April 28, 2015


You know, they're not kidding with those five stages of grief.

And the grieving doesn't have to be over the loss of life – but really the loss of any loved one, lost for any reason.

The same principles that apply to death apply to a breakup, or a disappearance.

In October, I was in complete denial. I thought he'd come back. I was convinced that once he got drunk again, he'd come crawling back. I was convinced that I just needed to give him time.

In December, I was angry. I lashed out at him via text message, though he never responded. I tried to date others to get back at him, as though he'd be jealous. I looked for him in the neighborhood just so I could slap him across the face.

In January, I kept thinking that if he could just get sober, if he could just see me again, he would come to his senses and come back to me. I would've bargained anything. I would've given up myself. I would've retracted the ultimatum I'd given him in September.

In February and March, I withdrew. I gave up. I yearned for him, but I had a sneaking suspicion that maybe he was doing me a favor, and I was dodging a bullet. I gave up all hope on love. If I couldn't be with him, I didn't want to be with anybody. I was so depressed, I ate myself into oblivion, gaining 10 pounds since January and 30 pounds since August.

In April, I finally saw him again. I first saw him walking down the street, certainly on his way to his favorite bar. I had somewhere to be, or I would've certainly pulled over. But instead, I just watched him, first through my driver's side window, then through the rear-view mirror, until he was out of sight. At least I knew he was alive. At least I could see that he wasn't stumbling, or bleeding, or limping, or – God forbid – with another girl.

Later in April, I saw him again, at the place where we met, the place where we'd spent so much time together. I was brave enough to say hi, but the vapid chitchat was so excruciating, I declared, "I'm going to get something to eat," and I sat perched across the bar from him, watching as he flirted with other women, sipping his Budweiser, avoiding eye contact with me. After a couple of glasses of wine and a bathroom break, I approached him again, and asked, "Do you have anything to say to me?" After all, he never actually broke up with me. One day it was "I love you" and the next day – the next six months – it was nothing: no explanation, no excuses, no declarations, no closure. He just disappeared.

"No," he said.

"You don't have anything to say to me?" I asked, shocked.

"No," he repeated, and then started muttering about focusing on his family and giving excuses that wouldn't have made any sense to me even if I were sober.

"I'm just trying to figure out why you hate me," I said. It was a hauntingly familiar line. I used to ask my mother the same thing.

"I don't hate you...." he trailed off. But if he didn't hate me, how could he deliberately cause me so much pain? How could he put me through all those stages of grief?

I ran away again instead of arguing the point, because I knew that this is what he does. I'd seen text messages on his phone from prior girlfriends who'd been disappeared on in similar ways, girls who felt that they were owed an explanation or at least some kind of response. I always thought I would be the exception to that. But I wasn't. Now I was just another desperate text message in his phone, another girl he didn't have the guts to face.

Still, I went back to my spot across the bar, and cried my eyes out. It was a deliberate attempt to get his attention. He always melted when I cried before, and begged for forgiveness. I thought it would work again.

But this time, it didn't. He wouldn't even look at me. He couldn't even see that I was crying.

And although I was upset, I was also relieved. This was the confrontation I'd been both looking forward to and dreading for six months. This was the worst case scenario: complete rejection, without explanation. I'd fantasized about him having some kind of alcohol- or medication-induced amnesia (he'd always had a terrible memory, and lots of blackouts), forgetting me and everything that had happened last summer, giving us the chance to start over again, and begin our romance anew. But the fact that he remembered, and didn't want to come back, didn't ask for forgiveness, and didn't think he had anything to apologize for, was the complete worst that could happen.

Good for him for having no regrets.

I think he should regret something.

I wish I'd never met him. I wish I'd never let myself fall. I wish I didn't remember. I wish I didn't feel sorry.

But it's done now. I can finally accept. I don't know if that means I can move on, per se, but at least I'm not hanging onto the past. I'm not hoping anymore. What's done is done.

I wish it were different, but it's not.

And I don't have to wonder anymore.

I told him he would break me, and he did.

And now I'm broken, if I wasn't already before.

And I don't have to worry about it happening. The worst has already happened.

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Photo Essay: Pico-Union Project, From Temple to Church to Mosque

Sometimes, a building is just a building. It's what you do with it that matters.

Sinai Temple, LA's first Conservative synagogue, was built in 1909 in what is now the Pico-Union area of the city...

...before it moved farther west to Wilshire Boulevard...

...and decades before the Jews were bustling about Boyle Heights.

The former temple has now been turned into the headquarters for the Pico-Union Project...

...which is dedicated to the Jewish principle of "love your neighbor as yourself" (which Christians will recognize as "love thy neighbor").

Founded in 2013 by Jewish musician Craig Taubman...

...the temple had actually been operating as the Welsh Presbyterian Church since 1925...

...retaining (and maintaining) much of the temple's original Jewish and architectural features... the mosaic tile floor in the front vestibule...

...and the stained glass windows...

...including the rose window in the former choir loft, which is now a seated balcony with original wooden seats.

The sanctuary has essentially been converted into a theater, and the Pico-Union Project welcomes performances and parties from all cultures and religious traditions... fact, insisting that each evening's program be culturally diverse...

...from Jewish and Yiddish music to comedy and electronic dance music and DJs.

I'd love to see musical groups from around the world figure out how to incorporate their Murray M. Harris pipe organ into their performances. Original to 1909, the organ is essentially unaltered from its original state, and is one of the few of its kind remaining in the country.

The Pico-Union Project, this former Christian church and Jewish synagogue, now also welcomes The Women's Mosque of America, which had a hard time finding a place for worship before settling here.

It actually houses five different worship communities, and rents the place out for special religious services as well as parties and performances. It may be the oldest synagogue building in LA, but it now loves its neighbors, who are largely immigrants from Central America, Mexico, Cuba, and Korea. But all are welcome – come one, come all. Even when I, a recovering Catholic, wandered in off the street unexpected, I got the grand tour. And it felt like home.

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April 23, 2015

Window Shopping

What's the point of shopping for something you have no intent on buying?

For those of us with insatiable curiosity, everything is an opportunity to learn.

Even if I had the money, I would not buy one of these tower gardens that facilitate urban farming.

But I'm glad I know about them.

I'm glad I know I don't want one for myself.

I'm glad I know I'm not missing out on anything. They're just not for me.

Most of all, I'm glad I know what the grown roots look like on the inside.

Sometimes it's nice to wander around a place without the intent to purchase.

The world is your museum.

Sniff the flowers, admire the beauty, try on the clothes.

If you're dying for it, maybe you can come back.

Maybe things will get better.

My life isn't over yet.

Maybe I can buy things again one day. Maybe I can travel places again one day. Maybe I can splurge on experiences again one day.

I want to be prepared for one day. I'm always planning for someday.

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Photo Essay: A Walk Among the Orchids (and Chrysanthemums and Daisies) 
On the Sidelines

Photo Essay: A Walk Among the Orchids (and Chrysanthemums and Daisies)

It doesn't take much to convince me to spend a day meandering through flower fields. I hike to wildflowers. I ferret out secret gardens and engage in a lot of botanical tourism.

But usually the flora is native – or at least out in the open, adaptable to our climate – and not harvested in greenhouses for cutting, potting, and shipping. It turns out that the open houses at Carpinteria's nurseries are more like factory tours than garden strolls, which isn't necessarily a bad thing.

At our first stop, Gallup & Stribling Orchids, we were greeted by a friendly parrot...

...but the real attraction here was the orchids...

...some tropical...

...others traditional... an exotic array of both cut and potted flowers, many of which have been hybridized and even cloned in their laboratory.

Orchids can last a long time, but not when left out in direct sunlight or heat... they must be kept inside a greenhouse, temperature-controlled by a wall of fans that mimic a swamp cooler.

There are many different varieties and species at Gallup & Stribling...

...from Laelias to pansy and moth orchids...

 ...but they've devoted a whole house to the Cymbidium orchids...

...which come in a rainbow of colors.

Down the road, Ocean Breeze Farms grows lilies, daisies, and hydrangeas...

...but we were there for the chrysanthemum harvest...

...watching bundles of cut flowers...

...turn into bushels... be trucked away...

...leaving a few blossoms behind in their wake.

Ocean Breeze tries to run as sustainable an operation as possible, recycles materials (like old tires)...

...and keeps the business in the family...

...which, for generations, has been successful in agriculture, dating back to the 1600s in Holland.

When the family moved to the States in the 1970s, Chrysanthemums were considered the "money crop" – and they're still the centerpiece of the business.

Members of the same family founded another local nursery, Ever-Bloom, which specializes in gerbera daisies...

...growing them hydroponically... a very contained, warm and moist environment, which is all computer-regulated.

They adhere to a strict schedule of harvesting and shipping, especially in times of high demand (like Mother's Day)...

...and they use a "closed loop" irrigation system, to minimize water waste.

They even employ integrated pest management, reducing the use of chemical pesticides... introducing beneficial insects to eat the bad bugs...

...which is an improvement over the bug-spraying trucks that used to have to drive around the grounds.

In a time of water crisis when Californians are being encouraged to drain their pools and let their lawns go brown, you wonder whether the business of cut flowers is responsible agriculture. They're not food. They provide beauty and enjoyment, but not nutrition. And they use up a lot of water. The gerberas are even being shipped in "wet packs" to keep them hydrated while in transit.

But we're not quite at the point (yet) where we have to rank whose water usage is important and whose isn't. Are almonds worth the water they require? Are cows? For now, let's collect the rainwater, flush the toilet every other time, and shower together. Maybe that'll let us enjoy the flowers a little while longer.

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