Part of my evil plan in offering drawings in exchange for donations to Charity Water and the Red Cross was to get myself drawing again. I used to draw a lot; in fact, my old sketch books are half diary, half whimsical expressions of my whirling inner vortexes. But part of the whole Camp Mighty thing is to write a life list and then open yourself up to the magical forces that will magnetically draw the things you wrote on your list toward you. So the other day I started a list, and the first thing on the list is REMEMBER HOW YOU USED TO LIKE TO DRAW? YOU ONLY GET BETTER IF YOU PRACTICE, NUMBSKULL. And then I got my idea to exchange drawings for donations, and then you people began to donate! And now I’m forced to draw pictures for you! You are helping me achieve the first goal on my list! This life list stuff is magical. I’m almost afraid to put anything else on it. I might actually end up with my pet skunk flying a helicopter with Martin Starr’s face painted on the side. (Note to self: Keep dream journal separate from life list.)
Here’s a lady who looks like she’s made out of wood:
So, thank you. If you’re still interested in donating, all the info is here and the PayPal button is here:
Also, if you’re not sure what to do with all your leftover Halloween candy, or you want to keep your kid from eating the rest of their haul today, Hulk has a brilliant tip for you.
I am going down to Camp Mighty next week and in order for them to let me in, I need to bring $200 with me to donate to Charity Water. Last year, the money raised by Camp Mighty attendees helped to bring fresh water to 1,000 people. This year, we’re giving to help build wells in Rwanda, where they will change people’s lives in ways I probably can’t accurately imagine.
However, in light of the devastating effects of Hurricane Sandy on people from Cuba to Canada, some of whom are friends of mine, here’s what I’m going to do.
I’m asking you to donate whatever you can to my Charity Water/Hurricane Sandy combo plan. (I’m just the middleman, none of it goes into my wallet.) You can donate $1.00 if you want and I will thank you personally via e-mail and tell you how everyone envies what you’re doing with your hair. If you send me $5.00, I will draw almost whatever you want on a 3 x 5 postcard and send it to you. If you send me $15.00 I’ll frame it as a commemorative knick-knack ready for holiday giving. Below are some examples of what I’m willing to draw (i.e., nothing outright pornographic or disturbingly violent).(This is just stuff from my sketchbook. Your drawing will be brand new and just for you.)
Random California landscapes
Old ladies thinking about sex
Hand lettering of the sentiment of your choice
A nerd in a kilt
Inexplicable channellings of the Universe
Whatever money I receive above the main $200 I need for Charity Water will go directly to the Red Cross, and I will match it dollar for dollar. UPDATE: I am matching for the first two days of donations only, and I’m sorry to cap it like that but I’ve raided my yoga retreat/shoe fund/art-supply-and-lunch-money piggy bank and, as of Saturday morning, that means we’re still sending almost $500 to the Red Cross. FIVE HUNDRED DOLLARS, KIDS. Keep donating and I’ll keep drawing and everything from now on will go directly to the Red Cross.
Here’s the PayPal button. You know what to do. Thanks for even considering it.
Sunday morning I was lollygagging in bed with a small but persistent headache and occasional nose bleed, probably due to the fact that I wasn’t quite ready to enjoy normal dinner-with-friends wine drinking quite so close to the finale of my very important head cold. It occurred to me that nose bleeds can be symptomatic of all sorts of fun, including (1) change of seasons/dry weather, (2) brain hemorrhage, (3) getting punched in the face, or (4) over-blowing due to frantic amounts of congestion. But these days I’m also having hourly hot flashes and I haven’t had my period for a couple of months, and so for a moment I was actually addled enough to think, Is that a menopause thing? You start bleeding out of your nose? My mother never warned me about anything like that. We had a warm but shame-based relationship, though, so who knows? My organs could be migrating all over the place but I wouldn’t recognize the symptoms were because there wasn’t a Modess pamphlet about placental nose bleeds for my mom to leave on my bed.
Anyway. Sunday morning I’m lying in bed trying to will myself into the shower, wondering whether I’d be better off with two Advil or a Heineken, when Jackson comes flying in with his blanket over him like a cape. I love my son with all my heart, but not so much when he’s JUMPing UP and DOWN on the BED and then trying to suffocate me. With his love. And his blanket.
I managed to elbow him off me in the most passive, loving, sick-lady way possible, which he adores. We have the world’s laziest wrestling matches. We’ll be lying there watching TV and slowly trying to push each other onto the floor. So there I was with my headache and my bloody nose (and a very attractive dry cough that makes me sound like Lauren Bacall) trying to stiff-arm 100 pounds of boy, who then reared up with his blanket all dramatically and said, “DAMMINT, PAMELA!” and then covered my head like he was actually trying to suffocate me.
I was trapped under the blanket trying fruitlessly to elbow him in the groin in a way that wouldn’t ruin his life, so all he could hear was my muffled, “Oh my God, who is Pamela?”
“I don’t know!” he giggled, trying to sit on my head, “She’s your alter ego! And she’s blonde! . . . And she has a DRINKING PROBLEM!”
I managed to push him off, where he collapsed into a pile of his own hilarity, and I thought, Things are so much more well-defined for Pamela. I’m graying and have a cold-medicine dependency, but she gets to be blonde and call two bottles of champagne a good start.
But also, what in hell does he know to throw around the phrase “drinking problem”? Is he secretly watching Celebrity Rehab? Did I watch Lost Weekend when I was pregnant and Ray Milland crossed the placenta? It’s a shock to hear grown-up phrases come out of your child’s mouth like they know what they’re saying. I mean, kids pick stuff up all over the place, and I know Jackson’s fascinated with what it means to be an adult. When I was his age I was sitting in my bedroom memorizing Cheech and Chong routines and pretending to be Liza Minnelli in Cabaret and my parents didn’t have a clue.
My god, I’ve been sick. I’m so healthy most of the time! I must save up my allotment of not-so-hot feeling days and then have them all at once, once a year, when my immune system’s feeling just a little too smug. I could see it coming, days ahead, it was like a slow-rolling tsunami. I had plenty of time to cancel appointments and pack, tell my boss things weren’t looking good. It hit in the middle of the night, and all my hatches were battened except the one where I had to take Jackson to school the next morning.
There I was hunkered down over the espresso machine, making our usual morning coffees, a double cappuccino for me and a 12-ounce travel mug of milk with a shot of espresso for Jackson. (What, he likes coffee. I put half a packet of stevia in his because otherwise he’d demand four lumps of sugar, which = no.) We got in the car.
“Mom? Are you okay?”
“I don’t feel very good.”
“You don’t look very good.”
I was hanging on pretty well, as well as you can hang on when you feel like absolute death. I really shouldn’t have had that sip of coffee, though. Nausea was not a welcome companion on our journey. Neither was Jackson’s morning playlist of Eminem’s greatest hits, even played at elevator-music level.
BITCH, I’M GONNA KILL YOU!
“Mom, are you okay?”
“I don’t feel very good.”
Jackson put his hand on my arm as we drove. He’s such a nice kid.
YOU DON’T WANNA FUCK WITH SHADY (why?) CAUSE SHADY WILL FUCKING KILL YOU
And in my head I’m all, “Help me, God, help me Oprah, help me Tom Cruise, use your witchcraft on me.” Except quietly and without punctuation. Helpmegodhelpmeoprah. Tomcruiseuseyourwitchcraft. Prayforusnowandatthehourofourdeath.
It was just comically awful: me feeling like a shit pancake, my son cheerfully programming his playlist of problematic white genius hip hop mayhem, my dog quietly farting in the back seat.
Naturally, I wasn’t done. I had to drag my animate carcass to CVS because Alka Seltzer Cold Medicine is the only thing that works, they don’t even have to pay me to say that, I will spread the word for free. Buy that shit. When the nice cashier says, “How are you today!” just croak, “I’m so sick” at her and she will give you your change with horrified fingers, it’s been proven in laboratory experiments time and again. I’m not even sure what that means.
I guess I must have made it home, and then I woke up and it was 2:00 p.m. And now it’s Friday, I think? How are you?
Yes, I was too sick to use a glass.
Fortunately, before all this went down I managed to put up another post at Babble, this one being a review of the latest J.K. Rowling book written in the form of Harry Potter fan fiction. I’m not sure what I’m going to do for an encore, I’m only halfway finished with Gone Girl, but maybe the cast of Twilight will have some opinions on it.
Tuesday night I went out to UCSB with my friend Jennifer to see Rufus Wainwright. It was a great show, it was just Rufus solo, and he seems like a dear person who was born with/has carefully developed a tremendous vocal range as well as nice, shaggy hair and bare feet and a sparkly scarf, and honestly, sitting there I felt like it would have been okay if he just decided to sing all his songs, forever, and I could just stay there and listen and feel like it was a fine use of the rest of my life. If saying this doesn’t put too far much ballast in the hull of my Rufus Boat: the man totally refreshed my faith in art. When an artist opens up his or her heart on stage like that — if we’re receptive, our hearts open up in response. Maybe you get that feeling through religion, or shopping, or being in love, but a really skillful songwriter can unlock all those little cabinets inside you. Or cabinets inside me, at least, I don’t know what you have inside of you; maybe your big inner ironing cupboard is always ajar, your iron steaming, your spray starch bottle full. (We have one of those old-fashioned ironing-board cupboards in our kitchen — with no board in it, unfortunately — so when I was thinking of something you might have in your chest that wasn’t what I have, which is 26 sticky little typesetter’s drawers, but instead just one, big available thing, ironing board cupboard is what came to mind.)
At one point Rufus covered his face with his hand and bent over the microphone and mumbled, “I spend way too much time Googling myself,” and we all chuckled at his shameful secret. And then he mumbled even more shamefully, “And then I read the comments.” As someone who has lived part of her life on the Internet for — oh! Next Monday will be my eleventh blog anniversary! So, for eleven years I’ve been doing this Internet self-exposure thing, and if there’s one thing I’ve stopped doing it’s Googling myself. I just don’t want to know who thinks I’m an idiot, it’s not going to do me any good unless you really have a plan to help me with all my problems, then I’m totally willing to listen. But you’re going to have to make an appointment. In conclusion, I don’t want to be responsible for any comments that might hurt another person’s feelings, so if you read this and feel inclined to tell the world what you really think about Rufus Wainwright, make sure it’s in rhymed couplets.
Driving up Chapala Street
Me: “Look at the tattoo on that guy’s forearm: Love Laughter Light.”
Jackson (cupping his hands around his mouth): “YOU FORGOT THE COMMAS.”
On Instagram I am Toasteroven, I forget why
Lastly, because I’m finishing this in a dreadful hurry to get Jackson to school on time: I am reading the new J.K. Rowling book, The Casual Vacancy. Is anybody else reading it? Because I feel like I’m the only person in the world who thinks it’s terrific. I will let you know if that opinion still holds when I’m done, but so far, so good.
So, ants. I don’t know if it’s because we spent the previous 17 years living on the second floor and we’re new to this whole ground-floor business, but suddenly we seem to have ants just streaming through the house. What did we do? What do they want? To hoard delicious crystals of sugar (if Chris Van Allsburg is to be believed), and to have me slap the shit out of myself when I feel one crawling on my neck? Jack inadvertently discovered that ants hate Pledge, so he keeps spraying the lip of the garbage can under the sink with Pledge, and every time I take out a full bag to replace it I’m newly surprised that my hands are slick and lemon-scented. I recently realized that I have Alzheimer’s disease on BOTH sides of my family (my dad’s brother, Harry, and my mom, who I was told had dementia but whose doctor wrote Alzheimer’s on her death certificate, which suggests to me that the two are interchangeable? I must remember to Google that when I’m feeling less vulnerable). So while I’m trying to take care of my brain health, I’m also trying to accept that I’ll be hiding my own Easter eggs sooner or later, and I’m working to be okay with that. It’s a pretty awful thing to try to accept, though. To the people of the future who might read this and wonder how all these words came out of the angry, withered husk drooling under a moth-eaten lap robe sitting before you: maybe playing some Elvis Costello will calm me down? Try anything from Taking Liberties or Get Happy! and I will probably stop yelling at you.
Recently I had to go to our storage locker to look for my tax stuff because our taxes are due October 15 and I always like to do important things at the last minute. We got an extension instead of filing in April, and when we moved I’m sure I did something clever with my W-2s and my 1099s (“I know, I’ll put them here in this special place I will have completely forgotten about in six months”) (the one thing that consoles me about losing my mind is a quote from Meryl Streep I read once where she said that when she hit 50 she became unable to memorize scripts anymore, so either this memory bullshit is a normal part of aging or I have Streep’s disease, in which case I will become progressively blonder and be offered amazing roles as a sign of Hollywood’s shift toward featuring more mature women HA HA HA HA HA). But while I was digging through our storage locker, looking for tax stuff, I happened to find another box that I’d been looking for for seven years:
Yay, old photos! That is my kindergarten class, helmed by the lovely Miss Jackson. I did not name my son after her but it would not be weird if I did, as I remember her as a wonderful teacher who once helped me put an Archies 45″ (which I’d cut out of the back of a cereal box) onto the classroom record player, and then laughed when I did the Mashed Potato to “Sugar Sugar.” I have clear memories of at least half the kids in this picture, thanks to the fact that a lot of them continued at the same schools with me for the next ten years. (For example, the boy on the left side of the front row in the blue sweater’s name was Bobby and his father played for the New York Jets. The girl on the far right side of the second row was named Phyllis, but the boys called her Waffles. Sorry, Phyllis.)
Anyway, I ended up finding my receipts in our garage, in a box supporting a table saw (?), and then I spent half of yesterday begging various freelance agencies to go back through their records and e-mail/fax me the rest of what I needed. I’m already planning on hiding next year’s 1099s in an empty Comet can under the sink. Financial time capsule!
After I made my big declaration about how Facebook is stealing our souls, I then spent the next two days posting things and chatting on Facebook like nothing had happened. I believe I can find a balance between this and that, but at the same time I’m concerned with the self-sabotaging psychology that kicks in, for example, when as soon as I decide to stop eating sugar, I make a big pan of brownies. I don’t even tell myself not to spend money anymore or this will happen:
If that isn’t the best video I’ve seen all summer I’ll eat my grandmother’s vintage cat’s eye glasses. After watching it about six times Saturday night Jackson was all, “Are there any thrift stores around here?” Oh, my son. The golden days of thrifting in Santa Barbara are behind us now, but there still exists a magical town ruled by bikers and street people called . . . Ventura. So Sunday we drove down to the Goodwill in Ventura and bought Jackson a pair of red plaid pajama pants, a green and white striped hooded sweatshirt from the women’s rack, a couple of white t-shirts, and we rescued a Build-a-Bear rabbit with floppy ears for .99 that doesn’t appear to have lice, fleas, or bed bugs. I bought a pair of ballooning, high-waisted purple wool lady pants that are going to look pretty awesome somehow once I wrap my mind around what to wear on top. If I could find a cropped brown rabbit’s fur jacket . . . I wouldn’t buy it, but you hear what I’m saying.
Another crush, with free association:
1. Alan Arkin: because of how sexy he is when he’s disgusted
Phrase from a comment on an old post that has stayed with me for years:
1. “Away-game pooping situation.”
So along with opening back up to the Internet, I’m also trying to be more approachable in real life. I guess I’m an introvert, but I like being around people who are more open than me because they help me connect to that part of myself that doesn’t see closeness as a threat. (I once had someone who knows about these things tell me that two lives ago I died by being drowned; as in, someone either held me down or pulled me down or I don’t know what, but he was all, “Do you have trouble when people get too close? Because that would explain it.” Holy shit, how do I get over that?)
Certainly the thing about working with the public is that every new patron is an opportunity to practice small, non-life-threatening connections. Most people seem to want that, which means at the start of every shift I unpack all of my extrasensory satellite dishes to figure out how best to make that happen. Some people, however, want a larger amount of connection, more connection than I am capable of (or paid to) provide as a public servant. Emotional vampires, in my experience, come off as super-extra friendly at first. Their requests start off normal, but somewhere along the line they try to lure you into the enchanted forest of weirdly-specific things most people don’t normally ask others to do for them. “Will you text this 16-line e.e. cummings poem to my friend in Las Vegas?” happened recently, as well as “Will you read the descriptions of forty different children’s books to me, both over the phone and in person the next day?” and ”Will you build a web site for me in WordPress?”
And I think, what is up with you? What is it? Just tell me. Is it that you get off on me touching your stuff? You’re lonely and want me to keep you company? You disagree with the concept of outsourced tech support so you’d rather take advantage of my limited skills?
There’s a great part of “Words of Advice” by William S. Burroughs that applies:
“If, after having been exposed to someone’s presence, you feel as if you’ve lost a quart of plasma, avoid that presence. You need it like you need pernicious anemia. We don’t like to hear the word “vampire” around here; we’re trying to improve our public image. Building a kindly, avuncular, benevolent image; “interdependence” is the keyword — “enlightened interdependence.” Life in all its rich variety, take a little, leave a little. However, by the inexorable logistics of the vampiric process they always take more than they leave — and why, indeed, should they take any?”
I went into yoga the morning after a particularly lengthy exchange with one of these people and halfway through my practice I was all, “This is crazy, I’m too tired to do any more.” And then after sitting there for a minute I realized that my body was strong enough to continue, the problem was that some other, ineffable part of me just didn’t have the strength to go on. Once I had that realization, the exhaustion lifted and I kept going, but man. Feeling like you lost a quart of plasma. That’s a real thing.
“It occurred to me that my lifelong slouchy posture is, in a complicated and wrong way, connected to my hatred of bragging. Somehow in my mind I’ve learned to equate slouching with modesty.”
He then improves his runway walk by imagining he’s a former Lufthansa flight attendant who likes vegan baked goods, vintage motorcycles, and Sofia Coppola when she wears aqua in airports. Henry Alford is now my spirit animal.
I saw something the other day that basically asked, why are you giving your life to Facebook? You’re filling a site that’s not your own with your stories, when they belong on your own domain. Facebook is making millions off your content, so consider what you’re giving up for the opportunity to have a few dozen people give you a digital thumbs up.
This really resonated with me, especially after I posted the above video on Facebook this morning and only one person said HOLY SHIT THIS IS AMAZING and shared it on her own page. It could be that I’ve neglected this site long enough that I only get a couple hundred people to read it anyway, down from a peak of about 4,000 a day way back when. People say Twitter killed blogging, and it certainly drained some of the energy out of it, but Facebook has made blogging seem old-fashioned and quaint, almost hand-made. In 2001 I had to read a Webmonkey tutorial to learn how to make a hyperlink; building my own domain was an accomplishment akin to learning how to make sushi. And not everybody wanted (or had the time and resources) to do that before Facebook, so I can see how democratizing Facebook is, it gives anyone over the age of 13 a place to post nuanced political rants and cat photos in less than 60 seconds.
But I’m cranky enough to want to take my Internet life back to its original platform. It could be this feeling will pass — God knows I’ve had some mood swings lately, tomorrow I may be running for office (I had a dream last night that Barack Obama hugged me). But I’ve been feeling a lack of meaning in my life for a couple of years now, and it’s become so acute that keeping it inside is no longer an option. Sorry, Internet. I’m back.
A funny image popped into my head the other day when I was in yoga practice, working on kapotasana. This is what kapotasana is supposed to look like:
This is not what kapotasana looks like when I do it, because my spine doesn’t arch nicely like this man’s but flattens out into a shallow curve like a rotten footbridge. A collapsing fairytale footbridge beset by trolls. Despite all that, I try to keep an image of the final version of the pose in my head while I’m making a shallow footbridge with my back and warding off trolls with my mind.
At this point I imagine one or two of you wondering loudly why a person would want to do this at all. My answer is that even when you’re doing it badly it feels fantastic. It’s a ridiculously powerful pose. I practiced yoga for six years before my teacher gave me this pose and it blew my fucking mind. I once spoke with a woman far younger and more flexible than myself who’d only been practicing 3 months when she was given this pose, and she believes that because she hadn’t put enough time into strengthening her nerve channels, this pose caused her to have what felt like a psychotic break. I can’t tell you why, other than that it’s a pose that requires equal amounts of intelligence, strength, vulnerability, trust, awareness, and the inability to imagine your life without it.
Anyway, to come out of this pose a more accomplished person will push their hips forward until their thighs are perpendicular to the floor, and let their spine roll up smoothly until their head comes up last. When a less accomplished person such as myself comes out of this pose with a nice, stiff back, I look like Nosferatu rising from his coffin.
I’m working toward not rising up like Count Orlok by wringing every bit of strength out of my quadriceps, and that’s why the other day when I was coming out of kapotasana incredibly awkwardly, I had an image of the muscles just above my knees being made of birthday cake. I had a very real sense that every delicious bite of yellow, crumbly birthday cake I’ve ever eaten in my life has settled just above my knees, and it’s doing fuck-all to help me out of this pose.
Here’s another video, and it’s just 2:22 long so it’s not as much of a commitment as the previous one. It’s just me talking about some of my early movie man crushes. Some of them are a little embarrassing. In fact, I believe I unconsciously suppressed Jeff Goldblum because Jack gives me so much shit about how much I loved him in The Fly, but instead of going back to re-record my little speech to include him I just edited him in after the fact. So this is me speaking into an iPad, and then wondering why iMovie distorted my face so wonderfully that I almost threw everything out and started over, but then I remembered: I’m not a perfectionist. So enjoy my squashed-flat face, and let me know if you share any of my movie loves. I’m not threatened. There’s enough of Burt Reynolds to go around.
Let's Panic About Babies! is a book I wrote with the delightful Alice Bradley. You will like it if you are currently pregnant, if you have children, or if you have absolutely no intention of having children. Not just because it's funny, but because you can burn it to stay warm.
Clicking on the cover will take you to the publisher's web site, and clicking here will take you to Amazon.com, but you can no longer go to Let's Panic! the web site to preview some of the material in the book and read stuff we post for free when we feel like it, because we let it expire. It's a full-time job managing the enormous wealth that comes from writing a fake parenting book.