Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Does This Christmas Tree Make Me Look Fat?

Tonight my roommate and I went to "Cheap Charlies" for one of my favorite Christmas traditions. The trees were lined up like sad, wounded puppies at a pound. Charlie wasn't around, but a very surly purple-haired lady stared at us from a turqouise trailer.

"Hi!" I said to the lady, "We're here for a tree!"

She looked at me like, big duh lady, we ain't selling cocktails. She broke down the cost of the trees. "They're color-coated. These are the prices plus tax." Then she snarled, "I take cash only. I don't like messin' around with change!"

Uh, someone better start being nice or Santa might not show up with some color-corrector home hair dye.

We wandered around, looking at trees from all possible angles. I'm now an expert at scoping out hidden bare spots. The lady sat with her space heater, rolled her eyes and lit up a cigarette. It's fine with me if she wants to be a Hater, but lighting up at a tree lot? This is California. The only thing worse than owning a cigarette is smoking it in a tree lot.

We picked out two trees. One skinny and one fat. I voted for the fat one because it made me look skinny. Afterall, this is California. The only thing worse than being fat, is owning a tree that adds ten pounds.

Saturday, November 25, 2006

As Seen on TV! or In Your Closet!

Have you ever watched someone laugh so hard that you start laughing and you don't even know why you're laughing? Have you ever told someone something SO FUNNY you could pee your pants? Lucky for you, ladies and gentleman, this is such an occasion.

If this story, after all the hype, turns out to be a "Um...I guess you had to be there" kind of moment, I will be highly disappointed in my ability to convey one of the truly funniest moments of all time in recorded history. Since I hear all the time about ya'll reading my blog but not commenting because you have to register, or what would you say, etc...Then here's the dealio: You MUST hit me back (yes YOU, first-time caller) and tell me that this is not the most freaking hilarious thing you've EVER heard of.

We're in paragraph three, so by now you should be really fired up. Admit it, you are starting to chuckle a little, maybe giddy in anticipation. You're saying, "That Jaynel is pretty funny. I wonder what could happen to seriously crack her up." You're probably already laughing.

Ok, well. Last night Renee and I were in our garage. I was looking through some boxes for this pair of knee high black boots I bought it Italy last year. While I was lost looking in boxes and finding random junk, Renee says, "Oh, nuh uh!!" (Maybe you'd have to know her for that to make sense.) She starts laughing so hard she has to sit down. I'm trying to ask her what is so funny, but now I'm laughing just watch her crying with laughter. She's really losing it. She's holding these two forms that look like a certificate. She makes me promise not to make fun of her, which I do. (I never say anything about not posting it on a blog entry, though.)

She hands me this teeny tiny yellow nylon suit, that fits in the palm of my hand. She is laughing so hard, I can't understand anything she is saying. Like a dork, I'm laughing just looking at her, so I'm in no position to ask questions. She calms down for these two second intervals enough to tell me that a few years back she thought she wanted to buy a Parakeet. She did a lot of research on Parakeets and started buying things for the Parakeet. Keep in mind, she did not have, and still does not own- a Parakeet. This yellow thingee, she explains is a little Parakeet Outfit with a cable (or commonly known as a "hair band") to keep the bird from flying away. She throws two circular cotton face cleansers at me. The kind that come 100 for a dollar or whatever. Gross, right? Then she says between hiccups of laughter that those are BIRDIE DIAPERS! She's holding the receipt, which looks like a certificate, and it says she paid $29.99 for this! She pulls out a little birdie ladder that she bought for the fictional Parakeet.

It wouldn't be so ridiculous that people actually sold this stuff, if there wasn't some kind of demand for it. Enterprises like this one make me truly believe we live in the greatest country of all time. Freedom of speech, religion, and to create a dynasty from hair bands and cotton swabs disguised as birdie diapers. Or, as they like to call them, "Patented Poop Pouches."

One of my boyfriends in New York had a bird named Squeaky. Squeaky was an incessant shit-talker. I'd commonly go in the back room and gossip about my relationship to my girlfriends. What's the harm, right. No one was there except adorable cute little Squeaky. Well that little fucker ratted me out! "If you want loyalty, get a dog!" my boyfriend told me, actually defending Squeaky.

Interesting. I sort of thought that's why I got a boyfriend.

That same friend had an entire closet full of "As Seen on TV" merchandise. When he opened the closet door, it was like he had really taken his insomnia to the next level. "It made sense at the time," he said holding up a Flowbee windtunnell hair cutter. Did I mention he had no hair?

"In advertising that's called strategy. They flash a number in your face and tell you things when you can't think clearly," I tell him. He picks up a box of unopened Ginsu knives.

"Well these can cut through cans!" he tells me, side-stepping a bright blue Thigh Master with Suzanne Somers face slathered on the side.

"Right," I say, "For all those circus show dinner parties you have lined up."

He shuts the door just as I'm getting a sneak peek at a total body solution kit and a revolutionary tooth-whitening two-tier tray system. That was six or seven years ago, but Renee's discovery sparked the same revelation. We all own weird shit purchased in vulnerable moments we knew we absolutely could not live without that thing that makes no sense to buy. Yet someone asked for a credit card, and we gave it. Gladly. Excited, even. We spoke slowly, having the numbers recited back to us, so as not to miss out on this one time opportunity. We make shipping arrangements and small talk with the telemarketer. We may have even have made installment payments, or maybe came to our senses the second it showed up and realized it had to be shipped back to the tooth whitening palace or the Beanie Baby factory.

Your turn. What was the strangest thing you ever bought? Where is it now? Leave your answer in Comments. Winner gets their choice of hearing what the weirdest thing I ever bought was, or...a Miniature Yellow Nylon 100% Authentic Avian Flight Suit!

Friday, November 24, 2006

reGREts

The dreaded GRE is tomorrow. Have I studied enough? Do I know how to find the test site? Shouldn't I review just ONE MORE chapter? What about those breathing excercises I never mastered?

I can't help myself from cramming. I haven't even looked at the Math section because all that does is lower my self-esteem. But I found a boost in the most unexpected place. When I was at my Dad's this summer, tucked behind my high school yearbooks was a little envelope that was dated in 1982. It was two years of my report cards.

I forgot about these ancient relics, until I found them in a box. "Jaynel is our number one speller AGAIN!" Mrs. Kinney writes, "She is a Spelling Whiz!" Moving on to math, I saw that I had mastered my multiplication tables to the 5's and 6's. "Jaynel understands division, and scored 98% overall."

"Jaynel expresses a high level of creativity and originality"

"Jaynel is reading from Sunshine Days, our highest reading group." and then "She sometimes forgets what she reads." (It's called Sunshine Days. Isn't that enough?)

"Jaynel can create complete sentences and write in paragraph form."

"Jaynel is becoming a good listener."

"Jaynel likes to share with others."

"It was a pleasure working with Jaynel. She will make a very successful fourth grader."

Why can't I submit these report cards as my letters of recommendation and GRE scores? Not much has changed, it appears. Except somewhere between then and now, I've convinced myself that I suck at math, and know less than I do.

I talked to my mother on the phone a couple of weeks ago. Since she works in the same town where I grew up, she recognizes people all of the time. "I saw your second grade teacher, Mr. Brink," she told me. "He asked about you." I admit to my mother for the first time that I was the only student in second grade that did not get the NIGHTHAWK AWARD. It was a little blue slip of paper recognizing strengths. It also meant that you had to eat lunch with the Principal which meant you didn't get reccess that day. Skip reccess?!

I told my mom that on the last day of class, Mr. Brink said he had to make an announcement. "Your yearbooks say that everyone in the class recieved the NIGHTHAWK AWARD, but ONE student did not." Of course that was me. I was a little troublemaker, running when I was supposed to walk, talking too loud, wearing weird outfits.

"Well," she said, "I remember they told me in a conference that you were creative and have a very high IQ."

"You never told me that!" I said.

"Yes!" she said, "So remember that."

Since she told me, and I didn't read it, it would appear the chances of me remembering it are pretty good. And just in time for this heinous test I must take tomorrow.

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Even Rudolph Scares Me

I grew up on a farm with cows, horses, dogs, cats, and even the occasional pig and donkey. Remi and I learned the hard way that farm animals aren't pets. We once named three adorable little pigs "Cindy, Jan, and Marsha." Soon after the Brady Bunch girls were gone, my Dad was telling us to finish our bacon. You could say that was my first very unpleasant "a-ha" moment.

Farms involve manure to step in, hay bails with dead snakes inside, and electric fences. We had the most attractive wood fences that lined our farm. My Dad built them (I helped!) and Remi, my Mom and I painted them white. I can't vouch for what they look like now, but I used to like sitting on them, slathering them with paint. My other favorite things to do were sprinkle salt on slugs and watch them shrink, ride my horse Cocoa, and go to my Grandpa's to drink orange pop and throw apples near passing cars with my cousins. I suppose I was more mischievous than I looked, and not nearly as squeamish as I am now.

But that's what city living and watching years of 48-Hours Investigates shows about stalkers and murderers will do to a girl. After living in New York City and San Francisco the past eight years, with a small hiatus in Colorado, I am downright uncomfortable in the great wide open. I've left my city digs for a house that sits in trees and oleander. Blue Jays, squirrels and raccoons run around like I'm in their way. It's more unusual to see a jogger out here than it is to see deer running around at night. We usually see at least 2-4 every night.

Back on the farm, when the cows got loose, it was a big deal. But the deer are peaceful, awkward creatures. They are slow and frightened, it seems. No matter how carefully my car passes, I have this feeling that I am in their space, that I am forcing them out of the way, and that I shouldn't be there. This is why I don't understand hunting. I've shot at clay pigeons, my whole body shaking afterwards. Guns aren't for me. When I see a dead animal on the road, I feel really sad. And when I imagine that a hunter will photograph or stuff his conquest as a prize, I struggle to understand that. As wrong as this may sound to some, I rationally know that some people use animals as the source of nutrition. I'm not judging that. I just would like someone to explain the "sport" of hunting. It seems to me that most people who enjoy this also truly appreciate nature and the outdoors, so why wouldn't they strive to protect it's natural habitat?

While you contemplate that, I'll say that I'm a little more nervous out here than I was living in the city. In the city, I'm aware that there's people and things, cars and public transportation around me ALL the time. It's loud and busy. The homeless people are aggressive, but after you learn their name and their favorite sports team, even that gets less threatening. Out here, my place is surrounded by a huge wall of windows, a large open deck which unfolds into nothing but a blanket of trees. It's calming. But on the other hand, I'm always on guard. Someone could hide out or break in and no one would find me until later. My roommates are all in a separate wing of the house. (Wow-I'm really glad I'm detailing this for all you stalkers out there.)

Last night I was working on my applications to grad schools, and I heard footsteps. I'm serious. The lights to my study were on, which meant whatever was out there could see me. Don't laugh. I was freaked out. I called my roommate on my cell. I didn't want to move and like I said, we live in separate places. Renee said she'd come down and check it out. Once she got down there, we creaked open the door, and walked out slowly on the deck. I was serious and looking for anything or anyone to jump out at me. I was convinced that something was hiding out. Even the dog wasn't coming in right away. Maybe the intruder was feeding it meat like they do in cartoons? Who knows! I was freaked out!

Just then Renee decides to come up behind me and startle me by screaming. I had no idea she was even anywhere near me, so she scared the shit out of me! I started screaming bloody murder. I was sort of running around I think and holding my head, I can't remember! But then I heard her laughing, and I would have been mad, if I wasn't still scared.

I heard something that sounded like a person walking through gravel.

"Omigod! Did you hear that?" I said.

"No, dude," she said, still kind of laughing.

I don't know what was scarier, that I thought someone was in my backyard/forrest, or that in California, girls call girls "dude."

"I hear someone walking around! You know there's that rapist loose!" I said.

"Whatever, it's probably a deer," she said. "They come back here all the time."

We went inside and ate ice cream. Dreyers has a new Ice Cream Sandwich flavor, and it's genius. That night, I tried to sleep. I had two blankets and a comforter on top of me. When the trees sway they create shadows that I swear to God, look like people wandering around. This has created so much anxiety and insomnia, that I bought a night light at the dollar store last week. Plus I sometimes sleep under the covers. Yes, I know. I should not have said that.

But last night I felt sort of brave. I mean, so I've lived in the city for awhile, I'm still a farm girl! How bad could it be? Bring it! So...I turned off my little night light and knelt down next to my window. I peeked out, one eye open, fully expecting some sort of freakazoid woman-killer to appear. I looked down to the ground, and there, looking around, and then back at me, just as freaked out, a little fragile baby deer.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Albinos, Anorexics, and a Music Legend

When I heard that Frank Black was coming to town, I craigslisted myself some tickets. You might remember Frank Black as lead man for the early 90's band, the Pixies. I have fond memories of the Pixies opening up for U2 in 1991 at the Tacoma Dome. It drove in my Ford Escort, tape player blasting "Trompe le Monde." That "tape" featured cows eyeballs dipped in sugar. Growing up on a farm, and having considered cows as pets, that visual was a PETA brochure waiting to happen. At the '91 concert, Kim Deal came on stage first in a red mini-skirt, and a sunglassed Frank Black was behind her. She was fall-down, F-- you all drunk. Frank tried to get through a few songs, but her limp body went between jolts of swaying and firecrackering to attention. As a 16 year-old kid at my first concert, I thought, "WOW! This is Rock and Roll!" Uh, no. Frank escorted Kim off the stage after getting booed. They cut their session short, and within months, the Pixies broke up for good.

There was no love lost. I'd moved on to writing poetry to cheesy tracks of Michael Stipe's music, finding something very deep about "Nightswimming." And yes, my poetry back then was equally as sucky.

Kim Deal went on to join up with Kristen Hersh and Tanya Donnelly, both of which are fantastic solo rockstars. The Breeders was formed and "Cannonball" became a hit. One of my favorite all time songs from highschool is "Not Too Soon" a Throwing Muses track. I was at writing camp (at Port Townsend, ironically enough) and two angry teenage lesbians gave me the tape. Yes, tape. I'm of that era.

Last night, I wore my CBGB t-shirt and painted my nails black for the occasion. Andrew and I wandered in to the purple-chandeliered Fillmore and got drinks. Frank Black came out, a little heavier, a little blacker than I remember. (Clothing, of course.) About a quarter way through his solo set he started introducing the rest of the band, and they ran out and took their spot on stage. The drummer looked like an albino with a wave perm. I was mystified. "I saw that guy earlier, and I thought he was just a freak," Andrew said. Nope, that was the drummer.The bass player looked equally freaky, anorexic with a wig-like amount of hair. His pea-sized biceps popping out whenever he'd hit a new chord.

The Pixies had reunited, but where was the real drummer? And where was Kim Deal? She's got to be almost fifty by now, and probably looks worked. Andrew and I listened to song after song emitting from the sweaty bald-headed Black. The Fillmore was in full character. That place could sell air fresheners going by no other name than "The Fillmore" and people would immediately know: Pot. Officers could no longer accuse people of holding because they could blame it on their Fillmore air fresheners. Genius! Or at least it seemed to be when I dreamed it up at the concert last night, probably on a contact high.

Andrew and I left, and walked to my car. "Well I guess that's proof that Rock is still alive," I told him.

"See, I'm not so sad that it ever died," he said. I considered that, and all of the great music that has come since certain forms of rock have evolved.

Tonight at the Great American Music Hall, we're going to see Split Lip Rayfield, a blues garage band. It's a special performance, because it's one of their last. Their lead singer, Kirk Rundstrom has been diagnosed with an aggressive form of esophsgeal cancer and decided that singing sold-out shows brings him the most joy. Also, Chris Abani is reading at City Lights in Little Italy on Columbus. At Vesuvio, the tiny two-story pub/cafe next door, I swear the ghost of Jack Kerouac is still kicking around. If you're in the neighborhood, and especially because it's holiday time, stop by Tosca and get a house cappuccino, mixed with brandy and Ghiradelli chocolate. Tiny glasses line the bar, with stir sticks coming out the top. Don't forget to bring nickels for the juke box which plays Italian opera from records that look like glass.

Andrew has another ticket to Split Lip Rayfield, so if you're interested, meet us there. I'll be the tattooless blonde with black fingernails contemplating the aroma of another famous American venue.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Lucinda - Live @ The Fillmore - Tonight!

I wouldn't be a friend if I didn't put in a quick plug for my girl, Lucinda Williams. She's playing at the Fillmore tonight, debuting some of her prolific 24 new songs. (Was I supposed to spill that yet?) The album has been pushed out to February 15, 2007, but adoring fans will be delighted to know that Lu re-released "Car Wheels on A Gravel Road" just yesterday. Tonight's show is Sold Out...but if you really want to get in I can probably help you make it happen.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Manifesting Great Things

Today I bought Janet Fitch's new book Paint It Black. Janet tops my list of contemporary writers for her first masterpiece novel, White Oleander. The magic of her words, woven into her signature hybrid of poetic fiction, is mesmerizing. She is a leader in our craft for having the rare ability to leave a reader with the sense they actually had an experience. It's haunting. I then worked on revising a difficult chapter of my own novel for several hours. I took a break to walk through the city. San Francisco has gotten dark and cold in the space of a week, reminding me of how fast things can change when you aren't paying attention. I thought about why I was stuck with my writing. I decided, after I witnessed a street fight between a quarrelling couple, that it's because my writing is vulnerable and telling. My characters explore their emotions and motives deeply. They scatter on the page, like photographs, or soundbytes until I can make sense of it. But I can't capture a scene or chapter, with any satisfaction, unless I tell it as it's felt. It's refreshing that another writer (JF) seems to approach writing similarly, and without reservation. I considered how inspiring it would be to have Janet as a mentor.

I thought about another mentor of mine, Chris Abani. We haven't been in touch for a month or so, but we texted today. While at Centrum he told me to explore PhD programs, and turned me on to Percival Everett's writing. When I visited the website at USC where Percival teaches, I learned that Janet teaches there, too. I sent her an email, and told her how much I loved White Oleander. Since I didn't think she'd actually read it, I babbled on a bit about my work as an advertising copywriter in NYC and SF, my transition to becoming a professional commissioned artist and my recent goals as a fiction writer.

I came home ready to dive into my writing. I closed the window to my email, but my eye caught on a new message. It was lyrical and encouraging. It was a personal email from a mentor: Janet Fitch.

Sunday, October 22, 2006

In Memoriam: Barbara Yanowski

This summer, my first workshop in Iowa City was "This Too is Life: Memoirs of Illness." I was interested in the genre of memoir, and considered myself an expert on illness. Even though I was newly-diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis, I wasn't openly sharing about it. The first day I stepped in the class, there were a few older people, a couple of doctors, a woman who had lost her daughter to cancer and another woman with MS. After the first class, I was completely bummed out.

I stuck with it, though. I realized that being with these people for several hours a day--reading essays, writing our experiences, and being in all stages of illness--was uncomfortably confronting for me. I secretly defined myself as the "healthy sick girl." I believed I could heal myself with wheatgrass, vitamins and positive thoughts. I wasn't fooling anyone though, with a cooler of interferon at my feet.

One of our assignment was to discuss our regrets. Two women in their seventies-Ruth and Barbara-were the comedy troupe of our class. Ruth said that she would have been "more promiscuous." Ruth detailed all of the ways she had tried to be a "good girl" and how if she could go back, she would have lots more sex. Barbara was a firecracker, spurring her on, asking for details. I later learned that Barbara was struggling with cancer, an ongoing battle for her.

The last night of our class, we had a special dinner sponsored by the university. When I arrived after getting my Interferon treatment, Barbara and Ruth saved a place for me. Ruth assembled a small plate of desserts, instructing me, one by one, which ones were her favorites. It hit me how ironic, I was fighting with every cell of my body to look good--while it felt like every joint was swelling and dismantling. Meanwhile, this table of "sick" people were so energetic, self-expressed, free. The difference between us was they had accepted their situation and I was using all of my energy to deny it.

Barbara grabbed my arm across the table. "Your writing reminds me of Augusten Burroughs," she said. I told her that Augusten Burroughs was one of my favorite contemporary authors. I was flattered out of my mind. "Truth can be funny." She smiled and told me to keep on writing. That's the last time I saw Barbara. Today, I got the sad news from our teacher, Cecile Goding, that Barbara passed away comfortably on Friday night with her husband by her side. Cecile said her only comments on the workshop evaluation form said, "Loved everything, but need more desserts!" Barbara exposed me to the possibility that having an illness is not a character flaw. It creates opportunity and compassion, and ultimately is part of what can make a person truly extraordinary. She saw the funny side of truth. And, she showed us not to sit around, waiting for the good stuff: Eat dessert first.

*********************************

My thoughts and prayers are with Barbara's family and friends during this difficult time.
The memorial service is Nov. 4, 11-1:30 at the Beach AA meeting she started in St. Pete Beach. Memorials may be sent to Moffet Cancer Institute, Foundation for Lymphoma Research, Tampa, FL.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

The Mantenna and the Fall of Western Civilization

Someone in my class sent me an email with the subject line, "My Brain Hurts From Studying." If it's possible to imagine, my brain hurt too much to open and read the email. I haven't been updating my blog...or, uh, showering for that matter. I'm knee-deep in study-mode: GREs, Personal Statements, formal applications and deciding which manuscript to send to my list of chosen universities. I've narrowed it down to about eleven schools from my eighteen original darlings.

Since I'm no longer a twenty-year old college student, with a racy red motorcycle and a Mountain Dew addiction, study breaks are lame. I've read (and written) one too many Public Service Announcement ads to smoke cigarettes, and I don't have the metabolism for beer. My old college roommate is doing perfunctory married people things, 2500 miles and two time zones away. We can't run over to Doc's Pad to flirt ourselves into oblivion.

Bored, somewhat depressed, and unshowered, I checked my messages. Or, message, singular. Plus the twelve I think I might need someday to remind me of how popular I used to be two weeks ago. Sprint automatically deletes them after a month. It's like they're saying Get Over It, Lady, but with the manners of an "Oops! I did it again!" technological hiccup. My incoming message? The Pharmacist. And "he" was automated. He says my name, pronounced hard, like it's taking every nano-chip of his energy to push out: "Ju-Ain-Nell AT-Toe-LEE-nee!"

It's official. I've. Hit. A. New. Low.

I decide, since the Pharmacist went to all that trouble to call, least I can do is pay him a visit. I also want to see if I can pick up the latest Sun Magazine. It's my favorite magazine, and it seems like hardly anyone knows about it. I discovered The Sun while an obsequious new writer in New York City.

When I got to the pharmacy, the automated man is actually a very friendly Asian woman with palm trees painted on her acrylic nails. I know that the drugstore doesn't carry The Sun, but I look for it anyway. I feel the same level of surprise and disappointment everytime, when it's not there.

A guy with a Mantenna passes, then stops beside me and grabs a magazine. He asks me which magazine I am in. Seriously. What is a girl supposed to say to something that creepy? And how great would the look on his face have been if I would have handed him a Playboy?

Fortunately, because he was wearing The Mantenna, I had an out. "I'm sorry?" I said. I pointed to his ear. "I thought you were on the phone." He fiddled with his earpiece, and my eyes refocused with the gravitational pull of the headline BRAD WALKS OUT, ANGELINA BLAMES JEN! (Trust me, this stuff actually starts to make sense after spending hours writing...)

Later that night, I ask my roommate about the evolution of The Mantenna. When did this happen? I thought guys didn't like talking on the phone. Most of them are self-described masters of the five-minute, dictated converstaion. Now, they're ruining the foundation of generations before by prancing around with phones ATTACHED to their ears.

Is this Escape of the Killer Telemarketers, or is the Shopping Channel having a sale on hyperactive man accessories? I thought men, and the geriatric population, were the reason Operators asked us to stay on the line if we have rotary dial. Because telephones are complicated and mysterious. I personally could never understand how some men could be mesmerized by 42inch HDTVs, reassemble computers, and pirate their neighbors cable, but "just weren't phone people." Now, those same men are going on dates with fat, blinking spaceships hanging off their ears and ringtones blaring "I'm Bringing Sexy Back!" by Justin Timberlake. I don't know if they sleep with their Mantennas, but it's safe to say we've got a national crisis on our hands. Not since the Fanny Pack, which in its worst stages became the Manny Pack, have I seen such a fashion debacle.

The next day I got a speeding ticket. I was rushing to the doctor. I had a bad experience giving myself a shot. I must have hit a vein or nerve because it hurt like hell. Renee was getting her climbing gear together, and after I screamed, gave me some medical explanation in a very monotone voice. That girl is solid. The house could be on fire, and Renee would come home, look at the damage, and say, "That's cool. I was going to donate that stuff to Goodwill anyway."

I was determined to shoot the other side, but was completely freaked out. It still hurt where I stuck the needle. Renee brought me Mac and Cheese, and we were watching The Girls Next Door, pretending like I could give myself the shot...any second. Renee finally recapped the needle, and I called the doctor to give me the shot.

When I got pulled over, I made no excuses, didn't cry. The cop told me to go 50 MPH. (uh, Really though? 50?) After he handed me a pink slip, I punched it Chuie, and hit the turbo to get back in the freeway flow. The cop was still trailing me. I looked down and realized I was going about 70.

He came up beside me. I thought he was trying to tell me something. I actually thought I'd get pulled over again and get a second speeding ticket in five minutes. A record for me. I wasn't nervous, maybe because he looked like a Doogie Houser, M.D dress up version of a cop. Or those security guard dudes at the mall who are like B Team knock off cops. I slowed down and mouthed "I'm sorry."

But he wasn't trying to communicate with me. He didn't even look my way as he zoomed off. He was too busy talking and laughing into his Mantenna to notice.

Monday, October 02, 2006

Cruise Jewerly and Scarves

Do you know what it's like to pack up your stuff in storage, and unearth it several months later?

It's fantastic. It was like going to the Store of Jaynel. In every box, I was like, "I love that!" and then I realized I could take it because it was, mine. There was one problem. The movers did such a good job, that my storage "pod" was stuffed like a maze. I pulled out a couple of paintings, and my snowboard fell on my head. (ouch.) When I tried to stuff it back, it wouldn't fit. I took out this little sad, fragile table to make room. I remember asking the mover guy to take it at the last minute. I put it on the street, but I just couldn't leave it there.

"You're keeping that thing?" he asked. It was falling apart. I wonder if that's what I liked about it. "It's hella ugly," he said, "But I'll find room."

I came for clothes, and my paint. My paints were buried behind my desk, my favorite chair that's been following me since Colorado, and the ironing board I almost never use. I was actually afraid to move anything, for fear everything would come tumbling down. I took a small silver box cleverly coded "photos." There's me laughing with a birthday cake full of candles on my 30th birthday, my sister and I on Christmas, my college roommate (including my very studious college ID), my motorcycle permit and a very posed senior class picture from high school. I had a perm from a Beauty School Trainee. (I wish I was joking.)

At the bottom of the box is a tape. A "cassette." With Music. There's a sheet of paper shoved in the sleeve, and it lists the songs: Talking Heads, Michael Penn, Flaming Lips, Elvis Costello...I remember this particular guy telling me that he sang a song for me and recorded it from his basement, so it sounded kind of rough. I was a senior in high school and working at an art gallery in 1992. I was so impressed that I loaded up my girlfriends in the parking lot during lunch in my 1984 Ford Escort. The song was called "Butterfly." One of my girlfriends says with her mouth half full, "Your boyfriend didn't sing this!" And I just turned it up louder so she could hear the basement where he sang it. "Unless your boyfriend is Lenny Kravitz..." I was sipping on a Coca Cola Slurpee from 7-11. I either had a brain freeze or I went into shock. Whenever I imagine this guy (which is, in case you're wondering, absolutely never, and for the record, would not consider a boyfriend), I just imagine his face with Lenny dreds and a boa around his neck. Why did he have to ruin LENNY for me?! And what did Lenny ever do to him?

I wanted to find my box of scarves and jewerly. My mother calls it "cruise jewerly" because it's too extravagent to wear everyday. I don't want to wait for a cruise, though. I don't even like cruises. I think beautiful things should be worn everyday, even if they are a little extraordinary. But I went away empty-handed, because when I opened the box, it was full of kitchenware.

It's uncharacteristic for me not to wear a scarf, or big clumbsy jewerly. Tonight Renee made me laugh, "I'm surprised you didn't get your scarves out of storage," she says. "I don't think I've ever seen your neck." Maybe I should look up my imposter ex and see if I can borrow his Lenny boa.

Sunday, October 01, 2006

I'm a Saab Genius!

Winter is upon us in sunny California. I stopped by my storage to get my down comforter, sweaters, wool socks. It's a nippy 75 degrees.

As I left, I pushed the button to close the roof of my convertible. Suddenly, I hear a loud SNAP. The roof is beeping, but not moving. The interior computer says CHECK SOFT TOP. Usually that happens if the trunk is too full. But I can't open the trunk, because it's so jacked up.

I call Saab Roadside, even though my warranty is expired by two months. They're closed. CLOSED. Roadside is not open on Sundays. I read the manual...try everything. Since I once fixed my car in Montana via a phone conversation with a Saab mechanic hundreds of miles away, I feel I am uniquely qualified to fix this malfunction. I don't think it's electrical because it doesn't say SOFT TOP FAILURE, although it could be.

I start to give up, sit in the warehouse and stare at my freaked out, jacked up car. I still love this car, frustrated as I am. I can't pull up the backside top roof by myself, it's heavy and awkward. So I hang out until I flag down the guy on the forklift. I ask if he can help me. He looks at me sympathetically. He says he doesn't want to mess up my car any more than it already is, and puts on by. I don't know why, but I take it personally.

A scary, heavily-pierced and tattooed girl comes by with her belly hanging over her low riders. Since I'm basically at the mercy of strangers, I try to woo her with charm by complimenting one of her tattoos. It comes off totally inauthentic because she then asks, "Do you have tattoos?" To which I have to say, "Uh, not exactly."

I'm honestly too afraid to ask her to help the cause, but I push myself to ask her friend to lift the back roof of my car. It's tough to be in this kind of desperate situation, because it's imperative she treats it delicately--I'm convinced there's something in the joint that made it snap in the first place. So now I'm the weirdo who is micro-managing the Good Samaritan. I thank her profusely, and she wanders off like a kid who is disgusted with the candy I'm handing out on Halloween.

Pleasantries aside, I'm on a mission. I compare both latches, get grease all over my hands--so I'm legit. I clear out a single leaf. I don't think that could be the source of a breakdown, so I march on. And I find a silver spring that doesn't spring on the other side. I mess with it. I now understand what guys do for hours under hoods of cars. Tinkering is really just another word for patience. They look at things, compare them, mess with stuff. And unless the mechanics are wearing gloves these days, they get grease on their hands.

I stand back and assess the situation. I'm in the "bargaining phase" with God. I cross my fingers, close my eyes and wince as I press the button The roof thrusts back and sticks.

It's all over. I reach for my wallet, my AAA card. I'm not ready to accept defeat, but I can't hang out in a storage warehouse all day. I press down on the convertible roof button one more time with my left hand as I fumble for my cell phone in my purse with my right. I hear a hum, then a triple-beep. I turn my head (just for effect, image it in slow motion) and the convertible roof has, miraculously, sealed.

"I FIXED it!" I holler over to Tat Girl and Robin. They nod. I jet outta there, late to meet Kevin in Golden Gate Park Comedy Day in the Park. It goes straight to voicemail, so he's probably on stage. Ironically I pass Home Depot. Compulsively, I pull over (just for a minute) to get...lights and stuff.

An overly-helpful orange aproned guy looks at me kind of weird. "Is something wrong?" I ask. "You're staring." He shifts. "Nah, but you..." he motions to my head, "There's like dirt on your forehead." I wipe my brow with the back of my hand.

I'm surprisingly unphased. "That's just grease," I say, blowing my girly reputation in one fell swoop. "I was working on my car."

Home Depot Alias

As kids, Remi and I had this toy called "Lift and Load." It had a dump truck, a crane, a gas pump, bricks, wood slabs, and the little plastic guys that would come by in the trucks to ring the bell and pick up their faux deliveries. My mom didn't like us spending too much time with Barbies because "real women just don't look like that." I was a little confused about the perma-tan lines and perma-tippie toes.

I'd probably be dangerously girly if I HAD spent some time with Barbies. Last night my roommate says, "You wore that to Safeway? We aren't used to living with girls." I asked Renee what she meant, because there's four girls living here. "Yeah, but you're the only girl. We wear sweats and flip flops."

So then why, if I'm the only girl, is it my favorite thing to check out the plants, wood, tiling and paint chips at Home Depot?

Every time they ask my friend Grange's name at Starbucks, she tells them Julie. "Oh, really Julie?" I say sarcastically. She's serious, though. "These people don't need to know my name. What, everyone wants to be my friend now?" Um, maybe I watched too much Romper Room as a kid, but...yes?

But maybe she has a point. There could be some benefit in having an alias. Especially at Home Depot where they are all up in your business and all you really want to do is check things out, because you aren't even sure what your business is yet.

Friday, September 29, 2006

It's Not All About the Math

In a three-hour stretch of algebra formulas and fractions about situations involving row boats and the percentage of cars on the freeway during any 30-second window on a leap year, we hear gunfire. I don't look up from my book, because I somehow feel that I'm very close to solving the important issue of how many gallons of gas it takes Billy to visit Suzie if Suzie lives twenty percent further than Billy had planned, and if Billy drives 10mph faster than the speed limit.

I wanted to draw on my algebra archives from 1992, but I failed algebra in high school. No kidding: F. I remember taking that one home to my Dad and watching him shake his head, "We're getting F's now?" It can really make a kid feel bad when suddenly, because you're more into Depeche Mode and your spiral perm, you've somehow given your Dad an F in algebra, too. So I made sure to get at least D's, with the cameo C after that. My strategy paid off. While all the "honors" students became burnouts before their Freshman Orientation, I stored up my stamina for college. I had several semesters-over a year-long run-of straight A's. Including an A- in Calculus.

What does this mean? I still failed high school algebra. And I was writing poetry in the margins of my geometry tests. "If only you could focus on your geometry the way you do poetry," Mr. Wark tsk-tsked, a subtle threat to swipe my teenage angst and share it with the class. Trust me, lame as my poetry was then, an impromptu reading could have really livened things up.

But now, seems even neighboring gunshots can't distract me. I tell myself it's probably just kids lighting up those 4th of July leftovers. Nevermind that I'm in the heart of the Financial District in San Francisco-and it would pretty much be an alien sighting to see a child. Like seeing a lit cigarette in a California bar- it just doesn't happen. Our GRE instructor, a guy our age that is way too excited about integers and exponents, lets us out 15 minutes early.

"We should walk out together," the girl sitting beside me said. "I think I heard gunshots."

We got in the elevator and walked down the dark city streets, not saying too much. It's not that we were concerned about rampant gunfire, or our signature San Francisco aggressive homeless. Our heads hurt from too much algebra, and I was still personally baffled. Did Billy have enough gasoline to make it to Suzie's all right, and if he did, what if Suzie wasn't home?

Thursday, September 28, 2006

Air Guitar and the Rockstar of the Future

In the Mission last night, I met up with Andrew and his roommate, Michael. Andrew had called earlier to tell me that there was this guy at his work who was a serious Air Guitarist. Andrew, a San Francisco native, set up his friend Dan (aka Tiger Claw LeFever) with a gig at 12 Galaxies.

I had to see it for myself. A guy who worked in a corporate mailroom by day, and went into clubs, masked and armed only with his air guitar by night. That's entertainment. When I arrived, a middle-aged man in a Shriner's hat with a blinking blue light sat on stage with another, probable twin. They were an act called Ask Dr. Hal. People from the audience could ask Dr. Hal anything, and they did. From the gross (Do unborn babies poop and pee?) to the curious (Which country makes the best chili: Israel or Palestine). A large man with bad home highlights sat in the corner on a computer, googling images to go with the corresponding question. If it doesn't sound interesting, consider that there was a lot of dry ice-just what a doctor needs to make him credible while fielding totally ridiculous questions from the semi-intoxicated.

Then came the star of the show, the main act...TIGER CLAW LeFEVER! He sprang to the stage in a red animal print shirt, mask and pleather. Behind him, dry ice and a slide show of the 80's glam rock greats played. It was the perfect backdrop for an Air Guitar performance. He may not look like your typical polished American Idol, but Tiger Claw is going places with his air guitar. One of those places being the 1st Annual Air Guitar Festival, here in San Francisco. Tiger Claw was a contestant, until he got onstage and the music began to play. They were playing punk, which according to him is a stepchild of rock and metal. There are no solos. He then threw down his air guitar on stage and stormed off. Any serious air guitaristwould never perform to Punk!

Tiger Claw LeFever explained to me that Finland has the longest running air guitar festival. The Finland Air Guitar Championships have been going for 10 years. Air guitaring has roots from a Joe Cocker performance at Woodstock, but didn't take off as a household name until the 80's when bands like Iron Maiden and Judas Priest took the reigns along with the MTV Generation.

Don't look for a Greatist Hits album from Tiger Claw leFever, though. "I'd love to make one, but it's all copyrighted," he once told Andrew. Ah, the classic Air Guitarist dilemma. Maybe we should call Dr. Hal about that one.

Monday, September 11, 2006

flying

I dream in running the way some people dream in other languages.

Monday, September 04, 2006

Allegedly a Lady

I went for my first ever mandatory drug test the other day. The director gave me the paperwork and directions, saying, "I don't know why they have us do this. It's really no big deal."

It was an elaborate lab slip. And I know lab slips. There were wrist bands, stickers, code words and numbers to match. I sat on a folding chair in a waiting room with an empty water cooler and ripped up, worn out "Parents" and "Child" magazines. Apparently they weren't just testing for drugs at this fine establishment.

A teenage boy, at least six feet tall with a constellation of zits all over his face sat with his mother. He hung his head down. He put his baseball cap on backwards, then forwards, shifting in his chair. "Stop figiting," his mother said, her lips pinched together so tightly it's amazing any words could escape. It's as though, for my sake, she was trying to be a ventriloquist of discipline.

A man with a military haircut and a starch-white shirt and labcoat said, "Atto-lon-ni!" His teeth were kinda yellow which made his labcoat look all the whiter.

"Attolini," I smiled.

"Are you ready?" he said.

I nod and he tells me to come on back. I notice the dirt around the door knob because that kind of thing is gross and shouldn't exist in a quasi-medical facility- or at least in a place where they take blood. In a back room, he takes several plastic cups out of his pockets and begins to label them. He goes through the paperwork, my basic information, height, weight, job, marital status. He tells me to wash my hands and instructs me which soap to use and how much. He watches me do this. He hands me a towel. I say thank you and ask if I should pick out the colors for my manicure. He is not amused.

The irony here is that I've never done a hard drug in my life. It's not that I haven't been offered them, or haven't been curious, but when the moment to actually take them came, I just...well...said no.

I've often wonder if this strange sort of virginity has clogged up my subconscious. All of these missed experiences at parties, backstages, barbecues, study sessions, concerts, camping trips, road trips, or just the trip in general- has been the cause for it to appeal so graphically in my fictional writing.

He tells me to go behind a curtain with the cup. Under no circumstances am I to flush the toilet, or use the sink. There is blue stuff sprinkled on the toilet. There's warning signs on the walls, but they are all written in Spanish, so I can't read them, but they look like they mean business.

Of course I will pass this test. After going vegan, they'd be lucky to find traces of corn syrup.

He shoos me into the makeshift bathroom and sits on a folding chair a foot outside the bathroom. I can hear him: rustling with my papers, tapping his foot, humming. "Excuse me," I open the curtain, "Could you give a lady some space?"

"No can do," he says suspiciously, like I'm allegedly a lady. "Rules say I sit here till you finish your sample."

A minute or two pass, then five. He's making me nervous. I think I have to go, but I can't. I imagine waterfalls, rivers, overflowing dams, and still the guy is giving me stagefright. I've done this a million times, but never in a "lockdown" situation. I'm too freaked out.

I finally give up. "Listen, I'm sorry. I can't do this." I say. I hand him the empty cup.

"I must inform you Ms. Anto-lo-ni that if you do not go right now, you will be not be able to be tested for another hour and will not be able to leave the facility. Otherwise you must contact your boss and be administered new paperwork," he dictated, a memorized imprint on his brain from a Manager 101 seminar. I'm kind of worried for a minute that this "paperwork" will be difficult to get, expensive, and was coded just for me.

I nodded my head like a kid in trouble for not winning a game, producing results. But I was relieved to escape from behind the dingy curtain, and worse, the aura he cast on me that I was already guilty. "Sorry you had to wait...in the chair for me, Sir," I say. I'm surprised at myself for calling a guy just a couple of years older than me, or possibly younger than me, "Sir." He seems to eat up the faux respect. "I'll just talk it over with my boss." I tell him.

"You do that. I guarantee he will not be happy!" he decides.

I do not tell him that my boss is a woman. I do not tell him that this test is so that I can continue to VOLUNTEER my time to people, many who are sick, and some who are dying. I nod, head low like the teenager in the lobby, resigned to his small world of doom, scowls and crookery.

I walk down the hall with over-trafficked carpeting near the doorways. Places where people walk especially fast, to get away from the evidence they have left behind. Especially if they may wonder how they might handle, if they suspect they have something to worry about, whatever is ahead of them. Namely the truth.

Fortunately I'm not one of those people. I'm just a girl who cannot pee on demand.

The man in the labcoat is walking behind me. "So what's your novel about?" he asks.

"Oh, It's about trailer parks, rockstars, drugs," I say.

His eyes sharpen. "I see," he says.

I tell him that it's not autobiographical or anything. It's fiction. He hands me a piece of paper. "Don't come back until you have new paperwork," he says. "Exit on your left."

Driving home, thinking about nothing at all, I feel uncomfortable with the five gallons of water I downed earlier. I pull over at a Borders Bookstore, and wait in the automatic ladies room line. I'm certain that's why our life expectancies expand another seven years-to compensate for the time we spend waiting to go to the bathroom.

When I see my boss, I explain to her what happened. She laughs a little as she opens a file cabinet stacked full of the paperwork that once seemed so exclusive.

"Don't worry about it, Jaynel" she tells me, "It's really no big deal."

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

fork in the road

I made it to the all raw retreat in San Diego.

I'm doing everything to the letter. I eat food that's possibly not really food, drink wheatgrass and truckloads of purified water. I meditate, practice conscious breathing, alpha techniques and yoga. I know the names and colors of all of my chakras. I use all toxin-free products, and gather herbs in a garden that will help me sleep. The only poision in my blood is the Interferon every Friday, and it still kicks my ass from here to the stars, turning my body inside out.

Maybe living here will heal me, and maybe this is just the sugar/white flour/meat/processed foods/caffiene withdrawl talking, but I can't help feeling that I ran away from something to come back to something calming, familiar and grounding. Truth is, my heart is in Indiana, with this fantastic man who I blew off...(in a letter!?!)...stupid!...for wheatgrass, yoga, and my avocado facial classes with the new crop of raw food retreaters each week. I thought I wanted to really take in this wholistic lifestyle ... and "give back." But I suck at yoga, poked a woman in the eye with a cucumber accidentally, and the smell of wheatgrass is making me hurl.

I'm making a lot of friends, studying for the GRE, having fun in the quantifiable sense. Something is missing, and I'm not clear about what to do about it yet. So I paint. Garden. Meditate. Prepare raw food.

I got a call from my patron, Greg in San Francisco. He asked if I wanted to hang out while he was out of town at his loft for part of September. I am tempted. I could live with my mural, and that fantastic sunlight. There's good friends in San Francisco. And they have food in San Francisco. He also told me that I have to come back and sign Zoe Heights- I had planned to sign it at the reveal party, but there was so much happening that night, so many people, and I lost track.

I met a writer/producer yesterday at a coffee house. (I was drinking water.) I told him about my novel, and he got pretty excited about it. He wrote for TV for years (think crime drama) before writing screenplays. I could tell he was a real writer, because he seemed to be somewhat introverted and smart. We talked about our projects, fellowships, New York, and grad school for a couple of hours. He gave me the name of Amy Tan's literary agent. Last night I completed a proposal for what I am tenatively calling my novel, "Coats." I'm inspired after meeting this guy to start shopping it around.

In other news, as if my literary world couldn't get any brighter after Iowa, Port Townsend, and into the completion of Coats, I have more concrete news on my residency status with the Atlantic Center for the Arts. In April, I submitted an excerpt from my novel, as well as a short story about Generation X to the ACA. They are a non-profit artist residency on the central east coast of Florida, 6 miles from the Atlantic Ocean. Artist studios sit on 69 acres of lush palmetto and pine forest in the midst of 2,000 acres of an ecological preserve, on the richest tidal estuary in North America. (The copywriter in me didn't think that up, it's all at: www.atlanticcenterforthearts.org)

Last month, I got an "You're accepted!--kind of" letter. It named me as an Alternate Artist. I didn't know what that meant so I called the ACA. Imagine being the guy who had to take that call. Well he was the director, and he was cool. He told me that they only accept 8 people into their Writer Residency Program, and I was number 9. He told me that so far, no one has declined their spot as a Resident Writer, but as soon as they do, I'll be notified. I'm starting to wonder if these residencies are competitive. Since this would be a complete interruption to what I am trying to achieve here at my raw food retreat and overall healing experiment, I had to ask, very respectfully, of course: Is this residency competitive? He answered very emphatically, "It's very difficult to get accepted. Since 2000 we've been getting over 500 applications a year." The critic in me thought, only 500? Well then why am I a lousy #9? But if I was #4 I'd want to be #1. That night, when my head hit the pillow, I did the math--I became content, and I slept very well.

I hope that my health improves, with more good days than bad, and I hope that I don't worry about things I can't control, and am able to live in the moment, which for the timebeing is nothing short of glorious. The weather is amazing, my car is beautiful (and fun!), and when I apply to the universe for what interests me, it takes care of me in unexpected ways. I just have to have faith, and be willing to leap. Some people think it's risky and too adventurous in a time when I should be more settled. But, THIS is life--when life dictates its twists and turns and adventures and loves--not a job or illness or most restrictive of all: ourselves.

In the coming weeks, life will step in and give me some chances to take if I'm willing. I have to remember that nothing is permanent--the only consequence to making the wrong choice is that there will be more choices to make. Still, my heart argues with my head, which fights my gut. My head helps keep Indiana out of my heart, even during hours when my hands and legs and arms are cement, and the only thing that seems to be healthy and functional is my heart. A lot of people here like to remind me that the moon is moving through venus, or it would've never worked out anyway or that I'm just behaving according to my astrological sign. The chakra that no one here talks about is the one I've always trusted, with the least sexy name, and a color that's probably a shimmery hue of black: my gut.

Saturday, August 12, 2006

48 hours in San Francisco

• Drank iced tea with Peter at the Grove, and got a tour of his new BMW.

• Ran into rocker Samantha on Fillmore, discussed sending sketches of my heArtwork for her tattoo design to an illustrator. Briefly discussed the Pirate she’s dating.

• Dined on a home-cooked organic meal at Jorge’s new loft apartment in SOMA. Ate the most extravagently sweet tomato ever from the farmer's market. Wore new champaigne cami and broke in painful but beautiful BCBG shoes. Discussed an exciting new project.

• Mani/Pedi at Lavande. Tried to eavesdrop on gossip in Taiwanese. Was able to make out "Brad Pitt."

• Lunched with Jim at a charming hole in the wall Mediterarrean CafĂ©. Drove around in my new wheels.

• Saw my estethician Tricia, and got an update on her lovelife with a state prision guard.

• Ran into spring “fadeout” Justin at Peets in Pacific Heights. Managed a smile and wink while apologetically rushing off to therapy.

• Broke up with my therapist without saying, "Really, it's not you. It's me."

• Saw my hospital crush, Dr. Could-be-Gay and realized after the fact that "hospital gown" just isn't my color.

• Beat the rush hour at Trader Joe’s and bought Apple Struedel. (a Kalle and Paolo favorite!)

• Contacted Lucinda Williams peeps about upcoming tour art. Informed Lu that my eyelashes are real, and Christian Dior makes them look so irresistibly fake.

• Parked illegally under a crane in downtown San Francisco just long enough to catch up with my old roommate, Katy who broke away from blueprints or floor plans to see me.

• Found pictures of last marathon and was reminded by Renee of my now-gone Madonna arms. (Ate another piece of struedel.)

• Partied through happy hour on Polk Street in Russian Hill. Heard the familiar ringing of the Hyde cable car and was not even a little bit nostalgic.

• Was offered a piece of chocolate by my dentist, and told me he couldn’t make any money off me because my teeth are *perfect*

• Washed my car and was greeted by Renee's neighbor. (Call him, Renee. He's single.)

• Arrived for my coffee at Ritual and was greeted with: “Where have you been! We’ve been just worried sick!”

• Accidentally dropped a sleeping pill in my printer, and now it literally will not power on.

I made it to my new apartment in San Diego. It's huge. I crashed with a friend in The O.C. last night. We had a blast. I had never been there before: land of gated communities, botox, palm trees and streets that look like a moving Mercedes Benz showroom.

Sunday, July 23, 2006

Travels through Washington

I packed up my bug spray and sunscreen, and took my last cold shower. I said my goodbyes, collected my scribbled up manuscripts, and promised to write as I drove the 15 mph speed limit, top down, out of Port Townsend Centrum writer's camp. I did not want to leave. I could have lived on that cot, using a bathroom that smelled of mold, if it meant I could wake up to my laptop and a desk overlooking the Pacific.

At the ferry dock, I was scolded by the Sheriff for having almost-expired tabs. Not knowing if the DMV had sent the tabs to San Francisco, Iowa or Washington, I shrugged and offered him half my sandwich. He smiled and offered me a warning.

I was the last car the orange-vested ferry workers shoved on the boat. Blonde in a California convertible-they hated me already, rolling their eyes as I struggled to fit into the half millimeter space they were directing me. I squeezed between a RV called "Expedition" with every cheesy retirement bumper sticker you can imagine, and a minivan with a license plate that said "gotrealestate?" and either a trampoline of midgets, or an eight year old birthday party going on inside.

The ferry started to pull away, with half my car's ass hanging on to the dock. I yanked on the parking brake, and pushed over a hippie biker accidentally with my car door. "Hey!" I yelled at the Orange Vest ferry lady, who was waving her arms like an air traffic controller. "My car can't swim!"

"Oh, that," she said eyeing the back of my car and calling another Orange Vest over. "Set your parking brake. We'll just throw this net around the back."

"And these blocks under your tires," Orange Vest guy said.

My car seemed to be stable, and I was quickly distracted by the view pulling out of Port Townsend. I went up to the upper deck, wondering how I could have seen this before-the midnight blue water and mountains, historic buildings, cliffs and sailboats- and never really have seen it.

I drove off the ferry onto Whidbey Island to visit my Aunt Julieann and Uncle Pete in Oak Harbor. I drove on Highway 20, through farmlands along the water and past hidden trailer park cultures that fixate in my writing. Everything seems bigger and older to me. The evergreens and hills, the antique stores and farmhouses. Or maybe it's possible that this is now visible since I've lived in places like Brooklyn, San Francisco, Colorado...where these things exist only in fiction, and aren't nearly as beautiful.

Sunday, July 16, 2006

Flashback: Port Townsend, Washington

I was eight the first time I saw Port Townsend, Washington. My Dad had an old Dodge van that could sit all four of us in the front. It wasn't a looker, and took some McGyvering to get to run. Its demise, little did we know, was shocking and ironic. It started fire while we were visiting a family grave. That's right-she died in a cemetery.

One of the first places we went in that baby blue eyesore was the Ferry to Port Townsend, Washington. It was a tiny town, with weird little shops that sold dusty things and postcards. A few years later, our middle school band showed up for a parade. I was dressed in blue and white, marching like I was practicing for a career and wailing out sour notes from my clarinet with a broken reed. I have pictures from the ferry with Michelle, Jolyne, and my hairsprayed bangs. There was barely enough room in the picture for my bangs and anyone else.

When I was sixteen, I had a Ford Escort that I named Gutless Wonder. I was a dishwasher at a Chinese Restaurant for $3.65 an hour. I was doing poorly (okay, flunking) algebra, geometry, Spanish...and was put in classes with stoners and other delinquents. These classes had names like "Plants and People." We hung out in a greenhouse and grew...plants. The stoners seemed to have a green thumb.

I had one Creative Writing class, and I wrote poetry and short stories. One day the principal came looking for me. I avoided him for days. When he finally tracked me down, he said I won first place in state for poetry-a poem I turned in last minute, untyped, on a crumbled up piece of notebook paper. I didn't sign it, but he recognized my handwriting. He asked if I would read it in two assemblies. I said I would think about it. He said if I read it I would get the prize money. Considering the prize money was a weeks worth of scraping Chow Mein off family style dishes, I asked him which day. I didn't want to skip.

That gig led to graduation, homecoming, and prom poems and became the school poet. I cringe to think what these poems said, but they all seemed very important at the time. My creative writing teacher (Carl Steiner) told me I was chosen to attend Centrum's Creativity Camp in Port Townsend for high school students. It was official. I was green-lighted to skip an entire week of real school to hang out with real poets on the beach.

I drove my Gutless Wonder to Fort Worden State Park in Port Townsend. My car was choking a bit and drooling oil all over the road, but running, and it made it to the massive, woodsy, white-housed park. I was mentored by some great writers and met other creative weirdos like myself. That was a turning point. That's when I decided to give up horticulture and dishwashing and go to college.

So here I am, in Port Townsend again. Sixteen years later in the same place I was when I was sixteen. I rolled up in my newish convertible that purred with my cowboy hat and Chanels. "You look like a romance writer!" an overly-enthusiastic man with an Oregon baseball cap said.

"Thank you, I think," I said. He backpedalled a bit, but I wasn't really paying attention. It was too surreal being there, at my old camp on the beach. Where I discovered Throwing Muses (favorite song, "Not Too Soon"), didn't inhale, had minor crushes on boys and major wardrobe issues involving stonewash. It's where I lost my reputation and found my voice.

It's changed. Classical music plays in the bathrooms, they have a fancy cafe in a renovated Commons area. Even though they have a School of Rock here, I have yet to see a minor smoking out a room window, or pierced-up kids wearing all black getting all their hate out their scribbled up journals. I found my old cabin and am going to see if our graffiti is still there, and the poems we tucked in the walls, above my bunk bed.

I did see a girl that looked familiar to me, and I to her. She came here when she was 16, too. Her time here also encouraged her to go into a writing career and pursue creative writing.

"I'm sure we knew each other, I just don't recognize you," I told her. I clutched my handbag and I squinted through my Chanels.

She stood, shirt tucked in with hair that looked expensive. "I looked like a different person then," she said.

Maybe, I thought, this woman and I were unrecognizable because we looked different. But mostly, I realized, we were unrecognizable because, we were the lucky ones who were shown a different path and now, gratefully, we were.

Monday, July 10, 2006

Creative Writing Cross-Country Tour

I've rocked out in a convertible for over 5,000 miles (with and without a radio). I've gotten the peace sign from helmetless packs of Hells Angels, two farmers on rusted-out tractors, and a little girl hanging out of a minivan. I've seen corn fields, horse trailers full of pooping chickens, and fifteen cent toll booths. I've seen red mountains, blue mountains, green mountains, and mountains made of nothing but dirt. I crossed the Mississippi River to Arcade Fire and got nauteus at the Spam Museum. I tasted Amish cheese while trying to make conversation (not the chattiest folks), and ate tens of fast food salads in towns that were experimenting with their health nut side.

I survived the Vegas-like billboards of South Dakota. Some favorites: Dick's Auto "Something like New!", Reptile Museum, Don't do METH (spray painted in a succession of messages along with METH KILLS, Don't let METH hook you (with a spray-painted fishing hook), Corn-ceptual Art, fifty or so WALL DRUG signs (yes I stopped in Wall, South Dakota because by then it was like God made my car exit). Another billboard about a Cowboy Orchestra topped my list. I listened to a lot of music, and sang to things I won't admit even exist in my iPod collection. I heard a line in a Dar Williams song (my college roommate and I listened to her in college) "There's something I've finally faced-I finally think I've come from some place." It's from Road Buddy. I don't know what it means to her, but I know what it means to me.

While I've been absent from all of you-my friends and family-my life has changed. In the way you remember a good birthday party, your first car, or the night you got your first kiss. (Which I'm still waiting for in case you're reading, Dad.) I spent focused time with my writing, and completed the first five chapters of my novel. I also fine-tuned my collection of essays, which are also called "It's Just the Anti-Depressant Talking." They include about fifteen essays and short stories about my family, laundry day, the ex-file, fourth of july, and various highlights of my past working history, including road construction, bartending, working as an artist and advertising copywriter. I received encouragement from writers, professors and authors who mentored me through the difficult patches in my work and whose advice taught me great things about my craft.

So now that I have turned up (I write to you from Seattle, Washington) and you haven't seen me on the backside of milk cartons, I want to give you the rich details of the summer that has so radically changed me. I don't know where to start, but I'll let my enthusiasm take the lead.

If I start with my month of creative bliss in Iowa City, I could tell you that I discovered the writing mecca of America. Is it the publishing capitol of the universe like New York City, San Francisco, or Denver (yes, Denver!)...no. Is it brimming with crowded sidewalks, homeless, twenty neighborhoods with their own personality and fifty things to do every night with the hail of a cab...no. I couldn't figure out exactly why I fell so completely in love with Iowa City until I got a phone call from my friend Todd. He was high off a Jay-Z and Beyonce meeting and responded, upon hearing he had reached me in the Midwest, "Isn't there, like, nothing to do out there?" Which is exactly why I'm getting so much done. It's a monastery for writers. There are no distractions. It is beautiful, friendly, embracing of new people.

As most of you know, I was granted a fellowship to hang with Iowa Writer's in Iowa City. I didn't realize, until I arrived, that most students only came for a week or weekend. My grant paid for three full weeks and two weekend courses. I drank this in, certain I was thirsty for this since I attended Centrum in Port Townsend as a sixteen year old. In high school, I was the school poet, and somewhere between the lure of the New York City advertising world and their one-bedroom rents, I went into advertising. Essentially making the greater society feel inadequate by dictating the what they wanted to hear, eat, see, drive, drink, wear, and do. The creative briefs fought my sensibilites, and sometimes to get through I told myself: It's just what I do, not who I am. It's only a job.

But, in advertising, you have no life, so what you do morphs into who you are. Those products talk to you in your sleep, offering you more creative ways to make them the most popular box on the shelf. Although there are a great many things I learned, and love about advertising, I am fortunate to have chosen the artist's path out. Since clearing the mind-space, I have more room and time for what I love: writing and art. Real writing, not junk mail or billboards or TV commercials that ruin the meanings of beautiful songs.

While in Iowa City, I got deep into my characters, and their lives, instead of my own. I was exposed to people who were serious writers, and took me serious in my pursuits. But it wasn't all punching out the pages. I discovered my new favorite flavor of ice cream (Hello Dolly @ Whitey's), that wide open spaces make me somewhat claustrophobic (if something happened, without a metropolis, what would happen?), and probably most fun, my Camp Crush, Adam from Indiana.

Adam and I were inseparable in Iowa City, at our elevenses lectures (lectures @ 11am by authors and professors), lunches, readings, and all of the events. We drove around in my convertible, read our new work (he's works in poetry and creative non-fiction), hung out on big round hay bails in fields-until seemingly drunk farmers with flashlights came running us off.

After completing in Iowa City, I had just over a week between my next writing scholarship, at Centrum Writer's Conference in Port Townsend, Washington. So I visited Indiana and we went to Chicago, taking the L to Wrigley Field to see the Cubs vs. The White Sox, a cross-town rivalry. The convertible got caught in some unexpected rain, which created a frenzied panic for us, and anyone watching.

At the game, I saw serious fans write out scores, beer men yelling and throwing silver cans into the crowd. I watched fans openly shit-talk the other teams and near fist fights errupt. It was like having great seats to a baseball game AND boxing match.

On the way home, we stopped at a Fireworks Warehouse, which was set up like a neighborhood grocery store. Adam and I filled up our basket (yes, basket) with fountian fireworks, ladyfingers, bottle rockets, and the bigger stuff, like Wide Open, and a 12 mortar blast. Some of the fireworks had names like Kentucky Kaboom and Tenessee TNT. A favorite: Big Mutha Trucka. I was too afraid of that one to be curious about what it did. We blasted our bottlerockets (from the convertible) before setting them off in Adam's friend's yard. We blew up miniature model cars, blowing off doors, hoods and the windows out one M-80 at a time, with the precision and seriousness of scientists conducting an experiment that would cure cancer.

After I left my San Francisco heart in Indiana, headed through Illinois, Wisconsin, South Dakota, Wyoming, Montana, Idaho, and finally Washington. My radio went out in Spokane, Washington, exhausted from the radio interceptions from conservative christian preachers, my obsessive songlist on repeat, and no doubt, my awful singing voice. I've also travelled this summer through California, Nevada, Utah, Wyoming, Nebraska and Iowa.

I can't wait to return to Iowa City. It's my top M.F.A creative writing choice. I have to remind myself: It's statistically more difficult to get accepted into the Iowa Writer's Workshop than Harvard Medical School. A piece of information that only makes me want to work harder for the acceptance letter when it arrives...depending on where I'm living, and if they can find me, that is.

I arrived in Bellingham, Washington yesterday around nine in the morning. I was jetlagged from fast food and time zone changes. I gave my Dad and sister a hug, and headed straight for my old room to crash. I never thought a twin bed with a separated bunk bed frame and flower sheets could be so comfortable.

I start my scholarship in Port Townsend, Washington (off the strait of Juan de Fuca) tomorrow afternoon. I'm visiting my cousins (Rachel and Josh) tonight and staying with Josh's family in Bainbridge Island. Then I'll be boarding the ferry and heading off to my next creative writing adventure. Stay tuned.

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

If This Had Been An Actual Emergency

Didn't you wonder, growing up, why the "Emergency Broadcasting System" would cut in on Sally Jessy Raphael, or while you were rocking out to a Tiffany song on your FM stereo? I mean, if you did that sort of thing? The obnoxious squelching always made me think someone at the station was sending out morse code for a hostage situation. But in every case, a man's voice would break in, reassuringly, "This has been a test of the Emergency Broadcasting System. If this had been an actual emergency, it would have been followed by instuctions....blah blah blah..." By then I was on to my next ADD kid adventure.

But today, on my second day in Iowa City, I was not equipped for an actual emergency. It all started last night around 3:30am. It started raining hard, and thundering so much it was like a strobe light and discotecque in my bedroom. The popcorn-snapping lightening began to whip around my attic house, and I started to get, well, scared.

My emergency plan: REMI. I called my sister at 1:30am her time. She always answers when I call. I've count on her like a hotline. "Yes?" she answered. We don't bother with the pleasantries of hello. We know to cut to the chase after midnight. "What's the matter?"

"Are you up?" I said.

"Oh yeah," she said. "I was just laying in bed, with my eyes closed, waiting for your call." Did I mention she's a funny one?

The lightening snapped all around. I kept saying, "That! Did you hear that?" She didn't. I had a hard time believing that people in Florida could hear a pin drop in Alaska but my sister couldn't hear ARMAGGEDON outside my window.

Then, after keeping her on the line for about fifteen minutes, she could hear the storm and I got my redemption. "Oh my God! Are people on the streets? What is going on?" But no one was on the street. No lights were on. Everyone was tucked in their homes, and it appeared I was the only one having a freak out. "Maybe you should get in your car and go to the hospital. Everyone's probably at the hospital," my Hospital Administrator sister said. I was not about to become a part of an Iowa City ER episode.

At around 5am we got off the phone and I crashed out, convinced that 6-6-6 had arrived and it was best to sleep through as much of it as possible.

Today, I drove to the grocery store and it was closed "due to unpredictable weather." The cafe was closed down, and everywhere was grey and dark, streets emptied out. I turned off my iPod and turned on the AM radio. "This is like War of the Worlds, Man! I can see the tornado from my house heading east!" said a guy who sounded like he just set down his bong and taken a break from listening to his classic rock cassette tapes to call in. "Now sir, please," the radio host said, "No need to scare the children."

Exactly. Those children don't need any more scaring.

I watched people exit out of businesses and houses, looking up at the sky, pointing. People were on cell phones and loading into cars. Half the sky was greyish black, the other half forming into quick cylinder clouds. "If you are outside, you need to get your Storm Plan in action," the radio host said. "I repeat, the tornado is headed east, 7 miles from Iowa City. Begin your Storm Plan!" Now, I'm a girl who gets my teeth cleaned every six months. I pay my parking tickets on time. I buy warranties to products that already have lifetime guarantees. Who said anything about getting a Storm Plan? Officially paniced and at the mercy of Mother Nature, I called my Father.

Surely my Dad, a Weather Channel Junkie, would know about the tornado. He could tell me the size and location, and its impact. My father watches the Weather Channel like teenagers watch TRL. I rushed to my house, grabbed the cat, and headed into the basement. I listened to the radio, which talked about counties that didn't correspond with cities, confusing me even further.

My Dad stayed on the phone with me for a little while. Just enough for me to keep my mind off the fact that the world was about to end, and I was going to be found in a concrete basement with someone else's dirty laundry. He was on the phone with me for about fifteen minutes. He later told Remi he talked to me for an hour. "Well, fifteen minutes IS an hour in Dad Time," I told her.

A little while later, the radio host cheerfully announced that all was clear and normal programming, Dr. Phil and One Life to Live, would resume. He apologized for everyone who missed their soap opera. I was kind of in shock. That was it. The rain stopped. The sun came out. 6-6-6 had it's moment. If having a dress rehearsal for the end of the world has an up side, you could say, that I now officially have a Storm Plan.

Friday, June 02, 2006

Iowa City Road Trip

I packed up my convertible: one carry-on suitcase, a hair dryer and my laptop. Traveling Europe taught me the virtues of traveling light. I drove through Nevada, testing the cruise control and turbo engine. Somewhere between rocking out to my new iPod playlists and working through new story ideas in my head, I neglected to check the gas gauge.

It hit E, and I thought, No big. I'll just stop at the next exit.

Next exits can be 40-140 miles apart, so that wasn't a solution. Still, I was calm. Until I saw the big black and white sign.

PRISION AREA. HITCH-HIKING PROHIBITED.

I. am. so. dead.

My mind raced and the little orange gas light came on. I imagined myself, out of cell phone range, inside my convertible on the side of the road. The silver-toothed jailbird with cowboy boots would stroll up to the side of my car. Locked doors mean nothing inside of a cloth-roof convertible. Of course, Jailbird would have a box cutter, or a swiss army knife-because that's what he would have used to dig the hole to escape prision. (Think Shawshank Redemption.) And that's what he'd use to McGyver open my cloth convertible top. The rest? Well, the rest would be all over 48 Hours Investigates. Or 20/20. I would become the next Holloway girl except not a highschool grad, and not in Aruba, and not be last seen drunk dancing in a club. Ok, so nothing like that Hollaway girl.

Instead, my car chokes upon a wreck. A big wreck. Involving a U-Haul truck and a big farm trailer. While the two families get out to access the damage, and look at their lives scattered all over the road, two cop cars zoom in front of me, Dukes of Hazard style. A cop with a tan state outfit hiding a bullet-proof vest moves toward my car. "You need to get back on the Intersate and go back two miles," he tells me. Maybe he's the killer, I think in a Steven King kinda way. Maybe it's all a conspiracy.

"I won't make it," I yell out my window, pointing at my dash. He leans inside my car, flashing his light with authority. It creeps me out. Mostly because he has a gun. I suppose cops on dark nights just inherently give off a creepy vibe. Like Ani diFranco phrased in God's Country, "He's gonna put his two cents in cos he's got a gun, but I'm gonna put in three cos history owes me one." That means nothing to a girl out of gas on the side of the road, but it's all I could think of when faced eye-level with that stupid gun.

"Pull over," he instructs, "It's gonna be awhile." I begin to turn the wheel. "Yeah, sorry," I start to ramble,"I'm just one of those retards you read about who doesn't check the gauge. I just got this car, so I guess I wasn't paying attention." He looks at me, disgusted, like he's offended by my use of the offhanded use of the word 'retard.' Like he's got a brother hanging out in a closet at home like the dude in Desperate Housewives. His eyes narrow as though he's calculating a way in his brain to rationalize a legal way to give me a ticket for reckless use of the word retard. I turn on my hazards and smile. "I'm just gonna, you know, obey and all. You go ahead and deal with those accident victims." He isn't listening to me anymore, lucky for me. I roll up the window, call myself stupid, and wait for the aforementioned fictional Jailbird to come and take myself out of my misery.

An hour passes and I'm back on the road. Of course, the officer can't let the moment pass without saying, "I hope you've learned your lesson, young lady!" I sit up and say, "Oh, I have!" Later, I think how moronic that was. He was all of twenty-five years old, and it's not like he followed me to the station and payed for my gas.

Nebraska was like a bad, depressing dream. People smoking in your face. Nothing with any nutritional value to eat-anywhere. Pro Bush-Cheney signs. I couldn't travel through this state fast enough. I packed a small cooler of food from San Francisco (Trader Joes) that was nearly gone. I stopped in a store and asked if they had any fruit. They handed me some fruit rollups. They said, "If you want breakfast, we got donuts." I said, "No thanks, but I guess I'll take a scone." The lady who wears bangs, not because they've just made a comeback, but because that's her "look" says, "What's a scone?"

My iPod reception converter kept getting interupted by preacher broadcasts declaring that the satan was coming to claim the secular world. It was amusing. Another highlight was stopping at a pizza place in Lincoln and overhearing two farmer couples talking about their favorite soap operas. The two men continued the conversation while their wives went to get their soft drinks. "That Victor really put Jack in his place!" Farmer #1 told Farmer #2. "Ain't that the truth. Ya just don't mess with Victor Newman! He's got all the money in town." Farmer #2 said. You have to understand, they are talking about fictional characters, and a fictional "town", Genoa City. I know, because my sister, Remi and I used to watch the Young and the Restless as kids. Being a Y&R fan is something that never leaves you. The show moves so slowly, that although I haven't seen it in about ten years, I can vouch for the fact that Farmer #2 is right: Ya just don't mess with Victor Newman!

I got back on the road and tapped into a whole library of unheard songs on my iPod library. My friend Peter listens to entire albums, whereas I compile playlists. Since I had hours ahead, I randomly selected songs, without looking, and played them. It was so much fun! There's no other way I could ever listen to a string of Courtney Love, followed by Billie Holiday, Lyrics Born, L7, Galvanize, Frank Sinatra and Jeff Buckley. I am the absolute worst singer you can imagine, but my fellow truckers didn't seem to mind. I even got an encore honk every once in awhile.

I arrived in Iowa City late Sunday. I found my new apartment effortlessly. It reminds me of my apartment in Eugene. Although it was 2am, I considered calling my college roommate Amy. But what would I say? The walls are red! We studied from these same books! This kitchen is Barbie-sized! Maybe her husband would answer, and they'd be alarmed and think it was an emergency of some sort. You just can't call your girlfriend at 2am anymore when she's married. I mean, you probably could, but it's kind of not the same.

The best part is there's this really cool cat. That's a big deal to me after living for years in apartments with no pet rules. It's just so great to have this living creature hanging out. I left Louis (the cat) this morning to explore my new little city. I called Remi this morning and tried to describe what it looked like here, how I feel like I'm exactly where I should be.

Taking the chance to come to Iowa City to work on Creative Writing is right. I know it, in my bones. It seems right for me in the way that Italy's language and large jewerly, colorful scarves and leather handbags felt like I had found an entire culture that got me. Maybe I came here to experience what Ani diFranco summed up: "I guess I came out here to see some stuff for myself, I mean, why leave the telling up to everybody else?" It's hard to describe, being here. It's the closest thing to a calling I could imagine.

Thursday, May 25, 2006

Awkward Social Buzzkillz

My life has been full of man missed signals. Last week, a guy chatted me up about sucky San Francisco landlords and good Italian leather shoes. I was so enamoured by his Crest-Whitestrips smile and charisma, I failed to catch on that he was sort of gay. Well, all gay, actually.

My big clue? He dropped the "P" bomb: Partner. Or the extra nail in the coffin: Life Partner.

More recently, at my Birthday Bash, Suzanne and I sat next to a more attractive version of an Eddie Vedder lookalike. Seriously, flannel and all. We all had a very animated Seattle Conversation. Good times, good times. Until I notice a very angry woman coming closer. And closer, until she takes the barstool sandwiched between us. She's not so into the Seattle Conversation, and lets Suzanne and I know by dividing us with her back to us. He got in what sounded like some kind of "trouble."

My streak of niave assumption started a couple of months ago while listening to Tim Easton in concert. He opened up for Lucinda Williams at the Luther Vandross Amphetheatre in Santa Rosa. Girls just sort of assume that rockstars are perpetually single. Some girl in the audience yelled, asking if he was single. He skirted the issue in a skillful PR way until he later redeemed himself by singing a song and dedicated it to a girl. It was sweet, sort of sad, and well, not an anonymous song for Old Yeller in the audience.

While hanging out backstage, I met Tim's girlfriend, who was a doll. We drank Absolut Mandarin and Tonics and talked about traveling and art. The sound guy for Lucinda and Neil Young was telling interesting stories about "the ranch." I was glad to see Lucinda and Doug (Pettibone) again, but I remember being especially self-conscious to give him a ride in my "truck." I had rented a car and Enterprise hooked me up with an enormous, gigantric Ford F-250. Since I grew up on a farm and all, I thought I could roll with it. My ego was a little daintier.

Maybe having a dedicated song is one of those things every girl wants and doesn't know she wants until she sees someone else get it. (Like Cabbage Patch Kids in 1984?) This Time Last Year (see post) National Bestselling Author played the guitar and sang to me when I was pretending not to be sick, for what that's worth. But my first song, "inspired" by yours truly, debuted at Hotel Utah by Paris King and his Band. I didn't know what to expect, Paris having never been a love interest, but I was completely thrilled. It was upbeat and happy, without any tones of regret. My heart skipped a half beat of happiness, making all of the social buzzkills of the past week bearable.


***By the way, Tim is playing tonight at Cafe du Nord, $10 at the door, part of a several-city tour. Rock on, Tim!***

Saturday, May 20, 2006

Party is Monday, May 22

Forgot to mention in the last post, Jaynel's Legends Birthday Bash is
Monday, May 22 starts around 8pm - band goes on a little later, they're still ironing out the details.

See you there!

Friday, May 19, 2006

Jaynel's Legends Birthday Bash @ Hotel Utah!

WWOD? What Would Oprah Do? It's a question I ask myself when I'm especially introspective.
If it was Oprah's birthday, she'd throw a party- a big party, sparing no expense. So what the hell. Only the highest-class diviest bar for my friends!

So if you're reading this, aren't psycho, an obsessed ex, and live in the greater Bay Area, consider yourself invited to one of the hottest parties of the year, a soiree I'm callling "Jaynel's Legends Birthday Bash." Paris King's band is going to rock the house, you might remember them from my "Vertigo" reveal art party last June, when the cops enjoyed the music so much they joined the party. (It's all in how you interpret the report.)

So just TIVO Oprah's dealio. This is the real thing. And since I'm headed to Iowa City for the creative writing gig, if you're inclined to read a little ditty, or share a favorite San Francisco memory up onstage with friends, then bring it. This is a party we're gonna custom design ourselves.
Details are still getting worked out, but here's the basics:

Hotel Utah
a Creative Celebration featuring Paris King and his Band
500 4th St. /Cross is Bryant
San Francisco, CA
starts at 9ish
$5 at the door

www.thehotelutahsaloon.com

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Everything's A Dollar: The Legend of 99cent Gas Prices

I'm thinking differently these days. Like a guy with a car he really cares about. I don't think I've ever owned a car that I love before and I've become protective. This car is beautiful. I'm thinking about stuff like premium gas and Armour-All.

My first car was the hand-me-down family car, a 1973 maroon Monte Carlo, and it was old even then. But I prefer to use the term "classic." The guys in high school loved this car. They wanted to jack it up and trick it out. But when you're sixteen and trying to grow out a bad perm, the last thing you want is to become the school's Classic Car Collector.

My next car was a white Ford Escort with red interior. It was cute, and took something like eight dollars to fill the tank. My sister also had a white Ford Escort with red interior. Our cars were exactly a year apart, just like us. It was like unwrapping a Christmas gift two seconds after Remi did, and realizing we both got pajamas! We were like twins.

Remi and I were discussing gas prices and we were talking like a couple of old ladies. "Do you remember when gas down by Grandpa's house was 99 cents a gallon?" I said. "Well it was 97 cents a gallon when I was a senior. I'd use my lunch money. I can't imagine what kids today are doing." she said.

And there it was. The phrase: Kids today.

"We are the kids today!" I protested. She laughed. And laughed.

I couldn't get her laughter out of my head. It haunted me. Could 31 really be the next phase? I started getting paranoid. As I drove around in my convertible, contemplating how good life is- scholarships around every corner, a new book nearly completed, a new tour deal in the works- I stopped to fill up. I left the pump in my car and let it go- 20,25,30,35,40 dollars...ridiculous. Across the pump, a sixteen year old guy was carefully watching the numbers. He was filling up his Monte Carlo, maroon like my old one, and from the early eighties. He concentrated on the dollars climbing up at lightening speed. His friends laughed at him. "Shut up!" he yelled at them.

His pump hit $5.11. "Damn!" he put the pump back, clutching a five dollar bill. His friends, squirelly and loud, screamed with laughter. He walked toward the little man in the box who sold cigarettes. I wondered how he hadn't paid yet. "Hey," I yelled. "You dropped a quarter."

"Nah, ain't mine, but thanks" he said.

"Take it. Must be yours because it was by your car," I insisted.

It clicked for him and I handed him the quarter. "Hey, thanks," he said, smiling. "That things is a gas-hog."

"I know, I used to have one. Older than yours."

"Older than that?! For real?!"

"Yeah," I said, feeling a little nostaglic. "It was a classic."

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Iowa Summer Writing Program

New word on the street.

My summer adventures begin in Iowa City at the famed University of Iowa's Summer Writing Program, where I'm dedicating the entire month of June to creative fiction. And some memoir writing, which these days, thanks to author James Frey, has become creative fiction. A UI Creative Writing MFA student traveling on fellowship to Cuba is subletting her "writer's attic" apartment to me, complete...with...washer and dryer! For transportation, I'll probably be cruising in the convertible -I completely mean for that to sound as cheesy as it does- but there's a possibility I'll just bike around Iowa City. I have no idea what that looks like, but it sounds romantic as hell. I'm already jealous for my life next month.

I wasn't expecting to go to Iowa City, but a pricetag of scholarship doesn't hurt. Iowa City isn't the sort of boyfriend you turn down to the prom. You lose the weight, you make the dress from hand me down rayon if you have to, or pick a daisy from the neighbor's flowerbed, but you get your ass there and you shake it with the best of them. And that's exactly what I intend to do.

Did I mention the apartment has a washer and dryer?