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.  

Thursday, July 19, 2012


Here's what I did this week.  Learn about traffic.  Here's what I did not do.  Let it get me down.  Though I was close, so very close last night, my determination to let things be and find some good in everything won.  And it seemed like the world rewarded me for that. Thank god and hallelujah!  

Now, thankfully, I don't have to deal with the worst traffic for my new job, but there's always some, and I've found ways to enjoy it so far, catching up on politics that I don't really care about, listening to jazz or classical to make sure I stay serene, learning to speak French.  I just kind of let the time in the car with myself be a fun little segment of my day.

But last night, well, that was a different story!  A major thoroughfare was closed or blocked or something, I couldn't even see what was up, and everyone was re-routed onto Sunset Boulevard, which is sort of just always congested, so this made it out of control.  I probably could have gotten out of my car and explored every block along the way and gotten a snack or something and returned to my car and have had absolutely no effect on the progress forward.

So there I found myself.  So close to home, with no choice but to be there.  No way out.  No alternative secret routes.  Mostly at a complete standstill. 

When my usual tricks for entertaining myself ran out, I finally found myself on the brink of true and utter frustration, like, please, can I just get home already!  And I thought to myself, well, ok, this is why people get upset with traffic and start honking their horns even though it's ridiculous and doesn't do any good. But then I found myself thinking (I mean, there was a lot of time to think), yeah, maybe it's true, but I don't ever want to be one of those people.

So, instead, I rolled down the windows and held my hand up to the sky and it started to rain ever so slightly, and the air was still warm, and in my rearview mirror I saw the most beautiful ombre backdrop of grey to purple to lavender to pink.  And I just kind of half-way crawled out of my window to face it straight on and I swear if a couple of tears didn't well up in my eyes with the rain and the sunset on Sunset Boulevard and so I waved to the guy behind me in his white Mercedes and he smiled and I think he turned to look at the sunset too.  And suddenly, life was quite magical once again.

And it got me thinking, for the rest of the drive/destroyer of my poor clutch, about a lot of things, but mostly about Los Angeles and people's perception of it.  I mean, traffic comes to mind for a lot of people, but also a sense of superficiality.  Like it's this shallow place with no real culture.  Which frightened me when I first moved here, reluctantly, for love, so many years ago.  

So I decided, while in traffic, because I'm allowed to make decisions like this, that the misconception might be a good thing.  Because, really, there is so much depth to this place.  I think that the soul of L.A. is actually protected by its shiny, superficial veneer.  It's like, that's what the rest of the world sees and it's too bright to see through, but we get to live behind it in this glorious place.  Where there is culture and architecture and music and literature and art and some of my favorite museums in the world. 

Other cities, they're self explanatory from the outset.  New York is obvious.  It wears its heart on its sleeve.  We see it.  I can think of so many cities that are what they seem, Prague and London and Paris and Florence.  But Los Angeles, I don't think it gives away too much.  I think you need to live here to understand it.  And it takes some bravery to make that decision, because, yes, it does seem pretty hollow and disconnected from the outside.

But those who really love it here, who have a relationship with this city, do so because of its depth, not because it's the L.A. that the outside world sees.  But because of the meaning, the real meaning that runs through the city and keeps it alive.  I do think that the oxygen of Los Angeles has long been creativity and true pioneering.  And I'm not trying to talk anyone into moving here (well, maybe one person), but I think L.A. deserves a bit of credit.  Or, maybe, just this small love letter from me.

I will tell you a couple of secrets, though, for those who want to see inside.  In this city, a breathtaking canvas covered in irises by the hand of Van Gogh hangs at the Getty.  The sound of Beethoven rolls over the hilltops.  And a girl sits in her car, in traffic, watching the sunset on Sunset Boulevard with delicate tears in her eyes and her heart is so full and she is happy.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Uncharted Territory

I'll tell you what I did this week.  I managed.  And I managed well.

As for outings this week, I managed, amidst some serious work days, to do my favorite summer staples.  Played badminton in the park.  Walked up to the Farmer's Market at night.  Went to brunch with Jessica and Bethany at our usual spot.  Swung by the Hollywood Bowl with AT&T, for, literally, about ten minutes.  

It was Filipino Night, which I was looking forward to, but I don't think we were invited.  I mean, it was Filipino night, and Filipino night only.  And we sat down and listened to one and a half ballads, which I swear I couldn't figure out if we were at karaoke or a concert, and then we left, probably to everyone's great relief, ours included, because we were the only ones not singing along anyway.    

It was nice for me to speckle my week with outings, though, because I do think that otherwise I could have easily been overwhelmed by work at times.

But I think, really, this week was less about discovering uncharted territory in LA and more about discovering things about my own self.  Who knew?  After this long being me, there is still so much to learn and overcome.  

I've had this vivid sensation all week of being very much on my own.  Which has been both good and petrifying at the same time.  It's not true, of course.  I am not on my own and have a glorious support system always and especially when in need.  But, then again, aren't we all, ultimately, on our own?

But, never you worry, with a few deep breaths here and there to prevent any full-fledged breakdowns, I found out that I can do it, which was the great discovery.  Because I've often felt like I could lose it when faced with certain challenges, just let go of my grasp and sink to the floor in a puddle of tears.  That's the old familiar brink I found myself on a couple of times this week, but, lo and behold, there is a new me!  

First, I had a near math panic attack at work the other day, the likes of which I haven't seen since my college Physics course.  I had to learn just about a million equations, percentages, projections, trends, and more percentages, which for some is just another day at the office, but for me, well, me + math = panic.  So I was hearing someone speaking and writing things down trying to compose myself when, mostly, in fact, it sounded like gibberish and I was just writing away filling several sheets of paper up with numbers and stuff.  

At the end of it all, the phone hung up, back in it's usual spot, it was me, at the desk, staring into a colossal sea of papers with numbers on them that I hardly even remembered writing, thinking to myself, that's it, I'm just going to pay someone to do this for me every month.  But then I caught myself, and shifted, and had a new thought.  No.  Never mind.  I will learn this.  I want to be someone who understands this and can confidently do this every month and be someone to whom others can turn for guidance.  I will master the numbers!  They do not scare me! 

And the face-off began.  I sat there looking at my scribblings.  I gave myself as much time as I needed, and slowly, ever so slowly, like really, really slowly, I pieced it all together.  It took me translating it all into actual word sentences and writing it out that way.  But, in the end, I saw what the equations meant, and where the numbers at hand had come from and what I was doing and why I was doing it.  And I really couldn't believe myself, for a minute there.  It's quite a beautiful thing to change your own ingrained responses.  

And then, we were having some technical problems with the computers and nobody seemed to know what to do, so I just decided to figure it out and got all resourceful and found the right person to call and he had me fiddling with plugs and various components in this master plug box in the back room, and we had success!  And the thing I love about figuring that out is that I will always know what to do when that problem arises in the future, and so it will be with every next problem I learn how to resolve.  And, god, there's really nothing I love more than feeling competent and invaluable in any given situation.

So, I changed a lot this week.  I mean, if you told someone that you saw me doing math and fixing computers, they might not believe you.  I guess somewhere along the lines, though, without knowing it, I decided that I no longer only want to do things I know I am good at.  I want to face and become good at the things I fear and have long avoided.  And then I will know more things and feel even more competent.  This is good.  I like this new plan, whatever part of me devised it.

It's funny, though, to think that you can so long identify with being a certain way and one day just make the decision not to be anymore.  What control we have over our very own beings!  It's a damn near miracle, really.  They weren't kidding in elementary school.  Only I always thought it meant something else, like, astronaut. But, it's true, you can actually be whatever you want to be!

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Hollywood Bowl

This past week, I found myself tethered to a gentle undercurrent of post-vacation depression that I couldn't seem to shake.  Which, I'm always prepared for when I return from a trip.  Because, well, it always happens.  And it's not because I don't love coming home to LA, god, how I do, it's just that I love the freedom that comes with traveling so very much that it's always tough for me to see it go.

It's fitting, really, that I'm writing this post on the 4th of July.  Because it's the holiday of freedom.  And there is nothing I value more.  Which is why I'm always acting like I'm on vacation.  That's when I do feel the most free.

In any case, I was slowly adjusting to being back in the responsible world, when I remembered that my first Hollywood Bowl show of the summer was on Sunday!  Oh, now that made me happy!  And then I looked at my tickets to see who was playing and it was Ben Harper.  And I was just like, Ben Harper?  I don't even like Ben Harper.  Why in god's name did I get Ben Harper tickets?

To my credit, it was probably that I just tend to buy tickets for all of the Sunday shows because they usually end up being some of the most memorable and unique.  Even if I'm not familiar with the lineup for the evening, I always leave having discovered something new, and truly affected.  The Sunday shows tend to be a full blown experience.  Like, I've been to Mexican night and the Highlander Fling and African night.  Dancing in the aisles, smiling and filled with music under the Hollywood sky.

I decided, with the Ben Harper show, that I would just decide whether to go at the last minute.  And it wasn't until I was in the park playing badminton with my AT&T friend that I just stopped and looked at him and was like, come on, let's go to the Bowl!  Because, I realized, I'd go to any show there and be happy.  I just can't resist it.

So, off we went, spontaneously, with a bottle of white wine and plastic cups.  For the record, AT&T doesn't like Ben Harper either.  

The second we walked into that amphitheater, though, I just felt all the stress of not being on vacation fall away from me, like a cloak I left with the usher, and I was free once again.  Blessed be for that night!  I mean, we were sort of chuckling together at moments in a tacit, nope, still don't like Ben Harper sort of way.  But being out there on the hillside, the air saturated with the sound of the percussions, back in my old spot, I was a happy girl.

Hollywood Bowl, I love you.  I know I've said it before, but a piece of my heart has made its residence in those bleachers.  And I can look back and recall so many sweet fleeting moments of being so very overflowingly full of gratitude and just looking up at the stars and planets and often the moon, saying, thank you life, thank you life.

I found my freedom again that night and I realized something about myself too.  That's why I live so fully in the present moments, digging into each experience like it's all I've got.  It's why I always want to be out exploring the world and its offerings so much.  Because I will get depressed if I start to feel like I'm living to get somewhere, or just trying to make it.  

And every experience, technically, during its duration, is all I've got.

The adage goes, there is no time like the present.  In actuality, there is no time but the present.  And I've always managed to live knowing that, or at least been able to quickly catch myself to remind me of that fact.  And in the present, you are always, unquestionably, in truth, completely free.