This blog is welcome to anyone and everyone, regardless of race, class, gender, sexual orientation, or political affiliation. Unless you don't like writing short stories or smelling bear. Or if you voted for the other guy. Also, I don't really like it when you leave up the toilet seat, so could you stop doing that? Muchas, muchas gracias.

Monday, September 29, 2008

But Why, If I'm Running 3 Miles A Day, Am I Not Losing Weight?

Wow, looking for a job takes a lot of time! I feel like I'm working just as hard at applying for things as I did at my full-time job! And then there's all the paperwork involved with being unemployed, the COBRA insurance, the lapsing 401k. . . and, of course, my ex-employer made an error that I will have to straighten out over the phone. I'm discovering that a few of the jobs being advertised are just scams run by temp agencies hoping to garner information (or something). Or that's what I found when I googled the name of the business that called me in for an interview tomorrow morning. What a bummer!

By the end of the day I was so stressed out! I ran three miles in 30 minutes, and you know, running seems to help. At least I have control over something in my life. At least I can manage that. Plus, there's something in me that wants to run myself ragged. I think I want to wear out that side of me that's so full of anxiety. But it's tough. I spent a couple of hours at the bank, trying to rearrange my finances, and person after person came in to grill the tellers about whether or not the banks were about to fail. It was horrible. Then there's the upcoming election - everyone around me is making dire predictions. And finally, one of my housemates started talking about the likelihood that someone would steal my identity if I don't hurry up and purchase an antivirus product that I don't really think I can afford right now.

I think I'll get up early tomorrow. I think more running is in order.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

I just dropped off my family

at the BART station, after a three-day visit. It (the visit) was almost more than I could handle, as my family's criticisms cut very deep. The thing is, I'd rather be happy than wealthy. I'd rather spend ten dollars at an independent bookstore than five for the same thing at a chain. I spoil myself in certain ways because I like to feel pretty. But ultimately, as long as I have food, friends, and a door to close, the basics are covered. I'd rather risk dying alone and lonely than marry someone I don't love and who doesn't love me. I don't plan to take a job unless I'm convinced that I would enjoy working at the place and they would like me, too. I would never, ever, ever be happy living in a gated neighborhood next to a golf course. We're all going to die in the end, so why on earth should I settle for less than what feels right to me? But in my family's presence, I feel oppressed by their way of doing things. It's as though by doing what I'd like to do, they think I'm being judgmental.

Halfway through their trip I took my family by bus to visit Matty. Without thinking I walked them to the wrong bus stop, and then it occurred to me that we needed to be on the opposite side of the street. When I explained that we needed to cross, my father said that I hadn't changed a bit, and my mother snickered. Actually, I've changed a great deal in the 23 years I've been entirely on my own: I joined the Peace Corps, moved to California, bought a house, earned my Master's, planned a wedding, cancelled a wedding, moved to San Francisco, started my life all over again from scratch, and sold my house. How could I possibly go through all that and remain the same? But one thing hasn't changed: I am not flawless, and I never will be, and so there will always be something for my family to point out to me.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Haight Ashbury Unemployment Prayer September 2008

I don't enjoy talking to most people about politics. When people get emotional about a candidate or an issue their speech becomes illogical, flecked with untested opinions and hateful caricature.

If we listened as much as we spoke, this life could be everything. And this life is all that we have.

* * *

Quotes for Today

"Adversity introduces a person to himself."
— Epictetus

"When I do good, I feel good; when I do bad, I feel bad. And that is my religion."
— Abraham Lincoln

Thursday, September 18, 2008


I applied for a job on craigslist because I really loved the way the ad was written. I thought I could do this job, and just from the sound of the ad, I figured I would enjoy working at this place - it sounded like a fun office, full of neat people. I received the following response - it's very sweet, I know, but it's also kind of a bummer - there really aren't many jobs out there for us literary-types. . .

Dear Ingrid,

Thank you so much for your response to my ad.

Out of hundreds of responses you are only one of about eight people who wrote a truly original cover letter. Of course, given your background, you write so beautifully!!

I am currently in the decision-making phase after having interviewed those eight individuals. I must say that I am so tempted to call you in for an interview but I’ve decided against it because I don’t think you would be happy in this position. You have too much talent and great experience in the literary field to take a strictly admin job in a non-literary industry. You would not have the opportunity to use your writing talent here (I only asked for the originally created cover letter to help me determine who could think for themselves, communicate well, and follow directions).

I have no doubt that you will find a great job very soon. I wish you all the best in that process!!

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Sarah Palin Can See Russia From Her Home

I don't have a TV, and because of this I often feel very out of touch - it seems like most people I talk to make references to shows and actors with whom I'm not at all familiar. For the most part, I'm happy that I don't watch TV - but I do miss seeing the Olympics, and I always used to love watching Saturday Night Live.

I'm off to the doctor's, and I'm terrified that they will find something seriously wrong. I'm also scared that whatever they have to do to me during the exam will be painful. But I suppose it's better to know and take charge of things than it is to let it slide. Wish me luck!

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Writer David Foster Wallace found dead at home

Oh my god. I'm so sad about this. What the . . .

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Have You Ever Been In

a situation where something bad happened to you and you wound up having to console the people around you because you realize that the bad thing that happened to you is affecting them, in that they wind up simultaneously worrying about you and feeling guilty that the bad thing didn't happen to them, but to you? And maybe you start to realize that the bad thing doesn't really affect others at all unless they're in your presence, because your situation just reminds them of the dark cloud that you are under and that there's not a thing they can do to dispel it? So you start to avoid people in hopes that they will get a little break from this guilt that you make them feel? Have you ever been in a situation where the bad thing that happened to you might in some ways be another person's doing, and you wind up having to console the very person who may have harmed you because you feel so bad for making them feel guilty for having to hurt you?

One time I was riding my bike down this narrow, curvy road in the Santa Cruz mountains. It was a beautiful warm day, and I could smell the cool spots under the trees. I was really whizzing along on the sun-dappled asphalt when around the corner swung a wide Chevy truck with a partially smashed-in grill, like a smile that was missing some teeth. Too late, I realized that the truck was on the wrong side of the road, and I locked up my brakes and the driver locked his, and both of us skidded off to the side. Except that I went flying over the handlebars, landing right on my palms, leaving much of the skin on the road.

The driver, a big man, maybe 50 years old, was wearing one of those stiff, foamy baseball caps. He got out of his truck and asked me if I was okay. He was shaking, this full-grown man. I assured him that I was fine, and I gave him my broadest, most dazzling smile. Should I call a doctor, he asked, and I said that no, I was right as rain, it was nothing, and I got back up onto my bike to demonstrate that I was okay. Look, I said, it was my fault, I was going too fast and I didn't see you. No harm done. I wobbled a little as I rode off, but then I pulled it together and waved back at him, standing there next to his truck in his silly hat, and it wasn't until a half hour later, when I arrived at work, that I realized my palms were full of rocks and sticks, and there was no way I could shelve books, not if I didn't want to get blood all over them.

* * *

Yesterday I met Matty and we went to the beach, where we sat and talked about our dreams, our goals, and what we think of men with hairy backs.

Sunday, September 07, 2008

Vicky Cristina Barcelona, Woody Allen's Latest Film, Is

a) a brilliant and subtle comment on how flat, vague, and remote we are, despite (or maybe because of) our ability to travel, observe, create, and socialize

b) a flat, vague movie written and acted with too much remove

Answer: _________________________

In Vicky Cristina Barcelona, two friends — Christina (Scarlet Johansson) and Vicky (Rebecca Hall) — fly to Barcelona for a couple of months so that Vicky can gather information for her Master's thesis in Catalan Studies. Christina is (or considers herself?) a free-spirited-bohemian-type who beds every intriguing man she meets. Vicky, on the other hand, seeks commitment and stability; she's engaged to be married to a guy in the U.S. with a lucrative-but-boring job.

The girls, who are staying in Barcelona with Vicky's female relative, Judy (Patricia Clarkson), wind up at an art gallery where they notice a hunky painter named Juan Antonio (Javier Bardem). Judy tells the girls about Juan Antonio's mysterious ex-wife, Maria Elena (Penelope Cruz), and the story of Juan and Maria's freaky, violent relationship.

Later, at a restaurant, Cristina and Vicky spot Juan Antonio at another table. He joins them and proposes they leave in his private plane for a weekend of girl-boy-girl action. Vicky gets offended, Cristina is into it, and surprise!, they do get on that plane, though Vicky is careful to book a separate room for herself and Cristina. Nevertheless, Cristina visits Juan Antonio's room and just when things are about to get intimate, she realizes that she's about to hurl. Food poisoning.

So the next day, while Cristina recovers in bed, Vicky winds up touring the city with Juan Antonio. In the evening they find themselves in a park, where they sit and watch a guitar player. Vicky (who, despite her supposed interest in Catalan culture, speaks no Spanish) is apparently "moved" by the guitar-playing, and this somehow renders her more open to the idea of spending time with Juan-Antonio-the-seductive-cad, and oops!, the two "do it." Afterwards Vicky, upset by her own indiscretion, buries herself in the stacks of the pubic library, doing research for her Catalan Studies thesis.

Cristina, who isn't aware of what has just transpired between Vicky and Juan Antonio, spends the next few evenings in bed with Juan, and she winds up moving in with him. Then Juan's sexy, unstable ex, Maria Elena, shows up, and all kinds of crazy hijinks ensue, including a sexual triangle! When she isn't making out with Maria Elena and Juan Antonio, Cristina spends her days taking mediocre photographs in and around Barcelona, and her photographs arouse in the three of them — Cristina, Juan Antonio, and Maria Elena — a state of artistic synergy, while the three-way sex makes for peace and harmony.

In the meantime, Vicky's boring fiancee decides to fly to Barcelona because he thinks it will be more romantic for he and Vicky to say their vows in Spain than in the U.S. Though Vicky, who still yearns for Juan Antonio, is no longer in a hurry to marry her fiancee, she agrees to this plan. Still, Vicky realizes that what she wants more than anything is to do Juan Antonio one last time.

Luckily for Vicky, Cristina has decided she's not interested in the menage thing anymore, and partly in reaction to Cristina's departure, Maria Elena, too, has abandoned Juan Antonio. As there is no one around to do, Juan jumps at this last-minute opportunity for more sexin'. But before he and Vicky can get down properly, Maria Elena shows up with a gun, and she has a big shooting tantrum, and Vicky realizes that a last-minute affair with Juan Antonio is too crazy and dangerous for her taste.

In the end of the movie Vicky and Cristina leave Barcelona, and we realize that the experience has left them virtually unchanged. Which begs the question: is the entire movie an interesting comment on the inner dullness of the characters, or is it a very bad movie that failed to produce well-rounded characters?

Throughout the movie Johansson's delivery is so ingeniously bland, I find it hard to believe that it wasn't intentional on her part (though after looking into it, I've learned that many consider her a very bad actor). In this movie, it's fascinating that even though she has all the essential ingredients of a sexpot (the bleachy blond hair, the jutting boobs, the gargantuan lips, the low voice), she's about as sexy as meatballs with ketchup. Her friend Vicky, who differs from Cristina in two distinct ways (she's brunette, and she works slightly harder at pretending that she doesn't want to jump in the sack with Juan Antonio), is equally bland. Both characters, however, seem to believe that they have interesting inner qualities: though Cristina says that she never expects to excel at any art form she admires, the movie seems to believe that by not having a passionate interest in anything, she is living outside the rules; and while Vicky has an interest in Catalan culture, her interest originated when she was fourteen years old (she saw a picture of a building designed by Gaudi) and hasn't apparently deepened or expanded much since then, despite her graduate school studies. Maybe there's something about the farcically bouncy little song that opens Maria Cristina Barcelona to suggest the movie isn't meant to be taken literally.

In juxtaposition to Vicky and Cristina, Juan Antonio and Maria Elena have a volatility and passion the two travelers seem to admire, much the way I (perhaps unfairly) imagine Angelina Jolie — or, for that matter, Mia Farrow — admires herself for adopting children from developing countries. If this juxtaposition weren't based in a stereotype — that Spaniards are wild, hot-blooded lovers — then the argument that this movie is meant to be ironic or critical, rather than literal (meaning, bad), would be much easier to defend.

But in my view, the entire movie represents a fantasy Vicky and Cristina would plausibly have, one in which the mere act of flying to another country and spending time there makes the traveler interesting as a human being. The movie implies that the girls believe Juan Antonio's passion (as evidenced by his relationship with his ex-, plus the notion that he is an artist) will rub off on them, simply because they have managed to stir his interest. Juan Antonio's stormy relationship with the suicidal Maria Elena is, in many ways, the kind of romantic story one might expect two shallow, nice-looking young women brought up in the United States would tell themselves.

Neither Cristina nor Vicky makes a lasting impression on anyone else in the film, and though Vicky winds up with a minor flesh wound that will likely heal in a matter of weeks, Barcelona hasn't made much of an impression on them, either. At the heart of this film is a very sad, very cynical idea: elsewhere exists an alternate reality much more dangerous, more exciting, than our own, and by visiting that reality, it's possible to temporarily add some danger to our own lives without risking, venturing, or learning a thing.

Thursday, September 04, 2008


Well, it looks like I'm going to have all the time in the world to write - my resume!

I was laid off today. It's going to be okay, but to be perfectly honest, I'm scared.

Yesterday I got my hair cut, and I'm not too fond of how it looks, though I guess it's a professional haircut. To my way of thinking it's a bit severe and old-ladyish, but okay, maybe it's a good "job interview" cut. I don't know.


I am going to spend the next few days doing whatever I feel like doing. And on Monday, I'll look for work. I guess this is sort of exciting, this forced change. It's "good for me," right?

But it kind of sucks, too. I wish I could have my pretty long hair back. I wish I had someone to talk to. Sometimes "alone" feels soooooooooooo lonely.


Tuesday, September 02, 2008

4 Paragraphs of Procrastination

Today I wrote a long list of the things I thought I should do. So far, I've done about half of those things, and I'm grouchy lately, because I want to write stories. Right now at work I'm preparing to publicize this new book about writing exercises and the writing life. The bitter, bitter irony is that right now, more than anything in the entire world, I want to have time to write fiction (along with everything else - yes, I know that you know that I want to be thin and healthy and perfectly organized, too). Reading this book is making me angry and jealous, partly because reading it is taking up my precious time when I feel like I should be writing.

It's a good book. I'd like to try out some of the ideas in it, and I agree with the author that I really should "make the time" to write. But how does one "make time"? HOW?

I have to cut something out of my life, and there's nothing at the moment I can bear to cut. I guess I'm just lucky that some huge, inconvenient problem hasn't cropped up for me. I mean, I guess I'm writing now.

Anyway, I'm off to work on this mean, sniffling character I created for a story I started writing. I think I'll give her some huge, inconvenient problem and see if she can "make time" to do anything creative.