for want of a Do, for lack of a Show

I gathered up all of his Says
I tried to find a use for them.

They were light as feathers, so I thought -
maybe -
a pillow?

I stuffed them in a case
I sewed it shut
But when I put my head down
There wasn't much support after all.

I looked closer
I sorted them into piles:

Shoulds and Wills and Want Tos
were Good Intentions
Redolent at first
Their scent and color quickly faded though. :(

Compliments and Praise
I weighed against Honesty,
and Honesty launched them across the room
where they settled
in a pretty (useless) heap.

Anger found me then,
So I grabbed up the pillow
I slammed it on the bed
(this is a recommended therapy on many fine advice-doling websites)

But I've never been good at keeping things together
so the seams burst.

Feather-says flew everywhere.

The dog raised an eyebrow.

I shrugged at him.

Together we watched my mess rain down.

And as they floated to the floor, I realized
their usefulness
as breadcrumbs
leading me back to where I shouldn't go again.

only Tuesday

I walked him early this morning. Figured it would be his usual quick trip around the corner, but when we got back to the building he looked up at me, then down the street. Let's go to the library.

Sidewalk commuters smile at him over their Starbucks cups; a few comment on his size, or ask his breed. Eight years of this and I never get sick of it. Him neither.

The library grounds are more marshy than usual, unkempt and overgrown. Not so great for my shoes, but Chaucer is in heaven. Wet, green smells everywhere. His paw pads sink slightly into the soil and he pushes his muzzle deep into bushes shining with dew.

I groom him, long slow strokes of the wire brush, lightly so it doesn't burn his skin. Then the rubber spike brush on his belly and legs. "What level of handsome are we going for today?" He glances at me, panting happily. "Level ten? Are you sure? Oh man Chaucy, I don't know if the world can handle it. It's only Tuesday." No one can hear what I'm saying, but every so often I notice someone watching us from a car window, as they wait for the light to turn. If I'm a crazy person for talking to my dog, it's the kind of crazy I'll always be. "When people start spontaneously combusting because of your handsomeness, that's on you. Ok buddy?" His furry chest heaves under the brush. Good. Keep that big heart strong.

When I'm done he noses at the bag I carry, the one with his brushes and travel bowl and tennis ball. This is rare. Wanting to play is rare these days, so I quickly pull out a red and blue ball and throw it across the grass. As he bounds after it I watch his hips and legs, looking for signs of pain. Sometimes he favors his left leg, and every so often he has trouble standing up. Not today, though. We are in full puppy form today.

On the way out a man in a faded black sweatshirt, plaid dress pants, and no shoes stops us. "That a mastiff?" Sure is, I tell him. "How old?" Chaucer ambles by him unbothered, concentrating on something in the grass.

"He's eight," I say, hearing the subtext in my voice. Old.

"They don't live long, you know." I'm used to this, and don't take offense.

"I know."

"How's his hips?"

"Pretty good," I nod.

"Well, he's beautiful."

"Thanks."

On a bench near the exit a homeless man sleeps. A sign set down on the path beside him says Spare Some Change. The cursive letters are painted in thick black strokes, and he's filled in the loops with red accents. Chaucer, ahead of me on the walkway, steps around the sign lightly.

Back at home I wipe his paws with a warm washcloth, rubbing one toe at a time while he lays on his side. White tile is unforgiving, and if we don't take a minute to clean him off after each walk the floors are a wreck almost immediately. Sometimes it's a pain, especially when I'm in a hurry. But mostly I don't mind. Him neither, I think.

PPRL: Beloved, by Toni Morrison (winner, 1988)

Hoo boy, did it take me a while to get through the ghost slave baby book. And that is an abridgment I bestow with respect, not derision, because I can't imagine many writers having the literary prowess to pull off a novel about a slain infant coming back to life to haunt her murderous mother. Far-fetched, phantasmal, gruesome, and incredibly poetic, Beloved visits the horrors of slavery only in flashbacks and memories. But these scenes taking the reader back to "Sweet Home" plantation (and its related locations) are so nightmarish, they overshadow the baby-haunting plot line for sheer horror. I didn't love this book; I was too disturbed by it to love it. But that's probably the point, and if so, kudos to Morrison for driving that point unflinchingly, unforgivingly home. So perhaps unsurprisingly, the passage I liked best comes from the final pages, when the heartbreaking story is all but finished. Paul D and Sethe, two former slaves who've bonded through the brutality of their shared background, are feeling their way through a rekindled relationship. Sethe has once again lost her daughter (an unsettled ghost who'd returned for a while, in human form, to visit the mother who'd killed her); Paul D is coming to terms with his role in Sethe's life, and his mixed emotions about her.

     "Paul D?"
     “What, baby?”
     “She left me.”
     “Aw, girl. Don’t cry.”
     “She was my best thing.”
     Paul D sits down in the rocking chair and examines the quilt patched in carnival colors. His hands are limp between his knees. There are too many things to feel about this woman. His head hurts. Suddenly he remembers Sixo trying to describe what he felt about the Thirty-Mile Woman. “She is a friend of my mind. She gather me, man. The pieces I am, she gather them and give them back to me in all the right order. It’s good, you know, when you got a woman who is a friend of your mind.”
     He is staring at the quilt but he is thinking about her wrought-iron back; the delicious mouth still puffy at the corner from Ella’s fist. The mean black eyes. The wet dress steaming before the fire. Her tenderness about his neck jewelry—its three wands, like attentive baby rattlers, curving two feet into the air. How she never mentioned or looked at it, so he did not have to feel the shame of being collared like a beast. Only this woman Sethe could have left him his manhood like that. He wants to put his story next to hers.
     “Sethe,” he says, “me and you, we got more yesterday than anybody. We need some kind of tomorrow.”
     He leans over and takes her hand. With the other he touches her face. “You your best thing, Sethe. You are.”

discussion/paper topics:

  • What is the significance of water in Beloved's story? Consider her rebirth from the pond (and her thirst afterward), how Sethe's "water broke" that day, the afternoon ice-skating, etc.
  • Explore some possible reasons for Baby Sugg's fascination with color. 
  • Each of Beloved's characters experiences some shift of perspective over the course of the novel. Choose one to discuss. Was the shift caused by the passage of time alone, or was there some notable event/watershed moment that lent to it?
  • Discuss the nature of Beloved and Sethe's relationship. Is it symbiotic? Parasitic? Healing or toxic - or both?
  • Beloved is a deeply mythological novel. What are these mythical elements and how do they serve to anchor the real-life narrative? (Think superstition, archetype, etc.)
  • Discuss the theme of justice in Beloved, and the many forms it takes (retribution, karmic balance...).

tokkolosh

Do you Periscope? Curiosity got the best of us and we've done it a few times now (viewing, not broadcasting). We have a semi-regular tradition of looking at a couple pages of Cute Overload before bed, so Periscope is a fun occasional changeup from that. There's a fair amount of sketchy-seeming dudes out there, not to mention an alarming number of young girls broadcasting alone, late at night. But every so often you land on something really neat. We've watched karaoke in Tierra del Fuego, some kind of wild girls' night in, somewhere in the Middle East, and a bar singalong in Wales, among other things.

I think the argument could be made that Periscope is the one truly pure social medium. (That is to say, pure when used by amateurs and everyday people, not those who've parlayed themselves to celebrity status with frequent broadcasting and heavy self-promotion.) No filters, no pre-arranged, carefully curated vignettes. No scripts and no time to think of clever captions or 140-character witticisms. Just boom, connection. Here I am doing my thing, there you are on the other side of the world, watching. Hopefully saying hello (every time we join a broadcast we say Hello from Los Angeles! and some people positively light up, they get so excited to have a viewer from ZOMGCalifornia, USA). It's really rather thrilling.

The only person I've followed (other than the auto-follows brought over from my Twitter account) is a guy named Grant Marcus (@tokkolosh). He's got less than nine hundred followers, but he's accumulated some 160k "hearts" due to the amazingness of his broadcasts. Grant is a self-described "wildlife and photography enthusiast" living in Madikwe Game Reserve, in South Africa. He broadcasts at least a few times a week, depending on what's going on. The first night we found him, he was tracking a lion, alone in the bush. He brought the phone down close to the ground so everyone could see the size of the cat's paw print in the dirt. Needless to say, we were hooked. Since then he's broadcast elephants, cheetahs on the prowl, and most recently, a massive wildebeest migration. In fact the migration is going on right now; Grant and his crew/guests are traveling alongside the herd and documenting their journey. Yesterday I watched as hundreds of them (thousands?) scrambled across a crocodile-filled river. Legit NatGeo shit, I'm telling you.

The broadcast quality is great; you can see the animals and landscape clearly. Plus his South African accent is a kick as are the other languages you'll hear the locals speaking. And if you enable push notifications, you'll get crazy banner alerts popping up on your phone like "hyenas dining on giraffe kill". Which, among the notices our electronic leashes send us all day long, has got to be among the more interesting.

Couple screengrabs (don't let the blurriness fool ya; the broadcasts are pretty crisp):

an African safari (with a side jaunt to the Seychelles, of course) has always been my ultimate dream trip

all I see are hundreds of Chaucers

rat tv

for Sarah, in Montreal

The first several months I lived in LA was undoubtedly the loneliest period of my life. I didn't know a soul when I moved here, and had no one to hang out with. Well, I sort of knew another blogger I'd had some interaction with previously, but she turned out to be nothing whatsoever like her online persona - so that went precisely nowhere. My (now ex-) husband was gone, all the time. He worked a lot, but it wasn't until the end of last year that I found out he had some extracurricular activities going as well. Christ I keep getting off track. Let me try again.

I worked from home, for myself, running a dumb little design business that nearly killed me. I'd wake up, start coffee, and be chained to my desk until bedtime. I barely left the apartment for food, much less to go meet people. Our first loft in downtown was across the street from a popular bar. At night while I'd be working I'd hear everyone pouring out of that bar, joking and talking. I'd hear the music and laughter and my heart would just ache. Sometimes I would sit in the window and look down, watching people drift out onto the sidewalk, wishing more than anything I had some friends to get a drink with. After the bar would close I'd stare at the dumpster in the alley behind the bar, where the rats would scurry to and fro, scrambling for trash to bring back to the sewer.

I called it Rat TV.

That was my life. Rat TV.

Mason used to give me hell. You can't tell me there aren't cafes around there. It's LA, there must be a cafe nearby.

There's one literally below my building.

Then go there! Take your computer and go work there. You will meet people, I promise.

I never did though. Social anxiety and a feeling of being terribly, irrationally intimidated by the cooler-than-I denizens of Los Angeles kept me cloistered up in my aerie.

Eventually we met some people in our building. They were lovely, decent people - but it wasn't a love connection. They were just cool, friendly couples to socialize with, until I met others with whom I really, truly clicked. And that? Took years. And a hell of a lot of good luck. I didn't feel like I had a "tribe" until a solid 2-3 years after I'd moved to LA. Much of it has disbanded nowadays but I've stayed tight with those who are worth the effort.

The point I'm trying to make is making friends is a fucking bitch. Moving to a new city can be so brutal. And I guess I don't have any advice or insight, and hopefully it isn't grossly patronizing to say, but I'm not too worried about anyone with the chutzpah to go a music festival alone. I'd wager that by the time Osheaga rolls around next year, you'll be cross-checking your schedule with another music fan or two. Or three.

Rock on.

finding my forty

I've always liked the year I was born, 1975. It's always struck me as a clean, solid date. Easily calculable, vaguely nostalgic. Retro cool, even. Something you'd see on a vintage gym class t-shirt. I lean on the likability of that number when my age feels a little heavy, which it does from time to time.

Forty hit me hard. Rather, I hit forty hard. It was just standing there, minding its own business, when I careened into it with no seatbelt on. I don't know what I expected, though, or what such a seatbelt would even be. Some form of emotional security, I suppose, born of other, more pragmatically measurable ones. Financial? Professional? Who knows, and no use peering in the rearview mirror. I can't back up now.

Forty offers certain pleasures and presents certain challenges, and I am becoming familiar with all of them. The pleasures are largely along the lines of what you'd expect. Greater self-awareness (I hope, anyway). Intolerance for bullshit. My clubhouse is permanently closed to shitty people; there simply isn't enough time for them. And whereas dispensing with drama would once leave noticeable, uncomfortable holes in my life, now it is just a relief. I gobble up the solitude in between time with Terence, or friends. And I'm grateful for every minute of it.

But in other ways, forty has been like a new pair of shoes that I'm still breaking in. Conflicting ideas about what a forty year-old woman "does" or "doesn't do" bump around in my head, arguing with one another and exhausting me in the process. I shush these shoulds as best I can, knowing that the only version of myself I need to be is the one I already am. The problem is, some of my personality traits don't necessarily fit into forty, in all circumstances.

Example: I love being silly and making my friends laugh, but a twenty or even thirty-something goofing around on the dance floor is different than a forty-something doing it. I learned this the hard way in Vegas. Story time...

A couple of younger, very attractive women from our party pulled me up onto a small stage in the nightclub we were at. One of the girls was a visiting foreigner, extremely shy and giggly, and just drunk enough to want to get on the stage and tease her boyfriend...provided she had a cohort. Another was, well, a professional dancer, who was clearly most enjoying herself doing her thing up in the spotlight. She and I clicked and as she seemed bored and a little lonely otherwise, I gamely joined her so she'd have company and look a little less attention-grabby. In other words, I wouldn't have gotten on this stage (which was lit and had, you guessed it, a POLE) in a million years, if not to be social and a good sport for the sake of these two girls.

So. There I am, screwing around on a tiny little elevated stage, surrounded by friends and a few gawking strangers. Ten or fifteen years ago I would have been the cat's pajamas up there. Not because I'm any great shakes, but because it's what I did for a living, for a very long time. Now? Now I'm an older chick. I know I look decent, I know I'm not causing anyone to grab for their barf bags...but I'm still an older chick. So rather than make myself look absurd trying to be sexy, trying to compete with girls young enough to be my daughters, I ham it up. Act the fool. Stupid shit like patting my head and rubbing my tummy while the younger girls slinked around me eye-fucking the men who watched them from below. Some classy dude was handing out singles and I did an over-the-top pantomime of being floored by his generosity. For me??? A whole DOLLAR?? I mouthed. (His friends were dying; him, not so much.)

Every so often I'd need to take a break (I'm old, remember), so I'd climb back down the stage's ridiculous little circular staircase to rejoin my party. And this is where things got interesting. Guys would stop me, or approach me when I was alone for a second, catching my breath - but not to hit on me. To ask me, wide-eyed, how old I was. LOL.

Now, these weren't exactly insulting encounters. At least I tried not to take them that way. I'd smile or laugh and raise my hand. Hold up four fingers, then form a zero with them. I won't lie; the looks on their faces were a compliment in themselves. One guy high fived me. Another wanted to hug me, as if I was a ninety year-old who'd just completed a marathon. It was simultaneously gratifying and totally patronizing; a really weird thing. A new thing. A forty thing, I guess.

Clothes are a whole other issue. I want to dress appropriately, but still thumb my sun-damaged nose at convention. And I still want to be sexy, of course. But I don't always know what that looks like, especially for nights out. Form-fitting sheaths? Wide leg pants and button downs? More skin or less? Festivals have become a whole other, mystifying subset. At my age bohemian chic starts to edge towards witch/art teacher, so lately I've been doing a 180 and taking a swing at "sporty". Which in turns ramps up the pressure I already put on myself to be fit. I feel like I'm supposed to pick a lane and stick with it. Work it. But I don't want to. I like swerving all over the road.

I cringe, reading over what I've written. I know how utterly superficial and stupid all of this is. That if these are my biggest problems in life, then I have no problems. (I do have real problems.) But I'm gonna go ahead and publish this in case you, too, have had trouble finding your forty in some way. And if you're not there yet, fuck you, don't worry. I'll meet you on the dance floor and show you how not to do it.

in cervisiam veritas

Look, she shrugged. I don't do it because I think my life is more exceptional than anyone else's. Or because I think I'm better.

They ordered her another cold one and nodded, gathering around to listen. Then tell us, they said. Why do you do it?

Ah, she replied, a serene smile spreading across her face. For the joy of it. The simple joy of writing. She raised her beer in anticipation of a toast.

But you could write anything, they said, their eyes narrowing. Articles. Fiction. Grocery circulars. Grants. It must be more than that.

Her smile tightened slightly, her brow warm in the sudden spotlight. She set her mug down, considering its foamy brim. It's the challenge of constructing an honest narration of my life. Telling stories that will convey who I am - and what my values are.

Your values? The tone had changed; they'd grown questioning and suspicious. And why do you want people to know those? 

She looked up sharply, realizing the trap. They stared at her and waited. Licking her lips, she tasted the sourness of her answer before she gave it. Because I think they're the right ones. The best ones. 

Dead silence for a beat before, to her shock, they erupted in uproarious laughter. Beer sloshed. Thighs slapped. They shook their heads in thorough enjoyment of her joke. Brilliant, one giggled. Can you imagine? crowed another. And in the clamor no one noticed her quietly push aside the drink at her elbow.

dark dark dark dark dark dark dark dark corners

Sometimes you go to a show, see a band you've never seen live before, and walk away feeling secretly disappointed. Thinking you prefer how they sound at home, on your speakers. Loving them slightly less.

The only point of this post is to say that Tokyo Police Club will not be that band. And if a time comes when you have to choose between, say, dining at your favorite restaurant or seeing TPC? Tell the maitre d' you'll be in touch to reschedule. Then hit a Red Bull and be on your way to the concert hall, because these young rockers are going to bring ALL their energy. And they'll be expecting yours.

here be moshers

Bambi will forever be my favorite of theirs, but Argentina (Parts I, II, III) off the new album is wicked lovely, if you haven't heard it:

the best

Mason's boss - who is also a good friend of his - was at Coachella this year, and we met up briefly so we could finally put a face to one another's names. We've been in touch ever since, in hopes of surprising Mason either on his birthday or just for a quick visit to AZ. (Mason has surprised me twice with unannounced visits to LA.) I'd told his boss that I'd try very hard to make the surprise trip to Vegas, but that money was tight and the more advance notice I had, the better my chances of being able to come. He kept assuring me I didn't have to worry about it, that he'd take care of it; I kept telling him that was an incredibly generous offer but one that I couldn't accept. Finally we compromised; if the trip was really going to happen, he'd would buy my ticket when everything else was booked, and I'd repay him afterward.

Below are two conversations we had last week, plus a glimpse of what happened in between:

TUESDAY 4 PM

- Mason's B day. Vegas bound.
- Live it up!
- It was more of an invite.
- When are you going out?
- Leaving today, back Saturday morning.
- Christ, you're there all week? Are you bringing a medic?
- I'm certified. Give me your full name and DOB.
- (redacted, probably pointlessly, but whatever)
- What airport? What day?
- LAX Friday?? I just back from Nocturnal. I can barely walk yet.
- Friday am? Back when? We gotta come home on Saturday at noon.
- Then I'll leave Saturday around noon, too, that's perfect. But shit, maybe I should come Thursday night then?
- Thursday night. For sure.
- Ok.
- Ok cool. Don't tell him.
- I won't. 
- I'll send you confirmation in an hour.
- Seriously?? Are you sure?
- Positive. He needs this. I'm used to the hours, but I've been working him hard. He's like a little kid driving to Disneyland right now.
- Right onnnnnn.
- Text you in a bit.

SATURDAY 11 AM

- You make it to the gate?
- Yep. You guys find a game to watch until your flight?
- Ya. We will be good.
- Can't thank you enough. You're a really awesome person. Now give me your email/PayPal addy.
- Naw. Stop.
- Seriously, give it to me.
- No.
- I can't even make a dent in what you spent but for my pride you have to at least let me try. You work really hard and that money isn't nothing.
- It's not about pride. We had fun. Bubbles popped. I definitely respect money and hold it in high regard, but I will always hold Mason and you higher. So...we good.
- I'm going to get you back one way or another.
- You can try. I'm pretty shifty.

---

I got in around five o'clock on Thursday and took a cab straight to Aria. I stood outside the casino for a minute while I texted Mason, twitching with excitement. I told him I hadn't been able to get him exactly what he'd wanted for his birthday, but that I had a good substitute. Ok, he finally wrote back, I'll take it. I grabbed my suitcase and wheeled it through the resort doors, making a beeline for the bar he, his boss, and another friend were in. When I was steps away I texted again. Will hand delivery be okay? I reached their table just as his umm...wha? reply came through.

Thus commenced ~40 hours of debauchery in varying degrees of legality.

And since I respect the What Happens in Vegas Stays in Vegas rule, I'll satisfy my need to document with just a few quick words. My friends - and I now count Mason's boss solidly among them - are amazing people. My wallet was pushed aside for two days; I wasn't allowed to pay for so much as a single cab ride or coffee. Tables at Hakkasan and XS, for Dada Life and David Guetta respectively (who apparently brought Justin Bieber up with him, though I'm not sure, because I was only barely alive at that point), dinners at Rose. Rabbit. Lie. and Jean Georges, endless drinks, and even a Benjamin slipped surreptitiously into a video blackjack machine for my cocktail hour amusement. (You lunatic! I scolded. I barely know how to play! ...I was hooked and loving it within five minutes.) But really those details pale in importance to the company I was in. Some I've known for decades, some I met for the first time, and some familiars I got to know even better. Just a stupidly great time with genuine and cool people.

One moment I will share: Friday, sometime about 2:00 am. Fifteen or so of Mason's friends are clustered around a VIP lounge, deep into celebrating. Some stand, some sit, but most of us are stomping and jumping, singing and pantomiming the Audien remix of Pompeii to one another like idiots, in various states of drunken - or yes - drugged-up bliss. There isn't a soul in the entire nightclub who isn't have the time of his or her life; XS is aptly named. I look over at Mason, who sits perched on the back of a sofa, surrounded by some of his favorite people and wearing a huge smile. I know how much it means to him, to watch his friends blending and bonding, laughing and living it up. And seeing how happy he is, I feel like I'm the one getting a present. If it takes the rest of my life to get squared up for my share of the celebration, it will be worth it.

I risk waking up in cement shoes by posting the few terrible photos I was lucid enough to take...but since I've censored the subjects beyond recognizability, I'm hoping it'll be okay.
















Forty or so of the best hours I'll spend this year, with some of the best people around. If I do end up in a body bag, it'll probably come with bottle service.

denali

I first watched the video below this past Friday, in a resort in Las Vegas. I was sitting next to Mason, both of us trying to recover from the previous night's celebration (his birthday), when I got a push notification that a mutual friend of ours had just shared it on Twitter. This friend doesn't post much online, so when he does, I make a point of checking out whatever it is.

"Here, you have to watch this video with me. Steve just tweeted it. I read the description and I can tell it's gonna make me cry."

And it did. And afterward, as I snuffled and wiped my wet cheeks with a sweatshirt sleeve, Mason laughed. "Well if you had any serotonin at all left this morning, that certainly took care of it."

I just watched it once more, and I'll probably watch it again every time I'm feeling weepy and sentimental about Chaucer, which is a circumstance I find myself in a lot more often than post-partying recovery in Vegas. You certainly don't need to have dogs to be moved by this seven minute film, but if you do, hold on to your heart.



A few weeks ago, Chaucer had a limp when he got up in the morning. He walked it off pretty quickly, as he always does, but it unsettled me. I fretted about it to Terence and coddled Chaucer especially hard for the rest of the day. That evening Terence suggested we take Chauc for a super long walk, the kind of epic walk he hasn't been up to in several months.

"He can't," I said. "He's just getting too old. He can't do that kind of distance anymore. I'm scared that we'll get across town and he'll lay down and refuse to move. Then what?"

Terence disagreed. "He needs the exercise. His leg is probably freezing up because he's not getting as much as he used to." We asked Chaucer how he felt, and as soon as we said the "w" word his tail went nuts. So we grabbed his leash and the next thing we knew, we were walking further than we had with him in ages.

And then even further. And further. Chaucer just charged ahead, full of verve and not slowing down a bit despite some heavy panting. Soon we were at his old stomping grounds: City Hall and Grand Park. Places he hasn't been up to trekking to in a heartbreakingly long time.

"You know what this is, right?" Terence looked at me meaningfully. "He knows. He knows you're worried about him, and he wants to reassure you. He's proving to you that he's still strong, baby."

The more I insist I don't go in for magical thinking, the less convincing it sounds, I know. So I'll just stop there.


If there's anything better in this world than being loved by a dog, I've yet to find out what that is. Probably couldn't handle it if I did.

nocturnal wonderland 2015

I took very few photos at Nocturnal, but that wasn't because it isn't an exceptionally photogenic festival. It is. In fact it is much prettier than I thought it would be, since when I heard "San Manuel Amphitheater" I pictured dull, paved fairgrounds. Nope. We're talking full-on The Sound of Music style hills, gorgeous mountain sunsets, and grasssss.


Other than local nightclub shows, this was the first Insomniac event I'd ever been to. I knew to expect big, bold, and beautiful, and truly, they delivered. Spectacular lights and decorative displays, and the most jaw dropping stages - and captivating onstage visuals - imaginable.


I went a little crazy with the outfit, but it was worth it. Got lots of compliments, the fur kept me warm on the first two very chilly nights, and the leg wraps were just a blast to wear.


I actually had a second outfit which I didn't get photos of, since I wanted one day to be completely, 100% picture-free. But it was another fur situation, a head-to-toe husky outfit that Terence wore the hood and tail of so we'd match.


Seriously high production value, exceptionally cool stage design, and always something interesting to look at. And which you can see, even if you're at the waaaaaay back of the crowd.


Could not even deal with his giraffe ears and purple lens sunglasses.


Those pink leopard wraps I layered on top of the black wraps were UV-reactive, which was fun. You can see the full, frontal ridiculousness of my ensemble in the video at the bottom.


By far my favorite thing about Nocturnal, and the reason I will definitely return, is how spacious the grounds are. Look at all that land to spread out on! HardSummer events, in my experience, tend to be oversold and uncomfortably jam-packed. So this was heaven as far I'm concerned. Even the most crowded tents weren't that bad, and still had plenty of breathing room. In fact you can see in the video that I'm dancing with lots of space around me, even at the busiest time of the night.


The sound was phenomenal, even this far back. Well done, Insomniac.


THOSE EARS THO.



There are costumed performers walking around all evening, interacting with the crowd and creating vignettes. Burlesque dancers, stilt walkers, clowns, etc. Insomniac does a great job of bringing the masquerade theme to life, which makes attendees feel welcome to dress ridiculously themselves. We saw so much spirit, I loved it. Really, I was massively impressed with the crowd in general. This was the first festival ever where I experienced no pushing, no shoving, no rudeness whatsoever.




Kandi bar!


We opted for VIP because the older I get, the more of a baby I am about PortaPotties (and waiting in long lines for them). VIP festival restrooms tend to be the larger, cleaner trailer restrooms. (Which these were.) Other perks of VIP: no waiting to get in every day, you just breeze right through security, plus Nocturnal had a smallish, cordoned off VIP section to the left of the Labyrinth stage which was kinda nice. Yet another perk of VIP? That's where all the other olds hang out.


The crowd was wonderfully chill and friendly. Similar to Bonnaroo, but even better, more social energy. And really respectful of one another. Several people approached me to ask about where I'd gotten my hood and gloves, to dance, or to just trade kandi. I loved this whole back section behind the Labyrinth stage where people spread out under the electric trees to watch and talk and dance. You can see how much room there was to move around.


Best sets: Lane 8, Sasha, Booka Shade, Kaskade, Sander Van Doorn, Armin Van Buren, Slander, Sylence, Orjan Nilsen, Ummet Ozcan, Bingo Players, Nicole Moudaber, Tensnake, Audien. My only disappointments were Donald Glaude (who kept obnoxiously killing the sound to rally the crowd like a bat mitvah DJ) and Pretty Lights, who did a much, much more mellow set than I've ever seen him do before.


Between us we got a decent amount of video, but I only threw together a little bit of it. There's a few clips of me dancing, because fun/ridiculous, there's the glove/light show kid I referenced in my previous post, and finally there's some Lane 8, who I shared recently in a Fri-Ni Jamz post and who absolutely, without question, was our favorite set of the weekend. What a talent, and what a cool, humble guy. I hope he keeps rocketing to stardom, I really do.

just the tip

He's cornfed. Clean-cut. Built like a bro with the tank top to match, but a gentleness that doesn't. Matt Damon lite. Head tilted down to hear what his more diminutive friend is saying. The hobbit-like one, with the wavy, straw-colored hair, flower headband, long nose, and skinny frame. Hobbit friend is holding my phone and explaining what I've just done. She got this awesome video of me gloving. She showed me so I can send it to myself. It's exactly what I wanted, man. Check this out.

After a few moments of looking at the phone screen, seeing how well the clip came out, Cornfed grins broadly at me, and the smile says Nice job, lady! He holds up two fingers in a peace sign, and this time I know exactly what to do. Well, almost. I press my own peace sign against his and immediately his fingers bend to form one side of a heart. When I'm slower to make the shift he notices and pauses, smiling at me curiously. He moves through the rest of the exchange carefully, waiting for me to make each symbol correctly before moving on. Then he pulls a simple blue and green beaded kandi from the middle of his wrist and tugs it over my own, up to my elbow. When he lets go, we both see the bracelet's elastic is stretched out and nearly broken. He shakes his head. Aw, let me give you a different one.

Nah, I can fix it. I'll restring it at home. It's great.

Are you sure?

Yeah, no worries. Thank you.

I don't even think about which kandi of mine to give in return. It's one of the few I made that a guy would appreciate - I think. As I slide it over to him I keep the letters turned away, hoping he won't read the phrase until later. He brings his head closer so I'll hear him over the music. You're kinda new to raving, aren't you?

Well, this part of it, yeah. Pulls back his head to glance at my face again.

I know it isn't cool to ask someone this but, but I'm thirty and... Trails off.

I nod, understanding. I'm forty. Pulls his head back sharply this time. I laugh at the look on his face.

I'm Jon. Shakes my hand.

John?

Yeah, Jon. J-O-N.

Hi Jon, I'm Ellie.

He says it slowly, enunciating: You're so beautiful. Terence is inches behind me, witnessing this entire scene. I doubt he can hear what we're saying but the read I get from this kid isn't aggressive or disrespectful anyway. Just genuinely surprised and kind.

Thank you. I put as much warmth in the words as I can. That's really sweet.

He leans back over to his friend, and I catch on that my age is being shared. Friend takes it in but doesn't seem overly impressed or know what he's supposed to say about it. Cornfed turns back to me.

What's your rave name? The question has the weight of expectation, and I'm disappointed I can't justify it.

I don't have one. I don't tell him the one I gave myself, because I know it doesn't count. A look comes over his face, and I realize that he intends to fix this right now. Indeed, he confers with the friend once again, announcing the news as if they've been entrusted with some great responsibility: Ellie doesn't have a rave name. This time, the friend's face shows interest.

To me: What do you do?

Out of the corner of my eye I see Terence smiling. This is cracking him up. Knowing my answer will influence their choice, I decide to keep it simple and lie. I'm a writer.

To friend: Ellie, and she's a writer. Crosses his arms and looks at me, considering. I laugh and wait dutifully, ready to accept whatever is decided. A sideways glance at Terence tells me he's only partly following what's happening, but he's laughing, too. I know I will forever think of this moment whenever I hear the phrase "good vibes."

And then something changes. Our party grows by two x chromosomes. A girlfriend joins us. Introductions, explanations, bringing her up to speed on the naming ceremony but perhaps unsurprisingly, girlfriend is less than keen to participate. The scene unravels and we start to politely disengage. Cornfed wants to know if I have an Instagram account, and I lie again: I don't. Terence, ever my biggest fan and cheerleader, nudges me. Tell him about your blog! he whispers. I shake my head. No way.

That's my girlfriend. We're gonna go check out the main stage...

Madeon, right?

Yeah.

Awesome. He was voted best electronic act of Coachella. We'll probably catch some of him, too.

Great job on that video, he loves it.

Of course! Waving goodbye. And then seamlessly, without discussion, Terence and I drift back into the thick of it - the sound and scene and loveliness of it all.

go ask alice

She stalks through the automatic doors of the hotel lobby aggressively, her head tipped back so her jaw juts out like a dare. Daring us to stare, daring us to judge. She wears a black peaked policeman's cap, black sunglasses with huge circular lenses that dwarf her porcelain doll face, black knee highs above black Converse, and black dance shorts. Criss-crossed with perfect symmetry across each nipple is a black adhesive 'X'. I know they're pasties, I know she must have bought them, but their width and vinyl smoothness matches that of electrical tape so completely I have a brief vision of her throwing a roll of it, pilfered from her dad's garage, into her suitcase along with the rest of her getup. She'd be 85 pounds, soaking wet. If she's over nineteen I'd eat my hood.

Speaking of my hood, she's speaking of my hood. "Oh my gosh, you're so furry, I love it," she says without any intonation to warn me whether she's being sincere or catty. I'm dressed pretty provocatively myself, so my bitchiness radar is set to high sensitivity. So far this weekend no one's been anything but complimentary of my outfit, but I'm a middle-aged woman in footless fishnets and I'm decidedly on guard. And since the oversized frames hide her eyes, at first I'm not even sure that she's talking to me. "All pink and furry. I just want to rub you." Yep, she's talking to me.

"Go ahead." I smile at her, realizing that nineteen is probably pushing it. She's like a much younger, much frailer Juliette Lewis. But by now our group, which has been waiting in the hotel carport for our ride to the festival, is climbing into the van that's just pulled up. I get in ahead of Terence and for the half-second it seems like she might sit directly beside him my stomach clenches ever so slightly...but then she announces her intention to take the back row instead. "Like the bad kids," she cracks, and everyone laughs louder than necessary. Than they would, I suspect, if the person making the joke wasn't a topless teenaged girl.

Her companion is a slight, sweet-faced kid in a homemade Pinocchio costume, with massive dark eyes that dart about excitedly, taking everything in. This is their first festival. She is clearly the alpha, he the adoring sidekick. I ooh and ahh over his every button and ribbon as he twists around to show them off. Meanwhile the girl stretches her arms out across the seat back, wondering aloud how many Alice in Wonderland costumes they'll see at the festival. Her body language is calculated to declare casual self-confidence but the stiffness of her shoulders, slouched slightly forward, betrays a touch of self-consciousness. I want to tell her it doesn't get any easier with age. But that if she's so comfortable with her body already, she might just get through it better than most. Instead Terence and I advise her and her friend on what sets to catch. Neither of them know any of the performers.

"I like shit like this," she explains, pointing at the van's ceiling to indicate the music playing. "That dirty, ratchet shit." I twist my lips, pretending to think. I hate trap and have no idea what to tell her, but Terence chimes in with suggestions. When he's done, a wave of warmth comes over me. "You don't have any kandi!" I say, as if only now noticing her bare forearms, snow white and thin as reeds.

"I knowww!" she says, with exaggerated mournfulness.

"Okay well I'm giving you this." I separate an elastic bracelet of pony beads from the cluster on my left wrist and carefully pull it over the others towards my left hand. The beads are red, black, white, and light blue - the colors of the classic Disney character's frock. In the center of the kandi are spaced three short words. I doubt she'll get the secondary or tertiary references but considering her earlier comment I can't resist. It's just too perfect. Also, it's the tightest kandi I made and wouldn't fit a wrist much bigger than hers or mine. She lowers her sunglasses for the first time and the youthfulness of her saucer-sized eyes makes my heart thud. The intelligence, too. Ratchet shit, my ass. This girl is playing a part. There's more underneath the rebellious-Hot Topic-model-hoping-to-scandalize-everyone-with-bare-breasts act, I can tell.

I confess that I don't know the exchange ritual very well, and she perks up. "Oooh now I feel like less of a festival noob, teaching a veteran something." I laugh, but what I'm laughing at is the idea of being any kind of veteran to EDM. Since we're sitting in different rows we can't do the "respect" part of the PLUR exchange, but that's okay. She's lit up by the gift I've given her, which she fingers lightly as she reads out the words I strung on it, squinting with 3:00 a.m. post-packing exhaustion, doubting the phrases I'd come up with for my kandi were clever enough for the whippersnappers I might be giving them to. "'GO ASK ALICE'. Oh yay! That's perfect. Haha, I love it. Right on!"

Terence squeezes my thigh and gives me a side smile as the van pulls into the drop-off zone. All dozen of us debouch into a dusty parking lot, putting on our game faces and our sunglasses, adjusting nylon and spandex and fur, tugging our few clothes into place and wearing less - or more - than we'd planned to that day.

Year Two

Acknowledging that this blog occasionally devolves into The Ellie and Terence Show and recognizing how uninteresting the romantic lives of strangers can be, I'm nevertheless gonna hit you with another segment before you get a commercial break.

Terence and I turned two this past weekend. I told him that if we were canine, we'd no longer be a puppy. We'd be a full-fledged adult dog expected to mind our manners and not pee in the house. Neither he nor I had any idea where I was going with that metaphor, but there it is.

We celebrated our anniversary by doing our thing - going to a music festival, of course. In this case, an all-electronic music festival. The longest-running one in the country, in fact, and one also celebrating an anniversary: 20 years. I've wanted to go to Nocturnal Wonderland for a while now, and something about it having a milestone birthday made going at forty a little less intimidating. I figured there'd be a lot of veteran ravers and older peeps there to stoke the EDM fire (particularly since this year the festival was a full three days) - and I was right. And that was cool.

I wore leg wraps and fluffies, furry hoods and fishnets. Terence wore animal ears and tails, glow stuff and goofy glasses. We stashed our maturity in a rented locker and ran around a park in San Bernardino three nights in a row, only stopping for a few hours of sleep in between.

On Saturday night (well, 3am Sunday morning) we showered off the filth of the festival, cuddled up under overly-starched hotel sheets, and munched on single-serving boxes of Apple Jacks from the lobby. And when we were done he showed me a short video he'd made for our anniversary. And it's kinda ridiculous. I watched it four times in a row, crying despite the fact that I was still high as a kite. It's just about the sweetest goddamn thing ever, particularly since the reason he made it, he says, was to make me feel how the video I did last year made him feel.

He had very few clips with which to do this, because I rarely let him record video of me.* And even when he does, I refuse to watch it. (I almost always hate how I look and it freaks me out.) So I was seeing much of this for the first time. Seeing, in a way, how he sees me, for the first time. It's got some in-jokes and relationship memes the logic of which would crumble if I tried to explain them, but I don't think that matters. And with that I will stop contextualizing a two minute video and just let the E and T show play on.



And because you suffered through that, I will shortly reward you with the most mockery-inviting photos of me (leg wraps! fluffies! when will I grow up?!) you have ever seen.

I hope your holiday weekend had some celebrating in it, too, even something as simple as hotdogs and a day off.

---

* The zip line video isn't even his; that's footage from the GoPro of one of the zip tour guides, from my Georgia trip this summer (still haven't blogged about that day yet!).

of lions and ladybits


Notes:

apologies for "swabs", fucking ew

my doctor's office (read: KP complex) is on the same street as a Scientology center and the intersections are always swarming with pamphleteering kids

the underwear were purchased in one of those 5 for $25 Victoria's Secret deals and all they had left in my size was dumb phrases like that and "UP ALL NIGHT"

this whole thing was basically just an excuse to start the category "colorfy chronicles"

teh worreez

TFW when Mom publishes a weird blog post and you're not sure if you should be concerned.


happy vs. happiness

Happy has got to be the most prostituted word in modern society, and certainly in the blogosphere.

Happy is not the same as happiness, and there's all the difference in the world between the two. Happiness is an occasional, organic byproduct of living in sync with your values. It flows into and through you. You can't control its production or delivery. You just wake up and it's there, or turn a street corner and feel it grab you. It pulses in huge bursts or slow, steady waves, until it fades away again.

People search for happy all the time, sometimes desperately. They seek it out like a drug, a quick fix to get them through the day. Sources of happy are short-lived and almost always involve some form of external validation.

Happy is a thing people hunt, but happiness is a thing that finds them.

Some of us bloggers forget this difference - or we live in denial of it. For some of us, happy is the whole point. We treat it like a trophy, polishing it and placing it prominently in front of us. Then we can hide behind it, and use it as a shield to block criticism or uncomfortable truths. Look at my happy! Just try and get past it! We worry that if we don't prove our happy, we'll be laughed at, scorned, judged - or worst of all, pitied. So we parade our happy even at the risk of ridicule. Even at the cost of exhausting and alienating those around us. Because not everyone wants to march in our Happy Parade.

Not everyone comes right out and declares their happy. They're smart enough to know this is mawkish and unappetizing. More savvy and sophisticated bloggers underplay their happy hand. They play their happy cool, with a casually-worded caption and cute emoji on an Instagrammed photo of a beautiful day - or a beautiful child. Here the happy lies quietly in subtext, but don't be fooled. It screams just as loudly: I AM HAPPY.

But I'm gonna let you in on a little secret. We're not telling you. We're telling ourselves. Which is not to say that manufactured happy and genuine happiness never overlap; sometimes they do. But sometimes the happy is a placeholder for happiness, which never needs likes and rarely poses for photographs anyway.

It's all so bizarre, our fixation with finding and flaunting the happy. And to complicate matters, happy is a squirrelly, highly subjective concept. To one person it might mean extreme elation; to another, balance and inner peace. We all aim for different spots on that continuum. Some are satisfied by a sense of general well-being, and some lose their minds in pursuit of elusive ideals of financial wealth and personal power.

The fact is, the less you need to make you happy, the more powerful you are. If all it takes to get your happy is walking with a loved one on a sunny day, you're going to be able to fill your tank much more easily and frequently than someone who needs luxury vacations, or the envy of others.

And because the stakes are so high, we use happy against each other. We lord it over one another, secretly feeling glee when our enemies seem to lack it. The ultimate cut down is to declare someone unhappy (i.e., sad). It's such a hurtful thing to say because there is no more pitiable condition, particularly when it's on public display. We cluck our tongues and say Oh, she's clearly unhappy, and we feel smug and safe and uninfected when we do so, because emotional well-being is a form of wealth. True happiness is a currency of mental health but the temporary nature of happy adds up to pittance.

But we open our wallets and show off our happy hundreds, because they are so very easy to count, so attractive when spread wide in our hands.