Showing posts from 2007

writing prompt #4: bartal and the brain

Thanks to Sara for the following writing prompt : “A bitter physicist plots to take over the world.” I. He’d thought he was over it, until he saw the mouse. Bartal Varga had lived a quiet life for more than ten years, working at the educational supply store and living on the third floor of a an apartment building full of quiet, mostly single professionals who kept their homes very clean. This was key. But of course just because a thing was not probable didn’t mean it wasn’t possible. And where a possibility exists, it will occur. Not often, but occasionally. Say, once every decade. Now here it was: the small gray-brown nose of possibility. Joined by whiskers, black eyes and tiny clicking toenails that belied delicate hands capable of disarming a bomb. Or arming one. It’s just a house mouse, Bartal told himself. It hasn’t lived in a lab and taken careful notes when unsuspecting scientists are conducting classified experiments. But he was thinking all this on top

carlos and desiree

“Carlos and Desiree dropped off a bunch of cardboard boxes outside my door,” I told AK. “They are so nice!” “They’re like your new best friends,” she observed. “You’ve mentioned them like 20 times.” Who are Carlos and Desiree, you ask? They’re my new neighbors at my soon-to-be old apartment building. They’re a young couple with two cute little boys. We’ve talked twice now, and they’ve been friendly. But to be perfectly honest, there’s nothing inherently that special about them. As AK and Alberto prepare to vacate their current house, there’s been lots of wistful reminiscing about the good times they’ve had together. Alberto and his girlfriend Veronica nuzzle AK’s cat endlessly, and though Ferdinand is not a nuzzler by nature, even he seems emotional. Meanwhile, after two years of happily living alone, I’m suddenly sad that I live alone. No one really cares if I get all nostalgic about the time I painted the walls bright blue. I’ve never made an effort to get to

on the move

Just stopping by to say I haven’t forgotten about my creative writing prompts. I got a great one from Meehan on Friday, based on my call for prompts (so meta! So Meehan!): “Because the webcam is strapped to my forehead, you can’t see what’s going on directly behind me.” While that creates all sorts of possibilities for monstery-ness, this is Moving Week, and therefore, for the next seven days (and possibly longer depending how soon AT&T gets the inte rn et hooked up at our new place), I will only be able to think about: AT&T cardboard boxes and people who might be able to hook me up with cardboard boxes the patches that need to be touched up on our newly painted walls (which kick ass, if I do say so myself) feline stepsibling introductions U-Haul and how its website tries to sell you a bunch of crap that you don’t need, even more so than the average website gifts I have not wrapped/purchased the awesome coffee table AK and I found at the yard sale of this c


Tonight I was going to try to write flash fiction about a bitter physicist who tries to take over the world, but I’m tired and apparently my personal life is much more popular blog fodder and I sort of tuned out on the physics front when we started learning about levers in seventh grade. So instead I will ponder this: Am I everyone’s dead end friend? Recently, a college friend whom I got back in touch with after a long hiatus told me she was pregnant. “I’m not supposed to tell anyone until the second trimester, but I can tell you because you’re a dead end friend, meaning you don’t talk to anyone else I know.” Another friend told me about a newly acquired STD (one of the mild, treatable ones, luckily). The news was top secret, and although he didn’t say so, I assumed I was hearing about it because I barely know his boyfriend or his boyfriend’s ex-girlfriend. Don’t get me wrong. I’m enough of an Us Weekly reader that I like to learn about the various consequences of my fri

writing prompt #3: four second dates

Thanks to Nicole for the following writing prompt : "I’d like to see you write an extremely personal non-fiction story about something you experienced in your life." 1. I like fiction because I can be ruthless—i.e. more honest—in that form, while nonfiction brings out the nice—i.e. more boring—side of me. But I do have this blog thing. And while everything you read here is the truth (with the exception of the occasional clearly demarcated evil pig or flower vendor ), it is not the whole truth. It couldn’t be, not unless I strapped a web cam to my forehead. And even then you wouldn’t know what was happening directly behind me. But before this turns into a post-structural dissertation on the slippery nature of truth, I will say that even by old-fashioned definitions, you’re still not getting the whole truth. For example, I almost never write about: work fights with AK dating (back when I was) people I dislike but will have to face again So, basica

writing prompt #2: follow me to the church of perfect light

Thanks to AK for the following writing prompt: “A woman selling a bucket of roses by the side of the freeway. A messy-haired 20-something drives up and taps his fingers and looks guilty. He rolls down the window, asks ‘How much for them all?,’ and pulls out a wad of cash and buys them.” I. Lena is picking small black bugs off the roses when the car pulls up. It’s a medium-sized black SUV, sandwiched loosely between a low-rider Chevy and a cloud-blue Honda. It’s Saturday afternoon and there is a USC game at the Coliseum—otherwise Lena wouldn’t be working. The window glides down. The driver is a youngish white guy with wild sandy hair and sunglasses that match his car. He has stubble on his cheeks, but he’s wearing a suit. He drums his nail-bitten fingertips on the steering wheel and doesn’t stop drumming even as he leans out to talk to her. “How much for all of them?” “ All of them?” “Yes. All. Of. Them.” His voice has a learn-English-damnit tone. “I heard you,” L

writing prompt #1: don't call me charlotte, bitch

Thanks to Tracy for the following writing prompt: “EVIL PIGS!” “Hey, piggy. Hey, Charlotte,” cooed London Sweet. She blinked shimmery blue eyelids at Bernadette as she sank slowly into the mud. She was sinking because the skinny heels of her leather boots could only walk on certain types of flooring: marble, honey-gold wood, Persian rug. They were no match for pig shit. Bernadette blinked back with pink eyelids and hoped London would be swallowed up whole. The other pigs were very excited about the presence of the Trust Fund Babies: Ranch Round-Up cast and crew. Thin, noisy teenagers in sparkly clothing. Men in baseball caps behind cameras. They were nothing like the usual caretakers, quiet Latino men who always seemed tired, who seemed to consciously avoid befriending the pigs. But Bernadette wasn’t an idiot. She was some terrific, radiant (if not humble) pig. She knew, for example, that Charlotte was the fucking spider, not the pig. Wilbur was the pig, and Wilbur was an

do my homework

Despite the fact that my head is full of paint chips, I’ve been trying to get back into writing after a prolonged break (weird how breaks are so prone to prolongation). I’m not quite ready to start draft three of my novel, though, so I’ve been trying to do some freewriting. More specifically, I’ve been trying to write the way I used to, which was to start 12 or 13 stories and see what stuck. But so far nothing’s sticking. I don’t even necessarily need it to stick, but I need to be inspired enough to not be lured away from my laptop by exciting tasks like putting all my sweaters with holes in them in a bag for Goodwill. (Except the green V-neck. I just can’t let that one go. Or the pink cashmere I got for 75 percent off.) I’ve been experimenting not only with retro form but with retro content as well. I’ve written some little pieces featuring subject matter that intrigued me as a budding middle school writer: babysitting (I must have been newly inspired by What Claudia Wore ), h

life on chapel hill

So, you know that aforementioned two-bedroom duplex on the Highland Park/Eagle Rock border? We’re moving there December 21—just in time for all of our rippling- biceped friends to be out of town for the holidays. It took a weekend of grownup conversations, the kind you have to have when there’s more at stake than what movie to see, but I think both AK and I emerged relatively unscathed. In fact, I felt even more confident about our various conversations than I did about the at-least-it’s-not-carpet tan tile in the duplex. “I’m going to try to be very process oriented about this whole thing,” I informed her, trying to psyche myself up for a month of painting, packing and heavy lifting. If I was going to be goal oriented, I would have to wait 30 days to reach my goal, which seemed daunting. “Um, okay,” she said. AK, who actually is fairly process oriented by nature, was busy enjoying her evening and had moved beyond the move. An uninhabited space is a big projector s

turkeys and penguins

“So you’re not having turkey and salsa with the Ybarras?” AK said, a little hurt, when we realized last year that we hadn’t made any plans to spend the holidays together. We both grew up in Southern California and our families still live here, so usually not a lot of planning is necessary. You wake up on the morning of a holiday and drive to your parents’ house. But this year, like mature adults, we decided to spend the holidays together and to discuss how we’d do it. It was a five-minute conversation between drinks at the Of Montreal show at the Avalon a couple of weeks ago, so maybe “like mature adults” isn’t the right phrase, but it all worked out nicely: Thanksgiving with her family, Christmas Eve with mine, splitting up for Christmas morning because neither of us could stand the thought of breaking our parents’ hearts. We might be mature adults, but we’re not cruel. So yesterday AK and I drove to Orange County where I skipped the turkey but ate lots of salsa, mashed potato

gift recommendation

Nothing says “Merry Christmas/Hanukkah/Kwanzaa/solstice, dear girlfriend/boyfriend/bff/little sis/mom” (okay, maybe not mom) like a memoir by a professional submissive. But seriously, Joan Kelly’s The Pleasure’s All Mine is funny, candid and, in more than one or two scenes, pretty damn hot. As a woman who likes to get tied up and spanked—but hates to be bossed around in real life—Kelly addresses all the questions you’d want to ask someone in her line of work: Is it possible to meet a nice guy who can be mean on command? How do you avoid laughing when a client wants to “punish” you for being late to the dungeon? Plus plenty of questions you might not think to ask: In a threesome carpool, does the domme automatically get to ride shotgun? (Answer: Yes, if she’s pregnant.) What enables Kelly to be a good pro is her forthrightness (“I would very much like to play with you,” she tells Mistress K, “I’m just afraid it’ll make me feel attracted to you…and I don’t want that to end up be

like crisco for chocolate

“Many recipes have added fats and shortenings, including Crisco,” said the recipe for Easy Chocolate- Covered Strawberries. “There is no need to add any extra calories to the chocolate-covered strawberries.” The food theme of this month’s book group was aphrodisiacs, since we’d been reading The History of Love by Nicole Krauss. Sea kelp and tiger penis sounded unappetizing and oysters sounded expensive, so I decided to dip one aphrodisiac in another, refrigerate overnight and presto, love-inducing dessert. The recipe assured me that all I needed to do was microwave a bunch of chocolate chips and dunk the strawberries. But I’m actually not very good at microwaving, maybe because my micro is on top my fridge and standing on my tiptoes every time I need to stir or check on done-ness usually ends up being just as much work as heating things on my stovetop. I decided that chocolate chips could certainly be heated on a burner. Except instead of a bubbling fondue, I quickly found

claudia and the crazy-ass outfits

Date: Wed, 14 Nov 2007 From: AK To: Cheryl Klein Subject: Claudia Hi, Cheryl- I thought you would enjoy this blog, dissecting the outfits of one of the “crazy dressers” from the Baby-Sitters Clu b book series. You were a fan, no? *** Date: Wed, 14 Nov 2007 From: Cheryl Klein To: AK Subject: Re: Claudia Claudia Kishi—like Punky Brewster and Pippi Longstocking before her and the cast of Rent after her—may have been the subtle inspiration for some of my college outfits , and a little bit for my character Felix in Calla Boulevard , a girl who tries to be fashion forward and ends up just being weird. I might have to blog about this blog. Thanks, baby! ~Cheryl

flea bitten

I’m not sure how I made it to age 30 without ever having been to a real flea market. When I was a kid my family went to the swap meet periodically, where I’d search out LA Gear sneakers and short, wide Body Glove T-shirts. And my mom was a thrift store regular, to the extent that my dad, who was always trying to get her to indulge a little, referred to her “98-cent T-shirt collection,” meaning why not break down and by a $20 shirt or even something that was Dry Clean Only? Today AK and I went to the Rose Bowl Flea Market , mostly because no less than four of her friends were planning to be there, and she and I have a tendency to always be on the lookout for a party. But it was cold and my new shoes were biting into my ankles and I ended up spending a lot of time on my own. Not in a bad way. There were just so many booths that it was hard to concentrate on other people and on things, and there were so many things. Some things that caught my eye, which I didn’t buy:

top chef

1. S.A.D. Fall makes me sad. Well, I think not-writing also makes me sad, but I’d prefer to blame the weather, because that can be addressed via such things as: coats (I love coats) baking (I love carbs) those light bulb hats that they give people with Seasonal Affective Disorder (I’ve never wo rn one, but I bet I’d love it if I could find the right coat to go with it). Last night AK and I baked a frozen pizza (that counts as baking, right?) and watched Ratatouille , which very much lived up to the hype. Whereas lots of talking animals in movies are really just people with fur, Remy and friends maintain many rat-like qualities which create much of the plot and humor of the film: A rat wants to be a chef, but the problem is, he’s a rat. Brad Bird chooses just the right moments to ask us to suspend our disbelief (of course a rat can cook, and with a little help from his human friends, he can open a restaurant) and to keep it intact (of course the health inspector is

go get 'em, WGA

Thursday night I was at a party where a screenwriter was talking about the then-impending strike: “I was on the phone taking notes from this 23-year-old executive and she was like, ‘I really want you to get script 11 to me today, because we’re trying to stockpile before the strike.’ I don’t know if she even knew what she was saying, which was, ‘Help me to fuck you. ’” I’ve heard people mutter a few comments along the lines of comments that are muttered when professional athletes go on strike—i.e. why should rich people get even more money? If the writers were striking to take bread from the mouths of janitors, I would agree. And yeah, as a writer who has never earned more than $200 for a fiction piece (with the average being approximately two complementary copies of a literary magazine; in my neck of the literary woods, a cash economy hasn’t even replaced the barter system), I understand the temptation to roll one’s eyes. But the writers are striking to take money from the b

actually, there were piñatas after all

Me [in car, on cell phone]: Okay, Dad, I should go because I’m almost to the Metro station. I’m going to take the train to a Dia de los Muertos thing on Olvera Street . Dad: Dia de los Muertos? Me: Day of the Dead. Dad: Wasn’t that Wednesday? Me: That was Halloween. This is a Mexican holiday. It’s like a sort of commemoration-slash-celebration of the dead. Dad: So there will be piñatas and things like that? Me [rolling eyes like a 12-year-old]: No, no piñatas. I don’t know too much about it, to be honest. But I think there will be a parade kind of thing, and I know that people traditionally have picnics at cemeteries…. I’ve been missing Mom a lot this week, so I just thought it would be a nice thing to go to. Dad: Okay, well, have fun. I don’t like the idea of you taking the train, though. It seems unsafe. Me: Why?! You’ve never ridden or even seen the Metro , so I want to know where you’re getting these ideas. Dad: I guess it’s just the areas it goe

the desert of the real

My airport shuttle arrives in 10 minutes, so this will be a very quick review of Jim Miller’s novel, Drift : (Full disclosure: Jim is my editor at City Works . But if I didn’t genuinely like his book, I would just pull a Thumper and not say nuthin at all.) I was immediately engaged by the intellectual exercise of the novel—riffing on the concept of the derive (in which Situationist Guy Debord and friends lost themselves in Paris and documented their observations in order to find themselves on a deeper level; insert Frenchy accent over that word), protagonist Joe Blake wanders around a dystopian San Diego logging its visual details, from booster remnants to down-and-out dives to gentrified hot spots that make him long for down-and-out dives. Juxtaposed with Joe’s semi-narrative are vignettes of other San Diegans’ lives and italicized accounts of SD’s more sordid history. Revealing the dark underbelly of a sun-drenched utopia is nothing new, but man that belly is dark. Quotes


Halloween '07 started Wednesday at Akbar's weekly Craft Night . Nothing says "scary" like the combination of knives and alcohol. Meehan and I are always lamenting our lack of craftiness ("I feel like I should be able to knit, or some type of hipster dyke handicraft"), but I think her metal mouth pumpkin turned out pretty well (though he did require some dental implants in the form of bar toothpicks). Some folks were just there for the dancing. But, much like when my UniCamp co-counselor and I ignored a child with the flu because we were so caught up in making paper plate masks during arts and crafts, I skipped the drinking and chatting and focused on my Dia-de-los-Muertos-meets-a-bunch-of-cotton-balls pumpkin. Too bad it rotted in less than three days. Goddamn global warming. By Saturday, it was time to celebrate. I dressed (vaguely) as Weetzie Bat . You know, the titular character from the late '80s young adult novel about magical punk rockers living i


Without a house in Malibu , a TV or NPR (since it’s been replaced by Kinsey Millhone for the past few days; incidentally, it wasn’t the babysitter’s boyfriend), my only proof that my co rn er of the world is on fire is the hot thick air and the layer of ash on my car. But that’s plenty, don’t you think? Thanks to Jessi for reminding me that animals like to not be on fire too .

feed the terrorists

1. don’t read this if you’re a rat Recently AK told me about a study in which rats were put in cages with an electrified floor. (Yes, it seems like a lot of studies involve rats and electric shock. This is depressing for rat lovers like me. Also, KPFK devoted some of its pledge drive tonight to a DVD about factory farming, which you can receive if you pledge. I thought long and hard about inching my way towards veganism. I also thought about how only KPFK would give a DVD of animals being tortured as a premium. I’ll stick with my Sounds Eclectico CD from KCRW , thank you.) Anyway, the rats: A lone rat on an electrified floor will initially try to escape, then give up and just sit there. When it’s dissected (and I think we all know these things always end with dissection), you’ll find tons of ulcers. It tears itself up inside. Two rats on an electrified floor will tear each other up instead, fighting constantly. But when you dissect them, they’ll be ulcer-free. To me th

radio killed the literary star

R emember how I said that talking about The Commuters was starting to feel like resting on my laurels ? Well, I’m not above resting on my laurels. In fact, I will do so this Saturday at noon and Sunday at 8 p.m. on KPCC’s Off-Ramp , an awesome little show that is sort of like an L.A.-centric This American Life . Tune in (89.3 on your FM dial, ladies and gentlemen) and listen to me gripe about traffic in the most eloquent way I know how. P.S. Speaking of self-promotion, Tracy tagged me to link to three of my favorite Bread and Bread posts (at least I think that’s what the meme was—the instructions were kind of tech-speak-y). It has something to do with search engines, I think. So if you’d like to take a walk down memory lane—going back no earlier than 2005—read these posts on Target , cheerleaders and how I spent my summer vacation .

golden girl

AK: What is it about Jenny Lewis that makes her so hot? Me: Besides being a cute girl with an amazing voice? AK: Yeah. Me: She has that messy thing. Her hair’s kind of messy, like she just rolled out of bed. AK: And she might just roll back in. P ics from Sunday’s Rilo Kiley show at the Grove: