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Showing posts from July, 2005

why it's good to date someone your same age

Because then, during dinner, when one of you asks, “Did you ever watch The Red Balloon in school?” the other will almost spit out her corn laughing at the memory of this randomest of movies. Then you will muse on its bizarre popularity: a French movie (you both think it was French, though you can’t recall anyone actually speaking in the film) about a little boy chasing a balloon through cobblestone streets. Who said, “Yes, that is the movie that should be shown in lieu of P.E. on all rainy days. That is the movie that should run during free summer programs at the library. That is the movie that, even though it appears to be French, should be shown in ninth grade Spanish classes everywhere.”? The two of you will conclude that it must have been distributed to public institutions for free, much like the prepackaged jicama sticks that were served with every meal at the camp where you were a counselor. Its only other possible draw is the actual balloon itself, which you remember as imposs

stinkbird

A ghettolovely moment (kind of like ghettofabulous, but quieter): Last night around 10 p.m. a little sparrow perched on the top bar outside the window near our back door. It sat there, well past bird bedtime, feathers fluffed up. “Little nightbird,” we cooed. The window was open, and scents from the cats’ litter box wafted upward. “Maybe it likes gross smells,” we theorized. “Maybe it’s a stinkbird.” Throughout the hot weekend, we’d been lamenting that the bars on our windows prevent us from installing an air conditioner. But our little stinkbird reminded me why, ultimately, I’m a fan of bars. They let you leave your windows open on summer nights, and sometimes sparrows mistake them for tree branches.

a long story about target shorts

I hadn’t seen Bonnie, my best friend during grades four through twelve (with some difficult spots in grades six, seven and eleven—such is the nature of schoolgirl friendships), in almost a year. So naturally, when we met for lunch on Sunday, one of the first things we discussed was Target. Bonnie pointed to her new, antique-looking TV cabinet and matching shelf thing. “Guess where?” The furniture was classy, but still, Target was going to be my first guess. Bonnie and her other best friend, Angie (yes, this other-best-friend situation was the source of some of the aforementioned difficult spots), used to approach Target the way some people approach Disneyland: the attitude is ironic, but the pilgrimages and purchases are frequent. “Target,” Bonnie confirmed. “I just went there before coming here!” I said. “I got some vacuum cleaner bags and some shorts. I’m going to Singapore soon, and I think it’s near the equator. I thought it might be good to have shorts.” “Isn’t that where the

for the record, such as it is

It occurred to me that, in my last post, I made it sound like the homeless guy gave me $20 for permission to cut my hair, when in fact I gave him $20 for the 'do. I don't know why I feel the need to clarify. Maybe so I sound more like the possibly-gullible person that I am and less like some kind of hair whore.

north american ghost music

Last night I went to the Hotel Café to hear Jamie’s friend Shannon McNally play. She’s this young, smooth-skinned girl with a huge, gravely voice and a band full of hippie dudes. Her 47-year-old piano player was wearing a baseball cap with a red-white-and-blue marijuana leaf on it. They rocked the bathroom-sized stage, reminding all the Angeleno hipsters in the audience that country (and country-ish) music doesn’t necessarily mean Billy Ray Cyrus. Or that “Butterfly Kisses” song that’s always played during the dad-and-bride dance at weddings. But before I call Shannon’s music “country” (or country-ish), I want to paraphrase what she said, between lonely howling-at-the-moon songs and bad-ass guitar jams, about genre: Her music has been called folk/country/blues/roots/singer-songwriter/southern. She doesn’t like regionalism, and she doesn’t like being categorized. But instead of saying, “I don’t like labels” (which by now is just as trite as any actual label), she just made up her own

i am an ungrateful brat

My new, free iPod shuffle arrived in the mail the other day. It came in a bright green box, which I just opened a few minutes ago. Inside there’s a disc, some jelly bean-sized earphones and a white plastic rectangle that sort of looks like a hotel key card. It was free because I signed up for a Citibank credit card (a deal I really shouldn’t promote, since, according to Fahrenheit 9/11 , Citibank is evil. I rationalize it by saying that since I don’t carry a balance on my Citibank card, they’re not actually making any money off me. In fact, I’m just causing them a lot of trouble. It’s practically activism). I wish I felt excited about my shuffle, but when I look at the apple-green box, I see A Thing I Need To Take Care Of. Right up there with finding out where those ants in my kitchen are coming from—a thing that is not that hard, but which takes just a little bit more knowledge and energy than I have. Which is not a very grateful attitude. But I’m not an early adopter. The fact that

the sims are ungrateful brats

I’m sure entire dissertations have been written about The Sims , so I won’t go into what the game says about our cultural values—say, the fact that your Sims’ career success is directly related to how many friends they know. Instead I’ll just write about how hard it is. First, I took a tour of the household Yoshiko has been lovingly cultivating for two years: Breier and Sylvia, a sexy interracial lesbian couple, are a surgeon and a venture capitalist, respectively. They live in a large house with a robot servant and a flat-screen TV. While we played, Yoshiko bought them an “aqua funhouse,” basically a giant fish tank that you can swim around in. Breier took a few lackadaisical laps while Sylvia stood outside, crossing and uncrossing her arms. Neither of their mood ratings went up. These bougie ladies were hard to please. It was a good thing Yoshiko had recently purchased the Makin’ Magic expansion pack, which allowed Sylvia to learn a snake-charming dance and acquire items like

what's up in tacoma

Despite Penny’s assessment of Tacoma, Friday night I headed south to see my friends Daisye and Yoshiko. They are the sort of friends that I would visit even if they moved to Antarctica, but it turns out that Tacoma is a pleasant city with beautiful old houses and a perfect, east coast-style university, where Yoshiko works. Before leaving Seattle, we visited the house in West Seattle where Daisye grew up. We ate veggie taco salad and raspberry-peach pie made from scratch by Daisye’s mom, Minnie, who actually won a state-wide bakeoff back in the day. Yet Minnie is also a lesbian who contemplates hanging signs with random, Situationist-esque slogans from a local bridge. The best of all worlds, really. Onto Tacoma: The only slight drawback to the location of Yoshiko and Daisye’s charming brick apartment building is El Guadalajara, the karaoke bar across the street. None of us will ever hear 4 Non Blondes’ “What’s Up?” in quite the same way again. But there’s a good independent book

seattle, barnum-style

Here is my favorite story from my first-ever visit to Seattle: When The Pioneers (a band of semi-corrupt white guys) arrived at the part of The Sound (my friend Yoshiko tells me only tourists call the big body of water to the west “the ocean”) that is now Seattle, they settled on the only unoccupied flat of land, not thinking that perhaps there was a reason it was unoccupied, and not being familiar with the concept of tides. Some time and many potholes later, they realized their new city/tide flat was basically a giant marsh. I don’t know enough about plumbing to properly explain the problems that resulted when they tried to flush their newly invented toilets, but suffice it to say that they had to put them on six-foot-tall platforms if they didn’t want a sewage geyser every time the tide came in. Semi-conveniently, the city then proceeded to burn to the ground. Great opportunity to re-grade and rebuild, right? City officials thought so, but local business owners (who would have

more on chick lit

A well reasoned voice to add to the mix: http://www.newsday.com/features/booksmags/ny-bktop4315643jun26,0,5274075.story . My spinning head is now ready to move on to other topics.

martini glasses and bellybuttons

Yesterday I went to a panel at Skylight Books called “Beyond Chick-Lit” featuring several writers who, as David Kipen put it on KCRW, “have never written a book with a pink cover”: Meghan Daum, Janet Fitch, Kate Gale, Leslie Schwartz, Susan Straight and one of my favorites, Nina Revoyr . Actually, the paperback version of Susan’s novel Highwire Moon does depict a girl’s semi-bare, toned abs, a weird choice (not Susan’s, I’m sure) considering that the 15-year-old protagonist is pregnant throughout most of the book. Usually I skip any panel related to publishing and marketing. The news is inevitably depressing. As long as you know better than to decorate your manuscript with stickers, a certain amount of ignorance is bliss. I also cringe when people stand up and plug their own writing projects in the guise of questions. I too have delusions of discovery, but I am so clever and subtle that hardly anyone even knows I write. But yesterday’s topic seemed important, and since I’m a few mo

modernists get away with some crazy shit

I’m embarking on draft three of a novel I’ve been working on for quite a while. Conventional wisdom says that I should tighten things up, cut some pages and solidify the main character’s arc. But now I’m contemplating Gertrude Stein’s strategy in The Making of Americans , a 925-page book that I haven’t read (but I’m almost a third of the way through a 16-page New Yorker article about it!). Apparently some of those pages are devoted to a fairly traditional novel. Others are not. Here’s a passage: Bear it in your mind my reader, but truly I never feel it that there ever can be for me any such a creature, no it is this scribbled and dirty and lined paper that is really to be me always my receiver…. This that I write down for you a little each day here on my scraps of paper for you is not just an ordinary kind of novel with a plot and conversatiosn to amuse you, but a record of a decent family’s progress respectably lived by us and our fathers and our mothers, and our grand-fathers

used stuff of california

The week had been jagged, full of lost kittens and big questions. I have concluded that, after weeks like this, if you live where we live, it’s good to take the scenic route home. After dinner at Café Metropol , we wove in and out of what I’ll call the Bridge District, white brick arching over lonely and surprisingly clean lots. It was still light out, but hazy in that inland-summer-Friday way. We were the only ones around, so it felt weird to follow orders, to Not Turn On Red. We headed down Alameda, past Washington. A huge tangle of green erupted to our right: plot after little plot of prickly pear cactus, of corn as tall as a stop sign. It was a community garden, technically, but more than that it was farmland. We turned down 41st Street, and it was like a village. In the fading pink light, people cooked meat on corners, and barefoot kids chased each other down the street. We chugged along behind a pickup truck full of flattened cardboard boxes, past two Victorian houses.

michael cunningham and lindsay lohan

At last, my two favorite literary worlds merge: http://www.theonion.com/news/index.php?issue=4126&n=1 .