Friday, August 31, 2012

Back to Reality

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...

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Three Rivers: Full Circle

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.

Isn't life funny?

Setting up with Chris and Maggie

Reading from "Imperfect"

Author Dalan Smith

Poet Bill Haxton

In front of the library.

Yummy dinner

Maggie and I walking in Three Rivers...

Monday, August 20, 2012

Surfin' USA

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:

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Home Girl

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.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Barcelona Part Dos

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!

Saturday, August 4, 2012


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!