das bunker at Union

Good morning! How stupid was your Friday night? Not very? Well, please to enjoy this five-part comic strip about how stupid mine was:

It was pretty fun, despite there being a few highly aggressive nerd-bros there. Nearly everyone made at least some attempt at dressing up, and many went all out. 

Didn't stay long because Timo and I have an early SATURDAY date to go hiking. SATURDAY. As in the day after Friday. AMAZING. In fact he's going to be here shortly so I'mma hit publish, slam some coffee, and go get ready.

Happy SATURDAY!!!

current struggles

For whatever reason, I feel compelled to write up a list of some of the things I'm struggling with right now. Just put them out there, see if setting them free will maybe loosen their grip on me. Worth a shot.

1. My therapist dumped me. Okay, he didn't dump me. That's completely inaccurate and unfair. It just amuses me to put it that way. The fact is he's moving in a different direction, career-wise, and therefore winding down his private practice. I don't know all the details, honestly. Once I learned he wouldn't be available to me anymore I sort of stopped listening, childishly. But it's hard. I can't help but be deeply disappointed and a little hurt. We'd only just begun, but I felt great about where we were headed. And while I know it doesn't make any sense - and again, isn't fair - I feel like my trust has been betrayed. I don't know at what point he knew he'd no longer be practicing but I suspect it had to have been while he was seeing me. I don't know.

I know I need to pick myself back up and start looking for someone new, but right now I feel too bitter about how this attempt worked out. I need a little time to get over it. 

2. I am in one of those stupid fucking neighbor feuds that I somehow always find myself in. It's a long, dumb story, but the short of it is that my neighbor's friend stole all the doormats on our floor as a prank, while my neighbor watched and didn't do anything. My own mat was a cheap one from Target. I don't give a shit about the mat, other than the annoyance of having to replace it. But I also suspect these idiots of stealing a UPS package and something from my laundry. There are security cameras trained on my door, so somewhere footage of the theft exists...but my building manager is an imbecile (albeit a very likable one, admittedly), so I doubt I'll ever find out anything. 

3. I feel shut off (shut out?) from the creative parts of myself. I blame this on lack of time, and lack of inspiration. To that end I'm trying to schedule in writing and reading sessions, and I'm even thinking about picking Instagram back up. More than anything, though, I need to get out and about in the world again. Be sparked. All I do is work, go home, go to back work, go home, maybe tool around running errands on my days off, then go back home. Before going back to work. 

It's untenable, terrible for my soul, and has to stop.

There is of course my relationship with Timo and all that is wonderful about that. But I am a bit gun shy when it comes to blogging about boyfriends. Those have historically been some of the sharpest daggers thrown at me, fairly or not. 

4. I need community, very badly. I'm lonely. My whole mess of shitty, shitty choices last year left many of my friendships in shreds. I'm not sure they're repairable, though every once in a while I get brave enough to try again. I dunno. It's hard to think about, or write about. 

FEEL THE SUNNY VIBES RADIATING OFF THE PAGE. FEEL THEM.

and now a boring one

I wrote a post a couple of weeks ago that I pulled a day after I published it. I pulled it because when I re-read it, it struck me as a little smug. I hate when I sound self-satisfied. I am rarely, if ever, satisfied with myself.

I also really dislike writing general update posts. They strike me as terribly uncreative and boring. Then again, it feels elliptic to skate past so much time without a word about how things have been going.

So I'm going to try again. Some of this might be repetitive, and for that I apologize.

In February, I was granted a promotion and a raise, and my hours were extended to full-time. I'm now "floor lead," which just means that I'm the face of management, when management isn't there. Discounts, voids, comps, and any customer service issues are my responsibility. None of that is ever a problem, because I genuinely love dealing with people. The crowd that visits my work is generally awesome and very friendly. Lots of regulars, lots of wide-eyed and enthusiastic tourists.

My hourly wage is low, but after tips I earn more than I actually would at an admin job. That sounds crazy, I know, but it's true. The place where I work offers dine-in and take out options, and the menu is pricy. Factor in the cost of drinks and checks add up fast. We also use iPad registers which prompt guests to tip at the end of transactions. Plus, the small size of the place allows me to work alone for most of my shifts, eliminating the need to share tips. Bottom line: it's a very, very good gig and I feel extremely lucky to have it.

Recently my manager has been giving me even more responsibility. I'm doing some invoicing, some purchase journaling, and when she's on vacation I'll handle a bit of product ordering as well. Whether this will result in another raise I don't know. The additional tasks are brand new, so we'll see. I do know that my GM is swamped with work, and not having an assistant GM makes it nearly impossible for her to get everything done. Which I suppose is why she and the kitchen manager have begun delegating to me some of their office work. It feels awesome to be trusted and relied upon, in this way.

The increase to full-time kicked my ass a little bit, and I spent several weeks adjusting. That's most of the reason I wasn't blogging. I'd come home and just fall on my bed, stare at my phone, and be incapable of much more than feeding myself before dozing off to a podcast. My days off were Tuesday and Wednesday, and on most days I worked, I wouldn't be home until 9, 10, or even 11pm.

Timo was incredibly patient and understanding during this time. Like...unbelievably so.

I started the job last fall, and as the restaurant's busiest days are on the weekend, immediately lost my Saturdays and Sundays to work. So the fact is, I haven't had a Saturday or Sunday off to spend with Timo since October. 

Back then I was working part-time, and we had four other servers on staff - so at any point I could have requested one of those weekend days off. But they were the money shifts. The post-election protest days were huge for us. I'd make over $300 on those days, in just tips. I didn't want to give them up. Just the pure exhilaration of earning my own money again - I couldn't get enough of it. I took as many shifts as I could pick up, covering for coworkers on a moment's notice, taking any overtime I could get. There was a stretch in December that I worked something like nine days in a row, took one off to move, then worked another seven. And I fucking loved it.

Then Timo came back from his holiday travels, we got back together, and started wanting to see one another more often. Only I wasn't exactly available. I still had no weekend time to share with him, and only a few hours late at night, on most weekdays. But rather than settle for next to nothing, he started working even harder to see me. He'd immediately put my work schedule into his calendar the day I got it. He'd take a change of clothes to work with him and then come to my place after he was finished at the office, going straight back to work in the morning. Or he'd stay up late in the middle of the week, waiting for me to get off and take the train to his house. He'd have food ready for me, candles in the shower, candy - whatever he thought would relax me and cheer me up, because most nights I was burned the fuck out. He'd juggle his own schedule and his own needs so we could start having mid-week date nights. He'd occasionally just take a day off in the middle of the week so we could see one another in daylight. In short he was an amazing boyfriend.

When I got the raise and the bump to full-time, I was able to relax a little, financially. Still I kept the same schedule, for next three months. During this time I felt extremely frustrated. Like my life was passing me by. I'd gotten away from everything that was important to me. I barely had any quality time with Timo, I wasn't writing or reading, I was hardly working out -- I really didn't feel connected to myself at all.

So, a couple of weeks ago, I finally spoke to my manager about making a change. She was completely understanding, as were my coworkers (there are only three of us servers, so we really have to cooperate and support one another). My coworkers agreed to small changes in their own schedules so that I could have Saturdays off, along with Thursdays. Plus I'm off early on Fridays and don't go in until the afternoon on Sunday. My "weekend" is split up, which isn't ideal in terms of recovery/relaxation...but it's a compromise I'm willing to make. My hours and days are more or less consistent, and I'm very happy with the shifts I have.

Today is my first Thursday off, on the new schedule. Saturday will be my first Saturday off in seven months. Timo and I are over the moon. We have a Google doc filled with things we want to do, places we want to go. Restaurants and events and overnights and day trips. I feel optimistic about my ability to start building back into my life the things that have gone missing from it.

Like this.

Soooo...hello again.

the clouds themselves

The 24-hour Korean spa that I visit a few days after it happens--my eyes puffy from lack of sleep, my shoulders sore from body-racking sobs--requires nudity.

I know this going in. I've read the reviews, I understand the etiquette. Still, it takes a few laps around the labyrinthian locker room to work up enough nerve to shed the uniform issued to me upon check-in: mustard yellow t-shirt, baggy khaki shorts, brown rubber flip flops so thin my ankle bones crackle on the hardwood floor. I'm pretty sure the ensemble is purposefully designed to be as ugly as possible, so patrons will want to ditch it.

A wall of paneled glass, closed off with curtains except for double doors on which are etched the rules, leads into the main spa area. Jacuzzi. Cold-water dipping pool. Sauna and steam room. These facilities are bookended by a series of standard showers on one side, and on the other, three rows of some other kind of bathing stalls that I don't quite understand. Short, tiled booths with detachable shower hoses and plastic stools for sitting. Something ritualistic and exotic about them intimidates me, makes me feel like a prudish outsider. As I walk past these washing stations with averted eyes, I expect to catch glimpses of grey hair, loose skin. Instead they are occupied by lithe young bodies and heads full of sleek black hair.

It's 1:00 am on a Saturday morning, and there are easily three or four dozen other women here. We're all naked. We're not all Korean.

He isn't with me here. There's no reason he ever would be in a place like this, so it's easier to forget him for a few minutes. Heartbreak doesn't exactly leave, but it abates, lessens to a dull throb. I press my shoulders hard against the dry wooden beams of the sauna. Sink my fingers as deeply as I can into warmed-up muscles. Breathe in, then out. Life goes on. You've been here before. There's no holding onto anything, or anyone.

A heavily-accented woman's voice pierces my thoughts and I realize I'm being summoned. The numbers she's calling out match the ones on the plastic, waterproof bracelet around my wrist. The bracelet serves as identification, and also syncs with the locker I've been assigned.

"Seven forty-tooo? Seven forty-tooooo?"

I emerge from the sauna with my hand raised, feeling sheepish and extraordinarily exposed. "Here! I'm here." Glances shoot my way which feel disdainful, though I'm probably imagining that.

The woman who leads me to the separate area where services such as massages, facials, and other treatments are administered is not naked. She is in fact wearing lingerie, or some approximation of it. Tiny black tap pants. A lacy black triangle bra. She's sixty if she's a day.

With a few impatient gestures I am directed to lay facedown on a vinyl massage table sheathed in clear plastic. My skin, hot from the sauna, sticks awkwardly to the plastic as I try to shift into a more comfortable, more dignified position. But I'll understand soon enough the reason for this prophylactic measure: the entire treatment area is tiled, with drains underneath each low-walled cubicle. When things get messy (which they will; I've opted for an oil-based massage), guests can simply be hosed off like elephants at the zoo. After a massage the acrobatics and detached intimacy of which confirm all my presuppositions, bucketfuls of warm water are dumped over me, washing away the oil, and with it the last of my worries. Or such is the idea. Alas.

Alas.

I don't linger long after the massage. One more quick round of the sauna and steam room, then I walk to the wall where I've stashed my t-shirt and shorts in a plastic bin At this point I'm no longer fazed by my own nudity. I don't face the wall as I dress. The place seems to have cleared out anyway. It's time to go home. There is no more putting it off. I remind myself that it will hurt a tiny little bit less every day, until it becomes bearable. But already my throat is thickening and my fingertips tingling. I think of his face and the pain makes me gasp.

Outfitted once more in my own clothes, I trudge up the stairs to turn in my wristband and check out. The cold night air is bracing and black and joyless I have a twenty minute walk ahead of me. My hair is wet and tangled, but I don't much care.

As I round the side of the building, I hear male voices and laughter issue from somewhere along the curbside, where every inch of precious Koreatown parking has been utilized. It's dark though, so I don't see the source until I'm directly next to it: two men sitting in the front seat of a beat-up mid-90s Nissan, the windows rolled down and passenger-side door swung wide open. The engine is off, as are the car's lights. I'm almost past the vehicle when one of them calls out.

"Hey, how's it going? How was the spa?"

Out of surprise more than friendliness, I stop, bending over to better see the strangers while still maintaining my distance. The faces that peer back at me are grinning and guileless. Both thirty-ish. One fair, one dark. Casually dressed. Well-groomed. Neither particularly bad-looking.

"Great," I reply. "First time. Place is a trip."

"Isn't it, though? Did you check out the rooftop?"

"No. I didn't even realize there was one."

"Oh yeah, and it's awesome. Co-ed floor is crazy, too."

"Co-ed floor? I didn't even know about the co-ed floor." Hearing this news, I feel I've failed somehow.

"Yeah, but you have to wear the uniform."

"Ah, okay," I say, as if consoled. I'm about to dismiss myself and press on when the two introduce themselves. Brian and Zack. We wave polite hellos in the moonlight.

"You seem nice. Do you want to smoke a joint with us, before we go in?"

There is no reason to say yes to this absurd invitation. Two strange men sitting in a beat-up car, in the middle of the night, on the fringes of Macarthur Park - a place I don't want to be even in daylight. But the thought of the alternative - that is, returning home and facing a fresh round of the shattering grief that awaits me there - eclipses my better judgment. And anyway, nothing about these guys reads predatory. My gut says go for it.

And so with a shrug at how fucking weird and wonderful the universe can be, I accept.

The three of us walk around to the front of the building, ambling and talking for another half block until we reach some stone benches underneath a tree. We're on Wilshire Boulevard, a busy thoroughfare. There's still a decent amount of traffic, even at this hour. I'm not concerned, though. I'm too busy trying to wrap my brain around the information I've just received: Brian and Zack are youth pastors.

At first I don't believe them. I accuse them of trolling me. But the pair is sincere. They've got stories. They've been doing it a long time. They've been friends a long time, too. They're aware of how odd a light their current behavior casts them in, and try to explain themselves more. I probe, genuinely fascinated. The more I learn, the more I suspect that neither is a true believer. It seems to be something they fell into by way of a charismatic church leader. The word "cult" floats through my brain, but I stay diplomatically silent. They've got weed, after all.

I'm not a pot smoker. It's just not my drug. It makes me dopey and slow and paranoid, and doesn't work well with my body chemistry. Leaves me feeling blah.

But blah is better than broken, so I take all three hits that are offered to me before thanking my benefactors profusely, and saying goodnight.

Okay. Well. 

The walk home is both interminable and fleeting. Once there I cast about for something to put my attention on. Can't read. Can't write. Want to talk to someone, but it's 2 am. There's always a chance Cameron's awake; he keeps crazy hours. I re-read our last few exchanges. Zero in on the message I sent a few hours after night it happened. Thursday, February 9th, at 3:02 am, when I found out that the news had been shared. My boyfriend had thoughtfully told one of my best friends, so I wouldn't have to say the words myself.

I'm sorry. I didn't know Timo was going to do that. I wanted to tell you myself.

Anyway.

It was bloat. The surgery would have been $6-8k. And he was 10. And I hadn't told you but he slipped really bad about a week ago and had been limping way worse than ever. 

I'm sorry you found out this way. 

He loved you so much. He loved Bailey, too.

I don't know what else to say right now.

It's never been so quiet. 

---

The night Chaucer died, the streets of Los Angeles were thick with fog.

LA is never foggy. The coast, sure. But never the city. In fact I'd never seen anything like it. I noticed it when I got off work: hazy streetlights and a slickness in the air. By the time Timo came over to hang out, you couldn't see twenty yards in front of you. Everything was shrouded, romantic and dramatic and mysterious. Sounds disappeared in the night.

Maybe Chaucer felt the strangeness. Maybe it tickled his senses, delighting him into being especially playful. Trotting more quickly down the dark alley beside my building, his passageway out for a walk. I don't know. Timo doesn't know, either. Both of us took him out that night, in pretty quick succession, because he hadn't gone potty after we fed him. Perhaps he was more keyed up, thanks to the weird weather, or because Timo was there.

He adored Timo.

There is no knowing exactly how or when it happened. If he jumped, or if he drank water too quickly. But it became clear pretty quickly that something was wrong. Retching. Heaving. He wouldn't settle. Wouldn't lay down. My increasing nervousness turning to panic, turning to dread in the backseat of the Uber we called when the 24-hour emergency vet said to bring him immediately.

I knew, of course. Not that it was bloat specifically but that something was very, very wrong. I just knew. And I held my sweet pup in the back of that car and stroked his shaking body, and just let silent tears pour down my face. And Timo reached back and squeezed my knee and I felt nothing, because the most beautiful part of me was dying, and I knew it.

---

It was foggy the night my best friend left the world.

Fog that wrapped itself around our car as we sped down the freeway, hiding everything from me except his perfect, sweet face. Fog that hugged the animal hospital like soft cotton, muffling cries that tore through me like fire. Fog that gently closed us in, just the two of us, him breathing heavy with sedation, strapped in a tragicomic display of last-moment silliness to a gurney, looking like some kind of spa guest in his white towel, in the room they gave us for our goodbye.

Of course it would be that way. The fog. Because how else would he get into dog heaven?

The clouds themselves had to come down to carry him up.



February tunes

Have you been too busy lately to dig around for cool new tunes? I got you fam.

Here's what's new to me, and awesome:











slightly dirty sweaters

I was watching an old woman knitting on the subway today, when suddenly she dropped her yarn. It rolled a good five feet, unravelling on the dirty floor of the train; everyone's eyes were drawn to the bright red ball.

Someone nearby handed the yarn back to her. She nodded a thank you, and brushed it off before taking back up her knitting needles.

She couldn't possibly have gotten all the filth of the subway car off of it. The dust and debris will be woven into whatever sweater or scarf she was making. Something no less sweet for the accident suffered during its creation.

It is impossible to always give love that is pure and untainted with mistakes or misapplied intention. Slightly dirty sweaters still keep us warm, though.

cumberland house

Despite all the reasons I give him not to, my friend Cameron still tolerates me. Despite my flakiness, my selfishness, my inability to ever match what he puts in - his friendship is constant.

Do you want to know what he gave me for Christmas? It's pretty amazing. He found one of the few untarnished memories I have of my childhood, boxed it up, and sent it to me so that I could experience it again, with more visceral force than I could about handle.

We were talking one night in early December when we discovered a commonality between our mothers: an obsession with Department 56 collectible villages. This was my mom's big thing, back in the day. Every year she would buy a house, or a church--the post office, or the city hall. And the accessories. Miniature Rockwellian people, frozen in friendly ceramic smiles and stiff-armed waves. Tiny glowing street lights and spiky plastic trees. Shredded white wax paper for snow. Everything was wired with lights, making for a cozy, twinkling little town to be gazed at over a cup of cocoa.

My mother battled depression and alcoholism, mostly losing. This made her unavailable, to say the least. But something about the holidays brought out her best, most loving self. She'd take me to the craft store for felt and pipe cleaners, glitter and pom poms. We'd sit cross-legged at the coffee table well past my bedtime, designing schlocky ornaments to hang proudly on the tree.

All this to say that when I think of my mom at Christmastime, the darkness with which I associate her recedes, and I see her at her warmest and brightest. I loved my mother most at the holidays, and I felt her love strongest.

When Cameron and I realized our Department 56 connection, we compared notes. I told him that I'd never forget my favorite piece: the New English-sounding Cumberland House. It was a two-story Colonial with a sloping brick roof and double chimneys. Spearmint green boughs adorned four majestic columns and a string of colored lights dipped down to side-by-side wreaths. It was a masterpiece of symmetry, an aesthetic which by then I already loved.

You know where this story is going, of course.

Cameron looked online, and found quite a few Cumberland Houses for sale. None of them would have reached me in time for Christmas, though. (What he really wanted to do was show up at my door with one, but that wasn't feasible this year.) On the 23rd, he happened to look on Craigslist Los Angeles. There was exactly one Department 56 piece for sale. It was a Cumberland House.

He reached out to the woman selling it and explained his shipping/timing predicament. Wondrously, generously, she agreed to wrap it and drive it from North Ridge down to LA and deliver it to me at work--on Christmas Eve.

One of the best parts of the whole thing was the reaction of my coworkers. Everyone was super intrigued by the little dragon label on it (an inside joke of ours), and impressed by the size of the box. And I felt pretty fucking special getting a special delivery. I was utterly clueless as to what it could be, and stared at it curiously on the train ride home.



And then when I did open it, well. I told him it was like unwrapping a lightning bolt. I actually cried out.



I wish my mom could have seen that moment, could have witnessed me experiencing an emotion thirty years in the making. But then that's why it's so important to cherish the ones we still have, while we have them, right?



And that's something I certainly didn't appreciate, thirty years ago.

some of what counts

There are only so many times in life that someone will see who you really are and love you for it. Only so many times you will be known in the way that you want to be.

There are only so many times that someone will thank you, deeply and genuinely, for something difficult you did. Only so many times you will feel appreciated for what is, in fact, really hard work.

The poignance of this rarity hit me like a wave Sunday night as I was walking home. I'd had two such moments that day. One in which I was seen, and one in which I was thanked. Quiet, private moments with people I've gotten to know a little bit, and respect. It didn't hit me until I was off the train and almost back to my apartment how lucky I was.

Life is short. Moments like this are finite. Connections between open-hearted, communicative people who will see and appreciate one another are few and precious.

When you find someone like this, hang on to them for as long as you can. Find ways to give back to them what they've given to you.

Trust me: the further you get along this road, the more you will realize that this, more than anything, is some of what counts most.



she is like a cat

She is like a cat.

She is like a cat that you desperately want to call your own, for a little while.

You put out food, hoping to lure her close.
She takes the food (and is grateful for it).
Then she slinks back out of reach, jumping on the fence, balancing one foot in front of the other.
Never looking down, or left, or right.

From this distance, in this light, she is glorious to you.
Radiant fur, shining amber eyes full of heat.
She must be so soft. She must be so warm, to hold.

You want her to stop circling your legs.
You want, finally, to feel her climb into your lap.
Then, oh then. What you would do.

We both know what you would do.

And she would stretch herself luxuriously, under your touch.
And you would hear her purr, which is as rich and loud as you've imagined.

But also, after a little while, you would notice that she is not that glorious.
You would feel the grit in her fur. (She's been outside a long time.)
You would see, up close, that the shine and heat in her eyes is actually low-simmering fear.

And then, maybe, you would stop feeding her.
And she would feel the pinch of hunger more keenly than you would feel the loss of temporary pet.

That is why it is hard for her to trade your legs for your lap.

Not that she wouldn't.

Not that she won't.

Pride and Compromise

Pride and Compromise went walking together in the rain, not paying much attention to where they were headed. Suddenly the pair found themselves in a heap on the ground, a tangle of mud and limbs. Neither was sure how they ended up that way, but each secretly thought it the other's fault.

They spent a few moments sitting in the dirt, frowning at the mess they made. Then Compromise stood and offered Pride her hand. "I'm sorry," she said humbly. "These clumsy legs of mine! It must be quite a challenge to walk with me." Her words were cheerful, if heavy on the tongue. Once they were out, however, it was her heart that felt lighter.

Pride nodded primly, accepting the apology, but offering none of his own in return. "I hope the mud hasn't ruined your dress," he said. "Good evening." And with that he turned and left.

Compromise felt the sting of loneliness that came, as it always did, with arriving at a halfway point only to find herself the only one there. But it was still raining, and rain had a way of washing more clean than just dresses.