Posts

Showing posts from 2013

a number of things that have my number: tops of 2013

Image
Earlier this year, AK and I saw Frances Ha . I thought it was a charming, funny, wise movie, but AK really loved it—to the point that she was almost embarrassed. It had her number! It knew her soul! I feel a little bit that way about Enlightened , which we’re now semi-binge watching the first season of. At first I thought that Amy’s (Laura Dern) story would be about discovering that New Age mumbo jumbo couldn’t bring her inner peace. We, the audience, would get to laugh at self-help books and yuppie meditation retreats as Amy slowly learned that enlightenment was a useless dangling carrot, and that her real work lay elsewhere. Like Amy, I usually have ONE MORE THING to say. Luckily creator Mike White and Laura Dern don’t take the easy route, turning the show into a big joke about Whole Foods. Amy’s brand of enlightenment is real and internally generated. But linking ideals and nirvana moments with the ugly challenges of life is the hard part, and the center of the show. I

ghosts of chrismas past

Image
The other day at the gym, A Very Kardashian Kristmas was playing. Or, if that wasn’t the title and spelling, it should have been. All the Kardashians and Jenners and their significant others wore fluffy bathrobes and shiny, ironed-and-curled hair, including Bruce. (I think the rumors that he wants to become a woman are probably untrue and definitely gender-variant-phobic in a variety of ways. But he really is looking more ladylike lately.)  The camera zoomed in on giant nutcrackers and flickering candles whenever one of them got particularly boring, which was a lot. They exchanged gifts. Kim would open something like Apple TV, and one of the others would exclaim, “But Kim, you could buy every show on Apple TV!” But at least there's divorce and rehab in this scene. So they're just like us after all. And just in case that doesn’t convey the true meaning of Christmas, they also watched old home videos—the girls in matching velvet dresses, Kim with no collagen in her l

o holy night of sunflower seeds on a paper plate

Image
Last weekend we went to a holiday party for the clinic where AK is interning, which means almost everything about the party was top secret for reasons relating to the intricate traditions of psychoanalysis. Can I say that I got a nice scarf in the white-elephant gift exchange? I don’t even know. Can I say that the host’s house was super posh, in a way that was one part early California mission, one part Buddhist monastery? The host herself was wearing a non-sheer version of the dress below, and we had a good time. Hands on. Last night we went to a party for Razorcake , the punk rock magazine editor Todd Taylor invited me to contribute to after I met him at my reading with Sean Carswell in June. It had never occurred to me that I could write for such a publication, because one time in seventh grade I wrapped embroidery thread in Rastafarian colors around tiny braids in my hair, was asked what reggae bands I liked and had no answer. I’ve been very careful about being a pose

there isn’t any other tale to tell

Image
This is a blog about art and how it threads through my life—how it echoes and provokes, baffles and annoys, lifts me up and saves me over and over. I know you probably thought it was a blog about cancer and my bad attitude toward, well, many things. I’m teaching an undergrad writing workshop right now, in which my students and I read “Sonny’s Blues” by James Baldwin. It’s kind of the story of the ant and the grasshopper, as told by someone with sympathy for both of them. The ant—the older of two brothers—narrates. He teaches high school in a rough Harlem neighborhood, where he’s survived by keeping his head down and working hard. His brother Sonny is a jazz musician with a drug problem that lands him in jail for a time. Jacob Lawrence's Cafe Comedian. The older brother doesn’t get why Sonny needs to escape into the oblivion of heroin or the cryptic notes of non-Louis-Armstrong-style jazz until his own daughter dies of polio. Then his brother’s music becomes a kind

acting up

Image
AK and I saw Dallas Buyers Club Sunday night, meaning I marked World AIDS Day by passively absorbing information about AIDS in an entertaining format. Because I’m an activist like that. I think it’s the first AIDS movie I’ve seen since Bio 40: AIDS and Other Sexually Transmitted Diseases, a life sciences GE I took as a pass/fail my senior year at UCLA. Every Friday was an optional class devoted to watching movies about AIDS: Longtime Companion , And the Band Played On , Philadelphia . Longtime Companion: The movie that made me realize I really like Blondie's "The Tide Is High." We were required to volunteer with AIDS organizations, so I worked with PAWS (which helped HIV+ people keep their pets) and Project Angel Food . Movies and community work—that’s my kind of science class. (A big part of the class was devoted to epidemiology too, which I actually found fascinating—a combo of history and science—and I would totally be an epidemiologist today if I weren’t a h

giving thanks for stupid bullshit, and what i read in october and november

Image
I keep thinking I should post something about gratitude—‘tis the season—but where would I even start? Almost my entire existence is a big scrap bag of other people’s kindness and the good luck of living in the time and place I do. Which is why I’m not a Republican, because it seems so thoroughly self-aggrandizing to proclaim that the self has much to do with the self. Bootstraps are a mythological creature. It’s only because of kindness and luck that I’m alive to be grouchy that our adoption agency isn’t getting us a baby fast enough. It’s because of luck and kindness (and, okay, a certain amount of hard work— that is not a mythological creature) that there is our experience with the agency (financed by my dad), that there is an “our” (because AK has stuck it out through the hard times), that we are allowed to be parents (time and place and civil rights movements), that there is an “I” (Dr. Irina Jasper and her vigilance of my boobs, City of Hope taking it from there). All of

mmm...cake

Image
AK and I miss the days when Plum Sykes had a regular column in Vogue. She was always writing about hanging out with Gwyneth Paltrow, or what she was going to wear to some sort of semi-royal gala, or her bold decision to bob her hair, or her new discovery of the color olive. She presented everything as a charming dilemma, and I always imagined a princess standing in front of an immense closet, hands clasped perplexedly as servants scurry about. What? Oh, just having a few friends including my bestie Gwynnie over. Once she wrote about her chronic back pain and I was like, Oh my god, Plum Sykes has a real problem! I think she solved it with a spa treatment and an intense workout routine that enabled her to wear a fabulous backless gown to the semi-royal gala of the month. Vogue has since replaced Plum Sykes with Elisabeth Von Thurn und Taxis, who I think is an actual princess from some Swiss-ish country. I don’t adore her as much as Plum, but her piece in the December issue, abou

blog as you are: kim miller

Image
Kim Miller has frequently been the only entity standing between me and a full hypochondriac breakdown. She lives a few blocks away from us in Highland Park, but right now she's at a melanoma conference in Philadelphia, which is how the medical jet-set rolls. Here's how she spent a recent day there:* Kim, her daughter Bea and a chicken wearing a monocle, I think. 7:00 AM : My iPhone alarm goes off, set to Digital—the sound that most captures how I feel in the morning, disoriented and robotic.  I’m at the Philadelphia Marriott, room 1244, in town for the 2013 Society for Melanoma Research Congress. I have two scientific posters on melanoma prevention in the conference, one of only 4-prevention focused posters (and the other two are from my research team). 7:50 AM : Sonia, the 4 th year med student who I’m sharing my hotel room with, and I head downstairs for the pre-conference breakfast. We’re moving fast because breakfast ends at 8 AM . We manage to snag some fo

heirs to los angeles

Image
I was supposed to visit Tracy in Joshua Tree this past weekend, but her mom had some health stuff (shout-out to Bev Kaply!), so we postponed. I was sad not to see Tracy, but found time is always a bit of a silver lining. Yesterday AK and I found ourselves with the kind of weekend day we used to have back before she worked an average of six and a half days a week. We slept till nine. I made blueberry walnut pancakes. We hiked Debs Park , where we watched the world’s second most energetic dog catch air and practically take flight as he chased a ball thrown by his similarly athletic person. His person had another dog, a curly mix who was content to walk the trail at a reasonable pace. AK did that dog’s voice: “Oh, you know…I just like to read.” I added on: “Brunch would be nice too.” We bought DayQuil for AK, who caught my cold this past week, and antidepressants for me and anti-aging moisturizer for both of us, because it’s time to find out if that shit works, at Targe

2 years a mourner

Image
“I know it’s a hard day,” Cathy said when I met her at my dad’s house for dinner Monday night. I immediately teared up. You don’t really expect your family to remember what would be your miscarried twins’ second birthday. It hadn’t been a particularly hard day, but I’d thought about them, definitely. As always, the voice of move on, move on was strong in my head. She noticed I was wearing my pea pod necklace she gave me for my thirty-fourth birthday, the one birthday I was pregnant (although I guess no one but an elephant is pregnant for two birthdays). Twin green pearls representing the little peas in my pod. I guess if an elephant did miscarry, she would never forget it. “Thanks,” I said, all choked up. I was walking around our dad’s kitchen. I opened the fridge. “Hey! Pudding!” Cathy laughed. I was still sad, but not as hard to distract as I once was. Later AK and I held onto each other and devoted a moment to them, in bed, both of us exhausted, an old John Sayle

pr travel journal, 11/1: fellow travelers

Image
Friday, 11/1 1. san francisco, patron saint of animals, merchants and stowaways San Juan felt like arriving back home after our vacation-within-a-vacation. Outside our hostel, Posada San Francisco, we saw the guy from our kayak tour we’d been calling “San Francisco” (for the city in California, not the street in San Juan that our hostel was on). Posada San Francisco on Calle San Francisco. “Are you stalking me or am I stalking you?” He had a lilting Indian accent. We invited him to join us for dinner after we all got a chance to check in and change. This time our room was on the sixth floor, similarly spare but to the point of having no shelves or clothing rods in the closet. As with our previous room, there was a wooden cross above the bed. No bible in the drawer, though, because there are no drawers. One of the nice things about traveling is that you don’t necessarily learn the most textbook things about each other first. We learned that Hakim had gon

pr travel journal, 10/31: for a small fee in america

Image
10/31, Thursday 1. life of oh my The last part of our day in Esperanza was a kayak tour of Mosquito Bay (not to be confused with Mosquito Pier ), a shallow lagoon inhabited by microorganisms—three hundred thousand per gallon—that glowed when anything touched them. After a bumpy van ride to the water, our guides,   Carlitos and Joshua, led seven kayaks of tourists—mostly Californians—into the dark bay. We all had blue lights clipped to the front of our boats, and Carlitos had a green light in his springy pontyail (guys with would-be Afros can rock the ponytail look so much better than guys with thin, silky hair). When we dipped our paddles in the bathtub-warm water, they made bluish white trails, like glow-in-the-dark bubbles. The kayaks across from ours had thin glowing lines at the spot where yellow plastic touched water, like Hondas bound for a late-night racetrack. Zigzagging fish became bolts of lightning. When we cupped our hands, we cradled stars. I decided Ang L