Now that I have Ira, I spend a great deal of time trying to make him tired. Because he is a puppy, which means that most of the time, he is flying around the room with his mouth open, destroying my furniture, my peace of mind and my relationships.
Thank god for the dog park.
There, I can let Ira off his leash and he can run, wrestle and frolic to his heart’s content. And also hump everyone. Because my dog is basically a sex offender. But, it’s dogs, so who cares, right? I mean, what goes around comes around. One minute Ira is going to town on a pitbull puppy, the next minute that same puppy has my dog pinned down and is humping his face. Isn’t that fun?
I’m the kind of person that sees that happening and just goes, “Yup.” Because, my dog doesn’t have any testicles and he isn’t hurting anyone. And the dog park is essentially just ancient Rome for our pets, so let ’em get their energy out. Better the dogs hump each other than your boss’ wife when she comes over for pot roast and Yahtzee, right?
Well, not everyone feels that way. Younger, sorority-type women in particular are very distressed by this behavior, I have noticed. Mostly, they are ashamed if their dog is the one unabashedly humping all other parties. They must believe that, somehow, their dogs are a direct reflection of themselves. Which is fun, because, once Karen is satisfied that Sprinkles will now refrain from humping that corgi, Sprinkles squats over a patch of clover and takes a steaming dump. Sigma Kappa represent!
But Uptight Sorority Girl is just one of the many people you’ll find at the dog park. There is also Texting Guy, who lets his girlfriend’s dog off the leash and just texts the receptionist from his office for an hour, not paying attention to the fact that his dog is stealing and destroying other dog’s toys and is actually urinating on people’s shoes.
Another common visitor is Chatty Older Couple. I find them pleasant in short bursts. They want to know EVERY SINGLE THING about your dog, and then will tell you EVERY SINGLE THING about their dog… and then MORE THINGS about their dog. More things than you could possibly imagine there would be. Like what kind of flea medication caused the worse skin reaction and where he likes to sit on the couch. Plus then they’ll start spoiling the end of this season of House of Cards, somehow.
A personal favorite of mine is the Guy Who Doesn’t Really Own That Dog. He is there to meet girls. And by “meet girls,” I mean “dismantle them in his windowless motorhome.” He is easily recognized by the fact that he is holding a white, fluffy dog over whom he has ZERO control. He isn’t even sure of the dog’s name (P.S., it’s Princess), and at a certain point gives up calling for it and just chases it around like it has his wallet. Once he has successfully corralled the dog he “borrowed” from his sister, he finds a spot on the centermost bench and holds onto it for dear life. There, he strokes the squirming dog and leers at every female in the park from behind his large, outdated sunglasses that he bought from the gas station. If you walk past him, he will almost always say, in a low voice, “What’s up.” Perhaps I am the only one who feels this way, but, when I am covered in dog slobber and mud and holding a bag full of poop, I am not super inclined to be very receptive to flirtatious attention. Especially from someone who looks like a police sketch.
And yet, for all the deeply strange people at the dog park, there are also a bunch of really great ones, so I’ve been finding myself going there more and more, not just for Ira’s wellbeing, but for mine. There is something sort of zen about standing in a field, watching Ira tear ass after a poodle for an hour. Plus– and this is the entire point of the excursion– it makes him tired enough to sleep. For just about the entire car ride home. After which he becomes an absolute toothy nightmare again.
You may notice that my little bio there on the upper left no longer says “I wish I had a dog.” That’s because, folks, I now have a dog.
I give you Ira.
Ira, the cricket hunter, the sleeping champion, the scavenger of discarded baked goods.
This little begetter of soft stools has already eaten some size 5 bamboo knitting needles and figured out how to operate the foot pedal on the bathroom trash (spoiler alert, he loves Kleenex). He has also tunneled his way into my heart in a major way. Because, even though he will destroy a squeaky koala just because he doesn’t understand it…
…he also does THIS.
Which, if you’ve never had a tiny, warm doggy curl up and go to sleep on you, you are a little bit dead inside, I’m sorry to say. And that is a clinical fact.
Ira has a problem, though. I’m not going to lie. And no, it isn’t his addiction to soiled cotton balls and old Wendy’s wrappers that he picks up in the street (*barf sound*). Ira’s major issue is that he hates gnomes.
I’m not kidding. I really wish I were. And, since Ira is only 9 months old and just can’t have had much experience with gnomes, unpleasant or otherwise, I can only assume that this is a “factory setting.” Watch in shock, as I did, as Ira reacts to the lawn gnome that resides at my parents’.
He is truly a faulty animal. And now I have to live with him.
If you’ve ever spent any time in my house, or around my garbage cans, you know that I’m really into art and marine life. I draw a LOT of pictures of fish and crabs and what have you. It’s kind of a meditative thing for me once I get going and I can do it for hours on end. But I have to get inspired before I start. Luckily, that isn’t very difficult. A quick trip to the internet, a few terms like “weird sea animal” and “beautiful fish,” and I’m back in business.
Today, I was spelunking around Google image search’s offerings, paying particular attention to the phylum Mollusca. There are some wonderful mollusks! All cephalopods are mollusks, in fact, which means that squids and octopus and nautilus and all of those amazing things were included in my search today. All of your favorite shellfish delicacies are mollusks, as well, so I got on a tangent looking up shellfish farming. Did you know that shellfish are being over-harvested in some places? And that the government is doing what it can to maintain the population in shellfish beds?
And did you also know that when you Google Image Search “shellfish bed” this is the collection of pictures you come up with?
Art time is now over. Because: Look at the kid in picture #8. Ladies and Gentlemen, I present:
The Boy Who Super Doesn’t Want To Be Here Right Now:
The other day, I was happily carrying out some research tasks for my writer boss when she shot me an additional email: “Oh, and I also need some names for some characters.”
I know what you might be thinking. Um, pardon us, madam, but isn’t, like, naming characters the easiest part of writing?
Look at me. Look right at my face. Because this is important: NO. Naming characters is not easy. It is absolutely the most difficult part of the writing process, hands down. So, her asking me to add that to my tasks is 100% reasonable. She wanted a list to choose from so she didn’t just call everyone in her show “Joe Smith.” When you are coming up with trouble for your characters to get into and out of, your creativity gets just about used up in the process and it helps to have a little cheat sheet of nice-sounding names to give those characters.
I’m sure your brain is teeming with names right now. Come on, Liz, you are thinking. My brain is literally teeming with names right now. Anabelle Williams, Morris Robins, Tiffany Garrison, Clark Smith. Oh, you sweet, beautiful fool. If you are anything like me, you will be unable to translate those names into anything useful, verbally or on paper. It seriously took me 22 minutes to come up with the four you just read. And one of them is “Clark,” which just sounds like the loud noise a land bound bird would make if you upset it with a burning stick.
When I am asked to produce the names with which my head is teeming, it’s almost guaranteed that I will sound like a stroke victim: “Corn Larson!” I will blurt. “No, wait, how about Shark Porkrind! No– Vince Twelve! Gleft! Gleft Fleezner!! Where are you going?”
These are not the kinds of names my boss wants. Can you imagine an episode of a primetime television drama where two cops are trying to catch a ruthless murderer who is wanted in 15 states for melting the faces off nuns and his name is “Gleft Fleezner?” Well, yes, actually, so can I. But you have to admit it takes away some of that grittiness the networks are after.
Think of my horror when she asked for 25 first and last names and I could not come up with a single syllable that would be universally recognized as such.
So I took to the internet, as any dedicated assistant would do, and looked up baby names. Of all demographics. Brazilian, Irish, Ecuadorian Ham Farmers, the whole nine yards. My search eventually landed me on an article that I can only describe as “stupid.” The piece, posted at a website called Baby Zone, which is not anywhere I want to be, boasted the best names to give your baby if you want him or her to become a billionaire later in life. Like, for real: If you name your baby one of these, there is a decent chance it will grow up to make a billion dollars. Which, one, is not in any way true and, two, really, is pointless, because by the time your kid makes his fortune you’ll either be dead or so riddled with gerontological accoutrement you won’t even be able to enjoy that gold-plated hover-chair he got you.
The names they suggest are solely based on the fact that other well-known wealthy people and celebrated entrepreneurs had the names, as though there is some sort of magic Billionaire Mojo inherent in these particular groupings of letters. Again, not true. Plus, guys, some of the names are kinda bad.
Cargill is one suggestion. They say that “an upscale surname name like Cargill looks great on a Harvard Business School application, and could be the first step on your child’s ladder to fiscal success.” No, actually a name like Cargill looks great on the ER triage note after you get your teeth knocked out on the school tetherball court by someone with a name like Gregg with two g’s. A name like Cargill is a great first rung (not step) on your child’s ladder to a life of owning three kinds of hamster and having an encyclopedic knowledge of belts. The entry goes on to suggest that you search your family history for evidence of “an Astor, a Huntington, a Rockefeller, a Vanderbilt, a Mellon or a De Pont. If not, you can always fake it.” Yes, fake it, like that Christian Karl Gerhartsreiter fellow, who is now serving 27 to life for telling everyone he was Clark Rockefeller. That’s a great way to become a billionaire: crushing legal fees.
Another name on the list is Dirk. Dirk the Billionaire. Perhaps this one would work out. If Dirk makes his billions distributing pornography. There just isn’t any other industry that would allow a Dirk. The namesake they reference doesn’t even have a job. It’s Dirk Ziff, whose father is William Ziff, a wealthy publisher. Let me be clear, friends: Dirk Ziff is not a real name, unless you reside in a comic book.
Further down the list is Forest. Wrong. Forest is a hippy name. Then there’s Alice and Abigail. Nope. Girls with two braids can’t be billionaires. Next! How about Gordon? Okay, sure. But then you have a baby named Gordon. Can you imagine referring to a cooing, drooling little shit machine as Gordon? I know a dog named Gordon, and even that is hilarious to me. Gordon is the name of my mom’s second cousin. He is a cheese chemist. He is not a billionaire. Or a baby.
They have Jacqueline on there. Which, yeah. I agree with. But, you have to marry into the billions. Either that or you’re a total cutthroat ball buster who owns a bunch of magazines and fires people for wearing the same color as you. Even the article agrees with me. They cite Jackie Onassis, who only got rich after marrying shipping magnate Aristotle Onassis. So, parents, the lesson here is, name your baby girl Jacqueline, hope to crap she is beautiful, then point her in the direction of the nearest import/export office.
The article also offers Rupert as a suggestion, saying, and this is real, “if you’re taking this seriously, you should definitely consider Rupert.” Oh! Well. Why didn’t you say so? I would’ve brought a legal pad to this meeting if I’d known it was serious. They base this advice on the fact that two well-known billionaire Ruperts exist: Rupert Murdoch and Rupert Johnson, a clear indication the authors believe in billionaire name mojo. So, parents, remember: THIS is the name. Rupert’s a surefire winner. Male or female, go Rupert if you want to die in a really swanky rest home.
Samuel is another one from the list. Look here, I know a bunch of Samuels. A couple of them can barely motivate themselves to move off the couch. So that’s not going to work. Neither are Eli or Warren. Bla and Bleh, I say.
Probably my favorite sentence in the whole thing is “Whitney is a name that reeks of Old Money.” Which is helpful, because most babies reek of spit up and their own filth. So, even if Baby Whitney doesn’t grow up to become the wildy rich owner of a global whaling concern, at least she’ll smell like those two wadded up twenties you found in your winter coat.
But, as ludicrous as this entire concept is, I’d be lying if I said I didn’t use like nine of these names on the list I gave my boss. Because I need a job. And something like “Whitney Davidson” helps me keep it. Something like “Fork Mildew” does not.
We all need a little help navigating our world every now and again. We need to know where to park, where not to throw our used paper goods and what kind of wildlife to beware of in a given location. The only way to do this without involving other, inevitably tiresome humans, is with signage. The issue is, some signs are… not necessary. Or clear. Or helpful in any way.
For instance, this sign was seen on the wall of a hotel parking garage, between the vents for two industrial-grade linen dryers, which I guess spit lint out onto the front bumpers of the parked cars.
Maybe it’s just me, but I feel like a little fluff flying out of a vent onto the hood of a Scion is one of life’s less immediate dangers, unless the lint is on fire, or so dense it could cause light scratching. But, I’m not really a “car person,” so I’ll stay out of it.
What I do know is, when I’m at a new a job and have to locate the conference room for the first time, I turn to signage to help me out.
Oh! THERE’S the conf. room! Thanks, Production Team!
And then there’s this:
The Jockey Pouch Collection!
Now, we’re all adults here. We all know this is men’s underwear. And that means the “pouch” they’re referring to can really only be for one thing. That’s right. It’s a weiner pouch. And it’s right there, in giant lettering at the outlet mall. Additionally, it’s a COLLECTION of weiner pouches. There’s nothing I like more than entering a store and being confronted with the idea of hordes of sweating batches crammed into discount underpants.
And speaking of… none of that, ever again, who wants a delicious frozen treat?
Come on, kids, you all know the old song: I scream, you scream, we all…
ICE 4 SCREAM?
If we go literal, this sign makes it seem as though the vending machine will dispense ice if you scream at it. But, as I screamed with laughter, I quickly learned this was not the case. It seems to only dispense stale peanut-coated novelties for $4.75.
Folks, what is a sign if not a way to provide information that couldn’t already be inferred from one’s experience or surroundings? You need to know the name of a street because you’ve never been on it? There’s a street sign to aid you on your quest. You need to know what kind of toppings the new pizza place on the corner offers? You can look up and see they offer only anchovies and mouse hearts.
Signs are meant to be helpful. Not obvious. Not funny. Not stupid. Like “Ice 4 Scream!”
No, signs should never be stupid. Only completely helpful and full of new and useful information. Like this one:
A couple of evenings ago, I had the pleasure (yes, that’s right) of eating alone in a restaurant. I’ve mentioned it before, but my recent turn as a nomad has taught me to enjoy dining solo at new establishments. Usually I like to eat at the bar and chat with whoever’s there. This particular night, though, I happened to be at a place that didn’t offer much of a bar situation and so I sat at a regular table.
Nothing wrong with that. Except for how large the table looks when you’re the only one sitting there. I had three different waitresses come by and ask, with big, puppy dog eyes, “How are we doing here…?” One leaned down so close to me and affected such a deeply sympathetic tone that I was expecting her to follow up with, “Is there someone we can call for you?”
Even the hostess thought I needed cheering up. She kept looking over at me and smiling super wide every time we made eye contact. Not because she was happy to be connecting with me. More because, in her mind, it was so obviously the “right” thing to do. You see, hostesses are used to seating groups or couples. When I walk in alone, I’m always met with a subtle double-take. “Is it just… you… or…?” I always say, “Yup, just me!” with extra cheer in my voice, so they know I’m extra fine with it.
Because I am fine with. Nothing sad at all about being pitied by an entire restaurant staff. Including the busboy, who whisked away the extra place setting without thinking, then set it back down, and, hand still clasped around the silverware, asked, “Oh. Um. Are you waiting for someone?” When I shook my head no, because my mouth was full of sparkling lemonade, he grabbed the place setting back up again and scuttled off to the kitchen. (Or the cave where he keeps the stolen silverware. He might not have worked there, now that I think about it. He wasn’t wearing the same color as everyone else.)
Waitstaff doesn’t always quite know how to handle the solo diner. Particularly in closer quarters. I was once seated next to an elderly woman and her 40-something son. There wasn’t much space between the tables and, even though I had my back to them and was playing Tiny Tower on my iPhone, the waitress kept treating us as though we were all one group. What must she have thought about our relationship? I was either the sister no one really wanted or liked, or the girlfriend who didn’t want to be there at all. Or else I was a surly vagrant they invited to dinner just so they could get three-for-one “apps” before seven pm. I don’t know. But I had to tell the waitress, like, three times that we weren’t a group, because those sumbitches ordered about four drinks each and one of them had a steak. I did not want to be stuck with their bill.
The other thing about dining alone, smashed in among people you’ve never met, is that all of them have brought along dining companions to chat with. You, on the other hand, have no one to talk to, and so everyone else’s conversation seems about fourteen times louder. I realize there is that classic Larry David bit about the lone diner being a definite eavesdropper, but, I can tell you from experience, I don’t WANT to hear what you’re talking about. I just can’t NOT hear what you’re talking about. The other night, for instance, the gentleman on my right simply would not stop talking about Jeffrey Katzenberg. JEFFREY KATZENBERG. I mean, he had like fifty stories about him. And in every single one, he called him by both names, “Jeffrey” and “Katzenberg.” Never just “Jeffrey” or “Jeff” or “J-Katz,” which is absolutely what he should be called. The rest of the people at his table were nodding and smiling, eagerly awaiting each new Jeffrey Katzenberg tale. That was on my right.
On my left was a girl loudly professing her love for Cormac McCarthy through a mouthful of quinoa. I’m pretty sure if ol’ Cormac knew she was eating quinoa, instead of something robed in cheese he’d hit her between the eyes with a cattle gun. (This is the image I have of Mr. McCarthy in my head; if you know otherwise, please don’t ruin it for me.) She was going on and on about how Blood Meridian is probably the best thing she’s ever read. And, hey, that’s a sound opinion and one I respect. It’s just that, when she said it, it sounded like “Bwud Mah-wid-uhn,” and then a violent, grain-tainted cough.
Imagine the Quinoa Book Review and the Fans of Jeffrey Katzenberg weekly meeting in stereo. Then add cheesecake.
That was my night.
All in all, not so bad.
So, if you can get past the unwarranted pity and the unending drivel going on around you, eating by yourself in a non-bar situation is actually kind of relaxing. Bring a book, or some files to make yourself look important. Just be prepared for everyone on the payroll to weep openly if you accidentally drop your fork or have a small coughing fit because a piece of tilapia went down the wrong way. Seeing you that vulnerable would just be too much for them to handle.
Here is a conversation I’ve been having a lot recently:
Friend: Hi Liz. I see your goiter is reducing. That’s nice. How’re things?
Liz: Oh, thank you so much for noticing. Yes, the leeching has been going really well. Besides that… let’s see. Oh! Well, I started a new job about a month ago.
Friend: No shit, a new job! Well, that’s great! Where are you working?
Liz: I work for a writer on a TV show.
Friend: That’s cute. But what I’m asking is WHERE do you work?
And then I tell them about my drive in each morning.
First, I exit the freeway into a deeply “industrial” part of the city. And not hipster industrial, either. Like, it’s mostly building supply and storage companies down there. The area appears to be vying for some kind of Most Improved 2014 award, because it is home to no fewer than one trillion construction zones. This is always a huge fat mess because everywhere you turn, there’s some dick in an orange vest trying to text and drive a forklift. In fact, the other day, I was almost hit head-on by a semi being driven by a guy who appeared to just be looking at his own lap. The truck started to veer into my lane and finally he looked up from what I can only guess was either a rapidly spreading pee stain or some lint that looked like Jesus, and jerked the wheel to his right. I was at a dead stop at this point, looking at him with my brow furrowed. He just smiled at me and shrugged as if to say, “Hey, how ’bout that lint?” Then he drove off to buy more Funyuns.
So I get onto the main street down there, which runs parallel to, get this, some train tracks. I dodge construction workers and errant cones, stop at broken lights and wave at the labor exchange fellows. Then, I have to cross the tracks, which is great, because I think the city transportation planner died in the middle of making this particular intersection. You’ve got two freeway onramps and two off ramps, traffic going in all four directions, with left and right turns being made. Then, you’ve got the train tracks running through the middle of the intersection with just enough room for ONE car to stop before being creamed by the 4:25 to San Diego. So there’s always gridlock there. Or else some dimwit stops on the tracks.
Once I’m across the tracks, I’m in the homestretch. Just a few dirty scrap yards to pass and I’m in my office. I drive past a brewery and a furniture “showroom” which has no actual windows that I’ve ever seen. There’s a cold-looking Korean church and terrifying, dilapidated beauty school that you cannot unsee. Then, as though the entire drive didn’t already resemble a Tom Waits song, I see the absolute best combination of establishments:
That’s right! It’s an all-nude strip club and an industrial plumbing supply store, sharing a wall! Here’s a black and white photo, to really capture the class:
I love this concept so much that I’m going to have this photo professionally printed and framed to put in my house.
Just a quick parting side note: The rendering of the nude silhouettes makes it look as though the woman on the far left is suffering from severe lower bowel distress while her two friends hold their noses. And, although they’re totally nude while all of this is going on, it still doesn’t feel like a “draw.” But, I mean, maybe that’s exactly what the clientele of a strip club down by the tracks that shares its northern wall with a plumbing supply company wants: naked, farting women. I don’t know. I’m really not an expert. I just happen to work in the area.
Wanna learn how to dance? I mean, really dance? I’m not talking waltzing, or tango, or any of that other nonsense they teach you at the community center. I mean, really get the hell down with your bad self?
Then take a cue from the following music video. Because, guys, the back up dancing in this thing is otherworldly. There isn’t a category for it. It’s sort of hip-hop meets actual hopping meets that drunk guy who grabbed your boobs on the steps of the public library that one time. I mean, this shit is out of control.
So please enjoy “?????” by… a dyspeptic man with a respiratory condition, and featuring The Recently Anesthetized Dancers!
So, where have I been, and what have I been doing, none of you asked.
Well, I’ll tell you!
First, I was working. A lot. Which sounds worse than it actually was– I loved my job and the people (especially the people, my god!) and how I got a paycheck and how my commute was “against the traffic,” so it didn’t take nearly as long as it should have, by LA standards.
Then, I got a NEW(!) job, which is even MORE busy. Somehow, I don’t even have time to check Twitter, which is a shock to the system, let me tell you.
Plus, I started learning the ukulele. This is noteworthy, because I have all the dexterity of an inebriated silver back gorilla. Learning anything that involves coordination between my right and left hands is beyond challenging for me, and yet, one day, driving back from work, I just decided to buy a ukulele. So far, I know enough chords to play about 10 songs. Very. Slowly. With lots of pauses for me to go, “No. Wait. Shit. Hang on… there!” Have you ever heard “Honey Pie,” by the Beatles as a dirge? I don’t recommend it.
Then, in the middle of all of that, I bought a home. Which, funny story, I’m not currently living in, because it came with some tenants who are finishing out their lease. It would be completely fine, except for how I don’t have an apartment right now, either. The timing of everything is what I would describe as “poor.” As such, all of the things I need to get by on a day to day basis are packed into my car. I use the word “packed” loosely. It’s more like, “tossed around wildly as though a group of hobos had recently raided the place for pringles and half-empty beer cans.” I gave someone I don’t really know very well a ride the other day and spent the first 10 minutes of the drive pointing out the sights in an attempt to distract him from my manic effort to cover up a basket of freshly-washed “unmentionables” with a moving blanket. All while navigating the streets of Burbank. How much is the ticket for that, I wonder?
In my limited free time, I sit in parking lots, playing ukulele and telling people that, no, I’m not early for a flea market, this is just my stuff and it isn’t for sale. There isn’t a lot of time for blogging in the midst of all that.
The other thing I’ve been doing is eating dinner at restaurant bars. That is the best place to eat, I found out. Please note I am not talking about TGI Friday’s or any other place that serves sugary rum drinks in a branded hurricane glass for $11.95. I’m talking about restaurants for adult humans that serve things with goat cheese in them. People there are not interested in picking you up. They are interested in eating things with goat cheese in them and maybe striking up a conversation with everyone at the bar about how ridiculous the girl who just left looked with that orange lipstick on. It’s really an excellent way to spend an evening. I like to show up alone, order one drink and something to eat, and hang out for a few hours. Even if you don’t end up having a conversation, it’s nice to just take the place in. Seriously you guys, try it.
Finally, and this is the most important part of this update, I found a lamp that looks like butt hole: