Tuesday, June 28, 2011

And I'm back. . .

So I've been gone for almost a week and sporadic internet connection plus not wanting to waste valuable time away from my friends and family to blog. I know that I'll go into more detail tomorrow and the following days to explain what an awesome trip it was and why I have the best friends and family members ever, but today I thought I'd start with a wrap up from last week's goals.

  • Chats with Chef this week: every day. Mostly via text or sporadically while I was gone but I did manage to call every day. Which was more a feat that it sounds like.
  • Pages of fiction read: 111-- I was about 7 pages from hitting my goal on Saturday morning, and I sat down and made a conscious effort to finish. And did so!
  • Fiction read:The Art of Racing in the Rain (it's getting good--and sad)
  • Fiction listened to via audiobook: Freedom by Jonathan Franzen (just had a few hours last week and started back today)
  • Creative writing every day: not so great--travelling is my not so good excuse on this
  • Five pages written:Nope. Not even close. About 3 paragraphs written and I feel horrible.
  • Calorie tracking: Nope. I sucked. I lapsed. I am starting again diligently tomorrow.
  • Exercise:Took a break. Not a deserved break, but I didn't have a gym and running now kills my hips. Plus I am busting out all my excuses this week.
  • Friends and family: This is one that I met!! Finally! I had the best visits with my father, stepfather, uncles, stepmother, grandmas, aunts, cousins, co-workers, friends and nearly every person that means a lot to me. It was worth every minute, every dollar, and every tear I cried afterwards from missing them all so much.
The theme for this week is: Excuses you make while travelling. Clearly I have not established enough of a routine and drive for a goal that it could survive the complete disruption in my normal schedule. And I had to reconcile that with myself. In fact, I gave myself permission to have a bad schedule today too in an effort to spend some quality time with Chef and steel myself for the reckoning that will be tomorrow's back in the swing of things routine. Wish me luck!

Sunday, June 19, 2011

It's Summer (Check Local Listings for Season in Your Area)

Okay, here's a weird thing about living in California: the use of July 4th as the first official day of summer. I think it's partly because school gets out later, but its clearly different than the rest of the country that uses Memorial Day as the beginning of summer.

Even if it's not officially summer, it felt like it last week when I took the Pacific Coast Highway home. I think it might become a habit. There's a traffic time sign at various points on my journey home. I think if the first one reads 50 minutes or more to make it to my first change of freeways, then I'm going to just take the PCH. Normally, it would take longer, but with the delays, it can cut come time off. And aside from that, it's just gorgeous.

One of the things I like about where I work is that its nestled in the mountains. I get to travel through the valleys and see some scenic areas. And when I take the PCH, the trip is all the more lovely. The cars were littered across the way with surfboards poking at the back. There were tons of surfers floating on their bobbing boards. And it was 6 p.m. There are days when I get so caught up that I forget that I work in California. I live near the coast. It is perpetually summer. And I need to bask in that more.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

This Week's Breakdown

I'm still working towards my goals. Here's my breakdown for this week:
  • Chats with Chef this week: every day, multiple times a day. YAY!
  • Pages of fiction read: 252
  • Fiction read: One Day by David Nicholls- FINISHED; The Art of Racing in the Rain by Garth Stein(?)
  • Fiction listened to via audiobook: Freedom by Jonathan Franzen (about 15 hours in)
  • Creative writing every day: done and DONE
  • Five pages written: Yes! I've been so move to write this week that I've actually done it longhand. In meetings that bore me. Maybe not the best, but still very exciting.
  • Calorie tracking: done and done honestly.Even though I've lost 1.6 lbs this week, I've had cheeseburgers for my last two meals. So what of it?
  • Exercise: Yes every day. Not twice daily as some days I actually had to live (or go see Ann Patchett or have extra Chef time).
  • Friends and family: two nice emails, two nice calls. All in all, not a bad week.
Doing better this week. And I'm happy. So I guess that's not too shabby.

Friday, June 17, 2011

A Dad Memory for Father's Day

Dad sometimes doesn't get enough shout outs on the blog. I hate to admit it, but that's mostly because he's still alive. You appreciate your parents while they're alive, but the nostalgia typically comes after they've passed away and thankfully that hasn't happened yet.

But as I was in a media training last week and busted out a memory of Dad and one of the lessons he taught me. Or at least a funny memory that I've used to illustrate a point.

When I was first learning how to play the outfield in softball, I had developed a nasty habit. Whenever the ball was hit to me, my first step was towards home plate. Normally that wouldn't have been bad, but I'm not the fastest person in the world. So if I took my first step in and then missed the ball over my head by a step, it pretty much infuriated everyone on the team, including my coach and myself. Dad decided after a game that he was going to break me out of the habit.

When everyone was gone, he grabbed a bat and some softballs and told me to stay in the outfield. He hit some pop flies to me, but gave me consequences: if I took my first step in, then I had to run a lap around the field--my least favorite activity at the time. If I didn't take my first step in, he would run the lap.

It took me about ten laps of pure exhaustion to get the point. It took dad two laps to realize the lesson was learned.

The time it takes to stop and think about what you're doing is less than the time it takes to reflexively do the wrong thing. And you often don't end up trying to catch up.

Happy early Father's Day everyone!

Thursday, June 16, 2011

When I Was Fearless

When Chef and I were swimming the other night, I relayed to him a story from my childhood. I don't exactly remember how we got on it, but it was a story about a trip I took with my mom (and probably some other kids too, my brother I'm sure, I just don't remember who else was there) to Kramer's Lake. Kramer's lake was clearly a body of water, as the name implies, but also included some water slides and big trapeze, as well.

I think I was about 10 years old and all I wanted to do was swing out on that trapeze. Fly through the air and land in the water below. I'm not sure if my mom told me specifically not to do it or if she just communicated that with her eyes and demeanor. Either way, I ignored it.

So picture me as a not yet five foot girl, standing on top of a large trapeze that was on an elevated platform and landed in waters, the depths of which were unknown (at least to me). We had a pool, so I was a pretty good swimmer. None of this seemed to matter more than the thrill of the swing and release. I had to stretch my little toes as far off the platform as I could to grab the trapeze bar. I had just laid my fingertips on top of it when I heard a familiar voice yelling in the distance. I can see her now in a colorful, yet sensible one-piece bathing suit, her shoulder length hair pulled back in a pony tail, and large sunglasses (before they were really fashionable). Her arms were waving and she was yelling "DON'T GO! DON'T GO!".

The "lifeguard" who was watching the lake was distracted by the woman who was walking as fast as she could through thigh-high lake water to get to me. I used the distraction to my advantage and swung off the platform, letting go at the crest of my pendulum swing. I landed with a thud in the water and swam--albeit slowly--to my mother. At that point, I figured the lecture was probably going to be the same if I had gone or just prepared to go. The embarrassment of being called out in front of all of these older kids was more painful than any landing I could've taken, so I let 'er fly.

"You're too short." "You're too young." "We don't know how deep that water is." All were reasons that mom said made the trapeze too dangerous for me, but okay for my 13 year old brother. None of them really mattered, because I had already gotten what I wanted. A moment to disobey and FLY!

When I told the story to Chef, I said "That was back when I was young. And fearless."

Since then I've decided it's time to get a little more fearless again. We'll see what that ends up meaning.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Speedo, You Let Me Down

Perhaps I didn't read closely enough, because I bought a Speedo swim cap yesterday to protect my faux red hair from the harsh realities of chlorine and it did not help.

Chef mentioned that swimming was a great workout and that since I had some hip issues, we have access to a pool and I'm looking for new ways to workout, it might be a good idea to swim some laps. He had good points on all of that, but my one counter was my hair. I pay good money to keep it as red as possible for as long as possible, so protection for my investment was going to be needed. Hence, the Speedo swim cap.

I put the darn thing on. It smooshed my head. My hair was back in a low knot, pressing against the nape of my neck. I looked like a giant blue condom tip. I was ready to go.

After about 10 minutes of slicing through the water with my arms as the blades (okay, so it was MUCH less graceful than that, but still. . .), I knew that my hair was already soaked.

The swimming was nice, though. Chef came down to get a workout too and keep me company. He also served to motivate me. Typically his presence alone gets me to up the workout ante, so to speak. Amazing how much harder you work when you're trying to impress someone you love. It's the "Hey, Mom! look at me!" syndrome as adults.

I have a feeling that I'll end up swimming some more in the near future, so if anyone has a suggestion for a better swim cap that will actually keep my hair dry, let me know!

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

I Wanted to Like Her. But I Couldn't.

Ann Patchett. The name itself was enough to get me in the audience. In fact, I had talked about her enough that Chef was the one who actually suggested we go when he saw she was speaking in LA. From the same series that brought us the Tina Fey-Steve Martin interview came the Ann Patchett- Maile Meloy conversation.


We went to this cool, old train station turned art gallery space and sat obediently in our folding chairs. I had brought my copy of Ann's latest book (purchased direct from the publisher at a book fair in CANADA!, by the way) in case I wanted to get it signed. I tweeted my excited. She was not only an author that I adored, but from NASHVILLE and could help bring a bit of longing to life. I braced myself for fun. She stepped onto the raised platform in a very Brentwood-housewife looking blue dress.


And from there on, I was utterly disappointed and entirely annoyed.


First of all, to call it a "conversation," as it was billed to be, would be doing it a disservice. It was primarily 90 minutes of Ann Patchett talking about herself and dropping names like they're hot. She told a few funny stories, but then preceded to drop her personal friendships with three prominent female writers, Nicole Kidman and Keith Urban, a famous opera singer and her numerous editorial connections into the whole thing. It was obnoxious.


She took credit for bankrupting Gourmet magazine because they bankrolled her elaborate trips for novel research with her just selling them an article. She said she didn’t do it because she couldn’t afford to pay for the trip, but because she didn’t like to make elaborate travel plans and they had a department to do that for her.


She mentioned having her first piece published in The Paris Review, but being confused because she hadn’t submitted to The Paris Review. She had submitted to Esquire, but they had passed it to The Paris Review without her knowing. How weird! (She said that with undeniable pride and I admit I’m envious, but also a little ticked).


She mentioned lots of things that mostly just made me angry. What she didn’t mention was that she has the luxury of writing because her husband, a doctor, takes care of little things like steady income and health insurance.


Mostly I was just irritated. I felt no humility or feeling of luck for her having won the genetic lottery. I mean, she’s white. She was born to parents who were pretty well off (mother is a nurse, stepfather is a doctor). Those two things helped her get into Sarah Lawrence College. And from there, the rest is history.


Of course, Ann Patchett’s talent is truly something to marvel at. As much as I’m now disappointed in having met her (and why I will probably never really want to meet Matt Damon or Peyton Manning), I still appreciate that she can sure write. I just now have to separate the author from the work to appreciate it. Which is really what I’m doing with Jonathan Franzen too.


Anyway, the whole night was sitting there wondering if I was the only one who thought she was utterly obnoxious and looking at the room full of aging yuppies. Many people in their mid to late 50s wearing gorgeously made, expensive clothes that they put together to look like shit. Bad, short women’s haircuts and men wearing “statement” glasses—big, bold, black rims and odd shapes. They were people ready to be mobilized into doing something for society, but instead of putting that to actual use, they rallied around the idea of the independent bookstore and the evils of Amazon and the Kindle. While I understood the message, I thought it was a little diluted for them to be nodding their heads vigorously to Patchett’s battle cries against mass booksellers while I literally watched some of them guzzle Starbucks coffee. (By the way, Patchett described her contributions to the bookstore she’s planning on opening in Nashville as the “flash and the cash”—also a little retching).


It was all in all too much. I couldn’t believe that I was the only one who wasn’t drinking the Kool-Aid. It wasn’t until I left and Chef said “So, what did you think?” tentatively that I realized there was at least one other person who felt like I did.


“I think that I’m a little sad that my favorite author is an asshole,” I said.


“I’d call her a ‘Douche in a Blue Dress’,” Chef replied.


The floodgates then opened as we exchanged quotes from the evening that left us both with a bad taste in our mouths. And for the second time that evening I truly appreciated Chef.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Did Michael Richards Teach Us Nothing?

Can we all just agree that spewing hate speech in front of crowds is a bad idea no matter what expectation is of humor? First it was Michael Richards spewing racial slurs on stage in the name of comedy. And just a few days ago it was Tracy Morgan taking on gays at the Ryman in Nashville, again using the thin guise of comedy.

Saying you meant something to be funny doesn't mean you just get to say it. Freedom of speech protects your right to spew idiotic crap without fear of being jailed for it. It doesn't protect you from the consequences.

I love good comedy. It takes a courageous view of the world and usually has someone going out on a limb to do it. But typically these aren't funny comments. I know "funny" is subjective, but typically it's humorous, not hurtful, in nature. There are some racist things that are funny, just as there are some misogynist things that are funny. But in the end, funny typically does not entail descriptive words like "rant."

Here's my one-line for comedians: If you or someone you trust feels you have to issue an apology after you tell a joke or "rant," then it's probably best to avoid it.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

I Didn't Do TOO Badly This Week

While it was only a few days ago that I posted my goals, I've actually been working off of them for over a week. So I decided to hold myself accountable. And because frankly, I'm not very good at just holding myself accountable on my own (I weighed 229 lbs at one point if you needed proof of that), I'm going to post my results each week for as long as I think it's interesting to post. I realize I'm dipping dangerously into the "Bridget Jones"-type of blog post, but I think you'll indulge me. So here goes for the first week:
  • Chats with Chef this week: numerous and multi-times per day
  • Pages of fiction read: 204
  • Fiction read: One Day by David Nicholls
  • Fiction listened to via audiobook: Unfamiliar Fishes by Sarah Vowell and Freedom by Jonathan Franzen
  • Creative writing every day: Complete
  • Five pages written: Not so much. I got three pages done. Maybe I'll get the other two knocked out today.
  • Calorie tracking: done and done honestly. It actually made me order a few things differently than I would've and eat less than I would've gorged.
  • Exercise: Twice daily for a total of an hour. I actually had sore muscles this week for the first time in a while. I don't think I was honest with myself before about pushing myself.
  • Friends and family: sent several emails this week out of the blue. If you didn't get one, you may soon.
I have to say that it's the reading that I'm enjoying most. And the writing that's leaving me the most to try and be honest with myself. It's challenging me most right now which is probably why I haven't finished my page quota for the week. I'm writing some non-fiction and it's hard to be as truthful as I want to be about others without revealing too much about myself.

Friday, June 10, 2011

C'mon, People. Stop Posting Pictures of Your Genitals

Is it egomania? Is it promiscuity? Or is it just plain stupidity? I'm not sure why famous people think it's a good idea to take pictures of their bodies or junk and send them to people they don't really know.

Did the world really need to see Brett Favre's junk? No. Don't text it to a girl you barely know.

Did I really need to see Anthony Weiner's weiner or chest? Nope and neither did the chick he sent it to.

I'm continually baffled about why people who are famous send illicit pictures of themselves to strangers. It's generally not a good idea for ANYBODY, especially someone who is say, in the political arena or gets media attention. Because for all the good things the media attention can bring to your life (and it does bring good things to most so don't let them fool you with this "I never asked for this" crap), it can also take you down.

Here's a good rule of thumb for all celebrities, politicians and others:

If you get bothered in bathrooms for autographs or can get good tables at nice restaurants just for being you, don't send any photos of any bathing suit parts or otherwise embarrassingly skimpy areas out via twitter, facebook, text or other social media outlet.

Thursday, June 09, 2011

I Make Time Because They Make Me Happy

Going along with the falling back in love with books theme, I also did a little personal inventory of things that I am making time for because they make me happy. Or maybe the actions themselves don't make me happy but the end results do. So here are my weekly goals that I hope to keep track of things that make me happy (Yes, I realize it's a little sad that I have to have goals to do things that I enjoy, but I'm a goal-oriented person):
  • I will chat with Chef every day. Pretty easy most days. Not so easy when I'm travelling.
  • I will read 100 pages of fiction each week.
  • I will write something creative (fiction, non-fiction, blog) each day.
  • I will write at least 5 pages each week of something for my fiction or non-fiction pieces.
  • I will record my calories-honestly-each day.
  • I will try to be honest with my self, even when it's hard.
  • I will do some form of exercising each day even if it's just walking (more than normal, of course).
  • In my off hours, I will try and let go of having a "schedule" in my head and just enjoy the moments.
  • I will email a friend or family member each week just to see how they are.
I've had these in my head for a while and will post how I did on Saturday. There are some other ones, but those are private. I know I've met some of the goals already. Others. . . well, I still have two days.

Wednesday, June 08, 2011

Falling In Love Again . . With Reading

While I clearly didn't have the best time on my Canadian excursion (the company was lovely but the location-not so hot-although I'm willing to try Canada again--just maybe Vancouver,) there was one definite plus: I fell in love again with reading.

It's not like I ever truly fell out of love with reading, but you know how it goes. I hadn't had the best of luck reading the most captivating books lately, so I wasn't super excited to get through them and then I opt for a magazine instead. Not a good sign for a novel. I breezed through Bossypants because it is clearly awesome and then I picked up Water for Elephants right before I left for Canada. It had been sitting on my bookshelf since before the move. I remember buying it at McKay's in Nashville for $2.

It took me about 3 days of intermittent reading to get through it and it was a really entertaining book. But I left my Kindle at home on the charger, so I went to the Chapters store and bought two more books. I breezed through the first one in two days and started on the second one on my flight home.

Of course, books are something that I just love surrounding myself with PLUS I was working at frickin' Book Fair for 5 days, so I got even MORE tempted. Normally the Book Fairs I go to only have text books or academic writing (not the best for leisure time), but this one had FICTION! And good fiction. So I ended up buying four more books (hello? there was a conference discount!). So I left with two books read, six books bought and one more halfway through.

PLUS I just got two more audiobooks and finished the three I previously had. I've probably read or absorbed more literature in the last month than in the last 6 months combined. And I'm all the happier for it!

Tuesday, June 07, 2011

The Sinner Showing is Better

Chef and I capped his big 30th birthday weekend by attending what I like to call the "Sinner showing" at the local movie theater. It's the early Sunday morning (or in LA early Sunday afternoon) showing--you know, when most people are in church? Well, we sin, so instead of church, we saw "The Hangover 2." But I'm a non-practicing Catholic, so I can just add that to my list of other more relevant sins (hello? nearly 7 years living with a man and not being married or related to him), confess, say my "Hail Marys" for something other than sporting events and be absolved.

Until then, I was happy to be able to go to a movie in LA without a crushing crowd. Chef and I have hit this strategy a few times when there's a popular movie out that we want to see without having to deal with the annoyance of other people. Nothing can ruin a movie-going experience faster than being behind question girl ("Why is she doing that? Where is he going?") or narrates his own experience guy ("That is SO funny!" "I canNOT believe they just did that!").

We went to Arclight Cinemas in Hollywood and when we left, Chef and I agreed that it was sad that the actual experience of going to the movie was almost more noteworthy than the movie itself (which was good, but not as good as the first and we think will probably grow on us over time--in case you cared). We decided to see which movie theater had the highest rating on yelp to see if we could up the ante. I mean, it is the movie capital of the world, right? We should be able to get a VIP movie experience.

Here's the thing about Arclight. When you buy the tickets-online or in person, you pick out your seats. None of that general admission stuff. You know where you're going to be watching the movie and don't get suckered into buying tickets and having to sit in the front row. You know before you go.

Also awesome is the fact that they don't seat people after the movie starts. If you're not there when the feature begins, you can get a later showing or a refund, but you're not going to be interrupting everyone's movie by climbing over people 20 minutes in. And there are a few previews but NO ads, so the movie starts about 5 minutes after the posted time.

And if that weren't enough you can buy cocktails and beer at the concession stand (not at the sinner showing but for the late matinees and night showings for sure). Plus the seats are giant cushioned things that have moveable armrests in case you want to snuggle. Oh, did I mention they use real butter on the popcorn? REAL BUTTER!

These seem like small things. And they probably are, but think about it. Movie-going has slowly declined and become such a hassle that I'd rather wait for a DVD and watch it at home than go out. But now, I'm totally sold on going to the movies again.

Monday, June 06, 2011

Wait, I didn't declare that 5 lbs to customs. . . Take it back

I brought back a souvenir from my time in Canada: a fat ass. Well, fatter any way. The access to lobster and being stuck in a place where eating really is the only true past time were enough to add five pounds to my frame. FIVE POUNDS! How is that even possible in 10 days time??

I kept my calorie count even on the bad days. And on the really really really bad days, I STILL kept my log going. Without access to the AT&T network (because I was not about to pay the outrageous international rates just to sync my calorie counting app), it was challenging and humiliating to admit my daily defeat, but I did.

And this happened even though I worked out nearly every day I was gone. Oh well. I did it to myself. I just wondered why I couldn't check my extra ass in at customs and make them to my 5 pounds of flesh.

However, once I crossed into US territory, I didn't get much better. Chef turned 30 on Friday and with that came dinner at the swankiest place I have been to thus far. It's called CUT and is a Wolfgang Puck restaurant. And did I mention it's delicious? We had bone marrow flan, which was just fancy way of saying bone marrow. I had never had bone marrow before and let me tell you, it's worth getting. It's f&c#ing delicious. Like concentrated meat jelly. Like the flavor and soul of the cow were secretly hiding not in the flesh, but in the bones. It may sound gross, but if you like meat, it is not gross at all.

Since I'm confessing to that, I should also confess to the other dishes that may have contributed to my five pounds in the last 10 days (i didn't eat THEM ALL, but had my share for sure):
  • Aforementioned bone marrow flan
  • Seafood risotto with half a lobster tail
  • Gorgonzola topped filet
  • two servings of sticky toffee pudding
  • loaded potato skins
  • pretzel bites
  • Lobster dinner with drawn butter
  • Banana bread pudding
  • Double bacon cheeseburger
  • Taco Bell chicken quesadilla
  • Taco Bell cheesy fiesta potatoes
  • Meyer Lemon pound cake with Earl Grey ice cream
  • The crispiest french fries I've ever had in my life
  • Seafood salad
  • Kobe filet mignon
Okay, there may be five pounds in there after all. Crap. Well, it was back on the treadmill and back to my normal food this morning. Looks like it will be double work outs for me this week . . .

Thursday, June 02, 2011

My Time in Manhattan

Now this is more like it. I'm here for a work function tonight and got in yesterday. It's a completely different change of pace from New Brunswick, but New York is a completely different change of pace from most places.

Because I spent a lot of yesterday morning and Tuesday catching up, I felt pretty good about leaving in the afternoon to do some exploring. I mean, spending a 3 day weekend in Canada working a booth should buy me some goodwill for signing off an hour early yesterday.

I'm in Manhattan and to be honest the last time I was here both the World Trade Center and my mother were still standing, so that should tell you something. I might've changed a little in that time, too.

I went to one store specifically because I knew there was something that I wanted to get Chef. (He turns 30 tomorrow. Hard to believe because with that baby face he still looks about 18). I went, I saw, I bought, I conquered. I then decided it would be fun to try and walk back. In some red patent wedges. Not the best idea I've ever had, but I made it without having to amputate anything so SUCCESS!

I was just a few steps on my journey when a gaggle of gay men started pointed and looking at me. I instantly thought I was either in front of someone they knew or my mascara had officially melted in the heat and was running down my face. Turns out the answer was neither of those. One of the gaggle broke himself off and said "Where do you get your hair done?". Actually the first thing he said as he came jutting towards me was "Dont' worry I'm not going to steal your little XXX(store name here hidden for Chef's torture) bag." Then he asked about my hair.

"LA," I said.

"How long are you here for?," he asked. The gaggle exchanged nervous glances behind him.

"Two days," I said.

"Shit. Sorry, girl. I'm doing a fashion thing this weekend and just think your whole look is fierce," he said. "Would have loved to have had you."

"Thanks?" I reply and walk off with a little jaunt in my step (that only lasted three blocks before I realized the jaunt was unnecessarily adding pain to my feet. I can do 1-2 miles in those things before they hurt--after that, my tootsies are toast.)

After that encounter, the rest of my experience was pretty mundane. I saw Rockefeller Center (and desperately looked for Liz Lemon--to no avail), St. Patrick's Cathedral (which made me miss Chef although not for the religious connotation), Time's Square, Herald's Square and the Fashion District. Then I did a whore's bath (as it so happens yesterday was the hottest day thus far in NYC at 90 degrees), and walked to a nice Italian restaurant for dinner. I'm glad I walked, because I ate like tomorrow was judgement day. And it was delicious.

Today, i worked in the morning then rolled out to walk to lunch with our freelancer and then walked back. Now I'm sitting here for another 30 minutes before I have to get ready for the event I'm helping with tonight. Then it's on a plane tomorrow for a low awaited reunion with Chef, the kitties and my own bed!

There are a few things I noticed about New York: 1) It's not nearly as intimidating as it was all those years ago. 2) Being here reminded of me of my first time when mom and Jack took me for a graduation trip and I inadvertently visited most of the places that we saw on that trip as well. 3) I prefer LA. I never in a million years would've thought that I'd say that, but damn, that weather is nice. And having grown up in the suburbs, the sprawl of LA -- "Los Angeles: Seventy-two suburbs in search of a city," said Dorothy Parker-- it just kind of hits home.

And I'm ready to get back there.

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