Showing posts from 2008

books and bikes for '09

Oof . Time to dust off the ol ' blog, huh? Sorry to be away a while, but chances are you were too. I have been experiencing the Human Fishbowl Time Effect, which means that my stuff-to-do grows to fit my day. A regular workday might (occasionally) find me writing, working out, mentoring and getting groceries (and, granted, I'd probably be kind of sleep deprived and grumpy the next day). But while on vacation, a whole day can be devoted to going to the ATM and microwaving some soup. Actually, I can't think about soup too much right now because it was the last thing I ate a few days ago before getting slammed ( again ) with the stomach flu. You would think that at least I'd be very skinny by now, but unfortunately a little thing called Christmas, a.k.a. Cookie Season, happened between flues , so they more or less canceled each other out. And now we arrive at Resolution Season, which is as appealing and dangerous to the OCD brain as a plate full of cookies. As soon as y

the most wonderful time of the year…

…for armchair-critic geeks like me is when we get to make our top-ten(-ish) lists. Same qualifiers as last year : These aren’t necessarily the best-with-a-capital-B, just my favorites, and the books aren’t necessarily ones published in ‘08, just ones I read this year. Top ten books I read in 2008: 1. Tie: The Second World by Parag Khanna and Bel Canto by Ann Patchett. The former rocked my paradigm and the latter reminded me of how humanity plays out in that new paradigm. 3. The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Diaz. Post-colonialism can be sly and funny. 4. A Long Way Down by Nick Hornby. Lifted me up when I really needed it. 5. The Echo Maker by Richard Powers. Once again, he tied it all together. 6. The Center of Everything by Laura Moriarty. Kind of like Prep for poor girls. 7. Prep by Curtis Sittenfeld. I didn’t want to like it as much as I did, but few voices have stuck with me as much. 8. Willful Creatures by Aimee Bender. These short stories are like 15


I have this problem where, when someone has a pattern of behavior I don’t like, I don’t know how to call them on it. My ex-girlfriend would interject here and say, “Of course. That’s because you’re a doormat.” But that’s only, like, 14 percent of the story. I am only 14 percent doormat. The other part of the problem is that I have to make sure it’s a pattern before I speak up, and I like to be really, really thorough in my research. For example, it took me three years to realize that my office landlord probably could have fixed the heating system by now if he’d really tried. That just aiming his temperature-measuring radar-gun thingy at our vents once a week wasn’t cutting it. But by this point, I’d established myself as The Nice But Shivering Girl At The End Of The Hall and it just seemed weird to get all in his face. And when I did get in his face, which I eventually sort of did, he…well, he told me I was a “smart girl” in a way that you might tell your dog he was smart for fetch

and now for a little self-promotion

Places I can be found online: 1. the excellent blog of tracy lynn kaply Those of you who read Kaply, Inc. know that Tracy Lynn is angry, funny and regularly uses words like “tit-punch.” But that doesn’t mean she’s above holiday traditions. For the second year in a row, I am a proud member of her Twelve Guests of Christmas guest-blogging festival. Scroll down to Dec. 14 to read my thoughts on the economy, JFK and holiday coupon books. 2. the emerging writers network A man named Dan Wickett is excited to read my book in 2009! In an email he sent out to writers on his list, he warned us that he might end up hating our books, and we might therefore hate him by the end of 2009. But for now Dan rocks! Scroll down about a third of the way to see the cover of Lilac Mines —I think this is its internet debut. 3. jane’s stories press They e-interviewed me. I waxed on. I had a great time hearing the sound of my own keyboard.

three catholic cheers for meehan!

Meehan has a flare for finding snazzy places to live. In L.A., she hosted bimonthly FROG salons in her Furnished Room Over Garage. And when she moved to Santa Barbara, it only seemed right that she host some kind of 30th birthday extravaganza in her new place, which, we discovered this weekend, is kind of like a Tucson spa, with looottts of natural wood, a jacuzzi, Navajo Persian rugs (apparently there is such a thing) and some kind of crazy jungle fern that eats banana peels. Because Meehan is very brave, and not like other people, she invited her dad's band, Dave and the Droolers, to perform. He sang some pretty catchy songs with titles like "Communist Girl" and "Asshole the Cat." I proudly performed backup as a Catholic cheerleader for his song "Catholic Cheerleader." Because Meehan is very brave, and not like other people, she performed at her party. She's been taking a songwriting class, because apparently being a lawyer and a fiction write

a day without a gay is like a cookie without baking soda

I’m at home today because it’s A Day Without A Gay . Not that my workplace is remotely anti-gay (it’s the kind of organization where the boss sends a “Happy Indigenous People’s Day” email every Columbus Day), but I guess the point is to prove how valuable queers are to the economy. We’re not buying anything, and we’re not, in my case, doing any literary outreach. Take that! So, like the militant dyke that I am, I’m at home baking cookies. I’m using Jamie ’s recipe for ginger cookies, except, as with all my cooking adventures, there have been some substitutions. I went to Trader Joe’s last night for the ingredients, but they didn’t have molasses, and I refused to swing by Fresh and Easy today to get some because I’m not going to Contribute To The Economy (with the possible exception of one little latte if I decide to write later today). Also because I’m lazy. I soon discovered that I didn’t have baking soda either. There must be some kind of Murphy’s Law that says you will inevitabl

ice and figs

I was going to title this post “Supposedly Fun Things I’ll Probably Do Again” after David Foster Wallace ’s essay about cruises, but 1) it seemed a little harsh because I probably liked the supposedly fun elements of my weekend more than DFW liked his cruise, and 2) I’ve never read the essay so I would just be a big poseur. Nevertheless, my ultimately-quite-fun weekend did involve some moments when I thought, “Shouldn’t I be having more fun?” For example: 1. ice skating, or: more proof that i am old [Setting: Pasadena Ice Skating Center, a cavernous rink hidden behind the Pasadena Civic Center. The walls are covered with dirty white tiles. The floor is covered with bumpy white ice. In between are hundreds of teenagers, plus CHERYL and STEPHANIE.] CHERYL: It’s like skating on the freeway. STEPH: Yeah, that’s what happens when the floor gets really worn out. The grooves are so deep that the zamboni doesn’t make a difference. CHERYL: If you want to skate ahead of me and do, l

in no particular order

Things that are bumming me out: 1. The stomach flu 2. A Very Special Episode of Home Improvement I saw at the gym in which Jill discovers she has a fibroid tumor and has to get a hysterectomy 3. Death and the OCD brain that makes me think about it when I watch sitcoms sometimes 4. The fact that I’m almost done (maybe) with novel #3 and am not sure what to do with it 5. The same things that are bumming Noel out 6. The economy, even though I don’t own a home or have any real investments 7. Learning on NPR that cows are bred to be dumb when we could have smart cows, because who wouldn’t rather have smart cows (although not so smart they’d turn against us)? Things that are making me happy: 1. The idea of writing a novel about a traveling circus 2. Strong tea 3. Going to Whole Foods in spite of #6 above because it is so shiny and it makes you feel like you are doing something good for the world just by buying carob-and-chicory coffee substitute 4. The idea of not spending the holidays

small world

One great thing about living in the same 20-mile radius your entire life is that everyone comes to visit you over the holidays. Well, actually they come to visit their families, but you can flatter yourself, and you can usually snag them for a drink or brunch. Hence it was a weekend of many carbs: not just pumpkin pie and dump cake and chocolate chip cookies (which I ate as if they were pretzels while we watched WALL-E ) on Thanksgiving day, but cupcakes and vodka with Jenessa and her cute new-ish boyfriend, tofu scramblings with Meehan, and eggs and home fries with Mike. And I’m surprised that my stomach hurts today? Another thing I love about this time of year is the movies. After the long dry spell of summer blockbusters, the good movies start rolling in and doing their give-me-an-Oscar dance. Milk was great—inspiring, as predicted, and nicely acted by Sean Penn and Emile Hirsch, if a little traditional for Gus Van Sant. But whatever. Recently I’ve also dug Slumdog Millionaire ,


1. the recipe When I was a kid and Thanksgivings were usually spent eating precooked turkey loaf around our motorhome’s formica table (seriously, my mom did an amazing job in that tiniest of kitchenettes, and the precooked turkey loaf was always moist and delicious), someone started the awkward tradition of going around the table and saying what we were thankful for. Saying “family and friends” or “good health” is predictable. Saying “my expensive new car” is materialistic and braggy. But as a sixth grader who was painfully self-conscious around everyone but my family, none of this worried me. I just answered honestly: “I’m thankful that I’m pretty, smart and nice.” Well, sort of honestly. I had frizzy hair and a nose that had recently enjoyed a growth spurt; I got good grades but came up short in the emotional intelligence department; and I think my answer speaks for itself regarding my thoughtfulness towards others. But I had recently decided that these three traits were the re

just call me a hero for hope

Right now my left knee is creaking like it wants to tell me a storm is brewing. And according to the weather report, one is (finally!), but I don’t think my knee is psychic. I think it ran 6.2 miles yesterday, which, creakiness aside, I’m quite happy about. AK, Meg and I decided to do the Heroes of Hope for Brain Tumor Research 10K on Sunday not so much because we’re against brain tumors (although we are) but because it was being held on a flat stretch of street next to Dockweiler Beach. AK and I had trained mostly on hills and occasionally on days when the air in the L.A. basin was thick with bits of smoldering tires. “Like altitude training!” I suggested. It was not unlike when I did the Manhattan Beach 10K a few years ago and was happy to discover that, unlike my practice runs, I wasn’t slowed down by trying to hide from packs of stray dogs roaming the streets. Urban training—I sort of recommend it. But if you already have knee problems, here’s a book I recommend too (I’m not t

local, organic, artisanal literature

This is for you, you frequenter of farmer’s markets. You eater of organic free-range pears. You drinker of fair-trade, shade-grown, puttin’-a-Mayan-child-through-college coffee. I know you read. If you didn’t, you wouldn’t know how evil regular coffee was. But why do you think it’s okay to order a book off Amazon when you’re such an activist in every other way? As if the fact of its book-ness alone made it revolutionary. And while I’m sure Barack Obama’s father’s dreams were really fascinating, there are other people out there who have interesting things to say. They’re just saying them a little more quietly. Meaning their books might not be face-up on the bargain table two feet into Barnes & Noble. You might have to work a little bit. And I know we’re all tired and busy, but if you can’t work your ass off around the holidays, then when? A group of booky folks and I have been talking periodically about how small press publishing should have the aura of indie music—i.e., the more

tops, bottoms and sneetches

The gay marriage/interracial marriage analogy is an easy one (and a valid one, I maintain), but this article AK sent me points out that maybe we should spend less time talking about how the controversy is like racism and more about how it is sexism—and how it reflects our culture’s deep passion for gender roles: . In other words, for all you ladies who’ve had the privilege of answering the question, “Which one of you is the man?” from some confused relative, yes, it all comes down to tops and bottoms. God, there are so many dissertations to be written here! The Judith Butler -y one about how butch/femme roles highlight the fakeness and slipperiness of straight gender roles. The one about how everyone wants to claim the civil rights movement for themselves, from the people who say, “You stole my right to get married” to the ones who are like, “You stole my right to not have to see you get married,” to the point where it’s all star-bellied Sneetch -ish.

ghosts of christmas present

I think everyone should give books this holiday season, so for a second I had this idea that I would present a series, recommending what type of people to whom you could give all the books I read between now and Christmas. Then I realized that will probably be like three books. Nevertheless, for the ghostbusters and gender benders in your family, I recommend Jennifer Finney Boylan's I'm Looking Through You, a memoir of "growing up haunted." Boylan , who transitioned to female in 2000, spent the latter part of her childhood in a crazy, creaky 200-year-old mansion in Pennsylvania. Strange noises and full-on apparitions were as much a part of her daily life as the nagging feeling that she--then he--was supposed to be a girl. Flashing back and forth between decades, Boylan drives home the message that you can be haunted by literal ghosts and metaphorical ones, ghosts of the past and--to her surprise--ghosts of one's future self. Such themes are right up my lit

flowers are pretty (a post that's not about prop. 8)

Normally I'm against blogging for the sake of blogging, but I'm also against being awake at 9 a.m. on a Saturday, and I'm doing that right now too. I figured it was time I say hi and not talk about Prop. 8 (although there's a protest starting in an hour, which I'll be missing because I'll be in a meeting held in an icy basement). So. A couple of random updates. I just got back from an inspiring work trip to San Francisco, where writer Jewelle Gomez reminded a group of us that art is about faith and activism. When the economy sucks as profoundly as it sucks right now, art seems both more difficult and like our only hope. On the way home, AK and I stopped in San Luis Obispo , where we saw her college friends Ryan and Sarah, and their daughter Hattie. Last time we saw Hattie, she was a small pink nub of a human sleeping in an infant seat. Now she's a busy, blonde -haired one-year-old who likes to present people with her favorite toys and do impressions of f

no more mr. nice gay

I didn’t realize what a rule-follower I was until I started hearing about all the Prop. 8 protests happening around the state. They kind of took me by surprise—you could do that? I’d been under the vague impression that when there was a contest, you should do everything you could to help your side, but when you lost…well, the other side won fair and square, right? Except maybe there are some things, like, say, civil rights, that shouldn’t be put to majority rule. Maybe protesting is what you do when you’ve tried everything else. Maybe there is value in a community throwing a collective tantrum. Because, as AK pointed out based on an article she read, “They’re going to keep coming after us if they think they can get away with it. Next time it’ll be our adoption rights.” And while I wasn’t down with every sentiment on every sign—I mean, look, I get that it’s irresistible to point out that farm animals gained rights on Tuesday while queer people lost them, but personally I think animal

up for grabs, down for keeps

I’m feeling a little less crazy now. Not that that’s always a good thing, but still. It helped to read about everyone else’s righteous anger on Facebook and my favorite blogs (yes, I’m actually saying that Facebook heals). I also kind of forced AK to reassure me that she loves me, wants a future with me, etc. and that made me feel better too. That’s what I hate about Prop. 8—that because I’m insecure, it makes me question my relationship in some small but perverse way. I mean, it’s not like AK and I got married when we had the chance. But marriage is a marker of where a relationship is, and even though it’s often an inaccurate marker (consider never-married Susan Sarandon and Tim Robbins vs. Britney Spears’ five-minute marriage in Vegas), it’s our culture’s shorthand for seriousness, for family. So when it keeps flitting in and out of the realm of possibility, a girl can feel confused. I’ve been thinking about how mainstream culture has called our bluff. For years the queer movem


I was hoping this would be the first major election in eight years that didn’t make me cry—and for a few minutes, I was just crying because I was happy. Seeing Obama up there, looking thrilled and tired, thin-necked, big-eared, shockingly human under the weight of all that history and all those hopes; thinking about Abraham Lincoln and Martin Luther King, Jr. and his grandma looking down on him…for a few minutes, America was everything I needed it to be. When Obama talked about how his election isn’t the change we seek but just the opportunity to continue seeking it, when he gave a little shout-out to the gays (and how many presidents have done that in their acceptance speeches?)…for those minutes, I thought, “Yes we can.” And then California decided it was all about deciding who exactly got to be included in “we.” As in, “We can get married, but you can’t.” As in, “We can use the constitution, which should be sort of a secular bible, to put into practice all the whimsical and shitty

i’ll take obama and a tall nonfat latte

Starbucks took my suggestion about offering free beverages for voters . Consequently, the line at the Eagle Rock Starbucks this morning was as long as the one at my polling place. I love America.

dias de la comunidad

Long ago, my mom taught me that all the best Halloween costumes (if by "best" you mean "cheap and easy but still homemade") start with a pair of sweats. Throw in a couple of styrofoam eyeballs, some break-and-bake cookies, one plastic trash can from OSH and voila, Cookie Monster... ...and Oscar the Grouch. Some of the other best costumes, though, start with an Afro wig and a cardboard palette. When we met up with our friends at Akbar, Lee-Roy was recognizable to fans of Bob Ross as the PBS art icon fond of painting happy trees. He was so popular, in fact, that he was runner up in the costume contest. But there was a bit of a scandal when drag queen emcee Lila chose to announce Lee-Roy's win by saying, "PBS! Get up here, PBS!" Her dominatrix cop assistant decided this meant Oscar and I, who were representing another PBS show. The next thing we knew, we were on stage accepting Lee-Roy's drink tickets. But since we were all weaned on cooperation

hope and changeling

On the escalator outside the Landmark Theatre Tuesday night, AK asked what I’d thought of Changeling . “I liked it, but I almost can’t tell if it was a good movie or not,” I admitted, “because it has so many elements that I’m guaranteed to like.” 1. Shots of 1920s L.A. Seriously, I could have watched a whole movie of ‘em—without a story, without dialogue, without Angelina Jolie. My ideal afterlife will include the ability to beam myself to any point in history, not so I can kill Hitler or whatever but so I can be a fly on the wall and find out how things really were, especially in places and eras that are close to my heart. 2. Mystery galore. Changeling is based on the true story of a boy who was kidnapped and “returned” to his mother five months later—except it wasn’t him, and no one believed her. What could be eerier and more fascinating? Throw in a police cover-up, a scary insane asylum and a serial killer with a tumbledown shack in the desert and I’m there! 3. All Saints Chu

the bread and bread endorsements

Have you had enough of the talking heads on NPR and CNN? Are you thinking, I’d like to hear the opinions of someone who can parrot the talking heads on NPR but not CNN because she doesn’t have cable? Someone who writes as much about tasty treats at Starbucks as she does about world affairs. Look no further: The first-ever Bread and Bread Election Guide has arrived. Below are B&B’s suggestions on how you should vote if you want to toe the Bread and Bread party line. B&B will to try to refrain from the most most obvious arguments because you’ve probably already heard them, and because, as a partially informed voter, B&B may not have. What you’re going to read about is all gut feelings and pet causes (but hopefully not in a Sarah Palin-y way). Also, if you leave a really good comment explaining why B&B should vote the opposite, maybe B&B will. B&B is gullible like that. President: Barack Obama. Besides the now oft-quoted “chicken or shit with bits of broken gl

…and he’s easy on the eyes

This is a video Jamie ’s friends shot at the gObama! fundraiser party AK and I went to last month. During my three seconds of fame beginning at minute 3:04, I’m referring (in my mind) to The Second World , that book by Parag Khanna I raved about a while back. But more on that later, when Bread and Bread publishes its official voter guide (get ready to learn where I stand on bond measure 1A, everyone!).

making it work, working it

“What do you wear when you want to look like you don’t really care about looking good but could if you wanted to?” I asked AK. Veronica had invited us to the last night of Fashion Week , where she would be modeling in the Kucoon show. I love fashion, but it’s hard to tell because I devote almost no time or money to it. I’m like a person who thinks she likes to read because she enjoys Oprah’s book club segments. I read a lot of fashion magazines—so at least I could point to a page that said slouchy jeans were back when AK became insecure about her pants. I ended up wearing jeans that were neither trendily slouchy nor trendily skinny (Target, $20); a dark orange wife-beater (Nordstrom clearance rack, like $12); a blazer that my friend Daisye had sewn patches on (random thrift store in Tacoma, $10); and silver Jessica Simpson pumps (DSW, $18). With the exception of Daisye’s handiwork, all were fairly embarrassing items, but once we got to the downtown warehouse where the shows were t