Monday, June 28, 2010

flights of fancy

Saturday night Christine and Jody invited AK and I and a few of our friends over for grilled tilapia and lamb chops, and a champagne toast to our sneaky Canadian nuptials. It confirmed my long-held suspicion that I have amazing friends. People have been so nice in their well-wishes that I keep thinking, Wow, if we had a real wedding we could clean up! Just kidding. Still happy with our choice. Still don’t need a juicer.

In addition to warm thoughts about the essential kindness of humanity, the night also yielded one truly revolutionary idea, or at least a truly L.A. idea: Time Share Airport Parking Spot!

I’ve spent a good chunk of the past few months of my life traveling, but I try to avoid rambling about the trials and tribulations of air travel at the risk of sounding like an uninspired standup comic. How about those $6 lattes at the airport Starbucks? (Okay, that wasn’t even funny, just a complaint.) But suddenly all of us were talking about the creative/exhausting ways we get to the airport. Light rail plus FlyAway Bus? Unreliable blue shuttle? Park-and-ride via sister’s house?

Lee-Roy said he parks at his office near LAX and hitches a ride on the Sheraton Hotel shuttle. Then he mentioned that his company leases spots for $50 a month “if you’re interested....” Seeing as how the FlyAway Bus will get you there for $7, this seemed a little steep. Unless…Time Share Airport Parking Spot!

We could all pitch in a few bucks a month and enter our travel schedules on some kind of Google calendar (Christine would love this—she’s never met an online organizational system she didn’t like).

“You guys would hate me so quickly,” said Jody, who racks up serious mileage for work. “Every time you drove by the spot, you’d be like, ‘There’s that damn beat-up Subaru again.’”

So we’re still working the kinks out of the system. But I think it could be the new Zipcar for the beer-budget jet set.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

i shop at owly's

Okay, back to Owly's. When I visited Daisye a few years ago, she and Laura had recently discovered that their ideal date was an antique auction. Always crafty, Daisye had begun fixing up her finds and arranging some of them into dioramas that were one part Grandma's house, one part Museum of Jurassic Technology. "Someday we'd love to open our own store," she said. I never would have imagined that "someday" would come so soon and so snazzily. There's something exceptionally rewarding and inspiring about watching a longtime friend turn a hobby into a passion into a business.

Now Owly's Wayside Nest is a funkily curated vintage goods shop that sells kitsch quite sincerely, with a special penchant for salt and pepper shakers, refurbished dolls, cat house coins, clocks and, of course, owls.

Daisye's Doll Hospital is a store-within-a-store. The girl in me who cried whenever she saw a stuffed animal in a trash can loves Daisye for rescuing these babies from thrift stores, re-stuffing them and giving them fab new wardrobes.

They even come with silver screen era names and adoption certificates. Just like Cabbage Patch Kids, but without the child labor.

Owly's is a work of art that sells works of art...

...and toys that will make you nostalgic for your own childhood or someone else's...

...and medicine-box magnets...

...and salt and pepper shakers of every likely pairing (and many unlikely ones).

Laura and Daisye turn vintage prints and vending machine toys into mini museums.

Laura's specialty is clocks. What time is it? Time for Mighty Mouse to save the day, that's what time.

The original Owly, a childhood toy of Laura's who is not for sale, though plenty of people have tried to place a bid. He shops at Owly's and you should too. Maybe it's a little optimistic to say "next time you're in Hoodsport," since it's a two-hour drive from Seattle. But if you make the trip, you won't find better hostesses than Daisye, Laura and Owly.

o canada, o humanity

Some months ago, AK and I hatched a plan. Seeing as how we liked each other and planned to spend as long as possible together, we wanted some of those legal rights we kept hearing so much about. But California was still denying them. Sort of. But if we got married out of state, we could bring everything except the word "marriage" back with us. And since we were both kind of meh about weddings, why not fly up to Washington, see our friends and drive up to Vancouver, land of legal pot, free health care and marriage for all?

By the time our trip rolled around, I'd been snagged by a blue mood for a couple of weeks and AK was thinking that some kind of celebration--not a wedding, but something a little more festive than a paper-signing ceremony at a marriage commissioner's office--might not be such a bad idea. That's the thing about doing things the non-traditional way--you discover that all those restrictive guidelines can also be lifelines.

But life is bumpy and messy, and so we foraged ahead and had a great time. The week was nothing short of miraculous in terms of reacquainting me with my happier self. And now I'm Canadian-married to a thoroughly amazing lady, and some sort of party (sans gift registry, but with family, friends and cake) may be in the offing.

Some trip highlights:

Our first stop was Holiday Beach, a "suburb" of Hoodsport, itself a block-long town on the Hood River populated largely by retirees. That's where Daisye and her girlfriend Laura have curated a beautiful, funky house and opened a beautiful, funky antique-and-crafts shop, and just sort of generally opted out of the life people in our generation might be expected to lead. They're role models on the do-it-your-own-way front.

For example, Daisye isn't content with a regular old Home Depot garden trellis, so she decided to build one out of driftwood...

...which we gathered from the private beach across the street from their house.

We visited Owly's, their antique-and-crafts shop. It deserves its own post, so I'm going to give it one shortly.

Next we drove...and drove...and drove...up to Stanwood, where AK's college friend Dara was living her own kind of rural DIY life with her husband TJ, stepson Tyler, cat Figaro (who was feeling introverted the first night due to a garage door vs. tail mishap earlier in the day) and dog Bambino.

I should have taken more pictures of their house. At first glance it looks like an attractive new home you might find in any American suburb. But here's the thing: TJ built it. I was still reeling from Daisye's ability to nail together pieces of driftwood, so the fact that someone could make a 3,000 square foot home with level floors and running water was beyond comprehension. I mean, I don't know how I thought houses came to be. Did the stork bring them? Rural life reminds you that nothing comes from nothing.

The builder himself and his lovely wife, on a ferry to Orcas Island, one of a cluster of San Juan islands off the coast of Washington.

Our first stop was an alpaca farm populated by recently sheared llama-cousins. We learned that they have no upper front teeth and, instead of hooves, they have soft little paws. They're like shy, extra cute, cuddly camels. I think this one was named Chanel.

The alpaca farmer gave Autumn a hug.

Orcas Island was full of arty shops that had me thinking things like, "I'll just expand my suitcase and check my bag on the flight back." Luckily the prices in some of the more elegant stores prevented this.

Every year the island residents sponsor local pets and farm animals in a race for (honorary?) mayor, as a fundraiser for a children's charity. Unlike traditional elections, there's no pretense of one-person-one-vote. Here it was blatantly one-dollar-one-vote. April, "the only really independent candidate," according to one shop owner, got three of mine.

Dara is as handy as her husband; a femivore before there was such a word. Here she is with Scrappy the chicken, who I think has political potential, should they ever move to Orcas Island.

Noble, don't you think?

Dara's gorgeous garden. We ate a ton of these strawberries, and they were good, taking a backseat only to the brownies Dara baked. But that's not really a fair competition.

In Vancouver at last! We spent our wedding-day morning at the aquarium in Stanley Park, where I related to the local amphibians.

Canadian dolphins swim like race cars and leap like Cirque du Soleil performers. They are Dolphin 2.0 compared to your average bottle nose.

Then it was time! I was nervous. AK, not so much. Driving into town, I said, "I'm sort of excited. Actually, I'm really excited." She said, "Look, there's a Tim Hortons!" When I laughed and shook my head, she said, "What? I've heard a lot about them."

The Canadian civil ceremony basically says, "Are you already married? Living under a fake name? No? Okay, then, you're married." A really nice woman named Lynn Katey read an Apache prayer and made things as romantic as they could be in a CPA office.

Some traditions we kept.

Afterward we had cocktails and seafood and avocado-and-strawberry salad at a great Gastown restaurant called Chill Winston. I showed off my new ring, a quartet of dolphins with mood-reading stones on their backs, courtesy of the aquarium. (It's a stand-in till we find a perfect one. But of course I love it already. The dolphins' verdict: I'm in a good mood.)

To us!

We stopped at the VanDusen Botanical Gardens on our way out of town, a perfect place to imitate a statue.

I think there's a turtle somewhere in this picture.

AK got caught up in an art installation about how clothes connect us, or something.

Our last stop was Des Moines, conveniently near the Sea-Tac Airport and home of Yoshiko. She and her girlfriend Sile took us to an amazing sustainable sushi restaurant, where I discovered that many of my favorites (like eel) are not sustainable, but that their substitutes are damn delicious.

Kenji the wonder dog showed us a few tricks and wished us well (or maybe he wished we would give him a dehydrated potato treat; it was a little ambiguous). Then we headed home, back to our cats, our comfy bed, and all the little joys and challenges that are what really make us married.

Friday, June 18, 2010

a blog entry about the lakers: who knew such things were possible?

Since I spent Wednesday night unleashing my recent brand of crazy on AK, I decided Thursday night we could do what she wanted to do. She chose the Laker game followed by food at the York. I have never knowingly, willingly watched a televised sporting event that was not the Olympics, gymnastics or ice skating. I went to a Super Bowl party once, but I was really focused on the chips and dip. I may have caught a few minutes of baseball at AK’s parents’ house, but I’m sure I was putting together tomorrow’s outfit in my head, which is what I do when I’m bored.

So it was a big deal to knowingly, willingly watch the last twelve minutes of the Laker game and actually pay attention. At first I was all about the Celtics’ green sneakers and retro headbands, but then AK started telling me more about the players’ seasons and lives. I started watching the expressions on their faces (thank you, big new TV!) and the very close score at the bottom of the screen. I started to feel a peculiar sensation in my chest, one I definitely never experienced during the dozens of live basketball games I endured as a high school cheerleader.

“I think I’m…excited,” I said.

“Congratulations,” AK said, “your sports heart just grew three sizes today.”

When crazy Ron Artest with his pretty eyes gave a post-game speech in which he thanked his psychiatrist (and, okay, plugged his forthcoming single), I was virtually verklempt. People could be a little nutso and bounce back and do great things! Maybe there was hope for me yet! Maybe today’s punching-of-fans is tomorrow’s championship!

We walked around the corner to the York, where the game had already clicked off and the bar was back to its usual ironic background fare, in this case classic Felix the Cat cartoons. Although I would take cartoons over sports any day, I’ve never been into the old slapstick stuff. But another discovery awaited me: Felix was cleverly drawn and hilarious. It didn’t hurt that, as a naughty black cat with a blunt tail and a wheel of ever-changing moods, he reminded us a lot of Ferdinand (Ferd, you muse of the silver screen). I’ll say it again: Maybe there’s hope for me yet.

Thursday, June 17, 2010


Hello there. It’s been a while, no? To summarize, Tucson was good, even though I got sunburned just walking down the street. Dyke Day L.A. was good, a punk rock picnic with dykes and dogs and babies, on a hill next to the house Frank Lloyd Wright built for an eccentric, radical actress and the daughter she called Sugartop. I took a bunch of pictures, which I’m too lazy to upload, so I’ll direct you to LAist’s photo essay (my back is visible in one of the pics. See if you can see me—it’s like Where’s Cheryl? Hint: Look for a brown and orange shirt).

In between the fun stuff, my moody streak has continued. So I’m back in therapy, where Señor Freud, as AK calls him, is helping me repeat over and over that I don’t have to be flawless to deserve love. Eventually maybe my superego will believe it. Or just shut up. I can’t remember what the superego is supposed to do. All I know is that it’s been acting like a playground bully to my shredded little ego.

AK and I are going on vacation next week. That means more sparse blogging for a while, but when I do write, it’s more likely to be about the vistas and 9:30 p.m. sunsets of rural Washington than my vague angst. So I think we’ll all win.

Wednesday, June 09, 2010

the spirit of things

Hello from Tucson, where I’m currently working and apparently not boycotting Arizona. I thought about it. But by the time I thought about, I’d already scheduled some meetings. So I would have had to follow up and say, “Hey, so it turns out we can’t meet to talk about your amazing free writing workshops for Native American kids in juvenile hall because I’m boycotting your state.” Which didn’t really seem in the spirit of things.

So here I am between pastel mesas that look like someone unfurled a painted backdrop just behind the blocks of pink and tan stucco civilization. All sorts of clichés about the inspiring beauty and openness of the Southwest are threatening to come true. I even brought my sketchbook, so who knows what will happen?

For the record, I haven’t purchased anything here yet (well, except my hotel room). For lunch I ate the bag of chipotle almonds I bought at LAX. I still have some peanuts donated by the good people of Southwest Airlines, but I’m guessing they won’t last me three days. Woman cannot live on nuts alone. Eventually I suspect I will break down and buy a burrito. A really, really good burrito, hopefully made by defiant, undocumented Tucsonites.

Sunday, June 06, 2010

lummis day: the festival of the neighborhood i never get to hang out in

In my mind, I spend my weekends bumming around Highland Park, riding my bike to the farmers market, picking up a taco, ducking into art galleries and stores that sell stylish handmade goods, and meeting friends for locally brewed beer at the York.

AK just looked over at my screen and said, "Oh yeah? Is that what it's like in Cheryl's mind?"

In reality, a more typical day would involve cleaning the house, driving to something that at least vaguely resembles work (writing date, meeting, gym), then driving to meet up with friends who live in the Valley or on the Westside. I think my cats see more of the neighborhood than I do.

I love my faraway friends and my writing dates, but today it was nice to soak in some pure HP goodness in the form of Lummis Day, "The Festival of Northeast Los Angeles." We biked, so I felt a tiny bit less like my 2009 New Year's resolution had failed. Then we listened to some lovely, funny poets at El Alisal (home of poet Suzanne Lummis' grandfather, a pioneering environmentalist and Indian rights advocate) and--triumph!--bummed around Heritage Square Park across the street.

Suzanne Lummis herself, who writes some of the best L.A. poetry you'll find. I loved her poem, "I Am Not the Los Angeles River."

Cece Peri, who also read a great L.A. poem, a sestina (or some close relative of a sestina) about the only human found in the La Brea tar pits.

Mariano Zaro, who broke with the local theme and read a sad, beautiful poem about sex and death in Zaragoza, Spain.

But, okay, now it's time to get down to business: What about the food court?

Pick the gourmet food truck of your choice. The one next to this one sold sweet potato fries and was fueled by the oil they were fried in.

It was a day for big sunglasses.

Our heritage.

Go Burbank Middle School drum line!

The wilds of Northeast L.A.

Self portrait in taco truck.

I am a service dog...but don't think that will stop me from jumping up and putting my paws on the dessert counter and trying to nab a brownie.

Lincoln Avenue Church, just one of a half dozen Victorian beauties in varying states of decay and restoration at Heritage Square.

Girl and flower.

Drinks for sale by the Franklin High School football team. AK accidentally dropped a quarter in the beverage trough and a brave quarterback (or something) fished it out with his bare hand.

HP pride = soy-ginger shrimp taco.

I am not the L.A. river either, or the 110 freeway next to it, but I love that green trickle of water and that shiny flow of cars.