It sure is.
It sure is.
3 y/o: Alexa, volume down.
Alexa: Here’s one: How many surrealists does it take to screw in a lightbulb? Two. One to hold the giraffe, the other to fill the bathtub with brightly colored power tools.
Sometimes I get anxious about having a microphone sitting in our living room, listening to everything, handing over all sorts of valuable information to corporations that will do who knows what with it. Then something like this happens. And I wonder how much I should really worry.
Last month Facebook reminded me that three years ago we moved to LA. And in a few days, we will be leaving LA.
The day I found out we were moving to LA I cried. A lot. In public. I walked outside AT THE MATCHING CEREMONY and cried. It was embarrassing.
I cried because I knew LA was sprawl and crowded and smoggy and congested was not a place I wanted to live.
A decade ago I spent a year living in a small town in the Czech Republic. It was (is) landlocked, formerly of the Eastern Bloc, with cold winters, few English speakers, high levels of alcoholism, and weird, pickled food.
czech bar food
I loved it.
This past fall, my friend from Brno came to visit LA, and she became mildly obsessed with California. She couldn’t get over the beaches and the mountains and the culture, and about halfway through her trip asked me if I had liked living in Brno. I told her I loved Brno. She stared at me, baffled. “Why? It’s so boring!”
Yes, Brno is small and cold and dark. But it also has wonderfully warm people, cobble stone streets, and fantastic beer. It has a castle and bizarre local legends and an entire holiday culture that revolves around day drinking plum brandy made in people’s basements. Brno will never be Southern California, or San Francisco, or New York. But you won’t find stuffed crocodiles hanging from the ceiling of the Town Hall in any of those places either.
When we moved to LA I discovered that I was not wrong about LA. It is, in fact, congested. And smoggy. This afternoon it took me 45 minutes to drive 5 1/2 miles (which, if I’m being generous, is a distance that at one point in my life I could have run faster).
But when I stopped fighting, stopped believing somewhere deep inside that if I were angry enough about the traffic and smog that they would go away and started accepting the place for what it was, I began to notice things.
Like all the cultural landmarks:
And incredibly long, uninterrupted bike paths:
And quiet views:
And local spots:
It actually is the LA of the movies. The same way Brno is the Brno of Kundera. And Kentucky is the Kentucky of this dude.
Paul once told me that when he drove from Kentucky out to California for the first time and saw signs for Los Angeles, he got super excited. He said his whole life California had been some place that you heard about and saw in movies, it didn’t seem real.
One day in grad school as we made the trip from San Diego north and passed under the sign for the 405 to Los Angeles, something he had done dozens of times since that first trip, he said it still gave him butterflies.
When you are new to a place, or are visiting it, it is easy to pick up on the things that make it unique. The people, the food, the stereotypes…you see it everywhere.
The longer you stay somewhere, the less you notice.
You stop realizing that finding yourself in the middle of Ice Cube’s posse at the airport doesn’t happen in Kentucky. You catch yourself talking about The Valley and riding #murderoustrains that leave you stranded in Crenshaw or chatting with soap opera stars in your lap lane at the local public pool. You forget that eating at the best taco trucks in the world and trying to decode parking signs, or sitting next to a former teen heart throb that recently started a cult while at a fundraising fashion show for some cause that I can’t even remember isn’t the norm just anywhere. It’s so LA.
And when you can hold on to that, when you can remember to embrace a place for what it is, life is so much better.
So on those days when I’m sitting in traffic on the 405, dead stopped, sweating in a cloud of heat and smog, one of a million+ gridlocked cars, feeling the road rage well up inside, I roll down the window, look up at signs for Mullholland Drive or Inglewood or Hollywood, think of all the lyrics and movie titles and iconic images inspired by those places, envision all the celebrities sitting in that same traffic next to me, feel the sun on my face, and invite the butterflies.
I’ve been having trouble sleeping lately for a number of reasons: migraines, ligament pain, the occasional sick child, or–in the case of two nights ago–laying in bed listening to Paul snore for almost an hour before he woke up to tell me, “Uuuuugh…I can’t sleep. I’ve been wide awake for the past two hours. I haven’t slept at all.”
I have never had trouble sleeping. Ever. In high school a girl drew a caricature of our Spanish class, and in it my head was on the desk, asleep. Airplanes? Please. That constant white noise puts me out before we take off. And if I can fully recline or lay down, I don’t even need to really feel tired.
Then I had a traumatic brain injury and the doctor told me that I needed MORE sleep. I was like, SURE! In grad school I was known for taking hour+ naps on a disgusting couch in the student lounge–middle of the afternoon, bright lights, people yapping away right next to my head. Out.
Sleep is my thing.
But apparently not now. I guess insomnia is common during pregnancy, though I don’t remember having it this bad before. And it sucks.
Anyway, this has resulted in me a.) being cranky, b.) investing in a new pregnancy pillow, and c.) spending a lot of time on the couch drinking tea, reading books, and writing blog posts at 3am. Like right now.
The good news is that about a mile from our house is a Goodwill that is dedicated almost exclusively books.
It’s a total crapshoot, as most used bookstores are, but all of the paperbacks are $1.99 with an occasional 99 cent-er thrown in.
They also have two “leather” chairs that have been on sale for over a year, so I take the kids there and let them pick out new kids books and then sit them in the chairs to read them while I peruse the stacks. Because then it doesn’t matter when Mora takes a pen to “help write” the book and Eddie rips out all the pages, it’s not going to cost me more than $3 total. Hours of fun.
It is basically my favorite place.
Because there is no rhyme or reason as to what will be on the shelves, it’s kind of forced me out of my comfort zone. I’ve started choosing books based on the author, a review on the back by someone I respect, or Pulitzer Prize/Booker Award/whatever winner little sticker on the front.
most recent haul
Paul thinks it’s absurd that I am getting more books. He constantly asks me what we are going to do with “all these books” when we move. He does not understand.
He does not understand how bookstores provide me with a sense of calm. He does not understand how rare it is to find a public space that provides both entertainment for me and two toddlers simultaneously. Most importantly, he does not understand the important role these books are playing in our lives at this moment. $8 is a low price to pay for snoring in peace.
Conversation in the living room between my 3 yo and our Amazon Echo as I sat on the toilet one morning:
3 yo: (GASP!!) EDDIE! NO! Alexa, Eddie just spilled bubble water on the couch.
Sorry, I’m not sure about that.
Alexa! Eddie spilled all the bubble water!
Sorry, I don’t know that one.
No Alexa, Eddie SPILLED WATER ON THE COUCH.
I can’t find ‘Water on the Couch’ by Spilled.
ALEXA. EDDIE. SPILLED. WATER.
Water is spelled W-A-T-E-R.
ALEXA, NO! EDDIE SPILLED BUBBLE WATER ON THE COUCH.
Here is Water by Ugly God on Spotify:
(I drip on your bitch like water
I splash on your bitch with the water
NO ALEXA, STOP! NO! EDDIE SPILLED BUBBLE WATER!
Sorry, I can’t find the song ‘Eddie’s Meerwalk’.
UGH EDDIE!! NO SPILLING WATER ON THE COUCH! If you spill water on the couch again, you are not invited to my party.
the StoryCorps van was parked outside of our office in Kentucky for a few weeks back in 2012
When we lived in SF, every Friday I would catch NPR’s StoryCorps on my way to work. It always happened as I was pulling into the driveway of our office, it always made me cry, and it always ruined my makeup.
This morning I am flying solo — no Paul, no kids (more on that later) — and I woke up to no milk and no coffee in the house. But instead of that being the freaking HUGE DISASTER it would normally be, I just threw on a sweater, jumped in the car, and drove to the store.
As I pulled into the parking lot I heard the familiar dah dah dah dah DAH duh DAAAAAH StoryCorps intro music and braced myself for the tears.
But what followed was this gem, which totally made my Friday morning. Do yourself a favor and listen.
P.S. The dad in this is COMPLETELY ON POINT with the hardest thing about being a dad (or parent).
Hey there. It’s been a minute.
The past few months I kind of lost my mojo, my motivation to do much of anything. It was a combination of a number of things, including (but not limited to): election/inauguration hangover/adjustment period; the fact that at least one person in our house has been sick every day for the PAST 3 MONTHS; and that baby #3 will be joining us in the fall and this one was really into morning sickness. Surprise!
And in spending hours on the couch hating life, I discovered something.
Turns out if you type in “(any ailment at all) during” into Google search, one of the very first autofills will inevitably be “pregnancy”.
Sometimes you don’t even need the “during”.
You can even misspell your ailment and it will still autofill for you.
It’s a fun game.
It also gives you a sense as to just how many f**king things go wrong with your body. Or how much pregnant women like to search their symptoms. Or both.
Aren’t you glad we’re back?
I feel like I’ve spent the last year listening nonstop to political podcasts and reading the WSJ and watching historical documentaries trying to understand, contextualize, and come to terms with what is going on. All to no avail.
And on Tuesday, January 31, at 11:16am PST I hit a wall. I couldn’t take any more. I knew if I heard the word “emoluments” one more time something very, very bad was going to happen.
So I did what I do when things get really bad. I turned to one friend that I know will always be there for me:
Bravo. Bravo understands me.
It approaches real life problems in a way that makes sense to me.
I love Bravo so much that I am pretty sure it’s the primary reason Paul really pushed for us not to have a TV in the house. Because he really, really hates it.
I have no idea why.
So instead of working to expand my knowledge of the world while I wash the dishes, fold laundry, or do whatever other menial tasks I spend my afternoons doing, I try to kill as many brain cells as possible.
But sometimes when things feel overwhelming, I find it comfort in immersing myself in a world where the biggest drama involves who was invited to so-and-so’s birthday party and where (white) men have a “braid guy”.
And we wonder how we found ourselves in the current political situation.
Also, I have a Bravo GIF problem. But how can you not.
AND THEN, because wasting 45 minutes of my life isn’t enough, I go and read vulture.com‘s recaps, which are incredibly lengthy and detailed and use phrases like “the after picture of Ursula the Sea Witch if she lost 100 pounds and did a testimonial for a late-night exercise infomercial” to (accurately) describe one of the women on the show.
…and this is where we are.
Thank you, WordPress. I’d been hoping to snag that domain for a while.
This book is the story of Edie Sedgwick, the socialite turned Andy Warhol It Girl. Told as montage of personal account of various people who were close to Edie and those in her circles, this book was a huge hit when it came out in the early 1980s and serves as an oral history of the pop art world of the 60s.
Going into this book I knew virtually nothing about Andy Warhol and that scene. I read Just Kids when it first came out (so good, highly recommend), but that was it.
Obviously the major draw of this book is the glamour. Even with my limited knowledge I recognized a lot of names.
It’s an interesting period and super glamorous scene, and the story of a girl making her way from a wealthy, traditional, aristocratic family into Andy Warhol’s world in New York parallels ideologies that largely defined that generation. The rebellion, the breaking of tradition, the exploration, the escape.
And of course in addition to that there is the ugly underbelly–family secrets, dysfunctional relationships, a beautiful girl’s descent into the world of addiction that ultimately leads to a fatal drug overdose at 28.
A lot of people complained about the format of this book, how it was too disjointed, labor-intensive, and intentionally “Warhol-esque”. It didn’t bother me. In fact, in one of her books Gloria Steinem said, “No wonder oral history turns out to be more accurate than written history. The first is handed down from the many who were present. The second is written by the few who probably weren’t.” For that reason alone I found the personal accounts to be more engaging than a straightforward narrative.
Plus the book has pictures, and they are great.
The overarching narrative is the same tragic story we’ve heard a million times. Glittery celebrity on the outside, addiction, pain, self-destruction on the inside.
Actually, now that I think about it, in some ways this book is kind of like an extended, special edition 1960s issue of Us Weekly (which I love, despite the fact I firmly believe that this type of media contributes heavily to the degradation of society…now more than ever. And yes, I realize I am part of the problem.) The difference, of course, being that instead of stories about the Kardashians and Real Housewives, you have icons like William Boroughs, Patti Smith, Truman Capote, Lou Reed…she even dated Bob Dylan briefly. Which makes it feel less trivial.
But the bare bones are still the same. And even though the actual narrative can be shallow, even boring at times, for some reason watching that inevitable descent of these larger than life people in such a “fabulous” world makes for an addicting story.
…but doesn’t it always.
“The tragedy was that along with their happiness, and their incredible appetite for life, the forces of darkness were always there, although you would never have known it: the surface looked so good. So it was a life of extremes — paradise and paradise lost.”
~Saucie Sedgewick, Edie’s eldest sister