Friday, December 14, 2012

Rain




Well, it's been raining again, and the crows are getting rowdy.  I'm happy today, which, though not generally rare, is a bit unfamiliar. The past few weeks have been full of effort and turmoil and deep deep contemplation and I must say I've taken a few emotional beatings and things got confusing, too.

There were some wondrous highlights for sure, though, in the past month, for which I am so grateful. Gifts amongst the tumult.  Like when I went on a weekend trip to Denver and everything about that was amazing and there was Van Gogh and The 9th Door and The Brown Palace and singing around the piano late into the night and so much love holding on to me and I forgot about everything that's been difficult and I could have almost just stayed there and not come back at all.  

And then, there was one week here after I got back that it rained and rained and then it was misty all morning one day and then it was all just thick heavy fog sometimes and then it kept raining.  That was likely the most serene I've ever seen LA.  It was almost too much to bear every day just how beautiful and quiet it was around here. I don't know.  Sometimes the world is just overflowing and speaking to me and I just want to grab it and squeeze it and say thank you thank you thank you!

So those things were good. But then there's been the shadow of my job, cast just so, just enough to darken the rest of the landscape.  And it was only recently that I decided to move on from it.  I'm leaving it, and I don't even know what I'm going to next and for some odd reason that doesn't scare me.  There was a time when it sure would have, though.  There was a time when all of the unknowns scared me, I guess.  Now I just know that I keep figuring it out anyway.  

Here's something I realized about myself.  I begin idealistic.  Because that, I will always be.  Then, if the actual circumstances don't match my image, I adjust my own response to them because that's the main thing I can control.  Like how I was faced with a long, taxing commute and poring over math equations.  So I created devices to make those things all right, shifted my thinking and found ways to enjoy those bastards.  I'm resilient, to be sure, and can endure a lot and make things good.  But there's a limit.  And then there's an urgency to come to my own rescue.  When it's just taking too much effort and my joy is starting to dim, well, that's when I have to call it a day and change the circumstances, because I'm practical too, even though I'm one hell of a dreamer. 

So here I sit.  And everything feels right.  And onward I continue.  And the shadow is lifting.  And the joy is brightening.  And the rains are coming again.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

A Recipe in the Respite



Presumably, I'm taking a break.  Work has quite consumed me, which is not my preferred relationship with it, but for the time, it's got me.  There will be stories again, soon.  There will be.  But I've been wondering, was there more time before?  Oh, interesting world!  It's a good thing I love you so much.

So for now, I think I'll just offer my two-generations-old stuffing recipe, as Thanksgiving is on its way.  I usually add veggie sausage with the first sauteed ingredients, like for protein and texture, I guess.  I don't know if there's some meat substance that people usually use in stuffing, but if there is, you can use that instead.  


Gobble-Gobble Stuffing

4 tablespoons butter
1 cup celery, chopped
½ cup onion chopped
1 cup mushrooms, chopped
¾ cup walnuts, chopped
1 granny smith apple, chopped
2 cups of veggie broth (approximate)
Salt (if needed, veggie broth is often salty)
1 bag of stuffing breadcrumbs

Melt butter in a large pan. 
Sautee celery, onion and mushrooms until tender. 
Add walnuts and apple. 
Toss in breadcrumbs.
Separately bring broth to a boil. 
Ladle some broth on top of mix and stir. 
Add more broth if mix seems dry.

Cover and let stand 5-10 minutes to steam. 
Serve now or place into a casserole dish and bake at 375 until slightly toasted on top.
Enjoy!

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Crows






It was an interesting week at the old job for me. The president of the company came through town and I had to give a presentation and prepare and be ready for tough business questions.  And I was.  And it was a good presentation.  Because I know my business, and I care about it.  But how strange that all was.  I just thought to myself, is this the same girl that used to march around the garden in gypsy clothes?  

Where did this adulthood come from?  How did it wrap itself around me, give its brief blessing and fling me into the world?

I sure don't know how I feel about this. 

Then again, I am always teetering on the threshold of not quite knowing how I feel about any of it anyway, the real world, and I constantly just have to gently nudge myself to the one side, the side that feels ok about it, and keep going.  

As for the presentation, I was about to get overwhelmed by it and I was sitting outside when I saw about fifteen crows circling above me and somehow it looked so important, I mean, in that way that shows you quiet divinity and the soft constant breath of life and that your'e a part of it.  I remembered some things then.  

That's when I decided that I wouldn't let my presentation stress me out and that I'd just enjoy it no matter what, because, as far as I know, it's no more significant than much else in the grand scheme.  And a lot less significant than most things.  In any case, I had to make it fun.  I know that if I can't make the real world joyful, then I don't want to do it at all.  Because the actual real world reminds me of that, sometimes by way of crows.

So I just enjoyed how bizarre it all seemed, being all serious.  And I kind of laughed a lot every day about how strange growing up is.  Because even though I'm doing it, I'm never actually ready for it.  To be an adult.  It does bewilder me still.

And it makes me think of this life.  And how I have to keep adapting even though I don't know what it's about or what I'm really supposed to be doing.  But I've never known.  I mean, we never know.  How could we?  And as far as work goes, I always remember my dad saying once, when I was the most confused about those things, to just put my good heart into whatever I do.  So I do that.  And I'm not as confused anymore, for the most part.

And then I thought of my mom and can she believe that her kids are grown up now and does that make her sad?  I guess I could just ask her, but it's more interesting thinking about it.  Well, and sad, too, for me.  But I never was one to have anything against sadness about what life is.  And how shocked we are so often when we notice it, for whatever reason, just thinking about it, or being stunned into seeing that truth from time to time, like when you're giving a business presentation remembering yourself as a little girl, free and dancing in the garden, or when other things like that happen.


Sunday, October 14, 2012

Downtown





I've been neglecting this writing for a while, I know, but not without good reason.  I had a visitor recently and I got the chance to give the LA tour of the century!  How many beautiful things we did!  And how incredible to feel the brilliance of so many things I love surrounding me day after day.  

A really rough sketch is this: Yamashiro Farmer's Market on its last night, the music, Hollywood below, bargaining at the food stand for the last time of the season.  L'Oteria and my griddled cheese and being so happy at that counter and open kitchen sharing food.  Birds and my bartender who always lights up when he sees me.  Cafe 101 with its perfect jukebox. Tapas and Cube and Farfalla and so many delicious meals.  The Getty and its tram up the hillside and the grounds over the ocean and being in a place that means so much to me with someone I care so much about, the art and those buildings and always being captivated and silenced and moved near to tears and finding even more meaning this time.  

And so many surprises, so many unexpected detours and discoveries.  And more beauty, almost unbearable beauty, than I can express.  That was one of the unexpected things. That there is an unabridged version that is far too magical and sacred even for me to describe. 

It felt like I got to see and share the culmination of all of the years I've put into exploring and loving this city.  And there are so many places here that have nurtured me and fed me over the years.  It is a city you have to find.  That, I have learned.  But I've learned, too, that I've found it.  At least, I've found mine.  Maybe part of the reason the trip was so special was because I got to show someone the secrets this city has spoken to me the more I've loved it, and the city decided to whisper more in gratitude for that love.  And I was sharing it with someone who understood.

Amidst the varied magnificence of the week's outings, we took a few visits to Downtown.  I always love showing people Downtown LA.  That it exists, that you can take the subway there, that there is a subway.  And, more than that, it's my old turf, so I'm comfortable navigating it.  And I've got some favorite spots I love visiting.  Pete's on Main St., Grand Central Market, the Concert Hall, The Edison.  

It's always good to go back. Because that was a significant battleground for me on my journey to loving LA.  And this time, it struck me even more.

Walking down bustling Broadway, with its string of old theatre marquees and Latino peddlers, I got to thinking about when I lived there with my friend Brooke.  Moving Downtown was part of our confused attempt to be happy, the same attempt that involved going to Disneyland, which was a flop.  We were just grasping at various ideas, and, of course, none were the solution.  You don't find happiness outside of yourself.  I guess we didn't know that then. 

We were desperate to find something that would solve our lives.  And Downtown seemed like the promised land.  I don't know why.  We had no explanation, I bet, if you'd asked us.  But for some reason, Downtown had streets paved with gold and was the answer to all of our quarter-life worries and sorrows and fears and confusion.  We'd even sing, "Downtown, things'll be great when we're Downtown!"  Though, I think it was probably a bit forced and metaphorically off-key and ended with more of a question mark trying to be an exclamation point.  And it turned out that Downtown wasn't the answer.  

But I look back fondly on those months.  Both of us working from home, writing from our beautiful loft.  Sitting in the window looking down on the soup-kitchen truck while the local lady of the night walked up and down the block.  Ending up in Skid Row by accident and clinging to each other in panic.  Which was not how we'd dreamed it would be at all. 

I do know, though, that it was what it needed to be for us.  Which is why it's always good to go back to the old neighborhood.  Though it's all cleaned up and swanky now, I can offer it a certain thank you for being what it was.  And re-trace my own sad steps, walking on ground that knew me before.  

And I get to show it that, now, I am deeply happy, even though that's no longer the right word.  And it's not in the way we were looking for back then, either, but in the real way.  In the way that knows there is exquisite, indescribable meaning in the most unexpected experiences.  In the way that knows not to take life too seriously, but knows, too, in the same breath, to take it very seriously.  

And to love this.  Because this is it.  

Friday, September 21, 2012

Philadelphia






The business trip to Philadelphia was quite lively.  There's too much, really, to tell, but leaving LA and the rainstorm and the early mornings in the city were the parts I liked the best.

First, I started off with an unexpected vow to myself as I was boarding the plane.  It was inspired by this woman a couple of people ahead of me who was complaining to her husband a few people behind me.  She was just obnoxious and what she was saying is of no import except that it went something like this, "Profanity profanity expletive profanity pejorative expletive."  It was not pleasant.  And I turned to my friend behind me and we were both actually laughing because there is just no reason to be that way ever.  Especially when traveling because, as far as I know, that is when you should be the most prepared for things not to go as planned.  It's almost guaranteed.  And I, for one, find that to be part of the whole joy of traveling.  In any case, I was amused that someone could really be taking it that seriously and proclaimed, quietly, but aloud, "I promise I will never be that way."  So that was settled.

One of the most breathtaking parts of the whole journey was actually leaving LA.  It was sunrise and there was LA below me in its sea of pink.  And there was the ocean, golden and quiet, but brewing.  And there were the mountains in their bright bronze and iridescent glow.  And there was my LA far below, strange home that I never would have envisioned.  And there I felt in my heart a sigh, recalling the journey that led me to that vast place.

During the flight, we hit an extreme bout of turbulence when we were over Colorado, which I was happy about on one level because I would not have known that we were passing over Colorado otherwise.  It happened while I was learning, thanks to the free seat-back magazine, that Port is traditionally pressed by bare feet.  And that the grapes are better macerated when the treaders are dancing.  They're even accompanied by musicians! So making Port becomes a small party.  

So, there I was picturing some old Portuguese villa when the guy sitting behind me got up to stand in the aisle.  I looked over and, the strangest thing, there stood a true and proper friar.  I could be wrong, but I think that's what he was.  And it seemed like he had just stepped out of my old world Portugal vision.  Standing there in the full regalia.  The black draping robe, rosaries hanging from the rope belt slung low at his waist.  I felt like I needed to hail Mary or something.  Hustle and save my own soul really fast.  But I didn't.  I think I'm doing all right.

I can say, however, that when we hit even more extreme turbulence upon our approach to Philadelphia, probably the longest and most severe I've ever experienced, in that moment, surprising even to me, I was comforted by the presence of a holy man at my back.

It was grey and cold when we arrived in Philadelphia, but I was excited for that too, for the gloomy weather, for Philadelphia itself, but also for other things.  Three days on the turf of the founding fathers, the Radisson, expense reports.  Things of that nature.

When we finally settled in, some of my coworkers and I decided to explore a little bit.  We made our way to an Irish pub on that fine evening and about halfway through our pints, it started to rain this insane doomsday rain and we all ran outside and got drenched because that's just not something you get in LA.  Oh, it was amazing, too!  Sheets of warm rain being hurled by the wind off the sides of the buildings.  It took us about one minute to get soaked and we were all laughing and smiling and it really might have been my favorite part of the whole trip.

That and waking up early to go explore the city by myself.  I loved that, too.  Walking around in the chill of the morning with my warm coffee in an old city.  Watching the old brick buildings welcome the sun as it crawled from their rooftops down their sides to the streets.  Those mornings were good for me.  Quiet, pensive interruptions to the long days of meetings.  Which were good too.  It was all just really good.

And then it was all over and I was on the plane again, approaching LA.  No complaining wives, thank god.  But no friars, either, God be with him.  Just me and my happiness. About returning to a place that I have grown to love so much.  But more about being in the world.  And about everything I have done and everything else I get to do.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Again, Hollywood Bowl





I went to the Hollywood Bowl again this last week and, this time, well, this was the show of the summer for me.  That's kind of what I'd been waiting for.  It was my ultimate Bowl-going that I know and love.  Where everything falls into place and it's somehow spontaneously perfect. 

I always kind of wait until the last minute to invite someone to any given show throughout the summer.  This time, my friend Maddy was my date.  We used to work together, and I remembered her saying that she wanted to go to this show back when I bought my tickets.  So she was stoked for the invite.  And it magically turned out that our friend Marcos and his boyfriend were able to scrounge up tickets as well.  So the crew was assembled.

Obviously, we didn't have tickets anywhere near each other.  But the Bowl is my turf, so I told them to stick with me and all would be well.  I did what I always do, which is never sit in the seats I purchased, which is pretty much what every Bowl veteran does unless you have box seats, which is part of the charm of the Hollywood Bowl that has stayed intact over the years.  Which makes me happy, because, as you know, I like life a little bit more free and haphazard than the next guy.

So I led our group toward the perfect little cluster of seats.  The trick is picking out the right row.  Because you have to know it won't fill up with late-comers.  And, more than that, you have to pick the right section so that if you do get kicked out, you can easily act like you accidentally sat in the row right behind yours and casually move up.  

I'm quite proud of my acumen at it.  There was definitely a learning curve.   Once, years ago, I ended up sitting in no seats and having to stand by the bushes in the aisles.  I've got my formula now, though, or some Bowl intuition gained over the years.  

As for the show itself, it was amazing.  I brought sangria and gouda and Marcos brought two other delectable cheeses that I must ask him about and a variety of crackers and we were all very pleased with the piquant picnic combination.  Delicious and simple.  The night was glorious.  Our favorite act, hands down, was Passion Pit.  The music filled the sky with that Hollywood Bowl majesty that compares to nothing.  

For me, it gets me every time at the right show there, that whole sky, filled with music, holds me and surrounds me and any worries completely disappear and I know how good life is to me and I smile with gratitude.  

And I couldn't have asked for better company.  Because it felt like we were all appreciating it just as much.  And we were carefree and happy.

I thought of something again too.  I've noticed that as I get older I seem to gather younger friends, and only every so often realize it, like that night.   But I guess it's because we tend to attract people with a similar outlook and perspective on life more than just people of the same age.  Or somehow there's just a connection.  I mean, it really doesn't matter how many years you've lived here or not to me, but how you're living here.  

I know I've always had the mystified child's outlook, though, even more than my younger friends, who are already being trained to take life too seriously.  And I'm idealistic to the core of me.  Most people tend to drift from that and buckle down in the world as adults.  But my wonder remains.  

I think people might forget, but what we were we ever are.  Remember, we are all just a child, too.  Some just seem to abandon the child they were and some, I guess, like me, keep it right there with the rest of who they've become.

Anyway, I've never had this big plot construed about becoming an adult, but only a plot to watch the bright days unfold and experience it as it comes and be just me and hopefully gain some wisdom to extol and engage with it all as much as possible.  I'd rather do that than have a plan that doesn't work out.  

Like this woman I often encounter in Brentwood when I'm on my lunch break.  She's always just enjoyed talking to me and the other day she was grumbling about how hard it is to be in her 50s and divorced and I was just thinking that the only reason that was hard is that she never found her happiness alone.  But all I said was that I don't think life was meant to be easy anyway and that knowing that can allow us to just experience this crazy place for all that it is.  She seemed to take that to heart.  At least, she repeated it out loud to herself before we parted, in any case. There's a child in her too.

Ultimately, to me, your life is its days.  So it's the days that matter.  Which is why I love when I have one that is so full and complete, like that one that ended at the Hollywood Bowl with my sweet friends and the music holding me on the hillside.

Alas, I have no more time to ponder on this fine day, for I must go and prepare for a business trip with adult people. What fun for this child heart of mine!  I'm looking upon that prospect with sparkles in my eyes too, because, I mean, it's very serious, and that amuses me to no end.  

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Sunshine





I swung by my old place of employ the other day, just to pick up Bethany for lunch, but I got there a little early and, begrudgingly, decided to go inside.  Nothing like a visit to the past, I suppose, to show you where you are.  

It was a mixture of feelings being in there.  I mean, on the one hand, it felt so familiar still.  After having spent so many years there, I suppose it would.  It was like revisiting an old school or apartment and sort of thinking, hello, old chap, you haven't changed a bit.  And realizing that I have.  Leaps and bounds in such a short time.  Quintessentially, I guess I'm pretty much the same girl that graced that old room, but in some very minute, but dare I say, profound, ways, I am quite changed.  And I am ever thankful for that.

On the other hand, I felt so far removed from that place.  Like it was another lifetime.  And I had one moment of dread when I thought, "What if the last three months have been a dream and I really still work here?"  And for a second, I seriously felt like it could be true and panicked.  That was a weird moment.

There were some new people and a few old familiars, which was comforting.  All excited to see me and hear about my new life.  Oh, and how good it felt to have so much to tell and to be so genuinely happy about it!  And somewhere in the back of my mind or heart or wherever, while I was talking, I suddenly knew something.  I went in there for a reason.  I needed that visit to show me how far I've come and how much I've learned and how good it feels to be just where I am in life and that however overwhelming it's been at times it's only getting better and better and I wouldn't go back to my life before for the world.  It was good to solidify that.  There was some real joy in that unforeseen confirmation. 

So it was an unexpected and truly happy visit for me.  When I left, they told me that they miss their sunshine.  Which is the best thing I could ever ask for, to be thought of as sunshine.  I always had this thought, actually, that I want to greet people like the sunrise and leave them like the sunset.  And yes, I get poetic with my life in my thoughts, but I've always been that way.

But really, I do want that.  I want for everyone I encounter to feel warmed and welcomed and illuminated and awake and aware and then, when I walk away, to feel whatever it is you feel when you watch the sunset.  And I know everyone feels something when they watch the sunset, pretty deeply, you can tell when you watch people watching the sunset.  

I'm sure it's a different feeling for everyone, of course, but to me it's the beautiful sweet sorrow of life and also the wonder of the day that has been and of the magic of creation and thankful for what was and of the day that is to come and of how much we don't know but how crazy and strange it is to say good bye to a day and know that it is forever gone and then know too that there is another one to welcome and we don't know what it will bring and time just keeps passing and you can't even pause it for one second but it is just so amazing to be here at all even though it's sad too.  

In any case, after my poignant life moment, Bethany and I went to lunch at the Fat Dog, which was one of our old favorites to go to on our lunch breaks together.  That is something I miss.  Lunches with Bethany.  However, not enough to wish for what was.  I know now, with certainty, that I am meant to shine my light on new horizons.  

And for that I remain, life, your humble student.  Thank you for always finding creative ways of speaking to me.  Truly.  I thank you.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Guitar Center






I can say with honesty that it's been a slightly tumultuous week for me.  Just, sometimes life is more difficult than other times.  And not too much happened differently, but I just felt overwhelmed by work and life and how there is so much I don't know and I guess it took its toll.  

One nice day was when Bethany took me along with her to Guitar Center to pick out a bass for her boyfriend's birthday.  Well, now, I've spent some time at Guitar Center with various old musician loves of mine.  So it was a familiar trip for me, only, this time, we had no clue what we were doing.  It's loud in there and we were just looking at each other like, seriously, this is loud, and all of these people are just playing instruments thinking they're the best and I don't doubt that they are but all we heard was an obnoxious medley of strumming and drumming and electric guitar riffing and it was definitely affecting our sanity and decision making abilities.  

Still, we knew we had to find a bass, and with no help readily around, I turned to these three kids who were playing with a bass and asked them that if one were to buy a bass for one's boyfriend, which would they suggest?  Now, I thought that would procure an enthusiastic response from aspiring bassists wanting to show off their knowledge, but instead, one of the kids just looked at the wall of basses and said, "Um, I don't know."  And the other kid said, awkwardly, "Uh, I just started playing the bass."  And I was thinking, but didn't you do any research? Aren't you super stoked on this whole bass thing, salivating at the hopes of owning one someday?  Grrrr.  Usually I am so good with the young guys.  

So, we finally found real staff help and, though it didn't feel like his heart was in it either, after much deliberation on color and us not having a clue anyway about the other stuff, we ended up with an orange four-string. Who knows if that thing is in any way worthy of her boyfriend's talents, but, we did what we could.  

And on the way out, walking through the parking lot, I was holding the big cumbersome box and Bethany had that orange bass cradled in her arms, and we passed three very musician looking guys and I said loudly, to amuse myself, "Oh, I'm so glad we decided to start a band!"  And Bethany, as usual, rolled her eyes, and I was dying with laughter, because, we really didn't look like we were going to start a band at all, and those guys looked like they took things too seriously and I thought that was pretty funny.

After that small instrumental adventure, we went to L'Oteria to celebrate the purchase, or, in any case, just to decompress from all of the noise and confusion, thank the great lord above, because I do think we needed it and also the last time I tried to go there it was closed for the night.  So we sat at the counter and watched the guy make that griddled cheese thing who is apparently not as good at it as the girl who makes that griddled cheese thing because it was a bit too crispy, but we weren't complaining.  It's still just the best strange appetizer that we will never understand.  

We were quite happy, then, celebrating our bass decision.  Who knows if that turned out.  I guess we'll find out soon.

That was a good day in a tough week.  One of those days where I managed to let my thoughts and burdens go and just play with life.  Which is something I have to do.

There's a reason I dig for joy in the little moments, like pretending I'm starting a band, and peculiar griddle cheese.  Because I have no clue what anything is about. And that can overwhelm me if I don't distract myself with just enjoying it anyway, as it is.

It's no easy task, though.  I can say that with certainty.  It takes effort to keep going and to appreciate it all and to not understand any of it.  That especially takes a lot of effort for me, not understanding, but doing it anyway.  To continue and be happy and trust something.  

Which is what I manage to always come back around to, even in the difficult weeks.  I have to stand here, and just take it all on.  And continue to have fun with it and giggle in parking lots and ask complacent high schoolers about the bass and just keep going forward and forward with curiosity and wonder. 

And then there are those blessed moments of clarity, when I still don't know and that's just fine and I'm not worried anymore.  And the fog lifts and the week's mental tempest disappears.  

Like the other night.  I was on the roof looking at the almost full moon and the dark purple clouds, with all of my questions, and at some point I just sort of, inadvertently, bent my elbow out to the side and felt life link arms with me and heard a whisper of something beautiful and I thought, all right, life, here we are.  I'm with you again.  Take me where I am supposed to go.  And there we wandered, out into the moonrise together.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

KCRW




This week's big adventure came simply from listening to KCRW, my very favorite local radio station.  I was in my car the other day, listening to the incessant pledge drive, which, oddly, is something I find entertaining because during the course of asking for donations, they are offering incentives, mostly free dinners at various restaurants around LA.  So for me, it's a great way to hear about all sorts of restaurants I've never been to. 

I hadn't even considered donating, but when I was almost home, a dinner for two at Pace was announced and, suddenly, I wanted to donate and become a member!  Dinner at Pace!  One of the best restaurants and it's just down the road from me and oh how I would love to go there compliments of Pace itself.  Of course, since I refuse to be on the phone when driving, I decided to call in when I pulled up to my place, as I was only a couple of minutes away.  Then, the DJ announced a dinner at L'Oteria, and we know how I love that restaurant!  I was so excited because I figured I couldn't go wrong.  One of those would certainly still be up for grabs in a minute.

I pulled up to my building and called the radio station and the phone volunteer answered by saying, "What do you want?"  And I was so confused and just sort of like, "Ummm…?"  And she repeated, "What do you want?"  So, I said rather slowly, "I want to make a donation?"   And she set the record straight when she asked me with a bit more clarity, "Did you have a giveaway that you were interested in taking?"  Then I got all excited and said, "Pace!"  And she said it was already taken.  I was prepared though, and said, "Ok, then, L'Oteria!"  And she informed me that it was claimed already as well but that she had a couple of other choices.

What?  I didn't even understand.  I mean, I've been listening to this pledge drive for the greater portion of a week and they sound so desperate to get donations and get rid of these gifts and it feels like they're just hanging on by a thread and needed me and I would get whatever in the world I wanted if only I'd call!  Not so.  Not so.

I was pretty bummed out, after having been all set to donate and get a wonderful free dinner out of it at one of my favorite places.  But I know how life operates and I decided those were just not the ones for me.  Something even more perfect would come up in the future. I told the volunteer I'd call back sometime, because I didn't want free dinner at just any restaurant, I wanted it to mean something to me.

It took two more commutes for something to come up that appealed to me again, but when dinner at Farfalla was announced, I knew I had to have it.  I haven't even been to Faralla here, but suddenly I was back in Aspen, where Farfalla used to be, with my family.  We always went there.  We always went to a lot of restaurants, but that was a staple and it was always so fun to get dressed up and have that long Italian meal surrounded by the sweet warmth of my family.  And that made me so happy, that thought, that memory.  

Unfortunately, I was stuck in my car again on my way to work, and I was thinking, you're just gonna have to let this one go.  But, I seriously couldn't.  I kept mulling it over, thinking, that's it, though, that's the place you're supposed to go, there's some reason and you've got to find out.  

So I pulled over into some unfamiliar neighborhood on the fly and called in and asked if Farfalla was still available, and the volunteer said that it wasn't but gave me other options and I told her that it was all right and thanks anyway but I'd just try again some other time.  She was bidding me good bye, and I was feeling deflated and kind of even sad because that one felt so right, and I know she heard it in my voice, when all of a sudden, I hear this frantic, "Wait, wait!  It's available! Don't hang up!"  

Yes!  That's how your'e supposed to work, life!  There's the kismet I know and love.   

And it was so cute because she was so happy, too.  She understood how much it meant to me and neither of us even knew why, but we were in it together, celebrating.

I was so excited, and, also, unexpectedly, so happy to become a member of my local radio station, like I became a true citizen of this city because I own part of KCRW, that I even said I'd do a confessional.  So I got to leave this message that they would air at some point and it was very enthusiastic, especially about how thrilled I was about my dinner.  And I got off the phone and smiled.  

And I know it's such a simple little story, and that I can go to dinner anywhere I want at any time, but something about the whole experience felt really meaningful to me.  Somehow, it illuminated how I've continued to nestle myself ever more in the arms of LA.  And that it's embracing me with so much love and splendor, always. 

And it also reinforced, on a small scale, that I really believe in what happens.  I continue trusting and everything truly does seem to occur with a purpose and, eventually, I always get to find out why.  Because every small detail, even free dinners and the shared jubilation with pledge drive volunteers, does matter.  And all of life would not be without the tiniest of its components, so I do make it a point to honor that and revel in them.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

One Step





I was sincerely not going to write today, because, well, another week has gone by and, though it's been good, no exciting adventures have arisen.  I went to brunch with Bethany the other day, but, as nice as it was, there was no interesting story there.  My eggs were undercooked, I guess.  And I looked at them and Bethany instantly read my expression and was just like, "Just send them back."  Oh, how wonderful friends are!  Those are the people that really know you, rain or shine, best and worst.  

And I'm not always proud of being crestfallen at the state of my food, but if anyone knows how much I enjoy good dining, well, it's Bethany.  And she knows that I would have sat there going back and forth in my head, contemplating etiquette and trying to toughen up and just accept it and thinking way too much.  So she put that to a stop before it even began.

The rest of the week, I've just been taking everything in, still and gently acclimating to this new phase of my life, being quite fascinated by how quickly things change and then we are on a whole new trajectory and have no idea what's to come.  I've been thinking about that a lot.  About all sorts of things.

On my way home the other day, I was sitting in traffic contemplating the path that takes us to the place we are.  It's a phenomenal thing to examine, really.  

I remember, back in Boulder, when I was about to graduate from college and I was petrified, just completely petrified, about what I was going to do next.  Because I would no longer have the comfort of that campus and classes and learning for the sake of learning but was going to have to decide what to do.  I had absolutely no clue.  

And I pictured myself standing there out in the grass in my gown, my cap thrown somewhere off to the side, by the library maybe, everyone clearing out, hugging each other.  The podium taken away, people working well into the afternoon to break the ceremony down.  The sun setting slowly, the light changing, and me, still standing there, afraid to move, not able to walk away from that security.  And all would be quiet eventually and I would be a panic-stricken statue on the lawn and the night would get cooler and the breeze would touch my cheeks and blow through my hair.  And the future would look like an empty void.  And I wouldn't know what to do and maybe I would just stand there in that old safety forever.

But I realized, at some point, basically about a day before I graduated, that I was just going to have to take that one first step no matter how afraid I was and it would trigger the future.  And it didn't mean that I knew what I was going to do, but it also meant that I didn't have to know.  I just had to take one step and trust something.  Because nothing never happens.

Then I did.  I took a step and another and another and they continued to bring me my life.  

And soon, there was San Francisco, the bridge and the fog, everything new, and I was still quite frightened.  The days running through Golden Gate Park trying to piece everything together on my long runs.  Which, in retrospect, now that I've been out in the world a bit longer, I think was not the safest of things.  One young girl running through the biggest park in a city full of crazies on empty trails in the woods to the beach at any given hour of the day.  I've always been pretty trusting and naive, but I don't know if I'd do that now.  At least, I'd map it out better.  

Ah, wow, it's been a while since my San Francisco days have crossed my mind.  I've done so many different things since then.  But that was a part of bringing me here and to wherever it is I'm going.  

I'll tap into those memories more in the future.  There are too many from that time and they mean so much.  

In any case, it is truly fascinating to reflect on how much has gone into this one small life.  And how it only always takes one step for it to continue to unfold.

So, I guess, in the quiet times between working and undercooked eggs, I have mostly just been astounded to discover myself here.  And not still standing on a lawn in my graduation gown.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Kay 'n Dave's





Great joy this week when Bethany told me she was coming to visit me for lunch in Brentwood!  I have not yet had a visitor while at my new job and I had no idea how much it would mean to me.  Brentwood is so far away from all that was.  It sort of feels like I've been dropped on a small little island, so distant from anywhere, from the LA that I have always known and belonged to.  

So, when she arrived, I was just about jumping for joy. Or, actually, I was jumping for joy.  Possibly to her embarrassment, but that's the way we've always been together.  Me, unabashedly enthusiastic and dancing in the streets, and her, rolling her eyes, and us, loving each other just the same.

For some reason her visit made me think of a story my dad told me once that is seared into my heart.  He was about four and in the hospital with polio and came down with something else and had to be quarantined.  And he just remembered feeling so lonely in that small room and his only happiness was when his nanny would come and visit him and peer through the window and smile and wave and try to cheer him up and let him know it would be all right.  He always knew she loved him the most.

It might seem melodramatic, but that's what I thought of.

When Bethany came, I was so excited to finally go and try one of the many enticing restaurants in the area.  We decided on Kay 'n Dave's because I've been eyeing their menu for weeks now, but hadn't eaten there yet.  It just seemed like too much of a commitment for me to go there and dine alone. 

At least, so far it hasn't sounded like much fun to go to a fancy Mexican restaurant on my lunch break by myself.  The best food is made better because of the social element.  Being in the restaurant and sharing the whole experience.  If i'm just going to sit and eat my lunch while reading a book, I could pretty much be anywhere and happy.

On our way to the restaurant, as we were walking through quaint little Brentwood, Bethany mentioned how it felt a little bit stuffy.  I told her I'd thought that too.  Well, then our notion was solidified when we went into a store and I leaned against the wall and accidentally turned off ALL of the lights.  And I laughed and exclaimed, "Oops, sorry guys!"  And no one said a word. Not a one.  And I was just thinking, can't we just get a moment out of this?  Share a laugh, a little bit of banter?  No?  And everyone just went back to their business of trying on suits and such.  

Sometimes I don't get it.  I mean, to me, it's the interruptions of the day to day that make life the most interesting.  Those are the moments that remind you not to take it too seriously and usually the moments in which you can connect with people the most too, because you're all sharing an off-kilter experience together.  Then again, I've always liked a little bit of fracas.  I guess they don't really feel that way in Brentwood.

Lunch was great, though.  Our friend Patrick joined us for a little while, which was such a nice feeling, to be sitting in my new world with people who understand me.  We all used to work together at one point.  Now Patrick works near me, which has been a comfort, knowing someone is nearby who knows where I came from.

As for the meal, it was delicious from start to finish.  We started with the squash blossom relleno.  I've always loved squash blossoms. Maybe because it's such a beautiful thing to eat, just visually, you're taking in something so gorgeous.  Maybe because it always makes me hear my dad saying "squarsh blossom" because, I mean, he was from Illinois.  And I always loved it when his archived midwestern accent would come out.  There were only a few words, but squarsh was one of them.   And I always smile when I think of that.  

Anyway, I'm glad we got it because that dish was amazing!  And I love that Bethany is always willing to share food with me and try new things.  We went full stop and both got enchilada/taco combinations too, which were equally amazing.  Definitely not the standard Mexican fare.  The unique flavor of the mole sauce and the texture of the best cheese in the world that I come across every so often and have no idea where it comes from and all sorts of interesting flavors and elements that are the mark of truly gourmet food.  

Bethany has always shared my love of seriously good food.  I mean, she and I were devoted lunch partners when we worked together.  

That's actually how we initially connected.  Just sharing meals.  Taking lunch breaks together because, at a certain point, we only had each other as an option.  And then we slowly learned about each other and then we commiserated about work so much and life so much and then we just became friends and really good ones because we had shared so many stories and dreams at that point.  But I don't think it would have been that way without the long lunch escapes from work.

After lunch with Bethany and Patrick, when Bethany was driving away, back to the old world, I thought about all of the phases of our lives.  And how we are made of them and they are preserved by those who were there too.  

And so my past falls into the hands of those who shared it with me, only to be accessed through them.  And the tableaux of my life is held not by me, but by a string of people and places, and awakened only when I am around them, and there is comfort there.

As she left, I also thought of how much it meant to me that she came all that way to visit me for an hour.  I suppose that's why I recalled my dad's story, because when you are taken out of the world that you know, when you find yourself in the isolation of a new place, the people who visit you mean the most.  And they are few and far between.  And you know you are loved.  And nothing feels better.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Up on the Rooftop





No big expeditions into LA for me this week.  I'm still on the task of feeling unburdened and at peace.  So mostly I just found quiet time.

I took a blanket with me up to the roof last night and laid down under the full moon to think, or, actually, to try not to think, but I thought anyway.  First off, about how that beautiful soft golden moonlight was really just sunlight bouncing back from far around the globe.  It felt good up there, on the roof in the city, with horns and sirens and music and people screaming and laughing down on the streets in the background, just lying there, being calm and wondering.

A part of me felt like I was young again, on those nights in August when my mom would say to us, "Let's drag the sleeping bags out and watch the meteor showers!"  And we would.  But then, a part of me felt like I was me, here, as I am, lying on the roof of an apartment building thinking about various small aspects of my life.  And I did.

A huge change in my day to day is driving more.  And in driving more, I encounter more homeless, or, in any case, hungry people, or, sometimes, who even knows.  At one of my stoplights, there seems to be a very full rotating beggar schedule.  I see a different person on that corner each day and each hour of those days, so I see a lot of begging. 

And I am familiar now with the schedule, and have been so tempted to give something to everyone but haven't.  But the other day, I guess it was the right day for me to give.  I saw a new guy I hadn't encountered yet who had a sign that said "just hungry" and that spoke to me and I dug around in my bag and gave him the fruits and nuts bar I had been saving.  And he seemed really grateful and his eyes were kind.  

It's never enough, but I guess we do what we can.  That's always been a tricky one for me about the city.  The homeless and needy.  Because my first instinct is to give.  Then to be sad.  Then to be so thankful.  But you've got to pick and choose, I think, and so I do, and here and there I find ways to share.  I can't just give my whole life away to everyone else.  But if I can quell a little bit of suffering, by all means I will try.

Another change is the math.  I faced, again, a grueling numbers day at work this week.  But this time I can say with conviction that I actually felt good about it, and, dare I say, almost excited, because I took my time to understand it so well the last time.  So I wasn't as overwhelmed.  But I wish I was just a natural.  That I do wish.

There is one thing I can say about the me who exists now.  I have become quite the master of staying calm and carrying on, where, before, I was more often than not having a breakdown and calling my mom.  I am making strides.  That's a nice thing to reflect on under the moon on a blanket on the roof.

So, basically, that was my expedition of the week.  I laid on the roof and thought of these little things.  And of all the small wonders of living.  And how I want to continue, steadily, to grow.  And to be amazed by things, always.  Like that I no longer fear numbers.  And that the moonlight is actually sunshine.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Griffith Observatory








I went for a hike up to the Griffith Observatory yesterday morning.  I think I just really needed to do something passive.  And by passive I guess I don't mean inactive, because I was running and frolicking up and down that trail.  But I mean that I just had to make some time to have no responsibilities or obligations.  To not think of work and getting things done.  And to just be alone in a long moment of freedom from phone calls and emails and jobs and driving and schedules.

Griffith Park has long been a place of serenity for me.  My hike to the observatory begins with the lush overhang of trees, and wooden bridges that I think are there because of a creek, but it's always been dry as far as I've known, so sometimes I think the bridges are there just to look pretty, because they do.  

I love that hike.  I don't pass very many people on my trail.  This time it was only a guy with his one-eyed dog and a latino family, the little girls giggling as they slid down the dry desert slope.

And the observatory I've always loved.  It's free admission, so anyone can stroll in and learn all about the solar system and universe and history and science.  There's so much to see and discover in that building!

But this time I just walked the grounds, following the scaled down orbits of each planet marked by metal lines inlaid in the concrete around the building, and finally I stood on the small metal Earth for a while, stretching and thinking, while standing on the real Earth too.

Astronomy has long been an interest of mine.  When I began college as an english major, I also took on astronomy as my minor.  Well, it didn't take me long to realize that the involved studies of that education was not fit for a pastime!  So I switched it to philosophy.

I did, however, learn some beautiful things.  About the stars and planets and this phenomenal universe that is holding us all in its fine fragile grasp.  Worm holes and black holes and what is time.  It's fascinating to me.  Truly and deeply fascinating.

And I remember back in Aspen, when I took my first astronomy class in high school and just soaked it up. I'd take friends out with me over by the music tent at night, to the lumpy bumpy park, which I think is gone now, and we'd lie down and look at the deep black sky speckled with so many stars and I would point out every one I knew and show them the unreachable.  

And we'd lie there sometimes until the stars began to disappear with the early light of our big star.  And sometimes we'd go and visit a baker that I discovered who was up working before the town arose and he'd give us fresh cherry almond muffins in the earliest of the morning before his deliveries.  And those were the sweetest of nights.  

But yesterday I stood there and just took it all in.  The smoggy sweeping city below me.  The tourists and laughing children around me.  All of it operating and all of us together.

Standing atop this mystery, I just thought, god, I would not trade this world for the world!  It is by far my favorite place I've ever been.

And I thought about everyone else too.

Here's what I hope for us.  All of us.  To be good to each other.  Just to be good.  Because we are all on this tumultuous journey in this crazy beautiful universe.  And no one knows what it is.  But we can all understand.  We can understand a lot.  Like how every day is here and difficult, but somehow, sacred, for just being.