Tuesday, November 1, 2016

One word: plastics.

I voted early, mostly because there’s no parking at my local polling place, but also because this is the most vile election season I’ve ever experienced and I just want it to be over. I voted the way you’d expect, like the pinko commie liberal I am—for a woman president, gun control, and legal marijuana—and I darkened those little ovals with fucking glee. But I crossed party lines on one issue—to vote against the current prohibition on plastic grocery bags, which let me be clear, is a form of extortion, no doubt brought to us by the same assholes responsible for the tinker-toy of cars, the Prius, and the no good, very bad idea of low-flush toilets. These assholes banned plastic grocery bags so they could charge ten cents a pop for paper alternatives that used to be free while we all rush the trash bag aisle at Target to buy kitchen garbage bags that are made of…wait for it…plastic...because those ten cent bougie paper alternatives are shit for bagging up your wet coffee grounds and discarded, gin-soaked lime wedges. Your only other option is to bring your own reusable tote bags so that you can carry your grocer’s e-coli from your car to your countertop and back to your car again, all while sporting an accessory that only works for a lesbian in Tevas. Does this beige Save-The-Whales tote go with my Louboutins? said no one ever.

You want to make America great again? Bring back the civilized and sanitary single-use bag. Fill the end of every grocery check-out line with glorious stacks of plastic. White plastic. Black plastic. Yellow, blue, and green plastic. Drive a Prius off the road. Flush a toilet twice. Fight the spread of e-coli. Abolish the ten-cent tax on working moms just trying to bag their eggs and milk. Save the children. Make a lady in Tevas feel pretty.

Sunday, October 23, 2016

At your service. Nah.

In my last year of grad school, at 25 and anxious to prove I could make some kind of leap into adulthood, I got a dog. I blame bourbon for the logic. I’d somehow convinced myself that caring for a dog was the baby step between caring for a houseplant and for an actual baby. I no longer have even one houseplant, but that’s another story.

The dog, a 12-pound rat terrier with 1200 pounds of stubbornness, had his own questionable logic. He couldn’t be moved by praise or reprimand or even bacon. He sat when he wanted to sit, dropped a ball only when he was done with it, used his leash as a tool for walking me. In obedience class, he bit me. In the car, he tried to drive, and once when he was thoroughly pissed off by my insistence upon steering solo, he jumped out the window. At home, he slept with half his body on my pillow and the other half on my head. 

Though he was probably content to spend most afternoons snoozing in my apartment and peeping at the neighbors through the window, I was so overwhelmed with parental-ish guilt each time I left him to go to campus or run errands, I stopped leaving him altogether. For $40, I bought a service dog vest online and took him everywhere.

But a 12-pound terrier in a service vest invariably attracts attention. People wanted to know what kind of service a 12-pound dog could possibly perform. I had done my research. I pawned him off as a participant in a pilot program for seizure-alert dogs. I said that terriers had natural alert abilities they hoped to capitalize on and give people 15 or 20 second warnings before a seizure set in. And I was careful not to overstate my dog’s skills. As he strained at the end of his lead and lunged or barked at every dog that passed by, I said I was responsible for only the beginning obedience and socialization phase, and based on his minimal progress so far, he wasn’t likely to make it to the next round of the program. In which case, I assured the now concerned inquirer, I would just keep him.

The story worked all year. I even sold it to the mother of an epileptic who peppered me with questions in an elevator. I was giving her the address for a website I’d researched when the dog lifted his leg and peed in the corner. There was an awkward pause and then the woman politely said, “I guess you have your work cut out for you.”

As I looked through my bookbag for something I could use to clean up, I admitted rat terriers might not be the right fit. “They’re trying dobermans next,” I said. I had no idea if that was true but it sounded plausible. Certainly more plausible than my 12-pound dog who then barked at a passing skateboarder as soon as the elevator doors opened. The woman wished me luck. 

I bided my time until graduation when the dog and I moved in with my parents to save money. Temporarily, I said, but even once I’d gotten my own apartment again, the dog stayed. He’s thirteen now and just as stubborn. He sleeps on my father’s head and his service vest has been retired to a box in the garage.

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

On slow-cookers and other problems I have with the westside

No one really knows where the east and west sides of LA start and stop. Brentwood and Santa Monica, anything along the coast, obviously westside. Silverlake, Echo Park, Boyle Heights, east. But it’s more complicated than locating all of the yuppies on the left, hipsters and gangsters on the right. And some parts of the city just don’t clearly belong to either side. No one’s rushing to claim Pico-Robertson or Fox Hills. Beverly Hills, though miles from the ocean and on the other side of the 405, doesn’t exactly scream Eastside Por Vida! Hancock Park, with its deep manicured lawns and actual street parking, may be a westsider inadvertently flung too far inland. Some neighborhoods are even split internally, like in West Hollywood where the gays pose as westsiders but the Russian Jews carry eastside swagger and pocket knives.

My theory is, to understand a real westsider, you’ve gotta look at their kitchen. Look for a slow-cooker. Look for a full matching set of Le Creuset pots and pans, not the one weird skillet in teal or yellow left on clearance at Marshalls. There will be a catalog for Restoration Hardware or Design Within Reach artfully displayed on a granite countertop or kitchen island. There will be desserts hidden in the back of the pantry, behind the holy trio of flax, hemp, and chia seeds. Though the true westsider does not eat gluten or sugar or dairy in public, keep your eye on the sheetcake after their kid’s birthday party because that shit is going down lion-to-zebra, Animal Planet style behind the closed doors of every coastal household.

An eastsider can eat a piece of cake on a streetcorner in broad daylight.

Look twice at the slow-cooker. Linger there. The slow-cooker will tell you everything you need to know about your westsider because it is the Prius of kitchen appliances, broadcasting the kind of person its owner wants to be. Every Prius is an all-caps memo etched in asphalt—I’M GREEN! I CARE ABOUT THE PLANET! SHAME, SHAME, AUDI DRIVERS. THINK OF THE CHILDREN! THINK OF THE OZONE AND RAINFORESTS! Meanwhile, the average Prius driver’s coffee is imported from some denuded Brazilian village and consumed in single-use cups.

Unlike the Prius, the slow-cooker’s memo is first transcribed in private. The slow-cooker goes on in the pre-dawn light of the working parent’s home and by the time work is over, presto chango, abracadabra, there’s pot roast. The slow-cooker says, Career AND children, no problem—I closed three deals in Tokyo and still put a homecooked meal on the table.

I have never owned a slow-cooker. That’s partly geography—my mid-city street straddles everyone’s versions of west and east sides—and partly a lack of children. I am left to sear my single skinless boneless chicken breast after work in a single 8-inch pan in 8 minutes. Or eat cottage cheese straight from the container in 8 seconds.

That doesn’t mean I don’t see what the slow-cookers are up to. The fruits of a slow-cooker’s loins rarely stay private for long. Invariably, they wind up on Pinterest, a.k.a. boring people’s substitute for porn. Brisket, turkey chili, 3-bean minestrone, overnight oatmeal, all make the obligatory journey from slow-cooker to iPhone to technicolor internet bulletin board. I would ask why westsiders are taking pictures of their 12-hour oatmeal instead of microwaving that shit and sleeping in or fucking their spouses, but like religion or politics, this is a subject that requires a light hand. Westsiders can be defensive about their oatmeal. Maybe because they pay so much for it. The oats themselves are cheap but the organic blueberries and pecans or heirloom apples on top aren’t, nor is the small-batch vanilla or the stick cinnamon from the farmer’s market that they grated themselves over hand-shaped microplanes supporting free-trade enterprises in Indonesia.

So it’s the economy, stupid, what it always comes down to. The slow-cooker oatmeal is the Cadillac of breakfast cereals and no one hides a Caddy in the garage. Slow-cooker oatmeal is made to be seen, to take a ride around town. How else to explain the phenomenon of grown adults snapping and swapping photos of porridge? #becauseitsthewestside

Saturday, October 1, 2016

Introductions and such

I am going to be four feet tall.

Not now. For now, I’m holding at 4’11”. But already, I’m a half-inch off my peak. I topped out in 6th grade, when I also got my period and C-cup boobs. It’s gravity, mostly, that’s knocking me back down, year after year. It doesn’t help that I have bad posture and scoliosis, or that from 6th grade on, when I might have fortified the smurf-sized bones I’d been given with calcium-rich foods like milk and broccoli, my diet became two parts gin to one part lime and one part whatever prescription was left after someone’s knee surgery or wisdom-tooth extraction. Also the occasional bean burrito from Taco Bell (because vegetarian, yo! because meat didn’t go with my goth attire, yo!), which back then was 59 cents and could be paid for entirely with change from the ashtray in my car that I was careful not to use so my parents wouldn’t know I smoked. The smoking probably didn’t help either, but it was basically just the high school through grad school years, and even the worst of those surgeon general warnings with the lady who talked out of a hole between her collarbones didn’t suggest I could shrink instantaneously. Sometimes you gotta roll the dice, live a little. Because at 85, my grandmother’s about 4’6” now and she used to be taller than me. She never smoked and doesn’t have scoliosis, so you do the math. It’s not in my favor.

It’s a good thing all my dishes and pans fit on shelves beneath the kitchen island. That wasn’t smart planning on my part. It was just the gay designer’s aversion to eye-level clutter. His eye-level of course, not mine. He didn’t want to see anything across the loft that would block his view of the cityscape or the bare-chested neighbors. I live in the heart of boystown, where all the men want other men and not me, and here’s where maybe I should blame my stunted growth on the smoking. Something must be the cause of my inertia, right? You’ll never get what you want if you don’t put yourself out there, and such. It’s the kind of fortune-cookie saying I’d entertain only to get to that stupidly bland wonton with sugar, but it’s also kinda sorta true, and here I am at 37, friend to the prettiest boys in town and girlfriend to none, 4’11” and holding but not for long.

Someone said take pilates, stretch yourself, but she lives on the westside, so I said fuck yourself and changed my diet to three parts gin to one part lime. I tried to lay off the neighbors’ prescriptions though. I went that far in the right direction. I also stopped biting my nails and tried to remember to put on sunblock every day, but I didn’t get any taller. I’m resigned to the petites section at the three or four national brands that bother to downsize. Even there, I come up short. They advertise clothing designed for women up to 5’4” and I just laugh at the salesgirl and say, Lady, if I was anywhere near 5’4”, I wouldn’t be shopping here. I’d be normal. I’d have my pick of pants and every blouse that wasn’t in three-quarter sleeves.

But I have to have something to wear to the office (I’m a lawyer, the bar is set—and you can see this one coming, I know—super low), so I eat shit and apologize and plaster on the kind of smile that will hurt my black heart for days, and I say, Do you have this in ankle length?