Wednesday, May 21, 2008

I’ve been meaning to write a blog entry for months, now. The last one was in February, right when I passed the year in LA mark. It just feels like now that I’ve been here a year, it shouldn't be about adjusting to being here, anymore, it shouldn't be about the journey to LA; it should be about fine-tuning, about living here. As soon as I say it I know it's unreasonable, but I think there's been a part of me hesitating to admit that I’m still an outsider here, even if more and more of me is becoming an insider. I’d say I have my left leg and arm in the door of Los Angeles. So my torso is still in limb-o.

No worries, though; my torso is doing quite well, what with this 5 classes/week yoga regimen I've been on. I think I’m on the edge of yoga being almost entirely playtime. I have this spot on the right side of my lower back that still pinches when I do deep backbends, but it's lessening I think. First I learned to notice when things hurt, instead of plowing through in typical gymnastics-style. Then I figured out the alignment to keep my knee happy, my shoulders happy, my wrists happy (that was a recent one -- my right wrist just stopped hurting in full wheel, last week). So the back is the last bit, I think. And that would mean getting to spend entire classes just getting fuller in the poses, instead of rehabbing. The focus on the wellness side of the spectrum, instead of on the disease side.

In March I applied, hopefully, for an Acroyoga teacher training. It’s 2 and a half weeks in august, at a retreat near Santa Barbara, backed up against national forest. With a cliff-side jacuzzi. And reportedly amazing vegan food, 3 meals per day. So 2 and a half weeks of doing a combination of acrobatics, yoga, and Thai massage all day, with other incredibly physical people, in heaven. Um yeah.

The speed bump: this year, they decided only to accept applicants who already have yoga teacher certification, which I don't. My friend Celia, who introduced me to Acroyoga, offered to write an enthusiastic letter of recommendation for me. And I asked my favorite yoga teacher, Lucy, as well. And I wrote some pretty nice essays about my experience as a gymnast (14 years), a coach (7 years), a teacher (13 years), a massage therapist (3.5 years), and a yoga student (5 years). So basically, I begged them on my agile knees, and, well, they made an exception for me.

The teacher training will make it so I can teach my own classes in LA. There are only 2 classes in all of LA, and they've been very inconsistent. One of the teachers, my friend Celia, just left for the Peace Corps, to Nicaragua, for 27 months. Another is leaving for New York for the summer. The last one lives about 10 miles away; about average distance, in LA terms. But then, I only have an arm and leg in the door, and they're definitely not straddling anything gas-powered. Unless you want to talk about beans for a minute.

I don't expect to make any real money with this. I just expect to make me real happy with this.

I'm hoping to do a normal yoga teacher training, right afterwards. Which I do expect to make some money with, but not real money. But massage is proving irritating at best, in Los Angeles. The licensing (which is city-based instead of state-based) is an expensive, headache-causing, bureaucratically difficult, offensively prostitute-assuming, practical joke. It must be. For instance, I can go 5 miles west, into Beverly Hills, a city that is surrounded on all sides by Los Angeles, and need a whole new license that costs an additional $1000. In the alternate universe where I’m on a TV show, some audience is laughing hysterically at the absurdity of California.

And the education requirement for massage therapists is super low -- 150 hours in some nearby "cities", and 300 in LA, compared with 600 in Illinois, and the 750 I have. So the market is flooded with sub-par MTs. Which means the whole infrastructure of jobs is aimed at sub-par MTs: low pay, high turnover rate, and ignorant clients.

I wanted to start a private practice, but no one wants to drive to a massage, in LA -- they already drive everywhere else. If they're not going to a full spa with steam and sauna and showers, they want the MT to come to them. I understand it. I wouldn't want to get back in my damn car, either. However, I don't do housecalls. When you work in someone else's home, the work is on their terms. They don't listen to you, and they treat you like a glorified pizza boy. When they come to your private office, they have already chosen to be proactive by coming to you.

Writing work may be just around the corner. If the pilot for a cable channel that Daniel is rewriting gets picked up, he'll be the executive producer, and will hire me on as an assistant. No telling when it might get picked up -- the soonest would be September. Anyway if not this, Daniel seems determined to involve me on everything he works on, so it'll be the next thing. I just sent him a plot outline I’ve been hammering away at for my own screenplay; he said he'd read it that night on the plane to the shooting location for the pilot.

So writing work is likely to happen, and potentially pretty soon -- but it's unlikely to be predictable or constant.

So yoga it is. I don't think it pays great, but I’ll get free classes out of it, which is starting to be worth a lot of cash to me, at 5/week. And it won't slowly break my body, the way massage does when I do enough of it to make a living, at this here crap-paying spa I work at. Speaking of falling apart, the spa is on track to losing all of its most senior employees. There’s been a steady wave of departures since I arrived, and I’m pretty sure I’m not the one that smells bad. A friend of mine who's been there since it opened (a year and a half ago) just left this week. I’d like to be next. The only reason I’ve managed to tolerate the management this long is that I genuinely like and care about my coworkers.

My circle of friends is finally big enough that for my birthday this past weekend, when I only invited folks I feel really comfortable around, it was still enough people to be a party.

So this is it, the last year of my 20s! I like to occasionally remind people who get upset about turning 30 or 40 or what-have-you, that if we had an extra finger on each hand, we'd count in base 12.

(As it applies to this example, I’d have 6 extra years until my 30s.)

But I do sense a shift in my M.O.. Not that it's not always shifting, either. I suppose birthdays just provide an arbitrary span of time for contemplating your life, a reminder to consider the concept of aging.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Day before yesterday, I went to a job interview. The writer/producer, Daniel, for whom I've been doing research, recommended me for a receptionist job with his manager. It's a low-paying "Industry" entry-level job, justifying (justifiably) it's low pay with the incredible opportunity for meeting people from every level of the game. The two-going-on-three-person company encourages their receptionist to chat with the clients, get coffee, form friendships.

There's also the possiblity (maybe (possibly)) of working for Daniel as an assistant on a new show for a cable channel. He assured me that if I get the receptionist gig, he will steal me away if the show gets made, and he winds up needing an assistant. If (if (if)).

I cobbled together an interview outfit, realizing the travel shirt I bought recently would work for an office -- a good thing, since I own absolutely no other button-downs, and my shopping muscles are exhausted from a multi-day hunt for a dress to wear to two weddings, this coming weekend.

I arranged the clothes carefully on hangers, used one of Mark's work shirt bags to cover them, and attached them to my backpack.

After stopping at Whole Paycheck and eating a huge salad way too fast, I went to City Yoga to meet up with Celia, the new friend who introduced me to acroyoga. We did a little partner stretching, and then she flew me for a little while, while we discussed her impending trip to Venezuela, for 2 years and 3 months, for the Peace Corps.

45 minutes later began The Practice, with Noah Mazé. The silliest, most challenging yoga class I've ever taken. And the only one I've attended where I'm decidedly at the bottom of the pile. When he named some poses I hadn't been able to do 3 months ago, I moved to the wall for balance, but discovered I could do them easily, and moved back the the middle of the room. One pose that we'd never tried before (and that Noah warned us John Friend had broken his toe, attempting), and that several very advanced people had trouble with, I did easily on the first try (pincha mayurasana hopping to plank pose).

Noah mentioned the idea of he and I going on a bike ride around Griffith Park, some weekend. I meant to be encouraging, but was so surprised to be singled out that I'm afraid I didn't do much more than nod.

I biked over to the talent management office, found a diner next door, ordered an iced tea, and used their bathroom to transform from Yogachick to Clark Kent. Not a trace of sweatiness left when I was done.

"And you have reliable transportation, of some sort?" he asked at one point during the interview.

"Yes," I nodded.

"A car, or...?"

"Well, I ride a bike, actually."

"A bike? Did you ride here?" He asked, all a-shocked.

"Yep," I said.

"Do you ride in the dark?"

"Uh huh."

"What about when it rains?"

"Sure --"

"Come on!" he said, smiling.

"I have rain gear, and besides there's an express bus right to here, if I wanted."

"Wow, that's great," the other employee said.

"Well I couldn't do it. Do you know how to drive?" he asked.

On the way back from the job interview, having transformed back into Yogachick, and relieved to have seen they were both wearing jeans (I heart California Casual), I took off on a street I didn't know, but which seemed to be going in the right general direction. And without a map, I made my way back home via some lovely residential streets, picking up cat food on the way, and without getting lost.

As of exactly 2 weeks ago, I've been living in Los Angeles for one full year.

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

It's 68 degrees, and I'm sitting on the patio of a beautiful craftsman home, listening to the trickle of water in the koi pond nearby, with a giant orange cat purr-mewing as he circles me on the rattan sofa.

I'm wearing a tee shirt and jeans and flip flops.

Also, the general consensus seems to be that it's Christmas.

This morning, my 6 person family sent a grand total of 233 emails back and forth, from 3 locations, in 10 different threads, in a little under 3 hours. That's an average of about 13 emails written per person per hour, or one email written per person every 4.5 minutes -- as well as a little over one email read by each person each minute. For three hours.

And actually, I think it was a little easier to follow than our conversations in person.

We all agree it was a mistake not to get together on Christmas.

When we'd exhausted our poor little nubs from typing, I closed my computer and sat for a moment in my big quiet apartment. Mark was at work at his fantastic new job at the Chateau Marmont, and I had to get out to Pasadena to fulfill my housesitting duties. But I have discovered that it is very hard to get up when there is a kitten purring on your lap. And even harder when there are two of them.

So I sat for a while, practicing my independent hand coordination, scratching behind Miss Jones's ears while I petted Bowie's tummy.

Today is the first day in a while that I have not felt overwhelmed.

I've started doing research work for an ambitious feature film project for the aforementioned TV writer. Because of the strike, it's unpaid work at the moment, but it's an exciting project, and an exciting opportunity, and I feel valued and respected.

Mark has just finished his first full-time semester back at school, while holding down his new full-time serving job. He's applied to transfer to UCLA for next fall, and has two complete albums of music ready to be recorded this Spring and Summer.

I've cut my spa massage days from 4 to 2, so that I can spend more time on writing, and I've found my way into acroyoga, a combination of yoga, acrobatics, and Thai massage. I have not one but two friends within 1.5 miles, either of whom I can call at the last minute to go out for unplanned meals or movies.

I know where the black beans and enchilada sauce are at the Mexican grocery, I've fallen in love with Korean concord grapes and Asian pears from Han Kook Supermarket, and just the other day I was ran into someone I knew in a place I hadn't seen them before. (In Chicago, by the time I left, I'd gotten to the point where I couldn't leave the house without running into someone I knew. This is a start.)

I have even learned to say "It's cold today!" when it drops below 60 degrees, and almost mean it.

And I've adopted kittens! Who make me much happier when Mark's not home, and who have a knack for dropping the stinkiest farts I have ever encountered.

Speaking of which...

I scooted the odoriferous cats onto the nearby blankets and got up. I grabbed my keys, my CDs, and walked out to the rental car we have for the week (so we can visit Mark's folks in Orange County, during the holidays). I drove over the big hill that Mark and I biked up for that first party we went to. I assumed, at the time, that it was par for the LA course, but now know that the hill is isolated in the flat basin of Hollywood. I drove myself to the freeway (remembering it's free, but it's not express), and headed to Pasadena.

In a month and a half, I'll have been here a full year. And you know, life is pretty good.

Merry Solstice, everyone!

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

October 17, 2007

It was refreshingly gray out, and I wore a jacket. Not so much because I needed it, but because I could, and because it's the time of year where one starts wearing jackets, sweaters, socks, layers; when you get to armor yourself after months of just a thin thin barrier between your skin and the hot air, your skin and others' skin on the bus. It's an advantage of having seasons.

But LA has something more like a gentle biannual phase shift. Just a few degrees and some smog-clearing rain. So three blocks from home I unzipped my jacket, and a block after that I took it off.

The dentist's office made me think of a blood donation center, or a shabby DMV branch -- low-slung cement and dingy windows that don't open, designed with the assumption of air conditioning.

I wondered if it might've been wiser to choose a dentist in Beverly Hills, or even just northeast of me in Los Feliz, where the well-off hipsters live.

I waited with my feet up on another chair, deciding that if they were offended, then next time they could be ready for me at my actual appointment time.

The dentist was a big guy with immaculate teeth and breath like my Sudanese friend in Chicago -- sweetly spicy like licorice maybe. Not bad really, but not minty fresh, either.

He overelaborated the importance of gum health, pointing at pictures of horrifyingly blackened tissue. I started to get the feeling it was more or less a sales pitch for the "deep cleaning" he was now recommending. I agreed to it, partly just to get him to put away the pictures, and decided to make sure my massage patter was both less repetitive and more encouraging.

An assistant came by to take my credit card to make the payment before the service. It seemed a little odd, but I figured it probably had to do with the poor immigrant populations around Hollywood.

The dentist tilted the chair back and, without warning, stuck a needle in the gums by my molars.

"Gngh," I grunted with surprise at the sharp pain. Had it hurt this much in the past?

The next jab, midway to the front, was even sharper, and I gripped the purse on my lap with both hands. Before I could take a breath, he jabbed again by my front teeth, and panicky pain seared through my head and down into my chest.

"Stop," I said, and involuntarily grabbed his arm to pull the damn thing out of my mouth. I wanted to slam my elbow into his fat face, but since that seemed impractical, my fury welled out immediately through my eyes.

"I'm sorry," I said. "You could've warned me, dude -- I just needed warning," I choked out through alarming unwanted sobs.

"I'm sorry," he said, and he and his assistant watched me cry. "You have such nice teeth, you're not used to this," he said.

His assistant handed me a dixie cup of water while he raised the chair. I stared out the high square window and tried to breathe, choke-choking.

"Get her the gift bag," he quietly ordered the assistant. She must have gestured at the plastic bag sticking out of my purse. "Oh," he said, and I wondered if he would scold her later for being too quick with the gift bag. As if a free toothbrush and floss were deeply placating.

"I'm sorry, I've probably needed to cry all week -- I should've done it before I came here," I said, not sure if that made any sense to a dentist and his assistant. They just watched me. "Could you give me a minute?" I said.

"Sure, sure," he said, but kept watching me.

"I mean without staring at me," I said.

"Oh," he said, and they moved away, out of the semi-enclosed area, like a teeth-pulling cubicle.

I stared fixedly out the window and tried hard to breathe. When that didn't work right away, I tried to reassure myself by thinking about the fact that I was going home for a visit to Chicago in only a week. That seemed to have the opposite effect, so I went back to breathing.

After longer than I'd hoped, I called them back, let the chair be lowered down again. The assistant squeezed my hand nicely, and I tried not to think while he scraped and poked and plucked at my bits of exposed skull.

When it was over, I got up and turned the wrong way to leave, disoriented as if I'd just emerged from a train station in an unfamiliar city. I turned around and found my way out of the low-slung concrete, and escaped into the sunny day. The gray had cleared away already. I reached up and touched my lips, which were neither swollen nor drooling as it felt they might be.

I put on my sunglasses and crossed the street. The huge Mexican grocery store was right there, so I decided to check it out and get something in my stomach to settle me.

The entrance was in the back, through the parking lot that I'll almost certainly never use. I walked through the sliding doors and was greeted by a decent-looking array of produce. Not as well-lit or clean as the Korean grocery, but the avocados were 3 for $1, there was an assortment of cheep beer, the cantaloupes were $0.79 each, and there were frozen bean and cheese burritos for $0.69. I grabbed a few to try, figuring Mark would like them even if I didn't.

My left arm loaded with a cantaloupe, 3 avocados, and 4 burritos, I inspected a red tea kettle for a couple minutes, until I realized I wasn't feeling capable of making qualitative assessments, and put it back down. I looked at the mops, but like every other L.A. market I've visited, they only had the string kind, not the spongy kind to which I'm accustomed.

As I walked around, I noticed I was the only person there who wasn't Mexican, and wondered how much I stuck out. As I dumped my foodstuffs on the conveyor belt, I imagined the woman behind the register saying "Did you see that drooly gringa wandering around like a pollo perdido?"

I put the objects in my purse before they could plastic bag them. She counted out my change in Spanish, but said thank you in English. The pimply teenage bagger grinned at me, not with me, I felt, as I walked away.

On the walk home, my jacket tied around my waist, I looked at the pink houses, orange houses, green houses. I hadn't walked down that block before, but, I realized, I might get to a point where I knew each house by sight. This was a place I would probably come to a hundred times, over the next few years. I tried to imagine what that would mean:

I saw an image of myself as efficient and preoccupied, walking briskly home with a weekly quota of tomatoes and avocados, thinking about complicated issues of work, people, systems of organization, frustrations, and triumphs of which I don't yet know the shapes or names.

I turned a corner and found myself canopied by sycamore trees that leaned gracefully over the street. A breeze drifted over my face and arms. I took a deep breath, and it tasted green and good.

Friday, September 14, 2007

The fan has been on in the new bedroom for a week, and it still smells like polyurethane. I'm trying to be patient.

I unpacked the boxes, uh-gain, never sure what I was going to find because they've had contents marked on them 3 times now. On some I scribbled over the old markings, on some I just wrote on a different side, and on some I couldn't be bothered to write at all. I think those were the ones I packed after 11pm.

The heat wave was incapacitating -- like February in Chicago, we realized that one simply must not be ambitious about a day's plans, during August in LA. We slogged around sweatily, dreamt of rain, stuck to the leather sofas, and moved the fan from spot to spot, trying to figure out how to create a wind-tunnel in our little railroad-style half of a duplex.

Potential new tenants came in and out, and I tried to be encouraging without sounding like a salesperson, and I spent a lot of time on the phone with our landlord, trying to find out if anyone was thinking about committing. We had a 6 month lease, but wanted to get out a month early, as we anticipated rental possibilities might be drying up by October.

Well, that and we were just done with the place.

It was a sweet little duplex, but the small annoying things about it started to add up to a larger annoying mass: the one tiny closet with broken doors, the mile and a half to the closest real grocery store, guests having to go through the bedroom to get to the bathroom, the six (counted 'em, six) barking dogs that lived next door, and so on and so on.

It was great as an escape from the House of Douchebaggery, but it had worn itself out making us feel welcome.

So I glued myself to Craigslist once more, presenting compiled apartment pages to Mark, arranging series of viewings. We plodded through the heat, looking at a lot of mediocre places.

And then we found El Mansione. Hardwood floors, two bedrooms, a private hedge-surrounded patio, our own entrance, huuuuuuge livingroom, huge bathroom, 3 big ole closets and a linen closet. Two and a half times the space of our old place, for less than 1/3 again the price.

I took a million pictures to show Mark, who was at work when I went to see the place. It was in a state of medium disarray, being renovated after the last tennants' 12 year stay. I hesitated to pay for the $60 credit check, not sure I should commit to a place that was $300 more than what we were used to. I was the first person to see it, though, and our leasing agent warned me that it would go fast.

I took the pictures home, and found myself staring at them for unreasonable periods of time. Mark said it looked great, but left the decision to me, since the extra rent money would be my responsibility. I waffled, back and forth, back and forth. But the next day I realized: It's El Mansione!

We signed the lease. And then we walked around our new neighborhood, and found a big beautiful Korean grocery half a mile away, a 7-11 and a Mexian market two blocks away, "Ethical Drugs" pharmacy, sushi restaurants, korean BBQ, thai restaurants, and the Hollywood sign, looming above. In case I forget why I'm here.

And on top of all that, I found out that one of my sister's best friends from college is living less than 3/4 of a mile away! And another friend 1 1/4 miles away! And my bike shop a mile away! And the train a mile away! And almost no hills!

As we walked down the street, giddily eating celebratory chocolate Pocky, I felt something on my face. I stopped in my tracks.

"Did you feel that?" I said to Mark. He was looking up at the sky.

"I did, and I don't see an air conditioner anywhere."

"Rain! That's rain!"

"Yes it is."

"Or, well, drizzle anyway."

"An omen of positive change, I think," Mark said.

"Definitely," I said, reaching for another Pocky.

We found our sublettors, moved out as fast as we could, to accomodate them, and piled our furniture in the middle of our new huge living room, while workers came in and out, still cleaning and painting and refinishing and installing.

And it's been a week and two days, now, and everything is done. I've unpacked and arranged furniture and bought bathmats and we eat breakfast on the patio every morning. This was our 5th move in 9 months. And now I think we're done, for a good long while. Here's home.

View from the bed:

Sunday, July 01, 2007

Saturday, June 30, 2007

I gingerly removed my sweaty tank top, cringing as it peeled off of my sticky aloe-covered skin. I stood in front of the fan we bought from a Brit who was moving back to England, selling all her belongings for precise amounts: $3 per chair, $40 for the new twin futon, $0.50 for the dry erase marker, $2 for the white board, $4 for the fan.

I took a deep breath and thought about showering, but instead started sorting through my closet, looking for something that would touch as little burnt skin as possible. I put on my gray miniskirt, which was a little tighter than I'd remembered, and a thin cotton tank top. I scrutinized myself in the mirror, changed the tank top twice, and then a third time, back to the first one.

My coworkers have only seen me in either sweaty biking gear or the black pants and black shirt spa uniform.

I took off the miniskirt and chose a knee length skirt instead. Much easier to sit in. I debated between the more healer/massage-therapist-appropriate flats, and the gray heels with sequin hearts I'd bought for an irresistible $10. (Ross Dress for Less is like TJ Maxx, but even cheaper and even less organized.)

I put the flats in my purse and wore the heels, put on eyeliner, eye shadow, lipstick, sparkly bobby pins, bling bling dollar store earrings, the whole thing.

I stood in front of the fan again, having broken a slight sweat from all the clothes changing, stuffiness, and probably from my heat-radiating skin.

A horn honked from outside, and I walked (rather well, I thought) in my heels, out the door, out the gate, into her little white car.

"Hey there, fancy!" Annie said.

"Thanks, hi!" I said as I settled into my seat and shut the door. "You look fancy cute too! Nice skirt," I said, admiring her frilly beaded hippie dealie.

"Thanks, yeah, I got it at one of those boutiques on Southport when it went on sale," she said, and I remembered, jarringly, that she had lived in Chicago for a few years. Along with about half of the people I've met out here. I thought about what kind of Chicago she knew, given that she went to those shops on Southport.

"It was one of those things where I was like yeah, that skirt is cute, but it's not worth $120, I don't care which of your friends made it, sorry. But yeah when it went on sale, I was like okay, I'll pay $60 for it."

"Well it's very nice beadwork," I said.

"Thanks, yeah, I wanted to dress up, but I didn't have time to shower, so I just left my hair up," she said.

"Oh, yeah, me neither, oh well."

"So this is my grandma car, sorry about the bottles down there," she said, referring to the Fuji water bottles in the passenger footwell. "You can put the seat back further."

"Oh that's okay, I've got short legs. Thanks so much for the ride, by the way."

"Sure, well we'll see; I'm terrible with directions, really honestly I shouldn't be driving a car, I'm a total mess about navigating. Even with the GPS unit I'm just a disaster, really."

"Well I'm in no hurry. And I have a map and a general idea of where were going," I said.

"Cool, yeah, we'll make it there I think. My dad just got me this thing, which is great, because I really really hate being lost, I mean I just freak out."

Annie drove and found something to apologize for every few minutes, keeping a steady monolog. I started to feel tired.

"Woof, I just got sleepy, sorry," I said, yawning. "I ate two of those big cookies at work, for no good reason. I think the sugar is hitting me."

"Oh, yeah, totally."

"I wish they would stock fruit or something, for snacks."

"Yeah, they used to," she said, "or at least granola bars, but lately it's been all sugar, or occasionally bananas, but by the time you figure out they're for us, and not the clients, they're all brown and mushy -- oh I think that was my turn."

"Turn right in 100 feet," said the GPS unit.

"Oh, no, okay, we're good," she said, taking the expressway exit. Or sorry, the freeway exit. Asking where the expressway is, here, just gets you shrugs and blank looks. It's free, but it's not express.

Annie apologized for her mediocre parallel parking skills, and for the tricky door locks, and we walked up the block until we saw an apartment full of balloons, and decided it must be Janine's.

The apartment was pleasantly populated already, and there was guac and chips and celery and lots of tequila. Annie added half a bottle of Gray Goose, Rose's lime juice, and some gin to the mix. I opted for water, taking pity on my poor skin.

I gave Janine another birthday hug, an outside work hug, and sat down with a couple of coworkers, everyone exclaiming over everyone's outfits.

"It's so nice to see you all in clothes you actually chose, you know?" I said.

"I know, right?" Kristin said, sitting with beautiful posture and a dress whose neckline dove halfway down her torso, beautifully tanned skin glowing from the Hawaii blue and grey floral cotton. I was impressed.

"Isn't she beautiful?" Kara asked, staring at Kristin with me.

"Seriously," I said.

"No, you're beautiful, look at you!" Kristin said to Kara. She was wearing a leather pencil skirt, and a tight white tank top with a drapey neckline that somehow highlighted her freckles, very striking on her Japanese face.

"You're both breathtaking," I said.

Almost the entire massage staff was at the party, and the manicurist, and a couple of the aestheticians. Conversation inevitably turned to bitching about our bosses: the gay couple owners and Bradley, the flamey-but-supposedly-straight spa director.

"Do we really believe he's straight?" I asked.

"No," three people said in chorus.

"I mean I don't know," Kara said, "but I mean, honestly."

"Yeah, I dunno. I kind of think he might just act flamey so he can get away with saying things people don't let straight guys say," I said, interested to see what they thought of the Bradley Personality Theory I've been working on.

"Huh," Kristin said.

"Totally," Kara said, toasting me with her tequila.

"Were you there when he told me I was 'stinky?' And had me raise my arms so he could spritz me?"

"Oh my god, I was totally there," Kristin said.

"What??" Kara said.

"God how demoralizing and insulting!" Kristin said.

"Yeah, and it was like my second day there. I was trying to go with the flow, you know? I think he just wanted to make me feel small. Whatever," I said. "But did you hear what he said that one time about shaving one leg?"

"Shaving a leg?" Mara, the manicurist, said.

"Doing what??" Kristin stared at me.

"Yeah, ok, he was just like," and I screwed up my face and voice into my best Bradley purse: "He was like 'Sometimes, when I get really lonely, I shave one of my legs, so it feels like I'm sleeping with someone else.'"

Kristin collapsed onto the rug with an "Oh my god" or three.

"You're kidding," Kara said, her mouth open.

"When I write my massage-spa TV pilot, that's gonna be a headliner," I said.

We discussed the camera in the break room, and the backasswards scheduling policies, and the celebs we'd worked on and what they were like, and the crap pay, and generally talked some good old-fashioned shit.

I watched everyone get a little tipsy, sticking to my water with a twist of lime, changing how I sat every few minutes when some part of my burn started complaining too much.

"You okay? You look fidgety," Annie said.

"Oh, I burned at the beach on Friday," I said. "I put on sunscreen literally every 45 minutes, but I was out for like 4 hours, and it was only 15 SPF, so..."

"Yeah, this Southern California sun'll get ya every time," Jack, another therapist (and that elusive character, The LA Native) said.

"Yeah, you could totally get away with that in Chicago, it's crazy," Annie said.

A cake was brought out, and we sang happy birthday -- I changed keys half way through -- and the party started prepping for an adventure to the nearby clubs and bars with dance floors. Annie and I agreed it was a good time to take off, since we both had to work in the morning, so we started making goodbye rounds.

I tried to hide my cringe when Jack squeezed my scorched back in a surprising friendly embrace (he'd said once, at work, that he's not a hugger), and I wished Janine some awesome birthday dancing. Everyone hugged me, some more tightly, more comfortably than others, but the intentions were uniformly sweet.

Annie seemed to have been caught in an apologizing loop (for not being able to go to the club, for not bringing food in addition to booze, for apologizing...), so I called to her from the door and waved, giving her an excuse to break off her sorrys.

I walked in my ridiculous heels back to the car with her, and we wound our way through the Los Angeles freeways toward Echo Park, hitting a wicked patch of traffic (at 11pm!), and making a few wrong turns before she deposited me safely at my door.

I thanked her again, said I'd see her in the morning, and went inside. It was still warm out -- the first time it's been warm past sundown, since I've been here. I wondered what made the difference, why the dry air was suddenly retaining heat.

Mark wasn't home from his closing shift yet, so I lay down in my fancy outfit, waiting for him to arrive so I could show it off.

I wasn't really tired. I thought about what my outfit might've told my coworkers about me -- the pink and gray tiger-stripe tank top, the velvet gray skirt with slits on the sides. Kind of 90's, a little out of style maybe, but very coordinated. I decided I looked good.

From the way people had acted, I gathered they were all mostly unfamiliar with each other's dress styles. I got the feeling they hadn't socialized outside of work together, before.

And I lay on my bed, thinking about how easy the party had been, how I hadn't even been tempted to use any social lubricant, had easily stuck to water. The spot on my back where Jack had gripped with his fingers still felt a little raw, and was radiating a little heat. But hey, at least it was meant to be warm. I don't mind a little overshooting, now and then.

I've been missing my massage school peeps, and my little massage spa family from the dive spa in Chicago. I'd wondered if that kind of bond existed at this place, and I just wasn't seeing it, hadn't been let in, yet. But I don't think it did exist. I think the dry air just suddenly decided to retain some heat.

Friday, June 15, 2007

We've got posters up, boxes unpacked and broken down for storage, and we've had not one but two barbecues in our little back yard. Summer seems to be heading toward full tilt, I'm getting good at this spa job, and my quads and calves have grown to make my (ever-more-familiar) hilly commute a little easier.

And I'm even working on writing a feature film (on spec), under the guidance of Daniel, the TV writer I liked so much. We videochat and we IM and I read and watch a ton of movies and it's a big step.

Life is settling into feeling like a life. And I know which way is north.

"I kind of miss winter," Mark said to me this morning while we sat in our sunny, high-ceilinged white living room, on the white leather sofa, finishing breakfast.

"What? Already?" I said. The words 'I miss' have started creeping into our conversations, here and there. But winter?

"Well, if not winter, the winter aesthetic, you know?" he said, spearing another bite of fresh pineapple. "Like the wood paneling and the brick. That 70's insulated feel."

"Yeah. I don't miss that, yet," I said, arranging watermelon and plum on my fork. "I miss the lake, though."

The Lake. The Lake The Lake! A quick bike ride and you're on the little span of sand at Fullerton, people-watching, sun bathing, water sipping, pale people, fat people, tan people, thin people, a blur of color, walking, jogging, biking by, 40 feet away.

Mark took off for work, and I sat thinking about water and sun.

We're 16 miles from the beach, here, and the beach here is The Ocean. It's big and wide and salty. And there's this thing called beach tar. You walk the two or three hundred feet of sand to the water, and when you leave you have mysterious black tar on the bottoms of your feetsies, sticky salt on your skin and in your hair.

And woe to you if you don't wear sunscreen! This is no Northern Sun! This sun is Southern California skin-scorching serious!

Not that I've made it to the beach yet this summer -- there's no train to the coast, just an interminable bus.

Aw, it's not so bad. Sour grapes. I hauled myself up from our white sofa, made myself presentable, and biked the half block to the Mexican market. I picked out a banana and an apple and a peach and went to the counter, where I also plucked up a locally made coconut pastry of some kind.

"Hey, beautiful lady," our friend the owner said, as he rang up my purchases. I'd put on makeup and a fancy necklace. I've started doing that again, lately, the makeup thing. Now that I'm not so distracted by just getting from A to B, figuring out which way is up, I have energy for light blue eyeshadow.

I smiled at him, said thank you, bought my fruit, and hopped on my bike for the park. I rode around the path encircling the reservoir, and found a lovely spot on a slope in the shade of a big old palm tree, where I sat reading quite happily for two and a half hours.

And tomorrow I learn how to golf with my new friend Danny, and the next day I go for a hike in Griffith Park (where the Hollywood sign is) with my new friend Amy, and next week I go to the beach with my new friend Hanna. There are a lot of new friends around. Maybe someday I'll get to take a few of them to The Point.