Showing posts from September, 2008

obsessive coffee disorder

1. saint paul kept his pants on (or did he? I don’t really know the bible) I was listening to NPR the other day and Joe Eszterhas ( Basic Instinct, Showgirls ) was telling the interviewer about how he got throat cancer and had to give up drinking and smoking, which, he said, “were so intimately linked to writing for me. I’d sip coffee laced with bourbon while I wrote.” So he was miserable and desperate and then he found Jesus and now he can write again, and is working on a screenplay about Saint Paul instead of about girls who show their boobs, I guess. There but for the grace of overprotective parents and D.A.R.E. (seriously, that shit freaked me out) go I. Because I have a fairly addictive personality, and my writing routine seems to be intimately linked with my caffeine intake. In trying to avoid consuming overworked teacher/nightshift worker/first-year medical resident amounts of coffee, I’ve found myself sitting down with decaf a few times recently, and the result has been ex

love in unexpected places (such as story collections and potato pots)

My reading tastes are both expansive and narrow—expansive in that I like more books than I dislike, and I need a blend of high and low culture to keep me feeling connected to the world at large. A little Remembrance of Things Past (which I started a few days ago out of some masochistic desire to read a 1,018-page book—and that’s just volume I), a little Us Weekly . Maybe a lot of Us Weekly . But I’m narrow-minded in that if you drop me in a bookstore, I’ll end up in the fiction section like water sliding toward a drain. And within that section, you’ll find me reading novels, probably American, probably realistic and literary in tone, probably written after 1980. So while Aimee Bender ’s Willful Creatures isn’t an earth-shaking, drain-moving departure (she’s a contemporary American fiction writer—she even lives in L.A.), I was still surprised how much I liked it: It’s short stories , and so frequently I find short stories to be mean little teases, like the first date that either fai

i like to think i take better care of my cats than your average meth head

[Setting: front porch of a Highland Park duplex. An iron gate hangs open. A woman in her 50s with a long tangled ponytail and less than the average amount of teeth approaches, hustling two cats along in front of her. She is NEIGHBOR.] NEIGHBOR [pushing cats through gate, closing gate] : Are these your cats? ME: Yes. Um, thanks for bringing them home, but actually they’re allowed outside . NEIGHBOR: Oh, well, you gotta watch out. There’s coyotes around here, you know. ME: I know—that’s why we only let them out during the day, when we’re home. NEIGHBOR: Okay. Watch out for the coyotes , alright? ME: Alright. Thanks for looking out for my cats. This would not be such a crazy conversation if I hadn’t had it with the aforementioned neighbor at least three or four times. Or if she was an overprotective cat mom herself—but she has cats who freely roam the streets all day. Which makes me wonder: Is she concerned with our cats’ safety, or does she want her cats to have the run of

sad in a happy way

1. not the john hughes movie It’s a good day for it to be the first day of fall. Because fall makes me sad in a happy way, or maybe the other way around. This weekend was that. Saturday I had breakfast with the group of ladies my mom called Breakfast Club. They met—what, biweekly? monthly? time is so weird when you’re a kid—for more than 20 years. The first time my sister and I stayed home by ourselves was when our mom went to Breakfast Club. We locked the doors and watched as much TV as we wanted (which was a lot), and when she came home, she came home with a blueberry muffin for us. After that we didn’t mind staying home by ourselves. Also, she always came home with good gossip about the other ladies’ kids, who were all within a couple of years of our ages. We weren’t that close to most of them when we were in school, but even years later we knew when one of them decided to go to law school or study abroad—which were the kinds of things that they would do because they were all ni

books of the month

Since joining Facebook , I've gotten a little lazy about posting book reviews on Bread and Bread . I know, I know, you've been crying yourself to sleep every night. Obama better get elected, and Cheryl better post a book review tomorrow or things will just not be okay, you hiccup into your pillow. Even though I suspect you guys prefer posts with pictures or ones containing stories about the many embarrassments of my youth, hear me out: I do it because books--at least the ones that are not about diets or do not feature Oprah's seal of approval or face on the cover--need every shout-out they can get, and my ego needs to feel powerful in the role of critic. Facebook has all sorts of booky applications, so lately I've been posting short little reviews of stuff there--there in the social networking wasteland, where you give everything one to five stars and no one knows or cares if you gave something three and a half stars because it was brilliant and new but deeply flawed

middle-aged suicide (don’t do it…or maybe do if you have to)

Sometimes I hear about suicides and a part of me thinks, So in the end, you really just couldn’t get over yourself? I can imagine feeling despondent or dulled-out. I’ve felt like that, although I know I have to be careful not to confuse chronic and acute. I can imagine feeling quite convinced that life had nothing very good to offer me. But that doesn’t mean that I have nothing to offer life. When I picture that rock-bottom feeling, I remind myself of my plan: Assuming I’m still in decent physical health, I will get myself a minimum wage job consisting of motions one can go through even when profoundly depressed. Then, on evenings and weekends, I will go to a homeless shelter and ladle soup, another simple action one can perform while depressed. That way I won’t sentence my family and friends to a lifetime of wondering if they failed me, and I’ll also be confident that I’m still pushing back on the world in a positive if small way. I don’t think that earthly life is infinitely p

fascists for mountain lions

The other day, AK and I had one of our favorite kinds of conversations, where we answer the sort of theoretical questions you might find in the Ungame and make lists of our favorite things. The topic this particular day was: What issue are you most conservative about, and where are you a big lefty? (We’re both solid Obama supporters and everything, but bristle at any kind of knee-jerkiness, so I think we pride ourselves on having one or two unpredictable views.) AK decided she leaned conservative on budget stuff and uber-liberal on transportation issues. I concluded that my basic distrust of the average voter’s ability to make good decisions was kind of conservative (“Well,” said AK, “that either makes you a fascist or a communist”). I have leftist ideas that will never in a million years get implemented when it comes to: marriage (all of it should be abolished in favor of domestic partnerships that can be entered into by any number of people whether or not they’re romantically inv

dolly says hello

When AK and I saw Rilo Kiley play at the Grove in Orange County a few months ago, their opening act was, somewhat randomly, Dolly Parton. It seemed she’d followed them home from a gig in Vegas. “Wait, okay, I feel a little stupid for asking, but that’s not really Dolly Parton, right?” I whispered to AK. No, it wasn’t. But the real live Dolly did show up at the Ahmanson last night to introduce the new musical version of 9 to 5 , for which she wrote the music and lyrics. “They’re still working some of the kinks out, so if they’ve gotta stop the show for a minute, be nice,” she said. I wanted to curl up in her voice and nap like a kitten. “I’ll just put on a show or something,” she laughed. “So that is the real Dolly, right?” I whispered. Yes! And the show—which was lots of fun if not exactly groundbreaking—did hit a technical glitch shortly before intermission, and even though Dolly appeared to have been kidding when she said she’d put on a show, she led sing-along versions of “9 t

el espiritu de vacación

I’ve never hated coming home from vacation, partly because I like being able to choose what to wear from my whole closet instead of from just the contents of my suitcase. (Shallow, but it works.) Still, Oaxaca was so lovely—my senses were turned on high because my brain wasn’t busy planning what to eat for dinner or finding time to do my art-class homework or wondering why last month’s MasterCard bill was so high. Although I think a certain amount of minutia and struggle can be healthy, I’m trying to find ways of keeping the Spirit of Vacation alive, beyond wearing my new necklaces made of bright-colored beans. Because the Spirit of Vacation is also the Spirit of Inspiration, one I’m always trying to tap. Here are my tips for you, or not for you, because these things are highly individual by nature. Nevertheless, I possibly highly encourage you to: See Vicky Cristina Barcelona . It takes place in a world in which people bicycle through cobblestone streets on their way to pick blackb

fall awakening

Being sick has given me a chance to catch up on my TV-watching, and it turns out that this is a good week to do so, because there are premieres. Once upon a Zap2it time, my personal schedule was frustratingly dependent on when things premiered, when things were replaced and when sweeps week occurred, and my vocabulary included words like “Upfronts” and “Press Tour.” Now my TV is more like a box of costume jewelry in the back of my closet. I open it only when I stumble upon it, and sometimes I’m delighted by how surprisingly lovely certain faux turquoise pendants are, and sometimes I’m just weirded out. Tuesday night I watched the premiere of the new 90210 . I was excited to see that the West Beverlians—edgy teens that they are—were performing Spring Awakening and that, in the tradition of backstage musicals everywhere, the director seemed to cast it by staying on the lookout for shy-but-pretty girls on set crew humming the words during rehearsal, then demanding that they take c

8/30: very american

Yesterday we went to the Museo de las Culturas de Oaxaca at the Santo Domingo cathedral. It was huge and divided into dozens of tiny former monks’ quarters, or something. I wasn’t super into the ancient artifacts, but I liked reading about the history of the region (and trying to read it in Spanish, as if history isn’t lost in translation already), and I was even more into the post-conquest parts, which made me feel like I was sort of twisted. It rained hard in the afternoon and we took shelter in La Soledad chocolate store, where it was dry and there were tall shelves made of carved wood, bits of hard hot chocolate to taste and lots of chocolate and mole to buy. All of us were too full for dinner, but we ate anyway, in a restaurant in the Santo Domingo area, which Pedro calls the Silver Lake of Oaxaca, although I think Santa Monica might be slightly more accurate. It was fun to see the area on a Friday night, full of 17-year-old hipsters and a quinceañera being follo

8/29: introvert’s day out

Yesterday was our big tour day with Eduardo. We piled into a big van with a bunch of Europeans—all a little younger than us, all with more vacation time and more stamps in their passports, I’m sure—as well as a few Mexicans. Our first stop was the world’s widest tree in Santa María de Tule. You can’t get much more touristy than showing up in a van at the World’s Something-est Something. But part of what I enjoyed about the tour was getting out of the city and seeing the suburbs and little villages. The brick and adobe dwellings that bleed into each other; the corrugated tin roofs; the DIY plumbing; tiny stores; burros and goats and bat-eared mutts wandering the streets; corn and agave growing out of the sides of the mountain. It confirmed that while downtown Oaxaca may be East/Northeast L.A., the outskirts and villages are not …what, Valencia? Palmdale? Escondido? Lodi? Julian ? They are genuinely Somewhere Else. Our second stop was a Zapotec town called Teotitlan, where they

8/26: global poverty and yoga

Yesterday was a lazy day, but days are like fishbowls and we grew our lazy selves to fit it. We cabbed down to the zócalo for lunch and ate at a row of stalls each seeming to sell the exact same four items, each staffed by a woman in a checkered apron and maybe a kid or two, each covered with bright oilcloth tablecloths. We’ve seen more than a few kids working here, and while there seems to be a healthy middle class and working class, there were also the shanty towns we drove by on the way to Monte Albán. There’s also the fact that the poorest people are almost without exception Indians (our yoga teacher: pretty white-looking; the woman living on the steps of a storefront a few blocks from here: dark skin and a long tangled braid). It makes it seem all the more bizarre that in the U.S. we just talk about “Latinos” like they’re one massive entity, which is its own kind of racism. On some level, I feel like I don’t have any more observations about global poverty —maybe because I

8/25: i’ll show you my monte albán if you show me yours

AK left her ATM card in the machine at Banamex bank, which led to me say, “Can you please try to be more vigilant while we’re traveling in another country?” And she said, “Could you not tell me to be more vigilant because I’m trying hard and I’ve been pretty good and these things happen sometimes when you travel.” So, not bad as arguments go, but the thing is I come from a family that travels with a spare alternator. But a little— little— chaos is probably good for me. *** She reunited with her ATM card. Because she’s as charmed as she is forgetful. Because she’s resourceful. I was impressed by how she waited in line and spoke entirely in Spanish and got her card back. Here’s one thing I’ve noticed about speaking Spanish: The less nervous I am, the more I understand and can say. Yesterday on the way back from Monte Albán, this guide named Eduardo—whom Pedro hooked us up with for a cheaper, off-the-books tour on Thursday—was cracking jokes about how we’d visit the mescal factory an

la turista returns

I’m back! And while I managed to avoid getting la turista (a.k.a. Montezuma’s Revenge) while in Mexico (unless you count that one ambiguous morning when I may just have had too much coffee), I now seem to be coming down with the flu. But it was worth it! I’ll spare you the details of my swollen throat and instead post some excerpts from my travel journal, along with more pictures of colorful jars of salsa than you ever wanted to see. 8/24: breakfast of champions Getting our connecting flight to Oaxaca from Mexico City was an adventure. Thank god for Pedro, who asked questions in fluent Spanish every three or four feet—but we got all kinds of different information about where we needed to go and what we needed to do. Finally we got to the big long immigration line where some of the English instructions were translated creatively: “Rember not to loose your FME slip.” (Pedro promptly lost his FME slip—maybe things would have been different if they’d spelled “lose” correct