hot or not

I am a future climate migrant. At some point, when the time is right, I'm going to leave Los Angeles and never look south again. I'm going north - far north. I'm going somewhere cold - very cold. I already have the city picked out. It's in a state I've never even been to. 

I started researching certain things that are important to me in terms of lifestyle, climate, community, and geography - and I landed on this place. And I knew. And I know it's wild to plan to move somewhere when you've yet to even see it in person. But what the fuck else is life if not adventure? It's just me. So why the hell not?

Only my closest friends know where I'm headed. When I tell anyone who doesn't know me very well where I'm going to move, they react predictably enough. They tell me I'm crazy, I don't know what I'm getting myself into. They'd never go back to the cold and the snow, blah blah blah. But when I tell people who know me pretty well, they smile. A lot of them have been there. "Oh my god," they say. "That's perfect for you. You'll love it. It's so beautiful." They tell me they can see me there, with my big dog and my million coats and my soul-deep need for tree lined streets. They know what it will mean to me, to escape LA and finally, for the first time ever in some ways, start designing a life I've chosen. 

I know in my bones that I am built for cold weather. I'm (re)training for it even now. When I walk home from work most nights I'm down to just wearing a hoodie. My hands and arms go almost numb in the night air, but it doesn't bother me. It invigorates me, and excites the part of me that has forever felt compelled to return to the cold. When I look at fall foliage and snowscapes my heart aches. Like I genuinely feel I'm missing out on a huge, important part of life: seasons. I'm such a fish out of water here, with LA's two months of cool weather and ten months of miserable heat. 

When it comes to people and climate, it's largely a greener-grass, human nature thing. I know that. People want what they can't have; they're drawn to what seems exotic and different. It's rare to meet someone who grew up in the cold who wants to go back to it - provided they had enough time there. Provided they had their fill.

I did not have my fill. 

I was uprooted from gorgeous St. Joseph, Michigan at the age of ten and dropped down in dusty, hot Scottsdale, Arizona before I even understood what I was losing. And in 1985 it was still dusty, still largely in development. I was pulled from a land of lakes and trees and seasons and weather - a place where fail smelled like dry smoke and real, live apple trees - and pushed against my will into a sterile city of stucco and strip malls. I hated Arizona the second I saw it. I hated it every minute of every day for the nearly two decades I was there. The one exception, the one single thing that made it tolerable for a few months out of every year: Sabino Canyon in the monsoons. 

We moved to Arizona in the summer before school started. Just days before I had been climbing trees in the woods behind my brick house in Michigan. Now my main after-school activity was just fucking surviving the walk home in 100+ degree heat. We lived too close to my elementary school for there to be a bus I could take. And my mom was either too drunk, too depressed, or too depressed about being a drunk to come pick me up in the car. 

I never acclimated to the heat. Not even the slightest bit. I couldn't handle the temperature enough to participate in any school sports. It made me miserable. When I got older, I learned to estivate. I'd sleep all day, stirring only when it dropped to a chilly 80 degrees at dusk. The only - only - thing I ever liked about Arizona was the sunsets, which have no parallel in the whole world, and will be with me forever. Okay and maybe the trail running. But fuck snakes and mountain lions. 

And now here I am in lovely, sunny California. I am supposed to be thrilled at my good fortune. I am supposed to feel lucky for this "beautiful" weather I've landed in. But as far as I'm concerned, it's not much better than Arizona. Los Angeles is a haze of glaring sunshine, chrome, and now, thanks to its shitholed economy and disgusting wealth gap, trash both literal and cultural.

Save for a few rich neighborhoods and parks, there is no shade here. Just cracked sidewalks and cars and cars and more cars and cars and... And it's way, waayyy too hot, for too many months out of the year. Climate change hath wrought what we have let it wrought. And it's only going to get worse.

There's a fantastic Sunday Read podcast on The Daily about climate migration. About where people will be going in the next ten years, when the southern half and the coasts of this country become all but uninhabitable due to searing heat, wildfires, and rising oceans. If you think I sound like a kooky Cassandra, do some research. Tens of millions of people are going to be on the move soon. And I will be one of them. And if what I'm hearing and learning is true, the place I have in mind is going to be an extremely desirable destination. Certain areas of the country, now off-putting to so many because of harsh winters, are starting to become more temperate due to climate change. The extreme cold won't be so extreme in another ten years or so. 

And I, my friends, am going to beat the rush there. Me and my big fucking dog and my dumb fucking blog. You're all coming with, right?

NY Caption Contest #745

Hey remember when I used to challenge myself intellectually? Okay okay, I'll give myself some credit for my efforts of late. But I can always! do! better!

Also: remember when I officially won the New Yorker Caption Contest once, but unofficially won it twice? That was cool. And remember how my dad didn't tell me that the artist-signed cartoon had ended up at his house for some reason, and it was languishing undisplayed in his closet while I was super sad thinking it had gotten lost in the mail? That was weird. And then remember how it somehow disappeared anyway, when I moved to K-town, out of the "very very bad living situation" I was in? That was a bummer. 

It is totally okay if you don't remember any of this. I barely do. Point is, at some point I need to reach out to the New Yorker and see about getting a replacement copy of my caption (I'm sure they will say Fat chance, lady, and the sad legacy of this whole thing will continue.) Second point is, let's start doing the captions again!

I really don't know what my goal is in sharing these (which I'm gonna do every time I remember and am not too tired to take a whack at) other than my pathetic need to show that I am occasionally clever. Please validate me and don't hide my achievements in the closet, Dad enjoy.



This week's contest closed Sunday, so you can't steal my Very Serious Creative Work, you dastardly motherfuckers. And yes I hit that shit with multiple New Yorker accounts, because you're only allowed one entry, because haters be trying to curb my genius. 

this moment, surely

Okay, you maniacs. I can practically hear you from here, drumming your fingers, wondering if you're going to get an update. Fine. Here's your update. 

I'm not so unsure anymore. I've seen him again, only once and very briefly. And I need to take it super, duper, duper slow. But the un- is sliding away from the -sure. 

I don't know what I expected when I pulled back on him, but it wasn't what I got. What I got was warmth and understanding. What I got was him pulling back too - at first. But then I got a version of Okay so look, I know that this is literally the opposite of what you want to hear right now, but I haven't stopped thinking about you since Tuesday, sorry not sorry

And it's pretty tough to resist someone telling you they haven't stopped thinking about you. 10/10 would definitely recommend. And so we picked up the thread again, with casual talk and oh hey, you should hear this song type stuff. 

But more than the compliment of his interest, it was his tone that did it for me. He came at me with this incredibly gentle and chill but confident energy. Like truly, he could take me or leave me, and if I said leave he would still be his positive, naturally happy self rambling on through life - but if I said take he was down. Like so fucking down in fact.

And something about his patience with me despite being flip-floppy and flaky communicated a maturity and kindness that, frankly, really fucking turned me on. Also, the music he sent me was bullseye perfect. Heel, meet Achilles.

Anyway one night I was walking home and he sent a track for me to check out. Make sure you look at the moon tonight, he added. I told him I was about to have a full hour and a half walking under the moon so sure, will do.

Next thing I know he's offering to come walk me home. And I'm like, No. No way. It's 11pm. You're nuts. And he was like Don't care. Wanna see you. And I was like, I gotta go straight home though. Have to be back at work early. And he was like, I'll bounce when we get to the train.

And all of that warm inviting wanting energy was pretty irresistible, and I figured Okay, his studio is in Hollywood, I guess if he comes down Highland it's a straight enough shot...

So I accepted his offer. Where are you now? he asked. I told him I was walking east down 3rd. That I'd hit Highland in 20 minutes. 3rd and Highland in 20 minutes, he said. On it. 

And now we're getting to the good part, which is my good feelings. Because the minute I knew I was going to see him, despite my having been at work for 9+ hours, totally wrecked and tired, not a drop of makeup on me, no hairbrush in sight and no cute clothes to change into - I just had a really, really good feeling about it. 

And I didn't stress about how I looked at this hour, after a long work day. I just put my music back on and smiled at the loveliness of a boy getting on his bicycle to come walk a girl home in the moonlight. And I felt myself warming up to him, more every moment, warming up to the sweetness on the surface and the more urgent desire underneath. And by the time I texted and told him I was cutting south, to meet me at 4th, I was so fucking ready to see him and show him how much I appreciated what he was putting out there for me.

And I sat on the curb in the cold - the cold that I love so much - on the corner of 4th and Highland, right at the start of Hancock Park. And I played Sultan + Shepard and waited, envisioning exactly how I was going to immediately grab his collar and pull him to me and kiss him. I didn't have the bike part figured out, the bike was going to be in the way for sure - I only knew I wanted us to be still and quiet under the moon as we moved into this moment, surely. 

And he rolled up so fucking fast, faster on his white road bike than would be safe if it hadn't been 11:30pm, laughing at the sight of me sitting on the sidewalk in my hoodie under the street light. And yes the dumb bike was momentarily in the way, but I pointed at it and said "Move that" and he laughed and swung it lightly up across the sidewalk and leaned it against a tree. And I saw then how much his bike is a part of him, a piece of his physicality that he moves with grace and easy familiarity - and it was hot. It was a simple thing, this unconscious, subtle hint of his athleticism - but it was hot.

And I got the kiss I wanted. I pushed against him and breathed him in and though he's rarely quiet - he is bright and light and bold like a lightning bolt - he got quiet, too. And for minute, I started to show him how I need to be touched, in a moment like that. How held, how kissed. And he started to see. 

And then we walked, and laughed, and talked about daily things from our lives that were happening. And it was just a short time together, because right now we're both in a hustle hard part of our lives -- but he made time for me. And he didn't just shoot over from Hollywood, either, because he hadn't been at his studio. He'd been home in bed, further away than Hollywood. He'd gotten out of bed to come walk me and his bicycle through Hancock Park, in the winter, in the middle of the night. 

So now maybe you're getting a sense of why this is someone to be less unsure about. And I am getting a sense, too. 

what emotional dysregulation feels like

I woke up today as I do on all my days off lately: grateful, supercharged for the things I wanted to accomplish, in complete control of my life. I passed the morning working, but since it was on a project completely of my own design and initiative, I enjoyed it. I shared what I'd done with my boss and almost immediately got the positive feedback I'd been hoping for. I felt great and awesomely productive, proud of myself for finally knocking out the thing I'd been wanting to do for a couple of weeks now. I knew I still had most of the day ahead of me to be creative and have fun. 

But then another work-related thing snapped up my attention. And to be sure, I didn't have to let it. I could have pushed it off until I'm back at work on Wednesday. But it was a tedious task that I'd actually already completed, and I was annoyed that due to the shitty interface of our payroll software, it looked to our corporate team that I hadn't done the task. Cut to fifteen minutes wasted of me trying, fruitlessly, to resolve the issue. But no. Shitty payroll software gonna be shitty.

Before I knew it, I was having a total - and totally unnecessary - meltdown. I sent an urgent email to a coworker but I was already so pissed off at having to further wait to deal with this problem that I called her before she could call me. And I totally lost it, while on the phone with her. I was so fucking angry that on my day off I was having to deal with this situation, when I'd already dealt with it. I felt my free time and energy getting sucked away. Me, who works her absolute ass off all the time, and never gives less than 100%. All I want is for my days off to be days off. The unfairness of it just destroyed me, here in my gorgeous apartment, on a sunny day, in Los Angeles, California. My coworker walked me through what needed to be done and within a few minutes it was finished. Behind me. Boom. So not a big deal, right?

But by that time I had lost the day.

That's what I call it, when my emotional dysregulation wins. Losing the day. 

It wasn't until fairly recently that I realized the main ingredient of my mental coolness cocktail is emotional dysregulation (splash of depression; chaser of anxiety). And it's exactly what it sounds like. Overreaction to, as they call it, "provocative stimuli." And when those provocative stimuli are negative, holy shit is it the worst, most exhausting problem to have. But I'm not entirely sure I would want to get rid of it. Because when I am positively stimulated, my head nearly explodes from joy.  

Today after the episode with the work problem, I was instantly physically leveled. So tired it was like I'd just come off a month of crab fishing in Alaska. I could barely stand up. In fact, I didn't. I retreated to my safe place (with great originality, I have chosen my bathroom floor as my safe place) until I felt calm and self-love return. And even when I did, looking in the mirror showed me someone haunted and defeated. I'd lost the day, and it was written all over my face. 

My friend Steve understands my ED better than anyone. "Even keel" he always reminds me, when I get too upset/excited. "Even keel," he says, when I am spiraling because some dude hasn't texted me back and I feel abandoned. "Even keel," he says, when I am over the moon because some dude has texted me back and I feel elated. "Even keel," I try whispering to myself, imagining a bright white sailboat moving with ease and optimism through crystalline waters. 

Even keel: a three syllable buoy for pulling me off the bathroom floor. 

(BTW, this blueprint of a reaction can be transferred to any parallel set of situations - professional, social, financial, etc. No matter the stimulus, I am much too easily knocked off balance. So please, go ahead. Tell me I don't need a Libra to anchor me...)

Then there are the times where my emotional dysregulation is unbearably blissful, like an overdose of the purest, cleanest drug. And it doesn't happen when you'd think it would - say, on vacation. Or in a moment of profound intimacy. It hits me during the most quotidian of circumstances: walking home, for instance, a friend will send a funny text and I will just fucking lose it in the best way possible. I'll suddenly be absolutely overcome with gratitude for my simple, sweet life of honest work, great friends, and occasional romance. And I'll start crying, there on the sidewalk, because I am so unbelievably happy to be me, experiencing the energy input/output that I do, on this planet, in this solar system. But when I say happy I mean I feel so much happiness that I'm scared it could break me. Like I could truly die on the spot and be okay about it. And I will walk slowly through the cold night, tears leaving icy streaks down my cheeks, gazing at the moon, gripped with love for every leaf on every tree that I pass in this phenomenally beautiful world. 

Would you want even keel, over that? Would you give that up? 

Maybe you would. Either way, I don't have a choice. And I'm kind of okay with it. 

extreme scheduling for anxious types

A thing I have always known about myself but which was vividly refreshed during the pandemic is that too much unstructured time is extremely detrimental to my well being. Without a schedule, I fall apart: anxiety, rumination, low mood. The right amount of free time is heaven to me. When I have two or three days off, I plunge into my weekends, super stoked on the things I'm going to write, the friends I'm going to catch up with, the mini adventures I'm going to squeeze in. But there's a very fine line between the right amount of time and too much.

My work schedule was only briefly interrupted by the COVID. I only spent one pay period working three days a week. Not a huge deal but all that unexpected time tripped me up hard. So I went into Google Sheets and designed the prettiest, most soothing spreadsheet to which I could rigorously adhere, for the sake of sanity. I made a Work Day schedule and two Day Off schedules, because #variety. Here's one of the latter:



An extremely rigid schedule is not for everyone. But if you, too, spiral with too much time on your hands, here's my template. Just merge cells and color as needed. Mental illness? Nah, mental coolness!

the libra thing

A couple posts back I dropped a Libra joke. And look, I know astrology is a bunch of malarky. But it is a fact that virtually ALL the men I have gotten close to romantically and socially in the past 7 years are Libras, with a few Leos thrown in.

So what the fuck. What the actual fuck.

Cameron? Leo. 

Terence? Libra.

Timo? Leo.

Kenny? Libra.

Costa? Libra.

Brent? Libra.

My date last week? Libra.

I know better than to place any stock whatsoever in this. And yet, if you check out any compatibility rating for Libras and Geminis, it's always solid. The fact that I know it's just coincidence and random circumstance makes it even more fun for me, because it totally triggers my Matrix theory of life (I'm not remotely convinced we're not all living in a simulation), and because the Libras and Leos in my life are just so, so very Leonine and Libraesque.

Fun, crazy shit. 

ride or die

Please enjoy this update from rural Ohio, which will be stop #2 on my Post-Pandemic Cross Country Friendship Revival Tour, wherein I visit everyone who fled LA for greener (and here I mean financially) pastures.


(*passenger's)

the y you chose

I dreamt of wolves the night we didn't say goodbye - the night you left me with two single letters and not much more. 

"Should I move on? y/n"

You answered quickly. 

"It's not that easy."

I dreamt of wolves, which was a departure from the whales and the water. Five or six of them, out in the cold, caliginous night. Snow on the ground muffled their movements, but I knew they were there. And they knew about me, too. 

We went back and forth. You talked about how hard it's been. How you're figuring yourself out. How you're trying and fixing. "I know," I said. "I believe it. And I'm not crowding you or rushing you. But it's been three months and I'm checking in." But you wouldn't choose y and you wouldn't choose n, so we went a few more rounds. 

The wolves paced underneath my window while my mind roamed other dreamscapes, anxious and aware that some unconfronted danger was waiting for me. Finally I came back. It was an empty, echoing shell of a building, like the weird, abandoned camp we found that night in the woods.

I think wolves have always reminded me of you. You like to move in packs, with whom you trust everything. You can be solitary when you need to be. You were made for the cold, and for never being caught. 

I felt compelled to open the window and climb out onto the ledge. I was dangerously close to the ground, to the animals below. I couldn't stop myself from reaching out to them. Shades of ash and smoke; lanky, hungry, menacing. The nearest snarled at me as I extended my hand. But slowly, gently, I ran my palm across his furry head. He flattened his ears and stood still for my touch.

It went on for maybe an hour. "It's been horrible and the only outlet I have is music and going outdoors." By now how pointedly you were avoiding saying anything about me, about us - only you, you, you - had me desperate to end it, finally. Just a month ago you said "I'm doing this for you," but you weren't, were you? You aren't. I've turned off all the music, I've lay alone and silent in my bed listening as hard as I could, but all I have heard is snow falling, covering and quieting every trace of us.

"I already know how you feel about music and outdoors. I'm asking how you feel about me. Should I move on? y/n."

"y"

And just as I'd willed it into existence, the y you chose lit up the otherwise dark room, a tiny point of light like a candle burning out. I didn't miss a beat before I asked one last question. "But it was awesome for a while, right? y/n"

"y"

I didn't remember the ending to my dream until late in the morning, and when I did, an avalanche of feeling knocked me breathless. In the end, the perspective shifted from first to third person, and as if filmed by drone I saw myself sitting in the snow, surrounded closely by the wolves. Two stood like sentries at my shoulders: noses up, noble. One lay across my lap, a wild thing choosing to be docile and calm. Two or three others were a blur of fur and limb and majesty. They were mine and I was theirs and there was safety and trust and an unspoken intimacy. 

I won't look for you again. You can have your forest back, and I'll find one of my own. Snow will fall and erase our tracks, faster than it took us to put them down. Winter is merciful that way.

unsure

Hi hello. Woo boy have I had a week (+), which felt more like a month. Things that happened in the past 10 days:

1. My head chef threw his back out, so I lost my "weekend" to work. Hence no bloggy time, sorrys.

2. My head chef quit.

3. My previous head chef, laid off when the DTLA store closed, agreed to come back to work at the WeHo store.

4. I had a date.

5. I put an employee under suspension and he responded with super offensive (but hilarious) texts to my phone. Absolute HR madness. 

6. Some awesome new-to-me music + LA's new case count dropping to <1k/day has me feeling super, super stoked on life rn. 

---

I know only one of those items is of interest to you, though, so I'll spare you expanded details about all but item 5. 

Um so yeah! A date! A friend of four years with whom I've always had chemistry but "never an opportunity" type-deal. He's never been far out of my life, always periodically checking in to say hello or stopping by my work to do the same. Super good vibes and laughs, always. 

He called me out of the blue when I was getting on the subway about a month ago. Calls are rare for us though so I answered with "I'm going to be so bummed if this is a butt dial." Big laugh from him, because it wasn't. Cut to us making tentative plans to hang out, go for a hike, something, whatever, because both of our pandemic bubbles have shriveled up to almost nothing and we wanted to connect, being humans and all.

Lots of back and forth'ing and postponing ensued. He traveled, wanted to quarantine; work was sapping all my free time. He flaked once for recording/producing time (he's a musician who basically spends every spare minute in the studio); I flaked because I felt unsure about getting together.

Because I have gone through some serious shit, romantically, the past few years. Because I am jaded and scared and do not know how to process men that are, like, actually available. Because I don't really know where I'm at other than I've been doing exceptionally well, the past few months, being 100% focused on me and my goals.

Anyway, we got togther.

So this person absolutely crushes, across the board, in terms of Things Ellie Wants and Likes. We're talking the full range of superficial shit to straight-up values and character traits. And it has been confusing as fuck! 

Fun (?) fact: I have three extremely superficial and stupid "things" that, aside from all the very, very important compatibility factors like COMMUNICATION and BASIC CONSIDERATION are my "things" about guys: 1. hair, 2. name, 3. voice. I know this is terrible and so shallow, but there you are. Well, this person scores 10/10 on all three. So that's cool! He literally has the best name of any guy I've ever been with, like top three men's names of all time, and that is an unbelievably dumb thing to be into, but there you go. 

Also: he is deeply solicitous and interested in my creative life. He asks serious, probing questions in an effort to get to know someone. He listens. He has strong opinions and is driven. He's athletic and creative and knows exactly how to take care of himself and achieve his goals. He loves all the same music as me. He loves all the same drugs as me. He is blonde and strong and ridiculously handsome and laughs all the time, and he thinks the fact that I know hundreds of $5 words is adorable. In fact all night when we were together every few minutes he'd yell "Word!" and I would dispense a new, crazy word along with its spelling and definition, like abyssopelagic or brontology or astrobleme, and my voice would get all high like I was a teenager in a spelling bee and it was a riot but also hot? IDK.

(I also recited the Dickinson and Gerard Manley Hopkins poems I have memorized, which is the weirdest foreplay ever I know, but welcome to dating me!)

And that's where I have to leave it. Because I have been unsure about entering into the space he's been inviting me into, since that night. So unsure in fact that I ghosted on him for a few days because I didn't know how to tell him that all of his attention and interest was so alien and weird that I needed it to stop. And I don't want him to have to change one single thing about himself to make me feel better, just because I am a damaged weirdo. So I pulled away, and that is where it has been left, because I don't want to string him along while I "figure my shit out". 

But I am unsure. 

p.s.  He is a fucking Libra. Because of course.

mi portfolio

Housekeeping note: I threw a bunch more shit on my portfolio and updated it. I considered calling it a portfauxlio, but that's a bit too self-deprecating even for me. Though it really is loaded (bloated) with every random-ass creative and intellectual direction I've ever meandered off in.

Hilariously enough, I got tapped for a fun little ongoing side hustle (visual stuff, not writerly) - and it was this that nudged me to clean up my profesh (lol) site in case other such opportunities come along.

I'm usually deathly sick of anything I design for the web within a few months, but I've had this same simple squarespace layout for a few years now, and it still makes me happy. I spent a dog's age making "read next" type buttons that I really like, but if anyone knows how to install a randomizer button on Squarespace, please let me know. 








































Now I just have to decide if I want to do the link tree thing on my IG profile. Because Instagram can turn itself into a magazine and totally ruin the experience for users...but it can't accommodate two different links in one profile.

p r o b l e m

"I have a problem," you said, and as they hit the ground the words grew like seeds planted. "I have a problem," you said, "but I don't have it when I'm with you." 

Well, the part about me fell away like chaff. But the part about you took root between us, deep and undeniable. In time it forced its way up, splitting the sidewalk until we could not walk to one another without stumbling.

"I have a problem," you said, and the words swelled in the summer heat, higher and higher until they were as tall as the Hollywood sign. Until they were tall enough for you to climb right inside and hide from me there, whenever I looked too hard. Whenever I loved too hard. 

You left, but the shells of one word remain. I can see your ghost sometimes, in one or another letter. 

I can see you in the P, waiting at the gate, your thumbs hooked under the straps of your backpack.

I can see you in the M, how you kicked all your limbs out across the bed at night.

I can see you in the O, curled senseless and lost to me, around the thing you couldn't escape.

And so on. But it's just an illusion; it's not actually you. Tourists don't know, until they try, that they can't really get to the Hollywood sign. And now I know I can't really get to you.

other peoples dreams are boring AF

My dreams lately are an absolute ride. Huge bodies of water, exhilaration where there should be fear. So vivid I wake up with my heart pounding, wishing I could go back. Wishing I was an artist so I could paint them.

--- last month ---

I'm standing at the edge of a massive pier that goes on endlessly behind me. It's so high up over the water the waves move in slow motion; so high I can see the curvature of the earth. It's a bright, sunny day, and there is nothing in this world other than the planked wooden pier and the choppy water below. And I'm diving in again and again. When I jump the fall is so long the wind carries me far from the pier and I have to swim for a long time to get back to it, to climb out. I know there is danger, I know there are unknowns in the blue beneath me -- but I can't stop.

--- recently ---

It's an ocean, it must be an ocean since there are huge whales gliding underneath - but the water is perfectly pellucid all the way down. There's an enormous grey and white mottled whale, covered in thick barnacles. There's another, with markings like a killer whale but the size of a house. There's a third: a smooth, milk white beluga, also outsized. I'm in a tiny rowboat above them, but I know if I slip into the water I'll be safe, they won't hurt me. My friend Mason is there, in another boat nearby. We're not talking, it's too sacred to speak, but we're there together, in thrall of the scene. 

--- this morning ---

Chaucer and I are in a river valley dense with trees. The river is wide, pooling out into spacious lakes -- but at points it winds sharply, so you can only see a small section of it at a time. He gets away from me, goes bounding after two other big dogs. I panic, terrified he's going to get hurt, get into a fight. But instead they play, and in my relief I get distracted by an old man telling me, exasperated, to read the menu again, because I've apparently just tried to order something that isn't available. When I realize Chaucer has swum out into the river and could be swept away, I plunge in after him. I get him out of the water only to come up against a fence. I need to lift all 135 pounds of him over it, to finally get him safe. I struggle, he's so heavy, and when he doesn't clear the wire railing his nail catches and he yelps in pain. I wake up crying but I can't shake the image of the shimmering, sunlit river. I want to be there again, with him or someone like him. 

---

I needed to look at photos of Chaucer after this dream, and watched some old vids on the insta I made for him. If you don't understand while I'll never, ever, ever get over my dog please just look at how he looked at me. 

quatrieme etape

What a breakup sounds like, in five stages:

1. I can't hear anything other than your voice, which I'm not hearing, because you're gone. It's very confusing. How can you not be here, but all I hear? Granted this might have something to do with voicemail and video playbacks, on my part. I'll see about bulking up my delete finger. No promises. 

2. Well, now all I can hear is your silence. And it's really fucking loud. Please be quiet(er). I can't hear myself hearing nothing.

3. Something strange is happening. The space where you aren't speaking - where there should be anything, something to say - is filling up. It's filling up with ugly, murmuring memories I kept turned down low all this time. But the volume button appears to be broken, so what the fuck. 

4. I am now living in a Cranberries album. This is not my choice. I would rather do anything else with my time than fixate on the invisible and the gone. But here we are: all I hear are the songs I want to write.

5. ???

jaywalk with me

I have a working theory that everything I need to know about you, I can learn from watching you jaywalk.

How close are you willing to cut it, between passing cars? My point of interest here isn't how reckless or daring you are - it's how considerate you are. There's nothing worse than having someone dash out in front of your speeding car. Do you take into consideration the driver's perspective and concomitant anxiety? Or just bolt, because you're gonna do you. 

Where do your position yourself when waiting on an island or median? Do you lean out close to the edge of traffic, stressing drivers the fuck out? Or do you stand as far back as possible, because you're not impatient, insane, or inconsiderate.

When you finally do cross, do you haul ass? Or slow walk, to flex and be a dick? Jaywalk with me, show me your true colors. 

I closed my eyes

It's a common misconception that the greatest Oingo Boingo song is Dead Man's Party. No. The greatest Oingo Boingo song is We Close Our Eyes. 

We Close Our Eyes is an anthem for those of us who struggle with change at first, but then ultimately, happily give in when the excitement of what's new crowds out the grief of what's lost.

For those of us who fall in love over and over again, succumbing to optimism despite every ounce of painfully collected evidence. 

For those of us learning to accept the spin, spin, spin of the planet and the days, months, years it takes from us.

The same day that I said goodbye to Erin, I found out I've been made GM of our West Hollywood location. No more temporary supporting of the Santa Monica store. WeHo is mine now.  It's back to epic daily walks through Hancock Park, full time+ hours, and days so busy they fly by.

It's an excellent move for me in every regard and I am thrilled. But it's a big change, and right now I still feel like a rook on a chessboard. (A rook because there's really only two stores I could be transferred to - two directions I can be moved in.)

I'll be on a regular schedule with a two-day weekend starting Monday, but this week my days off are split as I scramble to re-organize the store digitally and physically and get my feet under me. Meaning I'm pretty tapped out and Ye Olde Blogge might suffer for it, just this week.

But here's a photo I took on my way home from work the other night. It's not Disneyland; it's an actual home in Hancock Park. The entire neighborhood feels like this. Gorgeous homes, perfectly maintained landscaping, tree-lined drives with lanterns for street lights. Quiet, empty sidewalks where I can process my day. 



























The timing for me to take on the beast that is WeHo is perfect. All my friends have dipped out of LA, where there is no social scene yet anyway. All work and no FOMA makes Ellie a very good goal-achiever.

Work/life/health balance, however, 'bout to be thrown out the window. See you in summer, Balance! 

The Burlecks: envy

For today's lockdown activity, I decided to create a flash fiction self-challenge. Same characters cycling through each of the seven deadly sins. Let's see how far I can get!

---

Mr. and Mrs. Burlecks are just home from the theater and settling into the parlor. In the fireplace, logs crackle and spit at one another, the only conversation in a quickly heating room. Mr. and Mrs. B are both terribly cranky, but for different reasons.

Mr. B is cranky because tonight he was in the balcony, not on the stage. Mr. B, an actor himself, cannot abide spectating, as he calls it. Then there was the matter of that loathesome Jessup, soigne and smugly fit. How did he always materialize when Polly was around? It was maddening. Not that Polly cared or much noticed, he assured himself, unconsciously tugging at shirt cuffs whose yellowing stains were concealed well enough in the dim room. His wife had no use for bankers. What a dull, dry existence they must lead!

Meanwhile, absently caressing the cretonne arm of the wingback in which she perched, Mrs B is equally lost in her discontent. The evening had begun pleasantly enough. She'd felt the usual wave of admiring glances wash across her the minute they'd entered the theater. All the tortuous indecision of the previous hour spent studying her wardrobe - and her mirror - melted away, her beauty reconfirmed once more. But then intermission came, and under the blazing light of a dozen chandeliers, Polly's charms diffused into the crowd at large. The playhouse was full of elegant young women. And most, she'd noted bitterly, wore dresses finer and more modern than hers.

Neither of the Burlecks are thinking of the play at all.

---

TBC

these tiny hoops

I bought some tiny silver hoops for you -- whoever you are. 

Eight millimeters, barely big enough to push a pencil through. Just a bright little loop to catch the candlelight. They wrap perfect and tight around my earlobes and you probably won't notice them until you get close.

You can press them between your thumb and finger. You'll feel how delicate and pliant the wire is. You can press harder, if you want, and twist until I cry out. Just be careful taking my sweater off, so they don't snag. Take your eyes off mine long enough to do that.

I have loads of lacy lingerie, a leather collar and a leash. But for some reason, these tiny hoops feel more feminine than anything I've ever worn. Maybe you could help me figure out why?

They're waiting in my top drawer, and they're my promise to you that there is still something unknown and unseen and unfelt in me. Let's find out what that is, together, while I'm wearing these tiny hoops for you.

smudgy stamp farewell

Erin leaves Friday. Already. 

Last night she came upstairs (we live in the same building) and sat on my rug and we talked for two hours. Today I went and did the same at her place while she packed.

Just now I wrote and printed up a letter for her to save and read at some future point, when she's having a difficult moment. She's been through so fucking much in the past year and a half. A huge breakup, the death of her dad, getting laid off due to Covid, and now she's heading back to Ohio to start a new job in a new line of work. 

















Pinned underneath the photo are a small cellophane sleeve and a little white envelope. On the back of the envelope I wrote

instructions:

1. gently remove butterfly*, fold, and place in cellophane sleeve. place in pink envelope for safe keeping

2. gently remove photo of friends** and place in white envelope. place in pink envelope for safe keeping 

3. wait until you're having a bad day and need a boost

4. open and read letter


* some things change

** some things don't 

---

She bought a three bedroom house the payments for which will be 1/3 of what we pay in rent for our LA studios, so there'll be plenty of rugs for me to lay on when I go visit. 

But holy hell do I hate farewells.

spring at the beach

So it is official: my work news is that I have been moved indefinitely to our Santa Monica location, until my own store reopens. (And there's currently no date set for that, but I'm hoping for mid-March...)

The company had to do some more furloughing and therefore some more shuffling and yr Ellie of Spades has been relocated a ten minute walk from the beach. Go ahead and decide now how many beach sunset pics you can take, so later when you've had enough, you can unfollow without guilt. 

I'm stoked to still, like, have a job, and a full-time one at that. And I know almost everyone at this location already, and received a super warm welcome from all of the staff. (Granted it's LA. Everyone is an actor.) 

But I'm a mess when I'm out of my comfort zone, so today was exhausting. I know I'll get my legs under me quick enough, though, as I'll have lots of support both above and under me. 

I'll be taking the train, which is 45 minutes each way. My commute to West Hollywood was at least that long - but on foot. Now I can chill and listen to stuff, so feel free to email me your audiobook recommendations. (Non-fiction, please; I prefer to scowl at my fiction on a screen.)

PPRL: American Pastoral (Winner, 1998)

Took me a hard minute to get through this one. Took me so long, in fact, that somewhere along the way I forgot that it was written in 1998. And I spent the entire time blaming what I felt to be some overlong, abstruse passages on it being stylistically dated. Shows how much my English degree is worth. (Zero dollars. It is worth zero dollars.)

Anyway, the brilliance of this novel did not synthesize for me until the last chapter, where just a surreal level of storytelling takes shape. Everything comes together in a tidal wave of tragedy that the preceding narration - often chronologically exhausting, with unapologetically meandering prose - does not foretell. But again, clearly I know fuck-all.

It was a surprisingly timely choice on my part, set against a backdrop of racial tension and rioting, political violence, and extreme governmental corruption (Nixon era). And I have deep respect for this novel even if I think I might not be running back to Philip Roth anytime soon.

quick bits that got me:

...there was an almost girlish softness to her flesh, indicating that perhaps she hadn't partaken of every last one of the varied forms of suffering available to a woman over a lifetime.

A body that looks quickly put on after having just been freshly ironed-no folds anywhere.

margin notes/paper topics:

How isolated we ultimately are in our experience of the world, and how devastating to learn the things we love most might mean not a whit to others.

The juxtaposition of how unsuccessfully Seymour raised his family vs. how perfectly Dawn raised her "family" (the cattle). What is that difference rooted in? Is it because of how much control Seymour tried to exert? Or, in fact, how little? (how hands-off he is with Merry) Note that Dawn's bull is more tractable, more docile than their own daughter. 

What's the significance of gloves, as a theme? A sort of insulation against the word? A layer of protection? Or are they in fact the ultimate symbol of the doomed classism that Merry rails against? Is Seymour the bad guy after all?

The end of American innocence; how is Merry's emotional and physical trajectory an encapsulation of America's own story?

vocabulary alert!

insentient, flak, chiropodist, cordovan, scuttlebutt, anapest, munificence, jeroboam, fourchette, zabaglione, piker, rotogravure, rebarbative, acculturating, isomorphism, etiology, inveigle, fecund, gambrel, panacea, ganglion, polonaise, uxorious, mullein

east end girl

It hit me the other day that, without recognizing it, I have been crossing a bridge of sorts, where the bridge = how a certain kind of music makes me feel. 

Around 2015 that I got really into a few different artists whose work shares this sound. I started a playlist, adding everything I could find along those lines. The playlist grew to include stuff that was different stylistically, but which still evokes the same emotional response in me. All more or less the same tempo and mood. It's music for feeling and falling; for adventures in oxytocin. It's 30+ hours long. Talk about optimism.

I can't remember a time in the past five or six years that this particular style of music hasn't been inextricably linked to being with someone, and feeling intimate, connected, and close. For that reason it's always something of a trigger, when I am solo. But the other night at some point my Spotify veered off in that direction and I didn't even notice. And when I did, rather than my heart seizing up it just...kept beating. I didn't feel sad at all, just relaxed and maybe a touch nostalgic. And that is amazing. 

So apparently, these are the endposts of the bridge I've been on:

loneliness <------------- music feels ------------> contentment 

And how nice to discover I'm closer to the the eastern end of that bridge. 

the toehold of truth

Have you ever been stuck on something, trapped in some negative headspace you can't get out of? It feels like you've fallen in a cold, dark well. And you pass your days just staring up at the sunlight, where everyone else is going about their lives, and you wish you could be up there, too. But instead you're down in the Well of Rumination. The Hole of Non-Acceptance. The Chasm of Spiraling Negativity. 

It's a horrid spot. Zero stars. Would not recommend. 

Your brain works furiously to get you out, because you love yourself and recognize that it's an unhealthy place to be. You reach for any thought that can act as a foothold or a handhold, to help you climb out. Most of my footholds seem sturdy at first, but turn out to be useless. They crumble under the weight of truth, because they aren't genuine. They're spin. 

An unsure toehold is a thought you can circle back to a hundred times, but in the end isn't going to make you feel any better. That's because deep down, you know it's either untrue or besides the point.

A secure toehold shines like the truth: gleaming, golden, guaranteed to hold your weight. But just like real-life climbing, you've got to the do the work to reach it. You have to stretch (your mind), be flexible (in your beliefs), and have faith in your footing. 

Hook your heart on honesty and you'll be back in the sun soon. 

there is this person

This person thrives on negativity. On bubble bursting and undercutting other peoples' happiness. He will pointedly ignore your successes and joys, but will quickly zero in on and talk up your mistakes. 

This person is dishonest, always exaggerating the dumbest things to make circumstances more dramatic. This person craves a big, shocked response from his audience and will manipulate the facts to get it. 

This person lies. He lies to cover his poor behavior. He lies to elicit pity. He lies for personal gain.

This person is chronically self-absorbed but totally lacking in self-awareness. He has no interest in the lives of others but will buttonhole anyone he can with anecdotes and images from his own life. He hijacks every conversation to make it about himself. 

This person gossips. He never heard a second or third-hand rumor he didn't instantly, compulsively share with everyone he could, without giving a thought to the fallout. 

This person is lazy. He passes every possible task and responsibility he can onto others. Sometimes it's to cover for his ineptitude and lack of knowledge; sometimes he just can't be bothered. He puts in the absolute bare minimum of time and effort and care, and takes full advantage of how little oversight there is of this. 

This person is jealous. He is envious of the resources, freedoms, successes, and talents of others, and finds ways to passively thwart them. He resents having to help anyone achieve anything that he won't get a piece of. 

This person is a phony. He's the type that feigns a zen, highly evolved state of being but it's all fake. He's an anger addict and a control freak, and has irreparably damaged relationships because of it. 

This toxic person has been a temporary fact of my life, until today. And tbh, I'm pretty proud of having survived my proximity to him with my dignity intact. 

The rain feels so good and so right tonight. 

per curiam

For months now I've been seeing a star get bigger and brighter and closer, until I finally realized it's not a star at all. It's a gavel coming down, fueled by finality so sure it's splitting the sky in half.  

Every night the courtroom assembles on my ceiling. The jury troops in, exhausted by evidence that doesn't sway them as much as emotion, no matter how many times it is trotted out for their review. A judge in heavy black robes presides, a faceless ghost whose ruling will set no one free, anyway. 

And you. You shuffle in, locked in chains whose weight and shame have somehow transferred to me. 

And I. I lay pinned on my back, listening, learning nothing of use as you plead the fifth for the sixth, seventh, eighth, ninth time. 

We represent ourselves, or at least pretend to, two souls already jailed by our own devices. And every night I wait for you to object. And every night I watch your face for some sign of protest. But silence is the only argument you have to make, and I have no choice but to allow it. 

a sweet sixteen

Hey, hi. Are you staying safe and sane? Did you have a good week? Mine was a bit of a rollercoaster. 

Ye olde deprefsionne has been pretty relentless most of this month. It hit a recent low on Wednesday night when I lay curled around my phone in bed, absolutely racked, tearfully listening to Biden's Lincoln Memorial speech. But that was some Churchill-on-the-Victrola London blitz shit as far as I'm concerned, and I ate it up. I found myself silently pledging: Yes, okay, grandpa. I will hang on a little longer. Fuck, okay, I promise. 

(It's been a time.)

But then the next morning, out of nowhere, a full pendulum swing in the opposite direction. Thursday began with awesome work-related news and the hits just kept coming. One of those great days in the midst of a rough patch that makes you say Ah yes, this is why we keep the faith and arise once more from the bath mat after a crying spell! Existence is occasionally tolerable!

So I'm making a list and loving it twice, of all the positive things from the week that I can think of. 

1. Got some news from my boss that I can't share yet, but suffice to say I can rest easy about what's coming down the line. Gonna be a busy, challenging spring - but I'm gonna be okay.

2. Cameron, my madly creative friend who always has about ten red-hot irons in the fire, put in a big push on one of his projects. He put together a visual compendium of the concept that explains it simply and beautifully. And it is so clever, and has so much potential, and I'm doing everything I can to help him get it off the ground. We are both super stoked.

3. Erin came home!...for a few weeks, anyway. We had a huge catchup session and holy god was it great to see my friend. She and her mom (who sent me a gift basket with, among other treats, homemade Chex mix) are now actively campaigning for me, too, to move back to the Midwest. Alas, I do not have a job waiting for me, managing a gorgeous inn in Amish country (!), and I don't think California is quite done with me yet...

4. Stopped by my own (temporarily closed) store, ran into some acquaintances I haven't seen in a minute. Is there anything better than hearing your name yelled from across the room followed by "We were just talking about you!" I'm sure there is, but in that moment, I couldn't have told you what it is. I have desperately needed socialization, and connecting with them was delightful.

5. I bought a moka pot! Every year or so I change up my caffeine source, because I think it's important to keep my addictions fresh. And right now I'm all about the espresso. I got a 3-cup white Grosche Milano and I'm in love. It's so tiny, so easy to use and clean up, and such a lovely little morning ritual. 

6. My buddy Steve landed a large and lucrative contract. He, like me, battles the Depression Demons, so I'm so thrilled for his big win. 

7. Jen Psaki. That's it. That's the item. 

8. Positive California COVID cases are, apparently, actually going down. What light on yonder horizon breaks? or if you prefer, What bed in yonder ICU vacates?

9. Got the most incredibly kind and encouraging letter from a reader. I couldn't even read it all at once; I'd get through one complimentary sentence and my imposter syndrome would yank me back into a chokehold. Eventually I finished and I haven't stopped floating since. 

10. Ordered a full-length mirror from Wayfair which came *just* messed up enough (on the back, not visible, doesn't bother me a bit) to get that sweet 20% off "damaged during shipping" discount but not so messed up that it needs to be returned. Score!

11. Heard unexpectedly from my friend Jamie in NYC who I haven't seen in years, but with whom I have the most elegant repartee. You know those friends, and those exchanges. The best. 

12. It's been grey most of the day, which energizes me, emotional goth that I am. I'm such a fish out of water in this state, ugh. 

13. I made a lil dance video! I wanted to do something to commemorate the election with my own personal moment of celebration. And it's cute but it was a very cloudy and windy night, and I kinda want to redo it and post a better version where the skyline is more clear. But it was hella fun to trespass, wait until I was sure no security was around, and then just fucking blast my music, consequences be damned. (There were no consequences. No one saw. No one cared.) 

14. No less that three sweet pups climbed all over me when I met them for the first time, in various situations this week. Nothing, nothing, nothing better. I always walk away from petting a dog and immediately sigh - I can literally feel my blood pressure drop, instantly. 

15. Today I learned the word Icarian, which means what you think it does, and which I absolutely love and can't wait to use. 

16. My cousin texted me tonight, which was a lovely surprise. He's the only relative I have any contact with. We only reconnected recently, and we still keep a respectful distance from one another (the drama in my extended family runs deep and very, very dark), but we've always been simpatico and eventually I think we'll get close again. 

6 ways to shake off the last 4 years

1. Sit in the bathtub with the shower running above you. Think back to 2016, to the feelings of disbelief and dread that settled in the day after the election. Meditate (briefly) on every sickening thing you can think of, that Trump and his administration did. As the water hits your skin and drains away, let the toxicity of his presidency drain away, too. It's finally fucking over

2. Cull some of your news-related follows on Twitter: the journalists, pundits, and wonks who've helped keep you sane. Stop taking in the exhausting 24-hour a day news cycle. The grownups are in charge again. You can relax. 

3. Explore non-political interests on social media like science, the arts, or some other aspect of American culture that doesn't elicit twice-hourly commentary from Maggie Haberman. 

4. Lighten your news podcast load. Give yourself permission to be blissfully ignorant, for a time, about current events. Switch the channel of your attention to literally anything else.

5. Dedicate yourself to a new personal project, perhaps in honor of the breathtaking scope of problems that the new administration must tackle. Biden and Co. have to fix an economy, eradicate a pandemic, and stave off a civil war. You can make a Chatbook.

6. Celebrate. Bake a cake. Get fucked up. Grab your tripod, speaker, and iPad, and trespass somewhere the city skyline makes a great backdrop for your own private dance party. Or, like, whatever works for you. 

big love

There is a question that's been on my mind more and more lately, a consequence of the pandemic having led me down a path of introspection about what I want from life moving forward. It's a decision I have to make, that, in the scheme of things, is among the biggest and most important I'll ever make. 

I'm talking of course about what kind of dog to get next.

I've known from the earliest days of having Chaucer that I was forever after going to want big dogs, and only big dogs. There's just nothing comparable for me. It isn't only about having something large enough to wrap my arms around, to feel the whole length of my body against when we snuggle - though that is a visceral comfort I miss every single day. Having a giant dog makes a sort of statement about you and your place in the world. I don't mean in some classist way, like Look at me, I can afford this expensive beast with the appetite of four regular-sized dogs. 

Having a giant dog is a way of unapologetically taking up more space in the world - of taking up space for two. And if you raise your dog right, and your dog is right for you, it's also a way of creating a unique, endless source of energy. Big love, if you will. Big, inescapable, unavoidable, unmissable love. Love that goes with you everywhere you take your dog. Love that gets attention, and amazement, and smiles, and laughter. Love that rolls out a sort of red carpet of joy, everywhere you walk together. Love that creates an incredible feedback loop: 

A stranger loves your giant dog. 

You love the stranger for loving your giant dog. 

Dog is happy. Stranger is happy. You're happy. It's suddenly a beautiful moment of interspecies connection, here on the sidewalk, on an otherwise unremarkable Tuesday afternoon. 

I know, of course, that this kind of delight has the potential to be created by every loving pet owner. All dogs get admired, get fussed over and pet by strangers. But when you've got a really big dog, it's never ending. Every walk, every visit, every interaction. There's no hiding your pup. There's no scooping him up into your arms, or scuttling him out of the way. He's there, he's a bear, get used to it. 

In ten years of having Chaucer, I always acknowledged that not everyone is charmed by dogs, period, much less ones sized like horses. But when they are? When someone comes into your life that adores your massive beast as much as you? That. That is an incredibly powerful thing. In fact every single relationship I was in during my Chaucer years was hugely colored by their relationship with him. 

The way to my heart was (and will be, again) through my dog's, and though this was an implicit rather than explicit corollary to a relationship with me, I'm sure all my boyfriends knew this. I'm sure they all sensed that they were being heavily graded on how much genuine affection, care, and patience they showed Chaucer. Truly, half the reason I stayed with one boyfriend as long as I did was because he was unbelievably good to Chaucer. And half the reason I got over another in < two weeks was how obviously lukewarm his affection had been for my best canine friend. I never forgot it. 

Anyway, I'm going to get a Great Dane. 

I've somewhat surprised myself with this conclusion. I'd pretty much ruled them out, due to life span. I was looking at a range of large and giant breeds, many of them rare, European, and probably incredibly difficult to get. I explored mixed breeds, too, and wow are there some absolutely gorgeous hybrid pups out there. I've weighed everything: temperament, health, lifespan, sociability, grooming requirements, climate requirements, living space requirements. I thought about another mastiff, but even a different variety (a Neopolitan, for instance) would be too close to Chaucer. And Chaucer is irreplaceable. Chaucer will stand alone for the rest of my life as the thing that saved my life. As the great love of my life. Out of respect to him, I don't want to even try to replicate that experience. So, something different. And at some future date I'll post about what cemented my choice for a Dane.

It's not going to happen anytime soon. There are things that need to be in place before I can do it. I have big plans for myself, for the next five years. And slowly, step by step, I'm working towards creating a life that once again has the resources - and the room for - big love.

because you didn't, I did

For today's lockdown activity, I wrote an alt-country song. The lyrics to one, anyway. 

---

I'm staring at the white space bottom left of my last blue

But there's no three dots, no grey bubble transmission coming through

And the basket with your boxers doesn't have as much to say

As the snapshots that you strung above the pillows where we played


And the tie dye that you twisted stained a lot more than my shirt

Like checkered shoes, pacific eyes, like blackouts soft and blurred

I've been waiting for so long to hear the song I thought I earned

But it seems there's none forthcoming, so this is what I've learned


All the things you love

And all the things you hate

Stay bottled up until it's bottoms up

And then it's much too late


And you can buy more keyboards

And you can remix lies

But what's the point of keeping up

A songwriter's disguise?


You packed up all your baggies, took your Herschels and my heart

Found a forest cold and clean where you can make a brand new start

And someday maybe sunshine and my love will bring you back

Until then here's to finding and then writing a new track


Cuz all the things you love

And all the things you hate

Stay bottled up until it's bottoms up

And you can't think or see straight


And you can stitch new patches

On pants you've long outgrown

But you're much too good a tailor

To tear up what's been sewn 

in which I prettify my life choices

Four years ago I couldn't have edited a spreadsheet if my life depended on it. Then I got a job involving a fair amount of accounting and tracking of inventory, and I had to at least learn the basics. Eventually I started making small, aesthetic changes to the Excel and Google sheets that my company had been using for years. 

I got hooked on spreadsheets same way that learning a little bit of HTML led me to launching Rainy Day Templates (RIP). Colors and fonts and spacing, oh my. Over time I redid all of my store's SOPs, checklists, order guides, purchase journals, menu matrices, special request forms, etc to be easier to read and (imho) much better looking.  

Anyway, all of this dovetailed with my growing interest in and efforts towards self-improvement, and I now have a small collection of spreadsheets for budgeting, time management, and habit and goal tracking. I find I'm much more likely to stick to a plan if I have a cool-looking sheet on which to stay accountable. 

And I figured I'd start sharing my templates, in case anyone wants them? New year's resolutions and so forth.

So here's my super simple food journal template, with a monthly and a weekly tab to choose from, and locked days/dates and meals, to easily move the data around. Totally editable, so have at it, but it currently looks like this:



not sure if honeybees or murder hornets

There is this one moment that won't go away. 

Remembering that moment is like waking to a dozen pairs of gossamer wings on my skin. Each fluttering detail of the scene - the diffused light of the room, the cloud white comforter we swam in - lands lightly at first. Then your face comes more clearly into view, and I feel again the way you would grab my arm or my leg to wrap around you, to always keep me close. And suddenly the soft touch of thought becomes a hundred blistering bee stings.

I breathe through it. It ends. It's okay. I'm okay. 

Bees are important to all ecosystems, and I don't want my memories of you to collapse. I just want to bottle the honey, honey, and not have a hive for a heart.

well, this plot point sucks

I mentioned before that my friend Erin, currently visiting family in Ohio, was either going to land her dream job and stay in LA - or land an awesome but different job in Ohio, and move back there. 

Welp.

                 


I know that the fact that literally everyone I get close to in this godforsaken city moves away eventually isn't about me. But good grief. Here we go again. The list of defectors just grows and grows.

Anyway. "Room for something new in my life" blah blah blah sigh. 

two tricks

for practicing being in the present moment

The other day while walking through Koreatown, I passed a long stretch of rose bushes that ran alongside an apartment building. The flowers were lush and white, and any of them would have complemented a bud vase beautifully. Some blooms were slightly withered, however, or had dropped enough petals to become slightly lopsided. Others were imperfect in some indescribable way, in some minor aspect of their shape or shade. 

As I walked by, I made a game of quickly picking a favorite from each cluster. I didn't slow my pace, so only had a split second to scan them over and choose. That one. That one. That. There, that one. It made me smile, the simple silly fun of it. A dozen tiny moments of concentration and consideration. Could be replicated, scaled up anywhere if you, like me, are working on staying out of your head and in the physical world around you. 

for breaking an association

Flowers again. 

Have you ever had a positive attachment to a thing that was also painfully attached to another thing? A song you love that reminds you of someone you've lost. A name you like "ruined" by someone awful who has it as theirs. A fondness you had for some place that, in your mind, became paired with a bad experience.

Picture a florist's walk-in cooler, with a dozen vases filled with mixed blooms. Any one of those flowers is a beautiful thing on its own, and any one is interchangeable with the others. Your associations are those flowers; they don't have to be fixed. Mix them up. Move them around. You have the power to create new, even better arrangements. 

shelter-at-home recap volume 1

1. Attempted this copycat recipe of See's butterscotch squares. Massive fail. 

2. Watched with fascination as John Scott-Railton uses crowdsourcing to first degradingly nickname, then ID, the Capitol rioters on Twitter. 

3. Listened endlessly to this super sexy Sultan + Shepard track. And this even sexier one. 

4. Moved my couch and desk into the kitchen to create a mini roller rink in my loft (on my Insta).

5. Read this piece and wished for about the 100th time I could write like Caitlin Flanagan.

---

Psst, it's a word, look:


one 'peach, two 'peach

I just read the full text of the Article of Impeachment against Trump. Not sure why I did that, but it was strangely therapeutic. Just an exhaustively comprehensive analysis of how his months of lying led to the attack on the Capitol. For verily, he that fucketh around shall findeth out. 

Also, did you know that Members (as in of Congress) and Framers (as in of The Constitution) both get capitalized?

Anyway, here's a quiz:

Which of the following is an actual footnote from the document?

A) See Chris Sommerfeldt, Pro-Trump rioters smeared poop in U.S. Capitol hallways during belligerent attack, NY Daily News (Jan. 7, 2021)

B) Alexander Hamilton, The Federalist Papers: No. 1.

C) Michael Levenson, Steve Inskeep, Ben Sasse Rips Trump For Stoking Mob, Calls Josh Hawley's Objection 'Really Dumbass', NPR (Jan. 8, 2021).

D) All of the above

If you answered D, congratulations, you have correctly appraised the surreality of US politics, circa 2021. Your prize is getting to explain all of this to your grandkids. 

the me I made

I woke up today, as I do on all my days off, supercharged with positivity, happily anticipating all things I was going to accomplish. But then, not knowing how or why I even got there, I was suddenly opening cabinets in my mind that I know hold nothing good. I'm not sure what I was looking for. Checking to see if my many faults and failures are still there, I guess. They are, of course. Shiny and ready for review as ever. I don't even need to polish them. They are tarnish proof. 

It was a rough hour. And though I clawed my way out of the hole, dragged myself to my laptop to be mildly creative for a minute, I'm realizing that I probably need to admit to myself that In General, I am Not Doing So Hot Lately. And that it would probably feel good to stop fighting it. To accept the clouds brewing overhead, knowing they'll pass eventually. Maybe even write about the clouds, and the various bits of rain gear I'm relying on? I think that would help. 

I'll start with self-talk.

Everyone engages in self-talk, which doesn't necessarily come through as a conscious, clear message to yourself. Your self-talk exists in your beliefs about the world, and your place in it. It manifests in your choices, micro and macro. Your self-talk will bubble up, unbidden, in moments of sadness, anger, disappointment. There's really no stopping it.

My own version of radical (read: weird) self talk is a product of the pandemic, no question. It was born of a confluence of physically and emotionally stressful factors. Going to work in an open, public space at a time when I'd imbued the virus with absolute superpowers of viability and transmissibility. Getting on a train with strangers whose respiratory functions I couldn't control. Being penned up in a tiny apartment, in a filthy building with trashy, unmasked neighbors perpetually clustered on the front stoop. Dancing in and out of an intoxicating, but sometimes toxic, relationship. Not being able to see friends, some of who eventually left the city altogether. Suffering through another scorching summer on foot. 

Last year was a fucking ride

And it was lonely. That's the thing that really killed me: the loneliness, despite ostensibly having a boyfriend and a tiny army of amazing, supportive friends. But everyone has had their own COVID cross to bear. Everyone has been occupied by their own problems, their own stresses and fears. One of the awful things that the pandemic has done has sequestered us with our own pain.

So at some point, I got deadly fucking serious about self-soothing, because if I didn't, I wouldn't have made it. At some point, when there was - yet again - no one around to keep me company or comfort me through a difficult moment, I did consciously what people sometimes do subconsciously, under extreme mental duress: I sort of...duplicated myself. 

I duplicated myself, but just once. We're not talking Sybil Redux here. Just one more me, but better. Stronger. More capable. Calmer. The me I made is fucking awesome. She always knows exactly what to say. Her tone of voice is always perfect; her words always the precise ones I need to hear. She is endlessly patient and compassionate. She is by my side when I'm slogging home at midnight because there was a service interruption on the train and I've had to walk the last 30 minutes through some sketchy fucking stretches of the city, utterly exhausted, with ugly thoughts creeping into my head about what failings, what disastrous life choices must have led me to this point. She bats that shit away quickly, reminding me not to trip out on temporary circumstances. She always has on hand a list of my emotional accomplishments - of the absolute bonkers shit I have survived, from the deaths of my entire family, a wackadoodle marriage to a sociopath, another abusive relationship or two, a batshit boss who attacked me, massive swings of financial fortune, health issues, friends leaving etc etc etc. You're a fucking badass, she says. Who do you know who's even been through 1/10th of what you have, and come out as strong?

She's there every night to do a gratitude post-mortem on the day, so I go to bed in a positive mindset. I list out everything I can call a win, every pleasant or fun interaction, every healthy habit I stuck to, every last little achievement. She's there when, on my days off, my sense of direction stalls out, and I feel bored or uninspired. At those times she nudges me back towards the things I love, reminding me that starting is the hardest part. She's there when something triggers me and I start to spiral. At those times she's like a nanny minding a child, shooing me away from negative thoughts as if they were broken glass on the sidewalk, or something gross washed up on the beach. 

Basically she is my perfectly crafted personal cheerleader, parent, friend, and adoring, supportive boyfriend rolled into one. And as she reminds me in the almost unbearably dark moments: she's not going anywhere.

I told you. Next level self-talk. Oh and I forgot to mention: more often than not, I do this out loud. So be assured how ever much you think you've lost it this last year, or might lose it - know that I lost it first, and harder.

walkies



Someday I will look back on these days and remember fondly my epic pedestrian commute. I wouldn't do it if was summer. I wouldn't do it if there wasn't a pandemic. But right now there isn't much else to do, anyway. The extra time that I would otherwise burn up doom scrolling on Twitter, or puttering anxiously around my apartment, worrying about ______, ruminating on _____ are now spent on a mini marathon of daily walking. I come home each night totally wiped out and ready to fall into bed. Whatever's on my mind is forced to march alongside me during these hours. More than enough time for examination and, as needed, escalation or dismissal. 

That being said, when my location reopens and I'm back to a 10 minute walk - that will be fucking great, too.

thirteen days


I will be amazed if he's removed from office early, if he's impeached again or if Pence gets strong-armed into invoking the 25th. I will truly be amazed if he faces any significant consequences at all, because if the last four years has shown me anything, it's that with few exceptions (ilu Katie Porter) American politics is purely performative. 

And I really don't like to admit to myself how much his presidency has affected me emotionally, because I work really hard at not letting others intrude on my inner peace. But holy fuck has he intruded. Holy fuck has he sickened me in a way that, I think, has a lot to do with my good luck at having lived through four decades of relatively boring presidents. Presidents whose even most reprehensible social, economic, and military policies were somehow muted by virtue of their comparative normalcy

But this motherfucker. This lying, narcissistic sociopath and his coterie of evil sycophants. I have been counting down the days until the rotten lot of them are removed from my daily experience of my country and my culture. And it's almost over. 

Biden wasn't my first choice. He wasn't my second or third, either. But I have slowly been falling in love with my new grandpa Joe, if for nothing more than his calming, reassuring, measured way of speaking to me. And I will dance - I will literally dance with joy - the day he is securely stationed at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue and the above counter reads nothing but some big, fat, beautiful zeros

2020 catchup

Greetings from the literal COVID-19 hotspot of the world. Don't worry, I'm triple masking for your protection. And if you're wondering if LA is really as bad as it looks on the news, be assured it is much, much worse. But I'll come back to that. 

I'm starting this post on January 1, 2021, sending a dispatch from a desk that was sadly quiet last year. I figured I'd write an interesting-to-no-one catchup post and then, being the cliche that I am, rededicate myself to more frequent posting this year. 

work

The company I work for (a restaurant and butchery that sources from our own farm) had already begun to move into the delivery game before the pandemic. So when lockdowns started happening, we just pivoted to that entirely. On top of our restaurant menu, we added some pantry staples. We made it so that you could buy pretty much everything we sell on DoorDash, UberEats, PostMates etc etc. My entire life became managing 17 different smart tablets. So many tablets. Tablets tablets tablets. Tablets that had to be monitored, updated, checked, and rechecked all day long. Tablets that glitched and froze, that shorted out in the extreme heat of the market, that regularly died at the worst possible times. I was a tabletherder, tending my flock of sensitive electronic sheep. I wanted to throw them all in the fucking LA River most days - but they were what kept me in a job. So thank you, tablets. 

My company also created an app, and we outsource the delivery for those orders to PostMates. All this to say that when foot traffic to our locations dried up entirely (because people were either not allowed or too scared to leave their homes for food), we had the means to stay afloat. 

I want to say a thing about my work here, and how incredibly lucky I have been. No one would envy me the glamour of managing a small restaurant. But holy shit is my company amazing. Holy shit are my bosses that absolute best. When everything started to unravel in March, before anyone really knew what we were dealing with, my boss's boss - the director of the company - came to me and asked me what I wanted to do. He gave me the choice to stay open, to close, to stay partially open, to just run delivery and kill walk-up service - to do whatever I felt comfortable with. We stayed open, but after a couple of weeks, all the news had me so wound up and terrified that I asked to take a couple of weeks to work minimally, and do as much as my administrative work as possible from home. For two weeks, every few days, I snuck into my store at 5am, before anyone was around, to do my accounting and ordering. I was given a four figure belated Christmas bonus so I could afford to do this. Like I say, my company is amazing. And I wasn't the only one being appreciated; in mid-summer, every hourly employee in my company who'd worked from the start of the pandemic was given a permanent hazard pay raise.

Our location stayed up and running all spring, summer, and through fall. At first I was legitimately terrified every time I left my house. Every cough I heard coming from an open apartment window on the overcrowded street where I lived (still in Koreatown, at that time) convinced me that I'd be dead within days. Every ambulance wail, every too-close co-rider on the subway set my nerves on edge. Then the city really shut down and no one was out and about - and then, then it became weirdly thrilling to be the only person in the train car. The lone soul walking through the heart of downtown to work. It was apocalyptic and eerie, but there being essentially no one around, I felt safe. 

Cut to the last day of November, and my boss and the head of HR pay me a surprise visit to say they're shutting my store down temporarily, at least until outdoor dining is allowed again. I've spent the past five weeks working at our West Hollywood location, at first filling in for a COVID case, then covering for the GM who's taking his PTO, and after that I'll just be there a few days a week to support.

Wondering how the fuck I get to West Hollywood without a car? Combination of train, walking, and scooter pass. If it was summer I'd hate my life. But every day I walk through gorgeous Hancock Park, get tons of fresh winter air, podcast/book listening time, and exercise (~23k steps a day), and I fucking love it. My legs are absolutely unreal, like I haven't seen them look like this since I was 25, and yes I know that's the dumbest thing in the world to care about right now but silver linings, people. 

LA

If you don't live in LA right now, please take a moment to be thankful. It is so bad. So, so bad. And I say this as someone who spends a lot of time walking through some of the most impoverished areas of the city. All of Wilshire between mid-city and downtown is now a second Skid Row. Homeless camps and tents everywhere. Koreatown is in shambles. Many, many businesses in downtown, mid-city, and even the eastern parts of WeHo are still shuttered and boarded up, if not gone under entirely. It is so bleak, and rips my heart out daily. The homeless have always used the subways as shelters, but now it's at a level I've never seen. Dozens of bodies in sleeping bags, all around the downtown stations. It's the only place that's warm at night. I live across from a food bank that has lines around the block several days a week. It's gut-wrenching. 

People are desperate and angry. The streets are full of the mentally ill, the dangerously unstable, the displaced energies of those without homes or jobs or food. I have never been aggressively cat-called or straight up verbally abused - for no fucking reason whatsoever - as much as I have in the past six months. Men who I don't even glance at have randomly screamed obscenities or explicit invitations at me, with absolutely no provocation. I won't walk through downtown or enter the subway without EDM blasting in my ears anymore. I'm pretty tough about all of this, and I learned my lesson about engaging with these nuts a couple of years ago when I was attacked -- but sometimes I come home and feel so defeated and lonely, and just wish there was someone to hold me and stroke my hair during this insanely dark time.

love life

Which brings me to the fact there is no one on to hold me and stroke my hair during this insanely dark time. 

Kenny and I kept it going all spring and summer, despite our occasional very painful hiccups. We had some absolutely unreal times, getting together and hiding from the world for a few days at a time in my beautiful new place downtown. I took him to the forest for his birthday in September, and that was kind of the last of it. After that things just went downhill. He's got some stuff to figure out, some pretty big demons to slay, and in November he moved out of state to be with family again. I was gutted. Then time passed, and I realized that we had more than his demons between us. We had fundamental failures of communication, respect, consideration, and care. They would take a lot of work, to work out. I don't know. I miss him. It's a hard thing. 

friends

My two closest LA friends, Erin and Costa, both lost their jobs in the pandemic. 

After his second layoff, Costa moved back to Nebraska. Every ten years or so I grow close with a guy with whom I'm so simpatico that it's ridiculous. Costa is one of those guys. We just exist on the exact same wavelength, and it's glorious. I miss him terribly but we talk all the time. I had tentative plans to go see him this winter, but I think I need to be a smart squirrel and save my nuts right now. In the meantime I enjoy living vicariously through his adventures. His life is full of friends and trips and fearless forward motion and it inspires me greatly.

Erin, who lost her job in the spring, also lost her father to an aneurysm this summer. This is after a breakup of an 11-year relationship at the end of 2019. Fucking brutal. She spent most of 2020 back home in Ohio with family. Right now she's in NYC interviewing for her dream job, which, if she gets, would actually be back here in downtown LA. If she gets it, that would be a massive fucking win for her, not to mention keep her in my 'hood - so I'm rooting hard. If she doesn't land the job, she will most likely move back to Ohio in March.   

Cameron and I text daily, and my buddy Steve up in Sacramento has been killing it (he got into body scanning machines early in the pandemic and is making a fortune). 

Other than that, I have a few local friends I see or talk with occasionally. But yeah, most of my besties are gone or soon to be, most likely. 

It's a shitty fucking time, generally. 

me

There have been good things, though. The pandemic, and being alone and scared so many nights, forced me to learn some serious self-soothing techniques. My self-talk is unrecognizable from what it was just a couple of years ago. I'm taking better care of myself physically than I ever have, and my diet has completely changed. Tons of greens, almost no meat, and I've managed to make foods I didn't think I even liked staples: quinoa, chia seeds, spinach, kombucha. I feel (and think I look) healthier than I have in years, which is an awesome footnote to an otherwise crap year.

And I guess that's a good stopping point, for now? Let's see if I can come up with starting points, next. 

Happy 2021. I missed talking to you.