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.