Giving Back

24 Nov

I feel incredibly fortunate to be able to live my life how I want to. I have a very supportive family that puts up with my eccentricities and a small but fantastic group of friends. I try to remember to be a good person in return but also know that no one is perfect so I make up for this by doing good deeds when I can. I’ll buy that overpriced candy from the kids outside the store, pick up items for the canned food drives and toy boxes at the office just little things really that we all should do if we can.  Last year when I was living in Bixby Knolls someone posted on the community page a call for scarfs and hats for a holiday project.

Like many Americans the end of 2016 had me feeling pretty down and I wanted to do something positive. I picked up my scooter keys and made my way to the local craft store and bought as much yarn as would fit in to the roll bag on my Vespa. I had a little over a month to make as many as I could and spent all of my free evenings with this task. I’m not a fantastic crocheter but I can certainly make a scarf in an evening. A couple of days before Christmas on a slightly chilly yet beautifully sunny day in Long Beach I packed up all of my creations and met up with the project organizer down by the water at a park that is a popular gathering spot for local transients. We went to work tying these beautiful creations on every post and tree trunk we could find. A few people approached us as we went about our work and asked if we were selling them and we said no it was just for anyone that may be cold. We were given funny looks, people examined the scarves but walked away still thinking there was some sort of catch.

Scarf

I had to rush off to my family brunch that day so I didn’t get to see how long it took for all of these colorful items to be taken up. I did enjoy the thought of bringing a little bit of joy to someone’s day. It’s a little far for me to travel to Long Beach to help this year so I’ll be rolling solo this year at a park near my home. Getting a bit of a late start but began work today, not sure how many I’ll get done but even a few would help.

I hope this encourages you to do something, doesn’t have to be big, doesn’t have to cost a lot just do something! Not sure where to start? Try just being a little bit kinder out there, I trust you’re all good people but just hold those doors open for a stranger, talk to that person asking you for spare change, toss a couple of bucks on to your bill at the market for the local food bank. Just start with something and go from there.

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Kindness of strangers

31 Oct

Game 6 is making me beyond nervous so I’m using this to try to keep from pacing the floor here in my apartment and possibly wearing a hole in the cowhide rug in the front room.

Three years ago I woke up in my little rented apartment near Piccadilly on what was looking to be an absolutely beautiful Halloween day. I had spent most of 2014 covering for an assistant that was out on maternity leave and it had been an exceptionally busy year. I had only been working at the company about six months and hadn’t spent much time with our CEO before taking the position. Needless to say after eight months of running at top speed I was ready for a break. As luck would have it there was a charity event announced a few weeks before ‘An Evening with Noel Gallagher’ in London where he would take the stage for a couple of hours and tell stories from his career. This was taking place just two days after the Manchester Derby (City vs. United!) and after staying up late one night to secure a ticket to the event I was on my way.

I had been in Manchester for a few days already and I booked myself on to a tour of the stadium. I had gone on the tour before but wanted to see the updated 2012 room and see if I could scope out my seat for the next day. The tour group was small and our guide quickly spotted that I wasn’t local and I was on my own. We chatted while we made our way through the stadium and I told him I worked for Virgin Galactic and had come to Manchester to take a much needed break. When I left he asked what I was doing for the rest of my day and I said I had to get back to my apartment to watch a very special live stream of an event from Mojave. I hopped on the tram, grabbed some Greggs and was back in my place ready to watch the stream of a test flight that was scheduled for the morning.

As we all know things did not go as planned that morning in Mojave. I watched the screen go black, saw an e-mail asking everyone to go back to the office and immediately burst in to tears. I was 5200 miles away feeling scared and worrying about my work family back home and if I’d have a job to come back to. I started packing while looking at flights to get back to Los Angeles. After a chat with one of my colleagues in Mojave they told me they would make sure things were taken care of and that me spending a few thousand to rush home and miss these events I had been looking forward to was just an idea I would regret later. With that I hung my clothes back up in the wardrobe and sat on the edge of the bed a little numb before finally settling in for a nap.

I woke up an hour later to a dark sky and rain gently falling. I wasn’t sure if England even celebrated Halloween – I did know that they took full advantage of Friday nights though so I went for a wander through the Northern Quarter. My first stop was the adidas spezial exhibit. This was only on for Manchester Fashion Week (it’s a real thing I swear! It’s not just tracky suits.) and I had completely forgotten that it was on. Just came upon it a few minutes away from my front door and stepped in to the gallery surrounded by hundreds of pairs of adidas. A mixture of a few collections it was beautiful, vintage, limited edition, custom and so many more all on display. On the wall were pictures from the new spezial collection and quotes from some of my favorite musicians talking about why they love the brand.

spezial

I spent about an hour at the exhibit and went wandering over to Market St feeling inspired to pick up a new pair. Walking away from the shop with a blue suede pair of Handball Spezial I stopped at Nando’s for dinner and checked out Instagram. New posts had just been put up by Gary Aspden (curator of the exhibit) with Noel Gallagher and Mani from the Stone Roses at the exhibit just a few minutes after I left!! I left some comment on the picture asking if they had watched and waited for me to leave before visiting that night. After I finished my tasty chicken I wandered back up to the gallery knowing they were long gone but just wanting to see the shoes one more time before they closed. On my way out I stopped to buy some stickers and in walked Gary, thought my luck had changed and I was about to run in to some musical heroes. No manc legends in tow this time but I still introduced myself and thanked him for putting such a lovely collection on display. He asked if I was the woman from LA that had just missed him earlier and I said I was! We chatted for a few minutes before he asked what I was doing in Manchester and I told him about the match I was heading to and the event in London. I told him about the accident earlier that day, he had seen it on the news and asked if I was ok and if I had any news from the company directly. Standing in a room of his fanboys having him take a few minutes to speak to this woman that was still clearly in a bit of a daze and letting me ramble on was so kind. He even let me show him the shoes I had just bought, got the big thumbs up on my purchase as well.

I went back to my apartment to put my shoes away and watch a bit of news. I couldn’t watch BBC because I had a connection with the reporter sent out to cover the story and it was just too weird to watch him there in my bit of the desert. Switched off the TV and put on some dancing shoes and went back to the Northern Quarter to see if the city had the Halloween spirit. I walked in to Dry Bar and settled in on one of the couches, gin and tonic in hand to watch the dancefloor. I must have looked slightly down still as I soon had company. After chatting to a few people I wandered over to a booth with a small group and they took me in to their night out to help cheer me up and make sure I had as good a time as was possible that night. I didn’t have to pay for a drink, they let me go outside and just have a tiny cry when I needed it then pulled me back out to the dance floor.

On my way home late that night – chips in hand walking past people not ready to let the party end just yet I knew that nights like this wouldn’t happen in LA. It took a crisis back home in a town of strangers to make me realize that everything would be alright. I had always enjoyed my visits to Manchester but that night with the kindness everyone showed to me I truly fell in love with the place.

Oooh is that jello?

30 Oct

Those of you that know me from before the sleeve surgery will be shocked at this but here’s what my lunches look like now. Should have snapped a picture of the tuna before eating it but yeah you probably know what 2.5 ounces of tuna looks like. I won’t finish this jello.

lunch

There are still days when I really want some nachos or french fries but that little nagging voice telling me that I need to go get some fast food is getting quieter every day. I do allow myself little treats though – had some nibbles of pan dulce last night and it was AMAZING. Such a far cry from my large size giant cheeseburger combos.

Ok stop eyeing my sugar free jello and get back to whatever you were doing.

The other side of summer

26 Oct

I’ve been meaning to come back to this blog for some time now but it’s been a busy past few months. Those of you that are afraid of change may want to stop reading at this point because you will get stressed out just thinking about my summer.

Where to begin? I guess it could go back to January when all of this change was put in motion or the idea of change. I like to spend my vacation time in the lovely city of Manchester where I can watch a ton of footy (soccer for the Americans) and spend days wandering the streets of my musical heroes. Some time near the end of my trip I went to Clint Boon’s DJ night at South which is a fantastic way to spend your Saturday night out.  I love to dance and the tunes this night had me out on the dance floor in between grabbing gin and tonics from the bar. After a few songs I would have to go rest for a bit though before feeling the pull of the music again. I was disappointed with myself at having to spend so much time just observing. I’ve spent most of my life being fat but never felt like it stopped me before. Sure I had friends that would go off doing physical things like hiking or 5Ks that NEVER thought to ask me if I wanted to join along, its been decades since I’ve shopped in a non-plus size clothing store and I’ve been using seat belt extenders on most flights for a few years. None of that bothered me but for some reason not being able to get up and throw some shapes during a Charlatans song really cut me deep and I knew it was time to make a change.

Being notoriously undisciplined when it comes to following a diet I had to do something more than just cut out the carbs from my life. I took a couple of months and met with a few doctors to research surgical options and kept my plans to myself and didn’t start telling close friends about this until I had made the decision to move forward. Getting through all of the pre-surgery appointments and procedures took longer than I expected but I finally had a date of August 3rd and the countdown began.

So that was HUGE, like beyond major it’s a complete lifestyle change and I was mentally preparing to do that as well as cut out things from my life like my beloved cans of Coca Cola. In the midst of all that the company I work for decided to have a much needed division to allow everyone to focus on the tasks at hand and build up the necessary support teams to make both be successful. I was given the choice of where to go and I chose to head to our facility in Mojave. I had always enjoyed my trips to Mojave but hadn’t spent more than a few days working there and knew it was time to say goodbye to my team in Long Beach and head north.  All of this was to happen at the end of July just days before my surgery.

The great apartment search was underway and I found a two bedroom in North Hollywood committing myself to making an hour plus drive to Mojave each morning. A small trade off for better nights and weekends as I knew even with the commuting time my work / life balance would be better being a bit further away. Movers came to check out my stuff and I started what was to be a very stressful and life changing week. In one short week I had worked my last day in our Long Beach office trying to hold in the tears while I came to the realization that everyone I had spent the last four years with would no longer be daily fixtures in my life, left my beautiful place with the amazing breezes for an apartment in the Valley and had myself medically mutilated! It was absolutely exhausting and when my Dad walked me in to my new apartment the morning after my surgery I lay down on the couch with a big cup of ice chips next to me and fell asleep happy that I had made it through the worst bits.

gym-shoes-e1509070979642.jpg

It’s been nearly three months since that week and what’s different now? Well I’ve lost 70 pounds, nearly everything in both of my giant wall to wall closets fits, my apartment is fully set up and I am using these shoes more often. What’s the point of telling you all of this? Just to embrace the change really, don’t be afraid or put something off. It was a few days of chaos that I made it through and I would gladly go through it again.

 

It was 20 years ago today…

13 Jun

On this day 20 years ago I was sitting on a folding chair on a tennis court wearing a cardboard hat. It was commencement weekend at UCLA and after a hard fought five years I was being released out in to the wild with a newly minted degree in American Literature & Culture. This was a new major that popped up the year before and I jumped on the chance to avoid having to take that final Chaucer class. The ceremony was long, a little boring and they didn’t call out individual graduates just majors. Being a newly introduced category we were skipped over when the different departments were being called out. The woman next to me immediately burst in to tears about it and asked if this means we weren’t graduating. We tried to assure her everything was going to be alright but a few minutes later she broke free from our row and went running to the podium to tell them we had been overlooked. Her actions made me immediately think maybe I hadn’t chosen the right major but it was too late to change that now. What can you do with a degree in American Literature & Culture? Turns out it’s not a highly in demand field of study and it was basically go be a teacher or take your bachelors and find something completely unrelated but still requiring a degree. I wouldn’t necessarily tell someone not to study literature, I had a great time but I would ask them what their end plan was and to set expectations that they are not likely going to need to call on what they’ve learned about post modernism prose in their day to day life.

As I sat on the tennis court with my mortar board shielding out a bit of the late afternoon sunshine I thought about my early days on campus when I found out the tennis center had an elevator that would take you to the top of the stadium and out on to the road by the dorms. UCLA is built on hills and if you lived in the dorms you can genuinely use the phrase “I had to walk to school uphill both ways”. Everyone living in the dorms had impressive leg muscles.

UCLA was never on my horizon for schools, I always thought a kid like me was better suited for UC Berkeley or the Claremont colleges. After a visit to Berkeley I knew it wasn’t the place for me, Claremont seemed like a nice fit but was far too expensive. I had a modest stack of acceptance letters and UCLA was somewhere in the middle of the pack. At some point I just thought it was the easiest option and at least it was a place that had a name that people recognized. My sister went to a small private school in upstate New York the following year and to this day when she tells people where she went to college they ask if its “teller school for Wells Fargo”.  UCLA was geographically close to where I grew up but my only visit prior to Orientation Week was the ill fated Morrissey show at Pauley Pavilion a year before – which was at night and ended up in a riot.

UCLA Hat

I went on to love my time at UCLA and I spent most of my five years working at the Cooperage in the student union and the concession stand at Pauley. The 90s were a spectacular time to be there – the sports teams were on a hot streak, bands would come through campus some times and the Taco Bell on campus offered a 99 cent 7 layer burrito that would sustain you most of the day. At the restaurant I learned how to chop lettuce correctly, use a Hobart machine to make hundreds of pounds of pizza dough, why you should always turn the slicer off when you clean it (it wasn’t my hand that was sliced open, I’m not that misguided), how to change out soda syrup, how to wrap a giant burrito without splitting the tortilla and the fine art of patience in customer service. The Coop was open to anyone and we had our fair share of weirdos coming through the door like the guy who wanted his chicken strips fried again, the customer that came in looking like he was on an ancient trek across a frozen tundra complete with plastic flocked bunny banks hanging off of his walking stick like they were his fresh kill and finally the man that always wanted his change in dimes. If you tried to hand that customer any coin outside of a dime he would toss it back at you rather forcefully. Learning how to deal with these difficult customers was the greatest skill I took away from my time on campus.

So my suggestion to anyone thinking about pursuing a degree in the arts? Go for it but make sure you get a job on campus that will teach you how to handle the world outside of North Campus.

 

 

Riot Act

29 Apr

This weekend I’ve been watching many of the documentaries about the LA riots in 1992. I remember the riots, we watched everything unfold on the afternoon news programs and in our government class at school the next day. I was a newly minted adult having just turned 18 the month before and the only thing I really had my mind on was deciding which school I was headed off to on the other side of summer.

Geographically we weren’t that far away from where this was all happening. Pico Rivera was just suburban enough to make this all look like something that was happening somewhere else but heading up to the hills around town after school you could see the smoke off in the distance and there was some attempted looting a few days in to the unrest at the Town Center in Montebello. We were aware of the videotaped beating and the trial, discussed this in class but never really did a deep dive on racial tensions. We had entire sections on Civil Rights era action in the 1960’s but weren’t really taught that this was still such a prevalent problem. The focus at the time all seemed to be on the gang wars and the drug epidemic.

My father worked as a Sheriff most of my life, he spent a lot of that time working in South Central. Stationed primarily in Lynwood, Compton, Watts and Willowbrook he left us each morning to try his best to keep peace and make it home to his kids each night. He wouldn’t tell us much about his days on patrol, we were fed tidbits when he would come home with a used car he had spotted while on duty or our dog Lynn a beagle he said he found wandering across Imperial Highway. When the riot happened Dad was the on campus officer for Lynwood High School. We never thought to ask why a high school needed a full time armed Sheriff on site, had we asked we are sure he never would have told us. When we saw what was starting to happen we knew not to expect Dad to be home that night. I don’t remember exactly when he came home, I do remember him calling us to make sure we were ok. My brother was off at UCSB so it was just my sister and I left at the house but we had family just on the other corner and we were quite capable teenagers.

As an adult looking back at this footage it still seems like it was something that didn’t happen in my beloved Los Angeles. But it did happen, months later when we were making our way through the streets to drop me off at the UCLA dorms we passed through areas that had boarded up burnt out buildings, some were never rebuilt and even now driving through Compton (right next door to me now!) there are entire sections of the city that never recovered. Even if the shopping centers didn’t burn they were just frozen in time, the signs look like they’re from the 80’s and there are very few national chains. There are some shiny new developments though, new centers and parks that have sprung up and a train that connects the area to downtown where you can get to the Westside or in to the Valley. There’s still so much more progress to be made though – the same issues that brought about the unrest in 92 are still happening today. With cameras in our pockets able to capture and quickly spread injustices maybe all of these protests are helping to vent this anger so it doesn’t boil over in this city.

In a way I’m glad I was a bit sheltered from what was really going on. It wasn’t bad where my only concern was which Smiths shirt I was going to wear the next day to school or when Middle Earth the long gone record store in Downey was going to get the latest issue of the NME in stock.

High Wind Advisory

13 Apr

Heading out in a few minutes for yet another Coachella. This is an annual tradition that has only been broken once when I skipped the festival in 2015 and went to Shaky Knees in Atlanta with a friend that really needed to stay a bit more local that year. I really love this weekend, it’s an amazing time with friends and most of us are seasoned veterans with excellent fest survival skills. The first time I went to Indio for this magic weekend was during the inaugural festival in 1999. We had all heard about this new thing happening in a city we had never heard of but I was on the fence about going. There were many reasons to go along with Morrissey being on the bill and one of our friends spinning in the DJ tent. That friend connected us with the guest list and we packed our bags and headed out picking up a $50 (with fees!) ticket for the friend we threw in the car that morning and with a belly full of Del Taco we stepped on to the polo field for the first time. That first year was a sparsely attended event, the polo field seemed massive and many parts of the field were completely dark. The grass was a perfect shade of green and felt wonderful beneath my feet, apartment dwellers miss things like having a lawn. Food vendors were a mix of local groups and some restaurants that made the trek to the desert, I chose to buy a cheeseburger from the Boy Scouts for my dinner that night. I took my burger and walked back across the field and found a quiet spot a few hundred feet back from the main stage and listened to Moz sing about meat being murder while the grease from this burger slid down my arm.

A lot has changed from that first festival, I’m now far out of the target demographic and I have to pay for my wristband now (big ups to Virgin Megastores for many years of free VIP wristbands).  The crowds are different, social media has come in and the Instagram Girls rule the field for the weekend but it all makes for some great people watching and you know you’ll get your view of the band back in a few minutes when they get the perfect selfie.

Gummy Bears

I’ve had some stellar experiences at the festival, the VIP years are far behind me and I’ll probably never get a photo pass again but I’ll always cherish those memories. Meeting bands wandering around the bars, having Robbie Williams buy me a gin and tonic, walking away from Stuart Murdoch mid interview for my radio show because I wanted to get a picture of Noel Gallagher, blagging a photo pass for Keith because he was wearing a CNN shirt he picked up in NYC and looked like a journalist enabling him to play rock photographer all weekend. What this year will bring besides the winds is unknown but I know we’ll have a great time.