new perspective in the same city

My old street in LA was in Atwater Village, small and tree-lined, flanked by parks and mountains. It was home to a family of skunks, a pack of stray cats, and a toucan that squawked exactly like a pterodactyl.


My current street in West Hollywood where I'm in a hotel for 6 weeks during Spice Girls rehearsals is wildly different.

At first I was all OH NO because I'm not used to crews filming commercials in my face as I step out the door. Nor am I accustomed to walking for coffee every morning in my pajamas and having five valet men wish me a good morning.

By now they recognize that I'm one of their grungier guests and that there's absolutely no reason for us to kiss each others' asses; We can just be ourselves so we all smirk and nod at each other.

I've definitely never had a lobby in my home that was so shiny, so mirrored, and so black lacquered that I practically have to tiptoe with arms outstretched just to get to the elevator without accidentally crashing into a column when mistaking its reflection for a doorway.

And there are other things contributing to my enhanced attitude about this neighborhood:

1. The dive bar around the corner.

2. The delicious organic food cafe up the street.

3. Roscoe's motherf'ing chicken and waffles. How had I gone so long without?

I drove with Jane to LAX last night and I will admit that it wasn't easy because my stomach was churning through half a fried chicken smothered in gravy and onions, waffles, butter, and maple syrup. But that all went down together SMOOTH. Appalling. And wonderful.

I must be in a good mood because the things that would normally make me crazy are just amusing right now.

Cocker spaniel wearing a pink visor?


The guy at the studio who I met last summer and who I haven't seen since June, except for in People Magazine? The one I AIR KISSED when we saw each other? That didn't even freak me out. Yeah, I did that shit and then wanted to sneak behind the building and laugh really hard for about ten minutes.


oh, like you weren't young once

What's wrong about this photo:

1. It's Jane's little brother who's ten years younger than us.

2. I've supplied him with a giant bottle of tequila that he's pouring into a Nalgene bottle.

Which he will most likely start drinking.

But I'd like to point out that:

3. AT LEAST he's of legal drinking age, which is more than I can say about the last time I got him drunk in the middle of the night in a midtown Manhattan alley.

4. I only had two glasses and Jane and I called dibs, so John, NOT RELUCTANTLY, got the Nalgene.


phase 4: dodging fire for friends

One week into breakup bootcamp Phase 3/Back in LA, I realize that Phase 4 is already on. It's an immediate relative of 3 and its backstory would be different for others but for me it's like this:

My daily work schedule leaves little time for moping. If I do get mopey, I have my own hotel room in which to wring my hands and pen despondent journal entries. So far I'm using the room to reflect and blog and eat potato chips out of the minibar. I also have the option to conduct all business from poolside.

I have a television on which to privately watch movies that make me cry (Jerry McGuire) and I don't have to pretend like I'm not sobbing over Cuba Gooding Jr. maybe breaking his neck on the football field. I also have wheels with which to explore the city, which is PIVOTAL.

Phase 4 is about exploring LA and making it mine. Relationship follies aside and regardless of how I got here, it's now time to investigate both geography and humankind. P4 is me wondering just who inhabits Los Angeles. BESIDES the supremely boring shit that everyone who has ever stood in a grocery store line knows (actors, celebrities, Britney's hair extensions).

I know there's more.

P4 is the delicate balance between sifting through the past and bringing on the future. Oh, and liking the present. There is that: getting some friends.

I haven't gone so far as to send out a group chainmail entreaty begging others to please forward to anyone with time on their hands and space in their hearts. But I am reaching out to those who maybe I've met or know just a little but suspect that I'd like a lot. People whom I neglected way back when I was spending so much time ogling IKEA light fixtures and standing in line at Home Depot.

P4 is the email that I recently sent to Max. I had plans to meet him and Sidia for dinner in Santa Monica when suddenly I remembered that the coast seems to be totally burning up. This would have been before today's development of orange clouds blotting out the sun over the studio and raining ash inside my boss's convertible. The state of emergency was slightly easier to dismiss yesterday.

I wrote Max asking if he thought that there was any chance of my getting caught in a wildfire while driving to dinner. Max's response was that there MIGHT be, depending on where I was coming from. And he suggested the least-flammable route for me to take.

Which made me go, 'Hm. Is that good enough? Yep. See you at 7:00.'


Relatively fat friend

The other day I was eating lunch at the rehearsal studio with a boss, one of whom I have to thank for my position on the tour. In addition to feeling a ton of respect for her, I also think that she's funny as hell. And the more I get to know her and the more comfortable I get, the more I start acting like myself.

Which may or may not be a good idea.

One day she was carrying on a lively discourse about whether to have a cream puff for dessert. Normally I'd be like HIT THAT SHIT, but since she's trying to drop some pounds and hasn't been quiet about that AND had just shared with me and Lindsay an idea for a weight loss challenge in which we'd agree to a dare that we'd perform if we didn't meet our weight goals, like walking around stage in a bikini and heels during soundcheck, to which Lindsay and I both agreed that we'd gladly quit our jobs before we'd agree to that, that it would be infinitely preferable to be chubby and unemployed, I tried to be supportive.

I said something about how delicious the spinach salad was and suggested she quit staring at the cream puffs and interrogating the other people at our table about their creamy heavenlyness. I also pointed out that she's not a large person. She admitted that she's not large, she just not comfortable.

Which I totally get. I definitely have my own range that feels good and when I'm over-range, I'm irritated that I can't wear half of my pants. Sometimes I have to go to sale racks for new fat skirts because I donated my old fat skirts when I was either a) feeling cocky or was b) moving and didn't want to drag my fat clothes across the country when surely I'd be lithe forever, regardless of the historical fact that my weight changes as often as the seasons.

She said that it didn't help that most of her friends look like supermodels and that she can practically feel her metabolism slowing down around them and feels like the fat friend.

I listened and thought about how weight and body image is all relative and that we cannot and should not measure ourselves against other people's bodies, that it just doesn't help at all. I wanted to say something like this to her. But what came out was,

"You're actually just the relatively fat friend."

And then COULD NOT STOP laughing. It was the look on her face. So stunned. And how fucking insensitive I sounded, which wasn't what I was going for. I said I was sorry several times but I couldn't stop laughing so, you know, how genuine I seemed is debatable.

Just another example of how my habit of laughing at my fat mouth is so easily and unfortunately mistaken for laughing at others. I'm an idiot.


SPOTLIGHT: Jocardo E. Ralston

This is the face I stared down in playground four-square and the face who represented our sixth-grade graduation class. Jocardo Ralston, our master of ceremony, who tripped down the stairs while heading offstage, hee hee.

I bonded with Jocardo in seventh grade while sitting next to him in Ohio studies class. I got a total of two things out of that class:

1. Jocardo

2. The realization that some teachers need to retire. Ms. Murdoch.

After an unintended separation in high school when Jocardo's family moved across the river to Kentucky and he switched schools, Jocardo and I re-found each other in a Cincinnati club at age 21. And all I have to say about that night is that someone around here looks awesome in a Catholic schoolgirl uniform and it's not me.

We made a date to meet again for milkshakes and spent the entire next night sitting on a street corner people-watching, cracking jokes, and telling stories which set a strong precedent for what we do best together.

Over a year ago, Jocardo did a big thing. He left everything comfortable he knew in Ohio and Kentucky, left his family and friends, his acting and his job, and moved to New York to be a teaching fellow in the public school system.

He was understandably nervous and not sure he was doing the right thing. I remember having a conversation with Jocardo and saying something about how how much he was going to learn, not just about teaching and education and New York, but about himself. That putting ourselves in strange and unfamiliar situations is the most surefire way to look deep inside ourselves and find out what's really there.

I'm sure Jocardo was like, "Yeah that's great but how am I going to afford New York rent?" Which is actually a really, really good question.

At the last minute, right before he left Kentucky, I jumped in his dad's car and joined the caravan to New York. Behind us, in another car, was his aunt's family, all making the 12-hour drive through a freaky rainstorm.

Jocardo and I sat in the backseat, exchanging glances when he looked like he was going to vomit and fielding phone calls from an apartment broker who informed him he'd just lost the place he thought he was moving into. Somewhere in Pennsylvania, he set up an appointment to see another apartment.

Our arrival:

1. Drive over George Washington bridge

2. Meet broker, see apartment, agree that it's expensive but better than being homeless

3. Check into hotel and start to let all of this sink in.

We left Jocardo on a street in Greenpoint with my friends Kelly and Alex, with whom he crashed until his apartment was ready.

A week ago, I laid in the Griffith Park grass and talked to Jocardo on the phone and smiled because Jocardo sounds good: strong and confident and grown up. At one point when talking our lives and where we are with community and faith, I tried to impress him and was all, "Yeah, for me, too, it's like blah blah blah," but I caught myself and without pause I said, "Actually, never mind, I'm full of shit, scratch that."

And Jocardo and I laughed about how I totally called bullshit on myself. And how maybe people should do that more often but whatever, if we don't do it for ourselves, we'll at least do it for each other.

Thanks, Jocardo.

why minibars suck

Because I got back to the hotel kind of late and was really tired, too tired to go out, and too tired even to order room service. Plus I was feeling cheap. So for dinner I had pretzels, rice krispie treats, cheesy ritz bitz, and beer. And it still probably cost me thirty dollars.


the ambition of N

In the year-and-a-half that I've served as N's guardian, he's lived and traveled mainly in the northern half of the country. And I think he's mostly had a good time. Some might say TOO good of a time (little drinking issue).

I now know that his buoyant moods were partially due to the fact that it was spring and summer when he made appearances. The whole six months that I lived in Chicago, N stayed in a drawer nestled up to my knee socks and woolly hats. He didn't even answer when I asked him if he wanted to accompany me on last winter's High School Musical tour. Just scraped his way deeper under the socks.

Once I got to California, I took N out of hibernation, thinking he'd undoubtedly be thrilled by the weather, if nothing else. I mean, I moved here for love and for that reason alone was open to Los Angeles. N would find his own incentives, starting with our bike ride.

Yeah, well, that backfired.

As soon as N saw the Hollywood sign he was like WHAT.

In the bottom left corner, you can see N slumped against a garage door, all dejected because the Hollywood letters are so FAMOUS and get to be FIFTY FEET TALL and he's LITTLE and NOBODY. For a minute last year in Detroit, he thought he might be somebody because he was the N in Nights Of Fire for Benise's marquise.

I reminded him that he's the one who jumped off into mine and Renee's path. That maybe he didn't like being up there. Or that maybe he was just scared, but not to let his own insecurities and fears hold him back or make him bitter. I also reminded him that we didn't move here for fame. That I actually wasn't sure anymore WHAT I moved here for but that nonetheless, it's just a place.

N was like, 'Alright I feel you, but still, I'm really tiny.'

So I took N to another street and held him up high and pointed out that from this angle, he looks way bigger than HOLLYWOOD.


The things I learn on walks

I've been on a lot of long walks this week. Some were to escape the house because there's nothing like sitting in the living room looking at the guy who just broke up with you. Other walks were to do errands or just to enjoy being outside, moving around. The longest was ten miles and was kind of an accident.

I turned down a ride home from West Hollywood because I wasn't in a rush and thought maybe I'd find a bus to hop on. Ha. What I did find was that Beverly and La Cienega is NOT CLOSE to my old house in Atwater Village. And that my heavy Frye belted mules, while great for kicking shit and totally comfortable when you're not training for a triathalon, aren't really made for walking ten miles.
The good news is that I now have a new map of streets in my head and know new things. Like where to find Korean people! And public restrooms.

One day I rode my bike to Kaldi coffeeshop.

This guy was playing his guitar outside and he didn't bother me at all so I think I'm finally over my irritation with boys and their guitars. That phase was born out of my time at Evergreen where every boy on campus had a guitar slung over his shoulder. Half of the boys, when they weren't pontificating on the psychotropic properties of their favorite drugs, were singing songs about revolutions that had nothing to do with them. Agh.

Anyhow, I rode my bike to my new storage space, dropped it off, and walked to Griffith Park. Where I saw THIS GUY and I really dig this guy.

Unlike hipster fedora guy at the coffeeshop, this guy shunned the public and found a gravely secluded lot. He took off his shirt and was trumpeting away when I came walking by. I didn't ask any questions so I don't know his story. Maybe he lives in an apartment and has been getting complaints. Maybe he wants a tan and a hobby. Whatever his reason, I like it.

Yes, I Googled that muscle group

Everyone tells me that nobody walks in Los Angeles. And up until yesterday I was like, "I'm nobody?" because I liked walking and biking around Atwater-Los Feliz-Glendale, where I used to live. Suddenly, however, I'm staying in West Hollywood and working six days a week in Burbank. The Spice Girls tour is renting me a car for the next six weeks and, as I found out this morning, ten miles behind the wheel of a car on this route equals at least one hour trapped in drive.

Now, the leather that I'm sitting is soft. So soft. And the engine is zippy and the stereo is loud and clear but I swear I'm not totally seduced. Just partially. And as I drove through morning rush hour, I thought, "Oh, this is the canyon and the valley everyone talks about!" My geography of the city is suddenly expanding and I can get so much further, much faster, in this car.

At one point, mid-canyon and full-traffic, I realized that the muscles and tendons on the top of my right foot were getting sore from all the braking and inching, braking and inching. "Motherfucker!" I thought, "My hamstrings and calves are fine, but my itty bitty ANTERIOR TIBIAL is out of shape?!"


sublime heartache

So I had these plans for when I returned to LA.

I'd frolic around the neighborhood on my bicycle, laughing and pumping my fist in the air, so elated to be back. I'd ride the trains and explore the city and I'd figure out how to get to the beach without a car. I'd sink into my home and I'd make soup and I'd finally learn how to mix spices well. I'd pick up lemons in the backyard and I'd find a special plant that wouldn't be too hard to over water and I'd care for it.

None of this happened. I returned to a home and relationship that was falling apart for reasons I don't need to write about here. I'll just say, simply, that IT WASN'T WHAT I THOUGHT IT WAS.

And when I realized how much it really wasn't what I thought it was, I left. Or fled. Or whatever.

I went to Seattle with a weight in my stomach as heavy and hard as a bowling ball. At the risk of sounding like a battered woman WHICH I AM NOT, I found a safe place at Carl's. Carl got me through breakup boot camp/phase 1 and woke me up at 6am every morning to hike five miles with him and the dogs. He calls it "walking". But it was through woods and up some hills and down some others. Therefore, hiking. It was dark and spooky in the trees when we started and dawn by the time we reached the beach. Once it rained and once we saw the Asian ranger who greeted me, "Hello, lady."

When I wasn't hiking, I curled up on the couch in Carl's "man room", feeling too shitty to even make jokes about his huge beer mirror. I did, however, admire the other manly elements of his man room: the leather couch, the massive sectional, and the outsized flat screen television mounted on the wall. Carl cooked for me and poured me wine and helped my bowling ball shrink from the really heavy kind (the kind I almost tore my shoulder out of socket over recently at Pickwick Bowl) to a smaller, child-size heft. Thank you, Carlito.

He also lent me his manly truck to go hang out with Ingrid and LAM, the serious fucking bad ass Seal Press editors I assisted when I lived in Seattle. They took me to a bar in Georgetown that had a buffalo head on the wall, which I got a kick out of for some reason. LAM made fun of me for ordering soup and salad, "You're so LA." I defended myself my pointing out that I was drinking a FULL CALORIE pint of pale ale and not some swishy cocktail or sparkling water, extra sparkle. She acquiesced.

I started laughing more. And I flew to Mexico for breakup boot camp/phase 2.

PHASE 2 IS KEY. After wrenching yourself through Phase 1, which is necessary and honest and unavoidable, and your gut is all sore and your eyes are stinging like hell and the sharp little shards of your heart are starting to injure neighboring organs, you've got to figure out how to wrench yourself out of it. Here I got lucky.

I'd mentioned to Leila in an email, in response to her question of whether it was nice to be home, that it actually blew chunks to be home. I gave her the briefest outline of what was going on and she left a message on my phone that pretty much said:

"Do I need to remind you that I own a house in Mexico? That it has a room with a separate entrance if you want to be alone? That you can hang out if you feel like it? That you can walk on the beach? And learn to surf? That the plane tickets are cheap? You should come here. In fact, I INSIST on it."

When Leila insisted, it was done. Apparently I needed someone to tell me what to do. I was also lucky in that I had the kickass synergy of money in my pocket + nowhere I had to be. It could have been worse.

I've already written about the depths of relaxation I reached in Sayulita. I started feeling like myself again and less like a Tim Burton character. I really had no choice, what with surrounding myself with fun, generous people, tasty food, and sunny sunshine. It would have been ludicrous to spend a week in Sayulita feeling depressed and sorry for myself. ABSURD.

I was so comfortable there that sometimes I couldn't stop laughing, even when I sort of wanted to ask, "Um, self? Is it THAT funny?"

Yes, yes it was. It was that funny when Leila emailed me in the plaza from her iPhone to tell me that there was a horse parked in her front yard and it was that funny when it was so hot that I was sweating just watching other people sweat and it was that funny when I found out that one of the guys in town is an author of self help books for women on dating.

Part of me really wanted to tug on his boardshorts and ask some questions. The other part of me was waaaay too embarrassed. I didn't. I just smiled and carried on normal conversation, unrelated to the demise of my latest romantic entanglement AKA he who I had considered the love of my life. When I found out, however, that Leila told Self Help a teeny bit of what happened in LA/what I was doing about it and he nodded with approval - I'd like to think he also nodded because he was SO IMPRESSED but I wasn't there so I'm making that up - I will admit to feeling as validated as hell.

Do I sometimes feel like I'm completely cracked? Maybe. But maybe not.

I started to untangle myself in Mexico/phase 2. If I let myself think certain thoughts too much, I'd feel that old heaviness, now more of a baseball than a bowling ball, start knocking around. There were moments, though, where that shit was barely even ping pong grade and I knew that I was okay. Mad? Check. Hurt? Oh, yes, check. But broken, maimed, and irreversibly scarred? Nope. And no longer shellshocked. I was getting perspective. Thanks, Leila.

My lightest, airiest ping pong moment was in the car with Chucky and Pato and Leila at the end of the week, driving from Sayulita to Vallarta, on our way to the airport. I was staring out from the open window and my hair was getting all blown around and I was looking at the trees in the hills and I thought, THESE TREES ARE GORGEOUS! THESE TREES ARE INCREDIBLE!

The song on the iPod changed and suddenly it was Sublime singing "What I Got". And I remembered - mom, dad, close your eyes for five seconds - tripping on mushrooms and dancing around the livingroom with Kevin in Olympia, singing that same song: "Lovin' is what I got, I said remember that." And just for that moment in the car I felt like THIS IS MY FAVORITE SONG!

I was thinking in happy caps.

Phase 3/Back in LA

Really, the best thing to do when you move out of your house and get a storage space and try to figure out what the heck you're doing in a city that you only moved to for the relationship that just disintegrated is go on tour with the Spice Girls.

I have more questions for myself and more sorting through to do with my feelings, but for the next six rehearsal weeks I will be doing those things from a very nice room in a very nice hotel in West Hollywood, courtesy of the tour. When I first realized I was going back to a hotel after just spending the entire summer in hotels, I was heartbroken and cried because I want a home so, so badly. I can't overestimate how sick I am of moving. Of writing my address in pencil because it keeps changing. I am ready to stay the fuck PUT. But, where?

I now have a few more months to ponder my little heart out. Having stayed one night in the hotel, I'm already warming up to plan B/phase 3. Okay, fine, it won't suck having someone make my bed everyday and leave the New York Times and bring the car around for me in the morning.

Oh yeah, the car. The very nice car is also courtesy of the tour and I had two equally powerful reactions to driving it around today: 1. This isn't my car, people! Don't look at me like that, this isn't me! I'm not a doctor's wife, I'm a cyclist, for chrissake! And then there was 2. This is how I ROLL, bitches.

I'm torn.

And now for some thanks. Dad, thanks for your sweet advice on a good place to meet good, healthy people, spoken straight from your runner-loving heart. Mom, thanks for reminding me that you and Bob Roncker got engaged after six weeks and that taking big risks isn't a totally stupid thing to do.

I haven't given much airplay to many people about all this but to those of you who did hear me blister and blubber and scream, thanks for saying a bunch of true shit. And for making me laugh even when I wanted to stab myself with a hot poker. Sunny in Chicago: "Forget for a minute about what he did to YOU, I've got a bone to pick with him about what he did to ME, taking you away from me like that."

California girl?

I know I'm getting used to living in California when I notice that I'm wearing an overcoat with sandals.

And my sandals?

I had this conversation with Jocardo a while back in which I ranted about how the girls here have sandals for every occasion:

rubber thongs for flopping around the grocery store, heeled sandals for fancy time, and shiny beaded sandals for everything in between. And me, I had corduroys, black hoodies, heavy boots, and many items involving wool.

So I went on Zappos and ordered some sandals with some f'ing beads attached to the top and Jocardo said he was going to laugh very hard at me as soon as he got the opportunity.

note: my version of beaded sandals are still black leather and the beads do not sparkle in the sun. Also, the footbed is very cushiony and supportive so I know Bob Roncker won't get mad when he scrutinizes them.


extra random x 3


Tomatoes are delicious, especially when ripe and straight from the vine to the farmer's market. With a little salt and pepper, I'd eat a tomato like an apple and lick the juicy mess from my hands like a puppydog.

But when I see tomatoes in my salad, I get annoyed. I avoid them, eating around the tomatoes until I remember, "WAIT, those things taste GOOD," and I eat the whole pile and wonder, again, why I did that.


I brush my teeth twice a day and dig dental hygiene, especially after working with dentists in Guatemala. After witnessing the rotten stubs and gums down there, I became a big time flosser and paid a lot of money for a professional cleaning without insurance.

But every day, about 10 seconds after I start brushing, I think, "I really want to wash my hands right now" or "My hair is f'd up, let's fix it" or "Let me just pick these clothes up off the floor real quick" and I do it all with the toothbrush hanging out of my mouth. Then I resume brushing and hope that this time I'll be able to brush faster that I can think.


The first time I listened to the Beleza Tropical CD that DB produced, I was entranced. I wanted to put on a flowy skirt and twirl around my room in an embarrassing fashion. I wondered if my parents still have the shiny gold, silver, and green miniskirt and ruffled tube top with matching gold hair bow and plastic fruit earrings that I traded with a Brazilian girl named Flavia at the international CISV camp in 1986.

Lucky Flavia went home in a SQUARE DANCING OUTFIT. Sucks to be you, Flavia. Where is my gold bow? I want to practice capoeira.

Anyway, my rapture was broken the first time David Byrne opened his mouth to join the musicians he so admires. Because his accent sucks so much ass that I don't know why he doesn't have a raging case of Hepatitis A.

If I HAD been wearing my gold bow when I first heard him sing in Portuguese, I'd have been very lucky because it happens to be big enough to cover the whole top of my head and both ears if I hold the edges down.

So I guess I have sort of figured out number three, after all.


'guru' might be overstating it

I hadn't flight-mentored anyone in a while and, frankly, I didn't realize how much I missed pretending to be the high priestess of air travel.

The last time I got to act all knowledgeable on a plane was in May 2006 when I had the incredible fortune to sit next to a Wal-Mart painter from West Virginia. This week, flying home from Mexico, I sat next to Lucero, Puerto Vallarta massage therapist, who was headed to LA for her nephew's wedding.

"Spanish?" Lucero asked me, pausing in the aisle next to my seat.

"Si," I replied.

She showed me her ticket, which had 19F scrawled in ballpoint pen across it. I pointed to the window seat next to me and smiled broadly as I hauled myself out of the middle seat to let her pass.

I was skipping the whole I VALUE MY PERSONAL SPACE SO ZIP IT, STRANGER phase that I go through on planes, a phase that is closely related to the I GET EMOTIONAL AT 30,000 FEET SO UNLESS YOU WANT TO WATCH ME CRY ON MY PEANUTS YOU WILL MIND YOUR OWN BUSINESS.

I immediately offered Lucero a piece of Trident because I suspected we had some talking to do and I wanted us both to be minty.

I asked her if it was her first time flying. She told me that it was her second time but it was her first time flying ALONE. Here I practically had to restrain myself from hugging Lucero and assuring her that she was not alone. She asked me if Alaska Airlines was "puro gringo". I said everyone on the flight crew was indeed a gringo but that I was sure they were bilingual. Turns out I was wrong.

This meant my role was expanded to include directives such as "She wants you to put your purse under the seat, Lucero" and "Yes, there's a toilet in the back," and to the flight attendant, "Lucero would like a Diet Coke, please" after assuring Lucero that she didn't have to pay for it.

I'd thought I'd just talk about turbulence and remind her of how safe we were even though at times it really might not feel like it.

Which, in and of itself, would have been fulfilling. I don't remember if I actually delved into systems of "baja presion" but I definitely enjoyed calling choppy air TO-TAL-MENTE normal. Because enunciating in Spanish is more staccato and, therefore, dramatic. And since I speak with my hands more in Spanish, I found my palm taking off from the dinner tray like a little plane for added visual effect.

We became a team, Lucero and I. After landing, during the period where people stand and squirm anxiously until it's their turn to grab their bags with the rutty energy of ferrets, we sat calmly. We also exchanged small smiles and slight roll of the eyes when a high-energy Polynesian man was too busy hollering at his friends to notice that he almost took out a few people with his oversized duffle.

Lucero and I split up at customs with thanks, goodbyes, a have fun at the wedding, and a number and address in my pocket for a massage the next time I'm in Vallarta.


yeah, don't call her that

Wait, what?

Oh, that's just Leila trying to swim without getting her broken arm wet.

I think this one looks poignant, like she's bidding a sorrowful fareful. Or signaling to a rescue team for help.

Usually I thought the broken arm in the sea was a little funny, especially the day that there were so many rocks underwater. I held out my forearm like a butler and Leila grasped my wrist to steady herself.

I couldn't stop calling her 'grandma' then and cracked a couple jokes about how I felt like a caregiver and wondered if anyone needed my address to send a check for my hospice work. Leila mostly laughed and told me to shut up and once, just once, said 'fuck you.' I can't remember if that was before or after I asked if she'd started thinking about what kinds of canes she likes.

If I put a pricetag on this trip, it would be high

If you've ever been to a place and you sink right into it right away, you'll know what I mean. A couple of days after arriving in Sayulita, I remembered that thing called email. I'd changed the outgoing message on my phone to: "I'm currently in Mexico, drinking a frothy beverage from a coconut on the beach or battling a tropical storm. You can send me an email or you can leave me a message and I'll call you when I'm back."

I considered that since I had yet to see a coconut drink stand and the tropical storm hadn't moved inland, I should try to make good on one of my proclamations.

I told Leila that morning, while rocking in one of her livingroom's wicker chairs, that getting online was all I needed to get done that day. We decided to go into town (a walk of four whole blocks) to eat and about three hours later actually got around to doing that.

An hour or two after polishing off a whole fish, minus eyes and brains, a plate of guacamole, french fries, and tortilla chips, we were still sitting at the long wooden table in the sand, chatting with people who kept coming by and stopping to sit for awhile. My shoes were off, my legs were stretched out, and for all I know my arms were hanging like overcooked noodles over the sides of the chair. I'd begun to sink into relaxation and all of my muscles were playing along.

"I guess we should get the check," Leila said.

"Okay, but we can't get up," I said, "We'll just make eye contact."

We tried to look really hard at our waiter but he was all the way over there and we were all the way over here and it meant we had to turn our necks sometimes and we soon forgot about the check.

I remembered the day in Quito that Taryn and I decided to see how long it would take to eat our meal one piece of rice at a time. Answer: A LONG TIME. Especially when you factor in all the minutes spent giggling over how cute a piece of rice looks on a fork sprong all by its little self.

Someone asked us what we were doing that day and I gathered up my strength to chuckle. I said that I wanted to go to the plaza to check email but it was like two blocks away and I didn't know when I was going to feel up to that. I eventually did make it to the plaza and the cafe closed a half hour after I got there. It was 5 pm, after all.

Another day we spent at the San Pancho surf competition. Waking up that morning was aided by the fact that as soon we stepped on the beach at 9am, our eardrums were blasted with these choice lyrics issuing forth from the professional speakers:



"This is funny," I said to Leila.

"They play all kinds of music," she said. "Some of it's pretty bad."

"How bad?"

"Walk the dinosaur bad," she said.

"WOW," I said. Boom boom acka-lacka-lacka boom.

When you aren't surfing in Sayulita, you might be fishing.

Pato took us out on his boat. We sat in the bay and caught sardines in a net for bait. Pelicans hovered nearby looking needy and I thought about Leila falling asleep on the beach a couple of days before, while whispering to herself, "Pelicans look like dinosaurs..."

And I guess they do kind of.

Out on more open water, we skimmed along and I felt a smile spreading across my face in just the cheesiest, most conspicuous way. Oh, and the dolphins we saw? Almost too much to handle.

"Alright, I GET IT," I thought. All this awe and deep, still, strength is totally gonna go to my head.

Though mixed in with my litte lovefest was terror. When Pato stopped the boat and I stared into that endless blue and those gentle swells, my stomach flipflopped and I instantly felt like sharkbait. It took ten seconds to go from lusting after dolphin encounters, practically sobbing over all the HARMONY, to imagining the depths of the Pacific Ocean and the size of the whole flipping galaxy. And just for a minute I kind of turned on my own personal clump of molecules.

"My life is tiny and insignificant. I am a SPECK. What is my life? Who in the hell is writing this story?"

I am, of course.

Pee on our feet

A year ago, on the last night of the dazzling fifth season of the American Idol tour, Matt drank an uncertain number of cocktails, hopped off the bus in his socks, and took a leak in a hotel fountain. When he lost his balance and stepped directly into a pool of his own urine, I worriedly scanned the door for hotel personnel but Jimmy wasted no time in laughing and pointing at him.

Two weeks ago, season six culminated with a group of us riding in the bus's front lounge to the airport hotel. Two of them happened to be Matt and Jimmy. Another was a chaperone whom I adore. She is kind and lovely and just thinking about her now makes me want to go have tea with her and rest my head on her shoulder. She's a grandma and she's religious and thoughtful and sweet.

She hung with us up front for a good while until she suddenly decided to go to the back lounge. I think it might have been not too long after someone started randomly shouting out both motherfucker and cunt and similar words at the top of his lungs. Mind you, he wasn't yelling them at her and or anyone in particular but it didn't matter. It made her uncomfortable.

Later she returned to the front to use the toilet. When she exited the bathroom she was delicately dabbing her feet with paper towels and murmuring about how she think she stepped in urine on the floor. I groaned because I always ride the boy bus and am familiar with the consequences of a lurching, braking bus + boys standing up to pee. It gets messy. Rule number one is to always wear shoes to the bathroom. The chaperone, however, was used to the girl bus where there are flowers and candles and everyone sits.


One week ago, I was at a birthday party for San Pancho, Sayulita's neighboring town in Mexico. The local towns all throw birthday parties for themselves and I had the good fortune to attend the last night of a TEN DAY PARTY. Oh yes, ten days. It gave me ideas if I ever have another birthday party. My party won't last ten days but someone should definitely be winging rocks at empty beer bottles when I turn 33. So simple and fun (and sharp and loud)!

You got three tries to smash a bottle and win a can of beer. It was like an elementary school carnival except that you get to drink and don't have to carry around a goldfish in a plastic bag that's going to die a week after you get it home.

Earlier Leila's friend Donny and I had been watching drummers until suddenly he pulled me away, "We have to get out of here, the tower of fireworks is gonna go off." He said that in the past he'd seen people with clothes singed, smoke rising from their shoulders from the fireworks but I figured he was just being expressive.

Then, from a distance, I heard the tower explode and turned to see light raining down, sure enough, on people. I watched as two firework-laced images of a giant cross and a giant margarita lit up and began swirling madly. My mouth dropped open. It was fantastic, a big boozy Mexican Exorcist. The girls around me began screaming.

"It's the toro!" Leila said.

Oh yeah, she'd mentioned the toro and I hadn't taken that seriously, either. I just didn't believe that a guy would make himself into a "bull" by strapping fireworks on his head and back and then run through the crowd, shooting them at people. That, however, is exactly what happens. I screamed and darted over to a tree where I grabbed the trunk and crouched.

A bit later, after more excitement and more beer, Leila and I needed to empty our bladders. We found the official ladies bathroom which boasted not only the requisite line but also a face-curdling stench of rotten urine and hepatitis B. Oh, hell no. We headed to the street.

On a dark corner, amidst bushes and palms and fronds, I crouched at the edge of someone's yard. As extra measure, Donny played sentinel and planted himself on the sidewalk, ready to redirect passersby. Things were going fine, too; I had the angle and the splay just right. There was just so much beer up there and it was taking forever. Mid-stream, I glanced to the right and saw two figures approaching Donny. I whipped my head back and pushed with my pelvis. I HAVE TO GET THIS OVER WITH. And sprayed all over my feet.


Who is nuthatch?

I spent a few hours the other morning in bed with Nicole Richie, Bill Clinton, and Nuthatch, the cat.

Though I think it would be possible to effectively make cases in which Bill, Nic, and myself all qualify for the nuthatch title.

a quick note on retail therapy

To those who have never soothed rough feelings by reaching into your wallet, I ask you: Have you ever worn a Brazilian bathing suit?


I can guess what you're thinking and I have to tell you:

1. I am not, and have never been, petite. I ran screaming out of my mother's birth canal at 10 pounds and for a long time after that remained a foot taller and several pounds heavier than most of my girlfriends.

I'm a muscular 5'10" tall with size ten feet and a size gigantic head. My mom, when she has seen photos of me in a group, has said, 'God, your head is so much bigger than everyone else's!' (You have, mom, don't even try to deny it.)

When I'm running around or riding my bike a lot and trying to eat all healthy and not drink too much, people tell me I look skinny, but I'll still weigh 150 lbs. Usually, I'm 160 or more.

2. Though I profess great joy over tropical weather and the thatched palapa coco loco lifestyle, I usually live in places like New York and Seattle and Chicago and Ohio, so my bikini investments have been minimal. I've bought a few in the last 14 years.

The last one was on sale at Target and featured boy short bottoms because I didn't know if anyone else should have to handle more display of my booty than those shorts offered.

3. Once, many years ago in Ecuador, I grabbed a chunk of my butt and the boy shorts covering it, and said to my boyfriend, 'More meat to love,' and he responded in classic direct Ecuadorian style, 'That's not meat, baby, that's fat.'

Which made me laugh. Because he wasn't insulting me, he was being honest. Fine, more fat to love. Most of the time, I'm at peace with my body. It's strong and moves around well. It's just not teeny tiny.

Still, I was nervous over Leila's suggestion to go Brazilian. 'These suits are different,' she said, 'You'll see.' Unless she meant DIFFERENT like people would suddenly mistake me for Gisele Bundchen on Ipanema Beach, I was skeptical.

But then I tried one on. Optical illusion? Trick mirrors? No, my junk really does look way cuter hanging out of this thing.


Waking up in Sayulita

Above Big Sur

Above my favorite part of California, on my way to Mexico.


Pickwick Bowl

When I got back to LA from Mexico, I went bowling.

Matt and Lindsay picked me up from home and the three of us drove to rescue T3 from the hotel where he is staying for the next few weeks. We went to Pickwick Bowl.

As soon as we all put on our bowling shoes, I knew something was up. Three of us looked like awkward ducks flapping around but Matt appeared SUPER comfortable, like he was entering a zone I wasn't familiar with.

We had a brief discussion about how every alterna-teen wears bowling shoes to school at some point. Someone thought I probably had bowling shoes in high school. I didn't, but Sunny did. I looked at Matt, reclined in the hard plastic bucket seat, one leg crossed over knee, fingers latticed behind his head.

"Matt," I asked. "Are you a pro bowler?"

"No," he replied. "I just played a lot as a kid. And I watched a lot of bowling with my mom when I was home sick from school."

"You came here when you were sick?"

"Yeah. My mom wheeled me in a gurney to the alley in my pajamas."


He continued, "We watched it on TV."

Matt got the game going and typed our nicknames on the screen, christening himself POO N ASS.

PNA was up first and he elegantly hurled the ball down the lane at 23 mph and didn't get a strike but smashed all the pins on the second try.

PNA would get several strikes later, in between scarfing onion rings and giving me advice on how NOT to throw every ball into the right corner. Sometimes I was lucky enough to flick off the outside pin.

Lindsay, on the hand, was nonchalant. Lindsay would stand up, pick a ball, and sidle into position while making self-deprecating noises. Then she'd gently roll the ball away at 8 mph and somehow hit EVERY FUCKEN PIN.

Oh, look what I did. Shrug.

Lindsay and I both struggled with endurance and played notably better in the first game than the second. I know my excuse was partially that my right arm was numb from trying to bowl with balls that I could hardly pick up. I suspect Lindsay was just tired of being so casual about her gift for the game.

Speaking of casual, here is T throwing up his arms in an "Oh well, I tried," move.

Don't mock me, T.

The last time I checked, your bowling score was FOUR TIMES HIGHER than mine.


Bondage gear + paper shredding

My two favorite things in the American Idol road cases are Dee Dee's laminator and Geoff's shredder, followed by our shot glass collection and the talking Moses doll. If only I could laminate some shreds and do shots with Moses. I realized recently that we had files on last year's ticket sales sitting in the case, forms I'd diligently printed up and filed away. They were now just taking up space and not the least bit useful.

"Can I shred these?" I asked Geoff.

Geoff, aware of my feelings about shredding, grinned and said, "Have at it."

He knew my question could also be translate as since we don't have a hot stone massage therapist in the room, do you mind if I shred for an hour to achieve the same zen-like results?

Periodically we'd have to send the runner out for shredder lube, which always made me giggle a little ON THE INSIDE. I'm much cooler and sophisticated than that on the outside. The little shredder was delicate and would get clogged up since it can only do one sheet at a time under normal circumstances. When it clogged, I liked to blame Dee Dee behind her back.

"Was Dee Dee in here trying to shred two pages at once?"

Or worse.

"Did Dee Dee try to shred a paper clip?"

Dee Dee never knew that I was blaming her behind her back, but don't feel sorry for her, because Dee Dee got me back when she sat in the office and did her shredding IN BONDAGE GEAR. I'm not sure that I can ever look at her the same again.

The gear was an end of tour gift from the truck drivers, she protested. That makes it better? And she promised them that she'd wear it on the last night, when many of the crew dresses up in costume. Which, okay, fine but don't look to me for sympathy when you are complaining about how hard it is to type with chains clinking on the keyboard.