Archive | July, 2014

Mariah, Ethel, And McRibs

30 Jul


The Kennedy Compound was, for lack of a better word, a letdown.

For some reason I had it in my mind that the Kennedys owned themselves a secluded strip of land, far from the reaches of common folk and civilization and chain stores and such.

I imagined a hillside community full of yachts and wildflowers and white picket fences, a place where Miss Jacqueline Lee Bouvier could wander without fear of intrusion, a silk scarf on her head, terrible tragedy in her heart.

What I found were a ritzy few houses in, what can only be described as a Cape Cod metropolis.

Given, nowhere in Cape Cod is that metropolisy, but I was staying in a town without a center to its name, so Hynnais, by comparison, was practically the big city.

Knowing that Ethel could walk across the street and pick up a few McRibs if she so chose…well, it really changes things, you know?

Other recent disappointments in my life:

The musical Once.

What’s the deal with this, people?  Who votes on the Tony Awards, anyway?  Are they just a vehicle for Neal Patrick Harris to shine?

I took Luke to Once last weekend, his very first musical.  I was so excited, having believed the hype and the NPH.  I mean, it won all the Tonys!  It’s traveling the nation!  It’s the new thing.




It’s not the new thing.

On a scale of new thing to Sound of Music it forget to try to be on the scale.

I think it’s such a cheat to have a musical about a struggling musician.  Every song was a throw-away, unconnected to the plot.  I often had no idea what they were singing, and worse, it didn’t even matter.

You could cut the songs out of the musical and it wouldn’t even matter as they had nothing to do with anything.

I’m getting minor rageys thinking about it.

(Falling Slowly is a nice stand-alone song, however.  Let’s get that out there.)

When the whole thing was over and I was thoroughly amped up, we drove through the busy streets of Hollywood and I decided to right the night’s wrongs.  I pulled out my iPod, put my diva hand up, and engaged my full soul for a heart-wrenching rendition of  Defying Gravity.

I practically set 10 men on fire with my disdain as I screamed, “Too long I’ve been afraid of losing love, I guess I’ve lost! Well if that’s love it comes at much too high a cost!”

When I finished Luke looked over at me and said, “That’s the best song I’ve heard all night.”

And he meant it too, I’m sure.

That statement had nothing to do with his feelings for me.

Ooh!  Final music moment of the day.  You know the Mariah song “Without You”?  This one?

Yes, well, up until THIS WEEK I was under the impression the song started out, “No, I can’t forget the semen…”

I was so sure of these scandalous lyrics, when I played the song for Luke I said, “This is Mariah’s most sexual song of all time.  It starts out talking about semen!”

Luke didn’t believe me.  “No way,” he said.  “Not a pop song.”

I laughed.

Oh simple, simple, non-Mariah simple fan.

I found the clip, turned up the volume and wouldn’t you believe it!


Look!  Semen!

Listen again!


Luke then pulled up the lyrics online, and after only slight (non-dramatic) denial, I learned the horrible truth.

Those aren’t the lyrics.

My entire life has been a lie.

In my defense, it appears others have made this mistake as well.  In fact, I’m going to go so far to call this Mariah’s “Hold Me Close Young Tony Danza” lyric, and I’m not going to feel bad about my error, nope, I’m going to blog about it.

That will show everyone.

OK, OK, one more music moment but just because I want to give the Kennedys their due time on my blog word cloud.

T-Swift wrote a song about her summer on the Cape with the Kennedys.  It was called Starlight.  Do you remember it?


Well,  I looked the song up after my Kennedy letdown moment, just to try to figure out all of my complicated emotions, and there was one lyric that made me laugh.

Can’t remember what song he was playing when we walked in

The night we snuck into a yacht club party

Pretending to be a duchess and a prince


Does that throw anyone else off?  Do Taylor and Conor have to sneak anywhere?

Can they sneak anywhere?

Who are the Kennedys anyway that they’re sneaking into yacht parties now?

Do they really live in a shack by the sea and eat McRibs and listen to the Once soundtrack all day?

Cape Cod Strikes Again

27 Jul


If you get to Kingsbury Beach early, long before the giggles of sunscreened children and the jingle of the ice cream truck, you can settle down on the low tide and look out at the empty sand bars.

It’s like nothing I’ve ever seen, those sand bars. An endless horizon of alternating sand and water.

A natural optical illusion.

Every morning we set up camp at the base of the water, and as the tide slowly came in we picked up and moved back a sand bar.  We laughed and pushed our ladder golf games a few feet.  I threw my Birkenstocks and thoroughly salty copy of The Goldfinch behind me, and on we went.

One sand bar at a time.

We moved with the tide.

The sun baked the sand all morning and when the water rushed over the flats it was warm.

Bathwater warm.

As the days go on, more and more people came out to the beach.  They sat in the water with their neon chairs.  They lounged and read and skimmed balls across the surface like skipping rocks.

The whole thing had a lazy easiness to it, a charm.

Eventually the clocks read high tide and the water reached the very tips of the beach. Kids floated and giggled and the ice cream truck and jingle were out and life was the sort of good you only watch on Gilmore Girls.

Around this time every day I pulled out my camera to really try to capture the beauty of the moment. I wanted to show everyone this missing wonder of the world, the greatest thing I’ve seen in my 26 years of life.

I never could quite manage it.

Every picture was a cheap knockoff of the real thing—The Eiffel Tower, Las Vegas.

A blurred wannabe.

I think I’m having the same problem with writing about Cape Cod

Each time I go to put words to the experience it’s a little fuzzy.  I’m trying to capture the bubblegum pink of the moment and it’s coming out a dull salmon.

How do you really describe fresh-caught clams on a drizzly afternoon?  What language conveys a 64-crayon Crayola sunset or a laughing countryside marsh?

It’s crazy to me that people actually live there.

Cape Cod is their home.

To me, Cape Cod is like Disneyland.  A mystical, almost cartoony place created simply to make you forget about your problems.  A parody of perfection designed for a few brief days a year.  Not real life, certainly, but a nice way to forget that there is a real life.

And yet…for some people this is their existence.

Some people wake up in the morning and go to PB Boulangerie Bistro and get that heavenly brioche and raspberry jam on a regular basis.

Some people have Wellfleet oysters whenever they want, and sponsor local artists and take part in the daily activism of the tight-knit community.

Some people have Cape Cod as their address.

It’s my current favorite dream, that address.

I imagine myself in the tiniest of cottages—an unreasonably small home with cedar shingles and white everything and a walk to the beach.

I’ll stroll to the pastry shop several mornings a week and linger over the menu, taking my time to memorize the orders, soak in the sugar.

I’ll make friends with that lady at the used bookstore, we’ll call her Betsy, the one whose brother-in-law is the tech at the local theater.  And speaking of the theater, I’ll have season tickets, obviously.  Fifth row center.  Hopefully next to some still-wildly-in-love retired couple who will adopt me as a surrogate daughter.

I’ll own a sailboat.  I won’t name it True Love, but I’ll really wish I could.

I’ll keep the paper-products-only store in business.

I’ll see my movies at the drive-in and haggle at the flea market and run a book club with Betsy and maybe an after-school literacy something or other.

Above all I’ll write.

I’ll write in that little Cape Cod cottage of mine.

I’ll write until the sun rises over the sand bars and the tide comes in and I can no longer stay cooped up indoors because I have to go outside and try to capture the moment.

I’ll write until I finally find the words to describe it all.

Which is to say,

I’ll never stop writing.


More on my love affair with Cape Cod here and here.

Joni Mitchell Never Lies

9 Jul


I like my cookies melted not baked, is what.

Which really doesn’t have much to do with anything, but kind of has everything to do with everything because I’m sitting here with a pile of melted cookies in my lap and a Diet Dr. Pepper in my hand and all I can think is I like my cookies melted.

Let’s start a movement.

People against baked cookies!

Number two.

Did you know Janet Jackson did a remix of Big Yellow Taxi featuring Q-Tip? It’s ridiculous, let’s get that out of the way now.  But there’s this part where Q-Tip raps, “Joni Mitchell never lies” and I’m thinking that may be the title of my memoir.

Joni Mitchell Never Lies: The Jillian Denning Story.

I recently went to the Grammy Museum solely to see the California Dreamin’ exhibit and any and all Joni Mitchell memorabilia therein.  The exhibit had all these photos of Joni looking fabulous and plucking Appalachian dulcimers and such.  There was this one picture of Joni inspecting her painting for the album Clouds and it was just perfect.

Of course Joni paints her own album covers.

When I find out things like this I get this inner soul craving to move to the middle of nowhere and paint and write and create and be.

And grow peach trees.

Peach trees are always part of this fantasy of mine.

In this dream life, when friends and family visit, I answer the door barefoot in a mumu, having painted abstract representations of Rhett Butler’s marriage proposal all day.  I welcome my visitors in for tea in chipped cups and a peach or twelve.

We discuss books and life and Joni Mitchell until the sun sets, and then I wake up, stretch, grab a peach, and do it all again.

My fantasies these days revolve more and more around the time when I’m a full-time writer, able to do what I love from first peach to last peach.

I crave that time.

I wonder when it will happen.

I wonder if it will happen.

I wonder how many nights of sleep I will have to give up before it can happen.

Is that the answer, after all?  To do it all you just can’t sleep?  I’ve been wondering that a lot lately as I’ve struggled to balance working and freelancing and blogging and fiction writing and girlfriending and friending and daughtering and reading and exercising.

How do people do life?

What part am I missing?

Or are we all slightly disappointed in what we accomplish all of the time?

It’s the Sylvia Plath fig tree thing, I think. 

I want every option in my commitment phobic existence.  I hate choosing one thing because that means I didn’t choose another, and so I find myself watching the figs of my life wrinkling and dying and plopping to the ground in front of me as I sit and fray the ends of my hair in anxiety.

Sometimes these figs are big scale dreams and life-altering choices.  And other times, like this time in my life, I’m watching small, daily figs go black in front of me and I don’t know how to stop the process.

I want to blog, but if I choose to blog I won’t work on that novel.


If I choose to work on that novel, I won’t exercise.


If I choose to exercise, I won’t spend time with that friend or that love or that fictional character I’m falling for.

Plop. Plop. Plop.

And on and on and round it goes.




Sylvia Plath And Joni Mitchell Never Lie:  The Jillian Denning Story.


Adventures in Rollerblading And Pasta Salad

7 Jul


My mother is in town, which means my belly is full, my orchid is being nursed back to health, and my hair is out and scaring strangers.

I swear on the life and legacy of Edith Wharton that my hair grows when my mother is around.  I think it’s a competition thing.  Like my hair can just feel another mane trying to assert dominance and it won’t stand for it, nope.

When you add my little sister’s fuzz to the mix, well, we’re just a walking trio of alpha hair clowns over here in LA right now.

Luke assures me my hair is my best quality and that’s why we keep him around.

Then again, my dad says my mother’s hair is her best quality so maybe there’s something to this.

All right.

My Fourth of July was pretty grand, if you ask me, which you sort of did because you’re reading my blog.

My family saw a feminist revisionist film.  We had a BBQ in which I converted Luke to pasta salad (a crucial step towards any couple’s happy future) and we rounded the day off with an intense rollerblading session and spectacular fireworks on the Marina.


Before we get to the nitty gritty particulars of my blading adventure, I want to talk about pasta salad, because I don’t think I’ve really expressed my feelings on the matter enough.

Pasta salad is one of my main food groups.

Nachos is another, obviously.

Watermelon makes its own category.

So do peaches.

And mac and cheese!  Let’s not forget mac and cheese!

Isn’t this fun?

The pasta salad that converted the “I like my foods hot, thank you very much” Luke to the right way of thinking about pasta salads, I actually discovered at a baby shower.

I’m going to go ahead and say it’s the best thing to come out of that or any baby shower ever in the history of the world, because, really…

…baby showers…

On to rollerblading!

My family decided to bike to the Marina for the fireworks show to end all fireworks shows, and I strapped on my rollerblades for the outing.  This was fine, mainly, but not quite so fine in the dark.


In a crowd.

At one point on the journey we hit a slope and I took off on my blades, unable to stop myself.  My mother yelled, “Jill, grab the flashlight!” as though I could somehow gain control, turn around and reach back for her phone.

(My mother also said this week that she “lives for Snapchats” so let’s document that now.)

People made comments, as they do when a girl in a dress barrels through a crowd on rollerblades.

Is she wearing rollerblades?

Way to be unique!

Hello Jennifer Aniston!

(I couldn’t hear all of the comments, so I’m ad libbing a bit here.)

It was a whole thing.

I also managed to get stuck in my rollerblades right before a family picture, but let’s not go into details right now, let’s just review the picture above.

Ah, candid photos.

The night ended with a midnight s’more, several episodes of The Combeack, and bowl of extra chilled pasta salad.

I’m starting to feel like myself again after this month of Zombie Working Jill.

I’m almostttttt halfway sort of there I would say.

Also, The Comeback.

Why did no one tell me?

The Sisterhood Of The Traveling Whatever

2 Jul


When I was in high school, The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants movie came out, and wouldn’t you know it, my best friends and I decided to assign ourselves Sisterhood characters.

The process was rather easy.  I was clearly Tibby, the hippie activist who went to socialist day camp and overthought the meaning of life on a consistent basis.


My friends quickly fell into their own categories and girls–the free spirit, the Type-A, the one who cares a bit too much–and soon these Sisterhood assignments of ours became one of the hallmarks of our friendship.

We signed off our notes and emails as “Tibby,” “Lena,” “Carmen,” and “Bridget.” We started our own Sisterhood of sorts, and we even went as far as creating a traveling email with tailor-made rules.

Please note rules #3, #14 and #20 of our Sisterhood, the Sisterhood of the Chi Pi sorority:

3. Do not text big news.

14. Tweezing is not a reasonable response to duress or relief of stress. A Chi Pi does not tweeze under pressure.

20. Never buy a lotion that boasts of a yogurt base.

Every so often I get really excited about a new book idea of mine, “I’m going to write about a group of girl friends in high school and how they stick together no matter what.  Ooh, you know what would be fun?  If they had a token of their friendship or something that they swap every few weeks over the summer as they come of age!”

…and then I realize that Ann Brashares got there first.

I just really love the Sisterhood.

I really, really do.

In The Great Gatsby Nick Carraway says everybody suspects himself of having at least one of the cardinal virtues, and while I know it’s not technically a cardinal virtue, if I suspect myself of being good at anything good it’s friendship.

I believe in the power of female friendship.


This summer I got the chance to see Ann Brashares speak at the LA Times Festival of Books and it was entirely thrilling.

Ann is exactly what you’d expect her to be.  She’s gorgeous and thoughtful and one of those people who seems to live and speak and act purposefully.

I never live purposefully.  I’m too impulsive and manic and moody for all of that.  And so when I’m around someone who seems so thoughtful I become even more manic, “What’s your secret!  Tell me everything!  I WILL BE PURPOSEFUL TIMES A MILLION NACHOS RIGHT NOW.”


I want to say by watching Ann that she’s a Lena who thinks she’s a Carmen.

But I would need more time to really know.

In the panel, Ann was promoting her new book, but when the audience got to ask questions, all anyone wanted to talk about was the Sisterhood.

Ann said that she never really wanted to say goodbye to the girls so gave herself a deadline and told herself if she was still thinking about the Sisterhood at that point she could write one final novel.

When the deadline came she still couldn’t forget about the girls, and so she wrote Sisterhood Everlasting.

Yesterday I picked it up.

It’s funny, in this book, the girls are 29, which is a bit older than my friends and I are, but we’re still going through a lot of the same things.  That just adulthood.  Those big decisions.

Trying to maintain our important friendships while in different cities, with different lives, with a different everything.

It hit close to home.

And so I did what I’ve always done when it comes to these fictional girls and my life.

I sent my own Sisterhood an email.

I started it off with–

In shocking news, Tibby (I) dies (die) 10 years into the Sisterhood franchise. 

I then outlined what each character ends up doing in the book, how it relates to our own accomplishments and failures, and what Ann Brashares knew about my life before I did.

(Spoiler: Tibby went to film school.

She then moved to Australia because that’s what we Tibbys want to do.


She ended up with the nerdy, neurotic boy who loved her to the ends of the earth.

It’s like,

Why wasn’t I listening to Ann sooner?

How much time and heartbreak could I have saved myself?

How many unnecessary degrees could I have avoided?)

I signed my email “Tibs” and then went back to work, knowing full well it may be days before I get a response.

After all,

We’re trying to maintain our important friendships while in different cities, with different lives, with a different everything.

We’re a grown-up sisterhood now.

The Love Scale Of Pain

1 Jul


The other night Luke and I went on a run down to the beach.

I know how cutesy that sounds, a couple exercising together, and I apologize for that.  This is a real thing now and we’re all going to have to live with it.

On the way down we stopped at the MAC store because I’ve had a hankering for a deep, blood red lipstick.  I have a to-do list on my phone that I check rather obsessively, and the number one thing for the past several weeks has been “blood lipstick.”

One can never underestimate the power of a new lipstick.

We got to the beach just in time to see the sun set. To our left was the Santa Monica Pier, lit up in neon and screams, almost smelling of cotton candy.  To our right were the Santa Monica Mountains, swirling under the sunset.  Just beyond that was Malibu, twinkling ever so slightly out of reach, as Malibu always is.

We sat for a moment on the bluffs watching nature take its course and speaking very little. It was a content silence, punctuated occasionally by a hand squeeze or a comment on the sky.  After it ended we ran the 13 blocks home and went out for a little Middle Eastern chicken with a lot of extra garlic sauce on the side.

It was lovely night.  And also, you know, just a run.

Earlier this year I told Hilary that I worried for myself.  I worried that I would never love like I once loved, with an intensity that made me want to die every moment of every day.   I worried I would have to go through my life only feeling that once.

Hilary, in her wisdom, said, “Jill…why would you want that?  Why would you want someone who makes you want to die?”

When I relayed the story to Caitlin she tacked on, “Jill, you’re saying, ‘I’m afraid I’ll never again find someone else who doesn’t understand me.  Who makes me feel terrible about myself.  Who mocks my beliefs.  Who makes me feel desperate and out of control and like I’m going to die of heartbreak every day.  What if I never find that again? Oh no!’”

And when you put it that way,


One of my biggest challenges as an adult has been learning how to love.

Not learning to love.  That part was easy.  Love just swept me away from a young age without any trying on my part.

But how to love.

That’s a different beast altogether.

For so long my idea of love was wrapped up in my idea of pain.  Love is pain.  Love hurts.  Love makes you want to die, but all of the good ones do!

I even began to measure my love on a pain scale, inadvertently.  How much I loved someone was directly tied to how much they could make me hurt.

He doesn’t make me want to die, thus I must not love him very much.

When I’m around him I am calm and content.  I guess I don’t have any feelings for him.

Alecia Moore put it another way when she crooned, “I hate you.  I really hate you, so much I think it must be true love. No one else can break my heart like you.”

I have a very difficult time registering love if it isn’t hurting me.

Which, when I put it that way,


I don’t really know how this ties to my run and sunset watching the other day, but I think it does.  I think last week I went on a run and ate some garlic sauce and wore blood red lipstick and it was good.

I think this something.


I’m working on a new scale.