Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Spray you, spray me

Warm weather in LA is finally (sorta) here. The jacarandas are blooming, flip flops are being worn, and DHA is in the air. I'm an unabashed fan of the spray tan. Glowing skin makes us white folk look healthier and prettier. Seriously- my friend once had her doctor tell her "how much better she looked" during her follow up visit, but what he didn't know is that she had gotten a spray tan. She still felt like shit. It fools professionals!

So I had my first ever airbrush spray tan tonight. My local Mystic tanning spot was doing a $25 promotion for current customers, which is quite a deal. Usually, my spray tanning involves a chamber, nakedness, and solitude. This time, it still involved nakedness, but also a 7 foot tall brown walk-in camping tent, another person, and a motorized hose type thing with a nozzle that reminded me of a weed abater. I had to move into different poses (including a left and right "lunge") as she swept the spraying hose up and down. At one point, she was like, "sorry it's so cold! I can see your goose bumps!" and I was thinking, "girl, this is so much better than the last time I was naked in front of a stranger, getting my ho-ha sapped with a laser and wearing protective eye gear."

Whenever I fake 'n bake, I never get it with added "bronzer," which is basically just dark powder that gets your white sheets filthy and makes you look like, well, a chimney sweep. It's body make-up that washes down the drain the next morning. Totally unnecessary for any purpose you could ever think of, unless you were staging an episode of Lost in your living room, that night. I usually just get the clear chemicals sprayed onto me, and like magic, it develops overnight into a golden glow.

This is gonna look so good for Maui!
Apparently the airbrush version of a spray tan necessitates the bronzer so the chick applying it can see where it's gone. Makes sense- so I compromised on my no-bronzer philosphy, and here I am, starled when I look in the mirror.

Meaning, I look like a chimney sweep right now.

This leads me to two thoughts: 1) on average, how many more times a year are women naked with strangers than men are? and 2) what in the world do airbrushed spray-tanning women do who live with men? As in, romantically? As much as I'm looking forward to someday living with my man, nights like tonight give me pause. Seriously, I look like a crazy person right now. After I got the airbrush bronzer tan, I bought hummus and wine at the Albertsons in Los Feliz, and the checker couldn't avert her eyes. And this is Los Feliz, where I've seen homeless people sunbathing spread eagle on street  corners. On that note, I do sorta look homeless right now.

Is this why Margot Tennenbaum kept her secret apartment?

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Just say "No"

This post is pissy. Warning. So I officially ended things with Chase today. If you want more info the ins and outs of dumping your big bank, look here, to the formidable Bill Maher's "break-up with your big bank" manifesto. I tried breaking up on Monday, but had some pending business, so was told to return. Which means I had to go through the effort of explaining why I'm leaving twice, to two different 20-something male dufus's (yes, I now have free reign to use "20-something" as a pejorative adjective) and then listen politely to their half-hearted objections and try to politely refute each one.

"Do you know how a credit union works? You know, they're really not convenient." Okay, fine, nice try, I get it, it's your job to at least put forth a bit of resistance. But then out of nowhere: "We have ATMs all over the country. I travel a lot, so it's nice to have ATMs all over the place. But some customers don't really leave their hometown, like Pasadena or Altadena, so a local bank works out for them."

Wow, thanks for the dig, you cock face. You're basically calling me a yokel for switching to a credit union. F*ck off. F*ck Chase, AND f*ck your ugly face!!!! But, being the polite and responsible citizen that I am, I didn't say any of those things. Instead, I politely replied (with a smile) that my credit union partners with 7-Elevens and that we can use those ATMs for free, and shucks, aren't those convenient!! [smile, nod, smile, nod] On both instances, the Chase dudes would say something to counter each response I made, but everything maintained a superficial politeness and professionalism in the way it was delivered, and I started feeling like we were both trying out for that passive-aggressive character that Kristen Wiig does on Saturday Night Live.

Why is it that I hate canceling, ending, terminating services so much? What is it? Why do I loathe that interaction? Do I feel like I'm letting this person down? What do I owe him or his spiked hair? For someone like me, who has a hard time saying "no," (which has gotten me into considerably less trouble than you'd think), those hail mary attempts to change my mind and force me to say "no" more than once are excruciating! Canceling DirectTV service took more effort than a spin class. That dude made me reject him at least three times. 

And I also wonder why it is that 9 times out of 10, I still don't call people on their bullshit when they offend me during such transactions. Or ever, really. I guess I don't want to sit there with both of us super uncomfortable until the transaction is over, but if he's made me uncomfortable already with the offensive comment, why do I feel the need to gracefully duck out of it and save him face? It's like making it through a bad date while you know you're never going to take another call from him. Why not just say what I'm thinking?

I've noticed it's a bit easier as I've gotten older. I won't let randos engage me in those "Do you have a minute to save the environment?" conversations on the street anymore. I just say "no." But I'd be lying if I said that there wasn't a sharp wave of discomfort that hit me every time I'm solicited and have to decline. I don't even like telling the cashier at CVS that I don't have a rewards card. LAME!!!! I think this is the only reason why India rubbed me the wrong way- the people there force you time and time again to say no. No no no no nonononononono. It leaves you feeling shitty. Like their infrastructure. Yeah, you asshole at Chase, I've been to India. So you can take your comment about yokel local credit unions and shove it.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

I'm 30

So the blog has really fallen off a cliff this month. I don't quite know what happened, but this hiatus won't continue. I've been having a ball, traveling a lot, stressing a lot, planning a lot, working a lot... and before I know it, it's March 26.

I am currently editing the master playlist that Dave has put together for my party, and if you know Dave, you know this is no minor task. We've been organizing my Big Lebowski themed 30th for weeks, and still have a ton of last minute stuff to get done.

We have our costumes, almost. Well, Dave has his, but mine is missing something. On our way to dinner last night, we walked by some classic Hollywood Blvd stores- the stripper shoe emporiums, sex shops that turn into costume stores around Halloween, Armenian suit dealers, wig warehouses- and I popped into one "costume" store to look for a nude bodysuit. My mistake was asking the owner for help and grabbing the opaque bodysuit out of his hand without really reading the entire description on the box. A block down the street, I notice it's missing one minor component- a crotch. Yep, he sold me an opaque, nude, crotchless bodysuit. Well happy birthday to me!! And of course, no returns...

Note to marketing: some adjectives deserve more
visual prominence than others.
The funny thing is, in what situation would a long sleeve tan body suit ever be so sexy that it would be necessary to NOT have a crotch? Who would actually keep this on during sex, Eskimos? Mormons? Maybe it's made for outdoor go-go dancing, so you can quickly pee and get back on stage? I advertised this as "Jackie Treehorn Presents Tiffany's XXX" but the double entendre was that XXX is 30 in Roman Numerals, and Jackie Treehorn produces porn. Maybe the crotchless body suit is meant to be.

Anyway, now I have to go to American Apparel, which I always try to avoid, to find a leotard or something I can wear in lieu of or under this. Make it work!

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Marching into Decade 3

Okay, I couldn't think of an apt title for ringing in the glorious month of March. I love this month. Yeah, it's my birthday month, but it always just feels right. I like the sound of it, I like the way it looks, I like spelling it (unlike February, which I still always second-guess). It means spring, it means springing forward (daylight savings is ending or starting or whatever the hell- all I know is that I get to drive home with the sun up!!), it means birth and renewal and St. Patrick's Day. It's here!

Count down to 30- now I have 26 days. I'm excited. I feel like I'm ready.

Today, I was on the uber side of responsible, I think to make up for the yin-yang state of being blacked-out/hungover all weekend in San Francisco. I got traction on a bunch of cases at work, broke in new high-heel booties, had an annual eye exam after work (prescription was reduced in one eye!!), and did my reading for my new class tomorrow-while taking breaks to do laundry. Hot damn, right? Balance in life appears to be important, and natural. This weekend was ridiculous, and it was spent with women of 5 different decades- me (still 20s, barely, hey it counts!); my family friend Sheri (30s); her good friend (40s); my mama (50s) and aunt Barb (60s- unbelievable). You know what's fun about parting with your mom? She thinks it's adorable when you get so drunk that you tell the cab driver you trust him more than your father.
Num num num

The point of the trip was to have some quality girl time, and we certainly delivered, SF Mardi Gras style. Sheri is actually on her way to the Big Easy this week, to meet up with my Canjun step-family. This got her in the mood, to say the least.

I look confused, but yeay for everyone else looking fab!

Cheers to good genes, and happy March everyone!

Monday, February 28, 2011

Won't you be my Neighbor?

Last week was our last session of Public Administration and Its Environments, the first class in the MPA program I started. It’s gone by quickly, and overall, I’m surprisingly pleased (or pleasantly surprised?) with the program and with our first professor. His lectures don’t just apply to the kind of work I do, but are germane in the broader sense and usually give me something stimulating to consider as I drive home late on Wednesday nights.

Things certainly aren’t looking good for local government- aside from the strain of the economy and the resulting decrease in tax revenue, in general, people just don’t want to give their money to the City. I mean, it’s understandable- times are tough and trust in government is low. But you can’t and shouldn’t expect the same level of services. If you thought those pot holes on your street took a long time to fill before, you can get used to swerving around them for a long, long time. Anyway, the point our professor made is that as services get further reduced, citizens are going to have to work together and partner with the local government to maintain their communities. He talked about old school Jeffersonian democracy- small, energized groups of citizens “barn raising” with their neighbors and getting off their haunches to make a difference. Somehow, this didn’t come across as preachy. Shocking, I know. I think this is in part due to the boarder scope of his lecture and in part due to his realism. For example, he joked that things can “get really bitchy” at community meetings at his friend’s organic farm compound in Northern California. He acknowledged how difficult it is to come home after a long day at work and put energy into your community, or hell, even your next door neighbor. Plus, everyone’s afraid to fail. Everyone’s doubtful that any sort of grass roots action can be effectual, or at least, effectual for them. I know I am. I don’t even make it down to the local farmers market a block away on the weekends anymore.

Our prof also talked about the concept of sharing with your neighbors so that you can “own less and have more.” He claims the only reason he can afford to live in Santa Barbara is because of a serendipitous series of sharing-type events. There’s even a Nolo book on sharing- the same company that gives doles out legal advice about taxes, death and divorce- called: The Sharing Solution

It contains resources, sample contracts and MOUs for sharing a car, childcare, a vacation home, a primary residence, whatever. It’s a great idea- I mean, why don’t we do this more? Does every house on the block need its own lawn mower? (Ok, poor example, but you get the idea) Or what about a nanny? Couldn’t neighbors share child and elder care? I don’t even know anyone’s name in my small apartment complex. It’s like the opposite of whatever Melrose Place was about. I tried having a little party once and invited neighbors; the girl next door who I can sometimes hear stumbling around through the bedroom wall came over for a split second to check out my apartment and then her phone rang and she left. Another chick came over who seemed promising, but we never saw each other again. Ever. It’s so bizarre, really. I once heard that apartment dwellers have to act isolationist because we’re literally living on top of each other and need to psychologically stake out our own space. Still- how many times have I wished I could ask a neighbor of mine for a lime or a lemon? (I don’t bake, so a cup of sugar or milk doesn’t really apply) But I never have and probably never will. I wouldn’t dare knock on their door; and the thought of someone knocking on mine is almost creepy.

This may have to do with a sense of transience- I know I won’t be living in that apartment building on Vermont Avenue for the rest of my life. Still, if I cared to invest a modicum of energy into knowing my neighbors, I would certainly benefit. Take the guys in the building next door who have a sort of unofficial (and certainly unpermited) auto shop in the back of their apartment. I pull my car out every morning next to their junky cars, and pull up right next to the scene every night. I can’t stand it. There’s one recognizable bearded guy who I usually try to hastily avoid, and then a rotating mix of helpers. They’re not there all the time, but their shitty cars are. Water from all the rains has accumulated around the spare tires laying on the concrete. I expect to come home one night to see Heathcliff and his gang lounging on one of the Jeeps with a fish skeleton in his mouth. It’s an eyesore.

That said, when I was about to drive to Vegas the other weekend, my engine light came on. It never comes on. Ugghhhh…. There’s not a chore I hate much more than dealing with getting my car maintained and fixed. I swear, if I had automotive skill and capital to spare, I’d spearhead a chain of auto-repair places aimed at the discerning female customer. You’d make an appointment online, like an exercise class or an eye exam. There would be dedicated receptionists that were well-versed in customer service. You’d get a rental car or a ride to work within 5 miles if the job was going to take more than an hour. There would be lots of cushy seats for those who wanted to wait, with magazines and maybe even an adjacent nail salon. Relaxing music would stream in. It would be pleasant and stylish.

Instead, I ended up having to wait outside of a Pep Boys in Pasadena until they opened at 8 a.m., jockey for first in line with other hurried looking customers in suits, wait around for them to deal with the engine light, and then come in late to work. On the way to Vegas, the light reappeared, and I had to waste time in Vegas going to a local guy to check it out again.

If I had bothered to make friends, or even acquaintances, with the ersatz auto shop next door, I could have asked them to do the quick diagnostic and saved myself a ton of psychological hassle, as well as time. Life could be easier if we put ourselves out there even a little bit and got to know our neighbors. We could barter services! My mom does this with the woman who cleans her house. I don’t think she’s paid her in months- she just trades junk with her (which is resold as “antiques”). It makes sense, and it may make sense to do in a more mindful and concerted way. Now if only I could find someone next door who could do a mean blow out…

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Discipline, et al.

“Self discipline is overrated and undependable.” – Tim Ferriss, Author of 4 Hour Work Week and 4 Hour Body

I think my MPA program is getting in the way of my blog. Right or wrong, this gives me agita. So I’m taking a break from writing my paper that’s due tomorrow night to get down some thoughts I’ve been having about discipline, and how discipline relates to my life and my objectives for the year.

For the past hour, I have been typing at my kitchen nook on my laptop, with my paperwork piled around, the space heater running at full blast, and an unopened bottle of Cabernet sitting a foot away from the computer (as I’m sure you can guess, the bottle is no longer unopened; which leads me to a semantic aside- if I can “open” a bottle of wine, why can’t I “close” it? Well, yeah, sometimes there’s no wine left to be closed; but when I’m alone and done for the night and I have to “close” the bottle of wine, I have to come up with some other term, like cork or seal. I guess I can think of a ton of examples where the word open requires some specialized version of close, even though we think of open and closed as being exact opposites, right? They’re on the front and back of the same hanging sign in every old-school retail store. You can open and close a bank account, but you can’t open and close a present. I don’t even think you’d say you closed the jar of peanut butter after you opened it. What would you say? Put the lid back on? Why does our language require five words for that which is the opposite of a one-word phrase?).

So anyway, the reason the closed bottle of wine and creepy illustration of Paul Newman on said bottle of wine were eyeing me while I typed is because it was motivating me to write. I told myself that I had to finish one of the assignments before I opened the bottle and had a glass. And it worked. Would I have typed up the assignment without the wine staring at me? Yes, of course. But keeping the wine hostage in the bottle like I was some shrewd Somali piratess gave me a little feeling of empowerment and provided me with some kind of immediate reward for doing something I really didn’t want to be doing.
Paul, you were a gorgeous man, but it's just lost in translation.

I feel like I do things like this all the time. Yesterday, I told myself I had to plant my ass in front of the computer with my documents for a few hours in the afternoon and then I could make a yummy dinner and watch the Bachelor for two hours. True story. And that worked too. When the long-term reward is in the distant future (i.e. a degree two years from now, or not having a heart attack at 40), it takes some serious manipulation for me to stay disciplined enough to get anything productive done. [insert thoughtful exploration of the motivation behind procrastination, or possibly draw on Louise’s academic studies about discipline and self-control- later]

That’s one of the reasons why I find the exercise class paradigm works better than a gym for me. Many of these studios make you reserve a space in the class online, and you’re charged money if you cancel within an hour of the class. Brilliant! The only thing I have to do is remember to pack clean clothes in my little work out bag (which has become routine), and then I have no excuse to not go to a class after work. I can’t come home first, or else the whole plan implodes, so I have to drive straight from work to go get my tuck on (Yes, tuck. I’ll discus the Bar Method & Pop Physique in a separate, grueling post).

Discipline is a complex issue, though I wonder if it’s any different than playing mind games with yourself to achieve results. Which brings me to Tim Ferriss. This is the self-aggrandizing yet admittedly compelling author of The Four Hour Work Week, who now has a book out about all of the experiments he’s done on his body (including “cold exposure” to lose weight). Disclaimer aside, it’s refreshing to read Tim Ferriss’s diet plan in the Four Hour Body, because it doesn’t have any pretense. He doesn’t pretend that anyone has the discipline to keep “domino” foods in the house without overeating (in which he listed “hummus” as one such food- chagrin). He claims that self-discipline is overrated anyway (yeah it is!) and it’s not reliable (no, it certainly isn’t).

What’s also refreshing about the way he presents the Slow Carb Diet is that he doesn’t pretend for a second that losing weight and becoming an accomplished cook go hand in hand. Why do diet book authors, or even women’s magazine columnists who write about diets in pseudo-scientific ways, assume that everyone wants three original meals a day with two unique snacks. It’s absurd and WAY too daunting for someone like me, who hasn’t even bothered to lobby her landlord for a working oven in the year and ½ I’ve been in my apartment. Seriously, pick up or google the menu plan for the South Beach Diet, and you’ll be totally overwhelmed. In contrast, Tim Ferriss actually recommends eating the same thing over and over, and not having any delusions about becoming a cook if all you’re used to doing is pressing “start” and opening lids. The idea is to have each meal be some combination of protein, beans/legumes and vegetables. I need to eat more beans anyway- they’re good for you, and as we saw in a previous post, very cheap. I also need to eat more vegetables, which is sort of funny coming from a vegetarian, but who doesn’t? So this morning, I made an attempt to eat a vegetable at breakfast. I microwaved egg whites and fresh spinach in the kitchen at work, then ground some pepper and salt over it. Pas mal! I think this is a diet I can trick myself into having the discipline to do; I don’t have to be original, and I don’t have to do anything outside of my normal routine for feeding myself. I just have to buy the right things to throw together.

So in preparation for wanting to look fierce on my birthday, I’m going to attempt the Slow Carb Diet. I’m gearing up for it right now by adding things like protein at breakfast and beans in more meals; I’ll try it full-force after this weekend binge in San Francisco. It’s sort of like when my brother would steadily cut bread and pasta and anything tasty out of his diet as he got closer and closer to Cancun spring break in college. (Me: “So what do you eat if you’re still hungry late at night?” Devon: “Tiff, microwave a bowl of broccoli and think about your abs.” Sigh…)

Oh, and in case you were wondering, a couple glasses of red wine are totally allowed, if not encouraged, on the Slow Carb Diet.

I’ve got about a month to go until the big day. I wonder if I should measure myself and aim for lost inches. If only I had the discipline to go do that…

Sunday, February 13, 2011

I'm a LebowSKI, you're a LebowSKI

I conquered another resolution (“ski at least one time this year”) by heading up to Mammoth with some friends and no-danger strangers for a ski weekend. We packed up the car, spent way too much time on the road, marveled at the quirkiness of the small Mojave Desert towns and odd roadside attractions, listened to 78 of the 1103 songs on Dave’s “California Driving Mix” and made it up to Mammoth by the early evening on Friday.

Our friend Geoff scored an awesome condo super close to the mountain, and we gladly stayed in Friday night, cooked dinner (well, Alyssa cooked dinner and we kept her company), and played some mellow board games. Dave and Geoff revealed their heretofore unadvertised Boggle skills; they were so successful at this game that I am convinced Barbri must have made it a mandatory subject for LSAT test prep.
It's not a mountain rental if there aren't vintage skis hanging.

So the condo was about 25 yards away from Canyon Lodge (one of the lodge’s/ski lift areas on the mountain), and we were able to walk to the rental location and ski lesson Saturday morning. Although I originally intended on taking a lesson by myself, mostly for the same reasons that dogs choose to die alone, Alyssa joined me for a beginning lesson and it was great. We were able to get in some valuable one-on-one time during our little breaks, or as we were side stepping up a bunny slope. 
Alyssa and I conquer the mountain

not too cool for ski skool

Gear heads

Alyssa moved on to a higher skill level group after lunch, and I had to start limiting my talk of the apr├Ęs-ski margarita. By all accounts, it was a successful ski day for me, though I don’t really feel like I’m skiing for real yet. Mostly we just followed the leader slowly (and widely) down the easy-breezy green hills without our poles. I am getting more comfortable, and I’m hoping that the third time I do this, I can start calling it “fun.” Our young instructor kept exclaiming how wonderful it was to teach adults, which highlighted the fact that most of the time, people at my skill level are still unable to fully pronounce the "th" sound.

Good news is, I didn’t fall at all, except for when a snow boarder ran into me and we crumbled together to the snow. Although it didn't hurt, he really should have apologized because I was clearly going slow enough for him to see and avoid me as he barreled down the mountain from above. Am I ignorant about "mountain etiquette?" Are you not supposed to admit fault, like in a car accident? Aside from that minor incident, I still haven’t fallen at all while skiing. Not once last year, not once this year. I’m starting to wonder if that’s a bad thing (because I’m not taking risks, and because I’m straining my thighs in an isometric pizza position almost the entire time). Should I make it a point to fall on my third ski trip? Cringe...

The best part for me was finishing the day with a smile on my face, meeting up with the non-remedial kids at the outdoor bar that was blasting Journey and having Dave hand me a margarita before I could even sit down. Bliss. Imagining that drink had kept me going throughout the lesson, though the pinched ankles and strained knees and chapped lips.

Aside from all that, Mammoth was really a beautiful place. Driving back, I honestly can say I have never seen that much snow in real life. It was awesome, and I would definitely do it again (though I might spring for a plane ticket next time- no offense to Mojave, the city).