Tag Archives: memoir

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

I can play piano, I swear, I’m just a little tipsy…

I started learning piano when I was quite young.  I’m afraid I can’t pinpoint a precise age, but I do know that I was small enough to sit between Mr. James’ generously proportioned legs on the piano bench while I played, and old enough to feel a vague discomfort in doing so.  Now that I think about it, that scenario was not unlike those in which old, affluent men with wandering eyes take it upon themselves to assist aspiring trophy-wives with their golf swings by wrapping liver-spotted arms around them from behind and swaying gently side to side.

[If you are not sure what I am talking about, or would like a more visual demonstration of the aforementioned seedy scenario, watch this clip from Californication:

You can stop at 0:40, if you want, or keep watching because David Duchovny is a sexy beast, and his golf shorts fall down.]

Anyway, I don’t know what happened to Mr. James, nor am I particularly curious.

My next piano teacher was a happy-go-lucky Asian woman named Toshi.  She always held a mechanical pencil in her hand, and was quick to use it to cross out any nonessential notes on my sheet music, especially the ones that were making my rendition of Celine Dion’s My Heart Will Go On more trouble than it was worth.

Of course, as I got older, I was allowed to play all the notes.  Lucky me.

I thought I was pretty damn good at piano.  My friend Christie (who also learned from the ever-smiling Toshi) and I would race each other through Mozart’s Sonata No. 1 in C Major, banging on the keys with abandon, maintaining a consistently loud volume, not having quite yet mastered the intricacies of crescendos or diminuendos…  I’m sure our mothers cringed together in the other room.

I took the same approach during piano recitals.  First, I would sit through the other players’ performances with my binder of sheet music perched on my lap, hair tied up with ribbons, feet tapping impatiently, as I secretly and harshly judged the quality of every piece I heard.  Every mistake – even those made by six-year-olds – gave me a guilty, satisfying pleasure.  “Just wait till they hear me,” I would think, “I’m going to be the best one.  They are going to be so impressed that, by the end of it, their socks will be scattered all over the chapel due to the unimaginable might of the force that will inevitably blow them off.”

By “they” I was of course referring to the modest crowd of piano students, proud parents and exceedingly bored siblings that filled the five to six rows of fold up chairs aimed strategically at the baby grand.

Finally, my name would be called.  I’d walk up there, sink into my practiced curtsy, sit down at the bench, and rapidly bang my way through Tchaikovsky’s June or some other piece that really should not be banged through.  As you might have guessed, however, I wasn’t playing for the toughest of crowds.  Toshi was proud (and smiling, obviously), my doting parents caught all the magic on tape, and the little kids who struggled with Hot Cross Buns were sufficiently flabbergasted.  I bowed and went home with a belly full of Costco-brand sugar cookies, a styrofoam cup of tepid cider and a considerably inflated ego.

Oh, and with one of those little plastic busts of classical composers, seen here.

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Continue reading I can play piano, I swear, I’m just a little tipsy…

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?”

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