Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Chinatown

One thing I certainly didn't expect to happen was how social Mr. E and I become once we moved to Los Angeles. We both prefer to hermit ourselves away at home, tinkering with our books and movies, but there is just so much to DO in LA we'd be remiss if we didn't enjoy it all. But sometimes the hanger takes over and you just can't enjoy yourself without food.

That's how we ate Greek fusion pitas at the Chinese New Year Parade in Chinatown.
We should have known that streets would be closed off- it was a parade after all. But we're new to this sort of thing and the streets of LA have a mischievous nature to them in the first place, full of hidden side streets and colorful expletives when you take the wrong turn. The tall buildings wink their bright windows at you in laughter and you quickly learn to avoid taking anything car-related personally.

The Catholic church we parked at was truly a haven in our time of need- both in (nearness) and in price. Any Angeleno will tell you that $8/day is an absolute steal. If we had lived any closer I would have parked our car their overnight on a regular basis. We followed the crowds down streets, around school buses, over and under bridges until we came to what we assumed was the end of the parade. The floats seemed sad and exhausted, more Mexican skirt-dancing children than dragon puppets and the ground was littered with the impressive aftermath of poppers and streamers.
We braved the throngs and walked single file against the current following the parade. I kept a firm hand on Mr. E's arm and a tight grip on my phone, trying to take pictures one-handed. I had never been to Chinatown and the shops beckoned with their foliage fronts and tiny animal cages. Would you like to buy a turtle? A song bird? Fresh vegetables out of soggy cardboard boxes? A knock-off bamboo hat, the only time Made in China makes you wonder if it's truly authentic.
We passed from restaurant to restaurant, feeling much like Mary and Joseph- driven by my midsection and turned away at the door. An hour wait was too long when you're surrounded with the smell of pork bao and chicken dumplings. The plaza was thick with people, but what struck you most of all was the color- the brightly painted walls and doors, the lanterns hung haphazard across roofs and bits of paper exploded periodically as late-comers paid $3 for a three-foot confetti cannon. I bought two buns and a donut-type confection covered in sugar and the size of my two fists, paid the young girl  behind the hastily erected table as she munched on an egg bun.
But a bun or two will never be enough to satisfy my husband's bottomless pit of a stomach and we were really intent on fully immersing ourselves in culture, but the day was long, the noise was loud and the food trucks were just so...available. They lined up like quaint little houses in the back alley, humming and whirring and emitting such lovely aromas you wanted to kidnap a food-truck-chef and bring them home because my kitchen is at least the same size so they wouldn't mind, right?
So we caved and congratulated ourselves on at least getting off the couch today, and look at all the walking we did plus food trucks are cheaper than Chinese sit-down restaurants. We munched our too-hot-pitas back the way we came, the streets quickly and forcefully being cleared of pedestrians so the street cleaners could hoover and sweep and spray all the litter away like it never happened, or maybe just happened last week. We held our noses past the bridge because the beginning and the endings always smell like pee- it's downtown, folks- and although we were really looking forward to seeing our pup again, we detoured to the church grounds because it demanded our attention in the setting sun.
And this is how I know my husband loves me most, because he'll suffer through an entire day on his feet, eat strange foods and watch strange people, tolerate the monster I become when I'm hungry and sit and smile as I sit in the passenger seat and sing my heart out, just so happy to have all of this.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

March Forth

There's a sticker in my bathtub and a Thing toy underneath my living room chair, remnants of a rainbow-sprinkle-smile whirlwind that visited us this month.
A new grill has made it's home in the cupboard and our favorite pub down the street invited us in for a pint or two. We beat the pavement downtown, tasting Cuban pastries and the local candy store's finest.
We cheered on dogs and compared chai tea recipes, watched cheesy Korean gangster movies and listened to creepy stories read amidst macabre clowns and Guinness cupcakes.
We celebrated Mr. E on another year; older and possibly wiser, though wise was never his strong suit. Compassionate, eloquent, hard-working and brilliantly funny are more his style.

We debated and cajoled, unraveled and stitched ourselves back together, both sides searching for understanding in the midst of being understood.

The visits are few and far between, citing a myriad of justified excuses (work, money, kids, distance) but enjoyed thoroughly until the very last drop, until, exhausted, we part ways and fall asleep two hours too early on the couch.

Sunday, March 2, 2014

LAssumptions

There are a lot of assumptions about LA- that it's big and dirty and dangerous. That it's the city of dreams but no one tells you that a lot of the dreams are broken, discarded in the struggle to get by. That you don't know your neighbors and the traffic is so awful you basically have to learn a new language in order to converse with a native.

While some of these things may be true, it's also a city of opportunity if you play your cards right. It's a city that doesn't ever stop GOING and will go on without you just fine if you choose to sit down and wallow, but it still beckons and teases you with hope while you're down.
Yes, we have friends that get flashed as they park their car, the friends who work two jobs to get by, the friends who turn around and see Amy Adams at the Starbucks counter behind them or Ginnifer Goodwin at the gym. But these are all just facets of what it's like to live in this city.
We can be found pretty much at this exact spot every other weekend.
 Then there are our friends who are living the LA experience, Hollywood-style. Our friends who have converted a loft space in the Fashion District into a four bedroom apartment with roof access to a view only seen in movies or GTAV. Their alleyways are littered with unmentionables at any time of day and they use shopping carts to carry the groceries up the freight elevator. They decorate with odds and ends from sets they've worked on and giant framed posters of the movies that inspire them. Day-playing, for them, isn't something to dabble in, it's a necessity and they're always looking for work to pay the bills (of which, their parking is astronomical!).
I am incredibly grateful that I'm able to live with Mr. E in Burbank along the outskirts of LA. We visit and do laundry and grab a drink at the local brewery, play dirty card games and debate about director's intentions or set politics but at the end of the night we pack ourselves up and go home. We get to dip our tippy-toes in that swirling water and congratulate ourselves on getting wet without ever really feeling the current beneath us. The exposure is on our terms all the way up until it's not- until you see the bum squatting behind the tree and you realize that this city is just a big old murky puddle with a pretty sunset.

Friday, February 21, 2014

Sound.

I'd have to say I'm fairly good at blocking the sound of my day out, but some days you're just open to the world, you know? The singing of the train tracks in the morning, the hum and rumble of traffic, the squeal and sigh of the train as it skids to a stop, protesting all the way.
The office is quiet, staccato barks and clicking keys, water poured and sipped and gulped. The murmur of new hires 'thankyouthankyouthankyou' and the shifting weight of the building as coworkers swish by, swiftly, quickly, rushing to business or busy-ness.
Walking home is squeaky shoes and the flap-flap of bags too heavy, legs and feet sore, slapping the sidewalk. Train bells and snippets of radio, bass too loud or too low, thrumming through your bones. That's the way the bus feels, too, as it labors over the potholes, whining and shaking, a lumbering beast  working hard to be oblivious to the world around it.
Home is two paws thumping, two paws scratching, big excited gulps of air too fast around a chew toy. Its the jangling of keys and the jangling of the leash and the burst out the door to the nightly walk.
Once we hit Ninth Street the sounds of the city fall away and we're left with lonely cars and squeaky garages, quiet little plots, house and home, carefully tended and watered by hand. We descend again to the city, leaving the mountain stillness where it was- exposing ourselves to the buzzing neon lights and seven o' clock train horns.
I hear it every day but I tend not to listen. What else in the world am I missing?

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

And the Oscar Goes To...

I saw my name on the big screen. I had seen my name projected in the theater at Chapman, but this was different. Then I was a student; this time I was a professional. And on the screen at the Samuel Goldwyn Theater in Beverly Hills it looked great.
                 I worked on a documentary that the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (the guys who give out Oscars every year) had made for Turner Classic Movies to kick off this year’s Oscar month marathon. It's called And the Oscar Goes to... I did some assistant editing work as well as some office work for the production (gotta start somewhere, right?). This wasn't my first professional project, but it was the first time I had the opportunity to go to a screening of something I was paid to work on.  I also worked on a movie last summer, Wish I Was Here, directed by Zach Braff, which should be in theaters in September, 2014.
                Dressing up and going to the premiere screening was an awesome experience. There were celebrities in the audience, as well as people I know and work with. But when I saw my name come up in the rolling credits I didn’t react the way I thought I would. I thought I would be proud, excited, scared… but more than anything I felt calm. It didn’t feel like as big of a deal as I thought it would; it just felt… right. I’m not sure how to explain it.
Brie, me and one of our LA besties Ms. Clay, Mr. Nelsen couldn't be there.
                I am not trying to become part of this industry to make millions or become famous (although I will not turn those down if I am lucky enough to get them), for me it’s about being part of something that will touch people. I want to tell stories and I think that filmmaking is the best fit for me as a storyteller.

I guess when I saw my name up on that screen I felt calm because it reminded me of all the love and support I have at my side. It was a gentle whisper that said, “You can do this.”

Thursday, February 13, 2014

On Why Lindsay Lohan Will Always Mean A Lot To Me

I made Mr. E sit through Mean Girls again- partially because he swore up and down he'd never seen it and partially because The Constant Gardner wasn't doing it for me. This may not be the best movie, but I think it has it's place as more than just a teenage comedy, mostly because it reminds me that I am sometimes a Mean Girl.

Is that awful?

I think that's the beauty of the silver screen. In a day and age where we are increasingly impatient, we receive our information in computer generated portions. Here's THIS commercial, read THAT billboard, listen to THIS ad before your next crazy cat video. It's all packaged and gift-wrapped to have the most appeal to us, the biggest impact. In this, movies are king.

For a short amount of time we're transported from our routine drudgery to a reflection of our own world. It's prettier there (or dirtier, depending on what you're watching) and stories wrap themselves up neatly into picture perfect endings. The myriad of characters we meet in our own lives are portrayed by beautiful people, boiled down to stereotypes and ambiguous life choices. We watch the story and we fall in love, or out of love, or rage or laugh or cry as we see fit and in the end- in a perfect world- we all learn the lesson we can relate to and we are able to face our lives once more.

Thus, I'm able to say with complete confidence that I am a Mean Girl. I'm also a Nice Girl and an Outgoing Girl and a Shy Girl, but mostly I'm just a Complicated Girl which I think everyone else may be, too. I don't fit perfectly into that Mean Girl slot, but I think that was the point of the movie. It was fed to you with fluff and comedy and so many high school tropes I could DIE (over-exaggeration was definitely present), but the message is so profound I wish I could sit my own kids down to watch it every day.

Judging others doesn't make me any prettier. It doesn't make me any smarter or any more successful than they are, it just makes me a big old ball of negativity. Maybe that's common sense or maybe you learned that lesson years ago, but I'm imperfect and I think I need constant reminding.
Mean Girls GIF
Especially when I'm confronted with the opposite message every. single. day. Magazines, commercials, even blogs can't escape the compulsion to show that enviously perfect snapshot. We're shown trends and fashions and diets and lifestyles to aspire to, disregarding all of the complicated ways we live our unique, individual, perfectly imperfect lives.

I need reminding that those lives may be pretty or organized or on-time and work for those people, but that's not my life. It doesn't reflect me or my values or the things that I want in my life. And sometimes, it takes an hour and thirty-seven minutes of watching high-schoolers cat-fight on-screen with perfect hair days and endless legs to remember that.

I can be a Mean Girl, but that's not all I am, either.

Thursday, January 16, 2014

I'm Tote-ally...Just Gonna Stop There

I made this. And it's probably one of the things I'm most proud of. So proud, in fact, that I kind of don't want to give it away. If only I was more of a Doctor Who fan.

I found this fabric a few weeks ago and seriously debated buying it for pillows in our living room. It was fun, and such a pretty blue, damask until you looked close enough and saw that silly TARDIS- what geek wouldn't love it? Well, this geek, actually. This is not the face of Doctor Who fandom.
Disclaimer: NOT our dog.
So it sat in my cart, calling my name. And then I remembered that giving brings happiness to both parties, so I made that order anyways. I've made a few of these bags before and I'm really happy with the way they turn out. It's such a simple pattern and it has a lot of customizable potential. The cuff is flirty enough to showcase TWO awesome fabrics and although there were no pockets in the pattern- I FREE HANDED THOSE SUCKERS. Yeah, you could say I'm pretty proud.
I ran into some kinks when both pieces of my bag (outside and lining) were cut funny: Spoonflower prints your fabric special, so it wasn't an off-the-bolt kind of thing which messed with my measurements, and Joann's was kind of having an off day at the cutting counter. In the end I just cut a few inches off of my pattern and made a smaller bag- I actually think I like it better smaller. I guess it just means I have to make another one for myself...

The Doctor Who fabric basically chose itself, then the multi-colored chevron was chosen by Mr. E (the color-coordinating master of the house) and I couldn't pass up a fat quarter of London landmark fabric. Especially for the travel-bug bestie of mine. Plus the minty-green inside of one of the pockets was from a homemade napkin at my wedding, so we're all rolled up in symbolism over here. Hopefully that makes up for the fact that I should have totally made this two years ago.

Slam-BAM that thing with a little travelling/Disney-themed cross stitch and you have a Christmas present, my friends. Good gravy I miss being crafty.