United States: A Love Story

So many friends from around the globe have reached out to get a read on how things really are in the states and how my husband and I are feeling in the lead up to this never-ending election cycle that feels as though it’s persisted for five fucking years already. Because. It. Actually. Has. In short – I’m a bit freaked out for folks who don’t have the privilege, support and resources that I do. A more in-depth assessment, however, might reveal a slight glimmer of hope.

Going back to election day in 2016, I’m haunted by this incredibly vivid memory. I remember feeling so excited to see the US continue to move towards progress, carrying on the legacy Obama had left by the first woman President, no less. I remember walking around my neighborhood that day, spotting elated young people rocking their first ‘I Voted’ sticker or running into friends and neighbors at a local polling station taking selfies and celebrating. I couldn’t help but linger outside as people came and went to cast their vote, unable to participate as a permanent resident but desperate to soak in the historical moment unfolding before me.

I remember stopping at a grocery store to pick up some election night provisions, and as a Mexican American woman rung up my items, I asked her if she had voted already. To which she replied, she didn’t need to vote because her daughter had voted and was the proxy for their entire family. Didn’t need to vote.

Walking home that night, as the sun began to set and more sticker-donning voters continued to stream by me, life switched to slow-mo. I remember telling myself to savor the moment as this feeling of hope and elation was about to expire.

Here we are, four years later, and I’m left to wonder just how to feel. Real talk – support for the Democratic hopefuls in our community feels a bit lackluster. Bernie Sanders and ‘I’m With Her’ signs literally still litter the lawns of our surrounding neighborhood. Signals of support for you know who are prevalent in Bev Hills, Orange County, the high desert and beyond. We may be a “blue state” but with many pockets persistent in pushing a conservative agenda. A vote for Biden/Harris is a vote against the other guy, simple as that. I just hope that’s enough to compel people to vote in their favor.

Early voting numbers have been record-shattering, and I haven’t come across one single friend, family member or colleague who hasn’t cast their vote early. This gives me hope! Even in jurisdictions where the systemic breakdown of this electoral process has tried to prevent people from voting, folks are sticking it out, waiting for hours, showing up with snacks and camping chairs and friends to hold their place in line when nature calls. It’s inspiring and infuriating at the same time, that anyone in a country that hangs their hat on freedom and democracy should ever have to endure this type of outright discrimination, but here we are. The grim underbelly of this nation exposed and ripe for reconstruction.

But let me get to part where I tell you how much I love living in the US. As a Canadian, at times, I can come at it from a pretty judgmental standpoint. Like, just do it like we do it, for fuck sake. All of it – our electoral system, immigration, healthcare – the lot. We have our own injustices to bear and are far from perfect, but I’m grateful Canada continues to feel like a place of progress. However, some of the values we’ve executed fairly well are indeed American-inspired values. Give me your tired, your poor. Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free. The wretched refuse of your teeming shore. Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me, I lift my lamp beside the golden door! The ideal (and I use that word, because we know said ideal has not been equitable for all) that you can come to the US and carve out your own path, regardless of where you came from, is what makes this country so special. An ideal Canada has adopted but done a much better job at implementing.

Culturally speaking, I don’t think I need to rattle off the immense list of American exports that have touched and inspired the world. Geographically speaking, I can’t tell you how fortunate I feel to live somewhere within driving distance to one of the oldest growth forests on earth and the driest desert in North America. A short bike ride away from a protected bay abundant with sea life and in the epicenter of the entertainment industry. US of A, you are a complex beast but one I can’t resist calling home base for a while longer because I love it here.

It’s a tense time, no doubt about it. But I can’t help but feel hopeful because, for better or much much worse, that’s the foundation in which this nation was founded, wasn’t it? Hope.

Take care of each other, friends. And if you haven’t already, get out the vote!

Follow along @thelasessions


The Last Week

Lately, I’ve been replaying the last week before Los Angeles went into lockdown in my head, trying to remember what I did, who I saw, what I had entered into my calendar that would soon vanish. Those final fleeting moments of normalcy before schedules and routines would come to a screeching halt. 

I remember planning to go to a Tame Impala show at the Forum, but having friends in Europe warn me not to because a wave was coming and the US was simply not ready. I remember stopping at the DMV en route to lunch with a friend in Culver City. Obtaining my California driver’s license is something I have grossly procrastinated, but my Canadian license has expired, forcing me to finally take the road test I’m required to do and, well, that’s not happening any time soon. I remember meeting a friend for coffee on Abbot Kinney at one of my favorite spots, a happening place that typically has a line out the door, but has since shuttered due to the COVID economy. I remember it was pissing rain that day and I had to run down the street to my next stop to pick up some semi-conservative threads in preparation for the new job I was starting the following week. Clothes that haven’t seen the light of day as I’ve been working from home since day one.

I remember going for a hike in Malibu and feeling uncomfortable on the trail because folks weren’t really grasping “social distancing” yet – a term that would soon be forever branded into our brains to commemorate the year the world shut down. I remember contemplating going for a drink to celebrate St Patrick’s Day, but feeling tentative about being in a crowd. And then, on March 16, our mayor issued a “shelter in place” order and the rest is history.

My husband and I have been so incredibly fortunate throughout this wild, historic journey. Healthy, employed and still getting on rather well considering how little time we have to ourselves these days. Any time things get tense, our little dog lightens the mood. We have beaches and boardwalks to bike along and beautiful state parks and despite living in a metropolis that’s home to ten million people, it’s easy to space out and stay safe. The ability to spend time outside most of the year is the sweetest luxury imaginable. As challenging and mentally taxing as this time has been, it’s not lost on me for a second how lucky we are.

What’s been tricky, though, is the separation we’re feeling from our family. Flying back to Canada is of course possible, for Canadian citizens anyway, but the logistics make it feel so out of reach. Flying feels very high risk, particularly when you’re traveling from one of the busiest airports on the planet. We could pack up the car and drive the two thousand plus kilometers home. But necessary stops along the way to use restrooms in random towns that have, perhaps, not taken the spread of the virus as seriously, feels risky too. What was once a quickie 2.5 hour flight feels as achievable as climbing Mount Everest.

Despite missing our loved ones madly, I’m not so sure I want things to return to the way they were pre-pandemic. I like working from home, spending less on eating out and learning to cook outside of my limited repertoire. I prefer to be in nature and not having to put much thought into my wardrobe. I like that the simple pleasures of picking passion fruit from a neighbors garden or jumping in the ocean or kicking back with a good book and a margarita are the highlights of my week now (maybe they always were?). While I’ll be quick to hop on a plane home, head back to the theater or take in live music again the moment it’s safe to do so, I think the simplicity of life in this moment is something I’ll savor long after lockdowns have been lifted.

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Words Alone Won’t Help but Silence is Worse

It doesn’t really feel like there’s an appropriate way to address what’s happening in our city and in this country. Since moving to the US five years ago, I’ve tried to listen and observe and be patient in my hope that things might shift towards true equality, people over profits, a clear path towards change. Change the country seems so hungry for.

It’s hard not to be swallowed whole by the endless cycle of hateful content that is broadcast in real-time, every day in the palms of our hands. It also feels a little empty, posting and reposting messages of support to the communities consistently impacted by all of this hate on social media, as if to say I’ve done my part. But there doesn’t seem to be an alternative to simply using words to show the love and support I have for everyone suffering out there. Not nearly enough, but better than being silent.

To our beautiful black community

What would American culture be without black culture? Some of the greatest filmmakers, musicians, artists, entrepreneurs, the very things that define the best bits of American culture are produced by the same people who are consistently oppressed. The same incredible, resilient people who are continuously targeted and terrorized. Words are never going to be enough, but I stand with you and I’m sorry the seemingly endless cycle of hate continues.

To our police force

I appreciate that you put your life on the line every day and your job is not an easy one to execute. But there’s just too many examples, too many videos, too many murders to ignore that something needs to shift immediately. Let’s not use excessive force against the people protesting the atrocities carried out by your fellow law enforcement, but instead turn your attention to the assholes who are destroying our city.

To the brave protesters

I’m in awe of your determination and because of you, someday, the change everyone is so desperate for, will materialize. Because you made it happen. Because you risked your lives and made your voices heard. Forever in your debt and eternally grateful for your sacrifice.

To the rioters

How could you? How could you destroy our neighborhoods? How could you loot and vandalize small businesses that are barely getting by? How could you, during a pandemic in which we are still in the thick of, spread hate and violence when our city is at its most vulnerable? WHO are you? Not the Angelenos I know and love.

This photograph by Charles Fretzin hangs in our home here in LA. We found it at the Sunday flea market at Melrose and Fairfax, a neighborhood that’s been ravaged over the past few days. To me, it always felt like it represented the complexities of this city. Floating, a little bit lost, a little bit lonely with no real way through. But it also reminded me of a Rage Against the Machine album cover, “The Battle of Los Angeles,” signifying there was reason to hope and reason to fight back.


Sending so much love to anyone who has been injured over the past few days while peacefully protesting – it’s because of you that, someday, this country will be a safe and equitable place for all.

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Groupie is Not a Four-Letter Word

I’ve always mused that I was born in the wrong decade. Or, rather, in my twenties during the wrong decade. If I could pull a Midnight in Paris and pick any era to live during those impressionable years, it would most certainly be the mid-sixties to mid-seventies. And it would be spent cavorting about in a carefree manner along the Sunset Strip and the hills of Laurel Canyon in Los Angeles.

I’ve never taken a Hollywood tour, not even before I became a resident of this mad city. Never climbed to the top of an open-air, double decker bus to drive by celebrity homes or snap blurry photos while bombing down Hollywood Boulevard. It’s not really my jam in any city, especially the one I now call home base. But there is one tour I’ve been dying to indulge in. Less so a tour and more of a curation of rock and roll history and Hollywood lore. Pamela Des Barres’ rock tour has been on my wish list for a long time, and spending an afternoon with Miss P was more mystical and goose-bump-inducing than I ever imagined.

When she rocked up to meet her group of rock revelers in front of Amoeba Music on Sunset, she emerged from her rented passenger van the way an angel might rise from the ether. Dressed head-to-toe in flowing lace and creamy textiles, complete with a shiny star fashioned on her cheek. She literally glows, causing one to question, is it her aura or just the positive energy she omits – or both? There’s something special about this pint-sized pixie of a hippie chick, and I’m not the only one to feel it. Jimmy Page, Keith Moon, Chris Hillman, Jim Morrison, Mick Jagger…her roster of lovers is that of rock gods, all seemingly as taken with her as I was (am, have always been).

I credit my parents for having exceptional taste in music, which turned me on to what I feel is one of the best eras of music and also what I consider to be the golden age of Hollywood. Give me The Doors residency at the Whisky a Go Go and mobs of kids converging on The Strip over pin-curls, red lips and mobster-fleeced movie execs any day. But when I saw Cameron Crowe’s Almost Famous, something inside me bubbled to the surface. His depiction of that era felt so real to me, it was as though I had been there in a past life and was reliving it while watching my worn VHS copy from my futon in my very first apartment.

Fast forward to my first year in LA, and I began to devour autobiographies of that era. Most notably, Rebel Heart by Bebe Buell and I’m With the Band: Confessions of a Groupie by Pamela Des Barres, along with an abundance of supplementary reading (Life, by Keith Richards, Scar Tissue by Anthony Keidis*). This inspired a script that I wrote titled East and West, the story of two young women who struggle to carve out their own paths in life while, unbeknownst to each other, are entangled with the same famous musician.

Joining Miss Pamela’s tour was, in part, a way to research this era I’d fantasized and written about. To hear from THE SOURCE exactly how it felt to be part of that storied time. What it was like to spend time in Frank Zappa’s Laurel Canyon homes (pre and post fire) or to act as accomplice to petty vandalism instigated by The Who’s notorious, late drummer. To be among the first humans privy to the greatness that is Led Zeppelin II from one’s own apartment, as Page and Plant made notes on the arrangement of the music. But it was also to see this great era of Hollywood – and music – through her eyes and spirited storytelling, which pulls no punches, except that tour participants are not to ask who had the largest member and who was the best lover. Fair enough.

Lucky for me, the other folks on our 14-person tour were relatively quiet, so I had the opportunity to ask Miss P all the questions that have been burning inside me for years. Questions like…

Does she think women and the magnetic people of that era, who inspired some of the greatest music of all time, were given enough credit for their contribution as both muse but also soother of souls. Simply put, no way. In fact, she takes credit for inspiring the Outlaw Movement where artists like Waylon Jennings (former lover of Miss P) and Willie Nelson grew their hair out to resemble the rock stars of that era, which evolved into a subgenre of music that combines rock a folk rhythms.


Gene Simmons credits the GTOs for inspiring his band’s signature makeup.

Her thoughts on Oliver Stone’s depiction of Jim Morrison in his biopic The Doors. While she didn’t take issue with Val Kilmer’s performance, she said the film portrayed Jim as more of a philanderer than he really was and that the casting of Pamela (played by Meg Ryan) was way off, as his real-life partner was a “tough chick.” She also mentioned that there was a lot of suspicion around the cause of Jim’s death among people who knew him, and that perhaps the body was placed in the bathtub where he was found. (Ed. note: no autopsy was ever performed).

Her thoughts on Quentin Tarantino’s depiction of Hollywood in ’69 in his film Once Upon a Time…in Hollywood. She loved it and confirmed he did a great job recreating all the iconic places we see throughout the film, including the Aquarius Theater, which still has the murals Tarantino restored for the film in all their psychedelic splendor. She read us a passage from I’m With the Band here, recounting the time she was rolling around with Jim Morrison in the rafters until he was called to stage to perform (it was the Hullabalo Club then).


While on the topic of film, I asked her what she thought of David Caffrey’s film Grand Theft Parsons, about the death and burial of her late friend Gram Parsons. She hated it and thought it was full of inaccuracies. Then she remembered a map Gram had drawn her to his home in Laurel Canyon, something she stumbled upon recently in her treasure trove of rock memorabilia, so we cruised up there to take a peek.

How she feels about the terms ‘groupie’ and ‘band-aid’. She embraces being called a groupie and her designation as queen among them, however she’s not down with the negative connotation attached to the popularized term. She doesn’t see it as someone desperate for the attention of a musician, but rather, someone who chooses to exist among them. An enthusiast completely committed to the music, despite having a fling here and there. She hates the term band-aid and doesn’t remember anyone ever uttering the word, although Cameron Crowe recalls Portland-born groupie Pennie Trumbull using it. She and Miss P, along with Bebe Buell, inspired the character in his film.

Current bands or artists she’s into. She loves The Struts and Jack White, although she feels like White hasn’t hit his full potential yet and we’re still in for something groundbreaking from him.

What was it about Los Angeles in the 60s and 70s that inspired and cultivated such incredible artists?! She credits the warmth and chill Southern California vibe for creating a free-wheeling, braless, barefoot and happy atmosphere where people simply felt free to create.

Perhaps my favorite story of all is how Pamela first met Chris Hillman of The Byrds. While standing outside the Whisky one night, her friends were trying to devise a way into the club. The stage door backed out right onto Sunset in those days, so Miss P simply suggested – “why don’t we just knock?” And she did. And Chris Hillman of all people answered the door, and invited her in. And the rest is rock and roll history.




*The first few chapters of Scar Tissue has some amazing stories on The Strip, Rainbow Room, Sonny and Cher and beyond during the 60s and 70s, as told by a very young Anthony Keidis.

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Riding in Cars with Americans

I commute to work from Venice into the heart of Hollywood, usually four days a week, to attend to my day gig. Luckily, my employer offers me the magical reprieve of working from home Fridays from the comfort of our little Zen Den, barefoot and braless, just as I prefer life to be.

I have yet to obtain my California driver’s license (oopsie) or a car in which to use said license (double oopsie), so I rely on ride sharing to get to and from work (blogger’s note: I have a driver’s license, just not one for the country in which I currently reside…gimme a break, I’m working on it). Basically, I’ve become incredibly familiar with the various features – base model and otherwise – of the Toyota Prius.

I spend 1.5 – 2 hours per day, 4 days a week, traveling with total strangers, not unlike a train or bus, but slightly closer quarters. Sometimes this is a real fuck job, you guys. Like, if a driver has mild to moderate road rage or their car straight up stanks or they love love love EDM music. For all the time I participate in this shared economy mode of transport, though, most of my rides are just fine. What’s made this style of commuting particularly interesting is the stories I hear from my drivers.

Like the overweight man with barely there bits of slicked back hair who graciously allowed me to bring my 7 lb. dog along for the ride. Our conversation started out light – as any ride share to rider repartee usually does – until we started talking about rescue dogs (which ours happens to be) and how he was on the brink of suicide after losing everything when he failed to maintain the family business bequeathed to him by his parents. An Italian deli that had funded his family for more than two generations. He had adopted a rescue a few months prior and his desire to care for the dog saved him.

Like the cool, rocker chick with tats covering every inch of her forearms who has an adult child but looks way too young for that to be possible. She notices my accent and proudly I tell her where I’m from. Vancouver, BC – mecca of the modern world, if you can handle the winter rain and cost of living. She then reminisces about touring with her band in Canada and recording at Vancouver’s infamous Mushroom Studios, only to have her band’s van stolen while they were in the studio, with songwriting journals and equipment in the back. I wonder if the fucking thug ever read her lyrics or just tossed them away after pawning the gear?

Speaking of Canada, not once but twice now I’ve been picked up by a fellow who resides in Orange County but is originally from Calgary. The only ride share driver to ever pick me up in a pick-up truck. The first time was a trip – pun intended! – as I noticed he was listening to a Canadian hockey match-up streaming from an app on his phone and immediately we bonded. The second time I sat in the front seat (something I never, ever do). Maybe Canadians inadvertently attract one another when residing in foreign lands? I’d like to think so.

The wee little fella who resembled McLovin who picked me up one night from the Directors Guild of America. I have no idea how his wee little footsies managed to reach the pedals, however, he did point out that Justin Bieber was in the car next to us as we waited for the light to switch to green on Sunset Boulevard (blogger’s note: Superbad was written by Seth Rogen, from Vancouver, BC – we’re literally everywhere, LA).

In my many shared journeys I’ve come across some lovely Mexican folks, our resilient North American counterparts, who I have nothing but love and empathy for in this fucked up era of you know who (I’ll never allow his name to grace the pages of this blog). After several drivers cancelled on me trying to make my way up the busy PCH from the Getty Villa, Carlos came through and kind of saved my ass. His English was still a work in progress, but he was keen to listen to my music. We plugged in one of my road trip playlists – the likes of Tom Petty, Led Zepp, Queens and Foos – and Carlos knew all the words to most of the songs. It was a slow grind up the coast that afternoon, but Carlos and I sang along at the top of our lungs and for the first time, maybe ever, traffic didn’t bother me at all.

I had never met anyone from Syria before until Shadi, a handsome young acting student from Damascus, came into view in the rear view mirror. A premiere was unfolding on Hollywood Boulevard so we got to talking about movies and a screenplay he’s working on. Shadi mentioned he always wanted to travel to Canada but had to wait to obtain US citizenship, given his asylum status. I earnestly asked him about Syria and if he still had family there, or if they had all joined him in the US. Everyone but his sister. His family has been struggling for 2 years to get her into Lebanon safely to fly to the US. He then told me the most chilling story of his escape. How his father paid a driver a handsome sum of money to drive Shadi to the Turkish border, a route also known as the Road of Death. Signs line the desert road taunting and terrorizing travelers with messages like “Smile, a sniper is watching.” When Shadi made it to the border he encountered hundreds of families who had sold everything to make the trip only to be denied entry and left stranded, with nothing but the clothing on their backs. Elderly folks, children – it didn’t matter. Shadi remembers a Muslim family being denied entry in front of him and he making it through after the border guard confirmed he was Christian.

As we turned the corner towards our home, I told Shadi he should write a screenplay about his story. He told me he was working on another script about women refugees that he felt was more important to tell.


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Here’s to the road less traveled

It’s strange how we more often feel compelled to pay tribute to people posthumously rather than when they’re alive and well. When we have the opportunity to reach out and tell them how they inspire us or have taught us something valuable.

I’ve always been a little obsessed with the road less traveled. If tourists were going in one direction, I was bolting in the opposite. When we visited Rome during our honeymoon, the last thing I wanted to do was cram myself into the Sistine Chapel among the throngs of people holding their smartphones towards the sky. Instead, my husband and I skipped it to simply people watch at a nearby sidewalk cafe.

Those bizarre, unchartered and sometimes dangerous places that — much to the chagrin of my husband — I’ve always been drawn to are where some of my most surprising, wonderful, life-altering experiences have taken place. And when Bourdain hit the scene with his rockstar approach to travel and storytelling, it was like the travel guru I had been waiting for was finally a reality. And that’s just it, isn’t it? Why everyone loved him. He was real and his subjects were real and it was never some staged interview set among a perfectly lit location. It was never about following the flag of a tour guide to get a money shot of Michelangelo’s masterpiece.

I’m so very grateful to have attended an event at LACMA last year for the premiere of the season eight finale of Parts Unknown, which happened to be Rome. Tony and his producers were in attendance for a Q&A with the audience afterwards. When he walked into the room people cheered at a rock concert decibel, as though Mick Jagger had walked in alongside him. It was electric. People really admired him.

I remember all the whispers from folks around us after the episode was over, speculating that a romance might spark between Bourdain and Asia Argento. Their chemistry literally jumped off the screen and reverberated through the theater. I can’t imagine how broken she must feel today.

More than anything, I appreciated how Bourdain wrote and spoke of Los Angeles and the California high desert, both places I now call home. My husband and I just purchased land in Yucca Valley, minutes away from the Integratron, an architectural marvel in the middle of nowhere in part made famous by Bourdain and his innate interest in all things unusual and unexpected.

He loved the Chateau Marmont, and stayed there exclusively (according to him) when visiting LA. Anyone who is a fan will know this. It’s history, elegance and the role it played in the rock and roll heyday of the Sunset Strip. He seemed to revel in it. From now on, when I go by it’s haunting castle facade, I’ll think of him. Perched high on a balcony overlooking our beautifully chaotic city, a Negroni in hand.

“Los Angeles. The landscape of our collective dreams.” – Anthony Bourdain

Anthony Bourdain - LACMA

Anthony Bourdain, LACMA, Los Angeles 2017

Chateau Marmont

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Great Art Lingers on Every Corner in LA

Los Angeles is a feast for the eyes for anyone with a flair for photography or halfway decent Instagram game. The dreamy cotton candy skies that occur in the final moments before sunset, otherwise known as #magichour, have provided an unspoken narrative for the dreamlike vibe that permeates this grand old city. An infinite blue sky punctuated with towering palms somehow never gets old.

LA’s semi arid landscape leaves me breathless every time I step outside, even while hurrying my poor little dog to poop early in the morning before work. It kind of stops you dead in your tracks, forcing you to take pause in a world that’s been visually redefined by devices.

While I take pride in showcasing the beautiful bits of my adopted city, it’s not really the purest representation of what Angelenos encounter on a daily basis. Yes, the weather is wonderful. It’s true; our city cleans up well when it wants to. Right now the jacaranda trees are about to bloom and it reminds me of all the times I visited LA in the spring and vowed that one day I’d stay for good. But there are still some seedy areas that make me nervous. There’s a massive tent city that lines the blocks alongside the Google campus here in Venice, a constant reminder of how gentrification has clashed with long time low-income residents. There are still unsightly power lines littering the skyline in the older parts of city and a few weekends ago I literally witnessed a man drop trou and take a deuce on the street in DTLA.

My point is, despite all the edited, cropped and sometimes manipulated images you see people post of Los Angeles, we still have grit and poverty and failing infrastructure and black eyes we prefer to mask with oversaturated Instagram filters. It’s far from perfect. But what makes the more unsavoury sights seem beautiful again – a defunct factory, abandoned section 8 housing or sidewalks being uprooted by old growth trees – is the ever-growing collection of street art that adds an element of sparkle that is sometimes lost on economic high and lows.

LA artists like Jules Muck, Wrdsmth, Isabelle Alford-Lago, Colette Miller and so many others have given locals and visitors something beyond your standard beach scene. Their public murals make every corner of LA County something worthwhile to explore, and photograph and marvel at.


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City of Stars

When people ask me why I moved to Los Angeles, usually the first assumption is that I came here to pursue a career in the entertainment industry. An aspiring actress, struggling writer, or indie filmmaker perhaps. Something sparkly and ambitious that translates to the silver screen.

While I didn’t move to LA to become a star it’s impossible to not be touched by the energy that exists here. The feeling of hope and hustle towards finding a place in Hollywood, should the stars align (pun absolutely intended).

I’m constantly meeting people who are quick to offer their stories of struggle or why they decided to come to LA. Some are somewhat hidden within the minutiae of everyday life, while others seem to shine right through.

Like the waitress at the Del Monte Speakeasy in Venice who serves me boozy cocktails, but in her spare time is a singer songwriter.

Like the would-be comedian who bags my groceries at Whole Foods while testing out his latest material on me.

Like the guy sitting next to me on a plane, clutching his armrest as we hover above LAX amidst crazy turbulence. I strike up a conversation to try and calm him down, and he introduces himself as “the actor you’ve never heard of that’s been in everything.”

Like my Lyft driver who is also the drummer in a chart-topping reggae band working towards releasing their next album.

Like Preston, the handsome bartender at the wine bar in The Landmark Theater, who works two jobs while pursuing an acting career.

Like my friend Meghan – a fellow Canadian gal – who came to LA to pursue acting and screenwriting and, 7 years later, is still plugging away. Still hopeful.

Like Melissa, my neighbour who’s a film producer and comes from a long line of entertainers and film industry trail blazers, but has migrated towards a life of philanthropy.

Like so many, I spend a lot of time outside of my day job grinding, trying to carve out a pathway to my dreams. For me that means editing and rearranging, trying to improve my screenwriting chops and refine the scripts I’ve written. And while I pound away on my laptop in my little apartment in Venice or a nearby café surrounded by other writers, I can’t help but fantasize about something I’ve written generating interest from a filmmaker.

Each year I head to the Toronto International Film Festival, for years as a fan and more recently as press. While covering red carpets, most journalists flock to the actors but I usually zero in on the directors and screenwriters. My press pass grants me unbridled access to speak with some of the most exciting filmmakers in the world, so if I’m being honest, that’s the real reason I’m there. Maybe if I dig deep enough, that’s part of the reason I moved to LA after all.

This year, I interviewed writer/director Damien Chazelle before the North American premiere of La La Land. After watching his film, I realized I don’t want to be the one feverishly capturing every comment and anecdote on my voice recorder any more, sitting alone at a bar filing my stories. Someday, I hope to be on the other side of the red velvet rope impassionedly talking about a film I’ve written. Now that I live in La La Land, among a city of stars, I sometimes feel like that’s possible.

La La Land is in theatres nationwide. If you live in LA, my dearest Angelenos, this film is for us. Whether you’re in the entertainment industry or not, it’s a reminder to never stop dreaming.





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Giving LA Foster Youth A Sense of Home

When my husband and I decided to move to Los Angeles last spring, I distinctly remember a colleague of mine asking why we would want to live there. LA, as he put it, was the loneliest city in the world. From the moment we settled on Venice as our new home base, I’ve found the city to be quite the opposite, more inclusive and friendly than I ever imagined.

It wasn’t long before we knew most of our neighbors, something completely foreign to us, despite coming from a high-density city in Canada. We immediately hit it off with one of our neighbors in particular, after frequent run-ins at our communal barbecue. Before long we learned of the not-for-profit organization she and her partner have been building for the past year and decided to volunteer. In part, to meet new people and expand our network, but also because we were inspired by what they were doing.

That organization is A Sense of Home, a movement that sparked organically when co-founder Georgie Smith reached out to her network of friends to help a foster youth who was struggling to set up his first home. After posting his story on her Facebook page, donations began to pour in and before long his home was outfitted with everything he needed along with the knowledge that people really cared. Strangers, folks he had never met before, came together to ensure his first steps into adulthood were met with the love and support necessary to succeed.

Today, their goal is to change the lives of foster youth who have “aged out” of the foster care system by creating homes for them. Using donated furniture and housewares; volunteers work with these young people to help them realize their own sense of home – often for the first time, in the process, helping them achieve self-sufficiency.

When I think back to when I first moved out on my own, away from the comforts of my childhood home, I wasn’t sent out into the world with little more than some clothing and a few personal effects. Furniture, linens, useful hand-me-downs among other items were at my disposal to help me establish my first home of my own. Things that may not seem like a big deal to those of us who were fortunate to have had this support, but crucial to someone starting out with little to no resources. Crucial to a young persons sense of self and dignity. It’s not enough to have a roof over your head if the space inside is cold and unliveable.

In Los Angeles County alone, there are 35,000 youth in foster care right now. At age 18 or 21, state and federal support abruptly ends and the youth who aren’t adopted are ejected out of the foster system, many without the support of family or any community networks to help them make a successful transition into adulthood.

Which is why the work A Sense of Home is doing is so impactful. Many of these young people are smart, driven, kind and articulate, determined to lead fulfilling, productive lives. Something as simple as the kindness of strangers getting together to set up their first pad can go a long way in helping these kids realize their potential.

We volunteered on a blustery Sunday in South Central. The subject was a young woman in her early 20s, warm and gracious, greeting volunteers as they arrived.

The fourplex she calls home has an ancient fig tree towering overtop, peppering the sidewalk with overripe fruit. Despite the sticky residue left as a result of this beautiful but inconvenient vegetation, it seemed quaint. Idyllic even. Until we stepped inside to discover how sparse the furnishings were. Nothing more than a single bed pushed into one corner and a small table with one chair.

Before long, the front walk was lined with volunteers organizing and dusting off furniture, which would be placed according to a pre-determined floor plan mapped out by Smith and her team. Everything from large pieces of furniture to dishes, bedding and beautiful cut flowers, each piece placed with thoughtful and careful consideration.

The amount of people who showed up to help and the level of their enthusiasm were overwhelming, as I watched this young woman’s home come to life while (admittedly) struggling to install a curtain rod. It was clear to me, though, that this was more than just creating a home. It was evidence that people in the community cared. Really, it was an expression of love.

I’m grateful to be living alongside such wonderful people. This big, bad city isn’t at all lonely or uncaring as my colleague framed it. From what I’ve seen so far from our sleepy street in Venice, LA is a town full a generous people who are quietly and selflessly spreading kindness among those who need it most.

Originally published in the Huffington Post.

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Old Chinatown LA

There’s something very telling about a westernized city when it comes to it’s older, heritage hideaways. Are the pioneers who were among the first to establish multi-culturlism and commerce celebrated for settling in unchartered territory and helping to define a community? Or, are they segregated into one sect of a city’s outskirts or lesser-known avenues? I can’t decide yet which is the case in Los Angeles.

You have Chinatown, Koreatown, Little Tokyo, Little Sri Lanka, Historic Filipinotown, Little Bangladesh, Little Ethiopia…it’s all a little mind-bending. But, one thing I do appreciate about these designated pockets is that people who are looking for something outside of the Hollywood hullabaloo (yes, I just used that word), the beauty of diversity is abound.

With any modern city I visit, I’m always drawn to its Chinatown. San Francisco and Vancouver top my list of North American cities with the most colourful and overtly historical examples of Chinatown done right. So after nearly a year of living in LA, I finally spent an afternoon in our own little Chinatown.

In contrast to the more modern shops and restaurants of “new” Chinatown that line North Broadway beginning at the Twin Dragon Gate, old Chinatown is a tranquil refuge from the industrial feel of this part of town. It’s small, stretching a modest 2-3 city blocks but it’s vibrant and colourful and the perfect place to chill out and people watch over a bubble tea.

I also went there with a purpose, hunting for my favorite Chinese ointments that I’ve come to rely on over the years. Kwan loong oil, tiger balm, etc. There’s a great shop heading south just off the main square. A mix of hipsters and Sunday cyclists dominated the outdoor bistro tables at Blossom, a modern Vietnamese resto smack dab in the centre of this Chinese neighbourhood. And if Kung Fu and cocktails are your jam, snap a selfie with Bruce Lee forever immortalized by a giant statue, nunchucks in hand, followed by a Honeysuckle Sling at General Lee’s Bar.

With Chinese New Year only a week away, red lanterns and celebratory banners were easy to come by, all with different variations of how to spell it. Gung Hay Fat Choy, Kung Hei Fat Choy, or a combo of both.

It’s the year of the Monkey, so here’s what you need to know if you have a child set to arrive in 2016, according to a greeting card I found in one of the shops:

Monkey ranks ninth position in the Chinese Zodiac. They are cheerful and energetic by nature and usually represent flexibility. People under the sign of the Monkey are wise, intelligent, confident, charismatic, loyal, inventive and have leadership. The weaknesses of the Monkeys are being egotistical, arrogant, crafty, restless and snobbish.







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