Thursday, December 13, 2007

Gym Dandy

Short list of celebrity nobodies I have so far spotted working out at my gym:

1. Mark McGrath
2. Fabio

Check back for new additions as I discover them!

I took a meditation class tonight, but not on purpose. It turned out to be the second half hour of what I thought was an hourlong abs class, so I stayed. I didn't let my mind be free or whatever, because that's not really my forte, particularly after a stressful day at work. But I did enjoy the two-second temple massage with lavender oil at the end, and I enjoyed what turned out to be a weird sermon given by the instructor as we moved gently with our eyes closed.

The instructor is gorgeous, and built like any ripped male actor you might see snapped on the beach in the pages of Us Weekly (which you would only see when you are getting your nails done, because that's the only time you read it). And he kept talking about how we all are rich and fancy (?) and how we all live such glamorous Hollywood lives as actors or dancers (?) and how it's hard not to get caught up in all that (I'm pretty sure he was mostly talking to himself). Then he said something about having watched a really touching moment on Oprah where a woman was crying and crying after she cheated on her husband, but that Oprah pointed out that tears weren't really significant compared to a pureness of heart or some such? He had long stopped making sense by then, but his voice was really soothing and powerful and reassuring in the most fake-hippie way.

Oh and he said something about how we're all bigger than our Gucci bags and Land Rovers. And I'm like gurrrl, please, there's nothing bigger than a Land Rover.

Thursday, December 06, 2007

For Real? Huh.

Look, I don't want to get all uppity, but.

In the mail room of my building, there is always a stack of Beverly Hills 213 magazines, apparently distributed for free in this area. I never take one upstairs to read it, but the coverlines are always maddeningly sycophantic and lame. I give you this:

"Drew Lachey: Great Talent, Great Father"
I mean really. Really.

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Newsflash: Heidi Klum's Trainer Probably Does Not Support Your Eating Habits

The year I moved to Los Angeles from New York, so did the Victoria's Secret fashion show—a plus for me, since it's one of my favorite events to cover. Watching the televised version tonight of this year's spectacle jogged my memory to a moment I'd spent at the show's after-party in 2005 at the armory.

It was pouring rain outside. Inside, I was dutifully noshing on hors d'oeuvres with an event-world friend who introduced me in a conversation circle to a man who was apparently in the stable of top trainers charged with maintaining those supermodels' bodies. I must have made some off-the-cuff remark about how I figured a little risotto ball or two never killed anyone, and how I drink my vodka with soda water so as not to take on too many of the unnecessary calories associated with sugary mixers anyway.

But this man was palpably, unapologetically disgusted by my unforgivable lack of restraint. He was shocked—shocked!—to learn that someone currently sharing his air might indulge in one microgram of risotto. There was no discernible irony on his face when he turned around—as if toward a pit of photogs snapping flashbulbs—then it was pivot, poof, gone.

Fortunately or unfortunately, I have to rely on things other than my perfect body to earn my living—like reporting on events, where risotto balls come with the territory.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

If My Poor Friends Must Suffer Crises, I'm Glad They Weave Them Into Funny Emails

"I think I may need to call it all off. I already wrote essentially a Dear John letter and have it sitting in my desk drawer at home. It's like having a loaded pistol in my desk with no gun lock, safety off, while Dick Cheney is rooting around my stuff."

Monday, November 19, 2007

Thanks Giving

To everyone who blesses my lucky life: thank you a million times, plus infinity squared.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Gutter Mouth

Saturday night, after our teams both lost, we went bowling. (I was in a Cal T-shirt; the blue-eyed boy was in the letterman jacket his father had earned for hockey when he had gone to Ohio State decades before his son, and which is emblazoned with his old nickname "Dutch," which has no significant explanation that I can discern).

When we go to the bowling alley in Mar Vista, it always feels like observing a social experiment, only we're participating alongside the subjects as we study. I always wonder who all these people are, because I will swear I don't see them every day around Los Angeles, and I'm not talking about one speicific sort of person either. It's all sorts of people, who mainly have in common that they seem to keep their kids up too late and curse around them.

Shortly before we'd showed up for bowling, I'd called the alley and they'd said it would be about a 45-minute wait for a lane. (That surprises me every time, that bowling lanes are so coveted in our there's-everything-to-do-here town of Los Angeles. What are all these folks' stories?) When we got there, a very robust woman said it would be two hours—it was so busy, couldn't we see that?—and that she didn't care what they told me on the phone, and that furthermore there was no list to which we could add our names, but that we could sit at one of those tables and wait to be called. She reminded me of a woman to whom MM and I used to refer—only among ourselves, of course, and with some fear and reverence—as the Javits Coffee Lady; one time, years ago in New York, we were at a convention at the Javits Center and we'd gone to get coffee in the cafe there, and the woman working the counter had made some very heavy-handed remarks about having to work at Javits and not taking any smack from nobody mmmmhmmmm.

Told about the two-hour wait time, I got a little bit indignant, and then stopped myself from broadcasting that scorn on my face because I thought this woman might be the type to shank me from her post behind the counter and not think twice. The blue-eyed boy and I got a drink in the bowling alley's bar (where an older lady was performing a shockingly effusive version of "Proud Mary" in an apparent karaoke contest), and then went to play a round of Lord of the Rings pinball. From where we were loitering in front of the pinball machine, the big lady could see us, and hollered at the blue-eyed boy, "Hey, red jacket," and gestured for him to come over, and told him a lane was available (all while I was not looking). Five minutes had elapsed since she'd told us two hours.

I waited until we were putting on our bowling shoes out of ear shot, and then I told the blue-eyed boy that I knew she'd had it out for me from the moment we'd walked in, but then had apparently decided not to punish him just because she didn't like me. He does have a gentle face, and looks (and is) wholly nonconfrontational, and I do have a tendency to do the neck roll and suck my tongue in the face of irritating customer-service people and drivers who cut me off. "What's the expression?" asked the blue-eyed boy, innocently, so as not to rile me. "You can catch more flies with..." I told him it was vinegar; and he's right.

I'd really wanted to break 100, but I bowled a 98 on account of a distracted gutter ball in the last frame. Next time.

Friday, November 09, 2007

Bourgeois Ennui

CJ: my neck hurts and im not in the mood for japan
me: wait when are you going to japan?
you are hella fancy and you're always like jetting off to milan paris tokyo london
CJ: ha
its so not fun tho
im soooo tired
me: i feel you
CJ: i had lunch with [redacted] today
me: how is she
CJ: shes good
still exactly the same
shes booed up with another lawyer
i think
i wasnt listening

Thursday, November 01, 2007

Denim Warrior

The best thing about my new jeans is that they give me the silhouette of that leggy Daily Candy illustration girl, whose figure I have always admired. Rules.

And that's one to grow on. [Not really, but that's my version of those sassy Daily Candy kickers I also admire.]

Friday, October 26, 2007

My So-Called Life

A girl tries to go to the gym, because she figures it's probably the right thing to do to cap off a hell of a week following a catastrophic hard drive crash and the subsequent clamor toward recovery. The girl is so stressed about her job when she's leaving the parking lot after her workout, she's telling fer friend all about it on the phone, while backing up through the maze of Land Rovers and H3s and Lexuses (Lexi?) in the fancy gym parking lot. You know what happens next.

But it's the part after I hit the parked Mercedes E320 that was surprising. After I called mom ("You're alive, you're ok, these things happen..." Thank god for moms, I swear), I pulled out my reporter's notebook and scribbled, "Sorry. Call to discuss," on a leaf and tucked it under the Mercedes' windshield wiper. So happens, just then the other driver came back, so I got back out of my car to meet him and explain. Of course, I was instantly in tears, mascara streaming. That's not the surprising part yet (duh).

Here's the part. It was when he started in: "Are you ok? What's upsetting you so much? Work? Listen, I'm a litigator, and I know maybe better than anyone that all you have at the end of the day is your peace of mind. You can't stress out about work that much; it will bury you. This is's a piece of metal..." (And he threw in, "You're a beautiful girl," for good measure, which was nice—or more to the point, it might have been why he was so forgiving.) (But really? All schmutzy and sweaty? Dang, thanks!)

So here was a guy, whose immaculate white Mercedes I just hit, counseling me and consoling me for 10 minutes. Being more gracious and generous with me than I could have ever predicted. Far more gracious, in fact, than I typically am with people who haven't just absentmindedly collided with my car. There is a lesson there, truly.

...Unless he calls me tomorrow and says, "Remember me? The litigator? You owe me a million dollars, you freakish stress case."

Fingers crossed.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Oh No I Di'int (I Did)

Let me tell you what happens when you ask someone who is not pregnant if she is pregnant. Told of your error, you want to run screaming from the room, although it is a very attractive room at a stylish desert hotel, where you are attending a wedding of a dear old college friend. You wonder if you could somehow exchange all the money you've amassed in your Citibank savings account just to take it back, because surely you would do that gladly. You back peddle to a degree that becomes more humiliating (if that were possible), explaining that you're a reporter, and you just noticed that her dress was a little different from those of the other bridesmaids', and you thought you might be getting a scoop, based on the subtle nuance of the ribbon used to fasten the back of the dress, not based at all on her body type, because of course she looks lovelyand trim!tonight. You think about how the mistake you just made sounds like some kind of sanitized Glamour my-most-embarrassing-moment story, which shouldn't be embarrassing enough to keep you up at night for the next two days in real life, but it does (and you are grateful for your new Ambien prescription). You wonder what the hell got into you, and woman, were you raised in a barn? You vow that as long as you live you will never, never, never, confront anyone with that question again, even if her belly is as big as a house or even two houses, and instead you will just ask, "So, nu, how have you been?" and if she is really pregnant, then for god's sake she will volunteer that information.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

He's The One I Blame For My Treo Dependency

me: covering gq's vma party @ the mirage. soo wish u were here. smooch times infinity squared. luv u like soja luvs freedom.

CJ: no justice no peace. i'm sitting on the floor at anna sui taking polaroids of my shoe. isn't fashion so glamorous?

me: wait wish u were here 2 c this 1 lothlorien girl in a hemp anklet doing the robot w/her casa z man on the dance floor. like 1 of these kids is not like the others.


L'shana tova tikatevu, homies.

Monday, September 03, 2007

Notes on Nascar

I knew nothing about Nascar until I went to my first race yesterday, in the desert, where it was 112 degrees when we arrived (although the guy driving the tram from the parking lot said we were lucky; it had reached 121 the day before). Some observations:

1. I had been picturing a track surrounded by seating, like you'd find at any football or baseball stadium. Instead, it's a two-mile loop with bleacher seating on only one side--maybe a three-quarter-of-a-mile-long stretch of towering bleacher seats exposed to full sun. I don't know where all those spectators came from, but I never saw anyone like that before in Southern California. In some ways, it felt like being on vacation in another state, checking out how other folks live. (Just off the freeway on the way to the speedway, we'd seen a massive bass pro shop super store the size of Manhattan island. Or maybe Texas would be a better comparison. Anyway, it seemed like foreign territory, not even 75 miles from home.) Not a black person in sight. The blue-eyed boy was wearing a grey wife beater, because, you know, when in Rome. (N.B. If I were in the Hipster Olympics, I would select the tiny tee emblazoned with "Dale Jr." in pink script for the ironic T-shirt portion of the competition. Those tees and tank tops were plentiful at the race, often barely covering the spilled-over bosoms of big ladies who don't care about sunscreen.)

2. It was really, really loud. I mean, duh, right? But seriously it was so loud that it hurt. We tore up bits of napkins and put them in our ears, and it helped (although I already had a headache from dehydration and infernal heat). But most of the fans around us had these sophisticated headphone/walkie-talkie-looking contraptions. I'm still not exactly sure what these were, but I think they had a bit of a noise-canceling effect, and allowed you to listen to race commentary at the same time, and even see footage from dash cams on the high-tech versions. Some people wore no headphones, earplugs, or even bits of napkins at all; I can only imagine how they fared, but I'm too old for that experiment personally.

3. I think that yesterday I finally found my too-hot threshold. I love extreme heat, but, seriously, people; 112 feels like death after a while. People at Nascar races binge drink in that heat, and it leads to very gruesome results. I saw a guy hunched over a table who had vomited more volume than I eat in a typical month. It was memorable.

4. Speaking of snacks, the guys sitting behind me eating sunflower seeds at one point spit a shell right on the back of my arm in a cascade of suspicious wetness. I went for my purse to bust out the antibacterial gel and it was then I noticed I had dirt all up under my fingernails. How did that even happen? I looked at the blue-eyed guy with some shock in my eyes, and he told me it was OK, that I also had dirt or debris all over my forehead. What was all this dirt? It was grit-fest '07 out there, people. Shvitz and grit. (Shvitz-n-grit has a nice fish-n-chips style cadence to it, doesn't it?) When we came home, we took showers almost as good as those first ones post-Half Dome.

5. It was really hard to keep up with who was winning or losing at a given time because the cars whiz by like bullets. (When we first entered the speedway, it was during a yellow flag, and I remarked, "I don't know; these cars don't look like they're going that fast to me." Duh, Dubin.) Highlights were when the occasional car would catch on fire, or clip a wall or another car, and everyone would get excited and point to the giant plume of smoke originating on the track, which would soon hit us in the face with the smell of burning rubber and toxins. That's pretty fun, and admittedly more interactive than being a football spectator. In the end, apparently this guy from El Cajon called Jimmie Johnson won the 250-lap race. Then, fireworks went off, and he did some donuts on the grass between the track and the pits. That was good stuff.

So there you have it, folks. Notes from a naif on the second-most watched sport on American television.

(And as to the first-most watched sport? My heart will be forever with Cal Bears football. How ya like them apples, SEC?)

Friday, August 31, 2007

Love Ya! Mean It!

Here's one thing that makes me laugh: when publicists I've never met get all cutesy in emails.

I just got one (from a dude publicist, no less) that starts out, "Hi babe!" and ends with "xo!" I very often get stuff like "Hey doll face," or "sweetie" from girl publicists, and most of those end with, "xx," (which is the new "xo," if you hadn't noticed.) This should probably annoy me, but I find it kind of adorable and endearing for some reason. I mean, heck, if you have a job, you might as well have one where you can exchange smoochy-face emails with strangers.

I covered a party in Hollywood a while back at which one New York publicist gave me a personal tour of the space. Walking down the red carpet, which was lined with wildflowers in shabby-ish boxes, he was telling me,
Ooooh, gurrrrl, could you just die? Are these flowers so cute and so adorable you could just die? I'm dying. I mean, look at this goooorgeous place. I'm going to jump off a bridge and die, it's so darling! Gurrrl, are you dying? I'm dying...
Did I mention this guy has super precious pressed hair, and if I recall, was wearing ballet flats?

It's a living, y'all.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Mini-Break Safari

The San Diego Wild Animal Park is awesome because you get to see things like giraffes, just running around. (Well, more like standing around and noshing. Who could blame them?) You know what a giraffe looks like because you have grown up looking at his likeness in magazines and logos and photos and things. But how many times in your life will you see a real giraffe?

Or this rad-looking guy?

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Memba Wa Day Weh Wi Dweet?

I want to tell you what a soundsystem party is like in Jamaica.

Actually, I think soundsystem is the general term the Jamaicans use to describe any mobile party at which gigantic towers of speakers are brought to bear on a typically vacant space, and people come and listen. But I'll tell you about a soundsystem party near Treasure Beach, on the remote, virtually tourist-free south coast of Jamaica.

So we're there, last week, in Jamaica, four whiteys. Normally I would not call Mexican-American MG a whitey, nor would I call Russian-American AE a whitey, nor would I even typically consider my ethnic Jewish self a whitey, but we were all whiteys down there, relatively speaking. (We even got called whiteys a couple of times, but I'm pretty sure those remarks were only observations, not meant as judgments or disdain.)

We met a friend called Andy who told us he was going to take us to this party around 10:30 if we were interested. So we pile in his right-side-driver's-seat car, with his friend Ruell, and drive a ways to a parking lot where we hear loud music, and see lots of totally mild-tempered Jamaicans hanging around, drinking and smoking. The whole thing was very Heavy Metal Parking Lot, only different in the obvious ways.

Across the street, there's an outdoor staircase leading to a bar (N.B.: much of Jamaica doesn't really have wet bars--more like rooms with painted signs and wooden counters decked with bottles, and coolers full of ice) where folks make their way for Red Stripes and delightful Appleton rum drinks in plastic cups and some sort of gross energy drink/malt liquor hybrid called Magnum, which tastes like Dimetapp that's been in the fridge since 1981 plus moth ball juice.

So we're sticking fairly close to Andy and Ruell (ourselves being whiteys and all), and we're drinking, and trying to fit in (ha!) and lots of time passes, and we're still in the parking lot, and the whiteys start to wonder aloud to each other whether this parking lot is indeed the soundsystem itself. I mean, there seemed to be people, and music coming from somewhere, but no one was dancing, and WTF? We inquired with Andy, and he said we were just "waiting for the right time" to go "in." It was probably 1 a.m.

At some point, it became the right time. Andy gestured to us that we should follow him to a parked Corolla (which I guess belonged to the soundsystem's promoter) and each pay $200 Jamaican (about $3 U.S.) in exchange for wristbands that would get us into the actual soundsystem.

Someone opened a gate in a chain link fence, and we were inside. But it was still a parking lot. But it was the other side of the parking lot, the one with the giant towers of speakers emblazoned "Stone Love" and the DJ spinning mostly reggae and dancehall. Loud. Us whiteys figured we better put torn-up bits of napkins in our ears, which we did. Discretely, of course, mon.

We were all excited to see Jamaican girls dressed in bright colors dancing the night away. But we didn't, really. First off, it was mostly men. But more importantly, no one was really dancing yet. Apparently, the girls don't heed Sean Paul's call to shaaa-aaake their thiii-iiings until the sun comes up.

So when we crossed the chain link threshold again to go home, maybe around 3 a.m, we saw a sea of Jamaicans in the parking lot, their numbers tripled or more since we'd gone in, all angled toward the gate, waiting for the "right time." It was like Night of the Living Dead, the Caribbean version.

Anyway, bredrin, that's the story of the great south coast soundsystem of the summer of 2007.

Likkle more.

Sunday, July 29, 2007

So Sorry to All I May Have Led Astray Over My Years of Misusing the Word

...but this just in from the source:

"All this time, it's gavone, not cavone. Oooops."

So for example: "I was sweating like a gavone in a bust-out whorehouse in Texas in August."

I don't see how I'll ever break the habit.

Friday, July 20, 2007

She's Back!

[Breathlessly.] The pregnant girl! At the gym! She's back!

There used to be this super-skinny girl at the gym who kind of killed me with her matchy-matchy purple sports bra/contrast-band pants/shoes combo, always folding right in half when she stretched before class, which killed me, because I could only fold in half if I got flattened by a truck. Then one day I noticed she was a tiny bit pregnant, and I snickered to myself that she'd never be so skinny again. (Yes, I snickered to myself because I am mean, apparently, I have no defense; but don't ack like you wouldn't do the same.) After a few weeks, she disappeared, and I thought she'd gone off to do the only reasonable thing: eat ice cream, not in the gym. G'on, gurrrl. That's respectable.

But tonight she was back, with her adorable little figure with a bump in the belly part. She's maybe six, seven months. And she's back in Brand New Booty class! Now granted, most pregnant woman get brand new booties, but usually it's not the same variety of brand new booty as I've been working on for months in Brand New Booty. And that class is really hard, y'all!

I'm just saying.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Dress Distress

me: my shirt has cali's hair all over it and my shorts are too short and my shoes are ug and i look trashy today
girl needs better lighting in her dressing area
sis: i looked trashy yesterday, but different trashy, like I belonged on COPS
me: cops?!
sis: i was wearing a marines tshirt and track pants and flipflops and had a baby attached to me
me: DANG girl
sis: all i needed was curlers
me: why do you even own a marines t shirt?
sis: who knows
i have no clothes and here's why
1. maternity clothes - don't fit, duh
2. pre-maternity clothes: i boxed them up for a few months and now i'm too lazy to go dig them out
me: nice
you are officially a mom
but what's my excuse today?
i have no bebe to blame for my bad outfit (and by bebe i'm not referring to a bejeweled velour track suit either)
sis: now that you realized you have nice legs, you pushed it too far?
me: yup
must be it
sis: understandable
me: always taking it too far, that's me
sis: if short is good, shortest must be better
me: riii-eeeght?
sis: seems logical
me: and i'm nothing if not perfectly logical

Monday, July 16, 2007

Thursday, July 12, 2007

State of Self on Waning Days of Twenties

Spazzy, blessed, awesome. Not sure. Changeable.

Sometime early this week, I changed the course of my spazz attack (which was the standard no-baby-plans-yet boilerplate) to the wait, I'm too young to grow up, look how young I am, woooo!-variety spazz. Didn't see that coming.

In addition to my girls-only Jamaica trip at the end of the month, the blue-eyed boy had made plans for my upcoming birthday weekend involving sea kayaking in the Channel Islands near Ventura (an idea which, if I recall, I might have instigated after we watched a California's Gold episode about it, and, basically, if Huell Howser jumped off a cliff, I would do it too). But then I decided that sea kayaking seems like something staid that families do, and we're not a family, we're crazy fun young people, woooo, and we should go to Vegas instead and wear tiny, besequined dresses and bikinis with gold hardware (at least I should), and throw dice and be rowdy, and shop shop shop indiscriminately, and let it ride on red number 30, woooo! Because that's what the kids do! And that's essentially what I've wanted to do for most birthdays since I turned 21 (19).

Well, what happens when you think you might want to change plans a scant few days before your existing plans, is that airfare goes up so high that it's prohibitive, and who wants to drive into the desert during Friday rush hour, and then back all day Sunday when it's your birthday and you're sitting in the car with a hangover getting blasted in the face by the AC, eating Gardetto's party mix and Crystal Light Slurpees from the 7-11 on the interstate? So driving and flying are both out, which means Vegas is out for my 30th birthday this weekend.

So that locks us into our original kayaking plans, which I think will be awesome after all (if it had been viable to go to Vegas, I probably would have freaked out and insisted on reinstating the kayaking based on some impromptu consciousness shift) (hey, at least I know myself), and it will be good to feel healthy and alive out there on the pacific Pacific. I'm back on my eat-right/work-out kick (after a dastardly post-Half Dome June) and I've been all kinds of sore this week thanks to serious gym commitment. And I like the idea of feeling healthy and strong as I kiss 29 goodbye. (Sea kayaking Saturday + bowling birthday party Sunday clearly = monastically disciplined fitness regime, non?)

Today, I am wearing tiny shorts and sky-high sandals, and I got a few whistles from passing cars on my way to and fro Subway (veggie delight on wheat, bag of apples, Diet Coke) down Sunset Boulevard. Whether or not I am still wild at 30, apparently my legs still look good. (Actually, note to self: legs are bona fide asset. Why have never noticed?)

Last night at the after-party for the Espy awards, I told the blue-eyed boy I would not be morally averse to any procedure that would perk up my eye area a bit. It took him like four minutes too long, but he got around to saying, "You're perfect!" I think he's onto something. and most supportive friends and fam ever, a job that is fun and challenging and full of perks and never boring, great condo with a separate walk-in closet just for shoes and accessories...

So, au revoir, twenties. I will miss the halcyon Berkeley years, and the New York years (although they were not hardly halcyon), but thank heaven I will not have to miss my woooo! wild friends, because I've still got em. See ya in sequins, girls...*

*Somebody please take me to Vegas in August, though, for real.

Monday, July 09, 2007

Friday, June 22, 2007

Stop It

The people over at Evite need to check themselves. I thought it might be nice to celebrate my 30th birthday in a similar fashion to the way I might have celebrated when I turned 8: at the bowling alley. So I'm on Evite just now looking for an appropriate invitation to my party, and when I search "30," I get cards that say It's all over now! Look who's turning 30! (We're gonna need a bigger cake!) and even Still wild at 30!, which is the same thing it said on the Mylar balloon given to my sister on her 30th birthday that made her want to jump out the window at an otherwise innocuous celebration. Whatever, dude, my bowling birthday party is going to rock, and so is the big girls-only Jamaica trip that follows it. Jeal-o much, Evite? Heeeeeeeeeeeeey.

Monday, June 18, 2007

See, People?!

Folks tease me because I worry, but stuff happens!

(On a related note:

1. I've been riding a two-week-long food bender using the I-burned-6,000-calories-in-a-single-day-hiking-Half-Dome defense. I guess it's time to stop that. and

2. Post-hike toenail update: Just took off the red polish, and verified the right big toenail is indeed all black and blue underneath. Will I lose it, or will it hang on? Stay tuned!)

Cabin Pressure

Six days after my nephew was born, I got on a plane at PHL and headed home to LAX. Since having said goodbye to my sister at her house the day before, I'd hardly stopped crying. Part of it was the obvious: Because I'd decided to fulfill my commitment to attend the wedding of a dear friend in L.A., I'd left Philadelphia before my nephew's bris. This had been a rending choice. Part of the reason I was sad was that I didn't know when I’d see my sister again, or the baby, and “time marches on,” as my dad is so fond of saying. And I hate that it does.

The other reasons for the tears were more abstract. Everything had been hyper-poignant in Philadelphia. Like when I ate with my folks at City Tavern and my dad’s salad came with a purple orchid on top, and my mom was so determined that she should take this little second-hand flower to my sister. She dusted off the blossom and asked the waitress for a Styrofoam cup to transport it in. My dad poured a half inch of water into the cup, and my mom placed the bud inside, and we kept it in the cup holder of the rental car until it could safely be delivered to my sister. The way my mom was so precious about how this flower must be taken to her daughter—this killed me. There are lots of other reasons too, but my Internet self is not nearly honest enough to dissect them here.

I hardly slept a wink before I got on the plane, and then got up at 6 AM to head to the airport, where the security line was a hundred miles long and I barely got in Southwest's nightmarish B line in time to get an aisle seat directly in front of a screaming baby, for whose parents I should have had sympathy, particularly under the circumstances of our own family’s developments, but didn't because I was so dang tired. Seeing the tears, the girl sitting in the window seat asked with genuine concern if I was OK, and I really believed she was interested in the answer—which I would have told her with details, because I am the type, but it’s so complicated and I’m not even sure what it is.

Something about my mom handling an orchid from my dad’s salad with extreme care because it was for her daughter who is recovering from surgery, and because my mom would have always done anything for her daughters? Something about how I have a tiny new nephew who weighs five pounds less than my cat, and who could be god-knows-how-old before I see him again because we live far apart and that sucks? Something about how I’m going to turn 30 in a month and people in Philadelphia seem to be doing different things at 30 than people in New York or L.A., and how that complicates the value system in my head?

Meanwhile, the guy in the middle seat, who was wearing a ball cap that was brown mesh in the back and fake woven wicker on the brim, was oblivious to my--er--lack of composure. And he had a lot to say to me about his cat Daisy and the dog who’s name I can’t remember, and the crawfish his wife found in a pond and put in their daughter’s aquarium. (The wife, who goes by “All-Biz Liz” because she makes the family's decisions, and has no faith in her husband's decision-making abilities, had trouble carrying, which is why they had their daughter so late in life. So I was told.) This man had no idea that I was not really in the right emotional space to be on board with his idea that the way to make a million quick is to be a child’s birthday party entertainer, like this Safari Lady who came to one of his daughter’s friends’ parties and got $200 for entertaining the kids with goats and snakes for an hour. Can you imagine? $200! Get a couple of those bookings in a day—maybe four in a weekend—and you’re so set! That's the way to do it, boy, I tell you.

I tried to cover my head with the blue Southwest “blanket,” so I could “sleep,” but its mystery fibers were asphyxiating me, so I moved it aside from my face just as a stewardess walked down the aisle. She asked me did I need a hug, and gave me one, and seemed to really, really mean it. She offered me a drink on the house (which I wouldn’t normally have declined, but I had to somehow get myself to the rehearsal dinner in Pasadena without falling asleep at the wheel) and came back instead with some water and a box of tissues. Women have this ability to give hugs and make people feel better. It’s amazing how many men don’t (all due respect to those who do).

And my inability to understand their reasons for that must come from the same Mars/Venus schism that ultimately results in the husband wearing a shirt that says, “I’d rather be fishing but my wife’s nagging would scare away the bass." Or what have you.

Anyway, I was all prepared to come home alone in a taxi (the blue-eyed guy was in Cleveland, and my parents were in Atlantic City on a day trip from Philadelphia, so who would come get me?), and was prepared to miss the noise terribly. But when the wheels touched down and I turned on the ol' Treo, there was a message from AE and oh my god she totally missed me and she's checked my flight status online and knows I'm early and is on her way to pick me up and we'll have lunch and discuss, it's all good, girl, for real.

Thank heaven for friends. For real, girl.

Sunday, June 10, 2007

I'm an Auntie!


eight pounds, two ounces

via emergency c-section (sister fully morphined, but OK!)

Pennsylvania Hospital, Philadelphia

12:24 PM EST, Saturday, June 9, 2007

Sunday, June 03, 2007

The Half Dome Report

Our group of 10 adventurers is back from Yosemite where we embarked yesterday on our big, much-anticipated Half Dome hike. Just got back now, in fact. I walked in the door, took a fabulously long shower (if only it never had to end), and emerged with about 32 ounces of leave-in conditioner in the ol’ mane—which was desperately worse for the wear. And I’m utterly exhausted, but I thought it would be the most honest and raw time to write about the experience, so here goes.

Some background for those readers who may have come upon this by Googling “hiking Half Dome” or the like: I am 29 and do four to five rigorous weight training and cardio workouts per week in the gym, but I’m not known for being outdoorsy or a hiker. I am fond of clean fingernails and so forth, but I was eager to take on this challenge because LP was such a dutiful and excited leader (this adventure having been on her to-do list forever) and I was grateful for the opportunity to try something I would not likely initiate myself. It goes without saying, but my experience was not identical to the other hikers in my group, and this is only my tale of the intense journey undertaken alongside them.

I’d read so many blogs about the hike before attempting it, and I found that nearly all of the writers focused on the physical experience, with little mention of the emotional one, so that’s much of what I’ll write here (which should come as no surprise to anyone who knows me in real life). I also hope I’ll get the chronology of trail milestones right, because many of them have already merged together in my memory.

We awoke at 5 AM yesterday, and made it to the trail head at about 7:45 AM. (We’d already walked an easy mile from the car to that point.) We took the Mist Trail up the first couple miles, which takes you past Vernal Falls via an intense stretch of granite stairs. Per the trail’s name, it was wet and we were prepared with windbreakers (although it was the beginning of the end for my hair). I was wearing a heart rate monitor, and noticed I was really coming close to my maximum heart rate even in this first stretch (although I’m convinced my heart rate at rest has increased by 10+ BPM in the last few months due to work-related stress, so that was probably not an unrelated factor in the high reading). I’m sure we were all feeling exerted, but I really felt fine and recharged after a short Power Bar rest to enjoy the fantastic view. At this point, DL had a bit of a nose bleed, which may have already been an altitude issue, since we’d come from Los Angeles and the Yosemite Valley floor is at 4,000 feet—and I believe we’d already climbed about 2,000 feet from there. (The blue-eyed guy later told me that it was around here that he saw a woman vomiting from exertion off to the side. When her hat fell off her head, her boyfriend, who was cautiously standing paces away said, “Ah, your hat fell.” Nice guy.) A bit further up, an arcing rainbow spanned the notch view through the granite. Spectacular.

More granite steps upon more and more, and I was managing, but a few of us stopped to the side to wait for another to catch up. We ate some more trail mix and pressed on. Keep in mind that this hike is more than eight miles to the top, and nearly all of it is accomplished by going continually up, up, up.

But there is one sandy stretch of about a mile that is roughly flat, which we encountered next. This is such a nice relief. The Merced River runs next to it, the pine smell pervades, and some wildflowers grow. And it’s perhaps the first time I could really appreciate those things because I wasn’t just focusing on the work involved with ascent. There’s a bathroom here with a composting toilet (if I recall that’s the last stop before the squat-behind-a-tree method becomes the go-to relief). Also around here you get your first glimpse of the dome, but it’s sort of a meaningless gauge of distance because there are so many switchbacks over about five miles still between you and it. But with the extreme zoom on my camera I was able to catch my first sight of the folks climbing up the cables at the very top.

At this point, I’d already drank two liters of water from my Platypus (I’d found it hard to ration since you can’t see how much remains in your backpack), but our group had use of a filter and pumped water at the next stream we encountered, which, it turned out was the last filterable water I remember seeing. According to my Polar heart rate monitor (which I have tested and believe is fully reliable), I’d already burned close to 2,000 calories at this point. And we saw a very pretty little butterfly alight near the spring.

At some point we saw a sign that said 2.0 miles to Half Dome, and I mistakenly allowed myself to feel like we were almost there. (Ha.) (HA!) This was a particularly treacherous stretch, and my heart rate monitor was flashing at me (I never read the manual, of course, but I assume the flashing heart means cease and desist. SE suggested I apply more sunscreen because my chest was getting pink, but I’m like, “Girl, I think that’s just my heart trying to leap out of my chest…” I believe most of us girls, who had clustered together at this point, were in roughly the same condition.) Five of us gals sat down to rest on a fallen tree. Another girl, a stranger, passed us and said, “FYI, there are termites all over that log.” And we all just looked at her and managed a giggle when we realized that no mere termite swarm in the vicinity of our shorts-clad bums was going to deprive us of this little rest.

The blue-eyed guy, whom I hadn’t seen for miles—and ended up being somewhat of a dark horse master of this hike—came bounding down the hill to pick up my pack for me and carry it a few dozen paces, since he’d already been up further and mysteriously had energy to spare. Not too much further up and we came to a clearing where for the first time we could see—everything. Everything! The valley floor thousands of feet below, snow left on other peaks, waterfalls. And to the left and up, Half Dome. There we could clearly see the treacherous cables that guide hikers up the last 1,000 or so nearly vertical feet (I’ve read it’s a 45-degree grade, but it looks like, er, 9 million degrees) to the top—the cables about which I’d read so much and knew I was going to have to overcome tremendous fear to conquer. But what we also saw below the cables were a bunch of folks scurrying up a cable-less stretch of granite in a way that seemed, at least from where we were standing, to defy gravity. Looking at those hikers, I said to LP, “I don’t get it.” And she goes, “I absolutely don’t get it either. How…?”

Pressing on, we got to that stretch next. It’s a series of switchback steps cut into the granite, which I either had not read about, or had not understood the severity of. So up, up, up I’m heading, facing straight into the rock, until I heard the woman right in front of me say to her friend, “I need to go back down right now,” with an urgency that flipped a switch in me. I looked down. And then, in Hitchcockian fashion (perhaps not, but I like the film-school drama of saying so), my view got all distorted and foreshortened and vertiginous. And I started to panic. I wanted to train my brain to keep the fear at bay, but my physical body betrayed me and I began to hyperventilate. I moved off to the side of the path and clutched on to a bit of granite (natch—what else?), and three of the girls in my crew caught up with me and comforted me.

And then I heard a man’s voice from a few paces above say, “You need some of this?” And there was a guy clutching onto a small pine tree with his right arm and holding out a bottle of Jack with his left. Turned out he’d experienced a spell of the same vertigo and his girlfriend had gone ahead without him. He was essentially paralyzed with fear—clutching some flora and a bottle in desperation. (Which I admit is at least a little bit hilarious in retrospect. But I didn't agree that drinking on the side of a mountain could help one get either up or down safely.) Somehow, inspired by the girls’ pep talks, and my determination to press on in spite of the fear, (oh, and a small blue anti-anxiety pill from the bejeweled pill box in my backpack—what, like I was leaving camp without it?), we all headed up the switchbacks and our new friend put away the bottle and followed suit. I was holding onto the rocks instead of walking fully upright—leaning in gave me more confidence. Seeing my condition (and hearing my loud hyperventilation) I got a lot of encouragement from hikers passing us on the way down. “One hundred more yards—you’re there. Right where those two trees are—you’re so there…” someone said. I looked up and saw the blue-eyed guy standing by two trees and I mustered all my strength to hustle up toward him. In this stretch, though, there were no steps at all—just an impossibly steep slab of granite that is more than a little bit sandy.

I scrambled up quickly ahead of the others knowing I had to do it in one fell swoop—like ripping off a band-aid—if I was going to do it at all.

At the top, the girls sat down next to me, and I put my head in the blue-eyed guy’s lap and cried a little bit. I had read in several other blogs that this hike provoked tears in others for a number of reasons—exertion, elation, and convoluted feelings of triumph and insignificance in the face of, “this giant whirling rock [that is our earth] and how we're all going to die,” to quote a j-school buddy and commenter on this blog.

Tracing his fingers around the dirt and rocks, the blue-eyed guy discovered a left-behind ring and gave it to me. It has a silvery pearl in the center and some brown stones beside and, by the looks of it, it was probably owned by a hiker who uses rock crystal deodorant and wears Tevas, but it fits me just fine and I adore it.

We were at 8,000 feet now. Although the cables still remained, I felt I’d made it. I’d overcome the panic on the switchbacks and was content to wait with many other hikers (including our new pal with the Jack Daniels) who also waited for friends to make that last ascent. But the more I sat (along with another member of our own group), the more I battled the decision to go on. (Even trip organizer LP had looked at that daunting path of cables and said, "I'm not even sure that I want to..." but the hesitation passed and she boldly went on.) The line to get to the cables was actually nearly an hour long (Yosemite rush hour!) and I had a lot of time to contemplate whether I should join back up with my crew and head on up the cliff. I was looking for a sign. At some point, it was too late because those members of our group who were going had already headed up, and I was in absolutely no place to tackle that without support—given that I was not sure I was in any place to tackle it with support. Then some disappointment set in because I knew—I know for sure—I had the strength (mostly upper body is required) to make it, but the height held me back. And the times I saw an unsecured hat or water bottle skitter off the side of that cliff and clang down into oblivion—well, I was relieved with my choice.

MJ and I waited near the cables for a while, and then decided to make our way slowly down the switchbacks and meet our crew at the clearing below; that would give us time to tackle the challenge at our own pace. I found this actually far less disconcerting on the way down than on the way up—in fact, hardly disconcerting at all (small blue pill at work, perhaps? I wondered if I should have taken it a little sooner). We met up with the crew after they returned from the summit, and I continued to bite back some disappointment on the way down that I hadn’t attempted the cables. (Although—notwithstanding my confidence in my upper body strength from those “Armed and Dangerous” classes at the gym—I’m not sure how a Jewish girl with a Jewish mom and a piano-drop mindset* could really ever do that part, but I'm sure it happens. In fact, AE was a fine example yesterday! Although her outlook is generally more sunny-side than piano-drop, bless her heart for it.)

It was after 4 PM now and getting late to start down. All the blogs that I read that said going down was not easier on the body than going up, but that was far from true in our experience. We took the John Muir trail—longer in distance but with fewer granite steps—and made it all the way to the bottom in about three and a half hours and my heart rate never went above 134 in those 8.6 or so downhill miles. We were able to filter some more water from the river (I drank three liters on the way up and had been plum out for the way down) and I managed to get in some good heart-to-heart convos (or was it just altitude/exertion/spiritual experience-induced T.M.I.?) with each the blue-eyed guy and dear old friend LP on the way.

We did pass one other hiker who asked us how our day had been and of course we said it was amazing, even through our exhaustion—because indeed it had been so incredible—and she said, “I stopped having fun hours ago.” Hmm, I felt bad for the friend walking with her who must have had to listen to those complaints for about 15 miles. Later, we passed a charming group of deer, and a bit further down, I got a “Go Bears!” from a gal who saw the Cal logo on my visor, which tickled me to no end (natch). And somehow, even though I had visible dirt caked everywhere and a blond afro roughly the size of Manhattan island, some Stanford alum tried to pick me up on the way down the mountain. Of course, I have a boyfriend. And, importantly (with only one notable exception)—Cal girls worth their blue and gold don’t date Stanford boys anyway.

Then, just as dark was setting in around 8 PM, we made it to the bottom.

The blue-eyed boy was driving my car back to camp. I got in the passenger’s seat and, without warning, fell right to sleep mid-sentence. Back at Wawona, I was so exhausted that I flung myself about haphazardly like a pinball in the tent trying to change into my sweats and out of my hiking gear. By the light of the flashlight, I noticed blood caked in the inside of my white sock, but was in no state to investigate. I was like, “I’ll just file this under T for ‘deal with it tomorrow’…”

I dragged myself to the campfire, fairly catatonic from exhaustion—but strangely not at all hungry or thirsty. (I think the adrenaline had suppressed my hunger all day, since I never had felt like eating and had only forced myself. N.B.: According to my trusty heart rate monitor, I burned close to 6,000 calories all told, far more than the 2,500 or so some other bloggers have suggested.) It all gets very blurry here—I thought it was from fatigue, but it likely also had something to do with the high ratio of whiskey to hot chocolate in my mug—but we laughed and carried on and congratulated ourselves on doing this tremendous thing. I was seriously touched when KB produced a piece of my hair from who knows where and told me he’d brought it to the top so my DNA made it up the cables indeed even if I didn’t. That sounds like some kind of yarn, but if it’s really true, I think it’s adorable.

Yada, yada, veggie sausages, s’mores, popcorn, putting stuff on the fire to see if it would explode—details are sketchy. At some point we were back in the tent, but couldn’t sleep right away—and not just because of the ongoing revelry around the fire outside. The blue-eyed boy said to me, “All I see is granite when I close my eyes.” And it was just what I had been thinking too.

This morning I woke up with a headache (dehydration? whiskey hangover? combo?) and sore hip flexors and calves. A very, very cold river runs near the Wawona camp grounds, and after we all took an excruciating dip, I swear I came out feeling perfectly good as new. I said, “I feel just like I had a bit of a tough workout at the gym yesterday—nothing more than that!” [Spoiler alert: that was foreshadowing.]

We packed up camp, took a series of fabulously goofy group photos, said our goodbyes, and headed out. (Sniff…I hate when wonderful things have to end.)

Afterward, the blue-eyed guy and I had a 300-mile drive home, and we stopped periodically—once for gas, once to get lost in a very lousy part of Fresno, once for pea soup at a place shaped like a big windmill, and once for coffee and Half Dome postcards. And each time I got out of the car my legs betrayed me and threatned to collapse under me like foldable tent poles and it was like learning to walk from scratch. The blue-eyed guy said, “Aw. You’re just like a little fawn.” A totally fair comparison (but he was limping too).

And so, over the Grapevine and through the woods, I just hours ago made it back home to good ol’ Westwood and my clothes-eating cat. Scanning the weekend mail, I pulled out an envelope containing my renewed passport. How’s that for well-timed poetry? One massive hike tackled in an ineffably beautiful national park, zillions of new adventures to go.

*From Aimee Bender's essay "House of Love and Bragging" in The Modern Jewish Girl's Guide to Guilt:

"Here is the scene. Something good just happened. I am happy about it. Maybe it was a good writing day, or I am in a good relationship, or I have helped someone, or I feel a sense of self in a true, deep way. I am walking to the market, to buy myself a peach and fizzy water. It's a beautiful blue day. Or it's not, but my mood is so high that it doesn't matter. I myself am a beautful blue day.

Little do I know that the piano shipment in the freight airplane high above me has had a mishap. The baby grand piano, which was right at the bottom of the aircraft, has come loose. Someone didn't lock that airplane door. He was drunk. He was in a bad mood. The piano wasn't tied properly. It has been hanging there, by three legs—by two legs—by one leg and now it has tumbled out of the airplane. I am still walking to the store. Whistle, whistle. I do a little skip.

Miles above me, whirring through the air, is this giant black paino, gaining speed as it goes. Free-falling. I am thinking about the good thing that has happened today, thinking about it. How nice I feel. How glad I am today. You'd think I would look up at the whirring sound, and maybe cars honk at me to look up, but I am oblivious, content, and proud. I step right into the path, and the piano flattens me into a pancake.

Better keep my eyes up. Better be vigilant, particularly on those good days. Any good day not marked by worry and vigilance will be met with tragedy. It exhausts me even to write it.

Secular me? Ha."

Monday, May 21, 2007

Yo Ho, Yo Ho...

A while back, I spent a day with the blue-eyed guy that started with a hot air balloon flight, and proceeded with a back-country Jeep ride, a cattle round-up, two games at Wagon Wheel bowl, and a trip to the outlet mall. (It was what my mom would call "over-defining the situation," which is funny because she first defined that phrase, then coined it.) It was totally surreal and fun.

We kind of had a day like that on Saturday. We went for a hike in Franklin Canyon, which was only slightly laughable because we're the two city kids looking at each other semi-retardedly like, huh, check us out here in nature! even while we were in full view of the valley. But we got in some good Half Dome training (albeit about 90-minutes worth, but it's a start), and, importantly, we tested out our backpacks and shoes to see how sturdy our gear is before the crajor* hike, now just 12 days away. So far so good, but I'm totally buying one of those water-to-mouth-hosey things, because regular old water bottles aren't going to cut it apparently. Also I seem to have developed a late-life heavy-face-sweating issue, but that's neither here nor there.

Afterward, still in our grubby outdoorsy gear, we stopped at an estate sale in Holmby Hills on Mapleton, sandwiched between the Aaron Spelling estate and the Playboy Mansion. It definitely had its share of $50K furniture and paintings, but it also offered walk-in closets full of vintage duds and other semi-affordable finds. Sounds gold mine-ish, I know, but for some reason it wasn't quite. There was no evidence that this woman had done any shopping since the late 1960's, and most of her gowns were labled Bullocks Wilshire and I. Magnin. Kind of rad, but also kind of ugly. Plus, her feet were much smaller than mine (pity--some good nude peep-toe Ferragmos on that rack; just what I've been looking for) and she seemed to have had a tiny waist and outsized bust. How lovely that must have been for her! Moving on.

So then we went home and changed into our best pirate gear (no we didn't, but we should have) and headed out to Anaheim for the Pirates of the Caribbean premiere. Hello, it was awesome. I didn't realize how long it had been since I'd been to Disneyland until I realized how gleefully I was tugging onto the blue-eyed guy's sleeve, begging can we please puh-leeeeease go on Splash Mountain even though it's nighttime and cold, please, we can sit in the middle so we don't get wet, come on, it will be fun, please? And then I ate churros like it was my job (actually, I guess it kind of is my job in this context--sweet) and watched the movie and saw fireworks and wore my Mickey ears with the pirate earring all night long, until I fell asleep in the car on the way home. I figure, if this is what turning 30 feels like, I can totally dig it.

*Crajor = crazy + major. I made that up while writing a comment on my sister's blog and now I'm trying to get it to stick. Anyone with me?

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Can I Help it That my Future's so Bright?

This one time I took the Chinatown bus from New York to visit my sister in Philadelphia. It was hella hot outside and we went to catch the end of the Live 8 concert with Stevie. So we're walking and this guy stops us on the street and says to me, "You look like that one singer--what's her name? Mariah Carey!" And after he walks away, I go to big Dubin, "I don't think I really look like Mariah Carey, do you?" And she goes, "No. It's just that nobody in Philadelphia wears sunglasses that big."

Monday, May 14, 2007

Ain't No Mountain High Enough

You know how if, like, your arm hurts, and you start looking on the Internet for all the reasons your arm could hurt, then you end up determining that you're going to die in an instant and you probably have the flesh-eating bacteria or cancer? The Internet is scary like that.

I'm experiencing a similar thing the more I read about the Half Dome hike, now less than three weeks away. I have yet to find a blogger writing about the experience who doesn't mention that training in the gym won't prepare you, and that going down is not easier on your body than going up, and that this will be a 12-hour ordeal so if we don't manage to start right at daybreak, well, then, we're basically screwed. All scary points, but manageable.

But here's the detail that got way under my skin this weekend: the matter of the last quarter mile, the bit where you climb at a 45-degree grade using the Yosemite-provided cables, which will shred your hands as you hold on for dear life, so you better bring gloves. The upper-body-strength requirement doesn't scare me so much here (although I'm sure it should) but it's the fear-inspiring height that I hadn't spent much time thinking about before this weekend. Apparently, according to bloggers who have done the hike, many hikers panic when faced with the cables and don't make the ascent. It could only be a very daunting thing that could make a hiker turn back just shy of the summit, after he has already made it 4,000 vertical feet over eight miles and six hours or so.
Anyway, note to self. If you know you suffer from insomnia, don't read a blog that includes this comment right before you try to go to bed:

The cables are intimidating because: If you slip, you will fall to your death, no doubt about it.

Update: Did it on June 2, 2007! Read my story here.

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Holding out for a Hero

(In further sycophantic praise of my gym,) I took an awesome workout class yesterday: Super Hero Training Camp. There was much leaping and bounding and crawling Spidey-style on fingertips across impossibly long stretches of gym floor and partnering up as hero and villain and trying to knock each other off the Bosu. It was so much fun and there was a lot of perverse sweating and hooting and hollering in glee/pain. And if I'd been forced to do something like this in junior high P.E. class--particularly the partnering-up bit--I probably would have been awake with night sweats for a week in anticipation of the living nightmare it would have been.

I hope this sort of thing is preparing me for the great Half Dome hike that is now looming only three weeks down the horizon. There will be camping involved (which is "for homeless people," if you ask the blue-eyed guy, and I generally agree but am trying to be positive and strong and fearless and stuff) and I hope I don't lose a toenail because they don't give discounts on nine-toe pedicures. Oy, I'm excited, but scared. I suppose that's how you know you're alive.

Monday, May 07, 2007


That's how much it cost to fill the 12-gallon tank of my modest little Mazda3. And that's even before the orange light came on. And you know I passed up like four gas stations before I found one with regular unleaded for $3.59. To borrow a phrase from my Arafat-hankie-wearing casting director pal in New York, "Dang, y'all, gas prices don't play, mmmm-kay?!"

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Student of Life

Who wants to bet this kid goes to U.C. Berkeley?

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Thanks For the Memories, Coachella 2007!

Sis: where exactly were you guys staying?
me: we stayed at the quality inn in indio
in a king smoking room with a pullout sofa bed
very glamorous
Sis: whoa, so it smelled like smoking and air conditioner and stuff?
me: yeah
it was kinda ghett
or "bust out" as [my Brooklyn-by-way-of-Youngstown-Ohio friend] would say
but everything was crazy sold out
Sis: "bust out" means ghet?
me: even our room was $224/night with our AAA discount!
and it was kind of a coup to even get it
bust out is good, right? i'm trying to implement
Sis: wait: 2 things
me: k
Sis: 1) 224 a night????
even with the three As?
me: yes. for a smoking room at the quality inn with one bed and a AAA discount. and a small bug problem.
Sis: because of coachella, right? i mean, not normally
me: because all the cool kids with bangs flock to town and grab the rooms
totally because of coachella
Sis: ok also, you're trying to implement bust out - is bust out an adjective? That's so bust out?
me: yes
like: "our room at the quality inn was bust out, but at least it was close to the concerts."
or for another example:
it was so hot that [the Mexican architect] was fanning herself with her dirty-ass flip-flop. that was hella bust out
Sis: ok
me: or we saw a girl on sunday night walking out of the venue with a plastic bag tied to one foot because she apparently had lost a shoe. that was mad bust out
Sis: ok whatev you say but it's not totally intuitive

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

On Posterity

Job posting:
[Our magazine] is assembling a team of energetic photographers to shoot the likes of portraits, venues, and event design/décor in the Southern California region. Per-shoot compensation may be about $100 to $250, and strong images are likely to get prominent placement. Prompt turnaround essential. To apply, please send a cover letter, resume, and a few low-res digital samples to Southern California bureau chief [me] with ''PHOTOGRAPHER'' in the subject line.


From: [redacted]
To: Me
Subject: $100?
Shove it up your ass.


From: Me
To: [Redacted]
Subject: Re: 100?
I can't actually believe I'm dignifying your email with a response, but clearly I put the fee right in the posting because I am dealing with a very small budget myself and didn't want to waste anyone's time. Needless to say, I got about 100 qualified resumes anyway. I would gladly pay photogs $10K/day if I could magically manufacture that kind of budget. But you sound like an understanding guy, so I'm sure you know what I mean.



From: [redacted]
To: Me
Subject: Re: Re: $100?
I apologize, for what it's worth. My IQ seems to run up and down on some kind of rollercoaster, and I sometimes forget that an actual person may read corporate emails. There's something really fine about your response, and even in the fact that you reponded.

I keep this pseudonymous address for sending nuisance emails to corporations, corporate media pooh-bahs, and corporate politicians, and 99.99% of them richly deserve whatever miniscule annoyance I can inject into their day: " Aber die Herrschenden Saßen ohne mich sicherer, das hoffte ich."

Of course it's ridiculous to quote Brecht in the context of nuisance emails, but it's even more ridiculous to do nothing because you can't do more, and I do a little more, when I can. This sounds like a collateral-damage defense: "I dropped a bomb on that email because I thought there were enemy combatants in it." Well... That's exactly what it is, but as a defense it always sounds a little better when it's packaged with some sort of compensation. Nothing perfectly appropriate occurs to me, so... the rest of this email is an English version of the great and beautiful poem To Posterity by Brecht. I hope it washes away the unfortunate impression I made on you when I was aiming at some generic corporate persona.

To Posterity
by Bertold Brecht(translated from German by H. R. Hays)

Indeed I live in the dark ages!

A guileless word is an absurdity. A smooth forehead betokens
A hard heart. He who laughs
Has not yet heard
The terrible tidings.

Ah, what an age it is
When to speak of trees is almost a crime
For it is a kind of silence about injustice!
And he who walks calmly across the street,
Is he not out of reach of his friends
In trouble?

It is true: I earn my living
But, believe me, it is only an accident.
Nothing that I do entitles me to eat my fill.
By chance I was spared. (If my luck leaves me
I am lost.)

They tell me: eat and drink.
Be glad you have it! But how can I eat and drink
When my food is snatched from the hungry
And my glass of water belongs to the thirsty?
And yet I eat and drink.

I would gladly be wise.
The old books tell us what wisdom is:
Avoid the strife of the world
Live out your little time
Fearing no one
Using no violence
Returning good for evil --
Not fulfillment of desire but forgetfulness
Passes for wisdom.
I can do none of this:
Indeed I live in the dark ages!

I came to the cities in a time of disorder

When hunger ruled.
I came among men in a time of uprising
And I revolted with them.
So the time passed away
Which on earth was given me.

I ate my food between massacres.
The shadow of murder lay upon my sleep.
And when I loved, I loved with indifference.
I looked upon nature with impatience.
So the time passed away
Which on earth was given me.
In my time streets led to the quicksand.

Speech betrayed me to the slaughterer.
There was little I could do. But without me
The rulers would have been more secure. This was my hope.
So the time passed away
Which on earth was given me.

You, who shall emerge from the flood

In which we are sinking,
Think --When you speak of our weaknesses,
Also of the dark time
That brought them forth.
For we went,changing our country more often than our shoes.

In the class war, despairing
When there was only injustice and no resistance.

For we knew only too well:
Even the hatred of squalor
Makes the brow grow stern.
Even anger against injustice
Makes the voice grow harsh. Alas, we
Who wished to lay the foundations of kindness
Could not ourselves be kind.

But you, when at last it comes to pass
That man can help his fellow man,
Do not judge us
Too harshly.


A disorder marked by making unnecessary online purchases in the wee hours due to insomnia.

Friday, April 13, 2007

Crazy Cat Lady

...But not in the way you might think. More like Crazy-Cat Lady. That is, I am a lady who has a cat who is real crazy. I love him, and have historically let him do whatever he's wanted, and generally spoiled him, and made excuses for some suspicious behavior. But it's time to come out from behind the veil of secrecy.

(<---Cali holding down the mini New York fort before the move to his namesake state.)
My cat's pathology is that he eats clothes. This started out as a more manageable, occasional deviance. He would eat things that were stringy, like bathing suits, bras, camisoles, and nightie straps. I thought this seemed OK-ish because it's commonly known that cats like yarn and string and stuff. Although I did think it was a bit odd that he wasn't just severing these strings, he was chewing them up and swallowing them into his belly.

Lately, it's gotten way worse. He's emboldened. He slides the closet doors open with his head, knocks pants and other knit garments on hangers right off the closet rod, and gnaws holes in them and leaves them right there on the floor (R.I.P perfect, classic off-the-shoulders sweater, 09/2001-10/2006). He's insidious. When I went to meet my newborn play niece in the hospital, I came straight from the gym. From my gym bag, I pulled my red-and-gray striped shirt--actually the same soft shirt I had worn on my first date with the blue-eyed-guy--and it was then I discovered all the holes in the arms. And it was all I had packed to wear. Nice, right?

A few days ago, I caught Mister Baby red handed, in the hallway, looking all Urkel-style did I do that? with bits of my brand new bikini around him (it's one of the two new ones I bought after he spent the last year destroying the rest of my vast collection), which he had pulled somehow from a closed bathroom cupboard, and drawn out of a basket where it was hidden, on top of which I'd placed a box as another line of defense. See how well that worked.

That last event was the catalyst for me taking the little guy to the vet today. Needless to say, this dude was not happy about the trip and did some nasty things to demonstrate that. Nearly $200 worth of blood work later, the vet tells me my cat might benefit from Prozac, which they can call into my local CVS pharmacy.

Prozac. My cat is going to have Prozac. Have I already made him that neurotic after only two and a half years in my charge? Jeez. Oy. Apparently it runs in the family.

Update: Some Web research has revealed that this condition is called Pica. Treatments vary. Has anyone experienced anything like this with a pet? Would appreciate any input.

Thursday, April 05, 2007


Sniff. Times infinity million.

Monday, April 02, 2007

Famous Last Words

Last night over dinner, after a long weekend of birthday partying and related activities, I told the girls, "I'm beat. I'll sleep like a baby tonight." Instead, I woke up to put the cat out of the bedroom in the middle of the night and was seized by a bout of insomnia for hours.

I tried to focus my thoughts and do breathing exercises, like I've learned in yoga and meditation. I tried to do the one where you imagine that every time you exhale you're breathing out billows of black smoke that represent all the toxins and negative energy you're harboring, and on the inhale you're taking in a bounty of bright white light, which is supposed to be purifying and salubrious. But what I ended up doing was picturing this activity diagrammed as an illustration, like they do to demonstrate medicines becoming active in the body on TV commercials. And then I started thinking about those medicines, and TV, which led to other wildly unhinged chains of thought which only perpetuated the insomnia. Then I heard the cat barfing in the foyer, which made me think about how I'm going to have to clean that up in the morning, and about how I have so much else to do today, and about how maybe I overscheduled and overdefined my day, which made me feel burned out before the week even started.

Then I was thinking about seder tonight and how I'm glad I won't be the youngest at the table so I won't have to do the four questions, thank heaven. And what's so bad about the four questions, anyway? I guess I don't like to be on the spot so much anymore these days--even though I thrived on the spot when I was younger--which is probably why I try to get away with wearing cute jeans to most things I would have so enjoyed getting dressed up for years ago.

At some point it was 7:50 and the alarm went off, and I had an 8:30 meeting and the day barreled onward.

Thursday, March 29, 2007


It seems my parents are getting awfully close to selling the house I grew up in. We moved in there when I was three-ish, and now I'm almost 30, and I'm trying to be pragmatic about it. At least I hope they get a fair price, and that some family with two cute little curly-haired pudgy girls moves in. So I'm sentimental and change resistant, but I can deal with this.

The idea of that address not belonging to the Dubins anymore has always been heartbreaking, when I've thought about it. That's the address that's been on my driver's license consistently, through probably 25 rental addresses of my own in four other cities. But now it's got to be time for the next chapter. As my mom told me on the cell when I was browsing the racks of Forever21 in the mall last night with my fountain Diet Coke, "That part of our lives is over. You girls are all grown up. It's a new era." Sniff.

Hi A,

As an undergraduate my favorite campus building was Sterling Memorial Library. There are simply no words adequate to describe the place, inside or out, or how I felt in it. If I must have a religion then it consists of books and my cathedrals are the great libraries. Most of my education occurred alone in the stacks of Sterling. The building was constructed in the depths of the depression, a time when Yale had money from hugely successful benefactors and New Haven was filled with skilled Italian immigrants—hungry for work. It is hard to imagine how it could ever be recreated absenting those circumstances.

There is a story, probably apocryphal, concerning Sterling’s opening in 1933. Yale in general employs very low-key signs to define its buildings. It is said that the University Librarian wanted to place a typically small sign outside the building which read, “This is NOT the Library. The Library is inside.” Even if untrue it is a great story with an important message.

Our house was wonderful chiefly for what was inside. The most important product of that experience is the emergence of two smart, talented and generally wonderful young women who are well poised to make their own homes in the coming years. Your Mom and I look forward (keina hora) to events in these. Furthermore our new home, even among the Topangan hippies, artists and nouveau riche lawyers, will always welcome you.


Dad and Mom

Monday, March 26, 2007

Word Up

These are the three most recent sets of (brilliant) keywords through which miscellaneous Internet-using people came across my blog:

jewish joke my god i hope nothing happened to him
working for cvs pharmacy
travel size mousse pumps

That about sums me up, I'd say. (Not that I work for CVS, but the other two.)


Last night I went to a swing dance club with my guy--the first time I've really ever seen him do this thing, even though he's been going dancing two nights a week when possible for the nearly six months (!) we've been going out. He was light as a feather on the dance floor, and I kind of had a retro kiss-in-Times-Square swoon moment watching him out there. Adorable.

Anyway, y'all know swing dancing is not my area (not yet anyway), so I sat at the bar and chit chatted with his friends and bought people drinks to ingratiate myself. And as I was sitting there, this guy walked by wearing a fragrance that smelled just like junior high to me. I guess it might have been Drakkar Noir or something? I wanted to ask him what it was, but if it was actually Drakkar, I thought the question might embarrass us both, so I let it go. But it's amazing how one quick whiff of a particular aroma can bring you right back to Mrs. Novack's homeroom. Or to not dancing to the MC Rob Base and DJ E-Z Rock tape at the summer camp dance, but instead making comments with fellow gawky bunk mates off to the side.

Not much changes, apparently. Thank god for continuity at least.

Friday, March 23, 2007

Seriously, Do It

Maybe eight or 10 years ago, I was walking with my sister in Berkeley. We were walking from her Ford Escort wagon with the architecture nerd bumper stickers on it and the Taco Bell toys in it to the YMCA downtown, where we took a totally empowering kick-ass (ahem) boxing class together.

She is more than two years older than me, which at some point in our lives was a significant difference. It must have been around the time she'd just graduated from college and she said, "You know, when you're small you think you can or will do everything in the course of your life. Maybe you'll live in Africa, or Panama, and you'll go up on a blimp, and maybe you'll go up in space. You won't necssarily do anything in particular, but you can and might do everything. And then at some point, you realize that you won't or can't do everything. You pick some things you want to do, and you may not do the rest. And you realize that and accept it, and that's just the way it is."

At the time, I found this very shocking and upsetting--I don't even know that I really believed it was true yet. I've since realized that you do make some choices, and some choices you make render other things unlikely or impossible. Kind of. But the trick is to continually think of your life as a changeable entity, because you can always do something else. Maybe you can't do everything in the in the realm of possibility for human beings, but you always control your option to do something else that might make you very happy. (If the person who inspired this post is reading, then for god's sake, go find a place for yourself at a public art organization that moves you! I want to you to be happy. I want everyone to be happy!)

My sister also said to me one time, after she called her boss in San Francisco and announced that she wasn't coming in, not ever again (and then moved briefly to Alabama): "We always imagine the consequences of our actions are so dire. But it's really not always that serious."

It's not really that serious. It's not.

Try To Solve the Puzzles in Your own Sweet Time

Do you know this gal Des'ree? This R&B singer doing her thing in the early 90's? I love her.

I love her because, in 1995, when I was on spring break from Beverly Hills high, and I was toting around Northern California looking at colleges I might go to (even though the only place I really cared about was Berkeley), I made a stop in Santa Cruz where I stayed with a friend from summer camp. While she was off in rehearsals for some kind of upcoming feminist dance performance (natch), I listened to Des'ree's album to death. I listened to it in that hippie dorm with the pretty trees and the clean air all around--listened as my day unfolds, challenged what the future holds, tried to keep my head up to the skyyyyy--and I always still associate the positive lyrics and melodies on the "I Ain't Movin'" album with the everything-is-about-to-happen feeling I felt that week, this week, 12 years ago.

Friday, March 16, 2007

Girl Scouts' Motto: Be Prepared

Last night, when I was out with the girls on Pico for some wine, I realized, shoot, I forgot to eat dinner. And all they have at that wine bar to eat are cheese plates and chocolate plates, and you know I can't mess with those because it's not in the Brand New Booty plan. So I go, "It's OK, I have a granola bar in my purse." And the girl with the bangs goes, "Dang, Dubin always has a bar in her purse."

True! I always have a bar in my purse, along with an array of other things I use and don't use. Turns out, last night this included not one, but three pairs of sunglasses (Versace, Marc Jacobs, and Paul Smith, from Filene's Basement, Nordstrom Rack, and Loehmann's, respectively--bien sur. Never mind that it was dark outside.); boat tickets from last weekend's mini-break; one granola bar, one protein bar, and one fiber bar; a Betsey Johnson wallet the size of Manhattan island that contains photos from my 11th grade semi-formal dance and the likes of a half-stamped Tasti-D-Lite buy-10-get-one-free card only good at the Park Avenue location; antibacterial spray in a pen-shaped container; a metal tin of hand lotion; two cell phones (my personal Treo, and my work phone); the Modern Jewish Girls' Guide to Guilt book that I've only had time to read like 50 pages of, but I've nonetheless toted miles around the state of California in case I find myself waiting in some kind of waiting room; a pill box containing mostly pills I would never take because I cannot identify them; etcetera.

Having a purse like this is my gift to you, because I am very likely to have something you need before you even know you need it. It's kind of heavy, but, you know, you're welcome.

Anyway, TGIF, whew.

[Unrelated: Katherine McPhee's "Open Toes" just came on my "Aaliyah Radio" on Pandora. Why is this song so genius?

I could wear them all day
And listen to the click-clack
Shoes like this make me hate flats
Swipe that card--I'm good

Another pair in leather and wood
I'm a sucker for a name-brand
Skip the rack and stick to the game plan
Hey let's go!
If they're not too high, too low
I'll take them home in purple, red, or gold
'Cause I know them boys
They like those open toes...]