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March 31, 2006

Just one little story.

i. The students rioted while I worked on my advanced degree
I carred no placards. I didn't knit once. There was no time for yarn shopping, or internet cafes, or sticking it to the man and getting hosed with water and beaten back by police in riot gear. I did, however, try my darndest to earn a phD in drunkenology here:

paris-biere-academy.jpg


ii. Anyone else craving fried chicken?

I took this sign to be only a harbinger of what the Sepulveda Recreation Area will look like in about six months. I feel my exposure to the French air has upped my resistance level to all forms of avian flu. Merci beaucoup!

paris-birdflu.jpg


iii. They reserve the hottest room in hell for catty wenches.

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It's Sunday night, and Jennifer and I are seated on a bench below the glowing hulk of the Eiffel Tower. We're resting after a long day, and chatting and fending off about 300 trinket vendors who can be a little on the pushy side.

A young couple (Americans, we overheard them telling people later, they're from Baltimore) dressed oddly enough in prom formalwear, walk out onto the blacktop. He gets down on one knee and presents her with a ring, she swoons, the crowd is clapping. I clap, too, getting misty eyed. Jen looks at me sideways, "He's proposing to her in a parking lot." (I wonder if she's thinking: Oh Lord, do not let her start bawling over a marriage proposal at the Eiffel Tower, oh the drama.)

I sigh, caught up in the moment. I clap, tearing up, and then I turn to Jen and say, "I give it a year and a half."

We laugh hysterically. We are in Paris, and the warmest room in hell awaits us. One day.

iv. Improving Franco-American foreign relations

paris-perelachaise.jpg

If you get lost in a big, strange cemetary on the outskirts of Paris and all your friends are separated from each other and you have no cell phones and no way of getting in touch, I highly suggest you find the cutest gendarme of all and channel your finest Blanche Dubois. I myself have always relied on the kindness of strangers. This particular stranger spoke no English, and I spoke no French, but we had no problems communicating if you know what I mean. And I think you do.

"I so sorry no speak English," he said.
"Oh, I'm sorry I non parle Frances." (really, I do mangle the language something foul.)

We laughed.

"You no speak English, I no speak French," I said. Oh man, was he cute. "We're perfect!" I told him.

He agreed. "Yes! Oiu, perfect!"

It's possible that my petit gendarme had the IQ of Beavis, but he spoke fluent French, and to me he was magnifique. He could have been talking about his playstation the whole time, I don't know. Because it was French, and so pretty! Together perfect!

I like the gendarme. They are muy cute.


v. Just one leetle story.
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It was Saturday night in Paris and it was raining, and Jennifer wasn't feeling well, so she stayed in the hotel while Amber and Shannon and I headed off to dinner ... at 10:30 p.m. (j'adore le French nightowls!) By 11 p.m. we had found a dark, tiny fondue restaurant in the Latin Quarter that looked like a lively and inviting house of cheese.

We had a big dinner, steak fondue (you cook strips of meat in hot oil) and cheese fondue ("keep stirring the pot!" we were reprimanded often) and there was wine and crusty bread and chocolate fondue for dessert, all of it delicious.

We left the restaurant around 2 a.m. and walked back to the hotel. It was raining and we were on a teensy cobblestone road so we walked single-file to accomodate our umbrellas, with Shannon leading the parade, Amber behind her, and me pulling up the peace train at the end.

It was dark and late, but it's Paris, and it's a tourist area. The street was empty when a group of about seven men approached us. They were drunk, and they were a little too old to be harassing tourist girls. One of the men ducked under the umbrella with me and one tried to chat up Amber. The most aggressive of the group was still carrying a beer can in his hand, and he approached Shannon and began saying some really inappropriate things to her. Mean things. It all happened so fast, their tone changed -- it was late after all, and they were very drunk -- and Shannon started walking faster. A major intersection was just a head, a large street with more foot traffic.

We walked faster.

They kept pace.

The one under the umbrella with me was annoying but harmless. The aggressive one was trouble, though, he was about six feet tall, walking almost side-by-side with Shannon, and she was scared and tensed up, and he reached out...

... and without even knowing I had done it, in one split-second, I closed my umbrella, shoved the annoying one away from me, closed the gap between me and the agressive one, and I proceeded to whack him upside the head with every single ounce of repressed anger and rage and disgust and moral outrage I carry around in my five-foot-almost-four self, and I'm just saying ya'll. That is a lot of repressed anger. I am Southern. Recently divorced and wronged. I HAVE HAD ENOUGH OF YA'LLS BULLSHIT AND I HAVE AN UMBRELLA.

"Leave her alone!"

HUGE LOUD THUD OVER THE BACK OF THE HEAD.

As I stood in indignant rage in the middle of a Parisian street like Mary Poppins gone wrong -- umbrella at the ready -- the one formerly known as "the aggressive one" cowered over in the street, staggered and clutched his head. His six friends turned and immediately RAN IN THE OPPOSITE DIRECTION, leaving him to fend for himself with three crazy American broads.

He slumped over, holding his head, the half-empty beer can rolled down the street.

"You... you shut up!" he whined at me. He whimpered. Amber and Shannon laughed at him.

But something about seeing this big, drunk bully cowered over and holding his head and yet still he wouldn't shut up ... it made me INSANE. With umbrella outstretched, I chased after him IN THE STREETS OF PARIS as I shouted possibly the classiest words ever said by a woman abroad, "I'm from Los Angeles, motherf***er! I'll bust your ass!!"

And he ran as fast and far as he could, and the Mary Poppins Gang was born that night in a cobblestone picture-perfect street in Paris, and I can probably kiss goodbye any future gainful employment at the Los Angeles Visitors' Bureau.

But the fondue was really, really good.

Posted by laurie at 10:17 AM

March 30, 2006

France in my pants.

Mmmmmm... everything was covered in cheese. And wine was like water, and beer was like water, and the water was hard to find. We got serenaded by Speedy Gonzales on the metro, we got lost in Pere Lachaise Cemetary, we spoke Franglish, a new California-girl language in which you mix English, broken French and Spanish. Tres jolie!

I could live in Paris forever.

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Hello from Laurie, Jennifer, Shannon and Amber.

 

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Me and Jen on the plane. Air France rules!

 

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I love this picture so much.

 

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Amber and I make self-art in the Pompideu.

 


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Me and Jen in a dark Parisian cafe.

 


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Lucky Bear gets a drunken hug.

 

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Le Breakfast.

 


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I'm just saying is all.

 


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Shannon, Jennifer and Amber in front of the Louvre pyramid.

 


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One day, I'll tell you the story behind this picture.
Also: Hi! I want to move to Paris!

 


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On the Champs Elysee at night.

 


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A happy day.

Posted by laurie at 10:34 AM

March 23, 2006

He's a Magic Man

Ha! Now you'll be singing "... mama... he's a magic maaaan..." for an hour. Whoops!

But he is magic. And next time you're in Los Angeles, you should make an appointment for the magic, too. I love getting my hair cut with Aharon (pronounced like "Aaron," but spelled so much cooler) because he works his magic while also exuding so much cuteness.

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Aharon's assistant Aneta is one of the nicest people you'll meet, and she was rockin the Deborah Harry/Blondie look yesterday:

aharon-aneta.jpg


I don't get my hair cut on a frequent basis because of the evil (yet good) Budget Of Stop Spending Money. But it's my one splurge every few months, and Aharon is the one person I have found who makes me feel like a million bucks ... even if I walk in feeling like a buck fifty. If you're ever in Crazytown and you want to meet this Magic Man and have him work his voodoo on your hair, he's at:

Umberto Beverly Hills
416 N Canon Dr
Beverly Hills, CA 90210
(310) 274-6395


Then later, you can drive around with the windows out of your Jeep (or in a rented convertable, it's Crazytown!) in the middle of the day, wearing the most ginormous sunglasses on the planet and pretending to be a washed-up child star from the '70s.

Not that I know anyone who does that, of course.


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Someone is suspiciously devoid of bangs. Ahem.

Posted by laurie at 7:36 AM

March 22, 2006

Easy Knitted Felted Bracelet Bag!

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The inspiration: I wanted a little teensy handbag to take out at night ... just enough room for my ID, lipstick, small compact, money and keys. This bag needed to be something cute and decorative that could stay on my bod as the night and cocktails wore on, since I tend to be BOTH extremely paranoid about losing my handbag and also extremely ditzy and forgetful that I even own a handbag.

Enter the bracelet bag, a perfect solution!

Time needed: Less than two hours to knit! I created this whole bag on the fly while sitting on my sofa and watching JAWS on TV. By the time Richard Dreyfuss and Roy Scheider were paddling back to Amity Island, I was done with all the knitting, including sewing the sides up.

Ingredients:

• 1/2 a skein any chunky 100% wool yarn (no superwash wool!) that can be felted ... clearly, I used my beloved Patons Up Country.

• 1/2 skein any eyelash, ribbon or glittery yarn to jazz up the bag (optional) (yeah, I said "jazz up" ... so. you got a problem with jazzing up?) ... I used Crystal Palace Stardust Fizz.

• Size 13 knitting needles

• Large-eye yarn needle

• Regular sewing needle and thread

• Two bracelets, the bangle kind. I wouldn't use elastic bracelets because they might stretch out or break. I used two mismatched bangles, one in silver and one in silver and black.

Overview:
The hard part of this recipe -- which isn't very hard AT ALL, mind you -- comes in the first few rows. Basically you start at one end of the bag, making the tabs that will eventually fold over your bracelets. Then you increase stitches to make a triangle that leads to your plain rectangle, then you knit the rectangle, and start decreasing on the other end (decreasing is so easy, you just knit two stitches together.)

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feltedbagB.gif

The Recipe:
If you are using a sparkle or eyelash yarn for jazzing up purposes, hold the wool and the fancy yarn together and knit with them like they are one yarn. One yarn, one world baby.

Cast on 4 stitches.
Row 1: Knit 4.
Row 2: Purl 4.
Row 3: Knit 4.
Row 4: Purl 4.

Now we start increasing stitches on each row to get to the desired width of the bag.

For this pattern, I increased by doing a "Make 1 increase" which is actually pretty simple. Every time you see "M1" or "make 1" in the pattern, you just knit the next stitch, but don't pull it off the left needle to finish it. Instead, go back to the same stitch on the left needle, and now knit into it through the back loop. That just means you stick your knitting needle into the back leg of the stitch instead of the front leg, knit it and pull it off the needle. You now have two stitches that came from one! I am maybe crazy at work this week and was remiss and did not take pictures of increasing. But I'm sure ya'll can do it, because Lord knows if I can do it, so can you! [Here are some pictures I found on the innernets, though.]

This increase can make a little hole. But I'm using bulky yarn and felting it anyway, there will be no holes after it's all shrunken and felty.

Row 5: Knit 1, Make 1 by knitting in the front and back of next stitch, Make 1 again on the next stitch, Knit 1 (You now have 6 stitches.)

Row 6: Purl 6

Row 7: Knit 2, Make 1, Make 1, knit 2 (you now have 8 stitches)

Row 8: Purl 8

Row 9: Knit 2, Make 1, knit 2, make 1, knit 2 (10 stitches)

Row 10:Purl 10

Row 11: Knit 1, Make 1, Knit 2, Make 1, Make 1 again, knit 2, Make 1, knit 1 (14 stitches)

Row 12: Purl 14

Row 13: Knit 2, Make 1, Knit 2, Make 1, Knit 2, Make 1, Knit 2, Make 1, Knit 2 (You have 18 stitches -- and you are done increasing!!!)

Row 14: Purl 18


This is what your bag looks like so far:
braceletbag-thong.jpg


Now you have made it through the only hard part of this bag! For the next 12 to 14 inches of knitting (depending on how deep/long you want your handbag to be) simply knit in plain stockinette stitch. That's where you knit one row, and purl the next row. Your bag will begin to curl up and look like a weird banana.

Knit until your bag measures your desired body length -- I knitted 12 inches -- and then make sure you end by finishing up a PURL row.

Now you are ready to knit a row, and it becomes your first DECREASE row. We'll go back to basic numbering because you only need to knit 14 more rows to finish this whole bag!

You have 18 stitches. I am putting the decreases in parentheses, i have no idea why but it made more sense to my crazy mind.

Row 1: Knit 2, (knit 2 together), knit 2, (knit 2 together), knit 2, (knit 2 together), knit 2, (knit 2 together), knit 2 [Now there are 14 stitches left.]

Row 2: Purl 14.

Row 3: Knit 1, (knit 2 together), knit 2, (knit 2 together), (knit 2 together again), knit 2, (knit 2 together), knit 1 [Now there are 10 stitches.]

Row 4: Purl 10.

Row 5: Knit 2, (knit 2 tog), knit 2, (knit 2 tog), knit 2 [8 stitches remain]

Row 6: Purl 8

Row 7: Knit 2, (knit 2 tog), (knit another 2 together), knit 2 [6 stitches left]

Row 8: Purl 6

Row 9: Knit 1, (knit 2 tog), (knit 2 together again), knit 1 [4 stitches, woohoo!]

Row 10: Purl 4
Row 11: Knit 4
Row 12: Purl 4
Row 13: Knit 4

Bind off.

Weave in your ends. Don't have to be to neat here -- the ends will felt in.

braceletbag-pinnedout.jpg


You have a banana!
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Fold the bag in half with the tabs together at the top. It should be inside-out, with the bumpy reverse-stockinette stitch on the outside. You will now seam up the sides.

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Pin the bag together at the sides. Cut a piece of the wool yarn, about 15 inches long. Thread this through your big-eye yarn needle and whipstich the sides of the bag together just like in Figure B at the top of this page. Here I made a couple of stitches with a contrasting yarn color so you could se how I sewed up the sides. You can be messy, the whole thing gets felted anyway.

braceletbag-pinned.jpg braceletbag-sewing.jpg

The bag is all pinned, sewing the sides is easy ... uh, use the same colored yarn, though. really!


When you're all done sewing the sides, turn the bag rightside out again and get ready to felt it!!

Felting This Bag
1) Place the bag inside a pillowcase and use a rubber band or hair elastic to close up the pillowcase real tight. You don't want fuzz and fluff from your bag clogging up the washer.

2) Throw the sealed pillowcase in with a load of towels or jeans. I washed this bag on permanent press -- hot wash, cold rinse. I didn't care if it shrunk down a lot. I added some Tide and let the entire wash cycle run, including the spin cycle. I'm a reckless felter, what can I say? Your mileage may vary -- so if you don't want this bag to shrink too much, start out on a cold wash cycle and check the progress about halfway through the wash.

3) That's it! I took the bag out of the washer, shaped it with my hands and let it dry on a dishtowel in the kitchen.

braceletbag-felting-before.jpg

braceletbag-felting-after.jpg


Add The Bracelet Handles:
When your bag is fully dry, fold the tabs down over the bracelts and sew each tab in place using regular sewing thread and a needle. Go out, drink up, enjoy!

braceletbag-handles.jpg


braceletbag-final.jpg

Posted by laurie at 8:12 AM

March 21, 2006

We're gonna need a bigger boat.

Hi! I was going to post this cute little project I made over the weekend, but for the second day in a row I left the pattern at home (I wrote it out on the back of a Ralph's reciept, not a memorable pattern-keeping-spot) and Brangelina still isn't done because this morning I fell asleep on the bus (whoops) (so. tired.) and did exactly zero rows of knitting, in fact I maybe acidentally unknitted when I fell asleep and a few stitches escaped. Ah well. Hi!

So, this is the official I Have Nothing To Say column. Luckily for me, I manage to say nothing in more words than anyone I know.

1) Chitchat

My dad called me last night. My dad is funny. Ya'll wonder why I turned out the way I did? Genetics, folks!

Dad: They're rioting in Paris again.
Me: So I hear.
Dad: Well, I have one piece of advice for you. For when you go to Paris.
Me: Ah....ok?
Dad: Don't carry any placards.
Me: Thanks, Dad. I'll leave my placards at home.

2) Feline Helpers

I went shopping last night for a few essentials (namely, cat food and wine) and perhaps because I am lazy and also a crappy housekeeper, the wine made it to the kitchen but the shopping bag containing the Meow Mix sat on the floor. I really do appreciate the felines here at Chez Cat Burglar, who stayed awake during the night, working hard to free me of the terrible burden of opening the bag.

meowmix.jpg


3) This is probably who I'll end up dating
When I was cropping that Meow Mix picture, I ran across a photo I had taken a few weeks back when I was at the Northridge Mall, The Height Of Fashion, with Jennifer. We walked into the "As Seen On TV" store, because really! As seen on TV! How could we resist?

Anyway, we walked around the aisles which were almost entirely stocked with the Annotated Works Of Ron Popiel, and then I saw this little gem:

teetime.jpg

This potty golf kit featured a photo of a REAL GUY sitting on the throne and hitting a hole-in-one, if you know what I mean. And I think you do. Ya'll suppose he ever told his friends and family about his modeling gig on the side? Is he proud of it? Does he tell chicks on the first date that he's a model? Or maybe that he's a sports enthusiast?

Ah, the things I ponder.


4) Cuteness
Sometimes a little Bobface is all you need to see to make a Tuesday complete.
what-about-bob.jpg

5) Finally, more chitchat.

Dad: Make sure you don't talk to any strangers. In France.
Me: Well, that shouldn't be a problem, since I speak no French!
Dad: You don't speak French? How are you planning to order anything to eat?
Me: Dad, according to your rules I'm not supposed to be talking to strangers anyway.
Dad: Yes, but you have to eat.
Me: I seem to manage.
Dad: You know, when you're there you ought to eat some French fries.
Me: Oh, But Dad!! [So excited now, because I get to tell my favorite joke ever!!] In France, they're just called fries.
Dad: Have you had those before?
Me: Indeed, I have.
Dad: And how did they taste?
Me: Tres French.
Dad: There you go! You can speak French. See? Now just don't talk to strangers. And leave your placards at home.

Posted by laurie at 9:46 AM

March 20, 2006

Ode to an eyeliner

This is a picture I took from the bus window on Friday as I was leaving downtown and heading back to the Valley. I forgot about it until I hooked my camera up this morning, but you can see the double rainbow if you look real close, and also kind of squint.

rainbow.jpg


Yesterday I meant to clean my house and do laundry and so on and so forth. Instead, I spent almost an hour browsing the aisles of a big new CVS in the Valley, which is a pharmacy/convenience store/purveyor of lipgloss. The drugstore is my safe haven. My harbor in hellish times. My retail therapy, rows and rows of yummy items just waiting for me to discover on my lunch break or on the weekend when I mean to buy vitamins and antibac-wipes and instead end up with hair products, blemish creme and eyeshadow.

I love the aisles of glittery nail polish (Dries in thirty seconds! Guaranteed glamorous! Stays on for seven days!) and the neat little rows of eye shadow in their pots and tubs. The packaging genius of it all. The lipsticks, oh, the lipsticks. From gloss to stick to pencil to plumper, the selection never ends.

I don't actually wear a lot of makeup, but I own an embarrassingly large amount of it. I can't pass up a golden glitter pencil or a shimmery nail polish. There's a big-haired Texan Glamour Queen from 1984 living inside my nondescript skin. Some people have an inner child ... I sold mine on ebay and used the profits to buy a hairspray that has real gold glitter in it. I was born with an inner shopper, and she says: "Only $1.99? That's a bargain at any price! I'd be practically wasting money if I didn't buy that!"

Browsing the Clinique and Mac counters at Bloomingdale's isn't nearly as satisfying as spending an hour poking around at the local Rite Aid or Walgreens or CVS. That’s because you can’t feasibly leave Bloomies with a bag of goodies under $50, but you know at Walgreens you can buy long-lash mascara, a People magazine, two tubes of lip gloss and a Snickers bar and still have money left over for gas.

Have ya'll noticed that really tacky makeup is coming back in style? I have waited many agonizing years for blue shimmer eyeshadow to be back in vogue, and finally my time has come. Yesterday I bought a Wet'n'Wild eyeshadow stick in frosty denim blue and a little pot of Loreal baby blue shimmer cream. It sat in my bag for three hours while I fidgeted, anxious, needing to go home and play make-up.

(Interject long pause here to contemplate my pathetic feminine streak.)

At last, I freed myself of responsibilities, ran home and locked myself in the bathroom with my purchases. Twenty minutes later I looked like a Smurf had thrown up on my face.

Wash, rinse, repeat.

In the final analysis, I have concluded that perhaps we're not yet ready for blue eyeshadow to come back. But when it does, dammit, I'll be ready. Tubs and pots and sticks of ready.


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Posted by laurie at 9:45 AM

March 18, 2006

Le Vacation and Le Fear

Hi! I am crazy. And also maybe red-wined. Hello, whine.

Thinking about vacation and its impendingness. Vacation is an amazing thing, a lovely happy leap that I can't truly afford but I need it, the same way I need sunshine or caffeine.

But I have fear. Scary fear.

It's because of the Fear Life.

See I believe there are two kinds of people in this world -- those who divide everything into two categories, and those who do not. I guess you know what category I fall into. My penchant for dividing things into this-or-that led me to the "Real Life vs. Fear Life" theory.

In my Fear Life, I worry about things, sometimes not even rational things. Living becomes very small, it's harder to visualize new and unusual things, or people, and the house that used to be a nice place to rest becomes your sanctuary (and then your hideout) and you start telling people... "Call before you come over. Email before you call."

In my Real Life, or what I want to be my Real Life, I take chances (even though I am scared) and I leave my house (even though I want to stay home) and when I get scared -- which I do, because this is me and I Have Issues -- I write down the scary things and they seem less like Real things and more like Fear things.

So, I am writing it down.

I'm scared. Scared that I will be the facade of happiness and the inner part of me, the one who never traveled anywhere without her husband, will ooze out at an inopportune moment and I will think of the Paris I Have Loved, and be sad. Every night, sitting in front of the open windows, me smoking off the balcony, him with a rum and coke in hand, no ice because it's Paris. I take a photo of him, he shakes his head.

(Is it possible to be me and to be only present-day? Some women are right-here-right-now women. I am the sort who often thinks fondly back upon life events, even sad ones, and I feel maudlin for things that were not even that great at the time.) (Not a terrific quality, I might add.)

I was barely twenty-three years old the first time I went to France. I had never been off our beloved continent ... who am I kidding! I had barely ventured outside the South, and was still in deep culture shock living with Mr. X in this crazy Los Angeles city. Before he introduced me to Europe, to Paris, the most exotic thing I had experienced was one hedonistic summer vacation with my parents in Cancun where I went buckwild crazy and ate these mysterious things called MANGOS.

I always wanted to travel, wanted to see the cities of Europe and hear people talk in strange languages and eat food I could not pronounce. I wanted to be bigger than my litle tiny one-stop-light world. I needed to see life, smell it, eat it whole.

Anyway. I got the eating part down pat.

He and I bought the tickets on the spur-of-the-moment, packed our mismatched suitcases ("Do people in France wear blue jeans?" I was very unsure) and after eleventeen million hours in an airplane we were officially not in America anymore.

I fell in love.

The signs, the smells, the people, the baggage carts, the swanky-looking taxis, all of it. Our hotel that first night was up on the top floor of an ancient building under thick dark wooden beams and slanting ceilings and I couldn't sleep I was so excited. I went into the bathroom to scribble in my notebook, always a notebook, and with the rusty old crank handle I opened up the (possibly hundred-year-old!) bathroom window and peered out across the rooftops of Europe. It was one of the most exhilirating moments of my whole life. And I was alone, in the bathroom, my husband sleeping across the lumpy bed in the next room.

Paris was for me:
a living museum
people in chic clothes and women in high-high heels
booksellers along the Seine, just like in Henry Miller novels!
smoking in public
cafes
strong, good coffee
the sound of those sirens (wee-wah wee-wah)
tiny cars on the motorways
men who opened doors, briskly
good wine
good beer
amazing foodgasmic bread and croissaints
little sugar cubes
lumpy beds
"deux vin rouges, sil vous plait"
"ou e le toiletes sil vous plait"
"Bonjour madame"
"Where the fuck is the E-11?"
"You think the metric system will ever catch on?"
"You look lovely in that light."

About every hour and a half I would pinch myself, could NOT believe I was in THE Paris, France! Not Paris, Texas mind you ... the real Paris France where they have French people! Where they do not need to call 'em "French fries" ... they are simply called fries. (That joke never got old. For me.)

Honestly, though, it's better looking back than it was at the time. I was the one who said, "You look lovely." I was the one writing alone in the bathroom with the door closed. We traveled so much because it was the only time I had him all to myself and he had to pay attention to me.

Where does the fear come from? The fear of being lonely in a crowd, a whole city, a continent? It's not like I don't know lonely. It's good to write this down. The fear loosens up. The Real life takes over. This past year I found out that sometimes the dreading of a thing (worried you'll be sad, miss him, fall apart) is worse than the actual emotion. Just sit with it. Write it down.

Other fear:

I am afraid something will happen to my cats while I'm gone. I have a house sitter and then Karman is also checking in on the furballs, and every neighbor (except Crackhead Bob) has been briefed and given long lists of phone numbers and emergency contacts, and I know that they're good people who will alert the po-po if someone is hauling out my sofa or something, but I worry about the cats getting sick, or one getting locked in a cupboard accidentally, or that my house will spontaneously burst into flames and burn to the ground.

I am afraid that the plane will crash, or someone will have the Bird Flu or Ebola, or that we'll get to the hotel and it will have bedbugs.

So, I have fear. It's part of who I am, it always has been, the fear of the unknown, the unhappy, the unloved. I'm writing this down, out loud, so I can see for myself how it's just scared, it's not reality, my life is an unopened book, an unwritten chapter, and even though I am anxious I will continue forward, onward, upward, Franceward.

The small-town girl inside me knows it's a luxury to have a memory of THE Paris France. And I am thrilled to my toes to go on a vacation. With my best friends! It's a gift. And if I get sad one night after too much wine and a trip down memory lane, I will probably cry and my friends will hug me, and I will not be alone, and I will make jokes about it and we will be in Paris (!) and he is the past and I am the future.

And the cats will be fine.
Real Life vs. Fear Life ... Real Life wins.

Posted by laurie at 8:16 PM

March 17, 2006

She Bangs

The Brangelina prototype hat is done, and it has a few "features" I need to work out for the real recipe. In my efforts to make a really good final pattern for this hat, I even knitted a swatch of the Lion Brand Wool Ease Thick 'n Quick to measure the gauge. And. Well. There's a reason they call it thick, people. But I can't find the less-chunky wool ease anywhere and frankly I prefer to think the old adage is true -- not just for women but for all things -- "Once you go thick you never forget." Amen, sister.

(I may have made that saying up. Possibly. Because I am thick 'n quick!)


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I was having a traumatically bad hair day yesterday and I wanted to wear my Brangelina hat all day. (I didn't.) But I did wear it down the hallway and into the 19th floor powder room to photograph myself. I told everyone who I passed on the way, "Yo. I'm keeping it gangsta." (If by "gangsta" you mean five-foot-almost-four inches of nothing but pure Southern quirkery!) People humored me with a variety of outdated ghetto slang in return. I am the sort of person who is often humored.

The bad hair situation is going to be resolved next week when I visit Aharon, who I may or may not proposition once again in a fit of futility. I love Aharon. Of course, perhaps it's because Aharon knows I need boundaries, and tough love. This was apparent when I called him a mere two days before my appearance in Divorce Court (cue ominous music). I was in absolute emotional meltdown and I needed dire intervention.

Receptionist: Hello, Umberto Beverly Hills, how can I help you?

Me: Hi. Can I speak with Aharon? Please? I have a hair emergency.

Receptionist: Just one moment I'll see if he's with a client.

(Interestingly enough, the receptionist did not bat an eye at my melodramatics. They must get hair emergency phone calls on a regular basis.)

Aharon: Hello?

Me: Aharoh, it's me, Laurie. I have a hair emergency.

Aharon: What happened...? Are you ok? Did you get cake in your hair?

Me: ...? cake?

Aharon: It happened to one of my clients before, blue frosting, it was terrible!

Me: No.

Aharon: Well, thank God because the cake is very hard on the hair, we had to cut.

Me: Aharon. Focus! Emergency!

Aharon: Yes.

Me: I need bangs.

Aharon: Absolutely not.

Me: Aharon, I NEED BANGS.

Aharon: What's going on?

Me: (whimper)

Aharon: No.

Me: But I have to go to Divorce Court and I am scared and I need bangs!

Aharon: No! You cannot solve this problem with the bangs. Now be good, come see me soon. Do not ask me about the bangs for at least six more months.


It was sad, really, having your hair emergency dismissed in such a manner. But in the end, he was right. You cannot solve a problem like divorce with bangs.

But.

It's been six months.

I'm just saying is all.

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Posted by laurie at 8:50 AM

March 16, 2006

I use the word Pavlovian like I am all scientific and stuff.

I spend a lot of time philosophizing about traffic and transportation because I spend a lot of time in traffic. Some of the traffic could be eliminated by simply elimating the bad drivers. (And ya'll wonder why we shoot each other on the freeway here?) This particular picture, for example, was taken while we were all stopped at a GREEN light because someone at the front of the line had... maybe fallen asleep? Left to redecorate the trunk? Started watching episodes of LOST on the ol' video ipod and forgot he or she was operating a motor vehicle? WE MAY NEVER KNOW.

But I had plenty of time to check out the lowrider-ish truck in front of me, and his... personal statement:

vertically-challenged.jpg
From one vertically challenged person to another, I can say in
all honesty that I hope it works out for him.

I took this picture yesterday on my way home from the park 'n ride. We were stopped at this green light for so long that I had ample opportunity to dig around in my handbag, find my camera, turn it on, focus, snap a picture and still had time left over to honk!

Because. I am a honker.

However, in a cruel twist of fate, I myself do not like being a honkee, recipient of honkage at any time, and I have a rather absurd Pavlovian response to being honked at. It goes something like this:

Action: You honk at me
Reaction: I give you the finger

Pavlov's cat!

Even if I am the one doing something boneheaded and am deserving of the honk (not likely, as I am southern lady!), I still have an auto-response physical reaction to your honk and I will flip you off. Honking really serves no purpose whatsoever, except as a method of cussing out another driver when they can’t hear the colorful language you’re shouting inside the air-conditioned cocoon of your car. If you have air-conditioning. Which I do not.

So yes, I honk. I admit it. I’m a honker. If you are waiting for a written invitation to turn right on red, if you are having a moral debate on whether or not to actually go forward on green, if you are yammering away on a cellphone or reading the newspaper instead of driving your car -- I will honk at you. And if you honk at me because I won’t make a right turn into a line of pedestrians or because I am stopped at a crosswalk, or God forbid I’m pulling over to let an ambulance pass, then ya'll know what happens. You get the finger. But it isn’t road rage. It isn't even a conscious decision. It’s conditioning, I swear!


pavlov-cat.jpg

Posted by laurie at 8:53 AM

March 15, 2006

Decreasing, or "Make this tube into a hat!"

I'm making good progress on my Brangelina Hat Prototype (you can read about the EXCELLENT literary source that spawned my interest in the Brangelina hat on this entry). I'm knitting this one as a test before creating the real hat for the official recipe. Not that this one isn't a real hat, ya'll know, just that I have little issues to work out so that a hat pattern will be easy for everyone.

One of my issues, for example, is that I am an insanely tight knitter, and I have somehow managed to turn extra-bulky chunky Up Country wool yarn into this:

brangelinaprototype3.jpg
Hello, my name is Laurie and I am clearly working out some "issues" when I knit.

This hat has taken me just under two hours of commute-time so far -- and I am NOT a fast knitter. Hats are great small projects for ADD-ish knitters like ... who? I forgot my train of thought...?

Ha! Just kidding. Ya'll know I never shut up.

Anyway, this hat is now at the place where it's time to begin decreasing. It's not a magic formula that gets you to The Secret Decrease Spot, usually I just put the thing on my head and see if I'm happy with it, and how much of the top of my head pokes through.

brangelinaprototype1.jpg

brangelinaprototype2.jpg

When you knit a hat starting at the brim and working upward, you're knitting the widest portion first and hopefully somewhere along in the project you'll be overwhelmed by the urge to finish said hat, and that is when you need to Decrease Stitches, making the hat get smaller and smaller until it closes up at the top.

Most people are totally OK with the idea that we'll be decreasing the amount of stitches, and each row gets smaller and the hat gets smaller, and then happiness ensues.

The problem comes when trying to figure out how the math works: "If Sally wants to knit two stitches together, and Sally has 72 stitches on her needles, how many stitches should Sally knit in the row before decreasing so that things stay tidy and Sally doesn't give up and go get drunk?"

Let us address that question, shall we?

For the purposes of this really dorky illustration, let's assume your hat is sitting on your circular needles like my Brangelina Prototype, and it's all knitted up to the point where you begin to decrease. Usually, this means you have knitted your hat brim plus about 5 inches of the body part of the hat. Because Brangelina has a big huge wide brim than turns up, I did 4 1/2 inches of ribbing, and 4 inches of stockinette. I may add an extra few rows of stockinette in before I decrease, but I'm pretty much ready to start getting rid of stitches!

Let's also assume that for this illustration you have 30 stitches total, although a normal hat is more like 60 stitches (super bulky yarn) or a million stitches (little tiny yarn) but I am lazy and did not want to draw one million dots representing knit stitches. I may be crazy, but I am not that crazy.

decreasing1.gif


Step One: My Shoe Theory and what decreasing really means

I swear by my theory that if you pretend the stitches are shoes it will be a happier experience ... because shoes make life happier. Here we have 30 stitches on our needles. We are ready to begin decreasing! For my hats, I do the world's Simplest Decrease, a.k.a. "knit two stitches together as if they were one stitch" or, K2tog.

That means when you are ready to decrease, you just knit X amount of stitches in the row, then knit two stitches together (decreasing!), then knit like normal for X amount of stitches, knit two together (more decreasing, the top of the hat gets smaller, so exciting!), all the way around the row.

The mathy part is figuring out what the crazy "X number of stitches is," right?


Step Two: Oh by the way, this only works on even numbers of cast-on stitches. Whoops!
For math dummies, you really should be casting on an even number of stitches. (We'll discuss figuring out how many to cast on in another entry, called "I went to Gauge City and all I got was this stupid giant mushroom hat!")

Step Three: Pick a small-ish number that will evenly divide into your number of cast on stitches. This is called your SHOE NUMBER.
Go with me on this. I promise it makes sense at some point. You just pick a small number that will go into your cast-on number an even amount of times. This becomes the SHOE NUMBER.

For example ... 72 stitches cast on? 12 is a good shoe number!
64 stitches cast on? 8 is a good shoe number!
30 stitches cast on? 10 is a good shoe number!


Step Four: Now we decrease.

We're dividing up the stitches (shoes) into easily managed chunks. Our stitches are scary, but shoes are fun! What you need to do is divide up all the shoes into pairs, and put all your pairs of shoes in one row in your mind -- just like stitches sit on one row of knitting.

We want to decrease and have a shorter line of shoes, right? So, every 10th pair of shoes gets thrown in the closet, making the line of imaginary shoes get smaller. Or every 12th pair of shoes goes in the closet. Or every 8th pair. The magic is -- you get to decide!

Here is the super-secret decreasing formula according to crazy lady:

a. We have 30 stitches.
b. And 10 goes into 30 an even number of times with no bad percentages left on the calculator (30 divided by 10 = 3, that's good!)
c. So, 10 is our SHOE NUMBER.
d. To decrease, we subtract one pair of shoes from the lineup at regular intervals.
e. Therefore, 10 shoes - 2 shoes = 8 shoes
f. Therefore, every 8 shoes, I will get rid of one pair!!
g. Yes, this really is how my mind works. Sorry.


I will knit eight shoes like normal, knit two shoes together, keep doing this through the whole row, then somehow it will magically work out! No poor straggler shoes will be left on the needles when I use the Mighty Shoe Formula!


decreasing2.gif

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The Next Row: You Can Do It, Put Your Back Into It
On the next row, you will scale it back by one. This means, for our example, you knit 7 stitches, then knit two together, and repeat until you reach the end of the row. If you have picked a shoe number that easily divides into your cast-on, you'll never have weird "extra" stitches and your decreases will make a pretty swirl pattern on the top of the hat. Magic! Gnomes! Shoe gnomes.

decreasing4.gif


Finally: Keep getting smaller!
Keep going down in your count ... knit 6, knit two together for a whole row.

Then knit 5, knit 2 together for a row and so on.

When you get down to just a handful of stitches, cut the yarn and leave a long yarn tail. Thread the yarn tail through a big-eye needle and run the yarn through all stitches. Pull to tighten. There's a good picture of this on my roll-brim hat recipe page. Weave in your ends and you have a hat!


Finally. The end of this really schizophrenic knitting column.

The prototype should be done today, then I start working on the real recipe hat. I wanted to make one using Wool Ease chunky, but all my local craft store had was Wool Ease Thick 'n Quick. Thank goodness this is a quick knit -- it's already March, and this hat will certainly be warm!

(Sobakowa might like a warm hat)
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Posted by laurie at 9:06 AM

March 14, 2006

Los Angeles, Crazy-Adjacent

Last week I decided in no uncertain terms ... it is FINAL. The time has come. I HAVE GOT TO MOVE.

Now ya'll know I love my little house, and I love the Valley, and I love my yard and even my crazy neighbors, and best of all I love that my real address is not actually in Encino, California, but is Encino-Adjacent, as if that were a real place. And yet in Los Angeles, it is perfectly acceptable to tell people you live in Encino-Adjacent, because people get it. They, after all, are living in Sherman Oaks Adjacent, Beverly Hills Adjacent or Hollywood Hills Adjacent.

But this was IT. I'd just had enough and I HAD TO MOVE.

Because of traffic.

After spending TWO FULL HOURS commuting the 20 miles to downtown on one rainy day, I was FED UP. Done. Ready to pack up and haul all four cats and a disturbing amount of Patons Up Country to an overpriced loft in downtown.

But then on Saturday evening I came home to the sounds of my neighbors to the left having a backyard boogie with a pinata, while my neighbors directly behind me were playing the soundtrack to "Hair" and loudly discussing their DOG'S agent. No. Really. Their DOG HAS AN AGENT. And I looked around my yard, and I decided, once and for all again, to stay at my house for the rest of the year for three very compelling reasons.

1) I am lazy.

2) It would be fiscally irresponsible of me to move when I am trying to dig myself out of debt. Moving = first month's, last month's, deposit, pet deposit, moving expenses, new stuff from Ikea, new shoes to match the new handbag I bought while on my way to Ikea, etc.

3) And, finally, the primary reason to stay put is that I have become completely and totally OBSESSED WITH GROWING A SQUARE WATERMELON and to achieve this goal, I must have a place to grow said watermelon. Such as my back yard.

That's right, you heard me. I HAVE GONE INSANE. And now, apparently, square!

It all began innocently enough. I was having lunch with three of my coworkers, all of whom are Asian. We were talking about... I have no idea what. Because what sort of conversation naturally segueways into square watermelons? Oh, I remember! One of the guys was telling me about his most recent trip to Japan and about the expensive cantaloupe he'd eaten there.

Me: How expensive is 'expensive' in melon dollars?

Coworker A: It was about $100 for the cantaloupe.

Me: For how many cantaloupes?

Coworker A: One. $100 for one cantaloupe.

Me: Did you feel really dumb after you bought a $100 cantaloupe?

Coworker B: Was it square?

Me: Now that's normally the sort of cracked-out question I ask! Way to go, Coworker B! I've rubbed off on you!

Coworker B: Well, they do have square watermelons in Japan, you know.

Me: They DO NOT. Stop fibbing. This is just like the time you told me that all cellphones have a GPS locator in them!

(All three coworkers at the same time): They do.

Me: I do not believe you and your square watermelon story.

So, of course after lunch we all returned to Corporate Job, Inc., and focused on the important and dedicated task of ... researching the existance of square watermelons. And happily I report to you that I WAS WRONG, because they do exist, and I completely stole this image from the internets to show you:

square-watermelon.jpg


The Japanese are magic people. They manage to invent the most extraordinary things, and now I have become obsessed, OBSESSED! with growing myself a square watermelon. I have discussed with every engineer at work the possible growing/shaping container options and what the building materials may be, and what will be hinged or removable and I have decided to set out on a path of SCIENCE and also, probably drunkenness, because nothing goes better with gardening and mad science experiments than a nice cold beer! And I am going to make the backyard in a growing wonderland of square fruit.

I feel I may have finally found my life's calling: Drinking beer and writing about failed attempts at gardening. Because already this little adventure of mine is starting out on the crazy foot, and the crazy foot leads to funny stories about stuff I have messed up, usually while drinking.

Exhibit A: My Gardener Laughs At Me

As I have mentioned somewhere else in this website, one of the inneresting quirks about people in L.A. is that none of them do their own yardwork. No one mows their own yard (no one washes their own car, either, but that's a whole nother column) and so my little rented piddlysquat house in Encino-Adjacent comes with a gardener, who is named Francisco.

Francisco and I have talked about my desire to create a garden, and also how I don't want to cut off my foot with a roto-tiller while digging up the back yard. He suggested creating raised beds for the garden and offered to bring me some scrap lumber and dirt which he will sell to me for "muy cheap."

Me: Ok, so we're all set on the dirt?

Francisco: Si, el fin de semana... el ocho de abril?

Me: Thanks, sounds great! Oh! Francisco? Um ... is it organic dirt?

Francisco: ...?

[Long pause.]

Francisco: Si ... sure, miss ... es organic dirt.

And we looked at each other for one long moment while Francisco studiously tried not to burst out laughing. Then I walked inside and as I closed the door I heard his helper say, "ORGANIC dirt!" and they had a hearty little chuckle courtesy of one crazy white woman.

I can only imagine the conversation that Francisco will have, maybe forever, with other gardeners in the Greater Los Angeles and North Valley region. And the laughter. OH THE LAUGHTER.


Francisco: And then this crazy ass white lady asked me if the DIRT was ORGANIC!!

Gardeners from across Los Angeles: Hah hah!! You should charge her more for it!! Crazy white lady and her ORGANIC DIRT!!


And to you, Francisco, and to all gardeners who have heard the tale of the Crazy White Woman And Her Organic Dirt, all I have to say is ... WAIT UNTIL YOU SEE THE WAY I GROW A WATERMELON.

Posted by laurie at 7:23 AM

March 13, 2006

Baby I got your money

Recently, I got a flurry of emails asking me to explain my debt-repayment stuff more in detail. Well, Ok. It wasn't recently, as I am currently about six weeks behind on email. Once the server person fixed the mail after the Great Blip Of 2005, he set up all these folders and stuff and I have challenges. I'm sorry. I do suck bad with the techmology, but will one day actually answer your email and I am so sorry if between now and then you forget who the crazy woman is with the cat hair.

Some folks had questions on how ... how! can someone repay debt and still live? I'm no Suze Ormon, because she kind of scares me, but I can tell you what I'm doing and how it's working for me.

1) Come up with a Debt Repayment Plan.
I just used the super-simple Excel budget to figure out the bare minimum I have to pay every month, then I got to see what was left over. That money became Debt Money, and I have a fixed amount I pay toward my debt each month.

2) Pay more than the minimum!
Really. If you pay just the minimum payment on your credit cards every month, your marriage to Visa or MasterCard will last longer than my marriage to you-know-who.

3) Stop the bleeding.
Stop shopping for a full month. Just one month -- buy only groceries and absolute necessities (hi! DVDs and handbags are not a necessity!) This is a one-month experiment to see how much you spend vs. how much you can cut out. You will be shocked. Really. can't stop shopping? Write down each and every penny you spend for a one-month period. i discovered I was spending more money on magazines each month than gas for my car. Not. Good.

4) Create a "leaking" fund
My budget was leaking in the first year. I found that no matter how close I lived to the bone with every extra cent going to Master Card, I still had a 1995 Jeep and a 1997 cat who liked loving, expensive attention at the specialist of their choice. So I re-adjusted my budget, and now I move $50 per week into a savings account. I find that having a cushion of cash flow makes the scary car and cat repairs less scary -- I can pay for them in cash instead of adding more to my debt. It makes debt repayment a little slower, but I am no longer adding to the giant bill, so it's better in the long run for me.

5) Factor in special events
When we decided to take this trip to Paris, I knew I couldn't afford it according to the budget. But I really wanted to go away with my friends. How to do it without charging the whole thing? I began by scaling down the payments I make on my debt for a two-month period (I pay WAY MORE than the minimum) and bringing my lunch to work every single day for two months which freed up enough cash for the trip. Clearly, you don't want to make this your normal method of business, because debt repayment is the key to freedom. But for a one-time special case, it seemed more logical to pay less toward debt while racking up no new debt.

6)Put yourself first
You must remind yourself every day and twice on Sundays that your goal is to be free. Living close to the bone isn't fun, but it's freedom.

I have one goal and it is all achieved a little bit each day: Financial freedom. One day I'll be able to wake up and know I owe nobody nothing. I can't imagine how great that will feel, and the sheer accomplishment of it makes me feel like I'm on the right path. You can never go back an un-buy the stuff you're still paying for. But you can start right now digging yourself out of the hole.

Posted by laurie at 6:24 PM

I survived The Scary Storm of 2006 and all I got was this bumper sticker.

On Friday, I left my desk and walked to the elevators fully clothed for what would be my final weekday foray into the cold, bleak streets of Downtown Los Angeles and I was wearing the following:

• One winter coat
• One handknit wool scarf
• One handknit wool hat that did not in any way, shape or form match the scarf
• One pair of lined gloves
• One pair Ugg boots

Because it was... you know, something like 51 degrees. Anyway. I walked onto the elevator and Unnamed Coworker Originally From Boston, who was already inside the elevator, began laughing at me in what can only be described as an "I am laughing at you not with you" moment.

"It's fine," I said. "Laugh all you want. It's COLD out there. And I get one opportunity a year to wear all the crap I knit."

"I see you took this opportunity to wear it all at one time."

"Indeed."

He had his good hearty laugh, smug little man, and then we walked off the elevators and out the main plaza doors where an ICY ARCTIC wind greeted us.

"OH MY GOD IT'S FREEZING," said Unnamed Coworker Originally From Boston who thinks he's much tougher than he is, but yet has succumbed to the wussy California weather like all good transplants.

"Yes," I said, vindicated. "It is cold for the hatless, scarfless, and gloveless. Like you. YOU WHO SCOFFED."

"OH MY GOD IT'S FREEZING," he said.

"It's so sad to see grown men shiver." I said, "You might die. It was nice knowing you."

And so that is the story of how I came to look like a ridiculously dressed "special" child waiting for the bus on Friday, yet I was warm, and there was no further scoffing (at least to my face).


I Freeze


On Saturday, I did the unthinkable: I left the Valley to A) go over the hill even though B) it was cold and C) MIGHT possibly rain. I felt very brave and adventurous. And then I felt sort of stupid, because my intended destination was the Farmer's Market for a once-a-month Saturday Stitch 'n Bitch but I somehow managed to drive all the way to the Beverly Center, which is WAY PAST the Farmer's Market. And I was maybe a teensy bit still asleep, because all I could think was, "How did the Beverly Center get here?"


Brandi is peaced out; Christine knitted a whole Barbie outfit!


Barbie poses with Ellen in the background; look at how brave we are to eat lunch in the cold!


I love the Saturday morning SnB group, just the nicest ladies you'll ever meet. On my way home from knitting and shivering, I spotted REAL ACTUAL WEATHER about to happen. It was very exciting as you can well imagine.

coldfront-clouds.jpg
Weather! Scary Valley power lines! Also: am I hermetically sealed to this hat now?

coldfront-clouds2.jpg
Weather! Foreboding! Exciting!


Since I had the camera out, ya'll know, it was lucky that I was able to find myself behind a car proudly displaying a ... typo. I love that people in Los Angeles adorn their cars with all kinds of sayings, so we can know for sure who they are and what they stand for, but maybe some quality control is in need?

coldfront-car.jpg

coldfront-car-close.jpg


I am 100 por ciento sure that I would ask for my money back on that one.

Posted by laurie at 10:28 AM

March 10, 2006

Friday! Punctuation at the end of a crazy week.

Before we get to the part where I do the writing of whatever excruciating cuteness the cats may be perpetrating and all the general spinster tomfoolery that we do here at this website, I need to tell ya'll that it is indeed Not Raining Yet, but should be Raining Soon, and in preparation for this giant rain storm of biblical proportions which may or may not total 1/16th of an inch of actual wetness ruining the wax job on Californian cars, our local newscaster Paul Magers went buckwild crazy and Pimped His Ride, or rather, Pimped His Suit for us, the soon-to-maybe-be-wet audience:

pimp-newsman.jpg
Los Angeles: We Are Crazy. But Pimpy!

Now we bring you the diary portion of this diary. For those of you who do not knit, here's how this column will go today: a few paragraphs about Stitch 'n Bitch, a picture of my giant forehead, some status reporting on the Brangelina hat, more paragraphs that talk about blocking, and a cat picture. If this bores you to tears I can only suggest that ya'll join myspace.com, because I think one of the cats is on there doing God-knows-what all day long. I suspect it's Sobakowa because on the TV news they keep saying MySpace is full of predators and she sort of fits that description to a tee!

soba-universe.jpg


1) Stitch 'n Bitch 'n De-Hermitization

One of the biggest changes for me this past year has been my semi-de-hermitization, brought on largely by the incredible women I have met through SnB. Instead of choosing to stay in my head and house, which I do a fair amount of anyway, I made a spur-of-the-moment trip to the Farmer's Market at The Grove for Thursday night Stitch 'n Bitch West Hollywood style.

[click for larger image]

It was a nice, small group with great conversation (per usual) lovely ladies, beer and nachos (my "get skinny before Paris" diet is going SO WELL) and yarn, yarn, yarn. Which brings me to...


2) The Brangelina Hat
I had to cast on not once, not twice, but three times to get the correct amount of stitches for the wide-rib brim on this hat, and also did I mention beer and also talking? Plus, I have apparently lost the critical brain cells that make the math portion of knitting work. However! Thanks to the Great Minds Of Stitch 'n Bitch, I cast on the correct amount and will some day in the near future have a Brangelina Hat recipe for the world, because I am a giver. Unlike that Angelina, who is... a taker. Of Husbands. I'm just saying is all.

snbmarch92006-me.jpg
I'm going to make this hat out of Up Country, but I will make another out of something not discontinued, I promise. Like a good solid Wool-Ease. Plus, wool-ease.. washable! Patons, not so much. Notice also why I need many wide-brim hats... to cover my GINORMOUS forehead. Hello!


3) Roll with your inner Snoop Dogg and Block it Like It's Hot!
The other night when I was blocking my coworker scarf, I already had the steamer out and cat help aplenty, so I decided to block my pebbly double moss stitch scarf (I wrote a piece about it here last week.)

Blocking was crucial on this baby to make it grow. The yarn was almost $17 a skein, a soft snuggly Blue Sky Bulky, half wool and half alpaca blend. Love it! But I only had two skeins, so the blocking process here was targeted at making the scarf grow longer and skinnier (it was maybe a tad on the wide side) and I also wanted the stitches to relax a little. (Relax -- blocking is the new prozac!)

blocking-pebble.jpg

blockingpebble1.jpg

blockingpebble2.jpg

blockingpebble3.jpg

Once again I am shocked at how yarn can grow impossibly longer with steam. My pebbly scarf was too wide by just a tad and not quite long enough for my liking, and throught he magic of blocking I managed to steam and stretch and ply it into place just so, then I pinned the whole thing to the guest bed and let it dry overnight. A quick addition of fringe while watching the early news this morning, and viola! Scarf! True love comes in many forms. Like... fringe. And ... felines. It's great that they want to help around the house, you know. But maybe they could start by pooping less, instead of helping me block scarves with their tummies. I'm just suggesting is all.

blocking-bob-sleeps.jpg

And, speaking of much-needed punctuation (which was the title of this little essay about 27 inches ago, which is FOREVER in Webpage Standard Time) I just have to say ... thank you. Sometimes there are sleepless nights (and weeks) at Chez Crazy, and when that happens, I go online and read the 5 or 15 or 235 (!!!) amazing things folks have written, confided, wished for all of us. It's a lovely and amazing gift, and I thank you. And Sobakowa thanks you. Because nothing harshes her kittycat buzz more than getting her precious feline sleep disturbed by an insomniac human. Really.

Posted by laurie at 10:03 AM

March 9, 2006

The Co-Worker Scarf Redux, plus "Block 'til you drop!"

Hello! We are knitting and blocking our way to emotional well-being here at Chez Crazy! And, really, what better way to explore the world of self-esteem and accomplishment than with sharp sticks, quality string and very VERY hot steam?

sharp-sticks.jpg


The Co-Worker Scarf, all finished

This is the revised recipe, my original attempt at making this scarf was posted here a few weeks ago. But with only two balls of yarn (and do not let me pass up the 6th grade moment to tell you these are SMALL BALLS) (heh, small balls! I know thee well!) I was afraid I'd end up with a three-inch-long scarf. Not nearly enough to keep this Stay Puft Marshmallow Girl warm on a European adventure (side note: whenever I look for hotels in foreign cities, I call certain establishments "European" hotels, meaning: "You're a' peein' down the hall in a shared bathroom..." and ya'll know. I'm spoilt. I do not pee down the hall. Say what you will.) (Nothing to do with knitting!)

Yarn: Lana Grossa Colore Print in color #005, 100% virgin wool, so soft! How is this wool? No scratchy!
Needles: Size 13 Lantern Moon ebony needles (I splurged)

Revised Pattern:

1) Cast on 16 stitches.

2) Knit three rows of garter stitch, which is when you knit every stitch (no purling.) You can knit more or less than three rows depending on how big you'd like the ends of the scarf to be.

3) On the fourth row, and every row for the rest of the scarf (until you get to the other end where you do the final 3 rows of plain knitting garter stitch to finish it off all symmetrical-like) you follow this pattern:

Knit 3 stitches.
Then, for the next 10 stitches, do this:
    Yarn over, knit two stitches together.
    Yarn over, knit 2 together.
    Yarn over, knit 2 together.
    Yarn over, knit 2 together. (see? so easy!)
    Yarn over, knit 2 together.
Then knit the final 3 stitches of the row.

Do that for every row until your scarf is as long as you want, then knit three final rows of garter stitch, bind off, do happy dance.

Remember, yarnovering is totally easy! There are probably as many ways to do a yarnover as there are to knit a stitch, but I found that if you just do Your Personal Yarnover the same way consistently in this pattern, you'll be OK. This is how I do it:

yarnovering-again1.jpg

yarnovering-again2.jpg


 

Blocking is the new Botox! Fixes wrinkles, cures everything!

This scarf is 100% wool, and I loooooooove to block wool, it makes the stitches look so pretty and it really can make a lot of fabric grow out of two puny balls of yarn. It is magic. Gnomes, probably.

When blocking scarves for fast dry-and-wear (The Great Storm of 2006 is coming this weekend! We may all die! From .... rain!) I always use the Scunci Steamer that Annie gave me as a hostess gift. Best invention ever! The steam doesn't saturate the fabric so the drying time is much faster, and the actual blocking process itself takes about five minutes. In preparation, I put a clean sheet on the twin bed in the guestroom, trying to avoid the feline helpers and I got the pincushion handy. (I use regular old straight pins from JoAnn's.)

Next, I readied the steamer and prepared for greatness.

But in knitting, like all things I guess, there is no one solution that fixes all problems. For this particular scarf, it only took a few seconds to discover that the steamer wasn't the right tool for the job. I wanted to make my scarf grow longer, while at the same time opening up the stitches on the inside. So, to get the scarf to grow both in length and width, I needed an even more powerful and remarkable tool:

blockingcoworker3.jpg


To block the old-school low-tech way, just fill a cheapo spray bottle with warm tap water. Beginning at one end of the scarf, carefully pin the piece into place, stretching both in length and opening the middle stitches as you go. A twin bed is perfect for this because it's plenty long for pinning. After about ten minutes of careful pinning and riduculous amounts of cat help, I sprayed the pinned scarf with water, lightly getting the whole surface damp but nowhere near soaked. You'll be able to tell right away by touching the yarn if it's wet enough -- it becomes pliable at a certain point, and that's all you need. When I had fully pinned and sprayed, I folded the sheet back over the scarf (to prevent further feline help and speed drying time) and voila! You have blocking!

blockingcoworker4.jpg

blockingcoworker5.jpg

blocking-coworker.jpg

blocking-close-coworker.jpg


The scarf grew perfectly, and that close-up doesn't really show how well the pattern opened up in the middle, but ya'll it was like 5 a.m. when I took that picture, and I believe as a rule I should have a good amount of caffeine prior to operating heavy machinery. Really. All in all, though, an excellent blocking adventure, even with the large amount of orange furry help I received.


blockingcoworker2.jpg

Posted by laurie at 10:24 AM

March 8, 2006

When in doubt, talk about knitting.

It's a little overwhelming to think of how many people have been through a bad breakup. I do appreciate every kind word, and I only hope that all of us find a new love, and that love is... MISTI ALPACA.

For those of you who do not knit, Misti Alpaca is to yarn what Marc Jacobs is to handbags: perfection. I'm not sure if alpaca is considered wool, even though I assume it comes off an animal in sheeplike-shearing fashion (one might be surprised to discover that I lived on a farm in Comfort, Texas as a child. But in my defense, we raised holsteins, OK people? Hook 'em horns does not refer to the great Alpaca population of Texas.) Where were we? Oh yes! The softness! This yarn feels so soft, not the least bit wool-scratchy and impossibly lofty. I may investigate buying a baby alpaca for my backyard. In Encino. My rationale is that if Crackhead Bob gets to build a meth lab, I should get my own backyard alpaca.

When Annie was here last year filming Knitty Gritty (which, by the way, seems to be stuck in repeats, can someone please explain why every show is a repeat? why?) she gave me her goody bag from the episode and in it was a single hank of lovely loden green Misty Alpaca. LOVE AT FIRST SIGHT. Recently, I bought two skeins of this heavenly stuff in black, and I want to make a scarf -- got any ideas? I'm trying to decide... a skinny ribbed pattern? A single cable? I want something simple, but nice in black.

In other news, I am taking all my fashion knitting cues from the cover of "US Weekly" magazine:

us-weekly-cover.jpg


Where others may see nothing but Brangelina, or perhaps Britney's unfortunate swimming costume, I can't keep my eyes off that fantastic ribbed-brim hat! I cast on last night for a simple ribbed-brim chunky hat of my own using my beloved Patons Up Country (another heartbreak, the day I discovered it was discontinued.) (Unlike husbands, however, when it comes to yarn we can buy as many skeins as possible and seal them away in ziploc bags until we find a use for them.)

My house is just full of all sorts of knitting-in-progress (read: scarves that need finishing.) Tonight I fully intend to turn Chez Cat Hair into Chez Keep The Cats Off The Guest Bed So I Can Block Like A Mutha, because ya'll... there is big, scary weather news forecast for Los Angeles and I will NEED those wooly handknits! This weekend, we are supposed to have the evil "rain" combined with a new thing they are calling a "cold front" and in a scary and potentially devastating turn of fate, it may allegedly drop BELOW fifty degrees during the daytime! With rain! Falling from the sky! PEOPLE MAY DIE.

How on earth will we make it to Starbucks on Saturday morning? Will there be a city-wide caffeine withdrawl? Will people loot the Beverly Center in search of skinny scarves, puffy vests and Ugg boots? Will there be shortages of knit Brangelina-style ribbed-brim hats? OH GOD. What if there are no Brangelina hats left? Will we have to resort to wearing newsboy caps from two seasons ago?

SAY IT ISN'T SO.

Ya'll pray for Los Angeles. Let's hope the handknits are ready in time for what may only be described as POTENTIALLY THE WORST THING TO HAPPEN TO CRAZYKIND.

blockingbob2.jpg

Posted by laurie at 9:49 AM

March 7, 2006

The Seventeen Stages Of Divorce

Stage 1: Denial
I called my parents, but there was no answer. I am such a daddy's girl. They're on vacation.

Stage 2: Hunger
I will eat this snack-size bag of Cheetos, even though what I need is the grief-sized grab bag.

Stage 3: Presumption of Okayness
I was holding up just fine until my co-worker said, "Are you all right?" and then I had to leave, I just picked up and walked out the door, thank God it was raining anyway. It was yesterday, a Monday. Took me this long to even get the words down, I want it all to just end, I want to be Moved On, to be Finished, to be shut of this.

Stage 4: Recognition/Honest Now
But when I got the email, I immediately assumed the position (all those months right after he'd left and then again during the divorce you could find me in The Position half the day) elbows on my desk, keyboard pushed away, fingers outstretched on my closed eyes. Head bowed. Breathing. Trying so hard to just breathe. Do it. Breathe. Now. I can tell you this story -- A True Story-- because it is very late and I should be asleep. I miss one thing and it isn't him, it's the smoking, so I smoked tonight, I'm fallible, but at least I am not heartless. I don't care about the smoking. Or the heart, anyway. Who needs it. I was going to smoke in Paris anyway, and ya'll don't tell my dad.

Stage 5: God Help Me
Does there ever come a point where I will completely not care if he is dating the entire waitstaff at Hooters? Please, someone, tell me a day will arrive where I just. Won't. Care.

Stage 6: Realization/Let's Be Honest Ya'll
Clearly, I don't want him back. Clearly he did not love me the way I need, want, deserve. Clearly, it was a bad pairing and all the good things have come at a price, the disentanglement of me from my vision for myself, but anyway. It hurt. Because Shannon sent me an email yesterday, on Monday, confirming what I already knew (suspected?) that Mr. X and his girlfriend did indeed move into a new house together, and the ink wasn't even dry on the divorce papers when he did it. Two days after the divorce. But he hasn't told me himself and didn't want our mutual friends to tell me. BECAUSE THAT'S EASIER? For whom?

Stage 7: Clarity of Issues
The problem is not that there is another woman (that makes it easier, somehow) and anyway, I already knew. He never told me, he never had the backbone or moral stamina. No, you see he told me he needed his creativity back, that we (we!) would be happier for it, we could work on our relationship. (Oh please.) Or because telling the truth was so hard? (Yes, it is hard to tell the truth but you owe it to people, this much I have learned, you do it not because it's easy but because it's right.) He was scared, or weak, or just a liar all the way into his very bones. How can he be present, show up for a whole new life with a whole new woman when he never showed up for the end of this one? No, the problem is not that I still love him. I don't even know him. I have no idea who he is. The problem is the ease with which he has moved from Life A to Life B. And the inversely proportional unease ... the complete, utter mess I have been.

Stage 8: Begging
Tell me, please tell me it gets easier. That one day you bump into your ex-husband and he's with the entire waitstaff of Hooters, and you could care less. God, tell me this happens, that I will be with my best friend, or ... maybe even someone else? and i'll just look at him and wonder WHAT THE HELL WAS I THINKING.

Stage 9: Acceptance of Blame
When did I move from people-pleaser to husband-displeaser? was I: too hard, too soft, too demanding, what is demanding? Too much, not enough, too loud, too soft, too willing, not willing enough? Please pick up some laundry detergent on the way home? Was I so hard to live with?

Stage 10: Placement of Blame
He lied, he cheated long before he left, if she cooks his dinner now each night, pulls back the covers, lies next to him (he was someone else's husband when she met him) then good riddance to them both, no relationship borne of lies can ever be true. Also: I hate you both. You deserve each other.

Stage 11: Anger
I am good and I am true and I wish you a virulant and painful case of herpes, I hope she gets knocked up and you can know what real responsibility is all about, I hope you are made for each other, I hope you miss me, deeply, in the middle of the night, when I have somehow miraculously moved on and have someone to hug me when I wash a plate, sautee the zuchinni, pour a glass of iced tea. This will be better because it's real and you were a lie, a stranger.


Stage 12: Disbelief (More Anger)
I cannot believe here I am, so many months later and this news was like being kicked in the stomach, the very thought that the death of my marriage changed my life in every conceivable way and yet he just slid so easily from one bed to another, and my life is: figuring out the details, piecing together an entirely new future, a new set of friends because the old ones were the "married" friends, financially on my own, the way I see myself, my life, my future, when something breaks I am the one to fix it, it's all been changed forever. And he's set up house and has settled in already -- living with this woman! -- and I can't even picture what a date looks like, I feel like I can't ever trust a man, I'm terrified, I'm unassailably alone.

Stage 13: Insanity
The very idea. I guess his creativity came with boobs. Convenient, that one.

Stage 14: Prayer
Oh God. I do not know even how to put it into words, the feeling I had, at my desk, assume the position of shock and grief. But like all these times before, that's never stopped me. Help me.

Stage 15: Poor Grammar
He is LIVING WITH a woman, and I cannot commit to a mascara.
I've changed.
I don't know if I can ever let anyone in again.
I've changed.
I'm not as needy as I was.
I'm able to sit alone.
I like it.
It scares me that I may never want anyone. I may never trust anyone. I may never love anyone again.
He never could fix anything, anyway.
I should never have married him.
I'm furious that he has it so easy.
That leaving was just one day, a hassle, he'd left long before he moved out. Did he ever show up at all? Or was it just a lie?
I feel sick to my stomach.
I'm mad that he gets to bumble along, play house, have someone wash his socks and cook his meals, and it's so easy for him.
I'm scared to GO ON A FREAKING DATE and he has set up house and has someone in his bed, plays wifey to him, how does one trade warm bodies so easily? How?

Was I so easy to forget?

Stage 16: Exhaustion
He isn't worth the time it takes me to blow dry my hair.
I'm bored with the whole thing.
I want to be shut of it even more than you -- you, who've had to listen to me bellyache for a year. Really. I'ma tired of it all. So he lives with his girlfriend. The man cannot wash a pair of socks.


Stage 17: Hope/The Future
One thing is true, I know who I am every day of the week and twice on Sundays. I kept my sense of humor. I worked through this thing so that when I do decide, one day, to hitch my wagon to someone I will be fully present, no hidden agenda, and one of us got their creativity back, and I can garandamnteeyou it wasn't him. It's OK. he comes home to someone else each night, shakes the raindrops from his coat, they have dinner, have a cocktail, go to bed. I do not have that. I have: reality. The knowledge that I am true and real. I don't lie to you. I show up. I make promises that I keep. I pet the cat and stretch out, pour another in a long line of solid cabernets. Life isn't bad. I show up. I am present. I'm here to take whatever comes. This? Just something those of us who are GETTING OUR CREATIVITY BACK thrive upon. The future is wide open. I'm scared, but I will do it anyway. Because I have hope, and humor, and love inside me. The cat settles in for a long night. I'm fine. Surprisingly, I'm fine.
Amen.

Posted by laurie at 12:04 AM

March 6, 2006

And the Oscar goes to...

The award for Best Cat in a Supporting Role, male, goes to Bob for his moving performance in "My Left Paw."

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. . . . . . . .


The Oscar for Best Female Cat in a Supporting Role goes to Frankie, for her portrayal of the great Detective Franklin Cluesoe in "The Mystery of the White Sabretoothed Cat" (white sabretoothed cat played by Roy in a cameo appearance.)

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. . . . . . . .


Best Male Cat in a Leading Role goes to Roy for his heartbreaking portrayal of a cat impaled by evil in this year's remake of "Close Encounters of the Soba Kind."

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. . . . . . . .


And of course, in the most anticipated win of the year, Best Female Cat in a Leading Role goes to one Sobakowa for her awe-inspiring takeover of the entire planet in "I'm Gonna Get You Sucker!"

award-soba.jpg
"I really am going to get you. Suckers."

Posted by laurie at 8:33 AM

March 3, 2006

One round-trip ticket to Memory Lane, please!

The other night when I was digging around in my memories for the photograph of me in front of the Mississippi sign, I came across this:

lark-me.jpg


That's me, all nineteen years of me (obviously before I discovered the art of eyebrow waxing), and one Lark Houston Watts (his real actual name!) (also: eyebrows!) and this photo was taken at about eleventeen hours after midnight which was the closing time at Mainstreet, the bar in our college town.

I do have a penchant for the nostalgic. Of course, I blame this on Southernness. And possibly wine. I sift backwards through the people and events in my life as if it could explain something crucial about the future, or how I got here (which isn't a bad place to be, you know). Just figuring it out. I'm noticing that in order to be fully me, complete and happy in who I am, I need to know who she is, this girl in my skin -- Mr. X notwithstanding. Before him, during him, who was I? Who do I want to be? The future is wide open. There's good stuff there. Plant your own garden, decorate your own soul.

So anyway. It was late last night, and raining, and I started thinking how there's love... and then there's first love. Lark was tall, Southern (eyebrows!) one of the most talented human beings I have ever laid eyes or ears on. When I met him, he was already a local Nashville celebrity. I was 19 and unscathed, young, an unwritten page. The first minute he looked my way, I was his.

We met completely by chance. At the time, I was the weather girl for the university TV station's news program. (I kid you not. I desired to be a weather girl ... it's raining ya'll!) And one evening I was prepping my absurdly detailed forecast at the same time another show was setting up for filming. Out of proximity and necessity, I was asked to fill in as host for a local music showcase that aired each weekend on the channel (much higher rated than the news, I'll tell you that). The host was home sick with the flu.

I agreed.

I met Lark that day.

Before long we were inseparable. I worked at Mainstreet, the bar where he would sing live once a week or so, and I watched as he was on stage, my boyfriend (I love that word, boyfriend, don't you? it's kind of hopeful and sweet). I wasn't even the legal drinking age, but it was college and the bartender would hand me a cup each evening of something, Lord only knows, and I drank it. Lark would get up on stage and there was charisma exuding right out of him and it was amazing. You'd see these girls, girls everywhere, everyone wanting a piece of him, it was... crazy. It made me crazy.

We spent one summer holed up in a tiny one-room apartment on a leafy, tree-lined street of antebellum homes, giant Old South houses that had been converted into apartments for starving university kids. I worked at the bar until 2 a.m., and then we went into the studio and he and his band recorded until dawn. I look back on that summer and I can't believe how happy it makes me, even though we were broke and fighting and the hot water stopped working in the ancient apartment, and I would go into the studio at night and go into the long, empty bathroom under fluorescent lights and sit up on the cold tile by the sink and wash my hair while the sounds from the studio filtered in through the walls, the vents, the sound of Lark's voice everywhere.

The things we do when we're young, hopelessly in love. Because seriously? Could ya'll imagine me for even a minute now, with my germaphobia and wet wipes and antibaceverything, standing in an empty ladies room in a recording studio at four in the morning washing my hair in a sink? Hell. Freezing. Over.

Obviously, we broke up. I wanted to be grown up, married, adult. He had a dream and a singing career which did not include a picket fence and a volvo. I moved to Los Angeles to become a writer, he played Nashville, toured, we kept in touch. I got married. He started a new career as a music video director. But we kept tabs on each other, after a while it became apparent that he and I had known each other longer than we cared to admit in public. It's nice still being close to someone who saw you grow up, change, stay more the same than ever. Every time I hear his voice it takes me right back to 19 years old, a good year.

I about had to pitch a hissy to get him to digitize the stuff he recorded that summer. Last week he sent me all of the songs I wanted, and since I know he won't sue me for letting ya'll download his stuff, here's a few for you with my liner notes included. Because if I'm going down memory lane, ya'll are coming with me!

[NOTE: Because I am a technologial dumbass, I cannot figure out how to get my cute little buttons to automatically download the song as opposed to just playing it in your browser. SO! If you use Internet Explorer, you have to right-click on the button and select "Save Target As..." to save the file. If you use Firefox, right-click and select "Save Link as..." to download the file. What a pain in my nostalgic ass.]

1) Truth download the mp3
Hands down, my favorite song ever. I listen to this when I want to go home, it makes me think of the studio, Lark in jeans and me in cut-offs and Keds, he looks at me through the haze of a cigarette. And later when I was in Los Angeles and not sure why the hell I moved here, I would listen to this song as I drove up and down the canyon roads, aimless. Homesick. ("Lies, baby ... truth and honesty.")

2) 4th of July download the mp3
I hated this song when he wrote it, I was so mad at how the story ended. Then I realized... it's a story, Sally and Danny are not "Laurie and Lark." heh. Now it's one of my favorites, it's a great song -- with a bullet. ("Danny said, 'Sally, my love is true... if we make Mi'sippi, I'm gonna marry you.")

3) Put Down The Gun download the mp3
One night Lark and the band were doing a showcase at ... the Bluebird, maybe? And I watched him perform this song with his backup singer, Lyria, and I about had a jealousy attack. It's damn near the sexiest song he ever wrote. I still get a little jealous, now that you bring it up. ("Your daddy's back in town ...")

4) When The Night Falls download the mp3
He recently confirmed that this song was about ... uh, someone we both know. Real well. Rhymes with "Raurie." But I love it, I'm a woman who likes to be called 'baby' if the right man is saying it. ("Were you expecting a hero from one of your magazines? Or maybe some backseat Romeo to sweep you off your feet?")

5) Painless download the mp3
We were at 12th & Porter one night, and Lark was on stage and this woman behind me had pulled her chair around to get a better view. "Oh, that boy is just something, isn't he?" I went from sweet to green-eyed in zero-point-zero seconds flat. "Oh, he's something all right." One eyebrow arched, daggers shooting. It makes me laugh thinking of it. Like I was gonna throw down at 12th & Porter. (There's a big, deliberate pause in the middle of this song.)


I love how music can take you right back there. I listen to his voice and it's like I'm back home, sitting at the City Cafe drinking sweet tea and eating lunch at 2 p.m. Of course, I'm about as far from Back Home as possible, a thousand billion miles away, two glasses of wine and drowning in nostalgia.

Lark is better known these days in Nashville as a video director for country acts like Sawyer Brown and some other people I ought to know, except my musical knowledge stopped sometime in 1993, but he has a new CD coming out this summer and you can get the preview disc from his website, larkwatts.com. That man can sing your heart out!


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Posted by laurie at 9:44 AM

March 2, 2006

M-I-crooked-letter-crooked letter-I ...

mississippi.jpg


That's me, gettin' my redneck on a few years ago. "Pull over right here RIGHT HERE I need my picture taken!" Ah, so many of my good memories involve cars, and Mississippi, and possibly the side of the highway.

Except the one time I was maybe driving back to our house (we were living in Columbus, Mississippi at that time, and it was dark and we lived way the heck out in the country off rural route something-or-other) and a giant deer committed suicide on my car. A few weeks later an owl made a similar maneuver (and ya'll. Owls are BIG.) Or there was the time I was driving some back roads and it was raining and the ground was real saturated and ... a tree fell on my car. Yes. A HUGE GIANT OAK TREE started falling to the ground at the EXACT MOMENT I was driving past it. You try explaining that one to your daddy.

Dad: Why didn't you stop, then, if a tree really fell on your car?

Me: Daddy, the tree was already dead. And I had to pee.

Dad: How on earth am I going to explain this to the State Farm guy?

Me: Remind him about the deer and the owl and he shouldn't have any trouble with a tree.

Dad: You must be the only human to have three 'Acts of God' accidents a year.

Me: God is maybe mad?

Well, all right then, technically the 'Acts of God' I experienced during that time do not qualify as my good memories of Mississippi, but anyway.

Mississippi is: amazing good food, nice people, sweet tea, lots of rain, good thunderstorms, and flowers that bloom overnight. Mean oak trees that attack your car and suicide deer. Ole Miss, bulldogs, Southern Ladies, guys who always open the door for you, amazing barbecue, excellent roadside stops, fried okra, the smell of a Marlboro Red, a jukebox, the Delta. One State Farm agent who was real happy not to have me as a daughter. Hummingbirds. Hush puppies.

Mississippi is also in dire need of some TLC. There's still barely a stick standing in Pass Christian and so many other towns. There's just devastation and debris, even six months later. Now, I personally do not have buckets of money, but I do have plenty of time and some mad painting skills so I signed up with Habitat For Humanity today, I think they're a real stand-up organization and as soon as they're organizing folks to go down and start building, I want to be on the list! You can donate either time or money or both. So ya'll sign up! We can all go together. I promise to bring the sweet tea ... but someone else has really got to do the driving. Seriously.

Posted by laurie at 9:18 AM

March 1, 2006

March 2006 Hor-O-Scopes

I like to blame a lot of stuff on Mercury and its retrograding self. Recently in our weekly staff meeting here at Corporate Job, Inc., I blamed the planet Mercury for breaking the projector. My boss is so used to my brand of crazy that he ignored me completely, and I suggest we all take this tactic when dealing with a retrograded March: ignore the crazy stuff. It won't kill any of us. And if it does kill us, no one can eat us anyway.

For March, Mercury goes into the astrological Bat Cave on the 2nd and doesn't re-emerge until the 25th, and it looks like Uranus is big this month too (HAR HAR) (that never gets old, folks) plus, I'm going international with my crazy and arriving in Paris with a Virgo, two Capricorns and a Gemini. It's a month with a full moon, a new moon, some Ides, a green-beer day and the first day of Spring. We'll all be somewhat manic and moody this March, but we'll find new and ever-drunken ways to cope with it. You can put that in Uranus and smoke it!

- - - - - -

AQUARIUS (Jan. 20 - Feb. 18)
The two-step may have been fine for Fred and Ginger, but who wants to be taking two steps forward and two steps back every time they hit the ground? Not me. And not ya'll, I'm just guessing. March is all about breaking out of the box step and break dancing instead ... or maybe a spicy mambo? A tango to work, a rumba to bed? Dare to do something buckwild crazy this spring, and release all the built-up tension of the winter months. Until the new moon at the very end of the month, the only expectations you have to live up to are your own. The most important thing I can tell you right now: Don't spend your life taking instructions on how to live from people that aren't even qualified to give you street directions. Or dance instructions.

PISCES (Feb. 19 - March 20)
While we're on the dance metaphors, I noticed we had a little internal hokey-pokey in Pisces this month. Ya'll are playing mental and emotional hopscotch: One foot left, one foot right, cross your fingers and hope everything works out. But why? Why are you doing this? Sing it with me: It's your birthday! It's your birthday! Go Pisces! Go Pisces! You have to take the lead this month, both pragmatically and romantically. I can't imagine you stalking your goals zealously, but I can envision you with treats in your pocket to attract some puppy love. I don't mind if you use stealthy and secretive ways to get what you want, as long as you finally start closing in on the prize. Life is short, nights are long, take a chance. Put your right foot in and shake it all around, that's what it's all about.

ARIES (March 21- April 19)
Reading tea leaves may be a dying art, but I am well-versed at discerning truth and prophecy from the smudges on the top of your Diet Coke can. It was, in fact, the only way I could properly find a reading for you this month. Seems you have some planetary re-alignment, and all that other crap that astrologers talk about. What that means for real people is that you're in a shitload of flux, and you can't make heads or tails of this crazy cycle of change. I wish there was an astrological safe house where you could go to wait out your forecast, but the best I can offer you is a glimpse at the future -- the knowledge that next month the influx of change will continue, but you'll finally begin to see the right decisions you've made. And there are plenty! Until it becomes clear, though, do NOT make ironclad long-term life decisions out of sheer desire to make the flux end. I mean really.




TAURUS (April 20 - May 20)
You are such a little free thinker these days, spouting wisdom and exploring new ways of being independent. Ya'll have made your mamas proud, and really have made something of yourselves. Now if we could just do something about that hair! And your aversion to go with the flow. And your cranky disposition when it comes to sticking out from the rest of the zodiac. Just because we watch boring teevee or shop at the mall, it doesn't mean we're all cyborgs. No need to take us to task for not being individualistic Taurus Goddesses like yourselves. Use all that pent-up energy to pick a fight over something more meaningful, will you? The new moon at the end of March will open you up to a whole new set of expectations to rail against. The good news is that you are a Taurus Goddess, worthy opponent, amazing competitor. The bad news is that we haven't all gotten that memo yet. Be patient.

GEMINI (May 21 - June 21)
I attended my first horse race not long after moving to Los Angeles. I was shocked and amazed to see rows of people hunched over Jack & Coke while smoking their last three dollars and hoping for a Win, Place or Show. It's a reluctant metaphor for your March -- running around in even more circles, hoping to get neck and neck with your anxiety and win, finally! Or at least place. I meanyou're here, aren't you, so you got "show" covered. In some way, we're all of us hoping for a win, place or show in this life. And, though you don't want to hear it, I would not recommend placing all your money down on one horse (or rider, I know how ya'll are) this spring, until the Mercury horse goes direct on the 25th. While this month may not be the final freedom you were banking on, I can assure you that all is not lost, and by releasing your need to win at all costs perhaps you'll have time to decide if you really wanted the prize anyway. And since you're already here, what with the showing up and all, why not have a Jack & Coke on me.

CANCER (June 22 - July 22)
Shakespeare called astrology "The excellent foppery of the world." Methinks old Shakespeare needed to take ye olde stick out of ye old arse. But this line reminds me of the old saying "Anything can be true as long as you believe it." I'm down with that. Let's believe what we need to be true all month long, shall we? (Oh, ya'll can tell I am a true Cancer, with a Cancer rising, such a dreamy little optimist.) What you -- and I -- need to believe this spring is that magic still exists, that our future can be divinely granted, that fate is smiling upon us. Don't let anyone tell you differently. Fact is, if you believe that the gods are smiling on you, they most likely are. And destiny can be made. And fortune cookies can tell the truth. And people can surprise you, and you can surpass even your own expectations for yourself.

LEO (July 23 - August 22)
Let's play spin the bottle. I spin, and you bottle up your emotions. Oh wait! Ya'll are already playing that game! Please stop. Now. Not tomorrow or next week or the second Tuesday after you get your teeth cleaned. Stop now. Learn to express yourself today by writing a big mean letter to the world and address it to every single person that has ticked you off. Include your bitter third-grade teacher, the friend who wasn't, the ex that never explained why it ended, the convenience store clerk who was rude. All of them. (Feel free to throw in some jabs at Mr. X, I'm just saying is all.) Spew it all out on paper and then wonder at how you ever kept all that bottled inside. Feel terribly free, self-satisfied, and delighted with your colorful vocabulary. Now isn't that better?

VIRGO (August 23 - Sept. 22)
What's a nice Virgo like you doing in a joint like this? Do you feel a little tainted by the proximity of so many astrological slackers? You after all, take this life very seriously, and if the rest of us zodiac losers would just get our asses in gear and stop pandering to our weaker aspects, then maybe you'd see fit to grace us with your presence. I don't know how you manage to put up with us. I have three suggestions for helping ease the annoyance factor: don't eat strange candy, don't talk in elevators, and don't wear spandex. And don't compromise your sense of purpose and vision just because we haven't caught up with you yet. We will.

LIBRA (Sept. 23 - Oct. 23)
Resist the temptation to get bitchy this month. Do not give into your inner horndog. Break out the halo and be on your best behavior, because someone is eyeing you closely for a leadership role, or a promotion, or some added responsibility you've been asking for. Maybe it's just that your character has come under scrutiny lately, and you don't want to give them fuel for the fire. (There has been a lot of chatter in your life, and almost none of it has been true or real.) Whatever the case may be, think angelically and picture yourself with wings. Libra, ya'll need to move from wild child to angel in 30 days or less! If Drew Barrymore could do it, so can you.

SCORPIO (Oct. 24 - Nov. 21)
A recent poll shows that 2/3 of all Scorps are Alone-a-phobes. Surrounding yourself with people and things and noise is your favorite way of dealing with Alone-aphobia, but I'm going to suggest something radical. Turn off the TV and the radio, don't answer the phone -- in fact, turn the ringer off -- and be all by your lonesome for at least 20 minutes. Why is it so scary for you? Think of it as a party of one. See! You're such nice company. I like having you around. You ought to come here more often. Baby, what's your sign? Oh. Right. That's how we got here in the first place. Whoops.

SAGITTARIUS (Nov. 22 - Dec. 21)
How well do you know your modern Paula Abdul? She was a nice girl from the suburbs who lyricized "He's a cold hearted snake / look into his eyes / uh-oh / he's been telling lies..." You could take a warning from her... after all, you know that sometimes we all need a former cheerleader-turned-choreographer-turned-singer turned-hasbeen-turned-American-Idol to philosophize for us. Well, I know I do, anyway. Besides how many modern-day philosophers were former Laker Girls? But, I digress. The true sum of a month's wisdom comes from one lyric. "All the world's a candy store / he's been trick or treatin'" A line fitting of a Sag, because all the world is your candy store in March. Someone's been trick or treatin' in the past ... but this month it will be you, happy Sag, many treats and no cold-hearted snakes here. Straight up now tell me ... am I forever your girl? (Ok, I'm stopping now! I promise!)

CAPRICORN (Dec. 22 - Jan. 19)
Dearest Capricorn. Welcome to March. You are under emotional House of Blues arrest. You have the right to get angry. You have the right to speak with a real friend, and confess your secrets and your fears. You have the right to late night phone calls. You have the right to ponder, to delve into your emotions. You have the right to broaden your horizons, meet new people, break new laws of attraction. You have the right to drunken introspection. If you cannot afford therapy, you may find that a therapist has been appointed to you by the gods, and will manifest itself in nooks and crannies. Do you understand these rights as they have been read to you?

Posted by laurie at 10:12 AM