Thursday, February 26, 2009

baby mama...oops, i mean daddy

1. when breast is not best

Last night at Nicole’s, we watched an episode of The L Word, which I hadn’t seen in ages. Nicole caught me up the plot, which has the ups and downs of a soap and the wild, jerky pace of a cab darting through traffic.

“Okay,” said Nicole, “so Max, the trans guy, was dating this bio gay guy who got him pregnant, then freaked out and left. Now Max’s friends are throwing him a baby shower, and for some reason there’s a Willy Wonka theme.”

When I came in, Max’s female friends were all chatting happily about episiotomies as Max looked on with horror. Because, you know, that’s what gay women who don’t have kids usually talk about. They’re LADIES! They love their vaginas! And childbirth!

Then Jenny—oh, Jenny—gave Max a breast pump, which he also gazed upon with horror.

“I’m not gonna breastfeed,” grunted Max, played by actress Daniela Sea, who seems to think that lowering her voice is a substitute for saying her lines with any expression whatsoever.

“I know you identify as a man,” Jenny explained to Max, the audience, and GLAAD researchers possibly not sure which column of their annual queer TV tally to put Max in. “But you should really breastfeed. It’s what’s best for the baby.”

Then Max had a panic attack (presumably induced by the public celebration of his breasts, although I think the paisley Willy Wonka blouse he was wearing was a far more serious attack on his manhood) and Jenny panicked in response.

“Help her!” Jenny yelled. “Someone get her some help! Help the pregnant lady!”

Oooops. God, it’s so embarrassing when you forget that your stubble-faced friend whom you’ve known for three seasons identifies as a guy and accidentally refer to him as “her” three times in a row.

But that was actually the least of Max’s worries. “I can’t do this!” he monotoned (I added the explanation point. Daniela Sea does not exclaim). “Bette, Tina, will you adopt my baby?”

2. if the l word ladies go to malaysia, i’m really in trouble

We shall stop here. I was going along, enjoying how delightfully terrible The L Word is, when I remembered: Oh my god, I just finished a draft of a novel that features queer adoption, a trans parent and someone unexpectedly offering up their baby. (Um, I guess that was a spoiler for the novel that may, with a lot of luck, come out like four years from now.)

Fuck. I write crappy L Word plots.

I could come up with a lot of defenses here, pointing out that it’s all about tone and dialogue, about how you handle the material, not what the material is—and how there are no baby showers in my novel. But don’t you think the writers of The L Word think their handling is all clever and nuanced too?

Okay, maybe some of them know they’re writing a bizarre cross between Melrose Place, The Facts of Life and an informational brochure at the Gay and Lesbian Center. And the rest are probably too distracted by the ka-ching! sounds of money landing in their bank accounts and the rrrrrip! sounds of stories being torn from the headlines.

There but for the grace of poverty and the alleged subtleties of literary fiction go I.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009


Because I have a cold that is still fogging up my brain, and because I have to meet Nicole for dinner in about ten minutes, all I’m up for today is bullet points (I announce, as if you’d all keel over dead if I didn’t blog this week). Some thoughts, in very unparticular order:
  • Hospitals should not send you letters that say you need an EKG and then, when you call them, say, “Oh, that was just a form letter. You don’t need an EKG” as if you should have known.
  • Giving up abstract things for Lent is not as much fun as giving up disposable cups, which I did two years ago. (Last year I missed Lent altogether—so I guess I gave up Lent for Lent.)
  • The marquis on the progressive church next to my office says, “Enviro…LENT…alism.”
  • If you need a quick pick-me-up, you should watch either this or this, which you probably already have.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

ski (half) week

In LAUSD, when parents take their kids out of school for a week, it’s probably because their car broke down. In snowier parts of the country—and, inexplicably, parts of San Diego—it’s to go skiing.

You know how sometimes you hear about a thing for the first time and then you hear about it everywhere for the next few days? That was me and Ski Week, officially known as President’s Week, and oh was it ski week at Mammoth. The mountain was crawling with adorable bundled-up children who were twice the skiers I’ll ever be. Their moms crowded the beginner class AK took. I was envious and a little suspicious of anyone entitled enough to pull their children out of school just because the snow was too perfect to resist. But mostly I was just excited to get started on my own Ski (Half) Week.

Christine and Jody were once again Ski Mom and Dad to a gaggle of their friends, organizing the condo rental, telling us whether our boots fit (“If it’s too comfortable, it doesn’t fit,” said Christine, who was a tough-love Ski Mom), and, when Jenna accidentally returned my rental skis, which looked just like hers, Jody recalibrated Jenna’s bindings to fit my feet. Right there in the snow!

“Are you guys excited to be beginner-free?” I asked Christine when AK and I were getting ready to leave.

“We love beginners,” she assured me.

“I mean, I know you love us as people, but….”

While I told the guy at the ski rental shop that my ability level was 1.2 (3 being expert; he had no use for nuance, apparently, and wrote down “1”), I did try some intermediate slopes this year. And not just because I accidentally got on the wrong lift and tumbled down them like last year.

But all blue-square slopes are not created equal. I discovered this when Jody and Christine—who will someday enroll their kids in calculus as freshman—convinced me that I could totally take the gondola to the VERY TOP OF THE MOUNTAIN AND SKI DOWN UPPER ROAD RUNNER, THE SKINNY LITTLE BLUE SLOPE THAT HUGS THE SIDE OF A CLIFF.

Poor Jonathan and Jenna, my fellow intermediate skiers (except Jenna really is an intermediate skier, not a show-off beginner like me, and Jonathan is only intermediate compared to Jody and Christine, whom I watched jump off the top of that mountain in a move that, had I done it, would have meant I’d decided to say good-bye cruel world).

Poor Jonathan and Jenna, who had to wait as I cautiously snowplowed for thirty minutes straight until we finally reached a wonderful little oasis of wide blue slopes bordered by gentle snow drifts and trees, not double-black-diamond cliffs.

For a little while, I was exhausted and sad that my fear of heights had stopped short any natural skiing ability I had. I had fun playing in the freestyle park, even catching a half-millimeter of air on one hill, and thought maybe I could be a ski jumper instead of a downhill racer. You know, when it comes time to declare an Olympic specialty.

But memory is a tricky and opportunistic thing, and by the time I’d sauna-ed and showered that night, I was thinking, Next year. Next year I’ll do Upper Road Runner at a speed faster than one mile per hour.

And while for three days I was so ski-obsessed that I dreamed I was on the slopes the second I closed my eyes, there was lots to do besides ski (for which AK, who was tired of the my-husband-dragged-me-here moms and the instructor who tried to sign her up for his 5 p.m. yoga class, was particularly thankful).

We made mac and cheese and veggie chili and curry with lentils, all of us eating like lumberjacks. We put parkas over our swimsuits and ran screaming down the icy stairs to the hot tub. Some of us played Guitar Hero while those of us who sucked at Guitar Hero napped on the couch.

And on the last day, AK—who’d been the most literal of good sports about skiing—and I went sledding, which is like skiing on your ass. All the fun, no training necessary.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

i guess i want to look like a cross between mary-kate olsen and coraline?

The other night I dreamed (dreamt? I’ve always been iffy about that one) that I was at a party with a bunch of writers I admired. I looked down and saw that, while I was wearing a skirt I liked—a kind of jagged-edged teal one from American Apparel—I was wearing it with a baggy old T-shirt.

I remember thinking hopefully, Maybe it’s sort of raggedy chic and I have a Mary-Kate Olsen thing going on. But nope, it was an old shirt I work out in, which has not seen the color white for a long time.

Weird that I didn’t just dream I was naked. Maybe I’m more scared of being thought to have bad taste than of being exposed.

Anyway, here are the two things I actually logged in to tell you:

1) See Coraline. It’s so bizarre and lovely, and I would kill to create an otherworldly world the way those filmmakers did, although I’m not nearly patient enough to do so (I would settle for just having Coraline’s cute blue haircut—and I do pretty much have her heroic, big-eyed black cat). It’s also kind of an awesome manifesto against over-parenting and in favor of working, mildly neglectful moms and dads. Something tells me that the people who made this movie also spent a lot of time alone with their imaginations as kids.

2) I’m going to be away from the blog for a few days on what I’m optimistically calling my Annual Trip To Mammoth. Yes, the doctor said skiing was okay. No, it’s probably not possible to have as much fun as I did last year, not because of Iggy the Hernia but because fun things rarely live up to expectations of fun-ness the second time around. But I’m going to do my best to prove myself wrong.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

almost into it

On Saturday AK and I showed up at the ArcLight at random, as we seem to be developing a habit of, and said, “What’ve you got?” What they had was He’s Just Not That Into You.

(Do you like how I just made it sound like I was forced to see it as a last resort? Like I saw it only because Waltz With Bashir was sold out? In fact, I was quite into seeing He’s Just Not That Into You.)

It’s very much a movie of its genre, which I guess is technically “romantic comedy,” but which in my head is “movie in which all hair is either perfectly curled or ironed to the smoothness of a skating rink, and all the characters more or less work as graphic designers.” This genre is eye candy not of the Scarlett-Johansson’s-tits variety (although there was that too) but of the shiny-pages-of-Vogue variety.

Except the idea of He’s Just Not… was to rip the romantic-comedy goggles right off the faces of its female viewers, right? I didn’t read the book, but I heard co-author Greg Behrendt interviewed enough times to get the gist of it. And the movie outlines the premise right from the start: If a guy really likes you, he won’t make a bunch of excuses. So don’t make excuses for him, and don’t tell yourself little urban legends about other girls who turned rocky non-relationships into happily ever after. If those girls even exist, they are the exceptions, not the rule. You are the rule.

The movie deployed all the good-movie ingredients to make this point: snappy dialogue, good pacing, good acting, even some nice gender equity. And it was well on its way to being a good movie—maybe even a subversive movie seeing as how it was out to bust the myth of its own genre—until it collapsed under the weight of that genre.

Not to give too much away, but in the end, half the girls in the movie became the so-called rare exceptions: the one who’s rejected by a guy because he really secretly likes her, the one who’s proposed to after a long non-engagement.

Ginnifer Goodwin’s character makes some bullshit observation about how having hope is more important than having self-esteem, and maybe the movie was trying to justify its own existence as the embodiment of hope. But it felt more like one of those moralistic endings tacked on to old-school pulp novels to get past the censors. Only this time the censors were the zillions of women who want to rationalize dating jerks, and also MySpace, which had invested some major product-placement dollars.

As someone who met someone to be very into on MySpace (and after almost three years, I think I can safely say she’s into me too), I can’t argue with romance. Or Scarlett Johansson’s tits. Or Ginnifer Goodwin’s adorable-ness. But I can argue with movies that wuss out at the last minute. Talk about a fear of commitment.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

may tom coburn spend hours stuck in traffic on the ugliest part of the 405

This is old news among nonprofit arts geeks now, but the senate voted to cut arts funding from the economic stimulus package. Republican senator Tom Coburn presented an amendment that would prevent funds from being used for any “casino or other gambling establishment, aquarium, zoo, golf course, swimming pool, stadium, community park, museum, theater, art center, [or] highway beautification project.”

The zoo animals and I are a little offended that our livelihoods are considered as frivolous and useless as casinos and golf courses. We’re not quite sure why auto-manufacturing is considered a real, stimulus-worthy job, but caring for species that those autos are indirectly wiping out and ensuring that American culture is more than just Pimp My Ride are not.

If you agree with me and the elephants (whose painting projects are now doubly threatened), go here:

Incidentally, aren’t we in this mess because Wall Street is one giant gambling establishment? And aren’t we already putting a little money into that?

Saturday, February 07, 2009

this orecul cannot bend spoons with its mind, but it does just about everything else

[Spoiler alert only if you are Cathy Klein: The following post contains information about your birthday present.]

I'd been planning to spend my Saturday morning waiting in line at the Greek Theatre box office for Flight of the Conchords tickets. The good news was that there was only one other person there when I arrived at 9:45. The bad news was that apparently all the people who weren't there knew that the box office was closed for the season.

Walking around confused and lightly-rained-on, I kind of felt like I was in an episode of Flight of the Conchords (I love how relentlessly sincere they are, diligently seeing every bad idea through to its ridiculous conclusion; Lee-Roy's brother Valentine, who's spent a lot of time in New Zealand, swears this is exactly how people are there--once a guy he barely knew showed up at his house in the middle of a thunderstorm to teach him how to play a card game Valentine had casually mentioned wanting to learn over drinks a few weeks before).

But the other good news of the box office's closure was that I had a found block of time, which seems to never happen on weekend mornings. I'm usually cleaning, going to church or sleeping, all important, economical, good-girl activities, but it means I rarely shop in my neighborhood, which has some great places to shop.

Like Orecul77: This clothing-and-crafty-stuff store opened just before the holidays, and AK and I bought earrings and sunglasses and chatted with the owner, Tawni Lucero, a girl about our age who knows her way around a sewing machine and was excited to open what may be the first hipster apparel store on York Avenue.

Tawni is aware that fashion-conscious folks in Highland Park probably have less money than fashion-conscious folks in Silver Lake, though, so even though she makes most of the clothes herself (from scratch, from other clothes she finds, or from clothes you bring her), almost nothing is over $100 and many things are under $50.

Do you know of anywhere else you can get a really cute handmade coat for $75? I don't. I mean, all those alterna-craft-fairs I love so dearly charge like $45 for two sewn-together squares of cloth with skulls printed on them.

As I paid for a hand-stenciled skirt ($35) for my sister's birthday, I complemented Tawni on Orecul77's reasonable prices.

"I don't know of anywhere else you can get a really cute handmade coat for $75," I said. "I mean, maybe you can get something mass-produced in China at Target--"

"Even Target charges about that much now," said Tawni, who was busy trying to figure out how to contact her high school boyfriend on Facebook as her pit-and-maybe-shar-pei puppy, Del, ran around the store. "We know what neighborhood we're in. I mean, this is a business, but we don't want to, like, rob people. We get some of our clothes at the same place Aaardvark's does, but what we don't make into new clothes, we put in the $3 pile."

She encouraged me to come back Thursday for Orecul's new storytelling night. As I left, swinging my bag, I had none of that I-just-ate-the-whole-bag-of-potato-chips feeling I always get when I leave Target, inevitably having spent $100 on things I don't quite need.

This recession is a bitch, but I kind of feel like if we all make new clothes out of our old clothes and get together to tell stories, we can make it work. Also, storytelling night has free snacks, so if you're going to feel like you too many chips, it might as well be from eating actual chips.

Wednesday, February 04, 2009

soyjoy to the world

Today at work, a small cardboard box from Walmart arrived in the mail. Inside was a SOYJOY bar and a SOYJOY brochure promoting SOYJOY’s “Whole Soy. Real Fruit. Longer-Lasting Energy.”

Jamie: There’s something weird about randomly getting food in the mail.

Cheryl: I hate it when foods advertise that they’re made with “real” fruit or “real” cheese or whatever. If the best thing you can say about food is that it’s food, it’s probably not that good.

Jamie: I wonder if it’s made with non-GMO soy.

Cheryl: It doesn’t say it is, so it probably isn’t. What’s GMO?

Jamie: Genetically modified. There’s something bad about genetically modified soybeans, but I can’t remember what right now.

Cheryl: I wonder if it has any recalled peanuts in it.

Jamie: I’m just going to throw it away.

Cheryl: No, don’t! I’ll totally eat it.

Tuesday, February 03, 2009

amanda peet takes her maiden voyage

I’m happy to report that I’m now the proud owner of a new used bike (thanks to Christine, whose legs are too long for it) and an almost completed New Year’s resolution. (I was sneaky to make my resolution “Start riding a bike” instead of just “Get a bike.”)

Just in time, since I’m on a cardio-only exercise regimen thanks to my hernia, which I’ve nicknamed Iggy. I took my maiden bicycle voyage Sunday afternoon with AK, who also owns one of Christine’s old bikes.

I programmed a four-digit number into my new combination lock.

I attached my new lights.

I strapped on my new bike helmet whose baby blue-ness almost allows me to forget the fact that it’s a bike helmet and not a jaunty cap.

I tried not to think about how expensive a used bike can be once you start adding a bunch of new accessories.

(But AK and I did get free T-shirts from the friendly owner of the Bicycle Station, who said I looked like Amanda Peet. So ultimately I think I got a good deal.)

Riding residential-ish streets down to Lincoln Heights, I quickly discovered that the reason I feared riding a bike—its car/pedestrian hybrid nature—was also a reason to love it. True, I was as vulnerable as an especially wobbly, nervous pedestrian, but I also enjoyed all the sights and smells a pedestrian gets: the lush greens and waving clotheslines off Marmion Way, people pushing laundry carts on Monte Vista, the beautiful Changeling-era houses along Pasadena Avenue.

All while moving fast enough to actually get to Pasadena Avenue in less than forty minutes. I felt simultaneously old-fashioned and cutting-edge.

We stopped to visit AK’s old neighbors on Sichel Street, all of whom live in the same brick building, and they came swarming out to meet us, seemingly genuinely glad to have unexpected visitors. This, too, seemed like something out of the 19th century or a whimsical parallel universe. They all but offered us fresh-baked bread.

Then we pedaled up Figueroa—on the sidewalk because Fig is big—and stopped at Andy’s Panaderia for actual fresh-baked pan dulce. Not a bad time to be alive and herniated in L.A.