Category Archives: Humor

Randomized List of This Year and Last

I would start with how much I dislike end-of-year roundups of things, but that belies how much time I spend reading them. I like to be reminded of things periodically, like slightly out-of-date fashions and mildly memorable pop songs, just to reassure me that time is passing at the same rate as usual and not in a Van Winkle-esque jump/cut.

But I really hate ranking things. Having to assign a better/worse value to a group of items gives me anxiety, as I’ll never know if I’ll feel differently about it later. So here’s an incomplete list of things from life in 2015, micro and macro, good and bad, in no particular order, without explanation.

  • pants
  • aged gouda
  • domestic and international terror
  • a bride
  • You Too Can Have a Body Like Mine
  • vaccines
  • mood stabilizers
  • Nita Nita
  • climate crisis
  • Pendleton wool shirts
  • Teeling whiskey
  • dancing
  • Cascade Barrel House, Portland, OR
  • Blood, Bones, and Butter
  • gas leaks
  • farm distilling
  • The Painted Bunting
  • flapper-era haircuts
  • privilege
  • Girl at War
  • broccolini
  • grays
  • nonfiction workshops
  • a silver tabby kitten
  • a Hora like a mosh pit
  • Dansko clogs
  • trans-continental flights
  • Solvang, California
  • Sherry
  • Serial and Gimlet
  • moderation
  • hives
  • the Boston Globe
  • yeasts and molds
  • apple brandy
  • 12 parsecs
  • the restaurants of Lima, Peru
  • cilantro
  • My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic
  • drought
  • a life size cardboard cutout of Bryan Cranston
  • the Grand Canyon
  • debt
  • Baijiu
  • liquid eyeliner
  • Infinite Jest
  • banana-free smoothies
  • leggings-as-pants acceptance
  • thousands of hand-carved ice balls
  • Sleater Kinney’s No Cities to Love
  • Pok Pok LA
  • a 12-hour farewell
  • used kitchen appliances
  • central AC
  • Punch
  • health insurance hikes
  • avoiding presidential campaign news, but still, the Bern
  • Malibu AVAs
  • gettin’ it together.

Happy New Year, y’all.

Diatribe Fridays: Seriously, brunch?

It’s not Friday, but this is my space and I do what I want. My weekend starts on Monday, actually. It’s a life I chose. I’m not complaining. I will occasionally complain when someone has a life event on a Saturday (my most lucrative day!) or asks me to go to a bar on a Friday night like some kind of plebian. But in general, I love having the mid-week days off when I can do my laundry unimpeded by competition. So it’s not the fact that I have to work every Sunday, even though even thousands of years ago people decided it would be a good idea for everyone to have one day off work per week to chill, that bugs me. It’s the following. Strong language ahead!

The facts in the case of Brunch is StupidContinue reading

Diatribe Fridays: Issue 1. I hate avocados.

So I’m taking a workshop with the fabulous and stellar Writing Workshops LA this fall. Worth every penny and, more dearly, every minute I spent white-knuckled on the 110 before I figured out I could just take surface streets all the way to my instructor’s house. Almost two years in LA, kids.

I got an idea, after an assignment wherein we had to write our own NYT Mag style Letter of Recommendation, and the discussion swung around to not only the things we irrationally love, but also things we hate, too strongly, for no apparent reason, and what does this say about us?

So I thought it might be fun to explore some of these personal hatreds, in polemic form, then deconstruct them.

ISSUE 1: Avocados are Awful

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On formality and acting like an old person and a child simultaneously

I have this habit. I think it comes from working in nonprofit development, where every word out of one’s mouth must be vapid and obsequious. If I’m emailing or calling someone for the first time, for some reason, I feel obliged to refer to them formally, as a Mr./Ms. For example:

Dear Mr. McDonald,
I am writing with an inquiry about your delicious (if deadly) hamburgers.

When I feel many people would probably be perfectly comfortable writing:

Dear Ronald,
I have been a conflicted fan of yours for ages.

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The Campers

They were occupying the only four-top in my section when I arrived. Customers of the happy hour server. This table represented one third of the seats for which I was responsible. Ours is a popular dinner spot. We turn the tables three, four times a night. They’d finished eating. Yet still, they sat.

I’d gone from friendly inquiry (“anything else I can get for ya?”) to obsessive water re-filling, to water withholding, to ignoring them, and finally, to making pointed eye contact whenever possible. No, they didn’t need anything. But they would not leave.

They were professional-looking middle agers. People who should know better. I’m fairly certain they were not stoned. The check was handed off and paid. And still, they sat.

Tables around them came, ate, drank, enjoyed desserts and digestifs, paid, left. One turn, two turns. Three. They sat. They laughed. They side-eyed me when I passed.

Just before the kitchen closed, they picked up their coats and left their empty water glasses behind. My sigh was exaggerated, but my colleagues sympathized. The night was a wash, worse than brunch. Looked like I’d be eating lentils and getting the budget cat food this week.

So I decided to follow them home. Don’t ask me how I found the address. The host is a friend of mine who doesn’t deserve firing.

When I arrived at their spacious bungalow with my tent, I was pleased to find a strip of city land adjacent to their property, an unused thoroughfare previously occupied by a defunct tram line.  I made camp on a spot with a view into their kitchen window.

It’s been two weeks. I cook my lentils on my coleman stove and wave when they come out on the deck. The police have been understanding. One of the nice officers’ daughters is a server. No telling how long I’m going to stay–until I feel good and ready to leave, I suppose. I’m not here to extort them. I just want them to get used to my face, the sound of my laughter when I stream movies over their Wifi. To remember these things, when they are tempted to linger in someone else’s space.

Poetry and Wine

Back in grad school I took a course called “On Beauty,” where we read theory and fiction and poems and talked about aesthetics and deep/superficial things like that. I was a fierce champion of non-visual beauty, and wrote a final paper that talked about numerous fictional characters experiences eating and drinking and touching things. It got real: I quoted Helen Keller and Jean Genet in the same sentence. I was proud of it. Until now it was probably the most unrepentantly pretentious thing I’d done.

I bemoaned that while sight and hearing have huge amounts of critical work devoted to their aesthetics, taste and smell seemed to be plopped into a ghetto of “commercial” (IE restaurant) reviews. I wondered, if a painting can use one element (paint) to represent the range of human experience visually, can’t we have an equivalent for smell? Where my perfume critics at?

Then I moved to California and started going to wine tastings. And there it was.  Continue reading

What I’m worried about this week, or why I’ll never step in front of a camera again

Today at the farmers’ market, we were approached by a woman saying she was “from ABC” and wanted to ask us a few questions about the market. Thinking this was an opportunity to give some props to an institution I really like, I consented, only to find myself in front of a camera 50 seconds (and and whirlwind waiver-signing) later. Blinking back my surprise, I awkwardly answered some questions about organic food and “GMOs”. I remember talking vaguely about wanting to buy from smaller producers as opposed to giant farms, and deflecting prodding questions about GMO technology by saying I wasn’t really up on the science. I wouldn’t say it was ALWAYS a bad thing to manipulate DNA for specific traits in plants. There’s a nuanced argument, here, for sure, but am I going to present this in what I thought was a 5-second fluff piece? Nah.

During the whole process, the man asking the questions stood off camera and jabbed this microphone in my face (as if trying to jam it into my mouth). Red flags were flying in my head. I finished the “interview” by telling them I’d come to buy some end-of-season peaches and first-of-the-season apples. Yawn.

I scrambled off, regretting that my time in Los Angeles has made me so open to talking to strangers.

Before I could disappear back into the crowd of welcoming hippies, hipsters, and yuppie parents, the producer stopped me and told me they were from Jimmy Kimmel Live. My heart dropped when I remembered the waiver I’d stupidly put my name on when I thought I was going to sing the praises of the friendly local nectarine sellers to the TV news audience in Pasadena.

She went on to tell me that they couldn’t use any of my interview. They were going around farmers’ markets, trying to get some numbskull armchair food-activists to spout some ignorance about FRANKENFOOD. But since, when asked what GMOs were, I’d replied “genetically modified organisms,” I was useless to them. She said.

My goodness, I hope so. I hope this doesn’t get chopped up and manipulated and I wind up being some asshole on the Internet.

Cause this was what I was wearing.


I’m supposed to stay out of the sun, ok?

On Hotels and Motels

[Attn: This is a post that I drafted while we were driving across the country to our new life here in LA. You know, like FIVE months ago. But like fine wine or Muppet movies, some things get better the longer you forget that you started them then discover them when you open your blog’s full desktop version for the first time since February. So, ahem…]

This looks legit.

In theory, I like to travel. I do love me a camping trip. However, when vacationing in civilization, the question of accommodation has always been sticky.  The whole hotel room thing gives me the heebie-jeebies, whether it’s the Motel 8 off Route 40 in Amarillo or the W in Manhattan.

No doubt the one end of this spectrum of fear stems back to one childhood vacation with my parents, who were partial to hauling the three of us kids (likely around six, eight, and ten years old, at the time) off on “educational” weekend trips to whatever low-budget colonial reenactment sites and sports halls of fame lay within driving distance. They way I remember it, we would drive until our parents got tired, then crash at the nearest hotel/motel with vacancy. No reservations, no booking websites, no screening reviews. This was the 80s and we were a young family on budget adventures.

One particular trip to Cooperstown or Amish country or whereever, all five of us stayed in one motel room that smelled like a cave and required us to share towels. My brother, already approaching six feet tall at ten years of age, stayed on a perilous wire cot contraption at the foot of the bed my sister and I shared. No one got much sleep and the halls of baseball history or whatever the next day were made claustrophobic with our crankiness. After we came home, it was discovered that we’d picked up scabies from the unwashed linens.

Most of the other family vacations I can remember involve renting cabins or sleeping in tents.

On the other end of the scale, there are the Radisons and Fancygams of the world that employ people just to stand around in case you need to flick a booger or something. Which, though I can see the theoretical appeal, make me very uncomfortable. Luxury hotels and fine dining restaurants feel like traditions founded to cater to folks who had servants at home, so they could enjoy the comforts to which they were accustomed, e.g., having people pick up after you, easy access to swimming pools and masseurs. To me, the modern luxury hotel feels like a trip to Downton Abbey, where you may rent a whole household staff by the night and push them around in a frenzy of fantasy power. You had valet parking as your chauffeurs, bellboys as your footmen, concierges as your  Carsons. Which, in theory, sounds kind of cool, I suppose, but honestly, I’ve always been more comfortable as staff than boss. Having other people in my personal space makes me squeamish, and having people offer to do things I could very easily do myself gives me a vague post-Catholic shame that ruins everything.  I can never, ever stop thinking about all the strangers who came to this VERY ROOM to have “exotic” sex with their spouses or mister/esses, and it grosses me out so much I want to sleep on top of the covers.

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LA vs. NYC: Epic Throwdown for Ages and Times

*By your mother, who wants you to move home and meet a nice man/girl to settle down with.

Anyone will tell you, these two places are polar opposites. Actually: everyone, it seems, wants to tell you. You cannot move from one coast to the other without choruses on either side chiding you to make the call: which one? Which do you like more? What kind of a person are you, really? Well, I’ll tell you.

Polar opposites. Literally: One of the earth’s magnetic poles is located in an illegal casino for rats and cockroaches located at the base of the antenna of the Conde Nast building, the other one at the corner of Hollywood and Highland, masquerading as a man dressed in a bedbug-infested Cookie Monster suit.
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Literary Twitter

Here’s a screen capture of my favorite trending topic of the week. Wherein witty twitsters mash up classic books (mostly) and the pop culture shitegeist/tech bits au currant. Sometimes, this Internet thing turns up a bunch of cleverness. I just can’t decide if I’m happy or dismayed this #tt will vanish like so much Batman in a few hours or so.