I like to enter the new year with less of a resolution and more of a theme. 2013's theme is inspired by my friend Katie who, years ago, told me that I look scared of the camera in photos. That is a nice way of putting it. I have rarely taken a good photograph. My eyes are usually closed, my expression is awkward, my chin-fat has doubled, etc etc. And that's on a good day. Katie, an actress, told me she thought the problem was that I was leaning away from the camera, like I was scared of it, and that's what the photos reflected. She said in all future photographs I should lean in towards the camera/iPhone/iPad/Device. This seemed like a simple fix. I tried it. It worked! I look somewhat relaxed in photos now, not perturbed, not like I want to be anywhere but there. So with that in mind, my theme for 2013 is "leaning in towards life." I hope to greet the new year with lots of excitement and energy and to step towards things that may frighten me, instead of running away.
What is your resolution?
And speaking of "bad photos", I'd like to close out 2012 with a photo of my celebrity twin. Isn't the resemblance uncanny?
It's the day after Christmas and it suddenly feels like some sort of stress bubble has burst. Ahhh. Now vacation really begins. Hope everyone is enjoying their holidays and strategizing good ways to shed that chocolate-and-wine-every-night extra five pounds.
I can't stand the fact that I am a migraine sufferer, but I am and have been since my early 20's. You never forget your first migraine. Mine happened when I was in Montreal, shopping at Le Chateau with my sister and cousin. One minute I was dancing down the aisles to the beat of the pounding music, the next I was in a dressing room completely confused that I could only see half of myself in the full-length mirror.
I have what is referred to as Classic Migraine with Aura, which means crazy things happen before the headache arrives. Mostly, things half-disappear, like you're looking at a fractured mirror, unable to comprehend what exactly you're seeing. Sometimes spinning things appear, much like the spinning rainbow orb when something's wrong on your Apple computer, only the ones I see aren't colorful, just black and white. It is a terrible thing, this Classic Migraine with Aura, but it is also fascinating and surreal. It is said that Lewis Carroll suffered from Migraines and his novel Alice in Wonderland was born from that. I don't doubt it.
These 'visual disturbances' last about twenty minutes and then, like clockwork, the headache appears, aggressive and relentless, usually on one side. It's almost as though they land, and stay a while, sometimes hours, sometimes days. After I was diagnosed, the doctor gave me medicine, but I have never taken it. I find a simple Advil or two or three takes the edge of the ache. I don't know why I'm resistant to anything stronger. And still, it is the aura that ruffles my feathers, not the headache. The aura often takes me by surprise, like the other day, when I was driving to the gym. I parked, checked a text that came through on my phone, and noticed that the letters looked funny - wobbly-like. Oh no, I thought, blinking the oddness away. Maybe I'm just tired? But soon it went from squiggly letters, to full-on fractured mirror. I didn't have sunglasses with me so I closed my eyes as a kaleidoscope of strange and trippy shapes invaded my vision.
My grandmother had headaches that were related to the weather, and although she was never diagnosed as having Migraines, I know she did. She was better than any Doppler Radar. She knew a storm was approaching long before the weatherman announced it. Having studied many a migraine book, I now know that barometric pressure is a big trigger. There are so many triggers: hormones, stress, nuts, bananas, soy, soda, cheese, dehydration, loud noise, smells, the list is endless and kind of humorous. It seems that everything and anything can cause migraine. There are also personality types that are prone to these headaches - perfectionists, people-pleasers, fear-prone...yeah, guilty as charged.
I know people who get these two, three, sometimes four times a week, and I can't fathom what that frequency might do to a person. I experience them four, sometimes five, times a year which already, in my opinion, is four or five times too many. There is not a lot of positivity to be extracted from the experience, but if I had to dig, I'd say that perhaps my headaches connect me to a larger universe of migraineurs, like my grandmother, for instance. Or maybe they are signs from above, or from deep within, saying stop, relax, drop what you're doing and just be. Maybe, if I'm lucky, I can tap into some expansive well of creativity the way Lewis Carroll did. Until then, I suppose I'll just have to roll with my own personal light show followed by my cap of pain, knowing that I am simply one of many who weather this electronic system glitch, this experience of being human.
I am over at Girlfriends Book Club today. Come visit! Also, I am offering a pre-holiday special on my book Imperfect. For 12.00 I will sign, seal and deliver any hard copies to you, or as gifts. (U.S. and Canada only at this time) Please private message me for details.
If you live in Los Angeles, you know how debilitating traffic can be. If you don't, you'll just have to trust me; traffic is a toxic, soul-sucking experience when getting from point A to point B. So when my friend Michelle N. suggested we take the metro to see a play we had tickets for, I emphatically agreed. The metro recently expanded to Culver City - about 15 minutes East of where we both live. Upon studying the website, she realized we could take it downtown, make one transfer at the 7th Street stop and then emerge about a block away from the theater. I think I can speak for both of us when I say we LOVED the metro! The Culver to Downtown line runs above ground and we had great views of the city. We smugly pointed out all the brake lights as we passed a nearby freeway. "Who would choose to sit in traffic?" we mocked.
Upon arriving downtown, we took the long, sleek escalator up, up, up...
...and this is the view after stepping out of the station. Downtown! I sing thee praises!
The play Seminar, however, wasn't exactly praise-worthy, in my humble opinion. When you have more fun getting to the play than the play itself, you know you're in trouble. There was a little glitch coming home. They were only using one track at the Grand stop but we didn't realize this until we missed our train. No worries, we just waited for the next one. And hey, what's that above our heads? Life-sized sculptures of people hanging from the ceiling. It was kind of cool, kind of creepy... I am now committed to riding the metro as often as possible. I absolutely loved the hassle-free experience. L.A., you done me proud.
I started this blog in 2008 as a way to connect with friends and share my experiences while canvasing for Obama in the state of Nevada. I'm embarrassed to say that in 2012 I didn't find myself doing much of anything to help the campaign, except for a few donations and of course voting. Needless to say, when Ohio went blue, this blogger was very, very happy. He is a brave man, tackling this job for a second term, but one thing I know: he will tackle it with class, dignity and heart.
My last-minute trip to Connecticut sure was an adventure of epic proportions.
On my flight over there on Friday, October 26 there were murmurings of the pending storm but it was not yet the talk of the town. While in line for the restroom, I casually asked a stewardess if she thought the storm would really hit and if I'd be okay flying back to L.A. on Tuesday the 30th. She immediately said no. "I'm a New Yorker," she said in a thick, Bronx accent, "I've been through these before. I highly recommend you get out before the storm. Something this big will probably damage airports and planes and you don't want to get stuck." I took her words to heart and upon landing switched my reservation to Sunday night, a little overwhelmed at the thought of a 48 hour trip and a pending hurricane.
I was in Connecticut for the bestie's son's bar mitzvah. Let me tell you, he knocked it out of the park. Here is a picture of him - the day after - the 13-year old 'boy/man' already towering over his auntie Melissa.
It was very fun to connect with old friends, meet new ones, jump around in some leaves (thanks Miranda for capturing the image!), eat lots of tuna and other delicious foodstuffs, watch an Earth, Wind, and Fire/Jennifer Hudson show without realizing who those fabulous performers were (long story - fundraiser at the hotel one night) and hang with the bar mitzvah boy and his fabulous family.
I was sad to say my goodbye's on Sunday (pic of my send-off crew at the Cos Cob train station), and miss the bestie's birthday dinner, but the storm was fast approaching and I was lucky to be getting out when so many of the BMBF (bar mitzvah boy's family) flights were already canceled. I hopped the train to Grand Central, took a quick photo, and grabbed the shuttle bus to Newark.
And this is where the chaos began.
To summarize: Flight at 6:30, announcement at 6:00 that a stewardess scheduled on the flight had to evacuate her home and they were waiting on another stewardess. Announcements all though the evening about that stewardesses whereabouts (she just landed, at Kennedy, waiting for driver, heading over, etc. etc.) All told, we were delayed for 3 1/2 hours. I made backup plans with the bestie, even though all public transportation had closed in NY at 7pm, and fielded texts and calls from friends and family who were wondering, like me, if I was going to get stuck in the storm. The wind started picking up - we could hear it in the airport terminal. I met a kind, Canadian writer who writes for How I Met Your Mother and we talked about Moishe's restaurant in Montreal, how we were going to get home, etc.
And then, in the middle of a phone call with my worried mom, a frazzled looking stewardess showed up, wheeling her little suitcase along. The entire waiting area erupted in cheers and by 10:00pm we were finally, finally, finally taxiing on the runway, trying to beat the pending storm.
Oh, we hit turbulence upon our ascent, but it wasn't as bad as I anticipated (that, or my 2 Ativan kicked in). It all felt like the final scene in Argo, and when I arrived home at 1am I couldn't help but immediately switch on The Weather Channel to see what was happening back from where I just came.
We all now know how bad it was. Thinking about my agent who lives in Hoboken and the many friends in New Jersey, Connecticut, New York and Boston who have weathered this literal and emotional storm.
So, thank you stewardess #1 for suggesting I get out, and thank you stewardess #2 for finally showing up, and thank you bestie and family for hosting such a wonderful event that made all the adventure worth it.
Yeah, you read that right. Once of the many reasons I love living in L.A. is because of the quirky, creative events that can be found around the city practically every night of the week. Saturday found me at this event: (might have to squint to see it)
Sock puppets 'acted' out the pilot episode of The Golden Girls, replete with opening song sing-a-long and commercial jingles in between. I laughed. A lot. So did everyone else. I was also knocked over by the quality of the writing on that show - funny, clever, thoughtful and poignant. That show had depth, and somehow the sock puppets made me realize this. Here they are on Facebook. Thank you for being a friend. xo
I was watching the morning news yesterday, surprised to see that the Endeavor Space Shuttle was parked in a lot off of Sepulveda near LAX. It was hanging there for a few hours before departing on its journey to the museum. I hopped in the car and set off to that neighborhood, expecting tons of traffic, but willing to see how close I could get.
I got close!
After marveling and taking many photos, I crossed the street to the Sprint store to ask why they thought my Bluetooth wasn't working. These words came out of the Sprint guy's mouth: "When the space shuttle isn't parked in our lot, you should come back with your car and we'll try to synch it." Bet he never thought he'd say that!
Well, I just knew it. Spain was too wonderfully perfect for things to continue going so swell. I came home to a myriad of medical situations, all with hefty price tags attached (have you had a dental crown lately? wtf?), and then a lovely phone call 5 hours before going to teach my first class of the semester. "Class is canceled." Oh. Great. (Low enrollment is sweeping the nation and finally hitting my sweet, small art school) Well, this just forces me to take action, which I will. Meanwhile, the years keep rolling by. I celebrated another birthday yesterday. (which, of course is something to be grateful for!) The family went for a delicious lunch at the Bel Air Hotel. We were very classy playing with my nephew's cut-out project:
Lunch was amazing. Wolfgang Puck now runs the restaurant. It was a bonus that he was at the table next to us eating lunch with his wife. (no pics, didn't want to be rude). I had the Japanese Salmon Salad - colorful and so tasty. We ordered a Spanish white wine, so I could pretend I was still in Spain where life was perfect.
Too bad nephew came down with some sort of flu during the middle of lunch, after we'd all stuck our tongues through the same piece of paper. Okay, back to work...
In 2008 I ran into my sister's friend Emily at a bar. She had just purchased a cabin up in Three Rivers, CA and told me it would make an excellent writing retreat, and if ever I wanted to write there to get in touch with her. I think I got in touch the next weekend. I was struggling with my novel at the time and needed a place to clear my head. I set out on a rainy day in February armed with my laptop and not much else, and when I arrived 3 1/2 hours later I marveled at the setting. I spent the next three days marveling at the setting, taking walks, taking naps, having dinner with a neighbor, reading books, watching movies. I did everything but write.
But a funny thing happened. About a month after returning from my "writing retreat" I had a dream about a character named "Ruth Tichner" and in my dream she was having sex with her boyfriend and somehow in that dream I knew she was a hoarder. I woke up and started writing the dream down (which ended up being one of the first scenes in the book) and soon I started writing more than the dream. Soon the cabin in Three Rivers started playing a role in the novel - at first a small role and then a bigger role. And soon after that I realized I had two major characters in my novel and that I had to figure out how to unite them.
This past Thursday, the whole thing came full circle when I had a reading of "Imperfect" (only $4.99 wherever ebooks are sold!) at the Three Rivers local library. You see, in May I ran into Emily's sister Anna at a party and she suggested I get in touch with Christina, the neighbor with whom I had dinner 4 years ago on my "writing retreat". One thing lead to another and before I knew it, Chris had organized a reading for authors who have been inspired by the town of Three Rivers.
I grabbed my friend Maggie Marr and we road-tripped it up to the cabin. At the library we set out about 25 chairs which were all filled by members of the community. I loved hearing the other authors read. Later, we had an excellent dinner at neighbor Chris' house (who has her own novel coming out in November) before retiring to the cabin that inspired the subplot.
I have lived at the beach for over eleven years and have often gazed longingly out at the surfers. For some reason, I've never had the guts/time/confidence/ patience to try the sport, which looks so beautiful from the comforts of my living room window. When my friend Suzan called offering to treat me to a yoga/ surfing class for my birthday, I jumped at the chance. My recent experiences in Spain have fueled my adventurous spirit and I hope to keep saying yes to things normally out of my comfort zone. Suzan, too, has this adventurous spirit, so I was thrilled to take the plunge with her. After an hour of beach yoga, a Scooby-Do looking van pulled up to the parking lot and out came a plethora of surfboards, wetsuits and guys with really long hair.
I'd never tried on a wetsuit before. It felt like it took an hour to get on. Since it was a little large I kind of looked and felt like the Michelin Man. After an all-too-quick lesson on the sand about board safety, we were in the water paddling through the break line. Teacher Scott was a patient, comforting angel as I became increasingly nervous with waves crashing over and under me. Everyone kept saying what a calm and beautiful day it was - and it sure was beautiful - but it is quite possible I swallowed more ocean water than humanly safe. I found it very challenging getting to the sweet spot of the ocean where the surfers patiently waited for waves. But I persevered thanks to Scott's encouragement and steady hand. The first time I caught a wave, I rode in on my belly, like riding a body board. Hey, I was just thrilled I didn't fall off. And it was fun! The second time I got up. I couldn't believe it. I actually stood in my board, arms outstretched riding a freakin' wave. I rode it to the sand where I simply stepped off when the board couldn't move anymore. The third time I got up but someone else's board landed on the front of mine so I jumped off, lest there be any sort of head-on collision. Suzan took to the sport like a natural. At one point I saw her carrying the surfboard on her head through the water before hopping on and paddling the rest of the way. Way to go, Suz!
I found surfing to be terrifying, exhilarating, exhausting and addictive. I would definitely try it again, and look forward to it. Don't you love that picture of the long-haired teacher? It couldn't be more cliche. In case you're wondering if I'm in pain today, the answer is a resounding yes. But at least I don't look like this:
Boy, it's hard transitioning back to the real world! My final few days in Spain were a whirlwind of sights, friends, food and fun. The photo above is a view of Barcelona from the 9th floor of a department store. To the right: Michele and Katalin, my Costa Brava road-trippers. It was very interesting driving a stick-shift car down the coast of Spain, through roundabouts and other challenges. (including arriving unexpectedly at a toll booth and none of us had money on us)
There were a lot of laughs, a lot of food, a lot of laughs about food (see menu...I did not order the friend munkfish, in case you were wondering).
Now that I'm home it's basically laundry and catching up on sleep (and mail). Soon it will be preparing for school (teaching 2 classes this semester), hosting a tapas party and researching my next adventure for the summer. Somewhere in there I'd like to finish my novel, too. The one I was supposed to finish in Spain. Yeah. That didn't happen.
I left El Bruc on Sunday, taking the bus with Melissa #1 (who lives and works at Can Serrat). We had a fun time debriefing on the ride over. We made our way to the L´Eixample district to meet up with Michele (another Can Serrat resident) who was staying at our new friend Katalin´s (another Can Serrat friend, she organized a big festival that was on the property last week) flat.Can you follow the logic of all these different people and places? (Sometime I can´t) Katalin was dogsitting at another home, so she so generously offered her apartment to us. What a treat! An amazing, beautiful apartment in the heart of the city - walking distance to everything.
On that first day with Melissa #1 we walked the city as I tend to do every day and found a great veggie restaurant. We ate and then walked for what seemed like 20 miles to the beach. The water felt so good on top of the brutal heat.
Since that day I met up with a third Melissa (Kagan´s friend whom I met on my 2nd day in Barcelona last month), visited Katalin´s dogsitting gig in the Olympic Park area, went swimming at midnight, attended the MACBA (Barcelon´s contemporary art museum), ate, shopped, walked around the Gracia district (think Abbot Kinney with stunning architecture), got duped at the Boqueria buying saffron, then found it at the local supermarket for 1/15th the price (I stocked up...LA friends, get ready for Saffron), ate, ate some more, walked some more, woke up to a honking, drumming, noisy demonstration outside my ("my") window, and am now heading up the coast a little bit to see a non-city beach.
In the best way possible, I´ve been inundated with kind, generous people, offering homes, cars, directions, food and love. This Spain trip is one I will never forget. Pictures and final thoughts upon my return to the States. Thank you for sharing in this adventure with me!
While I'm looking forward to my 4 days in Barcelona, I'm starting to feel sad about leaving this paradise. Earlier today Marcel announced that he had a surprise for me at lunch, and to join him in the kitchen at 1:30. Lunch is left for us to fend for ourselves, so I was pleased because it sounded like he might be preparing something and he is an amazing chef. When 1:30 rolled around I shut my computer and made my way to the kitchen where I was greeted with an Asian smorgasbord - is it fair or right to put both those words together? He had prepared a gorgeous Asian salad and heaps of sashimi - tuna and salmon - bowls of dipping sauces and different colored sesame seeds. Karine, Marcel, Melissa #1 and I feasted on this delicious going-away lunch. This is just a little example of how thoughtful, kind and nurturing those two are.
Last night there was a fun concert in town in the backyard of a local bar. Kids, parents, grandparents, great-grandparents all came to support the musicians and drink cerveza in the warm summer night. Tonight some of Marcel's musician friends are coming over for a jam session. Last time one of them was here, Tall Alex, he recounted song-for-song the Pink Floyd concert he'd attended in Philadelphia (even though he lives here) and then we had a Dave Matthews jam session during which I realized I barely know any of those lyrics and found myself humming rather than singing. (Lucky them) Attached is a picture of another jam session where I played this crazy speaker-looking-drum.
Tomorrow I hop on the bus to Barcelona for the last time to meet up with Michele, who is staying at a new friend Kaitlyn's apartment in the center of the city. We are thinking about taking a trip to the Costa Brava, a beach town, in the next day or two. There are still a few museums I'd like to see in Barcelona before I head back home to L.A. on Thursday. Hard to believe the month is coming to an end. What a month it's been!