Today while driving east on the 10 freeway, from Santa Monica to my humble abode, a car in the lane next to me matched my speed. I was slightly frustrated because I needed to merge over to exit to my neighborhood, so I looked at the driver of the car. He was looking at me. He was a Hispanic man. For some reason, those who are gloriously ethnic-looking tend to try to flirt with me while I’m driving, and I was ready to glare it him or slow down sharply, but instead he pointed to the dents in the side of my car and mouthed, “Need help?”

Now, I must note that we were driving about 65 MPH on the 10. There were cars around us, passing us, zooming on by in the typical L.A. choreography. I shook my head and mouthed, “No.” He zoomed on by, and I merged over just in time to meet my exit.

And then I started laughing. He is about the tenth male stranger to “approach” me regarding fixing the dents in my car. The dents were there when I got the car. They reduced the price (thanks, Dad). The car has over 170,000 miles on it. I’m not looking to oil it up with any more cash than is absolutely necessary. When the other fix-it men have approached me, it’s been a little more threatening. They have been greasy, toothless, hairy, burly men who drive up to me in parking lots while I’m getting in my car… the kind of men that warrant a hand on the pepper spray, if you know what I mean. They ask me if I want them to fix my car real cheap. It is a gangster-ish exchange, them quietly conveying that they know a guy who can fix the problem for me, out the window of an unmarked car. I always tell them somewhat standoffishly that no, I don’t want to fix the dents, and please don’t approach women in dark parking lots, and please, sir, don’t rape me.

The guy on the freeway, however, cracked me up. What if I had said yes? Would we have pulled over to the tiny three-foot shoulder on the side of the freeway so he could give me his business card? Would he have held up a sign with a markered phone number to the window? Did he want to follow me home? Really, fellas. This is not the way to do business with a lady.

For the first time in my life, I am so excited about something that I am having trouble forming coherent sentences.

 

No, I take that back. When I first started dating D, I had the same trouble. As our relationship progressed, however, my sentences started forming again and even evolved into super-power sentences chocked with biting wit and sass (hyperbole alert). D had a way of bringing out my wit. It is hard to speak of him in the past tense, especially because despite our breakup, he called last night to congratulate me after reading some monumental news that I posted on Facebook. Yesterday evening I was offered and accepted a new job.

 

And I am so excited that I am having trouble forming sentences. I am having trouble typing. My mind is going about a million miles faster than it usually is.

 

Beginning February 2, I will be moving to Orange County. While the prospect of moving south of my beloved L.A. is disappointing, I am wildly thrilled about my new career opportunity.

 

Here’re just the top 3 reasons why:

 

1. The organization exists to help women in India get out of prostitution by teaching them a sustainable skill: sewing.

 

2. I will get to work closely with my dear friend LR. We have worked together in the past, and it was one of the highlights of my young life.

 

3. Um, and I will get to travel to India a few times a year to work with women in the sewing centers.

 

The forms are not sentencing… Are the forms not sentencing…

 

The sentences are not forming.

 

I’m out for now. I had to go back in and edit this post 3 times because of spelling and grammar.

There was that one summer when the Western Tent Caterpillars killed the saplings in our front yard. Thousands of them came – their eggs and their poop wound in the fiber they stretched from trunk to branch, from branch to limb, from limb to leaf. The fascination came because we watched them hatch, and day after day, we watched this science project in our own front yard. We watched their life emerge as the trees slowly died. Where did the Western Tent Caterpillars come from? How could the voracious little feeders consume the trees that had been there since before we were born? They were saplings, and I was six. When my mother lamented the attack of the Western Tent Caterpillars as they ate away her trees, she let me take a gallon-sized pickle jar and pick them like raspberries.

Maybe it was their softness and squishiness, their reputation as the teddy bear of the insect world, that made me want to hoard caterpillars. Perhaps it was because I could catch them without a net – their insufficient eyesight and slow, sticky movement prevented them from taking flight and escaping my little fingers. In a jar, we could watch them change, in fast-forward, larvae to cocoon to chrysalis to flight, like on the nature films.

Alan collected bugs. Entomology, he called it. He had an army of empty jars ready for his new specimen and various paraphernalia for the killing and preservation of insects: a wooden case with a plexi-glass front that slid in and out, a layer of corkboard, a box of stick pins, a bottle of rubbing alcohol, a bag of cotton balls, a bottle of clear nail polish to make their carcasses shine. He figured out different ways to preserve their delicate bodies even through the violence of dying: death by freezing for the grasshopper, death by suffocation for the spider, death by drunkenness for the monarch, who was likely not the first monarch in all of history to die this way.

Alan couldn’t preserve the caterpillars – they would dry up and shrivel like raisins – and he didn’t have sophisticated enough methods to prevent it. So, when he caught a caterpillar we’d keep it in jar, waiting for days. We’d feed it leaves on broken branches and give it one small twig on which to bind and later change, a diagonal stick in a circle of glass. We sustained the life we would eventually take, nourishing it to its different phases of change. We’d watch with excitement as the cocoon grew around it, and hoped to soon see a beautiful butterfly break free in a spectacular metamorphosis. But they were always brown months, too depressed and undernourished from jar-life to fly. A few days after the epic struggle to tear apart that cocoon, they always died, robbed of the triumphant moth-life of pinging against lightbulbs on summer evenings.

But this pickle jar full of caterpillars was like nothing we’d ever experienced before. I had stuffed that jar full of their soft, wriggling bodies, and before they started weaving their tents again, I put my hand inside and felt all that squishy velvet all over it. This was the best pet a girl could ask for – a jar full of softness, a whole gallon of cuddly. I put a few sticks inside and waited for them to make their cocoons and change. Surely butterflies instead of brown moths would come from this plethora of caterpillars.

I wanted to bring my caterpillars into the house with me, sleep with them in my room, but Mom made me keep the jar in the garage, unlike Alan’s insects, who got to hang out with the corndogs in the freezer.

Soon after they were jarred into new surroundings, my caterpillars started weaving, and like on the trees, they adorned their beautiful tent with eggs and poop, and very soon they suffocated one another with their weaving. The saplings were too far gone to preserve them even after my rescue mission, and I was left with a gallon of caterpillar carcasses and a tent of eggs and poop.

Good News, Bad News

January 10, 2009

Good News: I will know hopefully next week if those big changes I’ve alluded to previously are actually a-comin’.
Bad News: I am waiting with a level of anxiety that I am trying really hard to tame. With a chair and a whip.

Good News: I went running 3x this week (thanks for all the advice, friends!)
Bad News: Sore muscles and headaches from the loosening of the neck and shoulder muscles

Good News: It was not the transmission, and I did not have to put it on a credit card.
Bad News: Dad could have fixed it in 30 minutes if I were in Minnesota.

Good News: I have four months to scrape the money together.
Bad News: I will likely be paying a large sum to the IRS this tax season. This does not please me. I hope I made a mistake and am going to get a second opinion… I don’t make enough money to have to pay this much. Seriously, government. What are you thinking?

Good News: Friend K calls Los Angeles her “abusive lover,” which means that I will hopefully love L.A. again once all the slapping around has ceased.
Bad News: I hate you, Los Angeles. This is truly ridic.

Good News: The conversation went pretty well considering, and I have hope that we will figure out what we need.
Bad News: D and I broke up this past week.

Good News: Life has continued pretty much normally.
Bad News: Life has continued pretty much normally.

Good News: This should’ve been my hardest week since moving to L.A. because of these massive hurdles and changes, but I’m okay.
Bad News: The emotions are probably lying dormant, waiting until I’m at a party or surrounded by lots of people.

Good News: Embarrassing moments make for good blog posts.
Bad News: The out-pouring of emotion may be embarrassing if the above is the accurate scenario.

Good News: Hey, thanks, friends. I love you all!
Bad News: So many of you are so far away.

Good News: It’s the weekend.
Bad News: There’s nothing bad about that.

Project Run

January 3, 2009

For the majority of my adult life, I have wanted to become a runner. I imagine that those who are good at running get an incredible high off of it, and that they are pretty healthy individuals. I’ve only been able to stick to one exercise program in my life, and that was going to Body Pump classes at my college during my junior year. In my opinion, that year was the peak of my attractiveness, and part of that attitude may just be because I felt better inside as well as looked better out. It’s amazing how exercise can help with a positive outlook. Those endorphins are cute little guys. Unfortunately, my schedule changed after my junior year, and the powers that be cancelled the late 8:30 p.m. Body Pump class during my senior year, so I could no longer go. I tried going to the health complex and doing the workouts on my own, but I have trouble exercising in a room full of men as well as women. Working out with the women (and few men) in the Body Pump classes was fun because we were all working together for a common goal, and no one was really comparing themselves to anyone else. The only men that came were eccentric older professors, and I cannot tell you how funny it was to see my freshman year advisor in seventies shorts and a terry cloth sweat band. He’d also put his legs straight up in the air when we had to lie down on our aerobics steps to do arm workouts, and he’d lift and lower his legs with every pump. He’s about 6’4″, and this humored me. We spoke once after class, and talked about how much our muscles hurt (Body Pump is an intense workout. You see results in, oh, like 3 days, and cannot walk up stairs for about 2 weeks). I told him, “But it’s a good pain.” After that, every time he saw me until I finished school, he said, “It’s a good pain! It’s a good pain!” even when he saw me across campus and had to yell it.

So, I tried running. I even took an exercise class in college, but again, had serious anxiety every time I thought about going into the health complex to exercise in that sweaty little room among other work-out freaks. Perhaps I am far too self-conscious, but whenever I run or exercise outside, I get attention from male passers-by, anything from honks to cat calls to even slowing down beside me. I hate that. Because of that, I feel like all the men are watching me when I’m on a treadmill as well. I know this is not true — everyone is busy in their own little worlds — but it’s hard for me to get beyond the feeling that I have something to prove or that I’m being judged when I exercise.

All that is to say, I live near the beach now. There is this tremendous walking path that extends for miles down it. People go to this path for the specific purpose of exercise, so it is not like running through a city or a neighborhood. And it is also great because, unlike going to a health complex, one is not confined to a single space. You pass people who are also exercising, but you do not exercise next to them. And, um, there’s the ocean, right beside you. The first time I went running by the ocean, I was very warm when I was finished, and had I not had my iPod with me, would have dove in fully clothed. That would have cooled me down to shivering in, oh, about one second, but the thought was slightly poetic and inspiring. I do not think it would have been so poetic and inspiring in practicality, however.

All that is to say, I have a good location, and I have the desire to be a runner. I also have all this tension in my neck and shoulders lately from sitting at a desk all day at work, and I need to find a healthy release for it because I’ve been living on ibuprofin for the last week, and that’s not healthy. Many of you are runners. How should one get started and stick to such an endeavor?

For the past few mornings, fog has hovered over Los Angeles. It is the rainy season here, and the weather has disappointed the natives, most of whom have adapted to sunny days every day, and for anything less than sunny, they want their money back. Driving home late Monday night after going to a New Year’s get-together with some friends I know through D (D is in Texas and Arkansas visiting friends and family), I saw a car on the 5 South which had flipped over so that it’s bare belly was exposed like a dying beetle to all of us driving North on the 5. Four fire engines, and three police cars lit up the area, and men with flashlights searched the ditch. Were they looking for body parts?


Going home for Christmas was just about the best thing ever, and I’m glad to say that coming back to Los Angeles was pretty great too. Home was amazing because my brother and his family came down from South Dakota for the whole week I was there, and my mom took a week’s vacation from work. We were having blizzard conditions much of the time, and the rest of the time it was frigidly cold (that is NOT a subjective statement from this California girl – even my parents, who have lived in Minnesota their entire lives, were commenting on how cold it was), so I think I left the house maybe three times – once to walk to the grocery store (only half a block away), once to go uptown and run some errands, and once to go to my grandmother’s church on Christmas Eve. I wanted to go to my own church on Sunday, but it was cancelled because of the weather. A few highlights:

My three-year-old niece, LJ, plays with a few of my mom’s empty makeup canisters when she comes over. She came up to me one day, held up one of the empty makeup canisters, and said, “Aunt Annie, this is going to be your present. It’s a surprise. Don’t tell anyone.” Later she helped my mom wrap a gift for me, which contained a few full, brand new makeup canisters. I came into the room after they had wrapped the gift, and LJ held it up to me and said, “This is your present. It’s makeup.”


I made LJ a ragdoll for Christmas from an adapted pattern by The Black Apple. Previous to opening the doll, she had gotten a Dora the Explorer lunchbox from my mom, which was filled with various art supplies, including jumbo coloring crayons. When LJ’s mom asked her what she was going to name her ragdoll, LJ replied, “Jumbo.” And Jumbo her name has remained. LJ and I also got a chance to play together with some of my old Barbie dolls, which basically consisted of her pulling them out and choosing the outfits, and me dressing them because her fine motor skills aren’t adept enough yet to handle it. It also consisted of me saying quite a lot, “But that girl is naked. Maybe we should put some clothes on her.” Dad even pulled out the dollhouse he made for me for my sixth birthday, and LJ and I set up house, cramming the house full of girls like a sorority. We asked LJ what the girls were named. She pointed to each of them separately and said, “Rachel, and Rachel, and Rachel, and Rachel, Rachel, Rachel…”


Nephew E will be 2 years old in March, and he’s so sweet and huggable. He’s kind of like a puppy in that whenever a new person enters the room, he gets really excited, walks up to that person, and lifts his arms to be picked up. My favorite time spent with E is that we developed a game one night before bedtime. I got down on my hands and knees and started stalking him by crawling after him. He got trapped in a long hallway, and each of us was at either end. Suddenly he ran at me, and when he tried to get by, I caught him in a big hug. The game developed into the Hug Game, and he and Lydia both got involved, running at me for dozens of hugs, until they started getting so crazy and excited that they both started running into the walls.


Mom and I had some good conversations about work and the future. We all played games and ate food and talked and slept, and it was lovely.


The night before coming back to California I had a little moment of emotional instability, mostly because it feels like so many changes are coming in my life right now. I don’t know how many of them will actually happen, but I think the moment was a last little time of absorbing the calm and safety of home. When I got back to L.A., however, it was late, and most of my friends and roommates were gone for the holidays, so I took a cab back to my apartment. Driving through the streets and having them be familiar was amazing. Coming back to my apartment and my room was great. My bed felt so good. And when New Year’s rolled around, I closed 2008 feeling like I had accomplished something grand and wholly sweeping. I met all the goals I had for myself in the first year of living in L.A. It is a good feeling, having conquered something. It is a good feeling to have good friends, who are no longer merely acquaintances.


And even though it was lovely to be home, I missed Los Angeles. I really, really missed sushi. And I missed the feeling I get when I leave traffic on the drive home from work and experience the serenity that comes in pulling onto my quiet little street off the crazy freeway. I missed being around people my age who all have a dream and are making all attempts to live that dream. I missed living close enough to the beach to smell it and longed for summer and water and breezes and sand. (Target already has their bathing suits out this year. I looked at them the other day, but most of them would fall off pretty easily with an assault from just one wave. Target Bathing Suits: The Everyday Low Price of Just $19.99 + your dignity.) I missed the wild things that happen here, the things I would never want to raise my children around, but that fascinate me and inspire me to write. When I saw the flipped car on New Year’s, I felt a little twinge of fear, a lot of compassion for the people who were driving, and mostly intrigue. A story formed in my head. Hundreds and hundreds of cars lined up in a river of headlights behind the accident scene, stretching for a few miles, all three lanes full. Each life was affected in some way because of one accident. Los Angeles is big, but in this small way, we are still a community. One event affects many. What a terrible way to begin a new year. What a story those people will have to tell if they survived.