Secret Pop

Dec 31, 2002

Should old acquaintance be forgot

Just a matter of hours now. The numbers change. The tide shifts. The page gets turned. And you start over again. And you start singing In My Life by the Beatles.

Memories carry immense significance for me on nights like this. I am in the business of keeping them. Making them, as well. I will put away apologies for now, and face a fine Tuesday night.

We'll take a cup of kindness yet.

Dining near the stars.

I went out for dinner with friends. Off in another corner of the restaurant, Peter Strauss and Rachel Ticotin were having their dinner. If it wouldn't have made me look a fool, I would have wanted to tell Peter Strauss what a huge crush I had had on him when I was a girl. Particularly because of Masada and a remake he did of Angel on My Shoulder. That was when I was just on the fringe of beginning to realize that I found men -- certain of them -- attractive and wonderful. Of course, all I ever wanted to do was marry them. Nine year-old girls don't generally hope for a hot night in the jacuzzi with the celebrity of their choice. They just want to marry him and change their surname. Love was so simple in those days, hm?

I wore the cutest shoes in the world tonight. I love them. That's another simple kind of love that I find to be entirely manageable. A hat gets tossed in the air for that.

Peter and Rachel left the restuarant as we were standing outside on the sidewalk. We watched them walk to their car. It's a shame that everyone doesn't just know everyone. Or that the world doesn't have so few people in it that such a thing could be true. It would be nice to never be barricaded by that wall of unfamiliarity. I would have liked to say, "Hi," in the same way that one might ask one's neighbor how the tulips are coming in this year. I would have liked to ask how their dinner was without actually caring what they answered. Good old casual acquaintance. Would that take the fun out of everything? I'm on the fence about it.

Dec 29, 2002

The Softest Skin

I enjoyed performing tonight. Despite an overwhelming feeling of brutal exhaustion. I had fun on stage, and I didn't hate my choices. The best line I think I uttered was "a book about burritos?" But certain things stick with me for reasons that aren't obvious. There were other happy moments.

We toasted the last show of the regular season with asti spumante, and the flavor brought back memories of past toasts and past celebrations. And we pondered our resolutions. That someone's resolution was "to pork Mary" was amusing to me. But I think it was only because pork makes for a funny verb. And maybe because I'm not sure if it's acceptable to be flattered by that.

I didn't have a well thought-out resolution to offer. I have made lists before. I have written them on airsick bags or scraps of note paper or napkins. I have made them on New Year's Day. Or in October. Or in the middle of February at a Chinese restaurant. I have forgotten most of them. Promises I make to me seem easier to break. I don't know what task I will burden myself with this year. I am just relieved to be looking forward to it. I have very positive things to reflect on and a great deal to be excited about. This coming year has every reason to be the best one yet. The one I've just lived has been its own set of superlatives. I feel fortunate. And wiser in some respects. I'm not willing to accept the monotone of self-doubt. I would like to be someone very important to someone else this year. But I would also like to take a crack at being very important to myself for a change.

And then it began to rain. A downpour through the window of a restaurant where the Christmas lights are still up. Ooh, but that is something I like. I like seeing the reflection of red and green traffic lights on wet asphalt. It's pretty to me. And it's nice when it's so late that the streets are empty enough for you to see that bit of colorplay.

I feel unusually tired tonight. And ready for something like rest.

Sometimes, when I'm leaving Los Angeles, I feel a sense of relief and anticipation. Other times, those feelings accompany my trip back. Maybe it's just that I like to be in the car going somewhere.

Dec 28, 2002

Holiday Postlude

I bought Pumpkin Pie ice cream at Cold Stone last night. They have Egg Nog, too. This fact is one of my favorite details of the yuletide season. In the summertime, all they can offer you is strawberry, which you can get all year long. What else would there be? Swimming pool-flavored ice cream? They usually offer some baseball-themed flavor or something that has a patriotic package in time for Independence Day. But the other seasons don't really offer the same flavoring opportunities that the holidays do. You can get a Shamrock Shake at McDonald's for St. Patrick's Day, but that's kind of wrong, isn't it? Shamrocks don't taste like mint in the slightest.

One A.M. has a way of sneaking up on me.

I tell myself I'm going to go to sleep at a more reasonable hour. I've got things to do. I need my rest. And yet, night after night, I glance at some time-telling device in a state of complete alertness and realize that it is one A.M. and that once I've done with my many pre-sleep rituals, it will be four A.M. or something similar and I will again be on my way to a day of wondering whether I might have amounted to more if I had bothered to get a good night's sleep and have a complete breakfast.

I don't believe in breakfast. I know people the world over insist that it's the one thing that will keep you from death or idiocy. But I just don't buy it. I love breakfast food. I will happily eat it at any hour of the day you please. I just don't make any special apportionments for the taking of a meal before my day begins. And I get a lot done, as such things go. Ask anyone who knows me.

There are a lot of things I don't believe in. And not for the sake of being contrary and not in a state of "anymore." I just find that many time-honored bits of advice -- many generation-affirmed rules of life and how it's to be lived -- are just not applicable to me. I like folklore and wives' tales and spooky mumbo jumbo about superstitious nonsense. But I just like it because it amuses me. Not because it provides me with a basis for making important decisions in my daily existence.

I think I just don't like rules. I'm not a rebel in the classic sense. But I don't like doing anything just because I'm supposed to. I feel myself pushing off the expectations placed on me the way my family's dog wriggles out of a santa hat we try and tie to her head. "It doesn't belong there!" Amen to that.

I wish life -- or my life, to be more specific -- could be lived without limits. Without pragmatism. Without fear. Without guilt. I wish the days would be hotbeds of opportunity for me. Vast expanses of adventures not yet had. I wish I could live my life in a more linear fashion. And in higher gear. And without access to the reverse setting at all.

I also want to fault myself less for wanting to be kind and generous or for wanting to do a good deed. The idealist in me is melting away like a salted slug. I want to belay that process. I want to buy the idealist in me a drink and see where the night takes us. She's a goer when you get a little of the devil's juice in her. So I hear.

I find poetry from time to time. In the most unlikely places. There is poetry in release and in forgiveness and in sorrow and in shadow. There is delicate verse in accidental confessions and deliberate ones. There is the turn of a lyric in the occasional moment of splendor. Just as there is in the moments of despondence. I am as needy as I am needless. As desirous as I am restrained. I am as surprising as I am dependable. And I am as unfinished as I am complete.

I am done for now.

Dec 27, 2002

"Forgive me. I was wrong to despair."

Note: This will not be a review of The Two Towers but rather of the experience of sitting next to a hulking pile of man filth for the duration of the film.

I was really looking forward to seeing The Two Towers, and sorely disappointed that I wasn't able to manage to see the midnight showing on the morning of the night it opened -- if that makes any sense. But I finally got there. And I finally got to see a film on the Cinerama Dome screen at the Arclight, which was a fine thing. They claim to have the best popcorm. They're not just tooting their own horns.

The man sitting next to me couldn't have had any rings on his fingers. Unless they were masonic. He could not have belonged to anyone. I don't say this because I have some elitist opinion about who does and doesn't deserve to have love or partnership. I'm just saying that this person could not have been the sort who had had to live in the state of compromise required by an intimate relationship. And also there is the fact that he was very human-smelling. And he had such a preposterous mole on his upper lip. No one could ever be paired up with someone with a mole like that. I'm sure of it.

Carrying on. He was there with two other male "buddies." They were all well past the age of the middle. He was a heavy-set fellow, with a paunchy girth resting high up on his torso, and squat, fat legs that splayed out to either side, the right one managing to rest almost perpetually in my pre-purchased seating territory. He was wearing a short-sleeved, button-down shirt. It was reddish and sort of plaid or gingham. I tried to only look at him peripherally. Particularly when he began to do things that would have encouraged me to memorize his face lest I ever see him on the street and have the opportunity to dispose of him without anyone noticing.

From the very commencement of the film, he would not be still. And he had brought with him a big crinkly jacket that made a great deal of noise every time he balled it up and tried to stuff it further into his lap. Which was often. He only spoke twice, and in both cases it was full voice and to say something inane. The two utterances were, "Dwarf tossing?" and "At least he didn't say, 'Walk this way.'" But in the periods when he was not speaking, he made more noise than I thought humanly possible. Every yawn was followed by a luxurious groan and smacking of the mouth. Popcorn was perpetually being urged from between his teeth with loud sucking noises. His breathing was more like persistent sighing with intermittent sniffling and whimpering and frequent coughs and sneezes. Then there were the belches. Which required him to actually scoot forward in his seat to steady their force. Early in the film I saw him do something which he proceeded to do at least seven or eight times, despite my attempts to not notice. He would reach his chubby arm across himself and insert his fingers into the opening of his sleeve, scratch at his armpits for a few seconds, and then quite plainly raise those fingers back to his nose and sniff at them. He did this to both armpits a number of times. I thought I was going to be sick.

And when he wasn't scratching himself, pawing at his crotch, smoothing his hair, fidgeting, clearing his throat, picking his teeth, or rearranging his clothing -- well, he wasn't doing anything, because there simply was not a moment in the film when he wasn't doing at least one of those things. I even recall seeing him readjusting the buttons of his shirt, finding a kernel of popped corn within the shirt, and raising it to his lips and eating it. Yuck.

My only complaint about the film was that it wasn't loud enough. If only the battle for Helm's Deep would have taken the whole length of the film, I might not have had to hear his laborious efforts to keep from suffocating on his own membranes. Instead, at all the quiet, tender, sentimental moments, he was coughing or chortling or hacking or harrumphing. So much so that I wanted to pound him. I kept asking myself what one says in this circumstance. How does one ask another person to be still? How does one ask an adult to breathe more quietly or to stop punching his crisp outerwear into a ball. Most of the phrases that came to mind were sarcastic and nasty and would probably have provoked a conversation, if only because he wouldn't have understood my meaning. So I kept to myself. All the while thinking, "I will have to write this down when I'm out of here." And the cataloguing of the annoyances began to take precedence over the watching of the film. That's one of the problems with watching films with the public when one is hypersensitive to inconsiderate behavior. It's the same problem with driving in any urban setting.

The thing is, his apparent struggle for life was such a noisy affair that, at points, I would turn and look right at him in horror and disbelief. And he was completely oblivious to it. He never noticed me glaring at him or leaning away from him or trying to call up the dormant powers of my Asian laser eye rays (all of us Asians have them, but some of us haven't figured out how to use them on command -- I'm one of these unfortunates). He was unfazed. And I thought to myself, "He wins, you know. He wins. He's not bothered by you. And you're bothered by the very fact of his existence. I cannot enjoy myself, and he has no idea that he is party to that. What a rotting bargain this is."

That's the sad truth. When you go to the movies and it bugs you that other people are unaware or in some cases deliberately rude, you're the only one who suffers. Some jerks -- incredibly -- are even amused and goaded on by your vocalized displeasure. There are people who feel empowered when they have ruined someone else's day. A guy in a truck was able to claim that of me on Christmas morning, as a matter of fact. And the only victory over that sort of abominable behavior is to ignore it. Which seems like a ridiculous compromise. "Be the bigger person," the world will tell you. "Don't let him get the best of you." But this is all nonsense. I'm of the mind today that it would be far more satisfying to surprise these folks with a smashing of the face with a mallet or a dropping of a nice, sturdy safe on their head. I did not leave the cinema with my fists raised in victory for not having let that fat heap know that he should aspire to never again leave his house. That he should only watch programs in a soundproof booth. Or underwater. That he should have his septum examined. And that he should stop picking at his armpits. I felt somewhat deflated and impotent. And the catharsis of writing it all down is only half a treat. Most people, reading this, would think I'm an unreasonable looney. They're wrong, though. I'm the sort of considerate that you don't notice. So considerate that it never occurs to you that you have never been disturbed by me. So careful to not interfere in your fun-having that you have no idea that I've made the effort. And I get about as much credit for that as the tooth fairy. It's all about as rewarding as giving a pizza to a homeless man who is annoyed because you have unwittingly interrupted him in the middle of a cell phone call. If this is the city of angels, the angels are mostly asses.

I should add that I am guiltily and girlishly taken with both Viggo Mortensen (spaces between his teeth and all) and Orlando Bloom. All that valor and bombast makes a girl want to go off to war. But then the dirty fingernails and the days and days without bathing bring her right back to reality.

And that's what I thought of The Two Towers.

stream of holiday consciousness

retire the red sweater road rage smile like you mean it walk the dog peel a squash sparkly glasses merlot my dog skip a christmas story something about places to visit in the holy land about schmidt more abba gold greasy popcorn m and m peanut butter inferior to the reese piece candles records pajama pants the street where you live a swanky lamp its smiling at me oh mary you are my daughter lots of pictures but not enough by a long shot coffee scented candles and the money they save you sleeveless medium rare lychee a couch for dozing cold feet knee socks the right gift the wrong tag bows that stick not so well christmas thief strikes twice wine makes my cheeks feel pink why so nervous not where i used to be the old days more presents to wrap no one is ever forgotten no one ever uses an ice cream maker save money shop after christmas sleep in but get dressed in a hurry coconut macaroons sitting cross legged a long drive a country road a wagon farm a fake horse a failed attempt a warm reception an expected silence a surprising absence of melancholy

Dec 25, 2002

A kiss before dying (where "dying" is sleep and the "kiss" is a blog entry).

I miss late night Christmas phone calls. The race to be the first to wish someone an especially happy day. Wanting the day to begin as early as possible. And to last forever. I miss late night lots of things. I am always up late these days. But the rest must slumber while I toil or blink or tick away the minutes with fevered thinking. They have clocks to punch.

I miss the thrill of being remembered. And sweetly. I miss the gestures that left me enraptured, unable to speak, spilling over with emotion and gratitude. I miss the feeling of a warm, special day. When the moments are so vivid, you don't have to remind yourself to take note of them. They stick. Effortlessly.

Sensorily, the holidays are a carnival for me. I plan to steal a few hugs if I can manage it. Tender sentiment of any sort would make me swell up inside like a big Christmas balloon. It's a short list -- the things that only come once a year. Overdoing it is in order.

"Fa ra ra ra ra ra ra ra ra."

I am deep into my A Christmas Story marathon. It's welcome and familiar. I will leave it on in my bedroom through the night. I will wake drowsily from time to time and catch bits of it. Just like last year. And then the festivities will be upon me and who knows where that will lead. I have celebrated this holiday in many different ways over the years. The memories that linger are precious. Even the ones that provoke feelings of sorrow. And I can tell the years apart by what I wore. Last year, it was snug red sailor pants and a sparkly black turtleneck. I haven't decided what it will be this year. But red and black would certainly not surprise me.

I have wrapping to do. And more film to watch. Chuck a coin in the fountain for me. I have no wish to be forlorn.

We Chinese can pronounce our L's just fine, as it happens.

Dec 24, 2002

Merrily Merrily

What a place, this Hollywood. I saw a gang of bald, illustrated men being subdued by our men in blue in a tattoo parlor on Hollywood Boulevard as I made my way to the Disney Store. I wondered what they had done, but not enough to stand around amongst the other lookieloos hoping to find out.

I didn't have as good a day as I would have liked. And I'm almost too weak to begin the wrapping task. When oh when will the A Christmas Story marathon begin?

With Passion

I hope you will experience something amazing. Something that will stir your insides and make you lie awake at night. I wish you more of what you want than what you need. And I hope you find reasons to laugh and cheer and cry. If you have prizes to open, don't open them gingerly; tear the paper and smash it up into a ball when you're done with it. And if you have snow to play in, make an angel for me. I once tried to make one in Julian, California, and ended up falling back -- trustingly -- onto solid rock with about a centimeter of snow on it. It hurt my head.

I took this picture about a week ago in front of my parents' Christmas tree.


Dec 23, 2002

Accidental Onion

I spent much of the day nearly asleep in my car. Willing my eyelids open. Singing songs I've sung so many times in recent drives that I've grown to hate them. I drove nearly 400 miles today. And always with a purpose. I far prefer driving with no plans at all. But that's rare for me. I like when you don't care when you get there. But you know something pleasant is waiting for you.

Today didn't turn out as it was written. A lot of artistic license was taken with the script. But I'm through it. To a point. And I will finish my shopping and wrapping tomorrow. Frantic and harried, like all procrastinators. I already got several perfect gifts. Anything that shows up on Christmas morning will just be icing.

My quality control method for determining if fast food denizens have managed to omit the onion from my sandwich is to bite in and find out with my mouth. I think this is a bad protocol and should be rethought forthwith. Ptooey.

"Every time that I look at you, I can see the future."

There is comfort in remembrance. Not necessarily reassurance. But comfort. Yes. It is as it was. It is as it wasn't. It isn't anything at all. But it all presses forward and things get left behind. I don't have promises to court or ambivalence to stir into the Christmas drink. Holiday cheer has not eluded me. Failure has not pinned me. I get more out of the moments and less grudgingly. I am unafraid when ordering fizzy drinks. I awoke feeling different. Only just slightly. But enough to notice. Can it be a prison if the doors are all wide open?

Even my dreams are letting me off more easily.

Dec 22, 2002

Split Peach

There are times when I am made to feel -- by someone who purports to love me -- as if I am inconsiderate or selfish and unjustly so. I can't properly articulate the sort of frustration and despair this engenders. Persuasive words clog up in my throat. I hear myself giving up. The provocation of the irrational is no longer the irresistible nectar it once was. The argument is like an asthmatic attack. I can't breathe. And the only weapon against it is to wait for it to pass.

How idealistic and belief-rich this girl once was. Eager to convince. To sway an opinion. To illumine. But giving up is sometimes nobler than persisting with the banging of one's head against a wall. To throw in the towel is to submit. And that is as much a part of my nature as is the will to overcome. Apologetic vanquisher. Zealous deserter. I do things that don't always make sense.

It's hard to look forward to the holidays when all of the traditional topnotes are missing.

The Sanrio Store: Vortex of Universal Happiness

The little Japanese schoolgirl in me loves this time of year. But Sanrio provides pan-seasonal joy. It occurs to me how lame I am. That a new character in Hello Kitty land is as intriguing to me as the new kid at school -- the world is again a place of wonder. And that I feel similarly refurbished at Urban Outfitters or any other such purveyor of retail cool.

I used to flip through catalogs and mark the items I would buy if I had the money. It was nearly as good as actually buying them. As if making the decision to want to buy it was a powerful statement of decisive good taste. Shopping in a store is like that for me. I look around. And I congratulate myself on the items I am fortunate enough to want. If wanting things -- tangible or otherwise -- is anything at all like having them, I should be content. I am prosperous in that currency.

The closer you get to sunrise, the more secrets get revealed. It's a mathematical certainty.

Dec 21, 2002

Dawn Comes Daily

Late nights that turn into early mornings when you are as reluctant to leave as you are to stay. I remember this.

Dec 18, 2002

"Irving Berlin."

There was one word that kept coming into my head while watching Star Trek: Nemesis, and that word was derivative. I will have to elaborate on another day. I have many thoughts, but they are painfully disorganized.

I saw it in the big theater at Grauman's Chinese. I think my last foray there was on account of Star Wars: Attack of the Clones. The Lil Bow Wow trailer that night garnered hilarious booing from the packed house. The trailer for The Core before today's screening contained a few things worth booing, too, coincidentally. Most noteworthy is the fact that the ostensible protagonist of this thematically nuclear-science-centric story can't pronounce the word "nuclear." I cringe just thinking of sitting through two or so hours of that guy saying "nucular" this and "nucular" that. If that ever becomes an accepted variation of the word, I may be forced to swallow a lump of coal. Then, there's the announcement that the catastrophe cannot be avoided. Someone says something to the effect of, "What can we do to fix it?" and someone else says, "We can't," and then Stanley Tucci says, "What if we could?" What a world this is. The world of The Core. "You will never win the lottery, Fergus." "Yes, but what if I did." "Ah, well, you make a good point there." Who's scoring this debate?

Oh. And in other news of trailer debacles, I can't imagine why the trailer for Daredevil is as bad as it is. I'm sure the movie will be bad. But trailers are usually such inaccurate harbingers of that sort of truth. In the background of visual imagery of Ben Affleck in mussed hair and/or a rather unimpressively-made and ill-fitting superhero costume, there's a ridiculous hip hop song playing. Both times I've seen this trailer in the theater, I haven't been able to keep from laughing. Are the lyrics "supercalifragilistic monkey dropping go ballistic"? Because if they're not, they might as well be. What?

I got a spot of Christmas shopping done. And I had a nice dinner and a nice lunch and a lot of laughing and gadding about. For some reason, I was freakishly giddy today. I was flustered and going at everything at a fevered pitch. It was partly crazy and harried and out of control. And it was partly buoyant and wonderful. I've been going for nearly a full round of the clock. And I suspect I shall still experience difficulty getting sleep to overtake me. I may have to seduce sleep with some challenging reading. Or barbiturates.

Today was a real bit of L.A. And possibly a bit of Christmas, too.

Epilogue: Apparently, it's "Supercalifragilistic. When we drop, we go ballistic." You're a better person for knowing that.

Dec 17, 2002

Rain and Rye Bread
How I do love the rain. When it pours. Especially when it pours. Making a run for it. Giggling and sprinting into the house. Delighting in the shelter it provides. You're never as glad to be back home as when you're taking refuge there. And then you're lured immediately to the fireplace and to the warmth of a cordial (and to the company of the elite who won't think you dim and affected for calling a shot of Goldschlager "a cordial") and records playing while the dialogue flows and the semi-absence of time that takes over when the day is just grey from end to end and you can't tell it's over until it's quiet and dark.
But I love to be in it as much as I love to come in from out of it. The cars that drove against the curbs today looked as if they were surfing. Great fans of water shot up from under their tires. What a hurry they were all in. And I stood under the private shelter of my leopard print umbrella and waited for my car to be retrieved. And I laughed at how cold and wet everything was. How my new handbag was faring. The way it smells when the world is soaked. And how you can begin looking forward to the bright, fresh tomorrow. The squeaky clean skies above the still damp streets. If the sun makes a go of it, the city will look like a postcard of what a coastal holiday purports to be. Set a white Christmas against a golden one and I wonder which one pulls ahead in the popular races.
I ran across the street to buy ice cream to serve with a hasty dessert. The sidewalks weren't so wet that I made a mess of my shoes. I ran the whole way. And I remembered how much I enjoy the taste of cold air in my lungs and the angry beating of an effort-roused heart. I love that there are places I can run to.


Reminders of ponytail days. One in particular.


Dec 16, 2002

Half-Hearted Clap on the Back

Even as things were, I didn't quit until NOW, which is much later than it was when I first surrendered to the idea of quitting. As quitters go, I think I come off looking surprisingly responsible and motivated.

And I still have to put sheets on my bed before I can climb into it. Frown.

Well Begun Is Half Done

She's a tricky one, that Mary Poppins. This spoonful of sugar tastes just like medicine.

I am convinced I will never be finished with this project. Every possible pitfall has presented. And I feel my eyeballs going all squishy. So be it. I shall wear the "Quitter" jersey for this leg of the race. But I'll make up for it in the downhill.

There to Here in No Time Flat

I drove fast tonight. I could hear the whoosh I was making as I sped past other motorists, entities who became little more than a color of paint and a pair of headlights to me in the aftermath. I was in a hurry. And I established a fast pace to begin with. But moreso, I was looking forward to being able to come to a stop. And I remembered the release of coming home. And it was alluring. I covered the 175 miles or so in about 1:45. It's positively criminal. But I am teaching myself not to be sorry.

For the record,
this was me
in gig mode.
In the days
that followed,
I dressed in black
and played until
my fingers bled.
When I go,
I go full tilt.

It's late, and I'm aware of it. I feel that omnipresent ache of overdoing it. It's the sensation I have often relied upon to remind me that I'm here and up to things. Like the satisfaction of sore muscles after a good, long run.

I have begun to feel a bland disinterest come over me when people express wonder at how much I do and how little sleep I take and how hard I push and blah di blah di blah. I am impatient these days. And less than anxious to inspire awe purely on the basis of how efficiently my motor runs. It doesn't really. I waste plenty. I waste a great deal. Like there was profit in it. I waste flagranty. I waste away at times. It's all part of the process.

One day, I will smile, knowing that I have inspired something legitimate. Knowing that someone I know is proud to show me off or to parade my work around in front of the crew at the office. It will mean something more to me to be admired for something that exists outside of my personal chemistry. I want to be remembered -- and possibly applauded -- for the right things. And there are certain memories -- and their bearers -- that mean more to me than others. I want it to mean something when someone points to me and says, "Isn't she something?" I want the triumph of it.

I also realize that I am growing to despise approval in the same way that an addict despises her fix. The way she rails against the satiation the evil substance delivers. I don't want to care what anyone else thinks anymore. But that is a goal that bobs on the horizon. A bit of flotsam, lingering along the edge of the ocean, just before it drops away against the curve of space. I can reach for it. And I am made for reaching. But I am using a spyglass and things are so much farther off than I can measure. Whatever my vision may tell me. My fingertips might just as easily caress the edge of the sun.

When I drive fast, I sing at the top of my lungs.

Dec 15, 2002

Holiday Spirit Handily Avoided

I thought playing hours and hours of Christmas songs would turn my frown upside down. But that was not the case. Maybe the fare was too Rudolph-heavy. I don't know. I used to look forward to this. Like so many other things. Today, I am anxious for my obligation to be behind me, and I am hoping Santa will understand my wish list when it says, "I would like to disappear."

Between shows today, I went out to my car with a click-track CD and wrote a bluegrassy fiddle part for a song that apparently needed that. And then I played it in the second show. I suppose I can say I'm proud of myself. That I was able to do that. That I pulled it off. I have grown so much more confident that ideas will come when I'm sitting there with manuscript paper and a mechanical pencil. And they do. I haven't written much in the way of songs of my own. A few ditties sung in the bathtub by a girl between the ages of six and ten. I still remember them. As songs go, they stink. But accompaniment is apparently my strong suit. Give me a great song someone else has written, and I'll gussy it up a bit.

When I played the song, I was ever so nervous. Perhaps because I hadn't had a chance to properly rehearse it. Perhaps because I care what some people think of my playing. Perhaps because I wasn't able to eat all day and was feeling shaky and tired. But I felt myself trembling as I played the zippity quick notes, and I felt dizzy and lightheaded when it was all over.

I am not accustomed to the rush of adrenalin anymore. It seems foreign to me. And that makes me feel poorly. I notice an almost perpetual furrow in my brow. And a consistent frown. Or at least an absence of smile. I look, right now, as if I am in great pain. And I think it's true. Those fir trees may as well be jabbing their needles into my weepy eyes. That's what the season means to me. And no amount of bows or wrapping or scented tissue paper will change that before it's suddenly next year.

Poof. It will be 2003. And you will catch me saying that I can't believe it. And I will be speaking the truth. I can't believe how much time has gone by. How much has happened. How little has happened. How much is yet to come. How little I know of it. I am aching with the disappointment.

And yet I would prefer the world to believe I'm so happy it hurts. And my only costume for that is a new shade of lipstick.

Dec 14, 2002

The Strange and the Familiar

It's something to be re-introduced. To hear someone say, "Hey, everyone, Mary's here!" To have everyone wonder how you've been and what you've been up to. To realize that it's been so long since they've seen you that it makes sense for them to comment on how wonderful you look. Or how slender. Or how mischievous. I realize, at such times, that I am not terribly enthusiastic about presenting anyone with a snapshot of where I am today. I tell them where I live. Where I have and haven't decided to earn my keep. That sort of thing. But mostly, I sort of feel as if very little has changed. And I don't have a litany of exciting dollops of life to pass out. It would be nice if I could just have some notecards made that I could hand out that would list the salient points. But I fear that would appear rude and against the social norm. I do a lot. But I'm too tired and beleaguered to crow about it.

My world was once filled with wonder. And an antsy, itchy urgency to take it all in. To drink it all down. To get drunk on it. In spurts, my world becomes a mess of time constraints and priorities and not being able to be two places at once. There are fewer opportunities to have a look around and sigh and say, I like it here.

There's the matter of this rut to contend with.

But it's still pleasant to be reminded that there are people who are happy when you appear and glad to see you. If I were making a list for the sake of resolution, I would say that more time should be made for happy reunions. Every day needn't be a punch in the face.

Also, there are people I dislike for smelling bad. Camels smell bad, but I never feel angry at them for it. Some people I look forward to catching up with. Others I hear myself hopscotching through the events of the past year or two, and I realize I'm thinking, Hm. I don't want to be talking to you anymore. I wonder if I'm being fair. And I wonder if I have any obligation to be.

I don't think I am a fan of most pink things.

Dec 13, 2002

The Funny and Where to Find It

Meeks and Scott made a commercial parody for Meeks' broadcasting class. It goes something like this. I laughed in a manner that approximated shrieking. And Cereal House is now the official sponsor of Plural. A lifetime of free breakfast!

Hoi Polloi

I am a member of a band. We performed tonight at a neat little bar called the Honey Bee Hive. The crowd liked us, and I received thumbs up on my ponytails and flash of bare midriff. I don't know if I have an actual "look," but I know I like it when I get encircled in a hug and a hand finds a bit of exposed hip and waist. That sort of innocent touch, unwittingly discovering how smooth I am, there's poetry there. If such things must be orchestrated by the proper choice of outfit, then so be it. Whatever look delivers me into a lovely sensation of warmth and kind acceptance, that's the look I want.

I stay up late enough these days that I would be well within my rights to turn into a slugabed. I wonder if I deserve commendation for not actually being one. Instead, I lunge at the day with alacrity and only lament it when I realize the toll it is taking on me. It's not sleep I need. It's rest. The two are not one.

I keep them all fooled, though. Voluble raconteuse. Cheerful bottoms-upper with the Boddington's on tap. Smiles a plenty. Proficience of posture. Attending to whatever exigencies might crop up with prying eyes and demanding, clutching fingers. Blistex isn't the only substance with emollient qualities.

I remember when all the summer ever meant to me was spelling bee.

Dec 12, 2002

Viddy Me in Christmas Colors

I got a parcel in the mail containing my first under-tree trimming. The Mary Forrest Fan Club is a fine kettle of folks.

How about some sleep for a change?

Finally. Largo.

At last, I've seen Nick Swardson in person. And Louie Anderson. And Patton Oswalt. And Dana Gould. And Liz Winstead. And Laura Kightlinger. And Sean Cullen. Quite a line-up for a $5 cover. I was glad of it.

The next few days are going to be gruesome with obligations and schedule cramming. I am already worn down to nearly the quick with the consumptive forces of this past month. I look tired. And that's not just my way of asking for a compliment. I look tired. And I can barely straighten up from the pains in my neck and shoulders and back. I picture elves sneaking into my bedroom after I've gone to sleep -- oh, say, around 6 A.M. -- and clubbing my back with tiny elf bludgeons. It's the only reasonable explanation I can surmise.

The continuity errors alone...

Fact: It is very common for me to mistype my name at the close of an email. I regularly type "Maru" instead of "Mary." In Japanese, "maru" means "zero."

The one that follows serves no purpose. It's for posterity.

Dec 11, 2002

"I used to be lunatic from your precious face."

It's glorious windy out tonight. A black, cold night with pools of light to wade through on quiet sidewalks. I would have loved to have had my photograph taken tonight. On the street. Outside. Anywhere.

At moments, the wind sounds like graceful sweeping. Or the opening of candy. It's an inviting whisper. I long to go out in it. Trees dancing, their limbs gone lilty but with a sort of frantic desperation. "We can't help it," they're saying. I understand. I can't help it either.

On a dark stretch of highway, you can drive one hundred miles per hour and never know the difference.

The language is leaving me.

Dec 10, 2002

A way with words

In the annals of unlikely words of encouragement from my mom, "Keep trucking," tops the list. I heard them this morning. I was amused.

Santa's making a list, and I couldn't give a fig.

I'm not grinchy. I'm just not inviting some fat, old guy in a sweaty red suit to rank me on the Naughty-Nice scale. For that matter, I hear Jesus is making a list, too. Same goes for him on the fig thing.

Elegant Goodnight

There have been delicate moments in today. Reminders of things that once made my heart race. Heralds of future quickening. Faint breaths of beauty. A line. An inkling. A desire for the savory over the sweet. An appreciation for certain brands of unpleasantness. An understanding of my own shortcomings and where I always manage to steer it wrong. I am almost always looking in a mirror. Not because I am enamored. But rather because I am curious. And accusatory. I am at fault for whatever was lacking. I am the reason it's never enough. I am serving out my sentence with the slightly sweet remainder of dying flowers and a bottomless glass of a very bitter drink.

Was I ever lovely? Was I ever wonderful? Was the fascination false all along? Or did it falter?

This has been a season of withholding. I wonder whether crowds will be bowled over when it's time to turn things loose again.

When my writing goes all cryptic-like, I know there are demons to contend with. It is easier to speak in poems when the ugliness is churning. There are beautiful ways of saying very ugly things.

Time to flip the sign. We're closed.

My work day is ending. Another will begin shortly. I am not free to rest. Or to consider. Or to revisit. My brain is cold with reluctance. My senses are quieted by disuse. My eyes hurt. And I am a servant to all of it.

The double digits of December already? Why does that make me so sad?

Dec 9, 2002

"Food! Water! Atmosphere!"

Maybe heaven is a themed restaurant. Maybe the heavenly hosts are animatronic animals who wear hats and business casual outfits. Maybe a giant aquarium and flaming drinks with more plastic decorations in them than actual beverage are the reward of the faithful for a life lived more boringly. Maybe the angels like the sound of a player piano that plays ragtime round the clock. Maybe.

The Sopranos made me cry.

But Spongebob made me smile. And it gave me fine ideas.

Dreams do come true.

Dec 8, 2002


I am still fascinated by the story of the Titanic. I watch scientific dissections of everything that is believed to have happened. I read books about it. I feel a similar fondness for other stories of tragedy at sea. There is something so desperate and isolated about the idea of encountering a catastrophe or a crisis out in the middle of the great ocean. The realization that you can scream, and no one will hear you. You can die, and no one will find you. You can press on or give up. No one will be the wiser. You can't conquer the sea. You can't even get it to take notice of you.

I'm not a child of the sea, per se. I might used to have been. I have almost always lived in port cities. And I have been in a few boats. But I'm no seafarer. I don't know the first thing about sailing. And I don't like to open my eyes in salt water. But there is a romance -- an allure -- to the endless crashing of the waves. The limitless froth. The fishy funk. The deep parts. The shallow parts. The living things. The skeletons. The way the sun sets and rises against an ocean horizon. When I can feel that salt air on my skin and in my hair, I dream of going places. For long stretches of time. I think of explorers and pirates and fancy people with their mass of trunks. I think of having a cabin to myself on a vast ship and calling it home for weeks.

But I don't think that manner of cruise is to be had anymore. Not unless boorish American people aren't allowed at all. The sea is no longer the luxurious route to take. Only honeymooners and retirees and single women in their middle age seem to flock to the harbor anymore. And I want a grand ocean voyage. Not a stint on the Love Boat. I want to look at the crew and not think to myself that their uniforms are silly and fraudulent. I want dinner to have all manner of fancy things to choose from. Not your choice of Chinese or Cajun chicken salad. I want to buy in.

I'm a fan of the journey. One day, when people are taking long trips to the moon and manmade cities on Mars or floating space stations with artificial gravity, I'll want to go and come back. Just for the journey's sake. I might stop for a postcard. And a Starbuck's. Which they're sure to have. But then I'll just go smooth my hair a bit and restock on reading fodder and get myself buckled in and ready for the in-flight safety instructions. I am such a great fan of anticipation. Long trips just offer me the chance to stretch the feeling out. Sometimes, arrival is just an inconvenience. I'll put off the arrival for as long as I can, thanks. Once you get there, you just have to set the clock back to zero and start over. Why rush to that?

I have never been far out in the middle of an inky black ocean in the dead of night. I will do that one day.

This is why I love George Foreman.

"One thing about being a power puncher, boy, when you got that power, all you gotta do is use it. But if you don't have the power, you just don't have it."

I am going to work to integrate this wisdom into my life on a daily basis. That George Foreman. He knows more than just grilling.

"That's why you should never say that big guys should be matched with big guys. Some small guys are really the big guys."

How true it is.

Also, Wladimir Klitschko is hot. I hope he mops the floor with Lennox Lewis.

And this has nothing to do with tonight's fight, but the HBO guys were talking about Evander Holyfield's career, and they showed a clip from his fight against Hasim Rahman in which a head butt left Rahman with a grapefruit-sized hematoma above the left eye. Gross. I was going to post a picture, but I don't ever want to see it again.

Dec 7, 2002

"Because it was there."

A reasonable explanation for why mountains get climbed. Not so convincing an explanation for why a gigantic piece of pumpkin pie got eaten.

A shiny, glinting thing is forever.

Now, why do they use a cross-screen filter for the wide shots at a boxing match?

I have not gotten nearly enough done today. I'm angry about that. But maybe I'm just in the decompression chamber for a spell. After all, I did nearly rewrite my next chapter completely.

As such things go, I wonder which chapter I'm officially on now.

The main event tonight pits the big Ukrainian guy who grew up in Russia against the guy who got started boxing while he was in prison and now sleeps in an oxygen tent to promote stamina. I don't care which one of them wins, but if one of them had a robot arm or had been to outer space, this would make a compelling movie of the week. I approve of properties that give me an excuse to make popcorn at home.

Awe into envy. Admiration into despair.

A production designer being interviewed in a documentary about Stanley Kubrick made a comment about the difficulty involved with the intellectual justification of one's creativity. I was distinctly moved by that. I think that is often of greater interest to me than the creative act itself. It may be a luxury to search for shadows of reason in things that burst through the stubborn membrane between idea and reality. Why do I think this? Why do I want it? What does it say? What will they see or hear? What of this is me? I like asking questions. I especially like asking questions that can't be answered. Discussion for discussion's sake. The dig over the find.

Stanley Kubrick is such an anomaly. His career seems a study in exceptions. He's a keen representation of the brand of accomplishment I have always aspired to but have never really thought myself capable of.

It makes me feel small and meek and slightly hopeless to consider all that was wrought by those I admire. My, but I've got to get busy.

Brilliant and passionate people. That's who I keep in my secret locket. That's the reflective surface on which I measure myself. To be inspired. To be urged. To be shown how much more can be asked and expected. There's no gift I treasure more.

Proverbs are for patsies.

I think I may have gotten this whole "early to bed, early to rise" business switched around. If I keep racing the dawn home, I'll turn into a pumpkin for sure. A liny-faced, grey-haired, droopy-eyed, stoop-shouldered pumpkin.

Dec 6, 2002

Old Habits

I'm in my knee boots again.
Red and black.
My drama colors.
I may be in for drama.
Or the blank stare of a white room.
I nearly had a nervous breakdown zipping the boots up.
The little leather siding got caught in the zipper, and I couldn't get it up or down.
"But I have to LEAVE!" I cried in the privacy of my addled brain.
Eventually I succeeded in freeing the zipper.
There is a sore spot on the side of my finger from the ordeal.
I want to feel like a champ today.
I want to be less sorry all the time.
I want to live in a big house with my dearest friends.
Well, no, that's not true.
But I would like to live nearer to them.


As I suspected. No peace. And never the comfort of secure confidence that I am ever doing the right thing. My mother offered the following wisdom: "You know, it's always easier to make these decisions when you have a partner to share the burden." I wanted to plunge my head into the food processor. But of course, the container is too small. I would only have ended up tangling my hair.

Last night was no good. I make no predictions for tonight.

I am trying not to worship sentiment or to look back at calendars past. I am trying to live this December 6 as if there has never been another December 6 before it. I hope that all the days will begin to take on that blank character.

If you are someone who has failed me or wounded me or handed me a box of tears for Christmas, you are in good company today.

And if you handed me a box of tears for Christmas when I specifically requested Nuts and Chews, you should be required to celebrate your Christmas in a closet with the lights off.

An itch in the eye

I wish the decision fairy would visit me tonight and tap my head with a sparkly, star-topped wand and bid me awaken with clarity and certainty and a sure sense of what to do.

Instead, I will likely be visited by nasty memorial dreaming and false starts and the morning song of the garbage fellows.

Well, best get to it.

"Nothing comes from nothing. Nothing ever could."

It's hard work. All of this. Getting it together. Keeping it together. Sometimes I feel as if I am keeping my world from collapsing through sheer force of will. And I fear that, if I relax or turn away for a moment, it will all come crashing in. I fall behind constantly. I give myself more reasons to feel the opposite of pleased. And I have no one to blame but me.

I get caught in that oscillation -- between wanting to be bright and sunny and forgiving and friendly and wanting to be dark and dank and brooding and gloom-clothed. I have no idea if one of those is my natural state. It is always a choice. Always always. Like deciding to wear a blue sweater or a black one.

I can't help chastising myself. Concluding that I deserve whatever I get. Remnants of a childhood with a lot of scolding in it. I was never the one who thought I deserved more. And I got what I asked for.

For a girl with such small hands, I have a remarkable inability to let go.

One day, I'll fly away.

Dec 5, 2002

On the whole

Some friends will tell you what you need, but they will be wrong. They will be friends who don't really know or understand you. They will suggest that it's easy to stop feeling the way you do. Or they will tell you that there are quick fixes and shortcuts to take. They will say, "Look forward!" And they will not be looking you in the eye when they say it. Because if they were, they would see the dismay there. And the whole "not buying into it" thing. No one can tell you what will fix it or how you should feel or what you should be thinking. And the friends who don't see you for what you really want and who you really are and what you are really on your way to will never step on board.

It's not only about who or what makes you feel good right now. Sometimes it's about how you are made to feel good. And why that is.

You've got to live. Sure, you do. But what's living, really? Is it mac and cheese and your favorite sitcom? Is it a night out on the town? Is it the finished product? Is it the right smile? The right nod? The no that becomes yes? The yes that becomes no? It's not just the pumping of blood and air and the time that passes in tandem. It's something more. Surely.

And don't listen to the cats who tell you not to let it get you down without suggesting why. Sometimes it's good to let it get you down. Sometimes down is the place to be. It certainly paints gold stars on up once you get there.

And this will all sound like bloody nonsense to anyone not currently residing within one of my brain lobes. Good luck and good night.

Dec 4, 2002

"You turned my nighttime into day."

I was listening to an old favorite from the 80s section of my musical memoirs, and I came across that popular metaphor of a perfect love coming in and turning all the lights on or turning night into day. I don't think I'm looking for someone to do that. I think I'm more interested in finding someone who's willing to sit quietly in the dark with me. You can see more stars that way. And all your other senses get heightened when you can't see. For instance, your sense of irony. Your sense of failure. Your sense of impending doom. Ask any blind person.

Speaking of which, my younger sister was laughing as she told me of a discussion she had with her boyfriend about why you never see Stevie Wonder's home on MTV's "Cribs". I would tell you what was so funny, but I find it too embarrassing.

Well tucked in and smelling of home.

I turned the heat on tonight, and the air that comes up through the vents and the way it heats the wood in the floors -- there is a scent that it creates. And it is familiar to me.

This is not my first winter. In Los Angeles or otherwise.


There aren't lyrics to the theme from The American President, but that's what's playing now. And it is so beautiful I feel my nose heating up with tears. I wonder if it would be easier to live this life I have if I weren't so incredibly sentimental.

Ditto for The Cider House Rules.

Dec 3, 2002

"And that is a tidy definition of the absence of integrity."

I have a lot of things on my mind. Life-altering things. Decision-demanding things. Urgent things. Immovable things. Movable things. It's cause for reflection. And prediction. I'm a whiz at the former. Not so much with the latter.

I had a slightly glamorous little photo session today. That was nice. It's nice to be made to feel lovely. It's nice to be petted by someone else's lens.

And it required getting up early and being determined and motivated and -- that nemesis to my secret self -- "upbeat." But it caused me to make good use of my time. And it caused me to make proper use of my printer for once.

I can't deny there is fear in me. Great, nagging fear. Uncertainty. Risk. For some characters, these lead to triumph when faced. For others -- those in red tunics or products of that metaphor -- the results are somewhat more grim.

I bought a number of Christmas decorations from Playmobil in the few Christmases that preceded this one that looms. They are in a great big translucent vellum bag. And that's where they will stay. At least for this year. I might prefer to make a nativity scene out of hotdogs and toothpicks this year. Something that grants me the joy of making it on my own. I might also opt for the "invisible Christmas" theme that has cascaded across the walls of my home for the past few years. It's a happy match of jolly (but not too) and tidy.

This wine tastes foul. And there's a bug in it.

Gush Test

Curses. I forgot what I was going to write. And I should have had that glass of wine after all. And I should have watched The Royal Tenenbaums a long time ago. I should have done more with the time. There are too many days I can't remember at all. Blurred into the background like brushstrokes that become sky or cloud or tree. I wanted them all to count.

I opened up some nice new sateen sheets. I have another set of the same pattern that has been in use for a few years. They reminded me of my old apartment in San Diego. I remember opening that first package and smoothing the sheets down on my bed. There's a universal rule for you. Wherever you go, you will always change your sheets. But if you're me, you'll remember that the last time you put these sheets down, it was a Thursday. In the year 2000. In November. And you won't tell anyone, because they will think you're a freak.

The Attic
A few months ago, I started making a list of the top threats to the Bush Presidency. At the top of the list was Lil Bow Wow. I never made it to Item Two.
This was just one of many, many things lurking in my Drafts Folder, dating back moons upon moons. Amongst what follows are pieces of poetry, pieces of emails I wrote, pieces of emails I never sent, pieces of emails I got, pieces of sketch ideas, things I thought might one day be funny, something my little sister said, ideas for names for a fictitious brand of coffee, and a quote from The Onion. Make sense of what you can. There will be no points awarded.
That's life, then. Choices. Regrets. Risks taken. Chances passed over. Wondering if there is truth or contentment to be found. Hoping to avoid feeling a fool at all costs. Learning that all that is in the world is not of my doing. And cannot be. I'm only telling you this because my judgment is impaired by alcohol and the rain. Pain-free baldness solution? Tell me more! More than one would hope or expect In times that smack of tragedy When life and love seem distant and foreign Lived by others I make room for error I clear out space for failure I make more of my time than most Want want want My last email was a lie. subtext! subtext! subtext! Did I ever tell you that I wondered recently if I have somehow become psychic? I give up For better or for worse, I think that I surrender now to all that vanquishes me. Meekly do I bow my head. Meekly accepting all that is and is not so. Benign resignation is my color. It is flat and lifeless. Dull. It lacks sheen. long and short that you are long and I am short that I am long on love for you and you are short on patience Who ever said rain was gloomy? Who ever heard those delicate droplets, pinging against glass or tin or wood or soil and thought, "What a shame. I was happy only a moment ago." kiss sweet and lovely laced with longing gentle and generous i feel safe here kiss choose rhapsody delphian satiate scintillate Kevin Kinklesworth is going to Kalamazoo. Visit your local mall for such upscale toy stores as Wooden Toys Your Kids Will Hate and Professor Asshole Q. Boredom's Lame-U-Cational Cocksuckery. I have syndrome. Solomon Burke has 21 children. And ten of them are grandchildren because he had them with two of his daughters. I wonder if I put all this here because I was tired of looking at all of those pictures of my head. Scroll down, if you must.

Dec 2, 2002

She comes in colors.

I watched Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory on Thanksgiving Day. These pictures made me think of Violet Beauregarde and the Oompa Loompas. Vaguely.

We had an interesting discussion that night about the transgression of referring to the movie as Charlie and the Chocolate Factory or referring to the book as Willy Wonka. And about Roald Dahl in general. For some reason, though, the discourse eventually broke down into groans and yawns and the loosening of belts.


Ideas are coming differently today. Different in pace. Different in urgency. I often stew in my discontent with everything being less than new. And then sometimes, I catch a glint of favor in finding that things are the same. I wish I could make up my mind.

My persistent, mundane vexations are back. The pain in the neck. The twitch in the eye. I hope all this poison is just the runoff of my brain's magical processes. Like polychlorinated biphenyls.

It's no World of Suzie Wong out there, you know.

All I ask is a tall ship and a star to steer her by.

Loren turned me on to, and I am feeling evangelistic about it. The "Sorry I called you a chink" card was my debut, but ensuing tastes did not disappoint. I don't send many e-greetings. My exacting standards exclude nearly all but the most Sanrio of designs. But this is a great new find, and I took notice of my options expanding considerably, having found it. I already sent this one out. One of my Jewish friends is lucky indeed.

These pictures have nothing to do with the pickle party, I'm afraid.

Dec 1, 2002

"Sing a little sweeter. And love a little longer. And soon you will be there."

There are many interesting names to be found at the Hollywood Forever Cemetery. Names grown quaint with disuse. Names like Nettie and Yettie and Lollie and Froik and Ildefors and Fannie. A surprising lot of Fannies. I found Erich Korngold's grave purely by accident. And wondered about a grave marker shaped like a cross but with a giant dollar symbol engraved on it. There was also one shaped like a ballistic missile. I didn't give as much thought to that one.

There were people who lived very long lives and very short ones. Daughters remembered by mothers who outlived them. Great grandparents remembered by generations upon generations of loving descendants. There were stones that showed the softening -- and sometimes greening -- effects of time. Lives begun in 1843. Lives begun more recently. And there were ducks skirting a pond as the sun sank down behind palm trees and crypts and the Hollywood sign. Somewhere in the background of my internal monologue, Instant Karma was playing.

The grass is greener in a cemetery. But the flowers don't last.

I even went inside someone else's mausoleum. See?

Time does have a softening hand. Hearts. Bones. They grow softer. The jagged edges of memories grow smooth. The prickle of experience melts into a caress. And some things lose their value. The dollar. Promises. Hopes. It's a great linear adjustment, it is. A thing that stretches and strains until its end is far enough from its origin that it no longer has need of acknowledgement of a beginning. At the end of French movies and French centuries and French lives, I suppose, one expects to see the word: Fin.

We will go to our graves, one day, you and I. Strangers.

"Forget your troubles. Come on. Get happy."

It's December. And instead of thinking about death -- as we all usually do at this time of year -- I suggest we think on things uplifting. The list of for instances does not include picturing your parents doing it, so straighten up.

"There are millions of us!"

I looked like a girl who had only had three hours of sleep today, but I performed like one who'd had at least four.

I think I was actually envious of the sign outside Mr. Cecil's. The one that reads, "Plates of meat to dream about." The first time I saw that sign was in October of last year, when I was a newcomer to this area code. I might even have poutily thought, "Hey. I'm a plate of meat to dream about, too." I am reduced to competing with advertising signage. There is something not so grand about that.

The big squeezy tube of toothpaste outside of Katz Dentistry taunted me with its voluptuous curves and suggestive creases, too. What is it with this town? Can't a girl feel attractive anymore? I'll wager that toothpaste tube has had work done.

Nov 30, 2002


I realize how much I fancy driving home just as dawn is breaking. When the moon is still fully up there, and the light of early morning is just faintly beginning to show itself. I feel as if I am in on a great secret.

I may only ever be a reflection of what I once was, but reflections occasionally shimmer also.

Nov 29, 2002


So ends the ordeal. Not counting a three-course dessert or an elaborate spread of pre-meal munchies, I prepared nine different dishes today, one of which was a turkey, properly brined. It's been a long time since I did the whole business myself. Since 1997, I think. I have a few memories from that Thanksgiving. I recall standing alone in a kitchen for a long time cleaning up as everyone else slept or went home. It did not bother me today. I had good company while I toiled. I'm tired from standing all day and from feeling as if nothing would ever be finished.

But the meal was a smash, and everyone went home full to bursting. And I have the makings of a brilliant turkey soup simmering on my stove. I wish I didn't have so much to do tomorrow. I could have used a break.

I think I paid closer attention to the voices I didn't hear today than to the voices I did. And that was probably crap of me. No wonder the good son got so riled up.

I guess I'm looking forward to the leftovers.

Nov 28, 2002

My Love/Hate Relationship with the City of Angels

It took me nearly four hours today to visit two places to buy a pie and some red currant jelly.

Then I went and held the camera for some portion of the live chat of a porn star friend of mine. One of the chat participants posted: "Mary has steady hands." They also invited me to take off my shirt. But who doesn't, these days?

Then I gave a dollar to a not-so-well-to-do lady who approached me at the cashier's window of a drive through.

I have had a headache for hours, and I haven't done nearly enough in preparation for tomorrow. But the fire is going, and I've had a nice bit of bright conversation. And Raiders of the Lost Ark is playing on the television. I'll be all right.

Nov 26, 2002

The Aching State

My family is not getting on. It's wearing me down and saddening me. I am so sick and tired of the taste of surrender. I would rather chew glass.

Like reasoning with a turnip

There is no sense to be made of things. People can't be changed. They can't be made to see. They can't understand with their eyes closed and their souls sold. I liken it to a sin to waste the tiniest grain of effort trying to change what is. My motto should have always been: If it's broke, leave it.

Good night, Moon.

Windy day. Windy night. The ghost of a chill. I bought nice things at the market today. I like the way that feels.

Nov 25, 2002


When I was a girl in grade school, Thanksgiving became a list of words and pictures. Cornucopia. Indian corn. Pilgrims. The Mayflower. Still life arrangements of gourds and squash and unappetizing-looking dry things. Centerpieces with accordioned crepe paper in them. Aprons and bonnets. Buckled shoes. Dead leaves. Turkeys in black hats and little pilgrim outfits. Thanksgiving was the smell of paste behind orange and brown construction paper letters, jauntily affixed to the board in the classroom where the teacher put up timely and topical collages. I can barely remember a Thanksgiving meal from those years. They all run together. In a time when nearly every night was a celebration, those occasional Thursdays never stood out.

I outgrew the spell of construction paper holidays.

I remember a lot of Thanksgiving dinners now. I remember who was in attendance and who wasn't. I remember whether I did the cooking or not. I remember the windows in my Hillcrest apartment all being steamed up when I had the oven going one year. I remember washing dishes long into the night while everyone else in the house slept. Putting leftovers into the refrigerator strategically, somehow making it all fit. I remember shopping. Always buying chicken broth just in case. Always having plenty at home. I remember having to get up so early to get the turkey started. And being so proud of it when it was done. I remember the dilemma of video rental choices. The crackle of fire logs. The comfort of a home filled with friends and laughter. The years when tears were in order. The years after the point when I came to enjoy wine with dinner. The television marathons. The green bean casseroles. My special, drunken candied yams. Ways to use cranberries. Driving home after a long, long day of eating and dozing and festivity. The dual-edged sword of the gift of reflection.

I catch myself no longer looking forward to grand holidays. They've come to be days on which an unfounded smile must be maintained for much longer than usual. Merciless memory machines. Harrowing markers of a stretch of life that feels as if it is laughing at me. They have become that thing one must "get through." Rather than the thing one yearns for. That infuriates me. And causes me to wonder if this is all just part of a network television feature wherein a grouchy girl learns the true meaning of the holidays. What a strange thing that would be. If it turned out that I was just living in the pages of someone else's script. If some unseen pen were making all of this so. Drat that pen and the hand that grips it, if that is the case.

I have it in me to laugh and to cause others to do so. I have it in me to appear a vessel of joy. I even have it in me to not accuse myself of a massive fraud each time such things appear to be true. But in the stillness of solitude, there is disquiet waiting for me. I wake with the hooks of dreams still in me but dissolving fast and gone before I can remove them. I wake with neither reluctance nor relief. Just the faint and far-off assurance that it's what one is supposed to do and one had better get to it.

This always filled me with a sense of melancholy that was once nearly glorious and welcome. Now, it is merely a path to the memory of that feeling. Even emotion is subject to generation loss, it seems.

You will sell me nothing on the promise of my certain demise.

I get emails that assure me this is "the last flashlight I will ever buy." I don't think I like this sort of marketing. It makes me feel as if someone out there is convinced I will not outlive a set of "C" batteries. Or that the Tuff-Kote plastic housing of this beacon is somehow sturdier than the brittle framework of my existence. I'll just use candles, thanks.

Nov 24, 2002

The Camptown ladies sing this song.

The Doo Dah Parade was a surprise and a fun excursion, despite my state of Hangover: Code Orange. I was especially intrigued by the Christian sign-holders, one of whose signs listed all the types of sinners that should take heed. Closing out the long list of such things as murderers, adulterers, perverts, and thieves were the items "Garbage Mouths" and "Misc. Heathen." That was actually charming to me. And the lettering was done in Ad Lib, which seemed like a somewhat more festive font than the occasion called for, further proving that a spoonful of sugar helps the medicine of fire and brimstone go down.

I liked many of the costumes and costume concepts. But I did not have the camera power to properly document much of it. And I don't know that parade photos are really the sort of thing one looks back at very often. I could just as easily wait for the news photos to become available online. That's what REAL documentarians do, right?

Nov 23, 2002

The Ugly Hour of Waking

I wish I could have written down all the things careering round in my skull last night. I remember driving home and stumbling onto a bit of lyric that I knew I would want to keep. I kept repeating it in my head, wanting to preserve it until I could get to a place of peace and writing. But I lost it. I always seem to in situations such as that. I know that I was listening to a mix CD that I made last year and that it was plucking certain of my heartstrings. But I don't think that was the progeny of the thought. It's gone now. Like so much.

Finally, some November weather. It is both a relief and a reluctant reminder. I ate nearly nothing yesterday. But there are fat days ahead.

"In time we all taste the lime in the light."

This is not at all a respectable hour for a girl to be getting home. But it's a bloody good excuse for not being able to put thoughts into proper order or words for that matter. I'm chilly, all of a sudden. And tired of playing the luckless outsider. In cases of welcome beckoning, with few exceptions, I will answer.

Ooh. It's dawn. And a grey one at that.

The cabin door opened and he saw the Hungarian standing in a shaft of grey light: "Daybreak, gentlemen!"

Nov 22, 2002

Okay, so I'm feeling referential.

Oh, to ever be presented with an award by Steve Martin. I was reading this, and I felt so jealous of Philip Roth. I have admired and adored Steve Martin for, lo, these many years. I used to annoy my high school chums with bits from his stand-up acts. I still listen to them on my record player, and they're still brilliant. I remember laughing aloud to page after page of Cruel Shoes. I remember sneering at Victoria Tennant, when I found out he was "with" her. Of course, this is where my admiration usually falters. I don't just admire him. I actually want to marry him. Like so many other things on my list. Many of which are inanimate objects or abstract ideas. It's true, I have no ring on my finger. But perhaps it's because I'm waiting on broccoli to present me with one.

"People don't go to sleep thin and wake up obese."

There's another lawsuit in the news. McDonald's has been sued by a woman for making coffee too hot. Now, they're being sued by the children of New York for making them fat. Next, they will be sued by the fashion industry for causing people to be predisposed to dislike wearing combinations of brown and yellow that are too reminiscent of their vintage uniforms.

I used to live in Japan, and there were people -- mostly those who actually worked at McDonald's -- who not only ate there daily, but took home the toss-outs to eat at home with their mates. And they were plenty thin. What's their secret. I'll tell you: Volume.

I miss McDonald's in Japan. It was a classy joint. And when you ordered any milkshake flavor other than vanilla or chocolate (such as melon or peach or mint), you would be given a vanilla shake with a little container of flavoring goo to add in. It was good for my self-esteem to aid in the preparation of my food.

And you could order corn soup there. Actually, it was called "Corn Potage," but that's just because Japanese people are actually French. Watch Iron Chef. You'll see what I mean.

They were always clean and fresh-smelling and nicely lit. Not like so many urban McDonald's in these parts. I've got to carry a little extra pocket money just to pacify the vagrants who want to buy hash browns or bash my head in. It's my choice. The same is true at the gas station. Especially late at night. I have taken to figuring that sort of gratuity into the mix. I don't want my windshields washed, but here's a dollar. Go buy yourself a dialysis treatment, buddy. You look like hell.

I almost prefer giving to a guy who offers to clean my windshield than to a guy who wants to sell me his CD. I don't feel charitable enough on any day to just buy some CD off a guy in the street. That's no way to handle a pan. After all, I'd be afraid to listen to it. What if I dug it? What would that say about me?

I wish it could be a goodly form of charity. I usually give because I feel a combination of guilt and intimidation. I really would like to help all the less fortunate. Especially when it's a lady with only one shoe on and eyes that look in opposite directions. I want to help her. But I worry that she will be offended if I offer to buy her a meal. And who has that kind of time, anyway?

In all honesty, I do give what I have in my pocket, more often than not. It's something I learned from my dad. And being like him makes me feel good inside.

Nov 21, 2002

Forgotten in the flames

I never even knew that Gus Grissom had died in a launchpad fire until I heard the news about his widow's tiff with NASA over the ownership of his suit. What's wrong with me? Where was I? I remember exactly where I was when I saw the Challenger explosion. I actually get choked up just thinking about it. A few years ago, in a class, there was a video about the investigations and inquiries following Challenger, and Richard Feynman (a personal hero of mine) was shown breaking through what my dad would call "the mumbo jumbo" to explain what really happened with those blasted O rings. I remember having difficulty keeping my emotions in check just watching the video. It's still so vivid in my memory. I guess I used to dream about going up into space. Maybe Challenger did a little damage to that dream. That, and the realization that those jumpsuits they all have to wear are never very flattering to a woman's shape.

I miss Richard Feynman. I wish I could have met him. I met Carl Sagan, but that didn't make up for it. I lent my copy of Surely, You're Joking, Mr. Feynman to my high school physics teacher, who was also my debate coach and a general pal, and he ended up reading it in the bath and getting the lower half of the book all swollen and ripply with water. I don't know if I was more disappointed about the condition of the book or the idea of my teacher in the bathtub with it. Oh, how I long for the cares of my adolescence.

Nov 20, 2002

Every Day Is Like Sunday

I have been struggling. Digging for significance. Praying for poetry. I have been hoping to unearth things in myself that will turn it all around, make it all make sense, make it all come right. But it has only led to bleeding innards and tired fingers.

I walked in the sunshine today. It was hot and muggy. Not at all right for the calendar page I have displayed on my wall. But I wasn't a mess of complaints.

I've been working -- it seems like forever. Sitting in front of blank pages that do not fill themselves quickly enough. Listening to songs that always send me somewhere. Sometimes right into a blind wall. Today, I heard a song that jettisoned me back to 1987 and a fury of a sadness that took shape then. Sadness seems to have been gushing through all the tides of my existence. With the exception of a few short years that seemed foreign and friendly, there was an abundance of clouds in the skies of my history. There are stretches of years at a time when no pictures were taken of me. When no smiles were requested. When no one asked me to say, "cheese." There are long stretches that are only catalogued by my infrequent journal-writing or by copies of letters I wrote and kept. I kept them all. Wanted to. And I was always touched to learn that someone else in the world kept them, too. Even if they were stuffed into a shoebox or lost behind the back panel of a desk drawer. There are little pieces of me lurking in unsuspecting places around the world. And I have the photostats.

I don't know if there is significance in the ratio. There is a sort of peacefulness in being content. A dangerous tranquility. It is largely unfamiliar to me. I'm not hoping for a fat, lazy sort of happiness. Not an armchair happiness. Not a poolside sort of contentment. Just freedom from the tearful times. Less of those, please. More hair-rumpling and pats on the back. More admiration and appreciation. More of the special smile that can only be shared by two. The look that can only be understood by those same two. More of the unspoken.

But perhaps I merely fall prey to my music mix. Whereas I began this moment thinking, "Come, Armageddon. Come, Armageddon. Come." I finish it thinking that I should just blame it on the bossa nova.

Don't let it bring you down. It's only castles burning.

Of course! Kindness has healing properties!

Someone sent me flowers today. In a beautiful jade green vase. It made me smile.

A bit of history. Mine and the world's.

There used to be a flying saucer in a canyon between 5th and 6th Avenues in Hillcrest, hidden away behind some offices. I remember the first time it was shown to me, and then the subsequent times I brought friends over to peek at it while on the way to Hash House A Go Go or some similar spot. The mystery was fun. Something to speculate about. I wondered why it was there. Whether it was being used. If some group of office folk was occasionally summoned to their meetings in its viscera. I wondered.

Today, I read an article that explains why the saucer is gone and who has snatched it up. This further prompted me to look into the history of the Futuro House and Matti Suuronen. There are also some imagination-stirring pictures here. I especially like the idea of having a Futuro House atop a snowy mountain where I could remove my mod outerwear and knit hat and warm up beside a futuristic fireplace. Cinnamon stick for your cider, anyone? Yes, it's made of plastic, but isn't everything these days?

Tut tut. There's no need for sarcasm.

I can't quite place the feeling today. A certain estrangement from myself. An awareness of the passage of time. A concern over it. A desire to be somewhere else. In a comforting embrace. In front of a fire my dad made. In the first class cabin of a transatlantic flight. I am feeling drawn to running away. To dropping it all and bolting. I am curious what the darkness would hold for me if I ever let myself out in it.

But I follow such thoughts with reading Dubliners in bed and eating guilty Cheese Nips too near my high thread count sheets. Somewhere in there, a journey must be made. My reluctance is no excuse for the stillness I allow.

Nov 19, 2002

"Let joy be uncontained."

Today's LACMA matinee featured the Marx Brothers in A Night at the Opera, which was great great. It was impossibly beautiful out today, but I couldn't have been lured out of doors while the film was rolling. Besides, I don't need the freckles.

The theater smelled particularly unwashed today, and that same fellow from the Ivanhoe screening showed up as the credits rolled, climbed over the back of a seat and into one in my row, and proceeded to yell, "Go, Groucho!" before he got settled. Guess I may have to get used to him.

I feel curiously sleepy today. Drained and undriven. It's awful to be in a funk when you've so much to do. And it's awful to speak in the second person when you're clearly talking about yourself. Well, it's not so awful. Maybe it's poetic. I'm being liberal here. I want to go down for a nap, but I have this strange suspicion that I might never wake up.

Have I ever mentioned my theory about sleep being a kind of wormhole into other universes and other lives that you live out completely before plunging into a new one? It's probably not even my idea. None of my best ideas ever are.

Nov 18, 2002

Pineapple juice, parking fees, and longstanding crushes

At the sweaty, jostling after-party for the Clash of the Titans event last night, I had a number of nice sound bites and moments to register. Janeane Garofalo shook my hand gingerly. Scott Thompson smiled and said hello. David Cross rubbed elbows with me quite literally and quite accidentally. Bob Odenkirk thanked me for coming. Craig Northey told me how -- at long last -- to buy his CD. And Tom Kenny told my friend to marry me and was, for the record, the nicest one of all. This sort of name-dropping holds little real victory for me, though, as I paid a fat sum of charitable currency to be there and no one thought I was actually anyone special. But I enjoyed myself and laughed the tears right out. There was even an Albert Brooks reference at one point. That, sir, takes the cake.

Also for the record, this is what I wore.

There are many thoughts I should have written down. Many inspirations I should have translated into being before translating myself into sleeping. I always manage to find a path to failure for myself. Even in moments of great pleasure. For purposes of recounting, the weekend held plenty of non-failing passages. And a sort of impromptu gay pub crawl. And fear of the planning stages. And fear of the recounting stages. I can't cheer too loudly. It might lead to cramping. It is, after all, November.

Nov 16, 2002

Three cheers for plans gone awry.

I had to go to two different theaters tonight to see Harry Potter. In between, I had to use the free Internet access at the Apple Store to book tickets at the second theater, which ended up being the Chinese, which was the right place to see the film, so everything came out fine. Julia Nickson was seated two rows ahead of me. I've been told I look like her. I don't think it's true. She's half Chinese, too, but that's where the separated-at-birth theories end. To my left, a young girl was translating nearly all of the movie for the female adult with her (we'll say it was her mother) in Spanish. When I finally asked her not to talk (and to my credit, this was actually well over an hour into the film), I could feel the icy, resentful silence that ensued -- and I loved it. Icy, resentful -- sure. But silent nonetheless.

It was a spur of the moment evening that ought to have required a great deal of planning. But it was a somewhat acceptable reward for not being able to see Terry Gilliam present Lost in La Mancha at LACMA. Member that I am, tickets could not be gotten. But I've recovered from that disappointment.

I had a few bits of inspiration today. But they were only halfhearted. I'll try again next time.

Nov 15, 2002

I've got a sugar brioche, and I'm not afraid to use it.

I wish I hadn't been so tired today. I would have felt many more things. Like that strange sensation of coming home to a city you were never sure was your home. That rare relief of dropping your things on the dining room floor and sinking into a chair and being so very grateful to be back where you started. I wanted more sensation. I wanted the fireplace to burn hotter. I wanted to feel my skin stinging in its heat. I wanted more evidence that I'm still here. That my heart sill beats. That I am a living creature. I expect that gnawing urge will remain until tomorrow when I will pursue its indulgence anew.

I don't believe in magic in the traditional sense. Neither witches with cauldrons nor fancily-dressed gents with disappearing rabbits and endless ropes of colored scarves tied together. But I do believe in another sort of magic. A magic born of firing synapses and sharp intakes of breath. The magic of that moment when you say, "Yes! That's it exactly." The magic of a perfect song. The magic of likeness of mind. The magic of understanding. That unseverable connection of commiseration and unique but shared reasoning. I am lucky. I get to take a dip in that sort of magic more often than most. But I am greedy. I would like to swim in it constantly. I don't think that's to be had. Yet.

I don't want much of tomorrow. But that's just me talking today.

Nov 14, 2002

"Although I may go, I'll be coming home soon."


Ernie and I have a lot in common. We both have cute pajamas. We both just celebrated Halloween. We both love the rain. We both choose horizontal stripes, no matter what the experts say. Ernie has lived in the same apartment for a long, long time, though. And I envy him that. I'd like to know what it's like to stay put for a while.

It's not easy being green. But some days are easier than others.

Kermit got his star on the Walk of Fame today. I drove through San Francisco this morning and listened to a story on NPR about The Muppet Show and its history and the wonderful, magical powers of Jim Henson. There is something so pure and good-natured about the Muppets. A lovely thread leading back to an innocence I can faintly remember. I love being touched in those hard-to-reach places.

Getting there is half the fun; come share it with me...

Nov 13, 2002

Of my favorite things, most have vowels in.

I love words. To the point where it may actually alienate me from three-dimensional relationships. I prefer a tenderly thought-out sentiment to a prize. I prefer a card to flowers. I prefer a letter to a box of chocolates.

Answering an email just now, I described myself as "dewy," having just emerged from a shower and encased within my celery-colored chenille robe. My hair is dripping water onto the seat of my chair. My skin is pink and flush with heat and steam and waking. I want to drink an ocean of water and go running, although I've learned it's unwise to do those two activities in that order.

Moreso than learning new words, I love rediscovering lost or forgotten ones. Finding dusty old codgers in the attic spaces of my memory. Recalling their previous use. Feeling that pang of shame when I realize I know how to spell far more words than I know how to use. But when I stumble upon a faithful mingling of letters at the moment when it is most appropriate to send it to the front, it's a gift. Like finding a sweet note in your pocket someone lovingly left for you a long time ago. As if you never actually knew it was there and yet it was all along. This sort of feeling tempts me to bury my precious belongings in the backyard in hopes that I will forget about them and one day accidentally unearth them while out back pitching a tent or burying a corpse. But I never seem to live in one place long enough for this to happen. And I seldom have a private backyard. Maybe I can just start stuffing pages of the dictionary into the crevices in my furniture. Of course, that might lead to calumny when I notice all the pages of my dictionary gone missing and accuse my little sister of the deed. And of even more obvious course, none of this could ever happen because it would require me to forget something. Which is something I almost never do.

I'm looking forward to today. I love an aeroplane. I will read and imbibe free beverages and shake my head when I discover the crossword in the in-flight magazine has already been done and in crayon. These and all the things I don't have the wherewithal to expect are the makings of an interesting Wednesday.

I don't need to be loved or understood by everyone. I don't need much of anything but Sudafed® and Visine® and a carryalong toothbrush™. And that's a hideous lie. I only dream of ever traveling so light.

It's a shame. She slept through the whole thing.

This is me waking up. From never really sleeping, actually. I have to catch a plane in a few hours, and I had that peculiar fear that I wouldn't wake up in time, so I woke up two hours early, with only two and a half hours of sleep to my credit, and spent the rest of the time lying there, taking stock of the pain in my neck and shoulder (right side, this time -- curious), wondering if I would fall asleep, wondering if I would oversleep, wondering if I just dreamed that I got that email, realizing I did, listening for ghosts. I even set three alarms. Just in case. I'm noticing that I actually feel more alert at this moment than I usually do when I wake during the sunshine hours. But, in an hour which usually precedes my bedtime, I have been roused from precarious slumber, and I feel as if I got up before I ever went to bed. It's that I'm-my-own-grandpa syndrome. With my good fortune, that means I will likely fall asleep at some very important moment during the day, thereby missing certain fame and fortune from having caught a certifiable glimpse of Sasquatch or passing up my opportunity to be loved and admired by all for a short time when I am recognized as the million zillionth customer at McDonald's. Starbuck's and Red Bull can only take one so far.

So much suddenly in my reach. So much persistently out of my reach. So much confusion and mishmosh, I want to make a pie of it.

Ghosts are very quiet. I have never managed to hear one yet. I wonder if anyone is listening for me.

Nov 12, 2002

A Tale of Two Taylors

I went to see a matinee of Ivanhoe at LACMA today. I'm really glad I did. The movie was great fun. Arch in some places. Clever in others. And of course both Elizabeth Taylor and Robert Taylor were lovely to gaze upon. But I was more impressed by the rest of the experience. Namely, that when you go to see a mid-day matinee at a museum, you can expect to see a fair share of blue-hairs there. And they were definitely out in force. I had to giggle at all the aged muttering going on during the opening credits. When some young punk applauded as Miklos Rozsa's name came up as composer, the ladies behind me were terribly confused and had no idea why he was clapping. They also ALL READ ALOUD IN UNISON when Elizabeth Taylor's name came up. But by twenty minutes or so into the film, most of them were asleep, so there wasn't too much more chatter to contend with. I am still suspicious, however, that I missed a concession stand somewhere out front where they must have been selling snacks of bubble wrap and expectorant.

Also, there was a guy somewhere behind me who behaved as if it was a sports flick. He kept proclaiming his approval to the screen, no matter how clear it was that he was the only one making any discernible noise. People didn't chime in or clap. They just tolerated in tooth-gnashing silence. Or maybe that was just me. I never thought I would hear that manner of cheer during a jousting scene. But I guess everyone goes to the lists these days, right? Why do I need to be such a stuffed shirt about it. I heard cries of, "Yeah!" and "You tell him!" and "Get him, Robin Hood!" And then -- and if you haven't seen it, this is a spoiler warning -- when King Richard returns and confronts John, I heard the phrase, "Get yo ass into exile!" And I knew we had reached the film's happy -- and historical -- end.

I was raised by a team of sit-com writers.

I called my mother this morning to let her know some encouraging news about a possible job opportunity. She was giddy with congratulations. But somehow, only a few sentences into her congratulatory speech, she managed to remind me that my biological clock is ticking and that I can have a part-time job one day when I find a nice husband to take care of me. And then she made some remark about where her grandchildren were.

I don't even think she was really thinking those things. I really believe she is just fulfilling her maternal duties as she believes they were explained to her. By television.

My mother might as well have been created by a staff of writers at an up-and-coming network, specializing in homegrown comedies about archetypal families. She is a caricature of motherhood. Oh, she's a loving and kind person, and she makes me laugh, and we enjoy going out to dinner together. But her mothering functions are almost robotic in nature. As if they are products of algorithms written years ago. In Fortran. Not quite sophisticated enough to deal with the complexities of a modern offspring. But plenty equipped to toast a bagel or suggest a Tylenol for the pain.

I suppose a mothering robot would be sufficient. A machine to say no when you want to go somewhere fun. To fixate on how clean your room is. To be suspicious of certain of your friends. To ask you how you plan to pay for that. To remind you that you were once heavier and shouldn't be so keen on the dessert menu. To ask you what you plan to do in the event that you have to buy a new car. To ask you about the terms of your lease. To tell your fathering robot things you asked her to keep between the two of you. To buy you feminine products. Sure, a robot could do the job.

And I'm not saying that's all I get from my mom. Surely not. She's one of a kind and great to me. And she's mastered the art of preparing meat with brine. But I am often -- and consistently -- amused when this sort of thing occurs. It will come as no great shock to me when, one day, upon having given birth to my first child, I will hear my mother inquiring as to how I intend to pay for college. "That's a cinch, Mom," I'll say. "I'll just encourage little Mary Junior here to join the military. Just like you told me to do." Never mind that I couldn't climb a rope or last a complete second on the flex-arm hang. Never mind that I am extremely choosy about the kind of pants and shoes I wear. Never mind that I have no idea how to pull off the wearing of a hat. My mom thought I should conquer the financial mountain of higher education by suiting up with the Navy. I'm still laughing about that.

Anyway, the core of it is that my mom was happy for me. I know that. It's just less and less of a mystery to me why I'm never quite satisfied with anything. In my family, if you're not worrying about something trivial, you're not living.