Bridget Hoida On: AM Radio

When I was a grad student at USC, Fran, Wally, Ko’kmo and myself were somehow able to convince the indie radio station to take a rest from their vinyl spinning and let us talk literature for one precious hour a week. Because we were young and slightly pretentious, we called it Marginalia, and before our hourly broadcasts we would meet up at Brandy’s, a dingy cocktail bar attached to the South Los Angeles Radisson. There we’d have a drink or two, and gorge ourselves on whatever was free: meatballs, dried-out carrot sticks, deep-fried cheese… as long as you put enough sauce on it (and no matter what they were serving, it was always the same strange marinara-ketchup with a hint of ranch) it went down okay and complied completely with the L.A. grad student budget. After the drinks, and the occasional notes (on post-imperial British Literature or the influence of samba on the poetic precursors of Neruda) we’d jaywalk across Figueroa and find our place in the station.

And the station was always divine.

Run by Barry, a too-hip for everyone’s own good station manager (who I perpetually pissed off by spelling his name: Berry, like on post-its and such,) KXSC (1560 am) was the kind of place you want to take your high school ex-boyfriend just to prove how cool you were now and how he tragically missed out… You know, the boy who left you for the girl who wore safety pins in her denim jacket and had doc martins that she spray painted to resemble Goya’s sad dog, herself. I mean, hell, since we’re speaking honestly here, I suppose it’s fair to admit I would have left the high school me for that girl too. Or maybe rather, I should have left the high school him for her myself but later, at the station,  where the walls were covered in unknown band stickers, the chairs swiveled, and the headphones changed your life, that boy was forgotten. Because there’s just something about being locked in a booth, live, when the red light clicks on and it’s just you and those glamorous headphones and your words loud as they smack against the air. Because you could say anything and somewhere in a car with a broken tail light, no tape deck and nothing but AM, someone was listening. Someone–in addition to Wally’s mother who was a regular caller– was making a left while hanging off our every word.

I’m sure now, that set lists are in live-stream and podcasts are downloadable, that there is some odd and awful way to track, verify and chart the demographics of your listening audience, but back then, when Wally’s mom used to record our shows on grainy cassette (that I still have archived in the bottom drawer of my desk, with no real way to hear them) we believed we were speaking to everyone. Radio was magic like that.

Last week I was invited to return to radio. This time as a guest on Barbara DeMarco Barrett’s Writers on Writing.  I didn’t have headphones or a swivel chair, but it was still just as brilliant as I remember, minus the garage band stickers fashioned from Sharpie and the dipping sauce, of course: Audio Link to Bridget Hoida: Writers On Writing (Bridget begins at 24:01)

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Bridget Hoida on: Happy Birthday Dear Freeway

I adore Garrison Keillor. I’ve been eyeing him, and that $60 red coffee mug he peddles on the sidebar of his Writer’s Almanac for years now. And should I ever magically discover not one, but three, twenty dollar bills in the pocket of my coat–a season after the fact–I’ll buy it, if only to thank him for bringing words to my inbox every night at 11:05 pm.

I suppose if I lived on the east coast, or Barcelona, his poems would arrive on the day they are intended to represent, but because I’m lucky enough to live out West, I get them all an hour early. And truth be told, with only four rare and unusual exceptions, Garrison is always spot on. He’s a narrative soundtrack, if you will, to the just before midnight musings of my actual life.

He reminded me of  The Day Beauty Divorced Meaning, for example, and then, after too many consecutive days of rain, brought me a Starfish from Robert Bly. But by far his best, most precious gift: a small story about inseparable suburban housewives, Anne Sexton & Maxine Kumin who “installed extra phone lines in their houses so that they would never have to hang up on each other, and when either of them wanted to talk about poetry, she would whistle into the phone and the other would hear it and come to listen” (June 6, 2011).

And today, or tonight rather, my phone–the one I always leave off the hook–whistled and on the other line was my inseparable suburban housewife with a cupcake and an invitation to the birth of the Los Angeles freeway.

The Arroyo Seco Parkway turns 72 today and although much everything else in Los Angeles has undergone extensive and gratuitous augmentation, the OneTen–as she is affectionately called–remains relatively unchanged, “even though it wasn’t designed for the speeds that motorists travel today: There are no acceleration and deceleration lanes, and drivers must go from the on-ramp speed of five miles per hour up to the freeway speed of 55 in a short and hair-raising distance.” –The Writer’s Almanac

And it is moments like this, ripe with facts so absurd, so incongruent to modern-day life, that remind me why I love L.A. With freeways built “to carry about 27,000 cars a day” that now see “closer to 122,000,” Los Angeles survives.

Or, as Magdalena said in So L.A.:

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.


 

Bridget Hoida on: Book Club Reading Guide

Lettered Press Reading Group Guide for So L.A.

 

Introduction to the Author

Bridget Hoida grew up in the San Joaquin Valley on an eight-mile road flanked by grapevines and asparagus.  She remembers “ducks, guinea pigs, goats, all kinds of bunnies”; kids frolicking on levees and splashing in the cooling water; and machines rumbling across fields at night to avoid 109-degree heat.

Reading, Hoida told the The Stockton Record, was her thing: “My parents would take us to an A’s game and I’d sit there eating popcorn and reading a book.”  Obsessed with words, she assembled them effectively for school publications when, as a sophomore, she became part of the first two classes to attend Bear Creek High School in 1992. As a senior, she wrote a column (“Bridget’s World” in the era of “Wayne’s World”) for the Bruin Voice and was the paper’s editor. “We created the newspaper from scratch,” explained Hoida, “We Xerox-ed it and stapled it together.”

Always an avid reader, writing was a natural progression.  At UC Berkeley, she studied English and fiction writing where she was tutored by Stockton-born author Maxine Hong Kingston.  From Kingston, who had “a sheer love of the Valley,” Hoida learned to embrace her roots.  After Berkeley it was on to San Francisco State University where Hoida earned a masters degree in fiction.

The move south came when she joined the first of University of Southern California’s Literature and Creative Writing Ph.D. program.  There, she lived cheaply on Sunset Boulevard while absorbing Hollywood culture and earning a doctorate in California literature.  Hoida’s research into the mythos of California twinned with her cultural navigation led to the development of So L.A.: a satirical and critical look at the city through a revision of the “ranch-novel” genre.  She spent the next ten years working on what started as a blonde joke.

Hoida has taught at USC, UC Irvine and Saddleback College in Orange County, where she and her husband Jesse are raising two young children.  Currently, she is busy at work adapting the novel as a screenplay and editing a collection of writings about motherhood.

-Courtesy of The Record reporter Tony Saro & Lettered Press editor C.L. Cardinale

 —

Description

Magdalena de la Cruz, born Magdalena Bamberger—awkward, gangly San Joaquin valley girl—trades her agrarian central California upbringing for the glamour and glare of Los Angeles.  She heads south to escape reminders of the traumatic and sudden death of her twin brother Junah who falls to his death in a Yosemite National Park rock-climbing accident. Haunted by guilt and obsessed by her dead brother’s presence, Magdalena uses her body as a canvas of reinvention. “When Junah died I stopped wanting to be me,” Magdalena explains, literally cutting any resemblance between herself and her brother “out with sleek scalpels.” She is reborn as an L.A. bombshell in a body “temporarily scarred with puffy red staples” in order “to erase the light brown spots of San Joaquin sun.” As Magdalena takes refuge in boutiques and Botox—seeking desperately for something to fill the void her brother has left—her marriage to Ricky, a socially conscious first-generation Mexican-American, is in jeopardy; her few friendships begin to unravel; and Diamond Myst, her booming designer water business, is drying up.

 —

Discussion Questions

1. How is the reader introduced to the narrator and protagonist, Magdalena de la Cruz, in the first chapter? What is she inviting the reader “to believe,” and what kind of narrator does she promise to be?

2. Rather than quotation marks or numerical chapters, the book offers five takes and chapter headers with titles like “The Problem of Surprise” or “Characters Are Not People.”  How does the structure of this, inspired by STORY! a primer for how to write a winning screenplay by Robert McKee, tell us how to read the novel?

3.  In American literature there is a rich tradition of rural and urban opposition. With this in mind, what are the ways the agrarian San Joaquin Valley is constructed as the opposite of the city of Los Angeles?

4. How does Magdalena’s body, covered in a “Los Angeles vixen varnish” (327), work both as a metaphor and a critique of the city? How does the city work, like Magdalena, to “hide its roots”?

5. What does Ricky’s story—from the A&E Biography version to the Moses in the basket version (114-119)—suggest about the American immigrant (or California migrant) mythos?

6.  One reviewer has described the story of Junah as a kind of mystery: “At the heart of Magdalena’s story is her attempt to cope with the death of her brother [ . . .]. We read to find out what really happened to Junah, her brother, and what Magdalena’s part in his death truly is, for she clearly carries much guilt for his too-soon death.”  What really happens to Junah and does knowing the “truth” change our perception of Magdalena?

7. Magdalena is, to borrow from the epigraph by Michael Ventura, “a hard beauty to love.” What moments do you sympathize with, and perhaps even despise Magdalena?  What are her forgivable and unforgivable sins? Where are your loyalties in the end?

8. Alone, in the Beverly Hills Hotel Magdalena asks: “Who am I to Quentin?”.  Discuss the necessity of Quentin in Magdalena’s emotional journey. He functions as a reckless undoing of her marriage to Ricky, and yet he is also the redemptive force that allows Magdalena to come to terms with Junah’s death. Who is Quentin to Magdalena and how does he function within the novel?

9. Magdalena’s success as a Los Angeles diva is made possible by the selling of bottled water where “underneath all the rhinestones and the pixie dust [. . .] water is scarce and we’re all thirsty” (374). The story of California, both the San Joaquin Valley and Los Angeles, is really the story of water.  How does Magdalena’s story of water mirror the very nature of the narrative of California?

10.  What do you make of the “Director’s Cut”?  What does the addition of another “version” suggest about the narrative itself? How does it both unravel the narrative, beginning with the “story problem” in the first chapter, and suggest other possibilities for ending? What is the “truth,” and does it matter?

After Reading the Novel

In many ways this novel is a narrative of California, contributing to a rich history of dystopian literature.  In So L.A, California may not be a literal paradise lost, but the protagonist certainly is. Magdalena favors feeling over historical accuracy, or what most people call “the truth.” She’s an incurable nostalgic in that she wishes for a past that is so idealized that it probably never occurred. You may want to consider Thomas Pynchon’s Crying of Lot 49, Joan Didion’sPlay It As It Lays or John Fante’sAsk The Dust as interesting companion novels.  So L.A. also begs to be read alongside filmic filmic adaptations of Los Angeles, from Roman Polanski’s Chinatown to Robert Altman’s The Long Goodbye.  And of course, Bravo’s The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills paints a similar, albeit celluloid, portrait.

Lettered Press is pleased to offer a Book Club Bundle

where Book Clubs can order discounted copies of So L.A. in bulk.

To order please visit the Lettered Press store and click on Book Club Bundle!

Bridget Hoida on: Eating Bookmarks

So L.A. was featured in the BookClub CookBook’s July newsletter as a “terrific new book for summer reading.” In the BookClub CookBook authors are asked to create a Book Club menu (yum!) for readers. This is what I recommend:

Call me old fashioned, but when I’m asked, “What pairs well with books?” My go to answer is: “Libraries, readers, and a cozy deck chair.”  So, as you can imagine, I was a bit taken aback when I was recently asked to “pair” my book with “something edible.”

 —

“Like a bookmark?” I replied, because as my mother tells it, when I was a baby, and she was speeding through a novel holding me on her lap, I devoured an entire cardboard placeholder while she made her way to the end of the chapter.

“I wondered why you were being so good,” she says in the retelling, “and then I saw the bits of bookmark in your drool.”

I love this story almost as much as I love my mother because it shows equally my early passion for literature and my mother’s unwavering commitment to raising me right, which is to say, she raised me with, among, and inside of books. She not only read to me, but she read near me and that matters almost as much now as it did then.

I’ve been told, however, one cannot live on books alone and so I offer you the following Book Club recipes inspired by So L.A. as featured in this month’s BookClub CookBook’s “Buzzing About Books!

To be paired with So L.A. (and because I know everyone likes options, I’ve given you two menu choices!)

Menu you have SO got to be kidding me

 (conforms to The Hollywood Supermodel Diet)

Gin, Up:  A tall glass of Tanqueray Ten. With a paper straw. So it looks like a Sprite.

Peanut M&Ms: A grande package of peanut M&Ms. (To be eaten one at a time on the half hour beginning with red and proceeding in rainbow order.)

Menu L.A.

 (for those among us who are happily

NOT on the Hollywood Supermodel Diet)

Spiced Cucumber Collins: Made best bar side, by the tenders of Public at the Roosevelt Hotel in Hollywood, the Spiced Cucumber Collins is crafted with Hendricks’s Gin, lime, Shishito pepper, cucumber and mint. Embellished with cucumber, cut in a half-moon, for some cool summer flair this dazzling drink brings the heat with Shishito peppers that are abSOlutely So L.A.

Salsa Bar Trifecta
Mango-Avocado Salsa
  • 1 avocado, halved, pitted, peeled, and diced medium
  • 1 ripe mango, peeled, pitted, and diced medium
  • 1 small red onion, diced small
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped fresh cilantro leaves
  • 1/2 to 1 habanero chili (stem and seeds removed), minced
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon coarse salt

Pico de Gallo
  • 2 pounds tomatoes, ripe but firm
  • 1/4 cup green onion, minced
  • 1/2 cup red onion, chopped finely
  • 1/2-3/4 cup cilantro, chopped
  • 1-2 hot peppers, or to taste
  • 4-5 Key limes,
  • 1-2 garlic cloves, minced or pressed
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 2 teaspoons extra virgin olive oil

Black Bean Salsa
  • 2 (15-ounce) cans black beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1 (17-ounce) package frozen whole kernel corn, thawed
  • 2 large tomatoes, seeded and diced
  • 1 large avocado, peeled and diced
  • 1 small onion, diced
  • 1/8 to 1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro leaves
  • 2 tablespoons lime juice
  • 1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
  • Salt and pepper

Homeboy Tortilla Strips: Dip with Homeboy Tortilla Strips, handmade in L.A., where their motto is “Jobs not Jails,” Homeboy Industries “offers hope, training and support to formerly gang-involved and recently incarcerated men and women, allowing them to redirect their lives and become contributing members of our community.”

Lettered Press is pleased to offer a Book Club Bundle

where Book Clubs can order discounted copies of So L.A. in bulk.

To order please visit the Lettered Press store and click on Book Club Bundle!

Bridget Hoida on: L.A. Summer Reading Guide

So L.A. was featured on CBS Los Angeles’ “LA Summer Reading Guide 2012″

July 5, 2012

CBS Los Angeles

by Florinda Pendley Vasquez

“When you can go to the beach year-round, it can be tough to get into the “beach reading” mindset, but the truth is that you can do summer reading anywhere: beach, poolside, backyard, airplane, even stuck in traffic on the 405 (as long as you’re not the driver, of course). These suggestions will keep you hitting the books through this summer and all the way into September, since we’re including a couple of titles that won’t be out till the kids are back in school.

“We’ve selected current and recent fiction by authors who have lived in Southern California at one time or another; in some cases–but not all–their characters and stories live here too. For your convenience, we’ve listed the available formats for each title, and provided the publication dates for those you’ll find in the “new releases” section of your favorite bookstore or local library.”

“So LA is the first novel by Northern California native/Southern California transplant Bridget Hoida, and reflects her exploration of the “L.A. Woman” and the city’s particular beauty culture as an academic and literary subject. Hoida executes this ambition with flair and humor through her story of fellow SoCal transplant Magdalena de la Cruz and her attempts to transform herself into a “geographically appropriate bombshell” as she seeks an escape from her unraveling marriage and the traumatic death of her younger brother.”

Florinda Pendley Vasquez, CBS Los Angeles, “Best of Los Angeles Summer Reading Guide,” July 5, 2012

 

Bridget Hoida on: Blue Bottle, Angel Food & Words

The lovely PB and I talk about Blue Bottle Coffee, angel food cake and books on her blog: PB Writes.

The following article originally appeared on PB Writes: http://pbwrites.wordpress.com/, June 18, 2012

Introducing Bridget Hoida, whose first novel, So LA, is due out in bookstores June 20th. I happen to personally know that Bridget is brilliant, but I can also tell you without a hint of bias that she writes about Los Angeles with an original, fresh voice you won’t want to miss. Her prose is exquisite and full of surprises. You can purchase your copy here at Lettered Press, or on Amazon. Bridget’s website is here and from there you will find many interesting links. One of the truly fun things about Bridget’s website is that various blog posts are written in the voice of So LA’s heroine, Magdalena de la Cruz. If you have ever been to Los Angeles, if you are a Californian, if you want to be a Californian, if California attracts or repulses you, even if you can’t imagine ever visiting Los Angeles, you will want to read this book (go ahead, live vicariously!). And now, the interview (10 questions + 1–yes, that’s right):

1.      Describe your heroine, Magdalena de la Cruz, in five words or less.

nostalgic, impulsive, desperately lonely, brave-ish, and tall

2.      Now describe her like you really want to—don’t hold back, feel free to go beyond the book’s synopsis (which is excellent, by the way).

She scares me sometimes, both in her boldness and in her very public exclamations of sadness and grief. She’s a bit “off-kilter” as one reviewer described her, and she haunts me. I’m still not sure if I want to be her or if I just want to give her a hug.

3.      The Book Club Member in me wants to know what was most challenging for you with this novel and why? Then please counteract the bland, institutional quality of this question by telling us where you would most like to eat a piece of your favorite cake—and tell us what flavor that might be.

Selling it. Seriously. I wrote a satirical novel about Los Angeles and if editors didn’t want to slap a pink cover and a pair of high heeled shoes on the cover, then they wanted to impregnate Magdalena with a happier ending and a bundle of joy to “counterbalance her anger.” Her brave outpouring of emotion, her startling display of loneliness, these were all VERY intentional and VERY real emotions for me. Necessary to the telling of a “L.A. story” and I refused (at the expense of a “bigger book deal”) to compromise. I stand by that decision. I’m thrilled with stubbornness. I’m also thrilled with angel food cake, heavy whipped cream and berries.

4.      Revision: BF or Nightmare? How do you handle/attack/plead with/embark upon?

Although I did refuse to “Pollyanna” the book, and/or the ending (and I also refused on more than one occasion to “make it the Sex and the City of L.A.) I was VERY open to revision and revised this novel, fully, at least seven times. Seven full-scale, all-encompassing, 300+ page revisions. In fact, the short story that started it all, “The Blonde Joke” that Magdalena tells about herself (and a story that won several awards) has been completely edited out of the book. Sometimes the spark is just that: a small light that eventually becomes engulfed by the flames.

5.      Robert Mckee’s book STORY was an important resource for you when writing SO LA. What other resources would you recommend for writers? Also, what types of coffee resources would you recommend for writers?

I recommend a mompair. I recommend a best friend, an understanding mother, and children who can entertain themselves with glue sticks and glitter while you write into the wee hours of the night. You need other people, and their honesty, and their generosity in order to succeed. I also fully, and without reservation recommend Blue Bottle Coffee. Specifically the Bella Donovan blend. (Really, even your mailman, once he smells the priority mail package, will invite himself in for a cup. It’s that lovely.)

6.      What color and circumference are your sunglasses?

My best pair of Sunnies, by far, were a vintage pair of off-white Dior glasses. They were HUGE in the best possible way. And they died a tragic death in the hands of my daughter, who, when she was two, went on a spiteful sunglass busting bender. She just snapped every pair she could find: crack, pop, burst, like a wishbone the week after Thanksgiving. I was devastated. In fact, I still am. I keep the left “arm” as well as the right “three-quarters” of these glasses on my desk as a reminder of who I used to be. They are joined by four other, less meaningful pairs, that were also busted by my baby. It’s a variable vintage sunglasses graveyard.

My current Sunnies are newer and slightly smaller (not by choice) and much less fabulous, but in quintessential Didion fashion, they are about three-and-one-half inches round and a muted grey (perhaps because I am still in mourning?)

7.      Do you have a critique group (and, if so, do they adore champagne, Joan Didion and chocolate)?

My group is The Groop. We found each other as undergraduates in Tom Farber’s creative writing workshop at UC Berkeley and after the workshop ended that semester we met at a wooden house on Ashby Ave. When the house burned down (true story), we took to meeting in various locations from San Francisco to Davis. We’ve known each other over 16 years and I still depend on their daily advice and critique (now virtual or phone-based). We prefer whiskey and gin, but we devour dark chocolate and Didion on a regular basis.

8.      Music: Yes, or huge no-no when writing?

Absolutely! Is there any other way? In fact, I’ve been known to create full soundtracks based on a single chapter, and if you’ve read the book, you’ll know my chapters are maybe three paragraphs in most instances. This means I have a lot of “mixed tapes.”

9.      Has your perception of Los Angeles changed/evolved since writing SO LA? Is it the same city for you, or better, or worse?

I was raised in Northern California, which is to say I was raised (through no fault of my parents) to hate Los Angeles. Even still, So L.A. is my love song to a city I adore. Sure, I’ve divorced the 405 freeway on several occasions, and La Cienega and I are still not speaking, but L.A. is my girl. I have always had a terribly difficult relationship with Los Angeles.  It’s messy.  It’s tumultuous.  It’s like that with things you love enormously. So when I came across this breathless quote by Michael Ventura, in his essay “Grand Illusion” I knew it was my epigram, it was the only place to start:

“The beauty [of Los Angeles] is the beauty of letting things go; letting go of where you came from; letting go of old lessons; letting go of what you want for what you are, or what you are for what you want; letting go of so much—and that is a hard beauty to love.”

So L.A. –dare I suggest like Los Angeles itself– is fraught with beauty and self-loathing. Not only do the palm trees of Sunset clash with the Central Valley combines that supply L.A. with the organic soy for its venti lattes, but I’m convinced that the tanned and toned flesh of most every Angelino secretly yearns for the soothing balm of an aloe wrap in San Joaquin starlight. When I first moved to L.A. I was told I would have to give up the levees and lakes of Northern California, where I was raised, in order to embrace the wave-crashed beaches of the Los Angeles enigma. Twelve years later, I realize that you can let go without relinquishing everything and that beauty, no matter how hard (or hard earned) is always, still beautiful.

10.  What are your exorbitant whims as a writer?

I (gasp, sigh) refuse to use quotation marks. Does that make me a diva? Can you even “quote” this?

11.  And, finally, what are you working on now?

I have a stack of fragments. I thought at first they were poems, but then I attended Tin House as a poet, which was new for me, and I learned they were most certainly NOT poems.  So I’m sticking with fragments. Collectively I call them “And Down We Went” after T.S. Eliot’s “The Burial of the Dead” (which I am told certainly WAS a poem). They are about magic, and madness, and motherhood. In the opening “segment” a woman marries a house. It makes perfect sense to me.

Thank you, Bridget! #3 is FASCINATING, the quote in #9 so true it hurts. Thank you for such a wonderful interview. The next time you visit, this blog will be serving generous mugs of Blue Bottle coffee.

This article originally appeared on PB Writes: http://pbwrites.wordpress.com/, June 18, 2012

Magdalena On: Psychological Highlights

After Junah, my hair went dark.

They say that can happen, you know. Shock or something. But not my whole head, just a streak. Like an inverted skunk of brown tailing its way through the top left part of my yellow head. Jersi, my stylist, said on most people it usually goes white.

Well fuck me for being the exception.

He sighed, brushed a small brown strand high above my head and held it there, the ends tightly wrapped around the bristles of his brush. The rest of my hair was wet, and my shoulders and chest were covered with a silver smock. I looked at my reflection and followed the lock of brown hair upwards towards the exposed bulbs running in a straight line across the top of the mirror. There were six of them and they cast a hyper-white glaze across my face so that my skin appeared translucent. You could actually see the veins pushing blood across my forehead. It was rich. It was much too much. I looked at my lap and said, Do what you can.

Jersi looked at me, or at least the mirror image of me, and said, I’m not going to pretend that it will be easy Cupcake, but I think, although the texture’s changed, that I can bleach it out, maybe add a few psychological highlights.

That’s when I started screaming. When I couldn’t stop.

Losing Junah isn’t something I like to talk about.

So I’m not going to.

What I will say is that sometimes I wonder, if Ricky wasn’t on liquid time, if he didn’t sleep only four and a half hours a night, if I would be able to stay awake and pretend not to go crazy, pretend not to know that it’s impossible to only sleep four and a half hours a day, pretend not to care that if he isn’t sleeping here he must be sleeping somewhere, right?

But where?

And with whom?

And if he slept, say, six or seven hours like most people, would I make it? Would I be able to lie beside him night after night and hate him? Night after night in some sleek and silly nightie with my arm almost touching his thigh, with my head almost touching his chest. (If I actually touch him, he says, Mags go on your own side. Like we’re six and seven in the backseat of the station wagon and have drawn imaginary lines to mark territory. Pretend there is a chain saw running down this line, Junah would say, tracing the vinyl ribbing that ran the length of the upholstery, and if you cross it you will loose your arm. That’s how it is with Ricky, only now it’s a bed and we’re twenty-nine and thirty-four.) For eighteen months I’ve lain here, almost insane, almost ready to leave, almost ready to scream: I’m not touching you! I’m not touching you! I’m not touching… But before I can finish, Ricky’s alarm (set to New York time) sounds. If we were in New York it would be 7:30 am. But we’re not in New York. We’re in Los Angeles, or some Hollywood extension thereof. And in Los Angeles Ricky will shower and shave and dress himself up in gray slacks, a lavender shirt and paisley tie because it’s the outfit I have laid out for him. On the back of his belt I have written i love you in Mauve-a-licious nail polish. He won’t notice. It’s been there for three months.

Should I say it again?

That he doesn’t notice anything?

When he actually does notice he’s liable to shout. Then I will have to go to Bloomies and buy him a replacement. It will be something to do. Something besides trying to peel the label off a bottle of gin in one fluid, untorn piece. Something besides imagining my hangover is morning sickness. Something besides seeing Junah die, over and over and over again in the backspaces of my mind.

Excerpt from “Treatment” So L.A. by Bridget Hoida, copyright 2012

Magdalena on: Bombshell Variations

WHEN I first met Ricky I was a Central Valley bomb- shell, which, as anyone who’s traveled far enough north to know, is quite different from the L.A. bombshell variety. In NorCal you only need to shave more than twice a week to be considered feminine, so you can imagine how little it takes to be glamorous: wear a charmeuse gown to bed instead of a t-shirt, trade your boots in for a pair of kitten heels—no matter if you kick them off at every opportunity—and always insist on gin.

When Junah died I stopped wanting to be me, and so when Ricky and I moved to L.A. I suppose you could say I wasn’t really myself. Maybe, if Ricky and I had stayed up north I would have tired of gin-induced tantrums and dangling diamond earrings, maybe I would have joined forces with my father and poured my creative talents into the renovation of our vineyard, but after Junah’s death Ricky felt it might be a good idea to get away for a while—“breathe some new air” were his exact words—and so we moved south where everything smelled like acetone and Errol Flynn.

from So L.A., copyright 2012, Bridget Hoida

Magdalena on: Navigating Los Angeles

I looked to the dash, 4:43 pm. In another hour Los Angeles would switch places. The freeways, already congested with the exchange, would be jammed in both directions as gardeners, housekeepers, pool boys, and handymen keeping up the homes on the Westside made their way east to Downey, Inglewood, El Monte and Echo Park while lawyers, bankers, producers, executives and industry types, working downtown, made their way west to Bel Air, Beverly Hills, Westwood and Malibu. Aspiring actors would stop circulating their headshots and start passing out menus. Musicians would climb down from billboards and arrange drum sets in someone’s cramped studio apartment. It was a slow parade of poorly documented domestics making the long walk to the neighborhood limits, because public transportation is restricted from entering designer drives (see decrease in property values) and chic canyons (see smog, see noise ordinances, see intentionally narrow roads that curve and chicane).

According to my navigation system, downtown L.A. is exactly 12.62 miles from Rodeo Drive (Start out going Southeast on N RODEO DR toward ELEVADO AVE. Turn LEFT onto S SANTA MONICA BLVD/LITTLE SANTA MONICA BLVD. Turn SLIGHT RIGHT onto BURTON WAY. Turn SLIGHT RIGHT onto N SAN VICENTE BLVD. Turn RIGHT onto S LA BREA AVE. Merge onto I-10 E. Merge onto CA-110 N via the exit—on the left—toward PASADENA. Take the 4TH ST/3RD ST exit—exit number 22B. Take the 6TH ST ramp). On a good day, say on a Sunday at 3 am, you might get there in the twenty-three minutes, Google Maps suggests. On most other days it will take you anywhere from forty-seven minutes, not including parking, to an hour and a half.

An hour and a half, without parking, to go 12.62 miles seems extraordinary in most instances, but it’s one of the only things in L.A. that actually make any sense; it’s one of those collegiate conundrums of place and space that can actually be solved, QED. My sociology professor would go nuts over it: income times quality of life divided by a quotient of perceived happiness, expressed or otherwise, minus assets, including but not limited to green cards, 401Ks, IRAs and dental insurance, and it takes a hell of a lot longer than twenty-three minutes to navigate from Olvera Street to Rodeo Drive. In fact, I’ve heard it said that, although it’s walkable in less than an afternoon, it can sometimes take upwards of five generations to make the trip.

Ricky, I suppose you could say made the trip in two generations and some change—which beats my fifth-generation white-ethnic slide down from Pollack Hill by quite a mean feat. The traffic must have been particularly light. Maybe he took the surface streets or maybe, oh the genius, he took the carpool and didn’t get caught!

Copyright 2012-Bridget Hoida- So L.A., a novel

Bridget Hoida on: macramé bikinis (or why characters are not people)

I was at a magical gathering last night–starlight, fire-glow, sea air, and an expanding circle of plush deck chairs occupied by a few dozen striking women. As the conversation shifted focus: from Cabernet to chicken farmers; chicken farmers to iPhone apps; iPhone apps to the genetic composition of jelly fish… it eventually landed on literature.  And it wasn’t too long [insert vampires, a certain non-vibrant color spectrum, and a post-apocalyptic survival game] before someone asked: “Well you wrote a book, how much of it is real?”

It’s a tricky question, that one. Because unless you’re dealing with the aforementioned supernatural creatures or speculative geographies, it’s hard not to say: Everything.

It’s hard not to say: Nothing.

I’ve been living with this book, with these characters for years now. To say I know them intimately is comical. I know them surgically well. I birthed them in the painful, messy, magical way all bodies are brought into being. But that doesn’t mean I am them. That I know them off the page. That I’ve dated them. Held them. Or covered my screams as they fell to their death from high, rocky places.

Magdalena, the protagonist of So L.A. and I have lived in a lot of the same places. And we’re both blonde. But that’s about the extent of our similarities. Moving to Los Angeles from Berkeley was extremely difficult for me and I suppose that, in part, is how Magdalena was “born.” Perhaps I was unconsciously embodying a B-movie cliché, but I really did take my first steps on the streets of Los Angeles in a pair of Birkenstocks and a tie-dyed sundress. I wasn’t tan, I didn’t have a designer purse, and even kitten heels made my ankles wobble. It took a good three years before I felt comfortable wearing a bikini, even to the beach, but I was surrounded by these insanely beautiful women who seemed to have been raised in string bikinis and had no qualms wearing them to school. In fact, I was teaching a class at USC called “Social Issues in Sex & Gender,” and one of my students did exactly that. She showed up to class in what people from Berkeley might consider a string of macramé potholders, or maybe a dream catcher? Either way, she was wearing this extremely revealing “bit” as a dress and I was simultaneously awestruck and horrified.

Was she mindlessly objectifying herself or was she making, as she claimed, a bold feminist statement?  Magdalena has a lot of moments like this; moments where the means and the ends get confused and tangled up by someone else’s perception.