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Art Articles

It’s not even my birthday, life via 5 cakes

Sep 17, 2018

It’s not even my birthday, life via 5 cakes


cake cake cake cake cake cake

Summer 2016. It was the summer Blonde came out. The summer that I flung myself into a relationship with a boy I met on the internet (a tragic case of unrequited love). It was the summer I left LA for New York.

With yet another summer coming an end, I consider how we memorialize passages of time. We bookend seasons and phases with music, relationships, birthdays, trips… but when I think back on that summer, all I can taste are the cakes.

Inspired by Maira Kalman’s My Life In Three Cakes, I’ve painted 5 cakes from summer 2016.



I was at this house party off Larchmont, and it was getting late. My friend Jaja was sitting on the diving board, legs dangling over the pool, which was covered with a royal blue tarp. Everyone was bored, so we opened a bottle of champagne with little gold flecks in it. Craving more, I went on postmates and ordered a big sheet cake from the Von’s on Vine, plus a pack of birthday candles. When it arrived we all went out to my car, and I put the cake on top of the trunk. We lit the candles and I made everyone sing happy birthday to no one.


That summer I invited my friend who’s a boy but not a boyfriend to live with me in Silver Lake. I thought he loved me, but when he slept in my bed next to me every night, he never touched me. I felt rejected and confused. We took a trip up to Lake Tahoe, driving up the dry California freeways. Tahoe, when it finally appeared, was green and lush and a breath of cool mountain air. But we didn’t visit my Grandfather’s old house by the lake like I wanted to – instead we spent most of our time with his friends, and they just wanted to lay around and drink cheap beer. I couldn’t handle it. I booked myself a night at the Ritz-Carlton and ordered a blueberry cheesecake and rented A Bigger Splash for $15.00 and cried myself to sleep.


I had stopped drinking towards the end of the summer, sick of the hangover and sick of losing control. I was at Bar Marmont and I asked the bus boy – hey do you have any cake in the kitchen? Maybe a birthday cake that someone didn’t finish? He said let me take a look, and appeared five minutes later with this picture-perfect slice of yellow cake with buttercream frosting and a fresh strawberry on top.


I worked across from the Ace Hotel in Downtown LA and I would frequent their rooftop, sitting fully clothed by the pool in between meetings because I needed vitamin D and hated the fluorescent lights in my office. Always tempting me was this big, beautiful, untouched birthday cake on a silver platter, sitting near the bar. I often considered ordering a slice for myself, but one slice was ten dollars, and I was ethically opposed to paying ten dollars for a slice of cake. I vowed that one day, I would steal that cake. So my friend Kevin and I saw Blood Orange at the Ace Theatre one night and went to the afterparty on the rooftop. There was the cake, and it was my last week living in LA before moving to New York, and I had nothing to lose. I said, Kevin, keep a look out – and I grabbed the cake and stuffed it and it’s silver platter underneath my large denim jacket. We ran into the elevator, took it down, and what a lovely, sugary cake it was.


I’m undecided on where the better city to be alone is, New York or LA. In New York you can occupy time for hours, walking the city streets and reading in the park. But in LA – when I’m alone – I get in my car and drive down Sunset Boulevard, bathing in its muted neon glow, feasting my eyes on the Gucci billboards and the crowds stumbling out of clubs. I go to Book Soup and get a magazine and head to Mel’s Diner, where I sit in a booth by the window. I order a piece of chocolate layer cake à la mode, with a bright red cherry on top. Because I’m alone at last and that calls for celebration.