Things a Man Oughta Know

Can I just move in?

I came home from work tonight with a boatload of work to do before an insanely wild week, next week. But you know what, bro? I don’t wanna. It’ll be there tomorrow, right? Things that won’t be there tomorrow? My time this evening. My time writing, planning my vacation, and making myself a somewhat normal dinner instead of ordering takeout. So, on that note, for old time’s sake – here’s some random musings and favorite tunes this week . . .

1. It’s hot and humid in the south. In my corner of the south, it will probably be hot – off and on through October. There are times Halloween is chilly. And then there are other times when I hold Halloween/Fall events and I’m switching out hot cider and hot chocolate for water & extra ice. But, I digress. I have some big events coming up, in the midst of the super hot/humid that is our August. I’m not a fan. So this weekend, I am re-evaluating my clothing choices (haha) and may just show up wearing the most comfortable things I own, which may be things I would not normally wear to work. Whatever, bro. It’s mid-August in the south – you get what you get.

2. My dog – Abby the Wonder Dog – is the sweetest, funniest dog. She is hilarious. She is also weird and very particular. I’ve paid for expensive dog training for her. It worked for a while. But after a bit, she lost the most important part of that training, which was to peacefully co-exist with other dogs. She has her favorite dogs. But they’re few and far in between. This makes life with her quite . . . a pain in the arse sometimes. Like today. Today, I didn’t realize, while I cleaned up after her, that her leash wasn’t truly in my grip. She charged. You wanna know who she charged? A cute little blonde boy and his PUPPY corgi. You know how small Corgis are, right? Yeah, this is a puppy. She’s such an arsehole. She’s pretty big (54 pounds). But charging at a little boy and a puppy, I’m sure she seemed gynormous…

“I think I should lay down now.” – Abby

The photo above shows my dog in her natural state, which is being lazy. She sleeps most of her life. And she’s quite serious about it. She will nag me to go to bed if I’m up too late. Right now, I’m propped up in my bed, typing. I’m even wearing my nightgown (though it’s barely 6:30). This is her preference so she can contain me in one place and voilà, I’m close to my bed for her favorite thing – sleeping. But alas, when she’s charging at a child and a puppy, she’s menacing (looking). All she wanted was to run over, give everyone a sniff, and come right back to me. Which is what she did. She didn’t so much as lift a paw.

But boy did she scare that poor kid. I was horrified. I mean, you know how small corgis are, right? IT WAS A FREAKING PUPPY. Needless to say, there was a time when she was a puppy, 11 years ago, that I prayed she’d grow out of this. Nope. She’s 11 (aka 72 in human years). What a butthead. I kept apologizing to the little boy as Abby ran back to me wagging her tail. He kept saying, “It’s okay, it’s okay.” But not so much. When will she act like an old lady and be all uninterested in sweet little puppers? I told her she was rotten. And that she was going to get the silent treatment tonight. I think she prefers this.

3. I was eating vegan or maybe I should say partially vegan for a while. I kind of still am for breakfast/lunch, at least. This started when my rheumatologist suggested I was allergic to milk and egg whites. Do you know what has egg and milk in it? Everything. Everything has eggs and milk. I dumped tons of staples like the nectar of the gods that is mayo (that’s a joke, relax). I bought vegan mayo, vegan butter, coconut or almond milk yogurt, vegan cheese (my fav is cashew cheese from Trader Joe’s by the way), cashew ice “cream”, etc. I’ve added some egg and milk products back into the diet. But a product I probably will continue to use, is plant butter. It does have less fat & calories. But here’s the best thing about it – it melts super fast. Take a stick out of the refrigerator before dinner and by the time I’m ready to eat, it’s melty. If you’re a fine connoisseur of unhealthy foods, as I am – this is tops in my book. In related news, my favorite vegan finds include: Tattooed Chef Buddha Bowls, Daiya “burritos,” and Sonoma Flatbreads veggie pizza. In case you’re wondering why I felt the need to share this tonight, it’s because I had some on gluten free pasta tonight. Hey, I said random.

4. Did you know I love all things mid-century? Mid-century modern and mid-century ranch home architecture, (much of it anyway) is a true love (see photo above) of mine. I adore it primarily because of its incredible use of light, their enormous windows, and the way the inside and outside combine. As a lover of the outdoors (I sometimes think I could live off the grid in the wilderness), this is the main thing that draws me to it.

I could do without shag carpet. And some other weirdness from the era. Like racism. And fake plants in atriums. And rampant sexism. But yeah, much of it I adore. I love the movies, the barware & glassware (which I collect), and the cheerful colors or the way the decor matches nature. They really knew how to entertain, which is one of my absolute favorite things to find in thrift or antique stores (mid-century stuff used for entertaining).

Growing up in SoCal during the 70s & 80s, we were no strangers to this kind of architecture (combined with what is called Tiki Architecture in Mid Century Modern terms). In the town I grew up in, we even had an Eichler neighborhood. Palm Springs, where I would later shop – every weekend while living in the desert – was always fun with its mid-century modern style, literally EVERYWHERE. Eichler would be super disappointed at the cost of his homes today. He built them to be affordable and accessible. Now they’re anything but (almost 2 MILLION dollars in my home town). This is an Eichler-inspired home in Orange (where I grew up), that’s currently for sale.

So what’s the point? I don’t know. I guess I need to become a millionaire. You think I can do it? I have expensive taste. Expensive that doesn’t look expensive – which is the absolute worst. Can I become a millionaire whilst writing novels and working in the wine industry? If so, sign me up.

Alright, I think that concludes the random portion of my post. Or not. The music is probably random too. Whatever. There’s little chance you’re still reading so . . .

Things a Man Oughta Know – Top of the playlist heap, this week. This line, “If you really love a woman, you don’t let her go/Yeah, I know a few things a man oughta know”

An oldie (so old), but goodie. I’d forgotten how much I loved this song (You and I Both by Jason Mraz)

Kicking it way back to summers on Newport or Huntington Beach (1988) . . .

Man, the 80s were weird and wonderful. Lol.

Speaking of the 80s, I’m on a kick. Partly because of my new novel, waiting in the wings (Sea Glass Hearts). The novel, written about an abandoned 80s kid – who grew up on the beaches of SoCal – well, that’s where the music reminiscing comes from. I was born in the 70s so I have a healthy love of all things 70 music. But the 80s…that was when I was really falling in love with music (of all kinds).

I grew up in a very Christian household – like church on Wednesday, church twice on Sunday – we only listen to Christian music – kind of Christian household. No offense, Mom – but I’m so glad my Dad and my friends didn’t abide by mom’s rules (hahaha). I truly love music of all kinds. Imagine a life without memories like cleaning to “Thriller” in my Grandma Avalos’s house, and listening to Belinda Carlisle, KROQ, Depeche Mode, U2 (greatest album of all the times is Joshua Tree, by the way), on the beach all summer? Well, I can’t dudes.

So Depeche Mode has been high on the list lately.

Another favorite of Depeche Mode is Personal Jesus. This caused much scandal in Christian circles, back in the day. This article talks about the song and about what Martin Gore was going for when he wrote it. As the article mentions, some thought he was talking about the “commercialisation of religion.” What Gore was actually writing about was, oddly enough, the relationship between Elvis and Priscilla Presley (based on her autobiography).

“He explained: ‘It’s a song about being a Jesus for somebody else, someone to give you hope and care. It’s about how Elvis Presley was her man and her mentor and how often that happens in love relationships; how everybody’s heart is like a god in some way, and that’s not a very balanced view of someone, is it?”’ Deep, dude.

In related news, the best cover of Personal Jesus goes to Johnny Cash. I mean, I don’t know if anyone else covered it but he’s Johnny Cash. Unrelated, Hurt by Cash – so good. “What have I become, my sweetest friend?” P.S. June Cash in this video, oh my heart!

Also on the Sea Glass Hearts soundtrack & reminding me of the olden days (this time just after high school in 1995) is Everclear’s Santa Monica (and a few other songs of theirs). Loved their music.

They were always saying something emotional and angry:

I am still living with your ghost
Lonely and dreaming of the west coast
I don’t wanna be your downtime
I don’t wanna be your stupid game
With my big black boots and an old suitcase
I do believe I’ll find myself a new place

Like . . .

Father of mine
Tell me where have you been?
You know I just closed by eyes
My whole world disappeared

Man, The Black Crowes. They were so good. In later years, believe it or not – their one-time guitarist/vocalist, Marc Ford, would eventually become part of my church’s worship band. By the way, he happens to be married to one of my favorite singers ever (Kirsten Ford). Oh my! I just went down a rabbit hole and found Kirsten Ford on Spotify.

I can’t remember the name, but at one point, Kirsten and a few others from my church, had a band. My friends & I saw them multiple times at places like The Roxy, and Whisky a Go Go on Sunset in West Hollywood. Yeah, serious rabbit hole there. But fun to see that Kirsten & Marc were still part of Vineyard/Vineyard worship at least not too long ago. Anyways…

I’m about done. But while I’m reminiscing, here’s a “newer” song that is super melancholy and a California favorite. El Cerrito Place – either the Kenny Chesney (I never liked him until I heard this) or Charlie Robison’s version.

“Somehow I wound up in the desert
Just after daylight
There’s a Joshua Tree
Grows that little place you always liked
These pioneer town people
They ain’t got too much to say
And if they might have seen you
They ain’t givin’ you away
Now it’s been two days”

On that note, I’ve been random enough for the evening. But somehow, it has a little bit of the writing mojo churning. Music, as always, inspires me. I hope it’s enough to keep me going through the wild week I have next week. Counting down the days until I can vacay…

Maybe He’s Back?

writer girl, writer's life, elaina avalos

My muse may have returned. Last night I wrote all evening. Maybe he’s back? Or maybe he’s just being as fickle as ever and tonight will be a slog.

Either way, I’m settled into my comfy bed, to work on my novel, A Thousand Years – just the same. I’m going to try and convince him to stick around. Or at least I’m gonna try. Instead of the television drowning out the noisy neighbors, I’ve got my A Thousand Years playlist going (starting with My Love For You is Real because that song is IT), and my trusty companion is snoring on her chaise lounge. Yes, she has an entire chaise lounge to herself. It’s big enough for two people – but I digress.

Some days I have to write myself into writing. And that’s what I’m doing now . . . as I tackle more edits for a novel that I love (but one that’s giving me fits). My goal is to write 3,000 new words this evening or to edit 6,000-8,000.

By the way, this Ryan Adams song has inspired many a writing sesh. It’s one of my all time favorite songs. So writer friends, what do you do to get yourself into writing mode? Is it music? Is it your favorite corner of your house or apartment? A favorite coffee shop? How do you get yourself in the zone?

Hearts Don’t Break Around Here

you keep me safe i'll keep you wild, elaina avalos, elaina m. avalos,

It’s a song – Hearts Don’t Break Around Here. Because hearts certainly do break around here. I’m an Ed Sheeran fan in general. But somehow, I missed this song when it came out a few years ago. I heard it the first time, not all that long ago, on a Spotify generated playlist (Acoustic Love). For me, as a writer girl who writes about love, relationships, and families – I tend to lean toward listening to love songs when I write.

But I digress . . . the song is very sweet. But when I hear it lately, I find myself getting a little sad. Hearts don’t break around here – oh how I wish I could find that one – who shows me my heart is safe. In the last verse of the song, he sings:

“I feel safe when you’re holding me near
Love the way that you conquer your fear
You know hearts don’t break around here”

Safe. I am not sure when I’ll feel safe again. But it’s funny how something you didn’t know you needed, can become your greatest longing. I long to feel safe. I mean, my apartment is safe. I’m not currently facing a physical threat in my home – although I’ve known what that was like. But in matters of the heart, I’m longing for that safety. Before I get to the important stuff – here’s a disclaimer: I am realistic about love and relationships. I know they take work. And I know you can experience hurt within even the healthiest relationships. I mean, duh. You can even see it come up in my writing, like here and here.

This is a different kind of safety. Trust runs underneath it – as its very foundation. And from where I stand now, I don’t know if I’m capable of trust anymore. Isn’t that a horrible thing to say? I write about love and family. I was still hopeful until recently that I’d find my true companion – the one I’d grow cranky and old with. But, I question how I’ll ever trust. And if I can’t trust, I’ll never feel safe. Hearts don’t break around here – that’s what I want to see it in action. Don’t you?

But will I? I recently came to terms (sort of) that I may never get to parent in the way I had always envisioned for my life. Maybe it’s time to come to terms that I’ll never find that love – the one. The one that I can fully trust my heart with – the one that will live this wild life with me. The hurt I feel now – this heartbreak – tells me I’m capable of caring again. I certainly wondered if I was capable of that when I tried to pick up the pieces of my broken heart and life in August of 2019. So that’s something, eh?

You keep me safe. I’ll keep you wild. Those are two sentences I read somewhere once – no clue who said it or why. But I know why it resonates with me. I took the photo above, when I lived along the Neuse River. The Neuse is brackish – a healthy mix of salt and fresh water. It’s not unusual to see dolphin swimming in the river. And after major storms, when the wind blows the water in weird directions, it’s normal to find jelly fish and blue crabs stranded on the sand bars. I used to leave my stressful, (but fulfilling at the time) job, and drive home to this view. While I would sit on the deck in the evening, with a glass of wine, I spent a lot of time writing about the kind of life I have always wanted and what I hoped could still be mine. Below is the original photo I took (that I made into the image above), looking out toward Minnesott Beach. The steps down to what was once a small private beach (long since gone thanks to wild NC storms), are just barely visible. The second & third photo were pretty much my nightly routine, as I enjoyed the sultry Carolina summer air, blowing off the river, in the evenings.

I’ve had a crazy, good, weird life. I’m grateful for every second of this adventure. How many people my age get to live in a gorgeous home along a river (more than once), or in a fun downtown condo – with a view of the same river (just up the highway a bit)? When I lived in that cute downtown, I walked across the street on Friday evenings for wine tastings. And with my downtown buddies, we would walk to dinner – and then walk to our favorite bar sometimes. In all of the years of these little adventures, I was filled with terribly ridiculous joy. It’s the kind of joy that is unflinching in the face of challenges. I was happy. But even when I wasn’t, the joy hung around every corner of my life.

I have been blessed. I used to believe that this life I’ve lived – that has been full, beautiful, and filled with great opportunities – was ensuring that when the one finally did walk into my life, our life together would be that much richer because I hadn’t been afraid to live fully before him.

I was pretty sure I knew who he was too. I mean, not the exact person, but you know – the type. There have been some imposters that have come & gone. Usually, when they head out of my life, I have a “well, that was interesting – moving on now” kind of feeling. Hahaha. That’s probably why I’m still friends with guys I’ve dated. I guess I just know when it’s time to move on or not right, so there’s no need for drama. But maybe that’s mostly because my heart hasn’t been tied up in most of these gents. Not really. They also didn’t look like the one. The intellectual compatibility was missing. Or the spiritual. Or maybe that was there, but the physical compatibility was just . . . not. I know who he is. I know they type of man he is. So when it’s not right, it’s not right. But this is different. And I don’t know if I have it in me to open my heart to the possibility again.

Maybe this too is not for me. Parenting totally is for me. I am (was) and awesome mom. I was made for it. I’m also awesome at relationships (lol) and loving well. I’m loyal, loving, and don’t give up easily. I’m patient. And I’m a damn good time. Haha. But, it comes to a point where you just don’t know if you have it in you anymore. And that’s me, friends. I don’t know if I have it in my anymore. Oh how I wish I didn’t feel that way.

From 2010-2012, I lived in a literal desert. That place was weird and wonderful. I love many aspects about desert life. My life was rich when I lived in the desert too. While I missed green and trees and rain and the ocean, I was happy
there too. But I’m in a different kind of desert now. I’m stranded in a town that lacks for jobs, housing opportunities, and is home to the most pain I’ve ever experienced in my life. I’m in a desert. And in this dry and barren spiritual place, I know two things – I want me back. And it’s time to see what a life with different dreams looks like if the two I always thought I was meant for, aren’t going to happen.

The funny thing is, my “words” for 2021 are hope & faith. I’m sure all of this seems to lack both. But truthfully, maybe the best possible place to be is at a place where all of your plans and dreams are stripped clean from your very heart so the true beauty of the life waiting for me, can make its way to the surface?

Reader friends – heart stuff is hard. So is vulnerability. But you can’t get anywhere without facing it head on. So here I go.

And to the one who has my heart, if you could give it back, since you’re not using it (haha), that would be rad.

My Muse

elaina avalos, elaina m. avalos, muse, writer girl, writing

I’ve been writing non-stop for so long now – months and months. But it has dried up the last couple of weeks. It’s not surprising. The last couple of weeks have brought me to the end (or what I hope is the end) of a long, long, rough period. I’m tired. So very tired. I’m emotionally exhausted and don’t have much to give. I want to. I need to. I try to write. But it’s not there. My muse – my muse is a fickle little thing. And she (or maybe it’s a he since he’s so difficult) is feeling temperamental. He/She’s just not interested in hanging out with me.

If you’re a writer or artist and you haven’t seen the movie, The Muse, you must. You can rent it on Amazon. It’s a 1999 Albert Brooks movie. It’s laugh-out-loud funny for the artist types out there, like me. The premise of the movie is that screenwriter Steven Phillips (Albert Brooks) is at the lowest point in his career. He loses his contract with a studio and is basically told he doesn’t have it anymore.

In desperation, he reaches out to a friend (Jeff Bridges) who tells him that a real-life muse exists (and her name is Sarah). Sarah’s demands throughout the movie get crazier and crazier – but he’s writing again. So he feeds the muse, so to speak. Which, as you can imagine, creates all kinds of wild stories. Sharon Stone was the perfect person for this role. It’s a crazy movie and in true Brooks style, it’s a little weird. But I love his sense of humor – so of course I laugh throughout, no matter how many times I’ve seen it.

The muse, the muse . . . the goddamn muse. – Steven Phillips

But back to my muse. The muse is not inspiring me right now. What he is doing is taunting me a little – reminding me of what’s just outside my reach. He’s a cheeky little bugger. My goal for the rest of this week and weekend is to simply read my manuscript. That’s it. Just read it. I may even print it out. I hope that as I read it again, the inspiration returns. I miss it. And my muse.

Come Live This Wild Life With Me

You can’t tame wild things. Who wants to be tamed, anyway? Certainly not me. When I was in high school, I camped with friends, amongst the sequoias and redwoods. They towered over our primitive campsite. I woke up on the first full morning there and looked out toward the Pacific. If you stood just right, the waves, perpetually crashing against the shore, were a distant song, floating through that canyon where we were nestled into our campsite. There in the abandoned woods of the central coast of California, like so many other times in my life, I knew I wasn’t made for normal. The fog had settled in overnight, in an almost disorienting way. It was deeply and wildly comforting. The cold, in spite of it being summer – chilled me to the bone. And I was perfectly content in that wild place. That summer, we camped all over northern Cal. I swam in the “Delta” and wandered around San Francisco and Santa Cruz. We camped on a golden hill – oak trees and wildflowers around us. Those chilly nights by the fire, our feet dirty in our flip flops, as the embers swirled above us – settled deep into my soul.

I grew up on the beach – sand in my toes and wild hair blowing every which way. Between the beach and the pool, I was incredibly tan all summer – so dark you wouldn’t believe. My hair was almost blonde from the sun. The dirt or sand in my toes version of life, my hair wild with sun and salt, and the adventures of a life filled with creativity encouraged and unleashed – was a beautiful way to grow up. I lived for camping near my Grandparents. And then our parents would leave us (my brother & cousin would be left by my Aunt & Dad) after our camping trip and we would stay with Grandma in that trailer on the beach – napping with open windows, the sea breeze blowing and swirling through their tiny home away from home. My Grandma was precious, wild, and terribly inappropriate. I got most of my wild from her. She was an artist. And in spite of the fact that their home during part of the year was a trailer, owned by the state of California (Grandpa was a caretaker at a state beach), it was decorated like a mansion – with her paintings of oceans and flowers and the pretty things that inspired her – on the walls. Her bed was covered in the prettiest lace and she could hunt out the loveliest of trinkets, hidden to everyone but her artistic eye, for her art-filled home. In the morning, we’d hike down between the craggy, sun-bleached cliffs, to the beach. We’d walk for miles, laughing and telling wild stories. She’d pick up seaweed and tell us magical things about the sea. Except I’ll never know if half of what she told us was true – all I remember is she told wild stories. She found seaweed – mustard yellow and squishy – beautiful. She’d talk about it as if it were a treasure from the sea. She taught me, my entire childhood, to take care of and cultivate the wild girl that lived deep in my heart.

I have been caged for a while now. I’m a wild thing, longing to be free again. There are unrestrained words to be written (words others won’t like), mountains to climb, beaches to camp on, and wild love to cultivate. There are places to live from – not physical places – that the average person never reaches and doesn’t even desire. We (me & you – the man I’ve waited for, for so long) are not those kinds of people. I’ve found that version of myself again. The real me that’s been hiding – held back by the fears and clouded by a drive to be accepted. I don’t need that and never have, I just got lost for a bit. What I need, what I’ve always needed – is the kind of deep living that sucks life from the most colorful, juiciest, soulful places. It’s the kind of life that gets you dirty. You know how when you eat the most delicious piece of watermelon, on a hot summer day, and the juice drips down your hand and arm and you don’t care for one single second? That. The sweetest days are the ones that get you real dirty – sticky with sweet and dripping honey. I live for this version of life.

I know it when I see it. I was made for it. I saw it in you. I see it in you, at your best and your worst.

I’ve written so many words to you – my wild thing. I’ve never written so much. The words flow constantly. I can’t turn them off. When I tried to bury them from bubbling up and over, they dried up. And then, in the way that wild things do, they seeped up, from so many holes in my heart. I couldn’t stop them. They rocked my foundation – in spite of my attempt to live a quieter, more acceptable life. I’ve learned my lesson. I don’t want a quiet life that makes sense. I don’t want to write quiet words that feel safe. I want to write words that are drenched in the sticky sweet wild, that remind us of the way that’s not for everyone.

And now here I am standing on the edge of this cliff yet again, more uncertain than I was on a humid summer night, when I wrote these words – visions of what I was made for, in my mind.

I love you and all of your wild things. Come home to me & live this wild life. I’ve been seeing visions of it, for all my years. I know it when I see it. None of it has to make a damn bit of sense. Grace, His grace – it’s wild enough to sustain us on this rocky path. It can be a path that doesn’t make sense. I don’t need to make sense. I don’t understand most of life. No one ever said we needed to. Come live this wild life with me. We’ll figure it out along the way – even when it’s hard.