Lightly salted peanut
On Sunday I had a dream that I was trying to climb a hill so steep I physically couldn’t do it. That was the whole dream: I couldn’t walk up a steep hill. (Nice allegory, brain.)
After waking I lay prone in bed for a moment, wanting an Ibuprofen for my legs, which hurt from trying to walk up the hill. They stopped aching when I identified the experience as a dream. Total time elapsed between waking and legs-not-hurting: thirty seconds.
Then I got dressed, packed my backpack, and went to JFK to catch a flight. By the time I landed in Los Angeles I was sleepy again.
At my hotel room I went through all the little rituals that mark the beginning of a work trip. First, survey the room to see where I will work. Then turn on all the lights, hang up dresses, write some perfunctory note on hotel stationery (“Print receipt”), line up shoes, scan TV Guide, arrange toothbrush parallel to sink, make a cup of coffee, discard coffee after a sip, write another note on the stationery (“Coffee”) and open all windows, if windows will open.
I did all of these things and then went outside. The hotel was full of families in wet bathing suits, pushing elevator buttons and dripping. I felt like a valence electron bouncing between atoms. (Neutrally incomplete.) It was seventy-something degrees, which feels like the exact temperature at which human beings are designed to walk around. You can be alone in LA and the weather is hospitality enough.
11:31 pm • 23 April 2012 • 22 notes
Hey, we’re in a recession
It’s hard to tell whether the troops are men or boys. One of them is nicknamed Ralphie, another is hypnotized by a Greek yogurt commercial with a slim, yogurt-covered woman in it, and a third can’t stop referring to his wife (not present) as “retarded”. I get a soda and sit down at the table, where they start asking about my job.
“You should write about sex,” one suggests. “Or Forrest Gump.”
"Why Forrest Gump?”
“Have you SEEN the movie?”
They are giddy with story ideas: Khloe Kardashian’s marriage, lingerie football, and a legendary regional sandwich called the Fat Dyke, which contains mozzarella sticks, a cheeseburger, chicken fingers, French fries, and your choice of sauce.
One of them proposes an experiment in which I try to be a lesbian for thirty days and then write about it. It’s hard to say no to a person whose face contains parts of an IED.
"Maybe," I tell him.
“You need to broaden your horizons,” he says.
11:20 am • 20 April 2012 • 18 notes
Velvet suits! Payola! Secrets of Ryan Gosling!
I went deep into the styling industry for GQ. Read it HERE.
10:47 am • 11 April 2012 • 17 notes
I was listening to NPR in the car with Lily. During a dispatch, she pointed to the radio and said, “Oh, I know this reporter.” Then she smiled. “He told me that whenever he’s reading his radio script, he imagines that he’s reading it to a specific person.”
"Well, whomever he has a crush on at the moment," she said. "You can hear it in his voice."
"A lot of reporters do the same thing," she said. "I think."
5:34 pm • 8 April 2012 • 37 notes
Hold that thought
One night I walked down Sunset Boulevard to a Mel’s Diner. What attracted me was the idea of pancakes for dinner, on the one hand, and Mexican waiters on the other. I feel like a baby floating in amniotic fluid whenever someone calls me mija, especially if that person bears pancakes. Maybe it’s a California thing.
The Mel’s was empty except for three goths and a middle-aged man in a suit. For some reason I sat in a booth directly next to the man. He offered me a few sections of the LA Times, which was dismayingly heavy in Reuters articles. It’s possible that he offered the paper as a way of signaling that my sitting too close was not an imposition. I might be projecting.
Anyhow, I ordered from the waiter and then settled in to read an Op Ed that touched on several of the disasters facing California. Two waiters arrived a few minutes later with six plates: two plates of pancakes, two plates of bacon, and two plates stacked with extra butter patties. The man looked at me. “We ordered the same thing,” he said. And we had. Ha ha! We laughed and so did the waiters. Cute.
The man finished his copy of the meal faster than I did, and he stopped at my table on his way to the cash register. “If you like the pancakes here, you should order the trout,” he said. “I know it sounds funny, but the trout is excellent. I was surprised. If you want a lighter meal.”
I thanked him and said goodbye, and then had a flash of hope that he might pay for my meal. That happens, right? People take pity on solitary women and do gallant things unbidden?
No. The man left and the waiter brought my bill. “You are fucking embarrassing,” I told myself. I licked some butter packets clean in a disgusting way, partly to prove to myself that I did not think I was in a Raymond Chandler novel.
When I was seven or eight, I told my mother that God punished me whenever I felt too happy. For example, I tended to fall down the stairs whenever I got giddy about something. “What’s probably happening,” my mother explained, “is that you get all jacked up and stop paying attention to your surroundings.”
Agreed. Why do I even bother to think of myself as rational person?
12:13 pm • 20 March 2012 • 44 notes
Give him an inch, he’ll take an inch
I was talking to an editor the other day when he mentioned that he met Mitt Romney while reporting a piece. “He’s a weird dude,” the editor said. “Not bad, just weird.”
“On-the-spectrum weird?” I asked.
“Yes. He made a speech the other week in Michigan and opened with a comment about how the trees in that state were exactly the right height.”
“And you know, that’s a weird thing to say. People were interpreting it in different ways.”
[Important to note: It was also the second time Romney had gone on record about tree height in Michigan.]
“Thing is,” the editor went on, “I think Romney was being straightforward. He’s a dude who believes that there is a correct height for trees, and that the trees in Michigan meet this benchmark.”
We moved on to other topics.
On the way home, my mind turned back to the anecdote, and then onto the subject of management consulting. When you think about the ideal management consultant, you think about someone who is detail-oriented, analytically-minded, and obsessed with optimization. It’s an amazingly rational field. Emotions don’t enter the picture.*
This is why Mitt Romney can be inadvertently funny, and only ever inadvertently so. It’s also why Romney doesn’t make sense until you quit evaluating his behavior on any scale relating to emotions. Romney doesn’t care about trees; he’s just satisfied that the Michigan species aligns with some internal metric regarding tree height. It was an empirical comment. The trees were optimized, and this pleased him.
Apparently this is a deleterious quality for a candidate to have, and it is easy to understand why. But it’s also a shame, because the Romney style could, in theory, provide a great antidote to the hysteria and frivolity of campaign politics.
Credit where credit’s due!
*I should say that there are a couple of ex-Bain / McKinsey / CFAR people at my job and they have normal human emotions.
10:33 pm • 17 March 2012 • 25 notes
Why is it so hard to draw this from memory?
12:12 pm • 16 March 2012 • 28 notes