If I were to love LA, moments like this would be why

I was on the bus reading my classmates’ comments on my short story when I became aware of a conversation going on next to me.

Girl: It was just too much stress, y’know, in the kitchen.
Guy: Yeah, I know whatchu mean. Rushing.
Girl: Yeah, they w’ always rushing. Gimme that, I need that now. They got mad at me when the chicken wasn’t done fast enough.
Guy: Estaba minimum wage?
Girl: I tink so.
Guy: What is that, five-fitty? Estaba fi’-fitty?
Girl: Yeah.
Guy: Sabes donde trabajaba, en la cocina?
Girl: Where?
Guy: Universal Citywalk.
Girl: Oh yeah? Was it at Tommy’s?
Guy: Tommy’s, yeah, Tommy’s. Pero… [shifts his glance] watch out.

[He looks at a skinny Asian girl in glasses, nodding off next to his conversation partner.]
Girl: She’s just falling asleep.
Guy: Yeah, issok, pero mira she doesn’ fall over, otherwise you better wake her up.

[The dozing Asian girl begins to lean into the aisle.]
Girl: [puts her hand on the sleeping girl’s shoulder] Hey, watch ou’.
Asian girl: [waking] Eh? Oh!
Guy: Hey, issok, you were jus’ falling asleep.
Girl: You gotta be careful, don’ fall asleep or you miss your stop.
Asian girl: Oh…
Guy: Yeah, better not fall asleep on the bus!
Girl: Or you gotta get off, go all ‘way back again!
Asian girl: Where… where we now?
Girl: This is La Cienega.
Asian girl: La Shienega?
Girl: Where you getting off at?
Asian girl: La Brea.
Girl: Aw, you okay then.
Guy: You still gotta way to go.

It’s so clichéd to say I like LA for its diversity, but I really do. Other people have remarked on it better and more knowledgeably than I, but just from what I’ve seen, it’s a unique mix, a lot of interaction moving side-by-side with a lot of segregation, sometimes self-imposed. Also, I really loved the way this guy talked. I can’t quite replicate it.

Do you want to read my short story? Here it is [link broken, but see below]. It isn’t perfect, but it’s my favorite fiction I’ve written so far (or “creative nonfiction,” which is what Erik called it). People liked it in class, too, though they of course had their issues with it. It’s a funny thing, whenever I put a lot of description in my stories — which I am good at — I get very mixed responses. Some people adore it, others want to cut it all out in favor of action. There’s a very clear divide.

I liked all the student stories from this week, though the professor was pretty mean to staceyu over her ending. It was uncalled for; it was not respectful of her as an author and it disturbed me and probably some others who feared similar mockery on our own stories. C’est la vie, I guess… even the most awesome people have their unpleasant moments, though it could have been more justified on a different story (not thinking of any in particular).

I leave for Chicago tomorrow morning, very early. I’ll be back Monday. Wish me warmth and dry feet.

[This post was imported on 4/10/14 from my old blog at satsumabug.livejournal.com. I’ve pasted an excerpt of my short story below.]

From “Video Recognition”:

Mom called me this morning while I was feeding my guinea pig, Edgar.

“Hey, Alexa,” she said, in her relaxed, low voice. “Guess what?”

“Hi, Mom, what?” I replied. “But it better not be big news because I have to leave for work in five minutes.”

“I was surfing the web last night and I saw your videos on YouTube,” she said. “I didn’t know you had a video camera. When did you get it?”

I put down Edgar’s pellets and sat back to think about what I’d posted lately. I’d talked about the last movie I’d seen, Little Miss Sunshine (which I’d liked), mentioned that all the construction on Wilshire was driving me crazy at work, and, of course, given my take on the shows last week at the Echo and the Troubadour.

“Uh, I’ve had it for a while,” I told her.

What else had I posted? I hadn’t said anything about her, I knew that for sure. Oh wait—I had had a stupid date last week with a guy I met at the Echo. He asked me out to dinner and I said fine; he looked a little unreliable but you never know where you might find something meaningful, right? He ended up getting drunk off his ass and I had to: look up his address in his wallet, drive him home, find the right key to let us in, and then ask a random guy in the building to help me get him into his apartment. It was too cold to leave him outside, and anyway, I’d probably run into him again sometime at the clubs. After I got home I said on the video: “Sometimes a little humanity is just basic insurance for future encounters.” I wondered whether Mom had seen that one.

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4 responses to “If I were to love LA, moments like this would be why

  1. I did feel the harshness in Louie’s critique of Stacey’s story, but at the same time, I wish he treated us ALL like that ALL the time. I do think it would be more justified on a different story. Really, ALL OF THEM. He goes way too easy on some people and I don’t have the heart to be the bitch in the class. Sometimes tough love is just a necessary evil. I’d rather people just rip my story apart rather than coddle me. He could have been slightly more tactful about it…but I think Stacey took it okay. I hope so, anyway.

    I think you are the best at writing descriptions in the class. But I also think there is a time and place for it and it’s hard to decide when to leave it and when to cut.

    • You’re right; what bugs me most about the way DWL does things like this is he’s very inconsistent. Sometimes he really pushes people on their stories, other times he just remains silent and nobody really gives any serious critiques. Teaching is very subjective, though, I mean on a day-to-day basis. Much as we try not to let our own moods and lives influence the way we are in the classroom, they do, and no one is fabulous all the time.

      It was the part about his reading the dialogue with Janet that pushed the critique into disrespectful mockery. The critique itself was perfectly valid (even if I wouldn’t have said it the way he did).

      I go back and forth on tough love. It’s definitely good to have some of it injected into a class like this, but if it were all tough love I’m not sure I could handle it, and I don’t think I should have to. I don’t think anyone has to be tough all the time — as Anne Lamott says in her hilarious writing guide, Bird by Bird: “You don’t always have to chop with the sword of truth. You can point with it, too.” (Wow I just looked that up and I remembered it verbatim!) I think there’s a middle ground between coddling and ripping. There are also times when I need only one or the other.

      Thank you for your compliment on my descriptions! I think I could definitely trim them more, though description, I’ve noticed (not just in my own writing), is also very much a personal preference. I used to not like it and now I do.

  2. yeah, i was okay with it. just wasn’t expecting it, really. “you’re better than that” and then janet reciting it. oh lord. that was bad. anyway, i’m much comfortable hearing it from him than mona that’s for sure. i agree with marissa on that louie’s way too easy on other people, but i attribute that to it being people’s first time ever writing fiction in this way. i guess since he knows i’ve been in other workshops before he figures i can take it? sigh.

    have fun in chicago and let me know how it went!

    • Yes, I think you’re an experienced enough writer that you know that just because he thought your ending was cheesy, doesn’t mean you are doomed forever and will never write anything worth reading. I always love your stories and your voice, and I do think DWL must too otherwise he wouldn’t have said what he did… though “You’re better than that” is such an ambiguous remark, compliment and condemnation in one. It’s like being told, “You don’t always suck, BUT YOU SURE DID THIS TIME!” Who wants to hear that? I was just thinking of this (randomly enough) last night while watching Top Design. The judges always tell designers, “We expected more from you,” and the designers always look so wounded, and I totally understand how they feel.

      Well, that is our last round of workshop stories for this class. Sadness and whew. Must… keep… writing!

      I’ll write about Chicago!

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