Sunday, January 29, 2012

Ryan Gosling and Liam Neeson save the day

Before I go on, sometimes I wake up with ideas and am compelled to jot them down.

This can be very annoying, particularly when you are dreaming: stuck in an elevator with this guy--Ryan Gosling.

He had warned me not to enter as the lift was old and rickety, but being a daring gal, I forged ahead, and CLANK, the thing just stopped. I heard gun fire. Possible gang warfare not too far away.

"Don't worry," Ryan said. "I got this."

Then through the steel-plated roof, catapults this guy: Liam Neeson.

Liam nodded to Ryan. "All clear above." The gunfire had stopped.

"Let's move!" He and Ryan said this in unison.

They used duct tape, a post it note and color-coded paper clips to excavate me out of that hole. Take that Mary Horowitz! As a side note, I loved All About Steve and Sandra Bullock and her red boots.

We were about to have a group hug on a jet bound for Fiji to celebrate removal of the bad guys, but instead, I woke up with these thoughts:

1. HOW YOU THINK IS EVERYTHING: Always be positive. Think success, not failure. Beware of a negative environment and people. They sneak up on you; are attracted to your light. Stay away.

2. DECIDE UPON YOUR TRUE DREAMS AND GOALS: Write down your specific goals and develop a plan to reach them. This separates fantasy from reality. Even if it looks like this:

3. TAKE ACTION: Goals are nothing without action. Don't be afraid to get started.-- Just do it. (Okay that's not mine. I think it belongs to Forrest Gump.)

4. NEVER STOP LEARNING: Go back to school or read books. Get training and acquire skills. As they say, the truly educated never graduate.

5. BE PERSISTENT AND WORK HARD: Success is a marathon, not a sprint. Never give up.

6. LEARN TO ANALYZE DETAILS: Get all the facts, all the input. Learn from your mistakes. They are gifts. Easier said than done, but anything worth a damn is difficult. It's a word that invites laughter. So laugh at it.  DIFFICULT is a three-legged dog fending off freeway traffic. But I witnessed the little dude make it to the other side. (I put that in because my kids HATE when I talk about disabled animals. Truth is, they are inspiring.)

7. FOCUS YOUR TIME AND MONEY: Don't let other people or things distract you. The bigger the distraction, the more important the thing is you are working on. The world needs it and only you can deliver.

8. DON'T BE AFRAID TO INNOVATE; BE DIFFERENT: Following the herd is a sure way to mediocrity. It's a very crowded place to be. This scares the shit out of my kids. MEDIOCRITY is a scarier word than DIFFICULT. (Imagine if the little dude above was met only with a mediocre level of success.)

9. DEAL AND COMMUNICATE WITH PEOPLE EFFECTIVELY: No person is an island. LISTEN. Everyone has something to offer. The more you get out of yourself, the more you have to offer.

10. BE HONEST, DEPENDABLE, and TAKE RESPONSIBILITY: Otherwise, Nos. 1-9 won't matter.

Okay, I am going back to bed.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Get the KIDS OUTSIDE in Los Angeles

I wrote this piece for, where I am a contributor for all things family, but the info applies anywhere.

The bigger question is when was the last time your kids fell of the bike handles or carpet-rolled down a snowy hill?

As a parent of nine-year-old twin girls, I spend a great deal of time looking for ways to entertain them that does not involve electronics. I am not alone. Most parents, if not all, share this dilemma. We have long ago given up on trying to express relatable comparisons to the time when we were growing up.

“Well, I would leave the house at 10:00am and come home at dinner. In between, I would ride my bike until the rubber burned, create magic shows for the gullible kids willing to pay $1 dollar to make a pencil disappear, climb trees until my knees bled, hopscotch in the middle of the road and eat fresh strawberries off of Mrs. Pennycakes vines.” Ad nauseum.

In most cities today the kids can’t even open the front door. The script goes like this:

“Someone is here, Mom!”
 “Don’t you dare answer it!”
 “Why? It's just some guy with a clipboard.”
“Back away slowly, then hide under the kitchen table.”

Amidst this post-Armageddon bomb-shelter mentality, I remain determined to share some great stuff to do with your kids outside. Los Angeles is brimming with fun, free or low-cost activities. Before we get to that, however, you will literally have to unplug, disconnect, or disarm your kids from their "electronic pals." Not an easy task, but power through the drama, because once outside, it all changes.


Let’s start with parks. Grab your bikes, skateboards, balls, Frisbees, or nothing at all and take them to a park. They are everywhere, with real, live trees, green grass, humans, basketball courts, and swings. You can go here ( and find hundreds of locations. This is a great website because it will also guide you through many activities available to kids, from soccer, to dance, to basketball, baseball, etc. Also many of these parks have pools.

The YMCA is another great destination. Quite a few have been revamped. They practically look like four star hotels; outfitted with  heated pools, warm towels, clean facilities, lifeguards, and lots of outdoor playgrounds.

Hiking. A must. We are lucky to have so many options. Lots of hiking zones also cater to dogs. Watch your children go crazy. You can find a huge list of places off the beaten path hikes.  I took the kids on a summer of local hikes, waterfalls, lions, snakes, cultural history.

Here is one experience. 

Cultural activities abound. Every month someone is celebrating something somewhere in L.A. Downtown we have the African American Museum.  Chinatown and Olvera-Street  This is merely the tip of the iceberg.

Museums of interest to any child would include The Science Center and Natural History Museum (at USC), Disney Hall (downtown) L.A. Tar Pits and LACMA (Mid-Wilshire). Huntington Gardens (Pasadena) is a splendor for children, as is their library.

Same is true with the amazing library downtown. In fact, any library will pique their interest. Several have readings by known authors and other educational events. For more specialized interests the Peterson Automotive Museum (Mid Wilshire across from LACMA) is a great outing and boasts games, treasure hunts, readings and more.

The Griffith Park Observatory is a must for everyone. The observatory offers hours of unique, mesmerizing, educational fun. A meteor shower, moon phases and launching Space X Dragon Capsules simply can't be seen anywhere else.

Griffith Park is sort of like the Los Angeles version of Central Park but without the ice rink. Enviable open space, nature and the freedom to explore. And at least once you need to do the nighttime horseback ride with its cowboy prepared campfire and grub. (Okay, maybe actor cowboys but cowboys still.)  The 360 views are unmatched.

I am going to throw in a few more adventures of which my own kids never grow tired: Planting trees at Tree People; visiting the Aquarium at the Santa Monica Pier (fish touching a big draw there,) bike rides and walks along the ocean. There are so many beautiful areas all you need to do is drive up the PCH until you see a spot to park.

My kids love kelp, I have no idea why. They throw it, smash it and if I allow them, make me disappear.

Loads of fun. Heh.

Regarding television, I watch very little, but what I like and approve are the following:

Modern Family. Who can’t laugh at this great program?

The Cooking Channel. My daughters basically have become gourmet chefs.

National Geographic. There is not a mammal, marsupial, lizard, spider or dinosaur they cannot identify. The channel is great, depending on the show because it leads kids to …ta-da… the library in order to obtain more information on whatever Cheetah or Penguin they were going on about.

Finally, on school nights, this is where your imagination and history come into play. Pull out Life, Monopoly, Cranium, Yahtzee, Checkers, or just have a drawing contest. I always lose. Their most fun game is charades. It involves nothing, but oddly teaches them a lot. And because they are young, and their references are often, well, young people such as Taylor Swift, I always lose. Kids love that.

Here are a few websites I will leave you with you may also find helpful.

This website helps guide parents by rating TV shows, movies, video games, books by age and often gender of child. It can be quite helpful.

Finally I love outdoor movies and ice cream trucks.

My favorite is Eat, See and Hear. Check the movie and times, but a great benefit of living in Los Angeles is being able to go outside almost any day or night of the year.

Have fun!

Tuesday, January 17, 2012



I’ve been hearing all kinds of fun goings-on at Coachella so decided to join in. I’d never been to these post-digital rock-me-silly musical events, though had my fair share of grassy knoll concerts as a teen where we would sit in the grass, drink warm beer, swoon with Led Zeppelin in blue jean/T-shirt attire.

Nowadays, I’ve learned that in addition to more than just one band, there might be, say 50, as well as human fire eaters, trapezes artists, séances, people sticking pins in their eyes, yoga classes, and apparently lots of light effects and various shaman leading people into mud rolls.

Also, there are surprise musical guests. It might Bono or Bozzo. I know this because I read it. Though Coachella may be the big kahuna, these newfangled outdoor events happen all year round. The Eclectic Light Orchestra featuring a girl named Daisy, Purple Haze Sky Festival, New Age meets Old Age Extravaganza, Burning Man, just to name a few.

Being the adventurer I am, when I heard the Black Keys were playing that cinched the deal. I loved this new band I had recently heard on my car radio until I discovered in fact they had something like eight records out already, but hey, they were new to me, so fuck it. After scanning the list, of course, I recognized Radio Head and Mazzy Star. I saw Dear Hunter and Oberhofer so now my curiosity peaked to a new high. Oberhofer? Really?

I also knew people wore all kinds of get-ups, so I rooted through my kid's costume box, pulled out striped tights, a pink tutu, various head wraps, tiaras, three wigs, then found a pair of platforms I bought once for one of those silly “It’s a 70’s themed party” things. I actually didn’t go but still had the lame-ass shoes.

Doing my face in war paint would not be an issue since my kids had plenty, typically reserved for Halloween.

Knowing these events could last up to four days, I brought my daughter's Snow White sleeping bag, a flashlight, and some Mars bars, just in case the experience proved everything it promised.

Off I went after googling Coachella, seemed a straight shot down Highway 10. I don’t use navigational systems after my disastrous first attempt a few years back. Punching in the address took more time than looking at a damn map, not to mention I loathe the robotic woman telling me what to do.

“Fuck off bitch, shut the fuck up.” She continues on. I was going approximately eight miles, I know because I had been to this house before, but it did involved freeways and that’s where I can get confused in L.A. This robot sent me to Tijuana. I’m certain out of spite because I was hurling invectives again. I didn’t cross the border but never used the system again.

Off I roar in my little car, expecting heavy traffic but it wasn’t too bad. I left at 5am just to be safe.

And there is the sign, COACHELLA. HA, trust your instincts. Dumb NVS. I was there in two hours. The show probably hadn’t started yet.

I pulled into what I can only call a deserted junkyard. As I got closer, I noticed the place was huge and fenced in. That seemed smart. Keep out the people that didn’t buy tickets. I paid 250 for mine. My car was hitting all kinds of rocks, mud pits, and it smelled like shit frankly. Had I missed it?

Then rows and rows of dilapidated trailers, in fact, it was a gigantic trailer park. I got excited. So the musicians play in a trailer to a small crowd, how intimate. How smart. I could literally sit next to say, Keith Richards.

I couldn’t wait for the festivities to start. I didn’t see any food stands or even tents. Maybe they hadn’t arrived yet. It was still only 7am. But I did hear a lot of dogs barking and babies crying. Pretty soon younger kids started pouring out of the trailers carrying rags and sticks, hopefully, to fix that shit smell. I figured they were the setup crew. These concerts were total game-changers. They had better move fast or there is no way the Black Keys will come.

They headed toward the mud puddle probably to use their sticks to remove the poop. Poopsticks would actually be a great name for a band. I made a mental note.

“Hey, guys, do you know when the concert starts? Never been to these newfangled concerts before so I’m a little rusty on the details.”

The boys kept walking.

I noticed a few teenage boys leaning against the fence smoking cigarette butts. They looked ragged but hip in a sinister way.

“Guys, help me out here, where is Elton John?”

They exchanged smirks.

“Lady, this ain’t the Coachella you looking for.”

“Well, what the hell is it?”

“A toxic mecca. I tell you more for money.”

I shelled out 50 bucks. They all started laughing and talking, probably about my crazy wig and tutu, but I liked them. All filthy, but sweet but helpful and kind. That was worth actually 100.

“Okay lady, this is a reservation camp for the P’urhepecha. We always lived here.”

I deducted he meant indigenous and they were a Native American tribe held in what looked like a concentration camp. I looked more closely at these trailers, old, built out of dilapidated plywood and random metal. Over the fence was a toxic dump, thus the shit smell.

“We no have water, plumbing, but we drink a lot of arsenic. You want to buy some drugs? It’s black tar.”

The other piped in, “We have PCP and LSD too. Good for the festival.”

I am way out of the drug loop but I bought it.

“Why do you drink arsenic?”

“It’s in the water. Drink, bathe, and wash clothes.”

That is when I noticed these women were bathing kids and washing clothes in what only could be described as a huge mud pit filled with poison.

I bought all their drugs.

“Apparently Coachella is a pretty big place. Thanks, boys.”

“Have fun lady.”

I eventually reached the actual Coachella concert. The cars were lined up for miles in stopped traffic and people wearing similar attire as mine were on foot.

I parked on the opposite side; then scanned the vehicles, settling upon a new manly Porsche. I rapped on the dude’s window. He was in his late 50’s, Jerry Garcia but shaven. His passenger was a 20-something model type covered in body paint, her nipples shaped like bulls-eyes.

“Do you know where I can scalp a great ticket?”

“Fuck yeah!” the girl said, taking a swig of tequila. “I don’t have one, but my baby does.” She sidled up to her grandfather.

“How much?” he asked.

“Well, this ticket is all access.”

The painted girl was out of her mind with ecstasy. Or in her mind with it.

“A thousand dollars. But it’s backstage, and I heard Oberhofer is really Jack White.”

“O.M.fucking G!” The girl was now completely unleashed.

“I also have um, PCP, heroin, TFQ, and a few other pharmaceuticals.”


I gave him my ticket and all the shit the kid gave me and headed back to the concentration camp.

Luckily there was a mega grocery store on the way, so I loaded up on freshwater, canned food, barrels of fruit, toothpaste, toilet paper, steaks, and People magazine. That was for me.

Back at the reservation, we formed a chain to pass out the goodies. There were smiles and some giggling, then I heard "estupida dama gringo". I mean I get it. What must they have thought? But now I was on a mission and carried on. As I was leaving, one of the men thanked me. I know this sounds corny, but my heart swelled and I have a feeling this surpassed the entire fire-eating, pins in my eye, fake shaman thing I may have experienced at the concert. It's funny where your instincts take you without a navigational system.