Better a Witty Fool than a Foolish Wit

Inner Workings of My Twisted Mind.

Nostalgia for Times Not Had

I know, I haven’t written in a while.  In truth, I’ve just been crazy
busy with work and life.  That’s my only excuse.  Oh, and this isn’t
about Roller Derby, but don’t worry, I have more of those marinating
in my always churning mind.

When I was a little kid, I remember my father taking me to the sports
store and buying me my first baseball mitt.  I remember the stiff feel
of it, the black leather, the sweet smell, the promise of a baseball
mitt.  Because in truth, a baseball mitt is like a friend, a lover
even.  At first it’s uncomfortable, everything is a little bit stiff,
a little forced.  But little by little, the more time you spend
together, the mitt becomes a part of you, it forms to you and you form
to it, until you can’t tell where you end and the mitt begins.

I remember sleeping with the mitt tucked into my mattress, with a
baseball tightly inside, in an effort to break it in.  I remember
distinctly playing catch with my dad at the park down the street from
our house.  I remember the sheer exhilaration of realizing for the
first time how hard I was actually able to throw and hit a ball, that
my size and my muscle, was an asset and not something that was holding
me back.  I could sprint when I needed to, but if I hit that ball hard
enough, there was no need to sprint.  Baseball was the sport for me.

Around the same time, I also have distinct memories of having
something that I could share with my dad.  Really, really share with
him.  I remember collecting baseball cards (Mom, if you find them, I’m
pretty sure I have a valuable Nolan Ryan card somewhere in my
collection), and hearing about him collecting Sandy Koufax and Mickey
Mantle cards.  My dad taught me the mythos of Baseball, he described
in detail the famous Babe Ruth homerun where he pointed to where he
was about to hit the ball.  He told me about Joe DiMaggio and Willie
Mays, we’d have discussions about Rickey Henderson, Jose Canseco and
Mark McGwire (I started off life as an A’s fan.  In fact, I used to
sleep snuggled up with a Jose Canseco stuffed doll…yep, Jose Canseco
is the first man I ever slept with).

I also remember distinctly the absolute thrill of going to baseball
games.  Whether it was to the Oakland Coliseum or traveling all
bundled up to Candlestick Park, there was a magic about watching live
baseball.  I’ve always thought of baseball as a thinking man’s game.
There’s a quiet tension, a subdued beauty to the game of baseball, one
that not everyone takes the time to appreciate.  It’s not a frantic
game, like basketball and football.  Baseball is like a symphony, it
takes its time to get where its going.  It meanders thorough its nine
inning life, with the knowledge that at any moment something amazing
and unexpected can happen.

When Barry Bonds started playing for the Giants, I became a Giants
fan.  Incidentally, I also gave up catching and started playing Left
Field.  I’ve been a Giants fan ever since.  I don’t condone Bonds’ use
of steroids, and toward the end of his career, I somewhat believe that
he was a kind of embarrassment to the Giants (believe me, if you had
to walk through Dodgers’ Stadium in a Giants shirt when Barry Bonds
played, you would agree with me).

But, I also became a teenager at some point in the late 90s and
stopped following baseball.  Through high school and college, I didn’t
really follow it.  It wasn’t cool to follow baseball so closely in my
group of friends.  Sure, I went to some games (Oakland had $1 games on
Wednesdays), I got excited in 2002 that the Giants were in the World
Series, then watched them choke badly.  I lost approximately $20 on
that series (hey, I was in college, that was a lot of money).

Finally, in my early 20s, after moving to L.A., I came back to the
magic of baseball.  One of my best friends is another big Giants fan,
and we would trek to Dodgers’ Stadium together and get beer thrown at
us, so we could watch the Giants.  It’s really amazing what being
universally hated in a place does to your commitment to your team.  I
think the vitriol of the Dodgers’ fans made me that much more insane
about the Giants.

As I got back into baseball, my father and I resumed our discussions
about it.  And for the first time I really understood where his love
of baseball came from.  He told me stories of Vin Scully blaring
through his mother’s house.  And perhaps I made up this memory, but a
part of me remembered one of the few times we visited my Grandmother
in Los Angeles and her having every radio in the house on the Dodgers.
In fact, there’s a part of me that will always have a big soft spot
for the Dodgers (I’ll root for them if they’re not playing the Giants)
because my Grandmother loved them so much.

My Grandmother died 3 years before I moved to Los Angeles, and there
are days, there are times when I wish so hard that she was here.  That
I could share the Dodgers with her.  That some of that enthusiasm she
imparted to my dad could be showered upon me.  There is a part of me
that mourns the fact that I can’t go over to her house and listen to
Vin Scully.

Inadvertently, my Grandmother’s enthusiasm for baseball was showered
upon me, and still continues to this day.  In fact, the other day, my
dad ‘announced’ to me the final inning of a Giants game and I found
myself holding my breath at every pitch…I wasn’t even watching it.
But still, as my baseball loving friend has moved away, and I’m in a
constant struggle to find someone to go to games with (God love my
derby wife, who does come with me even though she’s not a huge
baseball fan), I miss my Grandmother in a way that I never knew
possible.  I miss all the times we didn’t have, all the experiences we
didn’t share.

And at the same time, I’m ever grateful for baseball for giving me the
happy moments, the connections, and even the torture (see: San
Francisco Giants this season).  It’s these reasons that I tear up when
entering AT&T Park (and Fenway Park), that the bartenders at a few of
the bars I go to know to put the Giants on for me when I walk in.
It’s these reasons that I proudly wear my Giants shirts around
Downtown Los Angeles even though EVERY SINGLE TIME I do, someone says,
‘This is not the right place to be wearing that.’

Baseball to me is family.  It’s life.  And it’s even a little bit of
something I’ll never know, but cherish deeply.

Peace, Love, and Happy Father’s Day,
Julia

June 17, 2011 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Hell on Wheels

So I know it’s been inexcusably long since I’ve written, and there are some half-assed excuses that I could give here, but I’ll let my story speak for itself.

The last few months have been rough.  Really rough.  The kind of rough you know you’ll look back on someday and think, well, that was shitty, but at least I survived.  I’m still waiting to survive.  Without going into too much detail, I’ll say this: it’s getting better.  And there are two key things that happened to make it that way.  Number one, I’m teaching myself that work can’t be your whole life because when something goes wrong with work and it’s all you have then your world gets devastated, with no hope but a slow crawl of a recovery.  Number two, Roller Derby.
Those of you who are facebook friends with me might know that I’m a smidge obsessed with this all-contact sport, and it’s true.  I’m completely obsessed.  It’s like oxygen.  Getting on a track with 20 other women and having them beat the snot out of me is the best part of my week.  Whenever I tell people that this is my new pastime I get one of two responses (usually drawn directly down gender lines, unless I am telling a relative, then it’s all option one), the majority of women look at me like I’m absolutely insane and ask why on earth I would want to do something like that and don’t I worry about getting hurt.  Men usually have a reaction somewhat akin to cartoons when Jessica Rabbit walks by, eyes pop out of head, tongues hang out of mouths, and they want to come watch.
Any derby girl knows, the most annoying, yet most asked question is ‘do you worry about getting hurt?’  The answer is: of course.  That’s definitely a concern, but most of my time on the track is spent learning how not to hurt myself or others.  Sure, I could get knocked into the rail and crack a rib, or go face first into someone’s skate and break my nose.  I could break my tailbone or collarbone, tear my ACL, and I already can’t rest too much weight on my left wrist.  But the truth of it is, these are all risks I’m willing to take.  I wear my bruises with pride, I relish the swollen pinky I’m currently sporting and I did learn the hard way not to wear glasses to practice last week.
So why I am willing to take these seemingly insane risks?  Because I haven’t felt this way about anything since I was 14 and found punk rock.  It’s been 12 years since I felt this much at home in my body, in my mind, in everything.  When I discovered the punk scene I felt like I had come home.  Then, about 4 years later, it all changed.  Police were breaking up our punk shows and the bands we admired were playing sold out arenas instead of the little clubs we were used to seeing them in.
On the other hand, I have always been athletic and played sports throughout my childhood.  What I really realized around the time I found punk, was that I couldn’t fucking stand the people who played sports.  Those girls were mean.  I was always the tallest girl on the basketball court, soccer field, or swim team (and when I say tallest, I mean by like 4 or 5 inches).  I was always the biggest girl on every team I played for, and no one got that the fat girl could be athletic.  That I may not be able to run as long as they could, but come game time I could match every single skill and was harder to see around.
The second I set foot into the Doll Factory on a cold day in December to watch my first Roller Derby bout, I knew my life had changed.  There was something about watching those women up there in booty shorts and fishnet tights, slamming each other into rails, skating backwards with the grace of a figure skater, and sliding for what seemed like miles on their knees before springing up and jumping back in the fray, that just lit me on fire.  I had to do it.
I won’t lie, it took me about four months to finally get up the courage to even try.  One night Steve and I were at a bout and one of the girls not playing that night came up to us to sell us some raffle tickets.  I always buy raffle tickets because I like to support the things I love and the girl asked me if it was my first time there.  I said no, that I come all the time.  It’s my favorite night out in Los Angeles, and then she looked me up and down and asked if I had ever considered trying out.  Steve, like a cartoon behind me, started shouting, “yes, yes she should try out.”  And then I did.
I showed up to my first class in a pair of shitty plastic skates, scared out of my mind.  I had no idea what to expect: the website said that the first week of class we would be working on stopping and falling.  This, of course, brought up terrifying thoughts of girls hurling themselves at us as we learned how to face-plant without breaking any bones.  But, as it turned out, the classes were like any other work out classes.  We showed up and introduced ourselves (one small difference, instead of the teacher having a normal name, our teacher proudly introduced herself as Axles of Evil, but you can call her Axles).  We then commenced learning how to stop without a toe stop, a maneuver that made my leg feel as though it was going to be ripped off at the thigh.
Throughout the course of the next eight weeks I picked up a second class every week, taught by a woman by the name of Puncherello, but you can call her Punchy.  And week after week, minute after minute as I slammed down onto the track only to pop back up again and keep doing whatever it was I was doing before slamming down onto the track again, and on and on until our hour was done.  I quickly realized the answer as to why girls keep doing this even after major injuries, there’s nothing else like it.  It’s a little hard to describe how great it feels to hit the ground as hard as you do only to pop up again.  It’s not so much the bruising (though that is a source of pride) or the fact that you get knocked down approximately 4,000 times an hour, it the fact that no matter how many times you fall, no matter how much that last one is stinging your thigh, you get back up again.  There is an amazing amount of strength and pride that this simple act provides.
And then there’s the army of women that are just as tough as you, just as dedicated as you, who are probably better than you, but would never ever say it.  They are the real reason to be a part of roller derby.  Because every time you do something you couldn’t do before, there are people clapping their wrist guards together cheering you on.  Every time you fall, there’s someone who knows you can pop back up….and if you can’t, there’s someone to take you to the doctor and get you drunk afterward.  There’s a reason to live and breathe derby, there’s a reason there are terms such as derby wife and derby widow/widower, it’s because once you’ve experienced this family, you’re hooked, you’re done looking.
And now, for me, for now, it doesn’t matter that a job I used to love is not fulfilling me any more, that at the age of twenty-six, I am only just learning that the only source of fulfillment in life can’t be work, because I have an army and they know exactly how much I can handle.
Peace, Love and Hipchecks,
Julia

August 12, 2010 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

You’re Like an Old Friend, Come and See Me Again

When I was a teenager my life revolved around music.  There were very few activities I participated in that didn’t have something to do with music.  I woke up every morning at 5:45 am (after staying up until the wee hours trying to finish my homework) to go to Jazz Band.  I talked about music with my friends, my fashion exuded music and immediately told everyone who saw me exactly what kind of music I listened to (punk, for those who didn’t know me back then).  My last class of the day was music oriented (either band or the spring musical, depending on the day and time of year).  During the spring time, when working on the musical, I would be at school until 10:00 pm working on the music.  Even when I wasn’t at school, I would rehearse with the band I played bass in (named Stalin’s War in the way that only disaffected youth can name a band), often until the 7:00 pm cut-off, when the neighbors would start complaining about the raucous music coming from our guitar player’s garage.

I listened to music constantly.  In the car, it blasted out of the speakers I blew out multiple times.  At home it blasted out of my parents stereo, whose speakers I also blew out.  And in all other instances I had a discman (seems like an 8-track player now) and a small collection of cds to choose from.  It’s no surprise that one of my favorite places in Santa Cruz was Streetlight Records.  I spent hours browsing through cds that I had browsed through hundreds of times hoping to find some gem that I had previously overlooked.  My Marie Callender’s pay check often was deposited directly to Streetlight and its seemingly endless possibilities.

I won’t lie, when I was a senior in high school (and pretty much done with my high school and Santa Cruz in general) I would ditch class with a friend or two and drive to Fremont only to hop a Bart Train to Berkeley and loose myself on the corner of Telegraph Ave. where Rasputin and Amoeba face off.  Those were days of endless joy.  Lunch at Blake’s, dips in to Cody’s books (may it Rest in Peace), and hours finding all the cds I couldn’t find at Streetlight.  There were even times when I made my mother drive me to San Jose (blech) to the mega-Streetlight on Bascom where I would find yet another Sid Vicious poster for my perfectly crafted walls (seriously, I just needed to cover that damn choo-choo-train wallpaper).  Needless to say, as restless and agitated as I was at the tender ages of about 13-20, music provided the solace that I sought.

Actually, one of the deciding factors of my move to Los Angeles was the fact that the behemoth Amoeba mothership store opened on the corner of Hollywood and Cahuenga, a place that I still visit on at least a weekly basis, if not more.  I absolutely can’t stand shopping for music online, mainly because there is no hope of finding a hidden gem as there is in a great record store.  Also, and this is what I love about Amoeba, there is no hope of finding the great bargains.  I once bought 19 cds for $95.  I know in my generation of mp3s and iPods (don’t get me wrong, I love my iPod), I am an anomaly that still buys cds.  Though, I really don’t believe that I’m an anomaly, as Amoeba is still around and seems to be doing great business (if the constantly full parking lot is any indicator).

All that being said, I do also happen to work at an independent book store, which, like independent record stores, are a dying breed, due in large part to innovations like amazon.com.  Now, I actually like Amazon.  I use it on an almost daily basis as a research tool and I occasionally order from it (though I usually go through powells.com for books I want and head down to amoeba for music and movies).  My love of record stores was sealed in high school, in the hallowed walls of Streetlight, the plastic cd cases clacking loudly against each other as people browsed through the endless possibilities of music, but my love of book stores was truly solidified in London.  Sure, I love Book Shop Santa Cruz, and have some great memories of sitting in corners of the store (and the tent) as my mom read me Ferdinand the Bull on the floor.  But in London I learned the calming effect of a book store.  Whenever I felt homesick or morose (due usually to the weather) I would pop in to a Waterstone’s and spend an hour running my fingers over the possibilities of all the different worlds I could suddenly be transported to if I opened any one of these books on the shelf.  I usually succumbed to the 3 for the price of 2 deals and left with a small bag of possibilities and a lighter heart.

Last week I went down to San Diego for the day to visit a friend of mine (sorry I didn’t stop by AJ and Steph, you were still at work by the time I left), and was on the prowl for a cd by Ryan Bingham (i.e. the guy who just won a Golden Globe for best song from Crazy Heart).  I, as I am a modern gal, googled record stores in San Diego on my phone and came up surprisingly short.  It was shocking really.  My friend and I drove all over the place looking for record stores that sold actual CDs and not just old expensive vinyl (not that I don’t love vinyl, I just wanted this one CD).

I guess what made me really sad was the fact that one of California’s largest cities didn’t have a record store.  Ryan Bingham isn’t the kind of guy you can find at Border’s (not that I shop there) and there were a few little stores that just didn’t have the room to carry everything (though they were very nice and offered to order the CD for me).  For the first time in my life I was aware of the fact that I was in a place that didn’t have a music store.  And then it hit me, the detriment that these big box chain stores have wrought on American life.  Now, I’m not about to go off on some rant about how fucked up corporate America is, but I will say that I felt this heavy sense of tragedy as I walked away empty handed.  I think we’ve lost that feeling of non-hegemony, of finding these little treasures in the veritable sea of sameness.  And for me, that’s why I work where I work for the little money I make.  Maybe I’m helping some kid find solace by pointing them toward “Youth in Revolt” or “The Perks of Being a Wallflower.”  Maybe I’m helping in the same way some nameless salesperson at Amoeba helped me when they showed me The Sex Pistols or A.F.I.  When the guy at the comic book store handed me a copy of Watchmen and Superman: Red Son.  The way a professor did when he handed me Maus.  The way another professor did when he sat and watched Darkwing Duck with me on a weekday afternoon.  And I’m hoping seriously that we haven’t lost that.

P.S. If you’re in San Diego, start a record store….there’s a vacuum.

Peace, Love, and Solace,

Julia

January 24, 2010 Posted by | Uncategorized | 1 Comment

Predictions 2010

So I just want to apologize for being so long between emails.  If you can’t tell, I’ve been rather busy lately.  But there are just too many things brewing in my head right now to not take the time to send out one of these emails I know you all love.  So seeing as it’s nearly time for the Golden Globes (and thus my favorite time of year: award show season) I thought I’d give my annual predictions and judgments on the movies of 2009.  So here we go:

Writing -
This is an odd category this year.  There is no front runner for best writing.  I think that Up in the Air might take this or perhaps Inglorious Basterds (just to throw Tarantino a bone).  I also think that (500) Days of Summer should be in there, but I’m not sure it will be.  I won’t count out Nick Hornby for An Education as well, Hollywood loves to show it’s appreciation for novelists by giving them Oscars whenever possible (see John Irving).  Also, Disney’s Up was a fabulously written movie that deserves some credit here, but I’m thinking Up in the Air is going to take it.

Director -
I would put my money on James Cameron for Avatar or Jason Reitman for Up in the Air.  Basically, James Cameron just dedicated four years to Avatar and it’s made $450 million domestically, but he won a best director oscar for Titanic many years ago.  I could see the academy welcoming Jason Reitman for the three great movies he has made (Thank You for Smoking, Juno and now, Up in the Air) by giving him a little golden statue.  My long shot guess would be Tarantino as he has never won a directing statue (and maybe should have for Pulp Fiction).  But if he wins best screenplay he won’t win best director.

Animated Feature -
Without a doubt this will be UP.  If you haven’t seen it, rent it.

Supporting Actor -
I could see this going to Christopher Plummer for The Last Station as he has never won an Oscar.  I could also see Stanley Tucci winning this for The Lovely Bones (which I have not seen, but hear he’s wonderful in).

Supporting Actress -
Now here’s a freaking category.  There are  AMAZING performances in this category so really it’s anyone’s game.  Of course, this is Hollywood and it’s never anyone’s game.  I think Mo’nique is going to take home the statue for Precious.  She’s a comedian that took on this very very dark, very awful person and made her a person.  You certainly don’t like her in the movie, but she’s a person and in a weird, f-ed up way you understand her, even if you know she’s horrible.  However, the ladies of Up in the Air were both amazing Vera Farmiga as Clooney’s love interest and Anna Kendrick as his younger protege completed the emotional texture of the movie.  They were great.  I don’t think Penelope Cruz will win for Nine, though she is great in it.  But I think Julieanne Moore could upset for A Simple Man, she’s never won an Oscar and is due up for one.

Best Actor -
I think this is going to be Jeff Bridges year.  He is amazing in Crazy Heart (go see it if you haven’t already).  I also think Clooney might get this one for Up in the Air. The whole movie rode on his shoulders and he doesn’t have a Best Actor oscar (just best supporting) so I could see it going to him.  Also, I never discount the Academy’s love of Daniel Day-Lewis.  He’s great in Nine, but I still think we’re going to see a Clooney/Bridges showdown.

Best Actress -
I’m going with a pretty much lock on Gabourey Sidibe for Precious.  She was absolutely freaking amazing in that movie and it was a great movie (not to sad for the subject matter it dealt with) pretty much thanks to her and her alone.  However, I could see a Sandra Bullock upset for The Blind Side (as this might be her one shot at Oscar Glory) and I could see a Meryl Streep upset for Julie and Julia (remember she hasn’t won an Oscar in a very very long time, though she is nominated for pretty much every role she plays…this will be number 16, I think).  I think Marion Cotillard will be nominated for Nine, as she was wonderful, but I don’t think she’ll win (she just won two years ago) and I think that Emily Blunt may be nominated for The Young Victoria, just to show that she’s a great actress to watch out for (this happened with Amy Adams when she was nominated for Junebug a few years ago).  The other big upset I could see comes from Carey Mulligan in An Education.  She was simply fantastic in that movie and played a young girl with a sense of savvy who was too naive to see how naive she was.  So good.

Best Picture -
This one is going to be a race.  There are 10 different movies that will be nominated this year (as a way for the Academy to appeal to a larger viewing audience), so the boat is going to rock a bit.  Now, personally I’m happy about this because (500) Days of Summer, which normally wouldn’t have had an eyelash batted its way, has a fighting chance for a nomination, if not the big prize.  I’ll say that it is my favorite movie of the year.  As for winners, however, I think Avatar has a fighting chance, as it is a huge blockbuster and basically just changed hollywood for good (again James Cameron? once wasn’t enough).  However, I think the winner is going to be one of the smaller movies that no one expects.  Crazy Heart could take it, Precious is definitely a front-runner, and The Hurt Locker seems to be gaining momentum in this race.  I also think that Up in the Air might be the actual front-runner.  It’s a great movie, but it’s also very timely (i.e. it wouldn’t work at any other time in any other economic environment).  I think this one will end up winning.

Other things to look out for:  Ryan Bingham will win for best song from Crazy Heart.  Best Foreign I’m voting for Pedro Almodovar’s Broken Embraces.  And lastly, what the fuck is going to happen with 10 Best Picture nominees?

Peace, Love, and a Man Named Oscar,
Julia

January 13, 2010 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

No Downloading Required

People often ask me, as an employee of an Independent Bookstore, what I feel about the Kindle.  I actually don’t really care about the Kindle.  I don’t really believe that the Kindle threatens sales at my book store all that much.  In fact, I think that Borders and Barnes and Noble are the book stores that should be threatened by the Kindle.  Generally speaking, people who shop at independent book stores actually like to read actual books, and books that are not available in e format.

Recently also, my mother has asked me about the future of publishing, specifically, is there a future in publishing?  I work in a business that, like the music business, has fallen victim to the internet, downloading, piracy, etc.  And I will freely admit that I have written about the downfall of the music business.  Again, I will argue, that (this year especially) the quality of books being written is absolutely amazing, whereas the quality of popular music continues to decline sharply.  That being said, I find it interesting that the music business has some hope, and maybe that hope translates to books.

A few days ago I read this article in the New York Times about the resurgence of vinyl and it sparked something in me.  Now, perhaps this has something to do with the fact that I bought my first turntable a few months ago (my parents have one, but I’ve never had my own), or perhaps it has to do with the phase I went through as a young punk when I wouldn’t buy older punk music on cd because it was meant to be played on vinyl.  In any case, in the past few years, as I’ve kept up with my generation by buying cds and downloading music from iTunes, it has be come clear to me that records sound different.

This battle is occurring in the film industry as well as the battle between film and digital video takes shape.  The truth of the matter is that film looks better and vinyl sounds better.  There’s a richness to both media that is just not present in an mp3, on an HD digital video (I personally detest HD because I hate seeing people’s makeup, give me grainy pictures back, please).  The NYT article argues that it is passion for our roots that drive us toward vinyl, but I think it’s different than that.  I think that people are hanging on to the full experience of an album with liner notes and artwork, not just a digital picture on our iPod after downloading and album onto it.

To me it seems foolish to say that digital movies, music, books, etc are just a passing fad.  Obviously they are a part of the commercial realm now, but it seems equally ignorant to presume that with the iPod, video online, and the kindle are going to monopolize the industries that they reside in.  Technology moves forward, but the need for content hasn’t yet gone away, nor, do I think, will it ever go away.  Because the one thing that is true through all of these speculations about the death of these industries is that people still want to consume entertainment, perhaps more than they’ve ever wanted to consume entertainment before.

That, and of course the fact that Dan Brown can’t sign your Kindle.

Peace, Love and Old School,
Julia

December 12, 2009 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Thoughts on a Quarter Century

My favorite place to eat in Los Angeles is this little retro diner about three blocks from my house.  There is weird artwork on the walls, sixties green and orange booths and neo-retro light fixtures hang from the ceiling.  They serve good coffee and good food and they have a big real-wood counter that I usually sit at with my book.  The diner is three blocks away from my house, so I can walk there, but the best part is that they play good music.

On Saturday afternoon, I found myself in Fred 62 (my diner), eating their awesome granola and drinking coffee.  I had just bought Miss Lonelyhearts/The Day of the Locust by Nathaniel West and was reading different parts of the book (I have literary ADD and can’t just read a book from the start, but have to skip around and look at the chapters, the introduction, the afterword, etc), in the background, music from my adolscence came through the speakers.  I knew all the words to every song that played as I sat there.

In the afterword of the Nathaniel West novels an old friend of West’s talks about West as a writer, though in his first paragraph he owns up to the fact that he and West had a falling out years before West died, and he brushes off the fickle nature of grudges and percieved betrayal.  As I sat there in the diner, listening to the music of my past and reading of a dissolved friendship a kind of melancholy washed over me.

I’m young, coming up on my 26th birthday, but I’m not that young.  I’m to a point in life where I’ve actually lived a little bit.  This week, I will add, was also the 25th birthday of my best friend, who, I realized, I’ve known for a decade now.

What I realized while sitting in that hipster diner and listening to my past, was that I felt comfortable with having a past.  There was a comfort that came along with knowing someone for a decade, or knowing all the words to The Goo Goo Dolls, Pearl Jam, The Gin Blossoms, etc.  There was a comfort to knowing I didn’t have a grudge against anyone, I hadn’t cut anyone out of my life because of some perceived hurt.

I mean, sure, I miss music videos, and other comforts from my younger life, but there is a kind of calm that happens with the familiarity of sitting at a counter, drinking good coffee and listening to the good old days.  It warms me low in my belly to know that I’ve experienced a chunk of the world.

I guess this all started coming up as the 1989, 20 year anniversary celebrations started.  The 20th anniversary of the Loma Prieta earthquake (which I certainly remember), the 20th anniversary of the falling of the Berlin Wall, the 20th anniversary of the Exxon spill.  All vivid memories of mine the solidly placed my life in the context of global events.  And I find comfort in that.  I find comfort in comparing myself to the span of history, to my own little experience, cut out of the largess of human experience in general.

Peace, Love, and Comfort,
Julia

November 16, 2009 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Reality Killed the Video Star

I miss music videos. There was a good five year period where I feel like my whole life revolved around watching music videos. I remember days home from school where I’d order pizza and watch MTV for hours, the same rotation of music videos over and over again. I’m fairly certain this is where my love of movies came from; one can’t watch the Spike Jonze video for Sabotage as many times as I have and not have an innate appreciation for cinema. In fact, there are certain songs that I remember specifically by the music video and every time I hear those songs, the video flashes in my head. I can’t even remember the song that goes along with the mentos/foo fighters video, but I certainly remember the video. About a year ago someone showed me the single ladies music video on youtube and something started niggling at the back of my mind. I’m admittedly very bad with new and popular music (I’ve never had much of a tolerance for popular music, with the exception of Nirvana), instead I have some ridiculous penchant for finding music that was popular approximately 20-30 years ago, or for music that not many people like. So when I saw the Beyonce video, not only had I never heard the song (which I will admit I like) but I found it completely ridiculous that I was forced to watch it on a 3″ screen with crappy resolution. Really, what this seemingly innocuous occurrence did was made me realize how ridiculous the music video market has become. I don’t want to sound like one of those twentysomethings who talks incessantly about how much better things were when I was a kid because I don’t actually believe that they were wholly better, but I have to say, there was something awesome about the music videos of the early 90s. For huge chunks of time throughout the day you could watch/listen to non-stop music. There were whole shows dedicated to certain genres of this music (Yo! MTV Raps for instance) and of course when I got home from school everyday there was Total Request Live. As I said before, I’ve never been that in to popular music, and honestly there were times during TRL that I had to change the channel because I hated the music so much, but the truth of the matter was that no matter how much I hated it, I knew the music. I knew the songs that were out, what was popular, what the country was listening to. And maybe that’s an unintentional metaphor for our current fractured state of being or maybe that’s just an odd coincidence. I don’t even have cable television any more so I don’t quite know why it bothers me so much that I can’t watch music videos on MTV, but it does. I can’t stand the thought that people watching MTV and VH1 are watching it for the reality programming more than for the music. As the music industry continues to teeter on the brink of annihilation, it seems like a dark tragedy that it’s former outlets have given up on it completely. And I miss the music video. The first video ever played on MTV was Video Killed the Radio Star, who knew that something could come along and kill the video star too? Peace, Love, and Music, Julia

November 7, 2009 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

A Blessing and a Curse

It’s an inevitable question.  When you meet new people, when you get closer to people you already know, the question of family or more specifically siblings always arises.  And as an only child, there’s this look that I always get when I give up that information.  It’s a kind of knowing look with a dash of skepticism tossed in on the side.  A look that says something along the lines of, ‘oh, you’re one of those?’  Because there is this stigma associated with only children, that somehow we’re the ones throwing fits on the sidewalk, kicking and screaming into adulthood, unable to do anything without our parents.  And maybe, in a way, that can be true.  I don’t know that I’m necessarily an all about me person (though maybe this email that’s all about me will beg to differ), but I certainly am not someone who can’t see how my behavior effects the people around me.  Being an only child is an odd sort of thing.  On the one hand, I was certainly able to do things that other people weren’t able to do because my parents only had me to support, but there are all these other events that siblings get to be and do together.

The other inevitable question when it has been established that I am an only child is, ‘did you ever want a sibling?’  The answer, not so straightforward, is sometimes.  There were times when I would create siblings in my head, tell my friends at school that I had sisters and brothers (usually they were friends that didn’t go to the same school) and found myself in embarrassing situations when my school friends came over and realized that I did not, in fact, have any siblings.  On the other hand, I liked having to worry only about myself, I liked the fact that I had undivided attention when my parents came home from work, and I still love the fact that my parents were able to pay for college and send me to London and a million other things I’m sure I don’t know about because they weren’t ones to rub their good deeds in, but they also did not have another child to support.

At the same time, in a way, I wasn’t an only child at all.  As one of 13-15 cousins (I’ve lost track of how many there are now), there were always kids around.  Family time, which was often, came with anywhere from 2-???? children running around, shooting nerf guns at each other, playing basketball or Tetris or hearts.  We sometimes fought like siblings, we loved each other like siblings (and still do), we may not have had to live together but to me, they were my siblings.  And what I lacked in cousins, I made up for in only children friends, some of whom (ahem, Jesse) I still consider my family.

But last month, as I attended the funeral of a friend of my grandmother’s I was slapped in the face with a realization about only childness.  I watched as Mrs. Carroll’s children consoled each other and a kind of panic washed over me.  I am an only child.  And as an only child there are a few things that I must weather alone.  Until I saw the warmth that passed through the siblings as they said good-bye to their mother, I had never thought of the burden of the only child.  It’s not just that we must lose our parents alone, that we don’t have brothers or sisters to know our pain so acutely that we don’t even need words to share in the hurt, but we also have to bear the burden of parental pride.  It’s our sole burden, and priviledge, to make our parents proud.  We have to do it because no one else is going to.  We don’t have the option of failure.  We don’t have the luxury of passing our ailing parent’s healthcare to our siblings (not that having siblings means that this is inevitable, but it is an option).  In a few ways, in a few situations, we, as only children, are simply alone.

I’m not saying that I would trade being an only child for anything, I wouldn’t.  I’m not saying that there aren’t friends and family, as I have plenty of both, but in a way, there is a kind of solitude that comes along with being the only child.  Starting from the solitude of an empty house after school and working through the more vexing solitudes that life throws everyone’s way, the only child is not just spoiled or bratty (though we know we all can be both), but is a fully rounded person unworthy of the skeptical looks and knowing eyebrow raises.  And though I, as an only child, am able to straddle the line of both solitude and immense socialization (can’t come from a family of 30+ and not know how to interact with people), I still carry the burden as well.

Peace, Love, and Famiglia,
Julia

October 19, 2009 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Socialist Television

I love the advent of television on the internet.  Speaking as someone who definitely has scheduled an entire school curriculum around when television shows air, I love the newfound freedom that television on the internet (and TiVo) has afforded me.  I love the fact that while plugging away at filing what seems like sometimes endless amounts of paperwork, I can catch up on The Office or 30 Rock, on Gossip Girl or 90210.  I love that I can download Glee to my iPod for $1.99 and watch it on the bus on my way to work.  When I was in college, I would choose 8:00 AM section over 8:00 PM because the night time sections always interfered with my TV shows.  I would get calls from my roommates, panicked that they weren’t going to be home in time for Dawson’s Creek or Gilmore Girls, and requesting that a video tape (remember those?) be put in to record the show.

Ah, aren’t we glad those days are behind us?  Working until 11:00 PM?  No sweat, I’ll watch my TV tomorrow, or this weekend.  I’m hearing so much about Mad Men, but am now three seasons behind?  Whatevs, I’ll catch in on DVD.  But even with these great innovations, I find that there is something missing.

Last Wednesday I went over to my old roommates new house.  We had dinner, played a little Beatles Rock Band (which I love, even though I can’t stand the Beatles…please, do not email me about that assertion, I know what you all are thinking), and watched Glee.  Whether or not you like Glee (and I’m judging you if you don’t), whether or not this sounds like a great way to spend an evening, I realized what, exactly, was missing from my TV on the internet: the social aspect of watching television (I can hear my mother groaning right now).

What I really loved about the whole, scheduling my life around television, is that all my friends and roommates scheduled their lives around television as well.  I mean, sure it was a pain in the ass when you wanted to go out, or do something else, or if you got hung up at work or at school, but I don’t get the warm fuzzies I used to get when I’d walk into a house with three bright, shiny faces huddled in the living room waiting for the refrain of a really bad Paula Cole song.

At a time when good television is better than it’s ever been, I find it sad that the way I watch TV the most is huddled at my desk with a pair of headphones on, suppressing my chuckles, blinking back tears, and trying not to make any gasping noises when something particularly shocking happens.  And I’ll admit it freely, I miss watching TV with people.  I miss commenting on wardrobe: ‘what is that outfit?’ was a refrain often heard in my various apartments in college.  I miss sharing the joys, the pain, the laugter and the ridiculousness of some stupid television show that you just can’t get enough of with other people who can’t get enough of it.  For me, coming from a group of TV friends who are as passionate, if not moreso, than I, it is hard to quiet down and just watch.  It’s hard not to react, not to reach out to others.  Much like in life, Television begs human contact, some sort of consensus must be reached about character arcs and plotlines, about wardrobe and hair.  I mean, people used to knock on our dorm room door because we reacted so loudly they thought there was something wrong, people heard us yelling from down the street outside apartments and houses as we wondered why certain fictional characters were behaving as they were.  Now we’re relegated to text messaging or instant messaging one another: ‘I love chuck and blair,’ isn’t as satisfying as a face to face conversation about the merits of a relationship that is doomed not to work out.

I’m realizing as I write this, that I don’t just miss the missed opportunity for communication, and I will say that often television is a way to open up about crap that’s happened to you, even if it’s just putting your two cents in on a situation that you’ve experienced (can’t argue that one mom, how many discussions about drugs and sex did we have after an episode of 90210? A Lot!), but I miss the socialization.  I miss the fact that every Thursday for three years, my friends and I found a way to get together and watch The O.C.  That every Thursday in our house meant fish tacos and margaritas, or one of our pizza delivering friends would bring pizza and beer.  I miss that 20 minutes prior to a show when people just started arriving at our house, that the TV show was a way to keep up with friends, a way to continue the bond that may have been left in the library or at the roadside of endless reading.  I miss that many of my friendships now could use a little jump start from a weekly TV watching party.  Even if it’s just two or three people on a couch, the bondedness of experiencing a show together, laughing together, crying together, commentating together is going away.  And I miss it.

Peace, Love, and Social Networking,
Julia

September 28, 2009 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

The Book of the Face

I joined Facebook a little more than a month ago after much shit from everyone I know, and I must say, it stresses me out.

First off, I live in a near constant fear that someone I don’t want to talk to is going to try and friend me (ahem, certain ex-uncles I have no care to chat with), and I’m going to have to ignore them, then run into them randomly and have them be pissed at me (don’t you wish you could be inside my head?).  Then, of course, is the fear of the people I try to ignore whenever I’m in Santa Cruz.  But mostly, my stress comes from the constant pressure of the updates.  That’s right, I said it, the updates raise my blood pressure.

I mean, come on, they have to be funny and provocative, interesting yet not completely telling, and most of all, they have to be short.  And I’m not going to lie, I check to see how many people have ‘liked’ my posts, how many people have commented.  Not to mention the fact that I can get all this on my blackberry, so I can check on things like this.

So, one might ask, why the hell would I want to subject myself to this?  Well, my brits did guilt me into joining.  I’m certain the phrase, ‘we could keep in touch better if you joined facebook,’ was used once or twice, but really the fascinating and shocking (to me) thing is, I actually do like Facebook.  I like being able to keep up with my friends and family without having to talk on the phone (because I really hate talking on the phone) and I like seeing people’s pictures, reading funny updates.  I like the political debates that rage on different posts.  I like hearing what everyone is up to on a regular basis.

For all it’s merits though, I think the Facebook/MySpace phenomenon begs the question, what did we do before this?  I mean, I definitely talked on the phone in high school, but not any more than I do now.  Did we just not know what was going on in everybody’s day to day life?  Do we need to know that now?  I’m guess I’m wondering, did we have more friends or less?  Did we really know more people and now we just kind of know them, or did we know just as many people, but not as well?

The thing about Facebook is it’s a censored version of yourself.  I mean, we don’t get to go on there and say, ‘man, I had a crazy night.  Got drunk, did something stupid with someone I didn’t know, crazy night.’ or  ‘God, that was some good weed!’  Our families get those updates, our parents, our aunts, our cousins.  No one needs to know things like that.  I don’t even tell my friends things like that.  At the same time, I think that Facebook affords us a look into the people around us.  We get to hear about their day (whatever part they choose to share), we get to hear about the random thoughts that appear in their heads, about the issues they choose to share.  And maybe that speaks more than anything else can.  Maybe just the feeling of being more connected is more important than whether we’re actually connected or not.

In any case, you can bet I’ll be fretting about what to write next.

Peace, Love and Facebooks,

Julia

September 21, 2009 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.