Sunday, April 30, 2006

mission target

as soon as my suspicions were confirmed i knew i needed to call for backup. "meet me between women's wear and..." i scanned the shelves hastily "uh, like the mops. NOW!"

i clapped my cellphone shut and scurried out into the main aisle. i needed a partner for whatever it was i was about to do, and i needed one fast.

i wasn't immediately sure what i was going to do, actually. i hadn't thought that far ahead. but i'd called it out in the parking lot when i'd spotted the old familiar car. he was there, all right. three years of fairly steady shopping excursions to target, and finally the fates had us there at the same time.

i was inside target at the same time as my ex. and the girl he left me for.

aside from maybe one glance during a completely unplanned--and most likely only noted by me--passing each other in our respective cars moment, i hadn't seen hide nor receding hairline of the guy since our disastrous final performance of "breakup theatre" back in early 2003. in fact, the last i'd heard from him had been in the form of an email, addressed to the readers of my then newborn blog, that he'd expected me to post (which is precisely why i didn't, although it was a gem of a missive, i'll admit). we even shared the same city block for a good almost two years after that, although his address had taken on a new tenant: his girlfriend.

so here i was, no longer angry, no longer heartbroken, no longer vengeful. i was just, oh, i don't know...amused. i'd practically squealed with glee when i'd seen them contemplating a liquid laundry detergent purchase.

my backup finally arrived, having ditched her red plastic shopping cart back in the toy section and done her best to decipher my frantic message that had apparently been relayed via a lousy cell signal. "they're over there!" i said in an exaggerated stage whisper, complete with an over the top pointing gesture. "go, go!"

bunny ducked down the pet food aisle and strolled right past them. she emerged out the other end and i met her. "did you see?" i wanted to know.

"yes. they're buying cat food."

"but he's allergic!"

"not anymore, it seems."

"where'd they go?"


"gawd, it's like a train wreck or some horrible accident. you know you shouldn't, but you just can't help but want to look. here they come!"

like a couple of sitcom-styled sleuths we ducked behind a rack of juniors super short-shorts.

"do you think i'd look better in the white or the olive?" bunny asked jokingly. we peered from between the hangers, struggling to suppress our giggles.

and because it was a ridiculous thing to do, and because we had nowhere else to go anytime, and because we're kind of melodramatic like that, we played the spy game while the happy couple completed their bargain superstore shopping for the evening. we had some close calls that necessitated further ducking and dodging. we were definitely being noticed by shoppers in the women's wear section, where we did most of our stake-outing. but most importantly, it was in all sincerity being done in jest. i didn't want to confront him, i have no axe to grind, no speeches to make, no issues to air out. he and i...we're done. we've been done for all these three years, and i can't tell you how lovely it's been to have moved on.

and, no, they didn't see us. we kept our distance, hamming up the hide and seek part for our own amusement. if you can believe my logic, the last thing i would want to do would be to bother them.

it occured to me, not long after we'd cashed out and resumed our non-sleuthing routine, that seeing them--seeing him--that night had served to make one thing perfectly clear: that i was happy to no longer be with him. not that what we'd had wasn't, for the most part, a lovely part of my life while it lasted, but that if they are happy together, then i am truly happy for them. what was meant to be is exactly what's happened, and clearly--yes, thankfully--i was not meant to be with him. i'd tried so hard from day one to find ways to make him be right for me, but the fact of the matter was that our ultimate incompatibility was inescapable. and if i was with him now, well, then i wouldn't be where i am right now. i wouldn't be with who i actually am with right now, and believe me, i wouldn't trade that for all the million dollar target shopping sprees in the world.

it's nice to think about a long-soured romance and be able to smile.

...well, okay, more than smile. just the mental picture of me and bunny poking our faces through a rack of mossimo tankinis like they were curtains is more than enough to make me laugh.


Wednesday, April 26, 2006

voiding the inherent anonymity

today in my english 101 class we began a unit i'm calling "life in the digital age." i have to admit i pressed pretty hard for the unit during our group curriculum planning meetings back at the end of last quarter, and i took a pretty active role in planning out the assignments. i even gushed a little in class today, confessing that this was a topic near and dear to my heart, and that i hoped my enthusiasm would be infectious. in any event, the focal point of the unit is the internet, and more specifically two main issues: illegal downloads and the protection of intellectual property, and the ways in which the internet affects identity. (and by the way, hello to any of you--my darling students--who may have cleverly found their way here via googling me. and just a warning: remember we listed "finding someone" on the disadvantages column, too!)

i asked my class how many of them had myspace pages, and i'd say more than two thirds shot their hands up. "do you have one?" they asked. "oh, no," i protested, "i'm too old." (i heartily maintain that anyone over, oh, let's say 26, is too old for myspace, unless you're in a band.) someone even offered to "pimp" my page should i change my mind. it's interesting to me that blogging is almost old school these days. bloggers tend to be older (ahem, 26 and up, perhaps?) and don't aim to use blogging as a networking tool. none of the students would confess to ever having met up with anyone they'd met online, although i suppose at 18-21 they are too young and not desperate enough to be trying online dating. we wound up having what i thought was a really fun, productive, and insightful talk on the issue, and i only wish we could spend more time exploring the issue of identity--or more specifically the assertion and/or manipulation of identity--online.

so all this has got me thinking again about my blogging life, and the presentation of myself here.

is this the real me?

well, to your right there's a photo of me. a co-worker of mine says i "look mean" in it. i wonder--do people think i look mean, or is it just the photo? and then there's the list of witty info. yes, i'm really 29, i'm really a teacher, i'm really finishing my master's. is that stuff over there enough to know about me? why did i pick those particular tidbits? and then of course there's the content...

the other day i got an email from an old classmate/friend of mine that i'd lost touch with over the past year or so. i had to chuckle aloud when her email said she'd gone to my blog to see what i was up to. i shot her back a reply that said, in part, that she wouldn't really get a sense of what i was actually up to by reading my blog. sure, i've mentioned things i've done, like spent a week in chicago, started a balcony garden, got invited to a josh rouse showcase, and so on. if you're patient and savvy enough you can go into the archives and read about breakups, hookups, and various mess ups i've endured. you might even be able to chart the decline in revelatory information. (hint: things got very boring, yes?)

the thing is, if you were to meet me in person, you might be surprised at how at ease i am with revealing things about myself. i'm censored in the appropriate circumstances (i.e. in the classroom, with my professors, and so on), but am generally forthcoming about my life. there isn't much i won't tell, particularly if i'm being asked.

but i just can't seem to blog about those things. is it because my family reads this (hi mom! hi dad! hi cousins! hi aunts and uncles!) and, in some cases, uses it to track my life's happenings? if that's the case, i may as well just turn the blog into a newsletter, for the sake of being informative. (hi everyone. i'm doing great. i'm trying hard to work on my thesis. teaching is going really well; i love my students, and i really have found my niche. the "love life" is fine, thanks. the weather here in los angeles is sort of up and down--sunny mostly, but the past few days have been overcast. i'm not sure when i'll get out for a visit. hope you're great, too.) is it because through experience i've learned that not all information about me should be made public? or is it merely because i made that crucial mistake of voiding the inherent anonymity of the internet?

i think it's a bit of all of the above, but mostly the last one. i'd tell you all one hell of an ear full if there wasn't the slightest risk that my words could be tied to my name.

and isn't that ironic? i'd tell you the same ear full over a latte at some starbucks somewhere. chances are you probably already know it all, anyhow.

so what's the issue here for me? well, in considering the very same notion i put on the table this morning to my students, i'd have to say that my identity is altered--lessened--on the internet. my web presence here is one small fraction of me. one small, carefully crafted fraction; and this is the case more so now than ever, i'd have to admit. i'm sure that's why i'm not particularly scandalous or interesting to much of anyone. and i'm pretty happy about that, truth be told. i've learned the hard way what it's like to get fired for blogging, lose friendships over blogging, be disappointed when meeting up with bloggers, hurt people's feelings via blogging, have my feelings hurt via blogging, pay a price for saying too much when blogging, and so on. my experience has taught me that it's necessary to protect myself and my identity--even though you all know my name--online, if only to save and preserve the quality of my life off line.

and there is a tremendous amount of quality in my life off line.

i guess you'll just have to take my word for it.


Friday, April 21, 2006


Josh Rouse, live
Originally uploaded by sassylittlepunkin.
so i got this random email on wednesday from someone who'd found my hideous cameraphone pics of the josh rouse show at the troubadour back in january, inviting me to a private showcase for josh (and leigh nash) the next day. could i go? could i maybe blog about it?

could i? ha! sure!

so i wrote him back and said i'd be there, camera in hand and ready. i was already a little bummed because i'd missed the boat on getting tickets to see josh perform that night at the henry ford, but a little tiny show the next afternoon would be even lovelier. i also let it out that i could blog about it, but how about if i ran a piece on LAist about it?

and thus the plan was hatched.

i felt like a bit of a dork when i got there because everyone knew each other, and i was biting my lip and pulling jackass moves like dumping a plateful of chips on my lap thanks to nervous energy, but i did strike up a conversation with another sort of keep to himself guy next to me. we decided the best conversation starter in this town should be "what don't you do?" instead of "what do you do?" but soon the show began, and leigh nash took the stage. she was all breathy and charming and really endeared me with her romantic songs, although i couldn't shake the "kiss me" flashbacks from her old band, sixpence none the richer. after a bit of a break (wherein i repositioned myself standing near the stage) josh rouse took over. he did a set similar to what he'd done that morning on nic harcourt's "morning becomes eclectic" show, complete with string quartet, but minus songs off other albums and the usual inane harcourt interview. last, he brought up his girlfriend (who i'd been standing with at the side, and also who probably thought i was another one of her boyfriend's drippy american fan-girls) to sing with him on "the man who doesn't know how to smile."

it was a really nice treat. i got too nervous to stick around and shake hands with people (believe me, i had at least a half dozen chances to say "nice show, man" to josh) and also my meter was running out, so i bailed as soon as it ended.

read my write up over on LAist. (yes, i still actually write over there. who knew?)

(link forthcoming when the -ist servers aren't being so persnickity)


Sunday, April 16, 2006

with silver bells and cockle shells...

My pink explosion
Originally uploaded by sassylittlepunkin.
i come from a family of proficient recreational gardeners. i have firmly rooted memories of summers in vancouver when i would traipse about the yard watching my grandfather tend to his plants and flowers; back then my favorite was dusty miller, not because it was beautiful, but because it lent itself easily to a pun using the name of the police station sitcom barney miller. i have memories of springtime annual planting in toronto, and exhausting family trips to sheridan gardens (was that the place?) to buy flats of brightly colored flowers, or of tulips and daffodils and rhubarb bursting forth from the ground in the backyard. and everywhere my mother goes she creates a beautiful garden, whether it be a bougainvillia arbor or an apartment balcony or the critter-riddled hillside plots surrounding their home. but me, well... i've never done much for plants except kill them or take their picture.

so what's happened? did i all of sudden grow a green thumb? no, i don't think that's it. i think, like so many things in life, it's simply a matter of timing and patience. a while back, say ten or eleven years ago, i was fumbling around in life, trying to figure out what job, what friends, what passtimes, what mate might suit me. i jumped on all sorts of bandwagons with reckless, youthful abandon, and wound up abandoning or abandoned or just plain bored. things fizzled or faded or simply disappeared. but in time, i began to take steps on a path that didn't come to a dead end. and i solidified my friendships, my career, my was simply a matter of timing.

in the past few months i've found myself to be the caretaker and new owner of several plants--the first thing in a pot to be thrust in my hands was a tiny lemon verbena plant, and my, how it's grown. the next was a lovingly resurrected planter full of pansies and snapdragons, and--wouldn't you know it--dusty miller; it was the loveliest welcome home i've ever had. and now it's a pomegranate tree in plantlike promise. i've even braved the wilds of the nursery section of home depot on my own, and put together my very first plantings, all on my north-facing balcony. the odds seem a little stacked against my garden; it's not your typical garden, and it's going to take more care and patience than perhaps your average sunshine-y variety. that's okay. it's the garden i've always wanted. it's the garden that fits my life right now. it's the garden i wanted ten or eleven years ago, but just wasn't ready to have.

my garden is doing great so far--thanks to timing, and patience, and something quite close to that crazy little thing called love.

view all the photos in my growing set here!


Saturday, April 15, 2006

don't worry, i'm listening

i go through phases when music becomes of central importance to my daily life. since the advent of my laptop and itunes and the ipod (okay, time to confess i've updated to a new, super-mega, slick model; her name is kit macintosh and i absolutely love her) it's become so much easier to listen to all kinds of music at all times. i am seriously in touch with my inner playlisting diva, and believe you me, i've got a list for every mood and mode of my little life. so what am i listening to lately? here's a list of some of my current favorite tunes. i can't guarantee minty-newness; sometimes an oldie is nothing less than a goodie.

"from blown speakers" [the new pornographers]
"black and white town" [doves]
"the one you love" [rufus wainwright]
"shadow of a doubt" [beth orton]
"destroy everything you touch" [ladytron]
"beautiful" "number 1" & "ooh la la" [goldfrapp]
"the long goodbye" [a girl called eddy]
"wraith pinned to the mist and other games" [of montreal]
"come sing me a song" [sing-sing]
"u.r.a.q.t." [m.ia.]
"o, i need all of the love" [josh rouse]
"the church of what's happening now" [sia]
"nervous" [tessitura]
"7/4 (shoreline)" [broken social scene]
"big exit" [pj harvey]
"the planeiac" [palomar]
"a.m. slow golden hit" [hotel lights]
"cold truth" [guggenheim grotto]
"do the whirlwind" [architecture in helsinki]
"losing" [tina dico]
"que' onda guero" [beck]
"john the revelator" [depeche mode]
"whitechocolatespaceegg" [liz phair]
"thinking about you" [ivy]
"like a star" "enchantment" & "choux pastry heart" [corinne bailey rae]
"wanted" [holly brook]
"l-l-love (acoustic)" [blondefire]
"your beauty is a knife i turn on my throat" [eagle*seagull]
"six feet" [etienne de rocher]


Thursday, April 13, 2006


once upon a time, not so long ago, i was terrified at the mere prospect of teaching. the fact that anyone would willingly and knowingly put me in charge of passing vital information on to receptive individuals who were paying to sit their asses in any one of several kinds of uncomfortable seats in any one of several airless and ugly classrooms, was baffling. last year, when i started facilitating workshops to prep students to take our school's mandatory writing exam, i began to realize i had a sort of knack for teaching. then this fall i joined the teaching associate program, and was given my very own classroom, group of students, gradebook, and the task of teaching them how to write, and, if they minded their p's and q's, the potential to give them credit for passing the course. now i'm up to big, bad, english 101, and i'm about to sit down and give letter grades on the first set of essays for the quarter. yeah, they let me do that. scary.

last week, after a writing exam workshop, a student enthusiastically commented that i seemed born to do the job.

whoa. born to do it?

without getting into stuff about callings and destiny and the likes, i did take her comment to heart. i guess there's a reason why i'm teaching writing to college students. i guess--okay, i know--i'm good at it.

but yesterday morning a call came into my office that threw a whole new wrench into the game. would i--could i--step in at the last minute and sub for a former professor of mine in the afternoon for their beginning creative writing class. because my gut instinct was to scream "NOOOOO!" out of SHEER TERROR, my answer was, without hesitation: "YES!" incidentally, that's how i wound up taking improv classes years ago--because the thought of doing improv scared the shit out of me. yesterday, the thought of teaching creative writing also scared the shit out of me. which is why i said i'd do it.

okay, so realistically it was less than two hours out of my life. it was light conversation about writing strategies, no evaluation of writing, and facilitating a few writing exercises and games.

but it was a blast.

after the class ended, i ran into the professor who runs the teaching associate program. because everybody knows everybody's business in our department, she knew exactly what i'd just been up to.

"how did it go?" she asked.

"it went really well," i replied, still a little intoxicated from the experience. "i wish i could do that all the time."

"soon you will," she said.

and that was when i realized that i was doing exactly what i was supposed to be doing with my life. sure, some of the other life situations i'm tangled up in are messy and less than ideal, but at the very least, i've got one thing figured out: i'm a writing teacher. and i'm good at it. and it's what i want to do. and it's what i'm going to do.


Thursday, April 06, 2006

the art of folding the fitted sheet

i spent a significant portion of my afternoon distracting myself to the point of near-distraction by doing the mass quantities of laundry i had put off doing for so long. and it dawned on me as i wrestled with the flopping, puckered, never even edges of my freshly washed and dried and smell-so-good fitted sheet that this was something i just plain suck at: folding a fitted sheet. i remembered back to when i was younger, and when the dryer made its final tumble and the signal went off i would get called downstairs and roped into partnership folding duty with my dad. i'm sure i grumbled and protested, but now that i think back on it, getting someone in on the act of sheet folding is just plain smart. that shit is hard to do on your own. well, the pillowcases and the top sheet aren't so bad, but that damned fitted's a killer. but i dawned on me that i've been folding my own fitted sheets for all of my adult life, or at least as long as i've had more than one set of sheets to my name and done my own laundry. all that time and i've never had anyone to sucker into holding the other ends, shaking the sheet out, stretching it taut, folding, walking to meet in the middle, redistributing, then folding again until all that's left is a tidy little package, hopefully still warm and scented with fabric softener. it's just me, winding up with a lumpy mess that refuses to lie flat, all alone. i tried to channel the best sheet folder in the history of the universe--my nana, naturally--but i just couldn't get a grip on her skills or m.o. it's something with thwaking the folded sheet with the edge of your hand and a ratio of end-over-end in thirds. damned if i know.

i guess what all this comes down to is that while i may not always do things that might earn me the good housekeeping seal of approval, the fact of the matter is i've been managing to get by on my own now for a long, long, time. and i'm going to be thirty this year. this startling tidbit of trivia crops up and smacks me clear in the kisser every now and then like shock therapy. "you're getting old" i tell myself. and i wonder when the real grown ups and people in charge are going to realize that they've put this goofball kid in charge of like, really, super important things like teaching english to college freshman, and operating a motor vehicle. and then i remember that i got this far--almost all the way through to a full three decades--and that i actually am one of those people in charge of things. and i do my own laundry. and i fold my own fitted sheets. and i do a lot of it entirely on my own.

i've always considered myself an independent person. it's how i was brought up, not just because i'm an only child, but because i was always given a fair amount of responsibility so that i could learn how to be responsible. and i didn't always do the best or right thing, but i also learned how to deal with those consequences. i was the one who thumbed her nose at expectations and froze my ass off and ate ramen for one long autumn and winter in new york when i was 17, because i could. i moved out, but not without knowing that wherever my family was living i had somewhere else to call home, even if it was just for a week, or for dinner. i got jobs, and i lost jobs. i took charge, and i learned when it was time to move on. and when i liked someone--a friend or a fella--i taught myself to step up and let them know. my comfort zone is planning, speaking up, and just plain doing; i suppose i'm this way because i just don't know how to be any other way. i suck ass at waiting for phone calls, the mail, or some kind of results. i want to know. i want to make it happen. it's how i survive. it's how i made it to twenty-nine going on thirty.

so i finally gave up and got the fitted sheet into the best folded formation i could muster. it's kind of bloated with creases and lumps from where the elastic gathering refused to be tamed. sometimes miss independent has to admit defeat and let it ride. it's funny, because right now i'm so close to so many of my goals in life, but things beyond the immediate moment are sitting a little fuzzily. there are a lot of "i don't know what's going to happen with..." hanging, and i can't know right now, i can't plan or organize or orchestrate or DO anything about them. i have a feeling the next few months are going to prompt continual evaluation; that's the nature of things right now. don't get me wrong...i'm happy. but as i folded my sheets i didn't feel so much independent as a touch alone. maybe that could just be fixed by having income enough to pay someone else to do my laundry. maybe that could be fixed if i had someone to call out to and get them to help me finish the hated task. but that's just not where this kid is right now. and that sheet, well, it's put away, where it belongs. it's not perfect, but like my mistakes, it is mine. and i did my very best.


Saturday, April 01, 2006

something new almost every day

according to popular theory, we all learn something new every day. i'm not entirely sure that i've happened upon wholly new knowledge each and every day of my life, but in this first week back in the swing of things--and in the spring of things--i have learned some things that are on the new, and even mildly interesting, side. some examples: that watching sex and the city episodes one after the other on dvd somehow inspires me to lose my inhibitions, therefore enhancing my own sex life; all about lisa loeb's dating drama; how dangerous it is to love a tv show that you can buy episode by episode from itunes (top chef baby!; that it costs just under two hundred dollars to spill stale flower-vase water near your computer, thus rendering it necessary to take your laptop to the apple store and have a genuis replace the keyboard; also that when they say seven to ten days they can really mean one, which, if you'd known, could have saved you the embarrassment of crying about your thesis in the apple store, sending out several emails to people about how you'd be without a computer indefinitely, and getting into a fight with one member of your thesis panel; that it really does save time and effort to just go ahead and read the instructions before starting; it takes half a bottle of wine, a housemate, clever commentary, and lots of screaming to get through watching a history of violence; i really like teaching english 101, and i'm thinking so far i'm pretty good at it; the line actually is: "it's evil! don't touch it!"; it's no fun when your car overheats on a rainy evening after a long day on campus, and also that it costs $120 to fix it; making dinner and settling down to watch jeopardy! can be loads of fun on a given weeknight; most everyone agrees this recent week off was not an adequate break; no one knows if my bibliography should or should not be annotated; it feels good to sit down and just write my freakin' thesis; i am in a sense a metaphoric aspirin; friday is a great day for gal pals i don't get to talk to often to call me up and have great gab sessions; sometimes it's one of your best friends who knows more about your own dating life than you do, which goes with the (re)discovery that although i protest "i haven't been on a date in god knows how many years!" that, actually, i did go on a couple of thoroughly unsuccessful dates with a couple of guys somewhere around the end of 2004--so unsuccessful that i'd obliterated the experiences almost entirely from memory and had to be reminded they happened at all; i'm really glad i have a sort of stay of execution right now from having that kind of dating life; the peril of magnificent love hits a soft spot; i am no longer a death sentence destination for plants and flowers; and, as it just happens to turn out, i could have just asked for it all along.


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