Showing posts from May, 2006

not quite as fun as sex in trees, but still, a good day

Whenever Sara ’s friend Becky is in town, they go to Disneyland and the Huntington . They always invite me. I always turn down Disneyland, because while it would be kind of cool to go again (it’s been a good ten years), “kind of” isn’t worth $50. But today I finally made it to the Huntington with them. You know how it’s always better to visit a city if you know someone who lives there? Well, Sara and Becky pretty much live at the Huntington. They were like, “It’s 11:35. We will walk around the rose garden, which will put us just outside the café in time for our tea reservation at 12:05. Then we’ll go to the Japanese Garden and meditate and write, then to the Jungle Garden and write some more. Here, we got you a notebook.” So while Becky worked on a novel-in-progress featuring two Sara-and-Becky-esque sisters who live at a Huntington-esque estate and get it on with hot gardeners in the treetops, I wrote the following, very rough, sadly less salacious little snippets of story/poem thin

free-tailed tales

I just finished reading Every Night is Ladies’ Night by Michael Jaime-Becerra . Besides the irresistibility of the title, I was drawn to the book because it’s a collection of connected short stories set in LA . But whereas I wanted to write about the overwhelming vastness of Greater Los Angeles, Jaime-Becerra writes about the overwhelming smallness of El Monte. His characters are mostly working class Latinos who dream of things like getting a new starter for their car or convincing their long-lost grandpa to attend their wedding or winning the lottery, because who doesn’t want to win the lottery? But to focus on the limits of his characters’ lives feels kind of condescending and, more than that, kind of beside the point, because the quirky and pungent details of the book seem to say, Life just is what it is. Sometimes you just need to beat up the kid who threw a lemon at you during band practice. Sometimes you just want to start your own airline or mobile electrical repair business.

my therapist would be proud

Normally, if someone asks me for a favor, I feel like the burden of proof is on me—if I’m not going to do it, I need to have a good, solid reason. This mentality has inspired some passive aggressive behavior in its time (“Fine, I’ll take you to the airport. I guess I’ll just set my alarm an hour early…”), along with some genuine acts of kindness. Today I wasn’t feeling the burden of proof so much. The Sparkletts guy had just swung open the door to our office and plunked down a new bottle of water when Mark, the acupuncturist who works across the hall, suddenly appeared in the room. “Hey, can I give you some money to buy an extra bottle and then use it in my office?” he asked. A fairly reasonable request, right? But let me introduce you to Mark. He is balding and middle-aged, but robust-looking, not like he lifts weights, but more like he gets acupuncture regularly and goes for long walks. Ostensibly, we have a nice, neighborly relationship. He’s borrowed my stapler and asked me to p

the aesthetics of that guy your sister is dating

Jane Smiley in the New York Times on what makes important books important: My first premise about what we like or don’t like (or respond to or don’t respond to) is that our affinities aren’t necessarily reasonable or based in any sort of objective standard of aesthetic quality. They are more on the order of crushes or friendships—there is something about a novel that is perceived emotionally and that draws us into willingly suspending disbelief or not. Arguing about which novel is best, or even about the virtues and faults of a particular novel is like arguing about whether your sister should be dating that guy—basically, the arguments don’t matter while the sister still feels drawn to him. There are lots of supposed great novels that I just can’t enjoy— The Great Gatsby is one. I have a “reason”—it is that none of the characters or themes or incidents seem to me to be developed—rather, Fitzgerald seems to me to be talking about them at length, but more as a way of exercisi

sans angel wings

Okay, you know how I’m always putting up announcements about readings I’m doing in Sacramento , but, like, none of you live in Sacramento ? Well, I know for a fact that some of you live in LA. Hear that? I know where you live. No, wait, I was going to do something much cuter than make empty threats to promote my readings. If I were like Alanna or Michelle Tea , I’d bake for you. If I were Francesca Lia Block , I’d wear angel wings as I read. If I were anyone at CalArts , I’d incorporate some kind of multi-media, audience-participation element that would make you feel vaguely uncomfortable. So maybe it’s not such a bad thing that I am just going to be a simple girl reading a simple (yet totally complex!) book. I did buy a new pair of earrings for the occasion. Here are two places you can catch me, The Commuters and the earrings: Skylight Books 1818 N. Vermont Ave., LA, CA 90027 Thursday, May 25, 7:30 p.m. Rhapsodomancy at Good Luck Bar 1514

national healthcare now! or: the $100 toothbrush

This mo rn ing I went to the dentist. Joel Gould and his office are very Manhattan Beach : preppy, tanned, housed in a Spanish-style building with a courtyard. (This picture is from his website. What the?) There were no copies of US Weekly in the waiting room, just stupid Time and of course Highlights , that old waiting-room standby. Manhattan Beach is an annoying place to hang out, unless you’re looking to meet preppy, tanned, Spanish-villa-living types, but it’s a mostly good place to go to public school (lots of AP classes but also lots of anorexia) and a completely good place to go to the dentist. The tight-shirt-wearing, volleyball-playing Joel Gould and his hygienist, who was of course named Heidi, confirmed what I always hear when I go to the dentist, which is that I have great teeth and crappy gums. My teeth are totally cavity-free—too bad they’re practically falling out of my head because my thin, frail gums don’t want to hold them in. “Did we already recomme

little baby book

I show up at my editors’ house at 7 p.m. When you’re with a small press on a two-city book tour, you don’t stay in a hotel. You stay at Jim and Kelly’s place on the second floor of a house directly under a flight path. But they grill ahi tuna on their balcony at sunset, point out the place down the street that used to be a crack house, the downtown buildings that eclipse the harbor. Their two-year-old son licks the slab of fish on Jim’s plate when he’s not looking. “I think he wants a bite,” Kelly says. They’re raising him one part Alternative Childrearing Philosophy, one part Laidback Bohemian. Which means, as Kelly explains during lunch the next day, “We bring him everywhere with us, and we usually forget to bring along any toys. So he has to be really engaged with the world around him.” Jim and Kelly’s house is not quite a mess, but when I look for a place to set down my book, I cannot find a free patch of table or countertop. This is good—Kelly and Jim are professors, writers,

into the woods

If I didn’t already work for a pretty cool arts nonprofit, and if my theater background consisted of more than seeing Rent 14 and a half times and playing Ferdinand/Ginger in an ill-fated production of The Tempest/Gilligan’s Island , I would totally want to work for Cornerstone Theater Company . Here is what they do: They go to different communities in LA—communities defined by geography, faith, age or initials (and once they did a play comprised entirely of people born on June 30)—and do theater productions that combine said communities’ voices, concerns and amateur actors with classic plays. Friday night, this took the form of 3/7/11: A Lincoln Heights Tale , a fairytale remix acted by eight-, twelve- and sixteen-year-old Lincoln Heightseans. AK used to live and teach in Lincoln Heights, so I was like, “Let’s go see if they’re accurately representing it!” We showed up at Lincoln High School, and she was like, “Wow, they really shouldn’t have painted the building yellow.” It was b

87 little miles

That’s how far it is from San Francisco , where two of my eight loyal readers live, to Sacramento , where I’m reading on Thursday, May 11. It’s only 77.6 miles from Berkeley , where another three of the aforementioned eight live. If quality time on the 80 (oops, sorry, I know you NorCal folks just call it “80”) isn’t enough of an enticement, how about the fact that I’m reading with Michelle Tea , Tara Jepsen , Mark Ewert and Frank Andrick? Michelle is totally the cool, rebellious girl I always hoped would invite me to, like, spray paint something with her, even though I never would have had the guts to spray paint anything besides my green-and-gold cheerleading ladder. The extra great thing about her is that she writes from the point of view of the small, shy, longing, frustrated girl trapped inside the cool, rebellious girl, so she manages to come across as completely approachable and completely badass at the same time. Of course all this is based on her literary voice. I’ve never me

who’s the most cutest kitty-witty in the world? #8

This one’s a true story, with only a few embellished details (don’t tell Oprah): Abby was untamable, as far as anyone knew. She’d been part of a feral litter, but her siblings were adopted and convinced that they liked wearing little pink collars and having their heads scratched. Even though Abby lived in a Good Stable Loving Home for four years, she didn’t trust those human types. And her distrust was only validated when her Good Stable Loving Human said, “To hell with this wild child” and deposited her back at the cattery. Abby paced her cage, looking fluffy and cuddly in all her gray-and-white glory, brandishing her claws at whoever dared to stereotype about fluffy, cuddly-looking, gray-and-white cats. One day, though, she heard a sound that made her retract her claws for the smallest moment. A chatty little “meow” from the next cage over. Even though she knew what might happen if she undermined her hard-earned loner reputation, the voice was so simple and thoughtful that she’d

backwards and in heels

“You dance like me,” she said on the way out of the bar. It was the first time we’d danced. The first time I’d danced, period, in a long time. I always forget how much I like it. That feeling that I’m someone much badder or wilder or sexier, just because it’s dark and I’m waving my arms in the air (but not like I don’t care, because I do. I always care. It is my downfall). “How do you dance?” I asked. Although I’d just watched her: a shoulder-y, knees-bent, mellow-but-still-enthusiastic style. I considered my own style. “I think I put a lot of arms in there.” “Yeah, usually I do too, so I had to tone it down a little.” Maybe this was like her thing about not wanting to order the same dish at restaurants. Two people eating the same omelet and dancing the same dance is just too unoriginal. I think anyone with a sibling can relate to that position. But she can swing and salsa and two-step. No chance of me copying that. “Only if someone leads me, though,” she said.