Monday, March 26, 2012


What a good week!  As it just had to happen, I finally had some people over to my place for a small soiree, a housewarming party of sorts.  It has been pending for a while, but who knew it took so long to become presentable.  Well, it took me a while, but I felt ready, finally this week, to have company.  

Hosting little get togethers is just something I've always loved, but for the last many years I've had too small a space for that sort of crowd.  I tried, though, I sure did try.  I remember one Thanksgiving when my friend Brooke came over and I made the whole feast, in my tiny little place, using a hotplate and toaster oven!  And we sat on the floor and ate off of a box and it was the sweetest Thanksgiving I could ever ask for.  Thanksgiving on a box.  

In any case, my little party was such a contrast to the alone time last week.  Just a surge of energy and people and talking.  We played a board game that I haven't played in ages called Pop 5.  The instructions are complicated to explain, but it basically consists of getting your team to guess something by doing one of a variety of activities that are worth 1 to 5 points, depending on how easy or difficult the opposing team deems each activity.  It's a complete riot and everyone loved it!  

I must interrupt myself to say that the first thing Bethany pointed out upon her arrival was that the paintings above my bed were not even.  Of course. I was just like, yeah, I know, you'll read about it in the blog.  Count on Bethany to see that right away and say something about it.  Gotta love that girl.

Anyway, I get to have company now!  By the multitudes!  I mean, I had five, count it, five, people in my apartment for the evening.  I was like a kid before her birthday preparing for that thing!  Sometimes, I think it's really the moments in between the big moments that mean so much.  Preparing for that little party, it was so joyful for me.

So, Bethany, Johnny, Jessica, Agatha and Jonathan, the usual suspects, all came over for the evening of fun.  I had a full spread of appetizers, including the last of my homemade Spanikopita, which was well loved and there was even a "you made this from scratch?" thrown in there, to my ego's pride, because, well, you heard that story.  So it was good enough for public consumption, mind you, and it was the first food that was eaten up before all of the other wonderful treats. Hummus and vegetables and two cheeses and pita chips and mushroom turnovers and flatbread and tzatziki and spinach dip.  There were good eats, to say the least.  

And my apartment felt warm and inviting and I just can't wait to have people over again.

It's funny, this week.  It's as if my last week in my own company had to be counter balanced by all of the people I love.   My friend David invited me over to hang out the other afternoon and I ended up taking a cab there since I figured we'd have a glass or two of wine together.   Both of us being lovers of wine and all.  And, yes, I am seriously one of the few people in LA who takes cabs.  Why there is no cab culture here, I will never understand.

Anyway, to the cab ride itself.  I have this thing with cab drivers.  I've always felt they're under-loved.  I think they need some kindness.  I know they do, by now.  Because I've talked deeply to a lot of them in my time.  Ask anyone who's ever been in a cab with me, I'm the one who always tries to sit in the front to talk to the cab driver.  I mean, I've really learned so much about the world and different countries and different perspectives.  It's been an education.  Even if I'm forced into the back with everyone else, I always lean forward and have a conversation with the driver through that small window, ignoring my friends all the while.  

But, I decided so long ago that no one ever talks to the cab driver.  And they're just driving for hours and hours.  Plus, it's usually driving around with angry, impatient or obnoxious people.  I know this because they've told me.  That would just not be fun!  And I've always had this childlike enthusiasm to learn about life and inquire.  So, young me decided to make it a small mission to talk to them all and get their stories and hopefully make them feel appreciated for a little while.  

It's how I've always been though.   I want to keep others company.  To learn and to share.  Even on road trips, I'm always determined to stay awake with the driver and keep them company and play games like I-spy, and what-name-of-a-place-begins-with-the-last-letter-of-the-place-I-just-named.  These are good games that can keep you awake for the long haul.  I do tend to go out of my way for the comfort of others.  Because I know how it feels.  And I know what it would mean if others did the same for me.  It means a lot.

So the first cab driver, well, I was actually going to take the bus, but then this cab pulled up at the stop light and I just sort of spontaneously jumped in and started rambling.  He was Russian and just hates his job and likes Russia better but his wife and kids really like it here and are thriving, so I just had to reassure him that his decision was a good one because his loved ones matter and his job might be tough for him, but it's leading to good.  And he did say that I made his day better and his job better.

Um. Well, but the cab driver on the way home, hmmmm.   He was an interesting one.  Probably the most interesting yet, as they usually humor me and converse back at the very least.  This one.  Tough.  I started in on my how's your shift going spiel and he just sort of shrugged and moved his lips, but no words.  Wore a huge visor and dark sunglasses and held the steering wheel like his life depended on it, but really close to it, like he needed it for comfort.  So, after me asking a few more of my stock cab driver questions, that usually get me far and they open up, he was still shrugging and moving his lips in like a half-mumble, I asked him aloud, and in sign, if he signed.  I just thought, why not?  Maybe that's it.  And he shook his head no.  Damn.  I had some nice inspiring sign language sentences for him, too.  I only know a few, but they're good.  

I think I got a good vibe from him anyway.  Like he appreciated my effort but was just socially not up to it.  So I felt all right about the whole thing.  

And then I was back home.  And my home is so good.  

After a rambunctious and social week, I realized something.  Your home is an extension of yourself.  It's who you are, no matter how small or big or who's there or not.  At the root of it, your home is you.  It's the same either way, when you are really living who you are.  Alone, or with others, you've always got this home of sorts.  Yourself.  Anywhere.  

And, mine, it's a very solid place.  Built with the scaffolding of love, doors hinged with experience, windows seeking to discover and walls painted with wonder.  It's a good place to call home, it really is.  

Also,  I just have to say how amazing it was last night here in LA!  It was the downpour of all downpours.  I simply had to run up to the roof and watch the rain fall in sheets and listen to the thunder.  Good god!  Sometimes, just, I don't know.  No words can express the thrill I get from watching this magnificent display.  It will forever astound me.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Hollywood Farmer's Market

Well, I had done just about nothing this week, and was a bit worried about coming up with anything worth writing about, when I decided to go to the Hollywood Farmer's Market, because that's something I really love.  And I hadn't been there in a while, especially by myself.  I think I forget sometimes that I can also go and do things alone, and it still counts as doing things.  

That's a very sweet thing, being alone. It's just a completely different feeling. And sometimes it's a tossup between whether I like being by myself out in the world or being with others.  It's just two different experiences.  Like, when I go the farmer's market with my friends, which is usually the case, we are learning about each other and exploring together and interacting with one another and sharing food and deciding and buying things together.  

And then, when I go alone, I'm interacting with the vendors, and tasting things I might not have otherwise tasted, and stopping to listen to the out of tune asian man playing his guitar for longer maybe than I would if someone else was with me, and smiling at the bassist of the jazz quartet while tapping my foot as they play "Take 5" thinking of my dad again because he introduced me to Dave Brubeck and jazz and I will forever be thankful for that, and maybe standing there too long as well because I get lost in thoughts of happiness and love and how beautiful the world is.  

I must say, too, that whenever I do go to farmer's markets alone, I always reminisce about visiting my sister when she was living in Paris years ago.  There was just about a farmer's market on every street, and at this one we went to, right by her apartment, by the Notre Dame, by the Seine, so romantic, I made us buy a baguette because I just had to be walking around Paris with a baguette in my arms.  And what a good trip that was!  Part of my coming of age, really, as I was starting to see myself as a girl in the world apart from my hometown and family.  I was me.  In the world.  Just me.  And I knew then that I got to be that everywhere and truly explore everything on my own.

Speaking of doing things alone, I decided to hang a few paintings in my place a couple of nights ago.  I'm slowly putting everything together, and I realized how much easier it is to hang paintings with someone else there.  For perspective, especially, but also for holding the measuring tape while I hold the painting and the pencil to mark the spot.  But it was really fun doing it by myself, because I just had hammers and nails and paintings and tape measures in my hands and I kept dropping things and giggling and talking to myself out loud.  And then I had one painting up and tried to get the next one at the same level and it came out about half an inch lower, so I raised it, and then the other one was lower, but I liked the higher one better, so I moved the other one higher and then I just laughed again because they're still not even, and now I have four holes in the wall, instead of two and soon probably six.  And I know if someone had been with me there would only be two and it sure wouldn't have taken as long.  But would I have giggled at my self so much and had quite as much fun climbing around, trying to balance everything?  Probably not.  It was really fun for me to be by myself trying to keep perfecting something and failing but the resulting experience was perfect.  

It's just good to spend some quality time with one's self.  

As it so happened, I had the pleasure of joining myself for dinner the other night, as well.  My friend was going to come over for dinner the other day, but something important came up.  So I decided to make the dinner anyway, for a trial run, and to cook it before the ingredients were wasted, if for nothing else, and that, too, was a really fun time.  Put on my Sinatra/Jazz cooking playlist and just dove in.  

I was making spanikopita, which was crafted many times in my household growing up, Greek heritage and all, but I think, somehow, I managed to miss the cooking bit every time.  Like, I don't know what I've been doing every time they've been cooking that over the years, but, I don't think I've ever really partaken in making it.  So, this was a new recipe to me, in a way.  And thank god I did the trial run!  

Again, it was me fumbling and laughing by myself because everything was much more difficult than I had assumed.  I realized that phyllo dough is not easy to work with, who knew?  It rips everywhere and dries out really fast. And I burnt the butter, and I could have been upset, but I looked at it and just smiled and blurted out, "Look, I made ghee, daddy!"  And I probably got a tear in my eye too, well, I did, because it was so real and sincere, talking to my dad out loud, and thinking how he loved making ghee, and showed me how, and suddenly I accidentally made it and it made me happy, too.  It was a nice moment for me, finding such good feelings in a mistake like burning butter.  

Really, I enjoyed the whole process because I was alone and dancing around the kitchen, and the result, it didn't matter at all.  It was delicious, but I would put about twice the amount of filling in it the next time around, for the record, as it sort of seemed like someone sat on it, when all was said and done.  So we learn as we go.  The cooking thing again, it's about the process, and experimentation.  And that's how you learn.  Always and with everything.  

And, I realized the most this week, that the mistakes are not necessarily mistakes.  It's like, we think we know how it's supposed to go, how everything should be, what's best, but we just don't.  

The right thing is most likely what does happen.  Like, there was a reason for me to go to the farmer's market because I had nothing else to do this week.  It was good to realize I don't need to rely on other people to do things with me to have something to write about.  And hanging those paintings, there was more pleasure in that chaos than ever there would have been had I been practical and just had someone help me.  Yes, the paintings would probably be straight right now, but I would have gotten about five minutes of measuring and discussing placement to get them that way rather than two hours of laughing and joy to get them uneven.  And that grand cooking fiasco!  That one ghee moment was probably one of the most heartfelt and deep and meaningful moments that I could ever feel.   

So, the mistakes, they're not, I think, when you really back up and take in the whole picture.  If you're not just looking for things to go one way, you can really find a lot of beauty in each experience, just as it is.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Cat & Fiddle

What good times this writing is bringing my way! It seems like it's motivating my friends to get out and do things with me, as they want to help provide me with fodder for this.  And I think they're enjoying it as much as I.  Thank you friends for loving me and helping me.

I had a fun and insightful brunch with Bethany and Jessica the other day at Solar de Cahuenga, which is sort of our bi-weekly tradition, which I love, I must say.  We just catch up and analyze everything and love being together and laugh and learn and constantly become better.  This particular time, we ended up discussing being brave and especially me being brave, especially in regards to love and relationships, because I know I've been going the safe route with that one these days.  Allowing men into my life that just adore me but I'm rather indifferent and I know I can leave and keep my independence.  

I mean, I think about this a lot these days.  And it's important for me to realize that I am scared sometimes.  So that I can consciously try and be vulnerable, and let myself risk, I suppose you could say, rejection.  To not worry about what might surmise, but to just put my whole heart out there and try.  To let myself want something even if I am not absolutely sure it will want me back.  It does seem the only way to do it.  And it is scary.  But who gets anywhere by being afraid?  And what do you ever have to lose, really, when it comes to trying to get something you don't already have?  And relationships, anyway, they're all about being vulnerable.  And really being who you are the whole time, unabashed, so that you can truly know if it feels right.  

So, we're at the heart of all of this, eating our delicious breakfast, as usual, and digging deeper into the topic and really getting to the revelations and then this girl walks by outside wearing bright pink footie pajamas in all seriousness, with a nice bag and all, and we all just stared, confounded and snickering for a minute, and, then, I was just like, "You know what? If she can walk down the street in that, then I can be brave in everything."  And we all laughed, but at the same time were like…seriously.  That's it. I mean, it's true.  Who are we trying to impress?  What else should we be being but ourselves?  That was the final nudge I needed to live what I know is true. Thank you to the girl in the fuchsia footie jammies! Thank you.  I can be brave in everything.  I might as well be.

Well, after that discussion, we decided it was time for a night out.  So we planned on going to play darts at the Cat & Fiddle, an old favorite haunt of mine.  We gathered quite a crew, seven of us, which is an LA miracle, to say the least!   Only one friend couldn't make it because of a prior obligation, and I would say, it was to his loss, but who's to say, but me.  Though I think it was one of the finest game nights in history.  So we were going in to it with an uneven number for teams, but it worked out beautifully, and possibly for the better, as we had to make teams that we probably would not have considered had it been otherwise.  It was a great roster of company.  Bethany and her boyfriend Johnny, Jessica and Agatha and our friends Scott and Jonathan.  And me.  

Cat & Fiddle has one of the best patios in all of LA, in my humble opinion.  All greenery and a big fountain and it's set back off of Sunset Boulevard, so it's like this beautiful little enclave in the midst of Hollywood.

So we all met up ready for a good night of darting. When we first got there, we all ordered a drink at the bar.  After about a sip, I had a classic moment of me being me in this world. I asked the bartender if we could get darts from him and he said, "Can I have your ID?" And I paused for a second and just looked at him all confused and innocent and said, "How old do you have to be to play darts?!?"  

Oh, god, that was good!  The bartender gave me a blank stare, as he was trying to figure out what sort of person he was dealing with, for god's sake.  I remained dumbfounded for a minute and then I finally caught on.  And a beat later, everyone just started laughing hysterically!  I mean, he just needed my ID as insurance for the darts!  Who am I, I often wonder?  How old do you have to be to play darts?  My friends declared that to be one of my most legendary quotes.   Which, well, it sort of is.  But they've come to expect those very spontaneous, naive moments from me.  Bethany sometimes says it's like I just stepped out of fairy land or something, like, what world am I living in?

Anyway, we got that all figured out and I got my darts and left my ID with the bartender.  And off to the dartboard we went.  With an uneven number of people, we configured various teams, but in the end decided on boys against girls.  Old school style.  Like middle school old school.  

Everyone decided to get dinner first, except me.  I opted out because, well, English food is just not my favorite.  I mean, I like peas and all, but.  I will say, however, that I think the Cat & Fiddle changed the menu up a bit since last I went.  It seemed more extensive and less English, which was nice, and everyone's dishes looked rather appealing if one were privy to eating such things.

Then off to the dartboard.  That was a good game!  We established early on that none of us were exactly experts.  However, I will still stand by my enthusiasm, born that night, for us joining a dart league. I don't know if the others quite shared my sentiment, but they humored the idea nonetheless.  Gotta love friends for that.  

So the match was pretty close all the while. I think we all played well, improved, and each had our shining moments, but when it came to the end, the girls just needed two bull's eyes to close out the game and we each took our turn and tried with all of our might to just nail it, with some close calls, and then Bethany gets up to bat, and that girl, in a moment of true sportsmanship, just sends those things flying, two in a row, into that bullseye and we come out champions!  Amazing.  We are still amazed.  I might forever be.  

This I know.  It all takes bravery.  Throwing a dart even when you're not good at it, talking to someone you might really like, opening your heart, letting people see the real you, without fear of being judged, without fear of the consequences.  We need to be brave to get anywhere.  

And I have to remind myself that the joy in my heart and my enchantment with life are indestructible.  So I never need to think I am risking anything by putting myself out there.  Because I always have myself to come back to.  I might lose a lot of things in this life, maybe even a game of darts someday, but me, that I will never lose.

And, just in case it seemed like I made up the footie jammies thing to make my case, Bethany and I did a small recon mission after breakfast for proof.

Monday, March 5, 2012

Cobras and Matadors

First off, tragedy upon tragedies, my very favorite, all time favorite restaurant, Cobras and Matadors, closed.  I just never expected that.  But when I drove past it the other day, I saw brown paper covering the windows and I just had a sinking feeling.  I was determined to go find out what was happening.  Thinking (hoping) maybe they were just renovating or something.  

So I marched in to the sandwich shop next door to it for investigative research.  Approaching the counter with fingers crossed, I asked the guy there what was going on with Cobras and Matadors.  He replied, all nonchalant and matter of fact, that it closed and that the taco place around the corner was going to take it over and start a restaurant version of itself.  Heart sunk.  That guy did not know who he was talking to and I may have welled up when I said, "…more…Cobras?"  And he sort of chuckled and was like, "Yep, no more Cobras."  

I mean, I lost a brethren with that one.  That was my place.  

Basically every friend I have ever had in LA has been there with me.  It's like, an introduction to me comes with an introduction to Cobras and Matadors.  It was my place to take anyone and awe them with the quaint bustling space and that delicious menu that had about a million tapas on it that were always shared and swooned over.  It was my place to show people and they were always impressed and it just spoke volumes about me and what I love, like small restaurants filled with people and noise and sharing food.  

And I knew about the secret extra bathroom. Where you had to walk through the kitchen and out into the alley and into a weird storage room.  And on my last birthday celebration there, the waitress overheard me saying that I didn't feel like dessert, but it would still be nice to have some sort of festive ending, like even a blob of whipped cream on a plate.  And the next thing I know she brings a plate over to our table with a candle in a blob of whipped cream on it and everyone is singing happy birthday and that was so wonderful!  

I don't really quite know how I'm going to get over this one.  That's a serious loss for me.  Crestfallen.  It was just there.  And I'm still registering the fact that I won't be able to get that food anymore.  And go there.  Memories, memories.  How does everything just leave us? 

So, I started to calm down and figure out how to best handle the news.  Well, first, I thought, I might as well be open and go to that little taqueria, La Escuela, and see what I might be in for once they create a restaurant.  Maybe that could be my new favorite place.  I've got to find one.  That is a necessary mission.

I dragged Bethany over there the first opportunity I had.  It's a really small place.  Cute but tiny.  And a little weird from the start.  Sort of stunted service.  Slow.  We couldn't quite figure out what was going on.  And it seemed like no one else could either.  

There were empty plates in front of us, which made us wonder how the food was going to get served. The decor was throwing us off too, not quite cohesive.  And then we overheard a waitress telling this guy about options not on the menu.  That got us a bit peeved.  Why didn't anyone tell us about the secret menu?  You know I'm a sucker for secret menus.   And I noticed too how there were so many pork options and we were smack dab in the middle of probably the largest Hasidic neighborhood in all of LA. So Bethany and I decided that it was the place that the local Jewish people go in plain clothes to get their pork on the sly, and that's how the place is staying in business.  We certainly had some good little laughs observing everything.  

Our food was actually really good, brought over in those little cardboard trays, to be transferred by us to our plates.  Weird.  We loved our tacos, though.  Mine were poblano peppers and cheese, so, simple, but perfect.  However, I'm not sure that could make up for the rest of it.  And then, when we had to pay, (minor detail), we were informed that it was cash only.  Which is fine, if we'd known.  But nothing told us that, from start to finish.  Not on the door, not on the menu, not on the table or counter or anything.  So that was a bother.  I mean, we'd already eaten.  What if we just didn't have a way to get cash?  Some people don't, I know some.  They still go to the bank.  

Someone needs to school La Escuela. 

Anyway, I am going to give the restaurant a chance once it opens, regardless.  But really, probably, I'll go to the restaurant just so that I can revisit the old Cobras space, in all honesty.  I've got to go into that room again!  I really wish I could have had a warning that my favorite restaurant was going to close.  To have been able to have one final meal there and make a toast to that old room rife with so many varied memories.  But, you know, that's really life for you.  We rarely get warned.

I remember it.  Again.  This is why we should do things when they are at our door.  As the closing of Cobras proved to me once again, nothing stays.  And that's how it goes.  We just don't know when we will lose things.  When things might just disappear on us, and then we find them gone, and then we wish.

The problem is, we always think we have time.  And we don't.  Or, at least, we might not.   But we do have now, we always have that.  So we've just got to do the things we want to do now.  And show our appreciation now.  And muster up whatever courage or time or energy it takes.  And love, love, love it all when it's here.  

So thank you Cobras and Matadors, for all of those nights with lovely people and bottles of wine and so much happiness and sharing of food.  You were good to me.