Tag Archives: LA

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

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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. 🙂

Changing My Name, Part II

31 Dec

The California Department of Motor Vehicles

This is the second part of my two part series about legally changing my name now that I am married. For the first part, see “Changing My Name, Part I” when I visited the Pasadena office of the Social Security Administration to request a new SSN card with my married name.

Over Thanksgiving break, I received my new SSN card. The next part of my journey entailed going to the Pasadena DMV to get a new driver’s license with my new name. Once that was complete, the state of Oregon, the federal government, and the state of California would be aware of my new name, and I would be legally “Larissa Church.” However, I had been told that the Glendale DMV was closed, and I should get an appointment at the Pasadena one. The earliest appointment I was able to get–remember, this is back in late November–was December 28 at 4 p.m. So I waited for my appointment, patiently, but anxiously.

I’m not sure if you have seen it, but for the past 10 years, I have had the worst driver’s license photo of anyone I know (with the exception of Steven Bowen, who had a full beard by 8th grade and looks like a terrorist in his driver’s license photo). As I mentioned in “Little Known Facts About Me” I had a hair-dyeing addiction in high school. My addiction eventually ended in mishap and for a time, I had hideous hair–orange-y red blonde at the bottom, and dark brown roots. I had vowed never to dye my hair again (which I have kept thus far), so my roots were bad, very bad. This meant I wore beanies often, which I unfortunately chose to do when I went in to the Napa DMV to take the test to get my permit. No one had warned me that they also take your photo for your driver’s license that day. To my horror, I was forced to take off my beanie, expose my tainted hair, and take my license photo. The result? I look like my hair is painted on my head like a Ken doll. It’s been truly wonderful to show the photo to airport personnel, merchants, bouncers at clubs, and the like. About 95% of the time I am asked if the photo is really me. Unfortunately, it is. So you can understand why I was anticipating my December 28 appointment. This time, I would not be caught unawares. This time, I would look incredible.

At my new job, if you need to leave early for an appointment, you are required to come in early. Since my appointment was at 4 p.m., and I wanted to leave at 3 p.m. to allow for traffic/accidents/natural disasters, I clocked in at 6:49 a.m. I spent my morning drinking several cups of coffee, as you can imagine I was tired. When 3 p.m. came, I was ready–I brought my makeup bag with me, and covered those dark circles! I made sure I looked fabulous. I brought a sparkly headband, and I was wearing a red cardigan so my photo would have some color. Per a few friends’ advice, I opted not to wear my new favorite scarf, because as one of them put it, I didn’t want to look like I didn’t have a neck for the next 10 years. (Very good point!) I was ready! After 10 years of waiting, the day had come for me to take a new driver’s license photo!

I encountered a bit of construction and traffic on my trip to the Pasadena DMV, but I wasn’t too worried–I had left myself plenty of time. However, when I arrived, I saw that I wasn’t in the slightest prepared.

The first thing I noticed was that there was a line of people out the door that wrapped around the parking lot. The line was at least 100 people long. I started to get nervous. I circled the parking lot several times, but there weren’t any spaces available. There was even a tow truck towing a car that had parked illegally. I realized I would need to park someplace else, so I went to the Staples lot next door. There were signs plastered everywhere that warned motorists their vehicle would be towed if they weren’t a customer–usually, this is an empty threat, but there was another tow truck towing a car. I started panicking. I eventually found parking half a mile away, on the street, and in 1 hour parking.

When I walked into the DMV, it was pandemonium. I noticed a sign on the wall that said the maximum capacity was 495–I guarantee you there were more than 495 people there. There were several security guards directing people into different lines. I felt like a refugee waiting to get food. I tried to ask a guard where I needed to go, but he just glared at me. I found a table full of papers and forms, found the one I needed, squeezed myself onto a deck, and began filling the form out as quickly as I could. I managed to find a line that had a sign noting it was for people who had an appointment. I waited at least 20 minutes before the lady at the desk handed me a number. I was F168, or something like that.

I looked in the waiting room, and it was overflowing with people. There were screaming children, children running around, crazy people, old people… too many people. I decided to stand outside of the waiting room and watch the television so I could see when they called my number–I could barely hear the computerized woman announcing numbers. At this point, I began to regret my intake of copious amounts of coffee, and my heart was racing. I overheard several conversations of people saying they had been waiting since noon or 1 p.m. It was hands down one of the most chaotic situations I have ever been in.

There were 26 windows that were rotating people out as fast as they could. My eyes were glued to the screen. I had brought a book, but I could see that had been a useless formality. When I was finally called to window 14 after waiting another 20 minutes or so, I practically had to punch my way through the crowds to get to it. Thankfully, in stark contrast to every other DMV employee I have encountered, the man was extremely nice. We chatted some, and I asked him if it was always this insane. He laughed, and said yes. Apparently it’s been like that for months, since the Glendale and the West Covina DMV offices are closed. I have never been more grateful not to work at a DMV than I was at that moment.

After I signed my form, and showed him a certified copy of my marriage license and my new SSN card, I was directed to another line to take my new  driver’s license photo. I nervously glanced at the clock and saw I had about 15 minutes until my parking meter ran out. I tapped my foot impatiently, the caffeine screaming in my veins. As I waited, I debated leaving, because I was terrified my car would be towed and I would be stranded. But no–I had come this far, I never wanted to come back. I waited.

I noticed a sign that warned people attacking a federal employee would result in heavy fines and possible jail times, and I wondered if the glass partition that separated the DMV employees from the rest of us was bulletproof. I could see someone losing it.

Finally, it was my turn, and after they scanned my thumb print (Is that new? I don’t remember doing that at Napa. Or is it an LA thing?) I took my new photo. The lady behind the counter exclaimed that it was a wonderful photo, and thought I would be very happy with it. I told her my previous photo was wretched, and she assured me the new one was great. However, I think she was on drugs, because she seemed a little too happy for someone working in such an insane work environment.

In 4-6 weeks I will receive my new driver’s license photo, and I can only hope the photo is an improvement over the last. If nothing else, I am happy that I am now in every legal sense Larissa Church, just in time for 2011!

Another One Rides the Bus

14 Dec
Where exactly is this guy driving?

source

This past weekend, I deepened my newly formed LA roots and took another step in becoming a true Angeleno: I rode an LA Metro bus.

I had already ridden an LA Metro train a few weeks earlier when my husband and I went to see the Clippers game at the Staples Center (see “I Am Not Ashamed to Say I Like the Clippers”), but this was my first adventure on an LA Metro bus.

Actually, I haven’t had many bus or train exploits. I vaguely recall riding the T in Boston when I was very young, and I have ridden BART and Muni in SF a few times to go to concerts and such. I always found myself very disoriented at busy train stops, with what looks like thousands of people bustling about. Everyone always seems like they are on a mission, and a top secret one at that. There are no smiles. If you aren’t careful, someone will run you over with their briefcase or bicycle. It’s dangerous. Anytime I attempted to decipher bus stops and train routes to figure out how to get where I wanted while in the city, I was acutely conscious of what I was: a country bumpkin. I am aware that there was a bus system in Napa–the Vine–but I have never ridden it. Come to think of it, I don’t know anyone who has. I suppose I am very American in that I have (unintentionally) avoided public transportation in my life, preferring to take my own vehicle instead of squishing into a smelly bus with my fellow citizens when the opportunities (in my defense, they were few) presented themselves.

Update: My husband reminded me when he read this post moments ago that I have ridden the Max in Portland many times, and I will say that Portland’s public transportation system is excellent. However, whenever I have been on Max I have encountered many hobos, so they do get a few demerits for that.

Back to my LA Metro bus experience. My husband and I were going to spend the weekend out in Santa Barbara with a friend but were reluctant to take our car, a beautiful, but very ancient Honda. We decided we would take Amtrak’s Pacific Surfliner by way of the Glendale Amtrak station to glorious Santa Barbara. However, we were also hesitant to leave the car at the Amtrak station for the weekend, which is why we decided to take the bus. We awoke bright and early at 5 a.m. (on a Saturday!) to walk up our excessively vertical hill to the bus stop for the 90 91 LA Metro bus. We were going to catch the 6:20 bus, and as we walked, we watched the sunrise. (Note: if you are ever up early enough to see sunrise, you are up too early. Go back to bed.)

To my pleasant surprise, the bus arrived exactly on time. Even more surprising was that there were people actually on the bus. I believe when we got on there were 9 other individuals making use of Los Angeles’ public transportation system, and more joined along the route. Sadly, the majority of them were elderly, and I assumed they were taking the bus to their job, since our country’s crap economy has prevented many people from retiring. I sincerely hope when I am of retirement age I am not stuck riding the bus to a weekend job, but we’ll see if things change. Thankfully I have a few years yet before I am genuinely “old” so the government has plenty of time to fix things.

I was also impressed with the cleanliness of the bus. Perhaps because the LA area seems permanently dirty because of the smog, I assume everything is filthy, but the bus shockingly wasn’t. The seats were nicely cushioned and none had their padding ripped out or torn. I also didn’t notice any graffiti, which means the LA Metro may deserve a medal.

According to my husband, whenever he’s ridden an LA Metro bus, the TV at the front has a trivia game, and you have an opportunity to text in your answers to win prizes. I was really disappointed that the TV was off during our trip and I didn’t have a chance to gain useless knowledge that would be embedded in my brain forever (unlike anything I learned in school).

The bus ride was very uneventful, unlike the times I’ve ridden BART or Muni. I one time literally watched a crack deal go down when on Muni, and nobody on the bus was fazed by it. I, on the other hand, was freaking out.

Anyway, before I knew it, the bus dropped my husband and I off at our stop, directly in front of Forest Lawn Cemetary at 7 a.m. on the dot. We briefly considered swinging through to see the grave of Michael Jackson, but decided that would be too tourist-y of us and continued on. We had a train to catch.

By the way, that’s another very Angeleno thing to do–escape LA. Seeing as I hope to do this often, perhaps I am more Angeleno than I thought.

All I Want for Christmas Is…

29 Nov

The Churches' Christmas Wish

source

Thanksgiving has passed and it is now acceptable to speak of all things Christmas. There are houses covered in lights and holiday music greets you at just about every public place. The nearby town of Montrose is even offering free horse-drawn carriage rides up and down Honolulu St. on the weekend. It is definitely the holiday season!

A little known fact about Larissa Church is that I grew up without a pet (unless you count Puffy, a goldfish my brother had about a week before we killed him [probably from over-feeding] and had to bury him in the backyard). As my husband says on his blog (he’s the one to thank for this post’s epic drawing), I “lived a very sad childhood” because I was without animal companionship as a child. He essentially grew up on a farm, raising two sheep, multiple cats and dogs, horses, and even chickens. I don’t even think he can recall a day without an animal in it, when my childhood is littered with animal-free days, sadly.

The reason for this atrocity was that my dad as well as my brother were allergic to every animal under the sun. After Puffy’s tragic death, we knew we couldn’t handle caring for another spooky-eyed set of scales (“zombies of the sea” as I like to refer to fish–they are so totally soulless!). Another possible pet option for our household were snakes, but my mother thankfully put her foot down on that one. Our family did for a time care for my brother’s third grade class rabbit Nibbles, even having her at the house for a few summer vacations. My father was forced to take medication for his allergies, which he did not appreciate. My mom and I, however, only had eyes for Nibbles, which is where my love of rabbits stems from, if you ever wondered about that.

I always vowed that as soon as I moved out, I would immediately get a rabbit and a dog. Ever since I was a little girl, I have always wanted a Golden retriever, and thankfully, my husband shares my love of this breed. After making the acquaintance of Kensington, the coolest cat my friend Miss At adopted last year, I soon added felines to my future entourage.

When my husband and I moved to LA, we were lucky enough to find ourselves renting a house from the family of our friend Troy. However, new carpets and a gorgeous word floor were installed shortly before our arrival, making the house definitely not pet-friendly. Additionally, the yard wouldn’t provide Champ (our future dog) adequate room in which to play–he deserves acres and acres.

So while my husband and I are logically content to be without a dog this holiday season, if I did have a Christmas wish, it would be to share some holiday love with a little Golden retriever puppy while I am wrapped in my Snuggie (see “I Have a Fever and the Only Prescription is More Snuggie!”), sitting next to my husband as we read by our fireplace.

It doesn’t get more Christmas-y than that!

Changing My Name, Part I

16 Nov

Quick! Steal his identity.

source

Today, I paid a visit to one of the offices of the Social Security Administration to file for a new Social Security Number (SSN) card, as I am changing my name since I am now married. Serving the Everyman American, the offices of Social Security are conveniently open from 9 a.m. until 4 p.m., which meant I had to go to work two hours early today in order to even go.

Despite my tiredness, I was prepared. I had the request form filled out, I had a certified copy of my birth certificate, my SSN card, my driver’s license, and a certified copy of our marriage certificate, which had taken the state of Oregon a darn long time to send. I should note here that I did have the option of sending all of those important documents to a Social Security office with their promise they would return them to me, but I was very uneasy about putting all the documents in the world that proved I’m me in the mail, so I opted to go in person.

When I arrived, I wasn’t surprised to see that the Social Security office looked like it was straight out of the 1970s. Upon my entry, however, I was delighted to see that the 21st century did in fact exist in our government – there was a nifty machine where I had to select my reason for visiting, and then printed a receipt with my wait number. I was hoping the decor of the office (essentially, one concrete room) would be very American, with posters like Uncle Sam pointing directly at me and saying something such as, “I WANT YOU… to get in line!” but unfortunately decorations were mainly limited to two mismatched frames of President Obama and Vice President Biden. I don’t even think there was an American flag in sight.

It did shock me to see a security guard sitting lazily behind a desk that was in front of a large sign that warned people cell phones weren’t permitted (the rule wasn’t enforced whatsoever). Only when talking with my husband upon my return home did I realize of course there should be a security guard with all of those Social Security Numbers in the building. Nevertheless, the guard wasn’t intimidating whatsoever, and didn’t even raise an eyebrow when an elderly man got up to yell at a teller that he’d been waiting longer than someone else who was now being helped. (Nobody but me read the signs that said people would probably be helped out of order depending on why they were at the office, apparently.)

The teller that helped me was rather nice, and I was in and out of the office within thirty minutes. Overall, a very pleasant experience–I’ll give it 3.5 out of 5 stars (I had to detract a bit for the lack of decorations). I should be receiving my new SSN card within two weeks, and then, in Part II, I’ll go to the DMV to get a new driver’s license reflecting my name change and my new address. Only then will I officially be Mrs. Church!