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Showing posts from 2011

top 11 of 2011

The more parents of young children I know, the more I hear some version of the following sentiment: Oh, I used to try to keep up with what was cool, but now I spend my days listening to [annoying kids’ album of the moment] and wiping up puke. AK and I have all but pinky sworn that we won’t do this. It’s not that we don’t expect—even hope—that the puke-to-museum-going ratio in our lives will change once we convince someone to give us a kid. But for us, the arts aren’t about having something cool to talk about at parties. (Lately I would feel a thousand times cooler if I could talk about wiping up puke.) Books and movies aren’t some kind of shorthand for how edgy we are or aren’t. They’re as life-sustaining as friendship and work. Coolness is about what’s new, something I gave up on long ago, as evidenced by my list of favorite books this year, one of which was published in 1905. But culture is forever. So with that overly sincere intro, I present my annual, completely-irr

the devastating effects of happiness narratives, or: this movie knows me

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Movies about misunderstood artist-types finally breaking away from small-town hell and following their dreams are outnumbered only by movies about career-obsessed shrews who rediscover the simple charms of their hometowns. Together, the genres seem to encourage the following narrative: In order to live a perfect life, you should grow up in a small town, hate it, escape, build your fortune in the big city (where you are most likely an editor for a glossy magazine), feel something is missing, return to your hometown for reasons beyond your control (funeral, etc.) and run into your old boyfriend. From there, the options are 1) settle down with him and make babies like a good girl (but one who already has an amazing résumé under her belt), or 2) see how good he is with his surprisingly cool new girlfriend, leave him to his new life and settle down with the hot, quirky, intellectual funeral director you just happen to have been flirting with throughout, and make babies like a good girl.

inspiration, issues

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Some things that are inspiring me today: My friend Devoya , who just opened what might be the most affordably priced Etsy shop ever, at least in the non- Regretsy genre. If you like small, cute-but-not-precious things—like little boxes with hidden treasures inside—and have a passion for the likes of Marvin Gaye and Erykah Badu, this is the shop for you. I have to admit that I need to do some Googling before I can appreciate all the references in her collages, but the best kind of art is the kind that makes you learn. My student, Chopper , who is a candidate for The Most Interesting Man in the World (other possibilities: Sara, Jamie’s dad, AK’s friend Adrienne [I realize a couple of them aren’t men]). I met him in person for the first time last night because he was in town for the holidays, and I got to hear his amazingly unbraggy stories about building a house with his bare hands on 35 acres of land in rural Virginia, following the Grateful Dead for years, touring with his own band

cookie bars and other holiday magic

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I’m pretty sure our living room is the same size as the closet Mariah Carey has just for her shoes, so we have to have friends over in shifts. Yesterday we had eight people over (well, more like seven and a half, since Kohana is small and only ate Cheerios and grapes), and it felt like a rager. Sweet potato pie with premade crust aside, my holiday baking attempts have been notoriously disastrous, so when Sizzle posted her favorite recipes , I asked her for the most foolproof one. Magic Cookie Bars, she assured me, barely even involve stirring. Since I’d already used our only 9” x 13” pan for the lasagna, I lacked the bakeware the cookie bars called for. I was tempted to throw it all in two 8” x 8” pans, but I was like, This is the kind of thinking that results in hard/overly crumbly/strangely onion-flavored cookies. So I did math! I fenced off a little piece of one of the 8” x 8” pans with foil so the overall square footage would be the same as a 9” x 13” pan. Mr. Ninni

writers' row, off the row

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If you’re on my “L.A. lit list” Gmail contacts list, you know that I was supposed to do a reading last night and it got cancelled. (If you’re not and want to be, let me know.) As a consolation prize, Jessica, the hostess of Writers’ Row threw a little party/open reading at a friend’s loft at the Brewery. It was also a birthday party for her other reading series, SoapBox Poets. In fact, I was a little confused about the role each series played and how the two intersected, and I felt like one of those guest speakers who gets in front of the mic and is basically like, “Where am I? How did I get here?” I usually think those people are snobs who didn’t do their homework. (Once, a guy considered to be very funny by many people emceed my organization’s benefit dinner. His whole schtick was that this was the most coveted gig in town, because ha ha, of course it wasn’t. It was pretty funny the first time, but grew progressively less so throughout the evening. When he hosted again the next year

this will happen again (or, brooding as prose poem-type thing)

You think you’re over it, and it’s a normal day, and you congratulate yourself for reentering this land. You don’t believe in normal, but you’re back to a place where you can contemplate semantics, and that means something. You watch a baby bat drink formula from the tip of an eye shadow brush. Your to-do list says Christmas cards. Tonight there will be no choreography of preparation and acceptance, of reprimanding yourself for not being a Nice Person while taking care not to pressure yourself to be a Nice Person. You’re just here for some cake. And then it hits you. When they say like a freight train, what they mean is: It’s not the train’s fault. It never saw you. Or, if it did, it couldn’t stop in time. Stopping wasn’t its job. But then the train moves on and you’re peeling yourself off the tracks, a flattened cartoon, thinking I’m so sick of this until the next train comes along.

get behind me, libra moon

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For years I read descriptions of Aries traits and didn’t really relate despite my April 3 birthday. I’m stubborn, independent and (sometimes) energetic, yes, but I’m not a leader who has trouble taking orders, I don’t really have a temper and I don’t have problems with follow-through. If anything, I’m compulsive in my follow-through. To which people always said, Yeah, but what’s your rising sign? Because the explanation could not possibly be that astrology was a bunch of bullshit. So when Thomas McBee, in his IBC post about dressing for your sign , included a link to a site that would do your chart, I had it do mine . This explains so much! (Because astrology cannot possibly be a bunch of bullshit.) My rising sign is Cancer, which sounds a little ominous, but I do like crabs as food, pets and pretty much anything but an STD. My crabbiness explains why I’m fiercely loyal to my family, a sentimental fool and overly sensitive to criticism. Basically, I dish it like an Aries but take it

confessions of a jury duty reject, plus what i read in november

So I got booted from jury duty. Is it weird that I feel bummed about it? Especially since it was a child molestation trial, and did I really want to spend my day listening to thirteen-year-olds testify about creepy, thoroughly traumatizing incidents? The judge asked, as they always do, if there’s anything that might bias you one way or another in this particular case. First, let me say that the number of people who said they didn’t know anyone affected by child abuse was ridiculously high. Do these people not talk to their friends? Aren’t the statistics like one in three? So I mentioned a young woman I know, whose abuse was more recent and seemingly life-shitifying than that of my friends who’ve figured out how to be strong, functional adults in spite of someone’s best efforts to prevent it. I figured that, if I got dismissed, it would be by the defense. Because clearly I had a beef with child molesters, right? And I did—part of me thought, I want to put this guy in jail! The other p

call of jury duty: a non-live live blogcast

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Right now I’m sitting in the Clara J. Something Criminal Justice Center downtown. I feel about jury duty the way I felt about wearing our drill team uniforms to school in tenth grade. I know you’re supposed to hate it and complain, but secretly I think it’s kind of cool. It’s a change of scene, a day off work and a great chance to people-watch. Examples: woman wearing houndstooth pants and matching houndstooth shoes…and…well, actually, most of the people around me look pretty normal. That means nothing, of course, but they could conceivably be a jury of my peers. Now a guy is guiding us through the juror questionnaire: “Where it says ‘number of people in your household,’ Ima ask you to go ahead and write how many people are in your household.” I almost never have the urge to Tweet, but now that I’m trapped in a room without internet access, I do. So I think I’ll periodically log into this notebook (not a notebook computer, an actual paper notebook) and type it up later. 8

live etsy

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Recently I’ve developed a strange obsession with eBay (no one ever accused me of being an early adopter). It has a little bit to do with my love of clothes, a little bit to do with my tendency toward compulsion (and hey, searching online for Seychelles wedges is much less self-destructive than playing symptom roulette on WebMD)…and plenty to do with the excitement of winning. So what if the baby gods and the literary agent gods have rejected me? With eight dollars and a bit of good timing, the Madewell utility zip pants gods will smile upon me. Because I’m a cheapo , my new hobby hasn’t cost me much in the way of money, but I’m pretty sure I would have read an extra novel last month if I hadn’t been busy stalking these amazing Fenton/Fallon for J. Crew jaws earrings . As any recovering alcoholic/current competitive bodybuilder knows, the best way to squelch an obsession is with another obsession. And Unique L.A. —which Amy accurately described as “live Etsy ”—is a goo

oc goes soho

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Back in the day (sorry, Stephen—I know how you feel about that phrase) my organization shared a lovely brick building in SoHo with a fellow literary nonprofit called Poets House and the corporate headquarters of Marc Jacobs . Although my coworkers are generally snazzy dressers, it was always clear in the lobby who worked for which company. My org was a holdover from the days when SoHo was home to actual artists, not just high-end galleries. Sometime in the mid-2000s, rent crept up so high that Poets House had to leave.* Shortly thereafter, my coworkers overheard a couple of Marc Jacobs employees talking in the elevator: “One poet company down, one to go.” Within a year, my org was out of there as predicted (to very nice but unnerving digs near Ground Zero), and Marc Jacobs took over the whole building. So it was more than a little ironic when they opened up a bookstore on Bleeker Street, called Bookmarc . Now there’s one in L.A. too; AK’s friend from school works there. She’s a f

booze, needles and santa claus

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1. ivf (i’m [a] veteran [of this] fuckingprocess) If only meeting birthmothers was as easy as meeting fellow adoptive parents .* For every subculture, there is a blogging sub-subculture, and last night I met up with a local segment of the adoption blogger sub-subculture, plus Heather of Production, Not Reproduction , who was in town for the BlogHer conference. None of the rest of us are quite so committed to our blogging, but we were happy to commit to drinks at Magnolia . Can I just say how nice it is to be with a group of five women where I don’t have to assume, anytime someone orders a nonalcoholic beverage, that she’s pregnant? And then proceed to try to coax myself back from depressed resignation? It was nice—and weird—to be able to talk in a sort of shorthand. “At first, I was so freaked out by the needles,” Victoria said of her IVF adventures. “It took me four hours just to do my first Lupron shot!” Hahaha! Because everyone knows that Lupron needles are skinny, and it’s th

why i would be happy to raise amy poehler’s children but not kiefer sutherland’s

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It was a lovely, lazy weekend. Yesterday AK and I hiked up the west side of the big hill that is Debs Park and discovered a lake at the top. Well, maybe a pond. A very green pond. There were a couple of people fishing in it, which seemed a little risky, though probably less so than fishing off the Santa Monica pier. We heard a guy tell his kids, “Come look at the turtles!” and we both ran toward him because, hello, turtles! When we saw him, we concluded he seemed a tad too urban to know much about pond fauna. We did not see any turtles, although we spotted a bunny in the brush. All this five minutes from our house. We looked out over Highland Park’s old bungalows and marveled at how wide Avenue 50 looked, and how faraway Downtown seemed. So that’s why it takes me so long to get to get to work. Last night we saw Melancholia , a beautiful Vogue shoot of a movie about how people of different worldviews respond to opposing situations. Kirsten Dunst’s depressive character has a meltdow

how to make cheryl's semi-famous sweet potato pie

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1. Buy overpriced ingredients at Whole Foods because it is the closest grocery store to your therapist's office. 2. Read about some MTV exec's wardrobe in Elle while sweet potatoes boil. Wonder why Isabel Marant makes sneaker wedges in which the wedge is hidden, so that the wearer looks like a strangely tall, awkward person who can't walk in sneakers. 3. Discover that your mixer is missing one if its little whisk attachment thingies. 4. Discover, triumphantly, that it is possible to mix ingredients with only one whisk attachment thingy. Imagine that this is how that one-armed drummer in Def Leppard must feel. 5. Pour batter into ready-made organic whole wheat pie crusts (thank you, Whole Foods!). 6. Spill batter down inside of oven door. 7. Learn that you really can't clean an oven while it's on. Wonder if Sylvia Plath wasn't so much despairing as trying to tidy up her kitchen. 8. Pour batter remaining in bowl directly into your mouth. 9. Have a happy

before you hit the mall, occupy literature!

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Beyond bringing blankets and soup to protesters camped out at your local city hall, what’s the best way to support the 99 percent this holiday season? How about buying books published by small presses and sold at independent bookstores for 100 percent of the people on your gift list? Small presses give voice to writers and viewpoints overlooked by the mainstream. Indie bookstores let you be a literary locavore. And subscriptions to literary magazines are gifts that keep giving all year long. Consider the lists below your holiday literary activism starter kit. Happy browsing! Southern California-based Presses: • Ammo Books : one-of-a-kind titles featuring amazing design, thoughtful writing, and exquisite printing • Angel City Press : nostalgic yet cool illustrated books • Arktoi Books : poetry, fiction, and creative nonfiction that give lesbian writers access to “the conversation” • Beyond Baroque : books by local, emerging, overlooked, and previously out-of-print poets • Cahuenga Pre

take the cannoli

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1. like a bucket list, but tastier and less depressing When Jonathan Gold’s “99 Essential L.A. Restaurants” guide came out last week, I immediately tallied up how many I’d been to. Eleven: Border Grill, Bottega Louie , Casa Bianca, Euro Pane, Good Girl Dinette, Guelaguetza, Huarache Azteca, the Hungry Cat, Musso & Frank, the Oinkster and Waterloo & City. Not bad for a cheapo and non-foodie. (I love good food, but I can also thoroughly enjoy a vending machine donut or five.) It doesn’t hurt that Jonathan Gold’s tastes veer toward cheap ethnic holes-in-the-wall. Waterloo & City, where we went for Nicole’s sister’s birthday, has plates of charcuterie that look like a painter’s palette. But Huarache Azteca has plastic forks and random vendors who wander through the eating area selling bootleg DVDs. The other 88 restaurants make for a nice to-do list. But it’s harder than it looks. When we first read the list, we just started reminiscing about Guelaguetza, where

it’s really just damn lonely sometimes: the adoption bloggers interview project

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As part of my ongoing exercise in magical thinking (in which blogging a lot about adoption = getting a kid sooner), I signed up for Production, Not Reproduction ’s Adoption Bloggers Interview Project . Apparently being only an occasional adoption blogger didn’t disqualify me. The idea was that adoptive or prospective adoptive parents would exchange some Q’s and A’s and post the answers on their respective blogs. When Heather of PNR paired me with Jenni of Sincerely, Jenni , my first thought was, Is this, like, some kind of odd-couple stunt? I’m a queer, childless, marginally fertile, urban liberal planning to adopt an infant through an agency. Jenni is straight, has bio kids and step kids, lives in a tiny town in Iowa, links to a blog called Getting Down with Jesus, and is so fertile that she got pregnant accidentally at 19 and placed her son for adoption (more on that later). AND she’s planning to adopt an older child through the foster care system. But after emailing with her and

USA! USA! USssigh….

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I’m at Starbucks right now, ostensibly doing some freewriting in preparation for a possible future novel, which is a huge indulgence because the circus novel isn’t anywhere near done. But a few drafts in, I get itchy to start something new, and I’m not nearly practical or short-winded enough to just work on a short story. I’m also drinking a salted caramel hot chocolate, another huge indulgence (360 calories; thanks, stupid new law requiring Starbucks to inform me of this). But I was distracted from my indulgences by these wristbands that Starbucks is selling. They look like little loops of bungee cord sealed with a metal square. I have to admit they’re more attractive than the LIVESTRONG-style bands. The red and blue bungee bands promote “Americans Helping Americans Create Jobs.” If you buy the $5 wristband, some money will go to a domestic micro-loan program. My first thought when I saw this was Oh my god, we’ve become our own third world charity case. I’ve done m

unbirthday

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As anyone who’s been surprised by a tiny thirty-week baby or gotten induced for a second time knows, due dates don’t mean much. Still. Tomorrow would have been mine. 11/11/11—which I only found out because I used one of those online due date calculators, not because my poker-faced doctor ever encouraged me to look so far ahead. (And he was right, but still, fuck that.) Except that it wouldn’t have been my due date, because I was carrying twins, who never hang out in utero for the full forty weeks. Sometimes it boggles my mind that I was pregnant, and with twins . Even just typing it feels like a lie, or at the very least some kind of dubious legend passed down from a long time ago. But my body knows. My body always knew. And when I fell apart so spectacularly, I think it was partly the result of my mind pushing one idea— You can’t possibly be this sad about babies who were never babies, so there must be something else terribly wrong with you —and my body pushing another: You were shel

this friday, let's do something different

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Yoga and movies are getting a little old. Instead, let's go to a dive bar on the industrial outskirts of Santa Ana, near the John Wayne Airport. A place where guys dress like this: We'll meet up with Lori, Brett, Maria, Calvin, Pedro and Stephen, plus Stephen's sister and her crew, who told us about this night. So that's a Huey Lewis and the News cover band onstage? I don't actually know any of their music, but if you say so. I do remember shelving their CD that summer I worked at the Wherehouse. Remember the Wherehouse? Let's pretend like we're being followed by paparazzi. I guess the next band, Lady Zep, is the only thing it could be: an all-girl Led Zeppelin tribute band. What do you think their day jobs are? I mean, assuming this isn't a full-time gig yet. You're right, the lead singer is definitely an admin assistant. The kind who sounds very authoritative on the phone but takes a lot of smoke breaks. Except, she doesn't really soun