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In which I buy a pair of shoes.

Any post in the last six or seven years with this title would have been much, much longer than you’d expect. This one continues that proud imaginary tradition.

You see, there are a number of ways in which it’s not easy being me. The having of feet is probably the worst of the lot. It starts here: Size 6, extra-wide, freakishly high arch located at the spot on the foot where you’d expect it to be for a size 7, matching high instep making it impossible to wear most styles or keep shoelaces tied, disproportionately sturdy ankles making it impossible to wear shoes that are cut high on the ankle (think 95% of athletic shoes). If that didn’t narrow my potential future shoes enough, consider: I’m vegan.

Picture a small cube with a half-circle cut out of the bottom. Or, as my mother-in-law points out, any photos you might have seen of the victims of foot-binding; the resemblance is plain.

I’ve had these feet all my life, so I was never really familiar with the concept of comfortable shoes. If I could cram my foot in them and they didn’t cause bleeding, they were mine, baby. To a sensible person, it would have been no great surprise when at age 28, during my then-daily Venice-to-Santa-Monica beach walk, I felt something in my arch go RRRRRIP!

I sat under the Pier for a few minutes, unable to put any weight on my left foot. I considered that I had left my apartment, a couple miles away, with nothing but a single key in my pocket. I considered, given the endless worst-case scenario in which I dwell, whether I was going to hobble up to a stranger all vulnerable and request a ride.

I started walking home.

It was bad.

I can’t remember when my right foot followed suit, but eventually I came to think of them as my Cinderella feet; I could be anywhere, pretty-princessing around and minding my own business, when BAM! I’m flat on my ass next to a goddamn pumpkin. They’ve been better and worse; there have been years when I’ve been unable to walk further than my front door to my car, years when I could pretty confidently go to Target, years where custom orthotics helped and years when they stopped helping and started hurting.

One thing was clear, though: I could no longer wear any old shoes I could cram my feet into.

This was a bigger problem than you’d think; the reason I did not wear properly sized shoes is that nobody made 6 extra-wide extra-depth shoes – especially not in the funky, fancy stores I frequented. When I finally forced myself to cross the threshold of “comfort shoe” emporiums, I found there was really nothing there for me either.

There was a lot of trial and error involved in discovering the one brand that, when I found the right style, actually fit well. But there were two problems. First, Kumfs, made in New Zealand, were available in the US in a very limited selection. Second, they were SO not vegan.

I got over the vegan part pretty quickly (although man, I’d be happy to find a non-cow alternative); it’s the difference between walking or not walking for me. I have to live in the world that exists. Now I’m 99% vegan.

The availability was tougher to deal with. I’d spend weeks and months driving to stores that carried the brand, ordering things online and returning them and waiting eighty years to get credited before I could try another pair. I just went almost a year without a pair of black shoes, as one example.

So Kumfs opened a store in the States, and that store was in: Fresno! In terms of the entire country, it was awfully close – but still, a few hundred miles, not on the way to or near anything, not a trip I would make for any reason except shoe shopping. Seemed ostentatious, like the actors who have their favorite pizza flown in internationally.

Well, like a scale version of that.

Finally a few weeks ago, I decided that it had to happen. We planned a family road trip. I found a hotel with an indoor pool, found out where the zoo was, scoped out the vegan food – how bad could it be for fewer than 24 hours?

Fast-forward to yesterday morning. We got a very late start, made later because I had accidentally left my car window open the previous night and some stuff got stolen (nothing major, but we had to clean up and make sure we had the essential papers). We packed up the car and got as far as a gas station two blocks away, where we discovered that the coolant we’d had topped off days earlier was now completely gone. No time to deal with that! Drive home, switch cars, set out again.

The drive itself was pleasant enough; we went straight to the shoe store, where they hauled out more than a dozen styles in my microsize. Bought one pair of super-comfortable, reasonably non-hideous black mary janes; ordered a pair of flats in a different color than I’d tried on, which will be here in 2 weeks; just barely passed on a pair of strappy high heels because with all the shoes I need for day-to-day wear, I can’t justify $200 on heels. This took about 20 minutes.

I was practically floating when I left; even with the 4-hour drive and the car trouble and the overnight stay, this was the simplest shoe transaction I’d had in years. I’d pretty much decided to come back when they get their spring styles in.

We went to Whole Foods, and things were still pretty good except that the boychild went all hyper and fragmented; he’d been in a car all day, probably nothing to worry about.

Then we got to the hotel! Yay! Couldn’t check in because our card didn’t go through! Wha’…? Turned out the bank was being super diligent and slapped a security hold on that puppy the minute I charged $360 300 miles from home. No big deal, except for an endless wait in the lobby with a 5-year-old who only wanted to know, “But you said we could go swimming! Why can’t we go swimming?”

Checked in, took the kid swimming. This would have been much more fun minus the presence of the only other people in the room, two little kids who somehow managed to take up all the usable space in the shallow end and the jacuzzi between them, and their dad, who was very into documenting the whole thing with his underwater camera and less into, like, civility. Later he decided to show the boys how he could bounce a rubber ball off the opposite wall – which he did, then it bounced again, off my face while I was swimming laps. Vacation! Yay!

Went back to the room, got the kid settled in for bedtime – and that’s when the vomiting started. More volume than you could imagine ever being contained in a 5-year-old boy. One bed pretty much drowned, a section of carpet taken out, the other bed hit by an auxiliary volley – let’s not even talk about the towels.

Me, I’m not feeling so good myself.

Any other time, we’d have stayed an extra day for everyone to recover – but our plans happened to bump up against the start of a Spectacular Storm, and the thought of navigating the mountains in a downpour with a sick kid was unenticing.

So we’re home now. Wes still isn’t keeping down much fluid, so he’s going to urgent care first thing. I know what’s wrong with me, and they can’t really help.

All that considered – that was still the simplest shoe purchase I’ve made in years.

Much like Christmas and Groundhog Day…

It always comes around at this time of year; my determination to get this blog going by posting short, off-the-cuff entries instead of starting on mammoth essays that get edited and edited and never published. I’m beginning to think I suffer from a strangely specific version of seasonal affective disorder. Other than the Januariness of it all, I sort of get my dilemma; short, off-the-cuff things make outstanding Facebook status updates.

That notwithstanding, it is January, and so I am determined. This year will be the year I get back to posting regularly and making jewelry out of all those sparkly and stringy things I acquired before I had a baby and the tremors took my hands (unrelated but complementary obstacles).

Maybe I’ll figure out why you can’t post links in my comments. And why I only get notified about comments from first-time posters. This is sounding like “uninstall all your plugins” territory, isn’t it?

22643_281477619912_574639912_4283783_4000206_nI don’t know if this will turn out as well as I think it might, but I might have the kid live-blog (I mean, through me) American Idol once it gets past Hollywood week. His commentary was astonishing last year, but of course he’s now 5 and possibly too mature and/or jaded to have the same effect. We’ll see.

I am going to post this now without even proofing it. Such is my dedication. You’re welcome.

Well, THAT’S good to know.

Last night, W. was tearing around the bedroom, singing “You’re the MOMMY OF THE FUTURE MOMMY OF THE FUTURE MOMMY OF THE FUTURE.”

Then he would stop, announce, “Because you pose for photos like this,” suck in his cheeks and pooch out his lips, and go back to running: “And DAT is why you’re the MOMMY OF THE FUTURE…” and so on and so forth.

I have two thoughts on this:

Hey! I do not!


That sounded a lot like a rudimentary Frank Conniff composition.

(I realize only about six of you will get the second one, but I think it’s worth it.)

Also, I think I have a new blog tagline.

Tangled up in “ew.”

One entire week I’ve spent tweaking a long, detailed entry about how I really hated “Julie & Julia.” A WEEK. I finally realized that I wasn’t having trouble editing it because it was a terrible piece of writing; rather, it was because I just revived this puppy and do I really want to kick things off brutalizing something I disliked that most people seem to love? I do not. We’re not about the hate here, people.

(I will say THIS about THAT: Had I read the first two lines of Roger Ebert’s review before going out that day, I would have known immediately to spend my movie money elsewhere. Those lines were, more or less, “Have you ever wanted to spend a 3-day bus ride sitting next to Julia Child? Just asking.”)

So I’m going to talk about things I love. I love Project Runway! And it’s back, in a new expanded format. Last week’s All-Stars competition was fun to watch up until the judging, which was insane and wrong, but I’m over it now. Then there’s the series proper, which I’m optimistic about this season – so far I’m rooting for Louise Black, because she made this:

…and, well, I’m considering a Lotto habit that would, if successful, allow me to hire her as my personal stylist. I do recognize that the creation of clothes that I want to wear is not always a path to the top on PR (I still have flashbacks of the judges quizzing Chris March on who exactly would want to wear human hair as I tried to figure out what I had to do to get my hands on that dress [it was strips of hair extensions, it wasn't even gross, but I felt a little Cruella about it]). So I’m trying not to get too attached. But whatever happens, we’ll still have Tim Gunn to root for all season long.

If you also are seriously into PR but you haven’t visited Lifetime’s site for the show, you must go there – unlike its sad old broken Bravo counterpart, it has tons of extra content that’s really worth watching.

What else do I love? I love the new album by The Duckworth Lewis Method, a collaboration between The Divine Comedy’s Neil Hannon and Pugwash’s Thomas Walsh that is all about – well – cricket. I was frightened by that initially; my favorite sport is, after all, avoiding anything to do with sports. But then I heard the first single and was utterly powerless under its spell.

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If you can’t watch right now, I’ll say if you like early Kinks, the Zombies, XTC or cricket, this is the CD for you.

In local news, I am still obsessed with the lunch I had today at Mani’s Bakery. I got a sandwich called “The Regular” on rosemary bread and it might have been the pinnacle of the sandwich-based narrative of my life. And then there was the caramelized apple cake! We were alarmed by the $9/slice price, but then we saw a slab go past and realized it practically demanded to be shared; huge and overwhelming, yes, but quite delicate in flavor. Mani’s is a health-conscious bakery and cafe that tends toward the whole-grain and fruit-sweetened, so if you’re not that kind of eater it may not be up your alley. If you’re on the fence, this tip may help: When deciding between fruit-sweetened desserts, you’ll rarely go wrong picking one that’s supposed to taste like apples anyway.

I’m going to count this as a clearing-out-bad-karma entry. Back soon!

Guess where I’m calling from! C’mon, guess. From a PLANE.

(That was a metaphor. I am not really on a plane, and is that even impressive anymore?)

Often, when blogs go suddenly quiet, it indicates a crisis – illness, a death in the family, some sort of massive stress. That’s certainly been the case here in the past.

Which is why I’m doubly happy to reveal that since my last post, I have made massive progress on both the health and career fronts. And as of last night, for the first time in nine goddamn years, we live in Los Angeles proper again (the only place I’ve ever been interested in living).

“Proper,” in this case, means near our friends, near the restaurants we like, near the good shopping, near a whole lot of movie theaters, near the music venues we like – near enough to everything that we can make evening plans and actually be able to go home after work to change and get fed. Proper means that we can walk to almost everything we need or want; there are a dozen restaurants within a mile that this vegan-with-food-allergies can get a really good meal, that I know of.

Now that I’ll have a whole life to talk about again, I plan to post a lot more regularly. Oh, don’t worry – I’ll still provide notes from watching TV with my kid. I know that’s why you’re really here.

OK, one quick Wes story: This morning was unnecessarily confrontational. Finally, I convinced him to take a nap by lying down with him on my bed. He was still pretty rageful, but he finally settled.

“Mommy?” he said, turning to me. “I love you.”

“I love you too, sweetie.”

“And you’re not my enemy.”

“No, I’m not. You’re not my enemy either.”

“Yes I am!” [and... out like a light.]

More soon, promise!

The best thing that ever happened to me while I was at work with a migraine.

I used to work at Hear Music in Santa Monica, before it was a record label or owned by Starbucks or any of that. I loved that job, as I always love every job I have that’s just above minimum wage. Why can’t there be a record store that pays employees $60k a year? But I digress.

This was also in the era in which I used to get debilitating visual migraines (turned out it was an allergy to – wait for it – my allergy shots), and one day I got one that was so severe I had to call R. to come pick me up and curl into a ball behind the desk to wait for him. After a few minutes, one of my coworkers stopped in front of me, looked at me for a second, and said in a determined fashion, “I’m gonna cheer you up.”

She went to the back of the store and returned with a CD, which she shielded from my view as she put it on.

Surely the opening strains of Tom Jones’s “It’s Not Unusual” would have perked me up all by themselves. That’s what they’re there for.

But here’s the amazing bonus thing: Throughout the store, everyone – a few coworkers, customers shopping solo and completely immersed in the CD bins – burst into this little hip-out-to-the-side groovy mini-dance at the same time. Nobody but us ever knew it, because they weren’t looking at each other.

It was the closest I’ve ever been to living in a music video.

If you ever have the chance to attempt to recreate this societal phenomenon, I surely recommend it.

Technical note

Hey kids – I got buried in spam on that last post, so I’ve installed a plugin that, the theory is, will zap it without making you guys do math or figure out convoluted letters or anything. It claims to do this with no false positives, but I’m not all that trusting – so if you attempt to comment here and it doesn’t work, shoot me a note at elizabeth at this domain name and let me know? Thanks!

I’ve got some stories to tell, such as how W. has discovered a new role model in Jack Black, and how my first parental Conversation About Death backfired, but I’ve also got some editing to do today. So I’m going with responsibility over frivolity. Just this once, though!

Two phrases I’d like to abolish from the discussion of music.

1. Self-indulgent. Pretty much any creative endeavor is self-indulgent to some degree, isn’t it? The other option appears to be, “I made this music because I wanted to use my gift to touch others. My goal is just to inspire people.” Next thing you know, you’re on a televised talent competition and you’re singing “I Hope You Dance” and Mariah Carey’s “Hero” and “Jesus Take The Wheel” and you’re bathed in white light and reaching out to the camera all Christlike and a sizable portion of the nation is looking at you and thinking, “Jesus, this guy’s a tool.” You get some people thinking that if you go the other route, sure, but you probably have more fun along the way.

Often, from the words surrounding self-indulgent, I suspect that what the speaker/writer means is, “Yeah, I didn’t get this.” But there are times when an alternate phrase might be valuable. I believe that phrase may be: “Frankly, this artist has his head way up his ass.” Try it – see how it works. (I should note that the offending term has been misappropriated by TV’s own Simon Cowell as “indulgent,” which I take to mean the singer has allowed the performance to eat far too much candy and also bought it a puppy.)

2. Emperor’s New Clothes. When you take your turn in a music discussion and announce that, oh, say the new album by Of Montreal is “a case of the Emperor’s New Clothes,” if I recall my fables correctly, the opinion you’ve introduced is something like: “All of you who’ve been talking about how great this is? You are BLIND. That’s right – BLIND. I ALONE am able to see the truth!”

And really, is that polite?

(This applies to other art forms as well, but I didn’t want to have to use ninety slash marks in every sentence. I’m lazy like that.)

Important Wesley career goals update

The boy and I were driving to town last night, listening to a mix CD. He wanted to know how his Uncle Jon could play all the instruments and sing on a record all by himself, so I explained. He thought for a minute and said, “Mommy, do you remember when you showed me that guy who could play three horns at once?”

It was a few months ago, but hell yeah I remember.

“Do you think Uncle Jon could do that?”

“No,” he said gravely.

“Probably not.”

“But I could!”


Just then his grandma called and I passed the phone back to him.

“Grandma, guess what! When I get bigger I’m going to play three saxophones at the same time! … Yeah!… And if I get good at that, I’m gonna play three basses!”

Ladies and gentlemen, my son. Destined to be either a jazz legend or a one-man tribute to Spinal Tap’s “Big Bottom.”

Mother’s Finest

I have been loving the Internet this week, you guys. Despite the latest hideous Facebook makeover (do they even have a QA process?), it’s continued to be a great tool for finding long-lost people whom I adore, and also for finding out that my friend Scott should totally move to the country. Over on Twitter, an application that would be perfect if it offered a little more control, someone’s engineered a little more control with TwitterSnooze, which allows you to stop following someone for a limited amount of time – an ability whose usefulness may escape you if you don’t, say, follow a person who liveTweets three Wednesday night TV shows that you don’t watch.

Also using the Internet, I was able to track down a store in the greater LA area (Follow Your Heart in Canoga Park) that carried dairy-free chocolate bunnies so I don’t have to order that crap from Portland with dry ice and such to give my allergic child a happy holiday. And yes, my kid DOES have to have a chocolate bunny at Easter; we’re not religious, but we feel very strongly about inexplicable people and animals who show up your house to bring you junk.

But here is where I had the most fun. If you have had the misfortune to be cornered by me on the subject of American Idol this season, you know I kind of like contestant Adam Lambert. Like, to the point where I wish all those other people would quit interrupting The Adam Lambert Show with their singing and whatnot. One of the reasons I like him is that he is a big ol’ record geek; not like I’m short on those people in my world, but I don’t know many who are 27. And what really surprised me was that we share a favorite completely obscure band, Mother’s Finest. Here, watch Adam talk about them with the fevered eyes of the true believer:

Yeah. I was happy to find out about the Germany thing, because I, who could technically be his mom, am too young to know about Mother’s Finest; I spent my youth hanging out with a bunch of musicians about 10 years my senior, some of them from the South. That’s my excuse. And I’d wondered what his was.

Say Rufus Featuring Chaka Khan and Led Zeppelin formed a supergroup. You’re kind of close to what they sound like. You cannot imagine how dynamic they were (I assume still are) live. I have been to approximately one gazillion concerts – most of them by people who are considered great performers – and nobody touches MF. You can’t squeeze that kind of power into the space of a YouTube video, but here’s a track from what I believe is the concert Adam described seeing:

So, back to my point about loving the Internet: People much younger than I, possibly younger than Adam, are seeing that first video on YouTube, looking up something very much like the second video, going, “Hey, this band is great! Why haven’t I heard of them?” I’ve been helping some people out with collections of MP3s available on Amazon that make a good $10 introduction.

So: Because a kid who is a frontrunner on American Idol in 2009 turned on a television in Germany in 2003 and mentioned it on a clip that was only available on iPhones and on YouTube, one of the most underrated bands of the early ’70s gets a new burst of life.

That’s just cool.