Tag Archives: downtown LA

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 Third Birthday in California Or, I Went to Chicago?!

7 Aug

My first birthday in California I spent in Malibu. It was kind of romantic. I was in love with California if not the person I spent it with.  I’m still in love with California.  Last year I celebrated my birthday in Santa Monica with Nicolle and her daughter Katrina:

birtHDAY 2014 N, K, ME AT WATER GRILL

And a few days  later with–of course,  my son Noah. And with–of course, Ben Affleck. Noah spotted Ben across the room at The Hungry Cat Restaurant. When I told Noah (aspiring actor) to  “go over there and strike up a conversation with Ben,” Noah said “That’s more your kind of move than mine, Mom.” So I made my move. Ben’s agent tolerated it. And Noah took a picture.

birthday 2014 Noah licking lips in Hungry Catbirthday 2014 Ben and me(Please understand, Dear Reader, that I didn’t realize when I coerced Ben into this photo that he was cheating on Jennifer with the nanny.)

ANYWAY, after last year’s celebration, this year looked like it might not stand a chance of being so interesting.  So, I booked a ticket to Chicago to see my dearest, oldest friends. Given how kind they have been to  me through thick and thin, I’d have say they are more family than friends.  (And there’s the fact that except for Noah, I have no family, so I gotta call somebody family!) After a day of teaching English as a Second Language, I got on a plane and landed in O’Hare late at night, and found the Blue Line:

birthday 2015 arrival blue line

Loving the culture shock of taking REAL public transportation, I called Susanna, whom I’ve known since I was 5–and whose birthday we were also celebrating–and told her I’d be at Logan Square in about 30 minutes.

birthday 2015 arrival at Suz's stop

I got off  the train, and the air was humid and there were guys playing chess and flirtatiously calling to women walking by. It was urban in a way that is only Chicago. I LOVE CHICAGO, I thought. I used to think about moving there.

birthday 2015 suz and rise and cocktailsSusanna, or “Suz” as I’ve always called her, and her husband Russ picked me up, took me to their house on Montana Street–where I’ve probably slept 15 times,  and Suz made a killer cocktail and we toasted and laughed at nothing and then all fell asleep within minutes. It so felt like family.  In the morning I was happy to see Max, one of their sons, who is just a year or two younger than Noah.  I’ve known Max since he was in diapers. He was reading Updike.

Birthday 2015 Max readingThen Max and Suz and I took a walk. Their street is pure Chicago.

birthday 2015 Montana streetI felt a strange homecoming.  Chicago is not my hometown, but I’ve spent so much time there, growing up in Champaign-Urbana (two and a half hours away.)  I grew up the daughter of Audrey–my single mother who loved the Art Institute and Oak Street Beach and the Chicago Symphony. We drove up often. And I’ve visited my friends there countless times. Suz and Max and I kept walking, and ended up at a Farmer’s Market, almost next to the Lake.

birthday 2015 me in front of old lamp postbirthday 2015 farmer's marketI realized I’d been missing the MidWest, where there is green grass,  people buying jam, and those big-shouldered buildings overseeing the lake.

birthday 2015 lake and skyline

And then I went paddle-boarding with Suz.

Birthday 2015 paddle board with suzI remembered being in camp with her in Wisconsin one summer. We both loved the lake. She was better with the cold. She was better with the horses. And better with the spiders. Maybe that’s why she’s a world- renowned  doctor?

And then it was time to meet Nicolle, and Howie and Sue, my other great Urbana friends! We met at a beautiful hotel restaurant, and the food was subtle, and it was like old times but better– because we’re older and more subtle.

Birthday 2015 suz and howie

That’s Suz and Howie.reunion me pointing finger at Sue

That’s Howie’s wife Sue and me. Howie’s like my brother. Sue is my sister.

Birthday 2015 girls in the dark

And there’s Nicolle–my California and Chicago sistah, me, Sue, and Suz.

The next morning I flew home. A few days later,  got to celebrate with Noah. And that was so so sweet.Birthday 2015 Noah and mom at Boiling Crab

And then I had dinner with another Urbana sister (once upon a time babysitter!) Peggy, and newer sister, Carol.

Birthday 2015 Carol and Peggy

Peggy and I used to eat Popcorn on Pennsylvania Avenue. And to celebrate my birthday we did again.

birthday 2015 Peggy and me popcorn better

Though there was no Ben Affleck, there was a mysterious stranger.

Birthday 2015 Kirsten and Rex

Well, actually  more like new friend.

My third birthday in and out of California. Still not quite here, Dear Reader. But Close. And I’m glad I went home for the day I was born.

birthday photo with momThank you, Audrey, for this life!

 

 

 

Rite of Purification At Blue Wave Or, Alarms Blare As Sacred Cow Gets Bath (Forgive Me).

19 May

Before I rolled into LA last January, I stopped in Arizona to get my oil changed; the guys at Lube Up asked where I was headed.
“L.A.!!!” I yelled, with on-the-road-alone delirium.

“You cannot drive into L.A. looking like that,” the handsome stocky oil man said grimly. Fortunately he was talking about my car–at least that’s where his finger pointed. The Pruis had been through two snow storms, the dust bowl, and a couple psychic breaks. My girl looked her age.

I followed his advice and got Little Sister all gussied up; she didn’t look like Beverly Hills exactly, but she looked like good clean fun–which was perfect for driving down Santa Monica and singing Sheryl Crow.

So fifteen months later, I have a job as a personal assistant, and part of my responsibilities include driving Madame around and I couldn’t let that happen until the Prius looked and smelled better than she did. I’d had the car cleaned twice since moving here–in LA LA ethos, that’s like sending your un-toilet trained toddler to pre-school without a diaper. It’s neglectful to the point of abuse, it’s disgusting, and it could be a sign of a psychotic break. (Why does that keep coming up?) Or, simply a sign of the devil.

In L.A., the semiotics are simple: Your Car, Your Child. Or: Your Car, Your Mother. Or Your Moral Worth. Or: the Size Of Your Male Organ. At any rate: OUR AUTOS, OUR SELVES.

Back on the Santa Monica Boulevard, I found the BLUE WAVE CAR WASH and pulled in, only to be dazzled by the options.
car wash signs

And the prices. I won’t say what I got, but suffice to say it cost me what I get paid for quite a few hours of work. Duty called, I answered. And no one would accuse the Pruis of being trash or ungodly. I am what I am; leave my car out of it.

The Blue Wave Car Wash is actually shaped and painted like a wave, graced by the most scraggly palm trees I’ve ever seen.

car wash dying palm trees

That The Blue Wave has its own gift shop more than makes up for its riffraff plant life.

car wash gift store

Who doesn’t want, while waiting for the car to be cleaned, to buy some potpourri and funny cat figurines? I’ll admit that, far more seductive to me was the taco truck.

car wash taco trunk

The Blue Wave has an outdoor waiting area.

car wash sitting area
Where there are ads reminding you of all the other things in your life that need attending to.
carwash ads

While your car is transmogrified, you can find out where to find a new surfboard, DUI lawyer, and drug counselor.
I sat down in a big comfy black faux-leather chair, spilling salsa onto the seat, and dropping jalapeños down its cracks. It was a few minutes before I saw the signs on the wall alerting me to the fact that this was a massage chair, and unless I was paying to plunk myself down there (not to mention whipping up jalapeño puree in the chair’s pillows), an alarm would go off.

car wash chair alarm

Hence the terribly loud WAHN WAHN WAHN that had been blaring just about the same amount of time I’d been wolfing the taco in my comfy seat. I jumped to standing attention, looking as innocent as it is possible for a woman with a filthy car and salsa on her chin.
But, low,and behold!

car wash guy washing my car

But by now the Prius wasn’t filthy; she was Renewed! She preened under this man’s TLC. She made up for my salsa, my sins.
Nevertheless, I remembered Sheryl’s lyrics:
This ain’t no disco
This ain’t no country club either, this is L.A.
And the girls just wanna have some fun, by sittin’ around
Drinking beer at noon on a Tuesday with an ugly guy named Billy
In a bar next to a Car Wash on Santa Monica Boulevard.

In a few minutes, I got into my pristine and lemon-fresh automobile. I cast a brief glance around for Ugly Billy…and then headed home. Car cleaned! Conscience clear! Mostly. At least (I hoped) no one would spot the psychic breaks and spiritual slips under the tire dressing, clay wax, and air freshener. About the jalapeños, I am truly sorry.

Back On The Road: Wilshire Boulevard, Scott Sportster, Biking Past And Present

12 Apr

ciclavia me with bike I got a bike! (Never mind that Peggy and Carol and I were actually looking to rent a car. But low and behold, behind Enterprise Rentals there was  a hole in the wall  with used–possibly stolen?–bikes, and while Peggy and Carol got a car, I negotiated the hole-in-the-wall-bike-guy down sixty bucks!) My Scott Sportster is black and white, and I don’t have to squirm uncomfortably when I swing one of my hip replacements over the seat. It’s the first Girl Bike I’ve ever owned.

AND THEN I found out about CICLAVIE: April 6th, Wilshire Boulevard is closed to cars for several miles, and you can ride or walk from Beverly Hills to Downtown. Talk about an antidote to LA LA LAND AUTO CULTURE! And talk about my virgin ride. Well, let’s don’t talk about it. Let’s just enjoy the photos: The Gaylord–a classic line of text in the sky. ciclavie Gaylord Most people were riding together in groups–families, couples, friends. Lots of people had music blaring from small CD players. ciclavie girls in pink I was caught up in the fray and so happy to be on my new bike. I was also feeling alone. You have a date tonight, I reminded myself.  We made our way into KoreaTown. ciclavie Karoke And through some hybrid neighborhoods where the aromas in the air spell WEST COAST NORTH AMERICA. ciclavie Mexican chicken, Thai, Sushi That I was flying on my new (used) Scott Sportster as if we’d been together forever, charging into Downtown LA with thousands of other bike riders made my heart sing. I remembered riding my bike  in Champaign-Urbana in the 1970’s–to the swimming pool, to my job at Lincoln Square, to friends’ houses. Many of the streets were  made of thick, red bricks. Bumpy. There were also bike rides out to the farms, just blocks from my house. Cows, soybeans, the white square houses of farmers.  Decades later, riding my bike in LA, I am Midwestern Girl singing the song of the open road on Wilshire Boulevard. . .whodathunkit!?ciclavie riding through parkPedaling in the hot sun, I remembered my son Noah becoming a serious biker at 14, riding 40 miles a day on a regular basis. It scared me because of his Type 1 Diabetes. Of course he carried juice and a granola bar and a phone–but the phone didn’t work out there on those Finger Lakes roads. At first I watched the clock the whole time he was gone. He always came back. He entered races, and won first or second place.

He biked a hundred miles around Cayuga Lake in the local AIDS-Benefit ride. I drove around the lake, meeting him at pit stops. He was one of two of the youngest riders to finish. The next year he wanted to do it again, and  didn’t want me to follow him. I had one of those parent epiphanies: this is not your journey; it’s his. (I followed him anyway.)ciclavie Bradley This is Bradley. (His mom let me take the picture.) Bradley channels  Evil Knievel, Lance, and Superman. And he smiles a lot, though NOT for the camera. I also met Minerva (who smiles on and off camera.) cic la vie Asian girl At a certain point, I realized my front tire was a little flat, so I stopped to get it inflated. ciclavie bike repair   Wouldn’t you know, as the friendly pump guy filled the tire with air, the inner tube broke. He replaced it for free. I was on the open road again! I started to think about time. ciclavie stones in air Actually not as poetic as all that. Just remembering I was supposed to call my date at 5, and then we’d meet up at 6. I felt dread. I didn’t know why. ciclavie DEAD END I realized I would rather see a friend, talk to Noah on the phone, watch a movie alone, take a walk–than have this date. He is a kind, warm, attentive guy. What’s wrong with you? ciclavie tar pit On my way home, passing La Brea Tar Pits–the metaphors were piling up. I just don’t feel the urge to see him. IMG_1464 I decided to call him and suggest another night. Right, wrong, don’t know. How important is chemistry–at this age? I think I need it.

The whole trip–my virgin ride on the Scottster (my bike and I had become close so nicknames were in order)–was a mere ten miles. But it had carried me somewhere new, and memories of bike riding had emerged from the tar pits of my brain.

A decade ago, I followed Noah’s lead and bought a serious bike and rode it regularly. He and I did two triathlons together. He kicked ass.  I was just glad to finish.

ciclavie skateboard and push pole

Toward the end of CICLAVIE, I saw this guy, one of a group of young people on a skateboard, pushing themselves with poles. Talk about Hybrid Cultural Go!

Aim. Push Off. Don’t take yourself too seriously.  Short and long strides, feel the road and fly. Make sure someone knows where you are. On this journey.

LA LA LA: Love Affair with LA LA LAND continues!

26 Feb

A year, and I’m still in love–requited? Who knows. But LA LA Land has been pretty good to me around this one-year anniversary. I got a story-telling gig, some new floral arranging customers, and now I’m blogging at the juice bar (as well as continuing to peddle the green stuff in Beverly Hills). I’m now Kirsten at Kreation@wordpress. If anyone asks, my Ph.D. was in nutrition.

This blog is a visual love poem to my newfound home. Entirely family-friendly visuals. (Never fear, Dear Reader, raunchy porn poem to follow! )  Let me start here:

IMG_0069-2This is the roof of the Thompson hotel; it’s a block away. I sneak into the hotel as if I belong there, sit by the pool or in a cabana and watch young beautiful people talk about “treatments”–both kinds, face stuff and screenplay stuff, and appreciate the fact that as a middle-aged woman I don’t feel the need to pose. Treatments, shreatments.

I love this  low-key monument in downtown LA:

IMG_1797-3

The history! The schmistry! The 30’s, 40’s, 50’s, 60’s early 70’s are alive and well (sort of well). Driving around LA, I feel like I’m on a tour of  post-Fordian to early-social-revolution Urban American life.
Oasis Motel

Try looking at this and not singing a Burt Bachrach song:

car washIf that didn’t work, this’ll getcha:

playboy officerI do like glamour (and tolerate some retarded notions about femininity.) I like that  last week, a TV show was being filmed TV on my block.

No park filmingThey begged me to play the role of the Woman In Transition but I had to get to the juice store.

I love that LA has several Kosher Mexican restaurants. My fav:

mexikosherI love LA’s  plant life. And lack of irony.

IMG_1795

IMG_1823(The first image is what I see out of my window when I write.)

I love that people wear what they want, do what they want, and look you in the eye and say “Nice handbag!” Or they look you in the handbag and say “Nice eyes!”

I’ve come out of a shell here and feel like there’s a certain there here, a kind of home where no one blinks an eye at my amalgam of identities: ex-academic, juice girl, fashionista wannabe, writer, adoring mother, floral arranger, Jon Hamm stalker (don’t tell him–I’m getting SO close.)

IMG_0892This city  holds me rapt with its kooky worldliness,with its beauty–natural and unworldly.

IMG_1795 Dear Reader? Tell me what makes your home, your home.