December 17, 2009

see also: 'rithmetic.

A recent conversation between the woman who works the information desk at the Upland Library and me:

Me: Can you help me locate your study guides for the GRE?
Her: Sure, they're over here.
Me: Maybe my search failed because I can't remember what the 'R' stands for.
Her: Probably writing.

December 16, 2009

come on, texas, i'm a hell of a girl.

It's come to my attention that people in Austin are less than keen on people from Los Angeles. WTF? I'm awesome. Here are some reasons you should let this go:

1. In California I've lived in towns that can only be called suburbs of Los Angeles by a supreme stretch of the imagination. The geography snobs in Los Angeles assume I live in the middle of a mostly uninhabited desert, wrinkle their noses in confusion while asking if Pomona's in San Bernardino, and judge me silently.
2. I eat red meat.
3. I would choose good barbecue over In'N'Out any day of the week.
4. I don't own skinny jeans, I've never had an ironic haircut, and I get Silverlake confused with Los Feliz.
5. I know how to two-step.
6. I don't know--nor have I ever worked with--any celebrities. And if I did, I wouldn't name drop. Okay, well, there is one story I like to tell about Keanu Reeves, but it's mostly a joke at his expense. Trust me, Texas, it would make you laugh. If you resist the urge to snub me because I'm from California, maybe I'll tell it to you sometime.
7. I'm learning how to talk about freeways without using definite articles. I'm doing this for you, Texas!
8. I drink bourbon. I know y'all don't make bourbon, but I bet you would rather drink bourbon than whatever it is you assume women from Los Angeles drink (Zima? Appletinis?).
9. I think "y'all" is a valuable pronoun. It trumps other second-person plural pronouns employed by the non-southern parts of this country, e.g. "you guys" or (worse) saying, "you" while jerking your head or looking around at the faces in front of you to indicate inclusion.
10. My great-grandfather grew up in Texas, where he broke wild horses for a living. I inherited his charmingly foul mouth and appreciation for bad-assery.

I think we'll get along just fine. And if you're going to be stubborn about it, I'll just pretend I'm from Phoenix, Az.

December 7, 2009

i'm back! and saying goodbyes.

The epic technology shitstorm of 2009 ended last week when the wonderful computer surgeons at Dell returned my laptop good as new. Hurrah! I don't think the staff at the outsourced repairs call center were trained to respond to Americans offering to kiss them, btw.

I've been in Mt. Baldy with Willa a lot as part of my Saying Goodbye to Los Angeles project, and last week she saw her first deer. My long-legged girl pranced over a stream and play-bowed at a perplexed doe and fawn, who high-tailed it up the mountain when Willa tried to leap her way towards them.

I opted to stand statue-still and watch them rather than take photos, because I don't want life to become a series of photographs I edit to tell a Facebook narrative. So here's a shot of Willa looking forlorn next to a leafless tree. It's finally autumn in these parts. Goodbye, hiking in the mountains.

I ran a race with my mom. My mom is one of those people who runs when she's not being chased. I thought I was learning how to be one of those people, which you may already know because I've been chirping about it to no end. (Running is great! It keeps me from smoking cigarettes!) Well, running a race with 1,000+ other people just makes you feel like a herd of something. I run slow. Were we actually being chased, the predators would have singled me out somewhere around mile two. But whatever, it made the mom happy and I got a free t-shirt. Training for the race was kind of fun: The track at Pomona College is adjacent to the undeveloped part of campus, and it smells like California sage. Every drive home since the beginning of driving has smelled like that along the way.

So: Mountains? Check. Athletic Bonding with Mom? Sort-of Check.

December 4, 2009

saying goodbye to rex holmes.

When it first dawned on me that leaving Southern California actually meant, well, leaving Southern California, I was slouching in the dining room of The Press whisper-singing a song that I've heard Rex Holmes play more times than I can count.

They played it at the show at Border's, when we ordered cokes from the cafe and doctored them from hidden flasks. They played it in my living room, in the last of the great party houses of my twenties. They played it at the Knitting Factory and the Hi-Brow. Jerry played pieces of it sitting across a couch from me only weeks after we met, when he was still working out the lyrics. I've shared many 3:00 a.m. parking lot moments exchanging directions to the after-party with these five people, and they are the bee's knees, let me tell you--but it's time to do something else now.

So goodbye, post-bar drinks at Tracy's. Goodbye dancing in offstage shadows, rusty nails, the unhappy-marriage bicker-banter between songs. Play a show next time I'm in town, won't you?

October 7, 2009

so i'm job now.

I don't even want to begin to dissect all of the ways this is contradictory, but I'm pretty sure that god is punishing me for being an atheist.

Because of a horrendous and completely unenthralling series of events, I had to spend way too much money licensing my dog. Then I had to go to court to prove that I licensed my dog, which took six hours.

Why did it take six hours, you ask? Pomona has been issuing so many tickets that the line to get through the metal detector was wrapped around the building. It was like waiting in line at Disneyland, only at the end there's no Captain Eo, no small world after all, not even a monorail. So you know, it was awesome.

Since I left in a frantic whirlwind (the unemployed don't get anywhere at 8:30 am without an epic struggle) my laptop was still open and plugged in when I left. When I came back, a long seam had erupted in my ceiling and dumped the rain from our first and only rainstorm this fall right onto my open laptop.

Rice helped not at all.

September 30, 2009

pioneer town.

So I was pretty astonished when I realized how much money I used to spend keeping myself entertained--Betty Draper wasn't the first to point out that only boring people get bored, and since this is the Desiree Show I began to get concerned about what all of this might say about me. In the interest of proving that I am indeed a dynamic and fascinating young lady, let's discuss the blackberry jam workshop I taught, shall we?

Free (or Relatively Inexpensive) Diversion #2: Get Active with a Community Group. I joined up with the lovely folks at Claremont Food Not Lawns, a "local community organization dedicated to replacing our lawns with edible gardens in the name of sustainability and self-sufficiency" (their words) to host a jam-making workshop. We went up to Mt. Baldy to pick wild blackberries then came down and made jam.

Picking berries is pretty much the most wholesome way to spend a Saturday afternoon, btw. People brought their kids. It was like living in a Norman Rockwell painting. Also? When it's like a gazillion degrees outside and your other option is melting into the couch with ice packs at various pulse points, it's time to haul yourself to mountain climes where the air is cool enough to breathe.

The Claremont United Methodist Church let us use their kitchen, which was huge and featured this massive stove that looked like the dinosaur version of the stove in your kitchen. The Methodist kitchen was approximately the size of my bedroom. Thanks, Methodists!

This picture was taken through a little window above the sink, which--when I'm on the kitchen-side lecturing about the pros and cons of sterilizing jars this way or that way--makes me feel like a tv chef. Kick it up a notch, indeed.

Bonus: Food Not Lawners make an enthusiastic and gracious studio audience:

So to summarize: great day outdoors with foodies who care about sustainability. It cost me nothing (CFNL paid for the jam supplies) and I got to leave with a jar of organic home-made blackberry jam.

September 28, 2009

of recent note.

It's been a busy couple of weeks, and I'm excited to announce that verbadverb is moving to Austin! Swimming holes. Bats. Things that are bigger than their non-Texas counterparts. The stars at night are big and bright, etcetera, etcetera. I'm eastbound after one last holiday season as a California resident. So if you want to say goodbye, do it before department stores replace the Santa displays with hearts and cupids.

We have a lot to talk about. For instance: All of the Free (or Relatively Inexpensive) Diversions I've been enjoying. And: The 21 Ways to Say Goodbye to Los Angeles, which is pretty much what it sounds like.

More on those later, I have some important information for you--guess, dear reader you will never guess because it is so astonishingly wonderful your chin may wobble and your eyes may tear up, but just try and guess what rice can do (besides feed hungry people)! Rice, my friends, can save a phone that's been dropped in water. Drop the drowned phone in some rice and let it recuperate. The rice will pull the moisture out and leave you with a fully-functional phone. But don't eat the rice afterward because it will probably give you cancer.

You're welcome.

September 11, 2009

capital-a anecdote.

A nightmare woke me up in the early morning hours I usually never saw, and clomping down the stairs felt like gravity was particularly aggressive. A lamp spilled orange light on one of the boy roommates who hadn't seen the business end of a morning in awhile, either.

"A plane just flew into the World Trade Center," he said, one of infinite echoes of that same sentence being uttered to the sleepy unknowing by those who woke up first. We were both reluctant to become fully awake. Our levels of alertness were maybe congruent to the demise and fall of the first tower, at which point I realized that years of disaster movies had stolen some of the horror from that moment. I took a radio to work and held it the whole time I listened to it, using my free hand to google some of the words of the day: Terror. Osama. Pentagon. al Qaeda. I tried to donate blood on my lunch hour, but blood from Los Angeles wasn't anyone's priority, and an orderly waved me through the automatic doors with comforting words that suggested she'd spent most of the day ushering the lost and dazed back out onto the sidewalk.

I went home. It became night again. We made deeply insensitive and untimely jokes to see who could get the biggest and most offensive laugh. This felt better. Terrible jokes, it turned out, were the Very Best Thing, in a way that I'm not sure I can articulate but will defend because laughing that day momentarily contained the horror, pushed it out at arm's length.

September 2, 2009

report from the smoke shadows.

California is on fire. Each of the past three mornings has veiled everything in ash--the car, tomato plants, the succulents along the driveway. I think of Pompeii after Vesuvius. The ash turned to cement, the world preserved as it was that day, ripe with secrets to be harvested in another millenium.

The fire seems to have its own weather system. We endure inexplicible humidity, we endure the smoke lingering langorously in our streets, we endure the fine film forming on our skins from the moist smoke. Our eyes tear, our animals become suspicious, our mountains disappear from view. The sunrise looks like sunset through the haze and glows a lurid red until late morning, making us wonder if up will soon be down, or if concepts like "up" and "down" are immune. Nothing appears to be immune.

The fire controls our lives. Any question can be answered by a raised arm, index finger held out to indicate the shortest distance between you and the flames. It's as if our view into the past and future are also invaded by an omnipresent smoke that keeps us from seeing the blackened hills of our autumn, the echoing bleakness of our own particular winter. There is only now, this smoke, these flames, the strange survival of us: In the foothills, breathing through barriers, keeping our eyes closed, melting into furniture.

August 24, 2009

sour grapes.

Burning Man is next week. Time to dust off the beater bike, patch up the paisley loincloth and rig that flamethrower on your car so that bursts of flame explode in time with some sort of electronica beat. Before you descend into the thumping neon dust storm that art built--What? What's that you say? You don't have the bazillion dollars it takes just to survive for a week on the playa? Yeah, me neither.

Well, so one time my friend went to Burning Man and she saw a drunk guy peeing on the door handles of random cars.

August 19, 2009

politics interlude.

I've been too busy picking my jaw up off the floor whenever I tune in to the healthcare debate to post here. I'm thinking of investing in a chin strap. This isn't a politics blog so I'll keep it brief: Yay, Barney Frank! and Et tu, Whole Foods?

Side note: A country where people do not have access to quality education is a country where people are susceptible to the kind of anti-factual fear-mongering we are seeing right now.

I'm just saying.

August 11, 2009

happy sunday.

Like a month into being unemployed you start to lose track of what day of the week it is. This is understandable. Everyday starts the same: roll out of bed and walk the dog, thumb through the paper, maybe hit a museum or read a book. So it makes sense that I always think it's Sunday, right? Whatever.

Cool stuff that's happening now:

Blackberry season! Wild blackberries are the tastiest because you can pick them when they're ripe. The ones you buy in the store are picked early when the fruit is still firm enough to hold up while being transported from god knows where, and that's, I think, why they're often sour. Plus they're expensive.

You know what's not expensive? Pork, apparently. Freakonomics said that the Economist said that pork prices are down 24% this year. You should make pulled pork.

If you've been able to stick to the Infinite Summer schedule, you are officially halfway through the book this week. Congratulations to you! I'm pretty far behind, but why don't we keep that our little secret, shall we? Keeping to the schedule feels somewhat...irrelevant for me, since I've already read the entire thing and can slog through IS forums without worrying about spoilers. What's that you say? IJ is gathering dust on your nightstand ever since you begrudgingly read the entire Poor Tony section without the faintest clue what the hell was going on? I feel you. And I'm not the only one.

In DFW's defense, I think the reason we get irritated is because we feel like he can do better. You get through the first, like 100 pages or so, and you think, yes, this guy is a storyteller like no one's ever been a storyteller before. He's Mr. Rosewater. This is going to be the most poignant, funny, human story of my lifetime! He's a genius, a capital G Genius, I tell you! So you forgive him the footnotes. You forgive him the obfuscation, the intellectual gymnastics, the fucking prescriptive vocabulary. And when there's no payoff you feel like you've been duped by the smuggest depressive in town.

Buck up little reader. There's been ongoing conjecture about the possibility of a film adaptation in the IS forums (Michael Cera as Hal? Directed by Wes Anderson? This is the nerd version of a fantasy football team). Over at Howling Fantods there is a DFW-inspired motivational poster contest of some sort. The entries are hilarious. There's more to Infinite Jest than scrambling to find enough bookmarks (side note: I'm using loteria cards. El Diablito keeps my spot in the narrative, El Borracho's got footnotes).

August 3, 2009

but then how would i hold the lighter?

So no posting last week because I quit smoking (again) and spent most of the week feeling like: Fuck. This. Did you know that cigarettes are the only thing standing between me and a physical misery so strong I would prefer to chew my own fingers off, because maybe that would take my mind off the not smoking for a while? Which sucks, because chewing your fingers off makes you want a cigarette.

Then I fell into a Youtube hole. Did you know about these videos of teletubbies dancing to hip hop and techno?

July 23, 2009

green thumb twiddling.

You should grow a garden. Your neighbors will become curious and motivated to start gardens of their own. Little kids will force their parents to stop in front of your garden to check on its progress. No one will steal your tomatoes even though everyone who sees that you started a garden right next to the sidewalk tells you that people will steal your tomatoes. Which means you can have conversations like this:

Someone Else: So what have you done with all of your free time since you lost your job?

You: I restored my faith in humanity by growing awesome tomatoes that nobody stole when they walked past.

Someone Else: Wow, working life has washed away all of the faith I had in humanity. Well, working life and NYC Prep.

You: Jubilee heirloom tomatoes are crazy delicious, and they're yellow!

Or maybe you don't care about gardens because your inability to keep plants alive is notorious, and when people bring you what they claim to be unkillable plants you always kill them and this makes you feel bad about yourself. In which case you should go read this article about the positive effects of the recession from

July 22, 2009

diversions for the almost-hobo.

So I started this project called Entertain Yourself Without Blowing the Grocery Money on Booze. Sometimes this involved virgins. I mean, Virgins.

Free Diversion #1: Find and Photograph all the Virgin Mary Murals in Your Town.
This really only works if you live in or near a city with a huge Latino population. If you don't, I pity you. You probably don't even have a man who pushes a cart around your neighborhood selling corn with chile and mayonnaise.

The late afternoon sun spotlights the Virgin like she's a relic in an Indiana Jones movie. She's painted on the side of a Mexican market with some angry livestock featured in another mural to her immediate left (outside the frame), which I think is there to let you know that the meat you buy from this market won't take any of your shit, so don't even try it.

Nuestra Madre protecting some midcentury automobiles on Main Street, just off from the Arts Colony downtown.

I took this picture after I figured out that my hand fits through the chainlink fence, even if it's holding a camera.

I also found her protecting some actual automobiles at a used car lot on Holt Ave.

Anyone want to make a coffee-table book?

July 19, 2009

independent study.

Across the street a woman is cheerily waving her daughter into a car. As she shuts the door she shouts, "Have fun! And don't come back with any new tattoos!"

Also, this happened: Now, normally I react to Joyce the way a child reacts to medicine or vegetables. Or homework. Or medicinal homework. I stomped my feet and swore I would never open it again if I wasn't being graded on it, even though I begrudgingly acknowledge its greatness. The other day I found myself referring to Ulysses to better understand a section of IJ, which lead to pulling out Joyce Annotated, and eventually Hamlet and a Shakespeare reference book as well. Then my eyeballs almost fell out and I had to close the book(s) and do something else. I even left the house!

July 6, 2009

also: look up annular

Um, yeah, I fell behind in Infinite Summer. More like got distracted--I finished the first week’s reading early and went right back to the beginning to read it again. This book has so many little doorways that it’s hard to stay on track. For example:

The Clenette section (IJ, p37-39) struck a nerve with some readers, and I was all like, really?

Then I had to go sifting through Hamlet. Because:

James Incandenza’s film production company is named for the fool in Hamlet (i.e. Yorick, as in, “Alas, poor Yorick! I knew him, Horatio, he was a fellow of infinite jest, of most excellent fancy.” (Hamlet, V.i.184-5). The fool is an entertainer at court, but also acts as an important truth-telling device in Shakespearean drama. The fool is typically more trustworthy and insightful than a play’s major characters, who are bound by their limited perspectives. In order to play the fool in IJ, James Incandenza has to be able to accurately and objectively analyze himself, which is impossible, because how can a person objectively analyze himself using only himself? Subjectivity is inescapable, J. Incandenza can’t let go of this, and he dissolves into delusional alcoholism trying to get beyond himself so that he can understand himself. And then tell the truth.

June 26, 2009

now with fewer periods!

Sixty-three pages into Infinite Jest for the second time, I’m starting to get a sense of how cool Infinite Summer is. Some things that have happened so far:

I looked up “apocope” (loss or omission of the last letter, syllable or part of a word); “bolection” (a raised molding, esp. one having flat edges and a raised center, for framing a panel, doorway, fireplace, etc.); the Latin phrase, “Quo Vadis” (trans: where are you going? Which apparently Peter asked Jesus, who was on his way to get him some more of that crucifyin’) (also, a novel about Nero by Henryk Sienkiewicz).

And someone posted in the forums about Hal’s “I am in here.” statement, which got my brain shooting in several directions, some of them existential, some of them funny, some of them Hamlet-related, some of them Hamlet-related and existential, some of them about the running theme of failed communication, as in a declaration and physical manifestation of utter solipsism. My sentences seem to be getting run-onnier as I recalibrate to DFW’s narrative which sort of webs out and then turns in on itself but not before hurling you into a near violent to and fro from text to footnote. Yeah, this book is pretty cool.

June 19, 2009

nerd alert.

My wrists were never the same after reading the behemoth of capital L Literature otherwise known as Infinite Jest by David Foster Wallace. I also came to mistrust footnotes. Don’t get me wrong--I was just as sad as you were when DFW’s unfortunate death abruptly punctuated his contribution to literature with a resounding period. I, too, have considered the lobster.

But I still waiver between thinking this book is a work of unparalleled genius (well paralleled by like, Ulysses) and a monumental waste of time strung together with cleverness. Upon finishing Infinite Jest, I was known to grumblingly complain that someone should write David Foster Wallace a mean letter demanding recompense for time spent flipping back and forth from footnotes to text. What kind of (non-science) genius needs that many footnotes to prove a point?
The smarty folks over at The Morning News have organized Infinite Summer, a web-wide community reading of Infinite Jest scheduled to begin on June 21st (yes, this Sunday (we're reading slowly, so you'll have time to catch up if you start later)). I’ve signed on to see if another reading, with guidance from the passel of qualified book nerds assembled to read it with me, will help me draw new and definitive conclusions.

So, um, read it with me. No one should have to do this alone.

June 18, 2009


I was recently laid off. I worked for a nonprofit that offers educational opportunities to underprivileged kids, so you know, it wasn’t a surprise.

Sometimes funny and unexpected things happen when you get laid off:
1. The application for unemployment insurance benefits in California asks for your ethnicity. The options in the drop-down menu are “Hispanic or Latino” and “Not Hispanic or Latino.” Apparently, there really are only two kinds of people in this world. Or at least, in California.
2. Several college friends offered me internships. This was somewhat tongue-in-cheek, but seriously? I have friends who have interns? We’re getting old, guys.