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.

Hot guy with Siberian Husky
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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