Will the Real LA Hipsters Please Stand Up?

I’ve never fancied myself a hipster. Never once have I made coffee by way of pour-over vs. my durable DeLonghi espresso machine. I don’t sip alkaline water from a bottle with an amethyst protruding from it’s base nor do I support white 90s Reebok sneakers worn with floral frocks.

By definition, I always felt that I rated rather low on the hipster spectrum quotient. Per urban dictionary, “hipsters are people who try too hard to be different by rejecting anything they deem to be too popular. Ironically, so many other people also try too hard to be different that they all wind up being the exact same, so hipsters aren’t actually different at all.”

I assure you, I’m the only woman in my neighborhood wearing zebra print H&M stretch pants, a worn-out rock shirt and Adidas slides while walking my dog each morning. Zebra print, not because animal prints were haute this year, but because I find them slimming. A rock shirt, not because it’s still trendy (mom word) but because I a) actually went to the show or b) worked in the music biz for a minute and got tons of free shit. Adidas slides, not because they were considered poolside chic a few years ago, but because I’ve wrecked my achilles tendon from walking around barefoot and need some sort of arch support.

Hold up. Is it happening? Am I blending into the very psychographic segment I’ve always lovingly poked fun at? The same people Portlandia brilliantly portrayed as moody millennials who essentially morph into the same, ethically sourced character? Am I actually okay with men wearing wingtips without socks?!

It dawned on me, while walking my dog in the aforementioned outfit this morning, that maybe I’ve bought into all this shit. Did I mention she’s a rescue*? From the same place Olivia Wilde and Jason Sudeikis adopted their dog? God help you should you enter an LA dog park with a pure bred, for you will be socially ostracized the same way one might if they were wearing a MAGA hat (in our neighborhood, anyway).

We live in Venice, which over the past 10 years has transformed from gangbanger territory to THEE place to be seen whilst nibbling on gluten-free avo toast. Our home is outfitted in macramé, mid-century furniture and what feels like a forest of potted cacti. We even took desert chic to the next level by purchasing a plot of land near Joshua Tree.

I’ve adopted rituals like charging my crystals in the sun, sleeping with rose quartz and placing citrine in my locally made hemp bralette before pitching development executives my scripts. I have a clairvoyant tarot reader instead of a therapist and I’ve traded americanos for cold brew and creamy nitro.

While I consider myself a lighter, subtler flavor of hipster compared to the dedicated devotees of Silverlake, DTLA and Atwater Village, my hipster tendencies do exist. I like being served my activated charcoal smoothie with a positive affirmation. I like listening to Mac DeMarco while journaling my feelings in a moleskin notebook. I like Instagramming #streetart and find it pleasing when my husband grows out his beard. And I guess that’s my healing buddha beads to bear.

*Adopt don’t shop, not because it’s trendy (mom word again) but because it’s the kind and ethical thing to do.

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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.

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).

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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.

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*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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Gym People of LA

So here I am, living in Los Angeles for two years now, somehow successfully avoiding two things that seem to come with a 9-0-something zip code: body image issues and a shrink. I eat carbs – specifically carbs laced with gluten – I don’t have a trainer and I’ve never participated in a juice cleanse. I don’t subscribe to sober January (or sober any month for that matter) and I have yet to step foot inside a SoulCycle studio, despite owning multiple pairs of Kate Hudson’s Fabletics stretchy pants. I’ll admit it, clothing that takes me from hiking Runyon right onto brunch just makes sense. I can’t believe I just typed that.

The thing is, its impossible to live in LA and not want to partake in some kind of fitness slash vegan slash stretchy pant situation. It’s nice, like, almost every day so there’s no hiding that winter bod behind layers of warm clothing. Which compels a person to peel themselves from their laptop slash stack of books slash Grace and Frankie marathon on Netflix and get their ass to the gym.

Which brings me to a particularly unsavoury part of trying to stay fit in LA: gym people. Obviously, people sweat it out in the gym all over the world. It’s not like Los Angeles is the only city where it’s inhabitants have access to a mirror and inconveniently teensy swimwear. But having experienced gym culture outside of the US, I can say for certain gym people are of a different breed here. For example:

Territorial Guy – This is the guy who drapes his sweat-soaked towel on various machines in between weights and jump rope to let everyone know that he’s interval training, so to avoid fucking with his flow. I will always fuck with your flow, guy, because guess what? You don’t own this gym.

A-Type Girl – Women are efficient as fuck at the gym, this I like. Most of us are there to get the job done, in and out, because we got shit to do. This gal is other level, though. Whatever you do, do not disrupt her 8.5 treadmill pace or take too long on the elliptical or she may poison your power elixir when you’re not looking.

Zero Exercise Guy – You want to know how to achieve absolutely zero results at the gym? Observe this guy, lounging about on sought after weight benches, watching sports (why does my gym have so many big screen TVs?), playing games on his phone like someone who will literally never encounter a vagina in real life.

I Woke Up Like This Girl – This gal rocks up at 7am in full make-up, false eyelashes, and barely breaks a sweat but really benefits from the half-dozen sultry power squats she’s posting on Insta via Boomerang.

Imma Big Deal Guy – I have a hectic day job, I get it. But I’m never going to participate in a conference call while at the gym. This guy has no problem speaking loudly and obnoxiously into his headset while perched on the leg press with zero anxiety about uttering anything proprietary. He loves to talk total nonsense to fellow gym-goers about the “business” in which he manages. He’s highly caffeinated and probably simultaneously listening to a Tony Robbins audiobook.

Au Natural Girl – I get it, I’ve switched to all natural deodorant too and I’m all about breathable cottons, but dropping to a lotus position to get in a minute of meditation in the middle of a loud gym is going to draw some eyeballs. Also, leave the mala beads at home.

Exhibitionist Guy – I see you. You see me. But there is absolutely no need to acknowledge each other’s presence. I get it, you worked hard for that eight pack, bro. But if you’re after positive reinforcements by way of a sleazy stare, I’ll never give you the satisfaction.

Bottom line, I look at the gym as a Harry-Potter-meets-Dirty-Dancing dynamic. As soon as I place my ear buds into my ears, just like that, I disappear under an invisible spandex cloak. This is my dance space; this is your dance space.

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Dog Park People of LA

I’m not a people person. I’m not what one might call an introvert either, but I definitely don’t feel compelled to engage people I don’t know beyond high-level pleasantries. This isn’t because I lack manners or suffer from social anxiety. I’m just not interested in small talk. Next to filing taxes and getting my pikachu waxed, small talk is my least favorite thing.

You know what else I find tedious? Faking it. Whether it’s joy, an orgasm, or basic interest, I have a tough time putting on an act. It’s exhausting. Like, ask me to organize your book collection by color or to handwrite your Christmas cards for you. But don’t ask me to participate in anything that requires faking it.

I was never an effective networker (insert gasps and surprise). I’m the gal who strolls in, grabs a complementary glass of wine or five and vanishes. My friends and colleagues may find this hard to believe, because when I’m with my inner circle I’m the life of the party. I’m Frank the Tank meets Holly Golightly. I’m in my element. But strangers? No way. Stranger. Danger. Screaming my safe word all the way to the nearest safety exit.

The act of faking it becomes increasingly inane when it comes to mindless banter at the dog park. I have a dog. My husband and I adopted this little ball of fury eight months ago and I’ll admit, I’ve become one of those people. People who allow their canine to kiss them on the mouth, sleep in their bed and basically diminish any hope of having spontaneous sex again. Our idea of foreplay is getting the doggie into her kennel, or “luxury condo” as we have tried to convince her. I really love my dog. But despite being a reasonably good dog parent, I’m hopeless at the dog park.

I’ve never owned a dog in another city, so I may be attaching my experience to Los Angeles unjustly, but I suspect I’m not alone here. Dog park people are kind of basic, am I right? Interacting with humans is one thing, but conversing with another person via your pet is kind of fucked up.

Dog park person: Oh hello! Who do we have here?
Me: Uh. Abby. Her name is Abby.
Dog park person: Hi Abby! This is Peanut. So nice to meet you Abby. Peanut wants to know what kind of doggie Abby is?
Me: She’s a rescue. Not really sure.
Dog park person: Peanut thinks she’s part Chihuahua mixed with Fox Terrier.
Me: I’d say whatever mixed mongrels wander the streets of Long Beach, where she was found. But good guess Peanut.
Dog park person: *quickly drags Peanut in other direction*

The human-to-dog ratio where we live in Venice feels like it could be 2-1. That means 50% of the folks in my neighborhood own dogs, for the math prodigy’s out there. So unless I walk our dog at off peak hours – which I always endeavour to do – the chances of me running into someone with a dog are highly probable. In particular a few people, which despite my best efforts, I can’t seem to avoid.

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I’m a happily married woman. I’ve bought into the whole monogamy thing. Which is why I don’t need toned, tanned and highly fuckable young men walking about shirtless and barefoot and fancy free. Like this one fellow who is on the same human avoidance dog walking schedule as me. Strutting about with his dreads tied in a bun a la Citizen Cope, abs glistening in the hot SoCal sun. It’s too much.

Lip injections with Prince Charles Spaniel
One day a woman with particularly plump lips among other fake body parts approached me and knew my dog by name. She asked if I was my husband’s girlfriend. I said no, actually, I’m his wife. Ever since, she seems to emerge every time I walk by her place so either she’s hot for my hubby or I’ve got a single white female situation on my hands.

Chardonnay sipper with Chiweenie
The most aggressive of the dog park people is this older gal with a southern drawl who sips wine from a to-go cup and let’s her dog run around off leash. Every time I see her she tries to convince me to join a Facebook Group for our local dog park, even though I’ve explained to her that Abby thinks Facebook is lame.

I know you’re supposed to socialize your dog and I do, among people I enjoy who also happen to have dogs. Otherwise I’m going to pretend to speak another language. I’m going to cross the street when I see you coming. I’m going say I’m late for a meeting, I left the stove on or my dog has fleas. Let’s spare each other the false pleasantries, let our dogs sniff each others bottoms and carry on with our day.

Follow my dog Abby on SnapChat @abby.dog and Instagram @abby.spike

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I slay. All day.

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