Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Hello, my name is Miki Kinomoto. This is what I look like :3

I moved to Los Angeles six years ago, and I have never owned a car the entire time I've lived here. I generally don't mind – the Metro system isn't nearly as bad as everyone would lead you to believe. Plus, I get to ride a mobile people-watching station to work every day. I'm a huge fan of despair, misshapen people, poor decisions and odors of every stripe. The bus is a natural place for someone like me. It's a veritable Carnival of the Damned. Oh, and me. I'm not one of the bus people. I'm above the fray, right? I couldn't possibly be one of them. (I am totally one of them.)

When I get on the bus, I usually put on my headphones and zone out. It's me and my podcast. I make it a point to never interact with the people around me. If I do, I could change the outcomes of their lives. I need to remain neutral and observant. I am Uatu the Watcher, everyone around me is the Fantastic Four. This all changed on September 17, 2011, when I found a note from Miki Kinomoto.

Hello, my name is Miki Kinomoto. Thank you for reading this. I hope you will agree to my task. There are five element stones that has (sic) been scattered around the Land of Treasury. The fire stone, the ice stone, the water stone, the poisin (sic) stone, and the grass stone. Meet me at Lankershim Magnolia to learn more about the task.

This is what I look like. :3

So as I'm sure you could guess, this is just a drawing and a note that was probably left on the bus by a lonely teenager. Maybe even younger. I mean, the poor penmanship and spelling are a dead giveaway. I had fun making fun of “Miki Kinomoto” on Facebook, with her permanent blush and weirdly segmented legs. I think the biggest giveaway was on the back of the note, which was a drawing of a grid with the caption “Golden wafflez!!!” I went home and went on with my life.

((What if Miki Kinomoto is real?))
((That's ludicrous.))
((I know, but come on. She's probably not real, but you live like, a mile away from Lankershim and Magnolia. You should at least check it out.))
((Ugh. I don't want to walk that far.))
((That's a terrible excuse. What about the adventure you could be having?))
((Adventure? What adventure? The adventure where I walk down there and there's no Asian girl and no Element Stones and just a Carl's Jr. and a Radio Shack? That adventure? I could have that adventure any day, thanks.))
((Yeah, but it could be real.))
((You are such an asshole. I'm going to bed.))

Like I said, I went on with my life. More or less. I thought about it every once in a while, but come on. It's not real. It's a page out of some idiot kid's notebook.

((Or is it?))
((Seriously, shut up.))

I was out just a few days later, walking down to the grocery store when I came across-

((The one at Lankershim and Magnolia?))
((Yes, and I'd thank you to stop interrupting me. I'm trying to tell the story here.))

Okay so I came across a pizza box with some writing on it, just discarded on the sidewalk. A note. For me.

I can't wait to see you.
I'm around
Carl's Jr.

((Oh, Carl's Jr? Like the one over on Lankershim and Magnolia?))
((Okay, okay. You win. I'm going there anyhow, what's the worst that could happen?))
((Fun and adventure!))

20 minutes later.

((Okay, I'm here. Look, there's nobody here. No Miki Kinomoto, no Element Stones, nothing. Just a Carl's Jr. and a Radio Shack, like I said.))
((Wait, what's that over there? It's a tiny Asian girl. Ask her if she's Miki!))
((Are you kidding? That's the world's worst idea.))
((Just do it.))

- Uh, hi. Miki?
- Yes?
- (!!!) I found your note, I think.
- You did? Oh thank God. You're the last hope of my people. The Land of Treasury needs you.
- Really?
- Take my hand. We're going on an adventure.

((I told you so.))
((Okay, you win. Here we go.))

Josh Grimmer, last known photograph.

Friday, April 29, 2011

Literacy --> Mortality --> Dieting

[NB: This essay was written a few nights ago. It's a little disjointed. My wife told me to edit and rearrange things so that they make more sense, but I'm having trouble with that. It all makes sense when I read it because, well, I wrote it.

About two years ago I posted something on Facebook about how I was sad that I wasn't a very good reader. I got a few suggestions, most of which sounded absolutely wretched as soon as I researched them. The one author that stood out was Joan Didion, some of whose essays I had read and enjoyed. Two years later, about a week ago, I found a couple of her books at a used book store on Franklin in Hollywood. Slouching Towards Bethlehem and The Year of Magical Thinking. Seeing as these were the two most consistently praised Joan Didion books, and they were pretty cheap and both in great condition, I bought them. My wife works at a library and suggested that she could have just picked them up from work. She tells me that she is usually more likely to read a book from the library than one she has purchased; it has a deadline. I'm far more likely to read a book that I've bought because while I buy very few books, I feel like I must read them cover-to-cover to justify the expense.

My plan worked. I flew through Slouching Towards Bethlehem which, along with the last Harry Potter book, is now one of two books I have read in the past five years. I'm not particularly proud of the shallowness of my literary knowledge. Apparently if you want to write, the best thing to do is read. I'm not a great reader and, as you can see, I'm not a very prolific writer. Having finished Slouching Towards Bethlehem, I figured I should try to keep my reading momentum and start reading The Year of Magical Thinking. While Slouching Towards Bethlehem is a collection of essays, mostly about California in the 1960's, The Year of Magical Thinking is presented as more of a diary, detailing the year-long period of extended grief surrounding the death of Joan Didion's husband, John Gregory Dunne. He died of a sudden and (relatively) unexpected heart attack at dinner, sending his wife into a very understandable grief spiral. The Year of Magical Thinking won the National Book Award, as well as getting nominated for a Pulitzer Prize. I'm a little more than halfway through and it's already the best-written book I have ever read, topping an admittedly short list.

The problem with reading a book like this is that now I am convinced that I will drop dead at any moment.

My wife will be left alone. We are currently childless, but that will, I'm sure, change. I'm not afraid to die because it might hurt or because I have a million regrets or because maybe there isn't a Heaven and maybe I won't get there if there is. I'm afraid to die because I love my wife so much. I love the children we don't have. The idea of them dealing with my death ruins me. I remember a few years ago my wife told me that she always wished I would die of something sudden, but not instantaneous. Something that would allow her time to mourn while I was alive, but not for too long. I feel like this is reasonable.

I still don't want to die.

I'm not old. I'll be 26 in 10 days. Everyone always tells me that I'm not old, that they're old. I understand that you're whatever age you are, and that's great. I've never been 26 before, so that's still scary for me. I'm not in great shape. My wife tells me she thinks I'm attractive, which is certainly possible. The problem is I can't really run anymore without nearly having a seizure. I don't play sports anymore. Frankly I was probably healthier when I was 20 and I smoked a pack and a half of Camels a day. At least I rode a bike. My wife and I don't own a car, and occasionally she makes waves about how we need to get one. While I agree on principle, I'm afraid that I'd gain 40 pounds in a month if I didn't have to walk everywhere. One day I'd park a little to far from the entrance to the supermarket and collapse during the walk up to the door.

John Gregory Dunne was 71 when he died. 71 is a pretty good time to go, if such a thing exists. That's a full life for most people. That's enough time to go to school, fall in love, have a career, accomplish a lot. I'd be happy to make it to 71. Still, a heart attack can happen to anyone, they say, at any time. My work pants are fitting a little tighter than they used to. I'm just getting older, right? With age comes expansion. No, I'm gaining weight. I eat like shit. The only “restaurant” within a mile of my apartment is a Taco Bell. The only delivery options are pizza and Chinese food. Not a lot of places are willing to deliver a Cobb salad. (My love of Cobb salads will probably also kill me. So what if it's got bacon and a hard-boiled egg? It's a salad, right? I'll live forever.) I need to get used to cooking my own meals, but if I'm in charge of what I eat, it'll probably just end up being a lifetime of pasta and microwaveable dinners and home-made Egg McMuffins. Those are the three things I'm good at making.

I'm trying to diet. I'm counting calories, a task made much easier by whatever law (municipal? state? federal?) requires restaurants to post caloric values. As it stands I only drink Diet Coke. When I do drink coffee or (increasingly often recently) tea, I never add milk or sugar. I've even started drinking more water. Apparently the healthiest weight for a man my height is about 80 pounds less than I weigh right now. I'd have to lose a limb, but if that's what it takes, I'm willing to give it a shot. I'd rather my wife be married to an amputee than become a widow before age 40. I'm trying really, really hard. It shouldn't be this difficult, though. I even like eating healthy foods. I was able to remain a fairly strict vegetarian for years. I just want my wife to have a healthy husband. I want my kids to have a healthy father. I would at least like to outlive my cat.

This endeavor is, at its base, vanity incarnate. I want to be attractive. I want to be healthy. I want women to find me desirable, even though I'm not available. I want to be a good looking, if venerable, corpse. I want to look better in five years than I do now. I want the second number on my gravestone to be as high as possible. I want to have to buy smaller clothing. I never want to be as fat as I was in my (hidden from view, tucked away in a closet, face down) wedding photos. I don't want to outlive my wife, though, because while I worry for her, I am ultimately selfish. I'm doing this for me. So that I can look in the mirror and at least see an attractive, if not particularly well-read person.

I have not even begun to discuss the health issues that their daughter, Quintana Roo Dunne, battled for that entire year.

I should know by now that I don't read for a reason.