Tag Archives: Los Angeles

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?

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Silent Night, Holy Mulholland

3 Jan

Happy 2015!

holiday door

If you have given me the honor of being a regular reader, you may have noticed that I haven’t blogged for a long time. I kept trying to do so, coming up with cute, funny, or ironic phrases and ideas about how I was feeling, and what I was doing. But it didn’t work; I kept going to bed early, sleeping late, cancelling fun activities with friends. A yearly occurrence: worsening depression.

Bow on sidewalk

One wouldn’t be able to see it necessarily; because I’ve experienced clinical depression for so many decades I know how to cover it. (Close friends see it, damn them.)

Me with tree on head My depression isn’t so serious that anyone worries about me hurting myself, but I do take meds, and I do see a (GREAT) therapist once a week. Twice during the months of November and December.

The (GREAT) “holiday season” and I are not on good terms.

devil santa

‘Tis the anniversary of my parents’ deaths, and a time I feel particularly alone. Goody for me, I know: A LOT of people find Christmastime depressing–because it’s a consumerist GOB STOPPER, and because of intense pressure to have fun, love your family, and celebrate with grand gifts,  delicious food, festive parties.

The Christmas cards start piling up: everyone seems to be healthy and successful and wearing matching pajamas. As for me, I am feeling bad about 1) my book manuscript being rejected without so much as a word of explanation, 2) my professional identity being uncertain (no word of explanation there either),  and 3) my love life having fallen into a chasm of nothing, weirdness, and more nothing (would you believe no word of explanation?!). There’s also a 4), 5), and 6), but I’m even more tired of my woes than the dear ones who listen to me talk about them.

Manageable, of course, my troubles: I have food, a roof, and great friends. And yet the depression this year was bad.

Estes Park

A lot of days I accomplished nothing but showering, and even that task was arduous. If you have depression or love someone who does, you know what I’m talking about. If you don’t, please understand that depression is not being sad. It’s losing a sense of self.
shadow self

On the days when I could get out of my apartment, I saw some things that cheered me up. L.A. has a refreshing “take” on  December:

X-Mas colors:
palms with stockings

Honoring the historical Jesus:

Me with tree on head

Stockings on the mantle:

palms with stockings

Other times I saw displays that made me feel like crawling down Rodeo Drive on my hands and knees.

Christmas happpiness on Rodeo

The day I saw a homeless guy actually crawling down Rodeo I gave him a dollar and chastised myself for being a big fat whiner.

When depression hits, I feel like an alien watching the humans. (Not like Scarlett Johansson in “Under the Skin”;  she is, after all, getting her needs met. GO SJ!) When not feeling alien, I imagine myself  a snake that cannot slither out of a suffocating skin. Or a small animal trying to claw its way out of a sink hole. To no avail.

This year, my brilliant new shrink, and my brilliant old friends– dragging me out of the apartment–provided solace and some relief. So did…Mulholland Drive.

Mulholland with Fence

I can’t explain this exactly, but every time I set out on Mulholland Drive for my tutoring jobs in Studio City and Bel Air, I felt as if I were almost able to wriggle out of the tight scaly skin around my soul, as if someone had offered a hand that might pull my rodent self out of the sink hole.

Mulholland with light and road sign

A road. Curve after curve. On High.

Mulholland love 2Driving Mulholland, I feel airy, light, an eligible flyer.

The view is surreal: waves of soft hilly terrain, enormous ocean of sky, congregations of cacti.

mulholland drive cacti view

On Mulholland, being an alien seems OK; in that lofty and arid setting, what a human is “supposed to be” seems as distant as the mansions embedded in the landscape. (Does anyone really live there?)

Now that the holidays–with their happy shiny expectations–are no longer being piped through airwaves and media narratives, I’m feeling better. I hope, Dear Reader, that  you enjoyed November and December 2014 as much as possible, and have fun stuff to look forward to in 2015.

I also hope you have  a spot where you are surrounded by light, a place on earth that reminds you that we are tiny beings in a grand design, a location where you see yourself moving forward,  even when feeling  stuck, or lost.

shoes, sad

Or absent.

Mulholland love 3

A path. Ahead.

Las Vegas # 3 feet on the way home

For everything there is a season.

Gothically Beverly: Underbelly of The Hills

29 Aug

 

Gothic Bev THE SIGNGlorious weather, gorgeous youth (real or not), and gargantuan wealth.That’s what most Americans think of 90210, yes?

Mike's wedding fire and pool

Beverly Hills  has all that of course, but I’m continually struck by an elusive something dark  just around the corner of  Sunshiny Happyland. Something not happy or sunshiny or youthful. An element of… not evil (everybody knows that’s here!) exactly, but a strain of the Gothic. Something Mary Shelley would appreciate.

gothic car under wrapsAll the cars under wraps, for starters. A body-bagg-y thing.

And,  the preponderance of spikes:

Gothic Beverly ashy spikesThey’re everywhere.

Gothic Beverly spikesAs if this were not  just the land of the rich and beautiful, but also where the Munsters live.

Gothic Beverly  black spikes

And then the ubiquitous pruning style:

Trees Gothicly

Ed Gorey meets Ed Scissorhands! But despite a heavy-handed human approach, nature here will never be completely managed.

gothic tree roots

These roots speak to me of an underbelly in the Hills, a submerged thirst for the perverse and uncontrolled. It’s in the air too:

Gothically Beverly

And down certain streets:

gothis sidewalkAnd certain alleys:Toilets Gothicly

Ok, maybe I got carried away one day channeling Shelley, Gorey, Ken Russell, and David Lynch (and a little Faulkner). But check out this lawn and tell me you don’t feel the dark, stark, and eerie isolation of  the Hills:

gothic statue of liberty lawn

Told ya! What’s goin’ on in 90210?

IMG_1977

Nothin’ to worry about. The Wives (and the Juice Lady) have it under control. It’s all healthy, wealthy, and wise here…IMG_0472

Most Days.

I bite Nicolle

Come vist, Dear Reader!

Happy Shiny Sunnyland awaits you!

IMG_0030(8) Everything is as it appears.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Hills Are Alive With The Sacred and Profane, Or: Healing and Hawking

1 Jul

Beverly Hills may be a real place but I have yet to be convinced. The kinds of things I see around me on a weekly basis seem like Greek tragedy, fairy tale, Fellini. And that’s just at my local Starbucks: A French couple, bone-thin and stylish, hiss at one another, arguing in bone-thin and stylish French, while their gorgeous fat baby, dressed in haute couture baby clothes, screams violently. The couple seems not to notice. A woman in her nineties clicks across the floor in high heels, a short sequined skirt, low-cut blouse, heavy make up. She smiles a yellow-toothed smile and is beautiful. A handsome, gay friend of mine walks in, surveys a group of young, bronzed, perfectly-cut gay men and says  “Look! The rubber version of young gay men.” Then the beautiful older woman asks me if I have a dollar.

Last week, I found myself, like Alice in Wonderland, at an estate in Bel Air, where I proceeded to hand out samples of juice. “DRINK ME,” I called out coquettishly to the assembled crowd. Well, maybe I didn’t do that. . .sometimes it’s hard to tell what I am or am not doing here. Perhaps I was standing behind my product, speaking in a chirpy but professional voice about the benefits of cold-pressed vegetable and fruit juice.
zen event me

The occasion was an event called “Zen Day In The Hills.” Actually I’ve left out part of the title because it’s the brand name of a supplement. Let’s call it “Alpha Armor.” So there I am at “Alpha Armor Zen Day In The Hills.” A gorgeous location:
zen event whole back yard

Me and my juice were wedged between a prim German woman–let’s call her Helga–selling miso paste, and a very loud and large man–let’s call him Hal–selling pendants with designs derived from “Sacred Geometry,” a subject  which Hal talked about during the afternoon. Wearing a sacred pendant, I learned, could provide “effortless three dimensional manifestation,” and “new heights of understanding and human conceptual liberation.” Hal quoted Plato: “The good, of course, is always beautiful, and the beautiful never lacks proportion.” I felt a twinge for poor Plato, at that moment rolling over in his grave. The pendants were sixty dollars, one hundred dollars with chain.

Entrance to “Alpha Armor Zen Day” cost forty-five dollars and for that one could enjoy lectures on varied and sundry topics: Astrological Predictions (I took notes on what she said about Leo’s next few weeks–love! money! spiritual peace and one-ness!), “Secret Alchemy,” “Letting Love and Prosperity Bloom” and so on. Three out of six of the speakers had the word “Celebrity” in their title, as in “Celebrity Vegan Body Builder,” or “Celebrity Life Coach and Sacred Henna Eyebrow Tint-er.” (I might have invented one of these.) There was also food and music.

zen event musicians

And mingling too, with like-minded seekers. Or at least seekers who were 98  percent alike: well-off, white, and I can say this but you can’t: lonely-looking middle-aged women. And of course services were available (for a fee): sound healing, energy massage, cell balance evaluation, Reiki, intuitive hypnotherapy.
zen event head scrub

For some reason the Thai Chi guy was the least popular of all the practitioners.
zen event tai chi guy alone
Maybe his lack of popularity had to do with his Un-Zen look. Other practitioners wore  flowy white clothing, but he looked like an insurance agent. Plus he wasn’t selling anything.

I wasn’t either, but was supplying juice samples–so I was popular. Which I enjoyed for about 4 hours. People-watching was fun; it was a hot sunny day with a hot free meal. (It surprised me that there the only vegetarian offering was a green salad. I’m very nominally a vegetarian, but it seemed to me that a Zen day shouldn’t involve eating animals.)

zen event my view of pation

About hour 5,  I admitted to Helga, I was  cranky. With the people who said “What is THIS?,” while fingering one bottle of juice after another. It said “JUICE” about a hundred places on my table. Ok, four places. And then “What is IN HERE?!” All the ingredients were listed in front of each bottle. “Anthrax!” I wanted to reply. And when, after taking four bottles earlier, one of the seekers came back and said,”Honey, Do you mind if I take just one more…?” I felt like swatting her hand and saying, “How much money do you make? Do you really NEED another free juice?” I hit my all time Zen Low when I heard a woman ask Hal about one of his sacred pendants, “What does this symbol mean?” and he replied “Uh…I don’t know about that one.” She bought it anyway.
zen event pretty pendants

Helga had heard my spiel on cold-pressed juice about 150 times, and she was willing to take over for fifteen minutes.  I left my post to wander around the property.
zen event view from

Beauty in many forms.

zen event second lady in red

zen event lady in red

(For some reason, there were a lot of Women In Red.)

On my way back I took a look in a garbage can.
zen event plastic in garbage
So much plastic. Nothing recycled. “ZEN DAY? ZEN, MY ASS,” I muttered under my breath. Helga had noticed the lack of recycling too, and she was irritated, tired, and ready to leave. Hal was selling sacred pendants hand over fist. Plato continued to roll in his grave. I got ready to go. Loading up my car with coolers and juice literature, I looked back and saw several folks dancing in the estate’s backyard, barefoot, scarves held over their head in out stretched arms. “You are too old for that shit”– again muttering (to them or to myself, I wasn’t sure.) Steering the Pruis out to Mulholland Drive, I looked around.
Mulholland drive

 

Like Alice I felt small and then large that afternoon, and had observed all kinds of characters. As if waking from a dream, or  watching the credits at the end of a Fellini film, I felt that my grip on reality has slipped away; the sacred and profane seemed  intertwined in a wondrous and disturbing geometry.

Mulholland houses sticking out

“What are we humans doing?” My third mutter of the day, and then my fourth: “Should I have bought a sacred pendant?” They were very pretty.

mulholland drive cacti view

 

The hills were singing, and the time had come for me to drive back to my little estate on Reeves.  Seeking, pendant-less, I still had a few bottles of juice in the cooler.

Easter Blues, Easter Dues

21 Apr

Me, Sad Bunny Close Up
Can’t explain it, just not feelin’ it (Easter). Or feeling it, but in all the wrong places…remembering dying eggs with my mom. Will never do that again–haven’t for 15 years. Hiding baskets with little plastic toys from CVS for Noah. That one year–he was four–when he confessed to looking out the window to see where I was hiding things in the yard. That’ll never happen again. Easter Past Writ Large. Which is stupid because all around me there are so many beautiful signs of life blooming.

palm fruit outside my apartment

Holidays do this to me…they highlight the past, the lost, ghosts.

skeleton on egg

So which came first–chicken or egg? Depression because I’m thinking about the past? Or already kind of depressed, and that chicken leads to the egg of the past? Wait. Should depression be represented by a chicken? The past by an egg? No! Egg=renewal. Chicken=”spring chicken,” something to grill, something that is a bird but doesn’t really fly. Now *that* works; depression is definitely the opposite of flying.

Well, here’s how my Easter went: I pulled myself out of the Slough of Spring Despond and went to pick up Noah. He was wearing a bunny shirt.

Noah in Playboy shirt

That tweaked my Easter Angst. Then he assembled the chair that Elizabeth so generously bought me some weeks ago, that I hadn’t been able to put together. (Ok, I didn’t even try.)
Me, New Chair

Then he filled my Scottster (bike) tires with air.

Noah fixes tire

Then we walked around Beverly Hills and looked at people in their “Sunday Best.” Everyone seemed ready for Ascension. Or Fire and Brimstone? Something. Noah practiced his new monologue. I felt the cobwebs in my brain become less gluey, the anvil in my heart lighten.
violin lady

Drove Noah back to his apartment and then went to Natasha’s. Her good cheer is infectious, and it’s not even annoying. Which can be annoying.
NIc on Easter
We made some LA eggs–pretty, happy, almost wearable, distinctly inedible.
EASTER EGGS

Then it was ok to come back to my little place; Easter was over. Gabby, the lovely 85-year old woman who lives down the hall, called out, “Happy Easter, Kirsten!” I waved to her. She wears lipstick every day.

I should have gone to church this weekend. Or, last week I could have held a Passover Seder. (Noah knows the prayers!) Neither ceremony was a tradition with which I was raised (vehemently secular family). But ritual frames the time of year, the history, the astronomical/spiritual moment with meaning. Just choose, Kirsten, one of the above! (Double entendre intended.)

Next year: an egg hunt? A face lift? A trip to Jerusalem?
At least some prayer. Oh. I can do that right now. Thank heavens.

Dove in tree

So here’s to honoring the egg of the now, and the next, Dear Reader!
Easter Egg of Life

Secrets Of The Olympic Spa: Mugwort Pool, Salt Sauna, Sisterhood, My Tattoo

4 Apr

On the eve of my departure to L.A., Ithaca Elizabeth told me that I HAD to go to the Korean Olympic Spa in KoreaTown. “They scrub the bejeezus out of you. You come out like a new woman!” she extolled. The new woman part sounded good, but strangers in their underwear  scrubbing my entire naked body didn’t sound like one of the reasons I was going to L.A. Upon moving here, I met a second Elizabeth, and she ALSO told me that Olympic Spa was a Must Do. Two dear friends who don’t know each other with the same name telling me  to go to the Olympic Spa…it was a conspiracy, surely. Some secret Elizabeth society thing.

 

Olympia Spa

I do what I’m told, especially by the secret society folks. But I didn’t want to do it alone. So I had to wait for my former student Melissa to come to visit. She’s a few decades younger than I, took four of my classes, quite possibly admires and respects me. An easy mark. I pretended that I’d already been to the spa: “Oh it’s just heaven, they scrub the bejeezus out of you and you come out like a new woman.” Melissa was a bit worried about the hygiene  aspect. I reassured her, “It’s so clean. They bleach the bejeezus out of everything.” What did I know? One thing I did know: all clients are naked, all the time. No fuzzy bathrobes and slippers. Both Elizabeths had told me that. This had to be kept from Melissa; all that nudity might be just too weird for my fine young friend.

Melissa on bday

But when we walked in, she read the policy sign: Women Only, No one under 14, Swimsuits are not permitted.

“No swimsuits? But there are robes, right?”

Our names written down, and the fee was paid.

“Not really.”

Into the locker room we went. Suddenly I was nervous. Melissa and I were friends now, but once upon a time I had graded her papers, and she took notes while I talked about cultural representations of self. How would she respect me after we walked around naked together, dipping in and out spa pools? I am not ashamed of my body (well, most bits) but then again when you’re naked, you are naked. You don’t need to be a literature professor to know that means that you are naked. No one is thinking about that brilliant point you made about Emerson’s transparent eyeball when you are hoisting yourself indelicately out of the mugwort pond. Melissa and I solved the problem by just not looking at each other below the neck.

Well there we were, trying out the various versions of whirlpools and ponds in a dark steamy room with about forty other women. Women who were large, small, dark, light, hairy, shaved, old, young, in between, naked all. And believe it or not, after a few minutes I stopped judging. She’d be gorgeous if she worked on her core; she has the best breasts I’ve ever seen. . .my stupid little mind just stopped that shit. I felt a sisterhood. It wasn’t sexy the way men might imagine it. No one was being sexy. We were soaking. We were quiet.   Spa sisterhood.

I thought about  the female communing going on. Some mother daughter pairs, some friend pairs, a lot of women on their own, sitting next to other women on their own. Comfortable. Peaceful. I haven’t seen a lot of that. Much of the bonding LA women do is  about manicures, talking about men, shopping, shopping for men.

By contrast, male bonding. . .is rarely about appearance,  or women. Guys play or watch a sport together, right? Then there are  those secret male societies. . .the Masons, Skull and Bones, Bohemian Grove. There are rituals, there is networking, there is money, and  there is power. And at the super exclusive club-for-the-filthy-rich Bohemian Grove they pee on trees.

I was at Bohemian Grove once, as a guest obviously–“Ladies Day.” The men refrained from al fresco relief, but the networking and power and money were in evidence. Every conversation under those big old (peed on) Redwood trees seemed to have a message encoded in it–an  old boy “I got your back, and I got your balls heh-heh” kind of thing. I wanted to laugh, I wanted to cry. I was told not to write about it.

For Melissa and me, the nakedness seemed to signal the end of the Teacher/Student relationship and to welcome in the Friends, Naked configuration (we were still looking at each other neck-up, only). It came time to have the bejeezus scrubbed out of us, so we went to our separate scrub bed cubicles and lay down for the Scrub Ladies to do their thing. Dear Reader, if you’ve never been, you can’t quite imagine how great it is. You’re being treated like a baby, handled and tossed about with care, like a little naked person who doesn’t know what’s good for her. Who can only lie there and be scrubbed and turned over and scrubbed again. And then there is the head massage. It’s about as close as I’ve come to serenity.

Forty minutes later, we met in the salt sauna, dazed and blissed out.

“THAT was FANTASTIC, Melissa breathed.

“Yeeeaaaaaaah,” I breathed back.

“I like your tattoo,” she said, something I never thought I’d have heard from the mouth of that sweet Freshman I met in Intro to American Literature several years back. Especially since I don’t have a tattoo.

“What?!” I squawked.

“Wait, weren’t you lying in the next cubicle? Wasn’t that you?”

“No. I was in cubicle at the very end.”

“So you don’t have a heart tattoo on your ass?”

I  looked at her with my You-Didn’t-Do-The-Reading Professor glare.

“Oh! Is that why you weren’t answering me while I talked to you! That woman looked like you from behind. She had a tattoo.”

“OK, I know we’re friends now, but Melissa, I am NOT  your friend with a heart tattoo  on her ass.”

“Right. Got it.”

“If I had a tattoo, it would be a quote from Dorothy Parker, for God’s sake.”

We crawled out of the sauna and drank some herbal tea and shared seaweed soup. Spa Sisterhood.

Nods to the Elizabeths and their secret society. I’ll bet they have matching tattoos.

Please share an unusual bonding story!?  That came out wrong–keep it clean, folks, this is family de-tox show.

 

 

Note to Self: You for Real?

17 Mar

The hardest part about starting a new life–new work, new friends, new everything–is wondering, every day:  What the hell  am I doing?

Then I say to myself, It’s only been a year. Give it time. Now shut up, put on your sunglasses. This is L.A. and you’re indoors.

IMG_1957

OOOOOKAAAY!  I am a resident of Beverly Hills! A juice lady! A health blogger! A public storyteller! This may sound pretty cool, but let me give you the real story. With a story.

SO, I’m at a meeting with my new boss at her gorgeous enormous house: Cathedral ceilings. Beautiful art everywhere, swimming pool in back. The company’s PR team is there.  Everyone is wearing sunglasses. I’m older. Than everyone. Including my boss. No one, including me, knows what I’m doing there.

There’s some animosity in the air; I have no idea what it’s about, and assume it’s got something to do with me. The egoism and paranoia of starting over: I don’t know what I’m doing and everyone is onto my fraudulence. Having had a quick tutoring session with friend Natasha, I try  saying things like “competitive branding” and “price points,” but they come out sounding like “comparing bandaids” and “spice pants.”

When the discussion turns to the subject of blogs for the juice store, everyone is bandying about phrases like “lifestyle rejuvenation,” and “detoxification days.” The words “fresh,” “inspiration,” and “soothing” are repeated over and over.

A year and a half ago, I was saying and writing things like “the author’s codification of consumerism belies his post-modern hermeneutics,” and writing in the margins of essays, “What do you mean by ‘lifestyle’? This is a  lazy, useless word.” (You know you need to leave teaching when your grading comments verge on personal attack.)

The climax of the hour-long meeting in my boss’s shimmering and organic kitchen occurs after I’ve slugged down some kale and lemon juice, and my stomach is making the sounds of an organ going through lifestyle rejuvenation.

“Radiance,” my boss says, “Jenna is about Radiance. Living Radiantly.” Jenna is the other blogger. She’s fifteen years younger than I and she is–if you didn’t guess–radiant. She covers specific tops in her blog. I cover others, like wrinkle treatment,  and “food for menopause.”

“And Kirsten. . .” my boss begins as my intestines spasm. “Kirsten is about. . .”

“AGING!” I burst out in an unpleasant guffaw. I don’t know if I am bragging or complaining, but my tone bristles with the venom of a Kipling scholar surrounded by Post-Colonialists.

There are a few polite laughs, and I look at the youngest members of the PR team thinking, A few years ago I’d have been standing at the head of the classroom discussing ambiguity in the conclusion to The Sun Also Rises. And you’d be slouching in your chairs, taking notes.

Who. Am. I? Is my story about embracing a new life with hard-earned humor and a bit of grace, or is this the narrative of a woman shaking in her (Armani knock-off) boots, a frightened and resentful outsider?

Yesterday I was handing out samples of juice at Kyle’s on Brighton Ave. That’s the clothing store owned by Kyle Real Beverly Hills Housewife. I realized that I really really wanted my picture taken with her. Who Am. I?

IMG_1977Aren’t you impressed, Dear Reader? Don’t worry,  I don’t  actually take too much of this stuff about fashion and youth culture seriously. My mother raised me right; I’m pretty sure Audrey is laughing in her grave, sympathetic to  the ambiguity of this stage of my life.

In the conclusion of The Sun Also Rises, Jake responds to Bret’s delusions of romantic grandeur with a curt, “Wouldn’t it be pretty to think so?” This is Jake’s way of saying “Don’t be a horse’s ass.”  While I might long for the seeming glamour and radiance of Beverly Hills, I know who I am.

I am someone in transition. And I like role play.

IMG_1259(This is not as interesting as you might think: just a 30-second photo moment with a stranger on Halloween.)  Maybe what I  am is this: someone who likes to role play someone who likes to role play.

I don’t know exactly what the hell I’m doing, but I do know I gotta do it. Like aging, certain things are inevitable. And, as with radiance–there is more than one way to glow.

Please share with me, Dear Reader, a time when you took a while to figure out what you were doing–a life stage that was bewildering/frightening/rewarding?