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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.

 

 

Afterword

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.

THIS MAGIC MOMENT am I right?

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.

END SCENE.

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.

 

Totes! A Review of That Big Black Purse in Red Sparrow

A long time ago, before I’d even bought the domain, I was brainstorming ideas as to what the angle of this website could be. We all now know that I eventually settled on the angle “Me” but it wasn’t always going to be this way. How would my blog stand out from all the other blogs written by twenty-something white women? To add to this quandary, I also like to cook, I like to read, and, at the time, was on the verge of being engaged. Just what the world needed: another lady telling you about her wedding plans and recipes and books she likes! OH; did I mention it would have been living in Chicago at the time? So it also would have been about being a twenty-something in a big city that you’ve heard of? And maybe I could have like, told you where to get deep dish pizza and see sketch comedy? The obviousness of my life was both a blessing and a curse, but I was born to stand out, baby! So after much brainstorming and careful consideration, I had decided that I would write reviews. Reviews of what? Of anything. I got really into this idea of creating the anti-Goop Goop, literally offering reviews of and recommendations for t-shirts I bought from Target or face wash from Walgreens. I guess it would have been satire, or some kind of anti-comedy, totally straight-faced venture into the absurd, or it would have been sincere and nothing more than a gallery of things I like. Think a lifestyle brand, but the most normal, boring lifestyle you can imagine (A fun thing to do with bagels is to put cream cheese on them!). And I know this wasn’t a terribly original idea, or a particularly prescient theme, or even an accurate sample of what I write, but I thought it was fun enough. I even have a draft saved from a full year before I ever posted anything on this website, one in which I explained how I feel about Goop and Gwyneth and why I, too, should be able to dispense lifestyle advice to an audience of readers.

Then, merely weeks later, the 2016 presidential election happened. I didn’t feel my anti-Goop website was the highest priority. You know, content-on-the-internet wise. So I sat on my domain and my website for a full year before I finally did anything with it, just in time to move to Los Angeles and kinda-sorta make that the theme? I guess? Katie moves to LA, here are some stories? About some stuff?

But I am here today to finally return to this certified-gold idea and write you a review.

A Review of That Big Black Purse in Red Sparrow 

To be clear, this is not a review of the movie, Red Sparrow, which stars Jennifer Lawrence and Joel Edgerton and a guy who looks suspiciously like Putin in the role of Evil Russian Uncle. No. This is a review of that big black purse Dominika Erogova (J. Law) totes around from Spy Job to Spy Job. That’s basically the extent of “spying” in this movie, by the way: Dominika just casually strolling from Spy Location to Spy Location, like she’s going to get coffee or to catch a movie or to just spend a day getting in some quality Me Time. And while she is Spying, she carries this enormous black leather tote bag, which holds her Spy Stuff, probably. Here’s a picture:

Photo courtesy of purseforum, a website where you can ask the internet where to buy purses you see in movies!

After a decent amount of Google image searching, I’ve come to realize that she has this purse in nearly every Spy Stuff scene in the movie. It’s how we know she’s in Spy Mode! It’s also how we can assume her back and neck probably hurt real bad. It’s how we can assume she has an umbrella on her at all times. It’s how we can assume she stashes restaurant to-go boxes if she needs to. I like to imagine she was eating a pub burger or Thai food seconds before having to do Spy Stuff, asked for a box, and then laid it flat at the bottom of this purse.  She hates being wasteful! She can take that thing on a Spirit flight and not have to pay extra. This bag (there I said it, that’s a BAG) has threatened to topple over every Starbucks product display she’s ever encountered. Francis Lawrence, please release that b-roll.

Let’s break this down. Anyone who’s ever carried a purse, particularly a purse as large as the one pictured above, knows that wielding one of these babies is not always easy. My purse is the same approximate size and shape as the one pictured above, and let me tell you, I’m not spying on shit with that thing slung over my shoulder. How does Dominika Egorova do so much as bend over without that thing slipping off her shoulder and thwacking her in the face? Is her balance perfect because she is a prima ballerina for the Bolshoi? Is that the logic there? Does she lose track of all her shit in her enormous bag, like I do, or is it just an empty bag, which is the only reasonable way she could use it for Spying? Let’s face it: the only spy-wear satchel for a chic ballerina is a fanny pack. Before I bought my fanny pack, I did a lot of research on fanny packs. You might be thinking: cross-body bag or nothing! On the one hand, I agree with you. On the other, there is a scene in Red Sparrow in which Dominika rolls into a bar to seduce a man (I guess? Or to get information? Both? I don’t know) and she has a cross-body…that she promptly takes off and puts on top of the bar. Dominika, girl! No! That’s not how you use it! It’s called a cross-body because it goes across your body, and then it stays that way! Anyway, may I recommend this “belt bag” by Michael Kors, for the sake of fashion and practicality.

Photo courtesy of michaelkors.com, where you can buy this item! This is not an ad. Unless. I don’t know, you want it to be.

Every scene in which Dominika meets up with someone in a bar for Spy Talk (which is like, half the movie; the other half of the movie is her being tortured) she tosses her bag up on the seat next to her, the way we all do when we’ve been carrying around a big ass purse all day. This is sloppy spy etiquette. Anyone can tamper with that purse! If Red Sparrow took place in any realm of reality (which I assure you, it does not) Dominika would a) spend an embarrassing amount of time searching for a hook underneath the bar, before giving up and assuring her friend that no, no, really, it’s fine, the hook actually gets in the way, and resting it on top of her feet b) sling the straps over the back of her chair, the purse dangling precariously, until any passing force, such as a body or a small wind, threatens to knock it off and she grows tired of apologizing to people who ran into her and then gives up and ends up resting it on top of her feet or c) put it on her lap, thinking that this big ass purse is not in the way, no not at all, I like having something to rest my arms on! before giving up and resting it on top of her feet. But in Dominika’s world of fast-paced intrigue, international secrecy, sexual manipulation, and oh yes, Spy Stuff, there is always an open seat next to her for her purse. No one will give her a dirty look. No one will fuck with it. No one will be like, why did this woman bring her laptop to a bar? It’s all good for our friend Red Sparrow.

God bless Vulture for doing a full review of Jennifer Lawrence’s bangs in this movie. I am relieved, frankly, to see that I was not the only movie-goer that was totally distracted by the aesthetic impracticalities of this character. Just read that article for all the things I thought about being a spy WITH BANGS. As many of you know, I had bangs for a lot of years (RIP my bangs! They’re gone…for now; don’t tell the banner image of this website). The idea of a) having long, thick hair b) plus bangs c) in winter d) plus that big ass purse is making me sweat on the spot. That was me for many a Chicago winter! I tried to find a picture of myself with long hair and bangs and winter outerwear and my purse but I couldn’t find one. You want to know why? Because you’re a sweaty, miserable mess for all of winter when you have that many layers of stuff on, and you don’t want anyone to capture that look. How Dominika pulled off anything in a calm, cool, and collected manner is literally beyond me.

In conclusion, I give the big black purse in Red Sparrow one out of four purses. Dominika Egorova has already been through enough, the last thing her mental and emotional health needs is to have a panic attack because she can’t find her chap stick in an endless sea of interior pockets despite it just being here a second ago!

Besides, the only purse-centric scene in movie history that even matters is this one. Now this is the reality of having a purse in public.

Do you want me to review something that’s hyper-specific or mundane? Or to question how comfortable a female character would be in specific clothing or accessories? Let me know in the comments!

 

 

A Real California Girl

I have a really charming (see: “charming enough”) story that has to do with both the Oscars AND my engagement, so I’ll go ahead and tell it to you right now.

Typically when filling out your Oscar ballot, you might stumble a bit over the technical award nominations. If you don’t struggle, then that means you’re either in the industry, or kind of a film geek, or you checked the Vegas odds beforehand (which is a very effective method for winning an Oscar pool!). I did fairly well with my tech awards this year, thanks in part to a very personal encounter I had with one of the categories. Sound Mixing and Sound Editing? Had to be Dunkirk! I did not even hesitate (or Google the projected winner) when selecting this movie for both sound categories. This is because it’s the loudest fucking movie….ever? Ever. And I know that not because I saw it, but because the movie was too loud for Tony to propose.

Upon finding out a proposal was imminent, I started listing Katie-approved proposal locations. Definitely did not hint; I named names. I did this because I don’t like surprises, and because I had made it very clear that if there was another living, breathing soul within a city block of being asked to marry anyone, I would say no. Some of my top picks for the occasion were “Alone, in our apartment, with all the curtains drawn,” and “Alone, on top of a mountain, where no one else lives nor has traveled to in decades.” Tony wisely took these into consideration, but ultimately came up with an idea of his own. It was a good one, for all intents and purposes: We would go to our favorite movie theatre, on a quiet Thursday night, wait until the auditorium was cleared out, and do it there. Management had even told him that they would “wait to clean up popcorn or whatever,” giving us our total privacy.

Well guess the fuck what went into this theatre a full week earlier than it was supposed to, because it was going to be a big hit and make gobs of money?

It was Dunkirk!

When Tony called the theatre early in the day to make sure we would still have our privacy, he was met with a “Sorry man, but we just got Dunkirk. We’re expecting a lot of people. Can’t guarantee they won’t be milling around.”He was told he could use the small blackbox theatre next door to the large one, but no guarantees about anything because Dunkirk, baby! And sure enough, after we had our final dinner as un-engaged people (where I asked questions like, “How do you feel about asking me to marry you tonight? Was it hard to find pants that hide the ring box? Are you nervous right now?” Because I totally knew what was happening, I hate surprises!) , we headed towards the movie theatre where we saw a line forming from more than a block away. And once directly in front of the theatre, we were met with the deafening roar of bomber planes, sporadic gun fire, and Kenneth Branagh shouting. This was what we heard standing outside the building, from the sidewalk! Even if we managed to find a place to be physically alone inside, it wouldn’t change the fact that this special moment would forever be punctuated by the staccato of bullets leaving machine guns and Tom Hardy like, screaming into a mask of some kind (like always, am I right, heh heh, it’s a typecasting joke). So we kept walking….and never got engaged!!!! Just kidding, we just did it somewhere else.

And that’s why I knew that Dunkirk would win both sound Oscars. Which it did! Next year, I recommend you go and stand outside some movie theatres to hear which are loudest. (“Loud” doesn’t actually translate to “best sound mixing and editing” but…this time it did, so.) Then, use that intel to vote on your Oscar ballot. Now that’s some sound advice!

There are a bunch of other cool things happening for me, too. For example, I’m growing out my bangs and wearing denim-on-denim far more often. Oh, and I’m still sneaking walnuts into most of our meals, even meals that don’t necessarily need walnuts. I guess you could say I’m becoming a real California girl. The other day at Lassens, our local health food store where I like to buy produce and discretely look for celebrities, a tall handsome man approached me. Seconds before, I had heard him explaining to someone that the mouth is like an ecosystem, and toothpaste kills all the good bacteria that the ecosystem needs. So like, let’s all stop using toothpaste, you know? In retrospect, I think it’s very possible that he was explaining this to his 10-year-old daughter, who was manning some kind of merch table. But it’s also very possible that he was explaining it to one of the countless people who have been searching for a disruptor to Big Toothpaste. Anyway, the tall handsome man approached me and handed me a travel-size tube of toothpaste and a travel-size bottle of mouthwash, explained that these are the products he and his wife make, that they’re totally free, that they consist only of the “good stuff, none of the bad stuff,” that he would love it if I used them for a one-week trial and then take note of the differences between his product and whatever I use now, and then he turned to head back to his merch table, stopped himself and said, “It’s aloe! All aloe. None of that charcoal stuff. Aloe. You will never have whiter teeth. Never!” The man looked like Armie Hammer and the logo design of his dental hygiene company looked like it was pulled from the Scientology branding library. This is all to say, yes, my teeth have all fallen out, but the aloe really does make the gums soft. And I’ve attained total clarity! What more could I ask for? A handsome stranger offers me a “life-changing” product that will change the way I think about my teeth and my life. If that’s not the LA dream, then baby, I don’t know what is.