Boss Up with Bevin Your dream life is at the end of your comfort zone

2017-03-24

Meet Iris and Virginia, the Cuties behind Cuties

Hey everybody! I am so thrilled to introduce you to my pals Iris and Virginia! I met them through their monthly pop-up gathering Queers, Coffee and Donuts and am so appreciative of all of the work they do to create fabulous parties.

Virginia (left) and Iris (right).

I love gender inclusive body positive community space. Being explicit about this gathering principle helps people feel at ease in new social circles. When I was planning my move to LA many people complained about a dearth of queer community events and spaces, but thanks to Iris and Virginia’s hard work, there’s a thriving new crowd about to inhabit a permanent brick and mortar space–Cuties coffee bar!

Not even a year ago we lost 49 gathered at a gay nightclub in the Pulse Nightclub shooting. Not long after that was the Ghostship fire in Oakland, where queers were gathered in an underground space and 36 lost their lives. I think now more than ever brick and mortar gathering spaces that are funded and able to have safety protocols are so important for marginalized communities. We need safe(r) spaces and refuges where we can be ourselves and we need to rise up let our tragedies fuel our commitment to making space and our resistance to oppressors.

As a Femme presenting person I really love being in a majority queer space and hope that folks assume I am queer until proven otherwise. I also hope that in a space that centers gender non conforming identities that folks don’t assume pronouns based on aesthetic assumptions. Iris once joked, “Every time someone asks a Femme presenting person their pronoun preference, an angel gets its wings.”

The fundraising video for Cuties is groundbreaking! An example of how all media can work to be in solidarity with gender non conforming and trans folks–put people’s names and preferred gender pronouns! (You have to watch it!)

The first Cuties event I went to was a pool party with donut floaties! Here I am with my friends Dari and T!

Read below the vision behind Cuties coffee bar. If you have a few bucks to help create this vital gathering space, please donate. Perks include pronoun pins! A great accessory and fabulous gift! And if you don’t, please share about this on social media. Folks all over should know that this is happening.

Here’s my interview with Iris and Virginia, my questions are in bold:

Tell us a little bit about yourselves and what background you bring to the Cuties coffee bar?

Iris is a genderfluid queer femme who has a background in costume design and the arts. Virginia is a transgender woman who started two online businesses. Her most recent business Tonx was an online subscription service for coffee which sold to Blue Bottle. We’re both from Virginia and we both love hosting. Creating a business around hosting and serving folks seemed very natural to us.

Cooper is their incredibly cute and sweet cat.

Did you start your events before or after you decided to open the coffee bar?

The coffee bar idea came first! We knew the process of finding a location and building out the coffee bar would take time. We also knew that we wanted to provide space and start building community right away so we came up with idea of “Queers, Coffee and Donuts.” It’s a monthly event where all folks on the LGBTQIA+ spectrum and allies can congregate in a low-pressure social environment. There’s no agenda other than inclusion, good strong coffee and delicious homemade donuts.

What has been the part of Cuties that has made you the most proud?

Seeing how loving and supportive this community can truly be makes us incredibly proud. We love watching people connect at events we host. We’ve seen people find new partners, friends, roommates, collaborators… you name it. People are even finding jobs through one another! Our goal with Cuties from the start has been to connect the queer community in LA in a way that’s inclusive and supportive and it seems to be working! Seeing the results fills us up and keeps us moving forward.

What are the challenges you’ve been experiencing with the build out and starting a brick and mortar business?

Everything always takes a lot longer than you think! We had some delays in getting into our space which threw our timeline off but we just put our energy into fundraising and creating more events for the community. We also imagine that there will be some delays with the buildout but we’re trying to schedule padding into our timeline to accommodate for those. It’s a struggle to let go of challenges that come up that we can’t control but over the past year we’ve really seen the power of persistence and incremental work. Even when it doesn’t feel like you’re making progress even the smallest step makes a difference in the long run.

What’s your vision for a day in the life of the Cuties coffee bar?

It’s early. Still dark out. We lift up the security gate and get the shop ready for the morning rush. Sleepy LACC students wander in before their first classes as the sun comes up, folks stop by after morning meditation at Against the Stream, people from the neighborhood come in for their morning pick me up. Slowly as the morning rush dissolves folks start settling in a bit. We have a slow, steady stream of everyone on the LGBTQIA+ spectrum (including allies) coming in and getting served. The afternoon shifts into evening. Some folks are out front in the vestibules cozied up on a date, tables are moved aside and chairs are set up inside and a screening of short films by queer filmmakers or maybe it’s a continuing sex education class or perhaps a Queer Mermaid Meetup. We close up shop after a full day happy knowing that our community had a safer and welcoming space where they could be themselves.

What informed the decision to open in East Hollywood?

The process of finding a space took us almost a full year. We were looking all over the city and saw hundreds of spaces. It was a very Goldilocks experience: this space is too small, this space is too large, this space is too expensive, this space doesn’t have enough infrastructure. The space in East Hollywood seemed to have a lot that was just right. The building is older and has some nice vintage details including dusty rose bricks and white moulding. The space is around 1,200 square feet and fit our budget. It was previously a coffee shop so there’s adequate electricity as well as some good plumbing already in place. We also love the location because we’re right behind LACC, a block away from a Buddhist meditation center. The Braille Institute and the Hollywood Presbyterian Medical center are both close too. While our goal is to center and support queer & trans folks our business is going to be kept afloat by the neighborhood around us.

Dari drinking coffee at Queers, Coffee and Donuts.

What’s on the menu for Cuties?

We’re starting small! You’ll be able to get some pastries and donuts with your coffee. Since so many of our community members are vegan and gluten free we’re featuring goodies from Erin McKenna’s Bakery. We’ve been serving their donuts at Queers, Coffee & Donuts monthly and they are a great option for folks who can’t have Virginia’s very glutinous and decidedly non-vegan donuts. Eventually we’ll start adding some grab and go items like breakfast bagels and sandwiches.

I have noticed that a lot of coffee bars in LA don’t have space for fliers (for real!). Since you’re a community space, what’s your vision for fliers/community message board?

In the shop we’re planning on having nooks for fliers for like events and classes but also informational pamphlets about PrEP or safer sex practices. There will also be bulletin board for people to share services, roommate requests, and more. We’re also excited to feature zines from queer & trans creators and have them on a rack for purchase. The flier nooks, bulletin board and zine racks will be positioned so folks will see them when they pick up their drinks. We’re also dedicated to keeping those resources up to date. It’s such a bummer to see a flyer for a cool event only to find out it was last weekend! We’ll also continue with our promotion of community events and services through our social media accounts and through our newsletter the “Cuties Weekly Brief.”

Check out the IndieGogo for Cuties right at this link (and seriously watch the video even without sound–you’ll see what I’m talking about with groundbreaking pronouns in the subtitles)!

Follow Cuties on Facebook!

Upcoming events for Cuties:

Queer Carnival fundraiser in the new space Sunday, March 26thTristan Taormino is doing a spanking booth, there’s a Shibari tutorial and lots of other fun, and I’m working the door!

Queers, Coffee and Donuts April 9th

I love that Cuties events often encourage optional costumes and Iris will always bring the fabulous costume to other events–like my birthday party! Pictured here with Tristan.

2016-07-31

That Time I Fainted at the Robert Mapplethorpe Closing Party at the Getty

A couple weeks ago our friend Barb asked us if we wanted to go to the closing party for the Robert Mapplethorpe exhibit at the Getty Museum. I hadn’t been to the exhibit yet, the party was free and it sounded fabulous. We had to RSVP with our email addresses, there were no plus ones, and the event filled up fast. We were the only folks we knew going, so it was kind of a social experiment–what kinds of queers were going to be at an LA Pride Presents event?

waitingfortram

Dara and I just hit the six month mark of living in LA and Barb is maybe three weeks into officially living here after lots of weekend visits from Fresno. All of us are recent residents of Brooklyn. It’s kind of scary, fun and exciting to go to gay events in a new town where you only know some people and you don’t know “the scene.”

The party started at 7, we planned to leave for the museum at 6:30 and I got a LOT done yesterday. I woke up at 8 and it was way cooler than most mornings in this heatwave because there was a haze over the sun, so I got to work doing some house projects. Dara was inspired, too, and we got a lot of physical things done at the house, only taking a break to go to Home Depot. (As a Femme who has only lived in major metropolitan cities as an adult I am feeling some type of Lesbian Merit Badge Achievement at the amount of home improvement and Home Depot attendance I’ve amassed since we moved here and rented this quirky house.)

After I did all of that stuff I met up with my friends Monica and Heather at the Glassell Park Pool to do some aqua jog. Exercise is really important for my mental and emotional health and it has been hard in this heatwave to move enough. I know it’s also super dangerous to move too much in the heat. I find aqua jog to be a great way to do both cardio and cooling off, but since we were doing it and chatting about serious stuff I didn’t realize I had been in the pool, moving, not drinking water and in the sun for an hour and forty five minutes, an hour longer than I usually aqua jog. In spite of my sunhat, I didn’t take enough self care precautions and I know in hindsight that took a lot out of me. When I got home I jumped right into finishing house projects and then got ready to leave.

bevinsunset

In this whole backstory I’m not drinking nearly as much water as I usually do and doing a lot more physical work during the heat than I usually do. So my body is super dehydrated but for some reason I’m not getting any warning signs, not consciously realizing it but behind the scenes things were going into alarm bell mode.

We parked in the Getty parking lot just inside the entrance off the 405, at the base of a hill. I was confused because I understood the museum to be at the top of a hill. We exited the first place we could from the parking garage, which was a not clearly marked staircase. If we had kept walking through the parking garage we would have found elevators, apparently, but three flights of stairs later we walked onto the “roof access” area and asked folks for directions. You can walk up the hill to the museum or there is a lovely train that will take you. We chose the train. Pro tip, if you go visit the Getty for the first time, read the website. There are many tips for visiting and I wish I had read them.

We got to watch the just-post-sunset colors over the mountains and the freeway below get more and more beautiful on the less than five minute ride. We exited into this spectacular terrace with a view of the last minute of sunset. My eye was drawn to the sunset but I definitely missed any signs about where to go for the party or the museum, so after our sunset photos we got into the first line we saw that seemed like tickets.

sunsetatgetty

Sometimes the sunset is the best art in the world, you know?

An official looking woman handed us plastic books with information about caves. I was thinking, “What a fabulous party it’s in a cave!” None of the people in line seemed like folks who were there for an LA Pride closing party for a queer artist exhibit. Part of me wanted to check out the caves since we were there but we had all discussed how much easier it is to do a museum and only see one exhibit and focus just on that experience. In hindsight I’m so glad we made the decision to ask whether there was a different entrance for the Mapplethorpe closing party because if I had fainted in a cave it could have been way worse.

We had to go up a bunch more stairs, which I think is the grand entrance to the Getty. I was thinking a lot about privilege and accessibility throughout this whole entrance process. First of all, one big part of accessibility is being clear about barriers to participation up front and what accommodations are available. Not seeing signs to the elevators in the parking garage or to the entrance was a thing that if I had been checked into how my body was feeling I probably would have opted for them. As an event coordinator I make sure to have those notes on events. (Noting whether there is street parking available, if there are stairs and how many, whether there are elevators, if the venue is ADA compliant, etc…) At the time I was acknowledging our ability privilege that if we were lost at the Getty we could at least walk up the grand staircase to get where we were going.

I was also thinking about art privilege and these giant statues we were seeing walking up. Money for arts seems so arbitrary sometimes. I know so many incredibly talented artists who, if given the financial resources, could make extraordinary sculptural pieces. It costs a lot to work with metal/most materials on large scale and I had just gotten an email from our photo booth designers for Dollypalooza about our tiny budget for props and it was just an interesting contrast about how we create, monetize and people experience art.

These are the things I think of when going to a big fancy museum. We found the check in area for the party at the top of the grand staircase and got our purple party stickers. We took more pictures overlooking Downtown LA below and saw the event on the terrace, it was spectacular. It felt appropriate and awesome that the closing party of an exhibit by a queer man be a party thrown by an LGBT Pride organization. We finally found an elevator, too, tucked behind a column of stone with no signage.

gettystickerI loved that the event designer matched the stickers to the party lighting and tablecloths. I thought it was a nice touch and great flow to the party layout, too.

The food was sooooo gooooooood at the party. I had been doing a whole foods cleanse for a couple of weeks to reset my digestion and really hoped that the duck egg rolls were wrapped in rice wrappers because they were very delicious and I knew I might get a tummy ache from them if it wasn’t rice wrappers but I was feeling the party vibe and living on the edge. And still not drinking water.

A friend of a friend came up and introduced themselves to me (a friend of Shannon/Miss Mary Wanna is a friend of mine!) and we gave them all of our drink tickets because none of us were drinking booze. Things were feeling great and fun and so magical!

Then we went to see the exhibit. I love Robert Mapplethorpe from intimacy with him through Patti Smith’s memoir Just Kids. They lived in the same neighborhood I did in Brooklyn while he was going to Pratt, everything felt like such a big connection, living a big queer life knowing their weirdo artist friends in the 60s/70s reminds me of my weird queer artist community. I know a lot of photographers who shoot people similar to Mapplethorpe and wouldn’t be surprised to go to a Getty exhibit for one of them someday! (I highly recommend getting Shoog’s book Queers in Nature!)

I was getting really into the exhibit and the curatorial writing going along with the photos telling his story. How he loved fame and longed for it (way to go getting a posthumous Getty exhibit, what an amazing fame achievement).

mapplethorpeclosingparty

I overheard a man talking about how Mapplethorpe had a model he photographed where he showed his penis in some photos and his face in others and he promised the model he would never show them in the same image. So the curation involved a photo of the model’s face next to a photo of his penis and I had a lot of feelings of judgment coming up about deciding to break an artist/model consent contract intentionally like that. Even if not explicitly breaking it, I feel like when you’re curating you need to keep in mind what understandings the artist had with their models. As someone who models for folks, I am glad we do written consent/model releases now.

Mapplethorpe died of AIDS related illness and I was curious if a lot of his models have passed, too. What does death do with our art and consent practices? Should artists be including a clause in their estates about adhering to consent?

Anyway, then I had a few minutes looking at the Andy Warhol photo and marveling at the intimate look Mapplethorpe captured, feeling like I was making a connection with Warhol himself through the photo. How photography is sometimes catching the right expression or creating the right intimacy to convey to the audience a specific emotion. I walked away from the Warhol, found Dara and told her I was feeling woozy.

warhol

I don’t remember this part of what happened clearly, but this is Dara’s account, in her words to me:

You were feeling woozy and I wasn’t sure if it was a quick wooze or something more serious. So I checked in again and you said it wasn’t going away so you said we should sit down. We went and found a bench to sit on. Sat there for a few minutes and then you decided you needed to go to the bathroom. Rather than having you walk around woozy, I decided to see where the bathrooms were so we could get there the quickest route. I came back, took you to the bathroom and held your arm so I was supporting you a little bit.

You were walking and talking for a little bit. Then you stopped talking and then you proceeded to slowly fall to the ground as though you were walking an invisible staircase. I kept asking if you were okay but you weren’t responding. I wasn’t sure if you were bending over to pick something up so I tried to keep holding you upright but letting you go down slowly.

Once you were kneeling I said “Are you okay?” and you tried to stand up again. And you said, “I think I might have just fainted.” And then you fainted again, still with my arm underneath you so I was holding a fair portion of your weight. And then I said, “Baby, I need you to get on your butt,” when you were back to being lucid, I didn’t want you to fall over again.

Then you finally heard me and said, “Yeah that’s a good idea.” And you sat down on your butt, against the wall, and then a security guard came over.

Once I came to I realized shit was really wrong for me and that I should probably go to the ER. I haven’t ever fainted in my adult life so I was super worried about it. One of my besties fainted and hit her head going down on a counter and had a serious brain injury from it. I told the security guard I needed help and he said help was on the way and so was a wheelchair.

barbsbackBarb’s dress was pretty incredible.

I have a chronic digestive disorder, which means I am very intimate with my body’s warning signals around episodes of that, and since my whole body was shutting down of course that was happening, too. I was like, “I still need to get to the bathroom, I cannot wait, I still have my dignity and I am not going to shit my pants at the Getty.” In spite of everyone’s protests, I crawled to the bathroom. I was aware I was having an Ab Fab worthy spectacle and talking about my dignity, but better to be a spectacle than to shit your pants.

Brandon, one of the first responders, helped scoop me up with Dara to quasi carry me to the bathroom. I made it in time, with Barb and Dara waiting right outside the stall to make sure I was okay. Also, while washing my hands in the bathroom I ran into someone I know. Imagine being in a situation where you might be about to go to the ER when you run into someone and not have the words to even explain what’s happening so you just introduce your partner and your friend and say how good it is to see someone and then go out of the bathroom into the waiting arms of the first responders from the Getty.

Who, by the way, were amazing! They took a bunch of info from me and talked to me about my condition, with a certain kindness that felt safe and not mean. They thought I was probably very dehydrated and needed to go home and rest. It felt very VIP the way they cared for me and treated me through the whole thing. I got a wheelchair and they let me take a spin through the exhibit to see if I was up for seeing it in a wheelchair (the answer was no, but the FOMO part of me was glad I at least tried). I snapchatted the wheelchair ride because I was like “I will not waste this outrageous moment in my life, this is what social media is for.”

gettyinspiredThe hashtag at the museum is #gettyinspired and they have it on the ground where they think you should take photos which I thought was a great social media idea.

First responders are total heroes, the capacity to know what to do in an emergency and handle it with grace and kindness is a true skill.  To be the people who run into the burning building… The first responder team at the Getty also had some amazing stuff to say about the Getty Foundation’s good works outside the museum and the exhibits at the museum (apparently London Calling is not to be missed). I feel so grateful that if I was going to pass out in public I did it while on the arm of my supportive partner and with first responders so readily available.

They took us out of the museum in a truck from the VIP parking lot where the higher ups in the Getty Museum park directly to our car in the parking lot down the hill. I felt like a very woozy, sick celebrity.

barbbevinBarb was soooo helpful during the aftermath. Even just holding the purse and being back-up for Dara was really helpful. Also look at these shoes she just got on a work trip to Shanghai.

So then Barb drove us home. We stopped at a Whole Foods on the way because we needed electrolytes to help hydrate me and I called my mom. I don’t think she follows me much on social media but it felt terrible that she might find out I fainted at the Getty from someone else so I thought she should know first. Also I still wasn’t sure if I would end up in the ER.

bevinwheelchairI actually hurt my foot bending the toes back when I fell but so grateful I didn’t hit my head or anything. Also I’m totally wearing bike shorts in this photo and feel great about that choice for chub rub prevention last night when I was crawling towards the bathroom.

After home, bed, air conditioning, 2+ liters of coconut water and tons of alkaline water I am feeling 60% better. I am taking my body’s warning signs very seriously and keeping it simple and asking for help. I have a history of heat sickness and this is the worst it has ever been. I am going to be extremely mindful of heat, activity, house projects, hydration, electrolytes and social activity from now on.

And now I have a great story to tell.

fostersI cannot thank my supportive, awesome partner Dara enough for taking such good care of me during and after this ordeal. We are binge watching the Fosters on Netflix because my friend Silas Howard directed an episode in the current season and I want to watch it with context!

2016-01-27

How We Found Our House in LA

As soon as we decided to move to LA I insisted I would only move into a house. They have all of these houses out here that are 2 bedroom, 1 bath bungalows, with little yards and washer/dryers and no walls sharing with anyone else. I’ve never lived in a stand alone house as an adult.

A huge part of why I was so ready for a departure from NYC was to live in an area that had less population density. Not that LA is a small place but it is more spread out. My apartment building was a huge pre-war beauty, with a Flintstones meets Camelot style grand lobby and truly the biggest two bedroom apartment of anyone I knew. But it was also a box in a building full of boxes, with people surrounding me at all times.

As I’ve developed my woo, I am realizing how much space I need, physical, emotional, spiritual. It’s helpful for me to get recharged in places where all I can see in one direction is what (in my belief) the Goddess made. Nature. The beach. The forest. The rolling Smokey Mountains. The desert. It’s also really exciting for me to get to live in a climate where my seasonal depression will be more low key.

When deciding to move to LA, here’s all of the factors that swayed me back to the left coast (I grew up in the Bay Area):

10% Seeing Grandmother more frequently
10% Seeing my Aunt/Godmother of choice more frequently
15% Developing a closer relationship with my family (who are all really funny and awesome)
25% Lessening/eliminating my seasonal depression
20% Living in a house
20% Further developing my spiritual and artistic gifts

Anyway, I knew having a house would be instrumental to all of that. (For more about our process, read this post.) When we visited LA last May, it was my intention to wander the city, get to know it and decide where we were going to live. Dara was just glad to be coming back to LA, she left it up to me to decide our neighborhood. (Obviously she still had veto power.)

grandmotheranddaracancersurvivorparkGrandmother and Dara at the Rancho Mirage Cancer Survivor’s park. (Dara survived cancer, Grandmother has thankfully not had cancer.)

I considered a pretty wide stretch of spaces. My Grandmother is in Rancho Mirage (two towns over from Palm Springs, I’d call it a low-key ritzy retirement area). The area has great developing professional industry. Which is good for me because I have to start my day job career over again. It’s two hours from LA proper, though, and it’s even farther from the beaches. But it’s 15 minutes to the mountains and the desert from Grandmother’s house.

My beloved Aunt/Godmother of choice is in Camarillo, so are two of my cousins and their kids. My family immigrated there from Canada when my mom and her siblings were pre-teens. It’s a magical place with a lot of energy for me. I know a bunch of awesome queers in the next town over, Ventura, which is a gorgeous sleepy beach town that I adore.

I have some awesome friends in Long Beach and considered that for cheaper rent and access to the beach. We stayed there for a couple of days during that May trip and got a feel for it.

We stayed a couple of nights on “the Westside” as I’m hearing folks call it, the area of LA by the airport and the beaches. We were in LA proper at a hotel (Dara had a work conference, I was “conference wife” in the fancy hotel room) and seconds from Marina Del Rey, a gorgeous beach town. Not far from Santa Monica and Venice, both totally captured my heart I loved them. I really thought I might want to live out there.

But then we visited my friends in the Northeast section of LA (Highland Park, specifically) and there were wild parrots flying overhead, it’s nestled into these amazing hills with huge regional parks with hikes and views of the sunset and an abundance of those 2 bed 1 bath bungalows with detached garage art studio spaces and yards. And then we went to a party at another one of those houses with a bunch of awesome queers and I realized it reminded me of the best parts of living in Brooklyn. It was going to ease my transition to start in a neighborhood where I knew folks who were easy to get to.

sunteaMy first pot of sun tea. The first thrift store we went to on Sunday had this beauty and two matching glasses for only $5! The first brew I’m doing is my reiki infused tea “calm” blend because me and Dara need to find our chill during these unsettling house taken care of times.

We visioned hard for the house we wanted. We wanted to be able to see the sunset every day while I drank iced tea. We wanted a porch, a yard for Macy, a garden for me, at least two bedrooms plus a sunroom/office. Abundant closet space, a nice bathtub, a great kitchen, on site laundry, and no shared walls. A driveway. I also loved my joke about having an avocado tree. My friend James Leander (in Ventura) had an avocado tree and said they got “bathtubs” of guacamole. My rent in Brooklyn included NO guacamole.

Every time we Craigslist researched the neighborhoods we were interested in living in, we always saw listings for bungalows for $1800 a month. One time we saw a place with a FRIGGIN’ COMMUNITY POOL for that much. I immediately imagined teaching a fatty and allies aqua jog classes in the pool.

night1intilehouseFirst night in our new house!

But when we got to actually looking for our house, we weren’t finding much of anything. We cut our road trip short in New Orleans after I got sick and wasn’t getting better on the road, heading straight for Tuscon and then Dara’s mom’s place in Vegas. We had intended to spend a week with her mom getting our stuff sorted to head to LA to look for houses. We started looking and things were bleak. Here are the websites we looked at:

Craigslist
Westside Rentals (free to search, $60 for the contact info for each rental)
The Rental Girl (not a ton of inventory)
Padmapper (GREAT for apartments, not great for houses)
Lee’s List (you have to get invited by an industry person and it costs to be a member, but there are listings there in NYC and LA, really great for short term rentals, house swaps and furniture, too)

Here are the neighborhoods we looked at (for my friends who are in the process of moving to LA), these were all within about 10 minutes of someone we know:
Lincoln Heights
Cypress Park
Highland Park
Atwater
Silver Lake
Los Feliz (Dara used to live there)
West Hollywood
Echo Park
Eagle Rock

Among all of those we found five possible contenders for houses, and getting a response was really difficult. Among our first round of reach outs was this quirky looking place with blurry photos but great tile work. “The house with the great tile” wasn’t going to be ready to see until after the weekend, which was great timing for us.

housewithtileThe front walk is all fancy tile from the 1960s. Having never remodeled a home I had no idea how expensive nice tile is.

We kept looking every day at the rentals and found maybe five other places that could work. Several were snatched up before we even heard back from landlords. Dara’s persistent, so she reached out to folks to express continued interest when we didn’t hear back.

The house with the great tile scheduled a go-see with us on Tuesday for Wednesday, so we had to last minute pack up the car and find a place to stay in LA. Grandmother came through so we arrived at her place at midnight. We left extra extra early the next day to make sure we wouldn’t hit traffic and miss the showing of the house.

Once we got there I did a snapchat video saying, “Are you our new house?” because I love snapchat and thought this could be a funny ongoing series while we looked at houses. There was another couple visiting the house, too, and the landlady showed all of us. She didn’t realize we weren’t all looking at the house as one big group, even though Dara was actively trying to cock block the other couple because she already loved the house.

It’s a quirky place. The backyard area is shared with the rear house and is cobblestone. The house is basically original from 1920. Almost 100 years old. The rear area has a shared garage space that is full of storage. There’s a cellar with a washer/dryer hook-up. The landlady is an antique tile dealer and she took great pride telling us all about the fucking gorgeous tile backsplash throughout the kitchen. There is a breakfast nook that gets morning sun. AKA A SUNROOM. There’s a built-in BBQ from the 1920s that would be a great open flame grilling situation and/or a fire pit for parties.

There are two bedrooms and the bathroom is a “Jack and Jill” bathroom (with breathtaking antique tiles, natch). The Jack door to the bathroom is totally fatphobic, I have to turn sideways to get in. The master bedroom isn’t huge but it has a door to the side yard where our landlady built a fountain. When I read fountain in the Craigslist listing, I thought it was a like a standard fountain but it’s a five tiered cement trough left over from watering animals she thinks. Now it is a fountain that trickles below the master bedroom window. The side yard is a private yard that has great shade for plants that don’t need full sun and maybe room for a hammock. And oh, yeah, a really tall avocado tree. When I saw that, that’s when I started really thinking this house could be a contender.

I had really been visioning for a version of our friends Madeline and Kristen’s gorgeous house, so when this didn’t look like it right away I didn’t see it. But then when I was able to really take in the quirks of it, I could see this was so much of what we had visioned for. And sometimes when things don’t look right away like what you wanted you don’t notice it.

We hung out long past the other couple (they were gone in 10 minutes) and I noticed that the sun was starting to set–and we could watch it from the front porch. I could easily make sun tea on that porch with the afternoon sun.

But the best and quirkiest part of the house was the weird staircase ladder to the stand-up attic that runs the length of the house. As soon as I got up there I saw that it was a prime place for me to put in a Mariah Carey closet.

atticphase1I have already borrowed my uncle’s shop vac to start working on my closet build out.

Ever since I saw Mariah Carey on Cribs she’s been my closet idol. Like, her closet situation is on point. I love my clothes, they have taken up roughly half of the footprint of my bedroom in my past several apartments. I knew it would be a challenge to cohabitate with Dara and my clothing. When I’m a rich lesbian I will have an entire suite as my closet. With a circular shoe chair.

circularsofaI saw this at a furniture clearance sale in Mid-Wilshire today.

Anyway, the amazing tile house had a ton of applications, but the landlord didn’t like anyone who had seen it. I mentioned casually my FAVORITE piece of small talk, “I don’t know if you’re an astrology person, but, it’s Mercury Retrograde, it’s not a great time for contracts or communication.” That’s how you have to intro it–“I don’t know if you’re an astrology person, but…” and it will open up spiritual convo if the person is into it. Usually they are.

Turns out, in addition to dealing antique tiles she’s been a tarot reader for 35 years and does energy cleansings and house cleansings. The houses energy was clean (I could feel that) and you know how many energy clearings were included in my rent in Brooklyn? None.

We paid the $30 application fee for the credit check, went back to Rancho Mirage and spent forever on the application, emailing it that night. The next day, when our landlady emailed us to say we got the house, we were in the living room of my Grandmother’s jumping up and down all three of us hugging.

Grandmother was a real estate agent in Beverly Hills for years and said, “Remember this feeling,” before she gave us lots of rental advice of taking photos of everything so we get our deposit back.

We had to quickly drive back to LA to sign the lease and put down the deposit on Thursday (remember we saw the place Wednesday), moved in on Saturday even though the floors were still tacky from the refinishing. We had to do a lot of cleaning and I have a huge task of cleaning out the attic and building out my closet.

But you know what I have? The house I visioned for. I believe in thinking positive and dreaming big. As someone who struggles with depression, thinking positive is a big piece of my self care. I can easily slide into the vortex of thinking there’s no house available for me and I have to settle. But I kept on believing for it and I worked for it (we spent SO much time looking at places and A LOT of time on our emails to landlords and the rental app). I really believe in the “ask, believe, receive” idea of the universe (Notes from the Universe is my jam), and we really went for it.

Dara kept saying that we were cutting our road trip short because our dream house was waiting for us. And I kept praying to have the house hunt be easy on us. And even though there’s a ton of stress when you don’t know what’s waiting for you on the other end of the unknown, I find it worth it to lean into it and try to have fun along the way.

Also, the house happens to be in the exact middle of all the neighborhoods we were looking at. And we’re 9 minutes from Chase and Taylor, 9 minutes from Kristen and Madeline, 13 minutes from my awesome cousin Sooz and her GF Masa. Every time I look someone up it’s so fast to get to their place!

I’m super excited to blog about the process of fixing up the house. Right now it’s like we’re camping–the house is drafty as fuck and it’s 42 degrees at night, we’re sleeping on an air mattress, our landlady still hasn’t gotten us a fridge so we’re eating out of a cooler. (Perhaps most awesome is being just 6 minutes from Dara’s bestie TR, who lives in a legit log cabin on a hill in Echo Park with a gorgeous view–being so close has been pretty crucial for us in these times with no fridge because we’re keeping Macy’s homemade dog food in TR’s freezer.) But we’re also making a home and I look forward to our house being comfortable and even more the place of our dreams.

viewfromTRporchThe view from the legit log cabin where I am writing this blog post because our house doesn’t have electricity right now because of the former tenant’s delinquent bill and LADWP bureaucracy. I feel like Megan Draper up in this hill because her house on Mad Men was nestled in a hill like this.

2015-09-18

I’m Moving to LA and Here’s My Process

I’m really getting right to business in the title of this post. Yup, I’m moving. From Brooklyn to LA. I’m a queer, let’s process about how I got to that decision!

Two years ago, if you had told me I would be moving to LA at 36 years old I would laugh in your face. I grew up in Northern California. I have lots of complex feelings about my hometown and the East Bay surrounding it. I love to visit SF and Oakland and especially the Northern California coastal lands (e.g. Marin and Half Moon Bay). But I wouldn’t want to live there. Dot com stuff really changed how expensive it is there and most of the Bay feels pretty suburban and not appealing to me.

bevininbigbearMe visiting Big Bear, CA, which I LOVED and is only 2 hours from LA.

When you grow up in Northern CA you are taught a kind of regional disdain for Southern CA. I think Northern Californians buy into stereotypes that LA is all airy fairy and image-obsessed. Whenever I’d flip through LA Weekly and see nothing but ads for plastic surgeons I would allow that to be my perception of the entire region. (Not to mention the fact that I’ve become pretty airy fairy as I’ve become spiritual in my 30s.)

Much of my extended family is in Southern California and I thought that because I’d visited it twice a year most of my life that I had an understanding of the area. But mostly I know their suburbs (Ventura County, which is actually phenomenal and beautiful, and Palm Springs, which I adore) but not LA proper. I literally only stepped foot in LA for family events or the airport.

I moved to Camden, NJ for law school in August, 2000, from my cozy college town in Davis, CA. I didn’t expect to stay on the East Coast. I thought that I’d go to school and come back to settle in the Bay Area because that’s what I knew and my friends from college were mostly concentrated there. But things changed. One of my favorite people from college moved to Jersey City and I spent a lot of time visiting John in Jersey City. John’s couch generosity for those two years really changed my life. I got to experience NYC the best way you can as a broke law student, with close friends and a lot of alcohol.

MeJohnGroveStPath2002Me and John at the Grove Street PATH station.

I was drawn to NYC by magic—I genuinely felt a creative life force energy in me whenever I would come up to NYC and frolic in the East and West Village. It was a different place back then, Meow Mix was still open, and The Cock was somewhere by 9th Street and the Lower East Side was really queer whereas now it’s covered with hoardes of drunk straight folks on weekend nights.

JohnNicoleTheCock2002John and Nicole in front of the Cock in about 2001 or 2002.

That creative life force energy when you visit NYC and it is calling to you is pretty different once you get here and have to hustle hard to make rent. Midtown during the day has a really different energy than nightlife in the Village. But still, NYC kept her promises and I got really creative here. It’s always been a struggle for me managing the practicalities of feeling “safe” with the call to produce and create cultural events, community organizing, performing and writing. Surrounded by the artists and activists I know here I was given so many great examples of creating art while holding down a hustle.

I always knew that I wasn’t a lifer in New York City. I don’t know if I’ll have kids, but if I do I would love to do it somewhere with a driveway. I really enjoy parking in a parking lot that is attached to Target. I love going out into nature, I find it really soothing and centering. One of my favorite most spiritual things I can do is be somewhere where I can look in one direction and only see what the Goddess has made. (The beach is great for that.) I guess I always thought that I’d eventually move to Atlanta or Austin or another medium sized city.

Enter Dara, my wonderful and supportive partner. The first time we dated, she brought up that she was thinking about moving to LA. Having lived there just after college for two years she loved it and always wanted to go back. She pulled the trigger, deciding to become a “single nomad” and broke up with me. (OMG if this was the Mindy Project I could make a funny joke right now but mostly I’m just happy for the messy beginning so we can have a stronger now.) She traveled the country, ending up in LA and just after she landed was diagnosed with breast cancer. She wanted to be treated in NYC, so back she came, her attempt to move thwarted. When she got back here and I reunited we talked about her desire to move to LA and I laughed because I didn’t want to go, but that we would figure out our departure from NYC when the time came.

grillinginbigbearWhen we move to LA my intention is to get one of those adorable 2 bedroom bungalows with a backyard and a detached garage. You can rent them for about what each of us pay in NYC for apartments. Macy is going to love a backyard.

I could feel my swan song with NYC beginning last Fall. Coming off the most chaotic and difficult year of my life (but still really great in complex ways) I started doing some heavy reflecting on my values and priorities. I realized that my seasonal depression (which can be as long as six months) was grinding me to a halt creatively. As I work on developing my psychic gifts, I realize how draining it is for me to be around a lot of people all at once. For me, even going to the gym can be draining because there’s at least 100 people on the trip from my house. And self care is one of my top priorities. I realized I was living in a place with an expiration date. Here I hustle hard for the money to live here, as well as hustle hard to maintain the self care that helps me feel good and that doesn’t leave a lot of time or energy to do the work that I am passionate about.

On our post chemo road trip through CA last October we stopped in LA for a day. Dara really wanted to show me what she loved about it. We just went to Echo Park to meet my friend Taylor Black for lunch and a wander, but it surprised me. The energy was different than I thought. It was a mellow city hustle bustle, but with nature right in there, with big, undeveloped hills and regional parks throughout the East LA area. I started opening up to the idea of moving there.

As a spiritual person, I understand the decision making process to be self-correcting. If I’m following my inner guidance from the Goddess, I’m going to be on the path I’m meant to be. So if I were to decide to move to LA and it wasn’t right, I’d get signs. Doing self care is really important for me so that I can be calm enough to notice the signs and feelings directing me.

I think sometimes the Goddess guides me nicely in a whisper, the stern voice is somewhere in the middle and then I get the hollering through pain. A lot of my biggest turning points in life happened after really painful endings before I had the chance to act on that gut instinct about how that day job really didn’t suit me and I wanted more flexibility to work on my art or how my fiance and I really wanted different things in life… Things like that. I was worried that I would stay in NYC until it got painful.

bevinwatchingeclipseWe visited LA last October during a solar eclipse, and this juice bar just gave out glasses to go watch it. So magical.

So, when I’m making a big decision, I start out by just acting as though I’ve decided. What does that look like, how does that feel? I spent about 4 months considering the move to LA, and then a friend of mine passed away. We weren’t close, but I took it as the sign I’d been praying for. (The thing I knew about her most was that she had moved cross country from a comfortable existence and a job she liked and then moved on faith and it was a great choice for her. Laura Mulley’s blog is here, I recommend starting fro the beginning it’s amazing.) I’ve had lots of friends pass under the age of 40. It has really sucked to get this practiced at grief. But I also know there is usually a learning in my grief and it was that week that I decided moving cross country was the right choice. This was March, so I gave myself 9 months, human gestation period, to get my ducks in a row and ready to go.

My Grandmother is another big factor in my move. She lives in Palm Springs, she’s still very independent and we have a lot in common, being Capricorn glamour babes who love woo. I have always hoped that my money situation would pop off and I would get to go visit Grandmother every couple of months from NYC but that hasn’t happened. I would love to get to spend more time with her.

Also, my Aunt and her progeny all live in Southern California and I love them a lot. I don’t know them very well, since I was raised 8 hours away and we saw one another twice a year. But whenever I do get to see them as an adult I enjoy them and I think it would be rad to see them more often.

I genuinely never thought that I would be one of those queers who moves to be closer to family. But I guess I am? I watched a lot of 19 Kids and Counting over the Winter (I have a LOT I can say about the Duggar scandals) and one of the things I loved most about the show is seeing what it is like to be intimate with your family. As the only child of a single mom, I did not have an experience of unconditional love and support and family intimacy growing up. I’d love to know what it’s like to have someplace to go every holiday, even the little ones I don’t super acknowledge in my hustle bustle NYC life.

So, all of this came down to feeling pulled to LA. I visited in May to get to know all the various areas of LA and finalize what neighborhood we’re looking to move to (more on that in another post).

bevindarasurreywithfringeontop

It was important to me to have my own independent reasons to move rather than just going with a partner. A friend of mine pointed out it’s totally okay to move for and with a partner and she was right. I am really excited to do this with Dara because doing things together is fun as we love an adventure. We haven’t lived together formally (though she stayed in my apartment with me during the last two months of chemo) and we are fatigued with the schlep inherent in not living together.

I’m really looking forward to the changes from this move. God is change and I want to be open to the next big things happening in my life by opening up all this energy!

I’m also kind of scared. I don’t know what my day job is going to look like. I promised myself when I took the Bar exam that I would never do it again, and I am going to keep that promise. (When I looked into the CA requirements the yearly bar fees are double the ones I pay in the two states I’m licensed in and I got that feeling in my stomach I had when looking into a law career 12 years ago when I graduated law school.) Also, as a real estate closing attorney out here, my skills translate to either a real estate agent or a title company attorney and I’d 100% rather be a Realtor. My Grandmother was a big deal real estate agent in Beverly Hills in the 80s & 90s so it’s kind of a family thing. And, with any luck, my line of Reiki infused teas will pop off and I won’t need a day job and can just focus on stuff I’m passionate about! (I enjoy real estate but it’s not like my life blood energy the way doing work in the world to help people feel at home in their bodies is.)

I’m also presently planning the logistics of the move (just to get a quote from PODS I was on the phone for 40 minutes… $5,000) and starting a project management plan for getting everything done. I have no idea how and when to get rid of stuff, so I’m going to do some interviews of folks I know who did a cross country move before.

Me, Macy and Dara leave NYC on December 20th, and arrive in LA around March 1st. We’re taking a month for a DIY artist residency so I can finish my book finally, and then taking a lingering trip through the Southern route to see lots of friends/family and for me to do readings and parties. Currently we’re planning stops at Dollywood, Atlanta, Key West, Ft Lauderdale, New Orleans, Austin, Albuquerque, Tucson and Las Vegas.

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