Thursday, January 15, 2015

Happy 2015.

I went to Baltimore for Christmas, spending an entire week there. This trip ended up being an "eventful" one, which I will get into later.

Update on my jewelry. I took a hiatus from making it because the thrill wore off a bit. Also because the pieces are labor intensive and take a lot of steps to make when working in such a small "canvas." Plus, I had my success in it. I may make some more pieces, but it will be only when I feel like it. I'm also looking for a simpler solution for the jewelry hardware instead of doing everything by hand. Mostly things like finding good quality chains that are already assembled. I did do a commissioned art piece though, which was really satisfying. The person liked my heart piece, so I made him his own to give to his wife for their anniversary. I asked him for songs that he and his wife liked, and incorporated the "look" of those songs into the textures, along with representations of what their voices looked like. If you don't know what I'm talking about, I explain all about my synesthesia here and show a pic of the original heart piece. The wife loved the piece. :)

On my way to Baltimore, a woman I know was on my flight. I'd first seen her in the gate area at Burbank Airport, but it was her adorable French bulldog that I recognized first! Two awesome brothers from Atlanta live in my building, both hilarious and smart, and it's them that we know in common. She's also from Georgia, and had known the brothers before coming to Los Angeles to pursue acting. I'd met her in the building, but just in fleeting conversations. I "reintroduced" myself at the gate, and as luck would have it, we sat across from each other on the aisle seats. We had a nice conversation from Burbank to Phoenix. It was nice to get to know her out of the building context and I loved having Leyla the dog next to me. I took a picture of her and the dog, and upon landing in Phoenix, sent the brothers the photo of our "sky high" executive meeting, and said we'd just bought their app, Sweetspot. They loved it and were beside themselves in their texts back.  Hannah, the woman has had some success with her acting. She's had movie roles and series appearances, and if you're a True Blood fan, you saw her as one of the faeries (daughters of Sheriff Bellefleur) on the show that met an unfortunate end when Jessica the vampire couldn't control her appetite. She now has a recurring role on The Fosters. You can see the rest of her credits here.

Now, about that eventful Baltimore trip. It started out just perfectly, with a Winter Solstice party at a neighbor's house. Lovely people, lovely house, excellent food and wine, and a fantastically hilarious moment when I was in the kitchen with a bunch of women, and one of the teenage boys, maybe thirteen or fourteen, was getting soup from a huge pot. We were discussing the c-word and one of them had just loudly said, "vagina." He turned around, eyes wide, clutching his soup to his chest, perfect "OMG" look on his face. We cracked up, and he, expression not changing, turned and walked away. It was priceless, and the first of two expressions I saw that made the whole trip worth traveling at Christmas, aside from seeing family of course! There were lots of laughs, talking, and the next door neighbor's smart, articulate, artistic pink-haired 14-year-old daughter, whom I've known since her mom was pregnant with her, led the ceremony. We dimmed the lights, stood in a circle around the table and she read a short, old poem about Winter Solstice, then lit a candle. She stated what she was thankful for, and then lit the candle of the person beside her, who then stated what they were thankful for. And so on. It was an extremely pleasant, cathartic experience.

As for the not so pleasant experience, my mom and I were in Towson doing some last minute Christmas errands. I had to get something framed for my stepdad at Michael's, and since they were also part of the complex, we stopped in Marshall's, then Target. We were halfway in the crosswalk outside Target when a minivan sped toward a bunch of us. I waved at him to pay attention, but instead of stopping, he sped up and clipped my shoulder with his mirror. I reacted by banging on his car, flat handed. Well, it was then he slammed on his brakes. Not to apologize, but to get in my face about touching his car. You can't make this shit up.

He barreled toward me, and was two and a half times my weight and a good head taller than me. He had on a velour track suit and a low tank top underneath the half zipped up jacket. His sparse, flat curly chest hairs were at my eye level. He yelled, "Don't fuckin' touch my car." If he expected a shrinking violet, he was mistaken. I didn't budge, and yelled at him for blowing through a crosswalk, hitting me with his car and almost killing people. Enter, the trashy girlfriend. Short, fat, a bad home bleach job and rough. She flings the door open, gets out of the passenger seat, rips off her jacket in dramatic fashion and prances around us like a fat peacock, itching for a fight. She shoves me, but I didn't have the give I think she was hoping for, nor the reaction. I gave her a disdainful look and went back to standing up to her behemoth of a moron boyfriend. The man says "I oughta fuck you up," and I said, "Yeah, right." He then balled his fists and paced back and forth. This was not going how he wanted it to. The girlfriend then tried, putting her finger on my forehead, which earned her another disdainful look, then I again ignored her. I wasn't aware of it at the time, but I'd unconsciously put my feet and hips in a position to deliver a hip-torque-fueled snap kick underneath her chin in case she tried to hit me. I was also summing up her strength, which she gave me a chance to do when she put her hands on me. Weird how training comes back, but that's the difference. It's training, and only for defense. I only realized that after the fact that I was doing that.

A man stepped in between us and pleaded with the guy, pleading with him that it was the holidays and to remember that. The behemoth starts in on him, "Who the fuck are YOU?" The girlfriend then tries her trump card and spits on me. Bad aim. Most of it hit my jacket and some got in my hair. But boy, her spit stank like she'd been licking the bottom of a garbage bin outside a fertilizer factory. I turned to her and looked at her like one would a puppy that just peed on the floor and said, "Really?" At that point, the crowd came out of their stupor and the two thought it best to get out of there. I felt a gentle hand on my back, and turned to see a very pretty young woman from Target who asked me if I was okay. The couple passed us in their car, and the girlfriend threw a plastic bottle at me, hitting both of us. I rolled my eyes.

Here's the weird thing. I was fine. During the whole exchange I was calm, not scared and not angry, just not going to back down to a bully. This same calmness has hit me before in potentially dangerous situations, once again in Baltimore when I was maced in the face by two would-be robbers. After the Target incident, I wasn't rattled either, because whatever their malfunction was, it had nothing to do with me. It was just my turn to deal with assholes that day. My main concern was being the barrier between them and my mom, who has had knee trouble lately, so running wasn't an option.

Also, I think I have an insight from working on "The Wire" and meeting real life killers and gangsters. Though I'm no expert, not even close, that day I could sense the difference between a killer thugs and just dumb thugs. Had they been gangsters or a pack of wild teens, my instincts would have kicked in another way and I would have led my mom back into Target. While we were still out there, some bystanders gave me the license plate and a guy from Target loss prevention came up to me and said gleefully, "I got the whole thing on video." He'd already called the police, and I thought that I better as well. I spoke to the dispatcher, describing them, giving them the license plate and what had happened. We waited in the Target Starbucks for about ten minutes until the police came up, two young officers, a very pretty female and cute male. There was a funny moment when an old man who was taking a rest with his wife was chatting me up in that way that old men do, asking how my holidays were going, and making small talk. I answered as if nothing had just happened and offered a friendly smile. When the poh-lice showed up, his face was priceless.

They took our report, asked me if I wanted to press charges and I said that yes, I did. If it was my turn to deal with assholes, it was also their turn to deal with me. The police told us that the license plate did come back to someone, and that they were going to talk to the Target loss prevention guy and see if the video showed anything, and if so, they'd get a copy from him and then get in touch with us. I thought that was the last that I'd hear of it and continued to enjoy my vacation.

Fast forward to Christmas Eve, when the female officer called my mom and told her that she had made contact with the couple, and that they had made her so angry that she came in early for her shift to work on the case. This brings us to lesson number one: Don't piss off the cop who is investigating you.

I would have loved to have been a fly on the wall when those two losers got that call. I can guarantee they aren't the types who want to be noticed by the legal system. Merry Christmas. During the phone call, the guy admitted to being at Target, but wouldn't elaborate. The officer was able to get the trashy girlfriend on the phone, and she was belligerent, giving the officer a false name (that's a crime). Like they had me, they underestimated the officer, not surprisingly, because these were not Mensa members. She told us she thought she knew who the female was and asked if we could come in and look at photos. You bet we could.

This brings me to the second expression I encountered that made it worth traveling at Christmas. It came from the female cop when I correctly identified the female from a stack of photos. Imagine a very satisfied cat after it just nabbed a particularly juicy mouse. I put my finger on the photo, and I looked up to see her beaming with a "gotcha" look on her face. I can't even begin to describe the epic awesomeness of her expression. She wanted her...badly. And at my identification, she had her. Which brings us to lesson number two: Don't fuck with writers or artists. Especially don't fuck with one who is both. We've got these great memories and are sticklers for detail.

The officer then showed me the scroll of charges she was bringing against both of them. She hadn't checked to see if they had prior records because I hadn't positively identified them yet. Oh, and about that video. Apparently it showed something. A lot. She told us that was shocked that no one was killed the way he plowed through the crosswalk, because there were people who were in front of my mom and me, and she has no idea how they weren't run down. When I told her that the guy sped up, she nodded. Lastly, this happened in Baltimore County and not Baltimore City. Those familiar with the area will know the difference and the significance of that. In short, they're fucked and going to be out thousands of dollars each, if not a little jail time/probation or community service. My guess is that this isn't their first run-in with the law, and the guy probably owes back child support and a few dodged parking or traffic tickets at least. These two are not model citizens or expert life pilots. I learned that girlfriend is 25, and that he was a lot older, maybe mid, late 30s, even early 40s. Why do I have a feeling that there's an ex-wife/girlfriend who is going to be thrilled at this news?

I made sure to tell the officer that even though I'm in California, I can make it to court if needed. One thing about me, I seek justice. People like this, who seek victims for the fun of it, and are reckless and dangerous don't learn or change, so what society has to do is limit them in the form of prosecution, fines and charges, and if the crime is serious enough, prison. It might not be permanent, but for the time those restrictions are in place, it limits their contact with society...people who just want to live their lives without being victimized. I'd told the female cop that I really appreciated her attention and work on a case that I said, "Wasn't the same as a triple homicide." "Not yet," she said. And she's right. Anyone who speeds up toward a crosswalk with people in it needs to be addressed and on the radar of the law. Left unchecked, it changes from "Not yet," to a tragedy.

Also, when I decide justice is needed, I see it through. Just ask my ex neighbors, once again, in Baltimore. I don't think it will come to that, as with the video, ID and witnesses, they probably won't risk a jury trial and will plead out. But if they roll the dice because I'm in California, they'll get snake eyes. Which brings me to lesson number three. Don't fuck with people who have flight attendants in the family and can jump on a plane at a moment's notice, courtesy of a buddy pass. 

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Not to be upstaged by Oliver, I turned around to see Ronan lying on the couch like this.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

I took this photo of Oliver copping a big grin and just had to share. Hopefully he'll inspire you to smile back. I just love this big lovable goof of fur so much.

Say cheese!

Tuesday, October 07, 2014

Half into week four on the new job and still love it. I look forward to getting into the office and doing my thing, and also learning about an industry that has always been a mystery to me. It's making me feel empowered and proactive in an area where I've always felt somewhat powerless and reactive. As a result, I've already taken a few steps to improve my woefully neglected, duck-and-hope-for-the-best financial hygiene. A great paycheck helps too, but it feels good to not feel as powerless to the other things.

And, it's been incredibly interesting to learn about how this whole other aspect of how the world works, one that deals with money, and planning for the future. It's amazing how much energy I've put into avoiding something that can affect me so much. One, I found out that my big picture is much better than I thought. Sometimes it's a good thing to look.

My cat Ronan has been a real turd to a new kitten in my building. In the apartment next door to me, the student that lives there brought in a new roommate who has a four month-old-kitten named Domino. A black and white adorable little thing, whom the girl lets roam in the courtyard. Our building is a square with a pool in the middle, and the apartment front doors, which many people leave open when they are home, face the pool. We have a very community like atmosphere and most of us know each other. While the building is no glamour spot, that is one of the really nice things about it. It's why I can let Ronan roam when I'm home and can keep an eye on him. I don't let him stray outside of the building, and I certainly don't let him out when I'm not home. Ronan considers himself the mayor of my building, and invites himself into the apartment of anyone who will have him. One of those anyones being my next door neighbor, a Russian film student whose mother, when she visited and stayed with him for a few months, just adored Ronan. He'd go in their apartment all the time and have free reign, and get all the love and petting that he wanted. Well, imagine what he thought when he saw another cat in HIS apartment. Let's just say, it didn't go well. I had to pull Ronan away from Domino after he pounced on her quite viciously. I quickly separated them and both were fine, but it was clear that I couldn't let him outside if she's out or their door is open. Sorry Ronan, but your turd behavior just made your world one apartment smaller.

A couple weeks ago, my neighbor's door was closed and lights were off, so I figured Domino was inside and let my boys out. I was sitting in the dark outside in the courtyard, and was scared shitless upon hearing something that sounded like the Tasmanian devil having an epileptic fit in an aluminum can recycling dumpster. Yeah. Seems like someone had been left outside and I didn't know it. After the black and white blip of fur ran past me and broke the sound barrier, there was Ronan, all puffed up and snarling, running after her. It was my first cat block using my new Macbook Air, but the machine held up nicely to the blunt force terror that hurled himself at it. Ronan backed up, looking like a porcupine on steroids, as I used said Macbook Air to usher him inside and shut the door. The turd. 

Later that night, a neighbor found poor Domino hiding in a bush outside the building and brought her inside. I was so happy that she made it home safely. I went inside the apartment where her roommate was home, and apologized to her on behalf of The Turd. I talked to the roommate, who is a sweet girl from China, about the dangers of leaving her cat outside when no one is home!! Fucking students!

Aside from traffic dangers, we have this girl running around the neighborhood. Yes, that is a bobcat, and while she's just doing what bobcats do, she's been responsible for killing at least two cats. This photo was taken today by a neighbor who has seen her in her yard at least five times. Keep in mind, that I live in Los Angeles. Right across from Warner Bros. But, we have wildlife here. And, the droughts have forced them to come where there is water and food. Plus, they were here first. At night, I can hear coyotes and have had many encounters with them as well as raccoons, skunks, deer, possums and wonderful owls. It's one of the things that I love about where I live. It's also something that people who aren't from this area can't even imagine being a danger to them or their pets.

We even have a mountain lion in Griffith Park. One National Geographic photographer took this wonderful photo of him, and he's been collared and tagged for tracking. You can read more about him and his solo journey that brought him to the park here.

And, you can see a video of this same lion strolling down a neighborhood street in the Hollywood Hills. Tell me you wouldn't have to shake the shit out of your shorts if you happened upon that during a nice nighttime walk.

Being in the city has its perils for the wildlife too, as this lion became sick after ingesting rat poison via his prey, who had ingested rats. However, wildlife officials were able to capture him and treat him for that as well as mange. Last reports are that he's back in the park and on a road back to full health.

And you thought the only cougars we had in LA were the ones filling up the plastic surgeon's waiting room.

Friday, September 19, 2014

September brings a lot of changes. One of those changes is that last Wednesday was my last day at Disney. Yes, you read that right. I'm leaving a company, job, coworkers and boss that I adore. Unlike my last stint with Disney, where I tried my darnedest to get hired full-time at the end of my 18-month contract, this time it's of my own doing after only seven months. When I took the job, I had no intention to leave before my 18-month contract ended. Like I'd mentioned in a previous post, I was over the moon about being back.

There are so many highlights from that job that it will be hard to include all of them, like hearing my words spoken by well-known actors during recording sessions for our apps. So cool to hear the guy who trained Harrison Ford to use a whip for Indiana Jones, reciting my words with verve, intent and character in the recording studio. Or, see Mandy Moore voice a great "yee-haw!" for our Sheriff Callie app, because we decided it needed to be there. And, for our Doc McStuffins app, to watch the wonderful Loretta Divine voice Hallie, again, with some lines that I'd written, and the hilarious Robbie Rist bring the lines that I'd written for Stuffy alive. It was my history of movies and television, and this time I wasn't just a passive viewer or window-dressing wordsmith in a marketing-driven environment, but a part of creating the product. And the perks of working for such a great company, like summer carnivals, Star Wars Day and Earth Day festivals right on campus cannot go unmentioned. Also, my coworkers were stunningly talented artists, designers, animators, sound designers, composers, producers. C'mon... it's Disney. Most important of all, a group of great people who had an awesome sense of humor.
Me and stormtroopers, Star Wars Day. May the Fourth be with you.

Thankfully, my boss at Disney was not only understanding, but excited for me. She'd told me from day one that if I found something full-time, to pursue it. Still, it was hard to tell her. She was an awesome boss and I learned a lot from her. Smart as hell, too. I also really liked the other two editors that were in our department. Great guys, one who was named after Superman. No, not Clark Kent, but his Krypton name. His father is a renowned comic book artist and he's got an incredible ear for storytelling. The other editor writes graphic novels and is also from Kansas. How cool is that?

My impending departure had me sad for the last week and a half, but I had the distraction of making sure people have the files they need, that my tasks are completed and that my exit leaves no unfinished seams for my coworkers to have to sew up. I was dreading the "last week," as I always do when it comes to hearing the hiss of the air brakes being released on the wheels of change and feeling that first forward movement. When going through change, I tend to hold my emotions close to the vest, and it can appear that I'm pulling away, when really I'm just taking everything and everyone in. And of course, processing my choice. I fear that I can appear cold or detached, when that is exactly the opposite of what is happening.

I made the decision to leave my coveted Disney job to take a full-time job at a promising "disruptor" start-up that strives to be the "Uber" of mortgage lending. A long-time friend had been gently, and after a month or so, not so gently recruiting me to join them. Upon her urging, I met with the founders and heads of departments, and was extremely impressed with their product and their outlook on why this industry is rife for disruption. The professional landscape has changed, with more people being self-employed, contractors, business owners and so on, which has changed what makes up a viable borrower. However, because of the banks self-imposed lending crisis, those professionals, who don't fit the government-backed banks' strict and outdated qualification parameters, are left out of the dream of being a homeowner. Oh, I am SO all over that.

The company appeals to my rebel side being a disruptor, my entrepreneurial side to be a part of building a business, and I count myself and my friends among those very people that they are targeting. It fills a cavernous hole left by the housing crisis, providing loans to high-quality borrowers who don't fit into the traditional income mold. And, has serious backing by the likes of Spark Capitol, who backed a few small start-ups that also had promise, including a couple you may have heard of called Twitter and Tumbler.

I'm about to finish my first week of the new job, and it's been great. I really enjoy the work, they have a great industrial space in Pasadena, a fun and positive startup vibe, and the people are smart and work well together. And, the feeling that we're onto something great charges the air. People are excited. Plus, I'm really enjoying working for someone who is not only a friend, but a professional whom I respect, and who always gets the best work out of me.

For lack of a better way to put it, this felt like a very empowered, adult decision. Not boring adult, but well, just adult. I'm a full-time employee, make a lot more money and I received equity in the company. I can't even begin to say how good that feels. I'm still catching up from my almost year of being out of regular full-time work a couple years ago after my first 18-month contract with Disney ended, and I'm impatient to get ahead again.

However, there's one very treacherous discovery I've made. The Pasadena Antique Mall is right next door. I'm doomed.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Like so many, I was shocked and saddened upon hearing the news that Robin Williams took his own life. It was almost as if with that knowledge, came a tarnish that washed over everything and made it less vibrant. I learned about it at work when a coworker came to my desk and asked me if I'd heard. First thing I did, like everyone else near a computer, was check to see if it was a hoax. It wasn't. Robin Williams had died alone by his own hand believing the lie that depression was telling him--that death was the only way out.

As news feeds or texts reached phones, iPads and computers, or coworkers reached each other's desks spreading the sad news, a hush gradually sank over the office like an encroaching fog bank. I work for a major entertainment company, one where Robin Williams had created iconic, beloved characters. Some of my coworkers were even lucky enough to have worked with him at a point in their careers. But, I knew the hush wasn't just because we were an entertainment company with thousands of tendrils that reached deep, far and wide into the entertainment industry. That hush that came over us was happening in other offices, coffee shops, homes, stores, schools and anywhere else where the news was becoming known. The reason, was that Robin Williams wasn't just entertainment. He was a part of us. He was our friend, psychologist, teacher, parent, schoolmate, and class clown who was always good for a laugh when we needed it. He was joy, surprise, understanding and for all of us who felt like we walk outside the fray, comfort in his fearless expression. It was as if he was able to reach inside all of us who felt we had things that made us "weird" and make it not just funny, but acceptable and likable. That is something that goes beyond talent.

What especially hit hard for me was how he died. That he had chosen it. That the weight of depression had finally become too heavy for him to lift and make funny. I couldn't help thinking, that if a genius like Robin Williams couldn't push past it, could anyone? What kind of world was this if Robin Williams didn't want to live in it anymore? I know intellectually that his reasons as well as illness go much deeper than that, but emotionally that's where it hit.

On my drive home from work, I was stopped at a long light and turned up the radio. I had it tuned to 106.7 where the song "Under the Bridge" by the Red Hot Chili Peppers was playing. Even though I'd heard it hundreds of times before, it was as if I was hearing it for the first time. I sat and wondered how many people were like me, sitting in their car at a red light, hands slackening on the steering wheel as their eyes relaxed into a haze, taking in every word of the lyrics and trying to comprehend their sadness.

"It's hard to believe
That there's nobody out there
It's hard to believe
That I'm all alone...

I don't ever want to feel
Like I did that day
Take me to the place I love
Take me all that way..."

When the song was over, the DJ came on and answered my question. Through a barely composed voice, she said, "Amazing how a song can feel so different depending on what's going on in the world, and even though I've heard it so many times, hearing it now feels so different with today's sad news."

So no, I wasn't alone in my reflection during Anthony Kiedis's lament. The light changed, we all drove forward to wherever we were going. When I got home, I avoided the television and radio as much as I could, and stuck to checking the web every now and then. Mostly Facebook, reading my friends reactions and reflections. This one was hitting everyone hard.

That night, I watched "Under the Dome," and at the end of the episode, a melancholy, beautiful song played over a montage that perfectly captured the pallor of the day, and what I was personally feeling. I opened the Shazam app and held up my phone, the icon pulsed as it listened and revealed that the song was Coldplay's "Midnight." I downloaded the song at once, and later that night when I was in bed, illuminated only by the light of my phone, I played it. I listened to the lyrics as I looked at the song's cover art displayed on my phone. Two loosely drawn angel wings, so poignant.

"In the darkness before the dawn
In the swirling of the storm
When I'm rolling with the punches, and hope is gone
Leave a light, a light on...

Millions of miles from home
In the swirling, swimming on
When I'm rolling with the thunder but bleed from thorns
Leave a light, a light on
Leave a light, a light on..." 

And, that is when my tears came for Robin Williams, and for the sadness that he couldn't keep at bay. For my understanding of that sadness, having had nasty bouts of depression myself. For the shocked rest of us when someone we know decides to take matters into their own hands rather than trust us enough to help them through their darkest hour. For the phone call that makes our knee caps go numb and weakness ricochet in our legs. For the hair-trigger emotional echoes that surface years later.

However, as I've reflected more on Robin Williams' suicide, I've decided to honor him by remembering the years that he did win the battle over his sadness and not let his suicide overshadow how much that man made us laugh. And oh my God, did he make us laugh.

 So Robin, by remembering you with laughter and not sadness, we leave a light on.

Monday, August 04, 2014

Happy birthday to me.

Oliver decided to celebrate my birthday by well, being Oliver. I came home to see him happily lying across my desk, as well as what I was working on.

I start this year with a choice being presented to me, one that I will be acting on this week. It's been hard, because as a friend told me, it is a "problem of plenty." Meaning, I'm making this choice not because I have to, but because I have to choose which is the better one for me in the long run. I can't be more specific than that. I can say, however, that I feel positive about year ahead. More so than I have in a long time.

I'm still making jewelry, but at a slow pace. I created a bunch of heart pieces. Upon posting this picture on my Heard and Seen Facebook page, I sold five immediately, before even putting them on Etsy. I can't say that didn't make me feel good. As you can see, I hadn't even put the hardware on them yet. The big blue one in the middle was my first attempt at shaping wood to make a pendant. And yes, it was one of the ones that sold. The rest of the pendants are scrabble tiles.

As far as putting the rest on Etsy, I'm trying to find the most efficient, yet eye-pleasing way to photograph them. I've been slow at that too. It's a laborious process, and I have a less than ideal work space to create everything, and even less so to photograph it.

I have a plan for that too, in that I'm going to be ridding myself of a lot of stuff in my apartment and making it more functional. I need a place to work when I want to create, and a little desk isn't conducive.

Even so, I'm not sure that I want jewelry to be my main creation on the page. The pieces I make are labor intensive, and while I love them, I want to work bigger. Speaking of that, I've been commissioned to do an art piece.

I went to my dad and stepmom's lake house over the Fourth of July. Had a wonderful time, and this time the weather was gorgeous. Gone was the biblical weather of last year, and in its place was a gorgeous week of sunshine and puffy clouds. My sister, brother-in-law and nephew were here this time as well, and all of us had a great time eating way too much, having wonderful wine, boating, eating fabulous bbq and playing games. On the night of the Fourth, we took the boat out, and among dozens of boats, floated on the lake to watch the country club fireworks. The reflections of colors dancing with the ripples on the lake, and echoes of booms pin-balling off the smokey mountains.

I went out with my 17-year-old nephew on "Big Mable," which is a floating two-seater designed for being pulled behind a boat and holding on for dear life. My brother-in-law was at the wheel of the boat, and once we were seated, went with throttle up. We both screamed and cracked up, and when it came to me, you can add cursed, invoked the name of the Lord and shouted incoherent updates about the direction in which my person was flying in opposition to Big Mable, as my brother-in-law zig-zagged us across the lake and crossed wakes, sending us airborne and bouncing over the water.  My nephew was more specific in his proclamations, shouting, "I've got a giant wedgie!" To which I shouted back, "So do I!" But, Big Mable failed to throw us, and even with wedgies firmly inserted, we tamed that ornery hoss.

Monday, July 28, 2014

Sunday night, sitting outside listening to crickets and the hum of air conditioners. My neighbor saw me holding my feet up to avoid any palmetto cockroaches and crickets, and brought a chair over to me to place my feet on. Total chivalry. Bad guys may get all the press, but gentlemen rule.

I'm outside because it almost feels tropical, and I just needed a respite before the week begins. I had a nice frozen Skinny Girl cosmo, made by yours truly, and wasn't quite ready to go to bed. Some feelings are just meant to be savored, and like the wonderful taste and feel of the cosmo, that's exactly what I'm doing. The night has a vacation vibe to it.

I'm finding myself faced with a hard decision, and that has jolted me from my routine. I'm 75% decided, okay, make that 80%. But, now it's just figuring out how to work everything out so it will have the least of repercussions on those who will be affected.

I still miss Atticus, but the hollow, sometimes unbearable sadness has gone and turned into fond memories. A week or so after he died, I woke one morning and felt him in his spot on my bed, on my right side, curled up just below my chest. The heat, weight, breathing and everything. I moved my hand to pet him, but was met with air. I'm not entirely convinced that he wasn't there with me. 

My birthday is in exactly one week. I aim to make a final decision before that day and whatever that ends up being, set things in motion.

It's time to give up the weekend to the week, and get to bed.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

It's taken me a long time to write this post, because one it was hard for me to write. And, because finishing it felt so permanent.

On May 9th, I said goodbye to my beloved Atticus.

Seventeen years ago, I walked into Pet Mania, a local independently owned pet store that also operated an animal rescue inside of it. During that visit, I saw a pair of four-month-old kittens up for adoption. They were entirely black except for white whispy tufts of hair that curled out of their ears like the character Grandpa on "The Addams Family." I'd never seen anything like it. Those tufts looked like they'd been styled with a curling iron.

I'd been considering a second cat since I felt that my female cat Scout, though she got plenty of spoiling, could use a companion. My life in Los Angeles had just started to take off, with a new set of friends and an awesome job. This meant many outings on the town, especially when I worked for an internet company (a new thing back then) with a pirate ship full of creative, connected, smart tech rebels.

For some reason, ignorance probably, I had decided that I didn't want a black, long-haired, or a male cat. Well, little did I know, the brother of the two kittens would be set on making me see the error of my ways.

At first, I was taken by the female. She was so sweet, with her stoic, yet inviting disposition. On my several trips to look at them, the brother would always nudge her out of the way to get my attention. I'd gently move him aside and pet his sister, but he insisted so I pet him too. They both were clearly friendly cats, and my goodness, those tufts! On a return visit, I saw the brother in there by himself. As soon as he saw me, he locked eyes on me and meowed loudly from across the room, as if he was saying, "Hey lady, I'm still here!"

Hollywood, 1998. Atticus. Unfortunately you can't see his tufts here.
Upon learning that his sister had been adopted, I put my prejudices aside and played with "this boy cat" a bit. Then, I figured it couldn't hurt to ask to hold him. Once in my arms, he molded himself to my body, completely limp as he purred to his heart's content. He even let me cradle him. But still, I resisted as I'd never had a boy cat before. During the couple of weeks, every  time I walked into the pet store he'd go up to the front of his cage and meow loudly. Well, it was on one of those return visits that I took home a black, long-haired, male cat, whom I'd eventually name Atticus. It was one of the best decisions I ever made in my life.

Scout, at first, would have begged to differ. She was my princess tortoise shell cat, whom I learned could give the best stink eye I'd ever seen. She'd glare at him, then look at me as if saying, "Why have you forsaken me?" However, with time, she adapted to the intruder. They made a good team, Scout and Atticus.

In my apartment in Baltimore. Atticus had no problem hanging loose.
I always felt each cat represented the two parts, or psyches of me. Scout-- independent, wise, fierce when she needed to be, adventurous, loyal, sweet, confident, yet cautious, represented my soul. Atticus-- fun, loving, silly, goofball, spontaneous, shameless, a show off, prone to letting fear win, yet not afraid to act-on-impulse, represented my heart.

A week after adopting him, I stopped by my step-brother Dan's apartment after taking him to get his first shots, and he let me know what he thought of that experience by going Gallagher on inside of his carrier with his own shit. I left the soiled carrier outside and took the soiled cat inside, who allowed me to hold him on his back with one hand as I ran warm water over him to wash him off. After I towel dried him, he zipped around Dan's apartment like black lightning, and eventually fell asleep sitting upright, wedged between two cushions on his couch.

"Look at this cat," I'd said to Dan, and we'd shake our heads in amusement. Then I'd say, "I think I did well in choosing him." But I knew what the truth was-- he'd chosen me. And, not only that, he'd  waited for me. I must add, major props to Dan for not freaking out over me bringing in a shit-covered cat into his pet-free apartment.

Atticus offering his services as a paper weight.
There aren't words for how much I loved this cat. This black, long-haired male cat that I'd resisted so much-- who refused to take no for an answer. Every day, he made me not just laugh, but crack up. He brought a light-hearted, Hakuna Matata spirit into my home and heart where it was greatly needed. Atticus loved being Atticus.

In Baltimore. He did this all by himself. Then, just sat there and inhaled 360-degree chicken-scented bliss.
He always found the most hilarious places to go or fit into. If it was new, it had to be explored. In my apartment in Baltimore, I'd erected a 12-foot ladder to reach the ceiling, and well, this happened:
Baltimore - Atticus did not possess a fear of heights.
And if I was doing something, he always let me know where he thought my attention should really be focused.
Nov., 2012. Along with shamelessly draping himself across my arms as I tried to write, he was kneading my tummy and purring loudly. I had to remove my other hand from underneath him to take this photo.
Wanting to be on my lap, Atticus gives me "The Look."
Atticus sails from the top of the hutch to my chair .

Along with Scout, we had many adventures, including driving across the country not one, but two times. One to move from Los Angeles to Baltimore, and then back. The second time, my dad joined us from Asheville and as with everything else, my dad had to be explored. He crawled on his lap, under the seat, between his feet and sniffed every inch of his suitcase. He was my little buddy. Always by my side with an honest to God smile on his face. And boy, could that boy jump.

More than one vet, upon seeing our interaction, commented on our special bond. Friends loved him. Later in life, he became more of a mama's boy, but he could be won over pretty easily, and on command would give a hello or goodbye meow to my guests. Yes, really. My current vet here in Burbank even said we were soul mates and called him, "One of the special ones."

And, he was.

When he was just about sixteen, he was diagnosed with the beginning stages of kidney failure, which is what gets most senior cats. I kept a good eye on him, monitoring his diet and watching his energy level. It was after a trip to Baltimore that his symptoms became alarming. While he was still unquestionably still Atticus, he'd become frighteningly lethargic. After being treated for a kidney infection and prescribed fluids, he bounced back, but it was a steady decline from there.

While I'm aware that I'm going through a mourning process, since he's been gone I look at the days differently and as I've described to friends when trying to put it into words, I feel like I've lost much of my joy and levity. My world feels less vibrant and laughing, even when done earnestly, feels forced.

When I come home, that Atticus meow doesn't greet me and my apartment feels empty. That little happy spirit, a constant smile and trot, that tail held high in the air with a curl at the end, the joy at discovering him in a new place, and his unequivocal love and friendship are no longer a part of my life. It's left me in a state of confusion on how to be. Or, in understanding what life is supposed to feel like now.

I wasn't prepared for the effect his passing would have on me and how deeply rooted that little cat was into who I was. I thought that knowing he was diagnosed with kidney failure, his gradual decline would make it easier for me to emotionally prepare. But, it didn't. You never know until you say goodbye and come home to that gaping absence. Especially after the first couple of days into your normal routine. Because, it's anything but normal. It's disrupted, broken and less than what it was.

For 17 years, he made my life so much fuller, more grounded and filled with love. I was Anne, with a hilarious cat named Atticus. Atticus, who waited for me to take him home.

And I'm so glad I did. Thank you Atticus, for giving me so much, and for being my heart.

Thursday, May 08, 2014

I'm starting to realize that I have a natural clock built in for blog posts. Again, almost to the month, I think, "I haven't posted in a while."

I've mentioned this before, that there are many reasons for my slow down. Blogging, and its place, risks have changed dramatically. Before, even though I said up front who I was and where I worked, I felt comfortable spouting to the world. This included my less attractive parts, because that was life and part of being real. However, now there's too much at risk. As a result, I've lost some of my motivation for it. I'm sorry for this, as I've heard many people say I'm the first blog they read, mainly because I was one of the first, and then when my blog was chosen as a "Blog of Note by Blogger back in 2003, my readership went to the stratosphere. Biz Stone, co-founder of Twitter, was quoting me on his own blog. Biz at the time, was a blog advocate at Google after they bought Blogger. I'm sure I have some of the details wrong, but he is the one who chose my blog for the Blog of Note honor.

After that, I was interviewed by newspapers, and my blog was featured on many articles about blogging where I wasn't interviewed. In July of 2008, I even got this email from Scotland: 

"Hi Anne
Years ago I was listening to the radio and they discussed the concept of "blogging" and yours was the website they talked about. So I typed that in and began to read your diary/blog..." 

The thought of my words floating over foreign lands, and radio hosts discussing my blog in Scotland was just so incredible. There is something so pure and real about that. I spoke, they picked it up and not just carried it on, but scattered it further. And, the person who wrote the email above happened to be standing in one of the places it landed. I didn't promote my blog, nor post links to it anywhere. It just found its way to those in the most organic way possible. And, there weren't blogging repercussions, just thoughts and words. To this day, I haven't been able to find out what radio station it was on. I'd contacted the person who emailed me, and he couldn't remember. Too bad, as I'd love to get my hands on a recording.

Around that same time, which was probably around mid 2003, I was also contacted by a DJ at a radio station in Colorado who asked my permission to read some of my posts on their radio show. It was just incredible. And yes, I envisioned passages from my blog snaking through the tall grass plains, over rivers and navigating the rocky mountains.

Now, I can't see that happening. Through the years, my readership has come down from the stratosphere and leveled out. And, the magic of being discovered by those who might resonate with something I wrote has been diminished by shameless promoters, keyword specialists and professional bloggers, many who can't write worth a shit. That raw audience has been fatigued by over stimulation, bad content and social media.

I count myself among them. 

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

As for the vague ending of my last post, I feel comfortable revealing now that I left my job in January. I'd been there just over a year and didn't do it lightly, considering the ramifications of doing so in a depressed job environment. Turns out that this time, taking the leap was the right thing to do. I started freelancing almost immediately and after just a month and a half have landed an 18-month contract job at a major entertainment company. It's a company that I've worked at before and loved. I'm over the moon about it, and after my first half-week there even more so. Great, funny, smart boss, with whom last night, invited me to go to a screening on the studio lot. She's just been fantastic at getting me acclimated at exactly the right pace. She really has it down to a science.

Ever since my contract ended the last time with this company, it's been my goal to get back. It came from out of the blue. I went on an interview last Tuesday and was told that afternoon that I'd gotten the job. I'm going through a creative agency, so I'll get health benefits after only four weeks. It's a ten minute drive from where I live and they have a Starbucks on campus. A Starbucks that has ducks that sometimes join you for coffee. It's a complete 180 from the dismal, filthy (literally filthy), devoid of culture and perk-free company that I left. And, this job is real writing, meaning actual storytelling. It's not copywriting, which due to the nature of e-commerce, has  unfortunately turned into mostly writing promotional copy about sales, events, free shipping and 50% Off. The job that I have now is pure creative writing, and it's humbling when I think that these incredible properties are going to be trusted in my hands. All week, I've had to pinch myself to convince myself that yes, it's real.

Before that, the quitting of my job and frenetic, stop-and-go pace of freelancing put a crimp on my headspace to create more jewelry and/or "mind the store." However, within the last week I've been getting back in the swing of it and my creative spark has been reignited. Gee, wonder what prompted that? Soon, I'll find my rhythm and update my Heard and Seen Pinterest and Instagram like I had before.

A month or so ago, after putting up my newest pieces, three sold within 48 hours. This piece, called "Water Lilies," sold within 12 hours or so of listing it on my Etsy shop. Can't say that didn't make me feel good.

I'm currently experimenting with new tools to cut the pieces and create the mosaics, which has opened up a whole new set of design possibilities. And, sped up my production time. jEventually, and a goal of 2014 is to sell my pieces at fairs, but in order to do so, I'm going to need to have a lot of pieces and a varied selection. When it comes to making your own art and products, it suddenly becomes fun to think of things like this. This is the latest piece I've been working on:

I have a "mask" around it, as it's before I've cut it to place it on the scrabble tile. For those of you who haven't seen my work, this is a 1x1 inch micro mosaic, comprised of textures that I hand painted on bristol board and cut, then created the design and glued them on a second piece of bristol board. I really like the complementary colors in this piece. You can learn more about how this all got started here.

Another bit of news is that I adopted a new cat. I've been looking for one for a while to be a buddy for Oliver. The reason, is Atticus, my other cat, is edging toward 18 years old. Around Thanksgiving, he had a really close call when he suddenly became lethargic. I've known that his kidneys have been in failure for a while, but he'd seemed to be wearing it okay with a special diet and regular check ups. I immediately took him to the vet, where he could barely hold his head up. He was diagnosed with a kidney infection, which the vet treated, as well as dehydration due to his kidneys. It was decided that he would need subcutaneous fluids for the rest of his days. This means, every night I stick a needle under his skin and give him 100 mg of fluids. I also let him know, that as long as he wants to fight, I've got his back. And, when he doesn't, I've got his back then too.

Once everything was treated, he perked right back up. However, since then I've watched him become somewhat frail. My reason for seeking a third cat was that Oliver, who is around 7 years old and a 19-pound Maine Coon, just didn't get that his attempts to play with Atticus were not going to be welcomed. Being Oliver, he began attacking Atticus because of course, his feelings were hurt and he took it personally. So, the search for his buddy began, and I found this guy, whom I adopted from the wonderful people at Pet Mania.
He's a three-year-old Himalayan, and I named him Ronan, which among other things, means "little seal" in Gaelic. He has a trill for a meow and is soft as velvet. He's a great cat, extremely loving and has been exactly the distraction that was needed. Sometimes, a little too much, as he goes after Oliver and I've had to give him a squirt of water from time to time. However, that will lessen, and Oliver, as big of a cowardly lion that he is, has started to give as good as he gets. Okay, not quite as good, but he's Oliver, after all. And, most of it is just rough housing. Ronan has become quite popular with my neighbors, who have asked when I'm going to be home so they can pet him. I let the three outside to wander in the courtyard when I get home from work. Even funnier, is that most of his fans are guys. A bunch of them love Oliver too, but the big lug is just too scared of them to let them close. In the meantime, Atticus is left in peace to do what he damn well pleases, and that's the way it should be. Here are the three on a beautiful day after work.

As you can see, Atticus is having none of it, letting Ronan know that you don't mess with an OG.

Friday, January 31, 2014

I started this post in mid December, when it had been one month since I'd opened my Etsy shop, and as of that writing had sold 11 pieces, one a commissioned piece.

I've since completed a second commissioned piece and just sold another one to a woman in Australia last week and another one today. This makes 16 pieces in total since starting. And, I'm about to put my second group on Etsy. I took a little break in January, as there were some personal things happening that I needed to attend to.  However, I was still able to create some pieces. Though it's only an iPhone pic, here's a preview of them:

I also created a Facebook page for my shop. You can go "Like" it here if you want to keep updated on not just the jewelry, but other topics surrounding the process, synesthesia and well, anything I feel like sharing! I'm also on Instagram. If you have Instagram, I'm @heardandseen. If not, go here. And, yep, I just started a Pinterest account too, so if you want to follow me, you can find me here.

This has been such a wonderfully humbling experience, and one that also makes me proud. Humbling, because that's the emotion that comes up when someone likes one of my pieces enough to invite it into their life and wear it, and proud, because this is something that came from me completely unaltered and natural. This didn't come from a business idea, or "hook." It's just art, in its purest form. And, it helps to have great friends who are incredible photographers to beautifully capture the pieces.

I photographed my newest pieces, so in case you notice an ahem, "slight" difference. That's why! However, Shannon set me up with great advice and definitely something to aspire toward.

I went to Baltimore to see my mom and Jack over Thanksgiving. It was great to get out of town and be with family over the the holiday. And, the weather was cooperative, easing a Los Angeles softened weather wimp like myself into a colder climate. However, I left snow, sleet and an ice storm in my wake. I think it hit a day or so after I got back here. And since then, it's barely let up. The East Coast is just getting hammered.

While there, I got an unexpected present. Jack gave me his 54-year-old USMC G1 Flight Bomber Jacket. It's in pristine condition, and it was issued to him while he was on the USS Helena as part of the Marine Detachment on the ship. The jacket has a gorgeous patch on the front left, and his last name along with USMC underneath. I made him give me all the information about when and why he was on the ship and the history, or if we're going on Antique Roadshow terms, the "provenance" of the jacket. I've already had ex Marine Corps and military people approach me about the jacket both in Baltimore and here in Los Angeles, and so far I've been able to answer their questions. It was an awesome gift and I wanted to make sure I could honor its history and Jack's part in it.

We went to a Bazaart Holiday Market at the American Visionary Art Museum, which was such perfect timing to serve as inspiration as I'd just taken my Etsy shop live. It was so great to see all those artists and crafters in their booths and to look at their creations. Many also have Etsy shops. I bought a few things, including some wonderful sugar hand scrub, lemon and peppermint scented. Oh. Lord. And, a catnip toy which Oliver and Atticus annihilated.
Photo: Kaitlin Newman, Baltimore Sun, Nov. 30, 2013. Beautiful jewelry by Allison and Maria Fomich of at the American Visionary Art Museum's Bazaart.
It was also a great way to boycott Black Friday by supporting independent business owners and artists over greedy corporate enterprises that forced their employees to work right after they set down their dessert forks after finishing pumpkin pie on Thanksgiving. That is, if they got to sit down for dinner at all.

Also, getting away helped me come to some decisions that I've since acted on. It's so important to change scenery when you want an accurate reflection of your life and a clear head of what you must do. It puts things in perspective as they aren't so immediate and pressing. And, there's something about flying in a plane and seeing the land underneath you, rivers, fields, houses, land formations, towns, cities and roads made so small. You get to zoom out and see the "actual size" of what may have appeared so large an obstacle, and that it really isn't measurable. So far, the very risky decision I made has worked out and the positive change in my emotional well being and outlook is immense.

Yeah, I know. Vague.

Friday, November 15, 2013

I bet some of you faithful readers have been wondering what I've been doing for the last few months. "Because it hasn't been blogging, that's for sure," is what you're probably saying. And, you're right. I've been  making things like this, available on my Etsy shop, Heard and Seen, and gorgeously captured here by photographer and friend Shannon Treglia. Yes, an Etsy shop, really!
Scrabble tile mosaic collage from Heard and Seen photographed by Shannon Treglia.
I hadn't planned to make the jump to having an Etsy shop. Sure, it had always been a fantasy of mine, admiring the wonderful creations on show from so many talented artists. Creating these necklaces stemmed from my collages, which I've talked about before. If you're curious, you can click on the links to see how I came about creating my first synethesia inspired works of art, starting with the first collage I created from sounds that I painted, which led to the cow skull piece, then to the piece I named "Echo," as it was not only made up of painted sound paintings, but illustrated what an echo looked like to someone like me, who has synesthesia. And finally, the last full-scale collage I did before working on a much much smaller scale.

I really wish I could remember where I learned about Scrabble tile jewelry, whether it was puttering around on the internet or somewhere else, but when I saw them, an idea clicked to put the two together. I've always wanted to make jewelry, having ideas for pieces and colors, but not being a metal smith, wood carver, gem cutter or even a beader, a Scrabble tile offered a setting on which I could place my art. First, I experimented with putting the textures next to each other so they would have impact on a small scale. From my collages, I had these wonderful colors and textures that I'd painted, and it all just came together.  I just love that it melds letters and art, since I've been known to write a bit.

Scrabble Tile Pendants
My first Scrabble tile pendants.
To create these, I first created mini collage mosaics on a piece of bristol board. I then glued the mini canvas to the tile and finished it with resin. The result of that experimentation was these first pieces. I'd never worked with resin before, but careful research on the medium paid off. I was already thinking ahead, using only 100% archival materials, including the sealer which protects the art from the resin. I bought the vintage tiles off eBay and learned the art of applying resin. It was wonderful to see the finished creation, and I was really pleased with how they turned out.

Creating these tiles became something I looked forward to every night after work. I'd come home, put on music and create. I'd leave my door open, hearing my wind chimes and pieces of conversation from neighbors or filtering into the courtyard from the street, and let that portal open up from heart, brain to hands, and then to paper. I moved to creating more intricate designs and before long, I had several pieces. And that was when I decided to open my Etsy Shop, Heard and Seen. Heard and Seen, because I hear and see sounds, which are the inspiration for these pieces.

...become this...

Such a wonderful process to make this...


Pay it a visit to see the rest of my pieces. I'm truly proud, and a bit humbled by this work, as it's the result of operating with barriers completely down. It's worth it just to see Shannon's beautiful photos. And yes, I'm the model in the pictures! I'll be posting more of my pieces up on the store soon, and also on my  Pinterest page. This is all so wonderfully new to me, so I'm just enjoying the drive. Notice that I said drive, and not ride.

Friday, September 06, 2013

It's 104 degrees outside. Hopefully, this is the last week of it, as it's unbearable.

Friday, July 19, 2013

How many times have I started a new post, only to leave it lingering in the "Drafts" section. For the past few months, I've just not felt motivated, or that I really had anything to say.

I'm coming off my boss's last day and a nice, relaxing dinner with a friend, where I took the long way on the walk home, senses heightened by one glass of a nice chardonnay and pinot grigio. I'm sad to lose my boss. She's awesome, was a great motivator and leader, and extremely talented. It's a void I've been feeling since she's announced her resignation. She's dropped full-time work to freelance, concentrate on her writing and because her job was incredibly stressful. She left me a kind note, one of the things which she said, thanking me for not being afraid to voice the truth to those in power, and that she slept better knowing I had her back. I did, and still do. She had my back when she hired me and inspired me to do great work. Not only that, she was hilarious and had an incredible people sense. I'm happy for her, but sad for me.

Over the week of the 4th of July I went to Atlanta, GA to visit my sister, her husband and my 16-year-old nephew. Then, we all drove to Lake Toxaway, NC where my dad and step mom have a lake house right on the water. It was so great to see family and be in the Southeast, where there were lush trees and grass, gigantic clouds, lightning and thunderstorms. I was relaxed, happy and laughing a lot. Los Angeles has a lot of things. In fact, anything that I want is here. That is, except family. I have no family here. It pulls on me, especially after seeing them.

My sister and I caught up on the rooftop of her awesome apartment building. Somehow, the managed to score a condo to rent in this building that also houses the likes of Charles Barkley and other pro athletes. They've seen Shaq in the elevator, celebrities and other Atlanta socialites. There are Bentleys and Astin Martins in the parking garage, as well as a host of other exotic cars. They sold their house and decided to rent, and upon finding this place, joke that they're the low rent neighbors. I'd forgotten how green Atlanta is. And the sky, clouds and lighting, as evidenced in this photograph, is just stunning. I'm growing increasingly tired of the boring weather we have in Los Angeles. Today we did have partly cloudy skies with a nice breeze. That was a change.

On the way to Lake Toxaway, we stopped in Walhalla, South Carolina to stock up on groceries, and while in the fruit section, I heard a man repeatedly announcing over the PA system to stay clear of aisle twenty-two. At least that's what I thought he said. When I asked a store employee who was standing at the end of aisle one what had happened, he told me that someone had sprayed mace in aisle one and two. We were standing at aisle one, and almost as soon as he said it I felt the burn in my throat and my eyes start to water. Because the person on the loudspeaker had a pronounced southern accent, I'd not understood him and walked right where I wasn't supposed to. I made my way to the checkout, coughing and picked up a bottled water, then guzzled it down to flush out my throat.  When we all reconvened in the car, I learned that my sister and nephew had gotten it too. This counts the second time I've been maced. However, the first time was full force and on my birthday.

Later, we saved a turtle who was precariously crossing the road on the way there. We turned around, Joan's husband jumped out of the car and picked him up. We relocated him to the lake house yard. He took to it immediately, as it is a vast, moist green yard surrounded by woods, plants and right by a lake. We put him in the ivy and an hour later, I checked on him and he was gone. Happy life, little one.

It rained practically the entire time we were there, but I welcomed it. It was glorious to fall asleep to, along with flashes of lightning lighting up the room followed by booms of thunder. Even though that meant the fireworks were rained out on July 4th, we were treated to nature's spectacle in its place. The lake house has a huge 2nd story patio that is screened in, so we cooked hotdogs, burgers and ate outside as the weather raged. I played lots of games with family, ate, drank, laughed and let my mind relax into another plane. One where I just let things be, was constantly surrounded by people and let go of my autonomous ways. It was a wonderful, welcome change. On July 5th, we had drinks at the Greystone Inn, then walked over to the Lake Toxaway Country Club where we had a spectacular buffet with a fabulous desert table. We all ate to our heart's content and it was fun seeing my dad and stepmom talk to all their Toxaway friends.

There were reprieves from the rain, and we took those breaks to visit the falls, which were roaring
because of all the rains. Here, I'm standing in front of them up on a hill. They go way down and feed the lake, which was at really high tide. So much, that motor boats weren't allowed for fear that their wakes would damage the shore and docks. There were a lot of people in canoes, kayaks, paddle boats and stand-up paddle boats. One woman had her huge dog along for the ride. He was sitting there on the paddle boat, happy as a clam while she stood and paddled them around the lake. It was adorable and hilarious.

We visited a real life country mart where we picked up some groceries, and of course, RC cola and moon pies. It was the first moon pie I ever had, and was a treat.

Sadly, my stepmother's mother died the day after we left. She was 95 and had been failing for quite some time. When we got back to Atlanta, my dad called us and told us the news. She'd lived a long, good life and went in comfort. Her daughter really took care of her and her sister, first buying them a home to live together in Florida, then when it was time, moving them both to Asheville, NC where they lived out the rest of their days in a very nice assisted living facility near her and my dad. The sisters lived together for 50 years. Amazing. Two tough, yet so sweet Italian women. They died within weeks of each other. Two more of the Greatest Generation, and their living history, gone.

I'll post more pictures of my trip. Finally, I'm hitting send.

Sunday, February 24, 2013

I learned a couple of days ago that my accountant for over 15 years passed away after complications from a fall. This is not someone who was elderly and fragile, so it must have been a bad one. His firm had been updating us (his clients) on his condition and for a bit it seemed like he had stabilized.

There are people in this world who are true originals, and he was one. He lived life the way he wanted to, and through doing that, inspired and helped thousands. He was an avid biker (I believe that he and his son rode their motorcycles through Europe) and a rebel with a good heart, super sharp brain and most certainly a cause. Not only that, he "got" life and wasn't afraid to lay it on the line and say exactly what was on his mind. He helped me out immensely through the years. A former IRS employee who specialized in entertainment professionals and freelancers, he hated corporate and government bullies and used his insider knowledge to put the money back into the pockets of those who earned it and could use it the most. I feel incredibly lucky to have known him, and to witness well...him just being him and thriving because of it.

RIP Mick Schneider. You mattered and made a difference. Your reach is far, and you touched thousands. You lived by example, so now that your work is done here, ride that wide open highway in the sky...helmet off.

Monday, February 18, 2013

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Ground Control to Captain Dave...

A lot of you have emailed me about the disappearance of Capt. Dave's blog, Flight Level 390. Capt. Dave was one of my first readers, and through that I was lucky enough to discover his blog. I contacted him and while I won't say what the conversation entailed, I will assure you that it was a personal decision and it appears he just needed a break. There were no company directives, he didn't get in trouble for blogging, there are no health issues, and to the conspiracy theorists who think that Capt. Dave wasn't even real or a pilot, I can assure you that he is. And, while I miss reading his wonderful posts, I respect that he's just a man who needed to take some time off from blogging.

I do hope that he decides to blog again, as his blog helped me greatly in my fears about flying. I developed a fear of flying around my late teens, and while I still flew, the fear would be a factor in my travels, like a looming menace that would step out from the shadows the moment that I forgot about it. It seemed to say, "You still have the return flight, where I can still get you."

When I started reading his blog, it put a human in the cockpit who was making educated, practiced and safe decisions, and knew that aircraft inside and out. And, that just like us, he wants to get home alive. Because of his first-hand personal perspective of being the captain who shoulders the job and his extremely well-written, and damn interesting chronicling of the decisions he and his co-pilot make to get all the "souls on board" there safely, the feeling of  being at the mercy of only a huge, impersonal, loud and scary machine pretty much ceased for me. I know of others who his blog helped greatly, so Capt. Dave, once you feel like it, you are most welcome here.

Speaking of those who fly for a living, my sister had a layover last weekend, so we spent some time downtown, as she stays at the Westin Bonaventure. Now that downtown, especially near that area, has some restaurants to go to and a movie theater, we have choices when she has short layovers like this one. We ate at The Yard House, which is in LA.

So far, the new job is going really well. My coworkers are funny and smart, and my boss is awesome as is the VP, who is an approachable, smart as hell, funny and will fight for what is the best for her team. I've even found a nice respite that I take during lunch. I park my car in a place that gives me front row center to the landing planes at the Van Nuys Airport, and sit in the passenger seat of my car to write for a bit. I don't like going out for lunch, as there aren't really any places to eat that aren't fast food chains, tons of calories, gross or where I have to look at the blight of Van Nuys. The only thing that Van Nuys has going for it as far as I'm concerned, is that I drive against traffic to get to and from work, which makes for an easy, fast commute.

But still, I have to look at Van Nuys both ways. 

Saturday, January 12, 2013

"Don't go to the bathroom there."

Those were my first words spoken to another human being in 2013. Hopefully, that's not an indicator of how this year is going to go.

That conversation started on New Years Day, around 11:30 AM when I was walking to my car in the alley behind my apartment building. I noticed a tall, large man ambling toward me, and something was just off about him. He wasn't dirty, just off, looking around surreptitiously, walking with a dopey swagger and very aware that I had seen him and noticed. I got into my car, locked the doors and sat for a few seconds. As I was putting on my seat belt, he passed by my spot, looking right at me. I met his eyes, and he gave me a quick smile as if to try to communicate that all was fine and convince me that he fit in this neighborhood. However, I saw through it. Vacant, glassy eyes, trying too hard to look lackadaisical and nonchalant, like he took this walk every day. I'd never seen him before, and I'd have remembered him if he'd been around. He was at least 6'3, large-boned and overweight with blonde spiky hair. A big, dumpy dump truck of a guy.

I decided to wait a few more seconds, then started my car and eased out, watching him walk down the alley, looking at every carport and trash bin. Walking into some, then out. He stopped by a smaller bin and looked left and right. And that's when he started to drop his pants and squat, exposing his big fat white ass to yours truly. Happy fucking New Year.

When I realized what he was about to do, I thought, "Oh hell to the mother fucking no you don't."

I pulled out further and revved my engine, startling him. He jerked his head toward me, stood up and yanked up his pants. He ambled down the alley as if nothing had happened, and I watched him, my car blocking the alley. Another car turned down toward me, so I drove out, turned onto my street, then onto the street that runs parallel to the alley and gunned it to the next cross street. I squealed around the corner, then slowed down to take the turn into the alley. About 20 feet in, guess who wandered out from a carport, looking sheepish. I stopped, pushed the button to lower my window, and that's when those first words of 2013 were spoken.

"Don't go to the bathroom there."

Him: (speaking like a surfer dude) Oh, I'd never do that.
Me: You're walking around here, in and out of carports and I saw you pull your pants down and squat by that trash bin.
Him: Oh, no, that's because my pants have a rip in them and I can't keep them up.
Me: (Knew it was bullshit, didn't care to argue it.) Why are you walking in and out of carports?
Him: Oh, that's because of the rip in my pants, I don't want to walk on the main road.
Me: (Knew it was bullshit, didn't care to argue it.) A year ago, someone took a crap by my car. It was disgusting.
Him: Oh that's not cool at all.
Me: (Firm) No, it wasn't. So don't do it.
Him: (Hands up, palms forward in a defensive posture) I'm not I promise. (As I drove off) You have a Happy New Year.

I drove down the alley, made the same turns and saw him standing on the corner of the main road  and a side street, looking like a giant child who had just been scolded. I pulled over into a dry cleaner's parking lot, and dialed the Burbank Police's non-emergency number. I gave the dispatcher a perfect description of him, where he was heading, and what I'd caught him trying to do. I said that perhaps the cops would just like to have a chat with him to scare him off.

I haven't seen him since.