But they aren’t, so I do it for them. It is the least I can do to honor their legacy & repay them for all they have given me.

My description of these men might seem almost disrespectful in its seemingly stereotypical depiction of gay men, but these were the men I knew, as I knew them, when I knew them. This was who they were, at a time when the gay community in SF was thriving & carefree; when the pulse of the disco beat of the day seemed to ring in sync with the beat of the cultural awakening that was taking the world by gloriously gay rainbow storm on the streets of SF.

I am so lucky that I spent my formative years as their fairy goddaughter, wrapped up in the glow of this historical time. But my golden carriage turned into a pumpkin well before midnight of my young adulthood dawned and my fairy god-fathers vanished with it.

I am a better human being because I knew them. THIS, I know for sure. My fairy god-fathers may be gone, but their rainbow colored fairy dust flows in my veins forever. They had their Pride. And they gave me mine, too. xo Lulu

Loving and Losing Lara


Give sorrow words; the grief that does not speak whispers the o’er-fraught heart and bids it break. ~ William Shakespeare

I’ve been thinking a lot about courage lately. Finding the courage to start this blog came, in large measure, due to the memory of my friend Lara.

How do I describe my friend Lara (or as I called her, “My La”), to you? For some people, words simply aren’t enough; but I will try, for My La is worth the effort. Fair warning: this post is LONG. Really long. But when you are writing to honor someone’s life, ample time must be granted. Shortcuts are insulting. Brevity is offensive. So find a comfy corner. Stretch your attention span. Grab a libation and settle in for what I hope will be a special encounter between you and my friend Lara.

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Lara and I met in college. This is us on campus, celebrating the first blooms of spring. She’s in pink. I’m in yellow.

This is what I wish you to know about her:

Lara was the personification of these words: strong, bold, passionate, sassy, confident, beautiful, smart, moxie, fiery.

Have you ever ACTUALLY seen a woman STRUT? Well, if you’d known Lara you would have. Lara didn’t walk, she sort of rolled, sauntered, cruised. Indeed, it was a strut. With her shoulders thrown back, her long brown hair flowing and her cowboy boots pounding the ground with sass and frass, Lara was one of the most dazzlingly self-aware, dazzling, empowered, wise women I’ve ever known. These are NOT adjectives often used to describe a young woman in college. For most of us it takes another 20 years, IF we are lucky, for even one of these superlatives to be ascribed to us. But not Lara. She had it DOWN, even back then.

Lara was no joke. She knew who she was and she never compromised herself. She didn’t suffer from that often female habit of worrying what people thought of her or if they liked her, for Miss Thang knew that if they didn’t like her, well then screw ‘em. They had no sense. HA! I loved that about her.

Lara was a bad-ass…in the best sense of the word.

Lara was fierce and fearless. Period.

Lara carried a flask and could drink anyone under the table. Vodka and Cranberry. Jack and Jim, Daniels and Beam. Pick your poison. You’ve lost before you even started.

Lara could have been a professional pool player. She was THAT good.

Lara knew her power as a woman. She embraced that power and never made excuses or tried to diminish it. She owned it. Powerful stuff for a doll so young.

Lara reminded me, physically, of the actress Ellen Barkin. She had a slight Presley-esque lopsided curl to her upper lip. Her eyes crinkled when she smiled. She had that type of confidence and presence that a truly beautiful woman possesses, even though she wasn’t what you’d call a classic beauty. There is also a bit of the country music star Gretchen Wilson in her too. That no-nonsense, down-to-earth, no BS, don’t MAKE me slap you with my words, cowgirl in My La.

But the truth is that Lara’s deepest beauty was to be found in her passion, her heart, her words and her truth. And in the way she loved. Lara loved hard. Her friends. Her family. Her lovers.

Some of my favorite Lara memories are of her strutting into the college pub where the pool tables were, that sly-sexy-lopsided smile of hers powered at 1000, daring the boys to challenge her to a game. And they always did. Silly boys. How could they resist this Southern Belle whose slight southern drawl belied her kick-ass ways? How could they resist her sparking eyes and golden skin and her, “Come on. You know you want to” gaze? And while they were spinning in her glory, falling dizzy hard for her wit and charm and beauty, she was kicking their A**ES at pool. Poor boys. They never had a chance. Never knew what hit them. We, her friends, would just sit back and enjoy the show. And that girl knew how to put on a show.

Lara was a brilliant writer. Poetry was her true love. It’s what she studied in school and was her life’s work. Her book of poetry was published posthumously; a copy signed by her mother is one of my most treasured possessions. Her appreciation for words was not reserved for just the union between pen and paper but also, and this was my fav part, it fueled her gift for being able to ZING someone with a well-placed “BOOM-on-no-she-DIDN’T-just-say-that.”

Lara did not suffer fools lightly. And why should she? You had to be on your game to keep up with her; to be her friend; to earn her respect. Not everyone may have appreciated THAT side to her, as is often the case with strong, outspoken, confident women. She could be intimidating. For ME, it was what I loved most about her. Her fierce commitment to the truth. Her willingness to go cowboy boot toe to toe with anyone, anytime, anywhere. Brash? Maybe, at times. But always honest and always fair and always with that devilish twinkle in her eye that let you know that SHE knew it was never a fair fight. She won just by strutting into the room.

Let’s be clear: Lara’s fierceness was NEVER mean spirited or hurtful. She simply walked, nay, strutted, in the truth. And as we know, the truth can hurt. But at her core, Lara was one of the most thoughtful, sensitive, loving, caring people I knew. Like all of us, Lara had her insecurities too. I consider it a true honor that I was one of the few people allowed to see that side of her, for it only added to the amazing grace that was her heart, spirit and inner twinkle.

One Halloween our group of friends decided to dress up as one another. There was NO question as to WHO would go as Lara: Me. We shared the same thick brown waist length hair and passion for wearing one too many bracelets. I borrowed one of her signature thrift-store dresses and practiced my best lip curl. “Being Lara” was a blast. I walked a bit taller (even tho I was in fact already taller than her in actual inches to begin with). There may have even been some strutting going on. I’m pretty sure I even had some swagger. Being Lara meant that I knew my power, my grace, my beauty, my strength. I felt like a superhero! And even when the dress came off, returned to its owner and I was back to being me, the essence of Lara remained with me. Once you’d experienced the “World According to Lara”, it’s not possible to go back to being a mere mortal. Now that I think of it, Lara didn’t go as any of us that Halloween. I’m sure it would have been a letdown for her. I’m still not sure WHO she was supposed to be. Based on her all black military MTV rocker chic ensemble, my best guess is that she was an extra from the Rhythm Nation. She was about two years ahead of that nation actually being formed by Miss Jackson.

Lara was always one of my biggest cheerleaders in college. She was always telling me how amazing she thought I was, how beautiful and strong and smart I was in her eyes. My guess is that this is not the norm for most young women in college. I hope I am wrong though. To have a gal pal who is supportive and encouraging and nurturing, who sees the best in us and demands that we live up to that expectation, is indeed a gift I wish for all young women.

The truth is, just by being my friend, Lara made me feel special. Because she had such high standards in terms of people and who she chose to spend her time with, I felt that by her claiming me as one of her nearest and dearest, it was PROOF that I was worthy. Lara’s closest friend in college was Leigh. I often felt like I was the kid sister, tagging along with the older cool girls on campus (even though we were all just months apart in age and I was a good few inches taller – lol). Lucky me, to be part of this fabulous trio! Leigh and Lara. Lara and Leigh. Always together.

Lara and Leigh graduated a year before me (I had taken a year off between high school and college and thus was a year behind them). I remember feeling so lost without them my senior year. It was a year that brought many challenges my way on campus and every day I wished that they were still there with me to support and bolster me during some of my more trying moments.

As is often the case with life and friends, we went our separate ways after college. Leigh to NY, Lara home to North Carolina and I to Europe for work and then back to SF. Leigh and Lara for sure stayed in touch. Lara and I exchanged many lengthy hand written letters over the years. 10-12 pagers. An art form we both savored. Lara invited me to her wedding. I didn’t go because of same lame reason. Probably just being so wrapped up in my own life. I regret that decision now. I figured I’d have time to visit with her…one day…someday.

It was through Leigh I would learn Lara had been diagnosed with stage 4 cancer. I remember Leigh saying, “I know she would love to hear from you”. I KNEW I should call Lara; I knew I should reach out. But I didn’t. I simply couldn’t bear it. I’d never been faced with a situation like that with someone so close to me. And in this first test of, “Lulu, what are you REALLY made of?” I failed. I didn’t know what to say to her. I didn’t want to hear weakness or pain in her voice; in the voice of someone I remembered as being so strong and powerful and effervescent. I was afraid I would fall apart on the phone, break down in sobs, and make her feel worse. I didn’t want her to have to end up comforting me. I didn’t trust myself to be able to sound happy and positive. I was simply afraid of her illness. It paralyzed me into non-action.

The real truth is this: I didn’t want the first time we’d spoken since college to be because she might be dying. I convinced myself that if I didn’t call her it would mean that nothing had changed; if we didn’t talk about her illness then maybe that meant she wasn’t actually sick. And so time went by, and as more time went by I thought, “Well, I can’t call NOW. How am I going to explain not calling the minute I learned she was ill?” I thought, “Well, she’ll get better and I’ll call her THEN”. So I waited. And I never called. I continued to send holiday cards as did she, neither of is mentioning her illness, but I will never forgive myself for not being there for her in her time of need. I knew that she knew I loved her and I even imagined that she understood my silence (later her husband would confirm that for me) but I made the mistake putting my OWN issues with her illness ahead of doing the right thing. I regret my behavior with all of my heart and soul. It’s a regret that doubles me over in brutal shame and disgrace to this day. I was not the friend I would have wanted someone to be to me. I was not the friend she deserved.

When I learned from Leigh that Lara had taken a turn for the worse and was in hospice care, I literally fell to the ground and cried for three days and nights. My body ached from crying. Grief raged inside of me. I wanted to rip the world to shreds and throw it at the sun till it burned into little pieces. I was having trouble just catching my breath. A few times I collapsed on the floor, rocking back and forth, sobbing, banging my fists against my legs.

A few days later & just a few days before my birthday, very late in the evening, came word that Lara had taken her last breath. It was in the form of a slightly cryptic email, the sender clearly not feeling able to just say it clearly. I had to ask them by reply, “Can you be clear? Is she gone? Has she died?”. It was brutal. My first reaction was a heaving gut-wrenching howl that ripped through my body. I flung myself across my bed and buried my cries into my pillow and pounded the bed with my fists. And then it started to rain…a rain that was not in the forecast. I sat up on my bed and looked out my window up at the dark black sky. I saw a cloud pass in front of the moon. I felt a wash of calm come over me. A clarity of mind and spirit. And peace. And then the cloud passed and the rain stopped. I am not religious but it was what I imagine many who are describe as a sign from above that all is as it should be. It was the most astonishing occurrence. Lara was gone, the skies cried and for the first time in 3 days, I was at peace…at least for a while. Proof positive that in death, as in life, Lara’s power and light remained steady and strong. I’ve no doubt that cloud and those few minutes of rain were Lara, making her entrance, strutting on in and causing a seismic shift and making everyone take notice.

Lara was in her early 40’s when she died, doubling the life expectancy the doctors gave her; they gave her two; she raised them four. I’m not surprised. Not one damn bit and yet, how can it be that a woman so vibrant and strong and committed to life, so full of gusto and swagger and saunter and kick-ass awesomeness was GONE?

Lara left behind a loving and devoted husband, and two children, age 12 and age 8 at the time of her death. They are blessed to have her blood fueling their hearts. She was a warrior for her friends so you can only imagine what type of devotion and pride she felt for her children.

Now it’s just Leigh and Me. I imagine that every conversation, every hug, every laugh and giggle, every glass raised, every memory recalled, from now until forever, will start and end with our La as its glorious centerpiece.

Lara’s birthday falls within a day or two of Thanksgiving every year. I think that is fitting. I am forever thankful for my dear, sweet, shining, gorgeous, proud, talented, loving friend. I am eternally thankful for her cowboy boot strutting, poetry writing, sassing and frassing, pool playing, flask carrying, badass ways. She died three days before my birthday. That seems fitting too. A reminder as I gripe about getting older that I am blessed to be able to see another year, a blessing My La was stripped of.

I am not one who believes that everything happens for a reason. Sure, it’s a noble notion but until someone can explain to me why death comes early for some, I’m not buying it. However, I DO believe everything that happens has a lesson in it. For me, the death of Lara has taught me, in a brutal knife to the heart lesson, that life is short. Tomorrow is not promised. Make an effort to stay in touch with those you love beyond holiday cards. Pick up the phone. Send them a card, an email. Make time NOW. Don’t wait for a special occasion. End every conversation with, “I love you”. Don’t let time get away. Nothing is more important than nurturing the relationships with those you love. Nothing. And when someone you love is sick, don’t worry about how it affects YOU. Don’t get tangled up in YOUR issues and how hard it is for YOU. That is the height of selfishness and hubris. Get over yourself and pick up the damn phone. I have learned these lessons the hard way. Please don’t make the same mistakes I did. I challenge you to think of someone you’ve been meaning to call, write, reach out to and do it NOW. Right now. Let them know you are thinking of them. Now. Do it. Have courage.

I write now for Lara because she no longer can. Her memory guides my pen. Her life gives me the words. Her death gives me the courage…because I now understand how precious time is and how fragile life is. Writing was her gift to the world. My writing is my gift to her.

Dear sweet friend, Lara, I miss you to the moon and back a thousand times. With passion, truth, conviction and beauty, you ruled the world. With grace, courage, dignity and a fist bump to the rain clouds, you departed. While those who knew and loved you feel as if we may never smile again, all we have to do is think of you, our La, our favorite memories of yesteryear or simply gaze at your photo or sing your sweet name and slowly the smiles will come, the heart will mend and the love that is you, our La, will renew, restore and guide us back to happiness.

So raise your glass (Beam or Daniels if you dare) and join me in a toast to My La. Forever may she strut! xo lulu

She is Gone

You can shed tears that she is gone,
or you can smile because she has lived.
You can close your eyes and pray that she’ll come back,
or you can open your eyes and see all she’s left.
Your heart can be empty because you can’t see her,
or you can be full of the love you shared.
You can turn your back on tomorrow and live yesterday,
or you can be happy for tomorrow because of yesterday.
You can remember her only that she is gone,
or you can cherish her memory and let it live on.
You can cry and close your mind,
be empty and turn your back.
Or you can do what she’d want:
smile, open your eyes, love and go on.
~ David Harkins

 

Peacefully Protesting While Pissed

Wednesday, November 9, 2016, 6pm…The day after.

The plan was to get home, put on some sweats, face plant into a vat of chocolate and have Anderson Cooper tell me it was all a bad dream.

But that’s not what happened.

I went to bed on Tuesday, November 8 in tears, my head aching, my heart broken, my spirit shattered. Donald Trump was President Elect. I simply could not believe it. COULD. NOT. BELIEVE. IT.

My devastation was not so much fear around what kind of President he would be (cause personally I think he’s more liberal than he’s led his followers to believe & cause half of what he’s told them he will do once in office simply can’t be done cause, ya know, The Constitution and stuff).

No, my angst was due to the damage already done because he ran a campaign based on fear, hate, sexism, racism, xenophobia and the notion that you can just “grab” whatever you want in life. And when the Republican nominee for the highest office waves those flags, it emboldens others to do the same.

I’m not naïve. I know there are people in this country who are bigots, homophobes and ignorant buffoons. But for the most part, they keep their sick, twisted thoughts to themselves. Trump’s antics emboldened them; gave them a perceived legitimacy to their rants and with that, the hoods came off. And that terrified me.

Of course not all of his supporters are racist, bigots. Many of them are good people. But here’s the thing: if you KNOW that he is endorsed by the KKK & you KNOW that he mocks the disabled, Latinos, war vets & you KNOW that he degrades & demeans women…and you STILL vote for him…you are cosigning on that behavior. Period.

So I cried. And woke up the next morning & burst out into tears before my feet even hit the floor. I cried as I listening to Hillary’s concession speech. I cried all day as I was running errands. Everyone I encountered looked bleary & red eyes, stunned. I was having trouble processing my emotions. I was gutted. And exhausted. Cause crying takes a LOT of energy…at least the way I do it.

So by the end of the day I just wanted to get home…so I could cry some more.

On the bus, listening to my music (lots of Marvin & Donny & Mavis & Sade), sort of zoned out. The bus stopped at a major intersection and we just sat there a bit longer than a normal red light would warrant. The driver announced, “Folks, looks like we aren’t going anywhere for a while. Traffic is blocked”. Lots of deep sighs and groans from my fellow passengers. I am sure I was the loudest.

We all filed off the bus & then we could see what was blocking us from getting home: thousands of people marching up Market Street. At first I thought, “Ok, cool. I’m glad they are protesting but I need to get home”. Then I heard the chants directed at us & all the others folks disembarking off of other buses in the area, “Join us! Join us!”.

And so I did.

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I’ve protested peacefully many, many times. As a San Francisco native it’s just sort part of your DNA that you take a stand & fight the power. So me joining this protest was not out of character. To be clear: I am only interested in peaceful protests. I’ve never been involved in anything other than that.

So in that moment, I headed straight for the marching crowd. And as I did, the folks in that area let out a huge cheer as it became clear that myself and several others from the bus, were joining them. I fell into line next to a few super adorable college age girls. They smiled & fist bumped me. “Yea! Right on!” they cheered. I looked them in the eye & said, “I need this. I really need to be with all of you. I am just so….” and then I burst out into tears, the emotions of the day and the moment and the movement overwhelming me. The girls wrapped me up in their arms, hugging me tight. “We know, we know” one of them said. And then we linked arms & kept on marching.

The crowd was about 3000+ strong. Totally peaceful. All ages (tho I would say most were aged 18-25, those glorious millennials who felt the Bern & showed up for Hillary in record numbers). There were families with children. There were people of every race. This being San Francisco, it was a crowd that represented every walk of life. The beautiful array of humanity that makes our city by the bay so vibrant and unique. And contrary to what Trump tweeted out, none of us got paid.

I think what struck me most was how every step of the way people joined us, people like me who came across the march by accident, on their way home from work, leaving the gym, walking the dog. People who had not PLANNED to march felt the surge of energy that summed up how they were feeling and it compelled them to take action. Every time they joined in, the crowd cheered, high fived, hugged them.

It was a spontaneous demonstration of decency and compassion. There was NO violence. There was outrage and passion but it was controlled and focused and empowering.

At one point someone had a piñata in the form of Trump floating above the crowd. Someone yelled, “Get it!”. Someone else yelled, “Burn it”. But a huge roar of “No!!!” went up from many of us. We are NOT going to behave like that. Instead…and is was actually sort of funny…people were shaking their fists at it & just yelling “Boo!” in its direction. It was as if they needed a focal point upon which to address their rage. That little paper puppet got a lot of it!

We marched for about eight long blocks, approaching the iconic intersection of Castro and Market Streets where a HUGE crowd had already assembled. I’ve stood in that intersection in times of good and bad, when Harvey Milk and Mayor Moscone were assassinated; when protesting the Iraq War, when campaigning for Obama. And so there I was again, with my people, in my hometown.

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People were waving American, Mexican, Canadian, LGBTQ flags. It was almost a party atmosphere; spirits were high and positive. Don’t get me wrong, people were mad, chants of “Not my President” & “Grab Back” & “I’m with her” filled the air but the anger was contained & focused and more than anything, people were energized and uplifted. I heard a lot of people saying, “This is what I needed”, “This makes me feel better”. That’s how I felt. I think we needed to be reminded that there were more of US who voted believing that we are Stronger Together. Election Night rocked us to our cores. It scared us to think that so many of our fellow Americans did not value the same things (and people) that we value. We needed to know we were not alone.

I’ve heard a lot of people say that these types of protests are a waste of time. I could not disagree more. As long as they are peaceful, they are VERY worthy. There is power in numbers. There is power in community. There is power in expressing your feelings. For most of us during that day we had to contain our emotions, our tears, our rage while at work or running errands or tending to young children. We needed a release. We needed to rant and rave and cry out to the heavens. This country has a rich and proud history of peaceful protest marches. And for me it has always been important to say that I “was there” in those pivotal historic times.

The night was unseasonable warm, the sky clear, the stars bright – a perfect night to be out & about, but as with much of life, shoe choice makes a big difference in protest marching and I could tell that mine might limit my political engagement. I stayed with the crowd for about 30 minutes. The crowd was large & loud & more people continued to file in from Market Street. There was someone on the loud speaker leading chants & speaking to truth to power. I heard some folks say the crowd was going to march to The Mission (a couple of miles away). I knew that would be too much walking for me. I felt I had done my part, my tiny part, but now it was time to go.

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I hugged a few new friends goodbye, took one last look over my shoulder at the sea so humanity… and headed home…where I put on my sweats, face planted into a vat of chocolate…while Anderson Cooper told me it was not a bad dream…it was all true:

Donald Trump will be the 45th President of the United States of America.

Inked by Sade

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I still can’t believe I got a tattoo! It’s not something I ever really thought about but in the past few years I felt like I wanted one & I knew that it would be music related & it was gonna be Sade related because if music is my religion, then Sade is my God.

“By Your Side” is the name of one of her songs. It might surprise you to know that it’s not necessarily my favorite song of hers but it DOES represent my connection to her music in a powerful way.

(Before we start, can we just acknowledge how weird a wrist looks out of context? SO weird!)

It was the fall of 2000. I had just come home after a bumpy day of running errands & just living life. I even remember what I was wearing (green cargo pants, a pink tank top, jeans jacket, green striped tote bag). Normally when I come home I immediately kick off my shoes, drop my keys & sunglasses in their proper little spot (because I am uber Type-A & organized that way), put down my purse & turn on the TV (terrible habit, I know).

But this day, for some reason, I went into the kitchen & turned on the radio. I NEVER do that. I still had my sunglasses on, purse still on my shoulder. The station was set to KBLX, The Quiet Storm. The DJ was saying, “Sade’s first release in 8 years” & then a song started to play.

I literally dropped to my knees in the middle of my kitchen & started to cry. The instrumental intro to the song started to play. I started to cry because I knew that soon, when this album was released, I would have 12-13 new songs from an artist whose art affects me so deeply; songs that would give me everything I need when I need it. I don’t really know how to explain it. There are actually singers whose voices I would rather have if I could sing, than hers. But her music moves me like no other.

I actually said out loud to the empty room, “Sade, WHY do you make us wait so long for your music? We need you by our side”

And then she started to sing the song:

“You think I’d leave your side baby
You know me better than that
You think I’d leave you down when you’re down on your knees
I wouldn’t do that”

I sobbed. As usual it was as if she knew my heart; knew exactly what I was going through. There I was, on my knees, questioning her, begging for her.

She continued to sing. The last line was “I’ll be there by your side baby”

The DJ came on the radio & said, “There it is. “By Your Side” by Sade.

Well, I just about passed out. I mean, she was LITERALLY reading my mind, my heart, my emotions. She was reading my heart & as always, knew exactly what I needed to hear, when I needed to hear it. There she was, being my favorite artist in all the ways that move me.

When the cd was released, I had preordered it & picked it up at the record store (remember those??). I had a whole ritual planned: I was going to start listening the CD on my Discman (lol) the minute I walked out of the store & walk home & just enjoy the music with the backdrop of San Francisco all round me. The walk home was not a short one (From the Embarcadero to Cow Hollow for your SF peeps). It was not a walk that one takes just on a whim. It was a long walk, but walking up & down the hills of my hometown on a brisk clear night, with Sade serenading, is pretty much my idea of heaven.

So I walked & I listened. I few times I stopped to take in the view. And because I am super Type A & like clarity & order & finite beginnings and ends, I started to wonder if the CD would play all the way till I got home or if it would stop sooner. Btu I didn’t really think too much about it. I just walked & listened. And as I put the key in my front door, at that very moment as I opened the front door, the very last note of the very last song faded away. I don’t know what you call that, but I call it a sign…yet again…that Sade knows. She just knows.

“By Your Side” has become a little mantra I say to myself when I need encouragement or a reminder that everything is going to be ok.

Cause here is the thing:

The thing is, there is ALWAYS something or someone by your side…to get you through, to give you encouragement or tough love or a pat on the back. It might be your faith, or your bestie, or your lover. It might be your favorite spot in nature or your much loved piece of prose or a warm cuddle from a fur baby. And it might even be a song…or the title of a song. And it might even be YOU, by your side. In most cases, it’s a combination of all of the above.

So when I started to think about getting a tattoo, something inspired by Sade was the only option & this was the obvious choice. On the inside of my wrist (where is can be easily covered by my watch for those times when a tattoo might not be appropriate) where I can see it, glance at it, stare at it, enjoy it. And I HAVE! I have really looked at it & focused on it & allowed it to do what I hoped it would do: give me strength & courage & faith. Sometimes I wake up in the morning & my arm is up on the pillow & the tattoo is the first thing I see & it comforts me.

It’s been almost two months now. And I have no regrets…which is a good thing…cause it’s gonna be by my side forever! xo lulu

Angels All Around Us

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The other day I was having a rough day. Really rough. I decided to step outside to get some fresh air…and some chocolate. I walked down to the corner store, breathing in the fresh air. At the store I bought a Kit-Kat & some Gummi Bears. They may not cure what ails ya but they sure do offer some temp relief.

As I walked out of the store there was an older Black woman in front of the store asking for spare change.

I looked at her face. She was beautiful…despite the fact that she had no teeth. There was something about her that just pulled at my heart. She seemed so joyful despite her circumstance.

I stopped, smiled & said, “Hello Love” & opened my wallet. I had a couple of singles, two 5’s, a 10 & two 20-dollar bills. Normally if I give money in these situations, I give however many single dollar bills I have. I grabbed the two 20’s, folded them up & tucked them into her hand. “Here you are, my love”.

She looked down at her hand & then back up at me & then tried to shove the money back in my hands. “No, no, no” she said. I pushed her hand away, “Please. Take it. I want you to have it”.

She reached out to give me a hug. She pulled me in & kissed my cheek, her cheek touched mine. Hers was the softest I’ve ever felt.

She held me close. Tightly…as if she knew. I suddenly started to cry. She whispered into my ear, “We’re going to be ok.” I started to cry harder. She kept holding on, “Don’t worry. I’ve got you. God’s got you. We’ve got each other. We’re going to be ok. It’s going to be ok. We are strong, sister”. I sobbed harder. She held me tighter.

We finally unwrapped ourselves from each others embrace. I tried to pull myself together on the busy street corner, embarrassed by my own public unraveling. I couldn’t quite find any words; I was at that vulnerable place where if you try to speak you’ll just cry more. So I just smiled weakly & turned to walk away.

She held up her tightly closed fist which still had the folded money & pumped her fist a bit in the air as if to say, “Thank you”.

As I walked the next few steps, I looked over my shoulder at her. She was watching me. I’d walk a few yards & turn to look back at her. Each time I turned, I blew her a kiss & she took her fist & patted it against her heart. We did this about 5 times until the distance caused us to lose sight of each other.

How could it be that what started out as ME thinking that I was helping HER, was in fact the exact opposite?

As Tracy Chapman sings, “I’ve seen and met angels wearing the disguise of ordinary people leading ordinary lives filled with love, compassion, forgiveness and sacrifice”

I feel like I know what she means.

Somehow this woman, who clearly was in need to healing & care, sensed that I needed the same. I don’t know how she knew. But she knew.

And she left me better than she found me.

Let her be an inspiration to us all, my beauties. xo lulu

Mourning the Reign of Prince

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A week has gone by & I still find myself reeling from Prince’s death. But why? If you’d asked me a week ago to name my top five fav singers or songs, he wouldn’t have been on the list. I loved his art of course but he was just not on that list for me. But he was just always there…in my life. And in that existence, people get taken for granted.

I’ve been sort of surprised by the depth of my sorrow. I cried for three days straight. I watched “Purple Rain” several times over the weekend. His music was on repeat. I’m a bit better now. But if I hear “Purple Rain” anywhere, anytime, the tears flow. In truth, the shock of this musical genius’ death has not worn off. If anything, the pain has deepened, the ache has widened, the grief has amplified.

The irony that Vanity died this year at 57 as well. I knew Vanity’s sister back in my modeling days & had the chance to meet her a few times when she attended fashion shows her sister & I were in. She was breathtakingly beautiful. Fragile. Feminine. Shy.

Every time a news reporter on the news said, “Prince has died”, I held my head in my hands & say, “How can this be? I just don’t understand” I mean, I know that people die & maybe that reaction seems odd but I just can’t wrap my head around it. I just can’t. It seems impossible. It just doesn’t seem real. Still. A week later.

I feel this even more deeply than I did Michael Jackson’s death; not to imply that grief can be measured but I just feel this one deep in my soul. Maybe it’s because Prince’s music was more intertwined with my high school & college days, whereas MJ was more my younger years.

Prince was the soundtrack to dance parties with high school besties & head banging sing alongs in college & snuggle fests under the Eiffel Tower with dreamy boys & wild nights dancing in fountains in Milan with supermodels & California road tripping & that one love who insisted that “The Most Beautiful Girl in the World” was written for me.

And then there was that time many moons ago, in the back of a darkened SF nightclub, in the haze & blur of what those kind of late nights bring, where I found myself among a small group of people welcomed into an after party of sorts & there he was, holding court, literally nodding his approval as we sashayed past, lingering for a few moments as he spoke soft words of praise

I got to see him in concert a few years ago. He was sassy, sexy & dynamic. He never stopped moving & grooving & singing & playing. It was exhausting to just watch. But also exhilarating.

Wherever I was, there was Prince. And yet, he was never over exposed so when he appeared on TV it always felt like a distinct surprise.

His presence was so grand, so evocative, so powerful, so impactful. There was no on like him. He was Jimi & James & Michael & Elton & Madonna & Elvis & Gaga all rolled into one little 5’2” package.

Time is precious. Life is fragile. There are no guarantees. Our time on this planet is fleeting. Responding to emails can wait. Setting up meetings can wait. Life can’t wait. Life is right now. In this moment. And if life calls upon you to grieve & cry & feel your emotions, you have to allow space for that to happen.

This is it. This is all we have. This minute. It can all be snatched away in a second. And while you can’t live your life in fear, you can be mindful that NOW is all we have. And so the question becomes: HOW will you spend NOW?

I often say that music is my religion & that music heals all. But right now those musical prayers are failing me.  Goodnight, sweet Prince. xo lulu