12 December 2007

Faux Naturale

Is it me, or did Madonna appear both nipped and tucked on the red carpet for her husband’s next flop...er, I mean, film? Now, it seems, she has a pair of black eyes (viewable in paparazzi photos behind oversized shades). Is this faux-Brit patronizing New York to get some work done? Only her surgeon knows for sure. But if an array of photos of her through the years were laid out in front of us, we’d see how often she’s been renewed.

Nicole Kidman claims to be all natural. Really? Like, it’s natural when your lips inflate on their own and your face freezes? Hmmm. I guess if you look at it her way, botulism is natural therefore Botox is, too. Hyaluronic Acid is a derivative of sugar, so Juvederm must be Mother-Nature-made. See, you can be totally plastic and be totally natural at the same time. It’s just amazing what modern science can do.

My favorite Barbie is Demi Moore, who went around claiming her body got better and better with each pregnancy, then spent a reported fifty-grand on total body restoration. Why? It’s not the work that was done, but the lies that were told about it. In this time of scripted reality, people are losing the sense of what is true. We are falling for the delusion. But, what’s worse is that, rather than tell the truth, it’s become vogue to lie about it. It’s easy to keep a straight face when it’s been chemically paralyzed.

Generally, cosmetic procedures are private. A personal choice one makes for whatever reason. Celebrities lose that luxury. From their public existence, we see it all. We have photographic evidence of what has been altered (that is, before it’s been Photoshopped). So why lie about it? How about a simple “no comment” instead? Or even a statement like, “Even though I lead a public life, I choose to keep some aspects private.” But, if you say something like that, then keep your trap shut about what should be private. It’s about consistency, people. You look less like a hypocritical ass if you keep it consistent.

I don’t have a problem with plastic surgery. Not at all. Since I was a young girl and saw my mother in her smalls, I knew a tummy tuck and boob job were in my future should I actually decide to bear children (it was also about that time I saw the purpose of a surrogate). I plan on treating myself to Botox for my next birthday, just to amputate those crow’s feet. And, depending on who asks, and how tactfully they inquire, I will either answer with full disclosure, or simply reply, “What do you think? Do you really think it’s any of your business?”

Still, I want to know who Susan Sarandon and Cindy Crawford sees. That is vital information. I mean, they will talk about their nutritionist or trainer or stylist, til the cows come home, but I want to know about their doctors and dermatologists. That’s only fair, and a true public service. I also want to know who did some of the “odd jobs” we see out there. That’s even more vital so you know whom to avoid. There have been times when I wanted to stop women on Rodeo and ask, “Who did your work?” so I could put the word out.

While I think there is a purpose to some procedures, there are a few things I think it’s prudent to avoid. Like starting when you are too young. Why are these twenty-somethings going for Botox and lip injections when they are in the bloom of youth? And boob jobs at 18? Please. These girls aren’t fully developed physically or emotionally. Going from B to DD isn’t the kind of maturing I would want for my daughter. But that’s just me.

My mother got her boobs done. After two kids, I didn’t blame her. But when she told me, “I have some bras to give you that I’ve outgrown,” I corrected her. “You didn’t ‘outgrow’ anything,” I reminded. You have to keep it real, even when some of it is fake.

30 November 2007

A Day Without Art

The first day of December is a day of remembrance. “World AIDS Day” is also “A Day Without Art”. Back in 1989, many artists chose to honor those lost to AIDS by not creating on December 1st. Theatres went dark. Galleries closed or shrouded the art. While some artists choose to show commemorative work on that day, others still choose not to create on December 1st. I am one of them.

Having gone to an art school, there was no way not to be touched by HIV/AIDS. While I have known many friends and acquaintances who were positive or had gone full-blown, I can’t say that one has died from it. But that’s only if I don’t count a suicide. I remember the pre-“cocktail” days when the loss of from AIDS was massive. There was a time when every obituary in the trades was a loss from that disease. Gratefully, that is now rare. But AIDS is still here. And, like most things from the 80s and 90s, it’s having a come back.

Condoms, people. Wear them. If not for fear of HIV, then what about Herpes, Chlamydia or even Syphilis, because that’s making a come back, too? I’m not about preaching abstinence. Sex is a fabulous part of life. I’m no saint, but I’ve not been able to master slutty. I am a natural born serial monogamist. Even my one-night stands turn into relationships. I’m so not one to judge, but I am one to question: Why wouldn’t you use a condom?

First of all, it takes away the question of who will sleep in the wet spot. Secondly, guys, it takes away the question of if she remembered to take her pill. Unless you’ve had a vasectomy, boys, a condom is the only way to be sure she won’t get pregnant...and even then you need to know how to use it right. Thirdly, there isn’t that much of a difference. Just find the condom you like best. I’m a Trojan fan. Don’t like the Durex, though.

We all would like to think we are bullet proof, or at least Teflon coated, but we aren’t. AIDS testing is no longer vogue, but it is prudent. And, for me, it is required. Until there is a committed relationship with all the proper paperwork, a raincoat is proper attire.

One boyfriend took my request as a bit of an insult. He asked me, “Why do you need a test? Do you think you might have slept with somebody wrong? I mean, I was in a relationship for seven years. I know I’m clean.”

I reminded him that his ex cheated on him, with at least one guy he knew of. Which goes to show that you might be monogamous, but that doesn’t mean your partner is. My point was that you never know until you know, and the only way to know is to be tested. It’s not about being “dirty” or sleeping with someone “wrong”. It’s not about judgment but knowledge. He saw my point and went willingly to the doctor. The swab up the urethra was a little surprising, but I reminded him what women go through for our annual pap. We both passed our tests with flying negatives, as we expected and, at the end of the day, he admitted his respect for my insistence.

To me, it’s not about expecting doom, but respecting yourself and those you love, or hope to one day. And, it’s a true test to see how much that person respects you. If he or she can’t commit to taking a test at your request, that can’t bode well for your future. And are you really willing to risk that?

Whether you choose to create on December 1st or not, please take a moment to think about how far we haven’t come in reducing HIV and AIDS. Then take a test. Or take someone to take their first test. Or buy a value pack of condoms and shag your lover senseless. However you chose to do December 1st, I wish you good health.

For information on free testing, visit: http://www.knowhivaids.org/

28 November 2007

And So It Vegan

It was my last Thanksgiving. And on Thanksgiving, you expect tradition. The bird. The stuffing. The yams. The pie. We had all that and then some. I had waited to go vegan until the day after Thanksgiving because my friend had threatened me with Tofurkey. Instead we had Turducken. I’m still not sure which is scarier. In case you aren’t familiar with this “delicacy”, it’s a boneless concoction of a chicken stuffed in a duck stuffed in a turkey. I stayed on the “tur” side of things, enjoyed the vegetarian stuffing my friend made for her daughter, downed heaps of the roasted vegetables, and savored a slice of pumpkin pie. It was enough.

“Why?” was the question most friends asked about my veganism, especially when attempting to figure out what to serve me at a dinner party, as though I wasn’t difficult enough before. The answer isn’t very direct. I’ve been pondering this since Live Aid. Yeah, that concert way back in the day to end famine in Africa. While waiting for David Bowie to take the stage, little punk rocker me I went into my friend’s kitchen to make a sandwich. As I reached for the bologna, I decided to give up meat. And easy decision in that situation, but my friend and I had been talking about going vegetarian in the preceding weeks. That day seemed to be the day to make that choice, and I had a lettuce, mayo and cheese on Wonder instead. That’s pretty much what my diet was for the next year-and-a-half: meat-free, not vegetable-full. Back then, before you could easily reach for tasty vegetarian fare, there wasn’t much for you but cheese pizza and bean burritos, generally made with lard, which isn’t quite a vegetable. Skipping meat was easy. I remember nutritious cafeteria lunches of yogurt and mashed potatoes. See what I mean?

After eighteen months of not getting enough protein (I was a lazy student who had yet to find love of the leafy greens let alone tofu), I stared at a chicken breast for an hour before I could eat it. Fish and fowl were brought back in to the regime, but dairy was out. It made my allergies worse. Snotty is not just an attitude with me. And so, after my final lobster tail and turkey breast, I said adieu to animal food. It was time to vegan.

Being a vegan today is a piece of cake. Egg- and butter-free cake, that is. But, fortunately, those exist. Friends have worried when they call me up to go out, “Oh, can you eat anything there?” Yep. Luckily, most restaurants have these things called “vegetables” and “salads”. There’s always something to eat if you look hard enough, or order off menu. But, if you think that going vegan means a rapid drop in weight, think again. For, I have discovered in the days that have followed Thanksgiving that you never actually have to eat a fresh vegetable or piece of fruit if you don’t want to.

There are vegan blueberry waffles and soy sausage links to have for breakfast. Broccoli soup puree for lunch with Wasa crackers. A bean and rice burrito, vegan Indian cuisine or a “meat” loaf with mashed potatoes, corn and peas all within two-five minutes from freezer to plate if you are so inclined. There is organic, vegan “Mud Pie” rice-cream for dessert, vegan cookies, and most importantly, pomegranate martinis are vegan, too. And I’m pretty sure a vegan fast food chain is not too far off in the future.

Now, I realize eating that way is not the point of being vegan. But, when you are a busy vegan newbie, it’s easy to fall into those bad habits of yore. There is one vice I have given up: Starbucks. Yes, if your stocks took a dive, that is why. My seven-to-ten ventis a week are now a thing of the past. I’m now enjoying organic, decaffeinated green tea...and a bit more money in the bank. (I still love the Bucks though, and do enjoy a soy hot chocolate there every now and again. A tall, not a venti, sans whip.)

No, this isn’t a sign of the apocalypse, just me trying to grow up more and take a little responsibility for my health and that of the environment. Since I’m not going to be driving a hybrid car for a while, I figured going vegan was something I could do for the green team. Cow farts are really what are destroying the ozone. Our water is polluted by our grotesque animal farming techniques. And if you think the FDA, EPA and USDA really give a shit about your health, remember the amount of feces allowed in your food. Do you like your cow pies medium, or well done?

I’m sure tofu and spouts are sounding yummy now.

14 November 2007

The Final Lob

It’s never easy to say goodbye to anyone or anything that has brought joy into your life. The decision to end that relationship or association is difficult and questioning your choice borders on obsession. At the end of the day, you have to go with what’s best for you, no matter how hard that might be.

So, I made the decision to go vegan. Considering I haven’t had red meat in decades, and dairy was reduced to the occasional slice of Brie or random crème brulée, it wasn’t that much further to go vegetarian. With all they pump into poultry, I had been avoiding that for a while. I thought about ditching the fowl but keeping fish in my diet, but with all the crud in the ocean and the grotesque fish farming being done, I realized the futility of that if I wanted to avoid antibiotics, mercury and other muck in my meals. The only thing left before arriving at vegan village was a carton of eggs.

Did you know that “free range” and “cage free” are more or less on the honor system? Did you know that they allow poultry to eat bio-chemically jacked up, not-approved-for-human-consumption grains? And if we really are what we eat, I don’t want to be a genetically modified chicken embryo. But that’s just me.

Since I had already agreed to a Thanksgiving dinner party, I didn’t want to be the “what do we serve her” guest and decided that the day after turkey fest would be my first as a vegan. That also gave me time to say goodbye to some of my favorite foods. Like the crunchy, spicy shrimp rolls at Chaya and my beloved blue-corn-chip-soy-cheese nachos at A Votre Sante (because the soy cheese has casein in it, which is a milk protein, which is non-vegan-friendly). I did not make it to Cynthia’s for her famous fried chicken, or indulge in caviar at Shutters, but I did make lobster, for the first and last time.

I couldn’t really justify the restaurant tab for a lobster tail, so I made my way to the seafood counter at Gelson’s for a nice piece of ass. I don’t care that they are bottom feeders; lobsters are damn yummy. But they aren’t a fruit or veg, or even a whole grain. Alas, my crustaceans days were numbered.

Shellfishly, I opted to have the dinner alone. I wanted to savor each bite, indulge in my gluttony, and cruise through TiVo while I did. I’m really behind on everything. I mocked an old Buffalo Club dish, and poured myself a nice glass of wine to wash it down. And when I was finished, I was done. That was it. The satisfaction of the meal was replaced with ick. At first, I was concerned that I might have poisoned myself. It was my first time cooking tail. Perhaps I made a misstep. But standing over the kitchen sink, wondering if I was going to lurch, I listened to my body and it said she was done. I really just didn’t want meat anymore. I was ready to be rid of it. And that felt good. Now, there was only a turkey standing in my way. And isn’t that always the case?

17 October 2007

Bu-Duh

For an A-type personality to take on Buddhism, it borders on ludicrous. Opinion and judgment forming are as natural to me as drawing breath. It’s effortless and happens often without conscious thought. The opinion just — poof! — pops into my head and then generally flies right out of my mouth without passing Go or collecting $200...leading me directly to jail for tactlessness. This isn’t catty action. I’m not walking around comparing myself to others all day. I couldn’t imagine anything more tiresome. Could you? Exactly. I’m much more fascinated by how people behave, use or ignore logic, or carry about their lives without much introspection. These are the attributes of a bored and narrow-thinking philosopher, not a Buddha.

Being one who momentarily minored in Religious Philosophy (it gave me a chance to argue — I mean, “debate” — for a grade) before going off to film school, I’ve had the opportunity to study the major religions and their dogmas. Remove the politics and egos from them, and all religions are basically the same. Hate to break it to those who think theirs is “the only way”...they are all the way. We simply need to find our own road, whether you believe in a deity, higher power or simply yourself.

Buddhism has always rung truest to me. And the neat-o thing about Buddhism is that you aren’t supposed to believe it on someone else’s word. You are to believe it if and when it works for you. I find that to be a bit ballsy, and totally appealing.

For a long time now, I’ve been told to meditate. “It will do wonders for you,” they said when I would double over from ulcer pain. Yet, the only thing more ludicrous than an A-typer not forming an opinion on something is to sit in silence. Quieting this mind isn’t going to happen. I’ve tried silent meditation many times, and one of two things happens: 1) I fall asleep, or 2) I keep repeating to my brain, “Shut up. Will you please just shut up?!?” Realizing that wasn’t the kind of mantra one should have, I looked for another. Ohm was just too predictable. I harkened back to What’s Love Got To Do With It and went the Nam Myoho Renge Kyo route. It worked for Tina. And, yes, Courtney and I have chanted together. Chanting for me is relaxing and centering, and it does help me let go. Although, second nature does creep in from time to time. After all, I’m A-type down to my blood type.

Buddhism is pretty direct. Karma isn’t complicated; it’s merely cause and effect. What you put out, you get back. What you fail to learn will hit you upside the head at some point, or will certainly bite you in the ass. This is not to say one should walk around in a panic. It means we are meant to be aware of and take responsibility for our thoughts and actions. It really is that simple. It’s Buddhism, not rocket science. It ain’t Mormonism, either.

Recently, when I mentioned having wine at a study group, I was given the down-the-nose-and-over-the-glasses look by one of the senior members. Let me be clear; I wasn’t suggesting getting liquored up before chanting. Even I’m not that sacrilegious. I thought it would be nice for after. Another member suggested that my affinity for grabbing some Buddhies and going to happy hour after our weekly meeting might not be proper practice. Excuse me?

Let me just tell you that the last person I’m going to be judged by is a Buddhist. Come on. That’s like Shakyamuni 101.

But, if judgment is on the table...let’s talk about those who keep their cell phones on during meetings. Make noise during the silent prayers. Interrupt when others are speaking and fail to pay for their share of the appetizers at happy hour. Buddhist or not, that’s simply rude. And the A-type in me can’t turn a blind eye to that. Although, she is learning to bite her tongue.

Buddhists are human and flawed — but at least we are aware of that. Ann Coulter wouldn’t like us because we aren’t looking for perfection, or bothering to force the world into becoming what we are. Which is groovy. No. Like I said, each person needs to find his or her own road. Nam Myoho Renge Kyo is the one I’ve chosen. It works for me. I know I’ve racked up some karma, both good and bad, and I own it. Perhaps one day, through this practice, I will have indestructible inner peace and complete acceptance of all things. Oh, wouldn’t that be nice. If not, I just hope to be around for the day that Coulter’s karma comes a calling. It will be worth coming back as a dung beetle just to watch that happen, with popcorn and champers, and TiVo replays. Like I said, human and flawed, with a wicked sense of humor and justice for all.

03 October 2007

How to Write a Novel

Writing a novel takes a great deal of work and dedication. It’s not as simple as saying, “I have an idea for a story,” and placing that idea onto paper, or at least the computer screen. No. It takes much more than that, my friend. Much more.

First, you have to mentally prepare. Clear your mind so the story can fill your brain. Repeated viewings of favorite movies assist in this endeavor. It’s sort of a creative meditation, or mental laxative, evacuating all that needs not be in your head. TiVo helps with this aspect of novel writing. I recommend saving on TiVo The Departed (Boston accents are disarming), Infamous (it’s important to see a writer at work) and the guilty pleasure of The Devil Wears Prada (which helps not only to numb creative trepidation, it serves as a beacon of hope — because if that piece of shiction got not only published but adapted into a feature, there is hope for all of us).

Once you are mentally ready, you need to consider what it will take to fuel your creativity. You do have to eat. Stock up on staple items; things that won’t spoil or take much effort to prepare. My favorite staple is a collection of menus from restaurants that deliver. Face it, you aren’t going to have much time or energy to fend for yourself. Crunchy food is a good thing. It helps you to “chew” your ideas. I recommend Baked Lays and Peanut M&Ms. Baked Lays offer fiber. Who knew? And the Peanut M&Ms are low glycemic index. That’s nearly a healthy meal. And your health is important to consider. These items can be procured at any liquor or convenience store, like the one three blocks from me. Walking to get your goodies allows you to combine much needed exercise and fresh air getting. You can also buy a lottery ticket while you are there, because extra funds until that publishing deal comes through will be a boon. The odds of winning the lottery or getting that publishing deal are about the same. Just believe that if you aren’t winning that Fantasy 5, your book deal is waiting.

Soymilk is good for you. Caffeine keeps you peppy. So, you shouldn’t feel guilty about all that money you are spending on your daily 2-3 Venti soy latte Starbucks habit. You can actually see it as a help to those friends who have Starbucks stock. Wine is not only a creative lubricant, but is heart healthy. Yet, if you are going to be serious about writing, Guinness is key. Guinness has spawned many a wonderful Irish tale and is only 125 calories per 12 ounces. How fabulous is that? Granted, the can is nearly 15 ounces, but you are still about 150 calories for a rather tall glass of stout. Watching calories is important when you are writing because not a lot of cardio is involved in the drafting of your tome. Unless you count screaming at the heavens for burdening you with this task.

You will also need to make a personal run to the grocery store for necessities like Charmin, Kleenix, more wine and Guinness. While you are there, get some fruits and vegetables because now is not the time to come down with scurvy. Throw in more Baked Lays, Peanut M&M’s and some cereal and soymilk. Anything you don’t have to cook is a writer’s friend.

You must be disciplined and set aside time each day to tackle the project. The first thing to go is the gym. Staying up late while your creative flames are roaring means that early alarm clock will be beaten into snooze submission. You can’t burn the candle at both ends. The sacrifice is only temporary. And, since you’ve pretty much only been eating portion-controlled amounts of Baked Lays and Guinness, you are doing okay calorie-wise. Throw in a few lunges, some sit ups and push ups in between chapter revisions and you’ll keep some of your tone.

The next thing to go is your social life. You can’t spend that precious creative time trying to figure out what to wear on a night out. Besides, you can’t be expected to get to the dry cleaners and such. You have a colossal undertaking in writing this damn book. Brunch isn’t a weekend requirement anymore. Not even when martinis are offered. Besides, you have Guinness and wine at your house...and Pink Dot on speed dial. You’ve got a job to do. You don’t need any further distractions. And The Departed is on again. That’s a sign from the creative gods that it’s time to “meditate” and hit the laptop.

You’ll also need a creative warm up before hitting the computer keys. I recommend Big Bang Backgammon. You know it’s going to be a good writing day when your Luna whoops that wiseass Sol, making him eat his dialogue-bubbled words.

When you get to about page 300, you will see the light at the end of the tunnel, but you won’t be ready to walk toward it. That’s because you have to go back and fix those first 300 pages before you can write the last 100...or 150 as it’s turning out. It’s a damn drag, but necessary. You’ll get over it. By now, everyone at Starbucks, the liquor store, Gelson’s, Pink Dot and House of Thai Taste all know you by name and/or order. They are ready with a smile and an encouraging word. These are your allies. Tip them well.

You will also need to keep your appointments. The doctor, dentist and orthodontist can’t be ignored. Neither can your roots. A ponytail can only hide so much. You have to keep up your appearance. Never leave the house in your track pants. Change into something more chic when you venture out, even if it’s just for the chips and candy. You can always put the track pants back on when you return. Each day, you will shower. Shaving, however, can be done once a week since you are no longer going to the gym each day and your “service technician” has been put on hiatus until you get the damn book done. It’s all about the sacrifice, people. That’s how great stories get told.

I’m going on month four with this. The goal was to have it done in three. Lofty, I suppose, but I can only keep up this non-exercising, anti-social, take-out way for so long before I lose it completely. Twelve chapters down...three or five more to go. Whoever thought that writing was a walk in the park must’ve been on their second bottle of wine. I’m ready for a pint.

05 September 2007

A Month of Somedays

Summer is ending. And it’s not just the warm weather (or endless-seeming heat wave) and long days that are fading away; so many other things have come to an end. Good, bad, indifferent or appropriate, loose ends have been tied, questions answered and natural resolutions occurred. Spring shot it all into action, bringing my past into my present. By summer, my future had come into clearer view.

I don’t believe you can go back. Though, sometimes, you find yourself doing just that. I was brought back in touch with Masters when I went to Manhattan. He was still in the city working. Having received his graduate degree, he’s now teaching at his alma mater, warping young adult minds, writing freelance and working on his novels. Six years ago, Masters and I had an ill-fated, long distance, telephonic callationship. Suffice it to say, two, broke, struggling writers who cannot come up with the funds for consistent cross-country travel should not bother being involved. It seems romantic in theory, but the reality is harsh if neither one can afford the airfare. Phone calls and emails can only take you so far. We did the push-pull of wanting more but not being able to have it. Sweet conversations turned into terse talks because neither one of us was getting what we needed. Finally, I cut the phone cord. Even though the feelings lingered, I kept them at a twenty-eight-hundred-mile distance. After all, what was the point? He was there, I was here, and the space between wasn’t getting us any closer to something real.

We had stayed in touch off and on over the years, though not always on the best of terms. I refused to flirt and found his late night calls more annoying than charming. Do you like the phone ringing at 2:30 AM? On a weeknight? And I mean my time, not his. The guy should have a breathalyzer attached to his phone. Still, I thought it would be nice to see him while I was there. Surely enough time had gone by for us to move beyond what was and move forward to something new. Like an actual, grown-up friendship. We made tentative plans to see each other, understanding that my schedule was unpredictable and his was pretty booked. We stole some time on a Sunday night and met for wine at a Spanish bar.

I had no intention of reopening the door to our past. We would be friends, and that’s it. I even donned my most “I’m so not sleeping with you” ensemble: Plain, white, button-down oxford and jeans; hair not redone; makeup suitably subtle. The conversation was kept safe. Respectable physical distance maintained. My plan was going along famously, surviving even an Irish pub crawl, until he insisted on helping me get a cab. I asserted that I was more than capable of hailing my own taxi, but he wanted to play the gentleman. He failed at that when he pulled me into a kiss before I got into the yellow sedan.

Damn. We still had it.

I rode back to my apartment with furrowed brow. Perhaps it was nothing more than the Guinness mixed with fond memories and jetlag. Still, I had a feeling that I was being haunted by history. You have to understand, I had just taken a job that I had ten years earlier, gone to my twenty-year high school reunion two weeks before, and now had made out with a beau from half-a-decade ago. There was a hell of a lot of karma closing in. It was enough to make your head spin. Mine surely was. Like the candy floss I had for dessert the next night.

Masters wanted to see me again, and I couldn’t find a reasonable excuse not to. So we grabbed time again on Tuesday and the Friday before I left. In true “us” form, we did the push-pull thing back and forth during the week and ended up having a huge fight on Friday night. And when I say huge, I mean apocalyptic. I really let him have it. It had been a long week and a hard day. Mix physical and emotional exhaustion with some truly stupid moves on his part, and you get a rather unpleasant public display of agitation. But, if you are going to explode, there’s no better place to do it than in the back of a cab in New York City. I got into another taxi and went home.

Two weeks went by before we spoke again. Feeling terrible over my end of the fight, I offered an apology the best way I knew how…email. He accepted, offered his own set of sorries and then we talked. A lot. About why we did the push-pull, what we might be afraid of, even about going to Ireland together in the fall. After two-point-five hours on the phone, it seemed the wounds were healed, but a question mark still lingered. So, the next morning, I did the unthinkable. I invited him to come to L.A. and stay with me through the month of August. While it might seem crazy, I thought it was the saner move than just going off to Ireland for a week and potentially ruining my favorite place. We needed some sort of test-drive.

I knew Masters was going to take August off and go to the Catskills, of all places, where there was a free place for him to stay via a family friend, in order to work on his book undisturbed. With that amount of free time on his hands, I saw this as an “If Not Now, When?” situation. Someday had come, as far as I was concerned, and so I offered up my home for him to write and for us to experience reality. The reality of two writers, that is. We needed to spend quality time together, day in and out, so we could see what it was we really had, and if it could last longer than a phone call and some stolen time. And, if it could survive both of us in creative mode, as I would be working on my book, too. I told him to think about it, it was a big step. For him, it came down to finances, which I well understood, and finding a subletter. So, I left the offer on the table and waited for him to come back with his answer.

I needed an answer of my own, though. I found myself wondering why did I give this guy such a hard time? He was obnoxious and arrogant at times, absolutely, but he also had many fine qualities and characteristics. We couldn’t deny the connection we had, and enjoyed the story we could share of how we came to know each other. I wondered what we would find if we both dropped our guards and didn’t have the luxury of running away; hence, the offer to stay with me. We needed to see what we really had, decide if we wanted it, then find a way to make it work.

Being an Aries, I have to examine the big picture, look at all the potential problems and find solutions. It takes me about five minutes, if that. It’s what makes me good at what I do, and awful at letting the man in my life figure things out on his own. This time, I was determined to let Masters do just that. I was going to let him hang himself, or pull himself up, by his own rope, without any hints from me on which direction he was headed. It was bad enough that I had already done the flight research (who knew Continental was cheaper than JetBlue and offered better airports?). I wanted him to make his own choice. Rise to the occasion, which was something I had waited for him to do since the beginning. So I resisted the urge to remind or cajole. And, while I understand the money situation, I also know that if a man wants something, a man will find a way to get it/have it/make it happen. He had ample time to procure another writing gig, or even just cut back on his bar bill. If there was a want, he could find a way.

Then again, he is a guy to whom things come rather easily, and usually free of charge. The women in his life cater to him. Doors open for him, he doesn’t have to work for much. But he would have to earn me. I rooted for him quietly, waiting for him to surprise me and prove me wrong. Deep down, I knew he wouldn’t come, no matter what words he said to the contrary.

“I’ve got good news and bad news, baby,” he said. He went on to tell me that his aunt had called and the Catskills house was his for as long as he wanted it.

Um, that wasn’t news as far as I knew. The place was his from the get go. So I waited for him to finish, wondering which part of this was good, and for whom.

“Are you there?” he asked.

“Yep,” I replied.

“So, do you want to come and stay with me in the Catskills?”

“Nope,” I answered.

“Have you ever been to the Catskills?”

“Yes.”

“Well, have you ever been to the Catskills with me?” His pitch was getting higher.

“Once was enough, thanks.” I couldn’t hide my irritation. Seriously, what part of a job didn’t he get? I had one, a new one, and couldn’t take time off. Even taking a long weekend to visit him, the hassle of getting myself to the remote location was not enticing, nor cost-effective. Going to Manhattan is one thing; going outside of Manhattan is…well…pointless.

He kept going on about how the house was free and so wonderful. Hey, so is mine. All he had to do was cough up the airfare. It’s not like getting to the Catskills was costless. Cheaper, yes, but can you put a value on spending time with me? Well, it seems he did.

“Baby, I don’t want you to think that I don’t want to come to L.A.,” he placated.

“Let’s just not go down that road,” I said. It was just that. Just as simple as that. I got off the phone before I gave in to the urge to school him in semantics.

One of the more aggravating things about Masters was that, for a writer, he was quite lax with his words. Still using the surfer lingo from his Ventura upbringing, which I find terribly grating, he didn’t understand why I would ask him to define my gender when he used “dude”, “man” or “bro” when talking to me. He was good at tossing words around without respecting their meaning. I’m the type of woman who believes that if you are going to bother saying something, you had better mean it, understand it, and own it. I don’t say things just because they sound pretty or are provocative or pacifying. But he did.

“Baby...” he said on a later call.

I let him know that his “baby” days were over. He was no longer allowed to call me that, nor any of the other endearing terms he offered up.

“Am I in the doghouse?” he asked. There were times I wondered if he had brain damage or was some sort of functioning idiot savant.

“More like you’ve been demoted,” I advised.

There wasn’t time to get into it. He had to go, and I had to move on. For a guy who seemed to always have something to say about what we would/could/should do someday, he was easy to let pass a month of somedays when it was offered. I didn’t hear a Plan B, or when he would come out to LA. He did ask when I would be back in the Apple. Funny, no? Still, as irritated as I was, I was relieved to have my question clearly answered. Yet, that wasn’t the last shift to hit the fan.

June and July had come and gone. By then, I saw more changes on the horizon. I treated myself to a new computer — something I do about every seven years or so — went wireless and got busy writing. I was plowing through a new version of the novel and expected to be done with it by the end of September. Everything seemed to be going swell. Until I heard I had a certified letter waiting for me. When that occurs, you’ve either won a lottery, or are getting into a lawsuit.

I didn’t win the Lotto.

A “cease and desist” letter was served. It seems my book infringed on someone’s trademark. No, I didn’t check for that. A publishing rookie move that a first-time author/publisher is bound to make. The thought of having to rename my book was devastating. Trust me, if I could’ve come up with a better title, I would have.

I spent the first weekend in August in a twist. I put together lists of titles, emailed my friends for a consensus, narrowed the title list down, and fought a losing battle with tears. It was no time for insipid phone calls. Especially not from a cell phone. Masters made an attempt to be a support for me digitally, but I’m not really going to open up on a call that might be dropped. Besides, if he wanted to be there for me, he should’ve been here, don’t you think? And so I let him know his time would be better spent packing for the Catskills. I had a tome to re-title.

For those of you who bought the original Guide, keep your collector’s item. In another week or so, you will find A SASSY LITTLE GUIDE TO GETTING OVER HIM on the shelves. Who knew one little word would cause so much trouble?

Before August was over, the new job came to an end. You just can’t go back. Things are never the same, and rarely are they better. That’s not to say they are worse. They just are what they are. It’s simply something you left behind, and it stayed there for a reason. And it shouldn’t be sad, or hurtful, or even surprising. It should be looked at as a confirmation that you have grown. You have moved on. And so have they.

“Someday we should get together for lunch or a drink or something,” another old friend suggested. I smiled back and said, “That sounds nice,” knowing that someday rarely comes around. But, if it does, take it lightly. It’s a gentle time to hold, and it usually doesn’t last for long.

22 August 2007

Why Men Should Pick Up the Tab

Yeah, you heard me. And this is a Feminist pontificating. But, before you start with the eye-rolling and harrumphing, just give me a second to make my point.

The other day, I was at the CVS picking up a few skincare items. The young man tallying my bill was literally gobsmacked at the price of the skin cleanser I purchased ($17.89).

“It costs that much?” he inquired, ready to call for a price check or reboot of the system.

“Yes. The price of being a woman is a high one,” I responded. “And that is why we expect men to pick up the bill.”

He looked at me with the same baffled expression brought on by the Aveno sticker-shock. I encouraged him to think about it. To think about how much it really costs to be a woman, just in the most basic way. Then what it takes to look as nice, feels as soft and smell as sweet as we do...and then men want us to pay for our own salads? Please.

The young clerk nodded with a new understanding. You could almost see the abacus moving about in his head. I could see that my work there was done.

“See, I’m looking for an equal relationship,” an old flame said to me recently. Yet another reason why he and I would never work out, because I sure as hell ain’t.

Don’t get me wrong. I believe in equality. But things just aren’t equal when it comes to men and women. We shall skip the whole “who’s going to carry the kid for nine months, then birth and breastfeed it” argument and get right down to the simple math:

How much does a man pay for his hair cut? And a woman? Easily double, if not triple, his price. Factor in any hair color or highlights and we’ve got a quadruple situation going here. Now, that’s just the cut and color; we still need a hairdryer, styling products (and with our hair generally being longer, we go through it quicker), the right brushes and the occasional accessories. Men need a comb and some goop and they’re done. Men have been known to use soap instead of shampoo, so that’s another penny saved on their end. And what guy do you know who conditions (that isn’t in an actual hair band)? Another bit of savings for men. Even if you consider metrosexual manscaping, women still pull the heftier wax total, unless you are competing with a Yeti. So, is it any wonder we use our credit cards like we do?

Now we can get to the additional monthly maintenance. Do men have to buy tampons, pads, shields and painkillers every twenty-eight days? No. And most of the time, the chick is buying the birth control as well. Compare the cost of a box of Trojans (which can be acquired on sale) to that of a packet of pills...not to mention the doctor visits that go along with them. Expensive.

That cute outfit she wore to dinner; three times as much as his ensemble at least. And her underthings? Well, how far could a girl go on a BVD budget? Boys, when you look through the Victoria’s Secret catalogue, do you ever notices the prices? Maybe take a look next time. Warning: You might lose your hard-on for it.

Compare and contrast dry-cleaning, alterations (free with most suits), the fact that men’s shoes are cheaper and they don’t have to carry a bag to match. Now factor in that women still don’t earn an equal dollar, either. Sucks, doesn’t it? By the time a gal is ready for that date, she has already dropped a serious dime on her appearance. And you guys should appreciate that effort, and the bill that comes with it.

The cost of being a woman is phenomenal when you stop to think about it. And, gents, don’t even start with that, “Baby, you don’t need all that stuff,” crap. Yeah, we do. Because the effect of that stuff is what lead you to us in the first place. Remember how pretty we look, how soft we feel, how sweet we smell? It all comes with a price tag.

Still want that equal relationship, fella? Then pick up the tab. That would be a start. Flowers are a nice touch, too.

15 August 2007

New York is Spittacular!

I love New York. (And, no, I’m not talking that ho from “Flavor of Love”. Mr. Sharpton, if you have seen that show, you can’t argue with me on that one.)

As a native Los Angelena, I never thought I would utter (or write) those words. But I love New York. There. I said it. Deal with it.

It had been ten years since I'd been back to the Apple. Two trips were planned in 2001, both in September, neither ever rescheduled. I missed going there and was happy when the chance to go came up. The plan was to go for seven days, but it was extended at the last minute. Ten days in New York still isn't enough to do and see all that you want to do and see. But it is enough time for you to miss your car, your TiVo and the life you left back home. Yet, strolling around the city, which always embraces me, I started to fantasize about living there...if only for a short while. And that is so not like me.

New York has changed since my last visit. Of course, she has suffered a great loss. And time does change everyone and everything. But when I heard folks say, "I'm sorry" instead of "Watch where the hell you’re going!" when they bumped into each other, I bruised my jaw on the sidewalk. I thought it might be hallucinating from the jetlag. But it turns out that New York has mellowed with time. Don’t get me wrong; the edge is still there. But it’s so endearing when a New Yorker catches him/herself being super nice. They kind of stop for a second and check themselves, then let a little grin slip over their lips.

I lucked out on the weather when I went in early May. It was gorgeous. Warm days, cool nights and just a few days of rain, which I love. I didn't even mind the slight stick as the humidity rose. The days were just too beautiful to be bothered, though the swap cooler drips were a bit irksome. My initial reaction is always, “Is that rain or spit?” It’s easy to forget the window ACs and to walk a bit further from the buildings. And walk I did. Everywhere. I revelled in walking to Starbucks each morning, to the grocery store and deli, walking everywhere I could before I would hail a cab. (That's another thing that's changed...gone are the $5 cab rides across town. I nearly choked on my first $16 fare.)

Flip-flops served for walking shoes as I navigated the pavement, but I soon realized the prudence of closed-toe footwear. People spit in New York. A lot. Avoiding the lit cigarette in the hand of an animated chick talking on her cell phone is easy. Scoping out who might hock a loogie is more of a challenge. Men in business suits, guys on bikes, boys in jeans, old men on canes; any were potential spitters. Day in and day out, I would be agog (and agag) at the phlegm and saliva flying, all potential Hepatitis bombs. After a few days, I got used to it, and alertly watched the mouth, throat and jaw movements of those coming toward me. All in a day in the City that never swallows. Yet, there was one I couldn’t get over. The slobberer that stole my heart was the septuagenarian woman who gracefully pulled her walker over to the side of the building, leaned over and dropped a huge gob onto the sidewalk. In broad daylight! It was spittacular. Somehow, she managed it with a bit of dignity, if you can believe that.

My dear friend, Smith, moved to New York at the beginning of the year, and this was my first chance to see her new Tribeca loft. I was so excited to celebrate this huge move with her. The plan was to meet for dinner after we were both done with work on a Monday night. I intended to walk from SoHo, were I was hanging out that day, but after an afternoon of running around everywhere South of Houston in kitten-heeled flip-flops, my dogs were barking. Thirteen blocks (or however many she guesstimated) might as well have been thirteen miles. I hailed a cab.

I had been sick the week prior to this trip and was still from suffering a jolting cough that would strike with violence and little warning. There was merely a nanosecond between the tickle and the choking hack that followed it. Very sexy, I have to say. I sat joyfully in my yellow car, happy to be on my way to Smith’s. The driver and I exchanged pleasantries as we made our way from Thompson to Franklin, then I took a hit from my water bottle, squeezing the plastic to fill my mouth when it happened. The cough seizure. There I was, mouth full of Poland Springs, throat contracting, tickle intensifying. The water couldn't go down. As a matter of fact, it was heading up my nose as I tried to figure out what to do before I ran out of air. I really didn’t want to asphyxiate in a taxi. Or would I technically drown? Either way, something had to be done. And then I did it. I really had no other choice but to spit the water out. All over the floor of the cab. Well, not all of it. Some of it hit the floor, but most of it hit my seat than then rolled back down to my crotch, wetting the seat of my pants. Spittacular indeed. The only saving grace was that I was wearing black trousers. Quel nightmare had they been jeans or khakis.

I took a handful of tissues (probably the least absorbent material on the planet), to mop up what could only have been a few ounces of water (though it seemed like a quart) as I reassured the driver that I had not yakked up anything more than H2O. “It’s just water. Just water,” I assured him, mopping up the mess. Then I burst out into hysterical laughter, the kind that only jetlag, humiliation and a natural self-deprecating sense of humor could bring. The tears that were streaming down my face from the choking fit were replaced by those of unbridled chortling. I’m sure the driver thought he had picked up a loon...or a wacked out hanger-on from the Blohan entourage, who were also in the city that week.

Finally, my damp ass made it to my friend's loft. We walked her darling dog, and aired out my wet end, before going to dinner at Landmarc. We sat at the bar in the tiny bistro, sipping wine as we waited for our table. There, we encountered my least favorite type of New Yorker (although, I will have to say that every city has its own version of it): Spoiled, Pushy, Irritating and Tiresome.

I will never understand why parents insist on taking their ill-behaved spawn out to nice (read expensive) restaurants. As a sometime-patron of these establishments, I don’t mind sucking down my $15 glass of wine with my $40 dinner and $12 dessert (which requires another $15 glass of wine to accompany it), as long as I can do it in the company of other adults, and not with a poorly-reared kid talking loudly, kicking chair legs and, eventually, bursting out into a howling cry. I will also never understand how those parents have the knack of seeking me out and placing the child within throttling distance of me. It’s uncanny.

The AARP-aged baby-daddy forced his way over to the bar area to grab the lone empty chair next to mine where he intended to squeeze himself, the mother of the five-year-old girl who would later drive me nuts, and another woman who looked like she could be the sister of either parent (or a partner in a unique “arrangement”). Smith, who has adopted the easy-going New Yorker status (which was easy to do since she always had the kumbahyah of her native East Bay), spotted two chairs opening up on the other side of the tiny bar, and offered to move us so the “family” could take our space. When the offer was posed to him, the man just looked annoyed, like we should have done that upon their arrival. That just made me want to stay put, but the girl started fidgeting, as children are prone to do, and I knew that the next phase was whining before going into the full-out cry. Better I get into a more neutral corner.

Finally seated, Smith and I enjoyed our wine (wisely served in half-bottles...we each had our own), our yummy dinner and the most perfect dessert...Cotton candy and champagne. Yes. You heard me. Perfect, pink cotton candy. With champers. Yum.

On our way home, Smith and I looked at the posting of places for sale in a real estate office window. I began fantasizing about having a place in NYC, and tallying how many books I had to sell in order to make that happen. At the same time, I had to wonder what was happening to this LA woman? Did I really want to move to New York?

Yes and no.

In my fantasy world, I would have a pied-a-terre there so I could fly out and spend some time when the mood struck...and then fly back home to Venice when it got too hot, too cold, or just too much. It's my fantasy world. Let me have it. And, in my fantasy world, I also have a brownstone in Dublin and a little cottage in Tuscany. So there. And the New York I knew and loved wasn’t really reality-based. It’s one of make-believe and pseudo-privilege. The privilege of going there on someone else’s generous dime. Per diem. Nice place to stay. Friends to see. No need to be anywhere at any inconvenient time. Never needing to take the subway or a bus. I’ve never had to suffer the horror of the humid summer, trod through the slush and sludge of winter. Bundle up only to strip down (wait, I have done that one, but only over a few days’ stay). I’ve not had to stress over finding a place to live. Struggle moving furniture. Deal with dragging home hefty purchases. Nope. I get to go there and be fabulous. Even the times I have gone there on my own ticket, it’s as though a red carpet has been placed on the cement for me. I’ve stayed with friends in welcoming lofts or flats, so I never have had to pay for an overpriced hotel. We’ve always managed to fine the best cheap restaurants in town (so we don’t have to split an appetizer for dinner), and, even though I am on a perpetual budget, it’s still all about the cab for me (one subway ride was enough). So I love my particular New York. Very much.

One other thing I adore about New York is that you will always run into someone you know, famous or otherwise, whether it is the rude dude crowding you at the Landmarc bar the night before, or the hot guy from “The Office” walking by you at Marc Jacobs. There’s something comforting about a familiar face in a sea of a million Manhattanites. When I saw our bar neighbor, I had to text Smith a “guess who I saw” message. I had to text her again that same afternoon when I found $6 on the sidewalk. I always find money in New York. And how could you not love that? Sure, it wasn't $600, but it was a partial cab ride or a Starbucks and nice tip. I was careful to make sure there wasn’t anything relating to bodily functions on or around it when I picked it up. Purell is your friend in New York City.

I decided there were two slightly touristy things I had to do on this trip. One was to go to the World Trade Center and pay my respects. The other was to visit my book in Times Square. I took a cab from Gramercy Park to Church Street. I did not know there was a small, antiquated cemetery there with centuries-old headstones marking the departed. It was eerie and heartbreaking at the same time. That place survived when so much was destroyed. I lasted about seven seconds before the tears started to well. I did not want to be the girl from LA crying at the World Trade Center nearly six years later. But that day still has a deep and visceral effect on me. I said a little prayer and began walking to Times Square. I made it to Washington Square Park by the time the rain started. I was wise to pack an umbrella. I would have been such a good Boy Scout.

By the time I got to Union Square, the rain had gone from a spattering to a full-on downpour. I was sliding around in my flip-flops, suddenly realizing that what I was walking in probably wasn’t all rainwater. It was at that odd time in New York City when every flipping cab is off-duty. Have they not seen sense in all this time to stagger shifts? Since I was near the apartment, I threw in the towel. Even though it was five o’clock, I grabbed lunch (still on LA time) and went back home. I never did make it to the book viewing, but I’ll be sure to visit her next time.

On my last night in New York, I was treated to my first trip to Broadway. Being a student of film, I’ve never been drawn to stage work, finding it too acty. But “The Year of Magical Thinking” is beyond theatre. And to be spitting distance from Vanessa Redgrave while she recants Joan Didion’s tragic year, it’s all you can do not to run up to the stage and give her a hug and a cocktail. I resisted the urge. After that magical ninety-minutes, my friend and I made our way back home, deciding to have a quiet dinner in rather than to go out. I offered to pick up the meal than to wait for it to come to us. The spittle of rain accompanied me on my walk. I saw it as New York’s way of kissing me goodbye. It will be much sooner than ten years for me to go back to that spittacular city again.

25 July 2007

The Bitch is Back

Every once in a while, a girl needs to take a break. A little time off. Like, say, three months or so. A respite of sorts. And, sometimes, she doesn’t even know she needs it. It just sort of happens.

The hiatus I took was not planned. (Nor was it a stint in rehab. Please. I’m so not a twenty-something celebutard high on hubris.) April brought much more than expected. I took on a new old job for one thing. An impromptu dinner led to an offer to return to a previous position and, a week later, I started the new old gig while finishing up my old new job. I juggled the two posts for the next six weeks and, during that time, I made a ten-day journey to New York where I attempted to function in both time zones. Needless to say, I failed at that. Miserably. The jetlag I was attempting to avoid hampered me through the end of May.

I had made the mistake of making out with the wrong guy and got a nasty flu accessorized with a hacking cough, which boarded the plane with me. I’m sure flashbacks of Outbreak were running through my seatmates’ heads during the long flight to NYC. At least this was before the TB dude ran amok, or I fear I would have been sequestered. What kind of guy says, “Man, I think I’m coming down with something,” right after he thoroughly verifies your tonsillectomy? So glad it stopped with a kiss and something curable. This is where not being completely slutty comes in quite handy.

I’m a pretty tough broad who runs at a fairly kinetic pace, even with an active bout of Epstein-Barr Virus, but the bug combo’d with the lag and the new work+work schedule just knocked me on my ass. At the end of the day, I had nothing left. By the time May rolled around, the act of balancing two jobs, multiple projects and working six weeks straight with no time off, seemed to rob me of my usual stellar personality. My social life took a nosedive. Phone calls went unreturned, emails piled up in my inbox, plans were often cancelled or reschedule for a time when I had more time. I’m still waiting for that. After work, I would simply pass out shortly after inhaling dinner, only to wake up a couple hours later and start working again. Work work, not my work.

I get really unpleasant to be around when I don’t write. By June, the malaise reached a pretty intolerable level. It’s sort of like a version of PMS, as in: Please Miller Sit-down-and-write-something-for-the-love-of-God-and-all-that’s-holy! I found the creative flow blocked by the lack of verve required to transform a thought to something tangible. There are many half-written, semi-started columns, but my train of thought would easily get derailed. And what a time to run out of writing steam! Look at all I missed! Blohan on video doing blow (and I am so intentionally leaving out “allegedly” since Venice neighbors Santa Monica and its Police Department), Blohan in rehab, Paris in jail, Blohan extending her stay in rehab, Paris leaving jail for a hot minute before getting tossed back in the clink, Blohan spending her 21st birthday in rehab, Paris getting out of jail and Lindsay SCRAMing around after being released from rehab. At least until yesterday.

But, please, there are so many more important things to address: The war, the troops who are dying daily, getting wounded by the minute and being deployed yet again for their fourth, fifth or sixth tour all sidelined by celebutard news. I mean, didn’t we celebrate “victory” there about two years ago? And two years before that? Yet, in spite of W’s victories, we keep losing. What about the Shrub telling his bitch Harriet to stay home; after all, it’s only a pesky subpoena...look what Scooter was up against. The Dub has your back. As long as your back is one of a glad-handing, money-grubbing crony. The rest of us are screwed. How that futhermucker and his Beelzebublican cohort have not been impeached is effing beyond me. Nixon must be cursing up a storm somewhere. Where’s Ken Starr when you need him?

Then there are some people you just don’t have use for. Ann Cuntler showed her wax face and lived up to her nickname. Seriously. You make fun of someone’s dead kid and you have sailed way beyond bitch status and deep into the C. When will she do us all a favor and forget that you shouldn’t blowdry and take a bath at the same time? Yeah, I said it. It’s my karma. I’ll deal with it. I’m not afraid. She should be, though. Her public disgrace has got to be on its way. Karma is one thing; hubris seems to bite you in the ass even faster. Especially if you are a blonde celebutard.

Finally, there was the earth-shattering news that the “Sex and the City” movie was finally a go! And I couldn’t help but wonder if this wasn’t about five years too late? Are you like me and will be so totally excited to see it...the night it premieres on HBO? I am setting my TiVo, let me tell you. You bring the Tasti D-Lite and I’ll make the Cosmos.

Yeah, I’m back.

18 April 2007

Freak of Culture

I am a peculiar bird. Much of today’s culture just doesn’t suit me. And I long for simpler times.

I miss the eight-hour workday, getting Washington’s and Lincoln’s birthday off (two three-day weekends in a row, people), and whatever happened to Columbus Day and banker’s hours? I yearn for the time when cars came with turn signals, and driver’s that used them. The salad days when fruits and vegetables didn’t kill you, although some tasted like they could, and no one had to fear spinach or strawberries.

Remember way back when you would come home to messages -- either on a machine or via voicemail -- from people who loved you? Wasn’t that nice? Now, if you get a message, it’s usually from a computer calling, even though you are on the Do Not Call Registry. What rings of its non-existent hook is your cell phone. Everyone and their brother calls you just because they’re bored and have minutes to spare. Sure, the rest of the world seems to live on their cellies, but I’m old school. Oddly enough, I sort of expect my home phone to ring when I’m in my home. I know. I’m a freak.

No one should have to hear the words: “I had adultery for breakfast the other day. It was yummy.” Even if they are said over cocktails. Our grandparents would shudder to think that, instead of savings, we’ve got over fifty-grand in debt...and that’s not counting the mortgage (if we were lucky to qualify for one).

There was a time when an immigrant would want to learn English in order to thrive in the US. Now, it seems the US is expected to be multi-lingual. Until that day, we all have to wait a little longer in line until someone behind the counter who speaks that language can be found to translate for the citizen who’s been here a decade or two, yet doesn’t see the point of assimilating. When did that become all right?

Like I said, I long for simpler times.

Remember when a boy would ask a girl out and ladies went first? How about when we knew our neighbors’ names and saw familiar faces each time we went to the store? When being morbidly obese was a sin of gluttony and not of Ronald McDonald? When we kept our religion and politics to ourselves and would never dream of imposing our opinion on another. We preferred discourse to discord. We understood that prayer was private, sex was private (even in public if you were careful), and the government kept out of both. War was fought with honor because the reasons for going into it were valid. And we would never think of sending our soldiers to battle with faulty equipment or sans the proper protection. America had too much pride for that.

Then again, those were simpler times.

Today’s culture seems comprised of solo acts. It’s all “me” and “I”, with rarely a “we” in sight. Community? I can’t tell if that’s an antiquated concept or something so arcane that I’ve missed it. Co-operation and collaboration? Only if there are contracts involved or profits at stake. I’m having a hard time accepting that. I was hoping that the pendulum would swing back to the middle and we’d all be working together for our betterment. When did I, the cynic, become so naïve? Or it is hopeful?

Boob jobs for a teenager’s birthday and $300 pairs of jeans are just beyond me, especially when a tank of gas nearly costs that much. Perhaps this state of culture is merely evolution. Perhaps our parents posed the same existential questions. Or maybe, we, as a culture, are just spiraling out of control and into our own extinction. I don’t know. Perhaps all is swell and I am simply a freak, period. That is quite possible. All I really do know is at the end of the day, if you want to reach me, call me at home. My cell phone will be off.

14 March 2007

Just Another Day in L.A.

Now that we have an extra hour of daylight, you have the chance to see some things that you normally wouldn’t...or shouldn’t.

Driving home the other night, I witnessed a huge, white van suddenly cut over from lane two to lane one of a major boulevard, nearly clipping the blue Bronco rightfully driving in that space. Rubber was laid as the Bronco’s brakes were applied. The van driver seemed oblivious, if not impaired. One would think such an abrupt lane change would be due to the need of an upcoming left turn. Nope. This was just a willy-nilly whim. The Bronco driver (a chick) was having none of it. Surely her insurance rates had flashed before her eyes. The Bronco betty pulled next to the van (also driven by a chick) and gave that white trash a piece of her mind before gunning it when the light changed and cutting off the van (and justifiably so). In response, the van driver (who had several leafy plants and a few dogs bopping about the interior), stuck her head out of the window and howled -- yes, howled -- at the Bronco.

Now I was driving behind the white van, and was less than happy. The van drove well below the speed limit and had yet to make a left turn (which would have justified her daft lane change). I finally had enough and zipped around her. At the next light, I watched the white van driver from my rearview mirror as she made out with her dog. Yes. Made out. With. Her. Dog. She had leaned over, wrapped her arm around the dog and began kissing it. I turned around to be sure of what I was seeing. Then, I threw up a little in my mouth at the sight. As I pulled away with the relief of the green light, she remained nuzzled with her canine companion, screwing up traffic. Lord only knows what she might be screwing later.

In other news more fit for print, I am officially a Buddhist. Don’t laugh. You can still be a complete A-Type personality and find your Buddha nature. Yes. You can. This is Los Angeles, not a Kyoto temple. We do the best we can.

I can’t say that I was Shakubuku’d proper (I have been studying and practicing Buddhism off and on for years), but, as they say: When the student is ready, she will share deep-fried cheesecake at Katana with someone who chants near her house. While I love Tibetan Buddhist philosophy and the Dalai Lama’s smile, quieting my mind and silent meditation just ain’t my thing. I needed to chant. So, I suppose the person who really gave me the Shakubuku was Angela Bassett/Tina Turner in “What’s Love Got To Do With It”. That was my introduction to Nam Myoho Renge Kyo. Wasn’t it yours? Anyhow, on January 8th (David Bowie’s birthday and the 6th anniversary of RUAWAKE), I did my first toso. At the end of February, I gave my first “experience”...and Courtney Love was there. Holla! And, last week, I received my Gohonzon. Now, I’m just Buddhaful.

In Los Angeles, each and every day is an adventure. You never know what you might see or who you might do...or vice versa.

21 February 2007

Keep Your Hair On

Oh, Britney. The lengths a girl will go to get the carpet matching the drapes. Now, both don a Brazilian and neither should be seen in public. And while the sight of a Sinead-inspired Spears is more than a tad unnerving, I was probably more disturbed by the fact it appears as though the girl has had on the same cakey, black, round-the-rim eyeliner for nearly a decade. For heaven sake, will someone please teach this kid how to wash her face?!

Now, she has made her way back to rehab, where everyone goes after such antics. Why don’t these clinics all just open a new wing called Humiliation Camp? Well, isn’t that really what it is? Binge drinking at 25 is nothing new, though it should be old hat at that age. Is rehab really the answer? Wouldn’t a stiff shot of reality be more prudent? You’ve been acting like an ass. Knock it off. It isn’t cute. Obviously. Take out a mirror if you have any questions.

If you haven’t noticed, I shan’t be going down the “poor Brit” road. I have zero tolerance or respect for any wealthy celebrity (or celebutard) who has the world at their feet, access to the best and brightest, and clearly refuses to take responsibility for their actions, behavior and life in general. Spoilt brats do not get my pity, undereducated and chemically imbalanced as they may be. When one’s train-wreck life is on the cover of every rag on the newsstand, that’s a pretty large clue you need to do some introspection and maybe spend a few nights in. And, if one finds herself puking on a club’s bathroom floor (allegedly), what more of a wake-up call does one need? Shouldn’t two babies back at home be enough?

Many moons ago, back when Christina was dirrty and Britney was a slave, I wrote a column questioning which one would end up posing nude first...and would it be Playboy or Penthouse? Never did I think it would come to this. Not to age myself, but this harks back to the Prince vs. Michael Jackson debate of the 80s. Prince was the dirty one; Michael, a soft vanilla ice-cream, palatable by parents and children alike. The debate raged over who was more talented, who was the truer artist and, basically, who was less of a weirdo. In the immortal words of Chris Rock, “Prince won.” Now, it is Christina Aguilera, whom we all thought was teetering on the brink of porn back then, who has redeemed herself as the classy Mouseketeer. Who’da thunk it?

This is just proof of what lip-synching can lead you. Pay attention, Ashley Simpson.

Look, we are all human and, to be human, one must err. There’s no getting around that. Effing up is part of growing up. Some F-ups are just more spectacularly public than others. So I’m not chiding Britney for being a young adult, still learning the ropes. I’m just not attending a pity-party in her honor.

24 January 2007

P-O'd

Patience. It's not only a virtue, it's a crock of shite.

As I have written before, patience is not a quality I've taken on and, in spite of efforts, it has not taken to me, either. It is obvious we are like oil and water; a combination that can mix well for a brief period of time...and then off we go to our opposing corners where our true colors can shine. Over the years, I have made a grand effort at being patient. I figured it was a lesson I needed to learn, like playing well with others...but that's only gotten me into excruciatingly banal conversations at a dinner party, or the wrong boyfriend, sometimes in the same night. Being patient generally gets me just irritated. And whenever I have attempted patience on a grander scale (beyond simply abstaining from honking at the imbecile in front of me who nodded off at the green light), it inevitably turns around to bit me in the ass.

Case in point: Publishing. I started my own imprint because of my lack of patience. I didn't want to spend half a year shopping a book around, finding the right agent who could get me the right publisher who would offer the right deal. No. I am a Do-It-Yourself kind of kid. Besides, I saw it as an adventure in which I would learn so much...including the ever elusive P word. Phooey.

I received my first lesson in publishing patience when it took 8 inexplicable weeks to finalize the book for print. It didn't take me that long to write the futhermucker, and if I went to complain about it to a friend, they would all say something irritating like, "Just be patient. It's still an accomplishment to have a book done so quickly. You should be proud." Please. The real accomplishment was that I had not gone postal, ripping off heads and tearing new assholes at those who slowed my pace. I tried to remember, this was an adventure. A journey. A lesson. One that made me clench my teeth.

Unlike say a Simon & Schuster, I did not get a release date for my book. When it was done, it was done and would be listed with distributors and available for sale. I asked for a timeline for when the online merchants would pick it up. They had no idea. It was kind of a willy-nilly thing. I was told, "Just be patient. Keep checking the websites. You should be up any day now." A wiser, more seasoned publisher might’ve been able to finesse online stores for pre-sales and get some hype going, but I was merely a publette. I understood that it was a process, it would take time, and I would need to be patient. But not for long. Within a day, it was ready to go. Amazon was first to pick it up...and last. So I waited. And waited. A week went by and I inquired about the other listings, mainly the distribution channels, and was told, "They should have it. Just be patient. It takes time." I had no choice, it seemed, but to heed the advice I was given. So I took my thumb and inserted it...well, you get the idea.

Perhaps I should've known something was amiss when I saw my book was on Barnes & Noble online, but listed as not available. But I, being a cynic, just figured they didn't like me and didn't want my pretty pink book. Fine by me. Amazon liked me. They were my friends (both US and UK), and we would do just fine conquering the world and mending broken hearts one book at a time. After all, I was patient. I understood that it takes time. Taking my rejection incredibly well, I philosophized that not every girl will be asked to the dance.

And then a handsome suitor called.

I won't say which mega-chain emailed me about carrying my book, but it was then that I found my distribution listings had not been set up as they should have been...IN EFFING OCTOBER! Merde. As soon as I received the message, I called the people responsible for listing such things to find out what was going on, and how quickly could we get the problem solved, as there was a mega-chain who wanted my book in their stores for Valentine’s Day. Oh, and there was one major hiccup...the mega-chain has an exclusive deal with a certain distributor and, thus, can only buy the book from that company. FUGH.

With the first call, I was told that everything looked right, and that I would have to be patient...the person I need to speak with had left for the day. I waited until morning and called my rep who said she didn't see anything wrong, that she would look into it...and would call me tomorrow. The next day (#3), I was told that it would be a few days before the listing would go up as they would have to wait for current orders to be filled, then take the book out of production to reconfigure the listing and set it up back again. But time does not stop or even slow for things such as this. Mega-chain. Order. Valentine’s Day. Tick-effing-tock, people! When I inquired if there was any way humanly possible to speed up the process, as I was willing to do just about anything to get this listing up, I was told there was nothing I could do but wait. Ha!

It seems they don't know me very well.

Day #6, I called the distribution company and finally (three calls later) got through to someone who knew whom I should talk to: Publisher Relations. Duh. I called, got voicemail and impatiently waited for a return. Day #7, I got a call back. I explained the situation to my pub rep who said, "Put it in an email,” and hung up. Gotcha. Done. I will now make a long story a bit shorter for you and say that I called and emailed this woman everyday for another six calendar days, and was told, "Be patient. This takes time. And you aren't the only title I'm dealing with. We have thousands." To which I said, "Lady, I have been patient. Two weeks' worth of patient. And I can pretty much guarantee that not all of those thousand titles have an order waiting to be placed by a mega-chain who has an exclusive deal with your company." She said, "Maybe not, but you are just going to have to wait. It takes time."

By this point, I knew all the things in the world that take time. Growth takes time. Wisdom takes time. Getting anywhere in LA takes time. Baking a cake takes bloody time. Getting a book listed in a database, however, takes an effing MOUSE CLICK!

After 14 days of being told to be patient, I lost mine for good. It was not an ugly sight, but was surely uncomfortable at times for a few of the recipients. However, losing my patience actually got me to the right person at the distribution company, one who solved the effing riddle in THREE HOURS. One hundred and eighty minutes, and a bloody mouse click later, my book is listed as it should be. A few folks were forced to eat some crow and we all learned the true value of a little impatience.

10 January 2007

Sloth

There comes a point when you begin to wonder just how lazy you can be without becoming totally gross and off-putting. What things you can cut out, skip or otherwise ignore and still function somewhat as a respectable adult? This isn’t out-and-out sloth, but being so overworked and overwhelmed that you aren’t able to do everything. Some things have got to give just so you can get a little rest.

It occurred to me the other day at the gym, as my face rested on my shins, that I haven’t shaved my legs in a while. Somehow that slipped through the cracks. When I got home, I stubbed my toes on the luggage that has been sitting in the hall since I returned from my Christmas trip. Clusters of dust bunnies gathered in corners and under chairs, having parties to which I failed to RSVP. And something peculiar in my refrigerator, housed in Tupperware, is turning multiple shades of green and blue and is utterly indiscernible from its origin. My office looks as though it suffered a seizure. And don’t even ask about the state of my manicure and pedicure. Oof.

Brushing teeth and showering are mandatory...but wouldn’t it be nice if we could get away without doing it? Think of all the extra time we’d have. You can’t rush oral hygiene...Waterpiking, brushing and rinsing take a certain amount of time. Not to mention the time-eating chore of cleaning your retainers. Yet, if you skip shaving your legs, you can save time in the shower. If you twist your hair up or yank it back in a ponytail, rather than going full-blown into a hair style, you can rush out the door a little faster. Overdress a bit and you look like you put a little effort into your attire, rather than having to admit that you are a tad behind with your laundry. Sunglasses can look chic as well as shield the fact that you forgot to put on mascara in your morning haste. Keep lip gloss in your glove compartment for those times you run out the of house with only your wallet only to catch a glimpse of your appearance in the review mirror and realize your faux pas. By ordering the venti whatever at Starbucks, people can see that you are aware of how tired you appear/are and, thus, can keep their comments about your under-eye circles and sallow complexion to themselves.

When it comes to feeding yourself, which is as mandatory as showering and brushing teeth are...in spite of what some in “Young Hollywood” think...I’ve found that you don’t actually have to cook or even order in. Cereal does not require cooking. Grab a bowl and some milk and you have a meal. Coffee? Forget about it. Cleaning a French press is murder. Instant espresso is much quicker, and you only have to wash the mug (how often do you have to clean a kettle?). After a while, you get a little tired of eating cereal at every meal (took me about 10 days). When that happens, get soup that you can pour out of a box (saves using a can opener) and nuke in two minutes. Wheat pita toasts in no time, and hummus comes out of a plastic bowl. Salad remains a bit labor intensive. Washing the lettuce, tearing it up, slicing the apple and cucumber, then throwing on the dressing takes effort but no pots or pans are involved, which is nice. And having green food is healthy. Combining fruit and vegetables into a salad is a “two birds, one stone” kind of thing. Meat moves out of your diet when you give up on cooking, except for the times where you make it out to a restaurant with friends, which even in your most slothful periods you are bound to do. You happily order the overpriced salmon on these occasions, grateful to pay the fee for someone else to cook it and clean up after it.

When you have Caller ID, you don’t have to listen to the message to know who called. Skip it altogether. Just scroll down the list to see who rang you and email them back, saving you the time and the energy required to have an actual conversation. With sex, missionary position is key, ladies. Virtually no work (if he does it right)...but all the joy. And if you have a web column, one which you’ve neglected for months, feel free to put the post date on the day it was due, and not the day it actually went up.

When you are overworked and overwhelmed, you turn to slothy behavior for simple survival. It’s not something to be proud of, but it is a way to function...if you can call it that. And if the first weeks are telling of the pace in which 2007 will operate, I hope you have jotted down some notes here. You just may need some sloth of your own.