26 April 2009

On Returning to LA, Wilting Blooms, and Starting a Hair-Care Regimen

(The sun setting over millionaires in Malibu)

Some people move to Los Angeles for the weather. Seriously and truly, they do. I am not one of those people. I moved to LA (the first time) to work in the music industry. And it was work that brought me back to LA two years after I thought I’d left for good.

Having never lived in a place where snow piled up to the windowsill or driveways demanded clearing right this very instant, or you’re not going to work, mister!—I cannot say how much the promise of steady sunshine would be worth.

Instead, I grew up with an abundance of sun and humidity accompanied by a constant breeze of AC. Surviving a hot day called for a glass of iced tea and a medal of honor. The humidity kept my skin looking dewy and young. At least, this is what I told myself when I ducked into public restrooms to mop up the sweat dripping from my armpits.

These days, the California sun annoys me. That is something I have noticed. I have also noticed that I am older, much older, than I thought I was. Obviously, I realize my age. I’m not that far gone. It’s just that what I remember looking like isn’t showing up in the mirror or on glossy 4x6 paper. There are lines that weren’t there before. And my hair. Oh, my hair.

Yesterday I went to have my hair cut and engaged in a long discussion with a nice hairstylist named Ryan—or something like that—about what happens to your hair as you get older. For those of you not in-the-know, your hair gets thinner and duller and not so Pantene-like.

I told Ryan—or something like that—I was using a product meant to encourage new hair growth. He said the product I was using was indeed marvelous, and, yes, it was working. (Hooray!) But, he quickly added, that product was too harsh for fine hair like mine. He recommended another product that would be a little kinder.

So I left the salon, famous for being trendy and affordable, with a bag of product that cost 3 times the price of my haircut all in an effort to fight the inevitable. But this is LA, and age defines you here.

In addition to noticing my dislike of constant sunny days and lines around my eyes, I have started to wonder if I am losing my bloom. That sounds completely archaic, I know, but I can’t think of any other way to put it. Jane Austen gave me this idea of people losing their bloom. Ms. Austen says of her heroine in Persuasion, “Anne Elliot had been a very pretty girl, but her bloom had vanished early…”

This line runs through my mind when I notice these news things about my face.

In response to this absurd thought, I picture myself to be a peony tree. In its early years, the blossoms on a young peony tree are pretty and give off a bit of sweet fragrance, sort of like a whisper. The branches of an older peony tree, however, are heavy with huge flowers, thanks to years of pruning. And the fragrance of that older tree is incredible—like standing before a symphony.

On days when I feel so very un-LA, I wear an extra spritz of perfume and a lot of SPF.

Some Reasons I Like LA:

1. Really good bands play here. Like Travis, pictured above.

2. I have a really great job. These were a gift from my 2 bosses.

18 April 2009

I've Arrived. But Just Where Am I?

A couple of weeks ago (or was it 3?), I went to see Matt Hale perform at The Hotel Cafe in Hollywood. Matt usually goes by the moniker Aqualung, so if you're shopping around for some new albums full of well-crafted songs, look for that name.

When he took his seat behind his upright piano, he announced to us all: "I've arrived." We clapped, of course, and enjoyed 40 minutes-or-so of songs and banter.

I've been thinking about that announcement these past few days. I've arrived. Usually you tell someone you've arrived at a destination as in, "I'm outside your house now," or "I landed at the airport." But we can also arrive at ideas or stages of growth. And those places aren't easily located on a map.

The place I've arrived at recently doesn't come up in any GPS system or on Mapquest. I hardly know what to call this place at which I've arrived. Instead, I find myself frequently (as recently as this morning, in fact) telling people that I'm here in LA for now. Or I'm here at this job for now. I seem to be focusing on "now" a lot, now that I think about it.

A couple of friends recently challenged me to be more aggressive with my career aspirations. For the record, I climbed off the corporate latter a long time ago with no intention of ever getting back on that blasted thing. Well, this place I've arrived doesn't really seem concerned with career aspirations. Instead, this place I've arrived is more concerned with the intangible: relationships, education, experiences. These aren't things usually scored on employee reviews.

While this place may be difficult to describe or locate, I know exactly how I got here. By way of a life-changing year abroad and a challenging year at home. One year gave me opportunities to work with magnificent people who thought and operated completely differently than any of my former colleagues. The other gave me opportunities to work with people I had literally known since my infancy. Both were challenging. Both gave me perspective. And from where I sit now, life seems especially fragile and resilient all at the same time.

This past week my sister completed a long and grueling program that will hopefully right her course. Next week she moves into a new home. In many ways she begins a new life next week: a new job, a new return address to write on letters, a new set of challenges. But I am praying fervently that she savors this moment. For such a time as this, she has arrived at this this season of new relationships and lessons to be learned.

For such a time as this, I am in Los Angeles working alongside incredible people in an incredible field of work. For such a time as this, I am living in a small apartment with a big kitchen and neighbors from far away cities. For such a time as this, I've arrived at this time of uncertainty full of routine.

And I am determined to make the most of it.

07 April 2009

My Favorite Part of a Workout

I know what you're thinking. First, "Why is this photo so blurry?" and then, "What's this validation business when you're talking about a workout?"

1. My gym is serious about their no mobile phone policy. I didn't think the gym peeps would be super appreciative if I whipped out my phone to take a photo. So this was taken on the sly.
2. This is LA. Of course you have to validate.

Yesterday at the gym I had a revelation of sorts. Well, kind of. I don't do much thinking outside the lines of "how much longer" and "get me outta here" while working up a sweat on a bike that goes nowhere. After I decided that having your iPod at the gym really does make that time more bearable, it dawned on me that the whole concept of a gym is kinda funny.

For example, this lady (looked like an executive type that might crush her assistant just by raising her brow ever-so-slightly) was running like crazy while watching a home and garden show on her own personal treadmill TV. When she finished her run, she limped off the treadmill, red-faced with a look of victory: "Look at how much I have just tortured myself. Running away from nothing while running towards nothing."

And my favorite are the people who choose machines right next to the mirrors. I was under the false impression that mirrors were installed along the walls of the gym in an effort to add the illusion of a couple hundred more square feet to the place. No. Mirrors are there so that people can watch themselves as they workout.

It's ridiculous and HILARIOUS all at the same time, this flexing of muscles and hair primping all to impress a reflection.

So I continued to sit on my bike that went nowhere while staring out the window at all of the passers by--people on their bikes going somewhere and walkers headed elsewhere.

And then I remembered this photo I saw in a restaurant in Hollywood this past weekend and it completely summed up how I feel about the g.y.m.