cold

My mother had a cat that lived to be seventeen. One day, she just disappeared. She had never once run off or tried to sneak out before that time. She was just there one day and gone the next.

My mom knew the cat had taken herself off somewhere secret, to curl up and die. 

Every once in a while, I wonder where she went, exactly. If she found someplace warm and cozy, someplace soft and dry and sheltered. Or if she just dragged herself to the nearest empty cardboard box, and collapsed, defeated, cold and alone, to wait for death.

off and running

I run at night, and usually, very late. Ten, eleven, midnight. The past few weeks it's been at two, three in the morning. Sleep and I are having some issues. We should probably talk to someone about it. We probably won't, though. We'll probably plod along unhappily for a few more months, expecting a deus ex machina that never comes, until one of us breaks. It's a template of self-sabotage I've perfected.

I often assure the worriers in my life that no one's out at that hour, but that's not true. There are plenty of people out. But it's been my experience over the last few years living downtown - and running its streets at night - that those who are out have no interest in me. They've got plenty of other, bigger concerns: finding shelter, finding safety, finding whatever it is they need to give one another. They congregate in clusters below Angel's Knoll, talking in low voices, barely lifting their heads as I move past. They spread out in solo, huddled forms on Broadway, gathering bags and newspapers and cardboard around themselves, staking overnight claims in the relative warmth of doorways.

They never bother me, and I try never to disturb them, or run too close. I am well aware of the privileged life I lead compared to them, and the thin sliver of dumb luck of having been born to whom I was born, that separates me from them. If they smile, or nod, or say hello, I am friendly back. They're not people to be afraid of. They're just people, looking for happiness and security like the rest of us. But they happen to be at the bottom of a much steeper mountain than most, and I feel for them.

I run to Little Tokyo, then past. I loop back and navigate the Arts District, maze-like and crooked. I run down Spring Street, past late night revelers and diners. I run to South Park, then up to Figueroa, and back home. If it's early, I follow stop lights. If it's late, I run red lights with impunity.

I run with music. I couldn't run without it. Lately, I run with Hamilton Leithauser screaming in my ears. He eggs me on. If my voice can hold those notes at this volume, and hold them so richly and effortlessly, your legs can hold out until the end of this song. Listen to me. Don't think about anything other than my words, my harmonies. Don't think, Ellie. Just listen.

I do think, though. I can't help it. I meditate on exactly what it is I'm working for, with each step. Health, of course. But that's not what I think about. My thoughts, when I'm running, stray to much shallower, albeit exotic waters.

I think about sex when I run.

I obsess about it, even. Somewhere along the way, the exertion of intense physical exercise crossed wires in my brain with the excitement of having sex. Sometimes, thanks to endorphins, the high they give me feels strikingly similar. I've realized that I never feel more alive than when I'm having sex - or just about to. And a really hard run, one that leaves me panting, sweating, and burning with muscle fatigue, makes me feel thrillingly alive in the same way. This is my body. This is the hardest I can work it. This is the ultimate physical test I can put it to, and these are the visceral rewards it has to give. All of it applies to both endeavors.

Then there's the vanity of it.

I am never more vain than when sweat is running down my back, and a torn, ratty t-shirt clinging to my skin. My hair sagging in a damp ponytail on my neck, and my face flushed red with blood. I am never more superficial than when I'm wearing four year-old trail runners with holes in the toes. I am never more keenly aware of the shape of my body than when it's hidden under a thermal and sweatpants.

I run so that when he moves his hands down my body, around my hips and across my stomach, I feel like my best, sexiest self. I run so I can confidently peel off my clothes, lights on, eyes locked. I run so that I never have to shy away, or flinch, when he touches any part of me. I run so I can exult in that touch, and rise to it. I run to remove the obstacles to intimacy between he and I.

Whoever "he" is.

Whoever "he" will be.

And by obstacles, I don't mean flesh itself - some arbitrary, culturally predetermined amount of it that has to be eliminated before a woman can be considered sexy. Fuck that noise. Sexy happens at all sizes and shapes. Sexy is not a number on a scale. What I run to remove are the mental obstacles that exist, as they do for every other feeling human being, between having and loving my body: the hang-ups and insecurities that are an inevitable part of the human experience. To be clear: we should all determine for ourselves what size, shape, and weight makes us feel sexy and healthy - and work towards that ideal. And hopefully, that ideal is of our own design - not imprinted on us by unwelcome and unrealistic societal influences. Though it's fucking hard not to feel those influences, innit?

Anyway, that's why I run. I'm running towards my ideal self, which may look nothing whatsoever like the next woman's.

And sex. Sex gets me running.

Another thing that gets me running? The power of secret-keeping.

When I was a dancer, my body was in the public domain. Anyone could come see it, anytime they wanted. There was very little I could hide. Precious little left to the imagination. And that was ok. There is no shame in what I did. I gained some unexpected, hugely valuable skills from my experience as a dancer. And at times, having my body in the public domain was actually quite fun; at the very least, it was a massive, constant ego boost.

But now that my body is, once again, a private matter, I find a wholly different kind of pleasure in that privacy. Anyone seeing me on the street can size me up and know, generally, what my body is like. But I tend to dress, day-to-day, in non form-fitting clothing. Baggy jeans and oversized t-shirts are my uniform. So the exact contours and curves of my body - the lines of muscle or the pockets of fat - are a secret I can choose to keep or reveal, as I wish.

I love that.

I find that deliciously empowering.

I love the idea that the showing, the sharing of my body can be a gift I give to another person. Something for us both to enjoy. That if I work hard enough on it, it can even be a bit of a surprise. I run to gain muscle tone that doesn't show from underneath loose denim, or empire-waist dresses. I run so that he - whoever "he" is - has no idea exactly what I'm hiding, and is maybe, possibly, hopefully a little bit delighted when he finds out.

None of this is to suggest that my body is anything "better" than anyone else's. It's just a body. It weighs a certain amount. It has certain measurements. Those numbers are no better or worse than anyone else's numbers. They're just my numbers. The point is, the potential of making it something that I feel is special, that I am empowered by and can enjoy - that's what gets me off and running.

Even if half the time I come home and eat three bowls of cereal, anyway.

sexy mustard

Me: I think you should come to Target with me, to help test the integrity of dog toys for Chaucer.

(no response for an hour - I've already gone and come home)

H: You do?

Me: Woman, I already went, home now. But what do you think of Chaucer's new cock?

(I send a picture of a squeaky rubber rooster)

H: I'm simultaneously fascinated and terrified. Which, by the way, is my favorite state. ...Are you coming out with us on Halloween?

Me: Absospookly.

H: I am going to be sexy mustard.

Me: Is there any other kind, anyway?

H: Yeah. Chinese mustard.

Me: Can I be Spicy Brown, your sassy condiment black-up?

H: Like...sexy mustard in black face???

Me: Yeah, what could possibly be wrong with that?

H: Oh nothing. Completely innocent.  ...I could use a sexy ketchup sidekick.

Me: Ok, but if anyone asks you about "grey poop on", you're on you're own.

H: That's Bryan.

Me: Ahahaha.

"She..."

I've been dreaming again - or at least, remembering the dreams I have. I don't think I ever really thought about the fact that I'd stopped. But I did, and for nearly a year. I'm glad to have them back again - dreams. But it's been a little disorienting. The first few times I woke up genuinely confused as to what was going on. It took me what felt like minutes to realize Oh, I was dreaming. And now even though I'm used to the process again, the dreams themselves are alarmingly vivid and strange. Many are intensely sexual and some, nightmarish.

---

A straight guy buddy - one of my few out-of-state RL friends who actually reads my blog - messaged me recently to say "ur blog needs a man in ur life". Got that? My blog does. Not me.

---

I think it's really important to be able to draw a line in the sand, and stand behind it. I just always seem to do it at low tide.

---

If I were a better photographer just had some decent goddamn lighting in my apartment, I'd love to do a series called HOUSEWARS: Slightly Hostile Conversations Between Things In My Home. I'd put variously-sized googly eyes on inanimate objects and do three or four-panel comics of the aggravated discussions between them. My electric kettle, for instance, is totally disgusted with my French press's inability to keep coffee hot while I catch up on Instagram, and tends to make rather cutting comments about it to her.

---

Someone needs to print up t-shirts to sell to the BDSM crowd that say "Service Animal: Do Not Pet".

---

When I was a little girl, I moved through the world as if I were a character in a story. That's how I thought of myself. I projected myself into every scene, every situation and moment, in the third person. I even articulated it in my head by thinking "She..." instead of "I..." It was sort of magical, how easily it came to me - that ability to narrate my life in a detached way. I can remember sitting in the backseat of the car and just zoning out, my head against the window, daydreaming myself into my own storyline.

I've started doing that again, too.

weekend 10/12

My friend Ben had his fashion show on Friday night at Sky Bar in Hollywood. Well, not his, but the shop's where he works downtown. But boyfriend had a huge hand in designing the line, and has been working his ass off for weeks to complete the pieces, and on a deadline - he left for Bali the very next day.

I hitched a ride to the show with another designer friend of his, who was hilarious and sweet and did his best to make me more comfortable at the event (I felt crazy out of place and a bit intimidated, bumbling about with eight hundred fashionistas in head-to-toe editorial).



We sat by the pool, drank dirty martinis, and scouted guys (for him) while we waited for the show to start. At one point possibly/probably the one straight guy at the whole event glanced my way for about .005 of a second, and my companion, who caught the look, informed me that this dood was an ace in the sack.

"O rly?" I asked, laughing. "How can you tell?"

"Well, I have terrible gaydar, even though I'm gay. But I have incredible technique-dar. I can tell immediately if someone is good in bed."

I said that since the glancing dood was actually a bar back working the show, he probably felt just as indifferent to the whole thing as I did, and that would make an excellent ice breaker. We hatched a plan for me to "accidentally" bump into Bar Back Boy and spill my drink down the front of my dress, at which point I would DEMAND a room at The Mondrian, as recompense (etc. etc.). BBB walked by again, this time deliberately holding my gaze, and my new friend busted up.

"Damn girl, don't fall in love! Tonight only."

He wasn't actually even good looking, but it was a fun diversion from feeling painfully out of place in Glamoramaland.

At this the point show started, which basically consisted of models perching on resin cubes behind the pool, while a bank of photographers and industry peeps shot and Instagrammed the shit out of them.



I have absolutely no idea what I'm looking at/talking about, when it comes to high end design, but I had the ultimate tour guide - this design friend of Ben's has worked for Theory and Theyksens Theory, among other lines. He broke it down for me with helpful comments like, "That jacket is nice, but it's a bit derivative of DSQUARED2, two season ago..."

Awesome.

Anyway, I really didn't care about the actual clothes, though it was cool to see some of the pieces I tried on for Ben at the shop when he needed to tweak the pattern, finished in leather, on actual models. Plus, I got warm fuzzies from being able to stand back while everyone was gabbing about the whole scene and think, "Yeah, all that fancy stuff you guys are scrutinizing? My buddy did all that." I know the show was a big deal, and it was amazing to see that kind of talent being beautifully showcased and celebrated, but to me, he's just my awesome, fun-loving friend Ben of whom I have a small cache of bribeworthy, incriminating photos.

And who is now in Bali until after the New Year. :( :( :( for me but :) :) :) for him.

On Saturday, I went with K. and R. to the Taste of Italy festival over at the Pico House. Had never been, but since this was their second time going, they knew the score. They said last year they left hungry, so we spent our time strategically weighing our options as to how to spend our food tickets, so we'd actually be full. We ended up getting stuffed on pasta and gelato, then slightly shitty on red wine. Later, we got slightly shittier at Association and Casey's, and decided it would be a brilliant idea to walk Chaucer back over to their place so he could meet their cats.

Did not document. But was awesome. I think. (Slightly shitty.)

K. and R. are a really cool married couple that I enjoy so much. Good, hardworking people who love to have fun when they can make time for it.

Some pics from the festival:

thousands upon thousands

His knock is unmistakable: soft, hesitant, trailing off at the end. It's the one he's perfected in the months since we've been broken up. The one that says I texted, but you didn't answer. I called, too. I know you're asleep. I know I don't really have the right to just come down like this, but I'm doing it, anyway. Please get up and answer the door.

And I do, of course. And I was sleeping, of course. And a glance at my phone as I'm getting up tells me that yes, he did text and he did call first. I'm not mad. I'm not mad at all. I care about him so much and I know if he's showing up unannounced that something is wrong. And he's been there for me at my roughest moments, so there's no way I would ever begrudge him my support. But inside of me, for the first time, is a silent sigh of frustration. Will we ever get off of this ride? 

I let Chaucer greet him while I brush my teeth and decide against running a comb through my tangled hair. Fuck it. When I come out, he's lying on my bed. I'm not bothered by this. There is, truly, nowhere else to go in my apartment. My apartment essentially is a bedroom, it's so small.

He's visibly upset. He's down on himself. He's not happy. He's riding out some miserable feelings. He wants a friend, some support, to be around someone he knows sees value in him. I try my best. I tell him the thing I always tell myself, when I start to slip downward - or when I'm already smack against the ground floor - It's ok. It's just a moment. One moment, that will pass. Life is made up of thousands upon thousands of moments, and this one just sucks. But better ones are just a few minutes or maybe an hour away. 

I point out how successful he's been with work lately. How productive and creatively fulfilled. He's making a killing, and he's showing at some amazing spaces, getting great press and exposure. Nothing I say really comforts him, though. He's in an unreachable place. And all I can do is offer my company and companionship, which I do. We catch up on random things, gossip about our friends, field play attacks from Chaucer. The conversation wanders back to us, as always. Light at first, then, more serious.

"Are we going to tell one another if we meet someone?" I ask suddenly, sitting up.

"Meet someone anyone? Or meet someone someone?"

"Someone someone," I say, knowing what I'm walking myself into.

"Why?" he asks, a bit sharply. "Did you meet someone?"

"No," I say slowly. "Not exactly. But I might. I mean, I will. Eventually, I will." I look at him. "Meet someone."

"I told you I went on a date, right?" he asks. I nod. "It was a disaster. She's completely insane. She gave me a bible. She called and sang 'You Are My Sunshine' on my voicemail." I stare at him for a second before bursting into laughter. He shakes his head and reiterates, "She was nuts."

"Ok," I start again, "what if there was someone..."

His voice goes flat. "So you did meet someone."

"No,"I repeat firmly. "But I want to." I try to explain to him that I want to move on. That I'm ready to. He sighs and runs his hands through his hair, nodding.

"I'm lonely," I say quietly.

"I'm lonely, too," he replies, just as softly.

We go around for a while, coasting bigger, then smaller, then bigger emotional waves. He says he doesn't want to run into me with someone else. I say that it's my city, too. He says he's thinking about moving to Hollywood. I say that he's lucky he has friends to room with there. He says that he doesn't want to leave downtown, because he doesn't want to move away from me. I say nothing. He says I'm the most amazing woman he's ever met. He says I'm beautiful, smart, talented, and self-aware. I ask where I'm going to find someone else to make me personalized wrapping paper and arrange stuffed animals, en flagrante, on my bed. I say I've never known anyone as honest and direct and authentic as him. I want him to understand how valuable those qualities are.

Inevitably, we rehash for a while.

- I was really unfair to you toward the end. I'm sorry.
- It's ok. And I know, we fought all the time. I get it.
- That's a lie, we didn't. But you did get really frustrated with me. Really, really frustrated. 
- I know.
- El, this was a mutual decision. We went back and forth for a while, and maybe at the end I was more resistant to giving it another shot, but don't act victimized. We both agreed this was right.

A pause, then him: "Can I ask you something? But don't get upset, ok?"

"What?"

He chooses his words carefully. "Did I...did I at least help to undo some of the damage that...?" He doesn't need to say anymore, and he couldn't anyway, because I'm already, instantly sobbing and nodding. He jumps up and moves behind me, putting his arms around my shoulders. "See?" he laughs weakly. "I told you you'd get upset."

I cannot get ahold of myself. Emotion is pouring out of me. Anger, even still, at myself, for letting it happen. Sadness, for that time lost, and for the pieces of me that were damaged by it. Happiness that I'm not there anymore, and that I don't ever have to return. And relief, to know that I've grown worlds away from the person who'd let herself be there in the first place.

Never again.

I tell him yes, of course he did, he knows he did. "Good," he says, smiling. Then he laughs wryly. "I'm really good at messy breakups, but leaving the person in a better state than when I found them."

I collect myself, embarrassed and sort of shocked at my outburst. We take Chaucer to The Counter, sit on the patio, and split a cheeseburger in the fast-cooling evening air. Afterward, he walks me back. At my door, he kisses my cheek. "I felt really bad when I came down here," he says. "Thank you." I tell him that I didn't do anything, and he shakes his head and repeats, "Thank you."

I close the door behind Chaucer and I without turning back.

It's a moment. It's just another moment. There are thousands upon thousands more of them to come.

to be my brother's sister

At six...

...meant kinship. It meant dragging a wagon down the street, filled with cherries we'd picked from the tree in our front yard. Special delivery for the neighbors, from the Baker kids. It meant sledding tandem in winter, and climbing beach dunes together in summer. Here, take my hand. I'll help you up.

At eight...

...meant idolatry. It meant begging for a spot on the Older Kids kickball team, and admittance to their basement Monopoly games. It meant promising to keep secrets, and not tattling when they messed with dad's tools. Come on - just let me watch? I'll make you guys Kool-Aid.

At ten...

...meant confusion. It meant not understanding why one minute I was invited to play Newscast with the tape recorder, and the next, being bullied and teased to tears. It meant toughening up, quickly, to physical torment much rougher than a fourteen year-old should be allowed to inflict. Mom's not here. Dad's not here. You're dead meat.

At twelve...

...meant bewilderment. It meant learning to fend for myself against the negative attentions of a classmate with a penchant for bookslamming and passing mean notes. The little sister of my big brother's best friend. A word from him could have stopped it. Ha ha, I heard Shannon kicked your ass again today. Loser.

At thirteen...

...meant a crash course in substance abuse. It meant my parents screaming, crying, begging, and ultimately disappearing as their teenaged son experimented - and failed - with alcohol, marijuana, cocaine. It meant answering my bedroom door to find my seventeen year-old brother holding up a finger with white powder on the tip of it. You have to try this. Rub it on your gums. It's really cool.

...meant fear. Violence against himself and others. It meant sneaking out of the house at four am to use the neighbor's phone and dial 911, because he was high and threatening us with the baseball bat again. It meant being pushed into a closet, and held hostage until the drugs wore off and the psychotic episode ended. Please open the door. Please let me out.

...meant chaos. It meant watching him grind a lit cigarette into his own arm, to move our increasingly detached, often drunk mother to some action. Feeling helpless and alienated as she returned from yet another visit to juvenile detention and retreated into her dark bedroom alone, door locked, bottle uncorked. Please open the door. Please let me in.

In my twenties...

...meant disgust. Finding out that he'd created fake online accounts in my name on every class reunion website, and written profiles cunningly weaving together enough truth and lies about me to create embarrassment at my upcoming ten year reunion. It meant him calling me out of the blue one day to announce that our dad had been killed in a car accident - a complete lie, just to hurt me. Mystifying and unjustified hatred towards me that manifested in voicemails so nasty I had to change my number.

...meant secrecy. Meant being afraid to share my mailing address with my own parents, despite their promises never to let him find it. Threats on me, my property, my loved ones, my pets.

In my thirties...

...meant detachment. It meant lying and saying, No, I don't have any siblings, because it's easier than bringing light conversation to a screeching halt with words like jail, violent, schizophrenia, sociopath, restraining order, homeless. Nearly twenty years of watching him destroy his own life and create endless misery for my parents had squelched any compassion I may once have had for him.

When my mother died...

...meant massive, years-long frustration. It meant begging him to sign over to me the right to execute her estate, so that her assets could be liquidated and her affairs settled. She didn't have a will, so it meant trying to reason with an unreasonable person a very disturbed and unstable person about reasonable things. You don't have an address. You don't have any ID, or a checking account. You're in jail now, and you'll be homeless when you get out. You cannot possibly execute her estate. Please, please, please just sign the papers and let me handle this. I have no interest in screwing you out of anything. I just want to get this over with.

...meant anger. It meant finding letters from him among her things, filled with lies about me, about what I was doing, about who I was with. Heartbreaking, horrible things designed to drive the wedge that already existed between her and I even deeper.

When my father died...

...meant apathy. It meant handling every last physical, emotional, financial, logistical, and legal detail of my dad's death completely on my own, because my brother was, as usual, in jail.

This evening...

...means fresh aggravation, in the form of an email from my attorney.  The details of it are too complex and uninteresting to recount, but they're enough to completely wreck my day and mood.

...means fresh pain. He has nothing but time, money, and anger to fuel his malice, his outward expressions of self-loathing. I'm the only target left, and there is no hiding.

...means fresh heartbreak. Just this afternoon I Instagrammed a shot of some of our old family photos, one of which features the very same red wagon we used to haul cherries in. This is what it used to be like. Don't you remember? This is the beautiful thing we had.

...is to have a stranger in my own two-person family.

hipstahood: helga viking + blackeys B+W

Just a few shots of some of the shops around my neighborhood - lingerie, mens's suits, sewing supplies, and a keymaker:



Getting up my nerve to try some portraits with this combo. I'd especially love to do pics of my friends and print them up for a small wall gallery. I just think they would read beautifully, upsized.

ten . eleven . twelve

Some very fun friends from Sacramento and Portland (respectively) came into town for work, so I got to hang out with them on Thursday. First, we sat around and got stupidly drunk at The Standard in Hollywood. How drunk? This drunk:



I know. The second one is at least kinda funny (to me, anyway), but that first trick was dumb as fuck. You'd think I have a thing for emergency rooms, but I really do just live to make my friends laugh. I may as well die doing that, as anything else. I climbed up on the luggage rack while my friend S. was in the bathroom, and seriously, so worth the facial expression I was rewarded with, when he came out and saw me. Also? That was three greyhounds deep on an empty stomach. Speaking of, he dared me to wear the laundry bag out into the hotel bar to get us another round. IMPOSSIBLE IS NOTHING. But shockingly, neither the bartender nor the hipster crowd thought I was 1/100th as funny as we did.

Afterward, they treated me to dinner at The Bazaar (hooray, expense accounts!), and I had my first taste of molecular gastronomy:

 

I was skeptical at first, but am a total convert now. It was amazing! We had beef cheeks, then shrimp cocktail that came with these little tartar-sauce flavored syringes that you shoot into your mouth as you pull the shrimp off. SO GOOD. Then, mozzarella-tomato pipettes that just sort of burst into cream when you eat them. Delicious.



I suspect someone knew that pic would end up on the blahg and was being "helpful" there.



I know the syringes look sketchy and invite all kinds of mockery, but the taste really was spot on. And there was some kind of craziness with dry ice going on behind us. I'm sure these patrons appreciated me snapping pics at their $200+ dinner (only the one, really):



Afterward we went and saw listened to, from the peasant's gallery, Martin Solveig at Greystone Manner, and danced our molecular asstronomy off. I actually saw him last year at the Palladium, too. RIDICULOUS FUN. When Hello comes on, it's straight up anarchy. Definitely see him if you can!

don giovanni

On Wednesday afternoon I received a last-minute invitation to see Don Giovanni at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion, literally a few blocks up my street. One of the performers has been staying at my friend E.'s place, through airbnb (an absolute goldmine for downtowners with big lofts), and she gave him four tickets to come see the show.

We met for dinner at Kendall's beforehand, which, no complaints about the food or service, but maybe not the sexiest ambience and crowd? I got there earlier than everyone else, so I had plenty of time to be snoopy and rude and bloggery while I sipped my Pinot Noir:



Median age: coma.

I don't think I've ever posted a cell phone mirror pic; there's no light in my apartment and they come out awful - but I never have an excuse to wear this amazing Olga Kapustina dress I got years ago, so here's me modeling that off:


This was my first opera, and it kicked my ass a little bit. In some ways it was fascinating and captivating, and in others, extremely challenging. My takeaway from the experience is this, and I'm going to go out on a limb and generalize here: Americans are not oriented towards opera. Not musically, not culturally, not linguistically, and not temporally. So it's difficult to connect with the material, unless you're someone who already has an interest in opera itself, in Italian, or even just in classical music.

I love live theater. I love musicals especially. But most theater I've seen has two things to offer me which this opera did not: more involved visual engagement by way of set design and scene changes, and deeper intellectual engagement by way of a complex, nuanced plot. Don Giovanni had only enough setting on stage as to be structurally and geographically representative. Simple backdrops and scrims. That's it. You've got nothing to look at for 2+ hours but the seven or so people singing their hearts out (though some of the costumes were lovely, and the way they coordinated with those simple backdrops was beautifully considered). And in terms of plot? Very basic melodrama. The amount of music relative to action is overwhelming. Very little happens, but very much noise is made about it.

It's not for the attention deficient.

What I did enjoy, at least for the first half hour, was identifying the various, classic archetypes: the lothario, the long-suffering servant, the wronged woman. There's always something charming about seeing these tropes trotted out in live theater, writ large and playful with exaggerated stage business, facial expressions, gestures. And underlined, of course, by orchestral punctuation. That's a timeless sort of fun, and makes you feel like a groundling. Ah yes, here's the bit where the master abuses his domestic. We boo. And now, the arrogant nobleman gets his come-uppence. We cheer.

But beyond these cues, there was very little in the performance to which I could relate. The music, swelling as it was with painstakingly composed pathos (it's Mozart! I had context!), didn't affect me. Well, other than as a soporific.

Here's me, all excited before it started (trying to get the ceiling in the shot, but mostly just getting omgnostrils):



Afterward, I was...not quite so perky.

Still. I'd go again. And I want to. But I'd definitely familiarize myself with the music beforehand, in the same way I do with concerts and festivals. I'd get much more out of it then.

A couple more pics; our front row balcony seats were really fantastic:



So, final score. Don Giovanni: 1. Ellie: 0.

I'll win the next one though!

Instagram vs. The World

Instagram vs. Facebook

Facebook by its very design is suffocatingly incestuous. You can only hide from familiar and semi-familiar faces for so long before Facebook pinpoints your exact location in a personalized Venn diagram. Then the nudging starts. Psst, you. We know you. We know who you run around with, too. Like this guy. Don't you wanna add him? No? Are you sure? Ok, well, tomorrow we'll ask you if you want to add his friend Larry. We know you know Larry, too. 

Anonymity and privacy are just abstractions in the Facebook universe. Worse; they're obstacles to be batted away, since they only get in the way of Facebook's bottom line. Your social pool gets more and more crowded, filling up with people that you often feel obligated to allow in. And crowded swimming pools are gross. Especially when everyone in them is splashing and screaming and trying to prove their back flips are the best.

Instagram is the perfect antidote to Facebook's inbreeding, offering a refreshing blast of new/different/strange, anytime you want it. It opens the social media gene pool back up.  Hell, the pool doesn't even have to be social, if you don't it to be. It can be blissfully silent, since you don't have to even verbally acknowledge anyone in your Instagram feed, ever. Because first and foremost, it's about the images. And that is what gets me off. If you want to build a following of likewise talented and inspiring people who will in turn inspire you, you've got to bring it. Sure, you can network socially, limiting your circle to the already-known variables in your Twitter/Facebook/Pinterest equation. And sure, there are celebrities and celebrity bloggers who have an insta-following, and who use IG as a daily diary for the peeping masses.

And that's fine.

But for the most part, Instagram is thrillingly democratic in its creative model. The "Following" tab is absolutely genius, because it allows users to tumble happily down a viscerally-motivated, visual rabbit hole of tap tap taps, and like like likes. No one knows who I am, when they see the thumbnail of a photo their followee (my follower) just liked. All they know is, they like that thumbnail, too. No names. No faces. No invitations. Just fast-fading ripples, as you glide through an ocean of unfamiliar and exciting imagery. And who wouldn't prefer swimming in the ocean, to a pool crowded with contemptuously familiar bodies?

Instagram vs. Twitter

I'm coming round to loving Twitter, I really am. But not unconditionally, and not for the typical reasons. What I love about Twitter (besides its ability to disseminate politically, culturally, and socially salient information in real time), is its potential as a creative platform, especially for those who might not otherwise get a spot on the stage. I know, I know. How creative can you be with a tweet? Answer: see @mollyaboud. And yes, there are "better" and certainly bigger Tweeps. But she's recent find with a shamefully small following, considering how clever she is.

What finally ensnared me in the Twitterweb was reading the dozens of stunningly funny tweets that came up in my reader each day, as aggregated by the Happy Place blog. I laughed. I marveled. I got inspired. I know using Twitter as a personal, one-line-at-a-time comedy club is not everyone's bag. But I'm the girl who prizes her New Yorker Caption Contest win coughcontestnumber273cough as one of the plumiest feathers in her creative cap. I love me a zinger. And I think it's fucking awesome to see others crunch often deceptively complex concepts gracefully down into 140 characters. That really does take skill. And I especially love when it's done by women. And when I see women promoting and supporting the wit of other women, I totally get a lady boner.

But I digress, hugely.

Twitter is great for making connections, whether you use it to exchange bon mots with other quipsters or to crowdsource quinoa recipes. But Instagram has the potential to plug up a hole that Twitter leaves - not being able to see your followers, and not being able to talk to them in more than byte-sized conversations. When someone on IG shares with me the details of their lives - when I get to see their homes, their offices, their pets and children - that's when I start to feel like I really know them. IG can open a window into someone's life in the same way that blogging can. Only, it's like being James Stewart in Rear Window. All of those windows are within instant view, because they're all in the same building, right in front of you. The windows are uniform, equally transparent, and I can see at a glance what's inside the rooms...and know immediately whether I want to keep looking.

So maybe it isn't so much a case of Instagram > Twitter as it is Instagram + Twitter = :)

Instagram vs. Pinterest

Instagram : Pinterest :: Source : Bibliograpy

Instagram : Create :: Pinterest : Curate

Enough said, I think? I'm not a librarian and I don't run an art gallery. So I know which parts of those analogies appeal more to me, anyway. I don't mean that as a knock on Pinterest or its users, I really don't. I think it's a super cool tool, and I love the interface and flow.

It's just that I have a very personal, very pressing need to be a creator. My self-esteem is inseparable from that need. And while I absolutely acknowledge that there's huge potential for pure creation in Pinterest (interesting, clever, and beautifully edited boards - not to mention the social ingenuity and grace involved in building a Pinterest following), at the end of the day, I feel like if I'm sitting at the Pinterest table, I can't be as creative as I can be at the Instagram or Twitter tables - not to mention the table that is this blahg. I'm mucking about with tracing paper and a #2 pencil, when what I really want are some goddamned crayons. And a typewriter. And a camera.

Instagram vs. Flickr

Flickr, I loved ye, I really did. I still do. But your distant cousin IG is so much smarter, cooler, sexier, and easier to talk to. Sorry. It was hot while it lasted. I especially liked our Picnics. But you just haven't kept yourself up, honestly, and I no longer fancy you the way I once did. But hey, if you wouldn't mind holding onto my stuff for a while longer, that'd be great. Thanks babe.

#twinning 2

Posting will return to normal (?) as soon as I get this out of my system:





#twinning

This one's not for pinning (not that anyone was gonna).



Hipsta: BuckhorstH1, Alfred Infrared. Setting: Metro Red Line. Shoes: Aldo. Inspiration: a vastly better poet.

we must plunge

Took this hipsta at the Grand Park opening on Saturday, after my superhero encounter:



Lens: Bettie XL, film: Kodot XGrizzled, no flash. If pinning's your thing, feel free!

hipstahood: jimmy + ina's 1982

I really love this combination of lens and film. I love what it does with the sky and reflected glass, how it ages some architecture but highlights others, and how it gives the late afternoon light an orange cast. These are some of the sights I see daily around my neighborhood, usually while walking Chaucer.

Angel's Flight and the view from Pershing Square:



The intersection at 4th and Spring, and the Eastern Columbia building:



The exterior and interior of the Pan American lofts, on Broadway and 3rd:



I took these at LACMA, the day I found out I'm a Hashimotorist and decided to walk an hour and a half to the subway:




Broadway, Metro 417, and Two Boots Pizza:



A church I walked past on Wilshire and the front of the Pan American building:

superhero

I feel restless, at home today. I don't have any plans for the evening, and know that I'll go bonkers if I spend the entire day and night cooped up in the apartment. So I grab a sweatshirt and head to the metro station. I have no idea where to go. I have no idea what to do. I should have started this adventure earlier; I could have gone to the beach. Now it's already three o'clock.

I'm languid in my movement, even though the temperature is dropping. I'm in the mood to sit back and observe, but against a change of scenery. I wish a moving sidewalk would unroll in front of me, like a red carpet. I don't need the pomp. Just some circumstance.

Below ground, I decide to take whichever train comes first. North Hollywood it is.

Hollywood and Vine. Tourists. Anxious-looking men smack star maps agains their palms and thrust them into the hands of passerby. They ignore me. What is it? The fact that I'm alone? Something in how I'm dressed? My headphones? Or, probably, the disengaged look on my face. I'm strangely flattered, to think I'm passing for a local. Wait, passing? I am a local. I live in Los Angeles. Some day it'll sink in. Probably the one I move.

The walk of fame. Star after star after star. I glance at the names along with everyone else. I know very few, which makes me feel ashamed. I should pick one, learn his or her story. Occasionally, an empty star. Nameless, ready to be stamped with glamour, making all the fame hounds drool.

I snap a few photos, wander, listen to The Walkmen. Heaven, on loop. This is depressing me. This was a mistake. There is nothing novel or noteworthy on this stretch. Head shops. Tattoo parlors. What am I doing here? There must have been a million interesting cultural events happening in the city today, that I could have gone to.

There's a superhero on the sidewalk up ahead of me. He's standing alone in front of a costume store, coaxing foot traffic inside. Only, there isn't much to coax. I suddenly realize that I know who this man is. He catches my smile of recognition - though he doesn't know its source - and steps towards me. I'm expecting the advance; from what I've seen, one of his superpowers is salesmanship.

I allow my smile to broaden as I slow to a stop in front of him. "I saw your documentary," I say in as friendly a way I can. It occurs to me that he must hear this all the time, and I hasten to add, "It was great. I think what you guys do is great. You're a fixture in Hollywood, and you make a lot of people smile..." I trail off dumbly, with no idea how to express what I'm trying to say. What am I trying to say?

Superman rescues me. "Oh, thank you. That's very kind," he says. "What's your name?" He shakes my hand, and we start to chat. His resemblance to Christopher Reeve is even more astonishing in person. The jet black curl on his forehead, his sharp but delicate facial features. The care with which his costume has been constructed - and is obviously treated each night upon removal - is moving. It's been a few years since I saw the film about him and the other men and women who make a living portraying famous characters on the streets of Hollywood. But I remember finding it fascinating - finding him fascinating, especially - and I'm delighted to now be speaking with him, face to face.

We talk very briefly about his work, and about the lawsuit he brought against the city to fight for his right to work the boulevard for money, before moving onto the topic of skincare. I've made some flattering (and genuine) remark about how youthful he looks, and he's now reviewing his daily cosmetic regimen for me. He doesn't just use soap, he explains. He uses conditioner, too. On his body. He lets it soak into his skin while he's washing his hair. "See, feel," he commands, lifting the back of his hand for me to stroke.

The graceful way he's holding his arm, and the papery, smooth texture of his knuckles make me think instantly of my mother. But it's more than his skin. It's his dark hair and crooked teeth. It's his whole general physicality, in fact: ectomorphic, fragile in spite of his height. She was the same way. His comportment echoes hers as well. Gentle. Vulnerable and a little bit broken, but with a latent strength. Someone who's had to bear a lot of pain, but is nowhere near ready to give up.

She was the same way in that regard, too.

I'm tempted to tell him how much he reminds me of her. I don't think he'll be offended. I think, in fact, he'll understand that I mean it as a compliment. He seems deeply empathetic. I think that if in trying to explain exactly how he's like my mother, the words become stuck in my throat and I can only shake my head helplessly as my eyes well up, that he won't become alarmed or uncomfortable. That he'll put his superhero arms around me, there on the sidewalk, and give me a superhero hug. And I think that hug might just transfer some of his power to me, in the same way that hers used to.

I think all of that, inside of an instant, as I'm looking up at this kind, engaging, couragous, dedicated, and somewhat tragic soul, whose story charmed me when I paid the DVD store $3.99 to learn its more intimate details four years ago. I have nothing in common with him. I have so much in common with him. We both pretend to be something we're not. We're both a little bit crazy. I want to tell him that he actually is a fucking superhero, for having the tenacity to get up every day, put on a cape and tights, brave the jeers of homophobic assholes, and live at the mercy of people considerate enough to tip him for a picture.

I've worked for tips, too.

I've worn some pretty ridiculous get-ups, too.

I envy his spirit in the same way I envy my mother's, because I'm not always sure I inherited it.

I realize I'm chewing up his time; there are tourists glancing over with interest. I excuse myself to go, thanking him for the chat. He encourages me to visit him again, next time I'm in Hollywood. "I'm here at the shop on weekends until Halloween, but weekdays you can find me at Grauman's. Come say hello," he says, using my name and smiling warmly. I promise to do just that. As I move away, I see a bottle blonde in a tube dress shake out her hair before squeezing against him, so that a bald forty-something in Oakleys can snap their photo.

I'm pretty sure she's not going to tip him.

I'm also pretty sure that the only thing she's going to get out of her superhero encounter is a shitty, posed cellphone pic.

offensive

I went on one and one half dates with a boy, the second of which was on Thursday. I found him to be stunningly arrogant, entitled, aggressive, misogynist, inconsiderate, egotistical, melodramatic, immature, self-absorbed, and unethical. In fact, I can't remember the last time I found another human being so offensive. I don't know why, but the whole experience has made me a little bit angry. I didn't even spend that much time with him, but I want those hours back. I want my smiles back. I want to rewind the tape and not put on a pretty dress and curl my hair, and be enthusiastic, and proffer compliments, and listen to his stories, and offer opinions, and share a meal, and show him my favorite bar, and sit close to him, and allow him to push me into a kiss I wasn't ready to give. I'm angry at myself for giving those things away.

---

There's a phone ringing somewhere, faintly. I can hear it. I can picture it. An old rotary phone, sitting on a small side table, otherwise alone in a room down the hall. It doesn't ring constantly. It rings for a few minutes, then stops. Then rings, then stops. Sometimes it stops for days. I know I could walk down the hall, find it, and answer it, if I wanted to. I know the call is for me. But I'm scared to pick it up. I'm scared to hear what the voice on the other end of the line is going to say to me. I'm scared there might not even be a voice, when I do pick it up - that the line might go dead. That there'll just be me repeating Hello? Hello? until I hear a dial tone and realize there's nothing there.

I'll wait until there's a knock on the door, with a warm, live body on the other side. That call I will answer. 

---

There's an app for the iPhone that displays the weather of multiple cities. You can swipe the screen to see how hot or cold it is in Los Angeles, in San Francisco, in Sao Paulo, in Helsinki - wherever you'd like.

That's what depression feels like to me, sometimes. When I wake up, the first thing I do is check my emotional weather. I take stock of my feelings, how low or high I feel. How optimistic and capable, or how overwhelmed and defeated. I swipe the screen, glancing quickly at the different cities in my head: How do I feel about myself? How do I feel about today? How do I feel about yesterday? How much energy do I have for today's challenges, tasks, goals? Where do I stand in my relationships? Do I feel loved? 

I should probably just start the day with some Angry Birds or something.

criticism

Receiving criticism is like having someone come into your home, uninvited, and hang a photograph of you on the wall. If the criticism is private, it's hung somewhere personal, like your bedroom. If it's public, it's hung somewhere everyone can see, like your living room.

You can ignore it all you like. You can walk back and forth past it and pretend it's not there. But it doesn't go anywhere, even if you cover it up with another picture - one you like better. It's still underneath.

But if you want to lead an examined life - if you want to be self-aware and grow - you'll look at it closely. You'll examine the subject (you), the composition (the context), and the perspective (who took it).

Sometimes you see that it's just a lousy photo. It's poorly framed, or so blurry that you and your surroundings are unrecognizable. It doesn't reflect who you are at all. In that case, you can just throw it away, like you would any bad picture.

Sometimes it's pretty good, and you can definitely identify yourself in it. And while it might not be the most flattering shot of you, you have to admit it captures some of your features fairly well.

And sometimes when you look at it, you see it's not a photograph at all. It's a mirror. And it's up to you how long and hard you look at it.

The trick is to be honest with yourself, about how good, clear, and accurate an image has been hung on your wall. And if you find that multiple people are coming again and again to hang the exact same, unflattering shot of you, it might be time to give the world something different to photograph.

the lumineers

I took myself to The Fonda Theater on Tuesday, to see The Lumineers for their second sold-out night in LA. Take the slightly melancholy feeling of going alone to a concert and weigh it against the pleasure I took in the show, and my loneliness was a feather against a bar of gold. I'd do it again in a heartbeat; the show was simply amazing.



The opening band was a spazzy punk quartet of especially dirty hipsters called Bad Weather California that mostly made everyone confused and uncomfortable (at least, everyone around me). Confused because at moments they were quite engaging, while at others, their lack of chemistry was palpable. And uncomfortable because they looked truly miserable onstage, sneering at the audience until halfway through, when they suddenly seemed happy to be there, but curiously angry at their instruments. I've never seen a mic stand pinch hit for a guitar pick. Impressive but rather empathy-inducing for the stand. The lead singer and bassist kept lurching across the stage and plunging to their knees, jamming dueling electric guitars in violent, self-referential irony that had the net effect of making me feel mocked. Oh, I get it. Rockstars who get crazy onstage are so cliche. 

Some openers are like getting a surprise helping of your favorite dessert first, and some are like an appetizer that no one finished and everyone wishes would just get cleared off the table. This was the latter. Their songs were harsh and discordant, and not in that satisfying punk way. I think they're either a band in search of their sound or a sound in search of an audience.

The Lumineers, however. . .

The two words that came to mind again and again while I was watching these folk rock wunderkinds are "charming" and "captivating." That's how I felt, for an hour and a half. Charmed and captivated. It was less like watching a band then a family, that's how genuine and deep the connection seemed between them. After the first song, lead singer Wesley Schultz asked that cell phones be put away, which was brilliant, because it forced the audience to disengage from the outside world and plug in, for ninety minutes, to a visually stunning symphony of sound and emotion. Songs weren't just played. They were experienced, by each member of the band, lyric by lyric and note by note. They could not stop smiling: at one another, at the audience, at their instruments (even when there were technical malfunctions) - even, it seemed, at their enjoyment in Having Their Moment.



I just did a triple gainer off the hyperbole board, huh? Sorry. Let me swim to the surface and catch my breath.

Each track, lovingly sung along to by a house packed with adoring fans, was teased into some slightly different iteration than its album version. Some were made more uptempo; some less. Some were kicked up with the help of a gorgeous, fat bass drum sitting on the edge of the stage, and which percussionist Jeremiah Fraites thumped with verve and obvious joy. And some were slowed down, stretched out like strands of honey-flavored taffy in the graceful hands of cellist/singer Neyla Pekarek.

And, oh god. The duet. The as-yet unreleased duet that she and Schultz sang. Just wait. It is gorgeous, and has soundtrack to Kindle commercial written all over it. I can't wait to put it on loop.

They engaged the audience from first to last, dividing the venue into floor vs. balcony, for singing the refrains of songs that seemingly everyone knew by heart. Afterwards, thunderous applause brought them out for a four-song encore, one of which they performed, a capella, split between The Fonda's two opera boxes - on opposite sides of the theater. Jeremiah played the glockenspiel for that number, and all the band members were giggling, struggling to hear one another's cues from a hundred feet apart. Meanwhile, a hushed crowd looked back and forth, tennis match style, at this utterly captivating ending to their evening. In order to even get in the balcony boxes, they had wade out into a sea of people and climb up into these pockets in the wall, with the help of the audience. It all felt delightfully mischievous.

Finally, they returned to the stage and did a cover of You Can't Always Get What You Want, accompanied by the opening band (which definitely redeemed them). Nine people (The Lumineers had two additional musicians performing with them, but the core group is Schultz, Pekarek, and Fraites) all on instruments, and all singing. It was layered, playful, and charming, and bar none the best encore I've ever seen.



Just a little more gushing, because a review of the show wouldn't be complete if it didn't touch on how they looked. The Lumineers are a folk rock band who describe themselves in humble terms. Schultz has said, "We’re not reinventing the wheel or doing anything that different, the songs are super simple. The ideas themselves are very simple ideas." And the group has done a superb job of translating this conceptual simplicity into their physical aesthetic. Jeremiah: suspenders over a plain white tee, faded black chinos, and slicked-back blonde locks. Neyla: simple jersey sundress, leather jacket, and leather boots that she stomped with girlish glee. Wesley: nondescript vintage cotton from head to toe, topped by a crushable felt fedora that fell off whenever he tilted his face up to the balcony. I felt like I was watching depression-era newsies cutting loose after a long day. I don't think I was the only one feeling positively transported, either, by everything I heard and saw.

And I know I'm not the only one who will keep a close eye on this band, and hopefully for years to come.

ineptwitude and hubris

Christ on a cracker, I am so embarrassed right now. First, take a moment to picture your most technologically inept relative or friend. Possibly someone older, someone unfamiliar with the Newfangled Devices of this generation. Someone who, perhaps, can't work "the facebook" and doesn't understand why his/her computer doesn't chirp when s/he tweets.

Got this poor soul in your mind's eye? Ok, good. Now swap him/her out for me. That's me, right now, hunched over my iPad, frowning furiously, trying to figure out WTF I'm doing with HootSuite, and feeling depressingly old for it.

My name is Ellie, and I am on a three-year social media lag. Which, ok fine, I've always been a little outspokenly critical of the so-me, but now I'm so behind the times I'm having trouble with basic app UIs. Ugh.

The point of this is to say that I'm only just now seeing some tweets that go back months, sent to me by various people, about various things. Some were just compliments on my blog. Some were responses to specific posts. And some were words of personal support.

And I didn't see or respond to any of it.

I'm so sorry.

I just sent out a slew of DMs on Twitter (and apparently, accidentally, one public tweet because I really am a spaz) but the character limit only allowed me to basically say mea culpa and thanks. Which, I guess, is all I'm really saying here, but hopefully more genuinely?

So, yes. The Twitter. I started using the Twitter. I don't know what happened. A Twitter muse climbed into my pants and is doing naughty, dirty things to me all day long. I can't stop myself. I'm sure the inspiration will ebb and flow, but tonight I had a buh-last tweeting the debate, anyway.

In other meta developments, anyone that actually navigates to this page will have by now seen that I remodeled YET AGAIN. I thought I'd double down on the arrogance of calling myself "Elliequent" by adding a bulls-eye graphic, so as to suggest I "nail it" with my oh-so brilliant writing. I also am not unaware that the bulls-eye, looks, in fact, a great deal like a nipple. A big nipple being shot through with an arrow. It's a shame I dropped therapy, because I'd love to hear a psychologist's take on that. EDIT: Changed.

I pretty much don't think before I do anything, people.

Final programming note! I pulled a published post, which is something I haven't done in a long time. But it wasn't sitting well with me for myriad reasons. It felt a bit nasty and judgmental and overshare-y. I may revisit the subject, or I may not - but I did want to at least acknowledge that I engaged in Shady Blogger Behavior, and I know it.

I'm going to return to writing more interesting things now. Thank you for listening.