Before you know it, May 3 turns into May 25. It has been 22 days since my last confession. Forgive me.

I went to New York.

It was very grand and beautiful, and most certainly not Orange County, California.

Some very generous people allowed me and my co-worker Cristina to stay with them.
They live right across the street from Barbara Streisand’s former residence.
And right across the street from Central Park.

They also have a dog who only eats real steak and chicken alfredo.

This is the view of Central Park from their living room. Not bad.

This was my view one morning as I ate breakfast and made friends with the pigeons.

My friend Leah was there from San Francisco at the same time as I.
We went to the MOMA.
This is a painting by Marc Chagall called I and the Village.

This is an illegal, ILLEGAL!!!, photo I took during the William Kentridge film and animation exhibit.
I wanted to see what the camera would do with the light.

Art is great and all…

But ladies in dresses with sunbathers in the background are even better.
Please note the sandwich in my left hand and my exceedingly good hair day.

Thank you.

They Bring May Flowers

April 12, 2010

Before we get into this post, I just want to share what my friend Lee Ella shared with me on my Facebook wall this morning: “Last night I dreamed you and I got in a fist fight at a skating rink. You kept screaming, ‘I must win because I’m wearing polyester.’ You were and you did. Way to go.”

I love it that 1. I won, 2. Lee Ella took the time to share this with me, and 3. Lee Ella has vivid dreams (about me).

It is raining today. The Californians are saying that June Gloom has come early. It is cold, and I am grateful that today is my day to work from home, where I can hole up in my little room, under my fluffy down blanket, and plow through my email inbox. The window is open even though it is cold outside. The smell of the rain feels as though it is refreshing my lungs — it is the same damp musty smell that saturated my dad’s auto repair shop when I was a little girl — and I don’t mind that my fingers have iced over.

I am thinking a lot about time lately. Last night on the phone with my mom, I was expressing some grievances about life. She expressed sympathy, and I said, “It’s okay. When it comes right down to it, someday I will die, and none of this will matter anymore.”

But I have dreams. I have things I want. Lately there is this one thing that I think of, and every time I think of it, my heart just naturally wells up with prayer. It seems that the wanting is rooting deep, deeper each day, and I struggle with how much I should pray, “Thy will be done,” and how much I should pray, “God, I want this.” So, typically, my little in-car or before-bed conversation goes something like this: “God, you know my heart,” and then I throw in something about how C.S. Lewis talks about the problem with us humans is not that we ask too much of God, but that we don’t ask enough.

God must be impressed with my intelligence when I mention C.S. Lewis.

So, needless to say, I’ve been thinking a lot about dreams lately. I love my life and my job — I love the present-tense of my life right now, but being only 27, there is much future-tense to be had.

The other day my dear old high school friend Ryan recorded this. I haven’t seen him in years — he lives in Berlin now. I’m excited to reconnect with him and learn about his life. Ryan is an incredible photographer. He has always been an immensely talented musician, and to hear him singing this was touching. His voice is so beautiful and melancholy, just like Ryan himself. He lets himself feel things. He is a tremendous artist and a loyal friend. So, yesterday I asked him if I could re-post this song for you all, because it resonated with me:

Have you been half asleep
And have you heard voices
I’ve heard them calling my name
Are these the sweet sounds that called
The young sailors
I think they’re one and the same
I’ve heard it too many times to ignore it
There’s something that I’m supposed to be

I have done a lot of things in my life, and I’ve come to a place where, even though things are tough at times, God has instilled in me a sense of peace and purpose. It’s really kind of surreal, given my record of anxiety. I’m thankful. The only way I can explain it is to say that his grace is sufficient for me, and his power is made perfect in my weakness.

The last few years have included a lot of hard decisions — the hardest ones I’ve ever made — and sometimes I am tempted to have regrets. What if I had gone to fashion school right out of high school instead of spending those years at college in Arkansas? What if I had taken this guy or that guy back and married him or him? It would be so nice to have a partner with whom to share this period of my life. What if I still lived close to my family?

It is a sacrifice to live this far away. It is a sacrifice to think about how big my niece and nephew are getting and that I am just this person who floats in and out of their lives during the holidays to get re-acquainted and then leave again. My favorite cousin is due to have a baby in August, and I so desperately want to go to Minnesota during that time, because it’s so, so important when a new person joins your family. It’s beautiful and terrifying all at the same time.

And then there are all these hopes and dreams that well up inside me at random moments. If my life were a musical, they are the moments I would break forth in song. I talked to my grandma on the phone last night. It seems that my life is the time for looking forward, and hers is the time for looking back.

So, I’m not going to have any regrets. I’m just going to strive to trust that God knows my heart and that whatever I’m supposed to be, I’ll be.

Tonight a friend asked me if I have any trips planned lately. I was at an event for the nonprofit I work for.

“No,” I said. “I am not planning on going anywhere for a little while. I’m just really happy. I love my house. I love my friends. I love my job. I’m staying put.”

It was great to be able to say that and mean it.

In a few months, the tourists will start to come. Before they get here, it is good to remember that this is just down the road from where I sleep each night:

One way a storm is building.

The other way, there’s this.

And this. I will never get over this.

But the best of all is this…

I don’t know what my life would be without this.

These are ladies I work with: my boss, my co-worker, and our former intern. Tonight we worked an event together, and I am reminded again how grateful I am to have them close. And to have a job that I believe in and love.

Life isn’t always easy, but God is so, so faithful.

Remember back a few years ago, when I started this blog, and I moved to California, and I didn’t know where this California adventure would lead me or if I would even be able to stay here? Remember? This is why I’m here. And it feels so good to know that.

So, thank you God, for revealing your faithfulness to me this weekend, through the beauty of this place, and the beauty of my friends.

Men must’ve been walking on the roof, and I said as much. “What are they doing up there?” I asked when the building moved.

The night before the earthquake D and I were driving back up to L.A. from Newport Beach after spending Sunday and Monday in the O.C. with best friend L and her boyfriend JT. Saturday night offered a birthday party at D’s house up in the Hollywood hills for a roommate; spending the night at JT’s aunt’s home — a big-whig CBS person; a Sunday brunch with JT’s sister and brother-in-law — a studying architect and a cinematographer; a Sunday afternoon lounging on JT’s grandma’s deck in the Newport Bay while watching JT windsurf; a Sunday night snuggling on the couch to the romantic-est of romantic movies, American Psycho; a Monday driving around Newport in a 1970s convertible Volkswagen, license plate similar to but not exactly THE THING, with a surf board sticking out the back; and a Sunday early evening watching JT, L, and D surf (and attempt to surf) in our very own little section of the ocean.

In the car, on the drive home, we were tired. And satisfied. We love our friends. In the quiet satisfaction of the drive, I sang aloud the song that has been stuck in my head for days and days now, Natalie Merchant’s “San Andreas Fault,” a song I put on a mix CD for D before we started dating. It is off the album Tiger Lily, an album that has been somewhere in my head since I was 14. I know every lyric on it. When I was 14, I almost wished I had a broken heart so the song “Seven Years” could be true of me. It was that lovely and tragic, and I was that masochistic. Still, “San Andreas Fault” is my favorite on the album:

Go west
Paradise is there
You’ll have all that you can eat
Of milk and honey over there

You’ll be the brightest star
The world has ever seen
Sun-baked slender heroine
Of film and magazine

Go west
Paradise is there
You’ll have all that you can eat
Of milk and honey over there

You’ll be the brightest light
The world has ever seen
The dizzy height of a jet-set life
You could never dream

Your pale blue eyes
Strawberry hair
Lips so sweet
Skin so fair

Your future bright
Beyond compare
It’s rags to riches
Over there

San Andreas Fault
Moved its fingers
Through the ground
Earth divided
Plates collided
Such an awful sound

San Andreas Fault
Moved its fingers
Through the ground
Terra cotta shattered
And the walls came
Tumbling down

O, promised land
O, wicked ground
Build a dream
Tear it down

O, promised land
What a wicked ground
Build a dream
Watch it all fall down

For as long as we’ve known it, the West has beckoned people with dreams; first those literal gold-diggers with their shovels and pans, those unsinkable Molly Browns. Then Hollywood boasted gold, a Golden Era where riches dwelt not in rocks but in pictures. It is that gold that people come with their pick-axes to claim now-days. There are so many people here, so many, many people who are fighting for that gold, like Esther Blodgett/Vicki Lester in A Star is Born. One must wonder if this role resonated a little too deeply with Frances Ethel Gumm/Judy Garland when she played it. Like me, she was born in Minnesota. She crossed the fault line into Hollywood. Perhaps she wouldn’t have died of a drug overdose or attempted all those suicides without all those insecurities about her appearance, exacerbated by studio execs pushing her to be a skinny woman. She might’ve had a long and happy life in Minnesota. Perhaps there really is no place like home.

Sad songs are always the best songs, and I never really understood “San Andreas Fault” until I moved to the wrong side of the actual one. At 14 I didn’t know much about youth even though I possessed it in abundance. Now that youth is ticking away, it has become a precious commodity, more precious than the number in any bank account — even William Randolph Hearst, circa 1928. I moved here not for a dream of wealth, but for a dream of youth. I came here to spend my years of sweet lips and fair skin in a land of water and seemingly endless sun.

You would think that a City of Dreams would offer its residents lovely neighbors, that the opportunities would abound like the pigeons, and all the people would drown in gold and get grills for their teeth. But maybe L.A. is called the City of Dreams and not the City of Successes because so may come here with a dream and leave without it. It doesn’t slip through just any old crack. It slips in the San Andreas Fault. That’s why we have earthquakes: All those orphan dreams are rolling around down there.

When the earthquake happened I stood up. Others I know dove to the floor. Apparently the plastic electrical plates burst off the walls in office buildings close to the origin of the quake. D’s sister E had an awkward moment with her boss under a desk. In my office, we stood in the hallway, each in a respective doorway, watching the juice our company manufactures slosh in the bottles to see if the building was still swaying and that it wasn’t just our scared little knees. A California-native hugged me. This was my first quake, wasn’t it? Was I scared?

Scared? No. So thrilled I felt it through my whole body? Yes.

It isn’t really the San Andreas Fault that scares me, even though my new homeland will supposedly someday fall into the ocean. My own faults scare me much more… faults like financial irresponsibility, worrying so much about my life that I fail to live it, the ways that I take my anger out on the people I love, the inability to figure out what I’m really doing with my life, my tendency toward depression. Meanwhile, youth ticks away. My birthday is next month. My twenties are more than halfway over.

The earthquake didn’t really scare me because the ground did not jump or shake here like I expected it to. I expected it to shake us like pennies in a jar. Instead it moved like the L.A. traffic does when you watch it from the Hollywood Hills at night. All those lights snake up the hills, in a choreography of curves and different sounds. Sometimes when I’m driving home I listen to the classical music station because its like we’re in an orchestra. Enter Ford F150 with your booming tympani; come gently little old Volkswagen Beetle with your flighty piccolo; El Diablo, bring your classical guitar; don’t forget your French Horn, Mercedes Benz. When you’re in it, it can feel jerky and unpracticed — some people play the wrong notes. But when you look above and see it happen with a different perspective, all of it works together. You see the beginning, and you see the end and all the lights and buildings and hills in between.

And when those faults do act up as they inevitably do — the Angelinos have been expecting The Big One for years now and are relieved this small one came to relieve some pressure — perhaps it truly is the best idea to run to the first doorway and stand in it until the swaying stops, and on scared little knees, take a new step.

Dear Los Angeles,

At first I thought I ought to write something heightened and romantic to celebrate our six-month anniversary. It would be a vulnerable comeuppance, full of all the six-month sentiments I have developed for you in our time together. I thought I should go to a place fitting for this sort of letter, taking my quill and pen to the ocean, for instance, to write to you from the very edge of the continent. Or I could bring my pencil and notebook to the gardens at the Getty and tell you about art and flowers. Yet the more that I thought about the atmosphere for this letter, the more I realized that the most appropriate setting is right here, in the bedroom of my little, messy apartment, full of the every-day noises that are slowly becoming home.

Right now there are six of us living in our three-bedroom apartment, which is quite a change for the girl who used to live alone with her cat, slowly degrading into a life of crochet and watching library movies on her laptop computer. Four of us are legally bound to our place, and the other two are here for the summer, completing internships before they return to their respective institutions of higher learning, both in the South, where it rains. I would not have mentioned the South, except that it rains. I miss rain. You would not understand, Los Angeles. It has been so long since I have smelled the earth.

Right now the closest thing to rain is the sound of E’s shower in the next room. There is also the faint movie mumblings from the living room where M and J are flattened against the couch, watching the TV, and there is the periodic clank of dish and spoon as G washes the dishes. I will never get used to the noise of our little house, nor your noise, Los Angeles. Over my bedroom balcony waft in the noises of the second largest city in the U.S. (I mean you, you fat, fat city) — the distant freeway, the chatting pedestrians on their evening walk, the passing sirens, and the nightly helicopter hover, which I like to pretend is the news instead of the LAPD spotlighting its latest criminal’s rise and fall.

For a while I would miss home at these moments, and I still do sometimes. I miss the kids playing in the lot next to my dad’s auto repair shop, above which my family lives. I miss the dank, musty basement smell of the shop, and having my dad make his living right underneath our home, just a staircase of 12 steps and three rooms away. I miss the quiet evenings and the settling of summer — the stars in the corn fields and the country drivers, my church and my cousins, and the people who have known me longer than I’ve known me, the people who know me because they knew my grandparents. I miss the hospitality, the neighborliness of it all, in the place where all the Thrift Store Owners know me by name.

Do you remember, Los Angeles, a few months back when I left you for the first time in three months? And do you remember how hard it was for me to come back to you, how I cried all five hours back on the plane, and I wondered why I was coming back — why I had to leave my parents and my niece and my nephew and all the comfort of being known? D was busy that week, and I felt so very alone, surrounded by thirteen-million people, coming home each night to this little apartment with a few roommates that I only just met. I think this is what they call culture shock, a thing I only mildly experienced when I moved from Minnesota to Arkansas for college. But after that initial breakdown, things got better. They really did. I think I came to the decision that I was here, with you, and here I would stay. Perhaps I needed that last goodbye, that last purge of what it was like to be a child.

At D’s encouragement, I have recently begun reading The Lord of the Rings trilogy. It has been so very long since I have read a book. I think I’ve been afraid of falling back into my girlhood, where I would hide in my room, reading stacks of books, instead of making friends. It is a lot harder to be an obsessive reader when you have a job. I’m only about 100 pages into the first book, and oh, how I’ve cried. I know, I know, it’s a little early to start crying, but Tolkien has just introduced one of the major themes of the book: Home. Frodo is speaking with Gandalf, and he is first realizing that there is a large and courageous journey he must take, and that no one else is going to do it for him.

He has never left his home, the Shire. He tells Gandalf, “I feel that as long as the Shire lies behind, safe and comfortable, I shall find wandering more bearable: I shall know that somewhere there is a firm foothold, even if my feet cannot stand there again.”

I read this after I got off the phone with my mother, after I told her I will not be able to make it home for the Clipperton Family Reunion in August. High gas prices have made it nearly impossible. This is the first Clipperton Family Reunion I have missed in my life, ever since I was 6. And I will be 26 next month. Mark my words, Los Angeles: If you do something to prevent me from going home for Christmas Eve with my family, going to Grandma’s church for the same Christmas Eve service I’ve attended since I was born, I will up and quit my job and move home.

You cannot ruin 26 years of Christmas, Los Angeles. I do not care how big you are.

All my love,

Ann

The Weekend Recap

July 6, 2008

Fourth of July weekend was a busy weekend, indeed, and I most certainly welcomed a paid holiday, a little bit o’ rest, and some great memories made with wonderful friends. I told someone over the weekend that L.A. feels a little bit more like home each day, with a few exceptions, and the time off afforded me a chance to get to strengthen some great friendships. It was a busy, busy weekend. This morning at 11 a.m. I had brunch with the Ladies Who Brunch from my church small group at the lovely friend K’s home. Since then I have spent the entire day in my apartment resting, reading, and eating, save the 15 minutes I spent only a moment ago at the gas station. I filled my entire tank for $50 at $4.55 per gallon. My goal is to make this tank last for 2 weeks. Let’s see how I do.

Thursday D invited me to the wrap party for the film he and his brother G have been working on. D has been working as the producer’s assistant, and G is some type of coordinator. They have been working long, hard hours for the past several weeks, and the wrap party provided them the opportunity to bring their very supportive girlfriends to hear some good music, eat some good food, and schmooze with the Hollywoods. And, thanks to the fantastic outfit suggestions of several friends, I purchased this dress at Forever 21 before the event. It was cute, vintage-ey, cheap, tasteful, hip, and  fit me perfectly. Unfortunately, Forever 21 makes crap clothing, and the zipper broke while I was frantically trying to get ready after work. Hence, I had to throw together a different outfit with stuff I already had. But this conundrum afforded me the chance to wear my new hat. Also, at the wrap party, Tea Leoni touched my shoulder. I was pretty un-star-struck about the whole thing. She was trying to get people who were standing outside to come in and hear Billy Bob Thorton’s band play. I heard one song, and it was great, but I was there to hang out with my friends, and it was too loud in the room to really talk.

All dressed up and ready to go, but apparently D is sulking. Perhaps he wanted to wear a hat too.

Galen ruins everything.

Billy Bob Thorton’s band provides the entertainment for the evening.

We like each other. Sometimes.

After all of this, I realized that I didn’t get any pictures of me with G’s girlfriend N, who is an awesome little lady, and I had such a fun time with her.

Friday the four of us went to a pool party hosted by a co-worker of our friend AB. It was a great time and the perfect setting for a hot day. Yay, hamburgers! Yay, America! Happy Independence Day! Afterward D and I both took naps because we were exhausted from our cavorting, and then we watched one of my favorite movies, a little-known Steve Martin film called Lonely Guy.

Saturday a whole cohort of D and G fans (not Dolce and Gabbana — D and his brother) came over to my apartment to read through the script of a little project they are working on. The friends gave feedback on it, and the boys got some very helpful critiques. Again, I was so busy hosting that I totally forgot to pull out the camera. Another great photographic opportunity is lost for the sake of etiquette. That evening the boys, N, and I went to a new favorite restaurant, Natalee Thai on Venice Blvd.

Today I had the aforementioned brunch and have been lazy all day. It’s been a welcome break. I wish the time didn’t fly by so quickly.

And while we’re in photo-posting mode, here are a few photos from last weekend, when D and I went to his former roommate C’s wedding. It was an outdoor wedding at a country club, and I most certainly wore a hat.

D found it so attractive that he had to try it on himself…

…and again. notice the finger he recently slammed in a car door.

And here is Blue-Eyes looking a little more masculine.

I’m so California.

Thank you, friends, for all your support and prayers. I’m still more homesick than I’ve ever been in my life, but the feeling of loss is inching away. D’s sister E is staying with me this summer while she does an internship at MTV, and we, along with Roommate Girl J, went to our church small group last night. It helped to be surrounded by the few friends I’ve made since moving here. Today I got some praise from my boss at work, and it couldn’t have come at a better time. Also, I just got a raise and health insurance, so even though I know I won’t be there forever, it was nice to have some affirmation.

It’s hard to describe what I’ve been going through for the past few days. Last night at small group I told someone that when I got off the plane in Tennessee to see my family, it was raining, and the smell and dampness of it all made me long for home. I didn’t realize how much I missed the sound of my dad emptying his pockets of loose change — a sound I remember from being a little girl, lying in my parents’ bed while Dad added to the wealth of an overflowing and cracked Cool Whip container on his dresser. I thought we must be rich because of that huge mound of change just sitting there in all its shiny glory.

The trip to Tennessee was the first time my two-year-old niece L recognized me without getting shy when I first saw her. My nephew E is walking and charmed everyone at the wedding. Even though my family has always been great, it’s amazing how much those kids complete us. And I’ve discovered that I can make those kids laugh like nobody’s business. Being an aunt is one of the most amazing things I’ve ever experienced. My favorite cousins and aunts and uncles were all there, including my cousin S and her husband T. It was the perfect weekend. We went on walks. We went to museums. We went to a farmers’ market in the middle of the square. My cousin R got married. We danced at his wedding. We all went to watch L swim in the pool. She informed us that there were no sharks in the pool. Apparently L has been concerned about sharks ever since Finding Nemo became part of her movie repertoire.

On Monday I cried all the way back to LA in the plane. Like my first year of college, the first several months of this adventure have felt like summer camp. Being reunited with my family and then having to leave again seemed wrong. Culture shock is setting in. I’ve forgotten what that’s like. And I think part of the reason this homesickness seems so much worse than it was in college is because having that niece and nephew have helped me understand a little more what being a parent is like. It has made me understand a taste of how proud my parents are of me and my brother, and how great it must’ve been for them, for those few little days, to have us all in adjacent motel rooms and clambering into the same mini van.

Yes. I miss them. I was crying even before I left them. I was hoping that the time away would make me excited to come back to L.A., but alas, all I can think of is winter melting away from Southern Minnesota and the dank, musty smell of Dad’s auto repair shop. Perhaps it is good to be so far away because when I think of home, I think of perpetual Christmas and all those perfect weekends when it served as the getaway and not the prison. Some days I wonder if any other place could feel like home to me. Even though I lived in Arkansas for six years during and after college, it never had the same appeal. Home has always been a word reserved for the North Country.

Edit:

Sadie tagged me in a movie meme last week and I haven’t had a chance to respond yet. Here is my response:

Top 10 Movies:

1. Breakfast at Tiffany’s
2. Rear Widow
3. Sullivan’s Travels
4. My Fair Lady
5. A Very Long Engagement
6. Annie Hall
7. Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind
8. Duck Soup
9. Mary Poppins
10. Pretty In Pink

I don’t really tag people in memes anymore, but if they want to do this, I’d be interested to know favorite movies from Katie, Betsy, Amity, and anyone else who cares to comment.