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.

 

 

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!

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.

 

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.

 

 

Into the Ocean of Almost

Whenever I return to my diary after having not written for about a month, (a now typical increment of time, mind you, age can make personal gossip a little boring) I begin the entry by apologizing profusely. This act is inherently counter-productive, not to mention downright silly, as I’m basically just apologizing to myself. No one else reads my diary! Imagine that. (Though I do have a hazy memory of handing a diary over to a boyfriend so he could read how much I liked him, and yes, I did cook the pages ahead of time so that he could read something beautiful and profound, which is not at all how I write when I write for myself. Was it you I let read my diary? Well I’m sorry, that seems really awkward for you, but take solace in knowing that I’m none too comfortable with it either.) I suppose in years from now, when my diaries all live in special collections at my alma mater, a young reader will quietly forgive me as they read a new entry, one that begins “I’m so sorry, it’s just been a really crazy month!” And then that future student will continue writing their thesis paper about Katie Markovich, the great apologizer, who really only takes to her diary to voice anxiety about not getting enough photo likes on Facebook.

Oh, right, the point: I’m so sorry, it’s just been a really crazy two weeks! Did you notice I didn’t write a post last week? Judging by the single-digit number of daily clicks I see in my analytics, I’ll take that as a maybe!

I’ve recently had a strange run of Almosts. Almost getting pieces published, almost getting noticed by readers at festivals, almost getting hired at impossible-to-get jobs. And I don’t feel bad about not completing the full rotation, for not sticking the landing. I’ve been quietly submitting and working and writing for lots of years, at times putting in entire full-time shifts at home after a full-time shift at a day job. This doesn’t make me unique, by the way. Lots of people do this. Lots of people want to leave a piece of themselves behind, to show that they did more than simply Got Through It. I guess this is both an admission and an acknowledgement to you that I am no stranger to rejection, and to also remind you that this is what I signed up for. I will also admit that it’s hard to know how much time I put into my work when I am met daily by social media posts boasting #riseandgrind, talking about the hustle, how one must set goals if they intend to get anywhere in life, how it’s easy to succeed if you just put the work in. You don’t need to tell me this, I think. This is just the best I can do right now. Sometimes I rise and I grind and I hustle and I goal and I action verb and I #hashtag. Other days I just get through it. There should be no shame in that. Though I understand the empowerment and visibility in touting your own successes (something you must do; self-advocacy is important), I also long for the day where we will all quietly do our work–hell, maybe some of us will even half-ass that work–and that will be totally ok. Millennials will change the world, this is true. Millennials are also going to burn out super fast. What is my point? My point is that I’ve chosen a nontraditional professional path, one that cannot be conquered by merely checking off boxes and taking the right classes and completing the right amount of hours and experiences. It is one that is solely dependent on literally some person liking something you’ve created from inside your heart and your brain. No checkboxes, no right or wrong, no correct path. So as insane as it sounds, as frustrating or sugar-coated as it might be to some, a week of Almosts for a writer is a big. fucking. deal.

I was blindly fearless when I was 22. Maybe we all were, but I was really, especially, naively fearless. I suspect it was equal parts precious and terrifying from an outsider’s point of view. But there I was, fresh out of college and fully convinced I could do anything. I even gave a speech to incoming college first years at an orientation event in which I basically said, “It’s easy! Just be brave.” I was accepted to the first publication I ever submitted to. Imagine: For a brief moment, I was batting 1000. I was like, “It’s easy, just be a really great writer,” and then I tossed my hair over my shoulder and went back to being unemployed and living with my parents. But then it got harder. I got better, but the time and place and luck elements wore thin. Which is normal! At first I didn’t think it was, but now I deeply understand and know that it is. When my first piece was published, I got an amazingly kind email from a kind of famous MSNBC news commentator and journalist (and not to mention super cute pro-Obama pundit, heeeyyy) who just wanted to reach out and let me know he had read my piece and loved it. But then he said something to the effect of (and I am not quoting verbatim), “Lots of people wait years and years to get anything published anywhere. You’re really lucky to have done this on the first try.” And again, because I was 22 and flipping my hair, I probably thought, “Well, sure I’m lucky, but I’m also good.” But he was totally right: Luck. I see that now. Thank you handsome political correspondent, where ever you are. (I Googled it; he’s in New York.)

The other night at dinner, Tony and I talked at length about what each of us seeks and aims to create in our own writing. I said truth, Tony said beauty. After some more dissection, we realized we were probably talking about the same thing but calling it by different names. At one point we landed on ecstasy, on release, on truth and beauty being a part of both of those concepts. The most thrilling part [for me] about living in California is the beauty, the release one experiences when driving towards ocean or mountains. I cry every time we drive north out of LA. It’s too beautiful to understand, so I cry. And I think about how I want to let go of everything that’s inside me, put it all out there, because there’s so much sky and water and rock into which it can go. It can handle all of me, every truth I have to tell. This is why people come here, I think. This is it. The bigness of this world makes the Almosts manageable, sought after, treasured. It’s hard not to feel endless possibilities when you see an endless horizon. But know that my day-to-day is often spent looking into my living room, out on the courtyard bike racks if the blinds are open, wringing inspiration out of what is sometimes a dry bone of a day, not grinding at all but just getting through it, thinking about what else I can do to make myself better at what I do, to convince others that I am the best at what I do. And I chose this. I almost didn’t, but then I did, and I’m not sorry.

 

Note: These same basic sentiments will also be handwritten into my diary, but there will be more shouting and curse words and sentences that don’t make sense and weird tangents about a person I haven’t seen in 10 years but I’m really into everything they post on Instagram and I just wanted to record that truth somewhere. 

 

Mixed Bag of Stories

I am writing to you LIVE from the Super Bowl! Which is to say, the Super Bowl is on TV and I am on the couch typing quietly. Tony went to Target to buy a pillow. This is how we celebrate the sport in our home. There was a time in my life (high school) when major sporting events were an integral part of my social life; not going somewhere “to watch the game” meant you missed out on something important and cool and possibly life-altering, so you definitely had to be there if you wanted any of your friends to remember you exist. And now I don’t care. It’s freeing.

I thought perhaps I should give a quick recap of this past week. It was between that and writing 2000 words about The Waves by Virginia Woolf, so suffice it to say, you’re welcome. (But on a very real note, The Waves is like, getting into my bones and into my dreams and sometimes I really zone out and think about my life and about people who have died and what it means to grow old and what it means to have friends that you’re growing old with and apart from and I’m like, wait, why am I thinking about any of this? And then I remember, oh yeah, I read The Waves.)

On Monday I had a doctor’s appointment. I made it to have my IUD checked and to ensure it’s still in the right place, and to also have a follow-up conversation about a cyst on my ovary. The last time I was there, while having said IUD clamped into my body, my doctor said, “Oh yeah, you should have surgery to take care of this cyst.” She wasn’t that nonchalant about it, but her overall demeanor is actually kind of nonchalant, so I guess it was hard to get a read on how much stress I should put into the concept of surgery. WELL you’ll be happy to know that I chose to go with an all-or-nothing approach, being full-on stressed the fuck out about it for the last month and a half. I should mention that I had it tested back in December and those results were all normal, which is great and it negates a different kind of stress, but then I was still bummed about having grown this thing inside me and then needing to get it cut out. I went into this appointment having already visualized the surgery, already cramming it into my life sometime between now and getting married, already imagining the pain and the recovery and the 24-hour-in-advance fast, and also strangely, already looking forward to all the TV I would watch in my bed. So imagine my surprise when my doctor, studying my uterus on the ultrasound monitor said, “Oh wow! Your cyst is gone.”

Let me quickly paint you a picture. My doctor has these space-age chairs that flip you over so that your body is at a 45 degree angle, the head at the bottom, and your feet in stirrups at the top. It ingeniously combines whimsy and sheer terror. It’s designed this way so that she can stay standing while remaining level with my pelvis. I was upside down when I heard her say “Your cyst is gone,” so I had to awkwardly adjust my body and my weight in order to make eye contact with her and say, “Huh?” And she pointed onscreen to the ovary that was formerly with cyst, and said again, “Your cyst, it’s gone.” And again I said, “Huh?” This was an amazing core exercise, by the way, all that leaning up with my abs and trying to make eye contact with a human who was between my legs. She proceeded to explain what had happened to my cyst (it popped; “like a zit!” I offered enthusiastically and she said, “You got it! Just like a zit.”) and why it was okay that this particular kind of cyst popped (“I bet that’s why you were in so much pain after your IUD went in,” she said, “it was your cyst bursting!” and I said “I bet that’s exactly why!”) and then she gave me the medical term for my cyst, which I have since forgotten, and then I asked her three more times in three different ways if the cyst was really gone and if everything was really okay and she was like, “Yes, please look with me at your ultrasound,” and I adjusted my body again into another terrible position and was like, “Yes, I see what you’re saying now.” This whole appointment took about 4 minutes.

After my appointment, the one in which I learned I did not have to have surgery, Tony took me to lunch where I ordered a tuna melt with a side salad, and our waitress gave me a real hard time about getting a salad. I don’t know how this mini-anecdote fits into the theme of the larger anecdote, but you should also know that she gave me a big wink when she brought extra dressing that I didn’t ask for.

Another cool thing that happened this week is that I saw Jason Schwartzman in public. I will not bore you with all the ways I am a big-time nerdy fan of his, and I won’t even share the photo I have from years ago of the two of us together, but just know that he is a big deal for me. I have also paid money on two other occasions to see him in person, but this time it was for free! Nearly any time I leave our apartment, I walk up to the closest major street and turn right. Come to think of it, I have never not turned right in the 4 months I’ve lived in Los Angeles.”You’re nuts!” you’re saying to yourself, and I agree! What might possess one to change their routine? I am not typically a person who puts any stock into astrology or signs or houses or retrogrades (I don’t even know what these words mean, contextually speaking) but I can’t help but think that the Super Blue Blood Moon was somehow a factor. Because that’s what day it was! So I took a left and had decided to buy dinner at a grocery store where I never shop, to hang out at a coffee shop I’ve never been, and to just generally be in a new part of my neighborhood. I also wanted to read my book (The Waves; it was written by Virginia Woolf in 1931. Have I mentioned this? That I read this book and now I dream about it because it crept into the folds of my brain and implanted itself?) and the weather here is always perfect, so I landed on an outdoor patio with a delicious iced tea, staring straight into the main entrance of the Scientology Celebrity Center across the street. As you can now see, the set-up is already inherently strange. And then from my right came a voice I know so well, chatting with a friend, enjoying his afternoon: it was one Jason Schwartzman. My brother later asked if I “shrieked or froze” and I said that I went deep inside myself to a place of total zen. Which is true! I did great. Tony said he was incredibly proud of me for being so cool and not staring and then he asked if I was going to cry and I said “Yes” and my eyes welled up with tears. Then some minutes later my new best friend, Jason, walked by again with grocery bags from the very store I had planned to go to and yes, a tiny squeal left my body. I don’t think he heard. (I also ask you to not share this story with him, because it’s a little lame. I mean, it’s mostly endearing and charming, but then it’s lame again.) After we finished our teas and did our planned grocery shopping, Tony and I walked home in the dusk, pausing at the end of our street to stare up into the hills. It looked like something was on fire, the way the hillside was all lit up in orange. Then we realized it was just that big ass super moon, making weird (but great) things happen all over town.

We also went to Malibu this week and a man on a surfboard in the ocean exclaimed, “I LOVE Malibu!” Then he said, “But I HATE cardio.” Again, how does this mini-anecdote relate to the larger post? I don’t know, but I love that I was there to witness it.

 

One More Wedding Thing Then I’ll Stop Alienating Some of You

Two things:

The first thing is that we’ve selected a date and place for getting married and then celebrating said marriage. We have signed all our documents and sent all our deposits. So that’s done–and it only took a small amount of anguish!

The second thing is that I bought my wedding dress this past Saturday. It was fast, easy, and not stressful at all. I’m being serious, it was a perfectly breezy experience. It was breezy because I stacked the deck in my favor; the Hornberger System of wedding dress shopping, really. This entails that you know which thing you want. But in order to get buy-in from other people, you feature it as part of a series of things, each item in the series making the thing you want look better and better, until the thing you want emerges as an obvious but organic choice. I have provided this simple, typed out explanation of the Hornberger System because YouTube does not feature a clip from this particular episode of 30 Rock. The only failure of the system was that I didn’t end up buying the dress I had picked out ahead of time; instead, I picked out a better dress. What’s it called when your strategy works but then you abandon the strategy for another, cooler thing? Is that called living your best life?

Prior to my appointment, I had found a dress online that was pretty and cheap. To be clear, It was more than just pretty; it looked like me, it fit the kind of wedding we were planning, the reviews were high, and yes, the cost was low. In my appointment request, I asked to try on this dress (knowing I would buy it) and then selected two other gowns that an algorithm had decided were garments I “might like.” A few days before my appointment, I was sent a mildly terrifying email from the bridal shop, telling me that if I didn’t confirm within the 24 hours before my appointment, they would cancel me and give it away to one of the countless bridezillas-to-be on the waiting list. This is a Beverly Hills shop we are talking about–there was no way in hell I was losing my spot to some lady who double-parked her Land Rover and didn’t have the foresight to make an appointment. As instructed, I emailed my confirmation the day before the appointment. And then, because I had a feeling my email confirmation was not enough, I also called. To reiterate, I confirmed twice. Imagine my surprise when I arrived at my appointment the next day and I was met with two stunned employees, telling me they thought I had canceled.

“We have it here that you canceled,”said the now-nervous hip girl behind the counter, adjusting her large fake frames and flipping through pages of schedules and lists.

I looked down and saw a large black X over my name.

“No.” I said. “I confirmed twice.”

As I’ve mentioned in a previous post, the joy of LA is that everyone is exceedingly nice to you on account of not knowing to whom you might be connected.  They don’t know who might have a meltdown; they don’t know who will threaten to sue; they don’t know who will tell their famous dad that they were dicked around at a bridal shop. It’s a game of chance, interacting with other humans in LA. So with this in mind, it goes without saying that I was immediately assured that yes, of course I would still have my appointment today and yes, absolutely, it was their fault for the miscommunication and please, please, look through the dresses, pull anything you want! (Some minutes later, the source of the issue was revealed. Turns out another Katie canceled her appointment. Normally I would be a little critical of this no-last-name system they are apparently using, but they were truly so nice that they needn’t be ridiculed further.)

My stylist, Catherine, took my dresses and me back to the changing area. I had selected a 4th dress to try on, because it was the most expensive one I could find. On my way back, I made my way through throngs of future brides, many of which were in full-on ball gowns, veils that started in one room and finished atop their heads in the other. I saw mothers with pursed lips and Botoxed foreheads, murmuring, “Well, that’s nice, if that’s how you want to look at your wedding.” I heard one woman in a wedding dress pleading with her stylist, “I’ll be smaller for my wedding! I promise! I know it!” Her stylist simply reassured her, reminding her that she’d just order it in her size, which only made the woman more upset.

I had invited two friends, and they weren’t quite there yet, so I opted to try on the worst dress first. Catherine followed me into my changing room, and it occurred to me then that there was likely the expectation that she would watch me get undressed and then physically put the dress on me. I have always been a person to change clothes in private, even amongst best friends. I was the person in high school theatre who put on a full crinoline in a bathroom stall before I dared took anything off in the hallway with the  other girls in their bras, gleefully singing the complete soundtrack of “Rent.” Am I a Never Nude? I don’t know, maybe. But the point is, there were these heavy few seconds where I wasn’t getting changed and Catherine just stood there and no one said anything. Finally she said, “So I can help you….or you can just put on the dress yourself.” And I tried really hard to pretend like I’m cool and so whatever, man but it’s very possible I was physically pushing her out the door as I gave a carefree, “Doesn’t matter to me!” laugh.

Before my appointment, I was also sent a list of things I was supposed to bring. Those items included a strapless bra, a pair of nude underwear, and heels that would more or less be the same height as my wedding heels. Once Catherine was out of my changing room, I took to my bag of tricks (which is a canvas bag that basically says “Books! Books! Books!” on it.) I made some changes and then slipped the dress over my head. This all took about 15 seconds; Catherine was back in the room as though she’d never left. (Some might argue she didn’t need to leave at all, and there is a reason they change you into the dress in the first place.) Now, because I wanted to prove to Catherine that I had read the instructions, and that I deserved an A+ for Being the Very Best Bride To-Be, I said to her, “I brought some shoes…like the email said.” I deeply and truly wanted her to tell me I’m great for reading an email. She came close though, telling me that was cool, and then asked if they were kitten heels. Here’s the thing: they were not. I had actually brought a kind of shitty pair of black pumps, because the heel height was the closest to what I would eventually buy. But I said, “Yes.” I don’t know why I said “yes,” but I wager it had something to do with wanting to prove how very good I am at being a bride/human who can read emails. So I said “yes” but then I proceeded to pull my shoes out of the bag, assuming she would want to adjust the dress accordingly. Or to prove to her I owned shoes. I’m not too sure about the thought process on this part. What I pulled out was one black pump and one black high-heeled bootie.

“I thought these were the same when I packed them,” I said.

Instead of waiting for a response I awkwardly put on the one pump, all but toppling over. See? my face said to Catherine. A shoe! I was standing on one foot at this point, trying to channel Audrey Hepburn, while Catherine patiently waited for me to stop showing her my one shoe. She was very very nice about it before she told me that she actually didn’t need me in heels for this fitting. I also want to note that one time (at a different store) I went to a bridesmaid dress fitting, didn’t bring shoes, and they gave me god damn earful about it. So. I just want my baggage to be known.

My friends arrived for dress number 2, and they brought a nice camera! So I was able to see how the dress and subsequent dresses photographed. That was a very happy accident, and I think that’s probably a good tip for any of you readers who plan on trying on a white dress someday. Dress 2 was supposed to also be a part of the Hornberger System, but what do you know, it was lovely. Too lovely I thought, eyeing myself up and down. The peanut gallery agreed, though; it was a pretty good dress. #3 was meant to be the ringer, and while it was also very lovely, AND I had told them out of Catherine’s ear shot that this was the dress, I found myself not believing the plan anymore. #4 was pricey and I looked Catherine in the eye and said, “You know I’m not buying this, right?” In the end I tried on #2 again and chose it for the following reasons: 1) It showed a clear choice and represented a specific point of view 2) Spoke for itself without accessories 3) Looked and felt adult 4) Small dramatic details. 5) Butt-centric; one must know what to emphasize.

I’ve heard that some shops will ring a bell or do something showy to announce the selection of a dress, but Catherine was like, “I’ll bring you some paperwork.” She also brought us cans of champagne, which we drank while sitting  directly in the middle of another bride’s fitting. She was up on the step, in front of the mirror, the whole Say Yes to the Dress thing, and we knew we shouldn’t be there when we realized we were oohing and ahhing along with her family. We moved on to another faux-Victorian pink sofa, and found another bride at which to ooh and ahh.

I know I’ve made my opinions pretty clear when it comes to my wedding. No ceremony! No walking down a thing to meet another person at the end of the thing! No more aviator sunglasses! (I haven’t explicitly written about that one, but woof, can we get a memorandum on synchronized dancing into a banquet hall wearing aviators, I mean, Christ, if there is something on my top 5 list of things to do away with forever, it would be this. Anyway.) YES PARTY! But there was a time when I was “no” to the wedding dress. I thought it was too frivolous to have a place in my “simplest wedding ever” plan. It didn’t make logical sense, like there would be no buy-in from anyone else if I asked for one thing but not the others. But it was enough people telling me I was going to want one, and then looking at dresses online and deciding I did. The Hornberger System can only work for so long until a disrupter comes along, throwing the whole thing off. Like Dress #2. And lots and lots and lots of other disrupters before it, and I’m sure, many more to come.

 

 

 

Weddings and Walnuts (but mostly weddings)

When I started writing this post (which was yesterday, if you can believe it) I began with this little joke about it being a week into the new year and then asking if everything was fixed yet. Since then, as I’m sure you’ve heard by now, the leader of our country (Donald J. Trump) spoke up about certain “shithole countries” from which we are allowing immigrants. I don’t know about you, but there is rage happening in my home, about these comments, this language, these sentiments, how that affects children, how that affects humans, etc etc. We are grossed out and appalled as usual. And also as usual, I am going to ask you to give time, money, energy, and kindness when and where ever you can because none of those things are coming from those in power or leadership.

Ok, now time to blog about how…annoying it has been to find a place to get married. Consider the privilege checked.

____________________________________________

This has been a rough week for coming up with something to write about. No particular reason for it, the well of creativity and keen observation just feels a little dried up after all the excitement of the holidays. I made a short list of ideas, focusing mostly on what I’ve been up to, but the list ended up being mostly about how I keep incorporating walnuts into everything I cook. (Does that sound interesting to you? Please advise.) But when I asked Tony what on earth I could possibly write about, he looked at me with confusion. His face read you know what we’ve been up to and then he literally said the words, “You know what we’ve been up to.” And that’s when it hit me: Oh, right. We have been living in the endless hell scape of trying to find a place to get married.

Let me walk you through some history.

A long time ago, before we were even engaged, Tony and I talked about the shared dream of an elopement and then a big party to follow. (To get ahead of your questions, yes, we were talking about this plan as it pertained to us and our future together; not just like, Oh hey, new person I am dating, let’s have a very serious conversation in between episodes of Cheers.) This idea worked on several levels, chief among them being cost and my deep, deep desire to not have to walk down an aisle. (I’m very grossed out at the idea of like, presenting myself? to a man I’ve already been living with for a pretty long time? and to my family and friends? I just…look, I think I look pretty everyday. It’s insulting to think that a crowd of people might want to get a picture of me on on this one day because god only knows when I’ll ever be that cleaned up again. And I also think the wedding ceremony is an antiquated ritual, one rooted in women being objectified and monetized, that’s all I’m saying. I feel this way FOR ME. For you, betrothed readers, you are killing it in whatever way you want to plan your wedding. Also I would never, ever make a friend buy a bridesmaid dress. Use that money to take me to the Magic Mike Live Show in Vegas, FOR EXAMPLE.)

After we got engaged, though, (which was our first mistake; “elopement” entails you literally just disappear for a weekend then come back married, like Jim from work) we had a few family members mention that they of course would be there. And frankly, I didn’t say no. Because as it turned out, I didn’t want to say no! Yes, ok, our tiny, shared inner circle of people could be there. We are talking a single digits guest list, with big party to happen in the future. It would be fine.

When we got to California, we decided we would get married in California. We decided this because California is fucking gorgeous. That’s literally the extent of that thought process. In addition to being beautiful, California (Southern California in particular) also boasts an impressive amount of historical courthouses that are known for being used for intimate marriage ceremonies. It was perfect, really. We would invite our immediate families out to California for a nice weekend and at some point in that weekend we would have a courthouse wedding (but a beautiful one!) and then everyone would smile and sigh and say, “Gosh, Katie and Tony sure did this the right way. And look at that view!”

And yet. This task has not been easy!

The “task” in question is selecting one of these historic courthouses, which is what we’ve been up to for the past week. We began this process by Googling “best courthouse weddings Los Angeles” or some combination of those words, and the same basic list popped up over and over again on several different websites. And it was easy to see why: all these places were gorgeous. It was an embarrassment of riches, really. How could we pick just one? Oh, how young and naive we were.

Without getting into the nitty gritty of our sometimes-petty list of preferences, Locations 1 and 2 were both viable options, but with a healthy list of pros and cons. Neither stood out as the clear winner. We took a day trip last week and another one this week to see for ourselves. (And because they are both viable options, I’m not not going to disclose their exact locations to you.) The pros and cons were such that neither of us could really agree on one over the other, and the more we focused on the cons, the more we kind of drove ourselves (and each other) crazy. And I don’t think it had anything to do with winning or being right, it was just that the more I thought about certain details, the more I couldn’t unthink them. For example, I was (and remain!) very focused on a burnt-out and boarded up Subway restaurant across the street from one of the courthouses. For Tony it was learning that the doors to the other courtroom had to remain open at all times, thus making your private ceremony, well, public. But these were just things that once we saw them, we couldn’t unsee them. We couldn’t stop playing out scenarios in which the burnt-out Subway or the open courtroom doors somehow ruined our day. (My second mistake was telling myself I really didn’t care about this stuff, and then when I found out I did care, it was weirdly earth-shattering. I am having my “I’m a princess” moment.)

But then there was Location #3. I am going to out this location, because it broke our hearts and it deserves to be mentioned by name. (This is how “dragging” works, right? Am I using that correctly?) Rated as the number one City Hall Wedding on nearly every list we saw was the Pasadena City Hall. It’s rated number one because it’s drop-dead gorgeous. The city of Pasadena is gorgeous, too; out of towners would be so impressed! Tony and I walked the courtyard and the building, oohing and ahhing at every turn. The landscaping! The fountain! All these trees! No burnt out Subways here! But then I noticed that the building directories had no indication of wedding spaces or offices where one could obtain a marriage license. I also saw no women in wedding dresses milling around. At the other two locations, these indicators were very very obvious. But not in Pasadena! I thought that was odd, but I stayed positive. I also stayed quiet because I knew in my heart of hearts, just by looking around, that it was not a place where people actually get married and I didn’t want to say it aloud. Because if that were true, then that would mean the internet lied to us. Not just the internet, but several highly reputable crowdsourced websites, claiming that this was a top City Hall wedding spot! Finally, I called a phone number and inquired as to the specifics of a Pasadena City Hall wedding. Here is what I was told:

  • You can’t actually get married at Pasadena City Hall
  • The city of Pasadena doesn’t even distribute marriage licenses
  • The city of Pasadena doesn’t do civil services
  • We would have to legally get married somewhere else, like say, Los Angeles. But THEN we could rent City Hall…as a venue for our ceremony
  • What do I not want? That’s right, it’s a ceremony
  • Venue rentals begin at 3,000 dollars plus a shit ton of fees and permits, for example, obtaining and hiring private security for your event
  • But yes, Pasadena City Hall is a beautiful spot for wedding…photos! And that’s it.  That’s kind of what you’re interested in, right?
  • In conclusion, you tricked us, Pasadena; you are neither a City Hall wedding nor a courthouse wedding nor anything that is affordable and low-maintenance

If I were a smaller person, I would take this to Yelp. But alas, I will only complain about it on my personal website, like a grown-ass woman.

These hiccups are minimal, almost non-existent, and I know that, but any hiccup at all when you plan to have zero can be a little jarring. But assuming there will be zero issues at all is very naive and out-of character for me, since I have a running list of things-that-can-go-wrong going in my head at all times. (Walking with a hard candy in my mouth? Forget about it.) I don’t know what else to chalk it up to other than wishful thinking. Oh! And back-patting. A healthy dose of ego led me down this road of Katie-and-Tony-did-it-the-right-way. Which, for the record, I still think we did.

 

For your troubles, here are two excellent recipes that include walnuts:

This pasta is nuts! 

This chicken is…also nuts!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Trees, Time, and Tricking Yourself

I have been a lover of Christmas for many years. This doesn’t make me unique; in fact, this makes me every other white woman on the internet who claims to be “basically Joanna” or “such a Clark Griswold.” It’s become cool to love Christmas in the same way it’s cool to love brunch, to love athleisure wear, to love calling your dog “the doggo.” It’s a low maintenance and high vanity form of showing how good you are at “adulting.” It’s cute, it’s cozy, it photographs well. It’s almost cheating to tout Christmas as a grown-up thing, but alas, here we are, cooing over Crate and Barrel catalogs while we think up the cleverest caption for our tree pics on Instagram. All in the name of being #soadult, of course.

When I was young (and then, frankly, even when I was not so young) I paid homage to Christmas in myriad, overly-sentimental ways. I gave myself a specific amount of Christmas to do each day, like I was punching a timecard. I drew pictures of living room scenes in houses not my own, always featuring a Christmas tree, a fireplace, a banister with garland, a cushy armchair, and many gifts wrapped in purple paper (because purple is my favorite). I would finish one drawing and then immediately draw another. I flipped solemnly through a book we have called Norman Rockwell’s Christmas Book, awarding double points to myself if I absorbed it by the light of the tree. I baked Christmas cookies that were not very good. I made a boyfriend slow dance with me in my family’s kitchen to Christmas music. I put on pajamas and made hot chocolate in my special snowman mug and then forced myself to just think really hard about Christmas for a totally arbitrary amount of time. I wrote a story about an old rich man who met three poor (but charming!) children and his Christmas gift to them was letting them decorate his mansion, and everyone in the story agreed it was very generous and magical and in no way exploitative or strange. In middle school I wrote a book report on Peter Pan, positing that Neverland is just heaven and it’s where the dead kids go, and my personal Neverland would be the North Pole. In high school I had to plan my wedding for a class called Christian Lifestyles and I planned a Christmas themed wedding, complete with a gingerbread house wedding cake. That really pissed off my teacher, which was kind of my goal, but nevertheless, I was–and still am– deeply committed to the concept of Christmas.

But it’s strange to have the Christmas tree up and the air conditioning on.  It’s not upsetting, it’s not depressing, it’s just bizarre. Does anyone know if there is something similar to jet lag, but instead of sleep being affected, it’s just your general sense of time? Time of day, time of year? If that’s a thing, then I have that. I haven’t known when I am for a few months now. Summer in Chicago immediately transitioned into a still-very-hot Los Angeles fall, where I continued wearing all the same clothes and keeping all the same seasonal habits (like toenail polish looking fresh, for example). Summer didn’t have the hard stop that it usually does: no switching over wardrobes, no digging out wool socks, no eating soups. The light here is different, too. By about 2:30, the sun is very low in the sky–very much a winter sun– but it’s still bright and it’s still hot. It’s dark out by 5, and even then, still warm. We walk to dinner in total blackness, wearing a light jacket, and it’s 6 o’clock. It’s the combination of temperature and time of day and the palm trees; my god, the palm trees look so alien and beautiful against the moon, but they don’t do much in the way of frame of reference either. My body and my brain can never agree on what time it is, and even if they could, neither would really believe it. It’s not the lack of snow that makes Christmas lights seem strange; it’s the smell of things still blooming, still breathing.

There’s something to be said, I think, about feeling like a fraud. Imposter syndrome is real, sure, but that’s not really what I’m talking about. I feel like I invented a whole season and am alone in my observation of it. That’s not literally true, of course; Los Angeles is very into Christmas. In fact you’d be hard-pressed to find a city in the US that is not very into Christmas. That doesn’t negate the second guessing I do every time I turn on our Christmas tree lights, pour coffee into a Christmas mug, watch a Christmas movie. Is it really time to do this? I ask myself. And I ask myself because, as I’ve already mentioned, I don’t know what time it is anymore. This has less to do with Christmas and more to do with the feeling that I’m driving on the wrong side of the road. It’s one of the strange, intangible adjustments you never plan for and no one ever warns you about: the sneaking suspicion that you’re making it all up. Maybe I am talking about imposter syndrome.

I think it makes sense that Christmas decorations (and beautiful food and interior design and writing blogs and anything else that can be both passion and distraction) have become so conflated with being a functioning adult human. They are tasks on a checklist, busy work to keep you believing it’s all real: certainly not made up. And I think it’s effective. It’s nice to be in control of something, to curate perfectly, to create an illusion, to punch your made-up timecard, to have done a sufficient amount of Stuff in a day, to have done a good job. It’s the sudden stop and subsequent realization that maybe you haven’t been doing it right that gets you. It’s remembering you don’t know what time it is, and the possibility that your clock was never set right in the first place. But it doesn’t take much to just turn your Christmas lights on anyway, trusting that you’re at least a little right, that it really is the right season, the right time.

Anyway. Here’s a picture of my Christmas tree AND my air conditioner, because sometimes things are strange! But my commitment remained and I unpacked each ornament with care, decided which characters get to be nearest the star this year, which critters could not be near each other (because of personal differences that I made up), and then looked lovingly at each piece. Just think: this whole post could have been a character breakdown of every critter I own. (There’s still time for that, don’t worry.)