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