Friday, August 31, 2007

I Hate Bugs

Did you hear about this on NPR today? This is the scariest thing I've seen since Shark Week. Completely, absolutely, terrifyingly scary. And it's in Texas. Lake Tawakoni State Park. Looking at this makes me want to walk around in a bee keeper's suit for the rest of my life.

It's a spider web. A huuuuuuuge spider web made by all these bizarrely communal one-inch spiders. 200 fucking yards of spider web. In the forest.

I feel sick.

But if there's one good thing to be gleaned from this stuff of utter nightmares, it's that in that web are millions upon millions of mosquitoes. Buzzing, struggling mosquitoes trying desperately to escape, to keep the blood from being sucked from their very veins.

What a coincidence.

Mosquitoes love me. To them I'm like maple syrup. Every summer I go to bed knowing that I could wake up with my face swollen like Quasimodo's. I have laid awake hundreds of nights, scratching and cussing and fantasizing about slowly dismembering an endless string of mosquitoes with a magnifying glass and tweezers.

So, while the giant spider web may forever bother me on some visceral, precognitive level, to know it is stuffed with a whole generation of the hypocritical, bloodsucking motherfuckers gives me some solace. A very little bit of solace.

I'm Dirty

I cleaned my apartment today. I hadn't done that in an embarrassingly long time. Really, if you'd seen my apartment you would have been like, "Miranda, I know your brother just died and everything, but this is fucking nasty."

First, I unearthed my couch. It had been buried beneath a mountain of fossilized clothing and it was nice to see it again. Then I started sweeping. My year old cat, Turk, loves nothing more than tearing apart pieces of cardboard, so the entire floor was covered in cardboard snow. I swept it all up, stuck the broom under the couch to half-assedly get the dust out from under it, and pulled out a dirty tangle of rubber bands, delivery menus, underwear, cat hair, and almost-dried-up pens. I also found a lighter I lost 5? 6? months ago. And then, like a chill through my body, a great wave of stink filled the room. It was really bad. Musky, sweet, and a little cheesy, like a sweaty sock dipped in Alfredo sauce and left to rot. Fucking disgusting.

I examined the dirt pile, but there wasn't anything that horrendous. I poked under the couch some more. Nothing. I wondered for a moment if I could just pretend I didn't notice it and let it go away, and it's a testament to how bad the smell was that I overcame my laziness and moved the sofa aside. Turk and Bean - our older, wiser, fatter cat - ran into the room, tails bushy, eyes wide with feral lust. They found the source before I did.

A dead mouse.

A motherfucking dead mouse.

A dead and rotting mouse underneath my couch.

Those of you who don't live in New York may be thinking, "Well, of course! You're living in filth in a cheap New York City apartment, what did you expect?" But those of you who reside in Gulliani's sparkling and cheerful Manhattan know that there's a lot fewer mice and bugs than you'd think. Especially in a fifth floor walk up. We haven't seen a mouse here in two years.

In fact, I've lived in this city for eight years now, in eight different apartments in three boroughs, and I've only had one other dead mouse incident.

It was in the Bronx, where I was living with my boyfriend at the time and a small, short-lived, black and white cat named Boops. We woke up one morning to find our painted wood floors land-mined with three dead mice. We suspected it was Boops' work, but the mice looked untouched. No blood, no innards - it was a like a little family of People's Temple mice had moved in and drank their little cups of Kool Aid in our living room.

We'd never seen a mouse in our apartment before. I cleaned them up. An hour later, I found a fourth dead mouse in the office. It was baffling. Boops was a tiny cat, sickly, she died of natural causes after two years. Though she was the obvious suspect, we couldn't quite bring ourselves to believe she could so effectively and systematically kill anything.

And then, as we sat on the couch later that evening, Boops began a slow gallop from one corner of the bedroom to the other, across the living room, and into the kitchen. This wasn't unusual. We didn't look up until she passed us, flung her head back, and opened her mouth to let something fly up, up, up into a high arc, brushing the cheap light fixture and hanging there silhouetted for a second before falling, hurtling down, slamming first into the wall and then the floor.

It was a mouse. Dead, now.

We never saw a mouse in that apartment again.

The stinky couch mouse is my first mouse since. I don't know what happened to it, if there were tooth marks on it or what. I just threw it away, opened the window, and got the 409.

It was weird how we couldn't smell it until I started sweeping under there. Encased in trash, it was like it had it's own little mouse tomb, where it could decompose without bothering the neighbors.

I'm going to try to keep my apartment cleaner from now on.

Also under the couch were a surprising number of Turk's toys. Turk likes to play fetch with plastic milk and water bottle caps. We throw them, he chases them and brings them back over and over until he invariably loses them under the couch. Then we give him new ones. He has amassed 32 so far. Here he is, with his bounty:

GTD from ***7441542:
you got some nerve gettin that girl pregnant and i can't believe that u said that ashley wasnt going to be there 4 u. miranda

Thursday, August 30, 2007

My Brother Was Hot

Well, I finally got online access to some of Ky's pictures, and here he is. Isn't he beautiful?

Of course, this is much more how I remember him:

My mother is my number one blog fan, and every couple of days she's been emailing me responses to my posts, many of which have read like blogs themselves. So I suggested that she start blogging about Kyle, too.

All of you who have been asking about her can now check her out for yourselves at LosingKyle. There's lots more pics of Ky, including a ridiculously adorable baby pic of him and his long fingers, and a couple of me in various awkward adolescent phases. Mom, I think I should have some veto rights...

GTD from
Hi mir
I have been dating a man who I think is wonderful. We have so much in common, and everything is great. The problem is that when we have

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Charles Baxter Sucks

I'm in a fiction MFA program, and one thing you learn at programs like mine is to worship certain writers. You know which ones. They're the big, heavy, talented writers with awards galore and whole Barnes and Noble sections to themselves. There's not that many of them and by and large they deserve our awe and respect. But you know who doesn't deserve my awe and respect, no matter what NYU, the National Book Award, or the O. Henry Award's got to say about it?

Charles Baxter.

I used to be a Charles Baxter fan. Back when I was 17 and first read The Feast of Love, I was into the idea of a quirky girl and sweet-hearted guy falling into impoverished, adolescent, Midwestern love. So, apparently, was the National Book Award panel - they named Feast of Love a finalist. Then, a few years later, I read Saul and Patsy, another Baxter novel about a quirky girl and sweet-hearted guy falling into impoverished, early-twenties, Midwestern love. Last year, for an NYU assignment, I tried to read Baxter's story collection, The Believers, but soon abandoned it because it started with this piece of shit story about a quirky girl and sweet-hearted guy who fall into impoverished, early-twenties, Midwestern love.

Look, I know that Baxter's written other stuff. He's got a lot of books out, and I've only read those mentioned. And there's no way every one can be about adorably unique youth falling into fairy tale rapture. But I'll never know. Because I'm fucking done with Baxter and his cheesy, self-conscious, weirdly lecherous exploration of young girls' sexuality.

By way of explanation, I present to you some thoughts on Kiss Away, the opening story in The Believers, recipient of a second place O. Henry Award, and a perfect example of why Charles Baxter is a shitty writer:

1. The boy's name is Glaze. Not really. His given name is the not-much-more-believable Walton, but he goes by Glaze because he likes donuts and staring off into space. His clever dog's name is Einstein.

I know. Glaze? Because he likes donuts?

2. Glaze falls asleep for the sole purpose of letting Baxter describe his appearance for a full page while Jodie, the girl, looks at him lovingly.

She liked the feeling of his hair in her fingers. It was like managing a small profit after two quarters of losses.

She was sitting again on the floor pillow when he woke up five minutes later. He shook his head and rubbed his face with his hands. He looked over to where Jodie was sitting. "Hi," he said.

"Here's 'hi' coming' back at you," she said. She waved all the fingers of her right hand at him.
What the fuck? First of all, putting your character to sleep so you can describe him is completely pussy. Second of all, like managing a small profit after two quarters of losses is a really bad, really inappropriate simile to come from the perspective of a girl with no money, no job, and no desire to get either. It would be much more appropriate to...I dunno...a rich, middle-aged, male academic. Like Baxter. Third of all, that "hi comin' back at you" little wave thing she does is so nauseatingly self-conscious. You can just see, with every page that passes, Baxter struggling to come up with something else "cute" for Jodie to do that she or another of his under-aged, overly-sexed protagonists hasn't already done.

3. As with his other books, people never just fuck in Baxter's world. They have soulmate sex that rocks the very center of their being every single time:
She was embarrassed by how quickly and effortlessly he made her come. She put her arms up above her head and just gave in. Women were supposed to take longer than this. Her swift ecstasy made her feel cheap. Maybe it was his slow fire burning away down on her. When she came the first time, a window shade flew up in her mind, and she could see all of her feelings waiting to be touched and moved, like passengers in a bus station. When she called out, she discovered it was Walton's name she was calling. She kissed all of his scars. She kissed his knuckles...When she looked back at him, she let him see into her soul, all the way down, where she'd never allowed anyone to own her nakedness before.
That's just awful, both as literature and as a sex scene. And even if we let the sentimentality and cliches and really bad bus station simile pass, there's still the fact it's absolutely unbelievable. It's like Baxter never actually had sex as a young person and so never learned that, largely, it sucks. Particularly for girls. They don't feel "cheap at their swift ecstasy." They feel pissed that their sweaty-faced partner can't keep it going for more than twenty seconds. They don't "discover it was their lover's name they were calling." They keep it fucking quiet, because the don't want to wake their roommate sleeping ten feet away.

4. Last but not least, just two pages before the forty-page story ends, we get smacked in the face with a laundry list of why we should like Jodie as much as Glaze and Baxter do:
Let me explain something, Walton is saying. You're beautiful. It started with that the first time I saw you. He does a little inventory: You lick your fingers after opening tin cans, you wear hats at a jaunty angle, you have a quick laugh like a bark, you move like a dancer, you're funny, you're great in bed, you love my dog, you're thoughtful, you have opinions. It's the whole package. How can I not love you?
Indeed. Baxter is the Cameron Crowe of literature - he can't get over quirky young love, so much so that his worshipful treatment of his characters makes them fake, unlikable, unbelievable, and despite all his desperate attempts, uninteresting. You lick your fingers after opening tin cans? It's like Baxter sat there, fingers poised over the keyboard, tongue sticking out of the side of his mouth, searching furiously for that last little detail that's really going to make this girl pop. An O. Henry prize. Really?

But who knows. This guy has won a lot of awards. He founded an MFA program. Maybe it's just me. Maybe the three things I've read are a bad sampling of his work. Maybe I don't know what I'm talking about.


Maybe it's the fact that I, unlike many reviewers and academics and awards panelists, have read my fair share of Danielle Steel, so I know a flowery, self-satisfied, repetitive romance novelist when I see one.

Flipping Out Just Does it For Me

I have a new favorite show. Flipping Out on Bravo. It's the newest in the house renovation reality TV trend, and by far the best. Why? I'm so glad you asked.

Before Flipping Out blew the genre out of the water, the best house flipping series was Flip This House (not to be confused with the lower-budget, personality-less Flip That House). Flip This House follows three teams of house flippers in San Antonio, Atlanta, and New Haven as they hunt for the best deal and quickest flip time. It's a fun show, interesting in the way that work is always interesting, and each team has their own "strong personality" to provide the essential red-faced drama. But there are two problems:

1. Everyone's always trying to do everything on the cheap.
2. The New Haven team is made up of a bunch of retards, one of whom is named Thad. Really. All three of them are frat boy ex-model football player dudes with a tanning bed in their office and a conversational style that necessitates repeating everything twice and then laughing. They spend the whole show taking their shirts off and talking about which one is taller, and their idea of a really brilliant joke is to throw a baseball through an intern's window, charge at him with Silly String, and then make him do pushups. Honestly. That's the best they could come up with.

Anyway, because there really is something enjoyable about watching a house being renovated, I put up with the total ass-whipping that is the New Haven crew. That is, until Flipping Out came along.

The star of the show, and the focus of all its ridiculously pleasurable footage, is Jeff. Jeff is a mid-thirties gay man with puffy lips and a talkative flair (to his assistant: "My pets are much, much more important than you." To his realtor: "OK, go ahead and fax that right over, and I'll just write a big FU on the top of the page, trace an outline of my middle finger, and send it right back, OK?"). He's got great taste, deep pockets, and OCD, which drives him to micromanage each hammered nail and pour hundreds of thousands of dollars into each flip. And then, of course, there's the je ne sais pas sort of crazy that leads him to consult psychics, fire and rehire his assistants up to ten times, and insist that every water bottle label in his fridge is turned to face outward.

At the end of the day, what really makes Jeff so watchable is that he's an asshole. He abuses his employees. He makes unreasonable requests of everyone he works with and constantly threatens to back out of deals. He has daily panic attacks. He finds, in any and every complication, the end of the world. In this and many other ways, he is the spitting image of a former boss of mine who shall remain nameless just in case she's finally figured out how to use Google. And I'm finally coming to understand why, when I was working for her, people used to lean into me with such a glint in their eye when I told yet another story about my horrific work day - crazy bosses (as long as they're not yours) are endlessly entertaining. Endlessly, endlessly, endlessly entertaining. Crazy bosses may even be more inherently interesting than house flipping, and to find them both so thoroughly explored in one attractively shot hour is a real reality TV miracle.

Thanks, Bravo. And if you're ever looking for a new show, I've got just the one. We'll call it Pop-Psychology Psychopaths, and it'll be all about whether or not a harried assistant can get a book written for a binder-flinging racist before the money runs out or one of them dies of a heart attack.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

I Heart New York

Look at this. This is a real church. I just walked by it in the East Village, and I stopped to laugh. Not maliciously, but with affection.

I'm Under a Lot of Pressure Here

So here's the problem. I have an amazing family. Really. Both sides. And it's not just that they were smart and strong and brave and entrepreneurial. It's that they participated in practically every American story I know.

They came in the 1600s, they also came as slaves. They were in Salem for the witch hunt, they hid women in their houses. They were abolitionists and Quakers. They were Indians and indentured servants. They manned the Industrial Revolution. They worked the Pullman cars through the Depression. Impossibly, they were black and owned land in the Jim Crow south. They came from Jamaica in gloves and high cheekbones. They built the first V-8 car. They abandoned the south in the Great Migration. They owned Harlem night clubs when jazz burned up Lenox. They dated Sugar Ray Robinson while he was the champ. They drank with the Rat Pack, they dined with the Kennedys. They were black stenographers before there were white ones. They sold Volkswagons. They had printing presses. They were hippies, the real kind. They may or may not have worked for the CIA.

That's a lot, right? To me, it feels like a lot. It feels like my father with every black narrative and my mother with every white one met and married and brought the wild threads of all of their histories together into two little kids with the blood and the stories of the whole goddamn country in their veins.

Do I sound like I'm bragging? I don't mean to. I'm just trying to tell you that these days when I sit down to write ghosts from all over the country and all over time come to stare over my shoulder at my blank computer screen. My brother is dead, see. So all their hopes are riding on me.

Monday, August 27, 2007

Quote of the Day

"Alberto Gonzalez is the first Attorney General who thought the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth were three different things."
Representative Rahm Emmanuel (D, Illinois)

Eau De Weekday Morning Toilette

This morning, distracted by my iPod, I accidentally got off my train a stop too soon. I was disoriented, it took me a minute to find the right staircase up, and when I finally made it into the early light, I was hit by a particularly strong odor. It was familiar - New York often stinks this way - but I knew the smell from somewhere else. It was at once industrial and musky, man-made and all-natural, and suddenly, as I stopped at a light and took another deep breath, I was no longer 25, flip flopping my way through Chelsea to work. Instead, I was 14, dressed horrifically in my pastel pink all-girls' school uniform and doc martins, straddling a pile of dog shit at 7:15 in the morning, armed with a pooper scooper and a brown paper Trader Joes bag.

See, my mother, being of the people, for the people, and by the people, always insisted that my brother and I not take advantage of any of the domestic assistants who visited our home. Julia, for example, would come to clean the house on Saturdays, and it would be our responsibility to have our rooms straightened before she came. While we whined to no end at this - cleaning in preparation for the housecleaner seemed a cruel and arbitrary exercise - we also obeyed. There was something in my mother's tone, something missing from the usual chores and requests, when she leaned over to hiss, "Julia is not your maid."

Nor, apparently, was Mr. Kubiyashi, the Japanese man who came every couple of weeks to take care of the yard. In the midst of the morning weekday frenzy - my mother throwing sandwiches together in the kitchen, Ky clomping by in one shoe, me battling my hair in the bathroom - one could hear, if listening carefully, the rattle of Mr. Kubiyashi's truck pulling up out front. I never heard it, in fact, I actively ignored it, but at the sound of gardening equipment in a truckbed, my mother's head would shoot up and her eyes would narrow.

"Miranda! Did you do the dog poo?" she would call to me across the house.
"The dog poo! Did you do the dog poo?"
"Get outside and poop scoop before Mr. Kubayashi gets started. He is not your servant!"

And, hearing the no-daughter-of-mine edge to her tone, I would sigh, put down the brush, and go out to the backyard. I scooped poop in the early light while Mr. Kubiyashi hosed down the walkway, the water sinking down into the cement and mixing with dog urine, releasing a smell I would wrinkle my nose at but not think about, not register, not identify until 11 years later and 3,000 miles away, until an old black man in a valet jacket turned off his hose for a minute to let me walk by and then started up his spray again, determined to get his sidewalk clean.

Sunday, August 26, 2007

He Looks Like a Penis, He Treats People Like Shit

I'm so sick of Bobby Flay.

Ambient Orbs to Save Earth

Have you seen this? Ambient Devices has come out with this new thing, this...orb. It uses ambient technology, which, as I understand it, is designed to give us information in a manner less stressful than a scrolling, flashing banner or aggressive pop up. Imagine that.

A wall clock is an old fashioned example of ambient technology. When you're in a room with a wall clock, you always know what time it is, even if you don't consciously check the time. Apparently, the orb is like a wall clock, only it doesn't have numbers and it looks radioactive.

So they tested this orb by hooking a few of them up to different people's stock portfolios. Each person's orb sat on their desk and when their stocks were doing well, it glowed green. If they started to lose money, the orb lightened, then turned lavender, then a dark purple. People could see how their finances were doing at a glance, and they ended up trading more often and with less anxiety.

But who cares about stocks? Now, they're using the orb to conserve energy. They hooked these things up to 1000 people's homes in England and monitored how much energy each house was using. And lo and behold, people were more prone to turn off the kitchen light if the orb in their living room reminded them to.

Then they went one step further and hooked the orbs up to the internet, so that now all the data gets recorded online. People can log on and see how much energy they're using, how much they're neighbors are using and, even cooler, how much energy all globe users are saving together. For the first time, people will be able to see how keeping their AC on low actually affects the environment.

Isn't that cool?? People can be so smart.

GTD from
Hello mir
Low self-esteem, do something about it

I Love Republicans

A quick shoutout to my two cousins Pete and Tim, who flew to LA for the memorial but left early one morning before I was up to say goodbye. They're Republicans, which is a hard thing to be in my pot smoking, ex-commie, viva la revolucion, Bush can suck it, let's-just-go-ahead-and-hang-that-graffiti-banner family. You'd think we all would have gotten into some pretty heated debates considering how much beer was stacked in our fridge, but it's a testament to Pete and Tim's charm and overall-good naturedness that we all got through the weekend as if there wasn't a war on.

Besides, Pete swears more than I do and Tim and his wife joke about how they'll only have to pay for one college tuition, since their seven-year-old is going to grow up to be a stripper. As far as I'm concerned, any father who can laugh so freely at his daughter's advanced sexual maturity has got his head screwed on straight, weapons of mass destruction or no weapons of mass destruction.

Saturday, August 25, 2007

Kevin A. Kelly Is a Genius

Do you ever listen to This American Life? I'm in love with that show. It's the best thing on the radio, and I'm an avid NPR fan. I've listened to every single episode made over the last ten years that's available online. And you should, too.

I love TAL so much, I try to tune into the new episode as soon as I can. It airs Sundays at 4 pm on WNYC, but WAMC in Albany airs it Saturdays at 8 am, so if I wake up early I can tune in online a full 16 hours earlier.

I used to search NPR stations endlessly, cataloging which stations aired TAL on Saturdays and which on Sundays, those in the mornings and those in the afternoons. My goal was to compile an exhaustive list, so that at any given hour on any given weekend I could hear the new TAL.

And then? Something amazing happened. I found a website called It's the coolest thing I've ever seen. You choose a time zone and program, it gives you every single public radio station airing that program in every possible time slot. Can you believe it?? Need your Teri Gross, but it's 11 and she comes on at 3? Easy. Curious as to what's airing right now on public radio across the nation? No problem. Want to avoid the six hour blocks of classical music so many NPR stations are prone to? They got you. Talk about better living through modern technology.

Using PublicRadioFan, I listened to TAL this morning. It was a good one, breakup themed. In it, writer and long time contributor Starlee Kine told the story of her recent breakup. He left her, she was devastated, she spent months wallowing in misery and sappy eighties breakup songs. And then, in a bizarre attempt to heal, she decided to write her own breakup song. She called Phil Collins, got some advice, collaborated with a couple of experienced musicians, and recorded a song. It's good. Phil Collins thinks so, too. Check it out.

Kevin A. Kelly, PublicRadioFan founder and editor, you are a selfless and meticulous soul, and for that I thank you.

GTD from
Hello mir
Tired of being just average?

UPDATE: I found the link to Starlee Kine's actual song, instead of just the show page. Enjoy!

Courtney Cox Was at My Brother's Funeral, and I'm Not Sure How to Feel About It

I'd been wondering what we'd do exactly, at the funeral. My family isn't religious, and what little I knew about funerals had to do with ashes and holy water and God. We talked about a small graveside service, but what did that mean? What would we say? For the first time in my life, I understood religion's real world, practical purpose: it gives you a script when everything becomes so horrible you don't know what to do.

We did good, though. Close family friends Sam and RJ spoke lovely words about Kyle, and Dorian sang the most ridiculously powerful version of No Woman No Cry, leaving the whole place sobbing and muttering - to each other, to themselves, like zombies - "Everything's gonna be alright. Everthing's gonna be alright."

I realized then, also for the first time, the real world, practical purpose of singers. They're not supposed to be moaning, jiggling, thirteen year old virgins. They're not supposed to catalog their wealth in unimaginative rhyme. They're supposed to bring people to their knees. They're supposed convey a desperation that can't be spoken. Their voices break with emotion but then recover, their faces twist the way our hearts do. And in all the misery, they are the only ones with the rhythm of a beat and the structure of a melody.

So then the funeral ended and I'm not sure what really happened next. I was crying with my head down, people were touching my shoulder and back, pulling me up to hug me and setting me back down. I had somehow ended up at my brother's funeral without a tissue, so my face was covered in snot, and I was sort of wishing that everyone would just leave. A reception was to follow, they could touch me then. After I'd washed my face.

And then, someone took my hand. I looked up.

It was Courtney Cox.

She looked amazing. Very small - I could've wrapped my hand around her waist - and tough. She was wearing these stilettos and we were on grass, and anyone who's tried knows that heels just punch right through sod, so that with each step you're burying and unearthing the back half of your shoe. But Courtney Cox? She hovered on the grass. Through steely determination or the clenching of an exact combination of muscles, I don't know. But she rocked that graveside.

"I'm so sorry for your loss." She squeezed my hand, I thanked her, and she went on to my mother.

For the short time she stood in front of me, though, I stopped crying. My brother is dead, we're burying him, I look up, and there is tiny Friends megastar Courtney Cox in black and stilettos, floating above the grass, staring out of her sunglasses and into mine with sadness and sympathy while the briefest, most inappropriate giggle tickles my stomach. It was weird.

I'm glad she was there, though. Of course famous people came to my brother's funeral. He was awesome.

Friday, August 24, 2007

Common People

Have you ever heard William Shatner's cover of Common People by Pulp?

Now, before your lip slides up too high in a superior sneer - as mine did when I discovered Shatner covertly slipped onto my ipod - you should know that it is amazing. Really. For whatever reason, Shatner's pompous, insane talk-singing works just exquisitely with this song. The production is amazing and the chorus? It rocks.

So I went to find it on youtube to show you, but I could only find videos made by others. The best of which is below. At first, I was gonna tell you to press play and then minimize the screen, so you could listen to the song without watching some dude mouthing the words. But then I watched the dude? And he's good. I like him. So now I suggest listening first without watching, so you can get the satisfaction of imaging Shatner in Star Trek pajamas telling what's what to some rich bitch, and then watch the dude.

In Case Of Emergency, Break Glass

Things have not been going well. Don't worry, I'm ok, it's just that this shit is proving harder than expected. I was warned. People and pamphlets have told me that grief is this really mysterious thing that manifests itself differently in everyone, that I'll feel fine and then awful and then fine and then awful again, that I may think I'm going crazy.

Still, I didn't expect this.

I get hysterical. Think of a baby, the brattiest little baby you know at her very worst. Her face and fists at their tightest, reddest, snottiest. I have panic attacks, the likes of which I haven't seen since my Gail Sheehy days. I still haven't unpacked my suitcase. The fiction I'm digging myself into debt for seems ridiculous. I'm having trouble convincing myself to shower regularly. I can't do anything.

Except blog. I love blogging. I love talking to you. Who knew? Never in my life have I cared one way or the other about blogs, and now I can't get enough. Every thought I have seems bloggable. I finish one and immediately start the next. Right now I have six draft blogs waiting to be polished and posted. Does that seem crazy? It feels a little crazy.

But the other thing the people and the pamphlets said is do what helps. Life feels at the same time insultingly short and impossibly, overwhelmingly long. I miss my brother. But writing this really helps. Knowing you're reading this really helps.

Thank you.

GTD from
Faith Berger feminist modernday biblical tale Mary Egpyt portrait Jewish
solid substance separates boiling

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Ghost Text of the Day (GTD)

Some weird shit is up with my cell phone. I get these random texts that aren't from people I know and that aren't meant for me. Most of the time, it's spam. Sometimes they refer to me as Miranda. Sometimes they refer to me as Mir, and only my mother, brother, and Katie B call me Mir. They say things like, "Did u get prk chps 4 din Mir? Delilia's comin," or "Mir u out? Welcum bak 2 da wurld nigga!" and I know they're not meant for this Mir. Still, it's spooky.

I've tried to stop it. I've texted back, called back, emailed back, spent really absurd amounts of time on the phone with Verizon, and no one knows what the fuck is going on. The best solution anyone can come up with is for me to shut off my texts completely (barbaric), change my number (ha), or pay the $5.99 sucker fee for unlimited texting. I chose the later, and to put up with my phone beeping ten times a day with ghost texts.

Which would be fine, but it means I have to put my phone on silent at night to get any sleep. Which would be fine, except the night my brother died? My phone was on silent. I have no house phone, and my cell was on silent.

I didn't hear it ring. Over and over and over.

It was around five in the morning, I was stumbling back from the bathroom, I didn't have my glasses on, but I saw that my phone was lit up. I was this close to not checking it. It was almost morning, the sky outside was a lighter blue, I could've just gone back to sleep for another couple of hours. It was probably a goddamn ghost text, anyway.

So I don't know why I checked it. But I did.

22 missed calls.

There is no worse feeling that I know in the entire world than 22 missed calls. It physically moves the organs. Literally. Your organs move in a terrible way and they're not used to it and it fucking hurts. You think it can't get worse. But then you call back, your mother picks up, and you realize that you were wrong.

So, dear reader, for your enjoyment, a sampling of ghost texts currently in my inbox:

Hello mir You MUST enlarge ur penis!

Thanks, we are ready to lend money) Your credit history doesn't matter to
us! If your family OWN property and want IMMEDIATE cash to spend ANY way you like,

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Dear Member, Here is your membership info for Dog Lovers.

Are you ready to have fun at Resume Hunters.

Yo Dude, I took these pics of my sister-in-law. OMG she is so hot. See for yourself!

In other respects this is just a 16-bit translation of the 1550 routine. HERE WE GO AGAIN!

The drawing mode specifies how the colors of the pen and the interior of filled objects are combined with the color already on the display surface

Means FIDEL CASTRO GAMES. Dig it Fidel.

I Have a Question For You

If the 50s are a pair of unironic thick rimmed glasses left on a crepe papered table with a few half deflated balloons and a sprung mousetrap...

And the 70s are the dust wiped off your neighbor's window with a cuffed sleeve to peer into his wood-paneled finished basement only to find a huge organ being played by a man with bad teeth, no pants, and threadbare tighty-whities...

And the 80s are a pile of dog shit on a New York corner next to a stinking collection of black garbage bags that a hooker steps over in one of those Jane Fonda outside thong leotards before tripping on the long ribbon of a cassette tape, unspooled and fluttering...

What are the 60s?

How about the 90s?

I've tried and tried, and I just can't do them. I don't know why. So help me, please.

I Love Tall Men

My brother was 6'8". That's really tall. Taller than just tall. The sort of tall that made people stop him in the street just to quantify it. I was used to it, though. Like many friends and family of the tall, I just rolled my eyes with proprietary nonchalance. "Yup, he's tall alright. 6'8". Been that way for years."

Now, though, height seems precious, almost magical. My father's old friend Brian was at the memorial on Sunday. He's 7', and I couldn't get enough. I hugged him three times, touched his shoulder and chest, adjusted his tie. "God, it's nice to have a tall person here," I told him. Later, I learned that people came up to him all day saying the same thing, and then apologized for how ridiculous that sounded.

What is it about tall men? Why, now that we've lost ours, do we envy others' so much? It's something beyond their actual height, beyond the help they provide with vents and ligthbulbs and corner cobwebs. It's something in the line of their necks and their grace. It's the way they enter doorways and unfold out of chairs, their lanky giraffe walk and how they don't seem to distinguish between people who are 4'11" and 5'11". It's how they smile easily down at you, so used to having to reassure people, to convince them of their own harmlessness.

I walk the streets now looking for heads above the crowd. I want to stop every tall man I see, run my hands over his muscles like a horse's, make him hold me for a moment. I want to thank him for surviving so long.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

NAACP "Advances" Colored People

Did you see this? The NAACP came down in support of Michael Vick, the creepy dude who lynched dogs and threw a football around.

Does anyone else find this insane? It's the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, not the National Association for All Black Folk, No Matter How Fucking Crazy They Are. What are we as a people possibly going to gain from hanging out with an animal murderer? I don't care how fast he can run, don't y'all know how the white folks feel about shit like this? As a proud member of both races, I feel compelled to point out that white folk get their feelings hurt when black folk rally around some no good son of a bitch just because his skin's dark. Here they thought everything was going fine, they just had a very lovely African American couple over for dinner the other night in fact, and then they flick on the TV only to discover that Black People are publicly in the puppy-torturer camp.

Hey NAACP, no need to scrape the bottom of the barrel to find some color to help. Give me an hour, and I'll give you a list of names that will keep you busy for years.

Ted Danson, Kerri Russell, and Bill O'Reilly

Well, I'm back in New York. The flight was alright. I've figured out that complete exhaustion or two bloody marys make turbulence lightyears more manageable. And that was even without watching the inflight programming. I was flying American, and they force everyone to watch the same thing on the same fuzzy screen (get with the program, American. It's all about individual seatback TVs these days). On my flight, it was The Waitress and then multiple episodes of Wings. Which seemed weird to me. Wasn't Wings canceled like fifteen years ago? Is it really that hard to buy a program that aired in the last decade, that your viewers might have some relationship with, that doesn't so blatantly say We don't give two fucks about you? And then, twenty minutes before we landed, Cheers came on. I was like, are you fucking kidding me? This whole time you had Cheers back there in your condescending hands and you've been whipping us with Wings? I won't even get started on The Waitress, since I know a number of romantic comedy fans who are likely reading this right now. But let me just say, Like Water for Chocolate and Chocolat took care of the whole pornographic cooking closeups really well. I think, as a society, we're good. We don't need Kerri Russell and some dude mashing blackberries and breathing heavily. And for God's sake, is stirring chocolate really that sexy?

One last question, and then I have to take care of at least some of the gazillion things I've been avoiding for weeks.

What's up with all the seatbelt totalitarianism airlines are kicking these days? It's like a game the pilot plays - how many people can we get in line for the bathroom before we hit our stupid ding button and make everyone go back to their seats? The thing I don't understand is why. When our plane crashes to the earth in a jetfuel blueball of fiery hell, what are those belts supposed to do for us exactly? Keep us secure in our burning seats? Keep us from bruising our delicate selves as the plane hurtles back to the very ground it never should have been so cocky about leaving in the first place? Keep our charred bodies orderly while rescue crews dig through the wreckage with Fox News salivating at their backs? Are plane seatbelts really a lifesaving measure, or just another way to keep us strapped down and begging for life's necessities - air, water, space, a toilet - like a bunch of overpaying toddler/suckers?

Guess which side I've come down on, America.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

In Other News

I found this is the bathroom and couldn't resist:

I know its blurry and kinda hard to read, but the really good stuff is top right.

The singing skirt's names was Ellen Robb.
Age - about twenty-five.
Occupation - singer in a night club.
Figure - superb.

Don't you just love books?

And look what else I found. My brother's boots:

He wore a size 14. Like goddamn clown shoes. Here's a picture with my mother's very normal sized sneaker:

Ooh! My mother just came into the room with presents! She went to Scotland this summer, back BKD, and brought back presents that understandably were never distributed. Two little cookbooks - Scottish Fish Recipes (Herrings in Oatmeal, Ham and Haddie Layer, Potted or Soused Herrings) and Scottish Teatime Recipes (Pitcaithly Bannock, Petticoat Tails, Honey and Whiskey Cake), two clan tea towels - one Sinclair and one Campbell, these really beautiful little earrings made from real Scottish heather (though I don't quite understand how), and a spurtle, which is my new favorite thing. I'm trying to upload a picture of it, but the goddamn blog picture insert thing won't work right now. Anyway, it looks like it could be a tall white woman's wooden sex toy, but is actually a porridge-stirrer. Imagine a wooden spoon without the spoon part. Thanks, mom. I don't know what the hell I'm going to do with this.

UPDATE: So I guess sometimes my pictures don't post at all, though they appear on my computer, confusing please let me know if you notice a missing image.
Here, the spurtle:

Monday, August 20, 2007

Find Your Friends

Three of Kyle's really close friends spent 8 hours working on this huge canvas painting for Ky. Dfeat, I gather, is Ky's graffiti name. This thing is massive, like 8x15 ft or something, and they brought it to the memorial all rolled up and presented it to my mother. She was touched, she loved it, and now it's hanging on her living room wall.

Yes, my mother has humongous graffiti art above her sofa. It's kinda weird? But it's also another example of why my mother is awesome.

Cat Looks Like Lion, Dog Flies, is Autistic

I'm going back to New York tomorrow, but before I go, a word on my pets. I know there's nothing more annoying than some chick going on about how cuuute Paisley is when she does that thing with her paw, but humor me. My brother just died.

Alright, first The Cat. The Cat doesn't have a name, we just call him The Cat. It's kind of sad. We've had so many pets over the years and doggedly came up with names for all of them, but The Cat was the last in a long line. By the time we got to him, Kyle and I were teenagers, my single mother had laundry to do, and honestly, no one cared.

When I came home last month for the funeral, The Cat was completely matted. Everywhere. It was like petting a braided rug. He used to have this long, beautiful coat, but now he just looked miserable, he probably felt miserable, and touching him was miserable. I felt bad for The Cat, but Kyle had just died, and honestly, no one cared.

I came home this time and the cat was shaved. Have you ever seen a cat shaved? It's really ugly. And they left his paws and lion's mane and a puff on his tail. Like a cat poodle. He looks ridiculous.

The crazy thing is? Everyone likes The Cat better. Like, a lot better. The Cat lives with my mother and aunt, and they've never really liked him. They found him "weird," "needy," and "I dunno, just sort of...lacking." And then they shaved him, he got uglier, and now they love him.

Look how big his head looks:

And then there's Toby. Poor Toby. The best we can figure, he's autistic. Well, maybe Asperger's. He's scared of every single moving object he's ever encountered outside of the home. And of some unmoving objects, particularly garbage cans, parked cars, and real estate signs. He's morose, very reminiscent of Eeyore, and never makes eye contact. At his absolute happiest, he may walk slowly towards you, head low, tail wagging sadly.

Here's how Toby looks 99% of the time:

The 1% of the time he doesn't look like this, he's a fucking maniac. At the top of his list of fears are fireworks, and my mother lives by the marina, where all these rich white people shoot off fireworks from their yachts all goddamn summer in celebration of their ridiculous wealth. Twice this year, fireworks went off while Toby was home alone, he flipped his shit, and jumped out the window.

Yes. Jumped out the window.

And the reason that's completely insane is my mother lives in a condo on the second floor. Jumping out the window involves falling two stories into a thin clump of bushes. My dog is so fucked up that fireworks cause him to fling himself against the screen until it pops loose and then he throws his body out the window.

And here, the scene of the crime:

Amazingly, Toby has never been hurt in the fall. The only possible explanation? My dog can fly.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

A Lot of People Loved My Brother

Today was Kyle's memorial. A huge number of people showed up. 150? 200? Eagle Rock rolled heavy, and there was a strong San Francisco contingent. All ten crew members of Hollywood's black film industry were there, hipster LA represented, and a fair number of tattoos kept the crowd young. Piano teachers, little league coaches, women who had been friends of mine who now had babies. I saw people I hadn't see in ten years. One big black lady I'd never met before came up and gave me a hug that took my breath away. I mean it. This was a medicinal embrace. All these beautiful young women in dresses and sneakers flew around the place, ferrying fruit salad and water and a surprising number of sandwiches - including Joanne's homemade BBQ rolls, Lord. There was a slideshow I couldn't watch and a pack of smokers out front that, miraculously, I didn't join. People let me skip ahead of them in line for the bathroom. It was a really great day.

EXCEPT I forgot my camera like a goddamn idiot. If anyone who was there has pictures, send them to me! Also, any pictures or stories about Kyle are always appreciated.

A number of friends and family spoke. Here's what I read in what I think was a reasonably steady voice:

Hi everybody, and thank you for coming.

This sucks, doesn’t it? This is just the worst thing ever. When my mother asked me if I’d like to read anything at Kyle’s memorial, my first reaction was to say no, because all I could think in the days and weeks after his death was what a horrible place the world is. A senseless, cruel, unfeeling place. And I knew that everyone else grieving over his passing would feel the same way – that this sucks. I could have just printed that on a hundred bumper stickers and passed them out to you all at the door – This Sucks. It didn’t seem like there was anything else to say.

But then, driving by the Italian Bakery just up the road on Colorado Boulevard yesterday, I remembered something. They used to sell these little iced cream puffs in white boxes tied with string, and when we were kids my dad would bring home one of these boxes with what seemed like ridiculous infrequency. He would sneak it into the fridge, where Kyle or I would notice it hiding behind the milk and we would whisper to each other for the rest of the day in anticipatory bliss. We would set the table without being asked, plow enthusiastically through our greens, I would even finish all my milk. And then the white box would be brought out, the string cut, and the top lifted to reveal four perfect puffs on their paper doilies. They were always heavier than expected and, holding them in our eager hands, we could feel through the pastry the cold, thick custard inside. It was thrilling.

Kyle would eat his right up, smiling his crooked-tooth grin and licking the paper clean. He adored the cream puffs, and so, when given one, he didn’t think, he just ate it with joy.

I, on the other hand, was a nasty little kid. When I got my cream puff, I examined every inch before taking the smallest nibble. I lapped at the custard like a kitten. I ate the thing crumb by crumb, always saving the icing on top for last. I wish I could say I did this because of some budding culinary palate or early onset OCD, but no. I did it to be mean. I knew Ky would eat his and then look over and see me, still calmly working my way through the first third. I knew he would ask for a bite. And I knew I would close my eyes, lick my lips with slow, deliberate intent, and say no. Kyle saw a cream puff and got excited. I saw a cream puff and got revenge.

The trend continued as we got older. As many of you know, Kyle had some…problems when it came to education. He also had some…problems when it came to finding, and holding, a job. While this was certainly changing later in his life, he spent many years not doing what was expected of him, much to the frustration of his family. I think that to some extent we were all sort of anticipating the day he would make good on a promise he made to me half-joking in high school: he would give me a few years to get settled, wait till I popped out a couple of kids, then move in with me and babysit in return for room and board.

Noting Kyle’s lack of traditional progress, we all waited for the day we would get to shake our fingers and remind him that we told him so. This is why you go to school, after all. This is why you get jobs and keep them. This is why you plan, think ahead, and don’t just do what you want when you want – to avoid finding yourself covered in baby vomit, sleeping on your sister’s couch in your mid thirties.

It was Kyle, though, who showed us in the end. He pursued friends, places, and books with little thought to whether or not they helped him meet some societal benchmark in a timely manner. He listened to music and fell in love and lived in a hostel with San Franciscan transients, all without wondering where he was going to be in five years. In college, he went to class not because the credits would push him that much closer to graduation, but because he actually had something to say about Spanish colonial history. Kyle lived like he ate cream puffs – quickly, joyfully, and without a master plan.

And so, while all this still sucks, there is something lovely, even hopeful, in remembering that a good life is not defined by degrees or income or a solid ten year outline, but by taking daily pleasure in what’s already there in front of you.

I never thought I’d say this, certainly not with a camera rolling, but Kyle, Ky Ky, my beautiful baby brother, you were right. At the end of the day, you are loved by a ridiculous number of people, and not one of us cares that you can’t do Algebra. I’m just so very sorry I never told you this while you were alive.

Saturday, August 18, 2007

My Brother's Grave is the Shit

See those flowers? There he is.

I visited my brother's grave today with my dad. Isn't it beautiful? It's in an old section of the Hollywood Hills Forest Lawn Cemetery, at the top of the same hill my friend Julie and I would go have picnics on when we worked this shitty telemarketing job nearby at the Hollywood Bowl. Normally, it's hard to get space in the older parts of the cemetery because everything's been sold. But there are these people who call themselves plot brokers, and they can make shit happen.

Yes, you heard me. There's an actual job in this world where you broker a deal between someone who has an extra grave on their hands and someone else who is graveless. I don't quite understand it myself - how many people are walking around out there with extra graves? How do you end up with too many graves to begin with? Are there really so many unwanted graves that they can support a whole profession? - but after meeting with two plot brokers (grave slingers? tomb agents? crypt keepers?), we found the absolutely most perfect spot in the whole wide world. It's quiet and peaceful and back against these wild LA hills, and today I laid down in the grass and the sun shone and I felt my brother's body there through the earth.

Here I am sitting next to Kyle. There's no plaque yet, so his grave is just marked by flowers:

And here's the view from his grave. That's my dad in his Panama hat. And that's his Prius:

The best - and weirdest - thing about all of this is that the plot we bought is called a companion plot. Which means it's 12 ft deep and someone else can be buried there, too. It's like a duplex. So my mother's going in. And yes, asking your mother if we can buy two graves, instead of one, so that she can buried on top of her son is just as uncomfortable as you'd think. Luckily, she was receptive.

Like a Plane in a Lightening Storm

Well, I’m at the goddamn airport. It’s 9:18 pm. My plane was scheduled to leave at 8:30. Now they’re telling us we’ll start boarding at 11:30, but that’s hardly likely now, is it? Lightning is flashing outside. I’m trying to remind myself that there’s no statistical way my parents could lose both their children in freak accidents a month apart. The hangar is packed. All chairs filled, all kids screaming, all men gathered around the few flat screens showing some useless football game.

A woman just came up to me, dumped her bags on my feet, and is now squatting over my flipflops, digging through her shit like I’m not even here. What is it about air travel that destroys people’s sense of personal space? Just who the fuck does she think she is? How can she possibly not anticipate me feeling just as snarky as she does? How does she know I’m not going to wipe that self-important sneer right off her face with my unwashed foot?

Not that I would. I’m nonviolent.

Well, while I have some time to kill, have you ever seen Who Wants To Be a Superhero? The answer is likely no, since it’s on the SciFi Channel, and it takes a real shitpoor timeslot for their programming to win the channel surfing war. Do yourself a favor and pause, though, if you ever happen to flip by and notice a group of grown ass adults dressed in some homemade approximation of a child’s drawing of a superhero costume.

Here’s the premise: ten, or twelve, or who cares how many people are competing to become the star of a new Darkhorse Comic series. Which is cool - who doesn’t want to see the Barbie/Ken version of themselves in cartoon spandex? Unfortunately, that’s the only cool thing about the show. Each contestant has designed his/her own superhero alter ego, none of which are very convincing. There’s Diffuser, whose superpower seems to be bossing people around. There’s Braid who, you guessed it, wears braids. There’s Basura, who you’d think would be covered in trash or at least a sickly green or something, but who just walks around in not much of a shirt looking embarrassed. And then there’s my favorite, the unfortunately named Hygenia. Yes, Hygenia. I’m not sure about her powers, but she seems to have some OCD issues. All of them run around in cardboard and tinfoil, strike sadly alert poses on command, and stand there nodding and staring at their “transmitter watches” while their missions are explained to the viewer by a shrunken and superimposed Stan Lee.

What a waste.

Why not make the show real? Why not put actually talented people in actually tense situations? No need for these hacks to write their own backstories and sew their own outfits. No need to “test” their “warrior hearts” with wind machines and unconvincingly wailing “mothers” of “lost children.” You want heroism? Get an ex-Marine, an acrobat, a lion tamer, a trick roper, a chess grand wizard and an eight-year-old girl genius, put them in a room, throw in a hungry crocodile, and roll camera. I’m sure you could get past the red tape easily enough, just call Steve Irwin’s lawyer.

Come on, SciFi Channel, this shit ain’t hard.

Friday, August 17, 2007

Dog - He's a Bounty Hunter

Do you watch Dog The Bounty Hunter? If so, did you see the absolutely amazing origin story they aired the other night? Oh my god. I mean...

Let me step back. For those of you less familiar with the wonder that is Dog, he and his family are leather-clad, ex-con Hawaiian bounty hunters who believe in absolutely every religious tradition they've ever heard of and adorn themselves with Dreamcatchers. They pray all the time. They hunt down iceheads, throw them to the ground, cuff and cuss at them, haul them into their very black SUVs, and then the most amazing thing happens: Dog lights a cigarette, puts it in the con's mouth, and starts to testify. Like a straight up bare-knuckled front-of-the-room AA baring of his soul. He tells the con to look at this truck ride to jail as an opportunity to regain control over his life, a way to quit drugs, a gift, and he does it all without judgment or condescension. Ten minutes earlier he was holding a motherfucker's face to the ground, and now he's pulling out his cell so this wild-eyed drug addict can tell his girlfriend he's sorry. And the cons love it. They cry, they hug Dog, they thank him for saving their lives and families. They are totally convinced.
And so am I.
Dog is the real deal, and why the show works, what keeps it from being melodramatic, self important, or just plain pathetic is that it's absolutely earnest. There's not a drop of sarcasm or the hint of a sneer anywhere in Dog or his family. His son, Leland, is this close to being a semi-retarded frat boy gym rat, but then we see him give the cons with the same slow explanations and gentle consideration as his dad. Beth, Dog's wife, is this close to being an entitled bitch in diamonds and stilettos, and then she pulls a thirteen year-old girl aside and rocks her in her arms while telling her why daddy going to jail is a good thing. And her breasts? They make mine look like a ballerina's.

Anyway, at long last, the A&E people finally filmed Dog's origin story and man, is it worth it. They have actual footage of Dog saying to an old cop girlfriend (while crying behind his sunglasses), "You can't make a recipe for a Dog without a cup of Cathy Carson."
Later, in reference to a Native American tear-filled pouch he left on his father's grave: "That's a personal thing between me and my daddy."
And, in a unbelievable life-mimics-art comic book moment, Dog recounts the exact second he became Dog, the Bounty Hunter. He was in jail at the time and took off after a runaway prisoner to keep a guard from using his weapon. Dog tackled the guy, held him, and the guard walked over, threw down his cuffs, and said, "Hook 'em up, bounty hunter."
You can't write that shit. No one would believe it.

So Dog, I love you.

Here's a clip of him visiting his father's grave, just like I'll be visiting my brother this weekend. Check out the matching leopard print:

If You Don't Hear From Me Again, I Told You So

Theres a memorial for my brother this Sunday, so I'm flying to Los Angeles today and man, am I not looking forward to it. I hate flying. I'm serious. I don't find it tedious or uncomfortable or boring, I find it absolutely miserable. My ridiculous legs press against the seat in front of me, I'm always stuck next to some talkative dude, I'm forever in the section with the bitchy flight attendant, and then there's the actual plane. You know what I'm talking about - the Made in China jiggle that the wings do, the mysterious banging coming from god knows where, and the absolutely inappropriate lurches as the pilot struggles against all of physics to keep us from falling out of the goddamn sky.

You'd think, with all our ingenuity and creativity and cleverness that, as a species, we'd have come up with a better way to get around then tossing a metal tube into the air. So let's get to it, America. Let's knock out this Iraq bullshit and start working on a way for me to get across the country without asphyxiating.

And if you're in LA this weekend, you're invited to Ky's memorial. Aug 19 at the Eagle Rock Community Cultural Center, 2225 Colorado Blvd, 11-2. Come on by and watch me cry!

Thursday, August 16, 2007

My Brother Was a Writer, Too

About five or six years BKD, I went back home for Christmas vacation and met up with Suzie, a childhood friend I hadn't seen in years. It was one of those chilly Los Angeles nights that I always forget about when I'm coming home - it will always be weird that the desert gets cold - and we turned on the heat in my mother's car. We picked up some of her friends, drove to the top of a Highland Park hill, and climbed over a guard rail to a graffitied cement wall. The street was quiet and they all poured out off the car to circle the wall, sleek and hungry in hoodies and Converse, rattling cans of spray paint at their hips. I stood off to the side and talked with a young guy who seemed to find my adorable purse and heeled boots funny.
"I've been a writer for years," he said.
"You write? Me too."
"What do you write?"
"Fiction. Short stories, mostly."
"Uh, no." He smirked and pointed at the wall. "I meant graf."
That's when I realized that, despite my best intentions, I wasn't cool. And that my definition of "writer" was rather narrow.

Recently, Ky became a "writer" in his own right. I just found that out. There's a lot I don't know about my brother.

After he died, my mother sent me a link to a graffiti site that his friends post to. It has some of Ky's writing and then a bunch of RIP stuff his friends have done. Check it out.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

"I Have Found the Promised Land and It is Beautiful" or "Dad, You Can Skip This One"

I have huge breasts.
I'm not bragging, just narrating.
They're massive, heavy, and require industrial scaffolding to keep from swinging like the new century Barry Bonds.
I'm not alone. There's my mother. Her sisters. The women on my dad's side. And, since I come by my breasts honestly, I resent them.
Buying bras has always been an epic mission. As a teenager, I barreled through all the dainty bra sizes, never even owning an A or B cup and only briefly pausing at a C. My mother noted my progress (wearily, almost sadly, as I stood bare-chested at the dryer looking for a bra: "Oh, honey. Looks like you got 'em, too.") and took me to her "special shop" to get fitted.
The saleswoman was a five-foot tall Eastern European woman with a formidable shelf of her own. She stripped me, measured me, pinched the skin at my bra line and disappeared, only to come back with an armful of the ugliest, most matronly nineteenth-century corsets I'd ever seen. Each one was like a toy castle - if you fastened the back and set the bra down carefully on the floor, it could stand up on its own, cups arched like flying buttresses, straps hanging like flags, the bottom band as thick and sturdy as any fortress wall.
I put one on. It stretched from my bellybutton to my collarbone.
"Perfect," the saleswoman said.

Since then, I've been a bra migrant. Macy's, The Gap, Nordstrom's - for years I've wandered through their pretty lingerie sections to the back wall where they keep the ugly stuff. Large breasts, it seemed, were only to be found on fat women no longer interested in anything near the realm of attractive. Or on strippers, whose buoyant implants had no need for underwire. I tried on bra after bra, decided to believe the sixteen-year-old who fitted me at The Gap and insisted I was a 36 DD - a size that, while too big for the assholes at Victoria Secret to stock, was occasionally possible to find at some out-of-the-way department stores - and spent a decade fighting muffin-tops and peek-a-boos.

And then my life changed.

Earlier this summer, BKD (before Ky died), I went to a party and in walked Kristy, dear friend of Megan, who is a dear friend of Kate, who is a dear friend of mine, and we were all like, snap! The girl had it going on - thin, massive breasts, flawless silhouette. They're so perky, someone whispered. And they were. They were glorious and, after some backroom gossiping, confirmed to be real.
I grabbed Kristy's wrist, holding on maybe a little too tightly as I tore through my purse looking for a pen. "Kristy, sweetie, where do you buy your bras?"
Here, dear reader, I'll pause for you to run and get a pen of your own, because if you yourself are not a bra migrant, surely you know someone who is, and if they don't happen to live in the NYC metropolitan area, surely they'll find themselves here sometime or another in the years to come, and if so, they absolutely must visit this store:
Town Shop
I'm not fucking around. 2273 Broadway, btwn 81 and 82nd Sts. Write it down.

So today at around 12:30 pm, I went. I must've hit a lunchtime rush because the place was busy. In the front of the store, loud Jewish women pushed through racks of bras and panties with menopausal authority, shouting across the store to their daughters and friends, It's here! It's here in Wheat! and Cup size, darling! I need your cups!
The fitting counter was in the back. I wrote my name down on a waiting list while the Town Shop employees - unsmiling black women with dozens of bras looped around their arms - squeezed past me as if I wasn't there.
And then my name came up. I was shown to my fitting room, a curtained nook with a chair and full length mirror. In the room next to mine, I could hear another loud Jewish lady: "I don't want 'em minimized, I don't want 'em maximized. I want 'em to look how they should look, so you bring me the bra that's gonna do that."
My own saleswoman was petite and very pregnant. Not a promising sign. Even with a six-month belly, she barely pushed a B cup.
"What do you want?"
"I have nothing. My bras are all old, they don't fit, the underwire is snapped. I need something I can wear with a t-shirt."
"Take it off."
I undressed. She looked at me, turned me around once, and disappeared. She didn't even pull out a tape measure. When she came back, it was with one bra. One.
She held it out for me while I looped my arms through the straps.
"Lean forward."
I did, my ass pressing against her round belly as she reached around me to give each one of my breasts a firm jiggle. She turned me to face the mirror.
I couldn't say anything more. My breasts, finally slung in cups large enough for them, actually looked smaller. The bra was cut attractively low, supportive but still V-neckable. My stomach remained bare. The band neither dug into my spine nor rode up to my shoulder blades. And it only had two hooks. Two!!
I tried a tentative bounce. Nothing. I jumped. They stayed where they were. No jaw-dropping heave. No busting out the top. I turned to the side and, at the sight of my smooth, seamless silhouette, burst into tears.
"What size is this?" I managed.
"34 FF."
Fuck The Gap.
"How could you possible have known? You didn't even measure me."
She just rolled her eyes and popped the tag off my brand new best friend.
"You should wear it out. That thing," she waved distastefully at my 36 DD, abandoned on the floor, "should be thrown away."

So thank you, Town Shop. Thank you, Kristy. My breasts look amazing. And even in the shittiest of times, the value of a good bra cannot be denied.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

The Nitty Gritty

Hi there.

If you're reading this, you likely know me. Or you knew my brother. And now, because he is dead, I'm the only place to go to get this particular genetic blend. Sucks for you, but provides me with a captive audience.

My brother died on July 5, 2007. He fell from a train, hit his head, and was killed instantly. Well, sort of. His brain was killed instantly but his body remained alive, allowing time for my mom, my dad, and my dad's wife to drive up to the Palo Alto hospital from Los Angeles together in the middle of the night (a laughable image, if you can stop crying long enough to find the humor in my father being stuck in a sedan for six hours with his past and present Mrs.) and for me to fly in from New York so we could gather around his still-warm body and stare at the bandage on his head and not know what the fuck to do. He was 22.

Machines kept him alive. His fingers twitched sometimes. One eye was covered by gauze and the other was open, watery, the lashes clumped by some sort of unfamiliar mucusy-stuff that reminded me of just how mysterious our bodies are.

He couldn't hear us, but we spoke to him. My mother washed his feet with Koranic care. A nurse found a 2001 New York quarter stuck to his body and gave it to me. People came from all over the country to cry over him. I kissed his cheek - something I hadn't done in 5? 10? 15? years - and wished I'd kissed him more when he was alive.

His organs were removed for donation, and then we buried him.

Since Ky's death, people keep giving me this look, this oh-my-god-are-you-about-to-cry-in-front-of-me look, which makes me want to reassure everyone that I'm ok, even if I'm not. So I've started a blog where you can all come to see what's going on with me, and you can feel reassured that I'm not a complete blubbery mess all of the time, and I'll post things about Ky but also not about Ky, because Jesus, there's only so much utter misery one can take.