Thursday, May 27, 2010

My Adrenaline Junkies!

On Monday we went to Disneyland for Benji's 5th Birthday.

We have made it our family tradition. When you turn 5, no party, just a fun trip to Anaheim. This was our second trip ever.

Last time Theo was 5, so Benji was only 2 1/2. We pushed Benji around in a stroller, and Theo skipped around bewitched. We headed to Toontown (the plasticky, cutesy park with no trees or flowers) and stayed there too long. Even "It's a Small World" was closed.

This time was different.

We never even made it to Toontown. And my boys were fearless. We started with the Pirates of the Caribbean. When the boat swoops down a mountain of water in the dark Benji whooped for joy. When we got off he wanted to do it again.

When we went in the Haunted Mansion, and the ghosts hitched a ride in our "doom" buggy Benji wanted to do that again.

In the afternoon, after Benji had picked about 16 rides, everyone else got to pick a few. I picked the Matterhorn, which I remembered as the best ride of my life when I went to Disneyland at 11. Benji was tall enough, but I still felt a little guilty strapping him into the bobsled. What if I left him with lifelong nightmares? But, if he was terrified, I would hold him, snuggle him, and we would proceed to Toontown and "It's a Small World."

Boy, was I wrong!

When the ride ended--after screaming by fluourescent crystals and hairy yetis and riding through water falls and whipping up and down--the boys jumped out of the bobsled, kicked up their heels and started dancing, and yelled, "Again! Again!" We rode again. Then, to get them off the Matterhorn, we lured them to the Run-Away Train--longer, wilder, swoopier.

They finished that one and danced out again.

I was startled. They are true adrenaline junkies. It alters them. Shifts their mood. Makes them want to dance. Like me.

Jonathan and I marveled.

Jonathan looked at me.

"That is not from my side of the family," he said.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Edible Schoolyard

Here is a link to my story in LA Magazine:


Here is a link to a discussion by L.A.'s foremost foodies, on how to make your kids eat better. Click on City Thinkers and you will find Wolfgang Puck, Suzaane Goin, Patrick Kuh and more, telling you how they make their kids eat delicious, healthy food.

If you don't already, of course.


Yesterday, inside the MRI machine, I tried to calm myself. Even deep breathing is out--it can jiggle your body, and hence mess up the images.

So all I had was my mind. I could hear music in the deafening electronic beeping, and voices and words.

But in moments like those, when I want to block out the world, I draw on beautiful places I have been. Usually I am floating in water, one with the world. But this time, my images were almost used up.

I have not been in the water enough. I have not been in nature enough. I had to scratch and scramble and scrape to find a fresh image. At last I found one: me, floating in the river in the Santa Ynez Valley, stones beneath my back, silver leaves blowing in the wind, giant blue dragonflies zooming by my nose. The mountains all around, the water carrying me so gently downstream I could barely feel it. It was cool, the sun was hot, and I felt completely tingly and alive.

I need to be out in nature more. I need to fill my cup, to replenish my experiential archive, to calm my soul.

What calms your mind when you are freaking out? Where does your mind go?

Media Thoughts

Blogs are to inspire, to rant, to tell you how-to. They are passionate, or practical, and appeal to the emotions.

Newspapers are to inform, to tell you what is going on. They should give you new information and include original reporting. They should be more than a yahoo summary, and more than a reporter searching blogs and news online at his desk. We can do that ourselves! If the story is top notch, it should offer inside analysis that only that reporter, who was on the ground, talked to people, and knows more than he could ever include in his story, could know, and he should weave that in.

Magazines are to inform, with a point of view. They are personal, but also include reporting. They should be deeply reported, but so well-written that you barely register you are taking in the facts and figures. The smooth, colorful narrative makes those facts slide down like honey hiding the medicine.

Books are everything, the top of the heap, meant to inspire, to draw on emotions, to tell great stories, to do analysis, and to do original research and reporting that you have never seen, or to illuminate corners of the psyche like a philosopher or a sociologist, bringing to light parts of ourselves we recognize, but could not have articulated. They are just familiar, like a dream.

Which do you like to read? Which do you like to write?

Do you agree with me?


Yesterday, Theo had a playdate with his favorite friend from school. They chatted in the back as I drove home.

Suddenly Theo's fried, Stephen, shouted out: There is Theo's Dad's office.

He was right. He remembered from a year ago.

It looks like a junkyard he said of the lot, formerly a movie studio lot, where some movies and TV shows are still made. A little run-down, I suppose, but junkyard seemed extreme.

I know it is nicer inside, he said. They are probably making it look bad so no one will want to break in and steal something valuable.

Yeah, said Theo. Like movie scripts.

If only...

Friday, May 21, 2010


Today, in America, it feels like shopping for clothes has become aspirational costume-buying. Whatever we want to be--shop at that store, and you can fulfill that image, and project that image to all you know.

Cynical, I know, but also true. I reject it, but I am still caught up in it. I love the Boho look of anthropologie--the hint that I have traveled somewhere cool to get that Hungarian embroidered top, or that India print comforter. So most of the time I am a crazy mish mash of hi-lo. A little bit of Anthropologie, paired up with some thrift store finds my mother picked out. Some sale pieces from a sweet little neighborhood boutique, paired with a cool knitted hat my mother made. I am in my own quiet way, striving to be difficult to categorize. You cannot read me by the catalogue I shop from. That is what I am trying to tell you. I am more.

But every once in awhile I am taken in. I want the costume.

Yesterday I went to my wonderful cardio salsa class at the Y. I LOVE that class--taught by a husband and wife team who work out so hard themselves they have to alternate on songs. The husband looks like Che on the dance floor. The wife is just cool and hot and wears camouflage pants and tank tops and a belt of cowry shells or nuts around her waist. I can't tell from my distant corner.

On the final song of the class something miraculous happened. I was dancing--a gentle post workout salsa step--and suddenly this crazy little step that I have been wanting to do for years just tapped out of my toe. Salsa dancers will know what I am talking about. There is the basic salsa step. But the most feminine, the most Latin, the very best female salsa dancers do this little tap with their right toe before they step that hits a hidden low beat in the music. It drives me wild. But I cannot do it.

I have had my friend Lisa, the salsa goddess, try to teach me. But I cannot do it. Not naturally, not on the beat. Not gracefully like a Latin siren.

But yesterday, I did it. I could not believe it. I looked in the mirror and there it was. Not a freak occurrence, over and over. I was delirious with endorphins and joy. After the class I ran up to the teacher and said: "What is the name of that song?"

"El Toro Y La Luna," he said. "We have the CD."

My beloved teachers had brought Santee Alley to the Y. They had bootleg CDs of all their best dance mixes, including one with El Toro Y La Luna. The song cast a spell on everyone. I mean I was shouting out, "This makes me want to clean my house, to dance around singing at the top of my lungs with a broom." Another woman said it made her want to garden. I asked her, do you listen to music when you garden? No, she said. But that is what it makes me feel like.

I bought the CD. And then I bought the shorts. The gritty street salsa shorts my hot latin dance teacher wears. They were bargain cheap, and totally adorable. This morning I put on my CD, slipped on my sexy camouflage shorts, a black tank top, and sang "El Toro Y La Luna," at the top of my lungs while I salsa-ed around my kitchen cleaning up the breakfast mess.

I am wearing the cool salsa chick costume, which is the furthest thing from who I really am.

But I love this costume. Tomorrow morning I will put it on again. Just to make myself laugh.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Seven Year Old 'Tude

My boys are sweet, almost unbelievably so. When other boys snapped and talked back, mine did not.

But seven is a new place. It is the end of babyhood, where you can start to see the teen, the man, in the boy. Not all the time, just at certain angles, with certain comments, a glimpse of the future. And it is exciting.

And sometimes a little heartbreaking.

After school Theo usually skips out to meet me, grabs my hand, and begins to tell me whatever is on his mind, about school, the video game he is playing in his head, or what he wants to build when he gets home. He is full, and cannot wait to tell me everything.

But lately while he still skips, he looks back at his friends, and he no longer takes my hand. At least until we are out of sight of the schoolyard.

When I say anything, even a tease, a sullen look creeps over his still sweet baby face. The look of the rebellious teenager. He is just trying it out. As soon as he eats a pretzel or sees a car or sign that makes him curious it is gone.

But that, too, is the future, I suppose.

Will it break a poor mama's heart?


This morning I went out to move the car for street cleaning and it was misting, so that it felt like another place, not here. The world was quiet, muffled and wet.

I parked the car in the Hollywood Bowl Parking Lot and looked up.

There in the mist, flapping noiselessly by, was a gorgeous pair of herons, on their way to somewhere.

Just two slender silhouettes, shooting across the grey sky like stars, en route to a wild place, touching us with their airborne grace.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Gen X and Me

Jonathan sent me this last week, and we have been reeling and talking ever since.

I know it hit a chord for our tiny demographic because we each received the story about four more times, from four more friends.

Indeed, if you were NOT born between 1964 and 1979, the period Scott describes as being afflicted with this particular kind of malaise that is unique to us, but no one cares about because we are too small a demographic group to matter, nestled as we are, in the shadows of the ever dominant Baby Boomers, then, just skip this blog entry. It will just feel like narcissistic chatter. Which, in a way, it is. I am Gen X, after all.

But if you were our age cohort, then really, I would consider this story required reading. For myself, I am going to post it beside my desk. Not because it is inspiring. It is not. It is almost numbingly depressing. But because it is, in the end, a clarion call for action.

I read the story, about Gen X having a mid-life crisis, and I wanted to say "No! I know no one like that!"

Unfortunately, I found the story eerily described almost everyone I know. There are some gender differences of course.

Scott's theory, in a very simplified nutshell, is this: Our generation went from the immaturity of adolescence to mid-life crisis, with no adulthood in between.

Beneath that, is a deeper feeling, among many our age, that we are just losers. We know we are not. We are smart. We are successful. But inside, many of us carry this feeling. Those older than we are do not. Even if they are not doing anything any more spectacular than we are. Our loserness is part of our essence.

There are reasons for this, I suppose. I graduated the year after Black Monday, when the country was in a full on recession. I left the country to get a job and had a grand adventure. I got a job for the LA Times when there was a hiring freeze. I was one of the last ones in. After me, there were few younger hires, and the great dismantling of American Journalism began.

I did everything my parents told me to do, in a slightly rebellious, slightly fuck you kind of way. But still, despite going years without health care, or leaving the country for years, or daring to take out student loans in dying fields, I followed the norms laid out before me. I eventually got health care. I got a reputable job (my parents didn't like it, but it was legit, something that impressed other people), I got a 401 K, I bought a house, I settled down and got married.

But nothing worked out the way it was supposed to. The whole system crumbled. My former company is bankrupt and journalism as I knew it is almost dead. My 401 K lost half its value. Even with health care every trip to the doctor is astronomically expensive. We bought a house and the value skyrocketed then crashed. We have an interest only mortgage. By the time my children hit school age the entire nation's education was in crisis and health care was melting down. I won't even add in Jonathan's end of the deal. We just feel screwed.

I feel lucky. I like my life. But we are in a weird little sub group. Those just ahead of us got in before the doors shut for good. They can keep going the same way. They will get pensions, social security, and probably can work at their career without utterly reinventing themselves until they retire. They still believe they are the center of the world. And because of their sheer numbers, they are.

Those behind us are tech-heads who live in a new world. They weren't allowed into our world so they got super educated and did their own thing and now, lots of times, they have already started their own companies, and make more money than we do. Their parents supported them more than ours did and they are set.

We are just lost somewhere in the middle. And now what?

Where do we plug in? We have high expectations but nowhere to go. We are so smart, but the established jobs are all taken. I hear the same people on NPR that I did when I graduated from college. For baby boomers, every job has become a supreme court justice position, you take it and then do it until you die. It is lifetime employment.

It doesn't help that I think most men of my generation just did not want to grow up. They did not want to work, they did not want to marry, they did not want to have children. Many are supported by their super ambitious wives. Women, I think, have to grow up when a kid arrives. We cannot see ourselves as adolescents forever. We are given away by our bodies.

President Obama said it first. We are tired of the Baby Boomers and their issues. We want to move on.

Reading AO Scott's story made me feel the same way.

Still, I look around, and I see that all of us, we crave more. We are so dissatisfied with ourselves. We know we are good. But we just can't feel it. We feel betrayed by history.

I am ready to do something on my own.

Stay tuned.