Sunday, August 31, 2008

Sunshine Coast, the Haight

More from yesterday

Brothers in hookah.
Pat is the straight man to my brother. Or maybe it's vice versa.
Adam at Buffalo Exchange. Yee-ah.
Me at Buffalo Exchange. Gangster style.
One of many half-assed mirror shots. This one was taken on Church Street.

J and Pat hit town

Pat, my bro, and Adam at Sunshine Coast in the Haight.
Adam and I.
Pat, J, and Adam.

J and Pat at El Balazao. My brother's t-shirt says something about sarcasm being a service provided free of charge.

Wearing my brother's sunglasses. They're $400 Oakleys that he got for free. I don't ask questions.

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Let's hear it for chemistry

I think the Lexapro is working. I've only been taking it about a week and a half, but already I feel small changes. The anxiety is down. I'm able to feel the kind of happiness -- if even in moments -- that I remember feeling as a kid.

It's no miracle. I didn't expect that. I hoped for results, and I think I'm getting them.

Friday, August 29, 2008

Aunt Allison

It's Ezra's birthday today. He's four years old.

The last time I saw him, he was wearing a t-shirt that said "Mr. Funny." Truth in advertising. I read to him and he threw himself around the living room, goofing off. Then Uncle Adam came in, picked him up, swung him around.

I remember the day he was born. Adam came to pick me up after my St. Mary's orientation. He swung his car into the parking area and jumped out. "Congratulate me," he said. "I'm an uncle."

I can't wait until that guy is old enough to spend a weekend with us. He's fun!


There's a certain breed of woman who can't hide her age with tattoos and youthful clothing. She can't mask her unhappiness with mascara. The way her mouth turns down, how her forehead furrows between her waxed eyebrows, says it all.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

We slept through the speech, but we'll editorialize anyway

ADAM: It's kind of funny, the contrast (between Biden and Obama).
ME: Because one is old and white and the other is young and white?

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Tonight Adam and I saw Woody Allen's latest, Vicky Cristina Barcelona. Nice flick. As Adam noted, he went for the cliches and nailed them, including the whiny expat (in this case, Cristina) who thinks spending five minutes overseas translates to throwing off everything that is America. Good luck, honey.

Also, the assertion that "only unfulfilled love can be romantic" is a bunch of bullshit. I love Woody Allen, but only someone incapable of having a successful relationship could believe that.

Today's writing

Status quo is a Latin phrase. It translates directly to the state in which, referring to the present state of affairs. In politics, arguments are mounted to preserve the status quo when facing a large and possibly radical change. You can’t just decide against the status quo. You’ve got to take some sort of action if you’re going to make a change.

I have a talk with myself.

“It’s not going to change on its own,” I say, scrounging around in the refrigerator. It’s not promising. Just some fruit. Sandy buys fruit. How boring. I bite into an apple. Our kitchen is a cheerful place. On the refrigerator, my magnets from every stopover airport – Dallas, Chicago, Atlanta – hold up her sketches. Peacock feathers poke from a large, gaudy vase: our kitchen-table centerpiece. Sun, laughter, and a trickle of hip-hop music stream in through the open window.

It’s college life.

“It’s not like you haven’t learned to deal with it,” says that other side of me, the fearful one. She’s holding one of Sandy’s skeins of yarn, finger-crotcheting. Each time she drops a stitch, she pulls out everything she’s done and starts over.

“Deal with it, sure,” I say. I’m juggling the half-eaten apple, tossing it from one hand to the other. “Is that all there is? Is that the best I can ask for?”

The power of memoir

I've been reading Rebecca Woolf's "Rockabye: From Wild to Child." This isn't just a story about motherhood. It's what the reviewers might call a tale of transformation, and they would be right. I'm hooked on her writing style and the way she seems to effortlessly make transitions from one moment to the next. Great stuff.

I'm also finishing up Mark Doty's Dog Years. This one's taken me a while because the man is simply incredible. His material is so rich that I often have to stop, go back, and read it again ... and again. If Woolf's book is about more than just motherhood, Doty's book transcends the simple appeal of dogs. It's about life and eventual death, caretaking, and the void we can't possibly know.

This type of writing feeds me as I work on my own project. Inspiration.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Adam, after curry

"Jews come out of the womb with sarcasm. They come out and they're like, 'You call that a birth canal?'"
Scott is back in New York and already cajoling me to visit. I, in turn, am dying to do so. We're in Minneapolis the middle of next month and then we are sadly lacking in travel plans. I may have to fix this.

I'm now thinking about what Marcus said last night as we drove back to Berkeley: San Francisco is a rougher town than New York, which he considers extremely safe. I've always felt safe in New York as well. I never had to worry about a gun being stuck in my face while eating dinner there.

I've always wanted to live in New York. Maybe in two years, I will.

Quarter to midnight last night

Phone rings. A pause, then the voice says: "Hey." It's my brother and he's a little inebriated.

"We're coming up," he says. "Like, soon." He and his buddy Pat just booked up a trip up to the Bay and will be here this weekend, so they'll be able to come to the get-together we're having on Sunday. They're also scouting out places -- there's talk of them moving up here. Rock ON!

Sunday, August 24, 2008

A few from back in the day

February 2003: Ali Baba's restaurant, South San Francisco, back when Adam was working there. Jonathan took this picture, and in fact, I think this was the first time he and Adam ever met. J later got a ticket for a no-right-on-red violation (boy, he was pissed) and he and Adam were wearing matching Krispy Kreme hats. Don't ask. This was a little more than a year and a half before Adam and I started dating. The guy looks a little different these days.
November 2005: Lake Tahoe. The postcard picture.
December 2005: Oxford Street, London. This was taken at a free photo booth. Later the A's hat went missing, which sucked because it was freezing -- London in December? The hell you say.

April 2008: The wedding. Not so much back in the day, but I do love this picture.

Sickened and saddened

Piedmont Avenue. Rockridge. East Oakland and Telegraph Avenue. Nowhere is safe. Every night there's a new robbery.

When I woke up this morning, Adam said: "Another one." A pizzeria. Less than 24 hours later, at 5 pm tonight, a nail spa on Telegraph got hit.

After dinner we decided to go hang out at a cafe. We considered our options: The Beanery on College? No, too close to Oakland. Also out was Hudson Bay further down College in Rockridge. Gaylords might be safe -- people outside could call 911 on their cell phones if something went down. We settled on Cafe Mediterraneum near the Berkeley campus.

You shouldn't have to shuffle the cards to figure out the safest place to get an Italian soda. I fear this is going to get worse before it gets better, and I just pray no one I love gets caught in the crossfire.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Something I started two years ago

And just found the other day. It's called "Assumed Name."

Our place is a treasure trove for Kevin’s romantic past. An encyclopedia. He’s got Doreen’s pictures in the closet, the book he borrowed from Mindy (and never returned) under the bed, and Ruth’s sweatshirt from Brandeis in the laundry. “They’re nice things,” he says. “It’s not like I’ve got pictures of them out on the coffee table. They’re just pieces from the past. I can’t clear my cache just because we’re together now.”

He’s a disc jockey. He only talks like a software engineer, emoting in that deep-throated way of radio stations. And he’s a good guy, which makes it difficult for me to put the smackdown on him at times like these.

We’re both 36, old enough to know better about many things. He minimizes the contact with the ex-girlfriends, though Paula calls a bit too frequently for my comfort, and for my part, I’ve learned what to blow up into a fight and what to let drift off into the breeze.

And, like everything else in this tumultous world, it’s rarely that simple.

“She’s calling again,” I say during dinner one night, checking Caller ID and handing him the phone. I hand it to him, I swear. It’s not like I throw it, though he cringes as if it were a quickly moving projectile. He ignores the call and sets the phone down on the counter. “Answer it,” I say.

He just stuffs another ear of corn in his yap and grins around it. I won’t laugh. I won’t.

“See?” he says. “You think it’s funny.”

Shit. It kind of is.

Truth is, Paula calls maybe once a month or so. But it’s too much, damn it. It’s too much. If he won’t clear his cache, why won’t he at least parse it out a bit? “That’s why we ended it,” he says. “Three years ago. She’s clingy. But she’s a good friend.”

I look at web sites and discussion boards, trying to figure out what we can’t seem to reach in our own conversations. Turns out plenty of people have the want-to-stay-friends-with-the-ex-itis. But no one seems to know the cure.

I post anonymously. The responses come: Dump him, show him who’s boss, talk to him, reason with him, withhold sex, fuck the shit out of him, baby come over here I’ll show you how it’s done no exes here to worry about just me and you if you hurry.

Okay. Screw the internet.

We hit a relaxed spell. Paula stops calling. For now. He claims he hasn’t called her back. I check his phone records – technology, you know, get with it – and he’s right. I’m proven wrong. Well, okay.

“It’s not about Paula,” I say. We’re out in the backyard. He’s barbecuing. I’m sitting on the comfortable wicker rocking chair that I love and Kevin hates.

“So what’s the issue?”

“Stop acting like you’re trying to diagnose my Dell.”

“It really could use some work.”

“Shut up.”

He’s making turkey burgers. They smell good. I’m getting drunk on Red Hook, tossing the little bottles into our recycling can. And then I say it: “You don’t love me.”

Shit. I feel like such a goddamned girl. It’s the thing I pride myself on, you know, not being such a girl. Being a creature with a vulva and clit but also with a personality, and that’s lacking in many girls. Many traditional girls.

And before you get angry, think about it. It’s actually true.

“You want onions?” He doesn’t turn around. He’s poking at the flame. And – would you believe it? – he’s whistling.

The fucker thinks I’m funny. So I repeat my theory. And this time he does turn around. “Here,” he says. “It looks pretty good to me.”

So we eat our dinner, not touching what I’d said. And then we get started on more beer, and as always, when that happens, things get a little out of line.

“We live together,” he says, radio voice high with anger, tech talk forgotten. “How the fuck can you say that?”

“That’s why you keep all your reminders?”

“They’re not reminders,” he says, “They’re the past. And I’m not getting rid of them.”

The same thing happens that always happens at these times: I get horny.

“But,” I say. “We’re doing it differently this time.”

Yeah, more on the robberies

ME: So what do you think of the argument that the economy is the reason for these holdups?
ADAM: The economy isn't taking away their Section 8 checks.

And the takeover robberies continue

Last night Nomad Cafe was held up at closing time.

I can't tell you how many cafes I've hung out at until they closed. Years ago, it was my habit to go to Gaylord's on Piedmont and write for hours until they shut down at midnight. What would have happened if some guys in hoods came in and stuck guns in my face?

We're committed to being here for at least another two years. We're already discussing what happens after that.

I've lived in the Bay Area more than 11 years. I love this place, but the politics and the crime, and to some degree the people, are making Portland look better and better.

Adam, for the record, would love these robberies to stop just so his wife will shut the fuck up about them. It's kind of like when Chuck Nevius came out with inflammatory article after inflammatory article on weekends. Sunday mornings were like shooting galleries around here for a while.

More Portland and Seattle

The Three Musketeers: Adam, me, and Loralee. Listening to these two laugh together was one of the best parts of the visit.
I always look happy in the photos Adam takes. Go figure.
Loralee the goof at the wedding.
Waiting for the Interurban. We'll be there a while. I'm wearing Adam's hat because it was raining in Seattle. Again, go figure.
Heading into Washington. Vancouver brought laughs but, well, not exactly what we were seeking. Later we decided on Seattle and our wish was granted. Note that the exit numbers are listed on something shaped like George Washington's head.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Portland and Seattle

Loralee and I. I've known this girl forever -- since we were next-door neighbors at Monte Vista. Don't look for too long -- it's going to give you motion sickness.
"Waiting for the Interurban" -- Fremont District, Seattle. These guys have been waiting for a nonexistent train line since the 1930s, and the locals like to come dress them up from time to time.
The Fremont Troll. He sits under a freeway, contemplating devouring a nearly life-size VW Bug.
We found this descending the hill from the Troll. Looks good for wax candles, huh?
An art exhibit we found heading over to the Troll. Pretty frickin amazing!

Random wallet items

A Bel Forno coffee card

A card from Berkeley Dog and Cat Hospital

A Ritual Roasters coffee card

A movie ticket: "The Visitor", seen at CineArts West Portal

A receipt from a gas station in Rancho Penasquitos

A receipt from Blossoming Lotus restaurant in Portland

A receipt from Shari's in Kelso, Washington. Five stars for the meth-head waitresses at that place.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Such a punim!

I adore my brother

He does Ray Charles, I do Stevie Wonder. Same diff.

Silent Bob speaks

The other night we were going to make a big home-cooked meal. Instead we went to the cheapie Japanese place that has become a favorite around the Landa-Sandler household. Then Adam decided he wanted to drive my car (I almost said I'll never understand his attachment to my hoopty, but I actually do) and we wound up cruising around the lake.

Talking to Adam comes so easily. It always has. I just look at him and so much comes spilling out. I told him how love makes you different, how he hooked my life and spun me in a new direction, and how I am so grateful.

"Duh," he said.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

As the minestrone simmers

ME: I know you're more likely to think lovey things rather than say them in a big, florid way. I like that about you. I've known people like that and for some reason I've never been into them.

ADAM: Because they're a little bit gay?

Today's writing -- brought to you by a thesaurus

Somewhere along the way I stopped wanting help. Help was another country, too humid in climate, too touchy-feely in culture. Help required too many visas and vaccines. To go would mean never to be safe.

I wanted a deus ex machina. Where was that god from the machine? It appeared all the time in ancient Greek tragedies. When the play wrote itself into an impossible corner, a crane would just drop from the ceiling: the intervention of a god. The actor would scramble on in and the crane would lift them up and out of harm’s way.

The fucking Greeks lived in ancient times. They didn’t even have phones. How, then, did they manage to create such a simple solution to life’s mess?

Context removed to protect the not-so-innocent

Adam over email: "I'm sure he's crying in his Red Bull right now."


Two weeks before Adam's and my wedding, my youngest brother's dog Parker was hit by a car and killed.

You have to understand the role that my brother plays in our family. Everyone adores Jonathan. He's just that kind of guy. Adam in particular loves him and has since long before he and I started dating. Jonathan's pain was also ours.

I loved Parker's strength, spirit, and goofiness. I adored how he worked a crowd and would get everyone in the room to pay attention to him. Most of all, I loved what he brought out in Jonathan: signs of a maturing man, someone who would make a terrific father despite (or perhaps because of) our upbringing. My brother could give Parker a single look or a low-key command and the dog would sit immediately, looking at him with rapture in his eyes.

But Parker wasn't 100 percent well trained. He was physically powerful and totally willful. The night he died wasn't the first time he'd escaped, but it would be the last.

They were having a party. People were coming in and out. The door opened and Parker made a break for it. It was all over in an instant.

Four cars went to the emergency vet hospital. That's how valued my brother is within his social circle. They all felt as though they'd lost someone dear to them.

Adam and I were leaving Dave's when we got the news. I was in no condition to drive and so he was behind the wheel. I felt my cell phone vibrate and saw it was my mother. I heard phrases like J just called me crying and car and Parker is dead.

Parker is dead. That just wasn't possible. My mother's cat had died that winter. He got cancer and one rainy month later he was gone. But this was March. Two days ago winter gave way to spring and Adam and I went to Point Reyes, looking for the wildflowers that hadn't yet arrived. This was a time of renewal and growth. This was no time for a dog to die.

We moved carefully that night and the next day, cautious of the broken edges. There was that specter: loss. "How do we do this?" I asked Adam. "How do we get married and move forward when at any time it could be taken from us?"

He answered like a true Jew: With another question. "What choice do we have?" he said.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Dino Scoppettone, 1969-2008

While working on the UCSB Daily Nexus newspaper, a few names came up over and over. Dino Scoppettone was one of them. I couldn't have met Dino in person. I would've remembered this guy. For sure.

Last night Dino died at Alta Bates Hospital. The cause was cancer. He was 38 years old.

Reading his blog makes me happy, not sad. It makes me happy because of passages like this:

The thing is, I know it will end, and I know there is an amazing life waiting for me on the other side of this, and even though that point might be many months away, the knowledge that I will survive, combined with the power of my support group, provides me with a strength that I'll never be able to quantify. My parents wonder why I don't seem to get depressed or why I don't spend a lot of time crying, and the fact is, I just don't feel that way. I'm sure I will at some point, but overall, I feel like this is just the path that has been laid before me, and I must follow it, and it will lead to good things for me and for everyone else that is following me and carrying me on their shoulders through the rough patches. It might suck at times, but we'll all be stronger for it in the end.

Dino, you kicked ass. I'm sorry I didn't get to hang with you in person.
What does the anxiety feel like?

How do you experience love?

Is your father still in your life?

I walked out with a month's worth of Lexapro samples, an aching chest, and the hope that even a great life can be made better.

Blurry but happy

Fremont District, Seattle, this morning.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

A lightning storm in Portland

We've been seeing flashes and hearing rumblings. Appropriate for a 101-degree day and, I would argue, necessary.

As Adam and I walked up to toast Dan and Moonrise, Dan called out: "Oh, God."

Oh, God indeed. Adam, that drunk fuck, spilled the beans about Dan being a smoker. In front of his mother, who until that point was unaware of the fact. Hell of a toast, boy. They won't be forgetting that any time soon.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

On Two Girls, One Cup

ME: They're like, pissing and shitting on each other.
LORALEE: Do you have it?

Worth repeating

"Holding onto anger is like drinking poison and waiting for the other person to die." - Carrie Fisher

Friday, August 15, 2008


A 7 am flight brought us here by quarter past eight. Got the hybrid (like the idea, not so much the car -- a little too mechanical for me, not much soul) and hung out in the Hawthorne area for a while before meeting Loralee for lunch.

Seeing her is great. It was like seeing her at our wedding and every time since then -- so comfortable. It's hot as hell here. We ate on the waterfront and watched the drawbridge rise and fall. Now we're at her place in the Nob Hill area. God, I love this neighborhood. If we were to live in Portland, I'd want to live here -- trees everywhere, beautiful buildings, coffee shops, restaurants, little stores all over the place. I'm so glad we get to spend more time with her, and that she'll be joining us at the wedding.

When I first walked into the kitchen, I was surprised -- happily -- to see my face smiling back from the refrigerator. There was our wedding invitation. This is our first trip as a married couple, apart from the Southern California trip in June. This is the first wedding we'll be attending as marrieds, not singles.

It just feels right. All of it.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Am I with Mr. "Baby I Love Your Way"?

ADAM: Just let me finish watching this.
ME: It's Peter Frampton.
ME: I can't believe that I (do various marriage-like things) with you and you like Peter Frampton.
ADAM: Yeah?
ME: Yeah. Look at him.
ADAM: Look at me!
I had a lesson today in moving away from negativity and not continuing to pursue an argument after its conclusion. You can sometimes learn from people even if you're not their biggest fan.
I got a haircut today and while the stylist babbled about the Olympics, I watched myself in the mirror.

I can look at myself. I can look at myself.

I've made some pretty awesome changes over the last few months. They're all coming together in a great way.

Adam fell in love with me before any of this ever happened. He always looked at me with an admiring, loving, affectionate eye. I cannot ever thank him enough for that.

The things I'm learning

Listen to my mind and body.

Ask for what I want.

Understand that not everyone is like you.

Know that compromise doesn't mean losing.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Meditation teaches us not to attach -- to people, experiences, or things.

That doesn't mean we should refrain from loving, living, or owning anything. It means not letting ourselves get caught up in all this to the point where our emotions are tied with external factors.

Easier said than done, sure. But very worth trying.

I get wrapped up with injustice, whether real or perceived. I can spend an ungodly amount of time doing the calculus -- who is right, who is wrong, and what is the punishment? I rationalize that if I don't do this, the perpetrator (again, real or perceived) is getting away with something.

I can parse it out on a logical level. Emotions are a different animal. That's why I'm working not to attach to injustice, and to take more of an observational, rather than angry and punitive, role.
My therapy experience has not been good. It's caused me to give up on the idea of talk therapy -- and I say that as someone whose mother AND mother-in-law are both MFTs.

There was the therapist who suggested I get my father to pay for my sessions -- uh, what? Have you heard a word I said? There was the one who was seemingly unable to make an appointment earlier than a day in advance. And then there was the one who, well, just looked bored.

I guess I'm lucky. I haven't had the therapist that a friend of mine once had -- a guy who fell asleep on him in session not once, but twice. He never went back there, that's for sure.

I'm done with therapy. I believe what I need now is to treat the chemical parts of my brain that are misfiring.

I'm very open about my troubles with anxiety and depression -- more anxiety than depression, but the two do tend to trot around hand in hand. I've also realized that the anxiety floats. There is no anchor and usually no reason. I can be sitting on the couch on a gorgeous day and just be anxious as hell.

Is this just something to medicate away?

No. But I'm very self-aware and have the resources to work through through my own issues. What I don't have is an MD, so I'm not able to prescribe medication.

And thus far, no psychiatrist I've spoken with is willing to do so. They all want me on their couch every week. At $150 a session, you have got to be out of your mind. So I'll keep calling and pushing until I get what I need.

Mark Morford sucks

It's my own fault for reading his column when I know exactly what I'm going to get: long, ridiculous run-on sentences with absolutely no point whatsoever. Let's not even mention his politics, which more than verge on the juvenile. This guy actually gets paid to barf his cocaine ravings onto the page?

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Things you find out when your car won't start in the Andronico's parking lot

In no particular order:

- People are really friendly. But, as Adam points out, not very helpful. (Then again, what the hell could they do? I'm the idiot who pretty much knew the alternator was dying and didn't bother to do anything about it.)
- If you leave a note that says: "Car is dead. Please do not ticket/tow. Thanks, peace, love, and incense," the car will still be there when you get back an hour later. Maybe the smiley face helped.
- Mazda Miatas kick ass when it comes to jump-starting. Of course, we've learned all about jump-starting from said Miatas.
- San Pablo and Bancroft isn't too scary at 9 pm. If a hooker tries to steal the car, I hope she has a Miata and has been trained on the basics of jump-starting.
- Thai Noodle tastes just as good as the home-cooked meal you were planning. Oh, who am I kidding? It tastes better.

I think it's time to consider what type of convertible I'm getting.

Today's writing

A freak finds its way.

On the face of it, there’s not much choice. Figure out how to walk in the open or spend your days in the bell tower. Modern-day bell towers are no place to spend your time. There’s no pizza delivery. No wireless internet.

So the freak climbs down into the world.

The world. That warren of rocky pathways. The freak learns to navigate, bumping against dead ends, tripping on fallen branches. There’s the occasional twinge of the funny bone, the high sweet sting, a flashing warning, a lesson.

Yes, I can

Last night was an exercise in Yes, I Can.

Every time I stand up on stage and talk about something that means something (ie., something pretty goddamned personal), with each chapter I finish on The Project, each spur-of-the-moment trip I plan and pull off, each time I speak the truth -- it's an exercise in Yes, I Can. It's addictive.

Adam's NPR take on Usher

"I want a Russian in the streets and a Georgian in the bed."

Monday, August 11, 2008

The Marsh rocked!

And Adam is the best sport ever.

Tonight I stood onstage and talked about us, from a bench on Piedmont Avenue to a wind-blown Otis Street. He sat there and was awesome. As always.

Afterward a bunch of us (Angela, Chris, Marcus, Adam and I) went to the Phoenix. I'm still a little drunk. And happy.

Sue Ann Nivens is alive and well

There are women who lead with their minds and those who lead with their tits.

Makes me think of the Mary Tyler Moore show, which pretty much was before my time, but I'm still familiar with the Sue Ann Nivens character. Sue Ann was a real phony bitch, man-hungry, out to grab any cock that floated past.

I should probably just stop here.

Work habits

When it comes to writing, Bernard Malamud once said: "The real mystery to crack is you."

I write best in cafes, with my legs tucked under me or on a chair. Headphones help block out extraneous noise, but I'm okay with a little hustle and bustle. I can't write in silence. That itself is distracting.

I like having some level of human activity around me. I compose best at the keyboard. Coffee helps.

Monday Night Marsh: Tonight!

I'll be performing a new piece (so new, in fact, that I'll be reading from my script ... but in what I hope is an engaging way) at Monday Night Marsh. The show starts at 7:30 pm. The Marsh is at 1062 Valencia Street, x-street 22nd.

I'll be talking about sex clubs, people! Sex clubs!

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Sarcastic bitch

It takes a particular type to get my sense of humor. Adam and I met these guys (two guys, one girl, to be accurate) at the Ferry Building for lunch, and then they all planned to head off to the Giants-Dodgers game while I went off to write.

We were chatting with one of the guys and he said to Adam: "You went to Cal, right?" He'd guessed from Adam's email address. Then he turned to me and said: "Did you go to Cal too?"

"No," I said. "I went to ITT."

He paused for a moment and then said: "Oh," in that I'm-not-going-to-act-like-I'm-judging way. I felt, rather than saw, Adam roll his eyes next to me.

"Actually," I said, "I went to UCSB."

"And she went to St. Mary's for grad school," Adam said. I guess he was trying to prove that his wife wasn't quite the drooling idiot that she really is, no matter what school she attended.

My grandfather

It's not enough to say my grandfather was a character. My grandfather left characters choking in the dust and in the secondhand smoke from his Trues. Family legend has it that he lied about his age to fight World War II, and that he punctured his condoms to keep his father from stealing them. I believe both legends, and if the latter is true, it didn't work -- my great-grandfather Noel was born when Grandpa Bernie was 17.

My grandfather was a hothead and a fighter. He walked around the Bronx with a two-by-four. At a restaurant he got chopped tomatoes instead of the sliced ones he'd requested, so he waltzed into the kitchen and showed them how it was done. To him every waiter was Johnny, even in the Chinese joints. He and my grandmother loved to smoke and talk after dinner and were always the bane of an impatient kitchen staff ready to close up and get home to their families.

He and my grandmother were in love, by the way. We're not talking the boring kind of love that makes you yawn. We're talking about hot, passionate, searing, lasting. I remember the only fight I ever heard them have. I was five and they'd just moved from New York to their apartment in the San Fernando Valley. My grandmother was pissed off. Woodland Hills was not suiting her. She was bitchy: "Bernie, I'm leaving. I'm going back to New York. I'm taking my checkbook and I'm going."

"Dolly," he roared, "take your checkbook and wipe your ass with it!" I cringed, impressed.

He'd come home from his accountant job, take off his dress shirt, and light up. When my brother and I were around, he'd freak us out by sticking his foot in our faces. He had two toes frozen off in the war. He loved showing it off and deep inside we loved seeing it.

He once came to our house with golf clubs in the trunk. They weren't for sport.

When I was eight, we stood in my grandparents' kitchen, killing time before driving out to LAX. My parents were taking a trip to Hawaii and we were staying with Bernie and Dolly for two weeks. This was an annual thing. It was 1982, the year Hurricane Eva hit. When it happened, we wouldn't believe our luck: More time here without our parents!

But before all that, we stood in my grandparents' kitchen. My grandfather threw himself into a chair and flipped through a magazine. He turned to me and brandished a glossy page: a woman in a leopard-skin bikini standing next to a tiger. "I don't know," he said, "which pussy I like best."

My mother put on her best nasal Bronx mock outrage: "Dah-ddy!" But I got it. I cracked up. And I knew then, as I know now, who I can thank for my sense of humor.

Saturday, August 9, 2008

Adam on John Edwards

"Seriously, you'd think if you were running for president and you were going to have an affair, you would at least put on a rubber."

Friday, August 8, 2008

And now, for something totally different

I just read this on Holly Case's blog: Everyone has things they blog about. Everyone has things they don't blog about. Challenge me out of my comfort zone by telling me something I don't blog about, but you'd like to hear about, and I'll write a post about it. Ask for anything: latest movie watched, last book read, thoughts about the upcoming election, thoughts on yaoi, favorite type of underwear, graphic techniques, childhood ideas about the adult world, what a perfect day would be like, etc. Repost in your own journal if you are so inclined.

Let's pick something simple: I don't usually blog about my car. Actually, in typing "car", I typed "cat", but I blog about Oliver more than my car.

Both my car and my cat are ass-kickers. They're old and sassy. My car has cobwebs. My cat has drool. I love them both. That's probably it for right now.

Happy four-month -- did you remember?

Adam reminded me yesterday that we just passed our four-month wedding anniversary. "Did you remember?" I asked him. "I didn't."

Neither did he. I'm stoked! We're at that point where not every minute is a marker, where longevity is hopefully setting in. In other words, we're not on Britney Spears marriage time.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Today's writing

She presses her heels into the thick carpet and spins. I think she means to face me, but her balance is off and she’s looking at the bland hotel art instead. Her face crumples and opens. It’s like watching a discarded newspaper suffer a nervous breakdown.

Then she laughs. She comes out with a huge, deep belly laugh that’s so endearing it takes me with it. I laugh too. We laugh together. It feels good.

“You were right,” she says, her glee slowing to a series of hiccups. “That loser can’t find his asshole in a rainstorm.”

You know what a dog looks like when it really pays attention? When the ears go precise and cockeyed, still as stone? When the eyes focus and fix, and there's just one single thing in the world?

Call me Rover. “Yeah?” I say. It’s all I can say. I want her to cut the bullshit, get to it. I want her to tell me that she’s kicked him out. That our home, however changed, however damaged, is once again ours.

She says: “So I took him to Harry Olander to get business advice, and …”

The rest of her words go missing. They fall into a sharp, harmful haze: a tule fog. A thick air mass that forms on clear nights. The kind that comes after the season’s first rainfall. You can’t see in tule fog. You can’t predict its arrival. You can only react, blind, hoping for the best.

Adam and I over email today

Adam Sandler wrote:

> Bhujia is the Indian snacky food! But, it costs extra for the
> bhujia-friend experience.

Allison Landa wrote:

> What's bhujia again? Do you get it from a woman who can do everything but kiss you?

My, how things change

When I first started freelancing, I had no savings. No cushion. I had resources -- namely, borrowing from my father -- but that itself had its cost.

Nearly a decade later, I have a bit of savings. I'm also married to a man who encourages me to use my time in the most fulfilling way possible. If that means taking a month off to shape and edit a memoir, so be it. Though I don't plan on taking time off any time soon, the offer itself makes me know just how lucky I am. Baby, you rule!

Thumbs up

It's always a pleasure to work with analysts. They're responsive, knowledgeable and down to earth. Thanks, guys, for making my job that much easier.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Great day

Played in the city, met Jenn for dinner, went home happy. I did get a $50 citation for my expired Muni ticket, but I got to tell the guy who gave it to me that I hoped he enjoyed being a petty bureaucrat and that he was a real fuckhead. And that, my friends, was worth it.

Today's writing

She shrugs into a faded nightgown, opens the window, and balances herself on her elbows. She stands there like that for a moment, just breathing, taking the air in and out of herself. Nichiren might say that breath itself makes us an open door, swinging to and fro, but my mother would likely tell him to take a flying leap and fuck off.

A nice surprise

I got a really sweet Facebook message from someone I knew in high school. It makes me feel good to know people from my past remember me warmly, especially given that I sometimes worry about coming off as closed off or brusque.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

I hate braggarts

People who are constantly trumpeting their achievements annoy the shit out of me. I know I've been guilty of this myself from time to time, but it still doesn't stop me from being hypocritical and loathing it in others.

Adam had an unnamed douchebag friend over a while back. This guy never shuts up about how great he is. NEVER. At one point he said to me: "So-and-so looked at me the other day and said: 'You're the nicest guy I know.'"

Roger Ebert once wrote: "Sophomorism uses a hammer; wit uses a scalpel. Sophomorism cries out for your attention; wit assumes it has it." Don't TELL me how great you are. Be confident enough to let me decide for myself.

I told him that he was not the nicest guy I know, and that in fact, Adam (who was hiding in the bathroom, probably laughing at my predicament) is the nicest person I know.

I had an addendum, though. I'm the nicest person I know, motherfucker, for not smashing your head in and then tossing your sorry ass out of my house for being such a damn stuck-on-yourself, self-centered, bragging fool. So there.
I pulled out a can of Whoop-Ass on a friend today and got a very honest answer with no defensiveness. There's hope for the world, though I still think self-awareness is an incredibly rare quality.

Trust me, if I could tell everyone I WANT to tell to go to hell, I'd record it and play the tape over and over to save my voice.
I have recently decided I am going to be blunter than blunt and just tell it like it is. I mean really tell it like it is, no bullshit or dicking around trying to be nice. This will probably lose me friends, and if so, those friends are well worth losing.

The Loft

I can't wait to check out The Loft Literary Center while I'm in Minneapolis next month. I first heard of the Loft a decade ago while involved with Writerspace. Ah, Writerspace. It would've been a 24-hour writer's center in Oakland if only there was a lot of funding and we could've made getting the thing together our full-time job. Maybe in another life.

I really love the Loft's alternative to an MFA. For someone like me who's not interested in teaching and thus didn't need a terminal degree, this would've been a great choice.

Minneapolis has been on the brain a lot. I've never been there and I don't know much about it. Maybe that's why.

Addictive behavior

I'm lucky enough not to be an addictive personality. I've known quite a few.

I'm not a fan of addiction. Not only does it tend to fuck you up personally, but it also causes you to lie, either by omission or just directly.

That's all.

Monday, August 4, 2008

For some reason I was just remembering James Kim. I was in Costa Rica when it was going on, following the story from my wireless signal atop a hill. Every time the wind swept across the huge jungle foliage, I thought of him. I still cry when I think about him. I didn't know the guy at all, but I still cry and I'm sure I'm not the only one.

Adam, over email

"There's only so much you can do without a shotgun."

I'll leave you to figure out the context.
I taught English in the Czech Republic from February to June 2002. During that time, I saw more kids screwing around with cell phones than I care to count.

There was one particularly problematic seventh-grade class. Tomas was one of its ringleaders and his behavior ensured that I had it out for him. One day he was fucking around with his phone. I walked up and grabbed it. I told him I was keeping it overnight and he could have it back the next day.

You'd think the Third World War had dawned in Class 7B. The kids freaked out. I stayed firm.

Later he rounded up his buddies and his many, many cousins. They came kicking at the door of the office I shared with the rest of the English department. I couldn't believe the entitled rage. You'd think I hadn't lived in and around Berkeley for years, but I digress.

Eventually I was pressured into giving his phone back that day. He was a little scared of me for the rest of the year, though. I do take comfort in that.

A bad book has one truism

This weekend I checked out a few library books, including Jimi Hendrix Turns Eighty by Tim Sandlin. This review says it all: irritating characters and a flawed plot. Sandlin takes his unlikable hippies, sticks them in a rest home, and we still hate them.

But there was one gem amongst the rest: A quote to the degree of "Most people wouldn't know the truth about themselves if it walked up and bit them." Yes. So true.

Does this mean I'm the queen of self-awareness? Hell no. But I'm always examining who I am and why I do as I do. I'm always reality-checking myself. I want to understand my effect on the world around me. I don't want people to loathe me because I don't get who I am and wind up generally obnoxious as a result.

Sunday, August 3, 2008

Because we're mean like that

ADAM: You think she works?
ME: Yeah. She's enough of a JAP that she's a good girl. So she works. She has some candy-ass job where she doesn't have to do all that much.
ADAM: Some non-profit?
ME: Yeah. And by the time she's 30, she'll be in law school like her brother.

Early morning thoughts

Eventually -- and this is a scary thought after having been here for more than 11 years -- I'm going to want to leave the Bay Area.

If we do, it won't be for another two years at least. And if we do, it will probably be with the intention of coming back.

Still, there are things I will miss should we leave -- things I never thought I'd grow to appreciate with such ferocious affection. Great food and access to amazing, wonderful produce. This makes a difference when you like cooking as much as I do.

I'd miss the natural setting, the trees and the water, the easy access to some of the best views in the world, found simply by driving into the Berkeley hills.

And I'd miss the hugeness and the accessibility of the place. Anything you want, you'll find it here. Drive an hour in any direction and you're in a different world.

I doubt I'd miss the people as much. I've learned there are different kinds of individuality: the kind where people think for themselves and the kind where people walk around with multicolored dreds. There are plenty of both here, but I sometimes feel the dreds win. I'm also terribly over San Francisco's kooky politics. I'd be considered a liberal anywhere else in the world, but in a place that condones and supports juvenile Honduran crack dealers as well as a mafia organization that eventually shot a journalist dead in the street, I'm a little more toward the center.

I've met some of the best people in my life here. I've also met some charming, charismatic flakes who will win your heart and then proceed to break it. Is this a West Coast, Bay Area mentality? Perhaps.

We've got ideas and we've discussed them briefly. For now, I'm going to enjoy this place -- despite its irritants -- and whatever decision process that comes.

Saturday, August 2, 2008

ME: Being phony is like fucking throwing battery acid down my throat. Is that extreme?
ADAM: Depends on the person. With some people they can get away with things because they're worth it.

Question: What makes someone worth it? And at what point do you say: Enough?

One of the "project lines"

I have a file called "Project lines" on my computer. That's where I throw things that I think would be good for the project, but have not yet found a home there.

Something I wrote just now:

When the anger comes, it comes as a numbness on the outside of my calves. It comes as a flush of the ears and a tingling of the elbows. All these little things to let me know: Here comes the calvalry. You want to kick some ass, we’re here.

Friday, August 1, 2008


ME: Am I too hard on people? I ask out of -- I don't know, obligation.
ADAM: Hey. Some of us rise to the occasion.

I love straight talkers

From a Chron story about Omeed Popal, the nutcase who ran over a slew of people in San Francisco two years ago. Doctors concluded he was too crazy to know what he was doing, but some people disagree:

Mike Mahoney, the now-retired San Francisco police inspector who investigated the case, scoffed at the insanity argument.

"He knew exactly what he did. He told me exactly what he did," Mahoney said.

The most seriously injured of Popal's victims in San Francisco, massage therapist Susan Rajic, was paralyzed from the neck down when she was struck near her home at Laurel and California streets. Mahoney said he would like to bring her before a judge and "let the court see what the hell he did. She has a life sentence to a wheelchair."