The art of being Californian, it seems, is to cultivate a loose-limbed insouciance while secretly working away like a frantic ant.

--Richard Fortey The Earth: An Intimate History

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Before a Fall

I have a thing for heels. Being 5'2" on a good day and with most of that height made up of forehead, I rarely wear flats as they reveal exactly how misproportioned my body really is (think giant torso and forehead with squat baby legs). Instead, I employ a variety of open-toed shoes that give me anywhere from 4 to 7 inches of extra leg length.

However, despite my constant use of these items, I have never really mastered the art of walking gracefully in heels. I have a nasty habit of falling (yes, actually falling) off my shoes.

In an attempt to mitigate this trait, my go-to shoes are tall, foamy flip-flops and my "dressy" alternative is almost always some sort of wedge. However, despite my precautions, combine my natural clumsiness (I fall out of bed, people) with a permanent limp and I am begging the universe to strike me down. Still, this inability to be effortlessly mobile in my footwear of choice hasn't stopped me from braving the most ridiculous heights (literally) in an attempt to appear tall.

Even when it more often than not bites me in the ass.

Case in point: a few days ago I chose to accompany my "Greek goddess" electric blue dress with a pair of light tan, 6-inch wedges. The combination was (if I do say so myself) amazing. I looked freaking awesome. And--obviously--I knew it.

Sadly, the confidence that comes with knowing you look slamming can often lull you into a false sense of shoe security.

I strutted.

I sashayed.

I moved with a grace and magnetism that is only exuded by an actual Greek goddess.

This effect was heighten by the fact that my boss offered me something he hasn't offered me in months: lunch.

I AM a goddess. A marvelous blue goddess of science!

In all my cosmic azul glory, I journeyed with him to the faculty-staff club for a little al fresco dining and science talk.

We filled our beverages and moved to the outdoor patio to claim a table (preferably one that fulfilled our mutual love of being the center of attention) before getting our actual meals. To get to the patio, you have to exit the indoor dining space and travel down about four shallow steps. These steps are situated to be the central focus of every table on the patio.

Perfect for my grandly divine entry.

Beverage in hand, fully aware of how stunning I looked, I stepped down the first step. Attracted by the azure glare of my dress (no doubt like the sky after a storm), eyes began to turn to me. I pretended I didn't notice and stepped down to the next step.

Suddenly, the weight of my head got to be too much for my stubby little legs to endure. Already straining to support my body on thin blocks of wood, my poor, overtaxed legs gave out between steps three and four.

As I went down, I made an executive decision to sacrifice my legs (those Judases) to a) save my beverage and b) prevent my dress from flipping up and treating the entire faculty-staff club to a shot of my striped underwear. This decision resulted in my bad foot somehow wrapping itself around my shoe.

A collective gasp arose from everyone on the patio (if I didn't have their attention before, I sure did now). In his dramatic haste to come to my aide (too late I might add), my boss spilled his beverage over his arms and a nearby table and commenced shaking the excess fluid off, creating a kind of lemonade soak zone in his immediate vicinity. One man (a P.I. from another lab just down the hall from mine--someone I see everyday), called out, "Are you okay?" Many asses half rose from their seats, ready to either avoid the airborn droplets of lemonade or assist me in calling an ambulance and picking up my shattered pride.

"I'm fine," I replied.

"Are you sure? That looked really bad."

Yes, it did look really bad. That's because it was really bad. I could feel my ankle swelling and pulsing as it let me know in its own special way that it hated my guts.

However, I wasn't about to let any of these voyeurs know I was hurt; what were they doing looking at me in the first place? Can't they just mind their own business and eat their stupid lunches (I had conveniently forgotten that in the previous moments I had been willing every eye on me)? Why is it when we publicly hurt ourselves, we always try to play it off if we can? Do we think that appearing to be unharmed will make the situation less embarrassing?

I don't really have an answer for that last question. I just know that I would have rather died at that moment than admitted I was hurt.

There was a problem with this scheme, however. I managed to twist my left foot. The same foot that has already suffered some serious damage, leaving me with a permanent limp. The question screamed through my mind, "how can I play this off if I already have a limp?"

The answer--of course--is to make a public general announcement to a huge group of concerned strangers.

"I'm really fine. But I will be walking with a limp because I have a permanent limp already."

"She's already got a limp, folks." The P.I. repeated just in case my announcing that fact to the club wasn't foolish and humiliating enough (BTW, nothing kills sexy faster than a limp).

At this comment, I arose, limped into the buffet line and upon returning to the steps of my ego demise, gingerly--gripping the railing the whole time--made my way to my table and full beverage.

It's eight days until my marathon. My foot is swollen and bruised. I haven't been able to run on it yet.

And I wore those same wedges with jeans today.

Monday, June 15, 2009

This Weekend I

used a flashlight to set up a tent under a moonless parachute-sky punctuated by a careless spill of stars

comforted a small child who determined that the quiet creak of bat cries

drifting down from the towering rocks above us signified that "danger lies everywhere"

woke up to the moon rise

woke up to early morning chill because small child had taken all the blankets

woke up to the sunrise

watched the light go from blue to pink to red to orange to gold

huddled with a steaming cup of coffee by a campfire of small sticks and charcoal, trying to eke whatever warmth I could get until the sun's heat struck the desert in a single fierce instant

hiked barefoot up hot red rock cliffs and through warm gold rivers of sand

sipped cold Chardonnay and read while small child played Star Wars vs Transformers in the breeze-blown tent

heard the cry of an actual wind-up bird, winding up the spring of the world

pretended that small child wasn't serious when he claimed to have to go to the bathroom and subsequently had to change small child's wet shorts

fished on the Kern river using a tree branch for a pole, dental floss for a line, and Boba Fett as a lure

failed to actually pop Jiffy Pop over the camp grill

picked up human feces with a baggie

managed to drive from the 14 merge with the 5 to Anaheim and completely missed seeing downtown LA

placed a filthy yet angelically sleeping small child in his bed and then passed out, equally filthy, in my own

continued to be amazed at how much love, beauty, sweetness, and joy exist in this world.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Gangster of Love

So, a few weeks ago, I felt the urge to read in the sun. It was one of those perfect days where the bay shimmers sliver and gold, and the sailboats look like bright leaves moving in an intricate dance dictated by wind and current.

I chose one of my favorite reading spots and settled in for an hour or so with a book I have fallen completely and irrevocably in love with. During this time, I lounged on my raised vantage point, oblivious to the cars that passed me on their way to the 5. That is until one car came to a stop parallel to my position.

It's funny how you can ignore crowds of people or things until one encrouches on your space. By stopping just a few feet away from me, engine still idling, this car claimed my attention. However as it became apparent, I did not have its driver's attention.

Puzzled (and not a little unnerved) as to why this four-door, dark sedan would fail to actually pull over to the side of a fairly busy street when it was obvious its driver had no intention of leaving soon, I watched the woman in the car, trying to determine what exactly she was doing.

The driver appeared to be fumbling with something shaped like a small bowl. A few twists of her hands and the very signature tapping motion soon revealed that she was emptying a dainty glass pipe. Pleasantly stunned, I kept telling myself, "No way is she going to smoke a bowl right here." Until she proceeded to fill her pipe and indeed smoke a pretty fat bowl right there.

Remember, she's idling in the middle of a street that gets a fair amount of to-the-freeway traffic.

Perhaps she loves the bay view as much as I do.

As I watched her smoke, I debated whether it was worth getting my camera to record this occasion.

Me: It would be so perfect to have a picture of this for the blog I'm going to write about this.

me: Really, you're already planning the blog you are going to write? What happened to living in the moment and not viewing things solely as something to relate to others? What happened to just making memories rather than recordings of memories?

Me: You're right. But still! This is amazing! How do I not want to tell others? . . . I have an idea! How about I go down there and ask her for a hit? That would make an even better story.

me: There you go again. Doing it just for the story. If you honestly wanted a smoke with her that would be one thing, but to do something purely for the story you'll tell later . . . Come on. Live life.

Me: Okay, fine. No camera. No interaction with smoking girl. I'll just sit here. And watch. Jeez.

me: You could just enjoy the unusal moment instead of pouting about it.

Me: Whatever, memory maker lady. Who are you even kidding. You know we have a terrible memory. We'll forget this within a week. But go ahead, enjoy your "moment."

It was about this time when the driver proceeded to remove the contents of her first bowl and packed a second.

Me: Holy Shit!

me: Fine, get the camera.

Monday, June 1, 2009

sing your heart out

So, those of you who know me know that I have a tendency to spontaneously burst into song at random times. It's as if the volume of the constant music stream that plays in my head gets too loud and I have to release some of it out into the wider airstream.

Most of the time when this release occurs, I am safe within my circle of friends or the privacy of my own home. However, there are moments when I break into song in public settings like walking down the hall in my lab's building or while in line at the grocery store.

Today, it happened not once but two times.

1. While running, I hit a particularly inspirational moment in Regina Spektor's "On the Radio" and just had to belt the line out. Much to the surprise and amusment of the woman getting in her car not more than two feet on my right.

I didn't need to wonder what it would be like to slip into her skin. Her laughter followed me down the block.

2. I called my friend to discuss a mutual attendance of an upcoming music venue. I got her voicemail. Somehow between her recorded message and the tone that signals my cue to record my message, I forgot that I was on the phone.

I know. I know. How does that happen? Do I just forget that the small black thing I'm holding to my ear is an actual working phone? Is my arm so used to being in that 90 degree bend that holding it like that just feels natural? Is my attention span really that short?

Possibly. Possibly. Definitely yes.

Anyway, at some point shortly after the tone, I started to sing, unaware that my friend's voicemail was recording my dulcet tones for posterity. After a few bars, I suddenly realized that I was leaving a musical message and transitioned to a flustered spoken statement. I didn't know what else to do. She would know it was me who had called and sung to her. I figured that acknowledging the act and leaving my initial intentions on her voicemail was as better than hanging up.

Later, my roommate informed me that all I had to do was push the pound key, and I could have erased my tune.

But did I really want to do that?


Have you ever made eye contact with someone and, in that brief moment, wondered what it would be like to slip--just for a second--into his or her life? What is he feeling right now? What motivates her?

That happened to me on my run today.

What motivated the rockabilly guy outside Starlight Lounge to dye his hair with that red skunk stripe? Does he love how his face looks surrounded by all of those carefully sculpted curls?

Why does the lanky man padlocking the gate outside the Budget Rental Car lot, his styrofoam cup of soda topped with a plactic-wrapped croisant sitting at his feet, look so defeated?

How did the sandy blonde pushing the stroller in skinny jeans and high-heeled boots on the corner of Grape and State get to be so happy at that very moment? What makes her beam at her nondescript blue-eyed child with so much joy?

Where is the guy in the knitted, yellow beanie on the corner of India and Vine going? And why is he so obviously avoiding my eye?

When did the two men smoking on the back of their giant pickup on Reynard Way meet that they have such an easy comraderie?

What prompted the group of three pony-tailed women, joints and plastic glasses of white wine in hands, to gather? What is so interesting in their conversation that causes the youngest of them to excitedly wave her joint (the one smoked down the farthest) around in the air?

How would it feel to slip into any of these people's skin and know their life? Their soul? How would it feel for just an instant to have another person not be so alien. So other.