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.

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.

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On New Year’s Eve, after dropping my mom off the airport, D and I drove to Santa Monica to enjoy some of the 70-degree weather on the beach. It was amazing. Shortly after, rain fell for about three days straight. I’m glad I got that first little dose of California weather so that little surprise of rain didn’t daunt me. It was actually kind of nice.

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The City of Santa Monica from the beach

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Last week D and I drove to Los Angeles proper to meet up with G, D’s brother. We parked on a side street, and as we were walking back to the car, D stopped and said, “Whoa!”

“What?” I asked.

“Look,” he said.

I looked where he was looking, and lo and behold, three black cats sat statue-still, staring at us with their glowing yellow eyes.

“Creepy,” I said. And then I promptly pulled out my camera, hoping no drug dealers lived in the house and became suspicious about why I was snapping pictures of their cats.

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This is my new purse, the one I mentioned yesterday. I love it.

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D’s roommate JC and D sing karaoke at our local haunt, The Sunset Lounge. The Sunset Lounge is a little dive bar in Fullerton, boasting one room full of pool, darts, smoke, noise, and mostly terrible but fun karaoke-ing (karaoking??). D and the other members of the Six Men Who Rule the World From Three Bedrooms enjoy coming here to kick back and do boy things. I enjoy it as well, though my nicotine allergy sometimes prevents me from staying too long. The people are nice, no one is hitting on anyone or trying to impress anyone, and it’s so loud that I can just sit and watch without scrambling to make conversation. I tend to go on sensory overload whenever I’m in a busy place, and I like to just sit and watch and memorize the details of a place… the haphazard plaques on the wall that haven’t been dusted in years and the man in the leather jacket who reminds me of Spanky from The Little Rascals and the way that D smiles when he is having fun with his friends.

They keep trying to get me to do karaoke, but long ago I made a vow, a principle for my life, that karaoke would never spill from my lips.

“Ann, are you going to sing?” They always ask.

“Ann Clipperton and karaoke do not socialize,” I say.

Someone always pipes up with a point about how you don’t have to be able to sing to do karaoke.

Obviously.

“It’s not a question of whether or not I can sing,” I say. “It’s a question of principle and personal choice. Are you trying to compromise my ideals?”

So, nights after nights pass where Ann Clipperton refuses to socialize with karaoke, and D again suffers the embarrassment of having to sing Sonny and Cher’s “I’ve Got You Babe” with his brother.

My highlight of this past week has been D’s roommate JC singing “Blower’s Daughter” by Damien Rice for karaoke. When he first chose the song at the prompting of a new, terrific girl I met the other night, AM, I thought, “Hmm, that’s an interesting karaoke song.” But the second JC started singing, everyone at the table: B, AM, RS, D, G, and I all started singing along, with passion and flare. My favorite moment is when I started singing the tear-jerking, gentle chorus to D’s roommate B: “Can’t take my eyes off of you/Can’t take my eyes off of you…” and how we kept glancing innocently at D, who was glaring at us with his hands in the air, like, “What is this?”

Another favorite thing about this adventure in California is how much I like D’s friends. I feel so comfortable and safe and accepted with all his roommates. I love AM, the girl I met last night, and now I’ve got her digits. Our JBU friend RS flew in yesterday. D’s brother G remains an all-time favorite of mine. Spending time at G’s house in Hollywood with his roommates has also been grand. My fabulous roommate JS arrives this evening. I am so thankful to already have a solid network here on which to build. It only gets better from here, right? That would be terrific. Because here is already pretty good.

Subtarranean Homesick Blues

November 21, 2007

I just began writing a post about Superman, but given my state of mind after working a half day and then sitting in my mom’s massage chair for three rounds and then taking a long, gloooooooooooooooooooorious nap, this is all I’ve got for you:

Today at work while tossing thousands of bags of beef sticks in small cardboard boxes on an assembly line, I got to thinking about this music video, a favorite of mine. I saw it for the first time on a television screen at a restaurant on Biel Street in Memphis when I was on a weekend trip with a favorite college professor and a gaggle of my fellow terrific English majors. It’s Dylan. It makes me smile. Call me crazy, but I find the young Dylan very attractive. Here’s “Subterranean Homesick Blues”:

This morning as I drove the stretch of 30-miles of farm highway at 60 MPH, I listened to Minnesota Public Radio’s morning program, featuring obscure musical artists in a variety of genres. This morning’s highlight was an artist named Eilen Jewell, whom I had never heard of. She sang a song called, “Nobody’s Business,” and I tried to sing along in a sort of pathetic humming, insert-word-in-the-chorus way because the tune was so catchy and our vocal ranges are similar. If you like folksy, bluesy music with strong lead vocals and gifted back up musicians, check her out. This is a song called “Rich Man’s World.” I love the Dylan-esque, struggling-blues-artist combination of the guitar and harmonica on the lead singer. That, my friends, takes coordination.