two quick things

Ok, yeah, in the cold light of next-day perspective, not so much feeling this. How fast and loose he was with the compliments, and how forward, doesn't sit well with me. If he'll so easily say those things to me, he probably says them a lot. And? No spark.

Also: too young.

---

My dad's house sold, and the realtor sent me a very nice card, albeit with some questionable punctuation:





So I'll expect my "check" any day now. "Thanks".

"Here, Ellie, have this nice moment." - Universe

So, this is a thing that just happened, right now, at 1:30 am on Friday.

I was walking Chaucer, listening and singing along to Old 97s (duh), when I noticed a boy standing on the street corner up ahead of us. Something about his build, the way his clothes fit, and the way he was looking pretty intently at Chaucer made my heart stop, because I thought for a second it was my ex-husband.

Another step closer revealed it wasn't. It was just a tall, goodlooking guy in a t-shirt, jeans, and Chucks, who was smiling at my dog. I sized him up quickly and put his age at 30, tops. Then I realized he was speaking to me, so I clicked down the volume on my phone, which was stuffed in the pocket of my hoodie. He was commenting on Chaucer's size and friendliness (by this time Chauc was wagging and pulling forward to sniff), so I let the leash out so they could meet properly.

He said something about my being safe from strangers with such a big guard dog, and I made a crack like, "Yes, except for random guys on the street corner." He laughed and looked directly at me, holding my gaze for longer than is normal between two strangers being friendly over a love of dogs. I could see his eyes were very blue. Or maybe blue-green? Some bright, watery color. He asked Chaucer's name, and when I said it, he cocked his head. "So you're a fan of English literature, then?" I told him he was about the seventh or eighth person to ever get the reference and he said something back about lamenting the state of humankind's intellect.

He held out his hand and introduced himself. He was very smiley. "I'm sorry, I'm a little drunk," he admitted. "But your dog is awesome and you're really cute. May I walk with you a little bit?"

The forwardness was disarming, but he looked harmless enough, and I couldn't help being flattered. For one thing, I was a hot mess in a sweatshirt, sweatpants (which, at least, were my cute knee length ones), and a sweaty ponytail, having pretty much just finished a run ten minutes before. For another, it's hard to resist the rom-com charm of potentially meeting someone cool while walking your dog.

I assumed he was visiting either from out of town or another part of LA, and heading back to his hotel or maybe trying to find a cab. He didn't really have a downtown look to him - a bit too clean cut. "Which way are you headed?" I said. "I guess we can walk you back to your...hotel?"

He said he lived here. "Here here?" I asked, making a gesture to indicate downtown. "Yeah," he nodded. "I live at _____". He named a building three blocks from where we stood.

By this time there was a lot of eye contact and smiling going on. I couldn't help laughing at how abrupt and random the situation was, and I asked him how much he'd had to drink. "Not much. Like eight drinks, max," he said. I had no idea if he was serious.

We crossed the street and started towards his building. I asked him where he'd been out tonight, and he rambled a little bit about his sketchy roommate having picked up a girl and him staying out alone to give them privacy. He was funny and very cheerful, and kept smiling at me in a way that kind of unnerved me. When he said he had a dog that Chaucer absolutely had to meet, I frowned.

"Yeah, ummm I'm really not sure that I'm comfortable coming up to your apartment..?" A semi-horrified look came over his face. "No, no, I'll bring him downstairs, and they can meet on the sidewalk, if you'll wait. Please wait?"

"Why not," I said.

He suddenly stopped dead in his tracks. "Wait," he said very seriously. "Do you have a boyfriend?" I told him that, in fact, I did not. "Good," he said. "Because you're funny and cool, and you have really cute bangs." He looked squarely at me. "Are you still listening to music?" he asked. Before I could reply, he reached forward, gently pulled my headphones out of my ears, and tucked the ear buds into the top of my hoodie. Nonplussed. Nonplussed would be the word I would use there, to describe myself in that moment. It was an intimate gesture, but somehow not intrusive, and it didn't bother me.

I had a hard time coming up with clever replies to any of this, incidentally. It was rather whirlwindy of an encounter.

We walked slowly to his place. He admitted to a) having had only two drinks, b) having been born, raised, and schooled in Southern California, and c) when it came up in the course of banter, having been born a "one percenter" (my words). "But," he added, "Now I'm at best a twenty percenter." Again - no idea if he was serious. He didn't tell me what he does for a living, and I didn't ask. When our ages came up and I told him mine, which it turns out is - OF COURSE - nine years older than him, he didn't flinch. He said something about "as long as we're within a decade," and genuinely didn't seem to care.

So, the next twenty minutes: small talk, jokes, low-key flirtation. I waited outside his building entrance while he brought his dog down to meet Chauc - a scruffy pound pup named Captain whose tag is an actual picture of Captain Picard, from Star Trek. They loved each other. He owns his condo, and sublets a room to Sketchy Roommate. He's going to blow off work tomorrow, he said, and go to Mexico for the weekend. (No, he did not invite me.) But he did ask very politely for my phone number which, yes, I gave to him. He immediately called me and the number lit up my phone with a Beverly Hills area code.

Bottom line: he was pretty clever, and I like how upbeat, relaxed, confident, and smiley he was. And he was very clearly into me, which felt really, really good. At one point he said something about not wanting "this" to end, to which I let him walk me another block before demurring further company. It was, after all, nearly two am.

We said goodbye on the corner halfway between our apartments, and he continued to talk and call things out while walking backward across the street - he was excited to meet me, my dog was amazing, I was smart and pretty, he hoped it would be ok if he called sooner than later... I couldn't hear everything he was yelling; he was getting kind of far away at that point, and there was a semi truck going by. I waved one last time and turned to walk home, marveling at the universe's ability to instantly take me out of a ho-hum, sort of lonely evening and drop me straight into a Carly Rae Jepson song.

My phone rang three minutes later, and it was him, wanting to make sure I'd gotten home safely. I assured him I was steps from my door, told him it lovely to meet him and Captain, and to have a great time in Mexico.

Who knows if anything will come of it - he was extremely forward and obviously tipsy, so I don't know how much I'd even want to come of it, because that's a bit dodgy - but mayhaps. He was definitely cute. If nothing else, it was an uplifting (and rather sorely needed) ego boost.

And now I must go to sleep because tonight I have a kick ass concert to go to. Huzzah.

twenty-twenty-twenty four hours to go

I've been eyeing the Old 97s shows (tonight, tomorrow, Saturday) on Songkick for weeks now, but didn't jump on getting tickets since I figured they'd be playing the new album, which I don't love.

But I looked at the venue website anyway, and oh holy god. I didn't realize they're doing a 15th anniversary commemorative concert for possibly (probably? maybe? OK YES LET'S GO WITH YES) my favorite album. The actual description of the show is '"Too Far to Care" played in its entirety plus an additional set of other fan favorites.' Dead. I have died.



HOW DID I NOT KNOW THIS?! I would have been nauseous for weeks if I'd missed this.

Soooooo, in 24 hours, I'll be hearing, live at the El Rey, performed by a man whose hip thrusts put Elvis to shame, Niteclub, Salome, Timebomb, Big Brown Eyes, Great Barrier Reef, and the song that plays cat's cradle with my heartstrings, Curtain Calls.

I'm going dateless, because a) I'm single, duh, and b) my girlfriends don't rock the cowpunk. So if anyone wants to join me, I'll be the girl pressed flat against the stage, smiling and singing so hard her cheeks and throat hurt, and presenting her cleavage to Mr. Stewart Ransom Miller as if t'were frankincense and he were baby Jesus himself.


I've got a 2/2 record for scoring concert memorabilia (I snagged the track list at a show in SF and Ken handed me - HANDED ME! - his pick after a show at The Music Box last year), so wish me luck!

3 ways I've learned to make my life easier

1. I let myself off the hook, when I'm not interested in something. This seems like an obvious concept, but in this life we are constantly bombarded with options for the New and the Better. If you let it, the world is really good at telling you where your interests should lie - and where your time and dollars should go - and shaming you if you deviate. Got a new place? MUST DECORATE. Got a DVR? MUST WATCH HOT NEW SHOW. Care about fitness/beauty? MUST TRY NEW FAD/PRODUCT.

My grocery list looks more or less the same every week. I try a new lipstick color or nail polish once or twice a year. And I don't belong to a gym, or go to any exercise classes. And I'm perfectly happy with my mealtime, cosmetic, and fitness routines. They work, I'm happy with how I look and feel, and they're simple enough to allow me more time for those things that do interest me.

I have a finite amount of time and energy, and I can only do so much with it. So I curate my life with care, filling it with those things that bring me closer to the most authentic and enjoyable version of myself, and avoiding those things that won't. I recognize my limitations, honestly evaluate where my interests lie, and then just let go of anything that doesn't fit.

Right now, I'm into music, festivals, travel, creative self-expression, self-improvement, and spending time with my friends. Those things soak up the lion's share of my mental juice. And I don't beat myself up over not having the time and interest to also "squeeze in" cooking, fashion, beauty, interior design, social media, and technology. Christ, I'm exhausted just thinking about all that stuff.

2. I created the Validation and Closure Sock Puppet. Switching tracks here in a big way, but stay on board. You'll like this quick visit to Crazytown.

When I was in my twenties, my relationship with my father was incredibly difficult. This was partly due to things he'd done, and what do you know, partly due to things I'd done, too. Funny how that works. I can't tell you how often and how hard I banged my head against the wall that was trying to get him to validate my feelings. I wanted him not necessarily to admit to some laundry list of wrongdoings, but to just say he understood where I was coming from. That he recognized and appreciated my viewpoint.

Yeah, that never happened.

It took me a looooong time to accept my parents' fallibility. They're our parents, after all. We grow up thinking they have all the answers. They don't, obvs. They're just as flawed and human. They have egos that bruise just as easily, pride that's just as bitter to swallow. And when I gave up on the mentally exhausting pursuit of trying to reach them through some impossibly narrow window of my own design, I was a lot happier.

Funnily enough, that's a lesson I've had to learn in all my relationships. Particularly when it comes to the closure of ones that are ending. It never ceases to amaze me that, when I tell a friend or lover precisely what I think is wrong with them, that they don't say, "Oh my god, Ellie. You're absolutely right. I was wrong about X, Y, and Z, and your viewpoint is so much more rational than my own. I can't believe I didn't see it that way before!" Stunning, I tell you, the infrequency with which I hear this.

And yet, I still go on fruitless pilgrimages to find that holy grail of external validation. Just as recently as yesterday, I was this close to buckling into my suit of armor and questing after it. Thankfully, I let the moment of anger and hurt work itself out without the added pain of me embarrassing myself. And as I sat there, enjoying the very relieving sensation of feeling my negative energy dissipate, I struck upon an amusing thought: It's just as likely that I'll hear the things I really want to hear from him, if I pin this person down under my interrogation lamp, as it is my own fucking hand will say them to me. And I actually pictured forming a mouth with my hand, looking at it, and asking it my questions. I pictured it responding humbly, chastised, holding its little hand-head down in shame while it said exactly what I wanted it to.

Then I pictured it with a sock on it. And googly eyes.

And that's when I realized how ridiculous it was, this need I had, for his validation. I have to validate myself. I will process my relationships and drawn my own conclusions - my partners will do that same. And if I have some burning need to hear a magical combination of words that will suddenly make it all OK? Then I'll take my goddamn sock off my foot, put it on my hand, and say them to myself.

3. I use social media on MY terms, not the terms it tries to dictate to me. I have a skeleton Facebook account, solely so that I can use Spotify. There's nothing on it besides my name. I can't tell you how much satisfaction I get out of having opted out of the Facebook game years ago. For professional networking, I completely understand it. For personal use, no. No way, no thanks, not for me. I'll take nostalgia and privacy over a "feed" (JUST THE TERM ITSELF, UGH) cluttered with the words and images of hundreds of strangers, all determined to impress me in one way or another.

Twitter is a pool I dip my toes in for my own entertainment. But it hasn't yet lured me into the deep end. I get its appeal as a connector, particularly among people with lots of online friendships. Me? I just like to hear myself crack wise.

And then there's Pinterest. Ah, Pinterest. So many conflicting thoughts I have about you! Love it for travel ideas. Love useful boards about organization and time management. Think it's awesome for foodies and cooks. Pretty much loathe its predominant message of CONSUME THESE MATERIAL GOODS, though. It just didn't ever hook me. Something about it feels so secondary. It's second-tier inspiration. Once removed from the actual source, whether the source is a delicious cake that I could smell and taste, or a book where I could read a brilliant quote in context, or a painting the brush strokes of which I could better appreciate up close. Pinterest, to me, is a sticky web to get stuck in, one where I could spend hours pining wistfully after things I may never have. It feels almost frantic, in scope. You can't have just one board, after all. You must diversify! You must have tangibles and intangibles and wish lists and to-do's and so on.

MUST COLLECT ALL THE THINGS, as Allie Brosh might say.

Again, I am exhausted at the thought.

There's something to be said for unplugging and enjoying what we already have, celebrating what we already do, rather than being on a constant mission to find and name what we lack.

XV

How do I love my friends today? Let me count the ways.

This afternoon I received an electronic invitation to a Quinceneara themed-party (DING!) being thrown in a couple of weeks by two of my girlfriends. It came with music (DING!). We're not out to offend anyone, or misappropriate Latin culture, or anything even remotely nefarious like that. We just think it'd be a blast to put on bright, poofy, bedazzled ball gowns, have formal dances and photos, play games, and generally have an excuse to get together and goof around like we are fifteen. And if I know my friends, they'll do it as authentically as possible, and we'll probably all come away having learned something about the tradition in spite of ourselves.

I sat there after reading the invitation, thinking how fun it will be, for about five minutes before I had the thought, Though it is kind of a bummer that I'll be the only single girl, since everyone else will be paired off.

Not thirty seconds later, the phone rang. It was my (gay) friend C. calling up to formally ask me whether he could escort me to the party (DING!). He's hilarious and fabulous and shopping with him for our outfits will probably be as much fun as the party itself.

Later I found out that two other sets of our gay friends are coming, too, and they'll be in costume as well (DING!). I'm guessing at least one of them will cross dress, and look better than all of us bitches by far (DING DING!).

That's how I love my friends today.

the BS Method to getting over a relationship

...where BS stands for Balanced Scale. What did you think I meant? Cynics, all of you!

Please note: this is a patented process I invented over the course of many minutes, and which, when correctly executed, is guaranteed to make your breakup at least .07% less painful.

1. Think of a single moment from your relationship that you treasure. It doesn't even have to be something particularly representative - it only has to be something pleasant to look back on. A conversation. A kiss. Some shared moment of joy. The less complicated the memory, the better. The idea is to pare down all the happiness of your time with this person to a single, polished nugget of gold.

2. Now, think of its equal in negative counterweight. Something you couldn't stand about this person, maybe, or some ugly scene that unfolded between the two of you. Keep it manageable.

3. Picture placing these two things on a scale, and imagine them balancing one another out. Canceling one another out. A negative value and a positive value which, added together, leave nothing behind (read: room for something new/better).

4. Create an association, in your mind, between these two ideas. Don't let one thought surface without bringing its counterpoint along. For me, this is a way to honor and celebrate what was good, without getting carried away on rose-colored memories. The negative thought tethers the happier one back to the ground, where, after all, you stand alone.

Eventually, at some point down the road when you're ready, you can let go of that negative nugget and just keep the pretty polished one, buried deep in your pocket.

But only when you're ready.

summertramp

Yesterday I went with K. and N. to the last Summertramp of the year. We got there early, and good thing. It was jam-packed when we left five hours later. Summertramp is an adults-only pop-up water park held every last Sunday of the summer months, in the parking lot of a bar in the Arts District. There are blow-up water slides, bouncy castles, and a pool filled with oversized floats. And alcohol. And pizza. And lots of trannies.





Last year I took my Nikon and got some my favorite photos that I've taken in LA. This year, however, I couldn't bring it - it's in for repair. After some heavy internal debate, I decided not to bring my Leica instead, and to just get what I could with my iPhone. This was not an easy decision. Summertramp is a mecca of unadulterated hedonism, lycra abuse, and inappropriate behavior. But it's either lug around a camera that you're constantly afraid will get wet/stolen, or just go to have fun. So I went to have fun.

Each of the port-a-potties had a special designation. These were the best:




Love this:



We passed around a bottle of cheap champagne, splashed with strangers in the pool, slid down the whale slide, checked out a lot of skin, and danced. And bonus! A DJ friend I'd never actually heard spin before did a set in the afternoon (so we got in free, yay).

The pool, before the masses descended upon it:



My favorite shot of the day (and people, that's water from a spray gun on my bathing suit, not sweat):



It was right about then that N. and I realized we had absolutely no idea where our shoes had gotten up and wandered off to (because that's what they did). We cabbed it back to my place, shoeless, where he borrowed a pair of my flip flops and the three of us went to The Counter for burgers and parmesan fries. That was a brilliant decision on my part, seeing as how I had a birthday dinner to go to later that night. And that second supper? Meatloaf. I spent the late evening and all of today in a ground-beef induced bloat-stupor. Huzzah.

detached

I went out last night with my girlfriend G. The early evening was gorgeous, so we sat on her roof and shared a bottle of wine before walking to Little Tokyo for sushi and sashimi. She's exceptionally easy to talk to and I really enjoy her company. Very unlike me: a total leader, great work ethic, ambitious, grounded, and responsible. In other words: an excellent influence on me. She's a newish friend, and we've only hung out alone a few times; she works a corporate job with a killer commute to Santa Monica that leaves her exhausted most days. It's a job she's sticking out long enough to be able to start her own company - at which I'm pretty sure she'll rock. I'm glad I got her out last night. We had so much fun that we made tentative plans for a weekend getaway in San Francisco this fall, and maybe Vancouver in the spring.

Her husband joined us after a while, and the three of us went to Far Bar. I had something called a Jet Jaguar I think? Vodka, something cherry, maybe mint? It had a couple of maraschino blueberries lurking at the bottom that were not to be taken lightly. Sryyyyuppy. We talked about music, politics, architecture, their work...my lack thereof. At one point, G. conned me into chatting up some Australian dudes sharing our table. They were nice. Nice and dull. G. and I got disproportionately tipsy compared to her husband and we dragged the poor bastard across the street to another bar, where I may or may not have clowned around for their entertainment. I've been a smug married. I know how amusing a boozy divorcee with no filter and no shame is.

(Note: they're not actually smug, not in the slightest.)

It's been ages since I've played third wheel to a married couple. It dawned on me just how long it's been since I was part of one myself. November will be two years since my husband and I separated. I don't know if it feels longer or shorter or about that. It's just a sort of surreal, abstract thing now: I was married. To someone with whom I was supposed to spend the rest of my life, but to whom I don't even speak anymore.

In fact, it gave me a huge start when a few weeks ago, his name popped up as a suggestion for my Google + circle, under the lolsy banner, "People You Might Know." I clicked through to see a couple photos of him - one with his hair line looking suspiciously...restored, and one with a blonde woman he'd befriended at work while we were still married.

Cough. People I might know indeed.

Neither photo made me feel anything other than a vague, detached curiosity.

Every so often, until recently, I would send him a picture or video of the dog, that I thought he would enjoy. But he never responded, so I realized I should stop a) out of respect for his obvious desire not to be in contact with me, and b) to spare myself the slightly dejected feeling that resulted when he didn't reply. We did say "forever," after all.

I was so terrified, when he and I split up. It's really nice to be able to look back and know that everyone who cheered me on during those dark days was right: I really would be ok. There are even times when I'm a million times better than ok. When I feel deliriously happy and free and open and light. When I feel bursting with love for my friends, the people that fill my life with laughter and joy, and who challenge me to be the best version of myself I can be, just so I feel worthy of their company. When I think of the adventures that, unbeknownst to me, life had in store for me, when I said goodbye to my husband. The places I would go. The things I would see. The friends I would make, or grow closer to. The men I would meet and love. All of it was waiting for me when I took the leap. No Google + required.

flour girl

If you want to see an extremely disconcerted dog, take a bag of his human-quality-ingredient dog treats into the bathtub and eat handfuls of them while you cry. Chaucer wasn't sure whether to be more anxious about my tears or that fact that I was eating his fucking cookies.

His head nearly exploded.

And don't judge. Do not judge. Those things are delicious. Darlene S. (whose testimonial appears at the above link) knows what's up. So help me god one of these days I'm going to bring a bowl full of them to a party, wait until they vanish, then bust out the bag and watch jaws drop.

JUST SEE IF I DON'T.

---

Lately I've been taking some very large checks to the bank, to deposit. I keep getting the same teller, a very polished and pretty young Latina woman. She gets a look on her face that belies her curiosity is to why this sloppily-dressed woman in dire need of a manicure and root touch-up is plunking down such heavy coin.

So far she's processed the transactions without comment, but yesterday afternoon she gave in. "I don't mean to be nosy," she started, through the window. And then she trailed off, letting me volunteer helpfully, "My father died."

It was at this point that the bullet proof glass suddenly thickened up another inch or so, preventing her from hearing me. She cocked her head and frowned. What's that?

"MY FATHER DIED," I announced, at about ten decibels louder than I'd intended.

I could tell by the hush that fell over the crowd of paycheck-cashing weekend revelers that they really enjoyed that uplifting start to their weekend.

---

My neighborhood is filled with familiar characters. Homeless persons, some mental, some just destitute. Shopkeepers and small restauranteurs that step out onto the sidewalk when business is slow. Street vendors selling melted popsicles and bags of fruit.

There's this one old man who sells water. He stands on corners and under awnings and hawks bottles for half a buck. I think he might be a little bit crazy. He'll call out, "Water, fifty cents!" and then mutter something vaguely ominous under his breath like, "You gotta drink water. In this heat? You'll get dehydrated, you'll see." or "The pipes. It's bad water, in those pipes. People don't know. They'll find out."

For some reason, I love this. His fear mongering sales angle delights me, I don't know why. Probably for the same reason I love doomsday and dystopic movies: I not-so-secretly want to watch the world crumble. Anyway, I kind of want to buy his water, stand nearby drinking it, and nod in agreement at his prognostications. But I'm afraid he'll tell me what's actually in those pipes, and I'll have to find Erin Brockovich.

---

Everything I own keeps breaking, and it's making me feel like a character in a Philip K. Dick novel. Seriously, there is nothing more depressing than having a house full of expensive broken shit. In the past six months, the following things have crapped out on me, or gotten effed up in some way:

My dSLR (in the shop now)
My vacuum cleaner (which now emits sparks when I vacuum, adding an exciting element of danger to my housekeeping duties)
My french press (which, haha, I knocked over with the vacuum cord and shattered)
My electric tea kettle (since replaced)
My lamp shades (Chaucer flung brown drool on them)
My upright clothes steamer (just straight up stopped working)
My floor lamp (the floor step-on switch came apart)

This is good stuff, too. I believe in investing in quality durable goods that will, you know, endure. So much for that plan.

---

So, this is a thing that happened:



Can you guess how long passed before I started to clean it up?

a) 3 seconds
b) 3 minutes
c) 3 hours
d) I'm waiting for Chaucer to develop a taste for flour.

If you guessed d), you get a human-grade-ingredient dog cookie.

music and death

Last night I met up with a friend who I haven't seen in months, at Public School (which, can I just say, any bar that describes one of the drinks on its menu as "like being disciplined by a saucy teacher" is A-OK by me!). We had a great talk. Or rather, I talked, at great length, and he obligingly listened while I was variously self-indulgent, mopey, maudlin, macabre, and morose. What was I talking about, that would merit such descriptors? Music and death. I've come to be quite the expert on those.

I told him that this year, I've become more emotionally invested in music than I ever was before. And I always have been, a lot. But now it feels almost alarming, the ease with which certain songs can bring me to my knees. Take the Of Monsters and Men album, My Head Is An Animal. No really, pack it up and take it away from me, because it demolishes me to listen to it. I can barely stand it. But it's a beautiful sort of demolition. I'm broken down and rebuilt every three or so minutes.

Catharsis doesn't even begin to cover what I feel, listening to those songs. They wrote my life. Those warble-voiced Icelanders just sat down and wrote my life. There's love, loss, grief, pain, hope, comfort, and family to be found in the lyrics. I dare anyone who's struggled to love or be loved by a parent to listen to Sloom. I defy anyone who's fought with depression to not connect with Little Talks.

I discovered My Head Is An Animal around the time my dad died, and it carried me from those black days through the grey ones of losing A. It will forever be a lifeline to a time of pain and growth, and I'm grateful for it. But I'm also unnerved by how easily those harmonies can upend me.

Anyway, that's what I said to my friend about music. Having primed him with this cheerfulness, I proceeded to further lighten the mood with an anecdote about my mother's death. (Be sure to invite me to all your fun parties, kids - I'm a hoot!)

When my mother died, my husband helped me clean out her apartment. There was next to nothing of value in her belongings, but her pantry was full to overflowing with perfectly servicable dry goods and non-perishable food. My husband discouraged me from taking any of it, but I did anyway. I don't know what made him uncomfortable about it. I guess just the fact that she was dead? Maybe he found it macabre, to touch the things of a dead person? As if her cold, clammy ghost hands had left cold, clammy ghost fingerprints on the plastic wrap of the paper towels.

Anyway, I took two grocery bags' worth of stuff. Mostly canned food. The sort of crap that probably killed her: Chef Boyardee, deviled ham, salt-laden vegetables. I brought it home and put it into our cabinets along with our own food. My husband wouldn't touch any of it, and neither would I, at first. For months, it lurked in the back of our cabinets, passed over but not forgotten, while newer, fresher, and healthier foodstuffs came and went around it.

Then one day, I opened a can of her chicken and rice soup, and heated it up on the stove.

I ate it slowly, thoughtfully, deliberately. I tortured myself with it. I wondered how each spoonful would taste to her. Salty? Too hot, perhaps? I remembered how she looked when she blew on food to cool it, and I pursed my lips in the same way. When the bowl was empty, I felt sick. Remorseful. Like I'd taken something of hers - something extremely personal - and used it, without permission. Like I was using her. Using her up.

It was a game of self-flagellation that I drew out for the next several months. Something would trigger a memory, and I'd suddenly feel overcome with longing for my mother's arms. But there was nothing I could do. The closest I could get to her was this shitty canned food I'd pillaged from her kitchen. So I'd eat some of it. And again: guilt. I was trying to fill myself up with her, but with each bite gone, there was a little less of her left.

Eventually, all that remained was some plain chicken broth. I took an hour to finish it. Swallow after swallow of cold, oily water. I wanted to cry, eating it, but I couldn't. I didn't feel anything. I wasn't even hungry. I wanted to be close to her, but maybe I wanted to hurry up and get the awful exercise over with, too. I needed to feel her inside me. I needed to get her out of my system.

More than once this summer I've had the full, conscious thought, Thank god I only had two parents. I couldn't do this again. You fight with them. You fight to love them, to understand them, to be understood and loved by them. You struggle to relate to them, to identify with them. You reach an age and a maturity where you finally start to do that, but now you're also old enough to fully appreciate the damages they did to do. You forgive them, or you don't. You secretly wish them dead, or you hope they'll live forever.

Then one day they're gone and no matter how complicated your relationship with them was, you miss them so much you could throw up, even though there's nothing, nothing, nothing in your stomach.

outside lands

I've put off writing my recap of Outside Lands music festival not only because I've been a depressed and uninspired sop, but because I have conflicted feelings about it. It was, aside from the music aspect, nothing whatsoever like Bonnaroo. And I loved Bonnaroo. Which is not to say that OL didn't have its charms. It did, and I had a blast. But it was a completely different experience. And I can't say I wasn't warned that it would be, by the comparisons I'd read online beforehand. But my hopes and expectations for the fest were still, inevitably, Bonnaroo-shaped and Bonnaroo-stamped.




Golden Gate Park is beautiful, no argument. But it was effing cold. The fog rolled in on Friday and Saturday afternoon and my ass was freezing (Sunday was much milder). On Friday, I was even wearing a skirt (albeit with thick wool thigh high socks), because my iPhone lied to me about the weather, like a jerk. And it's really hard to get into the mood of dancing, drinking, drugging - whatever your thing is - when you're shivering. So there was that.



(Note the wine in the pic above, neatly contained. Five minutes later it had relocated to the front of my shirt.)

Then there was the matter of how congested and crazy it got later in the weekend. Again - beautiful venue. Truly lovely setting, and I enjoyed walking through the woods. But 60,000 people in Golden Gate Park is absolute chaos. There is no flow. Something about the layout of Bonnaroo gave it flow, and there were another 20,000 people there. But navigating Outside Lands, particularly on Saturday and Sunday when the most people attended, was like swimming upstream: an exercise in futility and frustration. The fields where the stages are get completely choked with multiple lanes of foot traffic, and it becomes a twenty minute ordeal just to get in to the area, much less near the music. I missed Alabama Shakes for this reason. My claustrophobia kicked in as I was worming my way into the meadow and I had to bolt.





Also, the sound on one of the stages (the Panhandle) was just awful. Unless you were extremely close and towards the center, the music was a poor simulacrum of what it should have been. For this reason, Washed Out was a huge disappointment for me. Another stage, Twin Peaks, had some sounds problems, too, which is not what you want when you're jamming out to Justice and Skrillex.

Finally, the biggest bummer - the festival vibe itself. Whereas Bonnaroo had such an intimate sense of community, stuffed as it was with dirty, sweaty, sunburned, but really joyful people, Outside Lands felt more like a scene. A place to be seen. The fact that there was no overnight camping at OL contributes to this largely, I know. But the crowd itself was very different. A lot more monied, a lot more self-conscious. People in meticulously constructed boho chic outfits who seemed more interested in who was checking them out than enjoying the music itself. I saw a fraction of the amount of unadulterated joy - dancing, singing, laughing, cavorting - as I did at Bonnaroo. And it seemed like people at OL were pushier, shovier, more impatient, less tolerant.

But, like I say, I still had an amazing time just doing my thing out there in the woods. Cue the highlight reel!

Music Highlights

This time around, I made it a point to be well versed in the music I was going to hear. I mean, I studied. I made playlists of all the bands on my schedule, and listened to them exclusively for the two weeks before the festival. This got me really, really excited about it. For this reason, in terms of the music, I got more out of Outside Lands than Bonnaroo. Where to start.

Of Monsters and Men. Can't even convey how powerful this show was, for me. I started out pressed up close to the stage, because this was my number one most anticipated show and I wanted a fully immersive experience. But holy hell was it packed in tight. And there was a baby hipster couple next to me, a gorgeous young girl and her neck-bearded boyfriend, whose nonstop kissing and cuddling were too much for my newly-single self to handle. After the first track, I retreated to a corner off the side where I could sit by myself and soak up the songs that, truly, have gotten me through some of the hardest moments of my life. And they sounded exactly like the album.




Explosions In The Sky. Have the chills just remembering this one. God, so good. I was in the front of the VIP section, had plenty of room to just shut my eyes and dance. Hypnotizing, amazing set. I was so charged up afterward that I plowed back through the crowd yelling "Yeessss!!! SO AWESOME!" and high fiving any stranger who seemed remotely amused by my enthusiasm (a total of two).

Geographer. This was suuuuuch a kick-ass show. The crowd was totally engaged and dancing, really into it, and he was an awesome performer. Every song sounded just like the album, and the energy was perfect for the late afternoon. I was off to the side alone for a while on this one, drinking wine and kinda half dancing half watching, but got sucked in to the crowd pretty quickly.

Animal Kingdom. Totally rocked. This group should be loads more popular than they are. His voice is so edgy and different, I love it. I actually laid on the ground for most of this show. Flat on my back, just drumming my belly to the beat.

Jukebox the Ghost. If there's one show I'm glad I got to be right up front for, it's this one. They were so, so fun and into it. Really animated performers, and they sounded awesome. They did a cover of I Wanna Dance With Somebody that was a blast.



City and Colour. Watched this with A. on Sunday, and it was a really nice moment. We sat off to the side, me in between his legs and leaning against his chest. It was extremely mellow and relaxing, and the music was fantastic.




Trampled By Turtles. Intense. Also watched this with A. People loooooove them some Trampled By Turtles. You haven't seen festival dancing until you've seen TBT fans stomping and whooping and flailing. I felt closer to A. than I had in ages which was a double-edged sword, obviously. Enjoyed the intimacy, but knew it was the exception, not the rule. Knew it didn't change where we were at (broken up and at the festival as friends). So, yeah. Intense.



fun. One of the best performances of the festival. That kid is a powerhouse, and he was ALL over the stage belting it out. I've been a fan since The Format, so it was a real treat to see him. He saved Some Nights for the finale, and I was a hollerin' those lyrics, oh boy.



The Walkmen. I liked the Walkmen before seeing them live - now I really have a true appreciation for them. Talk about a voice. Probably the best performance I saw all weekend, just from the perspective of pure talent - and I'm saying that about a group I barely knew at the time. If you like them at all and ever have the chance to see them live, don't miss it!



Wolfgang Gartner and Skrillex. They were right after one another and I was high as a kite. Danced. My. Face. Off. And met some fun people to party with during, too. Perfect ending to the festival on Sunday night (I was alone - A. had gone to meet a friend for drinks downtown).

Sigur Ros. I'm not a Sigur Ros fan, really, but wowww. The show they put on was jaw-dropping, what with the lights and effects. I can only imagine how it was for actual fans.

Other Festival Highlights

- I met some very cool, fun people on Friday night that I spent a few hours running around with. Two guys and a girl (yes, I know, I filled out the equation nicely). That girl had MAD wingman skills, I tell you what. She procured me for her friends in under thirty seconds, after seeing me near them at Washed Out. We drank together, lamented the horrible sound and our disappointment about that performance, and then ended up dancing and goofing around at Justice and Neil Young afterward.

- Dancing in the dark, steamy, packed Heineken dome. Getting so lost in the music and warmth and crowd and...other things, that I blew off a show to stay and dance. Ladies, should you ever find yourself lonely or bored at a music festival, get thee to a dance dome/tent. Good times.

- Dancing at the Digital Music Lounge, in broad daylight, a full, sober crowd watching the rest of make fools of ourselves in an attempt to win free stuff. Didn't win anything, but didn't stay long. Didn't like all the cameras (had spilt Pinot Noir all over my shirt just beforehand).

- Almost forgot this one: A. and I had one really lovely moment, on Sunday, right smack in the middle of Sutro field. Pople were swarming all around us, hurrying and pushing and streaming past on their ways to and fro. But he and I sort of just stopped and reclaimed a small space to be what we wanted: calm, happy, joyful - to be, honestly, like Bonnaroo, where people would suddenly start dancing or hula-hooping or kissing or whatever right in the middle of things, and it was not just accepted, it was approved of, mightily. And that's what we did. We just randomly stopped to slow dance for a minute, and to share a kiss. It was so nice. Sigh.

- Dancing late Sunday night in the woods of McLaren Pass to a folk band I'd never heard of (and didn't bother to learn the name of), but who were the perfect night-cap to my lingering, post Skrillex jumpies. (Read: I was still high as hell and needed to move.)

Here are some shots of McLaren pass, which had various specialty food vendors, carnival games, etc.:






- Had kind of fun moment when some guy made a very playful, very public ploy for my attention after one of the shows. I guess he'd seen me rocking out alone, oblivious and loving it, and dug the cut of my jib, because when I walked by him and his friends afterward, he made a silly but sweet scene of calling me out to declare his love. Is this braggy? "Ooh, I'm so hawt, strange drunk doodz flirt with me"? I don't know, don't mean it to be. It was just a fun moment, and it made me smile.

Non-Festival Highlights

- My very dear friend L. let me stay with him in San Francisco, which was perfect for multiple reasons. One - it was just so godamn good to see him. DO YOU HEAR ME, L?? IT WAS SO GODAMN GOOD TO SEE YOU. I adore him to smithereens and seeing him is sustenance for my soul. Heart bigger than the state of California and always chock full of the best advice. BFFs forever, L. Two - this was post/kinda during my breakup with A. and oh my god, there is no one you want more in your corner, propping you back up with encouragement, humor, and food/liquor, than L. Three - his gorgeous apartment is right smack downtown, just a block from the Civic Center where the festival shuttle picked me up every day. It coud not have been more convenient.

- On Monday, A. and I ate mushrooms (this was the first time for me) and wandered around the city all day and into the evening, before our late flight home. Holy shit. Holy shit. It was a) the best day I've ever had with A. (which, haha, let's just fuck with Ellie's mind, drugs! thanks!), b) the most enjoyable drug experience I've ever had by a factor of a hundred (suuuuuch a nice, mellow, upbeat and giggly high that lasts and lasts), and c) the first time I'd really spent any time in SF anywhere other than the wharf (I now get why so many people would kill to live there).




We had such an incredibly fun day, just lolling about the wharf, the piers, the gardens. Getting hypnotized by a statue and trying to climb it. Waxing philosophical about life while we looked at cars on the bridge. Staring, mesmerized, at a toddler playing with a puppy in the park. Bumbling around Chinatown, me feeling the sensation of shrooms for the first time, letting the positive vibes wash over me as we examine weird things in apothecary jars. Laughing so much our cheeks hurt. Later, we ate at RN 74. I was hesitant to go there at first, feeling sloppy in my filthy festival jeans. But I'm glad A. convinced me to go in, because it was great. We lounged in the bar on a couch and feasted and drank and talked. It was the perfect ending to the day and the long weekend.

And one last shot, which I got Sunday night after the festival was over and everything was shut down - I had been locked out of the main field along with everyone else...but my things were still in my locker. So I had to sneak back in, grab my stuff, and hightail it to the last shuttle. It was so eerie and awesome, seeing the empty venue, all foggy and deserted.


hello, babies

I'd like to describe this moment for you. Early evening in my tiny, tidy apartment. Propped up on my bed, fresh sheets, laptop warm on my stomach. Lamps lit. Chaucer asleep on the floor beside me, worn out from playing at the new park. AC cranked and I'm in my softest, comfiest hoodie. Listening to Blackbird Blackbird and Houses. A perfectly calibrated mood of my own creation, with no one and no thing to distract me. Everything feels cozy, clean, bright, full of potential. I feel full of potential, for the first time in months.

It was a long, agonizing spiral down, with bumps every inch of the way, a hard, hard crash, a few days of reeling, then a shift. A couple days of gentle blooming, a slow opening back up to warmth, joy, and inspiration. Clearing space in my head and heart for new things, new sources of happiness. Ready to move on from pain and confusion and self-pity and stagnation.

Since my father died in April, I have been allowing myself to collect sorrows like dust. They thickened around me like a fog I felt powerless to fight. Every sadness a link in an impossibly heavy chain. Can't lift just one piece without feeling the weight of it all. Too heavy. Too heavy. I gave up.

I gave the fuck up.

When my dad died, I experienced the pain of losing my mom - who died three years ago - all over again. I was freshly cut open. That sense of loss tugged the thread on other losses I've had, and before I knew it, I was unraveling a sweater of tightly knit, perfectly repressed regrets, including my divorce, other failed relationships, and a not-so-small catalog of personal failures. I had attacks of tremendous anxiety that sent me cowering in corners, unable to perform the every day logistical tasks I needed to complete, in order to close my father's affairs. I wrote about this before - the inexplicable terror I felt in the face of paperwork, emails, phone calls.

But one by one, often with hands and voice shaking, I've put these obstacles behind me. And now, suddenly, I find myself sliding down the far side of the mountain I never thought I'd get over. I'm just about done. The emptiness of my desk is an invitation and a challenge - not a reproach.

Less esoteric specifics:

Stuff Relating to My Dad. My dad's estate is sizable (to me, anyway - it's all relative, I guess), providing a host of blessings to me that I am acutely aware of, even in my lowest moments of depression. If I could bring him back to life just to thank him again, I would. He gave me the gifts of security and peace of mind. Provided I'm not a total jackass and don't squander, I won't have to worry about money for a long time. Pass the knocking wood, quick.

But his will came with stipulations regarding the division of my brother's and my inheritance. My brother is a drug-addicted, violent sociopath who, when he's not in prison, is homeless. And it's my responsibility to see that he gets what my father set aside for him. But he detests me and often makes threats on my life. Kind of complicates my duties as executrix. I've hired an estate attorney to help me with this. It's been an overwhelming, emotionally fraught process, and I've only just started. I also had to handle the sale of my dad's house (and everything in it) and vehicles, the settlement of his debts, and the filing of his taxes.

All of this crap was the perfect diversion for avoiding other scary shit I didn't want to face. Like the fact that I don't have a job. Or the disintegrating relationship I was in.

Singledom. Now that it's come up, here's the skinny: A. and I tried but couldn't revive what was convulsing, bleeding on the operating table. Graphic, wow, but ok. That's what came out, so let's leave it. I don't know what the final word should be. Too much damage? Incompatibility? Emotional unavailability on his or my part? A cocktail of all of this? Something I heard recently that stuck with me, regarding relationships, is that common interests do not equal shared values. I think there was some of this going on, too. Which is not to say either my or his values are better/worse - we just come from different places, have different needs, or different ideas about how to communicate, or support one another, or hell, who knows.

Really, I don't know. All I know is that there doesn't seem to be any blame-gaming or hard feelings, and he's continued to be a support for me when I've hit some brutal walls, emotionally. We spent a couple days together in San Francisco (he came up for the last day of Outside Lands) and truly enjoyed one another. Then again, we were on various drugs for most of those two days. So, yanno.

Life Improvements. I went to a few weeks of therapy, at the insistence of a friend who was sick of hearing me be miserable. But I didn't get much out of it. I didn't like the therapist all that much. I didn't feel that talking about my dysfunctional family and mostly-ok-but-probably-kind-of-shitty childhood was helping. My mother was an alcoholic. My father was a misogynist. My brother is nutters. Discussing none of those facts boosts my self-esteem, the utterly wasted state of which is what's holding me back from success in work and relationships. I don't care so much about identifying the psychological root causes of my issues as moving the fuck past them.

So I quit therapy and hired a life coach. But it isn't as if I Googled "life coach" to find this person - she's someone who came into my life a few months ago, through mutual friends. At parties and get-togethers, we'd been getting to know one another slowly. And I'd sort of been falling in love with her, because she's fucking incredible. Finally, she broached the subject of coaching me, after I was telling her that formal therapy wasn't getting me where I wanted to go. She prodded a bit before declaring me the perfect candidate for life coaching. I was game to try.

My first session with her saw me crying harder, talking more honestly/vulnerably, and walking away more inspired and empowered than a month of counseling. She's already helped me enormously, and we've only just scratched the surface. I'm really, really excited about it. She's helping me to look at my life right now not as a bunch of pieces to be picked up, but as a huge, exciting opportunity to reinvent myself. To be anyone and anything I want.

I mean, think about it. I am beholden to no one. I've shed the dead weight of an unhappy marriage. No husband to tie me down, emotionally, geographically, whatever. My parents are both dead. I'm free to experience and explore the world in any way I want now, without having to weigh their concerns, their needs, their judgments. More on this idea later.

Anyway, the really powerful thing she said to me was this: "Ellie, you're already a successful person. I see this just from the short time I've known you. You're smart, funny, all of your friends love you. You're healthy and fit. You're already successful. It's just a matter of deciding - how do you want to be successful next?"

Yeah. Yeah.

Might sound obvious to others, but that's some revelatory shit to a hyper self-critic like me, a woman who beats herself up daily for mistakes made and opportunities missed. Hopefully, I will quit playing that zero-sum game very soon.