My Love Affair with LA


Last month Facebook reminded me that three years ago we moved to LA.  And in a few days, we will be leaving LA.

The day I found out we were moving to LA I cried.  A lot.  In public.  I walked outside AT THE MATCHING CEREMONY and cried.  It was embarrassing.

I cried because I knew LA was sprawl and crowded and smoggy and congested was not a place I wanted to live.

A decade ago I spent a year living in a small town in the Czech Republic.  It was (is) landlocked, formerly of the Eastern Bloc, with cold winters, few English speakers, high levels of alcoholism, and weird, pickled food.

DSC01240czech bar food

I loved it.

This past fall, my friend from Brno came to visit LA, and she became mildly obsessed with California.  She couldn’t get over the beaches and the mountains and the culture, and about halfway through her trip asked me if I had liked living in Brno.  I told her I loved Brno.  She stared at me, baffled.  “Why?  It’s so boring!”


Yes, Brno is small and cold and dark.  But it also has wonderfully warm people, cobble stone streets, and fantastic beer.  It has a castle and bizarre local legends and an entire holiday culture that revolves around day drinking plum brandy made in people’s basements.  Brno will never be Southern California, or San Francisco, or New York.  But you won’t find stuffed crocodiles hanging from the ceiling of the Town Hall in any of those places either.


When we moved to LA I discovered that I was not wrong about LA.  It is, in fact, congested.  And smoggy.  This afternoon it took me 45 minutes to drive 5 1/2 miles (which, if I’m being generous, is a distance that at one point in my life I could have run faster).

But when I stopped fighting, stopped believing somewhere deep inside that if I were angry enough about the traffic and smog that they would go away and started accepting the place for what it was, I began to notice things.


Like all the cultural landmarks:


And incredibly long, uninterrupted bike paths:


And quiet views:


And local spots:

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And sun.


It actually is the LA of the movies.  The same way Brno is the Brno of Kundera.  And Kentucky is the Kentucky of this dude.


Paul once told me that when he drove from Kentucky out to California for the first time and saw signs for Los Angeles, he got super excited.  He said his whole life California had been some place that you heard about and saw in movies, it didn’t seem real.

One day in grad school as we made the trip from San Diego north and passed under the sign for the 405 to Los Angeles, something he had done dozens of times since that first trip, he said it still gave him butterflies.


When you are new to a place, or are visiting it, it is easy to pick up on the things that make it unique.  The people, the food, the stereotypes…you see it everywhere.

The longer you stay somewhere, the less you notice.

You stop realizing that finding yourself in the middle of Ice Cube’s posse at the airport doesn’t happen in Kentucky.  You catch yourself talking about The Valley and riding #murderoustrains that leave you stranded in Crenshaw or chatting with soap opera stars in your lap lane at the local public pool.  You forget that eating at the best taco trucks in the world and trying to decode parking signs, or sitting next to a former teen heart throb that recently started a cult while at a fundraising fashion show for some cause that I can’t even remember isn’t the norm just anywhere.  It’s so LA.

And when you can hold on to that, when you can remember to embrace a place for what it is, life is so much better.

So on those days when I’m sitting in traffic on the 405, dead stopped, sweating in a cloud of heat and smog, one of a million+ gridlocked cars, feeling the road rage well up inside, I roll down the window, look up at signs for Mullholland Drive or Inglewood or Hollywood, think of all the lyrics and movie titles and iconic images inspired by those places, envision all the celebrities sitting in that same traffic next to me, feel the sun on my face, and invite the butterflies.



Oh January.  January was almost as fun as December.  It started out with a move from our lemon tree in Culver to the beach.  It also started out with a stomach bug and the first real El Nino storm of the year.

Have you watched Jessica Jones on Netflix?  It’s based on a Marvel Comic, characters include an alcoholic PI who has superstrength and can lift cars and jump over buildings, a villain who can control minds and goes around making people kill each other in gruesome ways, and a man with indestructible skin.

In Season One there is a scene in which the villain decides he wants to move into a two-bedroom suburban house, so he goes and tells the owner to move out within 24 hours (which, of course, the owner does, because mind control).  And 24 hours later the villain moves into the huge, newly vacant house.

Over the past week I kept thinking about that scene when he walks into the empty, perfectly clean house.  It is the most unrealistic scene in the entire series.

Moving always sucks.  Moving with a two year old and an infant, in torrential rain, when everyone is puking and having serious GI problems is…yeah.  It took us over a week to clean everything out and get everything in.  And almost a month to recover.

It wasn’t pretty, but we made it.  And our new place, though tiny, is 5 blocks from the beach and pretty fantastic.

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Welcome home.


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I don’t do crafts.  But a few weeks before Christmas I decided I was going to.   Because that’s what good parents do during the holidays.  Paul was working nights, so I was flying solo on this.

Wednesday: On a trip to Target (duh) I decide baking cookies will be the perfect thing to get in the holiday spirit.  I like baking, and I’m good at it.  Sometimes.

Friday: After two days of the ingredients sitting on the counter, I decide to skip including my two year old in the dough-making process.  It’s not like this is a life skill she HAS to learn.  I make the dough on my own so it’s ready when she gets home from preschool.  She comes home from school in meltdown mode.  I make the executive decision to delay cookie making.

Monday: 3/4 of the dough still sitting in fridge.  The other 1/4 I ate over the weekend.

Wednesday:  A week later.  This is the day we will bake! HH has been having night terrors and sleep-walking when she goes to bed after 7:15 (fun), so we rush through dinner and have just enough time to get the dough out, roll it, cookie cutter some shapes (which she is way less into than I thought she would be), and throw them in the oven.  No time to decorate.  No time to admire the finished product.  I put the cookies in a tupperware after she goes to bed, keep frosting ingredients in the fridge.

Friday: Half of the cookies are gone because I ate them.  Sans-frosting.

Sunday: Facetime with Nana and Opa.  When I suggest HH show them the cookies she baked, she accidentally breaks an arm off of a star of Bethlehem.  I tell her it’s OK to eat it.  She looks at me confused, then suddenly the realization creeps across her face…these are edible! And not only can she eat the piece that broke off, she can eat the whole cookie.  And she does so.  From then on, every time she walks into the kitchen: “Cookie?”

Monday: Now that there are only 5 week-old cookies left in the tupperware, time to decorate!  I get out all the decorating icings and frostings.  HH smears green frosting on half of one cookie and goes, “I eat it now.”  I explain that no, decorating cookies is SO FUN, we can eat them when they’re decorated, and don’t gingerbread men look better with a face? and they taste better with frosting anyway.  “NO!  NO FROSTING!!  I EAT THE COOKIES NOW!”

So I take them away.  Tears.  Screams. Faux seizures. Drama.

The cream cheese I got to make special frosting is still sitting in the fridge.

Holiday crafts are the best.


IMG_20141205_091011the culver hotel

I grew up thinking mistletoe was moose poop. I think that’s because our father told us that it was. And for some reason it is very hard for me to shake that as fact.  Every year I look it up to make sure that it’s a plant (just did it).  I have no idea why he did that, other than he didn’t want us to eat it?

I know a lot of people hate the holidays.  I love them.  I love the festivities.  I like the music.  I like that the streets and bars are littered with people all dressed up, going to and coming from parties.  I like the lights.  The feeling in the air makes everything, even the shooting of a toilet paper commercial when Molly and I were at the Culver Hotel bar, where the British girl cast as the main role (seller?) repeated “For a fresher clean, try Cottonelle’s Fresh and Clean pack”and detailed the benefits of flushable cleansing cloths about 346 times, feel exciting and kind of glamorous.


Plus the crew bought our drinks, since we weren’t allowed to talk while they were shooting.

Since Paul is working Christmas eve & day, we will be sticking around this year.  On our evening put-the-baby-to-sleep walk two nights ago we walked by the tree “farm” in the parking lot at the end of our street and decided to drop a hot $20 and get one.  Which meant Paul got to carry it the quarter mile home.


Fortunately it’s only about 2 feet tall and Paul is buff.  It may not be the Kentucky office, but my work station just got a little more festive.


Happy holidays.

Update: Turns out one year we had some Mooseltoe in our house from Maine.  That actually was moose poop.



A few Saturdays ago, Paul and I went to our first black tie gala for my job.  I straightened my hair, he wore his wedding suit…it was so fancy.

image (1)If someone ever wants to teach me how to look normal in pictures, let me know.

We left Tiniest with my parents.

The event was downtown.  I suggested taking Uber.  “No!” says Paul, “Why waste money on Uber when we can just take the train?!”

So the train we take.  And we’re a little out of place, but whatever.

Halfway there the train comes to a SCREECHING halt.  “Hope we didn’t just hit somebody,” I say to Paul under my breath.

After about 3 minutes of sitting there, the conductor comes over the loudspeaker: “There has been an incident, please do not try to exit the train.”

“Oooooh no, that is not good,” I tell Paul.  “If the train really hit someone, we are going to be here a long time.”

People start to get irritated.

Suddenly a dude sitting across the aisle from us with a cane starts going, “What the…what…”, gets up, and limps to the front of the car.  And starts yelling.

Our train had hit someone.  And our car stopped right in front of the dude it hit.  You could see him out the front windows.  So of course everyone runs up to look.


I didn’t look.  My new friend in pink and I stayed in our seats.

“Is he dead?”
“He’s breathing, but there’s blood.”
“His pants!  Did they get knocked off?”
“Oooooh shiit that m****f**** was hiiiiigh!”
“He’s definitely breathing though.”
“It doesn’t really look like he got hit by a train…except that blood on his head.”
“We’re never getting out of here.”
“So what do we do?  This is a crime scene!  Do we need to stay here until they finish the crime scene?”
“We can’t do anything, we can’t get out of the car.”

The first of the firetrucks arrive.


A police officer comes into our car, yells at everyone to PUT THEIR PHONES AWAY AND GET BACK IN THEIR SEATS, pulls down the front window shade (which blocks exactly nothing), and tells everyone to be patient, there is a rescue train on the way.  AND NO MORE FILMING!

A rescue train!  I feel a surge of hope.

As soon as he leaves everyone is back at the window again.  Cane Man keeps on filming, narrating the whole thing: “SO the police just came by and told us NOT to film…but that’s some bullshit, I have my rights, I’m still filming.”

Someone starts tweeting #murderoustrain.

Someone else in another car forces the doors open and sets off an alarm.  I watch him jump the fence around the rails and take off running down the street. Conductor comes over the loudspeaker again reminding everyone to NOT exit the train, that there is a rescue train coming.

How, I start wondering, does a rescue train work?  Where would it come from?  I’m picturing the rescue bus in Speed, where they put a plank in between the two buses, and we all have to walk across it to board the rescue train.


The girl sitting in front of us is on her way to work the night shift at Vons in Pasadena, calls her boss to tell her she has no idea when she’ll get there.  I email my (new) boss that we are meeting at the dinner to let him know that we are stuck on a train, not sure if we’ll be there any time soon.

Cane Man keeps on filming.


About 45 min in they finally load the guy onto the ambulance.  About 20 min after that, the train starts moving.


The rescue train was a lie.  This whole time.

The train moves us to the next stop, opens the doors, and instructs everyone to get out, this train is done for the night.  Doors close, train drives away.  No trains running.

I try to find the number for a cab but instead find that….my phone is dead.  Of course it is.

A lot of people just start walking.  Given that we’re in South Central and dressed like we’re going to prom, I veto that option.

Paul tries to get an Uber, but every time he finds one the driver cancels.  We can’t figure out why, until Paul takes a look and realizes for some reason his phone thinks we’re in Afghanistan.  And it won’t let itself be corrected.

The cab companies aren’t answering.


And that is how Paul and I got stranded, in Crenshaw, in formal wear, at sunset.

(About half an hour later the train started running again along the second half of the route, and got us to the event about 2 hours late.)

We Ubered home.

This is Halloween


When it comes to Halloween decorations, the neighborhoods on my running route do not mess around.


That is not a movie set, it’s a house around the corner.

We have our pumpkin and some fake cobwebs that are still sitting in the package…though we have a real, live, fist-sized spider living in the garden, so there’s something terrifying for you.

Bag of candy for me to eat by myself before the kids show up the trick-or-treaters is sitting by the front door, today when I went to see what podcasts were available for my run, there was a new (appropriately morbid) Serial episode waiting for me, chocolate chip pumpkin bread is baking in the oven, and tonight after trick-or-treating going to finish up my seasonal novel:


And since I don’t have a picture of our tasmanian devil in her costume yet, here she is at the doctor’s office in a Looney Tunes gown that looks like a kimono.


That pretty much sums it up here.  Have a spooky night.



Californians always get attitude when someone tells them they could never live here because they’d miss the seasons.

Well.  We’ve had a heatwave these past few months, and let me tell you a secret: Angelenos were missing fall.  It’s hard to pull off the scarf and boots and the extra foam, non-fat pumpkin spiced latte when it’s 90 degrees (though I’m pretty sure when mid-January rolls around and the rest of the country is dealing with this, it might seem like a fair trade.)

Last week the heat wave officially broke.  The evening air started to smell like holiday smoke (different than the fire-season smoke), and on Saturday in the early morning I actually saw my breath.

Time to bust out the close-toed shoes and get season appropriate decorations for the front porch: fall has arrived…


…even if water temps are still in the low 70s.



Someone has been banished from daycare for the second week in a row for congestion.  It has also been BRUTALLY hot in southern California (our house was a chill 100 degrees yesterday afternoon. Inside.) Which makes it close to impossible to do anything during the day except sit in one place and sweat.

Paul is still working nights.  We rarely see him.  And after the umpteenth time of daycare telling me that I can’t bring her back until the end of the week….


Seriously, is this normal?  For daycares to reject kids with runny noses that they picked up from…wait for it…daycare?  I mean, I get it, but it’s a vicious cycle.

Anyway, this inevitably led to a spontaneous mid-week trip to SB so Memaw can watch HH for stretches during the day and I can actually accomplish some work.  I honestly don’t know what I’d be doing if I didn’t work from home and have family nearby…aside from being let go from my job because I’d be bringing a little snot machine maniac to the office with me every day.

So here we are, back up north.  Enjoying some time with the Greats.  Hope you’re all surviving the heat.