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There be (or were) mountains

26 Oct

Here in LA County most of our fires have been contained. The Santa Ana winds have died down. People are going back to their homes. But one huge problem still remains…

The air.

Four years ago the fires were really bad, so bad that the sky literally looked like a Hollywood Armageddon-like film. You could literally see the smoke hanging above the mountains. But at least you could still see the mountains.

Yesterday I looked out the window of our apartment. We usually have a really clear view of Mount Wilson, the observatory up top and the radio towers.

mountain there
Usual View

This was our view yesterday (and not much has changed today).

Mountainless view

Yep, our mountains have disappeared into the haze. There is so much particulate matter in the air, it reminds me of being in Bangkok or any other SE Asian city where pollution laws don’t really exist. In fact, on the weather website we usually check, instead of the normal designations of cloudy, partly cloudy, clear, or rain, the weather condition was listed as smoke.

So, here’s what I’ve had to do to avoid getting too much of this stuff into my lungs..

  • Close off the apartment. I figure the extra money we spend running the AC for part of the day will offset the co-pay and prescription costs (not to mention time waiting) to go to the doctor’s office to be treated for bronchitis.
  • Stay indoors as much as possible. It’s so hard for me to do, but it’s not just my health, but little one’s, that depends on it. A little stir craziness might inspire me to finish up a tutorial for my new job, some knitting, and heaven forbid, some cleaning.
  • Breathing only through my nose. Sounds pretty simple, but there it is. Four years ago I tried the surgical mask thing, and it didn’t work out so well for me. I figure that my nose will do it’s job provided it’s not made to work over-time.
  • And…my favorite…the neti pot.


    This is the best thing in the world! Just a half tsp. of salt, some warm distilled water and a sink, and you have the best nasal cleaner there is. It freaks Doug out a bit to watch me, but it really helps my nose.

  • For those of you suffering from allergies and bronchitis here in SoCal, I recommend you go to your local yoga studio, health food store, or Whole Foods and pick up one of these babies right away!

    Hopefully the air will clear up enough so that I (and all of us in SoCal) can enjoy the nice warm weather soon. And hopefully the fires will be put out so that the evacuees can return home.

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Love, Exciting and New…

8 Jun

Just call me Julie. That’s right, that’s what I should (but don’t necessarily want to) be called today.

No, I haven’t succumbed to multiple personality disorder like Joanne Woodward in “The Three Faces of Eve”. I haven’t forsaken all of my identity to become subsumed into another completely different persona. No, the only thing that has happened to me is…

I got a haircut.

I have curly thick and unruly hair. What I asked for was a “flip” style that really works well with my hair and face. What I got was…


Yep. I could be a host of things today. Julie, your illustrious Cruise Director, a chicken, a duck, a plane. You name it. You see…today…my hair…can…FLY!

It all started out innocuously enough. I needed my roots touched up and thought that instead of my usual trek to the beauty supply shop I would pay someone to do it for me. I figured that it would be nice to start getting some more shape and texture cut into my hair so that by September it would look stunning for the wedding. My budget for the month already being shot on wedding deposits and such, I was tempted to go to Supercuts, but opted instead to try a salon on a tree-lined street with a lot of upscale shops and spas. My goal was to find a really relaxed hair styling place where there no gay men saying to me “Sweetheart what have you done to your hair?” and trying to sell me tons of expensive products. (Don’t get me wrong, I have nothing against gay men, it’s just that this type of conversation is guilt-inducing to the extreme — and the last thing I need is more guilt trips in my life… And, as an aside, I also like to keep the hair products I use to a minimum.)

The first salon I walked into charged $75 for a cut. (I won’t mention how much their color treatments were, but just to give some idea, close to half of what I now pay in rent.) No way was I going to pay so much just for a few snips from a pair of scissors. (I don’t care that much about my hair.) So, I found a little salon down the road with a really nice Vietnamese lady, walked in and asked if she was free. She was, the price was right and the next thing I knew, I was in a chair with cape around my neck awaiting my hair color.

It was a leap of faith, because I really don’t trust anyone to cut my hair. The only person I liked who ‘got’ how my hair should be cut was my former neighbor (whom I dubbed ‘Dippy Neighbor Chick’). I could get an edgy cut, color and highlights from DNC for under $80 — unheard of anywhere, most of all LA. But, she did a great job and I was so sad to see her move away a year ago. Since then it’s been me, a pair of scissors, a layering tool from Japan and a bottle of color.

I have to say that I was taken by the experience. She was very meticulous, showing me pictures of haircuts, asking me what I wanted. I loved talking to her and hearing about her experiences. The way she shampooed my hair was wonderful, tender, and thorough. When I got back into the chair I watched her cut, snip and trim, carefully measuring to make certain things were even. Wet the cut looked fine. But then she took out the blow-dryer and…

My hair exploded! (Figuratively, of course.)

I thought at first that it was one of those important-first-step-secrets-of-styling that the people who charge the big bucks say they do (you, know, in order to charge the big bucks). I told myself that I would trust the hair-styling gods to take care of me and that I couldn’t leave the salon looking like I just walked out of a bad 80’s melodrama. As I was thinking all of this she handed me the mirror looking upon her work proudly and said…

Well, what do you think?

Shock. Horror. Sadness. What does one say in a time like this? I don’t think she misunderstood my English — flip and wings don’t really mean the same thing or even sound alike, after all. I was too stunned to do anything but gulp, pay, and hope that my bobby pins were still lodged somewhere in my bag.

As I walked down the street, I realized that this situation called for the one thing I was avoiding — product. So, off I headed to the Aveda salon nearby. When I walked in, I could see the girl at the desk looking me over and turning up her nose, peering at me around her desk as I was searching for some gel. Behind her was the stylist giving a middle-aged woman with dark roots a Connie Chung-style haircut, waxing on about the products she should use in her hair, and I as I plunked down my money for some de-poofing hair gel, I thought…

Well, now…maybe wings aren’t so bad after all!

2 Jun

It’s been such a busy week that I have hardly had time to breathe! First there was Stitch N Pitch on Tuesday. Somehow the person organizing the event lost or didn’t get our tickets early on, so we had to run around hunting them down while I was moving & Doug was passing his second kidney stone (poor guy — that makes two in the last two months!). But eventually we got the tickets. We wound up sitting pretty far from most of my SnB friends, but we were near two diehard Dodgers fans — young teenage guys accompanying their mom — behind us who were a riot to listen to… and two really cool SnB friends, Heidi and Johnnie who are really fun. Didn’t get much knitting done, and the Dodgers won, which was cool.

I had one of those bad camera-up-the-nose we’re-taking-our-own-pic-pictures of Doug and me, but he was really upset that I posted it. So here’s one of me that is blurry but has a picture of the field instead. (Ever since living in Japan I’ve hated having my picture taken — could be the fact that everyone is picture crazy there…)

Katie at SnP

We also had plans to go to Utah for Memorial Day weekend to see my brother and his family (planned way before engagement, wedding plans, kidney stones and moving.) It was a fun trip with a small family hike, 1/2 day canoe trip, a family dinner and a trip into Salt Lake City (more about that in another post).

Christina and Naomi

(Sister-in-law, Christina with my niece, Naomi-chan)

Sitting Pretty

(Naomi-chan ‘sitting pretty’)

j&n hike

(My Brother, James, and Naomi-chan)


Cousins at Roosters

(Out to dinner with my cousin, John)

We got back super early on Tuesday morning and I spent the whole day power-cleaning my apartment for the final turning over of the keys on Thursday. Hard to believe that I managed to live in such a small space for almost 7 years. My spinning wheel literally took up half my living room!

28 sunset dining room


living room

Now they’re asking $1400 for this tiny apartment! (It was super expensive at $975 when I first moved in, I thought….)

So, now it’s a lot of unpacking (will it ever get done???), cleaning, catching up on work and adjusting to being inland. Even though Pasadena is only on the other side of LA, it is truly another world!

Just a few months ago I thought my life wasn’t changing fast enough. Well I certainly got what I wished for!

Chain Reaction

24 May

There is a large part of me that is sad to be leaving Venice Beach. Even though I’m only going an hour (or 30 minutes with no traffic, two hours during rush hour) inland, I’ll miss the bohemian life of the beach-dweller, being able to roll out of bed, head down to the boardwalk to grab a cup of Italian press coffee and a muffin; to look out at the beach feeling the salty sting in the air, watching the sidewalk vendors setting up their displays…

In fact, I already miss it.

It’s sad but true – the Venice I moved to 7 years ago is not the same enclave of funky coffee shops, greasy pizza joints and strange artsy people. Sure, some of these places still exist, but they are becoming much rarer. In fact, a few months ago, we just got our first real chain store close to the beach (there are a couple two blocks inland, but these new ones are sadly just a few steps from the boardwalk) – a Coffee Bean. Of course, the Coffee Bean is cattycorner from another independent café called Café Collage; along with the Coffee Bean a Campos Tacos (local chain) and Quiznos sub and Flight Centre have magically appeared. I guess that it’s only a matter of time before Starbucks and the big fast food chains move in, replacing the mom-and-pop hot dog and pizza stands that dot the boardwalk.

Just within the past 6 months, Abbott Kinney Blvd, one of the main shopping streets has undergone a massive transformation. The old houses and office buildings from Venice’s early hey-day have been quickly replaced by steel and concrete post-modern structures, casting shadows on what was a fun street to walk along and slowly edging out any non-conformist, non-trendy stores. Skater punks no longer sport dreads or look high on heroin, crack, or meth; instead they wear American Apparel t-shirts, are ripped, and look like GQ models. Last week while grabbing a veggie tamale at the Tortilla Grill, one of the remaining affordable places on the street, part of me thought that at least it was cool there were still no major chain stores along this strip yet. That is, until I looked across the street. In big pink and white letters, standing out eerily among the more demure painted store signs was a Pinkberry Yogurt Shop.

With each coming week, it seems like the edginess that I so cherished and loved is giving way to mainstream culture – a haven for yuppies and those with bank accounts that can afford the unrealistic rents. Older business are slowly being priced out by tripling rents, newer, slicker, more generic places moving in. Even though this is true in most other places, like San Francisco and Santa Cruz, it seems particularly distressing that this change is happening in Venice, since traditionally Venice has signified everything that is revolutionary, bohemian and unconventional about American counter-culture.

The voices of rebellion are quickly being replaced by those of the complacent – people who don’t care about much more than their tax-breaks and home appreciation costs; people who don’t give to the community, but instead move in, take what they can get, drive up prices and then leave within a couple of years.

I hope that Venice doesn’t entirely become the bastion of the rich and famous. It is the most popular tourist attraction in So Cal, after all (even more popular than Disneyland, apparently). Unfortunately, the developers don’t realize that part of the attraction is the funky craziness, and the last thing we need in LA is yet another sterile amusement park-type place with a bunch of big box stores.

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Into The Fire…

9 May

One of the perennial jokes about California is that there are four seasons, two of which were earthquakes and fires.

Yesterday as I was driving home from Pasadena, I noticed the smoke. At first I thought it was coming from right over a hill next to the highway, but as I drove further south on Route 2, I saw the plumes of smoke bigger and more fierce than I had previously imagined.

I realized that it was in Griffith Park, one of the coolest places to be in LA.

In some places we might not see the effect of global warming right away, but here in LA, we experienced them all too brutally yesterday — searing hot temperatures leading to a large urban fire — the fifth in Griffith Park since December.

It’s easy to become complacent about our place in the world, but yesterday was certainly a good reminder of the impermanence that is part of our collective human existence.

Photos from Today’s LA Times


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Just When I Thought The Yuppies Had Taken Over…

4 May

So, in a few weeks I’ll be leaving my bohemian enclave of Venice Beach, moving a little futher east where things and people are more settled and ‘normal’. Part of me is sad to leave the beach and it’s strangeness, but then again, Venice is changing all too rapidly — something I was lamenting on my way back from the drugstore with my 2 rolls of packing tape today when….

I saw a guy dressed cabaret-style on stilts.

Ok, having lived here for almost 7 years I’m used to the odd, so at first I didn’t think anything of it when….

I saw another guy dressed cabaret-style on stilts.

I was beginning to think that this wasn’t just a random thing, that there was actually something going on down the street. I knew a crew was filming on the beach today (which is basically an everyday occurrence here) but a cast on stilts….

How Cool!

stilt guy on horse

It turns out the Dresden Dolls were filming their latest video. Being a little out of it in terms of indy music these days, I have never heard of them, but read up on them when I got home and really think they are pretty cool — reminiscent of the punk/indy college music I loved in the 80’s. They were doing the video for the song “Shores of California” (what better place than Venice to tape???)

Here are a few more shots of the shoot and the cast…

getting ready for the shoot

The Shoot

stilt hopping


stilt guys



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