Never, say Never

“Run from whats comfortable. Forget safety. Live where you fear to live. Destroy your reputation. Be notorious.” @mav_mav

Deep in Steinbeck country, the gentle click-clacking of the diesel engine riding on the hot wind coming in through the windows, we re-apply chapstick for the 80th time. If you sweat, you barely feel it before it’s wicked off your skin by the parched air. The dog is panting like he just ran a marathon. We grumble past silos, and orchards, and thick patches of livestock ranches in mile-long bubbles of manure smell. Like Pig-Pen from Charlie Brown.

We stop for gas and ice-cream, we hose down the dog, poor thing.

Most girls wouldn’t swoon at the idea of vacationing in a two-tone, 15 foot, 1986 Chevy Beuville van, with a dog. But, we’ve established here, that I am quite left of center.

It looks like home, bright yellow furry hills as far as the eye can see; crippled gray oak trees shading rectangular cows mud brown or paten-leather black, with their heads dipped to the earth in the humming munching meditation of grazing. When I die I want to come back as one of these cows. Grazing all day, lying in the shade, ‘mooing’ to show affection or displeasure.

Great long wire fences delineating god-knows-what spread into yellow nothing, meeting the baby-blue dome bright and searing.

We are heading to Sonoma, for wedding, well it’s more of a party, because they already got married and had their honeymoon in a cab-over-camper on a road trip through “God’s Country” – for lack of greater detail.  But as much as they didn’t want a wedding, they knew better than to commit the mortal sin of denying the O’Neills’ a good party.

So here we are traveling from all corners in cars, vans, trains and airplanes, to take over their street for a two-day block party.

Rob has met my whole family already (see posts dating in July), but this will be his official debut as my “boyfriend” at an O’Neill family event,  and it will end in a naked hot-tub party with the groom chanting his name.  Yeah, I’d say it went well.

It’s the kind of hot that makes your skin sting in the sunlight. We nurse our pre-party hangovers with the delicacy  of war veterans behind sunglasses. We snack on doughnuts as Rob makes huevos rancheros, and a heard of family arrives to “help set up”. There is a lot of idle chatter, popping open tables and chairs, moving cars, standing around, filling coolers. Neighbors coming in and out. A certain adolescent cousin eats the frosting off of two doughnuts from the box, discarding the bare carcases, with kid-sized bite marks, on the kitchen table.

The bride holds court on the couch with her swollen foot aloft and iced, due to a classic unfortunate unloading-the-ice-block accident. We promise to make sure she doesn’t get parked next to the old people and left for dead at the party. (She is in a wheelchair on the dance floor at one point.)


The sun goes down, the flowers are placed on the checkered table cloths, the neighbor’s band sets up on a trailer pulled by a Subaru. And the infamous “Margarator” begins its constant churning. The taco cart man goes into “the zone” chopping and grilling and scooping and warming tortillas like a man on fire ( he is now an unofficial member of the family after seeing us through two summer weddings); he winks at the circling contingent of dogs and flicks them a couple of pieces of gristle with his greasy spatula.  It’s really all about the tomatillo salsa.

We awake nestled cozily on a camping pad on the ply wood floor of the van, the merciful sky is overcast for the time being. The dog licking our aching heads. I scuttle down the street in my sweatshirt and PJs to use a real toilet, and find other sleepers lazily opening the doors of their vans and lifting the tarps over their truck beds. A silent wave, a squinty smile.

Crow is a gamey and oily S.O.B. But I’ve eaten it almost everyday this summer. Love – ugh! I sound like Carrie Bradshaw –  makes one do things that may seem contrary to one’s normal behavior. In fact, the brain of a person in love is most chemically similar to a person on the brink of institution-worthy insanity. I’ve always harshly judged girls who move in with their boyfriends within a year of knowing them let alone within weeks, and with their boyfriend’s parents! Girls that “miss” their boyfriends while they are at work, and organize their lives around having the same days off. I’ve said that I’d never move back to Seattle “it’s too cold.” I’d never date anyone who went to Burning Man, I’d never want to move in with a guy that I hadn’t dated for more than 2 years, I’d never marry someone I hadn’t known for more than 5 years…

I have miles and miles of things I vowed I’d never do,  I am crossing off almost every single one, and I will probably break all my own rules by the time I die, and I don’t know why I’m so surprised, I mean, I love breaking rules.

But when it comes to “Love”, I have always been a real cynic. I scoffed every time my mom said “If it’s meant to be, it will happen…” and “when you know, you know!”… and the ever annoying “It will happen to you! He’s out there, I just know it!”  It’s a wonder that my eyes didn’t  come loose, they rolled around so much.  I mean, I’ve never had a real successful date in my life. I’ve always just hung around with the same guy until it got awkward NOT to call them my boyfriend. Like a true Barraza, I assume the worst with a lighthearted cynicism, while secretly wishing for the happy ending.

We tell each other our most shameful secrets over steaming bowls of Pho in a neon tinted mid-century strip mall restaurant. The kind where the menus are on display  between the turquoise poly ester cloth and the slab of scratched glass on the table top. The ringing spicy broth excising all demons via the back of our necks. It’s so delicious, but so painful to eat. Like catholics, we are contrite and accepting of it’s  equal parts pain and pleasure.

It’s our three-month anniversary, and I magically have the day off. Rob makes banana bread french toast –  and YES he made the bread the night before from scratch – with eggs over easy and sausages, serving it to me on my favorite plate. We take the dog to the Arboretum, admiring the first of the trees turning. We lie on grass in what may be some of the last lingering sun, tossing a stick to the dog. We are waiting to be approved for move-in by our new roommate.  She wants to meet the dog and iron some things out over a beer. We drool over the kitchen, and the deck, dreaming of parties we could throw, and people who would come visit us.

What we end up admiring most about the arboretum, is the amazing spider webs that stretch across impossible distances. the perfect swirls spun just-so, in a pocket of slanting light, the silky strings glowing. The spider sits contemplating his work, his plump body riding the delicate sail in the breeze.

It’s the strongest substance in the world, Rob says.


Whats weird, is they can never see their work, for us, it would be like painting a mural on a football field and never being able to step back, get above it, and see the finished product. They just follow the program in their head. 

With no idea of what the finished web looks like, they just have to trust their instincts, programmed a million years ago by nature. All they can see is whats right in front of them, the next step, the next design element, the next decision to be made. Until, they get to the center, then sit swinging in the breeze and wait for lunch to fly by, hoping against hope that the branch they chose doesn’t snap, and if it does, what the next most reliable branch?

So we sign a lease this week.  I take my best instincts, my most honed decision-making skills, move forward on the best possible course I can think of, hoping that the branch I chose doesn’t break; circling the center, building a structure I hope will last a long time and keep me safe. So far, so good.

the birds will tell us.

Here’s a hint: if you can see a glacier from where you’re swimming…. don’t.

The water of Baker Lake is the kind of cold that makes you involuntarily gasp like an old woman in a Victorian period piece… and I am “taking a bath” in it; meaning: I am huffing and squealing and rubbing myself down as fast as I can with bio-degradable soap, behind my ears, armpits and hair,  like someone has a gun to my head.  The up-side is that once you exit the frigid pool, the post-thunderstorm drizzle now feels like a summer breeze, comparatively. We wrap up in fire-warmed towels, sip gritty coffee, and eat bacon right off the cast-iron pan with our fingers.

Absolutely everything is soaking wet, from all the sleeping bags to the potato chips. We were hit in the middle of the night with a crippling thunderstorm having just enough time to throw a tarp over our hammock but not enough time to cover the firewood, our back packs, or the stove. At 11 AM the outlook is bleak. The rain continues to drill down without the slightest breath in between. My Eagle Scout and I are tucked deep in the belly of a canvas hammock and swaddled in a tarp. He insists that it has to let up soon. So we stay hibernating.

How will we know when the storm passes?

The birds will tell us.  He says. They will start singing again when the rain stops. 

And with the intensity of a child waiting for sounds of Reindeer on the roof, I strain to hear chirps or whistles… something. But after an hour of false positives, we resign our dignity and brave the elements.

On the way home the next day. We make a U-turn at the first sign for a Brewery, deep on highway 20, a two-lane road passing through endless sheep and rolling green farms.  We pull squealing into a dirt parking lot, the sign for Birdsview Brewing Co. is an illustration of a soaring eagle carrying in his talon’s two pints of beer. On tap is the perfectly named “Sweet Brown Molly” right next to the “Ditzy Blonde.”  The smell of treated wood and boiling mash fill the funky round building.  Of course today, is perfectly hot and sunny we choose to enjoy our cheese sandwich and pints outside on a picnic table savoring the return to civilization. Eagle Scout promises that next time we camp we will remember to bring the tent. I vow to remind him about it. We grab a growler of “Sweet Brown Molly” and “Amber” to-go and I poke around the 9-barrel system asking questions before we politely thank the lady and leave. The old men go back to their game of dominos, the daughter of the owner goes back to stirring the boiler with a canoe paddle.


Late summer, and a string of warm nights bring out  the craziest outfits. The ghostly thighs of north-westerners grace the sidewalks and benches of Seattle with a alarming lack of apology. Patios are discovered, nay, summoned out of thin air.

I discover “Teriyaki” in it’s true form, a mostly to-go deli consisting of  a shoe-box counter, with a small dark haired person behind it, writing down your order, punching it in the broken register, and asking if you’d like to make that a combo? If you do, your chicken/beef ‘spicy’ with brown rice will come with a watery salad, a soda, and a golden crisp egg roll bursting with delicious grease. Then the counter person will yell blindly at a curtain behind them, calling out your order with a shrill confidence. You see the chef’s feet furiously shuffling between wok and grill. The egg rolls are often kept in a warmer on the front counter next to a pyramid of mini to-go sauce cups gleaming a lovely unnatural orange. You can smell he gooey plum smell of the teriyaki sauce rising up through the styrofoam box and plastic bag. These little teriyaki joints may be the last earth-destroying hold outs against popular movement towards paper and compostable containers. But there are no hairy women in Teva’s with pamphlets banging on the windows demanding them to stop strangling ducks. It’s an understanding, like letting babies buy cigarettes in the Philippines, styrofoam and plastic bags, must be part of the culture of Teriyaki. There is something about a lava-hot breast of chicken swimming in sweet sauce over a bed of sticky rice that begs for a plate made to survive a nuclear holocaust.  Teriyaki to-go joints are specific to the North West. Everyone has “their place” and most good places make their own sauce, their recipes shrouded in mystery.

In a public amphitheater in a little wooded park, over-ripe actors belt out shakespeare’s Taming of the Shrew. The air gets cool between the trees, the sun sliding up the reddish trunks, sprawled on a fleece blanket that we keep in the car for little excursions like this, we slurp our Teriyaki dinner and watch outdoor community theatre like a couple of old people.


In a little cabin at the mouth of MeadowDale creek Ranger Doug lives with his two daughters, ages 10 and 13. They were both born here, in this house. He is a taught man in his late fifties, comfortable in his khaki uniform. Happy to tell stories. MeadowDale is a little known park, with a well groomed trail winding down through the firs and maples from the neighborhood above. Every year, Doug and some volunteers count the salmon that return by hand, and hatch new eggs in the cool green pools between the weirs that he built himself. He buys the fertilized salmon eggs from the tribe across the water. He feels bad asking people to leave after sunset, because he knows how beautiful it is. I usually let them linger a little and enjoy it, He rocks back and forth in his well-worn boots, but if they stay too late, it can get dark up there on the trail. He looks out and smiles at the sunset. How about that?

There is a manicured lawn, and a covered picnic area at the bottom of the gulch, that he is proud to rent out for $47 dollars a day. To get to the beach you cross over the creek mouth and under the railroad tracks, on a board walk. The creek empties out onto a sunny spit of sand shaped like a kidney bean egg-white and soft. Large logs lay like bleached whale bones making natural benches; perfect for reading or eating a sandwich. You look out over the sound, with Widbey Island off to the North West and a perfect panorama of the Olympics. The sun bears down on the little beach, where families in large hats let their kids play in the warm water where the creek meets the sound.  Cruisers, and barges sail silently past, the distant howl of the ferry horn keeps you from sleeping too soundly.

Watch the sun disappear like bright orange water in a drain, the geese claim the creek mouth for the night, and Ranger Doug tell us to come back during a low tide sometime. You can walk all the way to Picnic Point from here. 

We pack up our little blanket and towels. Ranger Doug is stopped by a couple on the beach, and he happily obliges them as camera man, easily maneuvering the little digital camera, directing the couple to move closer. He has clearly done this before.

Mystery Doors.

Yesterday, I stood over a simmering pot of  mountain huckleberries, stirring with a large wooden spoon, I stared out at the forest replete with chipmunks and woodpeckers. I recounted the events that lead me here, to Edmonds, a small town just north of Seattle, backed up to the Puget Sound, nestled into a forest break against a cliff and skirted by a railroad track.

The Funeral

In times of sadness, however expected, we turn to food. Mom packs the car with 5 loafs of Irish bread, a flat of beef bourgenone, a flat of blue cheese mashed potatoes, supplies for making pigs-in-a-blanket, and we head north. Through the early summer valley, hot but not stifling. Immediately a sense of home, of recognition, floods. We arrive with enough food to feed an army, which is great, because thats how many people are there.  Tall multi colored shirtless boys sway around a corn-hole game, clutching beers. The younger ones, slick and pink dive in and out of the pool, employing toys, dogs, and uncles.

The elders hold court under the large umbrella. Roucounting the good stories of their sister’s life; comparing the physical attributes of all the grandchildren to the tea-stained photos from the old country; enjoying the pigs-in-a-blanket served on paper plates.

The service is held too early, but it’s already in the 80s. The younger set show up pale and puffy in suits and dresses, after a long night of Manhattan cocktails, and beer, a late night hot tub run.

The hush and shuffle of the mid century church, the smell of cold stone and hot single-pane windows. We sit in the front row,  air thickening around us. We kneel and stand, kneel and stand, the rhythm of the Priest’s deep drawl and thick brogue lulls us.

At the internment the women remove their shoes, and walk barefoot over the grass and stone plaques, excusing themselves to the deceased below, but there was no other place to stand then on the head of Mrs. Rosebury. We crowd under umbrellas, fanning ourselves with the paper programs. Father says the prayers, the same prayers that have been said for thousands of years, and tucks her in next to her husband, whom we glimpse for a moment. And  Pat reaches in to  press his hand against both the boxes and my throat closes.  He looks up  “Dad might want a little more room..” and we all laugh, expelling the tension. The youngest grandchild, named for her grandmother is the first to place a daisy in the provided brass vase. We are relived to be out of the sun.

The First Wedding

We sit at a picnic table in Sonoma town square, under tall maples, passing plastic cups of wine around, recounting the short legal ceremony, sharing pictures. They arrive, walking hand-in-hand across the grass. Shannon is glowing in white and Austin is a little sweaty but beaming. We kiss and hug, force them to open gifts, and head to dinner. A long table, under a large tent in the back of the restaurant they keep bringing champagne. People from other tables peer over at them, smiling. Even the waiters are smiling . There is champagne and truffle fries followed by entres  (I had a pork chop), and of course, princess cake.  The waiter informs the hosts that they are a few hundred under their “minimum” to which we respond by ordering a round of old-fashions’ and several bottles of wine.

We stumble across the square, now dark and the air still sweet and warm, to the Irish pub. They are closed, but when they see the fourteen of us with already glazed eyes asking for whiskey they  start pouring. The bartender informs us “We were going to close up and leave and drink somewhere else, but now we will just drink with you guys.”

Later, might have been hours or minutes, I exit the bathroom and find myself alone on the patio of the pub. I take off my platform shoes and brave the old cobblestone a block and a half to the condo.  A pleasant warm drunkeness that comes from deep in your gut. I thought, how nice it would be to hold someone’s hand right then, and walk through the humming silence of a small town after midnight.

The Second Wedding

There is no sweet “humming silence” in the days leading up to it, but instead a steady and ever-climbing whirr of noise and action, only comparable to Ravel’s  psychotic masterpiece ‘Bolero’, which marked the beginning of Ravel’s tragic mental breakdown.

Jim must decide on a song to dance with his daughter, the bride. He has left it to one of the last minutes. He tries out a few tracks on us, he has organized them into a playlist and we listen, critically, to the lyrics of each while eating a late dinner. We try dancing to a few and decide on a Van Morrison number, Into the Mystic. 

In the few days ahead, there are airport pick-ups and flower drop-offs; dress pressings and drink meetings. And much like ‘Bolero’ a steady march layered and layered and layered again with the same melody peaking at a moment that can only be called excruciatingly perfect and powerful. The bride looked like a disney princess, the groom a nervous wreck, alight with happiness and a little whiskey. We cried, we laughed, we danced like fools, we barfed too.

Its the kind of event, that as it’s happening, you know that it’s changing everything. It’s never going to be like this again, and you try to soak up every drop, every skid of lemon frosting sticking to your fingers, every drop of stolen whiskey, every embarrassing dance move.

Later, as the night wound down,  I was minding my own business at 1:30 AM in Blondie’s Pizza on College Ave, happily spreading greasy cheese all over my silk dress, when suddenly  a guy with a pink tie walked in, I recognized him as the gentleman in glasses who air-guitared so perfectly on the dance floor earlier. He ordered a slice of pepperoni, sat down next to me, and that was it. The song ‘Dream Weaver’ played. We talked about how much we hated vegetarians, mayonnaise; loved soul music, Le Creuset cookware, and hiking.

Now, a week, 1200 miles, and a few cheeseburgers/beers later… I sit in his parents kitchen eating oatmeal, drinking coffee, and listening to an surprise thunderstorm  roll like a semi truck overhead. I worry about the roses I was pruning yesterday, the firewood that we chopped and didn’t cover.

The Sound stretches like a big navy blanket between us and the capped Olympic mountains, we watch the boats enter and leave  the inlets, calling like great slow cows to each other from the belly of fog that perches over the water in the early mornings.

I think of how scared I was to say yes, how every single practical part of me said “absolutely not, no, thats crazy, don’t even think about it.”  But there was a more confident, blasphemous part of me that asked “Do you want a car? A house? A pratical linear life built on real decisions? Or….. do you want whats behind the ‘Mystery Door’….?”

Ob-V… I took the Mystery Door route. And as I packed up my small suit case, bag of shoes, bag of books, cassette tapes and bathroom items, there was a knocking at my chest, like a chisel coming at me. A shaking fear of the unknown, gripping and holding my lungs. I’ve never done anything this scary in my life. I stand at the top of a cliff, water rushing past,  I  am  too high up, the water is too cold, there might be rocks or worse in there, everything in my sane mind is telling me that this is a bad idea. But I can’t ignore the knocking, pushing me forward, telling me to go and don’t look back. GET.IN.THE.CAR. it said. GETINTHECAR!  The scariest things we do are always the best things we’ve ever done.

I look at myself in the mirror and I don’t recognize this girl. She is grinning, and glowing, covered in wood-chips and dirt. She is the kind of girl that I would walk past and envy, she looks so happy and excited, and loved, like she just did a cliff dive and came up in one piece.

27… may it at least be better than 26.

“Green Jackets, Gold Jackets… who gives a shit?” – Happy Gilmore

“I knew I wanted to be a writer, but at the same time I was unable to let go of restaurant work. I loved the culture, the sound of a dining room in full swing, the people who work in restaurants. I loved talking to customers about food and wine. In New York, my boyfriend and I struggled to pay our rent, but we ate our way through every important restaurant we could get to, as well as far-flung oddities and neighborhood staples. Devouring a city is a common hobby now — at the time, people thought we were insane to be spending our money on something regarded as frivolous.” – Besha Rodell

There is a lot of stigma attached to 27… most influential musicians die at this age.With all the bullshit I’ve pulled, it’s a matter of luck that I’m still alive, and without herpes or cancer (knock! knock!), but I have to say I’m pretty proud of myself. (As I sit in my childhood room and inwardly complain that the gardeners are too loud.) I’m not a single mother, or a heroin addict, nor have I ever been arrested (I mean I’ve been booked, but not charged… totally doesn’t count).

I’m a long shot, with a penchant for irrational anger stemming from thinly masked sensitivity, with a dash of self destruction. I’m basically a molotov in a circus tent, which is fine because I hate circus people*.

My friend Randi categorized it perfectly. At any time there are at least three different personalities at work inside of a girl:

1) Sinead O’connor: mopey, lovesick, creative type.

2) Beyonce: loud-mouthed independent lady who struts around demanding respect.

3) Courtney Love: a ball of rage and sadness boiling over to combustion.

Been feeling really Courtney Love lately, still waitressing, still complaining, have yet to make more than twenty-two thousand dollars a year, I drive a shit car, and yesterday when I drove over a squirrel, I had my window open because I don’t have AC, and the guts splooged up through my window. Thank god there wasn’t a Ke$sha song on, or I would have have been singing with my gob open for the dollop of squirrel intestine that shamed my face.

TRUTH TIME: no one actually cares about squirrels as much as they say they do. They’re rats with cute tails, and dumb as fuck for skipping across a busy suburban thoroughfare.

I have a lot of misplaced anger.

But there is a glimmer of possible redemption. I made the best oatmeal ever today.


1.5 cups steal-cut oatmeal

3 cups water

pinch ‘o salt

1 banana

some dried cherries

some crushed walnuts

’bout a table-spoon of black strap molasses.

If you mash the banana and the molasses up in the bowl first, then add it in with the cherries and walnuts, it tastes like a hot blended cookie.

* circus people: persons who delight in the culture of turn-of-the-century circuses. i.e. Fire breathers, sword swallowers, acrobats of any kind. Tell-tale physical signs are the presence of top-hats, waxed mustaches, hula-hoops, vertically striped clothing. People who practice tight-rope walking in public, wear petticoats, and white people who play accordions.

Roast Chicken, L.U.V.

“When I say I’m in love you best believe I’m in love, L-U-V!” – New York Dolls

“she wants me to write a love poem
but I think if people can’t love each others ass holes
and farts
and shits
and terrible parts
just like they love the good parts
that ain’t complete love”


Yeah, I completely loved that chicken, I loved it’s guts, it’s and it’s asshole. I cracked it’s spine and rubbed it’s thighs with celery salt. I greased the inside of it’s body with garlic, and then stuffed it gently with onions and jalepenos. I got under that organic free-range chicken‘s skin massaging it with salt so it would get brown and crispy.   I made a cozy nest of onions, purple potatoes, and lots of crushed garlic. Then layered cross-hatch pattern of large carrots over the top so the chicken fat dripped down over the carrots like a grill (dusted with cumin and pepper), then settled onto the potatoes, bubbling and sizzling, making them buttery without using butter. I loved it’s white parts and it’s dark parts, when it came out of the oven after 30 minutes at 475 then 45 minutes at 400, I ate the  slick fatty lump of meat off it’s tail, then I went searching for it’s secret salty oyster, then I sliced up it’s breasts and thighs.

This chicken was perfect, this chicken would launch a thousand ships and burn the topless towers of Ilium… sweet Helen… I felt immortal after cooking it. Later, when it was just another hollow carcass, splayed on the cutting board in a puddle of it’s own melted fat, it got me thinking about love.

We loved that chicken so much that we picked it apart,  ravaging every last morsel off it’s delicate bones (between three people) and exclaiming to each other how amazing this chicken was, how perfect, how beautiful. That was it’s purpose, that is why it was born, to be cherished so completely that it would one day be picked to it’s foundation by hunger and love. It would be so well loved that the people would not be able to keeps their hands off it. Methodically rubbing it, and giving it a quaint nest, a home, a warm table to be at with wine and the fire on. That chicken lived up to it’s full potential, (because lets face it vegetarians…. it’s not like it was going to cure cancer, or babysit your kids ever… a chicken is just a chicken, and it’s meant to be eaten. Obvi: I’m not a buddhist). I loved that chicken for exactly what it was, perfect, beautiful, delicious.

People often say that they want to be loved by their partner the way they are loved by their dog. But I want to be loved by someone in the same way I loved that chicken, completely drunk with greasy happiness, savoring every last bit like I am the first person ever to eat a chicken.




Wedding Season

Really similar to Golf season. March to October, lots of sundresses, men in kakis and collars, polite clapping, champagne headaches, country clubs,  hanging out with old people, white tents, sitting uncomfortably for hours, dry-cleaning dresses, being shushed by your mother, scones, continental breakfasts, bad coffee, aching livers, the constant need for a mani-pedi. Being a middle-class (mostly) caucasian American really is pleagued with strife.

The perks:

-There is always a bag of candy and/or frosting monogramed cookies in your car for the unexpected mid-traffic snack attack; a product of all the “guest gifts” you accumulate on the wedding-trail.

– You finally get to openly judge your friends and family for their aesthetic and fashion preferences.

– You have an excuse to buy clothes/shoes that are totally out of your budget.

– Weddings are one of the only events where you are invited and encouraged to drink though all the booze, and it’s totally acceptable to be sloppy.

The Season Survival Kit:

First, put air in your tires and get an oil change, we don’t want bridesmaids on the side of the road hailing tow-trucks.



Tampons (no applicator so it can fit in that tiny clutch)

Band-aids/gel inserts for your poor feet clomping around in brand new pumps all day

Vaseline (to put under your bra straps, to prevent red marks)

Teeth-whitening gum

tinted lip-balm


phone # for a decent taxi service

extra ID

baby aspirin (to prevent strokes)

cold spoons (for your puffy eyes)

“delete, delete, delete!” – your ex’s phone #…. you know your going to get the “single at the wedding blues” and try to drunk dial….. PUT YOUR SHIT ON AIRPLANE MODE.

neck pillow

condoms (just because he’s at a wedding doesn’t mean he’s clean)

self-tanner (get the tops of your feet and don’t forget to wash your palms, we don’t want panda-hands)

Bring your “big girl attitude”

Remember, don’t get caught in the emotional trap. It’s just a wedding, it’s not a talisman of your own sad swirl of loneliness with a sprinkle if mistakes and bad luck. Don’t let your distant relatives vague concerns and suggestions descend you into a pit of self-loathing. You are not fated to be an alcoholic pariah and wing-nut freeloader for the rest of your life. It’s all in your head. Someday the clouds will part and suddenly, like it was never there before, the grass will feel different and good beneath your feet. Like magic it will be the future, and it will all be okay. Until then, always keep some Alka-Seltzer, a neck pillow, and some cold spoons in your purse. Oh, and condoms.

Meet the Bone.

Have compassion for everyone you meet,

even if they don’t want it. What seems conceit,

bad manners, or cynicism is always a sign

of things no ears have heard, no eyes have seen.

You do not know what wars are going on

down there where the spirit meets the bone.

Miller Williams, Poet.

I am so ready for a vacation. I’ve been having “server-mares” a.k.a. stress dreams about waitressing. The voices of NPR hosts coming through the mouths of my nightmare customers… then I wake. I received a resounding chorus of “Thanks but NO THANKS!”  from all of the graduate programs I applied to. And have heard the nessecary closed-door open-window analogies that come with it. But, as my mom put it, at least I don’t have brain cancer.

I had a dream last night that soda-pop was outlawed for everyone under the age of 18, and that I really wanted a diet coke but couldn’t get one because I didn’t have an ID on me. I woke up after screaming at the 7-11 lady (p.s. when was the last time you saw a lady behind the counter at the 7-11?) “DO YOU HONESTLY THINK I AM UNDER 18!?”

Later in the dream I received a note from my ex-boyfriend saying that he still thinks about me, but when he does, “everything turns to ashes.”… OUCH. I don’t really know what this means, but then later I was taking a  horse-drawn sleigh-ride down Mission Street with Randi and Nora-Bird…. so I don’t put too much weight on significance.

While we’re rambling. Burbank a.k.a. Bob Hope Airport is the most civilized place to get on a plane. It’s had the same parking structure for almost 100 years. The police-man and security guards are smiling and smoking cigarettes, they play Bruce Springsteen on the sound system, and the bathrooms are empty. Although the food options and reading material are all very out-of-date, you can always stop at Pricilla’s in Burbank/Studio City for a surprisingly delicious espresso and a celebrity sighting.

New Story: (Untitled)

Tim’s daughter had the worst acne either of them had ever seen. It didn’t help that she was nearing six feet tall and coming in at 130lbs. Suddenly in the seventh grade, she gained the nick-name Auschwitz.  She was excused from P.E.

Tim got laid off from the shipping company. Their C.O.B.R.A. ran out after six months, and they were underwater on their mortgage. When he asked his mother for help, she suggested “you best grow some gills and start swimming.”

So he hired a man named Julio as his partner and started landscaping yards for friends and family. Julio had been fired from his cozy Parks and Recs job as a mower after they found him passed-out drunk in a large compost container by the base-ball fields. They worked for cash. He went to the bank once a week with about 500 dollars casting a narrow trail of dirt-clots and dust from the door of the quiet branch, snaking through the belted line and up to the high counter and the plexi-glass.  Sweating, bleeding, and tearing their knee-joints open for 6 days a week, Tim got used to the feel of dirt under his nails. And at night Tim’s wife Donna, went back to bar-tending. That’s where she met Jerry, a pot dealer in his early thirties with a prematurely receding hair line, and cheap suits he wore to seem less conspicuous. It was a lazy courtship. They never got around to actually adulterating for 6 months, too busy getting high in the walk-in freezer at the Chevy’s where she poured pre-mixed margaritas, sliced one-million limes, and opened countless coronas 5 nights a week.

Their daughter, Nan, inherited both her stoicness and her raptor-like physic from her mother who told her “you’ll blossom in college, you’ll see, those where the best years of my life,” as she combed her hair pale brown hair in front of the TV before her Chevy’s shifts.  The house fell into shabby ness. Tim, who’d had a penchant for yard work since childhood, gained skill and a meager amount of satisfaction in pulling up old growth and weeds. He envisioned a wandering slate plath in their back yard, shaded by japanese maples, and carpeted in moss. It would end at a red-wood hot tub with a stone bench that was electronically warmed from the inside out, so you could sit on it, dangle your feet in the water, and warm your ass at the same time.  He started studying sprinkler systems by watching “how to” YouTube videos. Julio had a brother-in-law who knew a guy who was a plumber.  They discussed it all on the shaded tail-gate of Tim’s mini-van that had been converted into the hub of their landscaping business. They drank a couple beers and crinkled the cans.

Julio, we could really take this thing to the next level. 

I dunno man. We’re making good money right now. Why do we have to go and challenge ourselves?

 It just seems like we should. 

Months turned into a couple years. Nan was in the belly of public high school, Donna was steadily getting hers from Jerry on Thursday and Saturday nights when picked her up early from Chevy’s and they went to either “Victoria’s” or “The Black and Tan.” They played pool and drank vodka-cranberry’s before going back to his beige-box of an apartment. Tim and Julio had a circuit of 30 homes, and were maxed out every week. Tim’s body had changed. He was thicker, the back of his neck a deep molasses color. He was asleep for at least 2 hours before Donna got home from her shifts. She always showered before climbing into bed, feeling a bit sick with mild guilt.



That’s it so far.

Do’s and Don’ts

“I avoid writers very carefully because they can perpetuate trouble as no one else can.” – Fitzgerald

“Molly, shut down that attitude.” – Maura Barraza

I deserved it, admittedly I have become a tad bitter. I had begun a wine-fueled rant about the current season of The Bachelor, my mom ‘shushing’  me a few times during the episode before she finally had enough of my cynical and extremely judgmental perspective and told me, sternly, to “shut down that attitude.” So I gripped the stem to my wine glass and sulked. Yeah, I get dumped a lot, but not enough to be a complete stone-hearted spinster. I don’t go on many dates but when I do, they mostly leave me feeling blah like day old office-coffee.

How did it go?

Eh… (shrug)

But then, I get down on myself for being such a judgy bitch. So the next day, when that random guy from the bar called to ask me out, I said “sure.” He’s an auctioneer, so NOT my type. But he has great health insurance, owns a Prius, owns a house, and I can’t turn down a free dinner, I’m not THAT cold.

Mostly, I wanted to go out with him because he is an auctioneer, and when was the last time you met one of those? 1865? He says he does “mostly cars, but sometimes pigs and land.”  It just got better from there. Never in my life have I seen someone so nervous. I felt like a cop. I won’t go into anymore detail accept to say by the end of the night I was thinking about what recordings I had on the DVR.

Some general first date “DO’s and DON’T’s” (from experience):

DON’T wear too much cologne…. in-fact don’t wear ANY cologne, just wear some Old Spice deodorant.

DO open the car door for the lady, and DO pick her up (at her house, don’t meet her for the first date).

DON’T over-share. (i.e. don’t tell me that your ex-girlfriend is a cutter and you drive her to therapy twice-a-week because she’s had too many DUI’s…NEVER MENTION YOUR PAST RELATIONSHIPS)

DON’T wait until she is in the car and say “So, what do you want to do? Eat or something?” Make plans before. DO make reservations, it’s classy.

DON’T drink faster than your date. (i.e. don’t suck down 4 cocktails in the time it takes her to drink 2)

DON’T fart. Wait at least until date 3 before you let one slip.

DON’T go into details about intricate family  drama. I just asked if you get a long with your siblings, I don’t care about the emotional power-plays between you and your sister-in-law.

DON’T mention any past felonies on your record. Wait until I ask about that. Or… maybe that’s a DO… I’m not sure. (i.e. “yeah I went to anger management after locking my girlfriend in the bathroom for a few days once.”  is not scoring you any points… however it does weed you out as an asshole early on… so…)

DON”T order for me, this isn’t 1937.

DON”T invite yourself  as my date to my friend’s party next week that I happened to mention in passing.

DON’T tell me ANYTHING about what your “dream wedding” would be like.


DON’T ever use the phrase “baby-making hips” for ANY reason, AT ALL during the date.

DO tell me if I have rib-sauce on my face, DON’T let me go to the bathroom and find out for myself 2 hours later.


DON’T sing.

DON’T be  “more of a cat guy,” … ew. 





Mink Underpants

For those of us that use curse words freely, enjoy cocktails during daylight hours, and love to cook, Bourdain is the uncrowned Pope, or as he would say “my walking Buddha.” He is the epitome of an irreverent fuckhead with a kitchen-aid and a passport. We all want to be him. Once, in the late ’90s he visited the French Laundry ( a dream of mine) and described his experience as ” like driving a Rolls Royce, naked but in mink underpants.” And to you Sir Bourdain I say well, my dog eats pumpkin soufflé for breakfast.  Because he does.

TRUE STORY: This morning, by 8:30 AM my mom was home from her daily 7 mile death-march, as usual, I was in the late stages of REM, the dog was starving after running sharp circles around her as she “jogged the flats.” The realization came that we didn’t have any dog food. But we DO have, about 4 more leftover individual pumpkin gorgonzola soufflés we made for a wine-soaked dinner party a few nights ago. Now, any old joe would hand their dog a cold hot dog and some oscar-meyer deli sliced turkey… but we are a people dripping with the height of class and sophistication, and our dog is not just any old dog. He is a pure-bread Australian Shepard who can do flips (true story) and give you the most heart-wrenching dog-stares known to man. He often acts as my sous chef, although, I must say, he has no palate for broth (high tolerance for salt).  So mom reaches for one of the leftover soufflés, unwraps the plastic, and sets the cold ramekin down next to his empty food bowl and water dish. Being accustomed to the finer things in life such as belly-rubs, affirmations, rib-eye bones, and soft blankets, he takes to the soufflé like its just another half-eaten chicken wrap he found in the trash.

It’s over quickly and he licks his furry lips, I imagine, savoring the rich yet fluffy texture and the delicate flavor profile of aged gorgonzola, crunchy walnuts, and creamy pumpkin. Lord only knows how it worked out for him on the back-end, I just hope he fared better than I did.  He retires to the patio to take a nap. I am off to work, to sling burgers and refill iced-teas, maybe fold some napkins and complain about the thick-ness of the lemon-wedges.

TWO CENTS: You know a restaurant is a great restaurant, if their butter is room-temperature, not cold so it masticates your toast as you are trying to spread it, but room temperature so it spreads neatly. I hate spending more than 30 seconds buttering my bread, and when it’s cold it will tear the thing apart, leaving chunks everywhere. It’s like biting down hard on your lip, it ruins the meal.

The Hero

“I am the writer, so of course I am the hero of all my stories.” – Bukowski

Some days the words fly out like angry bees, and then some days its like I have to tweeze them out for hours, its physically painful. I have to sit down and just do it. even though it will only be one paragraph, or one sentence.

Mild Fiction Short about a helicopter pilot, (probably get like a B+ in a writing class):

He liked to pretend sometimes that he was flying blind, and all he could use as a guide was the horizon. The pale fold from light to dark blue. He would let his eyes water up against the sun blurring the brown hill tops, making a milky scape like the moon, the cars on the road like cartoons, zipping like the flow of water droplets on a car window, or sometimes moving like a snake exiting it’s skin.  He listened to the babble of the news caster, a trim man in his thirties, with a Marlon Brando imitation voice. They would do the same loop every morning: Pulling the guts out of the Hughes 500 to get off the roof of the station, veering East over the 110, 210, 5, then north to the 134, then over the 101, to the 405, to the coast checking out the PCH; then back east over the 10, checking street traffic; then South down to San Pedro, check the surf, then back up to the station – break- then do it again.  On the second time around they would go farther north, up to Malibu, so he could fly through the canyon, pushing the fog around like cream. Making the surf report, getting shots of whales and dolphins, sometimes out towards the Catalinas.

The news caster Trent Zimmerman, had ambition, he wanted to be an anchor. He wore his hair like an anchor, he dressed in dark suits, he tanned. The pilot, Bob Duncan, wanted nothing more than to be a traffic helicopter pilot. After years in search-and-rescue he had no taste left for pressure or adrenaline, even heroism. He wanted to wake up every morning and fly over the freeways. He liked knowing the best routes at the best times. He liked calling his wife, everyday at 8:15 on his break to tell her which way to go to get to work. “Take Laurel, today honey, 101’s a mess.” or ” Don’t take Laurel, it’s cold molasses, just get in line on the 405.” He would then call his daughter, who was just getting off her night shift at the UCLA hospital, and tell her to take surface streets back to  her apartment on the West side. “Don’t even think about the 10-405 interchange honey, it’s crawling right now.” He liked when his friends and family always asked him for directions, because he was the expert.

They took a trip to Costa Rica the previous summer with their daughter who just graduated from UCLA, nursing. He loved the hot air, he liked  his wife without make-up, he loved the never ending soundtrack of birds. He wanted to retire in Costa Rica, in a two-room stucco or a bamboo house on stilts. But they already had an inherited cottage in Encinitas, a half-century old bungalow that had belonged to his mother. They always planned on dying there steps from the beach, steps from il picollo, their favorite vacation Italian spot. Life seemed to be sliding into a cozy twilight, highlighted with the occasional over-seas trip or family wedding, maybe some grand-kids, and most likely a heart-attack, how the hell else does a man in America die?

Then, there was the day, the news caster, Trent, went nuts and tried to kill himself on live television.  He arrived as he usually did late and apologetic but today he looked like one big grimace and Bob caught his gaze right before they hopped in to pull up. He was wearing a loose tan suit, with a dark shirt and a green and gold patterned tie, with mallards on it. Bob was struck by the look in Trent’s eye, later he could only describe it as looking into a shark’s eyes, it reminded him of something, a movie? a picture?. There was something blank, and threatening. He thought maybe Trent had been up all night, hangover, he had barfed on board before, but always recovering enough to perform. Thew would often joke about where the barf ended up. Looking back Bob noticed the signs. There had been rumors, of an affair, a drug addiction, a secret, a pile of secrets. Bob just felt bad for the kid, he was so earnest and unfit for pressure. He’d cried a few times after making verbal gaffs, on camera,  or getting yelled at. Bob was just the driver, and didn’t engage in idle gossip. He just liked to fly helicopters.

They swung vertically into the air and Trent remained silent over the 110, the 210, the 5. Usually he would be calling out in cartoonish blows about the stagnant mess. Then the camera man smacked him on the shoulder and made the “LIVE” sign with his hands, and Trent smiled at the camera, his cheeks glazed in tears, this crazy hallucinating smile, and took off his head-set, throwing it down into the grid-lock on the 5 right by Dodger stadium. The camera man kept rolling but yelled into his ear piece, “I think we’re loosing him Bob, He just took off his head-set” Bob suddenly recognized the look he’d seen in Trent’s eyes, the look that said I’m already gone. That was the last look his son had given him before bed that night, 7 years ago now? Oh, that look that said there is nothing you can do. Bob pulled off the freeway circuit and tried to think where the closest helipad was.  Bob yelled “Hold him down!” and headed for Burbank. The camera man yelled at Trent What the fuck are you doing? We are live! We are live!

But Trent was already out of his seat, holding on to the door-jam of the copter, he turned to face the camera, still rolling. He got onto this belly and started chimmeying down to the landing gear. Hold him down! God damnit! Bob yelled  but the camera man was struck,with a journalists instincts. He was un-believing as Trent’s arms and hands slipped gracefully out of sight, he screamed.

Trent Landed in the backyard of a single-family bungalow in Glendale. Crumpled thankfully on the grass next to a faded plastic children’s playhouse. The children were much to old for it, and at school. Bob hovered the copter over him, watching for movement. The camera man was screaming, Holy Fuck, Holy Fucking shit! Holy God damn! Someone get an ambulance! Holy god damn shit!

They hovered and watched as the ambulance arrived, the fireman, lifted him carefully, giving Bob a thumbs up.  He was alive. Bob was lost again in that moment, the look, like an alien invasion of the body-snatchers, that look of someone about to do it. His son’s pale neck red and raw with the struggle. The stiffness of  his legs, the smell of dried piss. It was there again that feeling of falling endlessly forever, like you open your mouth to scream but you have no voice.

The video of the news-caster manically and slowly lowering himself out of the helicopter as it zoomed over a neighborhood was the most ‘hit’ video of 2011. The camera-man was hired as a professional “screamer” for movies, his screams starred in the new King-Kong remake, Jurassic Park 7, and The Thing 2. Bob retired from helicopter flying and opened a Bar in Encinitas called Bob’s where he slowly drank himself to death.  The newscaster wrote a memoir about over-coming death and depression. He circuits regularly through high-school graduations, and yoga retreats.