Alfie

My friend Alfie has a brilliant smile and massive dark eyes that flutter when he's excited, which is often. He has a lot to be excited about; the men's grooming line that he and a friend launched less than two years ago has absolutely blown up. It's been featured in dozens of publications, including GQ, Details, Esquire, Playboy, The New York Times, and The Wall Street Journal. Not exactly small time stuff.

It has been such a joy to witness his success, which is hard-earned. Alfie hasn't slowed down once in the time that I've known him. Before the new company took off, he was juggling three jobs: designing for the fledgeling startup, working at a graphic design studio downtown, and waiting tables on weekends at a Mexican restaurant in Silver Lake. Bit by bit, as the grooming line garnered bigger and better press and demand for the products grew, he was able to lighten his workload under others and focus more on his own business. Exhausting trade shows in Las Vegas and New York, long nights assembling orders, DIY-ing merchandise displays, and drafting copy - Alfie embodies that saying The dream is free; the hustle is sold separately. Eventually he was able to quit the other two jobs, and now he devotes himself full time to the new biz.

Something really cool about him: back when he first started out in graphic design, he would find work by redoing menus, unsolicited. He'd just quietly nick one, take it home, and return it a few days later alongside an updated, improved version to show the restaurant owner. If the owner liked what he saw enough to hire Alfie, great; if not, it was still good design practice under his belt.

Something else that impresses me: despite how lucrative the grooming line has become, Alfie and his partner outsource as little work as possible, researching everything from SEO to legal issues for the website. Lawyers and coders are expensive, so they do as much as they can on their own. Unfortunately but perhaps unsurprisingly, the grooming line's design has already been imitated by another company, and there have been a few other questionable uses of the shop's images. But rather than react rashly, Alfie and his partner have responded to these infringements calmly and patiently. I myself have felt the helplessness and frustration of being copied, and I have great respect for the class with which they've handled such situations.

Meanwhile, throughout all of this, Alfie remains a loving boyfriend, a great friend, the consummate party host, and my favorite lunch + shopping date. We just made plans to devastate our wallets at the upcoming Unique LA show. You're in charge of making sure I don't spend too much, I told him. Oh honey, he wrote back. Have we met?

We have. And I'm very glad of it.


20 things worth remembering from the last few weeks

1. This engorged dog tongue at Whittier Narrows:



2. This photobombing solar flare:

3. and 4. These dueling dorks:

5. This tug-o-war session:

6. This glimpse of the David Kelley exhibit:




7. This tangle of stuffed snakes at MOCA:

8. This puppy peering around the corner:

9. This courtyard at Zinc Cafe:

10. This glowing resin sculpture at MOCA:

11. and 12. This invisible beverage at Umami, and this dutch-oven at West Elm:




13. and 14. These puzzlers and this monkey:



15. These loves:




16. This winning gooooooooaaaal:

17. This island-dining solution:

18. These jelly jars at Villain's:

19. This pile of dishes in Chinatown:

20. These two ducks and one lady:

stockist

I used to get Campbell's Cream of Mushroom condensed soup almost every time I went to the store. I grew up on it; my mother prepared it with whole milk, and she often used it in casseroles with rice and chicken. It remained a favorite comfort food well into my adulthood, and I faithfully kept my cabinet stocked with a can or two for years...until I didn't anymore.

When I stopped buying it, I just stopped buying it. I didn't go to aisle 17, pick up a familiar red-and-white-labeled can, and explain all the reasons it wouldn't be coming home with me anymore. I didn't tell Campbell's Cream of Mushroom everything that was wrong with it, or why it no longer served me. We parted ways without ceremony. I'm sure the hole I left in the ranks of CCoM purchasers was immediately filled by someone else. The whims and dictates of my own demand have no effect on the world's supply of condensed soup - or its supply of anything else.

When something that's been a part of my life for a long time no longer fits into it, my inclination is to analyze why not. To dissect, explain, and justify. But one of the things I've learned the hard way is how fruitless all that effort is - not to mention exhausting. It would take an awful long time to get through grocery trips spent defending the hundreds of exceptions to my shopping list. I'd probably be so overwhelmed I'd lose track of what should stay on it.

But that doesn't change how Campbell's Cream of Mushroom tasted, sitting at the family dining room table, or standing in the kitchen of my first apartment. And it tasted really, really good.

the gift

It's coming up on five years ago that my mother died. Rather, it's coming up on five years ago that she was discovered dead; no one is exactly sure how long she'd been that way before she was found, alone on her couch in front of the television. I'm sure the coroner had some idea, but if that information was conveyed to me at the time, it mercifully didn't find purchase in my shocked and grieving brain. And as I was the only one around to absorb and process the particulars of her demise - not to mention handle the logistical consequences thereof - I guess that macabre little detail dies with me.

I'm being gruesome on purpose, because I'm trying to establish context: namely, how horrific I felt about the circumstances of her passing, and how the additional guilt and shame inherently tethered to those circumstances ultimately led me to say goodbye to something else, as well: religion.

I've long credited myself with atheistic tendencies, even when I was too young to understand that's what they were. I started losing my religion as quickly as it was given to me - by parents whose own belief systems conflicted so completely that I couldn't help but see holes in both; by Catholic school teachers whose punitive natures so alienated me that I couldn't imagine a Creator who'd sanction their nastiness; by an older brother who professed Christian values one minute and physically assaulted me the next. 

But while my confidence in rejecting dogma grew over the years (manifesting in refusals to attend church, to engage in prayer at the dinner tables of my friends, to utter devotion to god along with allegiance to my country's flag), I didn't actually shed the final dregs of faith until my mother died. 

That's not something a lot of people know about me, partly because I am so vocal about my non-belief, and partly because it hasn't been something I've heretofore been keen to admit. But here is the bald-faced truth: it wasn't until I was sure I was facing eternal damnation by a supernatural deity for having abandoned my mother that I realized eternal damnation - and the supernatural deities who arbitrate its assignment - aren't real. Nor are they fun scourges with which to flagellate oneself in the wake of a devastating personal loss, but whoo boy did I think otherwise at the time. I couldn't get enough of them, in fact. Hell and God. God and Hell. I'm. So. Fucked. 

Keanu Reeves is partly to blame.

Constantine, a Reeves-helmed film about heaven and hell and the reasons a soul will secure itself a spot in either, came out years before my mom died. I'd seen it in the theater and had been entertained but not particularly engrossed. That changed when, out of what I can only guess was a perverse need to punish myself, I watched it again and again after her death. Each time a wise-cracking Keanu descended into the fiery, demon-filled depths, I felt like I was seeing my future. The movie is straight-up cartoonish in its depiction of hell, but masochistic me just could not get enough. 

If you've been lucky enough not to experience it firsthand yet, take it from me: grief can play crazy, cruel tricks with your head. I let it play with mine for months. What was already a painful experience became exacerbated by excruciating bouts of self-recrimination, fear, and crippling depression - all because I thought I would be punished, at death, for having finally cut ties with my alcoholic, emotionally abusive mother (a gut-wrenching decision decades in the making) by a god I hadn't really believed in my entire life. Thanks, religion!

The remaining ghosts of childhood indoctrination (because that's what it was; I sure hadn't gone pursuing religion on my own) robbed me of the chance to mourn my mother in peace, with love in my heart and a rational mind to guide me through the rockiest bits. Instead I looked at her and her death through a terrified fog that kept me from coming to any clear understanding of loss, regret, and familial relationships. They bumped around in my brain, those ghosts, clanging chains of fear and shame, whispering things a thousand times more vicious than anything my mother, even at her most unforgiving and manipulative, would ever say. 

Eventually, something snapped. Maybe it was my inability to reconcile God's Law (I'm not sure if there's a Bible verse about damnation for estranged daughters, but it sure seem a subtextual given) with the knowledge I am not an evil person. Maybe I rejected the incomprehensible horrors of a hypothetical, punishing god so thoroughly that all my auxiliary religious beliefs got flushed in the purge. Whatever it was, the entire system - every last silly little bit of it - suddenly screamed of fraudulence. Of disgusting and unnecessary fear-mongering. Of darkness and mystery clouding up a space where the already painful realities of life and death don't need the complication of unrealities. I rejected it wholesale. Shoved every last ounce out of my life once and for all. And the things that have filled the space left behind have been more beautiful and more gratifying than I ever could have imagined. 

It's the gift my mother never knew she gave me. 

size matters

Did you know that gel capsules sizes are inverse relative to women's clothing sizes? So a 00 in jeans is smaller than a 4, but a 00 in Healthy Foods Brand V-Caps is much, much larger than a 4.

I did not know this. Post-delivery research has shown me I was wrong to assume that the larger the number, the larger the capsule. And we all know what happens when one assumes things: one gets stuck with a useless 300-count bag of empty horse pills.

lol 

If you did not know this either, let my mistake be your educational opportunity. To review:



And that will conclude today's pharmaceutical lesson.

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p.s. This post may or may not have been an excuse to show off a blurry corner of my new repro Charles Ghost counter stools, which came today! I love them! I'll post better pics soon.

p.p.s. If anyone knows any equines that want to seriously fucking party this summer, let me know.

storytellers

the me I see

I was thinking the other day about why relationships (romantic or otherwise) end. About the people I've passively let drift out of my life and those I've forcibly cut out, and the reasons I've done so.

Sometimes it's an easy decision. When someone has hurt me too deeply and too many times that my capacity for forgiveness is exhausted, it isn't difficult to put up a wall and self-protect. I've been doing it since I was a teenager, necessarily. Live without limits, they say, but that's such an ambiguous expression. Live without limiting yourself, maybe. But recognizing and respecting the limits on my patience and compassion is essential to my mental heath. I like having boundaries. I'm okay with telling repeat boundary breakers to take a hike. Doing so frees up space in my life for people who'll treat me with care and respect.

Sometimes I let someone go because I realize his or her values don't align with my own. The older I get the easier this becomes. (And I'm not talking about beliefs, which I think of as inward conclusions we draw about the world around us. Values are what I consider the outward expression of qualities we prize in ourselves, and for which we want to be honored, by others.) If someone had asked me at twenty-nine what my values were, I don't know that I would have been able to answer. I don't think I had a clue back then, and I'm still learning now. Perhaps strangely, much of what I've figured out about my values I've done so by identifying what they're not. By seeing their counterpoint demonstrated in someone else. Like, Oh wow, what s/he just did? I don't want to be that. Nope nope nope. In fact, what is the opposite of that? Because that's what I want to be. It's a weird way to come to understanding myself, I guess, but sometimes it's more useful than trying to straight out name what I consider most important.

But sometimes I disconnect from someone because they reflect back at me a version of myself that I've outgrown - or our relationship, to me, represents a painful time in my life. When this happens, I feel conflicted. I feel ashamed for my inability to overcome the past and for "punishing" someone who didn't do anything wrong. But at the same time, I feel incapable of keeping them close. I haven't found a way to say It's not you; it's me - the me I see when I look at you - but that's how I feel.

of Craisins and cat scarves

One of my roommates celebrated his seventh birthday a few days ago. He got a new Nylabone and a special trip to Vista Hermosa Park, where he copycatted my other roommate down the slide and sniffed stuff. Because you're never too old to sniff stuff.






Chaucer has only gotten sweeter and more entertaining with age. While he has grown a bit stubborn in his advanced years (I now have to keep dried cranberries handy on walks, for when he refuses to go where he should), it's usually less frustrating then funny, because he's just endlessly curious. He always wants to investigate new paths, go through strange doorways, and explore unfamiliar corridors. At home he is our constant companion. He trails us from room to room, forever ready with a toy to play, and always down for a cuddle puddle. The second my mood turns south he's at my side, nosing me for reassurance that everything's okay. There is nothing as familiar and comforting as his velvety face resting in my hands, and I love him so much I can barely stand it. He truly is one of the best things to ever happen to me, and I'm grateful for every last drop of drool.








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We spent the 4th of July with Kerry and Ross, barbecuing and watching fireworks from the roof. There may or may not have been an 80s dance party in the living room immediately following. And there may or may not have been a dollar flag from Wallgreens turned into an armband/headband/cat scarf. Here are way too many photos of said event:














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Saw my friend Z a few weeks ago. As is typical with Z, the better I look, the more likely he is to blink in a photo of us.


Amazing. Love him anyway. More fun from that weekend:




Upon the recommendation of some friends, I dragged Terence to Avalon for Roger Sanchez. Fun stuff.



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Aaaand, last but not least, my four favorite recent WordSwags (we make and send each other way too many of these, it's sort of ridiculous):






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Happy Friday everyone!

dresses for give

Anyone want a cocktail dress or two? I've got a couple ready for their next home. They're beautiful and it makes me sad to get rid of them, but ugh, the travesty that is my d├ęcolletage. Twenty-something Ellie didn't get the memo from her future self, the one saying Get. The. Fuck. Out of the tanning bed. You will regret it more than you can even imagine. Also? My clavicle? Not my best feature.

I know there are charities for prom dresses and women's professional attire, but I don't know about midi length cocktail dresses, so I figured if anyone has a use for them, I'd be happy to pass them along.

The first is a green and white polka dot silk halter top. ABS Allen Schwartz, size 2. Here are a couple good shots of it:





Yeah, it's a little boobriffic when you bend over. And it's really not sheer at all, though apparently it is looks that way in the nuclear photobooth flash?

The other is a black silk strapless with a sort of corset structured top and brass rivets. Olga Kapustina, size 4. It's pretty darn snug. I've only got this one dumb pic of me in it, but it really is a stunning dress. The drape and cut are amazing.


They're both super lightweight so I don't mind shipping them (as long as you live in the US - if you don't, we'll figure something out). Really it'd just make me happy to know someone else was enjoying them. So if you'd like either, here's what you need to do...

1. First, a create new Twitter account that addends your first name to the phrase _ELLIEISFUCKINGAMAZING. So for instance if your name is Julie, you'll be @Julie_ELLIEISFUCKINGAMAZING. Be sure to make the account public. Failure to do so will result in disqualification from the giveaway. 

2. From the new account, tweet a minimum of ten times about any of the following:
- how brilliant I am
- how talented I am
- how funny I am
- how handsome my dog is
If you'd prefer to tweet more than ten times, that's fine, but ten is the MINIMUM. Remember, I will check up on you!

3. Finally, create a Facebook fan page for my blog, which you must then maintain for a full year. Duties include curating a gallery of my best selfies, mediating a discussion about the ways I suck at social media, and submitting memes of Chaucer to Reddit.

Email me with your info. Elliequent {at} me {dot} com. 

Janice

Side by side in salon chairs a few days ago, our hair cooking with color, I fell into conversation with a sixty-something woman whose interests and personality matched my own to a degree that was almost eerie. It was like talking to a future version of myself. I take it as an auspicious sign that we liked one another.

It started like this: my stylist (who's also a friend) and I were catching up, chatting about restaurants and shows we've been to lately. He and his wife are foodies, so we were discussing the pros and cons of spending money on concerts vs. dining out. I explained that if I have cash to burn, live music will almost always be my first choice. That while I absolutely understand the joys of gastronomical exploration, it's just not my jam. I get much more emotional fulfillment and sensory excitement from the experience of music than from even the most gourmet of meals.

An older woman seated at the next station leaned over. "Sorry to intrude," she said, "but I have to agree. Music feeds the soul, and that's a satisfaction that lasts much longer than dinner."

And it went from there. We spent our twenty minutes of processing time gabbing about opera, festivals, fashion, drugs, and dreams (the long-term kind vs. the sleeping kind). She was blonde, pretty, and open-faced in a way that made me think of Kirsten Dunst. She was clearly monied, but there was nothing entitled or presumptive about her. When I inquired as to whether she lived downtown (knowing, of course, that she didn't; seniors are the only demographic more rare than children in DTLA, and those are about as common as dodos), I found out she's been faithfully following her stylist (another friend) from salon to salon around LA for years.

That's so gonna be me.

When Janice (we finally exchanged names at the shampoo sinks) asked me how I'd gotten so into music, I heard myself giving an answer I didn't even know was the case until it came out. "Well," I started slowly, "I think it was a response to what I went through personally, over the last five years. A lot of loss. A pretty painful divorce and the deaths of both parents. I think music became something safe for me to latch on to. Music isn't going anywhere, you know? It was the thing I found that made life joyful again."

Incidentally, my voice didn't break once during this disclosure; that surprised me as much as the words themselves.

Janice was all empathy and knowing nods. She got it, she assured me, and I believed her. Her eyes were bright and her skin had escaped the harshest of lines, but you don't hit your sixth decade without saying goodbye to at least a few loved ones.

I asked her about opera, which she characterized as "her festivals." She sees as much as she can, usually five or six performances a year. But she demurred when I called her an aficionado. She's just a devoted fan, she insisted. When I asked if she'd been raised on opera, admitting how utterly lost I'd been coming to it for the first time myself so late in life, she told me a story that made me instantly love her. Paraphrasing, but...

"Well, one night back when I was still single, I drew myself a bath. The television was on in the background - there was a show playing, that series Live From the Met, do you know it? Anyway, when I shut the water off, I heard the most unbelievably beautiful music coming from the other room. I jumped out of the tub, grabbed a towel, and sat riveted in front of the TV. I was dripping wet but I couldn't move. I'd never heard anything like it. It was Pavarotti. The very next day I bought myself a ticket - they were showing Madame Butterfly. I didn't know anyone else who wanted to spend money on an opera ticket, so I just got one. I splurged on a Givenchy dress {here she gestured with her hands, running them lightly down the sides of an invisible gown; for some reason I imagined something form-fitting, red, and woven through with gold sparkle}, and I went to the show alone. And I had the time of my life."

Her anecdote concluded with a facial expression that was less triumphant than matter-of-fact. It just was who she was; it was what she would do. Trying to be tactful but curious as to her age during this experience, I asked her how long ago that was. But she knew what I meant. "Oh, I must have been about thirty-five I guess?"

I almost leapt out of my chair to hug her. Instead I told her how much I enjoyed going to festivals by myself, how intimidating it was at first (despite being in my mid-thirties) but how empowering, ultimately; she'd concluded the same thing about opera. We agreed that the company of another fan is best, but going solo is a close second. We agreed on a lot of things, in fact:

We are both mystified by the appeal of jazz.
We both love Radiohead and Muse. Yep, sixty-something Janice used to be a rocker, and she's come back to it later in life.
We are both vain about our hair, despite the challenges that aging presents to it.
We both have enormous respect for our friends (the stylists, a married couple who own the salon), who are fantastic, hardworking, and generous employers.

The subject of drugs came up, as it invariably does when talking about festivals. She wanted to know whether pot was still commonly used. I stifled a LOL and started to explain the newer, more popular choices du jour - but my authoritative feeling evaporated when Janice filled me in on her own former experimentation. Duh, I thought to myself, she lived through the sixties. Three words: ell, ess, dee. Acid isn't something I've tried (*cough*yet*cough*), but let's just say I left the salon with more interesting and helpful tips than what to moisturize my ends with.

We didn't talk about jobs. We didn't talk about our partners. We didn't talk about children. I don't even know if she has any, and she didn't ask me, either. Few and far between are the conversations I have that exclude these Key Adult Talking Points. Few and far between and kind of nice.

silk road

For every time that I actually purchase something from Pinkman, we tend to have about half a dozen failed attempts at successfully planning and executing a rendezvous. Despite my slyly casual questioning (I'm intensely curious - blame Breaking Bad and Freakanomics), I know very little about his role in the operation, and how he comes into possession of salable inventory. I only know that I'm 100% at his mercy; when he stocks up, I either have to jump on it immediately or miss out and wait for the next shipment.

I don't mind being ready on a moment's notice. I just think of it like an extremely exclusive Gilt Groupe sale. She who hesitates parties sober. The problem is that communicating with Pinkman is a bit like talking to a tenth grader who forgot to take his Adderall. I can't screenshot our texts because I need to edit out (the more) incriminating details, but here's a typical month spread:

Him: Super party favors for the weekend!

Me: Yeah? What've you got?

Him: Mush, white, malls

Me: Def interested, can you meet tonight?

Him: How much

Me: {redacted}

....half an hour later....

Me: So should I come by?

Him: Wait a little I'll let you know

Me: Okay

THREE DAYS LATER

Him: Yo

Me: Hey!

FIVE DAYS LATER

Him: Two kinds. One is lighter than the other.

Me: ...k? What exactly, and how much?

ONE WEEK LATER

Him: Sup

Me: Hi! I'm actually near your place, heading to a show at {redacted}.  Are you around?

Him: Can you pay for an Uber to come get me? I'll take it off the total.

Me: Ummm where are you?

Him: My boys place

Me: Where's that?

FOUR DAYS LATER

Him: I work for {redacted} Eyewear now. Let me know if you or your friends need any sort of luxury eyewear for half off or more of retail!!

Me: .....

NEXT DAY

Him: Today

Me: Yeah? No prob, I can come right now...

Him What

Me: I can come today.

TWO DAYS LATER

Him: Hey hey

Me: Hey there. 

Him: Got what you want

Me: Awesome, when and where?

Him: Can you come to my gf's house

Me: Maybe. Where is it?

Him: Glendale

You get the idea. He'll ping me, I'll answer - and then he'll just disappear. Poof. Gone. I don't know why, or what happens, and I don't want to annoy him by asking. I really like his featured designers, and I don't want to get cut out of the mailing list.

Incidentally, his girlfriend? She's a geologist, currently backpacking her way across Asia. Graduated in three years, bragged Pinkman, from an extremely reputable private university. I ended up meeting her that night, and she does seem very bright. I worry about them both, because to be honest, despite the flakiness and random, spammy sales pitches, Pinkman's really sweet, too. A few days ago he told me that his higher up was recently busted in a pretty big sting. I found this out when I asked what his Independence Day plans were; he told me that he and "some of the guys" were holding a fundraiser for the higher up's legal fees. I won't lie: I was impressed to hear of such solidarity.

I asked Pinkman whether this makes him nervous, whether it feels like the cops are closing in on him. But he says that since he only sells to me and a couple of good friends, he isn't really concerned. I don't know why I got grandfathered in before he quit selling large-scale, and I'm not going to ask. I try to curb my curiosity about Pinkman and Co., because I've found that the less I say, the less stupid I seem. Case in point, a snippet of our conversation last week:

Him: You're really lucky. This shit is the bomb. Straight from Amsterdam.

Me: Yeah? 

Him: Yeah. You know Silk Road?

Me: ....like, the ancient trade route through China..?

Him: No, the website. 

Me: (bluffing) Oh! Right! Yeah, yeah. Silk Road dot com. 

Him: Well this is the last of what my boy got through it, before they shut it down.

We had this conversation in the subway, by the way. I'd gone to meet him at our usual place in Hollywood, but we had to hop back on the train to go a few stops down to his new source. I was none too thrilled about that, but like I say, Pinkman's merchandise is nonpareil, even if Pinkman himself is sometimes more Pink Panther than Pablo Escabar. (When he purchased a TAP card for the metro fare, he was so high on weed he accidentally bought a monthly pass.) 

Something tells me the geologist girlfriend knows more about both Silk Roads than me. I just hope Pinkman answers her texts a little more promptly than he answers mine.   

this just in: spazzy blogger is spazzy

To finally, belatedly expand upon my last post...

I am so very sorry if you were a casualty of my Instagram block party the other night; I've decided to start using it again, but with a very small following and a private account. Manually blocking over a thousand people was crazytown, I know, but I didn't want to start a new account and ditch all of my photos, the last year of which are especially precious to me because of Terence. And I didn't know how else to handle it; asking everyone Uh, could you please unfollow me? Thx! would have been ridiculous. I've since realized that I could have posted a heads up about I was going to do...but I didn't think of that until afterward. Forethought fail.

Please, please don't be offended if I blocked you! For one thing, that follower count is way off; it's a glitch, or ghost followers still in the IG system or something, I don't know. The actual number is 22. Twenty-two followers. For another, I don't even know how much I'll use it. I just want to keep the option open.

I've written about a dozen versions of an explanation as to why I'm doing this, but the simplest answer is: I thought it might be nice to have a place on the internet where I don't have to be Ellie, personal blogger, and where I can just be Ellie, person.

I know that having a personal blog means that I basically am Elliequent. I get that. But I've been blogging for so long, sharing pretty much everything significant that happens to me (and much of the mundane, too), that sometimes it feels like my life is a like a TV show that's always on (the cast of which includes more than just myself). I just think it would be good to put a boundary in place.

I hope this makes sense and can be forgiven. Nothing whatsoever is changing here. Nothing at all. And again, I am so sorry if my weird blocking decision affected you - I meant absolutely no offense, and I feel awful to have hurt anyone's feelings. I am and always have been so spazzy and conflicted about social media. This latest decision isn't about any one of you at all, or even the collective you. It's about me, and my efforts to continually monitor my motives where blogging and social media are concerned.

I don't know how long they're going to keep calling it "new" media, but I for one will probably be fumbling my way through it for years hence.