Thursday, December 30, 2010

Hollywood Weirdness

Living in Los Angeles, and Hollywood in particular, gives me a surreal feeling and sometimes an almost disbelief in my actual life versus various fictional lives I come across in movies and novels. I am a native Angeleno and I glamorized Hollywood with a purposeful naivete when I was a teenager – I knew that the corner of Hollywood and Vine was just a street corner with a heavy metal shop (or a liquor store or something – my memory fails me) and some poor people waiting for their bus on it, yet I loved that street corner anyway, and loved books and movies and songs and photos that built on the mythology of Hollywood, and I went there every weekend for awhile, a feeling of excitement on the bus ride there and usually a vague feeling of depression on the bus ride back but always wanting to live there when I grew up. I could go on forever on this part of my teens (Hollywood, Nirvana, Courtney Love, a book called Weetzie Bat, Guns N’ Roses and Riot Grrrl are the main themes that dominate my youth) and a few years ago I tried to write specifically about Hollywood but I find my attention span too short for all the non-fiction projects I start. Let me just sketch out a few more facts and then get to the Hollywood weirdness in particular that was distracting me as I drove to work this morning.
Facts: I loved Hollywood until my first band played its first show at a club in Hollywood and I was beaten up really bad there; then I wouldn’t go to Hollywood anymore, and started having panic attacks, and looked forward to moving out of the state for college. After college I moved back to L.A. and was appreciative of it and had the time of my life (not counting college) living in Hollywood. When me and my husband moved back to CA from Philly we lived in the San Bernardino mountains for awhile but when he started apartment scouting he told me he found the perfect place, and he ended up driving me to the same building I used to live in before, so I live where I used to live but now I’m a weird grown up going through an awkward early onset midlife crisis.
So that brings us up to date: I live in Hollywood and my midlife crisis consists of agoraphobia and a phobia they haven’t named yet, it’s an amorphous thing, it’s devastating but it lasts a whole life time sometimes, only white middle class girls seem to suffer from it and it’s characterized by not being entirely responsible with one’s tranquilizers sometimes and being a pretty flake and a bad housekeeper and an interesting person and an animal lover and a passionate crier and frightened and a wild gesticulator and a voracious reader. So the Hollywood weirdness that’s striking me lately is when I see it portrayed in movies or read about it in books. The examples that come to mind most readily are the movies “Heaven Can Wait”, “Greenburg” and “Funny People”, the A.M. Holmes’ novel This Book Will Save Your Life and the Joan Didion memoir The Year of Magical Thinking. I read or saw all of these works recently and in all of them there were appearances of places really close to where I live. In some cases even my street was named or shown. I don’t know how to end this post because this is just a ramble, not a fully formed thought. It just feels so weird to hardly be going out and to be going through this anxious phase full of fear and doubt and to see a version of my surroundings in works of fiction; when something is fictionalized it is given importance. It’s almost as though I’m watching or reading about my life, but my own life is so ___________ right now. That’s my current Hollywood weirdness.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

day late dollar short




One of my favorite books I've read in the past year is Never Let me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro, who also wrote the amazing novels Remains of the Day and When We Were Orphans.

I became anxious a few months ago when I heard that a film was being made of the novel, but I just learned that the film has already come and gone (in limited release), and while that information released me from the anxiety I feel at having someone ruin something I love for public consumption, I was also disappointed. here are a few pretty film stills.
xoxo robin

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Cat Noir

I wrote a children’s story about a little boy whose cat dies, and for two months it was the best-selling book for children ages 5-7. Almost unanimously, the book critics who wrote about the book focused on the originality and bravery of the scene in which my protagonist, little Christopher, kneels beside his bed to say a prayer the night his cat Velvet has had to be put down, and finds he doesn’t know what to say. “Thank you my God for the day you have given me,” he begins, as his nightly prayers always begin, the way he was taught at Sunday School. But then he doesn’t know how to continue. “I feel very sad,” the prayer concludes. The book itself concludes with an illustration of Christopher smiling, sitting between his parents on an imprecise green watercolor brush-stroke of a couch. His mother and father each have an arm around his shoulder, and with their free hand, each parent holds the hand of Christopher that is closest to them. The words on this last page say: “They explained to him that there would be other sad days in life, but that the sadness would just make the happy days feel better. Christopher understood. ‘Thank you, Velvet,’ Christopher whispers. The End.”

The book made me enough money not to work in an office for awhile, and my husband was able to add me to his health insurance plan, so I took a year off from the life of work I’d been living. I was going to write another novel. None of the other ones ever went anywhere, but my agent assured me that, thanks to the success of “Christopher and Velvet,” I wouldn’t have any more difficulty getting published in the future. But, and this I couldn’t tell anyone, I’d already ruined the fragile balance of my well-being. I’d thought too much about Christopher and Velvet, before, during and since I’d written the book. “I feel very sad,” I often whispered to myself.
Instead of a novel, I started to write a memoir about myself and the cats in my life, a memoir that would prove so disturbing, by the time I finished the last sentence, I would have lost my capability to pretend that everything is all right. I would be a shaky, haunted-looking stray.

TO BE CONTINUED

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Curse of the Moody Polar Bears

Looks like I’m going to have to use this blog as a rant forum again this entry. Here goes: both at the last office I worked in and in my current one, I’ve noticed a trend of people who don’t like someone else assuming that the person they don't like is bipolar. “Bipolar” really seems to have made it into the lexicon of well-known words. A person will say something like, “God she drives me crazy. She’s totally bipolar, I can tell.” At my last office, I wasn’t overly fond of much of the staff, so it was hard for me to not say something like “better bipolar than sub-intelligent.”

But now I like my co-workers, yet I still overhear all these assumptions that their enemies must be bipolar, to describe said enemy’s unfathomable jerkiness. It really makes me feel like shit every single time I hear something like this. Bipolar people are a pain in the ass to deal with, okay, I get it. I believe that, at best, psychiatry is a misogynist pseudoscience fueled by kickbacks from the drug companies to the less ethical of the "doctors", so I’m not here to attack the misuse of a clinical term. I just feel like when people complain about “bipolar” assholes that are hard to deal with, well, it’s just too thoughtless, and also, it’s hard not to take personally. At my old office, when someone would bitch about a bipolar co-worker I’d say “oh really? Hmm. I’m bipolar,” just to keep people on their toes. It is hard not to take the casual use of that word a bit personally.
When I had a nervous breakdown and became an outpatient at a mental health facility, it was a prerequisite that the intake doctor give you a diagnosis, and I was given “Bipolar II” (like the Scarecrow being given his diploma or the Tin Man his heart-shaped watch). It is different from the regular, heartbreaking Bipolar disorder. Bipolar II includes racing thoughts and rapid cycling mood swings. So instead of spending a year trying to start one’s own business and then the next year homeless, the type of extreme action that someone with Bipolar disorder might do – I, who may or may not legitimately be classified Bipolar II (I think the best term for me is probably bummer-magical) have a hard time controlling how fast my thoughts go in the morning, even before coffee. I have short-lived manias, and I don’t really have bad depression crashes because I’m on an anti-depressant. The “rapid cycling” that characterizes bipolar II is a rapid cycling of moods, and yes, I’m very moody, laughing one second and bitching really harshly at someone two minutes later. Anyway, maybe I’m bipolar II, maybe I’m just me. But it really seems such a terse dismissal of people’s problems (people diagnosed as Bipolar usually have a much harder time than what I’ve described as my own rollercoaster) when people use the term Bipolar to complain about someone who is a moody, indecisive asshole. If you are one of those people who has fallen into the habit of using "bipolar" casually, could you try, just for a week, to try replacing the word “bipolar” with “moody” or “indecisive”? Or even a really gnarly swearword nickname. I’m just trying to keep some things, like the suffering of the mental ill, sacred.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

short story

Angel Girls
By Robin Crane


Martin started giving him advice about girls when Tom was in his early teens. The advice focused on the bleak side of love, and all of Martin’s theories were proven true in Tom’s unfolding love life, leading Martin to guiltily wonder (at least he’d had his heart in the right place when he’d warned Tom of the landmines and Chinese Fingertraps hidden in an interesting girls’ psyche) if he’d created a self-fulfilling prophecy for his brother.

Two stoned young adults lying on their respective beds in the bedroom they shared, always lying on their backs and keeping their eyes trained on the ceiling instead of at each other (at night with the lights turned off, the glow-in-the-dark constellation stickers Martin’d long ago stood on a ladder and stuck to the ceiling gave them a landscape they never tired of staring at), they talked late into the night, almost every night.

Martin said once, “You’re going to have the same problem I do. You’re going to fall in love with – well actually, you’re going to fall in love with girls like Tammy (Tammy was Tom’s crush from 2nd through 4th grade). Ha, what do you know?, it’s already happened. Tammy was different than all the other girls at your school, right?”

“Of course. She was amazing, she was so pretty. She was like if someone stuck the soul of Garbo inside the body of Shirley Temple and then turned Shirley Temple into a Marilyn Manson fan.”

“Right. She already had a sense of style, and I remember when she came over to the house after school sometimes, she was nuts. She always said these weird things, or else she’d be uncomfortably quiet and mom’d have to twist her arm to get a complete sentence out of her. And she was kind of funny-looking but she was pretty too. I’m right, right?”

“Spot on,” Tom said, being in the midst of his British slang phrase. “You know, I still think about Tammy sometimes. I tried looking her up on Facebook but I couldn’t find her. I think her family moved to somewhere in Oregon, somewhere near Portland.”

“Well, yeah, of course you miss her sometimes, she was your first love. But she’s probably either a lesbian, a cutter, or, like, an inpatient at a drug treatment center by now. Or so charming she crushes everything in her path. Some of these crazy girls are so charming it’s like torture, because then they turn on a dime. They end up on sex benders too.”

“What are you talking about?”

“Girls like the type I like, because they’re special … girls you’ll like … we like them because they’re different, but they’re different, they wear weird clothes and mouth off in class and it seems so wonderful to be the one to take care of them, because they’re damaged. Their stepdads or uncles molested them. It’s always something like that with these girls. They always end up having some weird sex issues. You can never just be, like, their man, their important person. Their brains are always crowded with all this other bad stuff.”

“Not always. That can’t always be true, with every beautiful girl either of us is ever going to like, forever and ever. You’re smart, big brother, but you and over-dramatization are like…” Tom wasn’t expected to finish the thought, because they were stoned. Thoughts were allowed to hang in the air in these circumstances, the unsaid portions being unnecessary to say because they were easy to guess at.

“You just wait and see,” Martin said. He was only half-kidding; he’d just had his heart broken that day. “The best girls are so crazy. Something bad has always happened to them. There’s nothing to do, though, once you’ve met one of these girls. You just have to smile to yourself the first time she kisses you, and feel devastated with pleasure once you guys start doing it, and then she’ll start to get too paranoid and awful to stand or else she’ll just decide she’s done with you and, and that’s what happens.”

“I think I know this already,” Tom giggled.

“Oh yeah? How?”

“Movies and songs. Especially songs.”

“Well anyway, good luck. I just you needed warning. Do what you will with this knowledge, Tonto.” These were the last words he said before turning his back to his brother and falling asleep that night.

This vision of Tom’s romantic future proved, as I said, prophetic. All these girls, these beautiful girls with self-inflicted cigarette burns on their arms like irritated mosquito bites, and the sexual history of having been too promiscuous or of having let nobody touch them. All these beautiful, irreverent artists. They never needed him or else they needed him too much. Instead of self-exploration, the problems of his current girlfriend was what he meditated on in his idle time. But Martin had insinuated that these girls carried on, somehow immortal.
Martin had not warned him that these girls possessed any vulnerabilities they were not able to use to their advantage. Tom had to find this out himself. He was 23. His girlfriend’s name was Marie. She had dark brown hair and a too-generous inclination which led her to allow homeless men to make inappropriate remarks towards her, the type of behavior that she deemed worthy of a slap in the face when it came from a peer or a business man (she was beautiful and appealing to almost all men). Because her parents were well-off, they’d bought her a Lexus SUV. It was much too noticeable an automobile for her but it would have been unkind to refuse the gift.

What happened was that she was driving late at night down a side street, and a car that’d been behind her suddenly sped past, though the street only had one lane for each direction, and blocked her so that she could not drive forward. Marie had pepper spray in her purse but as the man who got out of the car and walked towards her kept his stare meeting hers, and she urinated on herself, she knew that the weapon would be of no use, it would be too hard to move enough to use the pepper spray. Plus, she just couldn’t hurt another person. This is the story as her friend, Pansy, sitting in the passenger seat, told it. “Just keep the windows rolled up and gun it. Just start driving. Run him over if you have to. Marie?” Marie did keep her window rolled up, staring at the tall, heavyset, bald white man who was staring at her and who raised a gun level with her head and shot her in the head through the glass of the window. He tried to open her door to toss the body out and get in behind the wheel, but the door was locked, and the way he got in the car was to let Pansy stumble and run away, and then to get in through the passenger’s side of the SUV. Up ahead, his brother got behind the wheel of their car, and the assailant followed behind in the Lexus to their house three blocks away, where the Lexus would be stashed in the garage for the night.

Pansy moved to Columbus but one night when she was back in L.A. because her parents and her therapist had decided together that celebrating the holidays might be a healthy move for “reintegrating her emotionally into society,” she and Tom ran into each other at the grocery store and she said, “Could we hang out for awhile?”

“I’d like that. We can’t talk about Marie though, I can’t do that.”
In place of verbal agreement, Pansy just blanched.

“So,” Tom was trying to keep things as light as possible, “uh, we’ll just go stand in line and buy our stuff, and…since neither of us have anything that’ll go bad, we can leave it in my trunk and-“

“Oh, my dad was going to pick me up in a half hour, in front of the store.”

“Oh, okay, I’ll just sit with you until he comes if you want.”
He could see that her brain was hurriedly running through scenarios, sentences, outcomes, memories, but he couldn’t even guess at the gist of these thoughts.

“I changed my mind, Tom, I just want to wait for my dad by myself. I’m sorry. Sorry about Marie and sorry I’m about to blow you off. I just have to do what’s best for me.”

That’s true. When a woman is in a threatening situation or feels threatened by the prospect of life itself, she has to do what’s best for her. These special women that Martin and Tom are drawn to resemble feral cats sometimes. These special women can die. Everyone dies someday.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Sweetheart #5

Here's Sweetheart #5, put out in 1994, sometime in 9th grade. all the rhyming feminist poems are lyrics from what i called my "solo career" ... from before i started being in bands. i particularly like this zine because it predates much of my late-teen bitterness :).

xoxox robin

As always, you can click on the image to enlarge it.



















Thursday, October 21, 2010

road rage

When I give in to road rage, I know that I’m being a Los Angeles cliché, but I also feel like a realer version of myself, at the same time. I wish it were illegal to turn right on a red light in CA, or at least in my neighborhood (Hollywood). The fact that people can turn right on red makes it so that when they’re at the corners of intersections, they just stare left, waiting for an ever so slight break in the oncoming traffic so they can make the coveted (why?!) maneuver of turning right on a red (presumably, these assholes don’t want to be late for their botox injections and hand-done carwashes because these people sure don’t look like they have jobs to get to – they look like disgusting soulless dipshits sewn into $1000-but-still-ugly clothes). So they’re not even aware of the fact that the pedestrians have the right of way and are attempting to make eye contact with these drivers so they can safely cross the street. I’ve almost been hit several times as a pedestrian, when I thought I’d made eye contact with one of these jackoffs. I’ve also been the person who was driving straight down the street, minding my own, when one of these drivers made a right turn in front of me that made me have to jam on the breaks.
This morning, I was waiting to turn right on the corner of La Brea and Hollywood, two busy streets. La Brea might look empty for a second but then out of nowhere there’ll be someone turning onto it up at Franklin, speeding like a little demon down the street, and I’ve never been interested in trying to turn right on my red at this corner and hoping not to get hit by one of the La Brea speed demons. This morning though this old woman would honk profusely everytime there was a teeny break in the La Brea traffic because I was supposed to try to speed in front of the oncoming traffic. Maybe if she was driving she could outrace them, she had a BMW, but I have a 2001 Corolla that takes a second to accelerate. But she would not stop honking. I was seriously seeing spots from anger, I thought I was going to have a fucking heart attack. Sometimes I feel like I hate society at large and then I think “nah, life is beautiful,” and then some disgusting bitch like this lady completely shatters my fragile optimism. So to drive her crazy, I rolled down the window and turned up the radio and pretended I was just sitting there enjoying the music while waiting for my light to turn green. She increased her horn honking. Then when the light turned green, I waited for the pedestrians to pass before I made my turn and that about made her break her wrist with how hard she was honking. Finally I turned, she sped in front of me, I flipped her the bird forever and honked and honked at her. This might seem crazy to you but why should people be able to get away with acting like that. Then she got to my right and started mouthing some insult I couldn’t hear because our windows were closed. I reached over to roll down my window (I don’t have automatic windows like her) and screamed “I’m not going to speed to make a red light.” She decided to keep her window rolled up and to all of a sudden switch to “nicely” waving at me, probably thinking it’d drive me crazy to scream without being heard. I switched gears and overly nicely waved back at her when she did this, but then couldn’t help but switch to another “fuck you” and bird flipping before the light changed and we kept our distance from each other on the road.
So, am I myself when I succumb to road rage, or am I giving in to the city’s bad vibes? Really, I think I’m just being myself. I hate injustice, I hate someone owning a car that costs as much as some people’s rent, and I hate anyone who’d be self-centered enough to disregard other people’s safety. Too bad my anger turned into a bad episode of arrhythmia and a flaring up of the frequent pain in my scar tissue, that usually flares up when I get agitated. Who cares. If you're out there, lady, I'm ready for round two.

Friday, September 24, 2010

come to dvd, my pretties!








two of my favorite movies that I keep hoping will be released on dvd are Housekeeping (1987) and Really Rosie and the Nutshell Kids (made for TV, 1975). These are two movies that, as a quirky, assertive girl, are endlessly enjoyable for me, but they also possess amazing charm, both of these films.
Housekeeping, which I own on VHS at least, is based on a beautiful (though admittedly [and beautifully] slow) novel by Marilynne Robinson. I have heard that this book is a cult classic in colleges, with feminist literature major types. I didn't know that when I first read the novel, and honestly, I like to think that me and my friend Jocelyn are the only 2 people in the world who've read this book -- I think the book inspires that sort of feeling, there's a quietness to it that makes it like reading your own secret. Watching the movie first, letting yourself believe the characters are real, and then reading the novel afterwards is a neat experience, because there are extra adventures in the novel, so it's like you're finding out extra clues about the characters. Sylvie, the aunt in the movie, played by an actress who hasn't gotten as many roles as she should have, is Christine Lahti (admittedly, I extra like her because of her tallness). I think my favorite fictional film character (besides Margot Tenenbaum) is Ruthie -- she's just the best. I try to base my fashion sense on Sylvie and my sense of ethics on Ruthie. Until it eventually comes out on dvd, if it ever does, please try to get your hands on it if you still have a VCR.

Really Rosie is a different kind of amazing. It's based on Maurice Sendak stories and characters, features amazing, simple animation, and Rosie is voiced by Carole King, who sings all the songs. I have an illustrated song book for this movie, and had the VHS years ago, but I don't have it anymore, and I want everyone to see it. The best thing about this movie is its lonely end. Rosie is a bossy little girl who lives on a street somewhere like in brooklyn, and she talks her friends into putting on a big show with her -- this is me all over -- I used to ALWAYS try to talk my friends into putting together sometime of show. there are all these amazing songs, and when she's about to get down to the brass tacks of actually executing the show, her friends either get bored or get called inside to dinner, and she's just like "hey, where's everyone going?" and she's left all alone sitting on a stoop, talking to a cat or something. This scene epitomizes loneliness so amazingly. But the other great thing is that Rosie is full of confidence -- there's a song about it that goes "no star shines as bright as me, I'm rooooooosie," but it's obvious that it's the kind of confidence she has to work hard at to make herself believe in. in other words, she's the perfect blend of vulnerable and amazing. There's a DVD called "Where the Wild Things Are and other Maurice Sendak Stories" (2002) that has some of the songs from Really Rosie in it, but it's not the same as watching Really Rosie, because you don't get to enjoy the whole plot when you're just watching bits and pieces.
I highly recommend trying to get your hands on both of these movies, they're two of the best I've ever seen.

xox robin

Thursday, September 23, 2010

xox

back soon... writer's block. in the meantime, check out my new craft website: wearetheleopards.net

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

a story i wrote shortly after my heart surgery

In A Lonely Place
By Robin Crane

When she regained consciousness, Elizabeth’s mind was working, but her body, her mouth, still couldn’t move. She heard her parents, who were standing at the foot of her bed in her room at the ICU, speaking to her. They weren’t speaking of her in the third person, the way two people might be expected to when they think that someone is unconscious, but they also weren’t talking like they thought she could hear them. It was more like they were speaking to her superstitiously, as though this one-sided conversation ensured the definite future of conversations she would soon be able to participate in.

When she finally regained control of her body, the first thing she did was try to speak, even though her parents had left hours ago. It was an effort embarked on solely to hear her own voice, but it wasn’t possible because there was a plastic tube obstructing her throat. Still, she wouldn’t stop trying to say something, and finally the attending nurse snapped at her, “You’re the only patient I’ve had who has been this bad. Stop fidgeting and go to sleep.” So, one of the first thoughts towards another person Elizabeth had after her surgery was “Fuck you. I just got my heart cut open.” This didn’t seem to bode well for life from this point on.

Her parents brought her eyeglasses after day three in the hospital, allowing her to see the images on the TV screen and to henceforth watch TV practically constantly. TV, as always, was like a person who was unconditionally kind to her. The morning she’d gone in for surgery, while in the waiting room, she’d been watching the morning news and had seen a story about a monkey in a zoo that, just out of nowhere, had begun to walk upright. She would remember this serendipitous nudge from me forever.


At night, with only a little bit of the light from the nurse’s station outside her door creeping in, the bluish glow emanating from the screen made her room look like a movie set, and the idea of her being observed by an unseen audience made her feel less catastrophic. There was a Humphrey Bogart movie on one night called “In a Lonely Place,” about a man who is powerless to stop his own violent urges, purposely staying on the fringes of society as a way to protect people from himself, as though he could become possessed by his uglier self at any moment. With an IV full of Valium warming her, the character’s plan of self-exile struck her as the safest, most noble option for survival she’d yet come across in her twenty five years. It suddenly seemed almost worth it having that singular, new scar of hers running down her chest (it would never heal correctly), if it meant she had an excuse to set herself apart from the nice but luckier people who surrounded and loved her.

She left the hospital on a Tuesday afternoon, still wearing the terry cloth hospital slippers and shuffling along the bright, white hallway. The nurse from her first day in the room in the ICU happened to be exiting the elevator as Elizabeth and her father were boarding it, and in passing, Elizabeth looked the woman in the eye, and said, definitely loud enough to be heard, “Bitch.” It was an enormous relief.

I know all this because I am the Goddess and the entity that sees everything all at once and reads your thoughts. I am wonderfully kind and have an empathetic, bottomless sense of humor. I love you all. There is no such thing as hell.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Folk Song

The doc took one look at me and said
“Tell me about your mother”
I said “No sir, but you can tell me about yours
next week or another.”
The pictures in his office gave one the blues
All the mountains and lily ponds in cheerful hues.
The sickness is an epidemic
Please send relief
FEMA send the antidote
For Bored Beyond Belief.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

short story i wrote recently

My Favorite Siblings

Lorena and Iris were gathered around the computer screen, each vying for sole control of the keyboard while trading their opinions of the photos and short bursts of autobiographical information that appeared on the Myspace pages of girls they knew from school. I was sitting at the sticky dining room table nearby, tutoring their younger sister, Maria, and from time to time I looked up from the book we were reading together and I caught glimpses of the images on the computer screen. To me, the teenagers in the pictures looked near identical to the two teenagers with me in the room, and it made me sort of sad, the strong pull of conformity, as well as the instinct in females for comparison, the way Lorena and Iris were comparing themselves and each other to these other young women. But then I corrected myself. For starters, the middle school they attended required them to wear a uniform; you had to wear either a gray polo shirt or sweatshirt, and navy blue pants or skirt. This explained why they looked so similar, I told myself. Still, the girls all wore their hair the same way. They flat-ironed it straight, and parted it dramatically along one side of their faces, their severely straightened bangs halving their blemished foreheads – why make adolescence any more grotesque and lonely than it has to be already?, I asked myself whenever I was struck by the severity and aggressive declaration of aloofness intended by this popular hairstyle.

I had to remind myself, when the girls’ MySpace session was beginning to irritate me, that Lorena and Iris, and each girl whose image they were scrutinizing, was an individual, with a past and a self-awareness and most likely thirsty, undertended, at the mercy of brash actions they had no time to think out beforehand, just acted on. Self righteously, I’d just forgiven all teenaged girls their self-absorption. But in particular, I could forgive Iris and Lorena anything, because they were clever and compassionate and tough, and they did me the kindness of treating me more like one of their own than like a grown up.

I was a single, 30 year old woman, raised an only child.

I think it’s probably abnormal to be this young and so genuinely uninterested in living.

It was the time of day for the ice cream truck to begin its daily routine, its several circles around the block and then its idling in front of the apartment building for up to an hour sometimes, playing its never ending recording, a music-box tinkle robotically humming the melody of the song “Around the World in Eighty Days.”

“Ooh, Sammie, it’s your ice cream stud”, Lorena teased me, “Go say hi.” This teasing was the result of me having glimpsed the teenaged boy who drove the ice cream truck one day, and telling the girls, mostly just to have something relatable to say to them, that I was surprised at how handsome he was. It’s true. He almost looked like Johnny Depp, except he had the cowboy sideburns of Johnny Knoxville. That’s what I said to the girls, thinking that these celebrities were people they would have heard of, but Iris immediately demanded, “Who are they?”

“Go talk to him,” the girls excitedly encouraged. “Pleeeease. We’ll watch from the window. You have to!!!” I usually smoked a bowl in my car before starting my tutoring sessions, so my inhibitions were low as they made this request. “Maria and I were just in the middle of diagramming the plot of Amelia Bedelia,” I weakly protested, but Maria had already closed the book and was giggling, expectantly, knowing her every request was my pleasure and that I was about to step outside to talk to the young ice cream man.

“Okay, dorks, I’ll go out there, but when I get back inside, you need to turn the TV down, or off; I have a headache,” I said, stalling. Then, I walked to the window of the opened metallic shutters of the ice-cream truck, wheat-pasted with bright cardboard pictures of Good Humor ice cream bars, Eskimo Pies, Astro Pops and Moon Pies. I called in to the boy inside, not sounding like a sexual being or like a customer either.

“Hola,” I said, in my white urban twang.

“Hi,” he replied. “I like your earrings, they match your eyes.” I didn’t expect we would actually flirt; I was planning on just pretending for the sake of my onlookers that I was having a conversation with him while actually just standing there looking at the rows of candy like jewels, squishy tamarind suckers like amber wrapped in cellophane and the little dented freezer inside. He surprised me with his sweetness. So much so that I said, “Thank you,” already forgetting he’d complimented me, just thanking him for the attention.

“Are they a gift from a boyfriend”
“Yes.”
“Aw, that’s too bad. Where is he right now?”
“I don’t know, he gave them to me five years ago, and we broke up later that month,” I smiled. “I tutor the littlest girl who lives in the apartment behind us.”
“Oh yeah? So you’re smart, huh. That’s nice, that’s nice.”
“Mmm hmm,” was all I could think to respond with, but I’ve always enjoyed humming that particular phrase of assent. The noises are soothing. Mmm. Hmmm.

The young man stopped the organizing and counting he’d been at while we’d been speaking, and he said, “You want some meth?”

“What? No!” My feelings were hurt, but I wasn’t shocked. I forced myself to believe in Existentialism when I was in college, and now nothing shocks me.

“No,” I reiterated, “Of course not. You don’t sell drugs to little kids, do you?”
I was asking more out of curiosity than outrage, but his expression changed quickly to one of pure hatred. “Of course not. How old are you, though, in your thirties, right? Why else would you come to this truck? You want an Eskimo Pie?” I was speechless.

“What?” he demanded, and I turned around to walk back to the apartment, pretending for the girls that I’d just had a funny conversation with him. I felt so ugly and old and hopeless, at that moment, but then, I heard him addressing my back and what he said was, “I’m sorry, I’m sorry. Lo siento. I think you’re pretty,” and my gratefulness at his graceful ending to our horrific exchange registered immediately on my face, and I think the girls, as they watched me, thought he’d just said something exciting, something flattering in a normal way, like, “See you tomorrow?”

This all transpired a couple weeks earlier, and the girls were now teasing me about him, but looking through the apartment window, I could see that he had been replaced by a much older man.

“He’s not in the truck today, girls. Look, it’s an old man. Hey, what time is it, anyway?” I stayed for sessions of 2 hours. An extra half hour had passed. “I don’t know, “Lorena said. At 14 (the oldest of the sisters) she was constantly angry with her parents, and now she complained of them, “God, they’re always late. But you can go home now if you want; you don’t have to wait for them. It’s okay for me to be in charge.” I didn’t want to leave them, though, and it had nothing to do with believing Lorena incapable of holding down the fort. I was concerned that her parents hadn’t warned me that they were going to be late. Despite Lorena’s complaint about them, they seemed to me prompt and responsible, and it was uncharacteristic of them to not be home by now. But I did leave, reassuring myself first by asking Iris, “Your parents let your Lorena babysit you guys, right?” and she said, “Yeah, it’s fine. Don’t worry about it. Here, you can finish the crackers.” Ever since Maria first asked if I wanted to share her snack with her, Ritz Crackers, I’d been eating them compulsively, trying to sneak them out of their plastic packaging so it wasn’t noticeable how greedy I could be sometimes. “Thanks,” I smiled, only slightly abashed at the immaturity required to eat snacks offered by children. But I loved it, the taste and texture of the buttery crackers dissolving in my mouth.

“Okay, I’m going to leave now, alright? But, like… are you guys scared? I’ll stay until they get home if you’re scared, not that there’s anything to be scared of; I’m sure it’s just traffic” – the husband and wife worked at the same company, an airplane parts manufacturing plant in Westchester, and commuted to work together. I directed this question to Maria, I think because I knew she found my over-solicitousness amusing, but of course it was Lorena, the one in charge, who answered: “Don’t worry, we’re fine.”

By 8:30 that night, I’d already had my third shot of the vodka I kept in the freezer, its bottle frosted like Christmastime windows in old movies. I drank standing at my filthy kitchen counter, in purple underwear and an oversized sweatshirt from my Alma Mater, its cuffs riddled with little holes because I nibble at the fabric of my cuffs during times of nervousness. “Fuck it,” was a phrase I was saying to myself, my toast, before each quick gulp of the cold, bitter syrup.
What was I giving up on, stealing significance from, as I repeated this mantra, “Fuck it”? Fuck what? Well, I meant it as an undercutting of my existence. Because I am an insignificant person, with no proof to the contrary. So, “Fuck it,” and I swallowed a 4th shot.

Who do I consider significant? People who do something passionately enough to make them famous, and mothers, mothers like lionesses, martyrs more real than Christ.

The phone rang, and it was Maria. “Maria? It’s 9:30. Are you allowed to be up this late? I don’t want you to get in trouble.”
She was crying. “My parents didn’t come home yet, Ms. Samantha. What do I do?”

“Shit!” I said, and she giggled at the swearword, against her better judgment in light of the serious situation. “And also, Iris got mad at Lorena for bossing us, so she left. I think she went to her boyfriend’s place but we can’t call her because she left her phone here.” Then Lorena must have taken the phone from her hands, and now I was asking Lorena, “What’s happening there? Where are they? Do you think Iris is going to come back tonight?”

“I don’t know. How’m I supposed to know? Shit!” She yelled it so loudly I imagined passersby outside (one thing I loved so much about their neighborhood was the way people were always walking around, just strolling on the sidewalk or sitting in groups on steps, like I imagine neighborhoods used to be in some other, better decade) hearing her and wondering what was wrong.

Lorena’s sobs were so quiet they just sounded like deep breaths. I heard Maria, who I secretly considered my best friend, cooing, “It’s okay, LoLo, it’s okay, Pretty." Then Maria took the phone back from Lorena. “Hi,” she said. “Hi,” I responded. “Is there anyone you can think of to go over and get help from?” The neighborhood was one in which most people were acquainted with each other; the elementary school was catty-corner to the residential block, and almost every apartment held a child who attended that school. I was just an outsider in that world but I sensed a network of camaraderie between the parents of those children and I imagined there were neighbors who’d be better able to help the girls than I was. The problem was, and I’d observed enough interactions between Maria and other neighborhood kids to know this, she seemed to harbor a vague sense of rivalry towards each household on the block. Once, a girl her age knocked on the front door, and after some deliberation, Maria opened the door a few inches. “What is it?” she demanded of the girl, who was craning her neck to get a look at me. Her face registered a fascination with who I might be, and then she looked around, took in the whole room, the huge framed poster of a jaguar hanging over the comfortable rust-colored couch, the family photos arranged on top of the television, the stack of DVD’s in the corner of the room.

“What do you want?” Maria asked of the girl, almost wearily, as though the girl was out to drain Maria of what little energy she possessed (she was lethargic and mysterious, my little friend).

“Can I borrow your Finding Nemo DVD?”
“No.”
“Come on,” the girl whined, “Why not?”
“Because it’s not mine,” Maria snapped, and then she closed the door in the girl’s face and came back to sit next to me, telepathically asking me to leave the subject be, but I couldn’t help myself, I asked her, “Why were you so mean? She seemed like she really wants to be friends with you.”
Like a spurned lover in a sitcom, Maria answered, “She knows why.”
I persisted, because Maria was so considerate to me and her family, it was hard to adjust to this new harshness in her. “Well Jeez-Louise, you didn’t have to be so mean to her. Was she mean to you once?”
“No, not really.”
“Well then why did you just slam the door in her face?”
“Okay, she’s nice outside of school, but in class, she’s a brat.”


Since then, I’d seen her snub adults and other kids her own age, always in the same precociously guarded way, and so I wasn’t surprised when Maria now told me “Nobody here can help us.”
“Do you want me to come over?”
“Yes!”

I was slightly drunk as I drove there, and I know that is bad, but it is what I did.

When I arrived at their apartment building, my headlights danced across the familiar face of Iris, temporarily stunned by the light and in disbelief that I was there. She was sitting on a stoop the next apartment building over, with a group of teenagers. None of them were speaking, they were just psychically sharing their boredom or maybe their stoned, far-reaching thoughts, and watching the neighborhood dogs and cats scale roofs and fences like nonchalant acrobats.
“Samantha?” Iris ran to me as I got out of the car, and for the regard she held me in at the moment, I wish I could pay her a hundred dollars or make her immortal, I felt just that validated.

We separated from the group and she grabbed my hands. “Lorena’s being such a bitch. She keeps saying mom and dad are dead, like that they got in an accident. Something weird must’ve just happened at the factory, like a bomb scare and they’re still sitting outside, waiting for their bosses to tell them that they can go home. But Lorena’s running around the apartment making Maria cry. And then she called her gay-ass girlfriend over to comfort her, and when I bitched her out to leave, she grabbed my arm with her busted-ass manicure and made my arm bleed.” On a different day I would have appreciated having the mystery of tough, secretive Lorena’s sexual orientation revealed to me, but now it didn’t matter.

“Let me see your arm where she scratched you,” I said, and she held out her arm but it was a plane of completely unharmed skin. We made eye contact and she just shrugged. She started to cry. We entered the apartment. Lorena and Maria were leaning against each other on the couch, watching TV.

Maria was awful at reading comprehension, the subject I was tutoring her in. Whenever I brought a book for us to study, I did an exercise in which, before we actually read the book, we looked at the illustrations on each page, and based on what the picture showed, she predicted how the plot was going to develop, and then we turned the page to see what the next picture showed. Without fail, her guesses at a logical course of events was always incredibly off the mark. We read one book where a postman delivers mail to different fairy tale characters, stopping to chat with each character before moving on to the next. The postman climbed up a beanstalk to bring the giant who lived above the clouds a letter from his tiny antagonist, Jack, and the giant poured the postman a huge mug of tea as a gesture of kindness; the postman then trekked to the house of Cinderella’s bitter stepfamily, delivering a wedding invitation for the wedding of Cinderella to Prince Charming, and the women tried to engage him in a conversation about their resentment regarding Cinderella’s good luck; next, he brought three kind, rural bears a letter of apology from Goldilocks, and the bears invited him to stay for dinner. When he delivered a catalogue for witch supplies to the witch from Hansel and Gretel, I asked Maria, “What do you think is going to happen next?”

“I think the witch is going to get mad at him for bothering her, and as punishment, she’s going to put a curse on him to take his voice away, like the witch does to Ariel in The Little Mermaid.”

I used to let her failure at reading comprehension frustrate me. I use to get irritated that she had such little regard for, or maybe it was an understanding of, plot, of how events are most likely to shake out. Of course the smug, paranoid, house-proud pig who builds his house out of bricks will be prepared when the inevitable predator finally arrives at the door. Of course everything will work out in the end for Snow White, while karma catches up with her stepmother, the wicked woman who suffers from debilitating vanity. Maria had no interest in outcomes. Whenever I asked her to define “reading comprehension” for me, which I did at least once at the beginning and end of each tutoring session, she had a different wrong answer, from “Um…a poem?” to “The pictures in the story.” After four or five sessions of trying hard to teach her, though, I became charmed at the way she always included me, my favorite animal, my favorite color, in the writing exercises I gave her. Once I asked her to write a five sentence story with a cohesive beginning, middle and end, and this is what she wrote: “Once upon a time there was a girl named Ms. Samantha. She visited a girl named Maria twice a week. Maria was ten years old. Ms. Samantha was pretty and funny. Sometimes she got confused, and when she did they both thought it was funny and laughed.” I could have taught her about using pronouns carefully, but I loved the way I couldn’t tell from the story whether she was saying that Ms. Samantha got confused, or whether it was the little girl who had the fits of funny confusion. Gradually, we began speaking to each other as peers, in a pidgin language of simple words and roundabout summaries for serious problems. Once, when Lorena absentmindedly pushed her sleeves up, Maria and I simultaneously noticed a maze of cuts that Lorena kept hidden under the cuff of her long sleeves. “I think my sister’s pretty sad, or mad or something,” Maria whispered once Lorena’d closed her bedroom door behind her.
“I think you’re right,” I said.
“I hope she stops hurting her arm.”
“Me too. If she doesn’t and you feel like talking to me about it, maybe I can help. Maybe I can ask her to stop, or ask her what’s wrong.”

“Thanks,” she said, handing me a Gummi Bear. She wore her hair in a Pageboy cut her mom trimmed every month or so. Sometimes when I was teasing her about something, I tousled her hair, and it was so soft it felt like touching mist. She liked to have the images that decorated her clothing commented on; if she was wearing her t-shirt that advertised a summer camp called Wood Valley (she hadn’t been to the camp, but had chosen the shirt at the Goodwill), for instance, I’d say I liked the eagle that was depicted on the shirt’s design, or the waterfall, and a comment like this would make her smile and talk about how much she liked eagles or waterfalls. Now, as we waited for her parents to come home, she sat next to me on the couch in a matching pajama top and pants with a repeating pattern of ladybugs, and I said, “I love ladybugs,” and she said, “Me too. One time a real ladybug landed on me when I was wearing this shirt.” She was crying though. So were Lorena and Iris. “Who should I call, you guys?” I asked. My chest felt tight with panic, but I was also still drunk, and my thoughts were muddied. I didn’t think about calling the police or any of the girls’ relatives. Lorena said she just wanted to watch TV, so that was what we did.

“Will you stay tonight, until they get home?” Maria asked.

“Of course I’ll stay. I’ll stay as long as you guys want.” I flipped through the channels and settled on Nickelodeon. Something awful was surely going on. I was in the midst of a tragedy, probably. But I couldn’t help it, it felt good, to finally be a significant person.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Horror Movie















This is a zine I did a few years ago. Click on the image to make it bigger if you're having a hard time reading it. love, princess robin

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Los Angeles to Philly, A Whiter Shade of Pale

I lived in Philadelphia for a couple years recently and I still don’t know what to make of the experience. An important piece of information to back up how “what just happened?” I still am about having lived there is the fact that neither Geof nor myself ever visited Philly before we moved there. I used to take the Greyhound and Amtrak around the country a lot, and on one of those trips, I guess it must have been on the bus, I woke up at sunrise just as we were passing through a rural part of Pennsylvania, and it was breathtakingly beautiful, so for a few years after that I used to often say I was going to move to PA. I don’t think I really meant it, I just like to say things just to say them sometimes, to keep the conversation lively or whatever, but in any event, I think me telling people I was going to live in PA someday was a self-fulfilling prophecy.

Anyway, I don’t even know where to start, trying to distill my Philly experience, but I think I’ll just go with the main, possibly bad, habit I picked up from living there, and that is the ability (or in any event, the interest) in distinguishing the cultural roots of white people. As a white person, I’m not sure how important I think my own cultural identity is (I love playing up my Jewish side, but that’s mostly because I love Woody Allen, Sarah Silverman, Yiddish, etc. so much); this is probably a result of my white guilt. Anyway, before I lived in Philly, a white person’s last name was just a proper noun, I’d never sit around and think “Paul Rudd…. Hmmm, Rudd? Rudd? Where’s that from?” and now it’s like a pet interest of mine to know the origin of people’s last names, not to act out on the information or anything (duh), just to know. Last week, I correctly identified an Eastern European Ellis Island bastardization of the last name of a new acquaintance, and on a regular basis, when I meet a new white person, I mentally try to identify whether their last name is German-originated, or Ellis Island Italian, or what. I picked this white cultural roots need-to-know in the east coast and can’t unlearn it. See in the east coast in general I think, and definitely in Philly, the neighborhoods are split: Irish-,Polish-, or Italian-American, primarily (in Philly), and it’s been that way for a long time, so it’s a big part of that city’s history. It’d be ridiculous to write an article about Fishtown (a town next to where I lived) without mentioning its primarily Irish-American population, for example, because that is a huge part of that town’s identity. Yes there’s a primarily Puerto-Rican barber shop there, and an Italian restaurant perhaps, but it’s still the place where Irish immigrants settled when they were moving to the U.S., and that’s that. Meanwhile, in L.A., I think a lot of the residents, or at least the white residents, aren’t Los Angeles natives. My dad said the idea of “splitting for the coast” was always around when he’s a hippie, and it’s still sort of like that, so it’s not like “Oh, how long has your family lived in Azusa (one of many towns w/in L.A. County)?” It’s more like, “Oh, you’re from Indiana.”

My married name is a common Polish one, and hardly anyone in L.A.’s ever heard of it (unless you live in my Eastern-European-heavy neighborhood in Hollywood), but in Philly, my last name immediately identified me as belonging in the Polish category, & often, people either did me immediate favors or rudenesses, depending on their love or hate of the Poles.

One doctor in Philly asked me where my ancestors were from, and I said that I think my paternal grandparents roots’ are both Estonian, or Eastern European in some sense, my mom’s mom English, my mom’s dad Sicilian … and this doctor said “Wow, you’re a mutt!” That blew my mind. I’m used to Los Angeles mixtures --- Pilipino&African-American babies, Hispanic&Jewish couples, etc. White is sort of still just white to me, though after having white backgrounds always brought to attention in Philly, I did notice what are either cultural tendencies or just stereotypes of these various types of white people, and it’s interesting from a sociological standpoint, though it’s likely cluttered my brain with more reasons not to trust humanity in general, as if I needed any more reasons, with this suspicious brain of mine. Ha! Xo princess robin

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

success in a handbasket

There’s an old adage, probably at least 20 years old, that, roughly quoted (from a song by the Smiths), goes: “I was looking for a job and then I got a job, and heaven knows I’m miserable now.” I bring this up because I’m used to complaining about having too much time on my hands, and I just started a perfectly fine (in the future, I foresee thinking it’s even great) job, so if you are unfortunate enough to be in earshot of me this week, you will probably hear me complain about being overwhelmed instead of the recent common complaint of unerwhelment. If it’s not one thing, it’s another, with some people (me!).

Anyway, I was thinking about free time. Do only single people and Buddhists enjoy free time? Single people spend their free time doing all these great activities where they might just run into someone to fall in love with (dj’d pool parties on the roof of The Standard, artwalks in Chinatown, blah blah blah), and Buddhists know how to chill out: with their free time, they draw out all the daily rituals and relish in the simple acts of doing them…. Brushing teeth could become mind blowing and take an hour …. Laundry can be done while simultaneously chanting under one’s breath, etc. I have no Idea what ambitious single people and Buddhists do with their time but this is life as I imagine it for them. Who else might enjoy having lots of free time? Drug addicts? Cats? Loafers? Obsessed athletes? I dunno. I’ve never known what to do with too much free time, myself. Not including living things, writing is what’s most important to me, but I have a strong love/hate relationship with it. I don’t like talking about writing, and often, I don’t like writing – it’s physically painful to me, often. It’s so frustrating to have an idea and to try to translate it effectively into words, it gives me physical pain when I’m in the midst of trying to write a story and failing at it. Also, I almost never write. I write in short, quick bursts, usually, and when I’m done, I usually only edit for grammatical errors, not for content. So, maybe I can’t legitimately call myself a writer, maybe just a fiction-lover. Anyway, whenever I’ve had long stretches of unemployment, like the one I just wrapped up last week, I always kick myself for not taking advantage of the time to write. But I only get inspired when I’m out in the world a lot, and when I have free time without free money to accompany it, I’m not likely to go out in the world more than necessary. I wrote my first novella on scraps of paper I kept in my pocket when I was a janitor, and the novel I just finished writing was written in my car during lunch breaks from a job that made me cry all the time. Sitting in my apartment watching all the Harry Potters in order, in a row, at least once a week, for at least 2 years, didn’t provide much life-based fodder for short stories. I did part time tutoring in English Language Arts with children from underserved communities during the last 6 months of my CA unemployment period (so I guess I wasn’t actually unemployed during that time, but I’m pretty sure I lost money on that ‘job.’ But the time spent with the children I tutored was, while a bit heartbreaking because it was so easy to get emotionally attached to them and I had only a limited amount of hours to spend with each of them, such a relief to me because it was something productive for me to do with my time. I realize that at least the past couple months have been spent watching movies (like I say, many of these movies were Harry Potter) and crocheting, with some IM’ing and the occasional face to face socializing thrown in.

So, am I a workaholic? No. Am I lazy (meaning, could I have spent all my recent months free time training for a marathon or writing more?)? – sort of, yes. I don’t know why free time makes me as anxious as it does. I know I’ve always relished being the passenger in car trips, and I think the two are related – being a passenger and being bad at enjoying spare time. Maybe I just genuinely enjoy watching movies and crocheting and it’s not as dumb a pastime as it sounds to me.

Maybe I just need to have a full-time job like I just got to force me to interact with the world at large. The whole issue of having had too much time on my hands vs. feeling overwhelmed now (but so relieved to be having a regular paycheck soon) makes me consider the meaning of life in the modern world. What is one supposed to do with a life. A person lives their life and has experiences and learns lessons whether they choose to or not, just by dint of being alive. But, you know, there’s the popular bumper sticker that reads “Follow Your Bliss.” What do the people with those bumper stickers on their cars do with their spare time, or for a career? Do they procreate and take bike rides on the weekend and own their own bakeries or what? What is “success”?

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Hollywood Forever?

In case you've never been to the touristy part of Hollywood Blvd., which I live a couple blocks from, there's been a growing phenomenon the past few years: people who I can only assume are incredibly poor & in some cases homeless dress up like characters and stand in front of Grauman's Chinese Theatre. Visiting yokels take pictures posed with these characters and then usually understand that they're expected to pay a little something to the person in the costume (like a dollar). Sometimes these characters are a bit of a nuisance, but I'm sure that dressing up like Elmo for dollars on a 90 degree day, as a creative way of panhandling, is probably sort of a nuisance to the costumed people. anyway, here's what recently happened, in this fair city of HOllywood:

http://www.ktla.com/news/landing/ktla-hollywood-characters,0,2280392.story

okay, i always expected there to be a big sweep that'd get rid of the characters in front of the theatre. that in itself wouldn't irk me so much. but here's what local government-sanctioned eyesore takes up the space where they used to panhandle:



oh shit, what happened, is everyone okay?, i thought, the first time i passed by this corporate sculpture, which is in fact some piece of shit corporate stunt to promote King Kong (I guess there's going to be a new one?). And then when i realized that it was just a tourist attraction, i thought wow, how clever. Not really, though. I think it's so fucking crass. Why is a deadly looking fake car crash an okay tourist attraction? and why is it okay to squeeze poor people out of every area they manage to get some small claim on, like the characters who made a few bucks in front of the theater?

it's so, so lame and gross. i hate it.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

A Little Bit of This, A Little Bit of That

Hmmm, so nobody's very interested in reading my novel in serialized form in the blog format, it seems. Duly noted, and that's okay.

What've I been thinking about lately?

The Lakers Riot that we had here in Los Angeles, the celebratory riot in downtown, got me thinking about human nature & class issues. I was unfairly attacked when I was a teenager, by a mob of people, so my gut reaction is to be upset by groups of people giving in to mob mentality. while I've increasingly come to appreciate the spirit of anarchy, I still have mixed feelings about the Rodney King Riots. It was just so unfair that Reginald Denny got beaten up so bad, it seemed like such a misdirection of anger. But then, his beating was no worse than the beating King'd received from cops who were allowed to get away with it. My husband is usually pro-riot, so I've thought about the good sides of that riot of the nineties, and I do think that it was the result of a bunch of disenfranchised people not being able to control their rage, it released some of that rage. Maybe in the long run, that riot was useful? I'm still not sure.

The Lakers celebration riot was not political like the King riots. or was it? I think a lot of people are upset by how shitty their jobs are and healthcare and unemployment, etc., so when my husband said he thought the riots were sort of cool in a way, I thought about it and thought that it was possibly just another necessary release of people's rage. I hope the rioters didn't hurt anyone and that the property they did damage to was to cars too expensive to exist (I CAN'T STAND that some cars cost more than houses), or to Bank of America or one of the fancy new lofts in downtown that's standing where homeless people's homes used to be (where the fuck are homeless people supposed to live, when even Downtown Los Angeles's Skid Row has been gentrified?). At the same time I constantly wonder if violence can ever truly be productive.


The other thing I have been thinking about is self esteem, because when i recently posted on FB about burning my neck with a curling iron because I was feeling down on my frizzy hair and was trying to tame it, I got a lot of sweet and concerned responses, some of them including advice about frizzy hair management. The fact of how quick the responses came and how sweet they were made me think about self esteem, made me wonder how many people my age still have self esteem issues regarding their looks, and also made me wonder if my hair looks worse than i thought it did - HA!
xoxo Robin

Thursday, June 10, 2010

only child syndrome


I think I might be a textbook case of an only child born of interesting parents and raised in los angeles: i was lonely, did stuff for attention, and much of the stuff done for attention involved art projects featuring dolls (my best friends!). anyway, this particular photo must've fallen out of one of my oldest photo albums last night, when i was scanning some old photos of friends to put up on Facebook. i just found it on the desk this morning and it seemed a bit like magic. two of these dolls were ken dolls i turned into trannies, & the girl dolls were unique in their own right. i brought them to school often, when i was in 7th grade, & me & my "weird" clique of friends played with them at lunch. definitely a sweet bunch of kids who wanted it known that we weren't just anyone, that we were unique. the two tackle fish that the african-american barbie is holding were named alfred and zappa, as my scrupulous teenage documentation states: these were two tackle fish i tied to the end of a scarf i wore on my head almost every day of 7th grade (the scarf is the blue fabric with the gold stars and moons on it that is the backdrop in this photo). the scarf was kind of gypsy-looking and i also wore a lot of jewelry and heavy metal t-shirts with long skirts, so i called myself a Metal Gypsy. Anyway, this photo is pretty funny, only-child's-tranny-dolls'-family-portrait-wise. i documented so much of my childhood as neatly as this photo shows because i always wanted to be famous, & i think a lot of people with the fame desire document their lives this much, to be able to provide good artifacts for all the documentaries that will be made about us someday or something, i think.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

pessimism poem

The ones who want kids will be sterile
and the ones who don't care will be breedy
and like Michael Moore recently theorized
student loans keep employees acting needy
and cancer's a little more cancerous
at County Hospital than at Cedars Sinai
and sometimes when the cookie jar's empty
all you can do is just sigh.

Friday, May 28, 2010

renting movies from the library

admittedly, i've been too much of a couch potato this last century as a mostly unemployed young woman. that's a story for another day. but in any event, it's long been my goal to see as many films as possible -- isn't it weird how many movies there are? how many millions of dollars that get spent on straight to video b-movies, even? i'm not being critical here, i really do think the film industry is a marvel.

in any event, i'll tell you right now, in this hardcore film watching year of mine, i've developed a problem: the Harry Potter films. i'm addicted to them. as i write this, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone plays in the background, and it's actually a calculated decision on my part: i keep our less popular dvd's in a drawer, & the more popular ones on shelves, and i'm currently letting myself watch each Harry Potter movie one last time before banishing it to the drawer.

anyway, i just started renting movies from the library down the street. some people's local libraries charge for dvd's but not mine (though if you want to buy drugs or hook up with a male prostitute, which you can also do at this library, at the front entrance before the library opens, it'll cost you plenty). you are aloud to rent 3 movies per genre: for kids movies or grownup fiction movies, you can rent the movie for 2 days. for documentaries, they're presumed boring enough to be in little demand, and you can therefore keep them for 7 days. most of them are russian language though, but i did have some good documentary finds: all the michael moore movies (don't bother arguing with me if you hate him, because i don't want to hear it), and a good one about hunter thompson called "Gonzo."

for the most part, the dvd's offered are slim pickings, because they're donated, i think. This is how and why i recently ended up re-watching the Back to the Future trilogy, or finally giving in to watching Jerry McGuire. i've ended up watching some movies i never would have seen otherwise. recently, i watched the original Towering Inferno (which geof's dad is in, as a stuntman). it was pretty good -- the ruggedly handsome steve mcqueen looks awful in comparison to paul newman ... i think they were both in their fifties in that movie. anyway, the movie Poseidon has the same plot as Towering Inferno except on a yacht, and even though the library carries the original Poseidon, I opted for the early 2000's remake, starring Kurt Russell. What, i watched these movies? yes.

i have always hated Disney movies, even when i was a cute little youngin, but i rented the old animated disney version of Alice in Wonderland, and boy does that movie suck! all this weird shit happens to her, and it's kind of neat and pretty, but then right when things are about to get interesting, she wakes up and her private tutor says something like, 'Oh Alice, what am i going to do with you? you've been napping this whole time!' The end. what the fuck?

geof and i made a deal that i would watch the 3 original Star Wars (i never had) if he'd read Slaughterhouse 5 (my bible), and i was able to rent 2 of the 3 Star Wars from the library, so that was helpful. i had to watch the first one for an undergrad film class and was the only student who hadn't seen it before, and i never saw the other 2 -- I'm glad I finally saw them. I wish I liked them when I was a kid because Princess Leia is a really strong female character: she's smart, compassionate, strong and an anarchist and i would have loved loved loved her when i was a little girl. instead, i only loved that weird Ewok movie/Star Wars spin-off, with those blonde siblings in it that dress the way people dress in Malibu in my imagination, taupe linen shifts and braided headbands, etc.

Today from the library I rented: Mouse Hunt (kids movie with Nathan Lane's voice), The Muppet Movie (which kicks almost as much ass as Follow that Bird), Flyboys (i'm powerless against movies with james franco in them), and Bulworth. I lose my temper on a regular basis with strangers who try to take advantage of me or do a half-assed job on medical procedures, which unfortunately happens often in the hustling bustling city of Los Angeles, but other than that, i try to keep my feelings reigned in, which is hard for a tempestuous, passionate, some may say crazy girl like me. in any event, when something makes me extremely happy or sad in a movie or book, days worth of passionate disappointment or bliss get unleashed and I cry like crazy (my poor dad and stepmom had to stand around the theatre lobby like 'uh, should we go check on her?' recently when we all went to see Slumdog Millionaire and i excused myself to the restroom to cry uncontrollable rapturous tears for a half hour). I saw Bulworth when it came out, and it might not seem like it'd be a good movie, but it's really excellent. but it made me too emotional to want to see it again. Anyway, that's what i just finished watching, and the ending hasn't change since the last time i saw it, so i just finished crying. hmmm, what should i do with myself now?, i thought. while i take care of my Harry Potter-watching project, that is. So here we are. good night. xox princess robin

Monday, May 24, 2010

Musical Therapy Part II

There've been a couple misunderstanding of lyrics that always seemed poignant to me. The uk surf version of The Pixies "Wave of Mutilation" was one of me and my mom's shared favorite songs when I was a teenager. One lyric goes:

I've kissed mermaids
Rode the El Nino


but my mom always misheard the lyrics as

I've kissed her legs

and once she told me she loved that line because it was so tender.

When I was heartbroken once in college, sad Otis Redding songs were all I wanted to listen to, and similarly, the lines I misheard were also my favorite lines. There's one verse that goes:

Honey, I saw you there last night
With another man's arms holding you tight
Nobody knows what I feel inside
All I know is I walked away and cried


and I always love the last line of that verse, which I thought was All I know is I want the way you cried.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Musical Therapy

in 2004 i had open heart surgery. in the long run it was a success, but in the immediate post-op aftermath, my cardiologist, Dr. Dumbfuck (which in English translates to Fatally Incompetent), didn't actually look at any of the echocardiograms he had me wait hours to take, 3 days in a row, and so nobody knew my heart sac was filling up with blood, until my heart almost stopped working one day, and this time when i went back into the hospital, i guess the insurance company weighed the risks of making me leave again asap, and this time they took care of me until my heart was healed. i lived.

in 2005 i had a nervous breakdown, but i'm too sarcastic to ever go fully crazy, so while i was a bit incapable of taking care of myself, i wasn't fully incapable, and therefore i was a day-patient (I didn't have to live at the facility, i could go home at night, not that i wanted to) for 3 weeks at a rehab/mental health facility. the famous one wc fields went to.

we had music therapy on fridays. the woman who facilitated the class looked like a ballerina and was nice and calming. she let people play songs that they related to, as a form of therapy. my closest friend at the institution was, unless he was bullshitting, raised by his grandpa in a cult, had been in Desert Storm, and was an ex-cop. he was on twice the normal dosage of whatever it was he was on, and the side effect was that he basically had amnesia. even though he looked like a jock and i always try to look like a sloppy ne'er do well, he seemed to be sweet on me, he'd get me soda refills at lunch and stuff like that. but he forgot me and got reacquainted with me every day, liking me more on some days than others. One Music Therapy class, the facilitator let him put on one of his songs, and it was Marilyn Manson's "The Beautiful People." Here are some of the lyrics:

The beautiful people, the beautiful people
It's all relative to the size of your steeple
You can't see the forest for the trees
You can't smell your own shit on your knees

There's no time to discriminate,
Hate every motherfucker
That's in your way


Oh god, it was so funny to see the pretty ballerina smile and close her eyes and nod her head along with the music. "Okay, that was really interesting, very expressive," she said, when the song was over. A middle aged women who was normally really quiet said "I liked it. It reminded me of the rock music we used to listen to when I was younger."

Every song that played during these sessions yielded such fascinating reactions. The Eagles "Desperado" made a lot of us cry. it's really a beautiful song, tacky as it is. I love these lines:

Now it seems to me, some fine things
Have been laid upon your table.
But you only want the ones
That you can't get.

Desperado,
Ohhhh you aint getting no younger.
Your pain and your hunger,
They're driving you home.


When it was finally my turn to play a song, I chose Elliot Smith's No Name #3. I love the chorus:

a good old fashioned fight
so come on night
everyone is gone
home to oblivion
home to oblivion
home to oblivion


But my friend with the amnesia and the history of falling victim to brutal institutions (a christian cult, the army, the police force), he put on the wrong song. He put on No Name #4, which goes like this:

For a change she got out before he hurt her bad
Took her records and clothes
And pictures of her boy
It really made her sad
Packed it up and didn't look back
I'm okay lets just forget about him
The car was cold and it smelled like old cigarettes and pine
In her bag I saw things she drew when she was mine
Like this one here
Her alone nobody near
What a shame lets just not talk about it
No it doesn't look like you
But you did wear cowboy boots
That's your fame
There's no question about it
Once we got back inside
With one ear to the ground
I was ready to hide
'cos I don't know who's around
and you look scared
it's our secret do not tell okay?
Let's just not talk about it
Don't tell okay?
Let's just forget all about it.


This song sounds to me, obviously, like it's about an abusive relationship. "That was a very pretty song, Robin," the ballerina said, "Are the lyrics significant to you in any way? do they remind you of something that's happened in your own life?" The empathetic therapist thought I'd been in an abusive relationship, and i didn't want to embarrass anyone by admitting that it was the wrong song. I told her, "uh, i've never really listened to the lyrics. i just like how it sounds."

the music therapy class would never hear my own real song choice, the song about going home to oblivion.

it was a strange 3 weeks. most of the people in my group therapy sessions were on the make. we were in a nice, warm waiting room of our real lives, but recovering from psychic incapacitation takes too long and is too sad.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

odds & ends





despite all the neat clothes, books, jewelry etc i've sold, given away or just left behind, these are 4 postcards i've managed to hang on to for over 10 years. xo