Friday, July 31, 2009

the movie i can't wait to not see

Last night on the way home I listened to Terry Gross interview the people behind The Cove, a movie that could easily kill me.

That’s probably a poor choice of hyperbole given that the movie is about actual killing, specifically of dolphins: They’re herded into a cove in a small Japanese village by fisherman banging metal rods underwater (which is basically the equivalent of firing a gun next to your ear if you have sonar). Once the dolphins are trapped, the pretty ones are recruited as swim-with-dolphins amusement-park whores, and the ugly ones are slaughtered and sold as meat. Which is poisonous, incidentally, because their bodies are so full of mercury. Leave it to humans to figure out how to kill an animal twice.

Should I go on?

Okay, I’ll stop there.

“I think maybe I shouldn’t see that movie,” I said to AK at dinner (a reprise of Saturday’s mac and cheese, which turned out quite nicely, thank you). “Or maybe that’s exactly why I should see that movie.”

“You cannot see that movie,” AK said sternly. “I mean, you can if you want, but I won’t see it with you. I can’t watch you watch it.”

So I’m not going to see it. But if you’re made of tougher stuff than me, maybe you should. What does it say about me that I had no qualms about watching Born Into Brothels, but I draw the line at dolphins? (I never actually saw Born Into Brothels, though, because people who get upset by bad things happening to humans never wanted to see it with me.)

I get annoyed when people pause from their comfy liberal lives to wring their hands over some shocking bit of information, then proceed to do nothing about it, or something token-ish at best. Many things in the world suck. This is not news. My philosophy is: Be tough, or be an activist, or both. Your heart is only allowed to visibly and embarrassingly bleed if it leads to action.

Except I don’t always follow this rule. After hearing Fresh Air last night, I vowed to finally give up seafood, except when AK’s mom makes salmon especially for me when everyone else is having ribs, because how sweet is that? Or if AK makes her signature shrimp stir-fry because it seems that one should always encourage one’s girlfriend’s dinner-making habits.

Mostly giving up seafood seems pretty damn token-y. Any thoughts on what a real activist (but one who doesn’t want to get thrown in a Japanese prison*) would do? Write my congressperson? Write a Japanese congressperson? Pay for a ticket to The Cove so it makes money, but then sneak into Hump Day instead?


*Although I bet they’re a lot nicer than American prisons. There are probably water saving toilets and lots of ramen.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

after ellen on a book about the time before ellen

I've always maintained that other people can describe my books much better than I can. I get all self-conscious and bogged down by details. Thank goodness for people like Heather Aimee O'Neill at AfterEllen.com, who wrote a lovely description and review of Lilac Mines. And thank goodness for people like Jen over at Run Jen Run, who scan the internet and alert me to such things.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

if you like it then you should put it on youtube

In much the same way* that, for a short time in 1993, I devoted myself to learning the dance that an angsty Christian Bale does in Newsies, a young man named Shane Mercado has learned the “Single Ladies” dance move for move:



Which of course brings to mind the SNL spoof starring Justin Timberlake as a queeny and untalented backup dancer. When I first saw the SNL sketch, I laughed—Justin Timberlake has good comic timing (good lord, is there anything he cannot do?), but moreover, we’re culturally programmed to think guys in leotards are funny. Because it’s gay! And it makes us feel strange about gender! And when we’re nervous, we laugh!

The moves are femmey, which Shane Mercado fully embraces…but he kind of comes full circle, back around to masculine. Because Beyoncé has curves, she makes the steps look sensuous, playful and easy. Because he is all sinew, you see the choreography broken down into its individual parts, each bone and muscle with a tough, admiration-worthy job.

So kudos to Shane for putting on the world’s tiniest shred of a leotard and crushing laughter into a fine powder called awe. Even if they were not on display in that small black Speedo, I would say with certainty: Dude’s got balls.


*Um, not quite the same way, because Shane Mercado clearly has talent to rival Beyoncé’s, while I had taken a handful of jazz classes at Act III in Redondo Beach.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

food of the living dead

I know this is a little crazy, but this weekend I'm going to try to make multiple dishes from recipes. And one of them is cookies. It's rare that I stray from my usual cooking strategy (stir fry vegetables, put on top grain product), and many people would argue that I shouldn't.

But just because I've almost never successfully made cookies from scratch doesn't mean I shouldn't try out this recipe for zombie finger shortbread cookies for the first time on the night my book club discusses World War Z, right? What could go wrong?

Before I embark on the cookies, though, I'm making toast. I think I can handle that. The toast will become bread crumbs for the mac and cheese I'm going to make my dad tonight. My dad, like all the Kleins, is not a picky eater and is almost always thrilled to eat anything made by someone other than Trader Joe. So even though this recipe is also new, I'm not too worried about whether he'll like it.

The bigger challenge will be persuading him it's healthy. It's hard to convince someone who never eats more than half a muffin that any recipe which calls for a cup of cream is healthy. He and AK once had a long debate about whole foods vs. highly engineered but low-fat/sugar/sodium foods, my physicist dad coming down on the side of the latter. I can make a case for this mac and cheese being more natural than the blue-box variety, but it's not really low anything.

My sister once said, "Whenever I cook for Dad, I make one low-fat substitution--like I'll use two-percent milk instead of whole milk--and then I can tell him it's a special low-fat recipe I found, even if it still includes a bag of chocolate chips."

So I'm toasting three pieces of whole wheat bread to use among the bread crumbs. The rest of the crumbs will come from the leftover loaves of white bread I froze after our fire-pit pie extravaganza. First bread pudding, now this. "Making my own bread crumbs with leftover loaves of 99-cent bread!" I boasted to AK. "I feel like I live in the '30s!"

Except I think zombie finger cookies weren't invented back then, and girls rarely considered themselves domestic goddesses for being able to make toast. Also, I just Googled "bread crumbs how to" and learned that I'm already making them wrong--turns out you're supposed to dry bread in the oven, not the toaster. But whatever.

Friday, July 24, 2009

keeping an eye on highland park

AK sent me this article about Highland Park that ran in the New York Times. Do you know how exciting it is to have my very neighborhood—specifically, the several-block stretch of York Avenue that is closest to my house—profiled in the New York Times?

It’s the next best thing to having them review my book, which, okay, I won’t say would never happen, because it’s also possible that a pig could be born with some kind of genetic mutation of its scapula in which a sheath of skin would be stretched between its back and a point of bone, forming a batty wing that would enable at least a chicken-like level of levitation.

It’s almost cool enough to make me not really feel like rolling out my uncomfortable relationship with gentrification. But I will, just long enough to add that, from what I’ve read and observed about Highland Park, it seems to be gentrifying slowly, partly because a lot of poor people whose role is to get pushed out of “up and coming” neighborhoods weren’t so bad off in the first place: A lot of them own homes, a lot of them send their kids to schools that don’t totally suck, and some of those kids have grown up to be artists themselves. While the article says that HP “draws young trendsetters,” I think it grows them too.

Not that I’m an indigenous HP artist in any way. But I do appreciate that not everyone in Café de Leche is exactly like me. I also really appreciate that there’s this great little network of coffee houses. The girl who works at Café de Leche—whom I think might be an HP native, at least by the way she talked about buying her Converse for cheap in the Garment District—dates the guy who works at Cycleway in Hermon, where I have writing dates with Kathy and Bronwyn. I think he’s a NELA native too; he told a story about stopping at the graffiti-addled front gates of Debs Park for years before he realized there was a larger, unmarred park beyond. He talks about his girlfriend’s singing career, and she plays his noise band’s strange industrial music at Café de Leche.

“He makes really good coffee,” she told me admiringly.

They both know me now, but not in an annoying way where they ask my name or want to have long conversations. Sometimes the Cycleway guy talks about how the skinny trails of white steam in the sky are part of a government conspiracy. Apparently he’s been keeping watch for a long time.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

three news items

1) AK checked the half marathon website, and her actual time was 2:16, not 2:19 as previously reported. They (the people who organize races) do this thing now where they attach a little tag to your shoe and scan you like a carton of milk when you cross the start and finish lines. That way, if you’re trapped behind thousands of runners and it takes you three minutes just to get to the starting line, your official time doesn’t suffer. This means AK met her goal and now rocks more than ever.

2) I will be reading in Seattle at Elliott Bay Book Co. on Tuesday, Aug. 18, at 7:30 p.m. It’s my first out-of-state reading ever and I’m excited and nervous. If even your second cousin’s ex-wife lives in a distant suburb of Seattle and you can convince her to come out for this event, I will be forever grateful to you.

3) My attempt at healthy living a la Laura and Mikko has already been derailed by an iced mocha at 7-Eleven and a low fat (but high everything else) cinnamon swirl coffee cake at Starbucks. I’m pretty sure both “foods” have more than five ingredients, and that one of them is high fructose corn syrup.

Monday, July 20, 2009

running makes you sexy, even to sheep

AK and I spent the last five days in...well, a bunch of places--San Francisco, Berkeley, Napa, a couple of minutes in Sonoma. You'd think we'd won a very short trip to Europe and were trying to cram everything in, in case we never made it back there. But hey, that's how we roll. And we had a great time. And despite the pace, we actually took a lot of naps.

First stop: San Francisco, where we hung out with my college friend Nerissa on the far west end, home of reasonable-ish rent, better Chinese food than Chinatown and a lot of fog. "I just pretend I live in Cape Cod," Nerissa said. She loaned us winter coats and took us on a walking tour of Sutro Baths and Lands End.

The trees looked like giant bonsai, and all the plants had a rugged, wind-worn look with a dash of bright California pinks and oranges. The signage was as intense as at Volcano National Park.



The next day, we hung out in the slightly sunnier Mission, where we had lunch with AK's old high school friend Olinda (a triathlete who gave her race tips--where are these sedentary Americans I keep hearing about? Seriously, I would like to meet some. It would make me feel better about myself).

I ate an amazing soyrizo burrito. I hear there's some kind of SoCal/NorCal burrito rivalry that involves the merits of authenticity vs. the merits of whole wheat tortillas and, well, soyrizo. Personally, I have never met a non-chain burrito I didn't love, but I'd be happy to fan the flames of this rivalry if I could be an official judge in many contests.


Then it was onto Berkeley, where we stayed with AK's other high school friend, Laura, and her husband Mikko, adorable children Tai and Meilin, and poodle-ish dog Ella. This family was so wholesome that the grownups were reading books about sharing; that they not only made us dinner but grew it in their backyard; that they staged after-breakfast dance parties and flew kites with the kids; that I felt like a creepy crack addict admitting I really couldn't start my day without coffee.

But of course they were so nice that the minute they overheard me whispering about said coffee to AK, they offered to drive me to a place nearby, which they'd heard was great. Which it was. And a little caffeine makes kite flying that much more fun.




Once in Napa, site of AK's half marathon, the carb loading began. I had me some solidarity pasta. So did Stephen and Garrett, respective significant others of AK's fellow runners, Pedro and Andrea. (Yes, AK is the kind of extrovert who can convince her friends that running 13.1 miles would be a good time).



Unfortunately, if you want to eat pasta in solidarity with your runners, you also need to wake up at 4:40 a.m. on race day with them. Pedro and AK put on white shirts, black shorts and brave smiles, and called themselves Team L.A.


After dropping them off at the shuttle bus that would take them to the start of the race, Stephen and I drove to the finish line in Sonoma, where it turns out there's not much to do at 6 a.m. on a Sunday morning besides hang out in the park with the ducks.


A scarily short hour and a half later, Pedro came zooming across the finish line. He'd sort of joked about wanting to finish in the top hundred (out of three thousand entrants), but when he finished 32nd, I think we all saw him in a new light. But Stephen made sure he kept his priorities in order.


AK came in at two hours and 19 minutes, which was within just a couple of minutes of her goal time. At first she was all, "The last miles were so hard. I'm bummed. I feel like crap." And I was all, "But you just RAN 13.1 MILES." Seriously, she worked like hell and it paid off. I was so proud I teared up, and I hadn't even had any wine yet.


You can't really see it here, but the medal (and the race T-shirt and poster) featured a picture of a runner bending down (to tie her shoe? to pretend to tie her shoe?) while a sheep leaps over her, licking its lips in a manner that cannot be described other than "suggestively." I guess the message is, "Running makes you sexy, even to sheep."


After a little stretching/resting, AK felt better. Eventually she was like, "Hey, I ran 13.1 miles."


Our brave runners even felt up to a little wine tasting, for which we were joined by Maria and Calvin, who, along with Pedro, put on their bougie whites.


At Peju Winery, it was nothing but class. And a little grabbing of the occasional statue's boob.



We finished the day at a place called The Border, which seemed to specialize in Oaxacan fusion cuisine: mescal cocktails, mango papaya salad, pineapple raisin flan and some sort of mushroom-y wonderfulness stuffed into a chewy fried turnover. It made me think, not for the first time, that my true athletic calling is competitive eating.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

phew!

Ironically,* I sat in traffic for a long time in order to get to the studio to record the show that would combat traffic and patriarchy. I was nervous about getting a rogue coughing fit or sudden amnesia on the air, but it all went fine, thanks to Terry and to Lynn and Celina, the hosts. There are few things more wonderful than warm and welcoming hosts when you're feeling jumpy and under-prepared.

But now I'm exhausted, the way that talking to people frequently makes me. And it was a weird week at work, and I have to get up in four hours and forty minutes to get on a plane.

THEN, though, I will be on vacation. AK has to run a half marathon, but I will be there for the wine (it's in Napa) and the seeing of friends. Cheers!


*Maybe. I've been a bit confused about the definition of irony since that Alanis song, when it became cool to point out how she misused the word "ironic." Now I second guess myself every time I try to use it.

Monday, July 13, 2009

combat traffic and patriarchy at the same time!

The 7 to 8 p.m. block on weeknights usually finds me on the eastbound 10 freeway. I’m pretty sure that’s where all of you are too, because despite altering my work hours precisely so I could avoid the so-called rush hour at 5 p.m., when I look out my window at 7, there are many, many cars on the road.

So I don’t feel at all bad asking you to tune your car radio* to KPFK 90.7 FM this Wednesday, July 15 at 7 p.m. to listen to Terry Wolverton and I on Feminist Magazine. What else do you have to do besides try to decipher the specialty license plate on the car in front of you?

Both Terry and I have new novels that cover the women’s movement of the ‘70s from an intergenerational perspective. I just started reading hers, The Labrys Reunion, which opens with a bunch of Baby Boomer feminists simultaneously despairing that the younger generation has abandoned the cause and—when confronted with the reunion of the title—sort of thinking, Oh god[dess], I REALLY don’t want to relive all that infighting.

Of course, feminism didn’t stop in the ‘70s, contrary to far-too-popular belief. Some of us are still big fans, even if we sometimes wear/obsess about red banana-heeled pumps. Terry and I shall discuss this and more. I hope you’ll join us!


*I hear that radios work outside of cars too. So if you’re one of those lucky people who works at/close to home, or one of those unlucky people who commutes during the rushier rush hour, you can probably still catch Terry and I wherever you are. If you miss us, the podcast will be available at http://archive.kpfk.org/parchive/index.php.

Wednesday, July 08, 2009

small adjacent boats

I was as wary of Away We Go as the next person. And by “the next person,” I mean the self-conscious hipster art nerd who rolls her eyes at anything for which she might be an obvious target audience, while feeling incredibly envious of anything made by other self-conscious hipster art nerds who’ve tasted popular success.*

Okay, now that we’ve gotten that moment of meta out of the way, I will proceed to tell you how much I liked Away We Go. It’s not the most original or brilliant movie ever, but its ordinariness proves it’s not the quirk-fest the trailer implies either. It’s a simple movie about a couple in their thirties trying to figure out their lives. One is an artist who’s lost a parent (two, actually).

Sometimes I find books and movies about people in the same boat I’m in (or, say, a more pregnant, heterosexual, mountain-dwelling—but nevertheless similar—boat) to be incredibly stressful. I may have mentioned that I boycotted The Wonder Years throughout junior high. But other times, a dose of cinematic empathy is just what I need. Especially if it allows me to convince myself that my hair could look as cute as Maya Rudolph’s.

So many movies about couples are built on some sort of boring will-they-break-up, opposites-attract scenario. People spend a lot of time stomping out of rooms and chasing each other down in airports and train stations. Thankfully the only plane-/train-centric scene in Away We Go is when the airline staff doesn’t believe Verona (Rudolph) is only six months pregnant and refuses to let her fly. So they take a train.

But there’s never any doubt that, wherever Verona and Burt (John Krasinski) go, they’ll go together. They get on each other’s nerves periodically, but they’re always friends. This concept is sadly radical in the realm of romantic comedies.

As they look to various friends in various cities for models of how and where to construct their family, they encounter cautionary tales (one of which Maggie Gyllenhaal saves from being too cartoon-y) and discover that even the most Jolie-Pitt-esque families aren’t immune from heartbreak. They realize that the life they build will be uniquely, frighteningly their own and a product of their family histories. It’s a message I’m into lately. But my version involves Malaysia and cats.


*I’m assuming it tastes like donuts.

Monday, July 06, 2009

red, white and blood

When my friend Erin was training for a marathon, her girlfriend (now wife, and this is probably why) would ride her bike alongside, toting water and a stopwatch. When Craig ran the L.A. marathon, his boyfriend Kenny camped out at several spots along the route with peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and a small army of cheering friends.

When AK ran the Palisades/Will Rogers 10K on Saturday, as part of her half-marathon training, I waited at the mile two marker and spaced out until I heard her yelling, “Cheryl! Cheryl!” I looked up just in time to distract her, then see her trip on a lumpy spot of asphalt.

I poured water on her bloody knee and tried to put on a smile that said, I’m so sorry I just distracted you, but I promise not to make this one of those many times where I mess up and then apologize profusely as a strategy to force you to make me feel better about messing up. Today is about you. Run, AK, run!

She ran off and I trudged toward the finish line. I looked very, very hard at every person who crossed from minute 54 on. But then the kids who’d toddled through the 1K started pouring in, and a bunch of pushy moms and grandmas decided it would be okay to stand right in the runners’ chutes, because those ropes are just a suggestion, I guess.

Or maybe AK got obscured by the family of four who was running in front of her much of the time. Adorable, right? The family that 10Ks together stays together, right? Actually, she said that the seven-year-old kept begging to walk, and his parents kept yelling at him to keep running. Look, kid, weak little whiners don’t grow up to have houses in the Palisades.

Anyway, despite the fact that there were like five Latinos in the whole race, I missed AK’s big finish. I found her twenty minutes later, looking very ready to go home.

There are two weeks till the half marathon. I think AK will do great, but her support team still has some training to do.

Thursday, July 02, 2009

bread and bread pudding

Although we devoured those fire-pit pies in a manner that would have made Cookie Monster proud, we still had two full loaves of squishy white bread left over. And while part of me wanted to wad them up into dense little balls and eat them like bon bons, I decided the more respectable thing to do would be to add a bunch of butter, sugar and milk, and make bread pudding.

Because I don’t fare well with recipes that involve complex processes (like rolling out dough) or more than six ingredients, I went with this one:

4 slices buttered toast
1 (#2) can peaches
3 eggs, beaten
1/3 c. sugar
Dash of salt
1/2 tsp. nutmeg
1 tsp. vanilla
3 c. milk

Place toast in bottom of deep baking dish. Drain peaches and save juice. Put peaches over top of toast. Mix other ingredients and half of peach juice. Pour over fruit and toast. Bake 45 minutes at 350 degrees.


I left out one egg and vanilla, which I didn’t have. And baked it for an extra twenty minutes because our oven is weird. Nevertheless, it still came out pretty damn tasty. That’s the power of bread, my friends.

Note: The picture above is not of my bread pudding. It’s more like what my bread pudding would look like if it went to Glamour Shots. But opted for a polka-dot table cloth instead of a sparkly prom-picture background.