Thursday, December 31, 2009

2009 WRAP-UP

Quit. Packed. Sold Vespa. Moving Guys. Storage. Bleeding money. Good-bye, Los Angeles. Hello, Scottsdale. Quick visit to San Francisco. Family. Eating. Gift-Giving. Celebrating. Missing Dad. Shopping. More eating. No working. No blogging. No tweeting. Lots of napping. Thinking about writing. Thinking about working. What a year, both bad and not so bad. Making plans for 2010. Life is good.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Thanks to Jailbreak Toys for selecting a few of my prints for their ongoing feature "The Jailbreak’s 25 Days of a New York City Christmas." Check out their blog at and their pop culture vinyl toy shop at

In other news...
packing packing packing
spending spending spending
whining whining whining

Monday, November 23, 2009

My Guide to L.A. vol. 3 -- Lameness

So I've been counting off some things I'm going to miss about Los Angeles. The posts have been few and far between. I've often thought about how it would be easier to blog about things I will NOT miss about this city, but I wanted to part amicably. But then I came out to my car this morning and saw this...

Ever heard of a window seat? Ever come out to your car to find that someone has put your window in your seat? Chances are, if you live in L.A., you have.

The fools who did this hit me and two other cars in my complex last night. Apparently in no hurry whatsoever, they appear to have put their grubby hands all over every CD and slip of paper to be found in the car. The stuff on the passenger seat used to be in the glove box.

Here is what they took:
1. My security access card to the building I work in downtown. Alas, I only have two days of work left so... one less thing to turn in.
2. A bag of old clothing destined for charitable contribution.

Here is a sampling of what they touched but did not take:
1. Gift cards, mostly to In-N-Out
2. CDs
3. Identifying paperwork
4. A second bag of old clothing, including my ugly Christmas sweater vest from an ugly Christmas sweater-themed party I went to last year
5. A nice compressed air pump for tires
6. Garage door opener
7. Loose change
8. Brand new art supplies
9. A large plaque I did at a church craft day with the following inspirational quote emblazoned in vinyl lettering: "Try a little harder to be a little better."

Here is what they left behind in my car:
All of their handmade break-in tools--mostly regular tools (including the largest flat-head screwdriver I have ever seen) wrapped in black electrical tape.

(If you are reading this and think those tools may be yours and you want them back, you can inquire about them at the West L.A. Police Station, where they now reside. I.D. is required to pick up all discarded break-in tools, so be sure to bring it. Also, I hate you.)

So after what was supposed to be a long, wrap-it-up workday, but just turned out to be a long long day, I have a new window and a new windshield (it had some cracks in it from a road trip, so I had it replaced at the same time) and another L.A.-inspired chip on my shoulder. Blech.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

My Guide to Los Angeles vol. 2--Downtown Dentistry

So, another thing I'm going to majorly miss about Los Angeles upon my upcoming departure is...

My dentist. I went for my last cleaning at his office today.

Those who know me are well-aware of my phobias of all things medical. On the upside, my denial that I am ever in need of serious medical attention means I am whatever the opposite of a hypochondriac is (A hyperchondriac? No. But in researching that, I learned of a condition called cyberchondria—a term for individuals who compulsively research medical conditions on the Internet. I know more than one person with this problem. I am sure they are all researching it online right now to figure out if I am talking about them. Yes.) On the downside, it means that my car is more regularly maintained than my body. And for those of you who have seen my car, well….

So why then do I love my dentist? I used to hate dentists due to their propensity for sticking sharp needles and small power tools in my mouth. Then one morning in early 2007 I was innocently attending to my own oral care with a water pick (I’m a big fan) when I accidentally flushed out half a molar. I was horrified. And in a great deal of pain. Still, I went to work because we were having a particularly crazy week and, once there, several of the staff members recommended a dentist with a downtown office a few blocks away. I went in sans appointment and he sat me down, explained that it wasn’t my tooth that washed away so much as a childhood filling that had become useless, and proceeded to give me my one and only root canal. It was not as bad as I was expecting. And he and his staff seemed like super-nice people, not dental drones. Also, they have good magazines and fun pictures in their office of somebody’s children with Tye Pennington. Over the next few weeks they took my X-rays, replaced my other bad fillings, and worked out a master plan for giving me a gleaming new smile that was going to cost as much as two Vespas because insurance refuses to cover a thing.

I do not yet have that gleaming smile. Why not? I assure you it is not because I bought two Vespas instead. Rather, it is because my new dentist was like the general contractor of my mouth remodel and he was subcontracting some of the heavy work (i.e., oral surgery) to specialists. I went and “consulted” with the specialists. They were nice but not as nice. They didn’t have any fun pictures or magazines—mostly brochures about how to get gleaming smiles that included vomit-inducing “before” pictures. Also, their office smelled like old people. Probably because the thing they specialize in is most attractive to the older crowd. And okay, to prevent you from thinking the worst, I will just say that thing is dental implants. I’m upgrading from an old-school bridge. It’s not my fault, I have a congenital defect in that I was born without a full set of teeth—hence, my utter horror at losing another one to the water pick. On the plus side, my desire to hang on to all the natural teeth I do have has prevented me from ever doing meth.

So I went to the specialist but I never went back. My inaction was the result of a cosmic collision of all of my worst psychological disorders, including medical phobias and mass procrastination and poor time management and denial and fear of looking deformed like I did after I got my wisdom teeth pulled and fear of asking people, even dear friends who owe me favors, to drive me clear across town and wait around during the procedure. And every six months I would show up at the regular dentist for my cleaning and he would lovingly chide me for putting it off yet again and offer to mail postcard reminders or check in on me and then send me on my way with a new toothbrush and the cutest little container of floss that looks kind of like a bottle cap.

So today at my final appointment I had to promise to get all that work done once I relocated. And I’m blogging about it here to solidify that promise. Still, I’m already wringing my hands at the thought of adjusting to a new dentist. If you are in L.A. and want to know who he is, just send me an email.

By the way, I still use my water pick. But now I hold my teeth in while I do it. The whole process pretty much floods my bathroom. I wouldn’t recommend it.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

My Guide to Los Angeles vol. 1: the Garment District

As my days as an Angeleno are officially numbered, I am starting to get a little wistful about the local things I love but generally take for granted. First on my list, and the topic of today’s post, is L.A.’s Garment District.

In my humble, unchecked opinion, the Garment District is the downtown area roughly bordered by 7th, San Julian, Pico and Los Angeles Streets. Tourists beware: if you read the street banners in the Garment District, they would have you believe it is called the Fashion District. Calling the Garment District “the Fashion District” of the same metropolitan area that includes the Melrose shops and Beverly Hills and so forth is like calling Tijuana “the Cultural Center” of Mexico or calling the armpit “the heart” of the human body. While fashion may be manufactured, bought and sold in the Garment District, there is nothing remotely fashionable about it.

So why would you go to the unfashionable Garment District? To buy lots of cheap stuff with which to make your own fashions, which you can then wear elsewhere. There are hundreds of fabric shops in the Garment District, most of them small and family-owned and catering to resellers. You can find plenty of shops where you can haggle on the price and get things for $1 per yard, but you will still leave feeling like you’ve been had by the nine-year-old granddaughter of the store’s proprietors who conducted the entire sale. Also, you will get home and unfold your fabric and discover it has fade marks or embedded dust or other defects that you didn’t notice in the store. For this reason, I have learned to stick with Michael Levine, a warehouse of a fabric store at the heart of the district. Michael Levine doesn’t sell the cheapest fabric, but it has the largest variety and the highest quality. I’ve never tried haggling at Michael Levine’s but the prices are clearly marked and I’m pretty sure you can’t.

Another GD fave is United Bead. They only sell like ten things at United Bead, but one of them is grosgrain ribbon in a variety of colors that you buy in 50-yard spools for about $5 total. Compare that to the ribbon you get at mainstream craft stores and you’ll see what a deal it is. United Bead recently moved to a larger location that is on the outskirts of the Garment District, but they have their own parking lot which is free for customers.

Which brings me to parking: my favorite place to park in the Garment District is at Moskatel’s. Moskatel’s is now part of the Michael’s chain, but I like that it has refused to gentrify the name. It’s about three times as big as your average suburban Michael’s location and I regularly get lost there. The parking is free for a couple of hours so long as you buy something at Moskatel’s—and if you already bought fabric or craft supplies to start a new project, then surely you can think of something you need at Moskatel’s to finish it. The only downside is that you have to drive on one of the craziest streets in downtown to access the lot—San Julian. I have seen people dealing crack and smoking crack and being crazed on crack and sleeping in tents and sleeping in the street and walking around like zombies in broad daylight on San Julian. It is good to go there if you are feeling like your life is hard, because you will realize it most certainly is not. But, you know, maybe leave the kids at home.

The Garment District is also chock full of shops selling rhinestones and beads and jewelry made of rhinestones and beads, including gaudy tiaras and other wedding / quinceaƱera / drag queens’ ball accoutrements. And for whatever reason, the gaudy tiara will have a price tag of, say, $245 and you will tell the clerk it’s too much and soon you’re talking $100 and just as soon you are talking $12 and she’s offering to throw in a strand of Buddhist prayer beads that in no way go with the tiara. It is artificial markup at its finest.

Finally, one cannot mention the Garment District without speaking of Santee Alley, which truly feels like a back alley—in a Third World country, that is. You would specifically go to Santee Alley if you were in the market for any of the following:
*stripper shoes
* “designer” handbags, watches, athletic jerseys, luggage, wallets and
sunglasses of questionable authenticity at low prices
* DVDs of American movies in Chinese packaging
* contact lenses that make you look like you have cat eyes
* live tree frogs in little plastic habitat containers
* cheap clothing made out of the same cheap fabric you saw a few blocks
* booty-licious mannequins
* bubble machines
* really, really, really cheap jewelry
* souvenir t-shirts for non-L.A. locations

I don’t know why this particular menagerie of goods is available in Santee Alley, but it is—in every single store! If you venture into Santee Alley, be sure to bring your best bargaining voice but leave all valuables, personal space requirements and sensitivity to body odors at home.

One of my fondest L.A. memories is from a few years ago, when a group of about 15 friends had a Saturday Morning Santee Alley Scavenger Hunt. We split up into several teams and each had a paltry amount (like $10) with which to find and buy something in predetermined categories for the entire team. It was a mad dash, and at the end we reconvened on a street corner to compare our loot. A few of the teams got overly ambitious with their bargaining and were able to buy extra stuff, so we held a good old fashioned crap shoot to determine who took it home. As it turns out, a bunch of girls rolling dice on the sidewalk and screaming attracts quite a crowd downtown, and soon half the Alley was gathered round, choosing sides and commenting on who got the best stuff. Good times.

So, unfashionable Garment District, I will miss you dearly. I know every major city has its area zoned for the selling of cheap wares, but none of them have your selection of wholesale-priced fabric and gaudy tiaras. Having never been a beauty queen, I don’t think I would have ever owned a tiara were it not for you (much less three).

Thursday, November 5, 2009

the good, the sad and the busy

It's been a while, I know, but I have no apologies and much to report on past, present and future. Also, is anybody blogging anymore? My experience is that most of you are doing worse than me, and my misery is loving your company...

As for the recent past, I must admit it had its highs and lows and they were all interrelated. I've spent ample time in my home state of Arizona since my last detailed post, most of it on the weekends to hang out with my family but especially my Dad, who has provided numerous comments on this and my prior blog under the avatar Pdaddy. I spent the majority of my remaining time complaining about the drive between Phoenix and Los Angeles, which I am now able to complete in 5.25 hours so long as I leave at 6 a.m. and only drink 16 oz. of Diet Coke on the way and therefore take no bathroom breaks. But I digress...

As many of you have already heard, Pdaddy lost his battle with esophageal cancer on October 13. It goes without saying how much we all miss him. But two things must be said. First, thanks again to everyone who sent kind emails, cards and/or traveled to Arizona for the funeral. I am so far behind on personally acknowledging all these kind acts. Second, I feel a little weird blogging about this and, at the same time, not blogging bigger about it. Emily Post has nothing on the topic. So I decided to take my cues from a similar post by a classy friend that I recall but cannot find on her blog and my super-strong-amazing Mom's own simple announcement to her hoards of e-quilting-friends that would otherwise have no way of knowing: just post it. People want to know. And now you do.

And seriously, how lucky am I to have such internet-savvy parents? And awesome siblings and sibs-in-law and nieces and nephews and aunts and uncles and cousins and would-be cousins, and friends and so on? Such are the highs I spoke of.

Moving on...

No, literally, as far as the future is concerned, I'm really moving on. As in, I've only got three weeks left at my job. After which I am leaving Los Angeles for a six-week stay in Arizona with my Mom that will hopefully produce the rough draft of my next novel. And after that... San Francisco. Details to follow as they occur. For those of you who are well-acquainted with my nomadic tendencies and career-related ADD, you probably already realized that, having spent four years in Los Angeles this go around, I was well past my expiration date. I am more nervous yet more excited than I have been in a looooong time.

Which brings me to the present... Somehow in the middle of everything else, I'm still not quite sure how, I managed to run a personal printmaking sweatshop and create enough original prints, bags and so forth to start an Etsy shop. I must confess, churning out those prints was a real stress-reliever. How many people can say that about starting a new business? Anyhow, please look at my Esty shop. But if I know you, please do not buy anything there.

Here's why: (1) Most of you already bought my book, so I have exhausted my "support Riley" goodwill for the next several years. (2) Before my own shop was even a twinkle in my eye, I had so many friends that opened Etsy shops that I had to decide that I simply could not buy something from everyone, and I would never expect anyone to do that for me. (3) I am trying to stay on the "fine art" side of the Etsy line and have therefore employed quality materials and priced my goods accordingly. That is to say, I know they're more expensive than many things on Etsy. I am okay with that and realize it may result in slower sales in the beginning. It is not your burden to bear.

If, however, you are not my friend but rather a retailer or gallery-owner or fine art agent or collector or just independently weathly (forget independent, old money counts too), then, by all means, BUY AWAY.

Saturday, October 3, 2009


I was kind of sick of the former look of this blog, with its tween movie styling and whatnot. But public apologies are owed to Mrs. Dub for my tossing it for a Blogger template, as she spent a lot of time helping me get it up and running.

Monday, September 28, 2009


So, I have nothing of note to say except that I am in the process of transferring the domain to another service, which I am warned will potentially take a long time and be fraught with glitches. In the event that happens, you will be able to access this blog the old-fashioned way at I know, I know--what's the point if I'm not posting anything? I will let you decide.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

A docudrama a day keeps the shrink away

Thank you, substandard reality television programming, for once again putting my problems into perspective. I've got a lot on my plate, but tonight I'm just grateful that I'm not a compulsive hoarder. Suddenly life seems very doable.

I can't help but note that my cable bill, while excessive, is cheaper than formal therapy and more conducive to my crazy schedule. It also comes with great internet service. I'm not familiar with any therapists offering an internet package, but maybe I'm just not in the know.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Dear guy who washed my windshield at the gas station even though I did not ask or want you to do so:

Yesterday was a sorta bad day. Not a horrible day, just one where I was out of sorts. The night before I cut my bangs really short. I had already cut them pretty short on a whim (all bang-cutting for me is done on a whim) last Friday in preparation for my concert-going shenanigans on Saturday--this despite the fact that a birth defect (cowlick + widow's peak) suggests I have no business wearing bangs. Oh well, I decided that I could defeat the cowlick by brushing them forward, as is the look these days, rather than sweeping them to the side, as has been the look the past little while. For the most part, this assumption proved true and gave me such bang-wearing confidence that, when I was at the concert and noticed most of San Francisco's hipster girls were wearing even shorter bangs, I decided to try my luck again on Tuesday night. This time, I watched a couple of Youtube videos on how to cut them like I want. (I think hair and makeup instruction from real people is the number one public service provided by Youtube. No seriously, you should try it.)

When I woke up Wednesday morning, I didn't recognize myself. Who knew that a half inch of fringe could make such a difference? I haven't decided one way or another whether I actually like the short bangs, and I'm not particularly worried as my hair grows super fast. However, it was disconcerting to catch reflections of myself here and there and not realize who I was looking at. Hence, the out-of-sortness.

On the way to work my gas light went on. This was unexpected as I have a childhood paranoia of running out of gas and I almost always refill before the light goes on. I also have a deep hatred of the skanky gas station downtown that charges 30 cents more per gallon for the opportunity to wait in line 20 minutes and associate with a variety of surly characters while the bicycle cops totally ignore you. It's also one of those gas stations that plays loud cable news programs while you're pumping. You can never tell if a crazy derelict has just snuck up behind you and started yelling or if the news program just got louder. I have had it play out both ways. Anyhow, I noted the night before that I needed to get gas at my local station before getting on the freeway the next morning, but for the first time ever, I completely forgot.

So I made it to work and there were several annoying but not critical incidents at the pesky day job which I won't go into here as I don't blog about work, but suffice it to say I got asked on more than one occasion if I was "feeling okay." I suppose I was feeling okay. Was I feeling snazzy? No. Was I feeling banged-up, so to speak? Bad pun, but yes.

After work I had no choice but to head to my least favorite gas station for a refill. I started the pump and then hopped back in my car, locked the doors for safety and pretended to read the internet on my iPhone. By the way, pretending to read email is so much easier than pretending to have a fake cell phone conversation. Have I mentioned how much I love my iPhone?

Squeak. Squeak. Squeak.

Ugh. I knew it before I looked up. You were there, and you had started to clean my windshield. You were even doing a half-decent job at it.

I looked into my purse. I had a $1 bill and a $20 bill. Sorry, but I never even considered giving you the $20. Squeak. Squeak. Squeak. You were making sure that windshield was VERY clean. I scooped my hand into the bottom of my purse and came up with a load of change. I didn't even look through it to take the quarters out and save them for laundry. I thought I heard the pump click, so I got out of my car.

"How are you doing today, ma'am?" you asked, calling me ma'am even though you had about 30 years on me. I noticed for the first time that, although not nicely dressed, you certainly weren't homeless and you didn't smell like anything (a real compliment downtown).

"Fine sir, but you must stop doing that," I said as you went around and started cleaning the rear window. I dumped the single bill and change into your hand. "This is all the cash I have," I lied.

"That's okay," you said, pocketing the pittance. "I would have done it even if you had no money." Looking at my filthy car, you commented in a low voice, "Looks like you need the all-around."

At that point, I pulled the pump out of the car. The only problem was, it was still going and in the locked position. In the ensuing melee, I got gasoline all over my car, myself and even on you. Now both of us smelt horribly of something, not to mention the fact that we were highly flammable. I apologized profusely, swearing up and down that I had never done that before, but you just smiled and went to the center console and got me some of those rough brown paper towels. I wiped myself off, wiped the car off, went to throw the paper towels away, and the whole time left you standing right next to the unlocked front door where my open purse was sitting in full view on the seat, but of course you did nothing. Then you finished the back window and wished me well on my way.

Anyhow, I suppose you are having a string of out-of-sorts days as well due to things far more complicated than really short bangs, but you hid it better than me. I should have given you the $20 or more. Sorry that I didn't.

P.S. I got my car washed today.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Everyday I write the book

As a kid, I periodically attempted to keep a diary or a journal because I had been told by many people on many occasions that it was a good idea. They were wrong, by the way, as reading old entries only serves to greatly embarass me, particularly the one dedicated entirely to how much I loved the movie Goonies, including a synopsis of each of the characters and their relationships. Even then, I was apparently living in some sort of world not entirely connected to the real one, complete with pirate treasures. Fortunately for my fragile self esteem, I was not a very good journal keeper. In fact, almost each one of the roughly 20 journal entries I penned in my youth begins with a lengthy apology for failing to keep a journal, follows with a brief summary of a six-month period of my life and concludes with a similarly lengthy promise about how, effective immediately, I was going to journal every single day. Repeat as necessary.

This blog is beginning to read like my journal, only with less Goonies references. In an effort to avoid any such comparisons, I will no longer blog about how I'm going to start blogging more. And I will no longer apologize for being a bad blogger. But for what it's worth, here is a brief summary of the last little bit of my life:
  • I spent a lot of time at my pesky day job and even more time complaining about it.
  • I did not buy a pink scooter.
  • I installed a new rear rack and white basket on the Vespa. I attempted to sew a white vinyl seat cover with red piping, but failed miserably. In turn, I was going to send the seat off for professional reupholstery but have not yet done that either. However, I'm loving the extra carrying capacity provided by the basket. I think I'm calling this project done for now.
  • I sewed some dresses. They are crazy. I have a hard time sewing non-crazy dresses. As a result, I only wear them when I'm feeling particularly gutsy.
  • I saw Elvis Costello at the Greek Theater. I love Elvis Costello, and have seen him play live before (also saw him play live at the taping of the last episode of 3rd Rock from the Sun; did not journal about it), but this was a different experience because he was backed by the Sugarcanes, a bluegrass band, and did bluegrass renditions of his classics. Fabulous.
  • I attended the first book club convened to discuss my book, Gravity vs. the Girl. Even though the club consisted mostly of my friends, I was super nervous as I did not necessarily write it with the vision that they would all read it. However, their discussion was marvelous and it was humbling to hear them talk about the characters I created. I don't think I added much to the conversation, but was happy to participate in it nonetheless.
  • I got a lot of work done on my next "writing" project, which is a snarky children's book that is not for children. As the writing of it only took a day, the bulk of the work has been on the illustration end. Some days I like the illustrations and other days I despise them. However, a return to my first love-hate relationship (the visual arts) after a very lengthy hiatus has been great fun. Other than that little preview, I am keeping mum about this project for now.
  • Speaking of visual arts, I "invested in" (re: "splurged on") a Yudu screen printing machine and the requisite accoutrements. I've had a lifelong interest in screen printing and printmaking and even tried a little in my youth but the process was too pricey and complicated for me then. I haven't had a chance to set up my print shop just yet but am looking forward to it and am hoping nobody minds getting DIY t-shirts for their next 12 birthdays. I'm a pretty crafty person, but this is new to me. If anyone has Yudu tips, let me know.
  • I resolved not to "invest in" anything other than food and shelter for the rest of the year. (Hence, the decision to hold off on the new Vespa seat.)
  • Two weekends ago, I went to Vegas for work. I survived.
  • Last weekend, I went to San Francisco again to see Her Space Holiday and Conor Oberst and the Mystic Valley Band. This show was double fabulous!! I may not have expressed my appreciation for both bands' amazing performances as well as the large yet emotional guy three people away from me, who was singing/swaying along to every song with exuberant hand gestures and is-he-simply-ecstatic-or-is-he-having-a-seizure facial expressions, but I swear I enjoyed them as much as he did. Maybe more because, unlike him, I wasn't crying the whole time.
  • This week I am watching my city burn to the ground.
  • Next weekend: Phoenix. In September. I'm sure that will be refreshing.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Pretty in pink.... isn't she?

Well, the whole wide world was right: I was NOT able to keep up with my lofty goal of biweekly blogging. I'm sure people are shedding tears over it. Maybe even people other than my mom...

So other than blogging, everything's been coming up pink lately, namely:


As for the Dragon Red Vespa that I already have and do not drive enough to justify the insurance and licensing costs, I've undertaken a few modest remodeling projects with respect to it, 66% of which have been successful. I've decided to turn to professionals for the rest. You can take that as proof of the fact that I DO make the occasional wise decision.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Baby Baby

At the risk of making my mom mad for my posting first, here is my newest little person to love (a.k.a. the daughter of my retired uberblogging sister, Mrs. Dub, and lil' sister to my niece, Miss Dub), who just arrived today.

Nowhere Plains

500 Days of Summer: It's been a while since I've seen a movie I loved as much as this one. Warning No. 1: It is on the 13 end of PG-13 for those of you who care about that sort of thing. Warning No. 2: If you are of the female gender, you will walk away believing your entire wardrobe is a joke compared to that of the main character, Summer (played by Zooey Deschanel). Warning No. 3: You will not be able to get the Pixies classic from which the title of this post is culled out of your head for days after seeing it.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Angelheaded Hipsters Burning

Last weekend, my friend and I squeezed a week's vacation in San Francisco into 36 hours. By the time I boarded the plane home, my skin was burned, my feet were bloody and I had essentially drunk-dialed my own mother without consuming a drop of alcohol (i.e., it was really exhaustion-dialing, but that phrase doesn't have the same snap), but it was all worth it. A few highlights from the 400+ pictures (seriously) I took in the process:

Lots of bridges, this one shot from a harbor cruise. Not getting seasick on the harbor cruise was a lifechanging moment for me, one I'll cherish forever. I think I'll form a lobbyist group whose aim is to get more bridges built in Los Angeles. We will bribe senators and make annoying commercials to air incessently during your favorite basic cable programs during prime election periods.

Ample scooter parking, also lacking in Los Angeles. I only have time for one lobbyist group, though.

We walked up every hill in town. Twice. We only walked down half of them. I'm not sure how that worked. Something about city planning.

Dozens of cool boutiques, bakeries, stationery stores, etc. that have NOT fallen prey to the instant fame/hottest thing/old news cycle that all such stores fall victim to in Los Angeles the minute a C-lister barges in for change for the parking meter.

Mission district murals. They were so beautiful, I hardly noticed the overwhelming odor of urine.

A few other thoughts:

My iPhone 3Gs paid for itself on this trip in saved cab fare and/or rental car costs. The GPS combined with the Google Maps App public transit directions were always spot-on. Riding the Muni, the BART and a single cable car also added to the cultural experience, and the Muni drivers kept letting us on for free even though our transfers had expired.

If you stay at the Union Square Marriott, be sure to ask for Nan at the front desk. She will hook you up with a killer suite as compensation for minor mixing of signals regarding your reservation.

The views from Coit Tower are worth the hike up there.

Bringing a large, leaking bag of crushed ice onto a city bus will make you very unpopular with the other passengers (it wasn't me, I swear).

Lunch in Fisherman's Wharf--meh. Dinner at Dragon Well on Chestnut--still dreaming about it.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

We taught the brat

What does the title of this post have to do with the actual post? Not much, except for the fact that I am the author of this post and the title is a snippet of one of my favorite refrains ever. But trust me, the story you are about to read would have been a LOT more exciting if baseball bats had been involved.

So I'm going to San Francisco this weekend! (Pause for applause). And I'm going with a friend who is in a different time zone and we kept putting off finalizing our plans until one early morning eastern time last week when she checked the flight we were planning on taking from LAX to SFO and realized there were but six seats left on said flight. Friend immediately texted me but I was still in bed during what was a much earlier morning pacific time and I didn't respond. Fortunately, friend made the right decision and booked both of our tickets.

As has been previously discussed on this blog, sometimes I am Riley but most of the time I am Not Riley. Friend most appropriately booked the ticket for my Not Riley persona. The problem, however, is that, as Not Riley, I actually use two different first names--one is for friends and family while the other is reserved for more mundane things such as driver's licenses, tax returns and business cards for use in the stodgy profession. In other words, my legal name might be Not Riley, but those in the know call me Nori for short, including my flight-booking Friend. Unfortunately (yet most understandably), Friend booked the ticket in Nori's name.

Now, I know from past experience that I have no hope of getting through airport security with a ticket that says Nori and photo identification that says Not Riley. Thank you, terrorists. And so, only a few hours after Friend booked the ticket, I set upon the arduous task of calling the airline to change the name on the ticket to Not Riley. Calling airlines, banks, insurance companies, what have you is perhaps one of my least favorite things to do. I never understand it when I hear people complain that they didn't get to talk to a "real person." In my opinion, the services of real people are completely overvalued. I will exhaust every website, FAQ sheet, "contact us" email, and automated telephone system I can find before I will resort to explaining a predicament--often caused by the company itself--to a real person working for said company. Yet this is exactly what I had to do with the airline in order to change the name on my ticket.

The real person I reached was certainly pleasant but not particularly helpful. She didn't seem to believe that Nori was a valid nickname for Not Riley and so she kept threatening to charge me a fee for transferring the ticket to another individual. Thus, she forced me to turn to the only strategy proven effective in dealing with such a real person: WEAR HER DOWN. That is, outlast her. To hang up the phone in exasperation is to concede defeat. Talk in circles for hours if you have to--eventually she will want to take a lunch break (note to companies: FAQ sheets don't take lunch breaks) and will give in just to get you off the phone. And so I told her the story about how Friend calls me Nori and Friend booked the ticket over and over and over and over and over again. Finally, she agreed to "attempt to make the change" without incurring the fees because I had called within 24 hours of booking the ticket.

This process took about 10 years. I nearly lost it when she asked me how to spell "Not Riley" in an agonizingly slow manner. This wouldn't have been so bad were it not for the fact that, in the real world, "Not Riley" is an incredibly common proper noun. And even that wouldn't have been so bad were it not for the fact that the name of the very airline she works for is "Not Ril." I kid you not. She asked me to spell a word that incorporates the name of her own employer in its entirety with a five-second pause between each letter.

At the end of the day, the reservation got changed and I avoided yet another mark next to my name on TSA's watch list. Regardless, there's a point in there somewhere. It might have to do with my apparent addiction to using multiple names. On the other hand, it might have to do with baseball bats.

Thursday, July 9, 2009


HOORAY! I'm going to the Renegade Craft Fair in downtown LA this weekend and can't wait. Let me know of any must-see vendors.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Pen name? I prefer the term "alias," thank you very much

Riley Noehren is a bad blogger.

I have no problem writing that, you see, because (1) it is absolutely true, and (2) Riley Noehren is not my real name but a name I put on my novel because I work in a stodgy profession where they want you to read and write all the day long without ever reading or writing anything remotely entertaining or enjoyable. Rather, the more your reading material and writing output lulls a layman to sleep, the more successful your day has been. And so Riley Noehren was born of necessity--that is, a need to protect my true identity (hereinafter, "Not Riley"), and therefore my career, from being associated with the type of person who would read or write a novel.

Now, I know what you are thinking--Isn't it true that a lot of people who once shared your same stodgy profession are now successful novelists? Yes, that is true, but the key word here is "successful." That is, these novelists, who are generally regarded as traitors and/or weaklings within the stodgy profession, no longer have an economic need to maintain any credibility or position within it. Unfortunately, the same cannot be said of Not Riley.

However, once Riley was in play, Not Riley began to realize there were several unforeseen advantages to having an alternate identity, among them:
  • getting to invent a new signature without worrying that all your financial transactions will be rejected as a result
  • upping your own friend count on Facebook
  • receiving double the junk mail, including Macy's coupons and CB2 catalogs (one for the coffee table and another for the bedroom)
  • betting with oneself as to whether Riley or Not Riley will be the Mr. Hyde to the other's Dr. Jekyll
  • enjoying the movie Sybil for the first time
  • referring to oneself in the third person and thereby joining the lofty ranks of Bob Dole and Elmo

Of course, if you happen to know both Riley and Not Riley, I would appreciate it if you would not mention Not Riley's name on this blog, lest the members of the stodgy profession hear of it or, even worse, CB2 knocks us back down to a single catalog.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

My children, which I will later eat

From my humble balcony garden:

I'm trying out three tomato plants this year. All of them are in pots only slightly bigger than the ones holding the peppers below, yet they have grown to be about 5 feet tall each. Who knew? All were started from seed indoors in late January.

I didn't include full pics of the tomato plants because they are looking a little sad right now. All three had grown into a single codependent clump and about a week ago I took an hour to carefully separate them and reinforce their cages with stakes. Immediately they got very, very sad and droopy. So yeah, even my tomatoes have issues--namely, separation anxiety. But now the sad parts are dying and the rest are flourishing. Feel free to be inspired by this "cycle of life" analogy if you want.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Nice to tweet you. Now please join my cult.

Yeah, I'm on Twitter (see sidebar). As you may have guessed, wordy me is having a hard time fitting complete thoughts into 140 characters. I am also completely stressed out by the pressure of coming up with multiple things in my boring daily life to tweet about. This doesn't seem to bother the majority of the twittersphere as much as it does me. Regardless, here I am, blogging about Twitter. And after this post is up, I will tweet about this blog. I'm pretty excited about that part--a tweet that writes itself. It's like a free tweet or a "freet" or a "#freet" or even a "#freetTM" as I like to call it. I'm planning to just continually cycle through blogging about tweeting and tweeting about blogging until I have woven an entire area rug of cross-promotion and self-aggrandizement. In fact, if anyone ever asks me for a "business plan," whatever that is ("uh... make money?"), the aforementioned area rug is exactly what I will offer up, only I will insert the phrases "grass-roots," "new media," "guerrilla marketing" and "the untapped potential of social networking" at key points for dramatic effect.

Another thing that really irks me about Twitter is the use of the term "followers." I like the "friends" I have on Facebook and also MySpace if I used MySpace (I don't). I'll give it to Twitter that "followers" is more accurate than "friends" in the sense that any term would be more accurate than "friends" for the hoards of celebrities, common folk and corporate entities that we twitterbugs are constantly soliciting. "Friends" conjures up images of school-sponsored clubs and whatnot. There are many appropriate situations for having "friends." On the other hand, if you have "followers," you are most likely leading your own cult.

Let's face it--is that not what Twitter really is, a collection of cults of personality? And Ashton (@aplusk) is Islam and Britney (@britneyspears) is Catholicism and Oprah (@Oprah) is Hinduism and nobody knows how CNN (@cnnbrk) got so high on the list other than saying "Ashton" every five seconds because it is not a legitimate celebrity worthy of cult adoration in and of itself.

And then there is me. As far as Twitter cults go, I'm like the leader of a rag-tag band of people drawn together from the fringes of society, peddling a combination of extraterrestrial life and the healing power of radio waves and the need to stockpile geese. The entire cult resides in my living room and we have a chore chart and we eat a lot of Minute Rice and, as the leader, my only chores are to eat Minute Rice and make sure everyone else is doing their chores, particularly those related to the geese. Years from now, the children raised in my living room will all go on to be indie actors, as everyone knows that acting is the only profession for which a cult-raised kid is qualified. Eventually, they will open their own Twitter accounts and gain more followers than me and I will constantly tweet about how I knew them back when.

So yeah, if you reach the end of this post and find yourself pining to read a tweet about it as well, please check me out at @rileynoehren. And follow me if you will, cause I definitely need followers.

I also could use a few friends.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

A Crisis of Commitment

I started this blog months ago without a real vision as to what it should be about. Having previously attempted to dedicate an entire blog to Vespas and failing miserably thereat, I knew I needed the free refill of themes--one that would provide an endless source of entertaining blogworthy material. As the intro post suggests, I initially planned to focus on my misadventures in self-publishing, but then I made the mistake of reading a few of the other self-publishing blogs out there and found myself anxious to dive into a lake of piranhas. As it turns out, I'm not the world's biggest proponent of self-publishing. And as it further turns out, I'm not the world's biggest proponent of anything in particular.

In other words, I've had a really tough time committing to a particular point-of-view to be expressed here. As with all things in my life, I'd prefer to keep my options open. As in, forever. And ever. And hopefully past that, but I don't want to get greedy.

And then I realized it: that's the blog.

If you don't know me personally then you only need to know this: I am severely normalcy-challenged. Like, I'm sure if I looked into it, I would find I qualify for all sorts of government assistance and/or voluntary exile programs. Fear of commitment is just a small blip on my extensive list of counternormal traits, but it is the one I will focus on in this post in a meager attempt to get things rolling.

So how bad is my fear of commitment? Unfortunately, my spinsterhood is only the tip of the iceberg. Let's just say I spent the majority of my twenties only owning as much stuff as could fit in my car should I decide to take off and leave from wherever to wherever's next in the middle of the night. Never mind that such a night flight never happened. Then when I graduated from law school and moved back to Los Angeles four years ago, I finally got my own apartment. For a month and a half, I slept on an air mattress, kept my t.v. on the ground, used an old folding table as a bar exam study station and had a single plastic chair from Ikea. A friend from school came to visit one night and we kept having to trade off sitting in the chair because the floor was so uncomfortable. I eventually got a mattress set and a proper desk but rather than furnish the rest of the apartment, I got a roommate instead who converted the living room into her bedroom.

Now I live in a bigger apartment and I have some legitimate furniture, most of it inherited from my grandmother. Yet after conducting a brief inventory of my belongings, I feel that it still falls short of what is normal for a professional in her early thirties. For example, I have three televisions and three desks, but I don't own a sofa (the Roommate has a nice one, though). I have two vehicles (counting the Vespa), but my mattress set is still on the floor. I have 4,000 pairs of shoes but no dresser. And did I mention the three desks already? Who has three desks?!!

The "sewing" desk, from Grandma S. Used to be big, brown and ugly. Hardest thing I've ever painted in my life, and I once painted a car.

The newest of the three and current fave, the "drawing" desk. Has provided ample support during my recent reunion with a childhood hobby.

Desk disguised as a headboard or, less-artfully, desk simply stored behind bed? You be the judge. This is the "spare" desk, kept on hand in the event of the failure of one of the other two or in the more likely event of need for additional desk space. Did I mention I also have two desks at work? I don't own them, though, so they're like close friends but not family.

Point is, my wealth of psychological irregularities, disordered priorities, material and pop cultural obsessions and little black book of pet peeves are, collectively, the giving tree of blog material. I will die before I will run out of things to post about and even then I will post about how embarrassed I was to die in the manner that I did and while wearing mismatching socks no less because sometimes you think people won't be able to tell the difference between navy and black when only a sliver of each is showing and most of the time you are only fooling yourself.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

In the beginning...

My name is Riley Noehren (well, sort of) and I recently self-published my first novel, Gravity vs. the Girl ("GvsG"). GvsG began as a very rough draft completed as part of my participation in Nanowrimo back in November 2007. Through a long and often painful process that spanned the bulk of 2008 (due to my pesky day job and fluctuating self-discipline), I rewrote it into a full-length novel. I sent my completed manuscript to six agents, was promptly rejected, and back-burnered the entire thing, all the while congratulating myself just for finishing it. Writing, after all, was just a hobby, and the last thing I needed was more rejection in my life. I'm sure if I had a therapist, he or she would totally agree.


In fall 2008 I read an article somewhere about how the self-publishing industry was booming due to the advances in print-on-demand (or "POD") technology. In other words, "vanity presses," as they have been disdainfully called, were no longer just for the wealthy bad author. Nowadays, even a pauper can afford to buy his name in print, as POD enables him to purchase and store a single volume of his masterpiece as opposed to the large lots previously required.

This article--like the thousands of articles just like it that have been written as of late--really hit a nerve. I did some research and instantly realized there is NO money to be made in POD (or at least not enough for me to be able to quit that pesky day job anytime soon), but I thought it would be great to hold a tangible copy of my year-long "hobby" in my hot little hands in the same way that it is fun to finally wear a scarf you spent a long time knitting. So I hopped on over to Lulu, familiarized myself with their many helpful FAQ and templates, and figured all I had to do was reformat that manuscript and put together a cute little cover. Piece of cake.


Wrong. As it turns out, being an author, publisher, editor, layout artist, graphic designer, computer programmer, troubleshooter, and promoter for one's POD book is hard work--so hard, in fact, that one is often tempted to overlook the multitude of errors and problems staring one in the face and hit that "publish" button far too early. If you scan the volumes on Lulu or iUniverse or the POD hub of your choice, you will see that the majority of POD authors succumb to this temptation and therefore crowd our world with a load of junk. I tried my best not to contribute to the junkfest, I promise, but the process nearly killed me. And only after it was all done did I finally remember that I have never, EVER worn a scarf I knitted anyway.