Wow. It seems that the days go by so slowly and quickly. Where to begin? On Tuesday, Nia dropped me off in Century City at 7am where I caught the bus back to Santa Monica. I hadn't actually taken a day to rest yet since arriving from Australia so I went back to sleep...til noon. I went to Venice to meet Daniele, my old professor at both SMC and UCLA - we had an interesting chat about the Middle East, my experiences there, extremism, and all sorts of things that don't necessarily come up in everyday conversation.
I went to exhale spa in Santa Monica, where I was delighted - with my $50 yoga for 30 days, I have unlimited access to the "Healing Waters Sanctuary." After having lived in Japan, I must admit that it doesn't quite compare to a proper onsen, but it's still wonderful. Two hot pools, a cold plunge, a eucalyptus steam room, and an ujjayi dry room. AND oranges and nuts and dried fruit and cucumber water. And spa quality shampoo, conditioner, body wash, along with razors, shaving cream, and all that extra stuff. Perfect for the traveller! I was thrilled.
I got back to Ryan's, and he had just arrived home as well. Since I had had a relaxing, restful day, I was energized, and suggested we go to the beach. So off we went to northern Santa Monica because PCH up to Malibu was too crowded, and we went playing in the waves. It was soooo great. The ocean is just so enormous and powerful and just makes you forget and remember and just be. I love it.
Afterwards, we went home to shower, then went to Real Food Daily, an organic vegan restaurant in Santa Monica where Ryan works. I have tried being vegetarian in the past, but never really attempted vegan. I found that when I was vegetarian, I compensated for the lack of meat by eating extra amounts of dairy products and eggs. I have also consistently been told by acupuncturists, reflexologists, and reiki healers, along with massage therapists that I should greatly reduce the amount of dairy products I eat. In fact, I was told this on Monday at acupuncture. (Right after, I went and had a hamburger with cheese on it at Houston's...) But I started thinking about it on Monday and thought, hmm maybe I should try this out. Just to see how it feels, and see if it actually DOES make a difference in how I feel. And, what better place to try it out than California? The vegetarian/vegan/organic movement did originate in a big way in California, and it is probably one of the easiest places in the world to be vegan. There is a great selection of vegan restaurants that cater specifically for vegans and I decided to give it a shot. SO, getting back to the story, Ryan and I went to RFD on Tuesday. We sat in his friend's section and had a *free* meal of nachos, tacos, and salad. The nachos had sour cream made from tofu, the spicy cheddar cheese is made from cashews, and the tacos had tempeh as the meat substitute. It was all unbelievably delicious and I thought, if you could eat like this every day, I would never have any problem being vegan. Alas, in most other countries these products aren't available...
I went to meet Rayya afterwards at Zanzibar. Rayya is a Lebanese girl I met in Beirut through a funny connection; I was couchsurfing with a Swiss guy in Beirut (my first time couchsurfing!), who had a flatmate who had a Lebanese friend named Firas. I met Firas at the flat, we clicked, and then I started hanging out with him and his friends - Rayya was one of them. Rayya and I went to rival high schools in Maryland (BCC vs. WJ) and here we were, in the mountains of Lebanon; the world can be so small sometimes. Anyway, we spent about a week hanging out in Beirut, exploring the city and discovering it, as it was her first time living there again after the war. This was in September 2005. I hadn't seen her since then, and she had, of course, lived through a war, amongst many other things. She brought along her Afghan friend Omar and we had a great time. Stayed out til about 2 and it was so nice to get some Middle Eastern exposure in L.A. It was great to see that some things don't change.
On Wednesday, I had a really busy morning. I went to a yoga class with David Romanelli, an instructor I've never had before - his class was so hard it was funny. Literally - I was laughing through much of the class at how insanely difficult it was. It was great though. Afterwards, I went to meet the two couchsurfers I'd luckily found in the area. I found Christian's profile and although it was much emptier than a lot of people's in the area, I thought I'd really like to meet him. Good choice - he's an Italian who came over to work in visual effects, became a masseur, and now owns the Tao Healing Arts Centre on Main Street. I met him at his school/clinic, and he really just has that wonderful calming energy. We went to Urth Caffe where I dug into their delectable granola - on the menu it says fresh-roasted, and those almonds and granola really taste it...and dried cranberries and raisins and fresh strawberries and bananas and soy milk...no wonder I was in bliss... Anyway, we sat and chatted about all sorts of random things and set up a bit of the logistics for my staying at his place. Which is, of course, 5 blocks from the beach, and 8 blocks from yoga. Ahh...
I then walked to Duff's house, a single gay guy living 7 blocks from the beach, in one of the nicest houses I've seen in California. Absolutely phenomenal two bedroom house with a rooftop deck with an ocean view and out to the Hollywood sign in the east. My own bedroom and bathroom with a huge new bed, and a beautiful kitchen space. I couldn't believe it. We got to chat a little bit and that was that.
Since I was in the area, I stopped by Sarah's house - I thought it was going to be a 15 minute hello but it turned into a 2 hour animated discussion, about a lot of things I'm still needing to process and think about and feel and react to. It was absolutely wonderful to see her. I tried to convince her to join exhale (my yoga studio) and she dropped me off at acupuncture.
AND....the acupuncturist immediately noted that my tongue was better than Monday - and asked if I had changed my diet. TWO DAYS! That is crazy! So perhaps the lack of dairy really is doing something. This time, when she did some cupping, I got red marks instead of the deep purple of two days prior. How refreshing to get some good news at the doctor! Senika, the acupuncturist, is half Indonesian and so we chatted about it (the form asks for birthplace so I put Jakarta) and I just thought, wow, how great is Emperors College to provide this great service for such a low cost.
After acupuncture I walked down to Real Food Daily because Ryan was finishing work around that time, and we feasted on salad, kale, seaweed, tempeh, and, oh yes, chocolate fudge pie. A lot of vegan desserts use maple syrup instead of refined sugar, so they taste super rich but they are (supposedly) healthier. Yum.
I then walked back to Ryan's where Nia was meeting me, and due to traffic we decided to postpone our Paseo Miramar hike and instead went back to Hollywood. I was in need of a low key evening so I chilled out while she went on her walk. We then started talking about a lot of the issues I'm currently struggling with. A large one is how people just don't make time for one another here - yes, this is what I used to complain about years ago whilst living here, and yes, it hasn't changed and I should've expected it - but it's always a struggle. I understand that living in a society where you have 10 days vacation per year means it's pretty damn difficult to take a few days off when a friend comes to visit, but it doesn't make it any easier.
We chatted until Tiffany who I met at Houston's came to pick me up. It was great to see Tiffany. We just went to a coffee shop in Burbank but chatted about everything and she is just one of those people that I know will always accept me. It's great.
On Thursday morning we had planned to get up at 7.30 to go on a hike in Runyon Canyon but decided to sleep in and make yummy food instead. She dropped me off at Hollywood/Highland where she was working and I took a bus down to the chiropractor. Dr. Irani was introduced to me by one of my favorite yoga instructors, Brad Keimach. He charges only $25 for therapy and adjustment because he's semi-retired and just wants to help people that need it. I'd been to him in 2005, and had also brought my mother there. He was, as usual, spot on in identifying the problem and adjusted accordingly. I felt much much better.
Ramon picked me up from the chiropractor - my first time seeing him since he was in Japan in Jan/Feb 2006 - and we got some Thai food. I couldn't help but notice that things were different with him, but I can't place my finger on it. It's probably more in my mind than anything but it's ok - it's part of life. He then took me to Duff's where I was staying for the night - here I had a nap before going to Saul David Raye's yoga class.
That yoga class just totally opened me up and got the energy flowing and it was the beginning of a big release. I met Sarah at delizia after class and was happy to hear that she had had a great experience at yoga class as well. delizia is a great place that just opened on the boardwalk at the corner of Rose, and has a great selection of food, both with meat and vegan-friendly. The create your own salad is a great hit, allowing you to pick whatever you want and it's very decently priced. So we sat and munched and chatted about the Middle East and everything under the stars and it was great. After class we went back to her house, and probably due to the opening up from the yoga class, and the relaxedness of the great food and atmosphere, we just both totally let go. About relationships, about losses, mourning, grief, hurt, pain, forgiveness, compassion. It felt so good to just let myself cry. I stayed there til late and went straight to bed after. I slept very well.
On Friday morning I went to Saul's class then met up with Tricia, who I had met in 2005 at a yoga class. She started speaking to me because she wanted someone to speak Japanese with and thought I would be able to. We quickly started going to yoga followed by tea or food several days a week. She now has her own business - www.beautyintuition.com - and we talked about that as we had lunch at Real Food Daily (I think the best vegan food I've had in L.A.) We then went to the exhale spa onsen and it was excellent. Nia picked me up from there and we went to have a long walk on the beach. We walked down to the Washington Blvd. Pier and then had dinner at delizia, then we were both so pumped we walked all the way up past the Santa Monica Pier to Wilshire Blvd. Lots of walking! It was great.
After Nia left, I went for some chai with Ramon at the Novel Cafe, where I used to go several times a week in Venice. Ahh...