Wednesday, December 31, 2008

According to My Chinese-American Roommate

Whooo. Thank God we're at work today, huh? Am I right?!

Screw this. I'm bloggin', facebookin', twittin', um...forumin'...

...uh...I refuse to myspace so fuck right off with that thought...


well, that's probably enough. That's all I'm doing today.



I guess it's time for the third annual Year End Crap Up here at The Lake Street Get Down, and I want to thank everyone who supported my ass through another year.

I can't believe that I know so many non-jerks. Nice work, you guys.

2008: A Year That, According to My Chinese Roommate Would Be Full of Good Luck, But Wound Up Being Full of ASSSSSSSSSSSSSSS

-- out of work, but had lots of time to write. Finished a novella, as well as several episodes of Mine and Bernie's Show. Oh, and tried to break into the freelance erotica business for quick cash, but was put down like Ol' Yeller. Damn!

-- Worked for Ralph. That's both a literal truth and a particularly expressive euphemism (if you live in Los Angeles and work in Century City or know Paul S.). I miss that crazy momofuka every day. I could never get a decent picture of it, but my desk faced this gigantic technicolor nightmare of a portrait of Ralph a grateful client/insane person had painted of Ralph sandwiched between Woody Allen and Groucho Marx. That portrait -- all 64 square feet of it -- was never more than a foot and a half from me, no matter where I went in that closet of a cubicle I worked in. Cramazing. Ralph quickly became the inspiration for the boss character in Mine and Bernie's Show.

March -- got the job here at [name of publication redacted]. Blah blah blah, I'm not living up to my potential KISS MY ASS. I was broke, I needed money. Also, I'm you know...meeting people. That is Los Angelese for "this is how I rationalize my low pay."

...anyway, at that point my year went to shit. I ran a marathon in December and did some other big stuff (met Leonard Nimoy and Don Cheadle and Tilda Swinton and Jeff Goldblum and Garcelle Beauvais*) and saw about 40 puppet shows, but who cares, really? I'm looking forward to 2009 and things getting better.

Peace on Earth and goodwill to all people. I hope you guys get everything you're looking for in the new year.

* I know, that's a pretty random ass inclusion, eh? She was gorgeous and sweet, though

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

You Can Do Whatever You Like

Hmmm. I'll probably try to do some year-end crap up, just like I always do, but until then? Feast your eyes on some Yul Brynner.

Yul Brynner is one of those cats that I thought was [light-skinned] black forever. Seriously! I know I'm not the only person who thought that.

Girl6, can I get a witness?

COME ON. Dude looks like Avery Brooks there!

I can hear Orlando already, talking about "why didn't you post some pictures from Westworld?" Sorry, Hiller -- that's your favorite movie.

Monday, December 29, 2008

I Have Been in the Tent

It's a few days late. But I just saw it, and I want to share it. So, like the good people at slacktivist, from whom I grabbed it, I'm going to hope that Salon turns a blind eye and lets it stand.

A Tent Among Us

So I called my Jesuit friend, Tom, who is a hopeless alcoholic of the worst sort, sober now for 22 years, someone who sometimes gets fat and wants to hang himself, so I trust him. I said, "Tell me a story about Advent. Tell me about people getting well."

He thought for a while. Then he said, "OK."

In 1976, when he first got sober, he was living in the People's Republic of Berkeley, going to the very hip AA meetings there, where there were no fluorescent lights and not too much clapping -- or that yahoo-cowboy-hat-in-the-air enthusiasm that you get in L.A., according to sober friends. And everything was more or less all right in early sobriety, except that he felt utterly insane all the time, filled with hostility and fear and self-contempt. But I mean, other than that everything was OK. Then he got transferred to Los Angeles in the winter, and he did not know a soul. "It was a nightmare," he says. "I was afraid to go into entire areas of L.A., because the only places I knew were the bars. So I called the cardinal and asked him for the name of anyone he knew in town who was in AA. And he told me to call this guy Terry."

Terry, as it turned out, had been sober for five years at that point, so Tom thought he was God. They made arrangements to go to a meeting that night in the back of the Episcopal Cathedral, right in the heart of downtown L.A. It was Terry's favorite meeting, full of low-bottom drunks and junkies -- people from nearby halfway houses, bikers, jazz musicians. "Plus it's a men's stag meeting," says Tom. "So already I've got issues.

"There I am on my first date with this new friend Terry, who turns out to not be real chatty. He's clumsy and ill at ease, an introvert with no social skills, but the cardinal has heard that he's also good with newly sober people. He asks me how I am, and after a long moment, I say, 'I'm just scared,' and he nods and says gently, 'That's right.'

"I don't know a thing about him, I don't what sort of things he thinks about or who he votes for, but he takes me to this meeting near skid row, where all these awful looking alkies are hanging out in the yard, waiting for a meeting to start. I'm tense, I'm just staring. It's a whole bunch of strangers, all of them clearly very damaged -- working their way back slowly, but not yet real attractive. The people back in Berkeley AA all seem like David Niven in comparison, and I'm thinking, Who are these people? Why am I here?

"All my scanners are out. It's all I can do not to bolt.

"Ten minutes before the meeting began, Terry directed me to a long flight of stairs heading up to a windowless, airless room. I started walking up the stairs, with my jaws clenched, muttering to myself tensely just like the guy in front of me, this guy my own age who was stumbling and numb and maybe not yet quite on his first day of sobriety.

"The only things getting me up the stairs are Terry, behind me, pushing me forward every so often, and this conviction I have that this is as bad as it's ever going to be -- that if I can get through this, I can get through anything. Well. All of a sudden, the man in front of me soils himself. I guess his sphincter just relaxes. Shit runs down onto his shoes, but he keeps walking. He doesn't seem to notice.

"However, I do. I clapped a hand over my mouth and nose, and my eyes bugged out but I couldn't get out of line because of the crush behind me. And so, holding my breath, I walk into the windowless, airless room.

"Now, this meeting has a greeter, which is a person who stands at the door saying hello. And this one is a biker with a shaved head, a huge gut and a Volga boatman mustache. He gets one whiff of the man with shit on his shoes and throws up all over everything.

"You've seen the Edvard Munch painting of the guy on the bridge screaming, right? That's me. That's what I look like. But Terry enters the room right behind me. And there's total pandemonium, no one knows what to do. The man who had soiled himself stumbles forward and plops down in a chair. A fan blows the terrible smells of shit and vomit around the windowless room, and people start smoking just to fill in the spaces in the air. Finally Terry reaches out to the greeter, who had thrown up. He puts his hand on the man's shoulder.

"Wow," he says. "Looks like you got caught by surprise." And they both laugh. Right? Terry asks a couple of guys to go with him down the hall to the men's room, and help this guy get cleaned up. There are towels there, and kitty litter, to absorb various effluvia, because this is a meeting where people show up routinely in pretty bad shape. So while they're helping the greeter get cleaned up, other people start cleaning up the meeting room. Then Terry approaches the other man.

"My friend," he says gently, "it looks like you have trouble here."

The man just nods.

"We're going to give you a hand," says Terry.

"So three men from the recovery house next door help him to his feet, walk him to the halfway house and put him in the shower. They wash his clothes and shoes and give him their things to wear while he waits. They give him coffee and dinner, and they give him respect. I talked to these other men later, and even though they had very little sobriety, they did not cast this other guy off for not being well enough to be there. Somehow this broken guy was treated like one of them, because they could see that he was one of them. No one was pretending he wasn't covered with shit, but there was a real sense of kinship. And that is what we mean when we talk about grace.

"Back at the meeting at the Episcopal Cathedral, I was just totally amazed by what I had seen. And I had a little shred of hope. I couldn't have put it into words, but until that meeting, I had thought that I would recover with men and women like myself; which is to say, overeducated, fun to be with and housebroken. And that this would happen quickly and efficiently. But I was wrong. So I'll tell you what the promise of Advent is: It is that God has set up a tent among us and will help us work together on our stuff. And this will only happen over time."

(Copyright © 2000 All rights reserved.)

The Things You Find

Eight Different Futures

I THINK there are eight different futures. I can’t prove it because it’s not really a fact but it’s definitely true. Once I ate too much of that Bonne Maman apricot jam, the one with the tablecloth pattern on the lid and real bits of fruit inside. It was so tasty I ate just jam for about three weeks until the brain damage kicked in and after that pretty much everything was sticky and sweet and waaaarm. Anyway I had no mates so noone called the paramedics for ages and of course during that time I was deep in the jamvoid and I saw some of the futures.

One of them was called George and he had a cool hat like you sometimes see anglers wearing and anyway most of the time it looked like an army ranger hat but then the other times he turned up the brim and it made him look like a
totally gay sailor. I asked him why he kept changing it around and he said it wasn’t him it was non deterministic probability and the uncertainty principle that was doing it or maybe not even doing anything to it at all. I said WELL I wasn’t certain about THAT at all mate and we had a good laugh me and future number one George. Even so he turned out to be a bit of a wanker after a while cos there’s only so many stories about his time on safari or his villa on the Costa del Sol that you can take when you’re in a hallucinogenic nightmare world so I just wandered off into the futuredesert to find myself for a bit like Jesus only I did it for about forty minutes not days cos I figured I’d pretty much cracked it after that see. So now I’d done that I was going to look for the Wizard of Oz but I couldn’t remember if he was real or not and if he was real would he be more likely to be in my jamvision or less likely and just as I was about to ask the tin man what his thoughts on the matter were when I got zapped with them electropads by Margaret from the St Johns after the Avon lady had got a bit concerned about the orange goo smeared all over the inside of the windows and called the police. Don’t fuckin worry I told em it’s fucking produit en France mate! All that shit is super incroyable with me! I’ve been to the shittin’ future boys! DIABETES AAAAHHHH.

There are times that I am so glad for the internet.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

This is the Face

...Of a bitch about to turn 34.

I'm sat here at 6:12 pm on Christmas Eve. My brother is watching some maniac Saving Private Ryan youtube video with Pops Jugo in one room; his wife is in another room -- doing yoga, I think? I'm in the dining room drinking bootleg mimosas and just, you know, sitting here. Grateful for my family and stuff. A little sheepish that my dramatically cunty supplications to the universe (something along the lines of "Dear God, please don't make me have to go hang out with some people I barely know") resulted in the continuation of record snowfalls in Spokane that mean that no, I probably won't have to go hang out with my sister-in-law's parents...but, of course, also mean that she won't be able to hang with her parents, either. Now, obviously, in my Scrooge McDuck-like bitchcaking this past Friday, I was [typically] only thinking of myself. I didn't want...I gotta come up with a good pseudonym for Sis-in-Law, shit...anyway, I didn't want to ruin her Christmas. For reasons I won't go into here, this time of year is especially hard for her family, and so yeah, I need to offer a major mea culpa for blowing my stack. The universe keeps track of that shit, yo. Birthdays are bullshit, anyway.

Anyway, yeah. 34.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Cowboy Up

A hearty cup of wassail to all you lovely bitches who wrote in or called to express sympathy with my tale of Christmas woe -- especially because none of you surrendered to the well-deserved urge to holler that I should man the hell up and quit bitchcaking about having to spend the holidays with my family and while I'm at it, I should recognize that it's a blessing that I even had the money to spend on that motherfucking plane ticket, so I should get a little fucking perspective, ok?

None of you said that, and for that I am profoundly grateful. Even though it definitely needed saying. Also, none of you have yet complained over the fact that I never seem to post anything but tirade-laden first drafts of anything anymore, so kudos for not pointing that out, either. I'm certain that a lot of those commas and semi-colons and shit weren't there when I originally typed that last post; is it possible that Blogger is adding them? Weird.

So, I made it to Spokane. I'm going to post photos later if I can, because you gotta see my brother's house. He's 25, people! It's ridiculous how well he's doing in life. I'm so proud of my little scallopini. Fun fact: his house costs $922/mo. I bet some of that money I spent buying plane tickets here is subsidizing some housing up in this piece. Less than a thousand bucks for a HUGE 3 bedroom house? I would sign up, but as I believe I made clear in my last post, I hate this fucking town.

Anyway, I've reconciled myself to the fact that I am going to be spending my birthday outside Yakima, WA -- it was pretty easy once I realized that I was just going to stay drunk the whole day. Anyone who doesn't like it can kiss my natural black ass. It's gonna be my birthday!

So, all in all, things are turning out ok. My dad has put a little weight on, which is good, because he gets really stick-like and emaciated when he frets. I'm going to pick up Iron Fist when I get out of here and we'll spend the first couple of days exorcising a little 2008 pon farr. Whorelando, Fergus, and Bernie are all going to be getting their Xmas Xpressions late, but I think they'll all be pleased once they receive them.

It's been absolutely the worst year ever. But it looks like it won't end too badly. Or as I like to say to Hiller: "when you've been face down in the shit for long enough, just flipping over onto your back is a huge improvement."

Next up: mottos for 2009! Yes, people! It's that time of year again! Get your nominations in!

No More Cheap Wine in 2009
Taking What's Mine in 2009
Watch Me Opine in 2009
Nickel-and-Dimed in 2009
Accruing No Fines in 2009
Walking the Line in 2009

Saturday, December 20, 2008

...And A Bah Humbug to You Bitches, Too

It seemed like such a neat solution; and on the face of it, it was. My brother and sister-in-law live in wack ass Spokane, Washington: a town with little to recommend it apart from their presence. Conversely, it has a lot of items in the debit column, the most prominent [for my purposes] being its notorious reputation for flight jackassery. To wit: it is impossible to fly there, from any city, in any season, for less than 400 bucks. Before my parents retired and moved away from there, they'd lived in Spokane for about six years, and every year I try in vain to score a cheap ticket. I came up snake eyes every motherfucking time. And then my brother joined the Air Force and suffered the colossally shit luck to be stationed -- his very first base! -- right back in dreary ass Spokane, so really, he's lived there, like, twelve years or some nonsense. So if you want to see him, you gotta deal with this, like, cosmic slap and get ripped off by every airline that deigns to fly there. I hate that fucking town!

Now, as you know, I'm a salty bitch at the best of times; and I run from sentimentality and raw emotion like the unrepentant Scrooge I am, but when it comes to the holidays, I usually try to rein in the vitriol and suck it up for the fam. Obviously, this year, it is more important than ever that my brother, father and I get together and lean each other. I'm anxious to see them, I really am.

But the problem is, Christmas is also my birthday. So for every Xmas in living memory, except for the few times I was just way too broke to fly home, I've spent the day with the family, milling around in my pajamas, drinking motherfucking mulled wine, eating stuffing and generally wondering how the hell my life got away from me. Eh, whatever. Part of growing up is realizing that no one gives as much of a crap about your birthday as you do. I had just started to reconcile myself to the idea that I was never, ever going to have a glamorous birthday with friends for the rest of my natural life but instead would, once a year, re-enter some timeless zone of arrested development wherein I choked down too-sweet birthday cake and rationalized around the dinner table whatever life choice was currently causing my parents to worry and brother to ridicule me and then I would fly back to the future and my grown up home in Minneapolis or London or Portland or wherever and my real life would start up again.

Let me say this -- I have never, in my life, had a great birthday*. I've had great Christmases, but as birthdays go, I usually just try to forget that it's even happening.

Why am I bringing this up? Because I'm dramatically delicious, obviously. But also because the bittersweet anticipation I'm feeling at reuniting with my brother and father this year has of late been decisively tipped over into the wholly bitter column.

A few months ago, my brother decided that it was not worth it for him and his wife to fly out to North Carolina (where my parents lived/Dad still lives) for the holiday, because he doesn't have much time off work and cross-country airfare for two people is no joke. "Cool, cool," Pops Jugo and I say. "Sometimes life intrudes." We told Li'l Bro Jugo to stay in Washington, and go spend the holiday with his wife's parents. Since my mom died, my dad has [understandably] not wanted to spend a lot of time in the house by himself, and he's spend the last couple of months on the road: visiting friends and family, and just generally trying to talk life back into his soul. But he's tired, now, and he wants to be home in Durham. He didn't feel like travelling for Christmas. I was cool with that. I planned to go ahead and spend the holiday with Pops in North Cackalacka.

At some point, Brian decided that it would be great for us to go ahead and all gather, but since he can't leave Spokane, Pops and I should come to Washington. Now, I live in L.A., so even though I hate Spokane, it's going to take me a lot less time to fly up the coast than to fly cross-country, so I was tentatively cool with this new plan. Dad wasn't too happy about it, but Brian pre-empted his arguments by just buying him a ticket, anyway. Ok, so we're all up to speed, right? Christmas 2008 is going to be in Spokane. We're all set.

Only we're not all set, because as I mentioned at the beginning, flying into
Spokane is irrationally expensive. Sometime in the last month or so, I get the idea that I'd like to drive up to Washington instead of flying. I have a new car that gets great gas mileage [plus gas is now 50% cheaper than it was this summer], and I can use this opportunity to stop and see some friends in San Francisco and Iron Fist in Portland. I was thinking that, no, winter driving is not ideal for long distances, but what the hell: I grew up in fucking Wyoming and lived for ten years in Minneapolis, so snow and cold are not completely fucking unknown to me. I can handle this. I got AAA and a cooler full of snacks? I'm straight.

But for the past four weeks, my brother and dad have been hounding me non-stop about the driving. Over and over again. Texts and calls. Texts and calls. Over and over. Never leaving me alone about the fucking driving. And I would just like to state for the record that I get it, ok? It's less than 8 months ago that our beautiful Tina lost control of her car on slick roads and left us all behind, so I know that the prospect of me taking to the mean streets was not exactly an appealing proposition for them. Finally, I snapped. I bought a plane ticket. It cost me approximately one billion dollars, but I did it. Because I love my family and I don't want them to worry. And because my brother was using up my measly text message allowance with his fucking harping. I caved. Got a ticket that will get me in on Monday and take off on Friday.

Only now that's a fucking problem for Li'l Bro Jugo, because he has decided that, actually, we're all -- him, his wife, my dad, and me -- going to spend Christmas with his wife's family...a lovely couple who don't actually live in Spokane. I've met my sister-in-law's parents twice and I like just fine but don't actually know them that well, but there goes Li'l Bro Jugo, asking anyway could I maybe change my flight to leave a little bit later thanks so that no one has to get up too early and take me to the airport?

I have had it with Li'l Bro Jugo, y'all. I want you to try (you'll fail, but try anyway) to imagine the unscaleable heights of my fury after getting off the phone with my brother this morning. I just spent a truly appalling amount of money buying a last-minute ticket to a town that's famed for being appallingly expensive to fly into at the best of times (there's never a best of times in Spokane) only to find out that I've inconveniently messed with the schedule for his holiday celebration in some small-town hamlet with people I barely know? Are you fucking telling me that you have unilaterally decided that I AM SPENDING MY FUCKING BIRTHDAY AT A STRANGER'S HOUSE and I should arrange to leave later so that we can all stay LONGER AND so no one has to get up early? IS THAT WHAT YOU ARE FUCKING TELLING ME?

Tina, I love my brother. I really do. But if you don't step down from heaven into this situation and work on your child, I am going to punch my way through his face.

*ask me about the time my parents forgot that it was my birthday and I had to make my own cake...from a mix...and the mix my dad got was for pineapple upside down cake, my most hated cake flavor in the world!
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Thursday, December 04, 2008

Every Day I'm Grateful

I have been struggling lately, mostly with the awful recognition that I don't spend nearly enough time or mental energy being thankful for how profoundly blessed and lucky I am to be who I am.

I don't mean that in an "I'm so fly" way... even though that's clearly the case, right, kids?!

...I mean that even though I have had a shitty, shitty year, I know that most of my days have been good ones. I've been on food stamps; but I've never really gone hungry. It's been touch-and-go as to whether I'd have a roof over my head in the past; but I've never really been homeless. I've been in real physical danger before, but obviously I made it through without being raped or assaulted or killed.

I'm not trying to pee in any one's kool-aid, but I would like to step up and say that I, for one, am increasingly aware of just how fucking lucky I have been. I heard this story on NPR the other day about the food crisis in Zimbabwe. I know you know what I'm talking about. That bit about how some people are so desperate for food that they have been forced to sift through cow dung for undigested corn kernels, which they then pound into meal and eat...?

Ladies and gentlemen. I submit to you that that is an abomination. How do we allow that to happen? And yet, how do we help? It's such a huge problem. Where does one person fit in? How does one person start to help? I don't know, but I have to find out. I just can't sleep right anymore.

Undigested corn kernels. From cow dung. I have never, and barring some kind of cataclysm, will never be that hungry. A lot of people who live in this country can say that with reasonable fucking certainty. And a lot of people in other countries can't.

Anyway, when I feel like this, it helps to focus on things a little closer to home, and try to make one small thing better. If you're the same, please consider donating via the wonderful DonorsChoose to a couple of teachers in poverty-stricken, inner-city schools in this very country. I read about some today at ellephd. A particularly compelling proposal is excerpted below*:

We can not learn without the basic foundation. I teach high schoolers, 9th-12th grades. My students are considered high risk for dropping out. Many of them want to succeed, but having paper and pencil for many of them is a challenge. Our school does not have a counselor, therefore I take on this task for free. I assist them with essays for colleges, correspondence work to earn credits if they are short for graduation, tutor after school with math, English, and other subjects, and help them complete all of their college admission processes from FAFSA to the application stage. These basic supplies would help them and me so much because they are embarrassed when they do not have pen and paper. I try to buy what I can, but in my state, my parish is the second poorest. We are paid at the bottom of the state. Please help me. Thank you.

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

It's Been a Long Time, Etc. Etc. Etc

There are a lot of things I want to talk to you about, kids, up to and including Thanksgiving and feeling grateful and out-of-town guests and how I make the best stuffing. And I will get to all of that. I would also like to talk to you about my boyfriend, who is the simplest, sweetest, most random of souls...a man who, when watching the new Star Trek trailer (not the one with the fi-yah at the end), saw the shots of them building the Enterprise and mumbled approvingly, "I'm glad they're creating jobs," like Star Trek was for real and they actually hired construction workers and electricians and welders (like him!) to build it. Like the Enterprise was a real thing, yo. I'm rubbing off on him like whoa.

So anyway, I'll get to all that, but I can't wait any longer to show you this, which is a for real thing that ding graciously pointed us all to, and my reaction has run the gamut from wide-eyed hysteria to wondering how someone could have so accurately captured on film the dreams I had as a nine year old, and yet not cast me in a single role. Cramazing. Who is this guy? Please, please, please watch this thing to the end.

And don't try to don the cloak of hipster irony, either, but that song is an astonishing earworm. You will succumb to the charms of Chris Dane Owens. You will.

But seriously -- how much money did they spend on this thing? This video looks crazy expensive. Even just hiring that one redheaded porn star must have cost something.

Oh, and ladies: he's single!