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Showing posts from July, 2010

street meets superhighway

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I just finished reading The Streetwise Cycle , a writing/publishing/web 2.0 adventure my friend Bronwyn decided to embark on. Despite the amount of time I spend on blogs and Facebook, I’m fairly old-fashioned when it comes to lit-er-a-ture (that was my attempt to write out a snobby accent phonetically). I like a good narrative, and even though I’m not picky about how it finds me—hardcover, paperback, CD, e-book—I don’t usually crave interactivity, and fakey bells and whistles annoy me when they come at the expense of a good narrative. So I wasn’t the most obvious or un-skeptical audience for this project, except for the good narrative part. But ultimately I’m envious of Bronwyn, who has a great eye for detail (I wish you guys could read her near-future novel Off the Grid , but it’s not online…yet) but also loves to do things like search out open-source Hungarian alternatives to PowerPoint in her spare time. I would kill to be technologically curious like that. Since I’m not, though,

some pregnant women aren't smug, and they have cool friends too

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This is Jamie. Have I mentioned she’s 37 weeks pregnant ? Over the past 37 weeks, I’ve learned things like: 1) Even though non-pregnant people use phrases like “eight months pregnant,” pregnant people count in weeks. 2) The placenta is an organ that pregnant people’s bodies grow just for the purpose of being pregnant. 3) You can eat it . This weekend I co-hosted a baby shower in celebration of the mama-to-be and the fact that she didn’t go into early labor, since we were cutting it a little close date-wise. We decorated bibs with fabric markers, which seemed like a nice alternative to weird baby shower games where you have to smell melted fake-poop chocolate bars in diapers. Although at least one shower attendee said she thinks that game is hilarious. I could get behind just eating candy bars. Not melted, not in a diaper. That’s my kind of game. Jamie opened her gifts, including the uber-cute angel-wing footie pajamas above, and even though there was a lot of cuteness goin

operation: get my life back

About a month ago, our landlord had to tear up our house to do some construction (long story that may or may not involve proper permits), which had many pauses in it because AK and I kept going out of town. But now we’re back and our missing wall is back and, as of last night, our office is finally sort of in order again. For the OCD-inflicted, having a room that once resembled an episode of Hoarders resemble a room again is like getting a new set of lungs. (But not, like, literally, since I’m sure the organ transplant process doesn’t exactly leave you feeling immediately light and free.) There’s still a bunch of junk piled on one side of the room, and deep down I still believe I need a completely new filing system. So it’s not perfect. Oh, and the whole room still sort of tilts downhill, which makes my particle-board bookshelf settle at a weird angle. But I feel like step two in Operation: Get My Life Back (step one was staying in one city for more than two effing weeks at a time) c

good and gay

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1. topp of the world The heat was intense this weekend, but I’m still so happy to be home that it all feels like a wonderful game. The Let’s Live In L.A.! game. Saturday AK and I managed to spend four hours in air-conditioned movie theaters, which is how you win the Let’s Live In L.A.! game. First stop: Redcat for an Outfest screening of The Topp Twins: Untouchable Girls . Imagine if Flight of the Conchords were middle-aged lesbian twins who played a variety of characters in their act and were just as into herding cattle as singing. That would be Jools and Lynda Topp , who are apparently quite famous in New Zealand. It’s always a little odd to witness documentation of a huge phenomenon you’ve never heard of. It’s what makes Canada, with its own set of movie stars and TV shows, seem like a parallel universe more than a foreign country. But the Topp twins made me want to live in some such universe. My favorite part was when someone (their manager?) said, “I mean this in the nicest

7/15/10: the van nuys of england

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After saying farewell to my family, AK and I had a blessedly smooth train ride back to London. If, before, we were one of those lumbering dinosaurs with an extra brain in its tail, now we were a quick, savvy hawk. But once the thrill of being on our own subsided, we crashed and took an hour-and-a-half nap. When we were mildly re-energized, she indulged my desire to go to Ruislip, the area of London where my dad’s mom apparently lived a little later in her childhood. We also wanted good, classic fish and chips for dinner, so we Googled Ruislip fish restaurants. “I’m basically having us drive out to Van Nuys for pizza,” I said. But she was a good sport. The fish at Aquarius was creamy and crispy and fresh, even if the tartar sauce was just another mayonnaise product. We ate until we couldn’t. Then we walked around Ruislip a little more. The blocks we saw were pretty standard-issue suburban, with rows of houses that looked like they were built in the fifties or sixties, jus

7/13/10: the fortress of togetherness

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Our last day together as a family in England. It ended on a nice note, so already I’m nostalgic for the trip we didn’t actually have. Memory is a weird beast. We’re staying at a cute old brick mansion called The Groves, with creepy portraits of children in the hall, which look like they’re going to stretch a la the paintings in the Haunted Mansion’s elevator. We toured the gigantic York Minster cathedral. AK got pretty into it, especially the undercrofts, where you could see the foundations of the Roman and Norman buildings that were once on the same site. I could see a history-geek glimmer in her eye for the first time. Later we visited Clifford’s Tower, a true medieval fort at the top of a grassy hill. It was just big enough, or small enough, to feel both fake and real—like it was a fort you’d built out of blankets and cushions, with all kinds of secret hiding places and twisty staircases. I think everyone dug it and felt like a kid in the best way.

7/12/10: trains, pains and ghost appeal

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Another day. Another train station. Another power struggle. The peaceful four hours of reading and sleeping on the train to York that I was hoping for were not to be. After our transfer, the train got really crowded, and we quickly discovered that a lot of people had reserved seats. Those who hadn’t, like us, had to play musical chairs or stand in the aisles. It all seemed kind of third world, minus chickens, and made me long for the civility of air travel. Cathy and I were worried about our tons of luggage, and about one mysterious unattended bag. Why is there always one? “I want, like, a mint julep right now,” she said. “I was thinking heroin,” I said. Meanwhile, Dad asked the train attendant a lot of questions, and befriended the woman next to him, who told him all about her three boyfriends. When the train stopped in York, we were delayed while some guy got escorted out by police, so we had time to gather our luggage. Thank you, rude young man without a ticket! I

7/11/10: goooooal!

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We’re sitting in a little pub across from our hotel—meaning a townie pub off the main drag—called The Bear. There’s a polar bear on the roof. I’m drinking a Guinness and, theoretically at least, watching the final game of the World Cup. I feel terribly cosmopolitan. There are English flags strung around the room and a big American flag with a sign taped to it that says “No Chance.” What I like about pubs is, even during the final game of the World Cup, they’re quiet and well-lit. I am a nerd. Today was our most relaxed day yet, which probably had a lot to do with spending two hours of it on a purple shuttle bus to and from Stonehenge. It’s good to have a leader. It’s good to sit. Cathy warned us that Stonehenge would be small and crowded. It was small and crowded. I’d only come along in the spirit of family togetherness, but when I got there, I was nevertheless like, “This is bullshit.” Then I listened to my little headset and got kind of into the… [Spain just won—woo-h

7/10/10: the palm springs of england

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The day started with a big schlep to and through Paddington Station. No time to stop and admire the little namesake bears they sell there. Just a lot of counting of heads and suitcases, and Cathy yelling at Dad to stop taking pictures. But the train ride to Bath was smooth and quiet, and the Bath train station was about one twentieth the size of Paddington. The air was fresh and breezy, and a flowing green river curled around the station. If I were more of a Jane Austen fan, I probably would have freaked out. But I just took a deep breath and hoped things would be better and mellower from here on out. They mostly have been. We checked into the Austen Guest House, which is a proper B&B, not a glorified (if cutely glorified) dorm like the Merlyn. We’re staying in a room with yellow walls and floral curtains and a basket of digestive biscuits. The town is full of butter-colored stone buildings. And tourists. It’s sort of a relief to be in the Palm Springs of England (we saw

7/9/10: the burbs

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I lost my temper with my dad some more. I may have used the phrase, “For us non-robots….” But miraculously, or maybe not, due to the upside of robotics, we were able to have a nice time in Streatham, where my dad’s mother was born. We didn’t know much more than that, so there were no touching family stories, but it was cool to get out of Zones 1 and 2 and see what non-tourist London is like. I think the U.S. is the only country where the inner cities are rough and the suburbs are posh. So Streatham seemed like a working-class town, with a lot of women in headscarves and stores where you could wire money to Ghana and trucks unloading sides of beef. We didn’t do much there, but we found a charming old Anglican church, St. Leonard’s (one of the lesser-known saints?) with a rector named Mandy. We couldn’t find any Standings or Desdemaines-Hugons among the lovely mossy headstones, though, and most of the engravings were long rubbed off. In the afternoon AK and I went to the Vi

7/8/10: traveling with family

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Let’s see, today I walked for seven hours, saw a bunch of buildings from the outside, snapped at Dad and had two emotional breakdowns. Traveling with family!

7/7/10: the ways life progresses

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This is not just my dad’s first trip abroad—it’s apparently the first time he’s even flown for a vacation. On one hand, that makes me feel tender toward him: He’s basically a working-class kid who’s finally treating himself to an adventure. On the other hand, it makes me so nervous—for his safety and enjoyment and for everybody else’s. Whereas other people might be really quiet and deferential in unfamiliar environments, I think my dad gets extra opinionated. He did let us navigate the Tube today, and he let AK and I pay for dinner, so I think that’s progress. In the morning, before my family arrived, AK and I went to the Tate Modern. I got most into the photography, arguably the least modern thing there—August Sander’s portraits and a bunch of people inspired by him. I know that a lot of sculptors and installation artists and abstract expressionists want to sort of break down the fourth wall and make the viewer aware of their role in the piece. But what I become aware of is the f

7/6/10: channeling angelina

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In the name of trying to kick jet lag, I just settled in at Starbucks with a Java Chip Frapuccino Light. A little caffeine means a lot of England blog. This post and the next few will all be excerpts from the travel journal I scribbled in tiredly at the end of each only-tea-fueled day. While I was packing for England, I did some math and realized this is my eighth trip in five months. So maybe I can lay off myself a little if I don’t ride my bike enough or submit enough work or go to enough poetry readings. Already, on the way to the airport, I was having fantasies about the glorious four months I’ll spend at home. But on the plane I read a surprisingly good Vanity Fair profile of Angelina Jolie, who’s always daydreaming about her next city. So for the next ten days, I’ll try to channel Angelina, but without six homes and a private jet, the lack of which could make things tiring. My dad, Susan and Cathy don’t get here till midday tomorrow—it was nice to get our bearings

hello, home

Back from England, just in time for the L.A. heat wave. This weekend I hope to upload some pictures and excerpts from my travel journal. For now, let’s just say sights were seen and calm was not always kept. I love the first day home after an international trip: I feel so confident and competent on my home turf. I know how the bill is supposed to be paid at restaurants. There are ten people I can call if I get in a jam. My cell phone works. There is no mystery to the flushing of toilets. (I know, I was in England, not Egypt, but there was some magical flick of the wrist that I kept missing when it came to flushing in the UK. It always took me like three tries.) Not to mention the comforts of home: my car, the full contents of my wardrobe, the heat-ravaged cats draping themselves dramatically across cool surfaces. When I got home after a quick Trader Joe’s trip this afternoon, Ferdinand came running toward me, concerned that maybe I was about to skip town again. To get to

the revolutionary war inside me

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My friend Meg has this poster up in her office. Apparently the UK designed it during World War II for use in the event that Nazi Germany occupied England. You have to love the sheer British-ness of it, while simultaneously wondering, of course, what sort of situation would be helped by the government telling you to keep calm and carry on. Maybe if the disaster was something like the nation’s grocery stores running out of your favorite flavor of ice cream. The sign has inspired many spoofs . It also got me thinking about how all my major internal battles are a war between my Brit roots and my American upbringing. My mom’s side of the family has been in the U.S. for almost as long as there’s been a U.S., although from the stories I’ve heard, I don’t think they were so much DAR types as the sort of people who started heading west with Brigham Young only to stop halfway, have a change of heart and open a bar. But my dad’s mom emigrated to the U.S. from England when she was about 11, a

mockery, practicality and what i read in june

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Among the works of literature I’m reading right now are the long, illustrated posts at Gototrafficschool.com . It’s like my brain is in one of those commercials where the practical side wants good value and the fun side wants fun, and they realize they can both agree on this product that happens to be a good deal and have a ton of sex appeal. Half of my brain is like, Yes, driving is serious business. We should be more careful, and stop trying to change out CDs while we’re on the freeway. Then I get to tips like this, re: what to do with a recalled child safety seat: To make sure it is not picked up by someone and used by another child, break it with a sledgehammer, crush it, or take it completely apart and mark it 'not for use as a safety seat' before throwing it away wrapped securely in a heavy trash bag. And traffic school becomes purely mockable, and much more interesting.* Anyway, I also read some books last month: Union Atlantic by Adam Haslett: I had a funny relati