Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Unlucky Seven

this year turned out to be a big, steamy pile of dog poop. and not only because a second dog in the house meant double the poop cleanup for me. it’s been poopy otherwise. in fact, i don’t know too many people who’ve had a great 2007. seems like the planets misaligned and caused anguish all around. something about saturn in leo causing a ruckus. at least for me. and some others, too.

this year started shitty enough, with a january funeral when my great-aunt died. then i split with Mo in June. then i endured a summer of bronchitis that had me missing work for weeks while sitting at home medicated. that meant weight gain, doctors visits, workers comp paperwork, disinfecting my house and moving to a new floor at work. then came a shit storm of freelance work that i’ve only recently begun to dig my way out of. finally, the house hunt came and dropped its own scoop of turd on my plate in the form of an ever-growing stress ball.

now, at the end of 2007, i find myself exhausted and perpetually cranky, stuck in a seasonal depression that will not allow me to see a bright side. instead, i’ve been focusing on the negative, ruminating over all the things that didn’t work out for me in 2007 and fearful that they still won’t work out in 2008. it’s overrun me with anxiety and made me want to put my head in an oven.

i’ll be the first to admit that my assessments are not entirely steeped in reality. and i know that i’m complaining like a whiny little bitch when real people out there have real problems, like certain friends i’ve seen who’ve endured deaths in the family and sick parents and job losses this year. thankfully, i still have many blessings left to count and know that i am just in a temporary funk. so please forgive my funk.

bright spots of the year have included puppy Pinko, of course, a nice raise and promotion in March and an October trip to Chicago with Mo that was nothing short of perfect (more on that at a later time). in any case, i’ll be thrilled when that rotten apple falls out of ’07 and into ’08. and i’m positive that the second the crossover occurs, i’ll be smiling wide and full of optimism again. just five more days.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

The House-Hunting Chronicles: The Hunt Is On

i’ve been a house-hunting lookie-loo lately, driving around every weekend in search of open houses. i’ve seen tons of places already, most of which i’ve hated. to date, there’s been just one house that gave me that warm feeling of “i can see myself living here!” but i hemmed and hawed like a moron and someone else snatched it. since then, i’ve been praying that it falls out of escrow while rolling my eyes at every new dump i enter.

and yes, they’ve all been dumps. i know i’m supposed to be looking for the worst house on the best block, but when the worst house is 600 square feet of cramped living space, sans yard, on a 1,000-square foot lot — which i found in a great part of Eagle Rock — i can’t do it. i need a place i can live in and maybe add onto in the next few years before trading up.

what’s that you say? i should look into foreclosures? that would be sage advice if i didn’t mind a shitty neighborhood, but since i refuse to move to sacramento, compton or the inland empire, the burgeoning foreclosure market doesn’t do me much good. trust me, the housing market in LA proper is still holding steady and the good parts of town are not overrun by foreclosed properties.

this has been hard. much harder than i thought it would be. not that i thought it would be so damn effortless, but just, i don’t know, maybe more exciting. so far, it’s been a constant hustle and huge epicenter of stress. i’m now on my second mortgage broker and second real estate agent, both of whom i had to scramble to find after realizing that my first choices weren’t working out.

i’m also coming to terms with the unavoidable truth that countless folks have told me already — that my starter home will be far from dreamy. i’ll have to make compromises, reshuffle priorities and throw my lengthy “have to have” list out the window. and i fully intend to, as hard as it will be. i’ll also need to overcome my fear of “the fixer” and learn to be handy around the house.

one good thing is that i’ve gotten better at decoding the cryptic lingo agents and sellers use to describe their properties. example: “cozy” = tiny; “bring your imagination” = dump. in addition, i’ve realized that a pilates studio in a neighborhood means i could never afford to live there. however, if the neighborhood has a “checks cashed” establishment on each corner, i have my pick of the litter.

what’s that you say? i should wait to buy until prices fall more? yeah, i’ve heard that one, too, and i wouldn’t disagree. but certain financial and logistical circumstances are pushing me to buy sooner rather than later (though if i don’t find anything by march, i might just wait another year). plus, every agent, seller and broker i’ve encountered has told me that “it’s a great time to buy!!” and i’m sure they would never lie to me.

Friday, November 23, 2007

Nothing New Really

still being a bizzy bee, with day job and freelance by moonlight occupying every moment. i’m hoping to wrap up this damn book i’m editing in the next few weeks. i can see the finish line and am inching steadily toward it like a marathon runner, though i worry my knees will buckle at the last mile. i’m already tired as fuck, cranky as hell. i want it to end already so i can get some sleep. soon, soon, young grasshopper.

thanksgiving was very nice. i’m sure i can do better than “nice,” but that’s all i got. we had it at my sister’s house this year and had too much food on the table, as jews tend to have, with my sister making ham, my ma making pork chops and me making my world-famous zucchini lasagna. add to that about a million side dishes and you have a feast for an army, though we were just seven.

since we were once poor immigrants, we can’t bear to watch good food go to waste, so we proceeded to stuff ourselves to the brim until we were all sitting around the table groaning, hands on our bellies and our pants unbuttoned. then we collapsed on the couch, popped in some dreadful mandy moore romantic comedy for the kids and drifted into fantasyland until dessert magically appeared on the table. then we ate some dessert. and by “we,” i mean i.

this year, i opted out of the standard what i’m thankful for on thanksgiving post because i’ve done it countless times before and guess what? nothing’s changed. i’m still most thankful for all the living beings around me who fill up my heart with light and make me strive to be a better human being, blah, blah, etc. so thanks, skanks!

i do wish to give a special shout-out to the latest living being that’s enriched my life for the better — my indomitable, inexhaustible puppy Pinko, who’s taught me that i can offer unconditional love to a creature that gets on my every last nerve and drives me bat-shit insane most of the time before turning on the cute and making it all better at just the right moment. but i guess that’s parenthood for you.

beyond that, i’m trying to get myself together for 2008, which means setting some realistic goals, half of which i really really hope i will keep. they include eating less and exercising more (hahahahahahaha!!) and, of course, buying a house. they also include blogging more and banging johnny depp.

Friday, November 02, 2007

The House-Hunting Chronicles: Open House, Downtown LA

my mortgage broker forwarded me an email she received from the city a few weeks ago that said the city would have the money i need to fund my home purchase in another two or three months. recall that the very generous and wealthy city of Los Angeles is helping me secure my mortgage through a first-time homeowners fund set aside especially for low-income peeps like myself. mortgage broker also said that she faxed in a reservation for me, which should secure my cut of the pie.

i’ve decided to look upon this unexpected delay as divine intervention from the real estate gods who know that home prices will continue to fall. by how much, who the hell knows? i read estimates each day in the paper that predict anywhere from a 15% to a 60% drop. and honestly, i don’t know whom to believe. i don’t even believe my own estimate of a 30% drop, because i don’t own a crystal ball, and my tarot cards don’t count.

however things go, my goal has never been to flip a house or time the market to my advantage. sure, i don’t want to buy real estate that depreciates, but if it’s a short-term loss that’s eventually regained, i could live with that — and in that. already, as i check the MLS, so many more places have entered the realm of my search criteria, with their headlines of “REDUCED!! REDUCED!!” this is quite awesome, as it’s expanded my concept of what i can afford.

still, i can’t afford much. without getting into the dollars and cents of it, my budget might allow me to buy a nice house in compton, but that would run counter to Dave’s advice of “buy the worst house on the best block.” i’m already priced out of the areas i really want to live in, like Silver Lake, which already had its influx of aging hipsters who were tired of hollywood move in and gentrify. the next wave went farther east, into Eagle Rock, which i’m also priced out of. so hello, Highland Park.

there’s also the downtown area, which i was considering until i attended the grand opening of a popular loft complex in the fashion district. i went with my girl, Dee, who’s also toying with the idea of the big buy, for the promise of a live band, free food and a chance to win an iPhone in a raffle. turns out the band was a DJ, the food was all fried, and neither of us won the iPhone. we probably looked like a pair of picky power dykes as we sauntered from one showcase loft to the next, opening closet doors and asking the ushers stationed around the complex, “um, excuse me, is this laminate cus it sure doesn’t look like real wood?” (it was laminate.)

if location is everything in real estate, these lofts proved it. some of them had the most breathtaking views of the downtown skyline, which i stood and stared at for a long minute. it struck me that these tall buildings, one of which i work in, looked more beautiful than a pack of trees. i began imagining that view at night or during the rain, and how inspiring it could be. it overwhelmed me with love for Los Angeles and got me thinking that i should call the u-haul to schedule the move-in.

then i’d walk into a different loft and find a view of the parking lot behind the complex, which was breathtaking in a different way. though the lot was guarded, i could see the junkies surrounding the perimeter, one of whom accosted me for change when i stepped out of the building, and said with slurred speech and out-stretched hand, “iss not fer drugs.”

that got me thinking i should cancel the u-haul and keep my hands in my pockets. as far as it’s come, downtown LA still has a ways to go. it’s always been a place to avoid at night, good only for warehouse parties where you can drink past 2am and buy drugs. trees are rare, and the ‘bark park’ promised by the complex offered just a patch of astroturf for the residents’ dogs to do their doodies on.

maybe i could have done it ten years ago when i was fearless and dogless, but today, loft living downtown just doesn’t suit me. it’s too urban, remote and uncomfortable. it’s not dog-friendly, and there’s no supermarket nearby. plus, parking is nonexistent, which means none of my friends would visit. i hear enough complaints now, living in West Hollywood, about the ‘parking situation.’ in Los Angeles, there is always a parking situation and in downtown, it’s a catastrophe.

i know downtown has nicer lofts in nicer, safer neighborhoods, but i’m already priced out of those. though if i did have money to burn, i would totally get a loft as a weekend retreat, which i would turn into a studio space where i could write the great american novel while gazing at the skyline.

at night, i’d invite my arty neighbors over to drink red wine and talk about postmodernism. i’d smear brie on my crackers without a care about the calories, because in this fantasy i’m ravishing and effortlessly thin. we’d play LCD Soundsystem records, on vinyl, to drown out the noise of the urban bustle outside and think nothing of the sirens and helicopters that circled around us. we’d be cool like dat and make funny jokes — haha that one about Nietzsche! good one, Pierre!

the next morning, i’d drive back to my real home, which would have a paved driveway not filled with panhandlers. then on weekends, i’d take the jet to my beach house in Maui. better yet, i’d just teleport there because jet fuel is bad for the environment nowadays and i’ve gone green.

but i’ll save all that for another day. today, i’ll focus on finding the worst house on the best block.

Monday, October 22, 2007

The Busies Continued

work is insane lately. like loony bin, nuthouse, certifiably, committably, need medication for life insane. in my brilliance, i overlooked the fact that i might need to sleep now and then and picked up another freelance gig that has me editing a two-volume book on cinematographers. as with most things, it sounds cooler than it is and it’s whittled my free time down to zero.

but i signed myself up and i’m the type of gal who keeps her commitments. trust me on that point. don’t listen to my friends, who’d likely tell you that i’ve been LA flaking on them left and right. don’t mind the stack of unopened mail on my desk or myriad unanswered messages in my inbox, i get my shit done.

and after i’m done with the cinematographers, i have the carpentry book to keep me warm through the holiday season. and after that i’m hopeful for a seasonal slowdown that will afford me time to visit with the peoples and spend some of the cash i’ve been working so hard for. currently, it’s all been going toward the pay-off-your-damn-car-already fund, but mama needs a new iPod and some microderm.

mama also needs to update this blog more often. i’m sitting on a few stories i’ve been meaning to share about my attendance of open houses downtown and the annual copy editor forum and about my trip to chicago. bear with me. they’re coming. but for now i’m going. work beckons.

Thursday, October 04, 2007


that look: it’s the look she always seems to be wearing, particularly when i’m busy doing housework, checking email or — heaven forbid! — giving Juice a morsel of attention. that's when the stink eye comes out in this look that screams, “what are you doing, woman? don’t you know that I am the puppy? give all your attention to ME!!”

inattention: but the moment i pay attention to my special needs child i become irrelevant. i could be sitting with Pinko, scratching the sweet spot on the side of her neck that seems to paralyze her with pleasure, causing her to lean into the embrace and look up at me with the sweetest eyes. it’s a rare moment that could become my favorite of the day, maybe the week. and i’ll bend down and get all cutsie-poopsie in her ear and plant a kiss on her snout. then Juice will walk by leisurely on her way to the water bowl. and BOOM — Pinko will leap off my lap and trot alongside Juice like they had long-standing plans to meet at the water bowl all afternoon and her visit with me was only to kill time.

fusion: i’m fully expecting to come home one day to find Pinko’s skeleton fused into Juice’s. i hope they make special leashes for that. Pinko’s like an extra appendage already, the way she’s attached herself to Juice like a bunion. bright side for me is that i only need to ever look for one dog at a time, since the other will always be a step behind.

is that asparagus? for the record, i’m not one to get all weird about dogs sniffing each other’s asses. i understand that it’s a simple gesture for them, akin to a handshake. but imagine shaking your sibling’s hand up to ten times an hour, each time you both enter a new room, just to, you know, get reacquainted.

stuffed animal: now imagine viewing your sibling as a security blanket that must be in contact with your own body at all times. if the security blanket should ever fall off the bed or inch away from you as you sleep, imagine the horror such a discovery can bring. for Pinko, it means waking up in a flurry, crossing the room to find her beloved Juice and collapsing on top of her before returning to sleep.

from chopped liver to paté: though i’ll likely always be first runner-up, Pinko has warmed up to me tremendously. she’s not quite as affectionate as Juice, which bugs me a bit, but i’m trying not to take it personally. Juice is the type of dog who insists on taking every single nap in your arms, whereas Pinko only needs to lay her head across your foot to feel close. it’s clear she craves contact, but too much contact, like a hug, seems to smother her into a recoil.

pobrecita: i forget that Pinko was mistreated in her first few months of life, especially now that she’s grown so vibrant. it’s heartbreaking to think of some bastard abusing my puppy. and infuriating. it doesn’t happen much anymore, but at the beginning, whenever i would place my hand on her for some petting, her whole body would twitch, maybe from surprise, maybe from fear. to get her past her discomfort with contact, i got into the habit of resting my hand on her while she slept.

the crazy hour: i think Pinko might be part werewolf because, come sundown, she acts totally insane. it’s her “crazy hour” when she runs circles around the living room, ricocheting off furniture and jumping on Juice’s head like a hyperactive kid who’s upset that bedtime is approaching. my systematic research has discovered that crazy hour will occur no matter how much exercise Pinko has engaged in during the day. we could have spent the entire day hiking runyon and chasing balls at the park, but at the first sign of dusk — BOOM! — crazy dog.

the miyagi method: when Pinko becomes nutty — whether at night and often when guests are over — i try to reassure her that yes, Pinko, the sun will come out again tomorrow and no, Pinko, these people are not your new owners. when contrasted with my past strategy of exasperated frustration, reassurance is a winner. the trick, i’ve found, is to find that rare moment when she is still and gently place a hand on her belly or neck and leave it there. this acts as a sort of kryptonite, sucking out her nervous energy until she drops to the floor in a sleepy stupor. sometimes just holding her paw will do it. i think it helps her to know that mom’s here, baby, and it’s safe to go to sleep. (so fucking go to sleep!)

matriculation: best news is that Pinko has finally become a fully integrated member of the household. the novelty has worn off. she’s here to stay, and she knows it as much as Juice and i do. at this point, Pinko’s lived with me longer than she’s lived anywhere else, about half of her 10-month-old life.

the new sheriff: but with this newfound security, Pinko has decided to let her flag of mischief fly high and proud. before, she was trying harder than ever to conform to house rules, but now that she sees how hypnotized Juice and i are by her charm, she’s getting more brazen, as if she’s the one making the house rules.

rule #1: i am never allowed to leave the house. only when i am putting on my shoes do i become the most important creature in Pinko’s life. then comes the whining, the jumping, the pawing. and on those special days when Pinko’s at her most ballsy, she’ll pop into the yard and return with a stick in her mouth — a firmly established no-no — and lay it at my feet with a look that seems to say, “if you leave the house, i might be tempted to misbehave. and you wouldn’t want that, right?”

not good enough: as i’ve burned through my sick day stash at work, i can’t really call in to say i have to stay home because i fear my mischievous puppy, so i get up and go to work as usual, always uneasy about what i might see upon my return. once, i made the mistake of leaving my laundry hamper in Pinko’s reach only to find my clothes strewn throughout the house, covered in dog hair. as i leave the back door open for the dogs when i’m gone, lots of clothes were also scattered across the yard, including a lacy pair of panties that Pinko buried in the dirt.

rule #2: when i am at home — which is more often than not nowadays — all my attention should be focused on Pinko. this means playing with Pinko and her dirty dog toys and stuffing Pinko full of dog treats. any deviation from these two activities causes her to snake around my legs, wagging her tail so hard that it looks like it will break off her body. then comes the “talking,” which is not quite a whine or bark. it’s more of a constant vocalization that really sounds like there could be words in there. the speech generally falls into two categories: there's the low, guttural pre-bark growl that seem to say, “bitch, you better not be leaving the house again”; and the high-pitched pre-howl cries that translate to, “why, oh why, won’t you play with me? please, please, please!”

Juice! still a cutie.

Pinko!: just as cute — despite her destructive tendencies, talking back and divided attention. there's not a day i don't look at her and grin. she was the right dog at the right time, exploding with that hot pink personality that endears as it puzzles. i have no buyers remorse. you may put a fork in me. i’m done; i’m sold. i love this dog.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Stuff and Things

someone has gotten a case of the busies. i’ll give you one guess who that someone could be. that someone has been doing a lot of shit, some of it bullshit, but all of it is shit that needs to be done. a summary of the shit includes:

  • work has been nuts lately. my day job has me juggling three projects in various stages of completion in addition to the day-to-day tasks that need attention. seems like every moment of the day is occupied by my coworkers calling, emailing and messaging me with the same burning question, “Can you look at this? Can you look at this? CAN YOU LOOK AT THIS?” look at this, people. it’s my middle finger. i only have two eyeballs.

  • then comes the freelance work. i’m just finishing up a proofread of an 850-page high school health textbook that has occupied my weeknights and weekends for many months now, first with the student edition of the book and then with the teacher edition. i’m happy to have done it, though, as i learned a few things and also opened the door to more projects with this publisher. in fact, they have already offered me a new project proofing a vocational book on carpentry. fancy that, me reading a carpentry manual. that’ll make me super cool, just like Jesus!

  • on the home front, my landlord decided to remove the tacky track lighting that rules every room in my house, prompting every last person who enters my home for the first time to ask, “what’s with all the track lighting?” i usually say it was big in the nineties when my gay landlord remodeled the guest house. but seriously, my living room alone has 18 track lights controlled by 6 different dimmer switches. i’m happy to see them go and to also have my ceiling painted, but dang, what a mess it’s created. the dogs are all kinds of nervous with the spike in foot traffic, the smell of paint is suffocating, and i’m tripping over ladders and brushes at every turn. but once it’s done in another day or two, those lights will be as distant a memory as perms and leg warmers. now i just need to buy a lamp.

  • social calendar has also been overflowing. beyond the longstanding weekly dinner with the girls, there’s now the weekly hike at runyon with Chad, and dinners with grad school friend Grace and college friend Elisha, both of whom i recently reconnected with. add to this phone calls to New York to keep up with JD, John John, Zahra, Als and Allison. plus, i’ve begun attending open houses with Dee on weekends. (apologies to Zee and Wade whom i’ve yet to schedule a meal with.) so yes, lots of social activities with lots of positive people who are way cooler than i am. and no, still manless.

  • because my summer of bronchitis originated in my workplace i’ve had to file workers compensation paperwork. this isn’t quite as big a deal as one would think. i basically need to fill out some forms, provide some receipts and doctors notes, and then my case is recorded as having happened and my claim is considered resolved. it should be no big deal, but the bureaucracy surrounding something like this as documents are misplaced and phone calls go unreturned and files are incomplete and whoops, we got your date of birth wrong. headache.

  • speaking of sick, the bronchitis has finally left the building that is my body, but stayed in the building that is my workplace. (ok, lame. sorry.) i’m not coughing much anymore, but i’m still allergic as hell to the construction dust. one day last week i spent about three hours on the toxic floor for assorted meetings and greetings with coworkers, and by the end of the day i felt fairly crummy. it felt as though the water level rose in my body, starting in my lungs with some wheezing and shortness of breath; then it moved through my head with my nose and sinuses clogging up; and by the time i left the floor in the afternoon, my eyes were burning and i could feel a hive developing on my eyelid. i came home and promptly bathed in hydrogen peroxide and have sworn to myself that i will not step foot on that floor again unless i’m wearing an astronaut suit. yeah, just like bubble girl.

poor me, right? i need a break, right? my thoughts exactly, which is why i’m taking this friday off to engage in a bit of retail therapy. my only objective that day will be to sleep late and then hit the mall to spend my hard-earned money. after all, everyone knows that the only way to cure the stress of having bronchitis, visiting with friends and getting my house redone is by buying many pairs of cute shoes.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

The Single Life

three months ago i blogged that my two-year relationship ended and i’m again a single woman. it went something like, “we broke up. the end.” i didn’t feel like talking about it much then and i still don’t. perhaps i’ve finally learned enough to know better than to be consumed by the melodramatic sadness a breakup brings, or maybe the fact that i saw it coming this time cushioned the fall.

whatever the reason, i’ve been surprisingly at peace with singledom. i have zero desire to jump into anything serious anytime soon. it’s been liberating not to be waiting on anyone’s call or dealing with the stress that comes from entangling my personal well-being with someone else’s. i cannot remember the last time i found myself in this enviable position, where my heart is neither swelling nor aching.

and i like it. life is so calm lately, so full of the simple pleasures — the smelling of the roses, the easy like sunday morning. my emotions look like clear blue skies. and the thought of anything coming in to disrupt this rare internal equilibrium and my happy home life with the pups is repulsive to me. for now.

for now.

i know me and y’all likely also know that time and restlessness will create an itch that only a ravishing man can scratch. and given my history i’m sure he’ll be tall and dark-haired and wrong for me. and i’ll blog about it with a conclusion that will go something like, “we broke up. the end.”

there are times nowadays when i’ve felt that tug. it always arrives with the witching hour, around the twilight, after i’ve finished my work for the day, have had my dinner, read my book, cleaned my house and catered to the dogs. then will follow a moment of stillness when i look around, largely pleased with what i see: the safety and stability, abundance and comfort, and the unyielding warmth from the cuties. it'll absorb me and evoke a wide smile.

then something will bubble up, as much as i’d like to deny it, the feeling will rise up and wash over the moment — the desire to share it all, to sit on the couch with someone who’ll hold my hand while we watch TV.

for now it’s just a flash that disappears as quickly as it comes, but i know it will grow into a primal need as it has before, with the maddening loneliness that grows with it. i’m not there yet, and i sense i still have a ways to go. but when i do get there, i hope i’ll have the fortitude to bypass the hunt altogether and allow things to happen organically.

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

The House-Hunting Chronicles: The Prequalification

as i tell friends that i’m interested in buying a place, i’m often met with a look that seems to say, “damn, girl, i didn’t realize you made THAT much money!” truth is i don’t make THAT much money. in fact, i barely make THIS much money. and, as counterintuitive as it may seem, my lack of money is the one thing that will make homeownership affordable for me.

pretty much all the first-time homebuyer guides i read through in preparation for this quest said the same thing: check with your state’s housing authority, which provides great incentives for first-timers, to find your mortgage. so i checked and wow — down-payment assistance, gap financing, deferred junior loans and, the deal-sealant, a 40-year fixed mortgage at a below-market rate. and in this ridiculously wealthy county of Los Angeles, my salary places me in the low/moderate income bracket, meaning i qualify.

though that’s not the same as prequalifying for the loan, which can only be achieved through mondo paperwork and a thorough credit check. for my appointment with the mortgage broker specializing in these ghetto loans, i came equipped with documents galore: three years worth of W-2s, tax documents filed with the IRS, pay stubs, IRA account statements, quarterly statements for my investments, checking and savings account documentation, my passport and any other outstanding loan or asset documentation i could provide. then came a blood test, a urine test and a hearing exam, followed by the inner-ear culture, pap smear and rectal swab — concluding with a quiz on Rorschach inkblots.

and then something weird happened. “uh oh,” said the mortgage broker while looking at her computer screen. immediately i froze because nothing is more frightening than hearing “uh oh” from someone about to loan you a bunch of money. “uh oh?” i asked cautiously while trying to clear the quiver out of my throat.

“well,” she began, “part of your mortgage is provided by the state of California and the other part is taken care of by the city of Los Angeles, and it looks like the city ran out of money.” ghetto indeed.

of course the city-sponsored part of my mortgage is the good part — the zero-interest, deferred junior loan, gap financing portion that i only need to repay once the principal mortgage supplied by the state is paid off (in 40 years!), meaning i need that city money BAD. that’s the part that really gives me “purchasing power,” mortgage broker said.

she also said the fund would be replenished by the government, eventually, and that i would need to wait. ok, so now i wait through a subprime mortgage meltdown for the government to pour money into a depleted fund set aside for low-income homebuyers. yeah, i’m sure that’s a real high priority right now.

but wait i will, as i simply have no other choice. mortgage broker assures me it won’t take more than a few months for the new funding to come in, despite her admission that she’s never known this to happen before. in the meantime, i would be put on the wait list, which, yes, is already lengthy.

Thursday, August 23, 2007


i’m really starting to come out of the fog now. another week of recuperation has passed and i’m breathing better and feeling brighter. i’ve resumed my old habits of leaping off tall buildings in a single bound and fighting underground street crime. from now on, y’all can call me the Pheonixxx. and damn, it feels goooooood to be back.

i had been sick for so long that i had grown accustomed to the congestion and coughing, forgetting what it’s like to feel healthy. and now i’m doing what i can to forget this summer of sick. to put it behind me, i bit the bullet and bought a bunch of new bedding accoutrements, including allergy protectors for my mattress and pillows, a new sheet set and a new duvet cover.

with sadness (and a bandana tied around my mouth and nose as a mask), i peeled off my old duvet cover from my comforter — a gorgeous, strawberry-colored, shimmery silk cover that i loved dearly. it fell to the ground where i proceeded to stomp on it for causing me so much allergenic agony. then i scooped it up and just threw it in the trash bin, right on top of the watermelon rinds.

half an hour later, my ankles were covered with the most obnoxiously itchy welts, making me wonder whether i should have called a haz-mat team to dispose of the cover instead, lest some homeless man dig it out of my trash for warmth and develop rashes and bronchitis.

but that didn’t ruin my spirits, which were elevated to ultimate heights the following morning after i enjoyed the most restful night of sleep i’ve had in months, lounging as i did on my new softer-than-soft beechwood sheets, with my comforter now wrapped in a still gorgeous copper-colored silk duvet cover.

and more bright sides have begun to emerge. for starters, i’ve conclusively quit smoking — before it was just a theory — which means no more social cigarettes. i haven’t had one since june, and the few recent times i’ve been out and about and been offered a cig i’ve declined, which never happened before. occurrences like these are indicative of a general paradigm shift toward positivity, which is my latest life aim. going forward, my goals are to make healthy choices, live for the long-term and surround myself with positive people, myself notwithstanding. lofty, eh?

the time off also got me exercising regularly and going to bed earlier, making me a happier, more energetic camper during the day. i’m well rested now and focused on the house-hunting adventure that lies ahead. all in all, all is well again.

Friday, August 17, 2007

The House-Hunting Chronicles: The Decision to Buy

they say that before buying a home, you should list all the attributes you’d like your future residence to have and then categorize the list into the “have to haves” and the “nice to haves.” they say you should be realistic in your assessment and have the majority of attributes in the “nice to have” column, leaving just a few big deal items, like good schools and safe neighborhood, in the “have to haves.”

so far, my list is comprised of 15 “have to haves” and 10 “nice to haves.” and for the life of me, i cannot bear to move any more items into the “nice to haves” column, no more than i could ever justify spending a boatload of money on something that only halfway suited my needs.

i know this is bad. i know i live in california. i know i am not rich. and i know i want to own the home in which i live. i know i’ll need to compromise and i’m sure i will, but given the fact that i’m madly in love with my current home — which possesses almost all the attributes on my list — i can’t imagine willfully moving to a place where i’ll have less than i have now.

now, i already have a house with character and high ceilings and a yard for my dogs and hardwood floors and a washer-dryer and dishwasher, and a terrific neighborhood with a Whole Foods and dog park within walking distance, and i have really great neighbors and a good-sized kitchen. and i absolutely love my landlord. and why the hell am i moving again?

ah, right — because i can never own it. it’s a guesthouse, and i will never be able to afford the main house it’s attached to, nor is that main house for sale. and i really really want to own my own place, because 1) a house is the most sound long-term investment, etc., etc., and 2) tax-wise it makes sense for me, especially with the amount of W-9 work i do each year. plus, i’m domestic by nature and need my own little castle and kingdom i can crown myself queen of.

to this end, i’ve spent the past few months doing a whole lot of research. i’ve read guide after guide on home-buying, with emphasis on what first-time homebuyers should know. and while i’ve learned a bundle, i’m still terrified of getting it all wrong, of being bamboozled by money-hungry real estate agents, mortgage brokers and contractors who’ll bully me into buying some dumpy ghetto studio with poor plumbing and crumbling ceilings that’s next door to a freeway on-ramp. to afford it, i’ll spend the next 30 years eating nothing but Top Ramen.

it could happen. i’m in los angeles, one of the priciest housing markets in the country. true, the market has been changing here as it has everywhere else, arming me with some mighty leveraging power, which i fully intend to use. buyers market, here i come.

but before i can even attend my first open house, i need to visit the mortgage broker to get prequalified for a loan. i have my paperwork gathered and my appointment set. can’t wait to find out how much i’m worth. keep tuned for the next installment of the househunting chronicles, which will have the answer.

Monday, August 13, 2007

And Now

i’ve made some serious headway this past week, with regard to that whole health and healing thing that’s been eluding me for many months now. my cough has gone from “accompanying every inhale” to “periodic.” i would normally be overjoyed at such a development if the chronic coughing hadn’t been replaced by snot overproduction. but now, instead of coughing so hard that my eyeballs risk popping out of my skull, it’s been my ears popping daily with the nonstop blowing of my nose.

this has left me in a constant state of irritable. i’ve never been a sickly person. in fact, i’ve always prided myself on having a strong russian constitution. i’ll drink milk past the expiration date if it smells ok, take my steaks medium rare and eat shellfish like it’s going out of style. feathers and cats have been my only serious allergies, and i manage to avoid both with great success. but now, i’m using a friggin inhaler to breathe right.

sadly, the disinfection was less than a raging success. febreeze’s anti-allergen spray may as well have been fragrant water because it didn’t do shit. i worry i’ll need to replace my mattress and bedding, all of which i bought new last year. the air purifier, however, does seem to be improving the air quality in my bedroom — somewhat. still, i need to sleep with a fan blowing in my face to keep the air circulating. otherwise, my sinuses impact with snot, causing me to spend the first hour of each morning being intimate with the tissue box.

also, i’m officially boycotting summer. first off, i’ve always despised the heat. it makes me tired, uncomfortable and, worst of all, sweaty. i don’t subscribe to sweating. aside from the few forms of exercise i enjoy, sex and dancing, there is no reason to sweat. it’s unbecoming. secondly, now that i’ve finished all the schooling i’ll ever need, summers are nothing to look forward to. they don’t provide the lengthy break or possibility for exotic travel like they once did. now, summertime means go to work as usual. no big whoop.

last summer i spent tied up in knots at the thought of turning 30, and the summer before was Angela’s suicide, the first big breakup with Mo and my own cancer scare. crapola. can’t wait to see what calamity is in store for me next summer. oh, that’s right. i won’t be observing summer anymore. i’ll be tucked under my covers, hiding from it, and probably still coughing.

ok, bright side. where you at, where you been hiding? one good piece of news is that i haven’t broken out in hives in many weeks. i’m sure that sleeping in full pajama armor has influenced this outcome. also good is that i’ve been exercising more and hanging out in my gym’s steam room, which make my lungs very happy. energy is also back, making me itchy to leave the house more. and i’ve been far more engaged in my work and generally more enamored with living a healthy life.

there. much better.

Saturday, August 04, 2007


recovery has finally made an appearance on the horizon. i can almost taste it. and thankfully it doesn’t taste like a lugee. it tastes more like an ionic breeze, slightly metallic but clean, like distilled water.

also good is that the source of my sickness has been identified. i think this is one of those few occasions where the phrase “i’m allergic to work” can be used both literally and figuratively. ok, it’s a weak pun but let me claim my small victories. i’m still sick. cough cough.

but seriously, i am allergic to my workplace. i guess the bright aura i’ve credited myself with having lately was really a radioactive glow. my mistake for not noticing sooner. what i did notice was that i got sick soon after i moved floors at work in mid-may. i moved to a floor undergoing construction, and although the affected areas are neatly taped off and away from worker bees like myself, those allergens jumped the fence and burrowed into my lungs, causing the bronchitis. cute aryan doctor pieced this together when i mentioned the move, the construction, and that other peeps on the floor have also developed coughs.

he also cautioned that i’ve been bringing the allergens home, as they’re the clingy types that have attached to my clothes and hair, meaning they’re in my house and car, meaning that i need to disinfect pretty much everything in my possession. but here’s the best part: guess where the allergens are most concentrated? wait for it, wait for it.

my bed! awesome, right? guess that will teach me to hang up my clothes every day. at least i finally have an explanation for why i always felt more miserable after crawling into bed to rest. and it’s also nice to have finally isolated the cause of the hives.

yeah, the hives. they’ve popped up several times already, always in the middle of the night. it’s a fun little panic to awaken to. at first, i attributed their appearance to a new marinade, but when they refused to relent long after the marinade had passed through my system, all blame landed on these allergens.

so now i disinfect. the comforter has been dry-cleaned, the mattress febreezed and vacuumed, the sheets boiled, and an air purifier — yes, the Ionic Breeze from Sharper Image — is doing the rest. workwise, my supervisors have kindly agreed to my request to be moved off the floor until construction ends. and no, i’m not suing.

but i am still disinfecting. i have the sanitizing wipes attached to my sleeve so if i see you and insist on wiping you down with bleach before giving you a hug hello, you know why.

Saturday, July 28, 2007

Out of Orbit

i’ve spent the past week and a half home from work, recovering from this lovely respiratory infection. the illness itself wouldn’t have taken me so far out of orbit but the antibiotics and other assorted meds i had to ingest for the past ten days leveled me in unanticipated ways. i seriously had so little energy that doing something as simple as laundry felt like a herculean task.

i slept most of the days away, left my house only when necessary and bitched nonstop to anyone who made the mistake of calling me to say hi. i might be a happy drunk, but a sad sick i'm afraid. i hated the forced time off, particularly because i couldn't do a damn thing with it. i laugh when i think of the ambitious list i wrote of all the things i intended to do when i first began my respite. instead, i did the following — and you can too should you ever find yourself in the position of looking for Things to Do While Recovering from Bronchitis:
  • promise yourself that you’ll never ever smoke another cigarette for the rest of your life and ask your friends to put out their own cigarettes on your face if you try to bum. decide to buy an air purifier and visit the steam room at the gym more often to help detoxify your lungs.

  • bemoan the fact that your medication causes sun sensitivity and that you need to stay indoors and out of the sun’s harmful rays which can now boil you like a lobster. then remember it’s july in los angeles, 90 degrees, and that you hate heat and wouldn’t want to be out there anyway. feel better momentarily.

  • enjoy the time with your fantastic dogs who seem happy to have you home so much. apologize to said dogs profusely about being a dead-beat mom all week and promise them numerous trips to the dog park upon your recovery. bond with your new puppy who is finally starting to become affectionate with you. notice that new puppy has a serious gas problem.

  • begin work on a freelance project that requires you to proofread an 850-page high school health textbook. find yourself actually learning something. giggle at the chapter on sexual abstinence.

  • visit your cutie-patootie Aryan doctor for another checkup where you blather on about your cough. say inappropriate and nonsensical things such as you really like the cough syrup with codeine he prescribed because it gives you “kaleidoscopic” dreams. blush like a school girl when he uses his stethoscope to listen to your lungs, which, by the way, sound clear so no you don’t have pneumonia like you suspect and you didn’t have it last time either, remember? leave quietly and then kick yourself in the head for being an insufferable idiot.

  • find one long, dense book to occupy your week. settle on the 625-page autobiography of Katharine Graham. find yourself once again fascinated by the world of journalism. vow to rent “All the President’s Men” as soon as you can.

  • become alarmed when your puppy brings in a severed pigeon leg one morning from the yard. carefully dispose of leg and then reluctantly enter your yard to find pigeon feathers scattered throughout, but no carcass. inspect puppy’s mouth, face and body to see if she had an altercation with a pigeon and already ate the evidence. conclude that it was likely a possum who committed the dismemberment the prior night and puppy recovered only sloppy seconds.

  • eat like a pig because you’re bored and need comfort. exercise not at all. have your parents come by to drop off food after you complain that your fridge is empty. hear your dad look at you and say, “hmm, i thought being sick would make you drop a few pounds.”

  • wish Zsa Zsa Gabor would call you.
nowadays i’m feeling better, though the cough and congestion still linger. but my energy has begun its rebound, and resuming work and rejoining civilization have never sounded better. i’ve spent enough time sitting around cruising myspace and twiddling my medicated thumbs. time to be productive again.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Aggressive Upper Respiratory Infection

a few weeks ago, doc said it was “acute bronchitis aided by bacteria.” next stop on the infirmary train would be pneumonia if i left it untreated, but to me it already feels like pneumonia, or at least its seedling. i’ve been coughing for six weeks. no joke. i also haven’t had a solid night’s rest in six weeks, being that i’m awakened countless times throughout the night to get a good cough out, wet my irritated throat with water and take a few deep breaths to return the oxygen to my brain.

until i saw the doctor earlier in the week, i had convinced myself that i had TB and would need to be quarantined. i feared that i might be arrested if i didn’t do the quarantine like that guy who was in the news a month back for flying with TB. i wondered if i could have crossed paths with him and been exposed. maybe he was that drunken guy from the Knitting Factory in early June who stood too close to me at the bar. i swear that guy breathed on my drink. i even began to prepare for the quarantine, trying to figure out who could watch my dogs and wondering would they have WiFi at the TB clinic?

i’ve begun my second round of antibiotics, with this one being some super strong antibiotic made for horses or something. when i went to fill the prescription, the pharmacist was like, “wow, do you have pneumonia?” i guess the sub par Amoxicillin of the first round just won’t treat such an aggressive infection, one that’s causing my lungs to crawl up my throat in an effort to escape my diseased body. plus there’s the Mucusin that is forcing the — yep, you guessed it — mucus to crawl up along with my lungs, maybe to better lubricate their journey. and there’s also the cough medicine with codeine that is giving me some crazy dreams, including a very surreal semi-nightmare the other night that had me on a roadtrip with all my ex-boyfriends.

i feel dumb, like it’s my fault. even strangers on the street think it’s my fault. a few weeks back as i was walking to Whole Foods, coughing my brains out, i passed an old russian guy on the street who heard my bark, looked right at me, finger pointed and yelled “don’t smoke!!!” in russian. startled, i kept walking, took a moment to process the event before turning around and yelling back, also in russian, “i don’t smoke!!” what a fucker. i haven’t had a cigarette in months. before those months maybe, but that has nothing to do with now. neither does having been a heavy smoker for six years back in the day. i mean, come on.

am i complaining enough? please humor me some more, because that’s what good blog readers do and you guys are the best blog readers in the world. i also have a story about the trip to the doctor’s office, which sadly didn’t include a lollipop or bright sticker at its conclusion like it did when i was a kid.

instead i had to visit the USC Health Sciences campus just north of downtown for a coveted same-day appointment, which means i get to see a different doctor every time as well as the ever-friendly med students who do the intake. the one this time looked younger than me and seemed scared as hell to talk to or touch me. she began by asking why i came in, and i kindly supplied her with a demonstration of the barking cough that has been charming those around me for weeks. i went on for about five minutes rattling off a list of my symptoms only to have her nod vigorously without writing a single thing down.

she then stopped and glanced down at her blank sheet, looking defeated. “i’m a third-year medical student and this is my first day ever working with patients,” she smiled meekly. “and the doctor wanted me to finish your intake in 15 minutes so he could leave by five.”

i had to appreciate her honesty. she seemed so genuine that i tried not to let her inexperience irritate me. but after another five minutes of her looking lost and apologetic, i had no other choice but to grab the clipboard and write down a list of my symptoms, saying, “don’t worry about a thing, sweetie. i’d love to leave by five, too. let’s get this party started.”

she seemed relieved, thanked me for being “cool” and eventually resumed control of her clipboard, but she still managed to prolong the intake to 25 minutes by asking every last question on the sheet, including “are you having homicidal thoughts and is anyone abusing you?”

i wanted to say, “sweetie, is that the intake sheet for teenagers? because i’m here for a cough, so no, my daddy’s not touching me weird. is the doctor free yet?” but instead i smiled politely and showed what i believe to be an alarming amount of self-restraint by breathing out a simple “no and no.”

finally the doctor came in and damn was he ever cute — and in a very not-my-type sort of way, meaning he looked a bit Aryan when i generally prefer them darker. still, i began to entertain the idea that i would need a house call later when i could try on his white coat and test out his bedside manner, heh heh. but i quickly dropped any illusion that our interaction was flirtatious when he began talking about the diarrhea all my new medications could cause.

and so far the only thing the medication has caused is insomnia. note the time stamp. i can’t sleep at all.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Puppy Love

i know what you’re thinking: but i swear i’m not pushing their heads together to create these syrupy look-at-the-darling-puppies-cuddling photo opps. swear!

they play, too: yes, when they are not nuzzling or staring into each other’s eyes lovingly, they are playing tug of war. like nonstop.

no toy? no problem! Juice’s neck will do. it’s far more elastic than any silly toy. warmer and chewier, too.

i almost want to try it: it does look pretty chewy, like a hairy piece of taffy. downside is that all the neck pulling is turning Juice into a sharpei.

dreaming of the pre-puppy days: a few people have remarked that Juice seems “calmer” with Pinko around. i think she’s just tired. hell, i’m tired. but we’re making it work, together. our relationship has certainly evolved with the addition of Pinko, like we’re mom and dad now trying to raise this kid right.

juice’s dog: i’m convinced that Pinko is convinced that the sun rises and sets in Juice. she cannot bear to be two inches away from Juice before panic sets in. she follows her room to room, sleeps right on top of her, and just seems better natured when Juice is in close range. and me? i just provide the food — i’m the caterer to their love affair.

see? i wasn’t lying.

juice don’t mind: she loves to spread the love. she will face-lick homeless people. i can learn a thing or two from her, because on many days when i arrive home after a full day at work to find the speaker wire chewed through, the broom eaten, the tissue box shredded, i’m ready to hang the puppy upside down by the tail and skin her alive.

san jugo: contrast this with the jesus-like Juice. she tolerates all the terrorizing — the neck pulling, the shadowing, the theft of toys — and never lays down the iron paw in the way her 75-pound body can on this 30-pound squirt. and honestly, i never expected anything else from her. because with a dog as full of love as Juice, Pinko is just another lucky recipient.

could it be? is it my imagination or does Pinko’s face look sweeter than it did in the first round of pictures? i think she’s softening, finally! all my hard work of not killing her day to day when she misbehaves is really working! or maybe i just said her name in a super high pitch when i snapped this.

i jest, i jest: Pinko ain’t so bad. in fact, i can barely remember the life i had before she entered the household. i know it wasn’t as fun. and certainly not as active. Pinko’s done much to pull my fat ass outdoors, as we hit up the dog park each day for ball-chasing and runyon canyon each week for hikes.

a welcome alarm: my favorite Pinko is morning Pinko. that’s when she’s the ultimate cute cake, sitting by my bedside with tail thumping the floor uncontrollably, ears back and eyes full of excitement. it’s that face that makes it hard to leave for work each day. and she’s full of these drawn-out yawns and stretches that result in the greatest little howl, like “roo-roooo-wooooo.”

“Ju — i mean, Pinko!” i’m doing that mom thing now where i get their names mixed up. you know, that thing i’d never thought i’d do. the one that drove me crazy when my mom did it with me and my sister.

boobs: i don’t recall the exact moment when “boobs” became their current collective nickname, but i’ve gotten into the habit of calling them that. i suppose it’s fitting — there are two of them now; both warm, cuddly and soft; they look alike; and they’re mine.

Friday, July 06, 2007


now that i’ve finally crossed the threshold to become a true thirtysomething instead of just a thirty, i got exactly the push i needed to jump off the fence and arrive at the soft landing and happy acceptance awaiting me below. not that i could have hopped the fence to run back into my twenties. and not that i would have wanted to.

unlike last year when i found myself in a panic over the approach of this new decade — the textbook type of panic i’ve seen countless friends go through as well — this year there was no turmoil, no soppy lamentations, crazy chronicles or paralyzing thoughts of “oh shit, what the fuck am i doing with my life?”

this year, i felt happy on my birthday. this year, i knew conclusively that the only thing i could do with my life was to live it. this year, i woke up on the tuesday that was my birthday and went to work as usual, happy to have my career in copy editing. i received cards from a few thoughtful coworkers, with one even making me lemon bars. the evening i passed with my parents, eating a nice meal at fancy Maggiano’s. and of course nighttime i spent with my puppies, their wagging tails and smiling eyes confirming the suspicion i carried with me throughout the day — that i had much to be thankful for on this birthday.

that night, i leashed up the pups for a long walk in the twilight. the neighborhood looked lovelier than usual, peppered as it was with bougainvillea in full bloom, still bright by the moonlight. the weather was perfectly temperate, air crisp. big inhales and exhales.

as we walked, the reflections of the past ten began to roll in — the traumas and dramas, whether real or imagined; the joys, hopes, sorrows, fears and sensations; the boyfriends and broken hearts; the back surgery and resultant scar; the delirium of new love and anguish when he cheated; the people i thought i’d always know but haven’t spoken to in ages; the job jumping; the moving once a year; the summer traveling through europe; the inadequacies and self-doubts; the opportunities for redemption; angela’s suicide; the wild time in san francisco; the drugs and all-night parties; the youthful delusions, amateur epiphanies and yearly paradigm shifts.

they rolled in like a flood. the bad, the good, the ugly. those shiny moments that defined my twenties, that once seemed so vivid and relentlessly self-important, the way they latched onto me like leeches. but now, finally, after years of agonizing over how i could have done everything i’ve ever done better than the way i did it, none of it seemed to matter anymore.

it was really past — distant, remote, stripped of its gravity and put into perspective. finally, i had let it go. finally, i had moved the fuck on. and damn, it felt good. i felt relieved, lighter, brighter, almost tingly as i strolled the boulevard with my pups wondering what the hell was put in my drink during dinner to make me so damn clear-headed. but here it was, very clear indeed, that the past was just that: irrelevant and not worth agonizing over.

as someone who is an agonizer, ruminator extraordinaire, capable of psychoanalyzing everything within an inch of its existence, this was huge. and while i don’t expect to ever rewire myself out of that (exhausting) habit, i needed to throw out the old to make some room for the lifetime of stress that’s surely ahead of me. and just like that, with a long walk and a bit of mental abracadabra, the old stuff had gone.

it was the oddest, most effortless catharsis known to humankind. a velvet revolution, with ten years worth of baggage tossed out of my psyche like a tacky prom dress that’s crowding the closet. it made me feel so super free and invincible that making senseless analogies about prom dresses is suddenly a-ok. i’m feeling that fucking good.

and now, a week into being 31 — thirty-fun! — i’m still feeling pretty fucking good.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Whimper: Redux

so yeah, single again. blogging about it again. and again feeling compelled to say something declarative and profound about life and love, and how things work and don’t work for me. but i’d rather not get into all that this time around. it simply isn’t necessary.

what i do want to say is that i’m handling the breakup well -- perhaps uncharacteristically well. there was no big drama, no cheating or burning the house down. it was an amicable, mutual split that was many months in the making and free of any agonizing regrets. i felt prepared for it and confident that it was the right decision for both of us.

at the risk of sounding too mature, i will confess that i’ve been listening to sad music nonstop and eating copious amounts of buffalo wings with ranch dressing. but only on thursdays. and only when i’m not busy scribbling in my offline journal: Dear Diary, Why won’t anyone love me?

but really, all is well, and i’m glad we gave it a shot. we shared two fantastic years together, with a wildly romantic origin story that led into an irresistible and fiery love affair that i’m better for having. at times, even most times, it felt like Everything I Wanted, but there were deal-breakers that ultimately rendered us unworkable, despite how much i wished otherwise. still, Mo remains a permanent fixture in my life and a forever owner of my affinity. but as for being a pair, we can’t.

and now, i’m quite optimistic about the future and its assorted mysteries. i’m enjoying my alone time, with an empty house to myself and a new puppy to know. there are items to do, books to read, DVDs to watch and old friends to reconnect with. i anticipate this summer to be a strange hybrid of hibernation-motivation as i situate into a new routine that’s rooted squarely in my home, among my furry kids, sketching out the next chapter of my life.

sadly, this means no birthday bonanza extravaganza this year as the puppy is still too young to handle drunken guests walking through an always open yard door. i don’t trust her not to escape and don’t want to spend the entire evening worrying that she will. instead, i’ll turn 31 quietly among my closest friends and family. and then, i don’t know. but i’m curious to find out.

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Introducing Pinko

i had been thinking about and talking about getting a second dog for years. i knew it would happen eventually, though timing and circumstances never made it easy. i had looked at a few dogs in the past, even had one stay the weekend with me, but it never clicked in the way i knew it would need to. then one day about a month back while i was cruising the pets section of craigslist, something i do regularly, something did click. i spotted a puppy and felt the familiar pinch of cupid and his damn arrow again:

deep dog: this might sound lame but there was something in the pup’s eyes that seemed deep and irresistible to me. she had been named Pebbles and her history involved a sad story about being rescued from a crackhouse in palmdale, where she had been mistreated, malnourished and left to suffer with a broken leg. a nice foster family took her in and nursed her to vitality. by the time i met her at an adoption fair a month later, she had made some mighty progress — putting on weight, learning basic commands and getting good with the housebreaking. i was impressed. but of course my interest meant nothing without approval from the big J.

we had one meeting at the adoption fair and another playdate at my house that went exceptionally well. they played, they laughed, they loved, they cried. and the planets aligned. with Juice onboard, i adopted the sweet puppy, who’s now six months old with leg fully healed, and renamed her Pinko after her pink cast and my communist roots.

co-pilots in crime: Juice and Pinko have become fast friends as well as sisters, united no doubt by their common enemy — me. i smell a mutiny on the horizon, with these two colluding against me during their huddled embraces. but what can i expect with three bitches in the house?

mystery meat: Mo says Pinko looks like she got her face caught in a car exhaust, that she fell for the old exploding cigar trick — a charcoal face characteristic of the Belgian Malinois. to me, she looks thoroughly shepard-esque mixed with the same mystery breed that gives Juice her floppy ears. but Pinko’s little with little, breakable bones. vet says she won’t grow to more than 35 pounds and that she might have some chihuahua in her.

Juice & Deuce: for being new, this runt sure has a lot of nicknames already. they include the very apt deuce, crazy, the little one, pretty in pinko and squirt. i had actually considered making Squirt her official name but then rethought that upon realizing i would forever have to introduce my dogs as Squirt ’n’ Juice. too much fluid. so yes, Pinko Jews is way better.

crazy in love: thankfully, Pinko is just as affectionate, cuddly, loving and warm as Juice is. unfortunately, none of this goodness is directed toward me, the evil dungeon mistress who occasionally drops kibble in the bowl when she’s not busy yelling “put that down! don’t eat that! off the bed! come back here! settle down!” it’s like chasing after a toddler. so most of the time, i get the cold shoulder, the dirty look, the silent treatment. and Juice the protector — who literally puts her big body between us when i’m trying to discipline the naughty puppy — gets all the unconditional awe and admiration a little sister could ever have for her older sibling.

still a sleeping cutie: and what a sibling Juice has been. i well up with treacle each time i consider how patient and welcoming she has been with this rat-faced terror whose favorite pastime is nipping at her neck and stealing toys from out of her mouth. but Juice never flinches; she totally gets it and even helps me out by modeling the perfect behavior each time i utter a request to Pinko, who turns constantly to Juice for direction.

hijacked: i will confess that i’m a bit jealous of their relationship. i sometimes think that Pinko is less my second dog than she is Juice’s first dog. she shadows Juice at every turn, needing to walk in her pawprints to sniff the same blade of grass that Juice sniffed. not that Juice minds having this captive audience of one who thinks she’s the center of the universe.

double the dirt and trouble: but oh my, the mess that two dogs leave behind. like Juice, Pinko has the shedding shepard gene that leaves a whole other dog behind, in hair, whenever she gets up. and there’s also Pinko’s proclivity of bringing in sticks from the yard to be eaten on the couch.

the twins: these two really have taken to each other in a way i couldn’t have predicted or planned better. Pinko simply lights up whenever she looks at Juice, just like she did the moment they met. and Juice is so fiercely protective of Pinko that she supervises Pinko’s interaction with other dogs at the dog park to make sure no one is picking on her kid sister. meanwhile, i'm still chopped liver.

the secret: behold the well behaved pupperonis who sit on cue and smile for the camera. i am the beastmaster! yeah, yeah, with some treats in my hand.

the temperament: this puppy is one tough cookie. she’s deep, she’s seen some shit, and it’s written on her face and imprinted in her eyes. like Juice, she’s smart and stubborn. like me, she’s full of needless pride. she’s a survivor — fearless and independent in a way that’s surprising for a six-month-old puppy. but with a bit of time and dedication that will all melt into love.

welcome home, Pinko.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Juice Retrospective

Juice is 5 years old now — and still so terrific. and of course i’m totally objective. but even if i’m not, i’ve heard enough complements from other folks to know conclusively that i have a special dog. even on day one, i knew i hit the jackpot. i well remember that day when i went to the South LA pound to choose my puppy. little did i know that they actually choose you. it was a Friday in mid-July, a hot day, making for one stinky animal shelter. i walked through the kennels and surveyed the barking pups. at that point, i wanted to take all of them home. city shelters are fucking depressing.

but then this little pup caught my eye. she wasn’t barking. she was sitting quietly looking up at me, blinking her dark eyes. in her kennel were two boys, presumably her brothers from the same litter, who were barking wildly and wrestling each other in an attempt to rope my attention. but she sat silent and calm nearby, just staring, staring. so i stared back. cupid must have surfaced at that moment to shoot his arrow into my heart. love at first sight. the decision had been made.

i walked through the remainder of the pound out of obligation, all the while knowing i had already found what i came for. that charade must have lasted five minutes before i turned to find the guard with the keys, who opened the gate, grabbed the lone female pup out of the litter, the runt, and placed her into my arms, creating a moment of sheer cosmic divination. this was the big it. we belonged to each other. she was about six weeks old.

at the shelter, the employees told me i was getting a rottweiler who would likely grow to 90 pounds. she had enormous paws and a black face with brown teardrop markings that are characteristic of rotts. the tips of her paws were frosted white, like a french manicure. and her puppy countenance seemed a touch serious, belying her gentle nature.

as she grew, however, it became clear that she wasn’t a rott at all. she was more of a Shepard with floppy ears and a snout like a lab. her cute face — which i found cutest when she slept — gradually turned brown and sweeter. and she grew to only 75 pounds.

she was crazy affectionate, too — almost bordering on needy. it took a long while before she could be left alone without incident. the first time i tried, i jetted to the grocery store for an hour and came home to neighbors standing outside my door, demanding to know what torture was being conducted inside. apparently, Juice had alarmed the neighborhood with her intense howling. this alarmed me in turn and really drove home the gravity of puppy parenthood. from that point on, everything became about training. and fortunately for me, Juice was a quick study.

people always ask me about the name. i can’t take credit; my ex named her. but it fits. she drools a lot, prompting the groomers i often take her to to call her Juicy Juice. she has a slew of other nicknames as well, which evolve with time. they include pretty girl, patoose, toots, cute cake, pinhead, perfect and bozo. but she is most thoroughly Juice. funny story about the first few years with her, when i lived in the fairfax & beverly area of LA, near the Hasidics, who would traipse through the neighborhood, usually to temple while i chased my pup up the street in a few botched attempts at walking her without a leash, screaming “Juice! Juice!” i got many stares and only realized later that they must have thought i was screaming “Jews! Jews!”

always a social and affectionate dog, Juice had many friends and admirers throughout the neighborhood, both canine and human. Chuck (pictured here) was her main man for a long while, before his owners moved out of state. they spent many a playdate locked in embraces. thankfully, they were both fixed.

but ultimately black Max took her heart. they’ve been best friends and lovers since puppyhood. Max is a year older and lives nearby, so they get to see each other weekly. from Max, Juice learned how to pee like a boy dog and how to wrestle with the best of them.

from me, Juice hopefully learned some of her good manners and how to while away her days by being lazy. she’s fairly mellow now, never aggressive or unruly, and she can walk without a leash. she’s definitely still needy, smiley, sweet, cuddly, gentle and perfect. i can’t imagine one thing that could make her a better dog.

but the question is — can lightning strike twice in the same household? Juice will have a sister soon. it’s my gift to her on her 5th birthday...

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Other Matters

  • been beyond busy at work lately. it's like that promotion actually meant something, increasing my job duties tenfold. it's odd suddenly to have to earn each cent of my paycheck like this. i used to have more sit-on-my-ass downtime where i could internet surf, instant message and draft blog entries, which happened almost exclusively at work before. but now, on a sunday afternoon, when i should be sipping a mimosa over brunch somewheres, i'm finally drafting this long overdue post.

  • not to mention the abundance of freelance work that's come my way. i had this one project keeping me occupied the past few weeks -- a proof of Mary Shelley's Frankenstein. i've read the book three times now and it still makes me think of Fred Gwynne playing Herman Munster. except that in the book, the Frankenstein monster is kind of a bastard.

  • not that freelance work is a bad thing. in fact i'd welcome more of it. (Dave, you reading this? employ me!) i must save some extra rubles because, next year, i intend to buy a domicile of my very own. yup, you heard it here first. i'm on a mission to become a homeowner. this has been on my mind for a while, and with timing being everything, the softening LA real estate market is looking more hospitable to first-timers like me. plus, i've discovered that by the standards of the city of los angeles in this great state of california, i'm considered low-income, meaning i qualify for all these cool incentives offered by the state and city (that aren't subprime) to help get me into the market.

  • but where would i move to? excellent question. of course, affordability is paramount here, and after careful consideration, i've decided that i can only move "east." not east like arizona or the orient, just due east of hollywood. it's a real momentous occasion for me to admit that i've finally grown tired of hollywood. the lack of parking, the congestion, the scensters -- over it! i guess i really am in my thirties now. (plus, i can't afford shit around here.) of course, i could never move to the westside because that's where my parents live, and north means the dreadful SF valley, which feels podunk to me since i grew up there; and south is far too close to orange county, so by default i must move my landlocked self to the eastside, to a deluxe apartment in the sky! of course, this is all very TBD. i'm still about a year away from move day.

  • my pops turned 60 last month! he's a young and strapping buck, i know. 60 is the new 50, and he still has all his hair. we went to a laker game at staples on his actual birthday. it was the last home game of the season, the game the lakers needed to win (against the sonics) to qualify for the playoffs. luckily, they won, and kobe scored 50 points that night. we had kick-ass seats, and kareem, who was also celebrating his 60th birthday, was in the crowd, prompting all of staples to stand and sing him happy birthday. i told my dad to imagine it was all for him, and i think he did, maybe just for a second.

Sunday, April 15, 2007

Work Matters

been two years now that i’ve worked at the ole jobby. and as a happy reminder of that fact, my boss sat me down for my annual review, which was a lovely occasion that rivaled last year’s good-vibes review, with a few differences. i have a new boss now, my third in two years and most likely my favorite. i also had more reasons to smile this year as i was awarded a hefty raise and a promotion that adds the word “senior” before my job title. new boss kindly threw some pleasant adjectives my way to describe my work performance — though i’m still baffled by the idea that i’m “organized”— before topping it off with a performance of the other MC Hammer favorite: 2 Legit 2 Quit.

been busy lately at the old jobby, too. a few new projects have come my way after i completed a semi-sizable project where i was the spearhead. it was largely a positive experience, leading this project, giving me a nice confidence boost and a few kudos from my peers and superiors. and though i did it and was all “yay, me” once it ended, i couldn’t have been more disinterested in the topic: Expense Ratios.

it’s a constant struggle for me, working in an industry without a strong human factor. i prefer industries centered around people and their stories, not mutual funds and their underlying holdings. most days the content bores me until my eyes bleed. and unfortunately, this cancels out one of the reasons i decided to pursue a career as an editor — so i could learn more by reading all day. and while i have learned plenty about the wonderful world of finance, i’m not inspired by it. sure, i’ve become a more savvy investor, and certainly a greedier one, but i don’t jump out of bed enthusiastically when my alarm goes off to check data on mutual fund performance.

despite the material, i do like the environment in which i work. it’s cooperative, not competitive, and my coworkers are impressive, smart people who make my job much easier. true, i don’t ever care to see them outside of scheduled work hours, but that’s not because they suck — it’s because i’d rather spend that time seeing my friends and family instead. and the company i work for cannot be beat. it truly values its employees and rewards us constantly with everything from free food and concert tickets to incredible health care on the cheap.

it’s quite the quandary of dull work vs. great everything else. i’m not sure how much i would enjoy the flipside of engaging work in an unsupportive environment. i’ve worked for enough shitty bosses and crap companies to know i have it good at my job. the trick, i’m finally realizing, is to come to work every day with an eye on the good, do what i need to do (and do it well), collect my paycheck and go about enjoying my free time.

it might not be the rock star lifestyle i envisioned myself living, but it will have to do until a more appealing alternative comes along.

Monday, March 26, 2007

Food Matters

  • Pinkberry: i had been curious about this much-hyped food spot ever since i read KT’s review of it on her Gastronomy 101 blog. so on a warm day, our taste buds piqued, Mo and i took a leisurely walk to this frozen yogurt-esque shop to sample what all the fuss was about. and it was, as KT noted, totally underwhelming. it tasted like a tart slushie that had sat in the freezer too long.

    and hullo, just two flavors? no sugary-cereal-as-toppings gimmick can mask the fact that variety is lacking here — and i need variety in my frozen treats. and i need yum flavor, also lacking. but hey, it’s popular with the kids; the ones who helped bring this fad to the forefront: generic college kids in their hoodies, the type who bring glowsticks to raves. they were in line all around us.

  • Taco Truckin: Polly had a birthday party in Highland Park the other week, a fun party in a gorgeous craftsman house where i talked to a lot of strangers and drank red wine, Mo by my side. as nice as that was, the night’s highlight had to be the stop we made both before and after that party: to an unmarked taco truck we found on Fig, where we ate $1 tacos so profoundly impressive to my taste buds that their mere memory is making me salivate as i type this.

    cut to sunday night in bed: Mo and i retired for the evening, undressed, spent and still discussing these magical tacos. cut to three hours later: Mo at the bedside waking me from a deep sleep, saying, “i got up and got tacos from a truck on Santa Monica. want some?” cut to five minutes later: Mo and i eating tacos at 2 a.m. at the coffee table.

  • crockpot sundays: also known as make-a-grip-of-food-so-you-have-leftovers-to-take-to-work-all-week day. i’ve made some good soups, stews, a jambalaya, some roasts and a whole hen that produced a crazy good stock as byproduct. next up: homemade fish stock, so Mo and i can perfect our bouillabaisse recipe.

    we tried the other week with lackluster, store-bought stock and spent a good hour scrubbing the mussels and clams with a scouring pad before throwing them aside in a bowl. and while they sat in this holding bowl — awaiting their death-by-steamer fate that would have them opening wide to expose their tender, yummy uvulas — they made noise. like snap, crackle, popping noises that caused them to shift in the bowl. i’ll confess that i haven’t cooked with much “living” food before, and this made me very uncomfortable.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Spring Fling

nothing helps cheer a girl up faster than a fabulous party, especially one populated by her dearest friends who rally in her home and raise a glass to nothing in particular. i think i will make this an annual tradition from now on: The Purposeless Party. no gifts, costumes or holiday greetings required. just people standing around drinking, which is, for all intents and purposes, the essence of all parties are anyway.

of course this could never replace the self-indulgent birthday bonanza extravaganza i host for myself each june. that’s still on the calendar for this june, when i will be turning the inconsequential age of 31. expect no melodramatic chronicles or lamentations. i might even make the party all about my pup Juice, who also has her birthday in june. she will be turning the all-important age of 5.

but back to real-time... here are a few party pix.

even purposeless panties parties need a name: Mo and i called our the Ides of March Flirt-Fest and Cocktail Giveaway. the flirty Care Bear panties appeared on the Evite, and inspired guests to be very “creative” when leaving their acceptance or declination response. great examples of this were juan’s “going commando!!” acceptance and dee’s philosophical musing “what if you have menses?”

stocked and artfully arranged: was the outdoor bar.

the welcoming committee: Juice on the lookout for people whose faces she can lick.

it was 9:30pm: Mo and i started to get nervous, all like “no one is coming. our party is a dud. cancel the strippers.” just kidding, there were no strippers, only clowns.

hijinks & hilarity: the clown’s name was Damien.

and the people came: and they drank and rejoiced and blew cigarette smoke at me and my camera.

always auditioning: my favorite coworker and token actor friend Phillip gives a headshot smile by the tree.

it got cold: so we hauled our asses inside.

c/o ’94: Ann, Raidis and Damien representing for our high school daze, as usual.

talk talks: Mo and Phillip debate the word “conversate.”

the alien hand? Frank’s hang loose might be the reincarnation of Dave’s alien hand, which was sadly not in attendance this time.

laugh laughs: Juice told the funniest joke to Raidis.

lick licks: then she planted a sloppy one on Ann, who had crumbs on her face.

kiss kisses: wendy the goddess, with her fiery plant halo, smooches juan the lucky bastard.

and you should have seen the orgy that followed. but those photos are not for public posting. just kidding! we only had clowns.