Archive | March, 2011

An Open Letter to Southern California

26 Mar

UGH!

source

Dear Southern California,

You’re disappointing me. Just thought I would get straight to the point.

When I was 12-years-old, my parents announced we were moving from frigid Massachusetts to California. I had expectations. I thought the state was one big beach and palm trees would be everywhere. I expected to be ridiculously tan year-round, and have blond, sun-streaked hair that had that messy surfer look because, well, I was going to be a surfer.

I can distinctly recall driving up Howell Mountain, our car laden with things too important to put in the moving truck. As we climbed higher and higher, my eyes took in pine trees. Hundreds of them. No palm trees in sight. It was burning hot, but I was told the beach was an hour away, and likely overcast and cold. I was sad.

I soon learned about the distinction between Northern California and Southern California, and it’s no secret I soon adored the Napa Valley. I even found a few palm trees, but they were mostly limited to the yards of million dollar homes. I was content.

When my husband found out he got a job at a world famous animation studio in Southern California, in spite of myself, I began to set up many of my former expectations. I had been told for so long that SoCal was warm and sunny year-round. That I would be able to go to the beach at almost any time, pending I didn’t mind sitting in traffic. I was even advised against packing my winter coats when I was boxing my belongings. I was told I likely wouldn’t need them, at least not so many (I have four, and a raincoat). My collection of scarves? Sure, I could take them, but they would probably sit in my closet, gathering dust.

And what did I find? True, initially we did encounter record highs in Los Angeles, which led me to believe everything I had been told was accurate. Sadly, we didn’t have enough good sense to go to the beach during this time, telling ourselves there would plenty of chances later on. I thought excitedly of being able to call our parents during the winter; respectively miserable in Portland and Napa during the cold, rainy season; and bragging that we were walking at the pier in Santa Monica in tank tops and shorts. I was wrong.

After that initial spike in heat, it got cold, and it got cold fast. And it rained! Oh did it rain. It poured for days, and shattered rain records. There was one flood warning after another. In fact, there was one morning I was on my work to work that I questioned whether I would be able to make it. Traffic was awful, there was minor flooding everywhere, and the sky was still dumping rain. When I finally arrived, my husband began texting me about the evacuations that were being made in nearby La Cañada Flintridge, and I misunderstood his texts to mean our area was being evacuated. I freaked out and almost left work. When I realized our home wasn’t in danger, I was calm, but still disgusted at the weather.

Oh, and then there was snow in Los Angeles. I was in Burbank and it began to flurry. I couldn’t believe my eyes were seeing snow in Southern California. When I came home at the end of the night, there was an inch of snow in some parts of our front lawn, and most were completely frozen. Some of the snow even managed to stay around until mid-morning the next day. Excuse me, but what is that?!

I complained to my fellow Angelenos, who joked that I brought the bad weather with me from NorCal. I’ve started to believe them. However, they assured me that things would start looking up, and soon. I began to get hopeful yet again. But… “Heavy rain, high winds, cold air to hit Southern California this weekend.”

Please stop.

Sincerely,

Larissa Church

Hair

20 Mar

I look gooooooooooood!

One of the first things you need to know about me is I’m not a girly girl. Well, I suppose this is partially true. In some ways, I am very girly—I hate being dirty, I really like jewelry, and I have a pathetic love of chick flicks—but in other ways, not so much. For instance, I have no patience to spend time meticulously painting my nails, I am a disaster with eyeliner, and I can barely cook (See “The Beginning of the Culinary Adventures of Larissa Church”), though I’m really trying to fix that last fact. You’ll sooner find me in a pair of jeans than a dress, and I wear high heels about once a year—and then hang onto my husband’s arm for dear life as I totter about.

I’ve never really been good with hair. When I was in the fifth grade, I got a perm, and I trace that to the root of the problem (ha, ha). I don’t think my hair has been the same since. I have thick hair that manages to be flat, with enough wave to give it life but curly not enough to make it pretty. In the past, I’ve dyed it to make it more interesting (See “Little Known Facts About Me”). To make it presentable, I have two choices: Blow dry it, then straighten it with a flatiron, or scrunch some product in it to attempt to make it all wave-y. When my hair is straight, in my opinion, it is limp and lifeless. When it’s wave-y, it’s not wave-y enough so I think it looks stupid. Until today, I had pretty much resigned myself to either of those options.

Like most “alternative” girls, I have a celebrity crush on Zooey Deschanel. No Kim Kardashian envy for me! I think Zooey’s just about the raddest gal around. She can sing and act, and looks great doing both. I love her style, and I love her hair. I’ve attempted to get her bangs before, at Great Clips, but it’s never worked out. I have a love/hate relationship with bangs—I grow them out, and I want them back. I have them, and I want them gone. Le sigh. For the past few months, I’ve been growing my bangs out, since the last version I had were awful.

However, I was starting to get the itch to have my bangs back, which is always dangerous. And I needed a haircut desperately—I hadn’t cut my hair since before the wedding, back in August. Not that I’ve ever been one to take good care of my hair, but it’s recommended you get your hair cut every six to eight weeks, and the fact that I hadn’t in over six months was hideously apparent. I was complaining to my husband, but I wasn’t doing anything about it. I was driving him crazy, until yesterday he couldn’t take it anymore. He went on Yelp, and found Frenchy’s Beauty Parlor. With 235 reviews and 4 ½ stars, it sounded great. Haircuts for ladies were $60—the most I have ever spent is $20. I was hesitant, but my dear husband was insistent that I deserved it. I called, doubting they had openings for the next day, but they did. It was on! It was time to decide what in the world to do with my hair, though, and I had no idea what I should aim for but ultimately be disappointed by. A quick trip to the grocery store solidified my choice. As fate would have it, Zooey was on the cover of Lucky magazine, and I knew my decision had been made. I was going for it.

This is a look of love.

I arrived at Frenchy’s 15 minutes before my appointment. The parlor was awesome: The ceilings were pink with big sparkles. It had a retro vibe. The receptionist immediately offered me a soda or water, complimentary, of course. Sufjan Stevens was playing—how can you not love a hair salon that plays Sufjan Stevens?! Solidifying the salon’s awesomeness was the wall art: the salon was featuring Audrey Knight’s Mammalian Military. My favorite piece was of a walrus with an eye patch. I could have looked at that painting all day. The place was hip but I surprisingly didn’t feel out of place at all, which is something I can’t say for a lot of places I’ve seen/been to in Los Angeles.

Within three minutes of arriving, Rosie, who was to be my stylist, came over and introduced herself. Along with my haircut, I was to have a complimentary scalp massage, and I needed to pick the oil fragrance I would like used. I went with “Peppermint Dream.” It smelled incredible, and having my scalp massaged was the most relaxing things I had done in a long while. Also included in a haircut was a wash, which I was excited about since Great Clips typically sprays your hair with a spray bottle. Frenchy’s uses Bumble and bumble, and it’s a safe assumption to say my hair has never smelled as nice before today. I was already in heaven and my haircut had yet to really begin.

Rosie was great: she worked quickly and efficiently, managed to chitchat but not talk too much. It was clear she knew what she was doing. I was envious of her hair—it was pink-streaked and she had a fuchsia hair feather with tinsel. And she pulled it off.

In addition to the scalp massage and wash, you also have your hair styled after it is cut, which is again nicer than Great Clips since they boot you out the door with hair that is sopping wet. I let Rosie decide what to do, and she used a round brush after spraying some Bumble and bumble “lotion” in for texture. She used a flatiron on my bangs, and when it was over, I can honestly tell you my hair has never looked as good in its life. I was blown away (ha, ha).

I can't stop looking at myself!

Frenchy’s, you have converted me. I suppose as a newish resident of LA, it was only a matter of time before I started becoming narcissistic. Since having my haircut, I can’t stop looking at myself in the mirror, or stop talking about how good I look. I’ve only had a taste of pampering, and already I want more. Goodbye Great Clips, you are dead to me.

To quote the great Ron Burgundy, “Hey everyone! Come see how good I look!”

Fear and Raging in Los Angeles

5 Mar

Go go go!

source

One of the things I do not appreciate about my new Los Angeles life is the traffic. To understand how jarring traffic is for me, I may need to give you a little background information.

I miss you.

Before moving here, I resided in the absolutely perfect Napa Valley. For almost 15 years, I lived in a little hilltop town that boasts of one stop sign on its “Main Street.” I lived half a mile from my work, so the commute… well, there wasn’t one. A jaunt into St. Helena, the closest place of interest took all of 15 minutes. While the nearest Target and retail shopping was about a half hour away in Napa itself, I didn’t mind the drive. How could I complain when such a trip was filled with field after field of grapevines and the occasional hot air balloon? I couldn’t. Tourists who were suckered into bicycling the valley also made the drive interesting, as their misery was greatly evident. I loved to make fun of them. (photo source)

It’s true that the summer months brought in hoards of tourists and jammed the 29, but none of them ever bothered to do any research about where to go or how to get there, so the Silverado Trail was usually fine. The moral of this tale is that until recently, my experience with traffic was practically zilch. While it is true I encountered some traffic whenever I trekked into San Francisco, it was excusable because I was going to San Francisco.

Now, since my husband and I share a vehicle (shout out to Pierre!), at least two hours of my day is devoted to getting us to and from work. I suppose I should be grateful there isn’t more, but it’s still something I’m having a hard time accepting, which I assume you can understand given my past history. On weekdays, my husband and I aim to leave our house before 8 a.m. We take two freeways to his work. I drop my husband off, and then take another freeway to my work. The worst part of my commute is the 1.7 mile stretch from the freeway to my work – it takes at least 20 minutes. Then I do the whole thing in reverse at the end of the day. What kills me is the trip is approximately 26.7 miles but takes at least 45 minutes to complete. Don’t even get me started about how I have two Targets 4.9 and six miles away from my house but I have to get on three or four different freeways to get to either of them.

If the whole thing sounds unpleasant, it’s because it is, but I don’t mind since my husband is able to commute with me at least for part of the time. The worst part about all the driving are the drivers. The drivers in LA are hands down the worst I have ever been around. I may be doing 10 over the speed limit in a residential neighborhood but I will be tailgated and honked at and occasionally flipped off. It is great (I’m being sarcastic). On the freeway, I have learned that if I am not tailgating the car in front of me, it’s like I have a large, Vegas-style sign atop my car that says in bright, flash lights “Yes! Please! Cut me off!”

As you can imagine, all of these things make me mad. Very mad. And I may have a confession to make…

I have road rage. Or at least an early onset version of it.

I feel your pain, man.

But don’t worry, you won’t see me jumping out of any cars and trying to hit anybody with a golf club. The only person my rage effects is myself. See, it’s kind of a passive-aggressive kind of rage, in that other drivers are more than likely not aware of my feelings. Mostly, I yell at the cars that are tailgating me/cutting me off/otherwise driving irrationally and call them names. That is because I am terrified of other drivers, which takes us to the second point of this blog post. (photo source)

More explaining may be due here. Remember that small, hilltop town I referenced earlier? That town has little to no crime, and the same goes with the majority of Napa County (though Napa itself I realize is getting a bit sketchy in parts). I literally know millionaires who don’t lock their million-dollar homes. With the exception of the Wal-Mart in Napa, I have never been worried when walking alone, even at night. (I realize this has a very “Pleasantville”-esque sound to it, but it’s the truth.) In my entire time living there, I believe there was only one murder in St. Helena and it was family-related (not that that makes it any better, but at least it wasn’t some random killing). It was the first homicide in the area in years.

Now, I live in a county that has had 96 homicides since the beginning of this year, according to The Homicide Report of The Los Angeles Times. So you can see why I would be hesitant to even honk at a motorist who deliberately cuts me off or tailgates me relentlessly. I’m worried they’re going to shoot me. When driving around in Napa, my biggest concerns were avoiding the numerous drunk tourists or hitting a deer.

Thanks for telling me to stay "Straight Outta Compton."

I understand that Los Angeles is much different than Napa, in so many ways. Population-wise, little Napa County boasts a mere 134,650 residents (source) while LA county has over 9.8 million (source). I also know that a majority of the crime in the county occurs in East Los Angeles, which I can tell you I will never visit. I’ve listened to Dr. Dre, I know what’s up. Still, it is unnerving to know I live in a place where there’s actually crime. And traffic. (photo source)

Thankfully, however, my husband and I are lucky to live in a really nice place, one that has only had 11 violent crimes (no homicides!) and 129 property crimes in the last six months. We have no plans to venture into Compton or Inglewood, and I guess I just need to get a grip about traffic. Mom, rest easy. 🙂