ROAD TRIP UPDATE: VI {08:45, tucson}

we staggered to the front desk at our tucson hotel something like forty minutes before they let our room go for the evening (we took our sweet time getting out of orange county, and i took my sweet time getting through the mountains between san diego and yuma when a sudden thunderstorm flashed me back to hydroplaning and totaling a car in the rain when i was 18). "i really like your shirt," said the fellow who checked us in. if you would know true and constant love, internets, adopt a shelter animal and/or find yourself an old siouxsie and the banshees tee on ebay and wear it around when you travel.

i have been up since six or so this morning, when i began to stir and worry about the article i had to send to new york by eight. i wrote most of said article in the passenger seat as the interstate unspooled behind us last night, which is either the loveliest or the most terrible thing that's happened to me since i declared myself a freelance writer last fall. a framed poster on the plaster wall behind this desk promotes DILLINGER DAYS, an annual celebration of the anniversary of john dillinger's capture by the tucson police department in 1934. i have outlived john dillinger by five years so far. there are four pairs of earplugs tucked behind the shampoo and lotion in the bathroom.


the dirty dozen {twelve notable excerpts from the decade-spanning comment thread i discovered when i turned to the internet after a melon at my father's house started hissing and foaming*}

01 If I find anything, I'll post again, I go by the pseudonym SealMan, by the way.

02 Better a $5 watermelon lost than a broken washing machine.

03 My husband is very supersticious and believes this was a super-natural incident. Thank goodness I found this blog, I was starting to believe him.

04 Am I the only one that heard theirs pop? It was a pop and then a fizzling sound. The watermelon is still fizzing four hours later and leaving a yellow bubble like liquid behind. Ewh, I'm glad I had some kind of notice before I tried to eat the thing. I was thinking today was going to be the day.

05 I bought a pack of 2 mini watermelons from the Altamonte Costco on Aug 22nd. On Aug 23rd I came home from work and exactly the same thing happened to me. It smelled like vomit on dead people all over my kitchen. I dont know how a volleyball sized mellon managed to have sprayed gallons of fluid and chunks all over my kitchen, but there was at least an 8 foot spray. All the fruit next to it rotted instantly.

06 I couldn't even talk this morning I was so horse, (and I have a bad back so I have been sleeping on the couch about 10 feet away from the watermelon all weekend)!!!

07 It was dark and I only saw something that seemed to be coming from inside the melon...and trying to get out. I swear I even saw some sort of light emanating from my melon. I was so freaked out!

08 wow! we just cut open a watermelon purchased from walmart in thornton,co tonight. Right when i cut it open it spilled about two cups of clear liquid all over the counter. But what really caught my eye was the inside of the melon. It was growing so weird, kinda spiral looking with 4 red circles inside. The rest was light pink not consistent at all. i know this was not normal this is about our 10th watermelon this year.

09 I bought a mini-watermelon from Fresh & Easy in Burbank yesterday and tonight when I came home from a party, I saw it was foaming and smelled fermented. My husband keeps telling me to cut it open to see if a bug comes out, but I have declined.

10 It's 2015 and I'll be the first to continue this discussion. We just had this in a mini watermelon, a stream of white foam coming from the end of the watermelon. I have never seen this in nearly 40 years of eating watermelons. I now have a special connection with this group of fine people.

11 I think they were honeydew, my least favorite melon. No matter how long I waited, they were never going to look like a cantaloupe.

12 I will cut new watermelon today, but am a bit apprehensive!

*it seems likely that said melon had bacterial fruit blotch.


ROAD TRIP UPDATE: V {11:45, los angeles}

in the six and a half hours it took us to get from our bungalow in phoenix to my sister and brother-in-law's new apartment in industrial los angeles, the temperature on our little car's instrument panel dropped from 45 to 19 degrees celsius; god bless california. i woke up this morning when taco (their 25-year-old box turtle) began his early-morning summertime dance in the terrarium next to our inflatable mattress. we're excited about marriage equality too, taco.

in case it takes laramie a while to get there with her monthly newsletter (sign up for her monthly newsletter), note that el atacor #11's potato tacos live up to the hype and are perhaps the best possible way to celebrate making it over chiriaco summit without breaking down on the side of the interstate (we got that out of the way in my in-laws' truck in scottsdale on thursday afternoon, when we limped to the nearest exit ramp and shopping center, where i ran into the ladymag's former fashion editor as we partook of the air conditioning at a sports authority).

i rode with my father-in-law when he took the truck back to the bungalow. "when i got this as a repo it had just my front seat, here; down in mexico these guys had gutted it and were filling it full of drugs and off-roading it across the desert."


ROAD TRIP UPDATE: IV {17:55, phoenix}

my sister-in-law brought our elfin redheaded nephew over from the other side of town last night. due to start kindergarten in the fall and gloriously pre-haircut, quentin was an occasional glimpse of ringlets behind his dad's knees for his first few hours here; he hasn't seen us since the winter before last, and we're meeting all over again. when he crept out and showed a bit of interest in an origami set we found on a shelf of board games, we racked our brains for middle-school memories: his mom made him a cootie catcher, i tried to recall the little paper balloons my best friend and i would fold and inflate, and joe half-remembered a paper airplane. the only stiff piece of standard paper we could find was a copy of joe's resume that he'd left in his carry-on bag and had been using for notes on phone calls, so wings it became. the airplane was the big winner, of course; ill-creased as it was, it swooped over the lawn like a maddened fly. quentin was instantly enchanted and shriek-giggled as he chased each wonky flight; who doesn't trust and love uncle joe the plane-chucker?

joe squinted to re-fold a busted wing in the afternoon's waning light. "this is the best response my resume has ever gotten."


ROAD TRIP UPDATE: III {13:45, phoenix)

i called my dad at nine o'clock this morning, chest-deep in an amoeba-shaped pool in the middle of a thoughtfully xeriscaped yard in downtown phoenix. by half past ten the sun had melted the glue binding my mass-market copy of a clash of kings; the chapter on tyrion's nightmares after the battle of the blackwater detached from the book's spine and fluttered to my lap. i'm now the color of the little she-cardinals in the canary island palm behind our old bungalow (they sound like ben). i don't know that i'm interested in being ben-colored, but i'm not sure i have a choice at this point.


ROAD TRIP UPDATE: II {19:55, somewhere over indiana}

i sing of the peace of mind afforded by a $50 refurbished wifi camera! it's possible that i'll end up with a $5000 cellular bill next month now that i receive a smartphone push notification every time a creature passes between the cats' food bowls and our rusty craigslist bar cart, but it's ever so lovely to have occasional proof that our shy little siamese isn't turning to dust under the bed—or turning to dust more quickly than the rest of us are, i suppose. for our next month-long road trip i think i'll buy a second camera and train it on our stove. the sleep i will sleep knowing that ghosts haven't fiddled with the knobs and burned the house down, internets! i am glad i won't have a spare motion-sensing camera, on the other hand, when we're staying in a shack on the mississippi delta in a few weeks; i don't want grainy phone footage of a spectral sharecropper stealing our souls in the moonlight.



car: coming along well at my in-laws' place in arizona, supposedly

cassettes for car's old blaupunkt player: to be purchased (ebay?)*

confirmed itinerary:
nights 1-5: phoenix, az (airbnb, house)
nights 6-8: los angeles (chez jo)
nights 9-11: orange county, ca (chez dad)
night 12: tucson, az (funky old hotel)
night 13: el paso, tx (funky old hotel)
nights 14-15: marfa, tx (airbnb, warehouse)
nights 16-18: austin, tx (airbnb, trailer)
night 19: dallas, tx (funky new hotel)
night 20: clarksdale, ms (shack)
night 21: st. louis, mo (tbd)
nights 22-24: chicago (chez jen)
nights 24-25: nashville, tn (airbnb, apartment)
night 26: asheville, nc (tbd)
nights 27-29: charleston, sc (funky old hotel)
nights 30-32ish: baltimore, md or washington, dc (tbd)**

petsitter: booked, to be warned about the wi-fi pet camera so she doesn't think we're creepers

ratty copy of more five-minute mysteries: purchased

wi-fi pet camera: purchased

joe's last day of work is tomorrow, and as we're leaving soon, i'm transitioning from trying to get editors excited about irresponsible-road-trip-related stories (which is working, i think!) to keeping new projects to a minimum until we get back (what if we settle in mississippi for good?). our loved ones are enthusiastic about the trip, perhaps in the way that one can be excited about someone else getting a pixie cut or a tattoo, but i also like pixie cuts and tattoos. that works for me.

imaginary reading group discussion questions

01 do we need a dashboard talisman?
02 do you have a favorite place to stay in el paso and/or asheville?
03 will we die in a shack?

*i need to get on this. at present the sole tape in our possession is the anniversary edition of straight outta compton joe bought on record store day.
**at this point i feel a bit like spinal tap, or a MASH LARPer.


as of the middle of june, our little family will boast a total of zero steady jobs, unless you count whatever it is that steve does. joe realized a few weeks back that he needed to stop spending three hours a day getting to and from his office in the bronx, that we should reap the benefits of having been employed and childless before we are too old to really appreciate said benefits, and, oh yeah, that we should stick with the plan of picking up the old car we were going to buy from his parents (to streamline the process of getting to and from the bronx) and we should drive it across the country. i agreed to all of that, he put in his notice, and now we're planning a month-long road trip? customary catsitter, please reconfirm for me that you're able to feed and water the dudes in our absence (this is, predictably, one of the most stressful parts of what's happening, for me).

frequently and/or fictitiously asked questions

Q: what will joe do now?

A: we don't know. something in the same field, probably. an important part of the job-leaving experience is the lack of a job on the other side, he tells me, so i made sure we were up to date on the sort of things you need comparatively fancy health insurance to tackle, and that was that.

Q: where will you go?

the car is in phoenix, so we're starting there; after visiting with his parents for several days, we'll drive to los angeles and see some of my family, see showgirls, and start heading east.

Q: how are you addressing the fact that since matty hides from strangers, no one is going to see him for a whole month?

A: a wi-fi pet camera to catch him when he sneaks out for food, sort of the yuppie version of the planet earth tech used to film the elusive snow leopard? i'm still working on this.

Q: is benjamin black's the black-eyed blonde a worthy successor to raymond chandler's novels?

A: no, unfortunately. that times review i linked in the title made me laugh, as i too read "cancer stick" and promptly checked to see if the term would be anachronistic for a chandler character (it probably is). in my case i wasn't jumping on black because i thought he was too good; i think he chokes the reader with (often subpar) chandlerisms, and i really hated his zillion clumsy references to the long goodbye (for my money, chandler's best work). the black-eyed blonde is worth reading as a chandler-nerd talking point, but it belongs in the canon like a pearl onion on a banana split.

Q: what does the old car look like?

A: this, more or less.

Q: are you going to write about the trip?

A: we've made plans to stay in a '55 spartan imperial mansion in west texas and at the mississippi crossroads where robert johnson sold his soul to the devil so he could play the blues. what do you think?


the dirty dozen {notes from my hometown police blotter, as reported by the oc register*}

Suspicious person/circumstances. 1:19 p.m. The caller said a doughnut shop was open but the front had been unattended for more than 20 minutes and there were people inside.
Citizen assist. 12:33 p.m. The caller said his neighbor yelled at him the night before.
Citizen assist. 10:25 p.m. The caller reported kids running a stop sign and said they didn’t apologize to her.
Suspicious person/circumstances. 7:47 a.m. The caller reported a man digging a large hole, saying it looked like a shallow grave.
Suspicious person/circumstances. 9:26 p.m. The caller said a stranger rang the doorbell and knocked on the door last night and now there is a cardboard box at the door with writing that says, “We’re watching you, happy birthday.”
Petty theft report. 5:56 p.m. The caller reported her knitting bag stolen.
Suspicious person/circumstances. 7:33 p.m. The caller reported a man who had a prescription pad and had written his own prescription.
Disturbance – family dispute. 6:52 p.m. The caller said his wife is refusing to let him take a walk with their kids.
Keep the peace. 12:34 a.m. The caller reported a female neighbor who called the police on him for loud music.
Suspicious person in a vehicle. 2:11 p.m. The caller reported two men in a truck with an attached trailer who asked if she was waiting for a sofa delivery, but she didn’t see any furniture.
Disturbance. 7:52 a.m. The caller said her husband is acting crazy, yelling and chasing her around the house. She said he is on steroids and this could be a possible side effect.
Vandalism report. 8:40 a.m. The caller said he called about neighbors above being noisy the night before, and in the morning he found that they dumped blueberry pie mix and caramel on his patio and damaged his plants.
Suspicious person/circumstances. 3:04 p.m. The caller reported a man with a camera set up across from the fire station for the last few hours, filming fire engines.

*previous installment here.


ghost fridge


the girls from corona del mar (book). i've been meaning to crack a book by someone my age that takes place where i grew up for years. i've resented maggie shipstead a little for painting the OC broadly in comments, but she isn't really talking about my (middle-middle-class, public-school) orange county. rufi thorpe, on the other hand, is: i know the shabby condo apartments she describes, the planned parenthood in costa mesa. that said, that mia and lorrie ann's afternoons sound like mine with my elementary-school best friend owes more to thorpe's facility with emotional architecture than it does with the fact that i too have admired the koi at fashion island in recent years; her tale of a stone-hearted girl who is terribly fortunate and an angelic girl the vultures of bad luck won't let alone, and how their relationship mutates as their fates develop, hits me where i live. i have some people to call.

glow (book). in thinking about young ned beauman's third novel i'm trying not to focus on the charming inscription (to someone who is not me) in the uk edition of it i found at my bookstore last week or the equally charming way he directs readers to his "new personal" twitter account, with some but admittedly limited success. glow concerns itself with south london, neurochemistry, pirate radio, and foxes, and i will tell joe to read it if he ever finishes kavalier & clay on his terrible daily commute to the bronx (why are you so far away, the bronx? i need that zoo); it feels like contemporary noir, but for the fact that the main female character is three-dimensional and determined (unlike the main character's sidekick's three indistinguishable japanese fashion-student roommates, described only and always as "magnificent," which is funny until it's insulting and, alright, possibly funny again). beauman was the youngest writer included on granta's most recent 'best young british novelists' list, but i don't feel the sort of contempt for him that many friends of mine developed when, say, jonathan safran foer turned his princeton thesis into a novel; this could be because in my mid-thirties i've lost the ability to care about when and how other writers decide to publish things, but i think it's because he sounds like a decent guy.

it follows (film). horror is the capsaicin of the film world, right? those jolts of unpleasantness goad your body into releasing serotonin as a self-soother, and you get a nice flush of feel-good chemicals to congratulate you on simply identifying with a pretty detroit-adjacent teenager who sleeps with a new guy and is consequently terrorized by an invisible-to-everyone-else sex demon instead of actually being one. good on writer-director david robert mitchell for using detroit and its suburbs as a thoughtfully updated version of the landscape john carpenter moved through in halloween instead of two-dimensional ruin porn, and for depicting a group that contracts protectively around an imperiled friend instead of scattering and getting picked off one by one, a la the majority of mainstream horror characters. i also very much appreciated how mitchell flipped the script (several times) on traditional treatments of sexuality; it follows is no mere VD metaphor, but a fine exploration of personal responsibility. it also scared the shit out of me.

imaginary reading group discussion questions

01 have you admired the koi at fashion island?
02 are you able to get rid of books which have been inscribed to you without removing the inscription?
03 would an art project involving books inscribed to strangers be exciting or unsporting? both?
04 who's the best young british novelist?
05 how does one defeat an invisible-to-everyone-else sex demon?

(ghost photograph on our refrigerator inspired by angela deane)


There is this kind of construction crane—the sort you have to get a whole crew of skilled workers to assemble before you can build the thing you needed the crane to lift into being. These cranes are stories tall and when they begin to take shape, they appear sturdy, permanent. And as you watch one getting built, you think you’re watching an end unto itself, but it’s the making of the means. The moment when the crane-not-structure realization hits you is confusion, longing, recalibration of expectations and a little bit of awe. I recount this analogy at lunch one day with the poet. We pull apart our grilled salami sandwiches and wipe grease from our fingers as we talk. Building these things—this marriage, this home, this family—and then dismantling them: my life thus far has been spent building a crane I needed to build the life I was building all along.

(michelle mirsky, from "it's all gonna break..." in no fear of flying: kamikaze missions in death, sex, and comedy)


ye private infinity pool

still recovering from the loss of the private infinity pool we had in grenada last week. it's going to take some time.