Nov 242009

squirrelWhere have I been? Everyday I think about writing here and then more life happens and I just don’t get to it.   It’s funny.   It isn’t like I am terribly busy.   I have been home for almost three weeks.   I have been trying to keep the apartment clean around the chaos that we have in here.   I have been “looking” at what’s next for me.   I know what I want to do, clearly.   It isn’t like I can just pick up the phone and call Judd Apatow and say, “I have a great idea for a script. Let’s work together…”   Or can I?   I am still drinking a lot of coffee and walking since I have returned.   Here it is a bit more of a chore.   Not the coffee part…although, it is different it is great here.   We have a French press as opposed to my sister who has a Nespresso machine.   Definitely two different brews that both get the job done in a delicious way.   Walking on the other hand just isn’t as easy here for me as it is there.   There I had to walk.   Here I have to force myself to walk.

lis_john_groveWe have been walking to the Farmer’s Market on the weekends.   It is over 3 miles round trip from our apartment.   The walk there seems easier…it’s down hill.   Breakfast at Charlie’s wasn’t as good as it was the week before.   It seemed like they had forgotten our order as other people got theirs before we did even though they ordered after.   Then my two eggs over easy came out and it was one egg…which was fine.   I only need to eat one egg if I have toast and potatoes but I paid for two.   They remade them too quickly.   They came out a bit like over easy.   That’s an exaggeration.   It was more like they showed the eggs the flame.   They were done on the outside but barely cooked on the inside.   Not much worse than a cold raw yolk.   I ate one for the protein and called it a day.   We walked around the Farmer’s Market and The Grove.   We went to Crate and Barrel and fantasized about the furniture magically being in our apartment.   How I would love to get a new couch!   (Someday I will write about the couch saga…) We went to the French store there Mr. Marcel Gourmet Market.   They were giving away samples of fresh Truffled Ham.   Really tasty.   Not the same as the Truffle Salami in Amsterdam, but it had a subtle flavor that was delightful.   The owner said to us in a deep French accent, “You know how I eat this?   With my fingers!”   We went to the fish guy and bought fresh red snapper for dinner and then bought lemons from one of the produce stands.   Then we walked home.   Around half way I was ready for a cab. I half jokingly asked John to walk home and get the car.   But I persevered and kept on.   It was a great day.   It ended with an amazing home made dinner of red snapper with home made tartar sauce (I used shallots and Bubbie’s pickles) and Brussels sprouts snapped off the stalk and itty bitty potatoes.

fountainI have been going to the Farmer’s Market at 3rd and Fairfax since I was a child.   When they decided to build The Grove I was so worried they would ruin the feeling of the Farmer’s Market.   There was, of course, the concern of traffic and such.   I am happy to say I don’t think they ruined it.   Sure there are things I miss about how it used to be.   But I really do like it.   I like The Grove for what it is and I still enjoy poking around the Farmer’s Market.   In my opinion, however, they ruined Dupars.   I don’t know if it is the new ownership or the remodel or what it is exactly.   The food isn’t as good.   Maybe the food never was that good but the ambiance made up for the multitude of sins and now that it is all clean inside one expects more from the fare.   I don’t know.   What I do know is there used to be nothing like their grilled date nut bread with cream cheese on it.   Really, it was like heaven in your mouth.   And, the pancakes with the ladle full of melted butter poured over them was genius.   Now, not so much.

When you walk you see so many things you never see or notice when you are driving.   Sure there are the smells of the neighborhood…not all of them great.   There are the people.   A lot of people walking their dogs.   There is a house I have seen for years while in the car.   disturbingI had no idea they have a HUGE aviary with all kinds of exotic (and not so exotic) birds.   Big yellow and green ones and smaller parrot like   birds all living together in one big aviary.   We walked by the stores and poked in and out of the thrift stores on Fairfax and then to counter balance the filth we went into Jonathan Adler on Melrose.   I love the dichotomy of this neighborhood.   The old and the new.   The rich and the poor.   And, all the in between.   It is fascinating.

Thanksgiving is Thursday.   Mom will make my Grandmother’s stuffing.   That will make life worth living all the more.   It is also my mother’s birthday and we will all be together.   I have much for which to be thankful and much for which to be grateful.   I am living a great life!

Oh, and today is the 150th Anniversary of On The Origin of Species.   150 years ago today and people are still debating its validity.   What the…?! People are funny.   Scary and funny!   I have a lot to say on the matter.   Boy, do I. And, I think I need to know my audience a bit more.   I don’t want to alienate my base so-to-speak.

So, I am off.   My car won’t wash itself.   Groceries won’t just show up in our apartment and someone needs to find me a job!

 Posted by at 9:39 am
Nov 122009

long beachI fell asleep on the couch last night in one of those awkward positions – sitting up, kind of, with my neck cocked over on a pillow and my legs stretched out in front of me on the floor.   I have asked my husband on numerous occasions to please, please, please not leave me that way.   He insists that he “tried” to wake me a couple of times.   Hmmm.   So, I woke with a kink in my neck and feet that didn’t want to work.   I stumbled into bed and slept pretty well.   But I woke this morning feeling like I just can’t do a thing.   I brushed my teeth and put on my walking clothes.   I made it as far as the computer which is across the room from the door to go outside to actually walk.   What’s going on with me?

momlisaWe had a lovely day yesterday, short, but lovely.   John had the day off for Veteran’s Day.   We decided to meet my mother down at South Coast Plaza.   It was a nice half-way point.   I hadn’t seen her in a while and wanted to bring her the goodies I bought for her in Amsterdam.   Traffic was light because of the holiday.   I had walked in the morning so the day was ours.   The mall was not at all how I remembered it from my childhood.   We walked around the mall and poked in and out of some of the stores.   I was surprised at the high-end stores there and wonder how they are making it.   Gucci and Louis Vuitton are there.   There is a sign that the Prada store will open in 2010.   Who is shopping at these stores?   My mother had wanted to go to LA Eyeworks to look at frames for glasses but they are no longer at South Coast Plaza.   She was disappointed.   I told her she needs to come up and visit and I will take her to the store here. We went to lunch at Lawry’s.   It was okay.   The company was great!   The food was just okay.   lisa mom laughI had a Cobb Salad with a generous helping of dry turkey and a rather smooth and sweet blue cheese dressing.

One thing I noticed there, that I wasn’t expecting, was I drew a lot of attention.   People stared at me and they were quite blatant about it.   Sure I am bigger than most but I found myself getting more and more uncomfortable.   I was already uncomfortable in my clothes.   My pants are baggier than I would like so I felt, for lack of a better word, kind of clownish.   Maybe it was my attitude that drew attention.   I don’t know.   It certainly wasn’t my experience of Holland where I didn’t feel like people gave a crap about how I looked.   I felt judged and awkward yesterday walking through the mall.

We got back to LA later in the day.   It was a short visit with Mom.   We will see her in two weeks for Thanksgiving.   I needed to go to Target and john lisaUlta and Trader Joe’s…life maintenance…and it was nice to have John with me for the ride.   He had decided he wanted to get a new phone.   Last night I took him over to the Verizon store where he got the new Droid phone.   WOW…is an understatement.   What an amazing piece of technological wonder.   It is awesome!   I can see it as an iPhone killer for sure.   It’s sleek.   It’s powerful.   It has a slide out qwerty keyboard.   Now, I want one.   Yes, I have found the phone that will make me give up my Blackberry.   I am not due for an upgrade until March.   We’ll see what the next four months will bring.

chuck_outside_1_72I realize the thing that feels like it is stopping me today is it’s the anniversary of the day we lost our Chuck.   Chuck was our fabulous cat!   He actually was our neighbor’s cat.   Many of you know his wonderful story.   He was a big lanky boy of a cat.   As our neighbor liked to say about him, “he was his own man.”   She got him as a kitten in 1989 and he always had a powerful personality.   I met him when I moved here in 1995.   He would swagger up the driveway and dane to be pet.   He would meow emphatically to get the attention he wanted on his terms.   He was an indoor-outdoor cat.   He owned the neighborhood.   With time our neighborhood and our lives changed.   He never came into my apartment because my cat Groucho would have none of it.   He would come to the door and ask to come in (as if I had ever let him in) and she would puff up and growl and yell at him through the door.   He never gave up.   After she passed away and then John moved out here, little did I know, he still hadn’t given up on getting in here.   John, the big softy, and Chuck started a beautiful relationship unbeknown to me.   As it turns out, one day, John was outside making salmon on the Q for lunch while I was at work.   Chuck sauntered up to John and must have said something like, “hey, what’s for lunch? Salmon!?   I LOVE salmon!!” I didn’t know this love affair had started and was surprised to find Chuck walking past me up the walk into my apartment one night.   sunflowers_blue_72From that night on, he would come and visit all the time.   Some nights he would stay and some nights he would ask to leave to roam his neighborhood.   New neighbors moved in with two HUGE dogs.   The dogs are not cat friendly and killed one our neighbor’s other cats.   It was devastating and terrifying.   But Chuck would still insist on wandering the streets at night.   We would sleep with one eye open and an ear to the door for him.   Then one day he stopped asking to leave at night and we stopped offering.   As with most geriatric cats he had his share of illnesses.   It was hard to watch this strong independent cat become more and more dependent.   Our apartment became a kitty hospice with me getting up early (really, really early) everyday with him and giving him Sub Q fluids and a B12 shot once a week.   I cooked a special breakfast for him.   I bought him different kinds of foods to tempt him.   I cooked fresh salmon or chicken or ground beef.   He got pills for his Hyper Thyroid and he got vitamins hidden in meat baby food.   The fluids were for his kidney failure (CRF.) And, we loved him like we have never loved another living soul.   We were so fortunate to have had the time we had with him!   A year ago today he left us.   Just as he came to us on his terms and was our neighbor’s cat on his terms he left us on his terms.   Yes, he was his own man.   And, we miss him!

Physically I feel great today!   I know I will feel that much greater if I walk.   Maybe I will wait and walk with John tonight.   Of course, there is the possibility that John will want to play with his Droid tonight…I don’t know that he will be able to walk and play with his Droid. We’ll see what today brings.

 Posted by at 8:28 am
Nov 102009

I miss Amsterdam.   Of course, being there wasn’t reality.   At least it wasn’t my reality.   While I like to say I immersed myself in the lifestyle rather than being a tourist, it wasn’t my life.   It wasn’t my daily life.   It still was vacation.   Sure I did laundry there and I went to the grocery store.   We cooked and cleaned.   But I was living out of a suitcase.   I went to bed at 3a most nights and slept in.   I didn’t have to worry about opening mail and paying bills.   My cell phone didn’t work there so I didn’t have phone calls to deal with.   Sure, I checked my messages (and noticed yesterday, nearly a week after I had come home, I had missed some of them) and I checked my emails.   It wasn’t reality.

chateauSince being home I have forced myself to walk nearly everyday.   As I have said, it isn’t the same.   And, I don’t want to be down on LA.   This is my home.   I choose to be here for my career as an actor and a writer.   I do love a lot of things about Los Angeles.   I am looking for the beauty in my surroundings.   Does that sound airy fairy?   Maybe it’s the feeling that life is short that has stuck with me since my trip.   I feel different.   I feel like my outlook is different; more positive.   Not in a delusional “positive thinking” kind of way.   I feel more like “this is it!”   This is the life I get to live.   I feel more appreciative of what I have and feel fortunate for everything.

jon lisaI went to the dentist yesterday.   I am not keen on having my mouth worked on.   I have become a much better patient over the years.   There was a time when I would need gas just for a cleaning.   Oral hygiene is really important to me.   I am not sure if it is my fear of needing dental work that has me brush and floss daily. Whatever the cause I am diligent about it.   When I moved here years ago a good friend recommended my dentist.   Sure he is a bit more expensive than if I went to a dentist in the valley but it is worth every penny.   As they say, you get what you pay for.   (His name is Jonathan Engel.   If you go, tell him I sent you.) Yesterday’s appointment was for preventative care.   He called it micro dentistry.   As long as I get to keep my teeth and have healthy gums for the rest of my life, bring it on.

I have had this vision in my head of a cute outfit.   Yesterday morning, I put it on before I raced out the door to the dentist.   As I walked down the street from the parking structure to his office I felt more and more uncomfortable.   The outfit didn’t translate from my brain to the real world.   It was much cuter in my head than it was on my body.   The shirt is just too big.   The pants looked odd with my boots.   My feet looked enormous.   As I walked the shirt hugged my ass.   I could picture myself in the back of Glamour magazine as a “Fashion DON’T” with a black bar covering my eyes (as if that would disguise my identity.) I had errands to run but HAD to come home and change before I ran them.   I was thrilled to put on my chocolate brown T.   Somehow, just changing the shirt made the pants better.   With the change I was able to tolerate my big feet too.   Since I was home, I thought it shouldn’t be a total loss, so I poured myself the last of the French Pressed coffee I had made earlier.   As I walked through our small apartment I managed to pour the entire cup of coffee down the front of my shirt.   In the moment of disbelief, as the coffee dripped off my shirt and onto the floor, I stood there stunned. After putting my shirt in the wash (it was a good impetus to do some laundry) and cleaned the floor, I put on my third outfit of the day…without the giant boots.

bird parkingToday is another day.   I walked this morning.   I drank coffee without spilling it.   I had some of the Gouda cheese I brought back with some dark bread.   I have been on line.   I have errands to run and phone calls to make.   (My dentist’s office called to check on me.   They are so great!) I have some writing to do.   I am going to be a good wife and cook a nice dinner so it will be done when my husband gets home. Then tomorrow will be another day…funny, how that works.   I am still unsure as to what is next.   They say this is a good place to be.   When you don’t know you can take the opportunity to be creative.   This is defnitely an opportunity.   My mind has been very busy since I have been back and I want to get my thoughts out and see what comes of them.

 Posted by at 10:40 am
Nov 082009

I’m still trying to get through the jet lag.   The change back from Daylight savings time doesn’t help.   It is 5:15 on Sunday evening and I feel like I could call it a day and go to sleep.   I just keep pressing through.   I’m sure this feeling of needing to go to sleep at 5p and waking up at 3a feeling like it’s noon will pass.   In the meantime, I am just living my life.   And, a great life at that.

We broke open some of the Gouda cheese I brought home and had it with the Belgian beer I found at BevMo.   I was thrilled to find the Delirium Tremens beer yesterday.   (I was even happier to see it for less at Cost Plus today.)   The cheese is amazingly creamy and delicious.   I don’t remember Gouda cheese tasting that way.   Maybe it is more processed for the US.   Maybe it’s the kind I bought.   I don’t know.   What I do know is that it was and is ridiculously delicious. We have some left over that I want to savor.

charliesThis morning we woke up early and took our time getting it together.   Since I got home I have been making it a point of taking a long walk everyday.   I don’t want to lose that fit feeling I have after walking the streets of Amsterdam.   I am really enjoying walking.   Life in Los Angeles, at least for me, just isn’t set up for a walking lifestyle.   I need to find places where I can add it into my daily life.   Today, we ended up walking down to the Farmer’s Market at 3rd and Fairfax.   I have been going there since I was a child.   I have wonderful memories.   Even with the addition of The Grove, it is still a wonderful place.   The walk from our apartment makes it approximately a 3 mile round trip walk.   In some ways it felt really far.   It’s a slow incline back.   There aren’t hills in Amsterdam (save for the tiny cobblestone bridges) so I felt the slight burn but it was a good burn.   We got there before all the stores and kiosks opened and before the huge Sunday crowds.   I love Los Angeles early in the morning, especially on the weekends, because most people sleep in.   Restaurants don’t normally get busy before 10a.   We ate at Charlie’s at the West end of the Farmer’s Market.   We had our pick of the tables.   I am sure the person who designed the chairs for the Farmer’s Market is Dutch as they are very small and definitely not made for comfort.   Maybe they don’t want people to linger longer than it takes to eat a meal.   They also seem very, very old.   When I sit on them I always give them a little test to be sure they feel sturdy.   Then I sit gingerly. Today was fine. I ordered our breakfast and staked out our spot and John went and got us coffee’s from Starbucks.   I love being with him!

Then we walked through the Farmer’s Market as the kiosks opened.   The crepe stand was packed, as usual.   famersIt is definitely a favorite for most people.   Every person I told we were going or had gone to the Farmer’s Market mentioned the crepe restaurant.   I love looking at the fruit and vegetable stands there.   Even if I’m not shopping I find the displays to be like works for art.

After being in Amsterdam and drinking as much coffee as I did, I have a yen for a Nespresso machine.   My sister has one and it got a lot more use while I was visiting.   I love the idea of making a perfect cup of coffee every time.   Especially, now that I am drinking a couple of cups (or four) a day. In Amsterdam, we walked to the big department store to buy more coffee and I loved the whole concept.   I was first introduced to the Nespresso machines at Thanksgiving last year at John’s Aunt’s.   It is just a great cup of coffee.   So, today I was thrilled to see they had the Nespresso machines at Sur La Table.   John wanted to go in and look around.   We had a great sales person talk to us about the machines.   He made John a cup of his choice of coffee and he was sold the minute he took a whiff and a sip.   It isn’t something we are going to jump into buying this minute.   With the holidays coming up it is more likely than if he had tried it in July.

Tomorrow is Monday.   A new day.   I will get up and walk and then go to the dentist.   Then the day is my oyster. I have some things to think about.   It will be a good day to take stock of what’s next as that is the ongoing theme of my days.

 Posted by at 4:04 pm
Nov 062009

welcome homeI landed in Los Angeles on Tuesday evening.   To say that I was exhausted is like saying water is wet.   I was spent.   As I stood at the baggage claim, fingers crossed that I would see both of my bags, a baggage handler walked up next to me with one of my bags.   As he started to hoist my heavy bag onto the carousel I said, “Hey, that’s my bag!”   I took it from him and asked him why he had it as the bags from my flight hadn’t begun to pour onto the conveyor belt.   He told me it came in on the earlier flight.   Yes, one of my bags came in on the flight I was unceremoniously told I couldn’t make because I was 5 minutes too late to check my bags.   I asked him where my other bag was and he said he didn’t know.   On all of my other flights my bags were the first to come off the plane as they were the last to get on the plane due to my stand by status. I stood there and waited and waited as bags tumbled down the belt.   No sign of my big apple green bag filled with Dutch cookies and my sweaters.   “YAY!” I exclaimed like a child as my bag somersaulted down the ramp towards me.   I pulled it onto my, not so smart, Smarte Carte and wheeled my belongings outside to catch a cab.

Why is the Smarte Carte in the LA not smart?   Because it doesn’t have a brake.   The ones I used in both Amsterdam and in NY had a brake built into the handle.   When you aren’t holding the handle down the wheels lock.   It makes it much easier to load heavy bags onto a wheeled cart when it can’t roll away from you.   Needless to say, as I was trying to load over 100 pounds of luggage plus my heavy carry on onto the cart in LA after travelling for over 24 hours it would have been nice to not have to chase the Smarte Carte around the baggage claim area.

It didn’t make sense for me to have my husband come down to fetch me at the airport.   Traffic is crazy.   Plus I wasn’t sure what baggage claim would be like etc.   I got into the cab with a very funny cab driver.   He was older and I am guessing he was Thai.   The car smelled of garlic as if he had just eaten a wonderful garlicky feast in the cab before I arrived.   We talked about Amsterdam and marijuana.   Even though I told him Amsterdam wasn’t where the mermaid was that that was in Copenhagen, Denmark, he kept asking me about Denmark.   After correcting him and saying, “Holland” a couple of times I gave up and just answered his questions and chatted.   He told me he used to smoke marijuana all the time but now that he has children and has to be more responsible he doesn’t anymore.   We talked about legalizing marijuana and about how we need to educate our children.   It was a funny half hour and a great way to end my trip.

new-bed_72When I came home John, my husband, had decorated the apartment with streamers and “Welcome Home” signs he printed on his computer.   He had gone to Target to buy streamers and a sign but they only had Happy Birthday signs.   It was so wonderful to see him!   I knew I missed him on the trip but didn’t realize just how much until I saw him.   Clearly, I was tired because I welled up when I saw the homemade signs and streamers.   Sleeping in my bed (our new king bed we bought a month before I left) with my husband near by was so nice. 15 nights away is a long time.

I am still exhausted but not as dazed as I was the first night and first day back.   Jet lag is crazy.   I keep waking up at 3:30 in the morning with my body saying, “Why are you still in bed? It’s after noon!”   When I try and go back to sleep and wake up at a more normal hour of say, 6:00a, I feel more tired than if I would have just gotten up for good at 3:30.   I am just going to keep powering through.

I have also continued walking.   It certainly isn’t the same walking I was doing in Amsterdam, but it is nice to keep my body moving as I found I really enjoyed the physical activity.   I live in a wonderful neighborhood.   While LA doesn’t smell nearly is lovely as the Amsterdam neighborhoods, and it definitely isn’t as pretty or quaint, it will suffice for now until my next adventure.

My intention is to keep writing.   I have some reflections and thoughts about my trip to Amsterdam I am going to share in the next day or two.   I am going to continue looking at life with a fresh neighborhoodperspective and I plan on sharing it.   I am looking forward to future travels which I plan to capture both digitally and with the written word and plan on sharing them with you.   A thought came to me as well, if you have any questions for me about, well, anything, by all means ask me.   I would be happy to give your questions some thought and answer them. In the meantime, I am happy to be home again.

 Posted by at 9:31 am
Nov 052009

clouds canal boatMy last day in Amsterdam was bittersweet.   Sima and I had a wonderful breakfast on the boat.   Then we walked around town on the way to her shop.   We poked in and out of little shops along the way.   The sky was beautiful the day after a heavy rain.   I always looked at the sky with Van Gogh in mind.   He loved the clouds and the light of Holland.   On my last day we had Van Gogh clouds. We had lunch at the cafe across from her salon.   It was cold the day after the rainy Sunday so I ordered soup.   It was a hearty vegetable soup of squash, potatoes and green beans with a fresh shaved mountain of Parmesan cheese floating in the center of the delicate broth.   It was served with a couple of slices of crusty bread.   We thought we would eat outside but it was just too cold.   We brought our plates inside and enjoyed the warmth of our lunch and of the heater next to our table. Then it was time for Sima hair.   We walked over to her salon where Sima worked her magic on my hair.   She brought my hair back to my original dark brown and layered some warmer dark brown highlights in.   I feel like I am walking around with her artwork on my

We stopped at the Albert Heijn on the way back to the boat.   I needed to pack so we decided to cook dinner at home.   She made an absolutely delicious meal of home made pesto sauce on fettuccine and an arugula salad.   Ben made outrageous garlic bread.   We sat and enjoyed our last meal together.   I was definitely   tense.   I had packed while Sima was cooking and I knew my bags were very heavy.   I had gotten up early and walked over to the Kaas-Brood shop to get some cheese to bring home.   50 Euro later I had some gouda to bring home.   Even though I had read it was okay to bring back I was definitely concerned it might be a problem.   Of course, the thought of leaving Amsterdam and my sister was weighing heavily on me as well.   I had checked the availability on my flights and knew I wouldn’t have dinnera problem getting to JFK from Amsterdam but that my flight from JFK to LAX looked pretty full.   The next three flights from JFK looked progressively worse throughout the day.   It looked like I might have to layover another 9 hours and catch the late flight.   So, that was definitely giving me more to think about and worry about.

I got in bed relatively early that night.   At midnight, when I was just ready to turn off my light, Gnamish, the greatest cat alive, came to visit me on my final night.   He walked around my bed a couple of times doing laps, stopping at my face for love and snuggles. Then he left to turn in for the night with Sima and Ben.   I had a difficult time sleeping Monday night knowing I had a huge day of travel ahead of me.   Flying stand by made what is already difficult even more so.   Air travel just isn’t easy.   I don’t care what your shape or size it just isn’t an enjoyable experience.   Sure flying Business Class or First Class is much different than coach, aka steerage, but the process just isn’t easy. I woke up at 5a unable to sleep more I got up and to finish up my packing. Then I showered for the last time in the fish bowl.   No one was on the street that early so I had no looky loos.   Sima made coffee and we chatted a bit.   It was a beautiful morning.   The dusk sky was blue and hazy.   The moon was hanging over the city like it was still night time against the darkish morning sky.   I am sorry I didn’t take pictures but my head was busy with thoughts of the coming day.

We could have walked to Central Station with my bags but it made more sense to just call a cab.   They would take the 20 minute train ride back from the station so Ben could go to work and Sima could then go on to her salon.   The airport was hopping with travellers.   I had to check in at a little kiosk and then take my bags to another line to check them through.   I asked specifically about checking them all the way through to LAX but they insisted I could only check in to JFK.   It felt wrong.   I should have pushed them to check me all the way through.   I should have followed my hunch as my intuition knew better than the Delta/KLM employee at Schipol (Amsterdam Airport.)   I hugged Sima and Ben   goodbye.   I was very sad but didn’t cry.   My emotions were busy worrying about catching my flight and moving through my day.

After leaving Sima and Ben at the first security check point.   I had my passport stamped and carried on to my gate.   Security is different at the Amsterdam airport than it is in US airports.   I don’t know how it is at other European airports but here you go through security at your individual gates before you board.   I stood in line at my gate for the secondary passport/security check where they asked me questions about my stay in Amsterdam.   They asked why I was there and where I stayed and if anybody had given me any electronic items to carry on board.   They asked me if I packed my own bags.   After I was cleared to go through the next security check point I realized I hadn’t spoken to the gate agent.   I was told to leave the secure area and go back out and speak to her.   She informed me that it was “unlikely” that I would get Business Class to JFK and to take a seat.   She was rather unpleasant.   I asked if I had time to use the restroom.   I did.

Again, I found an interesting difference from the US compared to Amsterdam.   I am not a fan of public restrooms.   I am sorry to find myself talking about the restroom again, but this was fascinating to me.   Rather than give you paper seat covers, which is wasteful, there was a dispenser of toilet sanitizer on the wall with directions to spray it onto some toilet paper and clean the seat.   I thought that was rather ingenious!

I did have to go through security again, where I got the full work up.   I set off the alarm as I walked through the metal detector.   That is the first time that has happened in a long time.   A female security officer asked if it was okay for her to check me.   It wasn’t a problem until she patted down every inch of my body.   Again, that odd Dutch personal space thing.   In the US, when I have set off the alarm they use a metal detecting wand to find out what set the larger machine off.   But not in Amsterdam.   No joke if she didn’t rub down nearly every inch of my body.   My arms, my chest (under, over and in between my breasts without giving me the full breast squeeze) my thighs, my legs, my back.   It was a little bizarre.   As she finished my full body massage, I was beckoned over by another security officer who opened my carry on and my purse and asked me questions about my belongings.   The thing that was funny is I had two lighters and three books of matches that I had bought as gifts that didn’t make them blink an eye.   There was no mention of my baggie of liquids either.   Airport security seems so arbitrary and I don’t feel any safer because of it.

business eliteAs it turned out, I was able to fly Business Class to JFK. It was a bit cramped as it was packed with people.   But it wasn’t nearly as cramped as coach would have been.   We were delayed a bit on the tarmac in Amsterdam and I only had an hour and a half to make my connecting flight.   Of course, in NY I had to clear passport control where they stamped my passport and checked my customs form.   Then I had to claim my luggage and head over to customs where they wanted to talk to me about the “food” I had brought back with me.   I had packed my bags with some different kinds of cookies and mustard and mayonnaise in metal tubes (like toothpaste.) I had brought beer glasses home from the Brouwerij ‘t IJ (one didn’t make it…) and some other goodies.   I really buy a lot.   I had wanted to bring home some of the fabulous Belgian salami we had eaten but had read online that it is illegal to bring meat products of any kind into the US.   You can’t bring fruit or vegetables in either.   (Obviously, bringing lighters and matches is okay though.) I was pretty careful about that and I was honest with the customs agents.   However, it took time.   They scanned two of my three bags and asked me about the contents of each.   I told her, “cookies, socks, tubes of mayo and mustard, t-shirts, tampons…”   She started laughing and said, “Did you say tampons?!”   To which I replied, “Yes.”   She couldn’t believe it she kept saying to her colleagues that she couldn’t believe I said “tampons” and that that was the most honest response she had ever gotten.   It was an odd and funny experience.   I don’t think tampons are that hilarious but it got me through customs without actually having to open my bags.   Unfortunately, when I got to the place to recheck my bags for the remainder of my travels I came to find out that my intuition in Amsterdam had been correct and they should have checked me all the way through.   Becuase they hadn’t checked me and my bags through to Los Angeles I had to walk over to one of the agents and check in again recheck my bags.   And, because I had taken all that time in Customs, and the ensuing laugh riot about my feminine products, it was now 55 minutes before my flight.   Per Ms. Friendly at the counter I couldn’t check in for my flight because I had missed the hour prior to take off deadline.   There was no discussion about over riding the system or calling a supervisor to get me on the flight.   It was, essentially, “Too bad.   I am putting you and your bags on the next flight.”   I had already checked and knew the following flight, the flight she was putting me on the stand by list for, was nearly full when I had checked the night before.   I could feel myself welling up with tears.   There was nothing I could do.   I was at Norma’s, the Delta employee who works in the bowels of JFK’s, mercy.   And, she had none. I had to wait 3 hours for my next flight.

The upside is the gate agent for my flight was nothing short of kind and helpful.   There wasn’t a chance I was going to get Business Class to LAX with 15 people ahead of me on the list.   There were 10 seats available in coach.   When I explained my predicament of having a large ass and needing an empty seat next to me she laughed and was so great with me.   When the plane started to board she called me over and asked, “Is a window and a middle seat good for you?”   How she treated me washed away the bad taste that Norma had left with me.   As I sat in my coach seat the flight attendant came over the PA asking people to move quickly and get to their seats as it was going to be a full flight.   I smiled knowing I was going to be comfortable (The seats are so close together.   The seat in front of me was nearly touching me.   There was a slim chance that I would be able to use my tray table), or as comfortable as I could be in coach, the rest of the way home.

cloudsI know that travelling and specifically air travel is difficult no matter ones size.   But given that I am a woman of size I am clearly biased in my consideration that it is more difficult for fat people.   Besides dragging heavy luggage filled with clothes that are twice the size of an average person (think about it, if I am twice your size than logically my clothes will be twice the size of yours.   Like a word problem in math, it figures that if we bring the same amount of clothing on a trip and my clothes are twice the size of yours than my clothes will also weigh twice as much.) Then there is the whole walking the miles of airport terminal carrying my largess as well.   Then there is getting on the plane down the long breezeways and then getting on the plane through the small doors and down the the tiny aisles.   As I approach a plane the first thing I do is stop and rub and give a little “you can do it” pat to the outside of the plane.   It’s a superstition with which I am just unwilling to tempt fate.   Then as I walk onto the plane I inform the first flight attendant I see that I will need a seatbelt extender and where I am sitting. I was very lucky on this trip.   I was able to fly Business Class from New York to Amsterdam and from Amsterdam to New York.   I was also very fortunate that on my Los Angeles to JFK flight and back, even though I had coach, I was able to get an empty seat next to me.   There isn’t a chance I could fit comfortably in a coach seat with the arm rest down.   Not only would I be miserable but the person next to me would be also.   There are a lot of considerations being a person of size and travelling.   I have to say with this trip the pay off far outweighed the cost of having some discomfort. This fat girl will continue to travel and will continue to write about her experiences.   I also promise to not make a habit of writing in the third person either.   It just seemed fitting (ha, I said fitting) in this moment.

 Posted by at 1:42 am
Nov 022009

haarlemerstraatWhen I arrived nearly two weeks ago I had spent nearly 24 hours traveling here.   I had attempted to fly a week earlier but because I was flying on a stand by ticket I had to abort the mission as my original flight to JFK was oversold by 17 seats.   When I finally arrived here I was exhausted but thrilled to be here.   I arrived at 6a.   We took the train from Schipol Amsterdam airport.   I was dazed for sure.   We then walked from the train station.   My luggage seemed so loud as we rolled it along the cobble stone streets.   Little did I know then that that sound is a very common sound.   You hear people wheeling their luggage through town at all hours of the day and night. So, when we got back to the boat and dropped off my things and started our day it felt like I was going to be here forever.   Two weeks seemed, at that point, like it would last forever.   The first two days were very long days.   We packed a lot in.   And, now it is my last day.   It feels as if I blinked and now it’s nearly over.   We have had amazing late nights; climbing into bed at 3a on average.   I have walked many, many miles.   I have drank many a great beer and talked to many wonderful people.

This morning while Sima was getting ready I walked over to the Haarlemmerstraat, the little shopping street nearby.   I wanted to go to a coffee and tea shop (not to be confused with a Coffee Shop where people by weed and hash) to buy some coffee for John.   I was going to kass shopgo yesterday but we thought it would be closed on Sunday.   Many of the stores on the Haarlemmerstraat don’t open until 1p on Mondays.   The coffee and tea shop isn’t open at all on Monday.   They were open yesterday.   I am sorry I didn’t get John coffee.   He and I will just have to come back together.

I then went to the Albert Heijn to pick up a couple of things and to get a bottle of water.   It was packed with people.   I wish I could bring tons of things back with me but I just can’t.   They have fascinating spices and cookies and salami.   Things I haven’t seen at home.   It is illegal to bring meat products back into the United States.   It isn’t worth the risk.   It is unfortunate because I did get some small salami logs that were really good.   They weren’t too salty or garlicky.   They had an interesting flavor.

As a relatively picky eater this trip has been a real stretch for me.   I finally tried something called filet americain.   I purposely didn’t ask what was in it.   I had a feeling it was raw meat.   I didn’t love it.   Quite frankly, it was one of those flavors that I could do without ever having again.   I just looked it up on line to be sure and yes, it is raw meat.   Sima insists that here it is beef but I have read that it can also be made with horse meat.   Honestly, the thought of it turns my stomach a bit.   I may be adventurous in some ways but I just can’t stand the idea of eating Mr. Ed.

pieWe had a rainy Sunday yesterday.   It poured heavily all day.   We stayed in and had a beautiful breakfast of orange yolked eggs (the norm here) and some of that amazing heavy dark bread I got at the Saturday market.   Then Ben ventured out in the pouring rain and bought puff pastry.   He came back and baked an apple pie.   We relaxed and talked all day.   Then some French friends came over with their beautiful 14 month old child.   We played Scrabble and ate pie.   It was really nice being with Sima and Ben and this beautiful family.   To see the difference and similarities of how they are raising this beautiful little boy was lovely.   Last night we played cards and ate left over munchie foods from the party.   It was a great day!

I am going to miss Gnamish, their wonderful cat, so much.   He just made me take a break from writing for snuggles.   He climbed up onto the CPU under the desk.   From there he climbed up me and put his paws over my shoulder.   He is the loviest cat. Every night before bed he comes into my room and paces until I get in.   Once I get in bed he gets up on my chest and leans down and rubs his nose against mine.   I will miss him beyond measure.gnamish steering

The first Monday of every month they sound the emergency siren.   I was sitting here at the computer when it went off this morning.   At home, I know they test the emergency broadcast system on TV and on the radio.   But near me they don’t sound sirens.   I don’t even know if we have sirens outside in LA.   I assume they have them in other places.   It is a disconcerting sound.   I remember in college they would sound the sirens.   When they would students would stage “die ins” and lie on the ground in protest.   That is San Francisco for you.

Now, Sima and I are going to eat the last of the eggs and the dark bread and head out. We are going to walk to her salon.   She is going to do my hair for the first time in years.   I can’t wait to have Sima hair!   She is a brilliant hair stylist and colorist.

breakfastThere is so much I will miss about being here.   I really like the way of life here.   Unlike a vacation where you stay in a hotel and eat out and do a lot of tourist attractions, I spent this trip immersed in the lifestyle.   I shopped and cooked and walked around.   I didn’t do nearly the amount of touristy things I would have liked.   I don’t have regrets.   The time flew by at what feels like a record pace.   I missed many of the museums and the parks.   I did do the things that were on the top of my list.   I feel like I am going home refreshed and renewed with an altered perspective on life.   Since losing my job before I left my life is a bit uncertain.   After being here I feel like I can go home with new inspiration for what’s next.

 Posted by at 2:14 pm
Nov 012009

We spent the day yesterday preparing for the Halloween party on the boat.   I brought decorations from Los Angeles and Sima and Ben road their bikes to a friend who is a caterer to get pumpkins.   The pumpkins we kept seeing in the markets were different than the pumpkins we get in the US.   Their friend ordered some for them so we could carve pumpkins.   Then Sima rode her bike to the grocery store for things while Ben washed the outside of the boat.   Meanwhile, I walked over to the Saturday market for supplies.   I decided to make chopped chicken liver.     I bought fresh onions and garlic (I still had some fresh thyme from the week before) at one of the outdoor stands and then walked over to that amazing butcher shop a couple of blocks away.

butcherThe butcher shop was PACKED with people spilling out the double doors onto the street.   I walked over and realized people were taking numbers.   My number was 80.   When I arrived the number sign was on 47.   So, I waited with all the other people.   Of course, they came by with a tray of some slices of unidentifiable meat log samples.   I obliged and took the one that seemed to not have giant chunks of fat in it.   In hindsight, I wonder if those hunks were cheese.   It was around a half hour wait.   The people were all so friendly.   I had to listen for the beep of the changing number and then look at the number to see where we were as I couldn’t understand them when they hollered the numbers.   When it was my turn I walked up to the front and was mesmerized for a moment by all the different things they had in the cases.   The livers weren’t on display.   Of all the things, they don’t sell chicken fat.   They sell chicken parts. They sell whole chickens. But they don’t trim the chickens like we do at home.   So, if I wanted to get chicken fat I would have had to buy chicken and trim it myself.   After the butcher I tried a Le Poulerie (a poultry butcher down the street who might have had chicken fat but was testy that I had bought my liver elsewhere.) He had goose fat.   I even went to a meat stand in the outside butchermarket and asked for chicken fat to no avail.   I will say, the butcher shop I went to smelled so much cleaner and looked so much cleaner than most meat departments in grocery stores at home.   I don’t know what kind of laws they have as far as cleanliness but it smelled so fresh in there.   The glass cases were immaculate and the floors were pristine.   A beautiful big marmalade cat sauntered into the shop while we were all waiting.   He weaved in between people’s legs.   He came to me for some loving.   Then he hopped up on a bench and sat next to one of the waiting customers.   No one blinked an eye that there was a cat in the butcher shop.

As I was walking back down through the Saturday market to head back to the boat, who should I see walking in the crowd towards me?   Yes, it was Lester the Molester.   He was so excited to see me.   He smiled a big smile at me and started to speak to me.   The market was very busy and he was pushing his bike through the crowds as he had been doing last week when we were at the tram stop when he kept touching me.   The crowds of people worked to my benefit as the tide of people pushed him farther past me.   I took the opportunity to pick up my pace.   I looked back and saw he had managed to maneuver his bike in the crowd and was following me.   Again, the big crowd of tall Dutch people worked in my favor as I slipped into someone’s booth and snuck out the back side.   I walked back up the back of the market and scurried back into the crowd.   That had me walking behind him.   He never found me after that.   I am sure he is just a harmless old man.   Who rubbed me the wrong way, both literally and figuratively.

lis sim hallowI decided to be a cat for Halloween.   It didn’t take a lot of effort.   I gave myself whiskers and an upside down triangle nose.   Sima and Ben were a pirate couple.   Arrrrr. People started arriving around 9p.   Sima and Ben have some really lovely friends.   One group of their friends are French.   Really wonderful people!   I have so enjoyed spending time with them this trip.   Last night was no exception.   At one point last night it had gotten warm on the boat so I was sitting outside on the landing with a couple of people when more people arrived.   This woman was standing above me when I feel something heavy hit my thigh.   Then I heard a thud and then a splash.   Yes, she had dropped her keys.   First they hit me, then the boat step and then they splashed into the canal.   That is it for those keys.   They are gone forever.   She had just locked her bike up across the street and her house key was on the ring as well. She was much less upset than one would imagine.

Everyone was standing around the table eating when I walked in to use the restroom.   I was standing there in the bathroom when I realized my hair was moving.   I had a big brown spider climbing down the side of my hair.   It wasn’t a Halloween prank. It was real!   I didn’t scream.   I didn’t want to make a scene. I shook my head but then didn’t see where he went.   So, I came out of the bathroom and got Sima’s attention.   Both she and Ben came over and checked me for the spider.   We couldn’t find him.   For a moment, I thought maybe is was the great Dommelsch beer I had been drinking and that my eyes were playing tricks on me. I went back to do what I has intended on doing and there he was sitting on the counter blending into the stained wood.   I sent him away…far, far away.simben hallow

Some of the women who came to the party last night were from Finland. They brought some licorice liquor.   I am not a fan of licorice but it seemed impolite to not oblige them and take the glass.   The liquid was black and syrupy and the licorice smell was as bit noxious.   Someone else obviously didn’t like it either and left it on the storage box on the side of the boat next to where I had sat back down with a wonderful French woman.   Then a very nice Dutch man who works with Ben stepped out onto the edge of the boat.   As he came out of the door his coat caught the edge of the glass filled with the black sticky liquid.   It was a slow motion moment where there was nothing I could do. There was no where to go as the liquor spilled down onto me and my coat and my coat pocket.   For the rest of the night I smelled licorice and the side of my coat was sticky at first and then it just got stiff.   I don’t know that my coat will ever recover from this trip.

Around 1:30a   the party started to wind down.   It didn’t mean people were done partying though.   They were just done partying here.   Everyone was going to go to a bar called Mini Bar.   It’s a bar where you get your own mini fridge filled with mini bottles of different liquor.   You pay for what you drink.   For those who know me, I love mini things.   Mini is a good marketing tool if you want me to purchase something.   Last night, however, the pull of mini wasn’t strong enough to make me want to go out.   I had had a really great evening filled with really good conversation and some great beers and snacks.   I didn’t need to go out and drink more.   I stayed behind and cleaned up the boat a bit and washed my face and fed the cat.   It was a welcome time alone for the hour and a half until Sima and Ben got back.   Then we hung out together and chatted about the evening and snacked on some of the leftovers.   Again, I found myself going to bed at 3:30 in the morning.

Today we had tentative plans to maybe go to the zoo.   It’s a bit cold and rainy and blustery so I am not sure what we will be doing.   I have been so lucky with the weather here.   They say that October is the rainiest month in Amsterdam.   This trip I have been fortunate to only have had a little rain.   Mostly it has been hazy and cloudy with patches of sun and blue sky.   I can’t wait to process all my digital photos and share them.   The sky here seems so different than at home.   I know it’s the same universe but the way the clouds patch the sky and the hue of the blue just doesn’t feel like Los Angeles.

orange eggsWe had a lovely breakfast of heavy dark bread I bought at the outdoor market yesterday and eggs.   I have never seen a yolk like this.   The eggs look just like eggs we get in the states but the yolks are bright orange.   I assume it is from the chicken’s feed.   Like most things I have eaten here in Holland the taste is clean and fresh.   We toasted some of the pumpkin seeds from one of the carved pumpkins.   Now Sima and Ben are making an apple pie with the apples that didn’t get   eaten last night.   It smells so nice in here and it’s warm which is a lovely comparison to the cold and gloomy rain outside

Tonight we are thinking of going back to the great Belgian restaurant and then possibly to an Improv show in the Leidseplein.   Tomorrow Sima is going to do my hair.   Then Tuesday morning I am hoping to get on my flight with my stand by ticket and head home.

 Posted by at 5:05 pm