Category Archives: storytime

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 something on TV. 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. After about twenty good chews, my brain was ready to absorb it.

Sinking back into the booth, I could almost hear my mom, “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. I should be happy, in particular that my nephew exists within an environment that allows for willful pre-pubescent fixations to run wild, especially before pesky hormone-related distractions creep in. I have a niece as well, and wonder if she’ll stare up at the birds in the middle of the playground at recess, aching to be on the other side of the chain link fence. 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 hasn’t vanished, but it’s been more difficult to come by — until recently, this whimsy revival of sorts. I should be happy for the memories. But it makes sense that now, later in life, there’s no different in feeling concerning my ability.

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.

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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 is both shocking and liberating when you realize that you can cover double your commute in half the time at midday as opposed to sundown. And so most people just put together a playlist and suck it up.

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 else, 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, one reserved for family. My dad answered the door, 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.

Short Horror Stories About Adulting (Happy Halloween)

If you want to be scarred for life, read on. Imagine this if you dare:

  • Leaving the house without the following: (a) driver’s license, (b) shoes, (c) eyebrow pencil, (d) enough gas in the tank, or (e) all the above.
  • Waking up happy it’s Friday but it’s only Tuesday.
  • Relieved that it’s payday but nope, that’s next week.
  • Neglecting to clean out the coffeemaker from three weeks ago and discovering a scene not unlike a science project.
  • Having to make three Target runs in a week.
  • Losing a contact lens in your eye socket while driving.
  • Having your only ponytail holder snap in the middle of the work day.
  • Chucking your cell phone and building access badge in the mail chute instead of the mail.
  • Forgetting to take your birth control pills for three days, thereby throwing your figure, complexion, mood and digestive system into the pits of hormonal hell.
  • Falling into the toilet at Gold Coast Bar.
  • Getting into an elevator when you’re late for work to have someone jam their arm between the closing doors and let 10 people on who — naturally — select a minimum of five stops between the lobby and your floor.
  • When the server at Sunday brunch takes 15 minutes to get your check, and another 15 minutes to process your payment, when all you want to do is go home and nap off a hangover.

      I think that’s it. Happy Halloween, everyone!

      LA Weekly’s Best of L.A. 2017 — West Hollywood Re-Deux

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      LA Weekly just came out with their annual Best of L.A. issue, which I picked up by happenstance on Friday night. As a native of this awesomely diverse and sprawling city,  I can’t wait to flip through even more, as there are some really interesting places profiled: a Romanian restaurant in Highland Park, a body-positive gym in Mount Washington, late-night Thai food in East Hollywood (as well as a magic-themed bar), veggie soul food in Leimert Park, a history museum in the west Valley, and countless others.

      I was, however, quite thrown off when I reached the section for West Hollywood — a literal half-page-and-a-column about the following: a boxing gym, a marijuana dispensary, a new restaurant, and The Chapel aka The Abbey lite. Also included was a brief note from an expert that mentioned the aquatic center and mural on the back of the library, but nothing that really stood out.

      West Hollywood featured in LA Weekly’s “Best of LA 2017”.

      Hmm.

      Like… really? That’s all that LA Weekly could come up with?

      Thanks to the Sunset Strip, I’ve never really been a stranger to Weho — any time between 2006 and 2010, you could find me taking the 218 over the long and windy Laurel Canyon pass then the 2 west, just to get lost in a show at the Viper Room or the Roxy. My diminutive, reserved Lake Balboan self was eyeballs deep in dreamland every time, and I just loved it.

      After making the move in 2012, I can truly say that it’s one of those unique cities where everyone can be who they want to be. It’s also very walkable– it isn’t out of the ordinary for me to park my car after work on  Friday evening and not get back into until Monday morning. It’s a small town in a big city, a real community of people from all walks and income brackets — real folks who work, live, volunteer, and create here.

      It really is a special place, full of culture, color, flavor, life, and pride, with something most always going on, and someone most always glad to see or get to know you.

      So I’ve decided to do my own “Best of West Hollywood” feature –not from the perspective from a trust-fund hipster, but from a former Valley girl and aspiring writer who works a 9:30-to-7 near LAX.

      Best Ramen Place: Daikokuya
      Not that I’m complaining, but I used to have to drive all the way to Little Tokyo, then Little Osaka on Sawtelle to get my spicy miso ramen fix. So now having Daikokuya available within walking distance just makes life all sorts of shiny (especially following a night of 2-for-1 drink specials on Santa Monica Blvd). Not only ramen, but they serve up some awesome rice bowls — shredded pork with ginger, teriyaki chicken, eel, oh my — with miso soup and cabbage salad with a dressing worth the caloric indiscretion. Every time.

      Best Sit-Down Pizzeria: Dough
      The name says it all — the dough makes the pizza. There really is something that just makes it taste so damned good. Do they fly in cases of Poland Spring water from New York, or utilize a water filtration process similar to Brooklyn Water Bagel Co.? I don’t know but what I do know is that it is so delicious every single time. Single slices are priced from $2.50 (cheese) to $3.99 (BLT), and there are innovative menu selections and  specials every day of the week. My personal favorite special is Monday’s buy one get one pizza special, and $0.99 pizza slices with the purchase of a drink on Wednesdays.

      Best Happy Hour: Cecconi’s (Tuesday to Saturday from 4 to 7pm, enjoy food and cocktails priced from $4 to $7!) and St. Felix (daily from 4 to 8pm; Sundays start at 2! Just. So. Good. Just go. Go.)

      Best Frozen Yogurt: Yogurt Stop
      The prospect if dessert is worthy of a smile in itself, but throw in flavor names such as Bottoms Up Banana, Salted Caramel Booty, Milk My Harvey Chocolate, and Original Weho Tart John Duran, and you’ll be guaranteed at least a yelp of amusement. Plus, their vegan flavors — including coconut, almond; watermelon sorbet — actually taste like and have a non-imitation consistency.

      Best Car Wash: Santa Palm Car Wash
      I could go to the gas station closer to my office, or anywhere on the way home from wherever I may be headed — but I always end up at the local car wash on the corner of Palm and Santa Monica Blvd. You just feel where your dollar is going — into local business versus dime-a-dozen machinery. Newly remodeled and located across the street from Yogurt Stop and sharing geographical real estate with LA Buns hot dog and hamburger stand, its service with a smile is in actuality.

      Best Disco FriesKitchen 24
      Somewhere in between poutine and heaven falls an order of disco fries. Fun story: one night I was attempting to make my way back home after a liquor-ish maiden voyage to FUBAR and I had the drunken munchies. I walked by Kitchen 24 and dropped in to request the K24 Breakfast Sandwich and disco fries, the former of which I devoured on the rest of the walk home. The latter, however, my boyfriend ate the following morning as I slept off the booze. I forgave him eventually.

      Best Gay Bar: Flaming Saddles 
      Now, I personally can get into regular old country, but this isn’t regular old country. It is West Hollywood country, honey — a.k.a. attractive men in tight denim, boots, and hats, sometimes dancing on tables. Not that there’s anything wrong with a posh, scene-y vibe, but if you’re going for hella fun, go for the cowboy. Always the cowboy. (Runner-up: Micky’s.)

      Honorable mentions —
      Best Bottomless Mimosa Brunch: Jack n’ Jill’s Too, Marco’s Trattoria
      Best New Place for Alternative Tacos: Tocaya Organica
      Best Pet Supply Store: Collar & Leash
      Best Tucked-Away Hotels:  Le Montrose, Le Petit Ermitage
      Best Restaurants (That I’ve Been To): The Granville, Sandbox on Melrose
      And finally, Restaurants/Shops/Places That I Hope to Visit Soon: Pono Kitchen + Bar, The Butcher, The Baker, The Cappuccino Maker, Salt & Straw

      Ah… see? Much better.

      More Writing Tips From Someone Who Doesn’t Know What They’re Doing

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      (An unintended continuation of this post.)

      The Emmys are tonight, which is super exciting and everything. This is an obvious opportunity to celebrate another year of brilliant television. There have been some amazing productions this year on both network, cable, and streaming services. The game is being changed, and it has been amazing to observe, to the point where reception has been, at times, delightfully overwhelming. This must be praised, as quality programming, like other forms of artistic expression, needs to be recognized, talked about, and experienced — because when it is, even more stories get told (especially those that probably wouldn’t have otherwise).

      However, yet another year has gone by where I don’t feel like I even have an idea to flesh out. (Yes, I’m making this about me.)

      One day I’d love to write something worthy of recognition on such a level. But to do that, I’m going to have to keep writing.

      I’ve lived in Los Angeles my whole life, so the star-studded aspect isn’t novel to me. What is novel, however, is seeing people you know do things that you could only dream of doing. In knowing these people, I know first hand that they have the same 24 hours in one day as anyone else. They’ve periods of discouragement and laziness, like everyone else. But they keep moving.

      This weekend I was able to go through some old stories and poems from college. Not to toot my own horn, but I wrote pretty damn well. But I was a bit stubborn and, due to writing more for the grade rather than the passion, present-day me could really sense the loss of drive and focus within each piece. It’s no wonder why I refused to read or write during the year following graduation.

      The drive has definitely come back, though, almost to the point when I first started writing as a young teenager. I remember writing so much then, even performed at open mics and submitted my work to publications. I wasn’t afraid of saying or doing something. I wanted to contribute, and truly felt my work to hold as much weight as others’.

      I’m not sure if that’s exactly the case for me now. If anything, I’m much more conscious about what I put out there, probably due to the saturation of ideas on social media, and how quickly information can be dispensed, digested, and transferred. The pressure to make an impact is very much there, as is the desire.

      Like anything else, the view just needs to be scaled back a bit.  I need to go back in my personal history and touch on what’s been pushed out of memory. I need to ask myself difficult questions, especially in relation with others, and experience the breeze every once in a while. I need to write what I know, and be endlessly curious about what I don’t.

      And, I need to keep writing.

      3 Things I Learned from Interviewing Miley Cyrus 

      I just woke up from a very realistic dream where I had the opportunity to interview Miley Cyrus in promotion of her latest single, “Younger Now”, and overall upcoming era of music.

      We met in the early afternoon at a hybrid Four Seasons/school auditorium-meets-my-bedroom-floor type of setting (a meaning I couldn’t even begin to interpret so early in the morning). I wore a maroon, 90’s-era sweater dress, and had my trusty notepad and audio recorder in tow. Miley wore a tan fedora over blonde and honey-brown locks, a sky blue t-shirt, distressed jeans, and boho bangles. I didn’t notice her shoes.

      Anyway, this is what I learned during our dream-interview:

      1. If the answer can’t be found out via Google search, don’t ask the question. For some reason, the interview setting was semi-one-on-one versus roundtable, so I followed an interviewer who asked Miley some really good questions, which  meant that I was left with  asking some pretty obnoxious questions. “How did you know that you wanted to be a singer?” “What do you think of your career trajectory?” Embarrassment dripped from my corner my mouth, while Miley’s eyes bored into me in mildly repressed irritation. She, of course, left the room shortly thereafter. I don’t blame her.

      I learned very quickly that if you ever get the chance to dream-interview an international celebrity, don’t be like me. When in doubt, it’s far better to ask someone how they’re doing or what they’ll be doing when they’re in town. The chance at segue is far more possible.

      2. As much as you think you know someone, check yourself, because you don’t. Especially celebrity, as well as us anons. People change with time and experience. Or they don’t. You only know what they choose to show you. Take that as some version of the truth. Maya Angelou is quoted as saying — paraphrased — that when someone shows you who they are, believe them. And to that, I’ll add: be appreciative of the time while you have it. You may never get it back.

      3. Be happy with your existence, at all stages. Ours was a painfully brief exchange, but I couldn’t help but notice that on the back of the lightly worn, sky blue shirt she was wearing was an image of Hannah Montana.

      Every now and then you may hear someone say – with a hint of chagrin – that they were such a super fan during a  very glittery, countrified, hot pink time in life, having since grown up and out of it. But I’d bet money that if “See You Again” came on the radio, they’d be back in that mode like no time had passed. 

      All of life’s stages are gone through for a reason and are worthy of acknowledgement, as they still exist with us. Dream-Miley’s recognition of herself — she used to be, who she is now, and who she will be — is to be admired.

      If you haven’t yet seen the music video for “Younger Now”, check it out below as well as her performance at the 2017 MTV VMAs this past Sunday:

      photo via wikimedia.org

      Impromptu Naked Yoga

      Sometimes clothes feel like a complete waste of time, which how I felt when heading to one of my favorite spas in Koreatown the other day.

      Visiting a Korean spa for the first time can be a  bit of a different experience than visiting a traditional spa. While it absolutely bodes well that one wlll leave refreshed, there may be certain challenges one has to go through to get there — this isn’t necessarily a bad thing. 

      For one, nudity is a requirement in the sauna and bath/shower areas. Also, the temperatures of the dry and steam saunas are a lot more extreme than standard, so listening to one’s body, taking breaks and drinking water is a must, too.

      (But seriously, Life Pro Tip: If really concerned about being naked in front of others, you will learn really quickly that no one cares — largely because they, too, are in the same state of undress as you are. It’s very a freeing thought once it sinks in.)

      All in all, it always ends up being such a cathartic, refreshing experience. Fast-foward to me in the dry sauna, though, remembering that I forgot to do any sort of stretching or pose holds during my workout earlier in the day. 

      Then I thought: well, why not do a few poses? People have surely done stranger things. 

      So I grabbed my towel, laid it on the floor, and eased into a few variations of seated split stretch. I sat cross-legged and pushed my legs down at the knees, did a few neck stretches and seated supine twist. I also practiced pigeon pose and finally goddess pose, melting into unintended savasana for the rest of my visit. 

      Turns out it wasn’t at all awkward or uncomfortable as I thought it’d be. Working with a body uninhibited by waistbands or give of fabric drew my attention away from my thighs and stomach to release of interal and perceived external tension, both rooting myself in the moment, and in relation to circumstances outside of myself. 

      It was actually quite nice.

      ttfn~