Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Eat, Pray, Love

How the hell did this become a best-seller and a movie? I'm not even 70 pages into Elizabeth Gilbert's deathless prose and already I'm drowning in cliche. As Jennifer Egan wrote in the New York Times Book Review: "Lacking a ballast of gravitas or grit, the book lists into the realm of magical thinking: nothing Gilbert touches seems to turn out wrong; not a single wish goes unfulfilled. What's missing are the textures and confusion and unfinished business of real life, as if Gilbert were pushing these out of sight so as not to come off as dull or equivocal or downbeat."

Indeed. I think Pollyanna's book is headed back to the shelf, or more likely back to Half Price Books.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

"You can't do it."

I'm in training to volunteer at Sutter Hospice in Emeryville. Adam's work buddy Bob volunteers there and recommended that I look into it.

"Allison, you're going to want to save the world," he told me when we were hanging out at the company Christmas lunch. "but you can't do it."

I wish I could.

Adam, over email

I love how I could say "Let's drive to outer Mongolia for coffee" and you would be stoked.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Day in the South Bay

Dessert Republic, San Mateo.
Lots of cool Hong Kong-inspired decor.
Summon the waitstaff!
Happy with my Ovaltine freeze bubble tea.
Adam always gets the most amazing pictures of me.
Alice's Restaurant, Woodside.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

The dream

I am at MacDowell and it is Medal Day. It looks nothing as I remember -- larger, with more ornate buildings, sprawled along a roaring ocean reminiscent of Pacifica -- and the staff members don't recognize me. I go with a group into someone's studio, feeling guilty that we are invading their space. They are not around but their possessions are -- a sweater, a notebook.

The group is eclectic: an elementary-school friend, a friend who I also consider a mother figure, Adam, a few strangers. Very little is recognizable and almost nothing is mine. That which is is about to be stolen.

Friday, January 22, 2010


"That would be a little weird."

Adam is very understated. He'll rarely if ever go off the way I do. But when he says something is "a little weird", that means it's not kosher with him.

I like to ask him all these stupid theoretical questions: "How would you feel if I ..." The other night, I asked how he would feel if I went to a movie with a guy friend.

It was deemed a little weird.

I said: "Do you know how many platonic movies I've been to?"

"Things have changed," he said.

And that's true. I used to go drinking with my guy buddies, make pancakes at three in the morning at my friend David's house. Nothing ever happened because there was nothing there to happen. That said, I see where Adam is coming from.

Things have changed. These days much of my social life takes place with him at my side. While we are not joined at the hip, I can understand why he wouldn't want me sitting in the dark for two hours with some dude. Even if we weren't splitting a popcorn.
I wanna rock your gypsy soul, just like way back in the days of old.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

From The Project

It’s a car. Four wheels and a convertible top that used to work with the press of a button. When the motor failed I didn’t bother to fix it. Instead I operated it manually, standing in the backseat and yanking whenever I needed to close the roof. The radio is factory, the speakers shot. Whether I’m playing Elton John or Jay-Z, the music comes out with all the clarity of a drunk Muppet speaking Bulgarian.

The turn signals don’t even work right. You have to hold them down exactly halfway or risk being rewarded with an ear-splitting whine.

It’s a car and I’ll find another one. So why am I crying as I list it for sale?


Adam loves the car. He loves the challenge of navigating with the side mirrors, tossing down the top with one hand. The radio’s corny graphic equalizer makes him laugh. I always felt comfortable letting him drive my car. It just felt right.

I haven’t spoken to him in three weeks.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Today's writing

I’m on the night train back from Prague. It’s the last train, the midnight one, and the carriage smells like piss and Pabst. The floors rock with laughter and are wrapped in cigarette smoke. It’s like an episode of Cops waiting to happen.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Today's writing

My first class is 7A, a wiggling bunch of twelve-year-olds none too happy about being packed into school chairs. I can hear them warbling on the other side of the door.

Take a deep breath and go. Let’s do this.

And my feet don’t move.

The paralysis lasts maybe fifteen seconds, nothing too extensive. But any amount of time is significant when you’re talking about being shaken to the core. Just ask any earthquake victim.

What if they won’t listen?

What if they throw things?

What if they make fun of me?

There is wishing and there is wanting, and in this moment those two are in opposition. I wish to be ballsy and brave, to stride in as the English conversation terror master. I want to run as fast as my stumpy legs will take me.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Excerpt from 2005

You’d like to believe the city calls, but it doesn’t. All it’s doing is staying quiet, that great lighted joke across the bay. Look now, five o’clock and already dark, already the sun has quieted itself under the horizon, setting the sky to flame and ultimately to dark ruin. Dark ruin, you think, muttering to yourself, laughing under bated breath. That’s funny. You like to watch the city as it sinks into the bay and rises again at sunset, standing in this muddy little corner of a place you can’t call home. There’s nothing of it that is a home, though you like to think of anywhere you stand as home. The five feet around you, that’s home, that’s what you used to think. Then you moved here and the circumference shrunk. You couldn’t afford much else, so tight are the limits to which your dollar will stretch, and so you came to West Oakland, this jutting little peninsula off a cocksure ruin of a city, and you stand at this smeary window, and you watch the woman called San Francisco sell herself for absolutely no cash.

If Not For You

If not for you,
Babe, I couldn't find the door,
Couldn't even see the floor,
I'd be sad and blue,
If not for you.

If not for you,
Babe, I'd lay awake all night,
Wait for the mornin' light
To shine in through,
But it would not be new,
If not for you.

If not for you
My sky would fall,
Rain would gather too.
Without your love I'd be nowhere at all,
I'd be lost if not for you,
And you know it's true.

If not for you
My sky would fall,
Rain would gather too.
Without your love I'd be nowhere at all,
Oh! What would I do
If not for you.

If not for you,
Winter would have no spring,
Couldn't hear the robin sing,
I just wouldn't have a clue,
Anyway it wouldn't ring true,
If not for you.

- Bob Dylan

Friday, January 8, 2010

Does this make sense?

There is a consistency that comes with pets. This is no accident. They rely on routine: the morning walk, the evening cuddle, the suppertime snack of table scraps. Pets don’t read the news and don’t care what’s going on in the nation’s capital. They are focused, fixated; their needs define their clock, and by definition, yours.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Return to the woods

I reapplied to MacDowell.

I requested two weeks as opposed to a month. If I get in, I'll ask for a studio that's closer in. I'll better understand what I need in order to be happy three thousand miles away from home.

If at first you don't succeed, go back.

It's 1992 on 10 at 10

In the Iliad room putting the newspaper together, I hear the Rodney King verdict. My Toyota Celica is parked outside. I don't think there's a speed limit on campus, our newspaper advisor told me, but if there were I have a feeling you've broken it. Bricks are being thrown at heads less than two hours north, but I'm line-taping. Later Tom and I will sit on a power box, back to back, singing TV theme songs, children with driver's licenses.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

An open letter to my mother-in-law

I'm tired of being quiet about this.

You have not spoken to me for a year. During that time you have barely spoken to your son. You want to know why I don't want to visit. If you can't be bothered to speak to me, why should I make the trip to Los Angeles for the same type of treatment?

You want to be closer to your son. I wanted to help make that happen. Somehow that message got garbled along the way, and I do not plan to repeat it.

I will not get in the way of a relationship between the two of you. I will also not prostrate myself. You figure out the intersection there.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

I'm into the things we can only do for ourselves. No one can go to the gym for you. Nobody can repair your strained relationships with friends and family. And nobody can -- or should -- write a book on your behalf.

My heart aches with optimism and hope for my little Project. It has so much potential, and I say that without arrogance. I simply know it's true.

Monday, January 4, 2010

I was drunk, for the record.

ME: Are YOU drunk?

ADAM: (Having spilled his champagne and blackberry cordial on the couch.) I may just be uncoordinated.

Friday, January 1, 2010


Toasting with Mike!
Adam and Carl, two versions of the Savior.
Rebecca and Angela, who made Oliver a very happy neuter.
Carl brought Cosmos. I drank them.
Boy, does Oliver look pissed off!
Chili in the slow cooker, a bunch of nosheri elsewhere.