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I used to wear medium shirts, and now I can’t even fit my shoulders into a large. The strange thing is, I’m the same size, give or take five pounds. My BMI is well within the normal range. But clothes, everywhere, seem to have shrunk. Which is ironic, since the majority of Americans have grown (and I don’t mean taller). I’m a 6/8 and I can’t buy clothes at Anthropologie or Urban Outfitters. WTF? What tiny subculture of society are these stores marketing to, and why have they become the norm? Maybe it’s time to move back to the Midwest.
The thing about having cosmetic surgery at such a young age—-for a birth defect, not for vanity—-is that you never feel finished. Once you open the door to change, it’s difficult to shut. You don’t like your nose? Change it. Fifty years ago, the question wouldn’t even be raised. Whatever you have, you accept. End of story. I wish it were like that now. I think I could’ve gone my entire childhood with just that one corrective surgery at birth. Not the subsequent six or whatever
that only made me want more, made me crave impossible perfection.
I’m still thinking about the article I read last week, how Edith Wharton (my favorite) wrote in bed. It was her desk. Or more than that, her bed was a separate planet—-as long as she was on it, she didn’t exist to other people and could make her own rules. It wasn’t until she stood up, put her feet on the floor, that she began her duties as hostess, welcomed people into her living room and drank tea and talked all day... In Paris, she complained that her hotel bed did not get enough sunlight and made them move it.
Last July 4th, I stood on the purple roof of my apartment building with my friend and thought of you, what you were doing at that moment. Fireworks burst, twentysomething neighbors stood around me, all those Midwestern-transplant hipsters talking on cell phones about their parts as extras in a commercial, singing backup in an obscure band—-their dreams, they believed, were beginning to take shape. I wasn’t dreaming of being a famous actress or singer, but of a future with you, something so much more spectacular than stardom, or giant booming gunpowder flowers in the sky. Just you. And me.
The woman at Native Foods suggested “The Scorpion” when I phoned in an order for my usual, the Bali Surf Burger. “The scorpion’s not as bland as the bali,” she insisted, and described the spicy, blackened nature that gives the scorpion its sting. I remained loyal to the bali, however, and as I sit here eating it, I wonder how anyone could think its subtle tastes and textures dull or uninteresting. The bali represents my philosophy in life: If something’s already perfect, why change it? I don’t want flash and an overabundance of flavor, just something steady, substantial and warm.
It is difficult to celebrate being an American these past few years. To celebrate being American is, partly, to celebrate aggression and violence, murder, war. This month, I skipped celebrating altogether. No fireworks, that colorful and loud display of gunpowder and volatile chemicals. I think fireworks will always remind me of the Shock and Awe attack on Baghdad in March of 2003. I was at school the night we attacked, and so many people around me were excited. But I just felt sick. Later I saw the explosions on television: The beginning of something colossal, the end of something precious.
I’m not saying I don’t love America, that our country doesn’t offer anything besides corrupted “values” and hostility. I still love all the best aspects about US, the things we take for granted each day when we hear the death tolls overseas, the bickering in Congress, the con artistry and lawlessness that constitute this administration. The America I—and others in this world—love(d) is clouded right now, as if under foggy glass. But I have faith that one day, in my lifetime I hope, our country will rise through all this muck and flourish, valuing life instead of death.
Each morning on the way to work, I drive past the Los Angeles National Cemetery, which stretches across 114 acres of beautiful, manicured land. It’s a miniature version of Arlington, with small, white tombstones sticking up out of the grass like teeth. On holidays like July 4th, baby flags complement each grave. If you stand quietly near the cemetery entrance and the wind is strong enough, you can hear the flags flapping... One morning the flags are there, the next they’re not. I never see them being placed or taken away; sometimes I think the flags are just patriotic birds.
Memorial service for Carla’s dad last night, who died last week after a ten-year ordeal with Alzheimer’s disease. This man, Ed, was similar to my own father: he was an accountant, but with an artist’s heart and mind. He was beautiful and sensitive, loved the ocean, jazz. But Ed followed his desires in a way my Dad didn’t, in a way my Dad forgot how to. He did things my Dad wanted to but--for many reasons, mostly self-imposed--couldn’t. And yet they both ended up in the same place; we all do, ultimately, whether we have lived or not.
I’ve been avoiding getting my hair cut for at least a month. For me, it’s worse than getting my teeth cleaned--at least at the dentist, you don’t have to stare into a mirror for a half hour, or make conversation with a relative stranger. You just lie back in a chair and daydream. I like the trickling sound from the little spit sink next to me. The last time I was there, the dentist was on the phone, arguing with his wife. It was fun: someone else was in the spotlight. And, a free toothbrush on the way out.
Spent an hour on the Internet, locating a long-lost friend of my mother’s. Yesterday, she gave me the exact spelling of the woman’s name, as well as her husband’s and son’s names. I found a phone number and address, but I’m betting my mother will never call her. She prefers to leave people in her memory and imagination, where they are so much more to her--and she to them--than is true in reality. Perhaps the friendship was real fifty years ago, but now? Too many years have passed; a phone call would ruin my mom’s escape from loneliness.
Something so small can make such a difference. My friend left a message on my voicemail at work this morning, before I arrived. He didn’t speak, just played “Up a Lazy River” (old-time, banjo folk version) for me. The whole song. I sat back and listened. I was staring at my computer booting up and at my to-do list, but I was really seeing the quiet rivers I’d canoed along when I was younger: the dark, clear water, vegetation and foliage bursting around its edges. That’s what life is about, for me. Nature, simplicity. Thank you to David for reminding me.
We stand on the deck near a lake. The woods around us are dark; we enter an old school to look for a bathroom. It is quiet; the hallways are long and full of shadows. Classroom doors have glass windows; we peer inside one and see teenagers tied up in corners, terrified. Another classroom, the same. We hear something scuttling around the corner, what is it? We find an unlocked door and try to hide, but all we can do is lie on our backs and hold up a metal plate with our feet. It’s not enough: Chupacabra finds us.
In my dream, Tony Soprano has a beautiful niece who is half African American, half white. She is thirteen and adores him. They go camping together with other families, they laugh; she is more fun than Meadow, more innocent, less spoiled. They each take canoes out onto the quiet, calm river. Inside the canoe, there is one long seat, shaped like the back of a horse. Tony rides it; his niece rides hers. Down the river, sounds of nature. He seems sad; she asks him if there’s anything she can do for him. She doesn’t expect the answer he gives.
I’ve become addicted to Lisa Williams’ show on Lifetime: Real Women. She calls herself a medium and clairvoyant, and she’s the best I’ve ever seen. Many people come to her to find closure with their dead parents--it’s often a daughter or son trying to contact a mother. I wonder if, years from now, I’ll feel compelled to do the same. Will my eyes beg the medium to say that my mother forgives me for not calling more than once/twice a week, and for not moving to Florida to live with her and take care of her? I hope not.
Accidental celebrity sightings: Jodie Foster in the Beverly Center parking lot, and again in front of me at a movie premiere; David Schwimmer at Coffee Bean; Shirley MacLaine at the premiere of my friend’s film; Julianne Moore in PetCo—her puppy sniffed me; George Clooney, after hiking Fryman Canyon; Constantine Margoulis at The Grove; Andie MacDowall at the Beverly Center; Drew Barrymore at Girasole, eating dinner next to me; Peter Dinklage at Noah’s Bagels; Tony Shalhoub (twice) in Larchmont Village; Joaquin Phoenix at Aroma Café; Sharon Lawrence at Girasole; Patricia Heaton with four little boys at Baskin Robbins (“C’mon fellas.”)
Just changed my screen name. I was starting to feel too visible and like I had to censor what I wrote--especially now that everyone under 45 at the office is on myspace. It’s just a hop, skip, and a jump from my page there to here. I’ve always kept my private life and my work life separated. I’m friendly at the office, but I generally don’t do things after hours or on weekends with coworkers. Once in a while, I break this rule, but it feels odd. Just one of those quirks I have. More to come, I’m sure.
Been putting off getting my Jeep washed for quite a while, as I do with all my other errands. The lifecycle of an errand: (1) it enters my consciousness; (2) after a week or two, it appears on my to-do list; (3) I stare at it for another month, intending each day to do it “in the morning;” (4) I finally do it (goddammit), but usually quickly and—-because I prize convenience over quality and cost-effectiveness—-expensively and ineffectively. Case in point: my $90 bad haircut. And my car wash, which has left my Jeep
of fake-jasmine air freshener.
I have a problem with people stepping into my personal driving space. Not just physically, but figuratively. My drive through the canyon this morning was ruined by the guy in front of me, his arm hanging out of his pickup truck window, dangling a cigarette that never died. I smelled it the entire time, even with my window closed—-and I did
want to close my window... Or noise: turn down your f-ing radio, please, especially if we’re at a stop sign. If your pounding, throbbing bass is cracking the asphalt beneath us, maybe we're not enjoying it, dumbass.
A new task: Be grateful for one new thing each day. Today, I am grateful for the term “awfulizing.” I had never heard it before, and now that I’ve downloaded and listened to “Inner Peace for Busy People,” I know that I do it, and it’s one of the sources of my stress, anxiety, recurring depression. Awfulizing is fearing the worst, making everything into a potential disaster in your mind. I am grateful for this new awareness of my tendencies, for realizing that many other people do it, and for learning that I can control and stop it, be happier.
I can be grateful for small things: Being able to stop for gas yesterday instead of this morning, when I would have been rushed, would have stopped at the station on the corner that costs more and has questionable-quality gasoline. I paid less yesterday, and it was effortless, on the way home from a wonderful hike with R… I am also grateful for my free Coffee Bean iced tea--so fruity and cold and refreshing. And for my newly clean car that is running well, for the splendor of Fryman Canyon, and a day without work or obligations (big things).
Friday, and I didn’t make cleaning house the day’s focus. Amidst Harry Potter mania, I pulled book 5 off the shelf, which I never finished, and began it again. I had loved the first four books so much, couldn’t wait to get home from work and continue them. Book five, for some reason, didn’t grab me. But now I am on page 163 and am enjoying it again, very much. Like being transported back to childhood: just so… FUN. I still cleaned house, but reading directed the day, something that made me very happy, and for which I am grateful.
It’s not so difficult being grateful, is it? I thought it would be hard to name something completely new each day. It has been simple. I’m thinking of Saturday now, and am grateful for my cat’s great affection and sweet, sweet natures. They love me, they love R. And they try to get along with R’s cat. The integration has gone much better than I expected, a wonderful thing. Thank you for LuLu and Sampson, how they sleep at the foot of our bed, stand in the window when I leave and come home, blink at me with love. Purr.
Break for a commercial: I love the Rhapsody music service. Even though I have to pay $15 a month for it, it feels like a gift that I just couldn’t possibly deserve. Access to 95% of all the music I’ve ever heard and want to keep hearing, whenever I want, all tucked away in my tiny, beautiful black and blue Zen player. How is music even stored digitally? It makes no sense to me, no matter how many times people describe it. Logically, sure. But on another level, no. It’s like storing emotions and memories inside numbers. Existence in equations.
I was wrong: My mother did call her old friend, Betty, the woman I spent an hour Googling a couple weeks ago. She’s 78 and lost her husband in March. She’d be good for my mother, even if it is long distance. I felt great knowing that I brought them together again, but I also felt like an ass for my pessimism. Perhaps I don’t know my mother as well as I thought—she
take a risk. This is what today’s 100 words are for, to apologize, even though she will never (I hope) read these entries. Sorry, Mom.
I started reading book five of the Harry Potter series. Just couldn’t stay away from the craziness surrounding the seventh book’s release this month. I have a master’s degree in English and prefer literature to fiction, but I’ll admit that I
Harry Potter. So many people I know disdain the series without having read it. As if all young adult fiction is crap, or too simple to teach anything to adults. But J.K. Rowling has taught me much about writing--telling a compelling story, letting your imagination run wild, loving your characters. That’s as important as rich, poetic language.
My Fridays have changed focus from housecleaning to reading. I still clean (between chapters), but my mind is in a different place: I'm happier. There must be a moment in everyone's morning when they set their purpose for the day. Lately, I am experimenting with waking on Fridays and saying to myself, “Today will be about X.” And it is. The day is what I want it to be. I wonder if this is always possible. It’s easy on Fridays because I can choose to be alone. But on workdays, people can interfere with my intention. Still, I will try.
My sister called me while I was in Old Navy this weekend, shopping. I saw her name and let it roll to voice mail, thank god. I could barely understand her message, she was so drunk (or tranquilized). I never called her back. When she’s not sober, she talks forever and is always negative. What amazes me is that she claims she hasn’t had a drink in years, and she gets furious with anyone who doesn’t believe her. Does she think we can’t hear it in her voice? I just laugh now: After so many lies, she's become a caricature.
Flying across the country tomorrow, a long stop in Denver. I hate flying, but I won’t let that stop me from vacationing with Robyn. I’m filling up my Zen today with “chill” music, bringing Harry Potter, and I made sure we’ve booked a flight with Direct TV. So I have many distractions, the best of which is Robyn. If I were going to die, I would want her face to be the last thing I’d see. Really, even if it were just a photograph... Let’s just hope that, in a few days from now, we’re lying on the beach, smiling.
Haven’t told my mom I’m going on vacation, and I probably won’t. She would say “Oh that’s nice,” but follow it up with, “Gee, I wish you were coming to see me.” Later on in the conversation, she’d slip in, “Dad and I don’t have much longer, you know.” (She’s been saying that for fifteen years.) The year is half over and I’m dreading my annual holiday visit. It’s sad that I’m almost 40 and still hide things from my mother, but I’m tired of these conversations, filled with guilt and resentment. I want to take a vacation from
I can't wait for this: Giant cupcakes with mounds of twisty, sweet frosting; afternoons and evenings at the ocean, coming back with sand behind our ears and smelling of coconut oil; cold beer on the dock while watching the sun set and melt orange into the sky; midnight thunderstorms blowing open the shutters, lightening framed in the skylight; fancy dinners, red wine, filet mignon with bleu cheese; bicycling on backroads and through purple fields, stopping for picnics; Scrabble; reading in an Adirondack chair; strolling in and out of touristy shops, T-shirts and homemade fudge; feeling lucky just to be alive.
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