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April 30, 2009

The Lost Furball

The past two weeks have been hard at work, we've been shorthanded and I'm trying to fill in wherever I can and sometimes by 5:30 I'm so tired of looking at code and clicktags and images and PDFs I'm drooling on the keyboard. Which is really attractive as you can imagine.

The icing on the crap cake came yesterday when my computer went to the blue screen of death just as I was trying to complete something for a deadline NOW NOW NEED IT NOW. I am the master of breaking things, it's a talent really. The only thing I can't seem to break is my old boxy TV set (I just feel wasteful and ridiculous buying a flat-screen TV with this perfectly serviceable TV already in place) so last night after melting the hard drive on my rockstar dual-processor animation workhorse at the office, I took the bus home and walked in the front door and immediately laid hands upon my TV thinking maybe my malo mojo was working and I could do good with my technical death skills ... for once.

Alas, my malo mojo was exhausted and the TV lives on.

But the TV just kept going on and on about how we're all going to perish from the swine flu and blah blah blah.... so I turned off the TV and got back to Isla Sorna... you see, I finished Jurassic Park and was on the last few chapters of The Lost World when I looked up and found this animal moving toward me:


The Tyrannosaurus Bob!!!!

While the T-Bob is equipped with fangs of outrageous sharpness, he also has a small brain and a short attention span:

The T-Bob at rest

He lives in constant conflict with the extremely intelligent but unpredictable Sobasaurus:


This creature is the smallest on the house-island, but appears to control most of the environment.


The Sobasaurus is an advanced Catosaur species, with fast-changing moods and a dislike of other Catosaurs. She especially dislikes this one:

The Pfrankiedactyl

The Pfrankiedactyl is a peaceful, graceful Catosaur with long, slender anterior extremeties and an unusual color patterning. She prefers sleeping and purring to hunting and fighting, which seems to annoy the Sobasaurus.

The Pfrankiedactyl at rest.

Observing these animals is a constant source of scientific wonder. They hunt their prey -- hair elastics, bottle caps, barrettes -- with great vigor and seem to drag the kill to an unknown lair, still hidden to researchers. They do occasionally fight between them, though the Sobasaurus is the clearly dominant species.

All tolerate their human observer with detached acceptance. They produce a large amount of Catosaur poo and researchers are hoping to one day power a vehicle with this ever-replenished resource.

It's very exciting here on the outer edge of science!

Posted by laurie at 8:22 AM

April 28, 2009

Maybe I do it for my sanity.

Yesterday was generically awful. But at the end of the day I walked in the door and took of my shoes and went directly to the magic wine cooler ("the fridge") and then after I fed the cats I slipped on my flip-flops and still dressed in my work clothes I went out back and flopped in the grass and stared at my newly planted garden.

It was the best part of the entire day. And I think the French Tarragon grew overnight, which made me happy in ways I cannot express without sounding like a total whack job.

On the left, Marjoram and French Tarragon. On the right, flowering fragrant English Thyme, a small parsley plant and of course some sage. The rosemary is in a pot nearby, completing my journey to Scarborough Fair.

Posted by laurie at 10:42 AM

April 27, 2009

Let the farmer's tan begin!


This weekend was the perfect gardening weather -- sunny but mild temperatures, not too hot or too cool -- a combination which lures you into believing many things can grow and flourish in your garden, so you buy more than you intended because you are riding high on hope and a dream. A dream of tomatoes and herbs and shiny eggplants all growing peacefully with each other. A dream of a 600-pound pumpkin stretching its vines around tall green cornstalks.

Well, it's early still. Might as well enjoy the hope while we can.

There's nothing better than working in the yard until you're drenched with sweat from exertion and dirty and smelly and surrounded by seedlings. I should work in a garden center, just being around seedlings makes me giddy. And my yard is becoming a testament to my love of science experiments, because what greater science experiment is there?


This is my kitchen garden. On the far left and far right are my dad's heirloom chili peppers, recently pruned and now thick with new leaves. Tucked in a back corner on the far left is marjoram, and in the middle along the back edge I've planted cilantro, dill and basil. In the front I have thyme (both English and lemon varieties) along with oregano. By far my favorite plants to grow are herbs -- I love them. They're pretty and useful and they smell amazing. I've grown herbs and succulents for most of my life, so over time I've mostly figured out what works and what doesn't and still it's always a surprise to see what takes off and what fades away each year in the garden. In this house I've had the best success with marjoram and basil, but I still like growing a wide variety to see what will flourish where. I like having all the herbs crammed in together like that in a small space, one year I grew them in a Rubbermaid tub out on the patio and I had six or seven different herbs planted and they all just took off. It keeps me motivated to clip them regularly which makes me more motivated to try cooking unusual recipes to use my herbs.

But vegetable gardening is still sort of new to me. I spent most of my childhood weeding between rows of my Dad's garden and plucking fat tomato worms off the vines, but I never did any of the garden-making stuff myself like siting the garden and deciding which plants to grow and all that. Prior to moving into this house, most of my personal veggie-growing experience was limited to a tomato plant in a plastic pot on the patio. Since starting my gardening science experiment I have discovered I can grow zucchini like nobody's business and I've had good success with pumpkins but failure with pretty much everything else. Mostly this is my fault, not watering everything enough and being lazy in general. This year I've decided to commit 100% to my garden and see if I can actually grow enough good stuff to justify the amount of money I'm spending on gardening supplies.

The first step was to figure out what I like to eat most (besides potatoes, which I'm not ready for yet.) That's how I decided on corn, tomatoes, bell peppers and especially cucumbers. Add to that some squash and some pumpkins and the random eggplant and that's what I invested in this year.

I'm most excited about trying to grow corn! This is the first patch, small but enough space for three staggered rows of corn and one pumpkin seedling.



You may be saying, have you gone CRAZY? You can't grow corn there! You may be right, I may be crazy, but it just may be a lunatic you're looking for. My dad's garden was always long and lush with several rows of corn planted in neat aisles. Mine is not. I know corn is wind-pollinated, but I don't see why you have to maintain perfect row formation. This is kind of a staggered splay of corn, but I measured so each is about 12 inches apart, except for two seedlings I couldn't separate. And with the wind we get here, pollination should not be a problem. Notice too that I didn't pull up the ice plant growing randomly on the soil. I just dumped mulch on top. I can't bear to pull up something so pretty, so maybe it will grow in and around the corn stalks and mingle with the pumpkin.

As you can probably guess, this was not the original game plan for my Great Corn Field. I planned to put the corn field out back, alongside my raised garden bed. However, after I bought the corn plants, I started digging up the proposed corn field and discovered there are bricks buried all under the sod. Bricks. In the soil. Were the old residents trying to grow a barbecue pit or something? Weird. But it became rapidly apparent there was no way I could dig up all the bricks in the short window of time known as my weekend. So that's why I had to plant the corn elsewhere. I figure it's serendipity -- the best science experiments have different test groups, right? Next weekend I'll work on digging up the bricks and planting more corn in the back and we'll have a grow-off! Corn vs. Corn! Worst case scenario, nothing grows. Best case scenario I have enough corn for the apocalypse.

The raised bed out back is happy to be filled with plants again.



In the cages in each corner are cucumbers, with a tomato in the middle. Normally I would never try a tomato out back, it gets full sun all day and it's so hot out here that the only tomato success I've ever had is in patio containers under the covered porch. But at the garden center I noticed this variety of tomato called Heatwave -- allegedly the perfect tomato for hot climates. Well, that is just a dare. I accept your duel.

The best and wackiest thing I did this year was to break my budget limit and splurge on these:



They make me laugh! It seems wrong, growing things upside down, but I'm fascinated to see if it works! I planted a Roma tomato in one, a cherry tomato in another and the last one has a lone cucumber seedling. I am determined to grow a cucumber this year, even if it costs me a billion dollars.


This is Clarence. He lives in my yard and has trained me to feed him peanuts. I think Darwin would be amazed at the evolution of suburban wildlife... they have learned to make human city-dwellers do their bidding and buy them peanuts. I was out planting the corn and I noticed a little movement to my left and there he was, just a few inches away, staring at me. Then he made his little squirrel noise, which I guess is squirrelese for "Get me a peanut!" and so I did, and off we went. All afternoon Clarence would fetch a peanut and then run around the yard looking for the perfect place to hide it. There are peanuts all over my damn yard.


The blue jays like peanuts too:


This one comes over and grabs them out of the bowl. He watches Clarence sometimes to see where the squirrel is hiding a peanut, then the blue jay swoops in after him and digs it up. He's very smart. Sometimes he perches on one of the patio chairs and yells at me until I bring him peanuts or sunflower seeds. The cats love to watch all of this from the big windows that face the garden:


I am happiest out in the yard. No radio, no internet, no TV or phone or email. Just me and some dirt and a cold beer and some peanuts for all.

Posted by laurie at 8:01 AM

April 24, 2009

Eyes wide shut

I'm completely fascinated with all the people who wander around Los Angeles tethered to their electronic leashes. I mean they're technically ambulatory, but while they walk around they never look up from the small gadget in their hand. You see them everywhere, bent over and completely sucked in, they flick and touch and scroll around compulsively. These are humans but they remind me of lab videos showing rats pushing the lever over and over again for a fix. Men, women, old, young, business suits, dresses ... it can strike anyone it seems. They all hold some kind of electronic device, a fancy phone or crackberry or whatever, and they stay more connected to that tiny pile of circuits and metal doodads than they do with the actual living world.

I know this because they don't pay attention to where they're going, and I've stopped moving out of their way and we now collide in the plaza outside my building. And in the hallways and in the stairways. They're pecking away like chickens, completely engrossed in the gadget, unaware of humans and daylight and traffic and smack!


Myself, I have no desire to have a phone so exciting that it makes me unaware of my surroundings, my friends and my city. I don't want to be hunched over staring at a tiny screen all day, I don't want to be interrupted in the bathroom or at lunch or when I'm on the bus to get an email from someone at work telling me the printer is low on toner. Or how about the urgent email that just says "Out of office - on my blckberry - will call u later." Just call later, it's no big deal.

I am fairly certain I feel this way because I am old.

Posted by laurie at 4:05 PM

Freaky Friday

This is for reader Gwyneth, who requested more pictures of the Great Soba:


That is one of my favorite pictures of her ever. I know the quality is poor, but she's so perfect, all asleep on the sheets in a ray on sunlight with her head on the pillow. This was taken a few months ago when I had a cold and was spending a weekend day lying in bed reading and sniffling, hence the Kleenex and The Celestine Prophecy by James Redfield. That red notebook on top is my constant companion, I go through about a notebook a month. Compulsive much?

- - -

Yesterday something so weird happened. I had gotten home from work a little early, it was quarter 'til six and I was in the kitchen, trying to figure out what to make for dinner when I first heard the noise. It was a heavy, loud noise almost like an airplane.

Now I live on the Valley floor which is right under the flight path of practically every Southwest airplane to and from Burbank airport, and we get planes and corporate jets from Van Nuys airport, too. And there are the ever-present helicopters of course. This is actually a really noisy city, now that I think about it. So I'm used to hearing planes go by just like in Chicago folks get used to the train going by. It fades into the ambiance of the city. You know what a plane sounds like and it just becomes background noise.

But this sound was different. For one thing, it was LOUD. Screaming loud, like a roaring projectile, a deafening noise like you hear in movies when missiles streak across the sky. And it was FAST, whatever it was, because it roared closer in just seconds, so loud it obliterated any other noises. I immediately dropped what I was doing and ran to the front door and it was even louder and scarier and as I put my hand on the doorknob, I thought, Holy shit, that's a missile! and then I thought, We're going to vaporize. And I knew when the blinding light came I did not want to be standing in the yard looking at my neighbors who cannot get inside their cars without setting of the alarm. No, I wanted to be inside with my cats, who were now hiding under the sofa.

And since I can't fit under the sofa, I just sat down on top and waited.

Then as quickly as it came, it was gone. I could still hear it screaming through the air but it was getting further away. I felt that panic feeling all over me, just shaking a little and heart beating fast. I know I have an active imagination and all, but this was real. I know I'm reading all this crazy Michael Crichton books but I'm reading about dinosaurs, so it would make sense if I heard a noise in the yard and thought the raccoon hiding in the ivy was a velociraptor or something, but this wasn't made-up. It was real. So I walked out the front door and there were my neighbors, everyone staring up in the sky. You could see this huge arc of white smoke -- longer than anything I'd seen from an airplane before -- and at one end something that looked white or maybe silver in the sunshine, and it was definitely not a Southwest plane bound for Omaha.

I just looked at my neighbors. Then I said, "Oh my God, what was that thing?"

I was asking in the general direction of everyone, and the guy in the red baseball cap from across the street answered me.

"No idea," he replied. "I have no f---ing idea what that was."

Everyone else was just quiet. So I turned and went back inside and shut the door, then locked the deadbolt for no reason at all, and called my dad. I was shaking trying to dial the numbers. I called him because I am five, and I needed my daddy.

I told him the story and he said to watch on the news, that it was probably something from one of the military bases nearby and he was just talking all calm, turn on the news, and I already had the TV on and the Channel 7 news on but there was just some dumb sports report, and finally I hung up and poured myself a glass of wine. A big glass. Then I gave the cats a big can of Fancy Feast. Because I was still shaken up and we all needed to be comforted.

Now I'm wondering if it even happened at all. The news hasn't said anything at all about it. My dad pointed out it was probably some normal military fly over or something. But it wasn't anything I'd ever heard before, except almost like the time we saw the Space Shuttle launch in Florida. It was weird.

Mostly I can't believe how scared that sound made me. I know I live in a big city, and we all sort of go about our lives with this necessary denial that anything bad will happen today. It's just what you do. I try really hard not to listen to the horror stories on the news or the stuff about terrorists and missiles because there is nothing I can do about any of it, so there's no real reason to focus on it, worry about it, stress out over things which I have zero control over. But it must have sunk in there somewhere, North Korea test fires a missile or whatever the fearmongering headline was. It took me a while to calm down, and if it weren't for all my neighbors standing out there in their yards, too, looking up at the sky I would wonder if it had really happened at all. It wasn't on the 6 o'clock news, or the 6:30 report and it wasn't on this morning either, not at 5 a.m. or 6 a.m. Just some stuff about a minor earthquake out in Yorba Linda, and the traffic report and the weather.


Posted by laurie at 8:13 AM

April 23, 2009

Can you smell that smell?

I love the smell of a list in the morning!

I watch Jeopardy. I don't Tivo it, but I try to be home by 7 p.m. so I can see it, I usually make it a few nights a week. I play along with the TV, saying the answers out loud, like I am competing. And when I know the answer and none of the contestants do, I say the answer LOUDER as if that will help. I also get irrationally attached to people on Jeopardy, for example I'll be rooting for one person to win and then I'll feel real, actual disappointment if they bet a lot on a daily double and lose the game, or if they lose in Final Jeopardy. I feel bad for them. Probably because I am loose in the brainial area.

Carry on my wayward son
The gardeners and I are in a fight. I'm not sure they know it yet, but we are, and they will know it for sure on Saturday. Last weekend they left me a nasty note on the timer mechanism for the sprinklers along the lines of "If you turn off the automatic timer again we'll report you to the landlord nah nah nah." So I called my landlord and told him I don't want mean notes from the gardeners and we are in a DROUGHT and the city has a list of ordinances (like you cannot serve people water in a restaurant unless they ask, I mean really) and if you break the water law you could be fined and if you exceed tier 1 usage your bill will cost more and WHO WILL PAY IT? The mean gardeners have the timer set to run six days a week for 45 minutes. PEOPLE. That is EXCESSIVE. So I turn off the timer and run the sprinklers manually because I don't want an $800 water bill. WILL THE MEAN GARDENERS PAY IT?

So I typed up a letter to the gardeners along those lines and attached the entire city ordinance with appropriate areas highlighted and tagged with post-it flags. Basically it says they either change the timer or they can pay my water bill. I am sure their love will grow exponentially for me.

And I can't believe I am going to say this, but I miss Francisco. I miss his strangely pruned shrubbery and bizarrely hacked trees. We used to have a beer, hang out, sometimes he wouldn't come for weeks and that was fine. The new gardeners lecture me and scold me and tell me not to walk on my own grass. They're so strict. Such grassophiles. And now we're in a fight.

The Ghetto Garden
Which brings me to this year's gardening efforts, which I plan to call The 2009 Ghetto Garden. It's my attempt to combine my countryass love of gardening with my need to annoy the gardeners. Thanks to the many readers who sent me this article about Lasagna Gardening, [no idea why the link only works half the time -- you may have to go to that site and search for it] I got the idea to use my old cardboard boxes from the storage shed out back to make walkways between my gardening piles and that will mean NO GRASS and the gardeners will probably have their little heads pop off as soon as they see it. I don't have the winter ahead (obviously) to make a real lasagna garden like in the article, but I'm going to use some of the techniques there since I can't till the soil (landlord's request -- and I have to stay on someone's good side.) On Saturday I plan to be up at the buttcrack of dawn running all my gardening errands. My budget for this masterpiece is $100, and I need soil and mulch and seedlings and other stuff. The gardeners come on Saturday so I'll be out shopping for the Ghetto Garden supplies when they find my awesome Water Wars note attached to the sprinklers, and then just as they are recovering from that they'll arrive next week to find a cardboard jungle.

This makes me so happy and I can't express why. Probably because I am evil, and should be destroyed.

No rest for the wicked
Of course I also have to work this weekend, which is going to cut into my gardening time. I don't know why I can't just drink wine and garden and read books for a living.

Reading is my cardio
I'm on this big Michael Crichton kick right now. It started right about two weeks ago in the middle of the night when I couldn't sleep and needed to read something that would take my mind off the thoughts that were keeping me awake. You know how you can worry about something and think about it so much that the thoughts start thinking you? That's where I was. So I picked up an old Michael Crichton favorite, Timeline. Of his books that I've read it's probably my favorite. And then I watched the movie on Netflix (I love the movies you can watch right on your laptop! Best invention EVER!) (Not that I loved the movie, by the way.) And then I re-read State of Fear and then Terminal Man (his stuff from the 1970s is great, I love the descriptions of L.A., the technology talk, the way no one had a cellphone.) Then I re-read Prey, and moved on to Jurassic Park which I finished yesterday and of course ordered the movie off Netflix to watch tonight, and now I'm on to The Lost World. Yesterday I realized all I have left at home is Congo, so I ordered all the books I don't have off Amazon.com because books count as essentials for me, and because I'm obsessed. Obsessed! I do this with books, I get into an author and need to read EVERYTHING that person has ever written, including postcards and napkin notes.

I like Crichton because he writes this insane dialogue, where an expert character will explain to a lesser, dumber character all the exposition -- not just little details, but HUGE tumbling blocks of exposition. It's his way of combining character development and technical exposition at the same time, and I think very few writers really pull that off and keep a story moving. I thought State of Fear was a little too heavy in the oratory but I never get bored with his books, I always want to know how it all ends.

The weather changed back, so the 100-degree spell ended and now it's nice and chilly and foggy out, like winter. You know, 65 degrees. Almost cold enough for a wool scarf.

Even though my office move is really boring and not dramatically far away, it's still weird. Moving is not my favorite thing to do. I forget sometimes how much I am a creature of habit, liking things to be steady and constant and yet nothing ever is. Everything changes. Things end, new things begin, nothing really ever stays the same. Sometimes that feels exhilarating because when life is crappy you can count on it to eventually change, which is hopeful. But sometimes it's disconcerting too, because you have to move along with the flow and nothing can be relied upon to stay the same forever.

Posted by laurie at 7:06 AM

April 22, 2009

It's your earthday, it's your earthday, go shorty... it's your earthday...

Oh, the tens of people who will laugh at the headline. How I love thee, let me count the ways.

On this Earth Day I am cleaning out my office because on Friday I am moving to another office in some other area of the building. It's the farthest my boss can move me away from him without putting me in the parking garage with a red stapler. O Banking, you are vast and mysterious. I started the real cleaning out of file drawers and dusty cabinets a few days ago and yesterday got through two entire filing cabinets and this was the state of the sitting spot when I left yesterday:


I thought maybe overnight it would morph and change and the folders would breed with the binder clips all Transformers-style and by morning I would have an assistant made totally from office supplies.

No such luck.

It's still there.

The mountain of file folders and remnant notebooks and reference books is all that remains of the seven years I have worked here. Yesterday I dumped and recycled all the memos and presentations and documents that used to collect dust inside those file folders so that one day they will be your post-consumer particulate in toilet paper and kleenex.

I also cleaned out the little cabinet by my desk where I store (read: hoard) office supplies and discovered 32 semi-used post-it note pads. THIRTY-TWO. My entire life has been borne on the back of the post-it-note. It's my Borne Identity. hahaha. Cracked myself up. I also had a newspaper from 2002 (?) and at the bottom of the drawer I found two pictures of me and Mr. X from a vacation we took to Denmark and Poland. It was actually funny, and I showed them to Corey and Cindi and then I put them in the recycle bin, too.

This kind of cleaning feels GREAT. I thought it would be stressful, especially because I have a lot of work to do this week and the office seemed like a mammoth endeavor but it's been really liberating to take a break, maybe an hour a day, and just focus entirely on getting rid of stuff. By the end of today I should be finished with the major purging and I'll only have a fraction of the stuff left to pack up in boxes.

It's amazing how much less often I print stuff out these days -- going through my old files it's clear I used to print everything. The whole industry was paper-heavy, relying on documents printed out and stored in binders. The biggest change I can see is how everyone has slowly started to rely on saving and storing stuff electronically instead of on the printed page. It's the little changes that add up over time. Getting rid of stuff always feels like an accomplishment of greatness ... not necessarily because it's a noble cause in itself, but because your relationship with your stuff can define your whole life. It can drag you down, it can anchor you, it can make you feel secure, or it can just be a nagging to-do list item.

The biggest change in my relationship with stuff is that I definitely do not acquire things at the rate I used to. Learning to discern wants from needs was a good first step. Then there's the money aspect -- you have more money when you spend less of it. Finding a way to get rid of things has also been a challenge -- first you have to learn how to just let go of stuff, emotionally, and then you have to find ways of getting rid of your stuff that make sense. Like recycling old papers, and donating usable things (or going with the ol' yard sale technique.) My collection of post-it-note pads tells me I'm still not free of my little packrat ways but I am at least happy when I see my file cabinet purged and the old file folders recycled in the supply cabinet.

So I'm not exactly out there playing warrior of the environment today, but cleaning and recycling all this old stuff feels really good which must be good for the environment in a very roundabout way. After all, happy people don't flip you off as often in traffic and that makes the world a better place. Yes? Maybe I will even share my post-its with those less fortunate, like the guy down the hall who is always looking for something to write on. Or maybe I will just keep them all for myself. Baby steps!

Posted by laurie at 7:22 AM

April 20, 2009

How green is your garden?

Today is our third day of record-breaking heat in the city of Angels... yesterday the temperature gauge on my back patio reached 102. A few more days of this and everything will be brown and crispy.

I've figured out the spray paths of the sprinklers, and last year I decided to give up on manual watering and just have things potted in and around the sprinklers (thanks in advance to the 200 people about to write me of the joys of drip irrigation but that is a no go, documented here.) My sprinkler-container relocation strategy worked well enough, except the cucumbers burned up in the Valley heat in just a few weeks. The pumpkins did well, considering the gardeners would weed whack the vines every few weeks. I have a testy and contentious relationship with the new gardeners. They scold me, they're ruthless in their desire to have nothing growing but useless lawn and ivy and we clash. Every Saturday it's a contest of wills and since they have the mowers they usually win.

BUT. I am thinking of doing something that would blow their little minds. It will make them crazy. They will shake their fists of fury at me.

I am thinking of renting some kind of machinery doodad to tear up the whole back 40 and remove all the grass -- instructing them NOT TO COME NEAR IT with those weed whackers -- and just plant the whole thing with pumpkins, zucchini (oh, how I love your growingness, crazy zukes!) and herbs. As of now the only things I have growing are my dad's heirloom peppers, carefully pruned back and loved by yours truly for two years now, some mint that survived the harsh 60-degree winter, and two lovely containers of thyme. I LOVE thyme. It's by far my favorite herb, I just love its cheerful tiny leaves, it's happy little white flowers, it's delicate smell. I've decided this year to grow every variety of thyme I can find, just for the sheer happiness of being surrounded by my favorite herb.

According to My Personal Weatherman Dallas Raines, the heatwave is supposed to end soon and by the weekend it will drop 40 degrees in the Valley, back down to a very awesome mid-60-ish, perfect for digging up the entire backyard. I figure this is my last real opportunity to spend a Saturday or Sunday doing serious messing around in the yard before it becomes hotter than the scorching surface of the sun and I find myself locked inside with the air on full blast, refusing to go outside until dark.

-- 5 minutes later --

So I just called my landlord and told him my excellent idea and he reminded me there are pipes and all kinds of stuff in the ground and could I please refrain from using heavy machinery? But other than that he said he doesn't care what I grow in the backyard and I can tell the gardeners to leave the whole back-back yard alone if I want. Victory!

Sort of. I already have a big raised bed in the back (I started it after getting excited reading All New Square Foot Gardening) but I don't want to do more raised beds since I'm not sure how much longer I will stay in this house and they are EXPENSIVE to fill with dirt the first go around. Maybe I'll just dig up little areas here and there and plant pumpkins and let it all Darwinize. Survival of the fittest!

-- 10 minutes later --

Maybe I have lost my mind.
Should make for an inneresting garden.

Posted by laurie at 10:38 AM

April 16, 2009

Not irrefutable proof, exactly

This has been a very trying week, so much so that Drew called me up on Wednesday and asked, "What the hell is in Uranus?" and I said, "Mars is in Uranus and my Uranus and make it go away!"

(This is only funny if you 1: follow astrology and 2: are a 12th house Cancer such as both myself and Drew.) (And also are a big dweeb who laughs everytime someone says Uranus, which is just not often enough.)

Sometimes when I have a bad week I self-medicate with wine and chicken tacos. The taco is truly a perfect food, much like a cheeseburger. Sometimes when things go poorly, I fantasize about stapling things to people. I am often not a very nice person. Jennifer used to say they were reserving a special little room in hell for catty wenches such as ourselves, but anyway the company down there will probably be more fun anyway.

Whenever I question the blackness of my shriveled soul, I try to remember the one time I was faced with a great temptation to become even more morally bankrupt and I passed. Which is not exactly proof of being a good person, but is a step in the right direction.

It was a few years ago -- 2004 to be exact. My then-husband had just all-the-sudden up and moved out and on the same day he was packing up all the good DVDs and moving off to his new life, my job was transferring all of us to a new building downtown, so I went into work on a Saturday and pretended everything was hunky dorey and unpacked all my stupid design books and stupid sharpies and pasted a smile on my face and acted like a general crazy person.

The new building has all kinds of safety features the old one didn't have -- it's like the pentagon around here. You need a badge to get into the hallway where the elevators are, a badge to punch any button in the elevator and then you swipe in again on your floor to get into the office. We were all getting used to this and the security guys in the building were helpful, and nice, and not nearly as cheesy and mackdaddified as the security dude in the old building.

That whole period of time is a big hazy ring of smoke. Mostly from despair and also a LOT of smoking. I was smoking at least a pack a day easy, and I would go out on breaks to the smoker's annex behind the building and sit alone and stare at the ground and smoke.

One of the security guards at that time was a friendly older guy, we'll call him Andy [not his real name!] Andy was from West Africa, and he had that lilting accent that is kind of soothing, and he was in his late 60s, and he would walk the back of the building and he was kind and grandfatherly and never lectured me about smoking, because he was a smoker too. Ah, I miss smoking. Anyway, before long he would offer me a light for the ever-present Capri cigarette in my hand and one day out of the blue he gently asked me why I was so sad.

"What...?" I asked. Because surely I was holding it together SO WELL.

"You just seem a little sad is all," said Andy.

And as the weeks and months passed it was nice to have someone to say hello to on my smoke breaks and I did eventually tell Andy that I'd been dumped unceremoniously and I wasn't taking it too well. Which was kind of obvious to everyone but people are kind, and keep up appearances for you sometimes. He was a good listener and a nice smoking companion for ten minutes a day.

One day I was working late and it was dark outside and I was leaving the building and Andy asked me if I wanted an escort to the garage. The garage is a few blocks away from the building and it's a creepy walk alone at night, so I said yes and thank you. As we walked he asked me how I was and it was just bad timing, I think, but I did that horrible thing where I burst out into tears (it happened a lot around that time) and told him I was pretty sure my husband was seeing someone else and wanted a divorce and I told him about the awful financial mess and the DVDs ("He took Billy Jack! He hated Billy Jack! Why didn't he just leave Billy Jack with me?") and finally I stopped crying and we had a smoke on the benches outside the garage then I thanked him and apologized profusely and went home, ashamed and feeling stupid for always embarrassing myself with the crying.

A few days passed and Andy found me out back, smoking behind the building.

"I have been thinking of your dilemma," he said. "I think I have a solution for you."

"You do?" I asked. Because I'd racked my mind for months and no solution had come. I was definitely open to solutions.

He looked around discreetly to be sure we couldn't be heard by the other smokers covertly cowering away from prying corporate eyes.

"I know a woman," he said, in his lilting accent. "She is a Nigerian .... doctor. Sort of doctor. She can make spells and she can help you, if you want. I can put you in touch with her. She is a very special person. I think she can make your problem disappear."

And maybe it was just the way he said it. Or maybe it was some of the stories I'd read about voodoo and I don't even know if that's what he was talking about, really, except I kind of did, because I had goosebumps, and not the good kind. It was just the way he said it. And for just a minute I thought about it -- I have a wild imagination and it only took a second -- and then I just sighed. I was too much of a wuss. I'd be lying if I told you the idea of pulling an Angel Heart and going all voodoo on the ex was enticing, but I just couldn't do it. I just couldn't.

"Andy, thank you, I really do appreciate it, but I'm going to do it the old-fashioned way," I said. "You know, with a horrible, overpriced lawyer and a lot of wine."

And he never brought it up again, and eventually I stopped smoking and then a few months later he stopped working at our building and I haven't seen him in years. I actually I forgot about it for a long while, that whole conversation, Andy's offer of help. It wasn't until much later when I met a woman at one of my booksignings who had just gone through a horrible, long, expensive divorce herself and she said, joking of course, "It would have been cheaper if I'd just offed him!" and I remembered Andy and the witch doctor. Because I feel very certain that's what she was, just from his tone of voice, the way he described her.

And while it isn't proof exactly of being a good person, it is at least proof that when faced with temptation I do try to tread on the side of not-heinous.

Posted by laurie at 9:32 AM

Good advice from unexpected places

My mechanic is a very nice guy named Oso. That is his nickname, his real name is Oscar, but everyone calls him Oso. He is a very large guy and he has a brilliant colorful tattoo of the Virgin on his left arm. Anyway, Oso has done a great job of keeping my Jeep running and happy for some time now. He is very impressed that I prefer to drive a stick shift and also that I get my oil changed every 3,500 miles just as he recommends.

I don't drive all that much but of course this is Los Angeles and you do end up driving some, even if you're a hermit. Driving is part of life out here. Back when gas reached $5 a gallon all over Los Angeles, I became really frustrated with The Man. I would leave for work in the morning and gas would be one price then by the time I got home the filling station on the corner had jacked up the price another ten cents per gallon, and this was happening every single day. I complained about it, but I got a lot of poison pen emails and comments from people in other countries along the lines of 1) "Shut up you stupid American" and 2) "Well stop driving if you don't like it." Which was really helpful and awesome as you can imagine. And also, totally solves all the problems! (Of course that was before the rest of the world began to experience the same rockstar economic stranglehold we'd been struggling with for months. Oh, Schadenfreude. You are so bittersweet.)

But I was still mad at The Man, because people were driving less and less (later studies confirmed this, but I knew it already from the utter lack of seats on every bus and subway car in Los Angeles) and gas was still going up ten cents a day even though demand was declining and then, just as the election rolled around suddenly LO And Behold! Gas dropped to under two dollars. Seriously? You're telling me that it was just normal fluctuation in prices? One day gas is five bucks a gallon and the next day it's a buck ninety-eight? Hey, I was born ... just not yesterday. You people are screwing with us. Stop it.

So anyway in my disdain and also eschewing (eschewing! like chewing, but only spitting out!) of The Man, I decided it would be awesome to convert my car to run on cat poop, which I have an amply supply of, constantly replenished each day. But until a poop combustion engine was created I would go veggie oil! No matter that my Jeep is not diesel, in everything in life I use the man-on-the-moon logic. This is how I think: We can put a man on the moon, surely we can do whatever silly thing it is I have set my sights upon today. Come on, people!

So I found a company that does conversions of gas (not diesel) engines to biodeisel and I gathered all the information and printed out stuff from the innernet and I drove myself one Saturday afternoon to see my mechanic, Oso. He works at a shop in sunny downtown Pacoima that has a huge mural on the outer wall with a sunset and the word "Jalisco!" painted in brilliant red letters.

Most of the guys at Autos de Jalisco know me, because a big blonde in a red Jeep is hard to miss in that particular shop. So I waved at Lil' Payaso, one of Oso's other mechanics.

"Hey Payaso! I'm looking for Oso!" I had my big folder of information in my hand, with certain passages highlighted and called out with post-it-note flags.

"Hey! Yeah, uh, Oso isn't here right now," he said. "You need me to change the oil on your Jeep?"

"No, I'm good." I said. "I wanted to show him this stuff about car conversions. You know when he'll be back?"

Payaso looked down at his shoe for a minute, and wiped his hand on a red cloth, then he looked at one of his buddies. Who was studiously not looking at me.

"Uh, Oso's gonna be gone a while," he said.

"OK, I'll come back tomorrow I guess," I said.

"Nah, he's not coming back tomorrow. He had to go away for a little while."

"Away?" I asked. "Where did he go away to?"

"Um, up north," he said.

So that is how I discovered that Oso was "up north" in Pelican Bay. Something about a parole violation. I didn't ask. He's a good mechanic, and I'm not married to him, so what he does is his business. Besides, people make mistakes. Just yesterday I myself almost stabbed someone with a fork 200 times. But I resisted -- for now.

I asked Payaso how to get in touch with Oso, after all, if he was currently a guest of the State of California, I figured he'd have plenty of time on his hands for reading up on engine conversions. So Payaso gave me Oso's mom's phone number and I called her up and after some funny Spanglish (me) and some bewildered questions about whether or not I was a guera (her), she gave me his address and I wrote him a letter and sent it along with all the information I had gathered.

Hey Oso, This is Laurie, the one with the red Jeep. I hope you remember me and don't think I am just some stranger writing to you. Anyway, Payaso told me you were taking some time away and your mom gave me your address. She was very nice, I hope I said the right words in Spanish. Hah hah remember that time I called you a cow when I was trying to be cool and call you a vato? Anyway. I am enclosing some information about converting my Jeep to bio-diesel. Please let me know what you think, as I am very angry about gas prices. Or if you can convert my Jeep to run on solar power. Or air! [smiley face] Last week I had to take my car for an oil change so I took it to the guys in the garage at work ... it ended up costing a lot and now I have a new radiator. I hope you are well and come back to L.A. soon. Your friend, Laurie with the red Jeep

I sent off the letter and a few weeks passed. One day I got home and I had a letter from Oso, with his prisoner number clearly visible in the top left corner of the envelope. He had also drawn a very good picture of my Jeep on the back. I am sure my postman now fears me.

Hello Laurie, This is Oso. Of course I know who you are and already I knew you would write me because moms told me a guera called up and she said your Spanish was real good. Anyways do NOT do anything to your Jeep!! I read the papers you sent and my celly read them also. We think this is a very bad idea. Also my celly says you can't buy the oil you have to collect it from fast food places and filter it. It is very hard. Don't take your Jeep to that guy again who put in the radiator. Take it to Lil' Payaso or go to the muffler shop on Arleta and ask for Dreamer, he will fix you up until I come back. I think you were joking about the solar car but don't let anyone talk you into anything, especially the radiator loco!!! I get out in a few months. Keep your tires inflated. Stay true, Oso

I thought that letter contained some good advice and was very wise, all written in very neat block letters on a sheet of notebook paper. I had to ask someone to tell me what a celly was, because I am that cool. (It is apparently the shorthand for cellmate. I didn't have HBO back when "Oz" was a big hit so cut me some slack!) My parents will be so proud.

Anyway this is a very exciting week because Oso is getting out of prison and coming back to Los Angeles. And now that I have passed the state smog check for at least two more years, and also now that people are fired up about alternate fuels, I think the time is right to re-investigate a Jeep engine that runs on cat poop. I personally think this is brilliant and am sure I can eventually convince the guys at Autos de Jalisco we have a lucrative new business venture ahead of us.

And when things start to go weird, as they have lately (see above: "Might stab someone with a fork.") I try to remember the good wisdom I got from my mechanic while he was up north. Things will all work out OK -- if we just stay true and keep our tires inflated.

Posted by laurie at 7:19 AM

April 15, 2009

Just another day in the neighborhood.

This morning on the bus a weird woman sat in front of me and kept turning around and staring. Not just staring at me, but sort of generally staring at all the people around and behind her with that expectant "I want to find someone to chat up!" face. When you take mass transit out here you learn early on to avoid the chitchatters. You don't engage, don't make eye contact, and treat them much like you would a wild hyena you encounter on your driveway. Walk slowly away, making yourself as invisible as possible. Keep your head down low. Never let them see your fear.

Crazy people LOVE me, though. They LOVE me. Sometimes it is my fault, because for flash, fleeting moments I forget I live in this crackass crazy city and I forget that when someone stops me on the street or the bus to ask me something they are just as often INSANE as they are lost and needing directions. Sometimes they are both.

On the news when something wacky happens in a neighborhood (man stockpiling weapons, nice family of five with a meth lab in the basement, serial killers, etc.) the reporter will interview the suspects's neighbors and the neighbors generally say something like, "Oh he was nice, quiet. Kept to himself a lot." I was thinking about this on my way into work since I am really the only quiet person on my block, the only one who keeps to herself. My neighbors are loud and sadly never keep to themselves. Sunday night it was the party people next door, and this morning it was the neighbors whose car alarm goes off each morning because they still forget to disarm it before opening the car door. On the weekends it's impossible to have a quiet moment in my 'hood because the family across the street conducts every conversation outdoors using their highest volume setting. They have become friends with another family several houses away and instead of using this newfangled "telamaphone" gadget, they just holler down the street to each other and all their collective kids. It's delightful.

Actually, I don't think they know how loud they are. For a while I thought maybe all their kids were hard of hearing since the mom has to yell at each one thirty times a night to come in, shut the door, bring your bike in, etc. Finally it dawned on me that poor mother had children with a rare strain of selective deafness. They seem to hear nothing their mother says between the hours of four and eight p.m. Fascinating! I was going to call my dad and ask if any of his children (though surely not me) had ever suffered from rapid-onset selective deafness but I didn't want to hear his answer so I didn't bother calling.

Anyway, I don't have a human head in my fridge or a drug lab in the garage but I am really the quiet one who keeps to herself in the neighborhood. If any of my neighbors ever get arrested I plan to tell the TV news reporter that they were loud, bothered everyone, and couldn't work a car alarm. And also I will complain about my evil arch nemesis, the ice cream man. Just 'cause.


Posted by laurie at 7:34 AM

April 13, 2009

There's plenty of room at the bottom

Driving in to work today I noticed there was a larger than usual population of Sunday drivers on the road. That's the non-cussword name I've given to the people who never drive in rush hour traffic except on the rare occasion they're driving to or from some holiday getaway. They don't know that the lane on the far left is the faster lane, or that the lane next to it is the still-not-slow lane. During periods when the traffic breaks they poke along 25 miles slower than anyone else and then exactly two feet before their exit they remember they want to get off on Hollywood or Sunset and they try to get across five lanes of traffic by becoming virtually stationary in the roadway waiting for an opening to pass through. People honk and show them the California State Bird.

One guy was doing such a bad job of driving this morning that I tried to take a picture of him. But my camera wouldn't work. For just a moment I had a flash of hope and excitement -- maybe my camera had died and I could now freely purchase a new one that takes better pictures! Sadly, it dawned on me that my camera battery was just dead, and if I charged the beast it would again turn on and take its predictably blurry pictures.

I love what happens when I tell people I hate my camera. They ask what kind it is (a Kodak) and then say they're surprised (I have always used Kodak cameras, they have the best skin tones in my opinion) and then they ask what the problem is. I bought this little point-and-shoot off the innernet just before my trip to Rome. It has 12 (!) megapixels and it's small and compact and very simple. I like point-and-shoot cameras, as I prefer to take really impromptu pictures of things like bumper stickers and stupid signs and guys picking their noses in traffic and I don't need a digital SLR camera with manual focus and RAW output for the type of high art I'm into.

But this camera is a lemon. No matter which setting you select or whether or not you use image stabilization or whether the planets are aligned or if you prayed twice to the camera gods and spun in a circle counter-clockwise, this camera takes blurry pictures. The only way to increase the odds of a non-blurry picture is to use the tripod and the timer in daylight or in daylight with flash. Which defeats the purpose of both the point-and-shoot functionality and the nice Kodak skin tones, all annihilated by the gigantorflash. And even with every precaution, the mere rotation of the earth is enough jiggle to make the image blurry.

So when I tell people it won't take clear pictures they all have the same exact reaction: Have you tried so-and-so? Have you tried digital image stabilization? Have you tried using different settings? Have you tried standing still? Have you tried eating nothing but eggshells and walnut husks and then taking a picture?

Because it is impossible for anyone to believe the camera is just a lemon. Obviously, it must be user error.

So about two months after I got the camera and had experimented with every setting and pronounced it a lemon, the guy I was seeing at the time took the camera out of my hand and said, "Let me take a look at that!" Because Lord knows he could fix it. He would find the magic button that I, crazy picture-taking woman, could not find. After four hours he handed it back to me and said, "Maybe it's broken?"

I thought this was a very funny story and so I told this story to a friend of mine at work who is in the computer whatsit division. He said, "You must not have the settings on accurately." I gave him the camera and told him to keep it as long as he wanted. Computer whatsit guys tend to be able to magically fix things and I was hopeful. Honestly, I don't have any ego wrapped up in fixing things -- I tend to break things with great vigor, but if there truly was some user error going on, I was happy to know about it and fix it (the camera, by the way, was not returnable.)

But a week later he gave me the camera back. "Maybe it's a lemon," he said. "I think I got one picture out of twenty that wasn't shaky."

And so I still have the lemoncamera, every day wishing I had my little old brick of a camera back with it's tiny 3.0 megapixels of sweet Kodak clarity. Eventually I will buy a new camera, maybe for my birthday. I do manage to fix most of my blurred-out pictures in photoshop anyway, it's just such a hassle.

All of this camera talk reminded me of something that happened a few weeks ago at Target. Because people are so seriously sure that they can do it right -- no matter what the issue -- and you're a dumbass. I find this incredibly amusing.

So there I was at Target standing in line, checking out. It was quite early in the morning, maybe a little before 9 a.m. and the store was still fairly quiet. The woman and guy in line behind me seemed to be in an awful hurry, well, at least the woman half of the couple was. She was doing that L.A. linecrushing thing, you know where someone impatiently hovers so close to you that you can actually smell their coffee breath breathing down the back of your neck. I will never understand people who do that. It really doesn't make the line move faster. If anything it just makes me do things like randomly flip my hair so they get a mouthful of my split ends.

So I was checking out and I swiped my card through the electronic keypad/cardreader. This particular Target has the touchscreen keypads, the little LCD screens that show you the pin keypad in images and you use the stylus to push on the screen. The cardreader recognized my card but the LCD screen wasn't recognizing the stylus. I tried my thumb and no luck. I used to develop graphic content for touchscreens at work and the technology can be sensitive and buggy and sometimes no matter what it won't read the touch.

"I don't think the touchscreen is working today," I said to the checkout clerk. She shrugged, "Yeah, sometimes it just doesn't want to cooperate."

So just as I was about to hand my card to the checkout gal to run it manually, the woman behind me in line grabbed the stylus out of my hand and started punching away at the keypad. You can imagine it was getting a little crowded there at the keypad so I took a gentle step to the side, as the woman in line behind me -- a complete stranger -- tried to FIX the situation, since I was clearly doing it wrong and was clearly a stupid idiot. The checkout lady just stared. I am sure she sees some crazyass things all day, but even she was a little shocked. She looked at me. I shrugged.

After furiously stabbing at the screen with the stylus, the strange woman with coffee-breath said in disgust, "This thing is broken!"

She wasn't embarrassed, or even slightly humiliated that she had pushed another customer out of the way and grabbed the reins. She just stood there, tapping her foot impatiently. The guy with her tried to silently disappear into the candy rack. At least he was embarrassed for her. I mean really now.

I paid, signing the receipt the old-fashioned way, with an ink pen.

People are funny, ya'll. They are just too damn funny. I would have taken a picture of the whole thing but it would have come out blurry.

Posted by laurie at 7:58 AM

April 10, 2009

Friday List

The only ones that seem to stick are lists.

1) Pirates!!!
When we first started hearing news stories of Somali pirates taking over big freighters I was astonished and then kind of ... confused. Did they shoot cannons at the big ships? Make people walk the plank? Who wore the flouncy shirts and hats? Where was the peg-leg and the parrot? When pirates attacked an American ship earlier in the week I was astonished at the real details... apparently the pirates come aboard the huge gigantor-ship from just a little skiff, using hooks and ladders (hooks!) and take over with their AK-47s. According to a recent AP story, there is even a "pirate stronghold" in Somalia. This is so anachronistic! So crazy! And apparently even with all the smart bombs and unmanned drones and technology that can see through your clothes and read the tag on your panties, we still seem to be unable to break up a ring of pirates on skiffs.

All of this is simply to point out yet one more reason I will not go on a boat.

2) My fault again.
As I've pointed out in the past, every year I seem to decide to watch one or two new TV shows and they always without fail are the TV shows that get canceled two weeks later. There was Women's Murder Club, and New Amsterdam, and of course the dearly departed Life on Mars (it was a all a dream? are you f'ing kidding me?), and anyway. I Tivo'd "The Unusuals" on Wednesday night but I'm afraid to watch it or it will canceled today.

3) Speaking of TV!
For those of us with insomnia, Tivo is the best invention ever thanks to the combination of bizarre keyword searches and all-night availability of saved shows. So when I had a long sleepless night ahead of me last night, I watched the cheese de resistance of TV -- High School Reunion. And I was so perplexed. How could Jessica accuse Maricela of being a prostitute and Maricela just ... stood there? In a white bikini? Why didn't she cut off Jessica's head and eat it? Unless... is it true? Which was never addressed directly! She never came right out and said, "That is a bald-faced lie you crazy wacko!" Maricela just said, "I know who I am and I know my character." Which is not the response I would have gone with personally (see: cannibalism.) And then I remembered that great scene in Shirley Valentine where Shirley meets up with her old classmate who is glamorous and beautiful and successful and later she tells Shirley she's a hooker. Good times. Then it was time for me to take a shower and come to work.

TV is my friend. But it is so confusing.

4) Spam
I'm surprised that all this time later, since the innernets were invented and the email machine was invented that spam has been an ongoing part of this entire cycle and no one has done anything about it. Since the invention of the electronic mail there has been the electronic junk mail. And no one can seem to stop it! This is just as crazy to me as the pirates. We have Google earth and devices that can record phone calls in space and we have machines that clip our nose hairs for pete's sake. And yet I still get email every single day that says, "Want to have a bigger penis?" and "Learn how to make her sizzle!" (I assume that last one isn't about cooking humans. But maybe it is, who knows. Cannibals!) Pirates and spam seem to be the two things we cannot thwart in life.

5) How green is your garden?
This weekend I'm going to do a little gardening out in the ol' back 40. I want to plant mainly herbs this year, but I did really well with the pumpkins last year so maybe I'll try that again, too. The main concern is our water shortage which could mean very limited sprinkler time for the yard. I don't want to get fined for sneaking out back and running the hose over the pumpkin patch at midnight. We may not be able to catch and punish the spammers of the world or the pirates of the wild seas but you know the water police would be at my doorstep in a heartbeat if I so much as turned the hosepipe to the left during water rationing.

- - -

Have a nice weekend and a happy Easter!

Posted by laurie at 8:58 AM

April 7, 2009

I am Sobakowa and I approve this message.

First, let it be known that all other felines are outlawed. Especially the orange one who I suspect was born missing his prefrontal cortext. He fell into the toilet four times IN ONE DAY.

And I decided I would now prefer a pooping surface made of diamond dust and lullabyes.

I am Sobakowa and I approve this message.


Posted by laurie at 7:44 AM

April 3, 2009

The happy holy car smog place. It's in the Valley.

A few weeks ago I had to take my Jeep to get smog checked. This is California's way of trying to make people who drive "classic" cars such as 1995 Jeep Wranglers sweat in anxiety of buying new catalytic converters.

Anyway, this smog check is required every two years for you to get your plates renewed. The year I was dumped by Mr. X I failed. A lot. And cried and then the guy at the smog check station was placed in the unenviable position of having to comfort a bawling hysterical divorcing woman with car problems and a fear of failure. It was nice as you can imagine.

The next time I got a smog check alert, I realized I had grown a lot as a person and all, but I was not stupid enough to go back to the place where I had cried like a little red-faced baby so I went to a new place where a very short, very old Asian man with a cowboy hat hugged me. Or perhaps I hugged him. Anyway, I passed.

[Also, seriously, how freaking long have I been wring this website? Seventeen years?]

This time I decided to go back to the good-luck cowboy hat place, but it had changed a bit into the "Jesus is Lord Car Smog Place." I tell you this because there were framed pictures of Jesus, multiple pictures, there were praying hand statues, there were Bible verses neatly printed out and placed inside plastic sleeves and tacked on every possible surface. There was also a TV that had been installed in a hole cut into the counter and it was hooked up to a VCR that showed different parts of the Bible in a loop.

And that is where I met the son of Mr. Cowboy Hat, who was happy to see me and my red Jeep and he told me that Pham, his dad, had retired and handed the business over to him and would I like a free Bible?

And I happily accepted the free Bible and I pulled out my knitting and waited patiently under a portrait of Jesus for my car to be smogged. And this all seemed right to me because in my experience car issues and prayer go hand in hand. "Dear God, please let my car pass smog so I don't have to spend a million dollars fixing a vehicle that is only worth $2,000." And, "Dear God, please don't let that expensive-sounding noise be more than my rent." And also, "Thank you God for the new radiator. Again. I MEAN REALLY NOW."

Anyway, it was a good day. I passed.
Thank you, God.




Posted by laurie at 8:05 AM

April 2, 2009

Thursday list plus preface.

I finally broke down and looked at the email machine. I had no idea anyone was still reading, so thank you for the nice notes about me going insane. I most appreciate the reader who pointed out that insanity is proof my brain isn't turning to oatmeal. There is nothing like an eternal optimist!

So! As it turns out I am writing this book, which I have been given a few more days to work on before I have to hand it in. I am someone who can yammer on with no verbs and many comma splices for hours and hours and yet halfway through this I'm all, "Wow. 65,000 is a whole lot of words. That is a very large number of words. If I double space this will there be more words?"

And I have decided I am the most boring subject matter ever and yet I plod onward. Actually the very best part of writing this thing is realizing that all the stuff that made me cry and want to move away and change my name and also my whole wardrobe is kind of funny in a "Wow, I am glad that wasn't me" kind of way, aside from the fact that it was me. But to you it won't be personal, and therefore maybe helpfully funny in the cautionary tale sort of way. Also, I am not a plotline, sadly. I think after this one, it will be nice to stop telling my personal funny stories and just make up stories for a fictional character -- Raurie perhaps -- who is still searching for enlightenment but doing it in a pair of size six jeans and she is taller and has a cadre of crime-busting friends who hunt criminals and tie them to trees with i-cord and poke them with Addi turbo knitting needles.


So here is the plan. I am going to finish this plotless thing and turn it in and then one day I will even tell you the name of it and then I'm going to sigh, sleep, lose the 15 (23) (26) pounds I have gained from eating funyuns as a method of procrastination, then I am going to pray someone likes said plotless wonder. Prayer helps. Then after I have slept and made real food and done some much needed laundry and maybe even called some of the people I have been ignoring for two months, then, THEN I am going to finally fix this stupid website and make it have a different design and the database will work and by God there may even be a comment place again. I'm not sure how long that will take, because 65,000 words is a whole lot of words and there is this thing called "editing" and it takes a while, what with the commas and all.

But it's good. I realize I am naturally skilled at bemoaning but mostly it's the good kind of bemoaning, where you're exactly in the place you need to be to get to where you're going, with the occasional traffic snarls and detours and funyuns.

Today's list:
1) Pay rent that was due two days ago.
2) Write 10,000 words.
3) Wine.
4) Clean catbox.

Posted by laurie at 8:27 AM

April 1, 2009

Wednesday list

1) I'm just going to start writing everything in list format. Perhaps one day I will write a fiction novel entirely in list format. It will be something scintillating like:

• The detective noticed a small packed suitcase sitting beside the front door.
• "Planning on taking a trip?" he asked
• "Always," she said.

I don't know why there is a detective or a packed bag or a mystery woman with one-line answers, but it sounded like an excellent bulleted way to begin. Just imagine the sex scenes in neatly numbered, perfectly indented lists!

2) Yesterday I walked around my house for twelve minutes with a post-it note stuck to my foot. When I realized it and made motions to rectify the matter, I discovered it was a note reminding me about my parents' dog's birthday. Which was last week, in case you were wondering and hoping to send a card.

3) There is a tumbleweed beneath the kitchen table that now has grown so large it has a gravitational pull and has attracted a stray hair elastic, a cat toy and a receipt from In-n-Out.

4) In full procrastination mode, I have knitted six sets of handwarmers and watched every single episode of CSI: New York on my computer using Netflix, which I fully and completely now understand, embrace and reverse my earlier refusal to adopt. I am not a person who cannot admit when they are wrong.

5) Furthermore, I have watched so much CSI that when I discovered a dead beetle on the back patio I wondered if it should be autopsied for toxic levels of radon and/or traces of a victim nearby and/or as a witness to a crime.

6) I had another one of those dreams where I'm going along in my life and a giant wave washes over me. Not unlike my recurring tidal wave dreams of yore, these dreams feature me in some normal daily life scenario on or near the water and all the sudden a huge wave rears up and slaps us all upside the head. In this one I was on a bus and we were on a bridge driving along all normal like (over the ocean?) and a huge rogue wave rises up and drenches the bus, and then I woke up.

7) I decided to drive into work today.

8) All I ate yesterday was funyuns.

Posted by laurie at 10:13 AM