Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Permanent Vacation

Did I move to LA or am I just on a very long vacation? Here is the evidence that I might be on some fantasy trip:

1. I am not working. (well, barely)

2. It is January, and it was 80 degrees and sunny today. I wore a sun dress!

3. I am eating and drinking with the kind of abandon that only comes when visiting a new place. (I may have to rename this blog to "Everyday French Fries" or "Everyday Fatty").

4. Staying with friends feels like a weeks-long sleepover party (fun!) and when we are not with those friends, we are hanging out with other friends or making new friends.

5. Every place we go, everything we do is a new, never-been-done before adventure. Like, me finally getting behind the wheel this week and driving on the highways without anyone honking at me for going too slow (that is what happened to me the last time I drove in LA). It was fine. Okay so there was three attempts at parallel parking, but no one saw. No one knows. It's a new car, and I haven't parallel parked in about five years. And when I was done, it looked great. ADVENTURE.

6. I still walk around pinching myself and thinking, "I can't believe we actually moved here." This is all fake, right? We're going back home to New York next week, right?

How long will this keep up? Not sure -- what I am not keeping up with is maintaining this blog and taking pictures and trying to encapsulate these first few weeks in Los Angeles in the way I intended. So, I will try my best here.

I am very glad we have decided to stay with friends first before getting a job/finding an apartment. Not only do we have a chance to get to know different neighborhoods and different living styles, but we get to bond with our friends in a whole new our sweat pants.

We are doing two week rotations, and we spent the first rotation with Brett and Emily in Los Feliz. I loved getting to live their life for a while -- working hard at our computers all day, cuddling with Alfie the dog on the couch, eating out in their hipster neighborhood, taking yoga classes, grocery shopping at Trader Joe's. I felt like I got to know them and love them that much more. And I can't wait to do the same with the other folks.

Sunday Night dinner ... enjoying a delicious lasagna made by mom! Thanks, Susan!

Seeing The Artist at the Vista...

...which is a very cool old Hollywood theater that we (gasp!) walked to from Brett and Emily's place.

Meanwhile, we've been on the dinner circuit, having one-on-one dinners with each of the LA couples. Ara and Sandy took us to a Mediterranean place. Dan and Jacey got us SusieCakes cupcakes (my fave!) and Matt and Katie made a steak dinner I am still fantasizing about.

Dan and I have also been going all over town to have drinks and lunches with people we know or friends of friends. At this stage, it's all about getting to meet as many people as possible who could possibly be our friends or help us with our careers.

Watching the State of the Union and the Golden Globes at 6pm is weird. When I wake up each morning, my in-box and Facebook are flooded with new messages. Even though I have been getting up most days at 9 am, seeing all this news from the east coast makes me think I have already missed out on half the day. And then at 9 pm, it all goes dead, and I feel like I am the only one awake.

The pizza here sucks. There, I said it.

When I see images of New York on television commercials, I feel a bit wistful and sad. I love hearing from people from the East Coast and knowing they are still thinking of us.

It gets better every day.

I think what's helping is not being sick anymore and getting a car and going off on my own a little bit. When you are staying with friends, you are always surrounded by people which makes things fun and interesting. But I am a person who recharges when alone, so the small moments I have been able to steal for myself have been delicious. Take the day I took a yoga class alone, and then walked back to Brett and Emily's house. I finally noticed how lovely their neighborhood is, how pretty people keep their gardens, and how the light looks when the sun sets (because the light here is very different than what I'm used to) and for that moment, I could see small glimpse of what my life looks like. Not the fantasy "I am on vacation" life. But the I-will-one-day-have-a-job-and-a-home-and-live-in-LA life.

And I liked what I saw.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

You get a car! You get a car! You get a car! Everybody gets a car!

Dan and I are pleased to welcome the new arrival to our family: a 2011 Nissan Versa.

I knew it was a good sign when we drove up to the Honda dealership in Monrovia, and there was a giant inflated Panda bear perched on the roof. We were there to look at a Honda Fit and walked away with this guy (though the Versa was a main contender all along).

It is used hatchback model with about 35,000 miles. It runs like a champ, and it is a pretty light grey color. The plan is to share this car until we find jobs. Then it will be my designated car, and we will buy Dan something like this or this (or so he tells me).

We got some help from Dan's parents who came into town for two days to say hi and bring Dan's bowling ball, among other things. (Dan's joining Ara's league). We celebrated our purchase in true Pasquini style with some gelato in Old Pasadena, even though it was freezing outside.

When it is 50 degrees outside, no one here whips out the winter coat. I actually saw some women walking around wearing sleeveless shirts. What gives?

Friday, January 13, 2012

First Impressions of LA

Like everyone said, the weather here is great. It has been 70 degrees every day with the sun shining. And it's January! You can hear the birds chirping, and the leaves on the trees are lush and green. The mornings are the perfect workout temperature, but the evenings are cold and sitting inside encourages a sweatshirt. My suitcase was packed with light winter clothes, and I have been wearing those, which is weird since you don't think of wearing winter clothes when it's 70 degrees out.

The amount of cars on the road is staggering. It never stops. There are no left turn signals on the traffic lights or jug handles, so you spend half your day in the middle of an intersection, trying to make a left turn. I haven't driven yet, but I am super intimidated by the roads and wondering how I will ever figure it out.

The amount of hipsters here is also staggering. Yesterday, we saw multiple men wearing 1980s-style fedoras. Why?

Our friends have been lovely. We have been staying with Brett and Emily in their Silverlake cottage, and they have bent over backwards to make us feel welcome. I have been sick with a cold all week, and it's tough feeling unwell in someone else's home, but they have been so cool about it. We have met some of their friends, including Jonathan, who I already adore, and everyone so far has been kind and encouraging.

Brett Jackson is one of the hardest working people in show-biz. I have watched him work relentlessly and tirelessly on his screenplay all week for hours and hours and hours, and his work ethic is impressive and inspiring. Just wait until they discover him.

I have talked more about the film industry in the last week than I've had in the past year.

I had my first meal at Ara's parents' house. I have been hearing about these famous Armenian feasts from Dan for years. Ara's mom made us a yummy beef wonton soup with broth and homemade garlic yogurt. She also served us these fig pastries that were so intricate, I was sure they were made with a mold, but they were actually handmade. Ara's parents have agreed to store our moving boxes until we find a home, and we're so grateful for that. The movers came this week, and it was so surreal to see the boxes we packed in New York here in California.

Our entire life in 40 boxes.

We went to The Library Bar at the Roosevelt Hotel to meet Jonathan's new boyfriend, Peter. This bar is lined with fresh and exotic ingredients, and you tell the bartender what you are in the mood for or what flavors you like, and he makes a drink based on that. My drink was pretty tame with muddled strawberries and balsamic vinegar, but some of the other drinks featured arugula or lavender. It's there we had our first celebrity sighting: Ricky Schroder. He sat with his back to us, and we had a nice view of his butt crack all night.

I have started a routine of eating my breakfast outside on the porch with Alfie the dog. It is what I always imagined my life in California being like.

I am thinking very hard, trying to remember street names and where things are and figuring out what people are talking about and piece everything together. I know nothing, and I ache for things to be familiar. Dan and I have been sleeping on two twin beds in Brett's office. It is a dark and cool room. I have never slept so long or deeply, nor my dreams so vivid.

New York or LA, I still hate job searching.

I am trying to teach myself some web design this week. I am terrible at it. It might come to shock that I haven't figured it all out in one day.

Dan and I went on a run the other morning. I felt so lonely running in a place where there were few other runners. I looked around me and for a moment it all looked so strange to me that felt like I was on another planet. I couldn't believe that this was actually my home now. I was experiencing culture shock, for sure. Since Dan is much faster than me, we separated in the run, and I forgot to make a turn and got lost. I found my way back because I recognized the McDonald's and Del Taco signs from our last visit here. American fast food, in any foreign place, will always save you and make you feel at home.

Friday, January 6, 2012

Good-bye to New York and All That

I woke up this morning in my mom's upstairs guest room hours before my alarm was set to go off. It was still dark. I realized it was the first time I have been alone and still for the last two weeks. Today I move to Los Angeles. And man, do I have a lot of blogging to do.

Sunrise in Cedar Knolls, NJ.

It has been a whirlwind. I can remember the panic setting in on December 26th when Dan and I looked at each other, and the enormity of amount that needed to get done revealed itself. Somehow, impossibly, we managed to pack up our belongings into 40+ boxes. One by one, strangers from Craigslist and friends came by to take away our couch, lamps, nightstands, even our vacuum cleaner. I made countless trips to Housing Works, walking back and forth the two blocks from our apartment holding an armful of our possessions and wondering if people will enjoy our things as much as we did. With our apartment emptying out, one day we had no choice but to eat lunch on beach chairs pulled up to our TV stand. It was the only piece of furniture we didn't sell, so on our last night together in New York, Dan and I lugged Besta Jarga out on the street. We went to see The Descendants at the small theater on 85th and First, and in typical NYC fashion, it was gone by our return. The next morning, we got up from bed, stripped off the sheets, wrapped the mattress in plastic and unceremoniously dumped it on the sidewalk. Given that it was a Saturday and a holiday, there would probably be no garbage pick up the next day; our parting gift a blight on our neighborhood - we're sorry for that.

Dan left for the airport the day we moved out. He had always planned it at the way. He was excited to start the New Year anew in our new city. The way he talked about it, I kept imagining on New Year's Day our lives our magically reset like pushing a button, and we would be starting over. In a way, it's true.

Last moments in the apartment.

So much luggage to load.

There he goes!

I booked my flight a week later so I could spend my last week in New Jersey with my family. I was spending New Year's Eve with Adam and Nell, so after I said good-bye to Dan, I walked around our neighborhood one last time and tried to take it all in. I noted the restaurants on Second Avenue we went to; the ones we missed. The people walking around oblivious to my circumstance and I to theirs. The construction of the Second Avenue subway. It was a mild day; I was too hot wearing a coat. I browsed some books at Barnes & Noble and waited on an insanely long line for cupcakes at Two Little Red Hens bakery one last time.

The Q train that goes to Adam and Nell's apartment goes above ground for a short while over the Manhattan Bridge. The sun was setting, and I could see the glistening water, the iconic Lower Manhattan skyline and Lady Liberty. I was trying to have a moment, but there was a crazy guy on the train screaming, "BOOM!" over and over again. I looked over at the guy sitting next to me. He was updating his Facebook status. "There is a crazy guy on the train yelling "BOOM!" There was my moment.

Adam and Nell invited a few friends over, and we made homemade pizzas and played games. I grew tired and quiet early but was grateful for the company. The next day, it was hard to leave and so I didn't. We stayed in our pajamas and worked on a puzzle until I had to force myself to go.

Upon arriving in NJ, I made a page-long to-do list for the week and managed to get through none of it. My mom asked me to spend some time cleaning some of my old stuff that I had left at her house almost a decade ago when I first moved out. I assumed it would take an evening or two to get done, but apparently I used to be quite a pack rat because there were so many papers and mementos and things that I barely made a dent. It was surprising and almost comforting to find references to my old ambition to "move to LA" and "work in movies." I completely forget that I once felt that way.

I tried my best to see everyone before I left. Believe it or not - we even managed to have a 'Stock. (See Nell's blog for the deets). I even reconnected with some old high school friends before I left, including Laura, Stacy, Becky, Chris and Juliette.

Laura visits me from Portland.

Laughingstock! (Photo by Nell)

It probably comes to no surprise that in the end of it all, I got really sick. A sore throat turned into a nasty nasal waterfall turned into sinus trouble. On my last night, my mom made roast beef for dinner, and Pete came over.

I haven't been overly emotional about the move. This is strange for me, I admit. When I tell people I am moving, I feel like I am telling them I am going away to college. I took very few pictures in the last month. It is almost like I didn't want to memorialize that this was the "last time" I was doing anything. I refused to say any serious good-byes. The only time my eyes really welled up was on Christmas Eve and my brother told me that he was genuinely happy for me that I was making this decision and was so excited about this new chapter in my life. It was everything I wanted to hear.

When the plane left the runway, I was surprised to find myself crying. Someone told me that would happen, but I didn't think it would happen to me. As I sit on the plane now, sweaty and snotty and cramped in the middle seat, I am looking forward to seeing my husband at the airport (he has already called me with gleeful reports about barbecues in January, wearing flip flops and invigorating morning runs). I am excited that it will be 70 degrees when I get off the plane. I am sad to leave my mom behind. I am grateful she made me a lunch for my plane ride (ham sandwich, m&ms, cookies, an apple, grapes, cough drops - thanks Mamoosh!) I wonder what awaits me and already long for what I left behind.

Made it to LA sick as a dog.

Dan picks me up and gives me a hard time for taking pictures, what else is new?

Going "home" to Ara's.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

2011: Year in Review

Happy New Year! Here's my traditional year-end review...a day late.

The Good:
Conquering a huge fear and taking
swim lessons.
Changing breakfast forever with some
homemade granola. (Here's my go-to recipe).
Photo shoots with Annette.
Finishing the 365 Project.
Gross yet admirable
crawfish binges.
French dinner with Meagan and Julie.
Watching Wrestlemania and kind of loving it. (really!)
NYC at night.
The Dom arrives.
The British Wedding and an
English breakfast.
Dan makes
Midwest Road Trip - including Julie and Simon's wedding, the Polish sausage and Mini-stock.
Dan is silly in
Dad turns
CSA Cooking Adventures
Dan becomes an even bigger nerd.
favorite Euro family visit and they bring Speculoos!
Brighton Beach Day Trip.
My first
Occupy Wall Street.
Trip to Cooperstown and the pumpkin regalia.
New Yorker Festival (and finally seeing Jhumpa!)
Thanksgiving dinner.
QT with Heather and Drake.
Nail dates and Westville with Nell.
Making a new friend: Carrie.
Lots of new babies and more on the way.


The Bad:
What a
long, cold winter.
Dan wins the Oscar pool, ending my 7-year winning streak.
The loss of two
great souls.
Dan gets his first
It was kind of a
boring summer.
Pizza fights.
Saying good-bye to NYC and to our friends and my family.
The terrible return of
Sweet Valley High.

The Ugly:
Gaining back all the wedding weight we lost.
The mouse in the tub.

Who Knows?:
Deciding to move to LA - we'll see!

Favorite Books I read in 2011:
Let the Great World Spin by Colum McCann
Bossy Pants by Tina Fey
Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides

Favorite Movies I saw in 2011:
Bill Cunningham NY
Midnight in Paris
The Christmas Story (yes, for the first time!)