thirty-seven things i miss about los angeles

IMG_0381_2I’ve been back in New York for thirty-seven days. It’s been really great being home (the only exception, the only black spot is my new job; my bosses talk to me like I’m bowl of ratatouille– slow to move and incapable of comprehending English), but there are things, so many things I miss about Los Angeles.

  1. My little Fiat. It was my last rental car and had my total heart. That little car could’ve kept me in LA,  I adored it so much.
  2. The crunchy french toast at the Standard Hotel.
  3. Ray. It goes without saying. Me miss you.
  4. Afternoons at the Beverly Hills library.
  5. Target in Glendale. Best. Target. Ever.
  6. Lucky moments: waiting in line for the Stanley Kubrick show at LACMA, not really wanting to spend $20 on a ticket. Someone from behind me shouts out “Anybody want a free ticket?!” Yay, me, I do!
  7. Listening to audiobooks in my car.
  8. Driving along 3rd Street.
  9. Lynn. I miss my buddy like whoa. I miss our food adventures and long, long, long talks.
  10. No rain. Tony! Toni! Tone! was right. It never rains in Southern California.
  11. The windy, slopey, scary, make you wonder if you’ll ever see your family alive again right angle roads in Topanga Canyon. But the view. Boy, those views.
  12. Hanging out with Bridget and Emily and little cutie pie Finley. They made me happy, they made me laugh, they made me feel like I had family close by.
  13. Driving along the Pacific Coast Highway.
  14. My route to work– west along 3rd Street, left onto La Cienega, right onto Wilshire Blvd.
  15. Donuts at SK Donuts. Thanks, Ray! I really needed to gain those extra ten pounds before leaving.
  16. Walking through Larchmont Village early evening– the kids would play in the streets, the smell of jasmine was everywhere, it made me want a house with a tire swing in the yard.
  17. Happy hour margaritas at Tortilla Republic. Thanks for the heads up, Ray!
  18. Book Soup and Skylight Books were my favorite book stores.
  19. Late night toasted plain bagels with cream cheese and tomato at Fred 62.
  20. Veggie Grill— missing the Caesar salad with buffalo “chicken.” Thanks for the suggestion, Lynn!
  21. My coworkers. The customers were ten tons to deal with, but I loved everyone I worked with. When I get sad at my new crappy job, I just hear “Mister, mister, sir” and “Thank you for your cooperation and support,” and I get happy again.
  22. The Landmark movie theater.
  23. Buying one bottle of Perrier at a time at the 7-11 on 3rd and S Vista.
  24. Going to the Grove right before closing time.
  25. Getting lost.
  26. Listening to KROQ 106.7.
  27. Hunting down the cheapest gas prices.
  28. Randomly catching the smell of the ocean. Once I was on Fairfax just east of 6th and smelled salt water for no reason, because it’s not near the beach, but I got goosebumps and nostalgia.
  29. Discovering new old places. Casey took me to the Dresden (a restaurant that’s been in Los Feliz for damn near sixty years) and we listened to Marty and Elayne (lounge singers who have been playing and singing there since the Civil Rights movement probably) and Casey requested “Cheek to Cheek” for me and I swayed on my bar stool and drank tequila and club soda.
  30. The Marie Callender’s salad bar.
  31. Anything and everything involving Damon’s Steakhouse. Ray, you changed my life. I’m having my wedding reception at Damon’s.
  32. Late night trips to Von’s. Any trips to Von’s, really. I liked that grocery store. The one on Melrose had a little table with books for a dollar. You took a book and put a buck in a huge, empty water jug.
  33. Beer and fish and chips at the Reel Inn.
  34. The weather– mid 70’s, constant sunshine, no humidity.
  35. Recognizing parts of the city from movies I’ve seen. You get that with New York, too, but it’s different and more novel to me in LA.
  36. Wonderful long lunches with Luanne.
  37. The feeling you get that California really is a majestic place, as beautiful and historic as you expect it to be. The past feels actualized somehow in the weather, the architecture, the landscape, you feel rooted in something that feels simultaneously very right now and very back then. Which of course is true for most places, but there’s something about the space, the odd circus people, and the range from ocean to mountain that makes it feel singular. It makes me feel like I can’t wait to go back.
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i miss you, ray

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I think some people have ESP. You know when you’re thinking about someone or having a conversation about someone you haven’t seen in a while and all of a sudden that person calls you? Or you bump into him or her on the street? This morning I started this post about Ray and how much I miss him, and at around 2 this afternoon, I got a very funny voicemail from him that made me laugh out loud on the corner of 3rd street and Avenue D.

Ray and I met in an acting class when I first got to Los Angeles. And then he got me a job at his restaurant, and then it turned it out we lived in the same neighborhood, and then there was that day we discovered we both like to drink alcohol, read books, and eat cookies, and it was on. Besties. We got scolded at work for talking to each other too much, but I swear we couldn’t help it. Conversations with Ray, I never wanted them to stop. You know that feeling? When you’re talking to someone you like so much about not much at all, and one thing is leading to the next and you’re both laughing and everything feels vibrant, funny, and smart? Talking to Ray was like that.

My friend is so generous and thoughtful and he knew how I was feeling even when I wasn’t saying much and he introduced me to mai tais at Damon’s and cheap margaritas at Tortilla Republic and he helped me with my tables and gave me books to read and called me Road Soda and could never turn down a Friday at Marie Callendar’s and wore plaid and laughed like a little old lady sometimes and yelled at me for not knowing who Nipsey Russell was (but I remember, Ray, I do! He was the Tin Man in “The Wiz”!) and he cut desserts in half so we could share and knew about my crushes and. Well, I sure miss him a lot. It was hard saying goodbye.

the actor’s diet podcast

Screen shot 2013-07-10 at 11.36.00 AM_2I met my friend Lynn, my wonderful friend, over twelve years ago while we were in a sex education theater group (I know, what the hell does that even mean?) We would tour around schools in the city and perform skits about having sex and STDs and sometimes we had to sing songs, too. Songs about loneliness and herpes. Lynn was my rock in Los Angeles– she introduced me to Larchmont Village, gave me my first LA driving tour, listened to me cry, educated me about Dole Whip, took me to get beer ice cream floats. I miss her daily.

Lynn has a wonderful blog, The Actor’s Diet, which you should read, and she launched a podcast a few weeks back, which you should listen to. Right before I left, she interviewed me and it was so much fun to sit down and chat about food, take-out versus cooking, baking, and how I went to Los Angeles and became a little piggy eating donuts and cookies with every meal. Go have a listen here and subscribe to her podcast!

last night, best night

There are a few things that could have kept me in Los Angeles, and my coworkers are definitely one of them. On my second to last night in La La Land, we met for what was supposed to be a quick post-work drink at the Surly Goat in West Hollywood. Five hours later, we left behind the karaoke and drunk screaming girls in flip flops. I laughed all night! I knew I was going to be hungover and I didn’t care! I sang along to “Shout” and “Jumping Jack Flash”! But I also cursed the gods– one of my reasons for coming back to New York was missing my friends and feeling socially isolated in LA. But then I go and have the best frigging time with Ray and Olya and Kristen and and John and Juston and Diego and Mark and Brian and Ian and Diego’s brothers and that girl who kept bumping into me on the bathroom line, and I’m just like “Drats! Of course this happens as I’m leaving.”

Oh well. Just means I’ll have to go back sooner than I expected.

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ten things i did last week

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I love Mondays. I like how they have their own slow kind of rhythm, how the world feels like it takes the entire Monday to wake up after the weekend. I didn’t always love them– when I was still in school, when I had an office job, Mondays would make me want to torch myself. But now, even if I have to work on a Monday, I never dread it. Monday no longer seems crummy and gross, it just feels like a little cub of a day. Nothing to take too seriously– a day you know you’ll finish the crossword and make a post office stop.

It’s 7:39 am in Los Angeles on this Monday morning. I’m going to try to make this smoothie for breakfast. In an hour, I’m going to swing by Lynn’s to pick her up for our morning walk. I will go to the restaurant later and pour one billion iced teas, I think I need to get my eyebrows threaded this afternoon, and I’m going to a casting workshop this evening (sigh, that frigging thing actually feels like the bad part of Monday– a bunch of actors auditioning for a casting director always feels like a bad first date skit on SNL– lots and lots of nervous laughter), and tonight I’ll…well, I don’t know what I’ll do. And what could be better than that?

Last week I:

  1. Realized that even though I try to branch out, the only bags that make me truly happy are L.L. Bean totes. Any size, any color, any monogram. I think even if I hit the jackpot one day and splurge on a monogrammed Goyard suitcase, I’ll still tug around my tote bag.
  2. Made this cookie dough last night at ten pm. Apparently the secret to cookie happiness is the chill factor– the dough has to sit in the fridge for 36 hours.
  3. Drove down to Costa Mesa on Saturday evening to see Smokefall at South Coast Repertory. The theater was beautiful, the drive was lovely, before the show I walked over to Scott’s Seafood and had a glass of champagne and read Friend of My Youth by Alice Munro and chatted with a woman sitting next to me at the bar. She was in her fifties and had a short, little hair-sprayed helmet of curls and she was wearing a purple pants suit and had French manicured nails and she told me she was dragging her husband to see Billy Elliot and he was sitting next to her and looked a little like Santa Claus and he didn’t say much, didn’t even look her way as she talked and talked and talked, and I wondered if she ever got a little lonely, but when they were leaving, he put his hands on her shoulders and squeezed them in the most loving, we’ve been married for thirty years kind of way, and he said “Ready?” and I thought maybe she didn’t feel terribly lonesome after all.
  4. Woke up early Thursday morning so I could drive over to the touristy part of Hollywood Boulevard before work. I went to a souvenir shop and bought a California ashtray and some Hollywood postcards. I tried to find an “Eboni” key chain, but alas, that name doesn’t seem popular enough to get its own star-shaped trinket.
  5. Finally got back to reading Anna Karenina. I had put it down for about a month. I love it, but with 200 pages to go, I started to get a little weary. But I picked it up this weekend, and I think I will be able to finish soon.
  6. Rewatched Sex, Lies, and Videotape. I love that movie. I hadn’t seen it in ages and forgot how great it is.
  7. Had lunch with Luanne at Ivy on the Shore in Santa Monica. It was heaven. I was bare-legged and had dessert and a mojito with my lunch and Luanne and I talked for hours and hours about books and Los Angeles and New York and trying to make it. She has very, very, very quickly become one of my favorite people.
  8. Traded in my rental car. I have to swap it out every thirty days. I got rid of the Ford Escort (which I didn’t like driving that much) and got a Mazda 2 (which I frigging love, who knew Mazdas were the cutest little things with a bunch of power?)
  9. While trading in said rental car, I took public transportation in LA for the first time since I’ve been here. I had to get from the airport to the Enterprise office in Korea Town and I took a shuttle to a bus and it wasn’t bad at all and the bus driver was really helpful and friendly! I was hungover and slept for a lot of the trip, but look at how comfy the buses are! Thumbs up!
  10. Reminded myself over and over and over again that I won’t wait tables forever. I’ve been doing it for 12 years and even though my two (yes, I have two waitressing jobs) places are fun, there were a few moments this week when I felt buried underneath a mountain of cappuccinos and nicoise salads and I wanted to cry in front of customers and slap their faces and steal their wallets.

hooters? maybe?

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It’s Day 24 in Los Angeles and I applied to work at Hooters yesterday. I sat in my parked car on Hollywood Blvd at 11 in the morning and poked and toyed with my cleavage until it was kinda propped under my chin. I took a sip of the beer I had poured into my Kleen Kanteen (yes, at 11am), and that thing happened that always occurs after I take a single sip of alcohol– my chest flushes, my eyes fill with tears, my heart tightens, and I am flooded thinking about all the possibilities for me and my life. There I was– in my car, drinking beer before noon, hoping my nipples weren’t showing, feeling very far from my dreams, and trying not to let any tears run my mascara because I still had to prance into Hooters and hum along to Taylor Swift as I filled out an application.

I’m reaching that part of the journey where things start to get a little murky. I can’t find a job, I don’t have an agent, the sight of celebrities and actors fills me with longing and dread, I’m running out of money, I feel selfish, I’m whining myself ragged, I don’t want to be an actress, the monster is here. It’s that particular brand of confusion and self-loathing that can make morning drinking and Hooters applications seem like good ideas. Job hunting, auditioning, hustling for an agent– these things do violence to notions I have of myself as individual. I feel like one of too many, I want to drink and sleep and eat fried food covered in creamy salad dressing in bed. Under the blankets. Wearing a sweatsuit. With the heat on. And the lights off. And no toilet paper anywhere in the apartment. Wait, but if I do that, I probably won’t get hired at Hooters. And I need a job. Damn.

But maybe there’s something to be said for moments like these, too. After the initial flare-up, there’s usually a reminder, albeit a tiny one, of why I’m here, of what I crave, of how many people I love, of all that is right in my world. For me, yesterday, it was knowing that in a few hours, after applying to ten more restaurants, I would be driving home. I would pull up to my apartment on Elmwood Avenue, I would give my roomate’s dog, Boo, a kiss, and I would open all of the living room windows. The afternoon breeze would come in, the hardwood floors would be warm from the sunshine, I would play Townes Van Zandt and change into shorts and lean against a wall with my legs crossed in front of me. I would think about watching the newest disc of “Game of Thrones,” I would contemplate walking over to Larchmont and getting an ice cream cone and a book. I would definitely have a glass of white wine. I would let the time, the air, the space, the hope wash over me. And so I knew, even as I checked the “no criminal history” box on my Hooters application, that there might be something else on the other side of all of this.