Last month, I moved back to Los Angeles, which I'm really excited about, and I'm happy to be here again. I grew up in Berkeley, so California is my home. I love seeing those undulating golden hills in the distance. And those yards overflowing with a cacophony of wildflowers. And those crazy pastel sunsets that last forever.
If you're a creator, you should own a copy of Lynda Barry's What It Is. It's an amazing exploration of the creative process. This is one of my favorite panels, which explains what to do when you don't know what to do. It's inspiring.
Last year, the New Yorker published Gay Talese's "The Voyeur's Motel," the curious story of a man with a motel who used his unique position to spy on his customers. Some controversy ensued. Now there's a documentary, "Voyeur." According to Deadline: "This is also the documentary that KO’d a $1 million payday Talese had coming when he sold movie rights to his book to DreamWorks, with Sam Mendes set to direct and Steven Spielberg to produce a film with connective tissue to Mendes’ Oscar-winning feature debut American Beauty." It looks a bit Errol Morrisian.
Last night I went to an adult industry event in West Hollywood. Walking in to this nightclub, I wasn't sure if this was an adult industry exclusive event or if there were other non-adult industry people mingled with the rest. But it was really exclusively an adult industry event. (In porn, people in porn are professionals, and people who are not in porn are civilians.) At some point someone asked me about what I thought or how I thought things had changed, and I said, you know, fifteen years ago, a porn star looked like a porn star. Now, it's harder to tell. The lines have blurred. The girls are more diverse, and the fashions are less extreme, and the division is not so stark. I suppose that's like porn itself. More mainstream. Yet still on the fringe. Somewhere in between. Was it a porn event? In a way, yes. In a way, no.
"In one of several genial interviews, Dunne asks Didion about an indelible scene toward the end of her Haight-Ashbury essay—which, as any student who has ever taken a course in literary nonfiction knows, culminates with the writer’s encounter with a five-year-old girl, Susan, whose mother has given her LSD. Didion finds Susan sitting on a living-room floor, reading a comic book and dressed in a peacoat. 'She keeps licking her lips in concentration and the only off thing about her is that she’s wearing white lipstick,' Didion writes. Dunne asks Didion what it was like, as a journalist, to be faced with a small child who was tripping. Didion, who is sitting on the couch in her living room, dressed in a gray cashmere sweater with a fine gold chain around her neck and fine gold hair framing her face, begins. 'Well, it was . . .' She pauses, casts her eyes down, thinking, blinking, and a viewer mentally answers the question on her behalf: Well, it was appalling. I wanted to call an ambulance. I wanted to call the police. I wanted to help. I wanted to weep. I wanted to get the hell out of there and get home to my own two-year-old daughter, and protect her from the present and the future. After seven long seconds, Didion raises her chin and meets Dunne’s eye. 'Let me tell you, it was gold,' she says. The ghost of a smile creeps across her face, and her eyes gleam. 'You live for moments like that, if you’re doing a piece. Good or bad.'"
Last night I went to a reading in Echo Park. It was held at Time Travel Mart, which is ostensibly a storefront where you buy time travel related items, but is also 826LA. I didn't know anyone there and was late because traffic, so I sat by myself at a table. There were 3 x 5 cards and cups of pencils on every table, and I was instructed to write a writing prompt on the card, which I did: A GIRL WITH NO NOSE. Several people read. Then it was time for the intermission game, which was basically: two volunteers, one writing prompt selected from the bucket of them, and five minutes to write something. Then you would read what you wrote. Then the audience would vote on who won. So I volunteered because #YOLOLA. And I wrote a story about a man named Martin Feeble who meets a girl at a dance and the girl has an "attractively lumpy disposition." Then we read our stories. Then the two of us who were competing put our head on our table, and the rest of the room voted. It was a tie. Afterwards, I went and looked around in the faux storefront. It had curious things like a soda case of dinosaur eggs, and a TIME-FREEZY HYPER SLUSH machine. I decided to buy a can of PRIMORDIAL SOUP and asked the man, who was a bit rumpled, working the front desk what was in it. He stayed in time travel character and said some confusing things about the past, present, and future. In other words, he did not answer my question. Then he asked me if I enjoyed myself, and I said I did, but, I said, I was "angry" that I hadn't won the write-off, that it was a tie. I was staying in character: my character of a chagrined writer. I'm not sure if he thought I was joking or not. Then I took my can of primordial soup and left.
I saw this fried ice cream truck tonight and didn't try it. Dammit. Next time.
I bought this Sally doll at a comic book and collectibles store in Burbank. I suppose in theory I could've kept her in her packaging, but instead as soon as I could I ripped her out of it. If you don't know Sally, she's a "humanoid ragdoll" from Tim Burton's "The Nightmare Before Christmas," "made of various pieces stitched together, with dead leaves used as stuffing." There's a great scene in the movie, where she comes apart, and she stitches herself back together again.
Last weekend, I went to a literary reading in Highland Park. It was held at a curious bookstore with all kinds of curious books and curios, and the event was hosted by a guy I know, although I hadn't seen him in over a dozen years. It ended up being a bit crowded, and the guy I knew who was hosting it didn't recognize me, and I had gone by myself, so I ended up sitting in a chair and just sort of observing, which was fine. The reading started, and it was fun. The first woman sang before she read, in Spanish, which was lovely, and the lights were dim, and there were books all around. As it turned out, one of the readers was named Ben Loory, who has a new collection of short stories out called Tales of Falling and Flying. Loory's writing is itself a bit curious; how can I describe it? Like a child's story on crack? Maybe. In any case, I hadn't read anything by Loory -- TBH, I don't think I'd heard of him before -- and he read a story called "The Writer," which dazzled me. It's moving and sad and beautiful and inspiring. It has lines it it like: "Late that night, the man broke into the writer's room, and stood over his bed in the dark." I was so taken by this fiction that I bought a copy of his book and despite the fact that it made me feel sort of silly, I asked Loory to sign it, which he did, writing: "To Susannah! Amazing! Enjoy!" Then I went home. For the following weekend, I'd made plans to go to another reading. This one more in LA proper. This time going with a friend. This one in a nightclub, which was sort of an odd venue for a literary reading, as it was very cold, and rather dark, and people filled the floor of the club to stare at the stage, and it kind of looked like the literary version of "Close Encounters of the Third Kind." When I'd decided to go, I hadn't really registered who was reading, and the day of the event or maybe the day before I noticed that Loory was reading at this reading, too. This struck me as kind of odd. I told my friend about this fact as we ate dinner beforehand. Maybe Loory would think I was some kind of groupie, following him from reading to reading. Regardless, we went, and eventually we were standing in this cold, dark room listening to various people of dubious talent read stories of little interest to me, until, of course, Loory took the stage. Ah, but, see, I'm sorry. I've forgotten part of the story. While my friend and I were standing there -- "I'm scared of literary types," some guy in the crowd sneered, as we waited -- a woman was wandering around the club and handing out large homemade signs with people's names scrawled on them in pen markers of various colors. I watched as she handed a sign to a woman leaning against a column. The sign read "JESSICA." At some point, the woman appeared in front of me, holding a sign, and she asked me, would I hold this sign up while the person who has this name is reading? Sure, I said. About a month previous, a friend of mine told me say yes to everything, and I have been trying to do that. So I said yes, and she handed me the sign, and I looked at the sign, which, to be clear, in case there is any confusion, I didn't make, and the sign said "BEN" in big letters, and someone had gone through the painstaking task of filling the big B with dots, and there were several hearts floating around -- below the B, above the E, under the N -- and in two of the corners there were stickers in the shape of green glitter covered arrows, like shooting stars, like you were going somewhere. Christ, I thought. Now I am really going to look like a groupie. There is that six-one woman in the back of the club holding up the giant handmade sign while Loory reads on the stage. Regardless, a woman came to the stage to read and stated that she couldn't see anyone in the audience, due to the lighting, I presume, so I figured that while I had considered, you know, hiding the sign, or not holding it up, I might as well do it, and Loory would never know. Finally, about halfway through the reading, Loory took the stage. This time, he read a story called "Fernando." It's about a man who forgets his name and what happens to you when you lose your identity and must go to war to get it. It has lines in it like: "Fernando is my name! the angry man screams." When Loory took the stage, I did as I had been instructed: I held the sign in the air. I waved it a little. Then I listened to the story, and I started laughing, quietly, because the entire thing was so great: I was out in LA, I was in this place, I was listening to someone read a story about what it takes to find yourself, even when you are there all the time, hiding within you. After Loory was done, my friend and I consulted one another. Should we stay or should we go? It isn't going to get any better than this, I told her. So we left, and I took the sign with me. I held it while we walked through the bustling dark night of the city. And then I went home.
This morning, I bought three small paperback books: Brave New World by Aldous Huxley, The Immoralist by Andre Gide, and Alice's Adventures in Wonderland & Through the Looking-Glass by Lewis Carroll. Together, the trio tell the story of my Book Cover Memoir. If you're on Twitter or Instagram, take a photo of your Book Cover Memoir and hashtag it #bookcovermemoir.
This afternoon, I visited the set of an adult movie. I'll have more on that in an upcoming report.
I had the opportunity to tour a large warehouse today in the San Fernando Valley that was filled to its tall ceiling with synthetic penises, fabricated vaginas, and a box containing a love doll in the likeness of a little person porn star with whom I once costarred in a skit in which I was dressed as Dorothy, as in Oz. In any case, it was an interesting time. Keep an eye out for more on this story in an upcoming report.