small kindnesses

The vendors in my neighborhood are awesome, and they blow me away with their small kindnesses and general friendliness. Maybe it's the time of year, but I'm feeling really sentimental and grateful.

There's the crew at Starbucks, who hail me as "Miss Ellie" and get started on my regular drink the moment they see me come in. They ask about my plans for the day, my dog, and even the men in my life, when I see them before and after shift, out on the sidewalk. One of them called me "Hopalong" this summer while my foot was mending, and filled my cup a bit less so it wouldn't spill when I wheeled back out on my scooter. Today, out of the blue, I was gifted a venti Macchiato by the barista who turned me on to the advantages of having my coffee prepared 'upside down'. "My Christmas gift to you," he said.

Next door is the sandwich shop I don't go in much, but whose proprietor, when he does see me, always inquires about Chaucer and invites me to bring him in (I don't, because I know not all diners are as enthusiastic about a drooling mastiff slobbering inches from their lunch). A few days ago as he was ringing me up he said, "I never got a chance to ask how you hurt yourself." I realized he must have noticed me hobbling/rolling to and fro in front of his restaurant for months, and I was touched that he made a point to ask, even though I'm basically a stranger - and an infrequent patron.

The woman who runs the closet-sized takeout place on my block asked after me, too, when I was finally well enough to limp by her again. She speaks hardly any English, and most of our conversations consist of me pointing and her smiling and nodding (and spooning steaming ladles of curry sauce onto a bed of chicken and rice). Nevertheless, she made her solicitousness clear with gestures toward my leg and a concerned facial expression; she wanted to know if I was all better. "Just about!" I replied, with a thumbs up.

Around the corner from her is a printing place I've never once set foot in, and barely glanced at in the almost three years I've lived by it. A couple of months ago, when I was at my absolute most frustrated and depressed, mystified as to why my foot wasn't healed yet, a man with bushy grey hair and a bushier grey mustache stepped outside to where I was struggling with a dog leash, a dog, a pair of crutches, a pile of poop in a tree well that I couldn't reach, and a really bad mood. He asked if he could help me, and the sympathetic look on his face obliterated me: tears started streaming down my face. I thanked him and explained that some days were better than others, and that while it was frustrating, I was surviving. He told me that he'd seen me on my crutches, then the scooter, then back on the crutches, and had felt awful watching me shuffle around for weeks and weeks with obvious trouble. "If you ever need anything," he continued, "I am happy to send one of the guys..." He nodded over his shoulder to the shop. "We can get you food or whatever errands you need, no problem."

Not long after that encounter, I was back to walking unassisted (if with a limp), and when he saw that, he rushed outside to greet me, all smiles and applause and "I am so happy to see this!"

A few days ago I popped into the dry cleaning place to see if they could reattach a dangling cardigan button. "Give me ten minutes," said the cashier who never has to look up my phone number to locate my stuff, and with whom I joke about the stains on my party clothes when I bring them in Monday morning. He matched the unusual thread color perfectly, and returned the cashmere sweater to me folded primly over a hanger and shrouded in plastic. "No, no charge," he smiled, when I asked how much I owed him.

Down the street there's a shoe repair shop where I occasionally take a pair of boots I've beaten the soles off of, or heels that need juuuuust a touch of stretching. The owner/operator chastises me for offroading through the dog park in such nice shoes, and refuses to clean them for me, after mending the heels. "Do it yourself," he says, exasperated, and hands me a ninety-nine cent pre-soaked polish sponge. "If we do it I have to charge you five bucks. It'll take you two minutes, seriously." Once I brought him a boot I'd ordered from Free People that had arrived with a stuck zipper. I was crazy about the boots, which were sold out, and didn't want to give them up. He looked at the zipper then turned the boot over slowly, examining the craftmanship. "How much did you pay for these?" he demanded. I didn't want to answer.

"Why? Are they poorly made or something?" He gave me look.

I sent them back the next day.

---

Instagram is flooded right now with images of holiday cards, which seem to be the metric for tallying social cache. This made me feel like a loser for a few days, since the only ones I've gotten are from my dentist, my real estate agent, and a few non-profits I've supported. I was actually feeling genuinely down about it until Friday, when in the space of an hour three different friends called to see what my holiday plans were and if I was free to get together, making my heart feel all full and fuzzy again, without even having to resort to John Williams.

Yesterday I had a brunch-then-shopping-then-cocktails-then more shopping day with my girlfriend Kerry, and we talked about the holiday card phenomenon. "Yeah, that's the big thing," I explained. "People make cute displays of them and then photograph them to post online or whatever. The more cards you have, the cooler you look." Kerry, who has no social media presence, was fascinated.

"Really?" she asked.

"Really," I said, taking a sip of my one p.m. Negroni.

"Huh," she said, and took a sip of hers.

She's not a big card sender, except to immediate family. And neither am I. I don't really have any family to send them to, and my friends? They know. Even if I haven't spoken to them in a while, they know. And I know. And they know I know. And we're okay with one another's laziness, which we recognize as such, and don't mistake for a lack of care.

But the people in my neighborhood who make my errands, my meals, my caffeine hits and dog walks that much more pleasant - they probably don't know the impressions they've made on me. I don't think greeting cards are quite appropriate (though in some cases tip$ and long-overdue Yelp reviews are), but this week I'm going to stop by, say happy holidays, and patronize their businesses in whatever ways I can, to try and return the small kindnesses they've shown me this year.

vague nostalgia

Yesterday morning while I was cleaning, I tabbed over to the Discover section of Spotify. I do this often, because even though it's overwhelming (impossible, really), I like to make an attempt to stay on top of new music, at least in the genres I like. It's always more fun if, when the festival lineups come out, I recognize some of the names of lesser-known bands. Plus, the Recommended For You suggestions tend to be pretty good. I've discovered tons of great randoms that way.

One of the bands recommended for me yesterday sounded really familiar, so I clicked on it. And a really weird thing happened. I instantly recognized the song I played, because it's a song I love and was obsessed with - along with the rest of the album its on - back in the day.

The thing is, I can't remember when that day was.

In fact, I can't remember anything at all about what was happening in my life, when I was obsessed with this album. And it's usually the opposite, you know? We tend to develop such strong associations with music we love that even if it's been years since we've listened to it, we're instantly transported back to the time and place, the people and events that were significant to us when we had it on loop. Ah yes. Sophomore year of college. Tucson. Cody Linck. Working at Breckenridge Brewery. Living at Oracle Apartments. But for some reason, all I know is that this album was incredibly meaningful to me at the time. I cannot for the life of me remember why, though. I feel like I must have been falling in love, or going through some kind of major emotional change, or something. But despite feeling absolutely bowled over by these songs again, I can't figure out why.

I also have no idea why I stopped listening to them and apparently forgot about them, for years. It's like being reunited with a boyfriend you were crazy about and being unable to remember why you ever broke up in the first place. We were so good together. What the hell happened?? 

The album is Our Ill Wills, and the band is Shout Out Louds. The track that grabbed me and yanked me so hard back into a vague nostalgia that I can't grasp the details of is South America. The other song I can remember listening to over and over and over is Impossible. I've been listening to these and the rest of the album for the past twenty-four hours, and my head is just spinning. I want so badly to know who I was and what I was going through, when I was loving it the first time around. My instincts are telling me it was something I needed to bury. My instincts are telling me to leave it alone. I mean, assuming I was listening to the album when it first came out (2007), I can reconstruct some of the details of my life at the time. I know who I was hanging out with that year, and generally how I was spending my time. But nothing is triggered, when I think of those things. Nothing to tie them to this music, anyway.

It is just the oddest thing.

Anyway, I'm glad I rediscovered the band, even if I'm a little bit spooked by the mystery.

learned this year: vulnerability

When you're willing to own the worst things about yourself, the criticism of others starts to lose its stinging power. It's as if someone were to pinch you on a callous. Yeah, no, go ahead. I've pinched it so much myself, it's gotten pretty numb. Be my guest, though. Maybe you need to for some reason?

But first you've got to be willing to face yourself down, in the darkest alley of your mind, and see your faults straight on. That's hardly fun. And worse: it isn't even necessarily productive, unless you plan on doing something about them.

A friend once asked me about vulnerability, as it relates to blogging. "How do you do it?" she wondered. "I wouldn't want to give that kind of fuel to my enemies." This was a conversation some six years ago, and it's stuck in my head as I've grown increasingly vulnerable in my online presence. I've written openly about depression, suicidal ideation, taking off my clothes for money, and drug use. I've revealed myself to be vain, lazy, self-indulgent, judgmental, immature, passive aggressive, hypocritical, ignorant, and materialistic. At least, I hope I have. Because those are all flaws in my character that I'm well aware of, and happy to cop to. Because I know I'm working on them. Because no one is perfect. And because I want to be the kind of imperfect person that others feel they can relate to, in this space and in real life.

Being vulnerable and admitting the worst things about myself doesn't change those bad things. They're there no matter if I say them out loud or keep them to myself. And they only have as much power in the hands of others as I allow them to. When I accept myself, the acceptance of others becomes less important. It's still nice of course (I'm only human) - but it isn't a prerequisite for my happiness.

Right now I know what my priorities are. I know what fulfills me and what makes me happy, and thus where I want to focus my attention and time. I know what areas of my life need work, too. When critics wag their finger at me, I understand, I really do. Given the same set of opportunities, the same talents and advantages, chances are each one of us would do something different. Each one of us prioritizes things differently: relationships, career, family, friends, health, etc. And that's a good thing, because life would be really fucking boring if we all walked the same path.

My path is mine alone to stumble down. Not everyone will understand my journey, and that's okay. It's my journey to make sense of, not theirs. Being public with my choices will always open me up to criticism, to side-eye and judgment for them. But I've learned this year that turning my palms up and saying Yep, you got my number, with genuine humility, makes it easier to pull the slings and arrows out of my back, so I can get back on my path, and hopefully be a little bit further down it when the next batch hits.

Vulnerability on its own is a liability. But vulnerability coupled with self-awareness feels like pretty fertile ground for personal growth.

small steps

A while back, inspired by the ever amazing Allie Brosh, I made this to cheer up a sick friend (I left off the accompanying in-jokey captions):

 ---

Currently looping, in between Christmas music:

Annette Funicello - Pineapple Princess 
The Lemonheads - My Drug Buddy
DWNTWN - Stood Me Up
Air Review - Animal
Release The Sunbird - I Will Walk
The Spring Standards - Only Skin
Young Galaxy - Hard To Tell
Princeton - Andre
Wildlife Control - Brooklyn
A.C. Newman - I'm Not Talking
Races - All For You

---

I rearranged my furniture, which is always very exciting. There are only so many ways stuff can go in 630 square feet, so it's fun to happen upon a layout that actually works or even improves upon the former one. This one's better since it gets my speakers away from that back shared wall. Chaucer seems to like it more, too. He's hanging out on his bed more, and asking to get up on mine less. Maybe he was chilly under the window, or just prefers to be on guard next to the door.





Finally hung some new stuff I'd had framed for my gallery wall:



An actual living room! (Sort of.)



Not sure if you can tell, but I hung over-door coat racks on the insides of my closet doors, and use those to hook the belt loops of all my jeans and pants over. Works awesome.

Hooks everywhere. Hooks for days. Hooks make it possible.


---

January is shaping up to be Month of Education. I'm taking a bunch of classes to both build on skills I already have and bring myself up to speed on basic workplace software that I have pretty much zero familiarity with. Back to school for Ellie.

Small steps every day, right?

---

We took Chaucer to the bar the other night. He excused himself to use the restroom, and when he got back, he had a little something stuck to his paw. So embarrassing.


We absolutely did not take video of it, either.

whiskey vs. tea

Our experience of art is always colored by the things that make us who we are. Our preferences and prejudices, our fears and values, our desires and dislikes, even our beliefs about ourselves - we bring all of that to the table when we read a book, or look at a painting, or listen to a song. We are moved or offended or amused or frightened according to this complex and ever evolving prepackage of perception.

I think that reading blogs is no different. If, when I find myself impassioned (positively or negatively) after reading a post, I take a moment to consider why I have so many feels about it - it usually has at least something to do with me. I hate to see the intimate family moments of children essentially sold on mommy blogs...but maybe because not so deep down I realize I'm being similarly exploitive with my loved ones, and by displacing my disgust, I'm avoiding having to own up to that? Then there are the bloggers whose values run so counter to my own - whose personalities so repel me - that no matter what they say or do, I will always find fault with them. On the other hand, there are bloggers who I know next to nothing about, but by virtue of some shared experience (say, depression), I will root for unconditionally...until they disappoint me, that is - and then I'll have probably some feels about that, too.

I've also noticed that when someone with whom I personally identify experiences a major life change (move, new job, marriage, baby), the ways in which I relate to them change - and sometimes weaken - and therefore affect how I perceive them. This is true for both people I know in real life, and those I follow online. (I think that's why reading novels is so exciting to me; I'm taken on an adventure with only the hope that where we end up is someplace that both the protagonist and I are satisfied with.)

The best I can do, in this space, is be authentically me while I explore my own ideas about the world and experiment with creative ways to convey those ideas; while I share the experiences that make up my days, months, and years. This blog is an intellectual playground and an occasional self therapy session - nothing more. It isn't a score card of my life's wins and losses. It's not a reflection of my worth as a person. It's a place where some of the details of my life, and some of my thoughts about that life, are shared. And I have to remember that everyone reading along will come to my words preloaded with their own ideas about the world.

The lens through which I am viewed is, as of today, 364 posts long. I've had 364 posts with which to make myself understood and liked and respected so far. Based on the feedback I've gotten, I'm mostly happy with the job I've done. I think most of the critical feedback has been fair, even when it's been tough. But that's why I love blogging so much; I have the power to keep developing the picture of my life, in whatever ways I choose. That's the challenge I thrive on: Can you keep sharing your life in a way that's compelling and fun to follow along with? And more importantly: Can you keep growing as a person, so that the things you have to write about are more interesting, useful, and relatable?

I hope so. I want that. But I also saw a quote today that really struck me for some reason. "I'd rather be someone's shot of whiskey than everyone's cup of tea."

Maybe I'm whiskey, or maybe I'm tea, or maybe I'm one with a chaser of the other. I don't know. But I do know if I could, I'd throw a huge party and invite every single of one you to come and enjoy an open bar stocked with both (and plenty of other libations), so I could at least say thanks for caring long enough to decide whether I'm the drink for you.

Cheers.

You are not quinoa.

Mushrooms tonight. Just the littlest bit. Wasn't the plan. Didn't intend to. But it was dinner with his dad, who, despite having been nothing but absolutely lovely to me in our limited interactions - is still his dad. And I wanted to be my best. Relaxed, confident, engaging and clever. Interesting things to say. Listening well, asking smart questions. On point with my French. Basically, some version of myself that only exists in my imagination. And the fastest way to her is through what's contained in the little grey vase pushed to the back of my highest kitchen cabinet.

So a cap and a stem, as I was getting ready. Short pleated cotton skirt, loose turtleneck, dilapidated combat boots, marled hiking socks, long wool overcoat with slightly puffed sleeves. Strongly considered a beret. Actually dug one out and put it on. Regarded self critically. No. God, no. Yanked it off, tossed it onto the couch. Paused. Stuffed it back into the drawer from whence it came. Hide the evidence of that near disaster.

I didn't say I'd done anything, but he told me later I gave myself away, anyway. "How?" I asked, intrigued to think I have a drug tell. 

"The way you were oohing and ahhing at those Christmas lights, when we parked." I nodded. Guilty. Could have happily watched them for an hour. "Also, how open minded you were about getting vegan for dinner." I had to laugh. Yep. "I knew you were shrooming. I knew it." He shook his head. "Think I can't tell when my girlfriend is high? Come on."

But before this conversation, which takes place later, back at home and after the reconnect: dinner. Tiny place in Silver Lake, super crunchy hipster server, patrons. The menu makes liberal use of quotation marks, to emphasize (warn?) that items will not be what they seem. "Cheese". "Roast beef". "Bacon". The shrooms and I find this extremely amusing, but I'm scared of coming across condescending or critical so I try to reign it in. The man sitting beside me, whom I adore, really likes this place. I'm going to make an effort, goddamnit. 

It's easy to speak with his father, who is down to earth and funny, and will happily chat about himself, his work, or just random trivia - and who will kindly spare his son's girlfriend from having to talk about herself (which, as she suspects he quite empathetically picked up on the first time he met her, she prefers not to do). He tells us about the photosynthetic properties of olive trees, and mentions that a meteorite will be passing through Earth's atmosphere tonight. He explains the (very different) French meanings of some English words, when they confuse me. Panache. Elan. His third child and I listen with genuine interest, holding hands under the table. He's a born storyteller and utterly non-threatening, and I think to myself: he's my favorite of the dads, by far. And while I briefly wonder if I should say this later, I don't, knowing that a compliment like that, while well-intentioned, has the unfortunate side effect of ushering in the Ghosts of Boyfriends past. And while they never stay long, they can chill the room quite effectively when they choose to. I'm comfortable enough to throw in as much French as I can, glad of the little I do know, which feels like points scored, though I know it really isn't like that. I know I am genuinely liked. I can tell by the smiles and laughter - and the Thanksgiving card I received a few weeks prior. 

The food poses a problem, despite my having ordered the simplest things I could: white bean soup and a hummus platter. Before entrees arrive, we're served bread that as best I can tell is completely unseasoned and well on its way to a second life as croutons. It's accompanied by something called cashew cheese. I'm trying, I'm really fucking trying, but the shrooms are more than ready to steer me to a dark place, quick, and the phrase "cashew cheese" is all they needed to hear. Done. I'm done. Appetite gone. I glance around the restaurant like a caged animal, relaxed for the moment but growing wary and keen to have an escape route if necessary. I have an ungenerous thought. If vegan food is so amazing and healthy, why do all these people look vaguely sick and miserable? I make a mental note in Sharpie and run it over with several shades of highlighter to NOT share that thought later, no matter how high I get.

I can't eat my dinner, but I pick at it the best I can. The soup is harmless but bland. The hummus is awful until I realize it isn't hummus, it's quinoa, because the server has gotten my order wrong. No matter, I'm fully nauseous at this point. Fucking shrooms. Too many? Stale? On too empty a stomach? No idea. He notices me not eating and while he helpfully offers tastes of his, to fetch the waiter, etc., I can feel his disappointment. Or maybe I'm imagining it. Maybe I'm disappointed in myself. Maybe I'm feeling inadequate, for reasons I won't understand until several hours later. And had I articulated them to myself at dinner, had I been able to, this is what I would have heard: I'm an outsider, here, right now. Outside this family, this father-son relationship. I hope I'm worthy, in his eyes. Whose eyes? Exactly, Ellie. Whose. Outside this scene, this whole vegan thing, which, really is all part of a side of him I feel what - what do you feel? Intimidated by? Jealous of? What is it? Yes, maybe, a little of both? I'm not vegan or new agey. I hate tofu. I've never meditated once in my life, much less twice a day for ten years. I've never even done yoga, for Christ's sake. So? So what? So what if that's what he wants? What if that's the kind of girl he needs? You are a Midwestern-Southwestern suburban transplant LA wanna-be cool city chick who has no direction and has made a habit of scoffing, HARD, at some of the things he believes about the universe. So what the fuck, Ellie? Why are you sitting here? You are not vegan. You are not quinoa. You are white sugar and gluten. Are you sure you're what he wants?

Of course, none of that had helpfully presented itself yet. But I got through the moment, and the dinner.

---

Back at my place, the reconnect. The space where everything else drops away, no matter what tensions or misfires there've been. We are equals. Barely in the door. Deep in my eyes, always, fearlessly gazing, holding my face, the back of my neck. Breath gone. He knows exactly how. Thumbs in the waistband, below my skirt. No, wait. Not until the last possible second, I whisper. Something about keeping them on, so hot to me. Don't know why. Just is.

He whispers back. But what if this is the last possible second? Hmm? Turns me where I stand. Over the desk. Mouth against my ear. What if this is the last...possible...second...

---

I confess it all, after. The shrooms. The insecurity, the distance I felt at dinner. Though I don't explain the depth of it. I'm ashamed, self-conscious, I don't know. I want to be exactly what he wants. I'm scared of not being good enough. But, as always, he blasts it all away. Reflective listening. His empathy, like nothing I've ever known, from anyone. We are the same person. Everything you just said is how I feel sometimes, with you. I have all the same fears. But what's the very worst that could happen? Think about what the absolute worst thing could be. Work through it. What is it?

That you'd realize I bore you. That I have nothing to offer you. That you'd end it.

Well, I get afraid of the exact same thing with you. And hearing you even say that right now is helping me resolve my issue, making me feel better, because we are so similar and I go through the same thing. There are lots of things you like that I don't. And vice versa. It doesn't matter to me that you experience things the same way that I do. What matters to me is that we're on the adventure together.

I talk. He listens, ask questions. Unfold it, see all the wrinkles, get to the heart of it, take its power away, and be done with it. I can see he's exhausted. It's late. Keep talking. I'm listening. If it helps, keep talking. He sinks further into the pillows - but he doesn't miss a word I say.

Eventually, he falls asleep exactly where he's laying, his arm crooked behind his neck, above the covers and partly dressed. I watch him for a few minutes, delighted by the way he so quickly and easily drops into slumber, like a child up way past bedtime. 

But I don't watch for long. Chaucer needs a walk, and I should sleep, too. 

henceforth

Beloved Family Pet Toppled in Newborn Power Grab

BROOKLYN, NY -- Area couple Thom and Joy Oswald disclosed today their intention to transfer all affection and attention previously enjoyed by their eight year old terrier mix Fitz to a seven pound, four ounce human newborn with whom they share a measure of deoxyribonucleic acid. Effective immediately, sources say Fitz's cuddling privileges and fetch sessions have been suspended indefinitely, while daughter Berkeley will be showered twenty-four hours a day with kisses and tummy tickles.

"I mean, he can't complain. He's had a good run," stated Thom, who until Berkeley's arrival at St. Joseph General at 8:34 a.m. on December 7, where she obtained an Apgar score of 9 and delighted the nursing staff with her itty bitty fingers and toes, used to walk Fitz twice daily without fail. "I'm sure he understands. This is just how it goes."

Citing her infant child's complete and utter helplessness as the primary factor in the decision to henceforth all but ignore a once-treasured pet, Joy relocated Fitz's bed, bowls, and toys from the kitchen to the laundry room. "The high chair has to go somewhere," she explained. "And I don't need him underfoot when I'm cooing at Berkeley the way I used to coo at him."

Officials say Fitz plans to live out his emotional banishment curled up beside an empty water dish, dreaming of frisbee with Thom, and patiently waiting for his new sister to learn compassion. 

the week in stupid GIFS

Two for you, one for me? That fair? I feel like I delivered on the meaty.



TL: Have you guys heard about the FaceTune app?? Shit is the bomb for the late thirties selfie-taker.
TR: "I like cruisers," he said, when we walked into the sporting goods store. Then he proved it.
CL: Attempting to take a cute pic of us by the tree, I apparently switched my self-timer app to voice activated?? Technical difficulties...but check out that Charlie Brown tree! The presents are all for Chaucer, obvs.
CR: Not flattering. Fuck it.
BL: He was really shoving that thing in there.
BR: (Sober.)

White Wine in the Sun

One of my favorite holiday songs. It's long, but trust - the ending will slay you, if you have kids.
 

Pinkman

Would you like to hear about my drug dealer, Pinkman? I'm going to assume that's a yes, not as some credit to my narrative ability, but because hello. Drugs. Pinkman.

The first thing you need to know about Pinkman is that his name isn't Pinkman. His name is Kenny. Incidentally, his predecessor, the guy who passed me along to Pinkman when he retired (his word), was also named Kenny. When I found out I was being handed off to a new Kenny, I started to wonder if maybe every drug dealer in Los Angeles goes by the name Kenny, as some sort of easy, anonymous code nom de guerre. Actually, I haven't stopped wondering that. So if anyone can confirm or deny, let me know.

Anyway, Kenny became Pinkman as soon as I was finished watching Breaking Bad a couple of months ago. I grabbed my phone and changed his contact name within minutes of the finale ending. (I don't kid myself that I am the only person in America amused by calling her dealer Pinkman. I enjoy it nevertheless.)

I met Pinkman when he delivered four grams of MDMA to me, at my home. I know what you're thinking. Four grams? At your home? Or, if you're not familiar with the dosage and selling of drugs, maybe you have no idea how much four grams is (it's quite a lot). Still, I'm guessing you're wondering at the weirdness of a drug dealer who does house calls.

Yeah, that part is unusual. But I had a broken foot. And I had been asked to procure the Molly as a favor for a friend going to a festival. (He planned on sharing it with several others.)

Pinkman, who was only persuaded to make the trek downtown by virtue of my large order, showed up at my door with a backpack, a boyish grin, and a shock of blonde hair that hung sweetly down the side of his face. I don't know what I'd been expecting, but it certainly wasn't the near-teenager that strode casually into my loft, dropped his bag unceremoniously to the floor, and started playing with Chaucer as if they'd known one another for years.

I didn't know whether to hand him the four hundred dollars we'd agreed upon or pour him a glass of Sunny Delight. And I was suddenly keenly, painfully aware of my age.

Pinkman (then still Kenny) eventually got down to business, but only after complimenting my apartment ("Your place is sick!") and inquiring rather solicitously about my injury. Reaching into his backpack, he asked if I had a coin.

"A coin?" I echoed dumbly.

"Yeah, like a nickel or something. To calibrate the scale." He set a small electronic scale on my kitchen island, along with a plastic baggie filled with what looked like glittering, pale lavender sand. I fished a nickel out of the dish on my sideboard and watched him expertly measure, chatting to me all the while. We compared notes on festivals, on DJs and venues in LA, and on drug use.

"You tried Lucy yet?" (He glanced up at me when he asked this.)

"No," I said, excitedly. "But I've always wanted to! Can you get it?" (I was assured he could. I was further assured that if I liked mushrooms, I would love LSD.)

The ease with which this youth was handling both himself and the very adult subject matter, combined with my own physical discomfort (I was still on crutches), made me strangely nervous. I didn't quite know what to do with myself, so in an attempt to seem equally comfortable, I hoisted myself onto the island, to sit beside the scale he was now hunched over. I felt immediately ridiculous, like I was trying to cozy up to the cute boy in chemistry class. I slid back off the counter and hobbled around to the sofa. Chaucer stayed put, riveted by Pinkman, staring up at him in hopes of another round of tug-o-war.

Our exchange concluded, Pinkman left as quickly as he'd come in, leaving my apartment feeling slightly buzzy in the way that rooms do when emptied of loud teenagers. I'd find out later he's twenty-four.

An hour or so after he'd gone, Pinkman texted to say that he hoped my foot was better soon. When I thanked him, he replied No prob. You're a doll compared to my usual customers lol. I cringed, knowing he meant it as a compliment but inferring that he perceived my politeness as a function of my age. At a loss how to respond, I finally went with Aww, well you're way cooler and nicer than anyone else I've bought from. :). I was afraid that outright referring to him as the nicest "dealer" I'd met would be in some way crass or unkind. He was, after all, also a musician. I didn't want to hurt the kid's feelings.

Lol good. You're super rad as well. Til next time adios and tell the dog goodnight? The question mark did me in - or maybe it was "super rad" - and I couldn't help myself; I sent back a favorite photo of Chaucer, a dSLR shot I'd taken and edited a couple years prior. Pinkman didn't respond. Again, inexplicably, I felt like an awkward high schooler. I chastised myself for sending the pic unsolicited.

I'd hear from him again soon, though.

soul searching

I've been doing some soul searching lately, and it was a relief to confirm that no, I still do not appear to possess one (because woo boy would I be in for some cognitive dissonance then, eh?).

But I did make some discoveries about myself that I hope will be of some use, because I'm staring down a pretty massive fork in the road. I've actually been camped out at this intersection for quite a while, hoping that one or another of the paths in front of me would suddenly light up with a neon sign saying This way, Ellie!

Alas, this hasn't happened.

Here's the deal: I want - I need - to get a full time job. And I'd like to stop right there and say how terrified I am to write this post, because I know what the world thinks of bloggers who don't work. But let me tell you that there is no criticism of me, in that regard, that you can levy on me that I don't levy on myself on a near-daily basis. I've been through some shit, but there isn't a single good enough excuse as to why I haven't already gone back to work, full time. It's on me. It's all on me. And I know how exceptionally lucky, rare, and privileged a position I am in.

So here I am, bundled up in my little one-person tent, watching all the normal people of the world march past, confidently (or not so) continuing down their own career paths, doing what they need to do - you know, like normal people. And I lie to myself. And I berate myself. And I make promises to myself. But I don't take any kind of constructive action, because I am absolutely frozen in the face of deciding what I want to do for the rest of my life. Whee!

I do know some things. I know that I haven't really enjoyed any of my attempts to turn my hobbies into full time, paid work. The blog design shop I started back in 2008 was fun for a while...until it was miserable. The freelance writing I've done under the direction of others has been painful, too; even when I produce good content, it feels inorganic and inauthentic to me. Occasionally someone, over the years, has offered to pay me for (of all things) photography, I guess based on some decent stuff I've lucked into here and there. And I resist that, too. (I resist all of it, in fact, so much so, that I've barely touched the portfolio website I started working on last year. Ridiculous.)

And the worst part is that when I do engage in employer/client-directed artistic work, I almost instantly hate - or at least tire of - the thing I once loved: writing, design, photography. And once I strip myself of the ability to enjoy the things I'm passionate about, what then? It makes me think that maybe I'm better suited to work that, while allowing for some creativity/problem solving (which was the thing I loved most about the tiny bit of web coding I did), isn't wholly creative, per se.

My mother spent most of her life working for various airlines. Great benefits, steady, predictable schedule (at least until 9/11). And she loved it. And she was an extremely creative woman. But she also thrived - as I have in the past - on the sort of work she could leave at the office, at the end of the day. I feel like that's what I want, too. I'm constantly consumed by creative energy, whether or not I release it. I'm always thinking of things I want to write or draw or photograph. It's fucking exhausting, honestly. And I think it would be really good for me to not feel compelled to be always "bringing my work home" with me. I want to leave a job, come home, and be able to fully devote my attention to Chaucer, to my partner, to my home, and to my other interests, as time and energy allow. I want to still love those interests, at the end of the day.

Considering my background and skills, the kinds of writing or editing jobs I'd be suited for also repel me, when I read their descriptions of requirements and responsibilities. It all sounds awful. And that's a scary and depressing thing to say, considering that those are the careers I "trained" for, as an English major. But the limited experience I've had in editing wasn't enjoyable. I didn't like reading and correcting others' work. I found it tedious.

I'm also thinking a lot about the kind of workplace environment I'd enjoy. I don't do well on my own. I get lonely and distracted much too quickly. But nor do I want to be a widget in a huge corporation. My dream job would allow me to work with a small group or team of others, doing similar work, with similar responsibilities. I don't want to be a lackey. But I don't want to be a boss (which I was waaay back in college, when I managed a coffee shop), either. I don't like delegating, supervising, or reprimanding. I actually like answering to a boss, and the simple satisfaction of doing what he or she needs of me. That probably comes from the fulfillment I found in college, in the teacher-student relationship.

Then sometimes I think about how drawn I am to the idea of doing physical work. I envy people who are out and about all day, moving around, getting exercise, not chained to a desk or screen. But I think the ship has sailed on the majority of careers in which that would be a possibility for me. I also deeply envy those who have some specialized physical skill or trade, something they've developed expertise in, over years. But when I try to think of what, among those options, I'd be good at and enjoy, I come up blank - which makes me feel rather pathetic. The other day I mused to LeBoyf that a good exercise for thinking long-term about one's professional career would be to imagine what, if one was going to give a TED talk, one would want to speak about.

But I don't know the answer to that, either.

I'm looking at my friends, and the sort of work they do - at the things they complain about, or the things they enjoy. And the fact is that nearly everyone I know is at best satisfied with their career choice. Most are just ambivalent. Many are miserable. And this breaks down the same no matter if they trained for ten years for their line of work, or fell into it accidentally. The happiness people (at least, those I know well) find in life seems to be drawn from a variety of sources, including relationships and non-work passions. So the question becomes, what sort of work can I do that will allow me to maintain and sustain the sources of the happiness I already enjoy? I'm thinking a lot about lifestyle, about the one I have now (what I like about it and what I don't), and about what I want my life to look like in five, ten, fifteen years. What's important to me. What I can do without.

Last week I enrolled myself in some basic software classes. Truly remedial stuff, I'm embarrassed to say. But while I've been blissfully banging away on one or another MacBook for the past ten years, technology has marched right past my skill set. I haven't laid eyes on a Microsoft program in ages. For me to even be considered for 99% of the jobs of the world, I have some serious catching up to do. So while it shames me to admit to being so, so far behind the crowd, I am taking action, finally.

And I'm still thinking and thinking and thinking some more about my options, my dreams, my realities, and my possibilities. The soul searching will continue. (I'm sure I'll keep coming up empty-handed, but I'll let you know.)

oversized air freshener

I put up an Instagram post derived from the vid below, but I wanted to redo it slower and sync the music differently so I could send the whole glorious 36 seconds to LeBoyf. It was super easy to make, using the VideoPix app (to slow it down, in this case to 15 frames/second, though the IG one is 18 fps) and the InstaVideo app (to add music, in this case The Christmas Song by The Raveonettes). Then I uploaded it straight to YouTube from my phone.
 

We (obviously) got a tree last night, an anemic little thing that looked more like an oversized air freshener sitting in the car than an actual holiday decoration BUT IT IS OURS and we carefully hung a handful of very lightweight ornaments on it (which will probably be smashed by Chaucer's tail anyway) while listening to records. Then we went for Thai food and came home and watched The Ricky Gervais Show projected on the wall above a happy (if hungry) looking tree, and it was good.

Hope everyone is having a great holiday season so far, being cozy and content, and eating the hell out of some carbs. I've got the next coupla nights to myself so I'm planning on putting up some meaty posts, because I know I have been weaksauce lately.

your glass box

Your glass box is beautiful; I can't deny that. You built it with care, with trust for strangers you'd yet to meet. Still haven't.

Never will.

Through it I see your need, the vulnerability that you wear like a second skin, so comfortable and smooth. Was it always so?

They come and press their hands against it, leaving fingerprints - smudges of an imagined caress.

That part makes me sad. So much, given away so freely. Your deepest and darkest, offered up to the undeserving and greedy and careless.

But I understand the exchange, and the shallow satiation. I don't begrudge you.

Your glass box is beautiful. I see exactly who you are inside it.

thoughts on Kelle Hampton

I've been thinking lately about the whole Kelle Hampton thing. And if you don't know what I'm talking about, consider yourself lucky and just skip this post. But if you must know, here's a quick summary: she's a mommy blogger (three young children of her own, one of whom has Down Syndrome, plus two teenaged stepsons) who is the subject of discussion ad nauseum on GOMI. She shot to internet fame when she published a post about the surprise, postnatal Ds diagnosis of her daughter Nella, subsequently wrote a book about it, and has since built a huge (and it seems, fiercely loyal) readership. Her blog is called Enjoying The Small Things (I choose not to link to it for reasons made apparent below).

I follow the discussion about Kelle more closely than I follow her blog itself, since a) I'm much more interested in the larger implications and ramifications of mommy blogging than in any particular mommy blogger, and b) I don't particularly enjoy Kelle's writing. (And if I'm being honest, that's partly because I'm terrified I share her proclivity for saccharine, cheesy metaphors and pat endings. I think I'm scared that if I read too much of her writing, I'll start to sound more like her than I fear I already do.)

Kelle's Instagram is a hotbed of drama, thanks in part to her father, who often jumps in to defend her against increasingly vocal critics. These back-and-forths can get pretty heated - and are often deleted summarily, presumably by Kelle herself, who has a popular brand (48k IG followers) and some major corporate sponsor relationships to protect. But if you get a glimpse of these comments before they disappear, you'll see they tend to say pretty much the same thing: give your kids a break already, and quit it with the obviously staged, materialism-heavy posts. The consensus among her critics is that her children often look exhausted, annoyed, and overly costumed in Kelle's efforts to present a twee lifestyle - one that is barely challenged (if not enhanced) by her youngest daughter's disability. 

For the record, I completely agree. And it makes me sad to see so many of those kids' intimate family moments splashed across the internet - not because they're not beautiful moments that might be worth sharing - but because they are done so with an eye to earn money from them.

Enjoying The Small Things is a monetized, sponsored brand, whose primary appeal isn't Kelle, or her husband, or her marriage - it's her school-age and infant children. They're what her fans clamor for and ooh and ahh over, day after day after day. I find this deeply problematical and disturbing, to think that kids who aren't even old enough to understand the concept of sales are being used to sell things. The first time I saw the [Target Partner] disclaimer on one of Kelle's Instagram posts, I felt a little sick. What at first glance appeared to be a sweet picture of her older daughter's Thanksgiving craft was in fact an advertisement. For napkins.

Of course, that's just one person's opinion. And someone could easily take me to task for it, saying Ah, but Ellie, you share some intensely personal moments on your blog too, no? Yes. Yes, I absolutely do. And while I'd argue back that these are the stories of consenting adults on a non-monetized personal blog, I'd do so weakly, because there is a parallel, and the point stands.

In any case, I was thinking how so much of the controversy she generates centers around the endless dressing up and photographing of her children. And I was wondering if she scaled back on that, and focused more on writing about them, wouldn't that be a win for everyone involved? But then I realized how wrong I was. It would only be a win for the kids, who'd reclaim some of their privacy. The win I was thinking Kelle would get from that plan - the chance to focus more on the skill of storytelling, without the shortcut of photos - doesn't, after all, strike me as something Kelle would consider a win. She is a photographer first; a blogger, second.

And Target and the other sponsors? No win there. Stories don't sell napkins, no matter how well they're told.

Reflecting on this, it's a short step to musing on the bigger picture - the bigger questions: What do we want to reward? Are we actually okay with monetizing our memories? Are we ready to erase the line between sharing and selling? Is there even any escape if we're not? Now that Instagram includes ads in our feeds, we're all a part of the larger system, whether we like it or not. 

I don't have a solution. I struggle with my own dueling impulses, where this blog and my social media presence are concerned. I'm not always sure that what I write is purely entertaining, and never exploitive of the people I love, or the strangers I meet. Every time I hit publish, I'm making a choice both for myself and anyone else featured in my post, and I have to live with those consequences - which haven't always been good. 

But I do know that what I see Kelle Hampton choosing feels wrong to me. And I wish she'd slow down and think about what she's doing, because she's taking liberties I don't believe she has the right to take. Her children are individuals, little people in their own right - not property for her to do with as she wishes. I cringe every time I read someone say something along the lines of "They're her kids to do with as she pleases!", as if children are so much chattel. 

I have more questions than answers, I guess. I just wish this subject was getting more play in more places, that's all.

adventure and mental expansion

A friend sent me a link to an article titled Smarter People Have More Sex, Do More Drugs And Stay Up Later Because It’s The Smarter Thing To Do today. Email subject line: Validation.

Well duh, I thought, before writing back "If only this had come out before my parents had died."

My favorite bits:

Many previous studies have found that people with higher IQs, better jobs, or degrees from top-notch universities are more likely to smoke weed or even snort a few lines here and there.

Esquire reports that this is because these people tend to pursue insightful experiences involving adventure and mental expansion.

Smart people will indulge in most opportunities that could potentially broaden their minds.

They also more closely understand addiction and moderation and are therefore less fearful of engaging in drug use. 

---

Seems like it finally might be time to tell the story of when I went dancing and ended up in the shower, out of my mind on ecstasy, with a couple of guys whose primary sexual interest was one another, not me.

Or not.

analyze that

I'm pregnant, and in a mall. There are hundreds of strollers parked outside the shops. Realizing I'm going to need one, I look them all over, trying to decide what I like. There's a dog treat in each one, which I take for Chaucer. Then I remember that I don't want children, the strollers disappear, and I wake up.

my super power

Last year, Mason invited me to spend Thanksgiving with his relatives in Fresno. It was the first Thanksgiving since both of our dads had died, earlier that year. Since he had family to return to (the same aunt's house he's been eating turkey at ever since he can remember) and I didn't, I was adopted for the day by his. They were lovely and welcoming to me, and I thanked them by managing not to break down in tears until I got in the car to go home.

Ah, the posthumous romanticizing of the family experience.

Perhaps the best thing to come out of that day was my friendship with one of Mason's uncles, this handsome guy. That's Uncle Bill. And right about now, he's probably blushing, because for whatever crazy reason, Uncle Bill took a shine to me, and became a reader of this dumb little blog, an erstwhile pen pal, and a capital f Friend. He doesn't miss a post, and often emails me thoughtful, funny responses to what I've written, one of which I printed out and tucked into the corner of my mirror, so I can read it every day.

I don't want to casually or cheaply drop a phrase like "father figure", because wow is that problematical and pat and overly facile and all kinds of things I don't want to characterize my relationship with UB as. That said, it's been really nice to have someone older and wiser checking in on me, as I stumble through life, because for as much as I love and miss my dad, there were some serious deficits in our relationship, which I'll probably feel keenly until the day I die. For one thing, I can tell you he certainly wasn't reading my blog and chiming in with the occasional bit of guidance. My dad was many wonderful things, but a fan of my writing he was not.

Bill has followed my romantic adventures with interest, amusement, and at times, concern. (No one likes to see their friends get hurt.) When October rolled around and he saw how attached I'd gotten to LeBoyf, he said I should bring him with me back to Fresno this Thanksgiving. This invitation was co-signed and ratified by Mason, so I got to spend yesterday in the company of my three favorite men, among other wonderful people who treated near-stranger me and my complete-stranger +1 like family.

There was champagne, thrust into my hand within a minute of walking in the door, and lots and lots of wine. There were aunts and uncles and cousins and kids and a Pomeranian-Chihauhua mix named Tiny, who let me hold him in my lap long as long as I liked. There was turkey and glazed ham and everything you'd want to go with them, including my second taste of Aunt Janie's Lemon Lush pie.

I didn't sleep much the night before, so I wasn't at my best. I was overtired and overly emotional, and Bill's kindness and warmth - and his stories of working as a young man in downtown LA, a mere block from where I live today - put me over the edge more than once. Thank god for kitchen-adjacent bathrooms, to which a girl can beat a hasty retreat, splash some cold water on her face, pull her shit together, and return to a table full of laughter and love and just feel fucking grateful to be there.

I've said it before but it bears repeating. I suck at so much in life, but apparently my super power is making incredible people care about me, despite my not deserving it half the time. I came out of yesterday determined to do a better job of giving back the consideration I'm shown by those who know the absolute worst things about me, but love me nonetheless.

I guess that's kind of how family works, anyway.


Happy Thanksgiving to my American friends. I hope you guys were lucky enough to spend it with your favorite people, too.

the week in absurdly sweet shit leboyf did

I hope you guys know how much I love writing stuff to entertain you, or that you at least find relatable. It makes my week when someone takes a moment to let me know I've written something they've enjoyed - you have no idea how much so.

But every once in a while, I put something up that's more or less just for me. This is one of those posts. Please bear with me, because I really am trying to be less one-note, I swear. But LeBoyf made and sent me all of these, with pics he took himself, and holy crap it's all just too awesome not to share and celebrate. I'm just so grateful.



Amazing, right? And then there was the afternoon I was experimenting with Mextures for the first time, and sent him this:


And I got back this:


So I bounced back this:


And in return got this:


This is the kind of thing I am on the receiving end of lately. Stupidly lucky girl is stupidly lucky.

pure promise

Because there'll be a moment a few short weeks down the road, when you'll be hit with a wave of happiness that rips your breath away and leaves you wide-eyed and wondering. Walking down Broadway, just past sunset. The shops still open, glaring fluorescent light and racks of t-shirts spilling out onto the sidewalk. Rush hour pedestrians file past, some catching buses, some catching your eye since it seems like everyone feels it - the high of this November chill, finally, the holidays around the corner and optimism seeping out of our pores in spite of ourselves.

In spite of our uglier natures, our jealousies, petty rivalries, insecurities and rootless anxiety, we all get moments like this. Joy grips your soul, your best friend by your side. He knows the scents and sounds and his prancing gait suggests your mood has infected him, too. And you don't want to go home. You want to stay out in the busy streets, the comforting bustle you've missed for months. So you'll roam, Youth Lagoon on an endless loop, using the dog as an excuse to stay out later than you should, because there are things to be done. There is progress to be made.

But it's intoxicating, the simplicity of just this single, amazing hour of your life. You're alive and well and healthy enough - and you're in love, shamelessly, with no reservations, no "if onlys" to hold you back this time. It's wide open and it's yours and cynicism has nothing to do but hide in the corner, cowering, unwelcome. Though you know better than to actually do it, you'll want to dare life to do its worst, because you feel untouchable. This is the space you know, though it's eluded you these months, waiting for you to exhale. And when you do, releasing the fear and worry that robbed you of nearly a third of your year, the breath back in is pure promise.

on saying no

Growing up, I wasn't allowed to say no to my father. Rather, I was, but I was punished for it. Not physically - not ever - but emotionally. I wasn't allowed to say "Dad, I can't" or "No, Dad" without feeling some negative repercussion. Anger. Disappointment. Shame. Guilt. Ultimately, as I perceived it: a loss of love, to some degree. Maybe not every time, that's probably unfair to say. But enough times that a pattern formed and stuck in my head. Eventually, we worked it out. Eventually I was adult enough and confident enough to lay down some boundaries and be honest about my limitations. I reached the point where I knew taking care of myself had to come first, and I got better about internalizing my dad's feelings when I had to say no to him. It was never completely resolved, but it did get better.

But because of that, I grew up being afraid to tell people no. I grew up terrified that telling people no would result in the revocation of their friendship or affection or kindness - in the loss of their love. So even if I wanted to - if I needed to - say no, many times I wouldn't. And I'd go along with something, feeling put out and resentful and frustrated. Or I'd say no, but instantly feel all sorts of shitty emotions in anticipation and expectation of someone's anger or disappointment.

I still do it. Saying no to someone I care about still activates all of this. I'm still afraid of the loss of love, of the punitive reaction I felt so many times as a child and teenager (well past, even). And it damages me, and it damages my relationships. I say yes and end up feeling a loss of control, a loss of confidence, resentment, frustration, and anger at myself. I say yes and secretly resent the person I've said yes to, for putting me in the position - I feel - of having to say yes. The effect is exacerbated hugely if I decline somewhat weakly or passively, but then the person turns up the pressure. Come on, Ellie. Because then I absolutely have to say yes (so I think), and then boy do I ever have an excuse to be resentful.

I feel this resentment because I try to never, ever, ever pressure someone into something they don't want to do, expressly because I know exactly how awful that feels. I wouldn't want to make someone feel the way I did when I said no to my dad, and had to suffer the pain of his rejection. I wouldn't want to trigger that fear, for them, of a loss of love from me. And so when in turn they don't anticipate my fear, I get really, really angry at them. But I don't express it. Hell, I don't even realize it, at the time. I don't think I ever realized it until tonight. I just stay wrapped up in crappy feelings that don't go anywhere, because I don't know what to do with them.

It's crazy, I understand now, for me to feel this way. My friends tell me no all the time. They're busy professionals with full lives; they can't always make the dates I propose. And when they say no? I don't even think twice. It doesn't hurt my feelings remotely. I know they love me and want to see me, and 99/100 times they bounce the invitation ball back to me a week later. That's normal and healthy and I never once worry that because they've said no, that they don't like me anymore. And yet here I am, unable to say no, because I don't trust them to keep loving me, the way I keep loving them.

It's ridiculous. But now at least I understand it.

Tonight, LeBoyf went to a friend's super fun scavenger hunt birthday party. I was supposed to go, too. He very emphatically wanted me to come. But I found myself, this afternoon, utterly exhausted and cranky, due to my inability to say no to lots of other fun stuff that's been going on all week. Some of which I know I should have said no to, but I didn't - because I was afraid of being loved less.

And so, due to my own unwillingness to say no to some things in order to say yes to others - tonight I found myself sitting at home alone, feeling frustrated and sad that I was missing out. It's good that I didn't go; I really am worn out and wouldn't have been a good party participant. But I spent the better part of the evening feeling lonely and bad.

So unnecessary. But that's the last part in the cycle I keep enacting. Say yes (out of fear of loss of love) and keep saying yes until I've depleted myself completely, and have to miss out on something really special. And I never understood until tonight what this is all about, and where it comes from.

So that is what I learned about myself on this Saturday night, when I could have been having a grand old time running around town following Instagram clues (so cool!) with my awesome and loving boyfriend.

8 or 38. Sometimes it's hard to tell.

shape and use

Two friends were walking together when one paused to shift the weight of something on her shoulder. The other frowned. "Why don't you drop that?" he suggested. "You'd get further faster."

"Because it isn't a burden," she replied. "It's a shield."

Her companion seemed confused, so she continued: "One is a problem to be solved; the other solves a problem I don't want."

After a moment she added, "Only when it's in your own arms do you know the shape and use of what you carry."

The two set forth once again, taking care to set their pace to one another - as friends do.

the week in silver linings

1. I return to the orthopedist, this time for a pinched nerve in my shoulder. I am told I have a 97% chance of it taking care of itself within a few weeks; otherwise it'll be time to talk about an MRI. All I hear is "There's a 3% chance your shoulder is fucked and will require surgery. LOL forever at your broken body" and am beside myself with worry.

Silver lining: A flexible, plastic model spine sits on the counter in the doctor's office. While we're waiting, my companion manipulates its vertebrae into a ventriloquist performance of The Beach Boys, to distract me. I am reminded how incredibly nice it is not to have to face scary medical stuff alone. 

2. Chaucer accidentally rips my fitted sheet while dreaming.

Silver lining: I take the train to my favorite bedding store to shop for a replacement, and my first solo subway trip since breaking my foot feels amazing. I'm massively relieved to be mobile and independent again after so long. I will never again take for granted the basic ability to walk. Like, ever.

Secondary silver lining: my 135lb dog runs in his sleep and that is just damn adorable.

3. I am called an idiot, a moron, and sanctimonious - by three different individuals.

Silver lining: I can see where I've probably been a bit of each, and reflecting on how doesn't kill me - and in fact makes me feel strangely good, as if the people I've disappointed expected more of me. I guess it feels like a compliment of sorts? Being held to a higher standard seems like a good thing. 

4. I drop my debit card on the way out of the grocery store. Within fifteen minutes, the lucky new cardholder has gotten him/herself a smoothie and $200 worth of electronics.

Silver lining: I was totally bored with that card number, anyway. The CVV in particular was lamesville.

5. Thanksgiving is right around the corner. Missing my mom like whoa. Best cook ever, to begin with, and her Turkey Day spread was nonpareil.

Silver lining: Myself and a +1 are invited to return to a friend's family's home in Fresno for Thanksgiving (same wonderful place I went last year). The number of things I've got to be thankful for feels like it jumps to +1 billion.

conflict and dialogue

Conflict stormed into the room and crashed about wildly, breaking windows and glasses and hearts.

Some fled, terrified of getting cut. Some crept closer and saw themselves reflected in her mirror finish. The show didn't last long, though; Dialogue took her down with just one shot.

the right things


currently at step 7

eHow to Wash A Duvet using an eFucking eJoke of an eAppliance

1. Stuff duvet in Super Efficient washer/dryer combo, for 30 minutes of washing. IMPORTANT: Do not start wash past 10:00 PM, as the five minutes of continuous wall slamming that occurs during the spin cycle may annoy neighbors.

2. Set Super Efficient washer/dryer combo to 90 minutes of "drying" time.

3. Wait 90 minutes. Repeat step 2.

4. Wait 90 minutes. Repeat step 2.

5. Transfer damp duvet to bathroom and drape over shower door.

6. Wait 8 hours.

7. Transfer now dry duvet to couch/chair, glancing at it occasionally over the next 36 hours.

8. Return duvet and comforter to bed and engage in ten minute, three-way duel with bedding items in attempt to correctly assemble them.

9. Collapse, victorious, onto slightly stiff, heavily wrinkled, but relatively fresh duvet.

Total time investment: 49 hours, 10 minutes

in the door

Well fuck you, then, because really I was just sitting here minding my own business, feeling pretty good in fact, for reasons you wouldn't understand, because it's your job to make people miserable.

It's a box. It's just a stupid pink box, sitting on my kitchen island. I didn't look through it. I'm not a fool. It's way too close to Thanksgiving. I only took it down last night because someone who is still here and alive and with me wanted to see what I looked like as a kid. That's the only reason the box is out.

So I showed him. And he smiled. And I saw that smile, alive and warm on his face right next to me on the couch. Did I mention the alive part? And I leafed right past all the other pictures, I didn't even glance at them. It's November 7th.

But they're there in the pink box, which is still sitting on the counter, right in my line of sight, and that's enough. That's all it takes, for you to get your foot in the door, isn't it? You sneaky fucking bastard.

Fuck you, I'm going to bed. 

be always

HardFest Day of the Dead 2013: A Post In Four Parts

PART THE FIRST: Text Messages

4:51 PM

We're forced to split off at the security checkpoint since I have a VIP ticket and his is general admission. I get in before him and we text while I wait.

Me: Haha, your Foursquare check in.

Him: :) Shoulda snapped a photo of us.

Me: I'm gonna drop my bag in the locker. Meet me by the main sign, it's all lit up.

Him: Bae I feel like cattle. Mooooooo bae.

Me: It's hilarious, right?

Him: Totally.

Me: Did you see the Amnesty Box?

Him: No, where?

Me: By the second security check. I would love to see someone use it.

Him: Haha, they should put one up at slaughterhouses. ASPCA protest installation idea.

Me: I don't get it.

Him: Wait me neither. I thought cows could claim amnesty?

I don't answer. Busy taking a pic of this enterprising young man:
That is some next-level thinking right there.


5:17 PM

Me: Are you still in line for the bathroom?

Him: Yeah. Picked line with a bunch of chicks. Insert Bad Luck Brian meme.

Me: Put your arm up. Just I so know what line to stand behind. 

LeBoyf raises le arm

Me: Never mind, see ya. 
        Over your left shoulder. :) 

Him: Raise your arm if you're suuuuure. #wereold

Me: By the way... *send cheesy two monthiversary collage of pics of us*

Him: I love you bae. I love bae. 
         Beyond Amazing Ellie. 
         Bouncing Around Ellie. 
         Be Always Ellie. 

PART THE SECOND: Fragmented Highlight Summary

Warm up with Cut Copy. Wander, take it in. Our first fest! Stop to randomly dance and goof, feel uh-maze-ing. Eric Prydz blows my mind. Just perfection. Dance, cuddle, rest, repeat. Cozy in spite of the cold. PDA bordering on obnoxious - no, yep, def obnoxious. I love that you dance facing me instead of looking at the stage. -Well, yeah. There's nothing to see on stage. Dude pushing buttons. This is our dance party right here. Bathroom break me, bathroom break him, bathroom break me, bathroom break him. Meet me behind the ferris wheel. Overhear a kid say "grandma alert!" as he walks by me. Heart stops. Turn and see elderly woman a few feet away. Heart resumes beating. Moments later, chat up a couple in their 50s. In costume. Totally adorable, totally having a blast. Tell LeBoyf about them. Aww, you should have made them wait to meet me! Chilling in the disco tent. Blurry selfies. Okay, look all emo and young and 21. -Oh my god I look awful. So much for waterproof mascara. Make fun of shirtless buff dudes dancing in groups, eyeing girls they don't approach. Bro, spot my dance move! -Ahahaha, you have to tweet that. -If I get a good pic of them I will. (I don't.) Pretty Lights blows his mind. Finally, the finale - Deadmau5! Doesn't really do it for him. Me? LOVE LOVE LOVE. Dead of love for Deadmau5. Tricky, playful, sneaky beats to the point of almost being annoying - but then he drops it and ohhhhhhwowww. Thrilled to have seen him live. Yay!

PART THE THIRD: The Fruit Punch Flavored Water Bottle Mystery 

"How do you get the top off of these things?"

"I don't know. Maybe the top thing doesn't open. Maybe you just have to unscrew the cap like a regular bottle. Here..." 

...five minutes later...

"Weird. Yours tastes all sweet, but this one just tastes like regular water."

"Let me try... Oh my god, babe! I think they refilled this one with tap water!" 

"Oh they did not, stop it. It was sealed, remember? I twisted it off for you." 

"Then why does it taste like plain water when the bottle says it's fruit punch flavor??"

"I don't know. Maybe it was a screw up at the factory. Here, I'll take it, you take this one."

"No, don't drink it! There's something wrong it it!"

"Oh my god, it's fine! I don't care. Come on, let's get back to the stage."

...on the subway home...

"Ohhhhhhh." *reads bottle* "You twist the cap to release the vitamins! That's why one tasted sweeter than the other! The flavor comes down like this..." *demonstrates*

"That is the dumbest, most overly complicated and unnecessary product I have ever seen. And at HardFest of all places. Who the heck is going to be in their right mind to follow those directions?"

"Ahahaha, we are dumb."

PART THE FOURTH: Blurry Gif 



Fin

bracelet

Today I went to a music festival, and while I was waiting for a set to start, a really sweet kid I was standing next to chatted me up. We killed time talking about music and LA and Halloween, and he excitedly busted out his phone to show me a picture of him and his boyfriend, dressed as Miley Cyrus and Robin Thicke. They won a costume contest in West Hollywood, and that's no small feat.

When there was a lull in our conversation, he said, "Here, I'll give you a bracelet." He held up a wrist covered with half a dozen orange and white beaded elastic bracelets. "Do you know how to do the thing?" he asked. I did not know how to do the thing. I didn't even know what thing he meant.

Apparently there's a little bracelet-giving ceremony at festivals, where you put your hands together in a series of poses, and say things (which I don't remember exactly, but stuff like "friendship", "peace", etc.), and then lace your fingers to slide the bracelet from one person to the other.

I about died, it was so cute.

And that was not half an hour after a girl who noticed I was low on water wordlessly handed me her own full bottle, smiling and gesturing for me to pour some of it into mine. A complete stranger.

Saw some incredible sets (finally saw Oliver! crazy fun hearing MYB live, total sunset dance party), discovered some new-to-me artists (Cirez D*, whose stuff I didn't like online but WOW so great live, Kavinsky, Benoit and Sergio), but those were the nicest moments of the night.

*Who is actually Eric Prydz. Did not know that. Fancy.

rageview$

Retired Mommy Blogger Settling Nicely Into Nursing Home

HOLLYWOOD, FL -- In what his wife described as an "inevitable conclusion to a lifelong horror show of dysfunction", 43 year-old Turbin Tildon spent the afternoon helping his mother Dee, a retired mommy blogger, settle into Shady Acres nursing home Saturday.

"Isn't this nice, Mom?" Turbin asked, his dead-eyed smile tight with long-suppressed resentment. "You should be as comfortable here as I was living the first year of my life in your walk-in closet."

Appearing enraged and refusing to speak or make eye contact, the elderly Dee - whose blog "Oh, Dee! Lightful Days and Twinkly Nights" publicly chronicled the embarrassing misadventures of Turbin and younger sister Calliope - sat rigidly on her new single mattress while Turbin arranged framed pictures on the dresser. "I'll put the collage of me crying when I couldn't find my favorite toy truck right here. Remember when you posted that for millions strangers to laugh at? Haha, that was a popular one!"

Sources say Tildon, a successful writer whose recent autobiography "Rageview$: Recovering From a Life Online" ranked #3 on the New York Times bestseller list, is more than wealthy enough to provide in-home care for his aging mother. "All the money in the world can't buy back what he really only ever wanted from her," his wife sighed, shaking her head sadly and watching as Turbin unpacked Dee's collection of e-devices.

When asked how often he planned to bring his young children to visit their grandmother, Turbin laughed bitterly and looked away. "I need to go speak with the director," he muttered. "They spelled my name wrong on the sign-in paperwork."

At time of press, Mrs. Tildon was inquiring staff as to the availability of wifi in her room.

---

And before anyone cries foul, stay tuned for my self-deprecatory follow up piece: "Area Ex-Boyfriend Relieved To Be Out of Blog Spotlight". 

challenge accepted

The man asleep in my bed knows I'm awake. He's getting used to the routine. We go to sleep together, but only one of us actually gets there. The other one lays quietly for a couple of hours, restless and thinking. Reading on her phone. Mulling over potential blog posts. Sometimes she gets up and writes them.

The man in my bed has inspired a lot of writing lately, not all of which has been good, I know. Believe me. These haven't been my finest hours, as a blogger. In my defense, it's been like trying to pull solid, coherent strands of thought from a brain swirling with molten caramel. It's a big, hot, sticky sweet mess up there. I'm trying to find ways to express my experience that are relatable, or at least entertaining. But I know I don't always hit either of those marks. I get it. I'm the girl who uses tortured metaphors as a category, after all (also stream of stupidness, navel-gazing, and self-pity). Who titles posts "Schmooping," because she knows that is precisely what she's doing.

Further in my defense? The man asleep in my bed is the first person I've met in a long, long, long time who has said, in no uncertain terms, that he's not going anywhere. That I am safe to fall as deeply in love with him as I dare, because he's got my back (his phrase). "I'm in this," he likes to say.

When I buried my dad last year (so to speak, anyway), along with him went the last permanent relationship I knew. That was it. I have no other family. My mom died a few years before that. Sandwiched between those two losses was my divorce - another loss. A huge one, really, in terms of emotional stability, and what one thinks one has to rely on, for the rest of one's life. So it is really exciting to me, to have found what my instincts are telling me is someone I can count on to be a part of my life for a good while, and in a really healthy way for a change.

Ah, fuck it. If you haven't figured it out already, this post is a no-longer-veiled reaction to some criticism I came across, about how one-note and teenage I've sounded lately. And please, seriously, this is not a rallying cry for support. I've got an embarrassment of riches, as far as support and positive feedback goes. This is just me feeling stupid trying to write some generalized-yet-pointed thoughts, realizing it just sounds defensive and weird.

So yeah. I'll just directly address the critic who feels that I'm being a broken record, about my new relationship. And in addition to what I've already said above (which I hope reads as one part mea culpa, because I know the writing hasn't been tight, and one part sincere plea for understanding), I'll just say this: Yes, I know about hormones. I know about all the wonderful chemicals my body is being flooded with these days. Neurotransmitters. Absolutely. But the man asleep in my bed isn't just another wrong-for-me dude that I'm mooning over, because I want someone to love. There've been a series of those over the past year or so. The man asleep in my bed doesn't tell me, like all those other dudes, that he just wants to "keep it casual", and then back up those lovely words by being unavailable, inconsiderate, and disrespectful - by treating me like an option.

The man asleep in my bed is sleeping there because almost every night - and it would be every night if I allowed it - he circles the streets near my building, looking for a parking meter that he can only use until seven a.m., meaning that he has on average six or seven hours to sleep before having to get up in the cold and the dark, to either go feed the meter, move the car to a paid garage, or head home/to work. I think I mangled that attempt to explain: the man in my bed greatly inconveniences himself, on an almost daily basis, just to spend time with me. And rather than complain, ever, about the shitty parking situation that comes with dating me, he rather expresses gratitude for getting to see me.

The man asleep in my bed took me to a concert tonight, despite looking at an exhausting day of travel and work tomorrow. (This isn't surprising or out of character for him. He often squeezes in time with me on days when he has multiple work commitments, even if they're spread across different parts of town.) During one of my favorite songs, standing in the packed orchestra pit of a massive auditorium filled with ecstatically dancing, singing, costumed attendees, he put his forehead gently against mine and held me. He closed his eyes and stopped moving, so I did the same. And for a minute, we just stood like that, stock still, just feeling the vibrations of thousands of people around us, listening to music being played feet from where we stood. He just pulled us away like that, like magic, because it was a moment he wanted to make with me.

So sure. I'm old enough to recognize the symptoms of infatuation, as you wrote. But I'm also old enough to recognize loving behavior, being demonstrated regularly, by someone who wants to make me feel cared for. And that shit is fucking awesome and exciting and what I have been dreaming of for a long, long time, so yeah, I want to talk about it.

All this being said - I am grateful for the kick in the pants, where my writing is concerned. I know I'm not always at the top of my game, and it's good to be nudged by someone willing to call that out. How else am I going to improve? So I will try to vary my subjects more, in spite of feeling very excited about what's happening in my love life. And I'll try to sharpen it up, when I do write about it.

Challenge accepted.

p.s. For the record: he found me. All the credit goes to him; all the dumb luck, to me.

white knights

White knights don't help anyone. In fact, they just make things worse. They think they're supporting, but really they're just enabling. They're enabling the shitty behavior and the complete lack of self-awareness that got the blogger into trouble in the first place. It's such a boring fucking cycle.

1. Blogger says/does something stupid/offensive.
2. Critics* criticize.
3. White Knights charge in. "Leave our Blogger in Distress alone, you bullies!"
4. Critics, knowing full well the difference between bullying and criticism (being rational adults), roll eyes.
5. White Knights pat Blogger in Distress on the back. "You're great! Ignore those meanies!"
6. Blogger in Distress sniffles, accepts hanky, thanks White Knights.

or, even more delightful:

3. White Knight charges in, says something snarky either directly to a critic, or in reference to some previous criticism.
4. Blogger in Distress snickers and verbally high fives White Knight. More White Knights pile on, snickering. Blogger in Distress watches quietly, and her silence registers as clear, tacit approval.
5. Critics, Observers, and lots and lots and lots of Lurkers marvel at the kindergarten scene that has just played out before them.

Seriously. Grow the fuck up. You want to be supportive of a blogger you think is getting an unfair rap? Email her your encouragement. Message her privately. Pay her the respect of allowing her to defend herself like an adult. You are not doing her any favors, trust me.

And bloggers? Do you know what these white knights look like, to everyone but you? Minions. Lackeys. They're your Crabbes and your Goyles. Goons. Knee-jerk defending you because...who the fuck knows why. Maybe their intentions are good. Maybe they're misguided. Doesn't matter. They are making you and your readers look like a clique of sandy-headed ostriches.

Learn how to accept criticism with grace. Stop refusing to even consider it. More often than not, it is much more nuanced than you want to admit. Face it and distill what is useful. It will not kill you to do so. Stop egging on your white knights, because it is disgusting and pathetic. Don't allow your comment sections and Facebook pages and Instagram galleries to become free-for-alls. Step in calmly and maturely and MODERATE the discussions you claim to love.

And remember: YOU are the common denominator, in all criticism of you. You and your choices, your words, and your actions. That criticism is there for a reason. And believe it or not, it's an opportunity.

---

* Incidentally, all your Critics started out as Observers, aka Readers, aka potential Fans. If they become Critics, you have only yourself to blame.