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Season of Mists and Mellow Fruitfulness…SOCAL STYLE.

4 Oct

Keats’  poem “Ode to Autumn” has always been a favorite: “Season of mists and mellow fruitfulness/Close bosom-friend of the maturing sun/Conspiring with him how to load and bless/With fruit the vines round the thatch eves run.” Autumn brings a particular kind of beauty–full, and rich like these succulents dripping with life.

Season of mist Bergamot plants dripping!

Fruition. A quality that anticipates the next stage. I don’t need to spell that one out; you know what I’m talking about.

Day of the Dead Noah and me

In September and October one is aware of temporality. A good time for nostalgia. For me, there is a particular poignancy to autumn: this is the season that my mother was born (late September) and died (late October).  Her middle name was Autumn (she always found that a little silly).

Thinking about seasons in Los Angeles is different than it was in Ithaca, New York, where almost every fall day, the leaves  were a little brighter..and then a little less, and then trees became bare.  The air would  heave some last hot blasts, intermittently blowing cooler and cooler until it stung your face. Back in Ithaca,  I tried to postpone closing the pool until October first.   Noah and I would stoke up the wood-burning sauna–which took an hour and a half–so that we could jump into the icy water and scream for 3 minutes. Our golden retriever Felix would swim for another ten, doing serious laps up and back, mostly silent except for a few official barks commemorating Season’s End.

It’s hard to know what to think about autumn in L.A., where Labor Day looks like this:

season of mist lady with umbrella

season of mist and mellow bikes at hotel

season of mist father and son

season of mist ladies in water

Santa Monica Labor Day Life. Not exactly the end of summer. But plenty mellow (and a little mist.)

During another September weekend, I hiked  Beverly Hills’ Franklin Canyon and came across this bucolic spot:

season of mist and mellow lake with ducks Ithaca

A lake! With ducks! Pine trees! Could have been late summer in Ithaca, right?!

Well, except for this guy:

season of mists Palm tree in Ithaca

Ray, let’s call him, would not cut it in Ithaca.

There’s not much that reminds me of upstate New York or autumn here, and yet I do feel keenly aware of the time of year: A few weeks ago, many friends celebrated Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, which happened to fall on the same day this year as Eid– which most of my Saudi students celebrated. (I got dates and chocolate the day after the fast!) And there was that incredible lunar eclipse. Soon, I will turn off the AC at night; I might dig out a jacket from the back of my closet. And Halloween, my favorite Holiday, is coming! The snakes unleashed in the aisle of my local CVS indicate that:

season of mist snakes in CVS. jpg

On Friday, walking to the parking lot after work, I had a classic L.A. moment: I saw something surprising and weird, and I was delighted and a bit horrified:

season of mist heads in parking lot

No one was around. Just those dummy heads and me. End of a season WRIT LARGE, I decided, and descended into the 4 O’clock underground heat of the Westwood parking garage. Had a hard time getting those heads out of…my head.

The second stanza of  “Ode to Autumn” begins: “And sometimes like a gleaner thou dost keep/Steady thy laden head across a brook/…Thou watches the last oozings hour by hour.” A gleaner: a gatherer, someone who records. Yes, that’s autumn: recalling spring and summer in the face of winter. Collecting  memories of birth and growth. Appreciating every bit of ripe fullness oozing in the cooling air.

tutoring blog purple hill

Autumn SOCAL STYLE is a funny thing; it’s so subtle that it almost doesn’t exist. Kind of invisible. But, Dear Reader, I’m pretty sure I’ll feel it when Noah and Amanda and I go to DisneyLand for Halloween!? Nothing like Disney to tell you what the what is.

And I felt it this weekend–visiting Peggy in Claremont. Peggy and I knew each other decades ago, when we lived across the street from one another in Urbana, Illinois. On Sunday we woke up to cool air and rain.  Belatedly, we covered up her patio furniture. And then the next-door cat showed up. Undaunted by the wet,  the cat did not find the brown tarp to her liking.

season of mists kitty

This cat visits Peggy several times a week, asking for a head scratch and quick belly rub. I look forward to her visits when they coincide with mine. She makes me think of my mother, who was always visited by neighborhood cats from blocks away…

After a lovely cool and rainy day, I drove back to Beverly Hills, where there was a sky that Keats might have loved.

sunset urban in my alley

“Thou watches the last oozings hour by hour/While barred clouds bloom the soft-dying day,/And gathering swallows twitter in the skies.” So ends “Ode to Autumn.” There were, in fact,  some birds making end-of-day twitters, though you can’t see them in the photo.

So much remains invisible, nevertheless present. Twittering, oozing, watching. Gleaning.

Wishing you a fruitful and observant season, Dear Reader. Tell me “something autumn” that  you see, smell, taste, or hear this week?

My Year of Living Dangerously Or, Lessons Learned From Celibacy

14 Jan

Me, Sad Bunny Close Up

Several Dear Readers contacted me to say that admitting to having clinical depression was brave.  THANK YOU! Admitting to depression is  acknowledging: 1) mental illness, 2)  (some people would say) weakness, and 3) the real killer (given my value system):  being a party pooper. I may or may not be brave. Let’s face it: I am an  exhibitionist, albeit sometimes a depressed one.

It might be more impressive to admit that for quite some time (a year is an underestimation), I’ve been unintentionally celibate. I crave intimacy, enjoy the finer physical things in life, but…

Grover and me

I am lonely. Currently I am sleeping with a blanket that my babysitter gave me. Yup. I am the Linus of the Fifty-Something crowd.

My  friend Peggy–babysitter of several decades ago–now Professor of French Literature at Claremont College, lent me a blanket when I arrived here sans le Blanky-ette. Dear Peggy: Merci! ( I’m NOT giving it back.)

Peggy birthday glasses profile

As you can see, Peggy should have been named Parisienne Patrice Par Perfection, but we grew up in Urbana, Illinois, and our true identities were unappreciated for many years.

Peggy on her birthdayI’m hoping that since PPPP knew me back in the day she’ll forgive me, understanding that I need le blanky-ette now and forever: it  smells familiar, is soft to the touch, and when crumpled has a certain je ne sais quoi sex appeal.

Other than learning to appreciate the joys of a gray, fuzz-balled virtual lover, what have I come to understand  from unwanted celibacy? I’ve learned that I miss that loved-in-some-elemental-overwhelming-yet safe-surrender thing. me in seaIn my sexless state, I’ve come to appreciate the erotic in unlikely places.

belt sticking out of sand

Belt in the sand. Uh huh.

I’ve learned that you can get  intimate joy even when there’s nothing heterosexual goin’ on.  Here I am with Mike– who makes me feel important and desirable. We are at a gay strip club:

Mike and me at strip clubI met Mike in the first 5 weeks after I moved here. Working at the Juice Bar for minimum wage, I was just a woman ringing up cucumber/celery/ beet thingies for the rich. But Customer Mike made eye contact and said, “Come see my office!” I knew he was gay and I knew I would fall in love with him. Mike is from the Midwest! A lawyer! Married To A Wonderful Man! Thank God for Mike. And for that gyrating hot body behind us.

A few months ago, I had a promise of relationship happiness with a man who happened to not be gay…someone I knew a long time ago,  He invited me to Las Vegas. SO: Three days there… spent them mostly on my own. Mr. Sinatra with flowers just wasn’t there. So I learned that I LOVE the pool at Caesar’s Palace–when it’s too cold for everyone but me.

Las Vegas # 3 Caesar's pool Sexy, in a solitaire kind of way. At the end of the trip, I needed a cab at 8AM in the morning, I learned that getting a cab at 8 AM in Vegas is like  finding karma in slot machines. I had to beg–in the land of  somnambulists–for an exit; somehow I got back to LA, and was happy, so happy when  Natasha picked me up at LAX.

Nic and Kir at Bouchon on a very noisy night

I don’t want to sleep with her, but…(Yeah, Dear Reader, I’m aware that you DO.)

SO:  there have been dates over the last year. And dates. And dates. I’ve learned that I’m only interested in someone who is really there. Haven’t met him yet. Or, I met him but he hadn’t yet reached puberty.

ciclavie Bradley

Here’s a round-up of my education:

1) Though I miss sex, I am glad I haven’t settled.

2)  Intimacy comes in all forms–and since the body does fail eventually, it’s important to know the spiritual. I went to church  with a  friend, her husband and two little kids. (The actor who played the bartender/shape-shifter in “True Blood” was there! Looking sad!) We prayed a bit, talked a lot, and when those two children hugged me I felt known. And, DEAR READER: Four-year old Kendrick with the almond-eyed wink asked me questions and tickled my neck…Forget I said that.

3) It’s not the sex, exactly.  It’s the togetherness.

little kids at beach Well, that’s the end of my saying anything that could be considered “what I learned.” I was, after all,  never someone who thought sex was all that important. . .

sin city bedroomBut. Having it once a year in a really nice bed would be fine!  In the meantime, the banana palm in my front yard

palm fruit outside my apartmentspeaks to me. Oh, I know it’s  a tree; a man would be better. But I love the one I’m with…IMG_1795which is myself, I guess. I got here on my own mojo after all.

As you may know, Dear Reader, Mulholland Drive is my go-to for solace: snaky road, expansive sky. A few days ago, while driving on the snaky strip, I pulled the Prius over to one of Mulholland’s Look Outs. To LOOK OUT.

Mulholland look out sign

For some reason, I LOOKED DOWN.

condom package at Mulholland

God Bless You Two, whoever you are: Safe Sex looking out over Los Angeles.

City of angels, sin city, city of  mid-life crisis and joy, a kind of lover. City of my surrender.

Beach Day Birthday Or, Dear Reader I Touched Ben’s Knee

30 Jul

The Place: Santa Monica. The Event: my wink-wink 39th birthday. The Objective: Sun, Fun, Friends, and Son.  I got a room at a little place called  Bayside Motel for Natasha and her daughter Katruna. It was 60’s style with white and green tiles and itsy-bitsy decks–though we didn’t get one. We didn’t care, the place reminded Natasha and me of motels where we’d stayed in the Florida Keys around Christmas when we were teenagers and drove down there with my mom.

Birthday 2014 Nic and me in dayAfter checking in, we went to the beach. When Natasha goes to the beach it’s like we are in a four-star restaurant and have to get just the right table. We need the perfect view and appropriate beach neighbors. Usually I tolerate the forty- five minute search for the our beach patch, but because it was my birthday I  just plunked down my stuff any old where and Natasha didn’t say a word. Katruna and I headed for the water and body- surfed, me screaming like a mimi. Then we made dinosaur bone sand sculptures. I’d bought the dinosaur mold in honor of my age, and Katruna was all about making sand sculpture. As you do when you are young and fun like Katruna.

birthday 2014 Katrina in the sand

Or middle-aged and immature like me.

Birthday 2014 Me in glasses

It was my birthday and I’d play in the sand if I wanted to.

Birthday 2014 dinosaur in the sand

As good ol’ Longfellow once wrote, “Lives of great men yadda yadda yadda/Sublime yadda yadda/Footprints on the the sands of time with dinosaur molds/Godzilla, and then it’s time to drink/Tequila.”

Our next stop.

Birthday 2014 Katrina and tequila

Then Natasha and Katruna gave me some beautiful gifts–including a clutch which I mistook for a glittering piece of sequined pizza. (I tried to be polite about a really weird gift.)

birthday 2014 eating purse WE HAD OODLES OF FUN THAT NIGHT. And we confused  more than a few men–a duty that we do not take lightly. At a certain point, Natasha told me to put down the glowstick, we were leaving. Natasha, you see,  is four months older than I. Prudent and wise, that one.

We trooped back to Bayside and slept like wheatgrass.

wheatgrass

In the morning, we walked around and eventually ate breakfast at a place where some guy was singing loudly at the bar about his dog. Then he paid us a compliment and tipped his hat and went back to singing about his dog. It’s like that in Santa Monica. Time to return to Beverly Hills. Thank you, Dear N and K for an amazing Birthday Girls’ Night Out!!!!!

birtHDAY 2014 N, K, ME AT WATER GRILL

After we returned to Beverly Hills, Noah picked me up and drove to Malibu for seafood.

birthday 2014 Noah licking lips in Hungry Catbirthday 2014 Noah attacking seafood stew

That boy likes his seafood. It was one of the best meals I’ve had in California!!!!

The only thing that could make such a night better would be if Johnny Depp showed up.  Obviously that wasn’t going to happen. But Ben Affleck did. Noah saw him come out of the bathroom, and then Noah sauntered by his table to make sure it was him. Ben seemed to be with his agent. They were both talking with their hands. Ben has bulked up–probably for  whatever new role he has.

I told Noah to go over and get his autograph and he said, “No way.” And then, “But you go, Mom. You love this kind of thing.” I didn’t know what he meant by “this kind of thing,” and I didn’t want to know. I walked straight across the room straight at Ben Affleck, hating and loving myself at the same time. I asked for a photo. Ben Afflck made room for me to sit next to him. Noah had the camera ready. Ben and I leaned together. His head touched mine. I was afraid–very afraid–that I was going to pee in my dress.

birthday 2014 Ben and meInstead I put my hand on his knee. I didn’t mean to but I did. Then Noah and I left.  Squealing like the last little piggy all the way home.

Noah dropped me off.  Alone with balloons, I considered the weekend.

birthday 2014 balloons and legsSun, Fun, Friends, Son. And a Star! Another year, another adventure. NOT complaining!

But, Dear Reader…Johnny?