Thursday, December 18, 2008

2008 Giveth and 2008 Taketh Away

Same-sex marriage rights in California
The blue-eyed boy (reinstalled in friendship capacity)
An assistant editor in L.A.
A significant chunk of my freelance budget
Many thousands of magazine jobs, and many more thousands of other jobs too
Five pounds
Some of the moisture in my hair (see below: blonder)
Hope for another consecutive Raiders football season

The same five pounds
One Huell Howser autographed print and one California's Gold tote bag
President-elect Barack Obama
The Palin rap on SNL
A new iPhone
A nicely blonder head of curls (see above: lost moisture)
An unforgettable trip to Mexico
Best Coachella weekend yet
A triumphant Grand Canyon hike
So, so much thrilling possibility

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Los Angeles Loves Civil Rights

For me the most affecting part of the Prop 8 protest downtown yesterday was when the marching group stopped on the freeway overpass, waving signs and hands in the direction of the traffic speeding along below. And to see all those car windows open, and those arms go out with the thumbs pointing emphatically up—that was the part that did it for me.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Here's What Looks Unspoiled to Me While Rome Burns

Trader Joe's
Intervention on A&E
This cotton dress I have on that looks dressed up despite the comfort it provides
Beautiful Booty followed by Cardio Kickboxing followed by Ab Lab at the gym
Whole-wheat pasta
Wednesday night girls' night at my house
Huell. Freakin. Howser. (How do I love thee?)
California's Gold on public television (see also: Huell Howser)
My best-ever nephew who talks now, I am told
The Onion
Regina Spektor
Spearhead, particularly Chocolate Supa Highway, which sounds so quaintly outdated now
Rosemary and basil
"My lovey" and "butzie girl," which my mom calls me sometimes
Club soda
White wine
Stilton cheese with bits of apricot in it (see also: Trader Joe's)
Making lists (such sweet therapy)
Em dashes
AE, LGP, AK, MIG, MAW, ADGL—in short, friends
Staying home on Friday night
Yogurt sundaes (fat-free vanilla, light choco syrup, granola, blueberries, fat-free whip)
The valiant protesters of Prop 8 (thank you)
Cream eyeliner
Wholehearted people
Honest people
Candid people
New people (but mostly not)
My fair reader(s)
Dinner. Bye!

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Election Night: November 4, 2008

How to write about last night, the night America elected Barack Obama its next president? How to write about the feeling at all, and particularly how to do it on no sleep and adrenaline alone?

I woke up two hours before my alarm yesterday—Election Day-induced insomnia. The day did not feel normal on any front. Traffic was especially light on the way to work in the morning; was everyone in the voting booth? I made it to my polling place in the afternoon. There was no line, which was almost disappointing because I had wanted to feel the energy of thousands of other voters [ironic foreshadowing]. When I punched my ballot for President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden, I welled up. And I well up again as I write this. I collected my "I Voted" sticker and pressed it to my chest with my hand over my heart like how you stand for the Pledge of Allegiance in elementary school.

At the gym afterward, I watched on multiple TVs as the clocks counted down the moments until the first polls closed. I was agape with the thrill of it all, mouth open. The woman on the elliptical next to me instigated a conversation with: "It's magic, isn't it? He was born for this."

At home (after AAA rescued my keys from my locked car), I showered and climbed into my themey red and blue outfit, put on my "I Voted Democrat" party hat, and watched as the results came in. They called Pennsylvania for Obama. It seemed like it was over before it started, but I don't have the stomach for fourth-quarter nail-biters anymore; I'd much prefer a blowout, and it was really happening. I ate Indian food and cried while Anderson Cooper tried to wrangle his infinite throng of commentators.

AE, LP, and DL (the photographer of that shot up there) came to the house with champagne. We piled into the car for the short drive to the Hyatt Regency Century Plaza where the official California Democratic Party party was happening. There was space for 7,000 and nearly three times that number of RSVPs. We arrived at 7:15, 45 minutes before the local polls closed, and stood patiently at the front of the line and waited. ABY came late from work and joined us. The girl behind us in line wore an old Betsy Ross-style flag she'd stitched into a Project Runway-style dress. Her date wore an "Obamarama" shirt. AK and DF were in line, but saw an intractable access problem shaping up and left. ABY would eventually bail too.

It was the first blustery night of the year and we were in coats (and we are never in coats). It felt like Times Square on New Year's Eve, only better because everyone was in a good mood, and New Year's Eve always seems kind of hellish.

I checked email on my phone. In sequence I got emails with these three subject lines from The Los Angeles Times:
"Breaking: Ohio Goes for Obama"
"Breaking: Virginia Goes to Obama"
"Breaking: AP Calls Election for Obama"

The cheers ran through the crowd, along down the line like the wave at a ballgame, or a pocket of water in a crimped hose. It felt like the energy went through my physical body in much the same way. People hung out of their hotel windows above us, waving flags and cheering. News choppers shone their beams in a clatter overhead.

We waited and waited in line, and eventually the fire department showed up en masse. No one else is getting in. We are at capacity. We are sorry, but we are at capacity. I need you all to move back 25 feet.

I tried every angle I could think of—which is really a lot of angles—and we did not get in. We waited, tried to be patient, sometimes failed at that, got frustrated, I wondered how exactly I would file a story about the event without seeing its innards, we tried to stay positive, we cheered sometimes. Then we got cold and went back to my house.

We opened the champagne and a few bottles of wine. I broke a glass, cleaned it up. I heated up some edamame and samosas. We watched Obama's victory speech on YouTube, and savored some CNN, plus the Stewart and Colbert special on Comedy Central. It looked grim that Proposition 8 would be defeated, and we were regretful about that, but we were elated and proud of Americans overall. We toasted to president Obama, and someone said: "We have the coolest president ever." I filed my story: "Democrats Swarm Hyatt for Massive Public Obama Party."

This is about as chronological and structurally dry as a story can get, but I had to put it down before I forget it. I don't ever want to forget it. The night America elected Barack Obama.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Now and Later

I couldn't eat the perfectly heart-shaped tomato from the farmer's market. It was too pretty, and anyway it was a gift. So I lovingly arranged it among the cluster of pumpkins and fresh flowers currently serving as my dining table centerpiece. I knew it was going to rot, so eventually I moved it to the granite countertop in the kitchen where it would not destroy the tablecloth. Now it has officially rotted—but I haven't yet tossed it.

If there is a message here, it might be similar to the one contained in those email forwards, in which so and so was killed in a car accident, and when her daughter was going through her belongings afterward, the daughter discovered some of her mom's most beloved possessions—some kind of unburned candles or unused fancy soaps or something—that the mother never got to enjoy in her lifetime because she was too precious and was saving them for a special time, but never determined a time to be special or perfect enough as a consequence of always planning for the future and not living in the present, and so the daughter uses them in tribute or something.

The blue-eyed boy told me recently: "I have watched you sometimes waiting for a fabulous time to pass to that you can tenderly memorialize it, and then safely enjoy the memories." That was pretty astute; I do do that. I adore my memories, but I like to think that I am also wont to exclaim how wonderful a wonderful thing is while it is happening. Like college, for instance, and Coachella, and my Caribbean travels.

Really though, I don't like tomatoes except in other things.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Rainy-Day Schedule

No, it's not exactly raining—this being Los Angeles and all—but today feels amiss.

In part that is because I am editing stories at a cafe on Sunset Boulevard, instead of in my office on Sunset Boulevard, because our Internet has had persistent problems for about a week, and I was teetering on the brink of sanity trying to work within our Web-based publishing tool there under those circumstances.

So I am editing stories in a big leather arm chair—fantasizing about that time within the next 10 minutes when I will buy a cup of chai tea—with my laptop in the place for which it was named. It is gray outside. It feels like Berkeley. This could be Cafe Strada or Milano, if there were more students and fewer models in the neighboring seats.

At Warner elementary school, when it rained, we could not go outside for recess, and instead played games inside at our desks as part of an alternate plan known as "Rainy-Day Schedule." The only game I can remember was called Heads-Up-Seven-Up, and had something to do with hiding our faces in our hands, heads down on desks, until something happened, but I can't remember what.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

The Lord's Day

I don't typically work out on Sunday; it's my day of rest.

But tonight I felt I should go to the gym, because I couldn't work out Thursday on account of work, and I couldn't work out yesterday on account of a V.I. birthday brunch, and I couldn't work out this morning on account of a pumpkin festival in Calabasas. So I tried to get into the gym this evening before it closed at 7, but I only succeeded in getting there at 6:40, which was only enough time to take a steam—which I decided was a delightfully deserved thing anyway, and a thing I never do during the week when the pace is not suitable for soothing oneself with steam, which would add 10 minutes one does not have onto one's routine.

But tonight there was time only for steam. And, beginning in the steam room, and then continuing into the locker room until long after closing time, I had what may truly be the most surreal conversation I have had ever at the gym, which is saying a lot. I want to retell it here, this conversation I had with the Thai trannie, but it was very unusual and would not stand up to translation in blog form, I'm sure of it. I just have never heard such strange words uttered. I just— I— Weird.

I will say that there is something to a slow-paced Sunday evening, and to devoting a time block to myself without any expectations of particular greatness or specific achievement. The driving without traffic, the parking in the prime ground-level spot without competition or the necessity to slither through the 12-inch gap left between mine and the next car (which not infrequently happens to be a Yukon parked in a compact space), the quiet, the steam, the not rushing back to work or to dinner or to the store or to quickly style my hair for this or that thing—it's nice.

No, this is not much of a story. But it had been forever since I'd blogged and apparently I needed to dip a toe back in before I say anything sensible.

Is anyone still out there? I'm sorry I left you. It's just that, these days, the best of my stories are not suitable for publication on the Internet.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Best Email I'll Get From a Publicist Today

"I die for you."

(In response to the question of: "What charity did the event benefit?" No, seriously, what charity? I need to know for my story.)

Monday, September 08, 2008

Walking in L.A.

We had some joke in college about my friends calling me Patch, because we figured it was only a matter of time before I ended up with another clutzy eye injury. (I like to think it was also because I'm a Raiders fan to the core, but it wasn't.) Really, you can't argue with hard facts.

But lately I'm starting to realize that my toes are my new most vulnerable area to injury. In the last year, I haven't had much undamaged-toe time.

Last summer, there was the matter of the Half Dome hike, during which I managed to bloody one toe after not cutting the adjacent toenail short enough. And I ended up with two unsightly black-and-blue patches under my big toenails that took nearly a year to grow out fully.

Then in Mexico, wearing skimpy flats, I accidentally made contact with the back of my travel partner's shoe, resulting in a baby toe that turned all the colors of the rainbow. Nonetheless, I vowed I would shove my foot into a fin for snorkeling even if it meant I had to cut the offending toe clear off. Nothing was going to keep me from being face down looking at turtles in the Caribbean, and nothing did (although a vicious sunburn necessitated a tank top over the bikini, but that's neither here nor there on the toe topic).

And most recently, there was the Grand Canyon hike, which, because of the intense, all-downhill grade for the entire first day, led eventually to a giant blister under one of the big toenails. A blister that would pop while I was minding my own business a week later, and when I was not prepared for, ahem, the flood. When I eventually took the polish off, it was clear that I would lose that toenail sooner or later, because instead of being transparent, it was opaque white. But it hung on, and I dutifully kept it polished and groomed.

Flash forward to last weekend, up in San Francisco, where I was enjoying a Korean-style massage until I gasped during the aggressive foot-massage part. Look, I knew I would lose that toenail eventually, so I wasn't as worried about that as I was about the post-traumatic stress syndrome I would have caused the poor masseuse if she ended up with my big red-painted toenail in her hand on Labor Day. Still it hung on.

But not for long. Wednesday, it finally gave up the ghost. At work. So I went straight to the nail salon on Sunset Boulevard during an essential impromptu lunch break, and got a prosthetic. It looked pretty good and convincing, but apparently the acrylic was too thin and it started to loosen at an inopportune time as I sat in five-inch open-toed sandals in a corner booth at Trader Vic's at the Beverly Wilshire late on Friday night. Not cute, people. Not cute.

Back to a different salon on Saturday for a better version of the acrylic replacement, before hitting the MTV Video Music Awards event circuit, where it is not appropriate to show up and represent your magazine with nasty feet. Two years the pedicurist said she worked on perfecting the toenail-replacement technique she was using on me. Two years! Only the best for my problematic phalanges.

Anyway, all of this is to say that toe is the new eye in my injury proneness. It's only a matter of time before the next incident, I fear. Thank heaven for modern pedicure science.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

A Sunset Boulevard Play in One Act

Ext. A City of West Hollywood parking lot off Sunset.

(pulling up in a Mazda3 hatchback)
You know a Yukon isn't a compact car, right?

(parking Yukon in two $125/monthly compact spaces)
Yes, but they're the only spaces left. You're busting my chops pretty early in the morning.

(opening trunk to place gym bag, exposing pink boxing gloves stored there)
That's true.

(seeing gloves)
Oh, I see you're serious. Wow, I like that. What's your name? I'm Leon. I used to box. Where do you box? We should box some time.

If you keep parking that Yukon in a compact space, I bet we will.


Thursday, August 21, 2008

Good Morning, Los Angeles

6:20 a.m.: Alarm on Treo sounds. Check email while phone is in hand. Mistake.

6:50 a.m.: Out the door.

7:09 a.m.: Arrive at entrance to Runyon Canyon, after a miraculous 19-minute trip from Westwood to Hollywood. Spend next 15 minutes looking for parking. Note to self that tons of other Angelenos have already finished their morning hikes. Perplexing and impressive. Wait for one such hiker to vacate parking space and pounce on it.

7:25 a.m.: Hit the trail with MA. Dominate conversation, as usual, with wildly interesting tales of reentry into dating world. Take opposite route this time: longer trail up, steeper trail down. Admire peoples' cute puppies and American Apparel short shorts. Perfect 45-minute loop.

8:10 a.m.: Back to car.

8:30 a.m.: Hit gym in West Hollywood for condensed ab-targeted workout. Shower without feeling rushed. See Janice Dickinson, sans make-up, animatedly discussing the worth of Hermes Birkin bags ("Really? For $10,000, do you think any bag is even worth it?") with another female gym goer. Note to self that a whole different set of irrelevant celebrities works out at this time of day.

9:15 a.m.: Stop for coffee at Primo. Order iced, get hot. When iced arrives eventually, say, "You know, if that hot one's headed for the trash, I'll drink it too rather than let it go to waste." Leave with two-for-one coffees, feeling justified, since it's highway robbery in there anyway. Sit down to text underwhelming Dickinson tip to AD for her celebrity-sighting blog, assuming that it won't make cut. While sitting, try without success to eavesdrop on cutie boxing instructor's convo with miscellaneous woman at restaurant.

9:30 a.m.: In chair at work. Ready for Thursday. Ready for anything.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Workout Notes: Week of August 18

Some girl did the entire jump-aroundy Fit-Body Workout class yesterday without taking off her sunglasses. Really?

In Ab Lab on Monday, the guy who hollered the expletive when he couldn't hold the plank anymore was positioned close enough to the instructor's mic to broadcast the utterance to the whole room, which I enjoyed, particularly as I continued to hold my plank (sucka).

I'm convinced Fabio is stalking me, since I see him at the gym every. single. time I work out, without a single exception that I can recall. (Or maybe he just never leaves the building.)

I'm very excited now that the Hard-Body Meltdown instructor calls me "girl." Great workout, girl! Thanks for the hard work, girl! It makes me feel like the popular kid in class, not unlike when my fiery Miami boxing partner calls me "mami."

Speaking of boxing: At the Coffee Bean this morning, I got another compliment on my pink boxing gloves, which dangled from my gym bag. Best investment ever. And the CPW (cost per wear) is almost nothing by now.

Hiking Runyon Canyon is absolutely my new favorite thing. (Monday, it was after work. Tomorrow, before work. Whee!) You don't necessarily want every hike to be such a quintessentially L.A. scene—with all those dogs and lean sports bra-clad torsos—but once in a while, it's completely fun and hilarious. And the views!

God, I love this town.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

In Which I Break the Bank for a Worthy Reason

On Saturday, I treated myself to a very indulgent trip to the hair salon. This trip to the salon marked a return to the place that I originally picked, shortly after I moved back to Los Angeles from New York, for the owner's expertise in balyage, the hand-painted highlights that make foil highlights seem like a caveman's hair-coloring technique. Since, I've been getting my color done at another salon, which I picked strictly for the convenience of its Doheny location and for the price-consciousness afforded by a relatively junior colorist (oh, and for the wi-fi). I did love my Brazilian Jewish stylist who was such a fun conversationalist, and whose opinions on the Sex and the City movie were totally illuminating, and who met his boyfriend in synagogue in San Francisco, which I always thought was darling (and who did Britney's extensions, by the way, but that's neither here nor there).

But here's the thing: The color wasn't great. Look, you can't throw good money after bad, even if it's not an unreasonable amount of good money. It was time for a change, and this time I felt like doing something for reasons other than convenience and economy. I just wanted to do it right.

So it was back to Venice, where I sipped red wine as the Saturday breeze wafted in through the open, garage-style doors of the salon, which shares its Abbot-Kinney space with an art gallery. Us Weekly issues dot rattan tabletops in the adjacent garden and paper lanterns sway in the tree branches overhead. It's an appropriately reverential place for my hair, about which I'm freakishly precious, but at least I can be honest with myself about that. It just is what it is.

For four hours, I took residence in this place, swapping stories about men and beach hair and sushi with the colorist. She said he'd left her four months ago, but she always knew he'd come back. I told her I was glad for her that he was back, and that she should make sure to be true to herself and to communicate better this time. She said it's crazy hot in here, isn't it? No, I said, I like the heat. I'm a summer person. Then she put me under the dryer and I baked and shvitzed and ate my words. Do you know that your hair takes insanely long to lift? No, I hadn't heard that before. Well, it does, but it's going to look amazing. You're going to totally love it. It's just what you need. Five more minutes.

After assistant Frenchie (and you know I avoid using names here, but that one's just too good) rinsed out the color and did two shampoos, a conditioning treatment, and two different glosses (roots and ends), it was back in the chair for the cut. (The blue-eyed boy used to trim my ends as I sat on the rim of the bathtub at home, but it's been years since I've had a professional cut. Much too terrified for that under normal circumstances.) When the shears came out this time, I was so proud of myself. No tears, no physical, visceral, fight-or-flight reaction. Just, you know, cut off the tired bits. It's time. Do some fun layers. Anyway, I'd already said my peace, and she totally got it. Go for layers, but leave. the. length. For god's sake.

Afterward, at the register, I plunked my credit card down for an amount that was roughly equivalent to my rent when I lived in Oakland, or my plane tickets for my Caribbean vacation, or three months of all-California-access membership at my fancy gym (and that's actually saying something). It's liberating, really, to just be like: I did this for myself today just because I wanted it. It's kind of obscene, OK, sure, but I worked for it, I didn't steal it. And I deserve it.

I wish there were some dramatic dénouement in which I got to leave the salon with the bounciest, shiniest, most perfect head of blond curls ever, but there's no such moment, because: Almost no one knows how to style curly hair, even if they can cut it and color it. She tried to scrunch some sort of pomade in there and diffuse it and call it a day, but nothing works like mousse, which no one wants to use for the reason that it has an '80s reputation and is sort of drying, but people: It's the only thing that works.

Anyway, I went for sushi with a full head of frizz on Saturday night. And it wasn't until today, when I showered and styled my hair with the standard two hands full of mousse that I saw the result of an entire Saturday afternoon and evening spent in an airy Venice salon chair. And it was good.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

August, So Far: By the Numbers

Distinct fond references to the soundtrack from 1988's Colors that have come up in conversation: 2

Times I've used some version of my catch phrase for summer '08 about "running a tight ship": 1,000

Quantity of red wine consumed: +/- a case

Beautiful Booty and Cardio Kickboxing workouts completed: +/- 8

Times I've heard that M.I.A. track with the shotgun sound in Beautiful Booty and Cardio Kickboxing classes, since it's the instructor's new favorite song: 8

Semi-disposable clothing and accessory items purchased from Forever 21 and H&M: infinite

Times I have eaten Thai for dinner: 3

Miles traveled on PCH between Santa Monica and Malibu over several trips: at least 150

Cubes of tofu consumed: semi-infinite

New hair products sampled: 5
(New products integrated into routine: 1)

Books started: 2 (The Female Brain, which is so far interesting but full of excuses, and I Was Told There'd Be Cake, which is so far posery and cloying)

New blogs I've picked up: 1 (Thanks for the stories, Diet Coke. And sorry about the way those Valentinos cut up your feet like that.)

Times sister has told me, in words or non-words, to get over myself: at least 10
Times she's been right: same

Trips to Trader Joe's on National, where it's impossible to park: 2

Times I have consulted the Magic 8 Ball on my desk at work, after not having consulted it for months: 7
Times in the last one minute: 3 (but the second time said "ask again," so the third time shouldn't count)

Personal decisions put off until tomorrow instead of today: Brain is full. Can we talk about this tomorrow?

Sunday, August 10, 2008

My Clock Is Ticking Again

My old clock, which was a gift, which I think is from the 1940s or so, which was made in New Jersey, in a shape that mimics a ceramic kitchen plate, it works again. My clock, which nominally ticks for eight days before it needs to be wound, but was down to four days and then two, and then two hours, it went back to the giver of the gift for a mechanical tune up. On the back of my clock is inscribed by the giver: "Time is the most valuable thing you can spend."

The ticking sound of my clock, which is so pronounced in a quiet house, it's back. The ticking that sounds like crawling to the kitchen for water when the stomach flu had hold of me; that sounds like planning trips to see the Mayan ruins in Mexico; that sounds like "How was work today?"; that sounds like reading the Sunday paper and making egg and cheese breakfast muffins with veggie sausage; that sounds like the background noise behind Planet Earth in the living room; that sounds almost entirely like peace and only faintly like conflict, it's back. A fraught sound. A sweet, sentimental sound.

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Skirt, the Issue

Today I am wearing a skirt that cannot be denied. I am wearing a skirt that flows in a swirly pattern, in shades of bright orange and fuchsia, from slightly above the waistline clear to street level. It's from H&M's Marimekko tribute collection, and it's basically the loudest skirt in America.

I'm wearing this skirt because A), it's pretty hot outside, maybe almost 90 today. And B), it's sort of a statement that says, "Everything is super! Would I be wearing this skirt if everything weren't super?" This approach is similar in concept to the email I received last week from a friend (in regard to a certain sub-optimal first date she'd had), which she punctuated with an exclamation mark and the note: "I'm not really feeling the exclamation point, but if I type it, maybe it will manifest in reality."

This skirt gets attention. Everyone at work remarked on it this morning, as they always do, which brings the garment's CPC (cost per compliment) down to pennies. As I was walking down Sunset just now to grab a bite for lunch, the hostess at Cravings stopped me to ogle my skirt. CPC ever dropping.

Half a block later, in the crosswalk across from Chin Chin, the collagen-filled passenger in an Escalade-genre vehicle (indefensible, BTW) rolled down the window to go on and on about ohmygod ohmygod your skirt, I love it. Where did you get it? H&M. Recently? No, about two months ago. Shoot!

This tickled me, because I often feel like filling one's face with collagen and shopping at notoriously affordable H&M have a dependably inverse relationship. But not this time. It's the power of this skirt. It's universal.

Monday, August 04, 2008

In Which my Head Explodes at Summer Camp

I didn't read the Sunday paper yesterday. I was back at camp instead.

It was alumni day up in Malibu, the occasion for which I set foot in a place I haven't seen since 1994, and which felt somehow the same, and also totally different.

The dirt and the heat and dehydration were all the same: check. The wooden plaques we engraved with in-jokes when we thought we were so cool, and that our in-jokes were the best ones ever, and when engraving C.I.T. plaques was the most important thing one could do on the planet—those were all still there. The one over the amphitheater that says, "You are entering this magic place: Forget what you have learned," on the entry side, and "You are leaving this magic place: Remember what you have taken," on the exit side, that was still there, still penned in the letters that seem to be the universal hand belonging to Southern California Jewish girls of a certain era with hippie tendencies and unfettered creative aspirations and mind-blowing, eye-bulging optimism.

Among the differences: Today's campers are whiners who tell their parents things that they should know to keep to themselves, and their parents are litigious, and their parents are the types who send threatening emails. So—we're told by the camp director who once was a camper when we were campers, and who had a mullet back then, but it was totally cool—you cannot punish a kid anymore by making him hug a tree and say the Hamotzee backwards or whatever it was. You must punish a kid by making him sign a contract of some sort, which threatens explusion if the behavior continues. There are real consequences.

These kids get Otter Pops instead of candy on some days. This is not an insignificant change, because I connect Abba Zabbas with only one reference on earth, and that is eating them on a bottom bunk with feet up on the plank under the top bunk, where many words and names were scribbled alongside swirls in indelible markers. “G-8 is great.” “AD slept here, summer ’89.”

Also, these kids have Ipods in their cabins and tents. We had our best-ever counselor DK singing "Crazy for You" over a karaoke tape to help us fall asleep. And these girls? They have doors on their cabins. Doors! We used to have only two walls in those same wooden structures, and we also walked uphill both ways in the snow to get to the bathroom cabin...

...which still looks the same, but it has been painted. No longer do the words "MA is a bitch, but I love him," penned by JH circa 1988, remain in one of the stalls. And no longer does that whole structure reek of Aussie Sprunch Spray, which had been pulled from Caboodles and applied liberally to curly manes on Friday nights, when we were supposed to be clean, and were for a moment, before we got our feet instantly muddy on the walk to Mercaz.

And there's more. These 21st-century kids sing in Hebrew a lot. I mean, we sang in Hebrew a lot too, but these kids seem to be asked to take their Judiasm more seriously, to treat it almost as if it were a bona fide religion as much as the pure enjoyment of our shared culture and our community. And, one of the rare English songs in these kids' song books is "Hey There Delilah," which is wrong for so many reasons.

And then there's the fact that our camp now has many areas, including a new organic garden laid out in the shape of the state of Israel, dedicated to the memory of fellow camper MB, who was killed by a suicide bomber while studying at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem in 2002. In some senses, camp is a more serious place now.

But before all this, there were the 1980s, when girls wore high-cut bikinis and odd-shaped, new-fangled monokinis, and when we all used to shout in unison, sort of inexplicably, "Cowabunga, I'm stoked on those hot, primo tubes. Ow!" when our bus turned off Mulholland Highway onto the Pacific Coast Highway as we headed to Zuma beach. And we relived those memories as we sifted through curled black-and-white photos sprawled out on a tabletop in the dining hall, where kids sang many extra verses at the end of the Birkat Hamazon that I had never even heard before.

At the ropes course, under the fancy new rock climbing wall, we asked a 14-year-old camper if she knew how old we were. It was a trick question, so she didn't want to answer. We made it easy for her: "Do we look more like your counselors, or more like your parents?"

"Like my parents."

And the seasons, they go round and round
And the painted ponies go up and down
We're captive on the carousel of time
We can't return we can only look behind
From where we came
And go round and round and round
In the circle game

Thursday, July 31, 2008

I Want

I'm on a shopping bender. But I'm OK with it; I deserve stuff this summer. I'm sorry, but.

My head almost exploded at the Marc Jacobs in the Forum Shops last week in Vegas when I had to choose between the three color combinations in which the most perfect snakeskin clutch on earth has been made. I picked the one with the blues and greens and browns, although I liked the '80s-inspired neon one too, of course, and I would have bought the one that the store clerk described as "Afrocentric," but she seemed so self-loathingly disparaging when she said it. Actually, first she said I should buy all three, but I was like, "Look lady, it's 3 in the afternoon. I know this is Vegas, but how drunk do you think I am?"

Yesterday I bought new bedding—a sheet set and a duvet set—as well as a new gold necklace (I need a chain worthy of my California pendant, hello), and a tablecloth. A tablecloth? Random, maybe, but I'm in spend mode.

What else can I buy now? Gimme.

Update: It's a 70-percent-off bonanza at BCBG. I picked out a slouchy, comfy little lavender-ish dress (deal sealer: "machine wash cold") and was telling the clerk, "Yeah, I thought it would be great into autumn with some leggings..." And he said, "Did you know we have leggings at 70 percent off?" So I got those too.

Update part deux: Today I am wearing the little Marc Jacobs cotton romper that I bought on Saturday, which is an extra small, but 80 percent off is 80 percent off. I can be an extra small for 80 percent off. I also scooped up some royal purple MJ shorts with gold hardware, even though it's late in the season, but they were 65 percent off, and I got an extra discount because of my birthday month, even though it isn't event technically my birthday month anymore. Then there's the matter of a new army green swimsuit. And that's it for a while, I think.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Stuff About Being Jewish I Have Heard Lately That Has Tickled Me

"I think being a New Yorker is probably like being Jewish: You're either born that way or you aren't, and while you can convert, nobody will make it easy for you and nobody thinks it's the same."
From Capella's blog, on her impending move

"You've heard the saying: Gentiles leave and don't say goodbye. Jews say goodbye and don't leave."
From a guest at a Shabbat dinner in Venice earlier this month, as we all edged ever closer to the door and never quite got there

"When you get back from Vegas, let's go for drinks. Or Jewish drinks: food."
From another AD with very good hair, by way of Facebook email

Also, at the end of a craps table at Mandalay Bay last week, I was positioned next to some guys who kept saying, "Easy money, all day, every day! Easy money!" They said this before each shooter rolled the dice. And I'm like, hello, Jewish much? No, not. We don't say that stuff on account of we're superstitious, even if we're just rolling dice, and not even naming babies before they are born or wishing somebody a safe flight. (Maybe we could say "easy money" and then also say kein ahora each time too, but that would get cumbersome and also kind of embarrassing.)

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

The Grand Canyon Hike Report

This is the story of our hike down and up the Grand Canyon, on Sunday and Monday, June 29 and 30, 2008. Or rather, this is only my story. No doubt the other seven adventurers in our group—in total we were seven women, one man, all hovering around 30, with varying fitness levels and heat and fear tolerances, from the Los Angeles and San Francisco Bay areas—all have their own. But at least this one thing is surely universal among us: It was an unforgettable, tremendous thing.

Led fearlessly and tirelessly by trip organizer LP, we set up at Mather campground on Saturday night and tried to get to sleep as early as possible for an early-morning wake up. Racked with adrenaline and nerves, I don't think I slept for more than two 45-minute intervals; I could hear my heart beating in my ears.

We intended to wake up at 4 a.m., but I was up at 3:30, and so was most of the rest of our crew, everyone filling their hydration bags and packing and repacking their packs by light of headlamps. Mostly on account of our need to take two shuttle buses to the trail head, we got a slightly later start than planned, but were generally still on track: At 5:45 a.m., we set off down the South Kaibab trail.

The reason for the necessity of an early start is the rapidly rising temperature in late June in the canyon. National Park Service posters, displayed prominently throughout the park, generally seem to try to discourage hiking altogether, particularly in the summer heat. These signs basically warn you that your death is imminent, no matter your age or fitness level, so don't do it. Or if you must, then for god's sake be prepared. But probably just don't do it. (One of these posters in particular, which described the overheating death of a 26-year-old girl, made quite an impression on me, and probably accounted in large part for my lack of sleep the first night.)

But around 6 a.m. the thermometer had likely not hit 80 yet, and we were in good shape. From the top you head straight down at a tremendously steep grade (hikers often take this trail down, but rarely ever take the same one up on account of its arduous angle). And the view is wide open (I believe this is called "exposure" in hiking circles) as the trail follows the ridge line. You really have to suspend your disbelief to imagine that humans can get all the way down there, and then can get all the way up. To start, my pack was about 25 pounds, and I believe many of our other group members' were fairly comparable.

We stopped for rest and snacks a couple of times, saw a pair of condors with massive wing spans, and generally took our time to enjoy the view. With the temperature still mild even around 9 a.m., and the trip strictly downhill, our crew seemed to be holding up just fine. But during one break for shade, BC began to reveal her discomfort. We encouraged her to try to take some salty snacks to replenish some electrolytes, but she had no appetite, and she vomited here. My guess was that the problem was nerves.

You see, hiking into the Grand Canyon is a head trip. Generally, when you embark on a big hike, you know that you are free to reevaluate your goal at any point and go back down. You do the Grand Canyon in the reverse of a typical trek: first down and then up. So every step you continue to take into that abyss is one you know you must match during the crawl out. This can be a serious psychological disadvantage, particularly as you gaze out on that expanse from the South Kaibab trail. After managing a few peanuts and absorbing some pep talk, BC summoned her strength and we headed down again; I believe her new goal was to get to the bottom and find a ranger to inquire about an alternate way out, maybe on a mule. Onward we went.

We passed dust in all colors—bright red and white in addition to some greenish landscape—and much evidence of mules on the trails in the form of their prolific excrement. On one set of switchbacks, we stepped off the trail to let a mule train pass.

On the 6.9-mile, sharply descending South Kaibab—although it is a terrifically groomed trail befitting a park visited by 5 million oglers annually—there are few markers to encourage hikers. There are no potable water sources, and neither is there any visible water. At some point we saw off in the distance a shelter containing composting toilets, and we hustled toward it. The tiny glimpse seemed to take months to become a reality. Once there, AK, MIG, and I sat down against the structure, elevating our legs on our packs (which we'd read was a smart plan to reduce swelling whenever possible during breaks). As we waited for the rest of our group, we acknowledged that we were leaning against a toilet shed, and maybe that wasn't the most sanitary nor the classiest thing for ladies to do. But who cared? It was shade. MIG asked me what time it was, and I noted it was 10 a.m. We were both shocked—it already seemed we'd been up for days.

We scarfed down some more electrolyte chews and snacks, and talked to a couple of other hikers who passed. When you're this far down into the canyon, there are few others: It's too far for a day hike (except for a pathological few), so it's only the small group of committed campers who populate the trail in that area. We saw perhaps 10 other hikers between there and the bottom.

Funny, it was at that point that I thought we were close to the bottom. In fact, there was still a vast stretch of switchbacks separating us from the Bright Angel campground where we'd sleep that night. We caught our first glimpse of the Colorado River, and it motivated us to add a little extra spring to our step. And then we zigzagged across a few more switchbacks. And then we saw the river again and again and again... like an oasis that was hardly getting nearer no matter how much we walked. Eventually we got close enough to see the current moving (at an impressive clip), and to see the Black Suspension Bridge that spanned it, and the small tunnel that led onto it. I'd expected to be terrified of this bridge (my fear of heights had reared its head mercilessly on Half Dome), but from above, it actually looked like a thrill, beyond which was the reward of a cold creek and an end to the day's hike.

As we descended this set of switchbacks, I was feeling my first real physical symptoms. The continual pressure of my big toenails against my hiking shoes was causing seriously painful tenderness, of which I was acutely aware with each step. Also, we were nearing the bottom, and I'd say the temps in the sun were getting close to the 115-degree range.

Finally, we reached the tunnel (a few feet of shade!) and crossed the bridge. And to my delight, I wasn't afraid at all.

We could see down to a small beach on the river, exposed to full sun, at which a few folks were taking dips into the cold water. At that point, LP was suffering pretty bad from the heat, and my toes couldn't take much more. Everyone was close to their physical limits. According to my trusty Polar heart rate monitor, I'd burned about 2,200 calories by then. (It would be about twice that on the ascent.)

We wet our shirts and towels in the river, and walked the last half mile to camp. I changed into my swimsuit right there in the open (privacy is an irrelevant luxury when things are that raw), and we all got into Bright Angel creek... overjoyed.

The creek, which runs through the meandering row of camp sites, is rocky and cold and spectacular, and it's the thing that saves some hikers' lives who may be close to expiring from heat exhaustion by the time they reach it. (Seriously: One of the park service's strongly worded signs at the bottom encouraged summer hikers to get in the creek stat upon reaching it.)

That evening was one of the more surreal and wonderful of my life. After cooling down in the creek, a few of us headed into the canteen at Phantom Ranch for some iced tea and—shockingly—light air conditioning. There, you can buy postcards and stamps, and deposit the cards in a leather sack, from which they will be retrieved and brought to the post office on the rim by way of mule train. I amused myself by attempting to write five of these postcards without any sort of motor skills (the hike and the heat, not to mention the complete lack of sleep, had rendered those skills ancient history by this point, about 3 p.m.). I didn't have addresses with me, so I guessed on the ones I didn't have memorized (and who memorizes in the age of technology?), and I'm not sure I wrote anything that made sense. I imagine that reading one of these cards now would be something like writing a note to myself while high on hallucinogens, and then looking at it later, wondering whose creepy handwriting that was and what the heck that person was even trying to say. (So, apologies to those of you dear friends and family members who may actually receive these strange missives. But know they were written with love! And unfathomable fatigue!)

MC, whose profession is travel planning, had made persistent daily calls to the Phantom Ranch to try to secure some meals for us (which generally must be booked a year in advance), and had succeeded. So the eight of us were able to eat, depending on our preferences, steak or vegetarian chili with salad and cold drinks. Our group had these meals in two shifts, the first at 5 p.m., and the second at 6:30. Since MIG and I were on the second shift, we first played cards at a picnic table in front of the small dining hall, and then attempted to play hangman on a small notebook I'd carried with me. The word she'd selected was cougar, but the stick figure woman representing me almost met her fate before I could guess that simple little word. I guessed "S." And then after a long pause, "Um... S" again. I was so spent, I'd forgotten most of the letters in the alphabet.

The doors to the dining hall opened, and DML, LP, and AE—the first shifters—emerged happy and refreshed after their steak meals. Just then—and this is not for dramatic effect, it's actually true—monsoon-force winds began to blow. It was an ultra-hot, powerful wind, as if produced by a hair dryer. It was like nothing else.

After our own meals of veggie chili, we attended a brief ranger talk at a small amphitheater at Phantom Ranch. I was so fatigued that I was completely without filters, and I found myself shouting out things—even slightly lewd things, and hello, there were kids there—like a heckler at a comedy club. But I think he enjoyed it, this unconventional ranger, who talked at a clip, with deep enthusiasm, using words that indicated he was probably from Santa Cruz. He ended his geology talk with a sing-along—but it wasn't Kumbaya or anything; it was Metallica. It's entirely possible that I hallucinated this out of fatigue, but I'm pretty sure the other girls who were also in attendance will back me up.

We cooled ourselves in the river one last time before sleep. MIG and I had a tent; we'd heard it was going to be about 60 degrees overnight at the bottom, but I believe it had to be closer to 90. The girls in our group with only bug bivies (net shelters) had the smarter idea by a mile. I slept in my swimsuit bottom and filthy tanktop from the day's hike, over (not in) my sleeping bag, and I sweated profusely all over its synthetic materials. Later I would realize that I had been so tired I'd actually forgotten to even open the valve on my camping pad, and thus it didn't inflate. But even this insomniac might have been able to sleep on shards of glass when that exhausted, so it was moot.

At 4:15 a.m., we were up again for day two, our hike out of the canyon via the Bright Angel trail, a much longer route in distance (about 9.5 miles), but one with a lesser grade, some shade along the way, several potable water stops, and the chance to walk alongside creek water for at least a mile or more. It was not too hot yet at that time of the morning, and we were in good spirits. Sweet BC had found her strength and courage, and had decided to set out first to give herself a psychological edge, I'm guessing. She was making great time.

The rest of us were keeping a steady pace, first along Silver Bridge, which unlike Black features only an open grate below hikers' feet, which shows clear through to the river. Again, I found this enjoyable and not fear inspiring to my own great surprise. However it was on this bridge that my camera blinked low battery, and then pooped out for good. Nothing makes me feel more impotent than being without a camera. But, assured that seven other hikers were documenting our experience, I gulped down that disappointment and trekked on.

About four miles into the trip up (which we knew was about half of the distance along the trail, but far less in difficulty), we came to Indian Gardens, a little oasis with shade, potable water, and a creek running through. There, we ate the sack lunches we'd picked up from the Phantom Ranch. (I ate my bagel and cream cheese as if I were a wild dog, hurling pieces into the air and hoping some landed in my mouth. Somehow, DML managed to slice his neatly, and I joked that he might like some capers and roasted tomatoes on his gourmet dish.) We poured what seemed like the thousandth batch of electrolyte powders into our water vessels, and we were already cursing the notion of neon-colored warm water. (But from everything we'd heard, this diligence was going to save our lives, for sure.) I took off my shoes (something that makes you nervous—because you know if you do it you will never want to put those suckers back on, but you must), and went down to the creek to soak my feet in the cold water. LP and MIG slid right into the shallow creek, clothes and all. Afterward, I put more Moleskin on my big toes, which were definitely feeling the impact, and I was already guessing I might lose at least one of those toenails eventually. (At blog press time, the status of the toenail was still indeterminate.)

We'd heard initially that hikers would be smart to wait out the heat of the day here at Indian Gardens until 4 p.m. before beginning the rest of the trek up. But we'd arrived there shortly after 9 a.m., and were satisfied we'd had enough of a break by around 10:30. Plus, I'd asked Ranger Metallica the night before what he'd thought about that theory, and he said don't worry about spending the whole day there—keep going if you feel ready; there's a rest house only a mile and a half above it. So off we went.

The next stretch of trail is dubbed "the furnace." This bit is hot as hell, as you might expect from its moniker, and dusty. It was a long mile and a half until the rest house, known as Three Mile Rest House, as it's three miles from the top of the rim. In my memory, this rest house had a bit of a party atmosphere. There were at least 10 people seeking respite there, filling up at the water spigot, elevating their legs, and scarfing snacks. We met a group of hikers from Flagstaff who were doing rim to river to rim in a single day—attempting in half the time what we were doing in two days (a thing that is so, so discouraged by the park service). The funny thing was these world-class hikers were using Wal-Mart broomsticks for walking sticks. I think because I was absolutely loopy from heat and fatigue, I found this fact unbelievably funny.

There is no toilet here, so I found a tree (pardon). Liquid turns neatly to clay in that soil, which keeps it all very contained and tidy. No fuss, no mess! I ran my tanktop under the spigot and put it on soaking wet. That kept me cool for about 10 seconds.

As AE and I were leaving the rest house in good spirits, a ranger there told us that our group looked like we were in great condition, compared to the state of many other hikers who reach that point. He said he was deputizing us—that we were to give safety tips (regarding electrolytes, water, shade, rest) to anyone we might pass who looked like they were in trouble. He said we looked like we knew what we were doing. Maybe Ranger Rick says that to all the ladies, but I was feeling really good. (Actually, the whole way up, my heart rate never got much higher than 160, which is a vast improvement over the 180s I'd seen on my monitor as I was hoofing up the Vernal Falls stretch at Half Dome last year.)

On the trip up to Mile and a Half Rest House (guess why it is so named), things were starting to feel more treacherous. It was the full heat of the day now (maybe shy of 100 degrees since we were closer to the top, which can be 20 degrees or so cooler than down at the bottom). And plus the impact of my toes against my shoes was getting more intense. That next rest house is cruel in that you need to take several stairs to reach it. Also, it is rather small, with room for only, say, two hikers to sit with legs elevated. Also, this rest house has a bathroom with composting toilets, but those are in another shelter, at least 30 paces away. Thirty backtracking paces feels like a lot at this point in the hike—trust me.

Some N.B.s: By this point my pack was probably around 20 pounds, because I'd drank much of the water and eaten much of the food, and I'd put my camping pad in a duffel bag shared by several group members, which a mule carried to the top. Certainly DML's and LP's packs must have been heavier as they did not make use of space in the mule duffel. The whole trip down, I'd drank about three electrolyte-packed liters of water. On the way up, it was more like six. I was recalling Chris Rock's sketch about "Put a little Tussin on it," because we had conditioned ourselves to think like that about electrolytes. The cure all. Knee hurts? Sprinkle a little electrolyte powder on there.

We knew we were close to the top now, but looking up, the rim still seemed like an unbelievable way up, not to mention it looked like a sheer cliff. But that's what switchbacks are for. And more, and more, and more, and more of them, mostly exposed to full sun. The switchbacks can be demoralizing, and AK was exhausted and frustrated; you can see the top now, but it seems like you'll just never get there.

As we got closer, we saw more people on the trail, day hikers who came down with only a small bottle of water and no pack, and who were looking very, very clean in white Lacoste things. We looked like hell—covered in red dust and sweat and Moleskin, swollen and shuffling—and we knew it. It was a funny contrast to see them, and I wonder what they thought of us.

Finally, almost unfathomably, we crept up on it: There was the sign marking the trail head. We'd done it! MIG and I stood at the top and waved our arms and hollered cheers as loudly as we could as our fellow hikers crested the cliff too. We had all done it, and we'd all done great. It was a feeling of unmitigated joy.

And deep physical pain. My toes were useless, and the consensus seemed to be that our calves all hurt like all get out. LP's knee, which had been ailing her long before the trip, must have throbbed under the red-mud stained bandage she'd wrapped around it. We all tried to be patient through a few group photos with arms raised in triumph before we got on the shuttle to head back to camp. We moved slowly, Thriller-video style, in a limp apparently known as the "Kaibab Shuffle" among Grand Canyon hikers.

On the bus, I told the woman next to me: "Oh dear, I'm sorry if I offend." We didn't smell good. We didn't look good. And we felt like a million bucks.

Sunday night—thanks in part to a combination of Lunesta, red wine, celebratory champagne, ear plugs, and a black-out sleep mask, not to mention a 10-hour trek out of the depths of the Grand Canyon—I slept like a corpse. (And was also thankful not to be one after the harrowing experience.)

The 500-mile drive home to Los Angeles from Arizona via Route 66 with MIG and AK was filled with triumphant giggles, dirty jokes, and quips about electrolytes, water consumption, and salty snacks, which had been both our saviors and our albatrosses on the hike.

And our drive was filled with talk about what impossible heights we'll try for next year, in both the literal and life-goal senses of the word.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Peaks and Valleys

Sweet. A blog post about a dream I had last night. Snore, right?

But seriously. We were on a balcony of a very, very tall high-rise building. Actually, we thought were were on the balcony, but later realized we were actually hovering near it in a basket trailing from a helicopter. For a girl with a moderate fear of heights, this was a nervous-making thing. After what seemed like forever in that state, the helicopter finally took off, soaring away from the building, carrying only me now in its basket, and then lowered gracefully so that my basket was gliding over the clearest Caribbean-looking ocean imaginable, where the sea was the faintest shade of blue, but mostly only showed right through to the sand below. It was heavenly. I was getting ready to drop in for a swim.

...and then a private caller woke me up at 6 a.m. for the second time this week. I will get you if I find you.

I'm sure this dreaming of heights, of soaring, of potentially plummeting, has something to do with the Grand Canyon trek, kicking off in T minus two days now. Two!

Temperature range: forecast at 39 to 108 degrees. Approximate percent grade for much of the way up: 15. Friends crazy enough to attempt: Nine, including me.

Subject line of today's pre-hike thread: "Just to add to your anxiety..."

Notable graf contained therein: "Apparently there is also a slight chance of showers this weekend. Which sounds kind of wonderful in 105-degree heat, but I have no idea what that means in terms of lightening killing us on the trail. Never fear... it's not likely, statistically, to kill more than one of us. That's only a one in nine chance you'll be fried."

Whew! Cake.

Friday, June 20, 2008

Beware of Women Who Make Lists

That was the punch line of some comic strip ADG and I read in college. And we found it perplexing and not funny. Because we know that women who make lists are the best kinds.

With the big Grand Canyon hike near on the horizon, by now I'd be knee deep in lists, and many of the items on those would be crossed off already. But I got distracted (not my style, but "life comes at you fast," as the commercials say). So it's T minus eight days until departure and I'm... listless.

You see, there is a lot to think about when packing for the Grand Canyon hike. The temperature at the top rim is supposed to be something like 30 degrees cooler than the temperature at the bottom. At the top, we'll be car camping and can bring luxuries like air mattresses and real pillows. For the bottom, it's whatever you can cram in your pack and carry first all the way down and then all the way up without dying. It's supposed to be like 9 million degrees, or really, above 100. So even if my booty is in shape for this (and even that is questionable), my lists lag woefully behind.

But there's time. I bought a new pack with a solid frame and a camping pad from REI, plus some mysterious dehydrated food packages that become lasagna when you reconstitute them. Just this week I've bought six Clif bars and replaced the battery in my trusty Polar heart rate monitor, which I am counting on to tell me among many other things that I burned 10,000 calories over the two-day trek. Coupled with the info on LP's pedometer, I should be able to sate my voracious appetite for information. I need data. I'm like a data vampire.

Next up, I think I'll buy a dependable visor or hat (the desperate need for sun protection is as much about vanity as anything else, but hey, at least I know myself) and maybe a new tank top with built-in sports bra that will have to be up to a serious task.

List making aside, one benefit of recent distractions is that I have not been devouring every blog ever written on hiking the Grand Canyon by way of the Bright Angel trail. (This so-called preparation did not help me before Half Dome last year.) In the only one I read several months ago, some lesbians faced serious complications from heat exhaustion and vomited uncontrollably. Or something like that; I kind of blocked it out.

Anyway, regular readers of this blog will appreciate the great symbol it will be if I manage to claw myself out of a giant hole in the earth. And you know what, y'all? It's on.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Ode to a Butt Whooping

I must be on the come-up because no impaired woman could endure the rigors of Beautiful Booty class followed immediately by Cardio Kickboxing (nor do I think most sane women would even attempt it on a normal day). I totally enjoyed it too.

Put "she lived and died by her jump squats" on my epitaph if I collapse. And I mean that in the most loving way.


For jump squats: "Start in a deep squat position with your arms folded out in front of your body. From this position, explosively jump up as high as you can and reach for the ceiling with your hands as you jump. Repeat this until failure."

What Has Helped and What Hasn't

Don't Mess With the Zohan (surprisingly)
Game 5

The company of friends
The Fowler Museum
Getting my house cleaned by other people who aren't me
Working out (Man, that is sick. Slash healthy.)

The sadistic Facebook broken-heart icon
Game 4
Rejiggering vacation plans
Paying $4.67 at the gas station this morning for regular unleaded
Trying to get perspective by conjuring Darfur

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Lucky Girl

"Whatever you need, girl, we're here for you."

"I dedicated my yoga practice to you. Did you feel the strength and the peace?"

"We all think it would be a good idea to see your girls if you can muster the strength. Would it help to talk? Or would it help to listen to others' trivial problems? Or would it help to tell fart jokes all evening? Just say the word."

"I will continue to pray that you find love and joy of a more permanent sort and peace in the meantime. Om."

"Since you're probably feeling fatigued anyway, why not perk up your bathroom a little with new paint? I will send out feelers to the girls and work on a painting-party spreadsheet. Nothing makes me feel good like a) making a fabulous list, and b) getting stuff on it accomplished."

"In the end, you discover that you are a wiser, richer, fuller person for the experience. In the meantime, we have friends, family, and vacation! Not to mention shopping, countless hours at the gym, and martinis with the girls. I love you endlessly."

"I have Xanax."

"Take the day off! We'll go to the beach, shop for 'kinis, drink beer at the beach bars, and lick our wounds."

"We are women and don't have the option to dither forever on whether we want a family or not. It's important that you are faithful to your future self and your dreams of having a family. Love your broken heart, because your heart is what makes you so special. It brings pain, but it also brings you so much joy."

"I'll treat you to a private Pilates lesson."

"I love you lots! Call me whenever you are ready. Or I will harass you."

"Should we meet at someone's house instead of a public space? You know, for maximum huggability? Just hugging and being hugged releases good drugs in the brain. It'll help."

"I know it hurts now, but when you find the right person, you will have joy for the rest of your life. I love you with all my heart. You are so strong. This is a new beginning, a new adventure."

Tuesday, June 10, 2008


Me: mom was kind of a star yesterday because she asked me a million times
if i would like something to eat
and i cried over the questions a million times
and shook my head no
no i will not eat
then she put the matzah ball soup in front of me
and i ate it
and i was nourished

ED: cute
that's like a poem
sort of like a cross between shel silverstein
and a psalm

Monday, June 02, 2008

Everything in Moderation

I covered a party last night that featured an M.I.A. performance that began at 11:30 p.m. This was a) pretty good, since I'm totally obsessed with M.I.A. since the blue-eyed boy brought her CD on our Yucatan trip and we logged 1,100 kilometers in the Tsuru listening to it, and since I rocked out to her at Coachella with the girls. But also it was b) pretty lousy because I had an 8:30 a.m. meeting this morning. So today I dragged. And dragged. And...zzz..zzz..z. Wait, what? I'm up.

After work, I went to the gym intending to make my own workout, probably 60 to 65 minutes on the elliptical with three-pound hand weights for light but sustained upper-body work, while watching some trashy reality show along the lines of Tila Tequila: Shot at Love. And then, instead, I guilted myself into taking the super-hard Body Design class. The instructor is great but instead of saying stuff like, "You can modify this one if you need to," he says things like, "You must keep up or you must leave. What's the point if you do it wrong?"

I felt every excruciating moment of that hour, but as I was leaving, I was feeling really smug, really proud of myself for undertaking the challenge when I could have fully justifiably gone easier on myself. I was busily making sweeping proclamations in my head about how important it is to continually take oneself out of one's comfort zone to gain rewards....

...when, as I was putting my weights away after class, my gymfriend said to me, "So, Alice, you staying for Ab Lab?" No. Shoot.

Damn. And the girl thought she had an angle.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Topics That Apparently Interest Me

...according to the sponsored advertisements Google has placed to the right of my Gmail message field this morning:
Be The Woman Men Love at
Men Don't Fear Commitment With The Right Woman. Show Him You're It!

Serious Entrepreneur Only!
$250K+ 1st year income potential. Automated system $2K-$9K start up.

Understanding Men
Don’t Go Here Unless You’re Serious About Understanding Men!
Instant Relief From Break Up Pain & Fastest Plan To Get Your Ex Back.

Kissing 101
How To Kiss A Man - Tips For Women. Browse Our Free Articles Now!

Men Wearing Nightgowns
Men Wearing Nightgowns - Compare prices & find expert reviews!

Monday, May 26, 2008

Memorial Day Weekend: By the Numbers

1.5 loads of laundry done (goal: 2)

2 out of 5 total Planet Earth DVDs watched on a 46-inch HD TV (obsessed), along with at least

5 episodes of the Deadliest Catch marathon

1 kick-butt 90-minute massage session

1 Lakers loss

70 degrees, or maybe not even, for a high temperature (boo)

$150 spent on a new blue polka-dot dress at Intuition (marked down from $310)

2 fancy cocktails consumed at Seven Grand downtown

1 new in-joke, at least (involving the "Pita-Pizza Connection")

45 minutes spent at the new Americana at Brand complex, competing for elbow room with about...

20 billion other shoppers

3 workouts since Friday evening, including 2 solid Hard Body Meltdown classes for a total of...

1,250 calories burned, which hardly neutralizes approximately...

50,000 calories consumed at...

3 barbecues, including

1 that was totally saturated with meats and meat paraphernalia, where I ate mostly desserts, and

1 that was almost fully vegetarian and included

1 recipe that I want to steal (portabella burgers with feta, pearl onions, garlic, dash of cayenne), plus

3 rounds of insanely concentrated fresh veggie juices that included stuff like kale. Overall, there were at least

5 instances when I felt like I would rather get my stomach pumped than endure the over-full feeling for another moment, but that's just

1 of the hazards of another great

3-day weekend among pals.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

I Don't Know About This Blog-Tagging Business the Kids Are Up To, But...

1. Pick up the nearest book.
2. Open to page 123.
3. Locate the fifth sentence.
4. Post the next three sentences on your blog and in so doing...
5. Tag five people, and acknowledge who tagged me.

"So how are things progressing with Ms. Sullivan?" he asked.
Alioto, as Martel had hoped and expected he would, blew up.
"Those sons of bitches! I'll tell you this, I'll sue the Chronicle when I get through with this trial and within the year I'll own that fucking newspaper!"

...on the case of Mondavi v. Mondavi, as recounted in The House of Mondavi: The Rise and Fall of an American Wine Dynasty, which I coincidentally started reading the week before a 94-year-old Robert Mondavi up and died. (Moral: Drink your wine, kids, and live to 94.)

So I guess I tag my sister, CJ (since he tagged me, no doubt in a fit of bourgeois ennui), Capella, Wynter, and...the Aimless Idler? Why not. Dare y'all.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

December 7, 1987

Dear Journal,

Life is hard in Mr. McLeod's class. Today is Monday so we have spelling homework (yuck!). I hate spelling homework. This week our words are: herbicides, diurnal, endoskeleton, classification, arachnids, plastron, colloquial, perceived, immoral, absorption, and statistician.

Here it is December, and I still can't get over October. It really was a terrible month with the earthquake, the stock market crash, and it rained on Halloween. This month should be better. After all, Hanukkah is in only nine days. I can't wait.


Friday, May 09, 2008

I Won the Lottery

More specifically, PBS selected my Antiques Roadshow ticket application by way of lottery! So I am the proud owner of two tickets to the Roadshow tour stop in sunny Palm Springs in June. Sweet!

My life rules.

Sunday, May 04, 2008

Habit Forming

It's no secret that I love settling into a good routine, and here's my routine du jour, or, more specifically, my routine du Saturday. The blue-eyed boy and I each like to work out at 9:30 on Saturdays, at our respective gyms in Santa Monica, so we've figured out that carpooling is the best (eco-friendliest + most mutually motivating) way.

I take Hard Body Meltdown class, which totally rules and is generally butt kicking. (I'm currently trying to decide which is the hardest workout of the week: boxing on Wednesdays, or this one on Saturdays. And I think Saturday's class edges boxing by a nose, which is really saying a lot. Both tend to make my trusty Polar heart-rate monitor beep and flash frantically.) Nothing makes me feel better than starting out the weekend with a fine Hard Body Meltdown performance on a Saturday morning, which generally encourages me to drink less and get to bed earlier on Friday nights, which is probably a good thing. I feel very much in control of my life when I am sweating like a gavone doing repeaters with weights off a step supported by four risers and managing to survive. Perhaps, even, with decent form and a half-smile on my face.

The blue-eyed boy starts out with yoga, and then likes to work out for an additional 90 minutes at his gym, which brings us up to noon, and leaves me with an hour and a half to spend alone, fresh and pumped full of endorphins after my class. That's when I leave my gym, and walk out onto the Third Street Promenade for:

1) a walk through the farmer's market. I'm not a hippie-dippie-needs-organic-all-the-time type, but I do love the feeling of scooping up some blueberries that have been picked that very morning, which I will probably use later that day in our patented yogurt sundae (the best imaginable secret recipe, conceived by the blue-eyed boy in a moment of culinary genius, now a daily staple). I usually snag some fresh veggies too, and often some cut gerbera daisies, to deliver to my mom or a friend whose home or birthday party I am visiting later. Then I carry around my bright flowers wrapped in brown paper, peeking out of the top of my gym bag.

and some combination of the following:

2) a stop for coffee or iced coffee, which I always order as "medium in a large cup," even if it's at Starbucks, and they're supposed to require you to use that grande/venti jargon (but I can never remember which size corresponds to which). And this is not because I am cheap; I use the extra room for skim milk and I don't fill it up to the top, because I am prone to spillage rather more than is the average person.

3) a recon mission at Forever 21. I don't have to tell all the ladies out there about why this store rules from top to bottom, particularly in the summertime, when everything is colorful or shiny or woven or besequinned and is typically $9.80 or under. This particular Forever 21 is the brand-new Taj Mahal of Forever 21s, and has three floors, each with multiple areas grouped by...something, I'm not sure. Usually I get excited about all the dozens of things I'm going to buy, and then panic in the face of all the choices (all the available jams, you might say), and then I flee with nothing.

4) a phone call with AE. I tell her about my workout (she's one of the few, along with maybe only the blue-eyed boy, come to think of it, who seems to have limitless interest in hashing out the full-on details of any fitness experience) and we make some plans for the weekend, because we almost invariably see each other, and also invariably need to have our ancillary discussions that correspond to any group date. It's multidimensional, all-angles socializing, and anyway we seem to have inexhaustible things to say about most topics.

Then it's noon and I meet the blue-eyed boy back in front of my gym again. He is carrying his yoga mat, and I'm carrying my gerberas, and it's such a Los Angeles scene, that it might nauseate the average L.A.-disparaging person, although I never understand why there seem to be so many of those out there. Jealousy maybe? What's so wrong with us? It seems like we might just know how to live.

Monday, April 28, 2008

Coachella Weekend 2008: Seen and Heard

A glut of dust
A naked man doing a cannonball
Hella. many. Uggs.
A tortilla being used as a coaster for a popsicle
Two grown men riding a six-foot-tall donkey-shaped piñata off a roof into a pool (N.B.: donkey piñatas apparently sink snout last in dramatic slow-mo)
A live donkey
Bangs in spades
Snow-covered mountaintops rising above 100-degree desert valleys
The entire Cathedral City police department being brought to bear on a harmless little pool party [halo]
A girl eating a popsicle while pumping gas in a bikini (come to think of it, that was me)
"Stars are just like Us! They pump gas!"
Many swimsuits cut rather shockingly high or low, many worn with fanny packs
"You're leaving? You're Ghandi?"
Acres of tents in which I was very glad not to be sleeping
Superlative lighting and art installations
Portishead and Prince
Mustaches transcending irony into another category I can't even name
Something about gladiator man-sandals paired with a Speedo?
A giant-size Gold's Gym T-shirt with rolled-up sleeves worn by a woman in a look that so poignantly and freakishly evoked my junior-high years it nearly made me turn into a pillar of salt to gaze upon
A lawn turned entirely to mud that will need to be resodded for sure
Copious beans and rice
Only one small puddle of barf, surprisingly
"It doesn't make sense to set up an ancillary towel camp poolside, when we have our base camp here on the grass." (Not my words in this case, but words I would have said because, hello, it's strategic.)
A man covered in paint and neck tattoos wielding a mallet
"This dive is called 'Call 911.'"
"This dive is called 'How We All End Up in Tomorrow's Paper.'"
My odometer flipping to 10,000 miles
Insane amounts of good clean fun

Thanks for the memories, Coachella 2008!

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Spring Break '08

Tonight was going to be my first workout since returning from vacation last night around midnight. Running a little late for boxing class, I swiftly kicked off my work shoes in the locker room to swap them for my gym shoes when I looked down and realized...those aren't my feet. Whose feet are those? The toes look different. Stumpier, shorter. The ankles are fatter. Why? Oh wait, both legs are swollen from toes nearly to knees.

I started to run through all the things that had happened on our big Yucatan trip that could have resulted in this. Walking in Merida in skimpy sandals, I'd kicked the back of the blue-eyed boy's foot and had gotten a bruise on my pinkie toe that had turned all the colors of the rainbow (of which I had taken a million photos, Flat Stanley-style, posed with iguanas and ruins and things). But the toe was feeling better now, so it couldn't be that, could it? Shockingly, I hadn't gotten any notable bug bites, or did I, without realizing it? Ah, or was it the sunburn? On Sunday, on a beach in Tulum, the blue-eyed boy and I both turned red as lobsters (a trite expression for a really scary and painful experience) in a regrettable turn of events, which, I feared at that moment, would change the course of our trip from awesome to barely withstandable. But it didn't. Like Destiny's Child, we're survivors. And our trip freakin ruled, for real.

Here's how it went down.

On Thursday we flew into Cancun, rented a hooptie-ish Nissan Tsuru (which makes me laugh, because Tsuru is just like a Yiddish word meaning, roughly, aggravation, or like, issues, as in "girl has major tsuris," or at least that's the way I use it, which may be kind of a bastardization), and drove by way of the very expensive toll road (the cuota) all the way to Merida, the capital of the Yucatan. The 300-peso or so road offers only one stop, in Vallodolid, and is almost curiously well marked with signs that mostly tell you you're driving too fast. It's a straight shot through nothing but jungle.

Arriving at last, we checked in to an adorable little B&B, sheltered from the noise of the rather frenetic city behind thoughtful landscaping marked by waterfalls and a secluded pool. From this HQ, we set out the next day for our first day trip, to the ruins of Uxmal. A spectacular site. I told the blue-eyed boy, "As soon as we leave this place, I am going to imagine it was all a dream." Because it's so surreal, to see that glorious pyramid rising out of the jungle. We shared the cost of a guida with a family from Seattle, who had two little boys who were very well behaved. I liked this family because the dad was inquisitive and asked a lot of smart questions, and reminded me of my dad. (Later, at Chichen Itza, we'd meet a pair of medievalists-turned-engineers who I would take to for the same reason.)

Back in Merida, after a siesta, we strolled through the town in search of the pretty filigrana style of earrings I had wanted (but apparently you can mainly only find affordable, quality versions of these in the U.S., imported from Mexico, and not in Mexico itself). We ate and ate and strolled and strolled (the toe incident happened somewhere in here), and tried to find some ballet folklorico performance at the university, but alas it was happening instead the following Friday. That allowed us the opportunity to sleep earlier and wake earlier for the next adventure, this one to the ruins at Chichen Itza. I urge you to go and see Chichen once before you die. It is spectacular.

And the thing is, it's a major tourist attraction. Tour buses filled with mainly Europeans and Asians flood into this place, but, at least from my perspective, it didn't have that touristy feel; the former city is so huge—many kilometers in diameter—that the tourists are all spread out. And the fact that it's a wide-open space surrounded by and intermingled with jungle kind of dampens any noise. Even the dozens (hundreds, probably) of vendors who hawk their pottery and embroidery and things to the hoards actually kind of add color and spirit to the place, rather than take away from it. The vast ball field, observatory, and of course the iconic pyramid were among my favorite spots, and the figure of Chac-Mool carved there in stone seemed so deeply cute to me. Loved him. Bought a magnet bearing his likeness. See? Vendors.

Another thing? It's hot as all get out in Chichen Itza. We stayed three hours, but could have explored for days if not for A) it was suffocatingly hot and B) we, like, have jobs in California.

N.B.: Inexplicably the ruin sites on the Yucatan peninsula seem to have the most luxurious public bathrooms anywhere. Lots of marble. Kind of like the Wynn. OK, not like the Wynn, but more luxe than you might expect from public bathrooms in a Mexican jungle.

Moving on. Heading back toward the east side of the peninsula in the tsuris, I mean Tsuru, we stopped for a dip in Dzitnup, a cenote, or sinkhole in a cave filled with glassy fresh water. I had read much about the cenotes, including that Dzitnup offered water so turquoise and clear that "it might have been plucked from a dream." I'm going with no on that. The cave seemed a bit dank, and the water far from turquoise, with little natural light actually coming from the hole in the top of the cave. (Later, at Aktun Chen, my faith in the Yucatan's famed cenotes would be restored.)

With almost no daylight left of Saturday, we pulled into Tulum. In the darkness, we couldn't see the ocean yet (I was practically vibrating with anticipation; the beach portion of the trip had been the part about which I'd been dreaming forever), but we could sure hear the waves crashing feet from us. We checked in to our eight-room hotel; the reception desk is unmanned, so you go ask the bartender, who at his own pace finds the housekeeper, who strolls down the beach to find someone who feels like giving you a room key.

You see, there is no rush in Tulum for anything, and there is no need to throw your towel and bag down on the perfect spot on the beach before someone elese takes it because A) the spots are all perfect and B) there is no one else there. Thank god there is still a place like that on this earth. (Come to think of it, Treasure Beach, Jamaica is like that too, mon, likkle more.) Sun and wind power the hotel (both are in large supply), which has no air conditioner, but does have a ceiling fan, in which the blue-eyed boy accidentally inserted his hand while raising his arm to put on his shirt and sliced through a couple of fingers. It is fortunate that the casualty was not more significant; there aren't really hospitals in Tulum, so the general rule of thumb is, "be careful, for real."

When the sun came up, the vast expanse of beach sprawled in front of us, the sea a color so blue it requires a new word for blue, or not a word, but a gesture, or not a gesture, but a sigh. Incredible, unspeakable. You run out of superlatives quickly at the sight of Tulum.

As far as I can tell, Tulum is the playground of A) fancy, classy, adventuresome travelers with taste and at least a vague interest in yoga and B) total freakin hippies. Mostly palapas and cabanas and a few very diminutive hotels dot the beach; so too do tents set up by Berkeley types (probably at the end of their volunteer stints building latrines in Chiapas junior year) on the now completely unmanned stretches of sand formerly occupied by tiny hotels that were wiped out by Wilma in 2005. It's a peaceful commingling of types on this beach. Just peaceful and perfect.

So perfect. We walked easily along the beach a couple of kilometers to the ruins in Tulum, the only Mayan city built on the sea. We stopped for lunch at a very Corona-commercial-looking restaurant/hotel called, aptly, Vita e Bella, and later hired a fisherman to take us out to the reef where we could snorkel. I actually think I saw a barracuda, and some other great big fish, but it was a windy day in Tulum and the sea was choppy; I was seasick even swimming. (This is kind of classic, because I'd actually remembered to take Dramamine; I'd bought out the complete stock of over-the-counter therapies at the CVS in Westwood before we left). I was trying to talk to the fisherman in Spanish, but everything was coming out in Italian. It's funny how much Italian I realized I still know when I was trying to speak Spanish.

Yada yada, SPFs of all varieties, reapply, reapply, swim, sweat...look, we got real sunburned. It was bad. It was regrettable. By the end of the day, we were the big gringo jerks who were red as beets. And we had opposite reactions to the affliction: The blue-eyed boy couldn't get cool enough, and I couldn't get warm enough. I had the chills. After dinner (which I barely remember in my feverish state, but the photos I took suggest it was a gorgeous place), the blue-eyed boy sprawled out horizontally on the bed because he was trying to maximize the windshear coming from the open window. All I could do was moan, and I think I said something about needing some rum, but I was asleep by 9.

Falling asleep early in Tulum is a useful thing, because it is natural to wake up with the sun. Despite there being no technology- or traffic-type noises, there is plenty of noise indeed: The waves crash loudly and the birds' songs are, ahem, robust. It's a delightful kind of cacophony. Determined not to let our full-on gringo sunburns slow us down, we left Tulum for Aktun Chen, a spectacular sprawling cave and cenote in the jungle just north. Underground was the right place for our pink selves, and our guide shared so many insights about the geology that makes the Yucatan such an unusual place: something about it being like Swiss cheese under there, which it certainly seems to be. We wore hard hats to travel about 600 yards through many chambers of the cave; first we thought the hats were goofy props to make tourists feel like they were doing something treacherous, but we soon realized that they're actually smart tools against hanging stalagmites of all lengths. In the last chamber was a cenote that looked as clear as if there were no water there at all, only air. Faith in the beauty of Yucatecan cenotes: fully restored.

A few kilometers north still, we stopped for a quick snorkel jaunt at Akumal, a lagoon that is very protected from the open water and therefore waveless. I saw three turtles swimming together, and was just tickled. I found a piece of brain coral on the beach and picked it up. The blue-eyed boy kept teasing that customs was going to imprison me for plucking nature out of the reef, but whatever. I so didn't.

In a surprisingly uncharacteristic move, we pulled into Playa del Carmen with no hotel booked; I was almost testing myself to see if I could leave the last night of the trip to do whatever the heck we pleased, in whatever place, without totally freaking out that there was no plan. And I passed my own test. We ended up finding a completely adorable hotel, all colorful tiles and pretty bright linens...but not before getting pulled over by a Mexican motorcycle cop in aviators who was a ringer for one of the CHiPs. You see, the blue-eyed boy had mistakenly maneuvered the Tsuru the wrong way down a one-way street for a short distance before realizing his error, and we got busted. Somehow, in this moment, I spoke fluent Spanish, or so the blue-eyed boy tells me (I was so nervous and desperate, I kind of forgot what I said). Anyway, no ticket. Just a warning for the sunburned gringo and gringa who busted out the politest kind of text-book-learned high-school Spanish under pressure.

Our night in Playa was rather dreamy; the main drag, Avenida 5, is as touristy as anywhere (i.e. you could, if you wanted, buy there a T-shirt emblazoned with "I Love to Fart. Playa del Carmen") but really has charm and elegance somehow too. That night, I refused to take my glasses off in bed because that would be acknowledging that sleep was coming, and that would be acknowledging that the last night of our trip was over.

Not to waste a moment, we hustled the next day to Cozumel by ferry for a snorkel session amid parrot fish and schools of others in hues like neon purple. Back at Playa, it was back in the Tsuru (on which we logged more than 1,100 kilometers, all told) for the ride to Cancun to catch our flight home.

And that's where I am now, in bed with my cat and my mysteriously swollen legs. Looking at our zillions of pictures, I can't say we looked like Beyonce and Jay Z snapped canoodling in St. Tropez by the paparazzi, which is kind of how I thought we'd look. (Seriously, how deluded am I?) But, look, it's real hot out there and you sweat and you get sunburned and shred your fingers in the ceiling fan and stub your toes a bit and get seasick and your hair gets crazy frizzy when you dunk your head in the ocean if you don't instantly reapply product.

And that's how you know you're alive.