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!).

IMG_9332

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.

 

I don’t run until it hurts…

… I run until the pain stops.

I’ve always considered myself to be an athlete. And I’m still sure that I am. I had the chance to complete my trainer certificate, become a nutrition and life coach, and yet it feels like I’m starting over again. It’s not a bad thing – I’m sure that in the end, it will be for my benefit. It just gnaws on your pride, you know?! When you’re supposed to know everything about something you’re doing… but it’s not working. However, I’m also hungry to learn – to be better, and to pass on what I know.

Today was the LA Marathon and I was very envious of those who put in the time, training, sweat and tears and made it across the finish line. I’ve finished a few half marathons and have signed up for an upcoming 10k (and am planning to run another half marathon). I’m still skeptical because I don’t know what category I fit into. Story of my life. But for training and progress/result purposes, this is important for me to figure out.

I recently read an article about a trainer who had a very ambitious, motivated client who in the end wasn’t able to improve her time. They did everything by the book: Nutrition, training plan, they even did blood tests, took her rest days seriously, and recorded the progress. She could not finish the 10k in under an hour and 20 minutes. I’m scared that this could be me.

Although it wouldn’t even be close to the end of the world. I’ve just been conditioned (probably by myself) to show results and to measure my progress by the results. My very first 5k, I thought I was going to die. I’m not exaggerating. I hated running. I did a bit of training on a treadmill at the gym I was working at and was devastated because it took me more than 45 minutes to finish a measly 5k. During the race, I had a trainer friend run ahead of me. She was extremely nice, patient, motivating and let herself drop every k or so, so that I could catch up. I finished in about 33 minutes. I will never forget that. This was the first time that I was amazed at my body and what it could do.

I played sports all my life, but every sport is completely different and requires a very distinguished mind-set and training approach. I’ve learned that, believe me. In tennis: You’re mostly in your head. Of course you need the skills, the talent, the endurance, but it’s such a mind-game. I was the captain of our High School varsity team and during my senior year, I won most of my matches. The ones I didn’t win, I wasn’t sad about because I had great respect for those who were better than me – they were a lot better and I looked up to them.

Coach took me out for 3 or 4 matches after I had a break-down. I had lost a match that I was sure I was going to win, and it broke me… a little bit. I was so ambitious. Winning gave me a high. My training paid off. Not winning the one I was so sure of, more than gnawed on my pride. After watching the next few matches from the sideline, I felt better. I’m not even sure if I won anything afterwards, but it didn’t even matter, and it was fun to play again. The break was a life-saver and my coach knew what he was doing.

It was similar with the last Half Marathon I ran. The second one was in April of 2015. It turned out a bit more than 20 minutes better than the first one. The course was perfect, conditions were good, my training plan had worked out, and I had fun running – well… it wasn’t torture. But the last HM put a deep crack not only in my ego, but into my trust of creating my own training. I had run about 90k in preparation for that HM and my goal was a time in under 2 hours and 30 minutes. Which most people can do, honestly, without too much training. Needless to say, I wasn’t even close. I was just never a runner. Tennis, guys…. We do sprints. We run 2 super laps to warm up and then we stand there and do quick moves. We don’t run for long periods of time. S,o endurance running was/is a challenge for me.

Becoming a trainer helped, or so I thought. Until last October. I haven’t run since. Once, but it was no fun. I was restless, my heart rate was through the roof and I didn’t see the purpose.

I haven’t found a sport that has kept me this occupied though. It’s fun for me to write training plans, try them out, buy running outfits, accessorize, watch motivational videos and give myself pep-talks before a race. I’m not one to give up, and although I may not be a runner, I will at least keep trying to make the best of it. Every course is different, you’re not always in the same mind-set, and although you may think you’re prepared, if your body says “uh-uh”, your mind has to assess whether it’s true or not. Mind over body. And thus we’re back at this sport being all in your head. Just like tennis.

I’ve signed up for a 10k within the next 8 weeks, and my next half marathon is in the fall. I’m getting some help from a trainer friend in writing a training plan. I’ll be complementing my training with the right nutrition, which is a whole different ballgame, but I’ll try. And the help of amazing athlete friends who are nothing but supportive. Huge pillar in training, by the way!

Maybe I’m not a “runner” runner, but I AM an athlete. And I’m excited for this next challenge. Let’s see what this body-and-mind combination can do.

LA Beautified

It didn’t go all too well with this writing challenge, I must admit, but I do want to continue – this is a tiny update in between to get you up to speed. Those New Year’s resolutions aren’t EXACTLY coming along as planned either. They are in my head, and I have a plan… The implementation is just turning out a bit more lazy than expected. I can’t take lazy though. It’s one thing that really gets my blood boiling – laziness when one (I) should be doing something.

I decided to take care of one item on my checklist: Getting this undefined, let’s call it “thingy”, removed from underneath my eye. The technical term, I believe, is “milia”… or “thingy”. It’s just a little bump that if it were on my arm, I couldn’t care less, but it’s distracting me and I can’t have it in my face.

Lucky little me now has health insurance, so I fought for a referral from my physician to a dermatologist. The former indicated something along the lines of “Oh, this is not a matter for the dermatologist, but I can refer you to a C O S M E T I C dermatologist”. Subtext: “Girl, your insurance isn’t paying jack and honestly, people have more important things to worry about than that thingy”. At least that’s how imagined it… Not sure if he gets a share for the referral.

I’m in the waiting room of the “Urgent Care” facility to wait for my referral C O S M E T I C dermatologist. And, boy, was he. I have to lead up to it though. I don’t want to spoil this for you.

So the nurse yelled into the room (occupied by another lady, her two kids, and myself): “LISA W.”… It was really a 50/50 call and the other woman didn’t react, so I’m pretty sure she meant me. “Uh.. Lena?” I asked, hesitant. “Oh… yeah… sorry about that”, intonation on “sor” and “that”.

I sat in the little room waiting for my …. C O S M E T I C dermatologist. I really don’t know what I was expecting. Maybe a Hispanic man in his 40’s or 50’s, about my height, slight accent, but charming. That’s a dermatologist. But not a C O S M E T I C one apparently…

He entered the room.

I think he smiled.

I’m not sure.

He was tall. Very tall. And skinny.

Caucasian, blond, a tad bit of Doogie Howser. No, a LOT of Doogie Howser. But not as handsome as Neil Patrick Harris. Definitely as gay though.

With one other exception. How can I paint you a picture with words?!… He looked like… his face was inflated from the inside out. There’s a YouTube Video of a dog that accidentally ate a bee and is now all puffy. He also looked like a bee stung him… on his entire face. Or like that gak flubber silly puddy from the 90’s… remember? It has a perfectly smooth and shiny surface, just poke two slits in it for eyes, two nostrils and … well, the lips you’d have to do over because those are two additional bee stings.

https://www.google.com/url?sa=i&rct=j&q=&esrc=s&source=images&cd=&cad=rja&uact=8&ved=0ahUKEwigxa3Bg7rKAhUK9GMKHT9lA0EQjRwIBw&url=%2Furl%3Fsa%3Di%26rct%3Dj%26q%3D%26esrc%3Ds%26source%3Dimages%26cd%3D%26cad%3Drja%26uact%3D8%26ved%3D0ahUKEwigxa3Bg7rKAhUK9GMKHT9lA0EQjRwIBw%26url%3Dhttps%253A%252F%252Fwww.reddit.com%252Fr%252Fdogbees%252F%26psig%3DAFQjCNEPyvwfs-qPB37f7Fwj_fHq6i1mUQ%26ust%3D1453435490726477&psig=AFQjCNEPyvwfs-qPB37f7Fwj_fHq6i1mUQ&ust=1453435490726477

This man is a work of art… in progress, but still a work of art.

How in the world could I have expected a little Mexican when I go to see a C O S M E T I C dermatologist in Los Angeles? I was disappointed in my own expectations, but this is so much cooler. I love surprises!

On top of that, his last name was that of a famous actor. I kid you not and I wish I made this up – but the name was just the cherry on top of the Botox sundae (I’m not mentioning it because I may have to see him again and would hate to have my face messed up because of a blog entry… you understand, right?!).

I am absolutely not opposed to Botox. I like it when people take care of themselves; if they feel that they would feel better about themselves with a little Botox, then by all means, go right ahead. Just not in your ENTIRE FACE! I’m sure I won’t be opposed to it in a couple of years either (God willing). But this man just took the Botox game to a whole different level.

I’m very good at keeping a straight face and my composure. Even if that actor had walked into the office himself and I had sat there in my little gown (I’m having a couple of moles checked up on as well), I would’ve talked to him about the weather and how many rubber gloves he goes through in a day. About two boxes, by the way.. several pairs per client, he attempted to roll his eyes. I didn’t inquire further.

I really tried not to stare at him. I actually wanted to kind of poke his face – it looked like he had just oiled it… or dunked it in a bucked of grease… Not sure if that’s in the leaflet for when you get Botox, or it’s a C O S M E T I C dermatology thing. I thought of myself as donkey in Shrek, that just goes “bloop” with his lips in the carriage in between Shrek and Fiona… only I’d be poking my dermatologist. And he would just be blankly staring ahead. Coldly mouthing “enough”. I would retract.

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So, I couldn’t really run. I had already paid my deductible and $70 for removing “thingy”. While I was at it, I asked Dr. Botox to please check out my moles. He leafed through my hair, and asked me to stand up in my little hospital gown. Have you ever had all the reasons why you wanted to go on a diet/ healthy living streak/ work out spree combine into one moment? This was it… My gay-seeming Botox C O S ME T I C dermatologist eyed me top to bottom, left to write, bra to panties, which I essentially asked him to do…. I almost wanted to apologize and tell him “hey, you know… I’m kinda giving myself this week and then I’m SERIOUSLY gonna work out like… bootcamp” or “I’m already cutting out sweets, I promise” or “It’s really not as bad as it looks; my genes are just screaming for a big bum”. He would just continue to blankly stare. You just all of a sudden want to apologize for everything you’ve eaten and not worked off in your life.

He really only cared about the moles though. And he didn’t faint… So I guess I’m good.

I was concerned about some marks on my back (you never know!); he merely referred to them as “ugly ducklings”. I found that kind of cute. I would never want ugly ducklings removed from parts of me that I can’t see if they’re benign. And they are.

We then get to the actual part of the appointment: removing “thingy”. The nurse instructed me to lie down and said that the Dr. would “cauterize” the “thingy”. Oh, ok… Wait, WHAT? “Oh”, she explained “he’s zapping it off”. Yep, like a bug flying into the light. I was mute. I don’t know if I was numbed or burned right away. He just warned me that it would sting… Like a mosquito bite… He should know, right?! It started to smell like burned hair… or nails… when you had your finger too close to the match or your hair in the candle for some reason. Same scent. Dr. Botox said “this should peel off in about a day or two”… “Or a week”…  I love this loose definition of my healing time-span.

After he and the nurse had left the room, I just sat there in my hospital gown.. content. Confused, but content. Hair still messed up from him leafing through it, my eye is red and burnt and I still smell my scorched skin. But I’m  smiling, shaking my head. This is so LA.

Sit and Chill

As much as I would like to, I don’t wake up like “this”. So every couple of weeks, I visit my aesthetician… beautician… the lady who does things to my face to eventually make me look prettier. I always anticipate that time. You have to know, as a natural light blonde, my eyebrows are practically transparent. Especially in the summer. It’s perfect for the rest of my body – not so much my eyebrows. And I normally wouldn’t notice – until I have them colored in. And now that I’ve told you, you will also notice! Hah! I usually have my lashes dyed at the same time since that saves me about a month and a half of mascara (plus, I don’t wear fake eyelashes – they make me feel like a transvestite).

I went to a few salons until I found my current one – the last one was above a barber shop in Westwood and the lady had me sit upright in a chair while she had me close my eyes, put pads underneath my lashes, tinted them, and simultaneously colored in my eyebrows. If I could’ve balanced a couple of spinning plates on sticks with my hands and feet, the number would’ve been complete. So, going through that whole routine of sitting upright like the elephant man is not the most relaxing experience. And I need to relax!

My current beauty place is on Montana Ave in Santa Monica, and I’m very much in love with it. It smells nice and creates an overall pleasant atmosphere. I also appreciate that the aesthetician (how many times do I have to spell this?) doesn’t talk too much. We complain about the lack of men in our lives, go through our imaginary travel log, and discuss upcoming holidays. In between, we pause, and it’s absolutely not embarrassing. I feel comfortable with her.

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Sorry for the Shutterstock – I have absolutely no photos that would go with this story :)

So on this day, I’m laying down on the elevated bed after taking off my shoes. The lady validated the color that I wanted and we went away with our routine. I was starting to relax. I earned this, after all, right?! She asked me if I had been to the Shrine – a silent retreat in Pacific Palisades with a pond, plants, a little fountain, etc. I had. And I wanted to let her know that I absolutely loved it. Pads underneath my lashes, cotton pads on my eye lids, color on my lashes and brows, I wanted to assure her that I liked that one bench by the pond. I intended to say “it’s a nice place to sit and chill”.

You have to know: My brain usually runs off without my mouth, and the latter constantly has to catch up. So I frequently just mush words together in the hopes that in the end, it’ll make sense to the receiver. In this case, it was not a good idea. In all seriousness, I don’t do this on purpose. It really just happens, and I create the most wonderful things. In this case, I gracefully uttered “it’s a great place to shit”.

Now, when you have dye in your eyelashes, it needs to sit there for about 10-15 minutes (depending on the type of dye, I guess) and let it do its job. It burns like a… fire… if you open your eyes even remotely.

With that said, I could not only hear my aesthetician confirm with a snort and attempt to breathe, but I felt my own face turn bright red, and I couldn’t stop laughing. I didn’t even try to justify what I had just said. That’s very disturbing if you can’t see the other person when they’re laughing at/ with you. I didn’t need a place to hide – I had the cotton pads, but I couldn’t stop the tears from running down my freshly beautified face. It burned so much. And the worst part: we had to start all over because my tears and outer restlessness had destroyed her work of art.

Well, if you’re ever in LA, visit the Shrine… it’s a great place to… sit and chill! ;)

Oh, and don’t forget to tip the people who make you look fabulous!!

 

Day 3 #30DayWritingChallenge : Write about the worst time you’ve ever put your foot in your mouth.

 

Being Alien

… Is so awkward! It’s unnerving and mind-boggling and frankly, gives me anxiety. It’s also interesting, never boring and sort of freeing.

When I came to the US, I had just started High School, and I was the shiny, new, strange toy. Everyone was extremely nice, but also tested their boundaries with me. I guess it’s what 14-year-olds do. I mispronounced my age, and a girl across the long fake-wooden lunch table looked at me with bug-eyes and asked “Really? Fourty?” Yea, no, not really. I, on the other hand, was surprised at American teenagers drinking their lunch milk straight out of the carton. I used a straw and received more bug-eyes. I just opted for water the next time around.

You dip into a new culture, new language, and the next thing you know, you’re on a plane back… not “home”… because THIS was your home. Just a plane back to where you came from – even if it’s just to visit. I’ve always felt that the second I step into an airport and pass the security check, I’m merely a shell. Airplane personality.

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I usually listen to music, read a book, play some games on my Ipad, Iphone, whatever. I watch people come and go, wonder where they are headed. Everyone has their story. The only place where really everyone is an alien, is at the airport. On the plane, it’s always the same routine. I had a phase where I only sat on the aisle so that I wouldn’t have to disturb anyone during long flights when I wanted to get up or use the restroom. Now I always take the window- I like to see where I’m going.

Leaving your country and moving to another one is difficult. Once you made a decision, you’re already halfway there. I don’t have the language barrier anymore, thank goodness. That’s a tough one. The cultural differences are there, and I more often embrace rather than despise them. Los Angeles is a great example for integration – because there really is none. You can be yourself or pretend to be someone else – whatever makes you feel good on your way to happiness. The point is, that’s exactly what everyone else is doing – nobody knows the game, we’re all just winging it.

I met up with some of my German friends in LA and met some new ones as well. All of them are younger than I am, and most of them are just starting out – they are where I used to be twenty years ago. I first set foot in the US twenty years ago! Unbelievable. They brought a part of my home-country here. The way of thinking, the language, the humor (yes), the behavior. Some of it is refreshing, some of it repulsing. It made me want to leave and reminded me why I’ve always preferred the US over Germany. The US has always felt more like home. Physically and mentally. However, it’s like when someone makes fun or your siblings: It’s perfectly alright for you to harass them because they are YOUR brother/sister. If someone else does it, you’re ready to pounce! I’m repulsed by some German ways of thinking/acting, but  my hearts skips a beat when I walk down the German aisle at the World Market.

Walking down Rodeo Drive, picking up a salad, I overheard a lady chat on her Iphone, large bag in hand, bug-sunglasses on, heals clacking on the pavement. The high-pitched voice “oh my gaaawwwddd, can you beliiiieve him?” resulted in my toe nails curling upward and my eyes rolling into the back of my head. It’s a natural reaction, I can’t help it. I originally went into a store to pick up a watch that I had had repaired. The lady in the store was nice… until she wasn’t. Same high-pitched voice, same glasses (just not sunglasses – that would be awkward), woman’s suit, lots of make-up. I had the strap of the watch repaired and asked “oh, have they changed the design? It used to be backwards.” The strap did use to close the other way around. Her response: “Umm… you know, actually, it hasn’t changed. I think that, well, correct me if I’m wrong, this is what I’m thinking. You might have changed it in the past, and they may have put a different strap on it in the past. But this is the original one that’s supposed to be on there”.

“But, ma’am, it was bought at the original store in Spain, and it was never replaced”. – “Yes, well, sometimes, the Europeans replace it with something different”.

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The Europeans.

There it was.

Alien.

Stranger.

They do it differently.

It’s the same f’ing brand that manufactured this watch – it’s no different in Europe than in the US. But, what is she supposed to say? Perhaps she has instructions never to use the words “I don’t know, let me ask”. Who knows?!

I wanted to open the door for the lady who just exited the Starbucks with a large bag and a large coffee; she shoved the door open and just let it shut in my face with a teethy “soorrryyy”. No worries.

I drove out of the parking structure and made a right turn. The car that passed me was stopped at a red light. The lady who cut me off after that was yelling something on her speaker phone in her shiny Audi limousine. She almost ran over two pedestrians as she made another right turn. They flipped her off – I liked them.

Ignorance is very difficult for me to accept. The only thing I can do is never ever to fall into it. Seems difficult to believe that these people I encountered today were human at some point. I don’t know what nationality they were, and it doesn’t matter. Feeling alien is not about nationality, really. To me, it’s feeling misunderstood or not cared for.

I appreciate the general interest and almost naive curiosity in this country. It’s refreshing. The American Dream is still alive to me. And it’s nice to still be able to believe in something.

I’m afraid that there is absolutely nobody out there like me. At the same time, it’s reassuring. Because it makes me, you, unique. Sometimes it’s just about feeling understood or having someone close who has been through the same. To this day, I haven’t met anyone like that. And maybe that’s a good thing. As tough and isolated as it is sometimes, I like being alien.