Thursday, June 28, 2012

You will take a risk in the near future and win

"You will take a risk in the near future and win" says the little slip of paper in my fortune cookie. It's a day before I leave for Los Angeles, and I'm being ultra superstitious. At the time, I took it as an auspicious start to my summer. When I got to LA though, I realized exactly what risk it was referring to: improv.

I went to see Harvard's short form improv troupe, On Thin Ice, so often freshman year that I secretly considered myself some sort of groupie. To them I was more like that weird quiet girl who was at all their shows but that no one actually wanted to meet.

Someone did notice how often I went though and suggested that I try out next year. Oh no, I couldn't do that I protested. I have no experience with improv: I have never been involved in a theater production or taken a drama class. All the experience I had was growing up watching inappropriate stand up specials on Comedy Central and wondering why my parents never blocked that stuff.

You know what, I thought, I'm in LA. You can't throw a shoe without hitting an aspiring actor, director, writer. No one even calls it the entertainment industry here, it's just The Industry. I might as well take advantage of these improv classes and meet a few actors along the way. With that, less than 24 hours after landing in LA, I bolted out of my loft and to the nearest improv theater that still had space in their class. That's how my weekly Sunday improv class at IO has become the thing I look forward to every week.

So remember: take chances y'all and stay golden. Also, believe everything your fortune cookie tells you.

Monday, June 25, 2012

I Host Couchsurfers Sometimes

My loft mate has couch surfers over sometimes. Last week, we had a total of three staying. Here's what I remember of the experience:

One of them has a tree tattoo covering the expanse of her back. I see tree branches holding her shoulders up and supporting her neck though the honeycomb holes in her shirt. Mar makes us curry.

Another has shaved the sides of her head and pulled her mowhawk into a ponytail. Her hair is dyed turquoise. She goes by Tess Aquarium. I think of mermaids.

They have come from the bay area (San Francisco), where they work together on making clothing for a boutique called 
Spineret, a reference to silk-spinning organ of a spider.
I found Tess's look so unique that I had to share it here. These photos come from her Flickr stream.

Here are a few things I learned from the two:

  1. Open relationships are okay as long as both partners are in agreement about being in an open relationship. There's no need to get jealous. In fact, it is even okay to be friends with your partner's other partners. In open relationships, most people will have a primary partner and then a few secondary partners. 
  2. It is really cool to fashion glasses out of sunglasses. I can't believe I never thought to do that! If large frames are a trend, why not take that to the extreme and use sunglasses as the frames? It looks really interesting! Yes, those glasses pictured above are prescription.
  3. Everyone should go to Burning Man once. It will blow your mind. You will learn to be self reliant and feel more creative, in tune with nature, and do many, many drugs. For clarification, Burning Man is a week long event in Black Rock Desert where people of all kinds gather to participate in radical self expression and self-reliance. Self expression because many artists will get together to create really amazing structures to bring into the sites. Self reliance because you have to bring everything you will need for the week with you--including food, shelter, and water--and you're not allowed to buy/sell anything. At the end of the week, everything must be left as it was found. All structures and pieces of art are set on fire (hence the name), and people remove all traces of their short inhabitance. 
  4. The reason why Bella Swan is such a passive character is because in Mormon culture, women are conditioned to be submissive and consider marriage their greatest goal. 
  5. The combination of curry, rice, and vegetables make for a wonderful meal. 

If you're curious, here's a video compilation of some of the people and typical scenes of Burning Man:

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Athletes must think I'm an idiot

Athletic people must think I'm an idiot. When I walk in the Intro to Crossfit class today, the guy teaching the class points at me and cries, "Hey! You already came to this class!"

"Am I not supposed to?" I ask. I am genuinely confused. I thought they taught something different at every Intro class. Isn't that the exciting thing about crossfit? That you never know what the workout will be because it'll be different every time?

"Well I don't know why you'd want to. You'll be listening to me say the same thing over again," says the teacher. I don't have a clever comeback for this, so I stand there and feel dumb. He's right though. I went to the Intro class at this nearby crossfit gym on Tuesday and again today. The guy teaching today's intro class introduces himself as Fish. Fish is more like a clown fish mixed with a judgmental shark. He makes a lot of clever comebacks at my dumb questions. At first I think my cluelessness is endearing but then I realize he actually thinks I'm stupid.

Strike one:

I jog to the gym, and when I arrive I am sweating excessively. As I'm waving my hands to cool myself down, Fish shoots me a weird look and asks, "Are you okay?"

"I'm just really out of shape," I say.

"From standing there?"

"No, I jogged here," I mumble.

Strike two:

We begin our warm-up for the work out. Fish tells us to leave through the front entrance, run around the side of the building and come in through the back door. Most everyone does that. I, of course, run around the whole building and come in through the front entrance. When I come back, everyone else is standing and waiting on me. 

Fish says, "You were supposed to come in through the back door. Did you run around the whole building?"

"Yeah, I'm bad at listening to directions," I reply in a sorry I'm not sorry tone of voice. It rubs Fish the wrong way because he gives me another one of his judgmental looks and says, "Yeah, I've noticed."

Excuse me? He's known me for less than two hours. I'm really not that dumb or socially awkward. Gyms just aren't my element. It's like if an athlete couldn't pronounce Nietzsche or said he didn't read if he didn't have to. I might think less of him but I'd only insult him behind his back.

Strike three:

"You need to come to Fundamentals classes, not Intro classes. You're really not going to get anything out of this class by coming to it again," says Fish.

"Um, is that, like, a bad thing?" I mumble, looking at the ground. I feel like a partially lobotomized valley girl. Fish doesn't even have a response to that. In fact, he walks away to talk to someone who can properly form sentences. 

I'm partially exaggerating, but I really did feel bad coming out of crossfit today.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

What I'm actually doing this summer

I am working at a non-profit that deals with education in low income schools which I will refer to today as GRAND. The staff is very small and the hours are flexible. I don't have to go in until noon on most days, and I usually leave around five.

I do the tasks that I am given, and usually within days of being assigned these little odd jobs. Work is fairly easy, and each day is different because I am essentially given a new task every day. This is mostly because GRAND does not have a structured intern program. They only hire one intern a summer and have the intern do whatever GRAND needs at the time. The intern last summer worked on putting together a major charity event. This summer, a lot of my tasks have to do with research and more operational type projects.

For all intents and purposes, I am an unpaid intern. Thank goodness my summer here is actually covered by two different grants which are more than enough to cover basic living expenses as well as whatever else I need for a comfortable and entertaining lifestyle.

Here are a few personal side projects I want to do this summer:
  1. Code a simple database website with Brooke. Bonus points if we finish early and can start on a database of extracurriculars. 
  2. Write and submit at least one article for Thought Catalog. Keep writing, rewriting, and submitting to Thought Catalog until they publish one my pieces.
  3. Blog about the HBO show Girls.
  4. Read 50 Shades of Grey and How to Win Friends and Influence People

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

I spy with my little eye

From my loft on the eleventh floor, I can see past the rising buildings of downtown LA all the way to the mountains, currently shrouded by mist and sunset. The loft itself is huge, and I am lucky enough to be sharing it with one of my best friends. I have been here for exactly one week, and I have another ten ahead of me. This past week has been a lot of firsts: first experience with couch surfers, first time at a goth club, first time at a spa, first time doing bikram yoga, first time cooking for myself, and the first time living on my own. 
 My loft, which I share with two others. Our dining room as seen from the kitchen. 
Our kitchen. My bedroom is through the open door. 

Goth clubs really aren't that intimidating

Goth clubs aren't as intimidating as I thought they'd be. One of my loft mates is a former-goth and took me to Das Bunker on Friday night. We drove there straight from a comedy show, so we had to change in the parking lot. My former-goth friend changed from jeans into a black patent leather skirt with chains and spikes on it. He also put a spiked collar around his neck. This same friend works as a personal tutor during the day and occasionally wears screen printed pink shirts. 

Inside is like any club: three dance floors with small bars in each of them. There are two platforms with poles jutting out of them and seating around them on the left and right sides of the room. One of my girlfriends immediately climbs on top of one of the poles and starts pole dancing. She's taken eight pole dancing classes and is eager to show off her skills. Her dancing is much different than the dancing of the handful of people below her. 

The club has just opened, and a few people populate the dance floor. One guy is spinning and jumping around in a style I imagine a fairy in the woods would. I see other people using their arms very creatively. Goths really seem to dance for themselves. Most people dance by themselves in styles that would be incompatible with anyone else, but there's a beat to the music and a definite pulse you can follow. 

In any case, you can dance safely in the knowledge that your dancing can't possibly be any weirder or more convulsive than the lanky guy covered in spikes next to you.

Or the girl with a cat tail sticking out of her leather tutu. 

Monday, June 18, 2012

Life tip #3: undervalued necessities for the city

During the first week, I was woken up everyday by the sun streaming through, over and around the heavy brown curtains hanging over the many windows lining one of the walls in my room. That's when I congratulated myself on having the foresight to bring eye masks, if not the common sense to start wearing them until the fifth morning. 

If you live in a loft with tall windows, you should get an eye mask asap.

Another undervalued necessity for life in the city are earplugs. I have used them to avoid hearing honking cars outside, my libidinous loft mates, and the occasional crackhead commotion.

Nothing like highlighting problems with an alerting alliteration.

Life lesson #2: important things to know when moving in

Things to figure out first when moving into a new place:

1. Do you have all the keys you need?

For my loft, there were two keys I would need: one to get into the building and one to get into the loft. Even one day in I was going out and exploring the area. There's nothing worse than not having the freedom to come and go as you want.

2. How does the shower work?

This is something I didn't ask about until it was too late and my loft mates were already asleep. I couldn't figure out how to turn on the shower. I could turn on the water and get it going out of the shower faucet. But I couldn't find the switch that would get that running water to come out of the shower head. My first shower experience in my loft was pitiful. I ended up bending down and splashing small amount of water on myself. I definitely did not feel clean afterwards. Turns out there was a ring around the shower faucet that you had to pull down on in order to get the shower head working.

3. Where do you throw out the trash?

Okay, not an issue as pressing as the other two. But still an important thing to know. I hate having the trash pile up; it's disgusting. So it was important for me to know where to throw things out. For my loft, the community trash can was in a utility closet in the hallway.

4. Where do you do laundry?

This one I only found out two weeks after I moved in. I have a bad habit of not dealing with things until I have to or until some magical intervention happens where I find out things without having to first put in any effort. I find that such serendipity only makes me more sure my habits are for the best.

Life lesson #1 : all the [adjective] kids sit in the back

When you have open seating on an airplane, you should always sit as close as possible to the front of the airplane. You will not only be the first to get out but also avoid the surprisingly large concentration of kids in the back of the flight. I don't know if parents have this innate instinct to sit in the back, if they figure they will have more space in the back or if the sound of crying will annoy fewer people if their kids are in the back, but it all turns out the same.

At first, you will be tempted to wait to claim a seat because you think you see more window or aisle seats near the back. As you get closer, you will find what looked to be empty seats are actually filled by little kids, too small to have been seen from the front. By then, it is too late. Most likely at this point you have to sit between two people anyway. Even worse, you will be surrounded by babies and children. As the rule of planes goes, there will be that one child who screams intermittently, just as you are about to fall asleep.

I sat between two guys who looked to be a few years younger than me, and slept between bouts of screaming from the kid sitting directly behind me. It was annoying, but only in the way it's supposed to be.
© Yuqi Hou
Maira Gall