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


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.