Saturday, May 16, 2009

Stories From The Bus: It's Gone By Now

I ventured out to the mall today. Yep, I said "the mall." A place I generally try to avoid at all cost, plus, I was just there a month ago! And that's precisely why I was heading there today--to return the one item I purchased on my last visit to the "unhappiest place on earth." I think shopping is a gift, you either have it or you don't. And I don't. I'm bad at shopping and I don't enjoy it so I dread having to go to the large structure, full of smaller structures, full of clothing items in every color/pattern/material/size/shape which you then have option of the accessories in every color/pattern/material/size/shape to accompany the clothes you may or may not have found to work well with your body. It's sooooo overwhelming!

Well, once in a blue moon, I get lucky and actually have a different shopping experience. One that involves walking into one store, browsing the many items neatly hung around me, choosing some to try on, finding some that don't work and then listening to the chorus of angels that has assembled in the dressing room singing a celebratory anthem because I've found not one but TWO dresses that I like and that fit well! It's a miracle in Macy's department store. A single tear... This is the shopping experience I gladly embraced today even though, it meant spending more money than I initially intended. As I left the mall, I was happy and was off to complete the other errands on my list.

I took two buses to my next location and everything was working so well, no long wait for buses or bad weather to contend with and my iPod hadn't died yet. I got off the Culver City #6 and began walking towards my next destination when I realized I was EMPTY HANDED. SHIT! I just left my Macy's bag on the bus! SHIT! I began trying to contact someone at Culver CityBus but it's Saturday and I just kept getting a recorded message. I just left an expensive bag on a public bus and all I could do was walk back to the bus stop and wait. It was an agonizing wait and I just kept reminding myself of all the kindnesses I've witnessed on the bus. Really, I see people offer their seats to others all the time, people let other passengers know when they've dropped something or even left something behind (like a shopping bag!) before they exit, compliments are given, smiles are passed out, directions are explained, and arms are offered to those needing help on or off. I kept hoping that today, I would be the recipient of someone's honesty and kindness.

I got on the next bus that came by and explained my situation to the driver who said he could call it in and then "they" would contact the drivers to see if anyone had found a Macy's bag. I told him it had been about 30 minutes and he asked what was in the bag. Two dresses. "It's gone by now," was his response. "Maybe a kind person turned it in, you never know," was mine. The driver was really helpful but I think he was trying to prepare me for the reality that I may never see that bag again. He told me there wasn't a way to find out if it had been found so it was best if I waited for the driver of the original bus to pass and that it could be an hour and 10 minutes. So, I waited. And hoped. And tried not to cry. (Seriously, it was a bit pathetic. It was just money after all.)

About 40 minutes into my second waiting period, a Culver CityBus employee drove up in an SUV and told me that the bag was found and that the driver knows where to look for me and would be at my stop in about 20 minutes. What?! Seriously?! You found it?! Nobody stole it?! Thank you, thank you, thank you! And it as true. The next beautiful green bus that pulled up was my original bus and there in the front window was my Macy's bag! I'm pretty sure the dressing room angels returned for an encore and I was elated! Not just to have my new dresses but to have confirmation that people are good and honest and kind. Several people helped me locate the bag, several others had the opportunity to steal it in the two hours that it was out of my possession but they didn't. Of course, if it had been stolen I wouldn't have lost hope in all people but it's pretty great to have these moments. There is lots of goodness in the world, this is just one small example.

A special thank you to the Culver CityBus employees that helped, the person that found/turned in the bag, and the people of LA who rode bus #7061 today and chose kindness.

I think it might be a while before I venture out to the mall again...

Monday, March 2, 2009

The Way To My Heart

Happy March, everyone! It seems, I'm becoming one of those people who comments on how quickly time passes and while that may suggest something about my age, I am not old. (A phrase I will be repeating for the rest of my days.) But really, I've been in LA over a year already! What happened to that year? What did I accomplish in that year? How do you measure a year? In daylights? Sunsets? Midnights? Cups of coffee? (I know, I know, but I needed a segue!)

Anthony Rapp and Adam Pascal stole my heart on Saturday, along with the rest of the touring cast of Rent! Everyone was fantastic and you don't always get that with a touring company. I laughed, I cried. Ah, it was everything I wanted it to be. There is nothing like the theatrical experience, nothing moves and inspires me like storytelling from the stage, particularly when fabulous singing is involved. Having listened to the soundtrack for years, I've become quite familiar with Rapp and Pascal in these roles and it was surprising how solid they were on Saturday. Even after all these years and countless performances of this material, they came out with high energy, gave it 100%, and were essentially flawless, it was remarkable. I suppose that's to be expected from professionals. The full cast was impressive as well, everyone was up to par and fulfilled their roles beautifully. A great day was had by all. Or at least by my sister and I.

The rest of the evening was spent cooking, another favorite activity of mine. We made this for dinner along with a green salad and this for dessert. Delicious! I highly recommend the risotto and while the tart was tasty and pretty, it's a little high maintenance considering how much (or little) it yields. I even made the caramel sauce and didn't burn it! This was exciting for me as my only other attempt at caramel was years ago and a complete disaster. I am no longer afraid of burning sugar, this is progress. Now, if only all fears could be conquered so easily!

Thanks, Melissa, for the best February birthday I've ever had!

Friday, February 27, 2009

"Times Are Shitty..."

"But I'm pretty sure they can't get worse." (Lyrics from Sante Fe, Rent, by Jonathon Larson.)

Well, things got a little bit better when my dear sister called this afternoon to tell me she's taking me to see Rent tomorrow! It's an early birthday present and I'm so excited! She has never seen the stage production and I saw it years ago on a tour but not with any of the original cast members. Most people interested in musical theatre are aware that Anthony Rapp and Adam Pascal returned for this current tour and I was so hoping to see them perform these roles live. It's rare that anyone who creates a role is able to come back in the same role 13 years later. And since I don't live in NY, it's rare for me to see original Broadway casts so I can't wait. I truly didn't think I was going to be able to go. From the bottom of my heart, thank you, Melissa.

Of course, the irony is not lost on me. The fact that I'm going to see Rent when lately, I wonder how I'm going to pay mine is one of life's little attempts at humor. (And yes, I'm laughing or at least smiling.) No updates on the job front but I'm not giving up hope! I can't. That doesn't mean that I don't have bad days, trust me I do. I'm just trying not to focus on them because that's not very helpful. I make daily attempts to see the good in order to remind me that I'm surrounded by beauty and have many things to be grateful for in my life. As hard as it might be, there is always someone else suffering more. I'm blessed to have a loving family and friends who look out for me, even though, I don't let them sometimes. Not everyone has that luxury so I know I'm quite lucky.

Anyone want to open up a restaurant in Sante Fe?

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Death By...

Last week, a friend asked me to go for a run with her one evening. I'm out of shape and a super slow runner to begin with but she didn't mind so we did it. Then, a couple days ago, one of my '08 Nike friends sent out an invitation to join her for the P.F. Chang's Rock 'N' Roll Arizona Marathon in January 2010. I guess I have only myself to blame for the fact that people think these are appropriate invitations for me. (What have I done?!) Anyway, in light of the facts that physical exercise is a stress reliever, helpful in weight loss and general health, and necessary if one is considering the challenging of running a race, I went out for a short run last night.

On both running occasions, I felt like I was going to die. Why? Because oxygen is necessary for life and this element was seemingly absent. I know I've said this before but I watch true runners in absolute awe, especially those runners who look as relaxed as I do when sleeping. How do they do it? It is unlikely that I will ever experience a 6 minute mile but I do have aspirations to someday hit the pavement for a few miles without the aid an oxygen mask. I would also like to actually enjoy it. That's right, I've completed two marathons and I still hate running. Granted I walked more than I ran either of those races but still, you would think after several hundred training miles and 52.4 'racing' miles, some of that I-love-running-joy would rub off on me. What will it take?! Geesh.

While I have yet to actually enjoy a run while in the midst of it, I do feel great when it's over. Sometimes, several hours after it's over but still, I feel better and I know it's good for my body and soul. I also find I have more energy which brings me to my next point.

With all the extra energy following last night's run, I walked to a restaurant for a chocolate milk shake. Yeah, shut up.

An Excellent Film
Chocolate shake in hand, I watched "The Green Mile" before going to bed. It was the first time I had seen it and I cried my bloody eyes out! The acting is fantastic, the story is moving and I was pretty sure my heart was being ripped from my body with each passing scene. But if you're one of the few people left on the earth that has yet to see this film, I highly recommend it.

Finally, I need to vent for a moment. It is no secret that I am one of those excited about our new president and I have renewed hope for our future. I understand that there are those who disagree with me and have passionate reasons for it. I felt the same way when Bush was re-elected and I know how difficult it is to be disappointed, concerned, and even scared in the midst of someone else's celebration. However, I do not understand why anyone would root for their president to fail. Again, I was not happy about Bush but I certainly didn't want him to fail. For him to fail was for our country to fail, why would I want that? So, why are so many people actively and publicly rooting for President Obama to fail? I understand if you want a bill or policy to fail but more than that seems immature and ignorant. He won, get over it. Okay, I'm done now.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Farmers Markets

I'm not very good about going to Farmers Markets weekly but I do love them. It makes me happy to see beautiful, colorful, fresh and sometimes strange-looking produce and handmade products lining the street. Then there are the people with their own bags, carts and kids, stocking up for the week or maybe a special dinner that evening. Doesn't it seem like the perfect neighborhood activity?

I have the pleasure of living relatively close to the Santa Monica Farmers Market so I stopped by yesterday. It's fun to see so many people out on Wednesday morning supporting their local farmers and it's fun to see chefs gathering ingredients from their favorite vendors. Apparently, celebrities often venture to this market but I don't usually notice them.

Amongst the items I purchased was a single Meyer Lemon. I've never tasted one but I've noticed many people talking about them lately so when I spotted them at a citrus stand yesterday, I couldn't resist. They were so beautiful and much smoother than a regular lemon. I look forward to slicing into it later, if I can bring myself to damage this perfect specimen.

On an unrelated note, the 2009 letterpress calendars that I posted about last month are now on sale for $29! That's a steal for such beautiful handmade work. If you're looking for a gift for yourself or someone else, I highly recommend a visit to Lynn Russell's Etsy shop.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

I Checked, It's Still A Brand New Day

As I turned to exit Barnes & Noble today, the above photograph shows what I saw. I had to pull out my camera and the tears welled up again. As I took the picture, a gentleman seated next to me couldn't help but mention how remarkable yesterday was and how much he still feels the excitement today. I couldn't agree with him more, so much hope.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

The Day Has Arrived

From my point of view:
At approximately 12:04pm est, President Obama took the oath of office and became the 44th President of the United States of America. With cheers, hopeful hearts, tears of joy, and deep pride we welcomed the First Family to the White House and the first African American to the highest office in the land. With respect and unity, we listened to the strong message he delivered from the Capitol Building today. While there are those who focus on skepticism and the disappointment that their candidate did not win, many Americans look toward the future with optimism and hold much respect for the man that has agreed to take on the incredibly difficult task of leading our country at this particularly challenging time. The change of leadership alone offers relief to many of us and the fact that this change is lead by President Barack Obama is thrilling. As he has said often, the road ahead will be difficult and the changes we seek will not appear overnight but I, for one, support him wholeheartedly and am willing to give him and his administration the time needed to address the crises they've just inherited. I do not expect perfection yet I trust he has the wisdom, integrity, grace and strength required for the days and years ahead. What an extraordinary day.

Thank you, Mr. President and First Family, and welcome.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

At The Moment The Economy Is Not My Friend

Really, he's not. He won't talk to me and on the rare occasion that he does, he's short and detached. I'm not sure what I did to offend him but based on this dose of silent treatment, it was pretty bad and I wonder if he'll ever forgive me.

It's another day in "the office," which means I'm sitting in a local coffee shop using their free wifi (free after I buy coffee) and job searching. I've been temping for several months and initially, there was a decent amount of work. As the last few months have passed, the jobs have become harder and harder to come by. Job searching in our current economic climate is enough to drive a person mad and that is no exaggeration. Jobs are available but it's nothing in comparison to the number of people looking for employment. I've also noticed that companies seem to be offering lower and lower salaries (or hourly rates) and I can only assume they are trying to save money because they can or because they have to in order to survive. Regardless, it makes for a very difficult time to be without steady employment. To complicate my financial matters further, I contacted my temp agency today because I hadn't received a couple paychecks. It turns out I never gave them my new address and now I have to pay bank fees for them to stop payment on the checks they've mailed but haven't been received/returned. They will cut new checks for me and I can pick them up tomorrow when I go in to fill out the paperwork necessary to change my address and pay the appropriate fees. Of course, I have to pay money to get my money. I understand policies and such but considering the pathetic check totals, this is a little hard to swallow.

A couple walked into "my office" a bit ago and practically announced that they were both laid off today. They're sitting behind me and making call after call. Calls to family members, fellow newly jobless colleagues, potential employers and their new landlord. They think they need to move as a result of this development, I understand their predicament. And to top it all off, they just got a parking ticket due to an expired meter. I guess it's one of those days...or weeks...or months...or years...

"My office" is filled with two kinds of people--job seekers and screenplay writers, more of the former. The number of computers with windows open to Craigslist is just another sign that there are many other stories out there like the two above. I'm not unique, the couple that just left to get their computers and begin their search is not unique. That's strangely comforting, unfortunate, and absolutely scary. I know that things will turn around, I'm just not sure when. Until then, I'm doing my best to remain hopeful and focused.

To those of you with jobs, be thankful and may you have continued financial security. To those of you job searching, I feel your pain and wish you unexpected luck. May our friendship with the economy be mended soon.

Edit: Here's a Wall Street Journal article about my late afternoon office. Again, it looks like I'm not unique.

Friday, January 2, 2009

Shuffle Off To A New Life

Who knew that such a little thing could provide so much hope for a new life? My sister and her boyfriend took pity on me and gave me an iPod Shuffle for Christmas, a truly pleasant surprise! With all of my bus riding and walking, I've often thought this little device would be so nice but I never bought one for myself. My favorite place to listen to music was always the car (partly because I could sing at the top of my lungs without disturbing anyone) but I haven't owned a car in three years so my listening practices have been almost non-existent. I didn't realize just how much I was missing it until I finally got my super cute, green, shuffle loaded up and in my ears for this morning's commute! It felt so freeing and so fun!

I'm really moved my music and even motivated--I actually went for a run when I got home from work today just because I was energized by the song I was listening to! I don't remember what song it was but who cares, I ran...for no reason...for the first time since the marathon (October.) This is an exciting development. Now, before you go thinking I went for a long distance, graceful run, let me tell you the truth--I seriously sucked wind for about a mile and I'm still coughing from the cool air trapped in my lungs. Too funny. But it's a mile more than I ran yesterday so I feel good about that and who knows, maybe it'll happen again sometime soon.

While I'm not one to make a list of resolutions, I do love and feel the hope for a better year that comes with the start of a new year. It offers a clean slate, a chance to start over, to make changes, to leave bad habits behind, to reinforce healthy habits and to hope that the things you desire find their way into your life this year. Of course, this year includes a new president and a historical event when he takes office which just adds to the excitement. Ah, the sweetness of a new year.