Showing posts from October, 2007

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Without a house in Malibu , a TV or NPR (since it’s been replaced by Kinsey Millhone for the past few days; incidentally, it wasn’t the babysitter’s boyfriend), my only proof that my co rn er of the world is on fire is the hot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:

all you need is love, plus a couple other things

I was thinking this weekend about the various ways in which I would like to be a different kind of person. Not big ways, because hey, I’m 30 and along with the fine lines comes a healthy sense of self. But some significant little ways. 1. adios, perez hilton First, I would like to waste time in more intelligent ways. B’s idea of a lazy Sunday was reading The Economist on the stationary bike or trolling the inte rn et for coupons. That’s so productive it borders on crazy, but I wish I could at least watch movie trailers and look for upcoming concerts like AK rather than boning up on celebrity gossip and seeing which friends have posted new pictures to their MySpace pages. For example, I can tell you that a girl I was only actually friends with for about six weeks recently went to Buenos Aires and took pictures of Evita’s dress. Why must that take up space in my brain? I believe all this is a negative side effect of having semi-successfully transformed my hobbies into a job—

we need both

There are two types of people in the world, the stressers and the chillers. Me: My cat is sneezing a lot. Nicole: You should take him to the vet. It might not just be a cold. There are these types of bacteria that animals get that can be really harmful. *** Me: O.C. is sneezing a lot. AK: Cats are so cute when they sneeze.

pity par-tay

I’ve been meaning to blog for a while now about how sending out my novel Calla Boulevard is slowly chipping away at my self-esteem. Except I don’t really have anything profound to say on the subject: I want someone to publish my novel. So far no one does. Not getting what I want makes me sad. What a fascinating insight into the mind of a writer. “It’s hard for me to get excited about stuff related to The Commuters lately because I’m starting to feel like a one-hit wonder,” I told AK recently. “Except the ‘hit’ was a song that was played on college radio a couple of times at 2 a.m.” Back when I was sending out The Commuters, I got a few “encouraging rejections,” which only sounds like an oxymoron. It’s the publishing world equivalent of someone you went on a first date with calling you up and politely saying they think you’re awesome, but they just want to be friends—as opposed to just never calling you again. Well, back in the day, a handful of agents and publishers

reading and readings

Currently on my bedside table: Susan Choi ’s finely etched page-tu rn er American Woman , loosely based on the true story of one of Patty Hearst’s accomplices. The beginning was unnecessarily confusing, but now I can’t put it down. Although I feel highly uncreative quoting a critic who is quoted on the book’s cover, the Chicago Tribune did put it nicely: “Weaving past and present, hunters and hunted, Choi’s taut, surprising structure keeps us off-balance…. This is a rare thing, a book both big and fine-grained.” What I’m doing Saturday, Oct. 13 at 5 p.m.: Catching my City Works Press editor Jim Miller’s reading of his new novel, Drift , at Skylight Books . I just bought my copy this weekend, so I haven’t read it yet (also, see above), but the cover by Perry Vasquez is pretty kick-ass, and I like to think of myself as someone who judges books by, well, you know. What I’m doing Sunday, Oct. 21 at 2 p.m.: Reading from some new-ish work at the Ba rn sdall Gallery Theatre as p

pet peeve #752

Look, Kajon Cermak, we all know that traffic in LA is chronically bad. And I’m sure that as an NPR traffic reporter, you want to liven up a dull part of drive-time programming. But do you have to be so gleeful in your expressions? “This one’s a pack-a-snack, folks! You’ll be on the 10 for hours !” “If you’re northbound on the 405 right now, forget it!” “There’s a chair in the number two lane of the Foothill Freeway, and it’s tying up traffic so badly that—ugh, I don’t even want to think about it.” “The 60 East going through downtown is an utter nightmare . We’re talking single-digit speeds.” T his probably says something unpleasant about my personality, but I kind of want Kajon Cermak to lie to me. Or to at least sugarcoat things: “The 405 is a little tight going over the Sepulveda Pass, but things will pick up soon.” Because if I’m stuck in my car, blind optimism is the best I can hope for. Although today I did actually pack a snack, and that helped.

we’re not in texas anymore

Setting: a West Hollywood yoga class. The room is darkened, soft music plays. Trevor: Okay, come slowly to the seated position. I just want to thank all of you for sharing your energy with me tonight. Om shanti. Namaste. [Long pause as people take final deep, cleansing breaths.] Trevor: Also, my show opens Saturday, so come see me if you want flyers! G’night!

10/1: this community is brought to you by….

Sunday was a slower day at the festival, which freed me to do things like admire the pet rattlesnake being paraded around by his proud caretaker, who’d noticed that the snake had an image of Jesus on his head, and to develop an unnatural dislike of Dimetapp, which had a purple-bannered booth triple the size of any literary organization there. “It’s just so corporate and evil,” I said, glaring across the aisle. “What is, children’s health?” Jamie laughed. Besides its loud purpleness and cheesy giveaways, it bugged me because it’s the equivalent of Absolut dominating the gay pride parade: a community event given over to niche marketing based on stereotypes. Latinos have lots of kids! Queers love to drink! Though, honestly, now that I’m flying back after a lovely and exhausting trip, I could really use a vodka cranberry or even a shot of cough syrup.

9/29: go northeast, young ladies

After a long day at the book festival, Jamie and I tried to reenergize ourselves for a fundraiser gala for , for which the very kind Christa Forster had put us on the list. We were determined to go to the right party this time. We got lost, as had become our habit over the course of three days with a rental car, this time ending up on an expressway to the airport. But we were getting better at getting lost—we were more confident embarking on our adventures and now we could say things like, “I think we’re heading west, when we want to go northeast.” It was a more informed kind of lost, and eventually it landed us on Winter Street. Winter Street was where we were supposed to be, but on the map it appeared to be railroad tracks. In person, it appeared to be railroad tracks. “But look, there’s a car up there.” Jamie pointed to a white sedan meandering down the corridor of gravel and grass that paralleled the tracks. It wasn’t totally clear whether the car driving

9/28: the accidental avant garde

Jamie and I just tried to go to the VIP reception for the Houston Latino Book & Family Festival , where we’ll be working all weekend. It was to be held at the Museum of Fine Arts , and after we parked, the security guard waved us toward the staircase. At the bottom, we encountered a throng of nicely dressed people, an open bar and a mesmerizing animated canvas that reminded me of Snorks . We helped ourselves to drinks and prepared to not mingle, since the only person we expected to know was Tony Diaz, the festival coordinator, who would probably be really busy. We admired the current exhibit— a collection of art jewelry , from the wearable to the straight-out-of-a-surrealist-dream to the “I could do that with some old computer parts and pipe cleaners”—and people-watched. “I’m surprised how few Latino people there are,” I said. “Are these the funders and stuff?” asked Jamie. “I gu ess so. Maybe funder types are always white. That’s sort of depressing.” “

9/28: doors and mountains

This morning, before a glut of meetings and minglings, we went to the Rothko Chapel , which Jamie had learned about in a PBS documentary. As she described it, Mark Rothko always wanted to display a group of his paintings in a space specially designed for them, a space that would interact with them. When the first such place, a fancy hotel, proved too stuffy, he decided on the more humble, populist backdrop of a Houston chapel commissioned local patrons the Menils . “That’s so cool,” I said. “I can see how an artist would want to expand beyond just the canvas, to have a whole environment speaking to and with his work.” “Well, they’re still individual paintings,” Jamie cautioned. “And I think it was during his black period. So we might, um, be visiting a room full of black squares.” And we did. An octagonal room with 14 huge black canvases and a handful of wooden benches, the chapel can make you feel tricked: Hey, someone convinced me this was not only art, but profoundly spi

9/27: nesting

Note to self: Appoint Jamie Official Hotel Picker. I pride myself on being a low maintenance traveler, which usually means clicking on whatever Expedia’s cheapest deal is. This strategy has landed me in places where the hotel’s name is written in Sharpie on rag-thin towels that flatter themselves by implying their theft-worthiness where plumbing maintenance (and building-wide water shut-off) is scheduled during prime showering time where an inexplicable and wall-jolting THUMP—like an elevator crashing to the ground somewhere—jars you awake every hour. Jamie, perhaps unnerved by my post-travel tales, put in a full 10 minutes of internet research and landed us at the comparably priced Robin’s Nest Inn , an infinitely more charming bed and breakfast. We were greeted by a wooden folk-art angel who hovered protectively over the porch of the rose-pink Victorian, by about a thousand mosquitoes (Houston is a tad humid) and by two envelopes that said, “Welcome, Cheryl” and

houston chronicle

Whoops, I was gone for a while there, wasn’t I? I forgot to mention I’d be in Houston for five days. Just before I left, I managed to pretty much finish (minus a little tightening) draft 2.5 of the novel-in-progress, so I suddenly found myself with the time and energy to write a little travelblog, which I shall now proceed to type and paste.