Category: California

“What is the most amazing thing in the universe?”

On Thursday, amid rising feelings of unease, Kat and I traveled to San Francisco for a wedding; by Friday we knew it was a mistake, but there we were. It was good to see her family, not least because we finally got to talk wedding plans in person. But we’d planned to fly back Tuesday night after some time touring the Santa Cruz boardwalk and a movie premiere with friends in SF. Instead, we scrambled out on Monday at lunchtime, just ahead of a shelter-in-place recommendation. We both feel fine, though there’s no way to know what damage we have silently transmitted. We’re trying to limit it, going forward, by ceasing social contact for the next two weeks.

The weekend was, as Sumana says, an inflection point, at least in the perception of much of the country and the information we consume. Anyone at ease made me jumpy, and anyone jumpy made me… also jumpy. On Monday, as we tried to fill up our returning rental car, the pump behind us started gushing gasoline onto the concrete. As I ran inside to tell the clerk to shut it off, I expected the world to shrink its shutter angle and go full shakycam. It didn’t; some people yelled at each other and then they cleaned up the mess. We were all fine, but no one was easy. By April I don’t know how much the pace of change will continue to inflect, or how much this will have already settled as an uneasy new normal. Last Thursday my view of the world was different, and Lemon, it’s not even Wednesday.


Carrie Fisher blogs, apparently, and the evidence suggests that she’s been doing a bit of back-and-forth with the Internet in her own defense. Basically, people think she doesn’t look like she did in 1983. I will allow you a moment of shock.

On my west’ard migration a year and a half ago, while I was bumming around San Francisco on my own, someone–Sumana?–suggested that I take a night and go see a play. By happy coincidence, I was in town at the same time as Fisher, who was doing her show Wishful Drinking at the Berkeley Rep. So I got a ticket and went.

I learned a great deal about Fisher that evening (I hadn’t even known she was married to Paul Simon), and in the process saw probably the only good one-person show ever. I also laughed a lot. How can you avoid laughing at the image of Cary Grant calling up a teenage girl, at her parent’s slightly deranged request, to lecture her soberly about the dangers of LSD–twice? Or at a still from the bridge of the Death Star about which she noted that “I weighed about ninety pounds here, eighty of which I carried in my face?”

It’s one thing to know somebody is a writer; it’s another to see her perform in a self-written multimedia showcase that includes jokes about her own electroshock therapy. I liked Carrie Fisher before then, almost as much for her guest spot on 30 Rock as for Star Wars (and that was all before I knew she tried out for Han Solo). After that show, like became admiration, and she was elevated to the selective ranks of people who have secured my loyalty pretty much for good. Even if her blog posts are littered with unnecessary punctuation.

(In case you’ve noticed that I started dating a short girl with a screenwriting degree, a taste for wine and a sardonic sense of humor within months of moving to Portland: shhh.)

It’s not as if I think the people reading my blog are among those going “oh no how did princess lea get fat :(.” But I feel the need to state this anyway: Carrie Fisher rolls with my crew. And before you write a word against her, consider the fact that fuck you forever, and die in a hole.



Barack Obama can do more pullups than me.

“Two staffers had just passed this site and done two pull-ups. Not to be outdone, Obama did three with ease, dropped and walked out to make a speech.”

–Callie Shell

In August of 2005 I added two keywords to my personalized Google News page: “creative commons” and “obama.” It had been a year since his convention address, and it had become clear that the man simply wasn’t fading. I also wrote a journal entry, never posted, about the fact that plans to assassinate his character had already begun. “Opposition research” has a long lead time; there are folders stuffed with scandal about people who never even receive nominations, but we saw every last scrap from the file on Obama, real and imaginary.

I woke up this morning with sarcastic headlines at the ready: “Relieved Obama dons headscarf, ululates, brandishes AK-47.” “Secret Service orders pre-emptive strike against Atlanta.” “Iraq declares victory.” Cynicism is playing catchup with the unrepentant joy of last night (though even that was tempered by disappointment at Mitch McConnell and Prop 8). But at least, for once, it’s not the other way around.

In April, I drove almost literally from coast to coast across the United States–from Winston-Salem, North Carolina to San Francisco, California–in nine days and a tiny car, packed up to my eyes. I was alone for most of each day, between eight and fourteen hours on the road. I listened to podcasts for company, and music when I wanted to sing, but in between I listened to Dreams from my Father.

That kind of trip would be a transformative experience for anyone. I’d only even been a licensed driver for six months. I’m sure I’m displaying any number of issues here that tie into my own lost father, my long-delayed exit from adolescence, and the way we approach elections as the process of choosing new parents. But if nothing else, I can at last say that I chose this President, and he is a writer who does voices when he reads aloud.

I wonder what that will be like?

Day Whatever: Portland

I keep the Moleskine and the Micron next to my bed so I can write down story ideas I have while falling asleep, and on mornings after they usually turn out about half useful and half dumb. But even in their hastiness and abbreviation, I can almost always follow the signifying notes back to the image or twist that precipitated them.

I had two last night. One was a Chosen Ones story that I’ll probably do up for next week. The other?

“Six big diapers.”

I offer this to the world.

I live in Portland now. I had some exceedingly mild adventures in San Francisco, and took a lot of pictures that you will see sometime around 2018. Maria came to visit and that was really nice. Hugner is fine.

I’ve been in a self-imposed sweatshop lockbox all this week, trying to prepare for the big show: Stumptown Comics Fest, where I will be exhibiting with free microcomics and a six-word story completion marathon and, yes, Ommatidia, the first Anacrusis book. No, you can’t buy it online yet, not until I finish setting up the storefront. I am planning to have that up by my birthday (a week from tomorrow).

I realize that I have announced this far too late for anyone who wasn’t already planning to come to Stumptown to show up; trust me, that is all part of a strategy. Eventually I may even figure out what the strategy is. But on the off chance that there are any Anacrusis fans in the PDX, show up! There are a lot more reasons to do so than just me and my tablemates (“Cinema Sewer”).

Day 5: Arizona

I like “Horse with No Name” so much, and I don’t think I have it on my iPod! Which means I can’t play it over and over again tomorrow, my last day of driving through desert. So far the desert has had the pleasant effect of being very pretty. It has also had the unfortunate effects of making me drink three times as much water as usual, making me run the AC all the time, and oh yeah, being like a fucking desert.

Also, it scared Hugner, and not without reason. I had to take these pictures from a rest area without him in them. Unless… unless he was hiding somewhere!

I'll give you a clue:  he IS hiding.

And not very well.

But today’s drive (the shortest of this trip) was worth it for the chance to hang out in Phoenix, which included my being the first Kentucky-friend to get a tour of the new digs of the Chinese Shao-Lin Center from its proprietors:

Kung fu happens here!

Laura Beth and Jacob.

Then they took me home, fed me delicious raw vegan “cheese” “cake,” and permitted me to indulge my gadgeteering impulses in the process of watching Love Actually. Now I am falling asleep while writing this on their couch. Tomorrow is the big push: Phoenix to SF in one day, hopefully by 8 pm. It’s not going to be easy. Hugner, better set snuggling to max.

Bilbo and Hugner.

Laura Beth and Hugner.

Days 3 and 4: Texas

Day 3 also included Louisiana and Mississippi, but even before I left Alabama, Taylor and her friend Cheryl were mocking my car for its filthy appearance. When I took a closer look, I discovered something intriguing: that wasn’t dirt on it at all! It was pollen! My poor little Fit was encased entirely in a light, even coating of tree jizz.

Like heaven sprinkles from unicorn flowers. See, a flower is a kind of penis.

Man, you know what’s going to be great? Not living in the South.

But after that: Texas! Things do not seem to be bigger in Texas, but Texas is definitely bigger than anywhere else. This photo should give you some sense of scale:

See, it’s like the star is Texas, and Hugner is Earth.

Kris and Erica were kind enough to put me up for the night, even under the stress of their still-in-progress move and its pipe-related disasters. While there I got to meet Oxford, who demonstrated that it wasn’t just Hugner, but all Jinxlets who make dogs want to chomp them. And snuggle.

Like heaven kisses from unidog peepee.

Like kissy kisses from kissface kiss.

That latter shot features not just Kris and Hugner, but the original Hieronymous B’Gosh himself. I’d label them but come on, they’re pretty easy to tell apart. (NO Kris is in the MIDDLE)

I spent the remainder of the day and most of the night trying to get out the other side of Texas. I made it just barely over the border before collapsing in Las Cruces, which is a little pilgrimage to me for Anacrusis-related reasons. Hugner was tired of the whole thing a mere five hours out.

You have to kind of work to make him look sad.

After that he went over to the fence and peed because there was not so much as a gas station for two hours either way on I-20. Bad Hugner! But how can you even try to yell at that face?

Day 2: Birmingham

Let’s out with it: in a blatant bid to grab some of that hot, sexy Starslip traffic, I am taking my new Jinxlet, Hugner, with me on the road across America. Now instead of trying awkwardly to take pictures of myself in different places, I can take pictures of the stuffed animal instead! No one has ever thought of this before.

Hugner passenging.

Hugner was delivered to Louisville, so I don’t have any pictures of him from Day 0 (Winston-Salem), but there he is the passenging position which was once my purview on Day 1. Pretty cute, right! Except after that I had to stuff him in the back so I could put my giant backpack where he is.

The next two pictures are going to seem similar, but only until I explain that Hugner has a clever defense mechanism that makes all dogs think he is a chew toy. I’m… I’m not sure how the defense works. Up top he’s with the famous Brenna, and on the bottom he’s with my friend Taylor’s dog, Lizzie.

Hugner and Brenna.

Hugner and Lizzie.

Once the trip is over I’ll put together a Flickr gallery of these, but even by tomorrow we should have a VERY SPECIAL Hugner road trip update! It’s a surprise, but I will say this: the next stop on our trip involves his home planet.

Of Texas.

Day 1: Louisville

You have to read “Mallory,” Leonard’s newly published short story: not because it’s good (it’s very good) but because that way you can understand all the “Mallory” references I’ve been making in the over-a-year since I got to beta read it. As someone on a road trip to California that includes visiting some of my role models, I find the story perhaps a little too pat in its publication timing. I smell retcon, Richardson.

Speaking of which, The War on Clarity has been updated, due mostly to people wanting their names put on or taken off the “Lasersharking” entry. If only that could have been posted on some kind of user-editable repository.


OKAY KIDS. On the last day of March I’m leaving my suspiciously generous hosts here in NorCar and driving across the country, with stops in Louisville, Birmingham and eventually Berkeley. After two weeks (I hope) in the latter, I’m moving up to Portland to stay from somewhere between four and nine months. Looks like the trap got me after all.

So! Are you in a southwestern state or the Bay area? Would you like to hang out? Would you like to damage local hotel revenues by letting me spend a night on your couch? These can be arranged. Other things that can be arranged: me renting a room or subletting an apartment from people you know because MAN it is hard to get people on Portland Craigslist to get back to you when you don’t live in the same city. I don’t know why!

I promise to take pictures on the trip but I can’t promise you will see them in the living future. Oh, hey, if you want to ride out with me and fly back, as I once did with Leonard, let’s talk. I should warn you that due unwise purchasing decisions on my part, you will have to ride in the glove compartment.