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One Year Later…

Now that I have been in LA for a year I have a few observations:

It’s really a 3rd world country. Hot, dusty, crowded. At least 2/3 of the city needs paint, repair, and good scrubbing. Only there’s a drought and water is precious so no one wastes it cleaning buildings and sidewalks and streets. That includes the stairway in my apartment building, which has probably not been swept by anyone but me since 1970.

The other 1/3 has an invisible gate around it requiring money and a car that costs more than I make in a year.

Everyone speaks Spanish. Even the Koreans. Everyone speaks English too but Spanish is the language of choice. The children all speak a kind of Spanglish as in “Mama, en mi escuela, the teacher said…”

I keep thinking that one morning I am going to wake up and be able to understand all the conversations around me. The way one does after spending enough time in a foreign country.

Speaking of cars, Angelinos love them. Not just in the usual “isn’t she a beauty” way. A favorite thing to do here is to rent a high concept car for the weekend and go for a drive in a vintage roadster, the Batmobile, or perhaps a clown car. If you aren’t up for dropping some $$$ on this you can always just hangout in Venice or Marina and car watch.

Driving near the ocean can be dangerous in some surprising ways. One morning I was nearly run off the road by a low flying seagull. Also if it’s windy the palm trees drop fronds, which are enormous, very heavy, and have been known to put people in the hospital.

There are street vendors and food trucks everywhere. A few of the things you can get: fresh cut up fruit, any kind of Mexican fast food, also Korean, grilled cheese sandwiches, pork rinds in giant bags, burgers, fried fish, and tamales. In my neighborhood alone there are at least 5 competing ice cream trucks each with it’s own irritating music box tune.

I am told that you can’t go wrong with food from a taco truck. I haven’t tried this because I am usually on my way somewhere I need to be and don’t have time to explore- that is, get lost by trying to circle back to where I saw the truck.  The tamales I got from 2 ladies in a mini van outside my library were delicious though.

I thought for a while that there might be a mosque in the neighborhood, which seemed odd but not improbable, because I kept hearing a unique chanting at dawn and dusk every day. It turned out to be the tamale guy whose cry of “Tamales, tamales, tamales” has the same cadence as a Islamic call to prayer.

The best thing so far about my neighborhood is that there is an amazing bakery across the street from the library. Fabulous, cheap and worth the wait in the line that snakes out the door. I discovered it because as I was leaving the library one Saturday morning, a heavenly smell pulled me across the street  and before I knew it I was standing at the counter asking for fresh bread and apple turnovers.

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I got my new job exactly one week before the clothes for Tosca loaded out to the theatre. I applied for the job at Loyola the week I got back from the circus and then I waited.  Nothing happened for almost a month.  I worked on Tosca and kept a low profile.  There had been a regime change at the opera and as is usual in such situations, things were tense.

Also complicated.  I gave up my landline and with it my internet before going to Sacramento for the summer.  I intended to shop around for cheaper internet when I got back but didn’t want to make any commitments until I knew where I was going to be.  Therefore if I needed to use the internet I had to do it at the opera or at a friend’s place.  My cell phone gets lousy reception in my apartment without wifi making phone interviews a bit tricky too.

Once Loyola responded  I began to live a double life. I didn’t want to add to the panic and paranoia at the opera and I wanted to keep my job there if I didn’t have another one to go to.  I excused myself early from work and  raced to my friend’s apartment for the Skype interview.  When Loyola called in the middle of a production meeting, I had a panic attack then snapped my phone off.  Heart pounding for the next couple of hours, I waited until the end of the day, locked myself in the fitting room, and called them back.  Thank you West coast for being 3 hours behind.

It had all the elements of a silent movie farce.  Speculation in the costume shop as to what was going on with me centered around the possibility that I had a new man or a serious illness.

I got the job offer on September 20.  I had to be in LA to start work by October 21. I needed every penny so leaving the opera early was not an option.  I made a timeline.  I made lists. I made a budget.

On the top of the list:  get the car serviced before dress rehearsals for Tosca. It was a good thing too, because that weekend I hit a curb, blew a tire, and discovered that the rubber in all 4 tires was rotten. Only my car was in the shop for 3 days and any plans involving transportation, like getting moving supplies, had to be put on hold.

Next on the list:  Get my emissions checked and renew my Georgia tag  because the current one was going to expire 1 week after I arrived in LA and I knew I wouldn’t have time to get a California one before the end of the semester. The Saturday after getting my car back, my check engine light came on.  Mobility compromised and I can’t get my tag until it’s fixed.  Car in the shop for 3 days, again. I am now in dress rehearsals and have to beg for rides to and from the theatre.

3rd item:  Take the cats to the vet for shots.   I have let them lapse and California has strict rules about animals brought into the state. I make the appointment for the Monday after Tosca opens. I get my car back Friday morning and race around getting moving supplies. After filling my tank for all the necessary errands, my check engine light comes back on. I run the errands anyway.

My plans and budget require a revision.  My contacts have become uncomfortable, my eyes are watery and I can’t see as well as normal.  Detour to eye doctor.  New contact lens required.  Takes a week or more to get them.  If I chewed my nails at this point I wouldn’t have any fingers left.

I take the cats to the vet.  It is less traumatic than I had anticipated for all concerned and what I saved at the vet can go to pay the eye doctor.  The receptionist at the vet, when I explain that I am moving to California, tells me that they can provide health certificates for the cats that will help if I am stopped at the border.  Yes, please.  Only she can’t get her computer to print it and tells me to come back later in the week to pick it up.

The car goes back to the shop.

I get my new contact.  The prescription isn’t quite right- I can’t read street signs. The doctor revises it after a visit I don’t really have time for.  It could take another week.

I am staying late at the opera or hanging out at my friend’s so I can book hotels that are clean, cheap, and allow pets, find some moving men for the short term move to my son’s house, rent a truck, and a dozen other crazy making tasks. I have begun packing and purging but have a long way to go.  My schedule is being compromised by the extra time it takes every day to get around on public transportation. There are too many things in my house I don’t know what to do with.  I am seriously behind in packing.  I have too many people I need to see before I go.  I am inspired.  I will invite them to come over, help pack, and help themselves to the accumulated yarn, fabric, and other stuff I don’t need to hang on to.  This involves another errand, the purchase of party supplies.

My last day at the opera.  I have done everything I need to do there to pass the torch.   My car is fixed.  I buy party supplies.  I stop at the vet’s to get the certificate.  It’s ready but the vet is too busy to sign it.  Come back tomorrow I am told.

My horoscope says:  finish old business.  I’m trying.  What more do you want?

My car needs to be driven at least 100 miles or 2 weeks before it can be tested for emissions.  This is to give the monitors a chance to reset.  I know this but I just don’t have that kind of time so I risk it and take to the emission place.  It doesn’t pass.  The technician advises me to drive it around the perimeter expressway a couple of times and then bring it back.  I don’t  have that kind of time either but I don’t have a lot of options.  I drive it around the perimeter, 68 miles takes about 1 1/2 hours in Atlanta traffic.

Saturday morning, I do it again.  Then I stop at the vet’s where my certificates are ready.  Finally some progress.

By Saturday afternoon I am mostly packed, thanks primarily to my friend Diana.  So when my party guest arrive they cart some things to the curb, take away a few things for themselves, and leave me some much appreciated and unexpected gift cards for my trip. After they leave, I drive around the perimeter, again.

Sunday the stuff I plan to keep is moved into my son’s house where I also will be staying until I can get everything cleaned up in my apt., pick up my contact lens, and ideally pass my emissions.  Since he has 2 dogs, my cats are staying in my apartment until I leave town.  They are completely freaked out, hovering on top of the kitchen cabinets, since all the usual hiding places went with the movers.

Once everything is moved, I drive half way  around the perimeter.  I just can’t face the whole thing.

My apartment still has way too much stuff in it.  It will take too many trips in my car to take it to a thrift store plus there are 4 boxes of old taxes and receipts that need to be shredded and after filling the trash cans at my building I still have several big bags of trash.  I also have a TV to dispose of.  I do some research and discover that I can get the shredding done at Office Max and Best Buy will recycle the TV.  Only I can’t lift it by myself. A friend with an SUV comes to my rescue and we get the stuff to the Salvation Army in one trip.  She takes the TV with her and I take my 20lbs of paper to Office Max for shredding.

My contact is ready and this time it’s right and I can see.  Victory! I run by the emissions place.  The pretest shows it still won’t pass.  I drive around the perimeter again.

Tuesday is the day I would really like to leave but alas my car still won’t pass and I haven’t been able to finish cleaning my apartment.  I am shipping 7 boxes of tools, research books, clothes and patterns to LA so a trip to the post office is also on the agenda. I have clothes that still need to be packed for the trip along with the cat stuff and I still need to drive around the perimeter. My son and his girlfriend take me out to dinner.  There are exotic cocktails involved.  I skip the trip around the perimeter.

Wednesday has to be the day. I won’t be able to get to LA in time if I don’t leave by then.  I take my car to the emission place. No go. My landlord wants to know when I will be out so he can get in to paint.  The apartment still needs to be swept, I haven’t really cleaned it sufficiently, there’s still stuff that needs to go to the trash, I need to get the cats calmed down enough to get them into the carriers.  I just don’t have  the time for another circle around Atlanta. I race over to my mechanic.  His test indicates that the monitors have reset and it should pass.  Emissions guy says not.  I say damn the results, run the test.  If it doesn’t pass I’ll have to deal with in California.  It passes.  I leave emissions guy with his mouth hanging open.

It’s now almost 3 pm. My urgent need to get on the road today trumps everything.  My cleaning agenda is reduced to removing all the rest of the trash.  I load my car and trick the cats into their carriers.  They let me know how they feel about this but eventually the felaway kicks in and they zen out. I stop at my son’s house long enough to fill out the forms for my car tag, gather the rest of my belongs, and say a very poignant and teary farewell.  I toss the tag form into the box at the post office on my way out of town and head west into the setting sun.

Next:  A Cat’s Guide to Cross Country Travel

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I don’t have a bucket list.  I don’t have one because the most enjoyable, unique, and memorable experiences of my life have always been unplanned.  A list implies that one has a plan in place to do certain things, visit that place, have that experience.  I know having a list doesn’t mean one can’t also have spontaneous wonderful moments while pursuing one’s list, it’s just that for me, the much anticipated planned activity never quite measures up to the ones that just happen on their own, serendipitously.

Today the stars aligned perfectly and provided me with an unlooked for fortuitous opportunity and if I had a bucket list, I would now be crossing an item off.   I had dinner at Chez Pannise.   It was lovely, beautiful place, attentive staff, fabulous meal.  It was wickedly expensive and I may regret that later but not just yet.

Thanks, Leon, for aiding and abetting.

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Balanced here,

Waiting to fall forward,

To dance in the sunshine.

Even to go  backwards, to slip

Plunging down, washed overboard,

Drowned in a sea of rage and tears.

Rising after the storm has passed,

Dissolved in pure light.

I am stopped here,

Above an abyss of nothing,

Waiting for happy.

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I guess it’s too much to ask to expect people to stay where you left them.  Even my keys sometimes wander off and because I need them I search everywhere, even in the unlikely places, empting closets, and leaving a trail of disruption to mark my path.  The keys always show up though, right where I left them.

A long time ago my path diverged, not through snowy woods, but certainly down a road less taken and my friends of those days went on down the path meant for them.  One I couldn’t stay on.

I didn’t hunt for them, like I do for my keys, because our paths had split too far apart, but now and then I wondered what they were up to.  Occasionally I uncovered a name I knew while searching the internet for something else.   Which is a bit like finding a key that goes to a house you don’t live in anymore.

Today I learned that someone, whose friendship from those days I cherish, died a few years ago.  The most comforting thing about this is that the friends we shared back then were all there for him during his illness and final days.  They are still there on their journey, having traveled together past many milestones, while I continued to see them in situ at the crossroads where we parted.

I can mourn who you were, the lovely, charming, playful man I left at that fork in the road.  It’s much, much harder to mourn the man you became, the one I didn’t get to meet.  That man who moved mountains and uncovered every stone searching for humanity’s past and then suffered through a long painful illness.  All I  know about him now is that he was well loved.

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Image             Hmmmm… Cranberries, sour cream, pie crust, cider….  It’s beginning to look a lot like the holidays.  Is that whipping cream I see in the back?  Yes, please.

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I’m Here

Where have you been?


What did you do?


Why have I not written?  Good question.  I’m not sure I could give anyone a satisfactory answer.  I just know I haven’t been writing or much of anything, other than working.

I know I haven’t cleaned my house because there seems to be so much cat hair it’s even making the cats sneeze.

I have finished my first ever pair of socks.

Much to my surprise and to the amusement of my knitter’s group,  the 2nd sock turned out just like the 1st with the same twisted toe.  They have been worn, once,  because the weather turned warm rather abruptly the same week I finished them but they are generally satisfactory in spite of the weird toe.   I’m calling the technique  Pat’s Tragic Toe.

I now know what caused it to twist around like that.  The lovely and talented Nell  took one look at it an immediately saw that I had failed to increase evenly- the instructions were for 4 double points and since I was using magic loop I only increased 1 stitch at the beginning of each needle- 2 increases.   If I had been using 4 needles I would have had 4 increases per row.

It would make an interesting top of a hat and I’m now pondering Christmas knitting with that in mind.

Christmas knitting?  Are you out of your mind???

I have stared another pair:  On Hold Socks also out of the toe up book.  I am using a Numma Numma sample/seconds/experiment yarn I got at the knitting Christmas party.  Cotton merino blend in  a very pretty color and it knits up beautifully but I don’t think Numma Numma is planning on carrying it as a regular item.

So far, no tragic toe, although I did have to start over because the sock was going to fit over both my feet.

Other than the new socks, (because socks don’t count,right?)  I am resolved to finish some things before I move on to anything new.

You mean like cleaning your house, right?

I was referring to knitting projects, but yes, I really can’t postpone cleaning any longer.

I would like to share some haiku inspired by my meditation practice.  I have put them on a new page of the blog for anyone who is interested.

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