I went to the coast yesterday, with Erin. We bought lunch at a seafood restaurant in Malibu that had temporarily set up an outside drive through. A tent for staff taking orders, a standing beverage cooler stocked with canned beer and sodas, and the hallmark charm of SoCal seaside fish shacks: hand-drawn chalkboard menus.

Fifty-five bucks got us fried clams, fried squid, fried onion rings, french fries, and two bottles of water. Would we like ranch for dipping? You bet your sweet mask we would.

Across the highway from the restaurant is a small pullout overlooking County Line Beach. We ate in the car, gazing out at the ocean and debating the graces of surfers vs skaters vs snowboarders while eating regrettably massive portions of deep fried fare. So bad. So great.

When we'd had enough, we moved to a wooden bench bolted into the cliff side of the rusted out guard rail. We watched the young and the athletic suit up, stretch out, and wade determinedly into the tide, tethered by the ankle to their beat-up boards. Midwesterners, we admire but do not understand surfing.

How do they not bang into one another, when they cluster up like that? 

Ugh. I could never find my balance.

Isn't the water too shallow, where the waves hit?

For some of them, it had to have been their first post-lockdown surf. I bet it was glorious. It looked glorious, to be battered clean by waves that seemed strong enough to smack COVID-19 all the way back to Wuhan.

I envied them their fortitude. Too cold for my blood.

Me, I'm still waiting for my own post-lockdown burst of freedom. I had drinks in a real live bar last week, and I go for maskless runs in Hancock Park almost every night. But I'm pining for something big. Something commemorative and regenerative. An overnight in the woods, maybe. A full 24 hours with nothing on my face but fresh air. We'll see.

Out of nowhere, a black and white Border Collie appeared in the weeds near our feet. But she had no interest in us. She sniffed around impatiently while her human locked up the car, then bounded down the cliffside ahead of him. Erin and I looked at one another, briefly terrified - so steep, oh my god, is she - but when I stood up to check, she was already splashing around in the water's edge.

We watched man and dog play frisbee in the grey June gloom. Leaps and barks and digging and laughing and scolding and tricking and laughing again, until a sandy-haired, slump-shouldered teenage lifeguard came by to stop the sport. County Line is not a dog beach. No off-leash play today.

Girl, tell us about it.

Eventually I declared a need for ice cream, because fuck self-restraint during a pandemic. We got back into the car and wound our way down to Brentwood, for scoops of Salted Caramel and Lemon Verbena at Sweet Rose. Five thousand stars.

Then, neither of us feeling inclined to return to "real" life, we had a single, drawn-out cocktail in Santa Monica. It was lovely to be out, out of my house, out of my work - but it's just not the same. Servers in masks and plastic face shields. Restricted seating placements. Rules underlining everything. Low-grade anxiety and hyperawareness unescapable.

I know we've got a long road left, and I'm grateful for the social and professional diversions I've been blessed with (my work never closed - I'll tell you about it in another post). But if you've been wondering how I've been doing? I've been holding my breath. I've been surviving, but generally ill at ease. Everything feels suspended. On hold. Life in abeyance.

Is it the same for you?

the focus it takes

True story: I learned to run in the city by pretending Hamilton Leithauser was waiting for me in my bed, and that when I got home, sweating and triumphant, he was going to make me yell like he does in songs like Angela Surf City and Victory and, really, any song by The Walkmen that showcases those fucking pipes of his. After a shower, of course.

Learned to run? you ask, understandably. Well. Running around the financial and industrial districts of downtown LA takes some getting used to. They're not the friendliest or safest or cleanest of streets. You've got cracked sidewalks, tents, rats, stoplights, and plenty of suspicious characters to contend with. It takes some focus.

So with Hamilton screaming encouragement in my ears, I got used to the terrain. 

Hilariously, I ended up dating a dude who was an actual real-life friend of the singer's. So after a show one night, I was introduced. I think I said something terribly maudlin about his music helping me cope with the death of my father. True enough, but wow what a lie compared to the real story. 

Then I went completely underwater with EDM and never really resurfaced. My current run album is Stream of Consciousness by Spencer Brown which if I could force you to listen to one track from, it'd be this. Or maybe this, which is the funnest song I have ever danced to everrrr, at a festival (Dreamstate last November). Pure joy, amirite?

But lately I've been listening to Hamilton again, on the train mostly. To and from work. His voice is my personal fight song, and these days I am fighting very hard - to stay in control of my emotions, to trust the process, to see the big picture and have faith in better days ahead.

We all miss our friends, I know. Our families and coworkers and other familiars. But I also miss parts of myself that I put aside over the past year, in an effort to - well I don't know, really. In an effort. 

Trying to get back. Trying.

Sound on

note to self-soothe

Silence can only be weaponized against those who don't have all the words they already need, right inside of themselves.

That is the writer's escape hatch. You can push her down into a quiet, dark place where her hardest, most fatalistic thoughts can just fucking have a go. Eventually, though, she'll come to her own defense. Out will come the pen and paper, and she'll stack word upon word upon word until she's made a ladder to climb up on.

The words never fail to fix. The pieces can always be puzzled through.

There is no disarming a writer whose weapon is invisible and timeless.

so it goes

Last night was the first night where thinking of you didn't feel like slicing off a piece of my stupid, unteachable heart. I think it was the breeze, which caught the thought that keeps catching me unprepared (bodysuit, so high, you had to help me find my way into it, did you still feel the same or were you already gonnnneee), unable to breathe.

Instead of pain there was nothing. A memory, factual. Neutral neurons, fired.

That's how I know your eviction notice has been served. And yes, the courts have been closed, granting you this rent-free stay. But everything is opening back up. I'll soon be sitting down with the constant ones in my life, the reliable rocks who'll tease me back to myself. 

At least he was better than... At least he didn't....

And I will be reminded of the small army to which you've enlisted yourself. Your rank and title among them my secret. Your files my privilege alone. You were best at x, you were worst at y. I lied about this (while you lied about that).

It will be easier and easier until one day I cannot believe becomes I cannot believe I and then finally, I cannot believe I ever.

And so it goes. 


My inbox is full of your invisible apologies. I'm writing them for you because I know you can't.

You should know the only thing I don't forgive are those final words, unjustified, untrue, and ugly. They threaten to stain my every last loving thought of you.

I even forgive the betrayal, the living lie you brought into our sacred space. I forgive it because I know how desperately you need distraction after distraction, to keep the demons at bay.

But here is the thing. They're not really at bay. They're there. You can shove all the guilt and shame you feel right now, over this unnecessarily cruel ending, under your bed and numb yourself to sleep. But while you're drooling on your pillow, they're crawling into your open backpack. Settling into your worn out pant pockets. Clicking with finality onto your keychain.

And if you don't figure out where the fear and pain comes from, your saga of self-sabotage will never end. And the things you try and hide from will never let you be.

The only words you should have said, if any, were It wasn't you. Or maybe Just know: you are enough. I know this, of course, and have good friends to tell me over and over, as many times as I need.

But for all I gave, for all I forgave, that is the one thing I can't get past. Do with this information as you like. Make it right or don't.

I know how to write the apologies I should have gotten.