What’s a girl gotta do for a cup of coffee!

Growing up in Texas you know full well about the “Blue Laws.”  Some of you may be wondering what in the world are Blue Laws. Texas, among many other States, implemented laws way back when for “the benefit of the family” to take a necessary day of rest every Sunday.  That means it was illegal for particular stores, including liquor stores, to open their doors on Sundays (which I find amusing since Texas does allow drive-thru liquor stores every other day of the week but that’s an entirely different story).  The Blue Laws were officially repealed in 1985, though even today you can’t purchase hard alcohol in grocery stores, you can’t purchase hard alcohol on Sundays and you have to wait until after noon to purchase beer and wine.  Also, car dealership must remain closed on Sundays for some reason, though I really don’t know why that still matters.

I was reminded of the Blue Laws this past Sunday when I was walking through DTLA looking for something open before 10am that would feed me.  Bodegas, coffee shops, and convenience stores are never open early, which is completely frustrating for those of us who are early risers.  I get it.  You have catered to the partying crowd the night before staying open until 1am or 2am to quell those late night munchies while people stumble to their cars or taxis (hopefully more taxis than cars please).  But sometimes being able to grab a cup of coffee when I wake up at the ungodly hour of 7am on a Sunday would make my day so much better.

How I feel pretty much every day.

And so it came to be that I found myself in front of the Stray Cat Café for the first time.  It’s an establishment that I’ve refused to patronize during my entire time in DTLA.  Why, you might ask?  Oh, you know, a political statement about unfair treatment of small business owners with the unceremonious closing of The Must by the individual who owned those retail units.  Since the opening of Perch, my stance has softened quite a bit.  Though I still can’t bring myself to return to Onyx simply because I don’t get it.  Is there a theme?  Is there a purpose?  No?  Well, OK then.  And, p.s., I’ve been told that your coffee needs some serious work.

For my first visit to Stray Cat, I was pleasantly surprised.  Though the croissant sandwich advertised an odd spicy cream cheese condiment, the server was rather nice and seemed to completely understand when I asked for avocado instead.  “Avocado is only the best substitute for mayo  and…I guess cream cheese now…and should be included in more of your dishes,” I mentioned to her before she returned with a small cup of coffee (my one bit of caffeine I’m allotted in a day).

Now, I realize how silly it is to complain about the lack of early morning dining options when the only people in the restaurant at 8:45am were my roommate and I and a couple on the other side.  But I’m sure the same “Field of Dreams idea” would work here:  If you open, they will come.

And had I not entered the Stray Cat Café on this fateful morning, I would have missed meeting Professor Kershaw, or so he called himself.

Professor Kershaw is a gentleman who looks like he’s well into his 60s carting around a large backpack and wearing an almost cowboy hat (almost because it was not traditional by any means but I mistook it for a cowboy hat when I initially glanced his way).  Professor Kershaw entered the building asking the server “do you know where the Taco House is?  I’ve been told they have the best tacos on Spring St.  “No,” both the server and I replied, though we offered up some other taco stands as alternatives.

“Oh, well maybe I’ll ask some other people.  Hey, have you ever met someone who’s published over 300 books?”  Professor Kershaw asked us.

“Nope, can’t say I have,” I replied.

“Well now you have!  The next time someone asks you, you can say that.  And how about someone who has written over 1800 poems?”  Professor Kershaw continued.

“I’m going to venture to say that now I have?”  I commented, and yes in a sarcastic manner.

“Yes!”  It was at this point Professor Kershaw told us his name was Professor Kershaw.  “I’m Professor Kershaw.  It’s pronounced like this “Ker SHAW, ker SHAW, ker SHAW,” he said while making a fake coughing sound into his hand.  “Funny enough, whenever I introduce myself no one wants to shake my hand.”

At that I laughed a little as did the server.  And with that Professor Kershaw took himself out of the restaurant on to find other people to introduce himself to in his search for this illusive Spring Street Taco House.

Well, at least my lack of morning coffee options didn’t leave me lacking in morning entertainment.

I was ready to post “Missing” flyers all over DTLA for you…

I have this friend named Eddie who used to shine shoes over on 5th and Hill — and I realize I’ve been called out for this before.  While he is not the type of friend I would have over to my place, when you talk to someone nearly every day while walking to work you start to get to know them well enough that using ‘friend’ seems right.  For more than a year, rarely a day went by that I didn’t see Eddie.  Most days I would stop and chat for a bit before heading on my way to the office.  He was doing pretty well for himself, all things considered.  After awhile, someone bought him a shoe shine box to help his business.  A little while later he had his own sign advertising his services.  Not bad.

About four months ago (give or take) Eddie was moved out of his regular business location and pushed back to 5th and Broadway by the DTLA’s District Safety.  When I asked about the change, he said he was told the sidewalks needed to be kept clear over at his original spot, because of the buses.  I asked him if his business was suffering and he said “Yeah, I’m starting to struggle a bit more, but I still get people coming to visit me.”

Unfortunately, our morning chats became few and far between.  After his move, our paths didn’t cross nearly as much.  When we saw each other, we still waved hello.  He always had a big smile and would often yell out “you look beautiful today, as always” or “make sure you’re not working too hard.”

One day about two months ago, Eddie didn’t show up to work.  I noticed he wasn’t in his usual spot on 5th and Broadway, but I thought maybe he had changed locations again or something.  A couple of weeks later, he was still nowhere to be found.  I had run into him in the past over on Main St. and Los Angeles St. a couple of times, and so I kept thinking “well, he’ll be back soon.”

About two weeks ago I had an awful thought.  What if something happened to Eddie.  I would never know.  I was saddened to realize this, and sent a quick prayer in a somewhat upwards-like direction asking whoever might be listening to watch over him.

Now, yesterday was an extremely busy morning for me.  I think I traversed a 3 mile radius within DTLA about 4 times for different things.  By the end it was only noon, I had already been awake for 7 hours, and I was beyond exhausted.  I was finally heading towards my office walking along 5th street across from Pershing Square when I saw this man in a wheelchair.  He looked a lot like Eddie, but about 30 pounds lighter.

“You know I was ready to post flyers and start asking people around here if they’d seen you.  Where the hell have you been!”  I asked Eddie as I approached him.

“Hello!  I know, I’ve been in the hospital, can you believe that?”

“All this time?”  I asked.  “Are you doing OK now?”

“Well I had to get surgery on my stomach,”  Eddie said while raising his shirt a little to show me a substantial scar that ran from around his belly button up several inches.

“Damn, Eddie, how long you been out?”  I asked him.

Laughing Eddie said, “What you mean.  I got out today.”

I have to admit I was shocked by this statement a little, though I probably shouldn’t have been.  “Well, what’s going on with the shoe shine business?  Are you getting that started again?”

“Wouldn’t you know it, someone stole my shoe shine box.  But I got all my stuff,” he said pointing to two trash bags full of his things, “and I’m ready to get started again.  I’m waiting on some friends I know who are in the Gas Company building to come out.  I’m hoping they can help me get a new shoe shine box.”

It was at this point that I realized, in all this time I’ve known Eddie he’s only asked me for one thing.  I was late to work one day about 8 months ago and he asked me for a favor.  He handed me $5 and asked if I could go into the Gas Company cafeteria and get him a chili dog.  He was rather particular about his order, so much so I had to write it down.  I, of course, took his order and went inside to make the purchase bringing him back his chili dog and change.

I said goodbye and promised to visit him again soon.

Welcome back, Eddie.  It’s good to see you again, my friend.

Side effects include…

Have you ever been at a job interview, prepared for anything they throw at you, when all of a sudden a question comes up that simply leaves you stumped?  That happened to me once about a year ago.  To this day that question still haunts me.  You may find me at happy hours or dinners or just hanging with friends watching TV when that question starts to rear its ugly head again.  All of a sudden I ask it of myself again…

Among all of these amazing applicants for this position, what do you bring to the table that is different than everyone else?

When you really sit down to contemplate this question, it’s not an easy one to answer.  First, you have to think what would all of those other applicants mention.  Background? Education?  Experience?  Second, you want a unique answer that makes you stand out but not sound completely ridiculous or too full of yourself.  It’s a tough combination to bring together.

If I were asked that question today, my answer would be simple.  For some reason, people want to tell me their life stories.

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The Plus One

Some of you may have seen a lack of posting that occurred from about the end of November until…well, yesterday.  Have you heard the phrase life is what happens when you’re out making other plans?  I can start off by saying I am a living, breathing example of this.  And so with great pleasure I am happy to announce that I’m going to have a plus one.  That’s right.  My belly is getting bigger by the day, my appetite increasing and my general demeanor has become much more…contemplative and maternal.  OK, not really.  I was up until almost 3am last night after taking the LAX CarShareto LAX, of all places, and then heading home to eat my third snack of the night, talk on the phone for a bit to someone who drives me absolutely crazy sometimes, and then watch various bad television shows recorded by my lovely DVR.  However, all of that will need to stop soon or really modified a tad.


To answer all of the questions everyone seems to ask me in one fell swoop.

1.      I have no idea what the gender is yet, but I will soon.

2.      No, I don’t like random strangers trying to rub my belly.  Would you do that to a non-pregnant woman?  I don’t think so.  Or if you do think that’s appropriate, maybe you should mull that one over one more time.  And as the weather gets warmer and I larger, check yourself or you might lose a hand.

3.      Planning is for wimps.

4.      Yes, I’m going to stay in downtown for at least a few more years at which time I’ll figure out how to rent out my condo and move next door to my friends who bought a place in the Echo Park area.

5.      No, I’m not going to get a car.

Funny enough, #5 is the most shocking to people.  I hear it all the time, “well now that you are going to be a “plus one”, do you want to buy my old car when we get a new one?”  Or “you know you’re going to have to get a car for all those doctor’s appointments.”  Or my favorite “you’re finally coming to your senses then and getting a car again.

Sorry people, I lost my senses a long time ago and this really doesn’t give me a reason to change my commuter ways.  So far I’ve been to countless checkups at my doctor’s office and always getting there through my trusty LAX CarShare.  After my little Plus One has arrived, I’m going to begin teaching him or her the beauty of the public transportation commute.  A little extra time together on a bus or subway really couldn’t hurt that whole bonding process, in my opinion.

And the answer to my last favorite question (though it’s a semi-joke from most) on this topic: even though I don’t have a car, yes I’m registering for a car seat.

What does the future hold?  Who knows, but likely many more posts about trying to catch the bus or the subway while carting around some additional weight and then the crazy shenanigans my little plus one and I find ourselves in as we continue this life together.  Cheers to the future, my friends.

“The only way to make sense out of change is to plunge into it, move with it, and join the dance.” – Alan Watts

Don’t pee here, thanks.

I’ve been accused of many things over the last month.  Among the comments disparaging my character (just kidding) are repeated statements that I am too open and as a woman walking alone in downtown I am crazy to talk to any random person on the street.  Guilty?  It’s true, I really have no qualms talking to random strangers as though I’ve known them for years.  It’s actually a lot of fun at times.

However, there are rules to this game, if you haven’t noticed already.  Rule #1:  I am only willing to have a conversation during daylight hours.  Once that sun sets, I’m sorry friends, my headphones are on and the “don’t talk to me” body language is in place.  Rule #2:  if your eyes are bloodshot, your bodies are randomly convulsing because of some substance you’ve recently ingested or…you are running in place while shouting “I’m late for my next appointment” (yes this did happen), then likely I’m going to cross the street and avoid you.  Rule #3:  I trust my gut.  People give off vibes and sometimes those vibes tell me this person is no good.  There have been a few times that I’ve come across an individual who did not do or say anything that made me wary.  It was simply a gut feeling telling me it’s best to pretend like I don’t understand what is being said and move on quickly.  Rule #4:  Don’t talk back no matter what.  Even if you think you have a witty comeback or you want to put someone in their place, it’s really not worth it.  Just walk away from that situation.  So far these rules have kept me out of real trouble while walking the streets of DTLA on my own.

And so this morning I had a fun conversation with a transient about dog walking.

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From Tears to Thanksgiving Cheers

I was talking to my roommate once about relationships and city living awhile back.  It’s an interesting dynamic to live and work in the same five mile radius, because everything you know and everything you experience is walking distance away.  But when things go wrong, something’s gotta give a little.  We were talking about how far you are pushed before your personal life becomes public knowledge, because all of a sudden you’re standing on a street corner releasing anger and pent up emotions that have very little to do with the current situation and a great deal to do with the overall big picture relationship.  She’s done it once.

I can now claim the same statistic.

It was late Monday night.  Plans I thought were set weren’t in the end and the slow boil began to happen.  Mistake number one was not going home and agreeing to meet out in DTLA instead.  Mistake number two was not simply saying I’m upset because of X, and so let’s get that out of the way.  Mistake number three was incorporating a couple of beers into the equation.  The result?  A little street argument somewhere between 6th and 7th along Spring St.

I think I had an out of body experience on this one, though.  It was one of those moments where my head kept saying “stop this…this isn’t healthy or productive…let’s just take a step away and part for a little while before someone says something they will regret.”  Unfortunately, my heated Latina ways had control at the time, and so it was on.

In the middle of our argument, a man in a wheelchair came over and said hi.  I thought it odd simply because he approached two people who were obviously very unhappy with each other and in the middle of something fairly personal in nature.  However, the man smiled brightly and said, “So, have you been invited somewhere for Thanksgiving dinner yet?”  We both said yes, thank you, and tried to end the conversation there.  But the man persisted.  “Here, there’s this event in Santa Monica on Thursday you should come to if you don’t have plans.  It will be fun.  Plus, Santa Monica has changed a lot over the years.  They’re a lot nicer out there now.”

I took the flyer from him.  We thanked him and went on our way down the street a little.  While I’m not sure that conversational diversion was what eventually ended our argument and prompted us to put our differences aside for a little while or not, it was a nice little reminder for a moment that maybe things aren’t as extreme as they feel.

A hug can go a long way...

Today I finally looked at the flyer I put in my jacket pocket that night.  “Hug with Me” is the program being hosted by United Steps, which is a non-profit organization “that is changing the world” and “offers time, encouragement, and respect as solutions to ending homelessness.”  They are offering 2,000 hugs “to the people on the streets” as a reminder of “how a simple hug from a stranger can elicit hope, inspiration, and comfort.”  It’s a beautiful thought that something so simple as showing another person respect and understanding can go a long way.

It also reminded me that maybe I need to step back and remember how lucky I am that I have a roof over my head, food on my table, friends who love me, and even someone I care enough about to get angry at from time to time and who still makes me smile when I’m in the throes of an unnecessary battle of wills.

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone.  No matter what has happened over this year or the last, I know that I have a lot to be thankful for.  With that I send love and Thanksgiving cheer to all of my friends, family, and loved ones as we keep going along in this life together trying to find our way.  I am thankful that I have so many wonderful people by my side willing and trying to help me through every struggle and experiencing every joy this life has to offer.

“This is my wish for you: Comfort on difficult days, smiles when sadness intrudes, rainbows to follow the clouds, laughter to kiss your lips, sunsets to warm your heart, hugs when spirits sag, beauty for your eyes to see, friendships to brighten your being, faith so that you can believe, confidence for when you doubt, courage to know yourself, patience to accept the truth, Love to complete your life.”

And I come full circle.

It happens every day on the DTLA streets.  You are walking down Broadway or around Pershing Square and there is someone having a very intense and sometimes rather boisterous conversation…with themselves.  Those are the people that I generally avoid.  Not because I’m afraid of them, but because you never want to be too close just in case.  Self-preservation.

In fact, it happened this very morning.  I was walking along my normal route between home and office when someone was having a fairly serious debate with themselves.  It took me a few moments to realize that person was me.

Yes, on this very day, DTLA has finally caught up to me. It is true that generally I have a running dialogue going on in my head about the day’s tasks, work that needs to be done, or thinking through whatever shenanigans I found myself involved in the night before. But it seems with several topics and necessary decisions to be made, my mind was overflowing with confused and jumbled thoughts that made no sense at all and required some serious sorting.  Unfortunately, that sorting took place on the streets of the city and in earshot of many of my fellow pedestrians.

Well, my dear DTLA, you have finally and wholeheartedly won me over.  Now I may never be able to leave…

With a little help from my friends…

I’ve been rather busy over the past couple of months.  Not busy with work or travel, but trying to keep up with changing schedules and changing routines.  While I’ve had a lot of fun, a bit of drama, and some heartbreak, I’ve also experienced a lot more of DTLA and beyond.  My more recent experiences made me a true believer in fate, destiny and signs from above.

As some of you know, or have seen me write about in the past, my dad passed away July 2010.  Before that, in June 2010, I lost a mentor – a guy larger than life who gave me direction when I was a wee baby of 23 and believed in my abilities far beyond anything I saw possible for myself.  Suffice it to say, losing two of the people I relied on and trusted most in this world left me a little lost.  Who was going to give me advice about what to do next?  Who would be there when I needed help and support in the future?

More than a year has passed and I still find myself asking my dad and my mentor questions, but I was always hit with silence in return.  What was I expecting to hear, right?  I’m just some girl shouting at the sky asking for a sign.

Then I took a trip to Coffee Bean on 5thand Grand with a very good friend.  We were talking while waiting for our caffeinated beverages when a woman turned around and said

Which way?!

to my friend, “You’re a very attractive man.”  My friend blushed from head to toe.  “You have a good soul and aura surrounding you,” she continued.  My friend seemed a little taken aback by the statements, so I stepped in and said, “he is a good soul, that’s why I keep him around.”  The conversation progressed to include her experiences in the Vietnam War, her beliefs in the cycles from life to death and back, and finally an edict to me to do yoga every day.  I asked if she could tell I was stressed out.  She said, “honey, I am 68 years old and I’ve learned that yoga every day eases the mind and the soul.”  I’m sorry to say I have not taken this advice yet.

I left the Coffee Bean thinking I was really happy I met this woman.

A week later I was making one of my regular trips to Culver City to see my roommate and other friends at a restaurant there.  I make it a point to go visit on Sundays when the patron traffic is low and I can sit at the corner of the bar while people rotate in to talk.  I was running late leaving my apartment and missed the first Rapid Transit 733 heading west.  I decided not to grab the local connection opting to wait on the next Rapid Transit thinking I could get there faster.  When I got onto the 733, I took a seat near the back.  Three stops later, who gets on but the same woman I met in Coffee Bean.  I thought “what a small world we are both on the same bus.”  Forty-five minutes later my stop was approaching.  Someone else already pulled the chord to light the “Stop Requested” sign, so I sat quietly and waited.  When the doors opened, I headed to the exit only to see that this woman was exiting the bus too.  As we got off I smiled and said, “Have a good night.”  She smiled and said, “Why you have a blessed night, too.”

A week after that, things happened that had me asking my dad and mentor for some guidance.  It was the Thursday before Halloween.  It began as any other day but ended in emotional upheaval.  So Saturday I did the only thing I thought I could do.  LAX CarShare became my escape hatch and I decided to leave DTLA for a while.

I was crossing the light at Broadway and 5th heading to Pershing Square to pick up the car when I saw the woman again.  We both looked at each other and stopped.  “I’ve seen you before many times, haven’t I,” she said.  I smiled and looked down at my feet, “Yes, in fact this is the third time we’ve run into each other.”  “You were on the bus to Culver City, weren’t you,” she asked.  “Oh yes, that was me,” I responded.  She laughed a little and said “that night I wanted to turn around and tell you how lovely you are.  You have this ability to make people feel welcome and safe, did you know that?”  “No, I mean I try to be friendly, but I’ve never thought of it that way,” I said.  “Why do you do that?  Why are you so amiable?” she asked.  “I guess if my options are to ignore you and be rude or say hello, I’m going to say hello.  You never know who you’ll meet or what they will be in your life if you are closed off all the time,” I said.

Feeling a little ridiculous that I was having this conversation with a stranger I made a move to leave, but she held strong.  She gave me her name and I gave her mine.  We stood there for a long time talking about spirituality and life.

Then she said something that left me speechless.  “I have something to tell you, no I have something I have to tell you.”  Initially, I was a little wary.  But then she continued, “Do you know what happens in relationships between men and women?  Their physical attractions bring them together and create a connection.  Eventually people think it’s a strong bond or even love, but it’s just an attachment to the other person.  There is nothing wrong with that.  But, do you know what the opposite of attachment is for you right now?  Pain.  You are going to feel pain.  But don’t worry you’re not alone.  There are people surrounding you who love you.  I know you don’t see them right now, but they are there.”

I thanked her for her words and said I really had to go.  I told her I looked forward to the next time we would run into each other.  I haven’t seen her since that day.

Why do I believe in fate, destiny and signs from above?  Because I got one.

Thanks for the message.

We’re all a little crazy…

I have a house guest staying with me for a couple of weeks.  We could rename my apartment the Flat-Footed Motel.  We specialize in housing wayward travelers as they make their transition from New York to Los Angeles.  There is no better place in this fine urban sprawl of ours to use as a jumping off point for former New Yorkers than DTLA.  Some people would say, and really have said, that I’m crazy for allowing so many people to come through my house.  I often respond, “I might be a crazy-maker from time to time, but I’m definitely not crazy.”

Some of you may have heard the term “crazy-maker” before.  For those who haven’t let me attempt to explain this terminology for you with a little anecdote before we continue…

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