Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Countdown to 2010

"My other vehicle is the Mahayana."

Oh kiddies, looks like I've gone and become a blogging cliche this holiday season aka "where the heck have I been"? Seven posts in one month? Abhorrent. But such is the way of life when you're back home and drama is on full broil in the family kitchen! And with that, let's get to it:

Banished am I from my parents' home. Well, maybe not I, but J is. Drama went down in true telenovela fashion a day before Christmas Eve. It was like some sick mashup of Terms of Endearment meets American Beauty. It was raw, coarse and -- had it been a reality show on A&E after some show like Hoarders or Intervention, perhaps titled "Life in the 'Burbs" -- it would have had the possibility of winning awards, I tell you. Don't want to divulge all the private deets but in short J ended up losing it and yelling at my mom after she and I got into an argument, J and I leave -- me crying -- with our luggage in hand, a complicated ballet of words were exchanged between he and my mother, and now my whole family doesn't want to see or speak to my husband. Joy.

The best part? It takes me about, oh, 0.5 seconds to get over anything. I forgive too easily. For my family? Not so much. I wouldn't be surprised if it takes months, even years, for them to allow J back into the home. And this is after J saw the err of his ways and apologized on Christmas Day. Didn't matter; damage had been done. Sigh. I wish there was a way to go back and erase these kind of things.

First night spent in exile: J's brother's bachelor pad. And by bachelor pad I mean a shack of a two-bedroom nearly condemned house near the beach that gives new meaning to the word "squalor." The kind of pad a bachelor rents when he has no plans of ever finding a girl (which is funny since J's bro does have a great girlfriend ... who I don't think has ever seen the place).

I suppose it wouldn't be that bad if the unfinished hardwood floors didn't have cracks in some areas where you could see all the way to the dirt foundation beneath and there wasn't 1.5 inches of dog hair covering the few filthy throw rugs in the place. Oh and also if it didn't smell like a giant sweaty foot and have a jagged bathroom entryway that's been cut through the laundry room wall, allowing you semi-privacy as you pee behind the black silk sheet that's been tacked up to resemble some sort of door sans lock. (The bathroom also has a surfeit of dead and living daddy long legs on counter tops and shower corners, along with a rickety panel window of which one of the panels has been broken and mask-taped with a square of cardboard that has also, curiously, been punched open, allowing that chilly ocean air in late-night when the tinkle fairies call.)

Ah, and to round it all out a peculiar hobbit of a man named Chip is the one renting the other room. Chip has no job, spends all day watching television in his room with his roommate's dog, Gonzo, and didn't seem at all embarrassed by the state of things in his house -- even the light orange patina of dried urine around the base of the toilet on the floor. Think Spike from Notting Hill. But bald and with a convicted felon's goatee, minus the British charm.

Basically I couldn't help but laugh and cry that first night as a refugee. But it got better the second night when we realized my mother-in-law had a foldout couch in her living room. The thought of taking another shower in flip-flops and lying awake terrified all night that a cricket or wolf spider would crawl across my face was a bit too much to handle. My brother-in-law -- who was visiting Disneyland all Xmas weekend with his girlfriend -- meant well, but I just. Couldn't. Do it.

So here I am, currently staying with my mother-in-law who is a true salt-of-the-earth hippie. Crammed into every corner of her one-bedroom apartment are hundreds of bottles of different oils to bring inner peace and harmony, along with tambourines, painted stones and stacks of books on meditation and spiritual growth. Next to two sink spouts and a shower faucet "Love & Gratitude" has been written in small letters on the walls. To remind her (and anyone who reads them) to think positive thoughts and live with an "attitude of gratitude" every day of life. At first I didn't get it, chalking it up to another hippie way of life (a way I've always wanted to follow), but it's actually grown on me. Love & gratitude, anyone?

Sometimes I find myself half-expecting John, Paul, Ringo and George to walk through the front door for a Hare Krishna sitar session. But instead I sit here analyzing the state of things as I drink ginger tea with "joy" and "possibility" oils (compliments of mother-in-law) in the absence of cable. I may finally be unleashing my inner hippie but Real Housewives of OC, oh how I've missed you.

Maybe this happened for a reason, I've thought, living in this den of meditation. Everyone (including my brother who points it out on a regular basis) knows how short my fuse is, how little people have to do to make me impatient or irritated. Sometimes I feel like Melvin Udall in As Good As it Gets. I know I need to learn to tamp down my irritation/anger/impatience. Perhaps sitting here quietly with coconut shell musical instruments, flower petals and painted stones, eating only raw foods and occasionally playing my mother-in-law's bongo drums is the way to do it.

I've been visiting my family every day or two. It's weird now, because they're normal again around me -- almost as if nothing happened. But then I realize J isn't at our dinner table and none of them want to see him right now and it makes me sad and frustrated. "Why can't you all just move on from it??" I want to yell. I loathe that giant pink elephant in the room. But I understand why it's there, and I know that everyone deals with these things in their own time. I just hope it doesn't take too long. After all, he's a part of my life permanently, so they'll have to forgive him sooner or later.

Of course, all this had to happen just before our family trip up to Sacramento for New Year's. You know, the one J was supposed to come on. Well I want to see my relatives up north and New Year's is a special holiday for my family, so he and I will be apart this year. I'm glad he has family down here to spend that time with so he won't be alone, but it looks like I won't be getting a New Year's kiss ... except maybe from Lola (yuck, fish breath, nevermind). I guess it's not that big of deal since post-college the holiday has lost its luster. With every year that passes it just seems more depressing, like time slipping away. (And we all know there are other, more important holidays anyway, like my absolute favorite: Valentine's Day. Missing that with J would be an utter travesty.)

So that's that. I hope all of you have a frabjous New Year's and I'll see you on the other side!

Friday, December 25, 2009

Merry Christmas

Brought to you by Chris "Christmas" Rodriguez:

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Endless Summer Winter

To celebrate my brother's 24th birthday on Sunday (same day as my dad's), J took Alexander out to catch a few waves, brah. Of course I volunteered to be photographer for the morning so I tried to chronicle it as Point Break as I could:

Artsy shot (above) I snapped while J and Alex were still out in the water.

Artsy shot (above) I forced J to pose in.

In other news:

My dad took us up to UC Santa Cruz to check out a spectrometer he's building for the Lick Observatory. We had to get suited up before stepping into the sanitized engineering lab and hilarity ensued:

Learning how sausage is made, or dressing up as double helixes for a Halloween party?

My sister's puppy is getting on my last nerve. No, I do not think it's cute when you chew on the leg of my sweat pants, Moxie (if that's even your real name. I'm starting to think it's actually more along the lines of "Diablo," "Lucifer," or something like that. J's convinced your real name must be "poop machine.")

I finally saw The Road. And it sucked. It wasn't a terrible movie, and I didn't hate it, but the book is just better. No failure on Viggo Mortenson's part, I love him as an actor and the guy can definitely pull off looking hot in a beard (Lord of the Rings, anyone?), but The Road is one of those books that doesn't adapt perfectly to screen, and so I think the blame lies on the screenwriters who fell short of making it their own.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Weekly highlights

The last week and a half has flown by out here in California, but so far the highlights have included:

Witnessing WWIII between my mother and sister over some comment that was taken out of context.
The conflict lasted 3 days (yes, 3 days). And it's still resonating into today, though now they are at least acknowledging each others' presence. Usually I'm the one who's at the heart of these kind of spats so to instead be a spectator is fabulous. And so insightful.

my family's exchanges when they don't know I'm around. Since the living room/kitchen/front door/etc. are all on the upper level of our house (our home is built on a hill), all drama occurs on this upstairs stage -- which makes the staircase leading up to it the perfect vantage point for any and all overhearing. The last few nights I've settled in on the bottom step with my laptop, typing furiously to keep up with the comedy that ensues upstairs. It's almost Royal Tenenbaums-esque and would be great fodder for a future book. The thing is practically writing itself so far. Creepy, or brilliant? Not quite sure yet.

My sister's puppy Moxie pooped on her lap in the car as we ate frozen yogurt in a shopping parking lot. Her subsequent freak-out was priceless! And it happened to come right at the end of a tiff we had so it was the ultimate retribution and I got the last laugh. Well, at least Moxie did. Good times.

Okay, maybe that wasn't my last laugh of the day.
That same night my sister checked her bank statement online and saw that the frozen yogurt shop had accidentally charged her $90 for her $3 yogurt. Moral of the story: Check your account often.

I got a callback interview this week for a part-time college English teacher position I applied to in Virginia. Pros: The gig pays $35-$45 per hour and wouldn't have taken much of my time since writing is my priority. Cons: They wanted to interview me on Friday (as in the day after tomorrow). I asked if we could reschedule for after January 14th when I'd be back in town but they have to fill all positions for the semester by January 4th. Sigh. They said they'd keep my application on file, though, in case someone drops out. *hoping someone drops out*

My dad is turning 60 this weekend and what better way to celebrate than with a new scientific finding? He (along with his team of scientists) were in the news yesterday for discovering two "super-Earths" orbiting two nearby Sun-like stars. My dad has been a planet hunter for decades and designed the HiRes Spectrometer for the Keck Telescopes in Hawaii in the late '90s, so I'm very proud of him and hope this makes his birthday extra special. (Lord knows the flannel pajamas I bought him as a bday present pale in comparison.)

I'm almost done with my nanowrimo book. I'm currently on page 270 and I think I've got about three more chapters left. Chugging along to the finish line, kiddies. I absolutely have to finish this thing by New Year's Eve or else I will punch myself in the face and dub myself a failure.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Literary truths: Hemingway

"Call me Pappy."

“I write one page of masterpiece to ninety one pages of shit,” Hemingway confided to F. Scott Fitzgerald in 1934. “I try to put the shit in the wastebasket.”

Thursday, December 10, 2009

'Stache stigma

This looks like a job for the Schick Quattro. Or Cinco.

As I was doing research for one of my books a few days ago, J and I got into a discussion about the stigma specifically associated with Adolf Hitler over other sinister leaders in history (Joseph Stalin, anyone?).

Most of my research right now is centered around Germany and Poland during WWII, a handful of high-ranking commanders in the Third Reich and details of concentration camps in that region. And I'd been happy with my description of a certain real-life commander in my story until I came across an obscure, grainy picture of him last week that looked nothing like my description. Since it's fiction I'm keeping my description regardless (the actual picture looks more like my childhood orthodontist Dr. Fehrman, who, with his neon-green-framed reading glasses -- this was 1992, people -- and southern drawl, was not scary-looking in the slightest). But it got us to thinking ...

J: "Would Hitler look evil if he wasn't so well known?"
Me: "If he wasn't Hitler? No, he'd just be another German guy with a bad '30s haircut."
J: "Maybe it would even be acceptable to have that mustache today. But not anymore. It's funny that the 'Hitler mustache' has such a stigma, but other mustaches do not. Like with Stalin -- no one picks on guys with thick 'staches, calling them 'Stalin 'staches.' Stalin's 'stache is like the 'stache to end all 'staches. So thick and luxurious. Puts Burt Reynolds to shame. But that little square patch? It's totally unacceptable."

(After a long pause)

J: "I wonder what it is about Hitler that anything remotely connected to him is now taboo while other just as reprehensible people in history have not had that effect?"
Me: "Because people recognize his face more? If you showed a picture of Stalin to someone our age today they most likely won't even know who he is. Everyone knows what Hitler looks like, but I doubt people would recognize a Stalin or Lenin."
J: "What about Saddam though?"
Me: "Saddam is recent, within our time. He's not historical yet."
J: "Right but he was also pretty horrible and no one harps on 'Saddam 'staches.' It is weird . . . Hitler is so untouchable. Most would argue that Stalin was actually worse then Hitler. Stalin systematically killed millions of his own people."
Me: "True. I mean, wasn't he doing just as horrible things if not worse like making lampshades out of people's skin? And those were his OWN people."
J: "They estimate that his regime killed 3-60 million Russians. Some were social minorities who lived in Russia."
Me: "Ah, gypsies. I read that Hitler gassed gypsies too. Why all the gypsy hate?"
J: "All that damn belly dancing. Gives rise to extremist hatred."
Me: "Like that that 'woman fight' in From Russia With Love?"
J: "Effing finger cymbals make my blood boil."
Me: "HAHAHAHHAHA. (Pause.) I think more than anything though you're right about Hitler's 'stache. If someone even accidentally cut theirs in the reminiscent shape of it all of a sudden "You look like Hitler." And if you don't shave it stat, then you must be a Hitler lover."
J: "Exactly. What if I just happen to look good with a square patch on my upper lip? I would be shafted. Or what if you have a deformity on your philtrum and only a square patch can cover it?"
Me: "Point taken."

J's mustachioed tangents aside, the overarching question here still stands: Why is that with Hitler/anything remotely resembling him there is this crushing taboo (aside from the obvious reasons), but with others just as evil if not more so (like Stalin, Lenin, Saddam) the same stigma isn't as intense?

Saturday, December 5, 2009

'Tis the season

I woke up this afternoon this morning to find the first snowfall of the year here in DC was out in full effect (or as full as it gets 'round these parts). Perfect timing since I'd been wanting J to head down to Pentagon Row shopping center with me to watch the "artificial snowfall" they do nightly at 7pm. The real stuff is just better.

Earlier today the snowflakes were giant and fluffy ("Like someone had blown up a bunch of poodles and their fluff was falling from the sky," J says) and there was just enough powder on the ground to elicit Charlie Brown eyes and Snoopy dances outside, con scarves.

Also in time for the season was our first holiday party of the month, thrown by J's professor. About 15 of us convened on the soiree last night and there was much eating and imbibing of spirits. Personally I was delighted at how many celebrity-look-alikes were there (I'm notoriously skilled at playing the celebrity-look-alike game, be warned if I ever meet you in person) and to my delight there were many to postulate on. My favorites included a spitting image of David Eggers (meets a dash of Rob Lowe) and an all-around Woody Allen (in facial resemblance, mannerisms and voice. It was incredible, and nearly twice I had to stop myself not to ask how it must have been directing Annie Hall). All in all we had a great time and I got to meet many interesting people. Who knew lawyers could be so down-to-earth and jovial?

Anyway, as much as I love the snow I'll have to get my fill of it today since I'm off to California tomorrow! I won't be back 'round these parts till mid-January. In the interim I look forward to spending time with my family and friends, partaking in truckloads of authentic Mexican food, possibly surfing with J and having many beach bonfires. (Yes, my life up until three years ago was more Gidget than Legally Blonde 2: Red, White and Blonde.)

I'll be taking Lola and J will be joining me 10 days later, Moneypenny in tow, after he's finished with finals. A huge thank you (again) goes out to "Jude" for the free airplane tickets he sent our way, easing our financial stress 10-fold. Big thanks also goes out to one of my readers, Maritzainca, who just UPS-ed me a bottle of Pinot Noir for the holidays from a winery where she works in Northern California.

Ooooh, sparkly!

Maritza's a fellow UCSB-er who I met through twitter/blogging not that long ago. She no longer has a blog, but is thinking about starting one (hopefully) soon. I love my readers! Thanks again Maritza!

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Back in my day...

Hello? Hello?? Is this thing on?...

I can't shake the feeling that something's different.

These bones aren't as agile as they used to be, as evidenced last night when I slid to the passenger side of our car to let J drive home and nearly took out the lower vertebrae in my back. (Thanks goes to either the gear shift or the e-brake for being the culprit, I'm not sure.) Either way, not long ago I could perform such a maneuver with masterful ease, gliding my lithe figure over the center console like a svelte ballerina in a Balanchine production of "The Nutcracker." Mind you, I'm not obese now or remotely close to it, but for some reason these endeavors are harder. More dangerous. Now I can't even hop on the kitchen counter with one knee to reach a top shelf without losing my balance and knocking my (later badly bruised) shin into the dishwasher, nearly taking down the lower two shelves with me.

As much as I joke about being Blanche Devereaux am I, in fact, becoming Blanche Devereaux? I'm only 27. (Insert exasperation.)

Okay, so maybe I still have a few years till I'll need to be researching (subtle) face-lifts and reserving tables for early-bird specials, but the consciousness of my age and my place in the world has become much more palpable. Maybe it's a by-product of hitting your late-20s, I don't know. All I know is birthdays aren't as fun as they used to be and kids these days -- they're listening to the dangdest things. (In my time we listened to Dr. Dre's The Chronic, blissfully unaware of any offense in the lyrical artistry. This was back when Snoop Dogg was actually known for his musical prowess -- "Gin and juice," anyone? -- not for parodying himself on some Mtv dating show.)

Also back in my day: We used the phone to make actual -- gasp! -- phone calls when we wanted to chat with friends, *143 meant "I love you," and the entire world didn't:
  • know about your relationship status (Single and over 30? Do not pass go, do not collect $200.)
  • see those last five parties you acted stupid at (Single, over 30, and still playing beer pong? Game over.)
  • know who you were friends with
  • measure how many "friends" you had
  • automatically got to know what you did for a living
  • know where you lived
  • send you those annoying app invites ("NO!!!! I do not want to play some weird bastardized variant of Scrabble called Frabble with you," my brother says.)
  • try to act like your mother ("With the feeds on the right saying 'you haven't spoken with so and so in a while....why don't you send them a message and make their day?' It actually has the audacity to suggest new friends for me," my brother adds again.)
All because there was. no. Facebook. Or Perez Hilton. (Imagine how different our view of Marilyn Monroe would be had twitter/blogging been around back in the day.)

I started thinking about all this after a conversation I had with my good friend yesterday ...

Me: How was your thanksgiving?
Friend: Good, the fam part was a bit blah, but overall the whole weekend was really good. How was your Thanksgiving.
Me: I had a little too much to drink and ended up passed out snoring on the couch after my third glass of rum w/ lime, how was yours? I ate wayyy too much food. Why was the fam part blah?
Friend: I dunno. It just didn't feel the same this year. It's weird, nothing feels as it should this year.
Me: How come?
Friend: It just doesn't. You don't feel that way?
Me: Kind of, but only around my birthday. For some reason it's really palpable then.
Friend: Yeah especially on my birthday but also this whole year. I dunno, I feel kinda numb in a way.
Me: It's the whole getting older probably. I feel like aging is an ailment, like arthritis, or diabetes.
Friend: Haha, I hope that's not the case.

Me neither, "Friend," me neither...

So what is that numb feeling? Is it an ailment? Or is it just disillusionment with how we perceived our ripe years before 30 were going to be? And what did we expect? Because I've got no regrets -- I've had lots of fun and embarked on many fun and sometimes wild adventures. Is it a lack of money, perhaps, to partake and dabble properly in the wide swathe of what "today" has to offer? Maybe. It's no secret living on a budget sucks and I'm sorry but anyone who says they're okay with being poor is just lying to themselves and trying to make the best out of their situation (which is commendable at best).

I know that age is just a number, and growing old is largely a state of mind (that is, if your arthritis doesn't get the best of you), so what gives? I don't have arthritis ... yet *stops mid-crack of knuckles*. Is it the canyon of a disparity between our generation and the one before us, what with all Facebooking and Myspacing and twittering and blogging that has by and large changed the way we consume/date/interact/stalk? I miss the days when only Wall Street Gordon Gecko-types had cell phones (massive ones, at that), and those phones were actually used for calling, not texting. The only computers we had were the ones where the screens doubled as boat anchors and had only one font/picture color: green, which made playing Oregon Trail that much cooler. There were no apps tipping off your whereabouts to the general public that is your current 567-friend list and privacy was a right, not a privilege.

Don't get me wrong. I love technology; heck, I love Google. I ask myself everyday what people did before it was invented -- then I remind myself that I was one of those people. It's no doubt an exciting time in our history as a people: in the last 20 years alone the innovative boom in gadgets and science has been amazing.

I blog, I twitter, I facebook. So I'm connected and just as guilty as the rest (though I refuse to get a blackberry or touchscreen or anything other than a normal cell phone for normal calls.) But is it possible with all this connectivity that we're actually more unconnected now? More jaded, more cynical? Or is this feeling simply what growing older is all about?
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