Our Los Angeles

by Jackie Babe

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Our Father, Who art in traffic

Hallowed be Thy fame;

Thy food truck come,

Thy hike be done,

on earth as it is at Runyon.

Give us this day our daily kale,

and forgive us our star tours,

as we forgive those who mixtape against us;

and lead us not into street performance,

but deliver us from earthquakes. Amen.

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Two Years in LA

As of today it’s been two years since I moved out to LA.

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Two rad years.

A lot has changed for me – personally, professionally, emotionally. Here’s a raw and honest update:

Personally, I’m on my own now. I’ve got a cute little studio in Encino (see map) that I share with Brody. It’s not much, but it’s my 425 sq. ft. palace. It has a fireplace for all these cold Californian nights, plenty of kitchen counter space for the cooking I fail at, and a strange outdoor closet on the balcony for all the things I keep hauling around. (It’s never below 40° here, so I guess that’s a great storage option for anything but candles.) Sometimes the place is a mess, but it’s all mine.

Having my own space means I’m answering to no one (except Brody, of course, who gets irritated when I come home late), so I find myself super busy. I’ve taken on extra freelance work, some tutoring, and I’ve made a ton of beautiful, amazing friends that I’m out adventuring with all the time. I hike, visit museums, explore beaches, go to art events and space lectures, watch heartbreakingly beautiful sunsets, and eat a lot of tacos in between hard workouts. I haven’t had time to play video games in months. Mostly this is pleasant, but I occasionally overbook myself to exhaustion. It’s a learning curve, and I’m working on finding a balance between go, go, go and taking care of myself. There ain’t no rest for the wicked, but I’ve never wanted to be villainous.

Professionally, I’m leaving Instantly/SSI at the end of March to start a new design job just a few miles from home. After the acquisition of Instantly by SSI – a much bigger and more traditional company – I’ve found that the culture change isn’t what I’m after and the workload isn’t heavy enough to keep me on my feet. And as we all know, Makers Gonna Make.

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Note: Not an actual tattoo, mom.

My time with Instantly allowed me to grow a great deal, and expand my skill set in a wonderful, supportive and collaborative environment. However, I’m really excited for the opportunity to join a new, larger in-house creative team with hopes of expanded collaboration and even more growth. I hit the ground running on April 4.

Emotionally, this has all been a roller-coaster. 2015 was a difficult year. My father suffered a massive brain injury last February, and we almost lost him. He is still in recovery. I started a new job in March. I had a bad cancer scare in September, complete with surgery. I moved out on my own in October. Through it all my husband moved across the country and my marriage fell apart. I stopped drinking for 6 months. I hit the gym. I neglected the blog.

To say I’m seeing a therapist seems like an understatement. I mean, come on, everyone in LA is seeing a therapist. But really, guys – I’m seeing a therapist and doing my best to work through it all. Those close to me know what a struggle it’s been, and how hard I’ve been working to make sure I come out of it all as the best version of myself.

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I’m a strong, independent woman. Check out those guns.

It’s hard to find and admit fault in yourself, and even harder to act on that discovery. But that’s exactly what I’ve been doing. Nobody’s perfect, but striving to be a person you love is the great life goal. That, and having super rad adventures with excellent people that lead to lasting memories. Because in the end, we’re nothing but sacks of experiences and I want mine to be beautiful.

The big question I get is, “Are you coming home?” After a year like that, packing it in and heading back to the warm arms of my Wisconsinite family and friends looks really comforting, I can’t lie. I spent the midnight hours of Christmas eve this year curled up in front of the tree at my parents’ house in an oversized sweater, drowning in mascara on my brother’s shoulder, despairing about how alone I was going to be out here. (We’re all allowed one complete cave-in, right?) I pulled myself together and realized I’m definitely not alone – I have an incredible support system of friends out here, and the people I love in WI are just a phone call, hangout or plane ride away. Despite having a rough go of it, I feel more loved and supported than I have in my entire life. Loneliness is perspective, and I’m anything but.

So to answer that burning question: No. Not now. There’s too much to see and do out here. Too much I haven’t explored with these amazing people in this strange place I’ve grown to love. Will I stay forever, or will the colorful siren song of the Wisconsin autumn call out to me? Could I make California a home, so far away from the family that buoys me? Only time will tell. It will be really tough to leave if I ever do.

Until then, I’ll keep hanging on, because life is crazy and hard, but oh so beautiful.

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You Should Learn Some Phone Numbers

I realized, standing in the hall outside my own locked door at 8:30am on a Friday after taking out the trash that I don’t know a single number that I can call to help me out here. I’m alone in a sea of people. I stood there without my phone, and even if I found a phone to use I had no one’s number committed to memory. All I could think of was that maybe someone had an 818 area code, you know, because that’s the local one. Huge help. I had what I think could be described as a small panic attack. My mind starting boiling.

I ran to the front office of my block-deep apartment complex, where the building manager Carlos noticed the hurricane at his door and asked “what’s wrong?”. He didn’t have a key to my unit. He asked if we should call Jerame – the guy who owns my place. I know Jerame is likely already working on set over at Universal and couldn’t come. I also didn’t know his number. Head rushing hard I figured I could run to my friend’s place – he has a spare set of keys for this exact situation, and lives a few blocks away. Did he leave for work yet? Was he awake? How late was I going to be? How fast can I run in these flats? Carlos gave me the keys to his 1990s Civic and I took it, Mega FM blaring in the stereo (¡Lo mejor de las mananas!), over to my friend’s place.

Flashers on. Run to the door. Push all the buttons. Hit the broken call machine. Curse a little. Run more. Pry the gate open. Run the steps. Knock on the door. Hear his dog. Think maybe he’s left for work, but think maybe I saw his blurry car when I ran past. Knock again. Pretend to breathe. Consider how late I’ll be to work. Drown in my whirlwind of wet hair. He comes to the door, confused and sleepy. I apologize for running through his morning like a freight train. He gives me my keys. I thank the gods for good friends while I run and drive like a maniac. Return Carlos’s keys. Promise him a case of Modelo. Run to my door. Make a sigh of relief as the lock clicks open. I’m 15 minutes behind schedule. I walk back in, grab my salad, and book it to work, making up 10 of those 15 minutes on the road. Because it’s Friday in LA no one notices I’m 5 minutes late, because only 25% of the office is in on time.

Eating breakfast at my desk, I let the flood my head recede. Left in the debris of my morning is a clear note: Maybe commit a few life raft phone numbers to memory if you’re going to swim alone in a huge ocean of people.

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A Year in LA

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This past Tuesday marked a year that Darin and I have been in California. I wanted to write about it, but I’ve been too busy. That’s been the theme of the past few months. Go, go, go.

Los Angeles keeps us moving forward. Back in Wisconsin there was sort of culture of contentment – many people were happy to work stable, stagnant jobs, unaware or uncaring that there’s something bigger and better out there. They’re just not hungry for more, for adventure. I was becoming one of those people, unmotivated to change and discover. Why run fast when you can make a living walking? Then we took the plunge and moved across the miles to a place where complacency isn’t viable.

This is a city of immigrants. Hungry people come from distances great and small to be a part of it’s pulse. Like most immigrants, the people are full of ambition, and they’re prepared to go hard, not go home. People out here are chasing and making and doing and they’re definitely not walking. Being a part of the rush is invigorating and exhausting all at the same time. We work hard (9 to 5 is a dream fast-fading) and we play hard (exploring this city is a dream half-realized). I feel it’s all worth it, though.

Darin asked me one rainy night on the balcony what I want out of life. The SparkNotes version is that I want a beautiful life bursting with adventure and exploration. I want the kind of life someone could write a book about. I want to look back in my sunset years and have a library of stories to tell of past days and doings to keep my fire ignited.

That colorful life is what I’m beginning to invent out here.  I’ve met people from across the globe, and work within a company that pushes me to constantly expand myself. I’ve watched the night city from above lit up like a bustling galaxy. I’ve breathed in the vast ocean air from the top of a mountain. And I haven’t even scratched the surface.

How do you conveniently pare all that down into an answer to “So how’s LA?”? I guess the short answer is “It ignites me.”.

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Quick Pro/Con

A quick exploration of the smaller things.

Pro: There will be tons of things to do and people to meet.

Con: We’ll completely neglect our blog.

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A Birthday Trip to The Getty Center

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For my birthday Darin and I finally took a quick afternoon trip up to the Getty Center. We’ve been saying we’re going to check it out since we moved here – it’s only about a 15 minute drive, and it’s free. ($10-15 for parking, though, but you get to take a totally rad tram ride with great views of the 405. So worth it.) We finally made good on our promise, and realized it was a mistake not to come here more often.

The Getty was really beautiful – the art/sculpture collections and architecture were gorgeous – but we definitely didn’t set aside enough time to visit. We managed to see half of one building’s art collections (there are at least four main buildings, for those of you good at math that’s somewhere around 1/8th of the collections), and then resigned ourselves to the fact that we weren’t going to get in enough exhibits, so we went off to explore the grounds. The grounds, it turns out, are reason enough to visit. And Holy Hera – those vistas!

Behind us is all of downtown LA, Santa Monica, and the waterfront.

Behind us is all of downtown LA, Santa Monica, and the waterfront.

We were so blown away by the vistas that we decided to share a few, saving some of the more incredible ones for when/if you visit the Getty yourself. (Also, we were way too stupefied by the more amazing views to remember to video them.) So sit back, relax, and watch us guide you through two incredible views in just over a minute. We apologize for the mumbly, whispering audio. We didn’t want to look like total nuts raving about the views into our phones. Pretend we’re conspiring with you, instead of just crazy.

For those of you who have yet to come out this way, I highly encourage you to visit the Getty. You honestly can’t beat the price or the views. If you’re already out here, call us up and we’ll go together!

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I Cooked Something: Deep-Fried Tequila “Shots”

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I found the idea for these beasts at Oh, Bite It! and decided to give them a go for a party Darin and I attended on Friday. I wanted to bring an outrageous sweet treat, and these definitely fit the bill. They were mega-popular.

The instructions, while relatively simple for a normal, kitchen-savvy person, totally threw me for loops. It took me about an hour and a half to complete these, and I ran out of tequila 3/4 of the way through. (Totally not because I drank any. Seriously.) That said, I figured it out and they were a great success.

What you’ll need:

Groceries:

  • 2 Angel Food Cake Loaves (I got mine pre-made from the grocery)
  • 1 Bottle of Cheap Tequila ($10 Store-brand for me, and I used it all, then moved on to Rum)
  • Canola Oil for Frying
  • Powdered Sugar for Sprinkling

Utensils:

  • A Small Bowl for Dipping
  • Tongs for Grabbing
  • Pot for Frying
  • Paper Towel for Cooling/Soaking Up Oil

What to do:

1. Cube up the cake into little bite-sized squares.

2. Have 2″ of oil ready and shimmering at 325° in your pot. (Or if you’re me and have no idea what that means, somewhere between Medium and High on the stove.)

3. Pour the tequila in the bowl, then dip each cube in for a few seconds.

Note: This is the part of the recipe I wasn’t understanding. The recipe said “Dip it quickly into the tequila (keep in mind, the more you dip..the stronger they will be)”, and since I’m from Wisconsin I thought that meant I could leave the cubes in there for a prolonged period of time to make them hella strong. Wrong. You can’t. The cake will then disintegrate when you try to fry it. So dip the cake pieces in the tequila just long enough to where you can see it  soaking the tequila up. Maybe 4 seconds on each side or so.

4. Take your tequila-soaked cubes and, with the tongs, gently place them in the oil. They will make a horrifically loud, freaky bubbling noise that is apparently totally normal when frying things. Do not be alarmed. Do not call your husband freaking out. Carry on. Flip the cube over after a little while and fry the other side. Make sure the whole thing is golden brown, then remove the cube from the pot and place it on the paper towel to cool.

You can fry up a whole bunch at a time to speed things up – just watch to make sure you don’t burn the crap out of them. Make sure to eat at least a handful to make sure they taste good and in fact have alcohol in them.

5. OPTIONAL: Completely run out of tequila, despite having half a cake left. Improvise, and soak the rest of the bites in rum. Keep them separate to cool, then serve two kinds of alcohol-soaked cake at your party and bask in your awesomeness.

6. Once all of your bites are cool, stack them in a fancy container of your choice and sprinkle powdered sugar on them.

CONGRATULATIONS, you are now the hero of the party.

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Everyone at the party had happiness aneurysms for these things. The rum ones were just as popular (if not more-so) than the tequila ones. Next time I think I’m going to try whiskey and see if the cosmos still holds together.

 

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