This yearly retrospective is taken from my 2013 dayplanner because on my own I don’t remember what month it is, much less what day it is or what happened therein.

It is not a best-of list, believe me.

I didn’t read much this year, but I did get into what I call the Married-to-a-Sociopath genre. I loved Gone Girl, followed by the other excellent books Gillian Flynn wrote, Dark Places and especially Sharp Objects. The Silent Wife. The Dinner, where two sets of parents meet for the eponymous dinner and realize their teenage sons have done something reprehensible together. I read it in one night and then immediately read it again.

In the winter my day-job work was writing about tires while trapped in a conference room with four twenty-somethings in what should have been a hideous reality show but instead ended up becoming a couple of very dear friendships. They introduced me to cheap acupuncture in Fremont and I took them to my apartment for a spontaneous birthday party for one of them that started at 3 a.m. and ended in hard-liquor hangovers that lasted until the following Monday.

I watched Rectify. It’s a quiet show about a man reentering life after prison that makes Mad Men look like something by Michael Bay. It’s riveting filigree. It’s one of the best things I’ve ever seen.

I wrote an essay about how Rob Lowe helped me heal from the most soul-shattering breakup of my life. I wrote my first screenplay, an ’80s horror TV pilot set at my family lake cabin in northern Minnesota (American Werewolf in Fargo?) and my second screenplay, another TV pilot about coming of age in L.A. that people seem to think actually has a shot at getting made. It’s the best thing I’ve written. It’s also the last thing I wrote this year, which is sad since it was completed last summer.

I watched and loved Carnivale. I joined and then dropped out of Weight Watchers.

I saw a Beatle. Never thought I would as long as I lived. Paul McCartney did a bunch of brilliant Fab Four stuff and then brought the remaining members of Nirvana up for the last half of Abbey Road and “Helter Skelter” and it was the best thing I’ve ever seen on any stage, anywhere. And I’ve seen a lot.

A few days later one of my high school friends from West St. Paul died. I’ve made it to middle age without ever having a friend die. It was a shock. She was out here in Washington on a motorcycle trip mid-state. She was with a married man who was a pillar-of-the-community type, so most of the obituaries focused on him. I stupidly kept seeking out stories about the crash. They gave new meaning to “don’t read the comments”: Her fight to live on her way to the hospital. The fire all around. The 25-year-old tweaker who killed her as she rushed to her dealer for more meth. Way too much information, God rest.

Two weeks later I had a second friend die. Breast cancer had taken over in the past few years. She was only 31. At the cliffside funeral, her husband and the other guys there were wearing Chucks. If I never have to see a mom talk at her daughter’s memorial again, that would probably be good. Her mandolin teacher played “Over the Rainbow” and it was devastating.

Amie found me a hairdresser who dyed my hair red like the color of the maid’s in American Horror Story season one. I watched and loved Orange is the New Black.

I went on a family vacation to Vancouver even though my family cancelled at the last minute. I had a Tim Horton’s maple bar and met a bunch of TV people who bought me champagne at an oyster bar and teared up when all the Canadians standing on the shore waved goodbye as the train went back to the U.S. like we were in a tourism commercial except it was real.

I worked at The Seattle Times writing ad copy. I’ve forever wondered what it would be like to be on staff there and now I know.

I finally met longtime twitter friends @rebowers and @soulsmithy for drinks and chatter and meals. Love them both even more now.

I bought two new packs of tarot cards to more effectively deliver my good and bad news. I slept a lot and ran a lot. I developed a mouth-watering, logic-crippling crush that I’m not sure I’ll ever be able to get over. But one can try. It’s a new year after all.


My favorite band ever is The Beatles. My second favorite–by a mile–is Nirvana.

On Friday morning I spontaneously bought a ticket to see Paul McCartney, who was playing at Safeco Field that night. One of my top-ten life dreams was to see a Beatle.

Nirvana ended up playing seven songs with him that night.

I don’t even know how to talk about this yet.

But it was magic.

I decided sometime last winter that 2013 would be my own personal Year of Work. The plan was that I would complete as many writing projects as possible and keep sending them out into the world until they started coming back with piles of money clenched in their jaws.

Now that it’s the summer solstice, first day of summer, and my half-birthday, I thought I’d give a status report.

So far I have completed a YA book with a magical realism flavor (obviously started way before this year), a horror/fantasy television pilot, and an essay about ’80s Los Angeles that’s my favorite thing I’ve ever written, maybe. Definitely gonna find a home for that pup.

Next up I am going to finish another TV pilot (for a memoir-esque half-hour dramedy) that I started earlier this year. I am also almost ready to throw together a memoir proposal. I think I have about two chapters written for that one so far.

Wish me luck and I hope you’re all achieving your own Midsummer Night’s dreams.

ex-oh-ex-oh Amy

“I think it’s a testament to the writing over the last five years that they’ve built animosity in our audiences towards a character that has done some pretty despicable things and, at the same time, who has lived a life in a perfectly moral way.”

I haven’t done a gratuitous Pete Campbell post in awhile. I was too busy being completely absorbed by Mad Men’s Season 5. Here Vincent Kartheiser defends his shattered, sneaky alter ego to Vulture.

Once in L.A. when I was feeling particularly broke and broken, a guy I worked with suggested a trip to Seattle, a place I’d never been. “Listen to some decent music, pound some coffee. You’ll love it.”

He was right, I did.

As an always-writer and a once-and-future musician, that’s still what my Seattle is today: Coffee. Music. Art.

Maybe that’s why it was even more shocking that yesterday when a man shot four people point blank, it was at a coffee shop. A coffee shop. They’re supposed to be havens.

It’s one thing to have people randomly shot at a place like the defunct, ironically named Mr. Lucky across from Seattle Center, which had a criminal reputation and a widely ignored NO GUNS ALLOWED sign at the door. But not a coffee shop in Seattle. We have one of the lowest violent-crime rates in the country. I mean, we’re not Miami, for God’s sake.

A second jolt ripped through me, brighter, more personal, when I heard that the shooting happened at Café Racer. My lovely, loving friends Jo David and Marlow Harris have their Bad Art Museum there. As I was checking Facebook to make sure they were okay (they were, they are, physically at least), a woman was killed by the same gunman at Town Hall, another gathering place for the arts.

As the news from the Seattle P.D. ricocheted through twitter and the news blogs, questions were answered. Drew Keriakedes and Joe Albanese of the band God’s Favorite Beefcake were victims. The suspected shooter was Ian Lee Stawicki; he shot himself when he was apprehended and later he died. He had been kicked out of Café Racer several times recently.

Then the questions got bigger. Why was Mayor McGinn not saying anything to his city? (He eventually did.) Why don’t we have more support for the mentally ill? Why don’t we have stricter gun control laws?

The biggest question, though, not only for the artists and musicians who consider Café Racer their coffee shop haven, but for all of us as society seems to get more violent every day, is a simple one with no easy answer. Why?


Hey! My former hometown paper the Los Angeles Times published an essay I wrote about my memory of the L.A. Riots

April 5, 2004

Kurt Cobain
Kurt, we hardly knew ya

Give me a Leonard Cohen afterworld
So I can sigh eternally

Ten years after his death, the singer-songwriter who inadvertently created “grunge,” caused flannel to appear on NYC runways and became One Of The Most Important Rock Stars Of All Time is still attracting the kind of media attention that he hated.

Kurt Cobain had always been the quintessential anti-rock star. Unhappy with his fame once it extended beyond Seattle (“I don’t like my fans anymore”), he was accused by his record company of purposely trying to make Nirvana’s second (and last) studio album, In Utero, non-commercial. If that’s true, he failed: track after track became hits and are radio staples even today.

His music and persona were the perfect ironic counterpoint to the kind of attention the band began to draw after their first major-label release Nevermind knocked Michael Jackson off the top of the charts and had frat boys trying to figure out what “a mulatto, an albino, a mosquito, my libido” meant.

Homeless kid, high-school dropout, roadie, junky. He seemed like an accidental superstar, yet his bandmates claim that Cobain was ambitious. He wrote a song per night, made them practice for hours every day and was a taskmaster in the studio. He was quoted as saying that when the other two-thirds of Nirvana didn’t like “Smells Like Teen Spirit” the first time they heard it, he made them play it hundreds of times in a row.

Here we are now
Entertain us

Like most people, I hadn’t heard of Nirvana before Nevermind. My boyfriend at the time lent it to me and dismissively said that the lead singer was a heroin addict. The music just sounded like noise to me, so I listened to it again. And again. I couldn’t have guessed that I was hearing the sound of the new mainstream. My relationship with Nirvana far outlasted the one with the boyfriend in both length and significance.

Despite a career that easily places him in the company of Dylan, Hendrix and the Rolling Stones, Cobain has a puny four-CD catalogue and a career that spanned just two-and-a-half years in the public eye. He has an output-to-legacy ratio that rivals James Dean’s, although he is more likely to be compared to John Lennon.

I’m so ugly
That’s okay ’cause so are you
We’ve broken mirrors.

Like Lennon, Cobain had the gift for being angry without being off-putting and for expressing intimate emotions that spoke to the masses. He also married Courtney Love, a woman who surpasses Yoko as most unpopular wife in rock & roll history. Loud, obnoxious, consistently out-of-control, Love continues to make Cobain look like even more of a misunderstood waif than his vulnerable, wrenching vocals do.

Well I swear that I
Don’t have a gun

I remember driving home from my job at UCLA when KROQ delivered the news that the body of a 27-year-old male Caucasian was found in a Seattle home, dead of a self-inflicted gunshot wound. The body was thought to be Cobain’s. I felt heartsick, although not at all surprised. It’s typical of the exploitation Cobain routinely attracted that the electrician who discovered his body immediately phoned a radio station rather than the police.

It seems that his world is as tumultuous in death as it was in life. A lot has happened with him just in the two-and-a-half years I’ve lived in Seattle. Courtney gave his private diaries to her lover and he wrote a bestseller, there was a bitter legal battle over Nirvana’s songwriting royalties (complete with an open letter to fans from Kurt’s mom and the rest of Nirvana, David Grohl and Krist Novoselic, trying to have Courtney declared insane). Of course there are the continuing rumors that his death wasn’t a suicide.

Just because you’re paranoid
Don’t mean they’re not after you

A hurricane of bizarre conspiracy theories has been twisting around Courtney Love for the past decade. A Seattle detective said that with all the drugs Cobain had in his system, he wouldn’t have had the strength to lift a gun, much less be able to pull its trigger. Although he was the perfect victim since his tendency toward self-destruction was so public, it seems far-fetched to think that someone could get away with murdering the most famous rock star in the world. Maybe to some people, thinking that his death wasn’t a suicide somehow makes it more palatable.

The end result is that Cobain has left behind a bipolar legacy. On the one hand, his suicide felt like a betrayal to a lot of people — a Seattle music professor accurately pointed out that it would have been less devastating if he had just overdosed. On the other hand, he is arguably the most important musician of the last 20 years.

When they first appeared, Nirvana was given a lot of accolades for sounding fresh compared to the hair bands who were their contemporaries. It’s over 10 years later and they still sound fresh, but this time it’s compared to all the bands who managed to rip off their sound, but not their songwriter’s talent.

Rest in peace, Kurt. I hope your Leonard Cohen afterworld is what you wanted it to be.


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