Feast your eyes on the sexiness that was my Halloween costume:

Awwww yeah. You can't really see the full extent of my toolbelt in this picture, but it was awesome. And it had a two-beer-bottle capacity, which proved most convenient. And you'll notice that there's no one else in this picture, which is because my companions decided not to wear costumes, and it was a costumes-only picture.

I went to two parties. A guy in scrubs said I was the hottest construction worker he'd ever seen, but since he was not the hottest doctor I'd ever seen, things did not go any further. I thought the DJ at the second party was cute, but my attempts to make conversation while he was working were limited to "do you have any DJ Shadow?" and "oh. Then do you have anything like DJ Shadow?" We talked a bit after the party and it turned out that he was a school friend of my brother's. Because if they're not gay, then they know my brother.


Apocalypse Now (Later)

I purchased some frames the other day, because an Independent Adult such as myself should take pride in her living space and try to make it look nice. No more dorm-room posters affixed with tape for me!

Evil Roommate watched me putting them up and remarked "you're just daring an earthquake to come, you know."

This morning...it CAME!

I woke up at nine in the morning and was immediately disgusted with myself for waking up so early. Suddenly, the apartment started to move. It felt like one giant ripple, followed by some shaking. And then it was over. It only lasted a few seconds, but this was enough time for me to think the following things:

1. What is this?

2. SHIT!!! Earthquake! Oh my god!!!

3. I'm going to die!

4. I wonder if this is the one that makes California break off from the rest of the country and float around the Pacific Ocean.

4.a. If this happens, what can I use in my apartment to construct a crude raft that I can use to sail back to the continent?

4.a.I. I think my IKEA bedframe is light enough to float once I remove the mattress. And I have enough canned goods and bottled water to survive the journey. And my top sheet would make a nice sail.

I thought a lot of things, but none of them were the earthquake safety tips I had cleverly devised and stored in my head for possible future use. These tips were:

1. Get head out from under shelf and picture frame (I have a shelf over my bed, and a picture frame above that).

2. Get body under nearest doorframe.

That's all I had to do, but when the earthquake actually came, I didn't even have the wherewithal to put a blanket over my head. Quite a poor showing.

But there was no time for regret, because I had some calls to make. First, to my parents, so they would know I was okay when breaking news reports of a massive earthquake in Los Angeles made it to their television:

Sara: Hello, Dad?
Dad: You're up early.
Sara: Yes, because there was an EARTHQUAKE!
Dad: That's what happens when you live on an active fault line.

Then I called my mother, at work at the library:

Sara: Mom!
Mom: Yes?
Sara: There was an earthquake!
Mom: Oh, what did it feel like?
Sara: Horrible!
Mom: Was it like an amusement park ride?
Sara: It -- what? No!
Mom: (sounding disappointed) Oh. Are you going to any Halloween parties tonight?
Sara: No because I'm not leaving my bed.
Mom: Um...

Then I called some friends and neighbors, to make sure they survived the horror. First my roommate, who works at a nearby ranch in the Hollywood Hills:

Sara: Evil Roommate! You're okay!
Evil Roommate: I'm at work. I can't really talk.
Sara: Oh, you must be trying to calm down the horses because of the earthquake.
ER: Earthquake?
Sara: Yes. Didn't you feel it?
ER: No. Maybe the hills work like shock absorbers.
Sara: Then I just want to say thank you for jinxing the earthquake into existence.
ER: Did you run under a doorframe?
Sara: No, I stayed in bed and screamed.
ER: Well, if another earthquake happens, I'll let the rescue crews know where they can find you.
Sara: Thanks.

Then I called The Tennessee Girls, who live directly below us:

J: (very groggy) Hello?
Sara: Uh...did I wake you up?
J: Huh? Wha? Wake me up?
Sara: Sorry, but I thought the earthquake would have woken you up, and I was just making sure you were okay.
J: Earth...quake?
Sara: I'll talk to you later. Sorry.

And then I called Djb, who was located on the eastern rim of Los Angeles:

Sara: Djb!
Djb: Sara!
Sara: Did you feel the earthquake?
Djb: Earthquake? No! When?
Sara: Like a half an hour ago! Oh my god, it was awful! I'm not getting out of bed.
Djb: Oooh, what if it's a precursor to an even larger earthquake?
Sara: ...I hadn't...thought about that...

When I was done considering the frightening ramifications of an even bigger earthquake, it dawned on me that maybe my earthquake had not been the devastating event I thought it was. It didn't even wake up the girls downstairs. And the face that none of my pictures fell off the wall, nor did they even seem to move, reinforced this.

And the proof came later when my mother, after spending her workday combing through the internet for a news story about the earthquake, sent me this link:


Dude. 2.7?! I was about to pack up my car and drive home to Connecticut because of a 2.7 earthquake? How embarrassing. That's like living in Florida and fleeing a hurricane that turns out to be a brief rain shower. R. Kelly getting maced made bigger headlines. I mean, sure, it's great that no one died and my beautiful new frames remained unscathed and I didn't get sucked into a giant fault line crack like Lois Lane in that movie, but I am mortified. Especially after my mother called later that day:

Mom: I told the ladies at the library about your earthquake?
Sara: Oh, were they impressed?
Mom: Yes, but then I told them it was only a 2.7 and they said "oh. That's not very big."
Sara: I hope you told them I was brave.
Mom: Yeah, I told them how you bravely stood guard over your bed.



While I was in Connecticut, I heard reports that it was raining back in Los Angeles, which it tends to do for week every six months or so. By the time I got back, it seemed the rain was over. I was disappointed, mostly because I missed the chance to get a free car wash. Also because Casey told me that every time it rained, the news was all over it, issuing "weather warnings" and showing LIVE pictures from the Doppler radar...of a few scattered showers. STORM WATCH 2004, the flashy graphics screamed, punctuated by dramatic orchestral music.

But yesterday it rained again!

DEVASTATION!!! Some areas of the map are DARK GREEN! That's THREE INCHES of rain, y'all! Break out the ponchos and canned goods and get to a higher location! WE COULD BE FLOODED WITH UP TO AN INCH OF WATER!!!

I was leaving Target when I noticed a group of people standing around by the exit. They didn't want to go outside when it was raining. Los Angeles people are so wimpy when it comes to rain. They're all "be careful driving! You don't want to HYDROPLANE!!!" They won't even go outside when it rains, like they're all the Wicked Witch of the West or something. I come from New England; I drive through blizzards, like, every day. Ain't no rain going to stop me. So I passed that group of wimps with my head held high and I did not even bother to put my sweatshirt hood over my head. And I walked out of that Target and I got about three feet outside when I realized that it wasn't just raining outside; it was hailing. And that was why everyone was afraid to go outside. Because hail fucking hurts. But I couldn't turn around and run back inside the Target because I had made such a point of leaving it.

So my run to my car went something like this:

Ow! Fuck. Ow! Shit. Ow! Motherfucker. Ow!

Et cetera. But at least I had my pride!

I thought the worst was over once I got into the shelter of my car. But then I had to drive home, and I might know how to drive in rain, but the sewers of Los Angeles have a capacity of about two gallons, so they were all exploding with water and flooding the streets and highways. I did manage to make it home without having to use the knowledge of what to do when one's car hydroplanes that I learned in driver's ed and have never used since, which is bad because hydroplaning sounds kind of cool, but good because I realized when I got home, after calling GEICO, that my insurance policy had been cancelled. Two months ago. Whoops! Apparently, the payment I thought I had made via their "EZ Pay" website feature did not go through properly. But as of midnight yesterday, my policy has been reinstated, and a hundred dollar fine from the Department of Motor Vehicles will be appearing in my mailbox soon.

One of the best things about rain in Los Angeles is that when it's over, the air is clearer than it's ever been. Evil Roommate and I, who vowed to resolve our differences upon my return to Los Angeles, took a drive to the hills to take full advantage of the stunning view. We couldn't take my car, since I didn't have insurance, so we had to take his, even though it smells like horse piss and he plays country music. When we reached a vantage point from Mulholland Drive, we were stunned to discover that Los Angeles is actually surrounded by mountains. I had never seen these mountains before.

And I got some pictures of the city:

The eastern side. In the foreground, towards the bottom, is the Hollywood Bowl. I will be returning to this area the next time a good band is playing there for a FREE concert. I wish I knew about this when the Pixies were here. Oh, those tall buildings in the distance are downtown LA.

This picture is darker and not as clear as the first one, but you can still see the ocean.

I will be writing about Day Four of my trip to England sooner or later. Maybe tomorrow!


LA Welcomes Me Back

After a month of traveling about 12,000 miles, I have returned to Los Angeles. Last night, it gave me quite the welcome back kick in the ass.

I was driving to a bar. I came across this intersection (in the black circle):

As you can see, it's a little bit tricky. If you're on Sunset, traveling east, you come to a light and there are three lanes. From the left lane, you can either go left onto Hollywood Blvd or straight (drawn in sinful red) onto Sunset Dr. From the middle and right lanes, you have to bend right and stay on Sunset (drawn in yellow of goodness). There is a huge sign above the intersection that tells you this, because it is confusing. But I know it well because I OWNED that intersection when I first moved out here, as I was staying with a friend who lived near it and had to drive through it five times a day in my quest for apartments west of Virgil Ave.

So I was in the center lane. A truck was in the left lane. When the light turned green, I bent right and continued to travel on Sunset. I heard an angry honking behind me, and saw the truck in my rearview mirror, its driver shaking his fist at me because he thought I had cut him off. I was in no mood for this, so I flipped him off. And then he decided to get revenge by speeding past me in the right lane and cutting me off in the left lane, like, his penis must be SO BIG for him to do that. What a man he is, cutting off the girl in the little red Ford Focus hatchback.

So of course, we found ourselves idling next to each other at the next stoplight. Truck guy rolled his window down and expressed an intention to talk to me. He was on my passenger side, and I don't have automatic windows, so I had to bend over and manually roll my passenger side window down.

Truck: Do you know how to drive?
Sara: Do you know how to fucking read?
Truck: Do you know how to fucking drive?
Sara: Do you know how to fucking read?
(awkward pause)
Sara: There was a sign right there, it said the two right lanes turn right. Your left lane is supposed to turn left or go straight.
Truck: Do you know how to fucking drive?
Sara: Yeah, I didn't cut you off, go back and read the fucking sign, okay? You'll see I'm right.
Truck: No.

And there really wasn't anything to say after that. So we both sat there trying not to look at each other until the light turned green. Which happened like twenty minutes later. A very awkward twenty minutes later.

At the next stoplight, this was going to be repeated, so he actually stopped his truck a good ten feet behind my passenger side window, which was still rolled down and ready for battle, mostly because I didn't feel like bending over again to roll it up. But anyway, he backed down first so that means I won. I hope he learned his lesson, which is not to mess with me when I'm on my way to meet friends at a bar and I'm at the center of a fiery ball of self-righteousness.

I as well will be learning a lesson about not cussing out big men at night when my mom reads this entry and calls me to tell me why what I did last night could have gotten me killed. Wheee!



I get tough and let my opinions about the upcoming elections be known in my latest recap.


Day Three

My day began with my brother's unceremonious arrival in my hotel room at the ungodly hour of nine in the morning. I was tired because I had been for a lot of the night watching the Snooker Grand Prix. Tell me why, exactly, this sport hasn't caught on in America? It's awesome.

I had breakfast in the hotel restaurant. Most of the wedding guests had arrived by then. Several stopped by our breakfast table to remark to my father that it was obvious that my granddad had already arrived. This is because they saw a car in the parking lot parked like this:

Apparently my granddad has a reputation for not being the best or most accurate driver.

After breakfast, I went back to my room and went to sleep. Eventually, our parents made us get out of bed for lunch. We were able to fend them off for a while, but around two we left for lunch. Only to find that lunch was not being served anymore at the pub down the road. Our only choices were: a, go back to the hotel restaurant that wouldn't serve me my dinner last night; b, starve; or c, find another pub that was still serving lunch. We chose c. The lady at the pub recommended a pub down the street called the Durham Ox.

The Durham Ox was a very upscale pub. We knew this because the ceilings were higher than six feet and the tables came with silverware. Also because they served things like the "Vermicelli Salad with Crispy Duck," which I had, which was very good.

My brother went back to sleep, and my parents and I took a walk around the hotel grounds. There was a big pond with ducks in it, but all I could see when I looked at the ducks was a Vermicelli Salad with Crispy Duck. Mmmm.

And soon it was time for the second biggest night of the trip: my parents' 25th anniversary party. They didn't want to look like they were trying to one-up my uncle's wedding the next day, so they went with a low-key affair in one of the hotel's smaller party rooms. A buffet table would provide a selection of appetizery foods to eat. Food-lover Julian was very upset because apparently, in the earlier stages of party-planning, my dad had sent out a menu for the night that included chicken with asparagus. Although another email was sent telling everyone to disregard the previous menu and providing the current one, Julian had printed out the original menu and put it in his pocket, so that he could pull it out and ask my father where the promised chicken and asparagus was.

Great Uncle Jim, too, was upset, because many of the dishes had cheese in them and he can't eat cheese for some reason. Actually, he didn't really care. Great Aunt Muriel, though, examined everything he brought back to make sure there was no cheese. There was a spot of trouble when it turned out that the egg sandwiches and the cheese sandwiches looked almost identical, but fortunately, Jim consumed no cheese.

And then the champagne flutes came around, which meant it was time for the long-awaited toast. The only person who was really awaiting it was my father, who insisted that I, as the oldest child, bore the responsibility of making a toast. I made sure to slough half of this responsibility off to the oldest son and we spent the day, when we weren't sleeping, writing our little speeches.

And here is mine:

Today is the day before Rod and Tracey's wedding. And today, twenty-five years ago, my parents got married. Again (the story goes that my dad was about to get deported, so my parents got married in a town hall. A few months later, they had a real wedding ceremony). Two people from different countries and backgrounds and they managed to get together, stay together, and raise one amazing child together. And Ryan's fine too, I guess (and here is where the room laughs at my cheekiness). If I had been around, I probably would have said it wouldn't last (and here is where the room chuckles at my rapier wit). But it did, and I think it's because they truly are each other's best friends (and here is where the room goes "awww," because I have said something touching). Their marriage is an inspiration to me, and I hope that one day I will have something like they do. And thanks to them, I know how.

And then my brother made his speech.

And then I did the toast:

You've had your kids around for most of your first twenty-five years together. Well, we're pretty much gone now, so you get to spend the next twenty-five years with just each other. Good luck!

I forgot to say cheers but everyone toasted anyway.

Then Uncle Greg stood up to make his own speech. He talked about how my father has always been a voracious reader and said he calculated that in twenty-five years of marriage, he has read between four and five thousand books. He then produced an extremely well-read copy of a book he found that used to belong to my father, and said he was going to read a passage from it and see if anyone could guess what it was.

"Is it Lord of the Rings?" Nanny immediately asked.

It was. But Greg read the passage anyway, during which he was interrupted several times by people guessing it was from Lord of the Rings, and then he gave the book to my dad.

And then my dad stood up and made speech, and my mother graciously thanked everyone for coming, but didn't make a speech, because public speaking is not her favorite thing to do, and my Granddad also made a speech, but I wasn't listening because at this point, Nanny had started telling me about when she came to America to see my parents' wedding.

Nanny was very excited, as she had never been on a transatlantic flight, or maybe any flight, before. She had everything worked out: she was going to walk up the stairs to the plane, and then when she got on the top of the stairs she was going to take a picture and then wave good-bye to England, just like she had seen The Beatles do. But when she got to the airport, they made her walk down a long tunnel and then, all of the sudden, she was on the plane. So that was disappointing, but she was still looking forward to seeing America for the first time.

They landed at JFK, where Nanny was yelled at several times for stepping over the white line in the customs line. She said she was not impressed with America.

I spent the rest of the night learning how to speak Swedish, thanks to the teaching stylings of my cousins. If I ever find myself in Sweden again, I'll be all set because I know how to say "Sara wants a beer" and "Sara wants a donkey."

Tomorrow: It's time for the wedding. Why does the vicar keep talking about beer and football in his little speech thing (the answer to this will not be revealed, as I still don't know)? At the reception, my brother and I are separated from our parents and placed at the Naughty Table, where Julian's love of food threatens to send us all to Hell. And is Rod serious when he says a Freddy Mercury impersonator will be providing the evening's entertainment?


Day Two

After sleeping for almost two full days, you can understand why I woke up at 3:30 in the morning and could not fall back asleep. I turned on the television, in the hopes that BBC2's almost round-the-clock showing of the "Snooker Grand Prix" would bore me to sleep, but it was no good. The hotel began serving breakfast at 7:30, which meant I had four hours to kill.

I read a book.

I decided that Patricia Cornwell has lost her touch, and I won't be buying her latest book when it comes out in paperback. Unless, as was the case this time, I'm about to get on a six-hour flight and I have nothing to read.

I wrote a postcard.

I wrote some other stuff.

I got back into bed and stared at the ceiling for the remaining three and a half hours until breakfast.

At mid-morning, we drove to Warwick Castle. Here are some highlights of the trip:

Observed on a car in the parking lot. Apparently, the low-carb craze has not yet spread to the United Kingdom.

My father and I make mental notes not to let my mother take any more pictures.

There are peacocks all over the grounds. I once thought that they were beautiful and proud animals, but now I see that they're really just turkey bodies with pigeon heads. Especially the female peacocks (peahens), which don't even have the brilliant blue feathers.

And now it's time to explore the castle itself!

I'll admit it: my favorite part of any castle tour are the twelfth-century bathrooms. They're like outhouses, except that they're made of stone and they're inside the castle. Warwick Castle put stone slabs over the privy holes for safety reasons, but I think the Tower of London's privies are still open and waiting for unattended small children to fall into them.

At the top of the castle, I take a moment to take in the beautiful English countryside. With my eyes closed.

When we got back to the hotel, my Nanny and Grandad, along with the Swedish Morrisons, were already there. The Swedish Morrisons exist because my uncle Greg (who has retained his svelteness, thus my father did not win the Thinnest Brother contest) married a Swedish woman and they had three blonde-haired, blue-eyed Children of the Corn daughters who are sure to be tall, thin, and gorgeous when they get older. As of now, though, they're all shorter than me, so I remain the Queen.

We all went to dinner at the restaurant I had tea in the day before. My mother and I ordered a club sandwich to share. In the end, everyone's food arrived except for my sandwich and whatever nasty English thing my dad ordered. We waited two hours and reminded the waitstaff several times that we were still waiting, but nothing came. At that point, hunger took over my mind and I started to throw a temper tantrum, loudly announcing my intent to get the sandwich delivered to my room, for free, along with a complimentary dessert. My mother whisked me away from the restaurant before any further shame could be brought upon the family, and my dad got the food brought to our room. We never found out why a seemingly simple chicken/bacon/tomato/egg sandwich took so long to prepare.

After that, my mother and I went to bed, while my father went down to the pub with his brothers Greg and Rod. Apparently, Greg was determined to have drinks with his brothers before Rod got married on Friday. On their way back to the hotel, they heard a rustling in some nearby bushes. My father and Rod sensibly assumed it was bird or small animal, while my uncle was certain that the culprit was a wild boar. He would be made fun of for this for the rest of the trip.

Tomorrow: My brother flies in and immediately goes to sleep for the rest of the day, which is spent getting ready for my parent's twenty-fifth anniversary party. The success of the party is in jeopardy when it is discovered that one of the appetizers has cheese in it, and Great Uncle Jim is on dietary restriction!


Trip, Day One

You may have noticed that this entry is back-dated. That's because I'm going to post entries about my trip as if it were happening in real time! Please hold your applause, if you even can.

Monday night, we left for England. I did not sleep on the plane, for I must remain ever-vigilant in listening for any suspicious engine noises that would indicate that our plane was about to crash. Advanced notice might be the difference between Surviving the Plane Crash and Not Surviving the Plane Crash. For example, three additional seconds of warning could be enough time to finish the rudimentary parachute/flotation device I will construct out of the under-seat life vest, the wires from the complimentary headphones, and the complimentary blanket.

We landed on in Birmingham on Tuesday morning (six hour plane ride plus five hours time difference equals mid-morning landing). I've never been to Birmingham before; my family is from just south of London. But my soon-to-be aunt's family is from the midlands, so the wedding is being held here. We will all be staying in the Ardencote Manor. The American contigent of the family is the first to arrive; the Swedish contingent will be arriving on Wedneday and the English contigents will be here by Thursday. Our rooms were not ready, so we were invited to wait in the restaurant, which we did, only to find out that lunch was not being served for another hour, so all we could order was tea. But this was okay because they gave us the best scones I have ever eaten.

When our rooms were ready, I commenced my time-honored jetlag-beater sleeping plan, which is to sleep for two full days. my slumber was interrupted by dinner, which we had at a pub down the street. I had steak pie. My mom had lasagna. My dad wanted to get something with bacon in it, but then my mother reminded him that he was on a diet so that he could be the Thinnest Brother at the wedding. This was the first I had heard of such a contest, which is mainly because the contest only existed in my father's mind, along with the "Manliest Brother" and "Best-Looking Brother" contests. My father has three brothers, but my mother and I agreed that my father had a good chance to win the last two contests, but the Thinnest Brother has been and will always be Greg, who lives in Sweden where they only eat fish, which is a slimming. Dad responded that Greg probably eats a lot of creamed fish, which is not as slimming, and that as Greg approaches middle-age, his incredible metabolism is sure to have slowed.

Tomorrow: Greg and his Swedish ladies arrive. Will Greg still be the thinnest brother, or has he been usurped from his slender throne by my father? I visit a castle, and take many pictures. We make a return visit to the restaurant, but things have changed.


The Fair

The Berlin Fair went as follows:

Here is the fair in all its Berliny glory, which includes two nu-goth/punk kids. "Hold up!" says PunkBoy to PunkGirl, "I think there's a sale at Hot Topic! Let's go!"

My companions for the day, Brenda and Bob, enjoy the fair cuisine.

And then it was time to see the Adult and Children's craft exhibits. People often enter their collections, under the mistaken assumption that they're impressive. Sorry, nine year-old kid whose parents actually let him enter his collection of "Crab Bodies" (which are, yes, crab body parts he most likely found while walking along Connecticut's polluted coastline), but you're not that cool. And you need a better hobby. Here are two of the more awesome collections:

This was in the "adult" section. Some people won't let the only major professional sports team to bless this state go. Even though it's been gone for like ten years. And I can't believe he won second prize. That's it! Next year I'm entering my collection of grass clippings.

She loves gimp. Hee.

And then it was off to the petting zoo. Last year, there was a small incident when the donkey bit my arm. Hard. So hard that it left a donkey-mouth-shaped bruise on my forearm that didn't go away for a week, and everyone laughed at me. I didn't tell the fair officials, but I guess someone found out, because this year:

Precautionary measures had been taken.

I vent my frustration at the shooting gallery. The carny was suitably impressed at my mad shooting skillz. He said I could have won a prize if I hadn't gotten "carried away" at the end and gone all "G.I. Jane." Whatever; I didn't want a prize. I just wanted the thrill of shooting at stuff.

Brenda and I share a free hot dog, given to us by a "Doggie Shack" worker who's friends with Bob. It's still a thrill to be able to buy beer, after going to the fair for fifteen years and being underage. When Bob saw how this picture came out, he said I looked "mentally retarded." Maybe so, but check out Weird Beard in the back.

By the end of a long day, even the carnies are all tuckered out! Shhh...they're so cute when they're sleeping.

And now I'm off to England. Because England doesn't have the internet, I won't be able to update until I come back next week. If you miss me, you can read my latest recap.