Events and Triumphs

I am living in hipster-ville. The airbnb where I am staying specifically states on the website that it provides breakfast. And there are all sorts of cereals in boxes on top of the fridge. But when I tried to make myself a cuppa, there was no milk. There was coconut creamer (whatever that is) but no milk.

There is also no coffee here. Well, there is Turkish coffee, but that’s not going to help me, I looked at the instructions and it was pretty complex. I get the feeling that this is very special coffee and if you can build an outside fire and make the whole thing in a clay pot then that would be better, really. There’s heaps and heaps of herbal tea.

So I went shopping to Trader Joe’s and bought a little carton of organic half-and-half milk. No hormones, antibiotics, or pesticides. Then I could have a nice cuppa using the decaf coffee I brought from home.

(Ok, I am tying myself in knots here because it’s actually Saturday morning but I’m writing Friday’s blog. I was trying to pretend (or lie?) but I can do it no longer. I didn’t get to writing the blog at all yesterday. But that’s ok. If you remember, I thought life might get a bit hectic and I might not make a daily post. If you’re in Australia you won’t even notice.)

Yesterday’s adventures involved heading to a café to meet one of Catherine’s very good friends. Getting there late, finding that he was going to be later, and then (after a really nice latte) finding that he was at a completely different café so packing up and meeting him there.

The middle part of the day I came back to my digs and relaxed a bit while Catherine frantically did all sorts of things at her place. Then in the evening we went to a Film Fatales event that Catherine had been helping to organise, where female composers, directors, and cinematographers came together to network. It was a great night, very successful. Someone told me that these sort of meets happen twice a week but that they are never ‘this good’. So I think it was a triumph and I’m proud of Cath for pulling it off.

I had a name tag that put me in the composer camp so that led to several of these conversations, ‘so, you’re a composer?’ ‘Um, no.  I’m Catherine’s sister, over from Australia.’ Then we’d have the Australia conversation. I even picked up a couple of business cards and someone promised to read my book.

Today we have a brunch and a party. I’ll keep you posted. Hope you all have a great day today too!

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IT Detox?

orchestration
Here are Catherine and Joe, hard at work, while I just watched in wonderment.

I didn’t expect this trip to be an IT detox trip. Not that it’s a complete removal from anything online by any means but I am learning to live without my phone.

The first few days were already a challenge as the phone had been turned to airplane mode and was only going to be used when wifi was available, or in an emergency. I kept pulling it out of my purse or pocket to look something up, or to text someone, and then realising that I couldn’t do that while I was out and about, and would have to wait until I got home, or got to a café where wifi was available. It wasn’t much of an imposition but it was different to my normal.

Now that the phone is completely dead (the screen got smashed when I fell over and doesn’t light up anymore) we’re just hoping that the emergency doesn’t happen and I’m learning to live without the phone at all.

The phone was my camera, my bible, my note book, my audiobooks, my podcasts, and my calendar. Now I have none of these things in my pocket, and only some of them available on my laptop. It’s an adjustment.

It’s good to have these kinds of challenges every now and then, just to remind us what a sci-fi world we live in, and that life can go on without all the luxuries.

In other news, this morning we met with an (or should I say another?) award winning composer and talked orchestration. Well, they did, I listened and learned. It was fascinating what a difference the correct orchestration can make to a composition.

Then we went out for lunch with another friend, travelled to The Valley to drop off another friend, and took me to my new digs (I’m staying in an airbnb, as planned, for the next few nights). Tonight we had a hang out at a rooftop bar, so I had a nanna nap this afternoon. The pace is getting to me 🙂 No, actually it’s been an amazing visit, I’ve met fantastic people, lots of composers and writers, seen so much of the city, and had quality time with my sister.

And now, to bed.

What time is it?

Alfredos coffee
Apologies for the fuzzy photo. This is the very hipster coffee place where we started the day today. Good coffee. Yes, they make good coffee here, in places.

Today has been really delightful. We have gone to a very shiny part of town where Catherine had a really encouraging and exciting business meeting. I did some writing. I only felt a little bit like a toddler who sits on an adjoining table and plays with crayons while the parents talk.

Afterwards we walked along Melrose (I know! Melrose!) and looked at all the shiny shops, and saw some shooting taking place. (Movie shooting. It’s all good.) Big trailers and stuff.

Then we came home, and we were just popping out for lunch when the adventure happened.

I tripped.

Big time.

Face plant.

I’ve scraped my hands and my knee, my chin and my lip, and I’ve chipped my tooth.

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So talented to do that in the very city that is concerned more about looks than any other place in the universe.

The homeless people sitting on the pavement just behind us were quite concerned about me.

I have also destroyed my phone.

So it’s been quite the day.

Right now, I’m sitting on the couch watching Catherine record the work of an amazing vocalist. It’s so fun to get an inside look at what happens in the world of making movies. Mostly the music bit but there’s a chance I might even see some filming this week.

After the recording, the plan is to go out for dinner with another friend and then have a quiet evening. It had better be quiet. I’ve had quite enough adventure for today.

Oh, and the time I fell? Truthfully? It was two-thirty. Tooth-hurty. Geddit? Geddit?

Interesting cultural differences

the syrup aisle
So much maple flavoured syrup!

Here’s a fun thing: There’s a shop near me, and when you try to steal stuff by taking it through the door with the ID tags still attached, it doesn’t set off a screaming, beeping alarm. Instead there is a polite voice saying, ‘Excuse me, but we seem to have forgotten to remove one of our ID tags from your purchases. Please bring your purchase to the register so we can remove the tags.’

So polite. Not necessarily a bad thing. It does repeat over and over, but hey. (It wasn’t us with the ID tags still attached, by the way, it just happened while we were there.)

And today, when we were buying groceries, the self checkout asked us to, ‘Please put your item in the bagging area’ with every item. But then, one of the items was a bag of mushrooms. They needed to be weighed and the code put in, so the announcement changed slightly:

‘Please put your “mushrooms” in the bagging area.’

Catherine thought she (the phantom voice) sounded proud to know what was being bagged. But I thought she sounded mighty suspicious of the “mushrooms”.

The picture today is of the maple syrup aisle. I just can’t get over how many bottles of syrup there are. And also how the instant coffee is locked away in a glass cabinet and that you need to call for assistance to purchase it.

All these interesting cultural differences.

Today also we’ve been to Hollywood proper, with all the stars on the footpath, and people dressed in costume, and famous theatres and waxworks museums and stuff, and Scientology people accosting you on every corner. We just walked past all this on our way to the subway after going to an amazing Mexican restaurant for lunch, but it was an experience anyway.

New blue, nice blue, nice new blue shoes. And a party.

turtles

Part 1:

I am sitting in the apartment listening to Catherine talk to a director about a movie. Some of the conversation I can keep up with (and even contribute to a little) but some of it is in another language.

Today has been delightful (again). We had a slow morning rise, and then went for a walk around the shady parts of Griffith Park. Shady as in there were trees giving us shade from the blazing sun (yay, we got summer today) and we didn’t go to the bare hillside where we would have baked. It was really beautiful. We saw a snake, and some turtles, and some little fishes.

Then we did a little shopping, I bought some new blue shoes, we got groceries. Then after lunch I worked in a café until it closed, and then moved to another café to keep working while Catherine worked at home.

It’s been restful, warm, and productive. And now it’s just about time to party.

****

Part 2:

The party was fun. We were at the Netflix building, which is walking distance from Catherine’s house. We were given popcorn and water and we watched episode 7 of Godless which was a western thing. Lots of shooting. Lots and lots and lots of shooting. And really amazing scenery, which a friend told me afterwards was totally wrong, ‘you don’t get a nice valley like that unless you go 100 miles up into the mountains.’

After the viewing, the composer came out and answered questions. He was hilarious. He kept saying things like, ‘oh yes, this guy, my orchestrator, he doesn’t suck’ and ‘the cellist, just forget it.’ Which were both really high compliments.

He also told us that you can sleep for 20 minutes, wake up for 10 minutes, and then work for four hours and you can do that for, I think he said five weeks, if you’re really under pressure and need to get work done. Not what I’m planning to do.

And then there was the party part where I met heaps of Catherine’s friends. I managed to drop the finger food on the floor but not get it all down my front, so I think that’s a win. Had fun chats about D and D, books and movies, music, all that stuff. And afterwards we found a bar called Know Where and had a bit more chatting before coming home and dropping into bed.

I am obviously writing this the morning after, but I couldn’t have written anything that made sense last night. It was so cool to be part of something like that and to see a window into the film world here.

I’m caffeinated now, and I’ve had a nice plain breakfast, and I’m almost ready to see what today holds. So far, it has held sunshine and a hummingbird.

If you wave I might see you

The ocean

You know those ‘days off’ that are so full that you need a day off to recover? That was today.

We went to church (amazing pipe organ, beautiful choral music, awesome stained glass), then we came home and got dressed more warmly (I was promised summer), and then went to an amazing Jewish deli for lunch (good sandwiches, huge pickles), then walked (through a cool marketplace thing) to LACMA (a museum, we just walked around the grounds but it was still amazing), then went to see a movie with a friend (Incredibles 2, good fun), then ate dinner (quesadillas and tacos), then came home.

I saw the Pacific Ocean from the other side, and sang about the Santa Monica Boulevard. I saw lots of things, actually. I have some processing to do. My brain is very full.

Tomorrow I need to work, and Catherine also needs to work. I think we might find it more restful than our day off. Then, in the evening, I will be experiencing the real show time Hollywood-ness of L.A. I hope that I have enough energy to tell you about it afterwards.

Being looked after

There has been a few God things this trip already. Call them coincidences if you like. I’ll allow that.

The first of these amazing happenings started its story a couple of years ago. Caleb just happened to have the same profile picture as a guy called Jake. Jake reached out and they became friends. Then Jake decided to attend university in Tasmania. Caleb picked him up from the airport and they’ve had some classes together. It’s been cool.

Well, Jake decided to go home early. And in an amazing coincidence we were booked on the same flight. That meant that we could take him to the airport in Tasmania and in even more of a coincidence, my destination in LA is on the way to his destination. So he (or the friend who picked him up) could easily drop me off.

That’s when the second God thing happened. I was buzzing my sister’s apartment (and the buzzer apparently doesn’t work) and the guys who dropped me off were double-parked outside and waiting for me to get in. And I had a backup plan here, just letting you know. But no plan at all was needed because one of Catherine’s neighbours took one look at me and let me into the complex. She didn’t speak a lot of English but she said, ‘Sister? Yes, sister. Same face.” Which was hilarious. So, on the basis of a very strong family resemblance I was up and knocking on my sister’s door in no time and giving her a huge hug.

So it’s been a very promising start.  The hug was followed up with three hours sleep, a nice walk around the neighbourhood, and a beautiful lunch together on a rooftop restaurant. I’ve taken some touristy photos and enjoyed the warmth.

I’m looking forward to what tomorrow will bring!

All up in the air

view from the plane

I write this from the air over Tasmania. I’m on a flight to Sydney, then from there to LA. I can hardly believe it myself.

It’s about 15 hours since I finished my last day of work at the university. My final PhD student handed in his thesis. I handed in my keys. I am actually done, and moving on to my new life.

Starting with, a brief interlude in LA.

I am going to visit my sister, meet as many of her friends as possible, see the places she hangs out, and then she’ll be coming back with me to Tassie so that she can visit all of us. We haven’t hung out together for three years. It’s going to be a really wonderful time.

The plan is to give you all a little blog update every day of my LA visit. I don’t know whether it’s going to work but I think it will be fun if it does. Notice the lack of commitment in that sentence. I’m not up to committing to a challenge right now. I’ve been awake since 3am. I’m not thinking clearly. But I’m hopeful.

The coast of Tasmania is disappearing below the wing of the aircraft. I’m in a window seat with a row of seats all to myself. I would love it if that happened for the long haul flight too but I reckon that will be too much to ask.

My poor little brain is going overtime trying to process the changes that are happening right now. I had a really big, ‘What on earth am I doing? Am I totally crazy?’ moment as I handed in my keys yesterday and left work for the final time. But when I got home I opened a bottle of bubbly and had a quiet moment of celebration with Moz. And this morning, I’m just trying to process the fact that I’m flying to America. Maybe I’ll catch up with myself in a few weeks. We shall see.

The sun has just popped over the horizon. I’m about to be served a coffee. I’m going to keep this short and sign off, and maybe give you a few more thoughts from the other plane before I put this online.

Now I’m in the air over the ocean. You know, it’s really amazing that we can fly in these metaltubes. I was reminded of this as we drove in the bus from the domestic to the international terminal in Sydney. In front of me was a little boy, about two years old I reckon. He was so excited.

He’d give a big gasp and say ‘plane!’ and then another gasp and then ‘plane!’ and as we got to the international terminal and the planes were bigger and closer he couldn’t even get the word out. It was just gasp after gasp. I was hoping he wouldn’t hyperventilate. It was the cutest, and absolutely hilarious. (Though one of my friends who works in baggage handling is pretty much the same when it comes to planes I think. He loves his job. Which is wonderful.)

I love to fly. It’s fun. I like the food, the choice of movies, the little hot towelettes you get to refresh yourself, the blankets and the pillows.

I don’t like not being able to lie down to sleep, the fact that I’m sitting right in front of the toilets, and the constant noise. But you know, soon I’m going to be so tired that none of that will matter. I hope.

Catch you on the other side of the Pacific Ocean.

It’s all happening now!

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Life is a funny thing. It runs along, and runs along, and we all make it through each day, and then suddenly big changes happen. And even though they may be long anticipated, there always seems to be a surprise when they finally come to pass.

I made a decision last June that I would leave my position in the university. It was a firm decision, though I didn’t know what I was leaving to go to, apart from doing more writing, of course.

Anyway, it was a decision, and it was firm, I was going to work until the end of my two contracts and then that would be it.

My first contract, the teaching contract, finished in December. I shed many tears after my last class, and then found that I didn’t miss the teaching nearly as much as I thought I would.

Then I fell into the new routine of two days at university per week, working on papers and helping my remaining PhD student to get his thesis together. It all got very comfortable. I started my new editing business and I collected a nice number of customers. I had a new direction to head in. I launched my books. Life was going along well.

But, as it turns out, it’s was going along well towards the edge of a cliff.

Next week is my last week at university. Next week this chapter in my life comes to an end. And I think that it doesn’t matter how much you prepare yourself for this kind of thing, when it happens, it’s a shock.

A couple of weeks ago the chemistry department held a prize giving event, and as part of that I was thanked for my teaching and given a beautiful pearl pendant necklace. Yesterday we had a proper farewell lunch (shared with a beloved colleague who is also leaving) with gifts of flowers and wine and chocolate, and a HUGE cake. Next week, on my very last day at the uni, there will be another lunch from another part of the department to say goodbye.

It’s long anticipated, but it also feels like it has come up quickly. I have been preparing for this time for the last year, but at the same time there will be major adjustments to make. I’m ready to leave academic life, but at the same time, academia was a dream that I invested so much in and giving up that dream is still hard. I’m looking forward to leaving, but I will miss the camaraderie, the friends and colleagues, and probably even the work. And no matter how much we all say we’ll stay in touch, the fact is that things will change.

I won’t have much time to dwell on it though. I formally finish work on Friday the 15th and at 7am on Saturday the 16th I will be in a plane heading to LA. Not because I want to see LA, as such, but to visit my beloved sister, the wonderful Catherine Joy (of Catherine Joy Music – check her out on Facebook). That also has been long planned and long anticipated but to actually have it happening now feels … well it feels big. Especially getting up at 3am or whatever on Saturday. I don’t want to think about that part of it.

So yes, life is changing for me. In a big way. I look forward to sharing the ups and downs of the new life with you all, and I hope you enjoy hearing about my new small adventures.

I’m hoping that my life can become the quiet life that I long for.

I tell you one thing, I feel so very blessed, so incredibly privileged to be able to even attempt this change. I know that this jump into the unknown is only possible for me because I was born in this country, I was born white, the government loaned me the money for my university studies and paid me to undertake them, and many other blessings through the years that are in no way dependent on what I’ve done. I am so grateful.

So I hope to help others with the privilege I’ve been given. And to make good use of the time I have in the years ahead. Here’s to new (quiet) adventures!

A cure for the latest serious health crisis

Christmas party
I wasn’t sure what picture to use to best represent community. Then I thought a pic of our street Christmas party might do it. Just a few of us, getting together, eating and chatting, and enjoying the company.

The best part of church for me last Sunday was the notices. Yes, you’d think that wouldn’t be a highlight of the service, but last Sunday for me it was, because I was suddenly overwhelmed by gratitude and love for my community. Probably a weird reaction to the notices, but hear me out.

The church has been sending out ‘help!’ emails over the last few weeks. We had a massive storm here (link to the big wet) and the church floors were covered with water. All of the church building, and all of the church hall. Our chapel is on slightly higher ground and didn’t get affected but the rest of the property, hoo boy.

On the Friday after the storm the call went out for help and about 80 volunteers congregated to mop up, clean up, and move all the pews and wipe the feet and put them back. It was a huge effort by an amazing team. (I didn’t go, but we had our own clean up to do.) And it meant that we could all do church on Sunday as usual. Well, nearly as usual, the floor was still a bit wet and a bit stinky, some activities had to be moved or cancelled but we did our best.

The carpets all needed to be thrown out, so last week once the assessors had assessed, the call came out again and an army of volunteers (again, not me) lifted carpet and laid some new carpet tiles so that the children have somewhere to do Sunday school.

It takes a community to be able to deal with these major life crises. But it’s not just the crises, celebrations are well taken care of by community too.

My Mum has been the music minister in another church here for the last 12 years or something and that time drew to a close last month. As part of the farewells, the church held a concert, a ‘ham and jam’ night, and I was privileged to attend.

Everyone in the church who wanted to had been invited to perform and that gave the night a flavour that was unique and completely inclusive. We started with a fanfare and a piece by the church choir, then Chopin’s Raindrop Prelude on the piano was followed by a Colin Buchanan song sung by six kids – one evacuating her nose, two singing like this was the most serious thing ever, two swaying and dancing and jumping, and one rubbing sleepy eyes. The littlest (she with the nose) stopped half way through the song, took a short break, and then started again. Beyond cute, I tell you.

A vet told some animal stories and his daughter joined him on stage half way through, smiling at all of us. He just picked her up and kept going. A young lad in a bowtie played a rag on the piano. When he’d finished he bowed, then raced down and gave his mum a high five, and then ran back up to the stage to collect the music he’d left on the piano stand. We had a stand up comedian, he was over 80 years old. He said he was past his best before date, but hopefully not past his use by date.

There were comings and goings, noises and children’s conversation but it didn’t spoil the atmosphere at all. As the night went on the children gradually disappeared home to bed, but the poems and tales, songs – funny and serious, beautiful music, and dances went on. The night ended again with the church choir. It was a beautiful honouring of Mum and a gorgeous celebration of community.

Community is acceptance, not just tolerance, but love for all different people. For the person with autism, the screaming toddler, the elderly one who chats on and on, the tattooed muscle guy, every body type, every energy level. It’s not something that can be legislated, though we do need rules to support and draw attention to those we may be overlooking. Judgement and comparison kill community, empathy is crucial.

Community is putting aside your own needs and wants for the good of others. It’s giving up a Saturday afternoon’s relaxation to clean up a church hall for Sunday morning. It’s putting others first. Not allowing yourself to be a doormat, but choosing at times to give up what you want for what will benefit others.

And community is vital for our own wellbeing. Loneliness is the new smoking, right? (Or is that sitting? Or sugar? I can’t remember). Having a community around you protects you from mental illnesses and brings you into a place where you feel secure and loved. Not that we have to attend every activity that’s going on all the time. If you’ve read this blog at all you’ll know I’m not advocating that. But being a part of a family group, having your tribe, it’s important.

I must admit, I’m enjoying community a bit more now that I’m not overwhelmed by work. Maybe if your work-life balance doesn’t allow you to be part of a small group of people once a month or so then can I suggest it might be out of whack? Changes might need to be made.

Oh, and one more thing, while I’m on the subject. I have read over and over again on my author internet sites that you cannot expect the support of your family and friends. That family and friends won’t give a flying flower about your book, your launch, your writing. So I just want to say how grateful I am to you all, friends both online and in person, who have bought the books, written reviews, given encouragement, attended launch events, and passed the books on to friends. You have totally blown me away and I am so grateful for you all.

You, my community, totally rock! I am so thrilled to be a small part of such a great group of people.

If you are now wondering which books I’m talking about, then head to www.ruthamos.com.au and www.rjamos.com and you’ll find them there.