In our national mythology, we seem to include only one-way migrations to the great capitol cities. The journey from the small Wisconsin town or Minnesota city to Chicago or New York or Los Angeles. Certainly for some people, that journey is a round trip.
I eventually made the reunion with my father that I'd used as a default daydream throughout my childhood, but by then, we'd both outgrown the only relationship we could have had to each other. I was over 30 by the time I met him again and no longer needed a father.
I remember the excitement of finding a great pancake recipe in 'Gourmet.' It felt as if it were mine. And it was Berkeley, of course - everybody cooked together. Cooking is what one did.
We go to college, live together or marry, and have kids - often with little more thought to the daily routines of raising children than our grandparents gave them, when women by and large stayed at home.
I grew up with a single mother, and although we didn't have a lot of money, she cared a great deal about what we ate. We were the original health-food family. We shopped at what were called health-food stores before Whole Foods - everything came from bins.
It's a different thing to write a love story now than in the time of Jane Austen, Eliot, or Tolstoy. One of the problems is that once divorce is possible, once break-ups are possible, it can all become a little less momentous.
Once upon a time, my mother lived in the posh downtown of Homs, Syria. She described my grandfather as a king in a storybook, atop a horse, wearing a didashah and pointing a long arm.
The lawyer refused to tell me my brother's name, and my colleagues started a betting pool. The leading candidate: John Travolta. I secretly hoped for a literary descendant of Henry James - someone more talented than I: someone brilliant without even trying.
When I was in high school in Los Angeles, my mother, who was a speech therapist, agreed to stay over the weekend with one of her clients and his little sister while the parents went away on vacation. She brought me along.
Writers collect stories of rituals: John Cheever putting on a jacket and tie to go down to the basement, where he kept a desk near the boiler room. Keats buttoning up his clean white shirt to write in, after work.
In my 30s, I wrote in the back house of a ramshackle Spanish Revival we rented across from the ocean in the Santa Monica Canyon. I wrote thousands of pages there, but in order to see another adult human being, I had to steal out through the brambly side of the house, along the driveway down to the street.
Even as a feminist, my whole life I'd been waiting for a man to love who could love me. For decades, I'd thought that man would be my father. When I was 25, I met that man, and he was my brother.
Even more than we want good love for ourselves, we want it for our children, those vulnerable satellites of our hearts that we send, unsteady, into the world.
I grew up as an only child with a single mother. Because we were poor and because I knew my father had emigrated from Syria, I imagined he looked like Omar Sharif.
I felt like any other American kid. I already worked at a steady job as an ice cream scooper, but I didn't feel less in any way than my more affluent friends from school.
I read a lot of books about psychopaths. I read a wonderful book Amy Hempel gave me about the guy who created criminal profiling - a fascinating book, 'Mind Hunter.'
I've never felt powerful enough to write a true political novel, or deeply knowledgeable enough to draw a character like, say, Tolstoy's Prince Kutuzov.
If a mother is sitting in a chair at the office, someone needs to be at home with her child. In some cases, that is a father. Much of the time, the material manifestation of the conflict is a nanny.
I suppose 'My Hollywood' is only as politically meaningful as it is deeply inside the least powerful of its characters. I wanted it to reveal scenes of subtle exploitation, odd instances of accidental power and challenges to decency specific to its time, but also impulses of generosity that transcend our particular era's messes.
Instead of a dedicated room, my best trigger is the actual habit of reading over the texts from the day before. Marking. Changing. Fussing. This ritual amounts to a habit of trust. Trust that I can make it better. That if I keep trying, I will come closer to something true.