Waking up in Los Angeles

Santa Monica Blvd, West Hollywood, CA


Secret shopper!

My cousin, who is a marketing fanatic, I mean genius, sent me an online survey about my grocery buying habits. The survey is distributed by her firm in partnership with blah blah and is the sort of thing I'd delete if it came my way anonymously. In this case, however, I took five minutes to fill it out in case the research somehow impacts a project she's working on. Whatever, end of story.

That's what I thought!

Today I got a phone call from Margarita, a woman with a thick accent that I took to be German, who asked if she could follow me around while I go shopping. And this totally tapped into some long-standing and unacknowledged desire that I've to be a secret shopper or on one of those old game shows where you have a certain amount of time to stuff as much as possible into your cart before the time is up. People screaming, family members cheering etc.

Which gives me an idea: Should I shop really, really fast when Margarita follows me around just to make it more exciting? I'll think about it. It might make it hard for her to take notes on all of the incredibly thought-provoking choices I make in aisle three.

But that's not all. I also get some sort of gift certificate AND get to go out for coffee afterward with Margarita to talk about grocery shopping. Why am I so excited?

Margarita described herself to me so we'd recognize each other at the appointed time and it sounds like we look the same which isn't surprising since people think I'm German about nine times a day. So great, I'll meet my doppelganger outside Trader Joe's on Monday and then try not to feel at least somewhat awkward while being closely monitored as I try to pick out a wine.

laughing quietly to myself

About how Renee's physician suggested she stop running because it's hard on her joints and she replied, "Why don't you just take a shit on my soul?"

Are you f'in kidding me?

The latest batch of DJ Empirical photos from local events just went online and Matthew pointed out that I consistently look like, "Are you fucking kidding me?" in pictures.

I wanted to protest, "What are you talking about?! I smile all over the place!" But it's true; I can't seem get that smirk off my face.

You know those people who've shown abundant joy in every single photo taken since the beginning of time and have a signature flashy HIIIII grin? Not here.

I look so different from one photo to another that I'm not always recognizable. I'm also not super comfortable having my photo taken, something that I may have inherited from my mother, who, I'm sorry I hope this isn't going too far, looks constipated in a lot of photos. Beautiful! Just kind of squinty and worried.

I actually had a conversation about this with a member of the Spice Girls back up band and he said that I should practice smiling in the mirror to find what works for me. I considered this for 1.5 seconds before deciding that while I am vain, I'd still find that way too embarrassing and resigned myself to my nervous tics and smirks.

On that tour I ushered people in and out of rooms where they had their photos taken with the Girls and I observed the Girls turning their smiles on and off hundreds of times. One of the Girls had a cute way of turning her cheek and uplifting her chin.

Which I began to imitate. I'm doing it here in such a way as to invade Dave's personal space. And here as if I'm close personal friends with a helium balloon.

Sometimes I still get stupid and pull shit like this but every now and then someone catches a real, full-on laugh. Like, whoa. Whatever went down in that last one is ejecting me from my seat and forcing an internal exam of Merrick's esophagus on the audience. I want whoever is saying something that funny to come over to my house and say it again right now.

Dancing it out like Kevin Bacon

If you're like me, you feel secretly resistant when someone wants you to watch a video on YouTube. It doesn't matter that sometimes you want people to watch your funny videos and that many of the videos pressed upon you are totally watch-worthy.

Maybe I'm too used to not getting the joke and part of me lives in fear of my non-reaction. Also those four minutes might be a worthless use of my precious and hilarious time.

I think this fear was born of internet jokes forwarded to me over the years: Of the 3,972 jokes received in my inbox, maybe six of them made me giggle.

Regardless, I'm about to put up another YouTube video. I want you to know, however, that this video is very, very special. Unique and amazing things happen in this video. Especially at :59, 1:32, 1:59, and 2:40.

I woke up this morning demoralized by the light dusting of snow on the ground and thought of this video. There isn't technically enough snow on the ground to restrict me and my movements - that's what winter coats are for and I own several - but just enough to remind me that it's not LA and 72 degrees, where I recently walked to work in a short sleeve shirt.

This warm, pleasant memory made me want to find an empty warehouse where I could smoke, slam a cassette into my tapedeck, repeatedly abuse the steering wheel and hood of my car, and then, in frustration over a repressive John Lithgow and his sexy hard-shelled daughter Lori Singer, break my beer bottle into a hundred shards before DANCING IT OUT like Kevin Bacon.

Footloose was on sale at Blockbuster for $3.99 and there was no talking myself out of it.

It was only my favorite movie in 1984, a fact I made clear at the time by owning the soundtrack, nursing a raging crush on KB, buying the sheet music to the Kenny Loggins hit title song, and learning to play said hit title song on the piano. THEN I bought a bottle of pink puffy paint and imprinted the first few bars of the song onto a t-shirt that I wore proudly to school. In case my message was somehow unclear, I scrawled across the top in pink letters F O O T L O O S E. Third grade cursive style.

I hadn't seen the movie since then. Until two nights ago.

And there's just a few things I want to say:

1. Yes, Matthew, that IS what I hoped and believed high school would be like. Yes, I was disappointed.

2. The words to "Let's Hear It for the Boy" and "Holding Out for a Hero" have been hibernating in my brain for a very long time. I had no idea I could - and would! - still belt it out like that.

3. Kevin Bacon had legitimate moments of badassery in that movie. I understand why he was my first celebrity crush.

4. Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut is now my current bedtime book in honor of the scene where Kevin Bacon is on the porch after church with the townspeople and they look at him in hushed horror when he says it's a classic.

5. You're welcome.


cross-dressing George Washington mural

After I posted photos of a painting on a downtown Cincinnati building, my mom asked if I'd seen the cross-dressing George Washington mural on the west side of town. Er, no.

In case I was curious, mom took photos, had our family friend Tim send me a picture text, and she sent me the link to the ArtWorks, the community arts organization that made this 45-foot tall GW in a dress possible.

It's campy, it's in a neighborhood called Camp Washington and George looks pretty. In homage to Cincinnati's slaughterhouse history, there are pigs flying around and a cow represented that, according to the ArtWorks website, escaped the slaughter house and wandered around the neighborhood in 2003.

Side note: Really, 2003?

I personally need more explanation for the tin man and the gorilla at the bottom of the mural. There is a lot going on there.

In other news and perhaps just by comparison, Obama looks troubled in the underpass by my house.


Cold winter sun

Outside the laundromat, Main St. Covington, KY


cutoffs don't have to be a bad thing

Someone I haven't seen in awhile just wrote to say congratulations and send me this.

Another face on another wall

Looking out the stairwell windows at the Contemporary Arts Center
Cincinnati, Ohio

Let the Right One In

Though I've been staunchly anti-car ownership for ten years, I have to admit to borrowing cars a lot. This makes me annoying.You know how there was that one kid you grew up with who got all Money is Evil/Rich People Suck and then when you hang out and the bill comes, he's like, "You got it?" Gr! Well, I'm not that bad.

I gas up the cars I use and sometimes go to car washes but owning them ticks me off because cars break and there's more bills and I have to look for parking and call people assholes 10x more than usual and that just puts me in a bad mood.

I'd rather be like the Silverlake walking man who reads the paper while walking 15 miles a day around his LA neighborhood, minus the 59 types of skin cancer and unwanted attention I'd get if I walked around shirtless.

Having said that, when my mom goes out of town I'm the first one grabbing her car keys to use the Honda while she's gone. And when there's a good reason, or, conversely, absolutely no reason at all, I love a road trip.

Example: I recently drove 100 miles to get my hair cut. Why? Because a two-hour drive sounded nice. My brain empties out over long stretches of open highway and it's easier to hit that perfect hyper to zen ratio at 70mph. I can belt out Tina Turner, ponder my existence, connect the dots of what it means to be human and arrive for my cut and color in a benign state. Also, I got to say hi to Bova in Columbus, which is added value.

Last weekend Matthew and I drove 100 miles in the other direction, to Louisville, to see a movie.

There were several levels of awesome to this road trip. We stayed in the Brown Hotel which made me feel fancy. We saw Let the Right One In, which hadn't yet opened in Cincinnati, and when we got to Louisville we realized the film was playing at the university's Student Activity Center, not 100 yards away from Matthew's former dorm room.

When the guy at the box office asked if we are students, I said, "Yeeeahhh," in a bored over-it collegiate voice to which he replied, "That'll be three dollars." TOTAL FOR BOTH TICKETS. Dude, if you only knew I am approaching middle-age and am headed back to the Brown Hotel after this and not back to the dorm to drink Natural Ice and give myself homemade piercings!

Guillermo del Toro called Let the Right One In a chilling fairy tale and that is accurate. It was stunning and Swedish and made me want to gag a few times because I don't like watching people drink blood. After vampire films, I always ask Matthew if he thinks there really are vampires and he says, "I hope so," and I feel nervous.

This time was different because I wasn't the only one who squirmed. Let the Right One In had this whole scene where the protagonist, Oskar, brushes his teeth playfully with his mom. And seeing people brush their teeth is the ONE thing in the world that gives Matthew the creeps. So while he freaked over the noise of the bristles and went fetal in his seat, I got to point and laugh at him, which made me feel good.


Neill, his Mardi Gras beads, and a car wash

I don't know why I never thought of it before but clearly SOMEONE had because as soon as Neill saw the guys with hoses he got happy.

Neill is no stranger to a hose. One of his favorite warm weather activities, besides raking leaves from point a to b and then back to a (and then back to b again), is watering.

Note I did not say watering plants or flowers. Because Neill doesn't care so much what he waters - he will water a basketball hoop if it's close to him - as long as he gets some long, uninterrupted time to yank the hose around the yard. And you can blame us for over-consuming the earth's resources because Neill's IQ isn't high enough to grasp such concepts. Sometimes we just want to keep him happy.

I was leaving to pick Neill up and take him out to dinner the other day when Matthew asked if I thought Neill would enjoy a car wash.

"I think so," I said, "I mean, it might make him have a seizure but I bet he'd like it still."

Loud noises startle Neill cause him seizures, the reason he always wears a helmet outside. If he had one in the car, though, while going through the wash, I could easily hold onto him if he was in a daze. Also, the car was so thoroughly streaked with mud, salt, and sludge that squinting through the windows for a simple lane change was unsafe so I voted yes on proposition car wash and OH. MY GOD.

I've now decided that Neill and I are going to have a bi-weekly dinner and car wash date because my brother started laughing the minute he saw the hose guys who took our money and didn't stop until we exited the interior conveyor belt, all squeaky and shiny. Good cheap, practical, clean fun.

yes, I am bragging

CityBeat weekly newspaper gives props to one of my favorite "intrepid masterminds" AKA my bf / RACECAR music label. Word!


For the Dude Whisperer

Driving past Florence Mall on 71/75 South
Florence, KY