How am I just now discovering the amazing Venice, CA?

As many of you know, LA is a big place, so overwhelming that most people don’t do anything outside their own neighborhood. Why bother with the traffic or pollute the environment even more? Getting behind the wheel in this town is nothing short of a nightmare.

This is why I spend most of my time in the Silverlake area and downtown, but this afternoon I ventured out to Venice for the first time ever. Though the 45-minute journey is a killer, the area is worth the aggravation.

I met up with my new  friend Kate, an actress who would like to collaborate on some writing projects. I’m all about teaming up, so the idea sounded great to me. We had coffee at Intelligentsia, which reminded me a lot of NYC’s Think Coffee. Similar vibe, but Intelligentsia is definitely more chill. Isn’t everything Californian more laid back than New York? I guess it’s hard to say now. New York Laura feels like another life to me, and with each day in LA, I feel less and less connected to Manhattan.

Here’s a photo of Intelligentsia, via Haute Living:

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This is what I ordered, and I’m ashamed to say I threw down $10 — $5 for the scone, $5 for the coffee. Just last month, I was floored when Grand Central Market charged me $4.50 for black coffee as well. It’s “all about the experience,” isn’t it? Thankfully mine was nothing short of amazing:

Intelligentsia Venice CA

Afterward, we went to the antique store a few doors down. Inside, I noticed a jar of blue hearts, which complemented my teal scarf and sundress.

“These remind me of you,” she said, and that’s when I knew I had to buy one for my nightstand.

I ended up purchasing two: one for me, one for my boyfriend (because he knows how obsessed I am with shades of blue):

chn

A couple days ago, I was complimented on my pastels, and it made me realize I recycle the same articles of clothing and pieces of jewelry because there’s a shortage of bright colors in a lot of stores. I like warm blue, purple, pink, neon, green, all of which are tough to find on clothing racks. Does this mean I shouldn’t wear these colors as an adult? Nah.

I have better luck online — just got these cuties (on sale!) at OpenSky:

opensky-exclusive-flower-knob
pink-crown-shape-earring

All in all, it was a pretty good day :)

Weird people are bothering me again and I’m relieved

See, I'm a magnet for the eccentric!

See, I’m a magnet for the eccentric!

My biggest fear about leaving Manhattan was losing the awesome stories that come with residing there. I couldn’t even grab coffee at one of the four Dunkin’ Donuts on my block without being harassed, cursed out, intimidated, or cat called by Second Avenue construction dickheads, and though it exhausted me to have every aspect of life feel like work, I could never say I was bored. No matter how miserable NYC and its residents made me, I was always getting into unusual situations that were well received at brunch, parties, reunions, and beyond. This kind of life doesn’t make a person happy, and I know this because I spent almost every single night sleep walking, sleep talking, or sleep yelling, but those little episodes made for compelling stories as well (to everyone except my poor roommate, who regularly woke up to my outbursts). It wasn’t until the end of my NYC experience that we laughed about it together, and I hoped LA would bring fewer bed time troubles my way. I’m thrilled to report I sleep really well now and rarely shout, even though I continue to mumble and spew nonsense on occasion.

I arrived in LA three months ago, and one of the first things I did was go on a date with my current boyfriend Ian. We hung out downtown and I spent most of the evening making NYC comparisons. The bartender kept refilling my water glass on his own, so I told Ian how much nicer and more hospitable LA servers seemed to be than those of NYC. Then the bartender started chatting us up and I pointed out that that wouldn’t have happened in New York, as everyone is too busy there for small talk with randoms. When I waited outside Ian’s building, I thought the guy standing a few feet away from me was the doorman. He of course wasn’t — he was just a well-dressed fellow — and I chalked my confusion up to spending two years in NYC, where doormen work in overpriced apartment complexes.

I talk about it less and less nowadays, but one of the concerns I expressed to Ian was becoming restless and unfulfilled in LA. As Emma Thompson points out in Saving Mr. Banks, nobody walks here, so there are fewer opportunities for peculiar interactions to ensue. Everyone is either driving or working, so it’s a little harder to be accosted by crazies on the street. You might think that’s a good thing, and to an extent, I do too. But I also crave excitement and feel most comfortable around the unconventional.

Weird things have been happening lately, and though the old me would be angry about it, I’m relieved. I’m only 25, and my funny NYC stories shouldn’t be the only material I have for future TV shows and beyond. California is also known for being an oddball hotspot, and I’m glad to be living that again.

On the flight back to LA this weekend, a guy sat next to me and asked whether I was wearing perfume. I’d sprayed some on my neck earlier that day but hadn’t expected it to last, so I was surprised he’d picked up on it.

“You smell like my ex-girlfriend.”

“Oh gosh, I’m so sorry,” I said, worried I’d brought this pour soul back to a time he’d rather not think about.

“No, good memories. VERY good memories,” he said.

Then the plane took off and I struggled not to laugh. The rest of the  flight was fairly normal, but I had another dose of weirdness the following day when a pair of Jehovah’s Witnesses showed up on my doorstep. They actually knocked for ten minutes (I didn’t think it was knocking at first), and when I finally cracked open the door, one of the women hid behind the other. Something about it felt off, and I couldn’t understand why the other person felt the need to shield her face, but at least I know not to answer the door anymore. I was protected from all that in my various NYC apartment buildings, and now I’m back to the days of dealing with bible salesmen and religious recruiters.

I’m feeling more at home in LA as the colorful characters continue to approach me, so don’t be surprised if I start documenting these experiences more frequently. No place will ever be as weird as New York, but I’m starting to realize that’s not such a bad thing.

How did I fare with my 2012 New Years Resolutions?

The ones I’ve accomplished are in bold:

Drink less coffee.
Join a less expensive gym.
Buy something from Kate Spade once a month (but really, who can afford that?).
Clean out my closet every two months.
Buy a blender to make smoothies this summer.
Go to more brunches once the weather improves (overrated).
See “Book of Mormon” (luckily it’s in LA!).
Write more, duh.
Wear more boring clothes (dumb goal anyway).
Exercise 3-4 times a week as opposed to my current 2-3 day per week schedule.
Go on more vacations.
See the dentist more frequently.
Go to bed earlier.
Write in my journal every week.
Update my blog more frequently.
Visit and contact my family more often.
Read more.
Say “yes” more.
Maintain good posture.
Wake up earlier everyday.
Go out with friends more.
Publish my e-book.
Start another.
Write more letters to my grandma.
Attend more yoga classes.
Try a rock climbing gym in Brooklyn.
Fix my laptop mouse.
Sweep my apartment more often.
Eat veggies once a month.
Buy a microwave.
Learn to love proper dates.
Stop getting creeped out by nice guys.
Have more in-person communication with people I care about.
Text less — and ask people to text me less, as it’s not as good as phone conversations or face-to-face chats.
Continue going on dates.
Scare someone into being my boyfriend.
Cook pasta less.
Cook meat more.
Get comfortable with having my picture taken.
Start doing sit-ups again.
Visit Boston.
Learn to tolerate wine (I have Ian to thank for this).

<3

View from the top of a  mountain in Palm Springs

View from the top of a mountain in Palm Springs

The desert is my true home

When I started college in August 2006, I thought I’d made a grave , life-ruining mistake by selecting the University of Arizona for higher education. The campus grass had been green during prospective student visiting week, but it was brown and worn out by the end of summer. The cacti had lost its initial appeal and the lack of redwood trees was suddenly alarming. I’d grown up in foggy northern California, a cold yet peaceful part of the Golden State, and at first it seemed like I belonged nowhere else.

After a year in Tucson, however, I began to love the desert. The dry heat felt good, even though it burned me practically every time I stepped outside. The palm trees made me feel like I was always on vacation. The fake grass wasn’t so bad after all — at least we didn’t have a ton of rain in Arizona! The sunshine kept me upbeat and inspired to get out and do stuff, and we appreciated the few gloomy days we experienced each year.

I loved the desert even more after three years on the east coast — one in D.C. and two in Manhattan — so it was awesome to go to Palm Springs last weekend. I met my lovely boyfriend’s parents in the desert, and the two of us went hiking during the day. Though I can’t run up the mountain like Ian, I can certainly climb it slowly, and that’s what I did on Saturday and Sunday:

View from the top

View from the top

the top

I’ve always written about my obsession with sunshine and dry heat, but the more time I spend in SoCal, the more I love its weather. Maybe I’ll end up in Palm Springs someday — I’d be the luckiest person ever. Have your White Christmas and snowballs if those make you happy, but 75 degrees on December 25 is better than any holiday gift I could ever ask for.

Asking you to have a little faith in me

Look at these flashing Christmas earrings, I'm going to be fine.

Look at these flashing Christmas earrings, I’m going to be fine.

Almost exactly a year ago, I had coffee with my high school boyfriend to catch up and talk business, as I was a month away from self publishing a novel and wanted to make sure he was cool with the character he’d inspired. He liked my writing and didn’t want to stifle my creativity, but we spent the majority of our visit discussing our lives, barely touching on the book at all. After a couple of years without speaking (simply because we’d gone down such different paths), it was nice to chit chat like we were teenagers again, and as he drove me back to my house, he remarked that I had accomplished so much more than he’d ever expected me to.

“In my field of work, you need grit to survive. You truly have it too, but I never saw it before,” he said.

I’d been waiting to hear those words come out of his mouth for half a decade. Right before we broke up in summer 2007, he said he’d always underestimated me and couldn’t name the reason — there was just something about me that he couldn’t take seriously or have faith in. I decided at that moment to prove him I could create something amazing, but when he admitted I’d surpassed his expectations many years later, I didn’t feel satisfied that I’d shown my former flame he’d been wrong about me the whole time. I was just happy with my own accolades, and I didn’t need his — or anyone else’s — approval. Even so, that extra support brightened my spirits, and I could really use it right now.

He’s not the only one who’s ever questioned my ability to achieve high and make something of myself — he was just the first to admit his initial assessment had been off. Lately, I’ve had a lot of people express doubt about what I can do and become, and it really hurts because what I really need is encouragement, not negative energy and put downs that are only going to make it harder for me to get where I’d like to be.

I’m not saying everyone has to send warm fuzzies and gold stars in my direction — I’m just saying I’ve made significant life changes over the past few months and would appreciate some compassion from the people closest to me. Less than three months ago, I left my life in NYC for a fresh start in Los Angeles, where I have lots of connections, family members, and friends. In that time, I’ve gotten several paid freelance gigs along with a promising internship at the largest media conglomerate in the world. Am I earning buckets of money or a full-time employee? No, but I’m taking care of myself and trying to build a new career path here. In a few months, I’ll be in a better position, all because I took an excellent opportunity that came my way shortly after relocating to LA.

It would just be nice to hear that the people closest to me are happy and proud of the things I’m doing. My siblings have been very supportive and agree I am slowly but surely making it work. Others have been less than enthusiastic and helpful, but luckily my mom is quick to defend me to those who find it necessary to roll their eyes at my choices and compare me to my peers. Just a few months ago, these same people thought I was amazing for “making it” in New York, and suddenly I’m a rudderless ship train wreck simply for trying to rebuild my life.

I guess I should be thankful that my mom is in my corner, but there’s room for plenty more. I’ve gone this route before — the internship turning into a job one — and things worked out for me then. You remember this all too well, so why criticize me for deciding to do it again? It would be one thing if I did this for a journalism position, but I’m switching industries. Sacrifices are necessary, so lay off of the ones I’ve made — I don’t need backlash from others on top of everything else.

To the internet stranger who called me a ‘spoiled, rich brat’

This is what I think about internet haters.

This is what I think about internet haters.

In high school, I was met with ample criticism over a movie review I wrote for a fellow student’s independent culture magazine. I’d been contributing to the publication for a while, and for the most part, everyone enjoyed my take on the films of 2003. It wasn’t until the end of sophomore year that I caused a stir with one of my pieces, and at the time, I was extremely offended that people I barely knew found it necessary to trash my work.

The guy who disagreed with my views happens to be a good friend of mine (and reader of this blog), and I’d soon realize he did me a huge favor by not only reading my stuff, but also taking the time to explain why he didn’t connect with my latest review. I’ve learned a lot from this individual over the years, and it’s because he has always engaged in a civil debate with me.

As you can imagine, I’m much better at handling flak now than I was as a teenager, but every once in a while it frustrates me, and it’s usually because the person who doesn’t like my beliefs also decides to attack my character and label me however he/she pleases. This happened a few hours ago after what started as a nice, undramatic weekend.

Last night, I accompanied my boyfriend to his work holiday party, which was very fun and gave the both of us an opportunity to dress up. I got along with his colleagues and convinced him to watch an episode of “Girls.” He liked the first few installments of season one, so I figured he’d enjoy some of the second half as well.

This morning, we walked to the local coffee shop and I bought our drinks with my own money that I earned myself (you’ll see why these facts are relevant later on) before we parted ways so I could finish up some freelance projects and he could put in a few hours at the office. On the way to my car, I checked my email, Facebook, and Twitter, as I hadn’t looked at my phone since the previous night and wanted to see if I’d missed anything important.

When I got to Twitter, I noticed a rather aggressive “mention” from a non-follower who apparently violently disagreed with my most recent HG article:

“Ever wonder how a spoiled, rich brat rationalizes unpaid internships? Well look no further than @lauradonovanua: http://hellogiggles.com/please-dont-ask-whether-my-internship-is-paid

With that, I immediately went into defense mode and punched out a nasty, mean-spirited response, which I went on to delete a few minutes later. I said something hurtful and it was wrong, but I didn’t name call, and I certainly didn’t attack a random internet writer out of nowhere on a Saturday morning. I can also admit when I’m being cruel — can this fellow do the same?

After a couple exchanges, one of which entailed him stating “It’s great to hear that you stumbled into Starbucks and paid for your own coffee once upon a time,” I decided to halt correspondence. Like many internet users looking to get a rise out of others, he didn’t want to engage in a healthy debate sans name calling or misguided assumptions, he just wanted to fight a stranger for daring publish something that goes against his own beliefs.

So what is this controversial article of mine, anyway? It’s a post about not asking interns if they’re paid. I argue that it’s impolite to inquire about money, and naturally the guy thinks that’s something only rich and poor people say. I’m neither rich nor poor, and you cannot categorize me as either based on a single column. You don’t know my financial situation, but if you think you’re entitled to that information since I’m such a “spoiled brat” who refuses to buy her own Pumpkin Spice Latte, then I need to know what your salary is. It’s only fair.

Unpaid internship controversies have been covered many, many times, and I didn’t intend to argue for or against the system. I merely wanted to say that it’s none of your business whether another person is paid or unpaid, and if they are compensated, their stipend or intake is of no concern to you. No one forces anyone to take an unpaid internship, and as a friend on Facebook pointed out, other jobs can be much more valuable than internships, so it really isn’t necessarily to have one in order to get ahead.

It’s fine to disagree with my ideas (without calling me a “dumb” “spoiled, rich brat”), especially as an activist trying to stick up for the little guy, but it’s unacceptable to attack an article writer off the bat. I know that’s the easy route, but focusing on a person’s argument keeps the debate respectable and intelligent.

You can blame me — a young writer trying to make it in a tough industry — for a system with which you find fault, or you can lead your cause by reaching out to people of different views in a thoughtful way to spark a healthy conversation. I’m no activist, but I do know you’re harming the intern justice mission by picking spats and encouraging your own followers to join in on your little hatefest. I hope you find a more effective method, because that’s no way to start your Saturday either.

I’m 5 months out of NYC and (almost) fully settled in LA

You know what I’ve been doing since I got to California? A whole lot of sleeping. Not excessively — just at decent hours for once. In New York, I’d often stay up all night for no reason at all, but here I go to bed before or around midnight and am energized when the sun comes up around 6 a.m. Did I mention I’m living in an awesome part of LA now? Bye bye Long Beach, hello Los Feliz.

I moved to the Silverlake/Los Feliz area last week and am in love with my neighborhood, partially because I’m on foot so much and it makes me feel like I’m getting some exercise again. I’m right by an incredible hole-in-the-wall Mexican joint, a reasonably priced yoga studio, an arts and crafts shop, a great dive bar my boyfriend loved during his own days living in Sivlerlake, and, of course, Starbucks, my go-to coffee shop. The sun streams through my bedroom window everyday, the house is full of positive and creative energy, and I am not too far from the Disney Studios, where I’ll be interning. LA is so big, but I’m also pretty close in location to my boyfriend, so we never have to deal with traffic when getting to each other’s places. My other new friend Angie is nearby as well. I am surrounded by all the right folks, and the sense of community fills me with so much happiness. In NYC, I needed lots of people around me at all times to feel complete, but here I am just thrilled to be around a few gems, and they all helped me transition more than they’ll ever know.

Everything came together in a cute way, and though I don’t have it all figured out, I’m getting there, and not just by baby steps anymore. It’s taken me a while to find the right house and career opportunities, but so it goes when you choose to abandon the outwardly impressive life you’ve built for yourself across the country and start fresh in your birth city, which you never called home in the first place. I had some connections when I came to LA, but relied on none of them to land the opportunities I’ve received so far. I put myself out there and applied for around 70 jobs. Of those applications, I scored four interviews. The odds were completely stacked against me, especially as a newbie 25-year-old with zero entertainment industry experience, but I kept trying, because I didn’t leave NYC to be a failure in LA as well.

As hard as I’ve been on myself about the tragic, abrupt manner in which my NYC experience ended, I don’t consider my time there a complete failure. I could have continued plugging away and forcing myself to endure like the rest of Manhattan, but I knew by summer that I wanted something happy to talk about for once, not just something funny or insane.

A million years ago, I signed up for OKCupid, which I promptly deleted as it felt too much like MySpace. The site didn’t resonate with me, but a questionnaire inquiry really struck me during my short time on the service: “Would you rather have interesting things happen to you or good things happen to you?”

It was then that I realized I’d been going with the former for way too long, and NYC had been making that way too easy. The wild and unbelievably outrageous stories about entitled Wall Street guys were fun to share over brunch and happy hours every other weekend, and I still talk about the worst ones to remind myself just how awesome my current boyfriend is. The craziness is only entertaining and laughable for so long, and eventually you’re even sick of the ridiculous scenarios you’ve gotten into and your friends don’t even know what to say anymore.

There’s plenty of room for interesting stuff to happen to me in LA, but at the moment I’m indulging all the good in my life. I went to a foreign film movie premiere with my mentor/manager/BFF Budd Burton Moss the other night, and this weekend my boyfriend and I are going to a HelloGiggles event and ice skating downtown (even though it’s supposedly the apocalypse, according to my roommate!). My new roommate and I turned our home into a Winter Wonderland as well — here’s our adorable tree:

the tree

laura and dawn

When the holidays are over, I will be interning in sunny Burbank.

The past few months have been interesting in their own way, but most of all, they’ve been good. Keep it coming, please. My soul is richer than it’s ever been.

This happens when you visit your childhood home

It’s tough for me when people ask where I’m from. I could say the bay area, but I could also say I was raised “right here in Los Angeles.” Both would be true. I spent the first 9 years of my life in Glendale, a northeast suburb of LA, and finished out my childhood in the bay, which suited me more at the time but also brought on a series of extremely painful and traumatic memories. It was in northern California that I was bullied mercilessly for years and lost my father to cancer. You could say either tragedy could have happened anywhere, but I’ll always associate both with nor Cal, and maybe that’s why I’m distancing myself from it now by residing in my birth city of LA.

Los Angeles was beneficial in that it exposed me to diversity at a young age. I also saw just how ugly and unfair life could be. LA is a hotspot with ample class and financial separation, and though I fell somewhere in the middle, I crossed paths with the wealthy and the poor alike. I learned a lot more about life and the real world in southern California than I ever did up north, but from fourth grade until my senior year of high school, I was definitely more of a granola bay area child than an LA born kid from a blended family. I hated the traffic of So Cal and blasted the smog, but guess what? Nor Cal has both of those things too, and worse weather.

After visiting Burbank last week, I hopped on over to the first house I ever lived in. It’s in Glendale, a decent, quiet neighborhood that was just fine for me back then. My entire family thought it was haunted, and though I never noticed any weirdness, I definitely didn’t connect with the place very much. Nevertheless, I wanted to check it out on Friday.

As soon as I turned on Sylvanoak, a wave of deja vu hit me. Suddenly I was three years old again, sitting on my dad’s lap behind the wheel of his Ford Explorer. He’d let me sit on his lap and “steer” the car down our road, and even though his feet were by the brake and gas pedals and he was really the one controlling the vehicle, I feared I could cause an accident if I made the wrong move. I’ve always had a nervous energy like this, and in a way, I’ve always overestimated the amount of damage I can do.

I hadn’t thought about that experience in more than 20 years, so it was weird remembering it as I drove down my old street. I observed what a pain it would be to turn the car around, as it’s on a cul de sac. I suddenly realized how lucky I’d been to be a little kid when we lived on Sylvanoak. That was probably the reason my parents made use of our garage, which was on the other side of the house, so often.

I didn’t go inside the place, but I took some photographs from the top of the hill. For a second I wondered if our old neighbors, the Potters, still lived down the street. I wouldn’t know which house to go knocking on though, and what would we talk about? Much has changed since 1997, when we last conversed with them. I’ve never been one for catching up without reason.

my home

I fell down those stairs once!

the house

It’s fun returning to the place where it all started for you, but that house isn’t a home to me. Home is about people, and right now, another part of LA — the part where my boyfriend lives and my new apartment is set — is home.

I’m officially wearing flashing Christmas light earrings

This is how obsessed with Christmas I am.

Sorry for the lack of eloquence in the video, but when have I ever been super articulate?!

Nerd!

Nerd!


How do you celebrate the holidays? I watch Home Alone on repeat, dress up, and decorate my living space. Here’s how I dolled up my college apartment during Christmas:
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"Laura is making us fat!"

“Laura is making us fat!”


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How I spend the holiday season now

As a kid, I thought Christmas without snow and Thanksgiving in the sun meant my family was celebrating the holiday season wrong. Movies led me to believe the holidays are supposed to be about snowfall, bundling up, egg nog, hearty food, and traditions.

It’s taken me a while to let go of such thoughts, but now I realize Christmastime is more about the people you’re with than the things you do every year. I used to write myself a letter every December 26 and read it eleven months later to assess my progress/regression. We had no tree last year, as my mom was moving, but who really needed it? And I didn’t feel like writing myself a letter, so I didn’t. I’m not heartbroken that I won’t have one to check out next month. All that mattered was I had a chance to see my family.

With that, it’s not the end of the world that we had Thanksgiving brunch on the beach this morning. No turkey or Thanksgiving food — just eggs, mimosas, and fruit. And that’s OK. I got to see my family, which is more than enough for me:

with mom

 

With mom and Glenn

 

Seascape