we'll call it Shady Lane

I need an app that maps the shadiest pedestrian route, for any given time of day. Nothing too complicated. Just, you know, an algorithm that calculates the position of the sun relative to building height, trees, sizable landmarks, etc., factored down to the minute so as to maximize the amount of shade one enjoys while walking.

I am convinced that between Google and NASA, the data have already been collected. All that remains is some number crunching.

So can someone please crunch those numbers? Walkability scores are everything nowadays. There's gotta be $$$$ in an app like that.

hive-aitus

Greetings from Hell, aka Los Angeles, a climate-forsaken oven of a city, solidly in the grip of a brain-boiling, mood-ruining, sex-thwarting, creativity-curbing heatwave.

I am sweaty and cranky, and have been for weeks now. Though that only partially explains my absence here. Mostly it has had to do with my health, which right about the time of my last post took a sudden and bewildering nosedive.

In a nutshell: I have spent the past two and a half months fighting, of all fucking things, hives. Debilitating, unbearably itchy, splotchy red hives, of the sort one gets as an extreme allergic reaction. Only, I'm not allergic to anything. I am, however, immune-challenged, what with my hypothyroidism and Hashimoto's. Both of these conditions put me at greater risk for something called Chronic Idiopathic Urticaria, or, in plainspeak: Neverending WhoTheFuckKnowsWhy Hives.

It is a long and boring story involving lapsed insurance policies, indifferent doctors, blood tests, urgent care visits, and weeks on end of intense misery - and mystery. Really all that matters at this point is that eventually I figured out a medication "plan" that manages and ameliorates the symptoms. But it's a doozy.

You know how groggy a single Benadryl makes you? I'm currently taking eight Benadryl a day. Eight. Plus nightly Pepcid. Plus my regular dose of synthroid.

There's a potentially happy ending to this story, in that there's a decent chance an untreated dental infection has been the source of the hives. I found out about the infection two weeks ago. My dentist explained that rather than manifest in my mouth itself, the infection has been draining down directly into my lymph nodes, which then may very well have been distributing the fucking infection throughout my body. Causing my mast cells to freak out and fire histamine in an effort to protect themselves. Causing the hives.

I had the offending tooth removed a few days ago. I am on antibiotics. The hives seem to be abating, but I'm still too terrified to quit the Benadryl and find out if they're really gone (it takes a few days of "building up" resistance to the histamine before the Benadryl is effective for me, and every time I skipped a dose or was even a few hours late, boom, my skin would explode again).

Ugh this is so boring. Other people's health issues are so not sexy or interesting. I am sorry. It's just been an incredibly challenging few months, and I wanted to offer an explanation for my disappearance. There were some really, really bad moments during which I entertained some really, really bad thoughts. Luckily, where "luckily" doesn't even come close to expressing what I'd need it to, I wasn't alone in any of this.

"Supportive" is a similarly insufficient word to convey how amazing Timo has been during this time. It's no exaggeration to say I couldn't have survived without him. He was there at three am, when every inch of my arms, legs, neck, chest, and back were aflame with blooming, excruciatingly itchy red roses. When the only thing to be done was head back to the hospital for another round of steroids. Even on nights when there was nothing he could do but keep me company while I suffered, he insisted on keeping me company while I suffered. He went online and did research on his own, to understand what was happening to me and how to help. He found holistic doctors and learned the difference between H1 and H2 blockers. He talked in terms of "we" and "us". As in, "We're going to figure this out. We're going to get you answers and get you better." He'd lift my chin and make me look him in the eye and believe him. He made me feel much less alone, during what is ultimately a very lonely ordeal.

So. That's a bit of what's been happening. But there's been lots more going on, much of it wonderful. Shows and trips and another birthday. An anniversary. And I'll catch you up on all of it, I promise, but right now? Right now I am sitting in my favorite neighborhood coffee shop, on what has turned into a gloriously grey, breezy day, waiting for my boyfriend to come meet me so we can have drinks alfresco at the open-air restaurant next door. He just got off a plane an hour ago. He's been gone for two weeks.

We have some catching up to do, too.

birthday trip (part two)

Saturday morning, and the heat is a blanket smothering the house. One hundred and three degrees. I never got used to temperatures like this, not in twenty years of living with them. Heat this intense flattens me, deadens my senses. I kick off the duvet, feeling dried out and puffy, cringe when the bedroom's floor mirror confirms my self-assessment, and wander barefoot around the property until I find Timo working at a table in the front yard. The archival-quality drawing pad he'd given me last night is flipped open, covered with a carefully squared grid and neat handwriting in various colors. The pencil set has apparently inspired him; he's been brainstorming for his next project. He holds the page up to show me, proud of the artwork but sheepish about working while on vacation. I've never seen this visually creative side to him, and comment that he must get it from his architect father.

Though we'd planned on hiking, we quickly dismiss that idea. Why exhaust and probably sunburn ourselves? Fuck it. Instead we spend the first part of our day lounging, cooking, snacking, talking, and exploring the grounds around the house.

In the kitchen we eat thick slabs of watermelon and drink melon punch Italian soda. We move to the living room, sitting across from one another in my favorite of the house's chairs: tufted electric blue leather armchairs, low-backed, with just enough seat depth to curl up in. We sip coffee and look over the bookshelves beside us. I'm chatty from the caffeine, telling personal anecdotes that the bookshelf's contents have triggered in me. Timo leaves to shower, and my phone lights up. Mason.

How's Joshua Tree?

Content rich. T-minus five hours until launch...

Is Timo excited for the journey?

He's just babysitting. He got me all this colorful bright stuff to play with. Though I'll probably end up drooling on the hammock for 12 hours...

I send him a pic of my current view, and he says it looks like Alexander Shulgin's house.

I shower after Timo, trying to make peace with the cramped and ugly bathroom, knowing there's a decent chance I'll spend some miserable minutes in here later if I don't. I've been trying to make peace with the house all day, to be honest. Not let it psych me out, on a day when my psychic mindset is more important than anything. I'm feeling more optimistic than last night, but I'm still not 100% sure I even want to take the acid after all. The heat and the house are warning me not to, as insistently as they can. We'll see.

We spend some time apart, him emptying his brain onto crisp white paper, me poking around the outskirts of the property in search of photo ops. The heat is menacing, like an animal threatening to hurt me. It doesn't surprise me when a pair of hawks track me from above, the cries they exchange sounding contemptuous, and aimed at me. Just die, already, won't you? Just drop dead and let us pick at your bones. From the ground they don't even look large enough to be predatory. But then what do I know about birds of prey? The intensity of their squawking and the closeness with which they follow start to scare me, and I hurry back to the house. It takes all my willpower not to call out for Timo, like a child.

In the cool of the bedroom, I look over my camera roll. None of the selfies I've taken are any good. The landscape is dull, uninspiring; I look pink and mottled and try hard. Defeated, I sprawl on the blissfully white and cloud-like bed. I roll this way and then that, letting the cotton draw the warmth from my skin.

Timo joins me, lazily stretching out on his side. Again we go over what he should expect tonight, in terms of my behavior. What he should say if I fall into a loop, or forget that I've even taken a drug. My stomach is in knots, though I don't confess to him that I'm close to backing out. All this preparation and planning, how can I?

I check the time. Five o'clock. I'd been shooting for five thirty. Better text Pinkman, check in with him about dosage one more time. I retrieve the black plastic film canister I've been storing the acid in from my backpack. Slide out the tiny baggie containing the white, unmarked blotting paper. Take a photo of it, send a text, and wait. All this Timo watches with interest, murmuring "Oh, wow" when he sees the LSD for the first time.

Remind me. Each square is two hits?

Yes

How much do you usually take?

Couple squares.

Four hits. What I'd been planning myself.

Ok, cool. Thank you!

Have fun!

Timo and I look at one another. I feel like I'm at the gate in an international airline terminal, about to say goodbye for a very, very long time. About to get a rather special passport stamp, too.

"There's a decent chance it's expired, anyway," I announce, unsure if this outcome would disappoint or relieve me. "You're supposed to keep it at a constant temperature but it's just sat in my desk through the heat and the cold. Who knows."

Pressing my body against my boyfriend once more before lift-off, a sudden surge of reckless confidence finds me. Life is not for shallow-enders. I may not have the means to travel the world right now, but there are wondrous places of unimaginable beauty I can go, anyway.

I don't even need to pack.






birthday trip (part one)

Both of us are a little burned out, by the time we head to the desert. Ready for a break, anxious for a change of scenery.

We agree to take half an hour to vent and catch one another up on our respective work developments/dramas, then put the subject aside for the weekend. To kill some driving time, I read aloud from the School of Life's Book of Life - the chapter on relationships I'd dipped into days earlier. There's a series of interesting prompts I stumbled across in the "Artificial Conversations" section that I want to put to my boyfriend of eleven months, who is game, because we still love stuff like this. We still love playing games of questions, swapping stories about ourselves or our experiences that otherwise we might never disclose.

His answers are unsurprising, but I'm not in it for surprises anyway. Half the pleasure of listening to him speak at length on any subject is the measured, careful way he thinks things through. No exaggeration, no hyperbole. A willingness to back step when necessary, to correct himself. An ability to admit when he just doesn't know. A readiness to acknowledge and laugh at his shortcomings as much as tease me for mine. A keen sensitivity to even the slightest shifts of my mood, as dictated by his answers. He remains the clearest, most honest communicator I have ever been with.

We've gotten a later start than we'd wanted, so it's dark when we reach the gated property. Timo's roommate's car stirs up dust down a long driveway lined with white flowering bushes I spent most of my life around but still don't know the name of. I've come equipped with more baggage than the duffel bag and backpack into which I've stuffed my essentials: I've come, unavoidably, ready to judge this house, this weekend, and this experience against my last visit to Joshua Tree.

The home we've rented is quirky and close-feeling, packed with tchotchkes, dozens of funky, mismatched lamps, and provocative, if amateurish, art. Fruit flies pressed in thick acrylic frames. Salvaged carousel horses with chipped paint and toothy grimaces. Canvases that look distinctly DIY, with sloppy lettering and random imagery. Slanted windows intensify the claustrophobic vibes, and I feel a quiver of disappointment and a needle prick of fear: this probably isn't a good house for me to drop acid in.

Still, it is delightful to be away. We unpack.

When I'd told Timo I wanted to take LSD with me to Joshua Tree, he didn't exactly jump up and down with excitement. He'd been picturing something more along the lines of a romantic getaway than a stint babysitting his psychonaut of a girlfriend. But we talked, and I explained that it was really all I wanted for my birthday. That it was important to me. That it's the closest I come to a spiritual experience, ever, and that it feels like the equivalent of a year's worth of therapy. I didn't expect him to understand. I don't expect anyone to, really. I know how absurd it sounds.

But Timo being Timo, he understands. More than that, he embraces it. He looks online for information about how to best support someone tripping on acid. What to do, what to say, how to keep them safe and feeling positive during their experience. He puts together a "Life is Beautiful" care package, with colorful, sense-enhancing stuff for me to play with while I'm high. Glow sticks and light-up balloons. An oversized bubble-blowing wand. Art supplies. A glittery HAPPY BIRTHDAY banner to hang in the trees. Sparkly, tactile-minded toys to delight the child in me, during my very grown-up adventure.

I pull these things one by one from the gift bag, while the music we've brought spills out open doors and windows, into the endless desert night. Each item makes me more giddy than the last, until finally I run outside, my favorite of the balloons in hand. Timo follows, snapping into life a pair of glow bracelets. Between us we've got an armful of light in an otherwise dark yard.

Tomorrow afternoon this place will be a veritable wonderland to me, three-dimensional and alive and more beautiful than my altered consciousness can stand. But right now it's just a sprawling expanse of typical desert landscape, flat and dry and still-hot, even though the stars have displaced the sun.

The balloon pops after one or two playful bounces, so we turn our attention to the glow toys, videotaping them in slow motion and then time lapse, just to see the effects.

Back inside, I empty the bag's remaining contents, among them five or six rainbow-hued plastic leis. I scoop them up, laughing. "They were colorful," Timo explains unnecessarily, smiling happily at how much fun I'm having.

"So awesome," I say, also unnecessarily. And because it is a hundred degrees outside, and because I am marooned with my boyfriend on two acres of private land in the middle of the desert, on my birthday, I decide there is nothing for it but to take off my shirt and wear only these leis until we finally go to bed, whenever that may be. And once I've done that, we don't notice much other than the music filling the house, and the fact of our aloneness. And the smiles on our face change, then, from joy to something else. And for the next little while, I try in my way to give something back to the man I love, for all that he has given me tonight.

---

Later in the hammock, all the house lights shut off, we are still and quiet in one another's arms. The wind is delicious, and relentless. Rushing around the yard; scraping the house. Making eaves creak and tree limbs sway and wind chimes sing. Chills run the length of my body, not because I am cold, but because I am anticipating tomorrow. In fact I've not been able to think of much else since we arrived. I've been constantly calculating my environment, wondering what and when and how and how much. Is this crazy, crowded house going to freak me out? Where do I want to be, when it hits? Where will I go, if I get frightened? Should I even do it? What if it's bad again, but this time for longer? What if it's worse? 

And at the end of these fears, like a wishing well becoming still once more, is the calming truth: It will be worth it. The bad is bad, yes, but the good is a heaven like nothing you know, the other 364 days a year. And anyway, who wants to stay in the shallow end, all the time? Life is for living.

I snuggle deeper against Timo's chest and let the wind whisper its promises, its invitations. Come play with us, it says. Come see.

Melancholy settles over me, and I fantasize about the hammock freeing itself from where it hangs, carrying the two of us off into the black sky. A magic carpet with its own mind. What then? Timo would fight it, would want to come home to all that he has and all that he is here on earth - but me? Why not me? What would I miss? What and who would miss me? Not much and not many, I decide, but not bitterly. The freeness of my simple, small-scoped existence is equal parts terrifying and exhilarating. I could disappear forever and only a few people's lives would be disrupted, and briefly at that.

But a few is better than none. And that's a warm thought to anchor oneself to, on a windy night like this.

lazy phone photo dump, June edition

Long Beach!





Flowers around my neighborhood!





Shows!

Eric Prydz, at Factory 93

Deadmau5, at Shrine Expo Hall

Bayer and Bluestone, at Belasco
Old 97s, at Fonda

Stupid selfies!



The ridiculously amazing peonies Timo gave me for my birthday!




some small attempt

Many thanks to those of you that have sent messages of condolences about Chaucer.

It's been three months and I still don't really know how to talk about him. What he meant to me and the ways in which he truly saved my life. I originally had this idea that I would create something about him, write a story or make a video or something--anything that would get all of my feelings funneled into one place so that I could let go and move on.

But I know now that's impossible. I'll always have more to say and think and feel about him.

The visuals have been the hardest; it took me ages to sit down and attempt even this short video. And it could have been an hour long, easily. But it's something. Some small attempt at cathartic expression.

I can't tell you how much it has meant to me to share his funny, sweet, goofy, amazingly loving self with you, all these years. Thank you.

beauty school

In the sixth story Beverly Hills office where Riley awaits her injections, two waste receptacles have been built into the supply cabinet: TRASH and NOT TRASH.

TRASH and NOT TRASH, their labels announce decisively. TRASH is round. NOT TRASH is rectangular. She leans over slightly, curious as to the contents of NOT TRASH, but nothing besides a plastic bin liner can be glimpsed from this angle. Standing up would offer a better view, but staying seated feels like the more polite thing to do. The doctor has already performed his initial consultation. Explained the process. Disclaimed the fine print. All that's left is for him to return, offer another round of reassuring smiles, and shoot her face full of neurotoxic protein. She doesn't want to be caught poking around when he comes back in. Doesn't want him to think she's grown bored, waiting.

Earlier, before the doctor entered and introduced himself (impeccably poised, his own face kind but suspiciously unlined), she allowed herself a few pensive moments at the window. On the landing below, two women in casual work attire were engaged in an emotional discussion. One of the women was visibly upset, carefully wiping tears as she recounted, one inferred from her gesticulations, some intra-office drama. Something about the delicate way the woman dabbed at her lower eyelids--folding and refolding the tissue to obtain a clean, dry edge--impressed Riley deeply. Clearly the woman knew she'd have to return to her desk, after this venting session was over. Clearly she meant to retain some sense of composure.

The only way Riley knew how to cry was full-throttle and full-throated, set and setting be damned.

She watched as the upset woman eventually spent herself, and the companion who'd been listening sympathetically took over the conversation. Her response won the rapt attention of her coworker, who cocked her head as if to consider a fresh viewpoint. Nodding. Laughing. Two sets of shoulders relaxing. Heads shaking with good-natured disbelief at the tribulations of the workplace. Another day, another potential HR bomb defused.

TRASH and NOT TRASH. The stickers on the inside rims of the compartments are perfectly centered and trimmed, their simplicity and indisputable dichotomy inviting. Her old boss would have approved. Oh how he loved his labels. Needed them, desperately. For everything and everyone in his life. The simpler, the better. Winner. Loser. Rich. Poor. Beautiful. Ugly. Young. Old. She knew exactly what labels he applied to her. He never bothered to keep them secret. And sometimes, when all the dusty books full of sadness and confusion and loss and self-loathing come tumbling down--just because one has accidentally been cracked open--she let them hurt her, again.

But not today.

Today she is here, back in the old stomping grounds, on her terms. On her dime. The months and the money that have come between her and Baxter are like bricks in a wall built painstakingly, with much bleeding and bruising. He's on the far side of it, fussing and fuming his way through life as always. And she's over here, laying brick after brick on a new foundation. An independent architect, calling her own shots.

Today didn't come cheaply. This dip in the fountain of youth is costing her dearly. Digging a chunk from her wallet and her pride. But Riley doesn't feel poor today, or ugly, or even old, 21-gauge needles notwithstanding. She feels like someone who escaped and lived to tell about it.

She feels like someone who's finally learned the difference between TRASH and NOT TRASH.

manhattan tuesday


Timo and I went to Manhattan Beach last month. (He took a random Tuesday off work so we could.)
And since we're going to be a lot more adventuring now that I have reclaimed Saturdays, I'd better go ahead and dump these here, so I can stay current.

I don't really have a narrative for them. It was a lovely day, but I was wound pretty tight in myself for various reasons, and didn't really relax and observe in a way that lends itself to blogging. I hope to get back to that sort of posting again soon.

But for now, just some pretty pics.







even after

Two sweet things that happened when Chaucer died.

First thing: I came home one day to find a bouquet of flowers on my doorstep, with a note.

Deepest Sympathies On Your Loss Of Tosser. We'll Always Be Here Through The Sad Times And To Remember The Good Memories Your Furbaby Left On Your Heart. Love, Chloe and The Chewy Family.



I was nonplussed. It was easy enough to deduce someone somewhere had misheard "Chaucer", but who the fuck was Chloe and what did The Chewy Family have to do with it?

Now for context you have to know that Cameron and his mom had been sending me periodic shipments of dog food from Chewy.com. (They started doing this last year when I was broke, and insisted on continuing to help even after I'd started working.)

The night that Chaucer died, Cameron realized that the very next day a bag of food was meant to be shipped my way. Naturally he didn't want that to happen, because good grief. So he called them immediately in an attempt to intercept the package. The representative he spoke with--whose name was Chloe--apparently wasn't at all sure she could stop the shipment, so without telling Cameron she was going to do it, she arranged for flowers to be delivered to me, presumably to soften the blow.

"Tosser" must have been what she heard Cameron say. And that's just...so awesome. Tosser. So not only did I get a really pretty bouquet, I got a laugh. As did Cam.



Bailey, by the way, was Chaucer's best friend. (Bailey is Cameron's dog.) Here they are FaceTiming a few months ago:



Second thing: without telling me they were going to do it, someone at the emergency vet took it upon themselves to make a print of Chaucer's paw on a small canvas, paint around it, and send it to me anonymously.

No that's not a waffle cone to the left, it's just the wrapping.


Just, you know, your everyday, average, totally unsolicited act of incredible kindness by/for a complete stranger.