I wasn't in town this time last year. I was in Tucson almost continually from September through the end of December. I spent my three favorite holidays in pretty much the most miserable company I could have, because sometime around the end of last summer, I dropped my self-esteem and self-love in a dumpster.

People, do not drop your self-esteem or your self-love in a dumpster. It's a nightmare to get them back. Takes months.

I haven't blogged much about the relationship I was in last year, for three reasons. 1. I was rather shell-shocked by the whole experience, and wanted to bury it as fast and deep as possible. 2. Thinking about or talking about it brings up painful memories not just of who he was (is), but - much more importantly - of who I was at that time in my life. It's sickening to me, to think about the abusive behaviors I tolerated for nearly half a year. I don't want to admit to myself that I was a woman who allowed them. I don't want to look in that mirror. 3. I've always had the mindset that it's best to just move forward, and not look back, especially at an ugly past.

And generally, that's a good attitude, I think. But over the last week or so, that past has come tapping at my door in a curious way: by my realization of how lovely it is to be downtown over the holidays. I can't help but compare my physical surroundings right now to those I had last year. Everything within several square blocks of me these days is festive: lights, Christmas trees, wreaths, even an iceskating rink two blocks from my building. Last year at this time I was living in a house in the desert, way out in the boonies, with a very unhappy, very angry person. I was isolated and miserable. I was discouraged from seeing my friends. I was heavily guilted for ever paying attention to anyone else.

I was forbidden from working. That's one of the most ridiculous and embarrassing things I've ever had to admit, but it's the fact of it. That's what I mean when I say I don't want to look back at that Ellie. That's the one I'd rather not own relation to.

I was cut off, lonely, bewildered and brainwashed. The holidays trudged by heavily, one by one, and I was too scared to leave. Eventually, I did. And I never looked back.

But now I see the past, anyway, because it's reflected in the shiny baubles hanging everywhere: look at this, Ellie. Soak this up. This is what the holidays are supposed to feel like. As opposed to...The city is decked out in its brightest and finest, and the beauty of my here-and-now is so brilliant that the light of it spills over into the darker corners of my memory: you missed this last year - all of this - because you were... yes. You remember now, don't you? How awful it was...? But it's like one of those antiseptic, UV lights. Powerful enough to kill any vestiges of fear and shame, because I feel absolutely lit up and elated by what I see around me.

I can't remember feeling so happy, for such large stretches of time. I'm taking long walks with Chaucer every night, just to look at all the lights, and to find more. Every major building has a Christmas tree in the lobby, and some have them on the roofs, too. The US Bank building and the Westin are lit up with red and green and multicolored lights, and Pershing Square is absolutely ablaze with stringed lights. I've taken a million iPhone pics, but they don't do it justice. They're just terribly blurry. I need to figure out what settings to use on my Nikon for night photography, and in particular for shots of all the lights.

We walk and walk and walk, our breath visible in the night air. I listen to music, popping my headphones out when strangers want to meet Chaucer. I'm finding myself grinning at the most random things. This afternoon, a dog tied up outside a shop - waiting excitedly for its owner - gave me a case of the happies I haven't been able to shake all day. Everything is peace and potential, and even though sometimes I have absolutely no idea where I am in the grand scheme of my life, today was a day where I knew: I'm exactly where I'm supposed to be.

playing santa

I've been checking out the VIP dog toys, trying to decide which one I'm going to get Chaucer for Christmas this year. Last year I spent Christmas in hell, but two years ago I gave him the T-Rex, which I was careful to wrap as inconspicuously as possible, so he'd have no idea what he was getting:

I love playing Santa to my dog. :) He seems to enjoy it, too:

It might be weird, but there are few things I enjoy more than giving my dog a new toy. He just goes berserk. And, to anthropomorphize him for a minute, he just seems so appreciativeI mean, he plays with every single one of them. Nothing goes unloved in his toy basket.

The whole VIP line is amazing and hilarious, and strong. Those suckers hold up. They have different series like "Arctic", "Dinosaurs", "Farm" - and even "My Parents Lied About" which has things like aliens and mermaids. So awesome. Here are the top contenders right now:

The Pegasus absolutely kills me. I'm thinking I might actually get him a couple (on top of, of course, a vast array of other, cheaper toys and chewies), because he's had a pretty rough year, too. I had to leave him for nearly six weeks when my dad got sick. And when I came back, for several weeks afterward I probably didn't give him as much attention and love as he needed, because I was in such a bad state.

And he's really been amazing this year, just generally. Such a rock for me to lean on (often literally) with everything I've gone through. He rolls with the punches and has adapted with good doggie grace to the sometimes chaotic life I lead. We lead. When I was housesitting a few weeks ago, he had to sleep downstairs, because he's too big to go up the tiny spiral staircase in my friend's loft. Didn't love it, but he didn't whine one bit. Last week I dog sat for a friend for a few days, and he had to watch while an interloper stole his toys, his bed, his preferred cuddling spot (she insisted on wiggling under the covers with me at night), and some of his attention. Didn't love it, but behaved nonetheless.

And here he is yesterday, sniffing up a girl on the sidewalk:

Hard to say which of us enjoyed that encounter the most. 


Time doesn't march. Marching is regular, paced, predictable. Time isn't that accommodating of our need to apprehend it. It's erratic: indifferent and cruel at times, forgiving and patient at others. But either way, there's no stopping it, no matter if the walls we throw up are made of laughter or tears. It blasts through them all.

Days and months and years slip through our fingers, and the best we can do is desperately cup our hands and hope that the bigger, more beautiful pieces won't fall through, too. That we'll walk away with a shiny, solid memory we can drop into our pocket, pull out on a rainy day, and put on the mantel like a trophy. This. I had this.

People come crashing into our lives like lightning, or they float in like fog. They take up residence in our heads and hearts. They take our time and our energy. They take some of our life away from us. They help us die, a little bit. They stay for minutes or decades, but eventually, they all go.

They all go.

Sometimes they vanish so quickly they take the oxygen with them, and we're left gasping for breath, and reasons why. Sometimes they melt away imperceptibly, like a glacier drifting and cracking as summer sneaks in.

And it hurts. If we're lucky, it hurts.

If we're lucky, we get to say goodbye first. We get a hug. A kiss on the cheek. We get a laugh and a wave when we're caught taking a picture of a moving truck.

If we're lucky, time was generous and moved slowly, and allowed us to steal from the calendar days and weeks so faceted with amazing moments and incredible dimension that they've become like diamonds in our palms. And even as our bodies crumble and our minds cloud, the truth of those diamonds will never change. We need only to hold them up to the light, to see them sparkle and glow again.

I've been a thief. I've stolen so much.

And I'm richer by far, for my crimes.


Ok well today is apparently screenshot comedy day, because this:

Story: some friends and I were going to take our friend Chuck to see Book of Mormon at Pantages, as his birthday gift. We dragged our feet looking into tickets, though, because we'd heard they were expensive and hard to get in multiples - plus we weren't sure about when we'd all be able to get together and go.

Well, I finally went and looked, and derp, of course it's no longer playing. Gift FAIL. :( But on my way
to discovering that, I came across this, on a ticket resale site. LOLzy.


Catching up on emails, organizing folders, and emptying the ol' virtual trash bin. Yay, progress. Also, this made me lol more than lolsob, so that's good. 

(Small) sigh.

thanks, given

M. flew in late Wednesday night, and at the crack of dawn on Thursday we hopped in a rental car to head to his family's annual Thanksgiving reunion in Fresno, where I would be a complete stranger.

The drive was uneventful save for how stupidly excited I was to be out of the city, shouting and pointing whenever I saw distinctly non urban things. "HOLY SHIT! COWS!" ...  "Oh, look at the colors of the treeeeees!" ...  "Hang on. I have to get a shot of these power lines. There's just open sky behind them!" He'd barely pulled in to the rest stop when I jumped out of the car and made a beeline for the OMG red leaves on the ground.

Dey came from dis, which I spent a good five minutes climbing around/underneath for the Instygramz:

There was also fog, which M. was less than thrilled about, but which I just thought was fun, in a creepy movie sort of way.

Incidentally, this was the first time M. had ever been to a rest stop. Ever. I don't know, I think he could have shown a little more enthusiasm for the experience.

I personally think rest stops are fascinating. They're these desolate, metaphoric and literal way stations that exist in between everything. In between destinations. In between stories. I'd love to spend a day at one just talking to random people on their way elsewhere, find out who they are and where they're going. And why. 

On the way, we did a quick drive-through of Visalia, so I could see some of his roots. He ragged on the town, but I found it sweet.

I mean, come on. You've gotta have a little room in your heart for anyplace that has a Candy Cane Lane. It doesn't get more earnest than that. M. pointed out the hospital where he was hatched. "Only baby born that night," he said. "There, I mean."

Eventually, we got to his aunt's house in Fresno. She greeted us outside, on the quiet, tree-lined street where she lives, and ushered us into a modest but lovely home, frozen in time in the way that only an eighty year-old's is. Knick-knacks, carefully maintained but out-of-date furniture, and decades' worth of framed bragging rights lining a prominently featured bookshelf. 

We entered the house through the garage, and I barely had time to get my bearings in the crowded kitchen before an elderly man came charging at me with open arms. "I'm Uncle Bill," he said. "And I give hugs to pretty girls." And so it was that I met my new favorite octogenarian, a man who'd spend the day going out of his way to make me feel as welcome as possible in unfamiliar, emotional pang-inducing surroundings.

He was warm, spirited, and utterly engaging. He started chatting me up immediately, and pulled me back into conversation whenever he saw me getting overwhelmed by - or left out of - the bustling family scene. I was the only non-family member there. He asked me about my background, my interests, my political leanings - I think M. snapped this shot when we were bonding over a shared love of Christopher Hitchens:

In Bill's previous, pre-retirement life, he worked in retail. When I asked him what he'd done for a living and he said, "I spent most of my life in women's clothing," I decided I was going to adopt him as my uncle, too. He invited insisted M. and I come to Georgia to visit him, and I pretty much decided on the spot that I'd be going alone if I had to. 

There's been a lot of loss in M.'s family - not just his father, but a few other family members, as well. There's almost a complete generational gap between grandchildren and surviving grandparents. In a fucked up way, this made me feel even more at home there. Little Orphan Ellie wasn't the only orphan.

The other person I bonded with was M.'s aunt BG who was AMAZING. I'm not even sure how to explain this woman. Eighty-something firecracker who got absolutely plastered and spent the evening variously assaulting me with vaguely TMI family history, harassing the one teenager in attendance, and complaining about the food. All of this with language that would make a sailor blush. She was a riot in the best, most lovable way. Straight out of central casting, she is the perfect, slightly loopy great-aunt who adds hilarity and a touch of scandal to Thanksgiving dinner. 

I was a total interloper, but everyone was very kind to me. And I enjoyed seeing a family do the family thing: laugh, love, talk, connect, argue, snipe, and then laugh and love some more. A couple of times I overheard myself being talked about ("...both her parents...so sad...very sweet girl...") which kind of made me feel like I was floating above, looking down at the scene in a detached way. Me? They're talking about me? Why, what's the...oh. Oh yeah. But the moments of feeling maudlin and self-indulgent were few and far between, because I really was mostly busy enjoying talking to everyone.

Dinner was your typical Thanksgiving affair: jovial, boisterous, with occasional awkward silences when sensitive subjects came up. And the food? Well, nothing can touch my mother's Thanksgiving meal.


But I'll tell you what. Each bite was delicious if only for the fact that I was so, so, so grateful to be in the company of loving, welcoming people - and my best friend - eating turkey and stuffing and cranberries, rather than holed up in my apartment alone, munching on frozen pizza.

Everyone hugged me goodbye, and I purposely saved Uncle Bill for last. Saying goodbye to him was surprisingly sad-inducing, in much the same way that it was hard to say goodbye to Ezra, last December. I don't know what it is about me and old men. But damn do we connect.

I didn't get emotional the whole day, which I was rather proud of. But once we got out the front door, the tears hit. It wasn't as bad as my father's birthday, which had me positively wracked, sobbing for hours in the tub. Thanksgiving was always the holiday I spent with my mom, and that loss isn't quite as fresh. But just being around a family - god, the envy. Palpable envy that makes my stomach flip even now, if I let myself dwell on it. 

But I won't. Because I'm a damn lucky girl, all things considered.

passing the microphone

On Wednesday night, I had a first date. I know! Another one. The excitement! Can you handle it? Boy howdy, am I just swimmin' in menfolk here (for the record, that's 2 menfolk since July). I can't go into too much detail though, because get this: this is a date a reader set me up on. Which, first of all, I don't particularly like using the word "reader" because it positions me as The Blogger, and puts a feeling of distance between totally average me and someone who weirdly finds me interesting enough to follow. Novelists have readers. Columnists have readers. I have - well, I don't know what I have. Listeners. Observers, maybe.

This listener/observer reached out to me and basically said, Hey, I have a single guy friend who I think you'd like and vice versa. He smells good and dresses well and doesn't believe in God. Are you down? And I was all, Uhhh, I'm totally flattered you thought of me, but probably not, because I'm sort of still stinging from the last round of dates where I felt like I got kind of, I don't know, passively rejected, and maybe I should do some work on myself before getting back out there? And she was all, Gurl, come on. Also: I just read him your reply and he thinks you're being silly. Oh yeah, and I showed him your pictures. And I was like, YOU READ HIM THAT?? Well now I have to go out with him or I look like a big weenie.

So I did go out with him (after exchanging a few emails wherein I established that he's bright and funny, and has superlative taste in music).

And it was great, as far as first dates go. Because first dates, no matter how enjoyable they are, still have that underpinning of nervousness and hyper-awareness, which is distracting. Or maybe it's just me? I find myself sitting there, engaged in one of those touch-on-all-the-major-points conversations, in which I'm consciously endeavoring to remember key details and be a reflective listener, but the whole time I'm conducting an unavoidable inner monologue that includes a rather lurid evaluation of my dinner partner. Could I kiss this person? I could kiss this person. He surfs? I wonder what he looks like in a wetsuit. Actually, I wonder what he looks like out of a wetsuit. 

My name is Ellie, and I sometimes objectify men in the privacy of my own head.

(That last little bit makes it sound as if I'm the most awful, checked-out conversationalist ever, but I'm really not - I don't think. I just have a terrible time remembering details like names and places and dates, and I feel like such a schmo when two dates down the road I have to say, Wait, where were you born? or What are your siblings names again?)

We had sushi and sake in Little Tokyo, and he unnerved me - in a good way - by consistently passing the microphone back to me throughout the meal. He had me talking about myself nonstop, which is pretty much the opposite of how dates typically go for me. I'm usually the one asking questions, probing, drawing out. But this guy was a master at what I thought was my game. And while the hot seat normally isn't my comfort zone, since there are so many bombshell skeletons in my closet, he didn't seem put off by anything I said. In fact, he opened his own closet door a crack, and let me peer in. Which: awesome. Not the skeletons, I mean, but the vulnerability and honesty. That I dig.

So yes, it was a good first date.

And there's a second one on the calendar.


tree schmee

UPDATE. Ornaments are hung. As are stockings. Check it.

And that is how you decorate for the holidays when you a) have 600 square feet and b) hate clutter and tchotchkes, anyway. 

Ho ho home girl OUT.


My heart is so full right now. A few things shifted into place in my head, and I'm feeling just stupidly happy in this moment.

I'm in a cozy, clean (well, mostly clean) apartment, looking across my desk at a sleeping dog, worn out from a long walk and a rousing round of fetch. I'm listening to music and hanging Christmas ornaments in my kitchen, since there's no room for a tree:

But I don't mind that. I'm just grateful to have a cute little home of my own where I can hang ornaments.

Tomorrow night my friend M. comes into town, and on Thursday we're driving up to Visalia to spend the holiday with his family. M.'s dad died a month before mine, and we've been friends since 1998. He was my best man at my wedding (well, unofficially - we didn't have a wedding party), and I've considered him my best friend for years. He's seen me through more heartache than I'd care to remember, and there's no one in this world who knows me better, and to whom I can more relate. I'm so, so, thankful for his friendship, and for the invitation he extended to join him this year. I'm extremely thankful for the fact that several of my other friends reached out, too, to make sure I wouldn't be alone on Thanksgiving. I'm stupidly blessed in my friendships.

I'm thankful for my beautiful, sweet dog, who makes me laugh every day, and whose awesomeness I often get to experience twice - once myself, and then again vicariously, through the joy he brings others. We've started taking nightly walks up to the fountains beside the John Ferraro building. I throw a ball for him, brush him, and then he just hangs out, enjoying the view while I mess around on Instagram, or catch up on email.

I'm thankful for the people who've helped me get through this year. I'm thankful for everyone who's been rooting for me, watching my successes and failures, and supporting me through both.

I'm thankful for the friends I have, near and far. I'm thankful for those I can walk to, right now, and hug, and those who'd have to wait for me to get off a train, a plane, or a bus. I'm thankful for those of you who read my blog, who give a shit, and who still like me in spite of the fact that I'm the most ridiculous, frivolous, self-absorbed, judgmental asshole on the planet. I'm thankful to those of you who've reached out to say hello, or to tell me you liked something I wrote, or to cheer me on, or to just be an Instagram buddy.

I'm thankful for every single person who's said something kind to me, or been friendly to me in even the smallest way this year. This has been, without question, the hardest year of my life. There have been many moments where I didn't think I was going to make it. Where I didn't know if I could keep choosing to make it. But every single kindness that has come to me is like a little, glowing ball of heat and light that I can put deep inside of me and use to keep the fire going, even when it's unbearably cold.

I'm really, really glad to be here, and thankful for everyone who's glad I am, too.

I forget sometimes.

day of the dead (part two)

...continued from here.

I'm practically skipping, as I head towards the back end of the cornfield. But it's early. And it's still light out. And while in a couple of hours, I won't be the only one too excited to walk at a normal pace, for now, it's still pretty quiet in terms of activity.

...but not in terms of sound. Already, music is pouring forth from multiple stages and tents staggered about the grounds. If I hadn't mapped out a schedule ahead of time, if I didn't already know which DJs I wanted to hear and when, I'd let myself be pulled in the direction of whatever beats moved me most.

Tonight, however, except for a small block of time in the middle of the evening about which I'm undecided, I know whose sets I want to watch. First up: Clockwork. There's already a decently-sized crowd in front of the stage, but not so many people that I can't get close. I find a spot slightly off to the right, where the crush breaks up. I really only care about two things, when it comes to where I stand: I want to be central enough that I'm totally absorbed in the sound, and I want enough room to dance. For me, ideally, that's a good four feet of empty space around me. I...get into it.

By now I've figured out my own, personal festival sweet spot: just where the crowd starts to thin out, often at the edge of the standers, just before the sitters. These are the people who aren't obsessed with getting close to the stage, and who'd rather hang back, still enjoy the fantastic acoustics, dance, drink, and socialize, without thousands of strangers slamming into them for an hour at a stretch.

Clockwork is good, if a bit rough for my tastes. I realize I'm probably going to need a drink or two, in order to get into them. So while the field is still filling up, I jet over to the designated, cordoned-off drinking area and have a quick screwdriver. A double, actually. Time is of the essence. When I get back a few minutes later, the crowd is fully warmed up, bathed in light and sound. This particular style of music is not really my wheelhouse, but I still enjoy it. As I'm dancing, a kid in a full-body squirrel costume comes bounding by. He's completely dialed in, jumping and bouncing and twisting and thrashing. I find myself grinning; the sight of him is just delightful. The whole scene is, in fact. I'm suddenly awash in the happiness I knew would hit me: and I've got eight hours more ahead of me, of enjoying some of the top DJs in the country, spinning cutting-edge music they've meticulously designed to help transport me to a state of elation. And I'm well on my way to that elation already. What more could I want?

I stop moving and just take a deep breath. I close my eyes. The knots I carry deep in my shoulders come a little bit loose. I'm miles away from the things that keep me up at night. They didn't make it past security. I couldn't have smuggled them in if I'd wanted to. They would have slipped through my fingers the minute I lifted my hands to the light.  My head is clear save for a neon-lit sign spelling J-O-Y that grows brighter each minute. This is the feeling I chase. This is the in-between that I crave. And I haven't even done anything illegal yet.

11.19.38 - 4.30.12

1. He loved crossword puzzles.
2. He was born and raised in Queens, NY.
3. He loved roadsters and convertibles.
4. When I was 17, things were really bad for me at home. My brother was out of control, my mother was drinking incessantly, and my grades were starting to suffer. So for my last year of high school, he moved from San Diego back to Scottsdale so that I could live with him, successfully graduate, and generally enjoy my senior year without domestic chaos.
5. He pretended not to love animals - it was his schtick to play the curmudgeonly old man - but he really did. Especially cats.
6. Despite having raised two of them, he was clueless around babies. His idea of playing with them was to shake his keys at them.
7. When we were in Buenos Aires in 2010, he confessed to me his disappointment that I wasn't going to have kids. But he also told me he understood and didn't blame me.
8. He really, really, really listened when I spoke to him. He looked me straight in the eye and heard me.
9. He loved pistachios.
10. And coffee ice cream.
11. He was a very aggressive driver, but a very good one.
12. He'd never kill insects if he could help it.
13. When he lived in Alaska, he used to hunt caribou.
14. He was a very skilled and highly trained scuba diver. When my parents were younger, they traveled the world, and he scuba dived in nearly every ocean. Later, he'd go diving in Lake Michigan, and bring trinkets and things home to me that he'd found in the water.
15. He enlisted in the Navy when he was 16.
16. He was an impossible flirt, often to my mortification.
17. We watched The Gods Must Be Crazy at least half a dozen times, and he would laugh like it was the first time, each time.
18. He had an infectious laugh, deep but raspy. He'd often laugh himself to tears, especially around his clever, wise-cracking brothers.
19. He forgave my brother, again and again and again.
20. He bought me all the books I ever wanted, whenever I wanted them. When I was in high school, he'd let me pile up stacks of them at the bookstore. Later, I had only to mention a title I was interested in, and there'd be a package from Amazon at my door.
21. When I was a little girl, he used to let me sit in his lap and draw small emblems on his sweatshirts, with a black Sharpie. I'd ask him what kind of animal he wanted (hoping he'd say rabbit or unicorn), and he'd say cockroach or spider or fly. I'd laugh and say, "Nooo, something pretty!" and he'd insist, "A cockroach! That's what I want!" So I would carefully smooth out the fabric on his breast, then do my six year-old best to approximate a pair of beetle antennae, or eight tiny spider legs, right above his heart. I told A. about this one day towards the end, when there wasn't much left to do but wait. I said I could still remember what some of the insects I'd drawn so many years ago looked like. When I finished telling the story, he got up, walked into my dad's office, and returned with a pad of paper and a Sharpie. He set them down in front of me and said, "Show me." And I did.
22. He loved to go tubing on the Salt River. Every year until I left for college, he'd take me and one of my girlfriends, or my boyfriend if I had one.
23. He never wore sunscreen, and was very proud of how deeply he could tan.
24. He tried to teach me how to drive a stick shift, but I was impatient and frustrated, and we both gave up.
25. He lied about his age on dating websites.
26. He loved his extended family very much, and kept up with cousins, second cousins, and even further-removed members far into adulthood.
27. He grew up afraid of his father.
28. He loved cheese and yogurt, but he hated milk.
29. He loved Chinese food, but he hated Mexican.
30. When he disapproved of something, he'd frown exaggeratedly and make a deep grumbling noise in his throat.
31. He'd sing when he got drunk.
32. He loved boxed wine. He drank gallons and gallons of the stuff, as if it were water.
33. He was a pack rat, but a very neat one. When he died, I had to face down an attic stuffed to the rafters with every document he'd ever touched - but it was all perfectly organized.
34. He regularly wrote letters to his congressmen and the president.
35. He often wrote letters of complaint and commendation to companies he'd done business with.
36. He was incredibly vain about his hair, which was thick and soft, and which he let grow long enough to wear in a ponytail. When he was dying, one of the hospice nurses would comb it out for him gently before binding it back up again. He'd already lost the ability to speak, but we could tell he enjoyed that.
37. He was the most stubborn and proud man I knew.
38. He taught me to question everything and everyone, including myself.
39. When I was a little girl, we used to sing this song together.
40. This one, too.
41. He loved Johnny Cash and Patsy Cline. And Crystal Gayle.
42. He was mechanically-minded and could fix almost anything.
43. He could explain how almost anything works.
44. He was vicariously vain about my looks; he often told me how proud he was, that I was pretty and fit.
45. He always called me Deborah or Deb, but never Debbie (Elizabeth is my middle name; I only started using it when I moved to LA).
46. He never once touched me in anger, or physically punished me.
47. When he was really angry at me, he'd say I was just like my mother.
48. He taught me how to ski.
49. He had the best vocabulary of anyone I'd ever met, including all of my college professors.
50. He loved the ocean.
51. When I was younger, I'd lay next to him, following along while he read Stephen King novels that I was too scared to read on my own. He'd say "ok?" whenever he got to the bottom of a page. When I caught up, I'd say "ok," and he'd turn the page for both of us.
52. In the later years, after the divorce, when my mother was at her worst, at her weakest and sickest and most unhappy, he'd help her out. He'd send her money when he could, and talk to her for hours on the phone about my brother.
53. When I was a teenager, he teased me about being flat-chested. He said once, "Not exactly a sweater girl, are we?"
54. When he found out he had cancer, he told me how proud he was of me, of the person and woman I'd become.
55. He loved to make me spaghetti. Overcooked, with sauce out of a jar and a massive amount of Kraft parmesan on top.
56. He loved to make me bagels from the freezer. Lender's garlic bagels. He'd split one, still frozen, on a plate, and carve huge chunks of Land o' Lakes whipped butter on top, then microwave it until the bagel was soft and the butter melted. To this day, I don't think I've ever had anything so delicious.
57. He loved maps. His walls were covered with them.
58. He had a master's degree in engineering.
59. When he was in his 40s, he went back to school to study pre-law. He then went on to attend law school, though he didn't finish.
60. He lived in New York, Michigan, Alaska, Arizona, California, and Florida.
61. He didn't sing along to the radio, but he'd make a curious whistling/hissing noise that drove me crazy.
62. He loved Trident gum.
63. He was a true libertarian. Not the bullshit, hateful Tea Party variety that the Republicans have appropriated and whose beliefs they've tried to skew. True, hands-off, do-what-you-want libertarianism. He believed in women's rights, reproductive freedom, and marriage equality.
64. When he was dying, he was very restless, even though he had no energy with which to move. He was always trying to sit up and hang his legs over the hospital bed; but after days of not eating, he didn't have the strength to do it. Pillows didn't provide enough support for the position he wanted to be in. So during those last days, I used to climb into the bed behind him, and use my own body to prop him up. The nurses would help me sit him up, turn him sideways, and slowly scoot him to the edge of the bed. Then I'd wedge two or three pillows between my own back and the railing, and use my chest and shoulders to support his weight. He would lean back against me, relaxing, finally calm. All he wanted was to feel his feet on the floor, just for a little bit. He couldn't speak, but he seemed happy to be exercising some control over the situation. I'd talk in a low voice, close to his ear, and tell him how much I loved him. He couldn't see the tears streaming down my face, and he didn't know how helpless I felt. He didn't know just how much strength it took for me to do that. But he seemed as content and at peace as he could be, in those moments, resting against me. Later, A. would tell me that it was the most selfless thing he'd ever seen, the way I used my body to help and hold my father. I didn't get to hug my dad goodbye, not in the traditional way. But I got to do that.
65. He regretted falling out of touch with his brothers.
66. He took every pain to make sure it would be as easy as possible for me to handle his death, logistically and financially.
67. His favorite boyfriend of mine was my high school sweetheart, JJ. For decades after, he'd ask about him, always seeming surprised when I told him, "Dad, I haven't talked to that kid in years. I have no idea how he is."
68. He grew up going to Coney Island.
69. He had a tattoo of a pair of lips on his butt cheek. He got it in the Navy as a rite of passage when he crossed the equator.
70. He loved Elizabeth Taylor and Natalie Wood.
71. He loved, loved, loved chocolate.
72. He had a beautiful smile.
73. When he died of small cell lung cancer, he hadn't had a cigarette in his mouth for forty years.
74. He would have been seventy-four today.


Totally silly and not-big-dealish, but I got a kick out of having three of my pics re-grammed on IG over the past couple of weeks:

Songs I'm digging lately:

1. Family of The Year - Hero
2. The Morning Benders - Excuses
3. Dillon Francis - Beautician 2.0
4. Dillon Francis - I.D.G.A.F.O.S.
5. Youth Lagoon - Daydream
6. Youth Lagoon - Posters
7. Architecture in Helsinki - Escapee
9. Pnau - Unite Us
10. Geographer - Life of Crime


Today I found myself in the much-loathed position of having to tell someone about myself. Through email, no less. At least in person I can deflect and change the subject quickly.

I have always sucked at self-marketing. When someone invites me to sell myself to them, in whatever way that manifests, my usual response is to frown, point towards another, prettier package, and say Just buy that one. My warranty's expired and you'd go blind reading the fine print, anyway.

(Which may explain why I have neither a job nor a boyfriend.)

Anyway, re-reading what I wrote, I realized I actually did a pretty decent job of it for once. It's stupidly, almost comically honest, anyway. I should probably add it to my About section. Maybe even print it up in flyers, to give to guys that hit on me. I could put little yellow warning triangles in the corners.


I'm originally from Michigan, but mostly grew up in Arizona. I was a tomboyish bookworm, which let me hedge my social bets until I got to high school, where my too-long wavering meant I hadn't cultivated any one skill enough to stand out in any one circle. So I kind of just hung back and provided dimension to the successes of my more popular friends for four years. I still do that. I'm a good cheerleader.

I went to a small liberal arts college in Indiana before transferring and graduating from the University of Arizona, with a degree in English composition. I put myself through school waiting tables, cocktailing, and then working as an exotic dancer. Feel free to re-read that last bit, because I'm not being silly. I danced through college and for quite a while afterward, blowing the money mostly on exotic vacations, an expensive apartment, and luxury cars. Still not being silly.

I met my ex-husband in 2007, we married a year later, and lived in Tucson for a year before coming to LA. I created a small online business designing blogs, teaching myself enough HTML and graphic design to make decent money, but nothing I could live off of. We separated in 2010 and subsequently divorced, most probably because [redacted for the privacy of my ex] (you guessed it - still not being silly).

I've spent the past two years battling depression with varying degrees of success, living off the inheritances I received from my parents' deaths (my mom in 2009 and my dad in April), going to music festivals, hanging out with my friends, and generally fucking around aimlessly.


After I emailed this little bio, I had some misgivings. I wasn't sure whether I'd accurately presented who I am or I'd just fired off of a round of cynical-sounding, self-effacing bullets. So I forwarded a copy to my best friend of 13 years. His reply? "Um, bing-fucking-o."

LOL. I guess we both know me pretty well. 


Took myself to see Generationals tonight er, last night, at The Echo. Took the bus. Had time and an appetite, so I got breakfast at Brite Spot beforehand. I've had quite a few meals at restaurants alone lately, which sounds a lot more pathetic than it feels, I promise. There's a post called Cultivating Solitude that's fermenting in my head right now, about finding ways to really enjoy your own company - and why you should. Dining alone is an excellent one - but only every once in a while (obviously), and you've got to pick the right places.


Great show. Fantastic show. They played most of their latest album, a few older tracks, and some from a new EP. They definitely sound grungier, more distorted live - but it works. I think a fair metric for how good a show is could be whether it makes you want to listen to them more. And this absolutely did. There were two openers, Francisco The Man (pretty good) and Races (awesome).

It was the first time I'd been to The Echo, though I've been to The Echoplex downstairs a few times (Dragstrip 66 wut wuuut). Not a fan. It's very small, which, ok. But when a tiny venue gets oversold, it's pretty miserable for everyone. Not that it technically, legally was oversold - I'm sure they adhere to fire code, etc. I just think after a certain point (that point being when I can't move an inch without getting to third base with someone's elbow), club managers and promoters need to worry less about their bottom line and more about the experience of concert-goers.

Because while they probably made a killing selling tonight's show out, I guarantee I won't be the only one never returning to that venue, unless it's a band I HAVE to see. I was that uncomfortable, with how packed it was. And I'm a festival goer, fer Pete's sake. I know crowded. So they lose in the long run.

Other Notes For the Management of The Echo, in case they stumble upon this post:

1. Please shut off the TVs in the bar area during performances. That extra light is really distracting.

2. Please wait until the show is over to restock the bar. Your staff was wheeling empty kegs through the audience - albeit towards the back - and shining flashlights on us, during one of the most anticipated songs of the night.

3. Please consider asking opening bands to wait until the main performance is over to start carrying their instruments out the front door. Again, all this activity was carried on in and through the crowd, and really killed the mood.

4. $8 for a pint of cider? RealIy?? You do know you're in Echo Park, right? Not WeHo?

I only took a couple of photos, and I have to say I was impressed with the restraint the rest of the crowd showed with phones/cameras, as well. I have a (newish, admittedly) policy of only taking a couple of quick pics during the first minute of the first song, and then stowing my phone. I also let whoever's behind me know ahead of time that I'll be doing that - it's a well-received courtesy. I met some nice peeps doing this tonight, so I had someone with which to chat between sets. Win, win.

I was much closer for the first 3/4 of the show, but I a) couldn't deal with the pushers and b) wanted to dance a little bit, so I moved back after a while. It was impossible to find any room, though, and there were a lot of loud talkers on the fringes. So that was a bummer.

Still, for a $12 ticket, I can't really complain too badly. Generationals!

And to end, Ellie's Top Five Fave Generationals Tracks:

1. I Promise
2. Ten-Twenty-Ten
3. Say For Certain
4. Yours Forever
5. Tell Me Now

weekend o' losses

Thursday last was Art Walk, which I attended in the company of a man who was neither gay nor my ex-boyfriend. In other words, your blogmistress had herself a bona fide date. Hot damn. It was, in fact, date three of four total that I had with this person, and it was pretty awesome overall. And wow was it lovely and fun to kiss someone new. It's been a long time, kids.

Friday night I mostly putzed around both my own home and my girlfriend's, where I was housesitting.

Saturday I went to Pitfire for pizza (for, amazingly, the first time - loved it!) with K. and R., and then jumped on a late train to attend a housewarming/birthday party at the American Cement Building. And yikes was that a small disaster.

The party was for the really sweet and funny friend of Ben's I hung out with at the Skingraft show, and I was surprised and delighted by the invitation, considering I hardly know him. And since I'd just gotten a massive-sad inducing email from Ben telling me that he's going to be living in Bali full time now, with only a few visits a year back to LA, I think subconsciously I thought that hanging out with another of his friends would be some sort of consolation over what I have selfishly and in true Ellie form decided is another Huge Personal Loss.

But when I got to his place, he - the friend - was already totally out of it, and I knew exactly zero other people there. I gamely tried to mingle, but could not get any traction. No love for the Ellster, despite her best efforts to participate in conversations about shit she has no clue (attendees were mostly clothing designers, plus a sprinkling of actors). Super awkward.

Basically, I alternated between sneaking out to the patio to text, harassing the dog (who also rejected me, since I wouldn't give her any birthday cake), and pretending the celery stick arrangement on the refreshment table was the single most fascinating piece of art I'd ever seen. I did this until enough time had passed that I could make an escape without looking like a full-scale social spaz.

You win some, you lose some.

When I did leave, I got all stupid and maudlin and ordered up a serving of my persecution complex, declaring the universe to be Totally Against Me, at least in terms of how it keeps stealing my fucking friends and sending them across state and international borders. I felt all kinds of sorry for myself, and my brief but intense spate of self-indulgence was dramatically underscored by the fact that I was walking by a lake in the freezing night, clutching a long wool coat around me, and listening to Lua.

So cinematic, I am.

Sunday was date four of four. But towards the end of this date and definitely afterward, I got less of a wow, Ellie's a catch and I'm so glad this is happening! and more of a meh vibe from him, which rather deflated my self-esteem. Particularly because I may be oversensitive, but there seemed to be some things about me that didn't jibe well with him. So when he extended what felt like a half-hearted invitation for a fifth date, I said I'd pass. He didn't seem surprised or disappointed, and didn't ask why, so I dunno. Maybe I was right. Or maybe he had other reasons for not being into it. Or maybe I completely misread the whole situation. No idea.

You win some, you lose some.

thistle and sassafras

"Tell me about your garden," he said, looking at her expectantly. "Tell me what you've grown."

She felt her cheeks flush hot with shame. "I don't have one," she admitted. She reached into her pocket and pulled out a handful of dark seeds. She unfolded her palm to show him. "I only have these." 

He frowned at her open hand. "Why haven't you planted them?" he asked her.

She didn't know what to say. She knew she didn't have a good answer. "I've tried to," she said, feeling smaller and smaller. "But the ground is hard, and I don't have shovel." She lifted her head and looked squarely at him. "I don't have a shovel," she repeated, feeling naked, stupid, and cold.

"Why don't you use your hands?" he asked her. She glanced down at them. They suddenly felt clumsy and useless. "I suppose I should," she mumbled. She realized he wasn't listening. He wasn't even looking at her anymore.

She felt her chest tighten in the way it did when she was asked to account for herself. Then she remembered that she did grow things, in a way - though not in a garden. Things that provided joy if not sustenance. Dandelions and wild strawberries, thistle and sassafras. They sprang up in her yard, more plentiful and bright each year. Sometimes she gathered them up and gave them as gifts. 

The things she grew didn't feed the people she loved. But they seemed to bring happiness nonetheless.

She cleared her throat, and said quietly: "I grow other things."  

"What's that?" he replied absently, still facing the other direction. 

"Other things," she said again, louder. "I grow other things. I can show you, if you'd like..." 

But his attention was elsewhere; he was gazing at something far off in the distance. She peered at the horizon, trying to discern what it was he saw. But she could make out nothing.

And she didn't know if he could see things she couldn't - or if it was the other way around.

cowboy boots

Every once in a while, the subway car will start to move, but I won't feel a thing. There's a disorienting and slightly nauseating few seconds where it feels like the entire world is moving around us, while the train stays still. While I stay still. Then I realize it's just an optical illusion - the train on the opposite platform has started to leave the station, giving me the brief, false impression of personal momentum.

This is what depression sometimes feels like: an inability to distinguish my own inertia from the progress of the world around me. I can't tell if everything is moving past and beyond me just because I'm still for the moment, or if I actually am moving forward, and just can't tell yet.


Recalibration is such an emotive, empowering concept to me right now. To shift the standard, to reset the bar according to my own scale. Zero goes there. Ten goes there. Negative ten goes there. I can take control of my experience of some input, therefore getting a clear idea of what output I can expect. 


The other day I bought a plain white, crew neck t-shirt. Unbelievably, it was the first time in over fifteen years that I've done that. I've had a couple of otherwise white graphic tees, an off-white, v-neck tee, a sheer, white long sleeve v-neck layering tee, even a few plain white men's v-necks for working out. But this was the first completely plain white, short-sleeve women's crew neck tee I've purchased in nearly two decades. WTF.

I'm obsessed with it. I want to wear it every day. I love how bright and clean it looks against the grime of downtown - against the all-dark uniform of so many of its inhabitants. It's so quiet that it practically screams. It's ironic without being so, because how the hell can a white t-shirt have anything ironic to say? And because I'm relaxed and happy in it, I know it probably looks better on me than shirts I paid three times as much for. 

I love wearing something so absurdly simple, in a city that's anything but. It's like turning in a blank sheet of paper, five minutes into the essay exam. Everyone in the class glances up, nervous and embarrassed for me. She knows she has to write something, doesn't she? She's going to fail if she doesn't at least try...

Anyway, I realized how apt a metaphor this is for the way I live my life. I refuse to let anything be simple and easy. I refuse to do what's best for me. I embellish, needlessly. I complicate. I choose poorly. I choose too much. 

I need more plain white tees in my closet life. 


Being rejected is like jumping into a cold swimming pool. At first it's unbearable, and all you want to do is get out, to escape the sting. But if you just keep moving and breathing, after few minutes it becomes tolerable. Pretty soon you don't notice the cold as much. And after a while, if you continue to swim, you forget how miserable you were just a little while prior. 


I dreamt the other night that I was standing on a street corner with two middle-aged men, both cowboys. They wore dusty jeans, stetsons, and shiny new boots. Their faces were well-lined and tanned, but handsome. I felt very young and fresh next to them. 

One of the men wanted me to dirty up his boots for him. He was afraid he wouldn't be taken seriously as a cowboy unless his boots showed signs of wear. 

For some reason, this invitation felt like the most erotically charged proposition I'd ever received. But I welcomed it.

I decided that the only way to properly break in this man's boots was to stand on them, and grind the soles of my own street-filthy sneakers against them. I stepped carefully onto the tops of the man's feet, gripping his shoulders for balance. He put his hands around my waist and held me while I twisted my dirty shoes onto his clean ones, pivoting back and forth, left and right. I felt tremendous joy, not just because it was such a silly, childishly fun thing to do, but because it was working so well. I could see the smears of dirt dulling his boots. All this time, the other man just watched us in silence.

I looked up at the man holding me, and I laughed, delighted by our bizarre dance. The expression on his face was one of utter charm and beguilement, and it made me feel alluring and beautiful. I looked at the other man; he was smiling at me, too. The way they looked at me made me feel like I was some exotic creature from another time and place. An angel - no, a nymph. Something magical they'd lucked upon, that was going to give them exactly what they wanted.

It was then that I woke up, feeling intensely aroused. And thirsty. 

Weirdest dream I've had in recent memory. 


I'm house and dog sitting for a girlfriend right now, just a few blocks from home. Her dog is a very frou-frou Maltese with a pink rhinestone collar who gets monthly trips to the groomer's...to be dyed pink or purple (with non-irritating vegetable dye). She pretty much wants nothing to do with the slobbery beast that is my own canine companion.

Chaucer, however, adores her, as evidenced by his "Can we keep her, Mom, can we??" face:

Within five minutes of being there, Chaucer had located one of her toys, and bounded over with it to show off. I couldn't tell what it was at first; it just looked like a hunk of black fabric in his mouth. "Drop," I told him.  And this is what fell to the floor:

I promptly informed my dog that his man card had been revoked, and then texted that pic to his dogfather C. in San Francisco. His response: "This is what happens when we castrate our pets."


I've been trying to get my friend M. to join Instagram, and even sent him a good portrait I have of him to use as a profile pic. He lives in another state, and though I hear all the stories of his adventures and daily life, I want visual aids.

Me: I just have selfish motives. I wanna see the cigar shop where you hang out, your friends, etc. I'm curious!

M: I'm running the cigar shop today. ...My first customers were emo kids sans IDs.

Me: Did they say, "Cuban the rules just this once, please?"

M: Pshhhh no, they flipped their bangs out of their faces and said "we don't usually need it." Uh huh.

Me: Funny, that's exactly what I say to my dealer. ...Just before I ask if there's a bulk discount.


Chaucer lately

Chaucer has been amazing lately. Smart and obedient and responsive and as always, heartbreakingly empathetic.

The other day he was underfoot while I was cooking, so I asked him where his piggy was. Differentiating between his toys is something we've been working on for months, but he's not quite there yet. This time, though, I watched him think for a second, then glance around. He knew something was wanted of him. And I could tell he knew I wanted him to get a toy. He just wasn't sure which one.

He took a few steps away, still glancing around. And as I watched, his eyes landed on his ball, then his bone, but he didn't move toward either. I said it again. "Where's your piggy, Chauc? Go get your piggy!" And bless him, he walked around to the opposite side of my bed, saw the pink stuffed toy, and lunged for it.

He knew. He totally understood, and had gotten the right toy. My heart sort of had a small-scale explosion of love for him in that moment. He brought it to me, wagging his tail so hard. He could hear the delight in my exclamations of praise, and he was so happy to have pleased me so much.

He's been especially sweet with children lately. He always is, really; he just doesn't get that many opportunities to show it. But about a week ago some kids were on the sidewalk above Casey's, and they were over the moon excited when they saw Chaucer walking up. The adults reminded them to ask me if they could pet him, to which of course I said yes. And oh god, it was just the sweetest thing, watching five tiny sets of hands stroking his back, oohing and ahhing over him. He sniffed their faces with his huge nose, and they just giggled and squealed with joy.

I love when Chaucer obviously makes an adult's day, but when well-mannered and appreciative kids get to play with him, forget it. I turn to goo.

Here he is on Sunday, rudely ignoring Serena while I have coffee with her dad:

And here he is at the library today, where I unclipped him and let him look for cats (don't worry, they are WAY faster than him, and hear him bumbling around the bushes from a mile off):