Tomorrow I fly to BROOKLYN for a week of thunderstorms, Kiku, roaming with friends and one wedding. I have packed a book of short stories from Kate and a trusty umbrella, among other things. Been listening to lots of Biggie. Yuh!



Ty has decided that Pele is the greatest soccer player on earth, that the plural of 'kitten' should be kitteroni. He no longer wants to be a novelist, but perhaps an athlete or a chef--on a recent camping trip he made dinner, hamburger meat and fish mixed together in a mustard sauce, which Molly ate, heroically. At the brown desk in his bedroom he studies genealogy, looking over spread-out ancestral charts and family trees with his reading glasses on, collecting especially good names to be passed down to descendants (Leon, Harry). He refuses to watch bad TV with us--says The Bachelor is disrespectful to women, and while the truth of this observation does not stop Mom and me from taping the show on Monday nights, we feel proud of my brother's goodness, his noble opinions, and we hope he will always be this way.

That's impossible, of course. Ty is twelve, the same age I was when I went to my first middle school dance. I wore brown lip gloss and a floor-length velvet skirt, held onto Eddie's shoulders with my arms completely outstretched. Ty says his dances aren't really like that, the boys and the girls don't talk, they stand on opposite sides of the room and eat snacks--but soon, I know, things will change. I was almost nine when Ty was born, old enough to hold him the way adults do, with his head propped up the right way. It's a biggish age gap, one that has made it impossible for me to give up calling him by his baby nickname. Jordan and I are two years apart, close enough to scheme and fight together in equal measure, but toward Ty I've always felt protective--more than a sister but less than a mother. In the fall, for the first time, both Jordan and I will be away at college and Ty will be at home. This is the hardest part about leaving: that there will be years of career changes and fresh haircuts and dubious made-up meals before Ty leaves too, that I will experience them only over the phone. He's been once to Vassar, where he ate snow and took photos on the front steps of dorms, but I am not sure how much he remembers it. I wonder if it is as unsettling for him as it is for me to have a sibling across the country, living a life almost unimaginably different--unimaginable not because of what it is, exactly, but because I am not there to see it.



Last Thursday I flew for the weekend to Phoenix. I had never been there before, but I had three preconceived notions about it:

1. That it was hot. Really hot. (True.)

2. That most people there are old (false) and Republican (pending). 

3. That the city contains palatial, almost unthinkably large malls. (This Nora told me, and it was true too; on the way to the apartment we passed the Scottsdale Fashion Center, which spans ten square blocks, includes a movie theater and is anticipating the fall 2009 addition of 30 more stores.) 

But I had not been prepared for the unfamiliar beauty of the place--the green spread of bristling foreign plants and the tall reddish mountains, which press against Phoenix on all sides, as if holding it in. I had never felt mountains so close; the sensation is one of both horizontal openness and parapeted protection. 

Also, the heat is not even so bad! It isn't humid, and most indoor spaces are so air conditioned that stepping outside feels a bit like sliding into a lukewarm bath. And there are pools. Lots of them. In San Francisco, I tried to explain, people don't really go to pools, because it isn't hot enough. Plus, most of them are indoors, like Rossi Pool, where the water is a yellowish green and where, in the eighth grade, Nora and I hosted a middle school pool party. My only memory from this event is that my swimsuit top came off while I was diving in the deep end; then I treaded water in the seven-foot section, away from all the boys, until Helen retrieved it from the floor of the pool. 

 Today I went to the library at 24th and Mission. The building is nondescript from the outside--I had trouble finding the door--but inside, space seems to balloon. I liked the feeling of being in a book-filled cave, and went about gluttonously gathering hardcovers. I found a Mary Gaitskill novel I've been looking for, but I was especially excited to borrow Nice Big American Baby, Judy Budnitz's short story collection. I've been a Budnitz enthusiast since we read one of her stories, Nadia, in my sophomore year writing course at Vassar. After that, I tried to bring her up in class as much as possible. ("I was just thinking it might be interesting to compare the protagonist here with the collective voice in Nadia... Hey guys, is it just me, or does this remind anyone else of that one part in Nadia where...")