Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Cuchi-cuchi ...

My friend Lil Latrell invited me to go on a cruise for five days in June. Before we were even off the phone I had us both in sarongs tucked in between an elderly couple from Omaha, part of a record-setting conga line. The umbrellas from our drinks behind our ears.

Two stops in the Bahamas, Key West, something billed as a "Fun Day at Sea."

I tried to remember where I stood on a full head of braids. Tacky or necessary given the circumstances?

I'm not really a cruise person, which was what made it even better. We would completely off-road from my wish list of life experiences. She won't be coming here this summer for her annual trip, so it would be a good way to still hang out.

Fun fact: Given the opportunity I would not snorkel. I might swim with dolphins. I'd definitely ride a jet ski.

I'd have to brush up on "Love Boat" so I'd have a whole arsenal of Dr. Stubing jokes.

Less than 24 hours later I realized I couldn't leave the continental United States on those particular days.  I had to say no to life. Bummed.

Anyway. Here is what I made, watched, got stuck in my brain and read this past week.


Red Lentil Quinoa Soup: I had no idea that you could mix lentils and quinoa. The world has just opened up to me. This mushy soup -- think oatmeal -- is a mix of lentils, quinoa, tomatoes and coconut milk. Apply salt lick. This was a nice comfort food.

Potato and Cauliflower Burritos: Oh, look. Another way to make burritos! This time we blend fire-roasted tomatoes, garlic and a chipotle pepper and then stew it up with an onion and a potato and mix with cooked brown rice. Slap the mess into a tortilla, sprinkle with an appropriate flavor of Daija cheese.

Creamy Curry Macaroni Salad: Oh! It's like a picnic, but with Nayonaise. I like this cold pasta salad with fresh red pepper and peas and hints of curry. Enjoy with a garden burger and a YouTube documentary about a serial rapist from Tokyo!

Dawson's Creek - The Complete First Season: Why yes. I did spend Memorial Day Weekend watching upward of 20 episodes of "Dawson's Creek." So what if you had a picnic. I hate outside.

Has anyone ever noticed how much Mrs. Leery looks like Charo?
Mrs. Leery says: "Mitch, quit working your glamour muscles. I have to tell you something. I'm banging my co-anchor!"

Charo says: "Cuchi-cuchi!" 

Last Saturday I caught part of an episode of "RadioLab" on public radio and the topic was loops, which included a story about this sketch comedy bit that includes Kristen Schall. Days later, this is still stuck in my head. In order to exorcise it, I have to share it. Otherwise I'll end up waking up for the rest of my life with my first thoughts being "KRISTEN SCHALL IS A HORSE" said in a distorted and cracked voice.

For you, my loves. Enjoy. Pass it on.

While I'm all hopped up on this true crime book about the murder of a British girl who moved to Tokyo to make money as a hostess in a bar and then was murdered by this crazed psychopath I found this 45 minute documentary about the case on YouTube -- which we can stream on TV through TiVo. It's a bit of a spoiler, since I didn't know how it all ends. Totally fascinating documentary about this awful awful case.

Spaniel Rage by Vanessa Davis: This is a collection of drawings as journal entries finished (and not) between 2003-04. It's like blogging. But on paper. With a real-live pencil. I totally dig Vanessa Davis (I also read "Make me a Woman." This one preceded it and is a fun stroll through a year of: 1. Wondering if her roommate is wearing her underwear; 2. Dance parties; 3. Temper tantrums; 4. Boys.

I totally liked it. You can read my review here.

The Submission: A Novel by Amy Waldman: A jury works to blindly choose a 9/11 memorial from a bunch of submissions. It selects an enclosed garden complete with canals only to find it was created by an American born, non-practicing Muslim. Shit storm follows.

The perspectives in this book and the chain of events is very thorough and realistic.

Full review will be here.

Sunday, May 27, 2012

'He's like a stripper cop' ...

When I wake up Chuck is propped on his elbows reading on his phone. I touch his leg with my foot and think about the new Nook with an optional reading light and whether I should buy one, or if that was a stupid idea because I'm really enjoying my relationship with my Kindle.

"Be careful out there today," Chuck says, rolling over. "Lots of weirdos. I was at the gas station and a guy dressed in full VFW-wear was buying a single can of Pepsi. He went through like 5 credit cards and none of them worked. Finally he wrote a check.

"Then a guy jumped out in front of my car and pretended like I was going to hit him. Then he just walked back up on the sidewalk."

Ten minutes later, coffee and Facebook, one of my friends complains that a guy in front of him in line at the grocery store wrote a check for butter and held up a long line. He says he almost just bought it for the guy.

When Chuck said VFW-wear I pictured a man in a softball uniform, but I bet he meant some sort of military costume. I always have to play "Which is more likely" in situations like this. It is Memorial Day weekend.

The theme of today is "Checks." Which reminds me: I need to write a check for our half of the CSA haul we will be splitting with my friend The Dude this summer.

Diner breakfast with a true crime novel. Except the joint is closing and someone is spraying 409 all over the floor and trying to swab under my feet and why am I feeling guilty for eating a Taco Omelet while they're washing dishes. I mean, I'm giving them $10 for this experience.

In equally disappointed news: The library is now closed on Saturdays through the summer which totally changes my Saturday schedule.

I'm buying a dress and as the clerk folds it into tissue paper she asks me if I've read "50 Shades of Grey." I make a face, then quickly try to shift it into something less snobby like a yawn. But she saw the original sneer.

"YOU DIDN'T LIKE IT?!" she asks.

And listen. I can give you a lot of reasons why Book One is crap, but I can't give you a lot of reasons why Book One is crap while finishing a sales transaction. She doesn't care about the many, many references to an "inner goddess." I just mutter something about reading the first one, but not being interested in reading more than that.

"My mom and I are reading it," she tells me.
"Why is everyone reading this book with their MOM?" I ask her.

It's another curious element to the popularity of this series. "I mean it really turned me on, mom, you know? You should incorporate some of it into your lovemaking with Dad."  

"You have to read the second book," she says as I leave the store.

I got ma'am-ed at the mall. It happened right after a woman rammed her purse into my kidney, adding injury to insult. She was way more ma'am-y than me. She had a teenaged daughter who couldn't articulate. That's ma'am-y. I was wearing a hoodie. Not ma'am-y.

Back in my home territory of Barnes & Noble one of my favorite booksellers says: "I haven't seen you in a long time!" And I think I'm being hilarious when I say: "Oh, yeah. I got a Kindle!"

"Why don't you just punch me in the face?" he asks.
I feel like a total dick.

A few weeks ago I realized that the employees of my new preferred pizza delivery spot had our order down pat: 14 inch pan pizza with pepperoni and black olives. Unfortunately, when I call and say "I'll take the ushz," the guy on the phone has no idea what I'm talking about. I clear my through, pretend this never happened. "14 inch pan pizza with pepperoni and black olives," I say.

Thanks to the power of Jodi's birthday mojo, Netflix is streaming "Dawson's Creek." I'd caught two episodes before bed on Friday night and cried like a mofo through junior prom and Joey's big decision at the end of Season 3.

I double back to Season One with plans to knock out a few episodes before Chuck wakes. But then Chuck wakes and it turns out he's into this.

In my first viewing of "Dawson's Creek" about a decade ago I seemed to have missed a few things:
Dawson's enlarged pupils and crazed school-shooter look.
Ms. Jacobs as a sexual predator. Certainly Pacey is not her first Mrs. Robinson moment.
The size of Dawson's head.
How things that happen in one episode don't necessarily carry over into the next episode. Like, how many times does Joey have to say that she is in love with Dawson before it takes?
This show should be called "Joey's Creek."

Monday, May 21, 2012

Fish. Raw Fish. ...

Here is the last of all the stuff consumed mouth-ly and brain-ly in the past (I think three) weeks.


Vegan Spanish Noodle Paella: Oh, the colors. I'm a sucker for pretty, colorful foods and an excuse to use artichokes.

Chuck (to Orin, who has his nose millimeters from Chuck's mouth after the latter has eaten sushi): You like what you smell? It's fish. Raw. Fish.

Game of Thrones: The Complete First Season: I'm in. I'm totally in. I, Christa L. Pista, vow to never again say the phrase "I'm not into period pieces" because this is no longer true and maybe it never was. Turns out I'm cool with people wearing tights or armor or whatever. The gist: Kings, war, wolves, lots of naked and severed heads. Everyone always dies. Super cool female characters doing interesting things with swords and fires. I believe the hype!

The Beach: Oh lord. Is there anything worse than the freakishly long and lean femurs of a teenaged Leonardo Dicaprio? The best thing to happen to that kid is the Baldwin thing he's going through right now. Anyway, from a writing perspective, I love what's happening here with this movie. A bunch of off-the-beaten-path tourists landing in this secluded space and it's all fun and games until they have to make some hard decisions. Like: What to do to the guy with gangrene. How to combat the scheming Tilda Swinton and her blackmailing vagina of doom. From an execution perspective, blerg. Try harder next time, everyone.

Freaky Friday: This Lindsay Lohan-Jamie Lee Curtis clusterfuck is a warm wet washcloth on your hangover!

SWEET HOME ALABAMA: [See also: Freaky Friday]

Withnail and I: Two down-and-out dudes living in squalor finagle a stay at a rich uncle's vacation home, but this means one of them might end up diddling the rich uncle.

El Bulli: Cooking in Progress: This documentary about Ferran Adria's restaurant ElBulli is both so interesting and so not. It follows the chef's from the off-season in the test kitchen to the constantly evolving six-month restaurant for the Michelin three-star eatery in Spain. Much of it is hard to follow as the staff vacuum seals ingredients to make broths, photographs foods and then sets it in front of Adria, whose face rarely reveals how he feels about what he is eating -- but sometimes reveals crumbs from what he has just had. It's also a little terrifying, imagining the cutting feeling of having the opportunity to invent dishes for him and then have him simply say something like "It's not good. Don't give me anything that isn't good."

In the year chronicled, the theme becomes water. There are ice chips served in a vinaigrette and a cocktail of water and oil and refreshing dishes topped with ice in a sort of creme brule way. And that makes this seem a little like a satire. Like, crazed perfectionist chef creates supremely clever dish: ICE WATER. (Cut to him testing it and staring intently into space, then nodding).

The Cabin in the Woods: This is such a great sci/fi twist on the classic horror story. Five friends stay at a cabin in the woods and are attacked by murderous dark creatures. But something is a little off and it's the Shaggy character who senses that this isn't just a night of torture.

Jennie Gerhardt by Theodore Drieser: When times are tough for the Gerhardt family, Jennie and her mother take a job cleaning a fancy schmancy hotel where the lovely young girl comes in contact with a senator who goes nutso futso for her. Through a complicated system of trades, Jennie ends up sleeping with him, getting pregnant, thus ruining her prospects for any sort of conventional future. Luckily, she meets a rich man who doesn't want a conventional future.

Full review here.

The Vanishers: A  Novel by Heidi Julavits: A young woman with paranormal powers is seemingly under psychic attack by the powerful psychic instructor at her former school who resents the woman's gifts. Lots of eczema, stays at hidden spas and Scooby Doo-style detective work.

Full review here.

Are You My Mother?: A Comic Drama by Alison Bechdel: Bechdel follows up the best graphic novel in the world by turning the pencil on her mother this time and the result is a real snooze fest.

Full review is here.

Goodnight, Irene: The Collected Stories of Irene Van de Kamp by Carol Lay: Irene is orphaned when her parents are attacked by baboons during a safari. She's raised by a tribe and eagerly goes through its coming-of-age ritual, which includes face reshaping. Unfortunately, the men of the tribe still find her white skin to be unlucky and no one will marry her. She returns to society to find out that she is the richest woman in the world. But can she find love with that face.

This comic book series is so freaking fun and hokey and fantastic. Full review will be here.

Charlotte Au Chocolat: Memories of a Restaurant Girlhood by Charlotte Silver: Charlotte grows up hanging out at the restaurant owned by her mother in Harvard Square, meeting the quirky cast of employees and sleeping beneath the bar. This memoir is heavy on pretty images, light on feeling.

Full review will be here.

Brideshead Revisited: The Sacred and Profane Memories of Captain Charles Ryder (Penguin Essentials) by Evelyn Waugh: Well. It certainly has been a year that has turned my all-time faves list topsy turvey. We'll now be welcoming "Brideshead Revisited" to one of the top spots.

Full review will be here after I write it.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Free falling ...

On days that don't require an alarm clock I like to play "Guess the time" using a mix of outside light, depth of Chuck's sleep and whether I feel rested. Two o'clock, I mumble, patting the side of the bed for my phone. Chuck is sprawled next to me. He sleeps in a position that looks like he is in a free fall from a skyscraper. He looks at least a foot taller when he sleeps. His feet dangle over the edge of the bed, his arms in a Superman spread. Once again, I squash the urge to take a photo of him like this.

Anyway, I'm wrong. It's only 1 p.m. I've just won an extra hour on a Saturday.


You fools, I think of my fellow Duluthians, pulling a copy of Amelia Grey's "Threats" off the new release shelf at the library. Sometimes I'm stunned by the books that are available, ignored by the public. To my way of thinking, this library should be a picked-over mess empty of everything but Mary Higgins Clark titles and biographies of former presidents. But somehow gems escape the public eye.

First I consider myself a book connoisseur.
Then I realize it's more like I'm a connoisseur of my own interests.

I check out five new releases that my reading peers didn't know enough to know about. Suckers.


Goodwill is an amazing concept. Fill four grocery bags with clothes that no longer interest me, though one piece has sentimental value. A short-short denim skirt worn on an early date with Chuck. He put his hand on my leg while I was driving and said, joking: "My God! You're a whore!"

Drop bags into a bin outside of Goodwill. Now I have four bags less of stuff. I could get into this. I wonder if they take shitty books. I should deconstruct the tower of former hobbies in the basement storage area.


I've work myself up into a fever of longing for an everything bagel with jalapeno cheddar cream cheese from Big Apple Bagels. On my way over the bridge to Superior I see that the lane back to Duluth is filled with abandoned construction vehicles and a porta-potty. The barrier between the bridge and a terrifying plunge off the side and into Lake Superior is gone. My legs go weak imagining the feeling of tires dangling over the edge and the inner negotiation with balance. Taking into consideration wind speed and the weight of things stashed in the trunk.

Thankfully that lane is closed so I won't have to face that threat.
Unfortunately, so is Big Apple Bagels.
Bixby's Bagels, nowhere near any place I'm going, makes a poor substitute on this day. Instead of toasting my bagel, they seemingly just dehydrated it.


Book reading, kitchen cleaning, review writing.


Chuck and I eat a quick dinner at India Palace. This place always reminds me of my first years in Duluth. In my late 20s, early 30s, I would take myself on a date here. Sit at a two-top table with a book, order Matar Paneer, Garlic Nan, Chai Tea and maybe finish it off with a Mango Lassi or some dessert. This is where I decided "Boys? Pfft. It's super fun to hang out with myself."

I haven't been here in years, but my favorite meal is still so fantastic.


"Cabin in the Woods" at Zinema 2, "Game of Thrones" marathon at home. Desperate search for my favorite ring, which has gone missing in a house where the cats sometimes play soccer with small shiny objects. I search everywhere and feel sick.

I think this ring might be one possession I really hate losing. It's so weird the way, when you lose something, you can actually imagine yourself putting it in certain places.

"Ah, yes. I set it on the window sill in the bathroom."
"Hm. I distinctly recall slipping it into the front pocket of my jeans."
"Oh, yes. I dropped it into my makeup bag."

Although none of those things really happened.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Vacation: For roller skating ...

Watts Towers has been on my Los Angeles to-do list since I first realized I wanted to always vacation here and started making Los Angeles to-do lists. Usually our transportation is a clever and speedy mix of subway, bus and footwear that laces. That's cool because we can both make a whole day out of a ceremonial trip to In-N-Out Burger. But this trip was NOW! WITH MORE CAR! so the detour to Watts Towers became possible.

This is a series of cone-shaped structures with a jungle gym-y base that started in the 1920s by an Italian immigrant, a construction worker who repurposed found items to create what would become a piece of public art owned by the city, but first a controversial mass that pissed off neighbors, frustrated the builder, and was threatened with destruction.

It really is something to see. They weren't open to tours on the day we visited, but you can still check out a lot of it including the mosaics and the base of the structures which include the green rounded bottoms of beer bottles and broken plates and colorful tiles. I like that the man who built it was a construction worker, not an artist, and just felt compelled to make it. Though his relationship with it soured.

Fun(ish) fact: This is the second of nine pieces of folk art listed in the National Register of Historic Places that I have seen. (The other is Mystery Castle in Phoenix).

From there we made a quick dash to El Segunda to hit a quiet beach with an industrial view. Scenes from "CSI: Miami" are filmed in the area. I love standing in the Pacific Ocean, which is surprising because I live on my own large mass of water and never stand in it. Lake Superior gives your ankles brain freeze and I'm a pussy.

Then to Venice Beach, my personal Disneyland of chaos, where men in neon scrubs tell you "The Doctor is In" and people in full body beach lube work out in an open air gym and you can almost talk yourself into buying the tube top, shorts and matching knee high socks in Rastafarian colors. ("For roller skating," Chuck encourages).

"How long could you live in one of those apartments before you went crazy?" Chuck asked of the little apartments on the boardwalk.
"I'd be done with it as soon as it became normal," I said.

We ended up in our first Los Angeles traffic jam. Obama was partying at Clooney's place and roads were closed and traffic was redirected and you know.

That night we ate Philly Cheesesteaks so juicy the foil-wrapped foot longs busted out the end of the bag and we watched "Withnail & I," a British cult classic from the 1980s that made me want to dip my body in scalding hot water. Funny, though.

I can't say the word arboretum, which is why someone else will have to provide the audio of this post. We went to the Los Angeles County Arboretum to look at the trees and birds and flowers and peacocks and outdoor things. Scenes from "Fantasy Island" were filmed here. I was mostly into the chorisa speciosa, with its coconut-sized pods filled with seeds and this loose cotton-y substance.

Before we left for vacation our duvet sprung a leak and the bedroom floor has been covered in white fur. It looks exactly like the mess left by this South American tree.

I was wander-and-look'ed out, so I snagged a park bench in the shade and cranked through seven percent of "Brideshead Revisited." Two non-English speaking tourists explained that I needed to come look near the snack shack, quickly, using the universal gesture for THE PEACOCK FANNED ITS TAIL!

I concede that none of this makes up for seeing the spot where Tattoo stood to watch for "The Plane! The Plane!"  

And then: Fiery balls of awesome. Cath, who really knows her shit when it comes to good eats, had read about a Chinese restaurant she wanted to try so we wound our way through unfamiliar Monteray Park looking for it. Tons of restaurants in this neighborhood are Chinese restaurants -- the city has the largest concentration of Chinese Americans in the country -- and finally we found it tucked, nondescript, in between a Chinese restaurant and a hardware store. 

We were the only customers and had to rely on 8x10 portraits of the dishes on the wall so we could point and grunt our orders.  Then, whammo, the table was filled with so much food, almost all of them starring more hot peppers than any human colon could possibly withstand. 

Mine, Fried Chicken with Peppers, was the hottest food I've ever tasted in my life -- including the homemade chili debacle of the late 2000s that knocked me into the fetal position in the middle of a fateful night, Chuck's trigger finger dangling over 911, thinking this evacuation might require medical assistance. 

This one made my face puff, splotch red and my eyes filled with water. But I couldn't. Stop. Eating. It. Usually spice knocks the flavor out of a food, but this just didn't for some magical reason. It was just good. Inexplicably good. 

"Beer?" I croaked at the waitress. 
"No beer," she said. 

Cath and K dropped us off in Hollywood, right in the middle of mosh pit of rabid tourists and right where I wanted to be. I also like this chaos, people seeing their first adult male dressed as a superhero, someone is always blasting Michael Jackson. A kid sprawled with his luggage around him eating generic cereal from the box. People jamming pedestrian traffic to get a photo of someone's star on the Walk of Fame. 

"It's not so much that they take a picture of the star," Chuck said. "It's just that the star is always someone embarrassing." 

Meanwhile someone loses her mind over, like, Liza Minelli and Chuck refuses to crouch next to Lionel Richie. Men with video cameras take advantage of a green light to film a man crossing the street, slow and cool-like, some sort of low-rent music video or maybe the scene before the scene in a short film. It's all so high-decibel and fevered for no real reason. You're not going to see a celebrity. But if you want to see someone in drag pretending to be a celebrity ... well. 

We wander to the Frolic Room, a tiny bar that must have some significance, and have two quick drinks. Mostly I just like the mural. 

We decided to go out that night to a bar in Cath's neighborhood. A small stop with a long line for karaoke. We found stools tucked at the back of the bar and one of Cath's friends and proceeded to drink beer after beer, I sang, we drank more beer and eventually the bar closed and we were still inside. Someone started cleaning. Still we sat. Later Chuck would say "I just remember having to unlock the door to get out of the bar." 

We bumbled three blocks home, raided Cath's fridge, pairing gourmet crackers with an entire block of cheese, drinking water from coffee cups. 

I had social shame in the morning when I heard Cath wake up. Here we were, sprawled out on her floor with plans to sleep all day. We'd gotten wrecked at her neighborhood bar with her friends then we'd come home and eaten all her cheese. 

"We are the worst house guests ever," I thought before falling asleep again. 

We slept much, shoe shopped, ate a burger and chased it with super great milkshakes from a 50s diner. The rest of the crew watched a movie. I cozied into a nest in the corner. Still with the "Brideshead Revisited." 

"Chili?" the vendor asks me and I nod. I trust that he knows what he's doing and, hell, if he wants to sprinkle chili powder on the three fruit combo he's tossed into a baggie for me -- yes. And it's truly great. A mix of pineapple, watermelon and mango -- hot damn do I suddenly love mangos -- with a heavy dose of chili powder, some lime juice, maybe salt? It's so good. It's so sticky. It lasts the entire car ride to the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, where we are going to hit the massive flea market before skipping town. 

"How the fuck do you get out of this place?" a guy behind us asks right when we walk into the maze. "No, seriously." I hear him as I'm drooling over a pair of penny loafers that seem illuminated, glow-y, sample shoes, just what I'm looking for, a half-size too small. 

We all chuckle in that way that shows it is funny, and we expect to say the same thing at some point in the day. 

There is everything here. Everything. Jewelry with dead bugs trapped inside. A painting of a man drowning in a watermelon (which Cath bought). Roller skates, floppy hats, vintage clothing and new clothing and slightly soiled clothing. A man has homemade TV covers. Another man gets mad at a woman for opening her umbrella in front of his stand and blocking the view. 

"Are these men's or women's shoes?" I ask him. 
"Who cares?" he says. 

Cath and I put vintage sundresses on over our clothes and it feels like playing dress up in the basement. I'd love to come back and pick at things slowly and think more creatively about how I can use this $3 whatever. 

The part in my hair burns. So does everything but a diagonal line across my shoulder from my purse strap. And then there it is. The collective: How do we get the fuck out of this place. No, seriously.

Chrissie and QT pick us up from the airport. For this kind service, a lucky 5-year-old scored herself some candy cigarettes -- which she looks adorable pretending to smoke. I forgot to lock Chuck's car door and someone went through all of his stuff while we were gone. They left a pile of CDs on the driver's seat and glove box debris on the passenger side. Nothing, it seems, was taken. Not even that Material Issue CD I listened to incessantly that one summer in the 1990s. 

It was the friendliest of crimes. 

Monday, May 14, 2012

Vacation: The Saggy Lobe Holes Edition ...

My seat mate to the right has hair like Eddie Van Halen and is rock 'n' roll sloppy in faded jeans and a T-shirt. There are sunglasses and rings that have things dangling off them. His kicks are made of faux tiger fur and maybe it's overkill that there are tails twisted and jutting from the heels. Somewhere over Colorado he begins editing a music video starring himself. From the corner of my eye, I deduce this is hip-hop by the hand gestures. He's using vacation footage. His mom is a costar. Much of what I'm eaves-watching includes props that he currently has on his person: The sunglasses, a cell phone decorated with his signature American flag print.

I was close on almost everything I guessed about him -- I gave him a thorough Q&A when the plane landed -- except the genre of music. It's hippy-hop, or, happy hip-hop. Though I was surprised to find out he was from Bloomington.

On the bus from LAX to Union Station, we sat behind a woman reading a pamphlet entitled "Why I Must Have Sex with You." We ate Mexican food in Silver Lake and got swimmy on a single margarita.


We are repeat offenders at a vegan restaurant near Cath's apartment. They juice wicked combinations of foods found in nature and then a guy with finger-sized holes in the lobes of his ears, empty of gauges on this non-punky rocky morning, serves it. I have dense pancakes made with buckwheat and orange zest with my drink, which is zinging with ginger. The food here is great, the kind of breakfast you feel coursing through your body and giving you energy as opposed to, say, doubled over and moaning about stretched intestines and pores clogged with cheese. On the other hand, it's a little grimy. To touch the seat of the booth is to feel braille reminders of past customers all blissed out over a mound of quinoa and the absorbent nature of tofu.

A stray piece of leaf is baked into the lip of Chuck's water glass.

Cath's friend K is on driving duty for the week. He's super schooled in traffic laws and knows the city and its alternate routes. He prefers constant motion to sitting bumper to bumper. He performs near pedestrian-grazing antics, is quick-draw on the horn, and talks to other cars.

"Alright, gangsters," he says. "Let's see what we got here."

Sometimes I watch out the window in awe; Sometimes I plug face first into my phone when zipping along at 60 miles per hour through a residential area starts to feel dangerous. But he's always in control, knows what he's doing. He's got a background in taxi driving and the conversational cues that come from toting strangers. He tells us about landmarks as we zip past, Gene Autry's museum a blur out the back window as he tells us about what is inside.

We go to the Getty Museum, which has a Herb Ritts exhibit. The late photographer made portraits of the stars, much of it commercial work. Short-haired Madonna with her head thrown back, the image used on the cover of her album "True Blue," for instance. His subjects, sometimes male ballet dancers, pose in a sculpture-y way. This is my favorite. He also created the video for Chris Isaac's "Wicked Game."

Later, standing on a scenic overlook at the Getty, a museum-goer trundles up to the railing and surveys the cacti garden.

"It's so sexual," he says.

The rest of the museum is museum-y and Chuck and I spend a good part of it playing "Haunted or Not." We claim to be able to see the unsettled spirits tucked into the drawers of ancient dressers, rugs and beds.

We take Mulholland Drive back to Cath's neighborhood, whipping along the curves and ogling big houses with amazing vistas. Falafel at an Armenian restaurant that loads the table with a tray of starters that includes pickled beets, olives, carrots, cheese and pita.

We watch British comedy from the 1960s starring a baby-faced Dudley Moore.


Comic book store, a little shopping. I'm in the fitting room when Chuck sees Brenda from "Six Feet Under" wander into the store, talk to the shop owner, act like a normal person instead of "Charlotte Light and Dark." He freaks appropriately, like you would expect of a person who dabbles in gawking. This trumps seeing Craig, one of the secondary characters from "LA Ink," who we actually seem to see every time we are in Los Angeles.

Back in Minnesota, Chrissie claims Craig is not a celebrity sighting and that Brenda is.
"I don't want to quibble," I tell her. "But Craig pulled Kat Von D's greatest tattoo artist, which is kind of like winning a Golden Globe."

We wander around the museums at Forest Lawn cemetery, where a few famous people are buried, though they won't tell you where. Off to the Glendale mall. 

The Jersey Shore musical is at a small cool theater near McArthur Park. The lobby smells like bodies. It's a plot-light, song-heavy production -- more of a revue than a musical. The character playing The Situation has mastered the eyebrow raises and ab-revealing shirt tugs. Even his walk is right. The character who plays Angelina and Deena is the funniest. There is a running duet between Ronnie and Sammi and the greek choir is referred to as "random sluts." There is a lot of fodder for a Jersey Shore musical, and they certainly missed a lot of ripe opportunities. All in all: Fun. Funny-ish. Most importantly, short. 

"I found it a little trite," a guy gave his verbal review in the lobby. 
Which makes me think he missed the point. 

Up Next: Watts Towers and the worst house guests ever.

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Yes ...

Saturday I hit the apex of exhaustion. Had an awkward exchange with the mailman when I met him on the front porch in the morning and he helped me pick up the newspaper that was scattered all over the yard.

"Little chilly for bare feet," he said to me, never mentioning my polka dot robe or how my hair looked like a Halloween helmet. I think I grunted. I went back to bed for six more hours. When I woke, Chuck was knee-deep in "Freaky Friday," the Lohan vehicle.

"I've already watched 'The Matrix' and 'Jurassic Park,'" he said. And when he conceded to sit through "Sweet Home Alabama," I knew we had reached a certain state of zen. "There are some holes in this movie," was his only critique.

The commercials were making me woozy. To watch the Oxygen Network is to be made aware of the myriad of ways that a woman's body can ache and ooze and itch. The message: The vagina is a complicated organ. Alternately, there are commercials for food. A Sonic Burger. Baskin Robbins' ice cream. These tiny cookies in interesting shapes.

"Mmmm," I said.
That one turned out to be dog food.
Chuck ordered us a pizza.

He was out cold by the time we started our second episode of "The Killing." I held a mirror under his nose, then stole back out into the Homegrown festivities meeting JCrew and Sea Dawg for a bit of performance art at RT Quinlan's. Local artist rubs raw meat on his face, fires up the power saw, bangs on metal garbage can while behind him the band plays dance-able industrial music and a video plays commercials for Hormel chili. My mouth hung open the whole time. Even JCrew gets into it. "I love the macabre," she said.

"Do you like this?" A guy asked me.
"Yes," I said.
"It's weird," he said. "I'm a businessman. This is not for me."
"Just watch it. You won't see anything like it," I tell him.

Closed out the night at a house party with hundreds of my closest friends and, oddly, a taco bar. Sea Dawg was a hard sell. "Sometimes you have to say Yes to life," I told him. I drank a Coke.

"How fast do you think you could make a taco?" Cork asked.
"Three minutes," I said.
"I don't believe that for a second," he said.
"Oh yeah?" I asked. "If only I could make one for you and prove it!"

Some stranger dumped a bunch of chicken guts on the floor and just left it. I stood against a wall for awhile and decided I'd said enough Yes to life for the night. I dragged my zombie limbs home around 3:45 a.m. and found Chuck still sleeping, but at least he had moved to the bed.

Today I was at the bookstore and it was weird to not say to the bookseller: "Happy Homegrown."

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Neglected ...

Happy Homegrown Music Festival week-and-a-day, friends. It's Duluth's hipster holiday and everything not related to it is being neglected:

1. My Google Reader is bulging with unread items
2. I can only play Words with Friends and Draw Something once a day
3. Our cats are seeking affection from the coffee pot
4. I eat things handed to me by someone who is legally obligated to wear a hair net
5. My finger nails look like I ran them through a garbage disposal
6. My right arm is throbbing and I haven't had time to fill my doctor's prescription, (which is stretching and weightlifting)
7. I'm out of costumes to wear
8. My small-talk well runneth dry

In other news, I've been asked for drugs once.
I've had a ridiculous conversation with a girl who told me "The world needs to hear what I have to say." "Get a blog," I told her. "Oh no. I can't blog," she said.
My arm is covered in wristbands.
I keep seeing a girl who looks like Peggy Olson from "Mad Men."
Chuck is on vacation so I get to stand next to him in crowds.