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

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.

2010-08-18

How I Spent My Summer Vacation

Fresh from my annual adventure in the woods at MichFest, I thought I would provide some highlights from my summer adventures.

TAMALE AND THE POWER OF STICKTOITIVENESS

I got to spend a lot of time with the gorgeous and caring Miss Tamale Sepp. I met her through the IDKE community years ago, and have performed alongside her precious few times but consider her a kindred spirit. She’s two months older than me but it feels like we’re twins in some ways. She likes to say “I’m dramatic, not drama” and I could not agree more. We share a penchant for flamboyance and big personalities, red hair and big tits.

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One of the things I love most about Tamale is her relentless drive and passion. She decided the last afternoon of the festival that she wanted to spin poi. She needed this very specific type of camping fuel. “Coleman something something in a red can” she repeated to anyone who would listen. She easily asked 600 people and as the afternoon wore on and I was beginning to give up, as the cuntree store ran out of all sweet snacks other than keebler fudge stripe cookies, as campers had been flooding out the front gates since the early morning hours, as night was beginning to fall. She got a tip from someone to check beside a specific high traffic dumpster as a lot of campers leave things behind. I bid her adieu after another heart to heart atop a hay bail.

Two hours later she was at the Last Chance Desperation Dance* grinning from ear to ear, handing me a book of matches with a can of Coleman fuel at her feet. She saw it in someone’s cart and asked if she could use some and they gave it to her. She performed three of her beautiful fire dances that night, one solo and one using me as a sexy (and very trusting) prop underneath her, and then later as part of the Womyn of Color Community Tent burlesque show.

Had Tamale given up when I was beginning to doubt the possibility, she never would have had that fulfillment and the hundreds of women who watched her perform that night would have missed out on some beautiful midnight magical moments. It was a really salient example to me of the benefits of tenacity and putting your needs out there.

Me and Tamale

ACTIONS FOR TRANSSEXUAL WOMEN’S INCLUSION
Stage Protest during Sia
Photo credit Andrea Alseri
A photo from the stage protest during Sia’s “Breathe Me”. The people are all wearing “Trans Women Belong Here” t-shirts. During the “How to welcome transsexual women to Michfest” organizing meeting Sia and JD attended and she invited people to wear their shirts and come on stage.  There were an additional 3 rows of folks behind the catwalk. Also when we (the folks on stage) raised our arms, a bunch of folks in the crowd stood with their arms raised as well. It was really beautiful to be part of this action.  I’m like third back from the center wearing a long sleeve black undershirt and striped skirt.  I did my best to make a t-shirt look good.

Opening day
Rae, one of the transwomen inclusion organizers, did an excellent t-shirt modification.

There was a lot of productive and peaceful organizing on the Land this summer around the issue of transsexual women’s inclusion in the womyn-born-womyn community intention at the Festival.** It was really great to see so much visible mobilization and have so many great conversations with people who are long-time (like 20+ years) attendees of the Festival. I have seen a shift in the community perception of the presence of an all-inclusive definition of “womyn” within the last decade I’ve been attending the Festival, but of course there is no crystal ball to tell us when/if/how that shift will be reflected by the Festival itself.

Welcoming Transsexual Women on the Land
Photo Credit: Amanda Leinberger

Women’s space is personally very important to me, and something I see as a periodic necessity for my ability to live in this society. I grew up in Girl Scouts and going to Girl Scout camp. I also believe very strongly in gender non-essentialism and that gender is non-binary. I think that women’s space can be inclusive of a non-binary gender, and the umbrella can be as big as it needs to be to include all women. I also don’t believe anyone has the right to decide who else is a “woman”. Not the clerk at vital records who files the birth certificates and not someone who is organizing an event. I think gender is self-determined.

The first time I went to Michfest it blew my mind. This was before I learned about body positivity, before I learned that Femme was anything other than pejorative and being able to see a literal sea of women’s bodies (and a lot that looked like mine) in a comfortable and free environment radically changed my view of my own body. I want Fest to become that kind of space for all women. I am committed to doing the work from the inside, while I’m there to spiritually replenish my ability to do my art and activism in the outside world.

What was disheartening this summer was the interactions with Camp Trans this year. My friend Bryn, a long-time Camp Trans goer, read a piece about her experience at Festival in 2007 on Episode 9 of my podcast. It’s a really great listen.
There were reports of vandalism on the Land this summer from people camped at Camp Trans, and as a worker who works at the front gate, I heard people yelling terrible things from their cars at us as they drove past. This is something I’ve never experienced from Camp Trans. I’ve been over there many times, have a lot of friends who camp there and have enjoyed the “kinder gentler” peaceful activism that has been the trend over the last several years. I know whatever happened were the actions of a few individuals and not a whole community, but it is very disappointing that it happened at all when the actions going on from Festival Goers were so positive.

FINDING YOUR OWN RHYTHM

I spent a lot of time on vacation this year fighting off bugs (they were worse than ever) and trying to look good while doing it. A Festie Virgin friend of mine told me “I was lead to believe this was going to be some sort of non-stop sexy romp in the woods” and I responded “Nothing deters my sexual appetite like the taste of DEET.” Not that sex doesn’t happen in the woods, but when I removed getting laid from whether or not I felt my Festival was fun or a success I had a much better time. This theory is also true for conferences and other high-pressure hook-up queer social gatherings.***

I think it can be really hard to understand that what makes something a good time for one person doesn’t necessarily mean it’s true for other people. This took me so long to internalize. Some people have to get laid to have a good time or do [x,y,z] to have a good time. I would always beat myself up for not enjoying things in a similar way because I absorbed what other people were saying should be my goals for what is a good time.

The Festival is a great space for me to remember this lesson. Some people go to the Festival for the sole purpose of just drinking with their friends all week, some go for the nature, some book up every moment of their day with workshops, concerts and activities. I sometimes get so wrapped up in the idea of the time I think I should be having I become really checked out from the joys and pleasures of the time I am actually having.

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Indigo Girls was my favorite concert and I remained completely sober for it because I wanted to really experience the joy of seeing one of my favorite bands play. I was also experimenting with how to wear flannel as high Femme. Also pictured is my friend Des in her outfit from the Butch Strut.

It took me several years to realize that just because I was “camping” didn’t mean I had to dress like it. I’m always far happier wearing clothes that express who I am in a way that zip away hiking shorts and tevas don’t even come close to doing. So I wear what I want and accept that there might be a wardrobe casualty (rarely).

Sharp in the woods.
Partying in the dark dark woods? Sequins will get you noticed.

This is another lesson in not letting fear hold you back. I don’t worry about being overdressed anymore, and the same goes double for as costume-friendly environment as MichFest.

FEMME PARADE
My friend C. approached me at the beginning of Festival week and told me that her dream was to get her light blue convertible in the Femme Parade and have me ride in it. I told her, “I didn’t know that it was my dream to ride in a light blue convertible in the Femme Parade until this very moment but I am happy to help make this happen.” It took many conversations and work on many folks’ parts but the coveted and extremely difficult to acquire Festival vehicle pass was obtained and we took up the rear of the parade.

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All in all I had a great time, deepening friendships and spending some quality time helping to create something entirely put together from scratch every year by women. It’s an incredible experience and incredible feeling. I can’t wait to do it again.

*Not the official name in the Festival program.
**More on this topic is being pooled at this site here, clickie clickie.
***Likely another blog post on this topic is forthcoming.

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