Stuff From The Beach

Caution: This Post Contains Sentimental Drivel

It’s my last full day at Sunset Beach, and as well as still feeling a little meh from Saturday evening’s food poisoning extravaganza, I find myself also feeling melancholy. This always happens when I get ready to leave.

Earlier today, I went over to Rose Park Roasters for what may be my second-to-last coffee there (not that I’m counting, because that number would make me even more sad). The route takes me up PCH into Long Beach, to 7th Street, then left on Redondo, right on 4th. I was already feeling a little sentimental before I left, but as I drove I became almost maudlin.

Very few things elicit deep emotions from me – after years and years of practice, and a few good role models, I’m a true expert at stuffing feelings. Fear? Stuff it. Anger? Cram that way down there. Love? Grief? That all goes in there, too. Happiness? Some days I’m not sure what that is, but maybe that’s somewhere in there too. So it takes something close to a tsunami or other internal or external natural disaster for me to notice what I’m feeling. But when I drove down Pacific Coast Highway today, yeah, I almost started crying.

There is something about the stretch of PCH from Sunset Beach, through Seal Beach, towards Long Beach, that perfectly sums up my relationship with Southern California. There is a lot of history along that drive. My Dad grew up in Sunset Beach, I stay in his mother’s house when I am here. And I spent lots of time with my Grandma here when I was little. My parents lived in the apartment above the garage for a while, and when they were expecting me, they rented a house in Seal Beach. So that is the first “home” I went home to. I was born in Long Beach.

I always feel sentimental when I drive that stretch of road, but today there was a whole new layer of feeling to it. It was as if I finally figured out what about it makes me so teary-eyed. It’s probably obvious to everyone else, I am usually the last one to the Feelings Party after all.

It’s as if every time I drive that stretch of road, I search for connections along the route. I try to reach back to a time that was supposed to be happy and fun and carefree. Maybe I wish that I could have a do-over, or maybe I am just stuck in the past. I wish I could say that was a happy  time, and while I know there were definitely happy moments, overall it doesn’t feel happy to me.

Other than what kind of cookies are in the kitchen, and maybe having to do a little math homework, you’re not supposed to worry about stuff as a kid. And maybe that’s all I did worry about back then, but I have a feeling that there were heavier things on my mind, things that weren’t so kid-like, things that would be better forgotten. I’m not saying anything BAD happened to me – at least I don’t think so – I think it was more a case of having to grow up and start adulting a little before I should have. To be honest, I have forgotten most of it. Or rather, stuffed it all.

When I drive down this stretch of road, I associate this place with home. I connect with the place, my physical body connecting with the memories and feelings still tied to this stretch of the California coast. Maybe one day, I can let go of it all. Which is different from pushing it down, down, and still further down.

It is hard to even write this, it’s like, feelings and stuff, you know? Who cares about that? Repressing it all has worked great so far, right? So for now, I’ll push it away again, and think about what I could have for dinner that won’t hurt my stomach. Because after pushing feelings down for so long, they’ve all ended up there, and most days, they don’t like food. Maybe one day, I can let go of it all.

Today’s Rose Park Roasters cappuccino. Fraught with emotions but still delicious.
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The Muse on Vacation

this is a photo of the oregon coast. it is not a photo of my novel.

I am currently on vacation. That’s right, this blog post is comin’ atcha straight from the SB – more popularly known as Sunset Beach, California.

I am having a great time on vacation. And when I get back, I’ll write up another blog post that will tell you all about it. It will undoubtedly be a fantastically interesting rundown on all the coffee I have consumed, and all the old friends I’ve caught up with. This post, however, is a quick shoutout to my Muse, whom I was smart enough to bring on vacation with me. It has come in very handy, since part of my objective for this trip was to work on a novel.

If you plan on writing a novel, might I suggest you  have your muse handy, too.

The first leg of my trip took me to Portland, Oregon, where I was in full-on tourist mode, so I didn’t have time to do any writing other than short journal entries on my phone. From Portland, I flew to Los Angeles, where I hung out with my dad for a few days. That was full-on family mode. It was good to see my Dad, his wife, and my step-sister Tanya and her insanely energetic toddler (she tried to tell me “he’s usually not like this” but we all know that toddlers are ALWAYS like that and she wasn’t fooling anyone). So I didn’t have time to do any writing there, either. And after attending a gentle yoga class with my Dad at the Y (during which I almost fell asleep three times – I think it was a little too gentle for me), I rolled on out of there in my free-to-me 2000 Ford Focus station wagon pimp-mobile and headed for the beach. Where I have done hardly anything except write.

I think the Muse likes the beach a lot. After three days of eating, sleeping, and more eating, watching “Bosch” on Amazon Video, and a little writing, I am now almost 9,000 words into this novel thing. My goal for the project is 70,000 words, which I probably won’t finish by next Tuesday – but I will have gotten a pretty good start on it by the time I leave this little slice of heaven and head back to my Dad’s (which is not a little slice of heaven but more like a little slice of vegan black-bean chocolate coffee cake) and then back to Tulsa (which is a slice of WTF am I doing here).

They say you are either a “planner” or a “pantser” when it comes to novel writing. A “planner” plans the whole damn thing out before starting – character sketches, chapter outline, research notes, marketing plan, Oscar speech for best screenplay, etc). While a “pantser” flies by the seat of their pants and makes everything up as they go along. I guess I’m somewhere in between because I have a half-assed plot outline and some almost-done character sketches. And one photo of Titus Welliver. Then I was like, “this planning stuff is BORING” and I just started writing.

I wonder how people actually get entire novels written. I wonder how they get agents. I also wonder how they can have faith that when they are done writing their novel, when they are done spending ALL THAT TIME creating their masterpiece, they don’t just end up with a big pile of word poop instead of a bestseller.

Some people do in fact end up with a big pile of word poop instead of a novel. I have read a few of those. But many people end up with a coherent, clever, emotionally-inspiring, thought-provoking story. Me? I am not so sure yet. My novel might be word poop.

But if I work really hard, and finish this thing, and it ends up with what seems to me to be a coherent plot, compelling characters and good dialogue… well, it will be word poop that I can be proud of. It will be my creation, my labor of love. It will be my very own story.

We all have a story to tell. Isn’t that great? We can tell it exactly how we want to, every time. And we can give it whatever happy, romantic, schlocky, feel-good, closure-inducing,  Emmy-award winning, Hallmark Channel ending we want. And that is the important part – the realization that we create our own story, and then the realization of that story.

A book deal would be pretty freakin’ great though.

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The Yoga of Experience – Native Language

sb2

You never forget your first language(s).

I got back from California two weeks ago. I’m not sure why it’s taken me so long to get back to the typewriter, so to speak. If I had to pick a reason – OK, if I had to pick two reasons, they would be:
1. Craft ADD. I love making stuff. With my hands. It’s fun. Sewing, knitting, crochet, making products to use on your beautiful skin. It’s in my blood, making things. Just ask my Dad. So I’ve been busy making stuff.
2. Fear of creative expression. Weird for someone who claims to be a writer, right? And even though I’ll be the first person to demand that the definition of “being human” includes the words “creative expression is one of the core tenets of being human,” it’s sometimes is easier to ignore this and just binge watch Cheers, than to put myself out there and let the inside out.
And sometimes, it’s just hard to find the right words.

I had a fantastic time during my three-week SoCal vacation. Duh! I practiced yoga in Long Beach. I read a PG Wodehouse book (among others). I walked on the beach (a lot). I ate sushi, I bought Vans, and I drank a lot of coffee. I enjoyed doing things and visiting with people, and I enjoyed doing absolutely nothing other than feeling the sunshine on my bare skin. Oh man, I love that place so much.
Even though I’ve been gone a looooooong time, Southern California still feels like home when I’m there. Everything just seems so relaxed, and there’s pretty much at least one of every kind of person you can imagine – everything goes. So it’s really easy to feel like I fit in. Especially in Sunset Beach. I can’t even imagine how much money you would need to actually live there these days, but nonetheless, the atmosphere is relaxed and unpretentious.
When I arrive at the beach, I fall into a wonderful sort of familiarity that feels so natural. I don’t have to try to do or be anything. It all just is, and it’s always exactly as it should be. The waves keep coming, the sun sets over Rancho Palos Verdes, the cargo ships wait their turn to dock in San Pedro. My grandmother’s house still stands – empty now, but still full of memories tucked into every corner.

On this trip, I really connected with Seal Beach, too. It’s sooo cute! I love it there. My Dad told me that he and my Mom were living in Seal Beach when I was born. They rented a house, because my Dad had gotten a teaching job nearby. I didn’t really know that before; my Mom never told me much about her time with my dad. But realizing they lived there together, in that cute, cute place…no wonder I love it there too. No wonder it’s so familiar, somehow.
I will buy a house there someday. It might end up being a teeny tiny house, but it will happen. I’ll have a short walk to the beach, and a short walk to Main Street where I can meet my friends and have a coffee and watch the tourists. You can come visit anytime.

seal beach pier
seal beach pier

I started and ended my trip to SoCal with a visit at my Dad’s house, in the foothills of La Crescenta. It’s kind of a nice way to bookend the trip – a way to acclimate. When I first get to California, a visit with family makes the transition to the culture a little easier. And on the way back home, it’s a good transition back to reality. Because if I had to leave Sunset Beach and drive straight to LAX to get on a plane back to Tulsa, I would cry for three straight weeks.
And of course, it’s also nice to see my Dad.
After years and years of living with women, my Dad has gotten pretty good at listening, without necessarily offering solutions. Occasionally a logical (to him) solution does pop out – and that’s ok – but he’s a good listener. It’s really nice to be able to talk to him about things that I’m learning or discovering or working on. He knows my language, he understands what I’m saying. And one thing he does do, without fail, is call me on my shit.
He listens so closely, that he challenges me when I speak in opposition to who I am working on becoming (he’ll probably have an issue with how I worded that just now, but I can’t think of any other way to say it, sorry Dad!). He challenges me when I express doubt or negativity, after declaring that I am no longer going to express doubt or negativity. He requires me to clarify my thoughts and intentions. He knows my language, because I am his daughter. No one else is left on this earth who can know me like that. There’s a sense of familiarity between us that I sometimes still marvel at to this day, since we didn’t spend much time together when I was growing up.

So as I understand the language of Southern California, so does my Dad understand the language that is me. I am fluent in Californian, I am fluent in Neil. Perhaps they are the same? Either way, I will craft something good out of this language, and it will be amazing, and it will be mine, and my Dad will love it.

ace and dad
ace and dad
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The Yoga of Experience – The Vacation Inside the Vacation

Practicing My Quiet Skillz

vacation inside the vacation

Today marks the beginning of my third week of vacation.
I have never had a three-week vacation before, not counting summers off from school. Which was about a million years ago, anyway.
But earlier this year, I decided that if I was going to make the effort to come out to SoCal and soak up the sunny vibes, then I was going to do it HARDCORE and make it a 3-week affair – for better or worse. As a self-employed person, “paid vacations” are a just an enviable concept, and so when you are someone who still relies on trading hours of your life for money, not working for a while has its, well, shall we say, disadvantages. So I am toughing it out here by the seaside. Thank goodness for Trader Joe’s and the Ralph’s Rewards Card.

My companions have gone home, and I have the next few days to myself before I head inland to my Dad’s, to spend some time with him before heading back to Oklahoma. A vacation inside the vacation, as it were. So here I am at the beach, listening to the waves. All by myself.

Being at the seaside is, to me, the best place to be. As an (extreme) introvert, always looking for potential escape routes or opportunities to extricate myself from possible mayhem, the seaside offers unique opportunities to feel very much on the outside of everything. I am at the edge here. There is one whole side of my view that has NO ONE IN IT and part of me really likes that. The ocean seems to go on forever, offering endless possibilities for emptiness… ah… Add in the salty smell, the sound of the waves, the sunsets over the water (and the surfers), and you have the fixins for My Favorite Place.

I cherish the time I spend here at the beach by myself. There is no stereo, no TV, no wifi, and for the next few days, very few people to talk to. A mini-vacation inside my vacation.
As I sit here, I can hear the waves, and see some kite surfing gear floating in the sky above the top of my grandmother’s house. I am staying in the apartment above the garage. And while it doesn’t have an actual ocean view, it is close enough. Plus, it’s been remodeled, and therefore has a few more modern amenities, such as a stove made in this century and newer plumbing. Since it’s on the second floor, there’s plenty of afternoon light coming in, and it’s truly one of the most pleasant spaces I’ve had the privilege of spending time in.
I stay up here because it’s comfy, but also because I’m hesitant to stay in the main house, my Grandma’s house. She passed away several years ago, but hasn’t lived here for maybe close to 15 years. The property belongs to a family member, who plans to keep the house as close to its original condition as possible (it’s one of the last remaining original structures here on the beach, with unique architectural features, as well as a whole lot of family and neighborhood history. I am dreaming of writing a book on the history of the Neil family and of Sunset Beach…)
I was here a lot as a child, and some of my happiest memories are of spending time here, with my Grandma. And so you might be wondering why I would be hesitant to stay downstairs, in her house…

While the house is definitely habitable, it’s just not… the same. Which is fine – it would be unreasonable to expect thigs to remain the same. But still…
Most of my Grandma’s personal effects are in storage, as the house will eventually be renovated. There is so much history and love and stories in those walls, but for the past few years the energy has felt “in flux.” It’s as if the house misses her. Only once have I felt her presence here – I think she is having a grand time traveling all over the universe, seeing all the sights she dreamt about when she was human, and is too busy to come back here to the beach. But the house is missing her.

I love it here, and I often can’t wait to be alone here. But once I am alone, and it’s just me and the wind and the waves and the setting sun, something akin to loneliness comes up, especially in the evenings and at night. Even us extreme introverts have our limits! Everything in life is all about balance, after all. Tip the scales too far, and we need to find ways to get back to center.

In my ever-increasing wisdom, I realize that this loneliness or emptiness is just a feeling, and once acknowledged, and with a little practice, it can be exchanged for thoughts that are more pleasant. Maybe that’s why I’m here – so I can practice that. There is no one to talk to, no music, no commercials, just me, and… me. So often we try to fill all the empty spaces. Sometimes facing the quiet – and ourselves – can be difficult. But what a great opportunity to practice making it easier.

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2015 SCT – Day 12 – The Last Day.

The last day… So I was about to run out of Q-Tips so I decided that I may as well head home. But seriously… Time to go home and get back to it.
The thing was – what would I be getting back to? I’m currently between writing assignments, and while there are some really exciting projects to get started on, there is nothing that I have to get back and “do,” save a dentist appointment. And I managed to reschedule that for another month out…
On the last day of my Day Job, I received my first freelance assignment. I worked towards the deadline of finishing that project, and then I worked towards going on my business / research trip to Texas. Now both of those are done and I don’t know what comes next…
So I realized I had probably some sort of unconscious block towards heading home.
Right before I woke up Tuesday morning, I had a dream about my Grandma’s house, on the beach. It’s a recurring dream, where huge storms of strong winds and high waves pummel the house, and the house always stays intact, the large living room windows never yielding. I am always safe inside. This time, though, a storm blew through and the house flooded. And eventually collapsed. I tried to go through what was left in the house (in the sunshine, because the rain stopped and the clouds disappeared as soon as the house fell), but I realized that I didn’t really need to take anything with me. It turns out you don’t need much stuff.
I woke up. I packed, had breakfast, and started home.
IMG_3594I did make one detour though – back to Coffee Slingers in OKC. I had to make sure the great latte I’d had on the way down wasn’t a fluke, you know? And by jove, it wasn’t. It was in the Top 3 of the entire trip. The Boss chick was there again and she was roasting beans! I had to talk to her. So we chatted for a while and it turns out her name is Melody, and she owns the shop. A woman! Owns the shop! And roasts her own beans! I had been lamenting the seeming lack of women involved in the coffee culture. She said that yes, women were definitely in the minority and she thought maybe this was because women were intimidated by the machinery. Well, she isn’t. She is Boss. I actually hope to interview her one day soon…

I’ll probably post a few more observations from the trip over the next few days – I drank a lot of coffee and met a lot of cool people, and the whole thing was so much fun. I hope to do more coffee tours in the future, too.

But for now – I am back home. What is next?

 

cslastday

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