Obviously, people have differing opinions. Every time you try to write about something larger than yourself and your experience, something as large as a city, which is mostly made-up anyway, you’re going to get things wrong. Or not wrong, exactly, because it isn’t objective, which is sort of the point.
I am doing a yoga teacher training. A couple of weeks ago we were sitting in the big room of the studio on a Friday night when there was an earthquake. The room stuttered, just slightly, the walls and the ceiling noisy when they moved. “Was that?” MK asked, and didn’t bother finishing the question, because yes, it was. We shrugged. We kept on talking about the sutras.
Spring here vacillates not just between sunny and rainy but between two different kinds of climates, the dry air of desert winter getting hot and huge so that it was ninety in the shade last week. Then it rained, and now everything is beachy again, covered over by a marine layer in the mornings. I had forgotten how gorgeous dry heat is, the way the air billows and swells, the way you can forget it against your skin until the breeze blows warm and it feels like clean sheets, maybe, scratchy and pleasantly foreign all around you.
I don’t know, everything is easy to make a joke about. Teacher training, the green juices everyone drinks for lunch, disaster weather and the relevant Didion quotes. I drive my car into the intersections when I’m waiting to make a left turn, because I’m impatient; the only person who has ever commented on this was a visiting New Yorker, who thought I was reckless and insane. Stories and stories and stories.
I’ve given up on convincing anyone else I’m right, and maybe that’s what bothers people so much about this place: it encourages a kind of living that isn’t interested in much outside of its own skin. If I were going to make generalizations, I might say that New York’s insistence is on the moral rectitude of ignoring physical discomfort and having a loud voice, that both modes work better when tempered by one another.
Later today I’ll go to a yoga class with a teacher I know, and she will encourage me to identify my thoughts as thoughts, to think them without being attached to them, to find a way to observe myself as a thinking thing. We’ll do some poses. If there’s something she wants me to explore more deeply she’ll use her hands to show me how.
4:00 pm • 8 May 2013 • 14 notes
Dispatches from NHV
On Sunday I was at this barbecue at a house in the hills in Echo Park and it was drizzling so everyone was making faces about it, including B, who had just flown in from New York. “You should be tougher than this,” someone said.
“It snowed last week,” he said. “I’m done being tough.” He’s moving back in just over a year; we walked around the property together, the yard and the porch and the deck overlooking a ravine, the steep sharp fall carpeted in what looked like nasturtiums, watching the sun set through the slits in the hills to the west. “People just live like this here,” he said, sweeping out a hand at it: space, sun, a pinata from somewhere south of here rigged up in one of the trees. “They just… do.”
They do; we do. I miss eastern spring a little bit, though, too. The day last year that I wore that stupid romper and drank rose on the train, brought N the season’s first asparagus, the curling tips of the scapes.
1:55 pm • 2 April 2013 • 6 notes
Untitled: About the novel … the one in progress … : E had a dream in which a man...
About the novel … the one in progress … :
E had a dream in which a man came up to her on the street and demanded to know if her work was influenced by William Gass. When she woke up, she tried to reconstruct her response but couldn’t. Instead she made a new list (not Gass but yes, CPK and…
I promised I would out her if & when she started using it, and, faithful daughter that I am, I’m following through. My mom has a blog! She is going to post things on it, and write about writing her novel! You should read it, mostly so that you can see that everything I think about process & place pretty much comes from her.
5:30 pm • 22 March 2013 • 5 notes
I’ve been back in Los Angeles for almost a month now; I haven’t been writing about it because there’s nothing to say about comfortable unemployment except that it is, you know, not unpleasant. Yesterday Darling picked me up and drove me around while he chatted with a framer about the pieces his brother had bought at Art Basel and then we had bacon and leek pizza at the bar at Pizzeria Mozza, a glass or two of white wine, brandini for dessert. “Do you think it’s so packed in here because it’s a holiday or because no one in Los Angeles has a real job?” he asked. “Yes,” I said.
The week before we went to see a high school classmate’s band play a show at the West Hollywood SoHo House; Darling’s black Lexus pulled up behind another black Lexus, behind a row of four black Priuses at the valet. It was still in that little cold snap, getting down towards freezing at night, but luckily their patio is enclosed: a balcony that runs all the way around the building with couches and chairs and little tables, heavy ashtrays. It’s on the top floor of the only tall building for miles, so that the city spreads out in front of you through the glass, vast and blurry and sparkling. I could see people’s leftover Christmas lights for blocks and blocks. Darling was driving so I took advantage and got drunk.
A thing I’ve been enjoying is Doing The Californians with people: the other night J and I were at Tom Bergin’s and I was bitching about having to drive to the Palisades for a party and we like, got into it, “I mean, it’ll take 30 minutes without traffic” “are you sure, I think you’ll have to take surface streets, Sunset can be” “no it’s like, off the PCH I think, I’ve been there before” “oh so just the 10 down from La Cienaga, that won’t be that bad” “as long as I’m right” “well sure.” My brother has this internship that requires him to run errands all over the city and he and my mother have strategy sessions after dinner sometimes, trying to figure out if there’s a better way to do whatever run he got stuck on that afternoon.
It’s not that traffic is always that terrible, though sometimes traffic is that terrible— I think it’s more to do with the fact that the city is huge and unmanageable, a complicated sprawl, and it’s the best way we have to say to one another: how well do you know it, what parts do you know intimately and which do you skip over, are you paying attention, do you love it, do you love the parts I love? I had breakfast with G and T the other morning, went to see G’s sister at the valley high school where she teaches after; we took a funny route back, the 170 to the 134 and through Griffith Park, all still winter brown and kind of scrubby, even though the sky was bright, deep blue. You pass through miles and miles of it on any given day, and it’s hard to talk about unless you understand what I’m saying when I say it: not the 101 but the 170 to the 134, through Burbank, skirting Forest Lawn, to where T and I had left our cars on Heliotrope near Fountain.
I’ve never had bad allergies before but my first weeks back were basically one long, shifting half-head cold: runny nose, stuffy nose, sinus headaches in rotation. “It’s the dryness,” my mother said, “you’ll get used to it again.” But I’d never had to get used to it again, coming back for winter break in college, even last year; I’ve been feeling some fundamental shift this time around, like I really left, three years ago, and now I’m not quite native anymore. But then I come barelling over the curved, rising interchange where the 405 meets the ten, driving east, heading home, and a song will come on the radio, crackling over the beat up sound system in my terrible car, and my whole body knows it: this ugly city full of rich, rich people, that you have to navigate alone in a car, that you have to know the tricks and shortcuts to make it across in one piece: it’s home, it’s home. Of course it is.
2:32 pm • 22 January 2013 • 6 notes
trying to fit boots into a suitcase, c. 2008
The night before I moved out of my junior year apartment for the summer I got drunk instead of packing. Not wasted or anything, but drunk enough that I came downstairs after black & tans at M and L’s and threw some things in a box and cried and set my alarm to wake me up early and then fell asleep on top of my covers in all of my clothes. I wish I could say this was an isolated incident but it wasn’t: I hate packing, and I put it off mercilessly, to the point where I am genuinely surprised that I’m not still in one of those apartments, surrounded by things that don’t quite fit in their boxes, insisting that it’s just going to take like five minutes so there’s no sense in starting now.
When I moved to New Haven for the second time I arrived to this very empty one bedroom, three echoing white rooms all mine. I signed up for Netflix and watched the entire first season of Party Down on an air mattress someone had lent me; I wanted to get drunk but it was Sunday and the liquor stores were closed. Instead I just stared out the window at the fine grey light and wondered how I was going to survive it, two whole years more.
My things are packed, mostly; tomorrow morning I’ll have to see what fits in the car and what I have to suck it up and ship. I thought I had jettisoned all of the excess when I moved from that one bedroom into my current sublet, selling off furniture and books, throwing away magazines and paper scraps and endless handfuls of sentimental nonsense. Despite all of this, I’ve still got somewhere between plenty and too much. It’s just too strange to sit in this room and look at it, dusty and mostly empty, to watch it turn back into a place that doesn’t look anything like home. That might be the hardest part, for me: going to sleep in a blank space, and waking up for the last time in a room I won’t recognize.
11:18 pm • 10 December 2012 • 8 notes
It’s gotten to be the point in the year when I can’t leave work early enough not to walk home in the dark; I thought I would mind this, when I first moved, because my new neighborhood is less nice than my old one was, but the walk is shorter now and it turns out that it’s hard to be anxious about something so familiar. If I sneak out a few minutes early I can catch the last bit of sunset, which is always cold and red and spectacular, and make up the work in the morning.
In less than a month I’m making the big move, the uprooting everything cross-country kind, which means that I spend a lot of time now deciding what I will and won’t miss about life in this particular part of the northeast. I won’t miss how it gets dark early, definitely, or mid-winter slush and ice and windburn and the rattle of radiators, steam on the inside of windows. I will miss trains, specifically the MetroNorth NHV-GCT, and the miserable scenery they provide, the kind that always makes me grateful to be inside and warm and moving quickly along.
I will miss living in New Haven, that’s for sure: a town where there is only one cobbler and he works quick and cheap and gives me attitude about how awful I am with my things, where there are two good bars and one unbelievable burger and where I know the owners of the restaurants and the waitstaff at the coffeeshops and the teenage daughter who does her homework behind the counter at Zachary’s Package Store. It’s very life-sized, New Haven, or sized nicely to my life, anyway. In half an hour I can walk from my apartment to my boyfriend’s; I can bike it faster, and I know how to navigate the series of one way streets in the middle.
Now when I walk home I inevitably get caught at the intersection of Whitney and Edwards, waiting to cross; I peer down the slope of Whitney’s hill, the rows of streetlights descending. Then I take Hillside down and it’s mostly dark until you get to Marsh at the bottom, the greenhouses brilliant, white-hot and well lit all winter long. I know the man who runs them; I could stop in and say hi, if that was what I wanted to do.
5:25 pm • 15 November 2012 • 7 notes
Sarah and I were both feeling stir-crazy after days of being cooped up waiting for a hurricane that mostly (mercifully) passed us by, so we spent the afternoon yesterday looking for Halloween costume pieces and waking through Yale’s residential college courtyards. Downtown was already back in full swing— the trees that came down were in residential neighborhoods, and unlike the rest of the state, almost everyone has power— but the courtyard were particularly, remarkably serene. There was a tiny purple paper lantern on a string of beads caught in the branches of a tree in Branford; these little skeletons were tied to one in Davenport.
The only sign of Sandy’s passing, really, was an enormous tree that had come down in the middle of the New Haven Green, a privately owned but publicly used commons in the middle of the city. It was surrounded by caution tape and cop cars; it turned out that someone had found what everyone kept calling remains in the hollow underneath. Apparently the Green was used throughout the 1700’s as a mass grave site, after which “the stones were moved to the Grove Street Cemetery, and the ground was raised to level off the Green. The bodies remained behind.”
The Green was created with the apocalypse in mind: it is large enough to hold 144,000 people standing shoulder to shoulder, exactly the number the book of Revelations says will be saved in the Rapture. Last year it was the site of New England’s longest-lasting Occupy camp. One of the things I love about living here is the way that the city’s founding impulses continue to shape the way modern life is lived: we cross Temple and Church and Chapel, Crown and George streets; the library and the gym were built to resemble houses of worship. The ground where people assembled to protest for months and months churns up those whose bodies were buried in secret, in night, hundreds of years ago. It’s a place that has seen and survived a lot of tumult, that bears the scars of human anxiety and disaster preparedness now centuries old.
To grow up in California is to be told that you live in a place that has no history, by which we mean white history; to live in New England is to be surrounded by what you’ve learned to recognize as the past. It grounds everything here in story and makes it rich with inherited meaning; if this were a Los Angeles story, it would be an old Indian burial ground under a mall parking lot and a very tired cliche. The assumption there is that we can’t connect to the culture that preceded us; here we are encouraged to. And as always with stories where you think you know the ending and the moral, it makes what might be creepy into something ultimately comforting. Sarah and I edged around the perimeter of the caution tape, trying to catch a glimpse of the skull inside. We agreed that it was morbid and shivery and delicious, to have this happening right before Halloween.
10:00 am • 31 October 2012 • 6 notes
Los Angeles | September 14th, 2012
My (parents’) Los Angeles dining room; the old gun factory a couple of blocks from my current New Haven apartment.
9:58 am • 4 October 2012 • 5 notes
One spring I would borrow my mother’s car, which was much nicer than mine, and drive to the leading edge of West Hollywood to wait for Darling. He’d meet me out front and chat up the doormen and sweep me inside, though I was very obviously underage, very obviously without ID. Once we got in he bought the drinks; because I was eighteen in Los Angeles, I asked for whatever was the strongest and the least caloric. We sat on the couches out back and drank vodka sodas and talked about the people we saw.
I’d met Darling on the middle school bus; he was a twelve year old vegan who told me he wanted combat boots and fancy olive oil for his upcoming birthday. We lost touch when he dropped out and found one another again a year before I left for college. In the interim he’d become this slick hipster who could get me into nice bars and divey parties; I’d become the kind of girl who wanted to go. One night Lizzie called him while we were sitting out back at the bar, which was called Guys. “Are you dating Lindsay Lohan? I hear you’ve been hanging out a little bit,” she said. He said he hadn’t, that they were just frequenting the same places. “Oh.” Lizzie said. “Well then, are you dating Zan?”
As it happened, I ran into Lindsay six months later: visiting home on winter break, Darling called and told me to put on “something fabulous” and took me to Teddy’s at the Roosevelt, which was just then taking over from the played out scene by their pool. A girl I’d gone to high school with DJ’ed, members of Maroon5 hanging out in the booth. I came out of a bathroom stall and there she was, Lindsay, pale and thin, clutching her stomach, claiming she was about to puke. I washed my hands slowly and went outside for another vodka soda. I hung around the tiny patio while Darling smoked his Parliament Lights.
When you grow up in Los Angeles, you take it for granted that you live in the real world; when you go anywhere else, it’s hard to understand how you could have been fooled. I disappeared myself into an east coast Ivy League fantasy and read Less Than Zero on the planes back home. I was glad to find it all waiting for me when I finally arrived on the return: I hadn’t imagined it, any of it. Darling and Martin would take me to parties where we swigged champagne from the bottle and offered sips to anyone who needed to swallow a pill.
11:16 am • 7 September 2012 • 6 notes