Category Archives: storytime

Post-Oscars Decompression

Awards season is over. Long live the Academy.

It was the morning after the Oscars. 8:00 am. I was supposed to have been up an hour ago. Were any of last night’s attendees up yet? Had anyone even gone to bed? Who among the nominees was jumping in to their next project? Who among the winners was sleeping in? Why was I so dehydrated?

These thoughts accompanied me, the non-Oscar participant, whose next project was to get out of bed and ready for work.

The morning sun was positioned just enough beneath the horizon to avoid major disturbance in my bedroom. I laid in bed, deflated after a lowkey weekend despite living a stone’s throw from Sir Elton’s annual viewing party. Spine pressed heavily into the mattress, my toes, then fingers, twitchef to life underneath the duvet. Turning my face towards the ceiling, my eyes tugged in their sockets, like pebbles in a slingshot. God, I don’t want tooooooo.

My phone blinked to life on the nightstand. Perhaps San Vicente was still closed to thru traffic and I’d get to work from home, a nptipn retracted the moment it was thought. San Vicente isn’t the 405 freeway, idiot. There’s life outside of Weho, remember?

My brain had a point. I grabbed my phone and swiped at the lock screen.

Happy new year, Lindzz! DID YOU SEE? Jordan Peele won Best Original Screenplay last night… will you be next? Only one way to find out — it’s go time!

My teeth clenched as a fire cut through knots in my long intestine. Gary was on to me in the most encouraging of tones. It had been four years since I agreed to work on the script, and I admired him for trusting me. I wondered how much longer it would last. Putting the phone down, I rolled onto my side and stared off into nowhere for another five minutes.

I’ve got 26 days, I thought. I can do this. I’d yet to type the first page of the draft. The farthest I’d gotten was a Google search on how to write a byline, falling down a rabbit hole with vegan, royalty-free YouTube at the end of it. I’d spent too much time there rather than on the script and building a high-definition dream life of my own. I knew better. Vegan YouTube didn’t promise me a rose garden. But neither did Gary. He just showed up, every time.

“I can’t stand awards shows. Such a bombastic parade with the intent to sell more shit that people don’t need,” Gary remarked, running a thumb along his scruffy jawline. We were at a coffee shop near my apartment that had a deal on vanilla lattes during the 3pm slump. Saturdays we used to flee there with Evernotes in tow, trying to get something done. But mostly we just talked smack about the industry. “I mean, come on, Nicholas Cage has an award. How’s that for politics? I’ve always felt that if you’re doing it for awards, for the fame, then you’re doing it for the wrong reasons.”

I uncrossed my arms and dipped my gaze into my coffee cup. I loved him, my little brother, and his subtle, impassioned exhibition, ripe with hard truth. But it all sounded like something a loser would say.

Gary was no loser — if anything, he was a realist, young, a storyteller and visual craftsman. Sometimes I envied his arrogance, which both drove and grounded him, and how he moved with instinct, leading with his manhood. Save from the silver hammer of time, nothing was going to stop him and his dream of being a director. But even he knew that faith and a great idea wasn’t enough, not here. Not in next-generation Los Angeles.

Me, well, I was just tired, and getting old. Tired, and living in the matrix. Comparison was killing my dreams. I needed to learn how to lead with my tits.

“All the politics, Hollywood royalty, the uber-elite. Once you make it about awards, or money, all credibility goes out the window. All of it.” He shifted positions slightly, getting a little fired up on the subject. I let him go on, noticing the indentations his shoulders had left in the booth’s upholstery. “If that’s what you really want, though, then why not?” Pausing between breaths, he continued, “Just remember that there’s more than one way to skin a cat. That statue will not be the heaviest thing you carry in this lifetime.”

Would it ever get old, living someone else’s dream come true? My thoughts, soggy and falling to pieces, floated to the bottom of my cup.

That was it. I turned over and reached for my phone, a piece of ceiling fan dust narrowly missing my eye. Blind with resolve, I wondered how long it would last.

Heeeyyy, Gary. I’m on it. It’s go time.

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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…)

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.

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

      writing2

      (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.