The Day my Door Froze Shut

That day is today.

Growing up in California, the concept of “cold” has evolved for me over the last couple years. At 60 degrees in Southern California, I would frequently claim that I was “freezing.” These days, at 40 degrees, I’m like “It’s shorts weather! Hallelujah!”

Sure, I was living in D.C. during Snowmaggedon, but that was back when snow was novel and beautiful. That was back when I worked three blocks away from my apartment, a distance a careful walker could expertly traverse in 3 inch heels.

I’ve lived through a few winters now, though. Snow isn’t nearly as pretty – instead, it’s that stuff making my mile walk to the metro a danger; the stuff I’m scraping off my car; the stuff freezing the front door to my apartment building shut.

Last weekend, Mother Nature – ever the tease – blessed us with two uncommonly beautiful late-February days. It wasn’t until the sunshine sprinkled down from the heavens onto my pale, sun-depraved skin that I realized what I was missing. It might have been the most truly joyful moment I’d had in months.

What does a California girl do to fight off Jack Frost and the cold, wintery blues?

  • Use music to transport away – far, far away. Suggested artists: Beach Boys, Jimmy Buffet, Brother Iz
  • Cook goodies, then eat said goodies. You’re going to be stuck indoors wearing sweatpants for a few months, anyways. People on the East Coast find this “Winter weight” to be acceptable. Enjoy.
  • Exercise. Just because you can wear sweatpants doesn’t mean you want to test the limits of the elastic. Besides, you have to be ready for when the summer springs back up!
  • Make new friends. How do you make new friends without venturing out into the icy wild? Watch great movies, immerse yourself into a long-running TV series, and fall into other literary worlds.
  • Plan your escape. When you’re wallowing in the deep, dark, seemingly endless winter, you need a light at the end of the tunnel. A vacation to fantasize about can help keep your spirits up when all else feels hopeless.
  • Dress for success. When you have to venture out, learn to layer. And forget those “fashion” scarves that people in L.A. wear. You’ll want that hearty, thick, knit, grandma scarf when the subzero wind is burning your face. Trust me.tumblr_mtucbfRwGE1sjp8pio1_500

Los Angeles (One Post of Many to Come)

I was going to write a blog about Los Angeles.

Not about the Los Angeles from movies, magazines, or songs. About the everyday Los Angeles and what it feels like to grow up there in a way that you can only appreciate once you’ve left.

Then I realized that I just don’t have the time to give it the energy and attention that blog deserves right now. Rather than continue on my trend of not posting at all, I thought I’d do a little more sharing.

ThoughtCatalog is a collaborative website–or, more accurately, a collection of blogs. I sometimes think that ThoughtCatalog is psychic…it seems to post things that completely mirror the exact things I’ve been thinking about and in a voice much too similar to my own. It’s creepy.

So here are some highlights from ThoughtCatalog that reflect some of my feelings about Los Angeles (I’ve bolded points I find especially poignant):

from “How to Live in Los Angeles” by Ryan O’Connell:

Grow up in Culver City, Brentwood or even Glendale. Know early on that your neighborhood will define you. Move to Los Angeles only if you’re from weird places like Ohio or Oklahoma and quickly discover that people born on the East Coast don’t usually set foot in L.A. In fact, they pretty much despise the city. Everyone’s too sun-fried, too lazy, dazed at the beach, or so they think.

Have a normal upbringing. Get dropped off at gallerias in middle school and house parties in Eagle Rock when you’re in high school. Know someone who knows someone who works in the entertainment industry. When you’re older and in a different city, tell people that “Growing up in L.A., you’re just surrounded by celebrities. It really wasn’t a big deal.”

Go away to college on the East Coast and become friends exclusively with people from L.A. Talk about the city like it’s a nervous tic. “OMG, I miss In-N-Out so much right now! Did you ever go to Il Trem? The one in the valley? Ugh, I just want to lay out in the sun and drive around in my car, you know?” Say these things over and over especially when it’s snowing or a homeless person has just peed on your leg in the subway. These conversations about L.A. are never interesting, but they provide you with a sense of comfort. You feel safer somehow. People from Massachusetts or Rhode Island will overhear and treat you like an alien. You kind of are, but that’s okay. You’re going to move back after college anyway!

Grow up on the Eastside and rarely step foot west of La Brea. Grow up on the Westside and rarely step east of La Brea. Understand that the distinction between the two different sides of L.A. is very important to Los Angelenos, but never fully understand why.

Experience some beautiful moments in Los Angeles. Driving on PCH in the warm wind and smelling the Malibu ocean. Seeing the beautiful spanish architecture of the homes in Hancock Park. Driving late at night through the canyons. These will be times when L.A. will truly feel like “the easy life”, like some weird magical utopia. And in many ways, it is.

Los Angeles can be a dichotomy though. Be surprised to see something natural. Forget that you’re surrounded by beautiful mountains and oceans. Spend a lot of time staring at fake breasts and strip malls.

Notice a glaring contradiction with the healthy lifestyles people claim to live in L.A. These are the ones who spend their days swimming in the ocean, eating their macrobiotic lunch, doing yoga. But at night, they call their coke dealer, rage at a bar and go to an after-hours party. For many people, L.A. is GTC: Gym, tan, coke. “But it’s organic…”

A few quick things: Traffic sucks, the Mexican food does not, there’s great radio stations. People say this a lot; “I love L.A. but I hate L.A.”

Life here is like living in a hazy dreamworld that’s drenched in sun and smog. People wear $200 tracksuits to dinner. They say and do strange things, and love every second of their freakshow lives. Discover that the city doesn’t take itself too seriously. People can dress their dogs in fur-lined outfits, buy a whole new face and it’s fine because they’re in L.A. They pay good money to be able to live here and look absolutely ridiculous. Come to the conclusion that L.A. will never adapt, you will adapt to L.A. Admire the city’s unabashed attitude and think you’re going to stay here for a long time.

From “Overheard in Los Angeles” also by Ryan O’Connell:

A woman is typing on her computer at Intelligentsia, a hipster coffee shop in Silverlake that reminds me of Bedford Avenue. In the three weeks I spent in Los Angeles, I went there almost everyday to work because it attracted the kind of ridiculousness I’m always looking for in that city. This woman was older, maybe in her late thirties, and had tattoos. She was typing slowly on her old MacBook when she stopped to answer a phone call. She talked to whoever this person was on the other end of line about how hard it was for her to get out of bed today but the Prozac she has just been prescribed has really helped her. She actually seemed pleased with herself. She then talked about this boy she had been dating. “I looked him up on IMDB. I’m such a stalker.” She seemed tired and hopeful. I liked her.

A woman is describing the neighborhood of Silverlake to her friend while sitting in a restaurant in Silverlake. “It’s not as gay as like WeHo but it’s Los Angeles so it’s pretty gay everywhere. Silverlake is more diverse and full of artists. Not as gay though.” I never heard her friend respond, which was weird, but she kept on reiterating how Silverlake was “gay but not too gay.” I didn’t like this woman.

A drunk British woman told me that she loved my aura at the Chateau Marmont. I was at the hotel in a professional context so I was initially embarrassed by the interruption. However, the more she tried to grill me for information about myself, the more I felt at ease with the situation. I had to tell myself that this was the reason you go to the Chateau Marmont: to get accosted by aging foreigners with fake breasts who congratulate you on being so real, so salt of the earth. I liked this woman but maybe not for the same reasons she liked me.

So many bits and pieces of conversations about pilots or deals or Paramount studios being a dick or whatever. These conversations follow a script of their own and are usually really boring unless they’re openly talking shit on a celebrity. I hate all of these people.

An eight-year-old boy at Cross Creek in Malibu complaining about his weight to his mother. “I’m 102 but I would like to be 90 again.” This was not a joke. This was so real that it almost made me throw up all over Planet Blue. I liked the boy and I hated his mother. Who do you think is planting these ideas in his head?

These conversations all feed into this stereotype of L.A. being a city full of phonies who are obsessed with the entertainment industry. They’re not a fair representation—L.A. is so much more than that—but I realized while on the plane back home to New York that I perhaps consciously seek out that cliched Los Angeles experience. I don’t want to know about the nuances of the city. I want the super sized version of the city. I want sad delusional people talking about a bigshot movie producer over some iced teas. You can’t really get that anywhere else and since I’m a visitor rather than an actual resident of the city, I guess I’m more interested in just hearing the most quintessential L..A. conversations, stuff you wouldn’t be caught dead talking about anywhere else. This may be why people hate L.A. but it’s why I love it. It’s why I’m missing it so much already while I’m flying over Iowa and dreaming about sprawling backyards, Arnold Palmer’s, and a nice California salad. I want to go back. I’m not finished overhearing things.


I’d like to do a nice little wrap up and tie all these ideas together for you. I just don’t have the time, but I promise that I will at some point. I can put together a simultaneous Love Letter/Dear John Letter to my City of Angeles. In the meantime, I hope you enjoyed some of the stuff I shared today and I will bring back the wit & snark very, very soon.

Raise your glass! A toast–to La La Land.

I don’t like Los Angeles. The people are awful and terribly shallow, and everybody wants to be famous but nobody wants to play the game. I’m from New York. I will kill to get what I need.
~Lady Gaga 



Last time I was living in DC, the city experienced an unprecendented snowstorm. Obama declared it “Snowmaggedon” as the city virtually shut down, falling victim to the largest snowfall in DC in recorded history.

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And now, only 5 days into my glorious & triumphant return to the Capitol city, yet another uncommon disaster has struck! As you may have heard, central Virginia was hit with a 5.9 magnitude earthquake, the largest in DC history, sending shockwaves up the Eastern coast where it has been reported the tremors were felt as far north as Manhattan.

I worry that if I should ever leave DC and return again the city may face a tsunami.

It is a day that people on the East Coast will remember for the rest of their lives. One day, many, many years from now, I will sit on my porch with my friends, sipping lemonade as the sunsets over the ocean (yes, I have a porch & an ocean view) and we will ask each other “Where were you during Earthquakemaggedon?” And I’ll say, “Hell if I remember, someone get my robot and have him read me my blog…”

I just stepped out of the shower in my Washington DC dorm room. I throw on a towel, and walk to my desk. I sit down. I was about to begin one of my epic stare-into-space-and-think bouts when suddenly, the room begins to lightly tremble. Some fatty stomping down the hall? The shake gradually increases. Construction down the street? The building is swaying and shaking, my brain tries to compensate for a logical answer, ideas flashing through my mind, “It feels like an earthquake….but…but….it can’t be. They don’t have earthquakes here, do they?”

I’m a California girl, I know earthquakes. My body recognized “earthquake” but my mind was quick to step in and make the situation much more uncomfortable and stressful. Whether or not people want to admit it, I think most people thought we were under attack.

So I’m standing as the room about me continues swaying and shaking and I try to figure out what is going on.

I realize I’m still naked.

I throw some clean clothes on, whatever is going on, I don’t want to die naked and I want to have on clean underwear.

I look around the room. The door to the balcony is rusted, the shower head is too-both originals from when the building was used as a Howard Johnson’s, the carpet is dingy and stained… Logic, my personal demon, rears its ugly head, whispering into my ear “If they didn’t bother to change the shower head or the carpet, what are the chances that they retrofitted a building to withstand earthquakes in a place that doesn’t have earthquakes.”

I grab my phone and head for the door, quickly dialing my mom’s number.

“Mom, I don’t know what is going on right now, it felt like an earthquake, but I’m okay.”

I think it is interesting to see who people call first when they feel the threat of an emergency–real or perceived. For me, it’s my mom. I heard a woman outside call her boss, I hoped it wasn’t her first call.

There has been a lot of criticism about the way people on the East Coast have been handling the earthquake. Sure, I shook my head more than once at the kinds of things people said and did, both personally and institutionally after the quake. (Businesses closed down for the day!!!) But I want to put things in perspective.

  • The distance between where the earthquake epicenter was and where the earthquake was felt in say, NY, is slightly further than the distance between Los Angeles and Vegas. It would take a pretty decent earthquake to hit LA and feel it with substance in LV. I will attest, it was a pretty decent earthquake.
  • Watching people in DC handle an earthquake was the equivalent of how people in LA would react if they suddenly had a snowstorm. Screw that, people in LA can’t even handle driving in light rain.

Considering the fact that no one was prepared for it and didn’t have the knowledge of how to react to it–or what it was at first–I applaud you, citizens of Virginia and surrounding areas.

However, out of a mildly hectic situation, I managed to turn some good from it. As the only person who had ever been in an earthquake before, I was able to use my prior experience and literally thousands of earthquake drills to good use–making friends.

I introduced myself to a few panic-striken Southerners and East Coast natives. “Hi, I’m Liane. I’m from California, I guess I must have brought the earthquake with me, huh?”

The looks on their faces can be illustrated by this example:

The Setting: Restaurant
The Players: Waiter & Customer

Customer: Excuse me, sir. Can I see a menu?
Waiter: Of course. Hands him a menu. Would you like to hear the special for this evening.
Customer: That would be marvelous.
Waiter: The chef has prepared his specialty, Rocky Mountain Oysters for this evening. They are lightly battered and fried with a spicy homemade cocktail sauce. We rarely get the opportunity to serve such fresh fare, they are truly a delight.
Customer: Well  I’ve never had Rocky Mountain Oysters before, I’ll try them after such a outstanding recommendation.

Later, customer is served and begins enjoying his meal. The waiter returns to check-in.

Waiter: How is everything tasting this evening?
Customer: Why I do say, this is delicious. The flavors are superb! I never had oysters that taste quite like this before.
Waiter: Oh, I’m sorry sir, these aren’t oysters. Rocky Mountain Oysters are bull testicles.

THAT–that face. That look of terror and disgust was stuck on the face of every student outside the building, still in shock from Mother Nature’s violent reminder of her power. I coddled their egos, explaining that I too-after years of earthquakes–felt my stomach lurch as the ground beneath me rumbled and the building around me groaned. They softened, “But what about aftershocks?” I smiled. “Doorways are the safest places, structurally they are designed to withhold collapses.” On the word collapses, I saw the flickers of light in their eyes go dim. “Oh, but aftershocks are really rare. I’m sure it’s fine just to go back inside and go back to your normal day. Back home if there’s an earthquake you usually won’t even stand up. You just wait for it to end and go on with your day.” They nodded, impressed by the bravery of the West Coast natives, who feel the Earth around them shake and just continue on with their day.

Then one of the women eased up and began making conversation. We were joking and smiling and then she says, “Yeah well I camp out under that bridge over there and I could see the whole thing just moving from side to side.”

Our smiles briefly faltered then became forced. We quickly exchanged glances. No, none of us had known that she was one of the crazy homeless people who lived under the bridge. We politely excused ourselves, finding that we’d rather brave the building than the rest of that conversation.

To be fair, it is EXTREMELY easy to mistake a graduate student for a homeless person and vice versa. This is why:

  • Bad Fashion. Currently the whole “hipster”, my clothes smell mildly like a dumpster, I-don’t-try-at-all thing is trendy–I get it. Men don’t feel the need to shave or shower. Not my thing, but some people are into that.
  • The smell. (Many, though not all) Academics have terrible hygiene. My oceanography professor’s teeth were dark yellow and you could see his plaque from 10 feet away. Also, for some reason they sweat a lot. I tend to believe it is due to the constant pressure to prove that they are actually as smart as people think they are/as smart as they want people to think they are.
  • Lack of food. Both the homeless and grad students are undernourished. There simply isn’t enough money to go around. Both are likely to beg for food. Some do it out of principle: A friend of mine recently met a girl who called herself a “freegan”. No not a vegan, a freegan. That means she only ate food that was free. By the way–she did NOT make it up, it’s an organized movement. Doesn’t it make you hate snotty, elitist, entitled, pseudo-intellectuals just that much more?
  • Lack of sleep. I actually believe that a homeless person probably gets more sleep than a graduate student does, but both are likely to wake up with bloodshot eyes and the lingering smell of cheap beer.
  • Bad Fashion, Again. Graduate students can’t afford anything. Tuition, housing & books suck up a huge portion of a graduate student’s budget. So when your casual clothes and shoes get faded, smelly, torn, bleached, tattered–you do what you can and just keep on trucking. Sure you might shell out for work attire, but a pair of jeans or sneakers probably won’t make the cut.

A toast, to the homeless because they are probably drinking anyways.

“I used to sleep nude — until the earthquake.”
~Alyssa Milano