Category Archives: Medium Read

He Needed More CDs: A Trip to Tower Records

He needed more CDs.

This came as no surprise to me as his thirst for more music was only ever temporarily abated, and during those periods of “abatement,” if you could call them that, he was always drunk with sound.  Empty disc cases would litter his room like discarded beer cans, his prone body amongst them, limp but alert to the unceasing influx of audio. At the moment, however, all evidence of his last binge had been carefully picked up, discs clicked back into their appropriate cases, then inserted neatly into alphabetically allotted slots on the wire racks lining his bedroom wall.  And he was itching for more.

tower_records_logoSo I found myself, not for the first time, driving Sam to one of the only remaining music stores in the area – a small Tower Records tucked humbly off to the side of Newport Boulevard in Costa Mesa.  My silver SUV idled in the late afternoon traffic as the lowering sun’s modest warmth took the edge off of the cool breeze that had wandered in through the open windows.  I reached and turned the volume up a notch for the Violent Femmes’ Gone Daddy Gone.  Sam turned, snapped out of his reverie, and allowed his hand to sneak slyly across the center console and make its way to my upper thigh, where his fingers began to tap the beat of the song against my blue jeans.

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It took only a few steps onto the scuffed black tile of Tower Records for me to sense the rapid shift in Sam’s demeanor.  During the short walk from the car we had giggled as our bodies swayed playfully into each other, clasped hands swinging; Sam had stopped me abruptly in the center of the parking lot for a tight hug and a sloppy kiss.  I had blushed and reprimanded him for blocking the path of a Volvo that was pulling in nearby, to which he had replied, smiling and turning defiantly toward the oncoming vehicle, “So what?!” Laughing all the while, I had resorted to tugging at his wrist, then more forcibly yanking his arm nearly out of its socket to get him to move his stubborn, scrawny, but surprisingly strong body out of the way.

Now, however, before the glass doors had even shut behind us, he was suddenly distant and focused, eyes narrowing as they scanned the store from wall to wall.  His hand fell away from mine and reached up into his long brown hair, mussing it up absentmindedly.

I gazed for a moment up at Sam’s sharp profile. Behind it I imagined a tiny, intricate system of machinery clicking and whirring, collecting all of the visually available information and using it to calculate the optimal location at which to begin browsing.  Then his eyes stilled.  The cogs and wheels gave a satisfying click, and Sam walked purposefully away without a word.  I stood and watched him go with a tinge of sadness, or maybe it was fear, that I could be cut off from him so swiftly, that our closeness could turn so far inside out it seemed inconceivable that it could ever turn completely back.

I pushed the thought out of my mind and trailed along slowly in his wake.

Twenty minutes later, I was milling around noncommittally somewhere between Nirvana and the Pixies, stopping occasionally to flip through jewel cases, taking one out, putting it back the wrong way.  Peering around the store for Sam.  Discreetly peeking at the album selections of other shoppers and making judgments accordingly.

Music was tricky.  Especially when you were dating who I was dating.  What I really wanted, though I would never have admitted it, was for him to march over and tell me exactly what to buy.  That would have made things so much less complicated.  After all, he always knew what I would like, and, as had happened many times before, when I did pick something out for myself, my selection was sure to elicit from him a condescending wince or, best case, an indifferent shrug.

Just one time, I would have liked to surprise him, to impress him with my secretly sophisticated, obscure and somewhat ironic musical taste… only problem was, it didn’t exist.  Or, at least, it hadn’t fully matured.  (So I told myself).

I finally spotted that familiarly greasy head a few aisles away, bent down intently, obviously still on some other planet.  Eh, fuck it, I thought, and, turning, picked up a colorfully quirky-looking album.  This is going to be so good.

I knew it wouldn’t be.

Continue reading He Needed More CDs: A Trip to Tower Records

Maybe I’ll Get Seasonal Affective Disorder

As it happens, I’ve become relatively employed.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m still scrambling for cash.  I’m working for free where it costs money to park… you do the math.

Oh no, I ask myself with grave concern, is my blog title now rendered inapplicable?

Well, I answer myself reasonably, perhaps, but I’m not changing it because then I would get fired, obviously, because that’s how things work, and then I would have to change it back.

Plus, I still don’t really feel employed.  I think that in order to really feel employed, you have to post something about the state and nature of your employment on Facebook, capped with a multitude of exclamation points and/or creatively hyphenated smiley faces, and fetch at least 16 likes.  I’m pretty sure.  (I’m also sure, despite what you may think, about my use of the word “fetch” in that sentence.)

Things happened very fast.  One day, I was sitting in my parents’ house in beautifully boring Newport Beach, counting down the hours (okay, days) until my next one-hour-long tutoring session [CHA-CHING], staring down Pebbles, our shamelessly black kitten, seriously considering the idea of blaming her for all my bad luck… and the next I am wiping raindrops off my glasses, wandering aimlessly around the streets of downtown Seattle, fearlessly fighting off bums and trying to come to terms with the fact that I just secured two, maybe three, jobs.

Clear skies are overrated
Clear skies are overrated

Maybe things are starting to work out.  Maybe whether or not things start to work out is actually, and entirely, under my own control.

Maybe I’ll get seasonal affective disorder.

Continue reading Maybe I’ll Get Seasonal Affective Disorder

The Saga Continues: Road Trip, Part IV (When Scandalous Things Happen)

Needless to say, after an hour spent trotting around atop the Southern Rim of the Grand Canyon, taking so many pictures in so many posesimage-10 image-9 that there were literally no physically possible contortions of the human body left for us to maneuver into, we dragged ourselves, numb-thumbed and hungry, back to the Altima.

Deciding that I would make Kaylen drive for once, I dug into the cooler, tore open a log of salami, leaned back in the passenger seat, and began to chomp on it like a burrito.  Then I found an onion bagel, which I began to eat (cold and unsliced) simultaneously with the other hand.  It was like a makeshift sandwich… only a little dry.

Meanwhile, Kaylen was eating cherry tomatoes or something equally unsubstantial.

The ride back to Flagstaff was uneventful, with the exception of my being highly amused by Kaylen’s erratic, brake-riddled driving.  She sat pulled up impossibly close to the wheel, hands superglued at ten and two, and her head straining upwards for a better view of the road – from which she rarely averted her gaze.  After all, can’t crash the rental.

Since it had been too cold to drink our Coronas in our ponchos at the Grand Canyon, immediately after we got back, I pulled out a beer, pulled on my poncho and sat on the futon outside our private hostel room to have a drink (alone).  I stretched out my beer in a friendly cheers to the strangers who occasionally walked by.  Almost on par with our original plan.

Later that night, after an Indian feast involving an abundance of chickpeas and naan, Kaylen and I wandered around in a grocery store for booze.  As you undoubtedly know, assuming you’ve read Part III – which you don’t have to have read but I recommend it because it is highly enlightening – we had had a rough day exposed to the elements, braving the outdoors, becoming one with nature… and it was time to party Flagstaff-style.

I had my heart set on gin and tonics, while Kaylen was simply trying to find something that wouldn’t make her gag.  With that being said, she decided to purchase a six-pack of Mike’s Hard Lemonade… [I know, it doesn’t make much sense; as I write this, over a month later, I still have four rogue Mike’s Hards rolling around freely in my trunk.]

As we checked out, the 18-year-old cashier asked us each in turn, as he handed over the bought and bagged booze, “Are you over 21?” #security #ajobwelldone #honorsystem #hashtags

Well, I’ll be honest… I’m running out of steam here.  I can now say with unflinching certainty that I am truly able to relate to how J.R.R. Tolkien and/or J.K. Rowling must have felt as they approached the final writing stages of their sagas.

So here’s an abridged version of what happened next, for the sake of following through:

Continue reading The Saga Continues: Road Trip, Part IV (When Scandalous Things Happen)

Road Trip, Part III: “Excuse me, where are the VIEWS?”

When we left off, Kaylen and I were in the process of grudgingly handing over twenty-five American big ones to an attractive park ranger who stood staunchly between our trusty Altima and its long-awaited destination – the Southern Rim of El Gran Cañón.

Speaking of which – did you know that the official language of the Southern Rim of the Grand Canyon is Spanish?

(Confused? Skeptical? Read Part II.)

Anyway, seeing as how our iPhone maps had been reduced to this:

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… we were forced to follow clumsily carved wooden signs along the road and trust that they would lead us straight to The Views, without occasioning any freak accidents involving unwitting elk or warranting any references to Thelma and Louise.  (Of course, by “we were forced to follow…” I mean “I was forced to follow…” as Kaylen’s total navigational contribution to our three-day road trip can be summed up in five words: “There’s a bathroom over there!“)

We finally parked in a parking lot filled with dirty cars – a telling indicator of our having arrived somewhere at least marginally adventurous – and stepped out into the fresh canyon air. (Is that a thing? I know there’s “mountain air,” but in the absence of mountains, what would you call it?)

Now, those of you who have been following this miniature saga closely will remember the Plan.  For the rest of you, here it is in a nutshell: to get ponchos, sombreros, cervezas, guitars, to sit on the rim of the Grand Canyon in said attire and to take a enormous amount of photographs.

Well, the instant our feet hit the dusty pavement, the wind and the cold and the persistently indecisive drizzle effectively and thoroughly nixed all of our well-thought-out, meticulously detailed and undeniably brilliant intentions.  However… we wouldn’t admit our defeat out loud to each other, at least not quite yet.  After all, we couldn’t appear to give up that easily.  Instead, we both pretended to be unfazed by the less than ideal conditions and, mumbling all the while, made excuses as to why we should leave all of our Mexican-themed props in the car – just for now.

We wandered around the general vicinity of the parking lot for a while, not entirely sure whether or not we were in the right place.  At one point we ambled into some kind of historical and informational exhibition, complete with visual aids, rocks in glass display cases, and tourists pretending to be enlightened by it all but really just reveling in the  warmth.  Really, who needs museums these days when there’s Google?  (Just kidding!!!! Jeez)

Finally, we meandered back outside (I mean, that’s one thing we did know – the Grand Canyon is not likely to be found indoors) and resorted to pestering bundled-up passersby for some semblance of guidance.  Kaylen, always one for approaching strangers, marched over to a middle aged woman who was walking with her head bent down against the wind, and shouted in her unsuspecting face, “Excuse me, where are the VIEWS?”

Continue reading Road Trip, Part III: “Excuse me, where are the VIEWS?”

Sorry, Facebook, but I’ve met someone else…

… Myself. (My sincerest apologies for the excess of cheese that just physically splattered out from this blog, through the computer screen, and onto your pajamas.  Or onto your favorite deep-V, or onto your buff, bare chest… gimme a break I don’t know what you phantom bloggers/blog-readers are wearing.  However, I do encourage you to inform me in the comments.) ***

Here’s a thought:

Have you ever been trying to read a book, feeling, in your head, a vague sense of frustration and unidentifiable strain, when suddenly somebody flips a switch and turns a light on?

You only come to realize that you had been practically squinting, struggling to see through the dimness, after the fact – after you are made to remember, probably with a big sigh of relief, how easy it really is to read in the full light, and how unnecessarily difficult it had been before.  The page is now dancing in front of you, your eyes have relaxed immeasurably and they move briskly over words that leap eagerly into focus.lightswitch

Well, that’s kind of how I felt two days ago, after I deactivated my Facebook. (Please, people, control yourselves.)  There was suddenly room to breathe, clarity, relief from some offending pressure I hadn’t even known I carried with me.  I felt that the Social Network had been, for the past six years, ever so subtly and sneakily dimming the lights, compromising my focus, making it harder and harder for me to be present, making me strain to live simply and easily as I had been before.  Then, with a quick flip of a switch (okay, it wasn’t that quick, you just know Facebook makes you go through hell if you try to escape from its clenches), I was back.  Back to reading with the light on.

Does that metaphor work for you?  I feel like I may have stretched it a bit far; however, it IS already written down, and it would be a pity to delete it all…  so, here’s another one:

Metaphor #2:

It was likstatic_tv_021709e, for all this time, and entirely unbeknownst to me, there had been a TV spewing low-volume static in the background of my life, and someone finally turned it off.

Nailed it.

Continue reading Sorry, Facebook, but I’ve met someone else…

Road Trip, Part II: “I’ll Rim YOUR Canyon”

First of all: No, “Part II” is not intended to imply that you must have already read “Part I” to understand what the hell is going on here.  It’s a road trip, not one of the later seasons of Lost.

Second of all:  You should read “Part I,” though, really.

So, here’s where we’re at:

See Flagstaff on this weird map?
See Flagstaff on this weird map?

When I left off, Kaylen and I had just completed a quick set of 20 squats in our hostel room (gotta get the blood flowing) before heading out to scour the town of Flagstaff for two reasonably priced ponchos.  It was all part of the Plan, the infallible, brilliant, and terribly original Plan, as illustrated below.

The Plan:

  • Chill a six-pack of Mexican beer.
  • Buy ponchos (preferably handmade and sold on some kind of sacred ground by amicable Native Americans… but we were willing to grudgingly compromise on that point).
  • Find sombreros or cowboy hats or some alternative variation of headgear that would strike a satisfactory balance between both Mexican and Western styles.
  • Borrow/steal my sister’s yellow mariachi guitar (is that a thing? Well that’s what it looks like).
  • Perch ourselves precariously atop the southern rim of the Grand Canyon, armed with all of the aforementioned props, and take pictures of our ridiculous selves.
  • Tag ourselves in these pictures, share them on our smartphones (presuming there’s 3G service at the Grand Canyon – our plan was highly contingent on there being service) and eagerly await the surging multitude of likes and comments.

Well, let’s just say it didn’t end up playing out quite as we had hoped.  But we’ll get there.

Continue reading Road Trip, Part II: “I’ll Rim YOUR Canyon”

Road Trip, Part I

Two weekends ago, Kaylen and I jumped into a rented crimson Nissan Altima, packed it with apples, turkey jerky, chocolate and beer, and headed east to the Grand Canyon.  We drove through the night, stopping only to get in our daily quota of squats. (Our strict regimen of at least 60 squats per day ensures that our quads will have transformed handsomely into effeminately toned thunderthighs by the next swimsuit season.)

Me (left) and Kaylen (right)… two sophisticated women out on the open road!

By the time we arrived at our hostel in Flagstaff, AZ, it was 3:30am and I was buzzing on Diet Dr. Pepper and Mike and Ike’s.  My quads were burning and Pandora’s 90’s pop station was running out of hits… once you’ve listened to “Bitch” by Meredith Brooks a second time through you just know they’re grasping at straws.

Outside, it was freezing.  Four straight months of obscenely beautiful, warm beach weather had not prepared me (shocker!) for ice puddles and neck-coldness.  As instructed, I opened the door to the unlocked red passenger van parked out front of the hostel only to find, lying limp on the driver’s seat… a severed human hand.  Continue reading Road Trip, Part I