Wednesday, July 24, 2013

A Holiday Adventure

Howdy, Blogverse!

(Seriously, people, I know you're out there - I have a counter on my dashboard that tells me that you've been reading so you can hide in the darkness of the Internet all you want, I know you're there.)

Anyway, I hope everyone had a lovely 4th of July (almost a month later, what is wrong with me!?), celebrating the fact that none of us have British accents or a real royal family by blowing shit up and eating disgusting amounts of food. I stayed in, cleaned my house with the AC blasting and only ventured outside to watch the fireworks from the alley with my neighbors because drunk people in the park is not my idea of fun.

ANYWAY. The "fun" part of my holiday was a real adventure (kinda? There were no bad guys with guns, car chases, or mega mysteries to unravel) in our own town! I've lived in the LA metropolis area my entire life, even lived in the city itself for 3 years, but only did a handful of touristy things in that time. SO last friday (July 5) my parents decided it would be fun to go on a historical tour of old Hollywood/Beverly Hills/Los Angeles. I'm thinking old buildings, film trivia, classic films and how El Pueblo de Los Angeles became the big bad LA we know and love.

We were so. wrong.
File:Pantages Theater, Hollywood, LA, CA, jjron 21.03.2012.jpg
The Art Deco facade of the Pantages Theater. Photo by John O'Neill from Wikipedia Commons

Meet us on Hollywood Blvd., a mere two blocks west of the Pantages Theater. The Walk of Fame, Grauman's Chinese Theater, The Egyptian Theater, "Hollywood & Vine," - you get the idea? So we're walking to the meet-up spot (this adventure was so ghetto in a hilarious way, I'm not even kidding), and we're passing all these HOLLYWOOD SOUVENIRS shops. You know: cheap t-shirts, postcards (yay!!!), ugly trinkets, key chains, and the creme de la creme, miniature Oscars. Cheap, plastic, made-in-China, miscellaneous sizes of those fancy Academy Awards that look like somebody's Uncle Oscar.  We passed one with a huge display of this tourist trap fodder and my dad turns to me as we prepare to cross the street and says, "We should buy a bunch of those, and distribute them to opposing experts after their depo or trial testimony."

What you need to know is a) my dad is an expert witness in trucking litigation, b) he has several specific other experts against whom he regularly testifies, and c) some of them (I will not be naming names) tend to stretch the truth a bit to the point where if it wasn't so funny they'd be outright liars.

So he suggests we start handing them Oscars after their "performances"?  I started laughing so hard I almost didn't make it across the street. (Maybe it wasn't that funny and maybe you had to be there, but I thought it was the funniest thing I'd heard in a month.)

Moving right along. We get there early, are told to come back in 20 minutes. We go in search of smoothies. Smoothie fail. Smoothie success, then running to catch our fancy, double-decker tour bus. No. No no no no. Janky, craptastic, not-enough-seatbelts, broken awning, open air, van/golfcart. To carry 12 people and a seeing-eye dog. I wound up scrunched between my youngest sister and a large man who was very kind but fell asleep halfway through the tour. I was also asked repeatedly to take iPhone pictures for the vision-impaired woman sitting in front of me. But the dog was very well-behaved. He sat on the floor in the front seat very patiently.

The van/bus/cart/thing starts moving and we dart in and out of traffic on Hollywood Blvd., and head to the Hollywood Bowl and the 101 (apparently these are tourist attractions?) and up to Mulholland Dr. for a decent view of the city and the Hollywood sign. (There were a number of European and East Coast tourists who were bitching about "all the smog" when in reality it was the marine layer that was keeping us cool combined with some low cloud cover because it RAINED a bit later that day... Oh well, maybe they'll leave sooner.) Then it was a tour of the Hollywood Hills and guess what: Celebrity houses. I got to see Nichole Richi's house (sp?), Eddie Murhpy's abode, Justin Timberlake and Jessica Biel's pad, JLo's place, and so on.
NOT our bus. Shamelessly stolen from TripAdvisor
So I'm thinking, This is not history, this is a TMZ tour.  Then we passed a very swanky open-air van which actually WAS the TMZ tour. Uh-huh. Then we went to Beverly Hills! And drove around the 4-mansion complex that makes up the Playboy Mansion. And saw Paris Hilton's home. And Wolfgang Puck's house, and Jackie Chan's mansion, and made stops at every place Lindsey Lohan got arrested or caused a scene. We drove by the Coffee Bean where celeb blogger Perez Hilton has an office. (That's right. He has an actual office in a Coffee Bean near Rodeo Dr.) We drove up Rodeo Dr. and past Jennifer Aniston and Angelina Jolie's favorite restaurants. We drove by Michael Jackson's house and the hospital where Whitney Houston died. NOT a historical Hollywood tour. 

Two hours later (and severe suspected whiplash - the driver was a freaking maniac), it was over and we were dumped back onto the sidewalk from whence we first embarked. I mean, it was funny and amusing but distinctly not as advertised. So we wandered back to the car (as it started to rain, WHAT) and decided that Chinatown was our destination of choice for lunch. (This was at 2:26 - we left the house at 10:36. We were operating on what was left of our 11:56 smoothies. Yes, I actually remember those exact times for things. There were lots of sixes.) Mom kept going on and on about how she and Dad used to go to Chinatown all the time, and since I have no actual memory of going with them (which she also insisted happened more than once), determined that it had been far too long. Certainly at least 20 years since they'd been there.

So to Chinatown we went. And got lost along the way, because Los Angeles. But we finally got there and found a place to park and were looking for a place to eat. We thought about going to Joe's Italian Restaurant, because a big Italian restaurant in the middle of Chinatown is a little too fantastic to pass up, right? We couldn't find the entrance. Not even kidding, the front door wasn't a real door. It just looked like a door. That wouldn't open. So we kept walking.  A few blocks down we saw a sign for "Chinese BBQ & Seafood." Seemed safe enough, so we ambled over and let me tell you. It was just like you imagine wandering the back alleys of Chinatown would be (I? Am I the only one who imagines these things?). The outside of this restaurant looked tiny and dark and dingy. It was called Hop Woo BBQ. (I can't make this stuff up.) We walk in, and it's brightly lit, huge, and lovely. We sit at a big table in the middle of the room and get a big (okay, little) pot of green tea (which was fantastically delicious, by the way) and are left to peruse the menu. I had to remind my little sisters that this was actually Chinese food, not Chinese take-out. And M--- (ever the picky one who won't eat fish) searched for orange chicken while the rest of us debated the merits of shrimp in lobster sauce over some other thing I couldn't pronounce.

In the end, we got amazing food, including the best, most delicious shrimp and asparagus I'd ever tasted. I could rave for weeks about how fantastic that shrimp and asparagus was. As in, for my birthday next year, we're going to Hop Woo BBQ so I can have the shrimp and asparagus.

Also, as we were leaving, we passed a lady on the corner selling 2 aquatic/marine turtles for $7. In a tiny aquarium. My sisters and I almost talked our parents into getting 2 or 6, but when the turtles get bigger we would need to put them in a bigger aquarium and that's a lot of work. I'm still holding out hope for an alpaca, though. (The alpaca thing is a WHOLE other blog post...)

My very own solar-powered Luck Cat!!!
Then we wandered around because on our first pass, we walked through a little shop and I saw a LUCKY CAT. Sherlock fans, you remember the Lucky Cat Shop!? THEY ARE A REAL THING. And I wanted one. I also wanted postcards because I have penpals to send postcards to now. After I explained to my mother the significance of the Lucky Cat, she (in a very rare show of good moodedness) made it her mission to secure an arm-waving Lucky Cat for me.  We went into that first shop and my sisters looked at embroidered fans and my dad looked at giant paper lanterns and my mother looked at sake sets and I, dear readers, went straight to the back of the shop to the Lucky Cat display. They had little, one inch high ceramic ones for a dollar, but I didn't see the larger, arm-waving, gold colored style I wanted. But there, on the register, was a solar-powered, gold colored, plastic Lucky Cat! The shop owner was so nice and pulled a boxed one from under the counter and even checked to make sure it worked. He then engaged in a conversation with my dad about how his shop was featured in the Nancy Drew movie that came out a few years ago.

My sisters and I got a bunch of postcards and a few fans, I got a set of real chopsticks and they each got a tiny lucky cat. Then we went into a plaza place and looked in a few other shops, took some pictures,  wondered what the heck the Ooga Booga Store is, looked at a giant bronze Bruce Lee statue, and threw pennies in the most interesting wishing well I've ever seen. It was set up like a waterfall/pond water feature, with a few statues of Buddha and other deities I'm not familiar with, and it was tiered. On the different tiers there were bowls and signs like "Luck" or "Wealth" or "Love" and other things that people might wish for. It was really lovely, and there were dragonflies, honeybees, and butterflies and tons of flowers all around it, and kids throwing pennies and adults sitting on benches and it was almost like I was in Munich again, discovering beautiful little things in unexpected corners.

 Then we headed home, happy and full and chatting about our adventure, already becoming a happy memory in which the rough parts are smoothed over with hindsight and the happy parts are made more special but less clear.

But do you want to know the best part of the whole day, reader? The best, most precious part that I'm almost afraid to speak out loud? The whole day, from leaving at 10am to getting home at 5pm, we didn't fight. My mother didn't snap at my sisters, my father did not complain to my mother, my sisters and I laughed and joked together and my parents and I did not clash. Not once. The only time we grouched was when we had smoothie failures and when we were getting on the van/golf cart/bus thing. That was it. But we weren't upset with each other, we were upset with the circumstance - circumstances which we were able to look back and smile on only hours later.

It was an adventure, AND it was someplace I'd never been before. Which means that in one day, I was able to cross TWO things off of my New Years' Revolutions. Isn't that wonderful?

In other news, Gary comes home next Friday, I have some book reviews coming (finally, I know!), and my newest penpal in Missouri is quite a lot like me and writes deliciously long letters.

See you soon!

 My lucky cat waving goodbye. He usually sits on the windowsill where he can get lots of sun, but he's hard to photograph there.

Have you ever been a tourist in your own town? Ever gone on an adventure that started out awful and ended up awesome? Ever had the best shrimp and asparagus of your life after a day of NOT fighting with your family? Tell me all about it!

**Unless otherwise noted, all images in this post are copyright Whitney Miller. If you wish to re-use one of my shitty iPhone photos, please e-mail me via my Contact page 

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

The Letter Writer

A few months ago I watched this movie called The Letter Writer on Netflix.  It's really cheesy and ultimately rather predictable (like most Hallmark-esque movies), but I still enjoyed it. You can get the full synopsis anywhere on the internet. Basically, a teenager named Maggie who has daddy-issues and basically all the trauma involved in being a teen receives a mysterious, handwritten letter in the mail from a stranger who has words of encouragement for her.

She takes the initiative to track down the Letter Writer: an old man living in a nursing home. She ends up spending time with him and all of his friends in the nursing home, and finds in herself that she has a great deal of potential.  It's a cookie-cutter Hallmark film and bears little to no resemblance to real life, but I liked that this man took the time every day to write letters of inspiration and encouragement to people picked out of the phone book.

A Bunch of Journal Writing Prompts

I did some googling about and came across the Letter Writers' Alliance (seriously, click on the link. Kathy and Donovan are two seriously rockin', letter-writing ladies). Basically, they are dedicated to preserving the art of letter writing for future generations.

I took this from their Mission Statement:
"In this era of instantaneous communication, a handwritten letter is a rare and wondrous item. The Letter Writers Alliance is dedicated to preserving this art form; neither long lines, nor late deliveries, nor increasing postal rates will keep us from our mission."
 Obviously, I joined the Letter Writers Alliance immediately, and upon receiving my membership packet I wrote in to join the Pen Pal Swap. I now have 4 new pen friends who are just as into writing letters and receiving good mail as I am.

What I really love is the thrill of going to the mailbox after work every day in the hope that perhaps, among the bills and past due notices and adverts there could be something small, colorful, and handwritten, just for me. The idea that someone over a thousand miles away is interested in my daily life, in the thoughts in my head, and takes the time to put it on paper and stick it in a mailbox is thrilling.  It's actually uplifting since (as a shitty 20-something) I get the feeling that nobody really cares anymore.  I like being proved wrong.

Write on,


Monday, July 1, 2013

Sore Throats, Evil Blenders, and the Roaring Twenties

Yes, I've fallen off the wagon with minimal posting since February.  I want to write a novel but I can't even keep up a blogging schedule; who am I kidding? Honestly, I've spent the last 4 months tired, frustrated, and lonely.  and after the strange, familiar heartache of my birthday last month, I've kind of figured something out.

I'm in my 20s.

I'm 23, I have mild depression (a far cry from my prior diagnosis of "severe") and social anxiety, and I don't know what the fuck I'm doing.

Pinned from

And that's okay.
(follow the jump for more)