Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Los Feliz Whirlwind

Last week we went on a whirlwind three day trip to LA. With the drive taking us about eight hours, it was really just one full day spent down there. My brother and his fiance graciously let us stay at their adorable 1920s apartment in Los Feliz while they were away at Burning Man. Especially perfect because Darin's brother Dave and family live within walking distance.

It was very hot. It was sweaty in the car and I5 stretches on forever in an apocalyptic wasteland. It's never been pretty, but I've also never seen it so ugly. Just barren tumbleweed dry dusty land and those godforsaken depressing cattle ranches. Our one stop was just a cluster of filthy graffitied gas stations. Someone needs to open an oasis stop with a playground that is not McDonalds. Anyway, overall I think the girls did remarkably well on the drive down, mostly either sleeping (polly) snacking, or reading and playing in their seats. (I love when I can truthfully say that.)
Interestingly, despite all the hype about LA traffic, we really never hit much. It was fine getting in and out of the city. Darin hit a lot more traffic during his day of interviewing writers on Wednesday, but the girls and I were on foot so no problem there!

Arriving at Mikie and Marisa's home was like a dream. Wood floors and records, books and beanie babies. Marisa had left us a delicious pitcher of homemade green tea in the refrigerator, little notes everywhere, and a map of the neighborhood with her favorite spots marked since she knew I'd be walking around a lot.

We headed over right away to Dave and Ashley's for pizza and cousin time. It was so fun and total chaos. Four wild kids under the age of four! Jackson, their 3.5 year old, is a natural leader and a ball of pure energy. The girls were drawn to his every move and he good-naturedly let them tackle him, wrestle him, and chase him around, as well as play with all his toys. Sammy, who just turned one, is a total sweetheart, easy going and cuddly. Both Lucy and Polly have been obsessed with them ever since our visit.

Both our girls had issues on this trip too: totally normal toddler stuff but frustrating nonetheless. Polly pushed Sam and made him cry! Ugh it was terrible, I think she was jealous that he is a baby or something and clearly testing out her boundaries; it was so weird and shocking. Since then, she's been like that with a couple other babies who are just a bit younger than her as well. She also talks about Sammy all the time and is super interested in him, tells how he got a bath then had some milk, remembers all kinds of details about their time together; I know she loves him but she has no clue how unacceptable it is to hurt a baby! At twenty months old, I think she is really struggling with whether or not she is a baby or a "little girl" like Tootie. (She even says that.) Anyone have tips for dealing with that? 

Happy as a lark after her bath back at Mikie's.

Tootie's issue on this trip was tantrums. Like absolutely OCD over the top tantrums about little things that didn't go her way, like how she got buckled into her carseat, or if someone talked while carrying her into a room especially if she was already upset, weird stuff like that. She had started this "go back! Start over!" demanding thing that could be absolutely excruciating if you are trying to live out the events of a normal day. It happened on and off for about a week which included this trip, and now seems to have quite suddenly died off. I guess I'm chalking it up to a growth spurt, and her being hungry and tired a lot? Once there was a morning full of tantrums at every single turn until she ate a big hearty breakfast and then she was happy as a lark the rest of the day.

Post-tantrum face that night in the bath.

Next morning Darin was getting all ready to jaunt about the wide city of Los Angeles and interview a few writers for a documentary he is making. He was heading up to visit with the illustrious Harlan Ellison first, who has been described as "possibly the most contentious person on earth," so that was a little nerve wracking! 

Meanwhile the girls were scrutinizing anything they could get their hands on at M & M's house. Ninja Turtle playing cards? Coolest thing ever.

After Darin left fairly early, trying to keep my little creatures tame, preventing breaks, spills, or falls out second story windows was becoming a chore. It was not even 10 a.m. yet but I knew we had to head out. I was a bit nervous because it would be my first time with both girls in a new place on foot for a whole day, with just the stroller for transportation. I packed myself up with a backpack full of snacks, water jars, a few books and toys, my camera and purse, and the Ergo for naptime later. Mikie's keys in hand to make sure the door got locked properly. I held all this as well as a large folded-up double stroller in my arms while also trying to corral my two small, lively children safely down a steep staircase. I made them step down right behind me holding onto my skirt. It was crazy. We made it down alive. Now the problem of setting up said double-stroller out front on the sidewalk and getting all that gear and the babies buckled into it without them running into the road first. Surprisingly, that was the hardest task of all. Someone came by and helped me; I was so flustered I didn't even register what the person looked like but I'm sure I thanked him or her heartily. 

Ready, set, go!

It's wonderful walking around in Los Feliz. Flowers blooming on every old fashioned gate and veranda. Stairwells and fountains and blue sky and clouds. Construction and birds and nannies and strollers; bumpy root-riddled sidewalks make fun rides for babies. I could tell right away it was going to be a fun day.
First stop: Skylight Books. We aimlessly read stories, chased the cat, and scampered around the living indoor tree for at least an hour.
Tootie got to pick out one book. It was quite a process and there were many contenders. The surprising winner (maybe I should not have been surprised) was Rotten Island. She loves the monsters in it so much that it makes it a little heartbreaking.

Having not had much for breakfast, we headed next door to eat at Fred 62 diner. I was glad to get in before lunch rush but kind of disappointed not to see the black tutus and rock-n-roll tattoos I remembered from past experiences. (too early in the day?) It was my first time taking both girls out to eat by myself in a real sit-down place with booths and a server and all that. Ice cubes kept them occupied until their eggs and macaroni came. They were quite entertaining lunch companions! 

After that we walked over to Hillhurst and Polly fell asleep. This was early for her naptime but both girls had woken up at least an hour earlier than at home. So I gently rocked Polly in the ergo while Lucy went crazy for all the puppets and books at the neighborhood library. A perfect place to relax a while with a napper on my chest. 

After about 45 minutes we headed up Hillhurst and found a little children's boutique called Dragonfly DuLou. We lingered there awhile, watching the fish in the fishtank and marveling over all the cute wooden toys and games. We picked out a removable animal sticker set for the drive home. Then crossed over to Albertson's for a few groceries, and then headed back to our little home away from home. Down the big boulevards and small cross streets. Past lush gardens and dirt yards alike. Past wrought iron fences and beware-of-dog signs, past cleaning ladies and landscapers and workers of every kind.

There's a part of me that is always romanticizing Los Angeles, especially in neighborhoods like this. Mikie and Marisa told me the history, the trolleys and streetcars and trains that used to take everyone all around the city, long before it was a busy city of cars. This left an architectural legacy: the private pathways, walk-streets, hidden staircases, platforms and tracks that you can find in all the secret corners. I am charmed by the blossoms, the bungalows, the mysteries. 

view of Griffith Observatory on our walk home:

Back to our "own" front doors. We did it, pulled it off without a hitch! I was feeling really good about the day's adventures so far. 

I thought we only had one to two hours to wait for Darin. I made us snacks and colored with them.  We read all the books we brought, plus Rotten Island twice. We listened to records, watered Marisa's succulents, played with her Beanie Babies, and drew "mama dinosaurs" on all the blank pages left in my journal. They looked out the window incessantly, standing on the back of the couch and pushing at the screens till I finally had to slide the windows shut (yikes!). 

It was fun but I was tired and getting ready for some back up. I had no idea how Darin was doing out in that big wild world of L.A. He had our little tracfone but I only had my ipod which can text when there's wifi but not call. He doesn't know how to text. I tried writing him anyway, no answer. Finally it was getting late and Ashley and I were texting, wanting to meet up at Barnsdall Park for a picnic dinner. I knew I'd have to be on foot again if I left and also without communication to anyone (unless I found wifi). I was kind of dreading that but it was nearing six pm. She told me about a little place called Yuca's on Hollywood Blvd near the park where I could grab quick food. It sounded perfect, so I decided to set out. I left Darin a handwritten post-it note on the door and then yes I braved that staircase again, and the front steps, loaded up with all our goods (this time I tried to carry Polly down on one hip and the double stroller on the other, not recommended. #bruises.) (did i really just do that hashtag?) 

Only had to ask directions once (of a dapper old gent who was walking to the cleaners which just seemed so old fashioned and wonderful) before we made it over to Yuca's, a cute bright little place with surprisingly delicious food. It was a brief respite from the roaring pace of Hollywood Blvd at rush hour. Everything is close by but with my entourage it felt like kind of a trek. I ordered some light supper, beans, rice, etc. The guy working must've taken pity because he gave me my watermelon agua fresca extra large sized. Which was perfect fuel; I tucked my paper bag of food into the stroller pocket and took off again!

I hope that if there's anything my lengthy storytelling has impressed upon you, it's how good it felt to be crossing Hollywood Blvd and see Darin walking toward us! He had finally made it back, having spent four and a half hours total throughout the day on LA freeways; he'd seen our note and gone all the way up to the top of the park first on foot, where Ashley directed him toward Yuca's to meet us. Reinforcements! It gets overwhelming being the only one in charge, for that long, in a new place. It might sound pathetic. Maybe it is. But it has a lot to do with a sense of responsibility for these two little people so young and unaware, and being in unfamiliar territory. It's a little bit scary but it's also so fun and empowering taking them around like that. But I will add, I am grateful to have a partner and it is more fun adventuring together. Naturally he offered to push the stroller up the long curving hill up to the park but I was on a roll. People had kept warning me, it will be a trek up that hill. There's supposedly an elevator up to the top but I never figured out where to find that. With Darin recounting the success of his day (hooray! The interviews went well!) I pressed on up that hill, and it felt surprisingly easy, and great.

Just in time to catch the sunset and have a wonderful romp with fun cousins!

View of the Hollywood sign and Griffith Observatory:

View of downtown and Hollywood on the other side:

Polly won't really let other people holds her but she LOVES when they try to catch her.

Four sweet cousins sitting in a row. Next time maybe our bribes will work better.

It brings a tear to my eye how much I love these guys and wish we could see them more. I'd like to make that once-a-month if you please! They are so fun, we have so much to talk about, and the kids played very well together when Polly was not pushing sweet Sammy down! 

Tuckered out that night, sweet sister snuggles.

Saying good-bye to Mikie and Marisa's building that next morning. It was so homey there, it really felt like saying good bye to a friend. 

These pictures Darin took of the girls at our lunch stop on the way home totally capture the feeling of central California road trips.

And we were home again by sunset.
Just a little whirlwind trip, another notch on my belt of mothering experiences. The girls and I had decided kind of spontaneously to accompany Darin down there, and I am so glad we did.

Sunday, September 13, 2015

Prayers for Rain

Last night we celebrated my sister Addie's 40th birthday party which was vaguely 90s-gothic themed with a playlist that included all our 1992 favorites: Erasure, Yaz, Depeche Mode, the Cure. And we were definitely praying for rain, as fires burn so much of our beloved state and neighbors' lands here in northern California.

But in the midst of much September sorrow, here we were having a good old time anyway and celebrating the spirit of community and friendship. Party in the courtyard, thank you Totem!

I tried to make the girls a little bit punk rock/goth. Last minute we dug through the drawers, pulled out black and lace, and Lucy even got her hair teased and hairsprayed for the first time. She picked a beaded necklace I made circa 1996, and was proud of all the zippers on her pants.

"I'm pretty much the queen of Placerville right now." - Addie around 12:30 a.m.
40 years old, here's how it looks: my sister and her husband Art just moved back to town and bought a cute little 1920s bungalow in Camino they've been fixing up. She is sparkling, vibrant, social, busy all the time. She has an ebay shop for vintage sheet music that I wish I could link to right now. Her son Utah keeps her hopping but he's a really good kid, solid and lovable and funny. She knows every truth of my heart and me of hers, I believe, and that is the magic of sisters. So glad we have each other as we enter this new decade, cause I'm soon behind her!

Sometimes you make me feel like I'm living at the edge of the world. 
It's just the way I smile, she said.

Oliver's dance moves wowed all the girls. Donkey kicks and air guitar.

After we went home and got the girls to bed, and Darin fell soundly asleep doing so, I got up and ate some toast and puttered about and finally talked myself into going back out. It's a pretty rare occasion for me these days and I'm glad I went. Met up with the gang downtown at the H.Art lounge where our friend was hosting open mic and then we all made our way over to the town's dive bar, Liar's Bench cause Ade wanted whiskey. I didn't get home till one a.m. and she was out much later than me. Here's to forty!

You were running soft through the night, 
you were bigger and brighter and whiter than snow.
And screamed at the make believe
And screamed at the sky, 
And finally found all your courage to let it all go.