Monday, January 28, 2008

Things I Thought About During Yoga Class Tonight

house paint
spinach (whole wheat pasta with)
sweatbands (useful?)
blue-eyed boy
the Ashram (curious)
Super Bowl
check-engine light
dry cleaning
rain (unhappy with)
working out (tomorrow)
friend (AE, moving)
positivity (striving for)
restaurant recommendations (Grove adjacent)
friend (LP, studying Final Cut Pro)
vacation (Mexican Riviera cruise?)
vacation (Turkey?)
this list (making)
Valentine's Day
vacation (San Simeon?)
working out (last Thursday)
friend (MG, feathered haircut)
New York (Capella, moving to)
New York (work, traveling for)
steam cleaning (carpet)
Project Runway
Devon Aoki
headlines (punchy)
Dubai (
L.A. Times article on)
Santa Barbara
sister (birthday, Wednesday)
Essie polish in Wicked
yogi rhetoric (vs. stereotypic California rhetoric)
Huell Howser
friend (MW, cute glasses)
looseleaf paper (notes from 1992 to EW on)
blue-eyed boy (cold, coming down with)
Times Square
new dress (bras to wear with)
Home Depot
donuts (I wish)
Bed Head mousse (integrate?)
State of the Union

Is anyone in here really getting close to achieving transcendence? Man, honestly, that must be amazing.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Elements of Style

I must have managed sleep, because I dreamed the most awful of dreams. I dreamed that, for some reason I couldn't identify, there had been a public exposé of the em dash—that it had fallen somehow out of favor, and that it was not to be used ever again acceptably in written language. And I was seriously crushed—not to mention embarrassed, since I have used the thing semi-obsessively for years—and honestly wondered how I was ever going to write again with any flair (or at least I fancy I’ve ever written with some flair anyway).

I lean so hard on that beloved em dash; I think it has something to do with the Emily Dickinson class I took at Berkeley, in which we dissected—and I savored—Dickinson’s use of handwritten dashes of all lengths and angles in her manuscripts. And I like to think that my own proclivity to the em dash gestures toward that expressiveness. Not that I think I can fairly compare myself to Emily Dickinson, but you get the gist. (Also in my dream, parentheses were déclassé, and then I knew I was really screwed.)

Sunday, January 20, 2008

California's Gold

I was bummed when I thought I didn't have a bona fide hobby, but of course I've since realized I have a handful of great ones. At the top of my list lately has been exploring California.

When I talk about California, I get a super dork-out expression on my face, like I'm talking in a thick old-country accent about how the gold-paved U.S. opened its arms to me after I fled the pogroms, and it's not uncommon for me to tear up—no kidding. I even got emotional putting the new tags on my California plates this morning (I know, I know). In general my joy quotient has soared since I moved back almost two years ago. I've spent chunks of time in San Diego, Ventura, Lake Tahoe, Catalina, Palm Springs, Yosemite, and wine country, plus toured endlessly around the bay area and all manner of L.A. neighborhoods—and even enjoyed a quality summer afternoon in the Inland Empire. I really can't get enough, and it's inexhaustible anyway.

My latest thing is reading guidebooks even for places with which I thought I was already familiar; it's fun to drive around your own city and look things up in the index (plus it informs my Southern California-specific job, and my general knowledge base for living). This weekend was very guidebook-able, with a hike Saturday in Temescal Canyon, and then an impromptu Pasadena tour on Sunday, including the Norton Simon museum, Gamble house, and the Doo-Dah parade (OK, that one kind of got old, but the ease of access to the noodle shop and French Connection on the closed-to-traffic Colorado Boulevard broke up the monotony).

We were so touristed-out by the end of the day that we might have made our patented fake-snoring noise (I don't know how to render it in type, but it's something like chuuuh-syooo with a little whistle at the end) discretely in the 15th-century gallery shortly before museum-closing time. (And then we went to Home Depot. These days I find that it's best to be utterly physically exhausted by the end of the day if I want to have a prayer at beating my insomnia once I drop into bed.) And it was so worth it.

Incidentally, I came home to see that Huell Howser was also exploring Pasadena on his show. I'm kind of obsessed with Huell, and always think about what his reactions would be to things I see, mostly along the lines of "wow" and "that's amazing," and I imagine the sound of his silly voice and feel totally comforted. I could watch Huell on loop all day, every day. (I could do the same with First 48 and Forensic FilesR.I.P. Court TV—but those are indefensible.)

At any rate, at the risk of being too pat, I think we can all learn an important thing about enjoying life and about adventuring from the wide-eyed, voracious view-slurping Huell Howser.

And that's California's gold, for real.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Reservation Mode

I had to laugh last night when the blue-eyed boy said, "Uh-oh. My baby's going into reservation mode."

I was beginning to look into hotels for a work-related trip to cover the film festival in Santa Barbara at the end of the month, and I had picked up the phone to call a particular hotel, after that hotel's Web site had revealed there was no availability. This is what I do.

If I may say so, I think I am a fine vacation planner. I am an excellent researcher (derived from both my job as a reporter and my inability to accept any first answer I'm given), plus an indefatigable bargain hunter, but one with uncompromising hotel tastes. By no means does everyone believe this is the right way to plan or to spend a vacation. But it works for me, and so I descend (or ascend) into "reservation mode" when I am getting ready to go away. That means I:

1. Call every hotel whose Web site I have checked, and vice versa, to make sure that the information I have been quoted is the most accurate, and includes the lowest price for the best available room.
2. Search every individual airline's Web site, in addition to the travel search engines, because you never know what you will find. (And then I call each.)
3. Ask for a AAA discount anywhere. You may be shocked to find that I got 10 percent off at our likkle house on the relatively remote South coast of Jamaica.
4. Call back several times and continue to check Web sites of hotels at which I am already booked, just in case I can improve the rate or swap it to a better room.
5. Book multiple hotels at one time, if each can be canceled, in the event that any of the above pans out. (I know what you're thinking, but I never forget to cancel anything because I keep meticulous electronic records.)

If I ever decide to change professions, I have always said that eBay entrepreneur is my next calling. But I swear I'd be good too at planning vacations (for myself, under my own terms, so this would require some sort of lottery winnings).

Friday, January 11, 2008

By Any Other Name

It really used to peeve my dad, when my sister and I were small, when we would refer to my mom in her presence by the female pronoun instead of as "mom."

She said we could do that and now she's saying no!
She won't let me!
She doesn't understand anything!

I never really got why that bugged him so much, but every now and then I will hear myself reduced to a pronoun, and I get it now.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Gym Dandy, Part Deux

Update! To the list of celebrity-type people I've spotted working out at my gym, which includes:

1. Mark McGrath and
2. Fabio

...I can add with pleasure:

3. Mr. Big! Whose real name I had to Google but is apparently Chris Noth!

This is the most exciting gym news since they added the 10:15 Beautiful Booty class on Saturday mornings. (The 9:30 Cardio Core Ball slot always felt a touch too early.)

Like sands through the hourglass, these are the days of my life.

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Thirty Mile Zone

I should first disclaim this post by saying that the idea I might be foreshadowing my own harm pains me. But, god forbid, in case anything happens, keinahora, you will have heard the truth behind it.

I work on a stretch of Sunset Boulevard (at Sunset Plaza on the strip) that is a nightmare for pedestrians. Every time I try to cross the street to get my salad (Chinese chicken salad, substitute soft tofu for chicken, light dressing) from Chin Chin, or go to the gym, or browse H&M at lunch, I take my life into my hands. There is a particular crosswalk that is marked as such, but has no light to indicate right of way, so motorists have to get a clue that they're supposed to stop when you are crossing the street because it's the freakin law. Instead, they whiz by you at light speed as you register terror in your eyes. Before walking ahead, I always try to make eye contact with drivers so that I can make sure they have seen me. Sometimes this works, but often when the mutual eye contact is made, drivers become more confident that I will stop, and hit the gas with that knowledge.

Now, this place where I work happens to be right next door to perennial paparazzi magnet Il Sole, and also next to Cravings and Le Petit Four and One Sunset, which are places where celebrities seem to like to eat when they are not on Robertson. So there seem to be a lot of cameras around here during most hours of the day.

A few months ago, while under agonizing deadline pressure, I had run across the street to feed the meter. On the way back to the office, no drivers would stop for me, and I felt like Frogger—either about to be squished, or if not then at least helpless and pathetic. The eye contact trick was not working. Finally, I lost what was left of my composure and started hollering expletive-laden gems into traffic. "It's a freakin crosswalk, you freakin @#$%*&s, that means you're supposed to freakin stop, you freakin @#$%*&s!" Only I did not say freakin or @#$%*&.

Come to see when I turn around that there are at least three cameras trained on red-faced me in the middle of the street. Maybe it was a slow day for TMZ news and they were looking for some crazy-lady-ranting action to steam things up. Alas, my cameo never made the site, y'all, ding dang!

Monday, January 07, 2008

Shake Ya Tail Feather

Who among you has had a tailbone injury? I have learned, in the week since I earned mine after making rather abrupt contact with a Lake Tahoe mountainside, that this injury is known for its tenacity and painfulness. I have learned this not just from my own experience, but from sharing my story with most people I encounter (you know how I do). The instructor teaching the new class at the gym on Friday told me she's never been able to sit in the same spot for more than half an hour since she landed awkwardly after going down a playground slide when she was five. I have heard at least three similar stories, and this is not encouraging.

Let me also tell you what you look like when you walk if your lower back area aches. You look like a nine-months-pregnant lady, trying in vain to protect her back while she manages a waddle. And when you try to pick something up, you look like a very old woman, the kind who pushes a wheelie cart around and wears a head scarf. This is the most scarring part of the experience—this feeling like an old lady—because deep down I know I am really still wild at 30. Still wild, with a bit of a limp maybe. And plus, I bruised my tailbone sledding, dude. What's better than that at 30?

On Saturday night, we had drinks with a bunch of miscellaneous people I mostly didn't know. One of them was a 29 year old who attributed his baby face to his Asian genes, and the fact that he still acts like he's 12. He works in some way in the extreme sports field, and said that he loves to snowboard rails and has had concussions and even vomited blood after wiping out, but "whatever dude, I have life insurance, so at least my parents will get rich." He also said, "I figure one day my friends will just be like, 'Oh what happened to that dude? He's no longer with us—figures.'" He said all of this with a whatever-bro giggle. It was amazing. It's like the exact opposite of anything I would say, or any way I could possibly behave with this Jewish upbringing. It's fun to be reminded of all the differences in perspectives out there.

Really, I was like, huh. You're an alien. I am terrified for your poor parents, oy, and I don't know what they've done to deserve this. But you sure sound like you have a lot of fun.

Friday, January 04, 2008

Medical Mystery

That's me. The good news is, if you go somewhere with me, I'm the one likely to end up with the weird injury, not you. I am like the magnet that sucks them into my field. A few samples that spring immediately to mind:

Sledding incident, Lake Tahoe, December 2007.
All I know is that we caught air off some impromptu roadside jumps during several solid but fear-inspiring runs. At some point I said, "I think we got our $15 worth out of this plastic sled from Raley's and we should quit while we're ahead," and that this did not happen. Yada yada, I am still limping a week later from the tailbone bruise that won't quit. Blue-eyed boy, also on the sled, uninjured.

Toxic reaction, South coast of Jamaica, August 2007.
Right thigh and hand start to tingle and develop abraded-looking red bumps after contact with some kelp or something while snorkeling. Come to shore and receive treatment in medical shack. Therapy involves Jamaican version of Chris Rock's "...just put a little 'tussin on it." Three girlfriends, snorkeling in same area, do not suffer skin reactions (but get a good giggle out of the fulfilled predictability that I would and they wouldn't).

Friction overdose, Oakland, circa 2002.
Why did we think we could just swoosh down that concrete facsimile of a playground slide (looking back, it was probably a drain pipe) without drawing blood from thighs and elbows? (Oh right, all that champagne.) Hello, I was wearing a skirt. It's almost like I never qualified for those highly gifted magnet schools...

Grotesquely inflamed bee stings on notable body parts:
  1. Tongue (while licking Popsicle, circa 1985, Camp Hollywoodland. Counselors administered second Popsicle in attempt to reduce swelling.)
  2. Bottom of foot (stepped on bee in college, circa 1995, Berkeley. Resulted in preferential handicapped parking at Cal/SC football game. Score!)
  3. Middle finger, right hand (after finally gathering nerve to relieve self discreetly under cover of draped blanket in Golden Gate park, October 2007, San Francisco.)

I'm sure I'll think of a million more, but I find it's better not to search my mental database for these painful (or itchy or otherwise crippling) memories. Meanwhile, I am continuing to stock the drawer labeled "Pain/Wound Care" in my bathroom.*

*Yes, this is true. One day, in a fit of productivity, I got out the label maker and marked the inside of every drawer in the house. There is hope for '08's resolutions yet!

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

Auld Lang Syne Language

Happy New Year, lovelies! I thoroughly enjoyed the last couple weeks of 2007, which involved a lot of friend time, and family time, and a lot of touring around California, which—and I know I repeat myself—you just can't beat. It's so breathtaking, our state.
On New Year's Eve, in a friend's Russian Hill apartment in San Francisco, MT innocently inquired as to my hobbies (no doubt after I'd said something snotty about how busy I am and how robust my blessed life already is, dang, lay off). All I could think of to say on the spot was "working out" (which might be a kind of lame cop-out L.A. answer), and "blogging" (which is also kind of a cop-out, since my Internet self is a more composed, less-interesting, anecdotified version of my real-life self and adventures, and I haven't blogged much lately anyway, like I'm Princess Melissa or something). Then of course there is watching Project Runway while texting, but you don't have to tell me that's not a hobby. And hair is not a hobby; it's damage control executed with scientific precision. I like to think I am a good and dutiful friend to many among a close-knit but large group of folks, and I know good friends are an earned privilege. But a hobby? Not so much, I guess.

And of course there's work, which I have resolved to remember in 2008 is not a hobby, but a job—albeit one that happens to consume most of my time including evenings and weekends on account of events, and one that not coincidentally combines things that I deeply care about: writing, photography, and career. Still, how did I come up job-swamped and hobby-free in the waning weeks of 2007? The Sassy-reading 1989 version of me would not have seen that coming.

So I'm putting this out there to friends and strangers, this question of what my new hobby will be in 2008. Can you help me with a suggestion? I always lean toward hobbies that I can parlay/multi-task into being, say, money making as well as fitness promoting, or perhaps crafty and meditative and entrepreneurial and tummy flattening all at once. I'm into free-time efficiencies. But of course, I'm open to any constructive or fun ideas. Whether you know me or not and you've got one, hit me.

[Current potential hobby front runners are Italian language refreshing, healthy vegetarian cooking at a higher level, volleyball (which seems like cheating, because it's one of the blue-eyed boy's existing hobbies, and he'd be coaching me), tennis (same deal), hiking (fab, but achingly obvious)...]

I thank you in advance for your ideas. And I wish all of us more joy in 2008 than we possibly could have known was coming. Then bam—you got it.