Tuesday, August 27, 2013

The longest amount of consecutive time that I've been in one place [or within a 100 mile radius of one place] in all of 2013 is seven weeks and five days. I have yet to spend even a full two months in the same location this entire year. I've been wanting to adopt a dog lately, and this little statistic about my life is the reason that's not going to happen any time soon. Even starting a garden in my front yard was a commitment. A commitment that is paying off, by the way.

It isn't easy for me to stay in one place too long. But this year I'm making a commitment to myself and to this city. I only have two trips outside of LA planned before the end of this semester, one of which is a conference I'm presenting at in Boulder, the other of which is Thanksgiving break in God Only Knows Where, USA. I don't need any help learning to love this city, but I do need reminders that this is a safe place for me, no matter what. That I have established something real here. That I have earned the right to call Los Angeles "home." To document this place, its neighborhoods, its people, my people who are here and not elsewhere. 
nomatterwhatness is rocking some new work at the Junction lately.
Turns out, this is a friend of a friend's work. Webs of people are all that exist here.

For one thing, I replaced Banch, my sad, sad stolen bicycle. And I've been riding New Banch almost every day up and down the streets of Los Angeles. L & I spent the past two weeks riding to school for pre-semester business. We also rode to Fuck Yeah Fest, also known as FYF, both days this past weekend. And I can tell you right now, nothing washes away anxiety like cruising through downtown LA with your friends at 1am, no traffic, just warm, almost-ocean air. 
This was my 7:30am for the past two weeks. Relieved to be back on a
Humanities schedule. No class till at least noon. 

We recently discovered that my friend's apartment complex in WeHo has a pool, so we took full advantage last weekend and bought a blow up orca whale and some inflatable floating flamingo coasters and spent the day in true California fashion: sunscreen & swimsuits, water & sunglasses, lemonade & fashion magazines. 

I've only been able to spend two days at the beach since I got back here two and a half weeks ago, but both days were perfect, gorgeous, all you can ask for hours of sunshine and palm trees. I've said this before and it continues to be true: no matter how hard I'm working, no matter how stressed I get, living in Los Angeles feels like a perpetual vacation. I think it has to do with the fact that when you grow up in a place like Colorado, you don't see palm trees or the beach unless you're on vacation. So to live here, to look out my window and see those feathered leaves topping their skinny, reaching trunks, to smell the salt air, will always retain some feeling of paradise for me, no matter how hard things get. And if I'm going to go through the hardest things I hope I'll ever have to go through, I'm relieved to at least do that here, under the sun, next to the sea.

Today was my first day back at school. Technically, this is my last full year of coursework ever. After this, I've got one class next fall, then I'm on to field exams, quals, and my dissertation. Tomorrow, I start teaching for the first time at this new institution of mine. It's been a year since I've taught and I miss it. I've got so many exciting assignments planned for the semester already. Having the freedom to basically write your own syllabus is something I'm only just now experiencing, and I find that it allows me to access a whole new level of creativity that I wasn't aware existed in me until now.

To celebrate the last day of summer, which for my friends and me was yesterday, L, C, and I spent the weekend at FYF. Over the span of two very, very long days/nights, we saw Charles Bradley, The Breeders, Devendra Banhart, TV on the Radio, Starfucker, Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Beach House, MGMT, and Holy Ghost! We ate pizza made in the back of a fire truck. We stood in dirt and wood chips. We danced like crazy. We watched the sun set on our city, on thousands of people gathered in a historic park on the east side. I sang to the stars, even though none were visible. I watched police choppers occasionally circle overhead. I felt, more than ever, that I am a part of this place now. So I will stay here, for the next few weeks, and then for a full two months. 
TV on the Radio
Yeah Yeah Yeahs
Yeah Yeah Yeahs
MGMT with Henry Winkler center stage playing the cowbell. No fucking joke.

And to celebrate the first day of school, I spent the evening watching Sunday night's episodes of The Newsroom, Breaking Bad, and Dexter with my boo. Tomorrow: teaching day one. Tonight: much needed sleep.

Monday, August 12, 2013

I walked into my yoga studio last night for the first time since June. It smelled like peppermint. I remembered sitting on the brown suede sofa only a few months ago, talking with M about how my life came crashing down around me. The six months between December 13th and May 13th were the hardest I've ever faced. The loss was never ending. The heartbreak was debilitating. So many times I had to force myself through every individual sentence in a book so I could absorb enough information to present something coherent to my seminar. So many times I couldn't eat couldn't sleep couldn't do anything to distract myself. But my yoga studio was there the entire time. Through everything. Every Sunday, I would drive all the way out to Sherman Oaks to take M's back to back yoga classes. I spent at least three hours a week there, usually more. I didn't realize it, but that place was becoming foundational to my life out here. When I walked through those doors again yesterday, my whole body melted. I felt safe. I spent six months trying to keep misery at bay while in that studio. Now that place serves as a reminder of what it took for me to get through everything and let go. M's voice. Her playlists for our classes. Peppermint. People who live and breathe yoga like I live and breathe yoga. Like it's my religion. That place my temple. Those people my congregation. The movements that my body remembers even when I don't, my focus inward, my focus outward, gratitude for a universe that gives and takes and gives. My prayer. My intention. I am. Let go. M leading all of us, moving with us. My oasis in this giant and overwhelming city.

Other things and places foundational to my life here--the things that mark this place as home for me:

Sunset Blvd, its restaurants, its street art.

My walk to Sunset Junction, past the Hollywood sign, past my vegetarian thai restaurant, through the houses and gardens on Myra Avenue.

My bungalow, which I affectionately call Bungalungaloo. I'm currently in the process of getting a fourth leaning bookshelf, which will be full the second I reorganize when it gets here. And then I will have ZERO room for any books, which means I'll have to read everything I've already got. Or move. Moving's more expensive. Ain't nobody got time for that.

N and her place on the west side. Even a brief 30 minutes there yesterday post-parking ticket, post-buying a new bike calmed me down drastically. Because I was also a little worked up about the fact that there were approximately 10-12 dead bees under a table at Urth Caffe in Santa Monica.

Postcards sent to my very own hipster address with the 1/4th in it. Postcards from the other places I call home.

My PhD skool people, whom I love, whom I intend to adventure with all semester.

Palm trees.

The smell of the ocean.

So now I'm saying goodbye to my summer. The most wonderful summer I've ever had. And here I was all anxious and fussy thinking that I could never have a summer better than my last. Teacher boot camp starts tomorrow at 9am. L and I are riding bikes down there, because who the hell wants to sit in rush hour traffic for two hours? I'm ordering my books from the shop up the street. I've got a giant novel to finish reading, an article to finish writing, and another article to finish revising all before school really gets into full swing at the end of August. I'm looking forward to so much this semester. New classes with new people and new professors, the &Now conference in Boulder, teaching again, finally!, writing all the things, submitting all the things, and going to all these sweet shows.

Oh, and Sunset Blvd provided me with a good reminder on my walk to lunch with L this afternoon. The realist in me scoffs. The romantic & masochist & hard fucking worker in me revel. 

Sunday, August 11, 2013

In an attempt to retain a feeling of gratitude while combating feelings of violation [is that a feeling? I suppose so], frustration, and hopelessness, I went to Sunset Nursery today while on a break from filing a police report and looking in every neighborhood bike shop for my stolen bicycle, Banch. After spending a small bit of my summer in Kentucky, I decided I wanted to really grow things at my house this year so I can have herbs for herbal infusions and vegetables for my salads. I can't grow much in my tiny front yard, but I knew I wanted at least two kinds of mint, catnip, lemon balm, lavender, thyme, green onions, jalapeños, and kumquats. I wasn't sure how to go about any of this, but I knew I could find someone to advise me. At the nursery, someone very, very kind helped me pick out two wooden planter boxes for my herbs and onions. He instructed me to plant my jalapeño plant in a pot deep enough to allow for the plant's roots to grow. He even found me a kumquat tree and a grey clay planter to put it in. He told me how to fertilize everything. Recommended that I buy the jalapeño plant now as opposed to attempting to grow my own plant from seed at this time of year. I also bought my two types of mint and my catnip already planted. Everything else I bought as seeds.
This is my tiny yard. 
Found these chairs on the side of Sunset Blvd last year at a gas station for $50.
Something about walking around the nursery instantly calmed me. Even though I knew I was about to spend money I don't have. Even though Banch is still gone and I'll probably never get him back. Even though today is the day that it is. I felt safe surrounded by all those plants and all those people who love and care for all those plants. And the man helping me was so calm and nice and explained everything in such a helpful way that I felt momentarily like I had some control over my environment and situation. And I thought how grateful I am that people like this man exist. That I can be having the worst week and walk into a gardening store and with the help of a stranger, walk out with a means to grow food for myself.

When I got home, I immediately set up my two beds. One with the mints and the catnip. One with just seeds of thyme, lemon balm, lavender, and green onions. I planted my kumquat tree. And my jalapeño plant, which already has two tiny, beautiful green peppers on it. I also rescued the succulents I'd abandoned when I left LA for the summer in June. Some of them were beyond saving, having sat in the California sun without water or attention for almost two months. But they're strong little guys and I spread the remaining ones out over several planters so they can have a chance to grow roots before I transplant them to make tiny succulent gardens.

The man at the nursery even made me a hose. I couldn't afford $70 for a real one, so he took some tubing and made me a custom one that is just the right length for my little yard, and for only $6. He felt bad about my stolen bike, which came up in a conversation about the general vibe, safety, and mood of our neighborhood.

After I planted my garden and after I watered everyone, I headed out again to find Banch, or maybe a replacement for Banch, as sad as that makes me and as financially impossible as that is at this moment. I ended up in a great shop not too far from me, which is definitely where I'll buy a new bike when I can, because they were so patient and helpful. Also, Robin Williams was there. He was so sweet. When he was blocking our way to a bike I wanted to see, he apologized quite genuinely before stepping out of the way. I love him. I have always loved him. Something about his eyes. They make me feel comfortable. I wanted to ask him if I could just look at his eyes for a little bit, but I didn't want to bother someone who was just out trying to buy a bike, like me.

Most of the people I met in bike shops today were really helpful. They gave me tips for finding my bike and tips for future security. They offered to keep my info and call me if someone tries to sell Banch to them. I love going to specialty stores all in one neighborhood, because everyone in each place is passionate about the same thing, and it feels like a community. Today I got to see the gardening community and the cycling community in my neighborhood. And my anger toward this place immediately vanished. Because so many people in this city are just doing what they know how to do to survive. I mean, maybe not all parts of the city, but at least in my part of the city where the community is real. Last night, I was so frustrated with and infuriated by a place that I've given so much of my time and energy to as a neighbor and community member and volunteer. But I won't let one desperate person ruin my sense of home that I felt from the second I moved here. Because then that person gets more than just my bike. And they probably only wanted my bike in the first place. You can't sell disappointment, after all.

After wolfing down a salad, I drove [grumpily because I'd planned on biking] up to Griffith Park to see The National play at the Greek Theater. At first I thought, ok, they're good live, but not mind blowing. But then they kept doing things. Weird things with the horn section. Or Matt Berninger would scream a particular lyric in a way that changed it drastically. At one point during the encore, he came out INTO the audience. Twice. Walked all the way through section A. So many times on stage, he sang to individual people in the front. Held hands with them as he walked from stage left to stage right. Nothing better than a musician who gives a fuck about his fans. Or is at least able to act like he does.
Even though they played mostly the new album, they still played things off of Alligator and Boxer and High Violet. I cried during "Bloodbuzz Ohio." I cried during "Terrible Love." I cried during "England" when he sang put an ocean and a river between everything, yourself, and home. Somehow The National is that one band that's been there for me at the most important times in my life. In 2007, my brother gave me Boxer for Christmas. I once thought I could maybe love this certain stranger who had invented a beginning for us using lyrics from "Daughters of the SoHo Riots." I once sat on the floor of 6 peso pizza in Buenos Aires, my first time traveling alone, waiting 2 hours for a pizza that cost the equivalent of one dollar and eighty US cents. And this summer, I drove all over the goddamn country disputing The National's lyrics in my head. Tunnel vision lights my way. It does. It doesn't. It does. It doesn't. I spent so much time in salt, I took a bottle home with me to remind me of everything I ever do wrong. Or everything you ever do wrong. I should live in salt for leaving you behind means something different to me than the actual words imply.

But maybe the most beautiful part of the night was when everyone unplugged their instruments and played an acoustic "Vanderlyle Crybaby Geeks." Matt made all of us sing all of the lyrics. The Greek Theater full of heart break and hope. Another community I've found, here, in Los Angeles, my home. And these words, at least, I will never debate. For me, they will always be true.

All the very best of us/string ourselves up for love.