Honey and Vinegar

Tuesday, April 07, 2009


If you had asked me 10, 5 or even 3 years ago, I would have defied any intimation that I would ever move 'home' to Southern California. I was a stalwart Nor Cal convert. I swore that I'd never return to the land populated by 'the beautiful people'. Sure, I had problems adjusting at first- there were the crying jags when I went weeks without sun and the realization that my wardrobe was completely inappropriate. But to prove my dedication to my adopted home, I diligently consumed mounds of organic fare, drank myself silly in Sonoma and bought a house in a neighborhood that scared my parents. I also absolutely refused to pay for parking. Ever.

But there were certain desires that always laid dormant- the desire to eat an ice cream without a scarf. My inability to drive at normal speeds. The need to see the sun more than occasionally. So I've done it - I've moved back to L.A. And I wasn't even kicking and screaming. I can't help but get giddy when the sun is out in February or November. I love that I can now wear my flip flops more often than not. And by god, I have a pool.

However, my original opinion, formed at the tender age of teenager still applies- the people are vapid, the cars never match the income and the sprawl is seemingly endless and depressing. Added to that, I have come to understand that I most certainly do not live in the right zip code. This is a new dimension I didn't have the pleasure of discovering until now. Here I was, enjoying my rose scented neighborhood, when I was informed that I could not possibly be happy living where I was. Studio City: squirrels, big lawns and much shrubbery. Bernal Heights: rats, one neighbor who repaired cars in the street and the two lesbians who were always hollering at each other. And who could forget that darling former crack house on the corner. My epiphany about the unsavory nature of my new hometown came thanks to a coworker, a Hollywood renter who drives a BMW. He informed me that he might as well live in Minnesota if he was going to live 'in the Valley'. I wasn't sure what to think, but I'm pretty sure that was an insult, even though he is a native of Minnesota.

But to purely detest LA for its refusal to adhere to norms of economics and decency is to miss out on the joy of the circus. The news has provided me with inestimable joy and fodder for fiction. Forget the feel good Northern California newscasters who favored the 'kitty stuck in a tree' story instead of reporting the fatalities in Hunter's Point. No no, my Southern California news never fails to deliver- they are in it to win it. My all time favorite thus far was a story reported over the summer about two elderly women who had a nice little business luring vagrants into their house, taking out insurance policies on them and then offing them to collect on the money. I can only hope to have as much fun as an old lady.

Monday, October 09, 2006

How I Outsmarted Natural Selection

My friend called yesterday announcing the birth of his second child. When I called today his wife's sister answered the phone and said that her sister was still in bed. That's right, she gave birth at home.

Before I had my kid, I thought people were insane who gave birth at home. Yes, I know what you're going to say next, you supporters of home birthing: women have been giving birth at home for thousands of years. My retort: a good portion of women also died in childbirth before the advent of sterile equipment and pre-natal ultrasounds. Being a woman and also a woman who doesn't have a deathwish quite yet, a hospital birth felt like the right call, especially for the first baby. Why tempt fate when you can have drugs? (I would also like to take a moment to thank my friend, the epidural.)

I still don't think I would feel comfortable doing it myself, but my attitude towards women who do has been modified from 'you crazy' to 'you go'. After experiencing a hospital birth that involved many tubes, drugs, and eventually scalpels, I can appreciate a woman's decision to do this at home. In a hospital, you are constantly bothered by people coming in every 2 hours to measure something or another. At home, there would be no blood pressure taker that wakes you up just as you're dozing off or nurse's assistant knocking on your door for some unknown reason after a sleepless night with a screaming baby. At home you get the food you want. At home, all your stuff is right there where you need it. At home, your husband can go snore in another room.

It's hard being a woman in the Bay Area who had a c-section- you feel like you didn't do your job because you couldn't push the baby out the right way, especially with the prevalence of all of these homebirthing mamas. But that doesn't negate the fact that I've got mad respect for women who can do this. You go girl. But thanks to modern technology, I haven't been selected out of the population yet...

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Fear the Girls' Night

It wasn't until I got married that I began participating in girls' nights in earnest. It appears your need for them increases once there's a ring on your left finger. I had been to a few very painful kumbaya gatherings where I was made to sit in a circle and pretend to be interested in girls' problems whose lives didn't resemble mine in the least. I drank heavily at these affairs (that much doesn't seem to have changed) and would invariably offer up that my life was fine, great or any number of non-committal adjectives. I would then clam up, hoping desperately that no one would ask me to elaborate. I also had to physically restrain myself from laughing at some of the 'issues' that were brought up. I had a very stressful job, full of things like deadlines and bosses and office politics; I just couldn't relate to the hippie gardener who was looking for a more mellow housemate because the one she was living with in Berkeley for, like, $200/month didn't like Phish. This was evidently sacriledge and cause for great concern, especially since said roommate was into electronica, a preference that was nearly incomprehensible. To make matters unbelievably worse, he only smoked pot every now and then. There was a lot of murmuring and earnest ministrations about accepting people for who they are and giving them the space they need to become who they need to be. I chose this moment to slam my beer and run to the bathroom so that no one would accuse me of being unsupportive while I laughed my head off. Hippies evidently lack problems, but no amount of emotion or need to talk about said emotions with corny pseudo psychological platitudes.

The girls' nights that I have now are never billed as such- it's always just dinner or drinks with friends. There's a lot of listening and counseling, sure, but there's also quite a bit of ribbing, story telling and wild laughter- you know the kind that you end up gasping for breath and wiping the tears from your eyes. (You know you've hit a nerve if you can get the entire table going) If someone brings up a lame problem, she is chastized. Various in-laws are drawn and quartered, life before kids is lamented and, if we're at a restaurant, we vow never to come back due to the atrocious service we've received. We never look at our watches, which has caused great consternation from waiters and various husbands.

So gentlemen, if you ever wonder whether your lady is talking about you, you need not wonder any longer; she's telling her girlfriends what she really wanted to say when she walked in the door from a trip to find a muddy dog on the bed, a baby in only a diaper, a husband in his underwear and every single meal you had eaten since she left distributed throughout the house. The girls got to hear the very creative ways she would have used to address you and since she's contractually obliged to like you and vice versa, it's probably better this way. If you're one of the smart ones, you'll do some very gallant gesture right before a girls' night- you'll find that your wife gives you a hug and kiss when she returns instead of that dead eyed stare.

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Dane Cook: A Conservative's Comedian

The other night we were flipping through the channels and landed on the HBO special of Dane Cook's 'in the round' performance. I've always been curious about this guy- he's uber popular with the college set and I'd never seen him perform. I still watch the VMAs- I can take it! The first bit didn't make much sense, but he sure was energetic. He paced around the stage and repeated the punchlines several times, accompanied by large hand gestures. So far it wasn't too impressive, but we decided that it wasn't fair to come in at the middle of a bit, so we decided we'd let him try again with the next one. That too was not funny. He was describing how a guy sneezed on him and then chastized him for using 'bless you'. The joke was that atheists take big offense to the use of 'bless you'. Dane's dazzling insight was to say back to this man, 'what should I say then? You won't go to heaven because you don't believe in it?' This illicited a huge laugh from the crowd. I didn't think this was particularly witty or clever- it was just stating the obvious. There were other pieces to the joke, involving the word 'fuck', but even the profanity wasn't offensive or funny- it felt like a kid who has just begun to exercise his use of the word and threw it into any possible expression whether or not it belonged there. A master of language, Dane Cook is not.

Perhaps the reason why this guy is so popular is because he appeals to a very broad range of mostly conservative people. I read recently that most college kids are for the most part conservative; a surprising statistic given that colleges and universities have always been strongholds of liberalism, even if those kids grow up and revert to the political leanings they were raised with. The atheist joke and much of the rest of his act mirrored the acts we see played out on the political stage; lots of gesturing, much repeating of the same viewpoint (often identically worded) and very basic arguments presented without nuance. It doesn't matter that the joke is lame or uninventive- you feel good as long as you're in on it. Tourgasm or not, Dane Cook sucks my fucking ass.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Social Commentary: Starbucks Feeds Dorks

Why do people carry their triple shot ventis around with them as though it is some badge of honor? Just because you ordered an outlandish dollop of caffeine doesn't make you cool, successful or important. I know what you're thinking triple shot macchiato man, bragging about how you haven't had anything to eat today and how you're SO TIRED from the all-nighter you pulled last night. Go ahead: gulp that hot beverage as though you can't feel it scalding the roof of your mouth. Your office crush doesn't really give a shit about the Power Point you've got due in like 2 seconds, but she would prefer it if you'd redirect your skanky coffee breath away from her face so she can hoof it into the elevator without you.

Social Commentary: Scottish-style Slaughter

Did you know that over half the violent deaths in Scotland are due to knife wounds? That's right: meat cleavers and samurai style swords are evidently the weapon of choice in gang warfare. I heard this on NPR as I was driving today and thought it was almost quaint; American gangs would ever take the time to carve someone up properly- here in the US of A it's all about getting the job done as expediently as possible. Inflict maximum damage while maintaining a safe distance- that way, you'll have a headstart as you flee the law. One thing is for sure: a Scottish hood approaches the business of killing far more honorably than an American - it's mano e mano with a reasonable amount of skill involved and I'm willing to bet a quaigh that innocent bystandars are far less susceptible to death or maiming in a knife fight vs. a shootout. Someone should make a documentary about this- I'd watch it for the nearly incomprehensible Scottish street slang that I haven't heard since Trainspotting. That and the samuria swords. Hai-ya!

Thursday, August 03, 2006

Secrets and Lies

The actual act of being pregnant didn't bother me too much. Sure, it wasn't fun being a planet those last few weeks, but all in all, I was lucky. What irked me the most were the lies that are perpetuated in pregnancy literature and what they don't tell you.

How not to be pregnant:
1. "Eat anything you want!" This seems irresponsible to put in a book that purports to contain medical information. One book actually said since you can't have alcohol, go ahead and have that extra appetizer or dessert. You deserve it! Why does this make any sense? You wouldn't do this ordinarily, so why tempt fate when you're already going to weigh more than you have your whole life. Also, no amount of ice cream or cheesecake can replace a good dirty martini. I know. I've tried.

2. "You'll forget all about it once the baby is born". There is no way that I am ever going to forget throwing up in the middle of pushing or 36 hours of labor. No freaking way.

3. "Maternity clothes are cuter than my own clothes". This one made me throw the "Pregnancy" magazine across the room, cursing vehemently. Who was this woman and where the fuck does she shop?

Stuff they don't tell you
1. What really happens in labor. I suppose that there are so many things that could happen, they'd scare the hell out of anyone contemplating having a baby and the birth rate would plummet. A sampling of what can happen: copious vomitting, fevers, extreme and uncontrollable shuddering, neck spasms, detached cervixes.

2. Get it over with. As soon as humanly possible. I had to be induced because Aidan was past due. If you are in this situation (and I've been told this holds true for labor that comes on naturally) use any means possible to get it over with. All of the classes talk about working through your labor. Why not just get to the good part and push that baby out?

3. What 'uncomfortable' really means. Towards the end of a pregnancy, you are so huge that normal everyday things like going to the bathroom and sleeping become problem solving exercises. Uncomfortable really means that everything becomes a pain in the ass from trying to put on shoes (forget tying shoelaces after the 7th month), getting in and out of a clawfoot tub and even getting close enough to the kitchen counter to chop food. This is why you resort to crying. It's the only thing that isn't hindered by your ginormous belly.

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

I wasn't sure how best to start, so I harkened back to 2nd grade where I was told that every good composition needs an introduction. However, having an introduction would mean that I knew what I would be writing about or could at least narrow it down to one subject. Sadly, I find it impossible to name a common motif that will unify the postings. I suppose it could be me relating my adventures as the self-appointed traffic avenger, alternately cooing and cursing my 2 month old, who is currently making his opinions about being left in a crib for a nap very well known (he hates it with the intensity of a thousand suns), getting maudlin about growing up and growing old, my hatred of parents groups... I have a lot of ideas. Whether they're any good remains to be seen.

So the introduction is out of the way, albeit rather unsatisfactorily. To answer any further topline questions, I'll employ another elementary school concept- the 5 Ws. From the top:

The Who: Me, Alison Maruca, who has a Husband named Beveridge (last name -quite a hit with all of my guy friends, the few I have left), a curiously small golden retriever named Maggie and a 2 month old baby boy named Aidan.
The What: a random assortment of thoughts and ideas that may or may not prove to be interesting to other people (See intro for little to no illumination)
The Where: Summertime in San Francisco which is proving to be quite pleasant this year. Must be global warming.
The When: During non-existent naps, when I can wrest the computer away from my husband, when I'm not sleeping
The Why: Because while attempting to entertain a baby appears to be some women's raison d'etre, I am quite bored with it at times.
The How: This is the part that stumps me. What do the professionals do? Do they spend all day composing or is it an off-the-cuff sort of thing. I'm betting it's the former- they just don't want you to think it's the latter. Are blogs meant to be autobiographical or fictional memoirs? Do most people post every day? I tend to function much better in environments with rules and regulations. This is probably why I will never make millions and why motherhood is not a natural state for me.

Wow, the baby stopped screaming. This could mean he's back asleep or he could be holding his breath to punish me for letting him cry it out. We'll find out in an hour. There's no way I'm going in there and risking a premature awakening. If that happens I'll have to pick him up which in turn means I CAN NEVER PUT HIM DOWN.

In conclusion, this is my blog.