The Beautician, the Royal, and an Impartial Turkey

The last time I went to see my beautician on Montana Ave, I had responded to her question what I was planning to do that weekend with “Oh, I’ll just sh*t”, instead of “sit and chill” (my mind does that on occasion – and I wrote a blog post about it previously). It was time to change beauticians and make an idiot of myself with another one. We’re still on Montana Ave, but across the street. The lady was very well dressed and made up. Classy. And late because apparently, the customers prior to myself had run late (there’s your German stereotype – I will definitely be early to such appointments – I can’t help it). However, Nicole was very nice, spoke in a low voice and asked few questions. I liked her almost instantly. As she applied the strip of paper underneath my eyelashes and the eyelash tint, silly me felt the need to recount the time that a beautician in Germany had to lead me to the sink to wash out my eyes (mind you – with eye lash tint on, you are advised not to open your eyes, so you blindly follow whomever takes your hand). I did bump into a few corners, but the hilarious part of my telling the story was that I felt the need to talk to Nicole using wild hand gestures since my eyes were closed. As I enthusiastically and blindly pointed to where that sink had been in Germany (not sure if I was trying to point across the ocean), I put my extended index finger directly on her breast. Bull’s eye! Even my post eye-wash apologies could not stop my face from flushing, but I was grateful that I was not able to open my eyes when it happened. I may need to change beauticians again…

I translated a book once for a member of the Spanish royal family. Well, technically, he’s not family… He had been through marriage of a relative and they’re divorced by now, I believe. I had not heard from him (let alone see any revenue from the translation) in years since I left Madrid until he contacted me again in 2013, extending an invitation that was extremely difficult for me (insert sarcasm here) to turn down: Without even attempting to buy me dinner, he said I should come visit him in his room at the Beverly Wilshire. I politely declined. Ten years ago, I don’t think I would’ve… But you know… People change. Mental pat on the shoulder :). So his next attempt in contacting me was last week. This time, he not only wanted another translation and perhaps a night out (or in… whatever), but he also wanted me to pass on how the Spanish police had treated him when he was protesting the political situation in Catalonia. To the American press. Again, I politely declined. Not only because I’d like to stay out of trouble and wish those in my circle (inner or outer) would do the same, but I don’t care much for press tattle-tale-ing. Even if I did… Anyway, he said he was waiting for me at the opera and I, again, mentioned that I was somewhere in the mountains (I had been, but was at that point in time, sitting on my bed enjoying some Netflix and chilling). It’s ok – I’ll just take myself out to dinner.

I spent Thanksgiving at home… The place where I currently live… With four friends. One guy, four girls, and I was responsible for the turkey. Huuuge responsibility (see how I like to stress myself with unnecessary tasks?!). I was very grateful for Whole Foods that day where I ordered a pre-cooked turkey and just had to throw it in the oven for another 2 plus hours. However, one of the other people (let’s call her Shannon) is a very particular individual – a pessimist with as much of a back-story as any one of us. She felt the need to kill my buzz half-way through my turkey. I was extremely happy that it had turned out well, all the sides were done, and there were only two of us drinking alcohol (two glasses of sparkling wine each). Shannon is a worrior, vaccine-opposed, and an emotional eater (among other things; and you may throw in “but she’s a good person” here). She felt the need to convince me (and the other person who shared the bubbly with me) of the detrimental effects of alcohol. As she was eating her yams. The yams that she made with brown sugar and topped off with marshmallows. I’m not a fan of confrontations, so if you let me have my drink, I’ll keep my mouth shut about your eating habits. I retired to my room. The police had already arrived at the house next door (before 2 PM) – because this is what the holidays do: People get drunk, and feel the need to argue with those who loooove to defend their point of view (perhaps those high on sugar?), and things get out of hand. Our house stayed quiet, and I spread some Christmas cheer in my room by streaming my favorite holiday movies for the next three hours.

Overall, I’d say it was a successful week. I touched someone else’s breast, turned down Spanish quasi royalty and defended my glass of sparkling wine. Life’s good.

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Bring it Back

As became evident from my previous post, there’s a lot going on. I haven’t found a solution yet, and maybe I won’t, but I found the time to do what makes my soul sing. Mind you, I cannot carry a tune for all it’s worth- I even messed up on a friend’s recent “Happy Birthday” Whatsapp recording… I refuse to sing because I know I can’t. Not even Christmas songs or the aforementioned “Happy Birthday”. Alright, I don’t refuse, but it makes me extremely uncomfortable. However, I know that it brings pleasure to others – especially when you completely miss a few notes. My friend in Germany was very nice – though he sent me a video of him laughing at me in return. I loved it.

Besides not singing, I found the time to run and take photos. I’ve mentioned before that I’m not very passionate about running – I would never advertise it, but it’s also because I’m not very good at it. I am faster from time to time, then slower, but I always run. It helps me wind down from an office day and see the sights around me. But I need a goal. The next one will be the Malibu Half Marathon in November, and it’s inching closer. I feel prepared, although I don’t expect much, but I have faith in my body again.

Another friend of mine is a running coach in Germany. I saw her in Florida not long ago and in California a few years ago – we always run together when she visits. She sees me struggling when I’m huffing and puffing behind her while her heart rate barely scratches 145. Then she runs ahead of me and starts singing German drinking songs. It cracks me up so hard that I have to stop. I can’t help but laugh – it’s so random. But it takes your mind off of the effort your body is putting in. Your body can do it – you just have to take your mind off it. Easy like that. So I’ll be singing German drinking songs in Malibu soon.

That’s the thing about having faith in yourself – some decision like which country to live in, which side to choose, which career path to take… Those things take time. I do trust myself although I thought I didn’t. It just takes time. Time to get your mind frame out of the panic-mode of having to make a life-or-death decision if it’s not. And time to do the things that make your soul sing.

Photography does that for me. I still have a whole list of photos with ideas, possible examples, and sometimes I set out to shoot one thing and find something completely different. Actually, that happens all the time. I love that. It’s such a cliché, but photography helps me focus and un-focus. To just let my eyes and mind wander, pay attention to details, be silly. And then figure out the technology, play with settings, editing… It becomes a whole thing.

When it comes to stressful situations and you’re not a doctor in an O.R. who has to make that life-or-death call, taking a breath, taking time in general, but specifically to go where your passion(s) take(s) you, is vital. Either way, getting out, exploring and then returning to yourself helps immensely in the journey to trusting yourself again. I found that I could all along, but thought that I had lost it. But if I lose my marbles, at least I know running and photography will bring me back. And German drinking songs.

On Deciding

“Indecision is a decision.”

I can’t think.

I can’t stop thinking.

“Maybe you should stop thinking and just feel for a while.”

I can’t stop thinking.

I could never be a judge. The evidence is there for both sides. And it’s devastatingly beautiful (or vice versa). The “Here” vs. the “There”. Both claim to be the better and they are tugging at me… Harder and harder. Until I wake up. I check my phone.

“When I look at your pictures, I understand why you want to stay.”

There was never a doubt about the “wanting”… it’s the “what’s a smart thing to do here” kind of situation.

I can’t feel because I can’t stop thinking.

And it’s my fault. Because I have people who love me dearly and who want only the best for me and to help me.

I think until I feel in extremes – extreme happiness or devastation and sadness. Extreme gratitude or helpless. I used to have anxiety attacks. The numbness that follows them is an incredible relief. I’m hoping for the numbness to set in soon.

Every new big decision is the toughest you’ll ever make. And I can’t make this one. I’m afraid. I’m so goddamn afraid.

“The world is your oyster.”

I wake up on Day 1 feeling calm and happy – finally, there’s an end to this thinking and list-making and pros and cons and friends and family and jobs and weather and memories and songs and opportunity and newness and change. I’m calm on my way to work, enjoy my favorite Pandora station and go about my day. Then all the things I would miss start seeping through. My conscience attempts to shut up my feelings “This is nonsense. It’s just you. And it’s not a decision for the rest of your life”. But it might be. Maybe not.

I have lunch, and finish the second half of my work day. I drive “home” to my friend’s house where I’m staying. I’ve cleaned out most of the things I own by now… reducing the total of boxes to 3. And a suitcase. This can easily be shipped within a week. I get anxious again.

“You need to regroup.”

I am terrified of making a wrong decision.

I long for my family. I long for a change and a move forward in my life.

But my heart. My heart aches at the thought of standing at the door with my suitcase, turning around one last time and leaving for good… for now. I try to finish the thought… To go to the airport in my head, check in, board the plane and cry my eyes out. Because now it’s too late. There is no turning back. Les jeux sont faits. Rien ne va plus. And then I have another 10 hours to cry and accept my leap and get out of my own head. This, I imagine to be the most difficult of it all. And then the liberating numbness sets in again. I hope. Once I’m on that plane and the plane is in the air, and everyone is asleep, I can be alright.

“We can’t wait to have you here.”

But I can’t do it. I’m not strong enough.

I have a job (not career) opportunity, nice weather and a life… sort of… pulling one arm… and the love of my family, old friends and my home country with new opportunities (and possibly a career) pulling the other one. Both are incredibly strong. I know I will definitely lose an arm. I either let each side keep pulling until… until what? I am already at the point where I am restless, sleepless, incapable of deciding… Or I decide which arm I want to lose… because it will be one or the other.

“Nothing beats a pool party in October.”

All decisions are for me to make. I am incredibly blessed to have a job, parents and friends who LET me decide. That alone should make it easier. What if it doesn’t? What if it makes it harder?

“One day, you will find your Mr. Darcy.”

I can’t read. I bought three new books that I can’t wait to get started on. But I can’t concentrate.

I watch a TV show. One episode in and I lost track. My mind is wandering. Checking emails and social media. I started on a movie.. One that I’ve seen a hundred times and that’s supposed to make me feel better. And it does. For a split second. I laugh.

“Wait a tic, that means I’m single again- Oh, behave.”

I went on a hike. I went to a party. I socialized. I ran. I wrote this.

I go to bed.

Day 2 starts out like Day 1. And then I go to work… It’s like Groundhog’s Day… Or what I imagine the movie “Happy Death Day” to be like (in theaters everywhere October 13th): A girl wakes up every day to her birthday and is killed by the end of the day. She keeps reliving the same day and is caught in this cycle until she finds out who her killer is. Is the only way to break out of this vicious circle to find who my killer is? Or is it a Catch-22? Even if I find out, it’s not going to put an end to the story?

I can’t stop thinking. I’m restless and exhausted.

“Sometimes You Wanna Go Where Everybody Knows Your Name”

Where were we?

Right… No matter how many times I’ve tried to write and rewrite what has happened, I keep deleting and adding information, rewording, over-editing and in the end, it’s not what happened at all. It is quite a lot and I will try to summarize… Without giving away too much information, but just enough for me to process and for you to hopefully enjoy the read. Without hurting or glamorizing anyone, which may be impossible and I might scream, but it’s a written scream, so you should be alright.

What happened to me happens to a lot of people. Every day. Somewhere in the world. Or let’s just say, I’m not the first person that this has happened to and I won’t be the last. So in no way do I want to make myself sound (more) special (than I am) here ;), but it was something that pulled the rug out from under me. Completely. I was on autopilot for weeks; survival mode for a month; and I merely functioned. I did not really enjoy anything I was doing. I was going through the motions.

It took an army of friends and family to get me to where I am now. I am currently rooming with a guy friend (let’s call him Frank for name change’s sake). Frank has a dog. A hand-me-down from his ex-wife. It’s pocket-sized, pretty old, has diabetes, is half-blind and incontinent. So for one, it’s a miracle that the creature is still alive. But back to the dog at a later time… Frank offered to put me up in his one-bedroom in West Hollywood while I go back to my 7-3.30 job to save up dinero until I can afford my own place again. At least that was the plan.

Frank has his own limo service (driving celebrities to and from the airport, movie premieres, after parties, parties in general) and some great stories to tell. Half of them are probably made up or embellished, but listening to him, I’m learning that my situation is not nearly as bad as what some others are going through. Every day. On different levels. But everyone has their own set of problems. I knew that before, but recognizing other people’s coping mechanisms just makes it more palpable and real. Frank, for example, has very irregular hours because when celebrity X drunk-dials him on a random Thursday at 3 AM, he jumps up off the couch, slides into his driver uniform and tumbles out the door right behind the wheel. So he doesn’t have regular working hours and sleeps on the couch, despite having a bedroom.

He has been doing this for decades. The room I’m staying in now has been named the “room of lost souls”. Boxes propped against the wall (some are mine, most are not), and the hood of my SMART car next to the bed (long story). Dog pee pads, toilet paper and paper towels on the other side of the wall, and a fan right in the door, blowing in the other direction. Several friends of his have been here over time, always for a few months until they got back on their feet, like me right now.

I’d like to circle around to the coping mechanisms again. When I come home from work, Frank is usually there and does his invoices while watching TV. There are four fans in the small living room (because no A/C and this is Los Angeles), creating a wind tunnel and my eyes are always completely dried up whenever I watch TV. Not to mention I’m frickin’ freezing and the blind, diabetic, peeing dog is lying on his little pillow island, ears blowing in the wind, having the time of his life. But Frank is not supposed to have a dog, and the dog barks because it’s blind and incontinent and it’s a dog, so the owners aren’t supposed to know and thus, Frank turns on the fans (for the wind and the noise), all radios in the apartment and the TV. Full range. All channels. I cannot hear myself think… and that’s a good thing.

But that’s not how he copes… Or at least not all of it. When I come home from work, he usually sits there and we watch some shows that he DVR’ed. He always listens to the intro of “Cheers”, and then switches back to the news. He sings along, “Sometimes you wanna go where everybody knows your name…and they’re always glad you came. You wanna be where you can see, our troubles are all the same. You wanna be where everybody knows your name.” [piano outro] And I smile. Everybody has their happy place. The place where you are safe and nobody and nothing can hurt you. For Frank, it’s Cheers.

He DVR’ed a couple of ALF episodes for me (because I saw an episode on MeTV one day and mentioned that I grew up with that show). We now watch ALF re-runs every day (I’ve seen all of them multiple times and used to tape them in the 80’s, had all the audio tapes…), and we dissect each episode and google what has become of the actors. Maybe ALF is my happy place for now… Until I figure out my next move. But the next step is becoming more and more concrete. And that’s a very good feeling. It’s good to feel again. Something. Anything.

Never Look Back

Find Road Trip Part I here: http://wp.me/p51E95-qY

I drove past the building displaying the Selegna Sol (Los Angeles mirrored) advertisement in the dark, turned left and followed the car’s GPS instructions from there on out ($17/day, plus Google maps, plus Road Atlas… you see why it was necessary…). And I became the waterfall.

There was nothing and nobody to stop me. Except the on-setting rush hour at 6. The sun came up. I would normally consider myself an enthusiast when it comes to sunrises and sunsets. Especially when I get to get up while it’s still dark and just head out with my camera to enjoy the silence and magic of early mornings. I have never less enjoyed a sunrise. I couldn’t even look back. Although I don’t look back whenever I leave Germany either… Ever. I hug, I turn around, I cry, and I go. Never look back.

The sun rose to my right and I still felt like a foreigner in the rental. The back was completely stuffed with my belongings except for 10 cm of room between the stuff and the car ceiling for me to look back… which I didn’t do until I was well outside of the LA area.

With my snacks, entertainment, and my travel teddy buddy next to me, I was starting to let the incredible sight of the California mountains impress me. I made it a habit to stop every 1 to 2 hours for fresh air and to stretch my legs, and inform close friends and relatives where I was. Barstow was my first stop and I took a break at a Starbucks near the Interstate.

I then continued on toward Flagstaff. The scenery changed from rocky, dry and chilly California to a relatively green, foresty, icy roaded Arizona . I’m not even sure I considered winter tires on the rental (which I was lucky to get as it was… as your experience has probably taught you, rental companies rarely have the vehicle that they advertise in their category).

Mountain sunrise
Mountains
Wild wild cold mountains

 

Arizona winter

I reached Flagstaff after a good 7 hours. There was snow on the road. I hadn’t been in the snow in years, but you very quickly remember why you don’t miss it. I also made it a habit to arrive at all my hotels around 4 or 5 pm before the darkness prevailed.

After a quick orientation in my room, I set out to see the town. I went to the spot where Forrest Gump was running and came up with the idea of “shit happens”. I bought two scones at a local bakery, gave one to a homeless guy at the corner. Dinner was Subway. Once around the block in the snow was enough in my converse sneakers. Time to head back to the hotel and call it a day. It’s November 30th.

Downtown Flagstaff
Shoes on snow
Forrest Gump “Shit happens” ;)
Motel sunset

Road Trip Part II

Smells Like Home

As a child, I had this toy slime called “Gak” (80s and 90s, baby). It came in different colors, but my favorite was the white one. It had a certain scent to it… earthy and artificial. Whenever I think of the slime, I remember my room with the stereo system next to the window, equipped with empty cassette tapes ready to record my favorite songs off the radio, boy band posters on the wall and a sense of shame in the back of my head when I ran to the ice cream van at age 12 once the bell chimed in our small town gossipy German street. I watched My Girl several times that summer. Eating ice cream.

The scent of fog also does something with me… Artificial fog. It’s weird and I will try to understand it myself and then explain. In 2012, I visited Universal Studios Hollywood for the first time, and Halloween Horror Nights became my ultimate go-to. It takes place on select nights September through November and employs artificial fog (for dramatic effects in certain areas, obviously). I could stand in the fog for hours and be a happy camper. I believe it’s the sensation of being in a different world, with a (great) hint of danger, but knowing nobody can hurt you. The smell of dampness combined with the sweetness of cotton candy and the distant cloud of grilled burgers is right where you walk from Super Silly Fun Land and Minion Mayhem through little France or the streets of London toward Universal Plaza (yeah, I know the layout in my sleep). The fog is the strongest in those streets… and on the Studio Tour when you’re chased (on foot) through the backlot. Jurassic Park has the same special fog effects, which makes it one of my favorite attractions. Again, being emerged in a world where you get a sense of danger, but with a security that nothing will happen to you, is the ultimate olfactory thrill.

Yankee Candles, Bath and Body Works and all things fall: Once my favorite season rolls around, I’m unstoppable. Home Sweet Home, Autumn wreath, Spiced pumpkin, Cinnamon stick, Marshmallow Pumpkin latte, Salted Caramel Pumpkin, my hairs stand on end, my pupils enlarge, my hands grab a tote and I push old ladies aside with my coupons. I have no control over myself come fall. Basically anything cinnamon, perhaps a hint of vanilla (and sometimes coconut), but cinnamon is always my go-to. If I must analyze this notion, I would say it’s my teenage years and American culture personified. The best Halloween I had was at a sleepover with some of my girl friends in High School, watching scary movies and eating the candy we had just harvested trick-or-treating (although you’re technically not supposed to past the age of what? 10?11?).

For me, everything stands and falls with a smell… attraction in a partner, comfort at a work place, restaurants, cars, my home most of all… and yeah, me. I have no idea what I smell like. That’s for others to judge, but with all the pumpkin and marshmallow and cinnamon and vanilla, I’d say I smell like fall. And adventure… Kidding… Just fall. American fall. At a country home. In October. At night. In the fog. Yeah.

#30DayWritingChallenge

Day 25: Your favorite smell

Ventral Striatum Stimuli

“Do you know any jokes?” – “I know one, but I forgot how it goes”. This conversation is always the same with me.  It’s annoying. I have so much useless information stored in my brain. I’m not saying a joke would contribute to the useful side, but I’d rather be able to tell a joke than list all cast members of Two Broke Girls. Or Baywatch. Or Community. All cancelled. But who knows when those might come in handy… I’ll keep them in a dusty drawer for now, just in case.

Did you know that comedy and horror are closely related? For one, in both genres, the viewer looks toward the protagonist to overcome a difficulty over the course of the movie, relatable to real life. Also, if you watch those around you if you’re not jumpy during a horror movie (like me), people usually scream, followed by a relief of laughter. We could get into the whole social function of comedy and laughter, but it would take a bit longer. The “relief theory” is quite intriguing.

But this only on the side (and in an attempt to justify my love for horror and comedy without outcasting myself). What makes me laugh and slap my knees or any knees that are available to me:

5: Any kind of comedy really. Louis C.K. is currently one of my favorites. It’s gotten so far that I’m expecting him to make me laugh and when five minutes go by and I haven’t, I’m just waiting for it… But he rarely disappoints. Physical comedy as conveyed by Jim Carrey, the late John Ritter or Robin Williams appeal to my comedic understanding like no other. I love going to comedy clubs for the entire evening experience and admire the artists for not being afraid of judgement whatsoever… Most probably are, but they’re doing a very fine job concealing/ dealing with it.

4: I’ve been looking for a certain location in LA for a few years now… four years, to be exact. For a photo! A photo that everyone has probably already taken, but I want one too, damnit! I’ve been searching whenever I saw photos taken from that location and finally figured out where it is. The photographers don’t like to reveal that spot because it is pretty sweet, and so I’ll keep the peace as well. Since I’m not there right now, and it was bugging the heck out of me, I asked a local LA friend for advice. It sounded a little bit like this: “Watch ‘Falling Down‘ with Michael Douglas… No… No… watch ‘Falling motherf*cking Down‘ with Michael Douglas””. It made me laugh out loud because it showed so much passion and conviction and was just so natural. It wasn’t the location though… but I see where he got it from.

3: Plays on words always get me. As do bad puns. In that sense, I’m a 70-year-old grandpa who desperately tries to reconnect with his grandkids through bad jokes. Exchanging the first letter of each word (which I do all the time without intention… but people don’t find this funny, it really is just me I’m afraid). I normally keep this to myself… for a reason ;).

2: Seeing or hearing other people laugh. It’s contagious. If someone has a very deep and hearty laugh, you just can’t help but chime in.

1: Whose Line Is it Anyway: I know, it should be part of number 5, but it totally deserves its own category. I adore Ryan Stiles. He doesn’t even have to say anything and my eyes start filling up with laughter tears. All performers’ timing, intonation, humor and general attitudes are just so on point. They never disappoint.

I like “clean” comedy. My friend (the one from number 4) wants to send me to see Bob Saget… I don’t think I can handle it. But I survived Tim Allen at the Laugh Factory… And I’ll watch him once more any old day, gladly. Can’t wait to hit the clubs again.

PS: The ventral striatum is the part of our brain mainly responsible for comedic understanding and laughter.

#30DayWritingChallenge

Day 24: Post 5 things that make you laugh out loud

BaLAncing Your Passions

If you had asked me a decade ago what I was passionate about, I wouldn’t have had a clear response. In my early twenties, I was concerned with my studies, improving my foreign language skills and a marriage that eventually turned cold. Don’t get me wrong, that phase was necessary. Some things need to go in order to make room for new passions.

Movies and TV shows have always been my go-to. In the 80s and 90s, I recorded my favorite sitcoms on VHS cassettes and the first movie I watched at the theater was The Little Mermaid, I think. Back when grown­­­-­ups were allowed to smoke in movie theaters… in Germany. There was a button at each seat – if you pressed it, a waiter would come running and take your drink order. We always had Fanta Orange Soda.

That passion hasn’t changed. With the oversupply of shows and movies available through Netflix, Hulu, Prime, etc., it is tougher to pick out the right ones, but when you’re determined, the right ones will find you.

Besides getting lost in those virtual representations of life, I liked being active. Physical education was one of my favorite subjects in school and I grew up playing tennis. I played all throughout High School and still occasionally pick up a racket, but my focus has turned to running and fitness in general. There is something about scraping at your physical threshold and pushing to become better. It’s frustrating when you feel that you’re not advancing, but so rewarding when you overcome that mental block. Just in time for the next one.

Writing about all of what has happened has helped me over the years, but I was mostly active in journaling and writing for our school newspaper (way back when). I still consider it a passion because it’s something I like to do and would like to improve.

Three years ago, I held my first DSLR in my hands and a new passion was born. Not right away because I had to figure out how it works and get over the frustration (that and passion seem to go hand in hand). I remember I went to a photo studio in Germany this one time to have my portrait taken to put on my resume. The photographer invited me back to have more photos taken with a friend of mine (my upstairs neighbor). It turned into the most hilarious event ever. The poor photographer had something else in mind and was aiming for a more erotic shoot. Little did he know that he had two absolute hyenas in front of his lens, laughing every time he instructed us to do something we clearly didn’t want to do. We thought we’d go with it, but it turned out anything BUT erotic. It was still fun and we laugh about it to this day. This is not how I got into photography though. Oh boy.

Each person is different behind the camera – that’s what makes it fascinating. Sometimes you look for something to be different on purpose, just to capture it and say “see, it’s not all the same”. I like how versatile it is. You can be in a crowd or by yourself. You can use the camera settings or edit post-shooting. You learn to be detail-oriented and shift your focus (hah, get it?!).

My biggest passion of all, however, is Los Angeles. I know, it only took me three blog posts to get back to my favorite topic. I love exploring LA, finding new places and just noticed that it rolls all my other passions into one: I run through it and exercise, love TV show recordings and movie premieres, write about it and take photos of it. LA can’t be explained. It just lets you be… And do your thing. You can blame the city all you want for your failure or praise it for your success; it won’t judge. It will just be there. Which is exactly what I like and need.

#30DayWritingChallenge

Day 13: 5 Things you’re passionate about

Back in the Groove

I just finished my second class for the day. I’ve been sticking with my Les Mills On Demand workouts since January, in an attempt to get my body back (in the shape it used to be, or a step further even). And in support of my half marathon training plan. On non-running days, I finish one or two classes. On running days, I mostly stick to running and stretching.

I remember the cool mornings when I mounted my bike en route to the beach, movie soundtracks and a Pandora station in my ears, and leave the world be. It was just the bike and I. And the breeze. And the beach. A few time, I even made it all the way to Downtown LA. I always used the GPS and left at 6 am or earlier on a Sunday to avoid traffic. I rode my bike all the way to the Disney Concert Hall, ate my banana, and made my way back. Ice cream at the Pier by 9 am. That was my Sunday, and I enjoyed every second of it.

It was different once I took on the new job in the valley. I was able to afford my living situation and transportation there, but I was mostly stationary. You get up, drive to work, sit down in front of a computer, get up and drive back home, and by the end of the day you’re so tired, you maybe get to the store, home, dinner, sit down, bed. It was a very different change in lifestyle ― but I wanted LA so much that I didn’t care about me anymore. I loved every LA second, but I lost part of me in the process.

In January of this year, my mom was visiting my sister and her family in Maine. My sister and I had texted and I decided to make my way up there and surprise mom. Two days on the Amtrak, crossing 15 States… really? 15? Florida, Georgia, South Carolina, North Carolina, Virginia, Maryland, DC, Pennsylvania, Delaware, New York, Connecticut, Rhode Island, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Maine. Wow. I’ve crossed 15 States this year and wasn’t even truly aware until now. It was the best time and a decision I do not regret. The Amtrak was actually comfortable, even though I did not opt for a sleeper car. It had a café car with drinks and snacks; the restrooms were comfortably clean and the time passed anyway. It was good to see New England again, but most of all, my family grounded me. In those times when you’re all over the place, your family reminds you who you are, where you came from and that everything is ok. I needed that.

My sister got me back into my gym routine, and I’m pumping and combating and balancing and running almost every day. Mom kept encouraging me, as did my friends.

I have a feeling that I am where I’m supposed to be. However, the journey is far from over. I’m curious, as usual, where it (or I) bring/s me. I’m ready, and I don’t regret a thing.

 

 

#30DayWritingChallenge

Day 8: What decision/s are you glad you made?

The sweetest thing

All this week, I’ve been really good with my training plan. Eating… meh. I mean, I do eat, that’s not the problem. I just had no desire to meal-prep whatsoever and made do with what was on the way. The gentleman at the Subway on my way to work made me rethink my training-induced laziness. Today, the owner would prepare my sandwich, nay… may salad (my freshly dryer-dried jeans insisted on some leafy greens). Never putting my jeans in the dryer again!

As the happy Vietnamese owner put on his plastic gloves like a surgeon and explained three times that he was waiting for the chicken to heat up, he just sort of stared at me… and then the salad bar… and then me… and then the salad bar… We both waited for the microwave/oven to “bing” in awkward togetherness. I’m sure he was trying to be charming at 6.30 AM, but what he did next will forever prevent me from ordering another Subway salad ever. It was my first time, too.

Since the staring-move clearly made no impression on me (I still smiled, nodded, I am polite!), he told me a story. If you’ve been to Subway, you know how the sandwich artists have to look at you in order to read your lips and figure out what you want – the plexiglass partition seems to function as a perfect noise protector. Good when you live by the 10 to the 405, not so much when ordering customized food.

It works both ways too – you don’t know what they’re asking you. You just assume based on the context: Bread? – Sure, honey oat or wheat. Cheese? – Why of course, provolone, thank you. Toasted? -Uh-huh.

If they sneak in a surprise question like “How’s your day goin’ so far?” and you answer “Provolone”, I’m sure they would manage. It’s strictly business.

As the owner told me a story, I caught little bits and pieces here and there but was too tired and frankly, not interested enough to further inquire. His accent and speed didn’t help the situation (I’m saying this with all due respect as I have an accent myself). I just went with it, smiled, nodded and watched him closely as he chopped my tomatoes.

How nice, I thought, he’s probably telling me a story about his family and how they came to the US, their connection to the food industry and that he’s now able to do what he has always wanted to do.

In my flow of not paying attention, I suddenly saw him looking at me, shaking his head and mumbling “Aww, sour patches, they made me vomit.”

You know when you fall asleep during a movie or an episode of a show and you wake up three episodes later, wondering why Netflix hasn’t asked you THIS time if you wanted to continue watching?! Yea, this was it.

Honestly, I think that’s probably among the top 5 awkward and out-of-context things you can say to someone while making their salad (I chose my wording wisely here!).

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I stared at him blankly. So apparently, I had not only misinterpreted his honest and lovely family history, but COMPLETELY missed the connection to sour patches (my favorite movie candy next to junior mints, btw… WAS).

My reaction was nothing more than a couple of “oh, oh… hmm.. ok” ‘s. He was persistent: “Do you like sour patches?” I diiiiiiiid…. I hesitated.

I wanted to say “You know, if I could, I would bathe in sour patches. Then I would suck the sugar off of each one and fall into a happy numb-blue-tongue sugar-induced coma that lasts for days.” At the movie theater where I used to work, we regularly snagged sour patches and Swedish fish from the plastic containers every time we walked by. Huh… and there’s my connection between sour patches and movies.

“I guess”, I responded.

The owner kept shaking his head vigorously as he was mixing the concoction that was supposed to be my lunch while he exclaimed “BLAGHH”, sticking his tongue out in disgust of sour patches. It must’ve been a serious trauma for him. I was surprised he didn’t regurgitate right into my salad asking what kind of dressing I preferred.

So for one, the salad was everything I expected it to be. It tasted exactly like every Subway sandwich but without the bread. Also, I accept everyone’s opinion and taste and preference in candy. BUT…  do not dis the sour patch!!!

My coworker and I took our lunch around noon, and she stared at me “You don’t seem to enjoy your salad too much”. I didn’t. It went straight into the trash.

I vow to prepare my own lunch next week.