"Fire is motion / Work is repetition / This is my document / We are all all we've done / We are all all we've done / We are all all we've done / We are all all defenses."

- Cap'N Jazz, "Oh Messy Life," Analphabetapolothology

Wednesday, December 31, 2008

the last of 2008

i woke up this morning and lay in bed thinking about 2008...

i taught my first class(es) in 2008. i wrote my first thesis in 2008. i moved away from home and into my first apartment in 2008. i started my first job in 2008.

i met Grizzly Bear in 2008.
i built a bookpress and hand-bound books in 2008. this blog reached 20,000 readers in 2008!

i've learned to appreciate home and my family in new ways, and i learned what it's like to fall completely in love with someone in 2008.

...and now, in the dark, on the floor of my parents' living room in the house of my childhood, next to a dying fire, with the miserable tv on in the background, i'm thinking about 2008 again. it really has been a great year.

and 2009 is going to be even better, i know it.

with love,

post-script: my half-hearted and last-minute attempts to live twitter new year's eve. could have been fun if longer-lasting. alas, noted for next year!

Friday, December 26, 2008


i once had a friend ask me, "how does it feel to have yr birthday right after christmas? does it bother you that Jesus always takes the cake?"

my response?

"meh. i don't really like cake that much anyway."

but, it is nice to be reminded by those around you how much you mean to them. the trouble with having a birthday so close to Christmas is that any feeling of happiness or celebration gets sucked up and confounded by the residual effects and aftermath of christmas. instead of being happy with all the ppl i love, there's all this bitterness and tiredness from all the merry-making that precedes it.

like having eaten too much chocolate cake at once, so the next thing you want to reach for better be salty and something crunchy.

an aside: i am especially grateful to my best friends Chelsea and Ben this year. they've really been the best gifts of all and sometimes i hardly feel like i deserve them. i love you both, so much.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008


i spent the day slowly wrapping gifts. my lethargic fingers were miserable negotiating pesky scissors and tape.

it doesn't feel like christmas this year, and i wonder if/fear that my increasing inability to experience holidays with the excitement and anticipation of the g/olden days means i am getting old/ losing my childhood ways.

but, i think it's because i'm more grateful to be home than any other year, and that makes these entire 3 weeks feel like a gift, rather than just the one day.

with love,

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

lonesome cowboy

On August 23, 1973, Jan Erik Olsson, on leave from prison, walked into Kreditbanken at Norrmalmstorg, central Stockholm and attempted to hold up the bank. Swedish police were called in immediately, two of them went inside, and Olsson opened fire, injuring one policeman.

The other was ordered to sit in a chair and "sing something."

He started singing "Lonesome Cowboy."


Olofsson was a repeat offender who had committed several armed robberies and acts of violence, the first committed at the age of 16.

He walked around in the vault singing Roberta Flack's "Killing Me Softly".

(from the Wikipedia article about the Norrmalmstorg robbery, which originated the theory on Stockholm Syndrome)

Monday, December 22, 2008

to do / to come

so you know, this is what i'm working on. expect something soon, before the holy daze kick in...

-video for Introduction, i thot it made a perfect bookend to my first semester as a teacher, as a grad student, as a child away from home for the first time, and those feelings that can only be expressed thru lyrics and free form dance (oh heck yes it will be exciting.)

-playing with new iMovie (which is far inferior to old iMovie. major downgrade! boo hiss!)

-fighting to get my health insurance back (those fuckers are fucking with me again, trying to bill me twice for zero annual physicals, or deny me any physicals at all. wtf?)

-reflections on past year? i dunno, i kinda lack the energy for this. 08 was kinda a major disappointment. then again, i'm not counting my blessings...


i am so tired and i don't know why. i thot the time change was supposed to make me stay up later, not go to bed before everyone else in my house.

the extreme cold here is making my legs cramp from tensing up so much. i need warmer shoes maybe. funny, and the only thing i asked my parents for for christmas was a new swimsuit.

got my dad a new camera for christmas. i'm really hoping he likes it. it took me 1.5 years to find the right one at the right price and i just hope he doesn't think his daughter is too poor to afford it.

to bed! (but some Orwell first...)

Friday, December 19, 2008

peace-ing out!

this is my look of contented relief.

final grad school project: DONE.

last classes of the day: TAUGHT AND WRAPPED UP.

traffic: BRAVED.

work out, laundry, packing: to be done, but i'm looking forward to it.

this semester's finished, folks, and it looks like i made it!

(...and, finally, i'm going hoooooooooome!!!!....)


Thursday, December 18, 2008

happy holidays

sometimes i think i teach the cutest group of 6th graders in all of Los Angeles. (or maybe just the cutest ones at my school...) and the other times, i think they're little terrors whose only goal in life is to make my life hell. but today, they were nice.

below, a Christmas card from one of my students, Victor:

and what it said inside:

and this is my personal development class, my 6th period, one of my favorite groups of characters:

even though they're sweet and cute, i'm still looking forward to this 3-week break from them. we need a little distance.


Tuesday, December 16, 2008


holy crap.

as i write this, this humble blog is only 5 clicks away from reaching 20,000 visitors since its inception in the late summer of 2006.

i am tremendously flattered and taken aback, amazed that you've stuck with me and my senseless and emotive ramblings long enough to celebrate this moment.

thank you, truly, for yr readership.

with love,

Monday, December 15, 2008

i hate L.A.

hm, so you know how just yesterday i said i might grow to love L.A.? yea, it's not happening.

that's b/c L.A. is a vindictive little bitch who just wants my money and my time and attention, but i can't get no respect!

this morning, i wake up. the raindrops that were so pleasant to fall asleep to had apparently continued throughout the night, flooding the carport where my car rests and where i had to wade through 5 inch-deep FREEZING water this morning. and, b/c my bitch landlord didn't install lights in my part of the garage, i couldn't see the standing water until i was, well, already standing in it. so, great morning. i have to run back up to my apartment, throw off my shoes and socks, and improvise: for lack of galoshes (oh how i miss my big funky rubber galoshes right now...) i had to put on a pair of flip flops, which felt miserably uncomfortable on my bitterly cold feet.

the entire 55-60 minutes in the car on the freeway to work (what usually takes 20-25 minutes) everyone was driving 35 mph to avoid fatal crashes – the radio informed us accidents were happening at the rate of one every 30 seconds (wtf!?), a police officer (i learn later) was RUN DOWN while trying to assist traffic – and i still had assholes trying to sideswipe me to squeeze into my lane.

i get to school half an hour late (and this is after i even wake up early to make myself a cup of tea to start the day right), frantically driving in circles trying to find parking (i eventually coax the principal into my car and he assists me in finding a spot to park my poor water-logged vehicle). my feet are cramping at this point, they are so cold and wet, and i'm shivering and completely stiff from the cold and from running in the rain. basically, i arrive at school looking like a mess, feeling like a kid, and not wanting to be here (at school, at work, in LA).

it was a long day. the only thing that prevented me from completely losing my mind and crying was that i didn't actually teach today, i was in training. and they provided food. one saving grace.

i come home after going to the gym for a quick workout, hoping that all the time i've been away has allowed the water around my car to drain away. NOPE! the pond still exists, there might even be homeless seagulls nesting, who the fuck knows. all i can say is that this meant me having to park my car 2 blocks away, on some dark alley where i couldn't even see the signs or the curb to see if i was in a tow-away zone. i just hope, pray, that someone doesn't run into my car, knock the side mirror off, or decide it'd be fun to tow it. so many things to keep me up at night, it was hardly worth the 2 minutes of pleasant rain while i was drifting off last night...

seriously. it reminds me of something i remember my boyfriend saying last winter when we were driving around one late oxford night on the edge of a snow storm. it was the time of night when everyone is supposed to be asleep, when the snow machines and salt trucks come out (i think if you grow up in the midwest like i did, you know there are 5 stages of night-time: twilight, dusk, 8-11pm, midnight, and salt truck time. this is the time other ppl in other parts of the world might also know as tooth fairy time, or santa claus time.) there was snow falling in large clumpy flakes, and we could see it in his headlights, in the street lamplight, like static filling up the screen of gray and black night. and Ben said that ppl in ohio overreact to snow, b/c in Illinois, where he grew up, this would be nothing, "Illinois ppl know how to drive in snow." and that made sense, and that's what i think of now when i think about LA and its rain:

LA denizens are so unaccustomed to rain that they don't know how to drive in it, or how to build an efficient drainage system for when the rain pours. don't they know, that when it rains, it pours? i bet you anything a stupid Angelino coined that phrase...


p.s. an afterthot: this is why you don't set up house in a desert. if there's no water so you have to steal it from yr neighbors to survive, and when the water finally comes you don't know what to do with it. ladies and gentlemen, Los Angeles! (a big fecking mess!)

Sunday, December 14, 2008


the peaceful quiet of an empty apartment and all the neighbors gone on holiday,

the coziness of the kitchen while making dinner and the comforting whir and warmth of my new space heater, and

the look of the sky as the day is ending, the clouds backlighting the palm treetops with raspberry and tangerine

and a playlist of songs about the left and leaving, and a living room to dance and jump in

and, for once, not dreading monday

and, knowing i'm going home in only a few more days

make me feel, finally, that i could grow to love LA.

Friday, December 12, 2008

stories from personal development

two of my girls come in early, giggling and gushing about something. Jasmin says, in a sing-song voice, "Ms. Lee, Niria has a boooooyfriiiiieeennd!"

i start to laugh, and ask about him ("is he cute? is he funny? is he smart? that's the most important thing...")

Niria buries her head in her sweatshirt, too shy to talk about it. Jasmin turns to me, puts her hand up to her face, whispers while making a grimace, "i don't like him!" i ask her why, she responds, very matter-of-factly, "he litters!"

i laugh. what a good answer! i tell her, "that's a good reason, too."

Jasmin responds that Niria doesn't care, "as long as he's hot."

kids. they're so cute.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008


i joined Idealist.org about a year ago, when graduation was pending and "the future" we'd always talked about but never really pondered was looming, no, was here. i was terrified i would collect my diploma in May and then have nowhere to go and nothing to do. after 16 years comfortably riding out the formal education system and its strongly set paths, the idea of the track suddenly ending and launching me forward with no idea of what lay ahead was worrisome.

i think this fear of the unknown is dangerous; rather than explore the possibilities and potentials of the unknown and undecided, we are swept into fates we don't want b/c of fear of failure. i think this is particularly true among the freakishly driven and busy, those whose schedules drive them to the point of burnout and leave them with hardly any sense of what "free time" means. suddenly the idea of not having something to pour all yr energy and time into feels like failure. why?

the point of this post is this: i felt that after struggling with the process of writing my undergraduate thesis, i needed a break from higher ed, wanted to put off grad school, and avoid law school. i figured working a job in the meantime while i sorted out my feelings for formal ed was a good idea. and so i signed up for Idealist to look for jobs, something to fall back on in the next year.

that was a year ago, and i still get the emails. i can't bring myself to unsubscribe from their email list b/c, admittedly, i guess i'm still looking. i check their emails, every day, to see what alternate lives i could be living: lead filmmaker in Venice, community organizer in Chicago, youth media coordinator in NYC, and lament the disparity between my current job and the work i could be doing instead. every time i read about a new job, a different salary, a different locale, i imagine completely different lives and wish i had been more comfortable with uncertainty.


Sunday, December 07, 2008

whipped cream cheese

an epicure-ious observation of Los Angeles:

since i've moved here, the only thing i've seen Angelinos serve with their bagels is whipped cream cheese. i didn't find it particularly odd the first few times, i figured ppl living in LA are more sensitive to calories and somehow justify the indulgence of cream cheese by thinning it out and stirring air into it, but still... does no one in this crazy town like their cream cheese thick and rich, the way i do?

i've never found cream cheese, or any dairy product for that matter, particularly appetizing in its whipped and airy manifestations. i thought the idea of air in my dairy was ridiculous, unsatiating, and a little gross. i want more bang in my bite, you know?

nevertheless, that's all i see being served up in LA, and this weekend, without realizing the symbolic significance, i opted for a tub of whipped honey nut cream cheese at the grocery store. i ate it this morning, spread thick on a piece of toast with sliced bananas.

i wonder if slowly all these little changes will make me a (reluctant) Angelino after all.


Saturday, December 06, 2008


saturdays in LA have been devoted to sleeping in, waking up on my own at 6:20 despite turning the alarm off, and going back to bed to have feverish and jarring dreams. this week's sampling:

my friend's boyfriend, who i've just met and who my friend is very pleased with, turns out to be stalking me. i find his fan page on the internet, a photoessay in which he posted pictures of me at a party in the park, my mom, aunt, and grandma (all the ladies in my family) lined up in front of a stage where a band is playing, and we are dancing. the boyfriend analyzes my expressions, my hair, my muscle tone and writes this justification for his fascination:

"she has the body of a man but exudes the allure of feminine sexuality, which proves she is the birthmother"

in this context, "birthmother" means that i am the mother of the earth.

in a conjoining dream, i pick the lids off of two garbage cans and strap them to my arms and flap my way to the sky. i am flying between steeples and hovering by the windows of tall buildings, landing on rafters of coffee shops and spying on bad guys plotting to hurt people. i'm still in LA, but it's a New England version of LA, and there are tall old trees which i like to perch in, since i can fly and all.

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

new lows

i am sitting on a towel on the floor of my bathroom, a pile of folders and papers and books beside me, trying to keep warm with a laptop in my lap and sitting as close as i can to the only heater in the entire apartment, a Thermodor built into the wall (i suspect my current use for it fails to meet its intended purpose – my guess being to eliminate bathroom odors? i dunno, that's based solely on the name and what i've heard about ppl lighting matches after taking shits: i was told the flame "burns the bad air" so you can't smell it any more, but i always thought that didn't make sense and was bad household science. anyway...)

i'm 2.5 weeks away from a blissful retreat to my home state, and only a few grad school projects away from the end of this forsaken semester, but this lump of (forgive me) shit before me is too huge to surmount, it seems. i am teetering on incompletes for 2 of the 3 grad classes and it is so fucking cold in my apartment right now, i can't get anything done. it's either crawl into bed, or sit on the floor of the bathroom next to the heater. and so it goes...

i'm fighting nausea and panic and utter depression and lack of excitement, and all from the floor 2 feet away from a fucking toilet. thank cheeses i'm the only one who uses it and i just cleaned it the other day, or this would be a really long miserable night indeed.

to the future!