Return to California: The “You Got This” Edition

A few weeks ago, I returned to LA. The organization on which I serve as a board member had a conference in the LA Live section of the city. (Is it a section? Entertainment district? Burough? I have no idea, just roll with me here. I’m a Texan. I remain confident it isn’t a suburb. Go me.) I went to some great sessions, met some incredible people from around the country, and ended up doing what I always do whenever I’m in a major city – daydreamed I lived there. This is the part where I usually come to terms with having no marketable job skills. (Unless the city suddenly found itself in a shortfall of sarcastic, old Texas ladies. I won’t hold my breath for that one.)

Great conference aside, and skipping over me being filmed lip-synching and dancing to “Don’t Stop Believing” (why I don’t front a band, I have no idea), and not going into the details that started and ended with a single drink, waiting responsibly for an hour, and still finding myself calling my good friend with spot-on relationship advice (wait, I think that was the entire story), I’ll plow ahead to the adventure part.

The Adventure Part (I was afraid you wouldn’t know you’d just crossed that story-telling threshold)

I decided I had some free time on the last day of the conference, and I wanted to walk around the Santa Monica Pier. Now here’s the thing. I’m the worst only child you know, because I absolutely hate doing things like this on my own. I want someone to walk around with me – to have that shared experience – to sit and people watch with me, and y’know, talk about how I want to move there right now while pondering the whole lack of marketable job skills thing I mentioned earlier, and then figuring out if it’s too late to squeeze in Disney Land before the plane takes off the next morning.

Now I blame this discomfort with being alone on a few things, but the main one being that I think I’m a shifty looking sort. I base that not on the mirror, but on having been followed many times as a kid through stores by security staff. Once I noticed I had a tail, and I did on a couple of occasions, I’d bee-line them over to my Mom, where they’d stand back and stare, confident I’d taken something, but not having any proof. That would be because I didn’t take things. I was that kid who would save my allowance (in an Ovaltine jar), and when we’d go out shopping, I’d look at my potential treasures carefully, trying to decide if whatever it was would be worth giving up whatever amount I had saved thus far. Usually it wasn’t, but I’d hold onto a thing, twirl it around in my hands, and think about whether the momentary joy of owning it right now would prevent me from getting something even better if I waited and saved a bit more.  My intent was always clear; I strongly desired whatever it was I held in my hand, but more often than not, I would put it back on its shelf. This could take 5-15 minutes, which I guess is suspicious to those who can make faster decisions. At $2 per week, I had to be careful, and it drove my Mom, who was more of an impulse “buy it now” person, crazy. However, while I missed out on a number of great things, I was able to save enough to get my first 10 speed (with help from my Dad at the end after recognizing how committed I was to my bicycle dreams).  All of that to say, I think this started my whole: not comfortable alone in my own skin in public thing.

I spoke to several friends, because I couldn’t convince the other Board members to join me, and they all said, “you can do it. Just get an Uber or Lyft, and go!” So easy. So easy, that on Saturday I paced my hotel room, and was working myself into being ok with just staying in and watching a movie. It’ll be fine. Then I paced some more. Finally, my friend Anna said, “take me with you and show me the Pier,” and that’s all it took. I’d be ok, I would FaceTime Anna. I wouldn’t be alone, really.

I took a Lyft for the first time, got to the Pier, and the Universe had a grand giggle by making a FaceTime connection impossible. But the story isn’t in the things I saw, or did there on the Pier or along the beach, which were a combination of beautiful, relaxing and entertaining. No, the story is in the ride home.

Musician Performing “Scarborough Fair” on the Pier
An absolutely beautiful and haunting rendition

I May Have Lied About the Adventure Part Start

Ok, so the real adventure part starts here.

I opened my little Lyft app and summoned my ride home. I used all the tips I’d gotten from my first Lyft driver. I made sure the address it displayed matched the place I was standing. I was in a less congested area, and made certain I was easily seen from the road. Voila! As expected, a car appeared and Russell picked me up.

Russell had a lot to say, and I’ll just sum it up here. Russell needed me to know he was an LA native who drove for fun; he liked getting out. He didn’t NEED to drive like other drivers out there. In fact, he had been in the process of getting a new BMW, but his wife didn’t want him driving a ton of people around in it. So, he took what he would have used on a down payment for the BMW, and he bought the car I was in. He let me know his watch was worth more than the car. Ok. That’s great. He used all of this to explain that he didn’t like condescending riders. I said something profound like, “I don’t think most people enjoy condescending people.” 

To better explain his personality in a way that Southerners and Texans understand: He was that guy – one who had that hyper-aggressive, smug, false confidence that you sometimes associate with people from large city centers north of the Mason-Dixon line. In other words, he was obnoxious. *wink* You know what I’m saying.

But… I didn’t care as long as he got me from point A to B. Bolster yourself as much as you need, my fine fellow, but get me to my hotel.

We had to pick up another passenger. I had opted for the “share-a-ride,” because I don’t mind other people, and yay cost savings. You see, my watch isn’t worth more than my car, and it’s questionable as to whether it’s worth more than my bicycle.  His app beeped, and we headed over to pick up the next person.

When we got there, there were about 20 people standing around, and no one stood out as someone looking for a ride. Russell attempted to call them on speaker, and either the person answered, or it was their voicemail. Their words were not in English. “Oh no! I’m not doing that today. Nope. I’m cancelling their ride. I’m not in the mood,” Russell gruffed indignantly. Great. I guess I’m glad I’m white, and you deigned to pick me up, you obnoxious, smug, racist douche. When he cancels their ride, he accidentally cancels mine, too. He realizes this and starts throwing a fit, “you have to reschedule your ride.” I pulled out my phone and opened the Lyft app for the third time ever, and tried to re-request a ride. I wasn’t getting any response, or any connection. “I’m having a hard time getting this to work.” “You have to do it NOW. Do it now. Open the app and request a new driver.” “I’m doing that, and maybe I’m doing something wrong. Do you want to look at it?” “NO!!! I don’t know how to use that app,” he sneered. “Ok, well I think it’s not connecting.” “LOOK! If you can’t get this done. I’m going to have to drop you off. Where are you going, anyway?” “I’m going to the JW Marriott on Olympic.” “I don’t know where that is. What’s the cross street?” Well, here’s the thing. I don’t usually know cross streets in cities where I don’t live. It’s on Crossy McCrosserton Street as far as I know. I think I’m doing great just knowing the address to begin with when someone else has GPS!!! Make that magic happen. Maybe use your fancier-than-your-car watch. I don’t know. “You’re just going to have to get out of the car if you can’t figure this out.” “Ok, I think it’s better if you drop me off then you can find a new ride with someone who can use the app better.” He pulls over, let’s me out, “sorry!” then speeds off. I texted the rest of the Board, “hey guys, I just got kicked out of a Lyft.”  If about three grown men could have magically transported into the area, they would have in that moment, and Russell would have probably regretted a couple of life choices.

“Beth, just use Uber or Lyft, it will be fine.” I mumbled after sending the text to my team, mocking my dear friends sweet voices, while standing in who-knows-where Santa Monica. “THIS is why I don’t go places by myself.” I re-opened Lyft and summoned another ride.  Nine minutes later I received a message on my phone, “your ride is here, and will be leaving in a couple of minutes.” I scanned the cars along the road I was on, and nope… not there. Of course, they’re not, because I should have watched movies at the hotel. That’s how we don’t get stranded in major cities. Can’t get stranded if you don’t go places. FACT.

My phone rang, “Hi Beth, this is Lyda. I’m waiting for you.” I explained where I was, then looked at the app which had mis-identified my location. I considered throwing a small, whimpering, pity party. “I’m walking to this intersection, Lyda, and I’m in front of a Starbucks. “You stay there, I’m putting that into my GPS and will find you.” Ten minutes later, when I thought Lyda had probably given up, my phone rang again, “Beth, turn to your right. Do you see me waving at you?” I love Lyda.

The rest of the trip back to the hotel, Lyda told me about her family and her life in LA. We laughed the entire way, and I suspect her watch, much like mine, wasn’t worth more than her car. The measure of a person is not in material things, and she will be measured by her kindness, her generosity, and her taking a few extra moment to find and rescue a stronger right as they were flipping through their meltdown Rolodex to determine the size/flavor of the one that was about to burst forth.

That ended that adventure. And while I’m still not 100% convinced solo adventures are the best; I saw new things, experienced the simple beauty of the ocean – from its sounds, to the feel of the waves lapping against my legs, and I survived. Thank you, Lyda. Also, thank you Anna for giving me the final push that got me out there. We’re going to go again, so I can show it to you in person – the Pier, the ocean, and the Third Street Promenade. FaceTime won’t trick me twice!

Looking back on where I’ve been
Footprints near Santa Monica Pier – 2018

The Anger Room

Christmas. Anyone who knows anything about me, knows Christmas is my thing. Not in a decorate-y way – you don’t walk into my house and find a year long celebration (well… there may be a few lights here and there, I suppose – blame laziness or a love of twinkly lights more than anything else). I rarely have a tree up (too many memories with each ornament).  And it’s not like I dress up, though I do now have a Santa hat.  But for those who don’t know me – who only know me as this Big Blue Mess occasional why-can’t-she-write-more bloggerette, you have to trust me; it’s my holiday. And my friends always go out of their way to make it memorable. (In fact, I still owe you a blog from my last birthday. Oh, you thought we were talking about Christmas? We are. This was another great one where my friends and family gave me a small piece of themselves – from New Zealand pop music to vintage posters, to a fantastic original reindeer painting, to pistachio KitKats from Japan. Everything was absolutely wonderful (and some tasty), and each gift was so very them – the person who shared themselves.)

Among the many great gifts was a Choose Your Birthday Adventure. This is something my friend April, whom you may remember as the person who is on a mission to kill me, started doing a few years back. She presents me with three options for adventures we can take around the state (likely dangerous and fraught with peril, as I’m not sure she’s quit her murderess mission). From museums offering a selection of quilts, or toilet seats, or trains, to old Czech settlements, meadery visits, or trips to see scaled-down replicas of Stonehenge and the Easter Island moais. It’s always so hard to choose, because it’s always a slice of Texas I didn’t realize I wanted to see, and now can’t imagine never seeing it.

This year my choices were titled:

  • Adventures 1: Olives!!! (and other stuff but mostly olives)
  • Adventure 2: Art & Soul
  • Adventure 3: Painted Churches

After much deliberation, I chose “Adventure 2,” which was tough because OLIVES!!! and I know I’d love painted churches, but this one promised a trip to both the Kimbell Art Museum and The Modern – two museums I’d never been to see. Apparently, there isn’t a “do all the adventures” option. (I’ll miss you, olive farm.)

Well, life delayed us a bit – between jobs, the cruise, and all of those other little things, we found ourselves in June without a firmed up plan. Then, a funny thing happened at the end of June. I had a tiny little meltdown where I was mad or sad or neither or both – sometimes within minutes of each other, and well, you got to hear about it. You see, losing Jay, my best friend, takes its toll nearly every waking moment; it’s just a matter of degrees. My reprieves can really only be found at the gym, or in activities that insist I’m hyper-present in the moment. In truth, the intensity of my sorrow lessons as I move further away from July, and then swells again in the Spring. I still cry. I still rage.

So clearly, this was a sign that Adventure 2 needed a slight tweak, and thus a visit to The Anger Room in Dallas became part of the plans. I mean this was the “Art & Soul”  adventure, and both of our souls were saying they needed to smash some things and see some lovely art. Souls can be rather mecurial at times.

Let me just say it was a great choice, and one of the most completely cathartic experiences I’ve had in a long time. I was in a safe place and given permission to destroy things. I personally never let myself go in this way; I think, “How will you feel when you’re calm, and you realize you’ve broken this thing? You’ll be pretty upset. Why don’t we scream into a pillow instead? That’s good, too. Right??” I will barely slam a door, because I think about how the door doesn’t have it coming. (Aside: We will not discuss any recent door kicking, nor the time the Naval special forces combat medic was consulted, nor the time the door sought revenge and unceremoniously (because ceremony should be involved?) popped me in the lip, and I went around with an unnoticeable bump on my lip that I kept insisting was there. It was there, people!!! None of these things are on the table for discussion!)

When we got there, the woman at the facility explained, “you will have 20 minutes, and while it hardly seems like much time, you will get tired. If you need to come out and take a break, please do.” I’m here to report: 20 minutes is actually a SHORT time, and we didn’t need any breaks. In fact, we needed about 20 more minutes.  We chose our weapons of destruction, and in my case that was a crowbar and a baseball bat. I discovered I’m a crowbar girl. I had no idea. It’s like learning I’m “Joffrey” on a Game of Thrones Buzzfeed quiz. (I was actually hoping I’d turn out to be more of an Ygritte. Now I live in fear of  Tyrion’s wrath. Please don’t let me become a viral meme people use to lift themselves up on a bad day. In fact, #1 on my bucket list reads: 1) Don’t die a meme. Seems like a reasonable thing for which to ask, but I digress.)

While it was fairly perfect, my only wish would be that they’d had more fresh things to break instead of merely a couple of new things (a printer, and a DVD player), and the opportunity to whale on things that had been previously destroyed. In fact, I would have paid a little extra for fresh glasses from the Walmart collection, because the one cheap wine glass, while momentarily satisfying, just wasn’t enough. Don’t get me started on the one plate. Well… because April got to smash that one. I couldn’t hog all the easily smashables. That would be rude!

At the end, the anger concierge handed us markers and invited us to, “write whatever you want on these walls; it doesn’t matter – let it out.” And I wrote the ugliest thing from the darkest part of my heart – the thing that raced around my mind as I beat the DVD player into coughing out its motherboard, the words radiating off of my skin, and my anger went away… (at least for now).

It was absolutely brilliant!

Posture neither my mother nor countless orchestra conductors would be proud of, but the day wasn’t about my perfect posture. 🙂

(For those who have asked: No, I will not share what I wrote with you. Much like you’ll never know what I put in the Wishing Stump, what I’d send to PostSecret, nor what I’d ask for in a prayer; the words are not for you.)

An Adventure

On the drive into work the other morning I was lamenting not having any good adventure stories to share.  I was coming to grips with having finally reached the bottom of my story well and preparing to settle for sharing quips about the giant mug of water I’ve been drinking daily (well, it is really huge) or maybe some stories of “Sam did the most adorable thing the other day.  Get this, she woke up, padded around, got some food and took a nap.”. “I opened AND closed the door today!” (This is actually something to celebrate if we’re talking about the kitchen cabines or the pantry.) “There was this bumper stick you see, said something about “whirled peas”.  Get it?” You get the idea – bottom of the story well.

Then it hit me.  I vaguely remembered having actually done a few things that I hadn’t shared.  (Look, blame Facebook or the times for the overshare of stuff – I personally blame my friends for encouraging me – you can, too!) It appeared that I had actually engaged in… adventures!  Adventures that proved I left the house at some point for short stints.  Go me!  Way to shrug off the hermit rags (which are, for the record, comfy, warm and after a few days you hardly notice the smell).

So, back in February… (I never said this was a recent adventure) I decided to join my friend April for a curling class.  You might remember April as the friend who tried to do me in at the Texas State Fair.  She’s got a mean streak that borders on homicidal, but is clearly unwilling to explore her own personal orange jumpsuit opportunities, so she cleverly tries to lead me into accidents.  This time her ploy involved tennis shoes on ice and a 42 pound stone.  You’d think I’d learn better, but as you may have gathered through previous stories I’m rather “bless your heart” naive/goofy.  (Southern fact: If you’re in the South and someone says “bless your heart” it’s rarely a kind thing.)

Off I went to the ice rink bundled in my Texas winter attire.  For most Texans that’s just long sleeves, but I actually managed a sweater.  I’m cold natured!  We got a little introduction to the sport and the rules, then off we went to the ice.  Now I’d been on this same ice before – back  in college for something called broomball – a sport where you smack around a hockey puck with a broom (sans bristles) while in your sneakers.  I stayed upright, unlike several other dorm mates – one who had to go to the hospital, but I should confess that I did manage to smack my co-RA’s knuckles to the point that they swelled up pretty nicely. Hey, it’s basically Texas hockey and things got REAL! (It had nothing to do with me spactically flailing around and accidentally hitting someone.)

Since we didn’t have the gear, like their fancy shoes, we were handed a slip cover.  It basically amounted to putting teflon on one foot to make it extra glidey (or fall-y depending on your balance).  They explained how to throw your stone, use your broom for balance and then get into this contraption to push off.  The first guy got in and was flawless.  He was the ringer.  Then everyone else took their turn with varying amounts of success.  Most would get a tiny push, go a few inches, release the stone a few inches and do a small unglamorous pancake on the ice.

Then it was my turn.  I was hoping to push a few inches down the ice and with any luck not  pancake.  I got my feet placed, got down on the ice and realized not only could I not push off, I wasn’t sure I could get back up.  I decided it was a great time to panic as I surveyed the 50+ highly successful participants.  “Successful” was defined by whether they could get up off the ice and while I realized I hadn’t seen everyone, I knew in my soul they all could. I was the embarrassment of the ice rink!  I might actually die out here on the ice unable to leave this spot.  Maybe the zamboni could push me to safety? Maybe I’d become a human puck and one day reach the exit?  Maybe I could belly crawl to the side, someone could open the little door out and I would once again be on terra firma.  It was settled.  The last plan was the best.  Now how to begin the belly slide that way without drawing any attention.  This was going to be difficult.

My little group was now staring and my poor little trainer (who wore possibly the best pants ever if you forget the Norwegian Olympic team) tried his best to help, extending a hand.  I couldn’t take it.  I knew if I took it, I’d pull him down, too.  I did consider that if he were down on the ground, I could use him as a way to get up.  This actually wasn’t the worst idea I’d had and it beat living on the ice. Still, I didn’t want to push up with my own hands off the ice, because well… ice is slippery and not meant for stability. I finally got up and declared, “I’m done!” Not in a pouty way.  More in a “thank you tons for your time! I’m personally mortified! This is great! I’m going to stand back here and take pictures. No, no, I enjoy taking picture! You’re great! Buh bye!”

Well, it turns out most of the curling club is packed with Canadians who may be the friendliest people on the planet.  They weren’t having anyone missing out on the fun, so one of the curling club leaders slid over and offered a solution.  A stick! Yes, a stick is a solution.  You basically hook it into the stone, step off the same little contraption I couldn’t push off of and release the stone.  They gave me a little tutorial so I could get the stone to “curl” and pointed out people in their club who used it regularly for various reason and explained there was no shame in the stick.  I had a shameless stick!

I returned to the group with my little stick and I proceeded to heave that stone down the ice every time I had a turn.  And I made those little sweepers work it, because by not being challenged by the stance and merely walking out onto the ice, I could make the stone move very quickly and send it down far.  I was triumphant! (Well, we’ll end the story here so I can say that and we’ll never mention my sweeping “ability”.  Never.)

At the end our group leader with the fabulous pants encouraged each of us to join the club.  When I made a face that read like “you kind hearted funny pants wearing man” he cheerfully added , “you, too – several people use the stick method and we’d love to have you.”  Bless his heart. I have to admit I did have a moment of “you know, I think I may do it.  I’m going to be a curler!” thanks to the people in the club.

And that’s what I did one day in February.

Below is a video from that day.  I’m in it.  I will never point myself out to you. However, if you still want to see what the rink looked like with a bunch of amateur curlers that I might be among, the news report starts at 23:45.

 

Backpackology with Steve McDonald

I rarely talk about the blogs I read.  It’s not a remark on the blogs themselves, it’s more of a selfish thing.  I discover them (or they discover me) and then I start hoarding them – like that lady you once saw on that reality show – you know – that lady – the one who had all the stuff and a crazed look in her eyes.  I’m sure she had cats.   (Ok, confession: I’ve never actually seen Hoarders, so I’m kind of hoping you have and that we’re starting to bond.  I’m also hoping that you recall some lady from the show (maybe more than one – maybe she had some crazed lady relatives – who doesn’t?), with an insane look in her eyes (or eye, I won’t discriminate) and some cats so you can relate to the hoarding analogy thing.  We are relating now, right?) So you see, I’m like her or maybe them, depending on the episode, except instead of cats or sporks or Betty Boop doo-dads  I hoard blogs.  Oh dear, it seems I’ve found myself in the middle of an analogy that’s quickly going south. Eject! EJECT!

These special online finds make me feel like I’ve joined an  elite “in the know” group who are privileged enough to get to share in (live vicariously through) the author’s many adventures. Well today I’ve decided I’m making an exception, because I’m enjoying a particular blog so much that it’s not fair not to share it.  It’s called Backpackology.  It’s the travel-blog of a 24 year old out on a 2 year adventure to backpack solo across Asia.  It’s well-written, entertaining and occasionally suspenseful as his laptop needs repairs or he’s simply unable to file any updates and the next post appears with a title like “Kidnapped in Alipur“.

I highly recommend it if you’re up for a real life adventure and suggest you start your adventures with him here: Stepping Off the Edge

It’s well worth a read.