San Francisco: Day 1

It’s finals time.  Not for me, of course.  I dropped out of college ages ago.  I watch my brother and his girlfriend study for their respective exams: he, finance and she, political science.  I sit on the couch and contemplate the whole system, and whether my desire to reenter academia to finish is foolish.  Tests, stress, coffee for function and not fun.  School.  And so they study and make treks to campus and I am left to my own devices, at least for the midday.

I walk down 25th Street to Clement, where I will then make the 36 minute trek that Google told me it would take to get to a used bookstore I want to check out.  The rows of homes recede into a decidedly unofficial China Town has sprung up; all of the shops catering to people not of my ethnic background.

My brother lives in a part of San Francisco where Asian women smoke cigarettes and stare contemplatively into the breezy distance, coming as disturbingly close to the movie version of Joy Luck Club that I have ever seen.  I pass by window displays of honey dipped duck bodies strung up from their feet and what I think to be Cornish game hens with all that remains of their little nubby limbs tied together.  $1.49 it says.  One of the many removable silver trays is filled with whole bodied dead chickens.  Pale and featherless, heads still attached to necks, necks still attached to bodies in a submissive and sickly turn.  Beaks drained of color.  I then realize how quickly I would become full-blown vegetarian if Trader Joe’s offered a similar presentation of meat.  Western grocery stores sugarcoat the slaughter of animals, separating body parts and selling them off separately to be dipped in various bottled sauces and sautéed in butter and olive oil, unrecognizable as anything beyond a product.  Similar to a bar of soap or a box of crackers.

Might it be noted that I am a terrible traveling dresser.  Without the full range of options from my closet at home, I am rendered useless.  Even when packing I know that putting together a decent looking ensemble is futile.  No matter what, I am doomed to forget some integral piece of my wardrobe, destroying an entire suitcase of possibilities.  This time, it is shirts.  I didn’t bring any.  This was not intentional, but entirely stupid.  Being rather lazy, I don’t even bother to ask my brother for a clean shirt and instead wear the black shirt I wore to bed.  The cold also brings with it other problems, such as layering.  None of my layers match.  My orange sweater clashes with my gigantic lumberjack plaid coat which contrasts hideously with the sea-green plaid of my scarf.  My pants hang unflatteringly off of my bum and my shoes have begun to look a little worse for the wear.  I feel, and look, like a hobo.

Although San Francisco is known for their granola munching, anti-establishment ways, I still feel the need to shriek out when someone glances my way that I am a capable and fashionable human, with a hideous amount of beautiful clothing at home, and if they could only see my Margiela boots or my fantastic leather bomber jacket…You see!  You see!  And then I quickly turn into one of the also common San Francisco treats: rambling schizophrenics.  I imagine the scenario unfolding and keep my mouth tightly shut.

By the time I make it to my destination it is noon and I am relatively famished.  I find the first restaurant heavily populated with white people and I scan the menu.  I hear Conor Oberst playing inside and I know I am doubly safe here.  My decision-making process is interrupted by a voice from behind.

“Delicious food.”

I turn to a ruddy nosed woman in navy sweat pants and a fanny pack.  I am immediately sceptical of any kindness from strangers.  The 21st century Good Samaritan scares the shit out of me.  She briefs me on the restaurant and tells me that there is smaller version of this one down the block and she would like to show me.  She is well spoken, betraying an outfit that looks quite similar to my own.  Reluctantly agreeing, I follow a few steps behind; I am weary after having fallen for a similar trick like this before.  Staircase to nowhere, that sort of thing.  The last staircase led me to a strange Australian man claiming to have been robbed by a taxi driver and me $60 poorer.

I try to pick up on clues that this woman might be insane and I can’t for the life of me decide.  I err on the side of caution when we get down the block and we still haven’t arrived to this supposed sister restaurant and I lie, saying that I am supposed to meet my brother down the street right now.  I turn on my heel, thanking her  as she continues to point down the road saying, “It should just be right over there!”  I walk back to the original spot and notice that there is a sign next to the front door instructing me to go down 1/2 a block to their smaller cafe.  She wasn’t insane.  I’m just neurotic.

The food is delicious and with each bite of the cafe’s Tea Leaf Salad I feel terribly for not trusting a woman in her fifties wearing sweatpants.  A forkful of peanuts and roasted garlic. What could she have possibly done to me?  A nibble of chopped tomato and sunflower seeds. I hope she doesn’t catch me here, brotherless and alone.  Crunching down on romaine and green peppers. Where has all the trust gone in this world?

The bill comes.  They run my credit card and I leave $2 in tip, which always makes me feel chintzy just because it seems like a useless sum.  I peruse a hipster nick knack store and get ideas for the day when I will want to spend $100 a piece on all of my friends.  I leave and quickly stumble into a Salvation Army.  Eureka!  Garbage.

I am a thrift store hound.  The hunt for the diamond in the rough is strangely addictive.  I peruse the racks, finding a Christmas plate and a glass cup with delicate leafless trees and a disintegrating gold leaf unicorn.  I wish they had more than one.  I don’t end up buying either item.  I travel upstairs to the “Designer” and “Collectors” section.  Everyone in the building is certainly a collector.  I imagine them all to live in homes with mounds of used sweaters and stacks of Time Magazine from the last four decades lining their hallway walls.  There is a Russian couple asking to see the “Doolchay ‘n Gibahnah” item in the protected case.  Two women debate the authenticity of an overpriced Coach purse.  One man who seems to be of sound mind stares at a piece of jewelry.

The San Francisco bin divers are much crazier than the average thrift store customer in Los Angeles.  These people are whack jobs and give off strange, erratic energy that makes my skin crawl.  As I look around, I begin to wonder if I am insane as well – if I am no better than any of these people.  I don’t see anyone under fifty in here digging through someone else’s crap.

A woman with wiry black hair verbally accosts me, asking me how old I am while holding up a ratty gray coat.

“Would you wear this to work?”

I politely ramble about how I like the coat for a more casual affair, like weekends at the park, but I think that the material is not formal enough for a proper job.  I make a comment about liking the design and realize I am being irritatingly verbose.  Her blonde friend chimes in with a, “See.  I told you.  It’s not that great.”  The wiry woman stuffs the coat back into the crowded rack and says thanks without looking at me.  I am afraid I have offended her greatly with my useless opinions.

But apparently this woman needs me, because she walks up to me a few minutes later and inquires as to how tall I am.  Her daughter is apparently six feet tall and she says this is a problem for her.  What is also a problem is that while she and her daughter have wardrobes fit for Burning Man, her daughter apparently has no proper clothes for a new professional job where people are “really watching you.”  I politely extend the offer to help her with her coat selections if need be.  She asks me if shoulder pads are in fashion again.  I answer yes.  She holds up a jacket.  I tell her it’s too short waisted for someone her daughter’s height.  I leave just as she’s pulled out a coat she claims costs $500 at Nordstrom.  The store is spoken of with a mythical quality that I remember being familiar with when I was younger and our family didn’t have tons of money.

I leave with some used books and brass mice that need spiffing up.  The cashier had chatted me up about his mother loves Anne Rice, too.  He makes a joke about not putting the mice in with the same bag as the books so they won’t eat the paper.  I catch my reflection in the window of a store: plaid coat, two salvation army bags, baggy pants.  I am horrified.  And exceptionally glad no one here knows who I am.

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When Did Everyone Get So Damn…Affected?

Just yesterday I traveled alone via Southwest Airlines on a little excursion to San Francisco.  This sort of public solitude always allows for unintentional observations of humanity at its strangest as well as its most banal.  As I am left with no one to talk to (except myself), the result is an unending dialogue with that little voice inside my head.

Occupying my thoughts yesterday were two young girls who hopped in line in front of me just as we were boarding.  At first, I thought they were close enough in age to me.  Young, but not old (uh hem).  That is until the blonde made a comment as she was feeding the brunette frozen yogurt that she “had like never tried mango.”  I dropped my age estimation by three years, placing them on the cusp of twenty-one.

I watched them from behind as I watch animals attack each other in the wilderness on the Discovery Channel.  It has been such a long time since I have mentally been in their shoes, that I have nearly forgotten what its like.  Their moves, their hair flips, their Ugg boots.  I ended up sitting near them on the plane, which allowed for further snooping of their kind.  Kind of a glimpse into the world of the kids these days.

Well, the kids these days are dumb.  I don’t think that they’re actually dumb, but they sure go out of their way to sound dumb.  When I was growing up, there was the proliferation of the overuse and abuse of the term “like.”  It peppered conversation like the French pepper theirs with a sexy French “Uhhhhh…” – my French friends, you know what I am talking about.  It allowed for time in between words to organize our thoughts, to clarify in our heads what we intended to say without creating an audio dead zone.  This was the intention, of course, but not always the end result.  As we were “Valley Girls” by the definition of geography and a few anti-818 movies, this term was a surefire way to get pigeonholed as a vapid idiot, especially if you allowed yourself to sound like a vapid idiot.  I would like to think I avoided this successfully, although I cannot say for sure.

That was my era.  Just clipping at my heels is a new era – an affected era.  An era where to sound completely uninterested, beyond dazed, talking out your nose and barely breathing while you produce sounds…is considered…cool.  It’s as though these children were stuck in front of the E! Channel during their developmental years soaking up Paris Hilton subconsciously.  Yeah..I…like…ummm…grew up…in…hmmmm…yeah.

What really confuses me is when people start talking this way.  People don’t come out of the womb affected; they hone and develop and learn this over the course of a lifetime.  I want to go back in time and see the moment where someone with a normal voice decided that they would pick up this new way of communicating.

And so I continued to watch these girls.  The blonde had Shape Magazine in her lap; the brunette watched Gossip Girl on her i-Pod.  The blonde asked the brunette about her silver rings and why she wore them; the brunette responded with a dissertation on her personal style, deep reasoning behind it, etc.  The most in-depth topic was certainly hair care, in which both girls participated taking turns talking about their $270 highlights and lowlights that they have to get done once a month.  When I was their age I was still dying my hair chestnut out of a box because my agency had criticized what they called my “dishwater blonde” hair.  Assholes.

I feel sorry for these young girls.  They grew up in a time inundated with the celebrity culture.  It’s hard to not want $270 highlights when Miley Cirus is younger than you and she’s getting $3,000 extensions thrown in multiple times a year.  I didn’t grow up with the pressure of looking like any of the characters on Gossip Girl – gorgeous hair flowing behind them, marble foyers, laptop computers in every room.  I didn’t know what Burberry was.  I had no concept of Chanel.  I was sixteen and I did keg stands when the opportunity arose.  My daily uniform (literally) consisted of some Hollister corduroys and an oversized polo shirt.

But the kids these days are exposed to a culture of want that I was never a part of.  I did not hold myself to the standards that these kids hold themselves to today.  I never wanted to or expected to be famous.  I didn’t want to grow up and be a socialite.  These were not aspirations I had.  I feel as though girls are regressing to some variation of the 1950s ideal, without the visible trappings of immobility and lack of personal freedom or escape.  But I sense that a lot of this younger generation, at least in and around Los Angeles, aspires to be nothing more than rich.*

And the affectation of the day goes hand in hand with that.  In my experience, I have found that the vast majority of the affected come out of schools like Harvard Westlake, Crossroads, etc.  For those of you unfamiliar with the LA private school scene, these are expensive schools.  Their students are the children of producers, directors, big time investors.  You get the idea.  The severe affectation in speech I find is most prevalent in extremely wealthy families, which I don’t understand because these kids are getting the best of the best education, raised by what I would assume to be ambitious, intelligent, and successful parents.  But perhaps I am getting it all wrong and mixing it up entirely.  Today, after all, it is more popular to sound rich than to sound intelligent.

*I would be lying if I said people closer in my age were vastly different than this new generation.  There exists a great deal of older girls looking for a sugar daddy and a meal ticket, although more feverishly and with an extra kick of desperation.

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Musical Review: KROQ’s Almost Acoustic Christmas

As a child born and bred in the San Fernando Valley, my youthful radio diet consisted almost entirely of KROQ, the Los Angeles radio station for pure, unadulterated commercial rock and roll.  My listenership began in the days of The Smashing Pumpkins and Bush, sprinkled with some Oasis for good measure.  I’m sure there was a healthy indie rock scene going on in the mid 90s, but with the lack of the internet or my own automobile, I had few options aside from what was spoon fed to me – a grateful part of the masses.  My idea of funky and “out there” was The Bloodhound Gang and a singular Bobby Darin song I pulled off of a movie soundtrack.

Every year for as far back as I can remember, KROQ has hosted their concert extravaganza, the Almost Acoustic Christmas.  And every year I wanted to go, but for some reason I never did.  That is, ironically, until last night – long after my love affair with the station had come to a snobby and high brow close back in 2003.

Yesterday’s lineup consisted of something old (311 and Slightly Stoopid), something borrowed (from the indie scene we have Metric and Cage the Elephant) and something new (Muse and The Bravery).  All of this is certainly up for interpretation; I don’t necessarily think that Muse and The Bravery is technically “new” but for the purpose of this crowd, I suppose it is.  Crammed in there as well was Vampire Weekend and Phoenix, whose position within this lineup was unclear to me if I had to gauge it by the crowd’s collective enthusiasm.

We arrive right before Phoenix launches into their most viable single right now, boosted largely in part by its egregious abuse in car commercials as of late.  I am allowed four minutes of genuine enthusiasm before the circular stage rotates to reveal the next band, Slightly Stoopid, standing in black.  In the efficient minute that the lights dim and then come back up again, the pot smokers have used this critical cover of darkness to inhale some illicit but widely available drugs.  The lights come back up, revealing lazy plumes of potently cheap pot.

Before this moment, I have been largely sheltered from the musical stylings of Stoopid.  Judging from their quasi-Rastafarian, unintelligible White-boy-does-Jamaican vibe, they were most popular during the pre-overdose days of Sublime.  I am going to go out on a limb here and imagine that the now thoroughly enthusiastic crowd is grooving on a nostalgia trip right now, because there’s no way people actually produce music like this any more.  The lead singer wears an XL football jersey of a team am I ignorant of.  The other singer has what I think are tattoos crawling out from his shirt and attempting to get up to his baseball hat.  I yawn for a moment and take the time to scan the crowd for my Cougar Conquest, a now high school student that will serve me well in ten years.  This is remarkably hard to do as I have to imagine most of these complexions free of acne.

After I’ve finished comparing their passe music to the antiquated views of the Catholic church, I opt to just give in and sway my hips like an island girl.  This type of “When in Rome” credo has the innate ability to make any situation vaguely palatable.  I have to give the band credit where credit is due: their beach wave riffs make me want to spark up a doobie, sleep in a shack, and bang lifeguards compulsively.  I notice that their drink of choice is Natural Ice, a beer (if you can call it that) that I have fond high school memories of – my friend Ben and I had found that the only way to get the stuff down was to take shots of it, chased with a grimace.  Sipping the beverage like a fine wine was unimaginable; Natty Ice was notoriously undrinkable.

Slightly Stoopid goes out with a bang.  During their last song, a tiny wee man clad in black jeans and a black denim vest takes the stage with vigorous aplomb.  He screams things like “F*&k School!” and peppers that with the command “DRINK!”  I watch him, debating if his partially bleached, Jew-fro, white trash mullet is real or not.  When I think we’ve made eye contact, I avert my gaze so he doesn’t get the wrong idea.  Although he would be an interesting date to any family Christmas party.

Soon enough, The Bravery came in, sweeping Stoopid away with a clockwise turn of the stage.  They are infinitely more visually appealing, and most definitely today’s definition of a rock band.  They are hip and dirty (although probably not actually dirty), with the exception of the guitarist who took the dapper high-road, dressed in a silver two piece suit.  Given the general demise of the music video, I rarely watch footage of bands that I like.  Thus, seeing them live in concert is always like a blind date.  Taking a band in for the first time is a time-consuming and exciting affair, one that leaves me making comparisons like the following: the lead singer looks like what would happen if Rupert Everett and Ian Curtis had a baby who then danced like Scott Wyland.  He is skinny and lumbering and towers over the stage.  I have little to further to say about their set because I was too busy dancing and pumping my fists in the air – evidence of a show well-played.

In the strangest progression of any lineup I have ever witnessed, 311 comes on next.  Earlier in the evening I had mocked their seemingly dated presence on the bill, much to the betrayal of my 17-year old self.  Back then I would have liked nothing more than Nick Hexum to stare at me with those piercing blue eyes.  Sigh.  As a self-professed music snob, however, I am not allowed to admit any fondness for 311 or pretty much any band I liked ten years ago, including Third Eye Blind.  Double sigh.

Uncontrollably, all restraint flies out the window almost immediately and I find myself screaming every lyric to “Drug Store Cowgirl” and “All Mixed Up” while dancing like an idiot…just like the people I judged an hour ago toking and jiving to Slightly Stoopid.  These are humbling moments, ones when you realize you’re no better than the rest of humanity – everyone with their inexplicable attachments to the things we used to love, without reservation and without need for justification.

The band itself serves an almost time capsule function: the way Nick dances on one foot like he always has, the band’s collective wearing of baggy 90s jeans, the backup singer who bounds around on stage dancing like a chubby Dave Matthews robot.  They certainly aren’t cool by today’s standards, but a band is really only a moment in time, defined by a persona and a sound and a look that is for whatever reason, whatever stroke of luck, deemed worthy enough for mass popularity.  The music scene shifts and evolves, but the bands are left the same; left in the dust of a medium that is inherently transient.

It must be strange to be a band forced to exist in a world where you are doomed to forever relive your youth – singing songs you wrote when you were new and twenty into perpetuity, lest you fall willingly into irrelevance.  All bands have to do it.  Elton John, The Rolling Stones.  No one is above their responsibility as the bastion of memories for strangers.  Entertainers have an obligation to their fans, and as they age, that obligation almost supersedes the band’s own desire to move on, at least on a commercial level.  I would imagine that trap to be exhausting.

Muse comes on, obviously the headliner as they singlehandedly manage to revive a tepid Los Angeles crowd.  They are loud and grinding.  Their music has always struck me as Radiohead for strippers, ones who enjoy a good domestic violence dispute.  The singer wears pink slacks and a shoulder padded jacket.  His voice alternates from Thom Yorke to Freddy Mercury.  The baseline provided by the drums pulses with fatalistic urgency.  Songs to Armageddon to…

The band is solid and good and sounds precisely like the album.  I am not disappointed.  But then again, they’re no 311.

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Lying to Martin Scorsese

There have been only a few instances in my career as a model/actress/voiceless human in which I have been actually excited when emailed a casting.  The first was for YSL showroom, and I was excited only because it was the first casting I had ever been on and I had no idea what showroom modeling was.  That excitement began to evaporate quickly as I realized this glamorless job entailed standing on my feet for seven hours in excruciating heels, my blood vessels stressed to the point of visible red dots on my legs.  Other job opportunities have come and gone; some I have booked, most I have not.  The years passed, and I became increasingly jaded about clients and jobs.  But this week, I was emailed a casting that got my blood flowing.

The casting was for a Chanel commercial to be directed by Martin Scorsese.  Despite the fact that my instinctive awareness of my role in this industry caused me to immediately envision myself positioned against the furthermost wall, my face obscured by another nameless body, while Angelina Jolie or some supermodel got the real camera time, I could not help but even be enthralled with the opportunity to be involved in such a production, however small and meaningless that role might be.  Just knowing that Martin Scorsese was going to be forced to watch my audition tape really blew my mind.  My image reflecting off of his glasses, under big eyebrows and opinionated chatter.  Maybe he’d say something like, “Her nose is too broad.  Next.” or “Interesting use of body language.  Is she nervous?”  No matter what, good or bad, Martin Scorsese would be forced to think about me in some capacity for just a matter of seconds.  The same could be accomplished by cutting someone off in traffic and then watching the ensuing reaction occur in your rearview mirror.  It’s really fascinating to see the amount of time someone will dedicate to being mad at your poor driving.

It is perhaps possible that Martin Scorsese has been forced to think about me before, once again on a very small scale.  The night before the Oscars a few years back, I partook in a Armani Prive runway show for A listers in a tent below the house of a grocery store billionaire.  Although I did not know precisely who these A listers were during my actual walk in front of them, I found out soon enough after Googling the event when I got home.  Had I known I was sashaying in front of George Clooney, Beyonce Knowles, Cate Blanchett, Penelope Cruz, Helen Mirren, Clint Eastwood and Martin Scorsese, I would have made a more concerted effort to slip purposefully on the black plexiglass: falling in front of these people and being pulled up by the elbows with George and Martin’s assistance would have made for a much more interesting story than the one you are reading right now.  Alas, I did not fall.  Sigh.

Back to the casting.  I looked hip and casual, per the instructions given to me by my agent.  My version of hip and casual involved some shockingly short, bleached cut-off jeans and a lace shirt I thought Karl Lagerfeld would appreciate if he was forced to make an opinion about me as well during the casting process.  Paired with some black opaque tights and some men’s boots, I was feeling quite 90s flashback.

I had read earlier on a fashion blog that Scorsese was set to direct this commercial and it was rumored that Chanel was veering away from models and looking instead to “pretty, real girls.”  I tried not to take offense to this.  “Pretty” is fine and dandy under normal circumstances, but “real” in the modeling world implies an accessibility that is not necessarily desirable.  “Real” girls sell cans of Fanta while dancing in hot pants.  I don’t want to sell Fanta, I want to sell Chanel.  As a model, you want to be perceived as otherworldly and unattainable – not because you think so highly of yourself (although some certainly do) – but because you’ll make more money.  It’s the simple law of supply and demand.  You want clients starving for your “look” because there is a shortage of it on the market.  If this sounds stupid, it’s because it’s modeling.

Outside the audition door was a sheet of copy – instructions for what we are to talk about inside.  In summation, they wanted us to talk about an event with an ex-boyfriend.  I assumed they wanted an “ex” to fuel some sort of hatred fire.  They didn’t want warm and fuzzy, syrupy, nauseating puppy love.  But could Chanel possibly want outright anger?  Were they just testing us to make sure we weren’t insane and wouldn’t cause trouble on set?  I couldn’t imagine ranting and raving about the five years of being disastrously single in front of a stranger and a video camera like it were a therapy session: the boys who dropped off the face of the earth, the boys who got back together with their ex-girlfriends days after our first date, etc.  I couldn’t possibly allow that sort of tirade to pour from my mouth and into a chic Parisian office where Karl Lagerfeld listened to my horrendous dating history while staring at the clusters of silver rings on his fingers.

The truth is, aside from the now-forgotten single girl anger of my past, I didn’t have much experience with ex-boyfriends.  I had only ever broken up with a real boyfriend once, and it wasn’t necessarily worthy of story telling.  That audition would have gone something like this: I moved to New York, got really depressed, and fell out of love with him.  The story is too pedestrian and boring for anything more than a diary.

Instead, for dramatic flare, I opted for embellishment of truths and exaggerations of specific non-truths (ahem, lies).  I opened with how my sort of fake ex-boyfriend (actual current boyfriend in real life) and I met and how on our first date we drove around in a 1970s brown Mercedes with four doors and a broken rear window going 10 miles per hour through Hancock Park while listening to classical music.  I thought that maybe I could leave the story at that, but the casting director apparently wanted blood.

“How long did you date?”

My automatic, non-pause lie: “Eight months.”

Eight months sounded committed, but not too serious so that if I had to lie about how we broke up (which I did three minutes later), I could make something up like “I hated how his bathroom was always dirty” or “He would never throw away brown bananas.”  Once you start veering into dating over a year, I’d have to start lying about our conflicting religious views or how he couldn’t deal with my daddy issues.

“Why’d you break up?” he prods.

I lied and said me and this guy broke up after a 10 hour drive to Thanksgiving last year because that sounded plausible and reasonable and didn’t necessarily make me look insane.  To make up for my lack of detail in the story, I used my hands a lot and rolled my eyes in emphasis and tried my best to sound like a credible and believable ex-girlfriend – the boy savant I never was…a girl who has frequently left men in her wake, all of them weeping and begging for more.  Which is, of course, a complete and utterly custom-made fallacy crafted specifically for a man who makes his living telling stories as well.  This one’s for you, Martin.

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Grammatically Incorrect Nostalgia

The Christmas lights were red and gold, blue and green, red and gold, blue and green.  Along the rain gutters, below the roofline.  Glass – big and tapered – the size of okra.  They were rolled up and thrown in boxes in the garage with the broken door and bicycles hanging from the rafters.  There were often broken lights, ones that left colored shards in the bottoms of boxes.  They never cut us.

Dad put the lights up.  My mom does that now because Dad isn’t there.  I help her sometimes, sometimes I don’t.  The responsibility to help weighs me down more than the execution these days.  The lights came on at night, which descended on the neighborhood earlier because of day light savings.  The lit bulbs painted a translucent wash on the brick patio, like the thought of melted crayons.  They made me feel warm – even with the biting cold December hair, even in California.

Then it changed.  The neighbors started using white lights dangling like icicles off of white wire, not green.  It was a winter wonderland in the San Fernando Valley, where the closest we came to snow was the gray frost that lay on the grass for the hour following dawn, until the sun pressed it back down in the earth until it would return again at night.

We followed suit.  We followed with the icicles.  They were ugly when seen during the day; homes looked like they had been wrapped in the electrical cords that get lost in drawers, the ones you don’t know what appliance it goes with anymore but you keep anyway.

The color abandoned the patio and the rolls of passé lighting got thrown away or donated to Goodwill, where I’m sure all the bulbs broke in transit, leaving a sad little rope with no purpose.  Moving on.  We move on.  The tips of the icicles would spy on us through our wood windows; they watched us make dinner and wrap presents and although I liked them I didn’t find them as friendly as our previous lights.  I was outgrowing Christmas.

A sea change happened again – still involving white bulbs but these were less intrusive and dare I say more seasonally chic.  Singular, tiny bulbs dotted rooftops like lonely fragments of snowflakes.  It was less grotesque than the fake icicles but generally unpersonable and devoid of personality.  Our Christmas home looked like the outdoor patio of an Italian Restaurant, not a place where Santa dumped presents under our tree and ate chocolate chip cookies next to our fireplace.

I went away to college and walked under the same twinkly white lights wrapped through trees and around poles.  Ribbons were put wherever they could find a home.  There was snow, real snow.  It bit my nose and seeped through my shoes.  In December it was charming.  By February it became loathsome.  The lights were gone but the snow had stayed.

I came back to California for the holiday and the roof was awash with color again but the color was off.  It bled through the plastic bulbs shaped like the old glass kind and came out weakened and pastel.  I told my mom it wasn’t Easter and eventually she found the old lights again – the big ones with their beautiful colors that reminded me of a real Christmas, of when the air felt cold on a face much smaller than my face today, of when I still believed.

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Throwing Intellectual Caution to the Wind

This last weekend I was left alone, dangerously and utterly alone.  After a couple days with the family, I was in the prime for solo mode.  I attribute my gun-shy attitude towards family gatherings to not having had to do them for the last twenty years.  We were always the ones that that sat down to a Thanksgiving table consisting of two people and a nineteen-pound turkey.  Those days weren’t sad and disagreeable; in fact, they were delightful in their quietude.  So when this year’s Thanksgiving extravaganza ballooned from two to nine people, I was in need of some respite.

Unfortunately, that respite came in the form of watching Twilight for the second time.  The first time I had seen it was on a “borrowed” copy of a friend’s.  I would have liked to have thought that my distaste for the film was owed to the terrible, hand-held quality of what one could barely call a DVD, but my ire stemmed largely from a terrible script, acting that never simmered above hardcore brooding, and a nagging question that never got answered – “What’s all the fuss about?”

I understood the fascination with vampires; I was young when Interview with a Vampire came out – so young that I watched most of it through my fingers.  As an adult, I read the book and have since become an avid Anne Rice fan.  Vampires are sexy and untouchable.  But Twilight stuck me as decidedly sexless and most definitely untouchable.  Although, come to think of it, Edward and Bella did touch and kiss which only served to bring them closer to the unimaginable, the unholy, the climax of young lust.  Shudder to think.  In Interview with a Vampire, those blood-sucking bastards never failed to seal the deal.  Again…and again…and again…

If you gave me that script and told me to sell it my pitch would be: “It’s blue balls meets blood lust…and I’m not talking about blood if you know what I mean [in appropriate grunting inserted here].”

I’ll be the first to admit: I’m a chronic overthinker in possession of an obnoxiously analytical mind.  I watched Twilight and all I could think about was an article about the Mormon author of the book version and how Twilight was merely gross propaganda for abstinence, which it most certainly is.  Even the cover brings to mind a Georgia O’Keeffe- like image: two death white hands cupping a red apple.  All I’m saying is they should have just cut their loses and placed a giant cherry there.  Pour some sugar on me, God damn it.

And so I watched, grumpy and opinionated, as Bella and Edward acted out their version of how tortured, hormone raged teens might behave.  The movie got a couple of laughs out of me, although I don’t imagine it was intended to be comedic.  Edward’s twisted face as Bella’s human stench flew his way in science class, the fist curls, etc.

As any warm-blooded babe would have to agree, dear old Rob Pattison is indeed a dreamboat.  But that powder white skin and those berry lips didn’t distract me from noticing that Rob managed to put on the most American accent I’ve ever seen on celluloid.  I mean, he sounded more American than I do.  He sounded like f’ing Marlon Brando.  I’m not hating on this; I sound like Mary Poppins when attempting British in my car.  Still, his overt masculinity occasionally sent me into fits of laughter.  Perhaps I prefer pansies, I don’t know.

Nonetheless, I thought it was time for Round Two: The Open Version.  I sat down in front of my TV, turned my IQ down a few notches, and pressed that fateful play button.

This go around I wanted to imagine I was thirteen again, still a virgin, and dying to kiss boys.  And you know what?  It worked.  Of course Twilight isn’t for intellectuals!  Twilight is for hormones!  Unrequited, boiling over hormones!  Why hadn’t I seen it before?  As soon as I surrendered myself to my past as a young girl, all the bad acting, the terrible script, the makeup that wasn’t supposed to show but did – all of that just…disappeared.  I had successfully sucked myself in to the vortex that is Twilight.

The movie ended and I was comforted with the thought that I could still relate to other humans.  I now understood my friend who loved how it just took her right back to high school.  I now understood my other friend who saw it three times in the theater.  I had relived my adolescence and Twilight was the vehicle.  And I suppose that’s precisely what a movie is supposed to be about…escape.  I certainly escaped my brain for that hour and a half.  That I did, indeed.

Go team Edward!

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