New Fiction

On the eve of my birthday I went to a local bookstore to buy myself a birthday present. I don’t think I do this every year but maybe I should, so let’s go ahead and say it’s a tradition now. I should note that this is a very good bookstore, and it clocks in at .8 miles from our apartment, so it’s the perfect get-outside-and-walk-somewhere destination. These sorts of destinations are important to have when you spend all day sitting inside working on job applications, short fiction submissions, that play I wrote this year and really like and think everyone else should really like, researching new OB/GYNs, figuring out a way to con Final Draft into letting me download the software I already own instead of making me re-buy it for the third time, and reading the state of California driver’s manual. Yes, Los Angeles is a beautiful place, and in the Nancy Meyers version of my life I’m walking the beach in dulcet tones every morning and befriending a Hollywood screenwriting legend by night, but shit man, I have things to do, so I end up working at my kitchen table until I look up and think, oh no, I haven’t gone outside today.

So I walked to the bookstore on the eve of my 28th birthday, which was strange and disorienting because the average temperature in LA last week hovered around 100 degrees, and I’m used to celebrating my birthday in the for-real fall. And I had been wearing running shorts all day and I was kind of like, I’m going to go do this fun thing for myself, it’s my birthday, I should look like a functioning adult member of society, I should change out of these running shorts because I’ve been sitting in them all day and they’re disgusting. And I just wanted to put on some jeans, because I am done with shorts, but it was so hot, and I settled on wearing a maxi skirt? Which was not better than pants, it was probably worse in fact, but that’s what I wore to buy myself a birthday present.

Once at the bookstore, it became apparent to me that everything was different and maybe I wasn’t supposed to be there and also, yes, I was sweating in a way that I’m sure looked both impressive and troubling to the staff. The space was set up for an author reading, so many of the book cases were wheeled away and hidden within other aisles. I knew what I was looking for, but the titles would be impossible to find in the new set-up. Naturally, I did not ask for assistance. Rather, I sucked in my stomach and shimmied between book cases, swiping at books with other books like they were power towel rolls on a grocery store top shelf. But this is not the story! No, reader, I have led you down a deceptive path paved with tales of my sweat (you should probably get used to that, though). The real story is that of the Whining Man.

That’s the thing about these bookstores! They have everything except the books you want!

The Whining Man wore some kind of performance fleece vest, maybe one of those Marmot numbers that keeps you both warm and cool. You know, something completely impractical for a place that literally has no weather. He was there with his wife, who was wearing some sort of corresponding outerwear, and she held their dinner leftovers in a styrofoam container. The Whining Man walked swiftly from aisle to aisle, bobbing his head, swinging his arms, at one point spinning in circles before finally declaring:

That’s the thing about these bookstores! They have everything except the books you want!  

His wife mumbled something, surely a stock response that she’s conjured after years of these kinds of outbursts. At this point, I pulled out my phone to look up a photo of the author who was doing the reading later that evening. It would have been too rich if the Whining Man was whining about his own book, but alas, it was not to be. However, I have been in that same bookstore when a different man, an author, very politely asked a store clerk why his book was not displayed on a better shelf, so it wasn’t a completely impossible scenario. The Whining Man continued whining about these kinds of bookstores, and they have all these interesting books, sure, but where are the books he wants? Where are his books! Where are the books for the whining men?

I am happy to report that the Whining Man eventually found the book he was looking for. I caught a glimpse of him with Dan Brown’s newest release, Origin, tucked smartly under his arm. The book, as it turned out, had been so sneakily hidden away on a large table plainly marked “New Fiction.”

On my birthday, Tony took me to Malibu. It was lovely. Here are some photos!

Birthday shrimp, obviously

Couples pic

You can search “surf life” on giphy to find and use this gif made by me, the author

One last story before we go. Tony and I went to a beachside bar for a happy hour drink during sunset. As you can see from the pictures above, the sunset there is gorgeous, so lots of people want to find a good viewing spot. By some miracle of birthday magic, we got a pretty prime location in the bar, and I got a big ol’ birthday whiskey. The table next us, however, was occupied by a family: father, mother, and adult daughter. I assume they were tourists. At some point in our drinks, Tony started giving me the “look behind you” eyes. So I faked a stretch, the kind you only do when you want to look at the people next to you, and that’s when I saw it: The adult daughter was taking off her clothes. From her seated position in the lounge couches, she was stripping down to her bikini. This bar is on the beach, yes, but it is certainly not a “beach bar,” i.e, it was actually a little fancy, i.e. i.e., there was certainly no indication that this was an establishment in which you would still receive service if you were shirt and shoe-less. So she took off her clothes, and her parents gave her a little clap, as they were very pleased that she was now sitting there in her bikini. Then, she stood up and strutted a circuit around the bar, full-on cat walk style, while her parents clapped more and took pictures of her. By the time she made it back to her table, a very uncomfortable-seeming hostess was waiting for her. She informed her that she was sorry, but she did have to ask her to put her clothes back on. The family was incensed! Father, mother, and adult daughter all began talking in unison, explaining to the hostess why this was just not possible.

It is so hot! What do you want her to do!

I am too hot! It is so uncomfortable in here! That’s your fault!

But my beautiful daughter! No one is complaining about this! 

The hostess said she understood, and she would work to cool down the area, but she asked her again to please put her clothes back on. The adult daughter (I repeatedly write “adult” because I estimate the woman to have been between 35 and 40) huffed and crossed her arms. She picked up a fashion scarf that she had with her and draped it around her neck.

“There,” she said. “Is that better?”

A quick blogkeeping note! First, thank you to everyone who is reading and to all the people who have offered such kind words to me about enjoying the blog. Writing makes me feel better (among other things), but having an audience is an added bonus. So THANK YOU! Second, at this point I have typed 1328 words. That is a lot of words! Which means writing blogs of this length (and of this quality, right? …right?) can take a good chunk of time. I am probably going to start writing shorter posts (if not very short posts) but posting multiple times a week. I am not going to do a social media call to those posts, though, because that will be too much, for you to see and for me to keep track. I would love it if anyone who enjoys reading can check back in at their convenience (bookmark this website!) to see if I’ve added new content. If the analytics show the views are dipping too much, then I’ll go back to reminding you. But let’s try that and see how it goes!




Go West

I never wanted to move to California. There was a brief period of time in high school–literally spanning only one Saturday afternoon–when I thought it would be cool to go to Stanford. I knew about Stanford because everyone on TV wants to go there. This was also before I understood that getting into Stanford is hard. It took no more than a bird’s-eye sweep of the school’s website to realize, oh, I am not the target audience for this…situation. And that was the last time I ever considered living in California.

So I guess it’s a little strange that all my belongings are now packed into a moving cube to be shipped across the country to, you guessed it, California, USA. And not just any part of California, no, no. We are talking Los Angeles, a place I have described as “a relentless series of strip malls” and “too hot” and “definitely not for me, Jesus Christ, no!” Well, things change, minds change, moods change, goals change, body temperatures change (actually, not really, I am sweating right now) and you wake up one day and realize that maybe now’s the time to try the thing you had never planned on doing. There is nothing more sophisticated to this decision other than, simply, I changed my mind.

But again: if not now, then when? We want to be engaged now, and we want to live in Los Angeles now, so now it is.

Tony and I made this decision together. He’s the other half of this equation, Tony is, and we figured there was no better way to celebrate our summer engagement than by totally upending our lives and moving across the country. It has been, truly, a relaxing and carefree time for us, not stressful at all. In fact, we recommend everyone make several major life choices in the same 6-week span of time. Did I mention we also bought a car? Well, we did! Classic summer relaxation tactics. But again: if not now, then when? We want to be engaged now, and we want to live in Los Angeles now, so now it is.

Tony and I went to Los Angeles at the beginning of the month to look for apartments. Los Angeles was experiencing a heat wave of unparalleled intensity and anomaly on this particular weekend, and for much of our time apartment hunting, I had a heat migraine. I managed this issue by sleeping in our rental car by day and putting a bag of ice on my face at night. First we saw a bunch of shitty apartments. Then we saw some nice apartments. And then we signed a lease for an apartment, and gave the loudest sigh of relief and headed to the Bubba Gump at Santa Monica Pier as both a reward to ourselves as well as a reminder that the Pacific Ocean is pretty great and it’s right there and boy would we be chumps if we didn’t go to the beach, right? It should be noted that upon discovering there was a Bubba Gump at Santa Monica Pier, there was simply no other option. It was too good. Too right. In 5 years in Chicago, I have not once been to Navy Pier, but god damn it if I wasn’t going to eat some franchise shrimp in Santa Monica. Among the many things that Tony and I love and share together, one is an affinity and total earnest love of chain restaurants. Put us within even relative proximity of an Arby’s and it’s game over.

Have you been to a Bubba Gump? Because I had not and let me tell you, all I want to do now is talk about Bubba Gump. I should also mention that Tony and I both feel very strongly about Forrest Gump;  a mild review is “problematic” and a harsher review is “manipulative garbage.” We do not like this film. We DO love chain restaurants. Do not overthink this, because we certainly haven’t. The most accurate (and troubling) detail of Bubba Gump is that the restaurant treats Jenny the same way as the movie, which is to say, the character is punished. The “Jenny” section of the restaurant is located on the two small half-walls that create the bathroom waiting area. It is Freebird-era Jenny who eyes you on your way in as you shrug and say, “Those shrimp were heavier than I anticipated.” Jenny cannot catch a break–and I think it’s terrible! Anyway, to answer your question, yes, we did answer all the Forrest Gump trivia questions correctly. In fact we answered so many correctly that our waiter had to come up with more trivia questions and then we answered all those correctly and we were almost late for our flight back to Chicago. But we do not like this movie.

Besides, you will end up punished for all your bad decisions, just like Jenny!

More importantly, though, Tony and I promised each other that we would return to the Bubba Gump at Santa Monica Pier if ever we need to recall or re-evaluate why we moved to LA: a renewal of vows, of sorts. I think it’s good to have a plan like this one, a high-sign to give when a check-in is necessary. (Also sometimes we might go there just to go, it won’t mean we’re miserable, it will just mean we’re on the beach and want shrimp, which is a perfectly normal thing to want, so like, preemptively lay off.) The risk in wanting things right now is the uncertainty in answering “But then what?” You can talk in circles with each other, identifying all the ways it can go wrong, or all the ways it can go right, but at the end of the day it goes as it goes and you just have to be satisfied that you did the thing at all. Unless the thing in question is like, an honest-to-god, objectively bad decision, in which case, don’t tell anyone you got your advice from me. Besides, you will end up punished for all your bad decisions, just like Jenny! Now that advice is coming straight from the horse’s mouth. Also, please don’t tell me that moving to LA is a bad decision. Now is not the time.

I am sometimes overwhelmed at the trajectory of my life up until this point. I don’t believe in luck, but I do believe in good people and good places and I believe in myself. I believe that this move will be difficult, and I also believe that it will pay off in abundance. I believe that a lifetime of writing anything about everything has been the best gift I could have given myself. I believe Jessie Spano when she expressed both excitement and fear. I believe in shrimp.

I never wanted to move to California. Until I did.

Photo courtesy of KM/”I dig my toes into the sand” courtesy of Incubus