That’s what I exclaim every time I see one on the road, and every time we saw one this weekend on our car shopping trip. “I know I can’t have one” I said to Jeff, because we were worried about maintenance costs, etc. But what did we end up with?

A beautiful, 2003 Volvo S40.

Complete with a sunroof.

Flash mob, on a serious note.

Yesterday I was emailed this video by


While I think it’s hilarious, I also find it pretty serious. Kate and I talked about this a few weeks ago, and I think it’s really important to talk about it in context.

Let me begin with another chain: Walmart. As my friend S has pointed out, yes, sometimes it’s cheaper. I get it. But is that all that matters? Maybe for some people, and I understand that right now I am lucky to have a job, and a support system. But can we really turn a blind eye to our morals when we can get a bookshelf $10 cheaper? How does that feel on your conscious? I know for some, it doesn’t matter. Target and Walmart are the same in their eyes: giant corporations that swindle you with crap that becomes broken and unusable as the Target 2011 rolls out, promising shiny new low prices and bookshelves.

And, for the most part, I agree. Why is Target selling me something that won’t last? Why wouldn’t we strive for things that will last us, as strong as the so-called American spirit? Where would you buy kitchen supplies if not for Target? Towels? Stationary? Make-up?

When I was in China, I reluctantly shopped at Walmart for my needs. I was only there for two months, and I didn’t know where else to go. But I am sure if I had spent some time in the Hutongs around my campus, I would have been able to find almost everything I needed. And you can bet I would have been that much more proficient in Mandarin. I have never been inside a US Walmart, and I hope that will be true for the rest of my life. I have morals, and I try hard to live by them every day, not just when it’s convenient.

But, some people think Target is different. Or is it? I read this article, and was surprised to find that maybe, Target isn’t as Anti-Walmart as we think. Also this article, which explains the similarities between them. I have a friend moving here in a few weeks, and no-doubt Target will be on our minds as we go through the shopping list one needs to start in an apartment. But what do we do if we don’t go to Target? Where would we go? Well, I aim to find out. I understand that not everyone thinks their money will make a difference, that not spending $50 at Target isn’t going to make them miss a beat. But what if everyone you KNEW did that? That’d be a lot more money…and think of the effects around the country.

What if we got tools and cleaning supplies from our local hardware store? Kitchen supplies from our local kitchen store, etc., etc.? I know, I know, big brands are just as bad: why would I pay more to buy a hammer from a small ACE than from Home Depot or Target? Because I want that small retailer to stay. I want them to thrive, and to pay their employees more, to know my name when I walk in, for them to understand my problems. Now, maybe this is the Michigan country-girl in me, or the small business toy store worker in me, but I think that’s important.

Living in LA, everyone strives to go to local restaurants, to places small and large, places successful and booming, to places small and uncrowded. Why aren’t we the same with the rest of what we buy? Now, I know that sometime in the near future I am going to cave to the bullseye. I am going to go to Target to get something I know they sell. But what if we all tried that much harder to just buy local? Could we really help LA’s economy grow? Maybe, just maybe, we could.

Triathlon Blues

This is my sister.

This is her climbing a wall in LA. She’s afraid of heights, but when she came to visit, she insisted we go rock climbing, as it is something she wanted to try.

Nikki is having a little Triathlon Blues this week, and who can blame her? Her Tri is less than two weeks away, and she’s sick of getting up early, of only ever working out, and probably sick of writing about it. That’s where I come in.

When my sister and I were younger, we both played soccer. She was better (but I still maintain I was faster.) We played piano: she was better. We both wrote (she was better) and we both took joy out of being mean to each other (she, most definitely, was better.) I had a blog: she wanted one. (Hers is funnier.) Although I am mostly better at bossing people around, and baking, she is better than most things. I’d like to think it’s because she is two years older, so two years wiser, but I suspect it’s because she maintains the attitude of “oh yea? I can’t do whatever I want, just because I am a woman, short, and don’t have much directional sense? Watch me.”

And so, when my sister, who used to share an equal hate with me of running, declared that she loved running and was going to do a triathlon, (the idea of my sister swimming in open water made me laugh and want to call the Coast Guard all at once) I wasn’t that surprised.

She ran, a lot. She had already run 5ks, and a half marathon. With hills. Which had ALREADY surprised me.

She started swimming because the doctor told her she couldn’t run. Tendinitis be damned, this girl was GOING to work out, and you couldn’t stop her. This was nearly a year ago, and she’s now up to swimming a full mile, in OPEN WATER. Do you think I’ll be hoping in the Pacific any time soon to swim a mile? (Nope, not after this year’s special on Great White Sharks, and also, I can’t swim really…)

Then, girl writes on April 1 (so let’s be honest, she could have been joking) that in August she was going to do a Triathlon. SERIOUSLY? Is there nothing my sister won’t do? All I do is yoga, Nikki: you’ve beat me. You can stop now, I swear.

In June, my sister bought a bike.

For those of you who don’t know, my sister and I learned how to ride bikes at the same time. I am pretty sure I was up and off training wheels first. Her coordination is lacking, and although I bike through the streets of LA, I couldn’t foresee my sister EVER wanting to do so in Chicago. But here was the evidence, on her blog, of her, fearless (almost) and biking to the lake.

So let’s go over the timeline, one more time:

October, 2009: My sister gets tendinitis, and is told she can’t run. So she swims.

April 1, 2010: My sister decides that she’s going to do a triathlon.

June 11, 2010: She buys a bike

July 14, 2010: She gets into the open water for her first open water swim.

August 29, 2010: My sister will be doing her first triathlon.

Unfortunately, I won’t be there to cheer her on, and see how awesome she does. But for now, I am basically trying to tell her (and you, so you can tell her, too) that she is going to do fine. Better than fine. Great. Wonderful. She is doing something that I have never even considered. She is doing something that a year ago I would have found crazy. She has trained for almost 5 months for something, devoting most of her free time to it, and Tendinitis, coordination, avid triathletes be damned: she will win, because she will finish. And then, by September, she will be on to a new crazy project: the next one, I hope, will involved yoga, and getting herself to a handstand. Nikki: you will be wonderful. Get get ’em.

VEGAS was…

…driving, driving, the Killers. Jesse McCartney, and this is my jam. Driving, windows up, tunes up, water, camera, and driving. Three hours, time ticks, workout mix and folksy songs, so sorry Jeff. Then trickling through civilization…a roller coaster, outlet malls, but not the real Vegas. Katy Perry. A discussion on cherry chapstick. Then closer, closer, everyone awake, through the Mojave, thank God. Then traffic, and slowing, and shit, the car is not driving. Thank God we didn’t stop for me to pee. Thank God we’re not in the Mojave. Jumping to action, two iPhones, no one sitting in the sun, AAA. He said, she said. Move out of the sun! UV Index of 9! Out of the sun. Everyone out of the car. “If you’re in the car, you should have your seat belt on.” and “What are you doing” as if the officer thought we pulled over just for kicks. Arranging a ride, waiting for a tow. “This is my lucky day” but really it was OUR lucky day – four seats in a tow truck. Dropping off the car, nearly inviting the B-look alike to come out with us, being so damn close to the Orleans. What a way to start the weekend.

hot. so hot, I’m melting. sunshine, beating down, and UV index of 9. Into our room. Bags down. Bathing suits on. Pool side pizza, pool side service, pool side mai tai. In the pool, drink in hand. Laughing, gossiping, perfect.

Back, shower, change, dry hair, where’s my dress? hair ties, what time is it, hairspray, combs, makeup, dresses, boys ready, girls chattering, getting ready...8 o’clock, time to GO. Cab ride later, dinner, pink shirts and black shirts and skirts and dresses and curls and bangs and Italian. Bread, oil on dress, people watching, laughing, spicy pizza, too much pasta. Too much laughter, never enough, stories, plans, reminiscing about the summer, and its near end…

Then on, dancing, “get up here if it’s your birthday” and “Absolutely not” and suddenly she’s on the bar, dancing like it’s her birthday, go party, like it’s your birthday. Dancing, dresses, dancing with friends, dancing with strangers, because this is my JAM. Singing along, singing loudly, singing louder, singing to each other, singing for each other, singing for you.

Walk on, street to bridge to street to Luxor, to the longest. line. ever. Maybe we should ride the inclinators? Follow tourists to the elevators — these are wrong. “They have bags, quick, let’s follow them!” Riding the inclinator, making up a story about someone on 23, “What room did they say?” but really riding for the ride. Inclinator, Rachel, goes right, and left, up and to the right, up and to the left? We’re still not sure.

And somewhere, romantic pictures with RM, and with each other, and smiles, and borrowed socks because her feet hurt so badly that she will NOT wear her heels any longer.

Rejoin the team. Plan? Bowling in dresses? At 1:00 am? Sure, let’s go! Back in the taxi line, back to the hotel, socks, boys getting comfortable, showing off my spine-safe skills, then to bowling…”Eff it, I’m going without socks.” Gathering money, $6, one game, cheaper than LA, yes, please. Dallas beats JDubbs, but not JTMoney, not Slyd. Then C’s phone breaks, of course it does, because how could this night be better? It couldn’t. And I still see my stain, two oily polka dots…

3:00 am to bed, air mattress, and chicken fingers. And sleep

…wake, to bagels, to friends, to checking out, to sticking around. Hugging 13, takes all morning, and shark attack. And everyone is gone. And we’re still here. ATT and Starbucks, and I AM MELTING because it’s 110 and I want to go back to cool LA…lunch, cool, below the Venetian, then walking, walking, “THIS IS WHERE…” whispers to C, D, and R about past visits to Vegas, smiling for more pictures, laughing, a human statue…back to the car, rented, to take us home. Packing, no time to gamble, a hug, and we’re on the road…AC up, tunes blaring, one nap, mostly talking, chattering, Dunkin Donuts, and Sheryl Crow, because: We’re leaving Las Vegas (leaving for good.)