LA Horror Story: Los Angeles is Burning

Look up at the sky and it will tell you some kind of story. Like yesterday’s super moon, for instance, or a glimpse of the Milky Way on a particularly clear night — it will literally take your breath away if you let it.

I’ve always found the sky to be vibrant at sunset, especially from the ninth floor at the Univision 34 building near LAX. Last autumn really brought out the most silky rose-plum hues that rushed to meet ardent ambers. Me, I was just lucky enough to observe the overt flirtation.

“It’s just terrible about all of these fires, though,” my friend Eddie bemoaned in between drags of a cigarette. I nodded, keeping my mouth shut, all too aware that addictions don’t stop just because half of the city has gone up in smoke. “Yeah,” I started, looking down at Henry, my dog. He looked back up at me, his tail wagging in presumed empathy towards my ethical predicament. “Yeah, it’s pretty bad.” But what else could be done?

I had run into Eddie outside of my apartment building, and he ended up joining us on an improptu, abbreviated walk around the neighborhood. It was a beautiful day, save for how the sunlight forced its way through the noxious air, not quire unlike Playdoh through a fun factory. These damned fires. We expected them every year, more so than the rain.

The thing is, the rain did come, too soon afterward, quite honestly, and did a lot of damage – to people’s homes, their lives. And then December brought about the largest fire in California history, according to Wikipedia, ar least. In showing its true colors right above our heads, the notion of a merry Christmas had undoubtedly been pushed well out of reach.

And what can be done?, I wondered.

I was so relieved at the rise in rainfall positively impacting a long-standing drought towards the beginning of last year, but the high didn’t last long. The idea that we humans have done insurmountable and likely irreversible damage is a total mood-killer. All the enjoyable instances — a gentle breeze, cool summer rain, or breathtaking sunrise — are likely just manifestations of circumstances borne of capitalism’s bottom line. Or perhaps that’s just me being cynical.

I believe in global warming. That said, it doesn’t need me to believe in it to be real.

We made our way down the block. Henry’s ecru coat had taken on the color of yams, and Eddie’s words were starting to gurgle over pockets of mucus in his throat. There wasn’t much to say and I wanted to take a nap before heading to work. It was time to go inside.

I awoke 45 minutes later from a fitful sleep, perhaps in the middle of REM. My surroundings felt heavy, disrupted, despite having kept the windows closed. The apartment building was old, on the side of both charming and barely hanging on. Pollutants were likely seeping in through what would be the leaky living room ceiling, if it ever rained enough.

I glanced at my phone on the nightstand — forty minutes ’til noon. It was time to get ready. Daydreaming and wondering and worrying was only going to make me late. I showered, got dressed, and made my way down the block to where my hatchback was parked.

“When the hills of Los Angeles are burning, palm trees are candles in the murder wind.”

Downtown, the bitcoin-and-blockchain mixer was packed and getting more congested by the half hour. Billed as a rooftop party, it was far more a bridge-type situation with a view. Taking a quick promo break from my place in the corner of the vendor floor plan, I strained to see the tops of the Wells Fargo and AEG buildings. Looking back at eye-level, I noticed a thin, charcoal-colored layer of smoke circling its way around an outdoor lamp just above the crowd. Bored with the attendees, I thought about Eddie, and the state of our lungs.

So many lives are on the breeze; even the stars are ill at ease, and Los Angeles is burning.”

(To be continued…)

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Getting Off: How to Finish a Blog Entry

Between writer’s block and not completing a project, if I was forced to decide between which is worse, I’d go with the latter. Having been in both places all too recently, it is really nice that to have motivation where there was absolutely none before.

But the ability to write is not enough. With any project, there comes a point where things must come to an end, and to experience the satisfaction that comes with finishing. Simply put, I need to get off.

There are countless articles that give advice on how to find the motivation and get the creative juices flowing enough to start a blog entry — I, too, have written about the importance of “just starting” and have personally referred to multiple sources for tips and techniques. However, since this past September, I’ve started over 40 drafts, with no end in sight.

Clearly I have an issue, largely with perceived performance and anxiety. So, as a challenge, and because writing is rewriting, I have decided within the next few months to finish each draft and publish them here. At that point, perhaps I will have acquired the answer to a question wondered for months now: How the hell do I do this? And if not, perhaps I’ll merely have written — a joy compared to writing with no purpose, and no end in sight.

At your own discretion, this is what I will be working with:

Figure out when you do your best work, and make the time and commitment to write every day. Mornings are ideal for me, and five, ten minutes here and there throughout the day adds up to something worth working with. Try to make room for longer sessions, for concentrated practice makes better, but view short sessions as better than not at all, or ever again.

Don’t stop — if on a roll and it feels good, keep going. Go for another five minutes; start another sentence or paragraph. The payoff will be worth it. If distraction becomes a habit, start to view any derailing in thought as a mere segue in disguise. But whatever you do, don’t stop.

There is often no perfect time or place to write. A dedicated room-with-a-view setup up isn’t always guaranteed, so make use of what you’ve got, whether in the elevator or in line at the bank.

And finally, go for it. Lose yourself. Don’t overthink it, or worry about how it sounds. Go by how it feels. Don’t be afraid of things being ugly, awkward, or messy. They can always be cleaned up.

And for the record, I’ve been talking about writing this whole time.

It’s Time to Get My Shit Together 

There’s so much that I want to accomplish this year. I’ve actually been throwing around a #NewYearNewMeDamnIt hashtag on social media, mostly to make me laugh when feeling helpless. But I’ll tell you, I’m feeling anything but helpless these days, which is a huge improvement from where my head was last year.

I think the reason I feel this way is because not only do I know what I need to do, but that I absolutely need to do. Eventually all this “doing” will lead to some kinda awesome “being”, even if it’s not the Pinterest-perfect dream board on which a fair part of my right brain resides. 

Long story short: in order to “do” effectively, I have to get my shit together. More than passion planning, more than mantras, this is the only way going everything’s going to come up Linds.

This has meant making some costly repairs to two giant cracks in the foundation of my well-being, which I will talk about in future posts. In the interest of brevity I will note that in both areas, there’s no substitute to getting down into the dirt and digging up and clearing out the dead roots. 

For the duration of this overhaul, I am doing my best to approach insecurities with an inquisitive mind, to listen, research, and learn, so that I  can more effectively contribute passion and skill, even if I don’t feel that my efforts are nearly as important.

And in getting a hold on setting boundaries so my time suits my efforts, I’ve learned the importance of holding myself back whenever someone says “jump”, as it’s not in my best interest to do so blindly and with good faith.

Proficiency. Optimization. Activity. Results. Here we go. 

Until next time — thanks for reading,

Linds

Small Steps Lead to Great Destinations (Part 1)

Only four days into 2018 and I’m already looking forward to the weekend.

But I’ve already accomplished some things, however small. One of my big hang-ups last year was knowing where to separate my professional life from my personal life, to truly make clear mental distinctions, for my self and loved ones’ sake.

No matter how challenging or rewarding, most people’s lives and jobs are a source of stress. However, while some seem to inherently know how to leave their work at the office each night and return to it in the morning, others, such as myself, carry it into off-hours like an old suitcase with one handle. So one goal I am actively pursuing and encouraging this year is leaving projects at the door, and setting appropriate boundaries so that all tasks can be given equal opportunity to be focused on and completed.

Prior to, well, Tuesday, I used a sole task management system to streamline all processes, projects, and communications — professional and personal. In doing so, little did I realize that I was not optimizing performance as intended. Instead, I was muddling various stresses and responding with misdirected energies. Without the distinction, I soon grew numb and unresponsive to a tool designed to make me more productive.

With that, I’ve decided to separate my tasks between two systems: Microsoft Outlook for professional tasks, and Google Keep for personal tasks. Considering I have used both Office and G Suites in such a capacity over the years, it makes sense. I already feel lifted by the change, which has proven to be more psyche-oriented than purely administrative.

To recap: You wouldn’t run a half-marathon in a pair of six-inch stilettos, nor would you expect to sail across the ocean in a bus. Yes, shoes are shoes, and vehicles are vehicles, but knowing how to use them effectively and for their intended use only increases the benefits, inclusive of health and well-being. 

In the case of task management, seeing “practice restorative yoga” next to “update spreadsheet” was more burden then help. Making a clearer distinction of my personal and professional goals has already benefited me greatly, positioning me a few steps closer to my destination.

New Year, New Me?

My apartment is small, but I love the location. I’ve lived in it for six years and still have yet to find the perfect place for anything. As such, my mental state has been wavering somewhere in between the desire to stock up and the desire to burn everything to the ground.

I’ve been on a big decluttering kick for the past few weeks, this notion of minimalism being the undercurrent on which my efforts valiantly ride. I don’t think I have it down quite yet, but I find that self-interrogation is helping. “How much does one person really need?” “Am I ever going to wear that pair of shoes again?” “Can I just pay someone to do this for me?” Honest examination of the sum of my possessions against the limits of my abode has resulted in a lot of letting go. I have never seen so many garbage bags lined up for the dumpster and donation center.

On Friday, I took three hours to clear out my cosmetics drawers and linen closet, found something I hadn’t had in quite some time — clarity? Freedom? Sense. Sense could finally be made out of that particular corner of my apartment. And it felt great, amazing, even — until I realized I had another 600 square feet to go.

Like life, I would complain that the tasks are never ending — and I have, and will likely continue to do so. It’s exasperating work. So it is said this time of year, out with the old, and in with the new.

Except I don’t plan on adding a lot of new, not to my apartment, and not to my life. There’s still quite a lot of paring down to do, and a lot of good here to be utilized. Best believe that I’m taking that perspective with me into 2018. But I’m taking this one as well:

I physically cleared my space of five large bags of unused items. Good thing, right? Well, not exactly. Sure, I’ve freed up space in my environment, but I’ve also burdened the one that surrounds me. Someone has to empty the dumpster, go through recycling, figure out what’s worth reselling, etc. Out of my sight, out of my mind, but not necessarily for anyone else.

In an attempt to carve out a functional retreat, it’s been drilled home that I make use of what I have, and actually make it work, because it does. No more wasteful spending, of time, money, or energy. All it creates is unused potential. Heaps of it.

So, new year, new me? No, not really. I know what needs to be done. I’ll go with same me, but better.

From me to you — happy new year.

Pure Imagination

After a long week, my boyfriend and I thought about cooking dinner for all of a minute before heading to the corner ramen place. While waiting for our order, the topic of conversation eventually landed on family. “He’s just so smart, so intelligent,” I gushed about my nephew in particular, “obsessed with science and facts; he’s just so knowledgeable about it all—“.

“Geez, when will people learn that all of that just comes down to curiosity,” my boyfriend countered.

“But…” I started, then paused, careful to choose my words, letting my brain chew on the idea instead. “I’m sorry, what?”

“Oh, I don’t mean it personally,” he stressed. “It’s just that nearly everyone says that about their kid. Don’t you remember being that age? How easy it was to be obsessed with something? I swear I knew the name of every dinosaur at that age,” he laughed.

He made an interesting point. I did remember being that age. Childhood was an actual thing growing up, not just TV ideology. It was a time of tomato soup and grilled cheese sandwiches, and playing in the rain with galoshes and oversized umbrellas. From the crossing-guard to the principal, our school community was one of the best there was, contributing to a warmth carried in my heart to this day. Bicycle rodeos and festivals were held during the fall, holiday pageants during the winter, reading achievement awards each month, and student-vs.-teacher kickball games each summer. It was the ideal if not perfect environment for imagination and creativity.

Our waitress set two mugs of Sapporo on the table. My shoulders dropped. I did remember being that age.

“But that doesn’t mean he’s not intelligent,” I said, my gaze meeting his, a suppression of mild annoyance.

“You’re totally right. Time will tell,” he remarked, and I perked up a bit. “But look,” he continued, “unless a kid is an actual prodigy — like, dabbling in quantam physics, speaking several languages, or writing symphonies — by hand — chances are they are just like any other kid.”

His brain had digested the notion long ago. My brain, after about twenty good chews, was only beginning to absorb it.

Sinking back into the booth, I could almost hear my mom saying: “You attended Spanish classes after lunch, completely fluent; even sang in the Spanish-language pageant in first grade. What happened?” I was considered gifted in school, earned money towards a scholarship in second grade, and and worked on the school newspaper after school. What did happen?

My boyfriend checked his email, disappearing from peripheral view, as my brain started to swallow the notion. I should be happy, in particular that my nephew exists within an environment that allows for his interests and fixations to run wild, especially before puberty takes hold. My niece as well; I wonder if she stares up at the sky, watching the birds from the middle of the playground at recess, aching to be on the other side of the chain link fence, like I used to.

I wondered if there’s anything to be done to keep such fancy afloat through the years. Having been on this side of the fence for longer than I’d care to admit, the wonderment surely hasn’t vanished, but it has been more difficult to come by. It makes sense that now, in my thirties, there’s no measurable difference in feeling concerning my ability, or lack thereof.

So was I about to admit that my boyfriend was right? Everyone knows that there are only so many opportunities to do so while saving face. But this wasn’t one of those typical Mars-and-Venus situations.

“Yo, knock, knock. You alive in there?” he asked, smirking slightly.

Our food arrived, and I nodded. My brain was full, and my boyfriend was right. I didn’t fully admit it, but he got a punch in the card anyway. The thirteenth one’s for free.

Knowing Where Home Is

I visited my parents the other day, having found myself in the neighborhood following an early morning appointment in Reseda. Instead of making my way back to my little corner of La La Land as I normally do, I thought, why not?

Well, the typical answer to that question, at least on my end, has been, “We work different schedules”, “Traffic is terrible”, “They’re/I’m out of town, indisposed, too tired, etc. “, or “I don’t want to be a bother”, with the latter being an obstacle of the heart than an actuality.

Traffic is a pretty big reason, however, due to time as much as safety. A patchwork quilt of minefield terrain and monstrous vehicular congestion, the LA sprawl is similar to the burroughs of New York sans its most marvellous subway system. Land-lock is kind of a thing here. It’s a bit shocking, knowing how much more ground can be covered outside of rush hour’s grip. So most people just suck it up and put together a playlist.

I pictured it in my head, hoping they’d be home, thinking that I’d stop by a store on the way to grab some flowers for my mom. She’d like that, I thought. My dad would like that I brought my mom flowers. There weren’t many stores on the way so I just headed over.

Looking at it on a map, the San Fernando Valley’s residential infrastructure is an extensive grid. My parents live at the most west point of said grid, right before the mountains leading to Bell Canyon and Calabasas. The neighborhoods tend to blend into each other, with each strip mall, apartment complex, and cluster of homes looking the same as the next. Anyone, even myself for a time, would have difficulty telling the difference between street corners, but any street heading west will get you there eventually. I still knew how to get there after not living there for 13 years.

Pulling up, I saw both of their cars were in the driveway and was relieved that I’d not only get to see my mom, but my dad before he left for work. Walking up the drive, I knocked our secret knock on the door. My dad answered, smiling brightly, wearing comfy clothes reserved for weekends. “I thought that was you through the peephole! How are you, baby girl?” My mom followed in to the front room, meeting both of us in embrace.

And we had a great time — catching up, looking at photos of their recent cruise through the Panama Canal, talking about plans for the near future and hopeful trips planned a little further on. The more time I spend, with anyone, doing anything, the more I appreciate such low-key times. I promised I wouldn’t stay long, but my folks wouldn’t have that. Two hours went by so quickly, and we found ourselves saying third and fourth goodbyes, as my family is known to do.

While driving away, I couldn’t help but think how important it is to go home, wherever that is. Somewhere that you know how to get to without referring to a map. A place where you want to be, where someone is happy to see you and you them. A place with or without physical, geographical space. Somewhere where things make sense, and where the heart is safe.

It’s important to know where home is, to make it possible for others, and to keep it close. Otherwise we’re all just drifting.