Monday, January 30, 2012

Chinese Cocktail

This last week was nice and cultural, and really really entertaining.  The Getty was sponsoring nightly art events all around the city and my friend Raffi and I were determined to make it out to at least one of the shows.  On the night we went, there were two offerings, a concert called "Chinese Cocktail" and parking lot art, each at a different venue.  Now, we had no idea what would be in store for us at either location, but we just decided to go to the concert since it was more time sensitive, figuring we could swing by the parking garage afterward.  Honestly, after being sick and house-bound for so many days, I was ready to venture out and do just about anything. 

So, Raffi came to pick me up and, sweet person that he is, brought me candy.  I, of course, responded to that gesture by telling him I don't like chocolate.  Nice.  I mean, who am I? I swear I have a sense of social decorum.  I went to etiquette classes when I was little, for god's sake.  Not my parents idea, by the by.  That was all me.  I always liked fancy things, yes I did.  Etiquette class. I thought that was real nifty.  

But I must seriously wonder where my social skills go sometimes.  For someone who is generally quite nice, I can be a little too direct when maybe just a thank you would be appropriate.  Ah, well, still learning, young grasshopper.

Anyway, with little to no recovery from that social foul on my part, we moved right along toward our mystery adventure.

The concert was at the Barnsdall Gallery Theatre, which I've never been to before.  I have, however, passed that strange hillside that juts up off the south side of Hollywood Boulevard and wondered what is up there and what in god's name a hill is doing right there smack dab on the street and what this area must have looked like without the city and that the hill would have still been random because there are no other ones near it.  

Well, there's a theatre atop that hill, and that is where we went.  As for the show.  It was sold out.  Good sign, for starters.  We slid in on the waiting list (thank you, Raffi, for the foresight).  Apparently, this concert had originally been performed in 1978 and some of the original musicians, including the composer (artist? lunatic?), were there to perform it for us.  Hoorah! 

Ok, so, now I could try and really explain the show, but I actually couldn't, because it was pretty inexplicable.  There were four parts, perhaps we could call them movements, though a classical comparison is a far reach.  The first segment was an illuminated cube accompanied by a succession of varying pitched hums.  Yeah, I know, like I said, not really explicable, but I gotta try.  The second part consisted of three people hitting different geometrically shaped pieces of metal, and someone else pounding on a box, I think.  Not rhythmically.  And then I don't remember the fourth segment that well, but I see here in the program that it was called the Black Ball.  Oh yeah, I remember that.  And, lastly, there were many assorted people making noises with, I think the best term would be, household goods.   I mean, there was a vacuum.  

Dare I write more?  It's kind of funny just like that.  Because that's exactly how the show was.  Like, errrrr, huh? I will say, at the end, I pulled out my best concert whistle because in the strangest way ever I really loved that show because no matter how perplexed it left me, I was amused to the highest order.  

I wasn't quite sure if it was supposed to be funny or if we were supposed to take it seriously or if the musicians thought it was funny or serious.  And then, the audience seemed serious about it, except Raffi and I.  And I wonder if the composer thinks it's funny that the audience is taking it seriously and that's the big joke and he just rolls with laughter afterwards.  Got 'em again!  Still as dumb today as they were in ol' '78! I don't know.  Raffi and I were sort of giggling and whispering the whole time and I felt like we were watching the Emperor in the parade wearing his new clothes and we were the only ones willing to admit he was naked.    But, again, who knows.  Who really knows.  

And I'm not even one to complain about household goods being used as instruments.  I've clanged my fair share of lids and spoons together marching through the kitchen.  Tabletops are nice drums.  And I laud someone for bringing that concept to the stage, I guess.  Do I?

I don't know what was going on, but I can say I give it to the guy for being unafraid to, well, I don't know quite how to put it, but, do something foolish?  Maybe? It's good to just let yourself be yourself and run free with an idea, regardless of what it is, I suppose.  There was probably a point. 

It's funny for me that I will never know what that meant.  I hate that.  But I love it.  

We did manage to swing by the parking garage show after, by the way.  It was at the Standard on Sunset.  When we got there, most of it had been torn down already, but there was one guy still raking his Japanese rock garden in a parking space, which I thought was cool.  And a few other bits of installations that looked pretty interesting.  Which is when Raffi and I looked at each other and said, "We picked the wrong show."  But, then again, did we?   

Tuesday, January 24, 2012


This last week, impressively, I made it to Komida not once, but twice.  Now, I've been trying to get there for a while now. But last week, the magic happened.  

And forgive me if this post doesn't quite do it justice, as my brain still feels a little bit squished and dried out from being dreadfully sick these past four days.  Well, dreadfully might be exaggerating, but it sure felt like it.  And I only just broke through today, so I'm not sure quite where I stand in regards to the grammar part of my brain.  

It's so strange being sick when you live alone.  You're sort of rendered a child again and feel so weak and fragile, but no one's there to take care of you but yourself.  I'm good at it.  But how odd to have to mother yourself.  I made soup, then took a nap.  I ate soup, then nap.  Filled the hot water bottle, then held on to that thing under the warm covers like it was a teddy bear and I was five.  

Don't get me wrong, I guess I didn't have to go it alone.  Friends offered to stop by and bring me things, but the last thing I wanted in that state was visitors.  So I nurtured my own self like I was a child and even had to tell myself that it was ok, the fever meant my body was fighting and the fight would hurt but it would be over eventually.  It's crazy, it takes so much strength to be sick.

Well, I made it.  And am here to tell the tale of my Komida outings.

Now, Komida is a relatively new restaurant situated, peculiarly, in the Hollywood and Highland mall, but doesn't feel like it, thank god.  It's set at the end of a quiet corridor and is all brick and glass and patio.  Good setting.  I was so excited when I got the flyer on my car announcing it's opening because it is actually the restaurant version of Yamashiro's popular taco stand at their night-time farmer's market. (Again, more on that event when the time comes.)

The first time I went was with my friend Brad.  He had already eaten, but joined me anyway since he'd been wanting to check the place out as well.  Bless his heart.  For so many reasons.  That boy has been such a true friend over the years and has been through so much and I just love him.  When I met him, he was completely addicted to pain killers and just about everything and now he is clean and radiant and so very strong.  He makes it look easy, but I know it's not.  

So, he joined me while I ate my absolutely delicious vegetarian asian fusion taco and wasabi guacamole with reckless abandon.  Well, I had just come from the dentist, so I also ate the inside of my cheek with reckless abandon, but that did not stop me from enjoying that taco.  They also serve lychee sangria, which, though I wouldn't say lychee is my favorite flavor, it worked well as a complement to the food.

At lunch, Brad showed me his latest tattoo, which was a New Year's gift to himself.  And when I asked him why his tattoos are important, he explained that they remind him to never go back to how he was.  He made a good point, that I think anyone can relate to in one way or another, that it is so easy to forget how bad it was once you're through it.  So he prints visual reminders for himself to keep choosing to go the way he is going.  Because every single second of our lives, we get to choose exactly who it is we want to be and exactly what it is we want to do.  It's a good point to keep in mind.  We are choosing this.

Anyway, the second outing to Komida was with my friends Jessica and Bethany.  We first went to get manicures and pedicures together, which is not something I usually do, and I felt like we were princesses.  I swear there were about seven or eight people working on the three of us.  One of the women and I bonded over our jewelry because both of our grandfathers had been jewelers, hers in Vietnam, mine in Illinois.  I've never had that connection with someone. That was cool. Though I don't need to make a habit of it, it was pretty nice to be so pampered.  

After the indulgence, we made our way to Komida for afternoon tacos and sangria.  It was fun to go with the girls because I got to see all of the other kinds of tacos that I don't eat.  Duck and cod and short rib and chicken.  Not that I had any desire to eat those ones, but I appreciate an interesting menu and love it when people get excited about food.  And they were very excited.  

Mine was even better the second time, possibly because I actually had feeling in my mouth.  And I was prepared for the floral aspect of the sangria and the chewiness of the lychees, so I appreciated it more this time and actually really liked it.  It doesn't take long for me to adapt to new and unfamiliar things.  I think it's why I travel well, because I like that.  I don't want everything to be like what I'm used to.  I don't want to go out into the world and always find the America that I know.  I really love being introduced to new things and learning to appreciate them because they are different from what I am accustomed to.  And I like adding things to my repertoire so that they then become familiar and they become part of me and I can just keep expanding more and more, forever, hopefully.

I think some people tend to seek out the things that they are already comfortable with.  Which is all well and good, I suppose.  But not for me.  This girl, I'm so interested in finding things I have not found before.  I want to broaden my palette and extend my well of knowledge in every way all of the time.  And I try and seek it out, even if nearby.  It's nice that a little restaurant down the street can do that for me.  I am traveling, always. 

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Grilled Cheese Truck

So I did something this week wonderfully stamped with LA's mark of approval.  Bethany and I were going to get lunch at a new pita restaurant on Melrose, but on the way, lo and behold, we spotted the gourmet Grilled Cheese Truck parked right across the street!  Now, we both kind of held our breath and looked at each other and were sort of like, there's no way we're just encountering this thing casually. That just doesn't happen.  

I mean, as far as my knowledge goes in regards to the gourmet food trucks of Los Angeles, you have to follow their twitters and know where they're going to be parked at certain times and you find out at the last minute, so you kind of have to be obsessed, really.  Well, apparently, Bethany and I are secretly obsessed, without having done any actual footwork, with the Grilled Cheese Truck.  I could only tell this detail by our respective reactions.  Oh, we'd heard of that thing, all right.  And had obviously both dreamed of finding it one day.  

And then, there we were, both aghast, on our way to energetically support a new spot for shawarma and falafel, when we got distracted by our secret dream.  So, naturally, we pretended to debate which place we should go to for lunch, but we obviously both knew that we'd end up at the Grilled Cheese Truck.  That's like once in a lifetime for the likes of us non-followers.  And so it was written.  And we pulled that car over at the first spot we could find and made our way to the curb and anyone who cared to look would have seen us beaming.  Now, I'm not sure if that is normal behavior for food truck followers, because everyone else in line seemed quite at ease, but, you know what, I think we really didn't care to hide our enthusiasm right then. 

So, I ordered the gruyere and avocado.  I kept it simple and fancy.  I did notice in the topping options something called "fritos" and I just assumed, probably because of my wariness of sketchy mexican food trucks, that it was slang for fried ham or something.  And the next thing I know, Bethany is ordering hers with fritos and I could just tell by the American way she said it that I was wrong.  And I looked at her and said, "chips?" and she said, "yep" and, not to spoil it for those who want to experiment and order fritos on their grilled cheese, but, that was a good idea.

We were so happy to be there, actually, that when an overly friendly stranger walked up to us while we were waiting for our food, we gladly humored him with conversation.  And, when I say we, I guess I really mean Bethany, because I'm definitely the more friendly one with the strange dudes.  Although I will give it to her for being sweetly tolerant of the nonsensical homeless extroverts with shopping carts when I get scared and silent.  She does surprise me there.  But she's the tough one.  

In any case, this guy, well, he was the type that I just tend to feed into, because he was so friendly and chill.  And he'd just moved to LA, and was wondering how to assimilate, and I told him that he was doing well just by being his friendly self.  And then our food was up, and I said that we had to go and get back to work but nice to meet him and he said, "So there's no time for a threesome?"  Yeah.  Ok.  You lost us, there.  Seriously, now you're a creep and I regret saying that you'll manage here on being yourself.  Couldn't he just have been friendly?  Am I too naive? 

But we moved on from that situation and decided to go and sit on a wonderful garden curb by the car and that's when it got good again.  Just sitting side by side on a curb, each with our grilled cheese in a tinfoil bag and tater tots and dipping sauces on the sidewalk between us.  It was perfect.  And the sun was shining extra bright that day.  And we both remarked how in that moment, with those elements surrounding us, we really felt like we were living in a city.  

The food truck, the weirdo guy, the sitting on the curb dining, the sun on the pavement, and a lot of commotion around us.  It seemed like a true and proper city.  And that actually felt really good to us.  Maybe because we both came from small towns and so fully appreciate and desire and love all that being in a city means for us.  Maybe because LA doesn't feel like a city city that often.  It was nice.  We were definitely both reveling in it in our own way.  

And I love reveling in things like that so much.  Like eating a grilled cheese sandwich on the sidewalk with a best friend in the sunshine.  Sometimes, it can get no better.  

I want to always be unabashedly engulfed by those full and overflowing moments.  

Because time does go too fast.  And life here.  I know there is so little of it. I know I don’t get that long and that things will just keep changing even when I don’t want them to. I know that I get to try and be me, this one girl with this one life, for so short a time and I want to do it all and live it so badly and take the things I am handed and love them for being there and keep going, going, pushing forward into this whole experience.

And it's just those moments that do it for me.  When I know I am living it so fully and really taking it in.  Those feel so right.  And I thank that Grilled Cheese Truck for that simple but memorable opportunity to indulge in it all for that short hour.

Monday, January 9, 2012


I made it to Ojai last week for our late Christmas gathering!  All of the family.  Oh, it's such a good getaway for me, to rejuvenate and relax and not really have to worry about anything for a couple of days.  And to be surrounded by so much love and wisdom.  Every time I am with my family, I can't help but feel acutely aware of how blessed I am to have been born amongst those people.  Seeing them all and being with them, I'm just always thinking, I am so lucky.  I am so very lucky.

And we laugh so much together, which is a beautiful thing.  My brother was telling us about a book mom passed on to him, something from the '70s I think.  The author channels the knowledge of the Pleiadians, yes she does, and one of the things they tell her is that (let me pause a moment to relay that this is a non-fiction book) earth is a "magnificent intergalactic information center."  Well, now, I love that, no matter who told whom.  So I kept pretending to answer the phone, saying, "Thank you for calling the Magnificent Intergalactic Information Center, how may I direct your call?"  We laughed.  We sure did laugh.

But let me back up.  Ojai deserves a better intro.  The first amazing part of going to Ojai is my drive up there.  I am lucky for that too, because it's just so easy.  Basically, I take one road, the 101, from my apartment to my mom's house.  And the drive is so gorgeous, from start to finish. This time, in particular, during that drive, I kept thinking how much I love California.  I mean, I said it out loud a few times, even.  I love California.  All of it.  

And that drive.  I start in the crazy smoggy colors and then the ocean breeze and the most beautiful rocky hillsides and cows on the hills and the piers reaching out toward the bright horizon and always some misty shining fog somewhere.  And then pastures and fields and groves and groves of oranges and avocado orchards.  And those ceaselessly pink mountains cradling the Ojai valley.  

And then I'm in Ojai.  Which I've decided ('bout time) that I will try and start to refer to as home.  Because I always call it Ojai, since I never actually lived there.  But, it's got to be home now.  It's where my parents moved years ago and it's where I sleep on a couch every time I visit and it's where we come together and cook and sing and play games and laugh and cry and philosophize.  And we've been through more there as a family than anywhere, really.  Well, I mean, more of the deep and heartwrenching things.  The things that forced us to adjust and find the strength to soldier on together and discover ourselves to be intrepid and good. It deserves to be called home, by now.  It has to be.

This trip was great all around.  Sunny and warm for us.  And it's always good to get to cook with my sister and brother and mom too, while Stefan plays guitar in the background, because they are the most talented bunch of chefs I know, so I learn a lot.  We made Spanikopita (props out to our YaYa) and it was, I think, the best we've ever made.  Or, actually, mom pretty much made that all by herself, come to think of it.  In any case, the adult children did some cooking too.  

My sister and I always plan on making something strange, or at least something that seems like it might be challenging.  Things that you forget aren't born in packages.  Like, once we made marshmallows.  This year, we decided to make the english muffins to use in our eggs benedict.  I highly recommend trying it some time.  They were good, like really, really good.  The secret of english muffins, it seems, is that they are not cooked in an oven, but grilled in a pan.  Who knew?

But it would have been fine if they didn't turn out.  Part of our wanting to make difficult things is to remind ourselves that the joy of cooking is cooking it, like the joy of life is living it.  (That last bit's a quote from somewhere, I think, that always crosses my mind, unless I made it up, which would be cooler.)  Because it's so true and important to remember.  I used to only cook things I knew I could make, because if I tried something else,  I would get frustrated that things weren't turning out right, or that I burnt something or dropped the batter on the ground.  But it was my sister and brother who taught me that it's the experimenting and messing up that, if you can enjoy the process, make you a better cook in the end.  

Well, now, ain't that the truth.  As with cooking, so too with life.  I struggled the most with life when I thought it was supposed to be easy.  That was hard.  But once I realized it was difficult, that's when it got fun. 

Monday, January 2, 2012

New Year

So, the new year is a time for introspection and reflection. And for me, I was thinking, I always get asked what someone like me is doing in LA.  It's an interesting question, to which, since I've gotten it so many times over the years, I do know the answer.  Many answers.  But here's one reason.  

Most people who meet me or know me see this girl who likes to pick flowers and dance beneath the moonlight and jump in rivers.  Which is true, very true.  So, it's understandable that a big city seems an incongruous place for me.  But why I think I'm in LA is because there are things that attract me even more than just nature (which I do love, so much, but I still have it here, I promise).  Here's what I love probably more.  Human interaction and new experiences.  And those, those I have gotten here over the years, amply, and it seems never-ending.  And I love that.

I've always been that way.  Wanting to do everything and try everything and have adventures of all sorts and make friends with everyone.  God, the people I brought through my home back in Aspen! All of the good-hearted rascals you could conjure.  Every post-collegiate ski bum that I managed to meet and drag home to the fireplace.  Every single exchange student that came to those mountains or transplant or new student. All of the transients that I met playing hackie sack in the park downtown.  My teachers.  The older architect who always wanted my help with interior design. The winter waiters and summer bartenders that I invited to my old home, playing music by the creek.  It's always been who I am.  

I love experience.  I love people.    

And I don't care what age you are, what your job is, where you came from, how nuts you seem, what you look like, I welcome sincere people the most. Those who are a bit ragged and rough but real, slightly crazy but hanging in there, got life down enough that they're still forging on somehow, somehow with a smile on their face and able to laugh off the small stuff and able to enjoy the good times and appreciate the bad times and keep going and keep doing it and trudging forward and loving it. 

That's what I seek in people. Taking it all in and loving it for some bizarre reason. But staying grounded too. Like really getting that we don't know what it's about and relishing it regardless. And just living, like really really living, unabashed, each and every second, each breath of wind, each crash of the wave, every turn of the trees and smile and kiss and brush of a hand across the shoulder. The feel of life.  Because there is so much to feel.  Every sense open at every moment. Just feeling it all. 

Hearts laid bare, souls tried and tested.  Wise from living.  

And you know what? So many of the people I've welcomed into my life have shown the most touching gratitude for my friendship. The sweetest of things are returned when you embrace people for being exactly who they are.  Just one example, because I know he wouldn't mind.  My sweet street-performer friend that I met a few years ago on Hollywood Blvd sent a toast to me this New Year's Eve:  "Thanks for being there with me through the tough times and there for the good.  You mean more to me than the words I could ever formulate in this life."  

Also, rifling through my old papers and things the other night, I came across a letter sent from this rather vagrant guy I met in Boulder who seemed so crazy, drove a painted little car and always wanted to record people saying "I'm a little bunny rabbit" into his recorder.  But he had the best heart and I could see intelligence in him and I was always a friend to him, and his letter said: "You brought me out of the darkest times, and I thank you.  I thank you for trusting in me and being my pal no matter if I wore the same thing every day or if my hair was dirty…I love you…Ya that's right, I love you and always will." And he's now successfully in real estate.  I mean, I can be the only person who believes in someone and it really can be enough.  Which brings a tear to my eye and is astounding all at once.  

So there's a reason, for all you skeptics and naysayers who may have wondered, why I think LA is perfect for my personality.  And those who really know me well, they know that I'll always find time to be a fairy child in the forest.  

Happy New Year!