Back in Los Angeles, and I want to write…

Moving back to the City of Angels has proven to be an interesting task. For one thing, my family is driving me nuts. I have moved back in with them temporarily. There is a place I am moving into in the summer…maybe…(meh) we’ll see how it goes. But meantime, I’ve bunked up with them and listened to all of their thoughts about my thirty-something life. Wow, I’m in my thirties now. Questions about marriage, the future, grad school, my weight (which has fluctuated since I was twelve years old) have become breakfast, lunch and dinner topics.

Are you telling me I can’t be happy without a man? 

So, what you’re saying is…my body is the reason I can’t seem to find a job in Hollywood?

I’ve told you a million times, I want to write. I know it’s competitive and crazy, hence why I was in NorCal for five years going to school and exploring other types of work. I just didn’t like where I was at up there.

I want to write. 

However, getting into a television writing room requires a lot of planning, a lot of cunning, a lot of meet and greets, and networking, and all those things that used to give me anxiety. Now, not so much. I suppose the stuffy chitter-chatter of what’s new with you and what project are you into now? — are genuine things I want to know about. Am I growing up? Or am I getting desperate?

Who knows?!

All I know is that I want to be making films again, writing stories and plot and developing characters that are three-dimensional and complex (but with a hint of humor because everyone likes to laugh at a hero every now and then).  I went to a screening and Q&A tonight and felt emotions of excitement. Creative juices overfilling my brain with ideas of projects to collaborate on, or places I can write about — San Francisco, Oakland, Los Angeles, Callao, Lima —etc. etc. etc.

To keep me busy, I’ve been working on video editing and other remote work. And I’ve had two amazing writing sessions with an old friend who was recently laid off by a major studio. The writing session was cathartic and wonderful and funny and relational. It was good to hear her thoughts on a webisode I’ve been developing with an SF writing group.

I suppose it’s now up to me, and how far I want to go. I hope to make a dent here in Los Angeles; I sure had fun in San Francisco and the East Bay. It’s time to find what next-level-Lis is all about.

NOW TO WRITE, WRITE, WRITE!!

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art / ART MAKING / ARTist

I have a younger sister who lives in Los Angeles. Well actually we’re from the San Fernando Valley; a hot place to live. But she currently resides in Temple City. Anyways, sometimes we write each other to keep in touch. Usually we gossip about family or talk about our future as granny’s touring some obscure town in the middle of nowhere drinking whine and talking about how hard it was to be an artist post the economic crash. But let’s be real, it’s always been hard to be an artists.

And that’s what this post is about, I suppose. Not my sister, but the world she and I live in. The world of Art/Art Making/Artists – and their purpose in this world.

As a young person I always thought, oh am I going to be impressed when I see this dance? this performance? this singer? Are they going to show me something I haven’t seen before? I sure hope so!

I suppose I thought that art was there to serve the artists — and in turn impress the audience. Like –you know, art for the sake of art. But the older I get; the more I make my own weird art — short videos, short stories, short dances and share them with people I find that what links us is our ability to connect through these experiences. We connect and wonder and remember together; each our individual journeys, but eternally connected through this one experience.

Once I saw a video that was about a woman turned man that lasted ten minutes long. This person wore a “feminine” outfit and gradually through a rewind effect (editing) the person’s clothes flew off of him to reveal the beginning of the film at the end — a naked man sticking his hand in different parts of his body and then smelling his finger. I sat there thinking, Oh my God—he’s putting his finger there and we are all watching this. 

This.

Art.

Not just that, but I have a bad habit of turning my head and looking at people as they watch something. I like to see their reactions, or I get curious as to who in the room has fallen asleep. But when I turn, the artist is in the center of the room and when his finger goes into … a hole, I remember seeing him cover his face, groan and say “Oh God!” in a loud whisper.

Now, if I would have seeing this video in a gallery on my own. I would have tried to connect it with the space — if it would have been a bare room, I would have thought — oh, this is about being bare, open, vulnerable, and real. But I saw this video in a free performance setting, in the dark, with a bunch of sweaty bodies around me, after performing myself (as a volunteer dancer) and with the artist present — and seeing the artist react to his art.

I fell in love!

Not with the man in the video, nor with the artist, but I fell in love with the feeling I got inside my heart seeing the artist completely fall apart in the center of the room. And I thought, that’s it — that has to be it!

Right?

Art is about sharing the deepest parts of ourselves and just throwing caution to the wind! Yes?

Yes. It’s that and yet every year another layer of it lovingly leans atop my head and piles itself on the other definitions I’ve been collecting as the days go by.

Today, I walked down the stairs of the Civic Center BART and saw a woman singing to herself, “you belong to me…” and I noticed her eyes were closed and she touched her chest as if her heart was ready to leap out. I kept walking through the BART station and saw one of the local musicians do his thing on some drum set. He hummed a tune, probably saving his voice after hours of singing in the hallway. Music just takes over that space, and it’s beautiful!

All kinds of musicians go there. Some do it for money, some for the chat, and some to network. There’s the Country Singer, an Afro-Caribbean performer, a Bob Dylan sound a like, a Lady Violinist with a pink music stand, and a gent who only plays the chorus of “Ho Hey” by the Lumineers.

So today I added another pile of my definition of art, based on this experience and the sister chat. Art is there to remind us of each other, that we are individuals, but that we are also a whole. It unifies us, it invades us, it reminds of our past lovers and our future goals.

Some wonder if it’s ever achievable —happiness— and I think Art helps us touch it.

 

Walking on Valencia St in SF & Being 30-something

Today I am meeting a friend at a small concert venue, and to kill time I walked down Valencia St in San Francisco. This is what I encountered —

I encountered babies with no shoes. Parents with no cares. French tourists taking pictures of the tall and colorful homes. “Ethnic” shop after “ethnic” shop. I found most of them a little disturbing, including one that had a bunch of animal heads displayed all over the walls. I did not go in there at all. The first two shops I entered were all about leather. Leather is in this fall, I suppose. Pink, green, brown, mustard and caca colored bags that were really cute. But I feel guilty when I buy leather, so I resisted. I walked about one shop smelling their soaps labelled, “Lavendar, Mud, and Sulphur” with a side note “good for your skin.” Where have I been? I thought to myself.

Everyone smelled like fresh lavender and hemp. The restaurant man greeted me, but instantly wanted to know what my deal was because I was only ordering one tapas plate, a side dish and beer. Where am I? I thought to myself. It was right before rush hour after all, so maybe they just wanted to get rid of the weird lady sipping beer, watching the Cubs and Giants game, while simultaneously watching youtube videos of the internets latest and greatest ice bucket challenge: The Foo Fighters. Thanks for bringing back a classic horror film sirs and also, why am I watching this?

And I felt absolutely out of place. In fact, I still feel out of place as I sit here writing about this.

Sitting here in this cafe that has high ceilings and plays this new music that young-ins who are referred to as “hipsters” listen to. I kind of like the music, but I kind of feel guilty for liking it. San Francisco is changing, and I can’t even say I’ve been here long enough to witness it, but you can hear about it wherever you go.

I went into a shopkeepers store and she told me about trade shows and showrooms and I felt like I was 18 again and working for a fashion designer back in LA/Pasadena. She had beautiful small earrings and talked my ear off about no longer considering showrooms as the end and be all of fashion and gifts. Go to etsy.com she said and get to know the artist there, sometimes I get work from there to sell in my shop. Everything is changing around me, and all this time me stuck in my room with a  computer and daydreams. Where have I been?

Then a regular walks in as I am putting on one a grey skirts. They strike up a conversation about being in their mid 30s and going back to graduate school and about moving out of Google town. “You don’t work for Google do you?” the regular asks me, and I quickly nod — NO! But Google aside, all I could think was, well I am not that much younger than these two ladies. The regular kept calling her classmates, “kids!” and I wondered how long it would be when I would start saying that to people who are younger than me —  and meaning it. Then I wondered, have I even noticed that I’m getting old? I don’t think I have! I don’t think anyone does. How do we get here? Where have I been?

Then the store owner pops out her cell phone and shows us her new tiny house. She bought it made. She’s going to start living in the country because the Mission District is no longer a great support for her business. “Yeah, take your show on the road!” I tell her. She’s got a groovy style going on for her, and I think she’d do well with a traveling shop. But then she started talking about farming and selling food and her trinkets and things she makes all natural. It was about the time when she started talking about making a compost toilet that I realized I have yet to touch upon these complexities myself.

Aside from my goal of writing, from practicing it, from venting and talking about it — what else is there? I mean, even if you do get published, how likely is it that it would support you forever? I read somewhere that the average author (who gets published) has about 10 good years on them —and then they get forgotten or lost in the mist…like guerillas. You just fade out. And I had a mini freak out beside the Jane Austen buttons, there as she talked and talked about retiring early, not worrying about her shop anymore, and moving to Oregon with her new tiny house on wheels. Her dreams, simple and right in her hands. Her cash, her earnings all walking out the door with her. The grey hairs on her head reflecting not just wisdom but adventure and she screamed in her shop– “I inspire myself!” I tell her thank you, take the skirt with me and walk out the door.

Step by step, I find the nearest coffee shop and stumble into one of them feeling stupefied and hot all over. I ask for a bathroom, but then retract and ask for an Americano first, for the beer and the shopkeeper had a toll on me. I was feeling sweaty and estranged from reality. Where have I been?

It seems like Valencia St and San Francisco had a plan for me today. Get your a$$ in gear! I think I am going to look into starting a CD account. This lady needs a plan because readers — you never know. AND now I am here still in this coffee shop, sitting under a speaker that spews out Bob Dylan talking about…

You used to laugh about
Everybody that was hangin’ out
Now you don’t talk so loud
Now you don’t seem so proud
About having to be scrounging for your next meal.

How does it feel (?)
How does it feel (?)

?

It feels weird Bob.

It feels really f*cking weird.

My Tactile Writing Experience & The Naked (Womyn) Body

Dear Writers of the world. As many of you (who read this weirdo blog) know…I’ve had my share of dry spells. I’ve vented about a few of them here–expressed my frustration thoroughly by making promises I can’t keep because frankly the world is pressing down on me with REALITY (snore!). I have to keep feeding this machine with my artsy part time jobs — take my money rent/phone/gas/commuting/school loans/loan sharks/etc. etc. etc.

A las, writing has become a luxury. It comes and goes like waves upon a sand…leaving treasures in a nearby tidal pool. And I have to be careful not to forget about the treasure, for it can easily be taken away by some John on the beach with a metal detector.

In order to maintain my inner writer happy, I’ve been doing some mini-write ups about my experiences as a human being. I have focused some of these mini-encounters and stories in San Francisco. My city exploration of cafés, movie theaters, restaurants, Bart train experiences, and even taco truck conversations have contributed to some late night insomnia dabs on the key board. It’s like building a little bank of situations, people, and dialogue.

As days go by, I find that there is little to nothing that cannot be written about. This entire planet is full of interesting folk, awkward situations, sexual tension and sibling rivalry. Even the simplest things can be catastrophic or life changing in a story. Watching a man stir chocolate powder in his hot water, for example — it can be like watching fireworks in Utah! Then come the questions, why is he alone? What is he thinking? Why does he not use milk? What kind of magazine is he reading? And why is he drinking hot chocolate in summer? All those things that can lead to a good juicy story, a background, and that is how you can build a life for a reader.

Nowadays, there is so much free wifi everywhere, it’s hard to knock it off and just focus. Which is why I’ve been bringing a pen and a little mini creeper notebook with me to write down interesting things I notice as I go about my day.

I am fascinated by the human experience: how we interact with each other and how we manage our time with other people. This is a great way to do some self-to-self and self-to-other observation, for example. What we say. What we do. How we act. When we lie. When we exaggerate. When we laugh. When we hide emotions. Why we fight back. Why we back down. When we give up. What makes us get up and try again? When we take that risk and lean in for a kiss. Everything: wondrously dangerous and sprinkled with chaos. Beautiful human chaos.

My “people study” has become my  “Interesting People” posts on this blog. These encounters have served me as a source for character and plot development. When I speak with other writers, I encourage them to do the same.  I am calling it – My Tactile Writing Experience. Although I am not necessarily TOUCHING these people in a physical sense, I feel that living in the moment with them does stimulate the five senses in my imagination. I have to see it to recreate it, in a way.

One of my recent tactile writing experiences was in a lady spa. Being that it is a private space, I did not take notebook with me. I am not that big of a creeper. Below is an example of my observation practice, from memory…

Interesting People Post: Naked Spa Ladies

I am a pretty shy person when it comes to my body. I don’t really expose much, and I leave a lot to the imagination. To put it mildly, I wear a lot of sweaters. Going to a spa is always an adventure to me, but I usually go to the ones where people just mind their business and walk around in robes and bathing suits. This was not the case in the Kabuki Spa in San Francisco. I entered the locker room ready to take in the quiet experience — and was quickly greeted by a couple of big butt cheeks bending over to pick up something that the person belonging to the buttocks had dropped on the ground. I must admit it took me aback, but then I reminding my brain that I am a grown a$$ person and that seeing as a$$ should not be so shocking — so I kept walking and thanked the butt for being open, exposed and unapologetic. And I thought to myself, Right on lady! If you could let it lose that way, well – all power to you!

To my embarrassment, as I disrobed in the actual pool area, I was the only one wearing a bathing suit. I walked around feeling like a football player among flowers, but I kept my chin up. Until finally, I was called in for my massage.

There, under the care of a woman who looked like Katherine Zeta Jones, only blonde — I pondered my desire to wear a bathing suit. I pondered the lady’s freedom to have her body so exposed as she bent over. I tried to remember that one time I went skinny dipping in my aunts house only to be discovered by my sister.

After my massage I decided to fully disrobe and take off the hot pink bathing suit. Off it went, and slowly my towel dropped and the pores in my skin opened up to the steam. My hairs all over stood up in the hot sauna room. And while I was in the pool, I admired everybody and their ability to be free with their bodies. I struggled there in the water, thinking about how different my body is from everyone else’s. I let it go a little bit, but I realized I have so much more work to do.

I need to learn to be naked again, I thought to myself. I need to be vulnerable , and this got me thinking about my writing. I need to learn to be vulnerable and share my writing without having to mask it behind a bathing suit.

In honor of this wonderful butt experience that opened my mind, I am sharing a butt video I found on YouTube.

Working in San Francisco & unearthing what I love in the Bay

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I work in a city now, I work in San Francisco. Sounds fancy, huh? Hi, my name is Lis and I work in the city and life is grand, thank you very much!  I suppose saying “I work in the city” has a nice ring to it. Personally, I am indifferent about it. And it’s not because I am a conceited person or a major douchebag. I don’t have pockets full of money or anything. On the contrary Blog Land – I have barely any time for myself as I juggle 3-4 jobs and get home just in time for food scraps, an episode of House of Cards, and maybe some reading if I’m lucky. Writing? It happens on the Bart occasionally, but it’s not really safe in a crammed trained. I’m afraid of stabbing somebody with my ballpoint pen during sudden stop. So, is it nice working in the city? It is – you know, except for the extra expense of commuting and walking over human feces on Market Street. Usually I find solace when I am back home, writing in my torn up poetry notebook, and sometimes in the morning I wake up to find myself atop my copy of Haruki Murakami‘s novel, “1Q84,” which usually means I must have read the previous night. That’s always good. Anyways, what I’m trying to say (in a long winded way) is that I am indifferent because I am tired.

That being said, I’m having a kick ass time walking to work everyday because there are so many flipping amazing and interesting people all over the place.

Taking the Bart to work from Oakland makes me feel…what’s that annoying word people say now a days? Legit. I feel legit. I get to see bizarre business men on the Bart everyday, and pretty business women who can somehow walk in six inch heels without toppling over and screaming, “Holy sh*t!” – as I did once on a rainy day. I get to see green people gracefully tetris their way into a nonexistent empty spot in the train with their humongo bikes. They inspire me and I imagine a communal utopian cabin somewhere in Walnut Creek with moss filled walls and an  outdoor  fireplace in the backyard – – as a haven from the city’s noise and Starbucks Coffee spots. San Francisco has a charm that no other city has.

And even though I’ve been living in the Bay for about four years now, I still consider myself a tourist. Just yesterday I went into a sushi place off Union Square and found myself walking into an underground basement that transported me to another world. That’s what San Francisco feels like — secrets and portals all over the place, but you just have to know where to look. Of course I will never forget my favorite tourist spots — I suppose I don’t mind crowds of people because I am a people watcher. San Francisco, inspiration lies beneath your surface, and I will hold the following things forever in my corazon-zon-zon: the Bay — “Dock of the Bay” happened here, clam chowder gets consumed at fisherman’s wharf, part of you is a Little Italy, City Lights Bookstore will blow your mind, and the most delicious egg tarts in Chinatown ever come from the Golden Gate Bakery. Ah, I can go on for days with my touristy ways, but frankly it might annoy you.

This working in the city gives me one fear, though. This fear occurs on my way to and from work. I walk into the train usually listening to encouraging music like De Sol a Sol (sung by my tween crush, Salserín!), a nice pump-me-up morning tune, and I find myself surrounded by the most weighed down energy on the planet. I fear aliens might have something to do with this because it seems like nobody is aware of how they act in front of each other. People sit or stand looking like their soul have been sucked out of them. The morning coffee dangling from their fingertips promising a syrup of spark, fails them. Some of them sleep with their mouths wide open, and I can only imagine how horrible it could be waking up to find that you have missed your exit by three stops. No one wants to interrupt anybody. People look down, up, or straight ahead into a non existent space before them. Time stops as we go underwater from the east to the city. We are transported from our home lives into our work lives, and then suddenly everyone becomes erect and vertical.

Someday, years from now, if I never leave this side of the country I hope I never become that tiredI hope to that work will become something I do in appropriate hours, so that I may go to places like Vesuvio in SF in the evenings to enjoy a glass of wine and a private writing session. I want to relax and not think about anything but my novel and my characters (who constantly show up everywhere in my life to remind me to finish the book!). I don’t want to stay tired.

It’s dangerous, overworking, overanalyzing — it stops you and makes you stale and stagnant. I wish to forever keep the curious five year old child in me excited about the world around her. I would hate for her to die from boredom and ditch me to live by a tree somewhere. That would suck. The best ideas come from her and the dreams she gives me.

it’s romantic to hurt sometimes

We planned on something romantic tonight, something to get us out of our eat tapas and watch a movie routine. Let’s go for Peruvian food! Haven’t done that in a while. But the potatoes were frozen and the cream in the papa a la huancaina had lumps. The chicha had some strange essence to it, and so did the lomo saltado. It was not fun, and my Peruvian pride dwindled into a ball of guilt. I looked around the restaurant at the smiling faces, and cried within – you are being lied to! This is not Peruvian! You are eating a LIE! I kept it inside instead, and finished the plate that tasted more like a teriyaki steak and stir fry. He tried my rice, it was undercooked. We both grimaced across the table and whispered our fake foodie review on a non existent food blog or article. One out of five stars. Finally, in a long while, we agreed on something. The meal sucked, on a major level.

Wanting the taste of failure to leave our tongues, we drove to the city to get our ice cream fix. Didn’t want to risk a dessert fiasco at the Peruvian place. I wanted to throw up the beef from the lomo, but nothing came out.  We got to the ice cream spot. I downed as much of the banana split that I could fit into my already hurting belly. It settled the sadness and engulfed my taste buds with banana, strawberry chunks, and sugary stuff that made me forget the sad sad dinner meal. My legs nestled around his, and he unsatisfied with the way the meal had distorted his tastebuds, so much so that he couldn’t taste the fudge.

We drove on the 101 towards the golden gate bridge, which is actually red…not golden. And he took me up a side road in hopes to take me to a cliff. We get there and the gate is closed. Fail two for the night. We drove to the side point view and tried to take a picture in pitch darkness, it didn’t work. Hug me, I asked to which he grabbed my stomach and pressed against me as if administering the heimlich maneuver. My urges to throw up returned to me. The couple in the car beside us were hot boxing it together. Why can’t you be kind? I asked, and he laughed. I looked at the glittering stars and thought to myself, you deserve this…and I believed it. For some strange reason. I think aliens were sending me wave signals. I said, let’s go back home. We’ll take the Richmond bridge.

We drove over the bridge and listened to Brazilian Yemanja music. I sang along while he groaned under his breath. His ears have been sensitive to South American and Salsa music all night. This is going to be my life, I said to myself.

We argued on the road. We judged each others’  driving skills. We huffed and puffed and tired our hearts. When we got home, I just wanted to go to sleep, but instead I sat by the computer hoping that this stomach pain could go away. And then I resolute to this tonight. Romance has its good days and bad days. Tonight was a painful night, for our bodies and for our hearts. Yet, it makes me appreciate the good days even more. And frankly, I am sure we’re going to laugh about it someday. Why?

Because we writers know, that pain = comedy.