My favorite new toy!


On Monday morning,  a transformer blew up in El Cerrito,  and knocked out the power grid in a large chunk of the East Bay-including–my office in Berkeley!  


After I did my office-managerial  duty of  reporting the outage to PG&E (who said the outage was likely to last 3 hours or more) , I sat at the front of the office  with the rest of our staff, who were chatting, dozing, and gazing at their phones.


“Awesome” I thought, smiling to my phone.  “Nothing I can do now but get caught up on all of the latest news and gossip.”


Then, my boss came over. (cue the  sad trombone)


“Hey. I was thinking this  might be a good time for that  printer project” he said to me.

Even though what he said made made no actual  sense, I somehow knew what he meant. See, my  boss just had his second baby about a month ago, and has not likely slept since February.  Therefore, I’ve cut him a tremendous amount of slack for saying the occasional wacky thing.


What he meant to say was “Because the office is in complete darkness right now, we should probably move those heavy  file cabinets around–the ones we talked about rearranging  last week.”

“Yes,” I said,  grabbing my flashlight, and making my way to the server room, where our hand-truck lives. 

The next hour was spent pushing, and hauling heavy shit  around  in  near- darkness.   At one point, as we took a moment to catch our breath and  wipe the sweat from our faces,  my boss  said “You know…it’s funny how the eyes adjust to the darkness. I saw this documentary where they researched how people’s brains react to sleeping in a different bed for the first time. Turns out, half of your brain is always awake and that’s why it’s hard to sleep in a new bed.”

“Hmmm,” I said.

“I’m sorry. I  have no idea what that has to do with eyes,” he said. “Are you ready for the next haul?”

“Ready as ever.”

After about an hour, the electricity was turned back on, and I was left with the task of purging and  reorganizing all of the office supplies  I’d emptied from the file cabinet. So many things from the ancient days! Rolodex files, yellowing labelmaker tape, etc, etc. But by far, the greatest discovery, was the magnifier sheet I found between two old crusty hanging file folders, made by the now defunct company Market2Lead.

“Whoa!” I said looking through it. “Another dimension!”

Of course, it didn’t take me long to figure out that taking an instagram  selfie with the magnifier sheet  in front of my face is about the best way to take a selfie because it makes me look huuuuuuuge.

So,  I  “borrowed’ the magnifier sheet and took it home with me that night, to do some more photo experiments. More fun than a bag of expired fireworks! Sigh.  If only Market2Lead knew what joy they brought to my life for a short moment. And how much joy still remains. 






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More! Notes from the iPhone Wonderground





Sketch comedy that never happened.



An idea for a groovy 70’s musical.




Prompted by a late-night visit to a chinese restaurant, and my friends subsequent food poisoning from crab rangoon.


Though I haven’t actually written any new rap songs in several years, I still get inspired as hell.


This note is perhaps the biggest mystery of all.




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Notes from the iPhone wonderground

I’ve been violently scouring my iPhone for things to delete, because my storage is so shitty, and came across all these strange little gems in my iPhone notes. Some of them are ideas. Some observations. Some are conversations I had with my friends. Some I have no recollection of typing, and assume they were done under the influence of a substance.

So here. Enjoy a little glimpse into the everyday workings of the mighty pea that is my brain. (Note: this is the first in a series.)


Note: The next note refers to my birthmark, which has often been mistaken for oral herpes  BUT IT IS NOT.


Enter a caption






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Ghost Lyft

There we  all were, at  the wobbly end of my friend’s birthday party. Chockful of oysters, champagne and cake and merriment,  and now, making our  home-bound exits.
As for me, I called a Lyft.  “Shayla” would be arriving in 6 minutes, said the Lyft app.
I slowly gathered my things, and started my goodbye preambles.  Then, not even a minute later, my phone buzzed in my pocket.
“Arlene, Your Lyft is here! Look for Shayla in the black toyota Prius.”
“Oh shit guys, gotta run!” I said, grabbed my bag and dashed out of the house.
When I got outside, the streets were completely dark. I couldn’t see or even hear any cars. It was ghostly silent.
I looked back down at my app. Much to my dismay, Shayla’s Toyata Prius car icon appeared to be getting, not closer, but further and further away from me, on the virtual map.
“No, Shayla! Come back! NO!”
You will arrive soon,” Said the little bubble above the car icon.
“Arrive? Where?” I said out loud.  Then, I called Shayla’s number, but it just rolled over to a voicemail for a massage clinic.  I tried again, same thing.
I searched in vain for a button to cancel the ride! But unfortunately there was no option for canceling anywhere on the touch screen menu.
“You will arrive soon” said the little bubble above the car.
I stared helplessly  as  Shayla’s little prius icon chugged its way up MLK Way, wobbled for a second, and then bee-lined straight toward the intersection of 51st and Broadway: My hood.
It was then that I fully realized: Shayla was driving me right to my house. Except I  WAS  NOT  ACTUALLY IN THE CAR.
“Dropping off Jennifer” said the bubble suddenly, above Shayla’s car icon, as it made a quick  turn-off at the Rockridge BART and stopped a moment.
“Who THE FUCK is Jennifer?” I yelled.
“You will arrive soon,” said the bubble above the car icon.
“No I WONT.”
I stared at my phone  with horror, as Shayla’s car icon  arrived at the pin-drop of my house. Paused a second. And then, drove off.
And then???? The tip screen popped up! Because Lyft thought I was in the car the whole time!   (Was there some quantum parallel universe shit happening?  WAS I, THE PARALLEL ME,  ACTUALLY IN THE CAR?)
I declined a tip. And I typed in the feedback box:  “Never showed up. Also, not sure who Jennifer is.”
After that, I called another Lyft. A guy named Thomas, who actually showed up. He seemed amenable to talking, and so I told him the whole ghost lyft story. He laughed and laughed. Then, as we got closer he said “Hey, I’m gonna stay, and  make sure you get in the house safely, cuz you never know.”
“Right, like maybe Shayla is hiding in the bushes.” I suggested.
“With Jennifer.”
We were silent for a moment.
“Damn, now I’m kinda getting a a little scared for you for real,” He said.
But nothing happened.  I didn’t run into Shayla, Jennifer, or my parallel universe self that was dropped off 15 minutes earlier, and sleeping in my bed already.
All I had,  in the end was a  fascinating mystery to ponder. And  also,  a bogus $6.00 charge on my bank account.
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How many grapes does it take?


I visited a Sonoma  winery a few months back, for my friend Audrey’s birthday.   It was a dreamy Sunday  afternoon.  We wound our way around the countryside—stopping to pick apples at an orchard, petting goats  and eating cheese at a local creamery, and finally,  visiting a winery.

My friend Audrey doesn’t really drink.  She said she “just liked the idea of visiting a winery”  for her birthday.  She also went through great lengths to find a winery that was not too hoity toity or expensive for us. And so, there we were, four women,  standing at a table at the least hoity toity winery in Sonoma, while a man eerily resembling Mitt Romney poured tiny glasses of wine for us to try.

Audrey, who was standing to my right, took a teensy little  sip of each wine pour, but gave me her leftovers, which I gulped down with all of the gusto and elegance, of a frat bro at a beer pong table.  This also meant that, in the span of about six  minutes, I drank the tiny glass equivalent of about three full glasses of wine.

“Yummy!” I shouted, after swigging each one.  “Super grapey!” and “Ooh, that one is very nice as well. Good job!”

I love wine.  But, I’m  not a wine snob by any stretch. Usually, I wind up choosing a wine based on the bottle design, with a predilection  towards  animals, wizards, gypsies,  snowmen,  pretty ladies,  or colorful kaleidoscope swirls.  Red is red, white is white, and when they are coursing through my veins, I become aggressively friendly.

As we neared the end of our wine tasting, a question popped into my head, and just flew out my mouth.

“How many grapes does it take to make a full bottle of wine?” I asked Mitt Romney.

“Wow, uh….You know,  I’ve never been asked that before,” He said.

“I’m surprised! I would think you’d get this question all the time.”

“Nope, never.” He said.

I slowly  turned around, and fully  cased my surroundings.   Lots of white people with carefully cultivated tans. Old men who smelled like freshly minted money.  Burberry skirts, triple-lacquered mahogany toenails. Quiet, murmuring people. Sophisticated folk, who probably asked  questions like “What is the undertone of this bouquet?  Elderberry? Oh, marvelous.”   Or “This  chardonnay is simply stunning. I must have it for Ashton’s bris! What do you think, too bold? Maybe a grigio?”

“Hmm.” I said to Mitt. “I guess it’s a mystery.”

“I guess, about…a thousand grapes?” He answered, hoping this would satisfy me. It didn’t. But also, it didn’t matter because a new thought fell out of my mouth.

Hey, do you know what would be really cool?” I asked Mitt.   “If there was a winery where people could stomp their own grapes. Like, you stomp them, and come back in a year and then you can buy your own home-made wine! Don’t you think people would love that?”

My friends murmured their approval of my idea. They know me, and they know  that I have genius business ideas about every 3 minutes.   Mitt Romney, however, was not amused.  I’d apparently crossed his wackadoodle  line.  He then went on autopilot, and  refused to make eye contact with me, or acknowledge me  for the rest of the pouring.

“Wow, you really got on that guys nerves,” said Audrey, as we left the winery.

“I know! Now I really want to know how many grapes goes into a bottle of wine.”

“Let’s hit the next winery and ask!”

For a minute, I became enchanted by the idea  of hosting my own reality show—where I tour California’s wineries and ask the same dumb question, seeing how people react. Even though I might need to check myself into a Betty Ford clinic when the show is over, wouldn’t it be totally worth it?

(The answer is 687 grapes, by the way.)


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My Really Weird Massage

So I’m laying face down on a table, at a massage clinic in SOMA.

It’s a rainy Saturday morning, a little after 10. The light in the massage room is gray. There are no himalayan salt lamps, no zen waterfalls,  no statues of buddha in the corner beckoning me to the land of relaxation. There’s no aromatherapy shit either.    The massage room smells  more like the DMV—of waiting lines, busted pens, and ink stampers. But what kind of ambiance do you expect of a $30.00 massage groupon, I ask you?  Perspective helps.

“So, I  have a statement, and a request,” says  Jeff, the massage therapist, clearing his throat.

“Sure,” I say.

“The statement is…. I don’t like new age music, so I’m going to play Andrew Bird.”

“Okay,” I say trying to mask my  slight disappointment. Though I would never buy New Age music, and make fun of Yanni whenever I have the opportunity,  I always hope for  some enya or tibetan bells  up in that bitch.

But I like Andrew Bird too. And believe it or not, I’m really good at just being quiet and listening to music. So, that is what I decide to do. Just remain silent, enjoy the music, and get ready for some deeply relaxing moments.

“Thanks,” says Jeff. “So the request is…Since we had a  bit of a late start (it was me that was late, y’all!)  I’d like you to get dressed quick like a bunny,  after the massage.”

“Like a bunny…” 

Maybe it was the  half-slurred, rusty delivery of the  words  “like a bunny”, but I was reminded, suddenly of Bobby Peru, the deranged criminal  character in the movie Wild At Heart (Played by the brilliant Willem Dafoe). His scene with Laura Dern in the motel  room  where he  says to her, in a husky voice while licking his giant rotting gums “I bet you can fuck like a bunny, huh?”  is pretty much the skeeviest scene in a movie EVER.)

Speaking of creepers. Yesterday,  I had a big work event. As our office event coordinator, it’s my job to make sure all of our speakers are rounded up and the program runs smoothly. In the span of about 15 minutes, at least two different guys, both of them high-ranking (and married!)  public officials,  got all  weird-ass on me. One guy held a hug with me for a little too long, and said I inspired him to play the trombone. (ruh?) The other guy, after negging  me hard  about not having an official podium for the speakers, tossed his head at the jazz band, and said “So which one of those guys over there is your boyfriend?”

I’d like to say I’m a an awesome feminist, and have a breezy way of asserting my boundaries and letting a guy know when he’s crossed the line with me. But I often am so surprised when it happens I have no response other than to laugh nervously, maybe spit something generic. Then, I  go home and disinfect the fingernail gouge wounds in the middle of my hand—born from the death-grip fist that is so often my trademark in situations like that.

“I’ve got another request,” says  Jeff. “Or, more like an observation than a request.”

I brace myself for something like “Did you know you’re kind of a chunkmeister? Or
“There appears to be a  necrotic pinky toe growing out of your shoulder. FYI.”

“So, it  appears that you actually didn’t get between the two sheets. ” Says Jeff.

“I didn’t?”
“You’re just under one sheet.”

“Oh.  I see. So I am.”

“So, I’m going to leave for a few minutes, and you can just readjust yourself.”

Seems a simple enough task.  Get between two sheets.  Readjust.  But as I feel my way around the massage table, I discover that, THERE ARE NOT TWO SHEETS. Just one really   craaaaazy  sheet with multiple corners.  How is this possible?

After about a minute, Jeff knocks at the door. “Hi. Are you ready in there?”

“Uh…just a moment,” I shout. Panic sweats break out on my forehead. Must solve problem!   The next 10 seconds whip by in a white blur as I wrestle, punch, throttle and thrash the sheet, willing it through the sheer force of my  sudden insanity, to become two sheets. Then, I wind my body around the sheet, and flop back down on my stomach, in defeat.

“Okay…ready.” I say.

Jeff is silent for a moment when he walks in. This is because I’m probably  looking less like a massage client, and more like a hysteria patient from the 1800’s. (Or a really badly wrapped burrito—pick your metaphor.)

He tries, ever so gingerly, to help me get free of the tangled mess I’ve created out of whatever was left of the sheet. But it’s no use.  After a few minor adjustments,  I’m back to where I started five minutes ago: Under the big  weird sheet.

“Let’s just, uh…move on from here,” he says.

“Sounds good,” I say.

Once again, I try to relax, as Jeff starts kneading the area between my shoulder blades, where my sad lumps are the most abundant.


“You know…” says Jeff, pressing on my back. “I saw Andrew Bird once at the blah blah club in New York.”

“Hmm.” I say.

“Yeah. I even got to meet him once, at the something something festival. He’s cousins with my friends niece.”    

I’m hoping that Jeff’s slow gravelly  voice  will soon fall silent. I want peace. I came here for peace. PEACE!

Instead,  Jeff starts talking about his dad’s newly diagnosed lactose intolerance. It’s all too,  too much.

“So…how about you? Do you have any allergies or anything?”  He asks.

I clear my throat, and say, into the pillow “Is it okay if I don’t talk during the massage? I’ve had kind of a rough week.” (which is no lie.)

“Oh, sure. Whatever you want.  Sorry about that…”

I manage to relax just slightly, after Jeff shuts up. The only thing he says to me, for the rest of the massage, is this (as he’s holding both of my feet): “Oh, Arlene. You have no idea all the good things that are  coming your way.”  Which is kinda weird,  but hey,  I’ll take my blessings from wherever they are flung, thank you. 

When Jeff exits, I leap off the massage table, and grab for my clothes so I can get dressed (quick like a bunny,!)  but before I do, I notice clumps of black flakey stuff all over my upper body.

Mystery Crud!!!!

My mind, it doesn’t whir so fast sometimes.  Black crud? What could it be?  Could it be…some sort of herbal concoction that Jeff added to his massage lotion? If so, why wouldn’t he ask me if it’s okay to use his freaky herbs on me? Black crud…. Was it something I had on me before I came to the clinic? Did I black out and roll in an ashtray at some point? Am I sprouting some kind of fungus? IS IT LEECHES?!”

I take a piece of the crud off my shoulder, and examine it carefully in the light.   I conclude, it’s definitely synthetic, and not vegetable or root based. Vinyl.

I look back where I’d been laying for the last hour, and see, aha! The  black vinyl massage table is disintegrating.  So….. Disintegrating vinyl, plus bare skin, plus massage lotion, equals me.

When I go to pay Jeff his tip for the massage, I notice he has an enormous booger hanging out of his nose. Damn. That’s the icing on the awkwardness cake right there.

And with these savory thoughts, and images  in my skull, I set out to the ferry building for some lunch.

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PMS can suck my dick


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