Friday, October 31, 2008

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 Church in Pasadena. AK and I turned, open-mouthed, to look at each other in the dark theater when John Malkovich came on screen as an activist minister decrying LAPD corruption—because the pulpit he was speaking from was the exact pulpit where Ed Bacon, our own favorite activist minister, had stood on Sunday, probably decrying some sort of corruption (I’m not sure though, because we slept in and arrived post-sermon. This happens a lot). All Saints looked as beautiful on screen as it does in real life. The camera did not add 15 pounds.

4. Other stuff I know. Angelina Jolie’s character lived in Lincoln Heights, AK’s old neighborhood which is totally Highland Park-adjacent! And that one cop has AK’s last name, which is totally an unusual last name!

Anyway. I ultimately think Changeling probably is a good movie. Melodramatic, yes, but it’s a melodrama, complete with old-fashioned shots of Angelina Jolie looking up from beneath her bell-shaped hat at the bottom of the screen.

Thematically, it’s about how people in power don’t take women and children seriously, and since most contemporary LAPD officers probably wouldn’t say things like, “You know how emotional women are” right to their faces, it could be easy to dismiss this as a Slavery Is Bad movie—one that makes a statement that would only have been daring 50 years ago—there’s some solid evidence that police (and police states) will still go pretty far to shut someone up. Check out the story of Bronwyn’s partner’s student, Esha Momeni:

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

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 glass in it” argument—besides wars and health care and banking regulations and civil rights—here’s what B&B likes about Barack Obama: He is a 21st century president. Based on his comments in the first debate, he knows that having a big fat military won’t get you nearly as far as good economic policy—that the best way to stop terrorists is to make sure that people have jobs and schools to go to, that the only place they can find food and a little intellectual stimulation is not the local Al Qaeda recruitment drive. He’s lived in a lot of different places, and he knows that national boundaries are less and less relevant.

McCain, on the other hand, seems like a noble old soldier (unless you believe Rolling Stone) who thinks everyone should wear red or blue uniforms and stand in formation on opposite sides of an Official Battlefield, muskets poised. He’s done a lot for this country and B&B wishes him a lovely retirement.

U.S. Representative: Xavier Becerra. He’s the only one running in B&B’s district, but B&B’s friend Alberto met him the other day and said he was really nice.

Prop. 2: Yes. The language of this proposition says something like, “Farm animals will have sufficient room to fully extend their legs or wings.” It is seriously fucked up that we need to vote on whether any living thing should be allowed to extend its legs or wings. Talk about a fundamental right. If you want to deny anyone this, B&B believes that you are as evil Fred Phelps thinks B&B is. Farm animals are the most oppressed group in the country, and B&B doesn’t say that to belittle human suffering. It’s just that most humans in the U.S. can extend their legs. So before you bite into your next chicken sandwich with chipotle aioli, imagine what it would be like if you couldn’t.

Prop. 4: No. Prop. 4 requires a waiting period and parental notification in order for any minor to get an abortion. B&B feels about abortion the way B&B feels about drugs and prostitution: They’re not what B&B wishes for B&B’s self or kids, but they’re not going anywhere, so we might as well make them legal and therefore as safe as possible. Wealthy girls will always be able to find a discreet doctor who can get the job done for a price, so laws like Prop. 4 are just another way of making life a little suckier for the poor and uneducated.

Prop. 8: No. B&B is going to let you in on a little secret. While Prop. 8—which would take away the right of same-sex couples to marry in California—has NOTHING TO DO WITH WHAT KIDS ARE TAUGHT IN SCHOOLS from an official standpoint, what the Yes On 8 crew is implying with its various shady advertisements is not entirely incorrect. Allowing same-sex couples to marry is part of that “slippery slope” by which LGBT people become fully accepted members of society. Which means not being some scary cave-dwelling creature that you only tell kids about when they’re “old enough to handle it.”

But we’ve been figure-skating down that slope for a long time (thank you, Stonewall drag queens and ‘70s feminists), so Prop. 8 is just a last gasp from the losing side (and by “losing,” B&B doesn’t mean straight people, who have nothing to lose if No On 8 wins, but bigots, who always lose in the end).

Part of why B&B is a passionate No-On-8-er—besides the fact that B&B might like to get gay-married—is because gay marriage doesn’t hurt anyone or cost anyone anything. It’s not like nationalized health care, which B&B is also for, but which would take zillions of dollars and years of planning to implement. This one’s easy.

Note to all those “I’m just a reasonable centrist” folks who are for civil unions but against gay marriage:

1) You were against civil unions when you first heard about them, so what, your thing is to always be one step behind the times? Should we rule that people can, in fact, marry goats—that thing you’re always claiming is at the bottom of the aforementioned slope—so that you’ll be like, “Look, it’s fine for two humans of the same gender to marry each other, but I draw the line at goats”? Think about what’s right instead of what sounds scary because you haven’t already had years to get used to it.

2) Admit that you think God Hates Fags. Because if you acknowledge that, then fine, at least you’re owning your opinion. But there’s not a way to claim, a la Sarah “I have diverse friends” Palin, that you’re all for gay rights but somehow against, well, the gays having the same rights as you. There’s this little thing called separate-but-equal and we gave it the thumbs down a couple of decades ago.

Prop. 9: No. B&B doesn’t know too much about this one, but it seems to fall in the three-strikes camp: one of those laws that locks up more people for longer periods of time, as if that helps crime victims in anything but the most eye-for-an-eye way. Look, we’re already broke and we already have tons of overcrowded prisons, and stiffer penalties have been proven not to work as deterrents.

B&B doesn’t think the average angry gangbanger is like, “You know, I’d like to avenge the untimely death of my homie, which was caused by the generations of poverty and hopelessness that I too am a victim of, but the long prison sentence that potentially awaits me really gives me pause. I was planning to go to med school and retire early, and doing 25 to life could seriously derail that.”

We should fight crime the way we should fight terrorism: with jobs and after-school programs. Plus good mental health care. B&B is not saying any of those things are simple to implement, just that a bigger prison system isn’t either.

L.A. County Measure R: Yes. The radio ads in favor of this measure, which would extend the light rail lines, among other improvements, are “Paid for by People from Across California Tired of Being Stuck in Traffic.” Nuff said.

Monday, October 27, 2008

…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!).

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

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 taking place, it became clear that I could have put almost any five pieces of clothing from my closet on at random and called it fashion. Although, again, I realize this is like looking at a Picasso and saying, “My five-year-old could do that.”

People in line were wearing emo jeans and ‘80s jeans, T-shirts with sequins and T-shirts with giraffes, ankle booties and checkered Vans. There was a girl in a pink mohawk and a black lace cat suit, and a guy in a big-shouldered sequined dress that, until that moment, I could only have imagined on a Cambodian mother of the bride. Another guy appeared to be dressed as the czar of Russia.

It was a good thing that waiting in line was so fascinating (so many genres—high-fashion pretty and high-fashion ugly, arty and slutty and grungy) because it took forever to get in. And I am well past the age where anything is cool enough to wait in line for.

Even though Veronica had put us on the list, it seemed ridiculous to push my unfashionable size-nine self to the front of the mob and say, “I’m on the list!” Especially when my whole look was I Don’t Care About The List.

My instincts were correct because we soon discovered that everyone present was on the list, and The Girl With The Clipboard maybe didn’t totally have a system for letting people in in an orderly fashion. The longer we hung out, the more authoritative we became, until after a while, we were telling people in outrageous outfits, “Actually, everyone here is on the list. You’re just going to have to wait.”

We befriended a fellow non-fashionista named Kacie, who bartended at a bar called Casey’s, and chatted with her until the magical moment when the clipboard gods waved everyone in for the 10 p.m. show.

AK had forgotten her ID, and after watching a pleading exchange between the bouncer and a teenage girl whose sister was in the SHOW!!, things didn’t look promising. But it was the end of the week and the guards must have been tired too because soon the girl was in and so were we, and AK had a big mischievous grin on her face. She has this kind of luck and she knows it.

The Kucoon show began with a gaggle of dancing girls in white body paint, white hot pants and tube tops, and giant red wigs. They were cool, but I was like, These are the fashions? They’re kind of just white underwear. Then Veronica came out—also white and wigged—and danced on pointe, ballerina meets alien robot doll.

And maybe I’m biased, but she totally stole the show. A lot of the models that would follow were pretty or edgy or interesting to look at, but none looked quite as natural and happy to kick your ass as Veronica did.

So yes, it turned out that the red-wigged dancers were an opening act for a full collection. I liked the clothes that paraded by on models with Swiss Miss braids and heroin addict eye make-up—lots of jersey hoodies and dresses with pleats in unpredictable places, plus a few explosions of plaid—but some of them had a slightly flimsy look. Maybe that’s just what fashion looks like up close, though.

The show closed with a trapeze artist twirling on a giant piece of stretchy fabric that I think they call the tissue. It was mesmerizing (you know how I feel about the circus arts), but when the girl got down and danced offstage with the models, she suddenly looked a little Burning Man/Age of Aquarius. Leave the dancing to Veronica, I thought. She knows how to merge all these worlds.

The evening was nothing like a New York fashion show, by which I mean it was nothing like the fashion shows I’ve seen on Sex and the City, The Real House Wives of New York City or in The Devil Wears Prada. It wasn’t a bunch of socialites deciding what they’ll wear next season. I know L.A. fashion is considered rinky-dink, but that seemed to free people up to dress in other-worldly costumes and act as fierce as if they themselves were on the catwalk/strip-of-warehouse-floor-between-the-folding-chairs. So maybe a little streak of Burning Man isn’t such a bad thing.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

chocolate-covered pretzel juice

I think we’ve all been burned by Starbucks’ more creative offerings. The Gingerbread Latte tastes about as much like gingerbread as grape candy tastes like grapes. And the Skinny Mocha tastes like soap.

Even the Eggnog Latte, while tasty, is mostly just a latte with extra cream and sugar.

But I am of the “more is more” school of food, so there’s no weird new flavor I can resist trying, and half the time I like the over-flavored crap that people with respectable palettes hate (see eggnog latte). So of course I had to try the Salted Caramel Hot Chocolate.

Reader, it was amazing.

Like a liquid chocolate-covered pretzel, which is one of my favorite chocolate-covered foods.

You have to try it. But whatever you do, don’t make the mistake of looking it up online, in which case you’ll accidentally stumble across its calorie content and discover why it’s so damn good.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

emphasis on the wondrous

When I was at a book festival in Houston last fall, Junot Díaz read from The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao. It was a passage about a young girl being roped into her mother’s self-breast exam; her embarrassingly enormous breasts were now home to a brooding tumor. A whole class of middle-school kids got up and walked out, led by their teachers.

Was it the breasts? Was it the fact that the breasts and the passage were laced with dark and messy feelings? (Although I also kind of remember Junot Díaz swearing a bit in his introduction, which I found refreshing after a day of relentless wholesomeness.)

After reading the novel, I wonder if Junot would say this is how the first world deals with life’s ickier issues, collectively uttering, “The horror, the horror.” Oscar Wao is sort of a response to that. The story of a young Dominican-American man—a full-scale D&D nerd and seemingly perpetual virgin—who has inherited the fukú, the curse placed on his motherland and his family by the evilest of evil dictators, the novel asks just how one should view hopeless situations.

Díaz acknowledges that some bad shit has gone down in the D.R., and his characters spend much of the novel fighting uphill battles against corrupt leaders, rogue cops, cruel parents, cancer and weight gain. Oscar spends most of his short life trying to get laid. There are no satisfying cowboy moments in which The Individual takes down The System. Díaz even resists the more literary the-world-is-awful-but-here’s-a-glimmer-of-hope ending—or at least he writes it in his own distinct way.

As the thoughtful but pitiless, intellectual but wisecracking narrator Yunior learns from Oscar, waiting to be saved from the horror will get you nowhere. But fighting with all your guts and fingernails, and falling in love so hard it would make postmodern types blush will make the ride worthwhile. It’s a good sentiment for tough times.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

10/13/08: fitness + dessert + dessert again

Sunday started with brunch at the New Otani Kaimana Beach hotel, where a lot of the wedding party was staying. We didn’t get too see much of Jamie and Lee-Roy (just enough to grab a picture with them before they departed on their honeymoon), but we hung out some more with Jesi, Tina and I Ching, who are all really interesting and inspiring in different ways.

After brunch we ended up hiking—and by hiking I mean climbing—Koko Head with AK’s college friend Tai-An, her husband Mano and their friends Terry and Marie. As we were driving, I saw a steep domed hill with a stripe of brown running straight up the side of it. In the back of my head I thought, “What if that’s our trail? Ha, ha…no, that’s clearly just a fire break or something.”

Around this time we also learned that Mano, Marie and Terry had all been in the Navy. Terry was an ex-firefighter and Tai-An, according to Mano, used to play volleyball “eight days a week, 25 hours a day.”

And of course that thing that was too impossibly steep to be our trail was our trail.

“How did we get here?” AK whispered. Meaning that left to our own devices, we are the kind of people who do some light jogging. Two days a week, a half hour a day.

“At least there are no switchbacks,” I said.

It quite literally kicked our gluteals, but it felt great too. The trail was an old railroad where apparently the military used to ship artillery to the top of the hill. So at least it wasn’t slippery.

It was cool to see another side of Oahu: scrubby brush, military culture and its remnants (there was a shooting range on one side of us for added authenticity). Then literally another side of Oahu, the blobby turquoise bays stretching out below us.

And it was cool to feel all fit and outdoorsy. My self-image is largely pasty, bookish city girl, but the ex-gymnast and occasional jogger in me would like to crank it up in an interesting way—hike or jog somewhere pretty and different. Take classes instead of just doing the elliptical machine.

AK was a little nauseous after the hike, but she perked up after having the world’s tastiest, local-est shave ice at Waiola’s. The stuff we had at the zoo was Snoopy Sno-Cone Machine compared to this. The custard bowl I had was like actual snow covered with matcha green tea and covering a tiny wonderful flan. Dessert with a secret dessert inside.

We were too tired for Diamond Head afterwards, which had been our original plan, but we did go out for Thai Food at Mekong II in Chinatown with Tina, Jesi and I Ching.

It’s been a wonderful trip. Now home to Team Gato!

10/12/08: simple and natural

In Oahu now. We walked across the street from our hotel, the Queen Kapiolani, to the Honolulu Zoo. While we were looking for the entrance, we saw a guy open a side gate to let some people in and he waved us in too. Suddenly we were in the zoo. For free.

We looked at each other and shrugged: Slowly some kind of thoughtful volcano goddess was making up for our expensive cab ride.

We spent a couple of relaxing hours looking at endangered nene geese, tropical gardens, Sumatra tigers and elderly lions. We listened to a Galapagos tortoise roar like a dinosaur as it humped another tortoise…for quite a long time. Turtles don’t have a rep as the studs of the animal kingdom, but they should.

Then we ate vanilla/lime and strawberry/banana shave ice and watched kids on the playground, little zoo animals themselves.

Jamie and Lee-Roy’s wedding was beautiful: next to a pink house formerly owned by Dolly Parton, just feet from the water. It was very Jamie-and-Lee-Roy: elegant and simple and natural, with white roses for the bridesmaids and pink flowers over the archway thingy they got married under. I got a little misty when I saw Jamie walk down the aisle, but I managed to refrain from crying buckets (I guess I save that for funerals of people I’ve never met?). Mostly I felt plain old happy.

And the food was amazing: It turns out I even like potato macaroni salad, and I heard the roast pig—caught and killed just two days ago—was good too. We were happy he was an Oahu pig, not our dopey friend from the Big Island.

I knew more people than I usually do at weddings, which made it extra fun. I finally got to meet Jamie’s brother and adorable flower-girl nieces and her mom, who laughs just like her.

10/10/08: it’s a great day when you see a volcano and also don’t get murdered by ghosts

We’re at Manini Beach Park, trying to rest off some of yesterday’s fun-but-exhausting-for-the-last-two-hours activities. There are lava rocks and coral and one free-range donkey whom I befriended and petted on her soft gray-brown forehead.

There are all kinds of crazy animals here: geckos, a zebra (I’m thinking not native—a haole zebra in a pasture off Highway 11) and a feral pig that we almost hit last night. It was shaggy like a golden retriever and did not know that to get away from a car, you should probably not jog along in front of it.

The Manago is an old hotel with clean but plain rooms and gorgeous gardens. How we should all be, I told AK: materially simple and naturally abundant. More and more, I’m realizing how Hawaii is almost like another country: Things aren’t all America-shiny, and it has its own dialect and races.

Okay, news break: A woman and two kids just walked up, and the kids asked, “Is this your donkey?” Then a little cat ran by, and they said it was theirs. It turned out they’d brought her and her kittens to the beach.

I whispered to AK, “Who brings their cat to the beach?”

She said, “They thought we brought our donkey.”

So back to yesterday: On our way to the black sand beach, AK spontaneously pulled the car over when she saw a building with a huge sea turtle painted on the roof. It was the Naalehu Theater, apparently vacated and left to decay sometime after 2003.

And it was like the beginning of a horror movie—the young couple on a romantic adventure wanders into an abandoned movie theater, thinking it will be fun and spooky. Then they get separated. One (AK) slips through a door in the ticket booth and wanders through the rows of empty wooden seats, taking pictures so she can see where she is. There’s a raggedy yellow satin curtain and a reel of film with tiny pictures of Charlton Heston.

The other circles the outside of the building, where it’s possible to see the crawl space. Rows of seats are set up there as if for some kind of demonic film viewing that happens beneath the crowds of unsuspecting regular folks above.

Just when they’re reunited, a murderer leaps out and kills them. Or Charlton Heston.

It was possibly the coolest part of the day (especially since the murdering part didn’t happen), and the only unplanned thing.

Although the next part was amazingly cool too: We went to Punalu’u (Black Sand) Beach, where we wriggled into our swimsuits beneath towels in the rental car just as a busload of Japanese tourists pulled up (although the beach also had lots of locals—babies in diapers, hip hop thumping from car stereos, water in washed-out kimchi jars).

There we played in the warm and cool currents and ate macadamia nut pie and swam near a huge sea turtle as (s)he munched on algae.

“They’re so ancient,” I said to AK. “They’re living dinosaurs, you know?”

“They’re not impressed by the modern world,” she agreed.

We climbed over some a’a (jagged broken lava rocks) and AK left with a small war wound on the top of her foot.

Next we drove to Volcano National Park, where we hiked through a rainforest to the Thurston Lava Tubes, these caves formed by rivers of underground lava. The first one was lit, the second was take-a-flashlight, you’re-on-your-own. We went a little way in, then I kissed AK, told her I loved her and hightailed it back to the entrance.

It was funny how many people walked by, considered going in and kept walking. One guy said, “Your friend’s in there by himself?”

I said, “I don’t think it’s that far,” suddenly self-conscious that I’d put AK in danger. “I think she’ll be okay.”

“Your boyfriend is a brave man,” he said, and kept walking.

After dark, we left the park to visit the place where you can view lava plummeting into the ocean. It was a long drive that dwindled into a poorly-maintained, one-lane road (which seems to be common here—how about a bond measure, people?). It was scary and desolate, and we almost turned around, but then suddenly there were lighted tents and a million cars, like we’d just driven out to Burning Man or something.

There were dozens of signs making it sound like you were about to walk to your doom: warnings about the vog and the heat and lava-shelf collapses and earthquakes, punctuated by horror stories about people who’d not followed the rules and, yes, met their doom.

Yet there were also marked trails and jokey employees and little kids everywhere. We shined our flashlights on reflective dashes of paint that made the lava beds look like the world’s most fucked-up road and walked half a mile to the viewing spot, where we could see billows of orange steam in the distance.

hawaii journal

So it turns out that Hawaii is a great vacation spot. Who knew? Okay, a few people knew. But the last few days have been one lush, green, sea-turtle-y revelation after another for me. Excerpts from my travel journal and lots of pictures of me in front of lush, green, sea-turtle-y things shall follow.

10/9/08: poi and pouting

I just woke up in Captain Cook on the Big Island of Hawaii at the Manago Hotel. It’s cool and breezy, and outside our balcony window it’s green as far as you can see. There are palm trees, something I’m going to pretend is a mango tree and a talkative chicken.

Pretty idyllic, huh? But the way AK and I were feeling yesterday, you would have thought we were here to do forced labor.

We had down time between flights to Oahu and the Big Island, so we took a cab to Ono’s, a local spot Jamie recommended. And given how much time we ended up spending at HNL, it was good that we got out and took in some non-airport air…and butterfish in something green and leafy, and poi, which I was disappointed to discover I don’t like.

(It has a great glutinous texture, but it’s a texture that makes my mouth think it should taste sweet when in fact it tastes fermented. Poi is like beer pudding. I was sad because that’s my thing: traveling and liking the food that only locals like. I liked durian! But this and my dislike of macaroni salad don’t bode well for my relationship with Hawaiian food.)

It ended up being an $80 cab ride round trip for a $16 lunch. And our second flight got delayed by two hours and we were just so, so tired and grumpy by the end of it. But at least with AK, a bad day is still punctuated by a lot of good moments. I think today will be better. Because we’ll be at beaches instead of airports.

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

live aloha

The first time AK visited Honolulu, someone told her she could pass for a native Hawaiian. Then she opened her mouth.

“Oh,” the local said, “except you talk way, way too fast.”

I spent my lunch hour at Starbucks across from two guys selling Herbalife or some sort of pyramid scheme on their cell phones. They both had Madonna mics and a lot of product in their hair.

“Hi, this is Sean Michael,” one of them said over and over. “So, you’re in the Valley? And what do you do, what’s your background? Are you looking to get started with something pretty quickly?”

After he hung up, he would turn to his friend and say, “See, I show them how valuable my time is. Like that guy just now, I told him I’d have to call him back later. They need to know how busy I am.”

Why is busy-ness—not just busy-ness but too-busy-for-you-ness—a trait people try to achieve? Yeah, you don’t want to be a total couch potato, but do you really think people will be impressed that you have no time for them because you’re too busy successfully selling Herbalife at Starbucks? Wouldn’t you rather be known for, say, promptly and courteously returning emails? Or, like, enjoying life?

Can you tell I’m ready for some laidback aloha spirit? Conveniently, Jamie and Lee-Roy have decided to get married in Hawaii, where AK and I will be for the next week. Ironically, it’s actually going to be kind of a busy trip since we’re visiting two islands and seeing friends. But if I’m going to be busy, I want to be busy trying many different kinds of drinks with umbrellas in them.


Monday, October 06, 2008


I’ve come to realize that a little bit of what I want out of all authority figures in my life is for them to act like my mom. Which is terrible: Imagine the worst employee/writer/underling/volunteer you can. Pretend you’re the authority figure complaining to your friend about said needy underling. You’d probably say something like, “Good lord, does she think I’m her mom?”

People say things like this all the time: “Please clean up the conference room. The office manager is not your mom.” “You’re going to need to be better about deadlines. I’m not your mom.”

It’s not that I want anyone to clean up my messes, literal or figurative, but I do want the leaders in my life to be nurturing and organized, two qualities that defined my particular mom. I realized how strong this desire was when it was fulfilled this weekend by the folks at City Works Press, publishers of the beautiful and comprehensive new anthology Hunger and Thirst.*

I’ve got a short story in there, so I read along with a handful of other H&T writers at the San Diego City Book Fair on Saturday. When I arrived, editor Nancy Cary handed all of us a sheet of paper that included a seating chart and a minute-by-minute agenda for the reading. If you weren’t sure what to do after Sydney left the podium, you needed only to check your info sheet.

Combine this with a couple of warm hugs from my Commuters editors, Jim and Kelly, and a cozy room at the Sheraton where AK and I watched cable and ate chocolate while it rained outside, and I felt thoroughly nurtured and loved. That’s something I don’t always feel during the driftier moments of my writing/working life.

Asking everyone to be my mom could sound really diva-ish, like I want them to cut all the crusts off my bread and take the blue M&Ms out of the bowl, but the thing is: I’m a really good daughter. I’m responsible and grateful and undemanding**, and I’ll totally uphold my half of the bargain. Because my real mom raised me right.

And I think I’ve been missing her lately. I cried almost embarrassingly hard yesterday at the funeral of AK’s coworker’s husband, especially during the speech his 19-year-old daughter gave. And while he really did sound like a great guy, isn’t it almost impolite to sob uncontrollably if you never met the person? I mean, isn’t it sort of obvious that you’re just bringing your own shit to someone else’s special day?

I need to just rent some sad movies or something.

*It includes a bunch of yummy-sounding recipes. What better Christmas present than a homemade treat and a matching anthology that includes instructions on how to make it? I’m just saying.

**Except for 1989-1995 and a brief period in 2002-2003.

Thursday, October 02, 2008

for real commentary, please turn on npr

I was slow to get on the Palin-bashing bandwagon, maybe because I was too disconnected to realize how many people were on the Palin-liking bandwagon--so the hate just seemed hateful rather than like a necessary counterattack.

Tonight's debate didn't make me feel any more or less disturbed by her, but I did spend some time thinking about how she's more of a mascot than a candidate. She's sort of wearing a big foam head in the shape of folksiness and mom-ness, and I was going to say that no party would ever trot out a male candidate like that, except George W. is mostly a big foam cowboy head.

I don't have a lot more to say about this. I'm not even bitter that America loves Disneyland and all its foam characters because I think they'll love Obama more. And no one can afford to go to Disneyland these days anyway.