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September 28, 2010

Yesterday's winner, next month's book club and the hottest day of our lives.

Thank you to all who participated in our book chat yesterday! I thought the conversation about Winter's Bone was illuminating and I was glad to see there were opinions all over the place, it kept the ideas burbling along. It was interesting to see how much the book drew out each person's private feelings about violence and drugs and parenting and even skirt wearing.

It also reminds me that it's healthy and normal and natural for a book to be loved and hated and everything in between, that no one book will light a fire inside every person. (I say this more as a writer than a reader.) It's a very good thing to keep in mind, it's reassuring.

The randomly-selected winner of our chat yesterday was reader Judy, who will be happy to know the random number picker does not care if you liked the book, only that you read it! Judy wrote:

Sorry sorry sorry! I know this is not going to make me the winner of the great prizes, but so be it. I hated this book. I'm not a book hating person I really love books. When I got to the end all I could think was "that's it? That's all there is?" I like the end of a novel to be neat and tidy, not like this. I really like reading and truthfully at the end, wished I used my time reading something else. But the silver lining is that I read something I probably would not have picked up anyway. I tried really hard to be open to this book and stuck with it to the bitter (for me) end. So using that line of reasoning I'm proud that I stayed with it. Not something that's easy for me, especially when I lose interest. Unfinished knitting projects anyone?

You had me laughing at the last line! Congratulations on your win, and as soon as it is no longer 500 degrees outside I plan to drive to the bookshop on the corner and include in your prize a copy of next month's Book Club selection, too, which is A Moveable Feast by Ernest Hemingway.

But before we move on from Winter's Bone, I wanted to share this quote with you from reader Dawnie:


I loved the descriptive language used in the book it really painted a picture of the bleak, cold, raw, days. The setting matched the tone of the story, bleak, cold lives eaked out amongst drug use and violence. It was just a way of life that they all understood but no outsider ever would. Funny thing is I didn't feel sorry for Ree, she new what her life was all about and carried on in spite of it all.

Yes, I felt the same way about Ree and about the rawness and chill of the language. I thank you all again for reading with me, I knew that book was a bit of a risk to recommend. Thanks for going with me on it.

I love this idea of having a book club without having to leave the house. Introverts of the world unite!

- - -


So, October's Book Club selection is A Moveable Feast by Ernest Hemingway.

I am reading the exact version I linked to above, there is also a Kindle Version here.

The publisher's description of this book says:

Published posthumously in 1964, A Moveable Feast remains one of Ernest Hemingway's most beloved works. It is his classic memoir of Paris in the 1920s, filled with irreverent portraits of other expatriate luminaries such as F. Scott Fitzgerald and Gertrude Stein; tender memories of his first wife, Hadley; and insightful recollections of his own early experiments with his craft. It is a literary feast, brilliantly evoking the exuberant mood of Paris after World War I and the youthful spirit, unbridled creativity, and unquenchable enthusiasm that Hemingway himself epitomized.

If you haven't read Hemingway or didn't like his fiction novels, you may be pleasantly surprised by this book. At just around 200 pages it's a fairly quick read and surprisingly full of amusing gossip about some literary greats. The whole section on F. Scott Fitzgerald and his wife Zelda is fascinating. I haven't read this book in well over a decade, but I can tell you it has what I think is the best final sentence of any book I have ever read.

Let's meet back here (same bat time, same bat place) on Friday, October 29th to chat about it. And we'll keep doing the prize drawing again until I run out of money or yarn.

- - -

Finally, according to the wisdom and wit of Dallas Raines, "We made history here in Los Angeles" yesterday with our record-breaking melt-your-boobs-off heatwave:

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Summer came late, all in one week and baked our noodles.

Posted by laurie at 3:02 PM

September 27, 2010

Winter's Bone Book Chat

Today's book club chitchat is Winter's Bone, by Daniel Woodrell.

Usually I loathe books with colloquial dialogue. In my prejudiced and irritable opinion, I think colloquialisms are most often used to paint Southern characters and I hate it, Southerners don't talk that way. I'm extremely defensive on this point because although I took years of voice and diction classes to get rid of my twang, I am still country and can still speak Southern. But we don't talk like most authors portray us. You'd be surprised.

So all of that is to explain that I am not disposed to liking books with slang and colloquialisms, and this one is full of them. I bought Winter's Bone on the recommendation of one of the folks at the Mystery Bookstore in Santa Monica a few years back and it sat on my shelf until June when I found myself in need of a good read. I almost put it down after a few pages of slangy regional dialogue but I'm glad I kept reading -- since first reading this book I have recommended or given it out to everyone I know. I LOVE THIS BOOK. I want everyone I know to read this book.

What almost put me off this book happens right on page 5:


"I'm cold," he said. He rubbed his smarting ear. "Is grits all we got?"

"Butter 'em more. There's still a tat of butter."

I never heard anyone have a "tat" of butter.

Luckily I kept reading. This book made me think about my personal ideas of regional dialogue, too. For example, I'd guess not many Missouri Ozark schoolchildren grow up saying Laissez les bons temps rouler. But that was the phrase splashed across the cover of my 8th grade yearbook. Cajun is one thing, Southern is another, and perhaps Ozark is a different world. Maybe I am not as knowledgeable of Ozark lingo as I imagine. It took me down a needed peg.

Once I backed off the slang thing I saw the genuine love this writer has for his characters. That speaks to me in any dialect. I can't help falling for a writer who feels true affection and empathy for his characters. Woodrell's care for his characters made me feel like I knew them, grew up with them, lived next door to them.

Ree felt very alive to me. Young women carry the burden sometimes in families, it's not unusual to be the full-time babysitter when you're 10 or 11 or 12. And I know this book is cast as a mystery but it's also a character study. Ree is a new American girl, sturdy and determined and not above taking a joint when offered. Doing what has to be done the best you can. All you can do is your best.

I could not put this book down! The moment it ended I wanted to read it again but I had loaned it out -- so I saw the movie version in an art-house theater in the Valley. Usually a movie version of a book I love just lets me down but this one was true to the feeling of the novel, especially the scene where Uncle Teardrop and Ree met up with the policeman.

Ree slid her fingers toward the shotgun, thinking, This was how sudden things happened that haunted forever.

I loved this book because I understand that girl, the one who will do anything it takes to keep it together. By the end of the book I couldn't even see the colloquialisms anymore, the whole countryside had been painted so clearly that I was right there in the mud, in the cold, in the damp. The story stayed with me long after I put the book down.

It also has what I think is a perfect ending. To me, the best ending solves the central mystery but leaves enough of the story open-ended so that the characters can live on in your imagination after the book ends. In Winter's Bone you learn the fate of Ree's father, though not so tidy that you have it all wrapped with a bow (I liked that Teardrop had a moment of recognition and didn't say who exactly he recognized). And the character of Ree lives on past the last page. To write a good book is one thing, to write a great ending is another. I was not disappointed. Were you?

So what did you think? (Hey, if you hated it I want to know. And why.) Did the language put you off or make you feel more drawn to the characters? Do you think Ree is realistic or unbelievable? Were you surprised that meth was so prominent in the storyline? Was it weird that the family was so clannish and closed-off? (My main critique of the story is that I thought the family barriers were odd an unrealistic, in the South at least we don't do things that way. Blood is blood. I can't imagine Ozark families being that much different but perhaps they are.)

What did you think of the relationship between Ree and Uncle Teardrop? Ree and Gail? When Ree is back home after the beating, were you surprised how the family showed up, all with little prescription bottles? What about the scene in the woods with Ree and her mom? What did you think of the ending?

Good or bad or indifferent I am so excited to hear what you have to say. Let's chat!

OH! And one lucky commenter will be chosen at random to win an awesome little prize with some yarn from my stash (it's a funemployment prize!) plus a copy of Drew's new book Crochet It. Love It. Wear It!.

AND if all that werten't grand enough, the winner will also receive a FIFTY DOLLAR gift certificate to use at The Fiber Cooperative. Check out their website, thefibercooperative.com. It's a monthly curated online market with the goal of connecting indie fiber shops too small to do major advertising with avid knitters, spinners and fiber fans who are looking for the fresh, unique products that indie shops offer (without having to sort through millions of pages on etsy to find the gems that stand out). The Fiber Cooperative generously gifted our book club with this prize, so I hope you'll check out the site and think of them next time you make a yarn purchase!

Posted by laurie at 8:32 AM

September 26, 2010

Autumn

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It was 110 yesterday. Hello, Autumn!

Posted by laurie at 9:03 AM

September 24, 2010

Fake Car

Seen on the 101 and 5 south.

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Imagine you meet someone online on one of those dating sites and you make a date and he shows up in this ride. Oh yeah.

- - - -


Don't forget: Book chat on Monday for Winter's Bone! It's a quick read, you can breeze through it in a day or over a few evenings this weekend. I also want to thank the folks who have emailed me to offer up gifts or yarn or prizes for upcoming book chats, thank you so much! If you are de-stashing and want to add to the gift parade just let me know. And let me know if you have a preference for the October book -- I was thinking we could alternate months between classics and contemporary books. So for October maybe A Moveable Feast or The Great Gatsby. Do you have a preference? I am leaning toward Hemingway, October feels like a good month to read about Paris. But I am always up for Gatsby, too. You pick.

Have a great Friday! Don't drive off in any fake cars!

Posted by laurie at 8:56 AM

September 22, 2010

hat & cat

My latest ribbed hat pattern will come, eventually, but I decided I should work the pattern out one more time since I think I wrote down a couple of these decrease rows when I was chardonnay. You understand. Now I'm making a beanie version:

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Noro Taiyo in color #6

I'll be done soon, especially with all this good new fall TV! Plenty to watch and knit (they voted off The Hoff? Say it isn't so!). Today was the first official day of fall and felt like it, nice and cool and overcast this morning but by the weekend Dapper Dallas Raines says it's going to be a billion and two degrees out there. My older brother is coming for a visit this weekend from Florida and I'm excited to see him but bummed that he'll be here during one of our September scorchers. We're going to ride over the hill to Malibu one day, it's always nice at the beach.

Recently a reader asked if I ever think of moving back to the South. I think about it sometimes, but more in a nostalgic way than anything. Just this morning I was out taking a walk and my street was lined up and down with Star Wagons and studio services trucks for some movie or TV show they're filming, and I thought about how Jerry's Deli used to have phones at all the booths in case you needed to make a call to CAA during lunch with a fatcat veep. This is a wacky place but I do love it. There are a few other cities I think I would love living in but most of them are across an ocean.

I like the way anything is possible out here. You can walk along a single block on the Boulevard and pass three sushi bars all specializing in different things, a consignment shop where are the clothes come from TV shows, a marijuana store, a gay karaoke bar and a doggie daycare. I don't eat sushi, I don't have a dog, I'm not gay but I love that there is something for everyone here, it's inclusive. I like that all my neighbors speak different languages and you can order anything delivered right to your door, from Korean barbecue to a carwash (they have guys in vans who will show up at your house and detail your car. Seriously!)

Over the years I've written a lot about my codependent relationship with this place and every time I get mushy and love-addled about L.A. there are some people who take this to mean I'm denigrating wherever it is they live. That's not true, of course -- saying you like apples does not mean you hate watermelon. And sometimes Los Angeles can suck the life out of you, just trying to get from one place to another can be torture. There are people who have lived in this city for decades who hate it more with each passing day.

Me? I figure this freaky stretch of metropolis is the closest thing I have to a boyfriend so I might as well enjoy it when he's pretty and feeling slutty. And I try to ignore it when he drives like crap. We work it out.

It's a hopeful city, full of optimism and honking. People come here and dream about making it big and some really do.

Ok, enough about Hollyweird. Here's the real star of this town:

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No one gets up or down these stairs without paying a fine!

Posted by laurie at 3:30 PM

September 20, 2010

The Town & The Hat

Yesterday afternoon Jennifer and I went to see a midday showing of The Town, a movie so good I came home and called my mom and told her she and my dad have to go see it this week! Now! But it was like a full cardio workout watching that movie. I felt sweaty from clenching all my muscles in anticipation during every scene. Two thumbs up. Also, when did Ben Affleck become so hot?

As soon as Jen met me at the movie theater I barraged her with requests for advice (yes, advice) about my hair. One of the delights of not having to arrive at an office with coworkers in suits and pantyhose and with well-coiffed hair is that one can speculate seriously about all-the-sudden getting an entirely new haircolor. Like by this time tomorrow I could be a raven-winged brunette or some color of red that doesn't occur in nature. It could happen!

And with all the hand-knit hats I have in a drawer in my closet I can safely hide my hair all the way to the salon if it goes poorly. No matter, I still haven't decided. I now have roots that have roots.

Speaking of hats, I finished my Dad's hat and gave it to him this weekend:

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I finished the top decreases differently than on my brother's hat. I think this little experiment turned out pretty well but probably will only work in a crazy nubby yarn like this Noro Taiyo. Here is a picture of the decrease rows on the top of my Dad's hat:

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In contrast, below is a picture of the crown decrease on my brother's hat -- well, it's the inside-out view, anyway, as he had the hat on inside-out:

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With this hat I sort of got to the crown and when I needed to decrease I just went to stockinette. In the picture above what you see is reverse stockinette since he has it on inside out. It turned out fine, I guess. I mean it's a hat, not cold fusion. It works. He likes it.

So with that glowing endorsement and six paragraphs of caveats let me know if you still want the pattern. I can post it both ways, one with the easy k2tog decreases and one that attempts to keep the ribbing all the way to the bitter end, with semi-success, if hidden in a textural colorful or dark yarn. Heh.

Finally:
CUTEST DOG EVER ALERT

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Puppy is so tired his toys attack him!

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Toys attack puppy while puppy gives up and plays frog dog!

Posted by laurie at 9:24 AM

September 19, 2010

Weather Theory

I am full of theories.

I left advice behind a few years ago, I can't bear unsolicited advice and so I stopped giving it, too, almost full stop. Or at least I try. For someone who used to be overflowing with advice and how-to's I managed to zip it up, put a cork in it, shut the hell up. Like many people I had gone from being a friend to channeling Dr. Phil, always at the ready with my words of completely unasked-for advice. Thank God I finally shut my mouth and stopped with all my finger-wagging counsel, I must have been a real pain in the ass.

Unsolicited advice puts the giver of advice in a position of all-knowing, all-powerful Unfuckedupedness. Meanwhile the poor recipient of the advice is left holding all your shoulds and do this and do that and here's where you went wrong, see. I like plain old listening. And anyway I'm not any wiser or smarter or finer than my friends, so why should I tell them how to live? Sometimes someone is just having a bad day, a challenging issue, a moment. They don't need a to-do list from me, unasked giver of advice. They need to just sit where they are and be. Yet for a while there my first inclination was to break out the bullet points.

But people do exactly what they want to do in the end. If it happens to go against the grain of your unsolicited advice, then you have opened up a can of awkward. When I am not specifically asked for help I figure it's best to just listen, love, be kind, be polite. I forget sometimes how good it feels simply to be polite. I don't have to figure out and solve everyone else's problems.

So I left most of my unwanted advice in the dust (I catch myself sometimes, spouting nonsense) but I have theories up the yinyang. I love my theories! I have a theory about everything. Some aren't truly full-formed theories, just observations, like:

• A feline will sit on the one piece of paper you most need it not to sit upon.

• When you are most worried about the state of your house you will get an unexpected guest/building maintenance call/dishwasher malfunction.

• You will run into your ex/old boss/horrid acquaintance while at the grocery store looking your grungy worst. However, when you look fine as a high-class call girl you will only run into underage busboys and soccer moms.

• Bullet points are kind of awesome and awfully hard to resist.


But I have other theories, real theories, more fleshed out and evolved. There's my condiment theory, for one. One day I'll share my Bumper Guy Theory, it will have to be a no-comments day since it will irritate 99.99% of all readers. Today I'm on Weather Theory, something I developed back in college one million years ago.

In my Weather Theory, people are both drawn to and reflect their environments. I loved the lushness, the dense thick kudzu-covered South when I was a kid. I loved all the humidity, the rainy days, the storms, the lightening. I was all tangled up in it. I used to write gushy poems with big words and drive on the farm roads in the rain and smoke cigarettes while listening to rainy day music. Lots of Nina Simone, Jim Croce, Ella Fitzgerald, that old Hank Williams with the scratch sound in the background. I would sing along, driving on some muddy bayou road, "... yeah, I want some sugar in my bowl..."

By the way, I sound like a dying cat when I sing. No one believes this until they hear me sing. People think I am being hard on myself, surely I can sing a little bit. Upon hearing me sing, however, my audience will immediately agree that I should stick to car and shower singing, preferably with no one in a ten-mile radius. I don't mind. It's good to know your limits.

I moved to Los Angeles unexpectedly. It was different out here, unlike the South it is bright and hot and clear and sunny and a little bit brittle. Hard, but also shiny. Like a never-ending spotlight. There is no sun like a Southwest sun, all that space across the map between here and Laredo is just sun and heat and dry and dust. I once dated a guy from Guatemala and he loved the heat, loved it when the Valley got to 110, 115 degrees. He was hot blooded all the way through. People are their climates. That was the theory, anyway.

Lately I've amended my theory to contain a new anomaly: people can rebel against their climate. I love the clarity of Los Angeles, the way the heat and the sunshine just flatten everyone out, toughen them up like leather. But I miss stormy nights and overcast days. I miss the lushness, the solitude of winter. Well, let me rephrase that. I think I miss winter. Having not lived in a real winter for at least sixteen years I can't say for sure what winter is. I do remember being in college in Middle Tennessee and hating all the rain (in the Southeast it can rain for weeks, months it seems) and I would drive around in my little Volkswagen Fox and smoke menthol cigarettes and look at all the houses with their shutters closed and curtains drawn and wonder who was inside, snuggled up, laughing, kissing, living life.

In L.A. you never feel lonely from the weather. You never bundle up against the winter. You only have to escape from the sun.

It's always bright, it's always flat and reflective and shimmery. Except those few days a year when you get the June gloom, the May grey, the anomaly overcast that makes the 6 o'clock news. We're not used to being introspective out here, we're not used to the blanket of fog or the softness of the air (actually, if you live right at the beach maybe you're more used to fog. But beach life out here is another world altogether). A drastic change in our weather makes you feel vulnerable. It makes you cook elaborate chili and read something besides Variety. Out here we only get introspective weather a few days a year.

I can't tell where I am in my theory. I still love the irradiated charm of Los Angeles, spray-tanned and be-flip-flopped and full of weathermen who get excited about a little cloudy sky. But I like my theory better when I don't apply myself to it. I can't imagine actually living in a place where you need four seasons of clothing and a working umbrella and something called a "coat." It makes me laugh when I think of how goofy we get over a few clouds.

Oh, one last theory, laundry theory: The amount of extra coat hangers you have is directly proportional to the number of orphaned socks in your drawer. It has something to do with laundry mojo. Very mysterious, that one.


- - -

Edited to add: Well, I thought the goofiness of giving advice about giving advice would be, you know, sort of obviously tongue-in-cheek, but I can see in the comments I may not have worded it quite so well because I think a few people felt icky about my advice on unsolicited advice. I'm sorry! This is not supposed to be the feel-bad place, this is the feel funky fresh dressed to impress ready to party place. (And apparently the place where old rap lyrics go to die.)

As always, all of this nonsense I type is just a bunch of internet blahblahblah from a charming nobody who just navel gazes and drunk-types. Kind of like it says on the side of the Ouija board, "For entertainment purposes only." And you know I still give advice whether I try to shut my mouth or not. Especially about giving advice!

Oh, remind me to tell you the story about the time my friend and I got all freaked out in high school over a Ouija board, with screaming and running and much carrying on. It will FREAK your panties off. Funky fresh dressed no more!

Posted by laurie at 11:37 AM

September 13, 2010

It's not a waste of time if you knit while watching the TV...

I loved all our chatting about TV last week, apparently I am not the only one who thinks TV time is productive, useful and necessary if you are knitting as you watch.

Right now I am knitting all my Christmas gifts, which is why I haven't posted many pictures of my knitting lately. Don't want to ruin that Noro surprise headed your way if you know me in person! This is the first year I've actually had the time (time! again! we're on a theme here) to knit present for everyone. I'm using the beautiful yarn I already have in my stash and some Noro on got on super sale. I hope I'm capturing a little of each person in their gift. I made a list (of course) and tried to think of a special item for each person, something they might actually use and enjoy. The list is long but luckily I have two happy hands, enough delicious yarn to last me through the apocalypse and all that TV that isn't going to watch itself.

In addition to my Christmas knitting, I've also been making hats by request from my mom and dad. My little brother Eric snagged the first hat I made (originally intended for Dad but it was a little too big for him, and Eric has quite a handsome big noggin.)

Here he is, it's a simple ribbed hat in Noro Taiyo, by far one of the softest Noro yarns I have ever used:

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That hat was meant to have a flipped-up brim but he likes wearing it as a beanie. And I'm almost done with Dad's hat, when I complete it I'll post the final hat recipe. I kind of made it up as I went along and I'm very happy with the outcome. But knitting it twice will help make sure I didn't write down anything in error, then I'll share it with you. It's very simple, no frills, just a basic ribbed fisherman's style hat.

Here's Dad's hat, almost ready to decrease for the top:
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One thing I have always loved about my dad is that he likes colorful things, he requested a bright, colorific hat and this yarn certainly delivers. I love it! I love all the colors and the softness of it. The label says it's 40% cotton, 30% silk, 15% wool and 15% nylon. Aside from the bad knot I had to fish out and correct, I love this yarn.

My mom wants a hat in navy blue and lime green stripes, two colors I don't have in my stash! I love Southwest Trading Company's "Karaoke" yarn, and they have a great navy blue but no lime green. So I still don't have any navy or lime yarn. Any ideas? I prefer something I can knit on size 7 or 8 needles.

For my Christmas knitting I'm making a few felted bags, an item for a certain dog who will go unnamed, fingerless gloves (but the real kind with finger openings and a thumb gusset), many hats and of course some scarves. Nothing better than a scarf for some fine TV knitting. Are you into holiday knitting this year? Hey, Christmas is only 102 days away! So what are you making?

Did I scare you with the Christmas Countdown? Mwahahahah! (behold my evil laugh.)

We're all about the scary at Chez Furball these days...

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Frankie watches Jaws.

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Bob is scared of Jaws.

Posted by laurie at 11:23 AM

September 11, 2010

Wanna get drunk and fool around?

The title is from Jaws, one of my favorite movies. I love crusty old Quint and his big speech, "Y'all know me. Know how I earn a livin'. I'll catch this bird for you, but it ain't gonna be easy. Bad fish. Not like going down the pond chasin' bluegills and tommycods. This shark, swallow you whole..."

And of course the most famous line from Jaws, Brody saying, "You're gonna need a bigger boat."

I watched Jaws tonight. I had it on Tivo and after I watched all the network specials on 9/11 I guess I needed a big mechanical shark and some Richard Dreyfuss.

After that first year I really wanted the guv'ment to make September 11th a national day of silence or mourning or remembering or something. When I was a little girl Pearl Harbor Day was always remarked upon and talked about because my grandfather had served in the Navy during the war and his ship had just left the harbor when the attack happened. (He was on the famous USS Lexington). He survived, but that day remained very important to him and he shared it with us every year. I'm not sure I quite understood it, not viscerally, until September 11th.

I mentioned the whole National Day of Mourning idea once -- might have been on this website, even -- and I was taken to task over it. Someone complained it would just become a holiday like Memorial Day where we have mattress sales.

I was really happy when this day was named a National Day of Service and Remembrance. It's so much better than my day of mourning idea. Much better to live forward than backward, yes?

- - -

Midday I was driving to Trader Joe's and the road was really crowded, must have been road construction or something. A big orange MTA bus stopped right in front of me, I was just under the 101 overpass. I looked in my side mirror and quickly moved into the next lane. I'm not a slowpoke driver and I don't cut people off, so I knew the big silver SUV behind me didn't even have to tap his brakes when I got over in the lane in front of him. But he honked at me anyway, made a fist. I flipped him off. It's summer, windows zipped off the Jeep, he saw me.

He made a big show of running up on my bumper, then trying to pull along beside me. Worst thing about me is that I don't scare. It's sounds fine on paper but it's not a great quality. You honk at me, I will flip you off, and I don't pretend it wasn't me, I'll take you on. There is no scare in me. Thank God I don't have kids.

So this asshole and his friend they try to pull in the lane right beside me to my left and they're yelling and I could give a shit. We're in Hollywood, you can't escape if you try, traffic sucks, you can be acting the fool and hollering and carrying on and while you carry on you're caught on film in 27 traffic cameras and fourteen minutes of red lights. And I did nothing wrong. They just want to intimidate, yell, get off on making someone scared and I don't do that. I can cuss in three languages.

Then we pass this intersection and there are fire trucks and at least ten police cars and American flags and the two guys in the silver SUV are all the sudden not yelling anymore. Afraid of getting pulled over.

They screeched tires right on my bumper and pulled past me and sped off.

I pulled into a parking lot.

I hate road rage. When I was really stressed about my life, especially times at work or when I was married, I had a lot of road rage and I was so shamed by it. I'm a good driver and now I try to give people the benefit of the doubt. My life is so much less pinched and compressed, my road rage has evaporated along with my commute. But I still don't flinch when some joker starts riding my bumper, pissed off because I had the audacity to change lanes. Maybe I should be a little less f*ck-you. Some of these idiots have guns.

- - -

I sat there in the parking lot, my Jeep idling, watching the little procession of firetrucks and police cars, thinking about that day back in September. A few days after 9/11 my ex-husband and I got in my car and we drove around the whole city, watching in awe as people lit candles on street corners and waved flags and honked at each other in a show on friendship and togetherness.

More than one of us knew someone on a plane. I did. And there was the general feeling of outrage, astonishment, unity. Bigger than all of it was this feeling of Americanness, all of us multi-colored, multi-ethnic, freakyass Los Angelenos taking to the streets and honking and waving and crying together. We do everything in our dumb cars. That is how we did September 11th, and 12th and 13th. We drove around waving flags and crying and honking, but the good honking. It was insane.

We weren't flipping each other off after 9/11. We lit candles and waved our flags and for weeks the streets were the politest you have ever seen. No one honked out of rage. We let each other merge for goodness sakes. We let people go ahead. We put traffic into perspective.

And now here I am nine years later on the same day, embarrassed because I flipped off the roadrager who honked at me. Maybe instead of a National Day of Anything we could just be forgiving for one day. Not burn any books or yell or preach or cuss off anyone. Just be nice. Me included.

No flipping off. No honking for merging. No being irritated in the checkout line. Simply be polite and gracious for 24 hours once a year.

Posted by laurie at 10:09 PM

September 10, 2010

2,000 words a day

I'm fairly certain the only thing more boring than watching someone write is having to hear about someone writing. So I am posting this on a Sunday when no one is reading anyway. Who says I have lost all my manners?

It is an unfortunate truth that I am a world famous procrastinator. So for my first two books I spent many months procrastinating and sitting at the keyboard at 4 a.m. before work and just typing blog entries instead of book stuff. Finally in a panic of self-induced deadline hysteria I wrote each entire manuscript in a weeklong cram session, just hours before deadline. I do not recommend this method to anyone. It's horrible. You really stink by the end of three or four days and you look up and the house is covered in laundry and coffee cups and something has gone wrong with your ass because you've lost all the feeling in your legs.

Fiction is different, of course, because you finish the manuscript before you send it in, so there is no deadline other than hoping to one day complete said book, submit it and hopefully get a bite. (Unless you are an established writer, like my friend Karin who gets paid one million dollars to write something like eight books a year. She has an actual cabin in the woods. I am just saying.)

In my world, nonfiction is as easy as burping. It just happens. Maybe it's more like farting? Anyway, up it comes, all the words spin out and I can sit down in the morning to tell you about this funny thing that happened one time and by noon I've dumped out six chapters. Fiction is much harder for me. For one thing, I can't just sit down and write a whole novel in a day. All those years writing newspaper stories (3 p.m. deadline! File! File now!) trained me into a fast writer, if not a very good one. I look back fondly on my newspaper career, all my high-profile stories of tomato blight in Polk County and breaking news about the Junior League fashion show. And who could forget my compelling piece about the myriad of names submitted to the city council for the baby whale that washed ashore in Long Beach. Top-shelf, I tell you.

But I'm fast. You need an expose on bathroom fixtures today by 3 p.m.? I am on it like white on rice.

Fiction is goofier. Apparently I still have delusions of grandeur, hoping I will write something great. So, like I told you last week, when I sat down in June to Write Something Magnificent, I choked. Nothing happened. I found myself sitting at my desk watching hours of crap on youtube. It is truly amazing the vastness of time-sucking videos you can watch on youtube.

Then in August something bad happened (no details, just bad) and I coped the way I do best: I went into my head. I started one of my Walter Mitty fantasies and detailed it down to the shoes and one night after several glasses of pinot grigio I started typing it up and voila! I had me a story.

I had several days where I spilled out big chunks of typing, 7,000 words at a time but then I wouldn't go back to it for a few days. Like it was too much at once or something. This month I decided to take a different approach. I think everyone has to figure out stuff as they go along, you know. So maybe this is me figuring it out. I have a huge calendar on my desk, one of those desk-blotter things, but I have it propped up against the wall. I was staring at it last week and realized I only had to write about 2,000 words a day for the rest of September to have my trashy little adventure manuscript done by end of month.

So that's the plan, Stan. I'm going to see how it goes (so far it's working well) and then I can re-adjust, maybe set a time for it or something. What I've been doing lately is sitting down in the evening with my laptop and a glass of white wine (with two ice cubes, do not ask why, I am a weird creature) and I type up a piece of the story.

My biggest obstacle with the idea of a whole book was just the frustration that I can't sit down and write an entire fiction story in one sitting. I'd be plodding away at one chapter and I'd want it to be done already, get to the good stuff! So I am writing it in pieces now. I've thought the story all the way through (hmmm, maybe August spent in my head wasn't a waste after all?) and now I do one "scene" a day. Like today is the scene in the police department. So it's still like being a columnist or a reporter, filing your story by end of day. But all my little pieces will connect for a single book. I'm even doing them each in separate documents, a plan which seems a little overly elaborate now that I say it out loud but I like the staccato rhythm to it.

I have absolutely no idea why I am boring you with this. Go watch football! I know there are a few other writers out there, though. Apparently I got kind of hung up on this idea that I had to write something great instead of just writing for the fun of it. I had to remind myself who I am and that my first book has the word drunk in the title. Maya Angelou, you have nothing to worry about from me. I never really cared if I was a great nonfiction writer, I just liked telling stories. So why is a made-up story any different?

Now my little typing time is the best part of the day. I love it. I think about it beforehand, like I'll be driving to the store and realize in my head I'm in the story. Yesterday I finished the piece where Charlene has the gun and when I typed up the last sentence for the day and saved my file (2,467 words) I was just pleased as pie. Alone in my house, cat conked out on my leg, sitting on the floor at the coffee table wearing a dorky T-shirt and drinking my white wine with two ice cubes. I think I accidentally found my perfect day.

Now that is something.

Posted by laurie at 12:33 PM

The most pressing issue of our time

The happiest part about Fall (aside from the feelings of crispness and fresh starts and clean notebooks) is of course the change you see in my best friend, TeeVee. All the old shows are back with new episodes and then there are entirely new shows to choose from. This last bit is tricky for me because I seem to be the curse for new TV. Don't blame me but I tuned in for Life on Mars, The Unusuals, Women's Murder Club, The Forgotten, Flash Forward. Ah, so little time, so much TV to kill.

Obviously I'll be tuning in for my favorites -- the final season of Oprah, my regular shows like Dancing With The Stars (a program that for some reason I only watch when I am on the treadmill), Glee, The Office, 30 Rock, Bones, Hoarders, Castle and I am shocked that Human Target will be back, since I started watching it from the first episode and it was actually renewed. It's breezy fun. Christopher Chance always gets his man. Or woman.

What are you watching? And more importantly, what new shows will you be tuning in to? The Undercovers? Nikita? Detroit 1-8-7? I haven't decided. Maybe Hawaii 5-0.

And was anyone else a little disappointed by this season of The Closer? The whole storyline about Brenda becoming Chief of Police is silly because I don't think even the most medically-marijuanad of writers would write in a blonde, Southern, female chief of police for L.A. And as much as I have tried to like Rizzoli & Isles I have decided I kind of hate that show. I love Angie Harmon, she's so appealing, but the scary serial killer who never dies or goes on trial but manages to kill from behind bars? That's been done a million times and in better shows. It's like the writers want to make Maura Isles into Temperance Brennan but it falls flat. And I get tired of all cop shows being (mostly) about horrible crimes to women. I think that's why I stopped watching all the CSIs. I watch the nightly news and sometimes that's enough.

I am embarrassed to admit my guilty pleasures, but will do so anyway. Reality crap. I'm watching Thintervention, The Real Housewives of DC (an addiction I blame firmly on my friend Christine G. who got my hooked one morning over coffee) and Jersey Shore. That last one I only watch when I feel bad about my life or need to expose my TV to genital warts to see if its inoculation took. That show reminds me that no matter how icky I may feel, I am at least not wearing spandex and white pumps and fretting over my clip-in hair extensions. But it makes for oddly compelling TV.

You? What are you watching?

Posted by laurie at 10:36 AM

September 9, 2010

Luxury

I forget there are luxuries to being self-employed. (Maybe I've felt guilty to revel in them? Weird.) For example, I don't have to rush to get all my housecleaning done by Sunday night. I used to feel forever behind because I could never do it all in just two days. Every Monday morning I woke up already behind schedule for the week. That's a lousy way to live.

On Labor Day I cleaned downstairs and realized I'd only gotten the living room really cleaned and "done." Then I remembered, oh yeah! You don't have to commute two and a half hours tomorrow and work a full day and you can still keep cleaning this apartment! I know it sounds like a poor prize-- housecleaning-- but it's such a luxury to me. All the time to clean just-so, just how I like it. I'm a slow cleaner. I get distracted, I remember this book I meant to look up, I find a receipt and need to get that thing I put in that place that time. Rearrange the books in the office. Everything goes slower with me. When I was working it just became a casualty to my schedule, there was no time for all that. Stuff piled up. Everything was half-done. Another item on the to-do list. Anxious.

Yesterday I was on the phone midday and while chatting I pulled some boxes out of the closet and sorted paperwork. It feels so decadent. I've been working at a breakneck pace for eight, maybe nine years now. Being home alone with a vacuum cleaner is not a bad thing. It takes me a while to get caught up. Maybe that's what this is, getting caught up. Finding a normal pace. Not rushing, just knowing it's a different kind of time management.

soba-cuddle.jpg
Cats already know the secret.

Posted by laurie at 11:14 AM

September 8, 2010

Still cool, still cleaning

This is my all-time favorite weather: cool, overcast, downright chilly at night. I LOVE IT. It's like winter showed up all at one time. It's a fake-out of course (this being L.A. no one should be too surprised by anything fake, even the weather) because September and October are always the hottest months. Usually we're still sweltering in a frying pan heatwave the day before Halloween. But who cares, right now it's cloudy and 67 degrees and I am in heaven.

I have all the windows open, cleaning and airing out the whole apartment. Bob is so annoyed at the constant vacuuming, his beauty sleep is suffering.

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I am trying to get some sleep here, people.

I wish it would stay like this forever, like Seattle without the rain.

- - -

Suspended animation. That's what August was. I finally put my finger on it, I needed a title for that chapter.

Do you ever want to be someone else entirely? Maybe that's why I like this weather so much. It's like I woke up in a completely different place, a vacation from the city of eternal sunshine.

Posted by laurie at 12:10 PM

September 7, 2010

Good day for John Coltrane records

The weather is superb, fantastic, spectacular. After days and weeks of hundred-degree heat it finally cooled down and it's perfect, not even 70 degrees yet in the Valley. When it's a bazillion degrees out I don't even leave my house, with no A/C in the Jeep it's just fire-to-frying-pan, no fun at all.

But today it's perfect. And I can go run errands and not melt into a lard sweat puddle.

Yesterday there was a marathon of Hoarders on the TV, which I kept on while I cleaned house (if nothing else, watching that show does make me frantically need to clean and dust and disinfect.) Then they had two new episodes which were both disturbing and depressing. Why do I watch that show? I can't understand how anyone could keep children or pets in filth. I guess I watch it because I know I have my own hoardy tendencies and I want to be vigilant and never let things get to the goat path stage.

There was a single moment in time when I think it could have gone either way. I had to choose between giving up and becoming a prisoner of my stuff or letting go. It was right after I moved into that tiny little house in Encino-adjacent with my four cats and my gigantic truckload of boxes. One entire room (and the garage) were packed floor-to-ceiling. It took years to get it all pared down, but I kept at it. I got real tired real fast of constantly moving piles to clean around them, so I decluttered little bit by little bit. Sometimes in great big gusts, sometimes in a trickle.

I still have what I think is too much stuff but I haven't been paring down at all lately, maybe it's comforting to hold on sometimes. Then again, it's not like the stuff is growing-- I've been on a shopping moratorium since June and nothing comes in to this house but basic consumables. It's kind of nice. No shopping, no new clutter build-up in the corners.

Now it's time to go run my errands and enjoy this perfect Southern California weather.

Today's three good things:
1) I am not a candidate for Hoarders
2) Cool September days
3) Soba waking me up with a paw on my chin


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Yeah, I like TV. Got a problem with it?

Posted by laurie at 11:54 AM

September 6, 2010

Labor Day

Everyone says Labor Day marks the end of summer. Or, where I am from, the end of wearing white. Not that I wear much white but old sayings die hard.

The best thing about August was that I started writing again, this time in a fever, spilling out 7,000 words a day and holing up in my house which is not a bad way to live. I'm not sure if this little story I'm writing is any good and I don't care, the point is to finish one fiction book beginning to end and I'm thisclose. Worrying about being good just gets in the way.

So anyway, that was summer. And now it's September and I'm going to clean my whole apartment. Put some good music on, make a pitcher of iced tea, vacuum like nobody's business. I love to vacuum. You get immediate results, everything feels renewed and fresh and you can see your progress as you go. And I'm going to put away everything that happened in August and just be happy that no matter how bad some pages of the calendar may be we do have the luxury of a whole new month ahead where something good could happen.

Posted by laurie at 9:07 AM