Tuesday, January 13, 2015

What happens in Cabo...

Emma Gilchrist nails it: Cabo is a party animal, and Todos Santos/Pescadero is a hippie.

In El Pescadero, we live a five-minute walk from Cerritos Beach, which is featured in Gilchrist's article. We also live within walking distance of San Pedrito beach.

San Pedrito

San Pedrito is isolated and wild. We can walk for miles and see few people, even though there are some homes within view. Cerritos has a restaurant and bar that sometimes hosts live music, massage tables, and--as the article shows--horses hanging out if you feel like renting one for a saunter through the sand.

Even so, Cerritos and the nearby Pueblo Magico of Todos Santos are indeed laid-back hippies, chillin' out in peace and quiet, compared to the party animal action of Cabo, which is an hour south of us.

We just spent a few days in Cabo with our friend Jimmy, who has a house there. Or more of a compound, with  multiple units that he's remodeling.

Jimmy's compound

Jimmy and Dave in the compound's open-air kitchen.
It was cool staying in a locals neighborhood. Most visitors stay in resorts and see just the main strip. We came in through the back door. One morning, Dave and I walked about ten blocks through the 'hood, just checking things out.

A few blocks from tourist central.
Jimmy drove us through the exclusive Pedegral neighborhood, climbing in the car up bumpy cobblestone streets. We saw outrageous views and mansions the size of exclusive resorts brimming from the mountainside.

Pedregal view
 At Los Deseos in the Golden Zone of Cabo Marina, we ate tres quesos fundido. As a lover of cheese to rival Wallace, I watched enthralled as the waiter placed three different types of cheese into an oven-hot molcajete. As the cheese melted, he poured in tequila then lit it so it flamed up.  Next he scooped portions of the gooey mess into thick corn tortillas.

The died-and-gone-to-heaven tres quesos looked something like this.

At Arts & Sushi, Jimmy introduced us to the No Name Roll, a sushi roll that has to be eaten to be believed. For yummy dessert and coffee, we went to Señor Sweets.

Eating the No Name with Jimmy, Pete and Chrissy.
And yes, we did experience the party animal milieu at places such as Medano Beach, where people sit on swings at the bar and where drinks are always two-for-one...that is, when you order booze. My lemonade arrived solo.

Party animal hanging out at Medano Beach.
At night, we wandered the streets through reveling crowds. The atmosphere had a Vegas tinge. In the infamous Cabo Wabo, people danced on the bar to the blasting music. And not just any people: most of them were probably in their sixties and above. If I joined in, I would have been the young 'un--not my usual pace in partying crowds. Who said only young people get in the Spring Break spirit? Perhaps Cabo contains the magic of the swimming pool in Cocoon.

At the outdoor bar of Cabo Blue, I boogied to the band--a group of guys in their twenties playing 1970s classic rock. Nice to see the younger generation keeping our tunes alive!

We had a few more experiences I'm not going to write about in this blog. What happens in Cabo stays in Cabo. (Although I will probably write about it in my next book. Stay tuned.)


Monday, January 12, 2015

Are Things Going Wrong or Right?

Viva Mexico!
For a week I've been checking the electrical company online to see if we owed money. Yesterday I saw there was a balance listed even though we'd received no bill. I tried to pay online with my credit card, but the system would have none if it.

I called our credit card company (with the fabulous MagicJack that allows you to make free internet phone calls), and they said there was nothing wrong on their end.

So today we drove 10 minutes to downtown Todos Santos to pay the bill in person. When we arrived, we found the office filled with construction workers, open beams, and not much else. I'm not sure if they were remodeling because of Hurricane Odile destruction, but it was clear there would be no paying a bill there.

I pulled out my Mexi cell phone. It suddenly had a mind of its own, blocking me from making calls to certain people. I was able to get through to a friend who suggested I go to the local bookstore, where the owner "knows everything." The bookstore woman directed us to a trailer down the street, in the parking lot of the Hotel California.

When we walked into the trailer, I asked the woman behind the desk, "Habla ingles?"

She fixed me with a cold stare and said, "No."

I fumbled around with my Spanish, trying to explain what I wanted. In a flurry of Spanish that might as well have been Arabic, she pointed outside to two pay machines that looked like ATMs.

Fortunately, a guy whose Spanish was a bit gentler (like his eyes) helped me out. He fed my pesos into the machine. He understood me when I asked in creaky Spanish if we could pay in advance for a few months. With a smile, he handed me the receipt.

Ah, Mexico. I'm getting better and better at not freaking out when things don't work the way I think they should. I'm developing more patience and more compassion.

I realized that walking into someone's office and asking, first thing, if they speak English puts them on the spot. If they don't, they have to--right away--admit there is something they don't know. And perhaps admit they can't help me. I've heard that Mexicans think it's rude to not help someone who needs it.

So next time I will start out doing my best with my Spanish. And if I hit a roadblock, I will apologize for not knowing enough Spanish. I've noticed whenever I do that, people smile and compliment me on what I do know. They like that I try. It's as though my use of Spanish suggests that I care about their culture and their country.

And I do. Even when things "go wrong." Or maybe, partly, because of that. The mañana spirit can mean that when things go wrong, they also go right.

Because of today's wild goose chase, I had the opportunity to practice more Spanish and to think about how I approach people. And because we couldn't pay online in the first place, we had to go into town.

That meant we "had" to go to our favorite sidewalk restaurant where, for just a few bucks, we ate melt-in-your-mouth fish tacos. Not a bad way to capitalize on a fiasco.


Thursday, January 8, 2015

Life Force

Walking San Pedrito beach, I was thinking about the eternal nature of the ocean. The perpetual movement of the waves. Forward and back, forward and back.

And how, if you really pay attention, there's a pause in between. A sliver of silence, like the lull between breaths.

booby (credit)
But inevitably the wave is pulled down by gravity, sucked out, and returned. Just like our lungs, on their own accord, take and release the next breath.

I started to think about how I much I love this motion of life. The opposites, the polarities. In/out. Active/quiet. The waves of life.

A voice came into my head. Oh really? You love it ALL? Blossoming and withering? Life and death? You love that? It was as though an antagonistic TV pundit was jabbing his finger into my brain.

And what about Hitler? Love him?

I stopped and took a breath. Why does it always come down to that?

No, I don't love evil. Of course I don't.

The pundit smirked.

I've always felt the resistance in me when I sang along with the lines of the Byrds biblically-inspired song:

A time to kill, a time to heal...
A time of love, a time of hate
A time of war, a time of peace

Those lyrics don't roll off the tongue as easily as:

A time to cast away stones
A time to gather stones together...

Instead of sprinting on the sand to escape my thoughts, I just let it all float in my mind. Killing, healing. Hitler...Viktor Frankl.

Frankl, a Holocaust survivor, believed there was meaning in all forms of existence. So is that what I mean by love? That bad things will happen but that, as Frankl says, we always have a choice about how to respond?

I thought about recent violence in the news. In the face of disaster--be it personal or global, be it human-made or borne from nature (like Baja's recent Hurricane Odile)--there's always an outpouring of creativity, solidarity and compassion.

I think that's what I love. But it's not a light love, a free-and-easy love. It's a mysterious love, a love of the messy bigger picture. It's a not-always-easy-to-maintain trust in the rhythms of life and the ultimate goodness, or maybe meaning, that we humans aspire to. It's a love of the enigmatic life force.

A few days ago, as I was walking on this very beach, a beautiful bird--a blue footed booby?--with pointy wings and beak sailed into my vision. It folded in its wings and feet then bee-lined into the water like a plunging knife. Seconds later, it lifted back into the air, a slash of silver writhing in its beak.

And then today as I walked the same beach in the almost exact same spot, a wave crashed at my feet. As it receded, I saw an uncanny thing. A silver, wriggling fish right at my toes. I picked up its slippery body and tossed it back into the water.

Friday, January 2, 2015

Writing and Giving in the New Year

This year I'm focusing on WRITING and GIVING.

To see it on Amazon, click here.

The rights to my first novel, For the May Queen, reverted to me. So with the help of the amazing Jan McCutcheon of Coyote Creek Press, a delicious new edition just came out. The gorgeous cover features a photo taken by Dave, a stargazer lily (from the garden of our Port Townsend, Washington housesit).

And in the spirit of my focus on giving, 10% of the profits of the sale of this book will go to Hogar del Niño, an orphanage here in Baja. 

In re-reading and revising the novel for its new release, I felt a tender spot in my heart for its focus on coming-of-age, sexuality and friendship. I can see how these topics continue to be obsessions of mine. Yet now I see how we "come of age" continually, throughout our lives. For life is transformation.

LIFE IS TRANSFORMATION. That is the heart of my new book, Arriving Again and Again: An Odyssey of Love, Sex, Spirit and Travel. This book will be birthed into the world in this new year. As will other opportunities to give. I'll keep you posted.

Happy New Year and Feliz Año Nuevo to you all. May you fill the blank pages of 2015 with the stories you want to tell...the love you want to spread...the YOU you want to create.


Monday, December 22, 2014

Three Things I've Learned This Year

This has been an incredible year of discoveries. Here are our top three:

Making myself at home on a house-sit in Port Townsend.

What's not to like about a free place to stay? This year we joined two housesitting websites: Trusted Housesitters and Housesitters America, and we house sat in Port Townsend, Santa Cruz and West Hollywood.

When you join a housesitting website, you create a profile that includes a description, photos and references. There's a fee for sitters; for homeowners it's free. Most homeowners want you to take care of an animal--or ten. We don't want to care for someone's cattle herd, but we gladly have taken care of dogs, cats, rabbits, and fowl. Because we travel so much and can't have a dog of our own, it was fun to hang with two golden retriever brothers (in Washington) and a pug named Duke (in WeHo).
Each place we've stayed has had Wifi, comfortable beds, and nice settings with great places to explore. A nomad's dream.

We've spent the year in (in this order):

Tahoe, Maui, Newbury Park, Ontario CA, Big Bear, Marina del Rey, Palm Springs, Sedona, Zion, Cedar City UT, Bryce Canyon, Capitol Reef, Ely NV, Shasta Lake, San Jose CA, Santa Cruz, Oregon (Ashland and Portland), Port Townsend WA, Cannon Beach, Humboldt, West L.A., Newbury Park, West Hollywood, Solana Beach, Mexico City, Tepoztlán, and Baja Mexico.

Sounds exhausting! But it hasn't been, for the most part.

Living on the road, we've learned we are more flexible and adaptable than we ever imagined.

Dave and Duke

We know to allow for a little adjustment time when we first land. Sometimes I feel anxious when we step into a new place. It's like I'm trying to fit the unknown in a box marked "known."

It may take a day or two to get in the groove. If we're moody or tired, no big deal. Once we've found a place for our suitcases and toothbrushes, have done a session of yoga or taken a nap, and have filled the fridge with food, we're golden. That doesn't mean suddenly everything's perfect. It means we plunge into the newness and enjoy the ride.

As Joseph Goldstein says, "You can't stop the waves, but you can learn to surf."

When we decided almost two years ago to leave jobs and home to live on the road, I called it "plunging into the fertile void."

Voids are scary.

But opening up to them is how we make space for new things.

And new things always come.

That's not just a theory for me anymore. I know, for instance, when we stepped out onto the edge of change, we made space for this casita in Mexico to appear in our lives. Not to mention all the new people we've met, experiences we've had--and the book I've written that I hope comes out next year.

I don't want fears to run my life. I want my guides to be openness, joy, and a willingness to take risks.

What's happening next year? A few months in Mexico and then, who knows? Something will appear. I know it.


Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Gracias, Mexico

Why are we wearing these funny hats and formal clothes? Read on.

Okay, now I know the truth about my Spanish: It sucks! But people are kind, especially when I try. A few words go a long way. I constantly remind myself not to be self-conscious, just dive in. How else to learn?

Sometimes Spanish is really fun. Other times my inner child gets a little whiny. It wants someone to fix it all, to make everything clear. RIGHT NOW.

It's helpful to watch Dave in action. He knows less Spanish than I do, but he has no problem making up words, pantomiming, drawing pictures--even throwing in a Japanese or German word. Okay, that last part is unintentional. It's just the language center in his brain igniting languages he knows.

Last weekend we were at a wedding where we met a lot of fascinating people. I craved being able to talk to them more in-depth. Serious Spanish study is high on my list.

Speaking of the wedding...wow, what an incredible experience. On Thanksgiving day we flew from Cabo to Mexico City. When we arrived at the home of our friend Paul, the groom, we met a small group of his friends who served us a turkey dinner with all the trimmings--and I'd thought tacos and beer in the airport would have to suffice.


The next day, we rode with Paul to the wedding location, a town called Tepoztlán. A "Pueblo Mágico" outside of Cuernavaca, it's a beautiful place, with cobblestone streets and surrounded by mountains. It's reputed to be the birthplace over 1200 years ago of Quetzalcoatl, the feathered serpent god.

Up and up with Sarah.

The morning of the wedding Dave, our friend Sarah and I hiked up Tepozteco mountain (a serious climb with a 1,200 foot elevation gain). At the top are the remains of an Aztec temple. People say this sacred place has a high vibration and that there are regular UFO sightings. We didn't see UFOs, but we saw a lot of these creatures:


The wedding took place at a beautiful open-air chapel. Although dress was formal and the service was Catholic, the Beatles "Let it Be" and "All You Need is Love" played as everyone filled the seats. During the ceremony, children ran around and blew bubbles while the musicians played Ave Maria and the Hallelujah Chorus.

After the "husband and wife" pronouncement to a glorious sunset, cocktails were served on the lawn. Suddenly, music predominated by drumming filled the air, and Aztec dancers in wild costumes appeared. Their traditional, freaky masks originally mocked the Spanish invaders. Everyone was invited to dance with them.

We moved into a gorgeous hall for the reception. During dinner, the band performed opera music. Later that very same band broke out into a wild array of music for dancing. A medley of songs from Grease. Disco. Salsa. A bunch of Beatles songs, "performed" by Dave and three other guests who'd been pulled aside and shoved into costumes and crazy wigs.

The bride and groom appeared in super sexy red and black outfits and performed a super sexy tango (watch here). We danced for hours. Crazy cartoon characters and props and neon flashing accoutrements for us to wear kept popping up.

There were even fireworks!

A colorful spread of quirky desserts appeared. Champagne, wine and tequila flowed freely. At 1 a.m., we were served breakfast! And then a mariachi band strolled in.  Pablo and Rosalba, longtime friends of Paul and Mari Carmen, sang the most beautiful, impassioned song. I get gooseflesh every time I watch Dave's video that captures the moment:

My Spanish may need some work, but I certainly know how to say: "Gracias, Mexico."

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

The Colors of the Sea

Today, my 52nd birthday, marks two weeks that we’ve been in Mexico.

Sunset from our rooftop.
After a grueling and fascinating two-day drive caravanning with my sister from San Diego to California Baja Sur, we were accompanied by an intense sunset during the last leg from La Paz to Todos Santos. In the charming downtown, we ate our initiatory Mexican dinner in an open-air restaurant. 

Then my sister led us the last ten minutes south to El Pescadero. After passing through the shadows of the tiny pueblo, we took a right on an unmarked dirt road. Our blue Subaru earned its all-wheel drive cred bumping toward the ocean in the dark. When we got to our small resort, dogs came out to greet us. We soon learned this place is dog heaven, an off-leash life.

That night, we dragged our stuff into our empty casita and collapsed on an air mattress. A few hours later, my body awoke to mattress sag. The re-inflating mechanism was so loud that my sister, whose place is next door, said she thought we were making smoothies in the middle of the night.

The next few days meant facing the reality of what we’d done. We were owners of a house in a foreign country, near an incredible beach and town—a house that needed furniture, a refrigerator, curtains, air conditioning, and a washer/dryer. It lacked cabinets and a bar/counter to complete the kitchen and bathroom. The talavera sink had to be installed in the bathroom. The one plant in the yard, a palm tree, was dead, a victim of Hurricane Odile. We didn’t even own a broom, a sponge, a beach umbrella, a local cell phone.

Our To-Do list was epic. And handling it all in shaky Spanish? Amidst a culture where things are done in a different style and pace? In the middle of a dusty resort that has a lot of construction going on? The only choice was take it easy, a bit at a time. Poco a poco.

In 14 days, I’ve had (only) two meltdowns. In each case going to bed helped (that is, after we said adios to the leaky air bed and hola to a real mattress).

I’ve also been doing yoga and meditating. I remind myself that a beach walk, a soak in the Jacuzzi, and a swim in the pool are incredible amenities. As is being a homeowner, especially in a place with a built-in community.

Hermanas con perro.

Having so many great people around has been a life saver. My sister, her friends who’ve become our new friends, other casita residents, and the resort staff—everyone has been a font of information and, most importantly, bienvenidos.

Without a working kitchen, we collaborated with my sister to make meals in hers. Our bilingual friend Paul took us on a trip to Los Cabos (an hour south) to help us buy a slew of things and arrange to have them delivered. The next day, Dave and I went alone, an hour east, to La Paz stores.

We’ve been to Todos Santos many times, buying other furniture and food. We’ve been to several excellent restaurants, including the one here at the resort that serves pizza made in a wood-fired oven by the pool. Our favorite is a pescaderia that serves the freshest (and cheapest) fish tacos ever. Down the street is a little tienda where we buy handmade tortillas. Dave almost wept the first time he held the warm bundle in his hands.

Whenever we drive around and see the leftover ravages of the hurricane—buildings and homes and cacti toppled—I’m reminded of our incredible fortune. Nothing of ours was destroyed. We have shelter, food, and water. And each other.

Unharmed cacti.

In just two weeks, we’ve enjoyed cocktail parties and meals on neighbors’ roofs, watching the sunset. We’ve dipped into the warm ocean waters and taken long beach walks. We went to the Farmer’s Market and live music on the playa.

We’ve had incredible conversations with people, most of whom—like us—live alternative lives. One was a young Polish woman we picked up hitchhiking; she was traveling Baja alone. Another was a Swiss couple on bikes who’d ridden all the way down from Canada.

Some people have retired here. Others have young children. Some live in Cabo or La Paz and come here for the weekends. One guy lives here a few months at a time, spending the rest of the year working in the states. Some live to surf or fish or just be near the sea. Others love four-wheeling or hiking through the desert hills. Some were born here. Others fell in love with Mexico and never wanted to leave.

Every once in a while an odd feeling seizes me. A sense that we’ve jumped off the biggest cliff ever. Funny I’d say that after all we’ve gone through in the past two years: retirement, getting rid of all our possessions, traveling all over—oh, and brain surgery.

One morning, a few days in, I woke up with anxiety crawling up my skin. I closed my eyes and prayed for new internal space to open up. I felt around inside for the richness of the fertile void. I asked for a sense of something—purpose? clarity? happiness? peace? What did it all mean, this living thing? My mind scrambled around like a rat in a cage.

I went for a beach walk. The ocean, my sanctuary. On my way back, a young man standing with two young women near the surf school asked me in Spanish if I knew how far it was to the bus stop. I pointed down our dirt road and told him it was probably at least a 20 or 30 minute walk. He seemed on the edge of tears and—switching to English—told me that a friend had brought them to the beach last night and then disappeared. He said his mom was going to be worried about him; he couldn’t call her because his cell phone ran out of juice. They were in their early twenties and from Guadalajara.

I guess they’d spent the night on the beach. They looked exhausted. They reminded me of my students. I said, “Wait here. I have a car. I will drive you there.”

A surge of energy and joy blasted through me. I ran to our casita and grabbed three bottles of water and three granola bars. I hopped in the car, blasted the A/C, and drove over to get them. As we bumped down the dusty, rutted road, they drank the water and tore into the food.

“Can I be your dog?” he joked. We all laughed. Clearly, they couldn’t believe their luck. I couldn’t believe mine, either.  

So, we are two weeks in, and I’m writing at my computer on my new little rustic table. Jazz plays from speakers attached to Dave’s hard drive that holds thousands of songs. The house is filled with furniture, a washer/dryer, a fridge, and new talavara sink. A sweet new palm is planted in our yard. We even have a dresser. What a luxury to have my clothes in drawers after so many months in suitcases.

Three guys are installing the A/C right now. Another guy has been in and out, working on the finishing touches of our kitchen counter. I was able to string together Spanish words to create Frankenstein sentences that seemed to work, more or less.

Yesterday, our neighbor Kimberly, who makes jewelry, mentioned she’s collecting driftwood on which to display her work. On Dave’s and my morning beach walk, I found three pieces that I brought to her. She hugged me, said they were perfect. Later, she came by to wish me happy birthday. Then she fitted me with an anklet the colors of the sea.

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Many changes: made possible by the fertile void

On November 9--what would have been my mom's 82nd birthday--Dave and I head to Mexico to our new little house. For the two-day drive from San Diego to Baja California Sur, we're caravaning with my sister. She said she feels like Mom will be guiding us.

Rear view of Casita Once.

When Dave and I set out to live a nomadic life a year and a half ago, we had no idea we'd end up with a Mexican casita for a home base. In June 2013, immediately after I turned in my grades at the university for the last time, we flew to L.A.

Next we planned to go to Australia, Boston and Cape Cod, Hawaii, India, Sri Lanka and Hong Kong. An eclectic itinerary based primarily on being with friends during the best seasons (e.g., "let's avoid monsoons" and "let's hang out with our friends when it's best for them").

We also had an idea that we'd like to spend winter in the mountains. We found a four-month ski house rental in Tahoe through Airbnb, which we shared with friends.

Strung together, those plans would take ten months. After that, who knew?

We didn't factor in brain surgery. That happened two months in, after I had a seizure in Cape Cod.

Post-surgery, the opportunity popped up to buy a casita in El Pescadero, near Todos Santos. We'd never been there. We'd never seen the resort, except through online photos. The casita was still under construction.

We loved Mexico. We'd taken a great trip to Mexico City, and over the years we'd both spent time in different parts of the country. My sister had been going down to the tip of Baja for more than twenty years and knew the resort well. The price was insanely affordable.

These are the logical reasons. But our decision wasn't based on logic. Around the time of my surgery, I'd had a revelation, words downloaded from the ether: I want to live within walking distance of swimmable water.

To embark on our odyssey, we'd left the town of my dreams: Santa Cruz. We loved it there, but it was time to let it go.

We dove off the cliff of the known into the unknown, the fertile void. We were making space for new things. And new things always come.

Turns out, the casita is a five minute walk to a sweet beach. And there's a pool and jacuzzi at the resort. (And it has both an indoor and outdoor shower!). Water, water, everywhere.

Playa Cerritos

I'm not sure I would have known so clearly, so intuitively, that buying the place--using a large chunk of our savings--was the exact right thing to do if I hadn't just undergone brain surgery. The fertile void had delivered.

The casita was #11, our favorite number. The number of balance, of lining up with life. We named our new place Casita Once, "House Eleven."

Fast-forward a year: we will be seeing Casita Once for the first time next week. It's small. One bedroom, tiny kitchen, backyard, rooftop patio. And it's empty.

Our car is filled with most everything we own: a blow-up bed, sheets, towels, Rummikub, miscellaneous kitchen items, and the framed mermaid print Dave gave me for my birthday four years ago. We plan to haunt the stores of Cabo, Todos Santos and La Paz for furniture and appliances. I love the idea of starting from scratch. Lots of color, no clutter.

After seventeen months of nomadic life, it's kind of stunning to think we will be setting up house. Our house. In a foreign country. I'm hoping my dusty Spanish will kick in.

We'd love to have visitors! It's a quick flight to Cabo from many places. A shuttle will take you to town, where we can pick you up and drive you down the dirt road to our place. The resort has many options--from hotel rooms to palapas to casitas--that start at $75 a night.

We aren't sure how long we will be in Baja. On a visitor's visa we can stay up to six months. If we ever decide to live there permanently, we can apply for a long-term visa.

We also aren't sure if and when we will have wifi coverage in our casita. But at the palapa near the pool we can sign in. We will not have international phones, so the best way to contact us while we are south of the border is email and Facebook. If you'd like to call and/or text in real-time, we have Viber and WhatsApp and Skype.

So. Onward. As Stanley Kunitz writes:

I have walked through many lives...
every stone on the road
precious to me. ...
I am not done with my many changes. 

Sunday, November 2, 2014

L.A. Living

Nomadic living is a life of contrasts. After housesitting for two months in a large, custom built house in a Pacific Northwest forest, we are now house- (or I should say apartment-) sitting smack-dab in West Hollywood. Instead of bird sounds and trees swaying in the wind, we hear sirens, car alarms and blaring rap. Instead of running two huge golden retrievers at the beach, we walk a sturdy little pug named Duke down city streets and on canyon hikes.

Runyon Canyon with Duke and L.A. skyline

After the slow life in a small town, we were both a bit rattled by the L.A. traffic and noise. But as usual, a few days in and we--adaptive creatures that we are--were buzzing around town by car and on foot, checking out quirky stores and restaurants, and letting everyone from children to homeless guys pet the adorable Duke, who is a people- and dog-magnet. 

Santa Monica Blvd.

Oh, and then there was Halloween. It just so happened that our stay here corresponded with one of the largest and craziest Halloween gatherings in the world. 500,000 people in elaborate costumes and six stages with bands. It was such a wild scene it felt like another planet. And all we had to do was fashion costumes from our scant suitcase belongings then mosey down the street.

Some of the tamer costumes.

Girls just wanna have fun!

Prior to our housesit, we stayed a weekend with L.A. friends and a week with other friends in Ventura County. We boogied down at two Raw Oyster Cult shows and a Phish show, surrounded by a  love-krewe.

Phish at the Forum

If this wasn't enough, we watched several World Series games with our friends' three boys (twins age 9 and a 7-year-old), all big Giants fans. And we saw the WIN at Barney's Beanery, an L.A. institution, which we walked to from the apartment.

L.A. has turned out to be a haven of connection. One of our friends just happened to be in town from Phoenix with her girlfriend who is Cambodian. We met in Chinatown--my first time there--and ate incredibly delicious and inexpensive Cambodian food, ordered by our resident expert. We then walked the streets and popped into some other food places to get super-cheap pork buns and baked goods to-go.

Five people, and we ate almost all of it!  (photo by Chhoun Chan Rasmey)
One evening we went to Suzanne Rico's house, the daughter of my beloved mentor and other-mother Gabriele Rico. She and her hubby made us a fabulous meal, and we enjoyed hanging out with them and their boys. Suzanne and I both have the wanderlust and writing genes, so we had a lot to talk about.

Suzanne's son Ado checking out the treats from a West Hollywood Russian bakery.

Then this morning my longtime friend and her husband revved up the Maserati (another first for me!) and drove us to Santa Monica for breakfast at Patrick's Roadhouse--a super-charming place where we ate phat food on the balcony overlooking the ocean.

All of this feels like a kind of extended bon voyage since in a week we will be driving down to our new pad in Baja. Every day is the turning of a page. A new chapter awaits.

Friday, October 24, 2014

Have I Been Wasting My Life?

"The world does not want you to fail. The world is forever supplying you with the information you need to do exactly what you want. ...Do not fear the information. It is always friendly." (William Kenower)

Once a therapist told me I needed to get quiet so I could hear my intuition. That's how we know what life is telling us: by getting quiet.

Not I'm-so-pissed-off-I'm-shutting-down quiet.

But I'm-watching-the-clouds-roll-by quiet.

When I shared my memoir manuscript with two writer friends, they suggested big changes of different sorts. I was thrown. Did they hate it? Did they hate me? Was my book a piece of crap? Was I a piece of crap? Had I been wasting my life?

Painful revision? 

I sat back and watched my mind spin fearful worries, justifications and explanations. I got quiet, watched it all like bad weather.

And then one day, in the calm after the storm, I faced my manuscript and it was perfectly clear what needed to be done. I followed the advice of one of my friends and sliced out 1/3 of the manuscript. It was like pulling weeds. What remained blossomed.

The other advice, which had involved structural changes, I now knew not to be true to my vision. Still, I was grateful she spent her living time on my book.

And she had been helpful. Because knowing what I don't want helps me get clearer about what I do want. The trick, though, is to not linger in the unwanted. Instead, I use it to springboard me in the most helpful direction.

"Go only forward; that is the direction of life." (William Kenower)

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Arriving Again and Again

What's it like to think you're dying?
What's it like to radically change your life?

This is how my book opens, with two scenes that touch on these questions.

Arriving Again and Again (an odyssey of love, sex, spirit and travel) is being circulated to agents and editors now. I can feel it's just a matter of time before it's birthed out into the world.