25 February 2013

This new beauty in the shadow of the Sierras. I could get used to it mighty fast.

Moving: the new adventure

First, we sold the furniture. My bed became this:

It was surprisingly cozy. I actually rather miss my little patch of floor.

Then we put everything into boxes, lots and lots of boxes, and even though it was only just a short period that I was going to be separated from it all (my books, my pencils, my SOCKS, that silly painted blue rose I got once), it was surprisingly hard to close the lid and tape it all up and away from myself. Make do with the minimum. I lost momentum and forgot to change my clothes for three days.

The boxes kept on piling up and up and up, into mountains and ranges and foothills of boxes, replete with riverine fans of STUFF that kept seeping back out as we unpacked and repacked and searched for lost items (can’t pack that last pan till the last dinner’s been made, best dig it out again; and get that wine back out. can’t lose the wine.) And things kept abruptly dripping out of the shimmies and cubbyholes of the apartment, every time we thought we’d packed it all up. All the tupperware at the very back of the top shelf. The cleaning products we left out and forgot about. THE WINE.

This is what our mountain looked like (I felt rather proud of it, in the end):

And then the mountain-movers came and packed every last piece of our mountain into their van, and I put my floor-bed into the last box and gave it away to them too, and my room looked like this, and felt rather sad and empty and abandoned:

Through it all, I felt excited and numb and adrenalized and surprisingly emotionless; it felt all remarkably unremarkable, somewhat trite and unexceptional. Comme ci comme ça. Another day in the life.

But now, as the boxes are beginning to melt away, as we haul out their innards and attempt (and re-attempt and then give up, and then have wine and then give it all another go) to get it all into working, functional order in cupboards and on shelves and in closets, the reality of the move is sinking in, and I’m EXHAUSTED. World-haltingly so. This isn’t even my move; it’s my mom’s and I’m here only to help, but the epic amount of work surrounding it, coupled with the knowledge that my fall-back home base has forever shifted, has played its role, and I am ready to sleep for a month.

Only I don’t have a month to sleep. I have a month to learn to love this town. It’s a brand new adventure here.

Adios, au revoir, goodbye, my city. Till next we meet.

20 February 2013


Last night I took a bus through the rain-soaked love affair that is my city. My trip fell in the lull that occurs once rush hour has abated, but before people hit the streets once more for drink and adventure (of which there is little on a damp, biting Monday).

Here is Los Angeles on a cloudy yet crystal-clear day. Look, you can practically see Catalina afloat at sea:

Last night was not one of those days. Last night was one of these days:

The bus I took was an impulsive alternative to the metro - a wending route from Altadena to my destination in Los Angeles - and the universe rewarded me with Max the conductor.

I was the only passenger on the bus for much of the journey, and so in a gesture of community I sat at the front, an irrevocable commitment to conversation. Max at first regaled me in great detail his plan with his cell phone carrier; after a good 2 miles he departed abruptly from that theme to describe his Facebook usage (as a recent evacuee from Facebook, I just nodded and smiled): he told a tale of being reunited with a long-lost friend from high school from the 80s, who had taken part in a prank with Max that had involved a rock. “He probably won’t remember you,” Max’s wife told him, but he went ahead and added his old friend nonetheless. He received an immediate response: “Do rocks fly at people’s heads?!? LOL” (I didn’t get this, but can only imagine it was heart-warming and hilarious)

As charming as his story of a friendship rekindled was, Max was not one to linger on it. His wife had been mentioned, and there was no more need to speak about anything else.

"I met her on Facebook," he recounted. "You know, just searching around for pretty girls. She was cute, so I sent her a message." She almost didn’t respond because A) she didn’t know him and B) he looked white (she prefers Latinos). However, she noticed that his last name was Hispanic, and overcame any reservations she had about him being a complete and utter stranger, and after they had chatted back and forth for several weeks she invited him for lunch. "She’s the first girl I ever fell in love with for her words, you know, not just because she was pretty," he told me. "But she is pretty, too."

Max talked about her like she is his queen. He shared oddly charming details of their life and the jokes they share (odd because although they were complete overshares, they succeeded in painting a beautiful picture): before dating him, for instance, she’d never let anyone touch her feet, but as soon as she took off her shoes he couldn’t keep away (“She’s kind of short and chunky, and she just has the cutest feet - just, wow!” — with feeling). He’s named her feet Linda and Laura, and when he says hello to his wife, he says hello to her feet as well (they respond to him with his wife’s voice). While I might view foot-naming as grounds for terminating a relationship, Max’s lover clearly feels differently. Two years married, now; a relationship born from a semi-creepy stalker let’s-date message on Facebook.

"She had this awful phone right at the beginning," he told me. "So I went and got her another one. But this was way before these internet phones. I got her this nice flip phone, and I got it in purple, because you know, she told me that her favorite color was purple. So I called her from the store and I told her, ‘Babe, I’m getting you a new phone.’ ‘What kind?’ she asked. I told her, ‘It’s a purple flip phone,’ and she was all ‘Oh my god, oh my god! How did you remember that was my favorite color??’ and I said ‘Babe, I remember everything you tell me.’ "

Dear Max: I know way too many intimate details about your married life, but I’m charmed and I’m delighted and I feel inspiration for humanity if even Facebook can birth a tale as wonderfully unexpected as yours. Perhaps I shall see you again one day: if the conversation on buses is consistently this much better than on the metro, then consider me a convert.

My good old dog; a painting for my mom for Christmas.

18 February 2013

A few recent doodles. The first is some ent-love and surrealism, I suppose; the second just free flow. I am never not thinking about dragons.

The third one is inspired by an angry seagull that I met last week while in Monterey; with a captured sea star proudly clutched in its beak, it landed in front of the table where I was lunching with my mom & friend Rachel. We watched as it proceeded to poke and harass the sea star for a brief while, then took wing and disappeared. Slowly the sea star began to move its legs, rocking on its back pitifully on the balcony outside our window; we became increasingly concerned that it had been abandoned by its captor and would die in vain, uneaten. Finally R climbed out onto the balcony to toss the sea star back into the ocean, and almost immediately the seagull, screeching and angered, swooped back to express its sense of injustice at her action. A short while later the sea star had been recaptured, and this time the gull retreated to a safe distance from the threat of our tender hearts, to eat its prize in peace.

17 February 2013

Neil Gaiman is one of my favorite authors, and Coraline one of my favorite stories of his. This lady has some awesome makeup videos, including this one of Coraline with her creepy button eyes.

07 February 2013

San Gerardo de Rivas. Deje nada más que tus huellas, lleve nada más que tus recuerdos.

The fallen temple of Nahomi, Punta Quepos.

The red clay trail up Mt Chirripó, at dawn.

Dominicalito, the little brother to Dominical; a beach of shells and driftwood and magic.

I'm just gonna sit here with a way old paint job and look awesome. No biggie. Cahuita.

Goduana catching a bus from Manuel Antonio.

Magic wings.

Not sure which is more beautiful here - the endless entrancing depth of that aquamarine sea, or the built shirtless surfer standing next to it. The best part? You can have BOTH.

An ode, in color, to Costa Rica:
Where we walked on red river roads until our feet ached with the weight of clay.
Where the trees hung heavy and pregnant with lianas trickling in green tangled webs down to their woody toes.
Where the sun burned so hard that we came back, hungry and red-skinned, to worship again each day before it.
Where the salt crystals clung like white hard sweat to our hairs, our pores, our lips and we could taste the ocean as we ate and kissed and breathed, and as we danced we felt intoxicated with its smell. 
Where the ocean coaxed us and seduced us and folded us inside its rolling blue breast, and we let ourselves disappear, embryonic, into its huge vast depths until it let us stumble out, exhausted and enraptured and completed, onto the shore.
When we woke up, drowsy and drunken in love with it all; with you, made of sand and vines and shells and snakes; you, smelling of salt and of leaf litter and of sweating heavy air; you, alive at night with the hum of a million beating feet; tú.
All this to say that in March I will be heading back to Costa Rica, this time on a more permanent living-there basis than last time. As you can probably tell, I am pretty excited about this.

PS: Did I mention this one time in Costa Rica when I got muy, MUY tostada and then went snorkeling? (see my snorkel guide in the last photo above) Coral reefs are SO MUCH MORE AWESOME when the fish are singing to you and the sunlight is dancing on your arms and you take a deep breath and you are UNDERWATER but you’re BREATHING! and then HOLY SHIT a stingray goes past and for a moment it occurs to you that you probably wouldn’t be able to react appropriately if it behaved aggressively, but that thought is gone in a moment because it’s just vanished into the dim shifting haze of the water below you, and you think about how BEAUTIFUL it is that you’re just floating there, above this teeming aquatic civilization, and even if these organisms are aware of your presence, they clearly don’t perceive you as a threat, so you can just hang there infinitely, buoyant in their H2O atmosphere….

Truly one of the most philosophical snorkeling experiences I have ever had.

06 February 2013

In my pocket I have: A kleenex, crumpled. Two $1 bills. A gum wrapper. Two quarters. One dime.

In my purse I have: A notebook. A drawing pad. Five pens. Three pencils. A lighter. A packet of gum. An eraser. A USB stick. Lipstick (spiced cider). Another gum wrapper. A pair of gloves. Chapstick. A book. Dancing slippers.

In a café, someone (charming, ordinary, with an entrancing smile) asks me for a pen; or maybe he doesn’t even ask me. But I can tell he needs one, he’s searching his pockets and his bag, with his sketchbook lying open in front of him. I hand him one of mine, and as my bag falls open he sees my book. He asks me what book I’m reading. We talk authors. I get out my notebook to write down the titles he suggests. He’s just finished his coffee. I offer him a stick of gum. He asks me out dancing. Let’s go! I’ve already got my shoes.

05 February 2013

Life Without Facebook: Day 1

In a world of technology, it seems that addiction is rapidly changing and expanding. In the past, addiction has generally been defined as dependence on a substance, namely alcohol, cigarettes, or drugs, though it was also inclusive of activities such as gambling and shopping. Tiger Woods famously brought the world’s attention to the concept of a sex addiction, and it’s difficult to say whether he was so ruthlessly mocked because it seemed ludicrous that he was able to excuse his infidelity as a medically legitimate condition, or because we found it difficult to expand our understanding of the definition of addiction.

In the years since Tiger Woods vanished into rehab, we’ve seen a rush of new kinds of addiction begin to surface and strengthen - namely, in the form of technology addictions. As smartphones begin to become more and more widely used, websites that once could hold our attention only when we had access to a computer and a wifi zone can now notify us anytime, anyplace. Facebook wall post? Notification. Private message? Notification. Retweet? Notification. Someone invited you to feed their cow in Farmville? Notification (albeit insanely underwhelming). Emails, blog updates, ebay countdowns… it’s all RIGHT THERE in our pockets, and it is turning us into addicted, hungry-for-more, notification-addled cyber-humans.

I know that I personally feel cut off when I go even a few hours without my iPod or phone (I should mention that I don’t even have a smart phone. I have a seriously old-school flip-phone that DOESN’T EVEN HAVE A CAMERA. Sheesh. But my iPod is a 4th generation touch, which means that I do have wifi capability - so I’m straddling that fine line between the technological yesteryear and the cyberhighways of tomorrow); I get this growing nervousness that someone MUST have tried to contact me, that things are HAPPENING out there, that the cyberworld with its rapid communications is PASSING ME BY as I chug along in the snail-slowness of realtime.

There seem to be two different sides to this technology addiction. First, there is an addiction to the notifications themselves, and to receiving them (preferably as MANY as techno-humanly possible); second, there is an addiction to the newsfeed, fueled by a fear of missing any new pieces of information.

The psychological attraction to receiving notifications, I imagine, is that they trigger a feeling of self-importance derived from the idea that having someone write on your facebook wall can be interpreted as a sort of proof of popularity. If a lot of people write on your wall, you are obviously important, well-loved; if no one writes on your wall, you are dandruff-girl (secret hero?) from The Breakfast Club. A fairly simplified interpretation, but which nevertheless lies at the heart of the addiction. Notifications that are less of a direct feedback on personal popularity (“So-and-so wrote on the wall of this group that you forgot you were a part of” or “some friend-of-a-friend commented on that status that you pity-liked earlier today” or, worst of all, the Farmville invite) are less welcome - there is the thrill at the sight of a notification, followed immediately by disappointment at its low personal value.

Image credit: memegenerator.net

To generate more notifications that make you feel like a validated person (“best friend just wrote on your wall/put a link on your wall/commented on your wall post” or “hot person from last Friday’s party just tagged you in a photo” or “super respected teacher from college just sent you a message”), you are going to make yourself more Facebook-active to prompt more responses. You will write on more walls, share more links, like more photos in order to increase your interaction level with the people you want to be receiving notifications from in return. And voilà: they respond, your notification count goes up. Which creates a hunger for MORE notifications, which requires more Facebook interaction… and the cycle of addiction has begun.

Of course this is just on Facebook, where ideally your friends are mostly people you’ve actually met in real life - but in the worlds of Twitter and blogging you are offered the expansion pack of receiving feedback from tens - hundreds - nay, thousands! of people who you have never met, but who have found you through common interests, hashtags, random surfing of the interwebs… if having a friend write on your wall makes you feel loved, how about having an artistically talented stranger reblog a picture you drew? That is affirmation that feels truly objective in a way that a friend’s compliments never quite can.

Image Credit: winarticles.net

The second kind of technology addiction is the addiction to the newsfeed, the twitter-feed, the RSS feed, what-have-you. The constant update of information. It’s not personalized in the way a notification is, so it doesn’t offer that thrill of popularity - yet it offers a never-ending source of entertainment, a glimpse into the world, with the addictiveness of voyeurism as you watch people’s lives unfold online (especially those on Facebook who really haven’t learned how to keep their relationships off the internet), or the self-aggrandizing thrill of LEARNING CLEVER NEW THINGS as you see the news unfold, or scientific developments be announced. It allows one to literally do nothing and yet be entertained, informed, shocked, amused (not to mention feel connected to friends & family!) as one new thing after another pops up; while at the same time creating a need to check in compulsively and constantly, lest even one single grain of information be missed. For the idle mind, this is a terrible trap: the newsfeed more often than not offers the intellectual stimulation of the infamous Snuggie infomercial, yet triggers our socio-technologically confused brains into thinking that we’re participating with the world by seeing the updates of friends/family/news/science/etc.

That’s certainly not to say that these updates don’t provide us with any information - I love the science tweets I subscribe to, and I follow quite a lot of them pretty ardently. And there have been any number of occasions when I’ve referenced a friend’s tweet back to them (is that still retweeting?) during an actual real-life conversation. But I also see just how addictive the presentation of this information is, with every single social networking site. It generates a need to constantly check for updates, a fear of missing crucial information, a willingness to scroll through backlogged news to ensure that nothing was skipped - all of which is facilitated and amplified to a frighteningly addictive level with smart devices.

And that’s kind of overwhelming to me. Especially because I have learned over and over again that I have an addictive personality: chocolate (now I aggressively crave it when I’m stressed), caffeine (I build a physical addiction within 3 days, so much so that I have painful withdrawal symptoms if I stop drinking it on the 4th day), certain routines… and now it’s that little buzz of excitement every time I open my email and see that I have a new Facebook/Twitter/Tumblr/LinkedIn (wait… seriously? wow. that… that is sad)/Google+/ANYTHING update.

So, to make a reaaally long story short, I deleted my Facebook. And it feels, well, remarkably NOT like the end of the world. In fact, this morning when I woke up I read for an hour, and then I made breakfast for my mom and drew for a while, and then I got some important documents faxed (okay, so maybe I’m not ready for the 21st century yet… I’ll rewrite this article once I’ve sold the fax machine to an antiques yard for about 75¢), wrote until it was time to run some errands, and blah de blah blah, in short I did all the productive things that make me feel like a responsible grown-up who doesn’t piss around all day on the internet. And the very best part is that I got to feel brilliantly self-important and wildly alternative and ever-so-bohemian because now I get to be one of those weird fringe members of society who is NOT ON FACEBOOK.

Which, let’s be honest, is not quite as big an accomplishment as, oh, writing a novel/curing diseases/being an Olympic gold medalist/knowing how to do a cartwheel, and in all honesty I will probably have to get back on Facebook eventually to get in touch with that friend who said I could stay on the couch for free while I look for an apartment when I move back to San José… but for the time being, it feels pretty exciting, and pretty liberating, and pretty self-empowering. For someone who lacks the self-control to stop scrolling down through the damn newsfeed backlog, I feel that this was a heckuva good step in the right direction.

A variety of interesting articles on this topic courtesy of Huffington Post: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/news/technology-addiction

Wikihow’s 7 steps on defeating Facebook addiction. Mainly I just love this bit: “While there is currently no such thing as a medically blessed diagnosable ‘Facebook addiction’ or ‘Facebook addiction disorder’ that a health or medical professional could categorically state you’re suffering from, addictive behaviors have common threads that can lead to dysfunctional socializing and obsessive behaviors.” Clearly a risk!