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Showing posts from September, 2006

it's beginning to look a lot like halloween

Specifically, the dancewear and costume shop next door to my office has put out its life-size clown mannequin, which it does toward the end of every September. But each year the clown—which stands on a busy street from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. every day for a month—gets a little shabbier. Its yellow wig has had sooty black tips for awhile now, but today I noticed that one of its cartoony, white-gloved hands has been replaced by what appears to be the hand of a small female mannequin. So what used to be a sentinel of Happy Fun Kiddy Halloween is now an unintentional harbinger of Scary Ghoulish Horror Movie Halloween. If one of the little tap dancer mannequins in the window display turns out to be missing a hand, all the better.

my name is cheryl and i’m an episcopalian. maybe.

1. i am a crack whore After every Olympics the Manhattan Beach Parks and Recreation gymnastics classes would fill up with wannabe Mary Lou Rettons. I, who had been doing gymnastics since age five, looked upon these fair-weather gymnasts—most of whom would be gone by mid-session—with scorn. I was egged on by my parents, who were big fans of Sticking It Out in all its forms, from classes to bowls of cereal one had poured orange juice on as part of an unfortunate breakfast experiment. I was painfully aware of my Mary Lou-ishness yesterday when I enrolled in the eight-week Covenant I class at All Saints Episcopalian Church , which has been in the news a lot lately, and which was practically bursting at the buttresses during Sunday’s service. But I didn’t sign up because I wanted to be part of the church that was famous for telling Bush to shove it (but less directly and with more love-and-Jesus). I signed up because AK signed up, and I was driving her back from dinner with my aunt an

hiking through the grownup world

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Saturday was the first day of fall, and Sara and I decided to spend it outdoors. This being Los Angeles , there were no trees dropping piles of fire-colored leaves or couples strolling in cable-knit sweaters. But our hike—the Temescal Canyon Loop in the hills above the Pacific Palisades—did take us past one heavily graffitied cactus, a couple of hardcore joggers and the spacious backyards of French- and Spanish-style mansions. Sara sighed wistfully at the latter, much the way she’d sighed wistfully an hour before when we ate at Gladstone’s, a restaurant I thought was crazy-fancy when I was in college (I think because the Daily Bruin ran an article on good Valentine’s Day date restaurants ), but which, upon actually going there, tu rn ed out to be a sort of Buca di Beppo By The Sea. Not necessarily a bad thing—what’s not to love about a giant martini glass full of deep-fried shrimp?—but not the epitome of elegance I’d imag ined. As I studied my Seafood Watch fish guide from

conversation in line for pizza, west hollywood, 12:49 a.m.

GUY IN FRONT OF ME , TO GUY BEHIND THE COUNTER : I’ll have a slice of the spinach pizza. The E. coli pizza. ME : I’ll have the same. [TO GUY IN FRONT OF ME ] Did you just say E. coli pizza? GUY : Yeah. ME : I guess I feel like taking risks tonight. GUY : E. coli is the best diet.

500 beginnings, one fresh start

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I just finished a project for work that involved reading the first three pages of about 500 stories. Even though a lot of those stories were really good, it made me a little crazy in the head. My brain was like, “This is not what reading is supposed to be. When I finally surpassed the not-so-adventurous adventures of Janet and Mark and moved onto real books and decided that, fine, fine, I liked reading, this is not what I signed on for!” Here is what I lea rn ed: 1) Good writing is not hard to find. Great writing is. Right now I’m finding it in Middlesex . My brain was like, “Oh, right, this is how good it can be.” Like going from an at-least-he-doesn’t-hit-me relationship to true love. It’s so layered and delicious and funny and complex. Not just a story but a world. 2) I love finishing projects because it gives me an excuse to begin my life fresh immediately afterward. I’m not sure what that fresh start entails—everything I did today was just like everything I did yeste

we don't need no education

Today at work our 19-year-old intern mentioned that one of her professors advised her never to write about anything outside her own experience. I emphasized, and emphasized again, that that’s a bunch of bullshit. Or, as my co-panelist Tod Goldberg said Sunday at the West Hollywood Book Fair, “The old ‘write what you know’ thing makes for a lot of stories about 21-year-old Cal State Northridge students.” One bit of slightly more valid conventional creative writing wisdom is that the more specific your story is, the more universal its appeal. Paradoxical but true. Here, try it out—which sentence makes you sadder? 1) There was a war and thousands of people died. 2) During World War I, a boy named Franz who really liked movies and had tried smoking once but was bad at it, died when the army took over his home and he and his mother were forced to live on the streets, where they both got, um, cholera. Okay, bad example. Neither sentence is sad because the first is generic and t

how things are in straightlandia and other parts of the world

Both AK and I have lived most of our lives within the same 25-mile radius, so when we get out of town, we’re easily amazed. Last night on the way to my reading at DG Wills in San Diego, we drove down a block of old bungalows. “I sort of feel like we’re in Northern California right now,” I said. “I can see that. Berkeley, maybe,” she said. We turned the corner. “Now I feel like we’re back east somewhere. Maybe it’s the low curbs.” “I think we’re just not very well traveled, baby. We look around and everything’s exotic,” she said. “By the next block we’ll be in Thailand.” That’s part of it, but I’m also realizing that one of our collective hobbies is Assessing The Situation. Psychoanalyzing people and relationships, making cultural comparisons, that sort of thing. I’ve always prided myself on my skills in this area of observation—I’m a writer, and I’d like to think I have something more to show for it than fast typing skills (76 WPM, 94% accuracy, according to the online test I ju

i am now a respectable member of society again

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Every time I see my Uncle Bob, he starts—with almost no provocation or introduction— to recount episodes of various British sitcoms. “Did you see that episode of The Bucket Woman where Hyacinth’s doorbell was broken and—” The show is not really called The Bucket Woman . That’s just Uncle Bob’s nickname for it, and I’m not entirely sure why, because I haven’t ever seen the show. My answer (and the answer of almost everyone present) is, “No, sorry, didn’t catch that one.” For the past ten months, my answer has been, “No, sorry, I don’t have a TV.” And it’s weird how much it feels like an actual apology. Every time I admit that I don’t have a TV, I feel the need to explain that it’s not that I don’t like TV or think I’m better than TV—I’m just so lazy that I haven’t bothered buying a table or shelf to support the various TVs that have been offered to me like wheels of gove rn ment cheese. It’s gotten to the point that a few friends and family members will ask, in exa

how do you write a short story?

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I don’t entirely know, even though I wrote a book of them , and I’m not just saying that to be modest. Even though I’m happy with the way a lot of my stories tu rn ed out, I felt like they were all little leaps off cliffs of varying heights that just ended whenever the ground appeared. But I’m going to do my best to fake expertise this Sunday at the West Hollywood Book Fair , where I’ll join Tod Goldberg, Holiday Reinho rn and Charles Yu to discuss “The Short and the Short of It: Writing the Short Story.” You’ll also find folks like Aimee Bender, Be rn ard Cooper, Luis Rodriguez and Terry Wolverton hanging out at this book fair, along with great local presses and community organizations , so it’s a good event all around. As if a Sunday in the park with churros and frozen lemonade weren’t enough. *** West Hollywood Book Fair Sunday, Sept. 17, 10 a.m.-6 p.m. West Hollywood Park 647 N. San Vicente Blvd. West Hollywood , CA 90069 “The Short and the

more highlights from the grassroots book tour

When I got up to read Friday night at the pleasantly packed ICE Gallery in San Diego, it became clear that people in the back would have a hard time hearing me over the fan. Someone turned it off, but then it became clear that it would get really hot really fast. So City Works Press visual artist/impromptu handyman Perry Vasquez got out his power drill and, as I was giving my introduction, unscrewed a board that had been covering the window behind me. Presto—indie air conditioning. When I got back to Hotel Jim and Kelly , the power was out due to construction down the street. As we sat in the candlelit living room, Kelly said, “Oh, and don’t worry about the bees in the walls. They haven’t really stung anyone. It’s just that the honey attracts the rats, so you might here some scurrying during the night. But all the drama pretty much stays inside the walls.”

what happens in vegas...

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…ends up on the blog, of cou rse. saturday: when in vegas The last time I was in Las Vegas , B and I hung out with an old friend of hers who lived there. “Ooh, show us what the locals do!” I said, envisioning Bohemian coffee shops and funky dive bars. But that wasn’t really B’s friend’s scene—he worked for a company that distributed monogramable tchotchkes (duffle bags, ashtrays, etc.) to casinos. And so we found ourselves in a local casino. It was just like the rest of Vegas, but with less neon, cheaper games and more Gamblers Anonymous dropouts. It was an interesting night in its own way, but I was glad that AK’s and my Local of Choice for this trip was Mike —who, besides probably being the sincerest and the raunch iest person I know, also happens to edit Vegas’ alt weekly, CityLife , and proceeded to get us into various $20 clubs for free. Right and left. He owned this town. He was a young, brown-eyed Sinatra with a shaved head. sunday: when in paris hilton’s life One ni