wedding weekend

Back-to-back weddings this past weekend, Saturday and Sunday. Terence was a groomsman at Saturday's, and there was a head table at the reception - which meant bridal party members were seated apart from their dates. And other than my date, I knew exactly no one at the event. So I was just slightly intimidated going into it. Okay fine, I was terrified.

I sat nervously with a group of other plus ones for about five minutes, sure I was going to drown in my own lame small talk, before looking up to see some close friends of Terence's (that I had only met ten minutes prior) stealthily waving at me to come join them. My heart melted into gratitude; I grabbed my wine glass and snuck over to their table, taking the one unclaimed seat at the wedding. Between getting to know his friends (who are awesome), I chatted up a documentary filmmaker seated beside me, successfully fooling him that I am socially adept. Sucker!

The wedding itself - held at a mountaintop ranch in Malibu - was spectacular. It was officiated by a friend of the bride and groom, and the vows (as well as a poem written and read by the groom's mother) were beautiful. The food and catering service (Heirloom LA) were phenomenal, and the DJ had been recruited from Burning Man. After dinner and dancing there was a silent disco, and after that, guests were invited to camp for the night in tents along the ridge (ocean views, trees, boulders, and a koi pond - crazy pretty). Everything went off without a hitch; in fact, I was so impressed that I sought out the event coordinator after the reception to say how unsurprised I was by her great reviews.

Highlight of the night, however, was the best man's speech. Apparently he had spent nearly every day with the bride and groom around the time they had met, working on some project. He talked about having had the rare opportunity to witness a couple fall in love, day by day. "I watched you become essential to one another," he said. I've grown pretty cynical about weddings since my own (which I subsequently dubbed The Great Cash Bonfire of 2008)...but that part definitely got to me.

Didn't take many pics, but here are a few #onblurpose (haha NOPE not even close, just one too many champagne toasts to focus) of the reception area:

Sunday's event was a much more casual affair, held at a kid's camp in Altadena. I had my date all to mahself for that one. Badminton, parasols, and Chinese lanterns, oh my.

And, uh, this:

Tomorrow is the anniversary of my birth, and since my brain is already checked out in anticipation of the revelry, I should probably stop now before I ramble on into some awful Upon Entering The Final Year of My Thirties treatise (and reveal just how little I've actually learned in four decades).

Bon weekend, weirdos!

whipping boy

If for some reason you haven't seen the latest SNL digital short, may I offer you two and a half minutes of comedic brilliance on this Friday afternoon?

You don't have to be an EDM show frequenter (or even a stay-at-home fan) to get how hilarious this spoof is, but it certainly helps. I laughed myself sick, laughing at myself. My favorite line? Bobby Moynihan: "This is the best day of my life!" If I had a dime for every time I've uttered a similar oath under similar circumstances, well, I'd be embarrassed how many glow sticks I could buy. But the stroke of genius that really kills me - pun intended - is the exploding heads. That's the bit that you'll only truly appreciate if you've seen electronic played live, and witnessed for yourself what those much-anticipated bass drops do to frenetic, beat-hungry fans: It destroys them, in the best way possible. If you've never experienced a rave (or don't intend to), take this EDM junkie's word for it: The physical paroxysm that accompanies a good drop is almost unbearable. Get turned up to death! is right.

Crave Online's Johnny Firecloud loved this short, too. But Firecloud skates much too quickly past the subtleties of Samberg and Co.'s satire in a rush to drive his axe gleefully into EDM's viscera. Once there, he proceeds to grind it with what I can only imagine is deep satisfaction, since he sees the SNL piece as pop culture's confirmation of the bone he's been chewing since last year: EDM is the over-hyped, artistically bankrupt realm of drugged-out musical philistines.


I know that EDM is the preferred musical whipping boy of - well, of anyone who doesn't like it, basically. I can even understand why. It's new. It's not rock and roll. And, to the uninitiated (not to mention the willfully disdainful), it's deeply esoteric. EDM is a culture accessorized by trappings actual and philosophical. PLUR and Kandi are things you're not going to understand - much less respect - unless you spend some time in the scene, engaging with other fans, freely giving yourself over to That Which Is Different. You're certainly not going to get it standing on the sidelines, glaring with disgust at the crowd while counting down the minutes to your (read: the good) music - which is what Firecloud apparently does. I hate to break it to Johnny, but I guarantee those kids that were running in place at the Treasure Island festival were having the time of their lives. Bummer he let his irritation at them poison the rest of his night - but that's more a reflection of his Get off my lawn! mentality than the quality of the music they were enjoying.

Are there drugs at electronic shows? Of course. Are those drugs a required precursor to enjoyment of the music? Well if they were, why would fans such as myself bother listening to it at home? And I'm not alone: Just yesterday, a friend shared an EDM playlist on Spotify...with over 100k followers. I'm having trouble believing all those listeners are "popping a Molly" every time they hit shuffle. Besides, as one commenter on Firecloud's first article pointed out: while ecstasy is the preferred drug of EDM fans, who's to say it's any "worse" than the beer-soaked revelry of rock concerts? At least it doesn't spill.

Firecloud is big on youth-castigating buzzwords: Pfizer, pharmaceutical, push-button. That last one is an especially important component of his claim that what happens at EDM shows isn't Real™ Music. And again, I get where he's coming from. Since there are no instruments being played, electronic music is arguably synthetic - ersatz. But so what? A good beat is a good beat is a good beat, and I'm not even going to touch the subject of how much skill and technical ability it takes to blend those beats into something danceable (my boyfriend is an Ableton-proficient musician after all; I'm admittedly biased). And yeah, DJ salaries are nothing short of stunning, particularly considering how young their recipients are. But free market is as free market does, supply, demand, etc. and so forth - don't shoot the zeitgeister.

Bottom line: Firecloud and other electronic pooh-poohers aren't interested in delving deep enough into EDM to understand what exactly millions of fans love about it (hint: our "sensory stimuli" aren't as "blown out" as he thinks). But it's fine by us if they prefer to stay home and hate. The dance floor is crowded enough as it is.

haiku on the occasion of being stuck in an elevator with a hungry Mastiff

If push comes to shove
I wonder who will eat whom...
Bon app├ętit, Chauc!

PPRL: Breathing Lessons, by Anne Tyler (winner, 1989)


Breathing Lessons spans a day in the life of middle-aged couple Maggie and Ira Moran, with flashbacks to various watershed moments in their lives and their marriage. After attending the funeral of Maggie's childhood friend's husband, they are briefly detoured by an encounter with a fellow motorist, then spend the evening reuniting their grown son with his estranged ex-wife and young daughter.

My Thoughts

I thoroughly enjoyed this one. I was blown away by how well Tyler handles flashback (which constitutes a good half of the story). She leads the reader deep into the past, skipping lightly into the memory of a character before careening suddenly back to the present day, on a ride that isn't jarring so much as exhilarating. She handles theme and metaphor with grace and just the right touch of poignancy: disappointment, loss, reality v. unreality (as expressed through dreams, soap operas - even lies), connection v. solitude, miscommunication and misunderstanding... Characters are gloriously flawed, petty, and as relatable it gets. Breathing Lessons is about an imperfect family in an imperfect world; I came away understanding them completely and loving them fully.

Selected Excerpts

With just a little stretch of the imagination, Maggie thought, this could be Mr. Alden's civics class. (You had to overlook the old lady, who had remained contentedly seated with her tinkling cup of tea.) She glanced around and saw a semicircle of graying men and women, and there was something so worn down about them, so benign and unassuming, that she felt at that moment they were as close to her as family. She wondered how she could have failed to realize that they would have been aging along with her all these years, going through more or less the same stages--rearing their children and saying goodbye to them, marveling at the wrinkles they discovered in the mirror, watching their parents turn fragile and uncertain. Somehow, she had pictured them still fretting over Prom Night.


She seemed to have fallen in love again. In love with her own husband! The convenience of it pleased her--like finding right in her own pantry all the fixings she needed for a new recipe.


He loved even his worn-down, defeated father, even the memory of his poor mother who had always been so pretty and never realized it because anytime she approached a mirror she had her mouth drawn up lopsided with shyness. 

Werds I Lerned (Or Had Fergotten)

mawkish - sentimental in a feeble or sickly way
fulsom - complimentary or flattering to an excessive degree
gimcrack - flimsy or poorly made but deceptively attractive
diffident - modest or shy because of a lack of self-confidence

Next Up

The Stone Diaries, by Carol Shields 

a Sunday in May

I could live to be two hundred and never get used to the particular happiness that comes from receiving an unexpected invitation from a friend to hang out. A simple Drinks? text, and I light up along with my phone.

My inner tween, the one whose seventh grade girlfriends secretly went to see Debbie Gibson without her (some seriously scarring shit right there), always feels a rush of relief at being included. You like me. You really like me! It's a particularly virulent strain of insecurity that flares up now and again, despite my age. Pathetic, I know, but I like to think the inability to get over it is actually a form of gratitude. Because I am. Really, really, very, very grateful.

And I was grateful when yesterday, as I was just settling in to Part II of Breathing Lessons by Anne Tyler (it's fantastic), I got one of those thrilling little messages. We're at the Akbar parking lot party. Super good music and a performance at 6:00. Come out! 

So I went out. And I spent the evening with friends I haven't gotten to see much of lately, in a scene I haven't been around a lot over the past year, because life. I've missed it - both the friends and the scene - and it was just a really awesome way to spend a Sunday in May.

I so wish my insurance plan covered bouncy castle usage. Drinking, drag, and dancing under a disco ball. That about sums it up!

Alcohol + flash photography + my friend Kenne = LOLz forever and always. Every damn time.

Oh, and the music was great. The album cover on the right has been edited beyond readability, but it's Tornado Wallace, Thinking Allowed. Listen to a remix of it here (but I see he's on Spotify, too).

Speaking of toonz, I'm way behind on a recent discoveries playlist. Soon, I promise!

the early bird gets the anticipation

Friday morning conversation with a fellow fester:

me: Coachella presale.

friend: You're a junkie.

me: I got a Weekend 2 pass. Plan accordingly.

friend: Why 2?

me: 1 is sold out lol

friend: It's in eleven months.


Panda guy says, "Hell yeah! See you in 2015!"

summertime blues

What we want? Boring, poor quality photo collages! When we do want them? Now!

Not much in the way of exciting commentary to go along with these. It's been stupidly hot. I've been lazy. Chaucer's been lazier.

Some smiles and sights I've been snapping, including three dumb selfies because I attempted to tone down the red in my hair. Brunetter is better!

Happy Friday, weirdos. Hope everyone gets to do something fabulous / relaxing / other, as desired.


I broke up with Old 97's last Friday. Or maybe they broke up with me; I'm not exactly sure. Ultimately it doesn't matter, since we got back together later that night at The El Rey. Make-up concerts are the best, amirite?

We've been together for almost two decades, they and I. We were introduced at the 24-hour diner in Tucson where I studied for midterms, and where I was served grilled cheese, butterscotch shakes, and unsolicited music tips by an aggressively emo, tatted-up waiter named Matt. Matt was a living, breathing Recommended For You back when Spotify was just a digital gleam it its daddy's eye. He had excellent taste in tunes and complete control over the diner's stereo. One night he played Too Far To Care in its entirety, a welcome distraction from the Milton tome on my table. It was unlike anything I'd ever heard. I was crushing by Salome, and by Curtain Calls, I knew I'd found The Ones. Once you go alt-country, you never go back.

That was in 1998. By 2001, with the release of Satellite Rides, I was confident in declaring Old 97's my favorite band. It's a designation that has occasionally risked revocation with certain (disappointing) albums, but has never suffered it. I have been loyal, and I have been true. It isn't always easy, though - being with Old 97's. Ours is a relationship built on trust and compromise (it takes a strong, secure girl to let her imaginary boyfriend go on tour without her). The honeymoon years - our golden age! - were filled with songs about girls that were...well, that were just like me. Girls whose lyrical skins I could easily slip into, in my dreams, because they were on the receiving end of misdirected angst, indecision, broken promises, expectations unfulfilled - all the familiar melancholies that constituted the romances of my twenties. Old 97's made for a superb surrogate boyfriend when a) I didn't have one at all, and b) when the one I did have turned out to be human, not rockstar. They were every unavailable, vaguely narcissistic heartbreaker I banged my head against because I didn't know better. They were terrible for me, but at least they were never boring.

Over the years, though, I've had to be increasingly accommodating. Band members have gotten married (to women other than myself!). They've had babies. They've grown up. Their interests and passions have matured - and so, necessarily, have the subjects of their songs. Disillusionment with celebrity, distaste for fame, a sobering up of the qualities that made the Old 97's lyrical Lothario so goddamn sexy - these are some of the themes that have crept into the latest albums. And that is all fine and good for the general Old 97's fan. But it's a bitter pill to swallow for the Old 97's fangirl.

We're easily identified, this breed of womanteen. At concerts, we can be found in clusters, huddled up as close to the stage as possible, jostling for the prime real estate where, if we're lucky, we'll be showered in Rhett Sweat and treated to an overhead jam session by Ken, inches from our heads. These men, after all, are our Johns, our Pauls, our Georges and Ringos. We seek one another out in solidarity, comparing notes on past shows and listing favorite tracks. We jump and scream and squeal and sing ourselves hoarse. We are shameless. We are almost forty. We have incredibly forgiving and patient partners who put up with this shit.

And now, we are irrelevant - at least in terms of Old 97's songwriting. The last few albums have made that painfully clear. The women that now take up residency in Old 97's lyrics aren't the passing objects of affection and lust that we fangirls could pretend we actually were, as we bounced and belted our hearts out, smack in front of the band. They are wives and mothers. They are complex, sometimes damaged, and deeply understood in a way that comes with decades of study, not short-lived dalliance. They are the counterpoint to who Old 97's, forty-something fathers and husbands, really are now.

I wasn't sure whether I wanted to go to the show this past Friday. I saw the listing come up on Songkick, but I didn't buy tickets - partly because I didn't think that my 2012 experience could ever be topped. Friday morning arrived and I waffled. Afternoon approached and still I couldn't decide. I popped on to Spotify to see if a few favorite tracks would nudge me into a decision. And that's when I saw they'd just released a new album, titled Most Messed Up. I'd had no idea one was even coming out. Some fangirl.

So I listened to it. At first, I was crushed. It seemed to be the final nail in a coffin I'd been tiptoeing around for years. Here Lies Old 97's: We Ain't Gone to Hell But We Sure Ain't In Heaven. The very first song - a confession to me and every other loyal, longtime listener that Actually, this hasn't always been the ego-stroking, cakewalk of a gig it may appear to have been. We're kinda tired, kinda old, and kinda over it. - scandalized me. How dare they admit to having been occasionally bored on stage?? Didn't they see how hard I had worked all these years to keep that from happening? I listened some more. Hmm, okay. Maybe they're still in there somewhere, the reckless bad boys I fell in love with so long ago. Maybe they haven't evolved completely. Still, it's just not the same...

I looked up reviews of the new album, hoping to find validation that I wasn't crazy; that while they were technically sound as ever, some quality of old Old 97's was missing in these songs. But the critics were unanimous in their praise; I was clearly too stupid to get it.

But then I read the comments on some of the pieces. Opinions from longtime fans such as myself, who weighed in to respectfully disagree - or at least to acknowledge that some albums had been less inspiring (and maybe less inspired) than others. And I realized that I wasn't alone in my failure to be fanatic about the entire Old 97's repertoire. That others had ridden the same twenty year-long roller coaster I had. But as more than one of these musical compatriots pointed out: live, Old 97's never, ever disappoint.

And that's when I pulled my music-loving head out of my music-loving ass and remembered what this amazing quartet has given me over the years (and I'm not just talking about a handful of guitar picks and a precious collection of set lists). I knew at that moment that I'd never miss an opportunity to support them, when they came to town, whether I loved their latest output or not. I would not be a fair-weather fangirl.

It was an incredible show, of course. Top form, all of them, and I was spoiled rotten in terms of hearing some of my favorite songs. I flatter myself that the guys recognized me, dead center and deadly obnoxious, from previous shows - but who knows. And who cares. They stole my heart sixteen years ago and if I never again hear hints of our former, secret lyrical love affair, I still won't ask for it back. It was obvious Friday night that, despite being understandably worn out from a lifetime of criss-crossing the country once a year in a tour bus (filled with god knows what exhausting, soul-depleting substances and dramas), these men still love what they do - and for whom they do it.

Oh and if you guys should stumble across this somehow: Ken, thanks for the set list. You made this fangirl's night. Again.

a simple formula for determining the age-appropriateness of any outfit


= your age

H = hem length, in inches

h = heel height, in inches

= amount of cleavage showing, in cleavots*

s = slutshine**

b = no. of children (your own, birthed or adopted)

k = no. of children (attending the event in question)

f = no. of fucks given


= 3 or less: Even your mother-in-law would approve. 
A = 4-7: It's iffy, but what the fuck. YOLO or something. Just don't Instagram it.
A = 10 or greater: Time to go shopping!


* 1 cleavot = 1 square inch of skin

** slutshine factor may be determined by the glare intensity of any given fabric and is based on a scale of 1-10 (for reference, sateen = 2; charmeuse = 5; sequins = 9)


I confessed them to you today, my fears and insecurities. Words and tears tripped one another in a race to be first; every last ugly thought to make it real and raw and awful. Because they'll see I'm a phony, I said. They'll know I'm a loser, and they'll tell you, and then you'll love me less. 

You'll love me less, I said, and it was like turning out pockets full of worms. You didn't know I was carrying them around. You thought I was just a girl. But nope. I am a walking tackle box. You kiss me and tell me how happy you are, and it's nice, it's so so nice, but meanwhile? Worms. In my pockets. That you don't see. That I use to catch all manner of horrible, slimy, deep-dwelling creatures (that you also don't see). 

But today you saw them, and you said, You don't need those, baby. Or the equivalent of that, anyway. You don't need those worms. And you told me why I don't have to be afraid. You made me look you in the eye instead of the shoulder, and you didn't loosen your grip one bit, even though we were both covered in the worms that I have been carrying for a very long time, since way before you even knew me. 

And that is why I will always try to keep my pockets free of the things that can weigh us down. 

lost and found

for Kayla

She knew it was missing the moment she woke up. Goddamnit, she thought. Not again. Splashes of morning collected in the twisted sheets, spilling and pooling but refusing to disappear when she pulled all four hundred threads-per-inch over her head. It warmed her in patches, soaking through the cotton, waiting cheerfully for her reemergence. I'll be here when you're ready! I'm California sunshine, and I'm utterly fucking relentless!

As always, she started with the bathroom mirror, padding barefoot across a floor that felt especially cold and hard. But it wasn't there as she held herself briefly in a series of practiced poses, angles and arcs that flattered her body's better features. Not in her stomach, forgivingly flat before breakfast, and not in her biceps, pale sinew that betrayed or belied its age depending on the light.

She looked for it in the shower, turning over thoughts like foreign coins, the flip sides of which are interesting, but rarely surprising. Nope. Not there. Not today.

Drinking coffee a little while later, she gazed around a room at furnishings chosen at no small cost of consideration or price. At books and photo albums and nearly four decades of mementos - the things that would represented her sum and substance, when she ceased to present her corporeal substance to the world anymore. But it wasn't to be found in any of that, either. (And she'd known better than to look anyway.)

It wasn't in the faces that filled her day. Not the one that supervised her on how to spend it or in those of whom she supervised herself. Not in friendly smiles, not in nods of respect, not in the appraising, approaching eyes of men on the sidewalk - glances which seemed to grow shorter all the time. She rarely returned them at all these days, for fear of experiencing just how short.

It was hiding particularly well, she realized, when not even a bit of it was to be found in her lover's eyes at the end of the day. Always the last place you look, she thought wryly, noticing how late it had gotten. A few more hours and she'd have to call off the search until tomorrow.

Then the letter came. It rang itself into her inbox with an optimistic chime, and she reached for her phone. Launched her mail app. Recognized the name. Opened the email. Read the words. Understood the import. She felt the compliment bloom in her brain, then float down to her heart where it took root and bifurcated in a single, delicious burst. To the tips of her fingers it raced, this relief in remembering that Yes, okay, sometimes it's impossible to see myself, but it is there.

It is there.

She boxed it up in steel-reinforced gratitude and copy-pasted it to the clipboard of her mind, where it would be easily accessible for at least another twelve hours before slinking off in the dead of night, luring her into the next round of hide-and-go-seek.

perfect. ish.

Contextual Item The First

We're in the market for barstools, so we can eat at the kitchen island and skip the whole dining table thing (which we really don't have room for, anyway). If I had a bazillion dollars, my first choice would be Jamaica stools (design lady boner shwing!). I do not have a bazillion dollars. If I had even a bajillion dollars, I'd go with Philippe Starck Charles Ghost stools. Haven't got a bajillion, either.

Ghost stools really would be perfect, since a) there's actually no overhang on the island, and we'll have to have our legs mashed up against it when we sit there; a backless stool will be the most accommodating of this ergonomic awkwardness, and b) transparency would help keep an airy look in an already smallish space.

At least, that is my justification for thinking way too much already about this shit. The best laid plans and such.

Contextual Item The Second 

Today on the sidewalk just outside our building, I ran into a friend of Terence's. I invited her up to say hi to him and to see our place. She ended up hanging out for a while to catch up, the three of us clustered around the island...with no place to sit. 

Approximation of Conversation This Evening

- Hey, so barstools. 

- Yeah.

- Let's talk about them for a sec, yeah?

- Yeah.

- So today, having Merrill up really drove home for me how nice it is to have people over and just chill in the kitchen, you know?

- Totally.

- Soooo you know those knockoff Ghost stools I showed you? The ones with the sad video?

- Yes.

- I found a place that does relatively cheap reproductions. 

- How many would you want to get?

- Three, maybe four? Then we can just put them at the corners and eat dinner like so. It's easier to twist your legs to the side that way. 

- But if you put them there, that'll block the cabinet.

- I usually don't need to get any pots out while I'm eating dinner, so I think that'll be okay.

- Where would we put them the rest of the time, though?

- Well that's the good thing about those. Since they're clear, they won't take up much visual real estate*. We could just have them right here, along the island. 

- You think? Won't that cut off a lot of the space for walking?

- Well, a bit, yeah. But they're transparent, so it wouldn't really be imposing, I think. And I'm pretty sure they're stackable. So we could pop those bitches right there in the corner. You wouldn't really even notice them. Or even here, where the tripod is.

- I always forget that you have that tripod. We should use it.

- For what?

- I don't know. Photos?

- Well, that dude I dated never returned the stabilizing arm, remember? So I can't use it with my Nikon.

- So how did you use it before?

- I just used my iPhone mount. That's how I did all those selfies for Instagram. 

- Want me to call him? Be like, "I'm Ellie's boyfriend. She wants her part back."

- Well that sounds great except I don't have his number anymore, and I think he lost it or threw it out anyway. 

- So what do you need to use the tripod?

- With my iPhone? Nothing. See, look... 

*derpity derp, Derpina sets up tripod with her phone and starts timer app* 

- Twelve, eleven, ten, nine-

- Am I in the frame?

- Yeah.

- What should we do?

- Just act natural. No no, don't!--

- Okay that was not natural. And oh my god I look fifty. Another one without your pants falling down.

- Yeah that's good. One more...Chaucy, come here!

- Perfect. Ish.


* Actual phrase that actually came out of my mouth. 

life lately, 5.6.14

Life lately is long walks with Chaucer and longer naps afterward. It's watching Last Week Tonight (much better this past Sunday, no?) projected on the wall, a night at the speakeasy, and a visit from M. Papa (with an impromptu concert by his son). It's bomb new headphones and hairstyling LOLs, and a Wall of Joy for twelve cents a print.

It's nesting and decluttering and unloading what's no longer useful. It's a special trip for pizza with Chaucer, goofing around, a lobby Ellie, and as always, lots and lots of music.

Life lately is Hey, I'm back downtown. Wanna go to the observatory?, shoe gazing on the train, and cuddles with Chauc. It's parks and high rises and the Hollywood hills, and still finding Uranus funny, at 36 and 38.

Hope life lately is just as colorful for everyone else.

in which comedian Steve Martin and Chaucer unwittingly conspire to advance my anti mommy-blog agenda

h/t to my IG buddy Matt Smith (@kayakingsmith) for clueing me in to Chaucer's 140 characters of fame!

thought of the day

Life is meaningless. We waste so much time looking for a meaning to life when our primary purpose should be to enjoy living. On the entire planet, among all the animals, only man is arrogant enough to believe that he was put here for a purpose, different from all other animals.
- my extremely smart friend, Bill

He'd probably credit such wisdom to his years, but I suspect he understood it very early on. I told him this little snippet of pragmatism is, for me, a glass of ice water at the end of a long, hot day spent in pursuit of some magical nectar that doesn't exist.

I printed a copy so I could drink it every day.

more, better, best

Everything I recall about my childhood home can be summed up in a few paragraphs. It was a typically suburban three bedroom home in a smallish town in southwestern Michigan. Red brick, single level. Pussy willow on the porch, plum tree at the end the driveway, crocus blooming under my bedroom window in spring. I remember the things that filled the house only in terms of their use, and their sensory and emotional significance.

Gold corduroy couch: The Muppet Show, way past bedtime, Dad engrossed in the newspaper.

Piano: Mom leaning in to read sheet music, spectacles and a cable-knit sweater, rare good mood.

Oil painting of a lion: expression as inscrutable and mysterious as my parent's marriage, deep fear of wild animals that has yet to abate.

Kitchen telephone: avocado green, cord wrapped around my mother's skinny hips, pot roast for dinner.

I know we had wallpaper, but I couldn't describe the print. I know the house was carpeted, but I couldn't name the color. What I can tell you is that my brother and I had a front yard big enough to host kickball games, and a backyard with a swimming pool, a swing set, a shed full of toys, and enough land to fence in the occasional turtle plucked from Lake Michigan. Fucking glorious, in other words.

And among the gratitudes I have for what, on balance, was a pretty awesome childhood (above implications notwithstanding), is that my mother lived pre-Pinterest, and pre-social media. That decorating her home, planning her children's birthday parties, and choosing outfits for PTA meetings were endeavors undertaken with the knowledge that only those in her immediate social circle would see the results.

God, how nice that must have been. How nice that the only Joneses with which she probably felt compelled to keep up were the ones directly next door. How nice that she could concern herself with the business of mothering, undistracted and unstressed by comparison with how her peers were doing their mothering.

How lucky that my brother and I survived to adulthood without ever having lain eyes on an overpriced cake pop, frosted to match an overpriced paper party straw.

Pinterest never comes up in my daily (offline) life. I know most of my friends have heard of it, and a few of them are on it, but it's nothing we talk about when we get together. I only feel the need to account for my disuse of it when I'm internetting, because hello. Pinterest. What, Ellie, you don't like to be inspired? What are you, an animal?

What I like is not overwhelming myself with the pressure to More, Better, Best my life to death. And anyway, I like to think I did the Pinterest thing, in a way, in my twenties. It was called Lucky Magazine, and then Domino Magazine. It was Holy shit, I didn't even know that existed until I opened this magazine, but now I'll be MISERABLE if I can't have it. And it sucked.

I More, Better, Bested my last apartment without ever even looking at a pin board, and that was hellish enough. I consulted exactly one decorating book, nearly wearing it out with study. Okay, so since my bed frame is structured, I should have more organic, free-form nightstands. Got it. What should have been a fun exercise in creativity and self-expression was instead an exhausting, obsessive search for material things to make my home look OMGamazing - and for the most part, that search was limited to three or four sources within my price and geographic ranges. I can't even imagine how quickly my brain would have exploded had I opened myself up to the ten billion options Pinterest would have shown me.

This time around, I am opting the fuck out of that particular rat race, at least as much as I can. This time around, I am keeping the procurement of what furnishings we need as quick and simple as possible, so that I can get past making sure there's enough light to read by and on to making sure we're stocked with our friends' favorite drinks. Because when I think back to the things that filled the living spaces I inhabited twenty, thirty years ago, what I remember isn't whether or not the coffee table complemented the sofa - it's that it did an efficient job of supporting four slices of pizza and the original Together Box, aka Monopoly.

internot musings, part 5,039

Last night I spent about an hour sitting alone on the sofa in the dark, just thinking about some things I'm going through personally. Craptastic feelings of inadequacy and failure that are inching into self-loathing territory. I didn't pick up my phone or open my iPad to distract myself. I didn't put up a fight at all. I just let a parade of shitty emotion march right over me.

Simply sitting like that - being still and quiet with my thoughts in order to work through them - is something I've never been good at. When things get uncomfortable for me emotionally, distraction is the name of the game, typically in the form of some screen. Until I dumped Instagram, that screen was usually my phone's. I'm still turning to the browser far more often than I'd like, but overall, the amount of time I spend staring at my phone has gone down significantly. I'm happy about that change, but I know that I'm still using the internet in some pretty unhealthy ways.

The internet is my wooby and my scourge. It's where I go when I'm upset, and it's the place I go to get upset. It's the buffet at which I can gorge myself to bursting on whatever my appetite demands, no matter how toxic the craving. I overstimulate myself in some pretty fucked up ways on the internet, knowingly subjecting myself to annoyance, anger, envy, covetousness, jealousy, and more, all of which sit like jagged rocks at the bottom of a slide disguised as curiosity, or boredom. I start out surfing pages, but I end up surfing feelings themselves.

The internet is my right-hand enabler for some of my worst tendencies - egotism, materialism, superficiality, competitiveness. But it's also where I go to reaffirm my values, and the things I want to believe about myself. On other blogs and news sites, in communities and forums, I can read the words of like-minded individuals and surf away feeling reinforced by opinions I already held. It's the ultimate self-selection tool. And I wonder how my perceptions of the world - and of myself - would change if they weren't constantly being filtered through an internet page or two.

I'm also thinking about the ways in which we sell ourselves to one another online. Every so often, in discussions of blogs and social media, someone will point out the obvious: Okay, but don't forget: we're only getting a little bit of the picture with her. She's only sharing as much of herself as she carefully chooses to. And we know this, of course. But I think considering the degree to which we have allowed ourselves to become invested in these virtual relationships, it cannot be emphasized enough, just how important this is to remember.

Much in the same way that white sugar, white flour, and even cocaine are highly refined, concentrated essences pulled unnaturally from their greater, nutritively diverse packages, so are our 'net selves an artificial, winnowed-down version of who we really are. When I meet my friend Kerry for drinks, there's not a lot I can hide from her. She sees I'm tired. She sees my clothes are wrinkled, or out of fashion, or inappropriate to the occasion. She can see the tension on my face and draw conclusions about the kind of day I've had. It's easy for her to ask questions and get an idea of where I'm at emotionally, how I've been spending my time - how happy I am or am not. Sure there are things I can keep from her, but it's tricky to hide who I really am, time and again. Sooner or later, my flaws and uglier traits will out themselves.

But when I pop online, for all anyone knows - I'm perfect. I'm dressed stylishly, well-rested, productive, creative, and happy. I'm clever and cute and everything is peachy. For all anyone knows. And though yes, we're all quick to rush and say Oh, of course. Of course we know there's more to the story offline, I wonder how healthy it is to keep subjecting ourselves to these incomplete pictures of a one another. I think it fosters a whole host of shitty feelings we'd be better off without. She's prettier than me. He's more accomplished. They're a happier couple than we are. Etc. Or, when we identify the lie: Ugh, what a phony. She's not fooling anyone. Who does he think he is? I can't stand him. 

Annoyance, anger, envy. Why do we do this to ourselves, when we know better? When there's an entire, gorgeous physical world at our fingertips (not to mention a pretty interesting internal one), why do we ignore it hour after hour in favor of the virtual one filled with things that trigger such crappy emotions?

More and more, and especially since leaving IG, I'm thinking about what life was like, pre-internet. I've made a lot of noise about Productivity! and Literature! and Writing! and Better, More Creative Use of My Time! as motivating factors in my decision to (again) withdraw from social media - but now I'm wondering why that void needs to be filled with anything at all. What if the spaces between daily activities were filled with...nothing? With a few minutes of just sitting quietly? With petting Chaucer or just enjoying the sight of sunlight pouring in my window? I mean, what the fuck did I do with my spare time before I had a billion screens and gadgets to toggle between all day? It's been so long, I don't remember. Maybe nothing? Maybe a lot of sitting alone in the dark and thinking?

And maybe that isn't such a bad thing?