Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Call to service

In honor of Barack Obama's inauguration yesterday, I think today is as good a day as any to give you some ideas on where you can donate your time/money this month.

My friend Jamie is volunteering with LA's Homeless Count '09. Every year, this organization counts the city's homeless so that proper funding can be requested for services. This is actually happening next week, so hurry and sign up if you're interested.

On January 15th, a guy I went to school with lost his wife to melanoma. She was 31 years old. His name is Rich, her name was Rachel. He has a blog chronicling the battle here. It is so incredibly sad to think that someone so young has to go through losing his wife, and also that someone so young had to battle a cancer so violent and viscous. Gina and I were unable to attend the funeral, but we're going to donate to:

University of Pittsburgh Cancer Institute Development Office
UPMC Cancer Pavilion, Suite 1 B
5150 Centre Avenue
Pittsburgh, PA 15232

If you'd rather do a donation online for a more general fund, check out the Melanoma Awareness website, with links on the left side of the page on where to donate.

If you want to donate time but can't figure out where to go, check out Volunteer Match. This website will give you listings of places that need volunteers - all you have to do is enter your location and what volunteer opportunities would interest you.

Starbucks is giving away a free tall cup of coffee if you pledge five hours of community service! Click here for details!!

Lastly, if you have any ideas for the Obama administration on what you want your country to look like, go to and send President Obama some suggestions.

Peace out.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Some said it was the weekend of dreams… and it was, it really was.

I wish every weekend could be like this past one. Not only did I have a blast, but I made good on three of my resolutions! Prepare to experience the fun…

Friday night: I went for some after-work drinks and pool at Johnny’s, a bar in my neighborhood I’ve been meaning to check out since we bought our condo. (Resolution: go to more new places in LA – check.) Small with one pool table and a jukebox, this bar is right up my alley. After drinks, my work buddies and I went to a colleague’s house and played poker.

I TOTALLY WOULD HAVE WON, but I started being super risky the closer it got to 9:00 because I had a birthday party to go to. As it stood, I had to leave my chips to Jake’s care before I left, and we lost. Sigh.

After poker, gina, Justine, and I went to The Dresden Room for a birthday party. The trip continued to fulfill my visit-more-new-places resolution. I lived in Hollywood for a long time, very close to this bar, in fact, and never went. It’s kind of a crime – The Dresden Room is a Hollywood standby. I’m glad I finally got a chance to check it out.

Saturday, gina and I went to the Self-Realization Fellowship Center at the top of Mount Washington in LA. A few people had recommended we check this out. We weren’t sure what to expect – we basically walked around and enjoyed the gardens and the view, and I naturally took some pictures. I’m going to research this place a bit more and possibly post a more detailed description.

I also figured out how to use the digital macro feature on my new camera and took some shots of my ring:

After exploring the Center, we went to see The Reader (finally), which fulfilled another resolution: see more movies. The movie was fantastic, and Kate Winslet is quickly becoming an obsession.

After the movie, we went to Hugo’s Tacos in Atwater Village, continuing to fulfill my resolution to try new places in LA. We had never eaten here but had heard good things. The good things were correct. This place rocks.

Sunday, gina had to go to Catalina. While she was gone, I worked on another resolution by going to the gym and getting in a great workout. Sunday evening, we went and saw Frost/Nixon (finally!). Another fantastic movie. The movie theater, a straggler in the Burbank mall, pretty much SUCKED, but the movie was great.

We both had Monday off, and had plans to go hiking in this place we’ve never been. However, Jesse and Paul called and offered us tickets to the Clippers game, another first for both of us! We went, and learned quickly that the Clippers are not very good. But we had a lot of fun and a lot of beer. (Which might have canceled out the gym visit I made that morning, but whatever.)

And when the weekend was over, it was somehow okay that we had to go back to work today. Maybe the trick to getting the most out of my weekend is to actually DO stuff, and then it won’t be so bad that I have to go back to work, because at least I made the most of my weekend. And to top it off, Barack Obama became President today! Boy howdy.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

On track to a better '09.

Remember five days ago when I posted this entry about my resolutions for 2009? Well, less than 24 hours later, I broke number resolution number 3 by plopping down just under $1000 for a weekend trip to Chicago for gina and I. I broke the resolution without even remembering I had made it! Comical, really.

The good news is, I'm keeping resolution number 5, to travel a little more, to get back into those fee-friendly skies. We're headed to Chicago to see a play written by my lovely and talented friend Amy. We also haven't been anywhere together that isn't Vegas in a year or so, so thousand bucks be damned, I'm EXCITED. And who can put a price on that?

Sunday, January 11, 2009


My friend Justine and I went to see a movie called "I've Loved You So Long" last night at a Laemmle's in Beverly Hills. On our way there, I was sharing with her a few things I've noticed about myself that I've attributed to aging - dark circles under my eyes, ridiculously dry skin on my hands, and the like. Justine, who is two years my junior, informed me she hasn't noticed anything in the way of aging. Good for her.

When we got to the movie theater, the following conversation took place:

Me to teller:
One for 'I've Loved You So Long.'

One adult?

Me: Yes. (to Justine) What, does she think I'm a kid?

Justine: No, she probably was double checking that you weren't a senior.

Me: Well played, my friend.

Friday, January 09, 2009

2009: Obligatory Resolution Post

I’ve been thinking quite a bit about what sort of resolutions I want to put into cyberspace, what sort of things I want to change that I’m willing to be held accountable for by my friends. While I hate New Year’s Eve more and more every year, my pleasure for New Year’s Day seems to increase exponentially. There is something to be said for the notion that you have a whole year in front of you, and that little number change on my calendar definitely sets my wheels a-turnin’.

I feel like I have a lot of resolutions this year, because as I get older, I realize more and more exactly who I am and who I want to be, and as I go through life, I pick up bits of information here and there on how to turn myself into that person. So here is a long list of goals I’m setting for myself this year – resolutions, if you will.

1. Health – At the end of 2008, I lost a small amount of weight that was enough to win $50 in a health challenge at work. I liked it and want to continue to work on that. I’m eating more fruit and less crap. I’m exercising more and drinking more water. I’m fitting into clothes again. This is good and saves me money.

2. Donate – Time, money, and my hair, eventually. I will keep you posted on where I’m donating – maybe you will donate, too. (It doesn’t have to be your hair.)

3. Finances – I HAVE to save more money. I will start by attempting to NOT make any huge purchases in the near future. This will be harder than anything on this list.

4. Friends – I want to see my friends more, and talk to them more frequently. I want to know about their lives. I hate talking on the phone, but I also hate being so disconnected from the people I care about. So this year, I will make more attempts to reach out to my friends. I also plan to foster new friendships, if I can just quit being annoyed by everybody.

5. Travel – I have not traveled since March of 2008. It has been great, being in Los Angeles, but I’m ready to get out now. I want to visit Ohio, Chicago, possibly NYC, and maybe, just maybe, Italy. I will crabwalk backwards to Columbus for the USC v OSU game if I have to.

6. Los Angeles – Even though I’ve spent the last 10 months here and nowhere else, I haven’t done anything. I was so excited to be home after having been on the road for so long that I don’t explore anymore. This year, I want to visit places in LA I’ve never been, or have only been once. A post with a list of those places will follow.

7. Write – This will always be a resolution of mine, because no matter how much I write, I don’t know that it will ever be enough. I took a short story class at UCLA this past fall and feel like it helped me get back into the habit of wanting to write, and it sort of got me back into the habit of actually writing, if for no other reason than to earn back the $500 I spent on the class. I want to ride on this wind and write more, and also diversify what I write. I’m toying with a novel idea, but I’m also toying with taking a nap, so we’ll see which one wins out.

8. Books/Movies – I read a lot of books, and I see a lot of movies, but I have realized recently that if I am ever to read all of the books I want to read and see all of the movies I want to see, I need to be engaging myself in these activities much more frequently.

9. Love – Most important on my list is to love more. I want to erase negativity, although I’m not sure how to do that and still maintain my signature sarcasm. Maybe THIS will be the hardest resolution on the list. In any case, I want to take more opportunities to tell the people that I love that I love them, and also show them that I love them. I want to quit taking these people for granted. And when you send love out into the world, it comes back to you. I’m not even being sarcastic here! It even reads weird, right? Man, this love thing is for chumps.

10. Sleep – I’d like to sleep more and be awake less. I love sleep. Sleep and me are like this. I realize that with all of the other resolutions on the list, plus my full- time job, this will be nearly impossible, but my mom always told me I could do anything I put my mind to. And sleep is one area where I never procrastinate.

My goal is to keep you posted on the progress of all of these resolutions throughout the year, but first, I have to work on resolution #10.

Thursday, January 08, 2009

Quote - "Winesburg, Ohio."

When he began to weep she held him more and more tightly. On and on went her voice. It was not harsh or shrill as when she talked to her husband but was like rain falling on trees.
-Sherwood Anderson, "Winesburg, Ohio"

Wednesday, January 07, 2009

Decidedly not funny, but pretty informative.

2008 was one for the books, folks. I have been noticeably absent from this blog for the past year, and feel like I owe whatever readers are left some sort of explanation.

The nutshell is as follows: End of 2007, it seemed my youngest sister Jackie had gotten herself into some sort of troubling habits. I won’t go into detail as to how we figured this out, but I was convinced all she needed was away from her friends in Ohio, so when she asked if she could come stay with me and gina for an indefinite amount of time, I happily bought her a one way ticket. Right before she arrived in Los Angeles, it came to light that the “troubling habit” was an addiction to heroin. You read right, folks. Heroin.

Back in those days, one year ago this month, I had no idea what to expect having a heroin addict live with us. In fact, I didn’t really admit to myself that she was an addict, even though the logical part of my brain reminded me that people don’t really use heroin recreationally. Jackie arrived here, was sick for a few days, but once she started to feel better, things were good. She got a great job, and was very proud of herself. We were all very proud of her as well. She felt good about working and earning money and living a good life.

As addicts are prone to do, she relapsed. This was disappointing and at first shocking to me, but upon further reflection, I realized this is an issue she will deal with every day for the rest of her life, and all I hope for her is that she will come to me for help and that I will be able to help her in whatever way possible. Disappointment and anger turned into pride and hopefulness when she checked herself into a rehab about 45 miles away. I knew it would be hard for her, and was so incredibly proud of her for taking this step to better herself. I missed her every day, but was so grateful there were people taking care of her and looking out for her, people who actually knew how to help her.

She was slated to be there for 90 days, but about 30 days in, she left without notifying anyone. We found out about two weeks before Thanksgiving that she was not there anymore. It’s never a good time to go missing, but right before the holidays is the worst time ever. I had booked my mom a flight to LA to spend Thanksgiving with us back in August. When Jackie disappeared, my mom decided she would stay in LA indefinitely, find a job, and try to find Jackie. It was not easy when my mom arrived, as you can imagine. I feel like I have a unique relationship with both of my sisters because they are so much younger than me, and that at times, I feel more like a mom than a sister, but when my mom got here, I realized that I am nowhere near a mother to them, and that the pain my mom felt in losing Jackie infinitely outweighed anything that I might have felt. My mother was devastated. She cried every day, and every day she just waited for her phone to ring. That’s all we could do was wait. Thanksgiving came and went and we didn’t hear from her. The weather got colder, I knew her money was running out… she had no cell phone with her and did not seem to be checking email. There was literally nothing we could do but wait, and hope that she was okay, and hope that she would call eventually. Nothing is worse than being so out of control of something that affects your heart and your mind so drastically. It’s like we all had this disease – not just Jackie. We were all hurt by it.

Nothing seemed logical about this, which made it even harder. I never thought she would leave without a trace. She wasn’t really missing, she just didn’t want us to find her. And we all knew that. Still, it seemed like she had been taken from us, and we all had to remind ourselves that she was cutting herself out of our lives, probably because she knew she would hurt us if she were in our lives. She wanted to use, and she knew she couldn’t use with us involved with her, so she did just that. I kept telling myself, if she’s dead, someone will call us. Someone will find us. She must be alive, she must be staying somewhere, someone must be taking care of her. She’ll call eventually. While I waited for her, I used the time to strengthen myself so that I would be ready when she finally did call. We all tried to do this. We all just held on to the idea that she needed to be away from us, and she would call eventually.

Thanksgiving was brutal, not having her there, not hearing from her, but we still managed to have a great day overall – good food, good company. When Christmas music started coming on the radio, and decorations started going up around town, the heartache deepened. I knew the best thing to do was to continue on with Christmas preparations and traditions, but it was not easy – putting the tree up, planning for Christmas dinner. To me, I felt like I was forcing it – fake it ‘til you make it, as the saying goes. It felt like a ticking time bomb – I knew that if she didn’t call by Christmas, she wasn’t going to call for a long time. But eventually, I was making it. I was carrying on, going through the motions, and it was okay. There were moments of crippling sadness, usually on my way home from work when I was alone and thinking, and it was dark outside, and I just wanted to hug her, I just wanted to hear her voice, to hear her laugh. But what was I to do? I just prayed, and put it out into the universe that I wanted her back.

She called on Christmas Eve. Christmas Eve – easily the most emotional day of the year for me. We picked her up, with the intention of getting her into a detox as soon as possible. But wouldn’t you know it, detox intake workers celebrate Christmas just like the rest of us, so there was no one that could take her. She detoxed at our house for what ended up being six days. It was amazing, being able to see her again, to hug her, to know where she was. I knew it wasn’t right to bring her back to our house, because the last thing you want to do for an addict is enable them. But my logic failed me, as it had during the entire year, and it was fucking Christmas Eve and I wanted my baby sister to have some place to sleep where she wasn’t going to wake up and use. After six days of calling about 100 rehab places, we finally found her a spot. Should she choose to stay this time, I think the program will work for her. It’s very structured and full of discipline, and they expect a lot out of their residents. It will be hard for her, but I hope she decides to stay because it will make her life easier sooner.

This is why I haven’t been writing. I didn’t want to share this in this space until now, and without talking about it, it seemed like there wasn’t much else to talk about. The reason I’m writing about it now is because once I did start talking about it, no fewer than five people, only two of which are close friends, shared their own stories about their own connections with addiction. These people reached out to me and were able to relate to my pain, frustration, and hope. They were able to tell me I was doing the right thing. They weren’t able to promise it would be okay, but I didn’t need or even want that. I just wanted someone to remind me I wasn’t the only one who had ever dealt with something like this, and that whatever I had decided to do was the right thing to do. I needed those people to help me continue to relinquish all control over the situation, even though the reality is, I never have been and never will be in a position to control it at all.

Also, I felt like once I was sharing the situation with people, I was able to breathe more easily and I was able to cherish and be grateful for all of the good things in my life. I have also been able to accept my own reality, and I have learned that life is definitely not always what you had planned it to be. It’s still my life, and she is still my sister, and I love her just as much as I did the day she was born. I am sad for her that her life has to be so difficult, but I am also well aware that it is this way because of choices she made – choices I did not make for her or could not have made for her. I hope she finds her way through this, because she really has a bright and brilliant mind, and I believe she has something great to offer the world. And selfishly, I adore her and want her in my life for as long as possible.

I have accepted that this is not just Jackie’s problem to deal with – this is an issue for me too, and I do not have to keep it secret to protect anyone. Conversely, I feel like I need to share it to seek help and support for myself, and maybe even to offer help and support someone else. Above all of this, I have realized that I can’t always work through stuff by myself, and that keeping my feelings, thoughts, concerns, hopes, dreams, and fears so close to myself doesn’t help me at all. I don’t need to guard my hand so carefully – no one is out to get me. Quite the opposite: it has been nothing but an outpouring of support from my closest friends, and I finally understand that there is no shame in needing such support.

So hopefully, having shared this, I have unlocked some reserve of creativity, and now I will be free to post frequently with hilarious stories and funny yarns. 2009 will be a fantastic year if I have any say it, and I’d love to share it with you, if you’ll still have me.