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, 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.

Saturday, December 29, 2012

There has been so much sad news this week that I'm going to write a post with good news. Mainly, because the horrific event in Newton has left me at a loss for words. And, a Wire colleague passed away last week. Sometimes things can just be too much, and in my case I'm one to have to let the shock wear off before I can absorb it. I will say that every time I see a memorial that includes a smiling, stuffed animal with open arms, as if waiting to comfort a child with its softness, it just tears me up.

Deep breath... Now, onto the good news.

I got a full-time job just before the world was supposed to end on December 21st. I started a week before that, so were the apocalypse to come I would have gone out employed, man.

When I applied, because of all the abject crap that exists out there, I had reservations. But, as experience has told me, you never know until you interview. So, when I met the two smart, funny, artsy, genuine and interesting women that I interviewed with, I was sold. And apparently, they were too. I've been doing this long enough to where you know when you meet people who "get it." This comes after a long and frustrating search for a job that felt right, would offer me a challenge, keep me busy, provide me benefits and very important, have interesting coworkers that make me laugh at least once a day.  In turn, I'd offer them my unique background, great work ethic, broad experience and skills. And hopefully, make them laugh at least once a day. So, one can imagine how thrilled I was when I learned one of the other women in my department was a real life ghost hunter. She even played me two EVPs that her boyfriend, an Oscar-winning SFX make-up artist and fellow ghost hunter, had recorded on one of his hunts. Chilling, really. And so fascinating.

My boss, on Tuesday morning, said to me, "You'll have to pardon me, I have mosh pit hair from last night." Loved it. Loved even more that she and her husband had gone to the show. And no, my department isn't made up of 20-something hipster web jockeys. They are a lot like me in the sense that this isn't their first rodeo, they take their work and what they contribute to it seriously, and somehow in this life that constantly tries to make you stray course towards conforming, they stayed true to who they are creatively and personally. And my God, are hilarious.

The company is an edgy toy company, established in the 70s and as stable as any company can get in this economy. I know that nothing is guaranteed, but it's nice to be employed again. Freelancing from home sucks. Yeah, I know. So many of you who have been at desk jobs your whole life are saying back to your monitors that you'd love to work from home. I totally understand. I did too...once. But really, after a while it's lonely, fleeting, unsatisfying and depressing. Especially after coming from a vibrant work setting like Disney. Save for a couple, my freelance projects were unsatisfying, and while I was able to explore other outlets for my creativity, I'm a person who needs a schedule. The fits and starts of freelancing just don't work for me. However, oddly enough, freelancing when I'm employed full time works very well for me. Someone once told me, "You want something done, ask a busy person." In my case it's very true. However, despite what I just said, I'm grateful that I was able to use the free time to explore and hone my artistic endeavors.

On Friday the 21st, we had our Holiday party which was in an old LA Times building. The place wasn't heated, so while we all had fun, it was certainly chilly. I'd been warned beforehand, so I brought my coat to the building, which while owned by the company, is different from the one where I work. The party took place during business hours, so at least we didn't have to endure it during night. However, I think my ass just finally thawed out from sitting on a toilet in the bathroom. And that's with two of those paper ass gaskets in between me and the seat. It was a neat building though, huge and industrial. 20th Century Fox is going to shoot some big movie there during the first week of January. I can see why. Look at it. I shot this through a gate on my way to the party. And this is just a part of it. If you click on the image to enlarge it, you can see the indents in the cement where the huge printing presses used to be.

It's now the 28th, and I finished my second week there. It was only a three-day week, due to Christmas, but I'm starting to get the hang of it and like the first week, things went really well. Thankfully, I've adjusted to waking up in the mornings much easier than I expected, and am able to get to work on time even with a stop at Starbucks on the way. The commute is an easy one. It's against traffic and only 20 minutes each way.

A guy I know who is a producer for "The Haunting Hour" on The Hub, told me about The Caroling Truck that comes through the neighborhood on Christmas Eve. I hadn't seen it before, so I decided to meet him and his family there to check it out. His house is right on its path, so he told me where they would be. I'll tell you, I don't know what I was expecting, but it surely wasn't this awesome spectacle:

I shot this video with my Elph digital point and shoot, and I think it did a great job! If you want to see a larger video of it, I posted it here on Flickr. I also rubbed shoulders with Kristen Dunst, who was in the crowd of spectators. It was just the perfect thing for Christmas Eve, and fun to watch the neighborhood go from a relatively silent night, to totally batshit Christmas.

As for the actual day, I had a mellow Christmas, and will probably do the same for New Year's Eve. It's just been that kind of a year, and I think a quiet tying up of it seems just about right.

Monday, November 26, 2012

I have a lot to be thankful for, including finally getting to cross seeing Peter Gabriel live in concert off my bucket list. If that wasn't good enough, he performed at the Hollywood Bowl, which means it made my epic bucket list. What was great, is that the guy next to us, who was a site manager of a remote work site way up in Canada, had flown 20 hours total to see the concert because why? Seeing Peter Gabriel in concert was on his bucket list, as well as seeing a concert at the Hollywood Bowl. I told him he beat me by one, since I'd been to the Hollywood Bowl many times. The show was sold out, and I shot this shaky video of Shannon and me during "Sledgehammer." The Canadian can be seen at the end, singing along. This video just cracks me up.

I'd bought the tickets months before when I heard he was going to be here and that the concert was a celebration of the 25th anniversary of the album "So," which brought me, and just about everyone else in the audience back to a poignant time in our lives. In my case, it was college, having just arrived in New York. So many memories associated with that album, ranging from being driven down Park Avenue at breakneck speed in a Maserati by a crazy Colombian playboy as "Red Rain" blared from the Alpine speakers, to my more quiet, reflective or artistic moments. Every song on that album brings back a memory, emotion, lesson learned, realization or new experience.

Gabriel started the concert with an acoustic, eclectic mix of his as he put it, new but unfinished songs, then plugged in the electricity for his older songs, which included many of my favorites of his, "Solsbury Hill," "Shock the Monkey,"and songs from his album "Ovo." Mesmerizing and wonderful.

Solsbury Hill is so poignant to those who have taken the road less traveled, or who have suddenly realized that their lives, while comfortable, are anything but satisfactory. And, who decided not to silence, but heed that inner voice telling them to take that leap. In Peter Gabriel's case, it was when he decided to break with Genesis.

I was feeling part of the scenery
I walked right out of the machinery
My heart going boom boom boom
"Hey" he said "Grab your things
I've come to take you home."

-- Peter Gabriel, Solsbury Hill

When he played Solsbury Hill, the whole audience stood, our hearts going boom boom boom as we danced, remembering the moments when we decided to walk out of the machinery. A soul moving, profound musical experience.

Just before "In Your Eyes," which we all knew was coming because he was playing "So" in the same order as the album, John Cusack walked on stage, holding a boombox, paying homage to the iconic scene in "Say Anything." Total. Epic. Moment. You can see that below in a video shot at the concert. Of course, magnify the awesomeness of the moment and the sound quality by a thousand if you want to imagine what it was like to be there. The sound was encompassing, rich and far reaching. John Cusack was absolutely adorable, I almost cut the circulation off in poor Shannon's arm and deafened his left ear when I saw what was going on. There were big screens at the show, and during the song they cut to John Cusack dancing it up in the audience.

The energy of the whole show was inclusive, celebratory, and I'll say it, a little sacred to those of us who have so many memories tied to "So." I was inspired to see that all of us with our different treks and stories, seemed to be participating in a pilgrimage to our pasts, paying homage to someone that helped us along the way. And, I was so glad that I got to experience it with my best friend.

Excellent birds...

I had a great Thanksgiving, going to an orphan's dinner that a friend and her husband hosted. They live close by, so it was an extra bonus not to have to get on the freeways. It was a great time with about ten people there, including a darling, sweet three-year-old girl who was just an absolute joy. Fun, not shy, not demanding, just a part of everything and a tickle away from lighting up the room with her laugh. Shannon was great with her, giving her horsie rides and allowing himself to become a human jungle gym. She also was a huge fan on my meringue surprises, so much that she came over to me and said, "Thank you for making the cookies," and soon after snuck four of them in a row. It was hilarious.

Shannon baked a scrumptious pecan, chocolate chip pumpkin pie as well as a fantastic "Smokehouse" garlic bread. The host made an absolutely mouth-watering turkey, having brined it for two days. It was so tender and moist. Just delectable.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

"God, I forgot how big he is."

That was the first thing my dad said upon seeing Oliver, my Maine Coon cat, when we stopped by my apartment for a bathroom break after being stuck in traffic in Hollywood. Someone had called in a bomb threat at Hollywood and Highland, and the police had a huge section of Hollywood Blvd. blocked off. It snarled up traffic so badly that I peeled off and took to the alleys to get us out of there. Once I made my move, three other cars followed me, and we snaked in and out of alleyways, working our way up parallel to the parking lot that all the surface streets had become. I was glad to have my little Volvo C30 T5R, which did marvelously in the tight turns. God, I love that car. I felt like we were in a scene from Ronin, with a Mercedes behind me and two follow cars that were counting on me to lead us out of Hollywood.

My dad came to visit in September, and Los Angeles was kind enough to provide him with 100-degree heat. However, he stays at the Hotel Amarano, a boutique hotel up the street, as my one-bedroom apartment is just too small for most visitors. The Amarano, which opened about four years ago, has been great for his visits to Los Angeles. They really offer impeccable service and filled a huge void for a luxury hotel near the studios. And, I'll add that they make a fantastic cosmo.

The day before our harrowing escape from Hollywood, we went to see the Edgar Payne exhibit at the Pasadena Museum of California Art. Edgar Payne painted mostly plein air, which considering he painted in the early 20th century and the large scale of his paintings, some several feet high and wide, is a pretty darn incredible feat. Think of all the supplies, paints, oils, mineral spirits, brushes, palettes, canvases and easels that he and his band of couriers had to carry to remote locations in the Sierras and Navajo territories. He even made it to Europe to paint the Matterhorn and merchant ships in France and Italy. The work was absolutely spectacular, with robust colors mixed with subtle hues and rich textures. And his impressionist style meant that whenever you moved a few feet, you saw a different painting. The museum did an awesome job with the exhibit, really showcasing the work in a way that it could be appreciated.  My dad is an avid oil painter, with a love for painting landscapes. He heard that the exhibit would be showing in Los Angeles and timed his visit to see it.

That evening, we had dinner with Shannon at Off Vine, my first visit back since the place had been rebuilt after a fire had gutted it.They really did a stellar job recreating the original charm of the restaurant, which is inside a craftsman house. They also updated things like the restroom and upper floor for more room and convenience. And of course, dinner was delicious. It was a beautiful night and we ate outside on the patio. Though you're in Hollywood, it doesn't feel like it.

The day that had us coming home ala Ronin, we had just had brunch at the Hotel Bel Air, which was nothing short of fabulous. Stellar service, luscious grounds, delicious food and just plain wonderful. I wore a summer dress and pearls and my dad offered to make and wear a button that said, "Yes, she really is my daughter." That cracked me up. We sat under a canopy in an outdoor dining area and ate the several course meal to our heart's content. The last time my dad was here, he took me to brunch at San Ysidiro Ranch. I won't lie...I'm liking this trend a lot.

Monday, October 29, 2012

For those of you on the East Coast and Mid-Atlantic Coast, stay safe. I'm thinking of you all as Sandy bears down. I have many family members right in the path of it, and while I think they'll be okay, this one scares me.

This official warning from the National Weather Service in PA, pretty much says it all:



Pretty intense.

Godspeed to everyone in the region... And hold onto your butts.

Friday, October 05, 2012

I took Atticus to the vet a week and a half ago, his first trip to the vet here in Burbank. Since he's 15, I wanted to get blood and urine tests just to be on top of it when it comes to his health. When I walked into the lobby, there was a guy in there who looked to be in his early twenties, with tattooed arms and legs, bright blue eyes and an easy smile. I reached for the paperwork and only succeeded in dropping it on the floor. He picked it up for me, and I thanked him for the favor.

As I filled out the paperwork, Atticus sitting beside me on the bench and leaning against my hip, I heard the receptionist explaining treatment costs to the guy. From what I could tell, his dog had either gotten out of the yard or house, and when he found her a couple days later, she was injured and bleeding. He wasn't sure what had happened to her, whether she had been hit by a car or attacked by another animal, but she had lost a lot of blood and was in the emergency room being treated.

Atticus and I were taken into an exam room, and while we waited, I brushed him, having brought his kitty brush with me to comfort him.  After he got his tests and was returned to me, I chatted with the vet, then walked back out into the reception area to pay. On my way, I looked through the large square window in the door to the emergency treatment room, and saw a beautiful butterscotch colored pitbull, lying on the examination table with IVs and a couple of vets hovering over her. She was still awake, and lifted her head. Before, I'd asked the receptionist about the dog, and she told me it was a young one, less than a year old.

When I approached the reception desk, the same guy was walking back into the reception area from outside. When the vet assistant asked him a question, his face crumbled, and he put his head on the counter and sobbed. With no hesitation, I walked over to him, put my hand on his back and offered comfort. "I know, it's hard," I said, "I'm so sorry." He sobbed and sobbed, and as I held Atticus in one hand, I kept my other on his back, and kept telling this man, a heap of sadness, how sorry I was, and how hard it was, what he was going through. His sadness and clear feelings of helplessness just broke my heart. I wasn't going to tell him that it would be okay, because I didn't know if it would. So, I stood there until he was able to stand back up and collect himself. During this, the vet walked out, and I turned to her and put my hand on my heart. "I hate this part of my job," she said, looking crestfallen. "I can't even imagine," I said to her. And I knew she did, as she was the vet who was so caring with Scout.

A few days later, I came back to buy the prescription food for Atticus, and saw that the same young woman was behind the reception desk. I asked her about the pitbull and learned that sadly, she didn't make it. My heart sank, and I told her that I'd been thinking of that man and his pitbull for days. She said that it had really affected her too. How could it not?

I can only hope that he isn't blaming himself. It could have happened to anyone, and he clearly loved his dog. My heart broke thinking of him going home and seeing her dish, leash and food that wouldn't be eaten, or that first night when she isn't there to snuggle with him, then the first day he comes home and she doesn't greet him at the door. Just so sad.

It was weeks before I could do away with Scout's IV bag and needles. I had them in my car for when I was ready, carried in a brown paper bag with handles. I felt in a way, that it was my last connection to her. She had been treated by these instruments, and though they weren't successful for her, they represented hope. Hope that I would have her for longer, that she'd be able to live a comfortable life and feel better. Hope for more nights that she'd curl up beside me in bed. It took a while for me to let go of that hope, even though I knew she was gone. It's funny how our mind helps us cope.

Now, I'm just thankful that I got to have her in my life for as long as I did. And her gift to me was what comfort, if any, that I could offer to someone else during their time of profound sadness. 

Friday, September 21, 2012

Endeavour on a 747 flying over Los Angeles
Endeavour on a 747 flying over Los Angeles
This definitely falls under the "You don't see that every day," category.

A thrilling sight over Los Angeles, Endeavour piggybacked on a 747, escorted by two fighter jets. I made it up to Mulholland Drive to watch history. The Space Shuttle Endeavour, which has circled the earth 46,000 times, making its last flight over Los Angeles. Mulholland was packed with cars that pulled over, all of us excited to see the Shuttle. It passed directly over us, flying at only 1500 feet, and we all erupted in cheers. We were against a mountain, so it appeared out of nowhere, and I looked right at the belly of the giant 747 and two fighter jets roaring overhead. The sound was epic, bouncing off the canyons and freeways. It then did a majestic bank and flew over the Hollywood sign, and back over Universal Studios, which in my pictures is located just under the Shuttle. It's absolutely huge, even though it's hard to see that in my pictures. It also flew right over my apartment, where according to my neighbors, a huge crowd had gathered outside Warner Bros, . When it passed over us, 18-wheeler trucks that were driving on the 101 Freeway, (out of picture, below to the right) honked their horns in appreciation. It was just incredible.

I love events like this that bring a city, even one as sprawled out as Los Angeles, together. I wasn't the only one screaming and jumping up and down like a little kid when the shuttle passed over. Everyone, from every background was braving the heat and lined up to see this thrilling sight. There was even a 91-year-old man with his son who came out to see the flyby. On every mountain, overlook, trail, there were people waiting to see it. I can't imagine the rush that must have been for the pilots, flying over a city to cheering crowds. The closest thing to being Superman for a day.

And for us on the ground, the closest thing to having Superman for a day.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Here by the kindness of a stranger.
A couple of weeks ago, I was in my yoga class, when I suddenly started feeling nauseous. For the record, nausea of any kind is my kryptonite, and it's a key trigger for a panic attack. The class had only been going on ten minutes, and before that, I'd felt fine, so the sudden onset of nausea unnerved me. I tried to downplay it, and the rising anxiety attack, but it soon became clear that I was going to have to leave. As discreetly as I could, I rolled up my mat, packed up my things and indicated to the teacher, who was looking at me curiously, that I wasn't feeling well. Part of the reason that nausea triggers panic attacks for me is the public component of getting sick, or having to "cause a scene" and get out of wherever I am. I've since learned to give myself permission to leave anywhere at anytime, and that has lessened that "trapped" feeling a lot, but then there is the factor of not knowing what's wrong with me, and if it's going to get worse.

I came out of class, and sat on the bench for a few seconds. Things didn't improve, so left and got my car out of parking. I told myself that every obstacle that could possibly get in my way to slow my journey home was absolutely going to happen, so to be ready to cope when it did. It's a steadfast rule of the universe, that whenever one has a desperate need to get home quickly, fate will throw every obstacle possible in your way. And this time was no different. Every red light, slow driver, and the slowest walking homeless man ever recorded in history, shuffling his way across the street as I was trying to turn left.

I'd made it through Hollywood, and was just cresting the hill on Barham when I knew I had to pull over. I drove into an empty parking lot of a real estate company, got out of my car and after a few dry heaves, things settled down. I sat on the cement parking marker for a few minutes, then when I felt confident that I could last the five minutes it would take to get home, I got back in my car and made it without incident. Scared, I'd texted Shannon and told him my plight, and he was kind enough to bring over ginger ale, chicken soup and crackers. In the middle of it all, I figured out that it was my own fault. I'd forgotten to take my medication for a few days, and in the last few weeks before, had not been good about being regular with it. It happens to the best of us. That night just before yoga, I'd taken one and my body just revolted. Let's just say, I got the message loud and clear.

The next morning, the nausea had pretty much subsided. However, I was worn out from purging. I was lying in bed when I heard someone knock on my door. Irritated, I rolled over, looked at the clock and saw that it was 8:48 AM. No way was I coming to the door, figuring that it was probably the landlord's brother who does maintenance for the building. A few minutes later, someone knocked again. This time, I recognized my neighbors' voices, so I peeled myself out of bed and wrapped a towel around me. I trudged to the door and opened it to see three of my neighbors, two sisters who live together and my next door neighbor who arranged the Warner Bros. tour for my mom and me. It was she who was holding my wallet, and all three wore looks of concern on their faces.

She handed me my wallet, and I looked at her speechless. At first, I thought I'd dropped it outside my apartment in the middle of being sick last night. However, that wasn't the case. They told me that a man with a pronounced limp had brought it to them and said that he'd found it in the parking lot where I had pulled over. At first, he was reluctant to give it to them, but I guess Kim's Warner Bros. tour guide uniform convinced him that she could be trusted. He'd left his name, Jose, and phone number with them, which they gave to me. I stood there stunned as the three of my neighbors told me they thought something really bad had happened to me and were glad that I was okay. "Oh my God," I said, and explained to them what had happened, and how blown away I was that a complete stranger had done such a good deed.

Apparently, when I got out of my car, my wallet had fallen out. The next morning, this man, who was the cleaning person at the company, found it. Using the address on my driver's license, he brought it to my building where he gave it to my neighbors. Everything was intact, even the cash.

I called him later, overflowing with thanks and told him how my wallet had come to be in that parking lot. I offered to give him something for his trouble. He refused, telling me that he was a Jehovah's Witness and that he knew he'd want someone to do the same for him. I offered again, but after he refused, I respected his wishes. "Your phone call is enough," he said in thickly-accented English. Well Jose, it was nothing compared to what you did.

It's just a reminder, that there are good, honest and caring people in this world. Yes, even in Los Angeles. I shudder when I think what I'd have had to go through to replace everything in the wallet and then endure the continuing fear of who had my information and what they were doing with it. This man, who apparently hasn't had an easy life, and still doesn't, was my hero that morning. Jose, a complete stranger, had my back. And there's something just so wonderful when you think of it that way.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

I forgot that I hadn't posted pictures of my newest collage, as I'm already in the thick of working on my next one. For this one, I took a complete departure from my last two and really tried to incorporate the synesthesia aspect into the main collage. This means, making it the main subject. This will be a part of the "synesthesia series" of collages that I plan to do, which are depictions of what sounds look like to me. For those of you who are just coming to this blog, I explain synesthesia, and the collage process, along with a picture of my first piece, in this post. This is my latest piece, called "Echo." It's 19x24 inches.

My Mosaic Collage

And, here are some closer details of the piece, all photographed by Shannon Treglia.

Closer detail of Collage

CollageI create all the elements of my "collage mosaics" so that they appear differently in different lighting. Here, with just a little change in the angle of the lighting, the metallic highlights become more evident. Before assembling the collage, I paint all pieces with acrylic paint, then cut and arrange them on a painted background.

For larger photos of all my collages, go here:

Friday, August 03, 2012

Happy Birthday to me.

It was a great one. My mom came to visit during my birthday, and we had a really fun time, hanging out watching the Olympics, eating at Olive and Thyme, going on the Warner Bros. VIP tour where we had our picture taken on the Friend's Central Perk set and on my actual birthday, going to see The Dark Knight Rises, which was fantastic, then hitting up Olive and Thyme once again for their burger night. I think we went a total of three times to O & T while she was here. They are an excellent bistro/cafe right down the street and a favorite of the studios, so my mom got to see a full lunch hour in swing. They really do a swift business,  managing a very busy lunch crowd, but always have superb teas, food and excellent service. At night, they have a dinner menu and burger nights on Fridays. I took both my dad and mom for that when they each visited. They are busy then too, which is good, because it means they'll be staying.

The day before my birthday, we took the Warner Bros. VIP tour. I've lived across the street from Warner Bros. Studios for five years, and had never been on the tour. My next door neighbor is a tour guide and was kind enough to arrange tickets for us at her employee discount. We saw her there, and it was fun to see her at work. We'd occasionally pass her on her tour. Just a note, those people work their butts off.

I worked at Warner Bros. my first year back in Los Angeles as a proofreader for theatrical key art and DVD packaging, and still, I didn't take the tour. The building where I worked had a Starbucks in it, and the tours actually took off from that area. I'd go down to get coffee, maneuvering through the throngs of visitors from all over the world, and during trips to the commissary, frequently saw the trolleys going by filled with tourists, but this time I just had a great time being one. I didn't mention to a soul on our tour that I was a local so that I could just enjoy and learn. And, it was a good tactic. As I listened, I was just incredulous at what went on across the street. Sure, I know there's a major movie studio across the way from me, but I tend to normalize it and forget about the incredible visual and artistic feats that are taking place a stone's throw away as I sit eating dinner, watching television, writing a new blog entry, creating a new collage, listening to an audio book or all the things one does at home. Or, that as I'm sleeping in late one morning, that a tiger is being driven into the studio to film the hotel scene from "The Hangover." I think that story, of the tiger, is when it hit me how much goes on over there. And, how much coordination, human cooperation and skills are involved.

I was also amazed to learn how many iconic scenes in movies have been filmed in Stage 16, the largest sound stage at Warner Bros. and one of the tallest in the world. This pivotal scene from "Inception" where Saito's mansion is flooded was filmed there:

This was done entirely on that stage, along with real water. Just click to bypass the ad. After that, it's the entire scene in glorious hi-res. I lived here when this was filmed, so that's pretty cool to think this was going on, well, right across the street.

My next door neighbor told me of these other scenes that were filmed on Soundstage 16. You may just recognize a few:

Jurassic Park - The terrifying first encounter with the T-Rex. And the scene where the Jeep is falling through the tree toward Sam Neill and Joseph Mazzello.

The Goonies - The pirate ship. This is an excellent article, with pics and the history of the production of The Goonies, including a mention of Stage 16 and how they kept the ship hidden from the kids until shooting.

Ocean's 13 - The three-story Bank Casino was built entirely on Stage 16. Here, producer Jerry Weintraub gives a short tour of the casino, and you can really see the massive scale and detail put into building this set.

And, this iconic scene from Rebel Without a Cause.

As well as the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man scene from Ghostbusters:

Other sets include, J. Edgar Hoover's FBI Building in J. Edgar, the upside-down Ballroom in Poseidon, and the storm scene in The Perfect Storm. Get the idea? A lot of cool stuff was filmed there. If you are interested in learning more of the films that had scenes shot on Stage 16, go here:

And, for a wonderful blog post on Stage 16, with pictures, from Dear Old Hollywood , go here.

Me with the Tumbler from The Dark Knight RisesThe Picture Car Museum was also fantastic. This is me by the Tumbler from The Dark Knight Rises. And yes, they come in black.

They also have a costume museum, with an incredible collection of costumes from classic films, (Bette Davis had one tiny waist!) up unto the present, where they had Batman's entire ensemble from The Dark Knight Rises, (in the plexiglass case), weapons and all. The entire 2nd floor is dedicated to the Harry Potter films, where my mom and I both took turns under the sorting hat. She was sorted into Harry Potter's alma mater, the Gryffindor House, yours truly got sorted into the Slytherin House.  Not even a hesitation, just the proclamation of "Slytherin!" the second I sat on the stool. Another woman, who was the mother of a couple of two adorably excited teenage girls, also got sorted into Slytherin. At the end of the tour, she and I were the only two people that tipped our guide.

What can I say? We Slytherins know how to grease a palm.

Friday, July 20, 2012

News crews by my apartment reporting on The Dark Knight Rises shooting. I live across from Warner Bros.

I took this photo of an E! news crew that was shooting a segment about the awful shooting during The Dark Knight Rises in Aurora, CO. Behind them is a Channel 4 News van, one of the many sure to come for the next few days.

I live directly across the street from Warner Bros. Right now, a giant building-sized Dark Knight Rises poster is what looks into my bedroom window. So sad and senseless. These poor people just wanted to see a movie.

Shannon and I went to the first part of the triple feature last night. He hadn't seen "Batman Begins" except for the first 30 mins when I gave him a preview of it before we saw The Dark Knight in theaters when they had an encore showing before the Oscars. He loved The Dark Knight, so he was game when I saw that it was going to be playing the Arclight in Hollywood, the same theater where we'd seen TDK. I bought the tickets a couple of months ago, and at that time the theater was already three-quarters full. At the Arclight, you can buy and choose your seats ahead of time. Of course, Shannon loved Batman Begins as well.

Even more fun, was was that the theater was full of people who were there for the entire triple feature. There was an atmosphere of excitement, people in costumes, dads taking their kids, who you know had probably begged to be able to go and stay up late. One kid, who looked about 12, had a Batman cape on while others wore their excitement in their eyes at the concession counter. Adults, who were fans of the films packed the theaters, some in retro joker costumes and one girl wore a Bane mask. There were lots of Batman and Joker T-shirts. All were so excited to see the movie that they've been waiting to see since the credits rolled for The Dark Knight.

It would have been the same scene in Colorado. The same excitement, giddiness, and the cheers when the theater went dark. Then, the stillness of a rapt audience as the first frame of the most anticipated film of the year illuminated the screen. The feeling that they'd rather be nowhere else than where they were at this moment, ready to be taken into Gotham, and be entertained and thrilled. Many had probably Tweeted their excitement before the film started. I know my friends did. They came to watch a superhero pull himself from the depths of despair to triumph over evil. And, in experiencing that struggle, perhaps be encouraged along in their own journeys.

But, it was not to be.

Wishing strength, comfort and solace to all the families who lost loved ones and those who were injured. Stay strong, hang in there. Persevere and survive. We are all holding you up, even though you can't feel our hands. We are beside you, even though you can't feel our shoulders against yours, and we're embracing you, even though you can't feel our arms. We are with you, as you pull yourselves from the depths of despair, and triumph over evil.

Monday, July 16, 2012

I'm at Starbucks again at an ungodly hour for me, getting here at 7:15 AM. "What the fuck," you ask? Truth is, I haven't slept all night, because once again, my sleep patterns got messed up due to my lack of a regular schedule. So, instead of lying awake, staring at my ceiling, I got up, cleaned up, then came here. I'm surprised at how busy it is at this early hour on a Saturday morning. I actually had to stand in line longer than I ever have during normal hours. But, tables were abundant. I'm sure my body will rebel later today, but I'm going to hold it off as long as possible.


I've also had a restless mind the last few days, and nights filled with weird dreams that have me waking up in a sweat. I continue to work on my latest collage, an abstract one which is a new undertaking for me. One that Oliver likes to plop himself right in the middle of while I'm working on it.

Speaking of Oliver, I have an update on Oliver's former owner. For those of you who don't know Oliver's rescue story, go here. It will make this part that much more entertaining. A couple of months ago, she told me that she had found a new apartment in Los Feliz for $2300 a month. I don't want to ask how she can afford it, but apparently she runs a "sugar daddy match making service" (I'll leave what that is up to your imagination). I'll put good money up that it's a tax-free *cough* escort enterprise. And no, I'm not going to provide a link to it.

Since I'd instigated an "intervention" and helped her get her apartment back from squalor to livable conditions back in 2008, save for a few times that she showed me how she'd decorated it right after the clean up, I'd not seen her apartment. I'm on the first floor, and she was on the second, so there was really no reason for me to go by the apartment to try to get a discreet peek. Our building is what some clever neighbors have dubbed it, a "square horse shoe" with a pool in the middle. Most of our living rooms face the pool, while the bedrooms face the street.

I won't lie. I had hope. I was optimistic. I knew, because of her own poor hygiene, that it wasn't going to be spotless, but maybe she'd kept it livable since my intervention almost four years ago. When I'd spoken to her and learned of her move, she told me that she was going to clean before the movers got there. And, I'd see her carrying some bags of trash out and various small items that she didn't want anymore, like a huge red crushed-velvet lampshade with ball tassels that resembled a pimp hat, broken chairs, and soiled posters. Then came the day when she told me that she couldn't get a drawer open in one of her dressers.

I'd found my in.

I offered to help, and when she let me inside, the sweet, sour, urine-tinted, rancid smell hit me first, then the sight of the heaps of junk and trash. It looked like the Big Bang, not filled with matter, but furniture, broken frames, chairs and glass, clothes, books, pills, papers, dishes, hangers, filth, decomposing food, trash, trash and more trash, had occurred inside her apartment. The kitchen was a black hole, so filled with junk that it was completely void of light. Spiderwebs sagging under the weight of years of dust clung to the walls and ceiling, and a foot-wide corridor between a wall and the junk was full of new spiderwebs, residents hanging in the middle, confident they'd remain undisturbed. I was shocked. Why I was shocked, I don't know. What the fuck was I expecting?

"It's this one," she said, pointing to the chest of drawers, oblivious to my shock. I sighed, lifted my knee up to my waist and took a heaping step over the first pile of junk. Then another, and another. I knelt before the chest, first checking for any spiders, and by using a wire hanger, was able to move the object which was blocking the drawer and wrench it open. Inside of the drawer was more junk. She told me that she wasn't sure she was going to keep the piece and asked me if I wanted it. I thanked her for the kind offer, but declined.

When I got back to my apartment, I took my shoes off outside, went inside and washed up to my elbows, then back outside to spray my shoes with Lysol. I went straight to Oliver, sunk my fingers inside his thick mane and scratched his neck. As he leaned into it and purred, I said, "I know I've told you this before, but you dodged a bullet, dude." I then hugged him.

When her moving day came, the neighbors took pictures of her stained vintage furniture coming out of the apartment, carried by some unfortunate day laborers. I wasn't there for the move. For the next couple of weeks, she took some more things outside and set them by the trash bin. I can't even imagine what they must have thought upon walking into her apartment. No, goosestepping into her apartment to get over the mounds of trash.

For a few weeks after that, I'd see her lethargically trudging up to her apartment and bringing down bags of items, or more broken, soiled things. Items that came into her possession fine and once put through her destruction mill, left ruined. This was one of them, a poster that reads, "Dreams are the touchstones of our character." I saw it when I was pulling out of my parking spot and stopped to take this photo. As I looked at it, discarded and ruined,  plexiglass soiled with an ancient, crusted food spill that she never bothered to clean off,  I felt anger swirl in my stomach.The stain reminded me of seeing Oliver so sick before I insisted that we take him to the emergency vet, as her whole apartment was filled with spots where he'd thrown up. For all I know, that's exactly what is on that picture. The quote on the poster deepened that anger, as it's how she sees herself, a delicate little coquette who wouldn't harm a fly. But, then I realized that it's wasted anger, as she clearly suffers from mental illness. To her credit, when she realized Oliver was ill, she did ask me to look at him. But to her discredit, he became that ill because of her neglect in letting him chew and swallow foam from her flip flops.

After she turned the apartment over to the landlord, it became the tourist attraction of the building. Everyone had heard about her living conditions, and wandered in to gape at the mess that was left behind. I took this picture of the sink, which clearly hadn't been cleaned in the four years since 2008. What you can't see in this picture, are the dead bug carcasses encased in the inch-thick filth. The ring around the sink is where the water stood stagnant for years. She damaged everything so badly that the landlord had to replace the toilet, refrigerator, bedroom closet sliding glass doors, linoleum in the bathroom, carpet in the entire apartment, and re-glaze the tub and sink. The sliding mirrored doors broke outward because she had so much junk stuffed into her closet, that it finally forced them off their bottom rails and broke the glass. I saw it in person, the buckled doors with cracked mirrors, and huge shards of broken mirror, surrounded by splinters, shattered all over the floor, left exactly where it fell for years. She told me upon her last few weeks there, that "the earthquake had done it." I just looked at her and said, "I see." Since she'd been there, we'd only had one earthquake that was a decent shaker, but it did no damage. In order to force sliding doors off their tracks, it would have had to be as big and shallow as the Northridge quake, with an epicenter right under our building. The refrigerator had to be replaced because it was infested with mold that was encrusted with dead ants and bugs, reminiscent of the scene from "Aliens" when the marines discover the room full of dead colonists encased in alien goo. My next door neighbor, who was nice enough to pitch in for day one of cleaning back in 2008,  had done an excellent job in cleaning it out, and both the freezer and refrigerator had only consisted of thousands of dead ants, not any mold. This means that since starting with literally, a clean plate in 2008, she'd let it get that bad.

This is the kitchen after she "cleaned."
According to the landlord's brother, she'd also left a pile of used maxi-pads in her bedroom, (something she'd done as well in 2008) and among everything, had left her driver's license behind. I have to wonder how someone like this even functions minimally in society, and it makes me look at everyone differently. How many hoarders are among us, living in filth? In 2008, on a phone call during the Oliver ordeal, I'd explained her dire living conditions to her mother who groaned and said unsurprised, "Her last apartment was the same way."

I think it's safe to say she didn't get her security deposit back.

Now, here's where things are going to get interesting in her new place. I swear I can't make this shit up. She moved into an "exclusive Spanish Courtyard Hacienda, recently designated a Cultural Historic Landmark." Please keep the above pictures in mind which trust me, are the least of the filth, and what I just wrote when you read this, from their website. For you architecture and history lovers, you may want to get a tissue beforehand. I decided not to include the name of the building on my website. However, there's enough information here that if you really wanted to find it on the web, you will. If you plan to look it up and see the beauty of these historical gems, I suggest two tissues.

"...architectural masterpiece constructed in 1928 by a pair of the period's most prominent architects.  Located on the Eastern edge of Hollywood, adjacent to Los Feliz, the property is in close proximity to Griffith Park and the Barnsdall Art Park and within walking distance to Los Feliz Village. In a neighborhood with examples of apartment properties from throughout the 20th century, this property stands out as a beautifully restored historical treasure. Designed by Arthur B. and Nina W. Zwebell, the [building] is known as a pioneer of the courtyard style architecture that has become so pervasive in Los Angeles building."

Some of the amenities are original imported Spanish tiles, original restored hardwood floors, original light fixtures and unique period architectural details . And the cherry on the cake, this is the building's statement on it's website, ""the [building] Tenets for Tenants…or in other words, you would want to live in a place where your neighbors follow these principles which include, 'Keep your common areas clean…regardless of whether people can see them or not.'"

This gorgeous apartment is destined for ruin. However, there is an upside. The building doesn't allow pets.