Monday, March 30, 2009

catharsis, new ideas and glitter

Some parts of this weekend sucked (thank you, reproductive cycle! You are why our new towel rack is still on the floor, just staring wistfully up at the towel-rack part of the wall). But it got off to a great start when I met with AK’s coworker Hataya’s guy Sergio (got that?) about collaborating on some kind of text/visual art thing.

As you may remember, I have a love/hate relationship with collaboration. At CalArts, I participated in this project called “Blind Date,” wherein a bunch of writers were given works by people in the art department and asked to respond creatively, and vice versa. I got to write about a sculpture I remember as silver, loopy and about knee-high. It was cool-looking, but it did not bring forth great emotion in me. So I wrote some trippy, abstract prose poem in response.

But even though my meeting at Vroman’s with Sergio was also something of a blind art date, I have to say I was totally smitten. He’d read a couple of my stories and I’d gotten a chance to check out his website, and we had this geeky, sheepish moment where we confessed: I kind of think you write how I paint! I kind of think you paint how I write!

Then we talked about movies and L.A. and process for like an hour, and I paged through pen-and-ink drawings of Spain and Tijuana and Hataya in his sketchbooks. He told me that he can’t paint anyone he doesn’t know, which makes commissions hard—especially one he got for a wiener dog named Lucy.

I usually like talking about process stuff with writers, but sometimes I stress out and compare myself to them too much. Or it’s just too familiar, like, yeah, I know exactly what combing through draft three for structure problems is like. But talking to artists in other disciplines provides just the right balance of catharsis and new ideas.

We’re not sure what the collaboration will look like yet—we’re going to start by passing a sketchbook back and forth and filling it with words and pictures. Not to get all CalArtian, but I’m thinking that whatever I write has to take advantage of the fact that I’ll be working in a more physical (less digital) space than usual.

I did some writing by hand in the sketchbook this morning. I doodled a girl on a trapeze because in my laptop-writing life I’m working on a novel about the circus (more on this later, perhaps—for now I’ll just say that it’s really fun and the result is a giant mess). Next time I think I might paint with nail polish on the borders of the page. It’s been way too long since I put glitter polish on anything other than my nails.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

what chicken* wants

According to my McDonald’s place mat**:

“Chicken is so rich with potential. It’s ready to be elevated into tender sliced chicken breast. It longs to be premium all-white meat chicken. It wants to be crispy or grilled chicken breast that’s laid across a honey wheat roll or an incredible hand-tossed salad. Chicken doesn’t want to be ordinary, it wants to be juicy, tender, premium chicken. That’s why the best chicken, Tyson chicken, goes to McDonald’s so that you can have a tender moment…with chicken.”

*“Chicken” is not to be confused with “chickens.” “Chicken” is apparently a conceptual yet sentient substance that wants nothing more than to be your mealtime bitch. “Chickens” are birds that, while not known for their intelligence, probably do not have this desire.

**Interestingly, the Spanish version said, “Se
puede convertir…. Puede ser crujiente….” If my high school Spanish serves me correctly, that means “Chicken can be…” not “Chicken wants…” Is it a translation thing, or is the Spanish-speaking world less deluded about its meat?

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

i put the cheryl klein in

Apparently Akbar has been hosting a weekly queer-ish comedy night for three years now, but last night was the first AK and I heard about it. I don’t mind being late to the game, though, as long as I’m not too late to see Karen Kilgariff, quite possibly the funniest person alive, who performed last night.

She started by reading off the list of people who’d RSVPed “yes” on Facebook. It was a sad but hilarious roll call. Then she did a bit I’d heard her do before, but which still made me laugh so hard that if I’d attended a few days closer to hernia surgery, I could have seriously injured myself.

I love funny people. Even though I’ve heard they’re all crying inside, and even though there were a fair amount of anecdotes from, as comedian Erin Foley described it, “my 20s, when I didn’t know if I was gay and did a lot of overeating and overdrinking.” So there’s evidence that maybe they’re not models of well-adjusted-ness. Still, when I hear funny people talk, it makes me want to get over my own stupid bullshit. Always a good idea.

I’m in a good mood today. The funny people are part of it. Spring is part of it. The impending end of my exercise hiatus is part of it (I’ve treated not being able to go to the gym for two weeks as if I were a professional athlete who would have otherwise been at the gym every day—when in reality I maybe missed four workouts, and have missed many more in the past because, say, there was a Real World marathon on TV).

Also, my NEW WEBSITE,, designed by the very talented writer-hyphen-web-designer Allison Carter, is part of it. Visit it. Bookmark it. Don’t forget the dash.

Monday, March 23, 2009

suspending my dislike of suspense

1. train gang

I have a complicated relationship with suspense. In movies, that is. In life, I just flat out don’t like it unless I’m on pins and needles waiting to find out just how much I won in the lottery. Except I don’t play the lottery, because [see first half of previous sentence].

With movie suspense, there are pros and cons.

Con: “Stressed-out” is not the emotion I go to the movies to feel. And suspense stresses me out. I can handle blood (unless it’s animal blood, in which case I cover my eyes and cry). I can handle sorrow. But if I wanted to feel stressed, I would just, I don’t know, schedule too much stuff to do. Oh, wait….

Pro: A little suspense will keep you awake while watching a DVD in your cozy darkened house after 10 p.m., and that is a task I most definitely need help with.

Enter Transsiberian, one of the most stressful/suspenseful movies I’ve seen in a long time. The first half is a believable drama about a couple (Woody Harrelson and Emily Mortimer) taking the train from Beijing to Moscow. There’s clearly something up with the couple they befriend, a bad-boy Spaniard and his young, bad-boy-loving girlfriend, and a general sense of impending doom permeates the claustrophobic train cars.

As the plot slowly escalated, pulling Emily Mortimer’s street-smart character down with it, AK and I contorted our faces right along with her. Her thoughts screamed, Oh shit oh shit oh shit, I am so fucked. We said to each other, “She is so fucked.”

The carefully crafted catharsis made the second half of the movie—which was more eventful but somehow slightly less suspenseful, like a valve had been released—believable despite some crazy-ass turns.

I may have a small crush on Emily Mortimer now, even if she is in Pink Panther 2.

2. working for the man (but really working for the other man, but really, really working for yourself, while possibly accidentally working for the first man)

I had a movie theater and a Diet Coke to keep me awake Friday night, but Duplicity would have done the trick too. It’s suspenseful in a not-so-realistic (although what do I know about corporate spy games?) but nevertheless meticulous way. I probably don’t need to tell you that Julia Roberts and Clive Owen play former secret agents and tentative lovers who “go private” in an attempt to steal millions from their corporate employers.

There’s a lot of plot, making it almost as hard to focus on stuff like theme and character as it no doubt was for writer-director Tony Gilroy to insert it. But he does, with help from his actors (Roberts is a warm and wise and seemingly naturally-aging—and more gorgeous for it—41-year-old, and Owen does nice puppy-dog eyes). At one point, the CEO (Tom Wilkinson) of the company Roberts works for (but doesn’t really, because she’s a triple agent) gives a speech about how human evolution has peaked and corporate evolution is the only hope for the future.

The ending, which I will not give away, made me think maybe this was true and that this was a really cynical movie. Or maybe it wasn’t, and that this movie believes individual human relationships are the only thing you can trust. Even thematically, there’s a little double-agent work going on. But it’s a good thing, and I’m excited for Duplicity Deux.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

lazy, foggy saturdays call for facebook memes

Cut, pasted:

Four jobs I have had in my life:
1. bagel slinger
2. gymnastics teacher
3. entertainment journalist or possibly "journalist," as it was the anything-goes dot-com boom
4. arts administrator

Four movies I've watched more than once:
1. Waiting for Guffman
2. Sunset Boulevard
3. The Birdcage*
4. Soul Man*

*Sometimes you don't re-watch movies because they're good, or even because you love them, okay? Sometimes they're just on channel 9 on Saturday afternoons a LOT, or your roommate owns the DVD.

Four places I have lived:
1. West L.A.
2. South L.A.
3. Southwest L.A.
4. Northeast L.A.

Four places I have been:
1. Oaxaca, Mexico
2. Kuching, Malaysia
3. Berlin, Germany
4. pretty much everywhere in California that you can go in a motor home

Four of your favorite foods:
1. bread pudding
2. flan
3. sushi
4. burritos

Four places I would rather be right now:
1. the gym, because my doctor barred me for two weeks and I'm contrary by nature
2. some posh writer's retreat where they treat you like a goddess
3. the circus
4. I've heard Barcelona is nice.

Four things I am looking forward to this year:
1. my books! (the one coming out and the one I'm working on)
2. being allowed to lift more than 15 pounds
3. Napa for the half-marathon (AK's running, I'm cheering and drinking wine)
4. more travel with AK

Four TV shows that I watch:
1. 30 Rock
2. Big Love, DVD availability permitting
3. Dexter, also on DVD
4. um, YouTube?

Four books I'm reading:
1. Beautiful Children by Charles Bock
2. The Big Tent: The Traveling Circus in Georgia, 1820-1930 by Gregory Renoff
3. Cinnamon Kiss by Walter Mosely
4. Three isn't enough? Since when were Facebook memes so demanding?

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

sunshine in unexpected places

I'm not sure whether, when you take a week off for surgery, you're allowed to go see a movie if you feel pretty good on the sixth day and think that it might be useful to ease back into the world gradually rather than jumping in the deep end on Thursday.

So, if you are my boss, let's just say that I got an illegal screener of Sunshine Cleaning and watched it on DVD from my sickbed. And if you're a member of the MPAA, or whoever polices such things, let's say it wasn't illegal and I'm in fact a member of the Academy.

But whomever you are, you should see this movie (unless you're the dad of the girl who was in front of me coming out of the movie theater, who told her in a semi-baffled tone, "I think I liked it...except it was kind of boring"). As I explained to AK, I love movies about people trying to figure out their lives: in this case, Amy Adams is Rose, a former high school cheerleader and present-day single mom trying to turn her housecleaning gigs into a dignified adult life. I can see how other people might find a movie dull for the exact same reason.

But Rose's career path is as refreshing as it is realistic--refreshing because it's realistic. In movies, when people "find themselves," it usually involves turning a hobby into a career or going after a dream that they were just too scared (as opposed to marginally talented) to pursue, and often a boutique is opened or an album is recorded.

In real life, people stumble into a field, maybe two or three, and then find a niche there. They discover, as in the case of Rose and her sister Norah's crime scene cleanup biz, that there's inherent joy in filling a need and doing it well. It's not that (most) people dream of cleaning up messes for a living--but it's not that doing so means you're barred from job satisfaction either, as less imaginative screenwriters (who, when their screenplays aren't selling, tell themselves, At least I'm not cleaning houses) imagine.

Sunshine Cleaning has a standout cast (Alan Arkin, Emily Blunt, and I hope I'll see more of Clifton Collins Jr., who plays the one-armed janitorial supply guy in a way that makes you think a one-armed janitorial supply guy could be quite a catch), and they flesh out the tough family relationships in the film as expertly as Rachel Getting Married. It adds up to a rags-to-whatever's-a-step-above-rags story that, in my mind, offers a lot more hope than the Slumdog Millionaires of the world.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

staycationing with my body

1. channel changer

What’s tiring is not so much the staples in my side or the fact that Team Gato doesn’t really understand the meaning of “not a good time to pounce on my stomach” (as I type, T-Mec is trying to wedge herself in the non-space between my laptop, my pillow and my elbow). What’s tiring—and also kind of interesting—is all this living in my body.

The last time I lived so intensely in my body was probably puberty, which I went through early and reluctantly (Are You There, God? It’s Me, Margaret was a cruel joke—why would anyone pray to get her period?). After that my relationship with my body pretty much had two channels: Fat and Not Fat. I spent a lot of time and energy trying to switch from one to the latter, but even during the fattest times, there was a reassuring predictability to my struggle. Cookies = Channel 1. Vegetables = Channel 2.

So to be reminded that my body is capable of all sorts of wild-card things—that it can put a piece of my intestine where it’s not supposed to be, that it can swell up and turn purple in protest of said intestine being put in its place—is a trip, to say the least. There’s the already-somewhat-dwelled-upon midlife crisis of realizing that, if puberty was my body’s way of saying, “Let’s…get…fertile!”, this is more like, “If you lived in the 19th century, you might already be dead by this point.”

But I think my body is also saying, “Hey, Brainiac, stop taking me for granted all the time. I know you think that taking me jogging once in a while will shut me up so you can get on with all your cerebral activities. But that won’t work infinitely. You don’t live in a world of ideas, bitch. Or even a world of tempting brownies.”

2. the impossible dream

I know it’s a cliché to have a brush with—okay, a brush with minor outpatient surgery—and get all appreciative of the little things. And I don’t have stronger feelings about flowers or sunshine than I did before (partly because I haven’t been outside in four days), but I do feel particularly grateful for, say, the human digestive tract. And skin, that unsung hero (I’m writing about a character with an unusual skin disorder right now, so this is especially on my mind). And bodies that manage to be fat or thin based on food consumption, not the random placement of built-up fluids.

AK was goofing around with her camera this morning, and let’s just say that the resulting picture of me prompted many apologies about bad lighting.

“This is a humbling week,” I said. “How I look, how I feel, how I’ve realized I’m way too quick to get frustrated when other people can’t do stuff. Right now my big dream is to deflate to the point where I can put on jeans.”

“Sorry, I shouldn’t be taking pictures.”

“No, it’s good to be humbled sometimes.”

“That’s true.”

3. shout-out to kristi, my latest decaf-drinking friend

I always sort of thought pregnant ladies were just being self-deprecating when they joked about being as big as a house—like they were trying to point out a “flaw” so the rest of us didn’t feel jealous that they were about to pop out a cute new baby (one only needs to look to the latest issue of Us Weekly to know that this is the most sacred and beautiful thing a celebrity can do).

But now I believe them a little more. I mean, of course they’re excited about the whole baby thing, but I bet they’re also continually weirded out by how much their bodies are suddenly dictating their lives.

I bet that in the midst of diligently not consuming caffeine or alcohol or sushi, the person trapped inside them wants to jump up and down and yell, “I can jump up and down! And I can think about stuff! I want you to understand the plight of my swollen feet, I want you to massage them and tell me I’m special, but I also want you to pretend like none of this is happening. That I’m just an idea moving through the world in an unmarked car.”

Friday, March 13, 2009

a swift kick in the gut

I'm writing to find out if I really am different on Vicodin. The bottle says, "Use care using machines." I've asked AK to hide the keys to the forklift, but I'm not sure how this applies to internet machines (a.k.a. AK's laptop). I do plan to spell check, so hopefully that counts as using care.

In classic Cheryl style, I psyched myself out for a month only to have the actual surgery go totally smoothly. The nurses were nice, the doctors were nice, my dad and AK had a nice chat in the waiting room, sharing a Subway sandwich and debating the pros and cons of I Can't Believe It's Not Butter (AK is of the Michael Pollan eat-real-food school of thought, my dad is totally '80s in his love of low-fat products).

One of two nice nurses named Karen promised, "It'll be over before you know it," and I realized that this was literally true. One minute the anesthesiologist was telling me how he was giving me a preliminary drug that was the equivalent of three margaritas. The next a non-Karen nurse was wheeling me to AK's car, saying, "I had the same surgery a while back. I went to a restaurant that night. I never listen to doctors' orders."

Doctors' orders or not, I was way too queasy for anything more than ginger ale and toast yesterday, but I did watch two episodes of Dexter, including the one where he finds a hotel room entirely drenched in blood, so I think that bodes well for stomach strength.

Today I just feel like someone kicked me--hard--in the abs, but the abundance of emails and cards (and one stuffed baboon with detachable baby baboon) from my incredibly awesome friends is a nice reminder that no one seems to actually want to kick me. Quite the opposite, apparently. So thank you, all of you, and next time you're under the weather, I hope I can bring similar sunshine and/or stuffed monkeys to your day.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

some books for you to read while i watch 30 rock online

The upside of hernia surgery is that it gives me an excuse to be completely irresponsible for a week, which I intend to take full advantage of, beginning Thursday. I shall call on my high school-era procrastination and rerun-watching skills—they’re a little rusty, but the foundation is solid.

It’s ridiculously hard for me not to make a to-do list for my involuntary staycation, and yesterday, after one of my New York co-workers kindly offered to write up a document I might have otherwise written, I confessed to my boss, “I could feel my fingers being pried open as I reluctantly let go of it.”

“It’s good to let go,” she assured me. “I promise you something wonderful will come and fill your hands.”

I hope so. But the first thing may be a remote control, which would be wonderful, actually. (I guess I mean a figurative remote control because our TV has pretty much permanently relocated to the repair shop.) If I’m feeling energetic, maybe I’ll read. If I’m feeling really energetic, maybe I’ll blog about how nasty my stitches look. But don’t get your hopes up. This week is all about a healthy lack of commitment.

Here’s my latest roundup of Facebook book reviews, should you be feeling energetic enough to read.

The Last of Her Kind by Sigrid Nunez (also known as my new book club’s first book—shout-out to all those who participated in a great discussion Sunday night and helped make my New Year’s resolution a reality!):

I can tell already that this book will stay with me for a long time. As an upper-middle-class kid with a tendency toward over-seriousness, I related to Ann’s guilt and admired her sincerity, even though I found her fetish for suffering tragically flawed (if all poor individuals are good and all privileged individuals are bad, does’t that create a kind of essentialism that means materialism has won?).

I like thinking of this novel as a riff/reaction to The Great Gatsby. My hunch is that Sigrid Nunez likes Fitzgerald’s book more than her narrator does, but believes it begs for more: more women, more of Nick Carraway’s (i.e. Georgette’s) life when Gatsby isn’t around, and a more interesting American dream than that of getting rich. And while not many people’s prose could hold up to Fitzgerald’s, Nunez is right to be audacious.

This is a big, fat, delicious American book told in a humble but compelling style. It makes full use of every narrative trick out there but always earns it. The Last of Her Kind is a great companion piece to American Woman by Susan Choi, another recent favorite of mine, which covers the radical women of the ‘60s and ‘70s with similar nuance.

Wickett’s Remedy by Myla Goldberg:

The remedy of the title isn’t the syrup Lydia brews up but rather human connection—in the form of letters, love, nursing and the other interactions that fill the pages of this compelling slice of history. And even love doesn’t save anyone (it would be an obnoxious message if only the unloved died during the influenza outbreak), but it does make life worth living.

Myla Goldberg is one of those rare writers whose prose and characters are utterly charming without being precious. I was happy to immerse myself in WWI-era Boston, which through her lens was both simpler and more intense, the way life may inherently be when it’s doomed to be short.

Nights at the Circus by Angela Carter:

I love a good circus novel, and I'm pretty sure this is a good circus novel—it’s smart and weird and full of allusions to stuff I read about in grad school—but I never fully got into it. I liked Fevvers, the bawdy winged woman around whom the story revolves, and many of the bizarre, tangential tall tales...but there were just too many long passages about drunken clowns.

Sunday, March 08, 2009

all that love and work

1. hustle...

It had been at least six or seven years since I'd seen Rent, and ten since Stephanie and I had seen it more regularly than we got our oil changed (sometimes two or three times during a run, camping out for rush tickets when we could, blowing our savings on full-price tickets if we had to, once driving to Arizona on a whim). I still had a deep affection for the show, but when I talked about my Rent years to others, I talked about it as if I'd been a hardcore New Kids On The Block fan.

Then Rent showed up at the Pantages, and Stephanie wanted to try our luck in the cheap-ticket lotto (they don't let you camp out anymore--it's unclear whether they're afraid of terrorists or it's a liability issue or they just got tired of hosting fan-kid slumber parties). For a little while it was just a thing on my calendar. Then, on the way home from work Friday, I listened to the soundtrack for the first time in ages, traffic melted away, and I realized I really, really wanted to see my old friend Rent.

When we got to the Pantages, the strip of the Walk of Fame outside the theater was packed with an eclectic batch of ticket hopefuls: fan-kids, yes, but also tourists and parents and old queens and young ones and girls in prom dresses and people in flip-flops. Stephanie reminded me that we'd never won a ticket lottery before.

"We have terrible luck," she said.

Fortunately her friend Michael, visiting from New York and along as an extra name to increase our chances, did not. His name was drawn (though it was hard to tell at first, because the way they pronounced his name sounded like "finger floss") and he gallantly turned his tickets over to us.

But then Stephanie decided she really wanted him to see it. Michael shrugged. "I don't know, I had lots of chances to see it in New York. I knew some people who were in the cast. But I just never got around to it. And I was just singing that song from Lease, the spoof on Rent they do in Team America. Isn't that blasphemous or something?"

Nevertheless, we found ourselves waiting in the cancellation line hoping for a third ticket. The girl in front of us, a petite baby dyke with a fire engine-red crew cut and a "No day but today" tattoo (she also had a "Defy Gravity" tattoo from Wicked), was visiting from Hawaii. She'd seen the show once already on this trip, but she wanted to see it again before flying back home.

Although thankful that I didn't seriously consider getting a tattoo until I was 25, I remembered how much I loved the insanity of Rent, and the nervous hustle for tickets: After listening to a security guard chant, "Have a plan B if you don't get tickets, folks. Plan B. Plan B," and calling Michael's friend who knows Anthony Rapp (who plays Mark), who called Anthony on a whim just in case he could get us in, Stephanie spotted a couple eyeing the cancellation line and zoomed over to them. Sure enough, they had an extra ticket to sell.

(Michael's friend on the phone, re: Anthony Rapp reprising the role he originated 15 years ago: "It's cute when they can't pay their rent in their 20s, but when you're 40, isn't it more like, Just pay your damn rent.")

2. ...and show

I'd worried that the show wouldn't hold up. After all, even though I liked the movie version that came out a few years ago, it wasn't exactly...good. I was worried that I'd be too lost in either nostalgia or cynicism to have any kind of real reaction.

But you know what? Rent is good.

Sitting in the front row just feet from the band and scaffolding, the chills came back right on cue. And more than that, I appreciated how well-crafted the show was: the little pieces of back story Jonathan Larson worked in, the complexity of characters who have to convey their entire selves via song.

I thought maybe I'd relate most, now, to Benny, the sell-out gentrifier who arguably makes a good point that there's nothing romantic about a neighborhood where people piss on your stoop every night. But if I related a little more to Benny, I related a little more to everyone. They seemed young (even if I could see Anthony Rapp and Adam Pascal's crow's feet, which I guess is a testament to their acting skills), and more fragile than ever, making their on-again, off-again love and friendship seem brighter and sadder.

When I was in college, Rent was as much my religion as it was my favorite musical. And I secretly like to think I've done it proud, living as an artist if not quite a bohemian (I do have a weakness for stability). But I'm not sure I've ever been able to live its bigger message, of appreciating the fleeting aspects of life, of loving even when you know you'll have to let go sooner rather than later (it's that stability weakness again). Now that I'm old enough to believe that death is real, not just a romantic construct, I found Roger's struggle to love Mimi when she's sick and dying that much more poignant, and Collins' easy ability to do the same for Angel that much more heroic.

3. life after rent

Michael liked the show too, which was vindicating. A real New Yorker! A real actor! A straight guy in his 30s! As a grown-up bohemian, perhaps it wasn't surprising that not only was he two degrees from Anthony Rapp, but one of the girls in the cast turned out to be an old friend. When we found ourselves backstage with maybe a dozen other people, I was starstruck.

"Karen!" Michael said when he saw his friend.

"Michael! Michael St. Clair, Saint something--how the fuck do you say your last name again? I could never get it right."

They chatted about the show, about Karen's family, about life on the road. "After the tour ends," Karen said, "my husband and the kid and I are moving to L.A. We're gonna try to buy a place. I just can't throw any more money away on rent."

"Oh, I know," Michael said. "I finally bought a place too. You have to do it."

"In Brooklyn?"

"In Brooklyn."

OMG, I thought, do you guys know how ironic it is to have a conversation about the importance of owning property backstage at Rent?

Ironic, yes, but do I think we've all sold out? No--Karen is still performing in and writing shows. Michael has his own recording studio and spent much of our pre-show wait trying to sooth a difficult actor who didn't get a part. Stephanie acts, voice-acts and is making one of my stories into a short film. I get up most mornings and write at little cafes that are the L.A. equivalents of Rent's Life Cafe.

The only difference is that, unlike Mark, I can pay for my tea these days. Maybe I'm flattering myself, but I like to think that this is where Mark and Roger and Maureen would have been in another decade. All that love and work pays off, and sometimes it even pays your rent.

Thursday, March 05, 2009

hp in bloom

I know we’re in a state-of-emergency drought. I wouldn’t be surprised if the plants blanketing NELA’s hillsides are aggressive non-native weeds. But damn, Highland Park is gorgeous after a few days of rain.

All the yards on my morning jog that normally have dirt instead of grass (the economical way to practice sustainability) now have grass-like carpets of dewy green sprouts. I don’t know what they are—some salad-ish mixture of grassy stuff and herby stuff and tendril-y stuff. Dirt mounds on construction sites have become frolic-worthy knolls. Our own flower beds, heretofore occupied not by flowers but by stones, succulents and rotten lemons, have gone all Secret Garden on us.

Suddenly it’s not hard to imagine a time after humans, when plants push us and all our stupid problems into the ground with their no-nonsense roots. I’ll miss us, but it will be a lovely takeover.

Tuesday, March 03, 2009

not-so-stiff upper lip

1. if i had a mood ring, it would be going berserk right now

I keep prematurely declaring myself done with my winter doldrums. I'll be all, "Yay! I'm skiing and the weather's nice and I just read a really good book and someone is designing my website!" and then, 24 hours later, I'm all superstitious about hernia surgery again (the song playing in the blood test office's waiting room: possibly bad luck; the show playing on the TV in the chest x-ray office's waiting room: good luck, as it involved a circus).

All I can say is: I have a very patient girlfriend. We're taking this relationship class at church right now, and there's a lot of stuff about making time to be silly and not being critical of your partner. AK is a prodigy at being silly and noncritical. She's critical of some things--books and movies and people who aren't friendly--but if you're not one of those things, she's pretty much all love, all the time.

Except when she's in a bad mood, and even then she's not critical, she's just in a bad mood. This is actually great, because when I'm all weird and moody, she doesn't question that a person might need to be that way sometimes.

Lately we've taken to pouting with our upper lips. Try it: When you want to brood, instead of sticking out your lower lip, try extending your upper one. You'll feel like a duck or maybe one of the less intelligent dinosaurs. It will be hard to stay in a bad mood. And when I say that, I mean it, because I can dwell on shit like a pro.

2. don't make me get out my why-l.a.-is-great list

Something else I'm dwelling on: My friends keep moving away. This also happened right after college, and for a while I hung out with a handful of people I had almost nothing in common with except that we were all friends with the same girl who moved away. Now a second wave seems to be taking place. First Meehan, now Nicole and Heather.

(Heather and her boyfriend and AK and I spent a fun farewell-L.A. day at BCAM's Art of Two Germanys show, which I highly recommend. Especially the photographs and the socialist realism, which I know is propaganda, but it's pretty and a more interesting lie than whatever truth large abstract oils are trying to tell me. Then we had shabu-shabu for dinner and Heather's chef boyfriend taught me how to poach an egg. A whole world opened up.)

Fortunately my wayward friends are all planning on coming back in a few months. Sometimes I go that long without seeing people I like even when they're just across town. Not that I should, but I do. And in the meantime I'll probably hang out with AK's friends, who are fairly awesome.

So I'm not saying life is bad, just that it's life. Our relationship class is also big on making you repeat statements back to each other, slowing conversations down to the pace of a really thoughtful snail. We discuss childhood voids and reaction styles ("Are you a turtle or you a hailstorm?") and we watch a DVD of couples having dialogues about dialogue.

All stuff that, if you witnessed it as a teenager, would make you want to crawl in a hole and bury yourself alive before you could reach the indignity that was adulthood. But it's not so bad. It's even kind of good. It's life.