Thursday, March 31, 2011

the runs

Last night, I walked into my apartment and laid eyes upon a familiar scene: Lei, Lee and Pablo gathered at the dining room table, playing a board game. This time it was Arkham Horror. Lee and Pablo have been at our apartment every night since last Friday. I noticed that underneath Lei's chair was a pair of white socks. Beneath the pair of white socks was a pair of black socks -- his socks from the previous day. Our trash can was overflowing with fast food packaging: Wendy's, Chipotle, more Wendy's...

They looked up from the board. "How was yoga?" Lei asked. I was was completely soaked, my hair dripping wet. It was a Bikram night.

"Disgusting," I said.

I made a beeline for the kitchen to make myself a smoothie.

I'm running my first half-marathon on Saturday and I don't feel prepared. I ran 10 miles last Saturday, a personal distance record. I should've run 10 miles a month ago, but time constraints and bad weather have hindered my training. Not to mention, those 10 miles were on a relatively flat paved surface. The course I've chosen for my first race, the Golden Gate Headlands, features a 2,200 foot gain in elevation. It's trail running. At this point, all I can do is hope for the best, and look forward to dinner. I made three separate reservations so I would have options depending on timing and mood.

Background: On New Year's Day, I walked into Vulvy's house still a little drunk from the night before. Weezy started talking half-marathons and New Year's resolutions, and deliriously, I commited. I didn't know what I was signing up for.

Of the group of people who resolved to run that day, guess who's the only person in the race?

From a woman who committed in January 2010 to run 52 marathons in 52 weeks (she ran the Golden Gate Headlands in April 2010): "Looking up at the hills, I started to wonder just how intense this marathon might get...Almost the first 2 miles were heading straight up. No headphones were allowed and with the intensity of the incline, all I could hear was heavy breathing and feet pounding."

And later: "I can honestly say it was one of the most beautiful places I've ever run, but with such steep hills I found myself walking more than running. There was very little flat ground....During the first loop I talked with a couple ladies who were running this as their first marathon. I was impressed! I couldn't imagine picking such an extreme course for my first!"

See the entire blog post with pics of the course here.

This morning, as I was getting ready for work, I glanced into Lei's bedroom and saw him standing on his bed. He was trying to step over a pile of board games on the floor. There was no place for him to walk.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

L.A. Bike Ride

Eight Sundays ago, give or take, I rode my bike to Silver Lake to meet Ji and Weezy. The three of us continued north where an ice cream truck waited in front of The Eagle Rock Brewery. The pink and silver truck, which looked like a cartoon brought to life, offered a variety of sustainable, organic, architecturally-themed ice cream sandwiches (e.g. the Frank Behry). I ordered butterscotch rosemary ice cream in a biodegradable cup. I took my ice cream inside the brewery and dropped it into a beer. This was the whole point of our bike ride.

Inside the brewery, we sipped our beer floats while outside, the sun disappeared. Two beers later, it seemed like a good idea to ride our bikes to Shannon's house in Burbank. We took the L.A. river path north, five miles or so. We rode alongside the river in near darkness, save for the white and red flashes of our LED bike lights. A fence separated our bicycle train from the cars barreling down the I-5 to our left. To the right, the river sludged along in its concrete bed, reminding me of the omnipresent canals that slice the Phoenecian landscape. The water was black, and from its oily surface, defiant trees sprouted. It seemed impossible, but there it was, an urban bayou. Tendrils of smoke rose from the factories to our east, swirling in the starless sky. It was beautiful and sinister and in that moment, I felt overcome with joy. I thought: I'm so grateful I don't have children.

In Burbank, we collected Shannon, and rode south to an art show in Studio City. It was a tattoo art show, but I didn't know what this meant. The tattoos were rendered on paper or canvas, framed, hanging inside a gallery. I wasn't sure if the work had been created exclusively to be hung. Or if these hanging pieces were renditions of tattoos that existed elsewhere in the world, on an arm or leg or neck. Or maybe the works represented the artists' dream tattoos, which they waited to inscribe onto a worthy body, should one ever present itself. I didn't feel like asking so I never found out.

I was eating a chocolate-covered strawberry when I heard, "You're my librarian." He was Latino, looked about 22 and wore thick glasses. He was a student at one of my colleges, but I didn't recognize him.

The thing people always ask librarians is for the names of our favorite books or authors. That's what he asked me. We kept trading the names of writers until we found one we both knew and liked: Raymond Carver. The whole time we spoke, I worried that I had chocolate on my teeth. Later, when I smiled at my reflection in the bathroom mirror, I was relieved to see that I did not.

Our bike gang relocated to the bar next door for more beer and food. Around us, the Grammys flickered on four televisions, and we watched Lady Gaga hatch from an egg, a yolk hat balanced atop her head. Drunk, I shared my L.A. River epiphany with the group -- about how happy I felt to be childless, unencumbered.

"It's funny," Weezy said. "Because I had the opposite thought." She revealed that she and her long-time boyfriend were contemplating children. She said: "I kept thinking, would I be able to do this if I had a kid? And I thought, sure. I'll put a seat on the back of the bike, bring the kid to the tavern." I wasn't sure if this was realistic, but I recalled the formative years I spent on an Oyster Bay barstool, drinking Shirley Temples alongside my father. It wasn't so bad.

After the bar, the gang broke up, out of steam, and accepted a ride back to L.A., cramming their bikes into a vehicle. I rode my bike back to Hollywood alone, over the Cahuenga Pass, a dangerous route I'd never attempted sober. The 101 pulsed to my left, the main artery into Hollywood. The lights of Universal City illuminated my path, and as I sailed past so many palm trees, I thought, My life is good. If I die here on this road, that's OK -- a fine ending. I am nobody's mother.

Friday, March 25, 2011

a few things my mailman knows about me

Gas Company, Department of Water & Power, Time Warner Cable
California Teacher's Association
UCLA Alumni Association
Graduate School of Education & Information Studies
ASU Alumni Association
The Cronkite Journal
The New Yorker
catalogs: Urban Outfitters, Anthropologie, Sephora, Free People, Paper Source, Crate & Barrel, Aaron Brothers
Southwest Rapid Rewards
Jet Blue TrueBlue
Dicky Bahto
Orange County Performing Arts
San Francisco Opera
Hollywood Bowl
Hollywood YMCA
wedding invitations
The Believer

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

more signs of the apocolypse

I drove south on the 101 Saturday night, en route to a party where nothing would happen, and the supermoon showed itself to me -- a TV moon. Previously hidden behind a swirling cloud cover, it was either the closest or biggest or brightest moon in 10 or 20 or 1,000 years. I forget. Actually, something happened at the party: I ate five pearl onions pickled in balsamic vinegar. They were a revelation. At 1 a.m., as I walked from the party to my car, moon no longer visible, the clouds released their first tentative sprinkles.

The L.A. marathon charged through my neighborhood Sunday morning while I was in bed with a book, listening to the rain. Twenty-five runners were hospitalized for hypothermia. On my way to yoga that afternoon, I drove past the Other Meghan (my ex-boyfriend's ex-girlfriend), running in the downpour, a little hat perched atop her red head. At the intersection of Riverside and Laurel Canyon, I forged a small river, determined to practice my handstand.

The previous week, on St. Patrick's Day, my non-profit held a happy hour meeting at the Pink Taco in the Century City Mall. The staff, three of us plus one intern, squeezed into a booth where we discussed literacy, our shrinking budget and the Compton Unified School District over tequila. Green plastic beads hung from our intern's neck. When our tacos arrived, they were not pink, but green.

Afterward, shopping for bras in Macy's, I stupidly accepted a phone call from my younger brother. Earlier that day, he had been escorted from my mother's home by four police officers. I told him to get a job as I handed my credit card to the cashier. I spent over a hundred dollars on underwear.

At the Black Boar in Eagle Rock later that night, I dropped the sleeve of my jacket into a toilet bowl and then continued to wear it.

My favorite stretch of Highway 1 fell into the ocean. Next Friday, I am driving to San Francisco for my first-ever half-marathon. I'd planned to take this route, carb loading at the Big Sur Bakery along the way. Now I need to reevaluate my travel plans.

So many things are happening in the Middle East and I can't wrap my mind around any of it. Instead, I think about food and sex and fiction. Meanwhile, in Japan, this happened:

(via the Dog Blog)

This morning I listened to a Dorothy Parker story, "Just a Little One," on my way to work. The protagonist said, "I should stop wearing mascara. Life is too sad."

I disagree.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Friday night rituals

A phone call:

"Can I get one order of vegetarian pho for pick-up?"

"This Meghan?"


"5 minutes, Meghan."


Thursday, March 17, 2011

missing the movie

Tuesday night, I tried to see Minnie and Moskowitz at Cinefamily with an ex-boyfriend, but we arrived to find a gaggle of crestfallen hipsters milling around beneath the marquee. The film was sold out. So we did the other thing we sometimes still do together: drink.

Over a Newcastle and an Old Fashioned, he told me that he'd bought a new mattress that day. It made spiritual sense, he said, because we'd bought his previous mattress together.

"That mattress was a mistake from Day 1."

I recalled the Glendale mattress store, the two of us lying side by side, testing different floor models. I stared up at the ceiling and tried to determine what a good mattress was supposed to feel like. I was 26 years old and still had no idea.

We talked about the expense of a quality mattress, and while I considered the cost of my semi-recent mattress purchase a splurge, I balked when he revealed his mattress's pricetag: $5500.

"Well, you know, that includes the box spring and some other stuff."

I tried to rationalize this expense.

"Are you still having back problems?"

"Not really. It's weird because I had lower-back problems throughout our relationship, but they just kind of went away." He paused. "My legs get pretty achy from running though. I think the mattress will help."

This ex-boyfriend is going through a transitional phase, having vacated the sprawling and dilapidated Hollywood apartment he occupied for nearly 10 years. That building, that apartment, contained me for three of the ten. I pictured it like a dollhouse: the institutional white stucco exterior, the rats scurrying up the palm trees, the foosball table, the roof parties, the wall-to-wall blue carpet (an ocean in Hollywood!), the side-by-side ovens: one for pizza, one for cookies.

Now he's holed up in Valley Village, killing time until he finds a house to buy. Throughout our conversation, I noticed that he kept referring to the apartment itself as Valley Village, as if the neighborhood existed only through his front door.

"Valley Village is just a layover," he said. "This is my time to sleep in the trenches."

"But you're sleeping on a $5500 mattress."

"Good point."

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Malibu Tony

In September, I took my mother to a beach in Malibu. The water was too cold for swimming, so we sat on our blankets and watched the waves crash. We were alone on the beach with the exception of a shirtless man and his dog. The dog ran to us and the man followed. My mother played with the dog, some kind of poodle, and the man spoke. It was his girlfriend's dog, he told us. He worked in real estate. The market was bad. He lived up the street. His name was Tony.

He was closer in age to my mother, and I think she was happy that Tony was talking to us. She was smiling a lot and her New York accent became thicker as it does when she wants people to ask where she is from.

"Do you like the beach?" Tony asked, looking at me.

I told him I did.

"You should come back to Malibu sometime and we can go together. What's your number?"

He caught me off guard. The sun was directly overhead and his girlfriend's dog was panting and I was wearing a bathing suit. I could hear my mother breathing next to me and I may have taken a pill that morning that made me a little kinder, more tolerant. I take these pills when I spend time with my mother. The numbers fell from my mouth.

Malibu Tony calls once a month. That's his name in my phone so I know not to answer. This was his message this morning, verbatim:

"Hey Meghan. This is Tony in Malibu. Remember we met last September when you were on the beach? And, um, it's Wednesday, March 16th, and I just want to know what's new. I thought we were gonna maybe get together, have a nice time. I know you like the beach and I like the beach too. Well, anyway, I hope you'll give me a call. Maybe if you come out to the beach, we can get dinner or something like that. Or lunch. And we'll have a nice time. Thanks a lot. Bye."

Friday, March 11, 2011


Me: Are any of them hot?
Dicky: I don't know. They're old. They're like . . . adults.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

desert, ocean

I arrived at SeaTac with an hour to kill only to find that my fight was delayed an hour and a half. I was hungry and there was a soggy sandwich in my bag -- leftovers from our final Beach House breakfast that I'd stuffed between two slices of bread: tofu scramble, tempeh bacon and sauteed greens. I contemplated this sandwich as I stood in the central terminal, the neon sign of a seafood bar buzzing, its siren song calling to me.

I went for the fish.

Sitting alone in this restaurant (where I would spend $35 without regret on a bowl of ciopinno, a loaf of sourdough bread (on which I only nibbled) and a bottle of Perrier), I felt aware of my shifting demographic. I read a novel on my Kindle as the 40-something waitress kept bringing me things. I used my iPhone to take a photo of my food, which I posted to my Facebook page. Later, I used the phone to calculate the waitress's tip. I walked away from the restaurant, my leather boots feeling tighter around my calves. I'd spent the weekend celebrating Amy's 30th birthday in a rented, luxurious vacation house, the out-of-state guest list comprised of those who could afford to be there.

Hours later, on my second flight, I ate the sandwich for dinner. It tasted better than expected.

Photo by Adriana

Two weekends, two different planets: Joshua Tree was Mars, and Moclips, along the Washington shore, was somewhere icier, Planet Big Chill. In Joshua Tree, our troop hiked Mount Ryan, a 3-mile out and back trail, a reasonable choice given Nico's age and the threatening clouds, which followed us up the hill, but delivered only the occasional snowflake.

Photo by Chris

In Moclips, we wore rubber boots onto the beach, snow crunching underfoot until, finally, our soles sank into the sand. The water spread out before us, a sheet of glass reflecting the clouds. It was difficult to discern where the sky ended and the earth began.

Photo by Sean

North of the I-10 East, past the sign that reads "Desert Cities," we were holed up in our tiny Western-themed bungalow called "The Cowboy Hideout." Above my bed, a guitar was mounted, which lit up from its soundhole. The sheets were covered in horses. Our Moclips Beach House could've slept 20, but we maxed out at a comfortable 10 on Saturday night. Both places featured warm meals and good friends, old and new.

Beach House: There was a hot tub. We ran from the house in our bathing suits, bracing ourselves against the cold, knit hats on heads, and jumped.

Joshua Tree: We gathered around our fire pit and Dicky read a Donald Barthelme story aloud. After he'd finished, he said, "We should burn it." It seemed like an appropriate sacrifice, but as the story blackened and shriveled in the fire, he said, "I wish we hadn't done that."

On the beach in Moclips, we found a dead seal defrosting in the sunshine. We weren't sure if it was a rock or an animal until we saw its gleaming teeth. It sunbathed on a pile of snow, the corpse green and red and stinking. Sean took a picture.

Joshua Tree: We listened to a country & western records at first. The "Cowboy Hideout" came with vinyl and a turntable. Later, we had an inspired, effusive Morrissey singalong: You had to sneak into my room / Just to read my diary / It was just to see, just to see / All the things you knew I'd written about you.

It was a lullaby. Not long after, we paired off, curled up and fell asleep.

Beach House: We listened to Beach House. Later, we danced on the kitchen table to something else. Sean told me this story: "I have a friend who, whenever she starts to feel depressed, reminds herself that she has a great ass. Think about it."

I have been thinking about it. A great ass, like most things, is fleeting. Despite all of my running in the snow, someday my own great ass will abandon me.

There was so much dancing in both places, but in Moclips I couldn't make it stop. There was something about the sensation of my feet sliding across that slick, hardwood floor. I was floating. To dance across it was an impulse beyond control. Walking was no longer an option -- I only danced from room to room. Our last night there, while my friends played in the hot tub, I stayed inside the dining room and danced alone. Amy's boyfriend, Ben, was my unwilling audience, sitting at the table, hunched over his laptop. Occasionally he glanced up at me, flailing across the room, and shook his head. I danced until I was so sweaty that I had to throw myself into the hot tub to cool down.

My favorite writer, Lorrie Moore, said it better than I ever could:

"I tell them dance begins when a moment of hurt combines with a moment of boredom. I tell them it's the body reaching, bringing air to itself. I tell them it's the heart's triumph, the victory speech of the feet, the refinement of animal lunge and flight, the purest metaphor of tribe and self. It's life flipping death the bird.

I make this stuff up."