Friday, March 30, 2012

Do You Remember When You Were 15

What the Dogs Know

I found a box with a photo of a beautiful nude woman on the lid while I was looking through my neighbor’s trashcan for a plastic bag to pick up a dog turd. I had one of those slow realizations that come over you like an ocean wave: oh.. pretty girl? …huge titties?…wait.. “soft plastic texture?”…what? “Lollipop Lolita??”...blow-up doll! Ohhhhh.  Now every time I pass my neighbor, I can’t think of anything else.
Joe lives with his 5 chihuahuas down the street next to Carlos and his family. His name is not really Joe but I call him that because he looks like a Mexican Joe Paterno with his belted khaki shorts and his baseball cap, and his windbreaker. He stands outside watering the lawn (not a euphemism) while his pack of tiny dogs runs back and forth from one side to the other like some sort of rolling, barking chihuahua-tumbleweed.
I used to talk to the dogs when I jogged by: Hi Honey! Hi Lil Vicious! Hi Pretty! They'd run to the fence and jump up and down, yipping and yapping and twirling and knocking into each other. And Joe would laugh and wave. How ya doing? But now I’m too distracted. I can’t even say Hello without having an image of him and Lolita in the bed, his face pressed into her shoulder, her eyes staring vacantly at the ceiling. Oh Mami, I love you…love you…love you.
He cups his hands around his mouth and yells to me: You better tie your shoe, you’re going to trip!
Thanks Joe.
I know I'll get over it. Or I'll get comfortable with the images that flash in my head. But now I just cross to the other side of the street. Or do a big U-ey. And the little dogs line up in front of the fence and watch me run away.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012


I overslept this morning so didn't get to finish my post about what I found in my neighbor's trash yesterday, so instead I'm sending you my morning soundtrack (courtesy of Mo). For those of you who receive this in the mail and don't know this fancy trick (that means you Mom) just click the Walking Carnival title and it'll take you to the link. I can't decide if this is the song that plays while you are going crazy or long after.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Roadside Stands

A pumpkin in March? I'll take 2.

If someone ever wanted to kill me, all they’d have to do is set themselves up at a roadside stand and wait for me to drive by. The stand would have to be in a remote place, not abandoned, not desolate, just, well, un-trafficked: the side of a narrow dirt road by the exit of a canyon, for example, or a neighborhood street. They would need to have their wares displayed on a rickety card table, a home- made stand, or in the back of a truck; it would help if they had a handwritten sign somewhere but that’s not crucial. The main thing they would need is no other customers and a look on their face like they haven’t seen another human in 5 years. If it’s a kid, or a gaggle of kids, then the sad expression doesn’t matter, they just need to stand there and I will stop. They could have my throat slit in a matter of seconds.
Here are a few things I have purchased from roadside stands:
Corn on a stick
Hair clips
Tube socks
Second hand clothes
Here are a few things I have looked at and not purchased
Old rotten toys
New crappy toys
Piles of mildewed clothing
I will stop even if I’m already late to where I’m heading. I will stop if I’m going 40 mph (just jam on the breaks, shoot past by 50 yards and put it in reverse). I will stop even if I have no money (Just hold this for me would ya, I need to go to the ATM), but mostly I will stop because I love these people. I love that they got an idea, made a plan and followed through. I love that they are hopeful and working outside. I used to love having lemonade stands when I was little. I remember that it was an actual thrill when a car pulled over. Every time. It was a surprise. And that’s always a good thing.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Dinosaurs: Part 2

In the morning I get up when it’s still dark outside and it’s so quiet I can hear a cat walking on the sidewalk. I’ve told you before that right before the sun comes up, the dinosaurs come out. If the window by my bed were on the ground floor, there would be about 8 feet of space between us: him on one side of the wall, me on the other. Sometimes I want to tell him, “If you can get up every day and roll your cart through the streets at exactly the same time, and find the bottles and cans and plastics, and take them to the recycle place and exchange your goods for cash, then don’t you realize you can have a job and live in this world?” 
I do live in this world.
I know but, well, you seem sad and tired.
So do you.
Well. But I have hopes and dreams.
And I live in the present.
What good is the present if you're not enjoying it.
How do you know you're enjoying it if you live in the present.
OK now you're messing with me.
You started it.
I don't believe that rolling a cart around is better than having a roof over your head, and a warm bed and a soft pillow.
That's why you're on that side of the wall and I'm on this one.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Guys At The Gym

Last night at the gym a guy came in and started getting serious with the weight machines. Very serious. I was on the treadmill and he set himself up across from me. Each rep he did was punctuated with the sound you make when someone fires a cannon ball into your stomach. It wasn't really something you could get used to. I tried not to look at Dar who was on the stationary bike across the room, but every once in a while we'd catch each other's eye and I couldn't hold it in. Pretty soon I was laughing so hard, I had to hold onto the side rails while my legs continued moving like wet noodles in long slow strides. I'm pretty sure he didn't notice me.


In boxing class there’s a part where you partner up and hold the bag while the other guy hits it. One time the guy I partnered with was hitting it so hard I actually felt the wind from his right hook and I saw stars. From the wind!
I imagined that he swung just an inch to the right, and in slow motion connected with the left side of my face, causing my right eye, nose and side of my mouth to scrunch up, and the sweat on my forehead to spray. I imagined falling to the ground. I imagined everyone hushing and the guy standing over me and saying, I’m so sorry, like he was under water. All I can see is black and then out of nowhere a clown in full costume and rainbow afro wig comes out of nowhere and throws a bucket of water over me. There is more hush. I turn onto all fours and shake it off like a dog. I slowly get to my feet and try to focus on the guy. I take a wide swinging arc with my arm, and with the force of it, and the water on the floor, I knock my own legs out from under myself, landing on my back, my legs dramatically coming down together  like 50 pound sacks of flour tossed from the back of a truck.
Then the bell rings and someone yells out 25 pushups people. Two five. And I say to the guy, What the hell, mister, you almost killed me.

Monday, March 19, 2012

At the Top

My street is on the top of a hill that the LA Marathon runners have to come up before turning down Bellevue to get to Sunset Blvd., the main stretch of the course. Some of them glide up it, others walk, some struggle, all of them are drenched with sweat. And it's still so early! I love to go out and cheer them on. I love it so much that I am able to completely block out the fact that I am by myself and if I saw me from across the street I might shake my head in pity and embarassment, who is that lonely weirdo?
Did you notice I said might?
Because really how could you not cheer these people on?
WOOOOOOHOOOOOOOO! You got it! Looking good!!!!!!COME ON!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
If you're not going to run in the race, it can feel just as good to cheer for someone who is.

Friday, March 16, 2012

My Dilemma

Dear Readers,
    A few posts ago, I told a few of you to fuck the fuck off with your “realistic” and “sensible” and “all-knowing” comments on the whole Kony video thing. I want you to know I felt bad about it. It weighed on me for the rest of the day after I wrote it. I kept thinking I am not the type of person who tells a complete stranger to fuck the fuck off, what was I thinking? I was just acting cocky because I’m here alone in the room, stretched out on the couch with the computer in my lap, and it sounded a little sassy and funny. My stomach ached. But then the days went by and more geniuses that spend half the day writing comments on facebook and news sites, and the other half watching porn in their poop-stained underpants, had to throw in their two cents about why the whole Kony video thing, along with the group that produced it Invisible Children, was a scam and bladitty blah blah. In a Thurston Howell the III voice they went on and on, “manipulative this” and “American white man savior complex that” which was all just a way of saying “I am smart”, “I read about this things”, “I am not naïve”, “I am not manipulated by watching a boy weeping about missing his precious brother who had his throat slit open in front of him” and oh sweet Jesus, fuck the fuck off.
   I am the person who says fuck the fuck off to complete strangers, I realized. But I always feel bad afterwards. I’m not yet to the point where I can say it and then do a little Irish click of the heels, but it comes out pretty easily. Later on, when I get to the stew and mull portion of my day (i.e. when I should be sound asleep dreaming sweet dreams), I get heavy hearted. This is my dilemma.

Yours truly,

P.S. Which of these guys in the photo would you choose as a boyfriend? The one on top looks like a barrel of laughs!

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Beware The Ides Of March

Today is the Ides of March, the day Julius Ceasar was killed. Julius was the one who said Veni, Vidi, Vici. I came, I saw, I conquered. "I came. I saw. I conquered." He's got some brass balls. This guy. He also gave way to the word Caesarian, or, I guess I should say, his mother gave way (thank you and good night everybody). He did not like facial or body hair so he had himself tweezed, but he was embarrassed about being bald and that’s why he wore the little wreath on his head. Why do I know these facts? My favorite was that once when some senators came to honor him, he refused to rise to greet them because he had diarreah. (PS They were the same senators who later killed him.)
Who is the person that recorded these facts for all perpetuity?
We are definitely related.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Walter's Camera Shop part 2

I don't want to say life is hard, because that doesn't really mean anything: "shit happens", "life is hard and then you die", doesn't really come close to describing the feeling of sitting in your car at 9pm crying with your head on the steering wheel so that no one can hear you, not to mention the whole day that led you there, with the driving 17 places and the job you just gave your notice on, and the ringing phone with the 949 number from someone trying to collect money, and the crap health insurance you need to pay for but can't because you are already in the negative, and the conversation you had with your 13 year old where you are both standing in a hallway leaning your heads against the wall, while she cries that she hates herself and everything and there is no single thing you can say will magically and instantly change that (in fact everything you do say actually makes it worse), and the way it all always taps into your heart being broken 20 years ago by someone you've never been able to replace. Not to mention that all this was interspersed with cleaning up several piles of dog shit and cat vomit right before you had to leave the house, going to the fucking laundromat at the end of the day, and walking by a fight in the parking lot. Even saying all that doesn't really get it, in fact it only makes you think: oh shut the fuck up you big baby, waaa waa waaa, you don't have cancer, your husband didn't just die in the middle of the night, you're not in jail or addicted to crack, you haven't watched your child get hit by a car, or taken him, every fucking day, to a burn unit, you don't live in a tent in the mud with 60 other people, or stand in a line a mile long to get a bowl of rice. Everyone has problems. Just shut UP.
But still.
Life is hard.
Is this thing on?
Walter's camera shop. That's what I wanted to write about. I'm not going to tell you he was some kind of magical person who told me the meaning of life. He did not. That's really a photo of him up above. (I found it on the computer.) He's a big guy, like I said, gruff, with fingers like cigar stubs. He came out from behind the piles of crap holding my camera. But he didn't say anything right away. I started talking.
Should I go get cash, I don't have cash.
I haven't told you how much it is yet.
I know but--
I have to tell you what is wrong.
He explained it to me. The whole problem. He showed me the part, the size of an eyelash, that was damaged; explained how he tried working it with a different lens; told me how Nikon was going under, like Kodak did. He told me why. We talked about different photographers and the ones he liked and the ones who were just so-so. There was nothing he didn't know about cameras or photography.
Where are you from? I asked him.
Um. ( I was afraid. I was thinking Middle East but worried that if I guessed wrong, that I might offend him and he'd choke me out in 3 seconds) Israel?
He shook his head.
Give me a hint.
It is old place.
I laughed, Well that sure narrows it down.
Come on, you're smart.
(Now I was really intimidated) I give up.
I was just about to say that!
He told me about Egypt. He said he knew everything about his country including the exact day that Anwar Sadat would be assassinated. He said he went to Las Vegas the day before to place a bet on it but no one would let him. "They thought I was crazy."
Makes sense.
"So I bet my friend a bottle of whiskey (he pronounced it whisk) and the next morning he calls me on the phone and says, I have your whisk."
We talked about Egypt, about the food, the people, the architecture and then worked our way back to my camera.
How much?
You know, I think I may still be covered by the warranty.
He shrugged, that's good. What you need to do is write a letter. You can't be nice. You have to demand that they fix it. He told me the exact wording and went over it twice. We shook hands and I told him my name. He said I'm glad I met you. This made my week!
Mine too! I'll come back to tell you how it turned out.
I turned to walk out the door which he had to buzz to let me out. He looked at me and said: Write that letter. Demand! And Don't Be Sweet like you are.
I smiled and walked out, wondering if someone, 50 years ago standing in front of the Pyramids, had ever said that to him.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Walter's Camera Shop

Yesterday I went to this old camera repair shop. It looked like one of those stores on a busy city street that has remained exactly the same since 1954 during which time buildings on either side have been demolished and built from the ground up at least twice. The corner diner had changed from a place with a soda fountain and red leather spinning-top stools to a Subway with fluorescent lighting and sandwiches that all taste exactly the like shredded lettuce and mayo, but this little shop persevered. The door was bolted shut and there was a little doorbell rigged onto the frame and had wires running out of it through a crack at the top. A handwritten cardboard sign was taped and re-taped to the inside of the glass that said “Ring Bell. I’m in back”.
So I rang the bell.
The wait was long enough that I had put my face up to the glass with my hands around my eyes when he finally buzzed me in. I took one step into the store and was already at the counter, which was completely covered with camera parts, worn cardboard boxes and an old Life magazine from 1973. A big guy came out from the back, he had to turn sideways to navigate through all the crap. He looked like Henry Kissinger if Kissinger hadn’t been a diplomat or a liar.
Can you fix this?
Let me have.
He took the camera in both hands and I noticed his fingers were only two inches long and as fat around. It looked like someone had taken a machete to them.
I take it in back.
He sidestepped back around the corner. I tried to imagine that the back had a big cleared table with a lamp and a big swivel-arm magnifier, free of dust and clutter but it wasn’t easy. He sold batteries and camera straps but the packaging was faded out and everything behind the counter was covered with a thin layer of grey.  There were hand-written signs everywhere that said Cash Only. No checks. No cards. Just cash. I thought about leaving to find an ATM, to save time, but then I realized that this was the sort of place you went to have an exchange that could take an hour or two. And for some reason, that was fine.
to be continued 

Monday, March 12, 2012

The Sigh

I looked at a lot of photos of Tony Soprano and I didn't find any that showed him exposing the palms of his hands.

You wonder sometimes how a thing gets passed down from your ancestors. Not just your way of dealing with things (do you yell and battle and challenge? Or do you get depressed and bury your head in the sand?) but the gestures you have to express yourself (do you flip the double bird and bare your teeth when agitated. Or do you go into a room and quietly close the door? Click.) Say your ancestors crossed the plains in covered wagons not knowing exactly where they were headed, say the guy driving had a way of squinting one eye while he looked ahead, worrying that maybe this wasn’t such a good idea after all. Flash forward 200 years later to you, that guy’s grandson. You are with your fiancé and she is going on and on about something you don’t agree with. As she talks you start to tune out and stare at her mouth moving. You wonder if you might be making a bad decision here and as you watch that mouth moving, your eye starts to squint just like your great grandpa (X1000) in the covered wagon.
Certain gestures come from even further back. When Harry gets excited for example, when I say: Har, tomorrow we’re going to Six Flags… and you can bring a friend… and go on all 17 roller-coasters… and eat sugar and fried food, he starts to shake his hands at the wrist, first slowly, then faster, then faster, until it propels him to walk round and round in a circle. NnnnnGAAAA. ….Monkeys do this.
Cavemen, probably, did it. And now, here, this 10-year-old person is doing it.
I didn’t teach him that.
My grandfather was Italian. Most Italians have held on to every gesture known to mankind, but usually they get a heavy rotation of just one or two in their repertoire. There are many different shrugs, for example, each with a variety of meanings, but the main one is the head-tilt with the shoulders drawn up to the ears, palms to the sky. Italian babies do this as soon as they have control of their limbs. My grandfather’s thing was his sigh. It could mean “I’m exhausted” or it could mean, “You disgust me so much that I can’t talk about it” but the sound was the same. It was the sound a bus makes when it pulls into the station and the air pressure is released, just before the driver opens the door. It is not a sound you make for yourself, it is one for an audience. And it is usually followed by a long, slow shake of the head.
When I see someone do this, some random person in the grocery store or at the Y, I think: my people.

Friday, March 9, 2012

My Plight

Lately I've been getting emails from people asking me to help transfer large sums of money into a bank account. These people are usually from far away places like Pickareno or Blastafunktown; they do not speak (or write) English very well and most of the stories involve recently deceased relatives they never knew who left them a pile of money, usually ranging from 7 to 20 million dollars (hitherto called a shitload) (and yes I just said hitherto because that's the kind of language these people use) that needs to be collected asap. ASAP! Here's where the story gets confusing. They need my help to get this money but first they need me to send 1000 dollars from my American bank account into the Blastafunktown bank so that the shitload will be released, at which point they will be more than happy and grateful to share with me, usually 50-50 but sometimes 60-40, because, after all, it is their Aunt "Barbara Mary" who just passed. Sometimes these letters go on and on, sometimes they are only a couple of desperate, unpunctuated sentences.

Here's one I got this morning from Leung Cheung:

I need your assistance to Transfer abandoned sum of $22.5 MILLION dollars from Hing Kong to your country we share 60% 40% if positive contact me as soon as possible.

I love that 22.5 million dollars was just abandoned somewhere. I imagine 50 brown sacks with dollar signs on the front sitting on a desert highway, tumbleweeds blowing past. Leung drives by in an old Chevy Impala and sees them there, not sure at first what they are. He slows the car to a stop, gets out and has a look. When he realizes what it is (22.5 million dollars!!!) he can't believe his good fortune. He tosses all the sacks into the trunk of the car and speeds off, leaving a cloud of dust and pebbles. One of the thousand dollar bills sails gracefully out the window but what does he care? Let some poor trucker get it when he stops to pee on a cactus. There's plenty more where that came from!
So, after a long happy drive back to Hing kong (he has whistled and giggled and hummed the entire trip), Leung gets home and carries the sacks inside. Immediately he becomes paranoid. What if this is a trap? What if I start to spend this, what if I walk down to the local corner store and try to use one of the thousand dollar bills on a hairnet, and a swat team of 600 come out from nowhere and riddle me with bullets? Aaaaagh. It's too horrible to imagine. For weeks old Leung tosses and turns.
But then.
He gets an idea. Deposit it in an American Bank! That way he can launder the money and no one will track it back to him. The person who helps him can just wire it back to him, or send him monthly checks. Of course, he'll give a cut. 40% is more than generous. Probably too much. But that's ok, it's worth it. But how? Who can do this?
He calls Mark Zuckerberg and asks him for his top ten list of most gullible people. Mark faxes it to him in code. Leung gets the fax and runs his name down the list: ERDRIED SIWEL
And that's how it comes to me....
Oh. How I wish this was true. 
I would still be counting my money right now.

Thursday, March 8, 2012


I love going into my neighbor's apartment when she is out of town. It is the apartment of an adult. It is clean and orderly and orderly and clean: magazines and a book of photos stacked on the table, dining table with chairs tucked in neatly, a standing lamp with a beautiful arch, curtains! Wooden slatted blinds! It smells like expensive candles and the dark wooden floor feels warm and creaky. Her book shelves are perfect and full; there's no action figures or  hairy hairbrush or pile of pennies and gum wrappers. There's no broken coffee cup handle or DVD without a case or cluster of dog hair tucked down at the bottom corners (although she has a furry dog). And her desk! There's a stapler AND tape dispenser, pens, sweet photos, and her bills (all 2 of them) are stacked neatly with a paper clip in the top corner.

Shall I go on? (yes, I did just say shall, and now I'm pointing my toe)

The kitchen, as you can see, is spotless, not in a bachelor-pad, unused sort of way, but more like a master chef/working kitchen way. Pots and pans hang from a section above the stove which is old fashioned and white and free of old spaghetti sauce droppings or grease splatters. There's a bowl of lemons and onions and garlic, a row of fancy kitchen gadgets, and a huge double sink, clean and sparkling, with the faucet lined up exactly in the center. Spoon and spatulas fill a ceramic vase, and the dog food dish is presented on it's own special iron stand next to a water bowl filled with clear fresh cool water.

Follow me into the bathroom with it's beautiful old french style black and white tiles, a tiny chandelier(!), a huge bath and separate shower with a shower head as big as a frisbee, a thick glass jar filled with all kinds of handmade soaps, a mirror where you only see from the neck up. Just close your eyes and breathe; you'll feel instantly relaxed. You won't see funky thread-bare beach towels in a moldy heap, no crusty dirt and foam on the soap dish, no rubber shark or sqeezed out empty shampoo tubes on the side of the tub, and certainly, not one single lone pube on the toilet.

Now do you get why I'm down here?

I'm not sure what you have to do to get to live in an adult apartment but whatever road it is that leads you there, I have yet to travel it.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Narrow Escape

Tonight I was walking home from Bob’s market with the dogs and I heard someone crying loudly. It was dark out but I could see the person across the street talking on a cell phone, walking and crying. I think it was a tranny. She was crying the way a clown or a three year old would, dramatically and for an audience. Waaaaaaaaaaa. It was sad and funny. I wondered what happened. I had literally stopped and was openly staring when, like a zombie who suddenly catches the scent of its next victim, she turned and headed right for me. She was still wailing away but there was definitely a dark and evil trill to it. I walked quickly in the opposite direction and thanked god the dogs were barking their heads off.

(an oldie)

Monday, March 5, 2012

The Group That Rides My Bus

Normally, on an average day, I have about three personalities. There’s the me that is doing stuff: getting dressed, waking the kids, walking in the woods, going to work, and then there’s the me that comments: “How did I get back flaps? I really need to stop yelling at children. I just need 2000 more dollars a month and then we can move”. And there’s the me that judges and frets and prods and chatters endlessly, like background music at a grocery store. I can manage this group. I know where each one sits on the bus inside my head, and though occasionally one of the me-s gets noisy or the background-music-me needs to be turned down, I am not freaked out by “the multiple personality” nature of it. But then I go to a school event or some group situation where I am expected to behave like a functioning adult and the bus in my head is suddenly standing room only. It’s like I pulled in to the Port Authority and picked up a whole bunch of me-s that I don’t usually have to deal with.
Ugh, I hate these things.
This is so much fun.
This is like a healthy family activity.
I need to volunteer more often.
Everyone here lives in an actual house and pays their bills on time.
I wish I had a husband and a normal family.
She is seriously medicated.
I really need to get my health insurance straightened out
Uch, there’s that mean kid. Oh there’s the mom, makes sense.
What is wrong with you (me)?
Why are you just standing there with your hand on your hip, go talk to someone.
I’ll never fit in.

Friday, March 2, 2012

Me Vs. A Stupid Online Article

I saw online yesterday a list of "Things Women do that Men Find Annoying". I don’t know why I get distracted by these things, but I do. I’ll have battles with myself about having a look: who cares, it’s stupid. I’m trying to write! And then I’ll successfully avoid it and get on with things for 5 minutes only to “reward” myself with reading it after that. Suddenly I’m a boxer stepping into the ring: Ding Ding. Come on stupid article that just taunted me: You are going down!

I'm not going to complain about the list, because it was too stupid and obvious: Men don't like it when women are too emotional, for example, or when they talk too much. Please. But the number one item was so ridiculous it was almost inspiring.

Number 1 on the list said “Nothing says “I don’t care” more than a woman who doesn’t shave her legs”. Nothing. Nothing? More than smoking crack in front of your kids? More than wearing stained clothing? More than imitating what you just said in a whiny, sniveling voice? NOTHING PEOPLE! 

Off the top of my head I thought of my own quick list:
Nothing says "I don't care" 
-more than a guy who snorts up a big meaty glop of phlegm and then spits while you're walking together.
-more than a guy who scratches his balls and then sniffs his fingers,
-more than a guy who has a bottle of pee next to his bed.

I could go on but,  #1 Ladies and Gentlemen: Nothing says I DON'T CARE
-more than a guy who doesn't use his powers of observation.
I win! And get back to my real work.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Things I Believed At One Time or Another

When my cousin Geoff once told me that they were going to take the word gullible out of the dictionary, I said "Why????"

When I was 15, my friend Phil told me that if I wanted to get water from the tap to be really cold (or hot) all I had to do was tap it on the side a few times. (I did that until I was 30 or so).

When I was 11, my homeroom teacher told me that the reason that God let children die is because they would have been horrible, bad adults.

I forget how old I was, but I used to ride the train with this kid who told me he fell out of a second story window and would have broken his leg but on the way down his eyelid got hooked on a branch and he hung there until someone helped him get off.

In my 20s, my friend Jamie told me that you will break your big toe if you pull a hair off it.