Thursday, July 31, 2008
Whatever the cause, by the time the summer before I entered jr. high rolled around, I had taken to rolling loose tea leaves in paper, and "smoking" my hodge-podge cigarettes in front of the mirror when I had the house to myself.
It looked so glamours to me. I would pose and preen in front of the mirror, taking long drags and pursing my lips so that the stream of smoke lasted longer than I was able to exhale it. It burned my eyes and smelled like hell, but I did it every chance I got. I also loved having a secret. It felt so diabolical...I was a "smoker". I smoked. I felt awesome.
My brother, whom at this point was a Junior in high school, was a trustworthy and faithful companion. So when I confessed my new hobby and budding interest in smoking an actual cigarette to him, he called me immediately when he finally got his hands on some.
I crossed the busy street and walked the few minutes it took to get from my house to my dad's apartment, where my brother had lived since getting kicked out of the house a couple years earlier due to an incident involving his steal toed boot and a wall. Once there, we snuck over to the enclave hidden in the dense shrubbery next to the car port, the one where we would often find empty beer bottles and other traces of nefarious acts having been committed in this hidden den.
He produced a crumpled soft-pack of Camel non filters and passed one to me. He lit mine with a strike-anywhere match, followed by lighting his own. After a few puffs, he stared at me with a quizzical look before blurting out, in a typical big-brother incredulous fashion, "What the hell are you doing?" Turns out I hadn't been inhaling...didn't even know what it was. So when he was finished laughing at me, he demonstrated how to suck the carcinogen infested smoke directly into your lungs, thus taking an actual drag of a cigarette.
I did as he demonstrated. I took a large pull off that cigarette, not having the burden of a filter between me and the tobacco, and swallowed the smoke into my virgin lungs. Then I coughed. I coughed for what seemed like hours, only interrupted by the overwhelming feeling of needing to throw up. I snubbed the cigarette out bitterly, as my brother sympathetically laughed at me.
Do you remember your first cigarette?
Tuesday, July 29, 2008
One Bad Thing I've Done
The whole thing was my fault, really. I mean, she's the one who threw the first punch, but everything leading up to it is firmly planted on my shoulders. She was my best friend for the majority of my Junior year of high school. She, Dorothy and I would trudge around our school like we owned the damn place. While Dorothy favored the style of those she accompanied to raves every weekend, and I was the thrift store rat who was known to squeeze herself into whimsical vintage children's dresses, Yvette was the resident "Riot Grrrl" and had the lunchbox that took the place of a purse, little barrettes in her bleach blond bob, and chain wallet to prove it.
Even to this day, I still have to admit to myself that she was quite annoying. Sure she was fun to be around most of the time, and was incredibly social and outgoing...but, my god, she was as shallow as they come. I used to joke that you could put down the phone during a conversation with her, and when you came back an hour later, she'd still be talking about whatever drama she was currently dealing with. The worst thing though, the thing that made me decide to end our friendship, was the incessant gossiping. It was nonstop, and you could be sure that whatever secret you told her would quickly spread to everyone you knew.
I can't remember why or how it escalated, but I was quite mouthy back then, so I must have pissed her off enough to warrant her approaching me during our morning break where I was sitting with my friends, and punch me in the face. What followed was the first and only real fight I've ever been in. It was over quickly, with a few scratches and pulled hair for both of us. I did get one good punch in, which I still feel badly about.
It was my fault. I was probably mean and flippant, and I'm sure it hurt her feelings when I dismissed our friendship so easily. When I ran into her a few years later at a bar, I apologized and we both laughed it off.
One Good Thing I've Done
I wrote the "one bad thing" part of this post yesterday, and subsequently spent the remainder of the day trying to think of one good thing I've done. Of course there were little things like being there when a friend needed me, putting a quarter in a meter that had run out, feeding a stray dog, etc. But I couldn't think of anything really concrete, something that stood out as more than just a day-to-day nicety.
So this Saturday I'm going to do something I've been contemplating for a few months. I'm going to get my cheek swabbed and my blood drawn in hopes of becoming a candidate for bone marrow donation.
Wednesday, July 23, 2008
And it's true that I don't think I'd get addicted, I wasn't just saying that. I have a high tolerance when it comes to addictive substances. Even during my heady drug years as a preteen, I quit everything the very day I decided to quit. Just thought to myself "Geez, this is fucking stupid", and was done with it all.*
*Well, all of it save for once or twice a year...but only then, it has to be a special occasion and it isn't anything of the non-flora variety...oh yeah, and also beer. I love beer. And whiskey.
So I was surprised that, after telling him how well a mere 25 milligrams of an over-the-counter drug took me from "I want to hide under my covers for the rest of the week" to "man, this traffic is pretty cool" and "you want to interview me on camera for a television show? [no, seriously] cool, lets do it!", he responded with "Why don't we try Klonopin instead?".
I've never been able to stand up to doctors. All the pushing and prodding and general demanding necessary to get what you want doesn't pop into my head until after I pay my deductible, get whatever prescription they insist on giving me filled (even though I've done plenty of Internet research on the matter at hand, meanwhile they've sat in a tiny room with me for three minutes and barely glanced at my chart) and realize what a mistake listening to a man with a white coat on and a stethoscope slung around his neck was.
The Klonopin v. Xanax instance was no different. First of all, Klonopin is a drug you take on a regular basis, and although I've had a problem with anxiety all my life, it's not a regular thing. It just kinda pops up once or twice a month when I'm having a particularly shitty week. The other problem is, horse tranquilizers?, they've got nothing on Klonopin. It's been three days since I stopped taking it (and I only took a quarter of the recommended dosage a day) and I could still sleep straight through until Sunday morning...with a baby screaming in my ear...on a bed of nails.
Ugh. So my prescription for Xanax is patiently waiting at the Target pharmacy for me after a phone call to my doctor in which I stated the equivalent of snapping my fingers in his face followed by wagging my index finger back and forth and saying "Oh hell naw." It's funny that what I requested Xanax for in the first place (calming me down because shit was getting stressful) has turned into a situation that requires Xanax. Sometimes I wonder if this shit would happen to me if I didn't have a blog to write about it in. I'm glad I do, nonetheless.
Tuesday, July 22, 2008
-I have a fancy new title, thanks to the lovelies over at This Recording; "contributing editor". I don't even know what that means, other than I have to put some of my rampant brain happenings down paper [computer screen] once or twice a week (and get business cards made, of course). Edit: read about my mom and dad moving to Israel here.
-I've been wasting so much time reading the archives of this blog (Sweet Juniper!). He also takes amazing photos. These photos, of the Detroit Public Schools Book Depository and of Michigan Central Station (which you may remember from the lovely book, Middlesex) damn near made me cry.-Some random photos that were on my camera (I have a flickr account now, btw):
Feist at the Hollywood Bowl
My new bedroom
Two guys playing at the Hollywood Farmer's Market
They were playing this amazing polka-style music, but covering the Pixies and stuff like that. The guy with the trombone had a kick drum set up behind him and he would keep time by stomping on the pedal. It sounded amazing.
Friday, July 18, 2008
You had been waiting all year for this. So had your sister and, for the first couple years at least, your brother had as well. The taunting at school, never being part of the "popular" crowd, being the ugly duckling, and the weird girl...those things mattered a lot less after you started going to camp every summer. And not just any camp, Wilshire Blvd. Temple Camps; Gindling Hilltop and Camp Hess Kramer to be exact.
There, you always made all the girls in your cabin laugh hysterically late into the night, until one of the counselors on patrol would poke her head in and hiss at everyone to be quiet, before stomping away into the wooded darkness to make-out with her boyfriend, or get high.
You never had a lack of ears to whisper secrets into, or someone to ditch Israeli dance class with to sneak through the woods to the tunnel that lead to the Pacific Ocean. They were the people you had been writing letters to throughout the year. The ones who had their own unhappy or boring lives September through June, who knew that the minute they turned into the parking lot of Wilshire Blvd. Temple and saw the yellow buses idling, waiting to cart a rash of giddy Jewish kids up PCH, they would fit right in, and the year they had been away from their "camp friends" would quickly fade away, as if no time had passed at all.
There were crushes, and first kisses, and your entire cabin plotting with you so that, during the evening song, you'd "accidentally" end up standing next to the boy that you've loved every summer for the past three years...the song where everyone joined hands before singing the Hebrew words that you had memorized when you were five years old.
It felt like the most important thing in the world. All the little dramas and scandals and tears for what felt like the longest two weeks of the year. For these two weeks you weren't the self conscience person that you were the rest of the year. You were cast in plays about biblical characters and had arms slung around you while songs were sung around campfires. You could be whoever you wanted to be, but you didn't think twice about being yourself.
You had your first real boyfriend there...the first of your ex's that would later die in a car accident. Some of your closest friendships were formed there, most of which have become a faded memory, but whose faces you can still picture perfectly.
Coming home was the hardest part. You needed a week to recover, to make your own home seem like it was permanent, and to not feel like that state between between being asleep and waking up. There wasn't praying before meals, and folk songs sung loudly afterward. You weren't surrounded by girls in bunk beds late at night, loudly whispering about the day's events, and life outside of camp. You weren't surrounded by a canopy of trees when you went to temple on Friday nights. Instead, you were bored to tears and stuck in an uncomfortable folding chair. The kids at school didn't understand your heritage, and kids are prone to mocking that which they don't understand.
You didn't walk from your cabin to the dining hall, or to archery class, or up the steep hill to the giant menorah that was on top, giving you a view all the way to the Ferris wheel on the Santa Monica pier with a group of people who learned more about you in that two week period than anyone else in your life ever had. Those were the things you looked forward to all year...the things that made it easier to brush off the bullshit of everyday life.
Wednesday, July 16, 2008
Daydreams have always been my solace, ever since I can remember. I'll be sad about something, then I'll remember that I had been thinking about something happy earlier that day, or the day before, and what was it??? Oh yes, that vacation that Alie and I are going to take to Portland someday, and then I'll think of all the fun we'll have and what we'll wear and eat and who we'll meet, and I'll be happier. Or of when my writing career finally takes off and all the fun I'll have with that, and how wonderful it'll feel to confidently answer "writer" to the question "what do you do for a living?".
Today, after Alie and I had a great meeting for an exciting project that's in the works that I can't talk about just yet, but it involves being on television, my daydream is that of a travel show staring Alie and myself, that I'd like to now pitch to you.
It's called Broads Abroad or Two Broads Abroad or something clever like that. Have you ever hung out with me and Alie together? If you have, I think you can vouch for our ability to play off one another and the hilarity that ensues. The McNuggitini is a good example of that.
So how about we get our own travel show, one that involves us being flown to exotic destinations where we don't speak the language, have no clue about the local traditions and customs, and have to figure it all out using only out-dated tour books, and fueled only by alcoholic beverages served in hollowed out fruit shells, garnished with little umbrellas. I can guarantee you that it would be entertaining and funny. Kind of a mix between that Claire Danes movie Brokedown Palace, and Anthony Bourdain's No Reservations. I'm thinking A&E might be interested. We can incorporate a travel blog into the mix, or perhaps a travel coffee table book.
When I'm staring blankly today, looking bored and far away, that's what I'll be daydreaming about.
Monday, July 14, 2008
When the windows are open in my house (and even when they're not, sometimes) the sound of mariachi music and screaming children waft into my house, filling it with the sound of people living their lives.
I don't know what it was like where you grew up, but in my little neighborhood, immediately upon arriving home from school, or upon waking up in the summer, we'd head outside to the little parking lot which our townhouses encircled, and resume whatever dramatic game or discussion we had been entranced in the day before.
And it was dramatic. I once punched my next-door neighbor Sanaz (who was like a sister to me from around age 6 until about age 15, whom I've barely spoken to since) in the nose, after she kicked me in the stomach during a heated argument. We'd put on ridiculous plays for our patient parents (most of whom were single, working mothers), or play made-up games in one of our houses on rainy days when all our mothers were at work, and we had the run of the house. Once we drew all over Vanessa's kitchen walls, which seemed perfectly okay since they were being wallpapered over the following weekend. It wasn't okay.
Although there were kids who would waft in and then out of our lives, after moving to the neighborhood for a year or so, only to be whisked away by their parents to some other part of the country, never to be heard from again, there were a few girls who were permanent fixtures in my life throughout my childhood. Those girls (who included my sister) taught me how to ride a bike. We were the masters of our free time, those precious hours between the ending school bell at 2:15 p.m. and going to bed late at night. And with little to no supervision or rules, we'd ride around our small town with nary a helmet or curfew in sight.
When I hear the kids who live in my new neighborhood playing out front, it makes me happy. I had heard neither hide nor hair of such a thing since escaping the suburbs immediately following high school, and I hadn't realized how much I missed it until I heard it for the first time when I moved into my new house. As long as they don't have screaming contests like my friends and I used to, then I'm really happy to be living in such a neighborhood.
Wednesday, July 9, 2008
So while we were deciding where to go for dinner, I made Preston give me two options of where to go, since I'm so damn indecisive. He came up with either that little Pho place on Sunset that I tell him is good every time we drive by it, or Zankou. I quickly choose Zankou.
A blurry view from our table
So the chicken itself was, in fact, really really good. Wrapped in some pita with a little hummus and tomatoes, then the tiniest dab of that garlic "sauce", and yeah, I get why people go bananas for Zankou. We also got a falafel sandwich, but it was bland and mushy. Although, to be fair, once you've been spoiled by Truly Mediterranean's falafel in San Francisco, no falafel will ever be good enough again. I didn't think that garlic sauce was as strong as everyone said while I was eating it...in fact, I think I felt a little hoity about the whole thing, like "people think this is strong??? pshaw!". But later?, you're burping the most putrid smelling burps for the rest of the night. Eesh.
After we ate, Preston graciously succumbed to my pleas of "Can we go to the 99 Cents Only store, pleeeeeaseee?????". Again, for those non-LA natives, the 99 Cents Only store is just what it sounds like: a store that sells everything for 99 cents only. But it's so much more than that. What I love about it, is that every time you go in, you know you're going to find some strange, amazing, or outright freaky thing. They're the queen of discontinued items, and items that for sometimes obvious reasons, didn't sell in mainstream stores. So the 99 Cents Only store graciously takes on that stores surplus items. Check out the 99 Cent Chef for some entertaining finds.
Out of the hour we wandered, and almost $40 we spent last night, three items stood out as "WTF? OMG!" items. One was this amazing roll of wallpaper boarder that had this weird, 1970's-ish design involving camping and bears. I'll take pictures as soon as I put it up in my bedroom.
The third item we spent about ten minutes ogling and snapping photos of (although we didn't buy it). You know those tiny gummy hamburgers they sell at the counter in liquor stores? These were like that, but huge, and made out of freaking marshmallow! WTF??? They were hilarious. They even had a french fry version with a little ketchup package that was actually red sour gel, instead of ketchup. Ha!
I had been remarking throughout our shopping experience that "someone probably got fired for that idea" whenever we'd see a large quantity of some item that obviously hadn't sold well in a more high-end store (such as the dozens of boxes of Caramel Pretzel ice cream). But when we saw this marshmallow monstrosity, I remarked that "someone was hanged for this idea".
You can take the girl out of the 99 Cents Store, but you can't take the 99 Cents Store out of the girl.
Monday, July 7, 2008
I moved over the weekend, exactly one year from the time I stood in the doorway of the cabin, my mind swimming with possibilities. The weekend was hectic, and fraught with little calamities (which you'll be able to read about here), but the knowledge that by Sunday evening I would be unpacking and settling into a townhouse that I fell in love with the moment I walked through the front door, made those little things laughable.
After clearing everything out of my bedroom, with the last batch of boxes stuffed into my car out front, I stood in the doorway of the empty room and took a deep breath of the air that was wafting through the windows. My heart fluttered as I recognized that scent in the air, that I hadn't smelled since my move-in day a year before; it was the smell of excitement, and of summer, and knowing that something happy was waiting behind the door for me. I got into my car, with my wonderful new boyfriend behind the wheel, and my cat mewing frantically on my lap, and we headed to my new home.
Thursday, July 3, 2008
-She would never tell anyone her age, or what year she was born in for that matter. I didn't find out until after she died.
-She had the coolest apartment across the street from the NBC studios. It was a little one bedroom that she lived in my entire life. I still remember the stairs leading up to it, and even which step was a little wobbly, so that you had to be careful as you climbed the stairs.
Her apartment was the quintessential grandmother's apartment, in my mind. She had beautiful, old furniture, pretty perfume bottles on her dresser in the bedroom...the kind that had a little rubber handle that you would squeeze to spritz the perfume, and a tiny little kitchen where I don't think I ever saw her cook. I vaguely remember something about her being a terrible cook, although I could be mistaken. I just remember catered breakfasts of lox, cod, and bagels.
-She always had a bowl of those lovely, chalky dinner mints out on the counter. The kind that melt like butter on your tongue. She'd also always have a plastic container of dried fruits, which I'd only eat because it came with this cool little fork, shaped like a pitchfork.
-She worked at a bakery stand in the Fairfax Farmers Market until she died. We'd always go visit her there when we were in town, and she'd hand us some kind of wonderfully huge cookie over the counter. I still visit that stand every time I go to the farmers market, and I contemplate asking the old man who works there if he remembers my grandmother.
-She had bright blond/white hair, and a long and pretty Russian nose. She was beautiful.
-For a week after she died, I scoured the obituaries in the LA Times, determined to cut hers out. It felt wrong not to. When I finally found it, I read it over and over. I still have that tiny strip of paper, 15 years later.
-When she died, my dad let us take one or two things from her apartment that reminded us of her, before all her furniture and belongings were given away. I took her decorative gold tree that would sit in the middle of the kitchen table on a Lazy Susan, which my sister and I would take turns swiveling around, so that the sun would catch on the golden leaves. I've brought it with me every time I moved, just as I'll bring it with me this weekend when I move into my new apartment. It's definitely on the top of my "what would you grab if your house was on fire" list.
the tree, on the left side of my dresser
Wednesday, July 2, 2008
My mother has bought a lottery ticket every week since I was a kid. Every. Week. Same numbers every time, too. Some combination of mine and my brother & sister's birthday, coupled with the number that corresponds with the first initial of our names, or something like that. I had them memorized by the time I was ten.
I used to resent her lottery talk, which always started with "When I win the lottery..." and would end with any number of humble, yet fanciful desires. The whole family going on a cruise is one of them, as is her buying us all big houses with little gardens in the front. She and I going to Paris for decedent spa treatments and shopping. Some fancy car another...probably a Lexus. I would get dragged into it once in a while, despite my best efforts at being a bratty little pessimist, "I hate cruises! Lets go to Italy instead! I don't want a big house, I want a little cottage!", etc.
Last week, after overhearing a coworker talk about a recent office pool lottery win, my imagination got the best of me, and I found myself daydreaming about what I would do if I won the lottery. Trips to foreign destinations...places I would probably never get a chance to see otherwise. A little house to come home to, somewhere in the hills of Los Angeles. A cool old car that, unlike my own 20 year old BMW, I wouldn't have to worry about breaking down at any moment. How amazing it would feel to give my parents and siblings enough money to pursue their own humble desires.
I didn't win, obviously, but I'll probably buy another ticket next week. That, coupled with my new appreciation of having big hair like hers (after years of straightening it into submission), makes me worry that I may be turning into my mother.
What's your lottery story?