Bridget On: Berkeley Fog

“When I was younger, and lived in Berkeley…” how is it that so many of my stories begin this way, these days? Maybe it’s because the fog is finally lifting… that post-baby-crazy-partum stage of teeny tiny diapers and toddlers and four-year-old tantrums, followed by losing the lost tooth of a panicked seven-year-old and then one day it just burns off and you’re sunning in Palm Springs, childless with girlfriends, and making reservations to jet to foreign cities because the babies are not babies anymore. When you look in the mirror of their faces, you catch a glimmer of your younger you. You smell the wet leaves of Oakland in unwashed pre-teen hair, you hear three bars of a long forgotten song revived now, and all mashed up into something different, but still the melody remains. You can tap it out on your thigh while driving with surfboards attached to the top of the car because, finally, you can dive into the kelp, close your eyes to the salt surf, and know, without a doubt that no one will drown.

 —

When I was younger, and lived in Berkeley I spent my summers half-nude at StrawStrawberry Canyonberry Canyon. It wasn’t radical. It was Berkeley. Everyone was half-nude and on days when then sun shone through the fog hard enough to force it to lift, we all walked up the curvaceous streets of Centennial Drive and spread out on sheets and patchwork quilts on top fields of clover-flowers. Our textbooks heavy, with wet matted pages from the splash of someone’s pony-tail still dripping from the pool, were forgotten as we stretched and stared into the green canopy of Monterey Pine and acacia. It was here, next to the public pool, at the very end of summer, when I was younger, and still lived in Berkeley, that I read my first novel. First—let me clarify—novel written by someone I not only knew, but by someone I knew more than “in passing.” First novel written by a friend. I was still young enough to have firsts, to have endless end-of summer days that stretch half-nude beside public pools and carefully collated paper manuscripts, double-spaced and secured with brass-colored brads.

 —

The memory winnows.

I, more than most, understand this.

But when I was younger and lived in Berkeley I had no idea how quickly the fog could set in. On Tuesday your tied up in bikini strings and then Thursday’s fog wisps in from across the bay and the air loses its clover green and instead smells like the early flue of Autumn’s fire. The memory winnows, the mind rearranges, but somehow my younger Berkeley self remains.

 —

I remember, it was space heater cold in Berkeley, when I wrote a handwritten letter to my first novel friend. I sat at my desk in an all-girls cooperative, and I struggled to find the words to say how huge I thought “this” all was. Page after careful page of words strung together by my first friend who knew how, and I had no idea how to say, how to mark the enormity of it. So I wrote something grand in my imagination and on my page, in the letter that I carefully tucked into the bulk of the manuscript’s pages I wrote, “You did it! You actually wrote a real novel!” I hopefully didn’t use two consecutive exclamation marks, but I was younger so chances are I most likely did. Because I needed there to be unbridled exclamation! Just as I needed an envelope and not, say, a chlorine-stained margin to hold the words.

This same friend recently sent me the first chapter of the next novel. Or maybe it’s the first chapter of the same novel. (Who knows why, but with novels it works like that sometimes.) What I do know, was while I read it, from the lime backyard chaise aside my saline filtered swimming pool, with only palms to look up at, and a lap topped dot-doc attachment, I remembered Strawberry Canyon and the brads that held those delicate first novel manuscript pages together. Because once upon a time we were all younger and living in Berkeley, and the fog, even from the ocean adjacent streets of Southern California is lifting.

Bridget Hoida On: Blue Books

Truth be told, sixteen years ago I “broke up with” my husband (who wasn’t my husband, yet) because he didn’t read books. You all get me, right?

TOTALLY reasonable.

But when he agreed to the “Bridget Hoida” book of the week club, I took him back (lucky for him. Also agreed).

But we’ve always struggled with books. ALWAYS. For example, he doesn’t like “books in public.” I know. I know. Shut the Front Door. Twice. But that’s just how he “is”. And, not, let me clarify, READING books in public. Rather, he objects to “visualizing” books in public. If I may, a semi-direct quote to clear things up: “Books are for reading. They are not, art. Nor are they decoration or vases or knickknacks or photographs or any such stuff.” So clearly we have MARITAL PROBLEMS.

I mean they always say every couple has the “same argument” over and over but in different manifestations.

BOOKS are our argument.

Blue Books

Blue Books

But when we moved into the “new house” there was lots and lots of room. So much room, in fact, that I lost my small dog on several occasions. However, I still maintain that books should be seen AND heard… so I’ve been slipping them in, in obvious places: the fireplace (not “on”, of course that would be horrific), next to the vacuum cleaner, in various “nooks” and “entryways, ” the bathtub… but they always get politely returned to my office. So we “went round.” And it was decided (probably informed by some Restoration Hardware Catalogue –and yes, I did just spell “catalogue” with a “u”) that blue books, because they “matched the walls” would be okay.

In the front room.

Behind the glass.

Where the wedding china lives.

It was a comp-row-mise.

But OMG! “You Guys” as my pal Thaddeus Gunn would say… YOU. GUYS. You will never believe this: ALL OF THE BEST BOOKS ARE BLUE!

Seriously.

Under those nasty paper jackets… the books are blue. Which means “win”. Which means books. Which means visible books. Which means words. And worlds. And wow.

P.S. Don’t worry. The China will be overrun…there are SO MANY blue books!

Liberace’s Piano

Bridget Hoida at the So L.A. Los Angeles Book Launch; Gibson Guitar Showroom

I’m not a big party person. Sure I throw them, and attend them aplenty, but I don’t think I’ve had a party, for myself, since that awkward sleepover in junior high. — I prefer small things… dinner parties or brunch … Continue reading

Bridget Hoida on: California Top Ten

Not many people know this, but a novelist invented California. Really. Over five hundred years ago, long before it was a real geographic place, California was described in the pages of a book, written by Garci Ordonez de Montalvo, as a golden land “very near the terrestrial paradise” and populated, almost exclusively, by courageous women. I cannot tell you how fabulous I think this is. Not only because California existed in the imagination before it existed on a map, but also because California was quite literally written into being.

As a Nor Cal native (and So Cal transplant) I’ve always been drawn to California writers and it’s no secret that I have an incurable girl-crush on Joan Didion. Her use of whitespace is particularly inspiring to me and, if forced, I’d have to choose her novel, Play It As It Lays, as my favorite book. Ever. Although some may call my Didion ardor an obsession—it’s not stalking if she writes you back—I maintain it’s not so much Didion the woman but rather the sound of Didion’s words that have me so hung up. If you have yet to read Joan Didion I recommend all of her California cannon (from Run River to Where I Was From, with large bits of Blue Nights, and huge pieces of Slouching Towards Bethlehem strategically tossed in-between) but most especially, I recommend Play It As It Lays (with the original 1970s paperback cover, if you can find it, because nothing says “serious literature” like a topless blonde and a snake).

–>

After Didion, who for me will always be the author of my California I offer neither a rank list, nor the usual jacket covers, but a compendium, of sorts; the models and voices that inspired me when I set to work on So L.A. There is no London. No Norris. No Steinbeck, or Chandler even. Not that their moonish valleys, railroad entanglements, big sleeps and brambling grape vines aren’t inspiring, quite the contrary, but chances are if you’re reading this, you already know their works—if not also their words—and so instead I offer you:
Ask The Dust (1939) by John Fante
Although it is chronologically impossible, I’m secretly convinced Ask The Dust is what happened in the stacks of the L.A. public library when Nathanael West’s Day of the Locust (1939) and Charles Bukowski’s Post Office (1971) had a torrid, and heart-achingly beautiful literary love affair. Pages were dog-eared. Spines were spent. And nine months later Ask The Dust was born.
Cover of "Ask the Dust"
—-
Why Did I Ever? (2001) by Mary Robison
Fragmented, fractured and wildly brilliant, Robison’s Why Did I Ever tells the story of Money Brenton, a Hollywood script doctor who struggles to make her way, while making the rent. Money has ADD and a dysfunctional home life. What’s more, her son Paulie was recently the victim of an unspeakable assault and her daughter Mev is a meth-addict. This book is dark. This book is angry. This book (and everyone in it) is emotionally damaged. And it’s also one of the funniest books I have ever read. In Why Did I Ever Robison masterfully allows illness to not only define the structure, but also the narration of her novel and the result is stunning. I don’t use the word “genius” all too often, but Mary Robison is a genius. Because she can write a chapter in three sentences, like this: “I feel around in my handbag, extract something, use it, and put it back.  Later on I might need something else.  This is my life, what my life is really made of.
—-
The People of Paper (2005) by Salvador Plascencia
A bit of a disclaimer, I happen to know Sal. We went to grad school together, but I am convinced that even if I had never met him I would adore this book, because beneath its paper cover is a magical boldness that I covet, as Sal’s people are literally made of paper. There are bees and knees, international borders drawn in chalk, little girls who rot their teeth eating lemons, a graveyard of mechanical turtles, and a violent gang of carnation pickers who wage a war against sadness and omniscient narration. If you can find the McSweeneys rectangular edition buy it! Not only because you can stick your finger straight through the pages in spots, but also because it conforms to the papal decree.
The Land of Little Rain (1903) by Mary Hunter Austin
When I came across The Land of Little Rain I didn’t expect to like it, let alone fall madly in love with it. I mean who picks up a book about basket makers and sheep farmers in the desert and falls in love? But amazingly, that’s just what happened. The descriptions of California are so vivid and so reverently environmental that you feel not only as if you are walking Austin’s exceptionally described trails, but that you are also a damned fool for living in a man made house and abandoning the divine harmony of a more natural dwelling. Reading this book is like yoga without a mat. And if that’s not a high enough endorsement, I’ll also share that I named my firstborn child after a story in this collection. Really, I did.
Tripmaster Monkey: His Fake Book (1990) by Maxine Hong Kingston
There’s an opening moment in Tripmaster Monkey where the gloriously named Whittman Ah Sing contemplates suicide by jumping off the Golden Gate Bridge. Would he jump, like the other 235 others had, facing the land with “Coit Tower giving you the finger all the way down?” No. “Whittman would face the sea.” In Kingston’s book, Whittman thankfully doesn’t jump. Even though the sun setting over the ocean is tempting, Whittman never jumps. And that’s why I like him. I first read this book in Berkeley, on a co-operative rooftop with a view of the city –and on good days a view of the Golden Gate Bridge—and Whitman’s dilemma became for me, a sort of party favor. I’d bring it (and the book) with me almost everywhere and in a metaphorical game of truth or dare I’d ask unassuming cocktail guests from which side they’d jump. Not that I would. Not that any of us ever would. Ever. But it is such an interesting question. A question that complicated my relationship with San Francisco in ways even East Bay public transportation maps are still unable to accomplish.
 
The Serial (1977) by Cyra McFadden
I honestly don’t remember how I came across this book, which isn’t a book really, but a spiral bound collection of 52 short columns exploring the marriages, child rearing tactics and label laden domestic lives of Marin’s post-hippy and pre-yuppie “flash on” culture. It is satire at its best, and best of all, McFadden never shies away from using loads of cultural jargon, consumer references and “real” places.
America (1956) by Allen Ginsberg
Even before I attended college at UC Berkeley I’d make day trips to San Francisco and walk the “Beat” streets of North Beach. I’d duck into City Lights with the earnestness of most any awkward fifteen-year-old bookworm, and if I walked back to BART—instead of talking the bus or the trolley—I’d have enough money to buy a single used pocket edition of a City Lights book. I bought “America” in the early summer of my junior year in high school. By summer’s end I had memorized all of it.  Twenty years later I now teach it to my students “every chance I get.” For me, it never gets old.
In A Country” (1977) by Larry Levis
My final selection is a single poem by Larry Levis. I chose one poem because it seemed too gluttonous to choose all of them (although truth be told, I haven’t read a Levis I didn’t like). One of the infamous “Fresno poets” Levis’ poetry taught me how to write, with love and fear, about the soil of the San Joaquin and in So L.A., although the title invokes the perceived glamour of the Southland, it’s actually equally concerned with the hardscrabble beauty of agrarian culture,  which as Michael Ventura might admit is an equally “hard, hard beauty to love.”

*This post originally appeared on my new favorite blog spot, Conceptual Reception, thanks to the huge heart of poet and collector of obscure vocabulary, Karen!
From Karen: “I am so excited to post today.  In fact, this might be one of my favorite all-time blog entries to date.  The lovely women behind TLC Book Tours linked me up with the amazingly smart, fun author Bridget Hoida, whose new book  “So L.A.” is tearing it up. Completely convinced that Bridget is my kindred California spirit, I asked her to write a guest post of her “Recommended California Reading.” For more info on Bridget and her book, check out her rad website (and check back here for an upcoming review).  But I am now so excited to hand you over to her sharp, inspiring guest post for today.  Look out, though.  Your “to be read” list is about to get several books longer.”

-Karen Marie, Conceptual Reception, September 12, 2012

Bridget Hoida on: The Final (sound)Tracks

Tracks nine, ten & eleven of the So L.A. Soundtrack

 

Stuck In Lodi” by Creedence Clearwater Revival

So I know I promised a few days ago, when I began this project, that I was going to avoid the “cliché” but when you’re writing a book about a town as small as Lodi and it just so happens that there is also a fairly well known song about that same said town, well, you kind of have to include it. Especially when, near the end of the book Magdalena really does find herself “stuck in Lodi. Again.”

  “Everybody’s Gotta Live” by Arthur Lee

Hearing this song was a turning point for me. And equally important, it was a turning point for the book. I was deep into writing the pages of Magdalena’s depression, writing the worst and most despicable parts about her. When you’re doing dark writing like this it’s hard not to get wrapped up in the anger and the despair. I was struggling to write the scene where Mags comes to a resolution and forgives herself for Junah’s death, but I just couldn’t get the words out. A friend sent me this song and like Arthur Lee says, “Everybody’s gotta live and everybody’s gotta die.” Accepting Junah’s death allows Magdalena to live. She just has to “know the reason why.”

 —

Our Lips Are Sealed” by The Go-Go’s

Return to the Valley of The Go-Go'sThis song is spiritual for me. Especially when paired with the video. There’s something that’s just, well, so L.A. about it. Convertibles with their tops down, girls who are insanely beautiful, but not in a manufactured way (e.g. L.A. in the early 80’s and not 2012) and dancing, fully clothed, in a public fountain in Beverly Hills. For me, this is Magdalena before Junah died: self-confident and joyful, and it is Magdalena in Take Six, which is not in the printed version of the book.  Splashing in a public fountain while singing with a “hell-if-I-care-who-sees-me” attitude is where I hope Magdalena’s headed, off the page, after the book ends.

 

Bridget Hoida on: The Blues

The So L.A. Soundtrack tracks six, seven & eight (from dark blue to pale blue to bluish games)

“Little Miss Queen of Darkness” by The Kinks

After living in Southern California for well over a decade I’m convinced that even though the movies, pictures and “reality” television shows will tell you otherwise, nothing is as it seems. But more to the point: Californians try really really hard to keep things that way. The hair, the cars, the boobs, the exceptionally high heels… they are all a part of a huge yet-to-be-produced-film called: Hide Everything.  And to be “So L.A.” is to belong to this material culture. When considering Magdalena and her obsession with materialism I first went to Madonna’s “Material Girl,” but I think The Kinks explore the emotional damage of this showy lifestyle better when they sing: “Although she looked so happy,/ There was sadness in her eyes. / And her curly false eyelashes / Weren’t much of a disguise. / And her bright and golden hair, / Was not all that it might seem. / Little miss queen of darkness / Dances sadly on.”

 —

 “Pale Blue Eyes” by The Velvet Underground

This song is a love note from Magdalena to all the men in the book. To Ricky it is an explanation: “Sometimes I feel so happy,/ Sometimes I feel so sad. / Sometimes I feel so happy,/But mostly you just make me mad.” To Puck, it is her apology and her pleading, “If I could make the world as pure and strange as what I see,/I’d put you in the mirror,/ I put in front of me.” To Quentin, it is an invitation: “It was good what we did yesterday./ And I’d do it once again./ The fact that you are married,/ Only proves, you’re my best friend./ But it’s truly, truly a sin.” To Junah it is a swan song. A goodbye in the way only music can speak: “Thought of you as my mountain top,/ Thought of you as my peak./ Thought of you as everything,/ I’ve had but couldn’t keep./ Linger on, your pale blue eyes.” I’ve loved this song for more years than I care to admit and yet it never tires. Every time I hear Lou Reed’s musical whisper across my speakers I yearn for the run-down Berkeley loft of my early-twenties. I blame the tambourine.

The Riq, is widely Used in the Arabic Music

 “Blues Run The Game” by Laura Marling

As every woman eventually learns, you can only run so far before the cities run out and start to become one in the same. Magdalena runs from Lodi to Berkeley to Los Angeles to the Beverly Hills Hotel to escape who she was and the memory of Junah. However, there’s only so much room service a girl can take before the lonely sets in. Even with Quentin’s occasional company, life at the Beverly Hills Hotel begins to break Magdalena’s “Hollywood gloss” as she realizes that no amount of whisky, gin or room service, will save her, nor will it bring her beloved Junah back. “When I’m not drinking, baby,/ You are on my mind,/ When I’m not sleeping, honey,/ Well you know you’ll find me crying.”

Bridget Hoida ON: Lennon Lullaby

Here are the next three tracks of the So L.A. Soundtrack

LA River

Look At Me by John Lennon

This song is sung so softly, and with such endearingly sweet emotion, it’s hard not to be swept away by the pretty picks of the guitar chords. However, underneath this Lennon lullaby are questions that speak directly to Magdalena and her process of physical and emotional transformation. The song begins with the line “Look at me.”  After Junah’s death Magdalena can no longer bear to look herself in the mirror, as her resemblance to her dead brother is just too painful, so she moves to L.A. where she begins the (damaging and damning) process of cosmetic surgery. But she soon learns (though refuses to admit) even after she’s “augmented everything” her pain is still present. The lyrics of this song: “Who am I supposed to be? What am I supposed to do?” continue to speak to Mags throughout most of the novel.

 “Blonde on Blonde” by Nada Surf

If So L.A. were a movie, and not uncoincidentally, I’ve written it as such, this would have to be the track playing at Linda Carter’s Malibu party. Not only does the song mention “Wonder Woman” but it also takes the California “blonde” and makes her even blonder. How, might you ask, is that even possible? Let me give you the number for Magdalena’s stylist, Jersi. If he can’t bleach you blonder, Sugar, nobody can.

 “L.A. River” by Honey Honey

Los Angeles, as Magdalena learns, is so much more than the stars on Hollywood Blvd. or the shops on Rodeo Drive. Beyond Beverly Hills and the beaches of Malibu and Santa Monica there is another, less iconic L.A. And as this song reminds everyone, it is equally beautiful, if not more so.

Bridget Hoida On: So L.A. Soundtrack

I must admit, when the brilliant Meg over at  A Bookish Affair asked for a So L.A. playlist, I was tempted to reach into the tight back pocket of my L.A. iconography jeans and grab some Southland song classics like: “Hotel California” by The Eagles; “California Girls” both—the David Lee Roth & The Beach Boys versions; Randy Newman’s “I Love L.A.”; or even the fabulous—and fabulously appropriate— “L.A. Woman” by The Doors…

But I didn’t.

Even though these songs make me smile, and I’ll openly admit to singing them loudly while driving the 405, or cheering at a Laker’s game, they weren’t “So L.A.”, at least not in the bookish sense.

Although some have mistakenly taken So L.A. for “chick lit” or a “light summer read,” (maybe it’s the cover? maybe it’s the title? maybe it’s because I’m a blonde woman writing about a blonde woman who lives in L.A.?) it’s actually a much darker satire about love and beauty myths and the necessary emotions everyone feels in the face of intense personal loss.

Yes, it has rhinestones, movie stars, fancy cars and a whole lot of Hollywood sass, but So L.A. is more than just tinsel. It’s a woman from a small town who is struggling to reinvent herself, after the loss of her brother and the process, although eventually redeeming, is oftentimes very messy.

Below you will find the extended liner notes for my So L.A. Soundtrack so turn the radio up, spread your towel on my deck chair, lay back, and let’s  listen to a lesser heard So L.A.

1. Red Dirt Girl by Emmylou Harris

Magdalena, the protagonist of So L.A. was born and raised in the agrarian San Joaquin Valley, in the small grape town of Lodi, California. This song, about two best friends who grew up in the dusty farmlands of another small American farm town, really speaks to much of the ranching backstory of So L.A.  In “Red Dirt Girl,” which Emmylou Harris admits is more of a story set to music, one of the friends loses her brother and after his death she, like Magdalena, is forever changed. In So L.A. I named Magdalena’s childhood dog Gideon, in homage to this song.

 2. “I’m New Here” by Gil Scott-Heron

I originally heard this song as performed by songwriter Bill Callahan of Smog. It was good. But OMG! When I heard Gil Scott-Heron’s recording I melted. No really, I lost my legs and fell into a heap of sunglasses and a-lined skirts on my kitchen floor. It. Was. Just. That. Stunning. And what the song speaks to is perhaps Magdalena’s biggest struggle: how to turn herself and her life around. The song opens with Gil’s aged yet melodic voice straining to sing: “I did not become someone different / That I did not want to be” and I want to stress the intentionality of this sentiment and how it directly applies to Magdalena (and many other women in L.A.) So often in life (and L.A.) people, especially women, are perceived to be “victims” of their “circumstances.” They are forced into cosmetic surgery or other such drastic measures by “the pressure of the male gaze” or “our phallocentric world view” but as Magdalena (and many real women) will tell you, she wanted desperately to reinvent herself. In fact, one of the most touching moments in the novel is when her husband Ricky quietly asks her to stop. When he tells her he liked her (and her boobs) better before she went under the knife.  But when you’re “new here” or want to be “new,” Heron’s advice can be hard to remember and even harder to follow as he sings (and I grow faint from the sound of his voice): “No matter how far wrong you’ve gone/ You can always turn around.”

3. Look At Me by John Lennon

This song is sung so softly, and with such endearingly sweet emotion, it’s hard not to be swept away by the pretty picks of the guitar chords. However, underneath this Lennon lullaby are questions that speak directly to Magdalena and her process of physical and emotional transformation. The song begins with the line “Look at me.”  After Junah’s death Magdalena can no longer bear to look herself in the mirror, as her resemblance to her dead brother is just too painful, so she moves to L.A. where she begins the (damaging and damning) process of cosmetic surgery. But she soon learns (though refuses to admit) even after she’s “augmented everything” her pain is still present. The lyrics of this song: “Who am I supposed to be? What am I supposed to do?” continue to speak to Mags throughout most of the novel.

4.  “Blonde on Blonde” by Nada Surf

If So L.A. were a movie, and not uncoincidentally, I’ve written it as such, this would have to be the track playing at Linda Carter’s Malibu party. Not only does the song mention “Wonder Woman” but it also takes the California “blonde” and makes her even blonder. How, might you ask, is that even possible? Let me give you the number for Magdalena’s stylist, Jersi. If he can’t bleach you blonder, Sugar, nobody can.

 5. “L.A. River” by Honey Honey

Los Angeles, as Magdalena learns, is so much more than the stars on Hollywood Blvd. or the shops on Rodeo Drive. Beyond Beverly Hills and the beaches of Malibu and Santa Monica there is another, less iconic L.A. And as this song reminds everyone, it is equally beautiful, if not more so.

6. “Little Miss Queen of Darkness” by The Kinks

After living in Southern California for well over a decade I’m convinced that even though the movies, pictures and “reality” television shows will tell you otherwise, nothing is as it seems. But more to the point: Californians try really really hard to keep things that way. The hair, the cars, the boobs, the exceptionally high heels… they are all a part of a huge yet-to-be-produced-film called: Hide Everything.  And to be “So L.A.” is to belong to this material culture. When considering Magdalena and her obsession with materialism I first went to Madonna’s “Material Girl,” but I think The Kinks explore the emotional damage of this showy lifestyle better when they sing: “Although she looked so happy,/ There was sadness in her eyes. / And her curly false eyelashes / Weren’t much of a disguise. / And her bright and golden hair, / Was not all that it might seem. / Little miss queen of darkness / Dances sadly on.”

 7. “Pale Blue Eyes” by The Velvet Underground

This song is a love note from Magdalena to all the men in the book. To Ricky it is an explanation: “Sometimes I feel so happy,/ Sometimes I feel so sad. / Sometimes I feel so happy,/But mostly you just make me mad.” To Puck, it is her apology and her pleading, “If I could make the world as pure and strange as what I see,/I’d put you in the mirror,/ I put in front of me.” To Quentin, it is an invitation: “It was good what we did yesterday./ And I’d do it once again./ The fact that you are married,/ Only proves, you’re my best friend./ But it’s truly, truly a sin.” To Junah it is a swan song. A goodbye in the way only music can speak: “Thought of you as my mountain top,/ Thought of you as my peak./ Thought of you as everything,/ I’ve had but couldn’t keep./ Linger on, your pale blue eyes.” I’ve loved this song for more years than I care to admit and yet it never tires. Every time I hear Lou Reed’s musical whisper across my speakers I yearn for the run-down Berkeley loft of my early-twenties. I blame the tambourine.

The Riq, is widely Used in the Arabic Music

8.  “Blues Run The Game” by Laura Marling

As every woman eventually learns, you can only run so far before the cities run out and start to become one in the same. Magdalena runs from Lodi to Berkeley to Los Angeles to the Beverly Hills Hotel to escape who she was and the memory of Junah. However, there’s only so much room service a girl can take before the lonely sets in. Even with Quentin’s occasional company, life at the Beverly Hills Hotel begins to break Magdalena’s “Hollywood gloss” as she realizes that no amount of whisky, gin or room service, will save her, nor will it bring her beloved Junah back. “When I’m not drinking, baby,/ You are on my mind,/ When I’m not sleeping, honey,/ Well you know you’ll find me crying.”

9. “Stuck In Lodi” by Creedence Clearwater Revival

So I know I promised a few days ago, when I began this project, that I was going to avoid the “cliché” but when you’re writing a book about a town as small as Lodi and it just so happens that there is also a fairly well known song about that same said town, well, you kind of have to include it. Especially when, near the end of the book Magdalena really does find herself “stuck in Lodi. Again.”

 10.  “Everybody’s Gotta Live” by Arthur Lee

Hearing this song was a turning point for me. And equally important, it was a turning point for the book. I was deep into writing the pages of Magdalena’s depression, writing the worst and most despicable parts about her. When you’re doing dark writing like this it’s hard not to get wrapped up in the anger and the despair. I was struggling to write the scene where Mags comes to a resolution and forgives herself for Junah’s death, but I just couldn’t get the words out. A friend sent me this song and like Arthur Lee says, “Everybody’s gotta live and everybody’s gotta die.” Accepting Junah’s death allows Magdalena to live. She just has to “know the reason why.”

11. “Our Lips Are Sealed” by The Go-Go’s

Return to the Valley of The Go-Go'sThis song is spiritual for me. Especially when paired with the video. There’s something that’s just, well, so L.A. about it. Convertibles with their tops down, girls who are insanely beautiful, but not in a manufactured way (e.g. L.A. in the early 80’s and not 2012) and dancing, fully clothed, in a public fountain in Beverly Hills. For me, this is Magdalena before Junah died: self-confident and joyful, and it is Magdalena in Take Six, which is not in the printed version of the book.  Splashing in a public fountain while singing with a “hell-if-I-care-who-sees-me” attitude is where I hope Magdalena’s headed, off the page, after the book ends.

Bridget Hoida On: Placing the Pages

This post originally appeared as a guest blog on A Chick Who Reads

In my book, So L.A., Magdalena, the protagonist, drives her convertible through the complicated L.A. streets and maze of intersecting freeways as though it were an incurable habit. “I like to drive,” she states on more than one occasion, her oversized sunglasses a shield against the perpetual sunshine of the Southland. “Not to anywhere in particular, because I have no place in particular to go, but I’m addicted to freeways. The 405 to the 10 to the 110 to the 101. It’s so L.A.”


On this virtual literary tour of So L.A I invite you to join Magdalena and me “stop and go”  across the pages of So L.A. and some of my favorite places in Los Angeles.


To visit Stop One: 730 N. Bedford Dr. you’ll only have to take a peek in the rearview mirror as we back down Magdalena’s driveway in Beverly Hills. When I was “shopping” for houses in which to place my novel and its main characters, 730 N. Bedford stood out to me, not only because it’s a classic Beverly flats mansion, but because it is also the former residence of Lana Turner, one of old Hollywood’s leading ladies and the site of  “The Happening.” Ask any of the kids who sell “Maps to the Stars” in Hollywood and they will tell you, “The Happening” at 730 N. Bedford is what happened when Lana Turner’s 14-year-old daughter, Cheryl Crane, stabbed Turner’s abusive boyfriend Johnny Stompanatoto death in 1958. Morbid as it seems, I needed Magdalena to live in a house that had not only experienced death (as death and tragedy are both reoccurring themes in So L.A.), but also a house inhabited by female solidarity and extraordinary bravery.

Image
As we make our way from the neighborhoods of Beverly Hills to Stop Two, the bazillion dollar shopping districts of L.A. proper – just a few block over and a few blocks up, totally walkable not that anyone from Beverly Hills every would—I’m going to do the unthinkable and pass right by the iconic Rodeo Drive for the lesser-known, and oh-so-lovely, Robertson Boulevard. Less conspicuous than the infamous Rodeo, Robertson is still no stranger to over-the-top luxury boutiques and insane celebrity sightings. In fact, because most tourists are still in the dark about the very existence of the extremely high-end Robertson, many celebrities prefer shopping Chanel, Odd Molly, Kitson, and Dolce on this quiet side street. And when you’re done shopping, you can indulge in a glass of wine and some warm cookies, as Magdalena frequently does in So L.A., at Stop Three: The Ivy.


Unlike the rest of Robertson, The Ivy is a place a girl goes when she wants to be seen. Often flanked by paparazzi and celebrities alike, The Ivy is an adorable restaurant with patio dining so those who can get “on the list” are seated in obvious sight of everyone walking the sidewalks that could not quite seem to manage an advanced reservation. A word of caution, however, when parking at The Ivy, be sure to use the valet so as to avoid colliding your car with a billboard, a rather unfortunate “Magdalena moment” that throws the darling of So L.A. into a spotlight almost too bright for her to handle. Good thing for lobster ravioli and Quentin, the man Magdalena meets crying on a Robertson curb who escorts her, not in a the chauffeured town car of which she is accustom, but rather in a bright yellow utility truck, to downtown L.A. where the bars are dim and the drinks are stiff.


Stop Four: Downtown Los Angeles. On a personal note, I was once told by a “well intentioned friend” never to go south of the 10 freeway or east of La Brea. Thankfully, I did not heed that advice because downtown Los Angeles (as well as south and east of downtown Los Angeles) is glorious! In So L.A. Magdalena frequents the meracdos, bars, museums, and even the public libraries of downtown L.A. In one of my favorite passages of So L.A. she actually walks from the MoCA to Japan Town (passing the courthouse and the old L.A. times building) while she counts trees that are not of the palm variety. And she does all this at dusk, in a pair of Yves Saint Laurent platform sandals! Does she blister? Absolutely. But she’d do it again in a heartbeat. (And if you’re ever in the area, I’d encourage you to walk downtown L.A. as well.)

Because of the blisters, or maybe because of all the shopping and the walking and the brief cultural tourism at the Japanese American National Museum, Stop Five: The Beverly Hills Hotel

Title: Beverly Hills Hotel, front driveway and...

Title: Beverly Hills Hotel, front driveway and entrance (copy of photograph), circa 1925 Publication:Los Angeles Times Publication date:circa 1925

is about back where we began. In So L.A., Magdalena takes up temporary residence at the Beverly Hills Hotel—mostly because she admires the huge banana leaf wallpaper and the plush pink bathrobes—but also because she finds a certain (privileged) security in “homelessness so close to home.” Like a child who runs away to the basement or a cardboard box in the garage, Magdalena really isn’t seeking an escape from her marriage, rather she is yearning to be found by her husband, Ricky. So she seeks refuge in what she thinks is the closest and most easily found location: a hotel less than three miles from her house. Sadly, or perhaps central to the plot of most any discovery, neither Ricky nor Magdalena can see what is literally right under their noses. But they learn and they try and, in typical L.A. fashion, they drive onward into the sunset.

As we motor off this virtual page I’d like to leave you with these driving tips from Magdalena, straight off the pages (and freeways) of So L.A. where she says:  “Ricky, like most Angelinos, doesn’t believe in the blinker. He maintains that by initiating the blink you actually hinder any small chance you have of actually getting over. The guy on your right, when he sees the click-click of the yellow light, will speed up and close in on the gap. But I disagree. One of the remarkable things about Los Angeles, one of those things that no one seems to talk about, is how we all do manage to get where we’re going. We slide from the fast lane (wave) to the middle lane (wave) to the slow lane (wave) to the exit ramp (blinker off), and we merge. It may not be singularly graceful or without incident, but 99.9 percent of the time we do manage to make our exits, our left turns, our way home.”

Thanks again to A Chick Who Reads for allowing me a guest spot on her fabulous blog!

Bridget Hoida: On Magazine Glossy

Okay… I know if L.A. has taught me anything, it’s that I’m supposed to play it cool and pretend like this is a regular occurrence, but OMG! you guys… A magazine glossy!

“This is an exceptional first novel. [...] So L.A.is a little autobiographical and a lot experimental as Magdalena’s subsequent unraveling turns the city into a sometimes trite but often revealing “soul” window. Hoida’s style makes the story seamless–for instance, she avoids using quotation marks in passages of dialogue. But in the end, as in all good endings, her protagonist finds a new determination and a new dream. We leave Magdalena anticipating a successful rebuilding in her altered, but more realistic, lifestyle.”

-Jane Glenn Haas, “True Grist,” Orange Coast Magazine, September 2012