Category Archives: LA LA LIFE

The Apartment Cost Your Landlord Won’t Mention

It isn’t the pointlessness of spending gobs of money on rent. No, it isn’t the fact that you may as well drive down PCH with a stack of $1’s and let them fly.

It isn’t the vertical blinds, with their endless clickety-clack — the way they come crashing to the floor if you touch them ever so gently, the way one decides to get stuck on another and the whole system refuses to twist.

It isn’t the silverfish, with their alien exoskeletons and their astounding speed, the way they vanish into dust when you squash them, the way sometimes you think you squashed them but you pull the paper towel away to find there is no trace whatsoever, and they are now running amok muahahaha in your closet.

It isn’t that your designated parking space is a whole five minutes’ walk from your door or that the air conditioner only cools a three-foot radius.

No, the most devastating hidden cost no landlord will tell you about is how often you will interact with stranger’s underpants.

That’s right — the actual, already-worn, underpants…of strangers.

I first discovered this last year when one fateful night Scott retrieved a load from our apartment’s shared laundry room. He dumped it on the bed, we began folding, and it was all very average everyday monotony until he pulled out a massive pair of white panties with purple polka dots. We eyed them in silent terror for a moment before I yelled, “those aren’t mine!” and he flung them into a corner, where I guess we both hoped they would vanish?

Maybe he had aimed for the trash and missed? I don’t know, I just really thought they were gone. But then a few months later we happened upon them again. There was squealing, and perhaps a minute or two of throwing them at each other, before one of us scooped them up on the end of a pen and transported them gingerly to the trash. For a week afterwards, every time I saw anyone walking around the complex I had no choice but to picture them in purple polka dotted panties.

For your visual reference.

Fast forward to last weekend, now in a nicer apartment still plagued by vertical blinds and silverfish and shared laundry. I was moving a load from washer to dryer, trying to gather each bundle carefully so nothing would fall on the ground. I was on my last bundle, when I heard an, “Excuse me — miss?” I froze and turned to face a middle aged Indian man pointing nervously towards a tiny pile at my feet. It was specifically the item’s tininess that made it so offensive; I almost wished it was big and white and polka dotted. We locked eyes for a horrible moment before I scooped it up, threw it in the dryer and scurried away.

The man lives in the apartment below us; we now share unpleasant hello’s while bringing up the groceries and I pray for his having a terrible memory.

There was a time during our apartment living when Scott and I would go on awe-filled walks with Zillow in hand. I can’t bear to do that anymore. Someday we’ll move away to some Utah/Texas/Colorado-ish place — we will leave the vertical blinds and silverfish and underpants behind, but for now…the beach?

A Love Letter for La La

Like all fabled love stories, we hated each other in the beginning.

I was a bright-eyed baby fresh out of Dodge and you were larger than life. So complicated, so distant and, although the sun was always shining, somehow so cold.

I came to follow my dreams but instead you gave me nightmares. You acquainted me with deep disappointment and sometimes depression — things I’d known existed, but had never known.

You did your best to run me out of town but I dug in my heels and said sorry, I’m staying.

And I did. And it was awkward. But we tolerated each other, then got used to each other, then one day wondered if we might like each other, though neither of us would admit it. You showed me the secret spot at Ocean Park, the beauty of Temescal Canyon, you fed me the most delicious food. You taught me to cook Broccolini and do yoga, and gave me just enough cloud cover to accomplish my morning run without a sunburn.

You gave me friends I found family in, who filled in so many cracks.

I clumsily grew up, became more independent — stopped needing your approval so much. And then when I thought I was done with you, you gave me Scott. And I finally told you how I felt when I married him on your turf.

Because he married the me you turned me into — the one who knows bad things will happen and that she will survive them. The one who is less idyllic but a little more real.

I had no idea what you had in store for me when I came here, had I known I wouldn’t have come.

I’m so glad I didn’t know.

I love you, Los Angeles, despite the fact that STREET SWEEPING IS A LIE.

Here’s to five years.

 

HOLLYWOOD

An early and very heavily-filtered LA-gram

Saturday

On Saturday, we took our bikes down to the beach and rode up the coast.

We were not the only ones with this idea, but instead of it making me angry the way LA crowds usually do, it made me happy. That all of us decided to get up on a Saturday in January and go outside, because unlike most of the country, we can.

There were rollerbladers, surfers, skateboards, kids and dogs and old people. There was a buff guy swinging on the gymnast rings just south of the Santa Monica Pier. There were thousands of people just north of it gathered for an ultimate frisbee tournament. At one point we ran into my yoga teacher.

Eventually, we got through the crowds and up into the quiet of Malibu. We stopped to look out at the water and I wondered to Scott if that was where they got the idea for glitter.

I have whined about this city and complained about the grind, but on Saturday I found it impossible to imagine why anyone would ever live anywhere else.

My Third Place

Once upon a time in a marketing class I learned how Starbucks made its big break by becoming people’s ‘third place.’ First being home, second work (sadly sometimes those get switched) and lastly, the third place–the place you want to spend all your in-betweens.

My third place is Trader Joe’s.

Logo

Maybe this is due to my lack of a coffee habit, maybe it’s because it is a five minute walk from my apartment, but maybe it’s because it is the most wonderful place on earth.

TJ’s is the closest I come to having neighbors in Los Angeles.

I walk in and am greeted by cheerful employees wearing Hawaiian patterned shirts. I pass a woman in slacks with earbuds dangling from her ears, singing Usher’s “Let it Burn” audibly. This must be her third place too.

“Are you finding everything okay?” a grocer asks as I study the marinated meats.

“Well, someone told me the Kogi beef was good but I can’t seem to find it.”

“Hmm…it should be here. Josh, do you know where the Kogi beef is?” A 20-something guy with a buzzed head comes over.

“Oh yeah. I LOVE the Kogi beef, let me grab it.” He bounds away with a spring in his step.

While he is gone she asks me if I’ve tried the Chicken Tikka Masala. She tells me exactly how she cooks it, and that she likes to sop up the extra sauce with a piece of Naan. Josh returns with my Kogi beef and tells me where I can find it next time.

These are not just grocers, they are connoisseurs, and they are my friends. We are a community–a group of people with fussy palates who like to pretend we can cook.

I love Trader Joe, in all his forms.

I love Trader Jose and Trader Giotto and Baker Josef.

I love how they let that middle aged guy play his wooden flute outside the store on Wednesday nights.

I love their $5 flower bunches and that Scott now thinks to buy them when he swings by for almond milk.

My heart sinks whenever my grocery list contains something like mascara, because it means I have to go to Ralph’s.

Bring up Trader Joe’s to any regular customer and they will burst out with an “ooh! have you tried the raisin rosemary crisps?” Or the sweet potato gnocchi? Or the mini mint mouthfuls? (they’re on the frozen aisle BTW)

The frozen aisle! Be still my heart. You know the one I mean–it’s right in the middle, with frozen food in the bins on the bottom and chocolate covered everything at eye level.

With every visit I think I am made of tough enough stuff that I can resist walking down it. But then I think, maybe we need something practical, like frozen chicken! Yes, we could use some of that. I grab a bag of frozen chicken tenders. And a tub of dark chocolate peanut butter cups.

tj-dark-chocolate-peanut-butter-cups

Don’t hand me a Reese’s.

Some assume that TJ’s is more expensive than other grocery stores, I suppose because it offers delicious, non-boring food options. Let the record state that I have shopped there for years, compared my receipts, and thoroughly debunked this myth.

I once dated a boy who said he’d tried to shop at TJ’s and “didn’t get it.” It did not work out between us.

Today someone brought up how they’d recently bought the chocolate covered Joe Joe’s (known in other circles as Oreos) with candy cane bits on top, a delicacy only available this time of the year. They’re so delicious they usually sell out by mid-December, and I cannot believe I have let 8 WHOLE DAYS PASS without purchasing them.

So now I sit at work, counting down the minutes until I can leave my second place, park at my first place, and walk straight to my favorite, my happiest, my third place.

The inimitable Trader Joe’s.

 

**This post was (tragically) not sponsored by Trader Joe’s. However, I will happily accept any retrospective form of payment or free merchandise. 

On Valet Parking and Shattered Dreams

I grew up in Suburbia where there are these things called parking lots.

Most of my knowledge about valet parking came from Clueless where Cher is like, “Why learn to park? Everywhere you go has valet!” Cher had perfect hair and that amazing contraption in her closet, so to my young mind, valet parking seemed very sexy and cosmopolitan.

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Who remembers this thing? I still want it. 

Now I live in Los Angeles, kind of close to where Cher lived, and I get my car valeted every day. But sadly it is not because I’m spending my days shopping in Beverly Hills, no, it’s just that my office building doesn’t have a big enough parking structure to accommodate all its employees.

At first I felt all fancy getting out of my car, handing my keys to a stranger, and walking away without a glance, but I quickly learned that I was very wrong and there is nothing fancy about it AT ALL.

It’s more like I’m playing a game of hide and seek in a 6-floor parking structure.

See after I hand off my car I am at the mercy of the valet dudes, who take off at 5 PM and leave all our keys at the front desk. They unintelligibly scribble the location of your car onto a ticket, and you must use their hieroglyphics to find it.

Here is my ticket from last night:

IMG_2046

So it’s on the roof, I can see that.

Can’t tell what row. Some sort of side.

And the stall? Ah, looks like it’s in wallnut. WHAT IS THE WALLNUT STALL? WHAT CAN IT MEAN? ALSO IT’S SUPPOSED TO BE WALNUT!

I find myself in the elevator with a guy from work who is suffering the same plight.

“Agh, can you read this?” He shows me his ticket.

“I think it’s a 5. Or an S? Or wait, maybe it’s a P.”

We reach my floor so I step out and offer a grim, “good luck.” We live in fear of this every day of our lives.

One day the handwriting on my ticket was so unreadable I threw the useless thing away and resorted to blindly pointing my car clicker and listening for a honk. On the fifth floor, I heard it! Above me?

I bounded up to the sixth floor. Clicked my clicker. Heard a honk. Didn’t see my car.

I went back to the fifth floor. Repeated the process. No dice.

After trying multiple floors with no success, I finally went back to the top and started walking the entire structure, blindly clicking my clicker every few seconds like an idiot, positive that someone somewhere was watching me and laughing. A poor, disillusioned Angeleno, cursing the writers of Clueless.

Eventually I found my car on the second floor, just a short thirty minutes after I started looking. Ugh.

I get it, first world problems, whatever, but it’s just like, can this be the best system? Could we not figure something else out in the year 2015? Maybe some sort of GPS thing, or a mobile app, or even a simple, legible text message?

Better yet, can I just park my own car?

I will give up all my dreams of being Cher.

I will give up the perfect hair and the closet contraption. I will even get down on the asphalt in my Alaia, if you just tell me I never have to valet park again.

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The Oscar winners deserve raises

I’ve always thought the Oscars were a little pretentious. Overpaid people getting dolled up to celebrate themselves and take selfies.

oscars selfie

But the other night as I watched them, I wept with gratitude.

See, I’ve shot a bunch of commercials lately, which means I’ve attended an absurd amount of casting sessions. I know that may sound exciting in a Hollywood kind of way, but please keep reading.

Casting sessions go something like this — my partner Kim and I sit with our director in a small, badly lit room and watch person after person come in and re-enact the commercial we wrote. Last Sunday I watched 164 people eat french fries. It took seven hours. In Kim’s words, “It’s like a bad animated gif.”

You really have to stretch your imagination to it’s furthest when casting. You’ll be watching a guy sitting in a metal folding chair (“driver’s seat”) surrounded by three other people in metal folding chairs (“passengers”) while eating a piece of bread (“Delicious, Flame-grilled Whopper”). He bites into that bread like it’s the best thing he’s ever tasted. You watch from ten feet away and say things like, “but does he communicate enough food enjoyment?”

It’s like watching kids play house, only the kids are adults. And they’re playing with a sense of desperation that makes it clear their next paycheck relies on you believing their performance. Being the most terrible actress in the world, I am both in awe of these peoples’ courage and mortified on their behalf. I just can’t help but imagine what their day to day life is like. What drove this 50 year old man to suddenly take up acting?? Does he have a family? Or a 401k? It stresses me out. I don’t know if you’ve ever been embarrassed for ten hours straight, but I’ll tell you, it’s an exhausting experience.

While all casting sessions are exhausting, the exhaustion comes in many different forms. Like last month when we shot a commercial involving a bunch of supermodels. As luck would have it, the first round of models came in to audition right as we were starting our lunch. Kim had ordered a pizza and I had ordered a salad, so naturally my first bite was a piece of her pizza.

Everything turned to slow motion as five tall, beautiful, leggy babes stomped into the room, wearing outfits we civilians can never wear. Some wore short, tight dresses, others wore rompers and jumpsuits. One wore jean “shorts” that covered less than half of her perfect butt.

As they took their place in front of camera, our director turned to us with an evil smile and said, “How’s that pizza, girls?”

While they were much hotter and fitter than Kim or I will ever be, hotness is sadly not an indicator of acting ability. In fact, the two seem to be inversely proportional. So for 14 hours I watched beautiful women make fools of themselves. Ugh.

All of this has contributed to my gratitude for talented actors, but it wasn’t until  last week’s Non-Union casting session that I realized maybe we should start worshipping Cate Blanchett.

Cate Blanchett

“Non-Union” is really just another way of saying “bad actors.” It’s what happens when your client has a small budget, and basically means you’re auditioning people who one day got sick of their day jobs and decided on a whim to try playing adult house for a living. 

We started with the women. Their task was simple: walk across the room and do a little spin. 

The first candidate was overwhelmed by her spin and  tripped on her heels. Another spun too energetically, and somehow ended up with her face nudged into the corner. She sheepishly turned back towards us and we tried to pretend it didn’t happen.

One acted as though she was wandering through a forest, gazing up through the trees for a bird or prince charming.

Some walked like they were in a funeral procession. Others were named “Fancy.”

The problem with casting is that it forces you to become a terrible person. You have to comment on people’s physical performance, and by the end of a day you no longer see them as humans. For the first few candidates my notes are always very thorough and constructive like, “She’s really pretty, not quite there on acting but I’m sure we could work with her to get a great performance.” By the end it’s simply, “Never” or “Kill me.”

I hoped things would get better when we got to the men, as they were not required to do any spinning. But my hopes were dashed when I looked down and saw this name on my call sheet: “It’s Paco Time.”

I wish I was kidding. Between Ben Johnson and Gary Jones was a man named, “It’s Paco Time.”

He walked into the room and we asked, as we do with everyone, for him to state his name. He answered with a completely straight face, “It’s Paco Time.”

After he gave predictably terrible audition and walked out of the room, our producer broke the silence: “If I go to hell, this is what it will be like.”

It sounds over-dramatic, I know. But you can’t understand it until you’ve experienced it. I know I shouldn’t judge these people–I have never had to spin around in heels in front of strangers in hopes of a paycheck. I tried it once just to, you know, walk a mile in their shoes, or something. I feel like I did pretty ok? Maybe I should quit my day job.

REBBIE SPINS on Make A Gif

Over the last few weeks, I have viewed more hours worth of terrible acting than all the Oscar movies ever made. And I have nearly lost my mind.

So to The Academy, I say THANK YOU for obsessing over your Oscar nominees. Actors who know how to walk in heels! Who are hot AND talented! Who change their names to semi-normal things like Reese Witherspoon! 

They are truly one in a million in this crazy la la land. And we should pay them more money. 

Taking a Stand against the Juice Cleanse

The other day I opened my fridge to this sight: $21 worth of juice!!

JUICE

See, my friend Jordan works for this place called Pressed Juicery, delivering blended up fruits & veggies to LA’s healthiest and wealthiest folks. He wakes up at 3 AM every morning and drives through the night so that the richies can wake up cleansed and ready to walk their dog.

Some of their juices are delicious. Others, like the “roots” collection, involve ingredients that are (pun intended) very tough to swallow.

Roots

Jordan is kind enough to share the left over juices with his friends, so we can enjoy this lifestyle of the rich and famous without having to spend $7 a day on cucumber water. 

His job has made for some very interesting house parties, where instead of the fridge being stocked with beer or even Diet Coke, it’s filled with nothing but organic pressed juices.

I am aware that the pressed juice fad is not unique to Los Angeles, but here the “juice cleanse” fad has reached epidemic levels.  A few months ago, some of my co-workers decided to do a week long cleanse and they invited me to join in. Since health and wellness are important to me, I looked into it. The Venice Beach-based juicery offered a variety of cleanses ranging from $210 (3-day cleanse) to $880 (14-day cleanse).

So for the low price of nearly a thousand dollars, you can starve yourself and drown your insides in plant-based liquids for two weeks!!

Due to budgetary reasons, I opted to instead observe their cleanse and see who lasted the longest.

For days I watched as they choked down orange and red liquids and thought, “you fools.”

It only took a few days before they began to crack. One tried to secretly add coffee to his cleanse, so while technically he was still “juicing,” he became a strange mix of hungry and over-energized. Another one got so hungry she began devouring handfuls of goldfish crackers from the office kitchen. I’m pretty sure both of their insides were left more confused than clean.

What I learned from my vicarious juice cleanse is that humans are meant to eat solid food. Living on liquid substitutes alone will drive them to mild levels of desperation and insanity. I’ve examined the evidence extensively and so far the only difference I can find between juice cleansing and starving is that one of them is expensive.

I have nothing against plant-based juices, and I will happily drink them at my friend’s house parties. But I am taking this opportunity to make a public stance against buying them now, so I don’t spend $880 to starve myself later.

Journey to Suburbia

Yesterday three co-workers and I had to travel to a distant land called “La Mirada” for a client pitch. After the shock and confusion of having to leave the west side abated, we wondered, “but like, will there be Wifi?”

We decided to carpool, and as we neared our destination, a strange wave of happiness and calm washed over us. We saw strip malls with giant parking lots. We saw Bed, Bath, & Beyonds. We saw Chili’s Bar and Grill.

After a surprisingly successful meeting, we decided to celebrate with lunch. We were debating places we could eat at back in La La, when our account girl suggested quietly, “there’s an Olive Garden around the corner.”

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We looked at each other, as visions of free salad and bottomless breadsticks danced in our heads.

“Lets do it.”

We sped to Olive Garden. We parked right in front. We walked in and were shocked.

At 1 PM on a Friday, the entire restaurant was packed. PACKED I tell you! Packed enough that we had to wait to be seated. Kim looked at me and asked in all seriousness, “is today a holiday?”

“Maybe it’s like…Abraham Lincoln Day?”

Maybe every day is a holiday in Suburbia.

After our wait was over, the waitress led us past parties of twelve to a table next to a fake fireplace. We had a delightful lunch full of laughter, carbohydrates, and Olive Garden-branded Andes mints.

What a wonderful treat to get out of this crazy town and behave like normal humans for an afternoon.

You can take the girl out of the suburbs, but you can’t take the suburbs out of the girl. 

Marxel, the Sadistic Yogi

There is one word uttered with fear and trembling at my hot yoga studio.

You hear it whispered in the locker room.  You hear it mumbled by sweaty females stumbling out of the building. If you could hear inside people’s minds, you would hear it screamed every Monday-Wednesday-Friday from 6-7 PM.

The word is MARXEL. And he is my arch nemesis.

It was my understanding when I started doing hot yoga that I was going to sweat my brains out while also harnessing my inner chi. For a while that was the case. But then one fateful day I stumbled into Marxel’s sculpt class, only to find out what true hatred feels like.

Physically, he’s like a young, ethnically ambiguous Richard Simmons. The only things he wears are skin-tight biker shorts and spiky black hair. Unlike the other instructors, he counts aerobically to the beat of the music.

“Pulse it one! Two! Three and four-HARDER! One! Two! Three and four-WAKE UP! One! Two! Three–I WANT TO FEEL YOU BREATHING!”

When he senses your exhaustion, he turns the heat from 106 degrees to 109, and then has you take a break by doing mountain climbers.

I heard that a celebrity came to his class once. The celebrity started laughing after finding himself unable to do some of the poses. Marxel, on seeing his laughter, proceeded to inflict the toughest class he’d ever led. Later he tweeted “@Celebrity: I enjoyed mopping you off the floor at CorePower Yoga today.”

What kind of sick person has the audacity to mock la la’s royalty?

For months I thought I just needed to build the stamina to endure his torture. But when I went to a class with my yoga instructing friend (who teaches at his same studio) and neither of us were able to do more than half the class, I realized: The man is sick. He must be stopped before someone is killed. 

While I no longer willfully submit myself to his persecution, I can’t fully escape him since he checks everyone in at the front desk before class. Before he scans your card he’ll ask, “Which class are you taking tonight? Mine? Or Megan’s?”

“Megan’s.” I muster shakily, avoiding eye contact.

Marxel nods his head and swipes my card with a brand of condescending look that can only be given by a flamboyant, disappointed aerobic instructor.

I continue to practice yoga multiple times a week, yet I live in constant first-world fear of the day someone will come into class and say, “Class, we have a sub today. Here to torture you is…(everything fades to slow-motion)

MMMARRRXXELLLLLL.”

Strange Encounters at B & J Nails

I pay $15 a month to go people-watching at B & J Nails.

While I observe the insanity around me, the small woman who’s doing my manicure talks about me to her friend who’s doing my pedicure in a language I cannot understand.

I know what you’re thinking — “my nail place is just the same!”

It isn’t. Let me explain.

B & J Nails is the local hole-in-the-wall that everyone on the west side of Los Angeles has discovered. But don’t let the hodge podge of salon-like experiences offered there fool you–at B & J Nails, you will be manicured, massaged, or plucked amidst an environment I can only describe as Black Friday.

The space consists of one large room with a big fake Grecian pillar in the middle, surrounded by plastic potted plants. Mani-Pedi stations line each of the walls while framed pictures of butterflies and flowers hang on them.

Though business is clearly booming, they haven’t bothered to expand their space in order to accommodate it. They’ve simply started buying office chairs and planting them anywhere in the room as makeshift salon stations.

So on any given Saturday, you can pay less than you would to park at the mall to be wheeled around in a desk chair while a woman waxes your eyebrows. In my opinion, the experience is priceless.

I’d like to tell you about one such experience that was particularly priceless. My dear friend Shelley and I had gone to get our nails done and were picking out colors when a girl who looked like Jessie Spano interrupted our conver–

“Do you guys think this color is professional? See, my boss is having a fit because it’s (air quote) “not professional” for accountants to have their nails painted. Like what is he thinking though? Anyways, do you guys think it is?”

We assured her that the color was entirely professional and tried to resume our conversation, but she would not relent.

Jessie Spano launched into her life story. Very loudly. As she handed the woman her chosen toenail polish, the woman indicated through a series of not-so-American Sign Language that there was a problem. You see, our new found friend had worn  a miniskirt, tights, and heels to get a pedicure.

Without batting an eyelash, Jessie kicked off her stilettos and started reaching up her skirt to get at her tights. She never broke eye contact, just wriggled out of her tights in the middle of B & J Nails while telling us about her landlord who was suing her for (air quote) “flooding the apartment.”

I know there is a God because the woman who came to do my nails led me to an office chair far away from Jessie Spano. Sadly, Shelley wasn’t so lucky.

From across the room I watched poor Shelley smile, nod, and try to get a word in edgewise while Jessie over-shared intimate details about her life. It was my favorite day ever at B & J Nails.

When we left, she asked if we lived nearby. We said no, which was a lie and I’m not proud. But we couldn’t risk it.

As fate would have it, I saw Jessie Spano a month later at a nearby restaurant. I thought about interrupting her dinner conversation to ask loudly how her job, ex-landlord, mom, awful boss, and immature boyfriend were, but instead I ran away.

I love B & J Nails for providing such wonderfully affordable entertainment.

And I’m grateful to them for showing me that even the snootiest bunch of women will temporarily overcome their differences if it means getting a mani-pedi for fifteen bucks.