Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Put Some Records on While I Pour

The blue-eyed guy keeps asking me what I want for Hanukkah, and I was just simply not raised that you tell someone what you want for Hanukkah! What am I going to say? "I want this thing from this catalogue, which I've highlighted for your ease of buying it for me." That seems so tacky, not to mention totally unromantic. So I always just tell him, "I just want your affection." (He'd said, "What if your girls ask you what I got you for Hanukkah and you say, 'his affection.' How would that go over?" Touche.) But the joke of it all is that when we were in Las Vegas together, browsing the Forum Shops after dinner (God. I love. Vegas.), we were both picking things up and admiring them, and describing out loud what we liked about them and why. After a while, I felt a little cheap, because I thought it was so obvious that we were each earmarking stuff for the other to buy as a gift for the holidays. The next day, I went back through the Forum Shops while he was at his conference, and wrote down all the stuff he'd wanted on a yellow Post It so I wouldn't forget. And then he said, "Baby, I need you to tell me what you want for Hanukkah! I gave you plenty of hints, and you didn't give me any!" Ahem, what was that whole exercise about then? Like, when we stopped in every jewelry store on the Strip, and I fingered every two-tone ring and necklace or earrings would be great too? Dang. Fortunately, I'm gainfully employed and can buy my own stuff like Destiny's Child, because my guy seems to be nuance impaired.

Monday, December 11, 2006

Round and Round and Round in the Circle Game

When I met the blue-eyed guy with whom I’m drinking boba teas these days, I truly ached with appreciation for how I had encountered this man—who surely was too amazing, too unique to stay single for long—at a time when he’d had no one else on his arm. Imagine the timing and the luck!

I look back on the other men in my past who were too amazing, too unique, too romantic to stay single—and, as it turns out, none of them are still single after all. There’s my first boyfriend, the saint—a handsome Jewish boy who had black dreadlocks in high school and a green “Go Vegan” sticker on the back of his blue Honda Civic. Possibly the sweetest, most earthy man on, well, earth. The PETA activist for whom I went vegetarian when he quit smoking in a pact made on July 17, 1993, four days after our first kiss on July 13, and two days after my 16th birthday on July 15. After living in Humbolt without electricity for a while, he recently got in touch to tell me he’d married a blind Japanese woman (he makes his living training guide dogs), and they live together at the home he bought in Berkeley. She’s lucky; too bad she can’t see him because he’s beautiful on the outside too. (Sidebar: My mom made me clean out some junk in my old bedroom yesterday, and I found his photo ID pass card to Magic Mountain from the summer of 1992 and his North Hollywood High School school ID from his senior year, my sophomore year, in ’91-’92. Classic.)

I just re-encountered the guy who didn't know who Bobby Brown is, and it turns out he’s dating a Christian girl who prays every day, everywhere, whom he met in the Newark airport. And I can see clearly in my mind’s eye how it all went down. Because (I read his blog about their meeting, but also because) I know how he courted me with an intensity I’d hardly experienced since, maybe high school, or maybe never. So, so whole hearted, and so open, and so loving. And so eager. The first text message I ever got from him said something about how he was buying bok choy, and was happily making a note to himself to buy two bundles of bok choy next time for us to eat now that we had each other. And the second text message I ever got from him said, “So much to curl up with u. So much to laze the morning away in your arms pressed against your skin, breathing in your scent. So much so much so much.” That’s a mouthful for 160 characters, don’t you think? He had so much love to give, I just knew he'd find someone who would be so happy to receive it. (I thought that someone might be me, but it turned out I was wrong and wasn't prepared to embrace all that.)

And then there’s my college boyfriend, the guy who rang my doorbell (through the door: “Who is it?” “It’s your neighbor.” “My neighbor who?”) to give me some chocolate chip cookies he’d baked after he’d seen me crying on the stoop the day before. (“You looked sad. I hope these will cheer you up.”) I made that guy run a hell of a gauntlet—gifts of homemade fudge, breakfasts, flowers, enough praise to make me feel like the most extraordinary woman alive—before I finally committed to being his reluctant girlfriend six months later. And then he was the most dutiful boyfriend imaginable for the next three years, even though he’d had a tough childhood and had more on his mind (death of mother, serious credit card debt, biracial identity crises) in college than I did (getting an A in Film 25B, finding cool 16mm projectors at the flea market, what to wear on the trip to Mardi Gras with the girls). After Berkeley, he went to Harvard, where he met a woman he dated for four years, with whom he moved to New York. Today he told me he needs to be free, and he’s moving out as soon as he gets the money. He’s not marrying her, like he’d told me three years ago he was planning to. Now he says he doesn’t believe in romance, and he’s not the marrying type. If he doesn’t believe in romance, it’s hard to know what’s true anymore.

She's so Jane

Am I sick that I totally miss summer even though it's like 75 degrees in L.A.? I feel so serious in the winter, and a girl gets into trouble when she takes herself too seriously.

Last night I dreamt that my delightfully easygoing Midwestern ex-boyfriend had impregnated a pretty dark-haired girl, and married her shortly after we'd broken up. So in my dream he'd been married eight months and his wife was eight and a half months pregnant. Then we went up in an airplane with an open cabin and when we went upside down into a loop, some of our luggage fell out into the sea.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Burnout at the Bean

This is, like, a new low. This morning I was finding it so incredibly hard to motivate to get any work done (it's been like that all week--it's hard sometimes when you work from home). I was just feeling so tired and so sluggish, so I picked up the copy of New York that I've been eager to read, with the cover story on the science of burnout (by Jennifer Senior, who wrote the story on the scientific study of happiness that I became obsessed with this summer) and brought it over to the couch. I sat down to read about burnout so I could understand and perhaps improve on my utterly burned out condition...and then...I fell....zzzzz...aaaahhhsleep. I fell asleep on the sofa. In the middle of the work day. After I'd read one paragraph about burnout. Nice, Dubin.

But I've got so much to do, so I showered and dragged myself to the Coffee Bean with my laptop to get some work done. Do you know what everyone's doing at the Coffee Bean in the middle of a work day in L.A.? Working on scripts. "Taking meetings." Thank god I'm not as desperate as they are.

Anyhow, so this guy is next to me working on some script or treatment or something, and his "friend" (I can only hope they're "friends" and not friends for real, because that guy revealed himself to be a real jerk) comes in and they're chatting about Hollywood and talking about meetings and treatments and scripts and crap, and then the guy who walks in says to the guy at the table: "So, how's your love life?"

Guy with laptop: "Well, to be honest with you, it's pretty much nonexisten..."
"Friend": "Oh mine's so awesome. I met this great girl, she's like 5'11" beautiful, from Bulgaria, been here six years, dual citizenship, she's the one, yada yada, I'm a jerk, she's so tall, beautiful... [more stuff that indicates I'm a totally un-self aware jerk]...eHarmony, man, I'm telling you, this girl's amazing you want to see some pictures of her? Here's some pictures, this is us at a party, this is us at..."
Guy with laptop: "Yeah, awesome, man, she's a real looker..."
"Friend": "Yeah, mean, of course, man, I'm telling you she's beautiful and lalalala, whataver, [more stuff that indicates I'm a totally un-self aware jerk]..."
Guy with laptop: "Well, listen, do you ski, because...?"
"Friend": "Yeah, but it's so hard to find any place to ski around here because I'm such an expert skiier, it's just that I'm such an expert skiier, so..."

Did I ever go into the story about why I don't ski? The one about "no friends on powder days?" Ah, it's a good one.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006


I don't know if it's because James Kim had been a colleague of a best friend, or if it's because he's from San Francisco, or because his wife is roughly my age, or that his daughters look approximately like my cousin's half-Asian daughter in their ineffable cuteness, or because I become so emotionally compromised when I'm menstrual, or because I have such a pathological aversion to extreme cold, but the story of his death and recovery had me beside myself today. I couldn't get the image out of my head of this man striking out to find help for his family after burning the tires from their car for warmth. But at least there's the fact that his kids had a dad who would strike out into the cold wilderness to find help for them, and do whatever he could do to try to save them, and there's the fact that I grew up always knowing I had a dad who would do that too.

Monday, December 04, 2006

Keep Your Crummy 200 Square Feet While I Spread Out all my Fab Shoes in 1,600, Suckas

Writing consistently smart stuff like Megan does is hard and daunting. But it kind of takes the pressure off now that there's like no possibility that anyone's actually reading this anymore since I haven't posted in a month. Ahem. I got pretty busy and went to New York once and Vegas twice—lost on the first trip, won on the second—spent a lot of time delayed in airports, watched a lot of Cal football (and bet on Cal football, which accounted for some of the losses on the first Vegas trip), worked a lot (and complained a lot about the volume of work expected of me), hired a new assistant editor to help, worked out as much as I could, test drove some cars (current front runner: Toyota Matrix), skirted jury duty, drank a considerable amount of red wine (and white wine and sake, ouch, note to self), and spent a lot of time admiring a certain pair of outrageously blue eyes.

And mercifully, on November 30, the lease in my New York apartment expired. So my subletter cleaned up the joint and moved out. I needed to submit by fax my forwarding information to which I'm convinced my security deposit will never actually be sent since my building management company operates like the worst kind of slumlords, never providing enough heat or hot water or electricity, and regularly hanging up on tenants who call their offices to register such complaints. Or other complaints, like mysterious liquids that pour out of their ceilings for days, leaving their laptop to drown in a foul puddle on their desk when they come home from a holiday weekend. And may I add that this is a company that forces tenants to sign a lease that states a rent $500+ higher than they told the perspective renters the apartment was going for—and then awards an "on-time credit" in the amount of the difference when the tenants pay their rents on time each month—in order that they can raise the rent every year by the highest legal percentage based on the fictitious higher rent? Sickos. Pervs, I tell you.

Anyhow, so I was online searching for the management company's fax number, and I came across a Citysearch link to the business. Now, from what I can tell, readers usually write online reviews of restaurants and bars on the likes of Citysearch, but not of businesses like building management companies. But apparently this company so angered enough people that the following reviews turned up:

I have never every written a review before, but then again I normally don't get hung up on. [Managemtnt company] is the WORST people to work with, how they are still in buinsess I am not sure. I signed a lease in July for a August move-in and after they raised the rent $2,000 they pushed back the move-in date from August 1st to the 15th then to Septemeber 1st saying that the constrcution was not done. Now, a day before 9/1 they say that it won't be ready until the 15th. The worst part about it is they are NOT helpful and NOT nice. DO NOT WORK WITH THEM!!!!!

Horrible Customer Service
The girl who answers the phones can never answer your questions, so she always transfers the call to Ambi, who is rarely there. I was told to call between 9 and 9:10 to reach her! When she is there, she's rude and has no ability to deal with people. She has hung up on me more times than I can count, simply because she has no solutions for a problem she was hired to fix. She loves the phrase 'they're out of the country right now' and seems to think it is an excuse for her incompetence. Cons: Ignorance, Poor Service. Not Recommended

Dishonest Management - 100% will lie to your face
[Management company] is possibly the worst in the city. Their main person "Ambi" will lie to your face and change rental terms at her discretion. She is also extremely rude, will ignore tenant calls and will not for the life of her return a phone call. Do not rent from this company! There isn't a single good thing I can say about this company - if you MUST deal with them insist that you will not deal with Ambi. Pros: none. Cons: dishonest, poor customer service

Dishonest management NEVER calls back
Called 60 days before rent was due and never ever get called back. Continued to call for days in a row. Get a lot of push-back. They love the phrase 'it's in the mail'. They had guaranteed on Monday that I would receive a letter that very Monday or Tuesday. I called Wed after checking mail for three days and still had no letter. She then said I'd have to wait two weeks for the letter. This renewal lease would be for the first week of the last month of my previous lease AND then she said I had to give 60 days notice before leaving. How can I give 60 days notice if I only receive THEIR paperwork 21 days before the end of my lease? Stay away from this management.

Terrible Customer Service
The person who picks up the phone is just terrible when it comes to customer service. She treats you like you are not worth her time and gives so much attitude. I have not received my security deposit and moved out 2 months ago. They are very unorganized. Don't use them if you can avoid it. Pros: Nothing. Just a terrible experience. Cons: Terrible Customer Service

To sum up: I never expect to get my security deposit back. (Which is a shame, because I spent a good chunk of its value on Marc by Marc Jacobs dresses at the Desert Premium Outlets in Cabazon on Sunday.) The security deposit that grew every year that I renewed my lease and they required from me an additional check for an additional deposit based on the higher annual rent (which was further inflated by the fictitious higher rent stated on the lease).

Moreover, that particular kind of tyrant slumlord garbage really only flies in Manhattan. Another reason I'm glad to call pretty L.A. home.

Monday, November 06, 2006

Up and Away

Sometimes you have those days when you just bum around and do nothing.

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Then sometimes you have a day when you look at the clock and shoot! It’s 6:01 and you were supposed to be in the lobby at 6AM for your drive to the hot air ballooning launch site, so you’re late but you make it anyway, and then you go up on the balloon and it’s lovely down there and the morning mist is drifting over the farmland, and then when you land you have mimosas and you get pushed on the swing on a nearby jungle gym so you sail very high and then get your sandals all muddy when you try to stop yourself with your feet to slow down, and then you get in a Jeep and drive through the country to a cattle round up where you see calves being immunized and cows being branded, smoke coming off their seared skin and hair. Then you tour a citrus processing plant, and wander around the orchards, and then it’s only 9 AM and you’re kind of ready for bed, but then it’s back in the car to tour another hotel, the restaurant at which supplies you with a skim latte and that helps a little bit. Then you’ve got 45 minutes to shower and check out of the hotel before lunch, where you eat so much because you’re so hungry that the effect is very soporific, and you didn’t really need that since it’s only 2 PM and you already feel like you’ve been up for a month, and plus you didn’t get any sleep the night before on account of one delayed flight, one overactive brain, one bedmate who snores, and the knowledge you had to wake up at 5:30 for the balloon flight, which you didn’t manage to do quite. So then after lunch you view a lovely craftsman-style hotel room with a Tempurpedic bed and a rocking chair and an ocean view that makes you never want to leave, but you have to keep moving, and you go to a museum with a cowboy exhibit, and then you wander around a nearby street fair, and a tangle of local antique shops and then you’re so tired the whole thing is extra surreal, and on the walk back to the car you stop and stare at the pier and the majesty of the Pacific Ocean as the waves roll in along the coast.
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Finally somehow you drag yourself to the car and you’re not seven miles into the drive home when you decide to stop at the Wagon Wheel bowling alley you’d spotted on the way into town and it just looks so folksy that it draws you in and makes you want to bowl a game for the first time in maybe eight years, when you bowled at Albany Bowl in the East Bay, where they served Bud in pin-shaped bottles in the Spare Room. (You bowl a 79, which you think is OK for your first try in ages; your partner gets a turkey in the second through fourth frames, and you’re impressed.) Now you’re really tired, so it’s back in the car, but it’s only a few more miles before you see the outlet mall and its Barneys, Betsey, and Restoration call to you from the highway, so you have to stop and you try on a Marc Jacobs coat, which you can’t justify since you live in Los Angeles now, so you let it go, and get back in a car to listen to Cal versus UCLA on AM 570. You pick up some tofu and get home in time to watch the last 10 minutes on TV, and your team is victorious, and that’s great, and then since it’s only 8 PM you make jokes about changing clothes and going to a rave in Hollywood, but instead you sit down to watch a movie and are fast asleep within seconds, and then you turn off the movie and try to watch CSI: Miami instead, but the only scene you see is the investigator popping a bloated corpse so it doesn’t blow up on its own in the van when it’s being transmitted to the morgue, and that’s really gross, and then you finally force yourself to go upstairs to bed and you sleep like a log and wonder how many days in a girl’s life she’ll ever spend like that.

City Search

November 6, 2006

Living Streets
The Energy Of Cities

The cities we reside in have souls. Our cities consume, create, evolve, and breathe much in the same way Mother Nature does. Each city is unique, defined not only by the individuals who call it home but also by the energy it exudes. Some cities are suffused by an aura of unshakable calm while others seem continually frenetic, even during the early morning hours. Many inspire creativity within us or arouse our curiosity. A city's energy is dependent on many factors, including the geography, the people, the industry, and the culture. Residing in a city full of warehouses and factories feels very different than one living in one populated by artists and museums. Some cities elevate the soul while others seem to squash it, and fate may lead us to either.

If the urban center you presently call home feels oppressive or robs you of your vitality, consider relocating to a locale that is more nurturing. You may find that leaving your city is an impossibility, however, if circumstances in your life compel you to remain or the universe has plans for you that involve your staying put. To cope with the stress of working and playing in an environment you have an aversion to, first ask yourself how the city you live in makes you feel. Then take steps to cleanse your home, your work spaces, and your life of the energy that is dragging you down. Try smudging your personal and professional spaces with sage or sweetgrass to dispel negativity. Keeping a quartz crystal on or near your person can ensure that there is always positive, loving energy nearby that you can draw from when you feel affected by your city. And you can do your part to promote widespread good energy by sending love and white light from your heart out into the city each morning and night.

As you become increasingly aware of the way your city makes you feel, you can refine your cleansing efforts to meet your individual needs. If you seek out others who feel driven to purify your city's energy flow, your combined efforts can become a larger movement that promotes healing and goodwill. You may find that, after a time, you are gradually drawn to those aspects of your locale that energize you, helping you come back into balance.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Where my Girls At

I love covering beauty events and product launches because undoubtedly there is always a very chic woman talking about natural ingredients and advanced science in a sexy and sweet accent, usually French, sometimes Nordic. (One time I went to a launch for a new line of French cosmetics on the penthouse terrace of the apartment belonging to the brand's impossibly chic red-lipped in-house publicist, with views overlooking Fifth Avenue and Broadway, right across from the Flatiron. It was outrageous. Then I walked home to my tiny unchic, unfit-to-bring-over-style-arbiters apartment with bars on the windows and the cat's litter box next to the sofa, because there's no place else you can put it when all you've got is 200 square feet.)

I also love these events (because you walk away drunk, with armloads of free stuff and) because they are always filled with women, since the beauty editor crowd tends to be exclusively female, with, like one flaming queen with a pinky ring at the next table for good measure. And I always find this to be a very inspiring environment. All these beautiful ladies, all career women, with glamorous lives, generally supporting and not being mean to one another, as I think is the common perception of women en masse.

Today I went to a cosmetic launch in a sparkling hotel penthouse, with delicious coffee and fresh-squeezed juices, where I listened to a lovely Nordic woman talk about rare berry extracts. Then I collected my Marimekko swag bag and headed to another luncheon in the same hotel, where 650 women (and five queens) bidded on handbags in an auction benefiting lupus research. I sat next to a soap opera actress originally from Texas (the daughter of a minister), whose life was nothing like my own. And I found our conversation to be engaging and genuine, and I learned something. Because you can learn something from everyone. ("Even a damned fool," as my grandfather used to say, but that wouldn't apply here.) And it's rather pleasant when you exchange thoughts on life with other smart gals in a room full of smart gals just doing their thing, just like you're doing your thing.

Monday, October 23, 2006

Bunny Bash Has Busty Babes

You've really made it when you Google yourself and discover that your profound prose--topped by the worst/best headline ever associated with your byline--has found its way (without permission even) onto the official Web site of Pamela Anderson. Stick a fork in me.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Lucky Charms

In my memory, it's rained exactly one time since I moved back, and it looked like this from my terrace right afterward.

In Which I Get my Slurpee On

One of the things that concretized my decision to move to L.A. was bougainvillea. I would come out here to visit and be reminded about how those pink vines explode all over and make everything look so lush and healthy and warm and decorated (and, not least, so pink—my favorite). So when I moved I made it my priority to go to Home Depot and buy three plants and set them on my terrace, and I gave them lots of love and the vines grew and grew like weeds, but the flowers never blossomed. Until. Last week I went out there to see the very beginnings of those pink flowers and I seriously just thrilled at that sight. (Apparently October is L.A.'s spring.)

In other news, shoot!, I have a cute dentist! No one has a cute dentist. And no one needs a cute dentist. But I have one. And he favors trance music in the office, and says things like, "So I'll pull that tooth out, and then I'll give you a bunch of Vicodin, and then you can have a Vicodin party and invite me."

On the way home from the cute dentist, I got my car washed. And while I was waiting for it to be dried, I went next door to 7-11 where I found they had Diet Pepsi Slurpees in the Slurpee machine. Anyone who knows me knows how much I love that zero-calorie ambrosia, and that love is made even more intense by the shocking, widespread unavailability of the Diet Pepsi Slurpee. (When Manhattan's first 7-11 opened right near our office on 23rd Street and Park Avenue, I obsessively went down there and pleaded with them to make D.P. Slurpees come out of the machine; but that spout was broken from day one—with an upside down cup over it—and they never did fix it.)

To recap, as of today I have:
  • bougainvillea buds on a sunny terrace
  • a cute dentist (not relevant or useful, just surprising)
  • a proximate 7-11 offering Diet Pepsi Slurpees

It's a beautiful day in L.A.

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Zigzag Moderne

Do you know how beautiful the ceiling of the Pantages Theatre is? Well, it's really beautiful.

People come to L.A. for the jam too.

Update: Oops, I know that wasn't clear. I wasn't intentionally obfuscating; I just meant that there are a lot of spectacular things that draw people to L.A. from other far-away placees--things that are harder for me to appreciate since I grew up here. (I saw the equivalent spectacular things in New York with totally fresh wide eyes.) In this case, fabulous Deco venues on Hollywood Boulevard are the jam. Uh, I may be mixing too many metaphors, but...you get the gist.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

It's the Thought That Counts

The other day my impossibly sexy, totally non-hippy vegan friend was talking about a nightmarish first date she'd had last week in which she received from the man a single long-stemmed red rose wrapped in cellophane, which reeked (if not literally) of beef jerky and lottery tickets from the check-out line at 7-11. Thank heaven he'd picked her up in his car, so she could safely leave the rose there on the seat instead of toting it mortifyingly around Oakland. I was very sympathetic to her horror. Like, hello, don't do that! Don't bring me a rose on the first date! And for the love of god, if you must, don't get it at Duane Reade or Wawa!

Another girlfriend had a similar freakout in college when a boy brought her a bouquet on her second date. She told him he was presumptuous and never saw him again. And then a year later, the man who would eventually become her husband and the father of the baby in her belly these days, sent to our co-op apartment in Berkeley a dozen cheesy red roses the day before he picked her up for their first date after they'd met (wait for it) at a rave. And she loved those roses and she was smitten.

I would have thought it is not very advisable to make a girl a CD on a first date because, I mean, that should be creepy or something. But you know, if you get a CD on a first date from a man who makes your stomach do that thing, it doesn't feel creepy at all. And you want to listen to it first thing in the morning when you get up too early because you couldn't sleep very well because you had a really, really great time.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Tupperware Party

I was just thinking about how Docksiders used to like to go on lots of hikes in his Hollywood Hills neighborhood and beyond. And one time he brought home three tadpoles from a hike he'd done with some visiting house guests, and I thought that was pretty great. He put them in Tupperware and set them on the railing on the back porch. The little vessel eventually became a breeding ground for mosquitoes, duh, and I'm not sure what ever happened to the frogs, or if the tadpoles ever even became frogs. But still I think it's pretty awesome when a grown man does a little boy thing like covet a tadpole.

Update: It's also pretty awesome when a grown man does a little boy thing like spit boba beads from a fat straw onto high-up signs on the street and try to anticipate the exact targets.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

For the Sin of Envy

It’s been two weeks since my last confession. I mean my last blog confession. It’s only been one day since my confessions in synagogue on the Day of Atonement for the sin of…

…slander, and for the sin of gossip.
…for the sin of selfishness.
…for the sin of indulging evil thoughts, and for the sin of lust.
…for the sin of not hungering and thirsting for righteousness, and for the sin of being poor in spirit.
...for the sin of speaking foolish words, and for the sin of not controlling my tongue.
…for the sin of being proud and for the sin of lacking zeal.
…for the sin of not being quick to forgive, and for the sin of holding resentments.
…and for the sin of eating a peanut butter Balance Bar on the fast day so that I could file a story on deadline without fainting…

…and miscellaneous others. By the way, for high holidays services, we joined the congregation of the synagogue led by the cantor who married my sister earlier this summer. And it was such a rich, song-dominated, warm experience that evoked my eleven years of Jewish summer camp in Malibu—one of the great blessings of my childhood and adolescence—more vividly then anything else since.

(Something else evoked summer camp recently too: At the Abbot-Kinney Cool Kid festival, we ran into a fab girl who had been a fellow camper back in those days, who I always thought was like the best, funniest, most outgoing version of me on a good hair day. And she’s still as awesome as all that, so it was such a kick to see her.)

Anyway, I was moved to confess here again when I got delivered to my inbox today a Snapfish photo album containing pictures of a minutes-old child belonging to an old flame. By all rights, he shouldn’t even know how to reach me. But he still does, and here’s why.

To start from the beginning: In college, I spent a couple months dating (well, it was more like “hanging out,” since as close as anyone came to going on proper dates in Berkeley was having a face-size hummus sandwich at Intermezzo or sitting on Sproul Plaza and listening to the drum circle and talking smack about how passersby reeked of patchouli.) a fellow film student who I’d really started to like, by the time a mutual friend told me he’d had a girlfriend the whole time. Naturally it should have been over, severed cleanly, right at the moment I’d paged him 4-1-1 (ha!) to confirm that it was true. But it lingered on as things do, until it got really ugly, and we’d hiked up to the Big C one night, and he was distraught and told me up on that hill he’d have to tell her the truth, and when we came down, he went straight to her house, if I recall, and did just that. It was high drama, and she was beside herself, and moved away or something, and the details are sketchy, but he followed her out of town, and I didn’t have contact with him for years. Until.

It was winter in New York two years ago and I was cold and I was trolling Friendster, and there he was, married, with a baby. I wrote him to say it was nice to see him settled and happy. Within two emails it came out that he loved his daughter very much—a beautiful biracial girl with wild, light curly hair, huge eyes, and a Christmas birthday—but his marriage was a disaster.

He’d gotten that girl from our college years to take him back—and then he’d gone and married her.

I’ll have to skim over a couple months spent rapt by the weird sham of an electronic affair I’d had with him after we got back in touch, because I’m not proud of it. But I was lonesome, and I envied him his life: He drove his sensible sedan back to his family in his warm condo every night. And he envied me my life: single, totally unencumbered, responsible only to myself, spent money on shoe sales and not diapers, went to parties in New York for a living (never mind that I rented a frigid apartment where I lived alone and never had enough heat or hot water or enough electricity to run my space heater without blowing the fuse, and then when I invariably did, having to pray to god that my super was in town so he could unlock the gate in the sidewalk and flip the fuse box down there so the lights would come on again). It was a perfect storm of mutual jealousies and intense history.

I asked him one day why he married that girl, with whom he fought all the time, and who didn’t seem to make him happy, and who he didn’t seem to make happy, and who hadn't made him happy enough seven years earlier to keep him from cheating. “I just wanted so badly to win,” he said, about the years he spent monomaniacally trying to get her back. “I lost track of what it was I was fighting for.”

This weekend his wife delivered their second child, a son. They’d decided to try for another child when they had a period of upswing in their relationship in the winter. He doubts now that it was a good decision, but he will be a good father, I’m sure. Insofar as you can be a good father to a child while failing to communicate honestly with his mother.

From my reconnection with him, I've really learned the lesson about the grass not being greener on the other side. But an even more valuable one is the one about making sure you know good and well what you're fighting for before you dedicate your life to that pursuit—because you just might get what you fought for.

Sunday, September 17, 2006

Seasonal Affective Dialing

The other evening I used my stuck-in-traffic time to call a kinky-haired actor I used to go out with in New York. My call was completely out of the blue, and there was no time elapsed between inkling and execution (I handle a lot of decisions this way—dubious). The conversation could have gone any which way—we haven’t seen each other since our last date was pervaded by an icky sense of doom sometime around last December. But it was really, unexpectedly, warm and gratifying.

One night last winter, he and I had met up in Union Square, from where we would walk to dinner on Avenue C. The red-and-white-striped booths that comprise Union Square’s annual holiday shopping bazaar were set up and twinkling with white lights. He took my hand (which for me was a paradise since New York winters were tough for me and I always fantasized about having a bigger hand into which to deposit my cold and gloved littler hand, but most winter days this was just a fantasy). Not more than a few paces from there we’d run into the kinky-haired actor’s father. His family was from New Jersey, and still lived there, except for his brother who was a lawyer in Midtown. And here was the dad, planning to go to the movies alone after work (since the mom was in Europe on book publishing business, if I recall), offering instead to take us to dinner (which we—or he—appropriately declined).

The kinky-haired actor lived in a city where he had these roots and this potential to run into a parent—and I had nothing more than a few years’ worth of roots in town. No family and only one friend who knew I existed before I turned 25 and went off to grad school. (And only I knew that I’d had a lot of more confident, more carefree times before I materialized in New York).

I think I was incredibly jealous.

So flash forward to our phone conversation on Thursday night and he’s asking me about L.A. and I’m saying it’s great and I’ve got so much history here, and all of my old friends who knew every detail and nuance (and who knew all about the happier times, and who where there as they were happening)—and my parents too. And I told him how I thought it was really enviable that he ran into his father that time, and how now I live in a place where I can just go get a carton of milk with my mom if I need milk, and that I’d just done that today. He said he’d just done that with his mom too.

I wonder if he knows I wouldn’t have left New York when I’d had the opportunity if we’d stayed together a little longer.

Then my phone beeps low battery, and I’ve got to go anyway, so I tell him that even though I meet lots of people, I don’t easily forget the people with whom I spent the kind of time that I spent with him. He echoed that sentiment emphatically. And he said he hoped it was reasonable to think we might get a drink or a coffee when I’m in New York in November—right around the time of year when we’d met last year, and had our marathon first date, during which we’d sat in Tompkins Square Park and talked about being Jewish and falling in love while leaves fell on our curly heads and we brushed them away.

Sunday, September 10, 2006

Oh my God! The Most Amazing! Sensational! Traumatic! Heart Rending! Exciting! Thrilling! Finish in the History of College Football!

That's the way announcer Joe Starkey called the end of the 1982 Cal vs. Stanford Big Game, when Cal used an unreasonable number of questionable laterals and ran back the kick with no time on the clock--when the Stanford band was already on the field in premature celebration of victory--finally knocking out the tuba player in the endzone to win the game.

"The Bears have won! The Bears have won! The Bears have won! Oh my god! The most amazing, sensational, traumatic, heart rending, exciting, thrilling finish in the history of college football! California has won...the Big Game...over Stanford. Oh excuse me for my [hoarse] voice, but I have never, never seen anything like it in the history...if I have ever seen any game in my life! The Bears have won it!"

It's an oh-the-humanity broadcast moment. And I swear it saturates me with emotion and makes me cry every time I hear it (which will be more often now that some commercial that runs during NFL games has appropriated that clip).

I want to make a point about college football here. There's nothing like it. Particularly when you go to a school like Berkeley, which, even when it sucks at football (say, during all of the years when I was a student and had season tickets), it's still number one at man-to-man combat. When you can't count on a victory, you can at least count on a good old-fashioned, rush-the-field riot, with felt from the opposing team's ridiculous mascot flying through the air, alongside aloft ballcaps and cascades of smuggled-in beer. A mad we-love-this-place frenzy.

And Cal's Memorial Stadium is such an amazing place to be, all snuggled in the hills, with its 75,000 fans, its view of the campanile, and the canon on the hill. And there's that Berkeley-in-the-fall weather that will always, always remind me of taking a walk with a certain fiery Mexican architect (then an architecture student) and an optimistic, pregnant lawyer (then a psychology and political science student, not in the least pregnant at the time, but definitely as optimistic)--the same girls who accused me of having a you-get-the-gist attitude, and who were right about that--down College Avuene, crunching leaves underfoot, to pick out our Halloween costumes from the crowded racks of second-hand stores. And of the thrill of college football season. And of being young and of being hopeful and of being happy.

Now that college football season is back, it brings with it reminders of that optimism. Reminders of youth and happiness and hope. Hope that even an outcome as absurd as the 1982 Big Game--as unimaginably improbable as it is--could actually happen. And that the most amazing! sensational! exciting! thrilling! victory could be yours if you believe, and if you never, ever give up.

Friday, September 08, 2006

You're Blessed With a Purpose, Supa Star

I’m a little obsessed with the e-newsletter Daily Candy. Even if I don’t love all the products those gals write about, I love their fun turns of phrase—and that great formula they’ve got: open with a naughty or kitschy pop culture reference from mid-80’s to mid-90’s, discuss greatness of some product/resto/Web site in two paragraphs, close with fun one-line kicker alluding to first pop culture reference. Oh, and to the left is that darling illustration of a hip girl with big sunglasses balancing her purse on her knee while she digs for something in there, or sitting on a bar stool, or drinking milk from the carton in pink slippers. And all this comes irresistibly packaged with a punny subject line like, “Supa Star” (about a label called Supayana), or “Clip Art” (about a new nail salon) or “Chic Happens” (about a personal shopping service). Gets me every time.

But basically, Daily Candy is all just about stuff you can buy, stuff to fill your closet, stuff to make you look sexy, stuff to drink, that kind of thing. And I guess I just felt like I needed more inbox stimulation than that.

That’s when, maybe three years ago, I started subscribing to DailyOm, which as far as I can tell, is a Daily Candy ripoff that uses the same basic formula to discuss spiritual things. Hippie stuff like meditation and connecting with the earth through rocks and things. Positivity. Self and community empowerment. Self love. And instead of the cute girl balancing her handbag, there’s always the same drawing of leafy bamboo. And the typical subject lines are more like, “Alive in Joy,” “Sacred Sentinels,” and “Finding Your Pinnacle.” Since I started getting these emails, I’ve forced myself to read them every day. (I figure it’s only fair to make myself moderate my Daily Candy- and New York Best Bets-reading time with time spent reading about something I can’t buy. Why can't I buy it?! Dang!)

DailyOm emails are always written in that fortune cookie or horoscope style that is easy to interpret and that you find totally resonant if you’re going through something in your life. If I was thinking about my ‘Tross, I’d get a DailyOm about breaking away and I would gulp down a tear or two and feel really touched. Or if I was trying to decide whether or not to move across country, I’d get a DailyOm about making positive change or dealing with tough decisions. I like to forward these emails around to my friends who are also dealing with stuff. Truth is, DailyOm isn’t very well written. And it’s really much, much too long (usually around 400 words compared to Daily Candy’s 200). So I get kind of bored (like I’m reading about staying focused, and I have to stop halfway through to read other emails). And often there are errant exclamation marks in the middle of words. But still, I think a few minutes of reflection every morning never hurt anyone.

I recently got an Om about purpose:

Blessed With A Purpose
Your Life's Work

Many people are committed to professions and personal endeavors they never consciously planned to pursue. They attribute the shape of their lives to circumstance, taking on roles they feel are tolerable. Each of us, however, has been blessed with a purpose. Your life's work is the assemblage of activities that allows you to express your intelligence and creativity, live in accordance with your values, and experience the profound joy of simply being yourself. Unlike traditional work, which may demand more of you than you are willing to give, life's work demands nothing but your intent and passion for that work. Yet no one is born with an understanding of the scope of their purpose. If you have drifted through life, you may feel directionless. Striving to discover your life's work can help you realize your true potential and live a more authentic, driven life.

To make this discovery, you must consider your interests in the present and the passions that moved you in the past. You may have felt attracted to a certain discipline or profession throughout your young life only to have steered away from your aspirations upon reaching adulthood. Or you may be harboring an interest as of yet unexplored. Consider what calls to you and then narrow it down. If you want to work with your hands, ask yourself what work will allow you to do so. You may be able to refine your life's work within the context of your current occupations. If you want to change the world, consider whether your skills and talents lend themselves to philanthropic work. Taking stock of your strengths, passions, beliefs, and values can help you refine your search for purpose if you don't know where to begin. Additionally, in your daily meditation, ask the universe to clarify your life's work by providing signs and be sure to pay attention.

Since life's journey is one of evolution, you may need to redefine your direction on multiple occasions throughout your lifetime. For instance, being an amazing parent can be your life's work strongly for 18 years, then perhaps you have different work to do. Your life's work may not be something you are recognized or financially compensated for, such as parenting, a beloved hobby, or a variety of other activities typically deemed inconsequential. Your love for a pursuit, however, gives it meaning. You'll know you have discovered your life's work when you wake eager to face each day and you feel good about not only what you do but also who you are.

It’s no Supa Star, but it’s fun to think about. Now if only I could buy it.

Monday, September 04, 2006

Everyone Comes to New York for the Jam, but Nobody Buys It

On a beach towel in Santa Monica yesterday, I was reminded how glad I am that I’ve left New York. But it wasn’t just the Pacific sand that reminded me; it was the article I finally got around to reading in New York magazine there—“Some Dark Thoughts on Happiness,” by Jennifer Senior, about the scientific study of happiness and what sort of people attain it. In short, it’s not New Yorkers.

"From the point of view of the happiness literature, New Yorkers seem to have been mysteriously seduced into a way of life that conspires, in almost every way, against the basic level of contentment. The large points first: Most happiness researchers aggree that being surrounded by friends and family is one of the most crucial determinants of our well-being. Yet in New York, as surprisingly neighborly a city as it is, is still predicated on a certain principle of atomization. Being married would help in this instance, obviously. But New York City’s percentage of unmarried adults is nine points higher than the national average, at 52 points.

Then there’s the questions of the hedonic treadmill [the undending hunger for the next acquisition], such a demonic little term, so apt. Isn’t that what New York, the city of the 24-hour gym is? More charitably put, one could say that New York is a city of aspirants, the destination people come to to realize dreams. And of course we should feel indebted to the world's dreamers (and I thank each and every one for creating jet travel, indoor plumbing, and The Simpsons) but there’s a line between heartfelt aspiration and a mindless state of yearning.

Economists have a term for those who seek out the best options in life. They call them maximizers. And maximizers, in practically every study one can find, are far more miserable than people who are willing to make do (economists call these people satisficers)… New York doesn’t just attract ambitious neurotics; it creates them. It also creates a desire for things we don’t need—which not coincidentally is the business of Madison Avenue—and, as a corollary, pointless regrets, turning us all into a city of counterfactual historians, men and women who obsessively imagine different and better outocomes for ourselves.”

And the most resonant point the author made discussed a study in which a Columbia researcher went to a high-end gourmet store and set out samples of six different kinds of jam. She promised a substantial discount to shoppers who wanted to buy a jar of their preferred jam after sampling. The following week, she set up the same sampling station, only with 24 kinds of jam instead of six. The weekend there were six jams, 30 percent of samplers decided to buy one; the weekend there had been 24 jams, only 3 percent of shoppers bought. Essentially, too many options mess with people. This is what New York does to people’s minds. And to their dating habits.

"Everyone comes here for the jam, but no one buys it."

That all the men I was dating in New York knew exactly how many choices they had for women (and that they always seemed to be looking over my shoulder at the next one coming down the block who might have something on me) and that those choices were basically infinite, was a particularly cruel punishment for me because I had already punished myself earlier in life by sticking with a very long relationship with my ‘Tross who knew—because of his easy charm and the fact of his rock stardom—he had a million options, and could consequently never commit to a single one. One of his dearest friends once told me, “I wish [your ‘Tross] would spend more time with you. It’s bad for a man to have too many choices. He’s standing at a buffet table and sampling so much he’s making himself sick.” Always a sampler, never a buyer.

My ‘Tross in Oakland of course proves that it’s not just New York men who are crippled by their glut of opportunities. But back in L.A., I’ve already met men who aren’t. And this is encouraging.

If everyone comes to New York for the jam, but no one buys it, maybe here I’ll find the right buyer for my jam. That is, if anyone’s ready for this jelly.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Good Things are Trying to Catch You

So I’m at the gym doing the awesome workout known as body sculpt, having the typical internal convo:

You know what I should do, I should start writing an additional letter next to the “G” I mark on my calendar every time I go to the gym, so like “Y” for yoga or “P” for pilates or “S” for sculpt so I can see how hard I’m pushing myself...dang, I always forget to take out my gum before this class, watch me choke on it, I wonder if anyone in here knows the Heimlich maneuver, I bet they don’t and no one would notice me choking with all this music and movement anyway, I’d die... love the redesign of Dictionary.com, it’s so sleek and spare, it's kind of like after NewYorkMetro.com’s redesign...this is my jam, Mary J. is my personal diva, love her, fellas tell your lady she’s the one / ladies tell your man he’s got you loooocked…ooh it’s Mariah now, love her too, I don't care what anyone says, haha, the instructor just said I love Mariah, I swear to y’all, if I were straight I’d try to marry her, that’s so brilliant, haha, I wonder why haven’t I ever taken his class before, he’s got a fun Aussie accent, reminds me of [redacted], wonder what he’s up to now…
Nothing out of the ordinary. Until. I’m walking toward my car in the parking lot after class, and even from far away I can tell there’s something unusual about it: something’s sitting on the roof of the car. Odd-shaped black thing. Crumpled plastic bag? It’s not until I get right up on it that I can see it’s a four-inch high black statuette of Buddha. Someone put a Buddha on top of my car and left it for me to find. This was the best part of my day by a mile.

Last week, I’d gotten Chinese take-out and my fortune had read, “Look around. Good things are trying to catch you.” I put this fortune in my wallet alongside a favorite photo of my best girlfriends on the beach in Mexico on my 28th birthday. And when I open my wallet I am just charmed to see these two wonderful things snuggling together behind the plastic window.

Anyway, the Buddha? The fortune? Together they must mean that good things are really trying to catch me, keinahora, if I would only drive slower. (It's a 1998 Ford Escort. How fast can it go?) Anyway, I can do that! I will let all the good things catch up! Yessssssss!

Saturday, August 26, 2006

Down Dog, Interrupted

I’m in yoga this morning, just enjoying a gentle readjustment in the child’s pose, when the fire alarm goes off, transforming the room from the quiet sanctuary of self love and relaxation that I’d really, really needed today into a manic disco of flashing white lights and sirens and some dude saying muffled things over the P.A. system. It really is a classic summation of the experience of being me: The girl tries to relax, but the circumstances of her life make other plans.

And that’s OK though. I know I suck at yoga, because (I am strong but not terribly flexible and because) my mind does not like to shut off. The business of focusing the breath and letting the mind be clear is not my strong suit. Still, I enjoy yoga whenever I manage to get there because I love the idea that I’m doing something pure and purely for me, and my motives for that period of time are totally solid and uncorrupted and there’s no hip-hop with mean lyrics playing in the room (I love that stuff in spite of myself, so it’s usually on the speakers wherever I am) and I’m not investigating people I shouldn’t on Friendster or watching crime scene video on Court TV’s Forensic Files. It really promotes in me a sense of love—mostly love for self, but more than that too.

When I lived on East 10th, there was a yoga studio on the block. (until it closed, because who could afford a space on that block anyway? Certainly I couldn’t afford my own apartment.) And in that studio there was a teacher who always encouraged us to silently dedicate our practice for that day to someone in our lives whom we loved and was struggling and was therefore in need of good thoughts and positive energy. A dear old friend and a neighbor on that block—a very small and brilliant Korean girl with a nervous streak to rival any Jew I’ve met including myself—also used to go to that class. One day, she’d gone in the morning and I’d gone at lunchtime, and over dinner she’d said, “Girl, I dedicated my practice to you today.” And I’d said, “Oh girl, I dedicated my practice to you!” And it made me feel so warm and so loved and so grateful for my friends that the body movement part of the class was almost irrelevant.

Among the reasons I’d so needed the relaxation today: Last week my mom discovered my blog. And my guess is that her response was not unlike many mothers who discover their children’s blogs: She was “scandalized” and found my “values” questionable and actually said that I was not likely to ever meet “Mr. Right” with my objectionable values all up on the Internet. I hope she is not right about the last bit, but I know she is not right about the first bit. I do have good and honest values, and in fact I think they are as traditional as my mom’s. This is mostly about my struggle to make heads or tails of the men I’ve met along the pursuit of real love and respect and mutual admiration and attraction. And I only wish in my discussions I could be as honest as Megan or Capella.

My mom—who was nearly 30 before she was married (an old maid in her generation) and a PhD in biology, and who is a very outspoken woman in spite of her diminutive size (seriously, look out)—always taught her daughters that the squeaky wheel gets the oil, and to be strong, and to believe we could do whatever we wanted to do. So I will try to understand her visceral reaction to seeing her daughter reduce her own life to simple quips about boys and shoes (this is not the case, but this is only what she saw in her shock). But I think I will give this blogging business a little more of a go before I decide that what I’ve actually done is reduce my life to a series of punch lines about boys and shoes.

Another reason I was in need of some relaxation this morning: Turns out the delightfully easygoing Midwestern man who recently became my ex-boyfriend did have a fab time at his high school reunion. (Did I mention he was captain of his soccer team and was his high school's 6-foot-4 prom king with all-American good looks, green eyes, and freckles? He thinks he mostly won because he split the black vote. But if I’d have had a vote, I bet I would have picked him too.) A fab time that culminated with him making out with a fellow alum in a McDonald’s parking lot, followed by breakfast at a diner across the street. This bit of news actually struck me as almost retro-hot, and didn’t upset me too much. (This is probably because the girl lives in Detroit and is not likely to fly to L.A. to make out with him in local McDonald’s parking lots in the future.)

But I do still have a fondness for that man. And I respect the things about him that probably won him his prom king reign: his easily accessible wit, unambiguous smile, integrity, interest and aptitude in sports on TV and in the park, unwillingness to even pretend he was listening to my home decorating tales, sensitivity almost exclusively on the inside (except for an inexplicable favoritism for romantic comedies like Must Love Dogs), and all-around totally-from-Mars dudeness. Apparently this particular set of qualities does not a good long-term match for me make. I spent a lot of time preparing turkey sandwiches (“sandos,” as we called them, with extra avocado, which he loved and called “green gold”) for dinner (for him—I'm a vegetarian) in front of World Cup soccer or a movie on TV—which I enjoyed very much. But maybe my destiny is to do less of that and more of something else. (Although I’m not sure about this, because I watch King of the Hill with an envy for Hank Hill that is deeply unreasonable.)

After returning from an awesome summer-long Indiana Jones-like dig in Turkey, my tiny, brilliant, neurotic Korean girlfriend broke up with her long-term, dude-like boyfriend (whose primary ambition included a big-screen plasma TV for Eagles football) on the grounds of a similar sort of incompatibility. (Last Valentine’s Day, she felt like going to Medieval Times in the Bronx or wherever it was, just because she thought it would be a fun adventure. He wanted to put on a button-down shirt and go for dinner and a show in the city; this was more like his kind of adventure.) And we both think the changes in our love lives are sound and smart. But there is something very missable about a comfortable, settled life with a man like that.

Anyway, after standing around outside the Equinox gym in Westwood for a while (I was just glad I wasn’t the guy in the robe whose massage had been interrupted by the fire alarm), we resumed our yoga practice and eventually finished with a series of three cross-legged ohms and the instructor gave us each a little forehead massage using a dab of rose water. And it seems to me that this is what it’s all about: We encounter lots of noise, but if we rededicate ourselves, we always return to something sweet and soft and fulfilling. Or something like that.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Docksiders: Don't Do It

This is a story about docksider shoes.

But first, back up. In New York I dated a Brooklyn painter who behaved toward me in such an infuriatingly disrespectful manner that, when our summer fling ended two (three?) summers ago, I didn’t think of him at all fondly when I thought of him at all. Then, naturally, in the days before I left the city for L.A., we had one slightly scandalous eleventh-hour night in Williamsburg—actually, for me it was a kiss goodbye to the chapter in my life in which I made out with boys with paint under their fingernails in their million-story walkup studios with broken windows—and the result was that I left my favorite Neiman Marcus leather gloves with the cashmere lining at the bar where we’d been. It was his borough, so he picked them up for me, said he would drop them by my box-filled Manhattan apartment, never did. I moved to L.A. and he never mailed them like he said he would. (“Don’t you know I have pieces in the Armory Show? I’m really very busy.”) Instead, he pawned them off on a friend who’d recently moved to Hollywood and could give them to me.

So the friend loses one glove somewhere along the way, and calls me to introduce himself and say he’s a moron for being so careless, and he’d like to take me shopping for new gloves. The whole thing seemed positive at first. How gentlemanly and how gracious of him to want to return the gloves to me, when his friend certainly hadn’t been in any hurry to be dutiful about that. But then: Was this shopping trip going to be a date? Sure sounded like it. If so, first of all, I had a boyfriend. (That situation would change quickly, as it turned out—but that’s unrelated.) Second of all, was this guy pimping me to his friend in L.A.? Like writing my number on a bathroom wall?

Anyway, what the hell, right? Fast forward through a lot of miscellaneous details, and I find myself briefly dating this painter’s friend—in spite of the thing I figured was a for-sure deal-breaker when I first saw him: docksiders. Now, I appreciate that he’s from Brookline, Massachusetts, and that he went to some kind of fancy boarding school. But there is no excuse for docksiders. Particularly not when paired with—wait for it—brown socks and shorts.

I realize that since I’ve already criticized one potential suitor for his pleated-front pants, some readers might think I really don’t want happiness at all—but that instead I want well dressed. Not true. I just think things like docksiders and pleated-front pants can be indicators of a lack of self-awareness, social stiffness, and other things more grave.

And there was indeed something else even more inexcusable and inexplicable. This turned out to be the most flatulent man I’ve ever met—possibly the most flatulent man in America. I forgive a lot; I really do. I am past the point of rejecting every man for some small, insignificant thing he does that I can’t stand. My mind and my heart are open these days. But, come on. At first it happened in the middle of the night—the first night we spent together—when he’d gone to the bathroom to do his business. Completely excusable: It was his own house, and it’s a perfectly natural bodily function, and he was polite enough to do it behind the bathroom door. So then he comes back into bed and keeps doing it. Hrm. But I can still excuse that—right?—on the grounds that maybe he thinks I’m asleep (although it’s hard to imagine that anyone could sleep through all that). So then I have a small dinner party, and he spares my guests, but when they leave he reserves his flatulence privately for me. Repeat that same scenario at a dinner at his house later that week: He’d never do in front of his friends what he’d do alone with me—a woman he was presumably courting—and with no request to be excused, and no explanation, except, “I was just born this way! Haha!” After two weeks of enduring this with patience, I said, “Huh. It’s interesting that you do that in front of me, given that we just met.” He said, “We met two weeks ago.” Scandalous, really. I like a man who treats a lady like a lady. At least for the first month.

I’m sure there are some lessons to be learned here. One of them must have to do with attraction versus repulsion. Here was a man I really wanted to really want to be with. Gloriously interesting job, a terrific adventurer, well traveled and well read, smart, a good blend of silly and serious, borderline O.C.D. (this for me is a plus), interesting family history. So I tried to overlook the fact that the docksiders/brown socks/shorts combo really repulsed me. (By the way, I think he thought his family’s wealth and its legacy, and his interesting job made him an uncontestable gem in the eyes of all women, but I could be wrong about his vanity.) I was getting good at overlooking other icky bits too. But then you introduce the flatulence, and there’s only so much a girl can bear to force her feelings. When you reject someone based on lame (albeit gag-worthy) stuff like docksiders, you may be sabotaging yourself, rather than protecting yourself from a life with someone who does that thing you didn’t like—because you’d get over it since it didn’t matter anyway. But if you’d rather turn the other way than kiss the man in bed with you—no matter how many millions his art family gave to the Met—you’ve got to cut your losses. The Forcing-It Balance is a slippery slope, like the Wear-Down Theory (which I’ve seen from both sides, and I’m still trying to figure out if it can lead to a sustainable relationship—but that’s another matter).

[Full disclosure: He would later send the "let's-not-do-this-anymore" email, not me.]

The other thing about Docksiders is that he reminded me—from the very beginning—of a man (a boy, really) with whom my sister once tried to set me up, and with whom I went on one date to see the Hold Steady at the Bowery Ballroom, and whom I really, really wanted to like, but couldn’t. This was mostly on account of his tendency to send me text messages like, “Dancing with self in room to Madonna!” I mean, it’s cute…but we just met. So be a man.

Monday, August 21, 2006

Slightly Delayed, Essentially on Track

I've now been in three wedding parties--two of which happened this summer, and one of which happened on Saturday. And in my experience, after each one of these has ended--following so much lead up, preparation, excitement, problem solving, and dress fittings--I've been left with the same feeling: that these girls better have picked the right man, because this is who they've got in the quiet when the party finally ends. (I remember hearing a horrifying story about a former colleague who'd wanted so much to have a wedding that she'd found the first red-faced Kiwi who would tolerate her, picked nuptial package B at some Marriott near the freeway in Pleasanton or similar, did the deed, which amounted to some sad facsimile of what she's dreamt of as a little girl, and then immediately wondered WTF she had just done and why.)

So anyway, here I am at the Destination OAK sports bar at the Oakland airport, with my once-lovely navy ribbon-wrapped bouquet (freesia, dahlias, rosemary, and some other things I can't recognize in shades of red, orange, and fuschia--all looking much worse for the wear by now) by my side on the shiny granite bar, very excited and hopeful for my glamorous girlfriend who picked the right one and is now a Mrs., in the next phase of her life, enjoying the quiet with her man on a lavish honeymoon in Italy. And I'm making my own way home--slightly delayed, according to the monitor, but essentially on track. Ahem.

The wedding itself was a fab spectacle, complete with the kind of wild, flailing dancing that people can get away with at weddings; fun funny-face antics in a black and white photo booth; and the whole late-night crew getting kicked out when the folks in charge closed the place. San Francisco City Hall, with its dramatic marble center staircase under its opulent rotunda, is an extraordinary space.

This is the first time I have been to the Bay Area in years. (After all, my 'Tross lives in this hood, and I couldn't stand the heat, so I stayed out of the kitchen for a while.) And as I was coming over the Bay Bridge from the city earlier, I was wondering: What's more beautiful than this place? And not just because of the bay and the hills, and Coit tower, and UC Berkeley's campanile on the horizon--but because there was a time when I lived here that I believed anything was possible.

Literally anything--like how a kid thinks he could count all the grains of sand on the beach in a day. Like I believed that I could carry on a kooky five-year sham of a relationship--with due respect to the man who made it such an intense adventure--and emerge as if no time had passed, because I'd be forever young, natch. That, for the same reason, I didn't need to bother with sunscreen or eye cream (not that I do that now either, but I compensate with guilt). That I could study only the things at Cal that fulfilled my existential curiosities, and not need to bother with anything that might actually result in me learning some marketable skill, and still be able to land some great job out of school because my excellent character and potential would be obvious to and desired by any employer. (In reality it was eight months of insufferable, soul-crushing unemployment after undergrad that made me feel very small and unwanted.)

And I wouldn't have done those years any other way. And remembering that blissful anything-is-possible time in my life makes this place--the Bay Area with its Coit tower and its campanile and its bridges and its Fell Street--for me even more beautiful. And while I don't still believe it is possible to count all the grains of sand on the beach ever, let alone in a day--I still believe that anything, within reason, is possible for people who believe it too.

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Debbie Sings the Hits

My 10-year high school reunion passed last year, for me quite unceremoniously. I went to one high school (North Hollywood magnet) for 10th grade, where I had good friends. And then I transferred to another school (Beverly Hills High, said only in a hushed voice), from which I would graduate after two more years, to which I never felt connected—and where I made exactly two good friends who are still very close to me. So it was hardly a tough decision not to fly across country to try to manufacture some emotion in a creepy La Meridien ballroom.

My ‘Tross had a different experience. He was born and bred in the Bay Area, and still living in Oakland with much pride when it came time for his 20-year Berkeley High School reunion two years ago. So he went. And I wasn’t there, so I don’t know the details, but here’s my impression of the message he took away from it: Contrary to the cliché about life being short, it’s actually not short at all (barring an unexpected tragedy). It’s long, and it can be tedious. You’ve got to be in it with the right person for the right reasons, or at least not in it with the wrong person for the wrong reasons. You have to make choices in life and in love that are sustainable and won’t eventually bore you or ruin you—insofar as you can ever see any of this coming (which very often you can when you don't ignore obvious things). He saw people who had been married and divorced and have teenage kids. And married again. Or whatever their circumstances. Life is long, things happen.

We have this wicked tendency to front load our lives, and when you see yourself barreling toward 30—as I am—you want to keep yourself from going crazy on your birthday by making sure you’ve done everything, in spite of your suspicion that it doesn’t matter if you have or haven’t. (By the way, my older sister’s 30th birthday a year ago went over OK, without any emotional breakdowns. Except that my doting auntie in Delaware hosted a party for which she bought a mylar balloon that said on it “Still Wild at 30!” This one detail understandably made my sister want to jump out a window.)

I had a counselor at summer camp named Debbie. I think she may have been my counselor at least two years in a row, because I remember her so well. I remember her figure was very voluptuous, and she used to show it off at the pool in a red one-piece bathing suit with black mesh triangles at the thighs and cleavage, and I remember she was sweet as pie and treated her campers like real friends, and I remember that she used to put on a karaoke track in her boom box and sing Madonna’s “Crazy for You” for us while we went to sleep at night in our cabin. She had a voice like a bell. Because I imagined that, as a counselor, Debbie was so much older than we were as campers, I’m sure I thought she was a total grown-up. I probably thought she had a cool car (a Volkswagon Cabriolet maybe? Chrysler LaBaron convertible?), paid a mortgage on a great house, had a fab boyfriend or husband with an awesome mid-‘80’s hairdo, and was generally all set up. But in reality, she was probably 17 when I was 10. So maybe she’s only 36 now. And maybe she still doesn’t have everything all set up. Because I certainly don’t yet. And that’s OK. That’s B.R.U.N.C.H.!

Anyway, while I will be wearing an elegant floor-length navy silk dupioni bridesmaid gown at a very important wedding in San Francisco this weekend, my delightfully easygoing Midwest ex-boyfriend will be attending his 10-year high school reunion in Champaign. I wonder what he’ll find there.

Iced Coffee Glut

The delightfully easygoing Midwest man who recently became my ex-boyfriend did have a select few things that he liked to have just so: he ordered his Starbucks [whatever they call the medium size] coffee in a [whatever they call the large size] cup every day (presumably so it wouldn’t spill in the car on the way to work, although I never thought to ask why), and he always selected the baby four-tined Ikea fork from the drawer full of better, five-tined forks because he liked how its diminutive size made him feel like he was getting to eat more food.

I liked that he had at least a handful of preferences and needs like that, because I find it comforting to have things just so too—although for me this is the rule and not the exception. In the winters, when I lived in on East 10th Street and First Avenue, I walked up First in the mornings to get my coffee (large, light with skim, three Sweet-n-Lows) from the Dunkin’ Donuts at 12th Street, before I got to the L train at 14th. In the summers though, when it was nice enough to walk all the way to work (I am the rare freak for whom it can’t ever get too hot or too humid), I walked over to the Second Avenue Dunkin’ Donuts, and got the iced version of the light-with-skim-and-three-Sweet-n-Lows coffee. I took a lot of pleasure in my morning routine—as I think most people do—and I enjoyed the semiannual changing of the coffee seasons as just one part of the fun about changing seasons. New thinking, new attitude, new possibilities.

Here in L.A., as people like to say, there are no seasons. There is always only iced coffee. And I really love iced coffee, but what’s my motivation if I get to have it all the time? It’s so easy and comfy here; it’s a little bit freakish. Like how, if the two-liter bottles of Diet Coke are on sale for 10 for $10, I can buy 10 and just roll the shopping cart out to my car with all them in there, and then drive the car to my house, and then bring the sodas to the fridge, and the ones that don’t fit in the fridge can fit in any number of empty cabinets until I’m ready to drink them (which will be, like, tomorrow, because I drink a lot of Diet Coke). For me there is the illusion here that I don’t have to force myself to do great things because great things are not happening at a frenetic pace around me, taunting me. I’ve come to realize that this is indeed an illusion. And maybe it’s a relief of an illusion, compared to the pressure of New York (where people may not be doing things that are any greater than the things folks are doing here, but they’re breaking more of a sweat and being louder about it, while drinking and smoking more). I got complacent. Complacent—and legitimately happy too, in a comfortable, off-duty way that I haven’t enjoyed in a while (thank you, easygoing Midwestern man). Generally speaking, complacency may not be a bad thing, although I’m not sure yet.

Recently, when we were driving on Melrose, we passed something, some historic Hollywood landmark—I can’t remember what now—and I remarked to my Midwestern man that that was a place I used to go to in high school. And he said he thought it must have been very cool to grow up in L.A., as I did (he was brought up in Champaign, Illinois, and moved to L.A., as people do, to try to sell scripts). I guess it was cool, but it also corrupted me: it maybe stripped me of my ability to see for what it is the energy and vitality in this great city. Mostly I just feel like it's home.

Of course no one living in New York was actually from New York; that was what I understood. But I thought most of those folks were from L.A. It turns out, most folks aren’t really from L.A. either, but they came here in search of ambitious and good and beautiful things. That’s what I’m back here searching for too. Iced coffee and all.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Mean Girls

Last night I read a handful of pages from a blog so horrible it burned itself right into my eyeballs. This is the blog of a woman who thinks she’s better than all the women in the world—based on what she describes as her undeniably hot physical appearance, her level of education (four years of college), strong libido, financial stability (six months worth of savings), and interest in guns, gambling, and science fiction—and also better than the vast majority of the men, which makes it woefully hard for the poor girl to date, she says. “Quality dates quality,” she says, so she offers as a dating tip that most of the men who try to court her would be better off approaching fat, desperate, single mothers in need of U.S. citizenship—women more on their own level, she says.

This attitude would be quite bad enough if she didn’t also include many references to things that disprove her personal theories of greatness. I give as evidence this picture—which she self-selected and supplied as evidence of hotness—cropped tight on her chunky, unstylish, officey, suitable-for-wear-with-nude-pantyhose shoes. (I’m avoiding linking to the blog itself, because the last thing this miserable hussy needs is more support—and it seems she somehow makes her living through hits from her blog.)

Anyway, the point is, as I’ve gotten older, I’ve come to realize (contrary to my belief, say, in college) that I’m not better than anyone else. Matter of fact, no one is better than anybody else. Certainly not celebrities. (Simon Doonan says in Wacky Chicks: “We’ve done something silly…In the 1980s, for example, a collective screechy hysteria infected popular culture, and everybody rashly decided that movie actors were really, really, really important…We chose show biz folk. And then we sat there like puddings and inhaled all this drivel about the supposedly squintingly brilliant glam lives of these celebs, and we actually started to believe the hype.”) Certainly not homegirl with the blog. Certainly not rich people, or very attractive people, or even people who live on the coasts. (Although of this it has been admittedly hard to disavow myself.)

So the point is, I hope I never write anything here or anywhere that comes off as self important in the way that the lady miss Chunky Shoes writes hers. (Add this to the existing set of new blog anxieties.) This girl just wants a life filled with good words, a good man, family and friends, her lamentably undisciplined cat Cali, Raiders football, some cute home wares from Anthropologie, very tall shoes, Court TV, and so forth. So please, forgive me in advance, if it reads any other way.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Cool Like Dat

Here's the dilemma. Regrettably, I’ve come to learn that I’m kind of cool. And by "cool" here, I mean more or less hip to some stuff that the innovative and sometimes slightly subversive kids of the world are up to--even when I'm not doing it myself because I'm not interested, or for other reasons--and I have some attachment to snarky humor and irony. And I'm at least minimally culturally aware. I mean, I'm not too cool (I don't have bangs, for example, and when I did, in eighth grade, it was not cool), but I'm kind of cool, and I frequently wish I weren't cool at all. I have a friend, a sweet, sweet girl who sells advertising for a radio station in California's uncool Central Valley. A girl who is getting married soon to a man (definitely cute, based on photos I've seen, and presumably also kind and devoted to her) who manages a supermarket there. She has acrylic nails and buys home decor at Hallmark. I envy this wonderful, dear friend of mine her totally unselfconscious, irony-free life.

Rewind a few months. When I was living in the East Village, the landscape of first dates I had with cool boys was so vast, I can't even step back to adequately survey it. Musicians and painters and Oberlin grads galore. Boys who lived in very dirty converted industrial spaces in very bad neighborhoods. Boys who wore colorful Pumas that came from very, very limited editions. Boys who spun records, and boys who owned bars where other cool boys spun records. Anyway, needless to say the whole experience was exhausting, and unrewarding, and either they were fraudulent, or I behaved fraudulently when I was near them to impress them, or both. So I was essentially single, and painfully, the whole time I lived in New York. (N.B.: That bit about me being single all that time is basically a fib, on account of my ongoing long-distance dramas with my 'Tross in California, affectionately so called to shorten the nickname Albatross, which I got sick of saying after many hundreds and millions of times over five-plus years. But I digress.)

So eventually I thought all I really wanted was a totally uncool guy. After all, who wants cool as an exchange for a real and meaningful relationship? Certainly not me. At least not any more, now that I'm a grown up with nothing to prove except my own real happiness—and that only to myself. So I convinced myself that I wanted to meet just a nice, uncomplicated, irony-free man, maybe even someone who unselfconsciously held down an office job, and didn’t criticize or scrutinize stuff he deemed uncool, and then I could be happy.

Eventually I did meet a man like that. Sort of. I met a man who was so honest with himself and with me that I never felt insecure or unloved...even though it was much too early in our relationship to feel loved unconditionally, but I totally did, because he encouraged it. (That should have probably been the first red flag, but I tend to ignore those anyway.) He was an Ivy grad times three different schools. Jewish. Tall and handsome, with pretty, light eyes. From a good, loving family. Sent me dozens of postcards through the mail for no reason with little drawings on them. Man of my dreams, maybe? Maybe.

But then one day, we're talking, and I made some totally innocuous reference to Bobby Brown, husband of Whitney, singer of "Everybody's Humpin’ Around." Silence. This man didn't know who Bobby Brown was. There was no excuse for this. At six years older than me, and someone who grew up in this country, this man fit squarely in the demographic of people who have no excuse for not knowing who Bobby Brown is--except for a totally mind-blowing failure to understand (or participate in) pop culture.

Later, he would turn up for a date in pleated-front pants. And I would be mortified, and I would at that instant feel in my gut that we (I) couldn't recover from that. And we wouldn’t.

Now, I'm not a big Bobby Brown fan. Frankly, I don't care one way or the other about Bobby Brown. But I think people ought to be a part of the pop cultural conversation and know who he is. So it turns out--as I suspected--I don't need someone cool enough to own or work at a bar or play an instrument or wear limited-edition Pumas, but I would like someone aware enough to understand a passing, inconsequential reference to Bobby Brown. And I think my need for that kind of silliness is a curse--because what does it really matter?--but it is what it is and unfortunately there’s no changing it.

Anyway, it’s my prerogative.

Out to B.R.U.N.C.H.

News flash! Reading books is really awesome! And rewarding! My dark secret is that I don't read much, except for magazines, and even then, my guilt forces me to reveal, my favorite magazines--apart from the fab and inimitable New York--are more like catalogues (Lucky, Domino). I chalk this up to undiagnosed A.D.D. (and thank heaven I was never diagnosed because I didn't need one more complex), but it is what it is.*

Anyhow, yesterday, feeling very low, finally acknowledging the end of the good-but-not-good-enough relationship with the good and decent man who I liked very much but not enough, and allowing myself unhealthy explorations of people's MySpace pages totally unchecked for hours (this is one danger of working at home), I grabbed an unread book from my bookcase and took it outside by the pool. This book is Simon Doonan's Wacky Chicks: Life Lessons from Fearlessly Inappropriate and Fabulously Eccentric Women and it turned around my world view in 10 pages or less. This is Doonan's tribute to women who are out to lunch--or out to B.R.U.N.C.H. as it were, the belligerent, resilient, uninhibited, naughty, creative, and hilarious women of the world. These are women who have maintained their cool, risky individuality over the years of their lives and thrived precisely because of it, and not in spite of it. These are women unconcerned with prefab timelines for women's lives. This makes me feel good. And it’s all written in brilliant Doonanisms like "Feeling just a tad Oprahish..."

My goal is B.R.U.N.C.H. Well, first brunch, and then B.R.U.N.C.H. And not just on the weekends either.

*This really has been my secret shame. But I’m experimenting with blog honesty (blonesty?) and it still feels creepy.

Here Goes Nothing

Some years ago, when I started writing for a living, I stopped altogether writing for or about myself. These days I write about parties. (More specifically, I write about the flowers and table linens at parties, but we'll get to that, I'm sure.) Six months ago I moved to Los Angeles from New York to do the same. And since then, for a number of reasons (theories include: the extremely comfy yet unmotivating quality of Los Angeles and some short-lived but undeniable romantic contentment), I've not challenged myself to do anything especially great, and I recently realized how unbecoming that is on me. So, I'm hoping that taking up the cliched pursuit of blogging (lord knows I am not above cliches) might choke some inspiration out of me.

Some anxieties about this include but are by no means limited to:

  • What self-respecting person who ever wants to keep a job or her friends or meet a man can be completely honest writing about her life online? And what's interesting that's not completely honest?
  • I'm afraid I'll approach this with some grave seriousness--precisely the opposite way I approach writing emails to girlfriends that turn out to be really funny because I let it flow and have no expectations of any sort of greatness or sharing-with-posterity appropriateness.
  • I want to write my memoir. This is my pie-in-the-sky life goal. And if I jot stuff here, aren't I robbing it from the future book I ought to be working on?
  • I'm lazy. I'm likely to forget my own Web address or something. I do stuff like that sometimes.

A note about the title of my infant blog: In college at Berkeley, before I'd ever lived completely alone, I had a lousy tendency to rely on my devoted and detail-oriented roommates to do stuff for me that I might have done myself. Like, my idea of cleaning the apartment was taking all of the books and papers and putting them in neat stacks (I really can't stand clutter). Et voila! Done. Whereas I would let the girls take the Q-tips to the switches on the oven to get out the grit, for example, or bleach the bathroom floor. I handled the clutter, they handled the filth. They used to tell me that my attitude about cleaning was: "You get the gist." You know, look, I put forth a little effort, it looks better in here, yada yada. In some ways that may be the way I approach the other areas of my life. I'm a broad-strokes gal, not a details gal. I'm a writer and editor, but copy editing is my worst nightmare. I don't really like the buck to stop with me. This is not self deprecating; it's simply true. I know myself. And that's half the battle.