Showing posts from April, 2007


Conversation after working all weekend at the L.A. Times Festival of Books : Jamie : When I got home last night, I lay down on the couch, and it felt like I literally had thousands of people walking through my body. Cheryl: Yeah—in tiny little cleats. Jamie: I just had to lie there and wait for them to leave my body. But they left all their trash behind. Cheryl: And their self-published poetry books too, right? Jamie: Right. Cheryl: Get some rest. Jamie: You too.

i'll be nice when i have sandra cisneros' agent, okay?

Last night we were supposed to go to the Dodgers/Giants game, but it was sold out unless we wanted to pay $35 or more. We did not, so AK and I found a not-too-shabby plan B in the form of a reading by Felicia Luna Lemus , Raquel Gutierrez and Claudia Rodriguez at IMIX in Eagle Rock. Claudia is my friend from CalArts, and she and Raquel both read beautifully descriptive, funny prose about genderqueer youngsters. Felicia also went to CalArts, although we didn’t have any classes together, so I never got to know her. But I definitely knew of her—as the superstar who went out and nabbed Sandra Cisneros’ agent right after graduation, published her first book with FSG and wore gorgeous, bright-colored vintage dresses while doing it. Am I jealous? A little. A lot. I used to be really ashamed of my envious tendencies—maybe because of the Why can’t you just be nice ? look my ex would give me whenever I wrestled with someone else’s success. These days I stop short of embracing this particul

claire asks the tough questions

One thing that sucks about not being famous, besides not being handed gift bags full of iPods and designer sunglasses everywhere you go, is that no one’s knocking down your door to interview you. So you have to go knock on a few doors yourself—I knocked on Claire ’s, and she emailed me the questions below: 1. If you had the opportunity to write a nonfiction book, what would its topic be and how would you prepare to write it? Form-wise, something along the lines of Adrian Nicole Leblanc’s Random Family or Susan Orlean’s The Bullfighter Checks Her Make-up —something that would require me to spend a lot of time with a group of interesting people and write about them in a vivid, narrative, predictably fiction-esque manner. I was a journalist for about five minutes, you know. Topic-wise, I think it would be about the circus. 2. Do you have any tattoos? If so, where and what? If not, what would you get and where? I have one tattoo: a vine wrapping around my left wrist. There are light bulbs

guilty as charged

Okay, so I’m in a somewhat lower income bracket and I wouldn’t describe myself as agnostic, but otherwise, this Onion article (“ This American Life Completes Documentation Of Liberal, Upper-Middle-Class Existence ”) skewers me pretty successfully, right down to the Honda Civic and the lack of anger. How do I know for sure (besides the fact that I love This American Life )? Because I found myself protesting a bit too much while reading it: Hey, TAL covers a lot of working class and lower class lives—what about that story where the really articulate homeless guy talked about sleeping outside ? What about all those quirky but undeniably blue-collar jobs David Sedaris worked before he made it big? If you need me, I’ll be at Starbucks thinking about how my non-disposable mug might, in some small and pathetic-but-sweetly-poignant way, counteract the effects of global warming.

two things that have made me happy in the last 24 hours

1. Taking the Red Line downtown. I drove halfway to TC Boyle ’s reading at the Mark Taper Forum, a benefit for Red Hen Press , parked in Koreatown, and took the train the rest of the way. I know that people do this everyday in other cities, that the experience is tiring and tedious and full of smelly people. But in LA it feels positively luxurious. As I opened my book and read approximately three and a half pages over the course of five stops, I kept thinking, I am so urban and sophisticated! And I am reading ! I’m a sophisticated, urban multi-tasker ! 2. My orchid blossoming. AK gave me Kid (as I named the orchid) a few months ago, and I thought I’d killed it by not giving it plant food per the little plastic instruction card. But it didn’t look totally dead, just sort of stick-like but still green, so I kept watering it anyway. I felt crappy because, around this same time, the succulent she’d given me earlier had tu rn ed a troubling shade of purple that seemed to suggest su

too much of a good thing

I’m past the age where, when that phrase sums up my weekend, it refers to vodka. (And even when I was at that age, dessert was my real vice of choice.) No, this weekend it referred to KCRW ’s awesome but somewhat interminable Sounds Eclectic concert at the Gibson Amphitheatre. The Jurassic Parking structure (don’t you wish you lived in LA?) spit us out onto CityWalk , where huge neon signs and the sent of kettle co rn somehow add up to nightlife. We groped our way through the crowd until we saw a couple in their late 20s, both with shaggy haircuts, she wearing high heels and skinny jeans, he wearing…well, some other type of good-looking jeans. I’m bad at noticing boys. “They’re clearly going the same place we are,” AK said. “Let’s just follow them until we get to all the other well-dressed aging hipsters.” When we united with the aforementioned group, we heard a woman say to her friend, “This is such a KCRW crowd.” “Oh my god,” I whispered to AK, “we’re even all having

carnival of the mundane XXXII

A long time ago I saw a cartoon of a man walking down the street. A few feet behind him was a piano that had just crashed to the ground from some great height. The man’s thought bubble said, “Wow, another close call.” The caption said, Thursday the 12 th . Was it any wonder that I came home yesterday to find a giant tree toppled next to my apartment building, but not on top of anyone or anything but the sidewalk? This Friday the 13 th , Ca rn ival of the Mundane presents Tales of Close Calls and All-Out Bad Luck. (But if you scroll down far enough, there’s always happy stuff too. None of us has blogged our suicide note yet, knock on cyber-wood.) Nevertheless: Claire of Taller Than Average Tales is so unlucky that not only is sangria drawn, moth-to-flame-style, to her light-colored pants, but even her friends can’t get a break . Nelumbo of Mommy Plays Bass discovers that the only thing more fun than a breast exam is going into labor while getting a breast exam .

and the connors leap into the ‘80s

That line was spoken by Darlene in the episode of Roseanne —circa 1993—where the family gets a VCR. It goes through my head every time I acquire a new gadget, usually four to seven years after most people in developed countries do. My dad, on the other hand, is an early adopter, albeit a somewhat contradictory one. We were one of the first families in our neighborhood to acquire a VCR and video camera, but 15 years later, when other people were walking around with hand-held camcorders the size of a coffee mug, my dad was still carrying around our giant camera and the entire VCR, which, in the old old days, you had to strap to your hip pack-mule-style if you wanted to shoot a little footage of your daughter performing a gymnastic routine to the opening medley from Cats at the school talent show. In a polo shirt hand-puffy-painted with a giant cat face. Needless to say, my dad has been a proud iPod owner for several years now, while I continued to squeeze everything I could out

want to know what's in becca's backpack?

He was a she back then, or as she as he ever was, androgynous in a gray hooded raincoat and baggy black jeans. This is a sentence from chapter five, draft two of the novel I’m currently working on. Who knows if it will live to see draft three—the sentence, that is. The itself novel better survive. Here’s another sentence, from chapter 10: Becca unzipped the biggest section of her backpack and removed what appeared to be a messily rolled-up beach towel. But then I smelled it. If you want to hear more sentences like this, come see me and my writing group-mates read May 1 at Skylight Books. It will be the debut of my new project and the finale of my time with the Writers at Work gang . If you are into writing sentences of your own and do so regularly on some type of blog-type device, please consider participating in the aforementioned Ca rn ival of the Mundane . I haven’t gotten many submissions yet—what, are you worried you’re not mundane enough? I’m talking to you Sara

small paradise

Jamie and I had had a long day of Talking About The Arts, or, more specifically, listening to other people Talk About The Arts. Funding, outreach, funding for outreach. This stuff is our life, and it’s really important, but since this particular meeting was at the Getty , by hour three we were itching to experience the arts. So we did. After being greeted by Tim Hawkinson ’s giant Uberorgan (giant being an understatement—it’s probably the only musical instrument that could fill the entire atrium of the Getty), we were anxious for more of his organic-meets-mechanical work. The accompanying exhibit, “Zoopsia” (which means “visual hallucination of animals”) was dwarfish by comparison—just four works—but not disappointing. What I love about Hawkinson, whom I first encountered at LACMA a few years ago, is how he combines concept and craft. A Puritan work ethic shoots through my artistic soul: I can’t help but set aside big splashes of color and idea in favor of thousands of painstaking b

eating it too

I just took an abs class at Bally’s. By accident. I went in for yoga, but in classic Bally’s style, a guy walked in and announced, “Joelle couldn’t make it tonight, so I’m subbing. But I don’t know yoga, so we’re gonna do some abs and cardio.” I didn’t suck as much as I thought I would, which made me wonder, So where are my six-pack abs? Why is my middle more the consistency of flan? I am still wondering this as I sit here eating leftover tres leches cake from Saturday’s party. Exciting discovery: Like lasagna and soup, it gets better after a couple of days in the fridge. Moist and sour-creamy. If you are the sort of person who enjoys philosophical musings on the likes of cake, Carnival of the Mundane —a roundup of blog posts about everyday life—was made for you. An early and enthusiastic participant, I have to admit I’ve been slacking lately. But I’m due to host again this month, so if you have a particularly fabulous post about your unfabulous life, please send a link, along with

happy birthday to you, you belong in a zoo

This is where I had my birthday party on Saturday. Let me explain. AK and I discovered the Old Zoo Picnic Area of Griffith Park when we went hiking over the holidays. Built by the WPA, these old habitats and enclosures served as the LA Zoo until the mid-‘60s, when the animals moved on up to (comparatively) deluxe quarters a couple of miles northeast. Now you can picnic in and around the Old Zoo. Since wandering through decaying ruins and eating outdoors are two of my favorite activities, there was really no other place I could have my party, even though a small co rn er of the park caught on fire on Friday and the Old Zoo is almost impossibly hard to find. My friend Amy circled Griffith Park for almost an hour. Finally she gave up and text messaged, “Happy Birthday. Sorry I’m retarded.” (Sorry, Amy—it’s not you, it’s the zoo.) Each habitat seemed to have drawn a different subculture to picnic there—kid’s family birthday, stoner couple with dog, teenage punks who called