? + @

Wednesday, July 16, 2003
a man in a maroon t-shirt leaned against a tree trunk curved toward the ground. it was as if the spot had been carved out just for him.
--somewhere in suburbia

Friday, April 18, 2003
"did you notice i cleaned the car?" said the mother to her three kids, piling into the SUV. "did you notice i need braces?" the eldest daughter replied.
--near my office

Tuesday, April 15, 2003
"so, jen, do you know what your hair needs?"


"it just needs more time to become jen hair."
--the clearance rack at american eagle outfitters

Friday, April 11, 2003
descending the 101 freeway, i saw him again. it was the second time in two weeks that he was walking the sidewalk with his right hand clutching a book and his left hand snuggled in his pocket. i recognized him because he had short legs.

where was he going at exactly 5:43pm on a thursday with that book so tightly in his hand and such urgency on his boyish face?
--the exit to get to my house

Thursday, February 27, 2003
"i hear you had a birthday, i hear you're getting old," said the man with salt-and-pepper hair.

"aren't we all?" asked the middle-aged restaurant owner, wiping counters and circling tables. he paused, then added, "i'm sorry. i wasn't implying that you were."

"i'm not getting old," the other man answered. "i've been old for a while now."
--red devil pizzeria

Tuesday, January 21, 2003
he alternately let out "fuck!"s, "beautiful"s and sighs, while flipping through the LA Weekly on the sunlit patio. his greasy blond hair grazed the top of his black wire-rimmed glasses. his denim jacket draped over his chair looked exactly like the one my brother had in the 1980s. it was Guess[tm].
--the coffee table, as per my usual routine

Friday, January 17, 2003
"i like this song," i thought, so i turned up the volume up-up-up and then he passed by. a man in white sneakers and rolled-up jeans and a brown sweater. he was plugging his ears - a finger in each - and holding a crumpled nestle crunch wrapper.

"what is it that he's trying to block?" i wondered.

when i rolled down my window to check, there was only the low humming of oncoming cars.
--stoplight at or near 20th street, wilshire boulevard, santa monica

Friday, September 20, 2002
two men exchange handshakes and papers beside a white car parked in my driveway. they are not my upstairs neighbors. they are not supposed to be there.

i turn, once, to let them know i see them.

i turn again, to let them know i am watching.

and then i go inside, peeking through the blinds until they drive away.
--my driveway

Sunday, September 8, 2002
on the drive home from san diego, i saw a man hiking up a hill on the side of the highway. it was a straight path at a 15-degree angle and i had no idea where he thought he was going. it looked like a road to nowhere.
--5 freeway, somewhere between san diego and yorba linda

Tuesday, September 3, 2002
the lady who sat at the table beside me was replaced by a boy who talked so loudly i had to turn the volume on my headphones up. way up. remind me to tell you about the time in paris that he did way too many drugs and fell ill. "that was a long time ago," he said.
--a coffee house, silver lake, calif.

Tuesday, September 3, 2002
the lady who sat at the table beside me is my new hero, not because she had a mess of curls atop her head, not because she had red specs that matched her ruby lips, not because she was writing in a moleskine notebook. no. it is because she ordered a t-bone steak and ate the whole damn thing.
--a coffee house, silver lake, calif.

Tuesday, August 13, 2002
dude, he said, leaning in close to his friend, that could be us if you just got off your frickin' ass.

by that he meant the duo strumming and singing for the audience.

his friend, eyes never leaving the stage, just laughed nervously.
--kings of convenience show, troubadour, west hollywood

Tuesday, August 13, 2002
"she's a cling-on," e. explained.

"oh, she is?" i asked.

"didn't you see her outfit?"

"yeah, i just thought she dressed funny."
--comic convention, san diego, calif.

Friday, August 2, 2002
the 4-year-old boy had been flirting me from the moment he sat down at the reception. his mother said to him, "do you even know how old she is?"

he peered up at me. "12?"

we laughed.

"um, no. i'm a little older than that," i said.

he paused and furrowed his eyebrows. "45?"
--wedding reception

Sunday, July 21, 2002
"i don't like dogs," said the little boy, walking zig zags in the grocery store aisles.

"why not?" asked his mom.

"because they bite cats," he said matter-of-factly. "sometimes, they bite people, too."
--ralphs supermarket

Thursday, July 18, 2002
"that guy's hair looks like that one '80s band but i can't remember its name."

"flock of seagulls."

"oh my god that's right."
--roof, martini lounge, hollywood

Thursday, July 18, 2002
she held up the line at the post office over $1.09. she was insisting that the cashier gave her the wrong change, her german accent rising as she got more angry, her shaky hand waving the receipt in the air.

they recounted the details once, then twice, and the cashier sighed and said, "i am not trying to cheat you." then he pointed to the numbers on the receipt. "see?"

"oh, i can't see that," she said. "i don't have my glasses."
--post office

Sunday, July 14, 2002
he was wearing a yellow plaid shirt rolled up past his elbows, tight jeans and a black cowboy hat. his hips swayed to and fro, reminiscent of male strippers and marlboro ads.
--queen of silver lake pageant, silver lake

Friday, July 12, 2002
i'm standing in line at rite-aid, getting an assortment of provisions like shampoo, ziploc bags and a new dish-washing sponge. the checker has ringlets of black hair that frame her round, shiny face, and i say hello and ask how she's doing. they aren't words i just say, like hello or what's up. i mean it, and i am glad that she answers my question with more than the usual "good."

"it's not as hot as it's been," she says, "and you know why i can tell?"

"why?" i ask and look at the gray skies behind her.

"because nobody's in here buying ice cream," she says and smiles.

her nametag says melrose and i think about the television show and the strip known for shopping and ask her if she was named after the street but she says no.

"it's a pretty name, anyway," i say.
--rite-aid, strip mall, the valley

Thursday, June 27, 2002
he was dressed for golf from the knees up. his feet, wearing loafers with gold buckles and dotted black socks, were ready for work. her string of pearls and lavendar sweater set were perfect for high society, but waist down she looked like just another orange county housewife.
--blue awning café, lago plata

Monday, June 24, 2002
we saw them at baja fresh, waiting for their order of healthy, fresh mexican food. she wore jeans with bleach colored stripes down the back of her thighs, and he was barefoot. our eyes moved up his body and spotted, first, a sweat-stained wife beater and, next, a mullet.
--baja fresh, The Valley

Friday, March 1, 2002
first date couple, stringing people and places and things to sketch out who they are. smiling big and laughing loud.

leaning in, "do you want potato salad?"
"i ate a tv dinner."
"do you cook?"

they try so hard to understand or act like they do but none of it will make sense until much, much later.
--the coffee table coffeehouse, silver lago

Wednesday, February 20, 2002
her legs, encased in a black cotton-spandex blend, were like two twigs, and i thought they might bend the wrong way and break, causing the rest of her body parts to fall onto the pavement.
--somewhere around the silver lake, los angeles

Saturday, February 16, 2002
a lady with silver-white hair growled at the family and then wheeled her cart around the corner. she'd said something about the young boy being Trouble; he was riding on the bottom rack of the shopping cart.

"why did she say that, mommy?" the boy asked, puzzled.

"oh, she is just a lady who feels the need to be mean for some reason," the mom answered.

"maybe she doesn't know me."
--frozen foods section, trader joe's

Monday, February 4, 2002
the homeless lady who appeared from behind a parking meter snarled at me: "call up your husband and tell him you've got an army with you. they can't take the japanese girl away."
--sunset strip, hollywood, calif.

Sunday, February 3, 2002
a man in a pale green coat and rainbow fruit-striped gum ski cap walked into the café and said: "so where can i find ice cream around here?" it was 40 degrees out. he was with a young boy wearing a fuzzy sky blue cap with ear flaps.

when the man behind the counter could offer no help, the two left the store, hand in hand, to continue their search.
--vromin's bookstore, pasadena, calif.

Thursday, January 31, 2002
she was splashing water on her pant legs and i looked at her with what-are-you-doing eyes. "i have such a static problem right now," she said. "every time i shave my legs i get static the next day."
--women's restroom, my office

Friday, January 25, 2002
we see mrs. frump every monday, wednesday and friday, and she never smiles or says hello. she just walks briskly, bundled up in her shin-length, baggy green sweater and burgundy sweatpants. today, as i was driving off, i took a good, hard look at her. her shoe laces are orange.
--once around the reservoir, 7 o'clock walk

Saturday, January 19, 2002
"that boy is posterchild emo," i said to l., as we drove past the ucla bus stop. he was sitting, legs crossed, head hanging low, eyes pointed to the pavement. a red guitar case sat sadly beside him.

"oh, cruel world," i said.

"yeah, life's tough," l. sighed.

and then we laughed.
--westwood, calif.

Saturday, January 12, 2002
she said in elation, "this is the best thing i've heard all day."

of course, it was only 9am.
--the blue awning café, up a windy road

Thursday, January 10, 2002
when asked how he was doing, the man wearing a skull cap said, "you know, same shit, different girlfriend." his friend laughed. "how 'bout you?"

"same girlfriend."

"different shit?"

--deli, whole foods market, the valley

Wednesday, December 12, 2001
she had a voice like an aggressive, british miss piggy. it shook the table. she towered over the restaurant on her way out, nearly tripping over her black boots.
--lunchtime at a ramen house

Sunday, December 2, 2001
i saw santa riding shotgun in a metallic grey lincoln. he wasn't wearing his hat.
--imperial highway, by the brea mall

Wednesday, November 28, 2001
our cars were parked two spaces away from each other. he, in a white toyota camry, me, in my white acura. i thought i was the only one who had parking lot picnics, but the man was eating his lunch, too -- something from mcdonald's, just across the street. he lifted his burger to his mouth, dug into the bag for fries and took long sips of whatever it was he was drinking. i was tempted to back up and park in the space beside him, but i let him eat in peace.
--lunchtime in the mall parking lot

Tuesday, November 20, 2001
his voice boomed over the racks of socks and stacks of t-shirts. he was doing business in target, where the girls' section meets women's footwear. "it's not that i'm egotistical," he said, waving his cellphone in the air and pacing violently between aisles, "but i am the boss."

Sunday, November 18, 2001
the first thing i noticed when i walked inside is that the floor was clean -- and wet. as if somebody had just mopped and forgotten the yellow slippery when wet sign. as i walked out of the stall, in walked a tall woman with a silvery white bob. she was wearing a beige suit and black shoulder bag.

"this floor is wet!" she exclaimed, shaking her head in disapproval. "they should really do something about this floor."

"i know," i said, lathering my hands with soap. "it's horrible."

"i'm going to complain," she said, in her grandmotherly tone. "you know, somebody could trip. you could have tripped. and then you could have sued."

i smiled.

"how could they let this happen?"

i answered with my question mark face.

"must be a man in charge. women are too smart to do such a stupid thing."
--women's restroom, house of pies

Sunday, November 18, 2001
"look," l. said. "he wore his special coat." she pointed to a man wearing and a midight blue leather coat that went down to his knees.
--rock LPs, amoeba records, los angeles

Tuesday, October 30, 2001
sandy* from hong kong served us with a smile. a big smile. a million dollar crest with tartar smile.

*name has been changed to protect the innocent.
--california pizza kitchen, pasadena

Thursday, October 25, 2001
this probably doesn't count, but a black stretch limo pulled up alongside me on the freeway. its license plate: DIVA111. the whole way to work, i wondered if anyone famous was in the car.
--the 101 north

Wednesday, October 17, 2001
he was wearing an old radiohead t-shirt, pants slightly too short and a crazy black derby. his voice boomed throughout the restaurant and his arms waved wildly about. his face said "all the world's a stage" and that's when e. & i figured it out: he was a drama geek.
--the back area of the house of pies

Monday, October 15, 2001
little latino boy scurrying up the street with fists punching through his gray t-shirt, like a nervous habit in the making.
--my street by the green awning

Wednesday, October 3, 2001
a woman in her mid- to late 40s nearly ran me over when i was crossing the street (my light was green, she was making a right at red) and then honked because i was in her way.
--corner across the street from my office

Thursday, September 27, 2001
i barely saw his eyes over the lamp. he was slumped in the red velvet chair against the orange-sponged walls. he had dark eyes and thick hair that went to his shoulders. he had a beard that went just as long. even his eyebrows were full. parked beside him was a black suitcase on wheels. he looked like he was waiting for something, for someone, but no one ever came.
--over coffee at ani's, santa monica

Monday, September 24, 2001
she had stringy blonde hair and pale, yellowing skin. she was scowling, and it seemed she should never have gotten out of bed that morning.
--somewhere between LA and OC

Sunday, September 23, 2001
a boy in a white t-shirt with blue trim, baggy jeans and black flip-flops called his mom on his cellphone. he was drinking aquafina. when the flight arrived, he held up a corrugated cardboard sign that read, in black ballpoint ink, "welcome home, SHNOK-EN."
--LAX, terminal 3, gate 32

Sunday, September 23, 2001
to say that he was top heavy is a gross understatement. he was built like an upside-down pear, nay, a 40 watt lightbulb.
--sea-tac airport

Monday, September 3, 2001
"what is she wearing?"
"i don't know."
something inbetween pasties and a bikini top, i thought.
she had strange breasts, too. like two low sanddunes fairly far apart from one another.
--the red lion inn

Saturday, September 1, 2001
he was shirtless and his white boxers were peeking above the waistband of his cargo pants. in one hand, he was carrying a 99 cent store bag and in the other, he was fencing an invisible opponent with a long stick.
--random street corner by my house

Saturday, September 1, 2001
a mexican cowboy in a mud brown suit walking--no, sauntering--down the street.
--little ethiopia, fairfax blvd.

Tuesday, August 28, 2001
similar to the lady in zebra stripes, we have the lady in red plaid. a dress neck to toe draping her, like christmas table cloth, and a satchel to match. she also had crazy shoes that were about four inches tall.
--some street in seattle, wa.

Sunday, August 19, 2001
walking out of the bar l. spotted heather graham, and she looks as much like my kimberly doll as i expected she would. i didn't see what she was wearing.
--bigfoot lodge, los feliz

Sunday, August 19, 2001
at the stoplight, the man beside us was driving a huge white ford pick-up circa sometime before the 70s, i think. i didn't see his face, just his hand reaching toward the car window and pushing the glass panel down himself. he needed fresh air.
--the part of the street when rowena becomes glendale

Thursday, August 16, 2001
"ten percent of child molesters look like you, not me," said the 6-foot-tall man with blond and pink hair, big white fly glasses, a white tuxedo jacket and white patent leather thigh high boots, to his short, round friend.
--panda express, marina del rey

Thursday, August 16, 2001
a girl with a ski slope nose and straight blonde hair was all zebra print: her skirt, her purse and a pillow that sat on her lap. she was on a cellphone, chatting in an east coast accent, making tiny bubbles with lime green gum.
--LAX, terminal T2, gate 37a

Wednesday, August 8, 2001
i first heard her tiny voice, then turned to see who was speaking. a little girl and her mom, looking at pochako pencils & erasers. "i used to have one of those," said the girl, who wasn't more than 5. "when?" asked her mom. "a long time ago," she replied, "when i was 3."
--sanrio store

Sunday, August 5, 2001
a little boy standing on the edge of a brick wall in his front yard. he knelt down to look at something -- bugs, perhaps? black hair & slanted eyes & fair skin. he was wearing a white t-shirt and baggy denim shorts. he couldn't have been more than 7. i imagined myself as a little girl so curious & content to just stand in my front yard and take in my surroundings.
--a neighborhood, somewhere between pasadena and home

Friday, August 3, 2001
no specifics, but that guy who has the job at the end of the windy line to tell you when it's your turn to go next, he was wearing glaringly white nikes. my eyes hurt.
--fry's electronics

Friday, August 3, 2001
when s. & s. were up front at the show and e. was out smoking, a filipino boy approached me. he had moppy hair and a mole above his lip. "you look like you could use some 'filipino company.'" i didn't offer him a seat. he went on to say that he overheard my conversation with s. &s. and that filipinos need to stick together and that he liked the band a lot, did i? no, i said. what's your name? he asked. i told him and asked his. some-name-with-an-L-R-I-N in it. it was very filipino, but i don't remember it. i turned away and said nothing. and then he wished me well and left me in peace.
--tristeza, silver lake lounge

Tuesday, July 31, 2001
this man, he was wearing something on his head, like a scarf or bandanna maybe. and braids. he had a few strands of dirty hair wrapped in fabric. a white t-shirt & overalls. and a big dangling earring, much like my favorite pair in the '80s. it sort of resembled silver chimes hanging from his left ear. he was working on something, a maroon leather briefcase-type thing beside him, drinking water with lemon. it was 1am.
--rock n' roll monday, dennys diner, atwater

Sunday, July 29, 2001
he was wearing a ratty white t-shirt and khaki shorts. i didn't much notice his face, just his voice. "car wash, miss?" he asked. "maybe on my way back," i said. "how about a donation? our friend just died." the sign he was carrying resembled the spray paint on the walls in town. the other night there were helicopters overhead and gunshots in the distance. i dug through my wallet and handed him a $5.
--stoplight at sunset & fountain

Sunday, July 29, 2001
i first noticed her brown wiry curls and leathery skin. she'd clearly been in the sun too long. her belt buckle was the size of a credit card. her jeans looked like they'd walked out of the 80s. she was wearing a fuzzy black tanktop and no bra. "is she a hooker?" l. asked.
--dresden room, los feliz

Thursday, July 26, 2001
i noticed this girl pointing our direction. i looked to see what it was she was pointing at and saw a boy -- tall, skinny, blond (he looked a lot like gap stockboy matt) -- holding up his cellphone so that whoever was on the line, a girl presumably, could hear the song. it was "your love is the place i come from."
--teenage fanclub show, troubadour