Memoir Writing Class Smackdown


The ex-rocket scientist read her story—an in-class writing exercise about childhood betrayal.  It was about how, while she was away at camp, her mother put her dog to sleep because she didn’t have the time to take care of it.  It wasn’t well written but I still gasped and buried my face in my hands.  It had become clear that most of my classmates were damaged people who had shitty parents.

I have an aversion of women who don’t take care of their hair.  They scare me.  Half of the women in the class are battling frizzy hair and losing.  The worst heads belong to an ex-suicidal woman with two inches of white roots and to the woman sitting next to me.  Her eyes are smoky and at some point in her life I can tell she must have been much better looking.  Her hair is peppered, frizzy and unkempt.  I imagine her wearing a dark wig and I decide that, yes, she must have been good looking.  She writes her exercises in a small journal.  She writes in cursive; in a slant that takes up the whole page corner to corner.  It’s her turn to read.

It’s all about how she doesn’t know betrayal because God and Jesus have protected her from it.  She goes on and on praising them, her words are fluid and they mask her lies.  But she’s not that adept at hiding them.  At this point I can feel my body turn cold and hot, cold and hot.  The last time I felt like this way I was in a beauty salon in Mexico getting my hair bleached and I wanted to run out screaming.  I didn’t and when my grandmother saw me she said in her dog’s voice, “Teresita, they turned you into an albino.”

What am I going to do?  I start to tremble from the shivers and hope none of my classmates noticed.

She rambles on about having sex with some boy back in high school and how that was a betrayal of their purity.  I catch myself in the act of cringing but it’s too late.  I try to picture the face I just made.  I feel so trapped.  She continues and she talks about her coworkers.  Her voice switches from soft to creepy to dark, back and forth as she tells us they are all flawed and how she doesn’t like them and how she pretends to like them and how she eats lunch with them in the break room.  Her narrators asks if that’s betrayal.  I am filled with fear.  I’m not sure if it’s fear of her or fear of what will happen as soon as I start reading my piece.  I get cotton mouth and my tongue sticks to the roof of my mouth.  She finishes and it’s my turn.  I consider making a joke as a preemptive measure, but I decide against it.  This is what I wrote:

We were being dunked as a business transaction.  I kept on looking at my uncle.  He did not approve one bit.  He never said so, but I could tell.  After months of terrorizing the missionaries with my probing, logical questions I was still made to wear a ridiculous white gown.  It was heavy and it covered my whole body, but I felt naked.  I betrayed myself and my beliefs for the sake of my family, or rather, I was forced into it and I didn’t put up a fight.

My dad went first and he handled it well.  I looked around.  All the Mormons in attendance wept, touched by whatever the whole charade meant to them. My mother followed.  Mr. Floyd, the bishop, put his hands on her and pushed her down.  She was stiff; her resistance was evident all over her face and body.  I felt like laughing.  She finally went down and when she came back up, water went up her nostrils and she started to choke.  It looked awful.  I heard my sister’s faint guffaw.  I remembered I was a terrible swimmer because I could never get the breathing right.  I was next.

It was after my dad lost his money.  He was trying to start up a new business.  He used to manufacture electronic parts across the border in Mexicali and, naturally, the most logical new business venture for him was an alternative cancer clinic in Juarez.  How he hooked up with Mr. Floyd—a Mormon investor—I don’t know.  As soon as the business planning started, the missionaries started showing up and spending a lot of time explaining their nonsense.  I hated being in that position.  I never believed in God and it was never something that was forced on me.  My grandmother was a devout catholic but when I told her I didn’t want to go to catechism class anymore because it was a bunch of crap and lies, she responded, “Ok, whatever you want.”  I never wanted to be dunked a Mormon.

No one laughed.  I don’t know if it was because of the tension we created, or because my frail, quivering voice killed the comedy.  When everyone read their piece we took a break.  Jesus Lady left the classroom and when I turned to my friend Lucy, she lost it.  She told me she almost peed during my reading.  I told her I was glad my predicament amused someone.

After the break, it was my turn to read AGAIN, this time our 4-page homework assignment.  I wish I had time to recover.  My mouth was dry and I was still rattled.  I forced myself to relax but I couldn’t because I came to this passage in my piece:

“You? Nothing. We have to raise a lot of money for the goddam nuns,” said Nana, the devout catholic who distrusted priests because they were perverts and nuns because they were sadistic whores.


A Story of Two Intersections

10 Freeway off-ramp and Washington Blvd: 7:45 a.m.

I first saw him two weeks ago.  He was slouched over packing a pink backpack.  He did it with such care and precision I had to watch his every move.  He didn’t have a sign and he wasn’t touting the “Christian in trouble” pained expression.  He looked like it was his first day on the streets.  His clothes were clean and his hair was slicked back.  I watched him for a while and decided I needed to improve his day.  I looked inside my wallet.  I had a one and a five.  I took the one but immediately questioned why I always go for the one.  Would it really kill me to give him more?  No.  A five was a double latte in my world, in his, who knows.  Besides, I had already questioned my generosity and that meant I’d be tempting fate by being cheap.  I’m lucky and I know it.

I lowered the window and waved the $5 bill.  It took him a while to look up and notice me.  His bright eyes and friendly smile hid his predicament.  The light turned green and the honking started.  LA drivers are bastards—selfish assholes at best, homicidal lunatics at worst.  I hate them because they remove me from humanity.  Bullies.  I wasn’t going to let it happen at that moment.  He walked over and took the money.  He smiled and said thank you.  I flipped off the honkers behind me and drove off.

Yesterday it was clear he was no longer a neophyte street dweller. He stood, held a sign and had a proper miserable demeanor.  He looked straight into the ground.  He made no effort to make eye contact.  I didn’t have much cash and Pepa, my black Lab, sat up and saw him.  She barked at him non-stop.  My dog has never liked skateboarders, the homeless, people she decides dress weird or white people with dreadlocks.  I swear I had nothing to do with this but the last one is an understandable aversion.  I drove off while trying to calm her out of her hysterical, barking fit.

Today I was ready with cash and hoped my dog wouldn’t sit up.  I took the exit ramp and slid into the left lane that spills into Washington.  His two bags rested against a sign post but he wasn’t there or anywhere in sight.  I took the photo and drove off.

Robertson/Cattaraugus, home of Alexander Hamilton High School, 7:56 a.m. (I’m late. I should be at the office already.)

I always seem to get there when everyone is trying to drop
off their kids.  I used to see it as a maddening clusterfuck because, when you’re trapped in your car on your way to that very important place you have to be, frustration gets to you.  Not anymore.  I remind myself to sit back and relax.  I’m trapped and there isn’t anything I can do to escape.  NPR is boring me with another story about farmers, and then, I see them.  I pay attention.  It’s like being at the zoo’s primate exhibit.  They get off their parents’ cars and they drag their feet from every direction.  Some wait at the light and others walk across.

Teenagers.  What a mysterious and fascinating species, I think.  I wish for the light to take its time so that I can continue watching.

It’s a maelstrom of insecurities and not-well-hidden emotions.  Their disaffected faces tell so much.  Get away. Don’t talk to me. Love me.  Pay attention to me. Fuck you.

I want to put them all on my palm and tell them they’re so much more than

Girls who dress cool

Girls who try too hard to dress cool

A face with an oozing zit

Or too much facial hair too soon

A boy with a skateboard

A girl with a nicer skateboard

The legs under that too-short a skirt

Their current obsessions

The contents of their iPhone

The Instagram they just posted

The pop quiz they will take later

A neglected child

An abused one

What others think of them

What they think of themselves…

If I told them there is no such thing as the present because it takes seven minutes for light to reach the earth, would it blow their mind?

If I told them to hang in there, that the best is yet to come, would they believe me?

I merge to the right and try to go around a car waiting to make a left turn.  Someone cuts me off, barely missing me, and I drive out of the clusterfuck.  Hang in there, at least you’re not in high school, I tell myself.



Elevator Story (7:48 a.m.): Pray for me.


I’m usually-half asleep as I approach the elevators but I noticed her because she was dressed in crochet from head to toe.  She wore a multi-colored, cheap, faux Missoni-style crochet maxi dress, a cream crochet cropped cardigan, cream crochet flats, and matching crochet bracelets.  We got on the elevator and she scanned her security card but didn’t press a floor.  I waited.  She stared at the buttons waiting for me to do something while I waited for her.  I scanned my card fearing she might think I was rude but I had waited long enough for her to press a button.  She laughed.  Then she scanned again and then I pressed 23 but didn’t take so I scanned again and it finally took and then she pressed 15 and it didn’t light up so she had to do it three more times.  I’ve never seen such fumbling between two people trying to get to work.

She was young and pretty—light-skinned African American with cat eyes and long straight hair.  She asked me if I was a lawyer.  Why would she think that? I’m wearing a red, Mod sheath and a leopard print scarf.  I’ve never seen a stylish lawyer.  They wear suits.  I still don’t know if I should take it as a compliment.  I told her I wasn’t.  She told me she worked at a law firm but that she wasn’t going to be there much longer because it was terrible.  I asked, “Terrible as in where you work is terrible or terrible because of the commute?  She said she was harassed by the girls at work.  She was going to have two interviews today.  (No wonder she was decked in crochet.)  I gave her what felt like a sincere “awww” gesture followed by “Sorry about that, good luck.” The doors opened.  She stepped out, turned around, put her hands together and said, “Pray for me.”  The elevators closed just before I could say, “I can’t. I’m an atheist.”

Every time this happens to me, and it’s quite often, I wonder what it is about me that compels strangers tell me personal stuff.  Do I have an interested mask that hides the story teller?  Does it only happen when my guard is down?  Maybe people are just lonely and they’ll tell their story to anyone who seems nice.  But I’ve been told I don’t look nice.  Maybe I do and people are lying to me to make me smile more.

The Universal Chones Oracle of the Granny

granny panties

A bullshit terrorist threat that’s all over the news made me realize I have something in common with the Underwear Bomber. The image of Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab’s untidy unwhities transports me back in time to an emergency room in San Juan, Puerto Rico. I sat there covered in blood with my nose on one side of my face while my aunt sobbed and hugged me. She would get up from her seat and out-act Shirley MacLaine in Terms of Endearment, trying to get the nurses to admit me. “PUT BACK MY NIECE’S NOSE TO THE PROPER PLACE ON HER FACE!” I don’t remember what I felt—it wasn’t pain. I just wanted my face to get fixed so I could go home. I looked around the room and saw horrified, open-mouthed faces. I know I looked scary because I remember the expressions my broken face generated.

I used to ride horses. By ride I mean sat on them while they jumped over fences. That day I was given a great opportunity that didn’t end well. I arrived at the equestrian center and Bertie, my coach, told me to ride the most expensive horse in the place—a six-figure, muscular, black Stallion whose owner had broken her leg riding him. Two weeks ago he had taken off running, like all horses do if you ride long enough, and she couldn’t stay on. Too much horse for too little rider. She was the young wife of a rich man and rode not because she enjoyed it, but because rich people are supposed to do rich people sports. I wasn’t rich then. My parents had already lost their money and that’s why I was in Puerto Rico. I called it finding myself. Finding myself while still living beyond our means.

My parents couldn’t afford it but, as they always did, pretended it was possible and found a way to pay for it. Our first day at the equestrian center we ran a tab at the tack shop. I finished picking every piece of equipment I needed except for the riding pants. They didn’t have my size so I tried on the largest size they had—two sizes too small. There was no way I was leaving that tack shop without riding pants. We hadn’t been in the island very long and I hated life there—the heat, the humidity, the helicopter-sized mosquitoes, the talkative happy people, everything. I was told Puerto Rico was just like the U.S. except with more palm trees and piña coladas. It was a lie. I needed this to be able to cope because my parents refused to fly me back to Southern California.

I went into the dressing room and enlisted my aunt’s help. I spread out on the floor, sucked in my gut and writhed like a dying fish while trying to make the zipper go up. It didn’t work. I got up and jumped up and down while my aunt held on to the zipper. We jumped up and down around the tack shop until the zipper gave in. I won. I was going to ride that day.

Eventually, my parents bought me a horse but I also rode whatever I could. I didn’t care. I would have mounted a donkey or a Great Dane if they could jump over a fence. A lot of Bertie’s students were kamikaze riders, including myself. He was an irresponsible teacher who took advantage of his students’ desire to jump at any cost. He sold me one of his horses, Joey, a stubborn thoroughbred/Percheron mix who could clear over six feet of fence. Joey was a great jumper, but because of his huge size the landing sent most riders flying off the saddle. Bertie and I were the only ones that could stay on him. Most of the time. Riding Joey made riding other horses a breeze. He turned my inner thighs into steel and he taught me to feel comfortable flying through the air and landing hard and often. I learned to bounce.

I was about to ride a Stallion who hadn’t exercised in over a week, during feeding time, on a windy evening. It made no difference to me. I wasn’t afraid. Moreover, I was still high on a great jumping session I had two days before. People even congratulated me on my improvement. I hadn’t improved. I wasn’t riding Joey and I guess people were impressed I didn’t fall off once. Now that I think about it, it must have been hard for spectators to watch me ride Joey. So, I was feeling strong and confident. I sprayed extra strength mosquito repellent all over my riding pants, shirt, arms and face. I was set and eager.

There were a couple of mares around so I took the horny Stallion to the far end of the enclosure away from the fences to get him tired before starting our jumping work out. He didn’t like that all. He also didn’t like that I was riding him. It was as if he knew I didn’t deserve to be on him—that I was an impostor pretending to be rich. He’d take off from our gallop and make a sudden stop at the fence. No biggie. All horses do that when they’re feeling bratty. His owner couldn’t handle it but I could. I had to show him who was in charge and I galloped in a tight circle until he started cooperating. I thought I had him beaten because he fooled me into it.

I took him around to take our first jump and when he came to the first fence, he accelerated and then stopped , refusing to jump. I clenched my inner thighs and stayed on. I could tell that made him mad. I had proven that I was smarter. I “punished” him by running him in a tight circle again until he cooperated. Again, I took him around and he stopped. He got so angry I didn’t fall off that he stood up on his hind legs to throw me off. I stayed on and he tried again and again. He lost his balance and we both fell back, separating in the air. On the ground, confused but mostly embarrassed, I turned to my left and saw the Stallion next to me looking befuddled and stupid. He was no longer a cocky son-of-a-bitch but a disoriented pony eating dirt.

The horse stood up and I heard a click. Then I saw two straight gushes of blood emanating straight out from my face. He ran away and abandoned me to figure out what had happened to me. I saw a few people running towards me and I bounced back on my feet to show them I was fine. Just fine. He had kicked me on the face and left arm as he got up to run away to the stables. I stood up straight and noticed I was still holding on tight to the crop I never used. I dusted myself off and then marched like General Patton towards the spectator area, ignoring everyone who approached me with concern. I tried to hold on to my dignity and pride while pretending there wasn’t a stream of blood running down my neck. People saw and gasped. Bertie almost fainted. It turned out Mr. Kamikaze was a pussy when it came to the sight of blood. I then noticed that my vision on the left was getting impaired. I continued on to the bathroom and took off my riding hat in front of the mirror. The left side of my face was swollen and deformed. The Elephant Woman was staring back at me, angry, disgraced, and saying, “You didn’t belong on that horse and you don’t belong here.”

After I finally got admitted they put me in an examination room. My aunt walked in and out. Then, I remembered. I could not believe I was in that situation again. Again. How could this happen twice? Was I not one of those people who learned things the first time and then acquired wisdom? No, I wasn’t. I remembered that time when I put my sneakers in the dryer and the soles melted. The store replaced them for free and then, just to be sure, I put them in the dryer again. The store wouldn’t give me a third pair. I peeked out the curtain and hissed at my aunt to come over.

The first time it happened had been three years ago. I was getting ready to go to the gym with my sister when I opened my underwear drawer and discovered I had no clean panties. The only ones I could find were a pair of granny panties that I couldn’t bring myself to throw away. I have no idea why, but to this day, I have trouble throwing away tattered panties. Yes, like everyone on earth, my grandmother had given me the warning: Always wear nice, clean underwear because you might get in an accident. I ignored the Universal Chones Oracle of Granny and decided it was no big deal to wear them to the gym because it was only for a couple of hours, I was going to sweat on them and the gym was less than a mile away. I might as well had not worn them because the knickers had two huge holes on each butt cheek. They were held together by hope and a prayer and I vowed to throw them away as soon as I got back from the gym.

I waited at an intersection three blocks away from our house and decided the incoming car was far away enough for me to make it to the other side. I was wrong and, seconds after my second bad decision of the day, I felt the force of a car crash into my left side. The firemen had to use the Jaws of Life to pry the door that was lodged on my left hip. My sister hit her head somewhere and although she was fine, she claims she had a concussion. This claim was never confirmed by the doctors.

I didn’t pass out but because of the shock the next thing I remember was in the emergency room. I was on a gurney and I could hear the nurses in the room. They had kind voices and were taking off my clothes with great care. I still didn’t feel any pain from the fracture in my hip. They removed my t-shirt, my sports bra, my spandex work out pants, my socks and then one of them gasped, “Oh my God. The impact must have been terrible. It tore her underwear.” The other one asked me, “Were they like this already or was it the impa–” “No! They weren’t torn before the accident!” I interrupted, indignant at her incredulity and believing my own lie. They cut off what was left of the offending delicates with scissors and then, just like that, the pain hit. The nurse held them up and I tried my hardest to look flabbergasted.

The blood was already dry and my clothes were crusty. My aunt helped me remove my riding boots and then she turned around while I undressed and put on the hospital gown. I took off the tattered panties and rolled them into a ball. I handed it to my aunt and she put it in her purse. “What the hell, Teresita. Why did you wear these?” BECAUSE THEY WERE THE ONLY CLEAN ONES, MKAY?! I told her to leave the room and dispose of them far, far away. I felt relieved as she left the room. The next time I saw her she had somehow sneaked into the post-op recovery room, still sobbing. I spotted her and yelled for the nurse. “I’m going to throw – “ and then I did. I puked all the black blood inside me right on my chest.

Shortly after I recovered I went back to riding but it wasn’t the same. It wasn’t that I feared getting hurt again. That Stallion left his stamp on me twofold: a crooked nose and a scar on my forearm and, worse, every time I rode I felt his rejection under my seat. Every horse, even Joey, became him under me and I couldn’t shake the feeling that I didn’t belong in that world anymore. Further down the line, after being introduced to Noam Chomsky’s writings in my foreign policy class, I didn’t want to be in that world anymore anyway. I had found myself and soon thereafter I began to love my new life in San Juan. I got off the horses and went back into the darkroom.

The last time I saw Bertie he told me that after the accident the Stallion became a model horse, docile and cooperative. I think he was just trying to reel me in and get me back on the saddle, but the possibility that I had left a mark on the Stallion as well made me smile.

I’d like to say I learned my lesson about tempting fate, but I didn’t. Despite being accident prone, right now there are 3-4 thongs in my drawer that should be thrown away. My problem is that I hate doing laundry and I put it off until there’s no other choice for me. After I’ve exhausted every option, like buying more underwear or wearing unacceptable lingerie while crossing my fingers I don’t get in an accident, then I do laundry. Big deal. We all have socks with holes and we all pick our noses when no one is looking, right? Right?


Chones, short for calzones, Spanish for underwear.
Definition: clothing worn under outerwear
Synonyms: BVDs, G-string, bikini, boxer shorts, boxers, bra, briefs, corset, drawers, intimate things, jockey shorts, jockeys, lingerie, loincloth, long johns, panties, shorts, skivvies, smallclothes, underclothes, underclothing, undergarment, underpants, undershirt, underthings, undies

A brand new neurosis.

Teri's dishes

I bought a house in a place where food takeout and delivery are hard to come by.  In a city full of Mexicans I managed to move to a neighborhood full of Mexicans with no taco shop within walking distance.  I wish I would have considered that during escrow but I had no idea living on top of a hill would be so isolating.  The perks of being a hermit with a spectacular view were undone by not being able to get a decent torta without having to drive for over 15 minutes.  I’ve been living in my house for six months and I still don’t know where to get decent Mexican food nearby.  Did I mention that I’m surrounded by Highland Park, Lincoln Heights, El Sereno and Alhambra?

I’m always hungry but the food available to me has become unappealing.  I feel I am being forced into learning how to cook.  I’ve learned a few things but I’m tired of those dishes I can make taste okay.  I have to learn how to cook new things but eventually I’ll be sick of those things too and then I’ll have to learn how to cook new dishes.  That means going to the market more often and that means less time for myself.  In the time it takes me to pick out produce I could write 1000 words or watch half a Bergman film.  My frustration is at its worst on my 90 minute drive home.  I leave work starving and I agonize about what I’m going to eat for dinner until I get to the bottom of the hill I live at.  Most of the time I opt for going home without stopping at the market.  I’d rather not eat than eat the same thing again.  By the time I feed the dog and water what’s left of the plants and lawn I’m no longer hungry, so I just drink a beer or tequila.  What’s worse is that I manage not to lose any weight.

Petty new development in my life, yes, that’s true.  It’s obscene to obsess over dinner when so many have so little. But I’m sick of not being able to achieve normalcy of the kind known to society.  My neuroses are myself telling me I’m some kind of pariah who alienates herself with her limitations.  I wasn’t born with any useful talents and that sucks when you live alone.  Sometimes I ruin my cooking just to prove to myself that I’m just faking it.  At first it’s unconscious, but just before I taste it, I know.  I know I did it on purpose.  I can’t stand not having options.

Maybe I’ll deal with this problem by writing a cookbook as I learn how to cook.  I’ll call it “Cuisine for Inadequate Neurotics.” If I sell a few then I’ll know I’m not alone.

Perpetuity Minus Three Days


I have lived in Los Angeles for eight years and gone to the Getty Center dozens of times. It is my favorite place in the city and I still haven’t found anything in this city that’s better.  I’ve always known that one of the most famous and expensive paintings lives in the Getty but somehow I managed to avoid it.  I postponed my viewing because I knew it would always be there and instead spent my time in the special exhibits.

Perhaps I was trying to avoid the awful experience I had at the Louvre years ago.  I hate hating people and encountering them at art museums makes me hate people more.  I don’t want to, but it just happens.  My belief that art saves and that it should be for the people often clashes with dark thoughts that people are at their core philistines and sometimes don’t deserve art. I know. It’s fucked up but it’s a constant existential battle being waged inside my head.

I studied art and I was aware what I wanted to see and where it was: The Grand Gallery.  The Louvre is always crowded and I was surprised I almost had the whole gallery to myself.  Who were these people who ignored the remarkable masterpieces on the walls and where in the fuck were they going?  To be fair, a few turned their heads left and right as they flowed across the wooden floor.  Most of them just kept on walking with purpose to avoid whiplash.  I took my time taking in every detail of paintings that up until that day I had only seen in books and slides projected at a university lecture hall.  Nothing can prepare you for the moment you come face to face with a Raphael.  I wanted to stop the tourists and force them to look at what they were ignoring.  I didn’t, because, fuck ignoramuses.

It took me a couple of hours to make my way to the end of the Grand Gallery.  I turned the corner and saw a swarm of people.  As I inched towards them I got caught in the suffocating crowd of tourists holding up their cameras (actual cameras from the Pre-Smartphone Era)– stretching their arms up high attempting to snap a photo of the most famous painting in history.  The guards seemed angry and shouted “Avancer, avancer, move on, move on…”  We were not allowed to stop and, even if we had rebelled against their French authority, we would have been crushed by the weight of the lethargic stampede.

That was my missed connection with the Mona Lisa.  “Me, an overzealous and earnest artist/art lover. You, a lonely lady trapped in your fame.”

I was at the Getty for Werner Herzog’s 18-minute video installation, Hearsay of the Soul and Hearsay of the Soul: Images, Music, and Ecstasies, a conversation between Herzog and composer/cellist Ernst Reijseger later in the evening, where they were going to explore their collaboration and the relationship between images and music.  I headed directly for the installation and saw it four times from different angles because my first viewing was ruined by an old lady wearing a large brimmed straw hat and a very puffy jacket (it was 80 degrees outside for fuck’s sake).  She sat right next to me so her giant hat blocked my view of the two screens on the right.  I almost asked her to remove her hat but decided it was better to stand up and go to the back of the room.

I finished my trek through the special exhibits: In Focus: Ed Ruscha, Japan’s Modern Divide: The Photographs of Hiroshi Hamaya and Kansuke Yamamoto, and The Poetry of Paper and still had 90 minutes to kill.  I figured I might as well head over there—two floors up.  I entered the room and I saw a crowd at the very end blocking my view of the main attraction.  The Getty doesn’t use any valuable wall space with the display of minor or mediocre works like they do in other museums (I’m talking to you Picasso Museum in Paris), so I took my time taking in every brushstroke, getting as close as I could.  The visitors around me were busy snapping Instagrams and I’m sure I made their life miserable by lingering in front of every Cezanne, Gauguin, Monet, Manet and Renoir.  I expected Irises to be surrounded by a large crowd by the time I got to it but I was wrong.  What I saw shocked me.  Idiot and after idiot, holding up their camera, stopping long enough to snap the photo and then moving on.  Three seconds tops.  There was no guard yelling at them “Avancer, avancer…”

I stood to one side and watched the sad spectacle for a few minutes.  Even though my battery was almost dead, I decided to take their photo.  I waited until there was a lull in the flow of traffic and I parked myself smack in the middle, facing the painting.  If anyone wanted a photo of Irises they would have to have one of the back of my head as well.  I was in a terrible mood but every time I glanced at the painting I felt much better.  It really is remarkable—so much emotion, work and talent being ignored and unappreciated it.  Pauvre Vincent.

Unlike most of the paintings in that room, Irises is protected with glass.  I didn’t care and I still got as close as I could.  The guard then told me to stay behind the line.  I lost my cool, looked down and asked,” What line?”

“That line,” he responded looking down.

“There’s no line,” I said pointing at the floor.

There was no line, just the boards of the floor.  I got mad at myself for losing my cool with someone who was just doing his job protecting the Getty’s $100+ million investment.  I remained standing in front of Irises for 20 minutes.  Overcompensating. I figured maybe my presence would make someone stop and see.  Really see beyond the price tag and notoriety.  I wanted to tell them that Vincent made it to share his vision of the world; to help us feel and connect.  To teach us the meaning of life. I didn’t for fear they’d kick me out for being crazy at a crowded museum.


Later that evening Herzog explained that he was reluctant to join the world as an artist because museums represented perpetuity and, like expensive restaurants with waiters in tuxedos, perpetuity made him feel uneasy and uncomfortable.  So much in fact, that when Hans Zimmer presented him with the rights of the score to Invincible he changed “in perpetuity” in the contract to “in perpetuity minus one day.”  When Zimmer found out he decided he wanted a day too.  So they changed it to “perpetuity minus two days.”  I’m sure Vincent would have wanted his day too.

“The poets have been mysteriously silent on the subject of cheese.”–Gilbert K. Chesterton

The first time I was in Paris, I spent more time staring at the cheese at the window display of the fromagerie at rue Cler than at the paintings at the Grand Gallery of the Louvre.  I had never seen such a festival of mold.  It was beautiful.  The way the light hit the rough textures and the various shapes of cheese reminded me of Goya’s brushstrokes, which I experienced up close just two days earlier. The smell inside the cheese shop was strangely reminiscent of the odor coming from the mummy at the Egyptian exhibit at the Denon wing of the Louvre. Actually, I didn’t really see much of the mummy since the display was very dark, but I knew it was there because I could smell it.  I concluded that darkness is necessary to preserve relics, but also to grow mold worthy of Parisian taste buds.  Back home, I didn’t give cheese much thought until I invited a friend to a wine and cheese party at my sister’s house.

At rue Cler, I did not feel insecure, self-conscious and bitter as I always do when I go to the supermarket back home.  I was in a glamorous city, thousands of miles away from California, and no one knew me there.  I was not looking for the latest, not-from-the-frozen-section, new pathetic food I may be able to concoct quickly and easily given my culinary limitations and disdain for food shopping.  I hoped to be merely perceived as a tourist beholding works of art and curiously taking in the culture around her; investigating the Parisian habit of living well.  At least in Paris, I was not that pathetic woman who cannot cook and buys Lean Pockets only when they are six for ten bucks.  I was definitely not at Albertson’s two-for-five bucks-take-your-pick from cheddar, Monterey, or pepper jack cheese sale.

I noticed a strange expression take over my friend’s face as soon as I finished telling her to bring along a decent bottle of wine.  I should explain that this is a thirty-something woman who describes her family as right out of a Jerry Springer episode and whose idea of gourmet is to ask for a side of sour cream with her rolled tacos.  I took her to lunch at a Japanese restaurant once and she ordered white rice because she did not recognize anything else in the menu.  I was afraid she would show up with a bottle of Boone’s, or worse, something from the Italian region of Night Train.  So she asked for, and I gave, specific instructions.  “Go to Trader Joe’s and pick a bottle between $10 and $15.  You can’t miss with a California red and make sure it is a normal size bottle.  Not in a box or a gallon jug.”  She looked very stressed.

“I don’t really think I will fit in with your friends and family, but I will go because I am an actor and I need to observe strange human behavior,” she confessed.

“What?  Strange?  What do you mean?”

She cracked up.  “You don’t see it do you?

“See what?” I asked.  She kept on laughing.

“It is not a normal thing to do.”

“What’s so abnormal about friends getting together and drinking good wine and sampling cheese from around the world?  We always do it.”

She smirked and I started to wonder if I was really missing the point.

“Why not beer and chips?” she asked.

“That can be good too, but there is a time and place for beer and chips.  This is a wine and cheese party.”

Later that week during a telephone conversation, she told me she had asked all her friends about the “normality” of wine and cheese parties and they all agreed that it was not a common place activity and that it was snobby.  “Liking good stuff is snobby?  Why do I have to eat a Snickers bar when I can savor a Belgian chocolate truffle?” I asked.  She just laughed.  I told her that in Paris I had been surrounded by well-dressed Parisians carrying chic basket weave bags, making their way from store to store buying fresh produce, fresh bread, fresh meat, fresh fromage and the perfect wine to go with it.  She was not impressed with Parisian habits and informed me that this was “America.”  I called all my friends and they agreed that wine and cheese parties were a perfectly normal social event.  I called my friend back and told her she and her other friends were friggin’ philistines and that I would see her at eight.  She responded she didn’t even know that word. I said look it up. She said I don’t have a dictionary.

The day of the party I headed to the best cheese shop in my neighborhood.  If wine and cheese tasting parties are so uncommon, then why do shops like this exist?  They even make little flags to stick on the cheese so that your guests know the name of the cheese and where it came from.  They also have a wine/cheese computer matching system, I suspect, similar to the online dating matching systems.  I never used it, but I can only assume it’s incredibly accurate.  The shop was a bit crowded and I patiently waited my turn while trying to make up my mind as to which new cheese to try.  “Which is your favorite?” I heard someone ask.  I turned and found out the question was for me.  I proceeded to point out my favorites and suggested wine pairings.  My new buddy seemed impressed.  “What about that one?” she said pointing to a blue from Spain.  I hesitated.  “If you are gutsy, you’ll like it.  I found it challenging.”

As soon as I finished saying the word “challenging” I knew, with certainty, that my friend, the actor and student of strange human behavior, was right.  What kind of people refer to a cheese as “challenging?”  I looked around the shop at my fellow abnormal wine and cheese party goers.  Abnormal.  Maybe.  Most likely.  But fine with me.

Everyone is a terrorist.


Oh dear. I forgot yesterday was Meatless Monday again. Now I really feel bad. And to top it off, I’m having meat lasagna for lunch. It was on sale mmmkay? Three for $8.99. Can’t pass up a deal like that.

I remember the good ole days when being a terrorist was special. Now, everyone and their uncle (Or is it cousin? I’m bad at quoting cliches.)  is one.

The USDA has classified PETA as a terrorist threat.

And now THIS!!! Methane Causes Vicious Cycle In Global Warming.

I guess I’m going to have to try a little harder.

At least they didn’t call us Nazis.

Man is the only animal that can remain on friendly terms with the victims he intends to eat until he eats them. ~Samuel Butler

I know you all have been on the edge of your seat biting your nails waiting for an update on my Meatless Monday adventure. Truth is, I have not posted an update because I keep forgetting I’m not supposed to eat meat on Monday. Unless pork does not count as meat. Yes, I have Outlook and yes, I know how to set reminders and yes, I have done so. But I still forget the second half of the day.

I have not eaten meat today. So far, I’ve had a large latte, a low-cal English muffin with peanut butter and jelly, a grilled cheese sandwich and a cupcake. Today is Wednesday, but I think it counts and I’m sure that Sir Paul McCartney and the environment won’t mind I’m a couple of days late.

Since we’re on the subject of meatless, a few days ago I finally tried the food from Bulan, a vegan/vegetarian restaurant a few blocks from my house . I passed the restaurant yet again while walking my dog Pepa and I stopped to get a take out menu. I stuck my head in and asked for the menu but when they saw my gorgeous puppy the staff ran towards us and welcomed Pepa with open arms. Pepa was delighted and hugged and licked everyone with gusto. I spotted a water dish in the outdoor dining area (a Silverlake business indicator that dogs are welcome) and promised the good people of Bulan we would return later for dinner.

By the time I got hungry, I got too lazy to walk four blocks and decided to order in. The menu was a bit daunting since I didn’t recognize most of the dishes. I went online and read some reviews on Yelp to help me make up my mind. The consensus was that you could not miss with the Crisp Fish with Green Apple and Orange Chicken. Because I had never eaten fake fish and fake chicken before, I felt a strange mix ambivalence and exhilaration. I asked myself if ordering fake fish was a wise decision since I was not a real fish lover to begin with, and decided so many Yelpers couldn’t be wrong, especially the one that claimed the Crisp Fish “haunted his dreams.” The only food that has ever haunted my dreams was a bean burrito and not for good reasons. I changed into my cozy, leopard print fleece pajamas and I phoned in my order. I ordered the two recommended dishes along with coconut rice, and waited on the couch with Pepa on my lap. We watched an episode of our favorite show, It’s Me or the Dog (the one with the evil Chihuahua Nigel with bulging eyes whose owner thought he was a cat) and shortly after Victoria Stillwell had magically trained Nigel to be happy and well-behaved, the food arrived.

Since the total bill was $30 with tip, I had really high expectations from these vegan dishes.

The “fish” was crispy all right. It tasted really good, although I wouldn’t say it tasted like fish. It had more of a fish essence and whatever it was I was eating, I liked more than fish. The three breaded “fish” filets were accompanied by a separate container of a salad composed of green apple, cashews, red onion, chili, cilantro and a special tangy sauce. I assumed I was supposed to dump the container on top of the “fish” filets and I did so. It was pretty delicious but I’d have to wait until bedtime to see if the haunting would happen. The orange “chicken” was pretty good as well. Much better than Panda Inn’s. It was crispy and the sweet and sour sauce was light.

If I could eat food like this every day, it’d be so easy to remember Meatless Monday. Hell, I’d add Meatless Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday to my calendar. Sadly, I cannot afford it and as a result of my very limited cooking skills, I can’t even make real fish edible.

I prepared myself a heaping plate and joined Pepa at the couch. I balanced the food with one hand and used the other to push her away, her neck magically stretching, getting longer and longer, her tongue whipping like a lizard’s trying to snatch a taste. That’s the one bad thing about Labradors. They’d eat themselves into Jabba the Hut if allowed. She finally gave up and curled up at the other end of the couch. I changed the channel and settled on the news. More Haiti. More self-serving reporters pretending to be concerned and appalled. Oh, there goes Anderson Cooper carrying a bleeding teenager in his arms. (He then put him down and the kid could walk fine, but Anderson picked him up again and ran in the other direction.) I don’t know why they say he’s gay. He looks butch to me. And that prowess. I can see the headline now: Lucky Third-World Bleeding Kid Gets Swept Off His Feet By An Armani Exchange T-Shirt Wearing Reporter.

I watched for a few minutes but then I felt obscene and that’s the truth. I sat there with my $30 dollar Thai dinner of fake fish and chicken watching other people suffer. Of course I had already texted “HAITI” many times since the earthquake. That’s all I can do. Give money. It’s not like I’m going to get on a plane and go help. I have no skills that really matter. But I don’t have to sit there and be entertained by this horrendous footage and news network shenanigans. It’s really hard to feel happy when you are constantly feeling guilty about being privileged. I changed the channel and decided to watch another episode of It’s Me or the Dog. The one with Diesel, the Siberian Husky who had absolutely no respect for his owners. It made me feel lucky my puppy only had a gluttony problem.

Less meat means less heat.

While the Republicans have nothing better to do than be stupid, other people, like Sir Paul McCartney, have some helpful and reasonable suggestions. He is urging consumers to fight global warming by going vegetarian at least once a week.

If I were to become a vegetarian full time, I wouldn’t do it for my health or well being. Believe me, I feel pretty good after eating steak. No, I’d do it for the health of the cows and the chickens. I know, I know, heart attacks are God’s revenge for eating his little animal friends, but because I lack the discipline, organization and cooking skills, I’ve failed miserably at conversion many times. However, as long as ice cream remains a vegetarian food, Sir Paul’s call to arms seems realistic and doable to me.

Starting next week, I will designate Monday as Side Dish Monday. Every Monday, I won’t eat anything that can have children. That’s right vegans. That’s my definition. As far as I know, cheese, eggs and ice cream cannot bear offspring. Cheese, eggs and ice cream do not have eyes. Cheese, eggs and ice cream are not my furry friends.

So here I go. Again. I hope you join in as well.

Wish me luck and check in on Tuesdays to read how it went.

P.S. If you have not already seen Food, Inc., it’s out on DVD and I highly recommend it.