Elegy to Flower – May he have many happy travels in Bastet’s Fields

Previously Published May 2013 on Blogetary 1.0:

Above, Flower, sitting in state on “his” gold silk comforter, May 3, 2009.

No one really knew how old Flower was, or what his real name was. Heather, my sister, dubbed him “Flower” because of his sweet face. He was a wanderer who had other “real owners” who had micro-chipped him, but he always found his way to my sister’s back garden and chose to spend most of his time there with her. He hunted, he slept. He spent four or five years working his way into my sister’s life to make sure she was okay. He had adopted her and had plans for her. He had a schedule and he kept her to it and took care of her in that way. He was able to be with her through thick and thin, loyal and loving, never deserting her. Flower was a good cat.

No one really knew how old he was, not even his “real owners.” Last week, my sister noticed he was limping and obviously in pain. When she contacted the owners of record through the microchip, there was no number left to let them know their cat was sick. So, Flower and my sister faced the vet together and found out he had bone cancer, and had probably had it, and been in pain, for quite a while, but was just now showing signs of being in pain. She went home with pain killers and options and started to think about how to deal with this. It’s tough when our four-footed friends are ill. They can’t really tell us what they want, so we have to figure it out as best we can on our own.

Saturday morning, she found blood in his urine. Saturday afternoon at the vet’s they advised that it was time for Flower to go and my sister had to make that tough decision many friends of the animalkind need to face, putting them to sleep.

Flower will be missed — is missed — and I hope he’s hunting and sleeping in Bastet’s Fields and no longer feeling the pain he had probably been in for so long.

So, to Flower, who was a good cat and a good friend to my very dear sister.

To Flower, 2003 (?) — 2013, who was a good cat.

Larchmont Chronicle 50th Anniversary

Previously Published May 2013 on Blogetary 1.0

Once upon a time there was this girl named Jane. She had a lot of what some people used to call “spunk”. She was outspoken (she was from New York state, after all). She was a Girl Scout. She worked on her high school paper in Rye, New York. She went to a good mid-West college (Beloit) and then moved to New York City and began working at Cosmopolitan Magazine. Eventually she joined the military as a Recreation Director and helped organize activities for lonely G.I.s serving overseas. This is where she met her husband, Irwin.

But, “Happy Ever After” doesn’t stop there. I mean, in the stories it does. In real life, there’s more to it. She and her husband eloped to Las Vegas and then went on to Denver where she became a copywriter writing advertising copy. She was bored. This was not what she went to school for. This was not the great career of the young woman who’d once worked for Cosmo.

So, she and Irwin pulled out stakes and moved to Los Angeles to see what dreams are made of here. They landed in a little known strip of L.A. suburbia (at the time anyway) in Hancock Park on Larchmont Boulevard. It was an old fashioned street. There was a gas station. A grocery store. Local merchants.

Jane befriended another ambitious young woman, Dawne Goodwin, who excelled at selling ads. Together, in a kitchen, the hatched an idea, a really big idea, to start a paper all their own. It was 1963. I wasn’t even born in 1963.

To keep people from getting all hinky about “gals” running a newspaper, they did the traditional first initial thing (because you know how nervous some guys get when women start to work in their wheelhouse). And set about creating a neighborhood newspaper. Dawne got the advertising. Jane wrote the copy. They presented it as the Larchmont Chronicle published by J. Gilman and D. Goodwin. Their first issue had 12 pages and the mailed it out to as many people in Hancock Park and the surrounding areas as they could.

The local businessmen gave the six months before they thought the paper might fold.

FIFTY YEARS LATER, the Larchmont Chronicle now averages 60 pages an issue each month. Still privately owned and operated by Jane and Irwin Gilman, it is read by approximately 77,000 people in the Los Angeles area. More if you count the ones who get it mailed to them all over the U.S.

Besides being a publisher of a paper that’s been around for 50 years, however, she’s also contributes to the community. She’s involved in Hope-Net (and started the Taste of Larchmont fundraiser that helps contribute to Hope-Net each year), is one of the founding members of the Windsor Square-Hancock Park Historical Society, is part of the Miracle Mile Civic Coalition, the Wilshire Community Police Council and the Greater Wilshire Neighborhood Council.

Four and a half years ago I had used up the last of my unemployment, hadn’t found a job yet, or been able to build up my freelance business. I got desperate and from desperation comes inspiration. I sent out emails to businesses in my neighborhood who might be looking for part time or occasional office work or proofreaders, freelance or otherwise. One of the places I contacted was the Larchmont Chronicle. Jane emailed me asking if I’d be interested in a receptionist job. I said sure. She asked if I could make it for an interview in 15 minutes. It was the end of a hot summer. I hadn’t showered. I brushed my hair, pulling it back into a ponytail, changed my shirt, pulled on a skirt and walked down to see if she’d have me. I was hired as a receptionist/Girl Friday and I’ve been there ever since.

I have learned so much from this woman. Not just here, but to be able to work with all the phenomenal women who have worked at the Chronicle for so many years has taught me so much. And to be able to be at this gala event at the Ebell of Los Angeles with many of the people Jane has worked with in the community to celebrate all the work she’s put into this paper was wonderful, astounding, fantastic, and a lot of fun.

Below are a couple of pictures from tonight.

 

Above, Assistant Editor Laura and Associate Editor Suzan. They kick my ass every single month.

Jane Gilman, publisher and editor of the Larchmont Chronicle with Yvonne, our accountant. They can both drink me under the table, swear like sailors and behave like the ladies they are. They also kick my ass every month.

I missed getting pictures of Maria (graphic designer) and Pam (Director of Advertising) because I got distracted, but you get the idea. It’s a special group of people, of women, of ladies, and I treasure the time I have spent them and have learned from them. And I know that through the years they have made positive impacts on others as well.

 I had a great time tonight and I wanted to share this so people would understand what I mean when I say:

I. Love. My. Job.

Being Relevant

Previously Published May 2013 on Blogetary 1.0.

I love Los Angeles. When I was growing up I never thought I would love Los Angeles. I always figured I would be a San Francisco or New York person. Or Seattle, maybe. In my imagination I might have a cabin at Lake Chelan or a beach house in Malibu, but I also always had a city penthouse, and that was always in San Francisco or New York. Sometimes Vancouver B.C.

In grade school I used to daydream about living in a loft apartment in New York that looked like a warehouse on the outside and was beautiful and Bohemian on the inside. And I’d be a poet/writer/director/actress. I checked out plays from the library and I had my sister act out some of the parts and I’d act out the others. We used the picnic table as a stage.

Then in high school I decided San Francisco was it. That was where my dad lived. That was where all the cool artistic hippies lived. And when I traveled with our music department to Anaheim for the trip to Disneyland, I got a taste for that, too.

After college I lived in Seattle for a little while. Worked, hung out with friends. Worked some more. I didn’t fall in love with Seattle though, and moved back to Bellingham.

Then some friends of mine moved to Los Angeles and I came down to visit on a vacation. “It’s warm,” they said. “We can go to the beach.” I was tired of feeling like I was going nowhere in Bellingham. I was feeling like my only relevance was as “the coffee lady” at Starbucks. No one knew my name; I was just the coffee lady. I wrote sometimes and went for walks, planned going on vacation, used the money to fix the car whenever it broke down instead, dreamed of meeting someone different and not feeling like I was just having a nothing life in a small town. I’d tried working up in Starbucks as a lead clerk and had considered management and I hated it. I felt irrelevant. I felt like I didn’t count, like my voice, even if it was heard, was being ignored.

So, a vacation sounded good. And I took a flight down to Los Angeles California and promptly fell in love with this city. I ran around everywhere in shorts. It was August and uber-hot here, but I didn’t mind. It was glorious. And I was relevant. People move here from all over to follow their dreams and I had dreams. I was relevant. My dreams were relevant. I counted. I may not have counted as the skinny, blonde model, but I still counted.

I made up an excuse about missed flights and extended my stay about about two days. And when I got back to work and realized I was just as bitter and unhappy as I’d been before I left, and that the vacation hadn’t helped, I realized it was time to quite or move or do both. And I schemed and planned, contacted people in Seattle, San Francisco and Los Angeles (in case it wasn’t the location, but just the need to leave Bellingham). In the end, there was a job opening in Los Angeles, and a friend of a friend needed a roommate and by October I was driving down here.

I’ve told this story before in some places, so it may sound familiar.

Los Angeles is a city where people come to follow their dreams. And yes, there’s a serious self-centered eternal-youth culture here. And yes, in some cases, if you’re not rich then no one hears you. But as an artist, you count. This is why I love this city. As vain, vapid and shallow as it can be, if you are an artist, you count.

I lived in San Francisco for a few years and you’d think that artists would count in that grand city. It’s a wonderful city. I fall in love with it every time I’m there. I think it used to be about artists and writers, you can feel it in the bones of the streets and buildings when you’re there, but no longer. Now, it’s a city of businesses and technology. That’s not a bad thing. It’s still a grand city, but when I lived there the discussions at parties always centered around promotions, credit ratings and getting the next apartment (because people were always looking for a better apartment). Discussions about poetry and novel writing were pretty much met with blank looks (at least in my experience). The topic changed to something safer, like dating.

In Los Angeles, for the most part, whether you moved here to become a director and work as a grip or came here to be an actress and work as a waitress, you still count. It took me a long time to really love and get Los Angeles, but eventually I realized that the people who live here get you when you move here. Maybe you will make it. Maybe you won’t. Maybe they will make it or maybe they won’t. Maybe the guy at the next table in the restaurant is regular CPA, but he’s a CPA who knows how to do taxes for entertainers. The tech guy might be the one fixing the PC in the real estate office, but chances are he’s got a girlfriend or boyfriend acting in a production or trying out for a part somewhere. The bank teller with a husband and kids helps business people, regular folk and probably is really used to seeing the yo-yo like balances of people who work in the entertainment and freelance industries.

Nothing is sure here. You might have a job one week and looking for another gig the next. Half the city is freelancing and there’s security in that insecurity. Even the earthquakes know that. In the middle of change and chaos and destruction is creativity and growth. The normal and the other intermix here in a surreal concoction of real and unreal so that sometimes, if you’re not quite with us, you might lose your sense of grounding, of what really is and what really isn’t. But the point is that the people here get why you – the writer/artist/actor/singer/etc.– moved here and you count. Gone are the days where you flounder trying to explain to the Muggles of the world why you do what you do as they fidget and shrug off your hobby. You are relevant.

Until you’re not.

The thing about this grand, epic surreal Hollywood culture is that its demand for perfect youth and beauty has taken over not only Los Angeles, but the world, and has attracted a number of people to this city (let’s say a percentage that wavers between 10 and 25%) who either truly think that’s the only thing that matters or have bought into the surreal unreality that that is all that matters. As far as they’re concerned, if you’re useful, etc., you’re mostly okay. But it’s no secret that youth, beauty and wealth (or usefulness/connections) are the accepted trifecta demanded of the gods of the City of Dreams, or so these acolytes believe. And if you buy into that, or are around people who buy into that, if you start losing one part of the trifecta, then you better get it back or start working harder on the other two. If you lose two, then you better hold onto the last one with a death grip. But, if you are no longer young, beautiful or wealthy (or useful and have connections), then watch out. You are in danger of becoming irrelevant. To those people, you will essentially become invisible. Some of those acolytes of the city gods who once stopped to speak to you in the hallway will nod, looking down or away, checking their phones and muttering things about being late for appointments. Some people you once considered good friends will forget to return phone calls and emails. Where once your struggling with family, health or artistic angst had been met with concern, now it is ignored. You remind them of their own problems, now. And you’re not useful to them anymore.

I’m not pointing all this out on my own account, I have lots of friends over the years who’ve had to deal with this. Some people leave L.A. because of it, some choose to stick around, because if you stick it out long enough this really cool thing happens. It doesn’t feel cool at first, because you’ve gotten used to the mosaic of real, unreal and surreal that mixes around here. But, you’ve also gotten used to the ground shifting beneath your feet, so as it shifts again, you notice that with all that shaking all the dross, all the dirt and grease and crap that was clinging to this mosaic has fallen away. All those useless people who only wanted a part of you because you were useful to them have now disappeared leaving behind only the ones who really matter, who really care. They are the ones who know you really matter and they really matter to you. You all understand the hard work you’ve put into your particular craft over the years and understand that you may not make it big anytime soon, but that your craft is still relevant. You still matter. You are still relevant.