memory covered in black and white

I was young and there were road trips. Me, my brother, my dad, my mom. A perennial favorite was June Lake, a small fishing spot near Mammoth Mountain. We had been going there since I was still in a car seat. One summer we picked up a stray cat. She just jumped right into the truck with us. Dad named her Bugs and she lived outside. When he moved out I took over responsibility for her, feeding her dry cat food shaped like grainy “X”s and scratching her back until she raised her rear haunches in content. I was the only one she let pet her.
I would get worried about Bugs when it rained, wondering if she had a dry place to be. We had a big porch with a sage colored roof and old brick flooring. One time I poured her food and sat against the wall next to the front door, stucco pressing into my back. The rain fell through the pine trees and washed up the smell of dirt and the grass looked slick and wet. I sat and waited and I was patient, more patient than I have ever been in my adult life. And she came. Black and white, sneaking around the corner. I scratched her back. I watched the rain.
By the time our house had sold and were were about to move into Tom’s place, Bugs was of unknown age but we had had her for ten some odd years. She was old but never grew past the size of a fat bunny with long legs. My mom said we couldn’t take her with us because Tom lived on a busy street and she would probably get run over by a car. I felt irresponsible and sad. She was another thing I had to give up.
For a few months I was worried whether she was alive, if someone was feeding her or if she could hunt mice. I thought of her waiting for me by the front door with the stucco wall. I wondered if it made her as sad as it made me. And then, one day, I just stopped thinking about Bugs altogether.


A Standard 20 Hour Work Day

The day begins at sunrise. Farm hours. I wake up with the alarm that immediately sends me into the “fight or flight” thing I learned about in high school. My blood pressure surges, my heart races, I am ready for an imaginary battle. In the email detailing out today’s job in San Francisco, my agent essential threatened that if we miss this flight we will be dropped from the board. I look at the clock. I’m safe. I eat some cereal, drink some juice, and have some coffee. I leave the house at five til seven. It’s a day trip so I only have a purse. This is liberating.
Ten other girls meet me at the airport. The details of the job have been vague aside from flight information and the name of the client. The flight is fine aside from the first “Twenty Minutes of Terror” which I have come to describe all of my flight ascensions these days. Every bump of turbulence turns my stomach and leads me to reach into my database of frequently used flier thoughts such as: “If we crash in water should I grab my purse?” or “If we explode in midair will I be sucked out like those people in Final Destination?” I chastise myself for dying en route to a job whose rate never seems worth jeopardizing my life. When I was younger I loved flying. Mom would always give me the window seat and I would sit staring at clouds, listening to my CD Walkman and thinking about kissing boys. If only I could have remained so ignorant of danger. I put my head between my knees and pray for me to black out or fall asleep. The woman next to me puts a light hand on my back without saying anything. I raise my head.
“I hate fucking flying.”
“It’ll be over soon,” she says.
This is comforting until I think of how that sounds like a quote from “Famous Last Words.” I steal a glance at her computer. Her name is Liz Rider and she works at CBS Interactive.
Three town cards pick us up at the airport. By the time I grab the front seat in a Lincoln Town & Country, I realize that the car in front of us is a Mercedes. I want to hop out and join the other two girls but I feel like I would be offending my driver so I stay put. On the freeway he points out houses and landfills but his accent is incomprehensible so I just laugh and say “uh huh” a lot.
It’s 1:15 by the time I start actually working, which first involves a fitting for the runway show. I walk into a room of awkward tension and silence. The designer of Akris is there and he is balding and skinny and Austrian. He sits at a long table at the end of the room adjusting Post It notes in a stack of paper. He asks me to walk. I walk. He stares. I am uncomfortable and I think he doesn’t like my jawline. “Number four,” he says. I am working for the fashion equivalent of a passive aggressive J. Stalin. The room is completely quiet with the exception of delegating outfits, commanding models to walk, and the click of Polaroids being taken. On two occasions he says, “That looks great.” But it sounds forced and lame and halfhearted. When I leave the room I am sweaty and nervous. The man literally sucked every once of personality out of a twenty by twenty foot space.
The show comes and goes and nobody falls and nobody’s boobs fly out unexpectedly. It is a wild success. The same three cars fill up and again I miss my opportunity to ride in the Mercedes. It’s a surprisingly lovely spring evening in San Francisco and I wind the tinted window of the car to its child-proof limit. The air is tepid and the sky is a desaturated cobalt and this is the part of my life that I love but don’t get enough of. The mad dash, the blurry scenery, the ability to convince yourself for a moment that you are important. A Coca Cola sign flickers on, it’s bulbs switching illumination responsibility.


When LA Fashion Week Disintegrates, So Does My Integrity.

Shows in LA have always been notoriously dismal. Most everything is made out of some sort of jersey and can be purchased on Melrose. To clarify, it’s all shit. So when IMG and Smashbox studios parted ways this season, it was no skin off anyone’s back. And, as it turns out, all was not lost. Palm Springs would be hosting it’s very own fashion week! Now, I know, the place doesn’t scream fashion. The population is predominately near dead or gay, I’m not sure why the latter flock here en masse but they are all fabulously tan. Nevertheless the jobs were paying, and where the money goes we go.
Tyler and I wake up at 5 am for a 2 hour and 12 minute drive to Palm Desert. At some point I hold my right eye open with a cold finger to stay awake. We make it in one piece and arrive at one singular tent in the middle of a dirt parking lot. Glamorous. Our producer warns us that the show will be very “conceptual” and I realize what she means when the owner of the boutique hosting the show comes over and begins to break down the opening scene. The music chosen is “Bad to the Bone” by George Thorogood and when she tells us that we have to act “bad to the bone” she shimmies and shakes and bends her 65 year old knees in emphasis. On the runway she expects walk offs, pushing, and being “a bigger bitch than that other bitch walking toward you.” This is somebody’s grandmother. Aaron gets removed from opening the show because the woman “just doesn’t think [she] can handle it.”
The rest of the scenes continue in similarly ridiculous and anti-fashion fashion. One instruction is to prance with knees Hitler Youth high while Native American tribal music plays on in the background. Next, there is a literal interpretation of the lyrics to a song that this woman deemed fit for a strip tease.
“Baby take off your shoes”
The girls step out of their high heel shoes ON THE RUNWAY.
“You can take off your coat.”
The black velvet Harry Potter velvet capes covering their fluorescent wunder garb gets thrown off the runway and into the audience.
“You can leave your hat on.”
Guess what happens.
And after that imaginative creation finishes the girls dance down the runway to Phil Collins’ rendition of “True Colors” because they are wearing…colors.
The entire event is laughable and we try desperately not to be overtly disrespectful to this woman’s vision but bloody hell, this is some twisted 1950s dinner theater shit. I imagine this occupation is preparing me for greatness of some sort or there really is no God.


Coffee. Equal. Hot Chocolate. Addiction.

In light of my recent parting with caffeine, here are my ruminations on a 7 year strong friend. A eulogy, perhaps…

I was determined, naively resolved. I would never be that parent grumbling for their morning cup of joe. Growing up I watched my dad with his Yuban: black, no sugar, no cream. It came pre-ground and in brown tins. This is what my dad wants his ashes put in when he is cremated. My brother and I were about thirteen and twelve the first time he told us that. Years later my mom developed a habit of her own and a strong attachment to a considerably pricey espresso machine. This, of course, came post-second-divorce and was purchased in close proximity to a ’91 190E steel gray Mercedes (my first car) and a ten day family Christmas trip to Maya Tulum; all of which were part of her “I can do it on my own” campaign” which continues strong to this day. As far as my youthful tendencies, I didn’t touch the stuff unless it was blended with vanilla powder and simple syrup, eaten alongside a peanut butter cookie the size of my strangely large hands. Any buzz I acquired was largely attributed to the sugar content and less so the half shot of espresso that landed into my tasty treat.
But then I got to college. I gave up my Frappuccinos, I banned white chocolate mochas, and New York didn’t have Coffee Beans so Ice Blendeds were out of the question. The only thing my budget allowed purchase for was one carton of orange juice a week and one bag of sliced wheat bread. I was obliged to forage my remaining food necessities from the college cafeteria. The cheapest thing available to me was adjacent to the hamburger grill station and across from the pizza warmers. Two carafes full of coffee…brown, watery, terrifyingly dismal…crack.
Being of untrained tongue and nonjudgmental palate, I lapped it up, but not after adding a packet of Equal and a squirt from the hot chocolate machine. Eaten with a dinner roll found next to the soup station and oddly, bananas, I was in caffeine nirvana. My first cup sent me over the moon. After lunch I stormed into my dorm room, pupils dilated. I would like to think that I put on an entertaining interlude for my New Jersey roommate, briefly removing her from the doldrums of undergraduate life. This, I’m sure, is the wishful thinking of an hopped up egomaniac.


Separation Anxiety

I’m watching Bogie scatter about showing signs of absolute diress. He wanders in and out of my mom’s garden, becoming almost invisible behind giant aloe plants. Wimpering, moaning, looking for his friend. The whimpers turn into howls, deep and low. Phil has taken Hunter with him to the nursery. He hates taking Bogie because he sheds, leaving tufts of white Labrador fur stuck on all bits of his truck. Phil used to be quite meticulous about his Ford F150, cleaning the interior with Q-Tips and Armor All. Then some chick threw up in the backseat and it was never really the same.
Bogie doesn’t know where they’ve taken Hunter. So he sits next to the sliding glass door, his haunches laying sideways because he’s so fat, and stares into the house waiting for some sign of his friend. “I hope they die together,” I say to Tyler. Because I cannot imagine the gut wrenching dog agony either one would go through if left alone on a more permanent basis. Those little fuckers love each other more than they love us. And rightly so. We abandon them for long stretches of time, leaving some classic rock station blaring at what is probably an obnoxious level for their kanine hearing. They’re supposedly brothers but looking nothing alike. Hunter doesn’t even look like a purebred – he’s the one my mom got at a discounted price because the breeder supposedly misplaced his official papers.
I let Bogie cry away because in a strange way I am fascinated by whatever form of emotion he is experiencing; that this compost eating, banana thief is capable of missing something so much.
My eighty year old landlady lost her husband last year. Remnants of whatever illness he ended with sit in the garage alongside wrenches and a rusty bicycle. She sees her kids often, volunteers at Cedars Sinai, and is arguably more active than myself. But somedays I catch her looking out of her screen door adjacent to our screen door and she looks terribly sad. I wonder if she wishes for death and I wonder if her days feel long.


Life in the Slow Lane, Early Retirement

It is 12:20 pm on a Tuesday. I sit at the car wash where my mom got me a handful of free hand washes for Christmas. There is bird shit on my windshield and streaks of vomit that an unnamed friend did not fully wipe off after a night of too many tequila shots. It was the first time my car had been violated in such a manner. I am waiting for my car under a brown awning where the shade is spread in boxy, linear chunks. There are ads for “safe” hair extensions and synthetic grass. Each person is on a cell phone and every car is expensive.
For the bulk of my time waiting I am concerned about what to tip the Mexican who is about to vigorously clean the inside of my car with a rag. “Such hard work,” I think. And then I remind myself how I usually do the very same thing because I am too cheap to pay for a proper professional cleaning. I sneeze. No one says “bless you” or “Gesundheit.” This is perhaps because of the deafening whirl of the car washing line going on behind me. Or maybe these people are just rude.


Four Hours at LAX

Where the mind is allowed to wander when sitting at the airport for four hours waiting for a flight…

– How does lint and other dusting always finds a home on the lid of my chapstick?

– 800 calories is an awful lot for a salad. Do they grow their lettuce in butter?

– Women with small children cannot take the stairs for years of their life due to their infant commitments…it’s elevators and Bugaboos for at least 3 years.

– Hey! That mom left her twins alone in their twin stroller while she went to pee. She must find me very trustworthy but I suppose there only being two people washing their hands in the lavatory and that I am 5’10 would make for an easy hunt for kidnapping suspects…

– If your flight gets delayed (2 hours) and the airline (Delta) wants to charge you a fee ($50) to change it (bullshit), tell them that your ride at the destination city (Salt Lake City) can’t make it at the adjusted time (later than I fucking paid for). Special thanks to Manny, my gay Latino Delta Concierge desk man for spilling the pinto beans on that one.

– If everyone used the paper toilet seat guards, no ass cheek would ever touch its plastic rim, no pee would ever spill on top of it, and it would always (theoretically) stay clean. The very people who apparently find it more cleanly to pop a squat and ruin it for the rest of us, do not abide by this logic whatsoever…forcing me to conclude that these are the most selfish of cleanly people, robbing me of a pleasant environment to take a piss. Fuck you, squatter. If I could only catch you in the act…

– My everything bagel does not have equal amounts of “everything.” This one, particularly, is leaning towards the heavy salted category of bagel varieties.

– The old man across from me is wearing the same old man glasses I used to wear out of irony before I got LASIK and before every MTV watching hipster thought it would be a grand fashion statement. Maybe old man style is just dope style and we should rid ourselves of the ageist stereotypical term. I am reminded of a similar situation in my high school SATs: If I am dope and I wear these glasses, and the old man wears these same glasses, it would assume that both I and the old man are, in fact, dope.


2007: Paris and a Doughnut

Some 51 hours ago I was at the Louvre, walking on four levels of pillars and heavy marble. Now, I’m sitting in a Starbucks in the Luxor, Las Vegas. a faux pyramid hotel that reeks of desperation and false hope. The croissants here are $3.50 and could easily feed a few people. It cost me $0.50 to change my drink to soy. I’m trying to avoid dairy after a book and a certain PETA video involving a Ukrainian in a yellow jumper and black wellies tearing at the trachea of a living cow with a meat hook. Blood sprayed over the man as the cow hit the sides of the walls with its large body and its weight shifted painfully from hoof to hoof until it couldn’t support itself anymore. So yeah, I’m trying to avoid drinking a lot of milk. I haven’t seen video footage of tortured soy beans, but maybe that’s next.

I didn’t buy a pastry today. I never do. My brother was really into them when we were little. He ordered Bear Claws most often. When he was sick we used to stop at K’s Donuts on Fallbrook and Ventura and pick up a pink box filled with Long Johns, sugar coated, chocolate frosted, and primary-color sprinkled ones. Then we would take them to the doctors and nurses and sick kids. Phil was diagnosed with leukemia when he was 21 months old. My mom was 24 and my dad barely over 30. When people talk about the theoretical happiness of young parenthood, I wonder how fun it must have been for my parents.

I don’t eat donuts anymore.