Wednesday, July 30, 2014

I fell in love again...

...all things go.

I am back in Los Angeles after my journey to my home of homes, Chicago. Do not be misled by its harrowing winters, my friends; no place is more beautiful than Chicago in summer, and I was more than happy to spend a whole week there.

The first two days were spent with the fam in the suburbs. Got some Kaiser's pizza with dad (the best pizza!), ate some more food because that's the midwestern way, cuddled these dogs.

Friday I traveled to the city itself, where I was taken in by the lovely Gena and given a place of honor on her surprisingly comfortable futon. (Have you read her most recent post on All Together Now?) That evening she and I and a few of her friends went to see Chicago Shakespeare Theater's outdoor production of A Midsummer Night's Dream in Loyola Park. They did a fantastic job, as usual. My favorite part may have been the umbrella motif throughout; much of the set was made up of various umbrellas that the cast moved around. Later we went back to Gena's to celebrate the fact that she was offered a full-time job that very day (congratulations again!). Ben joined us there for some girl talk. We all may have had a tad too much to drink. Just a tad.

But that's okay, because when you have a tad too much to drink in Chicago, there are a plethora of brunch locations waiting for you the next day! After inhaling my much-needed salmon benedict, Gena and I meandered and shopped for a while. I desperately miss living in a walkable city. It was so nice to stretch my legs.

Fortunately for me, my trip was over the last Saturday of the month. And when it's the last Saturday of the month in Chicago, you know what that means: 90's dance party at Beauty Bar. The 4th anniversary of said party, no less! Mickey, Alex, Gena, Olivia, Ben, Reed, Ryan, and I dominated the dance floor as we jumped around to oh-so-many sweet 90's jams. According to Gena's fitbit, we took roughly 10,000 steps. And we sure as hell looked awesome doing it.


You can't really tell from the picture, but I was going for a mixture of Sarah Michelle Gellar from Cruel Intentions and Audrey Horne from Twin Peaks with my outfit. I had limited costuming options, okay! Give me a break. Regardless of outfits, the female-bodied people in our group had certainly mastered the classic 90's disinterested stare:


And then Ben and I were super cute!


Okay, enough with the pictures. As you can see, Saturday night was a blast.

Sunday Gena and I did probably the most Gena-and-I thing ever, which was to stay in our pajamas and watch several PBS documentaries about famous historic British buildings. That evening Mickey, Alex, and I went to a spooky WildClaw Theatre staged reading in someone's backyard. As you do. From there we headed to Delilah's, for no trip to Chicago is complete without a whiskey at my favorite bar. Just one though. I was pretty damn tired at this point. What can I say? I'm 26 years old. Gone are the carefree days of my youth when I didn't need sleep. Anyway, Mickey and I were joined by Marc and Dave, and a good time was had by all.

Speaking of the carefree days of my youth, Mickey took off work on Monday so that we could relive our childhoods with a trip to Six Flags Great America! Have I ever mentioned on here that I grew up in Gurnee, right next to the theme park? I was raised on roller coasters, my friends. I have a stomach of steel. Seriously, my parents used to get us season passes every summer and drop us off there when we were bored. I haven't been in years, though, so I was quite excited.

As any coaster aficionado will tell you, drops are better than loops, so we mostly stuck to the rides with the most drastic changes in altitude--warmed up with Viper, then headed over to Raging Bull, which I honestly think is still my favorite roller coaster of all time. Before we left we tried the Dark Knight ride, since they built it after we stopped regularly going there. Not anything to write home about, but I was glad we gave it a shot. The highlight of the day, however, had to be Goliath, the brand new coaster. It is supposedly the tallest, steepest, fastest wooden coaster in the world, and when I was rocketing down that almost-90-degree drop, I was convinced that these records must be true. The best part was that we cut our wait time in half by volunteering to be single riders and fill up extra seats on the train. We didn't get to ride together, but it all worked out.

Then it was dinner at mom and dad's with Mickey and Molly and Aunt Trish and cousins Caroline & Rich and baby first-cousins-once-removed Colleen & Anna. So much food. So. Much. Food.

The next day I flew back, and now here I am, in California once again. To be honest, I wish I could have just flown back to Vegas. Nothing against Los Angeles or my internship or anything like that. It's simply that living in a temporary situation is getting to me. I long for permanence. But I only have three-ish more weeks here, so I'd better make the most of them.

Thank you, Chicago, for all the fun! I miss you already.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Retreat

TOMORROW I AM GOING TO CHICAGO FOR A WEEK

EXCITED

YES

!

That's not the point of this blog entry, however. This blog entry is to talk about last weekend, when I attended Figues Camp: Empire of the Senseless in Big Bear, California.

As attached as I am to cities and all the conveniences of modern life, it's fun to go out into nature every once in a while, which is precisely what we did. Not that we were roughing it--the camp was on the family property of a certain poet, whose great-great grandfather built the log cabins there in 1914. We stayed in those same cabins (although Amber, Beth, and I technically stayed in the 1970's bunkhouse), which are still in wonderful condition and have electricity, plumbing, all that. Let me tell you, though, you can't beat a bathroom with a century-old pair of gloves, spats, and a top hat:


Well, to be honest, you probably can beat that. I'm not sure you can beat a backyard that looks like this, though:


The weekend was filled with much writing and workshopping. I particularly enjoyed getting to know the other campers, especially Amber, my fellow intern (it was nice talking with her in an outside-of-work context) and Oscar, who finished his poetry MFA at UNLV a few years ago (I met him briefly in Seattle last February/March at AWP, but we didn't talk all that much then). The other campers--Reema, Rachel, and Beth--were rad as well. I'm grateful that I got to share my work with them, and that I got to read their work.

The workshops started with all the poets and fiction writers together, and then later we'd break into groups based on genre. The second day Melissa Buzzeo literally hypnotized us during workshop. I'd never been hypnotized before, but my lovely mom is a therapist, so I know it's a real thing that people do. I was still scared, of course. It was a light trance, so I was definitely conscious the whole time. I was sure that if I'd wanted to, I could have opened my eyes and walked away. It was more like a heavy guided meditation--although at one point I couldn't feel the notebook and pen I was holding, which freaked me out. And then when we were writing, I kept writing superfast, as though I needed to get it all out before--I don't know, something. I haven't read what I wrote yet. I can remember the general nature of the content; I was simply writing about what I saw and what I was feeling during the hypnotism. But I want to give it a few days/weeks before looking at it again. I bet it will strike me as funny.

The camp wasn't all workshops, though. We also had a craft talk every day from writers like Vanessa Place, Prageeta Sharma, Lucy Corin, and Matias Viegener, and in the evenings we all gathered for readings--campers and counselors alike. The exchange of ideas was incredible, and a bit too complex to describe in a short blog entry, unfortunately.

Other wonderful things:

FOOD. Our poet/hostess was trained as a chef. Ohmigod. Relatively certain it was some of the best food I've had in my life. And there were s'mores the last night, obviously.

STARGAZING. Hiked out a few nights to the "flat rock" all the way in the back of the property, laid down, looked at the sky. It was honestly harder for me to find the constellations because there were so many stars that I kept getting confused which was which. There were shooting stars, too, and I could see the Milky Way.

NIGHT HIKE. The last evening Oscar, Rachel, Beth, and I hiked past the flat rock to find a "lake" that our hostess had described, supposedly owned by a Christian camp of some kind. This hike quickly devolved into horror movie territory. (Things have a tendency to do that when you're out in the woods late at night with a bunch of imaginative writers.) We first passed what we dubbed the "murder hut," a small structure at the edge of a clearing surrounded by all these twisty pieces of wood. It was too small for a grown person to fit inside--only one very small child could have made it. And up close, you could see these pieces of string hanging from it. Later there was a wood rowboat in the middle of the path, still wet, as though it had been in the lake. Then there were ropes strung between two trees in a haphazard almost-dreamcatcher. It was gone when we hiked back. (Or we hiked back another way, but that's not nearly as fun.) When we got to the lake, we found out that it was actually a dammed up river or pond. We walked across the dam, but then heard these people at a nearby property (with lots of bright, hot floodlights) saying something about us. Figuring that we were probably trespassing, we ran back across and headed back. But don't worry--we made sure to stop at the opening of the abandoned mine shaft to take a peek inside.

Overall the camp was a fantastic experience. I miss it already, but it's okay because we all exchanged contact information so we can be pen-pals for life! Or, you know, however adults who go to camp interact.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Going Camping!

Sort of. Actually, I'll be in Big Bear tomorrow through Sunday attending Figues Camp: Empire of the Senseless. (Interns go for free! Yay!) Writing workshops, craft talks, readings. Hopefully I'll get lots of work done. I've been doing a decent amount of writing this summer, but I've been displeased with the quality of most of it. I feel as though I'm stuck in a rut. Maybe focusing on it for a whole weekend will shake something loose.

Needless to say, Figues Camp will not have internet, so there will be no blogging until Sunday night at the earliest. Just wanted to let you all know where I'll be! You can look forward to hearing all about it when I get back.

<3

Monday, July 14, 2014

California Uber Alles

Writing this blog from my phone, as I managed to knock over a glass of water onto Kenzie & Alex's wireless router while making my bed like an adult. This is why adulthood is overrated. New router should arrive tomorrow.

Despite my clumsiness, this weekend was quite spectacular, overall, and I must tell you about it so that you will be jealous. 

Friday evening Katie and I had a date night. The adventure started off with a trip to the Pleasure Chest, as Katie wanted to procure a present for her boyfriend--lucky him! We then headed to Umami Burger, a Los Angeles must according to most people I've talked with. It was indeed delicious, though a tad small. For the same price at Kuma's I could take half home for lunch the next day, but then, Chicago will always be better. This is a simple fact.

From there we traveled to Glendale for a Star Trek burlesque show--the second nerdy burlesque show we've attended this summer. I was pleased to discover that the bill featured some boylesque acts as well--why should ladies have all the fun? The girl who danced as Spock was fantastic (she didn't break character all night), but Sulu clearly stole the show. I can't even describe it--it was almost a drag act, because he was lip syncing, though he did eventually strip. But he had costume changes, song changes, starting with "Turning Japanese" and building up to an Olivia Newton-John "Xanadu" climax--it was truly dazzling.

You know I'm excited about it because I overused em dashes again.

My fun weekend did not end there, oh no. On Saturday Kenzie, Alex, and I decided to relive our rockabilly/psychobilly-loving high school days and attend Horton's Hayride in Long Beach, headlined, as you may have guessed, by the inestimable Reverend Horton Heat.

It may have been the most poorly-organized street festival I've ever attended. They oversold it, so it was insanely crowded and many people with tickets were turned away. But the beer was reasonably priced, and the music was great. I'm relatively certain Reverend Horton Heat haven't changed their set list in 20 years, but it was still great. The show had an interesting format; they did it sort of like a variety hour. Reverend Horton Heat would play a few of their songs, and then they'd bring up Deke Dickerson to play a few of his with them, and then they'd play a few more of theirs, and then they'd bring up Lee Rocker to play a few Stray Cats songs, and so on. There were lots of covers, tributes to the late great Tommy Ramone--it was lovely. 

You're probably wondering why I named this post "California Uber Alles." That would be because the final guest of the evening was none other than punk legend Jello Biafra, who I honestly didn't realize was still alive. I mean, I hadn't given much thought to his whereabouts. Certainly didn't think he was still performing. But it was great. He sounds exactly the same. Only it was funny, because he was backed by Reverend Horton Heat, so he was essentially performing rockabilly versions of Dead Kennedys songs. Rockabilly Dead Kennedys is better than you'd think. He didn't actually perform "California Uber Alles," but he did do "Holiday in Cambodia." I'll bet Kenzie, Alex, and I were the only ones in the audience who actually know who Pol Pot is.

Sunday was a chill day. Watched the World Cup final--in ENGLISH this time! I had to watch all the other games on Univision, which is only a problem because I don't speak a lick of Spanish. Not that the English commentators on ABC helped much; I still don't understand the rules at all, especially offsides. But anyway, congrats to Germany, and chin up, Lionel Messi. Everyone still loves you. Now it's time to not watch or even think about soccer for another four years. 

And now I must sleep. Lots of work to do this week as I'm spending the weekend in Big Bear in a cabin with no internet. More on that later. Bon soir!

EDIT 7-16-14: Still no internet at Kenzie and Alex's. Living the nomad life in pursuit of wireless. Adding links to this post from Katie's.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Translation

I have this completely unfounded, untested theory that, had I any real expertise in a foreign language, I would be a better translator than a writer.

Not that translators aren't writers, and that's exactly my point. When I'm writing, my problems don't stem from an inability to whip up unusual description, imagery. That's usually--well, I won't say easy, but it doesn't pose too many difficulties. And I'm perfectly capable of imagining strange situations, scenarios that would make for a compelling story. The trouble is seeing these scenarios through to fruition. I have no idea how to write a complex plot.

Often I see pictures, hear conversations, feel places, flashes of them, and I can write those down. I just can't develop them. Why do you think I write so much flash fiction? It's much easier for me when a plot is no more than a moment or two. People sometimes act as though this is a great talent to have, and sometimes I agree, but other times I think it's a real weakness. Though the internet has created a friendlier environment for flash fiction, it's still not typically the thing people look for when they head to the bookstore--or, I guess, when they head to Amazon. Besides, I want to be able to write longer stories. I want to concoct and organize scenarios as elaborate and unexpected as the authors I admire, but I don't know whether I have that ability.

That's why I believe I could potentially be good at translation. I'm a thoughtful enough reader to understand and appreciate plot, to understand different connotations of language, and so on. And I know that most translations can't be word-for-word literal--nor do I think they should be. I suspect I could take someone else's text, let them work out the pesky plot for me, and then employ the writing skills that I do have to translate the original author's work into English either while closely maintaining the spirit of their story, or while altering the spirit of their story to make a new point, depending on the situation.

Of course, not all translations have to be from one language to another. You could translate a text phonetically, or translate poetry into prose, or vice-versa, or translate movies into poems, or any number of other projects. I'd like to be able to translate from other languages, though, because I adore how other languages phrase things. For instance, in French, the term for "earthquake" is "tremblement de terre." Trembling of the earth. How lovely is that? And then there are all the single foreign words that mean something which would take many words to convey in English. It would be fun to translate words like those.

Again, I have no tangible evidence that I would be able to translate well. I guess we'll find out in a year or two when I have to start my to-be-determined translation project, a requirement for my MFA program. In the meantime, I suppose I could use Duolingo to get my French back into shape. I could also stop feeling sorry for myself and get over my plot-writing hangups. That's always an option.

Monday, July 7, 2014

West Coast

Can't help it. Obsessed with that Lana Del Rey song.

It's also thematically appropriate since I spent yesterday with Mackenzie and Alex and their friends at the beach. Venice Beach, to be specific. (One of their friends has a house nearby.) It's only the second time in my life that I've gone swimming in the Pacific Ocean--the first time being when I visited California with my family at age sixteen. Many of my relatives live in Florida, so the Atlantic is old hat. Despite the fact that I'm in Florida on a relatively frequent basis, however, I still don't swim in the ocean all that often. I did when I was little, but every time we go now there are high bacteria levels or a strong undertow or man o'war, and the beach is closed. I splashed around for a bit when I was in Jacksonville in May 2013, but we were with the baby cousins, so we couldn't go in deep.

Same situation with Lake Michigan. I was lucky enough to grow up with a large body of water nearby, but we didn't usually swim in it. For one thing, it's freezing, even in the summer. For another thing, the beaches are often closed due to high bacteria levels. Occasionally, when I was a kid, we'd go swimming in the lake up by the old shut-down Zion Nuclear Power Station. Charming, n'est-ce pas?

At any rate, there are a few things I forgot about swimming in the ocean.

1) Waves. They are strong. Like, knock-you-over strong. I tried my hand at boogie boarding, which I'd never done before, and I can't say I was particularly good at it. Most of the time I just got shoved off the board and went somersaulting under the water. It made me grateful for all those swimming lessons my mom made me take when I was young. And it's funny, but it shed new light on all those 60's songs I like to listen to; normally when I'm singing along with the phrase "catch a wave," that means literally nothing to me. It occurred to me yesterday that "catching a wave" is an actual thing--if you time it right (which I did only rarely), the boogie board will sit on top of the wave and carry you to shore. I'm sure I knew this somewhere in the back of my mind, but my brain had never processed it.

2) Salt. It is mean. It stung my eyes, and my nose, and my throat. Largely this was my fault for being a terrible boogie boarder. Don't think I'll be attempting to surf anytime soon. Or ever. It may have been harsh on my body, but the salt was still interesting in a way. It reminded me that this was bigger water, different water, water that contains all sorts of creatures that we only barely understand, if we've even discovered them. (Deep sea exploration is so cool.) Speaking of sea creatures, everyone should stop freaking out about the "shark attack" that occurred at Manhattan Beach the day before I went swimming. It was hardly a shark attack; rather, it was an attack of human stupidity. What idiot thinks, "ah, there's an angry shark stuck on a fishing line. I'm going to swim REAL CLOSE"? And who thinks it's a good idea to swim up to fishing boats with big pointy hooks in the first place? This brings me to the third thing I forgot about swimming in the ocean.

3) Danger. The lifeguards eventually made us all leave the water due to a strong rip current (which pulls people/things towards the open sea), and I'm sure as hell glad they did, because I certainly didn't notice it, but by the time they called us back in it was really hard to get back to the beach. Again, grateful for those swimming lessons. Those lifeguards were working hard that day, running up and down the beach, making sure people were okay. In fact, this weekend a lifeguard died at Newport Beach trying to save somebody. Apparently he was the first on-duty lifeguard to have drowned in L.A. in 100 years.

Ultimately the beach was a lot of fun, but I'm not sure it's for me. This is the conclusion I reach every time I go to any beach, but I always forget. It wasn't the swimming that got to me--that was easily the best part. And the rest of the time I was reading Ulysses, which I realize is not a typical breezy beach-read, but I was enjoying myself. The two things that may keep me away are the sand, which is still stuck in the crevices of every single item I brought with me, and the sun. I like a nice sunny day as much as the next person, but I tend to overlook the fact that I'm quite pale. Multiple sunscreen reapplications could not stop its blinding rays, which scalded the backs of my legs, my stomach, my lower back. It will be fine--Kenzie and Alex have an aloe plant. Sitting down and wearing a bra will just be excruciatingly painful for a week or so. That's all.

I think it was worth it, though. It was a beautiful thing to behold.


Thursday, July 3, 2014

Los Angeles Observations

Sorry I haven't written in a while. I've been busy--fancy Crushee cocktail party on Monday, Crushee Nightswim on Tuesday. Friends from the internet, dancing, chatting, nursing one alcoholic beverage all evening because they're absurdly expensive, etc. I could go into more detail, but instead I'd prefer to examine some things I've noticed about Los Angeles.

1) Everyone works in the film industry. I guess I shouldn't have been surprised by this, but I was all the same. I am relatively certain I'm the only writer in this town without a screenplay. I've been meeting tons of new people lately, so of course "what do you do?" is one of the first questions asked. Thus far I've met an independent experimental filmmaker, several aspiring actors, a cameraman, a foley artist, and the sound editor for Duck Dynasty. That last one is not a joke. It's bizarre.

2) Everyone pretends to have more money than they actually have. To be fair, I don't know this for sure, but it's the only explanation that makes sense. How else could all these people afford multiple $14 cocktails several evenings a week when they don't have jobs, or even if they have part-time retail jobs? I think many of them try to give off an aura of glamor, because it's HOLLYWOOD!, or whatever, but I suspect their credit scores are not so hot.

3) Everyone believes in astrology. This is the most shocking part about Los Angeles, in my opinion. It's 2014! We're in a modern, liberal city! Astrology should not even be close to relevant! Yet I cannot tell you how many times someone has asked me my sign in the past month. Aquarius, if you were wondering. Which means...something? Water? The 1960's? I was talking to a guy at Nightswim, and in the middle of the conversation, he literally said, "Oh, but I'm a--" actually, I forget what sign he was, because I do not care because they are fake. Anyway, he said, "Oh, but I'm a [insert star sign here], so my ego always gets in the way." Nope. If your ego gets in the way it's because you've made the choice to be egotistical. The stars have nothing to do with your ego. 

Hm. Now I feel rude. I do think these things are funny, and odd, but I don't mean to insult a city that has been so hospitable to me. Here are my three favorite things about Los Angeles:

1) It's gorgeous. I love the all the giant hills, and how the forest-like greenery is mixed right in with the desert plants. There are flowers everywhere, and the weather is beautiful. Last weekend I went hiking with Kenzie and Alex, and we could see the ocean through the clouds. (I haven't been to the beach yet, but I'll get there!) Sure, some of the urban sprawl isn't nice looking, but when you get into the smaller neighborhoods, the little bright-colored houses are so cheerful. They make me happy. It seems like an optimistic, hopeful city, even in terms of its appearance.

2) Culture. One of my biggest problems with Vegas is that it has little culture--not a whole lot to do off-strip, and the on-strip entertainment is mostly just flashy rather than artistic or innovative. It's getting better in this regard, but it's no Chicago. It's no Los Angeles, either! L.A. is brimming with music and shows and readings and art and talks and various other events. I like a city that keeps me entertained, and L.A. certainly knows how to do that.

3) Everyone is friendly. Like, ridiculously friendly. Maybe it's just the Crushee crowd that's so nice and non-judgmental and welcoming. Maybe it's just the good weather. Maybe it's just the easily-accessible medical marijuana. Whatever it is, most people, Crushee or otherwise, seem eager to meet you, to talk to you, to help you out. And that is a lovely thing for a girl who's far away from home.

With that, I'm off to write. Have a fun Independence Day! No bottle rockets. You'll shoot your eye out.