Newbie Cooks

The cooking class is held in a loft in an artists' complex about a mile north of downtown. When we walk in, I'm momentarily dazzled by the racks of colorful cookware lining the walls until I realize that everything is stacked in multiples, and brand new. It's all for sale - not for use in the class. Indeed, the space looks more like a shop than a kitchen; there's an oven and a refrigerator, but no proper stove. Just a couple of portable camping burners on a semi-circular wood-topped island. These burners are on, with food already cooking in them. Several cups of milk warm in a Le Creuset and a massive saute pan simmers gently with a colorless stew of leeks, onions, and bok choy. Steam issues from the mixture but no smell. The individual cooking stations I had imagined are nowhere to be seen, and I start to realize that the format here is more observation, less participation.

Clustered around the island, one couple per cutting board, are our classmates. We join them, smiling hello and taking an empty spot in the middle, directly across from the instructor, Tory. Tory is friendly but not particularly effusive. If not exactly on autopilot, any enthusiasm she once had for the gig seems as faded as the leeks. Her voice rarely rises above medium-low. Perhaps to belie her flavor-challenged personality however, Tory assures us that the goal tonight is fun. "Fun! Because if you're not enjoying yourself in the kitchen, you're not going to want to get in there and cook, right?" Right, we nod dutifully. As if reading our minds, Tory then adds that the wine promised in the syllabus will be available after we complete the knife skills portion of the class. In the meantime there's water and tea. Terence gets us some tea but gives me a look: Really? I give him one back: Apparently. I'm only thirty minutes out of a deep nap followed by a scalding hot shower (our plumbing is jacked). I'm cranky and hungry and starting to suspect Hipcooks is not as hip as we'd hoped.

Tory launches into a lecture on the importance of hygiene while I size up our peers. To our left is Hipster Cooks: she placid and wide-smiling, in a porkpie hat and Anthro ensemble; he a Warby Parker model, frowning obsessively over the contents of the Le Creuset which he's been assigned to stir with a figure-eight motion. To our right is Second Date Cooks: impossibly tall, exhaustingly earnest. They smile a lot but stand further apart than any of the other couples. Beyond them is Sporty Cooks: buff, sunny, giggly. They poke one another and whisper, though there doesn't seem much to whisper about - we haven't touched a single piece of food yet. I tune Tory back in; she's still on hygiene. She encourages us to wash our hands often, warning that it's a must if we accidentally touch our faces, our hair, our phones. She demonstrates the correct way to sample a bite of food: by tipping one's head back and dropping the bite in rather than putting hand to mouth. Tory urges us to always use a clean fingertip for tasting, and when she splays the digits of her right hand one by one to illustrate, I am reminded of a song from sixth grade chorus:

Gloves / on fingers and thumbs! / we know that these highly useful tools with never get numb!

I sip my tea, wondering how long knife skills will take and whether it would be inappropriate to nick a grape from the bowl in the middle of the island. I also wonder what the grapes could be for; tonight's menu is coq au vin, mussels, a two-bean salad and pots de creme. J'aime Paris is the name of the class, which Terence found online and booked as a gift to me, knowing coq au vin is one of my very favorite dishes. He's spent all week listening to me speculate on the likelihood of whether we'll make it properly, with rooster not chicken ("There's no way they're gonna have actual rooster. No way.") Tonight while getting dressed I asked him if he was ready for Cock In a Van class. I may have made the same joke four additional times.

We take turns introducing ourselves and telling "the last yummy thing" we ate. I look at Terence in a panic. Last yummy thing? "Korean BBQ," he whispers. Oh yeah. Hipster Cooks, Second Date Cooks, and Sporty Cooks all name impressive-sounding homemade dishes. Whatever. I help myself to a grape, popping it quickly into my wide open mouth, challenging the others with my eyes while I chew. What? I'm fucking starving, okay? There is no way Tory has four goddamn roosters in that fridge.

For knife skills, each couple is entrusted with a sharpened, 8-inch Wustof chef's knife to share. "Make sure you each get a turn practicing these techniques," she instructs. Unless at some point I blacked out due to hunger, I am fairly sure we still haven't laid hands on a single piece of food. Tory spends some time extolling the virtues of the blade, enlightening us as to the differences between German and Japanese cutlery. She passes around a honing steel, which we obediently glide our Wustofs against once, twice, three times. Terence, recently fed, is in a better mood than I am. Tory has tasked him with periodically stirring what she's now identified as the "sauce base" for the coq au vin. (That is, for the cornmeal-breaded chicken thighs already washed, cut, seasoned and breaded, and ready for the oven.) He laughs, self-deprecatory, at his ineptness. Tory laughs too, more enthused than she's been all night, telling Terence he's doing great. She maintains eye contact with him for longer than it took me to eat the grape. I test the knife's edge with a very clean fingertip.

We chop. We slice. We chiffonade. We do all of this on handfuls of grapes, cherry tomatoes, garlic, bok choy, herbs. To help us remember the correct, safe way to cut, Tory pretends her clenched fist is a bunny, jumping out of harm's way at the last second. "Hop, hop, slide. Hop, hop, slide." There is still no wine in sight. Each couple contributes its efforts to the prep bowls passed down the line. "Wait, is that the basil or the tarragon?" Amidst the low-level, sober chaos, Tory disappears and reappears with two massive platters covered in wet white kitchen towels. Mussels. Ten pounds of them. Alive.

It's finally time for wine.

For the next ten minutes, I clutch my chardonnay and watch in horror as my boyfriend, similarly horrified but gamely partaking in the exercise, prepares shellfish to be cooked. My horror, born of the realization that we are boiling animals alive, is too much on an empty stomach. I feign interest in the process, which involves snipping off the mussel's "beard" with scissors and cupping questionable specimens to makes sure they are in fact alive. Terence glances at me, stifling laughter, his eyes wide. What the fuck. He ventures a "This is so weird!" but none of the others seem remotely disturbed. Tory picks up on our reticence and we are forced to confess: neither of us has had mussels before.

The sauce for the chicken thickens and starts to give off an enticing aroma, but I'm stubbornly noting the lack of red wine, carrots - of any of the traditional coq au vin markers, in fact. Tory says something about it being a "mediterranean version." Ah. She dribbles mouthfuls of the broth from her large spoon onto our smaller ones, for tasting. "We'll mama bird it like this, so no dirty spoons go in the pot," she explains.

We pile the mussels into two Le Creusets, one of which catches on fire a few minutes into cooking. No harm no foul though; nothing gets burned. There are now multiple dishes being prepared at once, and multiple glasses of wine being drunk. Tory manages and directs. We watch. I lean against Terence, weak with hunger. He smuggles me another grape.

A salad is made. We're invited to put in "as much or as little" of its ingredients as we wish. The "as much or as little" directive has been a theme all night, actually. Rather than give us specific portions, Tory has her students guesstimate how much of each thing we "think will taste good" in each dish. Terence looks adorable in his apron, and the burgundy we've moved onto is actually quite good...

---

We eat at a farm table, on benches Terence has some difficulty climbing in and out of. I slide over wordlessly to give him room, my head down over my plate like I'm in trouble. Which is what it feels like. I pick at the mussels, nibbling dry bread, privately impressed by the lack of Instagramming going on. No one seems to notice or care when we casually switch plates. We are clearly the odd ones out; the others are discussing recently made (or invented) recipes. Second Date Girl asks the group what everyone's specialty is. "Dr. Pepper ribs," say Hipster Cooks. "Waffle iron sandwiches," say Sporty Cooks. "Microwave burritos," I say. Terence snorts.

The chicken tastes like Shake and Bake. The sauce is barely more than watery, white-green mush. The pots de creme, however, are undeniably bomb. Someone, I think Hipster Cook Guy, suggested we add cayenne. And the flakes of salt we sprinkled on top are almost making me forget that there is no cock in my vin.

---

Outside, Terence is energized, playful. He picks me up, howling, wrapping my legs around his waist and pinning me against a brick wall near the car. "Nooooo!" I laugh. I'm still hungry, we both know the class was a total bust, but the wine's loosened us up. I realize I left my wallet in the kitchen and we sprint back to get it. As we walk to the car, breathless and silly, we compare notes. "Where were the carrots??" Terence wants to know. I'm still hung up on Tory's cleanliness fetish. "It's cooking for Christ's sake. It's supposed to be messy."

We agree that the next class we do will be in our own kitchen, just the two of us, with as much wine as we want, following an actual recipe, start to finish. We just need a name.


offering

Area Couple Disagree About Best Place To Abandon Used Blender

PORTLAND, OR - Citing safety concerns, Chaplin Lofts resident Carey Marvin dryly suggested to longtime boyfriend Trent Colson that perhaps the formerly functional pile of junk with which the two once made smoothies should be placed on the trash room floor beside the recycling bin, rather than on top of it. "It's glass, " she sighed, her head tilted at an angle evoking long-suffering resignation. "It could fall and break. And those blades are sharp? Someone might cut themselves?"

Trent, however, felt confident in his initial decision to precariously perch the appliance atop the large, rolling blue bin with slightly convex lid. "No one will see it on the ground," he argued with the same conviction he'd once felt about his ability to fit an oversized carry-on into the overhead luggage compartment of a budget airline. "Somebody's gonna grab it right away, anyway. A good blender like this? They'll be thrilled!"

When asked whether the couple intended to include the instruction manual alongside their neighborly offering, Marvin rolled her eyes aggressively and muttered, "Oh yeah, like he kept that."

lucky

Write the post, Ellie. You know you can't move on until you do. 

I can't. I don't know how. I won't get it right. 

What's to get right? It's a blog post, not the Magna Carta.

Fuck you, you know this one's a big deal. 

Don't tell me, tell them.

Tell them what? That St. Patrick's Day is one of the most significant days of the year to me? That sounds ridiculous. 

Well, you've got to explain why.

I can't. I barely understand it myself. 

Start at the beginning.

The beginning. What beginning? The beginning of the end?

If that's what it was, then yes.

I don't even know what I mean by that. It just sounds good.

Sure you do. Back up. Start at the start. March 17th, 2012. 

Go fuck yourself. I'm not going back there.

Oh come on. Just a few sentences. Stick to the facts and keep it simple. There and back in a jiffy. Let's go.

Fuck, fine, okay! 

Fall 2011 through Fall of 2012 was one of the most turbulent, terrible, and yet wonderful years of my life. Wholly unrecovered from my divorce and the death of my mom, I'd spent the year prior in a black hole of depression. I had no idea who I was or what to do with my life. My blog design business had died. My savings dried up and I went broke. In a panic, I snuck off to Arizona to dance. I met an abuser there. I moved in with him and brought Chaucer with me. He nearly killed us both. On New Year's Day, I threw my clothes and my dog in a rental car and fled. I came back to LA with nothing more than a crippling sense of shame. Almost immediately, I tumbled into another relationship. Utterly, terrifyingly lost, I clung to my friends, some of whom were not very good for me. I discovered ecstasy. I discovered music festivals. My father got cancer and died within thirteen days of his diagnosis. I grieved my second parent. I clung closer to my friends, some of whom saved my life. In fact, 2012 was the year friendship became the most important thing in the world to me, because it was the only reliable constant in the chaos that was my life. 

In the middle of all this fell a holiday - one that, in its modern American incarnation anyway, has very little to do with family. One that is pretty much just about getting fucked up with your friends - at least in my neighborhood. And in both 2012 and 2013, I had such an amazing time on that holiday, surrounded by people who had come to essentially be my family, and feeling so unbelievably lucky for it, that it forever imprinted a big, green shamrock on my heart. St. Patrick's Day is the day I take stock of my life, looking around to see if I'm still a good enough person to have people that want to celebrate with me. It's silly and irrational. Not everyone even wants to go out on St. Paddy's. But it's the one day more than any other that I need to feel the thing that has kept me alive the past five years: friendship. Companionship. It doesn't even matter to me that each year I spend it with different people. What matters to me is that I'm not alone, on March 17th. That I feel loved and cared for and understood by at least one goddamn person. Ridiculous I know, but there it is. It's my day.

I thought you were going to keep it simple.

Yeah, well.

And what do you want to say about this year?

That it was everything I needed, again. That I wasn't alone. That, for another year anyway, I've fooled at least two people into thinking I'm not horrible. That I felt safe, liked, loved, connected. That I laughed and danced and drank, and ran around in a crowd of others who, like me, just wanted to lose themselves in a day of play with their friends. That that's all I wanted. 

That I still feel lucky.


























There. That wasn't so bad, was it?

lake hollywood park

Chaucer sidled up to Terence and I towards the end of last week, pushed his big, velvety head into the space between us and said, "Yo. I heard you guys talking. I know you've got friends coming to town this weekend. I know you'll be busy and I won't get as much attention as usual. So I was thinking: maybe you should take me on an adventure before they get here? Maybe even today, because it's so nice out? Someplace new. A park I've never been to. That's what I think should happen. Also, burgers."

It's amazing what dogs can say with just their eyes, right??

We agreed that he was right about the park, if not the burgers. Terence - who says he feels like a good step dad whenever he takes Chaucer and I on an outing - had been wanting to check out Lake Hollywood Park for a while anyway, so that's what we did. And oh man were we glad Chaucer suggested it. The area is so pretty, and the park itself is a doggy field of dreams.





Getting there is a wee bit tricky: winding roads with lots of sharp turns. But just sat nav that baby and you're good to go.



It's an off-leash park, but seems roomy enough for everyone to have plenty of space. Lots of big, sporty dogs playing but other than some light sparring we didn't see any fights break out. Hooray for attentive dog owners!



Chaucer himself did me proud and was a total gentleman. We kept mostly to the perimeter, watching, getting the lay of the land for our first visit. Chauc is hit or miss when it comes to getting along with other large breeds, so I have to be careful about when and where and with whom he gets full freedom. We kept him close and didn't let him go into the fray this time, but we'll definitely go back and let him socialize when it's a little emptier. A few dogs did wander over to check him out but he was super chill.



A few notes in case you take your pup: there's a water fountain, but you'll need to bring a bowl. The hill running alongside the park (with free street parking) is pretty steep; it might be a challenge for older dogs if you can't get a spot close by. And lastly: beware of mosquitos.



There is nothing quite like the feeling of seeing your city dog sink his paws into some soft, green grass. I'm terrible about anthropomorphizing Chaucer but I swear at moments like this I read gratitude in his eyes. I didn't give him a rural life, he didn't quite win the canine lottery...but I do my best to give him nature on the regular.



And this guy? He jokes about feeling step-daddish but he has no idea the points he scores, loading me and my boy up in the car and spending an hour in the sun with us. Means the world.



Chaucer is always exceptionally patient about our selfie-taking, even when it's his day.



The bugs chased us off before it got too dark, but it was the sunset that chased us down the freeway a few minutes later.



We should definitely let Chaucer plan the day more often.

Things In My Hand, Mid-March Edition

Thing #1: Ataulfo mangoes


significance: This particular day started out sucking donkey balls roughly the size of these mangoes. I had a doctor's appointment, first time seeing her so I was already nervous, and on the way out of my building I got into it with my dickhead neighbor. Long story short: he has an endlessly barking dog he's done nothing about for over a year, and I, at my breaking point, said some harsh things. I hate losing my temper, so the encounter left me furious at myself and all shook up. But then a minute later I ran into New Neighbor Friend, who is also familiar with dickhead neighbor. She spent the next two hours texting me about the situation, commiserating and just supportively listening to me vent, and by the time I left the doctor's (and found these at a fruit stand just outside), my mood was a million times better.

When I got home I put one of the mangoes in a bag along with a pack of Hi-Chews, wrote CHOOSE YOUR OWN SNACKVENTURE on the bag, and put it outside her door as thanks. This was thanks not just for being there for me that day but also for her last present to me. (We are basically bombarding one another with little token gifts like some kind of courting medieval couple, it is hilarious.) She texted me a picture of the mango in her fruit bowl, said it smelled and looked great, but what the heck was it, exactly? LOL.

significantly better than: Regular mangoes, IMHO. These taste like honey-infused nectarines, and are one of my favorite fruits.

---

Thing #2: sparkling sake


significance: We introduced my friend Steve to Bulgogi Hut (formerly Castle II), and finally got our order right, even if my drink choice was a miss. It's an all-you-can-eat Korean BBQ deal, and there are over two dozen kinds of meat to choose from. And you have to consume what you order or pay a surcharge, so there's a lot of trial and error in figuring out the best stuff to get. Should you go, that best stuff is 1) hot and spicy pork, 2) signature bulgogi, and 3) black angus beef brisket bulgogi.

significantly better than: Water? No, probably not. Banzai Bunny (please please let someone make this my new rave name) maybe isn't the most delicious member of the sparkling beverage family. Banzai Bunny maybe tastes like someone opened a washing machine mid-cycle, dropped a rotten peach in it, played a few rounds of sudoku, opened the machine back up, dipped an empty bottle in the water, and sealed it. Oh and the laundry consists entirely of gym shorts.

---

Thing #3: my friend Steve's head



significance: Pictured above are my adorable boyfriend, my friends Mark and Steve, and New Neighbor Friend! We all hung out for a bit on Friday and as you can see it was a total fucking bore, except for the wall twerking, the hip hop dance party, and the randomly finding edible undies in someone's hotel room. First rule of Edible Undies Randomly Found In A Hotel Room Club is group selfie or GTFO.

significantly better than: No friend's head. If given the choice, I will always choose friend's head over no friend's head.

---

Thing #4: the front railing at the Eric Prydz show (out of frame)



significance: It looks like church, which is about right because Eric Prydz is the closest thing to my prophet as it gets. Fantastic show, just absolutely out of this world. We'd never seen the place so packed, but coping with the smashing elbows everywhere was worth it to be right up front. Though really it was mostly Terence who dealt with that aspect. He was a saint, making himself into a human shield around me so I'd have room to dance and be protected from the worst of the shoving. He went all zen and meditative just so I could have the best possible experience. Hugely massively wonderful boyfriendishness.

significantly better than: no railing, which would mean I was floating somewhere in the middle, crushed and jostled from every angle

---

Thing #5: supportive marathon poster


significance: My friend Mark ran the LA Marathon! He insists his placement isn't what matters to him, and just wanted to qualify for Boston (which he did), but I couldn't believe how fucking fast he was. So fast, in fact, that I actually missed him when he ran by. Terence and I had so much fun cheering that we decided to stick around for a while. Such incredible energy, and crazy inspiring. Next year we're going to take Chaucer and sit him down with a sign that says RUN LIKE I'M CHASING YOU.

significantly better than: Most of the Supportive Marathon Posters I saw online. Because not to hoot my own horn, but man is the Supportive Marathon Poster game filled with a bunch of copycats. A quick search for inspiration showed that basically everyone repeats the same ten or fifteen funny/clever ideas again and again. The owl thing was silly but I was kinda proud of the flip side I came up with: YOU RUN LIKE UPDOG. When the heat kicked in, I shed the owl suit and switched to UPDOG, and the smiles and laughs and occasional "What's 'updog'?" response from passing runners totally made my day. (Pic of the UPDOG side in the most recent set of LobbyEllies.)

sunrise, waiting for the first runners to hit downtown



Is that you, Mark? He called to us as he passed but while Terence saw him and waved, I missed the whole damn thing. By the time I got my phone out Speedy was nearly up the hill.

---

And that will conclude the inaugural edition of Things In My Hand, which I probably should have held off on until after tonight, when I'll have a pint of green beer to add to the list. Ah well. Happy St. Patrick's Day!

headbangers bawl

I am at a goth punk rock show. I am at a goth punk rock show because a friend of mine has just run the LA Marathon, and we are celebrating. We are celebrating at this goth punk rock show because I, in charge of the evening's festivities, didn't realize it would be quite so goth punk.

My friend (around whose neck is the race medal I insisted he wear, and which I am having great fun shining the flashlight of my phone on as we walk into darkened bars, bragging to anyone who'll listen about his 482nd place finish, which among 26k runners translates to the top ~1%) is an '80s music fanatic. It's Sunday; there's not a lot going on; I thought it would be more new wave and less headbangers ball. I tried.



But we are making the most of it, the three of us. We venture gamely into the throng and watch one and a half sets, from a lineup of five bands. We don't understand a goddamn word of any of the songs. We joke a little, but we're careful not to be obnoxious and disrespect the scene, which from the seriousness of the faces around us, is clearly not to be disrespected. I take notes. Literally. On my phone, in two or three recesses while I withdraw from the crowd and slink off to the shadows, so as not to be disruptive. These are the ones I've since run through the filter of sobriety:

Everything is smoke, black, and damaged hair. 

Save for some halfhearted head bobbing, no one is dancing. Wait, one guy. Thrashing with his head down. The others make room for him but none seem interested in joining. Everyone looks so terribly sad, so glazed. Is this really as holy for them as EDM is for me? 

When you find yourself in the wrong church, you may as well see what you can learn from the prayers. If only I could make them out.

On stage: a waif-like blonde tries to seduce a microphone that wants nothing to do with her. She twists and dips around it, but any softness in her voice has been bullied down by drums and screeching guitar. I want to give her a cupcake. Some sugar, anyway. She looks like sugar, spun and spun and spun into near oblivion. 

A background scrim with visuals evoking fire or blood - or bloody fire. Just flashing blobs of light, really. (I've no business judging, though. The graphic I gawked at, captivated, two nights prior at Eric Prydz? A grotesquely skeletal face, gaping mouth and hollow socket eyes. The creepier the animation, the better IMO.)

Watching from the fringes, it's a sea of ripped denim and slouchy jersey. I studiously avoid eye contact on the way to the restroom, in my pencil skirt and tennis white pointelle sweater. Fucking white pointelle. What an obscenity I am in here.

---

We call a Lyft before the third set starts.

slightly defensive Q & A drug disclaimery thing

Festival season approacheth, which means pretty soon I'll be referencing capsules and powder and fungus, oh my! I figured it would be a good idea to put up a post I can link to, containing an overview of All Things Drug. At some point I'll move it to its own page, but for now, new content!

---

You blog openly about drug use. Do you think this makes you cool or something? Because, uh, you are definitely not cool.

First of all, *clears throat pedantically* "drug" is an umbrella term encompassing a vast array of both prescription and recreational drugs, some of which I wouldn't touch with a ten foot pole. AND YEAH, I KNOW I'M NOT COOL. THANKS. I don't talk about drug use because I think it makes me cool. I talk about it because I imagine it's more interesting than what I ate for breakfast, or what I did at the gym, or what's in my purse. I write first and foremost for my own enjoyment but I try to be entertaining, too.

How often do you use MDMA?

Four or five times a year, at festivals and the occasional local electronic music show.

How often do you use psilocybin (magic mushrooms)?

Ten or twelve times a year, at festivals, shows, or on the occasional weekend night. A standard dose of mushrooms has the same effect on me as a few drinks; I'm giggly, chatty, happy, relaxed. There's no comedown with shrooms, so it doesn't "cost" as much to take, physically and emotionally speaking, as MDMA.

How often do you smoke pot?

Next to never. Not really a fan. I hate the sluggish feeling and I get crazy paranoid. If I do it, it has to be around close friends that I feel totally comfortable with. Even then, I just feel useless and stupid.

Have you ever accidentally given Chaucer a contact high and spent ten minutes following him in circles around a light pole at 3am, stoned out of your mind, while he frantically searched for an invisible squirrel, then come back upstairs to somehow end up helplessly watching a YouTube video of a forest wedding where all the bridesmaids were dressed as fairies and all the groomsmen were dressed as elves?

....maybe.

Is that mildly terrifying experience partially why you hate pot?

....maybe.

Do you take any other drugs?

Nope. I tried GHB once and was sick as a dog. Never again. I've never tried cocaine or heroin or meth and I never would, not in a million years.

Come on...nothing else?

Okay well at some point I will definitely try LSD. I've been wanting to for ages but just haven't found the right time.

What do you want to say about MDMA?

Only that if you're going to use it, please educate yourself beforehand. DanceSafe is a fantastic, extremely thorough resource and a great place to start.

Are you condoning drug use?

No, I'm condoning education. Not only does preaching abstinence not work, it does a grave disservice to those it's intended to protect, by withholding information those people need to make good decisions under potentially dangerous circumstances. Just like sex. People are going to do it, and there's no use pretending otherwise. May as well empower them with what they need to know to be safe.

What do you want to say about psilocybin?

Well, for starters, this:

In 2006, the United States government funded a randomized and double-blinded study by Johns Hopkins University which studied the spiritual effects of psilocybin in particular. That is, they did not use mushrooms specifically (in fact, each individual mushroom piece can vary widely in psilocybin and psilocin content). The study involved 36 college-educated adults (average age of 46) who had never tried psilocybin nor had a history of drug use, and who had religious or spiritual interests. The participants were closely observed for eight-hour intervals in a laboratory while under the influence of psilocybin. 
One-third of the participants reported the experience was the single most spiritually significant moment of their lives, and more than two-thirds reported it was among the top five most spiritually significant experiences. Two months after the study, 79% of the participants reported increased well-being or satisfaction; friends, relatives, and associates confirmed this. They also reported anxiety and depression symptoms to be decreased or completely gone. Fourteen months after the study, 64% of participants said they still experienced an increase in well-being or life satisfaction.  
source

Also this:

Taking magic mushrooms (psilocybin) can have a lasting change on the individual's personality, making them more open about their feelings and the way they perceive things, researchers from Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, Baltimore, MD, USA, wrote in the Journal of Psychopharmacology. The authors explained that those who had mystic experiences while on psilocybin were more likely to subsequently exhibit certain personality changes, making them more forthcoming about their feelings, becoming more focused on being creative, curious, and appreciative about artistic things. 
source

It's actually difficult for me to talk about my shroom experiences because they are so precious to me. I don't like opening them up to mockery. One more quote to explain:

"...it is simply impossible to communicate the profundity (or seeming profundity) of psychedelic states to those who have never experienced them. Indeed, it is even difficult to remind oneself of the power of these states once they have passed." - Sam Harris

Have you ever had a bad MDMA experience? 

I've had some exceptionally difficult comedowns from MDMA, which I now know were exacerbated by redosing. The serotonin depletion is difficult under the best of circumstances; for those who suffer from depression, it can be excruciating. (Feelings of hopelessness, despair, etc.) I am super irritable and moody after taking MDMA and prefer to interact with others as little as possible. I've also jacked my jaw up something terrible from grinding my teeth. All of this sounds horrible I know, but that's the tradeoff on MDMA. At the risk of sounding glib, they call it ecstasy for a reason, and that reason is why I'm willing to cope with the negative after effects.

Have you ever had a bad psilocybin experience? 

At Coachella 2014 I overdid it on the last morning of the festival. I was exhausted, overheated, dehydrated, and undernourished. I took some shrooms on the shuttle ride to the fest and puked them up the second I got off the bus. Brutal. But that's less a reflection on the drug than on my state of being.

Once or twice I've gone a little "dark" on shrooms (thinking negatively), but it didn't last long and my trips have always ended on a high note.

Aren't you a little old to be doing this stuff?

Probably! I'm also probably too old to go to EDM shows, too old to wear graphic tank tops, too old to take half-naked selfies, and too old to eat rocket pop sorbet (stuff tastes EXACTLY like a bomb pop) for dinner. And yet here I am, doing all of those things, and neither Christ on high nor my conscience has all that much to say about it.

I hesitate to drop a hot-button word like childfree, but that's largely what it comes down to. I'm responsible to and for myself (and to some degree my partner), and that's it. No babysitter curfew, no kid to embarrass with my youthful antics, and no one's welfare tied to my own. So my being past the age when most people are done experimenting with drugs doesn't really matter, since the typical trappings of my age group (i.e., children) don't apply. "Too old" might sting when hurled from the right angle, but that's mostly because aging itself stings. The fact is, "too old" is often a lifestyle-dependent condemnation.

I'm actually glad I didn't discover drugs at a younger age. I didn't try ecstasy until I was 36 years old. That's just three years ago. I didn't try psilocybin until I was 37. Coming to these experiences later means not only am I more emotionally equipped to handle them, I'm also in a better position to appreciate what they've done for me. (I'm much more thoughtful and introspective than I was ten, fifteen years ago.)

Is there a handy resource I can consult for a good reflection of your opinions on drug use?

SO GLAD YOU ASKED. Sam Harris's essay Drugs and The Meaning of Life, quoted briefly above, gives an excellent overview of psychotropics, and I'm pretty much on board with everything he has to say about them.

I don't think you've drawn enough on Sam Harris for this post. Can you please quote him again?

Love to! From the first chapter of his latest book, Waking Up, on using MDMA for the first time:

It would not be too strong to say that I felt sane for the first time in my life. And yet the change in my consciousness seemed entirely straightforward. I was simply talking to my friend—about what, I don’t recall—and realized that I had ceased to be concerned about myself. I was no longer anxious, self-critical, guarded by irony, in competition, avoiding embarrassment, ruminating about the past and future, or making any other gesture of thought or attention that separated me from him. I was no longer watching myself through another person’s eyes. 
And then came the insight that irrevocably transformed my sense of how good human life could be. I was feeling boundless love for one of my best friends, and I suddenly realized that if a stranger had walked through the door at that moment, he or she would have been fully included in this love. Love was at bottom impersonal—and deeper than any personal history could justify. Indeed, a transactional form of love—I love you because…—now made no sense at all.

Exactly how many days left until Bonnaroo?




don't forgetta mezzetta!

Terence and I experienced a miracle today, in the holy aisles of BevMo. We were stocking up on liquor and mixers ahead of the coming weekend: friends visiting from out of town. Heavy drinkers. (Us, that is, in their company.) There we were, meandering along with our respectably bountiful shopping cart, when Terence followed my glance to the drink garnishes. I was staring at a jar of cocktail onions, wondering how many years it had been since I'd bought some when, to my amazement, Terence picked it up and said, "I love these. Have you ever had them? I eat them right out of the jar." Astonished, I gaped at my boyfriend, my jaw wide enough to easily catch a stuffed olive or four, should the customer nearby holding a bottle have been so inclined.

Let me explain: When it comes to food preferences, Terence and I could not be any more opposite. If he loves it, chances are I hate it - and while one of Terence's best qualities is an absolute inability to hate anything, chances are if I love it...he'd prefer something else. This isn't the case for everything, obviously, or we'd be fucked every time we prepared a meal or went out to eat. But it's definitely a dominant feature of our relationship. One that can be funny or frustrating, moods and appetites depending.

I'll just say it: Terence eats a lot of what I consider weird shit, but only because underneath my recently acquired LA gloss (what do you mean that's just shampoo residue) I'm still a Midwestern bumpkin whose palate is suspicious of anything that couldn't have been found on the shelves of Kroger, circa 1983. Coconut water. Cacao seeds. Stuff from the "sprouted" section of Whole Foods. And that's not even touching the crazy combinations of flavors he likes. I once watched in horror as he dipped ____ in some ____ (redacted; I can't even type it without feeling traumatized all over again).

I'm getting away from the point, which is how exciting it was to discover that we both like something a little out of the ordinary. No, cocktail onions aren't that out of the ordinary. But I don't know how many people will cop to an ability to consume an entire bottle of them and drink the vinegar afterward. You're cringing in disgust right now, and that's understandable. But this afternoon at a big box alcohol depot, my boyfriend and I rejoiced in this victory. For once, we'll have a treat to enjoy together. "Baby!" he teased, grabbing me around the waist and laughing. "See? We're perfect for one another!" We actually stood there canoodling like teenagers for a moment before moving on to cider and wine. (Did I mention this was all happening five minutes before closing? The staff was utterly delighted with us.)

Would this be a big deal for most couples? Probably not. But it was for us, because it's not just in food preferences that we differ - it's in a lot of things.

Every so often when I'm stuck for material, or the ideas that I do have don't compel me enough to actually do anything with them, Terence looks at me and smiles and says, "Write about us." And I wait a beat for what he usually says next, which is "Write about our fights." And then I say what I always say, which is "I can't. I can't do it honestly without making myself sound like a monster." And then he bats this away, because to him I'm never a monster (even when I'm a monster), and we volley a few more familiar lines that come down to: Ellie, you have a personal blog. Isn't the purpose to get personal?

Indeed.

So here's me getting personal, because I've been rightfully challenged to do so and because what else is the point, if not to level up my life: my boyfriend and I are fantastically, terrifyingly different, and not in insignificant ways. We're different in ways that discourage me, often. We're different in ways that thwart our efforts towards emotional intimacy. We're different in ways that result in fights - fights which he encourages me blog about, because he trusts me enough to be truthful and fair, and because he's confident enough in us to believe that despite our differences, we won't give up. Love is two imperfect people refusing to give up on one another, as they say, and even though I've never heard him put it that way, such is his relationship philosophy in a nutshell. (It's a fucking macadamia nut by the way, but whatever, not the point.)

Terence and I are so different that at times those differences are all I can see...except for how much I hate myself for fixating on them. See the good, I tell myself. Screw the good; see the amazing. Have some gratitude! But despite the harshest self-admonishments I dole out in the secrecy of my mind, the differences between us rear back up, commanding my attention. And he knows that, private inner monologues notwithstanding. And he doesn't care, because, being Terence - being relentlessly optimistic and positive and so very different than me - he is always finding us cocktail onions, just when we need them most.

So there you have it. A sip of it, anyway, for the moment. Cheers.

person

Don't support me just because I am a woman. That is some of the most patronizing bullshit you can slow down my growth with.

Support me when and if I do good work. When and if I contribute something of value. When and if I make a positive difference. When and if I show integrity.

And when I don't, call me out. Criticize and question me. Don't pull punches because I'm a woman. That tells me I need a handicap. That I deserve charity. That I should be treated differently than a man. And that's the very opposite of what any of us should be working towards.

Support me when and if I am a person deserving of support.

such a long, long time

Sushi (and drunk Twitter, good grief) last night, then ran into Kross on our way to get ice cream. Four scoops later and we're back at their place listening to yacht rock, playing with the cats, and taking matching haircuts selfies. His is way better. 


It's 84 degrees outside, but Terence has a show this afternoon so we'll do a beach day tomorrow, maybe, if the weather holds. Today it's housework and digital organization while getting my noughties on - Embrace and Starsailor just popped up on my concert tracking app, they're doing a show together in June!

If you don't know Embrace, or if you do, please to enjoy this pretty Saturdayish tune. Careful, it'll getcha...


rounding 8

Chaucer will be eight in a few months, at which point he will have surpassed the life expectancy for an English Mastiff. Today at the library, though, he seemed blissfully unaware of this fact:


Wish I could tell him what each of those years has meant to me. Never did I ever dream of loving a creature so much as I love him.

blabberthreads

Hi! Lest anyone worry that, having been silent for a nearly a week, Blabbermouth is unwell - she is not. She is fine. It's just that the jar in her head from which she draws blabspiration is (all but) empty. She keeps checking it - several times a day, in fact - but there's only a few wispy blabberthreads. Pathetic.

Things Blabbermouth has been up to while she waits for the jar to fill back up:

1. I watched Citizenfour, was fascinated, went online to learn more about Edward Snowden, and fell down a weird and winding rabbit hole that led me to this exchange between Glenn Greenwald and Sam Harris. Maybe not compelling reading on its own, but (one element of) their argument raised an interesting question for me, and one I visit again and again in my life online: How much tacit approval do we give of someone, when we align ourselves with that person on the internet? By, say, retweeting a link to an article, are we endorsing that entire article and its author, wholesale? Is following someone on Twitter or Instagram a show of support, or simply neutral interest? And the kicker - what happens when a blogger or internet personality you've publicly befriended does something terrible? Do you look bad by association? Should you look bad?

2. I cheered Brian Keith Dalton's fantastic video response to the shooting of the three Muslim students in Chapel Hill last month, and made a mental note to share it. But the note got scribbled over with my Bonnaroo schedule or something, and I didn't do it. For context, BKD is an atheist writer/actor/comedian whose satirical web series Mr. Deity kinda sorta changed my life, in that it showed me a whole new way to dissect, understand, and ultimately dismiss the hypocrisy and horror of religion: through humor. Anyway, I very much agree with his sentiment that everyone involved in the atheist community should speak out to condemn the violence. In his words:



3. I stepped a little further into my New Neighbor Friendship, a relationship I'm trying to let incubate quietly rather than blather on about it too much. But get this: on the day I had a dentist appointment she left a smoothie packed in ice outside my door, in case my teeth hurt afterward. You are thinking "Wow, NNF is rad" - and you are right.

4. Terence and I went to see an EDM guy I really like, but it was kind of a letdown. He pandered to the very young crowd, playing mostly the worn-out favorites of other producers rather than his own music (which is great). I can understand where he's coming from - he hadn't played LA proper before and his Coachella set last year was, as the LA Times put it rather harshly, "a ghost town". I suspect he was afraid of losing everyone; attention spans be short, yo. But Mr. Brun, should you stumble across this for some reason, you should know that I was one of those fifty or so people who happily blew off Outkast to dance in that near-empty tent. You are tremendously talented and I look forward to the day your shows consist solely of your own stuff.

5. I started making cold-brewed, condensed coffee and cashew milk, which separately are wonderful but together are divine. If you've never had BluePrint's Cashew Vanilla Cinnamon Agave or their Coffee Cashew Cinnamon Vanilla, DO NOT START. They are incredibly addictive...and they cost a metric fuckton of money. Between $8 and $12 a bottle. Hence the need to figure out an alternative or hack the recipe.

Enter Cookie and Kate (for plain cashew milk), Kitchen Treaty (for cold-brewed coffee concentrate), and Janny Organically (for a SPOT ON recreation of BluePrint's versions). Money saved and morning coffee sorted!

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And that's about all I've got today, 'cept for a handful of pics:

Tickle Claw: not just for mommy bloggers!

His fur felt so chilly this morning. Invited him up for snuggles to get us both warm.

I heart you too, Michael Brun

Ugh, why can't I make bedhead and a hoodie look this good??
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NEW FEATURE! I thought it might be fun to occasionally look back at what I was doing exactly one, two, and three years ago right now, kind of the way that Smitten Kitchen does, but without the useful recipes. Dunno how often I'll do this as it's a bit of work, but wow, what a neat reward for having put in the time to scrapblog so far...

One year ago right now, Terence and I moved in together. He had just met my friends Kenne and Alfie; the four of us went for ramen in Little Tokyo. While we were waiting for our table, I saw someone I was sure was a musician I like named Trevor Powers. Trevor Powers is the force behind Youth Lagoon, which is the experimental shoe-gaze music that I was listening to at my first Coachella, when I took a bunch of shrooms and tripped and thought I saw monkeys in the grass. Anyway, I approached the guy I thought was TP, but he rebuffed me. I told Mason about the encounter, and this is what he replied to make me feel better.  

Two years ago right now I was single and dating. One dude I'd met was nice enough, but way too square for me and more than a little egotistical. He did, however, have an awesome roommate with an awesome pet turtle. And he liked karaoke. This was our second date.

Three years ago right now I was still recovering from an abusive relationship that, other than that post, I've never written about. It took me a very, very long time to figure out which way was up again - but I did. And I eventually started dating again. But mostly, I was enjoying taking Chaucer for long walks, just the two of us