Wednesday is D and his twin brother G’s 26th birthday (gee, when did we all get so old?), so I am beginning each post for the next week with the sickening, cheesy, sappy reasons that I like D, as sort of a mini-tribute to his amazing masculinity and physique. I started writing these reasons down in my journal this past week while trying to figure out what to get for D for his birthday. On one page of my journal, I wrote down 12 reasons that I really like D. On the opposite page, I wrote down my budget. I’m so damnably old. Not only do I have a budget, but I also have to write down the reasons I like my boyfriend, lest I forget. Remember the days when the whole point of keeping my journal was so I could gush about what my pastor’s son was wearing in church that day and how hot he looked? Jeans and plaid flannel shirts on him have ruined me to all other men.

Anyway, I Like D Reason #1:

D is smart… so smart that he is able to keep me on my toes.

I’ve dated smart guys before, and they’ve been great, but their genius has manifested itself in other ways, such as the guy who could quickly calculate how many cars were parked in a parking lot, or the guy who painted these amazing abstract paintings. And though I’m not trying to brag about my own intelligence–most of the time I feel pretty humbled and overwhelmed by the the smarts of those around me–I appreciate it very much that D not only gets my witty comments, but he also fires back. He is a great philosopher, an amazing writer, and an all-around funny guy.

Hip Hop Hooray, Reprise

March 29, 2008

As promised, here is a link to Roommate Boy J’s MySpace page. You’ll have to scroll down to the list of songs and select “Fortunate Ones” to hear the song I sing on. But you should also check out some of his other stuff!


The Song! The Song! The Song!

Hip Hop Hooray!

March 28, 2008

First of all, thanks for your suggestions on a gift for D. I’m still accepting them, so please send them my way. 

Last night, my roommate J had me sing the chorus of a hip hop song he is working on. Now, I have two Roommate J’s. One is Girl J and one is Boy J. Boy J is also known as J-Ray, and he records his own hip hop music on his lap top computer. It’s a pretty neat little gig he has going on there, and last night I found myself singing into his hand-held video camera where I held it vertically in my left hand (the microphone), holding a notebook with a brief pencil-written chorus on it, and wearing a giant pair of foamy headphones which even Princess Lea would envy.

Yes, folks. I have officially done the girl-voice on a hip hop song. I even spoke the chorus over a track of my own “aaaahs.” When Girl J arrived home a few hours later, I told her about our shenanigans, and she had a hearty laugh when I re-spoke the chorus to her, just as I had spoken it into the video camera. “What? And I missed it?!” she exclaimed.

Boy J will show us the finished product when he is done mixing it. Perhaps, if he doesn’t mind, I can figure out a way to post it on here. No promises. I’ll have to get permission first. And I’m not exactly the most tech-savvy person in the world.

In other news, this evening I am going hot-tubbing with D and his roommate B. It was between that or going dancing in Hollywood with Girl J and her friend H. Though dancing in Hollywood sounds fun and exciting, especially with these two girls, I chose the former. I can’t think of anything more scintillating than spending a Friday evening in a hot tub with two guys.

Brilliance

March 27, 2008

Today I went to this marvelous grocery store called Whole Foods, which is right across the street from my workplace. I generally eat lunch at Whole Foods because grocery store food is cheaper than restaurant food, and Whole Foods offers this huge bench thing made of cement and wooden plank boards right outside, so you can sit in the sun and eat. Lately my lunch has consisted of a bottle of water, a nut and yogurt granola bar, and a few pieces of fruit — usually a clementine and some grapes, which taste like candy because this is, after all, California. My lunch is always small and delicious and fitting for the warmth of the sun and watching the people walk by. Today, however, was a very special day because I also purchased a peppermint brownie. It was so rich and delicious that half of it is still in its plastic encasing in my new Fendi bag, which I purchased at the National Coalition for Jewish Women thrift store on Fairfax a few weeks ago. It was cheap. It would have to be for me to buy a Fendi. (Don’t worry. We’re talking under $10.)

As I opened my brownie to bite into its gooey goodness, I realized that the plastic manufacturers had thoughtfully included a small, white plastic fork no longer than a toothpick, which snapped into the plastic encasing. “How clever,” I thought as I snapped the doll-sized fork out and read the words molded into the plastic beneath: “Patent Pending.”

My Quarter Life Crisis has caused great interest in many different types of jobs. Why didn’t I think of making little plastic brownie cases with snap-on forks in the lid? Someone is making a fortune off of this, and it should have been me.

Any ideas on an inexpensive yet meaningful gift that I should get for my attractive, movie-buff, philosophy grad student boyfriend who would sooner buy books than eat?

Promises, Promises.

March 23, 2008

Ann has just parked her car on a street parallel to Fairfax Avenue in Hollywood. She is going to a thrift store to purchase a few more dishes to use for the Easter Feaster she is hosting the next day. She has just gotten her hair cut, the temperature is in the mid-seventies, and she is feeling relatively good about her appearance and about life.

Enter Young Gangsta Gentleman in a pimped out, black car in the Starbucks parking lot, which Ann is cutting across to arrive on Fairfax. Young Gangsta Gentleman is sitting in his car, listening to music with the windows rolled down. As Ann approaches, he glances out the window, stares at her, smiles, flexes his massive tattooed muscles, adjusts his backwards cap, shines his gigantic gold cross necklace and calls out, “How you doin’… Baby?”

Now, Ann, being of the somewhat quiet and intellectual sort, usually blows off politely ignores guys who not only drop “g”‘s from their verbs, but also give her pet names. Some examples from her Arkansan past include “Honey,” “Sugar,” and “Sweetie.” Up until this point, she has never heard “Baby,” except when she and her boyfriend are being facetious.

But on this particular afternoon, Ann is having such a good day that she stops, turns toward Young Gangsta Gentleman, smiles, and exclaims, “WON-der-ful!” with palms up and head tipped back toward the sunshine.

And then she keeps walking.

Now what, you may ask, caused Ann to respond in such a delightful manner?

Saturday felt like a day I’ve lived before. The sun was out, the weather was AMAZING, and the freedom of a Saturday fell on my shoulders like the sunshine. I got my hair cut, I went to some new thrift stores, and I went grocery shopping for items to create a special Easter Feaster meal for a group of terrific friends who came over today.

As I was driving on Venice Boulevard, the day suddenly felt like a moment I’ve lived before. It felt exactly like an evening I spent in Mexico seven years ago where this boy I’d just met and later dated showed me his first little step of affection. We’d talked on the drive down to Mexico, and I had a giant crush on him, but I wasn’t sure what he thought of me. One night our whole group was walking back to base camp from a Mexican restaurant, and this boy caught up to me and walked beside me the whole way. He gave me a piece of gum, which is still my favorite gum to this day, and the wrapper is glued in my journal from March 2001. That was the beginning of something very sweet, and very special. That is why this exact memory hit me with its overwhelming deja vu while I sat at a stoplight on Venice Boulevard seven years later with my windows rolled down.

The only real contact this boy and I have anymore is through Facebook, and even though nothing came of that, I still remember how full of promise it felt to be his pursuit.

Saturday felt like that: Full of Promise. I am finally feeling healthy even though I’m constantly exhausted, and I’m starting to explore more and develop favorite things about this new place.

L.A. is a harsh city. Once you start loving it and feeling at home and feeling like you belong, it will turn around and bite you in the assembly line. But perhaps people stay here because it’s called the City of Dreams, and we all know that dreams can also be crazy and scary and baffling. So, in the midst of all this complaining I’ve been doing about being here and how difficult it is and how my perseverance has endured some heavy testing in the past few months, let me tell you, some of the things I have heard and seen and felt since moving here have left me speechless. Here are a few things that I’m LOVING:

1. Getting to know my old friends better and making new ones. I LOVE being around creative, ambitious people and am honored to call many of them my friends. So many people have shown me true kindness since I arrived, and I am very thankful.

2. The writing inspiration that a city provides, especially in a place that is supposedly the creative capital of the world.

3. Walking to Whole Foods grocery store on my lunch break to eat fruit and nuts for lunch and sit outside, in my patch of sun, on their huge wooden bench to watch people walk by. (Yes, my eating habits are beginning to turn slightly granola… there are just so many good foods here that are all natural, and the fruit here is like candy.)

4. Getting involved in a church again, which I plan to do much more now that my health is returning to me.

5. Being young in a big city with my whole life ahead of me…. and the beach five miles away while I still look fabulous in a bathing suit… white pasty skin and all.

On the Tip of My Tongue

March 22, 2008

Tonight, while trying to write the afore-promised post about D and my experience being evacuated from the movie theater, I got to thinking about writing. Actually, the thinking came after the attempt and failure to write and during the subsequent bath-time that followed.

I have mentioned before that for a long time, blogging is the only writing I’ve really been doing. And while we all love our blogs and spewing mundane daily events in the form of quippy, cute sentences, this is not real writing. Real writing is about 80% agony from the knowledge that no matter what I write and how good I feel about it, the first draft is always going to be terrible. There’s no getting around it. Real writing requires re-writing.

For a long time, I’ve been dancing around the idea of writing a novel. I may have mentioned it before… certainly to people in person, and maybe on the blog. I don’t quite remember. This idea has begun to pressure me more and more as I’m settling into my adult life and finally coming to terms with the fact that I will never be a child again, and therefore, will always have to have an adult job. Right now I am working as an assistant. A year ago, I was working as an assistant. And though I like my job now and am thankful for the work, in five years, I do not want to be working as an assistant. There’s nothing wrong with being an assistant. It takes brains and organization and hard work and stress just like any other job. But for the rest of my life? Eh. I think not.

Tonight in that subsequent bath that followed the discouraged blog failure, I believe I may have come up with the first line to my novel. At least for now. At least a starting point. And I realized something I never realized before about writing:

Writing should be like building a friendship. I don’t mean that like it sounds. A lot of writers will gush about how their characters became their best friends in the course of the book and how it was so sad to kill so and so off or do that terrible thing to such and such because man, my characters are amazing and SO REAL that THEY COULD BE MY REAL FRIENDS. Perhaps I’m being a jerk here, but that’s a little pathetic. Characters are a means to an end, the personification of a rhetorical device. Writing should be like building a friendship because one must approach it with a story rather than an agenda. If we make friends to prove something, our friendships are insincere and vacant. A real friendship begins with a story:

Hello, my name is Ann. I grew up in a small town in Minnesota. I have two parents, an older brother, a family dog, and I used to own a cat named Francis who was the coolest cat I’ve ever met. I miss her.

I’ve had such a hard time beginning my novel because I’ve forgotten the simple, lovely value of a story. I get caught up in the outline and the ending and the big picture of it all. Sure, Al Finnigan lives in Sheboygan, Wisconsin and was raised by his grandfather and has a Great Pyrenees named Muldoon who is blind in one eye and was divorced by his ex-wife Pam five years ago, BUT WHAT DOES IT ALL MEAN? WHAT IS THE PURPOSE OF THIS STORY? WHAT DOES HE SYMBOLIZE? Tonight I realized that if I write the book the way I am thinking about it right now, it will be insincere and vacant. Instead, I have to begin with a story:

Pam spent most of her first marriage asking questions. Of course, the questions began even before the marriage did: What’s your name? Where are you from, Al? What brought you to Sheboygan? And are you still working in the lumber business? Do you like it?  Al was a man who needed questions. Even after they had vowed to love, honor, cherish, and share, Al needed the questions, or he would spend his evenings flattened against the couch, eating his cornflakes with crushed crackers and peanuts on top and watching the Discovery Channel, saying nothing about the day.

So, my question here for you all is, does this paragraph make you want to read more? It’s a first draft, so it’s rough and clunky and wordy, but are you intrigued? Be honest. For a while I’ve been toying with the idea of starting a novel blog. I’m still thinking about the implications of it, and I definitely need to get this one back up consistently before I take on any other web projects…. any thoughts on the idea of a novel blog?

A couple of weekends ago these hands touched a public payphone for the first time since, oh, probably the summer of ’03 when I went to London and Ireland for five weeks. Now, London and Northern Ireland, because they both belong to the UK, have cool payphones, payphones which are so asthetically pleasing that one can almost forget the germs festering on the handle and buttons and the advertising for naughty massages papering the inside.

 

payphone_1.jpg

Since the summer of ’04, I’ve been a mobile-r and have joined the throngs of distracted multi-taskers who will likely develop brain tumors in our seventies because of constantly cuddling an electronic device to the sides of our heads. Next year California is supposedly banning drivers from using cell phones without hands-free devices, and who can blame them? According to the journal Quarterly Factors, “Cell phone distraction causes 2,600 deaths and 330,000 injuries in the United States every year.” My cell phone has caused headaches, neck aches, facial break outs, and cost a total of approximately $2,380 since its acquisition in May of ’04. Not to mention the panic… when dropped. This past winter I dropped the beloved cell phone (let’s call her Bess, shall we?) from a high table bar stool in a restaurant. She crashed to the floor, and her battery shot out, sliding across the linoleum to land underneath some lady’s foot. Thankfully, she did not step down and crush the battery. Because of this instance, I was forced to exclaim a near explitive in front of a room full of elderly people getting their afternoon coffee at the podunk cafe; spring lithely from my seat and rush to kneel on the floor where I scooped up Bess’s parts; and crawl on my knees on a restaurant floor, underneath a table, with my rear sticking up like a stretching cat in front of all, just to retrieve a stupid battery.  

Sometimes, I admit, I’ve even had the thought, “Why doesn’t Grandma just get a cell phone? It would be so much easier to text her this question!” Grandma just turned 82 in January. Heaven forbid that I should actually have to call my grandmother on her land line and have an actual conversation with her.

No matter how much grief this small, red device has caused me, my cell-love never manifests itself until the sans-cell phone situation emerges. A few weekends ago, D treated me to some lovely date-time, in which we decided to go see a movie. We drove separately from my apartment so he could leave to go back to his place from the mall. It wasn’t until we were about to enter the parking garage for the mall that the horrific truth arose:  I had forgotten Bess at home.

Mall parking on a Sunday in LA is never easy. One will rarely find a parking spot in the garage next to one’s party. One must simply hit the gas and zoom toward the closest spot available, whether it be on the second floor or the tenth. On this particular occassion, that special spot meant for me was on the seventh floor. By the time I parked Mable the Sable and hopped the elevator, D was nowhere to be found. Well, my naive small-town self said, I’ll just wait until D rides the elevator down, and we’ll meet at the bottom.

Half an hour later, I finally figured out that there are several entrances to the parking garage. I took a few loops around the area, paying specific attention to the movie theater. No D. Maybe I should go wait for him in the philosophy section of Barnes and Noble, my romantic side whispered. I made a comment to D a few weeks ago that I’d like to know how much time we’ve spent in the philsophy section of Barnes and Noble in the course of our relationship. A pay phone loomed in the corner of the courtyard where I waited, but two problems reared their ugly heads:

1.) No change. What savvy city girl goes anywhere without quarters? Give me a break. I grew up in population-4,000 town in Southern Minnesota, where paying for parking is merely a legend and you could more easily walk to someone’s house than dial their number.

2.) No phone number. Yes folks, now is the time to sheepishly admit that D and I have been dating for nearly 20 months, and neither of us know one anothers’ phone numbers.

My mission became clear in an instant. Find quarters. Call any number I have memorized that might know D’s number. Call D.

Finding quarters seemed like it would be easy in a mall. Except that California mall clerks don’t have the wholesome helpfulness that Minnesota or Arkansas clerks do. D and I went to a high-end mall called The Grove. The thing has its own trolley tinkling its little bell through the cobblestone streets. The only remotely lower-class store I could find was J. Crew. I went in to get some change and ended up having to purchase a $6 plastic barette so the cashier could open the cash drawer.  It was the cheapest thing I could find. I had previously recoiled when picking up a $26 coin purse.

The accrual of change brought me to the next step: Calling someone I knew to find D’s number. The deposit of four quarters affords a pay phone patron a mere 4 minutes of conversation. First, I called my friend A in Arkansas. She got her cell phone back when I didn’t have a cell phone and still memorized people’s phone numbers. I got her voicemail and left a frantic message. “Hi, A. I know I haven’t talked to you in a long time, but I need you to do something for me if you get this in the next few minutes. I’m going to call back in five minutes. I’m on a payphone in a mall in California, and I need D’s phone number. I thought you might have it somewhere, and you’re the only friend I have that I actually know your number. So, please pick up when I call back.” I called back three times. No avail. My parents weren’t home — they were spending the afternoon at my brother’s house, but I figured it was worth a shot. Mom is one of the most prepared people I know… the type who will carry wadded up plastic bags in her purse, just in case. I thought I might know her cell phone number. I dialed. It was dad’s.

“Hi, Dad. It’s Ann. I’m calling from a payphone in a mall in L.A., and I need your help. Does Mom have D’s phone number?’

“You don’t know his number?”

“I don’t. You’ve got to hurry. I’ve only got four minutes until I need to deposit another dollar.”

“I’ll ask her.”

Muffled voices in the background. “She’s checking,” Dad said.

“She has G’s number.” (G is D’s twin brother.)

I pause. “Why does she have G’s number?”

“I don’t know. I’ll ask her.”

“No, it’s okay. G’s number is good. Give me that for now in case we get cut off before she finds D’s number.”

We got cut off before I had a chance to say goodbye. Mom didn’t have D’s number, but for some reason she had G’s. So, I called G.

“Hi, G. It’s Ann. I’m calling from a payphone at the Grove. I need D’s phone number.”

“You don’t know his number? You’ve been dating how long?”

“I know, I know. I only have four minutes. You’ve got to give me the number. You’ve just got to!”

G hooked me up with the digits I needed, and my triumphant “Hi!” to D when I finally heard his voice on the line an hour and fifteen minutes after we parked our cars was enough to turn the heads of several by-standers. We met in front of the movie theater. “I’ve been walking around this whole area,” he said when I hugged him. “I guess we just missed each other. I thought about going into the philosophy section of Barnes and Noble.”

“Really?! Me too! This is our plan if this ever happens again. We’ll meet in the philosophy section of Barnes and Noble.”

And so, we went, hand-in-hand into the movie theater to purchase our overpriced confections and find our seats.

About seven minutes before the end of the movie, entitled Definitely Maybe, we got evacuated from the movie theater. But that, my friends, is a story for tomorrow.

If anyone has a suggestion of a good, mushy food to eat, do tell. I’m in need of mushy foods because of this killer sore throat that has been hanging on for the past several days. So far I have eaten oatmeal, yogurt, apple sauce, jello, and ice cream (of course!), as well as some macaroni and cheese last night that hurt my throat, and some eggs yesterday morning, which also hurt my throat. I am feeling a little better today, but when I awoke this morning, I felt like I could sleep another ten hours.

 St. Patrick’s Day came and went with envy serving as the only green I wore because I was stuck in bed while everyone else was out having fun. I’m one of the few American St. Patty’s celebrators who has actually been to Ireland. Roommate J’s sister, also J, is in town, and I’ve barely gotten to speak with her because I’ve been gone all weekend working at the trade show, and yesterday I played the proverbial bear in winter. By the end of the day I was so lonely that I cried every time someone called. Best friend L called and I cried because she had to get shots yesterday. D’s roommate JC is moving in the next few days, and last night after D patiently listened to me blubber on about things, he said, “Do you want to talk to J? He’s leaving soon.” Then tears filled my eyes AGAIN. “J is leaving that soon? I can’t talk to him right now. I’m too emotional. I’ll call him later.” And I cried all through the end of the first season of Veronica Mars, especially when Veronica discovers that her dad really is her dad and she is not the daughter of that billionare Kane guy (is this a lame allusion to Citizen Kane, by the way?), thus making her not the half-sister of her ex-boyfriend Duncan and murdered best friend Lilly. I can’t believe I’m admitting that I’m watching Veronica Mars to the entire world wide web, but as a girl who grew up reading Nancy Drew, let me just say: “Leave it alone. It’s my thing.” You will probably slap me when you learn that I could have been watching JFK for the first time. JFK just seemed a little too much for the stage of illness that ransacked my petite body yesterday. I might be well enough for JFK tonight.

 But what is really upsetting is that D and G’s little sister E is in town, quite possibly the coolest person ever, and I’ve barely gotten to see her. When I have seen her I’ve been in that sickness haze of not quite knowing what I’m saying and nearly falling asleep in the middle of conversations.

Yesterday I really, really wanted to go home. For a few hours I lost sight of why I’m here in California. I kept getting sweaty and then chilled from fever and thinking about how nice it would be to have Mom nearby. I’ve already taken three sick days at work even though I’m still on my 90-day trial period, and it worries me a little even though I can’t help it that I’ve been sick just about every other week for the past month. For some reason, it is always like this in March for me. Last year I got the flu, and it lasted nearly three weeks. Incidentally, that’s also when I moved into a new apartment in Arkansas.

Then D called in the middle of his St. Patty’s festivities with friends. Earlier that evening, he asked if I wanted to catch a ride with G and E down to Orange County and either come out with them or rest at his house while they went out. “I’m too sick,” I told him. “If I get out of bed for more than ten minutes, I feel light-headed.” When he called the second time to check on me, he said that everyone kept asking about me. And that made me feel better, maybe not in body, but in spirit. I’ve got some good people here. The best.

Friends,

We finally have internet at our abode.

I finally got well from my previous illness, in which I completely lost my voice for 4 days and thought I had pink eye, but the pink eye just turned out to be allergies.

For the past week, I have struggled with allergies, which I finally got under control with the purchase of some very expensive off=brand Allegra.

And now that all that is under control, on Saturday while working a trade show for my place of employment, I started feeling weak, and my throat started hurting like hades. So, now the official verdict after a day and a half in bed and feeling only a little better is the following:

Best Case Scenario: Strep Throat
Worst Case Scenario: The Dreaded Mononucleosis (DUN DUN DUN)

I will have to write more about the family’s visit at a later date because right now I need to go to sleep for about the fifth time today so I can make it to work tomorrow.  Friends, if you are the praying kinds, please lift me up. I’m feeling incredibly exhausted and discouraged. The hardest part about this move to Minnesota and then to California is that my health seems to have stayed back in Arkansas.

I knew I would forget something.