Wednesday, November 25, 2009

And We Walked Off to Look for America

I had an epiphany. If I had to describe my inner personality, my down-deep soul to someone, I'm a blend of Eeyore, Beaker from The Muppet Show and the fish from The Cat in the Hat. On the off chance you didn't grow up with the exact same culteral references I did (Waving "Hi!" to my readers in Chad), just assume none of these literary figures are brave adrenelin junkies, pining for a life of poorly-thought-out risks. My family crest would be of a chewed thumbnail and a worried look. The family motto would translate as "That Can't be Good."

Thirty-seven people wrote in with suggestions for making me less rut-like, which means I owe thirty-seven thank-yous; they were wonderful, and wonderfully weird ideas. I've got a few things percolating, none of which would have happened had I not been motivated by the genuine excitement people felt about me getting up off my glutes. Thank you, times thirty-seven.

So this week, I had my first adventure. The rail system in Los Angeles, the Gold Line, has opened several new exits. The kid and I put on walking shoes and partook of Los Angeles. There are two hard things to explain to outsiders about Los Angeles. One is that the city is so large that you can spend your entire life here and never see square miles of it, because your demographic doesn't go there. The other is that within two years of moving to Los Angeles, you will discover there are only fifteen people living in Los Angeles, four of whom you are actively avoiding. Both of these truisms speak to our incredible parochialism, which I was going to combat by going on the Gold Line with my child.

The first stop on the Gold Line was Little Tokyo, which meant food. Actually, all stops meant food for Daughter, because I had an article which told me where to eat near each stop and because the kid has the metabolism of a hummingbird and is possibly secretly hosting a tapeworm. Little Tokyo meant mochi, which Daughter adores with a pure passion. I like them well enough but not at 9:30 in the morning. She ate three. I found it hard to watch after a while, so I glanced at a display which upon closer inspection appeared to be some kind of candied dried fish, so I went back to watching my kid suck out mochi-guts.

We then walked through several stores in the Little Tokyo shopping district seemingly dedicated to the idea that the world is in this terrible state because not enough things are cute. In one store alone, I could have bought: a device which would have stamped my sandwiches into winking bear cubs; adorable masking tape, endearing staples, precious little paper clips and many other items on office-manager would need, were she eight; a bottle of hair spray which promised me Sparkle Many Hair; the winningist tampon-holder in creation. As certain Florentine Renaissance painters worked in fresco, the Japanese work in darling. Had there been a hospital-supply store in the same mall, I'd have been figuring out how to dress around their colostomy bags. Several small girls in Daughter's life have now been shopped for. Daughter was peckish again. We grabbed another mochi and got back on the Gold Line.

We got settled in, and I quietly gloated. This adventure business why, I was made for it. Yes, technically I had been to Little Tokyo before, quite a few times, but now I was on the Gold Line, thereby making it entirely new. Daughter, dazed from red-bean paste, stared out the window. I helpfully pointed out an old decrepit brick building, so she could fully appreciate this new place we were. And then I pointed out another decripit brick building. And then I noticed that when city planners decide where a train will be, it tends to be in neighborhoods with a lot of decrepit brick buildings. We adventurers notice things like that.

When we got off at Mariachi Plaza, there was all sorts of pleasant havoc going on. Dozens of Mariachi band members were ambling around, food was being served someplace. I asked someone what was going on, and found out it was the festival of Saint Cecilia, the patron saint of music. I could barely speak for the smugness. I hadn't even known, and yet my newfound wanderlust had brought us unerringly to a bunch of men and a few women in tight wool clothing and silver bits, playing music in the hot sun! Daughter and I listened for a few minutes but then I remembered two things:

1) I don't know anything about mariachi music, so it all sounds like one brutally long song to me,

2) I only hear Mariachi music in restaurants, so hearing it makes me start looking for chips.

I was hungry. I asked Daughter if she was hungry and she nodded vigorously, which made sense because she'd hadn't eaten in a half-hour. I pulled out the article on where to eat off the Gold Line and found a place which promised home-style cooking, not far from the plaza. We passed Serenata de Garibaldi, the one famous restaurant in the area. I smiled tolerantly at the people walking in. Sure, Serenata has lovely food, but we Vikings head for the high seas, the real adventures. We walked a block.

We walked another block.

Daughter noted innocently we had passed two bars and a pool hall.

I noted people offering to sell me illegal identification.

Finally, there was our restaurant. Its address involved a fraction; the other part of the fraction sold used shoes. The restaurant was empty and very dark. After a few minutes of my yodeling, the owner ambled out. Owing to her total lack of English and my abysmal Spanish, I finally ordered what the paper had recommended by pointing to a picture of it on the wall. Because we had now touched my subway-type things, not to mention countless iterations of Japanese cutenalia, I sent Daughter off to the bathroom to wash her hands before lunch. She came back less than a minute later; even in the cavish mood of the place, she was ashen.

She whispered, "There's no sink in the bathroom, so I had to use the kitchen sink. I turned it on and a few drops of water came out and then ants came out."

Eeyore, Beaker and the fish sat in the front of my brain and looked at me balefully. I stood up, waved to the woman and used every body language symbol I could think of for "Thanks ever so much but upon further reflection we've decided not to eat until the New Year." I then gently hustled Daughter out the door without actually touching her.

Serenata di Garibaldi was so clean. And bright. And clean. We went to the bathroom together and marveled at how the tap produced only water. Our food arrived; it was basically what we usually order, except slightly different. The kid and I commended each other on the different bits. After the food, I brought out the article and showed her that we had another three stops to go.

"Can we," she asked,"go back to Little Tokyo and Olvera Street and do the rest another time?"

I was about to start arguing for going further when I realized my defense would be "But that's not the spontaneous trip I planned." If what I don't like about my life is how predictable it is, then I need to be happier about ad-libbing. I shrugged and said, "Of course."

The second time through Little Tokyo, we followed the walking path, which I highly recommend. In front of many buildings, there are time lines on the sidewalk indicating what kinds of businesses have been there from the end of the 19th century through the 1940's. I know, it's not like hiking Macchu Pichu, but it was kind of cool. And let the record show that if we hadn't gone back, we wouldn't have seen it. Doubling back can have its charms. We drifted past the mochi store again, and the kid got one for later.

Olvera Street was a paragon of familiarity, the platonic ideal of a non-adventure. We walked through the original adobe house, something I did no fewer than six times on field trips in grade school and middle school. Then, because over an hour had passed, Daughter ate again. I toyed with a Diet Coke as she tucked into Late Lunch #2/Early Dinner and asked her, "I had a lovely time today. Did you have a good time?"

She nodded assertively. "I had a great time. You know what the best part was?"

Before I could swallow my Diet Coke and answer, Daughter said happily, "The ants."

I told the boys in my head to pipe down. A good time is a good time.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Same as it Ever Was

I want to thank you for being so patient while I briefly ran away from home, blog-wise. Truly, I might have been on the metaphorical road with an allegorical handkerchief knotted to a symbolic stick, holding my figurative worldly goods against my nonliteral shoulder, but my gooey little brain was only on you. For example, just this morning, I was scowling into my closet and I thought about you.

It gets better. No, not better exactly, but less weird.

It's just that I live in Los Angeles where we have two seasons: Wet and The Other Fifty Weeks a Year. Sure, we also have Fire and The Academy Awards, but they're still waiting official season status. The point being that nearly every week of the year I can wear the same clothing. Week in, week out, I'm a paragon of constancy in either khaki pants or corduroy pants with a navy t-shirt on top. The shoes are either Converse or flip-flops. The underwear is my business. Because I wash clothing in cold water and air-dry, things tend to last. Because I am wildly cheap, I don't get rid of something until it wears out. Perhaps you can see where this is heading, which is to my closet this morning. The weather outside promised to be 72 degrees and inane. I turned on the closet light and said bleakly, "Oh. You again."

And this is where I am in so many aspects of my life. Nothing's wrong with my wardrobe; nearly everything I wear either flatters me or at least doesn't spit on me. But it's just so predictable, so...ruttish. I work out by walking, maybe the least imaginative workout ever. But I don't really want to do something cute or clever. Yoga makes me sleepy, Spinning makes me bulky, Pilates makes me poor.

I'm a vegetarian with a distaste for many vegetables. Nearly forty percent of my diet is rice, beans, or rice and beans if I'm feeling really hungry. I'm pretty certain fresh salsa is a food group. I tried eating something new and I was coughing up eraser-shavings for days, which made me cling more tightly still to my legumes.

In sum, there are shut-ins and Buddhist monks experiencing more of the rich panoply of life than I am, but I'm not sure if I should do something about it or, if so, what. Which is where you come in, Gentle Reader. Keeping in mind that I'm not a risk-taker, I genuinely like the father of my child and have no interest in meeting a special new friend on Craig's List and shellfish makes me vomit, can you think of an adventure for me to have?

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Wouldn't it Be Nice

I owed you a blog yesterday. I owe you a blog today. I'm just a little tapped out in the bloggish way this week. Please accept my apologies and know that I'll be back with you shortly.

Wednesday, November 04, 2009

Come Fly with Me

I missed a week, and I am so sorry. Please believe me when I say my life got incredibly busy; I barely had time to do my reading at Chevalier Books (I think everyone had a lovely time and thanks to those who came out) and repeatedly put food in front of my daughter. Because, last week, the entire family was occupied with only one job: we had to find the source of the tiny flying bugs.

Last Sunday, Consort and I walked into the kitchen and quickly noticed we weren’t alone. There were about twenty teensy flying thingies, smaller than a freckle, moving purposefully around the kitchen. I said something helpful like, “Auck!” because I always try to raise the level of discourse. Consort said, “Oh, we’ve got some kind of overripe fruit around here.” We searched the kitchen and found no fruit, overripe or otherwise. I stood there, alternately disgusted by the little flying dealies and embarrassed about what no fruit in the house said about my mothering abilities. Consort squinted at the bugs and noted, “They’re eating something. They won’t leave until we get rid of it.”

Oh, it is fun to spend a Sunday night tearing apart kitchen cabinets looking for a half-opened bag which is serving as a Soup Plantation for a lower life form. It’s less fun when you don’t find it. The bugs continued to chat among themselves over the sink. We decided something in the sink was pleasing them, so we scrubbed the sink.

They remained. We went to bed.

The next night, we (actually, Consort) decided it was a garbage disposal thing, so he cleaned out the disposal.

They drifted away for a few minutes during the noisier aspects of garbage-disposal cleaning, but then hurried back to their beloved spot hovering over the sink.

The next night, we cleaned the entire kitchen. First, I cleaned it with my non-toxic chemicals; then Consort cleaned it with the stuff he thinks actually works. I think one of the bugs might have sneezed, but they certainly didn’t go anywhere.

The next night, there were only a few over the sink, looking not unlike those sad hopeful men at a bar at 1:45am.

[Or so I've been told.]

We rejoiced in having bested the bugs or outlived them. I walked into my bathroom and beheld my enemies being showy over bathroom sink. I called for Consort; we cleaned the bathroom. If it weren’t for one of the plagues of Egypt staking a claim on my sinks, the house would look wonderful.

For such small bugs, they certainly ran the show. Friday night, Consort and Daughter carved the pumpkins. I didn’t carve because I needed to obsessively wipe down any surface which might have been contaminated by flying-dealie-exciting pumpkin goo. This was adorable and delusional of me, because our flying dealies were, while disgusting, excellent houseguests, never giving us a single hint they needed food of any kind. No, they just liked our sinks.

This week, it was socially acceptable around here to walk away from someone who was speaking if you thought you saw the dealies heading toward some non-sink place, which might give us a sense of what was keeping them around. Patient as Javert, one of us would tiptoe after the bug. After the bug-tracker would come the other adult in the house whispering suggestions and ill-founded theories and then Daughter, always eager to watch adults lose their minds. Behind Daughter would come the dog, who likes to include himself in family activities, and then the two kittens, possibly thinking this was some Parade to Kitty Stars. The only one missing was Lupac, who I sensed viewed our hunting skills the way a Marine in Afghanistan views a mall-cop. The family would quickly be disappointed, as the bug would bumble its way back to the herd for a satisfying evening of idling in space over the sink.

A week after it began, when I was starting to imagine incorporating them into Christmas decorations, Consort walked out of the bathroom carrying bug spray. It smelled terrible; he looked pleased.

“I just remembered,” he said, putting the bug spray away, “that my house in Beverly Glen got these once, and they were actually living down the sink drain.”

I glanced into the bathroom and noted the sink didn’t have its own cumulous cloud. “Are you going to do the kitchen as well?” I asked and Consort said, “Let’s see if this works. I’d rather not bug-spray our kitchen sink.”

Oh, I hadn’t thought of that. In case anyone ever wondered what I saw in Consort, he’s very smart, he’s very funny, he’s very kind and he might keep me from accidentally killing myself.

The kitchen sink became a non-issue anyway, because it’s been three days now and the small flying dealies are as gone as they were once ubiquitous. I don’t know why the goulash of shaving foam, toothpaste and mouthwash flecks in our sink pleased them but whatever afterlife Consort banished them to, I can only hope it’s being served.