L.A.

 

 

Yesterday it rained. For reals. And now we’re expecting a heatwave. That’s L.A., folks. It makes no sense.

 

When I woke yesterday morning, it was from a dream. In the dream, I was swimming. I knew the pool’s water was too cold, but I was swimming anyway. And I loved it. At some point (in the dream), I wondered if I could simply stay in the pool forever…

 

The rain, the dream – I’m sure it all ties together somehow. Maybe the impending heat, too. But I don’t need to figure it out. It doesn’t matter.

 

Sometimes living here gets to be too much. Generally, I handle it okay. This may simply be one of those times. All that means is that I’ll ride out whatever it is I’m feeling and hopefully get back to me soon. Hopefully.

 

In the meantime, it is what it is. And what it is, is L.A., folks. It makes  no sense.

Please Forgive Me

 

 

I would like to apologize to all of Southern California.

 

I know you were expecting super-duper rains this winter. I know you hoped effects of the years-long drought would be alleviated. I know you had plans, such as keeping your lawn. Maybe running through a sprinkler come summer. Maybe going fishing in a healthy, heavy-running stream.

 

I’m sorry. You see, it’s all my fault – this lack of rain. My first mistake was unpacking my rubber boots and leaving them in a corner, ready to wear when needed. My next mistake was buying a pump for the pool, in case it ran over. And lest you think this past Friday’s rain let me off the hook, know this: I told Mister – that very morning – that I wanted rains to fall and wash my car. See? It was on me.

 

Please don’t think I intentionally ruined our El Niño rains. I assure you – it was quite unintentional. I just didn’t know how powerful I am. And for that, I sincerely apologize.

El None-yo

 

 

A lot of us here in Southern California looked forward to the predicted rains of El Niño. We thought our winter would be fabulously wet and that our trees would, perhaps, live through another year of drought. Even with all the warnings of flooding and leaks, the rains were exciting and hoped-for.

 

Cut to this – the last month of winter. We’ve had rain here and there and that’s been appreciated. But heavy rains? Not so much. Non-stop rains? Certainly not. Another storm is predicted for today. After that? I have no idea.

 

My own trees are suffering. When I drive around town, I see dead trees here and there. I’ve gotten used to brown grass, but the trees are a different matter. They’re breaking my heart.

 

Some of our friends have taken to calling our heavily-predicted, yet non-existent weather phenomenon “El None-yo.” I don’t blame them. Our stunning sunshine certainly makes it seem that way. In the meantime, I’m hoping the Sierras are getting walloped with snow. And that my trees survive. And that today’s rain is more than a drizzle. Fingers crossed…

Five Feet High and Rising

 

 

I am pacing back and forth, to and fro, with a furrowed brow.

 

Well – they’ve been telling us it was coming (whoever “they” are). They’ve pleaded with us to prepare, to get ready. And now it looks like it’s finally begun.

 

The El Niño rains have started, friends. We’re told this season’s intensity has already tied the power of the 1997-1998 El Niño, which, as I recall, was crazy.  For some of us, this El Niño won’t mean much beyond snarled traffic and lack of sunlight. But for others it will be much worse.

 

Mister and I live in a flat area of Los Angeles and nowhere near a natural body of water. We don’t have the multiple concerns of hillside residents, like sliding off the danged thang. And the various snaking arms of the L.A. River don’t border our little plot of land, so if it breaches its walls, we won’t feel it. Some folks are already in trouble, and the rains only started this week. All in all, Mister and I are lucky.

 

But there is the small matter of the pool. We like to call our back yard our Fortress of Solitude, as it’s completely enclosed and crazy-private. That’s awesome and we love it. But as I type this, I’m monitoring the pool and the water level has only a couple of inches before it bubbles over the top. If our backyard were wide open, that would simply mean the water would run off in all directions and (hopefully) be absorbed by surrounding ground. But as the area is enclosed, the only place for the overflow to go is against the house and the garage. These structures are built up off the ground, but not by much. So there may come a time in the not-so-distant future when I find myself out in the elements, rigging a pump and a hose to try and drain the excess water down the driveway. I’m a handy gal, but water mixed with electricity scares the bejeesus out of me. And rightly so. Hence my pacing.

 

Don’t get me wrong. If the pool does overflow, I’m fairly certain I’ll figure out the situation. It’s just so daunting in the meantime!

 

But if I look toward the front yard, all I can think is how much our trees and gardens love the rain. And how much we need it. Heaven help us, I hope it’s snowing in the mountains, too. That’s the only way to help ease the drought in the long run.

Water Tease

 

 

Yesterday morning it rained in Los Angeles. For about a minute.

 

It made me think about a 1-year old we know. While visiting his grandparents in New York during the summer, the little guy’s folks filmed him as he marveled at an afternoon rain. The kid had never seen such a sight. He didn’t say anything. He just watched. In wonder.

 

Yesterday Mister and I got real quiet while we listened to the short burst of rain here in L.A. Then it was gone. And I hung my head. Not nearly enough to marvel at.

If We’re Lucky…

 

 

Rain. You may be up to your ears in it (or snow), but we’re not. So a cloudy sky holds promise. If we’re lucky. I start thinking about possibilities. I cross my fingers. I consider dancing.

 

But for whatever reason, I don’t have it in me to dance right now. If I blame the lack of rain, I’m lying to myself. For there’s some sort of psychic weight holding me down today. Some sort of uncertainty is keeping me from soaring. Maybe it’s natural bio-rhythms. Maybe it’s low blood sugar.

 

The truth is, some days just feel like this. They hold the same promise as others, and yet I find myself unable to rise to the gifts of those precious 24 hours. Part of me wants to bounce off the walls and smile so much my face hurts. Another part of me wants to hide in the closet, like I did when I was about 10 years old. At that time, I went so far as to set up a sleeping bag and an entire nesting spot in my closet at the house on Westchester Drive. For months I slept in my closet. It was small and it was safe. It was also extremely isolated and solitary. I’m not able to revisit the kid-me to understand what drove me to that little cave. My adult thoughts of hiding are no less mysterious. I’m sure I could dig around in my psyche and come to some sort of self-knowledge on the subject, but I don’t really want to. That part of me is dark and murky. Those corners of my mental storage frighten me. Yes, there are truths hidden in that darkness, but I’m not quite brave enough to venture into my void, hand in front of me to keep me from running into – into what? Nope, not quite brave enough.

 

So as I sit here writing about the parts of me I tend to hide, I hear Florence + The Machine playing in another room… “And it’s hard to dance with a devil on your back, so shake him off…

 

I can try. Standing is the first step…

Bad Things Come In Threes

 

 

So. Sunday.

 

I woke to learn that Punxsutawney Phil had indeed seen his little rodent shadow, and that means – for “Phil-ievers” at least – six more weeks of winter. As I live in sunny southern California, you may be surprised to learn how bummed I was by this news. It’s all about connections, friends. All that bad weather being tolerated by other parts of America means no rain for L.A. This is supposed to be our rainy time of year, but the gal-danged jet stream (or something or other) has bypassed us completely. So our rain has become everyone else’s bitter cold. (This is a gross oversimplification, I know. Don’t judge.) I empathize with those of you in the bitterest winter regions. And I hope your recovery will be warm and swift. Unfortunately, this year is highly unlikely to provide any recovery for us. Drought conditions are already intense, and the forecast is for much more damaging dryness. Before you say we deserve it, for having had such a mild winter, let me remind you that a great deal of the food we all eat comes from California. Farmers are already being warned about coming water shortages, and I’ve yet to hear of any solutions. All of this to say: Punxsutawney Phil really let me down.

 

I then learned of Philip Seymour Hoffman’s overdose. I didn’t know the man or anything, but I loved his work. He was the kind of actor who could get me to buy a movie ticket simply because he was in the danged film. He was my age. And now he’s gone. He left behind 3 kids and his partner of 15 years. They will probably never understand their loss. Any thoughts I may have about his heroin overdose are moot, unimportant. Besides, I don’t know a damn thing anyway. I only know an actor I respected is dead.

 

And then there was the matter of that football game. Y’all, had the Broncos competed on a level anywhere near that of the Seahawks, it would have been an entirely different experience. Would I have still felt the disappointment of defeat? Of course! Would it be as soul-crushing as it was? Is? Probably not. I mean, I can’t know for sure, but I think I would feel a bit better about the loss if my team had actually shown the hell up. I know, I know: you live by your team and you die by your team. Well, I died after the very first play of the whole danged thang, and I’m still barely resuscitated.

 

So Sunday wasn’t what I’d hoped. Thems the breaks. And you know what? I’ll deal. I’ll cut back on my water usage. If necessary, I’ll let my lawn die. It’s only grass, and I’m super glad to have that viewpoint as water restrictions will soon be enforced and dead grass may very well be the outcome. But again, it’s only grass. As for Philip Seymour Hoffman, he left behind a beautiful body of work. And if I ever want to see one of his films, I can. He also completed a few films that have yet to be released. I look forward to his final works.

 

As for the Broncos, well, anyone who’s a sports fan knows what I’m feeling right now. You understand I’ll be okay. Eventually. You understand that I’ll have all summer to get over Sunday’s Superbowl beating. And then, Lord help me, I’ll start anew all over again. Here’s hoping the next go-round is a live by your team kind of season.

Colorado Rains

 

 

Rains continue across Colorado, and they need all the good vibes they can get.

 

Yesterday I read that the small town of Lyons is being evacuated (as are a few other towns). I’ve spent many a summer there, at “Song School.” It’s a beautiful, magical place. And it breaks my heart to think of those good people and their heartache.

 

I know nature is resilient and that Lyons, Colorado will recover. Eventually. For now, I send prayers and love to that small town and its people.

Leaks

 

 

Major rains here in the Los Angeles area. And Lord knows, we need it. Coming on the heels of vicious Santa Anas is a blessing, to boot.

 

As Mister and I are in a new-to-us pad, we’re on leak-watch. The goal here isn’t to discover leaks, mind you. The goal is that there be no leaks.

 

The last house we rented had ugly leakage problems. And though we complained to the landlords – for years – those leaks were never repaired during our tenancy.

 

Now we’re trying to be proactive. And realistic. We know that just because the people here before us were nice, that doesn’t mean they disclosed known information about this place. We know that it’s up to us to keep a watchful eye on the joint during this rain. And then some.

 

So far – touch wood – so good. And the rain is filling the pool, so we don’t have to do that. Maybe most importantly, though, it’s watering our tomatoes with nitrogen-rich liquid. Can’t fight that funk.

The Great L.A. Walk

 

 

The forecast called for rain. When I woke at 6:30, the sky was beautiful. But those clouds… Something told me to keep an eye on them.

 

 

At 7:58 I was on the subway, headed downtown. I won’t lie – I was feeling nervous. My back-pack was loaded with everything I thought I might need – hat, gloves, band-aids, camel-bak full of water – but I was still unsure. Had I forgotten something important? Something necessary?

 

As the train raced toward my stop, I became more and more anxious. My stomach started doing back-flips. I was getting scared. And then, 2 stops before mine, I saw them board: 3 people with their back-packs. They didn’t look any more fit than I. In fact, they sort of looked like me. I started breathing easier. My stomach calmed down. I even caught myself smiling. And I thought, “Maybe I can do this.”

 

 

I exited the subway and walked the few short blocks to the Walt Disney Concert Hall. It’s an amazing Frank Gehry-designed building and I absolutely love it. But this morning wasn’t about architecture. I joined the 150 or so other souls on the building’s steps and waited. I looked for my friends, and waited. A stranger approached and asked if I’d done this before. I said I hadn’t. He told me he’d done all previous six walks and offered a bit of advice: “When you approach a street crossing, don’t step up or down at the curb. Use the ramp portion. By the end of the day, that simple up or down will kill you.” I thanked him for the tip, though I privately thought he was nuts. He must have sensed my snarky attitude and he took his leave. Then I spotted my friends and made my way to greet them.

 

 

Speeches were made, friends, something about the history of the Disney Concert Hall, then something about why we were all gathered. But I didn’t hear any of it. My ears weren’t able to focus. I was too preoccupied with the task at hand to really hear what was being said. We all posed on the steps for a group photo and then we were off. Beneath a gray and ominous sky, we took the first steps of our 17-mile trek from downtown Los Angeles to the sea in Santa Monica. It was 9:30.

 

 

The Great L.A. Walk is a non-sanctioned, not-for-charity, crazy-ass walk, devised by a dude in honor of his adopted hometown. It seems he was celebrating his 10-year anniversary of living in L.A., and realized he didn’t know the city that well. Since the best way to get to know a place is on foot, he came up with an idea to walk Wilshire Boulevard from downtown to the sea in Santa Monica. He spread the word to a few folks and lo and behold – people actually showed up and walked the whole danged route. That was 7 years ago. Since then, every Saturday before Thanksgiving has found people coming together and following a designated route.

 

Why? To get to know the town. To see all the things we never see while zipping along in our cars. To actually experience the energy and life along the streets of Los Angeles. Why? Why not?

 

I tried to take pictures of every block. I say I tried because I gave up on this idea pretty darned quickly. I kept forgetting to do it, or else I didn’t want to actually stop my stride just to take photos. Still, I did stop for a few shots…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

So there I was, along with 5 friends, joining the insanity and getting a ridiculous amount of exercise. But that’s not all. We’re fit, but we’re not obsessed with fitness. And as it turned out Saturday morning, most of our group were actually obsessed with beer. Friends, do you know how hard it is to find an open bar on a Saturday morning at, oh, say 10 am? Well, I’ll tell ya, it’s flat out difficult. And not being able to have that sweet nectar made it all the more important as a quest.

 

Along the way, we passed a fruit vendor and decided a natural snack was in order.  And do you know what happened? That shop owner – who had beautiful eyes – gave fruit to all of us. He even gave us extra. It was all we could do to get him to take a tip. And when he did accept the money, he blessed us. Each and every one of us. What a nice guy, on the streets of L.A.

 

 

On the beer front, we kept walking and searching. Searching and walking. Finally, between miles 6 and 7, we saw tables being placed on the sidewalk at “Antonio’s” on Melrose in Hollywood.

 

 

We could not have been happier…

 

 

…and most of us downed 2 beers (and a carb-laden lunch) without even thinking about it. We cheered on all the other walkers as they passed, yelling “Go GLAWs!” (Great L.A. Walkers) Once the beers and lunch were finished, we strapped our backpacks on, revved up our furry companion and rejoined the larger group. That’s when the rain started. It was around 1:15.

 

 

Somewhere around the 9th or 10th mile – in Beverly Hills – it started raining pretty hard.

 

 

There was no wind, so it was coming down straight and wasn’t too bad. But it was a little cool, and when someone spotted a Starbuck’s, I piped up and said I could really go for a coffee. We got there just in time. Outside, it was dumping buckets. Inside, the coffee was warm and it was mostly dry. Turns out, that Starbuck’s in Beverly Hills has a few roof leaks. I always define “few” as being “3 to 8,” so maybe there were more than a few leaks. That joint was hole-y, y’all, and once the rains eased up a bit, we decided it was better to cover some ground outside in the elements than it was to sit still inside in the elements. And so we started walking again. It was around 3 o’clock. Just under 10 miles down. 7+ miles to go.

 

The rain was challenging. It invited us to slow our pace, to linger beneath awnings. Each drop sang a sweet song of melancholy and whispered how nice it was just to window-shop, to chat. But my body wasn’t interested in the rain’s charms. And my mind was downright anxious to get to the danged ocean. So I said I needed to walk faster and cover some ground. One of our group said she was game. We made a break.

 

Our morning pace had been pretty slow. I was challenged by the pace and had shared my frustrations at lunch. Don’t get me wrong, we were doing just fine. I think we were covering about 2.5 miles per hour. And on the city’s crowded sidewalks, that’s okay. But I tend to walk fast, out of habit. So when I found a kindred spirit who was also ready to really move, well, we just took off.

 

People who had passed us by hours before? We left them in the rear-view. People far more fit and far faster? See ya! We were moving so fast over the last 7 miles, I think we were covering 3+ miles per hour. After a long day and constant rain, that was pretty impressive (if I do say so myself). By the time we hit the 13th mile, I was starting to become giddy.

 

I was also starting to feel the pain. In my right hip. It wasn’t bad, so I didn’t worry about it. I knew that if I ignored it, “mind over matter” would keep it manageable. My buddy was feeling a tinge as well, but she didn’t slow down, so I didn’t either. But I’ll tell you something: that morning guy was right. Stepping up or down at curbs was excruciating. The ramps became my friends. If I’d gotten the chance, I would have told that guy his advice was dead-on. But I didn’t get the chance. Our paths didn’t cross again.

 

 

At mile 16, my ankles became stiff. It was cold. The rain was now blowing in our faces. Our hats just weren’t protecting us anymore. The sky was darkening due to the sun going down. We were practically running, knowing the ocean was close. The pain and the rain did nothing to dampen our excitement. We knew we were almost there…

 

 

And then we were there! 17 miles. We stopped our fevered pace and greeted all the other walkers waiting by the sea. I had a big, goofy smile on my face and it was good. It was all good. It was 4:56.

 

 

We took a group photo, then headed to a restaurant/bar for an after-party and celebration. While there, walkers trickled in for quite a while. Each was applauded and cheered, and we looked at each other with mutual respect and joy. We all made it.

 

A day like that is hard to explain. I guess it takes a bit of crazy to even agree to such a walk. Not everyone understands it or accepts it (“What do you mean it’s not for charity?”). Some people were deterred by the rain. Some people caught a bus to the endpoint. Some people caught rides. Some just hit their max and went home.

 

That’s all okay. But for me, I needed to do this for no other reason than to prove to myself that I could. There’s no reward in completing a trek like this. There’s no fanfare or to-do. One doesn’t get any special letters after her name for walking the entire 17 miles.

 

But there is a sense of accomplishment. There is the joy of camaraderie. There is the beauty of the city.

 

And yes, there is pride. As I sat at the bar at the end of the day and looked around, I was proud of everyone there (including myself). I was so pleased to have spent the day with women I adore. I was glad to have met a cool chick who was willing to maintain a crazy pace for the second half of the route. I was, in short, happy.

 

Every now and then, it’s good to challenge oneself. On Saturday, The Great L.A. Walk provided me that opportunity. I wasn’t sure I had 17 miles in me. As it turned out, I did. That and so much more.