Jul 30, 2007

I will be going to this festival in Omaha, Nebraska, in September. Lit Fest is run by Timothey Schaffert, whom I love, and this year's is dedicated to DEPRAVED WOMEN. And I will be on a panel about reinventing fairytales and likely one on fashion. And festivals are very very fun. And I really want to see Omaha, too, because I love the Midwest and I have never been to OMAHA NEBRASKA. Just the name makes me think of porches and fireflies and tornadoes!

And I am going to this festival in Nashville, Tennessee, in October. Nashville is one of the best cities in this country and get a gander at the authors who are coming! Plus River Jordan is the author who invited me and she's all southern and smooth and soulful and calls people baby, and I hope I get to see her house.

Oh and: my 8pm flight out of Maine has been delayed till 10:30. I have now been in this airport for 8 hours and they have rudely stopped serving food and drink. The manners!
So I got stuck in Portland for a day and spent the night at a La Quinta Inn, and am flying out tonight on the same flight I was supposed to get yesterday. Even though I really needed to be at work today and even though I had to fork over for a hotel and even though had I known my flight was cancelled I would have spent more time with my friends and those babies... I still cannot possibly describe the elation I felt yesterday as I entered my hotel room. I love hotel rooms with my whole heart. I love being alone in a hotel room in a strange city where I don't know anyone. A couple of my favorite days I've ever had were like that, as I think I've described, being 18 alone in Denver and 19 alone in Billings, Montana, just sort of suspended for a day before heading on and the feeling of freedom and weightlessness that comes with it.

Anyway, here are things I've been meaning to mention:

1. Devotchka. Last week Joi and I saw Devotchka again at the Spiegeltent downtown. For me it was just completely transporting, the most estatic, full music. We were tired, I was hot, we had to wait a long time to get in.. my shoes hurt.. a few times I wondered if we should just bail out, but then when they started I was just swept into it.. I remember feeling like all music should feel that way, make you feel ecstatic and heartbroken and just like everything is contained within it. I think Devotchka might be the most romantic band I've ever seen, too, with the singer in his red shirt holding his bottle of wine, the tuba/cello girl with the flower behind her ear and long dress, the accordion player/violinist in his suit. And then near the end a tiny sparkling girl comes out and does this whole aerial act on silks hanging from the center of the tent.

2. Sculpture. I don't know if I can sum this up at all, but my friend David's friend Chris was having a viewing of his sculptures and I went down with them to see before the event started, and when I walked into the room all I saw were blocks of cement, some odd shapes with colors.. I wasn't even sure if they were the actual sculptures. Then I walked around them for a long time, just looking at them, and the more I looked the more they started to have some life in them, for me. David and Chris left me alone for a while because they were making me self conscious.. so then I could get down and peer into them and touch them... The thing is I have never been moved by sculpture, except maybe something like the Pieta.. it's just an art I don't really get or have access to, I am probably way too hooked into language and story and recognizable imagery... And then when they came back I asked Chris if he could explain one to me, just how he made it, how it felt to make it, what he felt when he made it, and so he started talking and he's this open, expressive, emotional, brilliant guy, and as he spoke I was able to start seeing the sculptures through his eyes, and the room slowly came to life, all these forms shifting around me, and I started to understand his passion and his vision, and the sculptures, as I looked, started to work their way into me.. and it was just this intense, amazing experience of being made to see something you couldn't see before and letting an art that works in more unconscious ways start to have its effect on you. So some day soon I'm going to visit Chris in his studio to see more, see how he works, etc.

3. Year of Magical Thinking. I saw this play a few months ago and was blown away, as I described, but then last week I saw it again. And was just as blown away. But now I have much more of a sense of how many people were not blown away by this play, how many people think that Joan Didion's writing about her own grief is somehow suspect, or feel that the way she writes about her own grief is too cold and emotionless, as if a howl of pain would be more authentic than this need to catalogue and master it, and to me.. I just feel like this has more to do with grief and death, our discomfort, than anything else, tho I may be wrong.. and I feel like what she is describing, in the book and the play, is the very act of surviving grief, just raw obliterating grief, by attempting to catalogue it and make sense of it and note every phase of it... and the strength of this need seems to me to speak to the power of the grief itself rather than her own coldness, her mind set against the overwhelming despair inside her, and I just think that play is the opposite of cold, and of emotionless. And I think the very act of creating a book and play out of such despair and loss, actually finding the language to communicate it to other people, is as life affirming and important an act as there is.

4. Ellen M. Taylor. I should mention also that Chelsea and I, on Saturday, went to the gorgeous gorgeous old time farmhouse, way out in the country, of this poet, who served us lemonade in her yard near the mulberry trees, next to her garden and the long grass the babies played in, and she showed us this room between the house and the barn that was filled from floor to ceiling with chopped wood, and the smell in there! The wood smell with the breeze and the flowers moving through the open doors just spoke of country and cold nights with fires burning,

and we walked out over this wide field to the pond, a pond they own and swim in during the summer and skate on during the winter, and.. it was all just about the most perfect way to live I can imagine. Then on the bus back into Portland yesterday I read her poetry, which is the kind of poetry that just tangles itself around you. Look:

among hills spotted with cattle,
valleys of leafy silo corn,
I return home
to the scent of salt, the grit of sand,
the songs of gulls and sea pipers,
to hum to the snails.

Did you know
if you hold a snail in the palm of your hand
and hum, stopping only to breathe when needed,
the snail will crawl out of his shell
and visit you? Stop
the hum, and he will slide back into his home
leaving you only the reflection
of his winking eye.

This I learned from my mother,
and how to count the age of seaweed,
the bitter taste of beach mustard,
where to find a mermaid's purse.
How to parse the grammar of the sea
and the syntax of her shore,
the symmetry of a mussel shell,
so milky blue,
so pure, so fine.

Jul 29, 2007

So Im sitting here in the airport in Portland, Maine, after this completely idyllic summer weekend full of babies and fried clams and farmhouses and ponds and lighthouses and poetry and picnics and long drives and naps and sunburns that make you want to go to sleep:

And I've just eaten clam chowder and a lobster roll for dinner and thought I had two hours to just sit and write before my flight, but then I check livejournal and see all this talk of thunderstorms and rain, and I start to hear the people around me talk of flight cancellations and delays, and now I look and see ALL THE FLIGHTS TO NEW YORK ARE CANCELLED THIS EVENING. This has never happened to me before and my friends are an hour away. Thus I feel extremely bad for myself and am putting off my sad return to the US Airways line to see what I am supposed to do.

Jul 27, 2007

I wanted to update about a few things, like seeing Devotchka earlier in the week, and seeing Year of Magical Thinking for the second time, and seeing my friend David's friend Chris's sculpture and having a whole room of his pieces come to life for me as he told me about them, but this morning I flew to Maine to visit my old friend Chelsea, who is now a French professor at the University of Maine, and her husband Greg and their 1.5 year old twin daughters Chloe and Alina,


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and so I don't have time.

Tomorrow: lighthouses.

Jul 26, 2007

I need a lot of love and validation.

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Jul 22, 2007

This morning I took a long walk through Forest Park with shamelessthedog and took pictures of the amazing, completely elaborate and beautiful carousel from 1903.

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There is also a very creepy pond nearby that is the perfect place for a murder:

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Jul 20, 2007

So Wednesday evening I went to visit my friend Anne, who lives in this amazing old-time building on Park Avenue in the 30's. I walked into this gleaming lobby with huge framed Audobon prints on the walls and a perfect floor and leather sofas and wood panelled walls.

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I met her dog and saw her gorgeous apartment and then we went up to the ROOF DECK which was one of the best places I have been in this city. Empire State Building jutting up to the left, Chrysler building in front, the river off to the right. Views from every direction, all through the tangle of flowers growing around the perimeter of the deck. No one was up there. There were several tables and a whole line of lounge chairs, and ivy growing up the one wall. And well, as Anne will probably move in a few years when she has another child it is clear I will have to get very loaded by then so I can buy the place from her.

So I stood and took a ton of photos and tried not to swoon in fear as I saw Park and Fifth Avenues below me and the taxis looking like toy cars and I had that weird fear you get, thinking what if I lost control for a second and just ran off the side? And what was weird, too, is there were these three huge white birds. I guess seagulls? Just flying around and around so fast, almost over our heads and then swooping past the Chrysler building and past all the other skyscrapers, then back down around again. It was strange, following these birds, trying to get them on film and to see where they went; it made the city seem very vast and silent in a way it never seems otherwise.

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It was just after that explosion happened in Midtown, around 6pm, but I didn't realize that's where the smoke was coming from. Tho I did wonder at the two loud helicopters overhead buzzing and buzzing as the birds flapped around and swooped by at dizzy speeds like they were going to smash into something.

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Then all the birds were hanging out and I was jealous. I think the one in the middle had a crush on the one on the right.

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Then we went to dinner and on the street it became clear that something had happened. But we went and ate Chinese food and forgot about it. Actually, I used to work with Anne and when we came back to work a few days after September 11 and got evacuated like an hour in, she and I ran across town and ended up having lunch at Jackson Hole in the same neighborhood.

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After, we went back up to the roof. At night it was even more amazing.

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The end.

Jul 19, 2007

So my friend Mark has a twin brother named Kenny. Mark and Kenny's wives Jen and Shima got pregnant within a few months of each other and now both couples have brand new babies: Anna and Haruki.

Last weekend Anna and Haruki met for the first time.

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Can I help it if everyone around me insists on being adorable at all times?

Kenny by the way is a puppeteer. I believe it is for this reason that he creates collages like this one, entitled The King of Pandaland.

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Jul 17, 2007

This photo is just ridiculous.

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I read this excerpt from Warren Ellis's first novel yesterday, and thought it was quite astonishingly awesome.

I think Joi and Lana will especially love the opening as they both have complicated and intense feelings about rats that are more than slightly disturbing and might some day, possibly, require counseling.

Jul 16, 2007

So last week I decided that I want to get another tattoo. Right now I have two tattoos. The first I got when I was 18. It's a rose on my shoulder that I picked out of a book of some metalhead tattoo artist who lived out in the boondocks in the middle of Pennsylvania and tattooed my friend Barb and me in his basement. When I told my mom I was getting a tattoo she asked what would happen when I was 30 or something and I had a job and I was too embarrassed to wear a bathing suit at a company picnic, and I remember thinking that I had to get a tattoo because if I ever grew up to be so lame and so concerned with other people then I deserved to be embarrassed and I could officially consider my tattoo to be an 18 year old's "fuck you" to her older, lamer self. So even though now I wish I'd picked something more gorgeous and unique than a red rose and I have thought for years that maybe I should improve on it, I sort of love this tattoo just the way it is.

The second tattoo I got on an island in Greece when I was 20, and even though my sister and I knew that the guy--a lobster-red English guy who carried his tattoo kit around with him in a plastic case--was probably an awful artist we just were so blissful and free that summer and I know I for one wanted to mark it in some way, and I wanted an angel of some sort because back then my obsession with wings and flying took that form, and he didn't have a good one so I just picked a fairy instead and he did a black outline on my upper outer thigh that even back then wasn't fully formed and by now is just awful, just an 80% done blue-black jailhouse-looking outline of a fairy, and I have absolutely intended to improve on that tattoo for over 15 years now but I never have and I don't usually even remember I have it but when I catch sight of it I remember Greece and the breeze and the water and the sound of donkeys and the sliced cucumber dipped in salt and the bottles of Retsina my sister and I would split and how I listened to Leonard Cohen over and over and read And the Ass Saw the Angel and The Mambo Kings Sing Songs of Love on a plastic chair in this little harbor on this island Chalki, which is an hour away from Turkey and maybe the best place I've ever been, and then of course I don't really want to change the tattoo at all.

But then, later, I decided that when I finally sold Rain Village I would get a circus-y tattoo, something colorful and wonderful, and then I decided that when the book came out I would, and then I just never did because in the overwhelmingness of all that and of going on book tour and of finishing the second book getting a tattoo was not my top priority and plus after having lived with bad ones for so long any one I would get now would obviously have to be exceedingly gorgeous and something very unique to me and who I am, unlike a red rose picked out of a book.

And so it wasn't until a few days ago that I thought okay, I need to pick what I will get, something very great, and not just great but something that is meaningful to who I am, and I thought I would just think about it a little over the weekend, maybe look through a book or two, but then on the bus home the other day I just started making a list of all the images I love/am obsessed with, and of course there are a lot, and certainly in my writing I repeat images over and over, birds and spices and leaves and water and fruit and wings and so on, but then I was thinking how for example there is nothing I love more than the image of a pumpkin or a black bird or a corn stalk or a cinnamon stick but as much as I love them why would I get a tattoo of any of those things on my body, that wouldn't make sense, and then I felt like I wasn't really thinking about tattoos but images and the unconscious and like the things that are at the heart of you and then I thought about the image of the girl on the trapeze in Wings of Desire since certainly that image is at the heart of both of my novels, one that is very deep in me, but then I felt like I was going further, like I was in this dreamy space, remembering being little, which is hard for me since we lived in a bunch of places so my childhood feels very disconnected from me, many places removed.

Then I remembered first reading the Greek myths, maybe in second or third grade. And I just kept seeing women turning into birds or trees or entering the underworld or disappearing when someone looks back at them, and something in me opened up and what I was remembering more than anything else was a sense of the world being totally open, like there was so much possibility and beauty in things, and there was something in that that felt as close as I was going to get, the image of a woman turning into a bird, and a woman turning into a tree, the first especially because of wings and circuses and the second because the image of Daphne turning into a laurel tree is so beautiful but also underpins Petrarch's Rime Sparse which aside from the Divine Comedy is the book I spent the most time studying and reading about and being obsessed with and haunted by.. over and over again Petrarch plays with his beloved Laura's name and the laurel tree and the laurels the poet wears.

And then I was thinking about Ovid and metamorphoses and I was like in this space of complete beauty and dreaminess and it felt so central to me and what I am and how I am, though I'm not really sure why or what that means, it feels more mysterious than that, like if I could unlock something in those images and what they evoke then I could understand something profound, but anyway I was thinking of Ovid and transformation and becoming new things and entering new worlds and also I had all these books out this weekend, my favorite books, like William Blake's illustrations of the Divine Comedy and Dante Rossetti's paintings and Nemo in Slumberland, which made me burst into tears when I first saw it because it felt like something I had lost was right in those pages, and then later in the weekend, on Sunday, I was writing in a coffeehouse in between hanging out with Eric and meeting Joi and Lana and I decided to take notes for my Dante novel rather than work on the noir and suddenly all these images I'd been thinking about just flooded through me, all these emotions and images and feelings, and I thought of Daphne and Apollo and the laurel leaves and then I thought about Beatrice (Dante's beloved), from whose perspective I am writing the novel, and how she, back in 1270, 1280, she would have read Ovid too, or known the stories from Ovid at least, and these images would be part of her imaginative world, they would be her whole inner world, the myths and the images and the poems and the possibility in them, and she would have thought and dreamt of God and angels and myths and just.. all this stuff came together, and I felt like I was at the heart of her. Her inner life that Dante tapped into, or will in my novel, and that nobody else does.

And really I'm just rambling but it was this sort of wonderful amazing moment of understanding something and inventing a character and since 99% of the time I think writing is a real drag I figured I should document a moment when it isn't at all, when in fact it really just feels transcendent and like a gift.
Have you ever seen two girls more up to no good??

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Jul 14, 2007

Here are some images I love with my whole heart and maybe yours too:

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[These are Weegee, Wim Wenders, Atget, Meatyard, Francesca Woodman, and Max Pirner.]

Jul 13, 2007

So my grandmother Krinbill, my mother's mother, was always a voracious reader and a beautiful, lyrical writer but in the last few years she's suffered an almost total loss of vision and so now she mostly listens to audiobooks and can only read using this big magnifying machine thing. My uncle read Rain Village to her, the whole thing, but for the second book my mom asked me to print it up in huge text, all double-spaced in 20-something font, and it came out to be hundreds of pages and my mom went and got it bound into five different books and shipped them all down to Florida and then my grandmother sat and read the whole thing using her machine. My uncle just now sent me these photos.

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First lines! [a meme, but a lovely one!]

Rain Village: "That tramp! Black-haired Jezebel!"

Godmother: I loved arriving at the bookstore first thing in the morning, when the streets were still quiet, the sun half raised, and the whole place felt like a secret meeting room.

Noir (no title yet): The first time Johnny made an appearance in my real life, we were at Aqueduct.
So my friend Joi and I saw La Vie en Rose tonight and I loved it loved it loved it, I would like to move into that movie and just live there. Over dinner we talked about the Italy trip this November and I think the plan is to fly into Florence, stay two weeks and do a ton of wandering around and writing, and then head to Venice for a few days, and after that take a train to Berlin and stay another few days there. We should both be starting on new books by then and we can rent a cool old apartment with a garden to write in.

I love Edith Piaf. And I wish I had the actress who plays her's teeth.

Jul 11, 2007

I am very sad to leave the country and go back to NYC today. Eric's parents live in Salisbury, Connecticut, and every morning we've been driving into Millerton to this coffeehouse that is all wood and open space where we can write all day and Monday evening we drove to Lennox to meet Eric's parents for a fancy dinner, since they're staying up there to celebrate his dad's 70th birthday, and by the way Eric's parents are some of the most engaged and open and interested-in-everything always-finding-something-to-laugh-about life-enjoying people I've ever met, and it is completely inspiring, and at the restaurant I was facing an expanse of window and this charming street and outside a storm was brewing and all the trees were whipping around and last night we went to Great Barrington for pizza and ice cream and all these local kids were hanging out being cool and it reminded me of my town in Pennsylvania. It's all windy roads and green and rivers up here and I would like to never leave. Oh, and Sunday we all watched the Nadal Federer Wimbledon men's thing and we all cried when Nadal lost since that man should be wrestling lions somewhere and the very least we can do is give him that big gold trophy.

In other news, have you ever seen anything more shocking?

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Jul 9, 2007

I am writing in a very cute coffeehouse in Millerton, New York, and taking a five minute break to make Joi EVEN MORE JEALOUS THAN SHE IS ALREADY:

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Jul 8, 2007

It is hard to imagine a dog more slutty and without shame than shamelessthedog, but I think this sly, slinking, shimmying dachshund, who goes by the misleading moniker SHORTY, might come close. Consider the evidence:

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Shocking, I know. Apparently he was once a prize-winning show dog, before he moved to New York City and became corrupted like the rest of us. It's a sordid tale, and one we've all heard far, far too often.

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Jul 7, 2007

My photographic masterpiece:

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I am off to my friend Eric's parent's amazing country house in Connecticut, in some fancy town where Meryl Streep lives down the road, a bunch of rivers twist around the houses, and rustic little restaurants are famous for things like tomato pie. He and I are just going to write for 5 days straight in between taking walks and seeing Edith Piaf movies and floating like fallen leaves in his parent's pool. Since I'm just waiting for my editorial letter for book 2, I am going to WRITE LIKE THE WIND and try to finish book 3..


Jul 5, 2007


the most badass girl band in existence.

Even if they can't sing and don't play instruments!

Jul 2, 2007


So the other day I ran down to Film Forum to see Let's Get Lost, Bruce Weber's film about Chet Baker.. My friend David had insisted that I see it, said it was just what I love, really sad and beautiful, but I found the film very strange and surprising and I typed out an email very quickly to say what I thought and I figured I would put it here, too..

So I thought the movie was reallly strange.. I mean it was so gorgeous, just so unbelievably gorgeous and lush and dreamy and the blacks so inky and the whites so cloudy and everything just like the way you want the world to look all the time and then that music and his voice..! In general I dont think I love jazz too much but I love him, that dreamy music and that voice you could sink into and rub into your skin, like so gentle and sad and lovely and smooth, effortless, like the way he played... and so the combination of those lush images and that gentle sad gorgeous music and the whole like nostalgic effect of the old images of him so resplendent when he was young set against the images of him so wrecked later.. and the effect of everyone just sitting and remembering, remembering these delicious moments that are gone, that were so fleeting, those moments when they first fell in love with Chet or fell under his spell, before he disappointed them, and so everything's so about loss and things past and things you'll never get back and those moments before the world disappointed you but what was so weird I thought and what I didn't expect was that Chet Baker himself, at least the dood in this movie, was that he was so COMPLETELY UNINTERESTING, like the hollowest, most vacuous dood.. like he never says one interesting thing.. his stories are boring, he rarely shows any sort of emotion or thought and we’re repeatedly told that he’s an actor, a manipulator, someone you can’t trust, can’t rely on, can’t expect anything back from.

And so the movie I thought just slowly paints this dreamy, scattered portrait of this guy who just drifts through everything, is barely there, has no substance but just has this gift for music, this ability to effortlessly play his horn and sing these songs with no work, no care, nothing, and he makes everyone fall in love with him through this effortlessness, this “gentleness,” this ability to just not be there at all, and in his path he just leaves all these broken hearts and he barely even notices. It was so strange to me that this man who produced such lonesome tender devastating music himself showed no emotion, no real sense of anything, and while people reference his “pain” from time to time the filmmaker seemed completely uninterested in trying to get to the bottom of it or even to address it.. where it came from, what it was how it made his the man he was, WHY this guy became a junkie and took such a bad turn..

He doesn’t care about that, instead we get these women, one after the other, and their love for Chet, their bitterness and heartbreak that are so palpable, and then his children and their pain, and it’s way more substantial than anything we’ve seen from Chet, and I just felt like by the end he seems like this man that everyone projects everything onto, all their dreams and illusions, this gentle drifting blank man that a woman could pour her whole heart into and just end up devastated because there was nothing there to love, just an idea, like that Diane who loved him because he was the “embodiment of everything that gave her life meaning: jazz,” but that’s not anything that will love you back and when she talked about those six tragic heartbroken hours she waited for him and he never came and he didn’t come for FIVE MORE YEARS and she took him then, joyful, I felt like that is what the movie was about, like the longing this man creates and can’t fill, and it sort of slowly just made me really sad and it’s so strange and by the end I could barely listen to him when he spoke, just listened to the gorgeous blank murmur of his soft voice and it was just.. so strange and sad and hollow.

But then, also, I don’t of course know how much this is Chet and how much is the filmmaker.. there was a lot of stuff that seemed totally random.. like who was that long haired girl and pretty boy hanging out with Chet and Diane in all those fake, silly, dreamy romantic present-day scenes of them driving along or playing at the beach.. like we get so many shots of that long haired girl, her hourglass body, her dancing on the beach or swinging her hair or laughing, and it doesn’t mean ANYTHING, we don’t even know who she is. And what was with that scene of Chet looking through that book of photographs of naked women? Gorgeous photos, but it was so random and just like the long haired girl sort of stuck in for this gorgeous dreamy atmosphere, there was no substance, the filmmaker would rather film Chet looking at these photos than figure out who he was, and then in the last lines Chet addresses directly the fact that they’ve filmed a bunch of dreamy scenes that have no bearing to real life.. the bumper cars, the beach, the long drive in the convertible.. “real life isn’t like that, these thing don’t happen to people..” And ultimately the movie’s like this weird, broken down dream with nothing real about it except for the heartbreak dreams leave you with..

Jul 1, 2007

Here are my 8 weird facts:

1. I was once arrested and spent a night in Van Nuys Women’s Prison.

2. When arrested, I was wearing a ripped pink nightshirt my grandmother had sent me with three pigs on the front. One was wearing crazy sunglasses and clothes. Underneath were the words “Be an individual.”

3. I was born with a blonde streak in my hair and everyone always thought it was dyed and when I was little my friends’ parents all thought I was a bad influence because of it.

4. A few days after I turned 18 I went to San Francisco and slept in Civic Center Park and lived with street kids and panhandled, etc.

5. I once worked at a sleazy bar in Athens, Greece, where you were paid based on how many shots of whiskey you could get men to buy you.

6. I am deathly allergic to cats which is probably good because if I wasn't I would probably have 10 of them.

7. I wear lipstick, usually red, all the time, even to bed, and have since I was a teenager.

8. My sister and I once had sex with the same guy in the same night and didn’t know until the next morning.