On visiting NYC again

NYC from the top of the Hearst Tower
NYC from the top of the Hearst Tower

I recently flew to NYC for a work trip. A lot of people assumed I’d be excited to return to my old stomping grounds, as I have tons of friends in the city and had some pretty memorable experiences back east. I was certainly thrilled to go for business, but on a personal level, I was conflicted.

In July of last year, I knew I needed to move on from New York. I’d entertained the idea of relocating to LA in pursuit of screenwriting for a while, and now that I finally had the opportunity to try to make that a reality, I believed it was time to get out. I knew in July that I was ready to leave, but it wasn’t until late September that I acquired the confidence to abandon all I’d created in the concrete jungle for a calmer, sunnier, and healthier life in southern California.

A month before returning to the west coast, I switched my online dating profile to the LA network, which was quite small since this particular dating site had started in Brooklyn and was struggling to carve out a strong presence in Los Angeles. Thank God there weren’t many users on it, as one guy — known then to me as Ian41 — kept popping up on my Suggested Dates list and I clicked on over to his page to see what he was all about. Pretty soon, we sent each other a long email every single day leading up to my move, and shortly after my arrival, we knew we didn’t want to pursue anyone else.

We were very happy from the beginning, and though I had no job or place of my own (I was living in my grandma’s vacant condo in Long Beach at the time), I was more fulfilled than I’d ever been with my Upper East Side apartment or outwardly glamorous media career in NYC. That said, I still felt bad about the fact that I couldn’t necessarily take care of myself. Without stable employment, it was going to be challenging to pay rent, let alone move to LA proper.

When I made it to LA, I took some screenwriting classes, endured a few lousy entertainment jobs, and learned that the assistant route just wasn’t for me. I’d love to produce and write screenplays someday, but I am not going to become an abused runner in hopes that maybe, just maybe, I’ll meet the right people and make it big as a result. So nearly a year after my NYC fallout, I applied for a non-entertainment position at a trendy startup. I wouldn’t be writing, but I’d finally feel good about my professional place in the world again. I ended up getting a job offer on my birthday, when I also learned I’d be flying to NYC for a week to train at HQ. So many changes were taking place, but for once, they felt like good changes. I was so ready to finally feel financially stable again.

Luckily, I also had a family vacation planned right before training, so I flew to Massachusetts first and then took a train to Penn Station from there. It worked out well, butNYC it also meant I’d have to be away from Ian for ten days — the longest we’d ever been apart. I stayed at his house the night before my flight, sulking at bed time because I was scared to go through such an intense process without him. I’m used to coming home to him after stressful experiences and days, and not being able to hug him and debrief on the couch afterward just didn’t seem right.

My first night in NYC was the hardest. I walked from my Times Square hotel to Dos Toros burrito shop on 14th Street. It was a long journey, but I could use the exercise and time to think. It reminded me of how thin I’d been during my NYC days, and all the moving around definitely contributed to that. Nobody walks in LA. I also had to get used to the reality of jaywalking. When I first saw people doing it on 29th Street, I thought to myself, “Are they insane?” Then I remembered that’s normal in NYC and that I’d been a major offender during my own days in the city. Soon enough, I was jaywalking without a care, scrambling to cross the street with green lights hanging above me and taxis zooming in my direction.

On my walk back to the hotel, a lump formed in my throat. It was dark out and suddenly I was reminded of all the nights I’d walked home alone in New York City, sometimes holding back tears or not even bothering to hide my disappointment with whatever had just happened. The truth is, the loneliness I felt living there was unbearable, and even more so upon returning. Suddenly my life with Ian in LA felt so far away, like it had never happened. I’d dreamed it all and was back in the city that had broken my heart in every possible way.

Longing for Ian and his family, all of which I consider my family now, I bought postcards for them at a tourist store. There was a sale for 10 cards at a price of $1, but I only purchased three: one for my nana, one for Ian, and one for Ian’s parents. I scribbled notes for all of them on the street and then proceeded to drop them in the nearest mailbox. I text messaged Ian to let him know, and right then, he emailed me a funny YouTube clip of a “great NYC pizza place” to check out during my trip. The video featured Steve Carell going into a Sbarro, and sure enough, there was a Sbarro across the street from me at that moment.

I relayed this to Ian, who seemed to think the incident was humorous as well. Suddenly the pit in my stomach was gone. I was in NYC solo, but Ian could share the experience with me, and I knew that no matter what, I was going home to him. One day we’d venture to NYC as a pair and try out the real pizza together, but until then, we could mock the crappy chains populating Times Square. It was all going to be fine.

The rest of my trip was spectacular. I loved waking up in Times Square and walking down to HQ in Chelsea. I remember thinking that my life in NYC might have been better and easier had I lived near work and avoided the subway. Had I simply done it wrong during my time in NYC?

When I explained this to Ian, he mentioned staying in NYC for several weeks one summer to work at his company’s firm in the city. They put him up in a four star hotel by the office and he believed living in New York seemed like a breeze. It’s never a breeze, but it’s certainly easier if you can walk to work, and that wouldn’t be very affordable.

It’s also not practical most of the time. If you’re not pushing through crowds on a snowy day, you’re sweating through your clothes on a humid summer morning. Or you’re being jerked around by a wind tunnel, and maybe even attacked by a rainstorm as well. It rained a ton my second and third day in NYC, but I still forced myself to stay away from the subway and use my legs. It wasn’t so bad for a week, but reminded me of how awful my work days in Manhattan used to start thanks to heading to the office in all sorts of bad weather. When you arrive at your desk in wet clothes with nowhere to set down your battered umbrella, you know your day isn’t set up for success.

The work-related stuff was incredible, but I also had a small window of time for catching up with old pals. I told everyone to meet at Smithfield bar on Wednesday evening, and sure enough, I was the first to arrive. I headed to the back of the room to grab a table, where I sat alone for about fifteen minutes before my friend Sophia showed up. It didn’t feel weird to be out and about by myself, but I remember thinking the NYC version of me wouldn’t have been comfortable ordering a drink solo at a popular bar downtown. I would have felt the need to play with my phone or insist to the waitress that more people were coming so as not to seem like a lone wolf. As I implied earlier, however, LA can be kind of an isolating place because of the lack of community, so being alone hasn’t been a source of discomfort for me in a while. I was also underemployed for more than a year, and that kind of solitude can definitely turn you into a bit of a lone wolf. Fine by me.

from sophia
From Sophia

Sophia brought me a box of Dunkin’ Donuts munchkins, as I’m obsessed with the east coast treasure and have made that pretty clear on social media. Shortly after Sophia got there, my other guests arrived. Almost everyone was a former coworker from somewhere, but I only see them as friends now. One girl kept talking about how happy I looked. I agreed but followed up with, “Well, I’ve also gained some weight. LA will do that to you.” It’s true: I’m constantly in my car.

Still, I’d take my healthy weight and hearty diet over what I was during my time in NYC. I lost about seven pounds last summer due to stress and major indecision, but once I got where I was meant to be, and found the person I was meant o be with, I began to look like myself again. A bigger version, sure, but with more to love this time. I also think I’m more fun to hang out with, as I am always happy to order more drinks and food.

We all caught up on our career paths and personal lives, and one former coworker said he admired me for moving across the country and carving out a new life for myself in SoCal.

“When you first parted ways with [our former place of employment], I didn’t know what to think,” he said. “But then I realized it was kind of bad ass. Now you’re doing something entirely different in LA.”

As you know, I came out here to try to write for film and television. That hasn’t happened, and I’ve kind of tabled that dream for the time being (even though I’m working on some scripts of my own), but I also realized along the way that ambition will never be the most important thing to me again. I’ve never been happier than I am now, and I know I’m going to continue having a full, amazing life with the person I love.

old budes
My buddies!

I relayed this to the group, fully aware of the fact that the version of me they used to know never would have said anything like that aloud. They’re an ambitious bunch, but they also value their mental and emotional health, so they were pleased to hear this as such.

The following night, I went out to dinner with one of my boyfriend’s relatives. Like me, she was in town for work, and we met up near my old office. It was surreal walking through the neighborhood of my former place of employment, especially given the changes to the surroundings. One of the major building scaffoldings was gone, filling up the space with the brightness of the sun but also leading me to wonder how I might have handled days of bad weather had that been removed during my time in NYC. I thought back to the countless occasions in which I hurried across the street to get under the scaffolding, dodging whatever horrible weather was attacking New Yorkers at that very moment.

It occurred to me as I strolled near my old work building that my experience in NYC could have been quite different had I chosen not to work in media. What if I’d applied to my new place of employment while living in NYC? Would I have been happier overall with another career path? I thought this over so much that I actually walked past my old office without even realizing it. It dawned on me that I remembered the street name but not the building number itself. Rather than find the exact address on my phone, I kept moving, not wanting to be late to see my boyfriend’s cousin.

When I got to LAX late Friday night, my boyfriend was waiting for me in the arrivals area. We were exhausted but elated to finally see each other again after nearly two weeks apart. Though I hadn’t eaten in more than 12 hours, I couldn’t finish the burrito he’d picked up for me earlier in the day. I was still processing being back, but by the next morning, I was ready to indulge some of the New York bagels I’d packed in my suitcase. We enjoyed a sesame and plain bagel with cream cheese and lox, and we also had a Sopranos marathon the following day. With a mimosa in hand and my head on his shoulder, I could finally appreciate the east coast, but from where I truly belonged.

Exactly one year ago today, everything changed for me

Bryant Park
Bryant Park

A year ago today, I spilled Pret a Manger yogurt all over myself in Bryant Park, barely missing the broken computer bag on my lap. I was on the phone with my friend Marjorie at the time, and for ten seconds, I stared at the disaster in front of me. I had nothing to wipe it up with, so I just used my ratty, yellowing H&M sweater, knowing all too well I’d have to throw away the item of clothing. Just an hour earlier, my life had changed forever — for the worse, I initially thought — and my new job was to clean up the mess with whatever scraps I still had. It was opening weekend for The Conjuring, and I bought tickets to the first showing because what better movie to see when you’re already having a rough day than a demonic horror based on a true story?

That morning, I’d been unceremoniously dismissed from I job I really cared about but ultimately wasn’t right for. Just weeks earlier, I’d blogged about the loneliness of NYC in the summer and how the show New Girl made me realize I eventually wanted to abandon NYC and try to become a screenwriter in LA:

So, in 2.5-3 years, I would like to relocate to Los Angeles — my birthplace, for better or worse — and give screenwriting a try. I know, I know, you can’t just move to LA and create the script for “New Girl” or some other incredible sitcom, but I’m willing to start from scratch and work my way up again, and the good news is I won’t be too old to take a big leap at that point. I’m not far away from hitting a ceiling in the print/online media world.

Relocating to Los Angeles seemed like a long way off, as I had an established career and life in New York, where I’d been residing for nearly two years. I had a strong social structure, talented and fun assortment of colleagues, tiny apartment on the Upper East Side with a hilarious, pint-sized Italian girl with the best laugh I’d ever heard, and good thing going in my improv level two class. So what if I kind of wanted to do something else and live in my birth state, where I’d be closer to my whole family and so much happier? There was more to life than happiness. New York taught me that the moment I set foot on the Penn Station train platform. Life wasn’t perfect in Manhattan, but I was finally settled. I was comfortable.

Of course, that comfort was gone the moment I became unemployed. Suddenly nothing but my lease was binding me to New York, so I was free to pursue my real dream of working in entertainment. I should have thanked my former employers a million times for setting me free, but I was too scared and uncertain of my fate to understand I had a real opportunity to do something amazing: I was less than a week shy of 25. I was young enough to make a complete career 180 and still succeed. Things were looking up.

My brother Michael said my departure from work was a blessing in disguise. Many friends and family members agreed, but they were also worried. Would I ride out the rest of my lease in NYC — enduring yet another brutal winter (the worst in years, as we’d all later find out) — or follow that crazy idea that had recently popped into my head and return to my West Coast roots?

It took me about two months to make the final call, which, of course, was to start fresh in Los Angeles, but a few significant people in my life pushed me to make the move. My mother played a huge role in getting me out here, as she said there were some good UCLA extension classes still open and that I could really benefit from enrolling in the school’s Writer’s Program. My friend Nikki, however, made the best point of all during a phone conversation.

With Nikki
With Nikki

I told Nikki that I hoped to move to LA at the conclusion of my lease in 2014, to which she responded, “Laura, becoming a screenwriter is going to be enough of a challenge. You should get out here as quickly as you can because we already know it’s going to take a lot of time to break into the industry. Besides, you’re going to be in my wedding. You have to be [in California] to help me plan!”

This was true.

The night before telling my roommate Jen that I intended to vacate the apartment within three to four weeks, I started packing up my belongings. My walls were completely bare by the time I went to sleep, and within a week, the room itself was empty save for my bed, a single box of clothes, my laptop, and my iPhone charger. By September, I vowed to leave NY by the end of the month, and I was so checked out of the city in my last few weeks that I switched all my social media account locations to LA, including my newly re-opened dating profile on HowAboutWe.

I’d had some questionable experiences with online dating, but given my desire to start fresh in a new place, I decided to revisit the site and perhaps have a few dates lined up in LA upon arrival.

I had always been told that love sneaks up on you when you’re not looking for it, and only now do I know that statement to be true. I was not looking for love when I activated my profile again. I was actually seeking friends and people to hang out with. Yeah, I thought it would be fun to have an LA romance, but mostly I craved companionship.

My NYC room before I moved out.
My NYC room before I moved out.

At first, I received lots of messages from people in entertainment, and that made me feel better about having to spend a little extra time in NYC. I was already making Hollywood connections and would surely grow that network shortly after moving. But the user who intrigued me most was not an aspiring actor, director, producer, etc., but a lawyer with the sweetest looking smile I’d ever seen.

I clicked on over to Ian41’s profile (I also loved that he included his real name in his username — I was LaurafromCalifornia) and was pretty impressed. He hadn’t filled out much, but he appeared to be well-educated, hard-working, adventurous, and kind. Right after we started messaging each other, I mentioned I wouldn’t be in LA until October but that we could email back and forth until then. We decided to take our correspondence over to Gmail and he said I could email him anytime. I was afraid to take a step beyond HowAboutWe’s inbox system, so it came as a huge relief when he made the first move the following day, September 16, with this email:

Hi Laura,

It sounds like the NYC fall weather is a bad LA winter weather.  At least you’ll miss the NYC winter.  I was freezing when I was there in March, I can’t imagine what it’s like in the winter.  Hopefully the nice weather here will continue in October!

Ian

I responded right away, and before we knew it, we were sending each other long emails every single day. With the stress of neverending moving arrangements, hearing from him became the best part of my day — the light at the end of the tunnel during my tedious cross-country relocation. I suffered terrible insomnia at the time, so I’d be awake when he emailed me at 11 or midnight Pacific time. I’d draft up emails to him but wait ten hours to hit “send” — I didn’t want him to know the girl he was talking to regularly stayed up until 4 a.m. out of misery. Our threads increased in length with each exchange, with both of us easily churning out 1,200+ words each time. They were nice, though, and we continued sending long emails until the day we finally met in person.

Our first date was at a bar downtown, and he told me right away that I should sit by his “good ear” to his right.

“I was hit by a car in London about 15 years ago and I’ve had a ringing in my left ear ever since.”

“My dad was like that,” I said. “Got shot in the head with a BB gun as a little kid. He died of cancer in 2006, but said he was happy to never have to hear the ringing sound ever again.”

Not even five minutes had passed and we’d already shared some pretty significant life events with each other. Sure we’d gotten close via email in the month before meeting, but there was something special about seeing him in person, as well as knowing we could be more than just pen pals.

When we first met, I was fearful about all things-LA. The driving, the parking, the traffic, the unforgiving sun, the struggles of making new friends, etc. I overcame all of this very quickly, and I also realized I was in love very quickly.cutee

I like to tell Ian that I moved to LA under the impression that I’d become a TV and film writer, and while I still want those things just as much as I did when I left New York, I know in my heart that I was really meant to come here for him. Had I not lost my entire identity a year ago, we never would have crossed paths, but I’m so grateful for all the horrible and unfortunate experiences that led me here.

I woke up the morning of July 19, 2013 feeling nervous and ill. The night before, my boss had asked to meet at Pret a Manger around 7:30 a.m., which seemed a little early for a feedback session. I got out of my bed at 6:15 knowing that a difficult conversation was ahead, and I just wanted to get it over with.

Today, the alarm went off at 8 a.m. It’s the weekend, but Ian had some work to do at the office, so we set an alarm as we would on a normal week day. We had some espresso and yogurt (we usually have toast but he just had gum surgery and can only eat soft foods for a while). Though I spilled my yogurt once again, it wasn’t all over me this time. I spilled on Ian’s table. There was a paper towel roll just a few inches away, so I wiped up the mess immediately, not needing to sacrifice my clothes or sit there staring at the disaster, wondering what move to make next. I’ve cleaned up a lot over the last year, and I’m a lot more prepared for damage control now.

Ian, my roommate, and me at the Hollywood Bowl seeing Robyn!
Ian, my roommate, and me at the Hollywood Bowl seeing Robyn!

Earlier this week, I cried for the first time in months about the approach of July 19, not because I longed for the past, but because I was disappointed by my situation and seeming lack of progress a year later. 365 days after the fact, I’m working but underemployed and always, always, always on the hunt for my next opportunity. Why couldn’t I have landed something full-time and forever by now? It made no sense to me.

I brought all this up to Ian, who of course saved the day by laying out the facts. Sure I’m not a successful showrunner or even a writer’s assistant, but I’ve come such a long way in the past year. I switched cities, landed three different jobs in the entertainment industry, completed two screenwriting classes and a workshop, joined a writer’s group, and began writing for HG. I also have a strong group of friends out here … and oh yeah, the best boyfriend I’ve ever had. As my former coworker Alex Alvarez said over fries and cocktails a few months back, I’m doing a lot better than I think.

So there’s where I am one year after a defining moment that flipped my whole world over. I was scared to start fresh again and move to the other side of the country, even though it was my home, but things are slowly coming together for me.

Getting ready for LA’s ‘June Gloom’

uclaSince 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 LA has 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.

Being full with just a handful of friends

With Nikki
With Nikki

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.

Sometimes I feel like Charlize Theron in YOUNG ADULT.
Sometimes I feel like Charlize Theron in YOUNG ADULT.

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.

Roxy with all the diaries I kept as a child. I've always been an "oversharer"!
Roxy with all the diaries I kept as a child. I’ve always been an “oversharer”!

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.

With mom
With mom
At Chipotle in 2008 --- wearing sweatpants!
At Chipotle in 2008 — wearing sweatpants!

In Hawaii

sbb

My car got towed and a sympathetic stranger helped me get it back

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.

zbaramadc
Via Zagat

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.

girls10g.jpg.CROP.article250-medium

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.

la-downtown-01As 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.

lorde-1024x930

“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.

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.

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.

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 is how cool I am now

Many thanks to my mentor Budd for bringing this awesome hat and pair of sunglasses back from Larry King’s 80th birthday party in Dodger Stadium! Budd never lets me go home empty-handed, and in addition to giving me a book on Normandy, a few copies of the LA Times, a granola bar, and a DVD, he passed off these shades to me yesterday afternoon:

LK
hat
oh hey

Maybe someday, I’ll be as popular and well-connected as Budd and actually get invited to one of these parties! Or have one of my own. A girl can dream, right? Thank you Budd for being my LA Fairy Godfather! Couldn’t have asked for a better one.

Guys, I visited the ‘New Girl’ loft in downtown LA!

If you’ve ever read my work, you know I’m obsessed with Fox’s New Girl. No, really. Obsessed. Just look at my flippn’ Twitter background. And my Facebook cover photo. I can’t get enough of this show. Why? Because I truly believe Jessica Day is the TV version of me. I love wearing colorful flowy outfits, end more than half of my sentences in song, sometimes hide how I’m really feeling behind jokes and musical renditions, enjoy working with kids, and have a winsome approach to life. There are many more reasons I adore New Girl, which highly influenced my decision to come to LA and try to write for TV, so it shouldn’t come as a surprise to you that I just tracked down the show’s infamous loft in downtown LA.

Technically, one of my fellow bloggers found the warehouse and posted its address online, but I figured out almost immediately that the loft is in downtown LA. I recognized the area, as I’ve been spending a lot of time there with my dorky but ever so attentive man friend Ian (another post, guys, another post but !!!!! right?!), so when I read that the loft is in fact located downtown, I got really excited. It’s somewhat hard to get to (only because driving is still pretty disorienting for me), but I went after a meeting this afternoon, and here’s how it looks in the sunlight:

The loft

Here I am at the loft. We’re not going to use the word “selfie,” as it makes my ears vomit, so let’s just say it’s a photo of good old me:

Who's that girl? IT'S JESS!
Who’s that girl? IT’S JESS!

I like the neighborhood a lot. Down the block is a super cool organic coffee shop called the Novel Cafe, and there are some nice surrounding restaurants and venues. All in all, I just love LA, so every minute I’m in the city is amazing. Even when I’m stuck in 405 traffic and being honked at by type As. That’s another thing: I honked my horn for the first time ever the other day and it’s incredibly weak. Step it up, Honda.

What else did I do today? Had a meeting in Hollywood and spotted Nickelodeon Studios across the street!

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Drove along Sunset Blvd:

I love LA
I love LA

Things have been awesome since Halloween, when I attempted to depict Joan from Mad Men. As many folks pointed out, I lack the boobs curves to pull off Christina Hendricks’s amazing look, and my hair is also too thin for a bun, but I’d like to think I was OK. One guy said I appeared to be “phoning in” my costume. You know what? C’s get degrees. That’s how I feel about Halloween dress-up.

Joan Harris or some bewildered former redhead?!
Joan Harris or some bewildered former redhead?!
Joanie
Joanie

Another good thing? The Sox won last week! My dad loved them and would have been so happy to see this day. I wish he’d been here to witness his team schooling the Cardinals in Fenway. Don’t mess with Boston, Missouri.

boston
Dad’s memory box

I’m finally starting to feel settled in LA. I may not have everything figured out, but I’m learning to embrace that and indulge the “spectacular now.” A lot of people are looking out for me here, and all I’ve ever really wanted is to feel part of a community. There’s definitely a community helping me through this transition, which gets easier by the day. Budd Moss is the grandpa I never really had, people from my past are resurfacing to hang out with me, my family is around, and I have a solid group of students I trust in my screenwriting classes. The last few months have been somewhat of a “composed trainwreck,” but I’m gathering the shards of glass and remains on the ground and close to rebuilding my life. Being here in California makes that so much easier. This weather truly feeds my spirit, and the friendliness of almost everyone has nursed me back to health. I’m whole again, and so help me God, it’s because I fled NYC. Some love it there, but I belong on the West Coast. I don’t care if that makes me a quitter or a delusional silly flailing hippie who just couldn’t handle the hardness or grit of Manhattan. I’m happy. I was never happy in New York.