Transitional Forms

April 11, 2010

Sometimes things just strike me as remarkably funny, and I cannot explain why they make me laugh.

For example:

Pretty soon they’re going to be telling us that people evolved from cats.

I am sorry if you did not laugh. I recognize that sometimes my humor does not translate. Like the time my co-worker was wondering why her desk had a small, cubby space in it, enclosed by a small, swinging door.

“It is not useful space,” she said.

I told her, “It is where the puppies are kept.”

And I still laugh out loud about that moment.

You do not need to tell me. I know it is not really funny.

So, this happened back in December, and it was really funny. But maybe you had to be there.

I have a brother. He is older than me and lives in South Dakota and teaches at a university. He is a smarty pants, and I miss him. He likes to read books and gave me a book for Christmas called The Ugly American. I thought he was trying to tell me something passive-aggressively. And then he told me that it is about cultural awareness — an area in which many Americans are lacking. Both of us travel to Asia for our jobs. It’s kind of neat to have that in common as adults. Someday I hope we will be able to hang out in India together.

My brother also really likes basketball. He has two kids, a girl and a boy, and I love them. When we were both at our parents’ house in Minnesota over Christmas, my brother was trying to watch a game on ESPN. However, his children were not in support of this decision. They protested, and my brother, being a good father, found a solution for the issue:


There’s a Rock In My Belly.

December 29, 2009

In typical worst-case-scenario fashion, I have been wondering for a while when my minor or major medical catastrophe would hit.  So many friends and family members have already had theirs – Cousin Jeremy had gallstones, Uncle Marvin had a heart attack, this kid I once took care of in day care had a swollen spleen, there was that girl in college with appendicitis, and we mustn’t forget various strokes among the elderly. Relatively speaking (because we were just speaking of my relatives… bwa, ha, ha, ha), I have always been healthy as the proverbial horse. It seemed that I was health insurance’s exception. They should have been clamoring to insure this girl… nary a broken bone, nary a trip to the emergency room, nary an illness that required more than a bath, sleep, liquids, and over-the-counter medication.

It seems, however, that my day has come. As we speak, an 8mm kidney stone rests in the confines of my belly, waiting to be birthed. I am completely comfortable, but drinking lots of pure, unfiltered apple juice and water.

“If you are completely comfortable, how did you discover this kidney stone?” you may ask. That is a good question. Thank you for your inquiry. I will tell you.

I took a long vacation from work for the holidays because I’ve been working like an ant on drugs for the last three months. I came home to Minnesota to visit my family, and, while getting ready to head downstairs to help my parents clean for the impending family gathering, I noticed a pain in my right side. Being a female used to various stomach pains, due to elements that make child-bearing possible, I thought little of it. A few hours later, however, the pain had spread to my lower back on the right side, and I took some ibuprofen and laid down, hoping the feeling would pass. Mom came in to check on me, and while speaking to my mother has never made me nauseous before, this time I had to jump up and high-tail it to the bathroom, where I promptly vomited. “What did you vomit, you may ask?” I will tell you. I vomited up tomato soup and crackers, of course. Thank you for asking.

The pain in my side became increasingly worse, and even though we were experiencing the first phase of the epic blizzard that swept the nation, Mom and Dad took me to the emergency room, where a doctor rudely pounded on my lower back, which forced me to vomit once more. I got my first-ever IV, my first ever dose of amazing pain medication, and my first-ever experience having a nurse insert dye into my rectum to determine through X-Ray whether or not my pain was caused by a faulty appendix. Did I mention that the only X-Ray nurse on duty was a guy, my age, who used to think I was cute in high school? Also, the other 2 nurses on duty were present the day I was born, so my mother says. Afterward, I called this dashing young man that I’m dating (yes, I’m dating someone), told him the story, and said, “THIS IS WHAT YOU GET WHEN YOU GREW UP IN A SMALL TOWN!” It was my most embarrassing experience since the Great Speculum Incident of 2006, which shall remain off the blog.

A few urine and blood samples later, the doctor came in and announced that we would not have to depart in this crazy weather to the big hospital in the next town to remove my appendix – the X-Rays had confirmed that I had a kidney stone stuck right between my kidney and bladder.

The doc loaded me up with a few prescriptions of really strong pain medication, and I went home, but since the escapade in the ER, I have felt very little pain, even without the medication. I wondered if the stone was still there, but a trip to the clinic to get another opinion from a different doctor confirmed that the stone is still in there, just hanging out, rent-free.

The docs seemed to want me to try something invasive pretty soon if the stone hasn’t passed, but I’m not one to jump to expensive, invasive procedures right away. I’ve never been a girl who likes to take medications. I’m often skeptical about their true effects on the body, and I have this theory that doctors often prescribe things because patients want an immediate answer, an immediate practice they can do to feel like they’re working against an ailment, even if that practice isn’t really helping.  I am young and healthy, so, in most cases of sickness, I find that my body knows what it’s doing. If I have a bout with vomiting or diarrhea (I have become pretty open about these since traveling in India), it means that my body is trying to expel something that doesn’t belong there. As long as it doesn’t become chronic, I’m not going to take something to stop the process. It’s natural and important. I don’t believe in taking medication to stop a runny nose or divert a menstrual cycle. If the nose-running becomes chronic, then let’s talk about what we can do medically. If it’s just a normal runny nose, then let’s let my body use its own crowd control.

At this point, I have no signs of infections, and all bodily functions are normal. I’m not in any pain. So, I’m trying a more organic, natural approach to birthing this stone.

Many people have offered their advice on kidney stone expulsion, but my Aunt Marge sent me a very specific recipe. She says that this potion has worked every time for her, and I’m inclined to believe her. She writes, “Here is the remedy that has worked good here at our house and one I have given to many others. I passed a stone as big as a small hen’s egg one time. It looked like light green plaster of paris.” (I love the way elderly people write.)

So, I am on Day 3 of the process, and it’s pretty simple thus far. The gross stuff comes later. Here is the secret, magical concoction, for those of you who are interested:

–       For seven days, drink at least one quart daily of unfiltered, unsweetened apple juice. Continue to eat regular meals, but eat lighter, preferably mostly fruit and vegetables and no red meat.

–       On the evening of the 7th day, at 6 p.m. and 8 p.m., dissolve 2 Teaspoons Epsom salts in 8 oz. of warm water and drink quickly.

–       At 10 p.m., squeeze ½ cup lemon juice and shake into ½ cup pure olive oil. Drink down quickly. (Here’s Aunt Marge’s note… it cracked me up: “Loren chugs his down like candy but I have a hard time making myself drink it. I say that you deserve to get well if you can drink that stuff.”)

–       Go immediately to bed and lie on your right side for at least 30 minutes.

–       Kidney stones should pass painlessly

Besides the small hen’s egg, she says she has painlessly passed several more that “looked like jelly beans.”

I’m hoping this works. It would be a shame to drink lemon juice mixed with olive oil for nothing.

Apparently today was a pretty big day within the Bigfoot subculture, and thanks to gainful employment, I had no idea until I opened my computer after work and found that about 400 more people than usual hit up this blog looking for dishy gossip on the last surviving famous man who does not wax his chest. And along those lines, behold the latest drama in cyberspace, Bigfoot In a Chest.

I really need to get this Bigfoot novel written because it seems lately that we’re embarking into another phase of Bigfoot Fascination, a phenomenon that comes and goes in a fashion not unlike Alien Fascination, Vampire Fascination, or Shows With Sexy Doctors Fascination.

BTW, the latest Bigfoot drama is a hoax. I mean, you can pretty much tell from the photograph. Some good ol’ boys in Georgia apparently spent $500 on an immaculate costume, poured some entrails from the local buchery onto it, and stuffed it in a freezer. In case you doubted that it’s a hoax, those guys at BFRO, the most legitimate Bigfoot curiosity site on the web, have got our backs on this one.

And dude, if I had $300 to spare, I would totally be here at the Bigfoot Expedition in the Redwoods and drag Best Friend L along with me. My favorite part of the advertisement?:

“Every expedition to this area has resulted in at least some Class B activity, reported by multiple participants. There have also been rock throwing encounters and samurai chatter at night.” I didn’t know Bigfeet were samurai.

Perhaps I will email them and see if I can get a scholarship.

On Finding a Setting

August 13, 2008

This evening D and I had a conversation on the phone that lasted more than our typical phone conversations now-a-days. Actually, we had an argument, but that’s not what this post is about. In the midst of all of it, during the resolution of the whole thing — the time when we are done with the heightened feelings and adamantly trying to prove a point, when we both re-cap what we need and try to find some sort of compromise — I closed my eyes for a moment and could picture my apartment back in Arkansas so clearly, right down to the feel of my bed and the cat’s tail ticking against my leg and the way my bed creaked when I moved. We spent a lot of time talking on the phone in those days, back when he was the California branch of our relationship.

It’s funny that the very thing the argument began with (our arguments rarely end with what they began with) was the very thing I was picturing: Setting. This post is not about the argument, so I’m not going to go into the details of what transpired. For the past few days, however, I’ve been attempting to put into words a discovery I made on the beach Saturday. But I’ve also been trying to challenge myself to improve my writing style so it’s slightly less amateur and emotive. Today I tried writing a post entirely devoid of “I” as a subject. It just doesn’t work in blogging. This is what I came up with:

“One of the major components that separates a seasoned writer from an amateur is the emphasis on setting. The category of seasoned writers is by no means this girl’s dwelling place, but freshman year fiction writing left me with a better understanding of setting in writing. Heck, this blog nearly tripled in its readership once it took on the personal of a Midwestern transplant living in Los Angeles. Or maybe it was the advertising to friends on Facebook that did that.” Can you say boring textbook? I just need to stop trying to justify blogging with failed attempts to turn this entirely narcissistic thing into something literary. It’s a blog. Of course it’s going to have a high degree of gush.

Anyway, what I really wanted to say is that often amateur writers neglect setting in their work, and they leave their poor characters floating around in a readers’ mind in banal, shadowy places like generic bedrooms, rather than putting them someplace specific. In real life, we live in specific places: not just any room, but my room with the pile of laundry on the bathroom floor and the broken blinds and the stale scent of herbal shampoo. Not just any old park, but the park with the statue of the man who invented the chocolate bar. J.R.R. Tolkien is so fantastic with his settings that I am having such a terrible time getting through The Lord of the Rings. Any time Frodo or the other hobbits think of the shire and how they long for their home, I start crying. Homesickness…meh.

Saturday, le roommates and I went to the beach, and the fact confronted me that I’ve only been to the beach three times in the last seven months even though is less than five miles from my apartment. And by going to the beach, I mean donning a bathing suit with at least a slight intention of getting wet. Saturday was the first day since I moved here that I actually immersed myself in the Pacific. And then I realized that part of the reason that I have been homesick to some degree since I left for college back in 2001, moving away from Minnesota for the very first time, is because I have never given myself a chance to get to know the land in any other place.

If you were to ask me about Minnesota, I wouldn’t just say that I lived in a house there or went to high school there. I would tell you about the countless snow structures we built and how we would hang our mittens and hats and scarves over the radiator in our first house to let them get warm before we put them on. I would tell you about the mulberry bushes in the backyard and how they would become so ripe and juicy that you could bump the branches and they’d fall to the ground, washing it in purple, and how the birds would poop mulberry seeds all over the patio. I would tell you how our family built that patio with bricks and sand and cement blocks, and it all went quite well until the ice that winter built up under the bricks made them explode. Every winter the fire department would flood the park for ice skating, and Jack Frost would paint our windows. I remember how it feels to lie in my bedroom, the exact way the bed fits my body, and how it is to wake up there to the sounds and smells of absolute comfort — to knowing the people you love most in the world are only a wall away. When I was a little girl, in our first house, I could always tell who was coming up stairs by the rhythm of their steps. Mom would always stop at the bottom to pick up toys and bring them up. There were twelve steps at my first house. Sixteen at my second.

I never gave myself the chance to know Arkansas that well. There was the damp and musty feeling of our house on Maple Street, where I lived with 3 other girls, and the sounds of the frogs outside my window in that studio above a professor’s garage. There was the feeling of desperation and sadness when I finished college, broke up with my boyfriend, and moved out of that apartment all in a few days. But the same elements and concretes are not there. I was so busy being productive that I didn’t take the time to memorize the number of steps from the ground to my door. These were merely places, apartments for a temporary life. It’s no wonder they never felt like home.

Sometimes I think that I will never feel at home again unless I get married, have kids, and settle down somewhere. Nothing reminds me of home more than watching my niece and nephew play and seeing again the things that are important to children. For my niece, it is wearing pink, putting on chapstick, and reading books. My nephew just wants to run everywhere with his binky in his mouth. They want other kids to play with, adults to entertain them, and lots and lots of cookies. They remind me of what it was like to grow up with an older brother and what it was like to have such a big living room… what it was like to have a house not just cover you, but protect you. There were all the alcoves and crannies to that place… the towel cupboard you could climb inside and close the door, the secret storage closet in my brother’s room, the turning cupboard in the kitchen corner where breakfast cereal was kept.

At the same time, I know that my life is here in L.A. now, at least for the next few years, and I need to be investing myself here. I need to pursue the land with the same intention that I pursue the friends I am making here. I need to count the steps from my carport to my apartment. I need to go to the beach every weekend and find a spot to memorize. I need to stop floating around in this generic place and make it specific. I need to find my setting.

Men must’ve been walking on the roof, and I said as much. “What are they doing up there?” I asked when the building moved.

The night before the earthquake D and I were driving back up to L.A. from Newport Beach after spending Sunday and Monday in the O.C. with best friend L and her boyfriend JT. Saturday night offered a birthday party at D’s house up in the Hollywood hills for a roommate; spending the night at JT’s aunt’s home — a big-whig CBS person; a Sunday brunch with JT’s sister and brother-in-law — a studying architect and a cinematographer; a Sunday afternoon lounging on JT’s grandma’s deck in the Newport Bay while watching JT windsurf; a Sunday night snuggling on the couch to the romantic-est of romantic movies, American Psycho; a Monday driving around Newport in a 1970s convertible Volkswagen, license plate similar to but not exactly THE THING, with a surf board sticking out the back; and a Sunday early evening watching JT, L, and D surf (and attempt to surf) in our very own little section of the ocean.

In the car, on the drive home, we were tired. And satisfied. We love our friends. In the quiet satisfaction of the drive, I sang aloud the song that has been stuck in my head for days and days now, Natalie Merchant’s “San Andreas Fault,” a song I put on a mix CD for D before we started dating. It is off the album Tiger Lily, an album that has been somewhere in my head since I was 14. I know every lyric on it. When I was 14, I almost wished I had a broken heart so the song “Seven Years” could be true of me. It was that lovely and tragic, and I was that masochistic. Still, “San Andreas Fault” is my favorite on the album:

Go west
Paradise is there
You’ll have all that you can eat
Of milk and honey over there

You’ll be the brightest star
The world has ever seen
Sun-baked slender heroine
Of film and magazine

Go west
Paradise is there
You’ll have all that you can eat
Of milk and honey over there

You’ll be the brightest light
The world has ever seen
The dizzy height of a jet-set life
You could never dream

Your pale blue eyes
Strawberry hair
Lips so sweet
Skin so fair

Your future bright
Beyond compare
It’s rags to riches
Over there

San Andreas Fault
Moved its fingers
Through the ground
Earth divided
Plates collided
Such an awful sound

San Andreas Fault
Moved its fingers
Through the ground
Terra cotta shattered
And the walls came
Tumbling down

O, promised land
O, wicked ground
Build a dream
Tear it down

O, promised land
What a wicked ground
Build a dream
Watch it all fall down

For as long as we’ve known it, the West has beckoned people with dreams; first those literal gold-diggers with their shovels and pans, those unsinkable Molly Browns. Then Hollywood boasted gold, a Golden Era where riches dwelt not in rocks but in pictures. It is that gold that people come with their pick-axes to claim now-days. There are so many people here, so many, many people who are fighting for that gold, like Esther Blodgett/Vicki Lester in A Star is Born. One must wonder if this role resonated a little too deeply with Frances Ethel Gumm/Judy Garland when she played it. Like me, she was born in Minnesota. She crossed the fault line into Hollywood. Perhaps she wouldn’t have died of a drug overdose or attempted all those suicides without all those insecurities about her appearance, exacerbated by studio execs pushing her to be a skinny woman. She might’ve had a long and happy life in Minnesota. Perhaps there really is no place like home.

Sad songs are always the best songs, and I never really understood “San Andreas Fault” until I moved to the wrong side of the actual one. At 14 I didn’t know much about youth even though I possessed it in abundance. Now that youth is ticking away, it has become a precious commodity, more precious than the number in any bank account — even William Randolph Hearst, circa 1928. I moved here not for a dream of wealth, but for a dream of youth. I came here to spend my years of sweet lips and fair skin in a land of water and seemingly endless sun.

You would think that a City of Dreams would offer its residents lovely neighbors, that the opportunities would abound like the pigeons, and all the people would drown in gold and get grills for their teeth. But maybe L.A. is called the City of Dreams and not the City of Successes because so may come here with a dream and leave without it. It doesn’t slip through just any old crack. It slips in the San Andreas Fault. That’s why we have earthquakes: All those orphan dreams are rolling around down there.

When the earthquake happened I stood up. Others I know dove to the floor. Apparently the plastic electrical plates burst off the walls in office buildings close to the origin of the quake. D’s sister E had an awkward moment with her boss under a desk. In my office, we stood in the hallway, each in a respective doorway, watching the juice our company manufactures slosh in the bottles to see if the building was still swaying and that it wasn’t just our scared little knees. A California-native hugged me. This was my first quake, wasn’t it? Was I scared?

Scared? No. So thrilled I felt it through my whole body? Yes.

It isn’t really the San Andreas Fault that scares me, even though my new homeland will supposedly someday fall into the ocean. My own faults scare me much more… faults like financial irresponsibility, worrying so much about my life that I fail to live it, the ways that I take my anger out on the people I love, the inability to figure out what I’m really doing with my life, my tendency toward depression. Meanwhile, youth ticks away. My birthday is next month. My twenties are more than halfway over.

The earthquake didn’t really scare me because the ground did not jump or shake here like I expected it to. I expected it to shake us like pennies in a jar. Instead it moved like the L.A. traffic does when you watch it from the Hollywood Hills at night. All those lights snake up the hills, in a choreography of curves and different sounds. Sometimes when I’m driving home I listen to the classical music station because its like we’re in an orchestra. Enter Ford F150 with your booming tympani; come gently little old Volkswagen Beetle with your flighty piccolo; El Diablo, bring your classical guitar; don’t forget your French Horn, Mercedes Benz. When you’re in it, it can feel jerky and unpracticed — some people play the wrong notes. But when you look above and see it happen with a different perspective, all of it works together. You see the beginning, and you see the end and all the lights and buildings and hills in between.

And when those faults do act up as they inevitably do — the Angelinos have been expecting The Big One for years now and are relieved this small one came to relieve some pressure — perhaps it truly is the best idea to run to the first doorway and stand in it until the swaying stops, and on scared little knees, take a new step.

Dear Los Angeles,

At first I thought I ought to write something heightened and romantic to celebrate our six-month anniversary. It would be a vulnerable comeuppance, full of all the six-month sentiments I have developed for you in our time together. I thought I should go to a place fitting for this sort of letter, taking my quill and pen to the ocean, for instance, to write to you from the very edge of the continent. Or I could bring my pencil and notebook to the gardens at the Getty and tell you about art and flowers. Yet the more that I thought about the atmosphere for this letter, the more I realized that the most appropriate setting is right here, in the bedroom of my little, messy apartment, full of the every-day noises that are slowly becoming home.

Right now there are six of us living in our three-bedroom apartment, which is quite a change for the girl who used to live alone with her cat, slowly degrading into a life of crochet and watching library movies on her laptop computer. Four of us are legally bound to our place, and the other two are here for the summer, completing internships before they return to their respective institutions of higher learning, both in the South, where it rains. I would not have mentioned the South, except that it rains. I miss rain. You would not understand, Los Angeles. It has been so long since I have smelled the earth.

Right now the closest thing to rain is the sound of E’s shower in the next room. There is also the faint movie mumblings from the living room where M and J are flattened against the couch, watching the TV, and there is the periodic clank of dish and spoon as G washes the dishes. I will never get used to the noise of our little house, nor your noise, Los Angeles. Over my bedroom balcony waft in the noises of the second largest city in the U.S. (I mean you, you fat, fat city) — the distant freeway, the chatting pedestrians on their evening walk, the passing sirens, and the nightly helicopter hover, which I like to pretend is the news instead of the LAPD spotlighting its latest criminal’s rise and fall.

For a while I would miss home at these moments, and I still do sometimes. I miss the kids playing in the lot next to my dad’s auto repair shop, above which my family lives. I miss the dank, musty basement smell of the shop, and having my dad make his living right underneath our home, just a staircase of 12 steps and three rooms away. I miss the quiet evenings and the settling of summer — the stars in the corn fields and the country drivers, my church and my cousins, and the people who have known me longer than I’ve known me, the people who know me because they knew my grandparents. I miss the hospitality, the neighborliness of it all, in the place where all the Thrift Store Owners know me by name.

Do you remember, Los Angeles, a few months back when I left you for the first time in three months? And do you remember how hard it was for me to come back to you, how I cried all five hours back on the plane, and I wondered why I was coming back — why I had to leave my parents and my niece and my nephew and all the comfort of being known? D was busy that week, and I felt so very alone, surrounded by thirteen-million people, coming home each night to this little apartment with a few roommates that I only just met. I think this is what they call culture shock, a thing I only mildly experienced when I moved from Minnesota to Arkansas for college. But after that initial breakdown, things got better. They really did. I think I came to the decision that I was here, with you, and here I would stay. Perhaps I needed that last goodbye, that last purge of what it was like to be a child.

At D’s encouragement, I have recently begun reading The Lord of the Rings trilogy. It has been so very long since I have read a book. I think I’ve been afraid of falling back into my girlhood, where I would hide in my room, reading stacks of books, instead of making friends. It is a lot harder to be an obsessive reader when you have a job. I’m only about 100 pages into the first book, and oh, how I’ve cried. I know, I know, it’s a little early to start crying, but Tolkien has just introduced one of the major themes of the book: Home. Frodo is speaking with Gandalf, and he is first realizing that there is a large and courageous journey he must take, and that no one else is going to do it for him.

He has never left his home, the Shire. He tells Gandalf, “I feel that as long as the Shire lies behind, safe and comfortable, I shall find wandering more bearable: I shall know that somewhere there is a firm foothold, even if my feet cannot stand there again.”

I read this after I got off the phone with my mother, after I told her I will not be able to make it home for the Clipperton Family Reunion in August. High gas prices have made it nearly impossible. This is the first Clipperton Family Reunion I have missed in my life, ever since I was 6. And I will be 26 next month. Mark my words, Los Angeles: If you do something to prevent me from going home for Christmas Eve with my family, going to Grandma’s church for the same Christmas Eve service I’ve attended since I was born, I will up and quit my job and move home.

You cannot ruin 26 years of Christmas, Los Angeles. I do not care how big you are.

All my love,

Ann

Once Upon a Dream

April 29, 2008

I left work at mid-day today, struggling with a migraine. I’m not even sure what I told my boss before I left. It probably did not make much sense. I had to stay about an hour later to process a few orders and make some phone calls. Now, after 3 hours of sleep, an overdose of ibuprofen tablets, and a hot shower, I finally feel better. I cannot tell you how much I wish my health would return to me. I’ve always been a naturally tired person (need naps!), but I haven’t felt 100% in a long, long time. I need to start exercising, but I think I might have mono, and I don’t want my spleen to erupt. How’s that for an excuse?

All that aside, I love my apartment. It was a glorious day, and now the wind is blowing through the palm leaves and into my bedroom through the balcony door. I especially love the night-time. Summer evenings are some of my favorite things. I can’t wait to return to Minnesota for a family reunion in August. We’re totally camping at this hoe-down of a fair called the Threshing Bee, which celebrates old methods of farming. My grandfather built a windmill on the grounds where the Bee is held, and one of his tractors, an old green  and yellow John Deere is one of the focal points of the train, tractor, and antique car parade. It’s a great ol’ time of threashin’, blue grassin’, and barbeque-in’. I am trying to convince D that it will change his life. We have been dating two years this July, and he has still not been to my hometown. He has still not met my dad. Send him nasty notes, please.

Speaking of D, the other day someone googled “my boyfriend is a model,” and it led them to my blog. It showed up in my stats, and I felt this amazing breadth of anxiety fall from my weary shoulders BECAUSE IT’S ABOUT TIME. IT’S ABOUT TIME SOMEONE ACKNOWLEDGED THAT MY BOYFRIEND IS A MODEL.

(thank you)

And also speaking of D, I am going to be single this weekend. D is going to a retreat for a class at school, and that means plenty of margaritas and inviting the pool boy up to my bedroom to fan me with palm leaves. It also means that I am going to spend the whole weekend sleeping, eating ice cream, and looking very, very closely at my cuticles. Oh, and I’m hoping to go to the one and only Newport Beach community garage sale to see if I can find, among other things, a bicycle built for D. That, and a Free Box full of Gucci bags. Oh wait. I am not really looking for that. That was just what I dreamt about last night. Come to think of it, I’m not even sure if I actually have a pool boy.

A few weeks ago, an after-work few hours spent at the Gap, Borders, and Anthropologie at the Third Street Promenade in Santa Monica led to my first parking ticket. I even dodged the Koreans witnessing on the corner to save time, arriving back at my car not five minutes after the meter expired, only to find that typed out envelope with a little receipt inside. You owe the State of California $35 for your presence, here, in this parking space. You’ve stayed far too long, Minnesota. Go home.

The other day on the drive home, I glanced over into the passenger side rearview mirror on my car only to find it hanging by a wire. Someone was so kind as to knock the mirror off my car while it was parked in my work parking lot and didn’t even care to leave an “I’m sorry!” note. Thievery! Treachery!

But what I am really writing this post about is this: That despite those things, despite those drip, drip, drip details that can add up to a gargantuan level of torture from living in the second largest city in the United States, there is lobster ravioli.

Yes, friends, I have a Trader Joe’s not even a mile from my apartment, and today I discovered that they carry lobster ravioli. Just drop it in a pot of boiling water for five minutes, and voila: gourmet dinner. Goodbye, Skinniness. I am selling you for a plate of pasta encased crustacean.

Also, I’ve had a long string of good hair days.

And even though I haven’t really been working on it, I’m actually getting a tan, just from living in California. I’m convinced that it is the state of mind more than the sunshine. I work in an office with no windows, and yet I, sickly pale Minnesota girl, am getting a tan just from breathing the air and drinking the water. Maybe I will start selling Pure Los Angeles Tap Water, Straight From Our Sewers to the land-locked states of our fair union. And all those fools told me I probably shouldn’t drink the water. Bah. I’ll show them.

But maybe the best thing so far this week as that this evening I walked into my bedroom after leaving my balcony door open to release the stuffiness, and my room actually smelled like the ocean. Now, I live about five miles from the ocean, so it surprised me, but perhaps tonight the wind is just right to bring that lovely, salty, fresh, sandy smell right into my sleeping-space. Hopefully masked gangster gun-men, bent on stealing my 1960s sewing machine and 2004 Macbook (it’s nearly obsolete!), will not follow. Will lock screen door. Most thieves do not carry scissors.

Friend AA came to visit from Arkansas last week, and oh, what joys we had. I have pictures. But for now, you cannot see them. I can’t find the cord for my camera. And anyway, I should wait until AA sends me copies of her photographs because they will be much better than mine.

Sunday night AA, G, and I went down to La Mirada to have dinner with D and his roommate B. We like to call our dinners together Family Dinner. We consumed the usual inexpensive and easy spaghetti with meatsauce and garlic bread, and our dinner conversation was as entertaining as it was humorous. At one point during the meal, D mentioned that he and B had earlier discussed a prank B had played on some girls while he was getting his undergraduate degree. They never mentioned what the prank was, but apparently it involved the girls moving a bookshelf.

“Then we started talking about what would have to fall behind a bookshelf in order for a girl to move it,” D said.

“Like an Anthropologie catalog,” B said.

“A designer shoe,” D said.

“A copy of a celebrity gossip magazine or Vogue,” B said.

“I wouldn’t move it for that,” AA said.

“I’d move it for Vogue,” I said.

“A girl would move it for a rich man,” B said. “Oh, I think I dropped my rich man behind my bookshelf–”

And then G said the thing that has had me laughing all week: “And then she moves it, and out walks a family of Jews.”

Later I admitted to D that I have a Pre-Celebrity Crush on this starving actor I know who happens to be British. I told D because it doesn’t mean anything — I just think the guy is highly date-able, and my crush on him is mostly accent-related. Heck, I barely even know the guy. But those shy Brits, descended from the line of Hugh Grant and Jude Law… men whose whole faces smile when they smile… Gah. Who could resist wrinkles at the corners of the eyes at the moment of smiling?

After I told D about the Pre-Celebrity Crush, G said, “Now you should talk in an accent to her.”

D turned to me with a mouthful of spaghetti and said, “A-llo, Ay-an,” in the worst cockney accent I’ve ever heard. And then I remembered why I’m with D and not some Celebrity Crush… D makes me laugh until I cry, as he did at that moment, at the dinner table, and I nearly choked on my spaghetti. Indeed, D nearly killed us all.

Speaking of G, the other night while conversing with the same group of people sans G (he was on a date with a lady-friend), I made the assertion that no matter what I say, G could say the same thing and be funnier. G is just a funny, funny guy. So, at the dinner table, we tested my theory. B said, “Ann, say, ‘G sucks.'” I was giggling when I said it, and my declaration was met with mild to moderate laughter. Then G had to say it. And indeed, what is funnier than hearing a funny guy say that he sucks in the third person?

Probably only the image of a family of Jews walking out from behind some sorority girl’s bookshelf after hiding for 60 years.