Mangia Piu Kale!

no more anatomy of heartache

Saturday, May 30, 2009

We've been in Los Angeles for almost 4 months now. I am starting to realize that I would've been fine with a much shorter stay. It's an odd place, although I can only really speak for the area we chose to live and work (West L.A.: Venice, Santa Monica, and Brentwood,specifically). Despite working more hours at my temporary job, I've had nothing but time to think.

On one hand, I greatly appreciate the experience. I'm learning so much about myself, how I relate to the world and people. The lessons are predominantly unpleasant, but I will keep them with me and appreciate them for what they are. I see that I was spoiled by SF life, of living someplace for almost 8 years, esp during my extremely social 20's. I know many people there, am comfortable, situated. SF's an "easy" city in that it's small, almost everything accessible by public transport. It's where I've gone to school, done activism, partied like a rockstar, loved, survived. I still don't think that I want to stay there long-term. But I appreciate it much more for being away.

Por lo otro mano, I realize that a lot of my disappoint stems from myself. Because I let myself be disappointed by people, all the while knowing that true happiness is finding many things inside yourself. And yet I can't apologize for my disappointment with people in Los Angeles. My perception, tho still being so new after only 4 months, is that L.A. residents don't generally take responsibility for much of anything. Angelenos seem more self-absorbed than any other group of people I've experienced. As if it's "cool" to not give a shit. To not really listen when people speak to you. To focus on what someone can give you; do for you, as opposed to actually caring to get to know somebody. To be flightly. Selfish. To flake.
And flake.
And flake.
Initially I tried pretty hard to connect, to make plans, to reach out. But less and less, lately. We're here for about 7 more weeks, and I am trying to focus on saving money to pay back seemingly endless medical bills, meditate daily, run, do yoga, read, and gather my thoughts around a good thesis idea for school.
It's a little sad. Just to admit my disappointment in this place, it's humbling, tho really not a huge deal.

I appreciate the beaches here. The gorgeous parks and free museums. The wide, flat paths for jogging, so that you can feel the ocean breeze and smell fresh air. The almost daily farmer's markets. There's plenty of nice enough stuff to note. But nothing that feels great. Nothing seems worth the effort of trying to interact with people here and find some sort of meaningful connection. And I'm not even in a bad mood as I write this. It just is what it is. Tra la la, La-La Land.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

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here are some shots from the past few weeks. Sarah and Brian's wedding, Jason and Stanley's visit to Venice (bunny had a thing for Jason), and Jacob and I's recent hike around Temescal Canyon. It was beautiful up there. Sunday is our only day off together, so it's great to actually DO something; explore and have adventures. we saw lizards and hummingbirds and i actually saw a baby grey fox, which is very rare. it was cute, and I yearned to take him home, as i have an affinity for untame-able forest creatures (you've met my bunny).
i will write more later, just excited that i figured out how to put photos up!
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Wednesday, April 08, 2009

jacob promised to show me how to add photos so it's all more exciting. it's been over one month since i last updated, altho i jot things on facebook and text messages enough. i think i'd be a good candidate for a technology fast. when my cell phone isn't nearby, i develop a nervous tick. when i can't check email for more than 2 consecutive days, i feel ill. i think a lot has to do with acclimating to a new city and environment. in san francisco i never worry about staying in touch, it just happens. in L.A. it's vastly different. after 2 months, i still feel like a very small fish.

i started work a few weeks ago, at an upscale gyno-clinic/spa in Santa Monica. I ship and receive expensive vitamins for bourgie ladies. it's very part time, and while i am still looking for another job to fill in the gaps, i like my boss a lot and appreciate that i found something stable. many of our patients are filthy rich and covered with plastic body parts. they behave in an entitled manner. i don't like it. i feel as if i would be better off if i could stand people like this, but i can't.

a good friend visited this weekend, and she mentioned that she'd feel too cynical, living here.i agree with her, i feel the cynic in me often, wanting to shake certain people and ask them if they're for real. not just the bourgies that come to my job, but all the westside folks. but i love the angelenos(?) too sometimes. they are carefree. i came here to learn some of that.

so who knows? i don't feel as lonely as i used to. tho i really miss san francisco. and i dream about new york constantly. maybe 30 is too old to move to La-La land? i had so many crazy adventures, in multiple states and even countries, prior to moving here. i want to experience new beautiful things, but before, i treated that like everything had to be wild and unsustainable. i am past that. we've started attending monday night meditations w/ noah levine at the santa monica zen center. it's pretty awesome. i even ran into someone i know from philly. rad!

there's lots more to say, but i'm considering deleting this altogether. part of me really wants to stay transparent around the acclimating process, but another part feels it's no one's business. i guess it's a good place to stop for today. but i will say this: the rabbit is really happy here. he's growing out of his mind w power. he tries to tackle the garbage can on a daily basis, and basically hops into our laps whenever he wants. he will also lick dirty clothes for hours if allowed. sigh.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Last night a cop pulled up as we waited at a crosswalk. He asked if my gingerale was beer. He was about 18 years old. Venice. We've been taking long walks at night. What's best is when the fog covers the beach, and you can see the lights of the Santa Monica pier all distorted and crazy through it. The ferris wheel there is phenomenal, it has these wild, colorful light patterns, multiple different ones in rapid succession.

I flip-flop re: whether or not I could live here long-term. I am not great about living in the moment, my mind always runnning running running. Guess what, meditation definitely doesn't fix that over the course of just a few months. Somewhere the Buddha is laughing at me. I experienced some bummed out time today, around employment. A wonderful friend offered me a job making molto dinaro while working very few hours, nannying for a well-known person, but they needed an immediate answer, and car ownership is an absolute requirement. I've never owned a car in my life. So the main part of my sadness results from confusion: do I want to really get into the lifestyle here, and get a car, to open up my possibilities? I allowed this to mess with my head way more than the situation warrants. Shoot, I don't have the cash to get a car. Anyway...
I think I'm also a bit lonely. I'm really focusing on job hunting, so I haven't had the chance to get involved in any community stuff. And I've not made the effort to visit our friends in Hollywood or Los Feliz. I realized today that I must make time, that balance is necessary.

In cheerier news, I found a yoga studio right around the corner. The classes are SO cheap. I went yesterday and feel amazing. If I keep it up, coupled with all the walking, I should be able to show off at Muscle Beach in no time. People here love showing off their bodies. It's both awesome and funny. Should I just give in and get Ugg boots and some mini-skirts?
Seriously, this place is weird. I see too many young women resembling aged bar-fly drag queens, for all the awful make-up they wear. That's snarky of me, I realize.

Again. Venice. We'll see.

Friday, February 20, 2009

I found out today that my friend Shelli died. The brain tumor that she'd been dealing with for a year and a half. We'd met in the therapeutic yoga class for cancer survivors. Our age united us (we were the only young people in a class). We were also diagnosed with cancer within a month of each other, we later discovered. I feel grief but I also understand that she is no longer in pain. she was in great physical pain the entire time I knew her. I wish she'd been able to meet my other friends so they could know her awesomeness but it was hard for her to get around usually.
I am so grateful we became friends. I loved her immediately, she inspired me and was so smart and interesting and a sweetheart. It was fun doing yoga with her every week. I'm grateful that I was able to meet her boyfriend and sister, go to their house, meet her scratchy cat, see her art work and the beautiful plants everywhere. I was so excited when I found out she was Jewish too (around the high holy days in October). I'm grateful too, that Jnani, our teacher, called to tell me about Shelli's passing. She said good things that made it easier to take this news.
I am very very sad. I wish I was an eloquent, graceful person who could write something beautiful for my beautiful friend. But I will write this. She was very tiny, so tiny you could pick her up with one arm easily. She had pretty brown hair and the sweetest beautiful face and a nose ring. She was soft-spoken. She was frank about what she was going through. She was generous and fun to be around. I felt safe next to her. She was the only close friend of mine who understood what it was like to be young and have cancer. I'm so sorry I missed her memorial service, which was yesterday. So i will go to the ocean now and sit there and draw pictures and send her my love in my own way. Right before Jnani called me I saw a beautiful brown and orange butterfly.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

venice is clear and warm and good. after a month of acting the drifter on 2 coasts, i'm all gratitude for having a little place and some peace. the rabbit is happy. jacob and i are happy too. i tried living with a guy once when i was a dumb kid and it was a disaster. but I'm liking this. He's a great cook, we eat cheap and organic (about 5 farmer's markets around here each week), and we don't seem to get tired of one another. he won't let me put up my beloved frida kahlo art (lame), but i made him throw out tons of worthless garbage he didn't need (stoked). compromises! we moved down here after knowing one another for exactly 6 months. yup.

so, big surprise, it's not a good time to job-hunt. no one is hiring, there's a freeze on state jobs down here, and about 400 applicants for every half-ass part-time job i find. but when we set out to sell ourselves, it's like an adventure as opposed to anything scary or nerve-wracking (ok it's a little nerve-wracking. not only does money not grow on trees, it doesn't roll up in the tides either). we try to keep it light-hearted and make one another laugh when there's temptation to brood. I've gotten some helpful leads from friends, so thank ya'll for that. it means a lot.

but we live simply enough. i mean, the beach is half a block from our doorstep. the boardwalk goes on forever, you can follow the beach for miles and miles, through multiple oceanside cities. we live in venice but sit close to the santa monica border. this is a very walk-y and bike-y part of L.A., so it's not like everyone is living in their cars. there's so much to do that involves breathing delicious air and not spending a thing. i love the cruiser-bikes everyone rides here! they are hot, i really want one. we found a good local bike shop and the guy hooked me up and was great to talk to. we hung out w/ him for a long time.

people seem generally sweet and personable. definitely a beach culture, lots of buskers who are half outta their minds hold court on the boardwalk. it can be annoying but the circus is easy to avoid. one day a guy just ran up to me and grabbed one of my curls and twirled it. some audacious stuff. Venice and Santa Monica used to be sketchy. "The slum by the sea", there was lots of gang activity, poverty, and it was cheap to live here. Now SM is bourgie and shiny, it's so gorgeous! and Venice is getting pretty crazy in terms of rent, and quite a handful of celebrities around. But it retains a lot of it's nutterly charm and, like any city, there's upscale parts and sketchersville ones. people LOOK at you here. in SF, i feel like it's all about pretending you don't see the person walking toward you, but here, i feel utterly and openly dissected. yet not in a bad way, it's just different. capito?

today we hung out in Culver City for a bit (also quite close, a town of film studios, fancy restaurants, and the closest Trader Joe's), than walked a mile on the beach, meditated in the sand as the afternoon waned, and hit up the Santa Monica pier. Rode the ferris wheel as the sun went down. Nautical sunsets occur later than on the mainland. We have a longer day! we walked home being really silly and laughing, then found a cheap, good indian restaurant that is absolutely haunted (trust me). than some guy gave us free frozen yogurt.

This doesn't feel completely real to me yet. It's been less than 2 wks. it wasn't a huge move, like when I came to Oakland from DC over 7 years ago. But of course I miss my wonderful peoples in the Bay, and the hills, and my routine.
Also, I don't have a car and not yet sure if I'll get one. our friends are in Hollywood, Silverlake, or Los Feliz. It takes AWHILE to arrive there by bus. I mean, I love meeting new folks, and making friends comes easily to me, but strong forever-friendships don't happen overnight and they are to be appreciated. meaning, i miss you.

some final things to share before i stop for tonight: people blatantly go thru your garbage here so never throw out anything remotely personal, in 11 days i've seen more plastic surgery on people than i have in this entire life, and there are tons of really rich buddhists down here. AND I saw the mom from "Wonder Years" at Whole Foods, and she had a bible and she looked fabulous. true.

Sunday, April 06, 2008

hey my dears. i haven't written in this thing for months, so i figured now is a good time for an update. there's a lot here but i figure it's better to write out the yucky medical details so i don't do the broken-record w/ ya'll.

January was crappy. I was reacting badly to the chemo, the side-effects were compounding, i reached my lowest weight (105,not good for someone my height), looked like an anemic spider-monkey, and was so depressed by the realization that a) my cancer is more rare and complicated than they'd initially thought and b) there was no guaranteed end in sight. I wondered if i'd ended up in hell and someone forgot to inform me.

my mother moved out here temporarily to help me out. it was ROUGH. we haven't shared a home in 13 years and it's still the old cats and dogs routine, although i have endless love and respect for her. she was a huge help in keeping the place clean, taking care of my needs and being a tireless advocate for me when i (finally) got too exhausted and sick to call out the doctors/insurance companies/govt agencies on my own.

by my last chemo treatment (number 7!) which ended late february, we realized that my tumor markers (in my blood, the only things that determine if i have cancer, since my ctscans are clean and i am tumor-free) were not going down.

i mentioned to many of you that the only real "cure" at this point is to have a double stem-cell transplant. this means that they would take out my stem cells temporarily, give me an incredbily brutal, high dose of week-long chemo, than put my stems back in my blood. than i'd wait in the hospital until there is proof that my white blood count/immune system, has returned. this is a guaranteed straight month in the hospital. than, i'd have 1-2 months to rest at home, than return to do it all over again (hence the "double" transplant). the anticipated total time, from start of treatment to point of feeling really healthy again, is eight months. f'ing brutal, considering i've already gone thru 7 months of this shit.
Also, stem cell transplants are NOT bone marrow transplants. Different thing, trust me.

Now, the surprising catch is that for the past month or so, my tumor markers, tho higher than normal, are pretty stable. meaning, they are not shooting up to a range that makes my doctor worry. so she doesn't think i need the transplant at this point. she pointedly told me "start making plans and getting back to your life". wow.

second surprising thing i've learned is that tumor markers counts (in my case, the AFP/alpha-feta proteins) CHANGE depending on where you get tested. my doctor sent my blood to another lab, and they reported my markers as normal! i am surprised that something like a tumor marker is marked on a curve! i mean, this is the thing that influences whether or not i get chemo or a transplant.

so at this point i am basking in some cautious joy. some guarded ecstatic-ness. my mom returned east a few weeks ago. i've had 7 weeks away from the chemo, and i feel amazing. even after 5 straight months of week-long chemo treatments (7 treatments! i can't remind ya'll enough, b/c it totally sucked), i am stronger, my weight is close to normal, my skin-color is healthy and normal, and my HAIR IS GROWING BACK. that part will take awhile, and i plan to rock my wig for as long as possible, but it's such a cool feeling to see hair again. my period, unfortunately, probably won't return for a long time, and i am still dealing w/ the temporary nerve damage. it takes a long time to type, and writing is painful, but i force myself to do a little every day. i have a looong way to go in terms of getting stronger, but i am doing my best. i still have the pic-line in my arm, which is frustrating, but i think i should keep it in for awhile longer, until it's clear that i really won't need a transplant.

in regards to you all: i've said it many times but it will never be enough. i am so grateful for everything you do and have done. you stuck around and showered me with love. you took me to the doctor, slept over w/ me all the time, advocated for me at school and many other places, made me food, brought me food, gave me massages or acupunctures, distracted me from the pain and fear, helped to pay my rent and scary bills, gave me magic charms and gifts so i'd be protected, made me utterly crucial mixes and cards, physically held me when i couldn't stop crying, or psychically held me through the phone and email. you all are all over the world and it never mattered how far apart we are, you have my back. even if i die tomorrow i will have the true joy of knowing that i did something right b/c you are my friend.

if anything changes regarding my health, i will let you know. but for now i want to get strong and start visiting folks. i am hoping to make a trip to L.A. in the next few weeks (sorry this past weekend fell thru!), see my brother in Portland, than head to the east coast sometime in may or june. i'd like to try and take one class this summer. we'll see. thanks for reading thru all this, and as always, i love you.