Orange County, Red Neck

I am on my knees scrubbing black residue off of jacuzzi tiles at condo complex on Pacific Coast Highway. My hair is pulled back in a bun and I can feel the sun beating down upon my neck. I forgot sunscreen.

I’m scrubbing the tile because this month there’s been record heat in Orange County and relentless Santa Ana winds. Record heat means more swimmers and the wild winds mean there’s more debris in each pool, which can double the time it takes for my father’s employees to finish their daily routes. Being strapped on time, our guys have to prioritize. This means skipping the tile brushing and that’s where I come in.

This necessary neglect, combined with the influx of bathers, results in a thick black residue that builds up on the tiles along the spa’s waterline. It is a stubborn film made of human sweat and oils, as well as sunscreen and tanning lotion and the only way to get rid of it is with elbow grease. Lots of elbow grease.

Before pic. It doesn’t look like much but it’s really stuck on there I swear!

Over the weekend I went to a writing retreat and the whole time I felt like an outsider. About 80% of the group was middle to upper-middle class white women in their 40’s. They were all very polite, most of them were blonde and pretty and seemed like they were enjoying a much needed break from their hectic lives, lives that I can only assume were filled with children and husbands and careers.

Feeling like I had little in common with these women, I ended up spending most of the four days hanging out with an old writer guy named Mike. Mike is a retired bricklayer/stone mason with the same leathery brown skin and friendly bullshit-detector as my father and every other blue-collar guy I know. He also had a great laugh.

At the retreat the hot tub was a big deal. There was lots of drinking and hot tubbing but I never went in. I tried to be social anyway and spent most nights watching the hot tub crowd from the comfort of a patio chair set near the edge of Jacuzzi. The bright moon and yellow spa light were the only sources of light so I was sort of in the shadows of the pool deck talking to Mike about writing and the perils of working for your old man.

“Why don’t you come in the hot tub!”

I was asked this several times.

I shook my head and scrunched my nose and shrugged. “I just don’t like it.”

But in my head I was thinking: Ugh, because it’s fucking gross!

photo 2

After! (The calcium deposits need bead blasting that’s not my job)

That was Saturday night and now here I am Monday morning on my knees in front of another hot tub (this one’s unfortunately twice as large) scrubbing off stains.

It’s kind of funny right?

I’m back to working for my dad to save up for yet another writing retreat, the next one is the Squaw Valley Writers Workshop. I’m working on an essay for Lit Central that gets into whether all this stuff seems worth it or not. I do sort of feel like a sucker doing this shit when I just buried myself in debt from the whole MFA thing. We’ll see how it goes.

This week I reviewed Jim Gavin’s short story collection Middle Men for The Coachella Review. It’s a book that is mostly about working class guys living in southern California, guys whose lives haven’t quite met their expectations, who are usually trying for something more but often come up short.

It was really refreshing to read because there were a lot of similar themes that I’ve been trying to wrap my head around since working for my father again. I’ve been working on this sort of jovial flash piece called “A Day In The Life Of Your Pool Man,” as a way into some of these concepts.

Here’s the part I wrote that gets at some of the stuff I identified with in Middle Men:

“Though you may never suspect it, there are times when your pool man contemplates the inconsequential nature of his life. How he’s spent day after day, year after year, picking debris out of water knowing full-well that the wind will blow and undo an hours worth of work in a matter of seconds. He wonders if this is the way life was meant to be lived or whether he should have wanted something more. Other times he feels comforted by the same simplicity.”

It’s probably bad luck to post a piece of a story that isn’t finished yet but there you have it.

photo 4

Random Classic Pool Guy Truck Parked Near My House

I think growing up in a working class family has always made me feel inferior to people that have more professional jobs. People who have to wear nice clothes to work, who sit in meetings and cubicles all day sending memos and shit.

Neither of my parents went to college and it seems like my father and most of his peers wanted something more for their kids. They wanted us to go to college and get jobs that would require us to use our minds–jobs that would keep our hands from becoming as torn up, coarse and weathered as theirs were.

They associated office jobs as the first step toward moving up in the world. Expected us to full take advantage of opportunities they’d missed. So my brother and I did end up getting degrees (the first on both sides of the family) but we both kept working with our dad anyway. So much for that idea… (though I know he secretly loves it).

I guess this whole class thing is just something small that has made me feel a little bit different than a lot of writers I’ve encountered lately. Something that makes me seek out Mike the bricklayer instead of the ladies in the jeweled sandals and maxi dresses.

There were actually some of those same types of women by the pool while I was scrubbing that tile. When I finished, I ran the jets to make sure the jacuzzi’s foam wouldn’t overflow (without defoamer that stuff will bubble over like that car in Willy Wonka).

That’s when one of the ladies addressed me in a friendly voice:

“You should’ve brought your suit girl!”

I smiled and tried to think of something equally friendly to say but I just nodded and stared at them behind my giant sunglasses. It was so hot all I could think about was how relaxed they looked laying there all slathered in tanning oil. And conversely how ugly and gross I must have looked sweating in my stained Pool Perfection t-shirt.

I could already see the nice even tans they had going. Then I touched the back of my neck, which was already starting to burn. I couldn’t see it of course, but I knew it was already bright red — burnt by the same sun that had kissed their skin so beautifully.

And I thought: I can’t wait for June Gloom.

Here's a random sign I saw near Lit Camp at Mayacamas Ranch near Calistoga

Here’s a random sign I saw near Lit Camp at Mayacamas Ranch near Calistoga

 

 

 

And Then I Went To Santiago…

For graduation from my MFA program my dad wanted to get me a tropical beach-type vacation (he and his wife are obsessed with Aruba). I chose to go to Santiago, Chile instead, to visit my college roommate — she is from there and is living there again with her boyfriend who is also Californian. I live in Huntington Beach, right in the middle of the burbs and really enjoy trips to big cities more than anything. New York, Chicago, Seattle, San Francisco, Boston, Washington D.C., London, Barcelona, Bogota. I don’t travel much but these are some of the places I’ve been.

For three weeks I looked at art and wrote and read. Listened to music while walking aimlessly and missed my boyfriend. It felt good to miss someone.

I’m glad I went. I ended up writing over 15,000 words. Scribbled notes in a little notebook and did some drawings. Decided that I want to learn how to draw, just for fun.

It was great to see D. We were roommates for about four years and haven’t spent much time together since she moved. We’re both 30 now and everything is different. Not good or bad. Just different. But our friendship feels the same.

I’m not good at keeping in touch with people. I don’t really talk to anyone from high school except my one friend. I’ve fallen away from a lot of people I went to college with, I even owe a few emails and phone calls to some of the people I just went to grad school with. In some ways it seems like a natural progression, you grow up, get a job-job, start a family and the circle gets narrowed down to the essentials.

But I haven’t really done any of these life things besides the narrowing down part. It used to bother me but it doesn’t anymore. I like my small life. It’s quiet. Relaxed. Simple. And it hasn’t always been like that.

I think being away forces you to think about what home is and what is waiting for you there, whether you have something good to go back too. There is something sort of sad about going on vacation and not to wanting to come back. I’ve felt that way before. But this time I’m happy to be back and happy to have a place that feels like home. And I’m trying to appreciate that. Things are good.

IMG_0671

D tried to take an author-y photo of me, this is the closest we got…

16 Lessons From A Long Beach State Spoken Word Event

1) Poetry is not concerned with fiction or nonfiction

2) If it’s a good poetry reading there is always one person that stinks, like literally one person that smells really bad, halitosis or otherwise.

3) If the super hip dudes who play bass and drums between sets look like they want to slit their own throats you are not doing well, and you probably shouldn’t read a third time or a fifth time for that matter.

4) College kids often think they’re being profound when they are really just being annoying.

5) Vulnerability is underrated, especially when it comes to pseudo-insensitive males ages 20-25.

6) There is something beautiful about the trembling hand of a reader who is simultaneously spitting on mic with supreme confidence

7) It’s not a joke if there’s no punchline.

8) Maybe don’t use things that you just learned a week ago in your set.

9) Feel the room. They don’t want you to freestyle. I don’t care if we’re in Long Beach. (Unless freestyling is one thing you do.)

10) Poetry is no different–like most good pieces of writing emotional resonance is everything (though yes there’s a lot of other stuff too)

11) Zip up your fly homie.

12) Especially if you’re wearing camo pants.

13) Nobody is born with poet voice, it’s something you learn in college.

14) Keep forcing yourself to share your work. This loving environment and kind audience are both finite.

15) Slow down

16) Breathe

Sit Down Vs. Stand Up

I love stand-up comedy. It’s my absolute favorite form of live entertainment. I’m much more willing to pay to see a badass comic then a play or sporting event or concert.

A couple of years ago, the American Red Cross had this promo where if you donated blood you got two free tickets to the Laugh Factory. My boyfriend and I took full advantage of this and went to the one in Long Beach a few times. Eventually the promo ended and now I never give blood, which is selfish and sad.

Since this “blood for comedy” deal ended my boyfriend and I have paid seen Bill Burr, Daniel Tosh and Chris Tucker live (not at the same time).  Each performance was amazing, but Bill Burr was especially awesome, we saw him in Vegas. He got into such a great rhythm with the audience, the waves of laughter were so big and consistent it was hypnotizing.

bill-burr

Bill Burr eating a dinosaur

My boyfriend and I don’t really watch TV shows. Not like we’re snobby or anything we watch sports and Jeopardy but we don’t really watch TV dramas.

And yes, I’m aware of the TV renaissance upon us but no I have not seen Breaking Bad or Mad Men or Game of Thrones or House of Cards or Orange Is The New Black or Girls or Duck Dynasty or Downton Abbey (though I do watch Louie, SNL and Portlandia). It’s not that I don’t like TV I just love movies—in 2013 I watched 67 new theatrical releases 50 of which I saw in theaters thanks to this Moviepass thing.

Instead of shows, we watch a shitload of stand-up. Then we re-watch it and re-watch it again until we’ve memorized entire sets.

I do not think that my boyfriend and I are particularly funny. I can make my dad and brother laugh but that’s about it. But even though we’re not funny we both have the same sense of humor and all this stand-up has given us our own language.

Like if I say:

“I’m in the garage!” he knows I’m quoting Dove Davidoff.

ccsu_davidoff_filthy_gay-300x168

“why do gay guys always look like they just smelled some cookies…”

or if I say:

“but it’s the good kind of fat…” he knows it’s Gary Goldberg.

or if I say:

“I played a sloppy first half” he knows it’s Billy Gardell

or if I yell

“I say it! I say it!” he knows it’s Bill Burr.

Or any of these:

“You hope it was a miracle…” – John Mulaney.

“Denise? Have you ever done any security work?” – Aziz Ansari.

“You know, good livin’, good livin’…” – Bernie Mac.

“Now ritch around…” -DL Hughley.

“My rooms got rooms!” – Hannibal Buress quoting Young Jeezy

I could go on forever…

Hannibal

Hannibal Buress = the Lenny Bruce of grocery store and mustache humor

If I had the balls I would try stand-up. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve sat in the audience, mostly while intoxicated and felt a sort of pull, like I could figure out how to do it if I tried. But maybe everybody feels that way…

I know the closest I’ll ever get is probably reading my work in front of people which is so not the same. Two people from my high school are just starting out as stand-ups. I look at how they’re doing it and am so curious as to what it would be like but ultimately I’m a coward. Plus I have bad anxiety and a fear public speaking and even if I’m not speaking I don’t like groups of people looking at me in general.

Sometimes it’s nice just to be a patron of an art form though. It’s nice to be a consumer of stand-up and movies and paintings instead of constantly having to break them down and analyze each one the way I tend to do with books.

But I still think there are a lot of parallels between writing and being a comic. Comics are of course writers and most writers have to consider rhythm and audience and end up reading their words out loud to themselves to get a feel for their material. So in that way some of the preparation can be similar.

The performance element is obviously a key difference. So is the feedback loop. Comedians can try out material in front of an audience and instantly see if it works or not and then edit their material based on the crowd’s reaction. In writing it’s not really like that. The initial “feedback” on a draft comes from the same stupid mind that created the thing in the first place.

Writers also don’t have much interaction with their audience and when they do so much of it is negative. Think about it: an author writes a book, say 250 pages and that takes years. Then they go on a book tour and maybe have what? Twenty stops across the country most of which are less then ten people events. Then when that’s over the primary audience interaction comes from places like Goodreads where people are more awful then they are nice. As an author there is no instantaneous outward expression of satisfaction from an audience but on the other hand there is more intimacy between an author and their audience or at least there can be.

This is not to say that comics have it easy, at least writers don’t have to face the unsatisfied/disapproving audience. Which version of disapproval is more grueling? I’m not sure. Public humiliation is swift and strong but then it’s over. Hateful words on the internet can last longer, even if the reaction doesn’t have the same edge as a face to face encounter it still sucks. Bottom line is this: writing is far less brave and therefore far more suited to people like me. In the end I fall into the category that the majority of people probably do; I’d much rather sit down then stand up.

My Year In Reading: 2013

After a close look at the books I read this year and which ones really got to me I’ve realized just how important emotional resonance is for me to truly love a book. I mean I love books that make me think and stories that take me to unexpected places but it order to really get me I have to feel something.

This probably seems obvious.

But it’s almost like this: I’d much rather read a story similar to a hundred stories that I’ve already read if it can stir a dramatic series of feelings within me versus an extremely original one-of-a-kind genius type story that leaves me cold. And I’m not sure that everyone would feel that way. Some people get bored more quickly. Of course the best stories can do both. I wonder if this is something I will grow out of. If my tastes will become more sophisticated if that’s what that means.

Anyway, this year I read thirteen story collections, ten novels, nine non-fiction and two novellas.

By accident I happened to read 17 books by women and 17 by men, which is kind of cool.

Here’s a breakdown of what I read:

Story Collections

Brief Encounters with the Enemy: Fiction by Said Sayarafiezadeh

There were a lot of things that I liked in this book. The characters lives were very ordinary, most come from working class backgrounds, and are the same type of people that I like to write about. There is a faint but eternal type of sadness within all of his characters. It’s quietly depressing. I like that he focuses on small moments. I think I will return to this book as an example of a linked collection, if I ever get around to writing criticism like I want to. There are not specific reoccurring characters but there are reoccurring character types and the stories are linked by location, subject, gender and several thematic threads. There are also reoccurring moments in this collection—young men leaving for war admit their fears to characters who don’t know how to respond and all the same thing “go kick some ass”—these details have a haunting quality and provide enough connective tissue to create an overall effect that is similar to what you’d find in a novel. The central conflict is the same through out. So on a structural level I was fascinated by this book, though I can see how many people might find it a bit dull.

Astray by Emma Donoghue

Didn’t love this one though it was well written. Just not a big fan of historical fiction but I’m glad I read it. At the end of each story she has a few paragraphs explaining where she found the idea for the story, whether they were based off of real people or taken from a line in a news article or what. It was really fun to finish a story and see where it came from, what was real and who was real and in some cases what happened to the people after the story ended.

Vampires in the Lemon Grove by Karen Russell

I thought I would enjoy this book a lot more than I did, I’ve heard other writers rave about it but there were a lot of times where the premise of each story was marvelous but then in the execution sometimes the promise of the premise wasn’t fully formed. The worlds that she built were wildly creative though and the subject matter of each story felt original–which is hard to do sometimes with a literary short story collection, people are always writing about the same things over and over (the loss of parent/child/spouse, infidelity, terminal illness)–so in that sense it was really strong but it didn’t stop me in my tracks and knock me out in an emotional way. Reading this and Lydia Davis made me realize just how important a book’s emotional impact is for me to really love it.

Tenth of December by George Saunders

I read this book and listened to it too and I’m so glad I did. The opening story “Victory Lap” felt a little confusing at first but there is one line uttered by a young girl that is hard to forget: “But seriously! Is life fun or scary?” The story “Sticks” is forever burned in my brain. And “Escape From Spiderhead” is the most elegant story that I read this year. It was entertaining, thought provoking and so tight. I think it’s a testament to a writer’s strength when you can go through each line of a short story and feel as though each line needed to be exactly as it is and exactly where it is. And Spiderhead is a story like that, there is nothing extra and every sentence feels unchangeable.

I Want to Show You More by Jaime Quatro

This was one of my favorite books of the year. Each one of these stories was powerful and emotionally taxing in best possible way. There was also a lot of variety in as far as the structure of the stories. This is a good example of how a story collection can become something more through just a few well-placed reoccuring characters, locations and conflicts. A little goes a long way and Quatro manipulates this fact to great effect.

I Want to Show You More

Slut Lullabies by Gina Frangello

This was another great collection that had a big effect on me as a writer. After reading “As You See” I almost immediately started writing cheap knock-offs of that story. Once again it was the emotion that the author was able to inspire within me that did it but besides that  all the stories were extremely entertaining and fresh. I cant’ wait until her next novel comes out. Her voice is incredibly strong.

Rattling Wall Issues I & II edited by Michelle Meyering

Next year I’d really like to up my literary journal reading. I really enjoyed both of these issues. I was at the very first Rattling Wall event and it’s been really fun to watch this beautiful journal grow. I would list some of my favorites but I let a friend borrow my copies of each issue!

Stories For The Night Time and Some for the Day by Ben Loory

I read this book in one sitting, I absolutely loved it. Some of my favorites were “The House On the Cliff And The Sea” and “The Girl In The Storm.”  I don’t think I could ever write surrealist stories or fables but this book made me want to read more of that type of stuff and to get away from my tendency to focus on dirty realism when picking out story collections to read. It reminded me of all the different places we can go in fiction and more importantly what super short fiction can do. How a thousand word story can have as much or more impact then a six thousand word story.

Our Kind by Kate Walbert

The first story in this collection was really hard to get through. The rest were awesome though.  Some great insights into what it means to be a woman and a mother without being flowery or overly feminine, that probably sounds weird, I guess I mean that the subject matter is approached in a very direct and refined way that feels much more sophisticated than how such topics are often explored in more “chick lit-y” books.

Later at the Bar by Rebecca Barry

This was okay, I was expecting to hate it but it was alright. The bus driver story was the most impressive.

The Girl In The Flammable Skirt by Aimee Bender

Excellent.

Varieties of Disturbance by Lydia Davis

While I can appreciate what Davis does in her short fiction, I mean she is extremely original and creative and fun to read, but there is something about the writing that leaves me cold compared to other super short story writers like say Amy Hempel. I’m glad I read it though, I will probably read more of her. She’s one of those writers that makes me want to write every time I read her work.

The Girls Guide to Hunting and Fishing by Melissa Bank 

I couldn’t really relate to the somewhat affluent woman in this book, some of their problems felt a little melodramatic. Like the stakes weren’t that high for any of the characters. Very girly, not that that’s a bad thing, it’s just not my favorite brand of fiction.

 Classics

Slaughter House-Five-Kurt Vonnegut

Good. Again, I can see it’s phenomenal merits but it’s just not really my cup of tea. I liked Cat’s Cradle way more and I’m not sure why. I will be reading more Vonnegut though, from a craft perspective there is so much to glean and learn from this master story teller, especially when it’s comes to economy and brevity and all that.

Dubliners by James Joyce

Excellent.

A Movable Feast by Ernest Hemmingway

Loved. Loved. Loved.

Cat’s Cradle 

Perfection.

Cult Classics

Wait Until Spring Bandini by John Fante

There is very little plot in this book but John Fante’s voice and his characters are good enough to follow anywhere. I will be reading more of him I’m sure. It’s no Ask The Dust but it was a vey quick and enjoyable read.

Geek Love by Katherine Dunn

This is a powerhouse of a book. It’s big and ambitious and fucked up and heart warming in a very twisted but fascinating way. I do think that it was way too long and I really didn’t care about the outer story compared to the inner story, but this was probably the most impressive novel I read this year. (Besides Winter’s Bone which is in a category of it’s own.)

Nonfiction

Let Explore Diabetes With Owls by David Sedaris

This was fun but it didn’t seem to hit those more serious moments that his other books have been able to.

I Can Barely Take Care Of Myself by Jen Kirkman

This was awful. I’m working on a story about a women who chooses not to have children so I thought this might be a fun light-read and maybe even useful. But the author refuses to go deep, or be vulnerable. For instance she describes in detail how she meets her husband and how happy her marriage is but skips over the divorce completely which would have been way more interesting and offer the potential for the reader to feel some sympathy for the women but instead there is none and she becomes sort of unlikable. Seems like as a memoirist she just didn’t have the balls to go to those dark places. The behind the scenes look at becoming a comic was sort of fun to read though. I guess she would be considered a humorist more than a memoirist though? Does that let her off the hook a little? I don’t know.

The Sociopath Next Door By Martha Stout

I listened to this book and it was good, I learned a lot. I’m thinking about writing a novel about a sociopath or at least someone with sociopathic tendencies so I got what I needed from this. The reader of the audio book almost ruined it though she was too dramatic.

Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell

Loved.

Mastery by Robert Green

Loved this, it made me completely rethink what it means to be an artist and how to get to the places I need to go creatively. Insightful. Lots of great stories about historical figures.

The Tipping Point by Malcolm Gladwell

Good.

That Used To Be Us by Thomas Friedman and Michael Mandelbaum

This one started off really strong but felt a little two prescriptive at the end. But this was probably the most eye-opening book I read this year. Feel like I have a much better understanding of where the country stands in relation to the global economy in a lot of different ways. How and why we’ve fallen behind. Thomas Friedman can pretty much do no wrong in my book.

A Supposedly Fun Thing I’ll Never Do Again by David Foster Wallace

This was my first DFW book. I’ve read bits and pieces of him here or there but this was my first big bite into his work. I listened to this collection so I don’t know if it would feel more dense or more challenging to read if I actually read it instead of listening it but I loved it. David Lynch essay was my favorite.

Slouching Towards Bethlehem by Joan Didion 

Another audio book almost ruined by the reader, I thought Diane Keaton was a little too over-the-top to capture the subtle elegance of Didion’s prose. I will read more of her work in the future (like actually read it not listen to it).

Novels

The Cost of Living by Rob Roberge

Another one of my favorite books of the year. The voice is great, the central conflict feels really personal, the pacing is great and the reveal of information toward the end is really satisfying, the combination of funny/fucked-up/sadness that comes at you all at once is perfect. Overall wildly entertaining and emotional I read it faster than any book this year, just soared through it.

rob-roberge-book-the-cost-of-living

Winters Bone by Daniel Woodrell

I’m starting to find that I prefer smaller novels, stories with comparatively small plots focused mostly on one single character. This book is like that (so is The Cost Of Living and Wait Until Spring Bandini) it’s really a masterpiece, one of the finest books I’ve ever read. Like “The Things They Carried” good is my only way to describe it.

Richard Yates by Tao Lin

This book was excruciating to read at times but I also feel like I’ve been in the exact same type of relationship that the book follows, and there is something really charming and sweet about this story but it’s also totally fucking annoying.

Super Sad True Love Story by Gary Shteyngart

I can’t say I loved this book, once again for me to be carried away I really need that intimacy and emotional resonance and this book didn’t quite get me there (though there are definitely some vulnerable moments that we see between characters and plenty of self-loathing within the protagonist). But there were also times when this book was phenomenal, the futuristic stuff was great, the structure and shifting point of view was handled really well, the main character was funny and sad and sympathetic. Not really my cup of tea but I can see it’s many merits. Out of all the books this is the one that I seem to recall on a regular bases, I find myself hearing a tech news blurb or other trends in social media and then I think of this book. I have also seen people interact online and have thought “they’re so media…

We Only Know So Much by Elizabeth Crane

Another book I devoured in a day or two. I loved the episodic nature of the narration, each characters unique voice and perspective and quirks. The editorial third person was fun to read. All in all it’s a great character-driven saga that showed incredible range, Crane can channel a nine year-old boy, an unlikable millennial, a man with dementia and all her characters with such ease. It’s impossible to get bored reading this book. It was also fun to read after reading a couple of her story collections to see how she’s transitioned into writing a more traditional novel (though I really think “All This Heavenly Glory” has many novel-esque qualities).

Novellas

Fly Over State

I don’t remember the plot of this book but I do remember that I liked it. It made me want to read more novellas. Wish I could say more.

Your Rightful Home

Ditto for this one.

Poetry

I do not read poetry.

OC Starbucks vs. LA Starbucks

General Observations on an Orange County Starbucks compared to an LA Starbucks

1-More Hawaiian Shirts

2-More Frappuccinos, more whip, more sugar

3-Less screenwriters and screenwriting hopefuls, more post-retirement first-time entrepreneurs (equal chances of shit not panning out)

4-More talking across the room to each other and not giving a shit that everyone hears them

5-Less “came from the gym” ensembles

6-Bigger & cheaper laptops (paradoxically)

7-Higher BMI’s and more grey hair

8-Less “ironic” employees and more career employees

9-More parking spaces and shiny shoes

10-Less distressed boots and converse and Wayfarers propped on people’s heads

11-Equally annoying in their own ways.

 

Insidious: (def.) – proceeding in a gradual, subtle way, but with harmful effects.

Saw Insidious last night, 9:35 showing at Bella Terra, we got there 45 minutes early and landed in the middle of a wide, long line that curved in on itself to remain indoors. There is nothing like seeing a scary movie on Friday the 13th. They say that live theater has more immediacy than watching a film, that the communal experience is enhanced by the fact that we are connecting with real people right in front of us, like it is purer somehow, but I don’t know, tonight the excitement was like a sickness. 

A couple weeks ago I went to go see a play in one of those tiny Hollywood theaters. WeHo, lots of gay dudes wearing those longish tight shorts, that me, moms and golfers only love. “Woman Are Crazy Because Men Are Assholes” was the title. I heard about it on LA Talk Radio, the writer seemed cool, guy wrote it as a play knowing it could never be a movie, the LA Times wrote a good review. I’m trying to do that sort of thing more (a for every live sporting event, one play sort of agreement) but really it was kind of a let down and I think part of it was that I didn’t buy into that communal experience.

The audience was just a little too pretty and laughed a little too hard, the self-consciousness was palpable. Then there was this weird I should have been up there, it could have been us vibe afterwards. The same vibe that happens in the LA literary reading scene sometimes. Maybe my assumption–that I was essentially watching actors watch other actors–is just me projecting, I love and hate LA equally, just like the next guy…but tonight at the megaplex in the middle of the burbs, well, there wasn’t none of that.

On KPCC this morning, Alex Cohen had a fascinating segment about those girls in Massachusetts that started developing twitches and other involuntary vocalizations and such, to the point that two of them even “died of” suicide (a friend told me that’s the new sensitive way to phrase it). It was pretty radical for KPCC to cover that story I think, but I guess if the Atlantic vouches for it then you can’t be considered a lunatic, because it feels like more of a George Noory “Coast to Coast” type story. The expert she had on was talking about how normal it is for psychological disturbances to manifest in the body. Chewing on pens, sweaty hands, stomach in knots, that sort of thing. Then she explained how basically on a subconscious level humans are so vulnerable to suggestion that it’s easy for us to pick up on each other cues. I guess the case with the girls is still a mystery but it might be an extreme example of this, was her point. Anyway, it’s all very interesting.

So tonight in the movie I was very conscious of all this I guess, as it felt almost impossible not to bounce with anxiety, or clutch the boyfriend’s arm with my sweaty fingers. Impossible not to join in on those communal gasps and screams and the inevitable laughter that comes immediately after.

The funny thing is, even though I went into it feeling very nostalgic for my teenage years, my “Cindy” years-–kids were everywhere, so young and vibrant it should be a crime–I was also sort of annoyed by the girls, so giddy with anticipation, so eager to willingly surrender to the fear. Pull it together ladies, I thought, glancing at the chain of five girls shrinking into a single lopsided unit, crawling on top of each other during the horror previews. They are previews for god’s sake, save some for later!

But I’m glad they didn’t. They are right, that is, what it is all about. Without feeding off each other it couldn’t possibly be as good.

I should have thanked them.

 

Image