Monthly Archives: June 2014

Absurd Things I Miss About L.A.

This past week I experienced legitimate homesickness for the first time in my life. Granted, before now I have never lived more than 152 miles (door to door) from home. I didn’t feel homesick at sleepovers, sleep away camp, or traveling abroad.

Sometimes life just throws all kinds of bombs in your direction at once. I would like to think I can handle it, I’ve dealt with some pretty epic life bombs, but this week, I had a a few pity parties, I got a little nostalgic, I realized I felt like I wanted to go home because I was feeling…homesick. Check that off the list of life experiences. It made me decide to finish a post I started about the silly things I miss about a place that was my home for, well as many years as I am old, minus almost one.

I grew up in L.A. I never thought I would leave. But I left. I pioneered in the wrong direction. I packed up my car and went east. No one writes songs about going east…

I got to the base of the western slopes of the Rockies and thought, “Seriously, I still have to get through those?!” I made it. I ran out of gas once, but I made it.I have come to really love it here. I have also grown to really miss some absurd (and less absurd) things about Los Angeles. Thankfully I have most of my family and so many friends there, so visits back are a given.

If you aren’t from around those parts you might think it is weird how many things on this list have to do with cars and traffic, its just part of life there. If you are from L.A. and still living there take a moment to appreciate the things on this list. If you are from L.A. and you live somewhere else, join in my nostalgia and longing. And if you are from somewhere else…I ‘m sorry.

 

 

1. Real Mexican Food

It is probably slightly unfair that I have this on my list. I haven’t, to date, actually tried any Mexican food out here. I just can’t believe it will be as good. How can it be? This state doesn’t even share a border with another country. I long for tortillas made by hand right there in the tiny little store front when I order. I miss the really good restaurants. And I miss the ones where you are kind of playing Russian Roulette with your digestion, but it is so worth it.

 

2. Car Chases

A year or two ago on New Years Eve, there were a whole bunch of us getting ready to go out for the night. But then a car chase came on TV. We all watched it and had commentary and reactions and speculations. When the guy finally ditched the car and went on foot we knew it would be over soon and we would be headed out. It was kind of a communal activity. Every since that Bronco tore down the freeway, car chases are just a thing.

 

3. Flip Flops

When I first made this list there was still snow on the ground. Wearing flip flops wasn’t really a valid outdoor option. Although, I did wear them the day I learned to snowboard, not my best footwear decision, also not my worst. Recently I have been wearing flip-flops almost everyday. I just miss having them as a legitimate year round option. Even when it was raining and cold I wore them, but now freezing temperatures thwart phalange freedom.

 

4. Traffic (sig alerts)

I get that this is absurd. Everyone who knows what a Sig Alert is probably thinks I need to have my sanity checked out. A world without them?! Sounds miraculous, I know. I even thought so too when I first moved. For those of you that don’t know, a Sig Alert is defined by the California Department of Transportation as:

“Sig-Alerts” are unique to Southern California. They came about in the 1940s when the L.A.P.D. got in the habit of alerting a local radio reporter, Loyd Sigmon, of bad car wrecks on city streets. These notifications became known as “Sig-Alerts.” Later Mr. Sigmon developed an electronic device that authorities could use to alert the media of disasters. Caltrans latched on to the term “Sig-Alert” and it has come to be known as any traffic incident that will tie up two or more lanes of a freeway for two or more hours.

So why would I miss such a thing?! Two hours or more of traffic?! Yeah, its a thing. You just deal with it. You gripe and complain about it. Sometimes you make friends with neighboring cars. Knowing multiple effective alternative routes is a point of pride for Angelenos. It is a cultural identity in a way.

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If the amount of green and yellow on this is exciting, you’re from LA too.

 

5. Earthquakes

Again I know people might think I am crazy, but except for the big ones they aren’t that bad. The first time I missed an earthquake, my initial thoughts were to check in with everyone I knew nearish to the epicenter. My text to them went something like this: earthquake status check-in, you good?

I knew better, it was a tiny little 4 on the richter scale. The next time there was an earthquake, people texted me (it was the next day). The third one? I just felt left out. Name an earthquake that happened during my lifetime and I can tell you where I was. My two favorite were the Sierra Madre quake, I was home from school sleeping in my parents waterbed, that was exciting. Northridge? We had just gotten our hardwood floors redone and there was nothing under the wheels of my bed to stop the rolling, talk about an adventure. Really folks, I would take earthquake over most of the rest of the countries disasters, they come, they end, that is it. A few seconds of adrenaline and then on with life.

 

6. Predictable Weather (read: Weather that I understand)

My entire life, up until moving out east, I would look outside and know how to dress. I listened to the weather while getting ready for work more for company than actually information. I knew that in June I should wear a sweatshirt in the morning for camp, but by the time I had finished my coffee I would be glad to be in a tank top and shorts. Sun means shorts, wind means something warmer, gloomy means layers. And it usually cooled down enough at night to have an extra light layer. One day this past spring, I looked outside, saw sunshine and clear blue skies. I got dressed for such weather, walked outside, and promptly returned inside to dress significantly warmer. Oh and did you know that it can be 80 during the day and then suddenly it will rain?! The sun doesn’t mean warm, nor dry, nor predicable. I guess I am not just learning how to winter, I am learning how to weather outside of Southern California.

 

7. The Dodgers

My boys in blue. My brother made one of those crystal radios when we were kids. He would listen to the Dodger game in bed, and sometimes if I was lucky he would let me come in his room and listen with him. It was the only TV during the week I remember being allowed to watch. My earliest memory in life is Kirk Gibson’s home run, well actually it is Mom crying happy tears after he hit the home run. If you don’t know about this moment in baseball history please stop reading and go find it, immediately.

I have an audio clip on my ipod of Vin Scully announcing this moment, it brings tears to my eyes every darn time. Loving the Dodgers means having a great start to the season, only to have them break your heart after the All Star Break. But don’t worry, next year will be our year. It means getting stuck in Sig Alert levels of traffic to and from the stadium. It means the whole family takes the day off work and Mom and Dad take Brother and me out of school for Opening Day. It means Kirk Gibson, Clayton Kershaw, Sandy Koufax, Jackie Robinson, Tommy Lasorda, Vin Scully, Nancy Bea, The Ravine, it means home.

No one here seems to cares about my boys of summer, they have some other team they think is good, some of them don’t even know what Vinny’s voice sounds like. I cried once in college when I realized my future children will not fall asleep listening to him announce a game (this is why I have downloaded sound bites, my future children need to know the voice of this amazing man). I haven’t been to a Dodger game all season, this is perhaps a first in my lifetime. Thank goodness for satellite radio in my car and internet radio, because even 1,000 miles away, I can drive around, or fall asleep to the sound of my boys in blue.

dodger-stadium-sunset
This field, this game: it’s a part of our past […] It reminds of us of all that once was good and it could be again.

8. The Worst Best Drivers

I don’t know what to say about us, other then, perhaps, sorry everyone else. We are the best drivers and the worst drivers at the same time. We possess a zen like patience for long drives stuck in traffic, there is no alternative, it is part of life. And at the same time roadrage is just a given. I learned to curse in multiple languages within a year of becoming a licensed driver. The other day, I had to fight every urge in my body to not brake check the jerk riding my tail, and when he zipped passed me, I sensed the California wave coming, and again fought the urge. Sometimes I let my inner driver out, but I have local plates now, and I feel marginally guilty (well, not really) about driving the way I want to. I would like to make one request though folks, do you think you could pull all the way out into the intersection while you are waiting to make a left turn, do you realize more of us could go if you did that? It is just the decent thing to do.

 

9. The Beach

I would never call myself a beach girl. In fact, I think most people who know me well will read this and say, “But Aimee, you hate sand.” I do. It gets on everything. I also hate beach parking, which really should be called lack of beach parking. But ever since moving to a land locked state, I miss the ocean. When I went back for a visit during Mother’s Day, I wanted to go surfing, I hadn’t done that since college. I wanted to sit on the sand and just drink in the beauty of the Pacific. When I had regular access to it, when traffic was a part of my daily life, and when my summer trips to the beach included the entire summer camp for which I was responsible, I did not like the beach. But now I am happy to go and visit, to get sand on everything, to look around for good parking, to people watch, and best of all to take in the vastness of the Pacific.

 

10. Oak Trees

I didn’t know I had a favorite tree. I love all the trees here. There are trees I had never seen before. I still can’t name most of them, but I am working on it. What I don’t see much of are those beautiful live oak trees that are just everywhere in Southern California, well all of California really. They just kinda speak to my soul I guess.

 

11. Food Trucks

They just don’t seem to be as much of a thing here. No random taco truck to stop at and get AMAZING tacos at 1 am. Oh, and there was a time when we lost power for like a week and a dozen the food trucks converged on one empty lot. There was music and such good food and it didn’t matter that I was getting dressed by lantern light and sleeping under every blanket I owned, and all the food in our fridges had gone bad. That ice cream, the one that had an entire breakfast of coffee, waffles, maple syrup, and bacon in it! Oh I could just die…

DSC_9288
A local food truck festival

 

12. People saying “the” in front of a freeway names

Okay, here is the thing: it linguistically makes perfect sense that we place an article in front of the freeway number. Los Angeles, THE Angels. Spanish is kind of an influential part of the culture and identity, and articles are kind of a big part of Spanish (says the girl who speaks French). So I am going to tell you to, “take the 210, to the 605, to the 405.” And now that I live here, I am going to tell you something along the lines of, “take the 70, to the 270, to the 36.” I am not going to change, so learn to find it endearing and accept that it is culturally and linguistically appropriate considering my roots. Also, maybe Southern Californians will stop saying the when people from Northern California stop saying “hella”.

 

13. The Rose Parade Flyover

A stealth bomber flips a U-turn directly overhead my parents house twice in one day every New Year’s day. Enough said.

Stealth-2
Hey Dad, can you take a better picture for me this year? This person clearly lives too far south.

 

14. Billboards

How am I supposed to know what kind of neighborhood I am in? What language is the dominant first language in this community?! Which sports team do they most support? Am I close to the brewery? Where the heck is the nearest In-n-Out?! When is the Ren Faire? What is the newest attraction and Disneyland/ Universal/ the Zoo/ the Science Center? Cross town rivals? Seriously Colorado, I am getting very little information on my drive…

Premiere-Panel-directional-billboard-In-N-Out-Burger-LA
In-n-Out didn’t quite make the list, but here is a cameo.

 

15. Booze in the  Grocery Store

Okay, I am learning to get over this one a bit. For a long while I thought it was incredibly annoying and stupid that I couldn’t pick up a bottle of wine with my groceries. Now, however, I am actually finding liquor stores to be a somewhat fun experience. I have also discovered that having to go to a liquor store is not an uncommon experience. I just kinda miss the convenience of getting everything in one place.

 

16. The Mountains are North

My ENTIRE life I have oriented myself to the mountains being to the north.  There are hills in every direction, but the mountains, North. It makes for easy navigating (side note, I often give directions based on an assumption that everyone else knows what I mean when I say, “head north…” which is apparently not the case…Briana…). Sure, the ocean is always west(ish), but sometimes it is smoggy, or you aren’t near the coast, so the mountains make a good reference. Now, I live in this beautiful place, with the most beauteous mountain view right outside my bedroom window…my western facing bedroom window. Did I mention that to the east the land out here is flat, as in plains and prairie flat? It is a breathtaking, obvious landmark looking at the Rocky Mountains, but I often have to quietly remind myself that in this crazy place those mountains mean west.

Mount_Wilson_from_south
This picture is looking NORTH.

 

17. The 605/10 split

Joan Didion wrote about this. The first time I had to drive it I considered getting off the freeway and taking side streets. I have often wondered who the heck engineered it. I can’t decide if they were clearly not a local, or such a local they knew it was the kind of thing that would become a rite of passage for other locals. Either way, twelve years after I started driving, I still get an adrenaline rush and feel a sense of accomplishment when I smoothly make the transition from one freeway to the other, especially if I don’t even have to tap my breaks. The two lane things they call freeways here (I know, right?!) just don’t provide the same experience.

 

18. My people

So more seriously, I love my life here, but I miss my people. Maybe y’all could move out here? Bring the Dodgers, and the food trucks, and a few live oaks, and some of the traffic out with you….

 

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Maybe If We Get the Cars and a Fish the Boys Will Come Too

I recently started working with 3 year olds. This has been a new experience for me. Prior to this I was working with teenagers, teaching high school and middle school (the latter for a brief stint).

 

I’ve worked at the elementary school level and I worked at and ran a summer camp for kindergarten through 9th grade. My staff was made up of high school and college age kids. So when the opportunity to teach an age I have the credentials to teach but have never tried, came up I was excited for the new challenge. It has been a about two weeks and I can already tell you I am tired. Tired and happy. I have also made one important observation.

 

Kids know how to keep it real. We adults could learn a lesson or two from them.

 

1. When you want to end things with someone, just tell them.

“I just need you to give me my own space right now.”

 

2. When someone ends things with you, bow out with grace and dignity.

“Okay, I will play something else.”

 

3. Being clear about your feelings.

“Look I am not mad at you, you just don’t know things, but I am going to give you a chance.”

 

4. Know what other people like, and how to entice them to hang out with you.

“We should have a dance party. Maybe if we get the cars and a fish the boys will come too.”

I feel like I should tell you the ratio of boys to girls is 14:4.

 

5. Don’t be afraid to tell people how you feel.

“Aimee, I don’t really like you. Sorry.”

“Me and him are best friends.” “Yeah, I’m the husband.”

“I love you so much, will you be my teacher forever?”

“I am just so done with this. It is time for something else.”

 

6. Finally, don’t be ashamed to admit your shortcomings.

“Do you want to add a propellor to your airplane?” “No, I can’t. I am not a doctor.”

I am looking forward to finding out what other life lessons these little ones might teach me over the course of the year.

An Egg Cup Makes A Very Good Hat

I love books. No, seriously, you don’t understand. I. Love. Books.

Sometimes I think the only reason I became an English teacher was so that I would have an excuse to further my book hoarding habit There are stacks of books stashed all over my old room (or more accurately, every room I ever inhabited in Mom & Dad’s house) as well as the boxes in the garage. I know I will go back for them one day. I miss them almost as much as my family (good books are like family).

My book hoarding got so bad, that about 4 years ago I banned myself from buying books unless they fell into one of the following categories:

1. teaching books that could live in my classroom

2. books for my classroom library, also to live in my classroom

(both of these categories are now in boxes not in a classroom)

3. books that were a gift for someone, therefore I wouldn’t keep it

4. books I wanted so badly I would give away two books to make room on my self for the new book…this never actually happened

Sometimes I have to avoid bookstores because I fear it would be akin to falling off the wagon. But one day, I will have all my books that I currently own in one place and I will have space for more books. (Yes this flies in the face of my desire to have less stuff.)

In the mean time I try to pick the books I “need” with me the most and leave the rest in storage.

I doubt I could ever really pick ONE favorite book. I can pick favorite people, movies, places, and colors (purple, olive green, brown, orange, in that order). But never a book.

If I was forced to though…like I could save humanity by picking one book…maybe, just maybe I could.

Wouldn’t it be nice if I picked some great, life enhancing, deep, intellectual book? Some book that crosses age, gender, and cultural lines? Wouldn’t that make me seem impressive? Wouldn’t it make family proud? I would like to think that I would do that. But that is way too much pressure, and just not realistic. I wouldn’t even pick based on the idea that it would be the only book I could read for the rest of my life. If I did that I would try to pick something I could re-read and gain new meaning from (like the Bible or an anthology or something). No, I am not that noble nor evolved.

I would have to pick a book based on my favorite character. Eloise.

You know, Eloise, of Eloise: A Book for Precocious Grown Ups by Kay Thompson.

If you don’t know Eloise, let me introduce you. She is six. She lives in the Plaza Hotel. She lives with Nanny her nanny, Skipperdee her turtle, and Weenie her dog. The original Eloise books were published in the 50s. I once read that it made both the children and adult best seller lists.

eloise
I remember Grandma reading me Eloise, I always think of her when I see anything Eloise. Mom read it me doing voices, she does a pretty convincing British accent for Nanny. I remember laying on my floor in the warm afternoon sunlight reading it all by myself. I remember visiting Eloise when I was six (just like her) at the Plaza.

There are plenty of people out there who slam Eloise in reviews. They call her spoiled, appalling, sad, rich, bratty, over indulged, the pity her. I don’t pity Eloise. I don’t care that some people see her as an “abandoned orphan” or “an undisciplined child clearly suffering from ADHD and desperate for attention.” I love her for her innocence. She has no idea her world isn’t all that it could be. She makes the most of what it actually is. She is a great example of kids repeating the things they hear grown ups say and of finding magic and wonder in the world around her. I will admit it, I wouldn’t want my future children to have Eloise’s life. I wouldn’t want them to be raised by a nanny in a hotel, interacting almost exclusively with adults. I wouldn’t want them to run down the halls dragging a stick along the wall. But what I do want for them is exactly what made me fall in love with Eloise in the first place: precociousness, imagination, strength, creativity, and tenacity.

Anyone who knows that “Kleenex makes a very good hat” and that “toe shoes make very good ears” (they do, I tried it the day I got my first pair) is someone I want to hang out with. And after reading her declaration that “an egg cup makes a very good hat,” I wanted to own an egg cup. I still would like to own an egg cup (in case you ever need to get me something unique just because).

toe shoe earsShe is funny. Bratty at times, but don’t we all have our moments? She has a thirst for adventure I wish I was brave enough to posses. Her sense of self exceeds that of most adults I know. She is a strong female character (not without faults, but that makes her more likable), which only impresses me more considering she was first dreamed up in the late 40’s and then published in the mid 50’s AND she was loved the day she hit the shelves.

The copy I have is well loved now. The page with the elevator ride that I poured over tracing and retracing her route is nearly falling apart. There is water damage from some brief time it spent in storage. The dust jacket has tears. I have thought about replacing it. Well, just buying a new copy, I would struggle to get rid of my first one. But remember that book ban? I do allow myself to buy eBooks sometimes. An eBook just wouldn’t work though. You couldn’t unfold that elevator page…you can’t hug the book against you…it just wouldn’t be the same.

So even though it is a children’s book, arguably for adults, and even though it isn’t life changing, it is the book I am going to choose. If, in order to save humanity I was forced to choose one book, I think I would choose Eloise. I love it. You don’t have to, but I kinda hope you do.

 

I was in NYC last year, and I had to go see her again.
I was in NYC last year, and I had to go see her again.