Earlier today, one of my friends called me in a state of panic.
“I hope I didn’t offend you the other day when I labeled myself an unemployed loser,” she said.
“Why would I be put off by that?”
“You’ve just been through so many job changes and transitions over the past year and I want to make sure I didn’t hurt your feelings with the ‘unemployed loser’ remark. I was calling myself that, not you.”
“But I am an unemployed loser,” I said before realizing oh wait, that isn’t true anymore. Really. “Underemployed fits the bill, I suppose. But that’s better than before.”
It’s absolutely wild to think about how much has changed over the last year alone. This time last year, I was sweating the summer away in humid, nasty New York City, hating life, losing weight because I was too unhappy to even find joy in food, and screaming in my sleep every night. I’m surprised my roommate Jen never asked me move out. She said I scared and woke her up all the time with my night terrors, which are completely gone now. I have my lovely boyfriend Ian to thank for that. For the longest time, I feared relationships because of how guys would react to my sleep talking/walking issues. Ian assured me he didn’t care if I talked or yelled, he just wanted to be next to me every night, and sure enough, all my anxieties melted when he came into the picture. It wasn’t just him, though. I’m so much more relaxed in California, even though I just shuddered at the sound of my doorbell. If you ever come visit me, call first. Don’t knock on the door. I will probably be too scared to let you in. Hey, you could be some creeper making the rounds trying to sell me Jesus, Scientology, Jehovah, etc.
That’s a downside of living in the suburbs. I also still can’t believe how much space I have. It’s going to take me a long time to ever be comfortable in a house again. I think NYC might have made me an apartment girl for life. On Tuesday, I thought I was being sung into Hell when I’d really just been woken up by a pack of screaming cats fighting in my backyard at 2:40 a.m. Now that my roommate’s kitty Poopty is gone, the strays think our turf is theirs, and they always battle each other for ownership. I love cats now, but not these monsters. They sound demonic when they wail at odd hours. For a second, I thought there was a witch ceremony or something behind my home. No, just a bunch of hostile felines with territorial issues and lots of rage.
Now that I’ve gotten some solid rambling in, I’ll circle back to the point of this post, which was to update you on my life or whatever. I’m working at a casting studio right now and contributing to HG as always. I’ve never loved anything more than I’ve loved writing for them, but you already knew that. I move around a ton at the casting studio, which is super exciting and different than any other place I’ve ever worked. I love the people in the studio and it just feels really good to have a tad more structure in my life. I can’t say I have a single full-time job, but I’ve successfully made some baby steps towards establishing myself in this crazy industry. I’m writing my own web series, which I do not intend to shoot or produce at this time. I’m just trying to stay busy writing and build up a portfolio for myself.
I’m also wearing glasses now! They hurt my head after a while but I’m adjusting well:
Things are good, but I’m excited about going on vacation with my boyfriend in a few days. Can’t wait to just unwind and enjoy mimosas.
Speaking of things that are hard to believe, I can’t believe I’ve been with this guy for almost nine months now! Here we were in the beginning:
I don’t want to write too much about the dude, as, unlike me, he’s a fairly private individual (opposites attract!), but I will say he’s truly the best part of my life, and I have a lot of positive things going for me. He makes me want to be better every single day, and it took meeting him for me to realize life could be so much more rewarding and fulfilling with the right person. I don’t care if I’m never published again or go completely under the radar. I can have the worst career ever and still be happy because I’ve got him in my life. Love is all that matters to me. I just happen to have other things working out for me now too. I’m not exactly where I’d like to be career-wise, but I’ve come a long way. And I’m so thrilled for what the next year is going to bring.
I’ve probably posted about this before, but while I was cleaning out my computer files today, I stumbled upon a snapshot of my 1997 journal. It was a composition book, of course, because Harriet the Spy used one and I had to be just like her, even if it meant nearly breaking into my neighbor’s house for a little too much adventure.
Had my plan to enter her kitchen actually worked out, maybe I would have ended up on the news for being an impressionable elementary school student, and Harriet’s phenomenal success would have been to blame. Thank God I wasn’t as sneaky as Michelle Trachtenberg’s onscreen persona. Who knows where I’d be now … maybe in jail!
Anyway, here’s a funny one-liner from my October 7, 1997 entry, “I was the best writer in the class, including the teacher.” Should have been an early sign to my parents that I’d always cause trouble with my writing!
“P.S.: I will write interesting stories.” Have I lived up to that promise, folks? Seventeen years later, I hope so, but more than anything else, I’d like to think I haven’t even begun the best part of the journey. I’ve done lots of writing for the internet and print, and next I hope to dabble into TV shows and film. I’ve been polishing my own scripts lately, but know I’m nowhere near ready to send them anywhere or enter any of those major contests. Screenwriting is complex and collaborative, and sometimes I get overwhelmed with all the steps I must take to tackle it successfully.
I’ve already taken a few introductory courses in TV and film writing, but I’ve always been more of a hands on learner. In other words, I benefit most from producing something rather than listening. Considering the fact that I thought I was a better writer than my teacher in fourth grade, that shouldn’t surprise you. Really, though, I know I have an incredibly long way to go, and I’m going to be more willing to share what I’ve written from here on out. No matter how confident you may feel about your talents, solid feedback is always helpful.
If I could go back, I’d tell 9-year-old me to be nicer to that educator I insulted. At least that lady could spell “honor roll”!
Since returning to the West Coast in October, I’ve worn nothing but light clothing everyday. I’ve been legitimately cold once or twice and the warmest thing in my closet is a red and yellow USC sweater that needs to pay a visit to my washing machine. Traffic in LA is enough to make me not want to take a job on the other side of town, but the warm weather never fails me. I’m not sure I could ever live somewhere else, even in northern California, which is way too cold for me now that I’ve been in LA for almost a year and attended college in Tucson, Arizona. I’m a sun dweller until the very end.
While the polar vortex assaulted the East Coast for months on end, I wore dresses and flip-flops outside every single day, thinking nothing of walking across the street for some coffee without even a light sweater. With the exception of traffic, which, yeah, is a big downside, LA makes for easy living. Arm yourself with some SPF 30+ and some sunglasses and you’ll be fine out here. But from what I’ve told, June can get pretty yucky.
Here’s what Curbed LAhas to say about the unusual phenomenon:
The recipe for June Gloom requires three ingredients: cold Pacific Ocean water, an ocean current known as the California Current, and a high pressure formation known as the Pacific High: “Usually, the atmosphere gets colder as you head up. But the cold water creates a situation where the air near the water’s surface is colder than the air above it: an inversion. The Pacific High pushes air downward, compressing it and warming it. Together, this forms a stable inversion air that can hold a layer of cloud near the water’s surface like an older brother crouching on an upstart sibling.”
That doesn’t sound good. Even though a recent report suggests that June Gloom might not grace LA with its unwanted presence this year, I won’t let my guard down until more time has passed. That said, I’m not sure I mind a couple weeks of ugliness as I eagerly await the summer. I’m used to the sunshine again, and while I’ll never take it for granted, I can appreciate foggy days too. I find I’m more productive when the weather is dark and there’s nothing outside making me feel bad about typing away on my laptop indoors. I’ve tried writing in nature as well, but all that really does is put a glare on my screen and mess with my process. The gloom will be good for one thing, at least.
Last summer, my good friend and fellow writer Nikki Grey published one of the best blog entries I’ve ever read. Titled “Are we defined by our professions?”, she talked about the troubles of defining herself by professional success for a long period of time. Though she had an impressive career as a features reporter in Santa Barbara, she eventually realized her job didn’t have to be her whole life. No matter her career path, she’s still Nikki, and a great companion at that.
A month later, Nikki was engaged to her soulmate Robby, who married her last weekend in Santa Barbara. I had the opportunity to participate in the wedding and invite my own lovely second half to the exciting event.
Nikki looked amazing, and though I spent the past few months worrying about how I was going to pay for a lot of the nuptials necessities without a stable employment situation, I’m so glad I got to partake in her flawless day, which none of us will ever forget. It was wonderful to have my boyfriend there as well. We really enjoyed the food, dance floor, and open bar, among other things. Overall it was a blast and I’m bummed out that it’s over … the partying aspect, at least. It’s only just begun for Nikki and Robby! As Robby’s father Don said, this will end up being the day they loved each other the least. Just about the most romantic statement I’ve ever heard.
I’ve known Nikki for three years now and we’ve both changed considerably since our political journalism days in DC. We bonded quickly because we didn’t fit the DC mold at all, and sure enough, she moved to California once her summer internship ended. I wanted so badly to join her in my home state, and even though I remember telling her one day in Washington, “I could die tomorrow and be in DC and not California,” I toughed it out on the East Coast for another two years, truly suffering through every second of the way. I had fun, sure, but my experiences were mostly negative and trying. I belonged out here with Nikki.
We’re not the same girls who met in summer 2011. She figured out before I did that political journalism isn’t for everyone, and she also learned when she met Robby that life is so much better when you can share it with someone you love. Ian really showed me that, and not only is he the strongest force pushing me to keep going after my dream here, but the reason I know I’ll be OK if entertainment doesn’t work out for me. I could never do anything big again and still be happy as ever because I have him in my life. This is what Nikki was talking about when she wrote her blog post about success, and it’s so rewarding to see her start a successful life with her husband Robby.
They’re moving to Seattle right after their honeymoon, which started today, and while I’ll miss having the ability to just drive two hours to see my pals, I’m excited for them to embark on this new adventure together as a married couple. They’ll make friends, adjust to a new environment, and hopefully grow their family at some point. Nikki and Robby know they’ll be fine because they will always have each other. This theme is covered in lots of films and TV shows, but there’s something special about experiencing and seeing it. I first saw it in Nikki and Robby, and now I see it in my own relationship.
Here’s to a couple with amazing values, love, and priorities. Thank you Nikki and Robby for sharing it all with us this weekend. I love you both dearly.
A number of friends and family members have remarked that I attract some pretty unusual folks. All my life, strangers and acquaintances have come bearing their souls to me and confessed an assortment of things, and while I’m flattered so many people trust me, being everyone’s “go-to” person is exhausting, and I’d like to focus on owning my time and giving it to the key players in my world: my current and future employers, my LA buddies, my childhood and college friends, my good friends residing in other parts of the country, my family, and my boyfriend. I can be there for others, of course, but not to the extent I’ve been for far too long.
Since elementary school, I’ve been told I’m “too nice.” Not everyone would stand by that assessment, and believe me, I have my icy moments, but I generally give people the benefit of the doubt and try to go the extra mile for friends of any kind, whether they’re acquaintances or pals from the past. I’ve sent out many online introductions, exchanged dozens of emails, and talked through the personal problems of folks I don’t even really know. I’ve certainly needed help and advice before, so while I have no problem doing small favors for others, I haven’t been so great at drawing the line.
A while ago, a buddy of mine asked how I got on TV. I’ve been invited onto Pivot and various news outlets a few times, so I said that was the only way to score a television appearance. I reiterated that I haven’t done all that much TV work and that he really ought to talk to Elizabeth Plank, my rockstar former colleague who goes on TV a lot, for advice on making it happen.
“Well, Liz is basically a celebrity now and you’re so approachable, so I would rather speak with you.”
On one hand, I am happy to hear I’m approachable, but by all means, so is Liz, who is actually capable of answering a question of that nature, unlike me. I know it should make me feel happy to know people rush to me for guidance, and it really has been this way for many years, but what my friend said was telling of how others view me. When it comes to time, I am too selfless for my own good, and that’s about to change. I’m a person too, and when I overdo it with favors, there’s nothing left for me. It’s also very easy to take advantage of newbies to the entertainment industry, and boy, have I learned how to detect users. One came in the form of a Hollywood savant who cut me off when I said I didn’t have time to assist with a project. I was aggressively job-hunting to get on my feet, and though this was a reasonable move for me to make, it was not well-received by the other party. I am a good person, but I won’t allow anyone to walk all over me, and if somebody cannot understand why seeking employment is important, I don’t want that energy in my own life.
My good friend Nikki noticed this the moment we met. She was interning at the Daily Caller, where I was working as an editor, and pulled me aside one night to say I needed to be tougher and stick up for myself.
“Laura, why do you think the interns all flock to you like you’re their mother? You don’t value yourself.”
Nikki was right then and she’s right now. Three years later, I value myself the way I should, but I’ve been taking baby steps, and the next one is to value my time. I can’t be engaging in long-winded, neverending Facebook chats and texts when I’m with relatives, good friends, or my boyfriend. I have to be fully present, and that’s been difficult given my tendency to solve the problems of others no matter what I’m doing or who I’m with. No one has ever complained about me being on the phone, but I just don’t want to keep this up.
I’ve been very generous with my time and connections for a while, but right now, I’m practicing the art of saying “no,” not because I’m upset with anyone, but because it’s important to set my personal boundaries. It is the only way I’m going to make it in this industry, and in life. I am excited to get to work again, and once I am gainfully employed, I will only have time for my managers and those closest to me — on a regular basis, of course. I love being considered a kind friend to all, but I can still be nice and take ownership of my time.
Next month marks the 8-year anniversary of my dad’s passing, and as some of you know, he died less than 6 months after being diagnosed with liver disease. I always dread the approach of May 12, mostly because certain folks seem to want me to fall apart when all I want to do is think of something else and not conjure up old feelings or engage in a pointless sobfest. That’s harsh, but I have no interest in being sad for the sake of being sad. Just because an anniversary comes up doesn’t mean I’m going to squander an entire day to drown in sorrow. It doesn’t help me in any way.
That said, I’d be lying if I claimed what happened to him doesn’t color the way I live my own life. He got sick partly because he made poor health choices, and listening to the advice of medical professionals could have given him some extra years with me. He could have met my amazing boyfriend and been there for my wedding. He could have been a wonderful grandfather to my future kids, and it kills me to know he’ll be nothing more than a redheaded guy in digital photos to them. Things might have turned out differently had he eaten better, exercised, and prioritized his health, but by the time he identified his problem, it was too late to fix.
One might think I’d be a health nut to avoid my dad’s tragic fate. Following his death in 2006, I certainly was. It was also my first year of college, and while my roommate and her sorority friends were out drinking at Anything But Clothes parties, I was reading the student newspaper in our dorm, obsessing over whatever widespread illness was being reported in the Health section. At the beginning of second semester, I saw an article about a student getting MRSA from the university’s gym equipment, and the listed symptom was having patchy, red skin. Sure enough, I’d been to the rec center and noticed some red spots by my ankles, so I rushed to the student health center that week and begged to be examined. The nurse took one look at me and said I was fine. She cursed the paper for instilling unnecessary fear in readers, but I’m fairly certain I was the only one crazy enough to actually go to the doctor after reading a 300-word clip on MRSA by a novice journalist.
I also had some unusual stomach issues during that time, so I spent much of my first year at UA visiting doctors all over Arizona. I saw a couple
specialists in Tucson and also traveled up to the Mayo Clinic in Scottsdale on a few occasions. It turned out I was in good shape and didn’t have what my father suffered from, but behaving like a hypochondriac and worrying about sicknesses I didn’t actually have ruined the first year of college for me. What should have been a fun time before the workload got insane revolved around hospital appointments, invasive procedures, and making small talk with sickly old people in waiting rooms. I should have been socializing on campus and growing into my adult self, but instead I was sobbing on the phone to my concerned mom and saying I didn’t want to end up like dad.
I was burned out by my fears towards the end of freshman year, so in fall 2007, I chose to take a break from doctors and enjoy college like a teenager should. I’d previously gone to a jaw specialist for my severe TMJ, but the bi-weekly physical therapy became exhausting, time-consuming, and pricey, not just for me but my family as well. I was ready for a break, which I’ve indulged until this week.
It’s been about seven years since I last addressed my jaw problems and visited a primary physician. I see a lady doctor every year, and as you can probably gather, this isn’t a lovely experience. Seeing a doctor is never something to look forward to, but taking care of one’s health is essential to life.
This conversation came up with my boyfriend two days ago, when I admitted I hadn’t had a physical since middle school. The last time I went in for one, I was 13. That was half my life ago, a fact he rightfully deemed unacceptable.
“It’s bad enough that women have to get annual pap smears,” I said, “but physicals too? Hell no. I really hate how they force me to repeat my problems over and over again to nurses and various doctors. It just makes me feel worse about whatever’s going on.”
“Laura, no one is forcing you to do anything,” he said. “It’s your life, and it’s a privilege to be able to go to a doctor. I want you around a long time.”
He was spot on, and I’m not simply living for myself and my relatives anymore. I have him to live for, and if I’m going to schedule a slew of checkups at once, I’ll do it for him.
I’m just afraid to meet with all the doctors I’m planning on seeing in the next week because I can’t take the negative. After watching a parent die for nearly half a year, I can’t take another doctor telling me that my TMJ/TMD is “severe” and awful, I can’t take another doctor telling me to stop being such a nervous person and chill out, I can’t take another conversation about how my love for junk food might make me feel crummy and lethargic at times. I’m not thrilled about the uncomfortable chats of the next 14 days, but like Ian said, this is my life, and it’s better to know about all of the things that might need fixing than remain blissfully ignorant until the damage becomes irreparable.
We’ll see if I can stomach the physical on Thursday, but that’s only the beginning. Next week I’m seeing an eye doctor as well as a TMJ/TMD specialist, who will surely spout something along the lines of, “Holy crap, your jaw clicks too much and it’s destroying your cartilage.” Like my late dad, I’m not in perfect health, but it’s time to acknowledge that in a smart, non-obsessive manner, and I see no harm in meeting with them a few times a year. Without my health, I’m nothing, and I won’t let my body suffer because my mind can’t deal with reality.
Since moving from NYC to southern California, life has been easier in lots of ways. I wear jeans and a t-shirt daily, no longer get shoved in the subway, and finally have access to quality burritos. But the driving, pollen, and weather changes have proven to be taxing on my body, and I get some pretty bad migraines as a result.
Yesterday I woke up with severe pain on the top left portion of my head. As I told my boyfriend Ian, it felt like a rock was shaking around in there, but I figured eating some toast would help me feel better. As soon as I got back to my own house, I was vomiting in the bathroom, and I didn’t stop until 6: 30 p.m., when I dragged myself to Vons to buy some Gatorade and saltines. You see, I was so ill from the migraine that I dehydrated myself, and I couldn’t even drink water without spitting it right back up and shaking uncontrollably. In the checkout line, I asked for two bags. One for my purchases and another for, well, you know. As soon as I hopped into the car, I got sick once again, but after drinking the Gatorade, all was well. Sometimes water simply isn’t enough to nurse you back to health.
My mom was visiting from northern California, so I met her at the hotel at 7:15. An hour later, she said I looked 100 percent better and that the color had returned to my face, perhaps because I’d eaten almost an entire sleeve of saltines and downed one of my Gatorades. When Ian met us for dinner, he mentioned that I didn’t look like myself, which made me laugh because my mother had just said I looked way healthier. I skipped my entree but had some coffee and ice cream, which totally hit the spot. My energy returned and I was functional again. But I also knew to be more careful for the next migraine.
If your migraines are so awful that you throw up, remember to drink water no matter what. If you can’t keep that down, have some Gatorade on hand to fill you with electrolytes. Whatever you do, don’t sit around thinking it will all be over with some sleep. I made that mistake and ended up foaming at the mouth on my bathroom floor. Having lived in southern Arizona, I’ve had some terrible cases of dehydration before, but nothing like this. I promise not to put myself through it ever again, and the ways to avoid migraines for me are:
1. drinking enough water
2. getting enough sleep
3. not skipping meals
4. having 1-2 cups of coffee per day
Happy to say this perked me up in the evening, but coupled with the excess rest I had in the evening, I had trouble falling asleep last night:
A couple of months ago, I was invited to appear on the wonder TakePartLive on Pivot, and last night I returned for another excellent panel! After a tough week, it was nice to receive the invitation and once again be treated so well by the spectacular channel.
I had my own dressing room, and before getting my makeup done, I took this daffy photo of myself. I’m not going to say “selfie” because that mutation of a word makes my skin crawl, but I guess this picture kind of fits the bill. Don’t hate me for being an annoying wide-eyed guest! I can’t help it that I always look bewildered.
I started the night with one of these and refused to set it down until they had to set up my mic:
Then I chatted with these awesome folks about extreme workouts:
This evening, I talked to my dear friend Nikki for more than two hours, which is a huge chunk of time for busy folks like us. I’m juggling multiple gigs and an internship and she’s getting married exactly two months from today, so chatting on the phone for that long might seem crazy given everything on our plate. But it was really nice to catch up, and as Nikki always does when we touch base, she made me realize how good I really have it.
After I explained that I’ve been doing a ton of freelance work and research on upcoming TV writing fellowships, she inquired about my social life.
“I know all about your guy, but you haven’t mentioned much about your friends in LA. Who do you hang out with these days?”
“I’m really close with this girl named Kelly from my internship,” I said, “There’s also my roommate Dawn, fellow HelloGiggles columnist Angie, and our mutual buddy Lidia. I’m not attached at the hip with anyone else but it’s going super well with those ladies.”
“Laura, that’s plenty. Most people would agree that’s a lot of friends!”
“Well, quality is what matters.”
Having 3-4 trustworthy pals is more than enough, and they’ve all been there for me during trying times here in SoCal. As my parents told me in junior high, a handful of loyal friends is all you really need, I just got so stuck on the idea that I constantly had to be out and about during my 20s. NYC and D.C. made me feel pressured to do something fun, adventurous, and crazy every weekend, even when I was tired, being blown off, miserable, or too intimidated by the volatile weather to leave my overpriced walkup. On top of work and the insanity of surviving in a giant city, I had FOMO and YOLO on my back, and it was all weighing me down.
LA is different for me. I’m much happier having a dependable group of friends and not simply an exciting one, but to be fair, my closest friends in NYC were gems as well. The need to seek chaos and trouble, however, just isn’t what I want anymore. I’ve got a manageable, rich (in quality, not money. I told you this isn’t Gossip Girl!) social circle here, and we’re all finding our own way in this town.
Speaking of which, Nikki added that I’m writing about LA a lot more and NYC significantly less these days. There’s a reason for that: I don’t want to live in the past anymore, even though I thought I knew who I was back then.
When I first moved here, all I could talk about was my former East Coast life, and Ian listened because he cared and recognized it was important for me to vent. I defined myself by previous jobs, an egregious mistake if there ever was one. I wanted to show my LA pals and boyfriend that I’d been successful on paper and respected once upon a time, not simply a 25-year-old intern, part-time babysitter, Chipotle addict, and budding slacker. But I am more than my place of employment, and for the first time in my life, I believe I’m more than my writing.
I’m a 25-year-old who strolls past Mickey Mouse stuff every week, finds children hilarious, loves residing in protein-heavy and delicious burrito land, and values the work, heart, and soul put into a good TV show. I lack rhythm and grace but love Zumba and yoga class, as I’ve been obsessed with stretching, circulation, and feeling centered since middle school. Print may be dying, but nothing soothes me like a book, newspaper, or magazine.
Receiving mail has always been a highlight of my life, and I don’t know what I’m going to do when my 14-year-old dog Roxy eventually passes away, as she’s one of the sweetest living beings I’ve ever known, not to mention a direct portal to a charmed upbringing that abruptly ended with the death of my father. Froyo is all right, but thanks to my dad, I’ll forever be an ice cream girl. I’m a natural redhead but blonde at heart, so I get my hair done every two months, much to the chagrin of outsiders who think I should embrace my greasy, clownish locks. Yeah right.
Friends are a close second, but family is the most important part of my life. As long as I have those things, I’ll consider myself a winner, TV writer or not.
Unfortunate events happen in threes, so given my recent parking ticket and towing, I’m due for another disaster soon. Two weeks ago, I got coffee with a friend in Studio City and abused the 1-hour meter limit, earning myself a ticket. Winston from New Girl showed up to the same venue a few minutes later, slightly making up for the fact that I would soon have to piss away $63 of freelancing and babysitting money (yes, I’m too old for a babysitting job, but we’ll get to that later). There’s always a light at the end of the tunnel for me, and my Monday morning towing confirmed this in a very unusual way.
The previous night, I had dinner and drinks with my boyfriend in downtown LA. We wanted to celebrate our anniversary at Bar Ama, where he took me on our first date, and I brought my silver Coach ringlet and regular purse over to his apartment in case I wanted to sport something fancy and light on the town. I ended up taking both to dinner, and prior to that, I left my car in my favorite parking lot, which has a 12-hour limit for each car. No one ever seems to monitor the area, so even though my pass was supposed to expire at 6:03 a.m. the next day, I didn’t return to the lot until 8:30. I’d broken the rules before and thought I could get away with it again, but I was wrong.
When I finally arrived at the lot the next day, my Honda Civic was nowhere to be found. You can knock me all you want if you hate the comparison, but I felt a little like Hannah in the season one finale of Girls. After an abrupt breakup with Adam, she hops on the subway and dozes off, only to wake up in Coney Island without a purse or way of getting back home. Rather than panic, she heads to the water and munches on the cupcake she managed not to get stolen on the journey to Brooklyn. I didn’t feel like flipping out either, but I knew I was screwed, at least until I had my car back.
Just like that, the thing I needed most in LA had been taken to some sketchy location thanks to my own bad judgment. Why had I believed I could get away with parking violations forever, especially since I’d had multiple nightmares about towing during my first few months in California? Well, this is the kind of thing that happens when you get too comfortable. You start to believe you — and your belongings — are expendable, untouchable.
When I decided it was time to quit hobbling around in circles, I called up the towing company to confirm my vehicle had been picked up that day. It had.
“I’m so sorry about that. How do I get it back?”
“I’ll give you the address. Do you have a piece of paper?”
I scrambled to pull a pen out of my purse and write down the location on my hand, transporting myself back to elementary school when that was such a common thing to do. I would have to show up to the lot before 5 p.m., when my vehicle would be impounded for inconveniencing the oh-so-considerate towing company.
Waiting in line at the ATM, I asked the guy behind me if he knew how to catch a cab. Downtown LA is fun, but it’s not NYC. Would I have to resort to Uber or Lyft even though I suck at apps? I hoped not. A few people gave me advice on services to call and wished me luck on my journey to the impound lot. Though I considered calling a cab company, I figured the fastest solution would be to hail down the next taxi in sight. There wasn’t much time to spare, as I had a babysitting commitment at noon. I had to move quickly.
As I was about to cross Spring Street, I noticed a blue and yellow car driving my way, so I inched closer to the road and swung my arms around like a flailing P.E. student. Like my car, any semblance of taxi etiquette I may have acquired in NYC was gone. I was just a wanderer in a city where nobody walks or interacts with each other. As the cabbie pulled over, I felt an instant sense of relief.
“Where do you need to go?”
“Verdugo Avenue. I’ve been towed,” I said, breathless. “Can you help?”
“I’m not a real taxi driver, but get in.”
This should have alarmed me, especially since I’m as paranoid as they come, but my car had just been hauled away by complete strangers and it wasn’t even 9:00 a.m. I didn’t have the luxury of being suspicious or lacking faith in others.
After fastening my seat belt, I checked my phone for directions and told the driver to go down Temple. We were only six miles away from the impound lot, but getting there would be tough given heavy morning traffic.
“Shit, I’m late for my court appearance,” he said.
“I can find another cab. I don’t want to burden you if you have somewhere to be.”
“No it’s cool, I’m already late. May as well reschedule.”
A part of me wanted to know what he’d done to warrant a court visit, but I decided it’d be rude to ask. Then I remembered he’d revealed he wasn’t even a real cab driver, so what was his deal?
“You’re not really a cab driver?”
“My dad is. He loaned this car to me, and you’re the second person I’ve driven so far.”
“What do you charge?” I asked, suddenly aware of the fact that I’d only withdrawn enough cash for towing fees.
“Don’t worry about it,” he said. “Whatever you have is fine.”
This seemed oddly considerate of a random guy, and though NYC groomed me to assume all friendly gestures are manipulative and discreetly self-serving, I had a feeling this person wasn’t trying to work me, even as I continuously gave him faulty directions thanks to my flawed, outdated directions app. I expected him to grow angry, but all he asked was that I keep my eyes on the stoplights while he glanced down at the map on my phone.
“I feel awful making you drive in circles,” I said.
“It’s chill. I’m skipping court so I’ve got nowhere to be.”
“I hope you get that sorted out.”
“It’s complicated,” he went on. “I was towed too, you know. Three weeks ago.”
I thought back to my call from earlier in the morning. If I didn’t retrieve my car by 5 p.m., it would be impounded. There was no way his car hadn’t been taken into custody, but I didn’t want to be even more of a Debbie Downer than I already was, so I kept that thought to myself.
“Why were you towed?” I said.
“I had a bunch of stolen merch inside the car.”
“Merc?” I said, initially thinking he’d made a reference to mercury, a.k.a. poison, a.ka. drugs. I don’t know, people, I’m not into the drug scene and wouldn’t know what things are called.
“Merch, merchandise,” he corrected. “Stolen shit. Designer purses. Louis Vuitton, Dolce and Gabanna and shit.”
It occurred to me that I had not one but two Coach bags on my lap. Up until that point, I’d been pretty relaxed around this young man, whose life seemed messy but personality compassionate. He was still a stranger, and I’d gone against the first rule my parents had ever given to me, which was to never get in the car with someone I didn’t know. We do this as taxi passengers, but this fellow wasn’t even a real taxi driver. But I’d already made the choice to get into his car, and I had to pretend his back story didn’t perplex or bother me.
“Oh, where did you get all that stuff?”
“Hollywood. All stolen.”
“Well, it happens.”
At the next stoplight, I asked how close we were to Verdugo Avenue. Three miles, he replied.
“You can smoke in here if you want,” he said. “You’re pretty strung out.”
“I am. This just wasn’t the way to start my week, you know?”
“You’re telling me. I really didn’t want to be in court this morning. I’m hungover as fuck too.”
“The worst,” I said.
“The other guy I picked up was really fucked up. I was fucked up too, so we laughed about it while I was driving him home. Then I passed the fuck out.”
My nerves kicked in again, and suddenly Lorde’s “Team” started playing on the radio. Up until that morning, I found her music boring, whiny, and pretentious, but all I wanted to do right then was sing along with her. It was the only thing I could do to appear somewhat calm and composed. There’s something soothing about Lorde’s voice, and for keeping me contained for the duration of the ride, I’ll forever respect what she does.
“I like this song too,” he said, turning up the volume.
“She’s really making a name for herself,” I replied, a wave of ease overcoming me as we turned on Verdugo. We were only .4 miles away from the destination, so I told the guy he could drop me off “wherever.” And that was it. There wouldn’t be any drama with this fake cab driver, who really did want nothing from me after all, not even a cab fare (I gave him cash anyway, but it was amazing that he didn’t expect it after all that).
“The next time you’re having a bad day, help someone out,” he said. “It’ll make you feel better.”
Almost as soon as I got out of the car, my boyfriend called, distraught and worried as he’d just gotten my texts about being towed.
“My phone was on silent, I’m so sorry I missed your call. Are you OK? Do you need me to come get you?”
I didn’t even want to talk about the car. I just wanted to tell Ian about the weird thing that had just happened to me, but I was still too flustered and blindsided by everything to coherently share the story. I don’t feel very articulate or clear right now either — all I know is a perfect stranger, albeit troubled and reckless — did me a favor and sought nothing in return.
The towing company, of course, was another story. When I got to the customer service counter, I asked the employee whether they’d be reporting the towing to my insurance provider. No, just the LAPD, as they’re required to check in with authorities before towing cars so people don’t believe they’ve just been carjacked. I was off the hook insurance-wise but still feeling pretty down.
“I got a ticket last week. I really don’t want to tell my mom about this.”
“Let me tell you, it doesn’t get any better,” he said. “I’m 55 years old and still have to deal with my mom worrying about me. I wish I could say it stops with age.”
“Well, I’d rather have her here than not.”
“Me too,” he said, handing me my keys. “Don’t worry, Ms. Donovan. We’re not going to call your mom.”
I turn 26 in July, and here I was begging some random towing company attendant not to rat me out to my mother. I’m too old to be getting into these avoidable catastrophes, and quite frankly, I’m too old to be babysitting. As much as I adore children, particularly the boys I watch now, it’s about time I get on the right career track, and I can start by seeking out grown-up jobs of any kind. I may have to put in tons of hours and cut down on my TV-watching habits, but I’ll be on the path to becoming a fully formed adult. For some, it takes a series of mishaps, and though I’d rather not experience disaster upon disaster before getting where I need to be, I’m grateful for what each has taught me, as well as the interesting and dynamic characters that came along for the ride.