green eyes

On Saturday night, I went with some friends to a bar just down the street from where I live. There was nothing remarkable about the evening, except for this: I met a guy.

Note that I said "guy", not "boy", because I suffer from a case of arrested development, and I still think it's cute to refer to potential romantic interests as "boys" rather than "guys" or even "men." Maybe subconsciously I believe that this infantilizing language choice will somehow keep me from growing up, too. A woman girl can dream.

So know that I've already slipped you a clue as to how this encounter panned out, in saying "guy". Because, to me anyway, a guy is just a guy is just a guy.

A guy I know is having a party...

Some guy at the store cut in line...

I met a guy on Saturday... 

I met a guy on Saturday. I wasn't planning on it. I didn't even want to. I was happy just to be out with my friends, enjoying a salty dog, people watching, and roasting my back sitting much too close to a rooftop fireplace. But one of those friends was needling me a little bit about the lack of OMGmenz in my life of late, and pushing me out of the proverbial bar nest. Like, Wait, wut? It's been how long since you've had sex? Ok, you need to put that drink down right now and go have some fun. 

Actually, he didn't tell me to put the drink down, because hello. No friend of mine would encourage such drastically unnecessary measures. But he did prod me with some kind and encouraging and hilariously locker-roomesque things like, Come on! Look at you. You could pull down anything here that you wanted. 

Pull down, he said. LOL. Is that how guys talk to one another? Good grief.

Well, whether it was Coach's whistle in my ear or the two doubles I'd had - or the fact that I required the fingers of both hands to do the math in order to answer his question - I decided to do as advised, and to go have some fun.

I touched up my lipgloss, adjusted mes bretelles, and toasted my wingman before setting off on my quest.

Actually, I don't remember if I did any of that. I was pretty drunk. There's a very good chance I didn't even think of the lipgloss or of straightening my clothes, and just wordlessly stumbled off in search man-meat with my shirt blousing sloppily out of my skirt. But let's give me the benefit of the doubt and assume I was more on the hot side of hot mess. Can we do that?

Here's what I do remember: making a lap around the bar that culminated in some pretty hot eye contact with a guy on the dance floor. Naturally you'll want to know what he looked like. Well, you're in luck!  Because I remember that, as well. At first glance, I put him at 6'2", but that's only because I was wearing my 4.5 inch Dianne Von Thirstybird wedge heels, and he seemed taller than me in those. I'd find out later he's only about 6'.

His height is not important.

What is important was his suit, which was well cut and fit his athletic build beautifully, his startling green eyes, and his spectacles, all of which, taken in sum, combined to give him an air of...oh, fuck it: he looked like he was in the industry (by which, for any non-Angeleno readers, I mean the film industry).

Ok well now I've just gone and bullied my memory again, because the fact is that I wouldn't know his eyes were green until the next morning.

OH NO SHE DI'INT.

Oh yes, she did.

But back to the scene. Green Eyes was standing with some impossibly massive, jovial-looking man, also in a suit, who looked like a cross between John Goodman and Harvey Fierstein. I walked close by them, tall highball in hand, and the three of us sort of took one another in, in the way that happens in drinking establishments populated by spiffed-up persons holding cocktails, looking to attract other spiffed-up cocktail holders for conversation and whatever else unfolds.

I should disclose that I didn't walk close by out of any desire to be seen as "bold" or whatever, but because I am fucking blind and have to, in order to make out someone's features.

This drive-by complete, I returned to the table where my friend sat anxiously awaiting my report, the enthusiasm of which would suggest I'd forgotten my earlier counting exercise: "Ummm, I dunno. There's a kinda cute guy over there, I guess. I think he was checking me out, too. Whatever. Let's get some shots." My ambivalence notwithstanding, I nevertheless glanced over to the dance floor to see whether my trajectory had been tracked by a certain pair of green eyes. It had. And they were on me still.

Cut to five minutes later, when those same eyes (and their friend) have strategically placed themselves behind the sofa where my coach/wingman sits, in clear and obviously intentional view of moi truly. It having been quite some time since a man in a bar anywhere had looked so directly at your blogmistress, she continued to sip her drink demurely for all of five seconds before deciding to take the bait. My friend, having missed this exchange of body language, looked up in surprise as I bounded off the chaise where I sat, mumbled something about being right back, and went to join the strange men standing behind him.

We introduced ourselves to one another, and he, his friend to me. (I immediately forgot both of their names.) His friend discreetly stepped away in pursuit of beverages, allowing us to talk. So we talked, getting each other's vitals, flirting, one-upping one another as the conversation allowed. He was very smart, sharp-witted, and intense. I really, really liked the way he looked at me, and rarely away.

After a little while, he made to leave. Something about a driver and needing to get back to the beach where he and John Fierstein room together. He asked for my number. I took his phone and texted myself: OMG you are sooooooo sexy. Love the suspenders! We said goodbye and I returned to my friends, confident enough in the chemistry I'd just felt to believe I'd hear from him again. And forty minutes later, I did.

- Great meeting you tonight.

- Likewise. And I'll just get this embarrassment out of the way right now...I forgot your name. (I'm Ellie.)

- Aaron.

- A most excellent name. Don't take my forgetfulness as anything other than just that.

- I won't. So when do I get to do this again?

- I'd venture a guess that my schedule is more flexible than yours, so you tell me.

- Now.

(!!)

- You left for the coast, no? Your "driver", etc?

- We're downstairs. We got stuck in the ping pong area.

- You mean Spin? On the mezzanine?

- Yes.

I glanced at my friends. One of them was deep in conversation with a girl. The other one was staring at the fire in a daze, clearly hammered.

- I'm coming. 

- Lobby. 1st floor.

- I'll be right there.

I bid my friends goodbye, grabbed my bag, and rode an elevator and then an escalator down to the lobby, where Aaron and his roommate were sitting on a low couch. They stood when they saw me.

Aaron smiled invitingly. "Wanna come out to the beach?" he asked.

I blinked. "Now?"

"Right now," he said. "We can bring your dog."

"My dog?" I echoed dumbly, pointlessly. I'd already made up my mind. His offer to include Chaucer in the evening had sealed the deal.

"Yeah, he can ride in the back. We've got a big place with plenty of room for him. He'd be ok there, right?"

I considered my words - and composed my face - carefully. "You mean, like...overnight?"

He held my gaze, refusing to flinch at the directness of the unspoken. "Do you need to be somewhere in the morning?"

I laughed and turned to his roommate, whose name I would shortly re-learn as Avi. "It's your house, too. Are you ok with a 140 lb dog crashing the party?" Avi was ok with it.

"Ok then," I said, shrugging. "Why not."

Fast-forward through me deciding Chaucer would do better staying home alone, than pacing around, all stressed out, in a strange place. FF>> through me obtaining a promise I'd be back by noon. FF>> through Aaron returning briefly to my building with me, to walk Chaucer. FF>> through the three of us riding to their house in Hermosa Beach, driven by an Eastern European man named Jack, or possibly Jacques. FF>> to us not getting to a liquor store in time to get wine to accompany the from-scratch pizza Avi wanted to make.

The next hour consisted of, among other things, the following: Avi preparing the aforementioned pizza (spinach, hot peppers, four cheeses) while Aaron and I sat on the couch and I read a copy of an article he'd written, which had been published in the Wall Street Journal. Avi bringing us the finished pizza (on a pizza board) and the three of us talking about music, festivals (Aaron is going to Coachella as well), and local politics. Me asking permission to take one of Avi's boxer turtles out of the tank to play with it. Me being granted permission and then accidentally dropping said turtle (whose name was Samantha) from standing height, onto the carpet, on her back, because her little nails scratched me and it startled me. Me apologizing profusely to Avi (and to Samantha), and then crawling around on the carpet for ten minutes behind her, excited as a kid, while she explored/fled my clutches.

Eventually, Aaron and I retired to his room, where we passed the next few hours getting to know one another more, and in a different way. The promise of his athletic body was kept, and when I said as much, he explained simply, truthfully, and with no small touch of ego: "Crossfit."

One more moment I'll share, before drawing the curtain: Him murmuring in the dark, after our first kiss, as he pulled me closer: "Did you think the chemistry would be this good?" and me not answering, because it wasn't necessary to.

And though I enjoyed myself, and though it felt good to be touched again after so long, I did not fall for this Green Eyed Guy, this writer of scholarly articles, this man with the pizza-making, turtle-having roommate, who lives heartbreakingly close to the beach, and who drove me home, back to my tiny apartment, at seven the next morning, where an oversized and slobbery-sweet dog-child greeted me with sniffs and wags, and more excitement and enthusiasm than my arrival anywhere merits.

Because it was clear after a few more hours of talking that he and I don't have as much in common as we first thought, and we may in fact have mildly clashing personalities.

So I did not fall for them - nor will I, I expect - but I may see those green eyes again, anyway.

on a windy day

On a windy day, on a late afternoon in February, here's what you can do: You can walk the three blocks from your apartment to the store, because you need things. You need a new mop head, because you've been ever so slightly fastidious about your floor lately. You need index cards, because you've started collecting vocabulary words again - because you've started reading again. Words like marmoreal, canebrake, gracile, loblolly. You need toothpaste.

You can walk that three block stretch briskly, without a coat or a purse to weigh you down. You can navigate the rush hour sidewalk with ease, twisting to squeeze past a crush of disembarking bus riders, weaving lightly through exhausted businessmen in suits, briefcases linked with invisible chains to their wrists. You can feel the late winter chill on your face, and thrust your fists deep into the pockets of your sweatshirt, which is zipped tight against your neck. The wind will lift your hair and your spirits, as it always does, and without looking down, you'll reach into your back pocket, feel for a tiny button on the side your phone, and press it once, twice. Yes. Louder. 

You can reach the far side of the main street, where the sidewalk opens widely, and finally get clear of the crowd. You can then be seized by a feeling of such unexpected, unadulterated, and embarrassingly unjustified happiness that it feels as though someone has shoved you from one spot to the next, across several degrees of uncharted latitude, through some unseen continuum of emotion and consciousness, indifferent to where you'll land. You'll marvel at how different this instant feels from the one just before it. You'll swear you could turn around, there on the city street, and see a fast-fading ghost of yourself stepping forward, ready to assume the moment you're in possession of right now.

You'll want to laugh, but instead you'll just take a deep breath, drinking it in with concentration, and with greed.

You can become acutely aware of your senses, your comportment, your gait. Objects will suddenly shed the cloudy scrim behind which you viewed them just a minute ago and come to life, extra-dimensional. Colors will be obscenely vibrant. You'll stare at the people you pass, fascinated, mystified, vaguely aware that what you're feeling is unreal, a trick, a dream, but wishing everyone else would wake up, too. How can they be so calm in the face of it?

It. What is it? What is it?

It's the undeniable certainty that life is devastating - in its beauty, and in its misery. It's the belief that not only will everything be ok - it already is. It's the knowledge that we are so interconnected in our experience of that beauty and that pain, despite the billion-odd individual paths we're on, that we may as well just stop dead in our tracks, look at one another, and laugh. Or sigh. Or cry.

Everything in your sight will charm and delight you. Every last everyday detail: the way a pretty blonde has carefully tied the belt of her trenchcoat into an off-side bow; the self-conscious jerk with which a teenaged skateboarder shakes his hair from his face, poised and ready for the stoplight to release him; the oddly comforting familiarity of the taxi drivers' faces, queued as they are in their regular spot: Eastern European, and African, and African American. I don't know a single one of them. I feel as though I've known each of them for years.

You can have the thought come dancing into your brain, boastful and irrational as it always is, that you feel things more intensely than other people. You can feel your mind schism at the thought, half of it prickling with shame - What makes you think you're so special?, half of it quietly agreeing - Yes. Yes, you do. 

You'll wonder for the hundredth time if something inside of you is broken, causing you to feel such exquisite, heart-stopping joy at the most mundane of triggers - or if instead something in you is enhanced. Amplified. And, as always when this happens, the wind will stir the leaves in your mind, exposing their opposite, darker sides: yes, but.

Yes, but, even if it's true, even if the wellspring of joy runs deeper in you, so too does the sorrow.

And you can think, for the hundredth time, about diluting both the joy and the sorrow. About saying, Yes, well, the thing is, doctor, the depression really is unbearable at times. Yes, I know this pill will dull the brighter side of things too. On balance, though, I think it would be best.

And you can say, Fuck balance. You can say, Fuck balance, I'll take them both. Because you can, because you've been doing it your whole adult life.

That's what you can do, on a windy day, on a late afternoon in February.

4 U

Confidential to mah boys:

A belated Valentine, but it's been a while since I did one of these...

TOP TEN CONVERSATION HEARTS 

Thanks for being particularly awesome and supportive friends lately.  Luv u guise.

thoughts on GOMI

Well, I hauled myself out of the little depressed hole I felt into. Although "hauled" makes it sound like I put forth some Herculean effort when really, all I did was sort of wait it out and distract myself for a day or so. (I really think in this case it was coming off of so much Vicodin.) Also, I felt like a bit of an asshole when the messages of concern/care started coming in, because it's really selfish and shitty of me to make people worry. Not that there were a ton of such messages, but, you know. Enough to make me feel sheepish for wrinkling the brows of People Who Give A Shit. And Christ am I blessed in that department.

I don't want to seem like I'm attention whoring when I write out my heavier thoughts, or when I'm feeling depressed, I really don't. God I hope I don't. Sometimes putting up a quick post to just describe those feelings is enough to relieve the pressure, like bleeding myself of poison. It's therapeutic for me, but I can see how it might come across as fishing for attention. I'm really not though. I'm just talking my way through it.

Anyway, I'm better now. I rearranged my furniture last night, which, not to claim that my place is so OMGspecial, but rearranging furniture in a 600 square foot apartment is intense. There are only so many places things can go. You have to be flexible and creative, and you have to make sacrifices. Weigh pros and cons. For instance, I can open things up and have more space for Chaucer and I, but my bed has to float in the middle of the apartment, partially blocking the windows. Or, I can move my desk against the wall, where I want it to be, but then my stereo is smack against my complain-y neighbors' bedroom, and I'll have to be careful about the volume of my music. Stuff like that.

---

I'm in the midst of a mini blogging identity crisis. I'm asking myself questions like Why the fuck do you think you're so special, anyway, Ellie? and Who do you think cares about your life? and It's rather rich to dish relationship or emotional wellness advice when a) you're single and b) you suffer from depression, no?

Lighthearted stuff like that.

And since I don't have comments enabled, I really have no way of getting feedback. I have no idea what sorts of posts, if any, are entertaining or helpful. My day-to-day life isn't nearly fascinating enough to warrant nightly summaries. And even when I do things that are theoretically interesting, like go to parties, I don't know who'd want to hear about that either. I went to a party. I drank and ate and danced and laughed and got into an argument with a woman who thought I was trying to steal her opera gloves (true story). So I try to save my blogging energy for things that I think make for good reading.

But I have no idea. Sometimes it all strikes me as so grossly self-absorbed that I come close to canning the whole enterprise.

---

I couldn't sleep tonight; I was too wired/jazzed about the new look of my place. I read for a while, then messed around online. I paid a visit to the GOMI forums because, yes, I read GOMI.

So, GOMI. Depending on your perspective, your motive, and what, if any, axe you have to grind, GOMI is either a mega hot blogworld topic or the elephant in room that you wish would just get poached. Here are my thoughts on it:

1. Some of it is spot-on, much-deserved criticism that the bloggers featured would do well to read and learn from.
2. Some of it is mean-spirited and petty and unfair.

I've read some incredibly insightful things on GOMI that make me want to yell Yes! Exactly! and high-five the contributors or commenters who wrote them. And I've read some things that have made me uncomfortable and even alienated me a little bit. For example, I start to feel uneasy reading threads which criticize bloggers with admitted and demonstrable mental health issues, because I myself know all too well what sorts of stupid stuff I'll do/say in the throes of depression.

Where I find myself cheering the GOMI community on the most is when it calls bloggers out for shitty behavior. Bloggers are only human. Humans make mistakes. But when humans put themselves on display on the internet, sharing the details not only of their own lives but that of their families and friends - well, then they should damn well expect to be held accountable for that. There is nothing heroic or inherently laudable about "putting yourself out there" for criticism and judgment. No one is holding a gun to our heads, saying Blog or I'll shoot.

And no, your critics do not need a blog or a Twitter account or an Instagram account of their own in order for their criticisms to be valid. That's a bullshit argument.

Have you been an asshole, either on your blog, or on social media?  Expect to be called out. Have you been rude, or sanctimonious, or condescending, or smug, or entitled, or hypocritical? Expect to be called out. Have you been a know-it-all, yet proven wrong, and refused to admit it? Have you censored or deleted comments, or - worse, IMO - been one of those bloggers who childishly only sides with commenters who agree with you all the while ignoring the very good points that dissenters have brought up? Expect to be called out.

Dismissing GOMI as the realm of "trolls" or "jealous haters" is neither mature nor accurate. It's not mature because, for one thing, it's an ad hominem. Call someone an asshole or a loser all you want - that doesn't address the argument she's making - which could be quite strong, for one thing, and something you could learn from, for another. It's not accurate because it doesn't take into account that while, sure, there are occasionally some very harsh comments made on GOMI, there are also pages and pages of level-headed, well-reasoned, and quite justified criticism. If you're a blogger who thinks you've unfairly earned an entire forum thread dedicated to you just because a bunch of "bullies" want to pick on you, well, grow the fuck up and face the fact that you must have done something to earn it.

And if you're a blogger being criticized on GOMI and you haven't read every single comment written about you to make absolute sure that it IS all just a bunch of unfair bullying, well, then you have no right to dismiss it as such. Because how do you know? Some of the smartest cultural criticism I have ever seen has appeared on GOMI. I've also seen some unduly nasty comments pertaining to issues that shouldn't even be up for discussion in the first place (IMO, anyway). But for the most part, what I read on GOMI are the thoughtfully expressed frustrations of readers who've grown disillusioned with bloggers they once liked, for various reasons - reasons they list in no uncertain terms. In other words, for the smart blogger, GOMI is a neon-lit path back to likability and profitability.

No blogger gets it right all the time. Lord knows I've written stuff that absolutely makes me cringe, when I revisit it. Every single one of us could do with a fat dose of humility and gratitude that anyone is giving us the time of day. So if someone visits my blog, or my Twitter stream, and reads just one post, or one tweet - just one! - and decides, based on that small bit of my writing, that I'm an asshole, well guess what? I completely deserve that judgment. None of this, Oh, well, you don't know my whole story! You shouldn't judge me because you only know a little bit about me!

Horseshit.

Because you're right. They do only know what we share. But again, no one is forcing us to share it. If we're going to make the decision to selectively share parts of our life with the world, then newsflash - conclusions about us will be drawn from those selectively shared parts. That's the consequence of our sharing. And for us to complain or name-call our critics when those conclusions are drawn? THAT is the height of absurdity and childishness.

And here's another newsflash: As bloggers, there is actually no limit to what we can share, if we want to. Afraid your readers are getting the wrong impression of you? Afraid you're coming off the wrong way? LOG ON, START TYPING, AND FIX IT. There is no limit to the amount of posting you can do, to illustrate who you are, and what you believe. Twitter only allows 140 characters, but your blog? No limits. No excuses. If you've fucked up and made yourself seem like an asshole online, it falls on you to change that. Get writing. Show your readers why they're wrong about you. Clarify. Expand. Explain. Apologize. Share more of yourself and your story, so that the conclusions drawn about you can shift and change - can be dropped altogether, even.

Don't have time? Don't have the inclination? Don't care to? Fine. Then don't complain when there are a couple hundred pages of GOMI dedicated to criticizing you. And don't wave your hand with faux unconcern and claim you don't care.

Because of course you do, and no one believes otherwise for a second.

You're a blogger, after all. If your writing was all just for personal expression, it'd be offline, in a private journal somewhere. But those of us who choose to share ourselves and our lives with the world have some thread of exhibitionism in us, and some need for external validation. It's why we do what we do. Of course we fucking care what is said about us, in the various corners of the internet.

And we'd do well not to hide from it, because that certainly won't make it go away.

slivers

Moving through the world becomes like walking through a glass tunnel. Glass above, glass below, glass all around. There's only me in it, and as I pass along, I can see everything just on the other side. I can put my hands to the glass, and my face, but I can't touch or feel or smell or taste anything out there. Scary things press themselves against it, showing their dark, ugly, twisted bodies to me. They shift and morph, sometimes seeming wet and soluble, sometimes wispy as smoke. And I can't hide from them. I shrink to the floor, bury my face in my knees, and wrap my arms tight around my legs. But they just stare at me, waiting until I lift my head to acknowledge their existence, and their power.

They crowd out the beautiful things, which I know are back there, if temporarily hidden from my sight. But they're shoved so far back I can't even make out their shapes in the chaos.

I don't know what it was. I don't know if it was taking Vicodin for a week straight, then plunging off a cliff back into an icy ocean of pure, unaltered physiology. I don't know if it was the nasty surprise I unearthed early Sunday morning, poking around as I sometimes do in places I know better than to go.

But whatever it was, I dropped down, down, down, a globe of the thinnest, most brittle glass, until I crashed inevitably to the floor. And now I'm in a hundred tiny pieces, exhausted by even the thought of trying to gather back into myself the slivers scattered far and wide across the room.

I owe emails, and I owe phone calls, and I have voicemails I haven't even listened to. I'm sorry if you're among those expecting something from me.

I hope to be back soon.

valentine

I wake up with a throbbing tooth ache. Rather, an ache where a tooth was, just a week ago. I can't speak to my pain threshold. I've never taken, like, a pain threshold test. But holy god, this seems like some serious fucking pain. I roll over and look at my phone: I've got a group text message from some girlfriends: a gothic cartoon image - girl in a cemetery, boy's arm jutting out of the hallowed ground, offering her flowers. Happy Valentine's Day, ladies! 

I call the dentist.

"Hi, I just want to confirm my appointment for this afternoon at three?"

"Yes, Baker, we have you down. Three o' clock."

"Ok, I just want to make triple sure the doctor can come in today? Because I know he had an emergency yesterday. And I'm pretty sure I have dry socket. It hurts really badly..."

"Yes, he's here today, for sure," the receptionist interrupts me, but not rudely. I get the feeling she understands how bad I feel, and just wants to reassure me I'll be ok.

I feed Chaucer and try to read, distracting myself until the painkillers take effect. Wally (yes, we are reverting back to his code name) texts to say he's just gotten to Union Station, and do I want to get brunch? I tell him I really can't, I'm in a bit of a state, and need to pull myself together and clean up my apartment. He asks if he can bring his bag by - he's staying the night before heading to an AirBnB for the weekend tomorrow. I say of course and start straightening up.

Wally arrives a little bit later and I do some more housework while he prepares for a work meeting, stopping to playing occasional bouts of tug o'war with an ecstatic Chaucer. I call the dentist back to see if I can move the appointment up. I can. I start getting ready to leave. Mason texts as I'm putting my shoes. There's something seriously wrong with me, he says. I was just thinking about sending her flowers. He's talking about his ex-girlfriend. I lecture him for a good ten minutes as I get my bag, say goodbye to Wally, and walk to the bus stop. I tell him it took me ages to get over A. That I really, really wanted the last guy I dated to want me. But that at the end of the day, the minute someone decides they don't want to be with us, we have start moving on, for our sanity and self-esteem.

I am so good at talking the talk.

As I ride down Wilshire, I take note of the holiday markers: balloons, armfuls of flowers, red dresses. I'm not particularly bothered that I'm spending the day single. I realize I haven't really been feeling lonely, or, like, lacking in that way lately at all. That I've just been in a nice, level state of mind, happy to be spending time with friends, with Chaucer, with myself even. I decide this is a good thing, and wrap myself up in the pleasantness of that thought while I listen to Geographer, wondering why I don't listen to Geographer more often.

My dentist confirms what I suspected: dry socket on the bottom left extraction site. He wedges a tiny, self-dissolving bandage gooped up with some kind of dark red paste into the back of my jaw, which dampens the pain almost immediately. He says I can come back Monday for another application, but in the meantime, I'm going to have to suck it up, and it's going to hurt. He asks whether I'd like him to the extend the prescription for the ibuprofen he wrote me last week, or if I'd prefer more narcotics instead.

In spite of the pain, and in spite of the wad of cotton gauze he's padded my cheek with, I shoot him a look, my eyebrows raised, that says, Do you really have to ask? He laughs, saying, "Alright then. Narcotics it is."

I decide to wander down Fairfax a bit after the appointment. B. is having a themed party Saturday night (umbrella Mafia/prohibition type thing - anything from present-day Jersey Shore to Boardwalk Empire to Sopranos to Bonnie & Cylde, etc. is welcome), and I don't have an outfit yet. After spitting out the wad of cotton in a trashcan, I stop in a vintage shop, where I give the shopkeeper my backpack to hold while I wander aisles crammed with period clothes. A pudgy Jack Russell terrier mix follows me around, sniffing Chaucer on my ankles. It's a great shop with tons of variety, and price points are good; I know I'll be able to find something party-appropriate here. 

But I'm not into it. I get quickly overwhelmed by the options. I see flashy dresses that would be perfect for a gaudy Jersey-housewife. I see wool pencil skirts and high-necked blouses a la Boardwalk Empire. I see flapper dresses. And I see lots and lots of hats.  I can't decide what look I want to attempt, and instead end up buying a tiny, black, frilly skirt-slip thing for $10, thinking of Burning Man.

I keep walking and decide I'm already close enough, I may as well finish the hike to Melrose and go to L'ecole des Femmes. I stumbled across the shop a few weeks ago on my way to Jonathan Adler and fell in love, on the spot, with the entire line of clothing. I've been dying to go back. 

The designer/shop owner herself is there, and she helps me pick out a few dresses and tops. I love pretty much everything, including the designer, who is sultry and French and engaging and warm and funny. She very sweetly gushes over how her designs look on me, and I gush right back over how talented she is, and how lovely her clothes. Impeccable, she says approvingly, as her mother zips me into a black satin dress. Where did you find this fabric?? I marvel.  

The mutual love fest ends with a sale: two dresses, one of which she discounts on the spot. 

On the bus ride home, I text Wally. It's Valentine's Day. Should we go out to dinner or something? He responds in the affirmative, but says it'll be a while yet before he gets back. His meeting is in Torrance and he's taking the train home. On the forty-minute ride, I think about a blog post I want to write: a letter to my next, as-yet-unmet Valentine. What are you doing tonight? it starts. I bet you're out with a special friend, like me.

Once at home, I shower and change into one of my new dresses. I empty my backpack of the day's swag: the lace slip, a prescription for Vicodin, a syringe for rinsing my mouth, and a pink heart lollipop from L'ecole des Femme. I notice the empty bottle of Vodka Wally left near my sink, and place it on the kitchen island next to the other items. I take a picture of this ridiculous vignette, planning to send it to Wally, but I can't think of a funny caption. 

After a while, he gets back. I answer the door in my new dress, which he compliments, handing me a pink gift bag. No, I say, faux-scandalized. You did not get me a Valentine's gift! I glare at him, delighted but feeling guilty. I have nothing for him. I pull out a handful of Reese's heart-shaped peanut butter cups, and we unilaterally decide that holiday Reeses's are far superior to the regular ones. I peer back into the bag and see a package of oversized, heart-shaped pink Peeps. 

"These look like pasties," I say.

"Just wait," he says, smiling as he watches me pull the last item from the bag. It's a small red t-shirt which has a round black sticker on the top left shoulder, printed with the words scratch and sniff. The front of the shirt is screen printed with a tone-on-tone Hershey's kiss.

"Oh my god," I say, draping it against me. 

"It's scratch and sniff! For your boobs!" 

I press the fabric to my face and inhale, laughing. The chocolatey scent is strong, and I make a crack about my white ass needing vanilla instead. But I love the shirt and the candy and the fact that I actually do have a Valentine, after all. I give Wally a hug and make a mental note to take a pic of my goodies before I eat them.

We get dinner at Mas Malo (refried beans and a margarita for me), where we talk about blogging, boys, and Burning Man. He calls me out on some inaccuracies on my blog, objecting to my characterization of certain moments/scenes with him. I pledge to make the edits, which I agree are justified and fair.

He makes a rather valid, girl-I'm-in-your-corner type point about one of my recent dating adventures that makes me feel good. Here's the thing, he says. If a guy has no intention of taking things seriously, he probably shouldn't be playfully texting with your friends. It's something I hadn't thought of, in my perhaps-too-forgiving quest to let and let live. You're right, I say, nodding. You're totally right. And I'm reminded of a quote I read recently: The biggest coward is a man who awakens a woman's love with no intention of loving her.

(It's a quote, in fact, that I'd like to share with more than one man I've met in recent months. But that's another story for another time.)

When I tell him that the guys we'll be camping with at Burning Man are some of the straightest, most alpha-male dudes I've ever known, he says, "Oh, I'll be painting their toes by the end of the week. I won't have painted toenails, but they will, by the time I'm done with them."

Somehow, the subject of Schoolhouse Rock comes up, and when he finds out I've never seen it, he almost drops his fork. "Oh my god, ok. We're pulling that up on YouTube as soon as we get home. You've never seen any of them??" I'm given a quick breakdown, and when he says that it's thanks to one of those videos that he still has the preamble to the Constitution memorized, I ask to hear it.

"Ok," he says. "But I have to sing it." And he does, right there at the table, which is snugly set amongst several other tables, mostly filled with Valentine's couples. I practically fall out of my chair, and have to steal napkins from another table to wipe the tears from my eyes.

Back at my apartment, he makes good on his threat. As I'm painstakingly irrigating my dry socket, flashlight in one hand and syringe in the other, cursing all the while, he comes in and out of the bathroom, iPad in hand, to show me snippets of cartoons about conjunctions, and interjections, and bills being made into law.

He has every word of these songs memorized, and serenades me as I pop another Vicodin and change into pyjamas.

I collapse into bed, my jaw aching. I scroll through the Instagram feed of L'ecole des Femmes, showing him some of my favorite pictures. Oh my god. Look how sexy this woman is! And she's so sweet and friendly. Oh wow, listen to this awesome quote she posted.

Wally, sitting up in the bed, surfs his iPad. He glances at the images I point out and says, "So when's your awesomeness happening?" His voice is a little bit low, but the words are clear enough.

"My awesomeness?" I echo, pretending not to know what he means. I keep my eyes on my phone.

"Yeah," he says. "Your awesomeness. She's got her whole thing going, her shop, her clothes...what's your awesomeness going to be?"

It's as close to prodding and probing as Wally will get with me about - well, about everything, in a way: my professional life, my career, my creative life...  And while I'm grateful that he cares, it's not a subject I want to open up right then and there.

So I change it.

We go to sleep soon thereafter, in the same bed, though as always, he sleeps much more deeply than I, and gets there much quicker.

It's not the only skill of his that I envy. 

like, for instance, Vicodin

Happy V-Is-For-Other-Things-Too Day, kids!


Or, as a friend brilliantly put it to me this morning, wishing you a somber and reflective Singles Awareness Day. 

chaucer's early days

The very stylish, funny, and talented Ashley of Perfectly Average Girl, whom I suspect knows I'm laid up with a toothache* and therefore unable to go foraging mischievously about the city for new material, quite kindly threw a blogging prompt at me the other day on Instagram.

She said, Yo Ellie, I request a blog post about Chaucer's Gotcha Day. And far be it from me to shy away from talking about my dog, like, ever. So I was all, I'll see what I can do. And this is what I can do.

First, a confession: Chaucer is a pet store dog. And that's a shameful thing to admit, because puppy mills are terrible, terrible places. And believe me, I would never, ever buy another pet from a pet store. And every other dog I have ever had was either a rescue or purchased from a certified breeder. And the same goes for every other dog my ex-husband has ever had, too.

But Chaucer was a something of an impulse purchase, and I'm sorry to say, he came from a pet store. Because for as much as Mike and I had planned on getting a dog for a long time, we hadn't yet decided on a breeder - or even a breed - much less put a deposit down on a litter. And we were terribly impatient and immature about the whole process (fuck, we were terribly impatient and immature about everything). So while we talked and talked and talked about what kind of dog we were going to get, and while we looked at breeders online, at the same time we occasionally went into the local pet shops to see what they had.

We told ourselves we were just doing research, to see different kinds of dogs and maybe familiarize ourselves a little bit with breeds we'd never gotten to see up close, etc. - but I think deep down we both knew it was a matter of time before we just decided to go for it, and to get one of those dogs on the spot.

Like I say: not proud of this. In my defense, our engagement was a disaster from the start, and throwing ourselves into dog shopping was just one of the many ways we distracted ourselves from the mistake we were making in being together - not to mention in planning our wedding.

Anyway, one day, Mike came home and said, I found him. I found our dog. And the way his face was just lit up with excitement, I knew we were getting that dog.

He told me all about the six month old English Mastiff puppy he'd seen at a pet store near us. He described him as best as he could. But he kept saying, You have to come see him. You have to meet him, you'll see. Mike said that when they'd let Chaucer (though of course we hadn't named him yet) out of the little puppy cage area, and walked him over to where Mike was waiting for him in the getting-to-know-your-potential-new-owners area, that Chaucer had - never having even seen him before - run straight to him, so fast, that he'd slid right into Mike's legs.

Anyway, something was going on that I couldn't leave right then to go to the pet store. I had to work or something. So we had to wait until the next morning. And we wanted to be there right when it opened, because by this time, even though only one of us had met him, we were both pretty much in love with this dog, and had decided to get him.

I remember the first time I saw Chaucer, he was behind the glass of one of those awful little pet store cubicles. But he wasn't alone. He was with a tiny little beagle puppy. And he had the beagle's entire head in his mouth. Like, the whole thing. And the beagle was loving it. The two of them were just flopping about, playing and nipping and wrestling the way that puppies do. And Mike looked at me to see if I loved him as much as he did, and I did.

I absolutely did.

Then they let Chaucer out, and he bounded straight up to Mike. And I just stared, in awe, at the cuteness that was chewing our shoelaces with his wickedly sharp little puppy teeth. I couldn't believe that he had not already been snatched up.

The pet store staff were sad to see him go. They told us that after the store was closed, when they were cleaning up and restocking, that they often let Chaucer out to run around and keep them company. That he'd been the store favorite. And when we were walking him out and he snatched a dried pig ear from a low bin near the cash register, the employee who was helping us just laughed and said he was welcome to it.

He was already so big that it was difficult to carry him. He had such a bloated belly, probably from the awful food he was eating at the pet store. We took him home and brought him and our other dog - a retired racing Greyhound - into the backyard, to let them meet.

Chaucer was instantly in love with his older brother, who, for his part, was pretty excited, too. They ran back and forth together across the yard, and twice inside of ten minutes, Chaucer fell into the pool while chasing Stanley. Both times he made a huge, hilarious kerplunk! sound and sank like a stone. Both times I jumped immediately in after him, fully clothed, and hoisted him back out.

The trauma stuck: to this day he's a little bit spooked by deep pools of water.

What else? He was a massive baby, and hated to be crated. And in fact, Mike hated crating him so badly that at night, he would lay on the floor, next to the crate, to sleep right next to Chaucer. The crate was in our bedroom, so it wasn't as if the puppy was far from us, but the bed was pretty high up, so he couldn't see us. And Mike was such a sucker for his cries, oh my god.

We got Chaucer the day before Halloween. So it was perfect timing to show him off and let him socialize a little bit with all the kids and parents the next night (we lived in the suburbs, in Tucson, so we had plenty of young family foot traffic).

I used to take him to the massive dog park just a couple miles from our house. I mean, compared to LA dog parks, this this was a football field, really. Just enormous. And Chaucer was such a great little socializer. He'd play, but not too rough. He'd spar with the bigger dogs, but run with the little ones, too. One of the dogs he used to play with was a Great Dane named George, who was later crowned the World's Largest dog - and appeared on Oprah. (I found out about the Guinness and Oprah details just last fall, when I stumbled across a YouTube video of George. I was all, OMG Chauc your friend is famous! And he was all, Cool.)

He used to have what we called the "midnight naughties" where he'd run around like a maniac, out of nowhere, really late at night. He'd just get this crazy streak of hyperactivity, and run laps around the kitchen island, or the bed, or up and down the stairs. Mastiffs aren't supposed to really be run much until they're at least a year old, so I think he must have had all kinds of pent-up energy he wasn't getting out otherwise. It was hilarious to watch.

Chaucer was only about a year old when he was called on to do ring-bearer duty at our wedding...

Anyway, this is a bit of a random and scattered post, because I'm to be honest, I'm pretty doped up on Vicodin (see note below), but Ashley was so sweet to ask about Chaucer's early days in my life, that I wanted to get down at least some of basics. 

Thanks, Ashley! 

:)

---


* not sure, but I suspect I have dry socket, or at the very least some kind of inflammation/complication from Friday's wisdom teeth removal - going back to the dentist this afternoon to find out :(

zombies and guns and the afterlife, oh my


See ya soon, doll. xoxo

p.s. Fuck you for looking so good on a web cam.

untitled, part I

She takes the first, tentative steps onto the oversized ellipsis, which carries her like a moving sidewalk through the empty space. It travels horizontally, left to right, and begins to repeat itself. Space, ellipsis. Space, ellipsis. Clusters of three dots she must walk across. She jumps the chasms between the clusters with trepidation at first, but soon hits her stride and makes the leaps with ease. Step, step, step, jump. Step, step, step, jump.

Suddenly, her landing doesn't stick. The first sphere of an ellipsis spins beneath her feet like a barrel floating in the river. She wobbles and dances, dangerously close to falling off. We see her arms shoot out sideways, desperate to find balance. Her feet eventually find a pace to match the spinning dot, and she's safe, but the game has changed. The ellipses aren't solid and sure anymore; they're treacherous and slippery, and threaten to throw her at the slightest misstep.

She keeps moving, though slower now than before. The dots spin beneath her feet as if slickened by oil. And now, another change: the ellipsis beneath her feet spreads out, widening impossibly. She'll never make it across; the distance is too far. She perches precariously for one final moment before losing her balance and dropping down, down, down between clusters of dots that are stretching out across the vacant blackness.

Arms and legs akimbo, hair caught up in the fall, she goes down, down, down. Nothing but empty space around her at first, and then, floating up, one after another, spread across the screen - question marks. Like tiny umbrellas, or parachutes. They go up, up, up as she keeps plummeting down, down, down. She grabs for one, just catching it by the dot of its bottom half, and her body slowly swings to a stop, like a wind chime abandoned by the breeze.

She hangs on. The question mark moves vertically through a void filled with the more of same, faster than some, slower than others. Her arms are growing tired. She pulls herself up to stand on the dot, holding on to the curved stem above it.

One by one, the other question marks disappear until only hers remains. A horizontal line - a dash - breaches the right side of the screen. She sees it. The dash repeats, and repeats again, unfolding backwards to the left, until it spans the nearly the full length of the space above her. It's a path she needs to get to.

She tries to climbs the question mark she floats on, to use its rounded crown as a stepping stone.  She pulls her body up - but in doing so, her weight causes it to capsize, and she scrambles to stay on board. The top heavy mark swings back and forth like a pendulum, jerking her with it, until she tumbles into the opened, upside down curve of the bulb.

She's safe, for the moment, in this makeshift cradle, which drifts without an anchor through a sea of black.

trouble with Instagram

I got the weirdest email from Instagram today. 

---

Dear @elliequent,

As part of our ongoing efforts to improve the Instagram community, our team is in the process of reviewing the accounts of our many valued users. In doing so, it has come to our attention that your account may not be in full compliance with the terms and regulations to which you agreed by installing and using the application.

Specifically, it appears that your currently published feed lacks a photograph of any coffee drink, in any incarnation. 

Per our revised Terms of Use, the full text of which can be found at instagram.com/legal, all Instagram users are required to post at least one coffee-related picture, in order to complete the account validation process. I regret to inform you that, having failed to comply with this rule, @elliequent is therefore considered an invalid account by our legal team, and thus subject to cancellation at any time.

In order to bring your usage into compliance, please post, at your earliest convenience, an image of one of the following:

1. coffee (may be decaf), with or without cream and sugar, in a standard mug/cup (cafe au lait bowls are also acceptable)
2. any form of espresso drink, iced or hot, with or without foam, including cappuccino, cafe mocha, americano, or mochalattachinafrappanilla, in any recognizable ceramic or plastic ("to go") drinking vessel

The coffee drink may pictured on its own, or accompanied by other items such as a croissant, a cat, or an iPad. Additionally, while exact positioning of the drink is not important, our suggested placement is perched precariously on a vintage-sheeted bed, beside a pair of bare female legs and a well-worn paperback, in as generally an uncomfortable and unlikely way of sitting with a full cup of hot liquid as you can manage.

Please note that while chai tea is an acceptable substitute, black and herbal teas are not.

Once you have posted the requisite image, our staff will immediately update your account status in our records, and you will be considered a full-fledged member of the Instagram community. 

If you have any questions or concerns, please contact our support team at instagram.com/help.

We look forward to working with you to amend this oversight. 

Sincerely, 

Kevin Systrom 
co-founder, Instagram 

---

Guess I'd better get on that.

habit and fear

Habit woke up one day and said, "I'm ready to change."

Immediately, she felt Fear tugging at her sleeve. "I bet you can't," he whispered. Habit ignored him.

Fear repeated himself, louder this time. "I bet you can't!"

Habit turned to face Fear directly. "I heard you," she said. "I'm just not listening."

in memoriam

I thought Chaucer had murdered her the other day, but Celia was one tough pinniped. She hung tenaciously on for another couple of weeks, past the point at which a weaker semi-aquatic, fin-footed soul would have given up.

I did what I could for her during those final days, discouraging Chaucer from further tearing what must have been a very painful rip down her tummy, and encouraging him to instead play with one of his less mortally-wounded toys.

But this morning, in the predawn hour, I could only watch helplessly make a YouTube video as the reaper collected his soggy, fluff-filled due (note: for some reason, the video quality is all wonky, and looks like it was filmed underwater - coincidence?? I THINK NOT):

 

RIP Celia the Seal (2012-2013)

Celia was a beautiful soul. Known to her close friends and family as "Ce", she was a common harbor seal originally hailing from the Hebrides, off the western coast of Scotland. She often barked longingly of her days as a pup, frolicking in the chilly waters of the Northern Atlantic, and fleeing killer whales. Celia loved to swim (Chaucer often dropped her in the bathtub - usually when I was in it), to cook (her specialty was squid stuffed with minced anchovies), and to hide under the bed for days at a time.

A perpetual prankster, Celia often strategically placed herself underfoot in the middle of the night, typically in the pathway between my bed and the bathroom. Many's the time I erupted into delighted laughter as I stumbled over her drool-drenched body, nearly breaking my neck in the dark.

As Celia was a great fan of 19th century American poetry, I thought it would be fitting to do a reading of her favorite Emily Dickinson poem:

Because I could not swim to Death,
He kindly swam to me;
The ocean held but just ourselves
And sea anemones.

We slowly dove, he knew no haste
And I had put away
My blubber and my flippers too,
For his civility.

We passed the pool where sperm whales sprayed,
Their blowholes scarcely dry;
We passed the reefs of coral bright
We passed the islands by.

We paused before a beach that seemed
A desert of the sea;
The coast was scarcely swimmable
The shoreline but a key.

Since then 'tis centuries; but each
Feels shorter than the day
I first surmised the porpoise' heads
Were toward eternity.  

Celia was a well-loved member of our family, and she will be greatly missed.

In lieu of flowers, please send Glad Tall 13 Gallon Kitchen bags. (She was rather well stuffed, and left a bit of a mess behind.) Thank you for your thoughts during this difficult time.

technology: ur doin' it wrong, ellie



Christ. Sometimes I really miss having a tech wiz boyfriend.

ETA: Though I did figure out my printer! #smallvictories

the drawing tree

There once was a girl, who knew a boy, whom she used to meet every day at a certain tree in the forest. The tree had a broad, smooth trunk, and thick, sturdy branches that seemed to reach all the way to the sky.

The boy and girl had made up a game to play. Each day, they would take turns carving a picture into the tender column of the tree's base. First the boy would make a cut, then the girl. They used a small pocket knife that didn't scar the tree too deeply, but that left a clear imprint in the wood.

Every day, they built on the design they had started. The girl would pick up where the boy left off, and vice versa. Neither of them really knew what they were making, because the shape and pattern changed with each of their cuts. One day it might look like clouds in the sky; the next, a nest of birds. Neither knew what picture the other ultimately had in mind.

One day while she was waiting for her turn, the girl looked up and noticed how strong the tree's limbs were. "Let's climb it," she said to the boy, who was concentrating on the bark beneath his knife.

"I can't," he said, without looking up.

"Why not?" asked the girl, surprised. "Don't you know how to climb trees?"

The boy paused in his work and looked at her. "I do," he said. "But I can't climb this tree."

"I don't understand," the girl said, frowning. "Look how easy it would be. These branches would certainly hold our weight, and we'd be at the top in no time."

"I can't," said the boy again. And he turned his attention back to the tree's trunk.

This went on for quite a while. Their picture continued to grow day by day, thanks to their combined efforts. But as the days stretched into weeks, and the weeks stretched into months, the girl longed more and more to climb the branches above them. She invited the boy to join her again and again, but he declined each time.

Eventually, the girl grew tired of their game. The design they were carving had ceased to be interesting to her, because it seemed like it would never be finished. She wanted to try something new. She craved the challenge of pulling herself up through the tree's body, bit by bit. She knew she could do it. And she knew once she reached the top, she'd have a beautiful view of the forest below.

But she didn't want to do it alone. Once more she pleaded with the boy. "Please, let's climb the tree. I'll help you. It might be difficult at first, but I promise we can do it."

The boy shook his head. "No. I can't climb this tree," he said flatly. "Let's just keep drawing. Look at how beautiful it is so far."

But the girl didn't see anything beautiful. She saw a tree trunk covered with grooves and scratches that didn't add up to much at all. She sighed, saddened by their wasted efforts, and she decided today would be the last day she came to meet the boy.

She told him, saying "I'm not going to come here any more, if you won't at least try." And the boy was angry. He said some unkind things to her. He didn't understand why their game wasn't enough for her.

"Because I want to see how high I can get," she said. And she turned and left the boy alone at the tree. And she didn't come back to it the next day, or the next, or for a very long time.

But one day, the girl happened to be walking through the woods, near where the drawing tree was. She was curious and felt nostalgic, so she decided to go look at it.

She approached the tree slowly, scared that seeing it might make her sad. But as she got nearer, she frowned. She couldn't see their carving. It was gone. The trunk of the tree was smooth and blank, erased of all the shapes she and the boy had made in it. It was as if they'd never been there.

She stared at it, nonplussed. It was surely the same tree. She recognized the twisted fingers of its roots, and the gnarled knot just below the first branch. But no trace of the picture remained.

The girl felt her chest tighten. She felt angry and sad and disappointed and hurt and confused. She'd spent so many afternoons here, playing the game the boy wanted to play, long past the point that it was fun for her. And now there wasn't even any evidence she'd ever been there at all.

She took a deep breath and waited until she felt calm again. She leaned against the tree and closed her eyes. The girl listened to the sounds of the forest around her: a distant birdsong, a light breeze whistling through the leaves above her... Suddenly, she had a thought. And a smile came across her face as she turned back to face the tree and reached up. Her hand grasped the nearest limb tightly.

She climbed slowly and carefully. She concentrated on finding sure footholds and balancing her weight. She glanced down once or twice, but in excitement at how far she'd come - not fear. When she looked up to see how close she was to the top, she saw nothing but more branches. She realized it might take her quite a while to go all the way up. But she kept going, determined.

A few minutes later, as she was taking a break to catch her breath, she heard voices. She looked down and saw two people walking towards the tree she was climbing - a boy and a girl. She squinted, trying to make out who they were. And at the same moment she recognized him, she saw the boy reach into his pocket and hand the girl a small knife.

The girl watched the couple for a few minutes. She heard their laughter. She saw the girl make her mark on the trunk with a practiced hand. The girl down below was pretty, with long hair and an eager smile. The girl in the tree felt a little bit melancholy, but strangely unsurprised. This was the game the boy loved to play, after all. She briefly wondered whether he would tell his new partner about his previous visits to the tree. And she wondered if it was him who'd made their picture disappear. But then she realized it didn't matter at all. It had nothing to do with her anymore.

She continued to watch quietly for another moment, afraid of being discovered in her perch. But the boy and girl on the forest floor were busily engaged in their game. She doubted they'd hear her. And from the enraptured expression on the new girl's face, she knew it would be a while yet before she grew restless and bored - before she looked up to see what was above them.

And she doubted the boy would climb the tree with her, anyway, when she inevitably asked. He seemed content to stay right where he was.

2.1.13

At dawn, I go for a run to Chinatown. I dawdle in the cornfield and on my way home, taking several Hipstamatics of the sunlight breaking through the various eastern vistas that I pass. I photograph the sun rising over still-sleepy streets, above the already-packed freeway, and through a chain link fence.

Back at home, I shower and dress in jeans, a white button-down, and Converse. I need to return to Beverly Hills to pick up Spyro's visa, but there's no need for fanciness today. Before I leave, I package the rest of his documents up to be FedExed back to him. With a Sharpie I write on his extra passport photo, just beside his face: I'm going to Brazil! 

He texts me as I'm sitting in the waiting area of the consulate a little while later.

- You have the visa? 

- Not yet.

- I'm sooooo esssssited.

- Gooooood. ... Just realized they painted the waiting area in the colors of the Brazilian flag.

- Duh.

(a few minutes later)

- You still waiting?

- Yes.

- Any cute boys?

- Dunno. I can only see their backs.

On the bus ride home, I sit in the far back row. My phone battery is running low, and I've got an hour ride back downtown. I know I can either listen to music or play with Hipstamatic, but not both. I opt for taking pictures, and spend much of the bus ride surreptitiously photographing my fellow passengers, trying out new combinations of lens and film.

A little ways from home, a short, mustachioed middle-aged Latino man boards the bus and sits beside me, in the only open seat left. He's wearing a white polo and aviator sunglasses, and turns his head almost constantly to look down the streets we pass. I angle my phone's camera toward him and take a couple of snapshots.

We're passing a Mexican restaurant I often walk by on my way to Home Depot when I feel him tug on my sleeve. I pop my headphones out even though I'm not listening to music, and turn to face him.

The man, who is now holding his sunglasses, asks if I've ever been to the restaurant we just passed. I say no, but that in fact I've wondered about it, since it's close to where I live. He's animated in his enthusiasm and praise of it. Oh yes, very good. Very good. 

I reply with a skeptical tone but a smile. Oh yeah? Well, I'm from Arizona, so I'm an extremely harsh judge of Mexican food...

Our conversation goes on for another five minutes. He talks quickly and nods often, looking me in the eye when I speak. When I ask where he's from, his voice grows impassioned. He's from Mexico, but it was very very bad there, he says. When you have a business, they come, the criminals, they come and... The man makes a grabbing gesture with closed fists. They take it. You understand? Very bad place. He tells me how grateful he is to be in the states, how it is so much better here, so much safer, and I smile and nod. What sort of work do you do? I ask him. Again, he uses his hands to explain. With a wave of his wrist, he smooths out an invisible surface. I make flooring. Installations of the floor.

I say something about tradesmen having the safest jobs, and when he returns the work question, I mumble vague half-truths about doing creative work. At this, a tall, broad-shouldered black man in a business suit turns to look at me, from where he stands in the aisle.

"Are your rates good?" he asks me, in a booming voice.

I'm caught off guard and unsure how to answer. "Yes," I say, and smile. "I think so, anyway."

The man reaches into his pocket, then hands me a business card. He says something about occasionally needing freelancers to pick up small extra jobs for him. "Email me," he says. Before I can thank him, he continues. "It's nice to see people talking on the bus." He nods approvingly towards myself and my conversation partner, who nods as well.

"Yes," says the Latino man, in a serious tone. "People should be good to one another." When we both disembark a minute later, he shakes my hand warmly before bidding me goodbye and good luck.

---

I spend the next couple of hours running errands and collecting the last bits of my outfit for an 80s prom party the next night. Everything I need is in the fabric district, and cheap. $5 for a mesh shirt, $3 for some lace gloves, $5 for some lace nylons, $1 for a headband and bow.

On the way back, I run into an acquaintance walking his dog. I haven't seen them in months, and we chat for several minutes on the sidewalk. His dog is a 180 lb Saint Bernard whom we both desperately wanted to be friends with Chaucer - but each time we got them near one another, they made clear that they had other plans.

Kerry texts in the afternoon inviting me over for rooftop margaritas, but I won't make it over to her place until after seven: thyroid-related exhaustion kicks my ass and I need a nap by the time I return home with my haul of 80s accessories.

She and I, Ross and a friend of theirs go for pizza, then drinks and dancing at a neighborhood dive bar. When Kerry finds out about my upcoming wisdom-tooth extraction appointment, shes offers to take and pick me up from it. I hate asking the favor, as she has precious few days off and I loathe the idea of her wasting one on chauffering me around, but she's insistent. "Done," she says. "Don't even worry about it."

We listen to music and talk in the back room of the bar. When I reveal that I haven't been feeling close to one of our mutual friends, she tells me she hopes I know that I can text or call her whenever. "Most of the time, I'm seriously not doing anything, anyway," she says. I tell her that she's often on my mind, even if I don't reach out. That I wonder how things are going with her work, and other things she talks about when we get together. I tell her I absolutely know that she'd be there if I needed anything, and she reminds me how loyal she is. The conversation is like a verbal hug between us, and I think to myself yet again how grateful I am to have her and her husband as friends (which is something I've told them both).

We spend the next few hours running back and forth between the bar, the dance floor, and the Ms. PacMan table where Ross and their friend sit talking.  Later, we get burgers and fries at a late night diner a few blocks away, before I head home, walk Chaucer, and collapse into bed a little bit after three a.m.





in which I get a Brazilian*

A friend of mine from college, Spyro, works in internet security. He's the guy that companies hire to keep information safe, and he's also the guy they turn to when there's been a breach. It can be pretty high drama, too: middle of the night calls from massive corporations (e.g. IBM), needing him to jump on a plane to come fix multimillion dollar fuck ups. He tells a great story - the high tech details of which go right over my head - about being in the same system, at the same time, as hackers from Anonymous, more or less doing code battle with them, live. Crazy stuff.

Granted my friend - who I love to death - is known to have exaggerated once or twice in his life, so I'm not entirely sure how big the fish really is. But he's undeniably talented at this stuff, as evidenced by, among other things, the amount of spontaneous international travel he has to do.

A few days ago, there was some kind of security leak at an energy company in Brazil. Spyro is asked to get there as soon as possible, and told he'll need a work visa, for the amount of time he's going to be there. In order to expedite his visa application, he needs to file the paperwork and pay the fee in person, at the Brazilian Consulate, located here in LA. The problem is, he's at work on another project in New York, and can't make it in time.

Enter Ellie, proxy extraordinaire, who lives a mere twenty minutes from the consulate office in Beverly Hills.

Now, from the get go, Spyro makes it clear that it's exceptionally important he get this visa. And I'm like, Sure, no problem, I got this covered. And he makes an appointment for me at the consulate for Thursday morning.

Then he starts getting all nervous, double-checking with me that I know where to go and what to do, and when I tell him to chill out, he starts letting on about how, Ok, well, it might not be that easy, that's the thing. They're being tight with visas, and you'll need to convince them I really need to be there. 

And I'm all, Ok, well, a major security breach at an international oil company sounds pretty emergency-riffic, right? Shouldn't be an issue? And he's all, Well the problem is, it hasn't made the news there yet. They're trying to keep it quiet. But yeah, it's big.

And I'm like, LOLwhut? This is starting to feel like a spy mission. How am I supposed to convince them to give you the visa with no evidence of why you need to go?

And he's all, Well, I'm hoping your meeting is with a guy.

And after I recover my eyeballs from where they had rolled to on the far side of my apartment, I'm like, You've got to be kidding me. I'm supposed to flirt my way through this? What am I, a Bond girl?

And he's all, It's just really important, ok? Wear a cute outfit, a low cut shirt or something. 

And I inwardly groan but tell him I'll do my best.

So this morning as I'm getting ready to go the appointment, he starts texting, triple-checking that I have everything, that I'm running on time, etc. And then he tells me that there's some link in an email he's sent me, to a news story or something that contains information about why he needs to go to Brazil (I'm not really sure - I never actually looked at the link). And I'm like, WTF? I'm supposed to bust out my phone in the middle of this meeting, bring up my email and then my browser, and show this person something on the tiny phone screen? 

And he calls me and explains that it shouldn't be necessary, that it's just an emergency measure in case they're going to deny the visa. And he reminds me again how nervous he is, how important this is, etc. And I say I'm not crazy about the pressure, because it feels like the international oil community is relying on my coquetry skills in order to avert some kind of global crisis. He lols and says that's not an entirely far off estimation of the situation.  Then we get off the phone, and I finish getting ready, starting to get nervous myself.

I take a cab to Beverly Hills and enter an attractive, circular-faced building where a security officer escorts me through a polished lobby to the third floor. The consulate is split across the elevator banks, and I approach a wide glass reception window, behind which two consulate employees sit doing paperwork. The wall behind them has what looks like a plastic or maybe resin multicolored map of the world, about an inch thick and several feet across. Everything is immaculate, including the impeccably dressed and busy-looking receptionists.

I suddenly feel very provincial, and clear my throat self-consciously.

One of the receptionists looks at me expectantly and says something I don't catch. "I'm sorry?" I say.

"Can I help you?" he repeats, briskly.

"Oh, yes," I stammer. "I have an appointment. For the consulate. With the consulate. At ten ten."

He looks at me blankly. "For what?"

I frown. Not what I was expecting, which, in retrospect, is rather hilarious: an appointment book with my name in it.

I start fumbling with my papers. "I'm here representing a friend, Spyro--"

"Yes, for what? What is the purpose of your appointment?" the man interrupts me. He isn't rude at all. He's just efficient. He's just cutting through my cluelessness with a practiced hand.

"Oh, for...a visa. A work visa," I mumble sheepishly.

The man points over my shoulder to a hallway bearing a sign and an arrow. Brazil thataway. I say thanks and walk down a short hallway to a foyer containing three electronic ticket machines, of the sort you find at airline reservation counters. After entering in my information, I'm dispensed a numbered ticket, and another receptionist hands me a form.

I round the corner and enter a large waiting room that looks like the DMV, only much cleaner and more modern. There are several windows at which American and Brazilian citizens are conducting business, and maybe a dozen or so people wait their turn in plastic chairs. I take a seat and look over the form I've been given.

The form is the document equivalent of a really strict college professor - one who doesn't bend the rules or give extensions on papers, ever. It's got a rather threateningly worded list of everything applicants must have and must do before approaching the window. Much of it is in caps or boldface or both. Apparently, things need to be filled out just so, or else. I get the distinct impression that if I fuck up, things won't go well.

The warning tone of the form, combined with the pressure of knowing how important this is, along with the fact numbers are being called much quicker than I would have anticipated, all make me feel a little bit manic and panicked, but kind of giddy at the same time. The whole thing is just such an random, unexpected way for me to be spending my morning.

And from that point on, it was actually sort of funny. There were some things that hadn't been done correctly, so I had to call Spyro and have him email the consulate worker with some revised paperwork. But when I called him, he was in a cab on the way to catch a flight out of JFK, so it was all high drama for a few minutes while I waited in the children's play area for him to get to the airport, get online, and bring up the document that needed to be resent. I walked him through the exact wording changes that needed to be made, and waited for the consulate employee to get his email before filing the rest of the paperwork.

I was going to just write out the exchange, but then I realized the lols read much better from the actual screenshots. It starts when I'm getting dressed back at my apartment:



And as if I hadn't documented this silliness enough already:












I believe that's a statue of Agent Boondockle, patron saint of spies 





take a number









If only!



the glue stick that saved the world





my temporary safe room (pretty sure the little girl that briefly infiltrated it was a double agent)

---

*...work visa, for a friend