Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Nostalgia



I’ve long had this wish that it’d be possible to live inside the ground zero of nostalgia.  This is more of a daydream, along the lines of sci-fi and the idea of teleportation.  My more realistic version of trying to embody the bittersweet peter pan root of nostalgia is to imagine training myself to adapt my thinking to nostalgia, the way Buddhists train themselves to be zen or recovering alcoholics train themselves to be sober.  That’s what December is like for me.  I know that Christmas Day is at its most basic a few hours of exchanging gifts, a few hours of cleaning up afterwards, a couple hours of appreciating the gifts and then a festive dish for dinner; that is at least the make-up of my Christmas days.  There is no getting around the fact that Christmas ends.  Nonetheless, every December I plan which Christmas light displays we’re going to drive to and marvel at and which Christmas movies feel the most special to me and will be watched a million times all month.  When I’m looking at the beautiful light display on some house, or hearing those little asshole Peanuts kids finally yell “Merry Christmas, Charlie Brown,” making everything better, I wish to myself that there’d be some way to make the sentimentality last forever.  But there isn’t.  Also, nostalgia is a regressive state, and counter-productive to the present and even the future.  Still, I can’t help but wishing, just illogically, regressively wishing, time would freeze in the month of December, when most offices just let their co-workers fuck around all month, when neighborhoods are lovely with colored lights and animatronic reindeer, when I can still hope that the gifts I give are going to transform a life instead of ending up one more item to find a place for or maybe even to add to someone’s clutter.  I wish I could bring my son and husband with me into a state of matter comprised of childish abandon, that we could somehow comprise the delicate very filament of a Christmas light. 

Monday, December 22, 2014

holly jolly gloom

Santa Prayer

Santa hovered close and said,
“Why all the flies around your head?
Why all the thumbtacks ‘round your bed?

Your wishlist said you want a pony.”

“I got candy stuck among my hair
They pull it free and pluck me bare
The tacks are so intruders spare

This sparse and lonely thing.

The pony – so glad you got my list!
I prayed so hard I split my lip.
Is Snowflake waiting outside for me?

Or, maybe I’ll name her Cinnamon.” 




Wednesday, December 3, 2014

I Was a Kid Once



When I was a kindergartner, I went to a private Christian school in Koreatown, called “Pilgrim.”  Strangely, I currently work four block away from this building of nostalgia and terror.  

A little background:  I never had enough to eat in my packed lunches, but I was too shy to tell my dad.  Instead, I became what other kids called a “Beggar.”  Nerds candies were sold at the student store, and as a big handful of Nerds is bound to spill over a little, I picked up the extras from the ground:  I actually roamed the blacktop looking for stray Nerds to eat.  I also regularly snuck into the classroom at recess and lunch, to steal, mostly food, but also some decorative erasers and such. 

Also, for the most part, my few friends were boys, because I was always like “Look at my underwear!” all the time, and what boy in their right mind is going to be like “I want to avoid being friends with the girl who  shows me her underwear.” 

To recap, I was hungry, sneaky and harmlessly pre-promiscuous. 

Perhaps this is besides the point.  I’m really here today to discuss my love of annotating my yearbook. 

I liked to put frowny faces or mean comments next to people who I didn’t like.  Sometimes, if it was a picture of a friend or acquaintance, I’d be all, “I Know Her!”  Also, I was pretty evenly bisexual at the time (being in actuality pre-sexual, but with crushes), so there are a lot of hearts drawn around boys’ AND girls’ photos.   

I’m guessing that some of you share some of my experiences and preferences from this age, or at least the habit of editorializing.

Without further ado:



I don't know if you can see the heart I drew around the face of the blonde cheerleader in the middle of the page.  I had a crush on her -- my god, just look at her .... the perfect blend of new wave and pep-squad style ... but I also really appreciated her protection of me.  I was by far and away the most unpopular Kindergartener and 1st grader (I left this christian shit-hole in the dust after 2 years).  This cheerleader must have had a sister in my class or something (the school was K through 12) because she came to our playground sometimes, and was a gracious young woman who went out of her way to treat me well.                        

close up



Well, if I weren't the kind of lonesome kid who ate Nerds off the ground, I would have ended this post on a high note, with the anecdote about the Saint Theresa-like cheerleader.  But I am a lonesome kid.  Was, am, always will be.  

So I leave you with this photo of some little assholes with very much warranted frowny faces drawn next to their photos.  And in case you can't quite see, here is a close up of these snobby ne'er do wells:


Let's hope you little terrors have learned a little noblesse oblige.




Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Who Would Win in a Fight?

Jeff Goldblum, 1985


Hello Dear Readers,

I've been on Sweetheart Redux hiatus lately, my attention having been called away from by me Tumblr blog God Is Dead.

I don't actually know if I'm doing Tumblr right or whatevs but assuming I am, the Tumblr project is a nice way to quickly show off little treasures that don't usually see the light of day, so far -- "found" photos that friends and my mom have given to me over the years, knowing that I collect them.  Mostly, these have been bought at thrift stores and flea markets, I think.  For a while, I used to feel uneasy when I'd think about this collection of old photos, because I have a lot of them, and they are such lovely historical artifacts but at the same time, they just add to a general sense of secondhand clutter that I carry around with me from place to place.  So it's a relief to be actually getting some use out of the photos.

I'm back on good old sweetheart redux this morning, however, to share a gem that I found on an old disc this morning.  I was looking for something I worked on in grad school, and instead I stumbled on this useful list, penned in October 2009.  I was unemployed at the time, so there's that. 


Who Would Win in a Fight?


1. Robin Williams  VS.   Steve Martin

2. Bill Cosby  VS.  Robert Deniro

3. Snoop Dog  VS.  Osama Bin Laden

4. George Clooney  VS.  Owen Wilson

5.  Jeff Goldbloom  VS.  Mel Gibson

6. Michael Jordon  VS. Michael Phelps

7. Martha Stewart  VS.  Rachel Rey

8. Sean Penn  VS.  John Travolta

9. David Letterman  VS.  Kareem Abdul Jabar

10. Seth Rogan  VS.  Lars Ulrich

11. Dakota Fanning  VS.  Ashley Olson

12. John Cusak  VS.  Samuel L. Jackson

13. Jude Law  VS.  James Franco


Lars Ulrich



Monday, November 10, 2014

Earthquakes Music Video






When I was a morose and pained teenager (as teenagers are), I was in a feminist punk band called Foxfire.  It was a pretty big part of my existence.  

Tamra Lucid  from the band Lucid Nation (our guardian angels who were always letting us share their equipment and promoting us through word of mouth) just finished emailing me a few mp3's she'd been able to create from one of our old cassettes (pardon any incorrect tech verbiage here).  My song "Earthquakes" was my favorite one to sing at shows.  Pretty much everything I had to get off my chest:  feeling ugly, not being taken seriously as a girl, being victim to a violent crime that left me jumpy to things like earthquakes -- it was all in that song.  

Foxfire was a three girl band:  me, Rhani Lee Remedes and Andrea Branca.  We all switched around on which instruments we played for each song; Earthquakes is Andrea on bass, Rhani on guitar and me on vocals.  I literally just figured out the Movie Maker software last night just to throw this video together, and it is really just a bunch of photos I had saved on my computer, but they are photos that are special to me.

Monday, September 29, 2014

A Few pre-motherhood Halloweens

The Four Tops, singing "Duke of Earl"

The Los Angeles version of Autumn is here – a crispness in the air for a few hours on Saturday morning, before the temperature hit the eighties again.  Even when I was a little kid, that kind of autumn quality of air made me feel wistful for my youth.  The annual Halloween nights of trick-or-treating made me feel like a kid in a movie about trick-or-treating, because how could real life be so almost melodramatically, so theatrically childlike.  These annual Halloween nights usually turned out a little disastrous, with a mom in her cups who loved Halloween too much not to feel compelled to ruin it, to make it less fun and therefore more bearable.  I also got sick at least a few Halloweens of my life. 

One Halloween, a close friend of mom’s, who used to be her room mate, sleeping on that old fashioned contrivance the Murphy Bed, made me a princess costume by hand, tracing a t-shirt and skirt of mine as a pattern for a silk and lace outfit.  Instead of feeling flattered that he’d gone to so much trouble, I was irritated that it looked too much like a regular outfit.  This was in second or third grade, two of the more miserable years of unpopularity in a childhood vacillating wildly between years of popularity and unpopularity.  I’d wanted to wow the school with some beautiful Elizabethan gown I’d imagined he’d make, and instead of telling everyone I was a princess, I ended up saying I was Madonna.

Probably my worst Halloween was in sixth grade, when I decided to go to an after school Halloween dance, dressed up as a cat in an elaborate, ugly cat headdress supposed to look like the costumes in the musical Cats.  My white pancake make up was all smeary and gross.  Sixth grade was even worse than Third grade, and made some of what people refer to as “bullying” now sound like a day at the beach.  I always engaged in extracurricular activities like cheerleading, school dances and talent shows because I thought I could win people over.  Seriously no one danced with me at the dance.  The last song was “Duke of Earl,” and even though it was a song from decades ago it sounded to me like a love song of some immediacy and it hurt to have no one to dance with.


My first year at college, I didn’t feel like doing anything on Halloween because I didn’t want to end up disappointed, but there was a big party at one of the punk houses, and one of my closest friends convinced me to go with her and our other best friend, telling me she’d make sure we had a great night.  At the time, I wasn’t entirely tuned in yet to the aesthetic do’s and don’ts of the mods, rockers and mockers I wanted to impress, and I still had a love of whimsy, which included knowing all the different types of fairies; I'd deciding that I would be a bewitching girl if I dressed up like a dryad (a wood nymph).  My friend helped me bobby pin leaves in my hair, and I wore a brown dress that I thought looked like the slinky trunk of a sexy, skinny and slightly drunk tree.  I was always on the make at parties at this time in my life.  I always wanted it to be the night I'd fall in love with someone new, but especially on unattached holidays (and especially on New Year's Eve, Halloween or Fourth of July).  My first ex-boyfriend’s band was playing at the party and I imagined him giving me meaningful looks but the only time he looked at me it was with this unfounded aggression he’d developed.  I flirted systematically with everyone in the bathroom line.  Once finally in the bathroom, I got one of my temporary fits of panic over the fact that the toilet was in such horrible shape and there was no toilet paper.  I hadn’t led a sheltered life of all bathrooms being functional, and in fact was used to my mom’s bathroom where the pretty knick knacks piled on top of the tank made it hard to remove the lid of the tank and tinker around with the moving part when the flusher stopped working.  Also, mom and I used the same two Star Wars toothbrushes for at least nine years, liking how cute they were and not knowing any better.  Despite, or because of, having made my peace with bad bathrooms, I always loved the sanctuary of a nice and functional bathroom.  Now that I was a young woman, and I went to a lot of parties and shows at ramshackle venues, I was forever finding myself in a bad bathroom with a toilet that didn’t really work.  I could never shit on nights out, with all the bad toilets everywhere, even if I got a horrible stomach ache – I’d just be stranded somewhere, surreptitiously sneaking an Immodium AD from my pocket.  This untended plumbing emergency was the last straw of another disappointing Halloween.

Pete & Pete, "Halloweenie" episode
6th grade yearbook coverage of the Halloween dance.  Me as the white cat (middle right).

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

I Remember Halloween

 "Halloween" (1978)

I don’t generally like reading or writing little autobiographical musings about past relationships – these stories are usually so “So what?” to me, and are also usually written in the David Sedaris-style narrative that only David Sedaris should use.  However, I'm writing a piece like that right here, right now, because lately I’ve started going to a video store in South Pasadena, and it’s a place that I used to go to with an old friend I’ll call Max  -- it’s made me think fleetingly about the time I spent with him, which was the saddest phase of my social life.  Anyway, this is more of a Shaggy Dog story.

Max and I hung out for a month or so after I was done with my short outpatient stint at a mental hospital, where I’d met him but almost always managed to avoid conversation.  He was the tedious type of emotionally fragile, like Norman Bates in Psycho, someone whose long stories you have to listen to because you don’t want your hostility to be the reason they kill themselves.  Naturally, I preferred the attractive type of emotional fragility, like Marion Crane in Psycho, a beautiful criminal who keeps her secrets.

Speaking of Hitchcock movies, one of the saddest things we ever did together was watching this short art film he’d made – it was a loop of three seconds of footage from a Hitchcock movie in which James Stewart slaps a woman in the face and her blond hair sweeps beautifully around as her head recoils from the impact of his hand.  These three seconds of footage were repeated at least 30 times in a row.  It was a cool little film he’d made, but horrible to watch.  It wasn’t some passive aggressive intimation of male frustration, like it sounds.  It was clear he identified with the slapped woman.  I think the Stewart character who was slapping her represented Max’s dad or something.  I don’t know what his technical diagnosis was, but I know he was a serious guy who tried and failed at levity, a smart guy whose parents still treated him like an underachiever.  He was painfully skinny.  He was not ugly or square, though to me he seemed both those things; he liked a lot of the same bands I do, and Eightball comics, but it wasn’t fun to talk about these things with him.  It was just a drag.

 "Rear Window" (1954)

I gave him my telephone number when he asked for it on my last day at the hospital, and when he called that night, my stomach sank at the realization that I was already involved in the situation I’d hoped to avoid, that of being a girl he liked.  The first time we talked I let him know that I would become extremely uncomfortable if I ever got the feeling he was trying to get me romantically interested in him.  I said I knew he had a crush on me and that I didn’t like that feeling, but that as long as he had no expectations of reciprocity, it’d be nice to hang out as friends.  I always used to get glommed on to by sad people who burdened me with their sadness, without giving me the gift of being funny or inexplicably hopeful in return, so if I sound too mean towards him, I hope it doesn’t sound like mockery, because I did take him seriously.  I just feel resentment towards his dragging me down in the quicksand of despondency I’m always trying to sidestep.

Despite the tone of this first conversation, and my immediate follow up email letting him know that I was very serious about things being completely platonic, the first time we hung out would have been a perfect date for someone who like doing expensive things in South Pasadena.  We saw a movie about a loser winning the girl, then we had gelato, and went to a fancy Italian restaurant where the waitstaff knew and loved him. 

I didn’t like this type of thing, though.  I liked to go out drinking at night and spend my days off at home alone watching movies and eating cereal or ice cream.  Before me, he’d tried dating another crazy girl who was more suited to this type of date, and they both came from wealthy old South Pasadena families, and I thought he should have kept trying with her.  It was useless though because this other girl, who I only knew her as a blond mouth-breather who drooled after her treatments, was in fact a young woman whose dad forced these treatments on her.  Max knew her as a woman it was too hard to get along with, not because of her drooling quietness, but because of her anguished rage and paranoia in the times leading up to the treatments. 

After that first time, Max and I only hung out a few more times, at his grandfather’s house where he was living.  Each visit felt interminable though, and they were all filled with a combination of things I love and hate.  Like one time, when we ate grilled cheese sandwiches made from a sandwich press that toasted Hello Kitty’s face on the bread – so cute!  But while we ate these great sandwiches, we had to watch this Gus Van Sant movie, Elephant, about the fucking Columbine High School Massacre, and all these kids getting their heads shot off as they walk unassumingly to their lockers or the school library.

I was glad the way things ended, because it’d been his decision.  He saw hickies on my neck from my now-husband one time and told me he didn’t think we should keep hanging out. 


"Elephant" (2003) 

When I was a kid, mom usually took me trick or treating in South Pasadena, because it was her theory that rich people gave better candy, and also, some scenes from the original Halloween movie (1978) had been shot in that part of town, adding the importance of cinematic history to our walk up and down the streets.  She was always drunk on Halloween though, and one time when we were doing our Halloween night South Pasadena route, she decided to stop at the house of her recently deceased boyfriend’s parents, unannounced and with two preteens dressed like Rocky Horror characters (me and my friend Andrea) in tow.  The dead man’s parents opened the door to a mixture of ‘trick or treat’ and mom’s half apology for stopping by unannounced.  They were rich and nice and bereft of joy.  I think their son may have mentioned me to them once or twice because there was some kind recognition of my identity when I said hello.  I’m sure I didn’t think to say anything about being sorry for their loss, and I’m pretty sure I didn’t ask for candy.  Me and Andrea were going to our first midnight screening of Rocky Horror Picture Show later that night so I had a case of nerves that made everything else that night seem muted.


 
"Rocky Horror Picture Show" (1975)


Monday, August 18, 2014

What We Think About When We Think About Squalor (or: How I Learned to Start Worrying and Hate the Woody Allen)

Broadway Danny Rose

I started out writing about my four favorite Woody Allen movies:  Crimes and Misdemeanors, Alice, Broadway Danny Rose and Hannah and Her Sisters.  This turned out to be way too tedious of a task though – I had to write little synopses for each of these movies to prove that they were full of neurotic integrity and did not contain any of the classic Woody Allen lechery.  Also I had to include a ton of qualifiers about how if his alleged sexual assault of his daughter Dylan is true  -- I don't even know what to say about.  How can I legitimize liking the art of someone who may be a sexual predator?  I gave up on the Woody Allen thing.

Instead I want to write about something I went into in a recent post, about how I was going through a phase of really caring about others, and then when a homeless man I was pretty familiar with was a dick to me one day, it put the kibosh on my recent overwhelming sense of empathy.  I wonder if it sounded to readers like I stopped caring about homelessness just because of this one man.  Full disclosure, I come to think of some homeless people I develop an acquaintance w/ as “my” homeless people (I think other people tend to do this too, but who knows) – this is sort of ridiculous because it makes it seem like they’re my friends.  We are just people who’ve grown familiar with each other and who get along, and who I usually try to give a buck to when I have  cash on me.  

It is true that this recent unpleasant exchange with this one of “my” homeless people really disappointed me, but this is only of many bad experiences I’ve had with homeless men over the years.  I have definitely had my share of locations I had to circumvent to avoid a homeless man who’d turned creepy on me.  Of course I’m inclined to help homeless women out more and have never had an exchange with a homeless woman go sour on me yet.  My mom is on familiar terms with many homeless people, and growing up, I knew the quirks of these people, mostly women.  There was one woman who was a picky eater – if a person offered her their restaurant left overs, she’d be like “what’s in there?” and if she didn’t like the food, she’d reject it (she totally liked these tacos from a stand down the street from where she camped out, but only if they didn’t have hot sauce on them!).  People thought it was snotty of her to go hungry instead of accepting any old handout offered to her  but I thought it was pretty awesome that she was able to maintain her tastes.  There was another woman we saw a lot, who was always yelling at the top of her lungs but pretty much left my mom out of her screeds, probably because she sensed in her a fellow screamer.  Anyway, this woman was black, but she constantly yelled hating black people, and she also hated women, and would only accept money from men.

Anyway, yeah, homeless women presumably have a rougher time on the streets than homeless men, and I would prefer to only ever give women money, except --  I feel sorry for a lot of the men because they are veterans.  So I never really parse my meager contributions out only to women. 

Anyway, back to the homeless guy who pissed me off the other day.  The point of the post about him was that I’m not sure what philosophy is the real way to live, and I was going through a real strong phase of secular humanism for a while, but my exchange with him sort of broke that spell and now I’m feeling like an existentialist borderline nihilist.  I just don’t care about strangers right now. 

There is a great movie called Please Give, in which Catherine Keener's character Kate can’t keep it together anymore and has these really strong attacks of conscience – one example is that, as an owner of a vintage furniture shop, she goes to homes of the recently deceased to potentially buy valuable items from the estate.  She goes to this one house where the dead woman’s son is heavily grieving and his sister is like “All mom’s stuff is just shit – we should give it to the Goodwill!” but Kate feels bad for the grieving man and ends up buying a whole bunch of worthless furniture for a lot of money, pretending it's all really valuable. 

For a little while there I was feeling like the character in the movie.  At the L.A. zine fest a few months ago, there was a girl collecting zines for troops, and when I was talking to her I started crying thinking of the troops!  At this time of my life (lasting for only a few months) I was feeling really sad and emotional every time I saw a homeless person.  But I’ve realized that this has a lot more to do with me than with the plight of the homeless strangers I was seeing.  

I just don’t want any reader to think I was being flippant about my disproportionately strong reaction to the homeless man’s rudeness.  It may be a fucked up reaction of mine but at least I’ve been reflective about my change of heart.


Anyway, I still strongly believe that it’s a disgusting thing to try to make homeless people disappear into thin air, as if they were a problem to be dealt with, and not just people that things didn’t work out for (I hate it when people say “Things have a way of working themselves out."  I can think of a million instances of that being untrue, like for starters, people who ended up on the street).  I’ve read a few really interesting articles recently about this tactic of making homelessness disappear.  See, I’m still a liberal, I’m just sort of a jerk.  Maybe my next philosophy will be religion.  Oops, I’d go to hell.  Nevermind.  Hail Satan.


(the first paragraph is so weird:  "Acknowledging that law enforcement alone had failed to end homelessness on skid row, officials launched a city-county initiative Tuesday to bring social services and enhanced cleanups to the 50-block downtown Los Angeles district."  Why are cops the go-to solution for homelessness on skid row instead of community outreach groups?  Homelessness is illegal the way suicide is, two examples of Big Brother shittiness).




from "Please Give" -- Kate offering her left overs to a man who is just dressed casually and is in line to get into a fancy restaurant


Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Philosophy




I find it hard not to be a misanthrope.  I have been working through a series of self-realized philosophies lately.  One that I’m thinking through and trying to put into effect, though I’m not sure of its veracity, is the concept of minimizing my ego.   I try not to self-glorify myself in my writing (only sometimes though, in all fairness).  I am not very aware of the world around me, but if I could make myself stay open to people I consider “normal,” I could be a better writer and not only someone who creates works of fiction that are just thinly veiled autobiography – perhaps if I listened more to boring conversations, I could strengthen my weak spot of writing dialogue.  I should listen more.  I shouldn’t assume that I know everything worth knowing.

The downside to this particular philosophy is that I am better than a lot of people.  It’d be false modesty to pretend otherwise.  I work harder to understand other people than many of them do.  I think more.  The empathy I try to force on my self is never reciprocated.

Another philosophy I try to work on but that seems too flawed to continue is the belief of secular humanism.  My hero Kurt Vonnegut was a secular humanist.  The Council for Secular Humanism sums up the belief like this:  Humanism. “Any system of thought or action concerned with the interests or ideals of people … the intellectual and cultural movement … characterized by an emphasis on human interests rather than … religion.”

I do believe in doing good deeds without any expectation of reward.  There is no heaven and not otherworldly gift for good deeds, and there is often no world reward or even acknowledgment of these gestures of help.  They are done purely because it is believed that they should be done.  Until recently, I classed myself as an Existentialist Secular Humanist, meaning that I don’t really believe in anything besides the cacophonous present, but that helping people, even with the knowledge of the meaningless of life, is still the proper thing to do.

My recent and hopefully temporary rejection of Secular Humanism comes largely from the disillusionment of recently being so recently bitched at by homeless people whom I felt I’ve worked hard to help.  This one man I’d recently helped so much turned out to be a total dick the other day.  On top of the food and money I give him, I also gave an informational card for PATH, a really wonderful and innovative homeless resource center.  I guess he expected them to be magical????  There are at least thousands of homeless people in L.A.  They are often treated unfairly, since their mere presence is considered illegal, especially in the recently upscale reincarnation of Downtown L.A., and this is so unfair it brings tears to my eyes even as I write this.  PATH provides so many services:  a court with a judge who expunges bullshit police actions such as tickets for jaywalking or loitering.  A shower.  A place where homeless people can receive mail.  A job placement center.  A list of homeless shelters.  The man I was speaking with, however, just rudely bitched to me that almost all the shelters recommended were overcrowded.  “They just stuff an extra bed in the corner – I don’t need that,”  he said.  “Well, at least they have showers,” I said.  “Yeah but I don’t need that – I can take a shower at a friend’s house anytime I want.  The only homeless shelter that has openings is in North Hollywood – what am I going to do there?” 

He was so belligerent and rude, for the time being I don’t give a fuck about anyone besides friends and my immediate family.  It would be false to consider myself a secular humanist at this point in my life.

I am without  an uplifting philosophical belief at this point.  I am a kind nihilist, an existentialist who doesn’t throw as much caution to the wind as the model existentialist does, but who, nonetheless, doesn't believe that there is any point to anything, except in the living of life in the present tense.