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Showing posts from March, 2010

nerissa's notebook

I first met Nerissa when I was an assistant A&E editor at the UCLA Daily Bruin and she was a new writer. She was also in one of my American lit classes, which should have been a tipoff that we had a lot in common. But her clothes were so cute and trendy that I decided she must be a sorority girl. I believed sorority girls and publicists were at the worst end of the respectability spectrum (at the top: Stephen Sondheim, my gay RA, my radicalized American lit professor). But soon Nerissa and I were making study dates to work on our senior theses (these took the form of eating chocolate cake at Anastasia’s Asylum and complaining) and doing a lot of shopping on Melrose. She gravitated toward size two outfits suitable for hip hop clubs. I gravitated toward clothes that the chorus of homeless people in Rent might wear. On Melrose, both were widely available. Once our friend Stan came with us and convinced some trashy shop to give us a big discount. I can’t remember what his hustle

high art, low pressure

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Friday night I read at the Ideal Art Event, also known as the Interstates exhibit at TempoRoyale, a gallery on the first floor of a MacArthur Park-adjacent apartment building. “We’re not really sure what goes on in this building,” said curator Miah. But I can testify that the building holds at least one other art gallery (AK and I saw Sergio ’s work there a few months ago) and one very drunk/high girl (she put her arms around us and told us we were beautiful). Okay, so maybe it’s not sounding ideal so far. But Miah had this brilliant idea to ask all his writer friends to send him a story/poem/essay directly or indirectly about L.A. He distributed the writings among his art students, who produced photos/paintings/sculptures in response. Presto: a multimedia exhibit that proves L.A. is more intertwined than isolating. Jeff Weber, the photographer who was given my not-so-short story, was not only kind enough to read all twenty pages, but he produced five uncannily beautiful photos: war

why library budget cuts are bad

Because then, when you take the day off work to take your car to the mechanic, and you diligently spend the first part of your wait writing at the coffee shop across the street, you still have another half hour to kill* before the library opens so you can go there to grade student work and pick up a new audio book. So you go to Fashion 21, the apparent Forever 21 knockoff/outlet (all the clothes it carries are Forever 21 brand) on Figueroa. You buy a pair of blue pants that are a sort of a hybrid between jeans and slacks, but not as god-awful as that sounds. And a camel-colored sweater that was made from the softest synthetic rabbit ever. And a slouchy gray T-shirt and a blue-and-white baseball shirt. NONE of which you need. Except maybe the pants, because it’s hard for you to buy non-jeans, and this was a step in a grownup direction. But in general, free books are better than not-free clothes. See what’s happening to our city? *Note: This post is sort of a lie. I actu

i'm a good time

Since my plane landed on Friday, I’ve managed to: Catch some kind of bug that I mistook as motion sickness, but I guess motion sickness doesn’t usually last five days, does it? Whine a lot about how big New York publishers will never love me the way I clearly deserve to be loved. Simultaneously be all “Who do they think they are, publishing select works of excellent literary fiction? Sistas/Californians/grassroots presses are doin’ for themselves, okay?” Conclude that the world is full of parental surrogates that you simultaneously long to please and try to rebel against. Critique fifty student critiques. Scream as if being stabbed slowly in the eye when, post grading of fifty critiques, I read some complicated (yet legit) question from a student re: our ever-confounding syllabus. Didn’t he know I COULD NOT DEAL WITH LOGISTICS RIGHT NOW? Go to bed—when AK marched into the kitchen, snapped my laptop shut and declared, “You have a fever. You’re going to bed.”

happy birthday to my favorite honorary irish ladies

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It's St. Patrick's Day, which in New York means green-frosted donuts, redheaded babies on the subway and "I [shamrock] New York" T-shirts. Back home, it's the birthday of my grandma (1911-1982) and AK's mom, who decks her halls with more Irish flair than any Mexican woman you're likely to meet. (AK's sister and my dad also have the same birthday. Does this mean we're somehow astrologically connected?) Here's my grandma, courtesy of my cousin and Facebook historian, Maria. She's a knockout, no?

just trying to sound interesting

We just finished the super busy part of our New York week, during which I ate farro porridge, citrus-cured anchovies, wheat puffs with yogurt and tamarind sauce, and an Oreo donut; and felt alternately inspired and intimidated by the publishing industry. I did have some free time on Saturday, which gave me plenty of opportunity to get rained on. On every corner there were mangled umbrellas apparently abandoned in fits of angry futility: Umbrellas don’t help when it’s raining sideways. But a quick fix for anyone feeling sorry for herself because she’s soggy and under-published is a trip to the Tenement Museum on the Lower Eastside. An actual pre-building-codes-of-any-sort tenement building from 1863, the museum offers tours of several apartments restored to the way they looked when specific families lived there: German immigrants in the 1870s, Italian immigrants in the 1930s, etc. The apartments are cute and not so small by New York standards. But then you look around and thi

how to be a very, very popular hotel

I’m in New York for work right now, and so far every meeting we’ve had has begun with someone saying, “You just missed the great weather!” It’s rainy and windy, and the weekend is supposed to be worse. I’m spending my days working and my evenings working some more (teaching my online class). So I’m not exactly living the Sex and the City life, or, more lamentably, the Cheryl and AK Fall 2009 life. (Although I have eaten some delicious and fascinating food at some of our meetings—I have new-found respect for snow fungus, ginko nuts, quinoa and winter squash. Not that it ever occurred to me to disrespect ginko nuts previously.) But if I’m going to be trapped inside, I’m trapped inside the right place: Our Chelsea “guest house” is the cutest, queeniest place ever. (So much so that they have a completely different pricing and cancellation policy during Pride season.) The theme is classic movies, and every room has a different star’s name. I’m in the Sheree North room.

nothing is certain except details and taxes

In my perpetual attempt to Be A Good Citizen, I did my taxes today. And by “did my taxes,” I mean, “sat in the waiting room reading Details Magazine and watching CNN while Erick Caro, licensed tax preparer, did my taxes.” The top story of the day was a 33-year-old female teacher * who had sex with one of her male students. The newscaster shook his head and talked about how speechless he was. Then he read emails from insightful viewers who said things like, “What is the world coming to? Can we even send our kids to school anymore?” And not to discount the teacher’s seriously bad behavior, but I kind of thought the world was coming to the exact same place it’s always been. Judging by the incredibly bored looks on the faces of my fellow Good Citizens in the waiting room, they agreed. I can think of at least two girls from my high school who (allegedly) slept with teachers. Teachers: bad. Students: victims, but probably not innocent ones. Sixteen-year-olds aren’t eight-year-olds

what i read in february

What I read today in my inbox was a form rejection email from an agent I queried. Hardly the first, but the first in a while. I’ve been out of the rejection biz not because it’s all two-book deals or anything but because I haven’t been submitting much. So my skin had time to get all pasty and thin again, and I felt really bummed out. But, I thought, I’ll always have reading. My recent escapes: Wench by Dolen Perkins-Valdez: This novel looks at the strata of slave society from nearly every angle: What, exactly, is the rank of a child born to a plantation owner and a house slave? When a girl is bumped up to the status of master's mistress, what sorts of favors does she owe her friends back in the slave quarters? Lizzie, the "privileged" "wench" of a "kind" master (this story necessitates many quotation marks as it problematizes many notions), has to ask herself these questions and more when she stays at an Ohio resort that caters to Sou

a movie to see, a review to read, a date to save—dude, you are so busy!

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AK and I saw Shutter Island Friday night at the Landmark Westwood , partly as an excuse to eat sugar donuts with lemon custard* at the Westside Tavern downstairs afterward. It was a great old-fashioned melodrama, complete with weather that mirrored Leonardo DiCaprio’s character arc, Patricia Clarkson as a fugitive in a cave (I’m happy to see her wherever she’s hanging out) and some Hitchcockian twists. Well, one Hitchcockian twist, which required you to completely suspend any contemporary knowledge of how psychology actually works. Apparently people sometimes just snap out of mental illness? And apparently mental illness amounts to one generic brand of crazy, which can involve hallucinations, amnesia, violent outbursts and whatever else is necessary to support the plot? Whatever. I loved it. It reminded me a little of Changeling , another retro mystery. But Shutter Island also enabled me to put my finger on a new movie pet peeve I have, which is that whenever the story revolves ar

gently read literature, or: why it pays to be nerdy

A few months ago, a nice man named Daniel Casey found one of my Goodreads reviews and asked if I'd expand it into a full-length review for his blog, Gently Read Literature . I've since learned that, besides having an acronym that evokes girl punk rockers in knee socks, GRL is a rare old-fashioned/new-fashioned beast that only the internet has room for: a venue for long meditations on books published by indie presses. If you're looking for People -style "bottom lines" and a number of stars to indicate whether you should read something, you probably wouldn't like the books this blog reviews anyway. But if you like to stretch out a bit, take a visit. It was fun to put my critic hat on, and it's nice to know that all my dorky, obsessive reviewing on Goodreads has not entirely been an exercise in critical masturbation. Not that there's anything wrong with that.