Monday, June 29, 2009

I love this picture because ...

It's a great shot of the Farm's living room. Note our cohesive design style. It's called Crayon. That is a thermometer in my mouth, by the way. Temperature is normal, though not much else is.

Today's aphorism

Writing well is the best revenge.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Last night

Adam and I sat in a backyard that is not ours, watching a cat we do not own. "When I die, I'll miss everything," I told him. "I'll miss the piss-offs. I'll miss the frustrations. Everything."

He petted the cat as it strode by. "Even PMS?"

Thursday, June 25, 2009

I married an asshole

Adam just told me that he said the following to one of his buddies about Farrah Fawcett: "I said her ass was smoking hot -- and smoking gives you cancer."

Wow. What a shithead. I'm almost sorry I laughed.


Farrah Fawcett and Michael Jackson die (his death is not confirmed, but it doesn't look good) in the same day. My teeth almost fell out of my head just now when I looked at the news. WTF?

July 5

We're having a Slander party. It's been way too long!

Wow, Jeff, why so defensive?

A recent CL writing ad. Never a good sign when a potential employer is already accusatory toward his employees.

I am going to hire two writers to work on small and ongoing projects of mine. The first writer is going to take pre-written material as an outline and make it wonderful. The second writer is to read through finished written work to make sure it’s wonderful and it’s done 100% correct.

I will only pay 15 per hour.


Writer will state how many hours each individual project will take before each new project is started. I will not pay for more time than what was quoted.

Before each new project is started the writer will set a completion date. The completion date is set according to how many hours each new project should take. If the project is not completed on time then the writer agrees not to send me their finished work. I will not pay for late work. I will only work with people who complete written work on time.

I expect written work to be 100% correct. I am hiring you as a professional writer.

I would like a sample of your work, and references from past or current clients from craigslist.

Thank you for your time.

Please, email your work, references, and contact info to: (address removed -- I'm a bitch, but not a total bitch)


Scrub your mouth out with lye

Yesterday Adam looked at me over some great cheapie Thai food and said: "I've never been cussed out by anybody the way I have by you."

We had a fight yesterday afternoon. I got on the horn and opened my yap loud enough for the neighbors to cringe and close the door. Later he repeated some of the words and phrases I'd used: motherfucker, cocksucker, fuck-you-I'm-getting-a-hotel-room.

I had two reactions: 1) Those are some strong words; and 2) That sure sounds like me.

I'm re-reading what I wrote here and I realize I come off as a bitch. That's because I can be a bitch. I can be loud and aggressive and extremely hurtful.

But I'm a self-aware bitch, and I apologize when I'm wrong. And yes, I have apologized.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

A shitty day creates decent writing, I hope

To spend a lifetime unloved: locked apart from existence, your nose pressed against that glass, watching. This isn’t just missing out on the warm fuzzies: holding hands over dinner, embracing in a hotel room, laughing together. You’re also missing the screaming matches, the fuck-yous, the silences that stretch like toxic taffy. You’re missing the brawling and the boring, the commitment that lies on the shoulders as a blanket, light one moment, stifling the next, sustaining in all moments. You are frigid. You are forgotten.
I suppose if you're crying while you're writing, that means it's good?

From what I'm sending to the guys this week

When I was 10, my favorite song was “Overjoyed” by Stevie Wonder. The damn song used to make me so happy that I would fling myself into my favorite overstuffed chair in the living room and kick my legs for the glee:

Over time
I’ve been building my castle of love
Just for two
Though you never knew you
Were my reason

You’ll find someone, the song told me. You’ll fall in love. It’ll take a while – you won’t be the first of your friends, it may even be as late as high school – but it’ll happen.

The fantasy was vibrant, the color of every Crayola in that big box, the one with the sharpener on the back. It made my lips quirk and my ears tingle. I wrote about it in my Wonder Woman journal. But never did it involve a strip club with someone else’s boyfriend.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

I gave the guys the middle part I'd written. Some of it went over, some of it didn't. Looks like I need to go deeper and tell more. More? What the hell? Ain't I done with this shit yet? Ain't I a woman?

Okay. I know it'll make the shit better. So tomorrow I'll sit down and write more.

And guys, if you're reading this, here's the recipe I was talking about. Yummy, awesome stuff and really simple except for how you have to go deeper, really make the person who's eating feel that pain, throw up maybe, yeah, that's the ticket ...

The silent treatment

Sadness, not anger, spurs me to write this.

I'm grateful for that. Sadness underlies so much anger -- it does for me, at any rate -- that the the two are often twins. Sadness also sometimes feels like the more profound and difficult emotion, which in turn can make it to access.

I'm terribly sad that Adam's mother has barely spoken to us since late last year.

I could go into details, but they're pointless and, in fact, fairly private. I will say, however, that the silent treatment is a poor choice in a world where we are never even certain we'll have our next breath, let alone another day, week, month or year.

Family is extremely important to me and I've worked hard to establish and maintain good relations with mine. That doesn't involve stonewalling them. It involves stepping up and working together to identify and change a difficult situation.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Editing. On page 40 of 269. It's been fairly chill thus far, and everyone who's read and commented gave me things to consider.

The good news is that it should -- I hope -- get even easier as I go along. The writing gets better, I think, a relaxing into the story, voice, and pace. I almost certainly won't be done editing by the time I go to Kimmel Harding, but I hope to finish by the time I leave for MacDowell in late August.

The I-hate-my-job Mad Lib

Culled from the unwanted input of those who, indeed, hate their jobs:

You wouldn't believe what my (noun) wants me to do now. I told them that (verb) is impossible and not in my job description and I don't have enough time to (verb), but wouldn't you know it, they just said do your best.

I am sick and fed up and (adjective) and I wish I could quit except I need this (adverb-adjective-descriptor) job, especially now.

... and of course, none of this is my fault.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

True Landa style

All you need to know about me:

We saw Fuku Americanus, the stage adaptation of Junot Diaz's The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao, tonight with Angela, Chris, Robin and Lorraine. Diaz himself showed up and sat two rows behind us.

At intermission, I told Adam: "I like the play better than the book." Then I realized how much my voice carried -- and cringed.

His response: "Watch out. He might smack you with his Pulitzer."

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Sometimes you just can hear people saying funny stuff. I just wrote to my friend Ian to tell him about the DR reunion (number two -- number one was so fun we wanted to recapture the moment) and he writes back: "Where the bloody hell is Favela's Fusion?" Okay, maybe you have to know Ian to know that it's funny. But it is.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Now THIS is what I'm going for

I finished my final draft of The Project yesterday. If I expected bells and whistles, there were relatively few -- just a hell of a lot of pride and the thought of: Where to from here?

Editing, of course. Here's where I sit down with my critiques and refine it.

In one critique, Sean wrote:

Jesus! It's funny -- your story is so specific, unique, and personal -- but I keep running across bits and pieces that are straight out of my life.

This confirms one of the best things I've taken from Roger Ebert's writing (I love that guy -- he's an inspiration). Ebert once said: "Strange but true: The more specific a film is, the more universal, because the more it understands individual characters, the more it applies to everyone."

The same can certainly be true of a memoir (or, really, any art form), and I certainly would like to think it's true of mine.

Clinging -- and letting go

One of the meditation principles I find most valuable is the idea of non-attachment, or letting go. From BuddhaNet:

Let go of your clinging. Let go of the motivating desire behind whatever you're doing. It may be a desire to succeed, to be perfect, to control others or to glorify yourself. It doesn't matter what it is specifically; what matters is the desire behind your act. It is easy to mistake the act for the desire.

In meditation classes, I heard: Let go a little, and you'll have a little freedom. Let go more, and you will have more freedom. Let go totally, and you will have complete freedom.

I'm a clinger. I cling to ideas of what others should be -- in relation to me as well as in life itself -- and the way that the world should be. I cling to ideas of how my day should go, and heaven help the person or thing that interrupts my self-imposed schedule.

I rationalize the clinging as not letting people get away with things -- they can't treat me like that, can they? But it's not about them. It's about me and my reactions to them. Letting go doesn't hurt. It's not enabling. It's freeing.

Fight Club

NARRATOR: When people think you're dying, they really, really listen to you, instead of just...
MARLA SINGER: -instead of just waiting for their turn to speak?

Monday, June 15, 2009

Oh, snap!

Here's the best response I've read yet to the argument that Obama doesn't have time to work for gay rights, given his commitments to dealing with the economy and war and stuff:

I bet it was pretty economically disruptive to free all those slaves too. Probably cost a lot of people a lot of money. We should have just waited until the country was in better shape economically.

That's a comment on a Dan Savage blog post. Savage is pissed off at Obama, and I don't blame him.

I've been an Obama supporter, but I'm getting awfully tired of seeing his absolute lack of action on this front. Very disheartening.

Bright Eyes, "First Day of My Life"

Angela posted this on Facebook right now, and whammo -- did it bring me back. I used to watch this video and cry with happiness when it first came out. Adam and I were finally together and scary and turbulent as it was, it was blissful.

It still is. Baby, you're everything.

Getting through the baggage

My brother and I have been talking over email about how we grew up and the effect it has on relationships. I know I've had to work like hell to surmount the anger and violence we saw as kids. It's not easy and yet I know I improve each day.

I grew up with bullying, loud voices, fists. I had to call the cops on my father when I was 17 years old. When they walked into the entryway, he turned to us and said: "Who called?" I looked him in the eye and said: "Me."

Sunday, June 14, 2009


ME (looking at Facebook pictures from an old high-school friend): He has no pictures of himself. His wife, and a ton from Peru ...

ADAM: Macchu Picchu? How droll.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Not easy getting green

The other day, my brother threw a $750 check back in my father's face. "750?" our other brother asked over email. "That's more than I've gotten from him since I was 18."

Money isn't painless when it comes from my father. In fact, it always comes with a price. Better to pay our own way if we can.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Adam, 11:33 p.m.

"I really shouldn't be surprised that my father answered the phone in shul."


Driving home from Davis just now, I passed Fairfield, where I worked for two years and two months -- yes, I counted -- at the Daily Republic newspaper.

Newsrooms are a goldmine of crazy shit. At 23, with barely enough knowledge to be able to brush my own teeth, I covered my first, and thankfully only, murder.

I'm eating lunch at some random Italian joint -- McBucci's or whatever -- in what passes for downtown. I'm with two friends from the newsroom, one of whom just broke up with her boyfriend. Today is a Monday and so I have the scanner because that's my day to cover cops. I have more experience having my name called out over the scanner than actually understanding the codes that hiccup through the static -- my colleagues always know I'd gotten yet another speeding ticket when they hear the dispatcher announce: "Comes back clear and current to an Allison Landa of Berkeley."

So we're sitting at McBucci's, waiting for our Milanese Murder Burgers or whatever, when the scanner starts crackling with a new urgency. They're calling for backup, then more backup, then for LifeFlight. I sigh. Looks like lunch may have to be served in a to-go container.

A minute later, they call off LifeFlight. This time my sigh is out of relief. Just then, my newly single friend starts to bawl over our complimentary bread. I turn down the scanner to console her. To do otherwise would be, well, rude.

Our waitress comes over not with plates, but a question: "Which one of you is Allison?" she asks.

Aw, shit.

"You have a phone call."

On the restaurant's line is Judith, who knows everything that goes on at all times. She's back in the newsroom, wondering if I've been listening to what's going on. "Yeah," I say, straining to see if my food's shown up at the table yet. "They called off the LifeFlight."

"That's because the guy's dead."

I spout curses that quite possibly don't come from the English language. Then I stomp back to the table and toss down a ten, still flaming from the mouth. My friend has stopped crying and is eyeing me as if I might explode in a messy fashion. I might.

I hate covering breaking news. It's so -- out of control.

I whirl to leave and see three of my sources at an adjacent table: one of my favorite lawyers dining with two judges. All three are laughing. Of course they are. They don't have to go check out some stiff.

I book it down West Texas Street. The action's by the Wells Fargo, a cluster of medics bending over a stretcher. I can only see a pair of grayish feet lying askew. He's dead all right, I think, and my heart pounds with adrenaline.

Rockin' the boat on a Friday

I love the Hues Corporation's "Rock the Boat." Sheer brilliance. And it came out the year I was born, 1974.

Last night I bopped around the kitchen making a big celebration dinner -- Adam's final was last night, he's not taking summer school, and he was capping off a particularly irritating workweek. I put these guys on super-repeat. They are PIMP! I'm still rocking out to them right now in Davis -- I walked out of the house this morning and said, why not?

Thursday, June 11, 2009

How do you end a long-term friendship? Even when you know it's coming -- hell, you know it's overdue -- it's hard to screw up the courage and do it.

I've known this guy for a decade. He knows how to turn on the charm. Unfortunately, he is not a reliable friend. Too many times I've walked away from seeing him and said: "That's it." I just need to make it happen.
Yesterday I got mad at Adam for being light-hearted.

This is not the first time it's happened, but I have an increasing awareness that it's my issue, not his. I am more than able to enjoy life, but I would not typically call myself a light-hearted person. I envy those who are, and that envy translates to anger.

We had 6:45 reservations at Foreign Cinema and I was not about to walk in there while we were still irritated with each other. So we stood on the corner of Mission and 21st, and I was forced to look at myself and then explain who I am.

It's a good lesson. Oh, and by the way: If you have the means (or even if you don't), I highly recommend Foreign Cinema. It is so choice.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

You provide the context

ADAM: So what are the social activities for that group? Hide and nobody seek?

Now here's a giant step backward

My neck is sore from shaking my head at Jonathan Weber's essay: "Virtual Insanity: Why Telecommuting is Tough for Small Companies." Weber, who heads the New West media company, insists:
I firmly believe that you should expect employees to show up for work, whenever possible, no matter what kind of company.

The reasons for this have nothing to do with checking that people are actually working. It's about efficient communications, building company culture and camaraderie, and sharing the daily bits of work and personal experiences that create a shared sense of purpose.

Mr. Weber, all due respect, but what kind of rose-colored glasses are you wearing? Do you really think that the fact that Jack can smell the tuna sandwiches Joanie eats for lunch every single day is the glue that creates a positive, productive company culture?

He continues:

For starters, all the telecommunications tools and document-sharing systems in the world are no substitute for the simple act of walking over to someone's desk and pointing to something on a screen or asking a question. It's almost always quicker than any technological alternative, and there's little room for confusion.

Okay, fair enough. It can be a more rapid means of answering a question. That said, I know plenty of freelancers and consultants who make themselves available to field questions after hours and on weekends. Where are your nine-to-fivers then?

Weber asserts that in-person meetings are also more productive:

And conference calls are so far inferior to face-to-face meetings that I barely bother with them at all. Rather than the collective engagement of a good meeting, you end up with people half-listening while they catch up on e-mail. Plus lots of awkward silences.

Collective engagement? Weber must attend different meetings than I've attended in the past, where people are rolling their eyes, glancing out the window, doodling and barely containing their frustration. Meetings suck. I'm not the only person who will tell you that. Oh, and people half-listening while they catch up on e-mail? As opposed to people who text-message their way through in-person meetings?

Weber adds:

The little day-to-day stuff can matter more than you think.
Yeah, like the meaningless water-cooler conversations, the coffee breaks, the gossip and office politics? You're telling me this doesn't affect morale, not to mention productivity?

He ends with a slight concession ... and a twist on that concession.

Obviously there are plenty of situations where you just have to suck it up and deal with these complexities. ... But do not make such compromises lightly. And when you do, try to find as many reasons as possible to get people together. A company retreat can be very useful even if it accomplishes no other purpose. If someone has a deal to work from home, ask them to come by the office as often as possible. Bring the out-of-towners to the home office whenever you can afford to.

Why? My most successful freelance engagements are those that rarely require me to see or speak to the client. I'm loyal as hell to these people because they recognize that they're not paying me to kibbitz, do lunch, or make idiotic small talk. They're paying me for a job, and believe me, if they do me the honor of allowing me to work from my office of choice, they'll get even more than they expected.

Benvenue Avenue, 12 p.m.

Found myself writing this in email tonight

If they can make an Ativan smoothie to deal with at least some of what I have to deal with down there, then I sure hope they sell it at In-N-Out.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Just another Tuesday night

There was no way I was driving home from writing group straight away tonight, so we got on the horn to Adam.

"Honey," Rob told his cell-phone voice mail, "I want you to put something in my mouth ... a tuna sandwich." I kicked him in the ankle, but that did little to dissuade him.

"Tuna Palace!" Warren informed him when we called again on the home number. "I want dice tuna!" (I think that's what he said ... I wasn't 100 percent aware at the moment.)

When he walked into Sean's studio, the guys all stood up and greeted him with warmth. That made me feel good.

Spiteful writing: A series?

He celebrates the recession's onset with a new vehicle: a seven-year loan, but see how many cupholders are in the back? A new camera, sweet top-of-the-line camera. He moves to the city and a view, look at that, imagine getting high and checking that shit out. He has a new girlfriend, except she's not a girlfriend, she's a casual encounter, I mean she doesn't know that, but she should, I told her ...

When he tells us what she likes to do in bed, before mirrors, in the bathroom, we swallow hard and laugh until our throats hurt. Outside we vow: No more of him.

The introvert

I've been trying to figure out why I've pulled in during the last few years. My version of introversion may look like no big deal to others: I still go out, have friends, hobbies, chat on the phone and over email. To me, though, I know the difference. I seek social interaction a lot less frequently and am less disappointed when plans are canceled. More than anything, I prize my time to myself.

Well, let's see: What's changed?

Four and a half years ago, I got into a serious relationship. That relationship turned into a live-in situation, which then turned into an engagement, which then became a marriage. I work every day at the damn thing, with great results, but a whole hell of a lot of effort.

It's easy to say I don't have a lot of effort left over for others, but that's not quite it. It's more that I've achieved that level of comfort that one achieves in an intimate relationship -- we can spend the majority of an entire meal tucked into our food, barely observing the social niceties you might with a friend or acquaintance. I can say whatever the hell I want to him. When he pisses me off, he knows it, stat.

That level of comfort makes me aware of the formalities -- necessary and not-so-much -- that we observe with others. I'm about as direct and opinionated as they get, but even I find myself frustrated with the notion that no, I can't tell you you're a douchebag, no matter how much I might want to.

So is that it? If I could be more honest with people, would I be more social? Or is it something more?

I think it's something more.

My standards, always high, are far more stringent. There are things I seek in people and if I don't see those qualities, forget it. And I'm a lot stricter now than I have been in the past.

I also have to ask myself if this is a bad thing -- this introversion. And my first answer is no, because I think part of it is a phase. However, I know there are other parts that are hurting me. It's those to which I need to give my attention.

Sunday, June 7, 2009


I just added some notes to my draft: very curt and cold notes. They reflect nothing of the feelings about which I'll be writing. They use phrases such as "edit to reflect events"; they are written in block capitals like a note to the pet-sitter.

I am inebriated and I am glad. I might otherwise wish to go back in time and slap my younger self full in the face. Bitch, I would say, grinning through my fury, what the fuck were you thinking?

From Deborah this morning

Your 'project' is just as magnificent up to chapter 11. I really didn't have any commentaries this time -- the text is already well-corrected -- nothing much aside a simmering sense of outrage at the years and years of neglect regarding your health, your developing person. I'm very sorry, and that's nothing to do with pity. I thought you might want to know the effect of your words, though I'm not a disinterested reader. I think that if I were, the effect would be the same.

Saturday, June 6, 2009

I don't need much motivation to go to the gym.

Looking in the mirror, at pictures, and understanding how I've changed is all I need.