Tuesday, October 25, 2011

On thrifting

The haunted wedding dress.
Once in a while I'll check out eBay to lust over danish teak furniture, kitschy avocado green fondue pots and other mid-century modern wares. Last night I had the brilliant idea of trying to find the ugliest framed needlepoint owl I could from the 1960s to hang somewhere in my new house (all we're waiting on is final loan approval!). But there was not one needlepoint owl to be found on eBay.

So today I decided to try my hand at "thrifting" -- specifically for an ugly framed 1960s needlepoint owl or other fowl, but also any other delightfully tacky items I could find. In my neck of the woods, there's a large thrift store that contracts with a major hospital here to accept donations from patients. This thrift store sells these estate-sale-esque items and gives the proceeds back to the hospital. As far as I know, this translates to: A giant store full of dead people's things. Creepy.

I went to said store anyway looking for fun, retro items, but right when I stepped inside I knew I'd made a mistake. Instead of kitsch, there were a lot of sad wares likely once owned by old people. Things like horribly outdated teacups sitting tired in their equally outdated saucers. Once-clear glass figurines of things like little girls, sheep and acorns now tinted to a pale yellow with age. I passed a wall covered in old shoes that were never cool even in the decades they were from. "One dollar a pair," a sign read above the shelves. 

Though I wasn't there for clothing, I passed the "vintage" section and hesitated before pushing a couple hangers apart out of curiosity. Someone's wedding dress "from the 1950s," the tag read, hung in front of me. It was a beautiful dress, the style very in mode for that time period but now passe unless used for some kind of period party or photo shoot. It was the type of dress Elizabeth Taylor wore in Father of the Bride. The price? Fifteen dollars. For some reason the whole thing just made me really sad, that a long, long time ago, some woman's whole dreams probably culminated in wearing this exquisite white brocade dress that's now sitting in a smelly thrift store unable to sell for even $15. The woman who once owned it, I'm sure, had passed away already at the hospital. 

After that it was too hard to shop any longer in the store. Mostly because it just felt so wrong to be pilfering through dead peoples' things. Like all those things were haunted or something. Plus, anything I bought would remind me of that Godforsaken wedding dress I saw the same day. And yeah, I know, all antiques once belonged to people who are probably dead, but in times like this ignorance is bliss. Mama doesn't like dead people, and she especially doesn't like potentially haunted goods wreaking havoc in her house.

So I think today was the beginning and end of my thrifting journey. Ebay may need to suffice.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Blah

It's been forever since I've blogged and now I don't even know where to begin. I am at a loss. 

Basically I haven't had a free moment in the last month to do...well, anything, much less blog. Every weekend has been taken up with real estate stuff, and that all culminated with this past weekend, where J and I did real estate stuff all day, both Saturday and Sunday. I'm talking 8 in the morning till midnight -- both days. I can't really talk about what it is we were doing since it's confidential, but let's just say we are both exhausted. Oh, and we are also finally in escrow on a house, so the clock is ticking.

After eating dinner this morning around 1am (drive-thru at Burger King, yum!), we crashed in bed. J wanted to get into the office today at 5am (since he brought up home a ton of work he wasn't able to do this weekend and had a mediation to attend today) and he ended up oversleeping till 7am. I don't know how he jumped out of bed and put a suit on because I woke up feeling like I'd been hit by a train. After he left I went back to sleep and woke up at noon. And I still feel like I've been hit by a train, or have a college-grade hangover, though no alcohol was involved. 

I feel bad for J since I can work from home in my PJs, but he has to sit in an office all day, exhausted from this weekend.  Part of me just wants to go back to sleep right now. He called this afternoon to say "hi" during his lunch break, and I told him I feel this whole process is like a near-death experience that we've gone through together and will forever bond us. He laughed weakly, since that was all his energy could muster.

Sorry for being so cryptic, but I really can't divulge details. I'm just going to say this: I'm not a religious person but I hope to God we get this house. If not, I'd want to burn the thing to the ground.

Monday, September 5, 2011

This whole real estate thing

"Thank you, Bradley. Don't forget to feed the hounds."
Week 2 of this whole real estate thing has wrapped up and (what do you know?) I am completely over it. For some reason watching other people shop for properties on television seemed so exciting, but then I actually starting doing it and it's not exciting at all. Seriously. Especially when I'm on a tight budget and have to “make do” with what I have (something I don't really like doing). It's kind of like watching that Japanese obstacle course show where helmet-wearing contestants have to navigate crazy obstacles to win some prize at the end. In theory it would seem so fun running across giant rotating foam rollers...until you smack into one and fall below into shallow sludge. This is basically what real estate has been like for me -- all glitter and sunshine and giant foam rollers on the outside, and injury, sludge and public embarrassment on the inside.

So far we've made an offer on one place only to find out after getting approved for a loan that the loan could not be used on that specific unit. Thank you Mr. Real Estate Agent, for doing your job correctly and informing us of these things beforehand. (Mr. Real Estate Agent is another story entirely. One that involves inappropriate flirting (from his end, not mine), black Range Rovers, semi-fraudulent dealings and Bocce ball. Oh, real estate agents.) 

Meanwhile, we've made another offer on a place that's a "short sale with a lender-approved price." Though I did not want to get involved in short sales at all, I really liked the place and decided to offer since it was a "lender-approved price" and all. (Air quotes: mandatory.) My bad. In the words of Antoine Dodson, "You are dumb. You are really, really dumb," Crystal. I am clearly stupid for trusting two people who told me this whole "lender-approved price" thing, because it turns out they were either a.) lying, or b.) completely misinformed. (I have a gut feeling it is option A.) The property is not listed at a lender-approved price, but instead is an honest-to-God, all-American, made-in-the-USA short sale. UGH. 

I am now more irritated than I get when humidity terrorizes my hair because we have to wait for the bank's word on all this, and let's face: They're a bank. They have no motivation to give me a short sale property as they'd make more money on the thing if they just foreclosed. LUCKILY, Mr. Real Estate Agent did something right and put a 20-day clause in our offer contract, so the bank has until September 15th to get back with us. I have no faith in short sales, so I'm assuming this is going to be a no-go. 

J and I are already organizing back-up places we plan to make offers on in case this short sale doesn't go through, and so far we have three, ranked in order. I'd be fine living in any of them since this property is not intended to be a dream home or any sort of forever home at all. We just want a place we can live in for around 3 years and keep to rent out to tenants after we move on to a bigger, more permanent place. Essentially we see this first property as being a long-term investment that will fit in nicely to our overall retirement portfolio.

Anyhoo, I laugh at how naïve I was a mere month ago, when I thought this process was going to be easy. It's anything but – mostly thanks to the layers and layers of bureaucracy between me and my potential home(s). It seems like everyone, from the agent to the listing agent to the bank to the mortgage broker, is all on a different page, which means everyone feeds us a different story. A day or so of this I can deal with, but unending weeks of being fed misinformation is just annoying. In an I-need-a-drink sort of way, times 10. No wonder there was a mortgage crisis in this country. If I wasn't already highly skeptical of the process, I'd eat up all the lines I'm fed and “trust” that everyone in the business knows what they're doing and will guide me accordingly.

It's times like these that I wish I had a butler named Bradley who could do all this work for me. I'd tell him what I'd want, and he'd go out and find it, only bothering me with small details that involve signatures or check-writing. Then eventually he'd hand me a key and that would be that. Bradley would of course be rewarded with a 1.7% bonus and modest housing quarters behind the infinity pool or in the old horse stable and we would all be happy.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

I'm baa-aack

So I know it's been about a century since I last blogged, but I touched down in the United States last week and I've been busy ever since. First, let's start with my harrowing journey back home. 

Though I love sitting in airports and people-watching, I'm not a big let's-hang-out-in-the-airport-for-8-hours-waiting-for-our-flight sort of gal. But, for some reason, every time I travel with my family this is what ends up happening. Probably because I'm always the one that pays for my ticket, while they use their airline miles, which they have a lot of. This inevitably puts us on different flights during a single 24-hour period, so here's me hanging out in the Buenos Aires airport for a total of 8 hours waiting for my flight, after my dad, mom and sister all depart hours before me for theirs. 

When it's time for me to check in, the American Airlines lady tells me I'm going to Los Angeles. "No...," I say, "I'm going to San Francisco." 

"No...you aren't," she responds, staring blankly at her computer screen. Luckily I have a printout of my itinerary, which I show her. "This is strange," she says, looking over it. Ten minutes of her tapping on a keyboard and a phone call later and she tells me my connecting flight from JFK to San Francisco is canceled -- and the next available flight they have for me is the following day, connecting through Los Angeles. Ugggh. 

I refuse to believe that there are NO other connecting flights I can snag the day I arrive in JFK, since I'm arriving at like 6:30 a.m. and I reeeeally didn't want to spend an extra night in a hotel (missing J like crazy at this point). So I tell her fine and figure I'll haggle a same-day seat on a plane out when I land. 

The plane ride to New York is long but pleasant since the seat next to me is empty. Highlights include watching Water for Elephants and Arthur, along with making out the Amazon river below by moonlight as we fly over the Amazon. 

When I land in JFK it takes forever (as always) to get through customs, and after standing in a ticketing line for 30 minutes I'm told I have a confirmed seat on a connecting flight at 6pm. I'm equally happy and pissed -- happy 'cause I still get to go home that day, pissed because I have to sit in the airport for 12 hours. The rest of the day is spent watching CNN on the overhead televisions and adding myself to standby lists on each San Francisco flight. A crowd of about 20 shares my plight, and they crowd the standby desk in front of me, yelling at the flight attendants that they need to get on the flight. Flight attendants, unfortunately, are not magicians, and cannot make more seats appear -- especially when American Airlines "overbooked every flight" that day, they say. Some of my standby amigos yell obscenities, a portly French girl begins to cry and shout some pretty nasty French words (as my limited knowledge of French would lead me to believe). 

I sit on a nearby bench taking pictures of this and trying not to laugh. At 7am, wearing the same clothes I wore 24 hours before, I find this all very amusing. No anger is getting any of us on this flight. This fact is apparently lost on these people. After the group parts I walk up to the desk and ask (very sweetly and very calmly because these people are essentially the gatekeepers) whether there is any way at all that I can get on the next flight out at 3 p.m. Attendants actually smile back at me and pleasantly explain the situation, which I nod at and say I understand. The last thing I'm in is a good mood since I'm greasy and tired and missing J, but I crack a few jokes with them and they laugh. The female attendant tells me she'll try her hardest to get me on the next flight, but no promises. I thank her, since that's really all I need to hear. 

One thirty rolls around and I make my way to the other gate, where the standby list has just appeared on the screen near the desk. And what do you know -- my name has been moved up to #2! Score. Thank you flight attendant lady. The standby crowd has joined me in the area, and has resumed yelling at the new attendants at the desk, as though this is really going to get them a seat on the plane. 

Plane pulls up, your truly gets the last seat. Angry people are left yelling and crying at the gate. Moral of the story: You attract more flies with honey.

When I landed J met me at the airport with a big bouquet of pink flowers (love him) and I couldn't stop hugging him. Though I had a  fantastic time in Buenos Aires, after the fourth week I was ready to come home. I missed J like whoa and was having (if truth needs to be told) major sex withdrawals that started about a week or two into my trip. (Whoever said sex wanes with marriage obviously isn't in my marriage, where frequency is taken to almost teenage proportions.)

When we got home he had his anniversary present to me sitting on the couch (it was one of the Kate Spade bags I wanted) and we pretty much did not leave each other's side all weekend. As cheesy as it sounds, I don't know how I lived before J. Sure I had serious boyfriends and I dated casually between them, but no one is like J. He really is my heart. 

Anyway, this weekend will officially be dubbed The Weekend of Real estate. We're going to our realtor's party tonight that she throws every year. She invites all her business clients and friends and serves unlimited margaritas all night. Obviously I am game. Then tomorrow we're going to start touring properties with her. I CAN'T WAIT!!!!

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Fierce

This commercial is all the rage right now on television here:


It plays almost every five minutes, and it never gets old. The model is fierce and the song is so addictive. Wish we got Mexico's Next Top Model in Estados Unidos.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Buenos Aires pictures (finally!)

Good example of the Belle Epoque architecture that is so prevalent here.
Old meets new.
The obelisk in the Plaza de la Republica at dusk.
Old meets new, again. This strip of light was a news ticker screen wrapped around a fantastic old building.
A cafe at night.
The colors of these buildings (below and above) were intense.
The walls surrounding Recoleta Cemetery.
Checking out wares at the artisan fair.
A hippie practicing her moves near the artisan fair.
My favorite mime.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Beautiful disaster

Written on Sunday, July 10: 

So where do I start? *cracks knuckles*

I got into the Buenos Aires airport today and waited patiently for my sister and mom's flight to get in (they were connecting through Santiago, Chile.) My flight got in three hours before theirs, so I staked out a seat near the arrivals screens and hung out people watching to Paul McCartney (I'm having a Wings moment) to pass time.

Around the time they were supposed to land, half the flights on the arrivals screens began flashing red. I leaned closer and saw that all flights out of Santiago were suddenly "canceled." God damn it. In a foreign country by myself? Totes not a big deal. In a foreign country minus the rent money my mom was supposed to give our apartment's owner, Tomas, when we signed our rental contract that night? Slightly unnerving. (Here you pay all cash for the big things, and so my mom was traveling with a couple Gs for our place.)

Apparently the volcanic ash from that Chilean volcano was blowing past Santiago at the moment and all flights were grounded until the ash cleared and it was safe to fly. When I talked to the customer service desk, which was not really a desk, just a lone room off the back of the luggage conveyor belt that I had to climb over to enter, an impatient Argentine man sat behind a sparse desk inside and told me had no answers, just that all flights out of Santiago were canceled until further notice. 

Unfortunately I had no way of getting a hold of anyone since wifi seemed nonexistent throughout the airport (nothing makes you look more American than wandering around with your smartphone, sniffing for wifi in every corner and orifice of a building), and all of Tomas' contact info was sitting in an email in my inbox.

Finally, five hours after I'd been in the airport, I found wifi and checked my email. Hello six messages from my sister telling me they were stuck and that United was putting them up in a Hilton that night. Sigh. The grease on my face from traveling for 15+ hours felt palpable. All I could think of was taking a shower. I needed Tomas' number, stat.

Thankfully he happened to be online when I signed on, and he told me to leave right away since he'd been waiting for us for hours, and gave me the apartment's address. He stressed he needed the payment up front in full when I arrived, just as the rules stated, but I stressed this was impossible since the half of our entourage with the money was still en route to Buenos Aires. He said this was going to be problem; I said I could look for a hotel if it was. Thankfully something about this statement made him relent, and he said come anyway.

I jumped in a cab driven by a guy named Julio and chatted with him during the 30-minute ride from the airport into the city. Julio was a big fan of Fleetwood Mac, so when he found out I was from Estados Unidos, he put on his "favorite cd" (Fleetwood Mac's Greatest Hits) and we talked nonstop until he pulled up to the curb of my building on Sanchez de Bustamente in the Recoleta district. He asked if I wanted to go out later that night with him and his friends, but I told him I was exhausted and needed to decompress, which he acknowledged along with his cell phone number if I changed my mind. Oh, Julio.

Tomas was a very kind, older Argentine who empathized with the whole situation. Instead of telling me to find a hotel for the night, he allowed me to stay, unpaid, but asked for my passport that first night as collateral to make sure I wouldn't up and leave without paying. I laughed at even the thought of doing this, but he said he's had it happen before with an American woman and her child. They'd stayed for a week, promising payment every day and on the seventh day they left without a trace or payment. Obviously after hearing this I understood Tomas' plight. 

After showering and fluffing my feathers, I went out for a stroll around Recoleta, grabbed food at a corner restaurant and ate the yummiest tart for dessert at this confiteria called "La Porteña." Most people here don't speak any English, and I barely speak any Spanish, but somehow communication still flowed well through hand gestures and broken phrases. After I got home with a second tart for the road...I realized that my main credit/atm card was gone. 

In the words of Lindsay Lohan, I felt like my heart was going to fall out my butt. I tore through both purses I'd brought flinging receipts and crumpled napkins everywhere, searching in vain for my card until I realized I'd lost it back at the airport where I last used it. Shit. So much for taking it easy. I signed online and emailed J 40 times, telling him it was urgent and that he needed to call the bank asap to put a stop on the card. Which he did, but not before noticing that four charges totaling $700 were made on the card in the last hour. Ughhhhhh. The claims department was closed for the night, but J said he'd call in the morning and report the fraud. 

Flash forward to five days later and THANKFULLY the claims department reimbursed all the money that was stolen, pending our signature on an affidavit swearing I didn't make those charges. While I could barely sleep that evening with the money issue overshadowing my first night in the city, everything was taken care of the following morning and I've been having a great time so far. Lots of shopping and eating with my mom and sis, who eventually caught a flight out. I'll post pics soon!

Friday, July 8, 2011

Argentina-bound


The time has come to bon voyage. As much as I love hearing my next door neighbor play acoustic renditions of Extreme's More Than Words through our paper-thin walls every day around dinnertime, this apartment is getting too small for me, a husband and three animals -- especially during a long, hot summer. (No intermittent guitar taps -- which Anonymous Neighbor is currently practicing -- will change that.)

I'm off to Buenos Aires tomorrow and won't be back in the states till mid-August-ish. I'm taking my laptop down to do some freelancing from the Southern Hemisphere, but I probs mcgobbs won't be blogging that much (can you blame me?) I'll be posting pictures throughout the next four weeks, though, so stay tuned!

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

What not to do to earn my business



The other day an acquaintance (let's call her "Helene") from my high school graduating class emailed me through Facebook. 

I use the word acquaintance loosely. Back then Helene, like her friends, rarely acknowledged my presence whenever our paths crossed in hallway or classroom. Helene, though average-looking, was one of those popular girls who hung out with the "mean" crowd and did things like somehow garner enough of a vote to get nominated for homecoming queen and ride on the homecoming football float, all with a Vaseline-lined smile and a painstakingly practiced wave that made most of us want throw tomatoes at her. But that was 11 years ago and people change, or so popular theory states. 

"Hi Crystal!" the subject line read. I saw it in my inbox, along with her name. My first reaction was 1.) Why does this name sound familiar, and 2.) Ohh yes. Helene from high school. This is random.

After extending the obligatory formalities such as "How are you" and "Hope you've been well," she mentioned she had talked to my friend Laurel recently (the one I grabbed lunch with a few months ago) and "She said you live in ----- -------- now. How do you like it?" Insert various generic questions about why I moved here. "I lived there for five years cause I went to college at ----- -----, but now I live in --- -------- with my husband and our new baby girl..."

Okay, why all the chit-chat and background info? I did not know her 11 years ago, and to be completely honest I didn't care to get to know her now. And then the next line made it obnoxiously clear why she was reaching out to me:

"I work for J. Rockcliff Realtors as a real estate agent, so if you or anyone you know are looking to buy a house, please keep me in mind."

My audible reaction was a loud groan, followed with "You've got to be kidding me." Not only do J and I already have a realtor we are working with, but the fact that someone who just happened to walk the same halls as I did 11+ years ago thinks that's reason enough to give me a sales pitch and secure my business really irritates me. Probably because it's so blatant and contrived and desperate. It'd be one thing if it was an old friend of mine who I'd lost contact with, but for an essentially complete stranger who acts like they aren't a stranger to try and make commission off me feels tacky and in bad taste. Like a flagrant exploitation of the past.

Helene was not my past, though the people I occasionally wonder about were. Those who were good friends of mine, who I lost to either time or disagreement, rarely seek me out. Those were the people that knew me. They knew what I looked like at 9am on a Sunday after staying up all night watching the first three Texas Chainsaw Massacre films consecutively. They knew what boy broke my heart freshman year simply because he preferred blondes. They knew what my favorite type of pizza was at our preferred pizzeria by the beach, and that at 17 one of my favorite past times was cruising around listening to Third Eye Blind in my Miata. Helene was never one of these people. To her I'm just another face in her yearbook, some person she might recognize in "real life" now if our paths crossed again.

A very small number of old friends have reached out to me. I am just as guilty as not reaching out to them. Perhaps it's because those that matter and are lost in time would rather be content with the memories of who we were. Back when our biggest problems weren't mortgages and calorie counting and breast cancer, but rather which movie we'd see that weekend, or whether that cute guy from fifth period would be at a nearby house party. Our futures were ripe with possibility, and this excited us. But the lightness that comes with youth vanishes with age. Maybe its easier to cope with the passage of time by allowing your past to be exactly that -- the past.

And those, like Helene, who didn't know you before, back when you were a walking personification of invincibility, vulnerability, bravery, cowardice and contradiction? 

Well, they'll be there to sell you a house.

Thursday, June 30, 2011

That one time I realized my friend was a jackass


The other night J and I went to see Terence Malick's The Tree of Life. I've been looking forward to seeing the movie since rumors of it started circling last year, and against my better judgment (but at the urging of J) I invited a friend of mine and his new fiance to join us. Let's call this friend George, and his fiance, Abigail (because that is essentially what they look like to me).

I first met George in grad school in Boston. George is the typical overachiever with a severe case of ADHD, has collected various degrees, ranging from humanities masters to MBA's across this great big ol' country of ours, and has obvious commitment problems when it comes to relinquishing himself to one profession. (He's currently the CEO of a start-up medical IT company that actually seems to be experiencing modest success in its infancy. This after he made multiple appearances on CNBC and CNN talk shows discussing his "first ever virtual magazine" that he launched about three years ago before virtual mags were the norm.) Well, George recently moved to my town (of all places) with his newly minted fiance he met for the first time last year in line at an Auntie Anne's Pretzels in a mall in Los Angeles. Since I am one of only a handful of people he knows in the area, he's been incessantly calling to hang out with J and I. Which is cool, since I love a good cocktail hour, but it can get a little much when you do it for days in a row. I can only handle so much ADHD.

ANYHOO, after (politely) rejecting his invitations for weeks, J suggested we invite them along to see The Tree of Life...just to show we weren't opposed to hanging out or anything. I was on the fence about extending an invitation since the last time I saw a movie with George was when the two of us went to see Walk the Line opening night in Boston. Let's just say it was a disaster, in every sense of the word. And it all culminated with his cell phone ringing on LOUD during one of the most pivotal moments in the film when Joaquin Phoenix undergoes his home detox with Reese Witherspoon. Not only did George's phone ring in the silent, packed theater, he then proceeded to answer it and have a conversation with the person who called as people yelled at us to be quiet. It was mortifying, and visions of the night resurfaced as I hesitantly extended an invite to Tree of Life.

And what do you know? History has a funny way of repeating itself, in not-an-altogether identical way, yet close enough. We met up with George and Abigail outside of the theater, along with their two friends they decided to invite along and not tell us about till the last minute. No biggie, that I don't mind. But after we took our seats and the theater lights dimmed, George proceeded to talk during the entire first 45 minutes of the movie. No joke. I felt like I had entered Hell, since one of the fléaux de mon existence is when people chatter through movies. Granted he wasn't speaking at a normal volume, but it was still above a whisper and that, combined with Abigail's obnoxious giggling every 20 seconds at whatever he was saying, made me want to throw my tub of popcorn in their direction, douse them with my Diet Coke, anything to make them shut up. It only added to the charm of the situation when George kept standing up and walking over to his friends across the aisle to hold actual conversations with them while he was on bended knee. All while the movie played in a semi-packed, darkened theater. Was this really happening?

About an hour into the movie Abigail, who was seated to my immediate left, leaned over to me and said "George says this movie is so depressing that it makes him want to kill himself. We're going to see Midnight in Paris next door..." She followed this with one of her annoying and expectant giggles, as though perhaps I shared the same sentiment. I shot her a straight-faced look that meant "You've got to be kidding me" and simply said "Fine, go." (No giggles from my end, since the movie, though slow in its start, was actually quite good but would have been better if the charming couple seated to my left would have just shut up and tried to understand it.)

A second later George leaned toward me over Abigail's lap. "Are you annoyed that we're leaving to see the other movie?" he asked.

"No," I whispered, turning back to the movie.

"You look annoyed..." he prodded. I quickly turned back to him.

"I'm annoyed because you've been talking through the entire goddamn movie. This is a theater -- STOP TALKING!!!" I hissed. He gave me a look as though it suddenly dawned on him that movie theaters weren't meant to be socialized in like pool halls. Five minutes later he, Abigail, and his charming friends stood up and lurked out the theater doors.

Of course during the rest of the movie he texted me incessantly from next door, asking if J and I would wait outside of their theater for them when we were finished since we had all planned to grab drinks afterward. But when The Tree of Life was over, the last thing I felt like doing was getting a drink with them. I passed their theater  en route to our car and texted that we were just going to head home. His response?

"Sorry for having left....I feel awful."

I snickered at the cow poo I was actually reading on my cell screen. Really, guy? Do you really feel that awful? Because if you did you probably wouldn't have done it in the first place, but since you are one of the most inconsiderate people I have ever met I seriously doubt you even care. And I think that's what pissed me off the most about the whole situation. It wasn't just the fact that getting up and leaving in the middle of a movie you were invited to is what I would call pretty rude, it's also the fact that you had to talk the entire time you stayed. As if the whole world revolves around George and Abigail and everyone else must be expected to laugh along with their thoughtlessness. 

On the way home I questioned why I even bother returning his calls anymore. Not over just what happened that night, but for every similar inconsiderate thing he's done leading up to it.  I don't really want to associate with people who think it's okay to be rude or disrespectful under the guise of of "having fun" or being "funny." The older I get, the more I just find it classless and irritating.

A few days went by and George called again. His message was upbeat yet vague, requesting that I call him back. (I am 99% sure it was to invite J and I out to Mojito Mondays.) As much as I love my mint-flavored cocktails, I can think of 3,000 other people I'd rather grab mojitos with. (Okay, 3,000 is an exaggeration, more like 20 -- 55 if we're counting celebrities and deceased novelists.) So though I'm pretty good about calling people back, I decided he was no longer worth my time and deleted his message without returning the call. 

My life is too short to deal with bullshit.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Weddings and Chads

Including this weekend I have two more weekends here till I leave for Buenos Aires. Yesterday I had a great day shopping with J (I scored a cute pair of leopard flats at Banana for practically nothing), and last night we went to a huge engagement party at a relative's mansion in the hills. I've never seen said relative's new mansion but my first reaction when we passed the estate gates and parked in the driveway was "Jeeeeeeee-sus...." 

It felt like we we had arrived at Lisa Vanderpump's home in Real Housewives of Beverly Hills. The front doors, made of wrought iron and glass, were at least 10 feet tall, and the giant marble foyer opened into an even more gigantic living room, with marble columns, marble floors and two-story picture windows all along the back wall, showcasing a stunning view of the valley below. The back "patio" (if you could even call it that since it was larger than my entire apartment and parking space combined) was lined with a stately stone balustrade, and had an infinity pool that overlooked a 180-degree view of the valley and mountains in the distance. 

The other day J had asked me what I would be content with when we're older. Last night I found my answer. "This," I said, motioning to the house and view. He agreed that we need to figure out some way to make it happen...that doesn't involve any unethical or illegal activities (much to my dismay). ;)

Anywits, the party was fun, I ate too much as always, etc. etc. And though today is Sunday, I get no J time since he's gone to the wedding of some person he knew way back when. I argued that it was a waste of time driving two hours each way to attend the wedding of a practical stranger, but he argued that he's not like me and doesn't consider people he hasn't talked to in ages as "strangers" if they grew up together. (Which I think it utterly stupid, but hey, in the words of Tamra Barney "You can't argue with stupid.") I'm obviously not at the wedding with him today because -- wait for it -- his delightful head case of a mother will be there! After what happened last year, J and I haven't spoken to her since that charming exchange. I have no desire to ever speak to her or see her again, and J seems to not mind life without her, but it was inevitable that some wedding or funeral would bring us face to face again, and so I said forget it. 

Yesterday over soup at Boudin, J said there's going to come a time when we're going to have to speak to her again, but I disagree. There's no requirement in the marriage code that says I need to pretend everything is all rainbows and unicorns after you not only insult me, but take it a step further and insult my family. I will get all Teresa Giudice if it comes to that. I'm sure it'll be awkward today with J and his mother at this blessed event, but thankfully I'm not there to witness it. 

In other news, summer is officially here, which means the Tool Academy has reconvened at their local watering hole (aka our apartment complex swimming pool). Since my living room windows (which are often open) face the pool, I often hear the staccato of Coors Light cans popping open along with the lovely conversations that the meat heads have down below. Two days ago, a particularly delightful fellow we'll name "Chad" was venting his women woes to his bros over sunscreen and a pack of Natty Ice. Apparently one of Chad's many problems is that he's "doing" a chick he doesn't like. According to his generous descriptions, Chad's chick is not hot enough for him and he really doesn't like her, but he doesn't know what to do since "she comes to all his basketball games" and "has nice tits." An hour later a fellow sunbather named "Morgan" (who had the voice of a phone sex operator) introduced herself to Chad and his buddies in the pool area. From the conversation they had, I had a feeling Chad was going to have no problem moving on from "nice tits" girl.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

A good example of a proper crowd wave

Waiting for stage set-up.
Little late to the game with this post, but the U2 concert last week was spectacular. The venue, which holds 69,000 people, was sold out -- though I heard on the news later that many weren't able to make it on time because of terrible traffic jams near the coliseum and little to no parking after the concert started. Oh wellsies, we got there on time! Lenny Kravitz opened, and it was a blast from the '90s watching him perform. Partially died when he played "It Ain't Over 'Til It's Over" (my anthem in college) and "American Woman". After Lenny's act was over, there was a 45-minute lag before U2 started. And you know that means....crowd waves. Big ones. Here was the view from our tier:



At one point during intermission, all three tiers had giant crowd waves circling the coliseum. It was in-cred-eeeb-lay. Precisely why I dig concerts so much -- the audience's energy is always so infectious and exhilarating (okay, maybe not always. There was that time I saw Gordon Lightfoot, well two times, when the audience was very mild-mannered and remained seated throughout, politely clapping after every song. But even that was tons of fun. It was Gordon Lightfoot, for God's sake.)

ANYHOO, then U2 came out and of course they were divine, though I'm still of the mind that Bono needs to 86 his weird, see-through shades. For some reason they remind me of something a pervert would wear. 

With so many people packed in and screaming, I wondered if that's what it must have felt like going to a Beatles concert back in the day. Not that I'm comparing U2 to the Beatles (sorry, they're untouchable), but in terms of legends U2 comes close.

Bono and The Edge

Monday, June 13, 2011

A Biutiful Life


Last night I watched Alejandro Innaritu's latest film, Biutiful. I am a huge fan of Innaritu's work -- both Amores Perros and Babel are in my top 20 favorite films of all time -- and though they are both crushingly depressing, in many aspects there is optimism and hope within his characters' pain and tragedies. This is why I love them. Innaritu never ceases to pull the beauty from the devastation.

In Biutiful I was expecting something similar of the main character, Uxbal, masterfully played by Javier Bardem. But as the credits rolled in the end, all I felt was an extension of Uxbal's profound pain amid unfinished business...of the fact that maybe -- no matter what catch phrases and greeting cards may make us believe -- there is no such thing as atonement and redemption...not even when we're at the very end, desperately trying to do good in the final moments of our last breaths.

Uxbal runs a counterfeit ring in the slums of Barcelona. You know those Nigerian guys slinging fake Gucci bags and Chanel sunglasses on the street corners of every European city? Yeah, Uxbal is their boss, and he's also got a hand in the underground Chinese sweatshops who produce the loot. Immediately he's not a guy you'd think to empathize with, since he's...well, in the business of exploitation.

But Javier Bardem does an excellent job of making you feel for his character, who is essentially a single father with two young children and a bipolar, borderline drug addict wife/ex-wife, depending on what day it is. Uxbal's trade has not made him a wealthy man, as evidenced by the rot on his bedroom ceilings and the cereal he feeds his children for dinner every night. Then he starts bleeding urine and you know this definitely can't end well.

After finding out he's going to die in a couple months of terminal cancer, Uxbal tries to reconcile for all that he has struggled with -- not giving his wife what she needed, the crimes he has committed, being a better father, how his children won't have a proper caretaker once he's gone, who he will pray to when his time comes since spirituality, at some point in his life, seems to have taken flight and never returned.

Seeking atonement is a common theme, and one this movie illustrated well. But the hardest pill to swallow during viewing was the suggestion that atonement may not exist. Good deeds done in desperation, when your back's against a wall, may backfire and cause even more strife. People you think you can rely on, who you need to depend on in your weakest moment, may take what they can from your pocket and flee.

Though I found very little hope or optimism in the message of this movie, I liked it nonetheless. It was, like reality, raw and abrasive. Sometimes I think we need to be reminded of that: that most lives, unlike the way most films would make you think, do not end on a positive, reparative note. And that is biutiful.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Guest post

Fellow blogger Amber from Blonde and Balanced is off enjoying her fab honeymoon this week (Mazel, Amber!!), so I've written a guest post for her site while she's away. Keep in mind that I wrote it near the end of March, so it's been more than two months since I've left my job, but the post still holds true, nonetheless. Enjoy!

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

An open letter to women, or “how to be your own best friend”

Yesterday I woke up to a text message from a friend who's going through a (pretty) terrible break-up with her boyfriend. Said friend has a fear of abandonment, and a history of staying in not-so-great relationships in lieu of being alone. I know this is a debilitating feeling for many, and often translates moving from one relationship to the next, searching for outward love and acceptance when that internal love and acceptance is M.I.A. This may or may not lead to emotionally abusive and (hopefully not) physically abusive relationships that further weaken poor self-confidence.

Even though it's a common theme, it hits close to home when I see it happening to one of my friends. She didn't have the best of upbringings -- both of her parents basically abandoned her at different points in her life -- so it's easy to see where this lack of self-esteem stems from. But she's an attractive, intelligent woman now who is one of the few females in her department at the prestigious international biotech firm she works at (think pipettes and cell cultures and petrie dishes – she is a bona fide scientist). A lot to be confident about, right? But you wouldn't know it by speaking to her, and that is beyond depressing to me.

When did people stop realizing their worth? After this recent breakup, she told me over the phone a few days ago that as sick as it sounded she still wanted her (now) ex. I was shocked, considering they had a history of bad arguments and sad times. “No you don't,” was all I could reply. “You can be happy, you know. You're worth more than that.” She said she wanted to believe that, but couldn't. It was as if a thick and weighty gauze had been tamped down and hardened around any semblance of confidence she had.

Her text this morning asked a simple question “How can you be your own best friend?” The question broke my heart, because it's so simple yet the answer – if there even is one -- is so complicated. “I have an awful habit of relying on my boyfriend to be my everything... How do you rely on yourself?” she asked.

Good question. How do you rely on yourself?

We kicked some more texts back and forth, and I told her I'd email her. I initially thought writing to her about this would take some thought, but when I began typing it all just starting spewing out like verbal diarrhea:

Dear XXXXX:

Hope you're hanging in there. So you asked me earlier how to be your own best friend, but I don't think anyone has the definitive answer for that or else it would be easier for more people to depend on themselves. I think the first thing to do is start trying to perceive yourself differently. Continually tell yourself that you are valuable, you have worth. Remind yourself what you love about yourself, or what makes you proud.

When people look in the mirror every day, their perceptions of who is looking back at them are often warped. Past experiences, upbringing, etc. can shape many people's minds to see a skewed image in front of them, but you must stop allowing that to happen. You can't change your past but you can change your future. It's never too late. Tell yourself that from this point on, that person looking back at you in the mirror is beautiful, strong, compassionate, intelligent and doesn't need a boyfriend to feel valuable. All of these things are true about you, so you must see yourself in this light. The only way to begin to chip away at the low self-esteem that makes you depend on others and not yourself is by repeating that you are an amazing human being. You might not believe it at first, but you need to affirm this over and over again to yourself.

I think the most important thing you need to remember is that being alone has no projection on your value as a human being. You are a great person, and great people are okay with being alone because they know they can rely on themselves. This stems from self love. You need to love yourself before you can love anyone else. If you don't love yourself first you will only be giving half of yourself to whatever man you're with, and that isn't fair to either of you. Self love takes a lot of nurturing, a lot of repetition, a lot of alone time that might be really scary at first. But realize that this scariness in the beginning is just your low confidence talking. It is not scary to be alone; it is merely an illusion put there by your past to frighten you. You must break this cycle or else it will repeat for the rest of your life and you will always be unhappy because no one else can love you as much as you should love yourself. Depending on others to fill this void may work temporarily, but it will only make you weaker over time, and you will never be happy. You deserve happiness.

Love,
Me

Friday, May 27, 2011

Royal observations


This week pictures hit the Internets of the Royal couple's first meeting with the President and First Lady in London.  I find these pictures oddly fascinating. Not because of the fashion (me likey) or the fact that half the room is official royalty, but because the photos are so deliciously staged. Who just stands around chatting in a room like that? Obviously, I run in the wrong social circles.

The pictures remind me of visiting those natural history museums on school field trips, when my fifth grade class would scamper between exhibits and stare in awe at all those stuffed animals from the Serengeti, posed behind their respective glass walls. I remember every scene having painted horizons, foam rocks and cardboard trees that authenticated the viewer's experience as to "what it was like" to have been there.

Not that those books behind William and Kate are made of painted styrofoam, or that Kate's hair is made of yarn...but still. I can almost hear the tour guide now (in a British accent, of course): "...And in this corner, we have the first meeting of the POTUS, First Lady and the newly married Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, still tan from their recent honeymoon in Seychelles. Notice William's gaze at President Obama's hairline in the last picture, no doubt silently lamenting the demise of his own."

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

She blogs, finally

My buddy Neil in his salad days (1971).
I think this is the longest I've gone not blogging -- and that includes those three weeks in South America two years ago. I have become a bad blogger (insert self-deprecation here). As a friend of mine would say, "My badsies." How did this happen? I really have no excuse since it takes, what, maybe an hour to write a decent post? And it's not like I'm traveling through a third world country on the hunt for inconvenient pockets of spotty wi-fi; RATHER, I am sitting in a tony suburb having the occasional glass of Veuve in the afternoon (there's always a right time for champagne) and...writing.

What have I been up to lately? Listening to a lot of Neil Young and doing a lot of writing. Yesterday I freelanced all day, not because I had to but because I wanted to (that house down payment is ohsoclose). By the end I was nearly cross-eyed from staring at my computer screen all day, but I was satisfied. So I put on some Neil Young and danced to unwind. Right now I feel like I should be freelancing as much as possible since these summer months are crucial for us to save the last of our down payment. Our apartment lease is up in July, after all, and we don't want to have to rent month-to-month for longer than a few months. Hopefully we'll have at least put a bid on a place by the fall. Real estate is definitely my porn, so it's very exciting scoping out Redfin every day, obsessively taking notes from HGTV's My First Place and balancing our budget to make this happen.

When I'm not freelancing, I'm editing the manuscript (can I just say writing it was a lot more fun than editing it? I've already gone through all the ink in my first red pen and the pages look like they were used to clean up a murder scene -- they are bleeding red). When I'm not writing and editing, I've been reading Mario Vargas Llosa's Aunt Julia and the Scriptwriter (hilarious book -- read it), and working on my fitness. I do power yoga on Mondays, pilates on Tuesdays and Thursdays, and two hours of tango on Thursday night, which is a workout in 3-inch heels. Last week my tango instructor invited me to his salsa class, so I'll be adding that to the mix as well.

The children are doing well. Gidget (aka Cacahuete) has adapted to her surroundings swimmingly, as Lola did when I first adopted her. The other day it dawned on me that I've created a makeshift animal sanctuary of sorts, where homeless pups (and a cat) are spoiled rotten, given warm, fuzzy beds and blankets, and are hugged and petted incessantly. This has done wonders not only for their well-being, but also for my stress level. Ten bucks says a highpoint of Lola's life was when I picked her up yesterday and we danced to Neil Young's "Harvest Moon" while Gidget danced around at my feet.

Neil aside, the only complaint I have is that J's been MIA the past few days with a mad rush of billable hours. But then I step back and survey the situation, and honestly I can't complain. It might not always be like this, since nothing is permanent, but every morning I wake up so thankful that this is my life. I love what I am doing; J loves what he is doing. We are happy together and excited about our plans for the future. I can't help but be appreciative. Every single day.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

The big news

We have a new addition to our family!!:

Gidget 
This past weekend J and I went to the pet store to pick up a new collar for Lola. The county animal shelter was holding an adoption fair near the front of the store, and this adorable chihuahua was sitting quietly in her pen with about five barking dogs. Of course, I had to walk by the pen two or three times and fawn over her and the other pups. Then J held her and, well, it was all over from there.

She is 6 years old, 3.5 pounds (tiny!!) and was found as a stray by the pound. She's very calm and shy, and seems to have been abused and over-bred. (How could anyone abuse such a little peanut? Beyond me.) She does have semi-severe hip issues that will most likely require surgery in a few years, but we didn't care. She had three days to get adopted or be euthanized, and the latter was definitely not an option. I'm a sucker when it comes to an animal that needs a home. 

I wanted to name her Cacahuete (Spanish for "peanut") but we decided to go with something a little shorter: Gidget.

Monday, May 9, 2011

You know it's almost summer when...

...you start figuring out your summer concert schedule. I used to be an avid concert-goer (think upwards of 10 concerts per summer), but these days I'm supposed to be saving for adult things like a home (I swear, watching paint dry is faster and less tedious than saving for a down payment. Siiiiigh). 

On a side note, we've had a change of summer travel plans. We're renting a pied-à-terre for a month in Buenos Aires this summer, which I am happy about since August is official tango month in Argentina, and well, Buenos Aires is one of my favorite cities on the map, but that means -- after buying my plane ticket last week -- that summer concerts are somewhat low on the priority totem pole. BUT, it turns out a friend has three tickets for U2's 360 tour that he can't use since he'll be in Manhattan all month recording with his record label. He offered to sell them to us over dinner on Friday night, and how could I say no? I would never let three perfectly good U2 tickets go to waste.

J. Me. My sister. U2 on June 7th. Inner Chihuahua doing back flips. (And because these tickets were not cheap, they BETTER play one of my favorite U2 songs of all time that I first became obsessed with as a wee 6th grader who loved her Mtv):



I'm sure they'll play my second favorite U2 song, With or Without You (so cliche, I know). 

Oh yes, and I've got some big news I'm planning to blog about on Wednesday. May is turning out to be an excellent month. :)

Thursday, May 5, 2011

The evolution of beauty

Dovima
“The ideal of beauty then was the opposite of what it is now. It stood for an extension of the aristocratic view of women as ideals, of women as dreams, of women as almost surreal objects.” -- fashion photographer Richard Avedon on supermodel Dovima.

Totally having a Dovima moment. They don't make 'em like they used to.

Monday, May 2, 2011

April in numbers

My first plate of Royal Wedding mini gherkins, 2:30 a.m. PST, April 29th, 2011.

25 - The total number of mini gherkins I ate while watching the Royal Wedding live. 

21 plus change - How old I'm telling people I am.

$1,000 - The amount I contributed to our house down payment in April using a portion of my freelance earnings.

4 - The number of birthday cakes I received at various parties with friends and family. I feel truly lucky to have such great people who care about me, and let me know through processed sugar! The cake flavors were: mint-n-chip ice cream cake, coconut cake, carrot cake and red velvet. By May 1st I felt like Marie Antoinette (minus that whole guillotine thing)
 
Countless - The number of times I balked at something Tamra Barney said or did on Real Housewives of Orange County. She's so marvelously trashy and tragically hypocritical that I just can't look away. Its hard to believe people like her actually exist.

5 - The number of books I scored for well below market value at my neighborhood Borders that's closing. I know I should feel bad about making out like a bandit from someone else's misfortune, but it's hard not to feel like a satisfied little vulture picking at the last bits of flesh when all fiction is marked 50% off and more. My booty: The Stranger, The Feast of the Goat, The Wapshot Chronicle, My Antonia and Absalom, Absalom.

168 - The number of pictures I took. Great memories.

3 - The pairs of shoes I bought. 

Friday, April 29, 2011

Carmel birthday, in pictures

I had the BEST weekend in Carmel with J. 

Our hotel room -- a small British-style cottage with a private entrance -- was beyond adorable. When we checked in, a bottle of Sherry and a welcome kit for our dog were already waiting inside, and we didn't have to use our car once all weekend since our room was on the main street near all shops and restaurants. I didn't want to leave! It's been a dream of mine my whole life to own a vacation home in Carmel, so we also browsed real estate in the area (just for fun) and let's just say the prices are a little high: bungalows and cottages start at about $2 million-plus. Nevertheless, I quietly added this dream to my bucket list. ;)

Our front door.
 
Banksy-style art on the outside of our chimney.
Wine tasting (above and below) at Vino Napoli.
Noshing on the Antipasto Misto, a platter of salumi, cheeses and olives.
The Tuck Box English Tea Room.
Watching the sunset during our hotel's wine and cheese social.
Dinner at Porta Bella's. The food and ambiance were amazing.
At the beach.
The Cheese Shop, one of Carmel's must-see places. The shop has over 300 different kinds of cheese from all over the world, and tasting is encouraged. We were given about 15 different cheeses to taste, and told the background on each type. Highly recommend a stop here.
We heard the best Bloody Marys in town were at A.W. Shucks, so we had to give them a whirl. They were divine. So good, in fact, that we ended up ordering five of them, along with plates of fresh oysters (below) on the half shell.
One of the many adorable little alleys lit up at night.