On the Internet

I began my Sunday ordinarily enough. My husband and I lovingly annoyed our dog until she woke up; I made coffee; I watched Nathan Chen win another National Figure Skating title. And then I sat down at my computer, fresh to-do list at my side, but instead of doing anything on said list I typed the following into my browser’s search bar:

What is Wordle?

“what is wordle,” 2022, honest question on screen, K. Markovich.

I’m generally pretty good at keeping up with “things,” but I swear I blinked and everyone was posting tiny colored tiles and talking mad shit to each other on social media. Imagine my surprise when I found out a game about words had been out for 3 whole days and I’d yet to engage. (Also, quick gripe: Searching “what is wordle” does not actually yield a link to Wordle. I had to sift through about a dozen articles that all explained that Wordle is a hot new word game, but not a direct link to be found. Thanks for nothing, criminally underpaid freelance writers!) So anyway, after I found Wordle, I did it! See?

Now I’m part of society again. And I’ll be honest: it feels good. Until tomorrow, of course, when something else happens on the internet and I’m yet again late to the draw.

I struggle with how much I want to be involved with the Internet. On the one hand, I don’t want to be here. Really, truly, please believe me (me, a person who has blogged semi-steadily since like 2008, I honestly don’t want to be here!). But to be a writer, you have to be on the Internet. You just do. I attended a writing conference in 2012 and at one of the panels, an audience member asked: Do I really have to be on Twitter? Like me, this audience member was (presumably) asking for permission to not engage, to remain head-down in their work and not have to Be a Brand on the Internet. Seemingly without even considering the question, though, all the panelists nodded in unison and offered a resounding “YUP.” For what it’s worth, these panelists were not “young”; in fact, they were an older generation of writers who probably didn’t want to be on Twitter either. But they laid out the truth for us, point-blank, let us know that if they were jumping on board then we should, too. Besides, it’s not that hard to Tweet, right?

But I find that it is! I don’t like it there. It’s strange: I am definitely a verbal person (as opposed to visual) but I much prefer Instagram. I put pressure on myself to be GOOD at the WORDS and then I look at a blinking Twitter cursor and I think, “I know, I’ll subtly refer to an article I assume we all read BUT THEN I will use that to further refer to a bad but obscure movie” and I hit “Tweet” and then I have the nerve to get disappointed that no one liked it. (To be fair, a very famous person could Tweet something similar and it would end up on the front page of The Cut.) I have quit Twitter so many times. In fact, I seem to remember a particularly self-righteous Tweet in 2019 in which I declared that I vowed to spend more time listening instead of constantly inserting myself into conversations. To be fair, I remember feeling gross and overwhelmed at the assumption that I, personally, needed to say more in a fraught political/cultural landscape. (Hello, yes, I know that 2022 is still not perfect, but I’m just saying!) So I announced that I was LEAVING and nobody stopped me and then I legitimately did not look at Twitter again until 2021.

I went back to Twitter because…I missed the world? I think I touched on this the last time I blogged (which was also a long time ago), but the pandemic has made me miss people in specific, gutting ways that I didn’t know possible. I haven’t lived in the same state as many family and friends in almost 10 years now, but the impossibility of traveling/gathering sent me spiraling. I will never see you again bounced around in my head like a screensaver any time I saw people I loved on my phone screen. Those pictures, still moments on Instagram, felt too frozen. Too final and untouchable. So one day I opened Twitter on my computer (because it had been long deleted from my phone) and I saw that my friends were still having conversations, still talking about movies and sports and politics, still existing in the present. Movement was happening somewhere. So I Tweeted. I asked Twitter what I had missed in the year and a half since I’d been there, and almost immediately people responded. I remember feeling very emotional, perfectly shocked at the serotonin coursing through my stubborn brain. It’s embarrassing to admit, but it felt good to be seen. I didn’t know I needed it, but that stupid app that truly does more harm than good had it.

Which brings me to now. I deleted the app from my phone again. It’s been a good year of reconnecting, but now I hate it again! What can I say, life has seasons and all that. (Also, if you linked to this post via Twitter then yes, I can see where you might be confused/tempted to point out my hypocrisy, but I’m back to Twitter ONLY on desktop, baby! Balance and what not.) Maybe I will blog more (shout out to my seven fans), a medium I do truly enjoy, because I find that I need the time and space to fully explain myself. For example, I needed 1000 words to tell you that I learned what Wordle is and that Twitter is my nemesis. But I think that’s fine. I can whiff on Twitter and know that it’s okay, because this blog exists (and so does my beloved ‘gram and hey! this podcast I wrote!) But I resolve to lean into the Internet, which is so asinine to see typed out, but I’ll try. I will be here if I need to be here! My online presence will be what I make it, for better or for worse, on this website that badly needs redesigned but it’s mine-all-mine, name attached to it and all.

Awkward Two-Year-Later Check-in

I have not been here since February 2019 and I don’t have a good reason for that. But I have some theories:

For the past decade or so, I’ve had a blog somewhere on the internet. I go through “seasons” of writing in these blogs, and the end of these seasons have been determined by any number of things. As far as I can tell, though, I usually stop writing because 1) I start to hate what I write or 2) I run out of time to truly “run my blog like a business” (lol), or 3) I assume no one cares about a weird interaction I had at a gas station one time, so I close up shop and quietly recluse myself until further notice. Seeing all of the options listed out like this, I now realize that they’re all actually sort of the same option. But no matter the reason, the reality is that my blogging season of late-2017 to early-2019 has ended. Goodnight, sweet princess. 

There have been loose themes to most of these blogging ventures, and when I lose the already-split thread, I lose the blog. For example, I had one blog that was for “humor writing.” (It was also my only attempt at Tumblr, which is truly the wrong platform for me because I don’t “do” pictures or images, and I HATE GROUP WORK so the sharing and interacting element was a tiny nightmare.) I spit out a few humor pieces that were sort-of-kind-of funny, and I even solicited funny friends to contribute every once in a while. While that was fun, it was also juuuust enough work for it to sometimes feel not-fun. Perhaps more importantly, I didn’t want to be funny all the time. This issue repeated itself over and over in all the other blogs, because I got tired of making myself always talk about the same thing (adulthood! finding the meaning in the seemingly insignificant! LA is weird!) in the same way for an audience that was, uh, small. 

That much time/energy/thought/etc. has a way of feeling “not worth it,” which is not a very romantic admission about writing, but it’s the truth. Because here’s the thing: I care a lot about what I write and what I post. When I write, I slice off a small piece of my heart and leave it on the page. I’ve always been this way. I guess this is what happens when you’ve kept a diary for 25 years. Now, this isn’t a brag or even an endorsement for telling the whole truth every time you create something. I should also mention that I’ve written plenty of things that are 10000% imagined and made-up. But the core of most of my writing is usually a hyper-specific emotion that I experienced once, and the feelings that came after, and then I compress it all into a teeny-tiny, about-to-burst kernel and hide it inside of the fiction (and also inside of myself!). And then when it’s time to write, I sit and think about that one time when I was 18 and I told a guy I had a crush on that I was “really getting into Broken Social Scene” but I was so nervous to talk to him that I fucked up the band name and I said “Social Broken Scene.” And now 13 years later, I still think about that and I can feel my face flush and my lower back start to sweat. But instead of writing the story as it happened, I will convert it into 5000 words of fiction that tiptoe up to the edge of Embarrassment and just peer over. And even though I’ve chosen not to tell the actual story, climbing up to the ledge just to peer over takes a lot of energy, too. No matter how you slice it, writing can be exhausting. 

In terms of my personal blog protocol, though, my point is this: I don’t want to present anything that is untrue. I’ve tried on a couple of different writing voices over the years, and none of them fit, and I would always rather show up as myself (which is…such an embarrassing thing to say! Don’t worry, I’ll think about it for the rest of my life). But I don’t want to share too much, either. This is a public-facing platform, I have a job that does not require me to have a social media presence, and I have older family members on the internet. HARD PASS on exposing too much of myself! I also don’t get paid to do this. Did you know that? I’m sure you did. (Though I secretly hope that at least one of you is like…but I thought that’s why you moved to LA. To blog…professionally!) There are few rewards here–or anywhere, really–for slicing up your whole heart for the internet to passively consume. There are absolutely circumstances where it’s worth it to do so, and I work really hard to identify those opportunities. But I can honestly say that a blog (at this time in my life anyway) is probably not the best place to lay it all out there every single time I post. 

Which is how I stop posting. 

I realize now, 10 years and thousands of words later, that I back off from the blog when it starts to feel like I’m not saying enough real things. Or like I’m one big wind gust away from being knocked into the canyon and just spilling my guts. (Also, if you have any suggestions on how to further this cliff/canyon metaphor, let me know, I’m not “outdoorsy,” per se.) The stopping is protective, as most stoppings usually are. 

But I’d like to find something a little more in-between. 

It’s been a difficult, surreal, confusing year for many of us, myself included. I don’t know what to say about it, because there is no neat and easy way to say you miss the world. As is my blog nature, I’m choosing not to be pithy because that feels weird, but I absolutely am not going to spill aforementioned guts anywhere, because that feels weird, too. I wrote A LOT between March of last year and now (brag!) but only a few people have read any of it, including the fine editors and contest readers at myriad publications and festivals who straight-up rejected me. Which is fine! The point, though, is that I have written. It’s just the blog that needs figured out.

I recently re-read* The Metamorphosis by Franz Kafka. This passage hit me: 

Gregor spent his nights and days with hardly any sleep. Sometimes he thought that the next time the door opened he would take over the family arrangements just as he had earlier. In his imagination appeared again, after a long time, his employer and supervisor and the apprentices, the excessively gormless custodian, two or three friends from other businesses, a chambermaid from a hotel in the provinces, a loving fleeting memory, a female cashier from a hat shop, whom he had seriously, but too slowly courted—they all appeared mixed in with strangers or people he had already forgotten…(Kafka, 57)

I think about people a lot, too. So I’ve decided to come back and talk every once in a while. (It’s also worth noting that I cut that Kafka quote before Gregor expresses that he actually doesn’t miss any of those people, but Gregor is going through it, so he’s entitled to feeling any bug feeling he wants. Also, this one has a bummer ending, so tread lightly, my fellow bug people!) 

Anyway, I’m sort of back, sort of not. Working on something in the middle, at least. Stay tuned.

*I also re-read Bunnicula in 2020. It holds up!

Goodness Gracious

I was waiting in line at a coffee shop when I noticed a dollar bill on the ground. It was not my dollar. The woman in front of me had been discussing her coffee order with the barista for some time (as people often do in Los Angeles) and it occurred to me that the dollar might be hers. I waited for a pause in their conversation, which was easier said than done–the natural rhythm of an LA coffee-counter conversation is tedious in form but the overall amount of words to be said about coffee is voluminous. When I had grown tired of awkwardly standing there and clutching a rogue dollar, I finally said, “Excuse me, is this your dollar?” By that point it is fair to say that I should have just pocketed it. But I had already committed to asking, and I really hate engaging with strangers, so I couldn’t just interrupt my momentum.

The woman looked down at my hand, verifying that it was indeed just one dollar, and said, “Nope. Looks like you just made a dollar!”

But as soon as I heard “No” I was already making a b-line for the tip jar, stuffing the dollar in tightly with the other random bills. I watched the woman’s face fall as she instantly regretted suggesting I keep it.

“Oh,” she said. “That was really nice of you.”

The voice in my head said, Yeah. I know. And it said that because this is not a story about how good I am, but rather, one about how I sometimes feel compelled to perform goodness in order to feel better about myself.

But the voice that came out of my mouth said, “Aw, it’s nothing!” as though I don’t spend most of my time dreaming of money falling from the sky.

The woman turned back to the barista (because she STILL HAD NOT PLACED HER ORDER) and another, uglier thought crossed my mind. Today is the day the stranger in front of me buys my coffee. Today is the day it gets “paid forward.” And I thought this because there is a pervasive rumor circling the internet that people are just buying coffees for each other willy-nilly, that patrons approach a counter or a drive-thru microphone and a chipper barista announces, “Actually, ma’am, the customer in front of you picked up your coffee today!” I don’t believe that this happens to anybody. I don’t believe that people wander the streets looking for ways to treat each other to free cupcakes and lattes. I have even seen several accounts of this on social media posted by people I know IRL, but I still don’t buy it. And yet, I stood there feeling absolutely certain that the woman in front of me would buy my coffee because she was so impressed with my selflessness, with my ability to part ways with one free dollar.

After the woman eventually decided on half-cafs and double-pumps and extra-foams and had feigned concern over (but happily accepted) a plastic straw, she left without paying me any mind. Which is her prerogative, by the way–to reiterate, I don’t talk to strangers either. I only bother them when I think they dropped a dollar/I want them to see that I am willing to part ways with a free dollar. When it was my turn at the counter, I ordered the Katie Markovich Special (the smallest drip coffee on the menu, no modifications, thank you very much!). The barista peered at me through her Warby Parkers and said, with the confident ennui that comes only with being a barista who works at a Larchmont coffee shop, “That will be three fifty.” Which, fine, sure, yes, take my money. Except I didn’t have any money, not cash money anyway, because I haven’t carried cash in years. It drives my husband crazy but the joke’s on him when he’s always stuck paying for parking.

I charged my coffee. As I waited for the chip reader to decide if I had three dollars in my bank account or not, it occurred to me that I had already tipped with the free dollar. What luck! Only this barista hadn’t witnessed it. Instead of writing “CASH” on the tip line of my receipt, like a sane person, I decided I would tell her that I had tipped her. Because I really needed someone to care that I hadn’t kept the dollar. I tapped the tip jar with my finger.

“I put a dollar in here,” I said, like a child presenting a scribbled drawing to a tired parent. “That one on top, that’s mine.”

“Okay,” she said. “Wait, what did you want again?”

“Just a coffee. Like, the smallest coffee.”

“Oh. That’s all you want?”

“Yep. That’s it. And I already–” I tapped the jar again.

“Tipped, I know.” The barista slid the coffee to me then returned to stocking pastries.

I went outside to the patio and found a seat. I saw a customer let the door slam on a woman who was holding a tray of food, soup splattering all over her floral-print dress. I saw another customer from inside follow out a very old woman, asking which table was hers so she could set down her tray of scones and coffee. I saw a customer agree to watch a woman’s purse while she took a phone call. I saw a homeless teenager not be bothered by staff while he ate his collage of collected food, random pieces of yesterday’s meals stored in Ziploc baggies. I saw an old man conduct a conference call from his cell phone while his elderly wife with a hunched spine served him water and made sure his lunch was perfect. He never said thank you.

I don’t blame the barista for being unaffected by my base-level of human decency. I don’t blame the woman from the line for suggesting I keep a dollar, and then not being very impressed when I parted with it. And I don’t blame myself for thinking a returned dollar would atone for not giving my lunch leftovers to a homeless man I’d seen on the way to the coffee shop. Because sometimes a good deed is only relative to the cacophony of shit that surrounds it, and that’s okay too.

The Coyote

About a year and two months ago, I embarked on a blogging journey. I told myself that this time it would be different–after all the years of experimenting with Tumblr and Word Press and the half-dozen or so other blogging platforms I’ve used, I was going to commit fully to katiemarkovich.com. Content is king, after all, and in order to prove how good I am at writing, my plan was to do it regularly and publicly! Only this time, the fact that I own my domain and pay money for it would hold me accountable for this precious little exercise. I started by posting once a week, and I stuck to that schedule for a surprisingly long amount of time. Then I moved to once every two weeks; how in-demand was my writing anyway? Have to keep the people on their toes! And then that turned into once a month, because every other week is strange, but once a month? Now that’s a schedule! I never formally announced this is as a scheduling choice, but people will figure it out, I thought. And then, here we are: two months have passed. Why? Why did I betray the schedule? Why did I reject the golden rule of blogging, which is to treat it like a business and to give it the same credence and commitment that you would any other professional venture? Well. Just got busy and stuff, I guess. I recently read a profile of a food blogger and she outlined her daily routine. After cooking for 12 hours straight and perfecting recipes and photographing the food and cleaning up, she then settles into her bed and BLOGS ALL NIGHT. After feeling a little bad about my own blogging habits for a couple minutes, I reminded myself that no one is paying me to do this. And then I felt better and continued not writing any new posts.

I attempted to get the ball rolling by jotting down some ideas. The result was just a list of everything that’s happened over the last 2 months, and then that made me feel guilty about not writing in my diary, and then that made me feel guilty about all the email correspondence that I let fall to the wayside, and then that made me feel guilty about all the things I’ve ever meant to do but then just didn’t. I meant to sign up for piano lessons several years ago. Why didn’t I do that? I had the tab open on my computer for weeks until one day I just closed it, knowing that I had missed my window of opportunity (and because the fan on my computer was freaking out and I needed to close some tabs). What else could have possibly been more important than piano lessons? I wager it involved drinking at a bar with my friends. Now, my stuff-that-has-happened list includes such highlights as the entire staff of a flight not helping me hang up my wedding dress; meeting a man at the bank who had just won 10k on a scratcher; that same man immediately getting into an argument with a woman because he complimented her jeans; another man at a restaurant who, upon being asked how he wanted his burger cooked, replied, “Uh. The one in the middle?”; a man street parking his BMW, then waving a credit card at his girlfriend and saying, “We can only use this card until midnight tonight, ok? Not the others ones. There’s no money on those.” He was paying for parking.

But I settled on this one:

Over the weekend, Tony and I were walking back to our car from dinner when we spotted a coyote. The coyote was trotting up the sidewalk, minding his own business, presumably coming from the Samuel French bookstore on Sunset where he was disappointed not to find the play he wanted. We walked behind him at a safe distance, trying not to let him know we were talking about him. Strangely, it was a lot like seeing a celebrity in public. Tony and I marveled at the beauty of the coyote, undoubtedly referring to it as a “cuy-YOTE” at least once. I’ve been trying to write a story about a coyote for about a year now and it keeps coming out wrong. I have a few different drafts and none of them are very good. I’m not even sure if the idea is any good, to tell you the truth, but all these words poured out of me (about 3000 of them, according to my most recent draft) and who was I to stop it. When I write short stories, they usually come out by hand, written directly into my notebook. I get tired of staring at a screen all the time, so sitting down to write in a notebook allows me to compartmentalize the task and see how my hand and brain are processing the information. I also like flipping through the pages I’ve filled and exclaiming “I have made fire!”, showing the empty room just how very good I am at barfing out thoughts in ink. But the coyote story is not great. I’ve typed it out and cut it down then rebuilt it again and it’s still not working.

Tony and I continued walking behind the coyote until it was time to cross the street and walk to our car. “Bye buddy,” I said, waving at the animal. I was incredibly sleepy and a little drunk; I think somewhere in my brain, I wandered into a dreamscape where the coyote and I were friends and he would remember me the next time we met. When we got into the car, Tony said, “Should we give our leftovers to the coyote?” We both knew the answer was no, but we spent a good long time deliberating. One of the pro-giving arguments was that the coyote would like us very much and want to be our friends. In the meanwhile, we watched him from our car. He jumped up into the front yard of a home, settling in on the grass as though he lived there. In the silhouette of the porch light, he looked like any old German Shepherd, enjoying Los Angeles in the fall. Tony said he wanted a dog. I said me too. The coyote stood, alert, like he had heard us, deciding he should go home with us. Instead he thrust his snout into the ground and with the greatest of ease, pulled out a rabbit by its neck. He shook it violently, tufts of fur rising like dried dandelion heads. The coyote set in to tear it apart and we decided it was time to go home.

The next day, we roamed around our apartment in a Sunday malaise. The fires in California have turned the sky into a tapestry of post-apocalyptic dread; the light is all wrong. It’s always a little hard to know what time it is, what day it is, how many layers to wear, if it’s Christmas yet. But now the sun is red and the sky is thick, and we walk around not knowing when to turn on our lamps. But in this haze we would stop and say, not prompted by anything other than memory, “Remember that coyote?” as if he were a friend we could have made if only we’d stayed a little longer.



The One With All the Crying

I have a strange relationship with crying. When I was little —little as in, those indeterminate years between birth and 1st grade, where I could have been a baby or a fully formed small person–I remember crying a lot. I cried at everything. I was “sensitive” and I was “shy” and I don’t remember doing a whole lot of talking to anyone. (In this way, I consider myself the O.G. millennial feminist: Go away, I don’t want to talk to you, and I don’t have to talk to you!) I suppose I didn’t have the words to express how I was feeling, and I didn’t have the maturity or self-awareness to understand that I was just frustrated or tired or annoyed, so I just cried instead. It was easier that way. It’s possible that I cried just as much as any small child, but looking back now, it seems like it was a lot.

And then one day I stopped crying. I learned to express myself in other ways: I started writing, doing theatre, giving shit back to my brother. I read cool books for teens. I stayed up all night watching MTV and late night comedy specials and fancying myself a pretty cool teenager even though I was nowhere close to being a teenager. I filled myself with language, words to use when I needed them, even a bunch of words I probably shouldn’t have known at all. But I was obsessed with not being a baby who cries anymore, so I did what I thought I had to do. I aged myself out of cry baby via a healthy diet of self-imposed angst.

Where did these rules come from, that I wasn’t supposed to cry? You can probably guess. Crying is weak. Crying is for girls. Don’t be a girl. But if you absolutely have to, you better be a cool girl! Don’t be disruptive. Crying is disruptive. Crying is distracting. No one wants to deal with you if you cry. Crying means you’re difficult. Just don’t cry. Don’t be difficult. No boys will want to talk to you if you’re difficult, and if boys don’t want to talk to you, then where will you be? How will you matter at all? Don’t do it! Look down on it! Are you seriously crying? You’re never going to make it if you cry. Make it in what? We don’t know, we didn’t really think these rules through, but we did make them, so now you have to follow them. Do. Not. Cry.

These phrases bounced around in my head through much of adolescence and high school. I’d absorbed them through cultural osmosis, simply watching and participating in spaces that valued masculinity and stoicism. (My Midwestern readers, you get this, and I see you.) It was an unspoken tenet of life, and I followed suit. And I was good at it! I could hang, I could deflect shit that hurt me, I could bust balls with the best of them, I could be exposed to any kind of media and compartmentalize and not let anything get under my skin. (Quick aside: HOW ON EARTH are dudes allowed to throw absolute shit fits over sports, I mean full-on throwing-spitting-destruction tantrums/lock themselves in rooms and go despondent and silent and scary, but crying is coded as “difficult”?) The point is, I was conditioned not to cry.

Then tears started to creep out in surprising, alarming ways. It began with movies, stuff that would have been totally inane to another viewer, but flipped weird switches inside of me. If someone happened to catch me in the middle of one of these totally embarrassing freak outs, and they asked what was wrong (they usually phrased it as a very scared, “What is…happening right now?”) I could usually only offer “I don’t know.” And that would be partially true. I would understand what made me so upset in the moment, (literally things as innocuous as people getting together at the end of movies) but I couldn’t figure out why I was this bummed out. Then it was books I read, things I saw on the internet, people meeting me again and not remembering my name, dogs, literally all music, live performances of anything, meeting people with really whack opinions and getting really in my head as to why those opinions were so whack. A valve had been opened, but in a too-much-at-once kind of way. A lot of it was hormones. I’m not going to sit here and try to convince you otherwise, because it was definitely hormones, and then I went on the pill and ohhhh buddy was it hormones again. But the other part of it–and this is so obvious it hurts–was that I was retroactively processing things that had upset me years ago. Like, of course that’s what was happening, but when you’re 17 or 18 or 19 (and LOL lots of years after that) you just think, “I am the same child who cannot process anything. I have no words, only tears. I have failed at being the coolest girl and now I am just some girl, weak and emotional, making everyone uncomfortable with how difficult I am. Now please, leave me alone, I have to listen to The Shins.” Of course the flood gates had to open at some point, of course I had to finally confront the fact that I had been swallowing a bunch of feelings, of course it happened during the formative years of no sleep and a steady diet of Natural Lite and meeting really smart, really rich people who made me feel small. Of course.

I’m pretty good at crying now. I figured out how to close the valve, control things more like a faucet: distinct handles for on and off. I also learned to not care as much. Don’t get me wrong, I still care a lot. I’ve never asked for help in a single store ever and I’ve subtracted hundreds of minutes from my life by pretending to know where things are located. But I don’t care as much as I did in high school when I blinked at nothing, and I don’t care as much as I did in college when I blinked at nothing but would then go secretly cry somewhere else for awhile. I’m getting better at being a cool girl who ALSO cries. We can have it all!

I started mentally drafting this post the other night when Tony and I were at a concert. Tony is really good at my crying too, by the way. He never makes it out to be some deviant, crazy-girl thing that he just has to wait out because “ya know, women.” But before the show started, I turned to Tony and said, “If Jason Isbell plays Stockholm, I will cry. I just wanted you to know.” And then Jason Isbell played Stockholm and I cried. Not because I said I would and I’m that stubborn, and not because I am now a CryBot who is programmed with a finite number of tears (stockholm_tears=true), but because I know myself and I’m trying to take the time to process more feelings as they happen. I am not perfect at this. I still spend a lot of time steeling myself, letting words and situations and people and the news slide right off me. And then there are other times where I am sobbing uncontrollably in a bar on a Thursday afternoon, because I’ve lived in LA for 3 days and all the women here wear hats and I don’t wear hats and it makes me feel dumb and ugly and different and also I hate hats, why is that a thing here? (I turned on the tear faucet for HATS you guys.) But my brain and my heart are finally getting good at talking to one another, at emotional triage, at saying “hey, you take it” to one while the other takes a seat.

I have a strange relationship with crying. It grows and expands everyday, reminding me what I care about, who is important to me. I cry about lots of things, and it feels good.




First of all, I have cried over approximately 9000 boys. I am not a sociopath. Boy rejection cut me DEEP, I was the master of teenage angst, and it got to the point where I would look at myself in the mirror while I cried…over boys. I am who I am and this is my truth. Many of these boys were celebrities that I loved but knew would never love me back, such as but not limited to Shane West. Second of all, a heartfelt thank you to any friend in college who watched me cry very hard and stood next to me, patting my shoulder, and saying “I don’t really know what’s going on, but I’m here,” and then I would trick them into buying me mozzarella sticks.

Adult Home Again

August! Where did you come from?

I think that’s the only way to react to where we are in the year, some combination of shock, awe, and disgust at how quickly the calendar is running out of pages. Maybe you can relate to this—you blinked and you’re already seeing sponsored posts by Wow! Autumn Feelings on Facebook. Meanwhile, you thought you were still on track to complete all the items on your Summer Bucket List, but the only checked-off box is a piddly “Get ice cream.” I know this because I’ve been there. Assigning meaningless value to designated seasonal activities, then proceeding to beat myself up when I don’t do them well enough. Anyway, the good news is that we still have all of August for whatever it is people like to do during the summer (which is, as you know, my least favorite season. Blech, the sun, gross!) and there is no rush on stocking up on your favorite fall scents just yet. (Lay off, Bath & Body Works email blast, am I right?) I am still, however, trying to grapple with the fact that I’ve already lived in Los Angeles for 10 months, I feel betrayed by time, and all I have to show for it is the list of books I’ve read this year. And yes, I know, I got married. But this book list is pretty good!

Tony and I recently traveled back to the Midwest (the heartland, as it were) for 9 whole days! A slight sidetrack: Tony and I have theorized that some of the people we’ve met here think of us as “country mice,” two small town kids in the bustling metropolis of Los Angeles, taking in a real city for the very first time. Nothing specific has been said, but it’s a lot of head tilts, a lot of soft tones, a lot of “Aww, going to dinner, huh?” like we don’t have restaurants where we come from. So we were both a little tickled when we told people that we were “going back to the Midwest for a week” then watched their concerned faces silently wonder if that meant we were going back for good, because of, you know, fear or whatever. But alas, the visit was for high school reunions and bridal showers and other people’s weddings and meeting new babies and basically all the major life events you miss when you don’t live in the same city as your friends anymore, so you cram it all into 9 days! It was also our first appearance as a married couple (to many people) and I have no shame in accepting congratulations from pretty much anyone who offers. Could have done with more FREE DRINKS, but I guess hugs and well wishes are nice, too.

There was admittedly some anxiety about returning to Chicago. The only other home I’ve ever left behind is Akron, and as far as I know, I will always have a reason to return. But Chicago is different. Leaving your first adult home is hard, because it means two things: 1) Maybe you were wrong to have ever moved there in the first place, if you only ended up leaving or 2) Maybe you were wrong to leave it, being arrogant enough to think there’s some place better to live, and signaling that maybe you didn’t know what you wanted in the first place. You know, this reminds me of something that happened to me right before (and I mean, days before) I moved to Chicago in 2012. I tell this story A LOT so, I mostly apologize to Biz, who has heard it the most, but also to you if I’m repeating myself. I was out with some friends in Akron when one member of this group turned to me and said “I just don’t understand why you’d move to Chicago. What’s there for you that isn’t here?” And it kind of blew my mind that anyone would even ask this. I was 22, fresh out of college, all my friends from school were moving to a million different amazing places, yet I had someone looking me in the eye and questioning why I thought I deserved the same. And it’s really stuck with me, this surprised reaction that implies I’m crazy for thinking I have permission to go away. Even with all the endless support given by Chicago friends when we moved to LA, I still wondered, did I really have permission to go? Not just literal permission, but cosmic permission? Was it really time? This question weighed heavily on my mind in the days leading up to our trip. I didn’t know how I’d feel, if I’d be confronted with a million reasons why we should have stayed, if it would all become clear to me that I was supposed to stay there instead of coming here. I was far more nervous abut this portion of the trip than I was about my high school reunion, I can say that much.

And reader, guess what? It was fine! You can go first-adult home again. You can look at a place, feel good that you ever picked it at all, feel happy about the memories and relationships you made there, and then feel even happier about returning to the new life you’re working on. You can also look at the same place and miss it—miss its people, miss its architecture and its food and its weather—and know that those feelings are normal. What you don’t have to do is feel guilty or wrong for leaving, even if other people or your own brain try to convince you otherwise. It’s exhausting to have to live your life within the confines of other people’s comfort zones. Which is why you should all move across the country!!! Just kidding, you don’t have to do that either. It’s expensive and stressful and you can’t watch any local baseball games because there’s a content blackout in the greater Los Angeles area so you just watch any game on ESPN which is somehow always the Mets. But you have permission to move, if you want. Not mine, specifically—you probably shouldn’t listen to much of my advice, I make a lot of weird decisions. I mean, I had bangs for a very long time—but the universe’s, the ephemeral junk that makes up your life and adds grit to your gut.

So even though 2018 is flying by at an alarming pace, and I’m not exactly sure if I’ve “done” anything of note this year (that book list! I know!), it feels good to have ripped the Band-Aid off of the first visit home. The place I chose to move to, then chose to move from. I might be a little “country mouse” in LA, but at least I know the country is still there, just as I left it.

Now go get ice cream!

Some days you’re the bride, some days you’re the lady getting laughed at in a bathroom stall 

Getting married is strange. No, not the part where you make a promise to another person, or the part where you pay 90 dollars to sign your name on an official court document. That part was easy, actually–if you have the means, the willful intention, and the right person, I highly recommend it! And the institution itself has some inherent strangeness, sure, but I’m not here to open that can of worms. I’m not even here to tell you to get married at all! But I am here to tell you it’s a little weird. Because even though you’re The Bride (as I was, in this case, and in your case that designation might be different), at some point it’s simply not your big day anymore–not even your big moment–and you have to return to a world of coffee baristas being short with you and  bartenders ignoring you and grocery store cashiers still laughing at you when you insist that you really are old enough to buy alcohol. Even though you’re holding onto this thrilling secret, one that you’re convinced everyone knows, they actually don’t. That’s not their fault. There’s no reason they should know that a complete stranger just got married . But still. Maybe I should just, like, tell them? Give a little hint?Because once you get kind words and well wishes from one stranger (“Any special occasion?” “Yes we… just got married!“) the possibility of kind words and well wishes from ALL strangers is too delicious and tempting not to poke at. I am a monster and this is my truth.

Woman on a mission

To get ahead of the unsolicited advice, no, I am not describing “the post-wedding blues,” which various blog posts on the internet tell me is a thing. I’m not blue at all. In fact, when people ask how I feel now, or what it’s like to be married,  I say, “the exact same, only better.” I mean that. And I am frankly relieved to have pulled off getting married in the first place. If you talked to me in the weeks leading up to the wedding, then you know that my biggest stressor was that we were “doing something wrong.” I was never able to articulate what that meant, but I just felt sure that I had incorrectly booked our space, or incorrectly filled out our marriage license, or incorrectly understood the California marriage laws, of which there are very few and they’re pretty loosey-goosey anyway. I had the same feeling when I studied abroad in Italy. I was absolutely sure that I would report to the assigned meet-up spot in the Rome airport and someone would have to break it to me that I wasn’t actually supposed to be there, sorry. But maybe that’s what it boils down to with our getting hitched: it was all so easy. Too easy. This is the state that brought us all 9 of Zsa Zsa Gabor’s marriages, certainly the system is in place to promote fast and efficient service. What was strange then, and what continues to be strange now, is the seamlessness of it all. The very dramatic way that it has disrupted nothing. We are still who we were before we got married.

Still in shock that these were my flowers

I think that’s a good thing. I think that means Tony and I were doing something right in the first place, and that we put in the work to know each other and ourselves and to maintain those respective identities. But still, flight attendant, excuse me, it seems my husband and I have been assigned separate seats that are not next to one another, is there any way to….there’s not? None at all? Of course I understand, of course, sorry, never mind, sorry.


Here’s something strange: After we had our wedding ceremony, our small party walked from the courthouse to a nearby restaurant for our lunch reception. Keep in mind, I was wearing a wedding dress and holding a bouquet, Tony in his suit and boutonniere. We had very clearly just gotten married. While walking, a woman sitting on a bench stopped us. She waved an envelope in the air and said, “Can you mail this for me? The mailbox is just over there.” She was not old. We asked, “How far is it?” She pointed across the street. “It’s just across the street and then down aways.” We told her we would not be mailing her envelope and then politely excused ourselves. She grumbled after us. Isn’t that strange? Given everything I know she knows about wedding decorum, and I know she knows because she is from the United States of America where we cram wedding culture down your collective throats, I am struggling to understand why this was her plan A. And I fully cop to not knowing her full story, for not being privy to myriad legitimate reasons why she might have needed assistance. But how strange! One of my first post-marriage interactions with a stranger was not one of congratulations, but one that reminded me that this day is just one small part of a whole life. That even though I had been married for 15 minutes, I was still expected to participate in the world. Do I thank her? Do I resent her? I don’t know, but I hope someone mailed her letter.

Here’s something else that’s strange: Over the weekend I was at a bar, a spot we go to pretty regularly, so there shouldn’t have been any surprises in terms of facilities, staff, clientele, et al. We had the good fortune of sitting with a table full of people who we kind-of knew, so we were able to tastefully reveal our recent nuptials and then bask in congratulatory remarks and well wishes. At one point I excused myself to go to the bathroom. The only available stall was one with a broken lock, the kind where the horizontal bar just kind of wedges into the wooden frame but doesn’t actually latch onto anything. I decided to take my chances and shoved the horizontal bar as deep as it would go into the haphazardly carved out notch. And besides, I told myself, people who use bathrooms regularly know that a closed stall door means that the toilet is occupied. Well. Seconds later I heard the  call of the Los Angeles drunk girl, Moon Juice coating the vocal fry, still hoarse and high from Coachella. I said to myself, someone is going to open that stall door. I should also mention that the stalls at this bar are pretty large, so a broken-into stall would be a vulnerable situation, no real way to shut it again unless I kicked it. In my memory, the two girls kicked open my stall door, but I’m pretty sure it was just an aggressive strong arm. They both fell into my stall, my pants literally around my ankles, and they crumbled into a pile at my feet. “Guys, come on,” I said, like an annoyed substitute teacher or a timid step-dad. Once they regained some semblance of composure, they stretched out their arms, pointed their fingers at me, then proceeded to laugh–at me! On a toilet! “Yes, yes, very funny.” I said. “Just, uh, go ahead and close that door.” But they didn’t. They just stood there, laughing, unable to get any of their shit together. They laughed themselves out of my stall, into the bathroom proper, leaving me to sadly swing at a just-out-of-reach stall door. When I accepted that they were just going to continue laughing, I took my time, accepted my fate, finished up in there. But when I finally made my exit past the felt-brimmed hats I was filled with the sudden urge to tell them I had just gotten married.

(But of course I didn’t–then I’d have to talk to them! And that would have been awful. Talking is the worst! There comes a price with revealing secrets about yourself.)

Getting married is strange because there is a society-enforced expectation that everyone should be looking at you and making a big deal out of you, and when they don’t do that, you don’t know how to ask for attention because that feels insane; when they do give you attention, it’s because they want you to mail a letter or because they’ve caught you peeing, and then you decide it’s the “wrong” kind of attention, so what does that mean? To borrow a phrase that I’m sure the bathroom girls have tattooed somewhere on their bodies, Good Vibes Only, you know? But I’m understanding that there is no one right way to be a bride or a newlywed or a recent grad or new in town or in a bad mood today or a human being. It’s all kind of strange. But it’s also a lot of fun and really joyful and LOTS of people say all the right things even when you don’t ask them to. They are what make it feel seamless–people reminding you that they loved you before, and love you a whole lot after.

Tony and I were recently guests on the Rogue Bottle podcast! We drink a lot of champagne, talk all about our wedding day, how we decided to have a non-traditional ceremony, and basically just how much we like each other. The episode is currently in post-production, but will post as soon as it’s done! 





Some Pig

For the REAL FANS (I cannot begin to present that designation seriously, unless we’re counting the always dependable bot traffic): you know that I posted two weeks ago. I attempted to write about re-reading Charlotte’s Web as an adult, but then the only words I could choke out onto the page were “I cried.” That’s it! That’s the whole review! And guess what? I said all I had to. It still stands. I re-read Charlotte’s Web and I cried. There was nothing else to say, so I chose not to say any more.

For everybody else who waits for me to remind you that new content is available: I posted a very brief review of Charlotte’s Web two weeks ago. I, well, cried. You get it.

In the same vein, though, and perhaps the vein I had planned to tap into, was something about friendship and change and looking at your life and connecting the dots (the web!) between all the things that have ever mattered. Lots to take in, I know! But I’ve never been one to shy away from ambitious themes for the sake of this blog that not a lot of people read. So I guess I’ll attempt to cover exactly what it is that’s been going through my head, and how that has informed my writing recently, and how that has informed the music I’ve been listening to, and in the most poetic twist of all, how this all happening in the weeks leading up to my getting married. Maybe that’s what started this.

A few weeks ago, I went home to Akron by myself. Tony was in Vegas, achieving his dreams of playing the Ellen DeGeneres slot machine. I had been feeling strange about the idea of not ever being in Akron again as a non-married person. Call it superstitious or sentimental or just downright exhausted from all this sun exposure, but it dawned on me that I should probably spend some time alone with my thoughts in the house where I grew up. I think setting is important; I don’t think it used to matter to me as a writer, but the older I get, the more I find myself focusing on exactly where a character lives and where they come from. And besides, I’ve always gone to such lengths to picture myself as the protagonist of my own movie–this would be the cherry-on-top after a lifetime of cinematic delusions. So I went.

**You know, it’s funny. When I moved to Chicago in 2012, I genuinely thought I would be one of those people who would go home all the time, once a month is what I figured in my head. I went so far as to tell myself, “If I have no weekend plans, then I’ll just leave work on Friday…and go to Ohio!” That super did not happen.  I also didn’t have a car, but there are about a thousand realistic work-arounds for that. I don’t know if I was basing this assumption off of other Akronites who had moved to Chicago, or because that sense of commitment and obligation somehow seemed more adult to me, or maybe I was dealing with some dormant guilt for not going home all that often when I went to college a mere 45 minutes away from home. Whatever the case, I pretty much stayed parked in Chicago for 5 years.**

So I went back to Ohio for about 4 days, was only kind of jet-lagged, and I did in fact have some time with my thoughts. Which was great, by the way; I like to think I engage in this kind of behavior in a semi-healthy way. And if I find myself diving too deeply into the memory well, I just tell myself it’s for research and that I need to do this because art or writing or my feelings or, you know, whatever. Maybe the fact that I have to justify having any feelings at all is like, symptomatic of a bigger issue….? Iiiiiiiiii’m not unpacking that right now, ambitious themes be damned. Anyway, I was at home, and while looking through my boxes of stuff, (because I wanted to get my grandma’s wedding pearls; I mean really, I was swinging for the fences on this “Who was I, and what have I become?” road trip) I found all my diaries. Ok, to be clear, I didn’t “find” them, I know that’s where they live. I didn’t like, take the lid off a mysterious box then lovingly wipe dust off of a Fashion Journal from Barnes and Noble and then crinkle my brow as I opened it and wondered what on earth the pages might have in store for me. No, that’s shit’s labeled, I know which embarrassing moments live where. But the point is that I did read through a couple, from cover to cover. And while I cringed a lot and laughed a lot and then went back to cringing, I walked away with two overwhelming feelings: gratitude and relief.

Gratitude to have filled about one diary every 6 months, because I had so much to say and I was so doing so much and I was having these really meaningful interactions with people and I wanted to record all of it. Gratitude that I chose friends who confronted me when I was being an asshole, and gratitude that I chose friends who planned crazy birthday surprises for me or just sat with me on a couch in total silence because it wasn’t awkward to do so, and gratitude for parents and adults who always listened and always believed in me. Gratitude that I had the wherewithal to just write it all down. For ALL the teenage angst and bullshit and self-indulgence, I am so grateful that these records exist. And I am relieved that that time in my life is over. Middle school, high school, college, whatever, it’s over, and I’m glad. I don’t mean that to come off as callous or cold. I am, after all, a vessel filled with sap so I of course appreciate sentimentality and nostalgia. But man, am I happiest being right where I am. Los Angeles, May 17, 2018. Hell yes. And on May 18, I will be even happier, and on and on and on. Until I have a shitty day or a whole shitty week, of which I have many, but then I’ll just do it over the next day or the next week. Gratitude for the journeys, relief that the journeys ended in time for a new one.

Of course I sat down and wrote about the diaries and the being at home and what home means and the getting married and fuck, yes, Charlotte’s ultimate sacrifice for her friend. I shook all those feelings around like Boggle pieces then pieced together what fell out. I sat down at the dining room table in the house I grew up in and I barfed out 20 pages of a script, basically without stopping, possibly without thinking, and then I turned those pages into 38 pages and now I have this project that may or may not ever see the light of day, but I’m happy that I took the time to record exactly what I was feeling. And I smartly and stupidly wrote all of this to my soundtrack from high school, all the songs that “really take me back,” which is code for, songs I belted alone in my car when I was feeling my feelings. A dangerous game to be sure! Nostalgia listens are fun, but blink an eye, and you’re suddenly too far down the rabbit hole. It’s a slippery slope for me personally, though I anticipate many of you are better at managing your feelings when you listen to music from your youth. (I am very young–I thought it important to call out that I know that.) I’m happy to have written this document, though, one that processes how I feel 10 years after the time I’m writing about. I like the distance. I like the writing. I like being happy where I am. Setting is important.

Speaking of music, there’s a song I really like that’s been a constant for the last 3ish years of my life. It’s called “Down Down the Deep River” by Okkervil River, and it was love at first listen. I don’t think I really know the words, but there is one line that I do know: “Tell me I’m always gonna be your best friend.” It’s my favorite part of the song. It’s sung with hope, pain, desperation. I mimic the tone when I sing it back. So it happened to come on a pre-made playlist while I was writing just now, and I thought it was coincidental and strange that I would hear this while writing this post.  So I looked up the lyrics for I think the first time ever, and I was blown away at how many times I’ve listened to this incredibly sad, incredibly sentimental, fairy-tale-meets-real-life, this-is-how-i-feel-about-growing-up song without realizing it’s exactly the kinds of things I think and write about myself. The lyricist and lead singer, Will Sheff, says of the song: “Nostalgia is a cleaned-up, airbrushed version of memory.” Yep. Big yep.

“Wilbur never forgot Charlotte. Although he loved her children and grandchildren dearly, none of the new spiders ever quite took her place in his heart. She was in a class by herself. It is not often that someone comes along who is a true friend and a good writer. Charlotte was both.” This is the text from the last page of Charlotte’s Web. This is what got me. Even when you know what’s coming, I don’t think anything can prepare you for this. Charlotte was both. That’s a good fucking line. I aim to write something like it someday.

In closing: many years ago, there was an office-wide prank being played on Tony. I think we were friends, certainly not dating. The prank was basically to leave an elaborate collection of post-it note messages all over his desk and cubicle walls. There were hundreds of notes left for him. The messages ranged from menacing to weird, from gross to hilarious. I had nothing to do with the leadership of said prank, but I was approached about leaving a note. I don’t like pranks, especially not office pranks, but I agreed to contribute to this one. I grabbed a post-it note and in red ink I wrote: “Some Pig.”



California in April

April already. Where has the year gone?

I’ve talked to several people in Los Angeles who have all said the same thing: it’s hard to notice time passing when the weather never changes. I never considered that before I moved here but now I wholeheartedly agree. I also want to get ahead of the haters and acknowledge that yes, I know, I know, it’s still snowing where you live or it’s still snowing AND tornado-ing where you live or it’s still ping-ponging between all four seasons all the time where ever it is you happen to live. I’m sorry. To that I say, at least you can feel time elapsing. Right around Groundhog Day this past year, Tony said, “Wouldn’t it be crazy if we were living in Groundhog Day [the movie]…but in LA?” I responded to this by pounding my head against a wall and saying “BUT WE ARE DON’T YOU SEE?” A side note (or is this a foot note?) to this story is that Tony and I promised each other years ago that if one of us were ever stuck in a Groundhog Day, the other promised to believe them. That’s true love.

This is all to say: I blinked and three weeks passed.

I’ve filled my time with all sorts of things: An uptick in freelance work, a renewed commitment to volunteer work, the never ending slurry of emails that comes with reunions and weddings and trying to get Entertainment Weekly to send me my special edition Dawson’s Creek 20th Anniversary issue with Joshua Jackson on the cover. (By the time it arrives I will have waited a solid month to receive a copy of a magazine I’ve already read online. But you better believe my TERSELY WORDED emails to EW ultimately made this dream a reality.) I’ve also continued my new-year-new-me workout regiment, a sleek combination of yoga stretching, lifting 5 pound weights, and grimacing. I also like to “take advantage of the weather” and run outside, which is painful and I hate it but it makes me look cool and seem breezy. This, too, has much grimacing.

We also kicked off our Super Fun Spring Event Calendar, a thing I just formally made up but has existed spiritually for a few weeks. Events have included seeing Patton Oswalt discuss his late wife’s true crime book, I’ll Be Gone in the Dark, something that made Tony and me have a frank conversation about what becomes of each other’s writing should anything ever “happen” to us. (Let it be known, I said, “PUBLISH. EVERYTHING.” And then I laughed and laughed knowing that this just refers to a bunch of weird Word Docs from college that bemuse not being liked by boys.) We also drove up to the Bay Area (more on that in a minute) and saw the Indians get absolutely clobbered by the Angels in Anaheim. Going to a baseball game at Angels Stadium is the best for many reasons. 1. I bought tickets for 6 dollars a piece. 2. They have a home run volcano, which is a volcano in the outfield that erupts any time the Angels homer. 3. They sell cans of beer for 4 dollars, something that could for sure never be done in Chicago or Cleveland. I don’t know which scenario is worse, enabling fans with drinking problems to keep drinking or arming rowdy fans with the perfect object to huck onto a field of play. 4. The fans are the SWEETEST sweethearts I have ever been in contact with. We were sitting in front of two large, admittedly intimidating-looking men. They proceeded to have the following conversation (name* of minor has been changed/also big time dramatizing this, this is not a verbatim account):

Guy 1: I brought Michael* to the game last night. Just us.

Guy 2: Yeah?

Guy 1: Yeah. And it’s fun because like…he’s starting to pay attention. He didn’t used to. He asks who’s at bat, he asks what the count is. Like. He cares, man.

Guy 2: That’s awesome, man.

Guy 1: And he’s been in my life for years, man. And I love his mom with all my heart. And I love that kid. But you know, I’m not his dad…

Guy 2: It’s hard, man.

Guy 1: But I’m thinking. This can be our thing. Right?

Guy 2: Absolutely, man. You take him to the batting cages?

Guy 1: Not yet, I’ve had to work.

Guy 2: Then call off work! This is way more important than that.

Guy 1: You’re right. I’ll call off work.

Guy 2: You should. Yeah, that’s awesome, man.


I was devastated in the best way possible after overhearing this. It negated all the other truly Overheard LA things I hear on a daily basis. (Like that one time I saw a man and a woman meet for coffee and upon being asked how she’s doing post-surgery, the woman said, “Good, good, getting back into my routine: working, seeing people, recreational drug use.” Cool cool cool.) As Tony says to me about once a day in reference to absolutely nothing related to baseball, “How can you not be romantic about baseball?” How can I not, indeed.

As promised, I will now return to talk about our intra-California road trip.

Look, you knew California had farm land. I knew California had farm land. You know that because of TV or movies or Happy Cow commercials or John Steinbeck books or all the times I’ve said, “LA is great, can’t complain about the produce!!!” California is HUGE, of course there are acres and acres of green space that are neither beach nor mountain. Of course. I knew this like I know a heart pumps blood or like there’s red dirt on Mars or like people paid money to see the Emoji Movie. You just accept it as a truth even though you can’t really fathom it. So intellectually I understood that not all of California looks like Los Angeles.

But then I saw it.

We drove LA to Oakland/San Francisco, Oakland/SF to Monterey, and then Monterey back to LA over Easter weekend. (Now is also a good time to admit freely to buying a used copy of East of Eden on Cannery Row in Monterey. It’s like buying a hurricane while in New Orleans.) And dear reader, let me tell you, CALIFORNIA IS HUGE. This is coming from a woman who drove across the country but 6 months ago. But this was, for whatever reason, really shocking to us. We oohed and ahhed at every crest of a hill and turn of a bend. We pointed at trees and rows of agriculture like we’d never seen things grow before. We shouted out “Ooh, grapes!” and “Ooh, sheep!” like we were on some sort of bizarre scavenger hunt. And then other times we felt uneasy, surrounded on all sides by oil wells, robotic arms pumping the earth for miles down the highway, not a human worker in sight. Or we would silently drive past rows of correctional facility buses, lining the highway shoulders, waiting for its laborers to finish up their shifts in a farming field. We drove through an unexceptional intersection on Route 46 where I noticed a makeshift memorial on the other side of the road, an American flag strung up on a fence with a few flowers strewn about. This is nothing new if you’ve ever driven on any major highway or interstate, but I saw a man walking over to the flag from his parked car. I began to say “Huh, I wonder what–” when I looked up, directly into the sign that reads “James Dean Memorial Junction.” I guess this is all to say that the drive was overwhelming in an unexpected way. So often you look at the land and it only registers as “Nature.” That stretch of California is where Humans and Nature have met, and you see the ways in which we’ve monetized the land and preserved the land and destroyed the land and all the ways the land destroyed us. It’s incredible.

Those days didn’t feel the same. I was more than aware of the passing of time. It’s possible to un-Groundhog Day your life when decide to go look at something new.