I Dream of Running Away (Or Ambivalent About LA Again)

I frequently feel the urge to flee LA — at least once a year — to be specific. When I’m gripped with the strong desire to go somewhere else it’s usually because I’m fantasizing about a “normal” life.

(My definition of normal involves a garden, men who own power tools, and a standing tailgate every Saturday in the fall.)

I was having one of those days on Thursday. I wanted to be anywhere but here. Then I got a message from my friend, Murph. He had an extra ticket to the Snoop, Cypress Hill, and Wiz Khalifa show at the Greek for 4/20, complete with backstage passes.

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Normal life, what? Who needs THAT when you can go backstage?!?

Murph is developing a pilot with Bobo, the drummer from Cypress Hill, because this is LA, and everyone is working on a pilot. Bobo hooked us up for the show.

Obviously, our seats were sick.

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Get it, Wiz.

But maybe not as sick as the backstage situation.

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Like duh.

Sure, I have to dry-clean my entire ensemble so I don’t smell like a walking bong, but it was worth it.

So worth it, in fact, that I got over my need to flee for 24 full hours.

That is until I was in an uber with Dan* on the way to his friends’ Purple Rain screening party the following evening. (4/21 is the one year anniversary of Prince’s death — for the four of you who weren’t aware.)

We had a long ride to the party, and I shared my fantasy about moving to Austin to eat proper barbecue and grow my own herbs in a large garden.

“And I’d have room to throw pots,” he observed.

It was news to me that he made pottery, but I guess we all have sides of ourselves we can’t express in LA — interests we’ve put on hold. It’s that kind of city. Sure, you can find anything here if you search for it, but the pace and the cost of everything can sometimes cause you to shelve some of your interests while you’re stuck in traffic or working to keep your lights on.

It’s not all bad, though.

We do have excellent sushi options.

In fact, I walked to Sugarfish with my book this afternoon and posted up at the sushi bar while reading and devouring all kinds of raw tuna. The man sitting next to me seemed uncomfortable eating alone. He could NOT put his phone down even to enjoy the taste of the fish. He shoveled it into his mouth without looking up from the small screen.

Sure, I had brought a book myself, but I have a rule that I don’t read and eat simultaneously. I generally prefer to enjoy one pleasure at a time.

This awkward man also blew his nose on his napkin after eating his toro hand roll. I hoped he’d get up to wash before eating the baked crab hand roll. (I mean, it’s a HAND roll! It’s not like he had chopsticks between his seaweed and his snot fingers!) I silently willed him to get up and wash, but to no avail.

As he mindlessly munched on his crab, pecking at his phone with the other hand, I wondered where he had put his snot-filled napkin, but I dared not look.

I’m not easily grossed out, and it’s not like I lost my appetite, but I was sort of mesmerized, in a horrified way, by his cavalier disregard for his hands. My Nana wouldn’t let me out of the bathroom unless she heard the tap, and she absolutely wouldn’t let me near food if I didn’t scrub up. These things leave an impression.

So, yes, I was judging him, but he may have been secretly judging me for having Sapporo with my lunch, so maybe we were even.

Anyway, LA has great sushi even if you sometimes have to eat it sitting next to a snot monster with questionable hygiene, and there are spontaneous invitations to the Cypress Hill green room at the Greek, outdoor Purple Rain parties, and all kinds of other adventures, so it’s not all awful.

I do sometimes wonder if I’m putting too much of myself on hold to be here, however.

Would I have more to write about if I went somewhere new and immersed myself in a different place?

The thought haunts me.

I guess it’s just the time of year when I wonder.

*I’ll explain Dan another time. He probably deserves his own post — at some point… when I’m ready.  

 

Is It My Birthday YET? (Or Meghan and I Plan ANOTHER Party)

In case you don’t remember, I went a little mental before my birthday last year. I was having this meltdown because I felt like many of my best friends were gone, and I was trying to have the PERFECT Peter Pan party. I was freaking out I didn’t have Danielle to do my flowers, Nicole to make me cocktails, and you should have seen the panic I had over the melting mascarpone frosting on my strawberry cupcakes! If you missed that mess, consider yourself lucky.

See, I sort of lost sight of what was actually important as I’m wont to do. I often get so wrapped up in perfection that I take all of the pleasure out of the process. I have always loved my birthday, but not for the reasons you might think. It’s not about people celebrating me. It’s about having all of the people I love in one place.

This year I caught myself complicating matters again. I was devising a plan that involved ocean kayaking, a beach potluck, and a Sunday brunch at Shutters. I was trying to pick out the perfect Paperless Post invite for the occasion and realized I couldn’t even explain the weekend without multiple invites, linking it all to eventbrite, etc.

When your party is too complicated for Paperless Post?

It’s a problem.

So, I put a pin in the plan and put everything on hold until something less complicated inspired me. Saturday I was feeling like I needed a change of scenery so I headed down to the South Bay. I’m trying to write something that has been hard to make sense of because it comes to me in pieces. I knew I was trying too hard to force it, so I figured I’d head to the beach and wander without a plan. I decided to let life unfold and just inspire me.

And that’s when I had this lovely, magical day. I started taking pictures of things that moved me.

Like chalk drawings.

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And houses.

South Bay architecture on Dogs Dishes and Decor

I love the New England look of this house. I imagine eating lobster rolls and clam chowder on the patio of this place.

South Bay architecture on Dogs Dishes and Decor

I love the stone work on this house. It almost feels like it belongs in Texas. Like you could host amazing football parties here, complete with some serious barbecue.

I wandered all of the way up to Manhattan from Hermosa taking photos and thinking. I even got a pic of the original Beverly Hills, 90210 beach pad.

Beverly Hills 90210 House on Dogs Dishes and Decor

Like, Donna Martin lost her virginity here and stuff.

The wandering continued for a long time until I came upon an absolutely massive house that caught my eye. It wasn’t the size of it I loved so much as the lines — and the stone work.

I had to keep backing up to get the entire house in the frame. I kicked off my flip flops and kept taking steps backward, trying to get it to fit.

South Bay architecture on Dogs Dishes and Decor

All I could think when I saw this house was, “This place is perfect for massive family dinners with friends, complete with dart tournaments and impromptu dance parties on the patio!”

I heard a voice behind me say, “Sure, take a picture of my house.”

“It has such great lines!” I replied excitedly without looking back. I got the shot and finally turned to face a group of men sitting on towels and drinking beer. One of them brought his phone over and asked me to take a picture of the group for his daughter. “She’s in New Hampshire this weekend. I want to send her a picture of the guys.”

“That’s sweet,” I said as he handed me his iPhone.

I took a few photos and they invited me to sit with them. They offered me a beer — and a chair. It was draped in a navy and yellow striped towel with the name, “Caitlin” embroidered on it.

“I’ll be Caitlin today,” I said as I sat down.

“That’s my daughter’s towel,” the man with the iPhone told me.

“Yesterday I was Meghan.” I said as I took a sip of my Pilsner Urquell.

We talked for a long time about architecture, writing, economics, my complicated feelings about Ayn Rand, and everything else. “Meghan, what do you do?” One asked. “My name’s not really Meghan,” I said. “It’s actually Anika.” This led to jokes about how I didn’t look like an “Anika.”

“My mom wanted to name me Meghan,” I explained. “I use it at coffee shops when I don’t feel like spelling my name. I actually went by Ana for a while in college because I got sick of being different. Then I realized I wasn’t me without a weird name, so I went back.'”

See, in some ways I am Meghan. She wears Ralph Lauren, serves on the advisory committee for a sorority, and she likes pearls. She wants to sell real estate and join a country club. And in others, I’m Anika. She goes to Furthur concerts, studies Ayurveda, and has been know to lay on the floor listening to Purple Rain on repeat while trying to write really gut-wrenching stuff. I mean, I have had my nose pierced since I was 19 and I still can’t decide if it’s really ME or not. I’ll take it out for years at a time and then just put it back in for no reason.

At my 25th birthday party, one of my more sensitive and artistic friends from college was taking in the chaos all around. There were former football player/frat boys doing shots from an ice luge and a super drunk reality TV personality eating dip straight out of the bowl with her hands. He turned to me and asked, “How can you be friends with people like that and someone like me?”

I shrugged, but he continued.

“I mean, who are you more yourself with?”

“I’m myself with everyone,” I replied.

It’s true. I am. And as I make my birthday list this year, I’m thinking about the great diversity among my friends. The only thing some of them have in common is me.

And yet?

What they also share, what I can say without a doubt, is that they are all people who have done what they said they were going to do more often than not. People who listened. People who cared. People who stepped up for me when I needed it. People for whom I have done the same.

So, I’m going to bring them together this year for whatever unfolds. I’m getting a hotel room in Hermosa and inviting everyone to come down and hang out when they can. My friends with kids can bring them in the afternoon. My single friends can come later and hit up a few pier bars with me. Anyone who doesn’t feel safe to drive can crash on my floor. It’s going to be SIMPLE.

That doesn’t mean I haven’t created a Pinterest Board for my birthday. I mean, I’m still ME.

And I love my friends. For who THEY are.

By the way? That big house did not belong to the guys. Some billionaire owns it, and it’s sitting empty in the wake of his divorce. It makes me really sad it isn’t filled with fun-loving people coming together for a really good time.