An employee at Palm Beach Tan in Uptown is showing me the facilities. “When was the last time you used a tanning bed?” he asks. Uh, let me check the calendar in my Trapper Keeper.
From the beginning, there were questions. Would the real Joseph Gordon-Levitt use the profile name “TheRealJosephGordonLevitt” on OkCupid?
We were sitting in the Grapevine bar, in Oak Lawn, sunk low into two comfy, gloriously ratty old armchairs near the front. “How long has this place been here?” I said, staring up at the red lantern shaped like a star. The place had a low-lit carnival feel, skuzzy and seductive at once. I loved it.
I used to flash my bra when I was good and drunk. I didn’t really care. It’s funny how this happens, how some part of your body considered “secret” and “scintillating” just feels like more skin.
I was sitting at my kitchen table with a guy I’d met earlier that night. It was some dark hour beyond midnight, maybe 2 a.m., maybe 4 a.m., and I was wearing a pink cotton robe from Japan that made me feel like a geisha. I was also wearing a wig.
I spent my 20s and early 30s on the kind of careening adventures people put on bucket lists. I hiked a four-day trek to Machu Picchu. I drove up the Pacific Coast Highway and visited the world’s largest corn palace. I swam with dolphins. Well, one dolphin, anyway, and he was very nice.
About five years ago, I decided that the REO Speedwagon song “I Can’t Fight This Feeling” was the worst song ever written. Children of the ’80s love these windy, unwinnable debates, and I was often killing hours and brain cells in a beer-soaked, pop-culture throwdown.
It was three months into my solo road trip when I grew genuinely scared. I’d been pitching my tent across the country, but I had rolled into Bar Harbor, Maine, on July 4 only to discover all the campgrounds and hotels were full. Wouldn’t you know: The grand celebration of our freedom left me with nowhere to stay.
When I moved from Manhattan back to my hometown of Dallas last June, people asked the same question: “Why?”
I can remember the day I knew I would never quit drinking. I was sitting in my closet, contemplating the bottle of Cabernet I had just picked up at the liquor store and realizing I was absolutely, positively going to open it.
When I saw the date of Charlotte’s wedding, I felt like I’d been hit on the head. What were the chances? Of all the days to get married – of all the cities to get married in – my friend had chosen the exact date that I met Nick, in the city that I met Nick.
As a teenager, my friend Jennifer used to sneak into her mother’s room after bedtime and steal the phone. She would call the boy she was dating, or “going with,” or whatever we called it back then, and they would talk all night, sometimes till 4 a.m.
Crushes on Strangers (part 1 of 12-part series)
“I’m in love with the barista,” I message my colleague in San Francisco one slow-moving afternoon. “Congratulations!” he writes back. “No, it’s the worst,” I respond. “I can’t concentrate. I’m being weird. It’s awful.”
In seventh grade I owned the cassette tape of “Whitney,” the second album by Whitney Houston, which was true of pretty much every 12-year-old female in America. I played the hell out of that tape. I used to spend afternoons in my bedroom, lip-syncing those songs to my bedroom wall, because that’s the kind of kid I was. Always longing for an imaginary audience.
Of course Tim suggested we meet at the bar. Where else would we meet? It’s where the guys go every day after work, 5 to 7 p.m. Tim likes to brag that they get the employee discount.
Last Saturday night at 10 p.m., I parked my car in the driveway, hustled myself inside as it began to rain, and locked the door behind me when I realized: I did not have my iPhone.
The night I discovered my cat could walk on a leash did not begin well. I was sitting on the couch, toiling away on some dorky craft project, when Bubba set himself down at the front door and began to meow. “Ugh, cut it out,” I said, because everyone knows: That helps.
Wear comfortable shoes. Yes, there are women who walk around New York in five-inch stilettos. There are also people who like to have sex hanging from a ceiling with a ball gag in their mouth.
It began with a simple email: “So-and-so bought you a free movie ticket redeemable at 200 theaters!” I like to think I’m skeptical of email scams, but this one took me by surprise. As it turned out, so-and-so kind of owed me a movie ticket.
The morning after my first office holiday party, I woke up in a dog bed in someone else’s house. This was surprising to everyone involved, but perhaps most poignantly, the dog.
Bubba wakes up every morning at 5:39. Meow. He pads around the bed while I snore, puts one paw to my face. Meoooow. He slinks over to the nightstand, starts shoving stuff off the side — a magazine I’ve been reading, a rubber band woolly with hair, the doorstop of a novel that falls to the ground with a bah-thunk-thunk. Lately, Bubba has been a real dick.
Kristen Schaal, sex goddess (interview)
Kristen Schaal first came to national attention as the hilariously determined superfan in HBO’s “Flight of the Conchords.” In a show whose main characters were understated and dry, she was a daffy, helium-voiced counterpoint, stealing scenes with little more than a bulge of her cartoonishly large eyes or a flash of her smile.
Olivia Munn: “I’m Easy to Hate. I Get It.” (interview)
It’s a rather stressful time to be Olivia Munn. In June, the 30-year-old landed one of the most coveted spots in late-night, as a female correspondent on “The Daily Show,” an accomplishment that unleashed a surprising geyser of commentary and criticism about women and comedy.
This month, Cosmo declared the death of the thong. “Its popularity seems to be fading, and recent figures show another style is taking over,” writes Jessica Knoll, referring to the ubiquitous boy short. That the obituary came from Cosmo must particularly sting for the poor, culturally irrelevant thong, as if Maxim proclaimed the end to wet T-shirts.
My Year of Living “Living Oprah” (fiction)
I don’t recall exactly how I decided to spend one year of my life reading Robyn Okrant’s book “Living Oprah.” And by that I mean, I made the decision in a blackout.
Thirty-four-year-old Charlotte remembers when “Twilight” first sank its teeth in her. She was sick and homebound one rainy day when she noticed the movie on her cable on-demand.
On Saturday afternoon, I bought a darling bra-and-panty set, the kind with sweet, swirly black lace and pale-pink bows. It’s the sort of coquettish ensemble you always hope you’ll be wearing when a gentleman caller happens to separate you from your polka-dot swing dress — not the raggedy underwear from Target, the elastic spazzing out the hems, not the cheap bra with one clasp missing and a mysterious rip around the areola, but proper vixen attire, clean and comely.
Paging Kenneth! (interview)
In the third episode of the first season of “30 Rock,” a star was born. Jack McBrayer, playing wide-eyed naif Kenneth the Page, took a role that had initially seemed a throwaway part and made it one of the funniest on TV.
Diagnosing Chuck Klosterman (profile)
Chuck Klosterman is, in nearly every way, exactly as I expected him to be.
Last Friday, I asked a friend to see the new Katrina documentary, “Trouble the Water,”with me. “Oooh,” she said, a sound meant to telegraph temptation but which really meant that I had caught her off-guard. “That sounds really depressing.”
I stumbled across an Internet link several months ago that made me gasp. At a time when Amy Winehouse implodes via RSS feed and Mini Me has a sex tape, genuine surprise is as hard to come by as affordable gas. But this link was fascinating and repellent at once. Ladies and gentlemen, allow me to introduce: the bacon bra.
The Secret Journal of Levi Johnston (fiction)
Coach always says make a list of priorities. He says, make a list otherwise this world makes you lose sight of what matters. So here is my list of priorities now: God, hockey, family, Bristol, Remington, my Honda off-road, and this baby. It’s that last part that’s killing me right now.
I cried all day last Friday. I cried because I thought Obama was going to lose and I cried because I thought New Orleans was doomed and I cried because people didn’t care and I cried because one man in particular didn’t care enough about me and I cried because I fear I will turn 40 in a lonely city with a dying tabby who uses a walker just to get to the litter box and my parents will die one day and also, and also, I’m out of Kleenex.
My mother likes to sing silly, made-up songs. When my brother and I were little, she sang us these songs all the time—songs that were part gibber-jabber and part sincere devotion, most of them made up on the spot: “Joshua Rob is a liggetty bob” goes one of the songs she sang to my brother, whose name is, in fact, Joshua Rob.
Three Mondays ago, Fox debuted K-Ville, an hour-long drama about New Orleans cops created by Jonathan Lisco, one of the writers of NYPD Blue. New Yorkmagazine loved the show. The Los Angeles Times hated it. But I wanted to know what New Orleans cops thought about it. As it turns out, I know a couple.
The woman across the hall from me is dying. She has Alzheimer’s, and at least once a day, I can hear her moan. It’s a creaky note held for an uncomfortable length of time: Aaaaaaghh. I can’t describe it better than that. I hate that the woman is dying, and my transcription looks like a thought bubble next to a cartoon skeleton’s head, like a Monty Python joke. Aaaaaaghh.
SXSW 2007: The Very First Review (fiction)
It’s good to be back in Austin, Texas—hometown of Stevie Ray Vaughan, breakfast tacos, and several Real World celebrities, possibly all named Dan.
Recently, a friend of mine caught the MTV reality show The Hills for the first time. “That is the one of the worst shows ever,” she said. “Have you seen that episode?” Actually, I’d seen it twice.
Welcome to Celebrity Magazine (fiction)
For as long as I can remember, I wanted to work at Celebrity Magazine. There were other magazines, obviously—anemic things, catalogs with incidental copy—but if you were interested in real stories, about real people, then you needed to be at the magazine that Newman and Redford built.
My SXSW Diary (fiction-ish)
Every year, thousands of bands descend on Austin, Texas, in the hopes of landing a record contract. As a music journalist, my job is to find the best and bring them to the world. Don’t be fooled by my humility. This is a tough job. Why else would there be free massages in the press room?
Moving to New York was something I talked about but never did—like quitting smoking or paying off my credit cards.
Like many romantic dilemmas—“Your place or mine?,” “Is it warm in here, or am I just drunk?”—this is a question that has long plagued American women.
The Education of Elisabeth Eckleman (a reader-interactive fiction series)
Brad refused to drive me to Austin. He said it would be confusing for both of us if we were acting like a couple right after breaking up.
In the middle of a roller rink, underneath a glittering disco ball, Michael Beck answers questions about the movie that ruined his career.
At a party recently, I was chatting with my friend about her job. It was fine, she said, everything was fine, but after the wine had stained our tongues purple and someone cracked open the cigarettes, she told me the truth. She hated her job. She felt bored and useless. She made rich people’s lives better—where was the reward in that? ‘I just want to do something that matters,’ she said. She wanted to become a high-school teacher.
The Key to a Successful Freelance Career: A Diary (fiction-ish but not really)
The key to a successful freelance career is routine. Give yourself a strict schedule, just like any job. People may complain about the inconvenience of the workforce—getting out of bed at an early hour, dealing with the boss and the co-workers—but that keeps us honest and productive. Without such checks and balances, some of us fall to pieces.
In seventh grade I told my one friend Laura the following lies:
1. That a girl I knew in California was friends with teen actor River Phoenix.
2. That she wanted to fix me up with River on ‘a phone date.’
3. That River Phoenix, teen actor, would call my house at midnight on New Year’s Eve.
A Game of Skill, Strategy, Chance (fiction)
For two players, ages 18 to 100:
Start at a Christmas party, where your host pulls out a board game. Turn to the person beside you. ‘Jesus, doesn’t anyone just drink anymore?’ The person beside you is the best kind of stranger: the cute kind.
“A standard question is ‘What was it like to kiss Kelly LeBrock?’ The truth is that it’s weird to be 15 and kissing a woman who is 30, who wouldn’t be kissing you unless she had to. It’s weird in all kinds of ways and not really that great. But that’s not the answer the guy wants. Because no matter what I say, the next thing he says is, ‘Dude, I would have FUCKED her.”
Back when I knew him, John used to hop trains to anywhere, or squat and hitch his way across the country. My other friends were college kids from good families and suburban high schools, and we considered ourselves edgy when we celebrated Clinton’s 1992 election by ordering pizza and distributing it to the homeless near campus. John was the homeless.
I was far from home when it arrived in the mail. ‘It’s been 10 years since high school,’ the invitation read. ‘Where are you now?’
I didn’t used to love postcards this much. They were messages of obligation, like ‘thank you’ letters to the relatives. ‘Dear so-and-so, We’re having a wonderful time at blah-dee-blah.’ Now I write them all the time. I write them when I’m happy. I write them when I’m lonely. I write them when I’m bored.