I forgot how nice it is to know someone for so long that you can’t really remember a time you didn’t know them. My ninth birthday party, on video, me with hair so long it reached my butt, perpetually uncombed and snarled and hers matching in every respect except for how much darker it was. Constantly searching for the portal to Narnia on her parents’ expansive acreage, choking on oversized Valentine’s Day candy, always being just a little too terrified to feed carrots to the horses in her grandparents’ stables. Losing touch for no reason but reconnecting unexpectedly, my third college and the one I would stick to, albeit begrudgingly. A ten year mystery solved and her calling me on the phone to tell me everything. Her first trip to California and the three of us—her husband, her, me—drove through Mulholland and walked aimlessly around Runyon Canyon and ended up at the Getty, peering through the telescope to see Jupiter, the last ones let in for the night. Disneyland and Point Dume and a beach filled with dead sea lions, babies and adults, some half-decomposed and some that could have been sleeping. A trio of dolphins and a grey whale that followed us half a mile along the shore, coming up every few minutes to breathe.
When they left Tuesday night I was exhausted and suddenly alone. I spent hours on S’s couch playing Mario Brothers and drinking our new favorite wine, bought by the case and stacked neatly next to the TV. I was ready for bed by 9 and I slept late the next day, waking up to skin sun burned and tingling, hair messy and full of salt. I worked yesterday from my bed, cross-legged and chugging water, finally feeling more settled with the work I’m doing. Finally feeling more settled with a lot of things, probably.
Yesterday S hid a cheese plate in an empty cardboard box and we drank martinis and he put a record on and we tried to stay awake to watch Letterman’s final show but couldn’t. I woke up to a city cold and grey—Los Angeles’s two months of resolute gloom—and a welcome email from my agent. Clean sheets and laundry hanging to dry and my apartment still just a little too small and a little too messy. But mine, anyway, and empty, and quiet, and nice.
So many things new. New job. Old friends newly relocated to my city. New book approved for publication (book 2!). New, cold air. New rain. New pain. A new (old) cherry red suitcase and a new (old) map of a city I’ve never been. A new decade entered into with more and more certainty, more and more confidence. A new (old) hobby picked up again and new (old) places to explore.
The other week Jaimee and I went to the Huntington Library and spent four brutally hot hours in the sun, burning the tops of our feet and hiding under our almost-identical straw hats. I shot photographs for Jaimee’s vintage store and we took turns arguing who was sweating the most under the desert sky. I bought two waters and held one in each hand as we wandered around, lost for quite a while until we found the koi pond.
I’ve been making presents: my nieces’ upcoming first birthdays, my best friend’s thirtieth, my father’s birthday, Mother’s Day. Making them by hand, hours spent quiet and still. I’ve watched a lot of old movies I always said I’d watch, making my way through them one after the other in rapid succession. I’ve been writing something new, something fragile and too big to comprehend.
On Sunday I’ll drive up to San Francisco, almost welcoming the six hours on the road, the quiet, the hypnosis. That, too, will be new: I’ve never done the drive by myself before and my time in cars lately has been limited to twenty minutes there, twenty minutes here.
But it will be fine. I think all the newness is doing me good.
Last week my mother and I went on vacation together, something we’ve done every year since I was a kid. Back then it was camping in Massachusetts and now it’s usually Florida, where this year the heat was oppressive and the humidity unavoidable. We found air-conditioned buildings to squat in and spent one long hour waiting out a thunderstorm underneath a deserted awning. It’s been years since I’ve seen it rain so hard and for so long. In LA it’s usually the lightest of rains, the faintest impression of a shower.
I’m reminded again and again the greatest lesson my parents ever taught me: to be myself with such conviction that no one can ever question it. It seems like such a simple concept but it’s one I hold onto those days when everything seems a little harder. When writing becomes laborious or editing seems impossible and finishing a book feels like the most unreachable goal you could have set for yourself. Where summer 2016 feels both a hundred years away and just around the corner, too close to finish everything you have to finish.
We spent one day wandering around the newly opened addition to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter and it made me remember why I do what I do, why I write what I write. Why I’ve steered my life in the direction of long, computer-filled days and blank notebooks and a permanent callous on the inside of my ring finger from always holding a pen. If I could write something half as great as this, I kept thinking—a quarter as memorable, a tenth as permanent…
Love what you love, I write on a new blank page. Love it a lot and fuck anyone who wants to question it.
photographs taken, of course, at the wizarding world of harry potter.
Last night a friend texted late and asked if she could come over and we sat on my bed for a few hours watching lip sync battles on Youtube and wondering why some people can never seem to get a fucking grip. I guess you could say that’s been the focus of my time recently: to get a fucking grip. It’s an appealing concept but some days it’s easier than others.
It’s been a busy few days, a weekend of concerts and comedy shows and resting and resetting. S comes back from Coachella today and I leave tomorrow night for a week-long vacation with my mom, something I’ve been counting down the days to for months.
I’m realizing that I unexpectedly love this place more the longer I live here. It’s the kind of love that sneaks up on you when you aren’t looking, that only becomes obvious when you’re faced with getting on an airplane and leaving it.
Be careful, she said last night as she skipped away from my front door, an hour or so after an earthquake that felt exactly like someone drove a truck into my building. Be careful, please, she said, and I didn’t have time to ask her what she meant before she was gone.
photographs taken at an antique store somewhere outside Lancaster, CA.
photographs taken in an alley off Melrose Ave, Los Angeles.
We drove to the poppy fields in the middle of the week, knowing most of them would be dead in the heat and drought of early spring but both needing to get out of the city, feeling the strain of working from home creeping up on us. We left in the late morning and there was no traffic getting out and away, the scenery quickly changing from cityscapes to brown, dry desert mountains.
We haven’t spent a day together since we both lived in New York, so many years ago now, but it felt easy slipping into the old routine of thrifting and photographing and taking turns talking too much about our current set of woes.
The poppy reserve was sadly brown and empty, little yellow buds closed up against the sun. But across the street—on private property, the old women running the ranger station told us—there were north facing hills covered in bright orange blooms. We drove up a dirt road and parked behind a line of other cars that all had the same idea as us. Over here, a small chunk of the landscape was an almost-too-good-to-be-true wash of color.
We took turns lying in the spaces between the plants, careful not to trample anything. On the way home I pulled a beetle out of my hair and let it fly out the window.
It was exactly the right amount of color and light and desert sun to recharge and reboot. I went to sleep exhausted, seeing orange when I closed my eyes.
photographs taken at the Antelope Valley California Poppy Reserve
(and across the street)
model is Jaimee of Coast to Coast Vintage
The past two days I’ve been miserably confined to the bed or the couch, struck down by either a stomach bug or mild food poisoning (You’ve got a weak stomach, my mother says on the phone from San Francisco, distracted and not really giving a fuck, we both do. Are you pregnant? OK, we’re going to Muir Woods. I’ll text you later). It is painfully beautiful in Los Angeles, eighty degrees and impossibly sunny. I want to go for a walk or a hike but I haven’t eaten anything except a banana in 36 hours and I know that would only get me so far.
My neighbor waters the plants outside my apartment once a week. She wears a straw visor, black shorts, a white tee shirt. She gets my windows wet and she waters all the plants for far too long, a silly amount of water. She waters plants that don’t need water. She waters the leaves of trees. She waters the day after it rains.
She talks to me a lot about my cat. How come you don’t leave the window open for him? How come you don’t take him outside on a leash? How come you don’t buy him a pet door? I try and leave only when she is not outside. Otherwise I’m stuck for hours.
On Sunday I leave for San Francisco for just a couple nights. Until then—finishing a round of edits for my second book and trying to land on something to eat that doesn’t make me feel nauseous.
I used to be very interesting, my neighbor says to someone outside my window.
Sometimes I feel the same way.
photographs taken in my apartment in Los Angeles.
some shots in my apartment last night, waiting for the handyman.
Los Angeles, CA.
Knee-deep in edits for my second book. Last night I wrote for so long that when S finally got home he looked to me like a paper-thin cut out, something I dreamed up.
It was later than I thought, but I feel like that’s always the case.
I’ve been waking up in the middle of the night and just lying, eyes open, for an hour or two.
So I’m tired- but at least everything seems like it’s leading somewhere meaningful.
An alarm has been going off somewhere in my neighborhood for the past half hour. I notice it when I turn off the movie I rented, the movie that made me cry three and a half separate times, the movie that left tissues littered across the hardwood floor of the apartment I love and hate in equal parts.
The other day we took a train to downtown, emerging in Union Station like proper tourists. We walked the few short blocks to Chinatown and ate lunch at a southern restaurant squashed into a grocery store with a hundred different kinds of sodas. I got a glass bottle of birch beer, something I haven’t had since I was a kid. I remember the very first time I ordered it. I had never had it and wanted to try. The adult I was with discouraged me and said – What if you don’t like it? I’m not buying you something else if you don’t like it.
I ordered it anyway and I remember being so apprehensive holding it- why is it clear? why is it called beer? what if i really don’t like it?- and then I did like it, very much, and felt like I had won some small battle. We ate pizza and when I drank it now I tasted pizza and felt seven years old, already questioning whether I should not try things because I maybe won’t like them.
Then by some silly small coincidence S didn’t want his soda, wanted something fancier like the rest of us had gotten.
Go go go, I said. Get something else.
These small small gifts of privilege- the money to try another soda if you don’t like the first, the novelty of a train ride into a part of your city you rarely go, a sandwich stuffed with sweet potato fries and mushrooms, new headphones for Christmas that block out that annoying alarm that is still sounding, somewhere- I try never to take them for granted. Because I know they are like a dozen small gifts lined up one after the other and any day, they could vanish. So I write them down for another time, make them last as long as possible. Stretching out for days, reaching me now, much later- the novelty of carbonation and real cane sugar in an old fashioned glass bottle, cold and cloudy from the fridge.