What a difference 24 minutes makes (and 15.46 miles). From procrastination to proliferation; from unfocused to driven; from stuck to inspired—thank you South Pasadena.
After eleven years of living in the Hollywood flats (south of Sunset Boulevard), I felt claustrophobic in the mishmash of my neighborhood. Initially, I loved being in the thick of it. Going through a divorce with an 8-month-old baby in my care, the apartment I found was affordable and in a building with great neighbors (mostly Latinas, every one of them generous and friendly). I like that I was raising my daughter in the “real” world of haves and have-nots, with all colors and cultures. She was also exposed to the world of the homeless who talk with themselves, shout out to the ethos, huddle in doorways, sleep in boxes, or stop to say “Hello” as we sat eating outside at Baja Fresh. She could see that they were different, some even scary, but also that they were people; people without homes, without comfy beds that had sheets, blankets and pillows, without their own bathroom, kitchen and a sofa for lounging (everything that she had).
Initially, this world spurred on my writing. Late at night as I looked out my window, the city lights reflecting off the low clouds creating a yellow-green hue to my world, I wrote diligently. But years and years of police sirens, ambulances, car horns, loud drunks and party-goers were wringing out my last nerve—my hand had to constantly hold the t.v. clicker so I could raise or lower the volume depending on how expressive the neighborhood was feeling. I began to feel bland and uncreative; too many hours spent like dead weight on the couch. Down to a cellular level, I was aching for something else.
Artist Jennifer Frank introduced me to a woman who had raised her kids in South Pas. They had attended SPHS (after paying tuition for the Sequoyah School for eight years, I was doggedly looking for a free high school). I met her while walking in the Arroyo. That very afternoon, she called me up and told me of an apartment for rent right across the street from her house. I wheedled and charmed the landlords (had to; bad credit) and got just what I needed—a bigger apartment that doesn’t share a single wall—finally a quiet night’s sleep versus my neighbor washing his dishes at midnight, dumpster divers right outside my window, or tenacious helicopters with search lights. Best of all, a tub length shower versus an upright, coffin-sized stall shower and a 10 minute drive to my daughter’s school! I suddenly had an extra two hours on my hands five days a week. Divine.
With my time, I have edited my friend Lori Bertazzon’s self-help workbook Where Are You Stuck? (very little money, but an absolutely thrilling endeavor); have a local professional copyediting my novel Amy’s Own and have started this blog loosely based on my current novel Keeping Sane, and Other Aspirations.
The biggest ego-boost has been meeting (again through Jennifer Frank) and being hired by Colleen Bates of Prospect Park Media, a small publishing company in Pasadena. Colleen authored the outstanding guidebook Hometown Pasadena. She created a website of the same name and, after doing a few freebie posts, I was hired to write about local events, kid-focused fun, new shops, charity fundraisers and do monthly interviews. I get to go to businesses, use my photography skills and write up stories. I get to read books, be introduced to someone’s artwork or music, formulate questions and conduct interviews. I am having the time of my life.
I stay up until two in the morning, sleep five hours and awaken with the alarm to get my girl ready for school and don’t miss a beat. One day when she was off on a Sequoyah School camping trip, I stayed up all night, not going to bed until 1 p.m. the next day—I was so amped with ideas, I couldn’t wait to put them all down on paper. I was walking on air. Well actually, I was walking on Oxley Street. My new street lined with California Craftsman bungalows and endless trees—where I can walk in the quiet (even at midnight), and let ideas germinate, words gush and adrenalin pump.
Thank you, Hollywood; you did me well, but I have to let you go.
Now, my spirit is excited, my mind humming, my writing hand aching, and my composition books are filling up. Hello, San Gabriel Valley.