Day whatever of quarantine

90 degrees hit like a truck last week. We all live in LA for the weather, but c’mon dude. April, in the middle of day whatever of quarantine, is too dang early for a heatwave! I suppose there’s no one to blame but humans fudgin’ up Mother Nature’s groove, per usual. 

Pepper the Afflicted, first of her name, has had a whole suite of issues warranting several money hemorrhaging session to the vet. I touched on this in my last post, but I fear the people deserve more than just a splash of pup tales to add to their quarantine reading list, and thus I’ve typed away to bring you the latest.

It began with red, occasionally pus-filled bumps on her tummy and VULVA (quoting the doctor’s notes here), which we had to apply ointment to twice daily. But because we’ve tried to hold off grooming her during this time, she’s got crazy thick fur all over the place. I’m talking dense patches of fuzz sprouting all around her legs, tummy, and yes, vulva. This meant that 1) we had to apply appointment daily to her NETHER REGIONS (quoting the doctor’s directions, but caps lock for my artistic emphasis), and 2) the ointment would then stick to her fur all day, and then she’d walk around, and get God knows what superglued into her fur. Scientists may never know what was truly collected in her hair during this time, but I can tell you it was dirty and brown and essentially a petri dish of the very unique breed of grime floating around Hollywood (this is worse than the grime in other neighborhoods, btw) — and this happened, every single day, twice a day, for a week. There was no getting her clean, there was no avoiding making a cringe face when putting the ointment on her, and there was not a care in the world coming from Pepper herself, who seemed to kind of enjoy the ointment and ensuing garbage stuck to her. 

Finally, just as the bumps started to recede and her stomach began to not look like one giant turd bath, she then began to violently scratch at her left ear. It started in the morning and we looked in the ears and found nothing, but the scratching became fully nonstop by evening (the peak occurring right after I made myself a huge bowl of ice cream, to boot). So naturally we hurried as fast as possible (I will admit I did finish the ice cream) and took her to the animal ER that night, where a brave vet assistant in a hazmat suit collected her from our car, and we were directed to wait in a parking lot for three hours — and it is at this point, dear reader, when an earthquake struck. To sum: dog bumps, ointment trash collector, ear infection, three hours in a car, earthquake. The whole thing was about as LA as a holistic wheatgrass cleanse and reiki session, wouldn’t you say?

The funniest thing about all of this — and when I say “funniest thing,” I mean the colloquial, “heinously diabolical and hellish thing” — is that I’ve had to navigate Nationwide pet insurance’s website and policies and coordination between vet invoices and doctor’s notes, which has been a whole to-do, and exactly -5000 degrees away from how anyone should spend their time. Nationwide came back a week or so ago and told me they classified Pepper’s skin issues as a pre-existing condition for reasons I can only deduce as “corporate greed” and “making a profit at all costs” and “hoping consumers just give up instead of fighting stuff.” Luckily, this ol’ Jew (I can say that as Jew) is ready to combat injustice where I see it, and this time, that injustice is an animal coverage provider trying to make pay for dumb shit. So now I’m gearing up for an epic battle with my dog’s insurance company because this is America, and what would life here be if you didn’t have to spend time and energy to fight tooth and nail for coverage to protect not only yourself and the humans you love, but also your freakin’ dog with a minor ear infection and bumps (on her belly and VULVA, lest you forgot), totaling a whopping $378.14, as my bank account cries out to no one, et tu, Nationwidè?

Alas, our dog is now recovering (and blissfully unaware of anything except the joys of ripping the wings off her stuffed animal duck). I’ve learned earthquakes on top of a global pandemic are not my cup of Xanax. And it turns out that pet insurance is just as horrible as the human variety. 

I’ll end with a plea: c’mon, Nationwide PR person who reads random internet blogs. Give a dog a bone!!! Me being the dog, and the bone being the 90% coverage per our contractual agreement. 

What was that all about?

While New York rages on as the pandemic epicenter now, Angelenos are supposed to stay inside if they can at all help it this week, avoiding even grocery stores and pharmacies. Aside from two eggplants that have gone bad and a now-soggy box of matzah that I dropped in a sink full of water, we’ve got what we need. And having what you need right now is an un-earned stroke of luck. Thinking about it that way, which you have to do if you’re trying not to be part of the problem, produces an almost chemical chain in your body — twisting ropes of rage and sadness and gratitude. Humans like to untangle things, but this chain is as tight as DNA. 

Our dog Pepper started scratching her ears and shaking her head repeatedly the other day, like she was trying to get swimming pool water out of her ear. We looked inside those giant triangles and didn’t find any obvious culprits. Then we noticed tiny red bumps along the pink part of her belly, some with white pus. So we may need to head out to the vet despite it all. For her part, she seems in perfectly bouncy spirits, chewing on a crusted stuffed animal duck in the corner and oblivious to the catastrophe in the human world around her.

Things in the apartment are as good as could be expected. I think about the very tiny boxes I’ve inhabited in New York, and though our place is still a small box compared to homes in other cities (and certainly non-cities), Bryan and I can at least shut a door to separate ourselves from each other, or sneak onto our narrow porch to get some air without a mask on and stare at the smog lifting over Griffith Park just northwest of us. I think about how we can afford food and rent for now, even though Bryan was laid off. I think about how we’re not immunocompromised. And we have a dog! That helps. Even though she’s pimply and just began scratching the bejeezus out of ear once more. 

Two nights ago we watched On the Waterfront. I’d never seen it somehow, though I knew the big “I coulda been a contendah!” line. This spurred on an unexpected new interest of mine: Marlon Brando. I mean…oooof, whatta man. Bryan, being a good sport (and an actor) (and having his own celebrity crushes (hi, Zoe Saldana)), has allowed me to indulge in this deranged weekend obsession of mine. He’s accompanied me in watching A Streetcar Named Desire (damn), and Guys and Dolls (the lesson here: great voices translate not into great singing voices). On deck is Last Tango in Paris, though apparently we’ve got to clear over four hours to do it. But one thing we’ve got is time.

Naturally, I’ve now plunged into the bowels of the internet to get the scoop on all of his tempestuous relationships, his ridiculous roster of lovers — Rita Moreno! Marilyn Monroe! James Dean and James Baldwin! (Maybe.) — his whole bad boy, I don’t care about the establishment, I don’t care about this award, I’m going to support civil rights and pontificate about philosophy while gaining a lot of weight in French Polynesia… thing. Brando is so Brando, and just like everyone with a libido in 1951, I’m totally taken in. 

It’s a weird kind of nostalgia. To learn about, and maybe try to understand, some dead celebrity of another era. To be moved by them and wildly attracted to them. It brings to light the nature of celebrity-dom in general: how it spotlights these random beautiful people — and we feel we know them in some way, or don’t, or understand them or don’t, or care or don’t. But nonetheless, celebrities are collective touchpoints available to us. And in times of global isolation, perhaps these touchpoints mean more.

I haven’t been fascinated by a celebrity in so long. There’s Britney Spears of course, always my girl, but this kind of panging curiosity feels like I’m 11 again, cradling the radio to my heart, tuning into the B96 “Nine Most Wanted” at 9(pm), waiting for Backstreet Boys’ “As Long as You Love Me” to come on. There was Nick Carter — a big love, though I didn’t even know what I wanted to do with big loves at the time — and then things really took off with Leo, followed by Josh Hartnett. There was almost an anguish to the feeling, a deep sigh for all of them (and also a cut-up collage poster of Josh Hartnett I made that kind of looked like a ransom note). Unfortunately, out of my many too-distant loves in this life, I’ve got the lowest probability of hooking up with Marlon Brando, all things considered.

People need things to lead somewhere, Brando said, otherwise you’re just sitting on a pile of candy. So I’m thinking about who’s got the goods: Trump on his throne. People with disposable income who donate to solve problems instead of some institutionalized system that takes care of people in the first place. My own nonsensical privilege and the ability to watch Marlon Brando movies on my reclining couch, with the rent freshly paid, while people struggle for air on ventilators that can’t be supplied to the poor parts of town. It seems that for so much of human history, the world has offered piles of candy to some and dirt for others and if I knew why I’d be the genius among us. 

So what can you do? I mentally call out what I’m grateful for once more, and try to think of new ways to help — volunteer, get my building to write notes to healthcare workers, call my congresspeople, brainstorm with friends — and hug my boyfriend, and pet my itchy pimply dog, and cook a meal with no eggplant, and Google “james dean marlon brando hookup” again.

In some ways I’m relishing in my escapist fantasy right now. I’m finally watching all these classic movies, the kind that embarrass you when you have to publicly admit you’ve never seen them. I’m learning the ecosystem of Old Hollywood, seeing extras become stars and connecting the dots of the B-list names that pop up time and again. Who knows why humans need storytelling so much, and why we sometimes find ourselves consumed by an actor or band or movie or book or video game, moved at that particular moment in our lives by the world that these things have created or exposed to us? I don’t know why it strikes when it does. And in the face of a global pandemic, one thing you’ve gotta comfortable with is I don’t knows. 

Alas. So here’s a scene. You heat up some tea, and discover some ex-love who treated you bad publishing beautiful vignettes in impressive places, and try to salvage your dying snake plant of all things (they’re supposed to be nearly death-proof), and read the news again, and watch your boyfriend put a mask on before walking the dog and think, Who could have imagined this scenario?

Well, if I may, it’s at this point that you may want to think of what Marlon would say, with that beautiful intensity in his eyes and that nearly trademark-able smirk on his face: “Life is a mystery, and it’s an unsolvable one. And you just simply live it through. And as you draw your last breath, you say… ‘What was that all about?'” You may want to let out a real, deep laugh afterward, because you do know something. You feel in your guts something like hope, and remember that whatever amount of candy ya got or don’t got, it’s not ordained by heaven.

#bah #humbug #says #i #to #the #writerslife 

I’ve been working on this one story for almost a year now, and I still can’t get it quite right. I suspect it’s because I don’t work on it as diligently or regularly as I should. The structure’s off, the journey’s un-arced, the denouement is but a de-pooment! I open the Google doc — and again, again — I am annoyed and perturbed. It’s the same old words not doing their job the way I want them to, and — again, again, yadda yadda — I just can’t seem to get it over the line into something that one could deem “complete” or, dare I say, “decent.” How many classes, pep talks, and writer’s groups must a gal join before she just gets her caboose in gear, and gets this ditty over the line?

I’ve learned that the writing rodeo requires a spectacular work ethic. Particularly if you’ve got a 9-5 that’s chewin’ up 40+ hours of your time. (And this can haunt you for awhile. See: my last entry that is kinda about the same thing? Yikes). But some people do actually have the chops, which I know, because some people my age have published books. They’ve managed to churn out something good in a reasonable timeframe, lock down an agent, and perhaps pop out a few bestsellers. Meanwhile, I’ve got this short short — verging on flash fiction! — that continues to haunt me with incompleteness, hovering toward the top of Google Drive docs, being all like, “Sup fool?!”

So what about those of us who are in their early 30s (some might say very early 30s) and feel like they’ve done squat? Why haven’t we delivered our novels? Well, the craft is sluggier and scummier for those of us without said super-human work ethic — lying somewhere between a prayer and a final act of desperation. If you happen to churn out a masterpiece, it’s despite yourself. You may not even remember writing it, and you have no idea how the thing it became came from you.

So when I see writers on Instagram with flowers and cushy pillows and blushy-contoured cheeks with that pucker kissy face thing and a laptop in the background, it feels like seeing an alien when you expected to see yourself. The internet perverts the preverseness of writing. It’s glowing up what I mostly experience as a nasty, funky joint. Writing is a shack where a gremlin, not a fairy muse, visits. It’s the last cave on earth with the last jug of wine rots and a farting, dying, mangy thing that may have once been a golden retriever stinks up the place. It may also be realizing that you just plagiarized some analogy in Stephen King’s On Writing in this paragraph. So let me cut out my own shit, and cut to the point: I don’t like seeing writing being turned into something Instagrammable, something to be squared off into a hashtag! 

If I stumble upon a writer’s feed that looks more Kardashian than the aforementioned rotting-dog-cave, I don’t feel like we’re even pursuing the same profession. If they post an errant mention of writer’s block or procrastination, it feels like a ploy for Likes, via looking real, via a platform designed for artifice (and corporate monetization!). 

But maybe it’s because some writers are better at playing the game than others. They understand that Likes and follows help with pitches and book deals, and their strategy is a thing to admire. And I, on the other hand, am a gameless gal. I, on the other hand, just relish in my futile adolescent rebellion and in throwing up a few metaphorical e-middle fingers, mainly using social media to post the occasional communist meme of Britney Spears, which — implausibly! — has not landed me fortune and glory. 

I fear that entering the build-a-following thing means blurring the lines between human and brand, which seems, let’s say…fairly un-groovy. (h/t LA ancestors of the ’70s). But in today’s world, going all in on the #writerslife is a smart and savvy move. And maybe it’s even fun, or genuine-feeling sometimes. (Though, I think studies would back me up that it is mostly a dumpster fire!).

Per usual, the conclusion resides somewhere near this thought: we’re all just people, and we’re all just trying to navigate this life as best as we can. Some go all in workin’ the system, and other try to skirt about it in some kinda way to eke out a more palatable alternative. So #LOL, here I am at Bolt Eaho coffee shop, with my overpriced corn muffin, writing this thing, pondering this one story I’ve got about a robot preacher, and wearing a shirt with neon bicyclists all over it. If I’ve learned anything from Hustlers, it’s that we all hustlin’, baby. 

And it’s at this point that I catch myself. Writing this blog gibberish is really just me procrastinating. Sigh. Sometimes I wish I could just record myself telling a joke at a bar, because that is our version of telling stories around the cave, and sometimes I think that’s where I’m the best storyteller. At least, when people have several beers, they seem to be more amenable to my stories. Maybe more readers just need a drink or six to make the artists out here look a little more gussied up. Consider it, why don’t ya?

And now I’ll end with this. Last week, I couldn’t sleep, maybe because I was toiling around with all this funky gunk somewhere deep in the folds of my noggin. So, before Bryan could pass out in bed beside me (his noggin conks out pretty quickly), I asked him to tell me a story. He said “ok” and then he said “hm” and then he said

once there was a house. It sat in an empty field, and on the day of our story, it was crystal-clear outside. The sky was so blue, and there were a few of the fluffiest clouds in the sky. It was the only house for miles and miles. There was absolutely nothing else around. 

this sounds like the start of a horror movie. 

hush. In the house there was a lady with big windows that let the beautiful sunlight in, and she had a cup of tea with her, and a giant library with all her favorite books lined the walls. It was the library she’d always wanted, and around her were pictures of all the people she loved and has loved. And she went out to her porch and opened her favorite book to read. It was the book she herself had written. Because this woman was now in her ‘80s and had just published her first book, and she was so proud of it because even though there were times when she felt like she was too slow in her writing, or wasn’t making as much progress as she wanted, or didn’t know how she’d ever get there, she kept at it, and now she had a book out in the world. And it was a book that her friends loved, and her family loved, and she really loved it too. And she was happy to be alone in the house, taking a break by herself because she enjoys her own company, and she was so happy to be surrounded by books. And remember, she was also surrounded by the photos of all her favorite people, who’d she return to soon, and that is why she loved it all so much.

On not knowing what you’re doing, ever

I heard from a friend who heard from her therapist that when a relationship ends, it’s a good time to take stock of things: what you need and what you want, things you’re proud of, moments of discord and scenarios to avoid moving forward…you know the stuff. The past few weeks, I’ve found a new application for that kind of psychic rummaging: I started a new job, after three years at a job that I really found fulfilling. It’s got some things in common with a break up, and as such, it’s certainly a good time to hit pause and reflect.

When I’ve transitioned to new jobs in the past, the whole thing sweeps me back to adolescence in a funky way, surfacing questions that tremble with uncertainty, idiocy, and perhaps even hopefulness. I’m back to high school philosophy club, back to declaring my major in college, back to turning everything over in my hands a billion times to uncover its angles. You might say I’m back to not knowing what I’m doing at all. It’s a steeping in the whys: why we have to dedicate our lives to one particular field, for example, when humans are interested in so many subjects. And why success in the creative arts depends on some grotesque social hierarchy of who you know and how can you sell what you’ve got. 

Whys and wahhs. But heck, while we’re at, it’s worth diving into the oldest standby of them all — why working rarely gives people enough money to live a comfortable lifestyle. Society can feel like T. Rex’s “Rip Off” coming on the radio, while a Marxist graffitis “Yikes. Capitalism.” along the highway, ad infinitum. Some pass go, the rich collect $200 (million), and others allude opaquely to ’70s British glam rock and communism in the space of three sentences in a strange attempt to make sense of it all.

But I’m happy to report that while I did have my standard internal screamy “AHHH” moments, this go-around was different. I was able to reflect on what I’ve even been doing at work over the past decade-ish. And this was actually quite comforting. I’ve been fortunate enough to find writing work that’s creative, paid my bills, challenged me in surprising and intellectual ways, and even revealed “business” and “marketing” and “product” issues as truly stimulating subjects (despite the fact that the words “business” and “marketing” and “product” have, at times, made me feel like I’m in an episode of Silicon Valley, and thus recoil). Huzzah! Perhaps I’m no longer a disillusioned, obnoxious teen. And mostly, I’m so grateful for such interesting jobs, where I’ve met wonderful friends — some of which have become the people closest to me — and how much I’ve learned, too. I know many people hate their jobs, and I have rarely felt that dread. 

It seems like one day you wake up and, against all odds, you have something vaguely resembling what they call a “career path.” For me, all of it’s connected by writing. And I’m quite lucky to get a paycheck and health insurance for stringing sentences together, which is an all-too rare thing in this very effed up world of ours. 

Even though it’s pretty sad to leave my former place of work (as if on cue, the NY Times just had an article about mourning your former employer), and even though it’s scary, I’m OK taking the leap of faith, and excited about the prospects of what’s ahead. It’s like starting a new school year. And I’m excited.

***

But this transition has given me more than the 9-5 job stuff to marinate on. The main reason I moved to LA was to reclaim a bit of work-life balance, so I could dedicate more of my free time to writing. And, when you’re in that space, namely that you’ve committed to something, you’ve got to contend with the writerly trap. The trap being your brain, which can become something of a heckler the second you dedicate yourself to something. You stare at a blank page, maybe you type a pararaph, maybe you avoid tackling the work at all because there’s some small yippy chihuahua in the front row saying,”You suck, idiot! Get off the stage!” And the invariable crane around the neck ensues. 

And sure, it’s easy when you finish watching The Staircase and The Handmaid’s Tale in the span of two weeks to feel like you are, perhaps, a bit too lazy. You suspect that there’s something in your DNA, something deep within your guts, that skews unceasingly toward procrastination. And really — why should you be a writer, anyway? What do you really have to say, and what do you really know? So many people are more talented, and more intelligent, and maybe you’re a bit too old to push this old dream forward. You didn’t capitalize on your personal social media brand and the world has moved on without you. And the people you see succeeding, the people who claim to be artists but have instead gussied themselves up in a sales pitch, are playing some game you don’t want to be a part of — and if that’s the only way, why play? They’re not real artists. They have sold out for profit. Not participating at all is to act with integrity.

And oh, how I could keep going! There’s a lot this brain of yours has to say to you. What all this is getting at, to sum it up, is that it’s quite hard to write if you’re a human being. 

The only thing that’s worked for me is to take a breath, and say hooey to it all. You can be kind to yourself, too. And sometimes to be kind, you have to be like, “Yo, brain. You need to step aside right now because I’m trying to do stuff!” I remind myself I’ve taken two writing classes since I’ve gotten here — something I was never able to commit to in NYC — and while nothing is in submittable shape yet, I’ve done more fiction writing the past six months than I have in the last three years. And I have a goal! Imagine that! A personal goal. I’m hoping to submit some fiction to literary magazines by the end of the year. And then, y’know, accruing subsequent silences or rejection slips to add a few layers of thickness to my epidermis. But even to have a tangible goal like that is something! 

And anyway, everyone else seems to feel the same way about their own stuff, too. I hardly believe in talent anymore. Just people who finish their shit. 

***

Because I work from home, and because of the general vibes of LA anyway, I feel like I have so much more time in the day than I did in NYC. That’s not to say I don’t love the NYC lifestyle. That energy showed me I had it in me to work my tuchus off. And I also learned I can squeeze mezcal cocktails in almost any night of the week. But I’m trying to soak up the strange energy of this city while I’m here and see how it shakes things up within me. The slow-as-traffic pace, the vegan avocado everything, the fact that no one here seems to have an actual job except pitching movie concepts to producers in coffee shops.

But there’s a burgeoning fiction scene here that’s really cool, and I’m clinging to the subversiveness of fiction writing in the land of screenwriting, even if that’s really just a psychological tactic to quell the pang you get when you see all the bookstores closing and most people you know don’t read very much fiction. Let alone short fiction! Aye yi yi. Sometimes I think writers are just writing for an audience of other writers, who are writing for an audience of potential agents, who are ultimately writing for an audience of editorial assistants combing through their inboxes, filled as they are at the slowly-going-under publishing houses.

So you lean on the things that make sense to you in a nonsensical world. Bryan and I cooked breakfast the other morning at his place. He put on 70s funk (he is going through an Andy Gibb phase), and we danced around like crazy people as the eggs fried and the turkey bacon defrosted. Afterward we went to the record store so I could grab some Michael Jackson and Aretha (even though, yes, I should have already had both). But they were out of Aretha and the only MJ left was some funky (in the not good way) later-days Jackson 5 album. So instead I grabbed Stevie’s Songs in the Key of Life, a Coltrane compilation, and Nat King Cole’s Love is a Many Splendored Thing that was somehow only $2.99, despite the fact that Nat’s voice is sent straight from heaven. The kids today don’t even know. 

I wanted the cashier, a middle-aged white dude in his 40s, to comment on my taste or something, since you always kind of feel like record store dudes are judging you. He didn’t say anything and I didn’t probe into my weird desire for him to be impressed. Bryan and I left, and we drove to my place with the Verdugo Mountains behind us and a wave of cars and palm trees in front. And then I sat down and wrote this thing, which took me far too many weeks to edit, but it made me feel good even just to do so though it’s not going anywhere, and instead ends inscrutably like so. 

The glowing parallelograms

I begin every day by looking at a screen. Sometimes my laptop, usually my phone. Either way, it’s a square emanating blue light. And though it has caused many terrible things for many people (addiction, depression, totally incapacitated social skills), it has, at least, opened up a chasm of literary opportunities for writers. Nary a Nabokov nor Nietzsche had the chance to wrestle with cell phones. The subject is rife for the kvetching.

When I was in high school, a boy wrote a poem about “glowing parallelograms” that were progressively taking over our lives. I liked that description. It’s good to remember the simple weight and shape of things. And it’s good to remember adolescents waxing lyrical in their lovely adolescent way — “oblongs of absence,” “glimmers of the grotesque,” “cell phboners” — and so on, as I imagine in the scribbled in the Google Docs of today’s high school juniors.

I bring all this up because I started working remotely a few months ago, and that means I keep the company of a glowing square, and not much more, for several hours each day. I don’t spend more time on the screen than I did in New York really, but I have fewer humans plugged in next to me. It’s unclear if the takeaway here is that there is comfort in community, or it’s just chaos all the way down.

But life goes on. Several weeks ago I got lunch with my friend Robert. He took me to his favorite taco place. It’s a thing I don’t take lightly because you never want your top hangouts infiltrated by too many acquaintances you know. (And let’s face it, most people come with a few bozos in their networks.) But, should you ever find yourself at a good LA taco stand, may I suggest the tinga de pollo? Anyway, we munched on the goods. I talked about the woes of fiction. He talked about the woes of screenwriting. We both felt bad for poets, who don’t have a prayer of a chance.

We were somewhere around Little Armenia when we parted ways, and it was 45 minutes or so back to my place by foot. But it was a good day for that kind of walk. Griffith Park Observatory was off in the horizon, the tawny dome vaulting into a sky filled with cotton ball clouds. So I started my trek, and taking a cue from the facility overhead, observed. People watered their towers of cacti and succulents, turfgrasses and sea sprays, and various potted architectures that guarded the grounds of their front yards. While I walked down Fountain, I passed street art that read:

Someone asked Bette Davis for “the best way an aspiring starlet could get into Hollywood.” She said, “Take Fountain.”

Perfect strolling fodder. I thought about how I’ve managed to carve out, against all odds, a little slice of New York life in LA. Namely, I don’t have a car, and thus walk everywhere. I live in a hip little neighborhood, half a block shy of the main drag. I can skip to a pile of coffee shops and taco stands. I can take 15 minutes to stroll to the Rite Aid for shampoo and light bulbs. I can even walk to get my groceries — both the normal one, and the overpriced organic one. And, since I work from home, I have nowhere to be during the day except attached to a screen. Which I can use to order a Lyft, should I need.

I split my time between working from my desk at home and my neighborhood coffee shops. So I’m next to other people who work out of coffee shops a lot. In New York, you’ve got a lawyer, a grad student, a nurse, a playwright all sitting side by side. But everyone in LA is part of “the industry” — or its cousin, “trying to break into the industry.” I have heard so many screenwriters pitching their plotline to producers, it has spawned my own short film idea which is just a composite of all the pitches I’ve heard. The things you overhear in coffee shops are one of the biggest differences between New York and LA.

I quite like working remotely. Sure, there’s an intense expectation of laser-sharp communications and airtight autonomy, less human interaction, and you miss out on the in-the-room vibes that happen in all rooms with more than one person. But it’s also kind of nice to just own your work, wholly, and try to exceed the trust that was placed in you. And do laundry if you need to. And, anyway, we’ve got the screen to connect us anytime, any place, and that has taken us some real distances — for better or worse or very weird.

Ah, well. As they say, turn and face the strange. And perhaps grab a taco or two while you’re at it.

Go westward, 30-year-old.

This week, I turned 30. Next month, I’m moving to LA. Here are some things I’ve learned, some advice-to-self, and a few things I’ll miss about New York. The list is no particular order, and is by no means exhaustive (it’d be very sad if I could fit seven years of New York into list form, and even sadder if I could fit 30 years of experience in). But it seemed a natural juncture to jot a few things down, in case it proves interesting to others and noteworthy to myself in the future. 

50 things I’ve learned and/or will miss. 

1.) Everyone who’s in their 20s in New York goes through a Vanessa’s Dumplings phase. I’m glad I had mine, and likewise, I’m glad it’s over. 

2.) I knew this before I turned 30, but it only becomes more true over time. Titanic is the best movie in human history. And if a dude will watch it with you several times, that dude is of serious caliber.

3.) This story begins in kindergarten. One particular day, I stopped in the hallway and stared down the immense corridor toward the other end of the school, where the 5th graders had class. They felt so impossibly far away from where I was in life. And it occurred to me that the odds were greater of me dying than of growing old enough to reach the 5th grade. To age that much felt, frankly, insurmountable.

It seems silly now. But back then, every year felt so substantive, so long and filled with limitless promise and possibility. I’ve learned that your sense of time changes as you age, and it seems like the older you get, the faster the years go. But I try to remember my little kindergarten heart. Because it was so certain that every year mattered so much.

4.) Nothing beats watching Clueless with friends who were around when Clueless was the only thing that mattered.

5.) Get the mouse traps that instantly kill mice, not the sticky tape ones.

6.) There are few personal issues that can’t be fixed with ice cream or wine at 11pm. At the same time, there are few global issues that can be fixed this way.

7.) Over-communication is better, and that goes for jobs and relationships. This is a note to self though. Maybe you’re a person who needs to tone it down. I really couldn’t say!

8.) This thought will occur several times: “You’re just going to forget how to do math entirely, aren’t you?”

9.) Flee far and fast from self-identified “influencers.”

10.) For better or worse (it is worse!), nepotism seems to land more jobs than genuine book smarts or talent or potential. I got my first job through my aunt’s friend’s rabbi in Cold Spring, for example. The rabbi did not care that I majored in English with a concentration in creative writing and double minored in gender studies and art history — and no other employer has either.

So much depends upon who you know. No one gets anywhere alone. It’s a thing to be gracious about and also enraged about. Because if you don’t know anyone who can help you, how can you move upward? People who ascend have a responsibility to reach back and reach into new corners, to do the work to uplift those who we don’t know.

11.) Going to any other city and saying you live in New York is just fabulous. 

12.) This is one of my most heartening, joyous discoveries from my 20s: you can actually experience brand-new emotions as an adult. Things you have gone 20-something years without encountering can be stirred in you. Regardless of whether they’re incredible or melancholic emotions, it is something of a wonder. 

13.) You don’t need to keep up with every ex just because you can.

14.) It’s kind of nice to discover music you overlooked when you were an adolescent. For example, in 1999, I hated Blink 182. I listened to them a few years ago, and was like, actually, hell ya?

15.) People in New York talk about New York as if they’re actually dating New York. That’s because everyone in New York *is* dating New York. There’s no other way to explain it.

16.) Nothing in all of the heavens beats living with your best friend in Greenpoint for three years.

17.) Even after all this time, if you’re going to end up puking on the sidewalk, the Lower East Side is still the place to do it.

18.) Older men are not necessarily more mature. They are, however, worse at technology.

19.) At some point, weirdly around age 25, people will start saying “I can’t drink like I used to!” as if they are somehow lightyears beyond their youth. The truth is, you could drink as much, but people start getting their shit together and finding meaningful hobbies and it becomes socially untenable to bring PBR to a party around age 25. This is not a bad thing.

20.) Artists and investment bankers have more in common than you’d first suspect.

21.) There’s nothing more New York than being 10 minutes late to work because of a gyno appointment and an extremely long bodega wait for your bacon, egg, and cheese.

22.) Being single is great and terrible. Dating is great and terrible. Everything is both all the time!! #philosophy

23.) After college, people start to fork off very aggressively into their respective life paths. Some people get married. Some have kids. Finance people start earning ungodly amounts of money. A lot of people go into stand-up comedy for some reason. Etc. One nice thing about entering the work force full-time is befriending people of different ages. You discover a 45 year old may have more in common with you than someone who is your own age. Cultivate a friend group that includes people older and younger whom you truly love.

24.) Et tu, Xanga? The internet changes and dies quickly. 

25.) As a New Yorker, it’s enjoyable to read quotes about New York. Literally just Googling “new york quotes” for an afternoon. Sure, it’s somewhat masturbatory, and I suspect it’s the kind of behavior people would be disgusted to hear about from a New Yorker. But I freakin’ love doing it and saying “yes, yes, yes!” in my head when I read a really great quote I identify with. So here you go: “One belongs to New York instantly. One belongs to it as much in five minutes as in five years.” – Tom Wolfe. Yes yes yes!

26.) More book clubs.

27.) When I first moved to NYC, I subsisted on off-brand Cap’n Crunch (s/o to King Vitaman) for an entire year from the bodega downstairs. My blood pressure hurt, but the bank account stayed afloat. I will miss the comfort of bodegas.  

28.) Lots of touristy things suck. But Central Park is simply magical.

29.) If you can handle a few moments of shame with a cashier, you can pay exactly one penny and go to the Met. It’s a great thing to do with friends who are visiting and experiencing sticker shock at every turn. 

30.) You’re going to meet a lot of people who are very successful. You’re going to meet a lot of people who are really struggling. In my experience, it’s best to just be as kind as possible and proactively try to dismantle the really effed up systems that oppress people along the way. 🙂

31.) This is a good mantra: “Don’t spend more of your money on that shit.”

32.) This is an obvious one, but it’s worth writing down: keep up with your friends, no matter where they are. Sarah lived in Russia and Chicago, Al in SF and LA (and now several places in the South), Jesse in London. Other people seem shocked or impressed that my closest friends are my lil’ crew from high school. But friendships aren’t accidental — we’ve put in the work to stay in touch. And I’m going to lean into that because we have big plans to be in retirement homes together. 

33.) Sure, Sex and the City has its problems. But you know damn well that during Fleet Week, everyone on the street hears Samantha in their head saying, “Ladies, seamen, 12 o’clock!” That’s unity, people.

34.) I recommend trying one of my friend Hannah’s “Hangoritas.” Or, beef jerky from her purse.

35.) Because men are not socialized to be emotionally open with other men, they are often completely dependent on the women in their lives to meet all of their emotional needs. It’s worth remembering this and being sensitive to the cultural environment in which we were all groomed. But also, feel free to kick their ass to their curb when needed.

36.) Hiiiii, first strands of gray hair!

37.) You’ll go from being the youngest person at the office to being slightly less young at the office to, I imagine, being old at the office. You’ll find yourself prompted by Justin Bieber, of all people, to philosophize about the nature of youth and pop culture, and why no “old” people really break into entertainment industries when ostensibly they have the most wisdom, talent, and expertise to share. Ah, well, you’re headed for that aging group, ol’ gal!

38.) Dinner with your parents + your mom making you tea afterward + vegging on their couch in Chicago are still the ideal ways to spend vacations.

39.) Being a phone-call person is going to come back. I can feel it. 

40.) Studying gender studies was a tad prescient. At the time it was still somewhat freaky to my peers. Now it’s in their FACES / I’m really happy we’re all starting to grapple together with a lot of things despite the fact that it’s had to come with centuries of suffering and the current political and environmental shitstorm we’re in, the likes of which I could not have imagined in my wildest apocalyptic nightmares.

41.) Just go to the Bluestockings’ “Women’s / trans’ poetry jam” event hosted by Vittoria Repetto — “the hardest working guinea butch dyke poet on the Lower East Side.” Just go.

42.) Surprises keep your endorphins flexed. Bryan showed up at my door at 1am on my birthday, having secretly flown in from LA. It was the kind of thing that up until that point I assumed only happened in movies or paid influencer Instagram stories. I want to maintain the comfort that ritual brings, without forgetting the virtue of spontaneity. 

43.) Sometimes you just gotta buy an egg challah and sleep for 14 hours.

44.) Note to self: host a Britney Spears and feminism workshop with Suri, why don’t you?

45.) I recommend wearing really weird shit sometimes. For example, I have a polk-a-dot dress from Trash and Vaudeville where the sleeves are attached to the dress itself, so you can’t lift up your arms. Wildly impractical? Yes. Conversation piece? Sometimes!

46.) Moving is terrible. You’ll do it 457 times.

47.) You will never learn how to install the metal support thing that’s supposed to go under your A/C unit.

48.) Some people get married from work relationships, so I can’t 100% discount them. But in general, if your friend is hooking up with someone at work, the safe route is to persistently tell them it is a terrible, terrible idea.

49.) It’s easy to make excuses for not traveling (money!), not writing (time!), not running errands (mozzarella sticks!). Come now, we know most legitimate reasons can be worked around.

50.) You can’t ever really leave this city even if you leave because you love it so much and all the people here and it’s part of your heart and bones and brain, right? There’s a quote about that somewhere … right?!?

 

Love you, big bad apple. </3 Ready to grab you by the cojones, get my groove on, and organize my file cabinet, LA + 30s.

There are things to do

I went to a coffee shop to work on a new website (no offense, WordPress dear). Even with Squarespace’s robust help center, the nuances continue to evade me. So I tried to write something here. The muse came not. Focus lacks on all fronts, homies. Is this an internet-induced attention span issue, or my own stupid noggin preventing me from accomplishing something this Sunday? Perhaps a to-do list is in order:

-Write something here

-Finish creating a website that doesn’t look terrible

-Call my parents

-Do taxes without decapitating self

-Transcribe an interview for work

-Do a bunch of other things for work

-Put my laundry away

-Listen to the new Drake album

-Determine once and for all if it is even possible to have small talk with a stranger given our political situation

-Determine once and for all if it is even possible to have small talk with men given our political situation

-Eat a vegetable today? That egg sandwich, while delish, was nutritionally neutered.

-Figure out how much I owe Jesse

-Figure out how much Jesse owes me

-Invent something to save the environment immediately because the globe as we know it is toast, literally

-Learn science to achieve the above point

-See if the Drano I dumped in our sink earlier worked

-Watch every movie ever that’s important

-Do homework for my design class due tomorrow. Subtask: master every possible action in Photoshop tonight.

-Call super about freezer: ice stays frozen, but ice cream does not, and that simply will not stand.

-Figure out a better way to articulate the value of empathy in radical leftist socialist circles after I’ve consumed one beer and three vodka sodas because oddly this keeps coming up

-Reschedule dentist appointment

-Sit down to create a budget, and do not 1) break out into hives, or 2) determine that I need to decrease ice cream purchases

-Think more about that conversation we had about horology, and how human development is tied to the harnessing of time in various ways: agricultural systems, women’s cycles and the moon, circumnavigation, aviators, and Louis-François Cartier and that whimsical French balloon rider you told me about who birthed the modern wristwatch

-Land on one side or the other re: Bruno Mars

-Cough it up already, and acknowledge that I basically use to-do lists as a procrastination tactic, not an action plan

-Take time for self-care after acknowledging last point and eat a vat of mint chocolate chip ice cream, unless it’s melted due to aforementioned freezer situation, in which case, bitch endlessly to Jesse and/or this blog about it