Archive for the ‘America’ Category

Godliness

May 25, 2012

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Whenever I walk into a public bathroom stall and see this, I try to put myself in the other person’s shoes. I use empathy to imagine what they were thinking.

It must be something like this:

“My thighs are too precious to touch the toilet seat. But my ass paper… Well, whoever comes in after me can deal with that.”

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After

April 29, 2012
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My stuff!

I like to color coordinate my books. Besides being a fun way to spend Saturday afternoon, you end up with perplexing juxtapositions, like the Twilight trilogy next to an Eisenhower biography.

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In London I loved to sit by the window. I had a view of the canal and towpath: I’d watch the boats, the people, the occasional fox. I miss it, but now I have a chair in the sun.

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My friend Meghann laughs at my turtle collection. It reminds her of this: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CMNry4PE93Y
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Every year Kyo’s mother sends me a Japanese calendar for Christmas. I save them. One day I plan to wallpaper an entire room in Japanese calendars.

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I grew up in a house with crammed cupboards. I rebelled.

In fact, one of my favorite things about being a Virgo is seeing all the handles of my teacups facing the same direction. Order is relaxing!

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The bedroom is dark. This is helped by my Phillips Wake Up Light HF3470 (on the little table next to the mirror). If you sleep with it right in front of your face, it wakes you with a simulated sunrise. Lovely!
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Before

April 28, 2012

I’ve been meaning to post some pictures of my new apartment for awhile now.

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This is how it looked back in November. And December.

It took almost 5 months for my furniture to get from London to Los Angeles. Lord knows why. Maybe instead of a normal ship, they used the Santa Maria. Or a Conestoga wagon. Maybe they went by way of Australia.

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The thing is, you can’t get on the phone with your moving company and say, “Hey Jerkface, what the ever-living dung balls did you do with my stuff?” You can’t do this because they have your stuff.

They can dump it in the ocean. They can set fire to it. They can keep it. They can do whatever they want.

So instead of complaining, once a week or so I would come home to my empty living room and burst into tears.

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I really missed my stuff.

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Clean

April 22, 2012

Teacher / hates kids.

Chef / hates vegetables.

Window washer / scared of heights.

Priest / doubt.

Homeless lady / OCD.

You know where this is going. Yesterday at Starbucks, an old lady came in wearing a loose t-shirt and no bra. Her breasts were very long and flat. Her chest was so sun-damaged it looked speckled with dirt.

She spent a stack of napkins and a good five minutes wiping down her chair. Then she went up to the counter.

“I’D LIKE TO SAMPLE THE GUATEMALA ANTIGUA,” she said, much too loudly and confidently.

The counter boy said they didn’t have Guatemala Antigua.

“WHAT DO YOU HAVE THEN?”

Gold Coast Blend. She took her sample over to the milk station and set it on a clean napkin. Wiped down the pitcher of half-and-half, then poured liberally. Took her café con calories back to her napkin-scrubbed table, covered the cup with yet another napkin. Then went to the bathroom.

She was in there for awhile. Maybe she was washing. Maybe she has to clean it before she can use it.

I just watched, dumbstruck. I mean, can you imagine?

A life like that: A dilemma, a curse, a Greek myth.

UCLA + UM

February 10, 2012

I’m taking a writing class at UCLA, through the extension program.

I like being on campus. There’s grass and benches, buildings with names like “Rolfe Hall,” and hand-made posters urging you to join the Ballroom Dance Club and the Muslim Student Association.

It makes me nostalgic.

I went to the University of Michigan, which I picked because my dad said I should, and because it was big: I wanted to make sure college was nothing like high school; disappearing into a sea of 35,000 undergrads seemed like a good strategy.

The only downside was that it was in Michigan, which I knew to be a lame state because a) it wasn’t on the East Coast and b) it didn’t seem to be completely plumbed (my grandfather’s house on Lake Michigan had an indoor toilet, but he discouraged its use; why strain the sceptic system when there was a perfectly good outhouse out back?)

So I was surprised to discover, bit by bit, that I liked it there. I liked Ann Arbor, with its clapboard houses and old-fashioned downtown. I liked the plain beauty of the Midwest. And to be honest the East Coast kids were… well, a little snobby.

They hung out in packs, joined the same frats. They were so sure of themselves, so positive about where they were headed (right back to the Tristate area), so curiously incurious.

When I lived in New York, years later, I noticed the same thing. New York is so confident of its solar position in the universe — it’s just not that interested in what’s happening anywhere else.

Take this month’s Elle Decor — published NY, NY 10020 — which features up-and-coming designers. The editors breezily note, “The renaissance seems to be worldwide. We’re as likely to discover a special talent in Brooklyn as in Milan, in an upstate New York industrial studio as in a Paris atelier.” Good grief. That’s a New Yorker’s idea of “worldwide?” Brooklyn, Paris, and upstate?

But I digress.

I’m taking a writing class at UCLA.

And if you had told me, back when I was hurrying across UM’s diag on my way to class, that one day I’d be headed to class in Los Angeles — driving up Wilshire through rush hour traffic — I would have known you were wrong.

Known.

Which just goes to show: Once you move to Michigan, anything can happen.

Santorum

January 10, 2012

After college, I answered phones for Senator Levin, Democrat of Michigan.

This was during the 1996 partial birth abortion debate. Rick Santorum was on the Senate floor with his grisly fetus photographs, explaining that the procedure involved, “thrusting a pair of scissors into the back of its skull and suctioning its brains out.”

Meanwhile, America’s pro-lifers lit the Senate switchboards. My job was to politely say: “Thanks for calling, I’ll pass your views on to the Senator,” which was harder than it sounds: Most callers seemed to think they’d reached one of Satan’s satellite offices, therefore being civil would’ve been an affront to God. Some yelled; some sent me to hell; some were in impotent hysterics: their only weapon a phone! what they wouldn’t give for a semi-automatic brimstone launcher!

ThanksforcallingI’llpassyourviewsontotheSenator.

One gentleman asked whether my boss believed in Jesus. I explained that Senator Levin was Jewish, so it didn’t seem like a relevant question.

ThanksforcallingI’llpassyourviewsontotheSenator.

A mother of two told me what was going on with abortion in this country made the holocaust look like summer camp. ThanksforcallingI’ll… Um. “I don’t think,” I said, trembling with anger, “the holocaust had anything in common with vacation.”

A beat. And this woman apologized. She remembered — oh, Rick Santorum! — that Jesus never preached nastiness.

Noël

January 3, 2012

When I was little, I loved Christmas. I loved the tree, the parties, the songs, the when-is-it-going-to-get-here countdown.

I loved the whole story.

And even though I was a godless child — I can’t remember ever believing in Santa Claus, much less little Jesus — I tried to make an exception at Christmastime.

Usually this took the form of a late-night prayer, when I was kept awake by anticipation and terror: “Please God, if there’s a nuclear war, let it be in January.”

I figured it was an especially perilous time of year: If the Russians were aiming for maximum evil, they wouldn’t just launch a bomb; they’d do it Christmas Eve.*

My father told me that an attack was very unlikely. If it ever did happen, we could go to the Metro, which in Washington is deep underground. I wasn’t convinced — how would we get enough warning? also, how would everybody fit?

So after my Christmas prayer, I’d lie there imagining armageddon crowds on the subway escalator, hoping that my family would make it into the tunnel first, leaving the other families, the other ones, to take the brunt of the blast.

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* Target-wise, I knew Washington, DC was a bad place to live. I’d once expressed doubt that missiles would be able to make it all the way across Europe to our shores. But my dad explained that they’d come over the North Pole, which was shorter.

Thanksgiving

November 28, 2011

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Here’s what we know:

The first Thanksgiving was celebrated by Pilgrims and Indians in Plymouth. They feasted on the traditional turkey, except it was more of a side (the mains being fish and stale popcorn) and the actual first Thanksgiving was in St. Augustine, Florida, not Massachusetts, unless you count the one celebrated in Leiden before the Pilgrims even got on the Mayflower.

At first, Thanksgiving was observed on different days by different states. Lincoln took it national in 1863 and since then it’s always been the last Thursday of November, except since 1941 when FDR made it the fourth Thursday of November, which is usually (but not always) the same thing.

All you need for Thanksgiving is roast turkey, unless you’re Mexican, in which case it could be a mole, or vegetarian, in which case no bird. It’s nice to start the meal by saying grace, unless you’re Jewish, Muslim, atheist or ________. Honestly, the only Thanksgiving non-negotiable is being American, and being with family. Unless you’re a friend, or foreign, in which case come on over anyway.

Because really, all you need for Thanksgiving is thanks. And we all have something to be grateful for, all of us.

4,500-something

October 27, 2011

This is my last entry about my road trip. I drove 4,500-something miles through 13 states.

I think my car probably needs an oil change.

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I got some great photos that didn’t quite fit in previous entries. Like this one of Amanda welcoming the world to Wall Drug. (Where they sell 5-cent coffee to go with their homemade donuts and pecan sticky buns: soooo worth it.)

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And this one of me with my cousin Alex and his kids Millie, Ruth, and Henry. Millie and Henry and I had never met before. Henry just gazed at me. He’s hard to read. But Millie walked right up and said, “Hi Krista, I’m Millie!” I said, “You’re pretty shy, aren’t you?” And Millie said, “No, I’m not!”

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The burros in Custer State Park. They make their living by begging for junk food from tourists.

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Baby burro!

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This man saw me taking pictures of Pittsburgh, which is apparently an unusual enough occurrence that he wanted to be in one.

So here he is.

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Really?

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I mean, really?

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Jane, disappearing at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art.

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Ingest

October 24, 2011

The secret to a successful road trip is to never eat fast food. It’s easier than you think.

All you need is a good guide. My mother got me a book called “Roadfood” by Jane and Michael Stern — which was thoughtful of her, especially because she hates road trips and despises the kind of food that’s served in dives. That’s what this book is all about.

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It’s easy to think of middle America as an endless stretch of Pizza Huts and Burger Kings. But when you get off the interstate, it’s almost impossible not to eat regionally.

In Ohio, I had Polish pierogis — plump and potato-y with perfect golden edges.

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In Wisconsin, I had wiener schnitzel and schaum torte for dessert. In Michigan, I got Swedish food. In the Great Plains, I ate buffalo and venison.*

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In Utah, I had dinner at the state’s oldest restaurant: Lamb’s Grill Café. They served the best pork chop I’ve had in years, along with maybe the best mashed potatoes I’ve ever had.

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Nevada has a sizable Basque population. Who knew? I wouldn’t have, if I hadn’t stopped at the Martin Hotel, a Basque restaurant founded in 1898. I ordered lamb and was not disappointed.

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* The weird thing is that in America’s heartland — in America’s “bread basket,” where entire states are dedicated to growing grain — whole grains seem utterly unknown. I ordered a BLT at a diner in South Dakota and requested “whole wheat toast.” The waitress brought white. I asked about it, but she didn’t see my point. She just said, “That is wheat.”