The O’Connor’s

My mother is the oldest of seven children. Growing up, all the families lived in the greater Los Angeles area. We Jordan kids were just five of the 29 grandchildren our grandparents had. Mostly, we were like stair steps, born year after year after year, but in 1960, the year my youngest sister was born, there were four grandchildren born within a few months. My grandparents youngest grandchild and first great-grandchild were born the same year. While some of us lived close enough to attend the same grammar school and high school, most lived far enough away that we saw each other on occasional weekends, for birthday parties (which with so many kids were a pretty regular event), and all the holidays. Christmas Eve at our house, Easter at my Aunt Lola’s, Thanksgiving at Aunt Baby’s, a summer party at the O’Connors because they had a swimming pool, and so on. Cousins visited back and forth and were chosen to accompany families with same-age children on vacations, skiing trips or sailing to Catalina with our uncles and their kids.

Class Photo

When he died, my father’s funeral arrangements and financial affairs fell to me. Years earlier, at my urging, he had set up his modest estate as a trust which made it easy to administer and disperse to his children whom he named as his sole beneficiaries. The funeral was well attended; the wake even more so. One by one, his friends pulled me aside to tell me how much they loved him. They raised their glasses, cried over him and toasted to his everlasting memory.

Milosz & The Metropolitan

Riding a leisurely train down along the Hudson from Poughkeepsie to New York, I ate an avocado sandwich, read Raise High the Roof Beam, Carpenters, and then, with a map my friends in Poughkeepsie had lent me, plotted a sight-filled route from Grand Central Station to the Metropolitan Museum of Art.  The river disappeared behind dark buildings, the train passed through a series of short tunnels, I studied the map.  I didn’t want trouble out on those mean city streets so I set tough rules for myself:  Don’t stop.  Don’t gawk at the tops of buildings.  Don’t look confused.

Grief Interrupted

It has been a year now since Peter lost his struggle to breathe, his heart and lungs no longer able to bear the strain of fighting against the aggressive Parkinson’s disease that ravaged his body and mind for 12 years. A year since I’d stood at his bedside that night in mid-October staring at the gray corpse that hours earlier had been my brother. I sobbed convulsively, “He suffered so much,” I howled. My husband held me. Our youngest brother Michael choked back tears.


By the time Jessica finished fifth grade she was the biggest kid in her small private school, even bigger than all the sixth graders.  Strangers on the street had begun to mistake her for a Cal student. She seemed miserable in her little school. One day we were alone in the kitchen and I sat down across the kitchen table from her as she bent over her homework.

…Son: Counterculture Feminist Poet Raises Football Player

October 1, 1976
Officials at Emery High School in Emeryville,
California, were surprised when a popular female
gym teacher showed up with a beard. Doris Richards,
in a yearbook photo eating a banana, described by a
former superintendent of schools as “the sweetest girl
I’ve ever known,” spent a six-month sick leave under-
going a sex change operation. The teacher, who now
wants to be known as Steve Dain, informed the school
he wants to stay on the job.
           The San Francisco Chronicle

The Alien Becoming the Familiar

During our fifty plus years of residing in north Berkeley, my family and I have had the opportunity to sample a wide variety of cuisines. Nearly a decade ago, strolling down Solano Avenue we counted nearly 30 restaurants offering Indian, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Thai, Mexican, Vietnamese, Chinese and variations of all- American meals with the exception of a Subway sandwich franchise, no fast food outlets.

Not So Fast, My Dear

If you read the popular press, it seems many people dread turning fifty, feeling as if the hourglass has now been flipped and their life is certainly half over. Against all common belief and expectation, however, fifty turned out to be one of my best years ever. Not only did I go way beyond my comfort zone, stretching my mind and body, by hiking the full fifty-mile circuit of the High Sierra Camps in Yosemite National Park, ascending from about 6000’ to 11,000’, but I also met Norton.

Virtual Robert Levin

We sat in my car parked by the beach at Todd’s Point smoking a joint; this was Mendocino after all. I had brought Robert the book of photographs we’d produced after he’d moved into the nursing home. He was pleased with the quality of the photographs.