Saturday, June 30, 2007

media update: June + your RDA of random crap

I have begun the process of moving my shit over to the new place. On Thursday evening, I took over several boxes and the awesome picture I bought to hang over my (as yet to be purchased) couch. I probably could have fit even more crap into my car, but consider the process:

  • I had to carry each box down the stairs of the Merry Mansion, and then go down another flight of stairs to reach the parking lot.
  • I had to play packing Tetris to make sure I could get as much as possible into my backseat and still have an unobstructed view out the rear window.
  • I had to carry each box up yet another flight of stairs at Casa C.

Multiply by seven and you can see why I lost five pounds the last time we moved. (You can also see why I wanted a full month to do it!) And remember all the natural light I was raving about in my new place? Not so much of a good thing when you don't have the electricity on yet and you're already sweating like a pretty boy in prison. Christ, you could do bikram yoga in there! The intensive cleaning, unpacking, and organizing shall have to wait until Edison can get their asses out there and I can be productive in air conditioned comfort.

Oh, and I also met one of my new neighbors. I was drenched with sweat and, despite a liberal spritzing of Keiko Mecheri Loukhoum, probably smelled bad enough to knock a buzzard off a shitwagon. She was a pretty little thing with 18-mile long legs and a perky ponytail. We were making small talk and she mentioned that she's an "art model".

Yeah, I felt a bit like Shrek.

It's weird how many of my media updates seem to contain a theme. Occasionally this is on purpose---for example, last year I went through a phase where I read everything I could find on competitive eating---but usually it's not. This month's unintentional theme is adoption.

Asterisks denote something I particularly enjoyed or found especially worthy of my time; your mileage may vary.


1. Losing It by Lindsay Faith Rech: Color me critical, but I found it really hard to enjoy a book where the main character was disappointed to find out she didn't have cancer. That's the main reason, but not the only reason, why this book about a lonely overweight woman sucked big sweaty German shepherd balls. I was tempted to throw it in the dumpster when I was finished, but I put it in the library's donation bin instead so that somebody else can "enjoy" it.

2. The Book of Ruth* by Jane Hamilton: A woman tries to take what pleasure she can out of life, but when she gets married, her bitter mother makes things far worse than she could have imagined. As the book went along, I started getting a feeling of impending doom, but what happened literally felt like someone had punched me in the emotional breadbasket. Disturbing, but beautifully written.

3. Rules for Saying Goodbye by Katherine Taylor: The narrator---also named Katherine Taylor in a conceit I found too twee---deals with life and love in New York City, and eventually winds up in Rome, engaged to a man who has nightmares about their wedding. Chick lit for women with degrees.

4. Girls in Trouble by Caroline Leavitt: A 16-year-old girl gives up her baby in an open adoption, but after the baby is born, the adoptive parents start shutting her out of their lives. It reminded me of Jodi Picoult's books, but without an annoying twist at the end.

5. Blaze by Richard Bachman: As you may know, "Richard Bachman" is actually an early pen name of Stephen King's, and this is technically the first book Stephen King ever wrote. His assistant recently found a rough draft, so King polished it up and it was just published, with all proceeds going to charity. It's not scary in the least; rather, it's about Blaze, an enormous, mentally challenged ex-con who kidnaps a baby for ransom and finds himself growing attached to the child. A surprisingly poignant book.

6. The Good Guy by Dean Koontz: There is some seriously florid writing in this book, to wit: "Under the night-light of the sentinel moon, ruffled hems of surf and a decorative stitching that fringed the incoming waves suggested billows of fancy bedding under which the sea turned restlessly in sleep." Jesus. The occasional craptacular sentence aside, this isn't bad. It's about a man who is mistaken for a hired killer, and when he tries to warn and protect the potential victim, complications ensue.

7. A Thousand Splendid Suns* by Khaled Hosseini: This novel covers the last thirty years in Afghanistan, and starts out focusing on Mariam, the illegitimate daughter of a maid. Mariam is forced into an arranged marriage with an abusive man who eventually takes a beautiful teenage girl as his second wife. The two women start out at odds with each other, but eventually they form a friendship that is put to the test. With this heartbreaking, beautifully written novel, Hosseini proves that The Kite Runner was no fluke. Highly recommended, and my favorite novel of 2007 so far.

8. Valley of the Dolls by Jacqueline Susann: Can you believe I'd never read this before now? By today's standards, it's pretty tame, but I can imagine it was rather shocking for its time, what with its oral sex scenes, lesbian affairs, and rampant drug use. Campy, trashy fun.

9. The Big Girls by Susanna Moore: This novel is done in alternating voices---a convicted child killer, her psychiatrist, a corrections officer, and a starlet---which gets really confusing at times. Not as good as I was expecting.


1. Without A Map* by Meredith Hall: In 1965, when the author was sixteen years old, she became pregnant out of wedlock. Her mother refused to have her around and sent her to live with her father and stepmother, who wouldn't allow her to leave the house lest a neighbor see her. She gave the baby up for adoption, and spent the next several decades feeling unanchored, always searching for a place where she belonged. Profoundly moving.

2. Dishwasher by Pete Jordan: The author, a cheerfully unambitious guy, decided that he wanted to wash dishes professionally in all fifty states. It gets a little repetitive (literally "lather, rinse, repeat"), so my interest began waning halfway through, but it's not a bad read.

3. My Horizontal Life by Chelsea Handler: The author reminisces about her many one-night stands. Not as funny as I hoped it would be, but it has its moments, and I kind of have to admire someone who's willing to admit that she left a skid mark on someone else's sheets.

4. The Alphabet of Manliness* by Maddox: A gleefully crass compendium of all things manly, from beef jerky to farting. It's low-brow humor to be sure, but it gave me several hearty chuckles. The cover illustration, which shows a muscular jungle man punching a gorilla in the face, is the win as well. (And no, it's not supposed to be written by Angelina Jolie's kid; apparently this guy runs a website of some renown.)

5. Thank You and OK! by David Chadwick: A mostly interesting, occasionally dull account of the author's time spent in Japan, where he studied zen. (The title comes from an Engrish slogan on a book of matches at the monastery; he thought it was odd to see something like that in such a holy place.)

6. Committed* by Dan Mathews: An entertaining account of the author's rabble-rousing efforts on behalf of PETA. I used to be a member of PETA until their infamous ad campaign comparing carnivores to Jeffrey Dahmer; I don't think my taste for filet mignon with a nice bearnaise sauce is quite on a par with storing severed heads in my fridge, thank you very much. Still, I think their hearts are in the right place most of the time, and I applaud Dan Mathews for his tireless efforts on the behalf of animals.

7. The Mistress's Daughter by A.M. Homes: The author was adopted shortly after birth, and when she got older, she was contacted by her birth mother, who had become pregnant after an affair with an older married man. This memoir is about Homes' struggle to deal with her somewhat unhinged birth mother, her blase birth father, and how she learned to redefine family. Not as good as I was hoping, but Homes wrote one of my favorite books of all time (the Lolita-meets-Lecter masterpiece The End of Alice), so my expectations might have been too high. It's still a compelling read, aside from one section about genealogical research that I thought was pretty boring.

8. The Secret by Rhonda Byrne: This is the book that Oprah hyped by saying, although not in so many words, that reading it would make your every dream come true. Well, I read it cover to cover and I still don't have my goddamn diamond-studded monkeypony. I'll save you the trouble of buying or borrowing the book: basically, it's just telling you to think positive. I agree wholeheartedly that thinking positive is a good thing, but come on, is that really a radical new idea? Wasn't there a book called The Power of Positive Thinking published like a hundred years ago? I'm going to write a book called Arsenic Is Bad for You and reap the profits.

Oh, and here's my favorite quote from this book: "Food cannot cause you to put on weight, unless you think it can." O rly? So if I scarf down a plate of fettucini alfredo every single day, and follow it with a slab of almond biscotti cheesecake, it won't make me gain weight unless I THINK it will? What. The. Fuck. Ever.

9. Forever Lily by Beth Nonte Russell: The author went to China with her friend Alex, who was going to pick up the baby girl she'd adopted. When Alex actually received the baby, she changed her the author decided to take the baby instead. There's some reincarnation bullcrap and obviously fabricated/embellished dreams throughout the book, which bugged the ever lovin' crap out of me. A decidedly mediocre read.

10. Everything I Needed to Know About Being a Girl I Learned from Judy Blume*: A collection of essays from female authors about how Judy Blume's books affected them both personally and professionally. Like every other woman of my generation, I devoured her books when I was young, so I really enjoyed this book.

Side note: When I was about 10 years old, I wrote Judy Blume a letter asking her for advice on a number of topics ranging from my contentious relationship with my father to the boy I liked. Much to my surprise, she wrote a long letter back, and she was just as cool as I hoped she'd be.

11. A Long Way Gone by Ishmael Beah: The unnerving memoir of a young man who was forced to fight as a child soldier during Sierra Leone's civil war.


1. Swan* vol. 10 by Ariyoshi Kyoko
2. Buddha vol. 8 by Osamu Tezuka


1. The Illusionist: A magician tries to help the woman he loves escape the clutches of her evil fiance...who just happens to be the Crown Prince of Austria. Not bad, but for all your magician-themed movie needs, I'd recommend The Prestige over this one.

2. The Queen: A fictionalized account of how Queen Elizabeth II and Tony Blair butted heads over how the death of Princess Diana should be handled. Man, Helen Mirren totally deserved that Oscar. It wasn't just an astonishing makeup job, either; she nailed the Queen's sense of duty and tart wit.

3. Ratatouille*: When G and I had a chance to catch a sneak preview of the latest Pixar film, we jumped at it, especially when we found out that Brad Bird (The Incredibles) had written and directed it. It's about a Parisian rat who longs to be a chef, and he goes about making his dream come true in a most unusual fashion. It's a little too long, but it's really sweet, funny, and as you'd expect from Pixar, gorgeously animated.

4. Legend of Drunken Master: Jackie Chan plays a guy who fights much better when he's drunk. Lame plot, killer action.

5. Project A: Jackie Chan fights pirates! Once again, lame plot, killer action.

6. Volver: Penelope Cruz plays a woman whose life takes a turn for the weird when her mother returns from the dead. Don't judge Penelope by her subpar performances in movies such as Vanilla Sky; she's infinitely better when acting in her native language.

7. Blood Diamond: A fisherman, forced to search for diamonds by Sierra Leone's rebel army, finds a priceless stone and hides it. A smuggler hears about the diamond and offers to help the fisherman find his family if he leads him to the gem. Between this movie and non-fiction entry #11, I won't be adding Sierra Leone to my vacation list any time soon.

8. Little Children*: A suburban neighborhood is turned upside down by an affair between "The Prom King" and a woman who doesn't fit in with the other mothers at the playground. And when a convicted child molester moves in, things really go haywire. This movie is based on one of my favorite books of 2004, and they did it justice. I thought the narration was unnecessary, but the performances and direction more than made up for it.


1. "Won't Tell" by Babes in Toyland
2. "I Don't Want to Get Over You" by Magnetic Fields: This should be the number one song on everybody's "Wallowing in Heartbreak" mix.
3. "Corduroy" by Pearl Jam
4. "So You'd Like to Save the World" by Lloyd Cole
5. "9 Fingers on You" by Shudder to Think
6. "What's He Got?" by The Producers


Bento are Japanese box lunches that usually consist of rice, meat, vegetables, and dessert. You can buy them in any Japanese convenience store, and they’re usually pretty basic, but always fresh and delicious.

Now, if you’re a Japanese mother, you aren’t supposed to give your kid some plain old 7-11 bento! The quality of the bento you give your child is supposed to show how much you care. Well, all I can say is that the recipients of the following must be the most cherished kids in the freakin' world. Keep in mind that everything you see here, with the exception of obvious things like wrappers and toothpicks, is actually edible.

Oh, your kid’s not into baseball? How about a Neon Genesis Evangelion bento?

For your budding theater major, here's a bento featuring the bizarre Japanese TV personality known as Hard Gay:

But if you really, really, REALLY want your kid to be the envy of the class, why not give them an edible masterpiece like this?

It’s a damn good thing I’m not a Japanese mother; my kid would be lucky to get a peanut butter Uncrustable with a smiley face drawn on the wrapper.

Friday, June 29, 2007


There’s a great website called Found, where they post notes, lists, and other ephemera that people have found tucked inside library books, left on store shelves, or what have you. Today they had this picture up, and even though I’m having a truly shitty day, it managed to put a smile on my pouty puss.

Saturday, June 23, 2007

and on a lighter note...

Courtesy of the brilliant folks at Milkfat.

By the way, does anybody get the "Sa na sa!" reference? Googling turned up diddly.

While I have you all on the horn, so to speak, thanks for your kind e-mails. Most of all, 'nuff respect to my HSLM for getting me out of the house and taking me out for dinner and shopping. You guys are truly the win, and I wish you all a weekend full of orgasms and ice cream.

Speaking of that shopping trip, we went to Marshalls, where I found an assortment of anime-inspired household goods. Most of the items were unbelievably ugly, like a marginally talented junior high school student's attempts at drawing manga, but I found one item that I simply had to purchase immediately:

Yes, for the low low price of $4.28, I was able to purchase a creamer.

A creamer with a faux anime character on it.

A creamer with a faux anime character on it saying "Creamy!"

Man, my new kitchen is going to be MAD pimpin'.

Thursday, June 21, 2007


Ten years ago today, I lost my mother.

I don’t want to talk about her illness or her death; that ground has been covered before, and all this time later, it’s still just too fucking hard to deal with. Instead, I want to talk about HER.

Mom was born in Indiana to a former beauty queen and a mailman who received a Purple Heart in WWII for taking a leg full of shot while dragging two injured comrades to safety. She told me that, for the most part, her childhood and adolescence were happy, although her relationship with my grandmother wasn’t always the best. She was very close to her own grandmother, who got divorced in the twenties, moved in with a female friend---lesbian rumors ran rampant, but as far as I know, they were never proven---and opened her own successful beauty parlor. She had a terrific relationship with my great-aunt Sue; because they were only 12 years apart in age, they were more like sisters. Aunt Sue told me that my mom was really popular in high school. She went steady with a boy named Ed Watkins, played the drums, and worked as a carhop at the Penguin Point.

After graduation, Mom went to Indiana University, where she had to take an 8AM psychology class because the later classes were all filled up. Daddy-O was also in that class, and he told me that the first time he saw her walk into the room, all other women ceased to exist. He asked her out, and because he was in one of IU’s most notorious fraternities, she said no. But he kept asking her out, and on the fourth try, she turned to him and said, “If I go out with you once, will you stop bothering me?” He said, “If we go out and you don’t have a good time, I promise I will never bother you again.” Apparently she had a good time, even though he took her on a hay ride and kept jumping off the wagon to go pee in the bushes, because they were married less than a year later. My brother was born about a year after that, and I followed four years later.

Mom used to make us the coolest Halloween costumes from scratch. One year, she dressed R and me up as Snoopy and Woodstock and took us to a costume contest at the Muncie Mall. We won first place, and we went up to the stage to collect our gift certificates from celebrity judge Wolfman Jack, whose voice scared the crap out of me.

I inherited my love of reading from her, and she never vetoed any of my choices because she believed that the suppression of thoughts and ideas were far more dangerous than any words could ever be. This caused problems for her when I wandered into the living room of my grandparents’ condo, holding a copy of Sidney Sheldon’s Bloodline, and loudly asked, “Mom, what’s a French letter?” (It’s a condom, by the way.)

When my fourth grade class had Japan Week (which, incidentally, was the genesis of my Japan obsession, not anime), she made me a kimono to wear.

When a boy I had a crush on broke my heart, she went out and bought me a big stack of my favorite magazines and a cheesecake.

We used to go to a hairstylist named Sam who was obsessed with my thick hair, and she loved to play with it. Since she never did anything permanent, I didn’t mind too much. One afternoon, Sam decided to give us matching mother/daughter hairdos that made us look like toy poodles. When we left, we sat in the car howling with laughter, and just when we’d calm down, we’d look at each other and go off again. I think it was at least an hour before we calmed down enough to drive home.

We saw Silence of the Lambs together, and when the movie ended, it was dark outside. We grabbed each other’s hands and ran screaming to the car.

She absolutely loved kids; I’m still surprised she only had two. One day, I told her that I didn’t think I ever wanted kids, and I asked her how she would feel if she never had any grandchildren. She said, “Well, honey, I’d be sad, but I’d be utterly devastated if you or your brother ever had kids you didn’t want just to please me, or anyone else for that matter.”

Just about everybody loved my mom because she was usually so sweet and friendly, but God help you if you ever hurt someone she loved. I remember when she got a call from my high school guidance counselor telling her that he wanted to move me to a different English class because he didn’t think I was bright enough to pass. She calmly told him that she’d like to discuss the situation with him in person, and then she drove to school and asked the secretary to have me paged. When I arrived, we went into his office and she put her palms down on his desk, leaned forward, and said, “If you had told me that she was having trouble in a math class, I would have believed you. But an ENGLISH class? I don’t know if you have a problem with my daughter for whatever reason, or if you’ve got your wires crossed or what, but she’s staying where she is, and I bet you anything she’ll get an A. I’m going to the principal’s office and I’m having her assigned to another counselor because frankly I don’t think you know what you’re doing.”

After my brother went to college, Mom got a job at a day care center. One of the little boys loved to play with dolls and dress up in the princess costumes, and the head of the day care center held an employee meeting to see if anyone had any suggestions as to what should be done about it. Mom said that he should be allowed to play with whatever he wanted, and when someone said, “But he might turn out gay!”, Mom looked her right in the eye and said, “So?”

When M1 and I broke up, he sent back my personal items in a huge plastic trash barrel with a piece of plywood nailed shut over the top. As Mom and I pried the nails loose, she looked up at me and said, “Wow, he turned out to be kind of a dick, didn’t he?”

She went to Hot Topic to buy me a Misfits shirt for Christmas, and the smartass clerk said, “Oh, big Misfits fan, are you? What’s your favorite song?” He obviously didn’t expect an answer, but she said, “I kind of like ‘Where Eagles Dare’.”

She didn’t like all of my music---for example, she had an unbelievably violent reaction to They Might Be Giants, which I still don’t understand---but she tolerated most of it, and liked quite a bit of it. She had bad insomnia, and one night, she came out to the living room, where I was watching MTV. The video for “Closer” by Nine Inch Nails came on, and I was worried that she’d find it disturbing. But then they showed Trent Reznor blindfolded, bare-chested, and hanging from his wrists, singing “I wanna fuck you like an animal,” and she turned to me and said, “Is it wrong that I’m finding this somewhat arousing?”

Because of her illness, she was paralyzed from the waist down for about a year. One day, we were watching a TV show about disabilities, and someone used the phrase “handicapable”. Mom said, “If anyone ever uses that condescending phrase with me, I’m going to run over their foot with my wheelchair.”

There’s so much more…so many memories, so many things she did for me and for others, that I can’t even begin to list or remember them all. I hope I made her proud. I hope she knew how much I love her, and how so very fucking sorry I am for all the times I ever hurt her. I hope she knew that I didn’t mean it.

One last memory.

We were sprawled out on her bed one humid summer afternoon, reading. Mom handed me her magazine and said, “Look at this.”

There was a picture of a woman laying on her back on a plump white comforter, surrounded by kittens. She was holding one of them up in the air, laughing. Mom said, “Throw in an old-fashioned sugar cream pie and Elvis circa 1957, and that’s my idea of heaven right there.”

I hope that’s what she found.

I love you, Mom.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

me and JC

Longtime readers of this humble blog know that I have a serious thing for Irish author John Connolly. I first became acquainted with his work in the summer of 2001, when I found a copy of Dark Hollow at the library. I was hooked, and vowed to immediately read everything else he’d ever written…which wasn’t too hard, because at that point, he’d only published one other book.

At any rate, there’s a small independent bookstore not too far from the Merry Mansion, and whenever John is on tour, he stops by there to sign books. I’ve gone to see him three times, and I was always charmed by his easygoing manner, sense of humor, and that accent. Christ, it’s like a perfectly chilled shot of Bailey’s!


Er, where was I? Ah, yes. Anyway, since he had a new book out, I figured I’d check his webpage periodically to see if he was coming to town again. Sure enough, he was, and yesterday I gleefully tucked my copy of The Unquiet under my arm and sped off to the bookstore.

And as expected, he was just as engrossing and witty as ever. He talked about his inspiration for The Unquiet, went off on a couple of amusing tangents, and then took a few questions from the audience before sitting down to sign books.

When I got to the front of the line, John said, “Oh, hello! Good to see you again; I missed you last time.”

Now, I don’t know how on earth he manages to remember me each time. Maybe it’s because I gave him a CD the first time, or maybe he just has an incredible memory, but either way, it gives me a serious case of happy.

“Well, the last time you were in town, I was in the process of moving and it totally slipped my mind.”

He put down his pen and stared at me. “My goodness! I don’t know that I can forgive you for that.”

“Sorry,” I said sheepishly. “But I’m moving again, and I remembered THIS time!”

“All right, then, I suppose I’ll let it slide.” He signed my book and shook my hand, and I mustered up the courage to ask him for something I’d wanted for years.

“Um, if you wouldn’t mind too much, could I maybe get a picture with you?” I asked.

“Of course,” he said, standing up. I asked the guy behind me if he would take a picture of us, and I handed him my cell phone. John put his arm around my shoulders, and I was so flustered that I lost my footing and banged into him and almost sent him backwards into a freakin’ bookshelf.

“Whoa!” he said, righting himself.

“Oh my god, I’m so sorry!” I gasped.

Jesus, can you imagine the headlines? “Bestselling Author Suffers Traumatic Career-Ending Head Injury at Hands of Clumsy Fan”.

Anyway, the picture was taken and I thanked him profusely, and then I went out to my car and read what he’d written:

“To [C], Thanks for coming again…and for not forgetting this time! Big hugs, John Connolly”

He is, truly, the win.

(Muchos merci to my friend Susan for her assistance with blurring out my overly shiny, somewhat psychotic-looking mug)

EDIT: Oh my god, NOW look what she sent me!

Monday, June 18, 2007

forget it, Jake

Yesterday G and I went to Chinatown. We browsed in the souvenir stores, marveled at how quickly the air could turn from sweet to stinky, and admired the handprints of Chow Yun-Fat, the Hong Kong action legend.

We were also fortunate enough to catch a demonstration thrown by the Chinatown Tourism Committee. I didn’t get pictures of the musician, unicyclist, or 10-year-old contortionist (who’s sure to be the most popular girl in high school), but I did get a few pictures with my cell phone of the following acts:

This woman did a number of balancing acts, including this one in which she balanced three eggs on her nose while simultaneously using a hula hoop and swinging rings---in different directions, no less!---around her arms. Afterwards, she cracked the eggs into a clear glass bowl so we could see they were real, and not magnetized or something.

The final act was a group of martial artists trained in Shaolin-style martial arts, and they were freakin’ awesome.

They used spears, whips, and something that looked like enormous steel maracas. Then one of them stood in the center of the square and the announcer said, “The following demonstration is extremely dangerous; please do not try this at home.”

The man squatted down and got a look on his face that looked as though he were getting ready to take an enormous shit. Then one of the other guys took a long stick, about the circumference of a broomstick, and broke it over the other man’s shoulder.

Um, ouch.

Then they broke even more sticks on the guy’s body, and for the grand finale, the man did a handstand and spread his legs. The crowd began to murmur, and G said, “Oh no, oh no, oh no.”


A piece of the broken stick flew at me, and I squealed and ducked over to the side. G stood up and angrily yelled, “Be careful, assholes, you almost hit my girlfriend!” The martial artists turned around slowly, and G muttered, “Whoops.”

"Watch my purse!" I barked, and I leaped into the courtyard. Ululating wildly, I punched a monk. He staggered backwards and fell onto the pavement. “Crouching Dipshit!” I shrieked, and with a swift kick, I sent another monk sprawling. Pow pow pow! I left them all rolling on the ground, clutching their sides and moaning, and I rode the swell of applause back to my seat.

…okay, those last two paragraphs are a lie. I did almost get beaned with a broken piece of crotch stick, but that’s about it. I could have totally kicked their asses if I wanted to, though.

After the show, G and I were starving and anxious to get out of the sun, so we walked across the street to a restaurant that had a sign on the front saying “Part of Rush Hour was filmed here!”

“Uh-oh,” I said warily.

“What’s wrong?”

“K and I ate here several years ago, and the service was really shitty. Plus it was about two hundred degrees in there and they would only give us ice water with our meal, and they were so crowded that they sat us at a table with two strangers who were finger banging each other under the table.” G’s jaw dropped, and I added, “But maybe it won’t be so bad this time.”

Yeah, um, so much for cockeyed optimism. We had been seated for at least fifteen minutes and we didn’t even have menus! I was starting to get really pissed off, because I was so damn hungry, and finally I said, “Screw this place, let’s go somewhere else.”

As we waited to cross the street again, G said, “Wow, that sucked.”

“I bet they didn’t make Jackie Chan wait for HIS fucking food,” I sulked. “And really, what kind of pull does Jackie Chan have in Chinatown anyway?”

Fortunately, our next choice, Hop Louie’s, served us promptly, and the food was delicious. My fortune read, “Soon a short stranger will enter your life.” Kind of sounds like a pregnancy fortune, doesn't it? But the only baby I had to worry about was the food baby incubating in my stomach, so I leaned back, burped, and smiled.


I’ve been trying to figure out how to phrase this, but nothing’s coming to mind, so I’ll just sack up and say it:

I’m moving out of the Merry Mansion.

Those of you expecting the Drama Llama to become bloated with greasy bits of gossip will be sorely disappointed, I’m afraid, as there are no such tidbits to offer. This is an entirely amicable decision, and there will be no tear-soaked, blame-filled entries. I’ve got nothing bad to say about K---she truly is my “sister from another mister”---and hopefully she feels the same way about me.

This is a decision that was not arrived at lightly or recently; we’ve been kicking around the idea for some time. I knew I’d better start scoping out potential places as soon as possible, because I’m a major procrastinator. I figured if I waited too long, I’d wind up frantically finding a place to live about a week before moving out of my old digs, and I didn’t want to settle for a total shithole just because I needed immediate housing.

I knew that I wanted to stay in the town where we currently live, so on my days off, I went looking. Man, that was a freakin’ adventure, let me tell you. One place had a really cool retro façade, but when I walked through the gates, it turned from kitsch to krap. Another place had a skeletonized rat or mouse about two feet away from the manager’s office. (Needless to say, I didn’t bother even going inside.) I won’t even mention all the places that were nice but overpriced. If they’re going to have the gall to charge $1700 a month for a one-bedroom apartment, it damn well better come with weekly maid service, on-call massages, and a live-in pastry chef.

But then, one afternoon, fate intervened.

I was leaving the library one afternoon, and because they were doing road construction on the main road, I decided to take an alternate route. I never use this other street, so I didn’t realize there were several apartment buildings there as well. I made a mental note to check them out, and then I thought, “What the hell, I’ll stop right now.” I parked and walked into the manager’s office of the first building, and she gave me a brief tour of the grounds. They were well-kept, and the pool was huge, clean, and beautiful.

“You said you were looking for a one-bedroom, right?” she asked.


“Those usually fill up pretty fast, but we do have two available right now.” She led me up a walkway and into a bright, sunny upstairs apartment. It was certainly nothing fancy, but it was surprisingly roomy for a one-bedroom---certainly more so than the ones I’d already seen---and had lots of natural light and a ton of storage space. The kitchen was pretty small, but since my idea of cooking involves poking holes in the plastic covering a Lean Cuisine, that wasn’t really an issue.

“I love it!” I said, running my hands over the countertop. “How much is it?”

She quoted me a price that was at the low end of my budget. “That includes $25 for cable,” she added.

“It’s just about perfect,” I said. “I have to talk to my current roommate, of course, but I’m definitely interested.”

“That’s fine, and I don’t want to rush you, but I’d suggest you get in as soon as possible. Like I said, the one-bedrooms fill up pretty fast, and this one would almost certainly be the first to go.”

“Oh, why’s that?” I asked curiously as we walked outside.

She locked the door, jiggled the knob, and said, “No neighbors.”

Cracka say what?!?

It was only then that I realized what she said was true. Because of the weird way the building was laid out, this particular apartment had no apartments on either side. One below, and one across, but NO NEXT-DOOR NEIGHBORS.

“Did I say just about perfect? I meant perfect,” I said.

For weeks, I fretted about that apartment; surely it would be gone before I could get to it! Finally, I asked K if she would be okay with me moving out a little sooner than expected, and she said that was fine. I immediately dropped off the application and kept my fingers crossed.

And last week, I signed the lease.

Now that I’ve filled you in, the trick is to recap the last six years of living with K.

When we moved out here in June 2001, I was about as green as they get. Moving 2000 miles away from my family was a colossal step for me; I mean, sure, I was 2000 miles away from them when I went to college, but that was such a hothouse environment that it doesn’t even count. I was scared as hell, worried about all those grown-up things like paying bills and making rent, but I was confident that everything would work out fine. I NEVER would have had the courage to move here if I didn’t have K by my side, and for that I will always be grateful.

Oh, don’t get me wrong; it wasn’t perfect 100% of the time. Of course we had fights and disagreements, but what roommates don’t? Considering that we were in each other’s pockets so much of the time---keep in mind that we also work in the same building!---I think we did pretty damn well. K is one of the best friends I’ve ever had, and you don’t throw a friendship like that away over petty shit like who forgot to buy trash bags. We’ve both had major highs and enormous heartbreaks since we’ve lived here, and we’ve always backed each other’s play. That’s what friends do, after all.

Last night, I was sitting at the kitchen table, playing yet another round of Alchemy, when K walked over and said, “Dude, look what I found!”

“Oh my god!” I screamed, taking the photo from her.

The picture was taken shortly before we moved to California; if I remember correctly, we were at TGIFriday’s, having farewell drinks with our friend L. I can honestly say that it’s pretty much the worst picture ever taken of me, and believe me, it’s got some hearty competition for that title. K is resting her chin on her hand, giving the camera a Mona Lisa smile; I’m looking sideways at her with a truly evil grin on my shiny drunken face. We look like we’re planning something devious. We didn’t know at the time what the future would hold. We didn’t know that the move out here would be so horrific that we’d consider turning around more than once. We didn’t know about 9/11, or the boyfriends that would break our hearts, or the struggles to pay bills and keep our shit together. We didn’t know that we would eventually find amazing men, or the beauty of a California sunset as viewed over the Pacific.

All we knew was that we couldn’t wait to get there.