Monday, September 12, 2011


I finished a journal today, which is always a moment of reflection. One of my roommates in Buenos Aires gave me the journal, a tad water-damaged, salvaged from her office. It is yellow with white flowers on it, and the elastic holding it shut broke off months ago. I started writing in it a year ago. It's small; I didn't expect it to last me a year, but I guess my thoughts have been sort of repetitive and scattered, two things that don't lead to good journal-writing, or good writing at all.

The news from this front is that I came to a realization that I was torturing myself for no reason. I would spend hours every day, every week, looking for work that I didn't want, fretting when I didn't get it, and polishing the fragments of my self-esteem that I stumbled over every morning. I introduced myself to people as "unemployed." I felt sad. Sometimes I would get really into writing something, and then I would stop and feel bad, because I was wasting time pursuing a fantastical dream and not looking for real-life work. All around me, people were working.

I hit another milestone in my life journal, that of having been back in San Francisco for a year. Someone asked me, "What have you been doing all year?" I've been ironing out the fine points of a relationship. I've been looking for work. I've been baking cookies. I've been growing tomatoes. I gained a few pounds, then lost them. I'm battling with poison oak. I thought, "Man, if only I'd known that I was going to be here a whole year...I would have buckled down, written, not worried about finding a job at all. I'm not starving or anything; I'm lucky. I have savings and a boyfriend who supports me and by golly, I haven't done anything to either deserve it or take advantage of it." Instead, it was like a year of banging my head against a wall.

I took a breath and looked up; I stopped waiting for something to happen. I quit looking for work. I salaried myself out of my savings outright, for the rest of the year. I left the cycle of despair that is job-hunting, and I am writing. I am happy. For now, life is good.

Monday, June 20, 2011

high-brow literature

Last week, I found myself at a delightful wedding on Cape Cod filled with friends and strangers. And as it is with strangers and small talk, a lot of my conversations went like this:

Friend's Uncle's Business Partner: So, what do you do?

Serious Business: I'm a writer.

FUBP: Yeah? What kind of writing do you do?

SB: Freelance.

FUBP: Right, okay. But...what kind?

SB: Well, okay, I've been writing fiction-for-hire lately.

FUBP: What kind of fiction?

SB: Romance.

FUBP: Oh. Really...!

Somehow, I really had it in my head that I would somehow be able to avoid talking about what I've been doing. But there were a few problems with this thought: 1) I didn't have a good story concocted, 2) The evasion was for their sake and not mine, so I didn't really take it too seriously, and 3) I'm just not a good liar. I do sometimes leave tiny pieces out. For instance, if it was an old friend I was talking to and not a Friend's Uncle's Business Partner, I would just tell them straight up that I'm writing specifically for a sub-category of romance called Erotic Romance. Basically, my rules for disclosure are against anyone whose first reaction would include "Oh." In general, this is anyone related to me, anyone whose children I know, and people who I still think could potentially employ me.

Here's the book on Amazon. It is called 'Mexican Flames.' My editor wanted to call it 'Mexican Heat,' but it turns out there is a gay erotica book that already goes by that name.

Let me tell you a little about this book.
1) It is an e-book only. No trees were sacrificed to deliver this piece of high-brow literature to the world

2) Because it is an e-book, it has been designed to be read on e-readers. As such, it is short, and it is illustrated. ILLUSTRATED. (not by me). The funny part about this is that the book is 12 chapters, and we had agreed on around 4-8 illustrations. However, if you download the free sample chapter, you'll see that there are four illustrations IN THE FIRST CHAPTER. I have yet to download the full book myself, because two chapters are just sex, and I am scared to see those illustrated. In watercolor.

3)Did I mention that the title of the book is 'Mexican Flames?'

4)Jeremy Piven is in it.

5)This is Book One of a series. My editor-cousin wants to call the second one 'Canadian Flames.' Discuss.

Monday, June 13, 2011

old chinese ladies

This morning I was jogging home when I saw a short person clad in black, wearing a hat, pushing a metal shopper up the sloped sidewalk of Hyde Street. The shopper was piled so high with trash bags that they obscured the view of the tiny person pushing it. I'm not a very fast jogger (particularly when going uphill), but they were moving very slow, so it was just a few seconds later that I caught up with this slow-mover. Without really thinking, I cast a quick sideways glance as I made to pass them, and I was horrified to see that it was my grandmother.

Okay, it wasn't really my grandmother. My only living grandparent lives with full-time assistance in Singapore, so this tiny woman pushing this cart of recycling up this was definitely not her. But every time I see an old Asian person digging for a living, my heart buckles in my chest. Seeing as how I live next to Chinatown, you'd think I would be used to this, but no. Because every old person collecting cans to survive makes me see my parents, and even myself, and I always wonder what has gone wrong if an old woman is out struggling to push a cart of recycling up a hill by herself at eight in the morning. I usually stop and ask the women if they need help, and usually they say no. But this woman allowed me to grasp the handles of her cart and maneuver it up the hill. It was ridiculously heavy.

"You're very strong!" I told her.

"I'm 84 years old," she said. I'm not sure if she told me that because she was proud that she was still going at 84...or if she was explaining why she was now too weak to make it up the hill.

Part of me wants to believe that these women do not really need to be collecting cans. There are two poles of old Chinese ladies--those that expect to be treated like empresses of miniature empires (which many of them are). These ladies will expect all their children and grandchildren and great-grandchildren to fall all over themselves so that they won't have to lift a finger, ever, as a sign of respect for their old age and for their matriarchal position. Then, on the opposite end of the spectrum, are the scrappy women who believe that idleness and privilege are the worst of all traits, and they will be out collecting cans even if they live in a mansion with their eldest son, the doctor, and his wife, the lawyer. These kind of women cannot sit still because they need to feel like they are constantly providing whatever they can to the family. I prefer to think that these women belong to this latter camp, because it is a lot more comforting to believe this than to imagine that just a few blocks away from me, people are living in poverty, or that this woman's family has deserted her and that nobody is taking care of her in her old age.

That just kills me. It made me want to adopt her and bring her home with me, sit her on the sofa, and buy her a television so she could watch soap operas all day.

Related: If You Think Things Suck Now, Just Wait Til You're Old and Poor

Thursday, May 5, 2011

and that was april.

April was the month that I hardly wrote anything at all. The one blog post I seriously considered was negged by Marido as an over-share (sorry!) and the fact that I am counting a blog post as writing at all just goes to prove my theory that April Is The Most Unproductive Month. Period.

More than once, I sat down to clear my head by writing and what poured out of me was hauntingly dull and familiar, bitchings about my lack of employment, the feeling that my life is getting away from me, watching everyone around me couple off, get serious, make plans that increasingly don't involve me. I didn't even have to think about what I was writing, because it's a script that has played out what seems like every other year. But I don't stop and think about these things as much anymore because they're boring, and I know they will pass. This week I received one baby shower and three wedding invitations in the mail, and last week two of my good friends got engaged. I wonder what goes through your head when actually sit down and commit yourself to something, to someone, and then I realize that it's not one moment, it's a series of moments, the way I commit myself to writing a novel, as crappy as it might turn out. It's not like one day you say, "I'm going to write a novel." It's a decision you make every day, and some days are better than others.

Today Marido and I are celebrating 11 months to the day we met. 11 months! That's not even a year, pssh. It is so unbelievable to me that I just have to think about it all the time. It's wonderful to be in such a great relationship with a man who encourages me and believes in me and who doesn't doubt that we can do anything together. Anything.

It's funny to feel like I have things in working order in a relationship, where we can talk through things and feel, in the end, that we are in it for the long haul. I suppose that is what marriage feels like, and instead of thinking every time we have a fight "This is it, he's done with me," or, conversely, "This is it, I can't take it anymore," you just say to yourself, "Let's get through this." I think we are playing more of the latter than the former lately, and it feels good. We still fight and get our feelings hurt just because we are such different people, but after all this time we are still trying, and that's how we got here. I am really amazed by it all. If we are writing a story together, it has been pretty interesting thus far. I like the character development and suspense: what will they do next? Lately we are thinking of starting a photography business together.

It's been almost three years since I've had a salary now. I am used to the dejection now, and am just seeing that yes, it really is harder to get a job the longer you've been unemployed--and the older you get. Most agencies don't really see "writer" as a job at all, and so it is becoming even more important that I succeed as one. I think novelists have to nurture a kind of tenacity that is cyclical and long-term. Last year, in April, I was having my typical Most Unproductive Month, so I went to Singapore to watch my grandmother die and then spent a week in Chicago meditating on the fact that I would not allow myself to be a failure. When I returned to Buenos Aires in May, I tumbled into the most explosive month: I finished my novel, sold my first "big" story in months, and then a few weeks later I met Marido.

Well, now it's May again, and I am so primed for amazing things to happen. I am writing again, my tomato plants are growing growing growing before my eyes, and in a few weeks Marido and I are going to bliss out on the beaches of Baja. Get ready! I'm ready.

Monday, March 28, 2011


My twenties were all about big birthdays. I liked to have big parties, excuses to invite everyone I knew and drink (even) more than usual since everyone is buying you drinks. The birthday party is the day where everyone shows up, even if it's just for a drink, because it's your birthday. You are surrounded by all these people you love and it's just magical! It's the high school equivalent of having your locker decorated so everyone knows you have friends who spent time cutting out letters of your name and coming to school fifteen minutes earlier to paste them on your locker, along with cutouts of Jared Leto and Mylar balloons tied to the handle.

My 29th birthday was an odd party in the middle of sobriety and following a life-changing week in the desert, and I remember spending most of my party feeling anxious and waiting for the peripheral invitees to leave so I could spend quality time with the besties.

Last year, I spent my 30th birthday in the middle of nowhere by myself, and I sort of figured it would pretty much signal the end of birthdays for me. It's a different sort of celebration to have a birthday by yourself, where nobody can reach you with wishes, there's no cake, no candles, and the little part of you that misses that gets tamped down by the part of you that realizes you truly don't need that shit to feel festive.

This year, I sort of thought I would have a big party to celebrate being back in San Francisco, but my family showed up and then the idea of a party a week later sounded so silly that I might as well wait for next year, or at least an occasion where something cool is being celebrated--like, hopefully, the "publication" of my first e-book, which should be soon. I thought it would be more fun to have some sort of accomplishment to celebrate, because I'm really tired of alternately bitching about or avoiding the topic of my employment status.

But I've realized that the birthday party isn't just about making the birthday person feel loved and happy, it's a time for your buddies to feel good about being your buddy. You show up, you give love, and this makes you happy for being the good friend who shows up to the party. And having a birthday party, I've realized, is also a way to remind people it's your birthday so they can wish you a happy birthday and not feel like a dick later for forgetting. Without the birthday party reminder, I've realized, people forget and then they panic and wonder how to make it up to you. But you don't have to make it up; it's not a big deal. Birthday wishes are still nice a week or a month later. It's not about the date, it's about the hugs and kisses and gratefulness to not have died yet.

Besides, I still don't know the birthday of my friend J, and I've known her since we were five years old. I was her maid of honor. So there. And let's have a party, just to have a party. It can be a celebration of anything, and yes, it can still involve Mylar balloons and cutouts of Jared Leto.

Thursday, March 17, 2011


I'm not having the best month. It's raining; my skin is a mess; I didn't convert either of my two interviews into job offers; I also lost two freelance gigs this week to more qualified people--one photographer, one writer. I also wrote two serious blog posts, one about being a stay-at-home girlfriend, and the other about racism, and then decided that I would rather not publish any more thoughts on these topics, no matter how eloquently stated mine might be.

I got surprisingly pissed at someone's comments on my blog recently. I think if I were in a better mood, I wouldn't have cared. But despite the fact that I am surrounded by love and opportunity and recently signed a little publishing contract, my self-esteem is suffering--maybe because I'm online too much lately. I don't like being on the defensive, and I realize that is just how I feel lately. There was all this backlash against the whole stay-at-home girlfriend thing, and then all of this hate over racism, and then people telling me I'm just not good enough for whatever it is they want. I don't like defending myself on other people's terms. I don't like trying to prove that I can do a job, that it's okay if I don't have a paycheck for a little while, that it's okay if I'm Asian, that it's okay if I just need to fucken mellow out and bake cookies for a while in my sweatpants. I got all sorts of vitriolic over both hating and defending my way of life, and then I realized I don't have to. And the reason why I feel so defensive is because I spend too much time online reading people's opinions. I mean, some asshole yelled "Chinaman!" at me this week. Yesterday, some guy commanded me to "Smile!" when I passed him in the street. I wanted to react shrilly to both of them, but I let both moments pass me by. It is one thing to give one-sided commentary, and another thing to invite discussion. And I did not want to have discussions with either of these people.

Anyhow, I want to be done feeling defensive and stuck, so I'm just going to be done. I started writing a new novel this week, and I am happy with it. I also know that the reason why I get stressed about money is that it is yet another thing that I try to force myself to care about in order to be "responsible" (like a job!) but that ultimately, I'll have it when I need it, and as long as I don't worry about it, it doesn't really bother me.

Also, I'm glad to be with a guy who I think is getting used to me, so much so that last night when I burst out "Sometimes I don't think you even WANT kids!" he hardly batted an eye. That, and he still wants to quit his plum job to spend six-plus months with me in a van, driving south.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011


Last week I wrote about change and how good it is, how it keeps our minds agile and ready for what devil may come. But today I want to write about the flipside of so much change, where so much is uncertain that you end up doing the same thing every day.

A lot of people experience "travel fatigue," where they stop absorbing new experience after a long period of time on the road. That is when you feel like a homeless person instead of a tourist, and all you can focus on is getting a cup of coffee, resting your feet on a sunny bench, and finding a clean place to go to the bathroom. Inevitably, you start to think to yourself that every place is the same--and why the hell do you need a clean place to go the bathroom, anyway? Isn't that counterintuitive?

I'm having another one of my many days of frustration at being an un-salaried worker. I spent another day hustling, trying to simultaneously research something and sell myself, and although the prospect of getting this plum assignment is pretty exciting, I have to admit that part of me feels like I'm wasting my time; I'm not going to get it. The other part of me says "Not with that attitude you won't!" My second-grade teacher would be proud.

I am still not used to the ups and downs of freelancing. I was sort of relieved when I didn't get called back for a second interview at The Perfect Job For Me, since that would have led to, you know, me...working in an office. I guess it was really The Perfect Job For My Skill Set, and not Me per se...but being offered the position would have been good for my self-esteem, which always suffers when nothing is happening. These are the days when I feel like, in foregoing a traditional job because of fear of routine, I end up doing the same thing every day: freaking out, scattershot research that leads to dead ends, half-assed attempts at self-representing, baking cookies. In the end, it feels like trying to find a kernel of corn in a swimming pool by scooping out cups of water and then throwing them back in.

I think I need some popcorn. Where the hell did that analogy come from?

Wednesday, March 2, 2011


It is now the Year of the Hare. According to Chinese astrologists, it will be a calm year following the Tiger's year of turmoil. Hooray...?

But I prefer to think of it as a year not of the hare, but of the jackrabbit. We saw these in the desert last week and I can't stop thinking of them. They blend in to their desert surroundings, their gigantic ears standing on alert like tall radars. At the slightest detection of trouble--or opportunity--they take swift action. I am thinking of this year as a resting time, too, but resting with the notion that at any moment, we could take swift action. We can be like the hawks, opportunely waiting our moment for the right current of air to take us away.

Marido is out of town. I miss him in all the usual ways--out of comfort, out of desire, out of excitement...but I also miss him in an unexpected way that I think has something to do with his existence being a new sign that things are different now.

Although I miss him intensely, I am glad that we have some time apart to break up the routine. It is not just the routine of the everyday activities that is nice to escape, but the mental patterns you become accustomed to regarding someone's role in your life. With Marido so far away, I am reminded of our physical language, how we support each other daily, but also his overall role for me as a man who has encouraged me to pursue what I love (like writing) and change what I don't (like smoking).

As we know, our minds both seek and create patterns, which in turn give us stability, logic, and form foundations for seeking extended truths and higher-level problem-solving. It is because we can accept the physical realm that we can build skyscrapers, that when we fall asleep at night we can trust that we will wake up in the same place.

Sometimes our reliance on patterns can work against us, though, creating limitations of the imagination rather than platforms for expansion. I think that this happens when people get depressed, anxious, or fearful--our minds attach to a mental conception as tightly as it attaches to the physical world. We see ourselves as inflexible beings, incapable of change.

But change happens. We can resist it, but we miss out on a lot. It's like refusing to enjoy a comedy, just because we were expecting an action flick. Adaptation is more than adopting new survival skills to a changing environment, it's recognizing when we need to change our environments ourselves and knowing when the moment is right to do so.

If this is the year of waiting, I am glad to be waiting it out with Marido. And when the time comes to take action, I hope we will be ready. I think we will be.

Friday, February 18, 2011

resistance is futile

First off, movies. Saw two great ones this week:

The Man From Earth is a heady piece, the final work of noted sci-fi writer Jerome Bixby, who wrote some of the most beloved installments of Star Trek and The Twilight Zone. It all takes place in one room, making me think it would be perfect for a stage adaptation.

Mary and Max is a claymation loosely based on a true story of a pen-friendship between a young Australian girl and an old guy in New York with Aspberger's Syndrome. It was silly, funny, emotional, and altogether awesome. I can only watch movies with compartmentalized sadness these days, and my crying in this movie was limited to two brief moments.

With the rain, I am in full-on hibernation mode. I leave the house for about an hour each day, to exercise or run errands. When I'm hibernating, I like to cook and eat. And eat. And cook. And cook and eat some more. But being inside doesn't mean things can't be exciting! I keep things fresh by eating expired food. I think of it as an in-house consumer challenge. I really broke some personal records this week, eating yogurt that expired in November and canned beans that were, by Marido's estimate, "at least five years old." I cooked them first. I also pickled vegetables.

I've been sleeping deeply, with vivid dreams, averaging nine hours a night. I never thought I could sleep so much. And despite the nothingness-quality to my days lately, the sleep is not a depressing, escape-style sleep, where you wake up groggy and confused. I wake up feeling refreshed. This is a new thing for me.

Earlier in the week, I felt depressed. I weathered another lukewarm job interview wearing my newly purchased adult clothes. Following last week's interview, I went to Macy's to use the bathroom and, catching a sideways glimpse of myself in a mirror, mistook myself for a salesgirl. Further proving to the world that I am not cut out for corporate (or in this case, nonprofit--) America, I was able to bring up both drugs and incest at my interview this week.

Sometimes the days seem so thoroughly bland that I get extremely disoriented, as though I am in an all-white space with no walls, no ceiling, just your feet touching the white floor. The fact that it is white is important: it doesn't feel oppressive or claustrophobic--in fact, it is infinite, endless. The routine sometimes gives me a somewhat euphoric feeling. In the evening, when Marido comes home, I like to put my head on his lap and just experience his warmth and life. After a long day of me rolling around in these three rooms with only the ants for company, his presence can feel overwhelming--but in a good way. Things feel meditative lately: peaceful, happy.

Related: A Life Less Ordinary with Ewan McGregor, Cameron Diaz

Tuesday, February 8, 2011


The email I sent to my friend today:

Hey C,

congrats on the packers' win! Must have been a helluva weekend for
you. And I bet you were both happy to be able to drink...and then oh
yeah, the hangover. that is always great.

how are things coming along? i like to hear about what you are up to.
i have realized that i just don't understand social media. like i have
accounts on facebook and twitter, which is pretty much all i can
handle, but i never seem to get any news out of them. I want to get
better at it but it overwhelms me, so I just resort back to primitive
one-on-one emails and such.

i am trying to get better at social media too because I am about to
e-publish something completely ridiculous, and I want to get the word
out. I wonder if you have any advice for me on how to build a
following, and how to get the word out without being annoying. then
again i'm not even sure that i want it really publicized.

OK jeez, i'll just tell you what it is. I'm writing ROMANCE. that's
right. my cousin approached me about providing content for this
e-publishing start up and i kind of just tossed the idea out there, as
a joke, because i refused to write what he inittially proposed. now
i'm staring at this contract and i wrote my first sex scene today and
in less than a month--depending on how the illustration team goes
(yes, ILLUSTRATIONS, it is all really weird) i am going to have
something published online for which I get 50% of royalties. it could
be nothing, but it could be a big deal, seeing as the romance novel
market is really big. we've created a character destined for serial
greatness, sort of modeled after the comic Brenda Starr (you're from
the midwest so I figure you would know?---the redheaded girl reporter
who goes out and has romances with men who wear eyepatches? yep!)
anyhow I have to admit I'm pretty uncomfortable/dazed by the whole
concept. I haven't told my folks yet and don't really want to (i even
feel weird telling you, how fucked up is that?). I am going to be
using a pen name. I am sort of worried about my family being really
upset about the material but at the same time I want people to buy the
book so I can join the ranks of the paid.

do you have any advice, things you learned from promoting [your magazine] and such?


Wednesday, February 2, 2011


I like this word, "recidivism." I looked it up to see what it meant, and it means "a repeat offender," and be used both as a noun and an adjective. I don't know why it popped into my head, but maybe it has something to do with the fact that it is Groundhog Day.

Marido and I have been at each others' throats this week. I blame it on not enough sex and too much time on my hands. This week we have argued about (a) god, (b) astrology, and (c) Shepard Fairey. Neither of us believe in these things--particularly the Shepard Fairey--but we argued until both of us were pissed off.

I said some things to him the other night that felt like a breakup; it was like a reversal of what happened in November, when he said some things to me that felt like a breakup. It is hard to be happy and comfortable in a relationship when you're constantly feeling like the other person is going to break up with you. I hope we can get through this. I don't know what to do about it. I don't like it.

Yesterday I went out with a friend I've known for a long time, and I was asking him for his unbiased opinion on the situation. He doesn't know Marido and I haven't spoken to him in more than a year. He basically repeated back to me what I had said to him, and somehow it made all the difference in the world. I suddenly understood that I was unhappy and uncertain, and was transferring all of my dissatisfaction with the world onto him--just the way I had done with Ex many years ago. It's not so much blame, it's just exerting some semblance of control over what is the most obvious and important to you.

It's not Marido that I'm mad at, it's other things. It's my lack of direction, it's my frustration with this joblessness. It's the feeling that my life is going places and I don't know how or where to fit in, if I should try to steer things in an arbitrary direction or just see where they go? These questions are hard enough with a career, but what about with another person? I suddenly felt like I was carrying his expectations as well as mine. I didn't know if I could do that. I resented his perceived expectations on top of mine. I began to feel contemptuous toward him, and I wanted things to end.

It's never easy to know when you are ending a bad relationship or bailing out of a perfectly good one that has just fallen on rough times. But Karim asked me to think about the good relationships I know and what defines them, and I think it's an ability to grow together, even when things are hard--not only to support someone else when they are feeling down, but to be supported yourself when you are down.

That, for me, is hard. I don't like anyone to see me when I'm down. I'd rather leave and be down by myself than be a burden on someone else.

Karim also said to me last night: nobody ever said relationships were easy.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011


I'm still looking for a job. The odds of finding a job in the Bay Area seem pretty good at first glance, since there are approximately 500 new job postings every day on craigslist. But, upon further inspection, of the 500 new jobs listed:

-150 are for Java/PHP/Linux developers, none of whom are actually looking for a job
-75 are paid studies for (a) crack addicts, (b) migraine sufferers, (c) mommy bloggers
-50 are ****DO YOU LOVE THE ENVIRONMENT????**** street canvassing jobs
-another 50 are not actually anywhere in San Francisco, but are telecommuting positions for shady startups that pay on "commission"
-30 are for extremely specific positions like "Cantonese-speaking Paraplegic Paralegal" or "Queer-friendly Attack on Mars Pinball Technician with 1985 Ford F150 Pickup"
-20 are for upper management positions
-100 are for service industry positions, of which half are for bartenders/servers with "fine-dining experience"

The remaining 25 positions are various office positions that I could be qualified for, depending on which areas of my resume I feel like padding.

This morning I attended an "open interview" session at a cafe downtown for which I'd received a call-back from an application I submitted one or two weeks ago. I filled out a three-page application that didn't contain any information they didn't already have on my resume (except my shitty handwriting), and waited alongside seven other women, half of whom were dressed in SUITS. After waiting for almost an hour, the owner came out, asked me my name, paperclipped my written application to my email that she'd printed out, and told me today was purely a "matching faces to names" day and that, if selected, I would be called back the following week for a second round of time-wasting!

Stuff Unemployed People Like

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

faking it

Sunday afternoon, Older Brother's pet bird flew away while his cage was being cleaned. He's a three-year-old African Gray parrot--a bird that can actually be quite charming and snuggly. For a bird. I talked to Older Brother and his wife just an hour or so after this happened, and they had already given the bird up for dead. They wandered the neighborhood looking for it for a while but, given that the bird had never been outside before, and given the prevalence of bird-eating wildlife in the area, they put his overnight chances of survival or finding his way home at approximately zero percent.

Marido and I visited them the following evening for dinner, and the mealtime conversation took their natural turn of Older Brother orating on a variety of "family-friendly" topics like affirmative action, genocide, and organized religion. Whenever this happens, I get vaguely queasy and stop breathing. Not only is it really unpleasant to sit through these pointless stands, but I hate the way he talks to me if I ever try to question his point of view. That said, I get the feeling he saves these specially pleasant conversations for family, the only safe haven where he can say anything he wants without anyone hating him.

After dinner, he asked me if Marido and I wouldn't mind posting some of his Lost Bird signs he'd printed on the mailboxes in the subdivision. I suggested we all take a walk together, seeing as I don't know the exact locations of said mailboxes, and perhaps we could actually take the time to look for the bird once again. The night before, every time I woke up I couldn't help but think of how scared and cold the poor thing must have been, if indeed he were still alive.

Once outside, I realized just how improbable it was that we were going to find the bird. It was completely dark, and with the airplanes passing intermittently overhead, it was difficult to hear much of anything. After emitting his bird whistle every few moments, we would sometimes hear a tiny sound in the distance--but it was hard to tell if the noise was a bird, or what direction it was coming from. We trudged around the neighborhood grimly, coaxing each other along.

Older Brother and his wife aren't doing so well lately. The two of them have no kids, few common interests, and treat each other increasingly poorly. However, they are also incredibly loyal to each other. It's quite unpleasant to be around them, but I am trying to spend more time with them so that maybe I can help them somehow. My sister-in-law specifically asked for my help, and I'm not sure what to do, but I figured just being there would be a start. Trudging around in the darkness, I couldn't help but feel that this was going to be the last fucking straw between them. I began to understand, sort of, what it felt like to be my Older Brother--being pulled around this subdivision in the darkness, grudgingly seeking something that he didn't even believe was still alive. I also began to understand what it was like being my sister-in-law, and constantly dealing Older Brother's negativity. I began to resent him for not being more supportive and hopeful in looking for the lost bird, and I also began to feel like it truly was a lost cause. I was on the edge of giving in to Older Brother's idea of going inside, drinking scotch, and forgetting the bird ever existed.

Then something sort of amazing happened. We were dragging our heels down an alley of garages, and Older Brother would reluctantly call for the bird at my or his wife's insistence, and suddenly we heard a distinctly pet bird-like noise that couldn't be mistaken for some far-off hawk, an electronic blip, or otherwise. He called again, and the bird called back. Or, rather--he meowed, like a cat. That's the kind of bird he is. We surrounded a bush between two houses and found the shivering bird stuck in a pile of branches. It was something like a miracle to find that little guy mewing in that bush in that dark alley.

It just made me think that sometimes we do things that may seem like complete long shots, but we do them for a reason--just to go through the motions of something that we know is right, as futile as the may seem. Also, sometimes all you need to save a relationship--even if it is with a mewing bird--is a little effort and a little faith (of the non-religious kind).

Tuesday, January 11, 2011


Shortly after making my new year's resolutions last year, I had a personal crisis following a night with a friend, two Germans, and a plate full of blow. The fallout, I think, really weakened my resolve, and to pull myself out of that shame spiral, I had to rely on the two bad habits I was trying to break with my resolutions: sugar and sloth.

That was back in a time when I wrote more prolifically in this blog, a time when my life was filled with spectacular failures--universally entertaining because they typically involved some combination of sex, drugs, and idiocy. Things are different now. I am still dealing with failure on a daily basis, but the failures are a lot less interesting and really only deal with some combination of writing, unemployment and monogamy. The lack of dramatic failure is a welcome change, but it also leaves me feeling a little stagnant; I am used to confrontation as a vehicle for change and growth.

Sometimes I can be really hard on myself and then things get pretty dark. I have to force myself out and talk myself up like a kindergarten teacher. I list off all my recent endeavors, and try to frame them as positive, even if they were failures. Failures are the best kinds of learning experiences. If I don't have a lot of endeavors to tick off to myself, well, that's the problem right there: Not Doing Shit. So I resolve to do more shit, whether it's starting some new project, however large or small, or tackling a big, bad habit.

But making the same resolution I've made for the past ten years (gonna finish my novel) has become more depressing than inspiring. I have to finish this and move on just so I can begin making some new resolutions.

Anyhow, I just wanted to tell you Happy New Year and that dammit, this is going to be the best fucking year ever. It's going to be hard to be last year, but it's off to an even better start. Instead of being sort of desperate and alone in Argentina, I'm calm and in love and in San Francisco. And tonight I'm making soup.