Thursday, August 27, 2009

the real reason gay marriage should be legalized

Given the name of this blog, I’d be remiss not to mention my new love: the Breadman Ultimate Bread Machine recently re-gifted to us by AK’s sister Lori. I’ve wanted a bread machine since my friend Amy got one in high school and began cranking out loaf after loaf of mouthwatering fresh bread.

(Amy was always an experimental cook. I swear that I once ate pizza with applesauce in lieu of marinara at her house. But usually the results were good.)

Never having assembled a wedding registry, I never had occasion to ask myself, Beyond matching table settings for 12, a Dutch oven, a popcorn popper, a gravy boat, pilsner glasses and sushi knives, what space-taking thingamabob do I need for my kitchen?

If I had, though, the answer would have been a resounding, “Bread machine!”

And now we have one! On long-term loan, at least, until Lori has a bigger kitchen.

So far I’ve made two loaves, mostly to prove to myself that I would and could actually use it. (AK may have displayed mild skepticism.) First up was whole wheat, because AK once read The South Beach Diet and concluded that white bread is poison, though she seems to have no qualms about cornbread or cinnamon rolls. Next I made something called “seed bread” because it sounded kind of healthy without being whole wheat.

Because I am a mixes-only kind of baker, I did what I almost never do: read the entire manual before beginning. It was full of severe, cautionary language about measuring EXACTLY and not making ANY substitutions not on their list of ACCEPTABLE substitutions.

But it’s kind of like how, when you’re in middle school, your teachers constantly warn you about the many kinds of bad, immature behavior you won’t be able to get away with once you’re in high school. Then you get to high school and it’s pretty much just like middle school, except now the teachers warn you about what will be unacceptable in college.

Actually, I’m not sure this is a good analogy except to say that the bread machine handbook makes bread-making sound much harder than it is. Isn’t the whole point that you dump ingredients in a loaf-shaped pan, press a button and come home to amazing fresh bread?

It turns out that’s exactly what happens. And the results are delicious. And your whole house smells like a perfect childhood.

I love our bread maker because the result is all slow-foody and sustainable and trans fat-free and stuff, but with none of the actual work. Which has always been what’s kept me from joining the slow food movement.

We haven’t tried the seed bread yet. I’m saving it for the sandwiches I’ll be making for our trip to Catalina tomorrow (how excited am I about that?). I’m fairly confident that it will be tasty, though, because 1) it looks tasty and 2) I didn’t make it. Breadman did.

Monday, August 24, 2009

circa 1970

I never saw many pictures of my mom in her twenties. She always implied that it was because she spent them being enormously fat and hence camera-shy. This picture I just stole from my cousin’s Facebook page (thanks, Maria!) would imply she (on the left) was in fact quite cute.

I should have known she exaggerated. It’s like how for years my sister and I thought dry cleaning cost twenty or thirty bucks a pop because whenever our mom came across a “dry clean only” label while shopping, she dropped that item like it had bitten her. Even if it was a $2 skirt at Goodwill. Imagine our surprise when we discovered, well into adulthood, that dry cleaning usually runs in the low single digits.

But what are moms for if not to skew your worldview? Above all, my mom was a fan of letting us form our own via literary exploration. I just listened to a story on This American Life about the Harlem Children’s Zone, which encourages parents in low-income areas to read to their kids. Apparently that gives them a leg up in life more than any other factor. Studies on such topics were probably slim in the late seventies (though if they were out there, there’s a good chance my mom read them), but she loved reading, believed reading saved her life, and there was no way she wasn’t going to share that with her kids.

Clearly, she created a monster. I’m so appreciative. And kind of envious of my aunt Vanessa’s Amy-Winehouse-but-healthy ‘do.

Friday, August 21, 2009

climbing the fish ladder

If you know my complicated history with baking, you know it probably wasn’t a good idea to make muffins the night before my Seattle reading. I heard that Michelle Tea sometimes hands out cookies to people who ask questions at her readings, and Andrea Seigel once performed a sort of hip hop/cheerleading dance at a reading I went to. And I would be quite happy to be either of them when I grow up.

But coming from me, baking for my attendees might be more like value-subtracted than -added. Still, there is a crucial muffin-related chapter in the second part of the book. So I compromised and made banana muffins from a Trader Joe’s mix. But I added dried cherries because I can’t resist bedazzling my recipes a little.

They turned out pretty good, as did the reading, which was small but mighty. When you realize how hard it is to get strangers to show up for a reading by a relatively unknown author, you become that much more appreciative of your friends. And your girlfriend’s friends. And your blogger friends whom you met in person for the first time that night.

This is Tracy of Kaply, Inc. and Sizzle of Sizzle Says:

We had food and beverage at this New Orleans-themed bar in Pioneer Square. The service was verrrry slow, and according to Tracy, the diet soda was crap, but I think a good time was had by all. They were both pretty much how they seem on their blogs: Tracy was mouthy in the best way, and Sizzle was sweet and funny. This means they are good writers, having accurately represented themselves.

Driving back to Yoshiko’s place in Des Moines, I reflected on my reading and had various thoughts about how anxiety-prone I am, and how maybe that’s a problem, but I decided to chalk up my worry to the fact that 1) it was midnight, 2) I’d gotten up at four in the morning to catch my flight and 3) I was trapped in some sort of Highway 99/Marginal Way vortex-loop.

The next day I was officially on vacation, which was a nice place to be. I had breakfast in West Seattle with Daisye, whom I hadn’t talked to in two years, and she’s such an amazing friend that I found myself trying to extend my time with her like a little kid pushing for an extra twenty minutes of TV before bedtime. As always, I probably exploited her therapist-like qualities too much: Wait, we can’t be done with brunch! I was just getting started on my relationship with my dad!

Yoshiko and I hit the Burke Museum in the afternoon—seemingly a great way to escape the heat (which was plentiful), except apparently only 12 percent of buildings in Seattle are air-conditioned, and this was not one of them.

But we did see a Starbucks-sponsored exhibit called Coffee: The World in Your Cup. The subtext was Coffee: Don’t You Want a Venti Frapuccino Right Now? So the next exhibit, Alaska-Yukon-Pacific Exposition: Indigenous Voices Reply, was a nice antidote. Here, the subtext was Exhibiting Indigenous People: It Usually Sucks. It was all about the bizarre and exploitative measures white Seattle went to when providing “educational” demonstrations of “local” cultures for the world’s fair in 1909. Think totem pole-stealing, loin-cloth outrage and ethnic stereotypes galore. I geek out on meta-museum exhibits, and this was no exception.

Yoshiko’s girlfriend was having her wisdom teeth out, so I was on my own Thursday, and I quickly realized how long it’s been since I’ve had a day to myself that wasn’t all about Getting Shit Done. It was beyond lovely to drive out to Ballard and wander around the Hiram Chittenden Locks, a feat of nautical engineering that I wouldn’t have thought I’d dig nearly as much as I did.

In fact, if Hiram Chittenden had a Facebook page, I’d become a fan. He was the guy who foresaw the need to make the locks between the canal and the bay out of concrete instead of wood, perhaps preventing a Katrina-like disaster. And long before the days of downloadable seafood guides, he decided that local salmon needed a way of safely passing through the damn. Hence the Fish Ladder, where you can see salmon bravely pumping their fins on their way upstream. Their progress was slow and unglamorous, and I came away with a newfound respect for those little guys.

Not to diminish their truly life-and-death efforts, but sometimes the writing and publishing process feels a little like that. All that murky green water and those unfriendly currents. But also, plenty of nice people who will build a fish ladder for you.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

cops and coyotes

I’m trying to practice for my reading Tuesday night at Elliott Bay Book Co. in Seattle (see below), but for a while the helicopters were making it a little loud. Now things are quiet, but there are five cop cars parked on our block, and our upstairs neighbor reported that some of the cops had taken off on foot. Is that a good thing or a bad thing? Hard to know.

There were some noises earlier that, in retrospect, were not firecrackers. “I guess it’s never firecrackers, is it?” AK sighed.

Friday night brought a different batch of noises: yipping and yowling from the weedy hill at the top of the street. AK got out of her car and saw a coyote on the sidewalk. The common thread between Friday and tonight is that both times we rounded up the cats VERY QUICKLY.

Sometimes it’s hard to tell if you live in the middle of an urban turf war or a rural one. Avenues vs. um, another HP gang, or coyotes vs. cats. You want to root for everyone. We all need to eat, right? But ultimately I root for Team Gato, and I stay close to my den. Any animal would.


If you’re in Seattle, where it’s probably much safer, on Tuesday night, I hope you’ll come hear me read from a book that is coyote-free but does feature a mountain lion:

Cheryl Klein reads Lilac Mines
Elliott Bay Book Co.
Tuesday, Aug. 18, 7:30 p.m.
101 S. Main St., Seattle, WA

Thursday, August 13, 2009

for the trans octopus in all of us

Fun video, courtesy of The Bilerico Project.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

in which i hate on families, but in a loving way

I logged in to blog about how Terry’s interview with me is now up at The Bilerico Project. She asked great questions and wrote up a really impressive article despite being overloaded with work after a week at some sort of yoga-teacher boot camp. She’s a true pro.

But instead I find myself wanting to blog about two groups of people who annoy me:

1) Gangs of seven-year-old girls. They hang out in front of Baskin-Robbins, high on lime daiquiri sorbet, squealing and making plans for Opposite Day. If one of them gets hold of a cell phone, watch out. They will fucking text “I hate you” to their own mothers. Then they’ll scream, “It was a prank! It was a prank!”

2) A particular strain of stay-at-home mom on Facebook. I know I’m treading on dangerous territory by saying this, and maybe it’s because my biological clock is juuuust beginning to tick (though not enough to want to spend more than twenty seconds with a seven-year-old), but I feel like Facebook is a year-round, 24-hours-a-day braggy Christmas letter.

Not that anyone asked me, but a couple of things I am generally against:
  • Posting a picture of your child as your profile picture. I’m all for posting pictures of your kids. If I can post a picture of my cat talking on a banana phone, you can certainly post pictures of your kids, who are almost as cute as my cat, after all. But when you post a headshot of your daughter as your profile pic, the implication is that her identity has totally subsumed yours. Disturbing.
  • (I have a friend who posted a picture of her placenta after she gave birth. This I was down with.)
  • Listing your job as “mom” in an overly cutesy way. I’m not saying being a full-time parent isn’t work. Part of the reason we had the seventies was to give some long overdue credit in that arena. But it’s a little bit of a luxury to be a one-income family these days. If I had a friend who posted all the time about how much she loved her super fun, hard-to-get job as, say, a film director, I’d get sick of her too.
Incidentally, if anyone wants to follow this up with a post about how they can’t stand writers who are always posting about their stupid readings, that person would be fully justified. You know I’m just jealous, right? Because I have this deluded notion that moms without day jobs have a ton of time to write. Yeah, I know.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

vamos a la playa*, y al bilerico project tambien

Whenever Prince throws a post up on Bamboo Nation saying, “Check out my guest post on The Bilerico Project today,” I’m always kind of envious. He is a blog playa. (I put that in italics for emphasis, but now it looks like I’m trying to say “beach” in Spanish. My point is that Prince is a promiscuous blogger, okay?)

My guest blogging cherry was initially popped by Tracy of Kaply, Inc., but a one-night-stand around the holidays does not a playa make. So I was happy when Prince hit up the editor of The Bilerico Project, a roundup of queer news and opinion, to let Terry Wolverton and I interview each other about being gay writers of different generations. My interview with her is up now; hers with me runs tomorrow.

I’m curious whether you folks think there is a gay generation gap. Or perhaps many. Or maybe there are plenty of gay gaps (does that sound dirty? I thought I’d abandoned my sluttiness metaphor), but they’re not primarily along generational lines. Please discuss amongst yourselves in the comments section over at Bilerico.

*Oh, oh-oh, oh oh.... I could not resist adding that. Those of you who listened to a lot of Spanish radio and/or were in Ms. Borman’s Spanish 1 class in 1988 will understand.

Friday, August 07, 2009

this post is supposedly about baseball, but mostly it’s about clothes

AK stalks Craigslist the way I stalk, so last night we had field-level Dodger tickets for the price of nosebleeds (and I wore great shoes: silver-and-gray Converse with little splashes of orange that matched my nail polish).

I learned a few important things:

1) On the field level—which probably has a more official name—there are nice bathrooms, and they sell Wetzel’s Pretzels instead of generic brand soft pretzels that aren’t so soft anymore.

2) Sitting next to fans of the visiting team who have strong lungs is not all that fun. One of them made his own blue T-shirt that said “Mannyroids,” which, for people who know as much about baseball as I do, alludes to Manny Ramirez, who was suspended for taking performance-enhancing drugs but is now back.

Normally I don’t think of zillionaire athletes who cheat to get ahead as underdogs, but after a while I started to feel sorry for the guy. Not that sorry, but a little. Partly because there’s a whole culture and industry pressuring athletes to do drugs, and that same culture/industry seems a little hypocritical when it punishes the guys who succumb to it. Partly because public humiliation administered by idiots just seems tacky. I guess the Braves fan next to us gets points for actually going to Michael’s and purchasing iron-on letters and applying them with what I have to admit was excellent spacing. Then again, maybe he loses points.

3) Boys puff their chests up and look like pigeons when they’re about to fight.

4) Whenever I watch baseball, I realize how many phrases come from baseball. Like, I’ll see a ball say over the field and think, Wow, he almost hit it out of the park. Hey! That’s why people say “He really hit it out of the park!” when someone does something impressive.

5) You can get three points (“Runs,” said AK. “In baseball they’re called runs, not points.”) at once if there are guys on first and second and you hit a home run. If it’s the bottom of the ninth inning and your team was losing up until now, this is pretty cool.

Tuesday, August 04, 2009

what i read in july

The Labrys Reunion by Terry Wolverton: From the vantage point of a couple of decades later, it's easy to see how an idealistic educational institute/think tank/summer camp for feminists might spark some, well, drama. But for the women who gathered at Labrys in the '70s, hopes and stakes were high. When the murder of one of their daughters prompts the reunion of the title, they gather as a much warier bunch--not just of each other, but of the murdered girl's Gen X friends, a mix of apparent slackers, confusing gender-benders and loose cannons.

As always, Wolverton's writing is compelling and surefooted, which helped me distinguish between the many characters and interpretations of feminism that populate this novel. Ultimately, I was most moved by protagonist Gwen's realization that feminism's imperfection is a product of its success: "She had continued to see this movement as an elaborate drama in which the women of the world were happily and purposefully engaged in a bloodless revolution.... How had she managed all these years to avoid that simple truth, that taking power had consequences?" Some good consequences, some bad, all worth reading about

World War Z by Max Brooks: The idea is great. The details are great (zombie copycats, exploitative fake vaccines, unlikely weapons recycled from other wars). But the execution is pretty mediocre. The prose isn't speech-like enough to pass as genuine oral history, but it's not pretty enough to be enjoyable on a literary level either. And after a while the dozens of characters and zillions of battles made my eyes glaze over.

Revolutionary Road by Richard Yates: I don't know why I'm always surprised when classics (for me that's anything pre-1970) turn out to be good. But this book was more riveting than the zombie novel I was reading concurrently, and I was consistently blown away by Richard Yates' character descriptions. It takes serious precision to capture Frank Wheeler's self-conscious brand of clueless-ness. It was also interesting to read a portrait of 1950s suburban life written while it was still taking shape--to learn that hipster reactionaries to the bourgeoisie are not unique to the 2000s (but can be a melancholy cautionary tale in any decade).

Bad Girls Burn Slow by Pam Ward: L.A. noir with a healthy dose of gleeful, funny pulp, this novel of scam artists trying to out-scam each other is lots of fun to read. Pam Ward seems to enjoy pushing the limits of how nasty she can make her characters, and her wicked joy is contagious. By not just blurring but totally rubbing out the line between villain and hero (not to mention black and white, male and female, even living and dead), she also reveals how a sly individual can use society's mistaken assumptions to his or her advantage.

Monday, August 03, 2009

bloggers at brand

If the Americana at Brand’s location weren’t built into its name (“Where is it?” “At Brand”), it would be very easy to forget you weren’t at The Grove at Third. I don’t know if they were designed by the same person (though I bet Scott does—more on him soon), but if not, I’m willing to bet the designers dated for a long time. And on their dates, they discussed how cool it would be to build a big outdoor mall that tries to pass as a town square and features a big fountain, a trolley and an Anthropologie store.

I visited the Americana for the first time Sunday for a SoCal blogger meet-up organized by Prince Gomolvilas of Bamboo Nation. It wasn’t quite on the scale of TequilaCon, but at $4.70 for delicious almond-fig gelato at Caffe Primo plus a couple of bucks for gas, it was cheaper.

I arrived a little nervous: Some of these people would know me only through my blog, meaning one of two outcomes could occur:

1) They would leave thinking, Wow, she’s way funnier and more interesting on her blog, meaning that my in-person personality is so-so.

2) They would leave thinking, Wow, she’s so much cooler in person, meaning that my writing is so-so.

But most of them didn’t know me or my blog, which meant that it was all one big cold call, which didn’t exactly put my mind at ease.

Of course it all turned out fine, as with most things I harbor vague anxiety about. I got to meet:
  • Peter, who showed up with copies of my book in a protective plastic folder because he is just that sweet;
  • a college student named Ashley, who was troubled that her mom kept trying to Facebook friend her (I keep telling her, “But we live together? How much more connected do we need to be?”);
  • Jake, one of those rare and brilliant people who (almost) makes a living off his blog;
  • Scott, who loves Glendale history as much as I love ghost towns;
  • Steph, whose blog on writing I’m excited to check out;
  • Donovan, an actor who lamented being too nice to dish on casting directors; and
  • Louise, who will no longer be posting certain family photos after learning (thanks to Google Analytics) that there is such a thing as an adolescent-girl-in-braces fetish. (And I thought Dan Savage had alerted me to every possible fetish out there. I should have known better.)
And of course Noel, whom I already knew as a real live person, and Prince, whom I’d at least seen read as a real live person.

After securing salads and gelato, we took turns throwing out questions to the group and answering them by going around in a circle. Stuff like: “What do you censor on your blog?” and “What’s your magic post that has gotten a zillion hits?” and “Which application do you use to track statistics?”

I called AK on my way back to the ridiculously glamorous parking structure (there’s a chandelier). “It was really fun to meet everyone,” I said. “And they were all really cool—our conversation wasn’t nearly as geeky and awkward as you might think this kind of thing would be. Or…wait…maybe this just means I’m so immersed in this particular brand of geekiness that I can’t even recognize it.”

But if it’s geeky to gush about blogging for two hours, I don’t wanna be cool.