Belles

August 9, 2012

I took a lot of pictures at my cousin Anne’s wedding. If you are curious (for instance, you are a relative) you can see them here: http://www.flickr.com/photos/84668893@N08/

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By complete coincidence, Mei and Ruth, who are second cousins, wore the exact same dress to the party.

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We thought they might be upset about it, the way you would be if you some girl showed up to prom in your dress.

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But we were thinking of big girls. With little girls, of course what happened was that Ruth’s younger sister Millie wanted to match too. She cried and cried.

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So when she showed up, the odd one out in her hot pink butterflies, everyone made an effort to tell her how pretty she looked. I think Millie ended up with more compliments than the bride.

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Aboard

July 27, 2012

I’m taking the train across the country, starting from here.

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Union Station is exuberant and fantastical, like a lot of architecture in Los Angeles. And like so much else here, I think it’s under-appreciated. At least, I’d never stopped by to soak it up before.

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You can still wait on the original seats.

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Why did we stop making tile and metalwork like this? Sometimes I worry that beauty has gone out of style.

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When I get back to Los Angeles, I want to go to this bar and order an Old Fashioned.

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Chapter

July 11, 2012

I’m taking another writing class.

One of my classmates has already finished 100 pages of her novel. Writing 100 pages of anything is pretty impressive, if you ask me. But not as impressive as the woman who’s working on the second draft of her second book. Can you imagine? Having a book you wrote sitting around the house? I bet the drawer emits a glow, like treasure in Indiana Jones.

So far, the hardest part of novel writing is that you have to make it up as you go along. E.L. Doctorow said, “Writing is like driving at night in the fog. You can only see as far as your headlights, but you can make the whole trip that way.”

What a beautiful notion! Also, what a great way to get lost!

I suppose you have to embrace the possibility that instead of reaching the party you were invited to — the one at the mansion on the lake, where the terraces are lit with candles and laughter floats out the French doors — you might end up sleeping at a motel in the middle of nowhere. The kind where the carpets are brown even if they didn’t start out that way, and the mattresses sag in the middle. But where, if you’re very quiet, you can hear the night noises of an entire wilderness, just outside your door.

Niece

July 3, 2012

My sister sent me an email the other day called “mei funny comments lately.”

This was my favorite. (Mei, if you don’t know, is about to turn 7.)

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Mei:        Mom, wouldn’t it be funny if there was a “bootybutt.com?” [snickers gleefully]

Janna:     Oh, there probably is.

Mei:        No, we checked, and there isn’t.

Janna:     We did?

Mei:        But there is an icecream.com.

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Lair + Den

July 2, 2012

I know I’m into a guy when I walk into his apartment and think, “Well, maybe I could deal with earth tones. For the rest of my life.”

Yup, I’m scary. I don’t just imagine marrying a man after the first date; I have actual inner monologues about whether I could live with his couch. In this case, I was prepared to overlook an entire apartment done in rusty orange and mossy green.

I liked him.

It can go the other way too. I once went on several dates that left me lukewarm — until I saw his place. I came home and gushed to my roommate: “I can’t describe it! The rooms are so well-proportioned, and there’s a fireplace, and this great mix of thrift store finds and amazing art and…”

Julie interrupted me to observe that I seemed to like the apartment more than the man.

“Well, but he’s really nice! And he’s got this collection of vintage glasses, you know, tourism souvenirs from the 50s…”

It took me another 8 months to realize Julie was right.

Which brings us to Friday. When I was invited to possibly the worst bachelor pad in Southern California.

The living room was so crowded with furniture I had to stand on tiptoe and do that little squeeze-shimmy you do between tight tables at New York restaurants — just to sit on the couch.

Which was horrible: leftover from who-knows-what decade, covered in brown velour, and 6 feet away from a 6-foot television. In addition to the inevitable black laminate coffee table, there were two auxiliary coffee tables in a corner, stacked directly on top of each other, like mating elephants.

As I sipped my flat, lime-less gin and tonic, he picked up a remote from the pile and turned on some 80s music, which came out of JBL speakers directly behind my head.

This man had seemed promising — smart and handsome — when we’d met the week before. So I told myself “Krista! Don’t be shallow! It’s just furniture!” And I tried kissing him. I really did.

But I couldn’t shake the feeling that I’d regressed 15 years, was being groped by a college kid on a couch that’d had five owners and never been cleaned. I thought, between kisses, about how much I’d rather be home, on my own nice-smelling sofa, alone.

And so I fled.

Sparkle

June 15, 2012

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Car washes in LA are different.

They not only hawk air fresheners and windshield wiper fluid — but also magazines, greeting cards, espresso, snacks, even ice cream. They offer outdoor seating, where you can enjoy these delicacies under a sun umbrella (or, at one place in Culver City, from the comfort of a coin-operated massage lounger) while before you, an army of very recent immigrants bend over the hoods of BMWs, Audis and the occasional Honda, whipping them shiny with an endless series of clean rags.

I always try to tip well, and directly into the hands of the guys doing the work, ever since I read an LA Times article about how car washes compete with strawberry fields for Worst Office Environment in America. Most of the workers are illegal, and some owners take advantage by paying them even less than you’d think, and then confiscating tips to boot.

But if you’re on the right side of the curb, there are cool drinks, sunshine, nothing to do but sit — you might almost think you’re on vacation in a third-world resort, the kind of place where brown people in white uniforms keep everything picture-perfect for the visitors.

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Gene

June 9, 2012

This year I forgot to remember the day my dad died.

May 26, 2006.

I’m mostly okay with forgetting, because after May comes June, when every business that’s ever gotten my email address sends me something about “Gifts for Dads and Grads,” and the coffee shops and bookstores bring out the Father’s Day cards, and there he is again, plain as day.

Caffe Luxxe has some really nice letter-pressed cards next to the register, and while I’m standing in line I pick out the one I would send, which makes me a little wistful. Then I take my latte over to the table — along with breakfast: a nice whole wheat roll, almost a brötchen, that he would very much enjoy — and I read the New York Times.

I’d like to know what he thinks about this mess in Europe. Just when you thought the whole continent was irrelevant — about time, too — it’s back on the front page. I’m sure he’d have an opinion. I’m sure it’d be pragmatic, well-informed, and not especially optimistic. But it’s a bummer: For the life of me, I’m not exactly sure what his opinion would be.

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Sawtelle

June 3, 2012

It was a really good first date. Comfortable, but not boring. The kind where you feel like somehow, you already know each other. Like you’re the same age, maybe not in years, but cosmically speaking.*

It was the kind of first date that’s followed by a second date. Within the same week.

We went to a place that specializes in LA’s latest culinary trend: “bar food for dinner.” Everything on the menu is either fried or pickled, full of fat and salt — designed to make you reach for another sip of your handcrafted cocktail. We had fun.

Still, I wasn’t prepared for the end of the evening, when we were standing by his car, in that sweet, awkward, pre-first-kiss silence.

Me:    (inside my head) Now? Is it going to happen now?

Him:  There’s something I’ve been thinking I should tell you.

Uh. Oh.

Me:    Yes. You should tell me.

Him:  I’m actually… with someone. I can’t remember if I’d mentioned…?

Me:   No. You definitely didn’t mention it.

Him:  I mean, I think it’s ending.

Me:    Uh-huh.

So, it was a date. The kind that makes you remember you don’t know anything after one or two dates.

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* And I think we can all agree that a date which leaves you musing about the cosmos is either really good… or really, really not.

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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Mold

May 13, 2012

Doing nothing is harder than it looks.

Like a lot of people, I’ll travel thousands of miles and spend thousands of dollars in hopes of doing nothing somewhere else; this hints at the difficulties of doing nothing at home.

Home is a minefield of To Do Lists. Right now I could/should be:

doing laundry

checking work email

paying bills

washing my car

researching Santa Barbara hotels

bleaching the red mold-like growth on my bathroom ceiling

I could go on; indeed, I could go on endlessly. The thing about life is, you never actually get everything done.*

Hence Hawaii.

But even there, even lying on a beach blanket — most of us are still doing a lot: running around Sweden in search of a serial killer (if paperbacks are your thing), wondering if it’s time to reapply sunblock, deciding where to have dinner tonight. And, yes, checking work email.

Here’s my question, and it’s not about the beach. What is so scary about doing nothing? —  I mean nothing. No TV or book to escape to, no conversation to distract you. Just you, on the edge of a volcano, surrounded by ocean, gravity keeping everything more or less in place.

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* This helps explain why you so rarely see us “I’ll-relax-after-I-get-it-all-done” types swinging in a hammock, smoking a j.