26
Nov

When someone mentions the word “visit,” I typically am assigned the role of guest. This is the case for two reasons. One, I love to travel. You know those people who get kind of freaked out by flying on a plane? I am not one of those people. Even weirder, I love hanging out at airports. I dunno, it’s relaxing to me. But I digress…

Reason number two why I’m always the guest – having carted all my crap multiple times from apartment to apartment and from city to city, I have learned an invaluable lesson – it’s much easier to do when you have less crap. By the time I made it out to California, I could fit all that I owned into the trunk of my car. Then I learned a second invaluable lesson upon my move to SoCal – it’s freaking expensive as hell to live out here. Therefore, Anna slept on an air mattress her entire first year in California. That doesn’t exactly win you brownie points in the hospitality department. “You have your choice of sleeping accommodations tonight – either the comfy air mattress that somehow deflates completely by morning, or if you would just like to skip that song and dance, we have this lovely floor. It’s carpeted!” Somehow I have found myself nearly guestless during these past five years of living in California. Go figure.

Which brings me to the annual family reunion I have with two of my most favorite people in the entire world – my cousins. To protect their anonymity, I shall call them Jakayla and Haruko. Jakayla, Haruko and I spent countless hours together as kids – playing, laughing, singing, locking each other in closets. Sorry, Haruko. Yet now that we have all grown up, we’re spread out across the country. Our mini family reunion tradition thus began a few years back, but I have always left town to see my rad cousins. Not this year, though. This year we were gathering in LA.

Let the panic attacks begin.

Mind you, I knew this was going to happen since last year when we were saying our goodbyes. And let me throw out this little disclaimer for good measure – I was overjoyed as the prospect of finally earning the title of hostess. That said, I had been living like your stereotypical bachelor for the past few years; I had maybe two towels, a fork and a spoon, a few plates. However, I have always risen to the occasion like a rockstar when it comes to shopping of any kind, and I was up to this challenge as well. Yet it’s amazing how by making one small improvement to your home ten new projects suddenly demand your attention, time and money. A new couch? Then obviously you need new matching pillows and a few cozy throws to make it just right.

And it’s not even like Jakayla and Haruko would care. Those two would be perfectly happy sitting on the floor, eating ramen noodles while watching me reenact episodes of Sex and the City from inside a cardboard box. I knew this. It didn’t matter. I wanted everything to be just perfect for them.

Then there are the activities to plan… I’ve been living in LA for a few years now, but am ridiculously ignorant when it comes to knowing what’s going on around town. I am very much creature of habit (i.e. six nights out of seven, I’m chillaxing at home). Also, the more popular places around town – The Standard, Sidebar, Whiskey Blue – are just not my scene. (This is not me attempting to slam those joints; rather this is me freely admitting how uncool I am. Shocker.) Hanging out at Target is my idea of a rocking Friday night.

Lastly, there’s the constant driving when you have guests in town… It can kill you if you don’t kill first. I’ve already ranted about the LA peeps that can make your driving life a living hell, but aside from those lovely folks, the lay of the land is also an issue. I can’t even count how many times I have taken a wrong turn and am suddenly in completely unfamiliar territory. “Where in the hell am I?” has come out of my mouth more than once since moving to Los Angeles. Just the idea of being responsible for others while driving around this bloody mess of a city was enough to make me break out in the cold sweats.

So what is my longwinded point you ask? My point is that everything went… perfectly. My cousins were awesome, our days were awesome, the weather was awesome, even the driving was awesome. Well, except for Hollywood – you bastard. And now that my beloved cousins have departed and flown back home, I’m feeling a bit antsy for someone else to partake in the awesomeness that is Anna’s hosting abilities… Have I just referred to myself in the third person for the second time during this post? I have a feeling no one’s going to be visiting me again for a long, long time.

Image: graur razvan ionut / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

11
Nov

I love to run at night. I love the darkness, the quiet, the peace I feel when all I can hear are my feet hitting the pavement and breath following in syncopated rhythm. Plus, my face gets so damn red when I run that it would certainly scare the hell out of anyone during the day. So it works on multiple levels.

Until I come across one of the many dog walkers in my neighborhood. Don’t get me wrong – I heart dogs. It’s their sometimes idiot owners I can’t stand. I can’t tell you how many times I have been jumped upon, forced into the grass or tripped up by a leash because these jackasses either don’t get their dogs out of the way or they just let them attack total strangers. Whatever happened to common courtesy? It’s not like I’m running on their lawns. I’m on the sidewalk – public property. It belongs to everyone. Didn’t your momma ever teach you how to share?

It’s amazing how they can’t be bothered to move just a foot or two to the side. And believe me, they know I’m coming. Not only am I relatively tall, but also usually heaving like a mofo while pounding the pavement. I’ve a long way to go before I can boast Prefontaine skills. I’ve battled these people one too many times, though, so now I’m fighting back. My secret weapon? I have no fear of dogs. (Exceptionally stupid or supremely brave?) Therefore, I have recently begun to play a little game we all know and love called Chicken with my inconsiderate neighbors. When I see a dog walker ahead of me, it’s on. Fair warning, folks – if you don’t move Fifi, I just may be popping her with my foot as I go past.

And that’s exactly what happened the other night. I was running along and noticed this woman with her Pomeranian coming the other way. Like the well-mannered person I am (this story doesn’t exactly back me up, but oh well), I moved to my right of the sidewalk to give her room. I then noticed her failure to move to her right. So that’s how it’s gonna be, huh? You just called down the thunder.

Sure enough, little Fifi veered my way and – oops! As she tried to jump up on me, my knee gave her a nice uppercut to the chin. Sure, it messed up my rhythm for a moment or two, but it was so worth it. For her part, the woman seemed absolutely oblivious to the entire incident. Whatever. I know who won the battle that day… and her name is Anna.

Image: Salvatore Vuono / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

09
Nov

Have you ever been watching some random person at some random place and asked yourself, “I wonder what they’re all about?” LA is a town full of individuals who don’t have your typical nine-to-five jobs. Yet sometimes you cross paths with those peeps where you can’t help but wonder what the hell they must do day in and day out. Such was the case the other afternoon when I used my lunch break to go get a car wash.

SIDENOTE: For those of you who might be considering a move to Los Angeles, here’s a tip – budget for car washes. At first, I thought it was completely self-indulgent and unnecessary that the people in this town washed their BMWs and/or Escalades and/or Priuses so frequently, but then I realized… LA is a disgustingly dirty town (read into that what you will). Within mere days, your squeaky clean ride is once again covered in a layer of dirt, or if it’s fire season – ash. Hence, the mandatory car wash becomes the price paid for living here.

So we’re back at the car wash. I left my ride with the attendant and walked inside to the waiting area. I ain’t gonna lie, it’s a strange place. There’s a shoeshine guy who always asks if I need his services, and every time I have to point out that my flip-flops are pretty low maintenance. If you keep going down the hallway, you’ll then come across a few arcade games circa 1985 that haven’t been wiped down since Reagan. And then the piece de resistance: a broken down massage chair – ripped up leather and everything – that gives me the heebie-jeebies just lookin’ at it. I feel like I’m going through a bad “house of horrors” amusement park attraction every time I come here. Why then do I keep coming back? The attendant who takes my car always tells me I have pretty eyes. It’s sad, I know. He’s just saying it so I’ll agree to the $40 wash and wax instead of my $10.99 usual. I don’t care. It makes me happy.

Yet as I passed the shoeshine guy that afternoon, I noticed these two dudes getting their kicks cleaned. One of them looked like Boner from Growing Pains and the other, Cameron from Ferris Bueller’s Day Off. He had the loafers, hockey jersey (Penguins, not Red Wings), everything. I suppose I noticed them firstly because they were such an odd pairing, and secondly, they seemed to think their shoeshine was the funniest thing ever.

I continued along, killing time by checking out the three-dozen or so air fresheners they had on sale. Did you know they make Ed Hardy air fresheners? Aren’t you so relieved they do? After a few minutes, Boner and Cameron were in the shop area with me. Cameron was on the phone: “Check the kitchen. I’m pretty sure I left it there… You found it? Can you bring it to me? Dude, I’m like five minutes away.” I had no clue what he was talking about until Boner grabbed some Cokes and a few bags of Doritos while announcing to the cashier lady that they didn’t have the money to pay for said Cokes and Doritos. As he opened his bag of chips and started munching, he explained that Cameron had left his wallet at a friend’s house, but it was being delivered any minute now.

The poor lady looked so confused that she just nodded, her eyes darting between the two of them, silently wondering what if anything she could do to stop them. For their part, Cameron and Boner just continued to roam the gift shop, examining the various seat covers for sale, looking at the birthday cards, chuckling to themselves for no apparent reason. When Boner then asked Cameron if he wanted an ice cream sandwich, that’s when I realized… These two dudes were stoned.

Duh. Two o’clock on a Wednesday afternoon. Hanging out at a car wash. Forgetting their wallet at a friend’s house. But it was the downing of the Coke, bag of Doritos and ice cream sandwich within mere minutes that finally convinced me.

So the attendants at last signaled that my car was ready. I got in to drive away, when all of a sudden Cameron and Boner were blocking me. They were just standing there in front of my car, seemingly oblivious to the fact that I was about to run them over. I helplessly looked at the attendant; he just shrugged his shoulders, not knowing what to do. Apparently no one knew what to do with these guys. They then made eye contact with me, a childish smile on each of their faces. I couldn’t help it – I just started laughing. Then they started laughing. It went on like that for a while – me laughing at them, them laughing at who knows what – until I finally stuck my head out the window and asked if they wouldn’t mind moving to the side. Happily, they obliged. Driving away at last, I looked in my rearview mirror as the two were now chatting it up with the attendant, Cameron’s arm around his shoulders as if they had known each other for years…

I should get out of the office more often.

Image: Paul / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

05
Nov

My blog has been up a whole two weeks and for every entry made, I have received probably three times as many suggestions as to what to write next. Don’t get me wrong – I freakin’ love that people are reading my posts. You guys rock. However, no one has been as vocal with his “helpfulness” as my very own father. I believe his idea was to write about how I’ve become his California-living, vegetarian-eating, liberal daughter who – and I quote – “reads The Nation.” Gasp. Wow. A scintillating topic indeed, Dad. Nevertheless, you have inspired my next post… Just not the way you think.

This one’s for you.

Folks, I have the most amazing father in the world. Period. When I was little, I would always tag along with him to the grocery store. (For you locals, we shopped at “Jewels.” Great deals – you could get “tree” liters of “pop” for a dollar.) Every single chance I got, as soon as those sliding doors opened, I would make a beeline for the toy section. My Barbie absolutely needed another outfit. After picking out the perfect one, I would then meet up with my dad and plead my case. Who knows if he was just a big softie or I was just the bigger brat, but he would inevitably acquiesce every time. And yet continue to take me to the store with him. Sucker.

Not much changed over the years. When I didn’t get asked to the senior prom, it was my father who let me ditch school the Friday before to go on a shopping spree. To be honest, I wasn’t all that broken up over the turn of events, just smart enough to play the card I was dealt. Cha-ching! Poor guy. He just knew that he couldn’t say no to any request I made that day. To make up for my sorrow, I pretty much had a whole new wardrobe by the end of that weekend… Not sure if I am actually explaining why my dad is so awesome, or just how I am a monster of a daughter.

I can’t argue that I’m not “daddy’s little girl.” Yet my father never treated me like I was “just a girl.” I mowed the lawn. Raked the leaves. Helped repaint the house. If he ever got Bulls or Blackhawks tickets, you’d better believe I was in the stands cheering alongside him. But even better, my father was always my biggest cheerleader, pushing me to do well in school and not be ashamed of who I was – i.e. H-U-G-E nerd. His unconditional love and encouragement has never wavered, and for that I will always be grateful.

What else can I say? My dad is the kind of guy who allowed his five-year old daughter to give him haircuts. The kind of guy who gave his fifteen-year old daughter driving lessons at the cemetery because as he would put it: “Who are you gonna kill? Everyone’s already dead.” He’s the guy who would cut out of work early just so we could battle each other watching Jeopardy! Did I mention I was a huge nerd?

Thank you, Dad. Thank you for always being there for me. For always supporting me through either the smallest of victories or the biggest of failures. And most importantly, thank you for your generous cash contributions at both Christmas and my birthday. You’ll be happy to know they’re donated directly to PETA, the Earth Liberation Front and Americans for Democratic Action.

Image: luigi diamanti / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

02
Nov

I had what Oprah calls a “full circle” moment the other day. Don’t start clapping yet – it sounds more grandiose than it really was. I didn’t suddenly realize how much my parents had sacrificed for me. I didn’t have an epiphany that the love I give is so much better than love I get. Rather, I got hit up for money from my alma mater.

I knew it was coming… Sans guilt I freely admit that I screen my calls. That said, this unknown number with a familiar area code had called me two nights in a row but failed to leave a message. Naturally, I made a friend call the number to see who it was. Bingo. As soon as I heard the voice on the other end announce my former stomping grounds, I knew impending doom was on the horizon. Sure enough, that same night my phone promptly rang with attempt number three to divorce me from my hard earned Benjamins.

On the other end of the line was the young, awkward voice of what was obviously a freshman asking, “Hi, is this Anna?”

“Yes.”

(Crickets.)

“Hi, how are you tonight? Do you have a moment for a few questions?”

The kid didn’t even introduce himself or from where he was calling. Rookie. Must have been his first night on the job. You see – in another life, in another world – I too was a much-loved solicitor of donations. I would call my school’s alums and politely ask them to fork over at least $25 dollars or more, in addition to the thousands they already paid in tuition, to make some arbitrary goal for some meaningless pledge drive. The cruel irony is that I never ended up graduating from said school. What a colossal faux pas on my part, huh? In more ways than one, my friend, in more ways than one…

And apparently times have changed. Back in my day, we got right to the point. No dilly-dallying here. “Hi, I’m Anna calling from ____, and I was wondering if you would like to make a $25 pledge to the business school tonight?” However, this young lad – we’ll call him Seymour – he started getting all up in my grill about every little detail of my life. Where do I work? What is my position? How do I feel my degree helped me in landing said job? (A very clever tactic indeed to infer that my school was the reason I got the position. Well done, Seymour, well done.) Yet after a few minutes of this Spanish Inquisition, I began to get a wee bit nervous. Seymour was asking me so many questions. What if this really wasn’t my alma mater but instead some sick stalker to whom I had just revealed my daily schedule and location? Eh, whatever… I continued to humor Seymour for a while longer. He was so damn awkward and goofy-sounding that I figured it would be fun to have a stalker like him anyway.

Finally, he got to the point of this charade: “Well, the other reason I’m calling tonight is because we have this alumni fund we’re trying to raise money for…” Of course you do, sweetheart. I knew that a half-hour ago when I heard your prepubescent voice crack a “hello” over the phone.

One vital point that I have hitherto left out is that the degree for which I slaved (kinda) and spent thousands of dollars (really) is essentially worthless. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a real degree from a real university and all that. Just this summer, however, some fellow graduates kindly informed me that our beloved alma mater was no longer accepting students for our program. So I’m being asked to give money to a school that doesn’t care enough anymore to keep our super-cool Film Studies course going? Wow. Harsh.

Really, though, you have to laugh. I did anyway when he asked for the money. I gently let Seymour down. He understood, but his voice dripped with disappointment. He really thought he had worked his charm on me. I then gave him a quick pep talk: “You’re doing great! Keep up the good work!” Obviously not true, but that’s just what one says when one really wants to get the hell off the phone already. I hung up as Seymour was still saying goodbye.

So the lesson I learned from my “full circle” moment? Those phone calls are really annoying. (I never claimed it was an “Aha!” moment – totally different kind of moment, people.)

Image: Filomena Scalise / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

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