Tuesday, November 29, 2011

What Lies on the Other Side



The first time I hiked Runyon Canyon, I entered from the north at Mulholland Drive. I hiked down a slippery, eroded trail until I hit basically a huge boulder that looked like the end of the trail. I could see more hikers down below, but I couldn't really figure out how to get down there.

Subsequently, I entered Runyon from the south entrances at Fuller and Vista and hiked up and around, but never made my way back to that first blockade.

What lie beyond that boulder?

As of this past Friday, now I know.

This thing:



It's a marker of sorts, to commemorate your ascent up the steep, scrambling trail from the Vista entrance to the south of Runyon - not up the slow sloping paved fire road, but up a dirt trail that's just as likely to lead you into bramble as it is to expose its trail down to pure rock.



But when you get to the top of that first climb, your hike is not over.



Although you can see the city - Hollywood, West Hollywood, Downtown and beyond - sprawling out below, beyond the hikers and dog-walkers leisurely sauntering along the "easy way," you've got one more hill to climb.

This one:



I wish I'd taken more photos to show how steep and intense the climb was, because I had many moments when I didn't think I would make it, but I needed both of my hands to hold on for dear life.

Who knew Runyon could get so high?

Who knew a climb like this could get you so high?

On the other side of that miniature mountain, the descent was so steep I had to crab-walk my way down on all fours, scooting along and resting my rear on a flat surface when I found one. Hikers attempted to climb up, changed their minds, and turned around.

I walked a short distance more, and saw the familiar path that would take me back up, as far as to Mulholland Drive, or looping around to meet the paved fire road which would take me back down to the bottom of the canyon.



And just went I thought my hike was complete, when I thought I'd conquered Runyon and all of its trails, I witnessed two men run sideways down the canyon wall, where a short distance beyond them lie a circular plot of stones, laid out as though part of some pagan ritual.

I looked around from the fire road and realized that the whole canyon had been carved out by foot into an entire web of unofficial trails, paths, walkways, and clearings. Old building foundations rise from behind thick overgrowth, drooping fan palms and dense brush.

I may now know what lies behind that first blockade I encountered upon my initial visit to Runyon, but I still don't really know what lies on the other side of the trail.

At least, not all of them.

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Monday, November 28, 2011

You Can Take the Girl Out of New York...

Yes, I just put up a Christmas tree on a day when the high temperature reached the mid-80s.

No, I didn't know what a Noble Fir was. (Only the forests of northern California, western Oregon and Washington can boast growing it.)

Yes, I carried it home - not on the roof of my car, but with my bare hands.

And I felt good about it, strong like bull, proud like a good New Yorker.

But like a good Californian, I didn't haggle and instead paid the advertised price. And once I had it set up in the stand in my apartment, I went back to tell them I'd gotten home OK and that the size was perfect for my space.

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Saturday, November 26, 2011

A Double Gobble Thanksgiving



I was worried about the holidays in LA.

Having moved here less than a year ago - which most people consider "new" - I still don't have a group of people to hang out with, a community, or really close friends. Considering how many Thanksgivings I spent alone in New York, where I did have close friends (who unfortunately were either traveling or just otherwise occupied), what chance did I have for home and hearth on the other coast?

But when I moved here at the end of January, there was one invitation extended by a business associate who'd been particularly supportive last year during my attempts to move here: "If you don't have anywhere to go for Thanksgiving, you are invited to come here," to celebrate with his wife, son, friends and family. All year long, I've been comforted by the thought that I would have at least somewhere to go on Thanksgiving.

That invitation was reiterated several times over the year, and as Thanksgiving approached, other invitations from other people started rolling in, not the least of which was from my boss, who is not only the best boss I've ever had, but who has grown to become one of my best friends. I was excited at the prospect of helping her cook (something she doesn't normally do much of), and once again making mashed potatoes and green bean casserole, which has become an annual Thanksgiving tradition whether I spent it alone or not.

In the end, I wound up cramming in two turkey dinners with two different families, turning down a number of other invitations. And it wasn't just that I had somewhere to go, and somebody to spend it with. I was really lucky to share a meal, share a day, share a holiday, share a tradition, start a tradition with people I really love, with whom I had a great time, who never made me feel like an orphan.

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Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Photo Essay: Autumn in LA, Courtesy of Griffith Park

People have told me I would miss seasons while living in Southern California. But, I tell you, it is fall right now. I feel it as much here as I ever did in New York, maybe more so. I never really got to see the leaves change in that city...

On Saturday I was feeling particularly gloomy, perhaps from the rain the night before, or the rain that I knew would follow the next day, or the pervasive darkness of my office and my apartment, or the dark cloud that seems to have followed me from NYC.

So after a fair amount of wallowing, I went to Griffith Park.



I'd been wanting to explore some of the trails that lead out from around Travel Town, the historic train district in the northernmost section of the park.



Turns out they're mostly equestrian trails, making them extremely navigable, especially since they appeared on my GPS.



The main trail from Travel Town, the Skyline Trail, soon takes you up up up...



...and on that day, the elevation revealed a delicious combination of Magic Hour lighting and storm-threatening spookiness.







The signs of horses were everywhere: in the shoe-printed sand beneath my sneakers...



...in the distance along the trail, sometimes passing by me...



...and in the rippling water of the trough from which they drink.



Up there, overlooking Burbank and North Hollywood, the landscape appeared as though in a painting, giving me a much-needed escape from my dire realities.









And thankfully, GPS in hand, I avoided getting lost. I looked out upon Griffith Park, and it no longer seemed such a mystery to me. I recognized Mount Hollywood, Griffith Park Drive, Mineral Wells. Its unmarked twists and turns - even though I hadn't been on that particular trail before - felt as familiar to me as the dark clouds above.







As always, at least lately, I was in a race against time, with only two hours before the sun would set and the parking lot would be closed and locked for the night, and only four hours until I had to work an event Saturday night.







Losing light quickly, despite my elevation, I headed back down the way I came to retrieve my car and give myself enough time to shower and change before heading to work.



I left just as the sun was painting a fiery hue onto the already-flaming leaves in the trees of the parking lot, giving me one last boost of beauty and nature before I had to return to my life.



Who says there's no foliage in LA?



It's just an autumn experienced amidst the palm trees.

And I wouldn't have it any other way.

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Monday, November 21, 2011

Just My Type

I can't tell you how many friends - mostly male friends - have told me they can't figure out what my type is.

That's because they're only looking at the guys who've caught my eye. They see height, hair color, career (or lack thereof), race, and I see the twist of a mustache, an eyebrow raised, a glimmer, a sparkle, a swagger. It's how they talk to me and how they look at me. It's what their eyes say and what they don't say.

(And, quite frankly, it's how interested in me they are.)

My romantic history is littered with a motley crew of sexually ambiguous sensitive men, muscle-bound bouncers, chefs, bartenders, blue collar workers, knife-wielding cowboys, bearded Broadway show writers, opera singers, DJs, golfers, contractors, industrial designers, dads, a surprising number of bassists, and a couple of girls.

What do they have in common - the blondes, the brunettes, the bald, the tall, the short, the Italians, the Irish, the naive, the adulterers?

Care.
Charm.
Charisma.
Confidence.
Capability.
Accountability.
Connectivity.
Capacity for intimacy.
Courage.
Competence.

These I cannot perceive in a static photograph. These I cannot detect from across the bar. These I cannot ascertain from an online dating profile.

So in a world of "I'll know it when I see it," is the search for the unseen - that which lies beyond the looks - doomed?

I guess I just have to get to know as many people as I can. And know when to move on from them if the chemistry isn't right...

Related reading:
A League of My Own
A Perfect Match
In Praise of the Nice Guy

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A League of My Own

I always felt attractive in New York. At least in comparison to those around me. On the bell curve of attractiveness, I always thought I was in a pretty high percentile. Even at my heaviest in 2002-3, and again in 2009, I still thought I looked better than most. I looked around the women's locker room at the gym - seeing all shapes, sizes, colors and ages flaunting their stuff behind open shower curtains, on top of towels laid out on the floor instead of around their torsos, on benches in front of mirrors - and thought if all of them can be so proud, so can I. 

I also always felt attracted in New York. Everywhere I looked - on the street and subway, at work, in bars - good-looking men with swagger caught my eye. Bartenders, elevator repairmen, UPS deliverymen, bus drivers, bankers, musicians, actors, unemployed trust fund babies were all so attractive.

I don't know what happened, but I don't feel so attractive anymore in LA, and I don't feel so attracted either.

Los Angeles is full of beautiful women. Full of them. From all over the world. Even the most meagerly mediocre man can snag a real knockout because there are just so many of them. And it's not just the Hollywood cliche of bleached blonde tresses and bulging implants: it's big blonde girls, glitzy Asian girls, decked-out black girls, cutely-coiffed debutantes speaking in hushed accents and giggling as they toss their locks over their shoulder and fiddle with the clasps on their handbags. They are adored, and they beam from it.

I'm no less attractive now than I was in New York. I'm just less attractive than the women around me.

[At this point my friends will protest and tell me how beautiful I am. I know, I know.]

Usually, the key to dating successfully is finding someone who's more or less in your league, your superficial "equal," as it were. If you're a 10, you shouldn't have to stoop down so low as to date a 5; you should be able to get an 8 or a 9, if not a 10. Everyone wants to date up, but if you're a 3, you can't really expect to date a 7, can you?

Of course, these numbers, like many numbers, are meaningless on their own. What is a 6? What is a 9? You could argue the qualities and characteristics of each for ages and no one would ever agree. But the numbers' significance lies in the ranking - the chart of hit singles, as it were - whereby regardless of which slot you're actually at, you know you're two slots behind this other person or a slot or two ahead of this other person. And God forbid you rank at the top slot, because you've got nowhere to go (or date) but down. At least if you're at the bottom slot (in this case, a 1, the opposite of the pop charts where number one is the most sought-after chart position), you can only stay where you are or move up. At least if you're a 1, you can't get any worse.

So what is really my problem in LA? First of all, unlike in New York, I'm just not that attracted to that many people. I see men who are well-dressed, well-groomed, and well-financed, but their tweezed brows, designer sunglasses and fast cars just don't do it for me. Very rarely do I meet someone I'm really interested in, though I accept plenty of dinner invitations and dole out plenty of business cards to those who ask, always willing to acquiesce and politely accept the affections of those who are brave enough to express them freely. When I do meet someone who interests me, who catches my eye, who attracts me, who seems to be more or less in my league or thereabouts, a reachable slot or two above me perhaps, I am often met with the sinking realization that they not only already have a girlfriend, but that she is way hotter than I am. And if not a current girlfriend, an ex-girlfriend who is way hotter than I, proving that although the man on his own appears to be in my league, his track record launches him way out of my league. In the battle between supermodel girlfriend and me (and this is a battle I have fought twice already since moving to LA), I lose.

Case in point: a hot, age-appropriate bartender I'd been flirting with for a few weeks finally came clean and confessed his girlfriend to me. Of course I already knew, I told him, because someone so handsome couldn't possibly be single. A few days later when I saw him again, his hand bandaged from getting cut by broken glass behind the bar, he pulled out his phone to show me the gory photos of his stitches, and as he was scrolling through, he mistakenly happened upon a naked photo of a woman. (Whether it was his girlfriend or some other naked girl, I don't actually know.) And she was a knockout. And in the mental Battle of the Babes that I conducted on the spot, her naked photo versus mine, though I only glimpsed at hers and I know mine very well, I had no choice but to throw in the towel.

If this is who he's dating, even if he were single, he's not in my league.

So, given the fact that I'm not dating anyone, and really haven't, ever, I cannot be judged by the company I keep (as can the men of LA); instead I can only be judged by myself alone, as compared with those other similar females of the species who surround me.

And by the looks of it - and we're only talking about looks here, not intelligence, wit, charm, humor, affability, adventure, creativity or any of the other things I may have going for me besides looks - I'm not going to fare so well out here.

(But it's not bad enough to make me want to move back.)

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Friday, November 18, 2011

This Is It

For over two years, I fantasized about what would happen when I finally moved to California. I quit my job, threw caution to the wind, and turned myself over to the Universe, crawling onto Fate's lap and grinning at what prospects may lie ahead.

Despite heartbreak, trauma, crisis and poverty, I looked forward to what my life might become once I left New York.

And this is it.

I'm here. I've been here for a while now. Nothing more to look forward to. This is my life now.

This is....
...it.

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Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Open Letter to the Lovers

I wrote a series of "Dear Lover" opening lines, mentally addressed to a variety of lovers past and present, and I deleted them all.

After all, if I can't say it (or ask it) to their faces, what's the point of writing it on a blog they'll never read?

Loneliness is not poetry. Desperation is not art. Neediness is not literature.

People come and go within minutes, hours, days, weeks - if you're lucky, months, years, a lifetime.

There are those I lost a few years ago. There are those I lost a few weeks ago. There are those I never really had at all, and those I haven't lost yet but am sure to lose.

So I can't write, "Dear Lover, Please don't leave me," because they surely will. Or I will surely leave them.

And I can't write, "Dear Lover, Where are you?" because they surely will not respond.

Am I better off asking the question that will never be answered than not asking it at all?

I choose a third option: ask only the questions that will be answered. Make only the requests that will be acknowledged.

I will not fall upon the deaf ears of life and scream.

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Sunday, November 13, 2011

Someone For Everyone

When I'm out alone, out all alone in LA, I look at the couples around me, and I judge them. Perhaps unfairly.

I see older, affluent guys with much younger, beautiful Asian wives.

I see well-groomed, well-dressed, but ultimately dorky and unattractive guys with supermodel girlfriends.

I see horribly mannered, grating voiced, screw-faced girls with nice-looking, earnest, affectionate, devoted dates.

And I think, there must be someone for everyone.

These people have found love.

So why am I alone?

Why haven't I?

If I was one of those horrible girls, I would have a date.

If I was one of those attractive girls, I would have a date.

So why don't I have a date?

Who am I?

There must be someone for everyone.

So who is for me? Who am I for?

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Makes Me Wonder

I look at the calendar, and I realize I've passed the nine month mark as a resident of Southern California.

In my gestation of becoming Californian, I wonder if I'm there yet. I call this place "home," but I've called many places home, not many of which have actually felt like home.

At what point am I no longer new?

Los Angeles is constantly welcoming new arrivals, so much so that the most common question that people ask each other during introductions is not "Where are you from?" but "How long have you been here?" And now I'm starting to meet the people who say, "One month," "Three months," "Six months," whatever, and increasingly commonly they are newer than I am.

But what have I learned while living here?

I stand behind all of the decisions I made leading up to and coinciding with my move here - taking the job that relocated me here, choosing this apartment, this furniture, this car - but what about after that? Should I have worked harder to keep my job that only kept me three months? Should I have spent more time enjoying unemployment? Should I have not returned to the music industry, the devil I know?

Should I have not wasted so much time hung up on one guy, to the exclusion of nearly all others? When we're in the same room, everyone thinks we're together, discouraging the approach of almost all those except the bravest. When we're apart, I can't stop thinking about him. And almost everyone new I meet can detect it.

At one point do I become pathetic? Did I become pathetic?

Should I be trying more restaurants? Should I be establishing myself as more of a regular at a select few?

Should I be auditioning more? Should I get an agent? Should I be spending all my free time shooting webisodes and student films just to bulk up my reel?

I cannot give my number out any more. (As it is, I give it to whomever asks for it.) I cannot walk any more. (As it was, I woke up with my feet bleeding the morning after Halloween.) I cannot hope any more. I cannot love any more.

I cannot cry any more. I cannot regret anymore.

But I can wonder...

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Friday, November 11, 2011

Photo Essay: Ed Davis Park at Towsley Canyon

My weekend heat-seeking hike excursions took me north up the 5 freeway last Saturday to Towsley Canyon in Newhall, not far from the recently-visited Pico Canyon.

Like Pico, Towsley Canyon has a rich history of commercial oil.

Unlike Pico, this time I got to see more than just a historical marker.

Ed Davis Park has a few trails that you can take, and the Towsley Canyon Loop actually has two trailheads (not starting and ending in exactly the same spot). I passed by the first trail head and climbed up the park road past the parking lots to reach the far trailhead...



...where the paved road gave way to dirt.



The hike takes you along earth that's cracked and crumbling, like an old road...



...past old rusted gates...



...the old dam...



...and other relics.





The canyon walls soon close in, the late afternoon sun dipping behind...



...as you climb through the section called "The Narrows"...



...winding back and forth across Towsley Creek...



...through a sandy, overgrown terrain...





...until you are emptied out into the grasslands.





Although the trail out of the Narrows was still sunlit in the late of day, it was still recovering from the heavy rains the day before, leaving my sneakers mud-caked despite the blocks set in to help sturdy the path.





Although there was plenty of shade...



...it was easy to see how this area gets dried out in the summer...






...making it susceptible to wildfires, from which it is still recovering, especially near its peak.



As you descend from the peak, you dip into Wiley Canyon, a tributary of Towsley Canyon.







As you loop your way back to the parking lot, you reunite with Towsley Creek, which - in a major manifestation of its history in oil - is tar-ridden and downright goopy, the smell of sulfur and fuel permeating the air...





...And back to the first trailhead, slightly closer to my car than where I started.



A week in, I was still recovering from a headcold that rocked my health, but when I finished the 5.1 mile hike (plus a bit more to and from my car), I noted that I've come a long way in my hiking endurance. A three mile hike used to challenge me but be doable. Now three miles has turned into six miles, an easy trek for a rundown, worn out sniffly girl.

How far could I walk if I didn't stop? If I wasn't sick? If I didn't have somewhere to be? If the sun wasn't going down? If I didn't get lost?

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