I invite you to go elsewhere

It Was Nice Knowing You

This was the birthday that left my youth behind. I’m not sure what triggered that realization. Was it going to the DMV and finding I could only read the eye chart with my bad eye screwed shut? Or was it lying in bed and thinking of my pregnant mother waking up in bed fifty-five years ago, three weeks past her due date, putting her bare feet on the floor and wondering if this would be the day. Fifty-five years ago: that’s probably what did it. Fifty-four still had some pieces of youth clinging to it. But then it turned inside out and died.

and it exploded.jpg

I took my birthday off from work and everyone was all, Have an amazing day off! Do something fun! And I woke up Thursday morning and thought, I’m going to have an amazing day off! I’m going to do something fun! But the only thing I had lined up for myself was to renew my driver’s license. If you need to know one thing that sums up my entire personality, congratulations, you have arrived at your destination.

The holidays sort of lovingly decimated our house this year with puzzles and pine needles and cardboard, but I wouldn’t let myself do a big clean. It was my birthday and I would not spend it decalcifying the espresso machine and organizing the recycling! So when Jackson got home from school looking aimless, I said, let me take you out for lunch. (I had already eaten lunch. Can you guess what I had? Cold leftovers! You win!) We drove to Cal Taco and I watched him eat a burger and fries. At one point he stepped out to make a phone call, which: mysterious, but he’s 17, he needs privacy, fine. He comes back in and says, “I know what I’m getting you for your birthday. We have to go to Best Buy.” We were like six blocks from Best Buy so I’m all, Hmm, what is it? New ear buds?

On the way home with a new Nintendo Switch in the back seat, I texted the only other grownup I knew who owned one: Alice. “What games do you have?” I typed excitedly. She seemed a little nonplussed about my suggestion that we both download Fortnight and get out there and shoot a bunch of strangers together. Understandably. Alice lives in New York, shooting strangers for fun isn’t something you suggest to her lightly.

When we got home I loaded up my one game and together Pikachu and I meandered about our village collecting wild Pokémon together in my new non-youthful way until it was time for me to pick up some real-life take-out sushi. Then Jack and I watched an episode of Ozark and shared a slice of Jeannine’s chocolate mocha cake, and I realized that if you were to ask me two things I’d miss about Santa Barbara if I moved away, I would say: Kyoto take-out sushi and a slice of Jeannine’s chocolate mocha cake on my birthday.

So I had a good birthday after all, thanks to zero planning on my part, but some spontaneous and well-placed trust in my mens.


1 The Only Part of 'Red Dead Redemption 2' That Matters Is My Horse. “Rockstar Games created a sprawling open world for me to play cowboy in. But truthfully, all I care about is Jeffy.” [via Todd Levin]

2 I am super excited about this Bob Fosse/Gwen Verdon thing, and not just because Sam Rockwell is in it:

3 “Immerse yourself in the forests of central Sweden, where around two-and-a-half-thousand people speak Elfdalian.” A BBC podcast collage of forest sounds and the endangered Swedish forest language, older than the Vikings, which is in danger of dying out. (19:39)

4 What I’m reading right now: Undermajordomo Minor, by Patrick deWitt—and I am not loving it the way I sincerely loved his two others, The Sisters Brothers and French Exit. If I get to page 100 and still feel ambivalent I will call it and move on, since I have A Gentleman in Moscow and The Great Alone on my library pile.

Happy Sleep-in Pie Thursday

I know that many of my fellow and sister white folks who live in the United States annually take some time to reflect on both the origins and the consequences of the first Thanksgiving, as I do. I am not thankful for that first boatload of Europeans, though my ancestors were among those that took advantage of the blood-soaked ground they left for others to build upon. Only a psychopath (which I am mostly not) would miss the paradox of celebrating such a terrible legacy.

At the same time, a four-day weekend devoted to pie, sleeping, a jigsaw puzzle of Volkswagen buses, and dicking around online is pretty much exactly what I needed. Fall is always a hard time for me, I never do well with the time change and as I get older the colder weather demands that I lay low just when work and everything else is heating up. Inevitably, I get sick.

With God as my witness this will be the last bland, Libby’s-based pumpkin pie I make in this lifetime.

With God as my witness this will be the last bland, Libby’s-based pumpkin pie I make in this lifetime.

On Thanksgiving day Jack started up in the kitchen at 7:20 a.m. He is a man who likes to get shit taken care of early, and who am I to stand in his way? I laid in bed while he boiled potatoes, made stuffing, and put the turkey on the barbecue so that the oven would be freed up for me and Jackson to make pies. We must have some kind of magical Weber grill because even though the math said our bird needed four-and-a-half hours to cook, it only took two? And there were no raw parts, it was all perfectly done? The bird cooled, I finished all the sides, and the three of us sat down to eat at 5:00 and watch The Incredibles 2. It’s been a good sixteen hours and none of us has come down with salmonella, so I’m feeling pretty solid about our chances for survival.

Before dinner I don’t make everyone go around and say what they’re grateful for, I know my family and it just embarrasses them. This year I merely offered what I was grateful for, which meant acknowledging the heinous acts of our forefathers that somehow led to the glory on plate in front of me: bird, stuffing, cranberry, two kinds of potatoes, one green thing, gravy, a pause, and then two kinds of pie.

Despite everything I hope you were able to create some comforts of your own this week.


“Once I put the top on, in the privacy of a changing room, I saw how well it complemented the male body: its low crew neck and tight, stretchy fabric showed off my chest and arms. To the surprise of the shopkeeper, and myself, I bought it.” Letter of Recommendation: Women’s Clothing

“You know, for many birds, their coloring comes from what they eat—fruit, plankton,” Logan observed. “Flamingoes, they’re basically ink-makers.” Ink Foraging in Central Park

“A legend is growing in Nepal, where people say a meditating boy hasn't eaten or drunk in seven months. He barely moves, just sits under a tree, still as a stone. It's impossible, some say. Is it a miracle? A hoax? Let's find out.” The Incredible Buddha Boy, by George Saunders

The ten digits of a GN-4 Nixie tube. Wikipedia

Day Five, as Plain as the Nose on Your Face

(I'm not saying that your nose is plain, per se, and honestly I never really look at it, I tend to take in your face as a whole. Speaking of which.) I was helping my colleague look for songs about being sick and getting well for this week's story time (It's in 45 minutes! Go take a shower!) because in between reading picture books to the wee ones she teaches them little songs and finger plays. I must have Googled "sneeze + songs" because I ended up discovering a site for sneezing fetishists. Every night when I'm cuddling up with Jackson at bedtime he likes to ask me, "What did you learn today?"  and normally I am happy to share all sorts of tidbits from the reference desk, but somehow I couldn't find the words to try and explain why some people get secretly excited about a common bodily explosion. So we talked about voter fraud and looked at dog-shaming.com instead.

Today is the second and final day that our amazing anonymous donor will provide matching funds (up to $1,000) for your donations to the Red Cross through this site. I will continue to promise to send out drawings to $5 donors ($15 will get yours framed), but it's the last day that your $5 will turn into $10 and your $15 into $30, and tomorrow is the last day for this whole donation-and-drawings drive on fussy.org. I'm working and traveling this week and won't be able to keep up with it, but I will tell you that of this morning we are poised to send $1,320 to the Red Cross. I'll add up the totals and get the final donation sent out on Wednesday morning. I am so pleased and honored and grateful that so many of you have been able to help out in this way.

Peewee Longstocking thanks you, too.

Not dead yet

My god, I've been sick. I'm so healthy most of the time! I must save up my allotment of not-so-hot feeling days and then have them all at once, once a year, when my immune system's feeling just a little too smug. I could see it coming, days ahead, it was like a slow-rolling tsunami. I had plenty of time to cancel appointments and pack, tell my boss things weren't looking good. It hit in the middle of the night, and all my hatches were battened except the one where I had to take Jackson to school the next morning. There I was hunkered down over the espresso machine, making our usual morning coffees, a double cappuccino for me and a 12-ounce travel mug of milk with a shot of espresso for Jackson. (What, he likes coffee. I put half a packet of stevia in his because otherwise he'd demand four lumps of sugar, which = no.) We got in the car.

"Mom? Are you okay?"

"I don't feel very good."

"You don't look very good."

"Thanks, honey."

I was hanging on pretty well, as well as you can hang on when you feel like absolute death. I really shouldn't have had that sip of coffee, though. Nausea was not a welcome companion on our journey. Neither was Jackson's morning playlist of Eminem's greatest hits, even played at elevator-music level.


"Mom, are you okay?"

"I don't feel very good."

Jackson put his hand on my arm as we drove. He's such a nice kid.


And in my head I'm all, "Help me, God, help me Oprah, help me Tom Cruise, use your witchcraft on me." Except quietly and without punctuation. Helpmegodhelpmeoprah. Tomcruiseuseyourwitchcraft. Prayforusnowandatthehourofourdeath.

It was just comically awful: me feeling like a shit pancake, my son cheerfully programming his playlist of problematic white genius hip hop mayhem, my dog quietly farting in the back seat.

Naturally, I wasn't done. I had to drag my animate carcass to CVS because Alka Seltzer Cold Medicine is the only thing that works, they don't even have to pay me to say that, I will spread the word for free. Buy that shit. When the nice cashier says, "How are you today!" just croak, "I'm so sick" at her and she will give you your change with horrified fingers, it's been proven in laboratory experiments time and again. I'm not even sure what that means.

I guess I must have made it home, and then I woke up and it was 2:00 p.m. And now it's Friday, I think? How are you?

Yes, I was too sick to use a glass.

Fortunately, before all this went down I managed to put up another post at Babble, this one being a review of the latest J.K. Rowling book written in the form of Harry Potter fan fiction. I'm not sure what I'm going to do for an encore, I'm only halfway finished with Gone Girl, but maybe the cast of Twilight will have some opinions on it.

I've got ants in my pants and I need to talk to someone in Finance

So, ants. I don't know if it's because we spent the previous 17 years living on the second floor and we're new to this whole ground-floor business, but suddenly we seem to have ants just streaming through the house. What did we do? What do they want? To hoard delicious crystals of sugar (if Chris Van Allsburg is to be believed), and to have me slap the shit out of myself when I feel one crawling on my neck? Jack inadvertently discovered that ants hate Pledge, so he keeps spraying the lip of the garbage can under the sink with Pledge, and every time I take out a full bag to replace it I'm newly surprised that my hands are slick and lemon-scented. I recently realized that I have Alzheimer's disease on BOTH sides of my family (my dad's brother, Harry, and my mom, who I was told had dementia but whose doctor wrote Alzheimer's on her death certificate, which suggests to me that the two are interchangeable? I must remember to Google that when I'm feeling less vulnerable). So while I'm trying to take care of my brain health, I'm also trying to accept that I'll be hiding my own Easter eggs sooner or later, and I'm working to be okay with that. It's a pretty awful thing to try to accept, though. To the people of the future who might read this and wonder how all these words came out of the angry, withered husk drooling under a moth-eaten lap robe sitting before you: maybe playing some Elvis Costello will calm me down? Try anything from Taking Liberties or Get Happy! and I will probably stop yelling at you. Recently I had to go to our storage locker to look for my tax stuff because our taxes are due October 15 and I always like to do important things at the last minute. We got an extension instead of filing in April, and when we moved I'm sure I did something clever with my W-2s and my 1099s ("I know, I'll put them here in this special place I will have completely forgotten about in six months") (the one thing that consoles me about losing my mind is a quote from Meryl Streep I read once where she said that when she hit 50 she became unable to memorize scripts anymore, so either this memory bullshit is a normal part of aging or I have Streep's disease, in which case I will become progressively blonder and be offered amazing roles as a sign of Hollywood's shift toward featuring more mature women HA HA HA HA HA). But while I was digging through our storage locker, looking for tax stuff, I happened to find another box that I'd been looking for for seven years:

Yay, old photos! That is my kindergarten class, helmed by the lovely Miss Jackson. I did not name my son after her but it would not be weird if I did, as I remember her as a wonderful teacher who once helped me put an Archies 45" (which I'd cut out of the back of a cereal box) onto the classroom record player, and then laughed when I did the Mashed Potato to "Sugar Sugar." I have clear memories of at least half the kids in this picture, thanks to the fact that a lot of them continued at the same schools with me for the next ten years. (For example, the boy on the left side of the front row in the blue sweater's name was Bobby and his father played for the New York Jets. The girl on the far right side of the second row was named Phyllis, but the boys called her Waffles. :-( Sorry, Phyllis.)

Anyway, I ended up finding my receipts in our garage, in a box supporting a table saw (?), and then I spent half of yesterday begging various freelance agencies to go back through their records and e-mail/fax me the rest of what I needed. I'm already planning on hiding next year's 1099s in an empty Comet can under the sink. Financial time capsule!

How to be a fan of problematic things

I've been Popcorn Whispering again.

Barack Obama can swear like a motherf*cker.

This was the best 5 minutes of my day so far

What I have to Offer from Eliot Rausch on Vimeo.

Charlie Kaufman's full lecture can be found here.

I saw something the other day that basically asked, why are you giving your life to Facebook? You're filling a site that's not your own with your stories, when they belong on your own domain. Facebook is making millions off your content, so consider what you're giving up for the opportunity to have a few dozen people give you a digital thumbs up.

This really resonated with me, especially after I posted the above video on Facebook this morning and only one person said HOLY SHIT THIS IS AMAZING and shared it on her own page. It could be that I've neglected this site long enough that I only get a couple hundred people to read it anyway, down from a peak of about 4,000 a day way back when. People say Twitter killed blogging, and it certainly drained some of the energy out of it, but Facebook has made blogging seem old-fashioned and quaint, almost hand-made. In 2001 I had to read a Webmonkey tutorial to learn how to make a hyperlink; building my own domain was an accomplishment akin to learning how to make sushi. And not everybody wanted (or had the time and resources) to do that before Facebook, so I can see how democratizing Facebook is, it gives anyone over the age of 13 a place to post nuanced political rants and cat photos in less than 60 seconds.

But I'm cranky enough to want to take my Internet life back to its original platform. It could be this feeling will pass -- God knows I've had some mood swings lately, tomorrow I may be running for office (I had a dream last night that Barack Obama hugged me). But I've been feeling a lack of meaning in my life for a couple of years now, and it's become so acute that keeping it inside is no longer an option. Sorry, Internet. I'm back.

I invite you to go elsewhere

I have two posts up in other places this week, both of them exciting investigations into the deep, dark subject of celebrities that I think are cute. The one up at The Popcorn Whisperer is entitled, Movie Clips I'd Like to See at the 2013 Oscars. My main goal was to write something that would reveal myself to myself, but then I got lazy and stopped wondering why I have so much affection for a bunch of famous people I've never met. How adorable do I find Drew Barrymore? Very. Paul Rudd? Charming as pie. But it's Laurence Fishburne I'll always adore no matter how pouchy he gets, because I remember when he was just Larry, a gangly teenager grooving his way upriver in Apocalypse Now, and then the next thing I knew he was goofy Cowboy Curtis wooing Miss Yvonne with all his twangling heart, and then what? Super sexy in Deep Cover (with my other boyfriend, Jeff Goldblum), and then bam! Othello! Which you'd think would be the pinnacle of his career, but no, suddenly he's wearing a long leather coat and unlocking the secret of time itself for an addled Keanu Reeves. He's just two heartbeats away from becoming Darth Vader's cranky grandfather in a chrome helmet, and I'm probably going to start a Tumblr called fuckyeahlaurencefishburne. I'll let you know if that happens. I'm still kind of busy unpacking. The other thing I wrote is 5 Ways to Meet Celebrities Without Looking Like a Stalker, which started as an off-the-cuff idea that a couple of editors really responded to, but writing it made me realize how sadly excited I've been to run into movie stars throughout my life. I'm not sure if it's because I'm kind of repressed and these people get to be emotionally vulnerable for a living, and so they appear to be living out parts of my life that I don't have the guts to inhabit, or what. I'm sure studies have been done. (Oh, look, here's one: Celebrity Worship Syndrome. I'm going to go ahead and self-diagnose on the not-pathological end of the scale.)

In conclusion, thank you for reading, click on those links and read me elsewhere if it sounds like something you want to do, and let's all have the nicest weekend possible!

We're having some fun

I appreciate the fact that no one's called me out for not posting ever day like I said I would. It turns out that committing to daily writing, keeping your editors happy, working a straight job, getting a condo into escrow, and looking for a new place to live all at the same time is kind of a drain on mental resources. The good news is, I've managed to keep all of those other balls in the air, if not this one. The bad news is, the emotional roller coaster that is packing up all your shit and finding a new place to put it is not one I feel good about sharing online. One minute I'm swept away with excitement and possibilities! And the next I have abandoned all hope and am picturing myself living under a porch with a sleeping bag and a flashlight. Jack is the one keeping us all together emotionally, physically, and spiritually at the moment. Jackson's job has been to stay home sick all week, complain about homework, and be exceedingly huggable. Here's a photo he took of his nurse the other day: Actually, maybe Peewee is the one keeping me together spiritually at the moment. His expression here conveys more about patience, humility, and acceptance than I could ever put into words.

In other posting news, here's a link to the latest Popcorn Whisperer, where the cast of Twilight continues to discuss recent plot developments in season two of Downton Abbey. Special guests this week include Robert Downey, Jr. (in the same photo as last week because I can't remember where I put all the Iron Man action figures) and the Incredible Hulk, who I love because you'd think he'd just be screaming all the time, but he's actually very thoughtful.