Monday, September 27, 2010

One-Hit Wonders: September 2010 terms inexplicably pulling up this blog...
  • why did my third eye tickle
  • meditation journal worried about partner
  • somebody times somebody face
  • lactating for my dog sex
  • "i can't finish it soon"
  • landmark forum causing divorces
  • writing my new roommate an email
  • wooden canopies
  • lesbian boob touchers
  • milla thousand and one nights of love with you on the beach

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Vacation 2010: Baltimore, Maryland


warning: this blog post contains photos of russian food, vodka and members of my big fat russian family. these elements were the main fixtures of the first stop of my train tour up the east coast: Baltimore, Maryland, where my father’s two siblings and their families live. my parents and i paid them a visit over the recent Labor Day holiday. hijinks and hilarity ensued. well, not really, but a lot of drinking, eating and laughing did.


la migra! i hope you know this about me already, but considering that my closest friends forget that i am foreign-born, please make a note that i was not born in the U.S. despite how americanized i seem. i immigrated (legally) from what was then the Soviet Union (now Ukraine) with my family when i was 3 years old. this was in 1979 when an exodus of jews with “political refugee” status left the former U.S.S.R. for greener pastures and greater opportunities.


my pops and his siblings: i came over with my parents and most of my mom’s side of the family, but my dad’s side stayed behind until the 1990s, when they began making their way over, landing in Baltimore. my pops, left, is the youngest of his three siblings, who are actually half siblings born of the same mother.


my baba Anna: my grandma’s first husband died in the war, leaving her with two small children whom her second husband (my pops’ dad) adopted and raised as his own. sadly, she passed a few years after immigrating to Baltimore. while we were in town, we made sure to visit her grave, leave her flowers and tell her that we miss her very much. she was a good grandma.


the food: oh, the food. russian food is really in a class of its own. given the climate, there’s not much seasonal, fresh, organic fare crowding russian menus. however, there are a lot of potatoes, beets, pickled things, salty fish, cured meats and colorful salads. the cholesterol and fat content are off the charts. admittedly, i don’t love all of it (aspic is pretty gross), but the food i do love (hello, salty fish!), i love immensely.


speaking of love: i know this is gross to most, but sardines are one of the great loves of my life. (herring, too!) i eat canned sardines weekly, usually in a homemade pate with hard-boiled eggs and mayo, and hit up a nearby armenian store to get my herring fix. i’m also in love with sprats, pictured above, which are small, sardine-like fish from the Baltics that are delicious beyond measure. so delicious i could lick my computer screen.


the family: considering the amount of food that was prepared, it made sense to invite a lot of family over to consume it. the party was at my cousin’s house, in his disco basement, which is wallpapered with faux brick.


100 grams: vodka shots for russians consist of 100 grams (“zhto grahm”) taken in one fell swoop after a toast is given. here, my pops is giving one of the first toasts of the night (many more followed). in typical jewish fashion, the toast sounded something like, “i’m happy that we’re all gathered here for a joyous occasion instead of a sad one, like a funeral.” good one, pops!

Another Toast

l’chaim! my cousin, Oleg, also gave a toast. it was decidedly less morbid and amounted to, “thanks for swinging by. drink up!”


my cute moms! she was there, too, looking beautiful as always and partying it up like it was 1981.


speaking of 1981: this is a picture of my parents taken in that year when they were fresh off the boat and partying like rock stars. (yes, i know i look just like my mom.) i have this photo framed in my house. it’s hard to tell, but my pops has a gold front tooth in the shot. he was so gangster!


back at the party: the karaoke machine, disco ball and flashing neon lights were fired up and ready to go. just add drunk people.


and here are some now: my cousin’s kid, Alisa, took her new American boyfriend, Eric, to the festivities, where he sampled the weird food, met the crazies and witnessed the chaos that is a family gathering. considering that he didn’t bolt toward the door screaming, i’d say he’s a keeper.


me and my favorite uncle: he’s a little bit famous and all kinds of awesome. a well-respected mathematician — first in Russia and now in the U.S. — my uncle is endlessly fascinating and exceptionally smart, a true russian intellectual. but throw him and my pops together with a bottle of vodka and prepare for the stories of grade school misbehavior to unfold. lets just say i learned a lot about my pops as a young man during this visit. gangster indeed.


not so hard anymore: the angioplasty he had earlier this year really did a number on his heart, making it so open that the slightest provocation of sentimentality renders him weepy and emotional. once a sergeant in the red russian army, my pops is a big ole softie now. and i am still his little girl who thinks he is the greatest man on earth.


another daddy’s girl: seeing my family interact, you’d think we were all molesting each other given the way everyone feels everyone else up at every opportunity. but the truth is that we have always been an affective bunch, even without the vodka.


now you tell me! i found a book of translated russian proverbs at my cousin’s house, many of which made no sense. i’ve been hearing proverbs like these all my life, usually from my mom, who once told me, “don’t be so dumb that you don’t notice the piece of herring on your face.” sure thing, mom!


cheers (again)! i’m sure there are a lot of great tourist things to do in Baltimore, but i did none of them. aside from a day trip to Washington, D.C., to visit the Newseum, which will be featured in the next post, i spent my three days in town shuffling between relatives’ houses — moving from one meal to the next, one toast to the other. despite how tedious that sounds, i had the time of my life and i can’t wait to go back.

more family shots in the slideshow:

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Eat, Laugh, Sit

considering that i explored the West Coast on last year’s vacation — a roadtrip titled Eat, Drive, See — i decided to go East for this year’s vacation, a 10-day long train trip that had me sitting on the Amtrak, traveling from Maryland to Maine. i made six stops along the way, visited with seven friends and slept in five different beds.

the stops included Baltimore, Maryland, for a visit with my big fat russian family (my parents were also there); a day trip to Washington, D.C., for a visit to the amazing Newseum; several days in Newport, Rhode Island, for nonstop laughs with old friends i knew when i lived in San Francisco; an overnight trip to Portland, Maine, for a visit with a cherished friend i hadn’t seen in 10 years; one night in Jersey City, New Jersey, hunting for guidos with my former doppelganger, whom i also knew from my SF days; and a few final nights in New York City for a visit with my favorite girlfriends from my grad school days at USC.

in short, it was an AWESOME vacation. it was also exhausting, mostly delightful, and sometimes insightful, producing many good times i’ll recount here in the coming weeks through a series of photo essays. but as good as it was, i was happy to come home again, to sleep in my own bed again, to brew my own coffee again and to see my cute pups again, who appear cuter than before.

because as much as i like the east coast — and i do really like it, A LOT — and as many fantasies as i have about winning the lottery and moving to a penthouse near the Park on the Upper West Side, i love Los Angeles infinitely more. and the ear-to-ear grin that spreads across my face when i’m flying into LAX and start seeing the city lights that mark the start of my big and complicated city lets me know that i only have one home. it’s a sweet home and it’s where my heart lives and it’s where i live, too.

Los Angeles, i’m yours.

Wednesday, September 01, 2010

My New Roommate

this post is terribly overdue. i will blame the delay on work again, as that’s proven to be a good scapegoat for all the things i’ve been too lazy to accomplish this past month. of course, this is a lousy excuse because welcoming a new roommate into my life and home is BIG news, so BIG that i hit the CAPS LOCK button.

her name is WENDY, though she’s known in other circles as Guendy, Schmendel, Lorenza and Monita. but to me she’s just Wendy, with a nickname pending, though i’m leaning toward Honey — as in, “hi, Honey! i’m home!”

i’ve actually known Wendy for about five years, three of which she spent dating my crazy spanish friend Juan. then they split and she moved to texas, which is where she grew up, though i try not to hold that against her. fast forward to two months ago when Wendy was looking to move back to LA for work. since i had an empty second bedroom to spare and a mortgage to pay, i offered up the room and in she moved. that was around the 4th of July.

i will confess that i was super nervous before she moved in, with thoughts of “what have i done?!” swirling in my brain. at that point, i had my house back to myself for only a month and was beginning to enjoy the cozy solitude of living alone again, something i had not done in four years.

in general, i love the freedom that comes with living alone. i also have several Secret Single Behaviors that i indulge in regularly, some of which involve walking around the house in my underwear, a mud mask drying on my face and sesame oil lathered onto my skin. i worried i’d have to give those up. i also worried about how two girls would handle sharing one bathroom. and could i fart in front of her? and what if she hated my music?

thankfully, my paranoia waned within hours of her moving in and continued to evaporate in the weeks that followed, a time when our home seemed to transform into a sorority house. and by that, i don’t mean that we stayed up late having pillow fights in our underwear, only that we stayed up late drinking cheap wine and talking about boys.

fast forward to now and we’re still doing that on occasion, in addition to the occasional dinner and drinks date that we seem to be having weekly. in fact, we seem to have slipped into a bonafide relationship with clearly defined routines and roles. and guess who the butch is?

yep, i’m the one tasked with killing the spiders, taking out the trash, getting items from the hard-to-reach cabinets and telling her she looks pretty in her outfit. in exchange, she cooks many of the meals, wipes down the stove and brings me cheesecake. oh, did i mention that she works for the Cheesecake Factory? and did i mention that cheesecake has been my weakness since, like, forever? this coincidence is nothing short of poetic.

our whole setup is rather poetic, bringing me far more joy than i ever thought it would. i miss Wendy when she’s gone. we email each other throughout the day. we sit on the deck and talk almost every night, sharing our reflections on the day and exchanging our insights into the daily dilemmas we both encounter. she is my surrogate boyfriend — but far cleaner and less hairy — shepherding me through my recent dark days and encouraging me through my more triumphant ones.

and while our relationship may be short on romance, it’s long on companionship and i’m optimistic about our future together. so far that future has us shacking up until the end of the year, at which point we will re-evaluate the situation. along the way, we plan to host some mixers and dinner parties at the house, and will likely continue spending many evenings talking late into the night — our smiles wide, our laughs plentiful, our conversations meaningful, and our glasses locked in a toast that celebrates our happy home.