August 31, 2010


So much. I know of no other way to describe L.A. than in vignettes. There is no quintessential Los Angeles. So far, I have found no unified quality of place, unless one counts the endless concrete world called “the” freeway, which is more a void between places than a place itself. From Pasadena to El Monte to Long Beach to Santa Monica to Venice to Beverly Hills to Downtown, Los Angeles is the winged lady of a thousand faces both ugly and beautiful.

“There’s always something new to do in L.A.,” a friend of a friend explains as we walk past the trendy shops and restaurants on Abbott Kinney Boulevard in Venice, looking in the windows but never at the price tags. None of us felt we met the area’s requisite cool quotient, but we had a fun time people watching (and dog watching) from the well-designed cafes and peering into the artful shops.

A young neo-hippy naps in a the doorway of a couture shop, her cardboard sign asking not for money but for love. At the Mystic Journey Bookstore I chat with a beautifully accented woman while her coworker looks to see if they have the book I need. They could order it, but I’m only visiting Venice today, with no likelihood of getting back to the store. The Australian welcomes me to the area. At the Intelligencia coffee shop, the barista knowledgably explains the merits of various teas is language as complex as any good sommelier.

“This is a well designed space,” one customer comments to another.

“Yes, it is,” the other replies.

They were right.

A few doors down, I stepped into a converted bungalow I thought might be an art gallery only to be greeted and asked “Are you a patient?”

“No, I was just examining your space. It’s a lovely house,” I explained.

“Yes, it really is. The view goes through all the main rooms all the way to the back window,” the young man agrees with a smile.

The proprietor of the Bohemian shop across the street tells me I should be holding her cat, a long-haired black and white preening from atop an armoire, because she would look good against my black and red outfit. And we should come back next week for their celebration of A Mid-Summer Night’s Dream, she explains as I admire the bustiers and corsets on the nearby rack. And would I like to see the dressing room? She recently won an award for it! It was a lovely dressing room, with an array of antique mirrors, soft rugs, and a plush chaise lounge with dozens of soft cushions, all in aged shades of cream and pastel.

We left Venice without spending more than twice as much as we ought on a cup of tea, but enjoying the drink for all of that. The yuppie hipster culture of the district was distinct for its overflowing cheerfulness, not a bit of moody, disaffected angst in sight. (Though granted, our visit was brief.)

“I’ve lived here my whole life and there’s still so much I haven’t seen,” my roommate Harry tells me as we drive down Colorado Ave in Pasadena the next morning. He studies the changes that have happened since he worked in the area a few years ago. “The Huntington Library’s over there a few blocks. It’s a good place to take a date.” The area is one long shopping mall, bright, post-modern, mid-height, mixed-use buildings blending with well-preserved historic structures. Global chains nestle next to well-established independent businesses. Harry drives his BMW fast, making the trip to Pasadena fly in contrast to the public transit expedition of the day before. (Though both modes of transportation were appreciated for their own merits.)

Danny was in tour guide mode as he led us into Union Station. “Okay, I just want to point this out.” He stopped and faced us to make a strong clear hand gesture towards a bus waiting at the curb in a well kept civic square. “This is where you can catch the Fly Away bus to LAX. It’s seven dollars. When you get on you tell the driver what airline you’re flying with and he’ll make sure you get to the right terminal. And obviously there’s a big cargo hold under the bus for luggage. Okay, moving on …” He led us on towards the Trader Joe’s in western Pasadena.

By contrast to Pasadena and Venice, travelling the number 70 bus up Garvey should qualify one for a degree in multicultural education. Holly and I decided we could just hop on the bus and ride until we saw an interesting restaurant. There were so many to choose from, it would take a month to reach Union Station again by this method and we wouldn’t even have tried them all. About halfway there the Chinese, Vietnamese, and Thai signs give way to Spanish. Markets advertise piñatas rather than incense. The quality of the neighborhoods rise then fall then rise again a half dozen times before we pass the massive, modern teaching hospitals on the edge of Downtown.

Some places are so poor they bring tears to your eyes to see, while others are so full of consumerism as to provoke disgust or rage, and yet others are both desperate and beautiful. Some are built with care and liberal resources for the enjoyment of all, like Union Station (both the historic and modern sections), and others for a select few, like the Mormon Temple in Westwood. All are dynamic and unique.

These vignettes of Los Angeles are just glimpses of a sprawling multicultural city I have only yet to begin to know.

August 26, 2010

Cycling Commute

My commute takes courage, or stupidity. I ride almost six miles a day to the University and back. I start down Garvey’s four busy lanes. The traffic is less concerning than the dearth of blind drives and streets. Making a space for myself between the traffic and parking lane is safer than braving the sidewalk, which turning cars regularly pull across unexpectedly. Sidewalks are obstacle courses dotted with bus stop benches, street sign poles, stunted trees, random squares of grass, fire hydrants, broken concrete, utility access panels, and the moving targets of pedestrians complete with strollers and dogs. The road is clear in comparison, with only a steady stream of passing cars.

I pass small used car lots, mechanics, Uruguayan and Vietnamese restaurants, seafood markets, small trailer courts hidden behind tall concrete walls, dentists, and discount furniture stores. At the busy intersection of Rosemead and Garvey I wait to cross with the crosswalk light and hold to the sidewalks for a bit. The light takes its time, with long turning periods in from multiple directions. Pedestrians collect at the corners, the little Asian ladies under their umbrellas and the Hispanic teenagers texting on their smart phones. Their regular presence ensures drivers don’t charge the crosswalk as they do at less traveled corners.

“Good morning, lady,” an older Hispanic man calls out. “You are beautiful,” he adds as I flash by in my black skirt and red helmet. I return a good morning and a thank you, but I don’t slow down.

I cross the Rio Hondo, an empty concrete canal with stagnant puddles smelling of green algae the Angelinos call a “river.” There are paths on either side, ramping up to meet with the Garvey bridge, the only one in the area crossing the wide trench. Here another cyclist with a rare helmet and bright yellow vest pulls in front of me. I notice the two canes strapped to the back of his bike and the single muscular calf pushing steadily along. On the far side of the bridge, I follow him off the sidewalk and back out into Garvey. If he’s brave enough to ride in the street, so am I.

I pass him slowly a few blocks later, calling out my own “Good morning.” After a few blocks, I pull left towards the turn onto Muscatel. I listen for a break in the traffic coming up behind me before glancing back, momentarily laying my chin on my left shoulder to peer behind. “Be careful,” he calls as he passes me where I wait in the left turn lane.

My path onto Muscatel is calmer, traveling through a sleepy residential neighborhood. Sleepy for Los Angeles anyway, with small, one-storey houses nestled two or three on a lot against the wide street. Along the main roads every house has a fence around the front lot and a closed gate across the drive. Fences are less ubiquitous here and gates are often left open. Cars park along the street. Little space is wasted on garages.

Muscatel continues down to Klingerman, where the neighborhood borders the large corporate campus of Edison International to the south dwarfing a small pocket park with its brightly colored play set. Multistory white buildings with vertical rows of black windows are set back behind wide parking lots and lawns, ringed by tall, unfamiliar trees.

Klingerman brings me to Walnut Grove, wide as Garvey but half as busy. From Klingerman south no cars park along the curb, despite the spaciousness, making an ideal cycle route. After Edison, a swanky new Wal-Mart is set far back behind its massive, palm tree dotted parking lot to the right and a golf course glows a deep green behind a tall chain link fence to the left.

The University drive appears suddenly along a empty seeming stretch of Walnut Grove, two stone walls cutting into the hill and leading up a steep hill to a small, almost hidden campus of pale two and three-story buildings, mature trees, green lawns, concrete parking lots, and a fountained courtyard. I can’t make it more than a third the way up without giving up to walk the rest of the steep rise.

The ride home during the afternoon is much the same, only hotter. The sun beats down relentlessly here and I feel the stress of my eyes held in a constant squint against the glare. I can see tall white clouds over the mountains and wish they would fly this way, but without much hope. I miss the rain.

Riding home after dark, though ostensibly more dangerous, is also more peaceful by comparison. I must trust in the flashing red light on the back of my basket and the steady white light on my handlebars, as well as my own alertness to keep me safe. Kids play on the darkened residential streets and an ice cream truck regularly parks along Muscatel, groups of adults and teens walking to and fro with tall cones. The businesses along Garvey are closed and only guard dogs note my passing. Some lift their heads but do not bark while others pace along the iron fences beside me, silent as smoke and sizzling underneath their dark coats.

I pull into my own darkened drive with a growing sense of homecoming, beneath the looming shadow of the giant tree that overhangs the street. Harry and his buddies are sitting in the carport, smoking cigarettes, drinking beer, and talking. It is their common evening activity. They greet me as I come in. Sometimes I’ll sit outside with them as I eat dinner, other times I’ll stay indoors and watch a television show or read my email before bed.

I don’t make the mistake of thinking my commute is safe or that I’ll never get hurt. I rather suspect I will. But this happens all the time whether one is a driver, walker, or cycler. I don’t think I’m more at risk for an accident, though I may be more likely to be seriously hurt in one if and when it occurs. It wouldn’t be my first cycling accident and probably not be my last. It makes me wonder how that other cyclist lost his leg. Could I get back up on the bike if I was seriously injured while riding? I don’t know. But I am careful and I stay alert. Cycling is much better mindfulness training than my meditation has ever been (though, yes, I know, I should still be meditating more).

I’m getting both my physical and mental exercise.

August 21, 2010

Going Without Knowing

Today was a new adventure. I rode up to Rosemead Place to have lunch at a Thai restaurant with Holly. I tried a fruit smoothie with tapioca balls. The smoothie was good, but I could do without the gooey, tasteless balls in the bottom. The pad thai with tofu was much better. The route along Rosemead Blvd was not really bicycle or pedestrian friendly. I walked my bike along the cracked and pocked shoulder for half the distance. On the way back I rode mostly in the narrow gutter between the right traffic lane and curbed and cracked shoulder. Trouble is, Rosemead is the only path over the Rio Hondo in that direction and under the I-10, so I may just have the brave it. Luckily the bad stretch isn’t very long.

The walk under the I-10 freeway today reminded me of the time I walked from Alameda to Oakland. Lest you think this is impossible, Alameda being an island, I assure you it is not. I took the subway and then a bus out to visit a firm there in a highly auto-centric office park near the College of Alameda. The bus stop was on one side of a very busy road and when I returned, I could not seem to locate where to catch the bus going in the opposite direction. I began walking down the road in the direction I wanted to go, figuring it was a bus route and I would eventually find a stop.

An hour later I had walked all the way to Oakland via the Webster Street Tunnel, at least a good mile underground. Where logic whispers maybe it may be time to turn around and find another route, I just press on, thinking since I’ve come this far and found no physical impediment to forward travel, I might as well continue. There is a path through the tunnel, an elevated walkway of sorts I’m sure is actually intended for maintenance and not pedestrians, but it was safe enough. The worst bit was the noise. I came up in a rather nice and touristy part of Oakland (well, okay, a slightly run down light industrial area two blocks from the touristy part), near the Jack London Square and waterfront. From there, finding a café, a bookstore, and a bus stop was easy.

I have the tendency to set out in the direction of my goal without fully understanding the path and trusting in my own abilities to get me there. I am steady in my resolve and hard to fluster, scare, or turn aside. This personality trait is not restricted to my travel patterns, which have led me on many a strange and marvelous trail. It is part of what allows me to come all the way out to California and make such a seemingly radical change in my life course (though naturally it makes perfect sense to me). It helped me complete my studies in architecture despite a very unclear path and many bumps in the road.

Harry remarks that I’ve settled in very quickly, much quicker than his last roommate who’d lived in the LA area all his life. I’ve been mostly hanging around the house, now and then going out to lunch or a lecture. The other night I sat outside and talked with Harry and his friend Tek for a while. Tomorrow morning, I plan to explore the Hispanic market across the street.

Even when the going is uncertain, my determination to get there is unshakable. I have a good sense of direction. I may not know where the bus stop is or where the tunnel comes out, but I know Oakland is northeast of Alameda. I may not realize all the differences between California and Nebraska yet, but I know a smile and a “thank you” works no matter where you are or what language you speak.

I may not know precisely what I’m going to do with this chaplaincy degree, but I know I’m capable of figuring that out by the time I get there.

Photo: In the Webster Street Tunnel from Alameda to Oakland, March 2008.

August 19, 2010


“So you are here as chaplaincy student?”


“And you are also Buddhist practitioner?”


“For how long?”

“Hmm, eight years.”

“Oh. So you do meditation?”

“Yes. Shamatha.”

“Ah. And you do every day?”

“No, not usually. I am very bad about it.”

“Oh. Why?”

“I’m just not very motivated to actually sit.”

“Oh. Do you chant?”


“Do you recite mantra?”


“Do you recite sutra?”


“Do you do prostration?”


“Do you worship the Buddha?”

“Well, I wouldn’t use the word ‘worship,’ but revere, yes.”

“Oh. So you have a Buddha statue?”


“What do you do?”

“Well, I read a lot, but otherwise my practice is not structured.”

“Ah, not structured. I see. What do you read? History or sutra or …”

“Lots of things. I started with Thich Naht Hanh and I’ve read some of Chogyam Trungpa and Pema Chodron. I’m in the middle of How the Swans Came to the Lake, a history on how Buddhism came to America.”

“Ah, How the Swans Came to the Lake is very good. Dr. Lancaster knows a lot about this.”

Just then Dr. Lancaster cleared his throat in preparation to begin the lecture and I was saved from the Venerable’s continued interrogation as she and I both found our seats. I wondered if in her eyes I am not a very good Buddhist. I have no rituals. Partly this is because I myself am somewhat biased against ritual, not because I don’t believe it beneficial or useful, but simply because I don’t believe it very useful to me. The other part is that, being unaffiliated, I’ve never learned the ‘proper’ way to conduct rituals, such as chanting or prostration, or the history or meaning behind them. (And Buddha forbid I do anything without knowing the why of it.) Anything I might do would be entirely arbitrary. So I do nothing.

I did not mention that writing is a large part of my practice. That would be a longer conversation that we had time for and not one I am certain I could participate in very well. As I’ve mentioned before, there is no historical or theological basis (that I’ve found) for writing as practice, except perhaps among the Zen poets, but that is of an entirely different format.

The questions remind me I have yet to unpack my Buddha. He shall go on a shelf in the corner within my bedroom that serves as a sort of entry, above the map chest and beside where I shall hang my hats. It is a fairly utilitarian corner, but the one I shall always see immediately upon entering the room, and indeed, the house. First I need to be able to afford to buy a shelf. That is likely all the ritual I shall have, though I may try yet again to take up daily meditation (and probably fail at least half a dozen more times).

The rituals the Venerable questioned me about do not seem to me to be particularly Buddhist things. They are simply things Buddhists happen to do. They are also things Christians and Muslims and Hindus happen to do. This is perhaps part of the reason I have eschewed them. I do not perceive it as helpful for me to define myself as a Buddhist by whether or not I engage in this or that ritual. Rather, I should say I am a Buddhist because I have witnessed the Four Noble Truths. I try to follow the Noble Eightfold Path, hold the Five Precepts, cultivate the Six Perfections, and understand the Three Hallmarks of Existence. I am Buddhist because I suffer and want to end suffering, for myself and all sentient beings.

However, ritual is something I will have to come to terms with. Many people find ritual very soothing and helpful. The military is full of ritual. Daily culture is full of ritual. Religion is full of ritual and for very good reason. What I perceive as a cultural contrivance of occasional functional value, others perceive as vitally important for a directed, balanced, and harmonious life. Nor are they mistaken. We all have different needs, different ways of ordering our minds and lives, different ways of marking significance or seeking comfort. It will be my duty as a chaplain to provide for these needs of others, and that includes knowing and being able to conduct the appropriate rituals in the appropriate circumstances.

Where my worry lies is in that I may be perceived (or may actually be) hypocritical for helping others in rituals of spiritual significance while I myself have so very few. If and when I participate in religious ritual at all, it is for public consumption. I participate in group meditation, group chanting, group ceremonies. Behind closed doors, I just remind myself to be good and count that sufficient. Of course, behind closed doors I also walk around in my underwear. We do many things for the benefit of others when we are with others and many things for the benefit of only ourselves when we are not.

I am comfortable with no rituals. I am uncomfortable with rituals that feel contrived, static, and arbitrary when conducted only for my own sake. I believe I should be comfortable within my own practice. However, I am equally comfortable carrying out ritual for the sake of others. If it is of benefit to them and makes them feel better, how could I be uncomfortable with that?

Personally, I do not feel that rituals have any mystical significance in and of themselves. I believe their sole benefit is to the person engaged then and there with the ritual. If it helps them cultivate patience, for example, that could be of benefit later to others they will encounter in their day to day lives. That is interdependence. Rituals benefit the participants, not the souls of the dead or untold masses of suffering beings. However, if the participants believe otherwise, I am perfectly content with that. After all, the rituals could benefit the souls of the dead and untold masses of suffering beings. It is possible. My opinion as to its likelihood is merely that, an opinion. What is obvious is that the participants who benefit in turn benefit others. That makes ritual a worthy enough endeavor for me.

Though I hold no religious rituals for myself, I still value them.

Making Our Own Milestones

Robin Marantz Henig of the New York Times asks: “Getting to what we would generally call adulthood is happening later than ever. But why?” in the August 18 article “What Is It About 20-Somethings?”

As an official member of the 20-Somethings for nine more days, I feel the urge to answer. (Not that I think the urge will magically pass the moment I turn thirty, but one never knows.) First of all, Henig is using five criteria for adulthood identified by sociologists: completing our education, moving out, becoming financially independent, marrying, and having kids. So why aren’t we completing all five steps and becoming stable “adults?” Maybe it’s because we just don’t buy it. We don't all see the value in these things that others have.

Henig references a comic in the New Yorker showing a young man hanging his PhD on the wall of his boyhood bedroom, his bewildered parents watching. Another shows a graduate in cap and gown clutching a college diploma and being strangled by a tassel labeled “debt.” Of the thirty students who graduated with a Masters of Architecture from UNL this spring, I know of two with jobs in the field, and they’re two who already had those jobs while in college. The prior year’s statistics weren’t much better. And the alternatives? Work at a coffee shop and earn just enough to make your student loan payments, move back in with the folks (or both), or continue with school. We’re going to be the most educated generation ever, for all the good it will do us.

So if a smart few aren’t buying the college recruiter’s spiel, I say good for them. Right now my brother is doing far better financially than I am on a high school diploma. He’s smart and he works hard and he’s no enormous student loan debt to repay. He’s hit all but the last of those five criteria, and that is by choice.

Yes, he and my sister-in-law have chosen not to have children. I don’t think that makes them any less adults. In fact, I think it’s rather responsible of them. Neither is what I would call a terribly nurturing individual (though they are both very loyal and loving) and they’ve made the conscious decision to spend their time, money, and attention on each other and the adult family they already have.

Right now I am reading the memoir of Mary Pipher, Seeking Peace, and the parents she describes in another era might have been better off not having children – a workaholic physician mother and a volatile, unsettled father. Of course, I’m sure she’s rather glad they followed societies' dictates, as am I, but that’s a red herring. She grew up into a good person more or less on her own, as did her siblings.

I think one could make a reasoned argument that today’s 20-somethings don’t buy into the “traditional” storyline. College is often more trouble than it’s worth if all you’re looking for is return on investment, to do your time and settle down into a “good” job, scarcer and scarcer these days, so you can get on with your “real” life. Alternately, it’s become a lifestyle choice, a chance to spend your years in a state of constant inquiry, and for many, myself included, that has tremendous appeal. Given that we haven’t bought into the former "real life" mantra, the questions that leaves us with leads many to the latter.

We’ve watched are grandparents, parents, aunts and uncles, all follow the traditional path to adulthood and we’ve noticed they don’t seem any happier or better off than we are. The world doesn’t seem to have improved significantly since the end of World War II, which is when this so-called “traditional” pattern began, “…built on the expectation of an orderly progression in which kids finish school, grow up, start careers, make a family and eventually retire to live on pensions supported by the next crop of kids who finish school, grow up, start careers, make a family and on and on. The traditional cycle seems to have gone off course, as young people remain un¬tethered to romantic partners or to permanent homes, going back to school for lack of better options, traveling, avoiding commitments, competing ferociously for unpaid internships or temporary (and often grueling) Teach for America jobs, forestalling the beginning of adult life.” This tradition is only about sixty years old. Social security, built on the taxes of young people, only started in 1935. That’s old for a car, but young for a cultural tradition, a scant three or four generations. My grandmother was born before social security existed.

Yes, things are better now than they were for her. We have more freedoms and more tolerance and, most especially, more stuff, but on the heels of the Baby Boom, things have rather reached a plateau. We still have wars, poverty, violence, injustice, divisiveness, starvation, and innumerable other evils in the world. Earlier generations as a group, don’t appear to be happier, saner, wiser, or more productive individuals than later ones for having completed these so-called milestones. Perhaps that is a deceptive appearance and the value of these five traditions can only be judged by those who have achieved them, but surely we can learn something from observation alone.

I can’t speak for others, but what I observe is that achieving each of these five milestones involves compromise. Something is gained but something is also lost. What we 20-Somethings are unsure of is whether the first something is truly better than the second. Is finishing our education so we can get a “good” job, be financially independent, and afford our own home, car, and white picket fence truly better than continuing to explore the world, either physically through travel or intellectually through academia? We have so many questions and that piece of paper called a diploma does not seem to offer any answers. Nor does the nine to five or the house in the suburbs. Rather it only promises we will be too busy living that daily grind to continue seeking. At least, this is the outward appearance, and a scary one for many.

Nor do we necessarily believe our happiness is to be found in a partner or children. And many who do are legally forbad having either, in a grand tragedy of intolerance. I have no reason to believe my life would be any better were I married (having seen a number of lives made worse) nor that I could significantly improve the life of another through my consistent presence. I might like to hope both are true, but I’m not going to hinge my self-worth on either. The same is true of children, as I’ve discussed before. We have been raised to be independent, to think and do for ourselves, and that naturally makes pairing up a more difficult proposition than for past generations where expectations and roles were clearer (though not better).

So if we have yet to reach the five milestones – education, stability, independence, marriage, and children – perhaps it’s because we don’t think they’re worth it. Maybe this will change. Maybe the sociologists are right to label this “emerging adulthood” and we’ll all get there in time, if a little slower than previous generations. Their twenties will become our thirties.

Maybe we’ll replace these milestones with ones of our own. I’ve visited foreign countries. My parents can’t claim that, nor most of my grandparents. I've chosen my religion. I’ve completed three college degrees (diploma pending). I’ve held eighteen different jobs in fourteen years (usually two at a time), which means I have a remarkable variety of experience to draw from. I’ve published over three-hundred thousand words online (granted, not all of them good). I’ll call those my milestones and challenge other generations to do better (hard to do worse), but to do so on their own terms.

Tradition may have value, but it can’t simply be given if the recipient doesn't buy into it.

August 18, 2010

Lazy & Learning in L.A.

Did you know there are Tamil words in the Hebrew Bible? Tamil is the language of the Dravidian peoples at the very southern tip of India. King Solomon imported peacocks to his court from this area and, of course, there was no Hebrew word for peacock, so they called them by the Tamil word (or a very close approximation), tukki. This is not to say that the Hebrew Bible is Indian in origin (although Vatican scholars have just published a paper demonstrating the songs of Solomon are actually Tamil love poetry and the love they describe isn’t love of God, but good old fashioned, ahem, love). However, it shows there was significant trade and communication between these two regions of the world earlier and of greater degree than previously thought.

For example, the Gnostic Gospels, those books omitted from the New Testament, also provide evidence, such as the Six Perfections listed in the correct (that is, the Mahayana Buddhist) order. These virtues are often listed in religious and philosophical texts. Many agree on any four or five, but nowhere else can all six be found listed in order: generosity, morality, patience, diligence, concentration, and wisdom. (The Theravadans have four more: renunciation, honesty, loving-kindness, and equanimity.

These are just a couple things I learned this week at the lecture series being offered at UWest by Dr. Lewis Lancaster. The series is titled “Chinese Buddhism: A New Look,” though after two nights we’ve yet to get to China, but I like that because I find setting up the context is vitally important. It’s been fascinating.

Dr. Lancaster suggests that while trade with the Near East and Rome was strong (by sea and land) in the centuries after the time of the Buddha, it diminished significantly after the fall of Rome, which began its decline in the first centuries of the common era and was sacked by the Visigoths in 410. (And what did the Visigoths demand in tribute? Three-thousand tons of black pepper from India, which Rome actually had in stock, among other things.) Trade shifted from the west side of the Indian peninsula to the east side, around the Bay of Bengal and Southeast Asia. Thus Buddhism gained a stronger foothold there and its presence in the northwest (North India, Pakistan, and Afghanistan, in the ports and along the land trade routes and the Indus River) slowly diminished, especially following the rise of Islam.

As fascinating as this is, I doubt I’ll have time or energy to detail everything I will be learning here in the blog. Although, it would be a wonderful study aid. I’ll be taking four classes: Spiritual Development, Interfaith Chaplaincy, Buddhist Meditation, and Religion, Science, and Society. I’m keeping my eyes open for a job, but I’ve determined not to start looking seriously for a few weeks. I want to get some sense of my class schedule, workload, and the area. This is very odd as I’ve not been unemployed since I was fifteen years old, but I think it will be good for me. I’ve never had the opportunity to be a fully-committed student. It would be lovely if I could find an academic means of support, a research grant or some such, and I will diligently search for one in the meantime.

My cat has just reminded me not to leave her out of this post. She has taken to sitting on window sills and in doorways. I’ve taken the cue from Harry for leaving the inner doors open during the day and locking the iron screens, which are just as sturdy as the solid wooden doors, complete with deadbolts. She likes to sit on the rug by the front door and look out. So far she has not tried to escape. She is still shy of Harry, but I suspect this is because he rarely sits down. He is always coming and going, gone during the day, working out as soon as he returns, and out to dinner with friends and family afterward. If he was still for any amount of time, I’m sure she would quickly discover another lap.

Today I’ve nothing to do, no plan. This evening my parents close on the sale of my condo in Lincoln. I’ll call them after to ensure it went through and then tomorrow I’ll call and take the utilities out of my name. Otherwise my entire list of goals includes finding the local NPR channel (check), eating lunch, eating dinner, washing the dishes, and reading. I might walk down to Garvey and explore some of the little markets or restaurants, but not too much as I’m saving my pennies until my aid comes through.

La, what a life!

August 15, 2010

L.A. Update

The Buddhist In Nebraska is now officially the Buddhist [from] Nebraska. Yup. That's right. Hello, L.A.

I have now settled in to my new digs in El Monte, California, part of the cornucopia of suburbs surrounding Los Angeles. Two trips to Ikea, one to Wal-Mart, a tiring but fun morning at the Long Beach Flea Market, and $1000 later and my room is looking like a room - complete with bed, desk, and all-important bookshelves. I am living three miles from University of the West in a nice house with an easy going guy named Harry, who has very graciously given me the master bed/bath, and seems happy to tolerate my finicky cat, not to mention my folks who are staying with us until Tuesday. That's about two days too long, as it turns out, considering I'm already practically completely unpacked and settled in. The folks are currently in the living room having commandeered Harry's fabulous giant television. So, I'm taking a moment to jot a note to explain my recent absence from the buddhablogosphere.

I think I will like it here. The house, not much to look at from the outside, has been entirely remodeled inside. My room is a rather lovely shade of powder blue with a slightly darker blue in the also newly remodeled attached bath and dressing room/closet. It opens onto a little entry on the side of the house that also connects to Harry's room/bath and a narrow galley kitchen with all new everything, including a giant stainless steel fridge (but no dishwasher, alas!). The living room is a cheerful mustard/gold/yellow with handsome reddish wood floors.

Harry is my age, fit, works at a bank, likes beer, kids, and tossing the ball in the backyard with his buddies. The house shares the lot with two others. The middle one is home to Tiffany and Peter and their four kids (three boys and a little girl all under ten) and an older lady whose name I've not caught, but we've been calling Mama-san. Harry tells me a couple with two older children live in the front house. Harry and I are in the back house, and every other week his two year old son, Nate, will be here as well. That will be ... interesting. There are also two grapefruit and a kumquat tree in the backyard and a few branches full of avocados from the neighbor's tree.

The neighborhood is busy and full of life, kids especially, as the neighbors on the north also have a herd. It is a driving area, with wide streets and plenty of traffic on nearby Garvey Street, but also plenty of people on foot or pedal power. People seem to spend more time outdoors here and I can see why. The weather has been sunny and warm, but not hot, low humidity, no bugs, with cool, breezy evenings and mornings. We've barely used the air conditioner and only when we were sweaty from moving boxes and assembling ingenious Swedish furniture. The house doesn't even have heat, just a couple of space heaters tucked in a corner of the back entry. The laundry machines are outside in the carport with Harry's weight bench.

I had only intended to buy a mattress and bookshelf, but my parents decided lending me the money for a proper bed frame would be cheaper than staying in the hotel another four nights just because their knees are too creaky to get up off the floor in the morning. And while we were there, we might as well get the desk that goes with the bookshelf. So my room is rather more furnished than I had anticipated. It's all dark and sleek and very modern, much different from the antique-eclectic-found furnishing vibe I had going on in Lincoln. My old map chest makes an interesting counterpoint. Today at the flea market we found a bright red metal cabinet for $50 (we were hunting for a dresser) for my bath/dressing room/closet. (Mom also found a dozen other knickknacks which will be making the long flight back to Nebraska.) In my future I see some hanging shelves for the last of my books, a couple of rugs, and fewer suitcases, but already this feels very much like home.

I'm holding nothing back. I thought briefly about leaving most of my things boxed, in case I wanted to hedge my bets, but in the end I've unpacked all but six (perhaps the original six?). The others are folded and slid under my new queen bed. That's another change - that bed. I insisted on a queen. It's a way of making room in my life for someone other than myself. Who that someone is, I've yet to discover, but I'm determined to make an effort.

Tomorrow morning I go up to the University for advising and registration. Then my Dad wants to look at Honda motorcycle dealerships just for fun. In the afternoon, we're going to visit Hsi Lai Temple. Then, bright and early Tuesday morning, by which I mean when it's still dark, my parents will head back to Nebraska, taking the lovely Jeep Grand Cherokee rental with them. And I'll be on my own, cat, old blue bicycle, new Ikea furniture, and all.