1.29.2010

Julie and Julia

That movie, Julie & Julia, tricked me. Not totally, but enough to catch me emotionally off-guard. I figured it would inspire me to cook amazing food, whisk together French sauces and poach eggs. I laughed and sighed at these two stories about love, food and cooking.

What surprised me was how both stories were also about writing and publishing. That hit a little close to the quick. That whole, "You're not a writer unless you're published" made me real mad. All those messages on Julie's machine from agents and publishers, whatever. I'm still writing. I'm still blogging. I have finished manuscripts gathering dust from the "pass" pile on the floors of major publishing houses. Where is my national following? Where is my publishing offer, advance and movie deal?

No, no, no. I still enjoyed the movie. I still write everyday. I'm still a writer. I'm sure Julie's husband would agree.

1.16.2010

New LA Life: Chapter 6

A few other guys from the other teams joined C.J., Alan, Jose, Manny and me for lunch and as we walked out of the park I started to get a sense of these four friends. C.J. had a strong, quiet confidence and would talk to anyone. He'd brought a skateboard and rolled alongside us. He was closest to Manny while Alan and Jose seemed like best friends. I tried to pick up on the inside jokes the four of them tossed around constantly. We were almost out of the parking lot, walking toward a mini-mall with a Jamba Juice, Subway and a Chinese restaurant when and I noticed a three girls sitting at the bus stop watching us.

"Alan! Jose! Where you guys going for lunch?" Yelled a girl with a blonde pony-tail. She waved but the boys ignored her.

"Amber Johnston," C.J. said with a scowl.

"Don't even say the name, that..." Alan stopped himself.

"Uh, you’re the cat who played with that shit last spring," Manny said, shaking his head.

"Shut up, man. We all make mistakes."

"And at least you got some play," Jose piped in as we reached the intersection and waited for the light to change. "So, Erika, where you going? Perry with the homies? Manhattan with the fags?"

I tried to think of the name of the school Auntie Laine mentioned at dinner but neither of those sounded familiar. "Um, I think I'm going where C.J. goes."

"Yeah, my mom is helping her aunt get her into Emerson."

"Well, I guess that's somewheres in the middle," Jose said, "It's a little bit hood, a little bit Hollywood."

"Where do you go?"

"Alan's a Manhattan Beach snob and so am I, unfortunately. Manny's at Emerson too. I was actually trying to see if Mom would transfer me to Emerson but she says it's too far."

The light turned and we strolled slowly across the intersection for lunch. C.J. said he'd get me and gave me a smile that for the first time ever made me feel what it must be to have an older brother looking out for me.

On the way back to the park Amber Johnston and her two friends walked toward me. They wore make-up and street clothes and I felt ugly in my soccer gear. I was still pulling on my sweaty shin guards and a fresh pair of socks on while the boys were played keep away a few yards away.

"Hey," Amber said standing above me so that she was blocking the sun. When I looked up she had her hand stretched out to me.

"Hi," I said remembering what Alan had stopped himself from saying about her as I shook her limp palm.

"I hear you just moved here from Argon."

I smiled, still looking down. "You mean Oregon. It's Oregon."

"Oh, yeah, well, whatever."

One of her friends, a tall girl with brown hair cut into a short bob and a super-dark tan piped in next. "I see you already trying your game with all our guys."

I had to squint because Amber stepped to the side. "I'm not trying my game on anyone. I just moved and I'm just playing soccer." I thought back to Portland, to the complicated web of boyfriends and crushes that shaded every relationship. I was walking into this situation completely blind.

"Okay, well, just be careful." This was Amber again. "Because those boys are a bunch of players. They think going out is just like soccer, a game, and they will pass you from one to the next just like that." She snapped her fingers for emphasis. "Just warning you."

"I'll keep that in mind," I said and moved my focus back to my cleats. I thought they'd all gone away until I heard another voice chime in.

"Mentirosas," the voice said and when I looked up, it was Marisela. "Don't listen to that mess, girl," Mari said loudly enough so the three girls who were walking away could still hear her. "They just jealous you went to lunch with the cute boys." She reached her hand out to help me to my feet. "I know everyone thinks I'll hate you because I'm used to being the chica suprema out here. But I figure if we can both keep up with the boys we ought to stick together."

"Hey, thanks," I said as the whistle blew and we trotted back to practice.

"Entonces," she said, "I can see you have something sad in your heart. You don't need no more enemies."

I smiled, glad that Marisela was on my side. I had a good feeling about her but worried that she'd find out the truth: that I was the mentirosa, and I was my own worst enemy.

1.07.2010

Word Clouds

I stumbled upon this site that will make word clouds of text. Pretty neat. http://www.wordle.net/

Through Eyes Like Mine

Overdue Apologies

1.05.2010

New LA Life: Chapter 5 continued

At the break I joined up with CJ and his three buddies again and tried to remember the new names: C.J., short for Curtis, tall, short hair, dark-skin. Alan, the cutest of the three with a Hapa baby-face like Uncle Kev, brown hair and eyes that were almost green. Jose, a spiky-haired Latino jokester, and Manny, the shortest one, was serious and sweet.

"Oh, for sures," Jose was saying. "Her and probably Mari. They're the only girls who can fuckin' hang."

I sat down next to my duffle bag and looked for my Gatorade.

"Well, E," Curtis said, sticking with the nickname, "You're auntie don't lie. Girl can play."

I tried to hide my smile and wiped the sweat from my forehead. I was still feeling good, still able to avoid thinking about why I was starting this new life here in the first place.

"So, this is how it works," Jose said sliding in next to me. "They do this little clinic on the first day of camp and then they make squads based on skills. I'm pretty sure you'll be in the top tier with us. Only one other girl ever plays with us and that's Marisela." Jose nodded in the direction of a skinny girl with her hair in a ponytail high on her head. Her hands were on her hips and she wore super long shorts that hung almost all the way to her shin guards. She was talking to this other kid who looked way older than us. His head was shaved and he wore long navy blue Dickies instead of soccer shorts. I learned the word later; he was a cholo. "That G's Ramiro," Jose continued. "They are on again, off again, all the time. Looks like right now they're on." I noticed the way Jose looked at Mari. There was a story there. Just like all of the history between friends in Portland, I had to learn a whole new scene. But as I watched Mari I wondered if maybe she could be a friend. She obviously loved soccer like I did, and I hoped we'd have other things in common.

The coach with the strong Irish accent blew a whistle calling us back to the shade and divided us into groups. They started calling names for the lowest group, placing players onto teams based on high schools in the area: Mira Costa, Avalon, Torrance and Redondo Union. I watched and waited as the younger kids in the group were placed and imagined Jem would have run circles around the kids here, that if he were here he definitely would have made the middle group which was who they called next. These all had college team names like UCLA, USC, Stanford and San Diego. The highest group, the one I knew I wanted was called next and our teams were based on the pros: Chivas, Barcelona, Arsenal and Manchester United. I ended up being called along with Alan and Mari for team Barcelona and Jose winked at me as he went to Chivas. He'd been right, after all. Marisela and I were the only two girls on the top teams.

By the time we finished a bunch of conditioning drills my legs ached. I hadn't played against boys in a while I knew I didn't just want to hang. I wanted to be one of the best. Alan and I partnered up even though I could tell the coach wanted Mari and I to practice together and through the whole session Mari and I kept our eyes on one another. She beat me in the flat out sprints but she and I were toward the front of the whole pack. In the side-to-side and back-pedaling we were pretty much neck-to-neck. Once coach threw a ball into play I noticed she seemed stronger with her left foot and although she was quick, she was also small. If I played a physical game I could always knock her off the ball.

"Nice work," Alan said as we walked back toward our bags for the lunch break.

"You too," I said with a smile, automatically feeling at ease with Alan who, with his height and strong build, would probably play striker.

"We have a mean squad, huh?"

"Yeah, well, we'll soon find out," he said taking a long sip at his water bottle. "After lunch we'll get to scrimmage."