« March 2006 | Main | May 2006 »

April 30, 2006

Veterinary Medical And Surgical Group

If you live anywhere within driving distance of Ventura, California, and you need the services of a veterinary specialist (well, I hope you don't, let me tell you that, BUT if you do...) drive straight to Veterinary Medical And Surgical Group. The level of service and care both Roy and I have gotten from these folks is top-notch.

You get a more thorough consultation here than you do with a people-doctor specialist. After our visit, they sent me and Roy home with three typed up pages -- a full summary of the exam, the next possible steps, interim care, etc. And Dr. Ortega began the summary with, "Dear Laurie, Thank you for bringing Roy to see us, he is a very handsome cat!"

Well. Now we're talking. Obviously these folks know their stuff!

And they also sent us home with a bag of medication in a cold pack for the car, seeing as we were driving back to Los Angeles in Friday rush hour traffic. A cold pack, ya'll. I've never been so pleased with the level of care and detail shown to my animal -- and just yesterday I got a follow up call from them, checking in on Roy and his situation. They didn't just have a receptionist call me -- one of the doctors called, and chatted with me for a good 20 minutes. These folks are on top of their game, and if you do need specialized treatment, Roy and I highly recommend them.

Veterinary Medical And Surgical Group
2199 Sperry Avenue
Ventura, CA 93003


Posted by laurie at 6:16 AM

April 29, 2006


Hah hah. I thought I was doing it right, keeping it a big secret and all. Which is funny, since the one thing I wanted to do was TELL EVERYONE, and I do mean EVERYONE, that I Had Been Asked On A Date. Yes. A divorced woman over a certain age with four cats and a propensity for crazy was asked out on a real bonafide date. Hooray!

It's odd having a diary that other people read. I'm not really secretive by nature (obviously) but on the other hand, there is the matter of good old-fashioned Southern superstition, in which you can jinx things merely by saying them aloud. I remember when Matt McAlister asked me to the prom in high school, I was afraid to tell anyone for at least a whole week (forever in High School Standard Time) because of the possible jinxing it factor. It's a concern.

And so I went on this date, and told no one. And it was fun! Better than fun! He took me to a great cajun restaurant and it reminded me of home a little, and it was nice. Because what a cute guy, right? Who knows you used to live in the Gret Stet of Loosiana and takes you to a cajun restaurant. And we went out again, and again, and before long we were spending all kinds of time together, and wasn't this nice? Because ya'll know. It's been too long. I've had eighteen months of nothing, not even a hand on my arm, not even a hug. It's been Angela's Ashes over here in the lovin' department. The Grapes of Wrath Of Getting Any (handholding) (hi Dad!).

And I thought things were going OK, I mean no I wasn't delusional, after all he's still a guy and I'm still me with my issues and quirks (quirk-free!) and so on and so forth. But for the most part, it was going well and we did all these goofy things like teenagers, text messaging each other, kissing in the car, watching really bad DVDs until all hours of the night. He brought me flowers once. Made me dinner one night. I told a few people. Just close friends.

This sounds good, doesn't it?

Except then we talked one day on the phone, JUST LIKE NORMAL, and he said, "OK, I'll talk to you later tonight..." and then HE NEVER CALLED ME AGAIN.

On the first day it was like, "Oh, I just saw him yesterday. Maybe he got busy."

On the second day, I was surprised not to hear from him. After all, this had not been the pattern. We talked at least every other day. Usually every day (just for a minute or two, not long conversations) (or a text message, an email) but... now, nothing. The sounds of silence.

Day Three comes and I am well and very pissed off.

Day Four. I tell Jennifer, "Oh my God, I think I have been Lone Rangered. He came, he saw, he left... who was that masked man?"

Day Five and I refuse to talk or think about the whole thing. Perhaps he died.

Day Six. He better have died.

Finally, one week with no proof of life and all I can do is shake my head and wonder, what the fu...?

And all that time spent not telling ya'll, or anyone out of fear of jinxing it. Then I go and get jinxed somehow anyway. My love karma must be something so foul and miserable, Lord knows what I have done in a former life to deserve it. Oh sure, I could call him, but I do have at least a shred of pride remaining. The woman who calls after a week of a man's no-calls is put in the awkward position of being The Chaser. Give my my dignity, please.

When put into proper perspective, it's no big deal ... it's not like the slow destruction of a marriage, a true love, but still. I liked him. He was fun to hang out with. He was cute. He could cook. He was in my age range. He had really nice arms. I mean, I do have my standards. But apparently he is now The One Who Never Called Again. Nice! Oh God. Wait. What if I have developed some kind of man-repelling aura? I am unpalatable. It could be happening on a cellular level without my express consent... maybe it's chemical ... maybe next month we'll all be making jokes about how quickly I can make a man disappear. BECAUSE PEOPLE, THIS IS NOT A GOOD THING.

Or -- maybe it's not just me, it's just how dating goes. Tell me, please is this what dating has to offer? Anxiety over what to wear and who to tell about what you're going to wear. Followed by angst over whether or not it went well/ya'll should kiss/ya'll kissed too much/will he call again. Then butterflies, or whatever, then... NOT ONE SINGLE DAMN THING OK I QUIT. THIS SUCKS.

Appparently it's much easier to simply NEVER CALL AGAIN than to send an email (or, God forbid, a PHONE CALL) explaining "Hey, it was nice knowing you and I'm glad I spent the past many weeks with you, but I've decided to get back with my ex/run off to Bora Bora/become a transvestite/join Opus Dei so I won't be calling you anymore. But let's be friends." Does a man think it's KINDER to the woman to disappear? Does he think we prefer silence to any excuse, no matter how lame? Does the pope wear a G-string? (I don't know. Maybe he does. It's been a rough year for the pope. All I can say is that for the sake of my analogy there, we'll assume the pope does not, in fact, wear a G-string.) Because I believe I speak for all women here when I say WE HATE YOU WHEN YOU JUST MYSTERIOUSLY STOP CALLING.

And yet! Men wonder why women are from time to time prone to pessimism. Men wonder why women put up walls around their hearts, men wonder why we scoff at their sincerity, doubt them. Well let me tell you why. It is because each of us, through a lifetime of dealing with men, have been subjected to He Who Never Called Again. And ya'll are just paying it forward each time you abruptly stop calling a woman, forget about her like gum on the bottom of someone's shoe, or leave your wives to play house with some new girl you've known for a month. I don't hate men -- I love men, the way ya'll smell and talk and look at a girl just so -- but I'll be damned if right now I could care less about any of you, all of you, because you say you're different and some of you even appear to be different, and in the end you just aren't different at all.

Maybe the trick is to go out on dates and at the end of each evening, not care if you ever hear from the guy ever again. Except, what's the point of that? I can go to dinner with my friends, and laugh and carry on without caring if my outfit is just-so or if I talked too much, and my friends won't Lone Ranger me. All of this is so confusing. I feel like a small, daft child who's had her favorite candy handed to her for a month then it's rudely taken away with no warning.

Generally trying to avoid depression like the sticky side of a pantyliner. Not always succeeding.

Posted by laurie at 9:35 AM

April 28, 2006

One flux capacitor, STAT!

Yeah yeah I know you live in Europe where gas is $758.00 a gallon. But, see, you have a little thing called "reliable mass transit." My bus? NEVER SHOWED UP today. Love you, Los Angeles!

I love reading people's cars. When I see a bumper sticker, I wonder, "What made them decide right then right there to put a sticker on their multi-thousand dollar purchase? Do they worry about getting keyed by people who don't like the message? Do they themselves still like the message?" Ya'll know. I can go on and on and on about such a thing, especially on a Friday morning in bumper-to-bumper commute traffic.

Notice how clear and crisp the image is. Because we are at a
complete standstill. On the freeway. Burn, gasoline, burn!


Kind of made me heart this driver.


Best of all! Dude got his car at PRAY Automobiles! That's SO
where I'm buying my next brokedown heap! I mean... Jeep!

While driving, I amuse myself by listening to AM talk radio and checking out other motorists. Since it takes me a solid hour (or two!) to get to work, I can hear about thirty different traffic reports in the morning. Traffic reports are an art form in Los Angeles, they have to be amusing because they are enormously long. On KBIG 104, they even insert ads in the middle of the traffic reports, which is kind of brilliant in a capitalist pig way, because you're not going to switch off in the middle of a traffic report!

When I'm stuck in bumper-to-bumper (and when I'm not photographing other motorists' bumpers) (Hi ya'll! don't mind me!) I want to know who the Einstein is that caused the backup and where they were during their driver's license exam. On particularly bad days, I need to see something on fire to justify the traffic. I want to blame someone and make them call my boss and explain that I was late to work because they weren't paying attention to the road and they caused an accident.

In fact, I think I might have an underdeveloped talent for broadcasting, and someone should let me give a radio traffic report, at least once...

My version:

"Some dumbaii on the 405 was talking on his cellphone and hit the car in front of him. Traffic is backed up for six miles through the Pass and I suggest you honk and flip off the guy who created this mess as you drive by. Also, I will have an intern from the radio station out at the crash site handing out 'Hang Up And Drive' bumper stickers... be sure to slap one on the offending vehicle!"

"The 605 is a complete disaster. If you're stuck there you can thank an overloaded big-rig that collided with an out-of-towner in a '67 El Dorado. Frankly, you were screwed either way you went about it. If you're trapped in the seventeen-mile backup, give me a call and let's see if we can hook ya'll up with some love connections! If you got unlucky in traffic, maybe you can get lucky tonight!"

"The two left lanes are taken out on the Golden State Freeway because a dipstick with the license plate '1HOT-ONE' tried to make a U-turn on the effing freeway. Luckily, his car caught on fire, so he finally can live up to that vanity plate."

"Do not take the 101 between Hollywood and Echo Park. Just forget it. Nobody's going anywhere and you might as well get a latte and take surface streets. We're looking for someone to blame, but it appears the road has turned into a great big black hole of automobiles... you get on, but you never get off. We'll have Intern Sally out on the Starbucks off Vermont giving out screenwiting tips so you can finally finish that screenplay of yours on the 101 between Vermont and Alvarado... you'll have plenty of time!"

"Two nosepickers were spotted on the Westbound 10, and someone is taking a leak near the 405/101 interchange. This traffic report was brought to you by your Crazy Aunt Purl ... "

I believe I have just stumbled on to a new talent.


Posted by laurie at 9:44 AM

April 27, 2006

Love to love you, baby.

Ya'll know how sometimes you just wake up grumpy, ready to pitch a hissy at the drop of a hat? Nothing sits right with you. Maybe because you haven't gotten enough sleep. Or maybe because it's gloomy outside, and last night it rained all soft and pitter-pat on the patio all night, and you stayed up listening to soft hits and drinking wine and thinking everyone in the world is getting some lovin' except you.

For those of you not uncool enough to know what "soft hits" are, allow me to explain. Soft Hits is a category that encompasses basically every crap love song which makes you want to retch and/or bang your head upon something very hard and durable. That is, unless you're half drunk and suffering a broken heart, in which case some part of your subconscious takes over and you suddenly know all the words to said crap song by either Elton John or Celine Dion, and your friends start looking at you like you've grown a set of antennae or something. Ya'll know. Don't pretend like you don't.

The soft hits station in L.A. has call letters (KOST) that sound like the word "coast" so they have these witty ways of slipping that into every station break, "It's 65 degrees tonight on the coast." Or "Call and make your love request on the coast line."

Anyway, after dark the radio station turns into a sapfest known as "Love Songs On the Coast" where they play all the downers and there are requests and dedications and people call in begging so-and-so to take them back. The thing is, the DJ will periodically read aloud eloquent letters all about lost love or devotion allegedly written by some sappy Coast listener. I say "allegedly" written by a Coast listener. I think it's some intern's job at the radio station to make those letters up, because the average call-in dedication sounds something like this:

Coast DJ (in soft silky smooth voice): Thanks for calling the Coast Line. Who am I coasting with tonight?
Caller: Uh, this is Ramon.
DJ: Hello Ramon, and where are you coasting tonight?
Caller: Um, West Covina.
DJ: And what special request or dedication would you like to send out on the coast tonight, Ramon?
Caller: Um, ya, I just wanna say whut up to my gurl Kristina.
DJ: And what song would you like to request tonight on the coast?
Caller: Uh, ya, she, uh, she likes that song the one, where she ain't gonna never Be Without You Baby.
DJ: Well, Ramon, I hope Kristina knows just how much you love her, love is a precious gift.

[plays song]

See what I mean? And I can listen to this stuff for hours, because I am a glutton for punishment, and because when it rains you secretly suspect everyone else in the world has the curtains drawn and has flung off their clothes and is getting morally compromised. And you are drinking seven-tenths of a bottle of cab and falling asleep with a cat on your head.

Good times.


Posted by laurie at 9:41 AM

April 26, 2006

The Bubbleheaded Bleached Blonde Comes On At Five

I was at a party recently with a room full of very educated adults, and we were doing what all Decent Income Earners with College Educations do at parties:

"If you had to pick ONE to sleep with, who would it be: Jennifer Aniston or Angelina Jolie?"

After wine and caryying on and time passes, the party disintegrates into: "Dr. Demento or Dr. Phil?" "Dr. Laura or George Bush?" "OH GOD" "Well, George Bush senior or junior? Because I would so do senior..."

Ya'll know.

And then we got to drugged-out celebrities, mostly because I was all, "Did ya'll SEE that picture of Brad Renfro busted for buying smack downtown? He was arrested next door to my old building!" as if I were the one on TV or something. By proxy. Because he was arrested in the alley outside my old building. I'm famous!

But that was when things went wrong, because I discovered there are actually humans out there who do not waste their valuable morning coffee time on gossip blogs.

"Who the hell is Brad Renfro?" asked Faith's husband Michael. And I could not help myself. "Oh my God, don't you read your gossip blogs? Don't you read Pink Is The New Blog? How ever do you manage to get through a whole day? I mean, really!"

Michael was maybe not amused.

But luckily this is Los Angeles and people here do keep up on their gossip. Well, some of them. Not Michael, obviously. Last night on the phone, after discussing the guy who cut his own toe off, Jennifer and I moved on to the next and most pressing subject: Denise and Richie. (!!!) Having just been through a nasty and prolonged divorce myself, I can understand and sympathize with anyone going through a nasty and prolonged divorce. Except, hi! Paparrazzi! Ya'll. Try to keep your panties on, ok? At least until you are actually divorced from your respective spouses.

I do try to balance out my rather embarrassingly high amount of celebrity gossip-blog-reading with a daily trip to nytimes.com, latimes.com and of course dailykos.com. Sprinkle in some knitting blogs and weather.com and you have a perfect day.

But sometimes there's just time for one blog. And I admit, it's Pink. Where else can I catch up on all my trashy goings-on and see shirtless Ryan Phillipe and laugh at K-Fed? I mean really.

(Oh, and in case you were wondering, no one wanted to sleep with Dr. Laura. I volunteered to do Dr. Phil, but only because he's so tall. Ya'll. Don't judge.)

Posted by laurie at 9:57 AM

April 25, 2006

Day 17: An Intervention, or perhaps Prozac , is necessary



One wonders what the gardener's own yard must look like. A barren wasteland of stubby shrubs and hacked-up trees? One tries not to envision it. One drinks a glass of wine the size of one's own head and mourns the loss of the pretty flowers.

Finally, I call Landlord Bob. "I love Francisco, but he needs medication."

The landlord said, "I'll see what I can do. He seems to be on a mission doesn't he?" and I agreed. Then I said, "Perhaps he's missed his calling as a lumberjack. Or butcher. Axe-weilding maniac?"

My landlord tells me, voice lowered, "My wife almost fainted when she saw the bouganvilla at the back of our house. It has about four leaves left on it."

Pause. Take a sip. It has become quite clear: Between myself and Ladlord Bob, neither of us has any balls. "Why are you and I such pushovers, Landlord Bob? Why do we let Francisco run our lives?"

"He's the one with the electric shears, that's my guess." Then we grumble, toast to nature in its bounty, with its amazing ability to grow back.

We hope.

Posted by laurie at 12:26 PM

April 24, 2006

Just some little quirks.

I often tell my friends that I am completely quirk-free. They laugh. Sometimes they laugh so hard they get those little tears escaping out the corners of squinched-up laughing eyes.

I concede that I maybe have one or two little idiosyncrasies. The most annoying of them all is my unique and rather MATURE way of dealing with stuff that breaks: First, I complain about the unfairness of it all. Then I get flustered, then upset, and finally ... I cry. Like a baby. A blathering hiccuping baby. Finally, I pitch a hissy. Then I stomp off and look for someone to blame. Awesome!

You know it's wrong, see, but you do it anyway. Like, for example, when you decide (finally!) to buy a laptop, and you spend way too much money on it but you're excited about it, then you buy all this extra stuff at Best Buy that they said would be REALLY EASY to hook up, like this router thing .... and ANYWAY, you bring it home and try to hook up your old, creeky desktop computer to the fancy schmancy router thingy and then you try and try and try to hook it up, and it doesn't work and you have a glass of wine, and that does not relax you because TECHNOLOGY IS MEAN and maybe also HARD and you call tech support, which is in India, and then TWO HOURS later you still have no working wireless internet, and India hates you, and you hate India, and you cry and hang up? And start pulling all the wires out and maybe throwing them a little, and using swear words?

And then the wireless thing you bought so your new laptop could be online just sits there collecting dust and your new laptop has NEVER been online, FIVE months later, and you still use a computer with like 12 MB of ram to do all your home computing because it's the one hooked to the cable modem and just thinking about it makes you cry?

Well, maybe not you. But yes, this describes me. And finally over the weekend I broke down and called the Geek Squad and a very nice guy who was probably 16 years old came to my house and gave me the gift of wireless internets, so I can now roam my house and patio and lawn and maybe next door neighbor's lawn while staying fully in touch with all ya'll.

Now that is progress.

And I did not even cry once. Mostly because I sat on the sofa and watched "Clean House" and drank coffee while said 16-year-old worked his wizardry with technology. This break from Technology Hissy Fit Throwing gave me time to think about my myriad of embarrassing issues and tally the top five.

Top Five Really Embarrassing Things About Me

1. I talk to my cats like they were humans.
This is not sporadic or wine-fueled talkage. It goes on all day and night, nonstop. "Hey, ya'll, what are you looking at on the floor over there? You're sitting too still. And not answering me. Answer me. Did ya'll find a bug? Because I only hired ya'll for your bug-killing paws. That isn't a bug, dorkuses! That is just a piece of yarn sitting on the floor not even acting like a spider... but I guess if I had a brain ya'lls size I might mistake it for a spider too. So in conclusion, ya'll are not fired. Carry on."

2. Those cats are sometimes the best damn conversation I get all day. For example:
Me: You think the Tomkitten was hatched or do you think Katie Holmes really got knocked up? I mean there is rampant speculation on the internets.
Me: I see.

3. I have THE worst taste in music EVER. I offer as irrefutable proof the five most recent songs I downloaded:
    1) Key Largo by Bertie Higgins. Bertie Higgins!
    2) (Because) Weekends Were Made For Fun by somebody I can't remember
    3) Roll With It by Steve Winwood
    4) Hold On by Wilson Phillips (well, we were just talking about it)
    5) Break My Stride by Matthew somebody or other

4) When I am on an airplane, I lie to strangers.
It's the only time I give myself total freedom to explore the possibilities life has to offer as a nutjob, because after all just being on a plane makes you a little nutty. And I have the terrible misfortune of being one of those people who attracts talkers in the seat beside me, and the Talker always asks what you do for a living. It used to irritate me, the Talking, but I discovered how much fun it was to tell a bald-faced lie to a total stranger, and now I love the Talking. Previous career-related lies have included but are not limited to:
• adult film continuity manager
• blimp driver
• cat wrangler
• psychic
• plate tectonics expert

5) None of my Top-Whatever lists achieve their numerical status, a fact which makes me happy.

6) I cannot poop at work. 'Nuff said.

7) I have a framed photo of Peter Jennings on my desk at work.

8) I once tried to change my name. I informed my family at age 13 that I would no longer respond to the pedestrian moniker of "Laurie" and from this moment onward everyone could call me "Crimson." Or, if so moved, they were allowed to call me "Madonna." They promptly informed me I was adopted, then laughed. (I am not adopted.)

9) I once told my little brother that he was adopted and that his real parents were ugly clowns.

10) I'm pretty sure that the reason Jason Grabowski broke up with me is because I let a little fluff escape once in a compromising position. It still bothers me to this day. Damn fluffing.

11) I use ghetto slang that is either completely outdated or inappropriate. My favorite expletive is "Jesus K-Ci JoJo and Mary!" It makes no sense to anyone but me. Yet I persist.

12) I have a terrible fear of knitting outdoors because of moths.

13) I want perms to come back in style.

14) I Tivo Dr. Phil.

Oh, there are so many more. But that's as far as I got in my Top Five list, because by then the internet was hooked up and ebay was literally everywhere I went all day long. Ebay was on the patio. Ebay was in the kitchen. Ebay was in the bedroom. Ebay wasn't in the bathroom, though. Ya'll know. One must be able to contemplate in peace and quiet. 'Nuff said.

Posted by laurie at 8:46 AM

April 21, 2006

Stitch 'n Bitch 'n so on 'n so forth

If you are ever in the Los Angeles area and you want a most excellent Thursday evening, filled with food and beverages and yarn and chitchat and a wide variety of what I think are hands-down the most interesting women (and sometimes guys) in all of the city, you need to come to Stitch 'n Bitch at the original Farmer's Market, on 3rd and Fairfax. It starts every Thursday around 6:30 or 7 p.m. and goes until 9:30 or 10 p.m., and ...

... time for some maudlin reminiscences here! Because this is what I do! Just ignore me and click on the pictures if you aren't up to getting your introspection on this a.m. I mean really.

See, there was a time, pretty recently, when I would not really leave my house except to go to work, and the most basic shopping and errands and so on. Then when the real sadness set it, it was followed by fear. Fear that maybe I was so unpalatable not only did my husband flee, leaving a wake of destruction in his absence, but perhaps others would be as displeased, and ya'll know. I was brought up a nice Southern girl with a dominant people-pleaser gene (it's on the same node as the "loves fried foods" gene.) What had gone wrong? When had I moved from people pleaser to people-displeaser?

This is how it goes when you get your heart broken, and your ass increases in both density and volume, and you go to a place of solitude and wallowing -- a place where sure, if I were stronger and better and perhaps medicated, I would not have to go. But alas. I'm just a person, a pretty regular person, with challenges of my own and that's what happened. Locked the doors. Looked down.

Before long, I didn't even want to go to the grocery store (OK, not truly a sign of sickness) but when the day came that I actually chose to stay home rather than go to Target with Jennifer, dire times were upon us. It's not normal when a red-blooded "I shall prop up the economy single-handedly so the terrorists don't win!" kind of girl loses the will to bargain shop.

Then one day out of the blue, Ellen sent me an email, and invited me to come to Stitch 'n Bitch (though ya'll, nobody has to be invited, I'm pretty sure Ellen just knew I was a recluse) and after much hemming and hawing, I went. And I met people. Real people. And last night, I sat next to Faith and she grinned ear to ear and said, "Laurie, I love this group of people. Look at us! People are hugging and catching up, and smiling and it's so great..." and she's right. It is great. There was Jennifer, laughing and tangled up in yarn, and Gwen was there with her new engagement ring (!!!) and we missed Sara, who has a biscuit in the cooker if you know what I mean and I think you do, and I felt like I was in a room with people I'm lucky to know. Even if sometimes I'm too tongue-tied to say much. Or the more usual scenario: when I blather away like a mindless dumaii.

And yet they don't seem displeased at all. It's been the happiest addition to my life, this group of people. Proving that even when it's scary to leave your house and meet new folks, as long as they're armed with yarn and a sense of humor (which our group has in spades) then you know you're on the right path to somewhere. And that path will probably pass by a yarn store.
If you're lucky.

(click for bigger images)

Ellen with a scarf I found in Paris; two pics of our stitchin' group.

Faith in a scarf from Paris; lovely Gwen with her new engagement
ring; my favorite Kendra.

Remind me one day to tell you the story of Jen and this yarn; me & Faith & Faith's cleavage; Natalie makes the coolest stuff ever.

Posted by laurie at 11:52 AM

April 20, 2006

Speechless. Blah blah blah.

Some General Bellyaching
I know ya'll get tired of me bitching about the gas prices
but yet still I persist. It is my way.

I drove past eight filling stations this morning, and this was the CHEAPEST gas I found. I never thought the day would come when I would weep with joy at the memory of finding gas at $2.95 a gallon. Well, OK, maybe they wouldn't be tears of joy, exactly...

In Other News
One of the delightful things Francisco did for me last month during his chopping frenzy was to remove the box shrubs that used to be on either side of the laundry room door. Well, it's actually the back door to the garage, but it opens to the laundry area, and I don't park my car in there, so I officially call the garage "the laundry room." Apparently, I am well on my way to official Southern Quirkiness, the stage of life when southern folks begin to give people driving directions in the following manner: "Turn left where the old truck used to be, then head out a ways to the old Wright family place, you know where they used to keep the horses before the Wal-Mart came to town?" None of which makes any sense to someone needing directions who has never seen the old truck which is no longer there and has no idea of the entire geneology of the town. Ya'll know.

Anyway! I came home from work one day and the walls along the laundry room door were naked. The box shrubs had been completely removed. They were nice shrubs. I tipped a 40 out to my shrub homies, what else can you do? He moved some potted aloe vera plants there instead.

High off the success of my raised bed garden construction project, I decided to build small boxes around the laundry room door dirt areas, fill them with potting soil and grow the okra and a tomato plant there, with some marigolds thrown in for good measure. This of course meant a trip back to Home Depot, where all I will say is that I got very, very good service and ya'll know what? This gardening experiment is going to be the best thing ever! Who knows what I could grow this summer? I mean really. One just never knows. I'm going to finish building the laundry room garden boxes this weekend and wander around my yard in a giant floppy southern sun hat while tippling on a mint julep and calling everyone "sugar." Just for practice. Ya'll know.

I came home one dark evening to discover this ... where once two big box shrubs had lived. Live hard, die fast. That's our motto at Chez Chops-a-lot!

Posted by laurie at 9:29 AM

April 19, 2006

Do you think my house will seem bigger if I get skinnier?

My house is very, very small. This house is exactly one-third the size of my previous home, the one I shared with you-know-who, and when I moved here I had mountains of boxes and extra furniture and stuff. Stuff everywhere.

Serious downsizing has occurred in the year I have lived at Chez Spinster. My home office/spare bedroom used to be almost impassable, with boxes stacked floor-to-ceiling all along the walls, and a path to the computer and the catbox. Now I have two file boxes for "stuff" and the rest is either put away, given away, or in the Future Yard Sale pile in the garage.

But even with the downsizing and de-cluttering, I still have A LOT of stuff. Decluttering is a continual process, and it goes in waves. At first I couldn't let go of much -- too many memories. I needed them. (cue strains of Wilson Phillips... "Hold on for one more day...") (oh ya'll shoot me, I have just made a WILSON PHILLIPS reference).

The second wave of decluttering trimmed books and a few clothes and some clutter packed away for last summer's yard sale. The third wave (after summer yard sale #1) was more aggressive and cut-throat: I even threw out tons of old vacation pictures of Mr. X. That took serious nerve and serious wine, and ya'll afterwards, I felt so shiny and brand-new that I took some of those pictures and went outside at two-in-the-a.m., lit my barbecue grill and had a bonafide Ex Husband Photo BBQ in my pajamas. There is nothing like getting your crazy on right on the back patio at 2 a.m.!

The hardest wave of decluttering was the Christmas stuff -- FIVE huge green Rubbermaid totes full of holiday decor. I grew up in a family that decked the halls high and low at holiday time, and when I got married I took that tradition to heart and me and Mr. X acquired quite a pile of holiday stuff. I had a small decorated tree for every room, with the big (live) tree in the living room and lights and fake greenery everywhere. It was like Santa Claus threw up in our house. Colorful! Festive! Gag-inducing!

I meant to pull out the green tubs and sort through them bit by bit. (Note to self: If Chinese Water Torture isn't available when you need to kill yourself slowly, just go through piles of holiday memories! That'll do the trick!) Instead, I ended up dragging the full tubs out to the lawn on Yard Sale day and sold the entire pile --including the green plastic tubs -- to the cutest two little newlyweds. They were so excited, it made the whole thing painless, a happy accident. Life is a mysterious thing.

So, anyway, lately I've been thinking a lot about size. The smallness of my house, the size of my life, all those ponder-your-bellybutton things. Not the least bit funny, I might add. I mean, really. I have been on a Funny-Free writing kick like nobody's business. (See: Wilson Freaking Phillips reference, above.)

But after everything that went on back home with the hurricanes, with so many people losing everything they own in natural disasters, my stuff, my little pile of stuff under this roof, feels embarrassingly materialistic. At the same time it all feels so comforting. How is that?

Of course, there's the care and feeding and upkeep of The Stuff. I don't have any intention of coming home after fourteen hours away and cleaning house. I hate that I have to deep-clean and declutter for days to have guests. I think... if I just had less stuff, then would all this be easier? Would my house seem bigger? Would it be easier to clean? What things can I do without?

Is living smaller the answer?

Without crossing over into hairy armpit territory, I'll tell ya'll I want to live simpler, more in harmony and less in a consumer frenzy. I don't want each weekend to be a litany of, "Oh, I have to run to the pet store, then to Target, then get gas, then go to the grocery and blah blah blah...." I'd like more free time. I commute, and work a lot, so my free time is limited and precious. I want it to be relaxing, not stressful and full of things I must complete before the weekend is over and work starts again.

I don't want a cabin-in-the-woods-manifesto kind of life. (That's the Sobakowa's dream.) But I also don't want to be a slave to my stuff, unable to move through life easily because of all my anchors. I know there's a balance somewhere between the comfort of things and the freedom from stuff.

Maybe I need some more late-night barbecuing to fire me up. Heh. Fire up.


Posted by laurie at 9:39 AM

April 18, 2006

Cats Behind Bars


Roy and I are drove all the way to Ventura on Good Friday to see a specialist, so our day was "expensive" and also "full of pitiful meowing in the car" and also "I will scratch you" and, finally, "Good Lord, if this is indeed a Good Friday, please say it comes with wine and maybe a side of fries."

He's on new medication now, and I'm not going to go into a whole thing about what's wrong with him and so on and so forth, because ya'll know. I'm a walking fountain on any given day anyway.

But I thought maybe ya'll might have some funny pet stories to cheer us up, as we're awful sad and long-faced over here. Anyone?

Posted by laurie at 10:04 AM

April 17, 2006

Day 9: The Gardener wants a divorce

Francisco and I are standing in the back yard, neither of us has said a word to the other for a full five minutes. He is leaning on his shovel, staring at me, and he is angry, or frustrated, or both. I had planned to tell him all about my exciting Square Watermelon patch, but now we aren't speaking. We need therapy, or couples counseling. I suspect he wants to divorce me on the grounds of insanity.

Aside from the fact that we do not live under the same roof, and I don't do his dirty laundry, Francisco and I are in a marriage. We don't talk much, we both share the responsibility for the upkeep of the yard, sometimes we don't listen to each other, or understand each other. Sometimes we laugh, or have a beer, but we never have s-e-x.

Sounds like marriage to me.

Francisco wants to trim the big hedges, and I am trying to convince him otherwise. He has a vision for the shrubs which I do not share, every time he stops by it seems something has been removed, or cut to within an inch of its life. I used to have big box shrubs in front of the house. One day I came home to find them carved into trees. Now I make jokes to my friends, "Ya'll come over! Look at the shrubs! You can't see the forest because of the tiny, stubby trees!"

On this particular day, however, I have mortally offended Francisco. Our relationship is on the rocks. I have made the egregious error of implying that he killed the big back yard oak tree when he completely chopped it to pieces, or "pruned" it a few months ago.

"Francisco, I'm sorry, I'm sure you didn't kill the tree, it just died coincidentally around the same time, maybe?"

"It's not dead."

"But it has no branches and no leaves."

"Look! Right here, es verde, ok?"

"Ok. But this one green leaf bud will not shade me for the whole summer. If you cut down the hedges, I'll bake over here."


It occurs to me that maybe the only way to appeal to Francisco on this issue is to make him understand that while his idea is REALLY GREAT, and I was WRONG to imply he killed the tree, I have special needs, and they are girly and silly but I would be so happy if he would oblige me. (Being married taught me a thing or two about the fragile male ego.)

I change my tone.

"Francisco, I know you're right about the bushes. I do! But this is a little embarrassing, you know? Me da verguenza. But ... I'm ... you know. Muy guera. Very very pale colored. And without any shade, I'll get sunburned and I'll be bright red and super fea. And you know. I just don't want to be red and ugly. I need some shade, that's all, even though you are completely right about the hedges..."

He hesitates.

He looks at the hedge. Looks back at me. As if for the first time discovering that I really do glow in the dark, probably, and while he doesn't find the shade of a giant hedge very pleasant, perhaps this crazy white lady has challenges he had not considered.

"Well," he says slowly. Taking his time.
"OK. No hedges today."

"Thank you Francisco!" I hug the gardener. We're both relieved. Neither of us really want to divorce each other. Yet.

Francisco finishes with the grass, and I sweep the patio, and then we have a beer and I decide that today is maybe not the best day to tell him about the square watermelons after all. It would just lead to more misunderstanding, more distance between us. And Lord knows I cannot afford couples counseling for me and the gardener.

Posted by laurie at 11:16 AM

April 13, 2006

Have you heard the good news?

My current knitting project is really Angelica Houston. Ya'll know. Where you sometimes think it's perfect and unusual and gorgeous, and then you look at it later and you think, "Then again... maybe not."

I'm calling it the Paris Scarf, even though all the materials for said scarf were purchased here in the Valley, and all the knitting was done right here, and there is frankly nothing Parisian about it, except that when we were in France I saw all these women walking around wearing wide scarves, and I started this scarf -- a wide Paris-inspired scarf -- the Saturday we got back from a bazillion hour flight because I was unable to get back to sleep after what can only be described as The Time I Probably Made The Emissaries Of God Real Mad At Me.

But ya'll, I was tired. And jet-lagged. And just discovered I owed taxes, and the finances, it's stressful. So the Friday night after we got back, I had myself a beer or three, and took a Tylenol PM and zonked out on my pillow with a cat on my head. The next day was Saturday, and I could sleep in, and be rested and happy and right with the world.

Knock knock.

At first I tuned it out. Then I tried to open one crusty eyelid, glued stuck with mascara from the day before because I was hateful tired and no, I did not properly remove my mascara (Whatever Happened To Baby Jane!) and I dragged myself out of bed to peer through the window for signs of the intruder. When I wake up I'm completely blind without my contacts, and no amount of squinting or sighing makes things clearer.

Knock. Knock knock.

I thought it might be my neighbor Tommy. Tommy lives right next door and he's very nice, I like him a lot. He and his wife are tolerant of my loud dinner parties and slightly parched front lawn. Every now and then he'll decide that 6 a.m. is the appropriate time to knock on my door to deliver misaddressed mail or to ask me if I noticed a possum in the neighborhood. I used to answer the door, because I assumed it must be an emergency ... nobody knocks on the door before 10 a.m. unless the sky is falling! Now I know better. (Of course, Tommy goes to bed at 8 p.m. So, from time to time, I'll find myself having to knock on his door at 11 p.m. to ask about, um, possum eating habits or something truly pressing.) (Ya'll know.)

But on this particular Saturday morning there were two people on the doorstep, and neither of them was Tommy, unless Tommy had started wearing a flowered dress and navy blue pumps. My visitors did not appear to be leaving anytime soon, so me and my Baby Jane mascara answered the door.

"Hi," said Cheerful Lady #1. "Have you heard the good news?"

"No," I said. "There's good news?"

I began to perk up a little. Because, good news! Maybe some distant, unknown relative has left me ten million dollars! Or maybe Oscar de la Hoya has moved in next door and we'll start borrowing sugar from one another and before you know it I'll be wearing a white dress and picking out china patterns! Or maybe, just maybe, the city of Los Angeles has finally decided to re-pave the street I live on! (There is a greater chance that I will become a multi-millionaire and marry Oscar de la Hoya than getting the street re-surfaced. But I am a dreamer, and also I am delusional. And tired.)

Good news! Why, that's a reason to wake up!

"Right on," I said. "Good news. So what is it?"

"Well," said Cheerful Lady #2, "Jesus Christ died on the cross so that you may live eternal life!"

"You're kidding me?" I said.

"Oh no," said Cheerful #1. "Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ gave his life for you."

"So there's no suprise inheritance?"

The fog of sleep hadn't cleared yet. Surely she wasn't waking me up at my house on a Saturday morning before 9 a.m. and this is her good news? I've read the papers, ya'll, and Jesus died a while back. I mean, I'm Catholic, I'm pretty aware that JC isn't running a taco shop on 7th Street. This is not news, people. You do not need to go around waking up strangers to state the obvious. I'm not going to show up at their house next Tuesday evening at midnight to announce that Paris Hilton is still tacky. You know?

Nobody said anything for a minute. So I asked them again. "There's no million dollars?"

"Um..." Cheerful #1 looked confused.

"There's no Oscar de la Hoya?" I asked.

"No...." she said.

"There's no sugar and white dress and little rosebud bouquet?"

They looked at me. "Well..." "Ahm..."

"And you mean to tell me that no one is paving my street today?" I was having trouble with this one. This was not what my tiny sleep-addled possibly hung-over jetlagged mind could compute.

"Um, no, honey, maybe we'll just come back at a better time when you're..ahm.. more... " said Cheerful #2.

"... yes, yes, when you're more, prepared..." chimed in Cheerful #1. Who, by the way, wasn't looking quite as cheerful as she had upon arrival.

But I was awake by now. I was! "It's the potholes, really..." I said, "I mean, I would put forth some prayer on that subject, if ya'll drove here and all you should have seen 'em, and so maybe ya'll could ask JC about it? Because multiple calls to the city have produced zero results and ya'll I do believe in reviving Valley Seccession if... hey. Wait a sec, where ya'll going? I mean we should talk about this...."

They left so fast they were practically running, with their flowered dresses flapping and their navy blue pumps clopping off on the sidewalk.

"That wasn't good news," I announced to their rapidly shrinking backs. "That wasn't good news at all!"

And I was awake, so I made some coffee, and I started knitting Angelica Houston. I'll put up some pictures when I'm done. And, in case you're wondering, we still have potholes on my street that could swallow a small child. That is not good news at all!

Posted by laurie at 9:50 AM

April 12, 2006

The Russian

The Russian works on the 20th floor here at Corporate Job, Inc., and I have a terribly misguided crush on him. He couldn't be less interested in me, however, which is ultimately for the best. After all, it's never a good idea to date people from work.

Not that dating is an option. The Russian has a French girlfriend (you French girls and your damn French accents! My Dixie twang cannot compete!), so Jennifer and I have dubbed this the Russian-French alliance, and it's still going strong. But the Russian and I email each other from time to time, in little flurries almost always initiated by me, allegedly to discuss a project we're working on ... but mostly because The Russian gives me hope that there are cute, smart, nice guys still left in the world.

Me: (work blah blah blah) So, aside from the code re-write, how are things?

The Russian: I think I'm going through a midlife crisis.

Me: At 34? You're going through a midlife crisis at 34 years old? What makes you think this?

The Russian: I think I'm trying to grasp on to my lost youth. Involves vodka.

Me: Well, it isn't a midlife crisis until you highlight your hair, grow a goatee, pierce your ears, dump your wife and start a rockabilly band.

The Russian: I see.

Me: Personal experience.

The Russian: I'm already too bald for highlights.

Me: Luckily.

And so on. He's cute in a Eurotrash way that I like, and we're all wrong for each other and he's unattainable and he also prefers waify brunettes. I am not a waify brunette. But I like emailing with him, because little interactions like this make me feel closer to normal. I like that we have the basic ground rules in place: we aren't coming on to each other (he's attached, I would never date a work person, ever, anyway) and we work at a very Business Professional place so email chitchat stays above board. It's safe, and at the same time very pleasant. My mom says I've "opened a window" in my life, that she noticed I've become more open to the idea of allowing someone else in, and that's a good thing. Mostly I like this Russian-Dixie distraction because it helps me forget, even just for a little bit, that Mr. X is right this very minute waking up next to another woman, and he is so moved on it's not funny. And I need to move on, too.

This is a good sign, I think. I used to be in a place where I just kind of stewed in it, with the knowledge that things were going to suck until they stopped sucking. However, I believe we may have reached the cessation of intense suckage. Alert the media! Not to say that I don't think of it from time to time, or all the time, because I do (meltdown Parisian style, anyone?) but truly I love my new life. I'm just as surprised as you are to hear it.

I feel so lucky to have time to myself, time to think, time to regroup, time to plot an invasion ... if not to overthrow Russia, maybe just a nice little French alliance of my own. Or perhaps I could find someone on this very continent to strike up a treaty with. Until then, The Russian is a nice distraction and the State Of The Union here at Chez Dixie is decidedly better than the Cold War era of 2004-2005. Windows are open, even if just a tiny bit.

Maybe my 8th grade English teacher was right. Maybe the South shall rise again.

Posted by laurie at 9:22 AM

April 11, 2006

Rally in the Valley

I have no idea if this will work. It's supposed to be a video I shot while in my car last night on Van Nuys boulevard. While driving. This file is like 7000MB big. If you want to take pity on me and make this smaller and better and so on, please do. I have techmology issues. If this is crashing everyone's computers, one of ya'll email me? Please? Also, aren't columns that begin with a whole paragraph of disclaimer text SO MUCH FUN? Also, notice I am driving while shooting video while a giant protest happens at night in Panorama City. Who wants to ride around with me? Anyone? Bueller?

There were hundreds of people just marching 20-deep down the middle of Van Nuys Boulevard last night. It was crazy. I couldn't tell if people were in a frenzy from the subject matter, or because of their proximity to In-n-Out. Tough call!

Posted by laurie at 9:53 AM

April 10, 2006

The Garden Of Eatin' ... Day 1: How Green Is Your Valley?

My little house in the Valley has two backyards. There is the normal back yard that stretches off the patio about seven feet deep, with some grass and a couple of trees and an overgrown geranium bush in the corner. At the back of this backyard is a giant hedge that reaches over nine feet tall and spreads out about twelve feet wide, and behind this hedge lies what I fondly call The Back 40. It is the back-backyard.

I have no idea what kind of loopy person back in 1942 decided it would be a great idea to grow a hedge in the middle of the yard, separating it into two. Ellen and her husband Larry suggested it may have been a way for the original homowners to disguise "untidy" yard things, or maybe laundry, or both. But apparently 1940s-era loopy found its 2000-era perfect match, because I love the hedge divider. It gives me a secret garden in the Back 40, plus provides a much cozier atmosphere in the front-backyard.

Before I decided to embark upon my new path of Growing Square Fruit, my back-backyard was a vast empty wasteland of nothingness. The soil is hard and mostly clay and I shut off the Back 40 sprinklers some time back in December, so the few weeds shriveled up or wandered off to someone else's better-maintained Real Yard. The goal here was to kill off the weeds and remaining straggly grass so it would be easier to dig up come planting time. I planned to create two raised beds (shallow, but still raised), fill them with dirt and let the magic begin.

On Saturday, I began my Great Gardening Adventure by heading to the Back 40 to size up potential placement for the raised beds.

It was not the same back backyard. It was suddenly a lush den of weed iniquity, full of wildlife and mayhem, if by "wildlife and mayhem" you mean one blue jay and all the ants in the known universe.



Clearly I needed a hoe for this job, so of course I went to Wal-Mart in Panorama City. (heh) (Oh, I love you, Ghetto Mart de Wal!) While I was there pimpin' for hoes, I also picked up a packet of okra seeds and some extra starter medium. I'm starting most of my plants from seed because I am a glutton for punishment, and also because seeds. Fun to grow!

Next stop, Home Depot on a Saturday for raised bed materials. Home Depot. On a Saturday afternoon. Not even a hoe can help me. Luckily, as I wandered around the lumber area looking like a lost puppy in platform flip-flops, I met Lumber Man, possibly the most patient guy on the planet, who took pity on me and listened patiently as I described my great gardening ideas.

I should interject here that I had no actual building plans, sketches, measurements or details for my raised garden beds. My dream of a square watermelon patch was self-sustaining; dreamers like me can't be bothered with little details like "how long is this thing" and also "what is it made of."

Me: You know, I just want a box thing. To hold dirt, which I have been told to call "soil" and in this dirtsoil I'm going to plant a garden.

Lumber Man: Do you know about how big you want it to be?

Me: Oh, you know. Big-ish?

Lumber Man: Like ten feet? Twelve feet?

Me: You're cute. I'm going to make a square watermelon.

Lumber Man: ...? Why?

Me: Because I feel it might be my true calling.

Lumber Man: Well, maybe five feet by five feet then.

Wise Lumber Man suggested I buy supplies to build one box, just in case I needed to "adjust measurements" or perhaps "discovered I do not know shit about building anything." (He did not say it so much as, perhaps, it was implied when he asked "Do you have any tools for building this?" and I replied, "Tools schmoolz!")

I purchased my supplies and went home, determined to have a nice glass of cabernet and build The Beginning Of The Greatest Ant Hill Ever Made. In just a few quick ... hours, I created the masterpiece:




So, in conclusion, the Great Watermelon Patch has the following:

• One garden box sitting on the patio, bereft of dirtsoil.
• One package of okra seeds germinating away in a Jiffy greenhouse.
• One hoe, still unpimped.
• One Back 40, full of weeds.
• One OCD blue jay.
• One bazillion ants.

Excellent beginning! Gardening is fun. Especially when it involves wine and power tools!

Posted by laurie at 9:56 AM

April 9, 2006

Every construction site needs a foreman.

Sobakow directs her minions on the building of the Target cubicle bookcase.

Also: The Sobatator hates to be called the Soba Tater.

Posted by laurie at 8:20 PM

April 8, 2006

This comes as a surprise.

Well, weekend posts. Ya'll know.

I was just as surprised as anyone. Is this how it goes, then? There's no handbook for divorce (even though when I was in the middle of it someone told me to read 'The Road Less Traveled.' I'm sure it was a helpful book, to someone. I was wondering where the chapter on burying the bodies was... I could not find it.)

So there I was, the very last day of our vacation, in the hotel room alone. It had been a long day, as vacations can be sometimes, and with so many women and so many adventures, it had been emotional. But I have a family of men, all brothers and I am the only girl, and I hadn't planned for the trip like you plan with girlfriends. Prior to this I had only traveled with my family (brothers) or my husband. Usually, the biggest challenge is at what point do you tell him he must ask for directions or you are going to bail ship and fend for yourself, and also, where the hell is the beef jerky?

So we're in a city, so far from home, and there's all this adventure and hijinks, and it's late and I haven't slept at all, and suddenly I am alone. And oh God I miss him so much. It happened all the sudden, huge heaving sobs, the ugly cry. It was so easy to travel with him, and traveling is the only thing I ever wanted to do since I was a kid in a chickenscratch town, and this feels hard? Where is that place, the one where he hugs you, or holds your hand, or leaves you two towels, one just for your hair?

I was so embarrassed. I was sobbing, the giant cry of someone on the edge, where you sputter and gasp and go ugly. I missed him more in that moment than I had in months alone, it has been three months almost to the day that my divorce was final and here I was, a woman on her own in a dream city, crying?

So of course, I was humiliated (I should be stronger than this) and wanted to keep it a secret. But maybe you can tell me, is this what happens? Do you just forget a little every day? Do you not really love that person at all, anymore, but still miss a few things? Or do you just miss the very idea that you once loved someone? Had a shared secret? And at the end of every adventure and hijink, ya'll got into the bed together knowing tomorrow was another day, and you were still together and everything else was Outside.

Is this how it goes? Because truth be told, I do not really miss him at all. Not logically, not daily, he ended it all the day he walked out that door and I don't want him back, let's face it: I do not even know the man. Now you can see why it came as such a surprise. I do not love this man. I do not know where the crying came from.

I suspect that I am a revisionist historian. In that moment alone in France, I sat down and let a version of history wash over me, overlooking all the vile and unkempt moments in the memoir of Us, and I glorified our rare happy details. I am shamed. So goes My Divorce: The Reconstruction Period. Bring in the carpetbaggers.

When I saw "Before Sunset" I watched as Julie Delpy said, "You never fully recover from someone you loved." And I knew it was true. But it doesn't keep you from keeping on, does it? A few days after we came home from Paris, I was on the sofa and I was embarrassed all over again for descending into a puddle on vacation. Like the very idea of missing him was an indescretion, ill-advised, he would leave me anyway in the end so why bother?

But now I think maybe it's natural. Revisionist history, or maybe just a soft moment when you no longer are in such pain, or numb as you were, so you have a misty moment (if by "misty" you mean "the cry where your face goes misshapen") and why not? Love someone and it goes bad, you still miss the love part. I hooked my wagon to his because I loved him, so it's not crazy to think I'd miss him a time or two... right?

Just part of it, I guess. There's no handbook for it. Sure wish there were.

Posted by laurie at 6:55 PM

April 7, 2006

Springtime in Los Angeles

Highbrow restin' spot
So if you ever come to Los Angeles and you want to feel really smart and kind of worldly ("Mark Taper Forum sounds vaguely Emmy-like...") and also if you get lost and need directions, or even if you just live in this city and want to get your crazy on in the self-help aisle but you're too cheap to buy an actual self-help book since you secretly suspect it will help NOTHING, anyway! If this is the case, I suggest you go to the downtown Los Angeles Public Library on 5th and Flower. It's very pretty except for the homeless people sleeping in the chairs.

(click each image for a bigger picture)

The ouside hidden entrance; the beautiful atrium.

Top of the atrium, the view looking down the many levels of learnin'.

I got my crazy on in the audio self-help section, and left the library with a piece of what is surely TOTAL FICTION called "You Can Be Happy No Matter What." I checked it out purely because I felt a challenge coming on. "Oh yeah, year Mr. Fancypants New Age Writer? You think people can be happy no matter what? I'll show you! You don't know from Raging Premenstrual Hormones! There are times I'd KILL to be happy! KILL!"

Yes. I checked out an audio self-help book so that I could argue with it. I do have my own set of challenges.

Sure thing, bucko.

Nobody Walks In L.A.
Summer vacation season is almost upon us, and if ya'll come to Los Angeles and you want to see a whole bunch of stuff, please try to rent a hybrid car or maybe a hovercraft, or show up with a sugar daddy of hitherto unknown monetary proportions. (Also, why is it that only skinny chicks are trophy wives? Aren't there rich old dudes out there just dying to have a nice chubby girl on the arm? Where is the chubby trophy love?) (Oh calm down, ya'll, I would never marry for money. Probably.) Anyway, I tell you this because I care. At some point in the past few weeks, or maybe in the past few days as I am not that observant, really, the price of gas has gone from "Oh, that sucks.." to "Holy crap, can you at least buy me dinner before you try to bleep me?"

Gas has actually gone UP since I took this picture a day or so ago. Thank Goodness I take mass transportation or me and the cats would be living in the storage shed.

Also, each time I get in the Jeep, I see my monkey. My monkey. Heh.

Shop 'til you drop, or until you need Purell so badly you can no longer shop and must immediately de-germ.

If you come to Los Angeles and you want to go shopping and you are maybe poor or a cheapskate like some people we know, that means me, then you should totally go to Santee Alley and peruse the not-even-somewhat-authentic goods for sale in the warren of open-air shops and stalls between Olympic and 9th on Santee.

Piracy and knockofferdom go on wildly all over the Alley. The Downtown News ran a story last week about the Alley in which it reported that the Motion Picture Association of America had recently spent close to $200,000 installing closed-circuit cameras in the Alley to deter movie pirating. And, uh, it totally worked:

click for big images.

I admit, I used to buy handbag fakes in the Alley, last year everyone was carrying around a Louis Vuitton log bag, and they were all fakes, so it was just for fun. Then I read one of those anti-piracy articles, a sad article with sad photos which informed me that with my knockoff purchase I had personally enslaved a tiny, adorable child worker in my pursuit of vanity and frivolity and my fake handbag was a symbol of greater greed and hypocrisy and I was probably spreading smallpox and also hatred, etc.

So I was well and very shamed, having enslaved a child worker and also spread hypocrisy and maybe smallpox, and I no longer carry my faux LV or buy knockoffs. But I do like to peruse the Alley from time to time for cheap, funky jewelry and sunglasses. I didn't buy anything on this trip because of The Budget, but I fully enjoyed the sunshine and the feeling that I had stepped into some foreign open-air market, it never feels like Los Angeles at all.

Click for big images: folks walk the alley; Ya'll see what I see? Funny how the mannequins in Santee Alley are more bootyriffic than the skinny waifs they show at the mall.

So, I walked into this one store and they had all these belt buckles. Everything from Sonora Love to mother-of-pearl cow skulls. I got excited to see the Los Angeles pride in the area code belt buckles but sadly, no buckles representin' the VERY COOL 818 area code. I was sad. How could they dis the 818? Don't they know the largest portion of their tax revenue is generated from the San Fernando Valley? Do they not read Jack Kyser's economic summaries published in the Valley Industry and Commerce Association literature? No?

But then I walked a little further and LOOKY WHAT I FOUND! The 818 lives, loud and proud. Long live the Encino-adjacent area.

Click for big images. Buckles; no love for the 818; Finally! Well represented. I guess.

Food of the Gods, or at least the Kings
Finally, if you come to Los Angeles and you get hungry, you should go to King Taco because the tamales are fat and hot, as all tamales should be, and the carne asada is really good, and frankly if the sugar daddies of this world can't appreciate fat and hot even in a trophy tamale, then they don't know what they're missing:


The King of tacos.

Posted by laurie at 12:37 PM

April 6, 2006

The Brangelina Hat: Thick 'n Quick to knit!


I knitted a prototype of this hat first (using grey yarn, you'll see some of the 'how-to' pics are from the prototype) and I discovered along the way that when using a super chunky yarn like this, you don't want to do quick decreases or you get weird puffy areas on the top. (I am not a fan of weird puffy areas.) (heh) So, this pattern decreases over a big area. Much of the crown is gently shaped, and even with this very thick yarn it lies fairly flat to the head ... no puffing. Because puffy head was not the goal, folks!

The skyline shot, with stuffed model:

Me in my Brangelina wide-ribbed brim knitted hat:


The Brangelina Wide Ribbed Brim Knitted Hat Recipe

Materials needed:

• One skein Lion Brand Wool Ease Thick 'n Quick in black ($5.99/Michael's)
Note: I managed to get by on one skein ... just barely. I think I had about four feet of yarn left over. So buy two skeins if you can, just for piece of mind!
• Size 10 circular knitting needles, 16" length
• Size 11 circular knitting needles, 16" length
• Size 11 double-pointed needles of death (not that scary)
• Maybe some Friends re-runs to offset bad Brangelina karma
• wine (optional)
• cat helper (optional)

Things you may find useful when knitting this hat:
• The easy roll-brim hat pattern, the basis of all my hat recipes
Working with circular needles
• A little diatribe on decreasing stitches
• Where I got the idea for this hat
• My regular ribbed-brim hat recipe

Step 1: Using the smaller (size 10) needle, cast on 64 stitches.

Using a smaller needle on the ribbed area keeps the ribbing from poufing out and makes the final hat look more finished. Also -- remember that in circular knitting, you cast on exactly the same way as in straight knitting. It's easy! You can do it. I use the long-tail cast on method which Annie describes here, but use any method you are comfortable with... it's a hat, not world peace. Mistakes are no biggie!

Step 2: Place a stitch marker on the right needle. Look at your stitches: all the knotty parts are smoothly pointing in the smae direction and nothing is twisting around the loopy part of your circular needle.

Step 3: Join the stitches into a circular tube of knitting happiness by knitting into the stitch on the left needle (your very first cast-on stitch). This starts your first row of ribbing!

Step 4: Make the big ribbed hat brim:
Knit four stitches, purl four stitches all the way across the round (rows are called "rounds" in circular knitting. They're still rows. But I'm going with the lingo, yo yo.)

And that's it!

It's easy. Knit 4, purl 4 all the way around and round until you have knitted up approximately 4 1/2" of ribbing. (That's obviosly more ribbing than gets turned-up for a brim on this hat, but I like to have more ribbing than I need so if I adjust the brim while I'm wearing it, I don't get a piece of stockinette sticking out.) (I'm crazy that way.)

Measure the ribbing by lying the hat on a flat surface, smoothing it with your hand and checking it on a ruler. This portion took me approximately one and a half hours to knit, but I was knitting on the bus and I am a slow knitter. Your mileage may vary.

Step 5: Switch to your larger circular needle (size 11) for the stockinette body.

Switching needles isn't as hard as it sounds. You have completed your last ribbing row. This part of the hat -- where the ribbing meets the road -- will not be visible when you wear the hat, because the brim turns up about three inches into the ribbing, so don't worry if your knitting gets a little weird on this one row.

So -- first, knit ONE stitch on this row with your size 10 needle just like normal to "seal" the stitch marker in (I hate having a dangling stitch marker hanging off the end of that small size 10 needle as I'm swapping to size 11s.) (Trust me, this will make sense when you do it.)

Next, using your bigger size 11 needle, begin knitting the remaining stitches off the left-hand size 10 (smaller) needle like so:



Step 6: Now everything is on the bigger needles. Knit every single stitch on every row until you have three inches of stockinette. Isn't knitting in the round awesome!! Perfect stockinette from the knit stitch! I love it!

Step 7: Decrease stitches!
Once you have three inches of stockinette, begin decreasing. On my prototype, I only decreased over six rows of knitting. It made a poufy decrease because the yarn is so bulky. And ya'll know by now how I feel about poufy knitting -- not loving it! I adjusted the decreases on this recipe so we decrease over a much larger space, and there is less poufy.

So, once you have 3 inches of stockinette, start your first decrease row: Knit 14 stitches. Then knit two together. Continue this (Knit 14, knit 2 together) all the way across the round. You will end with 60 stitches.

TIP: Definitely put a stitch marker right after your knit-two-together decrease. This helps because we're going to decrease on every single row for the next 13 rows, and if you place a marker after each decrease, you'll always know when you're supposed to be knitting two stitches together -- knit the two stitches before each marker together.


Next row: Knit 13, knit 2 together all across the round. You will have 56 stitches on your needles when you finish the round.

Step 8: Switch to Double-Pointed Needles
Right about here you will want to switch to double-pointed needles. It's not that hard, if a goofball such as myself can figure it out, so can you! You use the dpns (lingo, yo) in place of a circular needle because that loopy plastic part of a circular needle will be too long once you have fewer stitches. You can also do crazy stuff with two circular needles, but this is the way I do it. Makes me feel like an extreme knitter with all those sticks!

Using one double-pointed needle, knit the stitches off your left (circular) needle in the same exact way you did it when swapping out the size-10/size-11 needle after your ribbed brim. Same! Easy!


Knit about 1/3 of the stitches onto the double-pointed needle (keep up with your decreases!) I never worry if I have the stitches in exact even numbers on each needle, because I am a lazy and freewheelin' knitter. I am the knitter your mama warned you about. Luckily, this weird "guestimate" trick works wonders, preventing any weird gaps when using dpns, because I always have to scoot stitches from one needle to the next to get my "knit two together" to work out.

Just knit all your stitches onto three or four double-pointed needles. Then, with the free dpn, begin knitting as if you were straight knitting. Cool, huh? Every time you free up a needle, use that as your new right-hand needle.

You can do this. Here are some images of my progress getting the stitches onto dpns, click for bigger images:

And so, you are on the dpns, and you just decrease on:
Knit 12, knit 2 together all the way. You end with 52 stitches.
Knit 11, knit 2 together all the way. You end with 48 stitches.
Knit 10, knit 2 together all the way. You end with 44 stitches.
Knit 9, knit 2 together all the way. You end with 40 stitches.
Knit 8, knit 2 together all the way. You end with 36 stitches.
Knit 7, knit 2 together all the way. You end with 32 stitches.
Knit 6, knit 2 together all the way. You end with 28 stitches.
Knit 5, knit 2 together all the way. You end with 24 stitches.
Knit 4, knit 2 together all the way. You end with 20 stitches.
Knit 3, knit 2 together all the way. You end with 16 stitches.
Knit 2, knit 2 together all the way. You end with 12 stitches.

Step 9: Finish up!
Cut the yarn tail, leaving about 10 inches of yarn. Thread the yarn through a large-eye needle and pull it through all the remaining stitches on your needles like this:

(OK, in the interest of full disclosure, you'll see that picture above is on grey yarn, which was the prototype hat. Yes. Well on the final, Real Brangelina, I forgot my large-eye yarn needle, and had to improvise with a ... uh... large-eye yarn paperclip. I do not recommend this mad MacGyverism if you can avoid it, since it was a snagalicious mess. But whatever. It worked!)


I sometimes run the needle through the stitches twice because I am a paranoid neurotic knitter. Draw the top closed, bring the yarn to the wrong side of the hat, turn your hat inside-out and weave in your ends. I sometimes tie a knot, too, because see "paranoid neurotic."

Step 10: Wear hat, pose everywhere for paparazzi. Brad optional!


Posted by laurie at 9:55 AM

April 5, 2006

There's a cat picture at the end.

Confessions of a crappy housekeeper, Part I
My suitcase from Paris is still sitting in the middle of my living room floor, with four pairs of questionable socks in it, a scarf, some hats, a guidebook, random stuff. I'd be willing to bet big money that one of the girls who went on that trip with me came home, immediately unpacked her suitcases, sorted her laundry into lights, darks and delicates, put away her cosmetics and gifts, then took a shower and tidied up before taking a nap.

Me? I came home, hauled the bag about two feet in the door, drank a beer and went to bed. Not that there hasn't been progress -- the laundry has made it out of the suitcase, aside from the questionable socks which appeared mysteriously a few days ago, and now the suitcase is a favored cat bed. I'd be depriving the poor cats of something new and fun if I put the suitcase away today. Better wait until Saturday, when I can amuse them in person.


Confessions of a crappy housekeeper, Part II:
I have funky shui. I try to remedy this will all sorts of cheap organizing trips, but the funky shui is on to me. In an effort to make my home office a more useful and less cluttery space, I could have cleaned or de-cluttered or gotten rid of some junk or maybe even vaccuumed. Obviously, I went to Target and spent hours browsing the home storage aisle. I bought this cube-like storage thingy, it's sort of a bookcase in cube format, and anyway, I spent hours (really. HOURS. I am maybe not very much in love with reading directions. I prefer to assemble things intuitively, with a hearty beer. And the directions make a nice coaster.) (I do not recommend this tactic to home improvement) anyway! where was I! Oh , hours spent assembling the cubes which were to perfectly organize and hold my many things.

I moved the whole thing into the office (I did not assemble it there, because it's too far from the beer and Tivo.) I placed the pristine cube thingy against the wall, put a round, artsy-fartsy photo frame on the top, and artfully arranged my small collection of notecards in one cube. Its stark prettiness was so lovely, so appealing. And of course the floor still has a pile of junk on it, and the cube organizer is stark and pretty and ... empty.

I am so wrong in so many ways.


The more I learn about the internets, the more I think women ought to be running the country.
I don't usually get my panties in a bunch about internets stuff, ya'll know I'm still uncomfortable saying the word "blog." It just sounds wrong, that word, like "booger" but for webpages.

However (and this has nothing to do with boogers, I promise) I was contacted a few months back by Debra Roby, who has a personal blog and also writes for a website called Blogher.org, a collective of women who are witing online, from all walks of internets life. She wrote a profile of yours truly on Blogher, and my panties are very and well bunched, in a good way, because I'm truly appreciative and happy to be in such good company. Women writers appeal to me on so many levels, and Blogher has a little bit of everything. I hope ya'll will start visiting there, too and get to know the women who should be running this place. Since Debra first contacted me I've become such the little Blogher voyeur, reading female-centric websites on politics, race, religion, cooking, travel, all of it. Good stuff!


The more I learn about the Internets the less I want to start dating.
I freely confess that while I can easily carry on for HOURS about the subtle differences between mid-century chair designs or this month's Graydon Carter column (I have a huge Graydon Carter crush) or my views on the imprisonment of Mikail Khodokovsy, I am maybe not so knowledgeable about the hipster doofus side of life.

Because, surprise! I am not very hip.

Pretty much all current music sounds like the same band to me (Me: "Is that Matchbox 20?" Jen: "No. Laurie. It's not. Why do you think every non-rap song is by Matchbox 20? THERE ARE OTHER BANDS OUT THERE BESIDES MATCHBOX 20.") I don't go to cool clubs, or hang out in trendy bars, or know who Paris Hilton is dating (that last one? TOTAL LIE. I keep up with my stars. OH YES I DO.)

But it's OK. I'm totally fine being just the doofus part of hipster doofus. Doofuses (Doofii? Doofusees? Doofusers?) are good people. We are "colorful." We have our own brand of Doofus Chic, and we are livin' out loud and proud. Kind of like Scientologists... but not so jumpy on the couchy.

So! Anyway. Back to the internets and dating and all the things I was very much happy to be ignorant of. Really.

Many many months ago, a friend was telling me about posting her blog on this thing called Craigslist. I am not retarded, exactly, I mean I have heard of Craigslist, I just didn't know what it was. Or care. Figured some guy named Craig had a ...list. Or something.

(In my defense, people, I have VERY LIMITED web surfing time. I spend it on only the very most important things: eBay, Zappos, celebrity gossip, knitting blogs, obsessive news reading, WebMd. You know. THE NORMAL DOOFUS STUFF.)

So, my friend was very patient in explaining to me what a Craigslist is. I was confused how she managed to post her website on some guy's homepage. She didn't laugh at me. (My Friend: Not A Judger.)

I like having knowledge of stuff. And pretending to be informed. It goes to my know-it-all core, even though I do not in fact know much of anything. But when Katrina hit some time later, and a Southern friend was looking for someone to watch his animals for a while, I told him with great authority to go look on Craigslist dot COM, like I knew what I was talking about, all hip-like. He was real quiet for a minute or two. Then, "Um, darlin?" he said. "It's Craigslist dot ORG."

"Interesting," I said. "They must have changed it."

Ya'll see how I can be.

Fast forward many months to... recently. I am on the phone with Jennifer, complaining that I MUST HAVE A TREADMILL. I have somehow decided that the ONLY WAY I will be happy is to buy a treadmill. In a perfect world, in my mind, a treadmill would help me sleep better, eat less, drink less, get in good shape, stop craving a smoke, stop stressing out, stop panicking, PLUS! I can watch Tivo while doing it!! Better than sex, baby. TREADMILL! HAPPY!

Jennifer suggested I go online to Craigslist and look for a used treadmill. Ha! Can't fool me, I KNOW IT'S NOT JUST SOME DUDE'S HOMEPAGE. But... OK. Treadmills? Weird!

Turns out Craig has a list for all kinds of cities, with all kinds of stuff on there. I picked the Los Angeles list and started browsing for treadmills. Which got boring after about fifteen seconds. So I poked around and checked out some other junk, like puppies, and I tried to see where my one friend had posted her blog, and hello! This Craig has personal ads on his list!

And of course, they are a lot less boring than looking at treadmills.

After five minutes of reading the Men Seeking Women area, I ... maybe was INSANE and had to call Jennifer.


Jen: ...?

Me: WHO ARE THESE PEOPLE? Let me READ some of this TO YOU... Here is a PRIZE... he is, and I quote, a seriously overweight, balding unemployed guy who is seeking a thin, petite beautiful redhead, he wants a girl who other people would say is "far too pretty" to be dating him OH MY GOD HE ACTUALLY SAID THAT.

Jen: Ah. Craigslist. Did you find a treadmill?

Me: HERE IS ANOTHER PRIZE. "I am 49, boring and dumb, seeking a thin beauty ages 18-22 for fun and possible relationship."

Jen: He said he was boring and dumb?

Me: No, but he might as well have. It was implied in seventeen paragraphs of BLAH BLAH BLAH.

Jen: OOOOK. I am logging on. Hang on.

Me: OH MY GOD THIS GUY WANTS A WOMAN WHO CAN SPELL OR USE SPELLCHECK ... and YET here is how he describes himself: "I am an old fashion kinda guy. Who loves to eat a home-cook meal." Um, is it just me or if you're going to be an arrogant asshole about spelling and grammar, maybe you should spell your own self-absorbed-self-description correctly?

Jen: Oh crap, click on the Swede seeking benefactor...

This went on until I reached maximum vomit level and had to leave the computer immediately and retreat into the Cabernet. Seriously. Who ARE these people?

Of course, I cannot leave the internets alone, with its Men Seeking Women, because ya'll one day I will have to date and if this is what is out there, I may have to move. Relocate. Haul ass out of Crazytown. I decided in a fit of clarity and also excuse-making that it was maybe just Los Angeles guys, so I decided to do some research on the matter. I went back to Craig and his damn list and looked for another city. One that would likely have nicer people with less superficial and frankly delusional tendencies. Like...uh. Madison! Madison, Wisconsin! I have never been there, but they make good cheese, and ... Wisconsin! Just sounds like they would have nice guys.

No. No no no.


Don't do it.

I was much happier when I thought the scariest thing out there was Zappos.com and its impact on my bank account. But if this online personals thing is any indicator of what is OUT THERE, I imagine me and my treadmill (from Sportmart, thank you) will be very, very happy. We will have a deeper, more meaningful relationship than I could ever find on the list of Craig.

Because people. There is not enough wine in this world. I'll just remain a singular doofus. It's fine. I'll listen to my Matchbox 20, or whatever, and talk about Russian oligarchs while seated on my Burke dining chairs. And I am staying far away from Madison, Wisconsin AND Craig AND the list he rode in on.

Told you so.

Posted by laurie at 9:41 AM

April 4, 2006

April 2006 Hor-O-Scopes

It's rainy in Los Angeles and I am a sniffly, sneezy, whiny and also possibly lazy faux-astrologer. However, in my defense I did watch seven Tivo'd episodes of Clean House and I feel I am channeling Necie Nash herself when I say April is the month to dust off, wake up to the messes, and finally cut the foolishness. (Or start the foolishness, depending on your perspecive.)

Mercury has un-retrograded (like the fancy lingo?) and Saturn is coming out of the closet and representing loud and clear for the big-bottom planets. Speaking of big, round planets... Jupiter is here, too and ya'll, I mean really. April better be nicer to the Cancerians than March was, because we are very and well tired. That goes for the Sags and Cappies, too. Buck up little planets!

[heh heh I just re-read this and it made NO SENSE. I think in the next staff meeting I will start peppering my powerpoint presentations with completely senseless astrological lingo. As in: The kiosks have shown a ten percent growth in usage, largely due to the un-retrograde of new content!]

- - - - - - - - -

AQUARIUS (Jan. 20 - Feb. 18)
A couple of years ago a friend and I worked at a company where we were both miserably unhappy. We had no idea what the buckwild crazy management could possibly want from their shackled and browbeaten employees. The requirements seemed to change from day to day, minute to minute. Eventually we entertained ourselves with devising a resume for the perfect employee at Insanity, Inc. Skills included "Will bend over backwards ... and forwards....." "Proficient in ass-kissing, ego manipulation and general sucking-up" and "Able to blurt 50 flattering words a minute!" "Can multitask: ability to both move and bury bodies." This month you have that little red Mars in your work house, and your days will be busier than they have been in months. The good news, though, is that you will not at any time be required to bury a dead body. Kissing up, however, is totally optional.

PISCES (Feb. 19 - March 20)
Did you know that psychologists say it takes three weeks to break a bad habit? What happens on week four, though? Do you suppose the bad habit comes back from its vacation double recharged and rarin' to go? It's a conundrum. Much like your month ahead: pressure feels most intense around financial issues, but at the same time your outlook is better and more secure than it has been in ages. Now is a good time to review some of your less-than-stellar habits and try to spend the next 21 days freeing yourself of just one. I'll be interested to see how week four goes -- you have both Venus and Jupiter on your side, rare and very good for you. Let me know in May how it all works out.

ARIES (March 21- April 19)
Would you like a karmic massage? Something to soothe the pain of the past few weeks and make all your tension and worries disappear? I'd like to offer you some wish fulfillment, with easy monthly payments of just $19.95! And, free with purchase, you'll get a valuable gadget capable of sweeping the knots out of your life, and out of your head -- but hurry, act now, this special offer is available for a limited time only! Which is -- of course -- the problem with quick fixes ... they look like a bargain but end up being just another piece of limited-time junk you wasted money on that now sits mocking you and collecting dust, like those Tae-Bo tapes and that tube of eye cream you can't throw away. Instead of a quick fix, heed your impulse to get physical and go for a run, a walk or anything sweat-inducing. Money back guarantee included.

TAURUS (April 20 - May 20)
The only remaining volcano in Tanzania erupted over the weekend, spewing hot air and stinging debris at unexpected intervals. It rumbled to life and forced about 3,000 people to flee, with everyone bracing for disaster and fallout. If any of this behavior sounds familiar, it may be because your own inner geological spring is bubbling to the surface, bringing with it the locked-up emotional rumbling of the past six-months or so. Ya'll just need to blow off some steam. I say go for the big rumble and shake, and enjoy a hearty and well-deserved re-awakening.

GEMINI (May 21 - June 21)
Isn't it funny how when you first meet someone and you really, really want them to like you, you're on your best behavior? You're so sweet and nice and such a great listener. Fast forward a year, to when they love you, and watch as you take them for granted and make them feel like an old shoe. Isn't that how you've felt at work lately, the old shoe? In April you get this whole cosmic conflagration of events that will make your work situation improve dramatically, even the crankiest of the cranky will be sufferable for most of the month. Your workmates will break out the polish and shine this month, and maybe you can forgive the most horrible one for being such a heel.

CANCER (June 22 - July 22)
I have been working on your chart for weeks now. It was unclear to me why I was unable to see a single discernable truth, then I realized: You are me. We are the same, and my utter lack of introspection and self-evaluation is keeping your reading masked from me. And the truth is that while we seem to be caught in some deep psychic fog, we're making progress. Financially, it feels like there's a weight on us we'll never break through. At the same time, we're already making plans for how to get the money situation under control. (Not like the gloomy days of years past when we just hid from these issues, you know?) I say ya'll, we should make a pact to ignore our demons and fears for the month of April and wander blissfully through this month together (well, blissfully as we can, I mean come on -- we're Cancers). Maybe all our old fears will get bored in the waiting room of April and go haunt someone else, like the Libras for a change.

LEO (July 23 - August 22)
I have a very good rule of thumb when it comes to making choices. Flip a coin. Inevitably, one of the choices will make you sigh and wish (even if just a little bit) that the coin had landed differently .... and so your true feelings are right there for you to see. The choice you're going to make in the coming weeks will not be made lightly -- and your coin will appear mean and ugly on both sides. But avoiding the situation won't make it go away. Flip, flip, flip away -- until the answer becomes clear. Your chart says you do have the answer, and you just need some time to get it out. By month's end you'll be closer to resolving your stuff, and with all those coins you've been flipping you should treat yourself to giant dinner (I'm partial to steak and shrimp) to celebrate your very wise decision.

VIRGO (August 23 - Sept. 22)
I wish I could make the world function exactly to my specifications. In my ideal world, no one would smell bad, wear too much perfume, talk in elevators, or chew with open mouths. In my Perfect Land, you'd be popular and gregarious and never feel like a pushover or get cold feet at parties. Now, I wave my magic wand, and poof! You are perfect in my eyes. Dear Virgo, all this change lately has made you even less sure-footed than ever, and you're doubting your perfection and your future. Well, until my magic wand can make it out ya'lls way, you'll have to speak up for yourself and resist the urge to stay home and worry. The bad news: the full moon mid-month will bring a little more change your way, either financially or in some kind of working relationship. The good news: the full moon mid-month will bring a little more change your way, either financially or in some kind of working relationship.

LIBRA (Sept. 23 - Oct. 23)
Your month is going to really suck. I mean, ya'll, seriously. Just go home right now and start eating the ice cream. Do they make wine ice cream? Oh Libra... ya'll! I'm just kidding! Truth is, this was a learning experience. See? Any old Joe can give you some wrong advice. You might want to re-consider who you're taking prophecies from these days. After all, the last psychic I visited told me I'd be doing charity work involving water... which, had I followed her advice, would put me wading upstream while begging for money for other people. Not a pretty vision, eh? This is a good time to be careful whose advice you heed. You don't want to end up the proverbial creek because of someone's off-the-cuff armchair mentoring this month, no matter how well-intentioned it may be.

SCORPIO (Oct. 24 - Nov. 21)
Would you be terribly surprised if a total stranger became your closest friend this month? Would you be shocked to discover wisdom in small packages? Would you be willing to believe your fortune cookie? Would you be taken aback to see your reflection in your beloved's eyes? Would you be dismayed if your astrological forecast were nothing but a list of questions? Would you be caught off guard to discover that you had the answers all along?

SAGITTARIUS (Nov. 22 - Dec. 21)
You are the sexiest sign of the month. I hereby declare you positively seductive. You ooze and exude a self-confidence that is simply irresistible. Believe that you are a nice girl in a bad girl body and picture yourself driving your own clothes wild with abandon. Now, recite seven times, "I am a temple of purity and goodness." Oh yeah. Ya'll can tell I grew up in the buckle of the Bible Belt, full of crazy wanting and the constant threat of sin. But it taught me one true thing: it feels really good to rebel sometimes. It can be so good to be so bad! Rebel against the old you this month, and relish your contradictions.

CAPRICORN (Dec. 22 - Jan. 19)
The Cast: You and your closest friends, a relative and one love interest. The Location: Your town. The Plot: You try to solve everyone's problems as a way to avoid your own issues while secretly smoldering for love and attention and alternately getting mad at how little attention you yourself are getting. The Surprise Ending: Does our heroine have the guts to make the first move? Or does she get stage fright and watch from the wings while everyone else gets to take a bow? I'm spellbound with a big tub of popcorn, waiting for the grand finale. A preview: It's a pretty darn good ending to the month, especially when Venus and Jupiter hook up and push you right to center stage, into the spotlight. Bravo!

Posted by laurie at 12:21 PM