Star Cluster

I was going to write about this when it happened. And then my birthday extravaganza took place. And then the Stay in Place orders came.

So, today, I will write about it, though it feels like a lifetime ago.

My dad sometimes drives these senior tour groups and on this particular week, the group was in Los Angeles.

They were going to be at the Griffith Observatory one evening. It had been awhile since I had been up there at night. One memory of the sort was when I spent the day with a friend’s kids (twin boy and girl) who were around 10 years old. We explored Hollywood and had lunch and then found ourselves at the Observatory at dusk. On this particular evening, the twins and I saw a line for the Zeiss Telescope. We joined the line and weren’t too far from the front but the line wasn’t moving. The telescope would be open soon, they assured us. This was good, since I hadn’t planned to have the twins out so late on a Sunday. But we waited and waited. Whispers among the adults. Apparently, there are only a handful of people in the world who know how to operate this telescope.telescope

The guy that whose shift was about to begin wasn’t there. And he wasn’t answering his phone. And he seemed to have disappeared. His back up lived kind of far, but they were trying to get him there. The kids were restless but not enough so to want to leave. FINALLY, someone arrived (not sure if it was Operator #1 or his back up) and we took our turn at stargazing through the giant telescope.

As we were leaving, there were several people on the lawn who had their own, personal telescopes out for the public to look through. We wandered up to one guy.

“What is is your telescoped aimed at,” I asked.

In a voice like the comic book store dude on the Simpsons, he replied, “Star Cluster.”

Twin Girl asks, “What’s a star cluster?”

But he heard, “Which Star Cluster?” and proceeded to tell us the numerical name with a manic smugness.

Twin Girl confused by his answer, asked, “What’s that?”

Telescope guy replied, “It’s a STAR CLUSTER!” and proceeded to laugh at his own humor. Twin Girl looks at me. I look back at her with an expression that says, I don’t get it either. We look through the lens at the star cluster. It’s a cluster of stars. It’s pretty cool. As we get in the car, we can’t stop laughing.

We make fun of this interaction for years. FOR YEARS!

Back to current day (pre-Covid Shut Down).

Shaka and I arrive at the Observatory before my dad and his group do. I am shocked that you have to pay for parking up there now. And not just in the lot, but along the road, even if you are quite away down the hill. Parking went from being free to $10/hour. It threw me. So much so, that when I am putting my money into the meter and choosing how long we want to be there, I promptly forget how much it is per hour and I put in 3 hours. Oh well…I mean, I don’t love that I did that, but what’s done is done. I take the parking slip and put it on the dashboard.

We wander up to the lawn where we see several people with their telescopes set up for the public to look through. That part hasn’t changed. What is different, is that each telescope has a little e-board letting you know what they are aimed at.

I gasp. I grab Shaka’s shoulder. There is a little e-board that says, “Star Cluster” and I start laughing. I get in line. I can’t tell if it’s the same guy or not. A woman in front of me asks him about something bright in the sky. “What is that?”

And in that same voice we have been imitating for nearly a decade, he says, “what do YOU think it is?”

She guesses. He says, No

Another person guesses. He says, No.

And yet, another person guesses. He says, No.

As he slightly giggles to himself like Rumpelstiltskin, I blurt out (not sure if I am correct or not), “That’s Venus,” and I take my turn at the lens and look at the Star Cluster.

“Well, yes…that is Venus.” I feel a little bad, but not not a lot bad. I ask him why he loves the Star Cluster.

He says, “My friends make fun of me since I go on about them, but I mean…how can you not? It’s a CLUSTER…of STARS!”

I guess he’s right. When you think of how many of our suns would make up a cluster, it’s pretty cool. I think of the synchronicity of things coming together and joining up to create that experience.

My dad shows up and we wander around the inside and the outside of the Observatory. It is busier than I would imagine. Its not a holiday. It’s the middle of the week and the parking is $$$$. But the crowds are here. I start snapping the evening skyline below us with my dad’s phone (at that point, I was having phone envy with everyone’s newer devices).

My dad was trying to wrangle his group who had already had a tour-filled day. They were heading back to their hotel. Shaka and I decided we would head out too.

My dad’s bus wasn’t too far from ours. He hadn’t paid for his parking and in typical fashion for him, no ticket.

We get in our car with a good amount of time remaining on our parking pass. Up ahead, I see my dad’s bus pull away and another large van park where he had been. We see the driver of the van get out and look at the signs. I could almost feel his disappointment at the prices, as I watched his shoulders slump with a sigh. We pull up next to him.

We ask if he’s planning to be there awhile. His foreign accent is thick and he tells us that his job brought him down here from Seattle and all he wanted to do was see the Observatory but hadn’t had time all week. He was leaving in the morning.

“Not sure how long you wanted to be here, but here’s our parking pass with an hour and a half left on it. Hopefully, you will get to see something you wanted tonight,” Shaka says.

His face lights up!

“Thank you so much! I hadn’t gotten paid on the job yet. Bless you both!!!!”

He fist bumps Shaka as we drive away.

I never felt so good to overpay for parking.

As the city twinkled below us and the stars twinkled above us, we made our way back home.

 

 

 

 

Quarantine Serenade

Obviously, everything’s not alright. But since we are in unfamiliar territory, we need to keep our spirits high even when things are scary and tense. Money, jobs, health, food, supplies, childcare…these are all real issues facing us. Please don’t lose hope. I am trying to keep my spirit up by writing, connecting to family and friends via facetime and whatsapp as well as meditating and playing with the cats. I also felt like singing this song and sharing it with you (please excuse off key moments). Good luck with wherever you are physically and mentally today. We are in this together. And wash your hands.

Mondegreen

Mondegreen  is a mishearing or misinterpretation of a phrase as a result of near-homophony, in a way that gives it a new meaning. Mondegreens are most often created by a person (ME) listening to a poem or a song; the listener, being unable to clearly hear a lyric, substitutes words that sound similar and make some kind of sense.

So does that make me a Mondegreener?

It almost sounds like the french phrase, “Mon Dieu”, like when you’ve heard something incredulous.

I have always messed lyrics up. And sometimes conversations.

I didn’t know it was SOOO obvious. I thought I could play it off like I have been drinking and become the ditz. Cuz let’s be honest…I sound drunk even when I am sober.

Jazzy hadn’t hosted us in awhile, so we were thrilled that she decided to throw an Oscar soiree for Zappy, Roni, Shaka, Mads and me.

I had seen most of the movies this year (which by the way, doesn’t make it easier to vote for the winners). I almost didn’t want to participate because Roni ALWAYS wins. And I am not good at losing.

But the looks that Mads, Jazzy and Zappy gave me of not participating almost felt worse than losing AGAIN. So I forked over $ and Shaka and I played along.

Jazzy is such a good hostess.

jazzy oscars

I told her that I hadn’t been there in a lonnnnng time and that it makes me sad cuz she throws the best parties.

She said, “Oh, well, I am not sad. My bf (she actually said his name and not “bf”, cuz that would be weird) and I are happy here doing things at home.”

And I said, “I don’t care if YOU’RE sad! I said, ‘I’m sad!'”

And then we all laughed at my sadness.

The food was great! The desserts were yummy! The drinks were flowing. And RONI WAS STILL WINNING! Arggggh.

Then that bizarre Eminem performance came on and we all looked at the tv like,

reactions

Not really, but we were wondering if the drinks had made us believe it was 2002.

I start singing “Lose Yourself” at the commercial break.

“Snap back to reality/  Oh there goes gravity /  Oh there goes gravity”

Zappy looks at me and says, “It’s ‘oh there goes Rabbit, he…'”

I was like, “WHAAAAA??”

Turns out, we were both right. I just was stuck on that one line.

Roni and Zappy tied the Oscar pool and decided to donate their winnings to Jazzy for the party (they are better people than I am…lol)

But Shaka and I did pose for my fake win for best actress.

shaka and me at oscars party

I was telling him about the Oops there goes gravity line and he laughed and said, “don’t I know it. you do that all the time.”

I was like, “WHAAAAA??”

Then, skip skip skip to a few weeks later, Shaka and I are on a mini-road trip to Ventura. “Hopelessly Devoted To You” comes on (I have no idea what we were listening to – Spotify? youtube?)

When I was a kid, I was OBSESSED with “Grease.” They even filmed part of it at my high school and I was so excited to pick out the parts where they sing different scenes. I used to have a book called a FotoNovel of the film.

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I had the album. I saw the movie many times. I dressed up as Sandy (after her transformation) for Halloween.

Me as sandy

I was an expert is what I am trying to say.

So we’re in the car listening to Hopelessly Devoted to You. And I am singing loudly along.

But now there’s no way to hide
Since you pushed my love aside
I’m nodding my head hopelessly devoted to you
Hopelessly devoted to you
Hopelessly devoted to you

And I say to Shaka, “why is she ‘nodding’ her head? I think she means to say. ‘shaking her head’, like she can’t believe it’s happening.”

Shaka looks at me. Thinks for a minute (probably about how he is married to someone whose view of the world around her is so vastly removed from reality) and says,

“What are you talking about?”

“You know, that part, where she sings ‘I’m nodding my head, hopele…”

“Stop stop…it’s ‘I’m outta my head.”

“WHAAAA? No. It can’t be.” And then I think for a minute and am like, “well…I’ll be. that makes more sense. All these years. Wow. Put it on again so I can sing it differently.”

And Shaka shook, not nodded, his head.

And I, in a french accent exclaimed, “Mondegreen!”

Get Hammered

So I admit that I was reading too quickly when I saw that the Hammer Museum was opening an exhibit for Paul McCarthy called Headspace, I misread it. I was like, cool, a Beatle does art. I’ll check it out.

I invited Faye to join me. I had never been to the Hammer before and Faye had yet to visit an LA museum since she moved here. Win-Win. When she asked me what the exhibit was, I actually couldn’t even remember that I had thought it was Paul McCartney. I told her I didn’t know, but that it was an opening and…why not.

Why not, indeed. Whenever Faye and I get together, we have fun.

The weather was clear, the roads weren’t cloggy and anything could happen.

I picked her up and we caught up and chatted about all her current activities. Faye is an actress living her best life here in LA. She and I met doing theater in Portland several moons ago. She is so good that she moved to LA and didn’t need to get a job doing anything else. Her hustle is legit and she works EVERY DAY! So I like hearing about this voice over gig and that audition and this film and that commercial and this awards show and that theater role. Plus, she had just had some friends visiting so I got to hear about how she took them all over LA, like I had once taken her. But with her own spin on it, naturally.

We got to Westwood and started looking for parking. I wasn’t worried. We would find the best space. But we drove around a few times. I got disorientated. But then…voila! Space found. Almost like valet. not really. But not…not really.

She had just gotten the iphone 11 and I, with my phone envy, got very excited over the camera features.

We wandered into various exhibits and sat in crazy swivel chairs that I knew I was going to break or fall out of (I didn’t).

Dude in one of the swivel art chairs

Then we continued chatting as we entered each exhibit. One was really cool where it was photographs deconstructed in a way that looked like salacious parts of the body but in reality was like a knuckle or a belly button.

I kept saying, “that’s a penis. Or a butthole.”

And Faye would point out my mistake. “That’s a belly button.”

“Oh, but that one there is definitely a butthole…and a penis.”

“Uh, wrong again. You seem to be able to see ONLY those two things.”

I laughed. But wondered why my brain was stuck in 8 year old boy mode.

Then we entered the Paul McCarthy exhibit.

I once saw the Basquiat exhibit at MOCA with Mads and I had to leave the room because the energy coming off the canvas was so dark and negative that I couldn’t breathe (sue me, I am dramatic), but in the same museum, I was admiring Warhol’s suicide/death series and was like, “hmmmmm, interesting.” I loved the film about Basquiat, but that exhibit was too intense. I don’t even remember what the paintings were of. So it’s not subject matter, apparently, it’s how it makes me feel.

And McCarthy’s work felt aggressive and like he was working some stuff out of his soul.

And then Faye says, “Well, here’s your penis. And your butthole. And there is another one. You were in the wrong exhibit.” And we laughed as we hightailed it outta there.

We drank some wine. Took in the people-watching. Took snaps with her phone. In fact, she handed it to me and said, go wild! So I did! Love that girl.

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An older gentleman walked up to us and asked us about one of the exhibits (Max Hooper Schneider’s ‘Transfer Station,’ 2019. Mixed media) and we told him it was interesting and to take a look,

“But it’s a long line. Is it worth it?” Dude, you’re here. Why not?

“Check it out and see,” we said.

Then he said, “Did you check out the big exhibit by McCarthy? Disturbed!”

And it hit me that I sounded like that old man. BLECH!

“Well, it’s art,” I said, “and everyone gets something out of some things,”

What a nonsensical thing to say, but it got me out of the conversation. I mean, I did think it was disturbed, but I was never gonna try and encaspsulate art into something. It’s ART! You don’t have to love it.

We felt the rumble in our bellies and knew the cheese sticks they were passing out weren’t going to do the trick. We left the Hammer and wandered Westwood Village on a Saturday night. How was it possible that everything was closing? It was 9:30!!!! This is a college town! But we ended up at the Napa Valley Grille and as Faye/Poppeacock luck dictates, it was HAPPY HOUR!!!!

Our server was great, the food was delish and the rose was perfect! We played around with various settings on her phone as we finished up. As I went to the restroom, I realized, we were leaving before their posted closed hour, but we were the only people there who didn’t work there. Oops. Time to boogie.

We made our way down Wilshire back to her place. The air was still perfect and roads were still clear.

Getting cultured and shit.

We’re classy like that.

Unmistakable Appeal of the Marvelous

The other night, I met up with Mads, Zappy and Jazzy at Jones.

It had been a year since we had been there AND before that, it had been way longer.

It was almost a time capsule of our past. But I don’t think of life in those terms. I stay very much in the present, which is why I am the worst at telling you how long ago something happened or what year it did. It all seems like it’s happened a week ago.

Sitting in that booth with the ladies, I realized I had sat here many times. But how many? Who knows?

I feel like I didn’t used to pay attention as much. Or is it that I don’t pay attention now?

Eh *shrugs shoulders

I was happy in the marvelous moment.

Jazzy used to work with some of the bartenders. One of them asked how long she was staying. And as we were leaving, she was like, it’s getting late…I gotta get home.

Then she laughed as she realized he was laughing at her.

When she had worked with them at other places back then (that nebulous BACK THEN), sometimes her shift would START at 10pm.

“Yeah… late” the guy said.

He’s still in that world where time is a different currency from day walkers.

Even if it all still feels the same, sometimes you don’t realize how much things have changed.

But back to the current moment of drinking martinis and sharing in each other’s good news, we laughed, we hugged, we ordered another round. We marveled that the place was still hopping. We thought about the last times we had been there and what was going on in our lives. We talked about people who were no longer in LA, in our lives, or on this earth. I don’t remember how, but a story came up regarding us going to a Stereolab concert at the Hollywood Bowl.

And about how a few days after the concert, Mads gets an email from one of our friends who LOVES Stereolab and is on a certain mailing list or fan site where he saw a photo from the Hollywood Bowl concert.

His email says to her: I think this is you on the left.

She forwards to me.

I have tried to find the photos but the link went dead. Today, however, EUREKA!  I found the photos sans captions.

I will retype (to my best recollection) what was listed on that fan site.

My perfect view…until

head block2

ARGH!

I have to be honest…Mads and I cracked up for a LONNNNNNG time over this.

My hair (or rather, my head) was the butt of a joke. And I was so there for it. Plus, I was loving the highlights.

The weirdest part is that in looking for the photo, I rediscovered my old blog and went down the rabbit hole rereading old adventures last night.

Probably the reason I am exhausted today.

Another time capsule.

We were all single then. We went out almost every night. We were excited by every opportunity because it was a potential for a life we were craving (and also concurrently, living). I wasn’t in the moment then. And I was quite depressed. But damn, I gave all I had to get out of my head with the best adventure buddies.

I was telling Shaka that even though a lot has changed (none of us are single any more and our schedules make it much harder to try and grab dinner even twice a month AND I am no longer living with that sadness), I still get that excitement over my creativity or in collaborating on a project.

I still feel like opportunities are around every corner.

I still like meeting people who cause my world view to shift even ever so slightly.

I still like finding art in the most banal places.

I still like discovering new moments to feel grateful.

I still like reliving fun moments that show where I have been and which spur on where I am heading.

But mostly, I still like funny captions that involve my hair.

 

 

 

Paso Robles

My first round of treatments were coming to an end, and the holidays were also going to be almost over. I decided since we had a couple days free, Shaka and I could take an overnight trip. My co-worker had gone to Sensorio back in October and loved it. I had never been to Paso Robles before and thought what a perfect opportunity. I didn’t realize it was only 3 1/2 hours from LA. Mads hooked us up with a private, members-only wine tasting at Justin Winery. We didn’t have tickets to Sensorio because the online tix were sold out but you could take your chance in line if you showed up. We planned our trip for the day after Christmas.

Christmas Eve was lovely at my relatives’. And Christmas day was festive. Our friend BW has a Christmas day open house every year and she recently moved a few blocks from us which was uber convenient. All her guests are creative people. Writers, producers, art directors, musicians, etc, so the conversations are always lively. Then in the evening, we headed to Shaka’s brother’s for our gathering. I almost had asthma from laughing so hard several times throughout the evening. The rain was pouring down and I wondered how our drive would be the next day.

I didn’t need to worry. The weather was perfect on 12/26. We began our trek to Paso Robles at 9am with all the promise a beginning of a trip has. But just as we were feeling the rush of the road, we noticed what would be the first of many traffic jams.  3 and 1/2 hours, they said. It will be fun and easy, they said. Our appt at JUSTIN was changed a few times as the WAZE lady would neutrally state “estimated time in traffic is 30 minutes” causing me to start crying. The only thing that kept me from a full blown anxiety attack was that the views we were passing were so gorgeous.

6 hours later, we ended up in Paso Robles. JUSTIN is located at the end of a very long, two-lane road. It was very scenic and beautiful! I wondered at one point, if we were even going the right direction since there was no signal out there. But lo and behold…we arrived!!!

We checked in and were told to go up the road to the tasting room.

It was a room right next to the wine cave (we’re like Buttigieg, minus the donors, hahaha).

Our sommelier recognized our harried look since there was another couple there who had just come from LA and were headed to Sensorio that night too. He knew how to calm us down. The reserve Malbec was amazing! The pairings were so yummy. Shaka was in bliss and it was almost as if the journey had been a quick, easy jaunt. ALMOST.

Another group came in with the same look we had had. They were grumbling and complaining about the traffic snarl. But after 15 minutes later, their moods, like ours, had shifted.

After buying the Malbec and a few other items, we headed back to town to our hotel/motel (holiday inn – j/k). It was a quirky motel right in the middle of town. As we checked in, the front desk guy seemed to have his finger on the pulse of everything happening in PR (and all the discounts we could get at their affiliates). He suggested we head to Sensorio immediately, so we did!

We got in line right around dusk. It was gorgeous! And colllllld!

Since we didn’t have tickets yet, we were told to stand by this bench off to the side of the entrance.

As the 5:00 pm crowd went in, we waited.

We watched another line form that I assumed was the 6:00 pm group. But then the gate started letting in the 6:00 ticket holders (it was 5:45). So I asked another guy (since the guy who told us to stand by the bench was gone) and he said that the line I had noticed was for people who were waiting for tickets. UGH! I said, well, that’s us, but we have been standing by that bench for an hour. The guy says, well, you can just tell the people at the front of the line.

I sarcastically snickered and said, Yeah right.

But this wasn’t LA. As we went to the back of the line, the guy emerges again and says that the people at the front of the line said we could be in front since they had seen us standing there this whole time. Weeeee! And a few minutes later, we were in!

It was so beautiful!

It was a surreal experience. Even with all those lights, you could still see the stars above so clearly, giving off the impression you are between galaxies or something astral like that.

After our interstellar hike, we went back to the hotel/motel and got in the hot tub. The looks from bundled-up guests checking in were amusing.  As warm as the hot tub was, the walk back to our room was chilly. But it was the perfect way to snuggle in to bed.

The next morning, we headed to town to have breakfast at Andrea’s on Pine. We got in without a reservation or being waitlisted, but 5 mins after we sat down, a crowd started gathering. The food was delicious! If you go, don’t pass on the homemade salsa. It’s to die for!

We asked our server for a local coffee place rec (that wasn’t Starbux) and he pointed us (literally pointed) across the park. I said, ” what’s the name of the coffee shop?”

“Oh, I knew you were going to ask me that..”

I couldn’t help but chuckle. I mean, for good coffee, I WOULD wander across a park blindly, but I didn’t want to if I didn’t have to.

We did take a walk through the park, tho.

We passed a few coffee shops on our way, but we ended up at the recommended Spearhead, the line was long (this must be good). They even had oat milk, so I was happy! And the coffee was delicious! As we walked back to our car, we passed by the Brown Butter Cookies.

I am not really into shortbread cookies, but since I made some this holiday season and won 2nd place at work with my attempts at #thecookies (NYT Alison Roman’s salted butter chocolate chunk cookie), I guess my tastes are changing. We walked into the shop and they gave us a sample. Even though I was so full from breakfast, I had to try it. This cookie was unlike any other I had ever had. It was the salt. It was the sweet. It was amazing!

We bought a bag to give as a gift to Shaka’s sister.

Then we headed to River Oaks Hot Springs Spa. We rented an outdoor, private, mineral water hot tub for an hour which looked out over a vineyard.

Sure, we smelled like farts the rest of the day, but this was a magical experience.

We left Paso Robles at 1:30 pm to make our way to Solvang.

I hadn’t been since I was a kid. I love aebleskivers (a family friend made them for us when I was younger) since they are also the same as the Dutch poffertjes breakfast treat.

Unfortunately, the traffic gods were still at it. Crash after crash added to our time. Every gas station restroom was crowded. I had a long chat at one of them with a woman visiting from Spain who had just come from Big Sur. Her husband was surprised when I waved to her as we drove away and wished her a great rest of the trip in Santa Barbara. Girls make friends in bathroom lines, is what I’m saying.

My dad had gone to boarding school in Los Olivos and asked us to drive through there. He thought it would maybe save us some time since it took us off the 101. It was beautiful (both the school and the town). But we had Danish town vibes to get to.

We arrived in Solvang at dusk. It was quaint and festive.

The traffic gods hadn’t been with us, but the parking gods were! We found a spot right away and ended up getting seated in the Solvang Restaurant 10 mins before they were no longer seating.

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We got our AEBLESKIVERS!!!!

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Yum!

Traffic continued to snarl as we made our way towards Santa Barbara.

We got home at 9:30 pm (I will never believe this trip should be 3 and 1/2 hours!!!!)

I don’t know if it was the traffic or all the things we did, but it felt like we had been gone for a week. I know that time between Christmas and New Year’s is especially confusing with regard to structure, and this mind warp didn’t help.

But you know what did?

Taking a trip with my hubs, meeting people and having fun experiences.

And wine.  And time the next day to sleep in. And then nap.

Happy new year, everyone! May 2020 bring you new adventures and opportunities!!! And if you have lots of traffic, hopefully the view is nice.

 

Kancer with a “K”

I take turmeric daily. I thought the odds of me getting cancer were slimmer than say, me getting a heart attack or dying in a car crash involving a rideshare.

I have always had a tiny bladder. “Hold me closer tiny bladder,” I would hear in my head as I would tell people I had to pee. Their eye-rolls and sighs of “not again” would only spear me on to think…this is me – take it or leave it. But seriously, don’t leave…you’re my ride and I really have to pee. BRB.

Last year, my husband and I were in Hawaii. Only two years before, we were getting married on Oahu and it was a fun, exciting, chaotic time. So visiting again last year was like taking all the best moments of our wedding week and expanding and treasuring them, just for the two of us. Our last day, we had an evening flight so the day was going to be filled with wandering, lunch, drinks, more wandering and sitting by the beach. The morning of our last day, I woke up with a terrible burning sensation. I felt like every time I peed, I still needed to. And the pain!!!!!

I called my doctor and asked if she could prescribe me something to make the pain ease up. I had never had a UTI, but I figured this was one. The doc wouldn’t prescribe me anything until I came in to get tested (damn ethical doctor! j/k I love her). I finally went to the drug store to see if there was an OTC remedy which there was. It helped. But our last day in paradise was kind of a mess since I had to be near a toilet and seated.

Upon returning home, I got tested. The results were negative for UTI.

Weird.

There was still pain. But it came and went.

When I talked to the doctor, she said that it was possible that my body was changing and maybe this was part of aging for my body. She said that some medicines for bladder issues made people feel worse than the thing they were trying to cure.

We waited.

It continued.

I went back.

Got tested again.

I told her I needed to see a urologist since this waiting game was yielding no winners.

I meet with the urologist. The conclusion is there is some kind of blockage in my bladder. I assume it’s a cyst that will need to come out eventually. This is good news.

We schedule a cystoscopy for November 7 (a year ago TODAY), where he goes in with a camera to see what the block is and its size.

My appt is in the morning. That same night, I will be heading to LACMA for an event with Shaka, Mads, Jazzy and JRo. I head to the appt. I even have the strangest thought: I am not a person that will ever get cancer. Weird, right? And cocky. But more weird. And cocky.

The nurse numbs me and tells me this is not gonna hurt. She swabs iodine and lots of fluid down there. Doc comes in. Guess what…that camera going up my hoo hoo…it hurts. A lot! He is showing me the live version on a monitor. “There it is…that’s the tumor.”

“What? But but like a benign tumor, right” I laugh

“No, that’s cancerous. And it’s half a golf ball size.”

Those words float in the air as I deal with the pain of the actual camera and the new news of my bladder having a cancerous tumor.

I go to clean up. I use the toilet and out of habit, I put a seat cover down. I am not aware that my whole ass is wet from the fluids they pumped in me. As I stand up from the toilet, I have wet seat cover sticking to my iodine stained butt. I would laugh but I am trying to get dressed to meet with the doctor. But I can NOT figure out how to be an adult at this moment AND get my skin paper-free. I finally work it out and meet with the doctor.

“I didn’t expect THAT news,” I say.

“I didn’t either. Your symptoms weren’t indicating that it was that large or that it was a cancerous tumor.”

He went over the next steps we would take. I would not need radiation or chemo.

We will, instead, do immunotherapy with BCG treatments. It’s a form of TB that when coating the bladder (after they do surgery to remove the tumor), helps the bladder keep any cancerous tumors from recurring. Who was the person who was like, let’s see what happens when I shoot a TB strain into the bladder? Sick person. But I am glad they tried it. Success rate is supposed to be good. Also, bladder tumors happen for the most part, in older men. Who smoke. Or who are around a lot of toxic fumes. I am wondering…how did I get this? Last I checked…I am none of those things. Do toxic people count? Ha, I kid. But seriously…how did I get this?

We schedule the surgery (I will have another doctor since I want it done sooner and mine isn’t available). I have never had surgery. I have never even been under.

After meeting with the doctor, I call Shaka and break into sobs. It’s hitting me in fits and starts. I tell him I still want to go to the LACMA event.

“Are you sure?”

“Yeah, the only thing different right now is that I know what’s wrong with me.”

We head there. I tell Mads and Jazzy. Their reaction is confusion, like mine was when the doctor announced it to me. Only theirs has the added bonus of me saying it as if I am telling them about my new hair cut. Like that scene from “The Room” (go to :30), I just slip it in nonchalantly while I stand up to get more tacos and wine.

We take pictures and check out the cool exhibit and cough at the prices of wine! GASP!!!!

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It is exactly the kind of LA night I love and the kind of outing I need to remind myself I am more than this news.

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I go in for the surgery. I am told by friends and relatives that I will wake up and be amazed that it’s over and that I will feel dreamy. My pre-op nurse is a jokester and keeps saying things like, “I don’t know how to put an IV in…just kidding. I DO!” I love a good joking nurse, but am all but looking like I belong on a fainting couch with requisite wrist to my forehead as I see the IV needle out of the corner of my eye. On the upside…I am in a toasty gurney with cute socks and I feel comfortable. They give me something (they equate to a cocktail) so I will relax as I am wheeled to the OR where they will do the countdown. But as it turns out…I was out before we left the pre-op room. I only vaguely remember them wheeling me and me seeing fuzzy figures around me as I try and lift the oxygen mask and yell, “Is this an oxygen mask????”

The next thing I remember is waking up with a lot of pain and a calmer post-op nurse. And Shaka there with all my meds. The doctor comes and tells me it all went well and we will find out the results of if it reached the walls of my bladder later that week and I will have the catheter in for several days. SEVERAL DAYS!!!!! This is almost as horrific to me as the news about the cancerous tumor.

Thanksgiving was 2 days after the surgery, where I will binge-watch episodes of “The Office”, while perusing everyone’s holiday photos on social media. The catheter is making me so nervous. I also worry because my cat, Buster, likes to chew cords and I am a heavy sleeper. I imagine waking up with the catheter all chewed to bits and me having to get another one!!! But Buster behaved and that didn’t happen.

10 days later, the catheter comes out and the doc says they got all of the tumor. It was a pretty aggressive tumor but still contained (which he found unusual). It hadn’t spread to the bladder walls. I ask the doctor, “so I had a cancerous tumor but going forward, what should I tell people or list on forms? Like, what would you say I had?”

“You had cancer”

“Oh”

I wasn’t trying to be stoopid. I was trying NOT to overthink it.

A co-worker of mine says, “what did you think you had? Cancer with a “K”?

I guess I kind of did.

In the new year (this year), I have to go through the treatments. They insert a catheter into the bladder to administer the medicine. The first nurse (whom I adore), says, your urethra is easy to find. This shouldn’t hurt. Though I love this nurse, I realize she is a LIAR! It hurt so badly. I will say, that was the last time my urethra was easy to find cause I tense that shit up from the pain, every subsequent appt. The next 5 treatments have varied results. Crying, calming meditation, calming medication, me yelling OW OW OW! I must have a mark by name that I am difficult but it might also be that I announce it if I get a new nurse. Finally the 6 weeks are up.

In my naiveté, I assume the pumpkin bread I made them to apologize for my behavior was all I would need to part ways.

But the doctor informs me (and maybe he had before and I hadn’t realized it), I will need a regular cystoscopy every 3-4 months (remember iodine-butt) and then BCG treatments every 3 months and then it moves to every 6 months (3 sessions only instead of 6) and this will happen for 3 YEARS!!!

I almost cry again. But that same day,  I hear the news that a healthy friend of mine who had gotten out of a bad marriage and had found the love of his life and was thriving had been working out, felt weird, went home, felt weirder, called 911 and died on the way to the hospital (I think an undiagnosed heart condition). I mean, tomorrow is not promised to anyone, but DAMN!

So, I turned my  idea of feeling sorry for myself into self care and gratitude that I had a doctor who wanted me to get better. And that I was surrounded by so much love and family and friends. And yeah, tomorrow isn’t promised, so I better like today. I better like this moment. Every moment.

So the second round of 3 treatments happens and on the second one, I get a new nurse. I go through my usual, “I am a bad patient, so you will want to make sure I am blah blah blah and yadda yadda yadda…” I see her eyes get big with concern.

I feel her poking around down there and I think, Damn it, she is new at this.

I ask, “have you found the urethra yet?”

And she says, get this, she says, “We are almost done!” WHAT!?!?!?!?!

There was absolutely no pain.

The next and final treatment of that session, I have her again. I wonder if that pain-free session had been a one off.

But nope. Same thing! No pain!

I think, she must be a witch and has put a spell on me to make this easier. Whatever, I will take it!!!!

So with my gratitude and my summer plans, I enjoy my life.

In September, I go back in for another follow up cystoscopy (iodine-butt).

He says, “Hmmmm, there’s a tiny growth there. It’s not anything serious but it wasn’t there before, so I want to remove it.”

I have to go in for ANOTHER surgery.  I am happy it’s benign but I am not happy that I have to go through this again.

I have the surgery. It goes well. The first 4 days after, I am pain free and feeling amazing (no at-home catheter this time – YAYAYAYAYAYAYAY!)

Then the 5th day, the pain starts up. OUCH.

In fact, I am just NOW, nearly 6 weeks later, just feeling the pain subsiding.

A few weeks after the surgery, I have a post-op appt with the doc.

He tells me that they biopsied my tiny little growth and it was indeed, CANCER (FUCK! Again!). It was a different kind than the last one. This one is the more aggressive kind (apparently there are various KINDS that get to invade my bladder like some messed-up video game with Bladder Monsters). The doc is shocked since, like with the first one, this growth wasn’t acting like the usual kind of aggressive tumor.

But now I have to start all the treatments again. Like from the beginning.

My first session of 6 starts next Friday.

I am not happy about it. In fact, I have been feeling very uneasy that I don’t know what’s to come, since my poor bladder has been through the ringer already. I write this today and can’t believe it’s only been a year since I got the news of the diagnosis. I had been planning on writing this post for awhile, but that was before the second diagnosis.

On this day, 4 years ago, our kittens came home with us (after they had almost died due to an infection)

That is a good memory of this day. And my sister told me today is the day my teenage niece came home from the hospital 2 years ago after being very sick for like 2 months. So it’s a strange day of highs and lows in my family, I guess.

The other thought I had was that since my tumors (gosh, plural) have not acted or behaved like NORMAL bladder tumors and since these have been caught early and I have a good team, I will take it, that perhaps, I do have Cancer with a K.

Maybe it’s the imitation kind of cancer.

Wish me luck that I get the witch nurse again.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Residue from the Cult-of-Personality

I was a little surprised to be getting a call from Faye the day before we were gonna meet for brunch. We usually text.

I was out running errands and took the call.

“Do you know who Caroline Calloway or Natalie Beach are,” she asks.

I don’t.

She begins to tell me about them.

Caroline Calloway  is an Instagram influencer who has also been accused of scamming her followers for a “Creativity Workshop” that failed. She has been compared to the likes of Billy McFarland (Fyre Festival CEO), but I wouldn’t go that far. Caroline seems to take her critics to the bank as she turns their insults into merchandise. She became Insta-famous for writing longer (bloggish) captions on her IG posts before anyone else was doing that. She had a college friend who was like her invisible, talented, ghost-writer side- kick, named Natalie, who helped write some of those captions. Things were sort of good. Then they weren’t. And the friendship ended. Now Natalie has written an article for “The Cut” and before it came out, Caroline was giving it press in her anxiety of what was to be written.

It did come out. And now, Natalie has a deal with Ryan Murphy for the rights.

Natalie’s side of things

Faye wanted me to read up on it for our brunch the next day so that we could discuss, since we both love all things pop culture, real housewives and social media. It also touched a nerve with regard to fame, friendship and that elusive quality of being IT.

We met at Faye’s and walked to   Loupiotte Kitchen   in Los Feliz. It was HOT outside. Not cool, global warming! (ha literally). These temps lately have been making my eyebrows sweat off. Actually, just one eyebrow. Which is worse, because it looks like I gave 1/2 a shit. It never looks like I put the effort into it that I did. And it definitely never looks like the cool, no make-up/make-up, effortless look the French girls have like   Camille Rowe.

I used to live in Los Feliz but it’s been awhile since I have walked to brunch there. So much has changed (she said with the sort of awe of a person who has been gone from her hometown for ages). Loupiotte was a perfect choice! If I can’t have French style, I can have French brunch. We sat down and ordered our food with a side of the pastries sampling (can you say petit pain au chocolat? YUM) The food came fast and the oat milk latte (you heard me) I ordered was fantastic!

So Faye and I discussed the whole Caroline/Natalie saga as if it were our jobs.

But it began to turn into something much more. We discussed why the story touched a nerve. How, when you’re young (though it’s not only reserved for the young), you are trying to figure out who you are and you find people in your life that spark you. So much of the time, those sparking people are incredibly toxic. Which is why your friends and family scratch their heads wondering what you see in that person.

We pondered are we more a Natalie or a Caroline? Or both? And Faye pointed out that your answer of who you think the villain is depends on your own experience. Were you an alpha or a beta in those relationships? I have been both. I never think of myself as the villain, however I told her that in high school, I wrote so many papers sympathizing with the antagonists that my teachers started to worry for me.

Caroline is pretty. But she’s not the most gorgeous woman you will see. And Natalie describes herself in more understated adjectives, however, from the rare photos, she isn’t unattractive. What makes someone like a Caroline shine, while someone like a Natalie feels sidelined? Privilege plays a role, as do certain influences and experiences from a young age. But really, a lot of it is how you see yourself and value your own worth. We both agreed that neither of us saw either as the villain. But that Natalie’s article almost birthed Caroline into a literary character. Maybe she already was and Natalie captured it. We love messy, complex women. And we also don’t.

Our discussion continued as we talked About how society is training young girls to be strong and speak their minds but that there is always a limit. Who decides that limit? Why do people love an underdog but only to a point? Why do people love to hate/watch social media posts about the wealthy/successful/clever/narcissistic? Schadenfreude is a component, for sure, but I think there are more layers. We opened the vaults to our own experiences with these situations. About giving our power away to people so easily. About our own culpability in those moments. About the lessons we now can say we learned.

Loupiotte was busy. But we seemed to fade into our own world. No one pushed us to leave or hurry up. The vibe in there was lovely. Our discussion rambled into various phases of hypotheticals about social media and devil’s advocate stances to oppose. I hadn’t had that kind of marathon philosophical/social/real world kind of discussion since post-college, I would imagine. Or perhaps when I was high in Palm Springs on one of my many girls’ trips (but who can remember? ah weed).

We met the owner (an effortless French woman) and paid our bill. We continued our discussion walking up Vermont Ave, peering into shops. Once back at Faye’s, we began to talk about other things that were equally important but which we hadn’t given enough time. Then, her cell rang; her mom. My cell rang; my dad. It was strange that we had been talking about youthful experiences and behaviors, only to have our parents tell us it was time to go home and get ready for the week.

Faye looked at her phone to see her IG showed a post of Caroline at Glossier here in LA. We laughed. We have no idea why this girl is interesting. But we follow her anyway. I guess we will continue to try and find the answers. Maybe youtube has a video on it. Don’t mind me while I do some research.

 

And all at once, summer collapsed into fall.

Hello Lovelies!!!! So glad to see you again!

The last week of August, I spent with my family at the beach. It was as serene as it sounds. We saw dolphins and sea lions daily and went into the surf sometimes multiple times a day.

My sister and I would go the roof of the house and watch the sunrise every morning.

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And we would sit on the beach to check out the sunsets at night.

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We promised ourselves this year, we would eat healthier than past years. Maybe we did. But probably not. Shaka and I celebrated our 3rd wedding anniversary with many friends and family coming to join us for a beach day.

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The whole trip was special and time moved slower. I even sat on the beach for probably an hour after everyone had gone back to the house just to watch the waves. It was so healing and personal that even when I wanted to walk back to join everyone, my body just wouldn’t. So I sat. And I let my mind wander.

I did a photo shoot with my niece and sister by these really cool murals at the end of the beach.

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Then on our last day, it was like Benny Hill music as we all scrambled to get everything cleared out and packed. My sister and family headed to LAX for their international flight, my dad and his wife headed back to AZ and Shaka and I headed back to Los Angeles.

It’s not the heat…it’s the humidity…and the fricking heat! GAH!

So many activities happened the next week. Summer heat was still there, but the vacation was over.

So much hot. So much sweat. So much laundry.

But you do what you gotta do. And if I am reapplying makeup and deodorant and bringing day to night outfits, then that’s what’s gotta happen.

Christia invited me to an Emmy’s rooftop party in Hollywood. She and I are working on a project that tbh is taking a little nap at the moment. We decided that this was going to be the night, the project gets reignited. We would socialize and make connections and see where the night takes us.

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It was…and I hope I am not overstating this…a BRILLIANT night!

We met so many incredible people. Publicists, managers, actors, creators, agents, writers…the list goes on. As the sun set on sunset and the market lights turned on, the drinks were flowing and the laughter continued.

One of the people we met mentioned this building used to be CBS Radio where they recorded Art Linkletter’s “Kids Say the Darndest Things.”

My dad had just told the story while were at the beach that when he was 7 years old, he got to be on the radio show. For years, there was a vinyl recording of my dad talking to the host about how his parents (my grandparents) met. Years later, a jilted lover of my dad’s broke the vinyl record in half. (she really was a BISH). But the story when he was on the show was that before the recording, the kids were given a tour of the studios. My dad was anxious because he thought the tour would make them miss the show (THEY WERE THE SHOW – lol) so he was not really paying attention.

The lobby of where the Emmy’s party was held was the same lobby that my dad had gone through to go to the recording.

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It was like a weird time warp.

A couple days later, I was invited to DreamWorks Animation’s wrap party for their new, upcoming release, “Abominable” and I LOVED IT!

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It was a great film and a fantastic party!

Saturday, I wanted to sleep in, but I had scheduled a long overdue facial (a Christmas gift from Shaka) for 9am, so off I went to European Secret Skin.

Usually, I look like I have measles after I have been for a facial (extractions + sensitive skin = no good look for me) but this facialist was great. I added on an oxygen treatment and voila…no measles look!

I get back home and Shaka says he is craving Pink’s hot dogs. I was like, “ugh…do you know how hot it is out there?”

And he replies, “I called and they have vegan hot dogs.”

I sat for a moment and thought…this heat indicates that summer ain’t over, so let’s have an adventure!

It had been awhile since I had been to Pink’s, and once I had agreed to go, I got a little tourist thrill.

We met some Kiwis in line behind us and our wait to order wasn’t too long.

The vegan dog was pretty good too!

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Here we were, two crazy kids with nowhere to be…the afternoon was ours. We were going to grab an afternoon margarita at either El Coyote or El Compadre, but found ourselves at Guitar Center. I checked out the mics and podcast setups, while Shaka played drums, electric guitar and acoustic guitar. We had tentative plans with Mads and ST8, so we headed back home.

Those plans fell through.

But the next day, I called Mads to see if she wanted to grab lunch, and she instead (in Mads magic fashion) invited me to join her to go to Universal Studios.

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It was late in the afternoon when we headed there. It was the perfect amount of time to wait in line for amusement (ha!).

We hit a couple of fun rides and ate linner (dunch?) in Simpson’s Land.

I got my steps in, for sure.

ST8 hates theme parks but was a good sport. Mads, MamaMads and I got our picture taken with Beetlejuice. He was just as creepy as Michael Keaton.

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As I left Mads’ to head back home and prepare for the week ahead, it hit me that summer wasn’t over at all. I was still enjoying events, friends, activities and the warm summer days (sure, we can call it warm, rather than satan’s breath) like anyone still experiencing vacation.

I know people are starting to go crazy for pumpkin-spiced items and for Halloween decorations and technically, the calendar would say it’s true that fall is upon us.

But maybe summer is a state of mind.

A state of mind, I will keep as long as my weird burn/tan lasts on my shoulders.

 

Contact Highs and Lows

“I can’t believe you have never been to the Annenberg Space for Photography,” Mads said while sipping a very large vodka soda. It was Friday night and I was exhausted and feeling like the day had its stank on me. Mads texted, do you and Shaka want to go out tonight? I wanted to. But, I also knew I was pooped from a really strange week.

Shaka agreed we should go and there was no looking back on that decision. A night out with Mads and ST8 is always fun, if not funny. Plus it’s good when you’re feeling low, to make contact with people who will bring up your energy.

We met at Mucho Mas (“full bar and old El Coyote drink prices” her text promised).

We had old people conversation (health talk) and hip people conversation (film and music schtuff). I mentioned we were going to the Annenberg to see the exhibit “Contact High: A Visual History of Hip Hop” but that I had never been to the Annenberg before. Mads and ST8 had already seen the exhibit but recommended it. It is strange that I had never been before but there’s a first time for everything.

Saturday, I picked up my new glasses. I must have been drinking when I picked them out a few weeks ago. I don’t remember choosing THESE. I mean. I like them, but I actually had no memory of saying, “Yes, these are my next pair!” But they are…soooo. I love them…now.

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Crosseyed AF

 

Then I headed to get my haircut. Kristen used to work at a salon near me but has her own place now in Woodland Hills. I hadn’t gone to her in over a year and she can shape up this mane like nobody’s business. (https://kristenscurltherapy.com/)

Loved her new place and we chatted about a myriad of topics. Mostly politics (we are on the same page – phew), meditation, spirituality, travel, etc. It was great reconnecting with her and I love my new cut!!!

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New glasses, new cut (and after today, new color) – ohhhhh somebody STOP ME!

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When I got home, Shaka and I started to catch up on Mindhunter first season. I wasn’t in a particularly bingey mood but Netflix has a way of making that happen even if you didn’t plan on it. *Shakes fist to the Streaming Gods!* We are liking the series…that sounds weird since it’s about serial killers.

Today, Shaka and I headed to Century City to see the exhibit which has been extended until next week, I believe.

We decided to go to Eataly in Century City and nosh on some yummy pasta.

With our bellies full of Italian food goodness, we made our way down the street to the Annenberg.

We parked in a pretty amazing spot. And headed to the stairwell.

We followed a man up the stairs. Shaka asked, “Is this the way to the museum?” The man nodded. We followed him. Up a flight of stairs. Then another. Then down the stairs. The man looked at us and said, “Where is it?” and we realized we had been following a red herring irl. Ugh. Then there was another couple and the man followed them. But they were lost TOO! The five of us rambling up and down the stairs like that scene in Spinal Tap where they can’t find the stage.

We finally make it to a long hallway and to the outside world. We almost followed the group as they headed the wrong way AGAIN! We stood back and watched them go one direction and then come back our way. The man in the couple looked at me after returning and said, “that’s the wrong way. That’s CAA…it’s an agency. A really big agency.” I politely nodded while simultaneously unpolitely saying, “I know.” I can’t fault him though…we were a group unable to find our way out of a stairwell…he probably assumes I am a stoopid.

But the direction gods got us to the right place.

 

The exhibit was really cool. There was a short film too. I absolutely adore photography about pop culture and music.

It was cool to see actual proof sheets too. There was a series of shots with Aaliyah where she had marked big Xs on the proof sheets on the ones she didn’t like (many) and Os on the ones she liked. Throughout the exhibit, even though they were photographs, there was something so visceral and alive about many of the shots.

 

As we left, the line to get in had gotten longer. We decided to try an elevator back to our car which ALMOST didn’t turn out well. But the direction gods were back with us after momentarily tying one on and we found our car.

We drove home over the canyons and past the palm trees.

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After a crazy week of highs and lows, it was nice to end it on an such a high note.