Friday, October 25, 2013

blog as you are: kristi nakamura johnson

When Kristi Nakamura Johnson and I were college roommates, we shared a love of gay men and musicals. Then she started dating straight guys, and I went on to see Rent fourteen more times. But no matter the different paths our lives take, I'll always adore Kristi, who now lives in Sacramento, because she's one of the sweetest, most open-minded people I know. She also knows how to make a back-up Halloween costume in a pinch.

Kristi and her biker girl.

8am - Made C a grilled ham and cheese sandwich for breakfast. Nursed L while drinking coffee, eating a granola bar and checking email and Facebook.

9am - Transformed C and L into Peter Rabbit and Snow White for a Halloween party at the park.

10am - Changed a crying Peter Rabbit into a Train Engineer after his rabbit pants had a potty accident. Had my husband call the pediatrician after noticing Snow White's ear draining while she nursed.

The original Peter avoided potty accidents by not wearing pants.
11am - Helped an excited Train Engineer and grumpy Snow White trick or treat with their friends out of the trunks of Moms' cars at the park.

Noon - Got home from the park. Put a sleeping Snow White in her room, still in her car seat. Told C he couldn't eat candy for lunch.

I'm not seeing anything wrong with C's plan.
1pm - Nursed L while drinking more coffee and checking email and Facebook.

2pm - Wished I could be napping like C. Played with hats, capes, balls and books with L instead.

3pm - Took L to the doctor. Found out she has a double ear infection. Felt like a bad Mom for not bringing her in last week.

4pm - Pushed a sleeping L around Safeway while waiting for her antibiotics at the pharmacy. Bought avocados and chocolate croissants.

5pm - Was thankful. My husband took care of dinner. C mostly entertained himself after his nap so his Dad could keep working. L felt good enough to eat some real food instead of just nursing.

6pm - Did dishes and helped C with his homework. Had more coffee.

7pm - Took a shower and started some laundry while the kids played with their Dad.

Convenient and tidy child storage.
8pm - Gave C good night hugs and kisses.

9pm - Gave L her first dose of antibiotics. Nursed her to sleep. Put drops in her ear.

10pm - Ate 2nd dinner to sustain middle of the night nursing for L. Checked Facebook and email. Talked to my hubby without interruption.

11pm - Cut out letters for a 1st birthday banner. Wondered how my baby could already be turning 1.

Midnight - Checked on both sleeping kids. Kissed hubby good night. Set alarm for 7am.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

blog as you are: kathy talley-jones

Today's Blog As You Are blogger, Kathy Talley-Jones of Pasadena, California, is one of the least feeble people I know. But even human encyclopedias who spend their free time hiking through the desert have moments of doubt. Read on.

Kathy (right), much like her pet tortoise, Kip, enjoys the desert.
3:11 a.m. not yet not yet can’t get up yet
3:24 a.m nope
3:47 a.m. must stay in bed until 4
3:59 a.m. oh all right…
4:03 a.m. What have I gotten myself into? A deadline at 9 a.m. for a script on the power grid of the future what do I know about the grid? For once I haven’t procrastinated but I have to edit and format and come up with ideas for infographics and treatments for interactives and ah shit well I’ve done the best I can tried to make the electric grid fascinating and smart appliances intriguing and
8:58 a.m. SEND
If it’s not any good, at least it’s on time.

9:00 a.m. No sign of John. Has he died? Without the normal morning cues he’s slept in, “I have 11 minutes to get to work,” he says. An hour later he’s still rearranging scraps of paper on his desk or whatever it is he does to stall.

10:00 a.m. I feed Che, scraping hay dust off the bottom of her bucket—poor bunny, I’ve neglected her trying to crank out this script for Edison (people who really know what they’re doing) oh crap my script sucks it sucks they’re going to see I’m an idiot I should stick to dinosaurs.

Not many truly neglected rabbits have a yoga ball.

11:00 After a run, I feel bereft taking my shower, missing working at the museum, missing structure, missing a workplace, missing my friends. An expedition! That’ll make me feel better. I promised my friend John H. that I’d go see the Ringo exhibit at the Grammy Museum. I could do something productive like write my own stuff but the fucking chihuahua next door is barking barking barking one day I’m going to snap….and yeah, any excuse.

12:00 Lunch is squalid leftovers. Sweet potato and tempeh hash mixed with what had been an ok lentil curry a few days ago. Fuel.

1:00 pm Cheryl’s email comes about posting writers’ days. So I walk to the Metro station narrating my journey:
•    I hear a PCC student singing in the station stairwell: Popeye Fried Chicken it’s all I want is it too much to ask for fried chicken friend chicken I want fried chicken.
•    Bright October sun on my arms
•    The guy sitting in front of me with the dead fly in his hair. Not a regular housefly Musca domestica but some kind of drain fly Clogmia albipunctata maybe.
•    A family settling in near me smells strongly of fabric softener. They smell like domestic love.

My hair follicles just shuddered.
2:00 pm On the Red Line, a guy offers me his seat. Do I seem feeble to him? I must be feeble. I write crap about the power grid. A teenager quickly plops herself down, so I don’t have to offend him by waving him away.

4:00 pm I am surprised at how tiny Ringo’s Sgt Pepper uniform is. I hunt through the gift shop for just the right souvenir for John H. I think he’ll like the Blue Meany iron-on decal. And I check my email. My client likes the power grid script! Yahoo! Let Friday begin!

Hey, shorty.
5:00 pm I wander around LA LIVE and watch women heroically striding around in platforms and 6 inch heels yeah! Be tall, ladies! Crippled, but tall!

6:00 pm It’s a busier stroll to the Last Bookstore than I had expected—Friday evening plans, places to go, people to meet. When I get to the bookstore, I pull out a David Mitchell novel I haven’t read and settle into a big chair tucked behind some bookcases. Then I buy the book because I don’t have enough books at home.

7:00 pm I walk up a few blocks to Pitfire Pizza and meet Beth and John R. and John. We sit at a side table where the air conditioner freezes us. John glances at a TV. “Holy crap,” he says. The Dodgers have lost, 0-9. Spectacular. If you’re going to lose, lose big, John R. says.

9:00 pm We walk to the Redwood, where the two Johns will be playing with another guy named John and two guys with far more original names: Kjehl and Vitus. It’s a benefit for the PA, which has been ill. Fortunately, Trotsky Icepick is going on early.

Redwood Bar & Grill. Pirate themed with a mean veggie burger.
10:00 pm Another guy named John is very stoned and tells me he’s worried about his friend. What is this—high school?

11:00 pm I enjoy Trotsky’s set and an Angel City IPA. And another Angel City IPA and Inger Lorre’s set and Watt’s set and finally I drag John out of the Redwood close to midnight.

Kathy's John is the one on the right.
12:00 John makes popcorn and I eat it in the bathtub while I read my new book. I don’t fall asleep and drop the book in the bathtub, like I sometimes do. Even though it has been a very long day.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

blog as you are: tracy kaply

Tracy Kaply, today's Blog As You Are blogger, recently moved from Seattle to Joshua Tree. I'm planning to visit her there soon. I'm expecting dumplings and pie. 
From what I know of Tracy, this T-shirt says something snarky.
Since I have kidney failure and a panoply of other chronic/terminal illnesses trying to kill me, I don't work, and I am naturally a sedentary creature. So today I committed myself to writing down exactly what I was thinking about at each time the alarm went off. Don't worry, I am properly medicated.

8:20 am Woke up. Assessed situation. Pondered methods of killing birds right outside the window. Decided I was too old to be up this early without a damn good reason. Cat agrees, so we go back to sleep. 

9:20 am Fine, I am awake. Cat simultaneously wants me to to get out of the queen size bed, because there isn't room for both of us in here, and he wants me to lay very still so he can be on me. I am starting to think the cat is my penance.

10:40 am Madness In The White City. HH Holmes, and Erik Larson's Devil In The White City. Good stuff. If I am a monster in a human suit, I should get ALL the cookies.

Tracy wakes up thinking about serial killers. Don't worry, she's medicated.
Noon I have no dialysis today, so I am lying on the couch and having an argument with myself about who is gonna get up and make me some lunch. It wouldn't be an issue if the god damned cat would pitch in. 

1:45 pm Uncertain if I won or lost the lunch argument, I made dumplings. They stuck to the steamer. I am so filled with hate. And pork.

Kato, the cat who would not make lunch.
2:15 pm I think most stuff is crap. People don't want to do anything strenuous like, you know...think. Also, this day could be vastly improved by a fruit pie, and if I hadn't stayed up so late researching The Troubles, I might not desperately need the nap that is heading my way like runaway livestock. 

4:30 pm The good about naps: there is something cozy and luxurious about sleeping during the day. The bad: that moment of crippling paranoia when you wake up but keep your eyes closed trying to figure out where the fuck you are. 
That might just be me, that last.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

blog as you are: terry wolverton

The early bird--and you will see Terry is one--gets the first Blog As You Are Project post! Here is how my fabulous mentor spent Monday, October 21, 2013 in Los Angeles.

Terry and her exuberant hair.
6 am- I email my mom, who lives in Detroit, every day. After checking other email, I do my meditations.

7 am- Green shake for breakfast, make one for Yvonne too. Then drive like hell to get to South Pasadena.

8 am- Water aerobics at the South Pasadena Y.

9 am- Shower, dress, drive to downtown L.A. Check email at red lights.

10 am - Meet with Michael Garces about EMBERS opera. When will the universe provide an opening for this to be produced?

11 am- Drive home--through arts district, little tokyo, past grand park, through chinatown--wishing I actually had time to stop and wander through my city. At the State Park a circus is being taken down; red and white stripe tent tops swirled like peppermint candies collapsing to the dirt.

How the tent went up. Maybe.
12 noon- Lunch. Finish this week's poem for the dis•articulations blog.

1 pm- Catch up on email.  Phone meeting with client.

2 pm- Client meeting unexpectedly ends early, leaving me time for an unplanned submission to Trailer Park Quarterly (I hope I won't be sorry) and to plan a publication party for my girl's chapbook.

3 pm- Promo for Writers At Work reading at LitCrawl, and an impromptu rehearsal of what I plan to read. I hope people come to hear us; we reading at the same time as all these other people.

4 pm- I have projects I should be working on, but I don't want to, so instead I text my girlfriend, do the lunch dishes and pay bills online. My walking buddy bailed on me today, so I feel a little adrift.

5 pm- Promo for my girlfriend's book.  It's getting dark so early now; makes me feel a little melancholy.

6 pm- After much time wasting--Facebook, eating a container of cherry vanilla yogurt, play a few hands of computer solitaire, texting girlfriend, etc--finally settling in to read a former student's manuscript.

7 pm- Already weeping at the beauty of my former student's writing.

8 pm- Scrambled eggs with spinach for dinner. Clean up. A little bit more of the manuscript before I call it a day.

9 pm- Talking to my girlfriend about our days; about the school shooting in Sparks, NV; about seafood being fed pig feces; about what size she should print her photographs; and about whom to invite to her publication party.

10 pm- Taking herbs, brushing teeth, maybe I'll read a little for my herbalism class before turning out the light. Alarm is set for 5 am.

Sunday, October 20, 2013

the blog as you are project

When I was in fifth grade or thereabouts, my friend Bonnie threw a Come As You Are party. The idea was that she would call her friends at random times over the course of a week or so after sending out invitations. Whatever we were wearing when she called was what we had to wear to the party. I was wearing nothing special—or rather, I was wearing nothing special for 1988, meaning I was probably wearing turquoise culottes—but I had bare feet, so at least there was that.

As for Bonnie, her party outfit would be whatever she was wearing when the first guest RSVP’d. She claimed the call came (this was way pre-Evite) when she’d just stepped out of the shower. I had my doubts. I still think she just wanted to prance around her party in a bikini and a towel. 
Bonnie (right), me (second from right) and the Barry sisters, as we were in 1994.
Soon I’m going to launch what I’m calling The Blog As You Are Project. I asked a handful of friends/writers/artists to choose one day from the most recent week of their lives and write a sentence or two for each waking hour. I’ll post the results here.

The reasons for this project:
1. I’m always curious about other people’s everyday lives. Maybe I know they write great poems or always show up late when we get together, but do they drink coffee in the morning? Do they make plans to go to the gym and end up watching YouTube videos instead?
2. Recently my friend Kim gave me the biggest compliment possible about an essay I wrote, which was that it was a nice counter-narrative to the hyper-curated world of Facebook, where people package their lives to look glamorous or at least sitcom-sweet. I want to do more of this. I want your help.
3. As much as blogging about my intense cancer-related emotions for the past year has been really healthy and necessary, I’m ready to get outside myself a little. I’m trying to resist the internal pressure to have some sort of post-cancer epiphany or major life change; I like my life, and in general I think writing and spending time with people I love are good uses of my time. But I could use a little project that’s not too Cheryl-centric. I could use a turning point in my thinking.
4. I just noticed I’ve posted to my blog one thousand times. If that doesn’t say “time for a guest blogger or six,” I don’t know what does.

As evidenced by Bonnie’s alleged birthday-girl cheating, logging a day in your own life is still curated, still inherently prone to making things sound funnier or more exciting—or maybe more depressing—than they actually are. And trying to parse these posts will be part of the fun. But with all hours accounted for, there should be some Sitting In Traffic for every Apple-Picking With My Adorable Child, some Arguing With My Mom for every Collaborating On A Grant-Funded Experimental Video Project.
Quinoa only picks organic apples, naturally.
Last night my current and former coworkers—the West Coast ones—gathered at my house for a salon, or maybe a “salon.” The writers among us read stuff we’d been working on. Not for the first time, I was floored by what good poets Jamie, Andrew and Brandi are. A piece of me envies their talent—but it’s a positive, inspiring kind of envy—and at the same time, because their work is so good, it’s also incredibly humanizing, revealing their melancholy, vulnerability and curiosity.

Right now I’m reading Scott Nadelson’s memoir, The Next Scott Nadelson, which is one part the story of how he got really depressed after his fiancée left him for a drag king (and other personal struggles), one part lit crit. He writes about how culture influences his life, which is kind of what I aim to do on this blog, only he does it in a more educated way, with more Kafka and less My Strange Addiction. He knows when to look deeply into himself and when to get the self out of the way. I’ve done a lot of the former—and will continue to, don’t you worry—and now it’s time to try a bit of the latter.

(Oh, and if you want to participate, just write up your day and email it to me!)

Friday, October 18, 2013

in da club

Dear Charlie Beck,

From what I know about you, I like you. Like that one time you were walking through an Occupy encampment with a KPCC reporter, and the reporter asked you if you smelled marijuana, and you said, "Nope. Sure don't."

But this letter worries me a little. First, because my car wasn't actually stolen, so I don't think you read Officer Honor's police report very carefully. But seeing as how it was handwritten, maybe you just couldn't decipher it. (Does the LAPD have a computer??)

The thief took my radio, iPod and my car's computer, all of which could have happened if I'd had The Club tightly locked on my steering wheel. Although now that you mention it, I think he or she also took The Club that was sitting under the passenger seat, which I kind of imagined myself using as a weapon if I broke down somewhere scary and a creepy person approached my car.

The good news is that you guys are probably out solving real crimes. Right? The bad news is that you are crowd-sourcing small-time crime-fighting. If I sprained my knee, I'd be troubled if my doctor--upon not seeing me at all--mailed me a coupon for an elbow brace.

Also, as AK pointed out, this is a very American, capitalistic buy-something-to-solve-your-problems approach to crime prevention. Call me a cynic, but I feel like maybe you're getting a little kickback from The Club. If so, I hope you guys use it to buy a computer.

Carry on,


Monday, October 14, 2013

the stubborn but inspired unconscious

I’ve been visiting a hypnotherapist—because I’m not the kind of girl who can be content with just two therapists (couples and regular), and because I want her to convince my subconscious that a long happy life is viable, that imminent doom is not my destiny. She’s been having me write down my dreams, and let me tell you, that shit is one long found poem.

Last night I attended Rhapsodomancy’s ninth anniversary reading at Good Luck Bar and heard work by Cynthia Cruz, Rob Roberge, Louise Mathias and Wendy Ortiz. Soon I was itching to write dark, spare poetry like Cruz’s. Here’s what I came up with, transcribed directly from the previous night’s dream. I genuinely don’t know what it means, which feels like cheating, like I’m one of those coy writers. But, like about eighty percent of my dreams, it seems about guilt on some level, and appropriate for Columbus Day/Indigenous Peoples Day/Genocide Day.

A Movie We Didn’t Know We Were In

We played in the abandoned rooms
beneath the abandoned house.
Or maybe it was a school or stable;
the walls were damp stone.
They were schoolboys, young
but not innocent.

It was a prank, or a movie
we didn’t know we were in.
The water rushed in,
nothing so rational
as a cleansing flood.

She was a girl and a horse.
We forgot she was locked there,
and fled.

Did we see her tilt her face
toward the top of the grate
as the water lifted her?
Did we hear her scream,
or did we just know
how it would have gone,
and imagine it?

Friday, October 11, 2013

based on a true story

One of the guests at my sister’s UCLA graduation party was her high school marching band director, who was kind of sexist and annoying, but also dedicated and beloved by students who weren’t me. He asked how I was doing, and I told him I’d just finished my thesis at CalArts.

“It’s a collection of connected short stories,” I said.

“You wrote a whole book? Wow! That must have been hard.”

“It was,” I said proudly.

“And it’s all true?”

“No, it’s fiction.”

“Oh. You mean you just made it up?” His disappointment was palpable. A whole thesis full of lies.

Writers—not to mention readers of anything thicker than Parade Magazine—usually enjoy this story. Fiction is, of course, an art. You have to create a whole world, not just describe what you see.

Remember Parade? Remember All-Grown-Up Miley 1.0?
But my sister’s band director might be vindicated to know that one reason I chose fiction is because I’m a lazy researcher. I love learning about other times, places, people and, sigh, diseases, and weaving them into my stories. But I’d prefer to do my learning via other people’s tightly crafted nonfiction narratives, or Wikipedia, than via original sources. And I really hate citation.

Our culture is obsessed with nonfiction for slightly baffling reasons—see James Frey, etc., etc.—and especially with memoir. I don’t get it, except that I do. In the past year, I’ve been reading a lot of it, writing a lot of it. As I’ve told some of you, pretending I was maybe writing a memoir was one of the best cancer coping mechanisms I chose. Instead of spiraling into OCD in my just-for-me journal, I was forced to look at my situation with a bit of humor and perspective. I wrote in the past tense to convince myself I did in fact have a future.

Ever-so-slightly fictionalizing my truth made it feel truer to me.

It’s made for some long-ass blog entries, not to mention occasional tense problems when I try to translate into blog format. Thank you for bearing with me.

I also regularly binge on documentaries and reality shows and “reality” shows on Netflix—modern day sideshows, all of them—because I have to binge on something, and I feel like chocolate and French fries are off the table for me now. Last night I may have fallen deep into a salacious documentary about the World’s Fattest Woman Accused Of Murder. If I tell you it was also a fascinating story of family violence and border issues, you might rightly accuse me of protesting too much.

YouTube addiction even makes cats feel shame. Almost.
But there’s something about other people’s suffering—big suffering and little suffering and thousand-pound suffering—that delivers a fix. I’m comfortable being that fix for other people at times. Even as I also want to be envied by all who meet me. Because what’s a true story without some contradictions?

I will be reading a true story—about a nasty fight I had with my sister on Mother’s Day—on Oct. 23 at Lit Crawl. This also happens to be the day I have a check-up with my oncologist, and I’m terrified that I’ll get bad news and be so pulled into an awful true story that I won’t be able to focus on sharing a just-kind-of-cruddy true story, and that I will disappoint all the nice people who showed up to see me again.

I have a good prognosis. I do. And even if I had a mediocre one, it would be unlikely for cancer to come back after just four months. And yet the anxiety creeps in, a security blanket of fog. And I wasn’t going to write about it, because it’s supposed to be my private sentence, but here I am, typing my true story as I try to promote my readings like a good little author.

If you want to come enjoy the mess of it with me—and to hear nonfiction pieces by three other awesome queer writers, Bronwyn Mauldin, Wendy Oleson and Wendy Ortiz—here’s how to do it:

What: Lit Crawl L.A.: NoHo, an evening of readings and performances in the North Hollywood Arts District
Who: The L.A. Word, featuring Cheryl Klein, Bronwyn Mauldin, Wendy Oleson and Wendy Ortiz—and also about a hundred other writers at nearby venues, if we don’t float your boat
When: Wednesday, Oct. 23, 7:30 p.m.

Monday, October 07, 2013

barfing and biking

A few years ago I attended a reading by fellows at the Lambda Literary retreat. Whenever they introduced a piece that included family violence, coercive sex or aggressive homophobia, they prefaced it—as one of their workshop teachers had clearly taught them—with “trigger warning.”

It struck me as odd, because that’s not really how triggers work. Death and cancer and miscarriage—my trio of connected tragedies—aren’t triggers in the abstract. I would probably find a well written story about any one of them moving and cathartic. No trigger warning necessary.

But no one is there to shout “trigger warning!” when Google Maps takes me through Beverly Hills or a chubby, laughing Persian man outside a café reminds me of my fertility doctor.

Trigger warning!
In high school, only a handful of kids had lost parents, and they always seemed wise and exotic, not to mention unfairly favored by our breast-cancer-survivor English teacher. I remember one of them, a warm, popular girl named Kate, turning around in her desk one mild spring day.

“It was just like this last year when my mom died,” she said matter-of-factly. “Cold and drizzly for days, and then, the morning she died, beautiful.”

Friday afternoon, halfway through a phone meeting about our never-quite-done grants management database, I started feeling nauseous. It might be fair to say that discussion of a grants management database alone could prompt this, but it couldn’t explain why I spent the rest of the afternoon and evening puking.

My best bet was that this was a side effect of switching from Tamoxifen (the pre-menopausal-lady cancer prevention drug) to Arimidex (the post-menopausal-lady cancer prevention drug). Because of all my ovary-related shame, Tamoxifen seemed like a fun, cool, young-person drug. Even though Arimidex was slightly more effective and nabbed me two or three much-wanted survival percentage points, taking it felt like the equivalent of wearing mom jeans or a fanny pack. So it would follow that, while Tamoxifen had had no perceptible side effects, Arimidex would make me violently ill.

And being ill is a trigger, a reminder of a time barely passed when I was needy and delicate and requiring special accommodations. A reminder of how all plans—dinner with friends on Friday, square-dancing on Saturday, not to mention cleaning the house—are subject to change.

I spent the day in bed on Saturday, watching episode after episode of Ruby, a weight-loss reality show that aired in 2009. Now it existed in the timeless no-man’s-land of Netflix, a place I seemed to live too. Ruby, who once weighed seven hundred pounds and couldn’t remember her childhood before the age of thirteen, is a riveting real-life character. As far as I can tell, she got the show when she befriended Brittany Daniel, one of the twin actresses from Sweet Valley High, when Ruby was a chatty, charmingly Southern receptionist at Brittany’s gym. Some sort of Girl, you should have your own show! conversation must have ensued. I couldn’t stop watching Ruby track down her missing memories and work through the twelve steps of Overeaters Not-So-Anonymous. She reminded me a little of my cousin Maria in the way she vacillated between little-girl innocence and sly, self-deprecating humor.

Ruby will kick your astronaut with her catchphrases and pink boxing gloves.
Brittany (or the other twin) with that bitch Lila Fowler and a token cheerleader of color.
A lot of people make psychological issues physical, but I tend to do the opposite—because I’m cerebral, I guess, and because I want my problems to be the result of something profound, existential and controllable. Versus, say, the result of needing a nap. So I was a whiny mess on Saturday morning, reliving my why-don’t-I-have-a-baby-of-some-sort crisis with renewed vigor.

That night AK and I argued mildly about the possible cause of my sickness. Her thought, dispatched from the realm of the reasonable, was that I shouldn’t take a medication that was making me throw up. Wait till Monday, call my doctor. My new theory was that this was the flu, and besides, I was a Martyr For Cancer Prevention. Maybe I would take a half dose, and experiment with taking it at night instead of in the morning, but the deal I’d made with the universe was this: I would do every possible thing to prevent a recurrence, and the universe would keep cancer at bay. Or it wouldn’t, but at least I could die with a clear conscience, knowing I hadn’t skipped my medication that one night.

I felt better Sunday morning, and, true to the first wobbly days after any round of chemo, I proceeded to overdo it, to make up for lost time. (Why didn’t I at least spend Saturday reading? What would two days of living on ginger ale and white bread do to my already-challenged mission to eat mostly kale and avocados?) So AK and I biked to CicLAvia—very good exercise, but not weight-bearing exercise, and certainly the sun wasn’t helping my predisposition to melanoma—and met up with Jennifer, Joel, Pedro and Stephen.

CicLAvia: non-weight-bearing fun for the whole family.
I ate something called Fluff Ice, which was not made of kale but didn’t make me want to puke, and looked at photos of the ranch house Jennifer and Joel had just bought in Ojai. They’d adopted two young alpacas to live there with them.

“You planned a fun day for us!” AK said on the way home, and I felt triumphant.

Then she got a flat, and her water bottle flew out of her backpack and landed in the street, where we watched a truck run over it, and it was not long before I was home again, curled up with Ruby. We both felt as deflated as her tire.